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Flash Fiction by Antonios Maltezos
  Music by Francesco Picarazzi
  Art by B.A. Bosaiya

'Mother Nigeria' (c) 2005-2006 B.A. Bosaiya

Mother Nigeria

Our children float face down in the black waters of the rivers of Nigeria, only these rivers aren't really black, and they aren't really rivers. And we love the children, but they aren't really ours; so we're taught.

We give up the boys first; lose our grip as soon as mother Nigeria starts to pull. When she's ready, she'll misguide, flatten the grass leading that other way. They're boys, so they'll follow to the black waters. And then we have to climb the ridge, my girls and I, we scrape our knees just so we can watch the children bloat down what only looks like a black river. Some of the bodies are girls, but my own have known since birth, think nothing of the pigtails curled up like the rib-bones of a carcass.

And when some of the boys come back for a visit, it's only because they remember all the sisters, mothers, grandmothers they left behind.

"We'll see each other soon," they promise; pull on their manliness for courage.

Our children float face down on the black rivers of Nigeria, but they aren't really our children, we're taught. They're hers. Without them, without us to birth them, give them up, she'll disappear, vaporize under a crush of flat stone.

She'll have my three little girls—my girls until she has me too, and I can't remember ever passing my hand across their faces, feeling for the life I gave. I can't help myself. I'm wayward.

And they aren't really rivers at all. "They're her life's blood," I whisper down at my children. "Stay away."

I put the first stone down and wait hunched over for my girls to do the same, the weight of our belongings at my back. They'll follow me, I tell myself. I'm a good mother.

'The Cricket' (c) 2005-2006 B.A. Bosaiya

A Patch of Turnips

I hear him. He's saying not now, not yet. It's always the same cricket, and he's always saying the same thing. Not now, not yet.

I'm sorry for all the beer I drank, all them varmints I shot nightly while sitting in my Cape Cod chair, whooping so they'd look up at me and my flashlight, each one stupider than the next. You'd think they'd mingle in their burrows, spread the news about me and my fire stick. Those poor, burly buggers, digging and digging all the time so my vegetables never seen the light of day.

"Why we planting so many turnips this year?" my Martha had asked me quite rightly so. "You know how you get when you eat turnips, same as how you get when you eat cabbage, and those wieners you like to barbeque."

They were never meant for us, my sweet bug.

I'm sorry for all the beer I drank, all those rusted, upturned, screw caps in the grass just waiting to be stepped on. I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry.

"Well, you know I can't go out there unless I'm wearing your boots," Martha said because she loves her feet bare.

I must have chipped a sharp one, and he must have warned the others, because the digging stopped suddenly. It got quiet, like they all figured the next house would be just as good. Woke up in my Cape Cod, all the beer I'd drunk in my boots, my .22 still full with shot. Only thing I remembered was that cricket saying what he was saying.

"What we supposed to do with all the turnips?" she wanted to know.

Fuck me if I knew. "Didn't your momma leave you a recipe for turnips?" She didn't like that.

Not now. Not yet, at least, my cricket says.

First time I heard them words, I mean first time I really heard them and understood what they was telling me, I started thinking about all the little marmot bodies I'd tossed in the lake, how I'd spun them through the air, made them skip a couple times on the surface of the water before sinking.

Not now. Not yet, my cricket was saying over and over, like I was thick in the head, or hard of hearing.

"You're right," I answered back, shut my eyes so I could my see my Martha stepping into my dirty old boots, the spare ones, squishing and mingling her feet-smell with mine, not a stitch of clothing on her farm girl body. Just like that.

For right now, he tells me nightly, you aren't dead yet.

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