Short Fiction ~ Mahesh Nair
(First Prize, Strands International Flash Fiction Competition - 3)
You are in a sack of self-glued cardboard and a peacock headdress under a scaffold on 32nd and Broadway. Night and drizzling. You unload the cart: a nibbled-at mattress and a noisome blanket. You’ve been acting weird with me.
A white man saunters by and slips on a banana peel, but throws his hands down in time, like a good actor. “Filthy filth,” he screams.
You laugh back.
He yanks his phone out and calls 911.
From across the road, I trudge in a sack of cardboard and a peahen headdress; sit next to you.
We peel apart our cardboards and lay them down in front of us. Our messages to each read, Happy 10th Wed. Annv. and 2nd year of Sobriety inside a drawn heart. “Your heart is more roundish,” I say.
Almost round like the slimy ball you’d picked from trash, the glazed doughnut I crave, the painful lumps below my rib cage nobody’s aware of.
An NYPD car pulls up. A white cop steps out and talks to the man, before ambling toward us. “I’m fine with you here, but leave in the morn.” He then scans our cardboards. “Ah! Congrats.” He pulls out his wallet, hands you a bill of 100 and leaves.
“A dozen glazed from Dunkin, hon?”
I shout Yes like the one years ago.
You cackle before whizzing into the mizzle and away.
I look at your heart on the cardboard. They are tiny pearls of words in a heart shape: Homeless, we will overcome the bumps together. Lumps too. We will have feathers one day and be in full plumage.
Seconds later, the man and the cop return with a cameraman. You follow them.
“Let’s reshoot this from a close angle,” the man says. He adjusts your microphone. “Be yourself. Okay? No acting.”
Mahesh Nair studied fiction at New York University. He was short-listed for Bath Flash Fiction Award, Micro Madness NFFD, London Independent Story Prize, and long-listed for Reflex Fiction prize. His work has appeared in Barren Magazine, Literary Orphans, Crack the Spine, The Bookends Review, Smokebox, Paragraph Planet, 101 Words, Blink Ink Print, and is published in three anthologies. He was a contributing author for a CNF anthology, Lady by the River.