One Small Step



photo-Ashwin Rao
photo-Ashwin Rao



You won’t read this story in the box score. It was, in the grand scheme of things, a minor league game in the Carolina League, that night the Mavericks beat the Flyers. Johnny was the Mavericks pitcher with the flashy stuff. Manny was the catcher, his best friend and battery mate. The big game of July 20, 1969, was the first men landing on the moon.

Johnny “Flash” Gordon was as excited as everyone else. In fact, he had discussed changing his nickname to Apollo just for the occasion. After all, he wore number 11.

“Flash, you are crazy,” Manny laughed. “That sounds like a porn star!”

“Why not? Okay, okay, how about Armstrong?”

“Forget it.” Manny said. “Just play the game.”

It was a hot summer night for a ball game. The crowd was buzzing over the moon landing. Johnny glanced briefly at the bleachers, where the girls were thick as mosquitos. Then, he forgot everything.

That night, Johnny Gordon had the right stuff. Sometimes, the universe conspires in a perfect balance. Years later, when he was coaching, he would try to explain it as Zen concentration. It was as good an explanation as any.

Three up, three down. Three up, three down. The scoreboard was a string of zeros.

By the sixth inning, the joking in the dugout fell silent. His teammates left him alone on the bench, the Latin players whispering “Sagrada,” sacred. Only Manny stayed beside him, real and solid.

It was quite a pitchers’ duel. The other guy was good, too. But the Mavericks had managed to eke out a run, on a sacrifice fly and an error when Johnny took the mound for the ninth inning.

He went into his windup as the crowd went wild. The loudspeakers blared, “One small step for man!” as the ball slipped out of his hand.

The crack of the bat, a solid hit! Johnny turned to watch the perfect parabola, going, going, gone–like a rocket to the moon.

The Mavericks finally won 2-1 in the 11th inning. Later, he would say all the right things. But he had no words for the ball in flight, the moon between his fingers.

I Live



Out of the smoke of the crash, he emerged, unscathed and smiling. “I live,” he said. The forces of Ming the Merciless shrank back in horror and surprise. The Writer smiled. A good day’s work.

“Is that it?” Flash Gordon turned his face to the sky, where the persistent clacking was distracting. Dark clouds gathered, ominous. It would be a stormy night. “You can’t leave me like this,” he cried. “I’m stuck here on this alien world!”

“You’ll be fine,” the Writer said. “I’ll be right back, I promise. I just need more coffee.”

“That’s easy for you to say. You don’t have hordes of zombies and Ming’s forces waiting for my next move. But that’s all right. Take your time. You’ll think of something. You always do.”

In the meantime, the hordes salivated. A cry went up, “Flash! Flash! Flash!”

Music started, wild and irresistible. Flash ripped off what was left of his shirt. He danced, shoulders shaking. The crowd moved with him, as if they all had the same idea at the same time. Flowers rained down from the balconies. Girls swooned as they passed.

“Well, I’m back,” the Writer said. “What have you been up to?”


First appeared on Flash! Friday 6-30

Of cats and Flashdogs

Welcome to this new blog tour.  It’s called the  Liebster awards, and I have been nominated to take part. It’s supposed to be a fun thing, a way to get to know each other better.  Thank you, but I wish you had asked me first, Mr. Mark A. King. I respect and admire you as a writer and  enjoyed what you wrote, but you ask such difficult questions!

You can read his engaging and entertaining post, here.

So, here’s  how this  works. You tell 11 random facts about yourself. Then you answer 11 questions.Then you come up with 11 questions for 3 other people!  Let’s get started—

1. Voima Oy is my pen name.  Many things about me can be found in my stories.

2. I live in an unassuming brick bungalow on the western rim of Chicago, along the CTA Blue Line and the Congress expressway. The train goes into the city, and all the way out to the airport.

3. At present, I work at an animal shelter, herding cats and dogs.  It’s rewarding work, and good people.

4. I worked as a proofreader in a law firm  in downtown Chicago, in the heart of the financial district. I have also worked at Rizzoli Books (now closed)  at Water Tower Place, and the bookstore at the Art Institute of Chicago.

5. My late husband and I went on a spiritual pilgrimage  to Providence, RI to pay our respects to H.P. Lovecraft.  We found his grave  in the  Phillips family plot–the  tombstone reads, “I am Providence.”

6. I am a Gemini, which may explain a lot. In the Chinese zodiac, I am a water dragon.

7. I love thrift shopping,  you never know what you’ll find. Most of the things I have are second-hand.

8. I am a very amateur astronomer.  Nature inspires me–the stars, clouds, trees, weather.

9. I write left-handed. I use scissors with my right. Tai chi is good for balance.

10. I do not drive, or own a car. But  I would like to get a bicycle–with a big basket in the front and coaster brakes.

11. I do not have a fur coat–unless you count all the cats.

Well, that wasn’t so hard, was it?  I could tell you many stories…But now on to Round 2 –the difficult and exasperating questions-

1) You are allowed to invite ten people to dinner. You can choose anyone from any point in time. Who do you choose and why?

Does it have to be a  dinner party?  What if they could just run into each other  at a time cafe, a mix of periods and eras?  Surrealists  mingling with  Renaissance artists… poets meeting scientists—tonight there’s Lady Murasaki  and William Shakespeare, Isaac Newton,  Alan Turing, Emily Dickinson, Rod Serling, Josephine Baker and  Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, and Marie Curie…Imagine the comings and goings, the conversations and possibilities!

2) Who is your favourite villain from a fictional book? Explain why. Dracula. Because, Dracula. Again, the possibilities….

3) Please pick a story from someone you know that you wish you had written. Provide a link (so we can enjoy it). Explain why you’ve chosen it.  

Here are 3 recent pieces from 3 writers I  admire. They are also my 3 nominees–

Stella Turner–“Thoughts.” Utter perfection in its  understatement.

David Shakes–“Blood from the Start.”  This is a story that flows like…

ImageRonin — “The Festive Season.”  Incredible writing, powerful story.

4) Please pick a character from any story you have written and think about the actor/actress that you’d like to play them. Explain your choice.

I could see Anthony Hopkins as the main character in “Exit Strategy” (the story is in the FlashDogs Anthology). He is such a subtle actor.

5) Do you prefer print books or Ebooks?  

I love the feel of books. They seem almost alive to me.   I don’t have an e-reader, but I  read articles and stories online. I  like the digital immediacy, but I don’t think books are going away, just yet.  To hold the paperback copy of the Flashdogs Anthology or  the Luminous Creatures Anthology is very special. They are  beautiful things.

6) Name a writer that you admire that lacks the recognition they deserve

Any number of flash writers–you know who you are.  And an absent friend, Mr. Karl A. Russell. One of the best.

7) Please state your favourite first line, last line and mind-blowing line from a book.

first line–“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”  One hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

last line–“The cults of the famous and the dead.”  White Noise, by Don DeLillo

mind-blowing line–“The joke’s on you, Earthman…I am not even from your Earth world!”  The  Cosmozoids, by Robert Trallins. This is so bad it’s something else entirely.

8) Please re-write the ending to a film where the ending annoyed you  

This is really hard question!  I thought about Seven Samurai, and  I watched it again. It’s such a great film, such a sad story. I just wish they didn’t all have to die. Especially Kikuchiyo, played by Toshiro Mifune.  Kikuchiyo was not samurai class; he was a farmer’s son. He made mistakes, but he had  great spirit, and the village kids loved him. Maybe he could have stayed, married the girl he was cutting the rice plants with,  and made a life with the farmers–but that would be a very different story.

9) Remove a character and make a film or book better (you’re not allowed to pick Jar Jar Binks, far too obvious)

I would just delete the Star Trek re-boot.  Why re-do?  Do a new story!

10) How much time do you spend a week on writing, reading and tweeting?

Too much and not enough. Twitter can be an art form, and a way to connect. There are many outlets and distractions–it’s a golden age for writers!  There’s #Losslit,  #vss and Friday Phrases, Paragraph Planet, Visual Verse, Flash! Friday, Angry Hourglass, 99 Fiction,  Three Line Thursday, Microbookends, Finish That thought and Last Line First, to name just  a few. I  try to write something every day.  Currently I am reading the Flashdogs Anthology, and  “Defining the Wind” by Scott Huler–the story of William Beaufort, creator of the Beaufort wind scale.

11) We catch up with you this time next year, this time in five years and ten years – tell us what you’ve been up to.

I try to lead a  simple life.  I have been so blessed by connection with the flash community and the flash dogs. The cameraderie and inspiration have changed my life. I want to continue to explore the possibilities of flash fiction.

As for the future, who knows? Maybe I would be a hostess in  a cat cafe, riding my bicycle, and  teaching tai chi.

 Now it’s my turn. Here are my questions–

1. What book or story  changed your life?

2.What is your  favorite movie?

3.  Do you read nonfiction– if so what–history, science, etc.?

4. If you could visit any period in time, past or future, when would it be?

5. If you could meet a fictional character,  who would you like to talk with?

6. You have 3 treasures. What are they?

7. What kinds of music do you like?  What are you listening to these days?

8. Would you ride a dragon?

9. What if you won the lottery? What would you do with this fortune?

10. What’s on your grocery list?

11. What (or who)  inspires you?

My 3 nominees–

Stella Turner @stellakateT

David Shakes @TheShakes72

Image Ronin @ImageRonin

Walking in Antarctica


Meat is the way. Flesh, don’t fail me now.

The suits, waiting in the lockers. We put them on to walk the ice, bright under the brilliant sky.

Exposed skin freezes without protection. Fuel turns to jelly. Metal behaves differently, too. This is  another world.

One becomes aware of warm breath, blood pumping. Dreams of branching tropical rivers, memories of bodies entwined. No, not here.

Here is cold as the space between the stars. Here, the rocks fall from the sky. We search for familiar patterns, ancient proteins embedded in dry rivers of stone.

Life, even here, set free.



The boy with the beautiful mind


Once he understood the metaphorical nature of the world, he could see the patterns everywhere—shards of fractured reality, the sun on the thread of a spider web.

“Joshua has problems with focus,” the teacher said. Worried parents uncomfortable in dress-up clothes. “He’s so easily distracted. He doesn’t work up to his potential.”

“Do you?” the mother said. “Do any of us, all the time?” The father tried to calm her, but she was fierce defending her son, their son. “Joshua is a good boy. He’s not like the others.”

The three grown-ups avoided talking about the mystery that had befallen their little town those September nights 6 years ago, when the comet filled the sky. After the comet, there had been the rain of frogs. Then, the proliferation of garden snails. The unexpected pregnancies. The precocious offspring, each different, but each possessing an unusual talent. Joshua was one of them.

The teacher sighed. “You have a point. That’s why I would like you to consider meeting with Dr.Shimizu. She’s an expert in languages. She’s been working with the inuit groups, you know.”

“We’re not talking about snow, here.” the father said. ” he’s a dreamer, not a poet.”

“She can help him find the words,” the teacher said.

Joshua studied the pattern in the linoleum. He couldn’t tell them about the words in the walls, the voices he could almost make out amid the roar of static.

There were three he could identify more clearlly than the others. One was a rumbling bass soumd, the second a lilting baritone. The third was high and trilling, like a song he couldn’t identify.

He had only recently learned their names–Lemmis, Shoshostra, Tetuatl.

In his mind, he could picture them–Lemmis, short and burly with flashing eyes and a big black beard. Golden Shoshostra, with long braids and a flowing white dress. Tetuatl was tall and skinny, with a head like a giant bird.

And he understood, all but the words, that he was like them, like them.

In his dreams he was with them, arm in arm in arm, walking down the wide boulevard of a bright new city, the lights a line of green.

Cats in Space

“Legend has it that the first of our people fell out of the sky, a bird with wings aflame. A boy he was, and beautiful. We shared our lives with him.

We have always been sailors’ familiars. Together we sailed under the stars.

We are the wondrous strange. We pass between the walls.

The second of our people was a tabby girl. Wild she was and beautiful, in the alleys of the cities of the night.”

“Why is it so hard to understand us? Why must we be contained? We have so much to teach you about gravity and doors.”

The cat people were complaining again. Now they were demanding more break time and black string. They were so difficult to work with. Schrodingers was the word Captain Garza used to describe them. Space aliens. Chaotic as the random decay of subatomic particles.

But there was no denying their talent for navigating the seas of quantum foam.



First Runner Up at   Flash! Friday  vol.2-38