3 Flash Fictions

by Sally Burnette

The Iron Stove

Long ago, when people still made wishes, there lived a beautiful prince. One day he went for a walk along the woods. A crow cawed, which startled him so much that his mind emptied & he ran straight into the forest until he was lost & very tired.

He curled up on a rock & dreamed he was trapped in a burlap sack stuffed with peach pies, his nostrils snorting in custard & crust. He woke to night. Eerily violet except for a rectangular light flickering in the distance. As he approached he saw it was an iron stove.

Hello a voice from inside it said. You’re far from home.

The prince stepped closer. How do you know where I live he said.
I’m actually a prince too the voice said. Well half-prince half-god. Anyway. I’m all-knowing. But I was cursed to live inside this stove by a jealous old witch.

The prince stooped to look inside the stove. Flames whooshed from the firebox & he jumped.

I’ll help you get home if you agree to come back & fuck me…To break the curse, obviously the voice said.

Uh sure the prince said, then fainted.

He came to in front of his father’s gilt castle. He rode the elevator to the king’s floor & told him the whole story.

You sure he meant you? the king said, chewing on a fried turkey leg. What were you wearing? Surely he needs a princess for this…undertaking.

So the king held a regional beauty pageant. Then jailed & adopted the top five winners. He sent the fourth-runner-up princess into the woods in a wedding gown. She returned the following day. Face disfigured by burns. Eyes & mouth soldered shut.

The king sent the next one & she returned burned. As did the rest. People reported wildfires destroying fields& lawns. Sheep & plastic flamingos spontaneously combusting. Grapevines fruiting charcoal balls. Infants born blistered.

Daddy the prince said. Send me to the stove.

But of course the king refused. After dinner the prince ran away. Closed his eyes & sprinted till he passed out. Smoke choked him awake.

Hello the stove said.

Hey said the prince & he began licking the top of its flue.

Cornflowers & buttercups exploded into bloom. Fat clouds divided like cells.

When they were finished, the stove was like that was cool & the prince was like aren’t you gonna turn into this hot guy or something now?

Rude the stove said & lit the prince on fire. Flames like feathers, iridescent white.


The Goose Girl

there was once a girl who lived on a farm // with a fatherly taxidermied horse // the girl had the face of a cabbage patch doll & the lower body of a canada goose // she weeded the herb garden every week // while the horse stood sentinel on the porch // one day she pulled up a clump of pennywort & from the roots dangled a small man // excuse me he said // what do you want? she said // he said i want to live in your vagina // she said it’s cramped in there already // plus it’s technically a cloaca // this made him angry // i know what it is don’t you try & tell me what it is he said //she flattened the upturned dirt with her palmate feet // the man pinched her webbing // at midnight tonight i will enter // or you will be sealed forever he said // & corkscrewed himself into the ground // she was afraid // oh god! she wept // & hugged the horse’s neck // what do i do? // its mouth dropped open // inside was a glass vial of crushed pokeweed root // & a bottle of mint-flavored lube // at midnight she lay on her stomach // spreading her feathers // the man arrived sliding on her nightstand lamp’s pull-chain // with a briefcase & a pillow under his arm // so he said i see you’ve changed your mind // yes she said but no one’s ever lived inside me // the freckles on her cheeks sparkled // it’s okay i’ll be super gentle he said // do you mind if we use lube? she said // & retrieved her concoction from the drawer // coated the pillow & briefcase // & popped them inside her // the man clapped & hopped impatiently // she dripped the rest of the lube down him like syrup // he slithered on her duvet toward the breathing pink hole // then collapsed & puked & shat & died // she wrapped his body in toilet paper // & tossed it into her bathroom trash can // the horse watched from the doorway as she honked “taps” // & shook baking soda over the stained mattress


Mary’s Child

There was a Bible salesman who lived in a small house in an isolated palm hammock. He had a wife. They had a daughter. Nobody was buying bibles, so they ate sparingly. Heathens the man would say, throwing his bike into a pile of molted fronds. When you’re hungry, your body has more room for the holy spirit the wife would tell the daughter as she microwaved a hot pocket & cut it in three. The daughter ate hiding under a blanket & circled shiny appliances in a Sears catalogue.

One day the couple awakened to Mary at the foot of their bed, slurping a glowing wine cooler swaddled in a 7-Eleven bag. The man leaped from the sheets onto his knees. Save it Mary said, screwing the cap on her bottle. Seems like you’re having a hard time providing she said. We do the best we can the man said. We’re good Christians the woman insisted He sells Bibles. Mary said What if i take your daughter. She can live with me in heaven. Till you’re ready. The woman said I’m not sure. The man said Take her & she disappeared. They called for the daughter, but she was gone. Instead in her bed lay a parakeet with a silver leg band.

Heaven is a cold apartment above a Popeye’s. It smells like biscuits & packeted grape jelly. The door is solid sapphire with opal inlay. Mary named the daughter Strawberry & gave her a magic key. There are thirteen black coffin-sized doors on the living room wall & Strawberry was allowed to unlock twelve & she did. Behind each is an apostle. Hi she said to Paul. Pretty boring she thought & opted to float around the kitchen. She stood in the fridge imitating a jar of capers, swirled around a glorious dough hook, slept liquid divided in an ice tray.

Mary went out one Friday night. Strawberry opened the thirteenth door. This room is infinite & orange with lilac wisps of what seems to be sand. She extended her arm. It showered onto her palm & stuck as if magnetized to flesh. Each grain is a key attached to a shrunken bone. Mandible femur sternum pubis. She shook them off & slammed the door.

The magic key was instantly fused to her finger. The surrounding skin turned into gold. She rolled her sleeve down to cover it, but when Mary got home she sensed something was wrong & demanded that Strawberry show her the key. She presented her hand. Mary slapped her across the face.

Strawberry woke up in a pink gown & mantle on the ground outside her parents’ house. They asked What happened but she couldn’t open her mouth. With a razor she cut an inch-wide slit in her lips & through it consumed only tea & mangrove propagules. Her mother prayed to Mary, who told her that the key-hand was cursed, that she should remove it & offer it as sacrifice. Strawberry opened all the windows. Hundreds of parakeets flocked inside & filled the cupboards.

Strawberry’s parents checked out a wrist surgery textbook from the library, but they ended up just using an axe. They dehydrated the hand with a jerky dryer, then spray-painted a mannequin hand & glued the pair together folded in prayer. They placed this in a bell jar & pawned it for $300. Mary accepted the sacrifice &stole the hand. She ate it fried with a side of gravy-less mashed potatoes, boiled the residual sinew off the bone, kissed the phalange fused to the key & bent it to use as a roach clip. When she finished her spliff she spat onto the street below, grazing the wheel of a passing stroller.

Strawberry never spoke again. Felt no pain the rest of her life & slept standing in a closet. Dreaming about Mary’s pierced nipples. About porcelain doorknobs slathered in clover honey. About drowning an ibis. About drowning.

Sally Burnette lives in Boston, where they teach at Emerson College. Recent work is forthcoming in Split Lip MagazineDream Pop JournalBOAATWinter Tangerine and elsewhere.