Just Because

Turning the corner, I see a kid.
He’s maybe seventeen, nineteen

walking down the sidewalk carrying a bouquet.
They could be for anyone, those flowers,

but I want them to be for his mother.
I want them waiting in a glass vase

on the table when she comes home from work,
a bright orange and purple surprise

lighting up the kitchen just because
she’s a good mom and he’s a good son.

I think she’ll set her purse on the chair,
lean against the faded yellow wall

and wipe away tears with her fingertips,
and for a moment he’ll stare at a spot

on the floor and wish he’d done nothing at all,
but she’ll pull him close with her arm

around his shoulder just long enough to say,
“Thank you,” before she lets go.

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award. For more, visit http://www.victoriamelekian.com.

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Going to be Saved

One night, my husband’s sitting
on the edge of the bed, sobbing into his hands.

Says he found Jesus.
He’s going to be saved.

A week later—he’s packed up and left.
Goes to Wednesday night prayer meetings.

Rest of his time he’s with Darcy,
the waitress down at the Rolling O.

Said I could stay in the house. Nice place,
up on a hill. He shows up drunk

every few weeks demanding what’s his, then
gone in the morning after a plate of bacon and eggs.

Daughter doesn’t call but once or twice a year.
She moved cross-country with her boyfriend

and kids. Invited me, too, but I don’t want to babysit
rest of my life. Son never did come back.

I always left the porch light on.
Drove the husband nuts. “What for,” he’d say.

He could have just let me be.
I’m thinking about moving on, some small town

with tree-lined streets and wide green lawns
between neighbors. Work at a market, maybe,

ringing up groceries. The dull ache in the back,
how good it will feel to sit down at the end of a day.

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award. For more, visit http://www.victoriamelekian.com.

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Alchemy

We knew it could happen—there was no way
that messy house of twigs was safe up there

in our eaves. The nest blew down, and the doves
rebuilt using the sprigs and fluff now on the ground.

Restored, they took turns sitting on the nest—
female at night, male during the day.

The third morning, he fluttered in for duty
with a hard landing and the whole thing crashed:

nest, two eggs—smashed.
My grandkids and I buried the bits of shell and goop

in a shallow grave under a tree fern in the yard.
We talked about life and death, the vagaries of nature,

but the next week I had no explanation for the cluster
of tiny purple flowers blooming in that spot.

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award. For more, visit http://www.victoriamelekian.com.

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Start with Beautiful and Go From There

I.

Pink blossoms in a terra cotta pot, a real pot,
red clay, with cracks and sweet crumbles, lovely
imperfections holding these beauties.
I don’t remember planting them.

II.

There she was: bright yellow bird, deep black wings
sitting in the bottlebrush bush, and I knew it was a sign from Grandma.
Just as I knew I’d have a boy. Each time.
Just as I knew the biopsy would be positive for breast cancer.

III.

I still fold laundry like my mother taught me:
arms wide holding sheets, hands meet in the middle,
and always, same as she did, the long stare
looking at nothing but a window full of sky.

IV.

When I was seven, I believed in Mom and Dad
and the Holy Ghost. That child heart, crisp and clean,
lodged in my chest like another life.

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award. For more, visit http://www.victoriamelekian.com.

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She’ll Be Gone Before I Tell Her No

She’s been saving morphine.
“Euthanize,” she says, and stares
till I nod yes. She is losing
words like blanket and zipper
and doesn’t always make sense,
but when she calls to ask
if I’m coming soon, I know
what she means. On my porch,
the gardenia petals are turning brown.

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award. For more, visit http://www.victoriamelekian.com.

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Counting

Three days past Christmas, the hospital walls are still
decorated with holiday cheer—snowflakes, reindeer,
a wreath with a crumpled candy bar wrapper

stuffed into the artificial evergreen. Torn magazines,
empty cups, and old newspapers litter the tables.
The TV is tuned to the weather channel, sound muted.

A wilting silver get-well balloon sways in the corner,
its pink ribbon snaking curlicues across the floor. It bobs
like a welcoming committee when anyone passes by.

We sit in orange plastic chairs counting linoleum squares—
seventeen across, twenty-one up and down, all of them
white with black swirls except one gray replacement

near the vending machine. We count fluorescent flickers,
trying to time them, see if there’s a pattern. Long, short, short.
We count the PA announcements and ping of elevator doors.

We count slats in the dirty white window blinds. There are nineteen.
Two are bent on the right. One dips in the middle. We count
what we’d give up—everything—to hear the word benign.

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award. For more, visit http://www.victoriamelekian.com.

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New Year’s Eve

Last year’s resolutions are in the garage
stuffed in a Mason jar. They send their regrets.

What’s good for today might not be best in March,
say, or August when the hot summer sun

is beating down my resolve to clean up
the debris in my life. I’m older than I ever

thought I’d be, and maybe that’s enough.
Anyone who deserved an apology got one.

I adopted a dog. I let people merge into my lane.
When sunrise sprawls across the horizon,

I’ll fill the empty bowl of morning with pink
sky and bird song, go out and make a day of it.

Victoria Melekian lives in Carlsbad, California. Her stories and poems have been published in Mudfish, Literary Orphans, Atlanta Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Word Riot, and other anthologies. She’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a runner-up in the 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Novella-in-Flash Award. Her story “What I Don’t Tell Him” aired on NPR. She’s twice won a San Diego Book Award. For more, visit http://www.victoriamelekian.com.

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