KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 5: Spring 2016
Flash Fiction: 733 words

The Neighbors Will Take the Chickens

by Nancy Parshall

The rain doesn’t surprise Molly, but she didn’t expect it so early. She grabs a t-shirt and jeans from the laundry room, slops some coffee in the tall mug, fills the cat’s food bowl, snatches an umbrella, and heads out before Frank is up. Molly sees rainy days as God’s permission slip to take scenic drives along M-22, sit in the Perk-n-Brew reading Good Housekeeping, visit Aunt Helen. It doesn’t matter what, she just doesn’t want to ride Frank’s rainy roller coaster.

He punches holes in the drywall on rainy days. He suffers from nightmares, shame, Jim Beam. He says he hears the sound of wheels sliding on wet pavement, the crunch of metal, the girl’s scream. He keeps her obituary on his desk.

“Frank, I’m home,” Molly says. She struggles with bags at the door. Outside, the rain has stopped. “Frank?”

Judge Judy sounds a warning in the TV room.

Molly notices Frank brought the mail in and separated it in two piles, his and hers. His clean breakfast dishes rest in the drying rack. The counter, wiped. He took over kitchen duties after being let go from his Dow Chemical sales job. They said they couldn’t wait for him to complete his sentence.

She creeps closer to the kitchen table. Winchester 22 Magnum bullets lay scattered. “Dangerous within 1¾ miles,” the silver box reads.


She pushes the coats aside in the closet and finds Frank’s rifle missing from the back corner. He gave up hunting years ago. She heads down the hall to the TV room, past family portraits on the wall, past his framed diplomas. Then—a gunshot.


Molly wants to believe she lost Frank on the day of the accident, but really she lost him long before. She lost him in the early days, when he made secret phone calls in the other room. She lost him during his fitness phase when he stayed late with Debra, his swim coach. She lost him on that Bangkok business trip when he came home with crabs, something he said he got from Hilton Hotel sheets. She was about to call it quits, to move on, when two rain-drenched policemen arrived at the door. “Ma’am, there’s been an accident. Your husband is okay, and he’s at the hospital. Your daughter is in worse shape.” Frank and Molly didn’t have a daughter.

She leans against the hallway wall, pressed into the framed photos of their wedding, their failed honeymoon. She thinks of the extravagant gifts Frank gave her each time he met someone new. She thinks of how he ridiculed her for dropping out of secretarial school, for still not cooking meatloaf like his mother, how he withholds money. That time at the Marriage Encounter retreat when he announced to the group she is bad in bed. The air around her feels thick, ready to burst. She pushes away from the wall and turns her back to the Judge Judy marathon.

At the kitchen window, Molly stares at the barn. She expects to see flames or a blood fountain coming out of the roof, but everything looks normal. She wonders how long it will take to sell the house. Does she need to update the bathroom first? How much can she get for the pearls and diamonds in her jewelry box, the ones other women earned? His BMW will provide a decent down payment for a condo. The neighbors will take the chickens.

The kitchen faucet drips, ping, ping, ping. She looks at her watch. She should call 9-1-1, but not too soon. If she waits twenty minutes, and it takes ten minutes to arrive, he’ll be done, right? Smokey the cat walks through her legs, his tail trailing, massaging her calves.

Molly startles when she sees the barn door swing open. The dog emerges first. Frank marches out, rifle over his shoulder. Elmer Fudd. His favorite hen, the only one he brought in the house on cold winter nights, the only one he picked blackberries for, the only one he allowed to range free, dangles upside down from his hand. She remembers him saying Clucky wasn’t doing well, that he’d euthanize her soon.

She wipes a dead fly from the windowsill above the sink and turns off the dripping faucet. Opening the fridge, she pulls out ground beef. Tonight it’ll be her meatloaf.


Editor’s Note: We’re proud to be first to publish Nancy Parshall’s writing, and we look forward to publishing more of her work in future issues.

Nancy Parshall
Issue 5, Spring 2016

splits her time between Northwestern Michigan College, where she teaches English, and the Lake Leelanau hobby farm she shares with her husband, David. Before returning home to Michigan, she spent 16 years traveling in 41 countries, notably England, Australia, and Japan. Her writing has been featured in Warmbloods Today and is forthcoming in NMC Magazine and Dunes Review.

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