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.