When you’d rather have a quick shot of fiction than linger over a long tale, knock back one of these 20 very short stories—plus one artwork—on love, sex, and relationships.
“Flash fiction” means any very short story, generally fewer than 1,000 words. More than just a vignette or scene, a flash-fiction piece can ideally stand alone as a complete (if compressed or allusive) story. Some stories in this collection meet the ideal better than others. “Thin Walls,” by Jim Blanchet (under 500 words), and “Three,” by K.I. Borrowman (only 286 words), have a setting, protagonist, conflict and surprising resolution. Others work less well; “Like Chlorine in Night” by Rich Larson has poetic qualities, but it’s not a story, even a very short one. “Passion Fruit” by Gail Aldwin is really just a vignette. The subtitle of this book suggests erotica or romance, and many stories befit that label, including Wayne Scheer’s “Fantasy Woman.” Set in India, it describes the ideal, beautiful woman who makes everything easy. Several stories go in other directions. In “Blue-Ribbon Dinner” by Erik Adams, sex fuels a gruesome story about the actress Marie Prevost. Nancy Hall’s “Happy Birthday to Me” is even more grisly, a confused memory about a 13-year-old girl first watching her parents having sex—in absorbed, pornographic detail—and then her father murdering her mother. Elizabeth King’s “The Entanglements of Possession” is spooky, erotic and memorable. Diana Peterson’s “Dry” shows through vivid dialogue how breaking up with someone can have a happy ending. One of the strongest stories is Maude Larke’s “First Cut,” which describes a woman’s first sexual encounter (with another woman) after a double mastectomy. Hot and tender, this is a lovely description of sexual healing.
A collection that will demonstrate either the limitations or the possibilities of flash fiction, depending on the reader’s perspective.