Twists and surprises abound in this wry collection of flash fiction from novelist K.B. Jensen.
Themes of destruction and deliverance work in tandem in these very short pieces. In the opening story, a vacationer excavates a skeleton from the walls of a villa and knits it into a woman, “[m]issing a tooth, far from perfect, but free. In “Killer Blossoms,” Henry repays a childhood slight with an act that has unanticipated consequences, a device that threads throughout the collection.
Many of the metaphors and strange situations feel fresh, like Sara, struggling with depression, who swallows a storm and is torn apart by it, or the 13-year-old girl who eats a boy who torments her. Some twists land with a shiver of delight; in “Lucky Shoes,” a narrator steals a pair of red satin pumps, leaving her own Nikes behind to replace them. Dancing through town, she rejoices that “Nothing hurt when I was wearing them. Not my heels, not my arches, not the balls of my feet, not my heart” —then later wakes to find her own Nikes beneath her bench.
Many of the stories, though, don’t deliver on their gimmicks, and some read like the answer to a writing prompt, a mere exercise. In “Grandma,” for instance, the 30-year-old narrator awakens in the body of her grandmother, a premise that leads to bizarre interactions and jolts of self-awareness. But then her boyfriend’s sweet but prosaic declaration of love turns her, “just like that,” back to herself, with no lingering consequence. Several stories fail to fully realize their characters, and many, like the handful of COVID-inflected stories, tread familiar ground.
Jensen is an adroit writer, carving out images with a few deft words; on the screensaver of the computer the narrator steals in “The Hoarder,” the flying toasters are “darting back and forth with their angel wings.” Not every story is a heavy hitter, but there are enough memorable moments to make the collection enjoyable.
Also available as an ebook.