Two Flash Fictions: After Dad Fell Down to Earth And Mom Deflated & As a kid, I thought Canada was the place you went when you died

Rosie Garland and Meg Pokrass

Writers’ Note: Since 2020, we – that’s Meg Pokrass and Rosie Garland – have been collaborating on flash fictions and hybrid prose. We describe it as ‘inviting another writer to the dance’ because that’s what it feels like: a dance, a duet… where the sum really is greater than its parts. 

It’s all been done online – via email and Google Docs. We’ve used a variety of methods. For example, we play word and surrealist constraint games like ‘Exquisite Corpse’. You probably know it: Writer #1 sends a short paragraph, Writer #2 picks up the thread and adds a second paragraph, Writer #1 adds paragraph 3, and so on. 

Another idea that turned up wonderful surprises was to send each other a selection of unfinished pieces and works in progress. Every writer in the history of the world has a folder of these! Pieces that were started, but never went anywhere… We were astounded at the magic touch and creative openness of another writer being brought into the mix. It brought those unfinished pieces back to life.

As you can imagine, a lot of trust has developed, and we’ve helped it to bloom. Both of us feel writing collaboratively has enriched our writing lives and has given us energy. There is so much untapped creative potential – & sheer darn fun – in co-writing with another writer one admires. Sure, we’ve built a successful creative partnership. We’ve also discovered a friendship.

After Dad Fell Down to Earth And Mom Deflated

              After Dad fell off the building, Mom became churchy, straight and grim. Gluten-free, armed with Kombucha tea starter, until all that was left of her was a dull, skinny waistline.

              Aunt Bella came to live with us that year. She lit up the house with her outer-space glow. Her Martian tan stayed put all winter. She flew around like a surviving comet from Mom’s colorful past, with her bottle of whiskey and small piles of trashy romance novels. She’d snuggle up next to me with her dangly orange feet, an unlit cigarette stuck between the knuckles of her fingers.

              ‘Remember,’ she said. “Your mom used to walk in beauty, like the night. Don’t worry, it will happen to you too.”

              The arch of her brows were the rings of Saturn. The curve of the newest moon. I scrutinized Aunt Bella as if she were evidence of another world, thinking that at fourteen, it might be better not to have a human mother. I wanted to be up in the clouds but was stuck at ground level.

              ‘That yellow swimsuit looks swell on you,’ Bella said, winking, as if adding go get em queen, a message I wasn’t good at hearing, as nobody but her wanted me to take off and fly.

              ‘Thanks,’ I shrugged, feeling like an unripe lemon, wondering if any human being would ever want to know me or squeeze me, wondering what it would take to become a beer drinking Martian like Bella.

As a kid, I thought Canada was the place you went when you died

              Ma said Dad crossed the border into Vancouver, and was never seen again. One day he was a father, the next a Canadian who didn’t send any money. Life was a carnival of stories about stuff he did to her before he left. The gaudy high-wire circus act that’s fun while you’re watching, but after, you don’t know why.

              She told me he had been a Don Juan, gone after women of all styles and sizes, that she would be at home trying to get out of bed, and he’d come in looking like he’d been kissed to death, with a dying man’s gleam still in his eyes.

              ‘He was only good at one thing,’ she said. ‘Getting away with murder.’ Then she looked at me and said nothing.

              I spent years searching for my father in the family photo album. Ma cut him out of holidays, first communion, High School graduation. I didn’t look like Ma, so I had to look like him. I compared my features to men I passed on the street, guys in church, teachers, checking for shared noses, eyes and chins.

              ‘Why are you looking for a flown bird when we have each other?’ asked Ma. It brought me down to earth and helped me spread my wings. Ma was good making two opposites true at the same time.

              That morning, she beat eggs real frothy. Fried the bacon so crisp it shattered when I touched it with my knife. I felt joy when passing syrup for pancakes, cheap corn syrup from a plastic bottle. If Dad were here, he’d slap Canadian on top of everything; pin us down with moose and maple syrup tapped from organic trees. Our homing flight would end. There would be a crash landing.

Rosie Garland has a passion for language nurtured by public libraries, & writes poetry, prose and things that fall between & outside. Named by Val McDermid one of the UK’s most compelling LGBT writers, she is author of The Night Brother, described by The Times as “A delight… with shades of Angela Carter.” Find her online at:

Meg Pokrass is the author of 8 collections of flash and prose poetry. She is the Founding Editor of New Flash Fiction Review and the Series Co-Editor of Best Microfiction. Meg lives in Inverness, Scotland. Find her online at: