Flash Creative Nonfiction in SAND 24

In Alison Fishburn’s flash creative nonfiction piece “Safety,” the technical, detailed nature of the writing subverts expectations and takes on new meaning as the story behind the objects being described is revealed. Below is an excerpt from the piece. Read it in full in SAND 24.

Alison Fishburn


I wear a powerful spring on a cotton cord around my neck. The spring is a thick steel coil coated dark blue, about two inches long. It used to be compressed to half its size inside a device called a brake cartridge, a safety mechanism the size of my hand, plugged into a table saw that uses electrically-charged saw blades. Should one of these electrically-charged saw blades come into contact with a conductor of electricity – such as a finger in the wrong place at the wrong time – the electric signal to the blade changes, activating the brake cartridge within five milliseconds. Within those five thousandths of a single second, while a finger and life attached to it hang in peril, the powerful spring is released, sending a molded aluminum stop into the spinning blade, reducing the blade’s rotational speed from 4,000 times per minute to zero, saving the finger and life attached to it.

I found the spring in the bottom of an industrial-sized plastic trash bin in a woodshop where I sometimes work. What caught my eye first, though, was the discarded ten-inch blade embedded into the aluminum stop of the brake cartridge next to the spring.

Among wood scraps and sawdust, the combined object was mesmeric, machine versus machine, a snapshot artifact of averted danger; safety.

I pulled the blade from the trash bin for a closer look. I inspected the way the curved teeth of the blade bit all the way down into the aluminum stop. I imagined witnessing the moment of impact and I wanted a souvenir for what I had imagined. I dropped the blade back into the bin, opting to keep the powerful spring because it fit inside my pocket.

I have another souvenir, an airbag I never look at.

The airbag is a sheet of white nylon that used to be compressed inside the steering wheel of a you know where this is going.

Continue reading the full piece in SAND 24

Alison Fishburn is an American writer living in Paris, Ontario. Originally from Florida, she has written and self-produced three full length plays in New York City, studied acting and playwriting at The Barrow Group, and studied and performed improv at the Magnet Theater and Upright Citizens Brigade. She has an art degree from Brooklyn College and an MFA in creative nonfiction from University of King’s College in Halifax. Her writing has appeared on Longreads, The Outline, and SAND. She is currently writing a memoir about her younger sister’s unexpected death in 2013.This piece appears in SAND 24.