When I started Flash Jab I had a kind of idea it would be a website for flash fiction with a noir twist. There were a bunch of other ones out there. I knew I was moving into a crowded market place. I started it for a variety of reasons but mostly because when I retire from my day job, I wanted to have something to do.
Somewhere along the way I crossed paths with a guy named AJ Hayes. He may have been the first guy to ever submit to an open call. He quickly became a favorite here. Five of his pieces are archived. All you have to do is search the contributor's column to the right of this post. Each one resonates. He could really pack a punch in a few words.
I always enjoyed his comments to other contributors. In fact, if AJ posted I knew I had chosen a good set of flash jabs. I waited to see what constructive criticism he'd leave for veteran writers or newbies. The criticisms were never trite, never bogus. He could be both supportive and critical in a single response.
It's been a while since I posted here. It's been an even longer while since I put out a call for flash jabs. I checked on the last one several times just to see if there were any responses. I had chosen what I thought was a really good subject from a very talented photographer. I had gotten a mixed bag of flash jabs and I had posted what I thought were very solid stories.
One thing that was missing was the usual response from AJ.
A few weeks went by. The weeks become months. Still nothing from AJ. I figured he was working on something else or his attention was with a new website or project. One of the Yahoo groups he and I belonged to was no more. I didn't see him responding at the other one we had in common. We all get busy. I always assumed at some point he'd submit a piece for the next drabble or flash challenge or he would respond to someone's contribution.
I've always been under the impression social media shrank the world, made news sharing faster and more prevalent.
I was wrong.
Somehow I missed his passing last year. I feel awful about it and I never even met him outside of this virtual world. I never heard him speak. Never shook his hand or shared a soda pop with him. Yet I feel like I did have those experiences with him, that we did shoot the sh*t with our elbows on the bar, our feet on the rail, our voices loud and boisterous.
I miss his presence in these circles. And man, could that guy write.