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A Flower Bursting From
My Head © Dee Rimbaud

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Linda "Rena" Tobey [since 2008] has published two books, most recently The Integrity Moment: Making Powerful Choices in Life (2001), as well as numerous articles, essays and one 10-minute play. She reports that her current novel-in-progress has distinct magical realist qualities.

"Quite simply, I think of magic realism as the invitation to the reader to follow expected or ordinary events into the extraordinary, in ways the reader could not have imagined. The journey is believable in terms of both plot and character development, and the reader willingly suspends any disbelief in the story's adventures."


The doctors said Elsa Garcia had a singular kind of problem. Well, she had known that already. She didn't need to fork out a $10 co-pay to learn that.

Soon after Elsa told her husband that she didn't want to have children, the problem started. As far as she'd known, she didn't even have dandruff up to that point.

At first no one believed her. Even her hairdresser. And you know as well as I do that hairdressers hear all kinds of crazy things, and believe them.

So one particularly heavy-shedding morning, Elsa stood in her bathroom, bent over at the waist, and shook her head definitively. At least a dozen tumbled out. But before they could all scramble away as usual, Elsa grabbed a slow one. Maybe it was sick.

The little thing twitched, and then, when it screeched, Elsa thought she'd have a heart attack.

But somehow, she held herself together and put it in the green-olives jar she'd been saving, and screwed on the lid punctured with an air hole. "Breathe," she said, also reminding herself.

This doctor could see her on a moment's notice.

"Look at all the problems we have—global warming, China. Yeah, China has it right. Just two to replace the two of us. But really, why have two? We can have none and make up for all those selfish people who have four. And now look at me. I singlehandedly am causing global overpopulation."

The doctor sat quietly, maybe listening to Elsa, but more likely in shock, holding the tiny jar in his stocky hand. "Singular."

The miniature child—was it a girl?—pounded tiny fists on the clear glass prison.

"Mercy." Elsa dared to tap the doctor's knee. "Do something!"

This doctor turned out to be the first of many. Somehow the press latched on to Elsa's issue. Every morning, their bangings on her bathroom's opaque window—"Come on, Elsa, let us see!"—disturbed her attempts to capture all the minis scurrying across the tiles.

Frustrated, Elsa decided to use the media to her advantage. She put out appeals to orphanages and potential adopters. But who came calling? The circus. She should have known. "I'll show you circus," she declared.

That's when Elsa started the non-profit. CIRCUS: Citizens Irate about Real Cataclysms in the United States. YouTube has actual footage of Elsa monologuing while shaking minis from her head. You've got to check it out.

Anyway, that's how CIRCUS got started. So I'm really hoping you'll give generously. For contributors of $10 or more, pick up your gift mini on the way out.

[Winner, 2008 Flash Fiction and Prose Poetry contest, theme "Funny Bone]

This story originally appeared in Tattoo Highway, issue #16, in a slightly different form, in 2008.

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This page last updated 2008.6.13