Wednesday, September 10, 2014

FLASH FICTION: Some Broken Dishes

As promised, from Page 74 of, here is my award-winning entry in Flash Fiction.


(Flash Fiction, third place, 
Alabama Writers Conclave literary competition)
By Jackie Romine Walburn

The concrete front steps felt hot and bumpy through the thin cloth of my dress as Roger and me sat there, bracing for the crashing, up-and-down sounds coming from inside our house. 
I could feel the step’s rocky imprints through the cotton of my faded red and white sailor dress – the beloved one Momma made with the polka dots and big collar. I’d put on the dress that morning, hoping that seeing me in my favorite dress would stop another fight between my two most loved people. 
It hadn’t.
Instead, fear and heat radiated from the concrete into my confused four-year-old soul as we sat on the steps and waited, holding hands, me flinching with each new noise -- thrown dishes and raised voices.
Our legs stretched out in front of us, Roger’s two and a half years longer and bigger. We looked out on the yard Daddy had mown yesterday after he got off work from the steel mills, coming in sweating and smelling of metal and smoke, with his big boots, shiny hard hat and funny-looking eyeglasses.
I looked down my skinny legs to the sidewalk and considered our unused chalk hopscotch lines, the ones Roger had drawn for me. I couldn’t make myself jump, hop or skip. From inside we heard the loud see-saw voices of our parents. Shouted words we couldn’t understand came from Momma, and then stern answers, less loud, from Daddy.
Another dish crashed, and a smile flashed across Roger’s brown butch-cut framed face. I already knew that loud, crashing, breaking things appealed to my brother. I didn’t know then if all boys were like that.
 “That was a big plate, I think,” he said. “Bet there’s a mess in there.”
Roger squeezed my hand but avoided my eyes, realizing even then that he wasn’t old enough and eventually, strong enough, to protect little sister from the noise of broken dishes, raised voices or other things we didn’t yet understand.
The front door opened and Daddy came out fast. He caught the door before he slammed it, stopped, tried a smile and asked, “uh, y’all don’t feel like playing?”
Inside, I heard Momma making loud crying, choking noises, and the sound of glass hitting the bottom of a trash can. I got up to go comfort her like she’d done for me so many times.
Daddy reached his big hand to my shoulder and hugged me to his hip. Roger got up then and took Daddy’s other side. “Better not go in. Best leave Momma alone right now.”
Daddy looked out into the yard, at the chalk filled sidewalk, the freshly mowed grass, and his 1950 Chevrolet Fleetline parked in front. He took a deep breath, and I thought Daddy would cry too, something I’d never seen.
Instead, he guided us back to the steps and sat down between us.  “Yeah babies. Maybe we better not go in right now. Some things got broken in there today.”


Some editorial comments:
  1. BROKEN DISHES: This is a sad story, and, yes, it’s partly autobiographical, at least the emotions are. Most fiction is rooted in truth, and so it is with this flash fiction piece, set in the late 1950s and early 1960s, back when divorce seemed as rare and new as long-haired rock n’ rollers. I know we often felt like we were the only ones. So, I pondered about how and when to post this short-short story, not wanting to be a Debbie Downer. (Wah Wah.) But, kind of like what happens in the 492-word piece, it just is what it is.
  2. FLASH FICTION: I debated with myself about how to share this piece and decided to just lead with the flash fiction story, which began as my first attempt at a short story. Flash fiction, for this contest, was fiction of 500 words or less. I've since researched this genre, which is also called microfiction, microstories, short-shorts, short short stories, very short stories, sudden fiction, postcard fiction, and nanofiction. Flash fiction is brief, usually no longer than 1,000 words, usually has a beginning, middle and end and often a surprise or twist at the end. In my research, I found a one sentence example: "For sale: baby shoes, never worn." This six word story is traditionally attributed to Ernest Hemingway, but his authorship has been questioned. Regardless, it’s brief, powerful and tells a story. A sad one.
  3. TROUBLE BLUES: If you go to, my first chapter novel entry is listed as TROUBLE BLUES and begins on Page 9. Trouble Blues is actually the title of PART ONE of the book, which is currently called “Mojo Jones and The Black Cat Bone.” I named the book parts and chapters for songs (mostly blues songs), a connection to the Alabama Black Belt setting and good and evil theme, plus a main character, Mojo, who sings the blues and nicknames folks he likes and loves with song nicknames. And, it was plain fun connecting song names to action and emotions in each part and chapter. (And, I envision the songs in a soundtrack of the movie based on the novel; dream big!) However, if an agent or publisher likes Trouble Blues better as a novel name, the change will be made in a FLASH.
  4. I hope readers can find time to read other award-winning entries at I particularly liked the other first chapter novel (FCN) entries. The all-volunteer Alabama Writers Conclave, that sponsors the contest, is in its 91st year as one of the oldest on-going writers group in the United States. The $25 membership fee -- which gets you a discount on the annual meeting, where you learn from agents, authors, professors and poets, and on the annual literary competition entry fees, plus a newsletter -- is the best $25 any writer can invest. For writers out there, find out more at
Song of the day:
The Wind Cries Mary
                        by Jimi Hendrix

"A broom is drearily sweeping
Up the broken pieces of yesterdays life
Somewhere a queen is weeping
Somewhere a king has no wife
And the wind, it cries Mary"

Picture of the day: 

On a lighter note, here is sunset scene on Pine Barren Creek
at the Wilcox-Dallas County line, as it flows into the Alabama River.
I see Orange and Blue.