by James Penha

In 1955, my family booked a week upstate at Villa Venezia. The owner-chef met us with his son, shirtless and skinny, black hair flopped across his left eye. Ricky was starting fourth grade. Like me. Each night, we strung our faces with pizza mozzarella or dumped markers off Bingo cards or recreated movie scenes, notoriously the surf-strewn lovers in From Here to Eternity. By day, arms wrapped around shoulders, we cut paths into the forest. When, after a week, I was packed into our Chevy, I hid in a book and cried silently all the way to the city line.

IMAGE: Vintage postcard of Middleton, New York (location of Villa Venezia), available at

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This flash fiction is a severely-edited excerpt from a longer short story based on several Rickies important in my childhood.

Penha foto

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A native New Yorker, James Penha has lived for the past quarter-century in Indonesia. He has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes in fiction and in poetry. Snakes and Angels, a collection of his adaptations of classic Indonesian folk tales, won the 2009 Cervena Barva Press fiction chapbook contest; No Bones to Carry, a volume of his poetry, earned the 2007 New Sins Press Editors’ Choice Award. Penha edits The New Verse News, an online journal of current-events poetry.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: Having moved and been moved so many times across continents and oceans, I have in my possession no photos of myself as a child. So here, on a recent holiday in South Sumatra, I tread the longest spring bridge I have ever crossed.