red shirts

Red Shirts Sometimes Survive by

Danny wears command red with three pips though inevitably someone will say, “Better be careful beaming down to the planet in that red shirt little lady—har har,” like we haven’t heard that dozens of times, like the red shirt thing wasn’t old before The Next Generation even premiered, like Danny hasn’t been misgendered a thousand times in a thousand different places. Danny, with his belly meat squashed out from the ill-fitting binder we bought second-hand on marketplace wants to look like season two Commander Riker even though Danny’s T-induced beard is sparse and splotchy, and he looks more like Wesley Crusher than Commander Riker.

At the convention, we push into the line of people waiting for autographs, ignoring the red shirt jokes, and wait under the sign that says no pictures.

“What if he hates me,” Danny says.

“He won’t.”

“What if he does?”

The crush of bodies is suffocating, and I fight the urge to drop Danny’s hand and run for the door when the crowd around us swells. But Danny needs me, and I practice deep breathing as we inch forward and when we’re finally at the table, Danny puts a picture on the table in front of Jonathan Frakes and his voice cracks when he says, “I know we’re not allowed pictures but…” His voice is shaking, and I want to drag him out of there.

Danny takes a deep breath. “You took this picture with me when I was someone else.” His lower lip trembles the way it does when he’s either close to a panic attack or near tears.

Jonathan looks at the picture that says, “To S_____ with love,” and when he looks back up, he smiles at the no pictures sign and says, “I guess we should take a new one.”






Finnian Burnett teaches undergrad English and creative writing. They’ve published in the Bath Flash Fiction Award Anthology, Ekphrastic Review, Visual Verse, and more. Finn is currently working on a novella-in-flash and a queer Shakespeare retelling. Finn lives in British Columbia with their wife and Lord Gordo, the cat.



Photo by Luis Quintero from Pexels




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1 thought on “Red Shirts Sometimes Survive”

  1. I didn’t know you were going to make me cry with this one, Finn. I love getting your newsletter in my email, and I never have time to read it right away, so I save it and save it and save it. Saw this pop up on FB and knew it was time to stop and read it, and I’m glad I did.

    I know this is “all about me,” but this is how you touch people’s hearts – your vulnerabilities just reach right out to their vulnerabilities and there’s that connection. Thank you.

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