SmokeLong Quarterly is dedicated to bringing the best flash fiction to the web on a quarterly basis, whether written by widely published authors, or those new to the craft. The term "smoke-long" comes from the Chinese, who noted that reading a piece of flash takes about the same length of time as smoking a cigarette. All the work we publish is precisely that―about a smoke long.
Being asked to pick my all-time favorite story from SmokeLong is a little bit like being asked to pick my favorite son. So I went with a sentimental favorite that I don't think has gotten a lot of attention previously. I wanted to go back to Issue One, when I was a little more wide-eyed about what running a lit mag meant. And there's lots of great content in there, but I remember well when this story came in and our reaction to it, how blown away we were by the sheer... well, gall of it. Seems appropriate that's the author's name, no? Whatever became of S.H. Gall anyway? I just googled the name and found only this story. From his bio, I see that he was in Word Riot, so I went and found that, and see that he also has published as Seth Gall. Googled that, too, and found only the Word Riot piece. Oh, where have you gone, Seth Gall?
Nominated Flash Fiction: "Gerontophile: An Imposition" - S.H. Gall
Reviewed: by Kirsten Menger-Anderson
I'm always impressed by writers, such as S.H. Gall, who choose the flash fiction form and then write a piece that reads more like poetry than fiction. "Gerontophile: An Imposition" tells the story of a moment on a half-full city bus, and each time I read the piece, I see that moment in a slightly different way. As I read, I feel like I'm listening into a conversation, trying to imagine the storyteller and his circumstance from the clues woven into the narrative. I'm curious, and want to turn around to see the person speaking, but I never do because that mystery is nice.
I don't have to imagine the other character in the tale, an older man, who is well described with memorable phrases such as "His lips, resembling in their sucked red pallor an anus"and "Hair, lakewater gray, and chopped short" and "His shirt, striped, fuzzy, is of fabric like velour and wreaks havoc with sunlight." He sits across the aisle from the narrator, whose attraction to the man becomes apparent in the story's descriptive language before the narrator wonders, "Would he kiss me?"
What happens next changes each time I read the story. Sometimes, I believe that the narrator does indeed rise from his seat to take a place next to his fellow passenger. Sometimes I believe that he kisses the man, and that the man does indeed follow the narrator off the bus and into his home where they kiss and fuck. Other times, I think that the narrator only imagines the events described. "Nothing has happened," he keeps saying. "Nothing has happened."
"Gentrontophile: An Imposition" captures the quick excitement of physical attraction and the suspended moment of vulnerability that follows admitted desire and response. Whether the interaction is fantasy or fact matters little. I'm glad that I'm given the space to imagine the moment myself.
Kirsten Menger-Anderson's first book of fiction, Doctor Olaf van Schuler's Brain, is forthcoming from Algonquin this Fall (2008). She lives in San Francisco with her husband, daughter, cat, and guinea pig. For more information about her book or her background, please see her website.