Dreams in Helsinki
by Kirby Wright
5 pm, when the chef at the Memphis Grill breads his chicken-fried steak. Human machines march for rails, rehearsing To Do Lists to the smells of meat, grease, and ozone gusts from trains. Tethered dreams release like helium balloons from the souls of workers. Look! See those reds, blues, and greens scaling concrete verticals? A yellow hovers over Helsinki Cathedral. A few drift above the clouds, where winged demons pop the wishes of the dying.
The Black Cat
by Patricia Milan
The black cat came limping home, her front paw bloody and loose. She wouldn’t stay indoors, was never happy like that. She mewled when I touched her, so I let her be to curl up by the heater. Breathing faster than normal, she tried to rest. I had no money for a vet. She recovered that time, but the limp never fully went away. A year later she came home dragging her bottom half, died slowly in my arms shortly after, but she purred as she went.
The Swimming Pool
by Kaleb Estes
The plastic tricycle my mom got me when I was three, a couple of lawn chairs, two dead birds, hundreds of cigarette butts, a pair of glasses, several beer cans, and one of my sister’s shoes—that’s what’s sitting at the bottom of our swimming pool. We hadn’t cleaned it in eleven years, not since my sister drowned. But just before the paramedics came again, Mom decided to clean a few things out. When the paramedics waded into the waist-high murk, there was just the plastic tricycle, the lawn chairs, one of my sister’s shoes, and my mother.
by Greg Melo
I looked at the picture frame on the kitchen table. Your amber eyes were full of life back then. Your smile, radiant as I had my arms wrapped around you. I pushed the frame off the edge of the table and watched as glass shards littered the wooden floor. Then I swept the memories away.
The Taxi Becomes a Bath
by John Potts
I caught a taxi one morning and before long the back seat was half-filled with water. This was agreeable since I had no clothes on and needed a bath anyway. The water was warm and soapy, and the driver was happy for me to use his taxi as a bath on the way to work. I looked across the back seat and was surprised to see another passenger. It was a middle-aged woman with grey hair, wearing a white linen dress. The water covered her dress but she didn’t seem to mind: she was reading a book.
White Picket Fence
by Paul Beckman
Monday, Madison wore her cheerleader’s uniform to breakfast. Mom and Dad clapped–brother Charlie teased her about her big thighs and ate two more chocolate chip pancakes, Madison scrambled her egg whites. They ran to catch the school bus as Mom and Dad stood in the doorway smiling, arms around each other. Mom cleaned up then after lunch popped two Oxycontin pills and watched “girl on girl” porn on her laptop while Dad was driving to meet his sister-in-law at a motel and Madison was in the school bathroom, fingers down her throat, and Charlie was busy bullying a freshman.
No One Believes Anymore
by Naomi Parker
“What does she want with teeth, anyway?” they wonder. She skips down the dark hallways at night, feet lightened by visions of children digging under pillows for a prize. Through the cracked door, casting slight night-light shadows over discarded toys, she creeps. Under the cover of slow breaths, clasping her coin purse so it doesn’t clink, she gently lifts the pillow. All she sees is a puckered sheet, again. One hundred thousand reminders every night that no one knows or cares. Still, she is a good fairy, so she has taken to hiding the loose change under sofa cushions.
by Mark Burnash
“It tickles!” little Elliot squealed as the sunflowers nuzzled him with their disc florets. They had been laughing, singing, and dancing all day long. When the sun reached its zenith, some sunflowers formed a canopy with their ray florets to provide him shade while others told him fantastic fables and fairy tales. When evening finally fell, Elliot, delighted yet exhausted from the day’s festivities, collapsed onto a soft bed woven with green leaves. When dawn broke the next morning, try as they might, the scavengers couldn’t find a single scrap of meat left on Elliot’s bones.
by Franziska Hofhansel
The one thing you do remember was the flick of her wrist. She made a gesture and the way her wrist bent, carefully, a no nonsense upward motion conveying nonchalance, grabbed your gaze and held it there. You turned to ask her something, or maybe just stare, because you’d never seen someone so mired in life and when she took a breath you thought of elderly couples picking apples and when the brakes slammed and her neck snapped up, hard, you thought of that wrist flick.
Bill Died and Left Me a Pig
by D. D. Renforth
Bill died and left me a pig I swear is Bill.
My wife Ellen smirks, “Really? Bill is Hardy the pig?”
When she approaches, Hardy shakes his bottom, smiles, his tongue hangs then stiffens.
Hardy always winks at me with strange eyes, too red for a pig, then turns and farts. In private I scold it, even whip it for mocking me.
“You need help,” Ellen says and makes an appointment.
The doctors ignore me.
The priest holds my hand and prays.
Only the fish in the waiting room agrees.
“You’re right,” it says, “Hardy loves your wife.”
The War on Drugs
by J. Bradley
I look at the officer as she writes down her version of what happened. I calculate when she might not be paying attention to try and make myself more comfortable against the wheel well. The officer stops writing when she hears the chaff of fabric and metal against the tire. She looks at me, moves her hand halfway to the Taser holstered on her belt. An itch spreads across my cheek. I want to grate the dandruff out of my beard in front of her using only my shoulder. No need to wait for the dogs, I want to say.
In Boxing Class
by Anne Wilding
Seeing me fill up, Richard calls time, takes me outside before I cry. “It’s okay… It takes time… Some people can’t hit.” He doesn’t ask why I stood rabbit-in-headlights while my classmates screeched, “Go on! He’s training to take it! Hit him!” And my sparring partner stood there impassive, waiting for the first blow. Outside, Richard holds me, lets my snot soak his shirt, says, “It’s all right… You are good enough.” And doesn’t ask why. It was the arms I was supposed to go for, at the top. Where it hurts like hell but bruises don’t show.
Before Father Lost his Mind
by D. D. Renforth
Before father lost his mind, we talked of his estate, and he said, “Come every month on the days when it rains, recite King Lear, and it’s yours.” Now we stand beside his lawyer outside his open window on rainy days and repeatedly recite King Lear from start to finish while our father with dementia listens but does not recognize us. When we reach Act I, Scene 4, he puts his head out the window and screams Lear’s line with us, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” and then returns to silence.
by Ana Prundaru
Like every Friday, you’re at the pub and you place your bet. You swell bright from liquor. Little to lose, that day you win a yellow boat in which you pack everything you own and take to new sights. You learn to tighten the grip on the oar handles in storming waters and become familiar inside blistered skin. The sea stretches its unclosed wings, inexhaustible territories waiting blue and haunted. Your breaths are as much collectible seashells as are your destinations. You think you must look like a rust flake to whoever watches you claim a draining soul search.
by Susan McCreery
She balled the toilet tissue and stuffed it in the plughole. That should stop the rats. Outside the bathroom window an earnest conversation was taking place. … marbles, she heard. Huh, they think I’ve lost ’em. … in a home. She smacked her palm on the high frosted window. Don’t think I can’t hear you! And I can smell your cigarettes. Rats, rats, the lot of you. Nibbling away at me. Go home to your families. No one’s pitching me out. She glanced in the mirror. Wild hair. Nightie unbuttoned. Who was that?
(“Rats” will be published in Susan’s upcoming book Loopholes set for release in December 2016.)
by Alexis Nau
His car smells like Sweet Pea perfume. He picks me up at 7:50 to take me to school because he’s a gentleman. He kisses me good morning and smirks at me. My mind implodes. I give him my confident smile, the one from fourth grade. Surely he smelled it within those guilty minutes between his house and mine. The scent of Rebecca Vaus’ signature fragrance; the smell that used to follow him in a cloud, linger on his sheets. Surely he breathed it in, bathed in it. He smirks again, knowing I know, and knowing I’ll never say anything.
Life Cycle of the Swimmer Gloria Sherman
by Lynn Mundell
A feral girl, she dog paddles to her mother, gulping the dirty water. Abandoning her JV parka like a chrysalis, she dives, long limbs skimming the surface, a white butterfly. For years, she favors the breaststroke, a sensible method for going the distance, abandoned once in midlife, a year of reckless backstroke, three injured, her included. Settling down again: swim, flip-turn, breathe — 25, 30 laps left, God willing. In her last summer, she crawls down the lane, swimmers behind her like cars trailing an RV. If she can, she won’t return to the earth but rather die in the water.
The Journeyman’s Dance in Red
by Sam Anderson
The last glove to his face jars him. Blood in his eyes, the sting of being a boxer ten years past his prime and no longer hoping to grasp the dancing lights glittering in the belt at the edge of his memory. Copper in his nose and sharp tingles shout over the sanguine roar of the arena. The world tilts; the mattress leaps at his face. His manager winks from their corner, and the Journeyman knows his blood money for this fall will be in his locker after the fight.
A Fragile Hand
by E.M. Slocum
A fragile hand picks up a fork. It weighs heavy. A slender arm reaches across a table—to a plate—on which all evil lies. It’s waiting to be brought to lips—to a mouth—that will ignore the bite. Her mind second-guesses, then she remembers; “You have to, otherwise you’ll die.” The windowless mirror lies and screams. Eyes cry, voices whisper, backs turn away, but she smiles. One more, one more. No more. Her thoughts reverberate, focus on the necessary, and forget the obvious; a tender soul, against the mind, trapped inside a frame, that will never be hers.
by Steve Connacher
Four stunning women finished studying themselves in the mirror, then gathered around me. A wispy blonde leaned over to reveal a secret. I was interested, so she silently moved behind me, pressing my hand firmly against my heart. Immediately I began to wretch and convulse. Somehow I keenly felt everything wrong in the world. She released me and I beseeched her for more. Instead, she silently rose above me, placing her hands on my throat. I was powerless. I blinked then saw her floating just above me, her white gown fluttering. I blinked again and found myself alone, shivering.
PhysEd September 16, 2016
by Susan McCrae
Between classmates’ chants when I reach the next pylon, “130-131-132,” Mrs. Banerjee hollers, “STOP, Julian”. No worrying teacher, pouring sweat or raspy breath stifles my determination to beat 140, Paul’s record. I ignore nasty stomach signals near 136 and upchuck. Vomit sprays this world. I splash right on through and cover head to toe. Dad will be so pissed when they call. In shock and awe, Banerjee hands me a towel, “Julian, it wasn’t a contest.” My slime-covered head jerks up, “You’re new here, Ma’am,” eyes meet. “Next year, you might want to bring a bucket.”
by Sharon Gelflick
Our relationship quickly combusted into one of those situations where there’s just enough psychological tension to fuel intense lust that almost feels like love. Every night, we slammed our bodies together, reaching for something I didn’t understand but I was crazy for it and he appreciated crazy, at least in bed. Sometimes, afterwards, he would whisper into my sweaty neck, “You’re amazing, baby,” before rolling away to sleep at the edge of the mattress while I smiled in the dark, trying to interpret his positive feedback as a sign of devotion. I wouldn’t, couldn’t leave him until he forced me.
by Willem Myra
Gray. On the ground, in the air, sticking to their bloodied faces. In their eyes. Volunteers trying their best to save those under the rubble–they dig with bare hands, nails broken, skin peeling, pain elsewhere. They breath the dusty air, these saviors, and sweat and cry and yell, “Don’t give up, don’t give up.” I admire their tenacity. Sat on the memory of her house, a girl holds her pet bunny to her chest and weeps. I wander aimlessly. An observant. An intruder. And for a millisecond I hate myself for thinking, At least they had something to lose.
Pamela Road, Lake Zurich, Illinois 1957
by Shoshauna Shy
Home from the carnival at my brother’s school, I am pulling an inflatable car sporting Mickey Mouse in the driver’s seat through the dark kitchen when one wheel catches on a chair leg. Too young to use words, I open my mouth and scream, tug at the stupid car on its string. Father, after a long week commuting by train, turns on one heel and yells. I don’t burst into tears. I grab the faux diamond necklace he won for me at the beanbag game, yank it from my neck, grind it under both feet.
This is just the beginning.
by Michael Kulp
The last human on Mars tossed another water-smoothed rock down a red gully. He had four minutes to live. He had sent back a detailed report, but he would be dead when they received it. He grabbed another polished rock. Once, outside his family’s river cabin, he had skipped stones like this. Thunder rumbled; his grandfather beckoned him inside. But he had kept skipping stones like “a willful child.” Willful. He smiled hypoxically. Why stop now? “I love you all,” he said. “I wonder what Mars smells like.” He pulled off his helmet and skipped it a long, long way.
by Megan Parmerter
My mother pushed the payphone into my hand. I accepted it like I would a poisonous snake. Into my other hand she pressed a piece of paper. The booth was stifling with us crushed together. “Now when John answers the phone, read this in Italian. I’ve told him how much you’ve learned.” The call went to voicemail. I recited the lines woodenly and hung up. “You could’ve tried not sounding like a robot.” I didn’t want to speak Italian to John. I wanted to go home to where Dad and dinner were waiting for us.
He Drove All Through the Night, but All He Found Was Me
by David Hackett
He pulled me from the rubble, gave me water and a chewy bar, and went back to digging through the remains of my apartment. “My leg, I think it’s broken.” He kept digging. He was maybe sixty, but strong. I looked around. No one else in sight, just miles of debris. I looked back at his truck, the license plate was from two states over; he’d gotten here quick. The girl upstairs, where was she from? “There were others in the building,” I said, as if to be helpful, as if to reassure him, as if he didn’t already know.
by Michelle Tudor
He circles the forest of lights, broken down, wings unfurled. Evading the dawn, afraid to be seen. He tucks broken shards into the tiniest of pockets: gold and silver, flesh and moss. But memories of war lie behind his dark eyes, fading with years. He is cornered as he sleeps in the concrete heat. Is he dead? a voice caws. Through a shaking of heads and eyes turning away in disgust, he awakens. Leave me, he cries. Later, the traffic fumes encase him. The death-smell of the city akin only to the deepest woods.
The Literary Life
by Derek Parker
He had been going to the bookstore for years. When nobody was looking he would take a book from one section and place it in another. Now the plays of Beckett were in Romance, Cupcakes for Everyone was in Erotica, Catcher in the Rye was in Science Fiction, bodice-ripping novels three inches thick with lurid covers had found their way into Maths and Science. After decades, he realized that no one had noticed. I have wasted my life, he thought as he lay dying. And then God spoke to him, in his final moments, and said, “At last. Someone understood.”
Give Me a Sign
by Zacharias O’Bryan
Eighteen months in the dome. Alone. Five thousand meters beneath the waves.
Marietta would have abandoned sanity if it weren’t for… well, she called him Herbert. His single fleshy vacu-pod gripped the Plexiglas, and there he waited. Each morning when Marietta powered the LED lamps, soma opened along Herbert’s trans-ventral divide. Cilia emerged, stirring and filtering the sea. Skin hues iridesced and pulsed, a chorus throbbing to Marietta’s heartbeat.
“Herbert,” she mused, “do you suppose a mono-pod and a lonesome girl could…? Well, you know.” Colors dimmed. His cilia withdrew. The vacu-pod broke suction. Herbert drifted into the abyss.
by Makenzie Smith
We’re not dating but his snores vibrate my bones on the weekends. Wednesday nights we drive out by the lake and watch fish jump before our hands start working. Sometimes we kiss: soft, closed-mouthed. It’s romantic, in those cramped spaces; he buys me sweet tea to wash the taste out of my mouth. In February his fingers were ice bricks knotted in my hair so I brought them to my lips and breathed warm, deep-lung air on the tips. I become real then, he curls his fingers around my breath like he can hold it.
by L.A. Kurth
After the crash, everything changed. On the snowy mesa, I knelt with my arms around a woman seated on a stool, or was it the remains of an airplane seat? I pressed my head to her right shoulder, my pelvis to her back. She was warm and wide and soft-rolled. Nothing at all was awkward or amiss. She stroked my hand in an intimate, comforting way, and I said “This must be the new world” into her ear. Not food, nor work, nor return to the world was important. I felt understood, bathed in sex and closeness. That was all.
by McKenzie Johnston Winberry
Her shimmering lamp swung.
A corpse in the dense, mist-infested woods. He had been a man. So had his killer. Now murderer, and now corpse.
Muffled footsteps as she walked between the trees that her lamp almost brushed against.
From the corpse—somehow more alive than when it was—arose a glittering green, the same color as her lamp. It ascended up to the lamp, which now hung perfectly still over the corpse’s concave face. The lamp absorbed it.
She resumed her steps, the lamp its swinging, the corpse its deadness.
Hear a Fly Buzz
by Rachel Oestreich
Hear a fly buzz. Trapped on a windowsill—the forgotten kind, where moths decay into ash beneath sun-faded pillows—bulbous body and silver-veined wings smash against thick-paned glass. Broken drones eclipse into silence, seconds—maybe minutes—and many dust motes float unhindered until the fly cracks its body against the glass again. Look the other way.
by Clem Fandango
“So how was your day?’”
She rolled her eyes up to the ceiling, looking for unexpected ways to frame the expected. “Jenny wasn’t in so I had to pick up her work… You don’t realize how much someone is needed until they’re gone.”
“Absolutely right. The other day I—” He recounted a similar story with the enthusiastic eyebrows of someone pretending like this was conversational new-ground.
She listened with the nods and smiles of someone pretending they weren’t bored.
The dialogue trailed off, soft laughter and softer smiles concealing the shared feeling that they might die like this.
by Rudy Koshar
He puts the water on, drops in two large brown eggs from the co-op, organic, free-range, opens his digital edition of the Times, reads that wildfires are devastating a part of the San Gabriel Valley and Britain has left the European Union, he hears the water boiling, there was a bloody riot in a private prison in Texas, of course, and oh, the plight of Syrian refugees, then he remembers he forgot to set the timer, takes the eggs off, submerges them in cold water, cracks one open, and damn, it’s undercooked.
by Jennifer L. Freed
Now that Grandpa’s gone, Grandma’s coming to live here. She’ll use my room, and I’ll share with Connor. Connor says I’m a freak and he’ll make me sleep under the bed with the monsters, and if I tell he’ll lock me in his closet all night instead of only before school. He knows the Voice lives in the closet. The Voice is worse than monsters. It says, eat only brown food today. Pee twice in my pants. Collect red pills from the medicine cabinet. Give Grandpa those pills, not the white ones Grandma put in my palm to bring him.
by Kenny A. Chaffin
The goose on the gurney was rushed once more into the operating room. Another golden egg had to be surgically removed from its rectum. Technically of course it’s not a rectum, it’s a cloaca, but that isn’t the point. It was actually a production problem. The heavy-metal food, the purified water, and the trips to the emergency room were quite expensive. It was a losing proposition. Impossible to win, much less break even. Realizing this, the owner felt fortunate to foist the fowl off on a farmer’s son, a young boy named Jack who happened by that very same day.
by Paul Alex Gray
The bitter wind is drowned out by the yips and howls of the younglings. They prance and circle the fire kicking at embers. Russet, tan and sable fur shimmers, not yet burnt to hunter’s cloaks. Teeth glint and shine, knife sharp and hungry. I run my tongue across my own, taste in the pocks and scratches a thousand days and nights. Casting back I still feel my dawnday cap of feather and bone, my mother’s well wishes. The kill is coming. Blood games will begin. Pass the carcass round and round till the last one wins the heart.
by Brett Blocker
I threw a stick into the cornfield and Biscuit brought back a leg. That’s how we found him; the gurgling pulp in a flight suit. Sophie took one look and said “Yuck!” So that’s what we called him. Having ruined some of the crop with his airplane, Dad says it’s up to Yuck to pay us back and if that means selling him off, then so be it. I knew we couldn’t keep him forever, but every time the gypsy wagon comes down the road with a bigger offer, Dad repeats himself. “Maybe tomorrow.”
by DL Shirey
My little sister’s screams filter through salt water like the tremolo of a surf guitar. Who knew the undertow had a soundtrack? It crouches out where the slant of sand drops deep, always moving, crabbing sideways behind bones of coral, peeking up, pulling hard. I call to my sister. The words skitter up the frets of my throat into a useless strangle of bubbles, left behind with scratched strings of flesh, cut by coral, picked by fish. Black-green stands of seaweed block what little light remains. The last thing I see are long shadows swaying to the strums of riptide.
by David Galef
For the Special & Gifted School, students must achieve at least 130 on the Wechsler test, but also be measurably damaged. Rachel scored 148 but did abysmally on the Initiative Index. Her first day, she was too timid to go to the girls’ room and by 10:30 sat in a small yellow puddle. On one side of her was a boy who’d turned his notebook paper into origami turtles; on the other, a girl reading two books simultaneously while eating lunch early and smearing mayonnaise on the pages. “You fit right in,” declared the teacher cheerfully, handing Rachel a mop.
by Michael Kulp
It is May, and my only son is graduating. In May, the tadpole enjoys the shallows’ golden light, reveling in the third dimension. By June, he will be unhappy, new legs ruining his beautiful sleekness. In July, he will be restless, sensing that more changes are coming. In August, he will be a frog who remembers a little less each day about the delight of the third dimension. He will leave the pond and join the peculiar land creatures. Will he find a mate to share the darkness? But right now, it is May, and my only son is graduating.
Sounds About Right
by Mark Burnash
When we die, we’re all reincarnated as squirrels; you know that, right? Yep, each time a person dies, a lightning bolt strikes an acorn and a squirrel is born. The lightning is caused by satellites and clouds from cloud factories. The Beatles invented the satellites. Did you know Jean Claude Van Damme was one of the Beatles? Yep, that was when I owned Disney, but the C.I.A. took it away from me. The police laced my cigarettes with cocaine to frame me and they took away my children too. I didn’t mind too much; they were Nephilim abominations anyway.
by Marquis DePrevbal
Carlos returned to Mexico to care for his dying mother, so the grass grew high. By May, it was unruly, and the neighbors began to comment. By Memorial Day, it reached my knees. They stopped saying hello and stared uneasily at my untamed meadow during evening walks, as if leopards might be crouching behind the mailbox. The guy next door mowed almost daily, demonstrating his disgust. Someone from the HOA took a photo. The code enforcer would be next. What would come first, I wondered: A citation, or Carlos, sweating out his grief as he dragged me back to civilization?
This collection of microfiction contains reader-voted best work published on MicrofictionMondayMagazine.com in 2015 alongside original, never-before published work from each of the contributing authors. You can purchase it directly from the publisher, Blue Skirt Productions, for $9.99 including shipping (US addresses only) or from most major online booksellers, including Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Get yours now!
This week’s artwork is “Potentially Unsettling if Made into a Wallpaper” by Connor Fieweger.
Too Much of a Good Thing
by Jackson Freud
They were eating pizza on the couch when she asked him.
“Do you still find me attractive?” she said.
Robbie chewed his mouthful of cheese and salami, taking care not to swallow it too soon lest he be forced to answer the question.
He wiped his fingers on a grease-stained napkin, drained his beer and turned up the volume on the television. She yanked the remote from his hand and said, “Babe?”
He sighed. “Too much cheese. Why do you always have to order extra fucking cheese?”
by L.L. Madrid
Mother said Broden pulled my hair because he liked me. She said that if I just ignored him he’d lose interest. By late summer, the neighborhood children ran feral. They leered as Broden pushed me to the ground, pinning my arms with his knees. The sun burned in the cloudless sky but I didn’t dare close my eyes. One dirty hand squeezed, forcing my mouth open. The other pinched a fat, oozing slug. Grim-faced, Broden shoved the slimy creature deep inside me, mollusk skin scraping off against my teeth. The other children cheered. I suppose they liked me too.
by Andrew Bertaina
Across town my wife is on a date with another man. And here I am, like a flower, gathering light in the window and thinking of her. And just imagine that as she reaches for her coffee, or suddenly takes his hand; imagine if she just as suddenly thinks of me, the two of us miles away, lonely for one another.
by Jareb Collins
“Death is the gentle passage from the horrors of this life to the blessings of the next.”
At least, that’s what Reverend Tommy always said.
Poetic, I used to think.
Far be it from me to argue with a man of the cloth – seemed like bad karma. But as cyanide slowly burned a hole in my gut, I couldn’t help but feel like I was stuck in a frozen boxcar hurtling down a rusty track. I shivered violently, a bloody froth bubbling from my lips. The world began to fade; I almost regretted escaping the eternal flames.
Death was cold.
by Brett Blocker
The thrill of paper targets was short-lived. Same with the cans on the fence post. He’d graduated to birds now, and the feeder proved an inexhaustible supply. Every day after school he fed the pile. Swallows, chickadees, robins, it made no difference; their beaks all shattered as fragile things against the steel bb. Some lay where they fell. Cats carried away the others. In time, the yard fell silent, distant branches found new use, and animals flicked their tongues in defiance.