My flash fiction piece “Spring Back” as it appeared in the National Flash Fiction Day 2023 Anthology

Mick Bennett
Spring Back


Days before her aneurysm bursts, Mom calls me on FaceTime.

“Your stepfather’s planning a so-called hunting weekend in the fall. I can’t forget his past indiscretions.” She’s sitting outside, her oversized, dirt-crusted garden gloves on the picnic table. A red bandana holds streams of graying chestnut hair in place as she wipes sweat off her forehead with a sleeve.

She’s lucky to be alive but unlucky. My stepfather needs to answer her phone for her. “I can’t work the TV remote either,” she says.


Weeks after she comes home, I get time off and make the six-hour drive. The lawn needs mowing. Clumps of dead grass from the last cutting sit like fallen bird nests among the dandelions. Inside she looks up at me, eyes welling. Her growing hair’s a gentle carpet. She runs fingers over her scar, a pink rut from the top of her forehead to mid-skull. She’s relearning to take care of herself. Memory and every day skills should return with time. She lets me help with her makeup. I pick out her lipstick.

In the yard she has me clip spent blooms from her lilacs. She gazes at them, cradles them like keepsakes. “Your stepfather won’t deadhead.”


Home from work, my stepfather pops a beer and says he’ll grill burgers for dinner. Mom pipes up she wants to make my favorite potato salad. She grabs some russets, washes them, and finds her favorite copper bottom pot. It wiggles as the water comes to a rolling boil. Skins on, she halves each potato, lowers the heat, and drops them in. We watch the clock. An occasional drop leaps from the pot and sizzles on the glass top surface.

The potatoes drain and cool in the sink. Mom holds the refrigerator open until it beeps. Closing it, she moves to her spice rack on the wall. Squinting, her head swivels back and forth and she leans forward as my stepfather returns to the kitchen.

“What’s going on?” He slaps pre-formed burgers onto a platter.

“I’m remembering.”

“Remembering,” he repeats, leaving.

Mom reaches a hand up to the spice rack. Three fingers tuck before thumb and forefinger pluck dried mustard and set it down. Paprika and celery salt follow. From the fridge come mayo and sweet pickle relish. Potato skins, dark bandages slowly peeled from a wound, fill the sink. As she measures, sprinkles, and folds, a regular kitchen whirlwind, I picture her trimming her roses again, mowing the front yard and spotting me next time when I come for a visit.

She’ll pause, anchor a fist to her side, and wave as if I’m Santa Claus in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. She won’t try to yell over the mower. Then she’ll straighten her arms, lean into it, and get back to work. I’ll stand watching as she finishes up, one path at a time, her green-stained sneakers leaving angel footprints that vanish as the freshly cut grass springs back to the sky.


Coming in September 2023–Take the Lively Air, a new novel from Unsolicited Press.

When Riley Walker takes his Firecracker Red Jeep Wrangler for a drive on a Jersey Shore May morning, he has no idea that he’s about to collide with a honking pickup sporting a timber rattler warning DON’T TREAD ON ME. The crash leaves the drivers bleeding and hospitalized, and a gun-toting relative eager for revenge. Riley, girlfriend Molly, and her adopted grandson Klyde already have heartaches aplenty when their personal pain collides with America’s toxic cultural climate. Take the Lively Air is a tale of yesterday’s ghosts, today’s troubles, and the search for a promising future.

What America Believes (In Memory of Emmett Till)

Today is the 65th anniversary of the lynching of 14 year-old Emmett Till.  I don’t remember the incident, but I do remember seeing a photo of Emmett Till lying in his coffin. I don’t remember how old I was, but I know it horrified me.

Seeing was believing.

The photo was black and white. It possessed an unreal quality, almost as if it were a theater poster for a science fiction movie from the 1950’s. But it was all too real.

If you have never seen the photo, I suggest you use the Google machine and take a gander. There are many before-and-after pictures. See a pic of the lady who claimed the boy wolf-whistled at her, the reason her husband and his half-brother tortured and murdered him. Some folks claim the crime galvanized the civil rights movement. I remember Emmett Till’s mother in an interview. “I want the world to see this,” she said, meaning what had happened to her son.

So was it the crime itself or Emmett Till’s photograph that galvanized a movement?

The other night thanks to Twitter I saw what an AR-15 round can do to a human arm. There wasn’t much left of it. Most of the musculature above the elbow was shot away. Seeing this arm made me wonder. Suppose the parents of the children at Sandy Hook Elementary got together after that terrible day and decided to publish photographs of their children’s bodies. What would have occurred if the Sandy Hook crime scene photographs had been published?

Something tells me people would claim the photos were doctored. ( Just like the moon landing!) Of course Sandy Hook took on a bizarre nature of its own. Some people claimed it didn’t happen. It was crisis actors, a deep state conspiracy.

Only the most knuckle-headed among us won’t admit the last few years truth has gotten the shit kicked out of it. Like an old palooka in his last fight, truth gets bounced around the ring. I’m talking about truth, not facts. Facts don’t seem to matter anymore. Facts used to be something you could not combat with reasoning. Now it’s what you believe that counts.

Well, the men who murdered Emmett Till believed what the woman claimed. They believed a black boy had no right to wolf-whistle a white lady. And they believed he deserved what happened to him.

When humans carry their beliefs to an extreme or try to foster their beliefs on others, those beliefs become lost, clouded, without form. They don’t bring people together. They isolate. When you separate yourself from mankind, instead of looking for the common–justice, dignity, love–you see only the particular. When you separate yourself by your beliefs, it breeds violence.

Don’t believe me? Check the historical record. You may not believe what you see.

Take the Lively Air–Preview

Nothing in common but air and water. That’s what Bobby Burkett, the antagonist in my new novel, Take the Lively Air, has to say about folks in my hometown. He’s an outsider, you see. Comes all the way from Pennsylvania to Jersey to do some fishing, surf fishing, to be exact. There’s been an accident involving his uncle. The way it looks to Bobby, it’s a simple case of road rage. His uncle’s pick-up has been hit and then pushed across an intersection. There are tire marks. And the truck stopped when its tires hit the curb. The other vehicle pushed it “…like a goddamn snowplow.”

Bobby’s pissed. Pissed is what he does best, and the focus of his anger is Riley Walker. Riley, the other driver in the accident, is in his mid-fifties and scared. He’s scared he’s losing his mind. He has nightmares, most of them about his former wife. She was killed in a traffic accident thirteen years ago. Guess who was driving?

Riley’s got to find out what happened at this new accident. He can see for himself his Jeep has its grill bashed in, and the pick-up truck’s been pushed against the curb by the Jeep. Trouble is he can’t remember. He bashed his head open, and he can’t remember exactly what happened.

He has to find out because Molly, the woman he’s falling for, recently adopted her grandson, Klyde, whose father is in drug rehab. This grandson is 12. He’s a good kid, but a handful (three handfuls). Molly doesn’t want some maniac hanging around Klyde–that’s the correct spelling, btw.

Riley, in case you haven’t guessed, is the MC. He’s where the action is. He has to find out what he’s done and try to make amends, try to find common ground. Riley has to dig deep, and in doing so, make amends for both accidents, including the one haunting him from thirteen years before.

The novel’s told from multiple viewpoints. Riley, Molly, and Klyde, along with Vera and Justin, a young (30’s…30’s to me is young) couple. There’s also Gus, Vera’s uncle and driver of the pick-up. And don’t forget Bobby. These characters are of different backgrounds, socioeconomic situations, political leanings, and religious beliefs. How to sort all this. I have to tell you, it wasn’t easy.

I hope you got a little interested in my novel. It’s in the re-write stage, which could could last quite a while. I hope you weren’t put off by my not-so-subtle way of catching your interest. All I can say is, don’t be like Bobby.

Whatever your viewpoint, now’s not the time to find differences. Let’s find similarities. Aside from air and water–fairly important items–what do we have in common?

“So, let us not be blind to our differences–but let us also direct our attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breath the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

~John F. Kennedy