Flash Fiction from Totem Beasts by Laurette Folk | Flash Fiction | #thesideshow

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We were traveling along the interstate somewhere near Boston and we stopped when we saw them—people, children crawling over the infrastructure like rats. We too decided to do this, hang from the beams, shimmy ourselves between gusset plates, swing like monkeys from the girders. Before long, we all huddled in a corner near the south wingwall and regarded the piles of children’s clothes in the street—socks and underwear mainly. Others were still up there swinging, and it became a show of sorts. At one point a limo pulled up. We stood starstruck as beautiful actresses in long gowns walked into the street. My father had written to one of them (perhaps it was Kim Bassinger) and he signed his name Amanda. He was always signing his name Amanda after the seizures, my mother said.


Stone Devil

We are at my grandmother’s bedroom perusing her relics—crosses, beads, jewels. My childhood friend exclaims there is a devil behind the closet door. There is a party downstairs as well, company from the 1970s. The doorbell is continuously ringing. The devil knocks, wants to come out. There is laughter and shouting. Some joker is serving deviled eggs. My grandmother is long gone from this room, but if we venture downstairs to the den, we might find her in a flowery dress, her hair done up in fat curls, an Elizabeth Taylor smile across her lips. My childhood friend tells me I should answer the door. It takes my opening the door to turn the devil to stone; he resides in my hands now, a small orange relic with wings, something that can be broken.

I descend down to the den with the devil tucked under my arm. I enter different Polaroid snapshots of relatives in bell bottom jeans and rock band belt buckles, smoothed rumps, cat-eye glasses, elegant fingers pivoting cigarettes, tanned leather, and scotch for the men. People are smiling; they have no idea what awaits them in the future. I mingle. I shiver. I fret. People are laughing and smoking; smoke veils the room. I don’t belong here, in the past where life is cool and easy. No one here is serious. No one here knows just how serious life can be.


The Shack at Land’s End

The shack at Land’s End was my mother’s and I was a visitor there. It was a small gray weather-beaten shack with white trim. The sparse lawn led down to the rocks where the waves split open white. The night I was there, a storm was coming and there were thirty footers crashing offshore. My mother was excited by the storm; she said the dark clouds, the lightning, the looming waves exhilarated her. I, on the other hand, was somewhat apprehensive: they were airlifting full-suited businessmen paralyzed with fright from the surf (yachts and other small crafts were capsizing left and right). An emergency tanker the size of a small city was flickering off shore. Upstairs, in a loft, there was a pillow in the shape of the world. I retreated there to punch it flat and make it stay. Then I rode the world down the stairs as if it were a sled. The storm eventually broke. Pieces of dark sky floated hither and thither—celestial flotsam and jetsam. The impending storm wouldn’t be what we thought, and we would have to go on with our dull, worrisome lives.


A Treacherous Environment

Someone said there was a river of acid running through the land. A navy seal had already died trying to traverse it; his body turned to stone. The thing about foreign, treacherous environments is that you best keep your wits about you or you’re dead. If you expose your skin to the air above the river, it would seize up and fall off. This was the warning. I moved into the river of acid and had it take me. It rocked a cavern between shafts of pleasing orange light. I saw the body of stone.

(Look at the sky, my great uncle said. Look at your blessed grandmother’s face. Behold everything, a fine bottle of wine, a cupped hand at the table. He lives in a houseboat now and no longer knows his children’s names; he drifts with the current of the river and is content with where it takes him.)

I turned with the river until it spit me out. They told me it was poison, but I didn’t feel a thing.


The Beasts

I watch through a glass door and see my father walk by with Sasquatch behind him.  Sasquatch stops, looks directly at me, but my father continues on, leaving the frame. Later the beast returns and I learn that it’s a she. She’s lost much of her hair; she’s even wearing clothes, accessories, a t-shirt and shorts, a pearl necklace and earrings. I open the sliding glass door and let her in. When she steps inside, I see just how tall she is—her head nearly touches the ceiling of the Great Room. Where do you live? I ask her. How do you survive? She says her kind comes out just before dawn. There is a community that rises early purposely to cater to them. They feed them, bathe them, cut their hair. It is, the she-yetty says, a clandestine operation.

So I think about this, about what happens below the radar of the media, how this compassion between species isn’t reported, primarily because it is usurped by something else, but I’m unsure what this something else is.

Others from her tribe come; they have the countenances of trolls: big ears and noses, ruddy cheeks, hair inconsistently spread throughout their bodies. For a moment we all look at one another and regard our physical differences, the Sasquatches and myself, the Sasquatches and my family, who remain fairly demure throughout all this, and I know not how they truly feel about being a part of this underground railroad. We all stand in the air of the Great Room with the portraits of our imperious, discerning ancestors around us, waiting, but still my father does not come, is doing something else, some important thing, a sentry in the night.


Laurette Folk ‘s fiction, essays, and poems have been published in upstreet, Literary Mama, Boston Globe Magazine, Talking Writing, Narrative Northeast, So to Speak among others. Her novel, A Portal to Vibrancy, was published by Big Table; Totem Beasts, her collection of poetry and flash fiction, is forthcoming from Big Table in 2017 . Ms. Folk is a graduate of the Vermont College MFA in Writing program and editor of The Compassion Anthology.