Prose poem or flash fiction? Is there a difference? Opinions welcome in the comments.
by Laura Shovan
Petula was fourteen, lanky and bony-kneed. Her husband, twelve years older, sent her to summer camp. She moved in short bursts of energy, like the crickets we caught between our palms on the grassy hill. Their legs tickled. We wanted tiny bamboo cages to hold them. I was seventeen and had a boyfriend. I wondered: what is it to be a wife at fourteen? Petula could not be like my mother, keeping the house, the kids, the meals while Father worked. When I was a younger, watching my parents kiss, I couldn’t squeeze myself between their legs. In love, at least, they were equals. Now, folded into my summer cot after lights out, I listened to the night sounds of the cabin. Girls breathed, sleeping, all around me. When I thought about my boyfriend, I envied Petula. Then I thought, "Does he make her?"
I saw him once. He was brown haired and bearded, soft. He watched his wife bounding between her friends like a worried father. Petula’s parents lived in the Virginia hills, had a house filled with children. She had been plucked, with their blessing, from her home. I thought, "His house is like a bamboo cage." But now, I say he gave her the summer. That was a burst of kindness.
"Night Sounds" first appeared in the Jewish Women's Literary Annual. It was subsequently published in Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, CityLit Press (2010).