The One Per Cent (Flash Fiction)

by Melissa Knox-Raab

“Did you see her shoes?”

“You mean the Kathryn Wilson $420,000 diamond shoes or the $50,000 red Christian Louboutin boots?”

“The diamond shoes. For following the Yellow Brick Road. You want those or you want the apartment?”

“Oh, Hon, I don’t know. The pied-a-terre on the Upper West Side or my feet gleaming more than Dorothy’s? It’s a terrible choice. Oh, my God, I’m having a panic attack. Let me call Dr. Steinmetz. Oh, damn, he’s in the Swiss Alps. I could call Susy, my life coach. Can’t I have both? Please? Pretty please with a weekend in East Hampton on top and all your favorite perversions?”

“You’re forgetting the basics.”

“Oh, you mean she’s wearing them? She might not want to take them off her feet and sell them?”

“A plus.”

“God, you’re mean. Then just drive me down to the Kathryn Wilson boutique—there is one, isn’t there? In the fifties somewhere?”

“She’s in New Zealand. I can fly you there, but the apartment may go to the other people—”

“No! No! We need the apartment! We’ll stay there at least once. It’s important. Besides, they have an adorable roof deck and we can drink Courvoisier up there. It would be cute.”

“Yes, cute.” (Yawns.)

“I think I could live with the boots. Actually, they’re the right color, Dorothy-wise. A little kinky. You like that, right? You like kinky. We could do the boots and the apartment together, right? I can wear them on the roof.”

“Maybe, if I throw you off it.”

“Oooh, crazy. Really? And I could hang-glide my way to the Palisades?”

“You want to go to the Palisades?”

“Maybe. For a picnic. Does Dean and Deluca deliver there?”

“For you, yeah.”

“Ooooh, I can’t wait to smell the leather. Hon, you’re the best.”

Author bio: Melissa Knox-Raab taught at the UDE for many years. Her recent writing appears in Areo, Parhelion and on the substack.

Tea Stains

by Katja Kramer

She gazes at his cup from across the small wooden table. You can see the liquid; the cup’s nearly as full as it was an hour ago.

“Listen, I won’t sit here all day.” Her eyes travel to the all too familiar window—it’s gotten significantly darker since she got here. “Or night.”

Her cup’s almost empty; there are a few sips left. She’s undecided whether to finish the tea or not as what’s left at the bottom of the cup tends to be quite bitter and cold.

“Please,” he whispers. “Please don’t leave.”

Shaking her head slowly, she raises the cup to her lips. “But I’m already gone.”

He opens his mouth but the words remain stuck in his throat.

“You called me,” she says, shooting a glance at his cup. “You poured that tea.” She tries to lock eyes with him but he fails to look up from his drink. “You wanted to talk.”

She takes her last sip. It’s bitter and cold.

Giving him one final, unrequited look of resignation, she sets her cup down. There’s some lipstick on the rim of it and the bottom’s stained. He stares at it, still dwelling on how he’ll ever get rid of the marks she left behind when she’s long out the door.

Author Bio: Katja Kramer is a 4th-semester student of Anglophone Studies and Kommunikationswissenschaft at the University of Duisburg-Essen. From her early childhood she’s been into all sorts of art: she has been drawing and painting ever since she could hold a pen and brush; she’s passionate about music, cinema and theater; especially in recent years, writing stories and essays has brought her incredible joy.

To the Younger Me

by Katja Kramer

I want to apologize for the time I took your drawing and crumpled up the paper as if you hadn’t just spent hours working on it. It’s like I can see you on the cool ground in the corner of the living room, sitting cross-legged or lying on your stomach, feet up. I’m sure you put your heart and soul into this drawing—choosing each crayon and color cautiously; erasing bits and blowing away the residue so frequently that you began running out of breath; reconsidering the placement and appearance of even the finest, seemingly insignificant lines. When you didn’t blow away the eraser residue, you probably used your hands to sweep it off the paper—these soft tiny hands; they were barely bigger than the eraser. I’m sorry I thought the result wasn’t good enough in the end. I’m sorry I thought the product of your effort and your dedication wasn’t worth keeping.

I want to apologize for the times I made you secretly use Mom’s concealer in the mornings because I had convinced you that you need to start using make-up to be pretty. I want to say sorry for the times I prevented you from having fun with your friends after I talked you into thinking they would only get annoyed by you anyway. I’m sorry for the times people told you they loved you and I made sure you didn’t believe a word. I’m sorry for the times you stood in front of the mirror in daylight or laid in bed at nighttime and I made you feel like the unworthiest human being alive. I’m sorry for all the moments you could have and should have been happy and I took it from you—just like I took that drawing and threw it away.

Author Bio: Katja Kramer is a 4th-semester student of Anglophone Studies and Kommunikationswissenschaft at the University of Duisburg-Essen. From her early childhood she’s been into all sorts of art: she has been drawing and painting ever since she could hold a pen and brush; she’s passionate about music, cinema and theater; especially in recent years, writing stories and essays has brought her incredible joy.


by Paula Ingerfeld

Through the blurred vision of my eyes, my wrists seem to be skinnier under the flickering neon lights of the ladies’ room. Earlier that night, I overheard a girl complaining, for there is only one restroom for men and one for women. She demanded one for all genders and one for all, except for men. At least she has a clear vision of a better world, a better world for all, also for men I suppose. Outside the cabin, the girls are having a frisky conversation in Spanish. Every time the door opens, their muddled blabbering gets mixed up with static techno beats and the roaring sound of an ecstatic crowd. When the door closes the voices go muffled again and I can hear my own heavy breathing. Whatever it is that keeps the crowd outside this restroom in high spirits, it slipped through my shaky fingers and I´m about to flush it down the toilet. I rest my head on my right arm and watch my hands as they are hanging limply over the toilet seat. Under the white skin I can trace my veins which meander over tendons and knuckles like bluish snakes that have neither a beginning nor an end. There´s purple blood running within them and perhaps a fair amount of vodka which we lavishly poured into plastic cups filled with coke, about two hours ago, when the night was still a promising one. A shiny event we ran towards to in quivering anticipation and which we drank towards to with an unsettling matter of course.

In this very moment the consequences of my efforts to have a terrific time are taking over me with the strength of a tremendous, black wave pulling me under the surface, making me forget where to find the way up again. I once read about an infamous wave called “the Widowmaker“, which is around six metres tall and is quiet  popular among extreme surfers. It´s stupid, I think to myself, to expose oneself to such deadly forces, surfing on the verge of demise, or worse, challenging a complete loss of control over one´s body. But I guess there is a certain thrill to it, to see how far you can go without losing control. If I wasn´t on the bathroom floor right now, feeling sick to my stomach, I would be surfing too. I would chase a cheap high, balance my body through a sea of countless, dancing figures and inhale the fresh breeze of sweet perfume and sweaty skin. But I don´t. I took a nosedive off my board and I have been swallowed by the god­damned widowmaker itself. It´s not that I´m new to feeling sort of widowed, like someone who has been left by someone else – or something else perhaps. It´s not the diving, or the loosing as a separate act on its own. It is the coming up for air, the comeback to the surface and the realization that you are out on the sea all by yourself, not knowing where to find a shore. And you also realize that you can fill your lungs with salty air, you can breathe in and out as well, but it´s just that no matter how deeply you breathe in, you cannot get filled up to the fullest. The air you breathe is not enough to keep you alive out there. At its best, it can barely keep you afloat.

 I lean deeper into the toilet, hoping to throw up soon in order to get rid of my bellyache and to slow down my jumpy heartbeat. My eyes feel unusually dry, I would like to shed a tear or two just to untense, to pour out my disgust. But vodka and tears seem to be locked up in my biosystem without wanting to leave anytime soon. So I force myself up off the floor and lean against the cabin wall. I close my eyes and count until the dizziness fades away slowly: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven  – I open them carefully only to read what´s written on the opposite wall in smudged, red letters: “I WISH YOU WERE HERE“.

I look down at myself. The fabric of my blouse gives off a luminous gleam – how pretty. We make it a ritual to dress up nicely and make ourselves look noticeable. An extensive preparation for a few hours of synthetical euphoria. Hoop earrings, cat-eyes, glitter dust – porcelain faces with scarlet cheeks, flushed and twisted. I drink away the terror and it seems like we get closer by every other gulp of liquor while the faces around us become boisterous grimaces. And I can look into your  glassy eyes now, since I see your face in tunnel vi­sion, hyperfocus. We become nothing but  poisoned bodies, that get carried away within smoky air and hot hands and so do our words – if we wanted them to be heard they would vanish into the noise. There is no need for big words in this collective high. And so I laugh and smile like an idiot because everything seems to be not so bad after all. Under the electric lights it feels like things will work out somehow in the end and as if I won´t feel any emptiness in my lungs tomorrow and as if there were inclusive toilets for every gender.

I make myself pretty to end up on the dirty floor of a toilet cabin and watch my hands in a delirious state. I make myself pretty to end up in a pretty ugly reality. I lift up one finger after another in slow motion which takes up far too much of my strength. Outside the cabin I can still hear the Spanish girl´s voices. One of them is saying something to the others I understand: “Vamos a bailar!” Let´s go dancing.


By Katja Kramer

As a kid, she used to wish on the fluffiest dandelions, keeping the stems in her purse so that months or years later, they would remind her of the things she had wished for. Suddenly she’s not upset anymore that they never came true; suddenly she doesn’t recall wishing for anything in the first place. The image of white fuzzy seeds floating in the air is replaced by one of vibrant confetti flying around. Shredded paper of various colors is all it is; it’s shot into the air where it floats for half a minute or so until it falls to the ground and is stomped on by people who were so very enthralled by it just seconds ago. Watching confetti in the air certainly is not the main event and most people forget about it as soon as it’s out of sight; it actually seems altogether trivial, simply being an addition to something bigger—and yet, it carries so much joy and causes so much excitement the moment it appears before the faces of the crowd. She doesn’t think of the confetti before she sees it, but boy, is she happy when she does.

For an evanescent eternity, the plate on her kitchen table—along with the now dry and odorless scraps of whatever once laid there—vanishes and gone is the evidence that she failed to finish it. Forgotten is that message she sent two months ago that never got an answer and so are the disconsolate voicemails from a few years back. She becomes deaf to the voices echoing the words spoken in her living room just yesterday; in the flash of light, blind to the silent resignation she’s come to discern in so many eyes—including those in her mirror. Smells of sweat and smoke dismiss the stream of salt making its way to her lips as the distant memory of somebody else.

For a fleeting glimpse of insouciance, there are no mistakes, no regrets, no could-have-beens in her past. She’s oblivious to the friends she’s painfully watched walk out of her life and indifferent to the broken bits left lying in the doorway reminding her of how close they once were. It no longer matters that the man she thought she loved decided against her; his hair, his gaze, his smile—they’ve all been part of a daze some doe-eyed girl got caught in. Some girl, but not her—she would know better.

As she won’t once stop dancing for hours on end, she doesn’t remember redoing her makeup several times this evening for the tears just wouldn’t stop flowing down her cheeks; neither would she recognize herself in the girl who could lie in bed for days—empty and still overthinking. Her smile, her energy, her cheerfulness—they’re all sincere in the moment; they’re sincere because right now, there is no unfinished plate on her kitchen table, no unanswered texts or voicemails she regrets, no fights and tears and heartbreak, no unfulfilled dreams—they’re all someone else’s mess but not hers and not right now. They’re not hers. For an evanescent eternity, all she hears is music, all she does is dance, all she sees are lights and all that matters is confetti.

Wanderlust Or How I Feel Glued to My Place

By Ann-Katrin van Loosen

She stood there as long as she could remember. That small but big street light. Like a tall gentleman with a hat.

At day her light is off, invisible like the stars. Still, they are always up there. No matter the darkness or a storm, light always keeps humanity company.

On bright summer days, the trees will protect the street light with their shadows. Which is really nice because her metal could get really hot. And on dull winter days, sometimes human in cosy coats would visit her and bring knitted scarves; she liked the colourful ones the most. In those moments the birds watch from their seats in the treetops, hoping for the kind ones among the two-legged giants to leave them a handful of delicious seeds.

The street light likes to watch too. She likes to keep watch on those who walk through the park. Those who will hasten past her but also those who will lie down and savour the sun. Sometimes nibbling on small foods making the street light wish to know how these treats taste.

The next lamp is far away. So the street light would get sad sometimes, wishing to be able to talk and share her observations with them. But then she will be greeted by the singing birds or one of the bunnies that hop through the park. On lucky days she’ll even be greeted by lively dogs, wagging their little tails so much that it looks like they will take of any moment, like a helicopter. And on rare days, on the bench across from her, a lazy cat will doze off in the comfort of the sun.

And when the little but big street light watches the humans leave at the end of the day, she asks herself what the outside world looks like. How far must the land stretch behind the sundown?  Does it have more water than the small pond in this place? Where foreign ducks will idle away their days.

Seeing how the blue sky stretches so far above the park, there must be a lot of other wonderful places full of life.

„Oh how I wish I could be able to travel the world!“ thinks the small but big street light to herself.