15 October 2019

From Shane Moritz comes the flash fiction piece, “Downturn,” an off-kilter and spooky tale about parenthood.


Downtown I need to see an abortionist named Heinrich. An old college mate, mostly ears. He reminded me of a French bulldog. Bell dings, I enter the clinic, giving the slender crowd a wide berth. In the corner, cleaning my cuticles, I wait. The paperwork comes. I accept the clipboard from the orderly without hesitation. A pale receptionist materializes.

Where’s Heinrich? I ask mildly. He’s gone to lunch, I’m told. With sweeping fists, I grab my things and windmill out of there. I find him at City Market. He’s moving through the crowd like a whale through schools of spooked minnows.

“Heinrich, please.”


“Yes, it’s me.”

I explain my predicament.

“Where is this woman?” he asks.


I accompany him back to his chamber, our own private deli, and it is wonderful, plentiful and free. Here we will snack on cold cuts, I assume, and strategize. He occupies a papasan in the corner and looks ready to say something profound.

“Tell me, why are you still here?”

Spreading a cold cut on a brioche I halved with a knife, I say, “I suffer terrible allergies. But I have a lot of love to give.”

It is at this moment that Heinrich, hauling his haunches from the papasan, groans with colossal disgust. I tell him to cool it. I see the great fear go into his eyes.

Tossing the baloney on the floor, I lift the baby out of my satchel and thrust it at him. It’s a Cabbage Patch doll with one eye dangling from its socket.

“Now, then!”



Photo by Ellis Fields.

Shane Moritz was born in Portland, Oregon and educated in Flagstaff, Arizona and Milledgeville, Georgia. He spent his formative years in Australia. His writing has been recognized by the Academy of American Poets and elsewhere. A prose poem about travel “Great Expectations” is forthcoming from a magazine in Uganda. He teaches writing in Baltimore, Maryland. He’ll tweet when he’s unwell.

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