Flash Fiction


  Sojourner Walker Williams

A few weeks ago I was fortunate enough to take part in a reading at the Barnes & Noble in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The reading was hosted by the Imani House, a wonderful organization I've volunteered with for a while now.

I read a piece I've been struggling with lately, a short story titled- AIM. POINT. SPRAY.

The beauty of a live audience is the ability to receive instant feedback. I had the rare opportunity to take in the collective reactions of a room full of strangers. The subtle oohs gasps and chuckles were priceless. This piece is due for another round of edits, but here's what I've been able to do so far.





Twilight descends upon the sky creating an incomprehensible cloak of darkness. Moving from shadow to shadow through the dense brush. I wonder if I’m almost home?


There are no street lamps here. The moon is gone. I float through a philharmonic black hole. A chorus of crickets and yellow locusts harmonize with the melancholy carol of the Bell frog.


Red grass tickling bare knees. Flip flops click against the give of the earth.


The sounds of neighbors, flickering lights in the distance, the aroma of roasting firewood- almost home.


My feet find the familiar winding path to my front porch. I step out of my shoes.


What is the time? I drop my schoolbag and head to the refrigerator, its soft glow lights the room. I sip mango juice from the carton. Four classes in a row, it has been a long day.


I close the refrigerator and make my way across the room to find the oddly placed light. Coming home after dark is an obstacle course.


I head down the hallway and into my room. My fingertips graze the wall for the bedroom light. Click. The elephant print wall hanging, the package to send home. Stepping out of my skirt and into shorts, something is askew. A bristly blur clings where the cracked indigo wall meets the dull concrete.


The shape, slowly registers, paralysis strikes. Eight muscular legs curl. My breath pizzicato, marks my descent into ether.


You do not belong here!


Dashing to the hall cabinet, ready for battle, feeling for Baygonne bug spray, I return. The spider, a huntsman, larger than my hand, clings defiantly, unmoved.




I hear him his.


You do not belong here.


            Shaky hands. Gummy teeth, I aim, point, spray. The hiss, tiny particles twirl and dance catching the light. The huntsman inflating, rises, massive. A spastic sprint of angry circles.


            Aim, point, spray. Trembling arms, breath seized. The huntsman up the wall, launches towards me.  The can crashes to the concrete.


            On jelly legs, I run down the hallway, through the kitchen, out the door, into darkness. Black sky, close, crushing. Trembling, alone.


            Uncertain steps backwards. The downward slope of wet grass. I’m running, searching for anyone, someone to help me. Finally a television glare and an open door. Two boys are seated atop a fraying tan mat. Startled eyes. A football match, a begging stranger.


            The eldest rises. An uneasy glance is shot towards his brother. A raised hand to say-stay. Beneath the black sky he joins me. Four brisk feet, uncertain. Shoes off before the door. Through the kitchen, past the hallway, into the room. Pointing, gesturing, the man-hunt begins. The boy shakes curtains, lifts the rug, opens drawers, checks the mosquito net. Silence.


            Pacing the kitchen, arms crossed, biting my lower lip, I can’t bear to watch. The clock ticks, a moth flits towards the light. The smell of tea. Nails piercing arms.


            The boys startled scream, a brown finger pointing, shaking towards an overturned pink suitcase. With a look of defeat, the boy quietly shakes his head, ready to go home.


            The front door closes.


I hear it again- You don’t belong here.


           Standing in the kitchen, exhausted and alone. No plan. A wobbly kitchen table, tonight’s bed.


            Lying on pineapple print tablecloth, knees to chest, ear on shoulder, I’m unable to sleep. Blinking madly into darkness, feeling inconsolably small and defenseless. The American teacher in Tanzania, unsettled, alone.

Bedtime Story- Part II (A brief snippet from the center)

SONY DSC Due to its surprising popularity, I'll extend my Flash Fiction Friday segment. Thanks so much for all of the great writing feedback. Happy Friday ;)


“People work in cycles,” Kaylah sensing my distress, said one evening.                       

I was eating pea soup on the window-ledge. Kaylah was in her usual chair, looking over files from work.                                                                                                           

“Artists, the criminally insane, there is one constant, the cycles.” 


She worked as a psychologist in a home for the mentally disturbed. She was used to cycles.


          “If it doesn’t come to you, don’t stand around waiting. Don’t beat yourself up. Find a new angle. If you’re not in a creation cycle, decide what you want this next cycle to look like, until it is creation time again.”                                                                                     


            In the back room, Kaylah’s child whimpered, I was left staring at the Manhattan skyline, juggling her words.                                                             


I stopped fighting my stagnancy. I surrendered all attempts to direct my hands letting whatever manifested take residency on my canvas. My work without judgment was allowed to lean against our apartment walls and grow into itself.  Neither portraits or abstract cells, these paintings were outlines of both.  Devoid of my characteristic colorful parade of patterns, these pieces were pastel, tainted with gray. Sometimes, John, Kaylah’s son, would drag his crayons across the edges of the pieces I allowed to rest on the floor. Surprisingly complimentary, the wisps gave the paint character. I did not stop him.                                                                                                                                            

copyright 2013, Sojourner Walker, All Rights Reserved                 

Platform (a snippet in a flash from the middle)

It’s Flash Fiction Friday! Every Friday during the month of July, I’ll feature a snippet of one of my travel inspired short stories. I hope you enjoy! IMG_2960


I never leave the apartment without a book. Reading is my only line of defense in warding off crazies. I don’t like strangers. I don’t like to talk to people I don’t know, especially not in this city. My roommates make fun of me; it’s easier they say to put headphones on, but I need to hear what’s going on around me and I need something to do with my eyes. I wonder daily if I should have just stayed in Texas, in the suburbs of Houston, where I had space. I didn’t have to mask my eyes and pretend.


Texas tastes like my mama’s homemade dinners, sounds like the laughter of Leila, my best friend, vibrates with the sound of my grandma’s singing first thing in the morning cup of tea in hand and it’s overcast with shadows. It’s the place I lost my father.


Now I’m here, two months in. I made my choices, quitting my job, packing my belongings in my Ford Explorer, cajoling Monica, my sister, to help me drive cross country to New York, where I sold my Ford, found an apartment, a job, and just like that, took on a new life, in a new city. New York. Few regrets, at least on a good day.


I watch from my periphery as an older gentleman takes a seat on the bench next to me. He murmurs to himself in creamy Spanish. I give him a sideways inspection to make sure he isn’t crazy. I’m struck by his colors, the vibrant purple of his coat, the rich red of his pants, bold statements to the world. Compelled, my gaze lingers. Soggy bags form a crescent beneath his eyes; gray tufts of beard surround his mouth like irregular snow drifts. Curiosity satisfied, I continue performing my role as a serious and intense bibliophile.


But I can’t read. I can’t perform. I’m distracted by the man seated to my left, by the way his frame towers over mine, leaning towards me as if reading over my shoulder.  I begin to lean to the right creating more space between us. He wants to speak to me. I can feel it. He clears his throat in soft grunts. I narrow my eyes but they remain glued to the page.


“Is it religious, your book?” he finally asks.


I pretend not to hear and continue staring at the page.


“Your book. Is it religious?” his voice rises to emphasize his question.


I avoid eye contact and flash the cover.


“Spiritual,” I manage abruptly.


His stare makes my skin tingle. My performance continues. He does not falter.


“That’s a good book.”


I continue looking at my page and do not respond.


Orleich is both an anthropologist and a shaman.” He speaks with staccato conviction.


My brows furrow.


“She presents a complete picture, a clear roadmap. We once led a workshop together,” he continues.


My grip is fierce on the pages. I’m flustered, he knows the author?


“You know the author?” Horrified, I hear the question tumble, un-guarded, from my lips.


“Put the book down,” he responds, dropping the endings of his words.


I break character, stop performing and obey. The book is in my lap and I am staring into the brown eyes of a stranger.


Peering at his palms he asks me to cup my hands together. I mirror his gesture.


“What do you see?”


I consider my answer. I know it’s a test. I don’t want to fail, like I’ve failed at understanding the pages of my book. I stare into my palms and crinkle my nose. My glasses slip from my bridge, the burgundy frames blur my line of vision. I try to concentrate.

copyright 2013 sojourner walker, all rights reserved


BOXES (a short snippet)

It’s Flash Fiction Friday! Every Friday during the month of July, I’ll feature a snippet of one of my travel inspired short stories. I hope you enjoy!




“Congratulations on your transfer. Just make sure not to screw up. If they send you back here, I want you to know - you’re outta luck kid! Your replacement begins training on Monday.” 


There was tremendous laughter as Mr. Gordon, red faced and tickled by his own joke, snorted into the microphone.


“To Curtis,” he roared.


“To Curtis,” a few voices in the crowd chimed back meekly, almost drowning out the handful of snickers in the room. Champagne glasses were raised. It was done.


He went reluctantly and with a heavy heart. Curtis Freddy saw the twisted irony. He knew people dreamt of moving to New York, of living in the big city and rubbing elbows with the famous. He couldn’t think of any greater hassle. When his boss, Mr. Gordon, informed him of the upcoming transfer from the Columbus branch of the bank where he had worked as an accountant for the last sixteen years to the hoity-toity New York offices in the financial district, his throat began to clench, his eyes overcome by the sting of an approaching flood of tears. To maintain his dignity he had excused himself and spent his lunch break purging his grief into the toilet bowl.


Mr. Gordon, tucked away in his office on the other side of the men’s bathroom, mistook the tears that escaped for joy. Touched, he jumped on the phone to expedite the arrangement. A week later at a surprise lunchtime goodbye party, he made the announcement that Curtis Freddy would be gone by the end of the month as opposed to six months time. More tears followed.

copyright 2013, Sojourner Walker


Bedtime Story (a snippet in a flash!)

It's Flash Fiction Friday! Every Friday during the month of July, I'll feature a snippet of one of my travel inspired short stories. I hope you enjoy! Back Camera


From mother to daughter


“What Yemaya wants, daughter, Yemaya gets.”


I was born on a kitchen floor at the beginning of the cyclone season. My mother, fearful of her fresh wash being ruined, had run outside to pull the clothes off the line. The moment she stepped indoors, her water broke. Mixed with that water, was blood.


I arrived on a pile of rain-dampened clothes, two months early and at the same moment, in the same place when my mother left this world. I like to think we met then as spirits going through one door to the next. I have no memory of her.


It was the year our country was changing. The Portuguese had just been defeated and had retreated, leaving burning piles of wreckage in their wake. It was a time of hope and great sadness. My grandfather told me these things. He was the keeper of our history.


My father, grandfather and I, moved from Beira to a small coastal village where my grandfather had two brothers. The fish were abundant and we ate very well. It was the year the civil war broke out, dividing our country yet again, breathing more death and explosive destruction.


There are two sounds I remember from my childhood, the rolling waves of the Indian Ocean and the decisive crack of machine guns and exploding mines. For seven years we lived by the ocean, my father, my grandfather and I, until danger crept too close, the death and screams taking over the air we depended on.


We left one night by foot. Our lives carried in a bag on my father’s back. We were among the first group from the village to leave, to head south, away we thought from the fighting. Ghost people, we roamed from shadow to shadow.

Copyright 2013, Sojourner Walker