Literature 6-3-2011

mnLIT presents: Tristan Riehl

Read "Railroad Crossings" by Tristan Riehl, selected as a finalist in last year's miniStories competition by our full panel of flash fiction jurors: Alexander Chee, Daniel Handler, Heather McElhatton, Kevin Larimer, and Dennis Cass.


Railroad Crossings

He leans over and kisses me quick. His lips are dry and he smells like smoke and aerosol paint, like an explosion is about to happen.

It sparks out against my mouth. His hand leaves a smudge of blue on my arm.

I try to rub it out. “Was that your first kiss?” I ask in what I think is a nice way.

He flushes and turns his head, stares down the tracks. “Shut up.”

“No. Was it?”

“Shut up.”

“It wasn’t that bad, I’m just saying it wasn’t very romantic.” It wasn’t what people say first kisses should be.

“You’re the girl,” he insists. “You be romantic.”

Why? “I don’t want to.”

“Well, me neither.” He chews at a hangnail.

I sigh. I lie my head on my knees and close my eyes against the low sun. The warm asphalt of the highway overpass buzzes against my back. The air is lazy — late August, the last days.

I spit on my paint-stained fingers and rub them against the grain of my jeans. I don’t get this, what we are. What we’re supposed to be. I poke my toe at his backpack and the spray cans rattle, a comforting cold metal clatter.

He sighs and lowers his head. His hands plow down into the chalky gravel by the rails. He scoops up small hills of it between his planted feet. I watch close until it’s all I can see and my eyes almost cross. I watch the landscape change. With one dusty finger he traces a river, or maybe it’s a railroad, disappearing past the last curve of his heel.

His foot is next to mine.

“Don’t tell me what to do,” I say, soft.

“Don’t tell them I don’t know,” he says.


About the author: Tristan Riehl is a fan of art projects, scavenging, and making scenes. He would like to be a writer when he grows up as long as he doesn’t get blood poisoning first from using permanent marker on his hands. Sometimes he writes notes online, too.


About the jurors: Tristan Riehl‘s piece was selected as a 2010 mnLIT finalist by an all-star panel of flash fiction judges — Alexander Chee (The Queen of the Night, Edinburgh), Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket series, The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, Adverbs), Kevin Larimer (editor of Poets & Writers), Heather McElhatton (Pretty Little Mistakes, Jennifer Johnson is Sick of Being Single), and author Dennis Cass, who served as lead juror in’s 2010 miniStories competition.

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