Carter Ayles is a photographer based in Savannah GA. He is currently finishing his BFA in Documentary photography at Savannah College of Art and Design. His work centers around the cyclical relationship between self and space and how our world is affected by human life. To see more of his work check out his instagram @c.ayles.art.
—which shouldn’t need translation—this button (faded, pale green with white lettering) dates back to the ‘80s, when I was a student at San Diego State University, and Aesop’s Tables, in the corner of a strip mall just off campus, was where an assortment of left-wing literati and hangers-on gathered over glasses of Retsina and plates of hummus, pita, and olives until the restaurant got booted to make way for new construction, and the owners had these buttons made up so we could commiserate and rail at social injustice.
—the seminar leader passed out small gray buttons with white lettering, all caps, no apostrophe, to stress the futility of wishful thinking in lieu of action or acceptance—“fonly I’d married Bert instead of Bart, fonly I’d started saving when I was 20—her topic was fundraising (fonly someone would donate a million dollars) and she also handed out toe tags to remind people to look alive, and though I don’t remember anything she said, the button is a talisman.
—I don’t recall the origin of this one with the universal no (non/nyet/nein) symbol, a circle with a diagonal red line through it, and though I’m not inclined toward whining and wailing, this is one of just three buttons I’ve kept out of hundreds—a collection from decades of progressive activism: Bread Not Roses, Draft beer not boys, This is what a feminist looks like, Voice for Choice, U.S. Out of Nicaragua, Jane Wyman was Right—and now I find a timeless thread running through these residual relics: shit happens, we can’t wish it away, and there’s no use grumbling.
Alice Lowe is proud to have her third published piece in Burningword. Her flash prose has also appeared this past year in Hobart, JMWW, Door Is a Jar, Sleet, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Headlight Review. She’s had citations in Best American Essays and nominations for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net. Alice writes about life and literature, food and family in San Diego, California and at www.aliceloweblogs.wordpress.com.
You have just appeared beneath my office door arch, crunching the remnants of a cherry Jolly Rancher with your even, professionally whitened teeth and bearing your usual dissonance: senior partner swagger and practiced “aw shucks” expression. I have greeted you with a cheerful (but not overly familiar) “Hi Brad. What can I do for you?”
Here’s what will happen next. You will say, “Hey, did you see that e-mail about the trivia game?” I will look at you blankly, pretending that I hadn’t opened it an hour ago and envisioned this entire conversation going down immediately thereafter. I will say, “No, I must have missed it; I’ve been working on a brief that’s due tomorrow.” You will say, “No worries. I’ll give you the rundown. We’re asking folks to participate in a trivia game night next Thursday. We’re going to film it and put it up on Facebook and the firm website. It’ll be catnip for potential summer associates. We’ll look like the ‘cool’ firm. Hell, we are the ‘cool’ firm.”
I will say, “I’m terrible at trivia,” which will be a true statement. You will say, “Oh, that doesn’t matter. It’s all in good fun.” I will demur further and say, “Oh, I really don’t think I look great on camera; besides, I’m shy about stuff like that.” You, not wanting to risk a harassment suit, will not comment on whether I look great on camera, and will only say, “The best way to overcome shyness is to get yourself out there!” I will say, “Have you asked Adam? He lives for this sort of thing. He even looks like Ken Jennings.” You will say, “Not to take anything away from Adam, but we need you, Lakeisha Simpson,” and give me a winning smile.
Upon hearing my name, my expression will morph from neutral to beaming. I will say, “Well, in that case, sign me up!” You will say, “I knew I could count on you, Lakeisha.” You will turn around, whistling, and head directly to the office of Tom Cheng, the only Asian associate. Dionne, my secretary, will have heard the entire conversation and shake her head in sympathy. I will consider sending Tom a “heads up” e-mail. I will not follow through. I will crave a Jolly Rancher.
I will tell myself that I should join a circus as a sideshow attraction because I’m a magician; didn’t I just read your mind? Not to mention contortionist; didn’t I squeeze myself into that tiny box you built for me? And don’t forget fire-breather; if all my rage escapes my incandescent lungs and rushes past my large, lush lips in a molten exhale, my laptop will be incinerated. (Ever the pragmatist, I will keep my mouth closed–after all, I still have a brief due tomorrow.)
As for you, there are other positions available. I know you fancy yourself as ringmaster, although you are far better suited as clown. Whatever works. Let’s join the circus together.
Colette Parris is a Caribbean-American graduate of Harvard College (where she received a bachelor’s degree in English) and Harvard Law School. An attorney by day, she recently returned to her literary roots after a long hiatus. Her flash fiction can be found in Lunch Ticket. She lives in Westchester County, New York with her husband and daughter.
Issue 103, published July 2022, features works of poetry, flash fiction, short nonfiction, and photography by Laurel Benjamin, Ellen Birrell, Ronda Broatch, Mary Buchinger, Roger Camp, John Cullen, Emily Davis, Lisa Delan, Lauren Endicott, James William Gardner, David Goodrum, Peter Grieco, Greg Hom, Jenny Hubbard, Rachel Laverdiere, Larena Nellies-Ortiz, Dante Novario, Dian Parker, Yasmin Phillip, Michelle Reed, Amanda L. Rioux, Jim Ross, Aaron Sandberg, Yvette Schnoeker-Shorb, Beth Spencer, Jeffrey Thompson, Patricia Walsh, Racine Watson, Richard Weaver, and Hannah Zhang.
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