Flash Fiction & Poetry, by Joseph Hardy


She rolled tight the towels she had gathered from around the apartment and wedged them underneath every window and door so no air could get in and prevent her suicide. Turned off the stove’s pilot light, turned the gas high, and laid down on the floor of their kitchen.

It must have been the end of her world, narrowed down to just her dying, with no thought beyond. Unlikely she envisioned her family finding her dead. Unlikely she considered a spark might ignite the gas still filling the apartment after her death, which could destroy the home of her three remaining sons and husband.

It was the loss of her oldest son at twenty-one years of age, the unexpected beloved joy of her life, the person she loved most in the world. He died in an automobile accident coming home from college with his friends, asleep in the back seat when a truck driver nodding off at the wheel crossed the divide of the road.

She stole out early from his wake, thinking everyone else was there, and prepared for her death. Only her youngest son, nine years old, had preceded her home, was in his bed when he smelled the gas.

He came downstairs, turned off the gas, opened the doors and windows, and dragged her slightly unconscious body out onto their front lawn. He was still alone with her on the lawn when she woke.

She raged at him, struck his face, told him he had no right to interfere. Told him something he had always felt unspoken. “I never wanted you. I never wanted any of you except him.”

About Those Broken Hearts

You still believe they break? 
Those throwbacks to the age of beasts, 
from before Cain and Abel, before pain
could curdle into grudge?

It’s easier to extinguish a person
than a heart, which keeps beating
refusing extinction 
long after you’ve had enough.

If pain really collected in one, it would burst 
like a water main, but that stuff settles lower,
trundles along the bottom of your life 
to a place much farther downriver

where everything accumulates in time—
the place they dredge to keep the docks open, 
so your ship has a place to come in, the one
your beating heart expects any day.

Joseph Hardy, a reformed human resource consultant, lives with his wife Judi and dog Charley Girl, in Nashville, Tennessee. His work has been published in Appalachian Review, Cold Mountain Review, Inlandia, Plainsongs, and Poet Lore among others. He is the author of, “The Only Light Coming In” Bambaz Press Los Angeles 2020, and two forthcoming books, a picture book, “At the Reading of the Will,” IngramSpark 2023, and a second book of poetry, “Becoming Sky,” Bambaz Press Los Angeles 2023.