Dark plumes of smoke spiral upward on the freeway ahead. The smoke sucks in the light as it fans out, and grows larger with each gasp of my breath. It reminds me of a forest mushroom, dark, dank and foul. And yet, its ascent feels majestic for its so obscures the sky, making the blue it once held seem more like a dream.
Mistaken beauty does that, it pulls you in where you’re not supposed to be like a wizard, a magician, so bewitching, it knows all the tricks. I can’t stop watching the black columns of smoke in my sky. I feel possessive like a jealous lover turned voyeur. But I’m coughing and that drags me momentarily out of my trance. With wheezing breath I call Cal Trans and Highway Patrol using my cell phone and they give me specifications how if it’s an emergency to dial 911 yada, yada or otherwise dial such and such number as the smoke gets thicker and the traffic slows down to a near parking lot and fire engines blare past me. I gulp and press a finger on the number nine and hesitate over the ones, daring, not daring, but daring to finally press down as more fire trucks pass me and the smoke begins to turn from black to white as the traffic crawls ahead and I see a car on fire, which the firemen are hosing down just two blocks from the nuclear power plant. I breathe; I breathe, I’m alive and wait for my heart to slow its beat down. Like a mirage I imagine its red petals’ unfolding in a soft bow as the turn signal in my car clicks, not left, nor right but to heaven for in the now whitish looking smoke I see a door opening up in the sky.
Surely, I’ve died. Maybe the power plant did explode and I only dreamed upon passing to my very own death that the firemen stopped an impending disaster. A reality mistaken…surely it’s possible. But why is the signal in my car still snapping to attention? And what is that floating on heaven’s doors? Angels? No.
Marshmallows as big as clouds and I taste them in my mouth and know I’m in trouble as a voice coming from my cell phone says in newscaster smugness, “The smoke is not from a car fire, but is a mask for nuclear gas as the terrorist intended.”
I gulp and my throat tightens with a sickening taste of acidic sugar. I pry my esophagus open with the toothbrush I’ve always kept in the car and marvel as it melts in my fingers as the dashboard curls in on itself enveloping the steering wheel. The air bag billows forth and adheres to my arms; burning the hairs and smelling like roasted
marshmallows’ on a campfire and suffocating me with its sweetness.
by Julie Ann Shapiro
Julie Ann Shapiro is a freelance writer, a prolific short story author with more than seventy stories published and author of the novel, Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries (Synergebooks.com).
Poetry (any form or style) and Micro or Flash Fictions wanted for an anthology on SMOKE. Not just the black clouds rising from the five-alarm fire next door, or the billowing plumes of smoke warning us of a forest fire, or the emissions from factory smoke stacks, apartment house incinerators, and crematoriums, smoke rings rise from cigarettes, smoke pours out of headshops, pipe shops & cigar stores--see that purple haze rising over the fields of poppies and marijuana we just planted--we've used it to communicate via smoke signals and skywriting, to cover our tracks and disappear with and without mirrors, combat the enemy on and off the battlefield, kill bugs, flavor food, cure illness, declare peace treaties, and fragrance our homes. Got the idea? Release it onto the page.
Guidelines: Submit up to three poems/micro fictions or two flash fictions at a time with a fascinating bio of 35 words or less, not just limited to publication credits, copy/pasted in the body of an e-mail (no attachments, please) to roxy533 at yahoo dot com & violetwrites at nyc dot rr dot com. We will also entertain up to six one-liners or 2 short stand up routines at time. Previously published work is OK as long as authors have retained the copyright, which will be returned to them after publication. Simultaneous submissions are encouraged. If your work is accepted elsewhere, and you still have obtained rights to republish, just let us know where and we'll be happy to acknowledge the other publication.
If you do not receive a response from us within a month of your submission considered it rejected and feel free to submit again. Due to the volume of submissions we cannot respond to each and every individual submission. Selection for the on-line edition are made on a ongoing basis as we receive your submissions. However, final selections for the print edition will made after the October 31st deadline. (In otherwords not everything that made the cut for the online edition will appear in print.) Please do not query. When in doubt, send the submission to roxy533 at yahoo dot com & violetwrites at nyc dot rr dot com.