GLOSSOLALIA is devoted to the rare breed in the literary world known as flash fiction, pieces that are most often 500 words or less. With its abstract tic-tac-toe cover and its theme for this issue, “Tongues on Fire,” one gets the sense that the miniscule fraction of experiences that these narratives expose us to, as well as the time that passes us each day, are meant to be digested as rapidly as life seems to happen.
In Christine Boyka Kluge’s “Never Talk Back to the Water,” nature is alive and has its own voice, but especially the water, which speaks in its own tongue (so to speak): “The shallow water sings to children. It blows bubbles at its edges. Sometimes it squeaks playfully: the sound of party balloons rubbed together. Never trust it, even when it whispers in a gentle voice or hums innocently in your ears.” The water is so alive in this poetic narrative that you would think it was out to get you so you would rise to the top where you can breathe and return to the earth from this other world.
This journal, if not necessarily this genre, revels in an element of the surreal, the death defying, and going beyond its confines in its narratives, which comes across vividly and fantastically in Christian Bell’s “Cinnamon Roll”: “ He’d just returned from the restroom and ingesting a hallucinogen when the plane blew apart, hurtling him through the air like a tossed boomerang. His last image was the cinnamon roll he’d purchased from the airport Cinnabon, the tantalizing cream cheese covered three-dimensional coil, parked in the empty seat next to him.” In this almost humorous piece, the cinnamon bun represents all that was and is reality to the character, who is literally in some kind of slow motion, watching his life flash before their eyes.
In Binnie Brennan’s “Gramma’s Throne,” a young girl and her mother visit her grandmother who is under a nurse's care. The grandmother is a scary, scolding enigma to the young girl:
Sometimes I was scared of Gramma, like the time she scolded me for resting my elbows on the table. “Young ladies mustn’t slouch at the supper table,” she said. I wondered why no-one scolded her for slouching her neck the way she did, and when later I asked Ma, she told me it was like that because of her widow’s hump. But I remembered it before Grampie had passed and left her a widow. I wondered about that hump.
The granddaughter’s curiosity about her grandmother is touching, humorous and full of irony as to why she needs this throne that she sits on (a toilet), and why she chooses no longer to sit on it. This passage reflects the granddaughter's struggle to comprehend what her grandmother is going through physically and mentally as well as why she treats her the way she does.
These miniature narratives are anything but tiny in scope. The authors manage to fit whole complicated worlds and universes into these compact yet powerful and moral stories. Stories that manage to teach while practicing a journalistic restraint and an expedience in the expression and deliverance of their conflicts and conundrums and revelations of characters. Often, these stories are cinematic in their pretensions, except here one short scene or tale propels you rapidly and unexpectedly into the next one.