KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Flash Fiction: 768 words

Magazine Rack

by Sheree Shatsky

I wiggle myself a seat between the stacks of Ladies Home Journal and Southern Living. My brother gives the comic book rack a spin.

“Stay here until I get back,” our mother says. She plops our baby brother in the buggy seat. “No bending the page corners. And no reading the Enquirer. It’s trash.” She whips the cart toward the bakery on Aisle 1. The baby’s head bobbles like a crash dummy.

I call after her. “What if we have to go to the bathroom?” She pretends not to hear me.

Our mother never leaves one or the other alone at the magazine rack while she shops at Food Fair. Safety in numbers, she always says. Charlie sighs and reaches for a Spiderman comic book. “The baby’s gonna get a cookie. The baby always gets a cookie.”

“It’s to keep him quiet. So he’ll behave while Mom shops.”

He holds the comic close to his eyes. The kid needs glasses, but no one seems to notice but me. I hope he doesn’t go cross-eyed. “Maybe she’ll bring us a cookie?” He sounds hopeful.

“Don’t count on it.” I pull Tiger Beat off the shelf. “She’s not tender like that.”

We sit and read awhile, turning each page like the tissue pages of the Bible. The squeaky wheels stop and start and pass by, punctuating The Monkees article I’m reading in all the wrong places. Charlie gives me a nudge. The store manager looms over us. From our angle, he looks seven feet tall. His badge sticks crooked through the pocket of his green apron. I can read his name, my vision twenty-twenty. CLIFF.

“What are you kids doing?”

“Our mom told us to wait here.”

He yanks Spiderman out of Charlie’s hands. “No reading the magazines,” he says. “Where do you think you are, the library?”

“The library doesn’t have Spiderman comics,” Charlie says.

“Oh, smart guy.” He thumbs the comic in Charlie’s face like a flip book. I see hints of animated color flapping open, close, open, close. “No one buys a wrinkled magazine.”

“Hey, Cliff,” I say. “You’re bending the pages.”

He throws Spiderman to the floor and cracks his knuckles. “Where’s your mother?”

“Why not my father? Why is it always the mother? Dads don’t shop for groceries?”

Charlie slides closer to me.

Cliff recoils as if shot. “You insolent little witch. Come with me. Right now.”

“Our mom said to stay here until she got back,” Charlie says, as close to me as he can get without jumping inside my skin. “We can’t leave even if we need to go to the bathroom.”

“Yep.” I cross my arms and legs, covering my soft parts. “Not even if we crap our pants.”

Cliff grabs my arm and jerks me up. I yank away, stomping his foot a good one. I block the second reach of his stubby fat fingers, but he lunges at me again and I slip on the Spiderman comic. He’s got me, got me good in the wrestling hold Charlie read about last week sitting here at the magazine rack, minding our own business, not bothering anybody. “Play nice now,” Cliff whispers in my ear. “Let’s take a little walk.”

I’m stuck and can’t move. I can barely see Charlie, but I see his shoes. I know he’s close to crying because his sneakers are turned in pigeon-toed, a weird habit of his when he’s confused and doesn’t know what to do. “Charlie,” I say. “It’s okay. Go find Mom.”

The sneakers move. And climb. I crick my neck and watch him out of the corner of my eyes scaling the canned goods shelves to stand on the top, Spidey-style. He funnels his hands around his mouth and yells, “THE BOSS OF FOOD FAIR HAS MY SISTER IN A FULL NELSON! HIS NAME IS CLIFF AND HE’S A BAD MAN!”

Cliff loses his grip.

So does our mother. She emerges from an army of women bearing grocery carts. “Stay with the baby,” she tells me and approaches the store manager. He smiles, opens his mouth to explain, and she fills it up good with an entire spray can of Reddi Wip® whipped cream. “Heathen,” she says as he gags and clutches his throat.

Charlie scrambles down and brushes cookie crumbs from the baby’s face. “We stayed right here, Mom, just like you told us.”

She smoothes the beat Spiderman as best she can and hides it behind the Batman comic books. “Safety in numbers,” she says, rolling over the unconscious store manager’s fat fingers on the way to the register.


Sheree Shatsky
Issue 11, Spring 2019

writes short fiction, believing much can be conveyed with a few simple words. She was selected by the AWP Writer to Writer Mentorship Program as a Spring 2018 mentee for flash fiction. Recent work has appeared in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, KYSO Flash, and mac(ro)mic, with work forthcoming in Sleet Magazine, among others. Read more of Ms. Shatsky’s work along with her adventures with Wild Words at, and find her on Twitter: [at] talktomememe

Site contains text, proprietary computer code,
and graphic images that are protected by:

⚡   Many thanks for taking time to report broken links to: KYSOWebmaster [at] gmail [dot] com   ⚡