An offering of flash fiction where the practice of writing exists as the sole relief from the hardships of everyday life…
by: Anni Shamim
I send out distress signals from under the rubble pile of rejections, multitudes of them from literary magazines that want me to submit again — and then again, and again. We are so impressed with your writing; This is not our customary rejection; We enjoyed it very much. I work full-time, selling palm oil, because everyone wants it. I write in the dark hours of the morning before paying work begins. I’m still dealing with a Faustian arrangement I made at age eighteen, one child from that union a serious addict, resuscitated three times from fentanyl overdoses in the last year, and the other a single mother who couldn’t make the rent this month. So I pour into them all the physical, emotional, and financial support I can. My parents just canceled their trip to the United States — from Cameroon — because my father is too ill, too frail to travel, so I will have to go to them, possibly make arrangements to spend part of every year with them until one of them passes on, then maybe have the other come live with me. But how to do this, without a Green Card or health insurance? Throughout it all, the one thing that remains a constant, steady food-supply for my soul is my writing, even if the literary world remains indifferent to my work.
To write is my life force and soulmate. The passion won’t leave my side — it enlarges, even — in times such as when my son calls, stifled-sobbing on the other end of the line, this grown man, because he says his head is a circular hell and can I please help him find the exit. Or when I call the detox facility he’s checked into and the young-sounding case manager tells me that my son, after completing detox, opted out of the free long-term treatment program that I had done serious running-around to get him into. “Oh,” I say. “Hmmm. Where did he go?” I don’t want to know, but I have to set free the question. The case manager’s voice softens, wobbles between indecision and pity as she replies: “homeless shelter.” My son has chosen a homeless shelter instead of a chance to find the exit he so badly craves. My son…in a homeless shelter, and there it is, my life force, my writing, emerging, swooping me up mid-collapse, bringing me to the page, and off I fly into its world, my world, I soar giddy with force, with power — somersaulting, gliding, rolling in the illusion that I am in control and all will be as I say it should be.
Revived, nourished, I go to work, make my commission, goo and ga at my beautiful grandson over my daughter’s video-calls, clean the house, covering for my daughter at work while she’s at her other job. When I’m done, a young woman, my daughter’s customer, hands me a check and asks about the little notebook hanging by a strap around my neck. “Oh, this,” I say, then look up again. “There’s a tiny pen in there,” too, I say. I smile. “I’m a writer,” and leave out “unpublished.”