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January 30, 2007

Literary LEO: Flash Fiction

Flash Fiction — First PlaceBig CircleBY GRAY SMITHAlbert jerked his sweat-soaked head up from his pillow. Today was the day. A lifetime of dreaming and fervent preparation for one single hour — the window between experiments that would leave him alone with the world’s most powerful scanning electron microscope. Albert’s life had been an obsession with the microscopic cosmos. He’d penetrated atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons — all elephantine compared to today’s quarry — the quark. Surely this was the limit, beyond which lies the answer to everything. Albert knew his new filter would penetrate this last frontier. Where does it end? In the lap of God? Albert’s moment of truth was coming today.- - - - - -Carl knew he’d been born too soon. A few years later, he thought, and he could have found his way into space. As chief imaging technician for the Hubble Space Telescope, he was as close as he would get. Carl lived in the stars — from awe-struck kid to the controls of the most powerful eye humans have ever built. He couldn’t clear his head of the taunting universe. Surely it couldn’t go on forever. Last night Carl had spotted a single point in the sky unlike any other he’d studied — completely empty. A minute gap beyond which was nothing. Today, Carl would focus the telescope’s power on this solitary void. Where does it end? In the lap of God? Carl hoped for man’s first glimpse over the edge of the universe.- - - - - -Two trembling fingers push the on switches of humankind’s greatest machines. Two eyes squint for focus. Two hearts stand still. A glimmer. A flutter. Then, across all time and space, dilated with the anticipation of all civilization, the two eyes meet — and wink hello.Flash Fiction — Second PlaceThe EquatorBY DONNA MCCLANAHAN    “My daughter thinks she needs a bra.” The tone in her mother’s voice matched the look on the store keeper’s face. Mrs. Crouch, who looked like Jane Russell, glared at Charlene’s chest, twirled on her leather pumps and headed for the bra section.    “I don’t think we have anything that small,” she said, “but I’ll go see.” Charlene had hoped for a more anonymous approach but the significance and embarrassment of this rite of passage was spent on Charlene’s older sisters. Charlene was lucky to have convinced her mother she needed a bra in the first place when all she really wanted was the equator line across her back.    Mrs. Crouch came back up the isle with a piece of elastic attached to two panels that were flat, but stretchy. She led Charlene to the dressing room and handled her like a mannequin, talking only to her mother. Charlene barely needed to be there.    She wore the 30AAA out of the store. Its soft white panels were smooth against her skin and she felt them with her hands when no one was looking.    It took about a week of wearing thin white t-shirts before Kevin, the bra-strap snapper, ended up in the lunch line behind her.    “Do you know what divides the north and the south?” Kevin said.    Charlene walked slow, pacing her steps, ignoring his question until she felt the sharp snap against her skin.    “The equator,” he said, giggling.    “Kevin,” she scolded, “How dare you! That is so rude.” Then she turned, grinned and skipped forward to the front of the lunch line where a group of girls huddled together, who all wore bras.Flash Fiction — Third PlaceJust the Right PaceBY RENITA BERNATShe thought it was just another 5K race. The traditional “Couples Run” sponsored by her local running club was always a favorite with local runners. Couples are matched, one man and one women, to form a team, combining their ages and total times to determine the winners.As president of the club, she was there as an extra to help officiate where needed. Shortly before the race was to start someone yelled, “There’s a guy who drove 70 miles to run and he needs a partner.” There is always a shortage of women at this race so without hesitation, bermuda clad but Nike afoot, she agreed to buddy up with this gentleman. Someone introduced them, they shook hands, smiled, then took their respective positions in the small pack of runners. He up front with the racers ... she towards the back with the joggers. He was there to run. She was there to have fun.Moments later the gun went off and the fleet were soon out of sight. Many had finished by the time she reached the last hill. From a distance, she saw him running towards her. He didn’t seem so serious now ... maybe the pressure was off. He joined her for the last quarter mile to encourage her. What great company ... what a nice man.He won the race that evening, and also her heart, on what she considered their first date. They still run different paces ... but most often in the same place.