Wear Your Seatbelt / X and Y Squared / Husk and Core

Fiction, Flash Fiction

I practice the front crawl. I push. I breathe. I sturdy myself. I blow out when my head’s in. See and hear the gurgle. In order to keep myself aligned.

Flash Fiction by Kim Chinquee


Wear Your Seatbelt

When I was a kid, there were no seatbelt laws. I’d ride in the back seat of the car with my sister. My dad driving, my mom in the passenger’s seat.

I remember one day in particular, after church, my mom pointing out a neighbor’s house to the right of us. She said, “That neighbor has depression.”

That sounded like such an awful thing. Like, who would be so sad enough, that there’s a label for it?

All I did was ride in the backseat of the car, with my sister. We were quiet on the ride. At church, we sang the hymns we were supposed to.

This was before my father’s breakdown. Before he ended up in the psychiatric hospital. He was always the one driving.

After the ride that day, at home, mosquitos nipped at my ankles and my mom made caramel corn. New gravel had just been dumped onto our driveway.

My mom always said to wear your seatbelt. Wear your seatbelt. Wear your seatbelt. Wear your seatbelt.


X and Y Squared

Once in the water, face down, I move my arms in a stroke. My legs kick. I lift my head with each rotation, slightly, out of the water: to the right, one to the left, right and left, etcetera. I practice the front crawl. I push. I breathe. I sturdy myself. I blow out when my head’s in. See and hear the gurgle. In order to keep myself aligned, when my head is down, my ears numbed by my swim cap, my eyes focused and behind the suction of my goggles, I stretch my arms and scoop, alternating sides, looking down to a straight pattern of blue cubes under and continually before me, each warning me of its end with a T.


Husk and Core

“How’s your heart rate?” says the doctor’s assistant when I go there.

“You tell me?” I say. I served in the medical field in the Air Force years ago. I have no self-diagnosis.

The day before I ate corn on the cob with my soulmate. In the neighborhood swimming pool. I sensed an elephant in the room, but also was aware of how cliche that sounded. 

I chew on wads of gum, at the office. One after another. My heart rate is just fine, my doctor assures me. It’s just fine. I’m absolutely fine. I’m in the best shape of my life.


Kim Chinquee is the author of six collections, most recently WETSUIT. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, Senior Editor of NEW WORLD WRITING, Chief Editor of ELJ (ELM LEAVES JOURNAL), and she serves as the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Northeast Regional Chair.


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