The following is in response to Kama Falzoi Post’s “The Prediction.”
When searching through the jungle of online literary magazines for a wild piece of flash prose, decked in safari-tan hunting attire, machete chopping through the curtain of foliage of websites, I discovered that Smokelong Quarterly interviews many of their submitters. So I read a lot of them. What drew me at first to the piece of flash prose that I found, “The Prediction” by Kama Falzoi Post, was what the author said her motivation for the piece was—a challenge from her Husband. Post’s husband challenged her to deconstruct the first sentence from various short stories and novels, and then write a two-hundred-and-fifty-word first sentence herself. I am not sure if this means that she took a novel and wrote a new first sentence for it—is there a novel called “The Prediction” or has a similar plot to Post’s short?—or if she just used them as inspiration to come up with her own. Either way, what transpired was a very good short. Post’s short appeared in Smokelong Quarterly’s thirty-sixth issue, a publication in June of this year; by what I can tell, this is their latest issue. Post has published works in Pindledyboz, Inkwell, and Flashquake. She lives in New York with her husband and small child.
One of the things that I really liked about this piece is the way that it jerked by expectations all over the place. Though the speaker’s grandmother has been told that she will die a violent death, she doesn’t let it get her down. In fact, she is so positively transformed that she seems to be “endowed with [a] great presence” which ultimately leads to her being doted over and married by the speaker’s grandfather. As if this wasn’t enough, my expectations were jerked again when the grandmother didn’t die of a violent death but of old age in the speaker’s townhouse guestroom. Ironically I could not predict what was going to happen and I enjoyed the feeling of my expectations being thwarted…thwarted in a good way. It is this element that I would incorporate—steal—into my own writing: the multiple changes in the direction of expectations and the irony of the title.
Because of the ending I posit that the point of this piece of flash prose is that in everyone’s life there is some type of violence; in this short the violence was more mental than physical. Though at the beginning the speaker’s grandmother did not let the news of her impending violent demise upset her, the ending suggests that her life wasn’t actually all kittens and lollipops—“…and despite my grandmother living to see ninety-one and dying as she slept in the guest room of my townhouse, those of us who knew about the prediction still gave credence to it, as violence can be measured in all kinds of ways.” At the end, I got the looming feeling that the grandmother probably battled internally with being terrified of when and how her violent death would come; I get the feeling that her life would have been different if she hadn’t gotten the prediction from the fortune tellers. Perhaps she would never have married the speaker’s grandfather and in turn the speaker would never have been born.
The craft that Kama Post put into this short is phenomenal. Like I have already said, this piece is one long sentence, which, when reading the interview, I didn’t think would work out, but because of the way the piece is structured it all works. The story spans a lifetime, a big feat to accomplish in one sentence. I highlighted a few places where Post’s language stood out to me—“cast a veil of dread and fear”; “a sudden communal insight into the luck and significance of knowing one’s own fate”; “violence can be measured in all kinds of ways.” My favorite part of the short is when the speaker’s grandfather is flirting with her grandmother—“…one day whispered under his breath in a strained and shaky voice that he was, in her presence, in great danger of forgetting how to breathe…” I wonder how the others will react to this line because it has an heir of the old you-took-my-breathe-away cliché. In my opinion, it works because the grandfather mentions danger, which just goes along with the tone up to that point; the reader doesn’t know at this point that the grandmother will live for a really long time. In this way the word “danger” adds another layer of complexity that takes away from it being too cliché.