Home Flash Fiction Flash Fiction—Sparks, by Kate Maxwell

Flash Fiction—Sparks, by Kate Maxwell

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Sparks, by Kate Maxwell

A spark is all that’s needed to start the process. Those loose-limbed bodies crumpled in the muddy ditch, foreheads and shoulders scored in red congealing stripes, they knew it too.

Before they knew nothing, they ran suburban gardens, open paddocks in grass-stained shorts and sneakers, aiming cap guns, slingshots, and imagined artillery at birds, brothers, or friends.

 “Pow! Pow! You’re dead!” 

Back then, death came with a freckled grin, a melodramatic fall, the ability to count to ten, arise, and continue chase. Now the bodies in the dirt are still. As still as they’ve ever been. Still as statues. Still as the end. 

Atoms, sparks, The Big Bang. All flickering through science lessons, or stretching young necks back to gaze into chill, black nights. They copied notes from the board, smell of sweat and sandwiches sickly sweet in the air, squeak of chalk on the board, as they listened to their teacher drone.

“A moving object has momentum, and this is the product of…?” 

A paused beat, the beginning of a frown.


“Mass and velocity, Sir.”

“What type of energy is the square of an object’s velocity?

“Kinetic energy, Sir.”

But they may never have really understood how I worked. They had their childhood games, their science samples. They’d learned about sparks in history, too. What sparked the Civil War? What role did the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand have in World War One?

A spark is all that’s needed to start the process, start a war. But what makes a man take up arms? What spark brings a nation to its knees, runs rivers and trenches with blood, and homes with howls and pain?

Filled with fireworks, my shock and awe shoots straight and true, explodes skies with blasts and booms that ricochet long beyond the smell of gunpowder has dissipated. My force rips flesh but also lodges heavy in the hearts left beating. 

“Pow! Pow! You’re dead!”  

Without the spark, I am merely powder in a cartridge, a tapered metal cylinder aerodynamically designed to target and destroy, encased in cold lead casing. Without the spark, without the gun, I am benign. Nothing more than smooth stored death. 

For a spark is all that’s needed to start the process. The ditch boys knew about sparks.

Mothers had washed dirty tear-stained cheeks, bandaged bloody knees after words or fists had set off sparks. Boys had grown into bigger lives, bolder fights. Sparks of wonder, sorrow, and sparks of lust. Some even knew how a spark can burn choking black, consume control, and extinguish the spark of others.

But most, most never really understood how I worked. How sending me and meeting me at my most magnificent momentum, changed everything: settled scores, quenched conquest, forced surrenders, and broke hearts. And ended grins and games for good. 

“Pow! Pow! You’re dead!” 

Kate Maxwell is a teacher and writer from Sydney. She’s been published and awarded in Australian and International literary magazines. Her first poetry anthology is Never Good at Maths (Interactive Publications, 2021). She can be found at https://kateswritingplace.com/