The Definition Of Magic

by Jennifer Pieroni

We smoked from his father’s stash in the glove box of the truck, then showered, washing each other’s hair. The master bath had this antibacterial stone tile, and we sat in the rain for a long time.

Afterwards I stayed, drying my hair, using his mother’s moisturizers.

When I was finished I looked for him, not sitting on the kitchen counter, not leaning his head against the couch, finding him instead in the garage, reclining in a lawn chair on the concrete.

His little brother’s puppet theatre was there, still ready for someone to put on a show, the wild animal faces comical on the stands. Everything else in boxes for charity.

I got behind the stage and pulled the velvet curtain back and forth. I’m here. I’m gone. Before I realized how cruel I was being.

“Do you know how to juggle?” he finally said.


“That’s one thing I would like to know how to do.”

I went to the kitchen, taking three tangerines from the counter.

His father’s truck leaked oil and the fumes sharpened my focus. In front of the theatre I tossed one tangerine after the other, catching, switching, tossing, all at once. He was busy behind the theatre. “Not interested?” I asked.

“These puppets are weird,” he said.

I left the tangerines on the hood of the truck and put the tiger on my hand. “Who’s this?”

“Mario. The Bengal tiger.”

“Who’s that?” I asked, pointing to the peacock.

He was starting to look like he had smoked too much. “The peacock. I don’t know.”

He looked at the puppets and put the elephant on his hand.

“Who’s that?”

“Sammy,” he said.

“Fine. If this is Sammy, fine,” I said and took the elephant off of his hand and put him on mine, smoothing down the puppet’s child-like ears, nuzzling the elephant to the stubble on his cheeks, “Let’s go for a swim,” I said. “Let’s go to the brook for a drink.”

Jennifer Pieroni’s short-short fiction and prose poetry has or will soon appear in print in Another Chicago Magazine, PANK, Bateau, Hobart, among other journals. Online in Guernica, Mississippi Review, elimae, Wigleaf, Keyhole, and Frigg, and others. Anthologized in Best of the Web 2010, Brevity and Echo, and Mammoth Anthology of Miniscule Stories. A craft essay appeared in the Rose Metal Press Flash Fiction Field Guide. Jennifer has served as founding editor of the literary journal Quick Fiction for nearly a decade. She studied writing at Emerson College and currently lives in Salem, MA.

I imagine a dictionary, a wonderful dictionary, and inside this dictionary as an entry for “Magic” we would read your definition, your story. What changes when we read the story as a definition? Did you write it as one? In this case, the definition of magic is the imposition of a person’s desire on the physical world, or reality. It is a definition provided not by me, but by my husband, a little late at night. . . I admire it because it clarifies the role of desire in everyday life, and helps us understand how rare, phenomenal, and magical it is when our aspirations (or desires) become real, palpable, if they ever do. I wonder what the real definition of magic is.


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again March 15, 2023. Submit here.


07/08 • Meg Eden
07/15 • Tim Raymond
07/22 • Mike Itaya
07/29 • Eric Steineger
08/05 • Baylee Less-Eiseman
08/12 • Rae Gourmand
08/19 • Chiwenite Onyekwelu
08/26 • John Arthur
09/02 • TBD
09/09 • TBD
09/16 • TBD
09/23 • TBD
09/30 • TBD