Selected Flash | Peg Alford Pursell


Everyone is restless now: to glimpse their faces mediated by screens is to witness varying degrees of dis-ease. Anxiety threads them together like a fragrant garland strung with humanity that might be hung round the great mother’s neck.

Unable to sleep, I read the ancient texts while the skies lighten to day, yellow with smoke from the burning redwoods. My lover says I must train my lower mind to be kind to me now. Kindness is not a one-way street, says she, and it’s the old trouble: unspoken disagreement about one’s own basic nature, which is mostly conditioning after all.

I see my mother in her silk green dress commanding the room, a flush on her cheeks. This is how I want to remember her. Seated at the round table in the restaurant with the girls from work. A pink paper parasol perched on the rim of her Singapore Sling. From the clouds, her children as symbolic cherubs looking on.

Here, the hydrangeas are drying on their stems, papery petals bearing ash. The ashes of all that’s burning, all that once lived—and does not.

The speed of my internet connection is dragging. Meet me at the Café Royale! someone types into the chat at Everyone in the meeting, before vanishing. The faces on the screen flow quickly from hope to outrage to despair.

Glass Bracelet

She said the glass bracelet clasping her soft wrist was an heirloom and perhaps it was. This happened in the gazebo in the garden, freshly painted white with a blue ceiling. The blue couldn’t conceal the crack—shaped like an actual heart, spreading as the real organ cannot. Each time one gazed upward, one could see new territory gained.

In the distance someone practiced playing her flute and soon the mockingbird began to call back in silvery notes like chimes.

With an increased desire for truth, we watched with intensity the nonchalant swans swim by, a precious blue tint to their wings, black masks spread over their faces. Their unblinking eyes. Possessed by celestial compasses. Something must make them go. And go.

A dark red apple lay on the grass, butterfly hovering above. We had not heard it drop.

I like to think of everything that drops to earth—that is made to—everywhere—in every city street, as finding the air soft in that final fall.

Peg Alford Pursell is the author of A Girl Goes into the Forest (Dzanc, 2019), shortlisted for the Northern California Golden Poppy Book Award, and Show Her a Flower, A Bird, A Shadow, the 2017 Foreword Book of the Year Award for Literary Fiction. Her work has been published in Joyland Magazine, Scoundrel Time, Waxwing, and others. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of WTAW Press.