by Keith Norris
He wears his loneliness like a winter coat in a snowstorm. He is never warm enough. Rain pounding on the roof of his trailer reminds him of days looking out waiting for his dog to come home. His only buddy.
Too many opinions, too much criticism, and loss of empathy for the complex emotional ailments of others pushed people away.
Now he marks time by the rooster’s wailing every morning. He bathes sorrows and regrets in the day’s fleeting Autumn sunshine. But he never feels clean and is looking forward to the warmth of Summer.
by Sally Wagner
After she moved away, no one back home ever wanted to break any bad news to her. Not to bother her, they said. They didn’t even call her the night her brother’s house caught fire. She was enjoying a soft serve in her backyard the moment his life was reduced to ashes. She had felt so isolated, so helpless, so guilt-ridden when she found out about the incident months later.
She takes a deep breath and presses the urn closer to her chest. She will tell them about Ben tonight, she decides. For she knows that ignorance isn’t always bliss.
A Hole in Kentucky
by B.G. Smith
He glanced inside the square hole, pondering the depth for its intended purpose, and at the tiny silhouette wrapped in the green duvet lying on the ground beside it. A throbbing, angry blister formed on the webspace of his right hand as he plunged the spaded shovel into the frozen earth.
It was November in Kentucky, and an early cold snap made the red clay impossible to penetrate. That should do. He never met the disabled woman before today after responding to a post published on a local neighborhood social media page: HELP NEEDED DIGGING GRAVE FOR LHASA APSO (DOG).
My Jury Returned
I stood, best I could. The courtroom blurred then shimmered like a hot desert road. I went there. Took a ride in my pickup with my mutt Romeo, dry wind whipped through the cab, and I slugged a cold beer. Somebody read the verdict. I hit the brakes, crashed right into my mother’s cries. That sound hurt worse than a scorpion bite to my heart. Things weren’t going to be ok for her. I stared down the jury. Shook my head hard hoping Mom saw. ‘Cause I never wanted her to know. Even think. They’d gotten it right about me.
by Jack Galati
Dancing in the sky are those northern lights seen from the creek. A short walk from the cabin. When I moved to Alaska they told me I’d only find the cold and harrowing.
Oh, but how warm, these lights. How much on those nights they say I am not alone.
And when I return home, I come back to a feast of love. Open door to the warm and kind. The familiar. And when I set off again, know it is not forever. And that whenever I return, it will all be there. There, baking, in that wondrous, sonorous, familiar.