“PFLAG Reflex” by Clayton Heinz
Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuana, cocaine, speed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)
This week, Clayton Heinz spills his soul—and his stomach.
Mom steps away from the CD player and as the music spins to life I think: Oh fuck me, please no. It’s Michael Bolton’s cover of “When a Man Loves a Woman,” from the world’s most undeserving greatest hits collection.
When a man loves a woman, he moans, Can’t keep his mind on nothin’ else.
I start to moan too, crying harder now. A sewage-strewn wave of nausea courses through me and I realize with quaking certainty that, oh shit—I popped one too many of her Codeine #3s in preparation for today’s revelatory confession. Did I really overestimate the degree of pain this psychodrama would entail?
Martin, my perma-stoic stepfather, wordlessly lowers the volume of the ESPN he’s watching, seemingly undisturbed by the din. Mom isn’t moved by my emotional display, either. She continues her attack forthwith:
“And let me tell you something else,” she shrieks over the cacophony—Bolton and basketball and my shameless blubbering. Then she big-gulps from her wineglass, the gesture ministering a dual-purposed pause for dramatic effect and chemical imperative. She sets it down on the counter—clink—but thinks better of it, snatching the stem again and crossing the floor toward me, her white nightdress brushing along the distressed, faux-Spanish kitchen tile. She leans down close and I brace myself for the inevitable, blooming disgust. Hot and sour, her toxic breath on my face makes me gag.
The Michael Bolton song somehow gets louder: If she said that’s the way, it ought to be . . .
“You’re a homosexual, fine,” she says. “Whatever. Do what you have to do. But you could at least have the decency—the self-respect and the respect for me, after everything I’ve done for you—to be Ivy League–gay.”
As I try not to understand the implications of this statement, Mom’s mouth snarls and her yellow, watery eyes narrow to thin black slits. I hold my breath and fight rising bile, swallowing a growing pressure back down my cinched throat. She can tell, I’m sure, and so she exhales deeply, my face now coated by her slick, alcoholic humidity. My stomach flops over as a violent, revulsive force overtakes me completely. I can’t fucking breathe and the lite rock is nearly deafening. He’s in my ears and she’s in my face and I feel like something’s about to blow.
Yes, when a MAN loves a WOMAN . . .
Mom leans down and gets even closer, her claw now cruelly squeezing my chin in a slick, taloned grip.
“But instead you’re just like any other back-alley shit-gutter AIDS faggot,” she spits—literally—as a speck of saliva flies from her twisting mouth and lands lightly, almost tenderly, on my trembling lower lip.
She can bring him such misery.
The pressure breaks.
With a low groan I release my jaw and unleash a stream of black-green, chunky puke directly onto Mom’s flushed red face, her shock-wide, bulging eyes, in her mouth and down the front of her nightdress.
She gasps loudly—her theatrics I guess in this instance kind of warranted—and in my periphery I see Martin at last avert his eyes from the television. Mom loses her grip on both my slippery chin and the delicate wine glass, which falls in slow motion to the red tile, shattering instantly as I wonder if maybe I should have just kept my big secret to myself.
In early 2014, two of CLAYTON HEINZ’s stories were chosen as finalists for fiction contests at Glimmer Train and The Avalon Literary Review (the latter also winning publication). Others ran recently in J Journal (the literary magazine for CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice); Children, Churches & Daddies, the inaugural issue of Today & Yesterday; and The Round Up Writer’s Zine. He’s worked in publishing for years, at North-South Books, Hyperion, and most recently as copy editor at The New York Times Magazine and managing editor of Ocean Drive magazine, to which he’s contributed numerous articles. His journalistic writing has also appeared in Gotham, Hamptons, Trump, and Vegas magazines. He hopes to publish his first novel, Dead Actor, later this year.
Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission [email protected], and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series, Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry Stahl, Lydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).
Posted: May 15, 2014
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