Friday Flash: Life, Death & the Space In Between

(Pablo Picasso’s “Nude Woman in a Red Armchair”)

Lou is a girl. She paints angular ladies with red bee-stung lips, wild chocolate hair in the shape of Z’s  with cherry or lemon highlights. They dry on metal racks in the pantry and then they are carefully wrapped and stored in the coat closet.  They haunt her dream world, swaying their hips and laughing wildly. These things are Lou under the spell of starlight and anonymity.

In the sunlight Lou is pressed and varnished, placed at a sharp right angle in a square office.

Gene is a boy. A dreamer. He smokes peyote and gets visits from dead poets and painters. Only they are not dead.  Somehow their space-time overlaps his.  Sometimes he has to help someone off the refrigerator or out of the bath tub. Mostly Cummings and Picasso. Apparently when two dimensions of space-time merge, there is no accuracy involved.

In the sunlight Gene wears tight shoes and stares out of a sky rise window, pretending to crunch the buildings between his teeth like popcorn.

The space between Lou and Gene consists of a hallway and two doors. This space is breached when Gene collapses with an open, foamy mouth and a thump that pulls Lou from her dream world and then her warm bed.

Lou stares at Gene lying there like a chalk outline, seeing him for the first time. She pulls her oversized bathrobe closed and leans down, two strong fingers searching pale skin for a pulse.

Dead. Dead. Dead.

She wipes his mouth with a corner of her robe, touches his lips with a finger first and then her own lips. She presses softly against his flesh.

At another point in time, one that has obviously passed, this might have been pleasant.

She vaguely tries to remember if she’s supposed to blow or press first. Then she shrugs, stands and pushes on his door instead.

There are two men sitting there looking vaguely familiar and yet utterly alien in the paper-and-book-strewn apartment.

“He’s dead,” she informs them.

“I see,” they nod to each other.

“I’m alive, right?”

“Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”

“Huh,” she pokes at her cheek with her tongue. “E. E. Cummings, is it?”


“Okay then.” She unleashes the knot on her robe and lets it slide to the floor. “Show me how to live forever.”

“Come, sit,” Picasso pats the red armchair beside him.


  1. #1 by Carrie Clevenger on February 5, 2010 - 3:33 pm

    WHY are you not in print in a million titles already? Geezus woman, you are brilliant. BRILLIANT and elegant in your words. I love it. I’m envious of your position. You’re where I want to be in the writing.


  2. #2 by Olivia Tejeda on February 5, 2010 - 3:35 pm

    Damn, girl!

    I’m with Carrie on this one. You astound and inspire me every time!

  3. #3 by Marisa Birns on February 5, 2010 - 3:37 pm

    This is an amazing piece of flash!

    Just brilliant.

  4. #4 by Skycycler on February 5, 2010 - 3:51 pm

    “…Show me how to live forever.” I think you just showed us. How do you transcend the space in between so effortlessly? Dynamite.

  5. #5 by Chris Chartrand on February 5, 2010 - 3:59 pm

    I’ll say brilliant too but it hardly seems adequate. Thanks for the masters class.

  6. #6 by Tony Noland on February 5, 2010 - 4:05 pm

    This was just stellar. The intimacy you have with each of these people, and the tremendous worlds they inhabit separately – just beautiful.

    Great piece!

  7. #7 by soesposito on February 5, 2010 - 4:08 pm

    (hiding under desk) Thanks, you guys are overwhelming.

  8. #8 by Jen Brubacher on February 5, 2010 - 4:55 pm

    This is amazing. I think I need to read it over again, and though I’m sure I still won’t quite understand it, it seems like understanding isn’t necessary. What a moving and strange piece of work. I love it.

  9. #9 by Melissa on February 5, 2010 - 5:18 pm

    I had to read it again. There is so much richness here. The description of Lou in the beginning was mesmerizing. One could meditate on this piece quite a while, exploring the questions of boundaries, life, death, and human desire.

  10. #10 by ThomG on February 5, 2010 - 5:28 pm

    Thanks for the comment on my #fridayflash. And I am so glad I wandered over, because this is quite magnificent. You’ve a fan.

  11. #11 by David G Shrock on February 5, 2010 - 5:33 pm

    I like the style for this one. A solid delivery. Brings up questions in a thoughtful manner.

  12. #12 by Deanna Schrayer on February 5, 2010 - 6:04 pm

    “Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.” Astounding line Shannon, astounding whole piece! Your skills are just absolutely amazing. I could fill an entire page with adjectives here. Bravo!

  13. #13 by AJ Campos on February 5, 2010 - 6:16 pm

    Eerie, spooky, confusing and beautiful. You’ve got talent: )

  14. #14 by PJ @doublelattemama on February 5, 2010 - 7:14 pm

    Love it. I would say more, but i would start repeating adjectives like stellar and astounding! 🙂

  15. #15 by Gram on February 5, 2010 - 7:35 pm

    You made me laugh and cry at the same time.. You were in my world and the taste is still there. You are right I love this..and it is one of your best..
    Undead is not vacant of life.. how you do understand Lou and Gene and how expression of art plays to life.

  16. #16 by jim wisneski on February 5, 2010 - 7:41 pm

    WOW! This was simply fantastic. From the opening line to the end – descriptive, passionate. . . just PERFECT.

    Thank you for writing it and sharing. . . this should be sent out for publication.


  17. #17 by Linda on February 5, 2010 - 10:18 pm

    This is so fabulously surreal. Lou, gene, I *know* them in so few words.

    Ditto with all of the above. Peace, Linda

  18. #18 by Mark Kerstetter on February 6, 2010 - 12:13 am

    Carrie’s right, this is brilliant. I’m stunned.

  19. #19 by KjM on February 6, 2010 - 12:32 am

    “Unbeing dead isn’t being alive.”

    How wonderful. The whole piece has this great surreal quality to it. And such a perfect finish, echoing the picture at the beginning.

    Nicely done.

  20. #20 by G.P. Ching on February 6, 2010 - 1:10 am

    Brilliant! As abstract as the Picasso it represents! Nice work.

  21. #21 by Cascade Lily on February 6, 2010 - 10:14 am

    Shannon! You never, ever disappoint with spectacularly GOOD writing. Bloody brillian my dear!

  22. #22 by karen from mentor on February 6, 2010 - 10:58 am

    “and then they are carefully wrapped and stored in the coat closet”

    Art that is hidden, just like desire that is hidden never quenches the thirst of the human spirit…..

    This was an awe inspiring piece of work. So very glad that you brought it out into the light to be seen.

    Karen :0)

  23. #23 by yearzerowriters on February 6, 2010 - 11:28 am

    winks & nods knowingly…

    My kinda writing, but then I think we both knew that already..

    marc nash

  24. #24 by Chance on February 6, 2010 - 11:57 am

    Very surrreal, but strangely understandable.

    Good stuff

  25. #25 by David on February 6, 2010 - 12:11 pm

    One word: fantastic.

  26. #26 by ganymeder on February 6, 2010 - 12:46 pm

    I love the surrealism, like a painting that I don’t quite understand. Nice.

  27. #27 by Laura Eno on February 6, 2010 - 3:22 pm

    Awesome and surreal, Shannon. It flows, it questions, it draws the reader in.

  28. #28 by Eric J. Krause on February 6, 2010 - 4:59 pm

    Very well written. This was a beautiful piece of fiction.

  29. #29 by Lou on February 7, 2010 - 3:52 am

    Well, I loved this. And not just because of the girl named Lou. 😉

  30. #30 by Anticrombie on February 8, 2010 - 3:54 pm

    Great quote from cummings… and how apropos. In being a man who believed ‘abnormal’ a complement, I would say he’d of treasured this piece, as well as the next several you will undoubtedly confound us with.

  31. #31 by Dana on February 8, 2010 - 6:40 pm

    This was excellent! Such great prose!

  32. #32 by ~Tim on February 9, 2010 - 4:49 am

    What a glorious concept and so wonderfully done.

  33. #33 by Cathy Olliffe on February 9, 2010 - 2:34 pm

    Wow. That’s it. Wow.

  34. #34 by Annie on February 13, 2010 - 2:05 am

    certianly something for the mind to explore – nothing fluffy about this story! I really enjoyed it.

    Thanks for popping over to my story last week – sorry its taken this long to visit yours. Visitors can see mine at

  35. #35 by Clive Martyn on February 16, 2010 - 1:22 pm

    You forgot to add genius onto your about page – it would have given us all the heads-up and we wouldn’t have been surprised by this amazing piece of flash. Well done – you are brilliant.

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