Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans


Kim Chinquee Does It Right in Her Story “I Had Time to Kill”


I Had Time to Kill 

Kim Chin­quee

I already lost the long jump, scratch­ing. I’d had a tem­po in my steps, know­ing when to lift myself, after get­ting clos­er to the line, then up and up and in the air until I land­ed. But I mis­judged more than once. Dis­qual­i­fied. The win­ner was a girl I went to school with.

I sat on the swing, feel­ing bad, soothed by can­dy bar and soda. I still had to run the hun­dred. I had time to kill. I got on the mer­ry-go-round, let­ting it go slow, think­ing of start­ing blocks, how I might push off them.

A group of boys came. They spun and pushed the go-round and I held the edges. They went faster, run­ning it in cir­cles. I slid clos­er to the edge. I hugged a rail, then hard­er, but I couldn’t hold my body. They went round and round, and I could feel my body slid­ing. My arms weren’t strong enough and I land­ed on the pave­ment. The boys ran away. I walked to the nurse’s sta­tion, where she told me to lift my shorts. I need­ed lots of ban­dages and I could feel the sting­ing. The nurse said, “Now go and run the hun­dred.”

I lined myself up. Some peo­ple asked what hap­pened to me.

I got on my start­ing blocks and put my mind on some­thing else: cere­al, weeds, my father’s hands, my mother’s dirty apron. The gun went off. I just bust­ed ahead and end­ed up win­ning. I got my rib­bon and thought about telling the boy I liked. I imag­ined him help­ing me dress my cuts.

That night, my mom told me that this boy from my school had got­ten sick of him­self and it end­ed with a hand­gun. I watched my mom’s chin quiver and then she asked me if I knew him. I almost told her, but I decid­ed not to.

I went to bed, lying on my good side.

Orig­i­nal­ly appeared in eli­mae and appears here cour­tesy of the author.


What does Kim Chin­quee do in her short fic­tion “I Had Time to Kill?” Just about every­thing right. The course of action appears ele­men­tary: A child ath­lete los­es a track and field event. She sulks. She climbs onto a mer­ry-go-round, is spun sil­ly by a group of boys, and falls off. She cuts her­self. She wins her next event. She goes home. But that’s when every­thing sim­ple ends. Chin­quee tears the walls down with the news of a child sui­cide, so qui­et­ly and sud­den­ly, that her read­ers can’t help but retreat to tem­per the shock of what they’ve just learned.


The genius of the piece is that it’s not defin­i­tive­ly in this world or that. Like the young nar­ra­tor, the piece is in between. Chin­quee achieved such ambi­gu­i­ty with painstak­ing word choice. Con­sid­er choic­es like “up and up and in the air,” “soothed by can­dy bar and soda,” “mer­ry-go-round,” “swings,” and “nurs­es sta­tion.” These words evoke images of child­hood. But when bal­anced against the nut of what’s hap­pened, that a boy has killed him­self, the story’s uni­verse is sud­den­ly rife with com­plex, adult themes. The nar­ra­tor, after learn­ing of the sui­cide, choos­es not to tell her moth­er how she knew the boy because she real­izes how that would affect her. A mature deci­sion to make.


This piece is a les­son in bal­ance. On the mer­ry-go-round, the nar­ra­tor is spun, she “couldn’t hold her body” and she falls off. Her need to hang on to time, to try to keep tight to her inno­cence, is beau­ti­ful­ly and trag­i­cal­ly bal­anced with the boy’s sui­cide. His life clear­ly spun out of con­trol. How did he stop it? With a gun. The final­i­ty of that gun­shot is jux­ta­posed with the gun­shot the nar­ra­tor hears. Instead of sym­bol­iz­ing final­i­ty, her gun­shot serves as a new begin­ning, a chance to val­i­date her­self after her pre­vi­ous ath­let­ic loss. There is even bal­ance in wounds: she is bleed­ing, he is bleed­ing. These are care­ful­ly exe­cut­ed craft deci­sions.


The last line does just what flash is meant to–hangs in the air like smoke. She’s “lying on her good side” because her phys­i­cal wounds hurt too much to lie any oth­er way. But she’s lying, too, by not acknowl­edg­ing the truth of how bad­ly her emo­tion­al wounds are throb­bing.


About the Author

Amy.jpgAmy Kates has some­how man­aged to make a liv­ing from writ­ing. You can find her work in Delaware Today, Delaware Bride, Philadel­phia Style, Super Lawyers Mag­a­zine, Texas Month­ly, Main Line Today, Boston Mag­a­zine and in the archives at paranormalpopculture.com. For a year she worked her dream job, cov­er­ing base­ball for Merge Mag­a­zine, a week­ly insert in the Allen­town Morn­ing Call. When not writ­ing her way through Rosemont’s MFA in Cre­ative Writ­ing (fic­tion) pro­gram, she spends dis­turb­ing amounts of time obsess­ing over base­ball and pop cul­ture.


From Katie Baker

Wow. Real­ly cool per­spec­tive on this piece. My favorite part is the last line, deliv­er­ing that sort of emo­tion­al punch we talk about.

Also, the first per­son POV here works real­ly well, giv­ing the read­er a tru­ly inti­mate and close per­spec­tive.

The end­ing was a suck­er punch in the stom­ach, but, in a good way. For me, it wasn’t a com­plete sur­prise, I guess I was wait­ing for some­thing to hap­pen to her, and when I real­ly think about it. It did.

Loved your analy­sis of this very cool piece. Well done!

From carrie capili

Very cool piece. I total­ly love the analy­sis of the last line, the break­down of phys­i­cal and emo­tion­al wounds. And throb­bing is the per­fect word for these wounds, some of which will heal and some of which won’t, but both leav­ing scars.

From Benjamin Grossman

I love how you showed that this piece is “a les­son in bal­ance” and all that that means here. 

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