Orlando Prize Winner for Flash Fiction


The Street Artist


I don’t do that old trapped-in-a-box routine. Uh-huh. I’m an artist. I grow a giant flower from a seed. The tourists at the cable car turnaround love it. Makes them forget how cold they are in their shorts and sandals, fog whipping around their knees.

Don’t know why the lady cop picked that moment to bust me. Came right up, her cop stuff hanging off a black belt. Made her hips look huge.

She goes, “I want to talk to you.”

Like she didn’t get I’m a mime. Talk is what I don’t do. And where the hell was Digger when I needed him? I froze in the middle of watering my invisible flower and scoped the crowd. No Digger. Fucking rat. Must still be pissed that I’d slept with Jasmine. But like I’d said, “What about bisexual didn’t you understand?”

The cop scowled. “What’s your name?”

A by-the-book hard-ass, but she’d have to play by mime rules. So I gave her my “who me?” bit and added head scratching and squinting skyward like I was trying to remember. That got a laugh from the tourists but not from the cop. She stepped closer, hands on hips.

Just then Digger showed up in the crowd, glaring at me. He held up his hand like a gun, pointed and fired. Bang!

A mime would’ve grabbed her chest, staggered backward ten feet and fallen, all in slo-mo. But the cop just went down. Plop. And everyone screamed. Even me.

Los Angeles Review Volume 18


“The Street Artist” instantly immersed me in the story moment. From sentence one, I am the mime, playing to the shivering crowd, sizing up the cop, trying not to think too much about my pissed off boyfriend. So when what happens happens, I am struck by the impact of immediacy, and left dazed in the aftermath, long after I’ve stopped reading.

This is a flash writer who knows how to put characters on stage with the gleam of just the right detail. The breezy voice of the narrator makes the reader feel like she and the mime are BFFs. And the twist at the end could have felt cheap, except the story earned it because that possibility was there all along, and no one is more surprised by the sudden violence than the narrator herself. So well crafted, with not a whiff of writerly-ness to diminish its power.         

--Joni B. Cole,
Flash Fiction Judge