Flash fiction is a strange beast, isn’t it? It’s compressed like a poem or a joke. It tries to do many things in a tight space: create a tiny narrative arc, suggest fully-formed characters in a gesture or two, allude to vast underground currents of backstory and theme.
But because it’s short and goes down easy, I think readers don’t give it the attention they would another form, if they read it at all, which the site stats indicate they don’t. Good flash fiction, like any literature worthy of the name, rewards deep reading. But the name and the length invite people just to flash their eyes over it.
If no one reads it, or if they read it carelessly, what’s the point? Well, it’s a great exercise. I’ve learned something from every flash fiction Neil has wrestled me to the floor and forced me to write. And I was thinking this morning that maybe it is a fundamentally religious exercise anyway, a private devotion, shared with few, if any. A small sacrifice of time, craft, and imagination to the Mad Novelist.
To that end, then, here is today’s offering: The Interpretation of an Alligator
I wasn’t as surprised as I should have been when I read that Bobbie Baker had come home from work one afternoon to find a five-foot alligator on her doorstep. I should have been as shocked as she was when she poked it with a broomstick, and it flicked one ancient eye open to glare at her. Bobbie’s doorstep is in New Jersey, a thousand miles north of alligator territory.
“I bet I know who did this,” I said…