Tim Conley's, Pass the Mustard, cracks wise over a hotdog game. This almost reads like a joke, but it points to something more, something in the relationship of these two people. That thing might be funny, benign, or rather grave.
This is one of those portrait Flash pieces. Call it a character study. Watch the writer, too, he's in there as well.
Brown carries us through this Lucy's life like a Ghost of the Past - to be seasonal, like Marley's Ghost. We find the longing and heartbreak Lucy has endured and coped with. She's done some shocking things, but we find compassion for her.
Brown shows us in the first sentence that she is a person who deserves compassion. She's an "sympathetic character" in more sterile language. This is what I look for. This is what Algren showed me was possible: finding compassion for a person whose actions we might otherwise find objectionable.
Lucy is not a horrible person. She sleeps with her Math teacher in high school, an incident we might (legally) find the teacher culpable for, but Brown also shows what drives Lucy to that alley.
Then there's the writer, "writing her." Lucy finds him at the end, reads over his shoulder in an intimate scene so palpable I know Brown feels her breath and senses her heat. Lucy is now a ghost, visiting the lonely writer scribbling at his desk, a ghost on a visitation.
Patrick was instrumental in my deciding to pursue writing. He was gracious enough to do a complete critique of a story I'd sent to him, a story titled Transparencies. He raked it over the coals in a critique that was nearly as long as the story itself, but I was so pleased that he'd spent that much time with it that I decided to write more. I guess it was the few words of praise for a lyrical passage that really got me going.
So, check out Piano. It's a short and beautiful poem. I love the imagery so much it makes me drool. Get the podcast of it, too, I think Keillor does a great reading.
The above link is to a Stefanie Freele Flash, Sisters. I'm tempted to call it a microfiction, as it's so darn small. I'll stick to Flash for the sake of consistency.
Sisters shows us serious conflict in 3 brief paragraphs. The older sister has some serious stuff boiling under the surface. The younger one may have done something wrong, the older may simply be jealous. The younger is a free-spirit, travelling around. The older is stuck at home with a baby and calls out seemingly for help, to be recognized with the 137 iterations of her own name in a text message.
Sisters is a wonderful multi-layered Flash which took my breath when I first read it. Now that I inspect it again, I find more stuff. I re-read and am intrigued all over again. The writing is so tightly wound that I know I would love to revisit this one over and over again.