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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Flash Fiction: 598 words
By Lorette C. Luzajic



The end is near. A whole life spanning war and peace, two continents, two farms, and two children has been reduced to a fetid bingo room with wheelchairs duelling for the front row. Mother slumps low. Her gnarled hands are pincers atop flabby pools of thigh. She squints to see at all, with only one blinking fish-eye still computing shape and shadow.

Lissa has grown more patient since learning that the thing consuming Mother is growing inside her, too. Already she is unsteady and her bones are softer. It is sometimes hard to find the words she needs, and she stumbles to recall simple details, taking longer to put sentences together. She relies on a cane and thick, sturdy shoes. Everything is swollen.

She puts a hand softly on her mother’s elbow, about to remark on how they resemble each other, something she had never noticed until recently. Mother lashes her arm with amazing strength considering the dislocated shoulder. Hisses at Lissa to get her cotton-picking paws off of her. Lissa retreats into herself again, wonders why she bothers coming at all.

Mother’s mouth opens and closes like a bass out of water. “Where is Kyle?” she rasps, leaking streaks of drool out the sides of her grimace. Mother is sweet on Kyle, who brings her coffee and pastels de nata when he visits. Lissa explains that he is at work tonight, and waits to hear a tirade about how lucky she is that she has a man who can stand her. But Mother’s mind is elsewhere this time. She sputters, finding steam, then out of nowhere, raises her voice for everyone to hear. “You better not be jumping into bed with that man and offending God,” she warns.

It’s been months, maybe longer, since Lissa and Kyle last made love. She was terrified of never connecting that way again. He was afraid of hurting her, even though the bruises were from falling, not from love. In her past life, she’d been wild and free, loved loving every which way, with all the lights on. It was different now, with crumbling joints and compression garments killing any hopes of romance. They slept side by side like old friends or siblings, with him helping her use the crutches to get to the toilet when things were really bad.

Lissa tries not to take it personally. Mother has always despised any notion of her children’s romance. Not just love, but anything that might separate them from her. She hated their laughter. She hated their music. Their livelihood. Their lives. What she loved was their suffering. When Lissa first told her she was ill, too, Mother had not been able to hide that satisfied smile. Knowing she had passed on her pain for Lissa to endure was like winning the lottery. She could just sit back and watch her middle-age daughter disintegrating.

Lissa stands up slowly, easing onto her legs, careful not to wince or groan to give any indication of her pain. She steadies herself with her stick, wraps her spare arm carefully over Mother’s bad shoulder. It is a strange sensation to touch her, a skeleton inside a flesh suit, all soft with sharp angles jutting through to the surface. For a moment, Mother holds her, too, squeezes her back. Lissa is just about to say she loves her, but holds back. Waits, hopes, that Mother will say it first.

“Be careful on your feet,” Mother says instead. “Make sure you don’t fall. It gets worse from here, a lot worse. Soon you’ll be in this chair, too.”

Lorette C. Luzajic
Issue 23 (April 2024)

reads, writes, publishes, edits, and teaches flash fiction and prose poetry. Her own fiction and prose poems have appeared in Ghost Parachute, The Disappointed Housewife, Bending Genres, Unbroken, Trampset, The Citron Review, Flash Boulevard, New Flash Fiction Review, and beyond. Her works have been nominated for Best of the Net, the Pushcart, Best Microfiction, and The Best Small Fictions. She won first place in a flash contest at MacQueen’s Quinterly. The author of four collections of small fictions and/or prose poems, The Rope Artist, The Neon Rosary, Pretty Time Machine, and Winter in June, she has also acted as judge for the Tom Park Poetry Prize.

Lorette is the founding editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a journal devoted to literature inspired by visual art. Her journal’s first print anthology, The Memory Palace, co-edited with Clare MacQueen, was released in March 2024. Lorette is also the founding editor of The Mackinaw, a journal of prose poetry, which debuted on 15 January 2024.

In addition, she’s an award-winning neoexpressionist artist who works with collage and mixed media to create urban, abstract, pop, and surreal works. She has collectors in thirty countries so far. She is also passionately curious about art history, folk horror, ancient civilizations, artisan and tribal jewelry, and culinary lore, to name a few.

Visit her at: www.mixedupmedia.ca

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