Winner of the July 2017 Prime Number Magazine Flash Fiction Contest
Judged by Kevin Morgan Watson, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief, Press 53, Prime Number Magazine
Followed by a Q&A
Do you remember when we played Interrogation?
When we started, you were five, I was seven. Back when two years spelled a difference and I could still tell you what we’d play, and in the absence of Mom or Dad, I’d might as well have been Mom or Dad, might as well have been God, because who were you to question my instruction?
I tied you to a kitchen chair with an extension cord, with the cord of a clock radio, with the cord from a box fan, and you whined that you were going to get electrocuted, and I told you to shut up. A break in play, because in play these were not cords but ropes, chains, handcuffs. Because in play you were not an idiot child, but a captured enemy spy. I told you to stop whining because everything was unplugged so you couldn’t get electrocuted, and you puzzled over it for a second, then seemed to accept it, accept your role in a raspy, half-spoken, half-spat, I’ll never tell you anything.
Do you remember when I stood over you? When I dangled the melting popsicle above your forehead, a sticky Chinese water torture?
I always broke you. You had a gift for inventing secrets, each plot more diabolical than the one before it. That your countrymen were plotting an invasion. That there was a bomb in the basement. That you were coordinating an effort to abduct every kitten from the United States so that this generation of older cats would be our last.
We played this game for years. Until we were too old. Until the day I cinched the wires tighter, gagged you with a headband, and slapped you hard enough across the cheek to leave a handprint on your soft flesh—the impression bright white against your red cheek, then the colors inverted—red fingerprints that blotted your pale skin. It would never be pure white again.
I thought I’d gone too far and started to untie your hands. You broke character. No, don’t ruin it.
That was the last time we played.
Now you’re getting married. Julie’s beautiful. Skin even fairer than yours, long brown hair that spills from every side of her head. Freckles it looks like she ought to have outgrown. A body that is limber and flexible, you told me with a wink, a body stretched daily in Downward-Facing Dog and Warrior poses.
I was reticent to join her bachelorette party, a stranger among women who knew each other so well, so long. We played games in someone’s living room, someone who’d gotten a babysitter, but who’s every corner of the house was still consumed with children—a plush elephant here, Barbies there, blocks with different letters of the alphabet—three that spelled ZOO. There was a pop-up book left under the coffee table, closed wrong so it wouldn’t shut all the way, the castle that had protruded all bunched up and crushed.
We wore cocktails dresses and heels and ate penis-shaped lollipops. And we played truth or dare. A tepid, adult version for the most part, with dares like stirring chocolate milk into the remainder of a glass of champagne, truths that harkened back to high school crushes and whether Katie Irons had let Ted Felton get to third base with her in the limo during prom.
But then someone asked Julie what turned you on. I obligatorily put my hands over my ears and fussed as if I didn’t want to hear.
Julie ran her tongue over her upper lip, a mischievous grin on her face. He likes me to tie him up. She giggled at herself. Especially to a chair.
Of course you remember.
I don’t know if I’m sorry. Or if I want you to thank me now.
I suppose, more than anything, I just want for you to know that I remember.
That those were the best days of my life.
~ ~ ~
Michael Chin was born and raised in Utica, New York. His hybrid chapbook, The Leo Burke Finish, is available now from Gimmick Press. He won Bayou Magazine's Jim Knudsen Editor’s Prize for Fiction and has work published or forthcoming in journals including The Normal School, Passages North, and Hobart. He works as a contributing editor for Moss. Find him online at miketchin.com or follow him on Twitter @miketchin
This was the first piece I wrote in a series of flash fiction pieces featuring the same enigmatic protagonist and narrator, Dorothy. The voice came to me out of an exercise I was working on at the very end of my MFA program, and after many rounds of revision and refinement, I’m glad to have found a good home for this one.
What is your favorite dietary pleasure?
I really like a good chicken wing—they’re not only tasty but have a lot of nostalgic attachment for me based on an old weekly ritual of getting wings with my closest friends back in my hometown.
You’ve just discovered a new planet. What are you going to name it?
I’ll go with Palimpsest. I like the idea that most things were something before and are in a constant state of becoming something else, but you can’t entirely erase what was there previously. A planet may be new to me, but even if I’m the first sentient being to set foot there, I can’t claim to have created it anew!
Which is your favorite season: Winter, Spring, Summer, or Fall? Why?
Summer. As alluded to earlier, I grew up in Upstate New York, and still associate summer with being the only season entirely safe from snow and wintry chills. It doesn’t hurt that my birthday falls in August, either!