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The O:JA&L Masters Series
Flash Fiction

Featured Writer: Roberta Allen


To explore more of Allen’s work, click on the link First It Happens, Then I Make It Up to access her free PDF chapbook from O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press.
Untitled by Roberta Allen

On board the freighter, the woman sits on deck, a book in her lap. ‘How can a trip reverse the damage already done,’ she wonders. The sea, as smooth as glass, looks as hard as ice. There is no land in sight: the horizon is so clearly defined, neither a ripple nor a cloud disturb the clean divide. The ship moves—silent—somewhere near the Canary Islands she is told: still two more days before they dock in Casablanca. Below in their cabin, her husband ponders maps. In the glaring light, the woman searches for a sign, an omen that will offer a shred of hope, when suddenly a school of dolphins relieves the stillness. She clings to the image as the ship passes through a stretch of water swarming with millions of Portuguese man-of-war; her hope survives despite the creatures, whose slimy bladder-like sacs float on the surface as far as the eye can see.

Published in The Traveling Woman by Roberta Allen, Vehicle Editions, 1986
Published in The New York Times Book Review: Metaphor in Midocean, Noted with Pleasure, 1986


About the writer:
A Tennessee Williams Fellow in Fiction and a Yaddo Fellow, ROBERTA ALLEN is an American micro and short story writer, novelist, and memoirist with nine published books, including her latest story collection The Princess of Herself. She taught creative writing at The New School for many years and has taught at Columbia University. Since 1991, she has taught private writing workshops. She is also well-regarded internationally as a conceptual artist.

Image: Untitled undersea photograph from the Places 1 Series by Roberta Allen. Manipulated in camera. No technical information specified. By 2023. By permission.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprints Buttonhook Press and HOT BUTTON PRESS Contemporary Issues, supports writers and artists worldwide.

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