Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction—Palm Reading

Flash Fiction Month IconSo, Flash Fiction Month continues, and perhaps so do I. Once upon a time, as a college student, I walked across the Art Deco-era Washington Avenue Bridge from the East Bank to the West Bank of the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities campus. I came across a palm reader there and asked her to read my palm. Who knows what transpired…

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UPDATE JAN 2017: My new book, The Palm Reading after The Toad’s Garden includes this story as the title story of the second section.

Palm Reading

You think you will eat blancmange, you believe in bluebells from heaven, but the gods have another story for men and women, one twisted up with history and boredom. One crashes ahead in chaos, trying to restrain a train wreck with broken wings, while boredom, always a hog of the mind, escorts the boss to where the rare models will dance tonight.

Aviva orangeThe palm reader looks into your hand as the two of you sit on the pedestrian deck of the two-level Washington Avenue Bridge. Cars, trucks and buses on the lower deck shake you in their race across the Mississippi River, the Great Divide under you. She traces your lifeline with her hand and interprets it, a riot between wars and brain, a brilliant kiss the only missing quality.

You wonder if she will serve you tea and oranges that come all the way from China.

The water flows below, where a poet jumped to his death when the Minnesota winter overtook him. It pours to the south at a right-angle to the vehicles’ morning-to-night night-to-morning rush, your slow amble West, young man—magnetic fields and electron flows following the rules of thumbs.

That night you go to the bar and don’t notice that, as you drink, a contortionist on the beach in Negril weaves you in his web a few years later. The fire-eater breathes out over you and a daughter not yet born.

Sometimes sixteen words or maybe eighteen are enough. Sometimes, it takes thirty-six or maybe thirty-nine. An inscription on the Abbey wall, white stone burnished to cream, like hearts beating on old yellowed paper. At other times, a deluxe revolver sings death in staccato rhythms to a Caribbean beat under the influence of the frenetic tropical-night heat.

Oh pleasure, oh victim, as the dynamite blasts open the unconscious resistance, a big headache that fights happy-families mythology to its dying day.

Palm ReadingIn other versions of the story, the travelers drink at the inn and argue drunkenly about trade, politics, religion, the NSA, the NRA, the CIA, DNA, evolution, and the ABCs of rock’n’roll. The dust settles around their boots, falling in clouds from their clothes and hair.

A black dwarf enters, with no arms or legs. He somersaults his way into and around the room, and as he comes into focus, we notice that map of the world tattooed on his body, spinning in its own separate orbit.

This is how our lifelines unfold, what we find in the palms of our hands.


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