“Drought” – Flash Prose by Kim Coleman Foote

Spirit of the drought – Arthur Streeton, 1895

Our Fall 2017 issue, FLAPPERHOUSE #15, won’t fly until Friday, 9/22, but today we’re offering a taste of all the menacing weirdness we have in store with “Drought,” an eerily surreal & fable-like work of flash prose by Kim Coleman Foote.

(Print copies of FLAPPERHOUSE #15 are available on Amazon for $6US, and digital PDF copies are currently available for via PayPal for just $3US!)

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for Cynthia Graae

THIS YEAR, BEFORE NIGHT RUSHES IN, WE AWAIT THE RIGHT MOMENT. When sky turns cyan and a breeze chants in the air, against our ears. When sky turns grey, erasing sun rays and hinting at rain, which hasn’t appeared in months.

Everyone in the area tenses upon their chairs, hoping to be agents in a new rite, begging Mother Nature to grant us those liquid grains from her atmosphere. We cant and cry, hoping she’ll hear us, when a gay gent strolls amongst us, stroking the cat on his shoulder. He lifts his thin legs like a crane then breaks into a canter. Some gather their young in fright. He tears off his hat, exposing a halo of hair, rants about how in this age, it is our hate that keeps Her from cooperating.

When an old hag jumps from her seat, we grit our teeth. She rages at the man, spittle staining her chin like tinea, her breath stinking of gin. She claims that the gates of the moon shall open to anyone who hasn’t tired of life’s mysteries.

The man grins the whole time. The cat has changed to a hare eating hay (some say it never was a pet but a rat disguised in rags).

Aside: don’t attempt to tag this as fiction; reality, in actuality, is fraught with much more strangeness.

Trying to ignore the species of the gent’s pet, we listen to his speech: “People, if I may: I ran into your gathering hoping you’d hire me, as I’m down to my last cent. Mother Nature sent me to be near to thee. For a few meagre coins, you may rent me to rig a trick to coax Her.”

Some listen, transfixed, while others shake their heads in ire or mirth. A few of us gather our gear and follow the prophet like ants in our cars to a cay. He lets his animal—for certain, now, a feline—roam amongst us as he smiles. Teeth like tines, tongue redder than blood, or something he just ate.

“At this rate,” says he, “we shall all save humanity, aye!” And beckons to the sea, viscous as tar, and jumps. A few blindly follow.

The rest of us hesitate alongside the cat. It scatters to the trees when the hollow above at long last releases its flood.

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photo by Rachel Eliza Griffiths

KIM COLEMAN FOOTE is a writer of fiction, essays, and experimental prose. Her writing honors include fellowships from the NEA, NYFA, and Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Missouri ReviewBlack Renaissance Noire, Crab Orchard Review, and elsewhere. She is ear-deep into a novel about the slave trade and a fiction collection based on her family’s experience of the Great Migration in Alabama and New Jersey.

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