Abyssinian Night Grit Lit Flash Fiction By Michael Amos Cody

Abyssinian Night: Grit Lit Flash Fiction By Michael Amos Cody

Michael Amos Cody, author of “Abyssinian Night”, is the author of the novel Gabriel’s Songbook (2107) and short fiction that has appeared in Yemassee, Tampa Review, Still: The Journal, and elsewhere.

His short story collection, A Twilight Reel: Stories, was longlisted for the 2020 W.S. Porter Prize, was published in May 2021 by Pisgah Press and won the Short Story / Anthology category of the Feathered Quill Book Awards 2022. Cody lives in Jonesborough, Tennessee, and teaches in the Department of Literature and Language at East Tennessee State University.


Arlene knew he was in her house as soon as she pushed the front door closed behind her and hung her keys on their peg on the coatrack. And as soon as she knew he was there, she heard his voice.

“Don’t turn on the light.”

Stoned out of his fucking mind, she thought. “Why?” she said.

“Just don’t,” he said. “If you see me, I’ll be the last goddamn thing you see.”

“Gerald, do you know how ridiculous that sounds? This ain’t no movie set.” By now her eyes had adjusted to the dark enough that she could see him slumped in the recliner by the sliding glass door. His face was in shadow, backlit by the low glow through the beige vertical blinds, but she could see enough to tell that he sat as he used to when watching TV or listening to records—his flannel shirt unbuttoned and his hairy belly rolled out over his belt. And just like in those days before she outgrew him, she could see that Aby, her Abyssinian, sat in his lap. The cat kept up a constant licking at his belly, the movement of her rough tongue more evident to the ear than the eye. “Aby, stop that,” she said.

“Gerald, do you know how ridiculous that sounds? This ain’t no movie set.”

“She’s all—” He winced and then drew a sharp breath. “She’s all right.”

“Are you okay?”

“I’ll be fine.”

“You don’t sound fine.”

“Well, I ain’t yet, but I will be.”

Arlene sat and listened for the familiar quiet of her dark house, but its undertone of familiarity was disrupted by the whisper-scrape of Aby’s incessant licking at Gerald’s belly and Gerald’s periodic shuddering breaths. “Aby, stop that,” she said again, and then to Gerald, “She’s gonna lick a bald patch in your belly hair.”

He winced again. “That tongue hurts a little, but like it feels a little good, too.” He released a slow, shaky breath, as if he was chilling while he let it out.

“Damn it, Gerald, are you OD’ing?”

Gerald didn’t answer immediately. Then, “No, I been clean for like almost a week or so. Can’t afford it no more.”

“Well, pardon me if I call bullshit on that,” she said, her voice louder than she meant it to be. “Unless you’ve stole from everybody you can steal from.”

“I ain’t stole from you,” he said.

“Bullshit times two. You stole everything from me.” She sat with her hands in her lap, holding her purse. She realized with a slight jolt that she still had on her coat. “Bullshit, bullshit.”

“Come on, now, Arly. Goddamn. It weren’t all bad, was it?”

She blew a half-hearted chuckle through her nose. “I fell in love with the wild side of you when I had a wild side myself. But when I was done with that, you couldn’t fucking let it go.”

“Come on, now, Arly,” he said again. “We had some awesome times.”

“I’d be trying to study, and you’d be like, ‘Come now, Arly, let’s party!’” She paused. “I just had enough.”

Aby slinked off Gerald’s lap and strolled, tail held high, across the living room carpet and into the kitchen.

Arlene listened to the quiet crunch of dry food and then the quiet lapping of water. By the streetlight streaming through the kitchen window, she saw the cat come around the edge of the refrigerator and sprawl in the middle of the doorway and begin bathing herself.

“I’ve had enough now, too.”

Gerald’s harsh whisper startled her, but she didn’t respond with the sneer she felt twitching at her nose. She clutched her purse and then unzipped it. “Do you need—”

The front door suddenly exploded open, and Aby disappeared as if she’d exploded, too. By the time heavy footsteps tromped across the threshold and into the living room where they sat, the cat, Arlene knew, was already crouched in her favorite hiding place in the laundry room.

“Somebody find a fucking light,” a scratchy voice commanded.

Arlene heard hands slapping at the walls in search of a light switch. She reached up and turned on the lamp beside her chair.

“Goddamn!” two voices said, and pistols pointed at her.

The third man looked down at Arlene for a moment and then looked across at Gerald. “Motherfucker!” he growled.

Then all of them looked at Gerald, who sat impossibly still, his right hand hanging off the arm of the chair, his head fallen back, his mouth and eyes open.

“Goddamn motherfucker!” the man growled again.

“I told you I fucking hit him,” one of the other two said.


If you’ve enjoyed “Abyssinian Night”, you can visit our free digital archive of flash fiction here. Additionally, premium short fiction published by Mystery Tribune on a quarterly basis is available digitally here.

For online archive of short fiction (longer pieces) on Mystery Tribune website, you can visit here.

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