Winners of our Flash Fiction Contest

Please note: Beginning January 1, 2019, our Flash Fiction Contest began operating quarterly with a $353 First Prize, a $151 Second Prize, and a $53 Third Prize. Winners from January–March will appear in Issue 157, July-September 2019. The April 1–June 30 contest is now open for submissions with a low $7 entry fee. Enter now at Submittable.

Send us your flash fiction now through Submittable

November–William Tate / December–Charles Duffie   


Bill Tate.jpeg

William Tate

First Prize $251

Followed by Author Bio and Q&A

The Things We Do For A’s

It’s the Sunday before finals, and I’m in the city instead of the library. The street’s jammed with marathoners bouncing in place, fussing with their watches and performing the other pre-marathon rituals these marathon-types perform. Me and the other support-types clog the sidewalks, weighed down by our runners’ keys and wallets and phones and, in my case, a low-grade malaise that I hope is just a pre-exam, stress thing. Something blooming has my eyes gunked.

A horn sounds, and Martin and a thousand other people lurch forward. How I’m supposed to find him at the finish, I have no idea. And why am I wasting all afternoon pretending to watch my stupid, pretend boyfriend run a stupid marathon?

I cheer and shout Martin’s name. He’s still too thronged to catch his stride, but he hears me and waves with a resigned smile. Don’t pretend you didn’t sign up for this. And then he’s gone, and I’m free, hopefully long enough to finish my study guide for anatomy. That’ll leave the evening for P-chem. review with Martin.

Martin’s not the most attentive pretend boyfriend, but he can do Born-Oppenheimer approximations in his head, and he knows the labs better than the T.A.’s. I snagged him before the first lecture.

“Please tell me you need a lab partner.”

He seemed surprised. “Sure,” he said. “I’m Martin.” As if I didn’t know.

My eyes itch, and I’m visualizing my incredulous reaction for when Martin says he didn’t see me cheering at mile whatever. A breeze shakes a yellow cloud from the pines. It’s a lie for sure, but I’ve got work to do. And it’s nothing compared to the whoppers he’s been feeding the Actual Girlfriend.

I’m resisting the urge to rub my eyes when my chest involuntarily convulses and everything north of my vestibular folds blasts out. The sidewalk’s suddenly uncrowded. Viscous goo hangs from my fingers, shimmering in a complex demonstration of adhesion and elasticity.

I curse the miracle of pollination and wipe my hands on a patch of grass. Martin’s phone chirps, and I kind of pinch it out of my bag with finger and thumb. The wiping hasn’t so much removed the mucus as covered it with dirt and junk from the grass, so my hands are slightly less sticky but, like, disgusting. It’s a text from the Actual Girlfriend, and it’s right there on the screen:  “Surprise!!! I’ll see you at the finish line!!!” with a long, long string of emojis.

Fine. Let the Actual Girlfriend wait for him. My skull’s impacted, olfactories offline, sounds all muffled and cottony. I have to hold my breath to swallow. I unfold the course map to find a place to flag down Martin, to warn him, but then I don’t. My face throbs, and the only thing stopping me from texting her the proverbial middle finger is the thought of her bright, stupid face scrolling through screen after screen of emojis, looking for exactly the right heart.


Bill Tate is a banker and lawyer who is working on his first novel. He lives in Richmond, Virginia with his family. “The Things We Do for A's” is his first published fiction.


What are your five favorite words of all time?

Luminous, Calamity, Galactic, Schadenfreude and, of course, Brunch.

Coffee or tea?

Coffee, please.

You’ve been given a plane ticket that can take you anywhere in the world. Where do you go?

Cair Paravel, or if that's not allowed, the Gorongosa National Park.

December 2018

Charles Duffie.jpg

Charles Duffie

First Prize $251

Followed by Author Bio and Q&A


It was 1942. I don’t remember the specific date. We were in a small office at Berkeley, eight or nine physicists—including Bethe, Teller and Oppenheimer. At that time we were thinking of using heat from a fission blast to trigger a larger fusion explosion. With his shaggy eyebrows, Teller looked like a troubled bear. “If two nitrogen nuclei collide, become oxygen plus carbon, and create a nuclear reaction, well, what about the air? There’s nitrogen in the air!” He was suggesting the bomb could ignite the atmosphere and incinerate the earth. Even Oppenheimer was scared, and it took a lot to spook that wide-eyed atomic mystic.

Bethe did the calculations and said it was virtually impossible. But an idea like that sticks to the imagination. Later, when we were splitting Pandora’s Box at Los Alamos, Teller put Konopinski on the problem. He was our best human calculator. Konopinski proved it was absolutely impossible.

So on the morning of the Trinity test, we weren’t worried about that. And Germany had surrendered in May, so the Nazis were off the board. But the war wasn’t over, the Soviet nuclear program was close, and Truman needed a big stick at the Potsdam Conference. The pressure to succeed was enormous. Oppenheimer looked like a ghost.

Fermi, with that bald front dome and rough charm, tried to relieve the tension. “Who wants to bet,” he said, “that we light the atmosphere on fire?” A couple of us played along and took the bet. Then Teller came by with suntan lotion. Rubbing suntan lotion on my face at 3:30 in the morning did more to scare me than anything else.

The detonation was scheduled at 4 AM but had to be postponed because of a rainstorm. I didn’t believe in omens, but it got under my skin, a storm on the morning of the test. I watched figures of lightning strut across the horizon.

The rain cleared. We got a positive forecast at 4:45. At 5:29 AM I looked through my dark glasses. The world stopped. Not a sound. Not a puff—

Then light, light knocked the breath out of my body, light ten times the midday sun, a black-and-white pulse that hit the mountains like an x-ray. A monstrous blister bubbled up on the earth and the light absorbed color, changing from gold to red to purple. A translucent column of cloud stretched upward, a fireball rising through its center. The column solidified into white smoke encircled by two gray rings, and a wet concrete mushroom unfurled slow as a time lapse over the desert. Even with Teller’s suntan lotion, my face felt like parchment. We cheered and laughed and celebrated.

But hours later, with that radioactive umbrella still open in the sky, I went to Fermi and said, “Pay up.” He could have said no. We didn’t ignite the atmosphere. We didn’t incinerate the earth. He won the bet. But he just looked me in the eye and paid.


Charles Duffie is a writer and designer working in the Los Angeles area. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review of Books, Spelk, Meat for Tea, Exposition Review, Scribble, Swimming with Elephants, Third Street Writers, Role Reboot, and American Fiction by New Rivers Press.


What are your five favorite words of all time?

Evolution. God. Atoms. Daughter. Witness.

Coffee or tea?


You’ve been given a plane ticket that can take you anywhere in the world. Where do you go?

Hiroshima. My mother was hibakusha, survivor of the atomic bomb. She rarely talked about it. She was known among friends and family as one of those rare people, a consciousness of love and kindness. Most never knew about her history. When she was diagnosed with cancer, one of her doctors took us aside and said he couldn’t prove it, but he believed it was the slow blast radius of radiation in her blood finally catching up with her.