Flash Fiction: Two Stories
Dear peanut butter-flavored breakfast cereal,
Once my mother, on the phone, asked me what I had for dinner, and when I told her, she said, “Remember peanuts are what they use to fatten hogs.” I am trying to cut down on sugar, so you’re relegated to Saturday mornings again. Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids was our favorite.
Now I feel sick.
My brother also watched a blank tv, late at night or very early in the morning when he slept-walked downstairs. Oh childhood, reaching out of cereal boxes to grab us by the throat. My father’s anger popping at the dinner table and fizzing inside small heads. The bitterness of never knowing when we might do the wrong thing.
Therefore you, breakfast we weren’t usually allowed, sweet enough to coat everything for as long as we could keep shoveling your crunchy love into our mouths.
Once I lived in a landscape lined with invasive species I loved: tiger lilies, Queen Anne’s Lace, hawthorn, purple clover. I smelled of horses and took rides with my mother and sister down the driveway to the road. Once our dog, Sergeant, caught a groundhog and tried to carry it the whole way with us. We sang rounds while we rode, stopped to smell Osage oranges still in the trees. We kept re-lighting ourselves, that inside flame, on our trail rides, and it is so much harder to do that now. Once I was afraid my horse would roll in the river, so I didn’t let her go in—and I regret that now, a hot Illinois day and she would have liked it. The neighbor dog, King, joined us when we went past his property, and stopped when we went too far. Once I fell off when my horse decided a tiny stream required a huge leap, and I hopped back on, embarrassed. Nothing will ever bring that back—my young, confident body, my mother’s living face, my sister’s peace, long hours with nothing else pressing to do, the news of horse-mischief the only news I had to know.
About the Author: Katherine Riegel is the author of Letters to Colin Firth, What the Mouth Was Made For, and Castaway. Her work has appeared in Brevity, The Gettysburg Review, The Offing, Orion, Poets.org, Tin House, and elsewhere. She is co-founder and poetry editor for Sweet: A Literary Confection. She lives in Memphis, TN with her husband, two cats, and a dog. Find out more at katherineriegel.com.