Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Marylea M. Quintana Madiman.
by Brenda Anderson
Prydyl’s one remaining doctor had seen mushrooms growing from the eye sockets of the plague victims, but kept trying to save lives. When tiny spots appeared on his own hands, he whispered, “Find food elsewhere. Leave this place,” and stumbled home to die.
Next morning, another sufferer dragged himself to the doctor’s door only to find his skeleton lying in bed. Starving, he picked the mushrooms growing from the doctor’s eye sockets and ate them, raw.
Now a monster taps his way through the streets of Prydyl, white stick for guide and mushrooms for eyes. Hungry, he searches for food.
Thick and Thin
by Van G. Garrett
Trees punched like we slept with their wives and girlfriends.
“I’ve never tried so hard in the dark,” Elmore use to say.
We’d laugh, knowing we’d had women scattered like thorns on vines. Loving them in Buicks. Alleys. Motels. We never worked hard to get them; should’ve worked harder to keep them. Coons—another story, hard to find. Harder to keep.
Elmore’s jokes lightened the dark.
“There’s only three times you’ll find me on my knees. Two of ’em are chasin’ the invisible.”
We chased the invisible. Blood and burlap cut us at the knees.
Lights On, Nobody Home
by Aline Carriere
Knock. No response. She shuffles in her slippers from one foot to another, watching the light under the bathroom door.
“Anyone in there?” she asks in a harsh whisper trying not to wake her sleeping roommates.
She turns the knob, and pushes the door open a sliver, the light slashing across the hallway. Hearing no objection, she enters the empty room. She shuts the door and sighs at the mirror.
“Creeping myself out,” she says, but the lips of her reflection don’t move. When she wipes the glass with her sleeve her image disappears.
Then, she hears a knock.
by Kate Ryan
We ushered through the fair gates quickly. The stalker pursuing, only few steps behind. Reminiscent of a police sketch, no definitive features- only a hoody, sunglasses, and transfixed. My breaths increase, and deepen. Flashing glances into the distance, with accompanying hair tosses over the shoulders, checking his presence. Visually consuming the children, I try to divert him. He is always behind, children in front, unaware, and safe. Fourth check forward, children are gone. Standing in front, the stalker, removes his sunglasses, revealing his bright blue eyes. Presses an invitation into my hand, “Ma’am, wouldn’t want to miss this.” He vanishes.
The Tiniest Bit
by Rachel Ambrose
The monster plucked my brain right off its stem, like it was picking a ripe raspberry. The world went white for a moment, then green, purple, black. I could see no more, taste no more, touch no more. Except for that tiny beating part of myself which breathed in its own time to its own music, the part that watches from above and knows all, God-like, star-like, as we are all made of stardust. It knew. Its knowledge frightened the monster in its rubbery soul. And it screamed, deep into the crushing black, knowing its cries would not go unheard.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Steve Cartwright
by Jonathan Lyons
All afternoon, Marissa shaped sand into towers, turrets, a moat. She avoided broken bottles near the trashcan. “Marissa,” mother called, “dinner.” Marissa returned to the beach house. Later, summer sun still high, others’ footprints cratered her castle. Marissa rebuilt, gathered shards, and slipped them into castle walls. Smiling, she skipped home.
by Aline Carriere
“I dare you to do it,” Sandra teased.
Eager to take the challenge, Jen ran up the stone staircase. Legend declared that at night, when shadows conquered the twisting rocks, a weeping Madonna appeared at the top to reveal the saddest moment of a person’s life, past or future.
“Behold, my destiny,” Jen announced giggling. Dramatically circling her arm, she settled her hand on the apparition, closed her eyes and screamed.
Sandra laughed at the pantomime until Jen began to tumble down the unforgiving steps. Jen’s lifeless body splayed beside her, Sandra watched the spider skitter from a bloodied sleeve.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
by Clay Greysteel
Officer says, “This time we caught him breaking into the prison.”
Brian flips me off as blood drips from between his fingers.
“Can you get him a towel?”
Officer nods to his partner. Partner steps out. “Ten times we’ve picked him up in the last six months.
“He broke into the prison?”
“Attempted. Cut his hand on razor wire.”
Partner returns, hands Brian a towel.
“You charging him?”
Officer sighs. “Your brother needs help.”
“So that’s a no?” I nod toward Brian, “Let’s go.”
As we leave, Brian wipes the bloodied towel along the wall.
by Tessa Mission
Lana drew fractal designs all over her arms with a green ink pen. Like maybe she wanted to be a tree. Without looking at me, she said, “I want to kiss him underwater. I think that would be fun.”
“Wouldn’t your mouths fill with water when you opened them?”
“Exactly,” she smiled, cap back on the pen. She looked out over the lake. “No, really the trick is to make a good seal. You have to press your mouths together hard enough. Then your tongues can go back and forth doing whatever.”
“But how do you breathe?”
by Seth Oden
She photoshopped his picture, giving him absurdly large muscles, and emailed it to him.
He responded with a picture of her, photoshopped so that a finger went up a nostril and poked out her eye.
She aged him in return, made him a hundred and two.
He photographed himself on one knee, holding a box with a ring in it, and shopped it into a picture of her smiling with surprise.
She messaged him back: You’re funny.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Pat Bouchie.
by Sylvia Petter
Kone sits in his top-floor office, sipping a double Bourbon. He closes his eyes and sees a young boy squatting in the school ground, drawing a circle in the dust with a whittled stick. The bell peals and the boy stands up, tucks the stick into the belt of his grey uniform shorts and goes back to class. Kone leans deep into his leather armchair. The boy in the dust had imaginary whiskers that would twitch whenever things were amiss. Kone runs the back of his hand over a close-shaven cheek, empties his glass and sighs.
27 Signs You Are in an Existential Crisis
by Howie Good
The process involves clinging to fragments floating around – a woman taking off her shirt, an ugly mood, an eye – and tying them together. Yet nothing is ever resolved, nothing adds up, nothing goes anywhere. Just yesterday, I woke up to rain gusting against the window. There were other bad omens, all the things that make me, me, the sense of having quotation marks around them. I looked in the mirror and saw that my eyebrows were gray. I saw that I was sixty-two, almost sixty-three. I have a box full of photographs I have taken of clouds to prove it.
by Gabby Dexter
“I don’t understand your story,” he said, thumbing through the papers.
“You don’t?” she said.
“The character is in pain. Real, physical pain. She’s ill. Every day she wakes in agony, and all she can do is wait for the next day and hope it will be different so that maybe she can live. But it never is.” She could detect the sneer in his voice. “Your story has no structure, no shape, no meaning. There’s no ending – no conclusion of any kind. It’s not satisfactory.”
“No.” She reached for her cane and lowered her eyes. “No, it’s not.”
by Marc D. Regan
Outside, his spine pressed to the clapboard siding, he exhaled smoke. Delightful smoke. In his head Peter, Paul and Mary sang of Jackie Paper’s dragon, Puff. His lips and fingertips buzzed, and he loved it. Sort of. After many failed attempts, he’d finally done it: quit. Until tonight, in his childhood backyard, he had. Three nicotine-free months—over. He glanced right, left. As if on the sly, his girlfriend, the reformed cigarette smoker, had tailed him to say: “But your mom’s smoking. Lung cancer. Honey. No.” But after enduring his mother’s funeral today, all those dour faces, he deserved it.
by Erica Plouffe Lazure
I try not to take them anymore. But I always give in. The kids in the ward: their bald scalps haloing bright smiles, sagging jonnies. Rows of them, making wishes, clutching tiny effigies of themselves, fingers tracing hand-stitched smiles, affixing Band-Aids to cloth limbs, whispering secrets. Some sport pigtailed wigs, dwarfing ball caps that fool no one. When it’s time to trundle one down the hall, we pretend the gurney’s a roller coaster or choo-choo train or rocket ship. A bicycle. An airplane destined for Disney—anything, even for a moment, to pull us out of this terrible adventure.
This week we have a special edition of Microfiction Monday. The following six stories are actually micro-nonfiction pieces about one man’s experience during the Vietnam War.
Jack Hermann was born and raised in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC. He received a BA from a small liberal arts college and was shortly thereafter drafted into the US Army as a 1A-O (conscientious objector who would serve but not bear arms). Nearly all 1A-Os were trained as combat medics. Jack served in Vietnam (1969-70) with the 1st Cavalry Division as a medic; he never carried a weapon. He was awarded a Purple Heart and two Bronze Stars. After the Army he attended graduate school and earned a Ph.D. in Social Welfare Policy. The last 25 years of his professional career were spent in substance abuse prevention research. He is retired and lives SW France.
by Jack Hermann
He could see the body clearly from his position about 10 yards away. An enemy soldier killed about an hour ago in a brief firefight along a jungle trail. They waited in the thick undergrowth for someone to retrieve the body. Butterflies covered the dead man’s face and had eaten away much of the soft tissue—eyes, lips and nostrils. No one came, so they soon moved out quietly. He was new in-country and didn’t know butterflies were carnivorous.
Hot Landing Zone
“Get out! Get out!” screamed the door gunner. The chopper was still six feet off the ground, but taking fire. All of the grunts jumped, ran several yards then dropped. He did the same, releasing the straps on his rucksack when hitting the ground. He had difficulty determining sound directions ever since his eardrums had been blown out a few weeks before. He checked the direction the others were firing, then pushed his rucksack between himself and the incoming rounds and waited for the inevitable cry, “MEDIC!”
Back to the World
“MacZeal is dead, decapitated by a mortar round,” said the platoon Sargent. So that’s whose body he had stepped over a few minutes before. He hadn’t recognized the headless man. Strange, he and MacZeal had shared a canteen cup of coffee and a can of C rations less than twelve hours earlier as they waited for choppers to pick up the platoon and return to the firebase. They had talked about what each would do when he got back to “The World.” Well, MacZeal is going back sooner than he thought.
He sat by a clump of bamboo crying. He had just killed a man. He had been walking point and suddenly there was movement a few yards ahead. Reflexes and training took over. Now a dead enemy lay nearby and he cried. A few in his platoon tried to say something to help, but most said nothing.
“Charlie has had his chance at you; he won’t get another.” That’s what his captain told him as a Purple Heart was pinned onto his fatigue shirt. He knew his captain was wrong. Many of the men in the battalion had more than one Purple Heart. And then there was Sargent McKnight; he had been wounded seriously twice but sent back to the battalion after each time. A few weeks after his last return an AK-47 round hit him in the throat and blew off the back of his head. That made three Purple Hearts.
Nothing for Pain
It was a minor wound. A bullet had hit the man between his thumb and forefinger. Good bleeding but not pulsating, so no artery involvement. The medic cleaned and bandaged the wound as best he could while they sat in a dark foxhole. “Sorry,” said the medic. “I don’t have anything for the pain. Battalion won’t issue us Darvon or morphine anymore because guys are stealing it from our aid bags. We’ll do our best to get you out in the morning on a chopper when we get resupplied with ammo. I’ll be back later to check the dressing.”
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Marc D. Regan.
by Rose Blackthorn
“I don’t know why we have to…present our son to him,” Charley muttered. “It’s creepy!”
“He’s my great-grandfather; he’s very old,” Moira replied. “This is the first son born to his line. It’s a big deal.”
Cian MacRaith sat propped up in bed. He’d waited so long for this day, and he was running out of time.
“Great-grandfather,” Moira went to him, taking one parchment-dry hand. “Meet your great-great-grandson.”
“He’s healthy?” Cian asked hoarsely.
“Perfect!” Moira beamed.
Babe and old man locked gazes. When the old man collapsed, no one noticed the cold satisfaction in the child’s eyes.
by Nathan Hystad
The clockmaker squints through his looking glass. His ultimate work is almost done, and he revels in the intricate beauty of the cogs and wheels. With a final twist of his tiny screwdriver, the back plate is in place. He cranks the lever and sets the mahogany piece down. Its hands start ticking slowly, backwards. A smile spreads on his face as the hands move faster. Soon his hair is less grey and his back straighter. It keeps moving backwards and he laughs. His wife comes in the room; tears stream down her face. He smiles. “We have forever.”
by Sarah Vernetti
She had wrapped it carefully in bubble wrap, placed it in a box, and made sure to label it “Fragile! Not for moving truck.” As she glanced back at the old apartment for the last time, it was the only object she held besides her fringe-covered purse and a can of root beer. Ready to prove her trustworthiness, she walked down the stairs to the car, being sure to watch every step. After all, breaking the box’s contents could alter the state of the universe. Just then, a child raced up the stairs, brushing her elbow as he went by.
by Mike Zamzow
“Damn, there you are! How the hell you doin’?”
I didn’t answer. I didn’t know him. I didn’t know a single one of the two million odd Parisians. I didn’t know anyone for five thousand miles.
“Hey, man, where you from?”
“Hell, man, I’m from Chicago.” He spoke with a thick North African accent. “We cool. We cool. Come, man. Let’s go!”
I shrugged, put out the end of my cigarette and followed the man down the street.
“Wanna drink? My friend, we all hangin’ out tonight.”
“Hell yeah.” I shrugged. I could use a drink.
The Taste of Ivory
by Peter Cherches
I don’t remember what I said, but I remember her chasing me around the apartment with the big white bar in her hand, that crazed look in her eyes. I remember her catching me, grabbing me by the hair, trying to pry my jaws open, her long red nails scratching my face. I remember that the bar was too big for my little mouth, and I remember her turning it forty-five degrees so the corner could at least graze my tongue and make me gag. I remember the taste of Ivory soap.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Tobias Oggenfuss.
Can Anybody Here Juggle?
by Barry Basden
I hardly recognized that guy in last night’s movie. He looked weary, just hanging in. What was that film in the ’80s with him so cynical, so beautifully stoned? Stoned–a lovely way to endure these streets melting in the dark, empty but for the neighbor’s yowling cats. Not at all what I expected. Tonight’s late late movie: Busby Berkeley, colorized by Turner. Orchestra in tails. Syncopated ladies in drag. Acrobats. A magician perhaps, something new up his sleeve for a change.
by Robert Scotellaro
He was in there smoking pot again. Mixed with the deep, otherworldly sounds of his Tuvan throat singing. His fifteen-year-old peep-tone voice, plummeting. Like his CDs, which sounded like devils chanting with frogs in their throats. You hungry? she asked through the door. Her hands hungry to make something. His No! soaring back several octaves. She poured some coffee. There was sunlight on her azaleas, needing watering. There was the cat brushing her for food. There were still a few teen years left. She over-sprinkled fishy stars into a bowl. Some things were just easier to fix than others.
by Tony Lee Marman
“You told her?” I say.
He holds up his hands. They’re trembling.
At first the girls are impressed when he doesn’t try to get in their pants on the first date. Second date, the kissing goes okay, but it progresses no further. Soon after, they start to think it’s them. Finally, he admits he’s terrified of the sex act. They laugh before realizing he’s serious. (This realization can take a week or more.)
“She dumped me,” he says.
“So what now?”
“Live a long and lonely life. Nothing wrong with that.”
“The ‘lonely’ part?”
by Anne Pem
When I sit on the public restroom toilet, the cold presence of something wet is there. Someone else’s piss—or maybe just toilet water thrown on the seat in a violent flush—contaminates my skin. I wipe, but it remains throughout the day as a patch of nervous discomfort growing larger than the bounds of the initial contact. The contamination spreads with everything I touch. My husband grabs my naked ass before bed, and his hand becomes infected. Everything tainted until we’re all-over dirty with someone else.
by Clay Greysteel
New Mexico. They set up camp in abandoned city ruins. Groups were territorial, hoarding provisions, fighting.
Lars sat with Alaina in the shade after she’d become faint. Her belly grew larger every day. Lars suspected she’d been raped, but he never asked and she never told.
“We can’t keep fighting over leftovers,” he said, watching as the others prepared for a raid. “We need to become self-sustaining, or work together, or… something.”
“Belief is power,” Alaina said, patting her belly. Desperation within the group had led to rumor that she was Mary, and the baby, Jesus. “We use this.”
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is “Mazatlán II” by Rachelle Olsen-Veal.
by John Laue
On New Year’s Day, 2009, Norman Moser, also known as The Good Natured Psychopath, walked from San Francisco to Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge, a feat he was accustomed to perform on Sundays. That day he was one of just a few people since the weather was rather blustery. When he reached the halfway point he saw on the sidewalk in front of him a pair of white running shoes. Since the shoes had no visible owner, he tried them on. They fit and he proceeded to his destination leaving his old shoes neatly in their place facing the rail.
So They Said
by Robert Scottellaro
The chickens pecked around their steps as they headed back to the house. The sky lay low, brooding, charcoaled by rain. It would soon be more intimate. They’d just returned from an exorcism. A boy with one leg shorter than the other. Who didn’t listen to his parents. Typed Satan-speak into his computer. Spoke sometimes in tongues. They said. All of them gathered around with God-words, and he told them to go fuck themselves. In a language they understood. They waited for the holy water to smoke and sizzle when it touched his skin. When it didn’t, they headed home.
by Tanya Gouchenour
“Demons from hell…yep…” she muttered to herself as she filled in the hole. Sure enough, it had been a real possession and she was unable to save the host. Demons jumped into humans and kept ‘em upright no matter what, but when that force was gone…nothing she could do. She knew some hunters left a trail of bodies in their wake, but that never felt right to her. She leaned on the shovel for a moment after finishing. It was gonna be a long drive to her next job, so she’d better pack it up.
Collards on the Corner
by Joan Leotta
A large swath of green plants extended back to a clapboard house.
“Collards 4 Sale.”
Thinking, “collards for tonight’s dinner,” I pulled into the driveway.
“Hellllllooooooooo….” A large man in a plaid shirt came out.
I extracted three singles.
“Come on.” He had a machete! Hard to say no to a machete.
Despite fear, I followed Plaid down the plant rows.
I pointed out a plant. Thwack! An entire plant, mine. Filled my trunk. Collards nightly for two weeks. I still cringe when I see collards.
by Nathan Hystad
I watched the whole thing like it was a car accident, craning my neck, slowing down to see the damage, but I was just a bystander. They signed the papers and told me Dad would be moving away. Dad’s apartment was small and musty. Signs of a female friend—a small, pink t-shirt, votive candles, potpourri in the bathroom—were there when I visited every second weekend. It became normal. Eventually Mom dated, Dad married Becky, and I was numb to it all. Years later, I’m divorced, and I’m numb again.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is “Left in the Rain” by Sheri L. Wright.
by Jim Harrington
The fake rabbi stood on the frozen sidewalk leading to the Catholic church. He blew each parishioner a kiss as they exited the noon service. A bitter mix of alcohol and cigarettes permeated his breath. He saw her shake the priest’s hand, smile, say something that made the priest laugh. She, the drunk driver, the killer of children, the judge’s wife. The rabbi reached in his pants pocket, felt the knife, took a deep breath, and tottered away. Around the corner, he threw the beard and hat in a trash can. Revenge wasn’t in his nature.
The Garden of Love
by Patricia Crandall
“Elisa, I love you.” Hendrik said.
“I am engaged to your cousin. Tory has promised me the manor and I do love this garden.” Elisa dropped her hands among the folds of a rose and white striped cashmere dress.
“Tory’s an empty-headed boy.” Hendrik reclined beside Elisa on the grass and whispered, “You should be mistress of several manors. I’ll give you European gardens laid out with exquisite taste.” He pulled her to him.
A tall youth darted from behind a hedgerow. Tory raised a meat cleaver over Hendrik’s head.
“Cut!” ordered the director.
Witch Way Home
by Nathan Hystad
I spat out shards of rock as I walked the overgrown forest path to the witch’s hut. The gravel left a dusty taste in my mouth, but it was the only thing keeping me from chewing everyone in sight. The curse she cast upon me–compulsion to chomp–wouldn’t go away. She would have to fix it or she would be my next victim. Greeting me at the door with hesitation, she told me there was nothing she could do. I ate her, and the compulsion died with her. Now I have a hut.
by Stephanie Kerley Schwartz
Her tall, handsome neighbor, father of curly-haired daughters, exits his house carrying a large and elaborately wrapped birthday gift just as her dog takes a shit near the parked Subaru across the street from his house. He carries the pink box – ribbons dangling, like a piece of distasteful trash. She holds the opposite end of the leash from where the little dog is doing its little dog business, and stands up straighter. Above them all, life and death drama unfolds as a gang of mockingbirds chase a crow swooping away with its prize of crushed hatchling.
Baptists in Bed
by R.V. Scaramella
Under this sliver of porch, not quite keeping dry, waiting for a kid from Craigslist to show, wishing that I had a cigarette. We quit smoking when Em got pregnant. Daycare is $1100 a month. This guy wants to look at three of my last four guitars and will probably offer nothing on the dollar and I’ll probably take it. Fine, it’s fine though. Our band’s name was the one good thing about us, Baptists in Bed. Billy moved off anyway. That neighbor lady smokes. Daycare is expensive and I really do need a cigarette.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is “Moon & Sun” by Ross P. Wilson
by R.F. Marazas
The signs reminded Foley of Burma Shave jingles. Feel free. To indulge. Until you bulge. Then you will see. Foley gaped at an acre of mushrooms large as a man. Scent pulled him. He salivated, tore chunks from one and ignored a faint scream. He chewed, swallowed. Visions blossomed, psychedelic, kaleidoscopic. Knowledge flooded him. All questions answered. He ate. Stomach ballooned, legs rooted, arms shrunk to gray stubs. Using only his teeth he chomped. Visions faded. Knowledge slowed, stopped. Where Foley once stood, a new mushroom towered, fat, scent beckoning. Next to it, tiny leftover pieces began to grow.
Playground Where I Grew Up
by Adam Loewen
Two empty swings move back and forth, retrograde, near the sandbox hardly wider than a grave for toy army men. I sit atop the slide that burned skin and busted teeth, concerned with pea gravel staining my shoes and parents spying from the apartments. The jungle gym, cold as dusk, won’t return my stare. I’ve forgotten how to play.
I ran away from home once, tried to live burrowed under the wooden walkway, even before teenage girls and malt liquor. Soon, they’ll dig up this entire tiny world and replace the equipment with things that kids these days are into.
by Anna Lea Jancewicz
She started up with him because of his hands. They were practically identical to those of that other boy she’d known. She’d twirled her skirts and bit her lip, it was easy enough. She got those hands on her skin. She watched the friction more than she felt it. She’d done this once before, with one who’d had the same voice if she just closed her eyes. But this time, she had to keep her eyes open. Stand behind me, she’d say. She’d drape his arms around, fasten the hands on her breasts. And she’d look down. Just like this.
by Angela Maracle
My mother demanded a TV in the delivery room so she could watch the playoffs. When Montreal lost the cup she stopped pushing.
“I don’t want this baby anymore.”
They sedated her and pulled me out with forceps.
When I was five I knew the names of all the players. Reciting them for company made me special.
“Isn’t she smart? She’s such a hockey fan. I’ll tell you a funny story about the night she was born.”
I heard this anecdote for forty years. I don’t mind hockey, but I hate my mother.
Jim from Critical Theory 2012: Born Under a Bad Signifier
by Damian Dressick
The clocks have been stuck at three for days, and while some people blamed the aliens who hover above Mellon Arena in their shimmering silver ship, Jim is pretty sure he’s responsible. He’s vowed to cease his chronic navel gazing and scale way back on his unrelenting what-if-ery, but even now catches himself wondering: “If only I’d stopped ruminating on all my past mistakes sooner, this might never have happened.”
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Marylea Madiman.
by Gena LeBlanc
The Devil’s in the details. He’s in the cupboards, too, waiting for idle hands to edge inside and prod the prince of darkness into action. He was there the day Judd killed all those roosters. Judd believed that Jesus had commanded him to wring feathered necks until the squawking stopped. Unfortunately for Judd, Christ has no need for dead birds. The Devil, on the other hand, loves a good sacrifice.
by Brian Schaab
I see the tendrils of midnight stretching out towards me. Grasping, groping for me, or are they beckoning, reaching towards me to envelope me in a warm embrace? I keep walking, trying to fight against it. Color has left me. Light has left me. Only a few feet around me resist the growing shadow. Something passes in front of me, it turns, black eyes staring, and smiles. Color and light radiate out of that smile. The darkness is thrown back, driven before that smile. She turns and walks down the street, fading into the New York bustle. The unknowing hero.
by Dennis E. Thompson
Mornings were quiet now. Carl Saebo had never liked arguing, normally avoided it at all cost, but sitting alone at the table was too much stillness, like a warm summer day when the heat becomes stifling from no air movement. Life was different. His wife had passed before him and that was not how it was supposed to be. He lit another cigarette and drank deeply from his coffee. He wondered where sixty-four years of his life had gone, how each had blended and passed, like rivulets after a hard rain running together and disappearing in sand.
by Chris Deal
The dying started in the early evening. Nights stretched cold and long and the fire needed wood, sending Llewellyn out to bring down trees. He had become near an expert. The angles were easy, though there were always variables. A railroad spike driven into the old growth, to defend against loggers long gone. The saw’s chain caught and exploded with a high squeal, lashing out and slashing his chest, neck. He weighed his options as he leaned against the unfelled tree. The fading sun left a gash of purple and red across the sky.
Chinese Fire Drill
by C.C. Russell
Red light pulsed through the windshield, the thump of Jenny’s playlist as the Buick stopped, shuddering. “Again!” a voice laughed, yelled and we were out, screaming around the car. I ended up in the backseat. Jill leaned in, kissed me hard, tongue darting. I tingled – less from the kiss than the whiskey kicking in. J.D. was driving now, his eyes wild, warm from the fifth we had split. I grabbed Jill and returned the favor. Harder. And the whole world turned green. I hit J.D. in the shoulder. “Punch it!” I yelled. Jill laughed, pulled my face towards hers.