"And So It Begins." Flash fiction stories of up to 500 words that begin with a first sentence we provide. The first sentence for issue one is "I had never seen a tree on fire before." (First place - three way tie)


By Debra DiBlasi

I had never seen a tree on fire before. Yet now, from the bottom of the old man’s pond, I imagined pine trees burning. Smell of bitter sap and flame. Nesting crows flying into the wind. Smoke roiling. He’d tied my wrists and ankles with baling twine, put a burlap sack over my head and tossed me from the back of his pickup into the warm pond water. I suspect he drove away right then, not even a backward glance over his bony shoulder. He’d always said, What’s past is past. Pain your neck twistin’ back-eyed at it. And then he’d spit, as if defiling history. His. Mine. Everyone’s. Eventually the spit dried to nothing, proving him right. I never doubted him. Never questioned him but once. It was wrong, I said, to kill a worker for stealing, even if he was a vagrant. Ain’t, said the old man. And he looked at me like I was a tick he’d just picked from his scalp, filled fat with his blood. Half was true: his blood in my veins, mixed with blood of a mother I couldn’t remember. After she died he burned the only photos of her. Not to forget, but to appease his rage. Damn her to hell for dying on me, he said when things went from bad to worse. As if she could have saved him. Saved me. No. We were damned from the seed root, all of us. Eyes too close together and brows low and teeth twisted in our mouths. Nothing but pine trees on a mountainside waiting for the lightning bolt that would set us all ablaze. Let me burn, I thought, here in the bottom of his muddy pond. Let my smoke rise out of water and follow these blessed winds. I’ll rain down somewhere far and pretty. Take root. Remember nothing but the sound of crows in fiery treetops.