Three Flashes: Helmet, Conflict & Cold and Valid World

by: Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois ((Header art by Joan Milo.))

Three offerings of audacious flash fiction that push the limits of storytelling to the edge…


My friend Garcia convinced me to go out for the football team with him. Garcia fancied himself a tough guy, heir to Pancho Villa and Che Guevara. He wanted to kick the asses of the black brothers whom he knew (accurately) would be bussed in to humiliate us.  I didn’t want to try out for the football team, but Garcia pressured me, challenged me to be a man, not a wuss. He pressured me like Pollo Murillo and Hector Delgadillo pressured me to huff gasoline with them in Delgadillo’s dim garage, his father’s motorcycle tools strewn around.

Garcia put on the football uniform Coach Trump gave him. I put on mine. I felt like I was wearing a poison-gas suit from World War I, one that wouldn’t work, and would drag me down to the bottom of a muddy trench.  The inside of the football helmet had jagged edges. I started thinking that Trump had made them jagged just to get at me. Trump didn’t like me. He thought I was a hippie. We hadn’t even invented hippies yet, but Trump knew all about them, as if in a state of contemptuous clairvoyance. Trump got in my face and yelled: When the going gets tough, the Tough get going, and Winners never quit and Quitters never win! 

We started running around the field. The air was thick with smog. It was a thousand degrees. Trump wouldn’t give me a glass of water. I’d been smoking cigarettes I’d stolen from my father, when he was still around, before he’d split and gone to live a different life in Sonora, Mexico. I’d stolen cigarettes from stores too, and from gas stations. I’d stolen them from the purses of whores. I had the perfect early-adolescent life in L.A. If I didn’t have the money for something I wanted, I stole it. I never got caught. I considered myself a master criminal, a criminal mastermind.

I’d been smoking cigarettes, drinking cheap booze, huffing petrol with Murillo and Delgadillo. Who knows what I was doing to my lungs. I fell to my knees and barfed. Every time I got up and started running, I barfed. I barfed long after the food in my stomach was gone. Garcia ran by and kicked me with his cleats, which made me bleed, and eventually left a scar. I decided I hated Garcia, though we’d grown up together and were best friends. I resolved to kill him. Trump came up and yelled slogans in my ears. I became a Quitter, I never won. When I took off the helmet, blood ran down my forehead and into my eyes.



As I drew up to my brother’s house I heard shouting, pulled out my flip phone to call 911, but it had run out of power. I was powerless to prevent damage. I pressed my ear to the cold steel sidig. Inside I heard them fighting, shouts and crashes. Melanie is 6’2, weighs close to three hundred pounds. Dave is 5’7, wiry as our Wyoming ancestors, but when Melanie wants her way, she rolls over him like a steer.

I stood outside smoking and started to shiver, whether it was due to the world chilling down or the intractable conflict inside, I couldn’t say.


Cold and Valid World


Peg has gone back to Winnipeg. She was short and thin, and her husband was tall and corpulent. They were like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, except that they weren’t creative. They were retired administrators who thought they were smarter than everyone else.


Betty teaches black children in a rural ghetto. Every morning she drives from her ruined house through the forest in her Subaru, which the commercials say means Love.


Peg and her corpulent husband were part of the group until they alienated everyone with their self-satisfied smugness, their overweening sense of superiority. Which of course masked a sense of inferiority, which everyone understood and felt compassion for until the couple’s obnoxiousness cumulatively become too much too tolerate.


Betty and her husband live in their cellar. She feels more like a rat than a human. They drink and take drugs to get to sleep. The blades of the turbines around their house spin and spin and the turbine symptoms have about killed them with pressure in their ears and head, insomnia, anxiety and depression.


Peg and Mr. Corpulent refused to play cards, one of the group’s foundation activities.


Others have abandoned their property, but they have animals they can’t leave. They have fewer animals now than they had before.


Peg and her husband intimated that playing cards was a pastime for morons.


Men on snowmobiles who didn’t like their criticisms of the power company came and poisoned their dogs.


They never said a word, but their feelings, their opinions about cards, were obvious.


Betty and her husband found them in the snow.


So gradually they were pushed out of the group. They were thought of with distaste and/or disdain.


blood from their mouths and noses


Members of the group remained polite to them, but nothing more


so red in the snow


And when Peg’s corpulent husband had a heart attack and died, Peg went back to Winnipeg, where she’d spent her childhood by a lake in an unpainted farmhouse with her aunt.


the ground too hard with winter to bury them


I know their troubles and I periodically send my condolences. Her husband thanks me. He says: Your caring means a lot in this cold and valid world.


Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had hundreds of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.

The artwork employed for the header is Joan Miró’s Harlequin’s Carnival. Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois distinct writing style has been influenced and shaped by the surreal works of Joan Miró, particularly in his use of a vocabulary of symbols that can be found across many of his works.

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