OPTIONS • by Jack Cooper

First Place Winner
Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 SEVEN Contest
Spring 2015

He was biased toward silk handkerchiefs from Goodwill because someone had already decided they were worth wearing. They’d been paid for at a premium, folded proudly into tuxes for concerts and plays, and admired, complimented and handled by women. He liked classy, old shoes that might have gone places he’d only dreamed of — scraggly boots from Australia made of boar hide, pecan-colored clogs from Amsterdam, and, his favorite, white suede loafers from Italy that gave him a succinct feeling of being a dancer. In a survey of his accumulations, he could call very little his own — a mask from the Ivory Coast won at a lottery for orphans, a mustache cup passed on by his aunt, a Roman coin bought from a catalogue. Any courage he had he owed to innocence and his words to out-of-print books. Even his smile was borrowed from the mirror. This morning, as he stepped into the world of fast walkers going nowhere, fanatic cyclists asserting their right to exist, and dazed drivers on the never-ending route to retirement, he argued his options: work or time, time or work, Italy or Spain. He hadn’t counted on his left ventricle making the choice. He was found slumped over his car, one eye still open, as if meeting death halfway. He wore his white loafers and a handkerchief with bright shards of reds and yellows like stained glass in a Spanish cathedral.

Jack Cooper’s first poetry collection, Across My Silence, was published by World Audience, Inc., 2007. His work has been nominated three times for a Pushcart Prize, and chosen as a finalist in North American Review’s 2011 James Hearst Poetry Prize and in the 2014 Eco Arts Award in Creative Excellence.  His poetry and/or flash and mini-plays have appeared in Slant, Bryant Literary Review, Connecticut River Review, The South Dakota Review, The Evansville Review, North American Review and many other publications. He is a contributing editor at www.KYSOflash.com.

About String-of-10
The String-of-10 Contest challenges writers to choose at least 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 SEVEN were: SCRAGGLY — PECAN — ROUTE — SUCCINCT — ACCUMULATE — HANDLE — BIAS — EXIST — COAST — HANDKERCHIEF. The aphorism was: “We cannot teach people anything; we can only help them discover it within themselves.” — Galileo Galilei

Read the interview with the author at Flash Fiction Chronicles.

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