Kathy Fish | Flash Fiction
it was a procession / it was a march / we walked through the snow to the funeral home / we walked single file / our teacher was dead / we were going to see the body / the funeral home was four blocks away / it was February / it was a march / a procession through the snow / we sat on folding chairs in our coats and boots / we took turns kneeling before the casket / we were told to say a little goodbye / we were instructed not to touch / the snow on our boots melted into the carpet / it was a thick shag pile / a chic sad pile / the principal apologized to the man in the suit / our teacher had long straight hair one might call dishwater blond / she wore bellbottoms and hoop earrings and eye shadow that sparkled / she arranged our desks in pods / she arranged our pods in desks / she encouraged collaboration / she called us collaborators / she’d say attention collaborators! / she turned the picture of President Nixon upside down / she left Pope Paul right side up / she wore maternity tops with big bows at the neck / like a Christmas present / we’d been waiting for her that morning / the second bell rang / the principal came in and told us / we were allowed to read and play checkers and talk quietly amongst ourselves / three days later we marched to see the body / it was a procession / it was like a field trip / we marched single file in the snow / at the funeral home we stayed inside our coats and our boots / we weren’t sure what to do / our teacher didn’t look right / it was our first dead body / she wasn’t wearing a top with a bow / she was wearing a white dress like a wedding dress / her hair lay in two long braids on either side of her boobs / she looked like a pioneer woman / a woman of the prairie / she’d always kept sanitary napkins and sanitary belts in her desk drawer just in case / when I bled down my leg during the Christmas recital she was prepared / when I bled down my leg into my anklet / I jumped off the back of the bleachers / some of the other girls jumped too / I ran into the stall and locked the door / I sat bleeding into the toilet / the girls stood around outside the stall / they offered wetted tissues under the door / they didn’t really like me / they were enjoying the drama / one of them thought to go tell our teacher / she came with a sanitary napkin and a sanitary belt in a brown paper bag / she talked me through it / she said do you feel fresher now? / she put my socks into the paper bag / in her class we were allowed to talk all we wanted / she wanted to feel our energy / she wanted a free exchange of ideas / she called us collaborators / after we said the rosary we were herded into another room / there were ham sandwiches and cookies on plates / we were told to take one ham sandwich and one cookie / we were told to eat them on the way back / the principal led the way / the kid who always cried was crying / and the kid who always threw up threw up in the snow / the principal led us back / it was a procession / it was a march / we were little soldiers now, marching home / the snow was melting and there were patches of exposed earth and the air smelled like wet black dirt the way it sometimes does in February / the way it sometimes makes you glad / when we got back, our desks were in rows / President Nixon was right side up / a man in wire rimmed glasses was writing his name on the board
Kathy Fish’s stories have been published in Ploughshares, Washington Square Review, Denver Quarterly, Guernica, Best American Nonrequired Reading, and elsewhere. Her work has appeared in three Norton anthologies of flash fiction as well as the most recent edition of the Norton Reader. Honors include a Ragdale Foundation Fellowship and the Copper Nickel Editors’ Prize.