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“Rehearsal,” by Thomas Michael Duncan

Realistic reel of film, doodle style

Turns out there’s always work for a corpse. I’m talking movies, TV, emopunk music videos, texting-and-driving commercials, crime scene reenactments, all that jazz. If you’ve turned on your cable box in the last month, you’ve seen me dead. Most of my appearances are in the first two minutes of police dramas. Sometimes the script calls for me to be naked, washed up on a beach with seaweed in my hair. Sometimes I play a woman corpse; they position me facedown, shave my back, and put a red curly wig on my head. Open casket scenes are best because I wear a clean suit and coffins are lined with satin. More often I’m discovered in a dumpster, bloody with shackle bruises on my ankles and wrists, or bunched up and stuffed into a front loader at an abandoned laundromat. I get really into my parts. I can keep my eyes open for almost an hour without blinking. I can breathe for a whole day without expanding my chest cavity. When I’m dead, I think dead people thoughts, like what year is it? and where am I buried? and how many ounces in a pint? I block out my surroundings so well that I don’t always come back to life when the scene ends. If this happens, the production assistant dumps a glass of water over my head. That usually does the trick. Last fall I costarred with Dwayne Johnson. It was during his Dwayne Johnson phase. I played his dead brother. DJ cradled me in his gorilla arms and cried and shook like a paint can mixer at Home Depot. I acted dead. DJ didn’t stop crying until after lunch. My agent says I’m the most convincing corpse he’s ever seen, and he’s seen actual corpses. Auditions can be tough—the competition is stiff. Sorry. That’s an industry joke. But really, casting is uncomfortable. The directors shout at me, kick me, call me names, eat plates of linguine off my back. But I am dead as a dinosaur. They usually apologize after. My girlfriend decided we should try role playing, but she always wanted me to play the same part. We broke up. It was mutual. Now I have the apartment to myself so I can rehearse whenever I like. I play loud music and leave all the widows open and door unlocked and shower running in hopes that someone will discover me. That’s my one fantasy. It would be the absolute height of my career to be mistaken for a corpse by a pedestrian. I imagine being declared dead, fooling even the coroner. I would remain in character until the first shovel of dirt hit the mahogany.

About the Author:

Thomas Michael Duncan writes fact, fiction, and the occasional bit of nonsense. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina.

Special Note:

This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.

Image Credit: © Handini_Atmodiwiryo – stock.adobe.com

Contributor Update: 2017 “Best Small Fictions” winners and finalists

The 2017 Best Small Fictions lineup has been announced. We nominated five stories for the anthology. We’re pleased to report that “Gazebo,” by Shane Jones was selected as a finalist. This story originally appeared in The Conium Review: Vol. 5.

Several previous contributors also appear on the list of finalists and winners for stories published in other literary magazines, including Jen Knox (contributor to The Conium Review Vol. 1, No. 1), Ingrid Jendrzejewski (contributor to our website, Vol. 4, and Vol. 5), Philip Sterling (contributor to The Conium Review Online Compendium).

Our 2017 Flash Fiction Contest judge, Rebecca Schiff, has also been selected for the anthology. Additionally, our 2016 Flash Fiction Contest judge, Leesa Cross-Smith, was selected as a finalist.

Congrats to all the other authors who made the short- and long-list for Best Small Fictions! View the full list here.

Rebecca Schiff to judge The Conium Review 2017 Flash Fiction Contest

Rebecca Schiff headshotWe’re pleased to announce our next Flash Fiction Contest judge: Rebecca Schiff.

The winner of the 2017 Flash Fiction Contest will receive $300, online publication, publication as a limited-run micro-chapbook or broadside, and a copy of the judge’s latest book. Submissions open October 1st, 2017. Full guidelines are available here.

Rebecca Schiff is the author of The Bed Moved (Knopf, 2016). She graduated from Columbia University’s MFA program, where she received a Henfield Prize. Her stories have appeared in n+1, Electric Literature, The American Reader, Guernica, The Guardian, and Lenny Letter. She lives in Brooklyn.

If you’d like to get a taste of the judge’s style, you can read some of Rebecca’s work on Buzzfeed and The Guardian. (Of course, you could also just go buy her book).

You can also read last year’s winning flash fiction, selected by Leesa Cross-Smith, on our website. Or stop by our AWP table (548-T) to get a copy of the free micro-chap.

Join us at AWP for “Literary Friction” offsite reading

Literary Friction banner

We’re pleased to be participating in an AWP 2017 offsite reading with F(r)ictionSibling Rivalry Press, and Upper River Boot Books. The event will be at Bar Louie, located at 701 7th St NW (just a few-minute walk from the convention center). Event starts at 8:00pm. No cover charge, and the first 50 people in the door get free drink tickets. Find the event on Facebook and share it with your friends.

Readers for Conium Press are:

  • Maryse Meijer, reading from “Her Blood,” published in The Conium Review: Vol. 5.
  • Melissa Reddish, reading an excerpt from her novella-in-flashes, Girl & Flame, published by Conium Press in 2016.
  • Kate Garklavs, reading her flash fiction, “In Memoriam: Lot 69097,” winner of our 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.

The Conium Review‘s outreach coordinator, Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, will also be reading from her Sibling Rivalry Press chapbook, Adventures in Property Management. Readers for the other presses include David Abrams, Amie Whittemore, Ben Janse, Joy Baglio, Michelle Lin, Kazumi Chin, Kai Carlson-Wee, Anders Carlson-Wee, and Geffrey Davis.

We hope you can make it, and stop by The Conium Review‘s AWP bookfair table: 548-T.