2 Flash Fictions

by S.S. Mandani



Tossing blueberries on his coffee table, Kamran saw signs everywhere. They made an arrow pointing to his bedroom. He took this to mean he should go to sleep early.

The next day was the most productive of his life. From then on, he held blueberries in high regard. His grandmother had told him long ago everyone in their family would have a special guide in their life. A talisman from the natural world. Fruit qualified. It had nothing to do with being Muslim. There was no religion in his grandmother’s words. It was about being a Shah. The Shahs believed in all sorts of magic and myth.

Kamran finished work by 9 AM. He sent the reports to his boss, and, for the first time ever, Claire, told him to take the day off. Usually she was a hard-ass, but today was different. Kamran had met deliverables well before deadline, so he went home to his little apartment.     At home, he was listless. He didn’t know what to do. Taking out a handful from their carton, he washed them, patted them dry, and then like focused dice on a board game, he dropped them onto his coffee table. They aligned themselves perfectly. One was slightly askew as if it was pointing to his window.

Kamran approached the window. He lived in a small room at the top of a stairwell leading out to the terrace of an East Village rooftop. Seven floors up, he made out a sliver of the East River. The buildings caused anxiety. The river, however, was a meditation. Listening to the blueberries, he left his apartment to take a walk by the water.

He approached the railing of the East River, catching a glimmer of incandescence. Even in daylight, a teal-silver flashed, reflecting sunlight as if through a prism of diamonds.

Kamran squinted, leaning his body over the railing. He looked like a little kid who understood what a river was for the first time. His balance teetered. Again, he witnessed the intense glimmer. He couldn’t be sure, but he believed he saw a fin. And then an arm. And finally, a supple face rose from the water, swelling under a creature. It wasn’t an oversized fish or even a seal. And while Kamran was familiar with the myth, the first time encountering a legend is always as fantastic as imagined. His inclination was to scream his discovery to the pier, yet all he could muster was a simple whisper, “Mermaid.”

All around, the water was still. Simple ripples. But the current under Mermaid was alive, cresting into a throne. Her arms by her sides, her palms gripping the river like reigns on a wild horse. But it wasn’t cheap like in the movies. It was curiosity. Mermaid wanted to be known.




They became friends. Every few days, he visited her by the pier. Even when Kamran had a long day at work, Mermaid swam up to be sure. Then one day, in her own way, she asked Kamran to hang.

“I would love that. Where should we go? What should we do?” Kamran didn’t want to state the obvious and make her feel bad about not being able to barhop or go to the movies.

She hummed a melody. She wanted him to come with her. He wasn’t sure of the mer-logistics. He didn’t even know how to swim, but for some innate reason, he trusted Mermaid.

That night, he picked up a small crate of blueberries from the local grocer. He hurried home, ripped off the plastic wrap, scooped up a handful of blueberries, and threw them onto his chestnut coffee table. The blueberries, each one, rolled off, landing on the worn hardwood. There was no clear sign to be interpreted. Except that maybe this was the end of the road for Mermaid and Kamran.




Some days passed. Then weeks. A full year washed away. Work had swallowed up Kamran. Exhaustion overcame him and defined his every interaction. When friends checked in, he complained about how tired he’d grown of his work. They told him to quit, to find another job, to travel, to pursue a passion. He wanted that for himself, but his gumption had vanished. Kamran had to work to stay afloat. To pay rent. To get by. Because of his boss’s strict vacation and in-office policy, he had no recourse. No escape.

In a moment of reflection, Kamran thought about how he used to walk down to the pier and meet with Mermaid. One weekend, he had some time for himself, so he went down to the East River. He stared out at the water longer than usual. He had no expectations, for the ocean owed him nothing. He was thankful for the existence of it. He let his mind wander to a liminal space, unbothered by the buzz of the world. He thought about his grandmother and how she would tell him stories of jinn, ancient trees, buraqs, and giant eagles. About accepting the whispers of nature. That when he didn’t know what else to do, it was time to take a breath, listen to the world sigh, and say thanks to the mystery of being alive.

Sitting by the water, Kamran took in the splash of waves hitting the docks, the silhouette of a sailboat on the cusp of the horizon, the errant caw of a seagull, and glimmers of the sea, reflecting sunset, moving closer to the shore, asking yet again to be seen.






Clean Dream


My head echoed bees from drams of dark rye last night.

The floor beneath me was pillowed. I made out grooves in the walls and ceiling. The shape of unmoving waves.

Worried about Karter, I closed my eyes. Her arms were a pair of rivers from fingertips to shoulder bones, joining an incandescent lake. An image of her knuckles streaming up to her flaxen forearms surfaced. We are an interracial couple, which means there is a you, a her, and an other. An eye that does not belong.

My vision adapted to the nighttime. I jumped on the surface, lifting me further into the air each time. Ropey fibers, a matrix of veins throughout, crowded the expanse.

I walked for a while then at the end of a narrow river of space—a groove in the ground in the shape of a valley—there was light. Ripples of sun glitter.

The air streaming in from the opening was unusually cool. I ran to it, stopping to look back at the enormous depth: a black sheet of viscosity.

I found myself in a large room with my books stacked as high as skyscrapers and my night stand the size of a state fair. Turning around, a duvet blanket looked back at me. The ground, as it seemed, was my mattress. I had shrunk to the size of a silverfish.

Karter had been beside me all along. Her brunette strands flowing down into highways of hair. I thought I’d signal her, zooming up her protein stalks. She’d hate to know this, but there were knots and tangles and splits. But also enough volume for me to get some good leverage. Like running up a mountain trail, I watched my step. Being barefoot helped. I felt around for notches. The floral conditioner she used everyday made the climb a breeze. Soft and fragrant, a field of lilies.

I got to the middle of her forehead in no time, hanging by the end of a small strand in a flow of bangs. I nestled there for a while, realizing I had no plan. She was still sleeping. It must have been 6 AM. She wouldn’t be up for another hour. What could I do? Maybe she’d sense my presence. What if she moved? She’d kill me and not even know. What if she rubbed her face? Or turned over onto her tummy? I’d be crushed in either scenario. Almost ninety-nine percent of scenarios ended with me unnoticeably dead.

I felt small. The same feeling when people gave us looks in public for being an interracial couple. Brown and white. Khalid and Karter. Maybe if we said it quick enough, no one would notice. Brwnandwhte—Kalandkar.

As the thought came into my head, Karter woke. She saw me as a whole. She held me in her palm, her eyes outlined with morning crust. She said she loved me then went to use the restroom. When she came back, we cuddled each other as if it was snowing. Me, nestled in her palm, the little spoon. I told her not to crush me. She giggled, a bit, initiating a bout of laughter from both of us.

Everyday I grew. First, just a centimeter. Then two. Before long, I was the size of a raccoon. That spring, I proposed. I still got down on one knee, even though we both thought it outdated. It felt right in the moment being so close to the ground.

When I neared five feet tall, we bought a little cabin outside the city limits, overlooking the Blue Ridge Mountains. There were trees. So many trees. A few months later, I was finally my vertical self again. We thought that was the end. We even popped a bottle of sixty-five dollar champagne in the backyard. But the next day, I felt weird. Trying on all six of my plaid shirts, I outsized each sleeve. We thought nothing of it until a few weeks later, when we noticed I was at least two inches taller than the height listed on my Driver’s License. Soon, I was as tall as a basketball player. An NBA one.

Through it all, Karter’s curiosity fueled hope. She asked me questions. She made sure I was comfortable and that I knew nothing had changed. That she would make her den like a bobcat in a hollow in the cavity above my collarbone. I took her palm in mine and rubbed her lifelines before falling asleep in her arms. Both of us under an oversized throw by the fireplace.

The next day was a Sunday. I went out back and looked up at the trees. The wind whispered blue mists. Karter blew me a kiss from down below as if to say, go. Go with the trees. Instead, her silent words filled our souls to the brim, and we both planted ourselves deeper into the ground outside our home, inside our love.

S.S. Mandani runs coffee shops in NYC. His stories appear in Shenandoah, 3:AM, Passages North, and elsewhere. He has been nominated for Best of the Net, Best Microfiction, and Best Small Fictions twice. In 2022, he made the Wigleaf Top 50 Longlist and Notable in Best American Food Writing.