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The Summers of Carefully

Flash fiction originally published in Right Hand Pointing, July 1st, 2018.

Lifeguards ruled bare-chested from their tall, red chairs. To Cara, they smell like the reason girls were supposed to be careful around boys, but once she smelled them, she lost track of the reason. From her towel on the sand, Cara told her cousin, Traci, “They smell like the wind.” 

“They smell like dead fish.”

Traci was visiting from Wiscaaansin. 

“Not enough to matter,“ Cara said. She watched the lifeguards’ muscles move under their skin. There must be a word for the way those muscles made her mouth feel full. When the guards climbed down at the end of the day, they stretched into long-sleeved t-shirts with “Mr. Zog’s Sex Wax” printed across the front. Traci blushed. 

Cara glistened with knowledge. “Zog’s is surfboard wax.” They were so cool, those shirts. 

“They look faded.” 

Traci shopped at malls. 

Next summer, Traci came back, still fourteen where Cara had turned fifteen. From their towels, the cousins watched a guard rescue a puppy. He was a junior guard, only sixteen. The older guards sent him in as a joke. Cara thought Remi was totally cute before she saw him take the puppy into his lifeguard arms, then bodysurf a wave to shore with the little guy held aloft. Cara imagined Remi’s hands under her pelvis, his one-handed lift as he made her soar. It took Cara two weeks to convince Traci to tell Remi what Cara wanted her to tell him. Then Traci came back with what Remi told her to tell Cara, and Cara and Remi met up long after the too-long day. He had been holding his breath, too. He smelled like her first kiss.

Watch the video here.

Read the “By the Numbers” here.

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Video for flash fiction: The Summers of Carefully

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By the Numbers: “The Summers of Carefully”


Writing flash as I do, it strikes me that the number of words in a piece only slightly exceeds the number of times I have to submit before the piece is accepted.

Alle’s famed comic hyperbole strikes again; The word count for The Summers of Carefully is 286. Right Hand Pointing was its 40th submission.

puppy swimmingCarefully was inspired by a facebook question from a fellow writer: “You guys, how do lifeguards smell?” Without hesitation, I posted that which I made up: “Lifeguards smell like the wind and dead fish.” Then I edited to add, “But not enough to matter.”

Like I said, 40th submission. There were a number of re-writes in there. One–when Cousin Traci arrived–bumped the piece from under 50 words to its current length. That revision did not *pop* the way many ideas do for me. I remember staring at the first paragraph for a long time. It was so boring.  Cara on the beach with only her fantasies. She needed a foil. A square foil.

I started submitting it. I got some good feedback–including one lovely rejection from Tahoma Review, and another excellent note from The Vestal Review. But I never felt the piece was the best it could be. Twice, I stopped submitting so as to work on it.

The second time I sent it to its room, I called on the ineffable Carole L. Glickfeld, with whom I work when my fiction flummoxes me. At that point, the puppy was a one-liner. “They watched him rescue a puppy. Awwwwww.” Remi was not yet identified. The puppy-lifeguard was an amorphous “he.” (Really bad choice; really bad. Never do that again. Never, never, never.)

puppy elf
Puppy Elf writes for you.

Carole was curious about the puppy. “Not enough coming from the puppy.” I worked on the puppy part and then put it away for awhile. Weeks later, I re-read it in preparation for sending to Right Hand Pointing. I forgot I made the change! It was as if the puppy elves did the work for me. How kind!


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Alle “All Right!” with fiction pub in “Right Hand Pointing.”

It’s up, it’s up! My newest flash fiction in the tiny but impressive RHP.

Lifeguard ChairThis image is not from the publication. I chose it to inspire you to read “The Summers of Carefully.” (Heh heh.) RHP’s format is a single scroll adventure. If you don’t want to read the rest of the issue–which I highly encourage you to do–scroll down ten pieces (including the editor’s letter) and enjoy.

The editor, F. John Sharp, said about “The Summers of Carefully”:

I really like the craftsmanship of this. And it’s sweet and feels real.