The Complaint (part 16)




“We wouldn’t want to do that,” Ellen laughed.

The woman smiled and walked out of the bathroom. Ellen felt positively giddy.  She staggered back into the bar and plopped herself down in Kyle’s lap, kissing him before she could think about it. He took a large swallow of his drink and kissed her back. They sat kissing for a moment then he took her by the hand and they staggered back to their room, the money swirling around them in the tube on the way home made Ellen feel even dizzier.  

Kyle undressed without even bothering to turn out the lights. In spite of her drunkenness, Ellen was suddenly sharply aware of their physical inequity. She took her skirt off and quickly climbed under the covers. They resumed kissing as he began working his way down she became acutely aware of every single mark on her skin, of every glob of cellulite and the fact of the smallness of her breasts. She wondered if he was comparing her to Danni right around now. She tried to throw in a few moans and groans to appease him and drown out her own insecurity.

“Are you sure you want to do this, love?”

“”Yes”, she stammered. “Why?”

“You’re clenching.” She took a deep breath and tried to relax. She wished she had another drink. She was relieved when he was able to enter her. He ran his hands down her hips and she moaned trying to make up for her lack of curves with unbridled enthusiasm.

He finished gruffly and passed out on top of her. She wriggled out from under him. She stared at the ceiling unable to sleep. At around three am yellow lights began to flash and Kyle got up and dressed silently. He got into the elevator and rode off to what she assumed was his haunting.

A few hours later the alarm went off and she got up to go to work. The boat ride was awkward. Virgil said nothing to her as they road to the office. When they arrived Vigil coldly informed her that this was the last time he could drive her to work. He gave her instructions on where to catch the ferry and he drove off.

Ellen arrived at her desk to find a note from Rhonda.

‘I got promoted, kid. Good luck in all of your endeavors,’ it said.

She wondered who her new boss would be. The boy from the mail room came along and gave her a new file.

“I heard your boss got promoted,” he said.


“Well, she deserved it. I never would have thought of a bully eating his own vomit. It’s disgusting, but very economical, don’t you think?”

“I .. Yes, it is good,” Ellen stammered, thinking better of voicing her outrage.

She sat at her desk for a long moment wondering if she would ever get out of the dorms. She wondered how awkward things would be between her and Kyle that night and for the first time she felt as though she was in Hell.


The Winner of The Second Annual Eliza Gale’s Elizashead Flash Fiction Contest

The Southbound Transit Line

By Barrett Johnson

The smoke from Train 229 poured out from the tunnel and swirled into the yellow station air. It danced and puffed at every chilly commuter like a man blowing cigarette smoke into the face of a dog. Ah, Detroit! The last haven for the cynical optimist clinging bitterly to every moment of despair with the absolute certainty that there is no place to go but up. Such was Kevin Troweler, morning train fare.

It’s been this cold since May, fucking 1971, thought Kevin. Even this car is cold. The seats are cold, how are the seats cold?!

Kevin glared at the neighboring commuters, who were in turn glaring daggers at everyone else. The frost that inched up along the windows was painting a design upon the glass like varicose veins upon the arm. The silver metal that jostled and trembled over the tracks in the darkness leaned gently into the palest shade of blue. God dammit, thought Kevin. God dammit.

At the end of the carriage, a woman stood up. No one seemed to notice; her clothes were plain and bundled against the chill. Kevin leaned forward to stare down past the row of glaring faces and towards the woman. There was no telling if she was pretty, wrapped up as she was, but Kevin looked anyway and the woman looked back.

We’re not even halfway to the next stop, Kevin mused, what a tourist. Yet try as he might to berate her very existence, there was something about the woman, something that stirred in Kevin and took him back to the roaring radiator that was pressed against his single bed in his single cozy room. Kevin loved that room. And the more he looked at the figure, the more Kevin was overcome with a deep and consuming desire for her. Kevin wanted to rip off every layer of clothing the woman had and take her right there in the cold carriage, while all the wind‐burned faces never stopped exchanging evil looks. He wanted to shrug off the cold and stand up as well. He wanted to keep riding the train until it rumbled to the end of the line, noone still in the cars but two bundled figures, standing in the middle of carriage number Seven. Kevin shook himself and leaned back into his seat. Calm down,dummy, you’re fantasizing about a giant pile of coats.

Definitely a female pile of coats though. Definitely that.

A sudden undeniable urge came over Kevin, and he sharply stood up as well. His bad running knee wobbled, disapproving in a crotchety way this sudden act of betrayal after having just bent to sit down. Kevin felt a rush of blood to his face, felt himself redden. He was sure every single person on this rickety old train was staring at him in the same way he had been staring at the woman a moment ago. Kevin felt dizzy, and realized standing up so quickly had even upset his inner ear.

“What are you doing?” a voice said from Kevin’s hip. Kevin looked down to see a teenage girl’s face demandingly glaring up at him from the seat across.

“Oh, I’m – well I just thought I’d stand.” Kevin felt his face redden further.

“We’re only ten minutes out, it’s another fifteen ‘til the next stop.” the young girl spat.

Dammit, how come that woman got away with it and I didn’t?

“I know, I know, just…” Kevin bent over and struggled at touching his knee, “feels good to stretch, you know? Cold air. Stiffens the bones.”

“Sit down, man, you’re freaking me out.”

“You sit down.” This was not going well. Kevin looked over to the standing woman for help, but the ‘Statue of North Face’ said nothing, and gave no indication she even registered Kevin’s plight. All around him, the commuter mob began staring intently at their phones and e‐readers.

“Ugh, you’e the worst.” the girl bemoaned, slumping back into her seat.

Kevin stood quietly in the aisle of the train. There would be no sitting down now, it would mean he had lost a battle he had not intended to fight, which he then proceeded to fight anyway. He stared at the white tile smudged with brown mud. He stared at the windows and their icy veins. He stared at the metal in the ceiling, cracking and falling apart. It was the worst moment he’d had in weeks, but… much to Kevin’ chagrin… at admitting things could only get better. It could only go up. Still, he never dared look at the girl sitting next to him, or the woman in the jackets.

Fifteen agonizing minutes passed and still Kevin stood. His knee hurt, and he wanted desperately to sit back down but he knew he had weathered the worst of the storm. When Train 229 hissed and billowed into the next station, Kevin got off. The air was orange here, not yellow. The sky was clearer and the wind less blistering, and though it was still desperately cold, Kevin decided to let his train leave him. He would catch the next one.

Better to leave that one behind, he thought. And as the

whistle blew, sending smoke puffing into Kevin’s face upon the platform, Kevin sat down on a nearby bench. His knees gave in gratefully, and he folded his arms into his chest against the cold. That’s better, he thought. That was much better.

Here is an interview with the winner:

The Reality Show in Tad’s Head (part 9)

toy bus

Meanwhile, back at the ear Editor and Caroline were hurriedly trying to edit the footage they had acquired from Tad’s memory bands. Caroline wanted to include a montage of Tad’s flaws and various stupid comments that he’d made. Editor insisted they didn’t have time and that Director didn’t okay it. Aside from the montage he grudgingly complied with her wishes and comments. He looked straight ahead at the computer screen as she pointed out where she wanted to insert her own editorial comments.

Editor didn’t even crack a smile when she mentioned what a Rhodes Scholar Tad was for thinking Brazilian’s spoke Spanish. He stared stoically at her when she laughed at Tad’s credit card getting rejected on Valentine’s Day.

“He just thought he was so much better than everyone else and that he was so self-reliant. He’s such a loser.”

Editor just shook his head.

Cameraman woke up from his third nap of the day and began setting up the “journal room”, which was basically just a chair and a plain black backdrop that had been found in the memory of Tad’s first job as a photographer’s assistant. Caroline sat in front of the background and made various statements that would help narrate the show.

For the first date footage she commented. “Through the whole date I kept thinking he was way too hot for me.”

For the second date footage she said with a laugh, “he chewed with his mouth open”.

“He thought he was such an intellectual, but it’s pretty hard to take someone’s thoughts on Kant seriously when they have egg salad on their nose.”

For the scene where he met her parents she said, “He knew how important my father’s opinion was to me; how could he humiliate me like that “, she said beginning to cry.

She added comments for director to use as he wished.

“I realize now that I confused his anger with personal depth” She said, thinking she sounded rather insightful.

“He was just a spoiled child who hated himself and wanted to take it out on women”, she said thinking of an Oprah episode she had seen a long time ago.

“I knew what a prick he was by then. Instead of just leaving I wondered what it said about me if even a ridiculous, unsuccessful prick didn’t love me.” She said sadly.

“You can’t say prick”, editor said looking up from the comic book he had been reading.

“Oh come on, everyone in this head is over twenty one, it’s definitely an R rated show…”

“It’s just company policy”.

“I thought I had final say’ I’m the producer, sort of, I mean it’s my money.”

“You can ask Director when he gets back, but I’m sure he’ll say no”. He said coldly.

Editor began inserting the comments in the places that Caroline had instructed him to.  Cameraman began setting up an area for the audience to sit.

They all nervously checked watches and cell phones.

“Audience is here,” Cameraman said, looking into the distance.

A tiny toy bus that Tad had swallowed when he was two was making its way up the bile duct. The bus stopped near the eye and about twenty or so attractive young people in cheap business attire got off followed by a short chubby main holding a microphone who gave them the once over and told them where to sit.

“Hey, who’s on this show? “ Caroline heard one of them say to the other.

“Who cares, I can pay rent now. Do you know if Central has anything for tomorrow?”

“Man, we had to get photo approved for this?” one of the more ordinary looking men said. “I had to come because I haven’t worked in six weeks. Having to eat body shrinking candy and jump down a man’s throat for a measly $8 bucks an hour has to be some kind of a union violation”.

“So, I like it,” a thin man sitting in front exclaimed as if he was trying to be heard, “What other job gives you candy and a free show and the chance to be on TV!”

“Who would do this for minimum wage? Where did they get these people?” Caroline asked.

“Los Angeles”. Editor said.

With this Director, Dan Rather, Dora, Dr. Applewood and a host of assorted authority figures, unattainable women and frat brothers came walking towards the eye. They sat in the front row off the audience. The short chubby man entertained the crowd with a few jokes while director put a few finishing touches on the show.

“Director”, Caroline asked, “Why can’t we swear “?

“Oh, nothing to worry about love. The sponsor wanted it that way is all”.

“What sponsor”?

Director did not answer her, but instead took to the stage.

Welcome everyone! This is the pilot episode of The Real Tad!”

The audience went wild. Caroline took her place in the front row wondering what director meant about a sponsor.

The Winner of Eliza Gale’s Elizashead Flash Fiction Contest!

Amerigo Day

by Ian Murphy

“What the hell is this!?!”

Ilsa sighed the heavy sigh of a long-suffering wife. She didn’t need any drama this morning. Especially not this early. She looked up from her morning tea at her Husband Amerigo, who was on another one of his volatile tirades, waving…

“A calendar.” she answered. ” We got it at the White Elephant party Magellan threw last week. You’d remember if you weren’t so drunk on Amontillado you could barley stand.”

“I know what it is!” he replied as he flipped through the pages, searching for something specific. “I’m talking about this!”

He slammed it down on the poorly carved wooden table and pointed an indignant finger at Monday, the first week of October. Ilsa squinted down at the target of his rage.

“It says, Columbus Day?”

Amerigo folded his arms across his chest, satisfied, if only for a moment. A tense second crept across the room, then – –

“Hells Bells, they didn’t!” she exclaimed.

“They did! Those, those sweaty cod-pieces!” Amerigo shouted, his ire returning in full now. “They gave it to that god damn Guinea bastard!”

“How could they do that? That day is supposed to be in honor of – -”

“Of the man who discovered the New World! OF ME!”

Amerigo stomped over to the counter and grabbed some wine. Ignoring any attempts at a glass, he drank straight from the jug. Normally Ilsa would have chastised him for this, but she could tell this was not the time to pick a fight.

“I mean, they named the whole god damned continent after me. ME! And they’re giving the celebration day to THAT Jackass!”


“Really! Do you know he thought he was in India? Yeah. INDIA! They’re probably going to call those Native Americans “Indians” now. Do you know how colossally wrong that is? DAMMIT!”

Amerigo smashed a dish that had absolutely nothing to do with the current calamity, chugged another healthy swallow of wine, and caught his breath. Panting, he looked at his wife.

“I’m sorry. You’ve been nothing but supportive. I shouldn’t…”

Isla got up from the table and put her arms around her Husband. Temper tantrums aside, he was a good man.

“It’s okay honey. Everyone knows who got there first. It says it on all the maps.”

A knock at the door interrupted their momentary peace.

“I’ll get it.” Isla answered the door. Standing there was a Royal messenger.

“Hello, are you Isla Vespucci? The banner maker?”

“What do you want? Now’s not really a good time.”

“Queen Isabella has commissioned you to make a banner for the first celebration of Columbus Day.”

“Why me?” Isla asked, irritated.

“Because you’re the only banner maker in town?”

“And she knows who I’m married to right.”


“And following that logic, she would know how asking me to make a banner for that celebration might be kind of, I don’t know, awful?”

“Yes. That would be why she laughed when she gave me this.”

The Messenger handed her a piece of paper. It read ‘First Annual Columbus Day’.

“No way. Tell her to shove it up – -”

The Messenger stopped her with a quick finger to her lips.

“Look lady,” he started. “There’s an Inquisition going on right now, and if I don’t come back with the answer the Queen wants I’m going to end up on the business end of a red hot poker. So make the fucking banner, okay?”

Isla understood.

“And she wants it when?”

“Before the celebration next Monday. Later.”

The messenger bounded off as Ilsa walked back into the kitchen.

“What was that all about?” Amerigo, now starting to feel the effects of the wine, slurred slightly.

“They want me to make Columbus’s banner for the party next week.”

Before Amerigo could begin another tirade, Ilsa put a quieting hand to his lips.

“Don’t worry baby, I got this.”

Next Monday came quickly, but the banner was done in time. As they got ready for the party, Isla rolled out her banner for Amerigo’s approval.

“I can’t believe we’re going to this thing. Wait… is THAT the banner you made?”

“Sure is.” She smiled.

“First Annual Columbus Day? Isn’t that what it’s supposed to say?”

“It does, kinda.” she smiled again.

“I thought Annual had TWO N’s and a U?”

“If you wanna spell it right it does.”

A smile crept across Amerigo’s face as servants arrived, took the banner, and began to hang it up for all to see. Amerigo looked at his wife with pride.

“Baby, you’re the best.”

The Runner Up In Eliza Gale’s Elizashead Flash Fiction Contest


by Matthew Harris

Both parents (but especially my father – the renown Chemist B.B. Harris and to a slightly lesser extent the late culinary cuisine queen Harmit Harms Kuritsky – the gal whose troth he pledged while holding some bubbling sinister looking flask in hand on their first guinea pig type date) encouraged incurred genetic yen that burned from without the buns of this son!

No matter a bit tentative to experiment willy-nilly (wonka like) with rather explosive materiel, I received truckloads of ammunition (in tandem with benevolent benediction) to foster dare devil and derelict pyromaniac precocity!

Those formative forays assaying, assessing and carefully calibrating this, that or the other liquid or powdery substance found me meticulously measuring and weighing the substances using kid gloves!

Frequent disappointment arose from yours truly as well as momma and papa when the net result (of these early attempts to blend powders and/or liquids) merely fizzled and self extinguished into a near inaudible poof!

Continual practice eventually bore successful fruit in the form of near perfect results!

I do sheepishly admit to (ahem) you that on occasion the outcome went awry! Nonetheless, they prided their potential fire branded wizard in the making with kudos and praise with DYNAMITE!

Practice from indiscriminately creating unpredictable concoctions, these lethally marshaled nonchalant opportunities provided quintessentially random results though usually very wimpy!

As proof positive and proud testimony, they proudly pointed (upward) to the kitchen ceiling. There such handiworks practically covered the entire ceiling with variegated splotches!

Quite accurate to assume that father and mother coached, goaded, and nurtured exploratory ambitions and tried not to stifle (at least consciously or deliberately) my early stage ambition toward a scientific artiste bent!

As a home schooled and (to some extent self taught chemically romanced muralist), I grew up (not surprisingly) in a Unitarian household that paid close attention also adhered to the pioneer spirit!

The near limitless boundaries of life, liberty and the pursuit of understanding an underlying credo, which allowed, enabled and provided one near endless experimentation even at the risk of life and limb.

Aside from nearly burning down the house, immolating myself, occasionally singeing the canine fur of Lady, Schultz, or Socrates, et cetera no frightful catastrophic outcomes occurred thru the milieu of mixing deceptively harmless looking inert raw materials!

Trial and error (quite successful with the latter) via blithely cooking dicey elements forming goulash hiccupping laboratory mishmash practically eliminated any pained regret to take daring risks (such as getting married – ha) in later life!

Despite this favorable and lovable upbringing, my mother (ever the protector and/or proctor of our family and an excellent chef boy r dee to boot) still managed to insinuate (as gently as possible) the necessity to be careful when igniting flammable materials lest some uncontrollable conflagration ensue.

She (mom) did frequently confess to feeling ever so slightly jittery and uneasy with my slapdash amateurish homebrewed pyrotechnics and much preferred to steer my attention toward a safer hobby such as the edible objet’s d’arts i.e., the much more drab field per how to present and aesthetically appealing and nutritious meal.

Fondness to prepare food and pretend to be a faux renowned cook (this confession admitted rather baldly and obviously deduced) actually competed for my most favorite avocation activity and spare leisure time!

In other words, this chap did relish designing his own recipes mainly from leftovers in tandem with unpronounceable multisyllabic organic compounds that filled numerous sized dishes and aged apothecary bottles respectively.

Without question though, the passion plus less riskier factor to combine and potchka dry and wet ingredients together did rank as a considerably safer medium that still allowed, enabled and provided me an equal opportunity to test reactions, than those earlier iterated potentially explosive hazards.

Nonetheless, my cavalier crusading overactive appetite, hunger and thirst to discover causative outcomes (even with purportedly innocuous looking household cleaning supplies or easily acquired inert materiel) nearly witnessed an apocalypse at 324 Level Road on one particular occasion our domicile to become rent asunder into an ashen funeral pyre, yet for the grace of some divine force no family members nor pets succumbed from smoke.

Best for me to sprinkle this expose with the essential highlights and let the reader be amused (and chuckle to her/himself at how she/he possibly conducted a similar antic during their age of innocence and precocious childhood) with miraculous intervention from the pranks of yesteryear.

Although decades now removed from the inferno in question, I can still vividly recall the horrific shell shocked sensation that nearly paralyzed my being and kept me stock still for what seemed like eons.

Mere fractal like fragments just barely recollected upon that indelible frightful charred brush with death!

Unsure even to this day, what exactly sparked the fiery maelstrom. Only vague hypothesis can be formulated quite some decades post that near cataclysmic event!

Perhaps the dial to bake or broil got set overly high. Maybe while the need to use the bathroom could not be deferred one more second, the rising contents inside a pan splattered over the side? This possibly set an eruption in motion?

Anyway after the flames got extinguished even the most hardened and skilled sleuth found great difficulty to pinpoint the source even after spending countless hours sifting thru the scorched rubble. As a result, all fingers immediately pointed at yours truly!

I can still recall with clarity that loud and near deafening boom, which blasted off the oven door. Angry, forked flames shot and spiked out in all directions. Hot embers of fire burst forth with scintillating fascination (including accompanying pops) like some July forth celebration. In addition, an intense heat nearly melted the paint off the walls, but mercifully managed to stay clear of those frescoes ala king!

Fire engines raced, broke windows to rescue and give candy canes to those trapped inside. Thank God I survived!