June 24 is (Inter)National Flash Fiction Day. In celebration, SmokeLong Quarterly asked several amazing writers of flash fiction to share a top ten list of flash favorites on a topic of their choice. SmokeLong contributor, Gay Degani, has a story featured in the National Flash Fiction Day anthology, Sleep Is A Beautiful Colour. Today, she shares her favorite flash stories featuring cars.
By Gay Degani
Here are my Top 10 Favorite “Car” stories in no particular order. Why cars? I live in Southern California, less than a mile from Arroyo Seco Parkway, the oldest U.S. freeway (completed in 1940) to connect Pasadena to Downtown Los Angeles.
I’ve spent a good part of my life on the 10, the 40, the 60, the 80. From age 5 to age 17, I traveled with my family by car from Torrance to Iowa and Louisiana every summer. I like driving. I like cars. Cars are a terrific metaphor for life. They take us where we want to go and sometimes where we don’t. They make us think ahead, plan for disaster, excite us with possibilities. They are a gamble, a rush, a source of pride or humiliation. When we purchase a car, it has to say something about us. Almost everyone has an opinion about cars: love, hate, or merely tolerate them, they have become a necessary part of modern life.
I write a lot of stories with cars in them: “Oranges,” “Dani-Girl’s Guide To Getting Everything Right,” “Doing Mr. Velvet,” “Cords,” “Eye for an Eye,” “Flash Flood,” “Isla Vista 1970,” “Kindling,” and “Something about LA” to name a few.
And I like these stories. Every one of them is beautifully written, but each stands out for its own reasons.
“A Place You Know” by Chloe N. Clark at Smokelong Quarterly
Chloe N. Clark’s “A Place You Know,” is a sad and lovely journey to a “city of the dead” underscoring both the action in the story itself and a metaphor for life. “ Our mother bundled us into the car early—the sun barely having crested the sky.” Then “I always got bored at the halfway mark.” And “We drove so long to get there. The cities around us rose and fell.”
“Imagine Your Daughter is a Cherry Red Convertible” by Kathy Fish at New World Writing
Kathy Fish wields her very special brand of magic in “Imagine Your Daughter is a Cherry Red Convertible.” The title says so much, the story is a singular cautionary tale for all parents to mind their children, and its message smacks you before you can hit the brakes.
“Accident” by Dave Eggers at The Guardian
I love the immediacy of Dave Eggers, “Accident.” You the reader are figuratively in the driver’s seat, not just a gawker, but a virtual perpetrator of careless driving. He writes, “Walking to their car, which you have ruined, it occurs to you that if the three teenagers are angry teenagers, this encounter could be very unpleasant.”
“Apocalypse Story” by Roxane Gay at Wigleaf
Even though the title of “Apocalypse Story” warns the reader of what’s coming, Roxane Gay’s first paragraph suggests a different kind of tale. Yet, as she is wont to do, she soon delivers an excellent piece of flash suspense. “He covered my hand with his. My hand was resting on the cup holder between our seats.”
“The Ambulance Driver” by Ben Loory at Wigleaf
Irony is what draws me to Ben Loory’s “The Ambulance Driver,” and the fact that the main action of the story is all too common, and its consequences are not always what we think.
“Tollbooth” by Max Hipp at New World Writing
“Toll Booth” by Max Hipp is one of those stories that takes the reader somewhere unexpected by glimpsing the lives of three people that converge at a metaphorical pay station in life.
“Road Kill” by Paul Beckman at Sugar Mule
The extremely prolific Paul Beckman has written several “car” stories, but the one I favor is “Road Kill” where he explores the juxtaposition of nature vs. machine. The catalyst of the story, too, appeals to me too since it deals in an archetypal situation.
“Triangulation” by Christopher Allen at A-Minor
Experimental fiction is something at which Christopher Allen is a master, and his “Triangulation” is proof. Setting and structure are the elements that make this flash into a story to experience.
“Driving Me to Distraction” by James Claffey at Mad Hat Lit
James Claffey’s “Driving Me to Distraction” gives the reader a father whose rage at life is expressed in road rage and the lessons his son has learned. The prose goes deep, both strong and visual: “My nightmares were of death and twisted steel and Naugahyde seats sticky with young boys’ blood.”
“Yuppies” by Anne Elizabeth Weisgerber at Ink in Thirds
And last, but certainly not least, is Anne Elizabeth Weisgerber’s “Yuppies,” which takes the reader into a sunny noir place. Though this might seem a contradictory, it is exactly what the story delivers.
Southern Californian Gay Degani has a collection of short stories, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum, 2016). Nominated for Best Small Fictions and Pushcart consideration, she won the 11th Annual Glass Woman prize. She blogs at Words in Place.