Watching Mars Explode by CB Anderson

2021 Flash Fiction Contest Winner

Every night the birds, trees, cat in her lap. The sky. Stars pinned here, planets there. You know, the sky. Thick dark thinning— don’t stir it up.

But she watched Mars explode last night. Had she really seen what she thought she saw? The eye doctor said yes, Mars exploded. The Times ran a story on it. Gone, her neighbor said, we’ll tell kids there are seven planets now, another necessary rewrite.

Mars was the god of war, fourth planet from the sun, and red.

That night from Florida her father called the explosion fated or inevitable— she couldn’t remember which. Her mother poured a drink on Zoom; she’ll toast anything.

People explain what they can. Consciousness limits understanding how an octopus can count. When Mars exploded, it was a beginning orange bigger gone. She hoped it didn’t hurt.

Cat in her lap, she loved Mars beside the moon.


CB Anderson’s work has appeared in The Iowa Review, Indiana Review, Hayden’s Ferry, Crazyhorse, Brevity, North American Review, and elsewhere. Her collection River Talk (C&R Press) was a Kirkus Reviews’ Best Book of 2014. She lives in Maine and Massachusetts with her family.

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