KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
“Flash isn’t a fad, it’s an art; and while I hope people can have fun with it, its pursuit should still be taken seriously.”
— Tara L. Masih, editor of Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction
Issue 1: Fall 2014
Nonfiction: 422 words


by Clare MacQueen

In a Fisher-Price® tape recording, circa mid-1980s, a child’s voice sings verses from an absurd song about squishing bumble bees. Five or six years old, she giggles so much she can barely form words. A young woman laughs in the background, just as tickled as the child. Here is unmitigated glee that takes the breath away. Here is undiluted joy as contagious now as it was then. Anyone listening cannot help but join in, though tears may follow close behind.

When her song is over, the child wants the mother to speak: “Say something weird,” she wheedles, “like a joke.”

Her mother claims playfully not to know any. “Besides,” she says, “my mind’s on paying these bills.” Her tone slides from silly to somber and immediately the child says, “I love you,” as if her affection is the most natural and self-evident thing in the world.

“I love you too, Kelley,” her mother replies, voice brightening, and it’s clear in this archived moment that the mom’s mind has veered from the mundane to the magical, from the domestic to the divine. We are listening to one soul reveal the unified field theory of life to another.

— Adapted from “The Fragrance of Levity,” by Clare MacQueen, in Serving House Journal (Issue 4, Fall 2011)


KYSO Flash is dedicated to the memory of that little girl with the giggles, and the young woman she grew up to be: Kelley Marie Smith, my daughter—who loved good stories more than most people. Especially stories with a whiff of weirdness, a cribbling of crassness, and a whole lotta humor.

A constellation of factors converged, no doubt with Divine help, to make this journal a reality now, more than twenty years after I first began to dream of publishing the works of others—and to hope that Kelley’s art and writings would someday be among them.

Unfortunately, that hope had only begun to bear fruit when she passed away unexpectedly three years ago. Soon after Kelley’s 31st birthday, an extra, previously undetected electrical pathway in her heart disrupted her cardiac rhythms one last time—triggering symptoms that had been treated mistakenly as panic attacks for half her lifetime, and causing her sudden collapse.

That I continue to carry her in my own heart not surprisingly affects my editorial decisions, which helps explain the variety of works you will find here. My deepest gratitude to all the lovely folks who have kindly contributed words and images for KYSO Flash. I believe Kelley would have thanked you, too.

Photo of Kelley Marie Smith, by Gary Gibbons
Kelley M. Smith, 1980–2011
Kirkland, WA (2005)
Photo by Gary Gibbons
Photo of Clare MacQueen, by Gary Gibbons
Clare MacQueen
Bellevue Botanical Gardens (2006)
Photo by Gary Gibbons

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