Editorial: The Reversal

As I sit down to write this editorial essay, the headlines have been filled with news that Baltimore’s Key Bridge, in my home state of Maryland, collapsed after being struck by a container ship leaving the harbor. Nothing could be more representative of the theme of this issue—reversals.

I was ready to talk about the Tower tarot card, which traditionally depicts a castle being struck by lightning and portends sudden upheaval. But the video of the bridge losing all structural integrity conveys this meaning so much more powerfully than ancient lore.

Coincidentally, I recently found some family oral history from the late-1700s when a branch of my ancestors came to Maryland. As the story was told, during the move, they tried to cross a bridge that failed, losing not only their household goods but also their livestock. One of the ladies of the party, who made the journey on horseback, narrowly escaped with her life.

Any specific words and thoughts the lady may have had about the incident have been lost, but I just keep thinking of what that moment must have felt like. The splintering crack, a sudden lurch, her stomach dropping, the cries of man and beast, the rubble in the river. And then the aftermath…

“Narrowly escaped with her life”—what could that mean? Did she carry on with extensive injuries or was she pulled to safety? Either way, the family had to keep going, now with no furniture or sheep or cows, nothing but the clothes on their backs and the promise of the land they’d rented at the end of their journey.

A sudden reversal is an effective set-up for flash fiction. With so little word count to work with, zooming in on the moment when everything changes is like the primordial singularity ahead of the Big Bang. Dense with meaning, explosive upon climax. The effect of these stories can be lasting because living through a reversal, getting used to a new status quo, is a universal human experience.

The reversal stories in April’s issue have no literal explosions. But there is a point of no return. Can you spot it as it happens?

These stories also feature a betrayal of some kind. There are betrayals that are intentional—someone has deceived you, has misrepresented themselves, has stabbed you in the back. We got those of course. But also, a betrayal can be a self-own. No one intentionally rammed the bridge. The failure of that vital piece of infrastructure reveals a bit of our own blindness to what has always been a weakness. After all, the chances of a bridge failing is 100% given an eon of time, but on any given day in a human life what are the odds?

To find out what kind of betrayals we have in store for you, you’ll have to read on. Our first story is “Toby on Third” by Jim Kourlas. Baseball season is kicking off here in America, and what could be a better opener than the story of a down-and-out father to a kid in a travel league.

Next, Lettie Prell’s “Please Click” shows us how helpful robots will be in the future. Damyanti Biswas’s story “Just a Greedy Ifriti” offers a fresh take on the genie in the bottle.

And finally, our reprint this month is “Like Blood for Ink” by Aimee Ogden, which comes full circle from our opener because it also depicts a parent-child relationship.

Thank you for reading! If you love visuals, I post issue-specific mood boards and other random jokes on FFO’s Instagram account. If you love music, you can check out our Spotify playlist for this issue. If you just love reading and like what we do, consider becoming a Patreon patron, or subscribing via our independent distributor Weightless Books.