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It's Good to Have You Back by Meg Pokrass


On the way back from Folsom State Prison, he slumped in the passenger seat of my car, and it was like the world had handed me a bouquet of overdue roses.

“Thanks for the lift,” he said.

“No bother,” I said. “It’s good to have you back.”

For a long time, neither of us said anything. Dad looked swollen, his flesh pale and puffy as bread dough.

“Your freckles have faded,” I said.

Dad stared straight ahead, leaning into the sunlight as if trying to make more freckles.


My boyfriend Al was fat, broken like all the men I’d ever loved. Al’s lips were crusted with donut crumbs. He knew I was too weak to love men the right way, and he wanted me to try with my dad more than I did. “Families are what we have,” Al said, even though he didn’t much care about his own.

So much flesh that had no purpose in this world. Men never made any sense, fading, wilting like roses.


When I was sixteen, the year he went to prison, my lips were red and my cheeks sweet-smelling. I danced in the living room, dreaming about the kind of bad boys I wanted to love.

“I’m going out,” I told my mother, who distrusted most men. She’d told me Daddy had killed her roses before they took him away; rode over them with his motorbike. “Your father was careless,” she used to say.


When I was older, I could see the night sky both ways. We were tiny, and the stars were huge. We were huge, and the stars were pinpricks. My mother probably loved my daddy, but she moved on once he became a regular guy, a guy too fragile to rob another human being of anything. “I’m done with feeling dumb,” she said.

She had blood in her cheeks again, and she was messaging a man on the internet. “Old,” she said, “too old to cause any trouble.”

I understood, but her words felt false.

I didn’t want to see my dad sitting alone all night sunk into his hand-me-down recliner, watching reruns where everything turned out OK at the end of the half-hour.


When Al fucks me, I stare at the ceiling and see myself in the water stains, spreading out unevenly. An old soggy dream. He pushes and moans and says, Tell me how you want it. He’s not exactly asking, but I tell him anyway.

I often sniffed the roses my mother grew when my dad was first in prison until I felt good all the way through; until my insides felt the way the roses smelled.

When Al’s done, it’s a relief, and I can feel the crumbs on my neck. I wipe them away, but it’s always too late.


I’m running toward Daddy in my dreams. I’m saying, Daddy, you didn’t do anything wrong, and I’m holding him, and he’s hugging me like I’m a teddy bear who couldn’t do anything wrong and has no voice.

I won’t tell you a lie, he says.

I’m growing fast in my dreams, and he’s trying to keep me tiny, so he never has to lie to me. Don’t grow up, he says, but I’m sitting inside a cardboard box and my limbs are pushing against the sides. I’m making the box leap across the living room. When I step out of it, I have breasts.

Boys follow me into my bedroom like dead-eyed prisoners on their way to the dining hall.

I talk to them about my daddy, his goodness, and the roses my mother planted. I try to make them live, feeding and tending to them for the rest of my life.


Meg Pokrass is the award-winning author of eight flash fiction collections, including Spinning to Mars (Blue Light Book Award, 2021), Cellulose Pajamas, and a novella-in-flash, The Loss Detector (Bamboo Dart Press, 2020). Her work has been widely taught and anthologized, and has appeared in over 1,000 literary journals and in 3 Norton anthologies of the flash fiction form: Flash Fiction International (W.W. Norton, 2015), New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction (W.W. Norton, 2018), and Flash Fiction America (W. W. Norton & Co., 2023). Meg Pokrass is the Founding Editor of Best Microfiction and Founding Editor of New Flash Fiction Review. She lives in Inverness Scotland.


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