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Flash Fiction
224 words
SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014


by John Edgar Wideman

Sitting here six floors up on my little balcony when I heard shots and saw them boys running. My eyes went straight to the lot beside Mason’s bar, and I saw something black not moving in the weeds and knew a body was lying there and knew it was dead. A 15-year-old boy, the papers said. Whole bunch of sirens and cops and spinning lights the night I’m talking about. I watched till after they rolled him away and then everything got quiet again as it ever gets round here, so I’m sure the boy’s people not out there that night. Didn’t see them till next morning. I’m looking down at those weeds. A couple’s coming slow on Frankstown with a girl by the hand, had to be the boy’s baby sister. They pass terrible Mason’s and stop exactly next to the spot the boy died. How did they know. Then they commence to swaying, bowing, hugging, waving their arms about. Forgive me, Jesus, but look like they grief dancing, like the sidewalk too cold or too hot they had to jump around not to burn up. How’d his people find the spot. Could they hear my old mind working to guide them, lead them like I would if I could get up out this damn wheelchair and take them by the hand.


—From Wideman’s collection of micro-stories, Briefs: Stories for the Palm of the Mind, Lulu Press, Inc. (February 2010); reprinted here by author’s permission

—Story commissioned by, and first published in, O: The Oprah Magazine (July 2006): “Micr-O Fiction: 8 Provocative Writers Tell Us a Story in 300 Words or Less”

SHJ Issue 9
Spring 2014

John Edgar Wideman

is the author of 13 novels, six collections of short fiction, and two memoirs, including the award-winning Brothers and Keepers (memoir), Philadelphia Fire (novel), and Fanon (novel). His memoir, Fatheralong, was a finalist for the National Book Award.

The first person to win the PEN/Faulkner award for fiction twice, Wideman has also received numerous other awards and honors, including the Rea and O. Henry Awards, the American Book Award for Fiction, the Lannan Literary Fellowship for Fiction, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and a MacArthur Fellowship.

His articles on Malcolm X, Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Michael Jordan, Emmett Till, and Thelonius Monk have appeared in The New Yorker, Vogue, Esquire, Emerge, and the New York Times Magazine.

Wideman lives in Manhattan and teaches at Brown University, where he is the Professor of Africana Studies and Literary Arts.


SHJ invites you to visit the sites below to learn more about Wideman and his work:
...BRIEFS is a groundbreaking collection of ‘microstories’ from celebrated author John Edgar Wideman, previous winner of both the Rea and O. Henry awards saluting mastery of the short story form. Here he has assembled a masterful collage that explodes our assumptions about the genre. Wideman unveils an utterly original voice and structure—hip-hop zen—where each story is a single breath, to be caught, held, shared and savored...  
— From publisher’s description Lulu Author Spotlight
“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury