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Flash Fiction: "Lost in this Place" by Catherine O'Brien

There is no lyricism, it’s the melody that gets you. It keeps circling back like an ice skater

with compasses for feet. 

There are qualities to it, the quaint shyness of a newly-coined word and the urgency of a

trombone fleeing an angry polar bear who thinks it’s a runner leaving a block. Without this

power, I feel incomplete, I lack a shadow. I am a sundial separated from its gnomon. 


As night betrays light, the architraves are a makeshift racecourse, shadows shuttle up and

then down flaking paint. I am alone. I cannot stop thinking about his smile, so fake like

velour. You could almost see the fuzz of the synthetic fibres stuck between his teeth. 

How did I not know? The memory has receded somewhat, a tawdry sunset in my rear-view

mirror but then, then, it mattered more. It all changed in an instant. He disinherited my trust

treating it as if it was as diminutive as a new-born’s yawn. I joyously backflipped all of his

frowns, fudging some of the landings because I thought myself unworthy of being the

scaffold for his smiles. I didn’t know that he could have been my chaperone, my best friend

flanking me when needed as a guard, my shining moon. I continuously checked the

scoreboard but found only circular voids drawn by the protractor of his indifference.

I was a lovelorn teenager in love. He was a coughing asteroid still tangled in the stars, sun

and the moon of youth as he trailed across the Venn diagram of our conjoined sky. 


I saw it dissolve from across the park. A cloud whispered warnings in his ear but he just

raised a dismissive hand to its entreaty. I watched while she lived my dream. I would have

given everything to have been her as she basked in the munificence of that uncensored

smile. That was then and this is now. If only I’d known then, how crease-resistant my relief

would be, how elusive regret, how time would construct tumuli where I could lay that period

to rest.


It mellowed me, this thing we call love. It taught me not to flounder in its waters without a

valid excuse. It taught me my powers can only slenderise woe when there is a rightful foe. It

taught me that love’s self-assurance will always know how the story ends.

Catherine O’Brien is an Irish writer of poems, flash fiction and short stories. She writes bi-lingually in English and Irish. She holds a Ph.D. in English Literature. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Mystery Tribune, Comhar, Janus Literary, Ellipsis Zine, Splonk, Flash Boulevard, Tether’s End Magazine, Indelible Literary Journal, Tír na nÓg & more. Twitter: @abairrud2021.

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