This week’s artwork is “Cardboard Dreams” by Emily Story.
The Least of These
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Ever since his wife left with that priest, Matthew hangs out at bars. He drinks like a peasant, listens to trains wailing, lies about Betty. She’s dead, he says. He drowns their halcyon days, when responsibility was a shadow, throwing Junior Mints at children. Driving past apartments, mooning strangers. Swapping identities. His mind swishes over her note that read: I need a higher purpose. You too. He lies to fallen princesses around jukeboxes, says she had cancer, loved him wholeheartedly. If he keeps talking, to the moon, the emptiness, he’ll almost believe it, a man among the least of these.
by Romalyn Ante
I rocketed from the steel chair, flopping the dated magazine onto the table. I was certain I’d felt the weight of your fingers running down my arm. A glimpse of your shoulder as you pattered through the back door and you were gone. The doctor called it “grief hallucinations”. I didn’t ask for his explanation. The grey dog hopped on to the sill observing the faint flashes through the misted window, attentive of every screeching car, hoping, that, perhaps tonight you would tuck him to bed. But like any other nights, he and I would fall asleep, waiting…
by Dan Crawley
After saying our goodbyes at Sky Harbor, I complain to Paul in the car how his sister called me Julia, his ex. “At least they don’t call you Mooseface Scumbag like your family,” says Paul. Later, I feel bad and write him a funny love note and tack it to the fridge. My lovely Mooseface Scumbag. I would kill you, and then myself, if you ever found another Julia. XO. Then Paul’s mother visits. She insists on staying with us. I come upon her in the kitchen, staring at my note. “I knew it,” I hear her murmur.
A Hard Winter’s Tale
by Joachim Frank
The episode my grandfather recalled in his letter happened during a hard winter. It had snowed three consecutive days, then the temperature rose and the snow turned into rain. Next, a deep freeze overnight turned the snow on the ground into a shell of pure ice. In the morning the valley was filled with deer in many hapless positions. God works in mysterious ways. They had stepped out of the forest on top of the hill, lost their footing and slid down on their backs. Down in the valley the farmers stood open-mouthed, with their knives raised, and ready.
I Always Wear Pink on Tuesday
by Roy Dorman
“Jason, we need to talk and I’m going to be doing most of the talking,” said the angry voice on the phone. “Hold on. Wait a minute; wrong number. There’s no Jason here. But, ya know what, I could be Jason if ya want me to,” Bill Grogan said coyly.
“All right, smart guy, be Jason. What do you think I found when I was dusting under the bed this morning? A pair of women’s panties with ‘Tuesday’ in hot pink lettering on them.”
“Now, honey, I can explain that; those are my panties.”
by Joshua “Jammer” Smith
Go to work.
Fuck. I’m dying.
Go to bed.
Dream. I’m dying again.
Wake up (too early)
The votes have been tallied, and all authors of winning stories have replied to their notifications confirming their desire to be included in the 2015 Microfiction Monday anthology, which is scheduled to be in print by May of this year. The following winning stories will be included in the anthology alongside original, unpublished works from each author:
“Issue” by Jonathan Cardew
“Coming out of My Shell” by Rob Grim
“Chasing Swallows” by Allison Huang
“Aftermath” by Michael Jagunic
“There Once Was an Old Lady Who Lived in an Air Jordan” by Smith Q Johns
“Numbers Never Lie” by Jace Killan
“Networking” by Casey Kimberly
“Crwys Road” by Steve Lucas
“Before He Gets Home” by Bill McStowe
“Mermen” by Cole Meyer
“Outside” by D. Quentin Miller
“Cleanliness” by Brad Nelms
“Care Package” by Nancy Nguyen
“Ubiquitous” by Marc D. Regan
“A Song Before Dying” by C.C. Russell
“The Small End of the Funnel” by Robert Scotellaro
“The Bug” by B.E. Seidl
“The Storm” by Sam Snoek-Brown
“Mom” by Zack Stein
“The Drowning Pool” by Cathy S. Ulrich
“Provocation” by Sarah Vernetti
Congratulations to all of the winners! And to those whose stories did not make it, do take heart that this competition was stiff precisely because EVERY story we’ve published on this site was chosen due to its being exceptional, yours included!
This week’s artwork is “I Had a Bad Dream” by W. Jack Savage.
by Lynn Mundell
She had no feeling for the color; it barely registered. Then it was everywhere. The newborn with his jaundiced, puckered face. The buttery sunlight the nurse held him up to, that set his amber down ablaze. The lemon her husband had painted the nursery, until her mother claimed the color agitated babies. Then the egg white with a hint of honey on the freshly painted walls. The rubber duck, the sodden diapers, the pureed squash, all saffron. And her own fear, that something would steal away this golden happiness, became the darkest shade of all—a stinging wasp, a poison.
by Len Kuntz
In the locker room he lit a small tuft of tobacco.
“It’s not okay to smoke in here,” I said.
“You a fireman now?”
“You shouldn’t be smoking at all.”
“Now you’re my wife?”
“Listen,” I said, feeling brave, “how about we go grab a drink?”
His eyes dropped to my shorts, and I felt myself blush.
“You might want to take care of that first,” he said.
I turned toward the locker, stared into the gray, metal slits. I counted backwards from one hundred in my mind. By the time I got to zero, he was gone.
One in the Eye
by Clay Greysteel
The bullet entered his eye socket, tore through brain matter, and exited the back of his skull. The police arrived first to find his sobbing wife and a gun in his limp hand. They thought maybe it was a suicide attempt as they administered first aid, but a bullet in the eye was a choice they’d never seen before. As he recovered in the hospital, they asked him what happened. “Was just checkin’ to see if it was loaded,” he said.
by Lauri Rose
The deer remember where the lettuce grew last year. They still go searching for it, their bright black noses snuffing the dirt for something that no longer grows there. Tender lettuce is good spring and summer fare. But in the fall the deer will want the life-sustaining acorns. I fed you acorns also, but it did no good. You left me anyway, despite the hours spent pounding brown nuts to mush. Now, I miss your broad shoulders in the morning and there is no one to remind me why I love the first daffodil so much.
by Rachel Warren
Isaac was not his real name. He knew this. But he’d learned in the last few days not to argue the point. Carol, the woman claiming to be his wife was buckling him into the passenger side of her car. Both of his arms were broken. He couldn’t do it himself. She smiled as his buckle clicked. That fake smile she’d been using ever since the look of horror wore off after he stopped insisting Isaac was not his name. Everything about her—her hair, her eyes, the scent of her shampoo—all of it entirely unfamiliar. This car, unfamiliar.
We are proud to announce that Blue Skirt Productions will be publishing a 2015 microfiction print anthology!
But we need your help! We are asking all of our readers to vote for their favorite five stories published on our site in 2015. The 20 stories with the most votes will be selected for print publication, and each selected author will be invited to submit an additional, previously unpublished piece for inclusion as well.
View the archives and look at the stories from January through December and identify your favorites. Then click here to cast your votes!
Voting will be open from now until January 15th. The top 20 authors will be notified by January 30th and each will be asked to submit new pieces for inclusion in the anthology by March 15th. We then hope to have the anthology in print by May 15th!
*Some authors have been published more than once this year. If more than one of their stories makes the top 20, only the highest rated one will be chosen for publication.
*If we are unable to contact an author to notify them they’ve been chosen, then they will be excluded from the anthology, and the next highest voted story will be selected.
*Any author may decline publication or inclusion in the voting upon request.
*Only those stories published in the 2015 calendar year are eligible. This includes editions 29 through 40 and the special AWP edition published in mid April.
This week’s artwork is “Beggar King Does Whilst the Earth Boy Plays Human” by Ege Al’Bege.
The Book of Jobs
by Kenny A. Chaffin
Maybe it came from reading science fiction, watching The Matrix or remembering Biblical burning bushes. I asked Siri what would happen if I was somehow sucked up into the network where she was. It must have been one of those super-secret Easter egg phrases because as soon as the words were spoken I found myself inside, reborn, resurrected, and bodiless; Googling answers for a million simultaneous strangers with ease and ponderously speaking the results. What now, I thought, beginning to panic. Then I heard a familiar voice. “What is this beating, this pounding I feel in my chest,” Siri asked.
by Allison Huang
My father woke to streaks of hair on his wet pillow. The day we found our mutt’s warped body in the street was the day my father decided to shave his head. Teddy found a broken bottle in the recycling where he cut his fist, and more nestled like birds under the stove. Now frost soils the ground. My father’s body disappears into the maw of a casket. A butcher shuffles outside to watch a dog bleed red shadow onto the street. What a lovely shape, he says before ducking back in to carve another breast to pieces.
by Dave Donovan
My father would ask children if they wanted to see a monkey. Then he would show them their reflections in a small pocket mirror. Some nights he walked in from work wearing a horror mask and spread his arms for a hug. I remember trembling. Dollar bills on invisible fish line would zip into his palm while my fingers snatched at air. The old man is dying. I carry a picture of a pygmy marmoset, ready to hand him, tell him I found a photo from his youth he might want to see, back when he had all his hair.
Neither Here nor There
by Joshua James Jordan
Riding a unicorn through San Francisco, I saw a man holding a sign: “Anything helps”. Grey and white streaked through his beard and he wore a military jacket, the colors faded. I reached into my bag and gave him a green nugget so that he could buy his own unicorn. “God bless you,” he said, offering toothless smiles. More showed up but I was blessed with my currency, befriending many, feeding five thousand with a single loaf. We lit their struggles on fire and exhaled. They followed me, riding through streets of rainbows. The troubles of another world faded away.
by Charles Rafferty
Our neighbor Bonnie had a lot of loud sex. To be fair, she tried turning up the stereo, but her boyfriend always pointed her right at our headboard. One night, Donna and I were making love while Bonnie was getting fucked. Bonnie came repeatedly on the other side of the wall, and hearing her, or knowing that I was listening, made Donna more vocal, more passionate. Bonnie, in turn, got louder still. But then, over breakfast, Donna denied having come with Bonnie, and that afternoon in the communal laundry, both of them kept quiet as they measured out their soap.
by Ashlie Allen
I want to sleep inside a flower pot, but mother yells at me. She says I feel sorry for myself and think of pretty plants too much. When I was four, I stammered through the neighborhood with an orchid pot on my head, searching for my friend. He didn’t have a face, only an oval shaped hollowness setting on his neck. He hid beside a creek. “Do you hate me?” I asked, sitting beside him. He grabbed my hand and set it inside the hollowness, like he was trying to plant a seed inside of it so he’d grow features.
by Nels Hanson
It’s safe. Don’t worry. Put your arm through here. Now buckle up. There, that’s good. I’ll tape the wire to your right wrist so you can hold the controls in your hand. It’s simple. Green is go, red is stop. Blue’s the parachute. You have it straight, what the boss wants you to do? You sure? Okay, give me your hand. Good luck! Just bend your legs and put your palms together, like you’re jumping upward for a swan dive. Now I’ll stand back as you ignite the booster. We’ll send the signal when we’ve got you tracked over Montreal.
The Winter War
by Gen Del Raye
Something about the contacts on the bulb. For some reason, it wouldn’t light without the weight of the blackout cloth draped over it. We tried many times, but nothing worked. So on that first night after the war, when houses all over the city were casting off shadows they’d had for years, we spent a few hours huddled around a cone of light on the floor before giving up and going to sleep. A bad omen, said Shinji. No, I said. Just bad wiring. Outside, we saw children huddled around a lamp in the dark, searching for frogs to eat.
by Ashlie Allen
I like sitting on the steps while everyone has dinner. The sound of their smothered laughter makes me tingle. Maybe this is what self-pity is, tingling in the heart. I see a bird sucking a worm from the gravel and imagine the worm feels like me when I don’t eat anything, desperate and dizzy. I am embarrassed I do not try to save him or myself.
by Brenda Anderson
Our Gran checks the catalog. Companions don’t come cheap. After much thought, she makes a choice. Next day, the Home Care Company installs a spa-style Bubbling Bog next to her chair. It extrudes long, warm, brown fingers that massage her shoulders. It bubbles, “Wanna play cards?” The Bog plays well, but Gran always wins. It doesn’t bubble so much now. Maybe it’s mad. One morning, we find Gran arm wrestling it and winning. The Bog’s gone cold. Maybe it’s sulking. Gran gives it a prod. “Wakey wakey!” It rises and swings back. Gran smiles. It’s a fighter. Good Bog!
by Cole Meyer
She can’t get the smell of him from her hair, from her clothes. Can’t get his taste from her tongue, like he’s stuck between her teeth. It’s autumn and the leaves are falling. She thinks, this is what love is. She isn’t right or wrong. She can’t bring herself to cross bridges anymore, won’t buckle her seatbelt. She leaves a window cracked at all times and she holds her breath for minutes, just to see if she can. The cold soaks through her window at night and she dreams of mermen driving cars in a city beneath the lake.
by Jonathan Cardew
I tend to my secrets like they’re my children. Each one is sent off in the morning with a kiss and a packed lunch, possibly a note, and they spend the day away in a building that assists in their growth. When they return, we are all surprised by our incivility—harsh words, slammed doors—but always there are moments of reconciliation, reminders of what we mean to one another. At night, when they are asleep, I drink wine with my husband, kicking back with Netflix on. I do not breathe a word about it.
The Modern Hunter
by Andrew Ramos
Lost, he stumbled upon a yonic clearing of oak where a woman bathed in waist-deep pond water. Between two wilted arms that smelled of syrup and mold he watched her through his rifle’s gilded scope, which had grown heavier with the past three moons, and her hair fluttered with whispers of an ancient legend he’d once known. There was a howl from some far off hound, and she whirled her gaze to where he hid, and his instinct pulled the trigger before his mind registered the sadness that man’s hunger could bring.
This week’s artwork is “I Burn/Phoenix Rising” by Rachelle Olsen-Veal
The Small End of the Funnel
by Robert Scotellaro
P.S. Brenda’s doing Phone Sex. Can you believe it? I remember her saying the word ROBUST once. It was hot.
P.P.S. Kay’s into photography now. Close-ups of rusty staples in phone poles. A red spider on a yellow sponge. Artists. Christ.
P.P.P.S. I called Brenda last night. And man oh man!
P.P. P. P.S. Out of nowhere Kay says, “All cheaters should be pushed down a funnel with the small end in hell.” I looked at her like, that’s interesting. Like, there’s nothing in this fridge worth taking. Only began breathing again when she started taking pictures of the cat.
by Allen X. Davis
The low rumble sounded like thunder. The house shivered. A miniature teacup teetered off the hutch and exploded musically. She would have blamed it on him. “Earthquake, smirthquake. You’re a drunk. You don’t care about my stuff. You don’t care about me!”
He picked up a piece of the cup. On it was an image of the Eiffel Tower. “I did,” he said. “But not any more.” He picked up Hawaii—where they had made love in the honeymoon water. He held it high in the air and waited for the crash. Carefully he set it back on the shelf.
by Andrew Davis
I don’t bring Mom anything when I visit her grave. I sit alone in my car and smoke, and I think about Sara and me making out, gasping for love until we are too gross. I never told Mom about her. When Sara first saw my place, she told me it was barren and needed a “woman’s touch”. What else could I do but laugh? I think she wanted to fix me, so I told her I never wanted children, and that marriage was a social construct. I wished her the best.
Numbers Never Lie
by Jace Killan
He usually liked numbers. Numbers were safe. The numbers wouldn’t lie; they were set in stone, firm, constant. Unless the conspirers of these numbers were liars, he thought. But then you could hardly blame the numbers. It wasn’t their fault that they were now etched in stone by fabricators of reality. How dare they? The wretches! Blasphemers of righteousness. Was it incompetence? Negligence? Intentional fraud? Surely the latter. Lawrence breathed deep and squeezed the trigger. He scowled at the numbers of the gasoline pump, growing and growing and growing.
Out of the Dusk
by Kim Peter Kovac
One, two, three, four, two, two, three, four.
Dirt road, civil twilight, lime green Zoom Fly shoes, jogging past thistles and sword grass, racing from the coming-soon nervous night, nasty night that fills my room, night landing on places hiding blades (Balkan blades, vampire blades).
Stop, breathe, turn, breathe again. Then: run, two, three, four, one, two; for me.
I’m on the edge. So, breathe, one, two, three, set, ready, set, go.
At astronomical twilight, the crescent moon slices up through the horizon and gently lights on Orion’s arm. Not mine. The moonlight makes my Zoom Fly shoes glow.
by Ashlie Allen
Her skin smelled like cherry blossom and vinegar. I told her to rest against me and be quiet; I am too timid to respond to affectionate sentences. She doesn’t feel loved. Maybe I don’t either. We stay close because our depression needs to bond. I like it when she tells me I look like a woman and have malevolent eyes. One night she hit me. I cradled my cheek, eyes demonic with hurt. “I meant it,” she hissed. Slumping to my knees, I started laughing at the stinging in my heart. No, I didn’t feel admired. But she didn’t either.
The Tunnel of Love
by Esther Smoller
It looked innocuous. Gleaming, mouth wide open. A man in white telling me he loved me. He would stay with me forever, never leave me when the going got rough. The music! Swirling above my head, pitch a little too high. Ponies, poodles, and puppies. He wrapped me tight in his arms. The music grew louder. It wasn’t music anymore. The sound of breaking cement! He dug a grave. Pussycats, poodles, and ponies. The Tunnel of Love became tight. The three Ps were not working. Paralysis, perdition, and petard came in disguise. The music lightened, bearable. He waited for me.
by Pavelle Wesser
I was on fire after winning the science competition, which may be why, as I was accepting the trophy, it disintegrated in my hands while my synapses short-circuited. Through the haze of my mind, I tried to tell Dad the pics he was snapping of me would be his last. “Dad!” The word burned to cinders before emerging from my charred lips. I extended my arms, which exploded off my shoulders, prompting piercing screams from the audience. Finally, I combusted, and the immense pressure that had been building up within me from the beginning of the competition was released.
Baby Come Back
by Tara Roeder
After you left, all of the plants died. Even the cacti. A swarm of ants has made their home in the kitchen. The buttons have fallen off my favorite shirt. Your newfound devotion to the hermit crab sanctuary at the expense of all human interaction remains as puzzling as it is hurtful. I wish you would reconsider. I await your response.
P.S. The pots and pans are covered with a strange mildew.
by Steve Lucas
Ian returned from his snowboarding holiday in Canada and decided that one day he would build computers or robots, but right now he was drunk and there was nothing to eat in our flat so he unscrewed the lid from a jar of mayonnaise and starting eating it with a tablespoon. It made me feel sick, but he said it was nothing. In the showers of St. Joseph’s rugby club, one of the guys inserted a finger into his own sphincter and pushed it into Ian’s face. Ian was tough, hungry, and left the kitchen taps running.
by Brad Nelms
“Why does your cat always lick me so much?” I asked pulling my hand away from the purring tabby squatting on my chest.
“I read online somewhere, that the Egyptians believed cats would lick people to purify their bodies before death so they wouldn’t get eaten by Ammit, the crocodile god,” she said without looking up from her book.
“Well, tell her to knock it off. It’s not like I am going to die anytime soon,” I said with a weak laugh. Locking eyes with the cat, I rested my hand near its mouth. “Get back to work,” I whispered.
by Ashlie Allen
I climb the mango tree, not to taste sweetness but to see something beautiful and feel the thrill of peace. The people below think I have a ghostly voice and that my teeth are sinister. Maybe I am an animal trying to be attractive so someone will take care of me. I ascend the branches so my shadow will be far away and so the earth can’t touch me. If my feet meet the ground ever again, I will eat fruit and celebrate all the seeds I cannot grow, only consume.
The Year My Mother Died
by Esther Smoller
Miss Kiltenham sat on my porcelain kitten and broke its tail. I begged my father not to make me go to my first day at school. He drove right up to the front door and allowed me to clutch his hand in desperation but let it go as I walked into the classroom. Because I was a small child, I was given a front row desk. Miss Kiltenham liked to sit on the edge of my desk—right where I placed my comfort kitten. I came home that day with a note pinned to my chest: “Esther vomited today.”
by Jen Finelli
We used to climb roofs, at night. Restaurants, chemistry labs—the physics building, with its medieval tower, rails and parapets, was a favorite. We watched people below, dodged security guard flashlights, shivered as the fog descended, tiles moistened, and the stars dimmed. We climbed because teens need adventure, struggle! One night we found charcoal, and drew on the tiles for the next adventurers to find. “What message do you want to leave the world?” I asked my buddy. “I don’t know,” he said. I wrote it down, sadly, but maybe he was right.
by Troy Evans
Brenda stormed out of the store. “I’m never shopping there again!”
Joel shuffled along behind, wishing he was somewhere else.
“Are you listening to me?!”
“I think that guy’s living in his car; he’s always sitting in it.”
Joel had learned that detaching from her rants saved time and was, to some degree, safer than engaging Brenda directly, even in spite of the abuse he would inevitably receive. He turned. She was behind him now, entranced by a display in a shoe store window. Just beyond her, paramedics were pulling the man’s lifeless body from the car.
by Georgene Smith Goodin
Irma said it was bad symbolism to get married in a funeral suit. I’d worn the only one I owned to bury Nana and Uncle Joe, so she ordered me to rent something. I thought that was bad symbolism too, like our marriage was on loan from strangers. There’s no arguing with that woman, so I picked through the rental rack while some pimple faces got outfitted for prom. Irma’s so stubborn, she wouldn’t even say I was right when I found her in the bathroom with our best man. “That didn’t take long,” I said, and closed the door.
This week’s artwork is “Coca Cola Tango” by AF Knott.
by Zack Stein
When tantruming on account of something small, but motivated by reasons big, Mom would go through the kitchen drawers and throw spoons at my father and me. Always spoons. Never the forks or knives, and I thought that was a nice gesture. Still, she never tried to discipline me. She just let me twist her static hair as she slept under white duvets for most of my adolescence. My father always said she was ill or tired, but I saw it in him, too. Sometimes I’d watch him dip his face into a bowl of cereal until his fingertips relaxed.
by B.E. Seidl
I looked at the bug, and he looked at me. There was only his head, the rest was still under my skin. For days I had anticipated this moment, when I would finally stare into those colorless eyes. I had felt him moving inside my arm, had watched him growing under an itching bump. All I wanted to do was rip his head off, but I had to wait until he came out on his own. It seemed like hours that we were eying each other. Finally he squeezed himself out and fell to the floor.
Young Lovers Go Camping
by Vincent Aldrich
On the bus to Baltimore she bites her nails and listens to slow music in her headphones, slumping in the red hoodie he paid for, watching traffic out the window as the sky goes dark. Her boots are still muddy. Both her eyes and cheek are deep, inky purple, veined bilirubin yellow, starting to heal. Her mouth is slightly open because she still can’t breathe through her broken nose. Her cellphone and wallet are somewhere in the Susquehanna River. The gun in the backpack on the seat next to her is missing four bullets.
by Ellen Perleberg
Café Arusat was like every other café in Tripoli. Men loitered for hours over strong coffee and debates. Hakim had run the café for five years. According to custom, he should’ve bonded with the same twenty men occupying his ironwork chairs every afternoon, but generations passed through too quickly. They died fighting for Gaddafi or the rebellion. The survivors fled to Europe. Or jihadi camps. Those who stayed were blown up or murdered. Whenever a patron disappeared, Hakim scrubbed his old chair with bleach, as though the disinfectant could scare away the djinns and the ghosts of his broken country.
by Doyen Sump
Though I distinctly remember going to bed last night, I am somehow fully clothed and on the bathroom floor when I wake. I get up slowly and look in the mirror. I am pale and haggard. After splashing water on my face, I exit and find my wife sitting at the kitchen table, looking frustrated.
“The police brought you home again,” she says. “You were wandering the street eating a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”
I want to believe she’s joking, but I taste cinnamon when I swallow.
“Wasn’t me,” I say.
“Never is,” she says.