Flash fiction pieces are just that, a “flash” of text that opens up an idea, image of slice of life for a closer look. Violent Outbursts by Thaddeus Rutkowski is that and more. It is a gathering of flashes from the life, imagination, and daily musings of a man. The flashes lead us as the man goes through life in search of success, love, adventure, and belonging as a mixed race American. The narrator often questions his identity in one flash piece, only to question the validity of those judging him in another. Together, the flashes form the human experience, or at least, this narrator’s view of things.
The collection is aptly titled as well. Each flash prose reads as an outburst from the narrator. Some are awkward, some rather strange, but all are fired for the reader to decide. For example, “Caught in the Worst Way” is a vivid description of a delicate part of the narrator being compromised. It’s followed by “McDonald’s Mania,” an homage to the American fast food icon that the narrator delivers in pulsing alliteration. “Many meat eaters might only mouth the words about munching out at McDonald’s, but we’ll mount out motorbikes and make the marathon trip for that Happy Meal” (62). These outbursts of musings may not seem connected, but they are. In the greater scheme of things, these are the experience that make up this particular human’s experience.
Other pieces are wholly imaginative as the narrator looks at life through the eyes of animals, fantastic characters, and objects. “Up in the Sky” muses from the point of view of extraterrestrials. “Here on the ground, tattooed, rubberized family life goes on, while up in the sky, the saucer approaches. The boy with the choked chicken inked on his chest is smiling; he knows something is up—in the sky” (20). Many of the outbursts are just a view into the identity of a man who knows that he is walking in the shoes of the Other American. “They were my cousins, but we weren’t that close. Maybe it was because they lived in California and were 100 percent…We, on the other hand, are going halfsies, even half of that. We carry our identity as we cross borders. Sometimes it is recognized, sometimes not” (76-77).
Each piece in the book is a complete, digestible thought. Each flash has its own meaning and understanding, but together, Rutkowski’s outbursts work to give the reader a glimpse into a full life. A life that is lived without a filter and recorded without prejudice. Readers will enjoy being able to break away and come back to this work without missing a beat. That’s only if they are able to put the collection down at all.