The Campaign Winds Down

Barry Basden

I stood and slowly
bared my chest,
absorbing a sauna of rage
when the tattoo came into view.

The feed from the news pool
captured the precise moment
the woman in red
extended her hand.

Fear permeated the hall;
the banisters were slippery with it.
It was all over social media
before the sirens died away.

Outside,
near the alley,
masked men threatened
a gathering of homeless children.

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Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country. The world makes him Wince, which is the title of his latest collection of flash. He may have another, one related to war, out this year.

Elly & Jack

Barry Basden

May 3rd, 1943

Dearest all,

How is everyone by now? I’m still doing all the good. We are in San Antonio for about two weeks. We are planning on going to New Orleans but of course you can’t ever tell. We spent 3 days in Mexico fishing. Saw the bullfight and rode in the Streamline Taxi, a horse drawn sirey. Jack sure has been showing me around, places I never thought I’d see. Wish you all could have made them.

He just worked two days last week. The doctor told him he didn’t have but six months to live when he left Corpus and you know that won’t be too long. I still can’t believe it. He says I’m all he wants so I’ll do my best. Anything he wants to do, I’ll be there. Don’t know why I’m telling you all this. I didn’t intend to.

Mary, how is work at the plant coming on? Tell Wanda to hold off on vacation till we get settled someplace. We go all the time.

Had a letter from home said Billy might be going across and Jimmy has an overseas address. Hate to see that happen. In case you have to get in touch with me we are staying at 12th St Tourist Court. I don’t know the telephone, probably have to be by message. Don’t write me for I’m thinking we will move in a day or two.

Did you get my check? Be sure and cash it. Keep the money there. I’ve still got plenty to drink. You should see my Bar. We are leaving here Wednesday nite. I don’t know where, maybe the valley, Brownsville I think. I’ll write you.

Give little Bobby a kiss for me. Ask him if he still loves me.

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Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country. The world makes him Wince, which is the title of his latest collection of flash. He may have another, one related to war, out this year.

Vows

Barry Basden

He was in country four months when the letter came. He read it again out back of the radio shack. Down the hill afternoon sunlight glinted off the flooded paddies. They were everywhere and he wondered if he’d ever get used to the smell. He took a deep breath, tore the letter to pieces, and tossed it into the wind.

That night, after the bars closed, he missed curfew and bartered his wedding ring to stay in the village. Before dawn, on a pallet in a tiny hooch, the girl moved against him again. He felt instant rage.

“Don’t touch me,” he said.

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Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country. He edits Camroc Press Review and is coauthor of Crack! and Thump: With a Combat Infantry Officer in World War II. His shorter work has been published widely, both online and in print. His latest flash collection is Wince.

Exit Strategy

Barry Basden

We face each other across a mahogany table, our counsels assessing strategy. Mine has questions: Do you eat out? How often? Do you drink alcohol? How much? Do you have a phone? Do you use drugs? Pages of interrogatories to wear you down.

No windows in this room, not even rush hour noise can penetrate these walls. The fluorescence is best suited to anguish, a room where no one wants to be.

The questions pound at you and I wonder how it has all come down to this. My lawyer beats you with our terrible secrets until you sit still, defeated. I despise this end, this finality. I would much rather see something familiar–your gleeful rage, for instance.

If I had that butcher knife, I would slide it across the table and you could come swishing it at me again, making your primal animal sounds to startle this room. I could reach again for that blade and once more see the fury in your gray eyes soften and fade as blood begins to flow.

I could hear you tell me one more time that you love me.

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Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country. He edits Camroc Press Review and is coauthor of Crack! and Thump: With a Combat Infantry Officer in World War II. His shorter work has been published widely, both online and in print. His latest flash collection is Wince.

Two Stories

Barry Basden

Day Shift

Everything’s drab in the Heights except for little kids running around in neon colors, memorizing hidey holes, learning to count greasy bills—4th generation delivery boys. Across from the tagged junkyard, traffic rolls in, rolls out of the jets. Radio crackles, sirens, lights, blank-eyed stares. Nobody knows nothin. The kid in a red Bulls jacket flashes a grin. “You ever shoot a robber?” he asks.

Displaced

They walked all day and sometimes into the night, fleeing the Russians. After awhile she quit asking where they were going or how long they had to walk. When she couldn’t take another step, her mother carried her. One afternoon an American soldier offered them a ride in a small open car. They rode into a silent village and stopped at a broken hotel. Her mother and the soldier went up the front steps, shoes crunching glass. She stood by the car where her mother told her to wait. Across the square she saw an empty church, its roof collapsed, a gaping hole near its sagging door. She crossed herself.

The soldier came outside alone. He handed her something long and yellow, brown-spotted–like nothing she’d ever seen. He motioned for her to eat. She took a bite and spit it out. He showed her how to peel off the outside skin and then it was delicious. The soldier smiled, patted her on the head, and she watched him drive away before going inside.

Late the next day, as she and her mother trudged toward the setting sun, she thought about the soldier, wishing he would come back. He made her feel safe and she wanted more of his sweet fruit.

Years afterward, waiting in a Las Vegas apartment for her husband to return from Viet Nam, she remembered that first American soldier, back when she’d tasted her first banana.

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Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country. He edits Camroc Press Review and is coauthor of Crack! and Thump: With a Combat Infantry Officer in World War II. His shorter work has been published widely, both online and in print. His latest flash collection is Wince.