Flash Fiction by Adriana Lisboa


In Kenya, a god sings and drums. His hands are dirty with clay as he molds a vase. Now it’s not a vase, it’s a jug. Now it’s not a jug, it’s a sculpture.

Now it’s not a sculpture, it’s a woman. The god thinks: I’ll mold a woman, then I’ll mold a man. The Kenyan musician sings with clay about all the colors of the body, from the woman, white, to the man, black. The god drums. The man and woman fill their new lungs with dry air. On the seventh day, instead of resting, the god dances across the horizon’s tightrope, along with his creatures, knowing that for one second the world is infinitely good.


In the backseat of the car, my son sleeps. We’re parked in front of the supermarket. We have to buy a soccer ball for him that isn’t made of leather, since the leather ones are really heavy. Last week in the supermarket I saw the colored soccer balls. Multicolored. Purple, yellow, blue, I think he’ll like them.

I wait in the car for my son’s father, who’s going to get the ball. I lower the windows, crack the doors open and wait. I listen to the radio and an oboe solo discretely underscores what I see–people coming and going from the supermarket parking lot, a blue Sunday in the sky. Full shopping carts. I hear a phrase said in the loudest tone of voice, an annoyed tone. I hear a burst of laughter. In front of me, on the stone wall, shadows leak a polygon of light that keeps slowly shifting.

Here come the two of them: the fat boy with a gray shirt and the woman who strikes me as very young to be his mother but who knows. She suggests they sit for a bit to rest, on the low wall. They sit down. The fat boy is sweaty and keeps playing look around with one eye always closed. The two of them sit there for five, ten minutes. Then the woman suggests, let’s go?, and he silently agrees, one eye still closed and his lips strangely contorted, a crooked, careless half-smile.

The oboe solo has long since given way to a large orchestra. I turn off the radio and wait for the colored soccer ball. In the backseat of the car, my son sleeps.


She takes off her glasses and puts a strand of hair behind her ear. It’s cold in the studio. She thinks vaguely of the dream she had that night when she sang my toes just touched the water.

The melody glides across the living room and he’s fully aware that he’s lost control of time. Norah Jones’ music will end, the night will end, when it’s time for bed he’ll switch off the chandelier and so his reflection in the mirror will die as well.

Her father listens to music in the living room (Norah Jones again, my god) and it seems like he doesn’t want to talk. She takes a sweet from the drawer and goes back to her room. Walking down the hallway she spots, on the ceiling, a gecko.

Its tiny, greenish feet, almost translucent, stick to the ceiling as it watches a mosquito. But the insect’s faster and goes flying out the open window.

There, under its wings, the night is translucent, greenish, cold and sweet. A jazz melody.


Adriana Lisboa

Brazilian writer Adriana Lisboa's honors include the José Saramago Award, the Japan Foundation Fellowship, a fellowship from the Brazilian National Library, and the Newcomer of the Year Award from the Brazilian section of IBBY (the International Board on Books for Young People). She has published ten books, including novels, children's books, and a collection of short stories and prose poetry. Her fourth book, Caligrafias, collects her short stories written between 1996 and 2004, including those featured here. Lisboa holds a BA in Music from Rio de Janeiro Federal State University (UniRio), an MA in Brazilian Literature, and a PhD in Comparative Literature from Rio de Janeiro State University (Uerj). Born in Rio de Janeiro, she now lives in Colorado.

Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren

Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren is an MFA candidate in poetry and literary translation at Columbia University and the blog editor for Words Without Borders. Her original poetry has been awarded an Academy of American Poets Prize, a Hopwood Award, and an artist's grant from the Vermont Studio Center; she was also a finalist in Narrative's most recent 30 Below Contest. Her poems and translations appear/are forthcoming in journals including Narrative, Asymptote, Guernica, Two Lines, The Common, and Upstairs at Duroc.

From Caligrafias. Copyright (c) Adriana Lisboa, 2004. English translation copyright (c) Rachel Morgenstern-Clarren, 2013.