KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 3: Spring 2015
Haibun Story: 484 words


by Charles Hansmann

The beach is out of the question today because of the sun, because of the rash that has spread on my cheeks like butterfly wings. I look it up on the Internet and find it’s most common in teenage girls with red hair and fair skin. This describes her to a T.

one dog’s gauge
one dog’s tether

Her letters are coming addressed to a name that only sounds like mine: Nick Knocked. I’ve been getting them all week in envelopes the color of a bruised peach. Today’s has a Liberty-Bell Forever Stamp angled to the corner, and humidity blurs the red ink of the postmark. I know it is local, like all the others, a privacy envelope with the flap loosely sealed, as if all she can spare is a dab of saliva and a passing lick.

wind easing
the blown thistle

I slip a finger inside to open it. Her message hasn’t changed, but today she tacks on the suspense of ellipsis: “I’m still waiting...”

the horn that gores
the horn that blows

She’s recounting a night exactly like the one I remember, an almost hostile ardor, fierce and impersonal, Hessians just doing their job. She even gets in the identifying mark: two linked rings, “in epidermal blue,” tattooed above my sternum.

all night breathing
the ceiling fan

Like the letters before it, this one ends on an ominous note: “As and for a first cause of action, Nick Nacht knocked me up.” The first part of that sentence was obviously cribbed from papers she has seen in some lawsuit. The second explains her little pun.

scattered petals
scattering the sparrows

It was one of those parties where without even speaking we went out the side door to the sand. A few weeks later as I was walking down the street she hailed me from a table on the sidewalk. “Sixteen candles!” she called, putting a finger to her lips, “but I’m willing to hush.”

old bridge spanning
the old ford

She was sitting with friends deceptively young, tilted back in their chairs and flagrantly smoking. As I turned to walk away I heard one of them shout, “We know where you live!”

firefly and dew
sparking the web

I am possibly the target of attempted extortion, possibly the perpetrator of a statutory crime. The threshold to shame is trampled with moral ambiguity. This is a crime you can commit by mistake. No amount of regret would make her any older.

pebbles splashing
the flooded quarry

The only consequence so far is this sympathetic rash, though my raised red skin is anything but phantom. If she’s telling the truth, Couvade could be next. But according to my table the tide is going out. I can picture the shore getting bigger by the minute. Rash or no, I have to get some sun.

shadow of the nomad
shadow of the uprooted tree

—A 999-word flash-fiction version of this piece, entitled Boomerang, appears in Issue 12 of Serving House Journal.

See also Author Commentaries on Haibun Stories.

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