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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