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Flash Fiction
489 words
SHJ Issue 5
Spring 2012


Leslie What

Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. The fourth grade boys competed to see who could speak it fastest without tripping over the words. Vincent practiced all day, but could only speak it twice.

At lunch, Donny Thibodaux cornered Vincent and said he’d seen their trawler advertised on Craigslist. “Losers,” Donny said, and Vincent punched him in the gut and got sent home early. On his way to the house he stopped by the Terrebonne Parish library to Google images of trawlers. On the monitor, a seventy-footer looked as itty bitty as a toy. His daddy was praying someone would buy the trawler before the bank took over the note and they got nothing for it. His mama had already folded her good linens around her mama’s dishes and taped the boxes closed.

Vincent clicked on Wikipedia to read about Baton Rouge, a big city, though you’d never know from looking at the little pictures. His daddy said he was done with fishing. No future there any more. Their way of life was over, but at least Vincent and Cheri could go to school and learn something else.

On Wikipedia, the Mississippi was small as Vincent’s pointer finger. He scrolled down and found a photo of LSU Stadium. When you clicked on the picture, it got a little bigger, so the people in the marching band matched the height of his fingernail. Could their family shrink enough to live in Baton Rouge? He’d only been as far as New Orleans, for the Mardis Gras. It was crowded and hot and his folks kept telling him to stay where they could see him. Maybe they would like living in the big city. At least it was still Louisiana. His Daddy said it would be worse to move to Mobile.

The library closed for the day and Vincent walked home. He smelled onions and green peppers from the stoop. Toy boat. Toy boat. Toy boat. He could speak it three times in a row now. His mama told him to wash up for dinner. He poured ice tea while Cheri set the table. His mama added filé powder to the pot. She spooned steaming gumbo into four bowls. They all held hands and closed their eyes and thanked Jesus for their blessings. His daddy took a biscuit and passed around the plate.

“Whad’jou’do taday?” his daddy asked.

Vincent let Cheri bajeuler as long as she wanted without telling her to shut up. When it was his turn he said, “Toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy boat, toy boat,” and his sister’s lip dropped and she tried to speak it herself, but no way could she match him. Her face boiled crayfish-mad and she asked, “How’d jou’do tat?” and Vincent felt proud of himself for being so smart, and for not speaking one word about what he knew about the trawler to his daddy.


End Bug Issue 5

Leslie What

Is a Nebula Award-winning writer and the author of the novel, Olympic Games. Her story collection, Crazy Love, was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award.

She is the fiction editor of Phantom Drift: New Fabulism; and her writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Fugue, The Los Angeles Review, Best New Horror, Mammoth Book of Tales From the Road, Bending the Landscape, Asimov’s, Flurb, Calyx, and other places.


“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury