AFTER THE TSUNAMI • by Linda Simoni-Wastila

First Place Winner
Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 FIVE Contest — Spring ’13

The hose squirms in my hands, a fat serpent. Water hits concrete, whirlpools in the blackened chasm, and vaporizes into smoke that smells of burning tires. The sooty cloud obscures the evening sky. Two days ago, when authorities called all firemen to report to Reactor No. 3, I wanted to hide. But Misaki whispered, “Be a savior for Japan.”

Morning, before I return to battle the raging fire, I drink tea Misaki places before me. Steam caresses my face. Outside I am surprised at the sky’s brilliance. By the sea I gather stones, not smooth river rocks, but sharp angular ones, quarry stones shot through with mica. I add a rock to the grave surrounded by wild roses. In my pocket, the yellowed photograph: my grandfather’s eyes serious under the scarf of the rising sun tied around his forehead. Sixty-seven spring-times ago, he flew his ninth flight. When he returned, they shot him for refusing to dive his plane into the enemy ship. I weight the picture with the top stone, scatter petals fragrant but wilted, and bow before I leave.

By noon my arms ache from holding the twisting hose. I think of Misaki’s trembling hands cradling the tea bowl, of my grandfather unable to hurl himself to his death. I think of flowers already withered, of the invisible seeds of energy falling on me, breathed by me, infiltrating my bones, blood, my cells, each minute, every second. Steam rises, and I think of honor.

Linda Simoni-Wastila writes from Baltimore, where she also professes, mothers, and gives a damn. You can find her stuff at Smokelong Quarterly, Monkeybicycle, Scissors and Spackle, MiCrow, The Sun, Blue Five Notebook, The Poet’s Market 2013, Hoot, Connotation Press, Baker’s Dozen, Camroc Press Review, Right Hand Pointing, Every Day Fiction, and Nanoism, among others. Senior Fiction Editor at JMWW, she slogs one word at a time towards her MA in Creative Writing at Johns Hopkins and two novels-in-progress. In between sentences, when she can’t sleep, she blogs at

About String-of-10
The String-of-10 Contest challenges writers to choose four out of ten prompt words and use them in a story of 250 or fewer words, and an aphorism is provided for inspiration but does not need to be used in the story. The prompt words for String-of-10 FOUR were: EVENING — QUARRY — ACCENT — ROSE — TEAR — MINUTE — GRAVE — CLOSE — ENTRANCE — BOW. The aphorism was: “I want to put a ding in the universe.” — Steve Jobs

Read the interview with the author at Flash Fiction Chronicles.

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Every Day Fiction

  • J.C. Towler

    Strong stuff.
    The men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to contain the Fukushima disaster (Chernobyl) should never be forgotten. Their heroic deeds often eclipse the fact that they were human beings, just as fragile as any of us. The story reminds us of that humanity.

  • Fantastic story! Beautiful, horrible, sad – all of these things. No wonder it won first prize.

  • This is beautifully written. Congratulations, Linda.

  • I loved this story, and I loved reading about how you arrived at the idea. Rereading the story afterwards made it even more poignant. Very passionate and powerful within a very small space, congratulations again!

  • Congratulations, Linda. A well-crafted story delivering a poignancy that hurts.

  • Rose Gardener

    A well-deserved win, Linda. Congratulations.

  • Rob

    Short & hard-hitting.
    Well done

  • I loved this story from the moment I read it. Well-deserving of its first place win. Thanks to Kathy Fish for all her hard work in selecting the winners and to the staff of FFC who read over 200 entries to find the strongest stories as semi-finalists.

  • Amazing work. I will savor this one for a long time.

  • Apart from the oddly ambiguous and ungrammatical first line, I quite enjoyed this.

  • Definitely a winning piece, Linda. The prose is gorgeous and the story line is even better. Congratulations on your win.

  • Robert Vaughan

    Fantastic tome, filled with amazing prose poetry and unusual phrasings. Just dazzling writing! Worthy of first place in any contest.

  • Simone


  • Tina Wayland

    I actually loved the first line–unconventional grammar and all. This is beautiful and so poetic. I loved getting lost in the words.

  • Moving, powerful and beautiful. Thank you so much.

  • Thank you all for taking the time to read this small story of mine. And a HUGE thank you to the great folks at FFC and EDF for running the String-of-10, which is a great exercise for all writers, and for publishing my story. Special thanks to Gay for so many things, and Kathy Fish for reading the entries and for such a lovely chat. Peace…

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  • Margie

    Congratulations Linda on writing such a beautiful and powerful piece. So much said in such few words. Bravo!

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  • Kim Beck

    Definitely worthy of the top prize. Excellent flash story, Linda. The opening paragraph in particular sounds very haiku-ish. 🙂 Seamless weaving of culture, history, modern tragedy and future fallout — all in a few paragraphs. Congratulations!

  • Really beautiful and packed with so much emotion. You made my throat catch at the end. Amazing job on this.

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