There is something mesmerizing about a lightning storm; each flash lasts for only a moment, but holds tremendous power that electrifies the air and the imagination. Good flash fiction has the same effect on the senses of the reader, and the online magazine Vestal Review delivers the same power with each story. Ever since its debut in March 2000, Vestal Review has published exclusively flash fiction and is “firmly established as an exciting venue for exceptional flash by both emerging and well-known authors.”
The current Summer 2017 issue features a powerful selection of sensual and surreal fictions, such as “In Its Entire Splendor” by Tara Isabel Zambrano:
My lover is big, as dense as a neutron star, his eyes two cosmic lenses. When he licks my collar bone, his words roll off his tongue and settle around my neck like a choker.
“Are you ready for the roller coaster, Sweetie?” he whispers, shaking the ground, before he angles my shoulders and swallows me, his mouth opened wide, a row of white, jagged peaks, a quivering, slippery wormhole ahead.
Olivia Wertz captures the rush of young love in “Love Over Drinks,” which is mixed with a generous portion of alcohol:
I met her on my 21st birthday. I was drunk. She was drunker. The next morning, she stayed for breakfast. That Friday, we went out to dinner. We lied to the waiter and told him it was our anniversary, so he gave us a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon on the house.
Also featured in this issue is Susan Tepper’s “Whores,” which was chosen by the reader’s poll out of the best 17 stories of the 17 years of publication:
He tells me he is thinking of going to Thailand this winter for the whores. Nothing about this man surprises me. He controls an important segment of the rock music industry. He has power while I have none. We are in bed in this fancy Monte Carlo hotel. The halls have birds in the wallpaper and bird chirps that come from a sound system. He has mentioned the chirps annoy him. Our drapes are open and blowing a little from a sultry breeze off the balcony.
One of the stranger and darker stories in this issue is “Birth” by Timothy Parrish. When one hears the confession of an attempted murder, the culprit is typically not a fetus:
Once I tried to kill my mother. Some acts you can’t outlive. Ask her and she’ll tell you. Everybody ever born had already done what I was supposed to do. I knew better. My head hid deep within her body doubting the efficacy of creation.
In addition to this selection is Jami Kimbrell’s emotionally charged “Daddy: Mid-July, 1986.” It is a bitter story over the love and loss of the animals we share our lives with:
You can’t really call it a pet if the dog never comes inside, not even on the hottest day of a Florida summer, not even when it thunders before the sky unloads raindrops the size of pennies, hail the size of nickels, not even when you give the dog a name, Lightning, as if hoping the weather will be the thing that kills it, before your daddy has a chance to pump three shells into its chest.
We live in a digitized world where communication has been reduced to Facebook posts, emojis, and ‘covfefe’ tweets. Studies have shown that attention spans are shortening, but that does not mean literature and story-telling is floundering. Vestal Review is a wonderful publisher of this evolving medium and, if you have not yet discovered the joys of reading flash fiction, then this is a publication I would strongly recommend.