‘Buffalo’ by Amanda Fields

This story recently placed third in an online flash fiction contest and to my mind is one of those pieces that shows how much can be packed into a small space – like a suitcase that is not just overflowing, but so full it seems to warp the notion of a suitcase at all. It is set on a sweltering summer day at a zoo, in the narrator’s childhood, just after her father ‘had just begun to be noticeably strange’. The girl and her mother walk around looking at the listless animals. They come to the buffalo of the title, and the girl looks at them through a coin-operated set of binoculars. Distracted, she doesn’t see as much as she would like before the coin drops. Her mother refuses to pay more money. There the story ends. The beauty and intensity of the piece lie in the layering of details – from the girl’s corrective shoes, to her mother’s lipstick-smeared white gloves, to the buffaloes, ‘distant, as unrealistic as moon craters’, that together hint at conflicting streams of nostalgia, harm, loss, isolation, the gulf between parent and child, one person and another, all life on earth.

(Published online at Boinkzine)