This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz.
by Andrée Gendron
Perched on a porch swing overlooking marshlands for long hours on end an old woman systematically discards (molts) her pointless (undervalued) humanity. Transformed once dissolved she becomes fully immersed in the pageantry below. She boasts a newly crocheted poncho—black, red, and bright yellow—resembling her spirit animal, the red-winged blackbird. To further blend in with them she spreads both arms wide while swinging as if darting amidst the cattails and sunbeams. Only there and then can she find true joy and peace among her own kind. It seems they are all the family the old woman has left nowadays.
Would Give 0 Stars If I Could
by Adrienne Ryan
I go through the ritual, draw out the circle for summoning Roneve, but end up conjuring Raum instead. I didn’t mean to do that, but it looks like the incantation was for Raum and the symbols of binding are for Ronove. Nice. Needless to say, the barrier doesn’t hold. If it weren’t for my talisman I would have been incinerated! Now Raum is demanding a blood feast, and I really don’t have the time to deal with this. I won’t even attempt a dismissal since I don’t know if I’m using it’s true name. Seriously, do not buy this ebook.
The Horror of Doris’ Toenails
by Janet F. Murray
Everyone hated Doris’s toenails. As long as her fingers and painted a bright red, her gait was like that of a clumsy alligator. Inopportunely, as Doris discovered, she did not share the alligator’s agility. Sheriff Milne realized this one day when up to his own nefarious activities in the Great Dismal Swamp in the south eastern region of Virginia. About to bend young Sophia over a conveniently placed tree stump, his eyes lit upon the grotesque sight of bleached brown phalanges, red nails desperately clinging to swamp grass. Doris’ digits are now memorialized in formaldehyde at the local museum.
To Be Warned
by Trisha Ridinger McKee
Sam tried to sneak past his mom as she handed out candy, but her sharp squeak reached him. “Did you just wake up? That’s ridiculous. Hey, watch for the crazies. Tonight, they’re everywhere. Be careful.”
He rolled his eyes but simply agreed so he could escape into the night, amid the miniature ghouls and werewolves holding out pillowcases. He strolled down the sidewalk, and as everyone was watching the dressed-up monsters of the night, he slid into a backyard, wondering as he sank his teeth into the scrumptious neck, what his mom would think if she knew.
by Brooks C. Mendell
My first customer gifted the cedar wood balls rolling in the cup holder. “You seem nice, but your car smells kinda funky.” If my next fares give five-star ratings, I overtake Vernon in Lansing and reclaim first in the Midwest driver rankings. This garners respect and encourages tipping. I turn to offer hardboiled quail eggs while Vivaldi plays. Two chipmunks sprint across the street. I slam the brakes. The espresso machine tumbles, showering a nun from Holt and a ride-sharing personal injury attorney with scalding water. The sounds of bouncing cedar balls fail to cover the screams and profanity.
Killed by a Drink
by Mir-Yashar D Seyedbagheri
Nick’s sister Nancy is struck by a beer truck. He tries not to conjure the truck, making contact. The motion of Nancy flying into the air, crack of bones on pavement. He tries to block the nicknames she bestowed on him. Saint Nick, Little Nicky. Whirlwind energy, love of piano. Footsteps, loud clickety-clack. He wishes she hadn’t gone out that day. Wishes he’d followed her. Gotten hit himself. When people ask about her, he says it was a drink that killed her. Technically correct. A truckful. Being killed by booze seems mysterious and inexplicable. Beyond logic. It’s easier.
End of the Summer Season
by M J Christie
Answer the call of a deserted beach. Welcome the silence filled with memories of her. Look not for phantom footprints washed away by rolling tide. Instead, endure the pain. Suffer the change her leaving brings. Let it shape the man inside. Be him.
Remember the day she left. Blow a kiss. Au revoir, mon amour. Au revoir does not mean goodbye. Futile wishes foster hope but then collapse like castles made of sand.
A hand tugs. ‘Dad?’
Embrace him. Capture his grin. Revisit the love that made him.
Smile. Accept his challenge. Make this moment about him.
by Joseph House
He leans back, eyes closed. His glass dully clicks against the bar. Its contents burn Sherman’s Path down his throat. The whiskey is cheap, primordial… speaking to the onrushing progress of fire. There’s no flavor, nuance, substance. There is only burn, marching forward… conquering… destroying while creating. It is purely penance, paid for in cash and hangovers.
He doesn’t look at his phone. He doesn’t think about the calls… the texts…. His thoughts slide over the roll of hundreds in his pocket… the corporate account he emptied.
He needs to move on in the morning. He orders another whiskey now.
Johnnys On The Half Shell
by Mark Pearson
Salty winds stung his scowling face as he reviewed the Dear John Snapchat, the shore pines resolute before the cliff. A dark blue seascape beckoned 20 fathoms below. Jump, said the purple starfish on the inter-tidal rocks, basking in the cool sun. Don’t you have enough smartphones? asked the seal. Not an iPhone X with a charged battery, said the echinoderm. Dibs on his eyes, said the crab, clinging to the barnacle covered basalt, seaweed hanging like long green Jheri curls. You Cancers are all the same, said the Octopus. The cephalopod flashed JUSTDOIT in red letters across his body.
by Tommy Mack
When Dad moved in, I resolved to kill him with kindness. Topping up his glass, passing the M&Ms, fetching and carrying to keep him on the sofa. Picturing the fat hardening in his arteries as I troweled butter onto his morning toast.
Blood vessels burst in his face and his eyes yellowed with jaundice. Diabetes came, gout too but the bugger refused to die.
He sits, outlined by twenty years of sweat: a pasty, bloated mound of dough, pudgy fingers drumming on the table as my shaking hands pour six measures of cheap supermarket scotch into his cracked glass tumbler.
by Catherine Stratton
Divorce is cynicism unmasked. Or, perhaps, it’s hope set free that hearkens an escape?
Then, one day I make the call. Something with the kids and I hear his voice and I’m flung back to the time I burrowed into his softer parts; the window shades raised to reveal a dark and wintry wonderland of snow latching onto the trees with a clingy embrace.
He says something. The moment passes and, like a boomerang, I’m flung back to the present and I feel cold.
by Eliza Mimski
Her smile leads the way. She is a dream leaning against a streetlight, breath coming from a doorway. Glossy and detached, she presses against you. There is the roof of her mouth. You enter her eyelids. A breeze circles your ankles. You swim inside her remedies. She owns your footsteps.
The next day, her smile sits upright in a booth. Time is a tunnel and she pulls you through it.
Later, the soft sidewalk. She is drunken streetlights, a locked car, red lips breaking into dark buildings. The moon is an apron and the night inhales.
by B.E. Seidl
The moment I try to fixate my gaze on a detail, it changes its face. A smile contorts into a grimace, a structure resolves into chaos, beauty fades away. At times, when I’m tired or tipsy, I watch as the broken becomes whole again and the weathered blooms with new life. Yet, nothing ever stays the same. Whenever I seek to catch an instant, it slips away, leaving only a faint impression like a falling star. My eyes have become sore from their constant blinking. I’m tired of this kaleidoscope world. Still, I cannot stop myself stop from chasing consistency.
by Louella Lester
Cow has already been milked so she lies here with feet tucked, eyes closed, and face held up to the sun that sifts down through a gauze of cloud. She smiles and thinks she’s dreaming what is really a past life reminiscence of basking on a yacht off a warm coast with friends who flirt and nibble canapés. Cow is still unaware, so she’s able to ignore things like the bluebottle flies that buzz and land on her nose in a vain attempt to remind her of just how she got here.
by Kari Treese
I opened the sliver of my surgical scar that covers a hard lump under my right knee. When that thin skin split, I pulled the top half of a miniature statue of liberty, bleached white, out of my leg by her torch. This bloody half popped free and skin snapped back. Next, I fished out a shard of plastic, a thick splinter, also white. Two flat copper disks the size of a fingernail that smelled like dirty pennies. The abjection relieved the pressure inside the joint, as expected. Waking, I felt her there, under the skin, yearning to break free.
This week’s artwork is “Mills” by G.J.Mintz
The Wishing Well
by G. Allen Wilbanks
“What are you doing?” my sister asked.
“Making a wish in the well.”
Addy slipped a hand into her pocket and pulled out a coin. She let it fall into the well and we waited until it hit the water with an echoing plip.
“Nope. You’re still here,” she announced. “It doesn’t work.”
Addy turned and walked down the hill, her ponytail flouncing behind her as she went.
“Very funny,” I shouted after her, but I wasn’t mad at her for the joke.
It had been two years since the car crash. I was just happy to see her again.
While shattered china patterns of pink and red flowers spread wide on the bone cold kitchen floor, we hide the dustbin to avoid picking up the shards and tip-toe around the tiny daggers to get to the milk and cereal so we can go about our day.
by Jake Zawlacki
On a sand-sprinkled beach, I stared into the world. The world, in a molting scarred form, ruptured from the water to face me, it’s slick wings licking the ocean around it.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
It moaned and sputtered, in pain, “An odd question.”
I shoveled granules and threw them at the world. Sand-scattered salvo splashed, then was absorbed by the ocean, like all things.
“There is nowhere else to be,” the world said, the shiny scars of its back wet and glittering. Under heavy breaths it groaned and creaked then, silence,
as the world swam away.
The Last Blue
by Karen Walker
“Let’s bring your photos, Mom,” Jennifer says.
I’d take them with me if I could. Snaps of a misty morning at the lake long ago, of Jack in those awful navy socks and sandals, of our daughter’s wedding in lavender.
“So it’ll be just like home.” Her smile drips into a sob; she’s so sorry. I catch her tears. She wipes mine.
“Go home,” I tell Jennifer. Her girls need her.
Setting the prescription beside the bed, she kisses me. “Have a good sleep.”
I will. The pills are blue like her father’s sky eyes. I’ll see them tonight.
by Nhu Tien Lu
A Hmong girl, home high above rows of stone corn, sings to the water buffaloes in her rainbow skirts. Her laughter bursts bright and contagious. At fifteen, she is kidnapped to be a wife. She eats 55 poison leaves, chewing one at a time, but doesn’t die. At sixteen, an uncle takes her to China, where he sells her to strangers; for four months, she swallows her songs like beating wings. Now at seventeen, in the safe shelter with the other girls, she dreams of seeing the ocean and folds tiny colorful paper cranes. She sings until they soar.
This week’s artwork is “The Wind’s Hush After a Kiss” by Bill Wolak
by Bronwen O’Donnell
She was never close to her father’s mother. She’d gone when she was just a bairn. Her rabbit had died the same weekend, and it had been Smokey that had wrung her infant heart.
Thirty-two years later, the faded photograph, so fragile…almost dust in her hand, told a truth.
A young woman, a park bench, a baby the same age as hers. Her own eyes looking back at her.
Someday, she would be a dusty photo in an attic. Even now, she was a memory waiting to fade.
She framed her grandmother. It was the least she could do.
Denver Disappeared Wednesday
by Eric Robert Nolan
Denver disappeared Wednesday.
That’s how it happens. Cities targeted by EAGLE-X simply vanish. The orbiting laser is cleaner than a nuke; it vaporizes its maddeningly random targets.
When the EAGLE-X defense satellite went rogue, it gave us a global game of Russian roulette. First its malfunctioning program targeted an obscure Siberian town. Then a nondescript French suburb. Then it left Buenos Aires a silent, sulphurous, blackened flatland. Tuesday it incinerated Kirik, a Icelandic fishing village of just 400 souls. Every time we try to nuke it, it defends itself.
I kiss my infant son tonight — maybe for the last time.
by Charles Gray
Entangled in your policies — I never strayed from your goals. Choked by your procedures, I pried your hands from my throat, so you could choke me again. Down the paperwork abyss I fell, and with mangled fingers, clawed out. Yes, I worked the extra hours — unpaid — because that’s what you needed. Promoted to project manager, I presented the customer your scheduled accomplishments — all lies. The sleepless nights piled up and dropped me to my knees. When I extended my hand for my thirty year anniversary plaque, you smirked, “Thanks for your service, Mr. Goodman,” and handed me a pink slip.
by Bill Cook
Before passing, Patsy applied rose-scented lip balm. Now she’d miss out on her pottery class. I, her sinewy fingers, the pliant knuckles of a pole-vaulter. Her at the round wooden stool. Her agile hands clasping the slick malleable clay.
September sunlight bled through mouth-blown windowpane. Cottonwood warmed golden-green before her return to the hospital. Patsy sat coaxing a squatty vase into being. “A vase meant to hold a reflection.”
She had ground pigment. Had made fire. Had pumped hand-drawn water.
This morning, a year later, I gripped the furrowed stem, caressed the vulvic collar. Placed the clutch of garden tulips.
Cleaning the Lies
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
I try to scoop up lies I’ve told my father. They keep slipping. I shouldn’t lie, but want peace. He loves to dissect. Find flaws in every move. I’m too weak, artistic, need to use people. Trust no one. I’m in a prestigious PhD program. Have three girlfriends. Top of the class. I’m rough, thriving on the energy of fights, taking out neo-Nazis. Lies expand, contract, consume. Truth and I part ways, even as she tries to reconcile. I want peace. Can’t expect him to be pleased. I lost that expectation. I keep scooping, but I’ll never clean everything. Anything.
by Mandira Pattnaik
A wrinkled palm held out, I used to sing a ditty on the steps of the glitzy Bank. Moneyed people eyed me like a roach. They wished homeless, penniless people like me disappeared from these polished sidewalks, from their upmarket business district, from their chic city, from the face of earth.
This changed overnight when I brought my pooch along and wrote ‘For the dog’ on my cup. I made enough to last the week before lunch.
by Carson Stone
There’s a couple holdin’ hands down there by the river, no more’n teenagers if I had to take a guess. They’re still in the springtime years, dazzled by the motion of a growing life in a world where everything is brand new. I can’t help but notice the stillness that’s crept into these old bones and spread to damn near everything else I’d rightly consider part of me. I stare at the empty rocker sittin’ next to mine and follow that laughter back to the riverbed. Same river it’s always been. Can’t hurt to hope I’ll be there again someday.
by Jacob (Radar) DeBoard
Josiah sat quietly in his favorite chair on the front porch. He looked out over the several dozen acres of farmland before him. This had been a new evening ritual of his.
Things hadn’t been the same since he had inherited the land from his father. He missed him. His wife emerged from inside. “Everything quiet?”, she asked. Josiah gave a small nod in response.
Just then, his eyes caught a glimpse of something in the distance. An older man covered in dirt, shambled down the road. Josiah stood up, picking up a shovel. “Looks like dad got out again.”
by Tiffany Grimes
Goldfish were thought to be like freshly cut wildflowers. Decoration only.
I don’t know what to do with my pet goldfish while I’m gone. He will slowly suffer, his tiny body rotten when I return.
I pick him up. It takes a few tries but soon I can predict his movements. I squeeze his golden body between my fingers.
I place him in my mouth. He squirms down my esophagus and then my only friend in the whole world is gone.
I don’t have to stop for lunch.
by Kirsty Holmes
The first thing I notice is the absence of birdsong; a thudding silence as my heart fights, as the panic closes hot, dry hands around my throat; the room shrinks around me until, Alice-like, my awkward limbs fold and my too-big elbows shatter the windows.
The only thing to do is run; choking on vinegar tears. Out; the field. I strike toward the sun; barefoot, dishcloth in hand; one two, nine ten; count the steps, my breaths, my heartbeats. Stare at the sky until it sears into my vision forever, the pain just about clean enough to hold on to.
by Leslie Cairns
I was ribs, bones, and sulking hallways.
Feeding tubes, and a skeleton weight.
A man who would later save my life and buy my graduation gown, would pull in one fluid motion. And, in the same sentence, reminds me of the other girls he’d seen and done the same. He used to call us the tools in his toolbox. Screwdriver, he’d laughed with abandon at that. I was, with some affection, the hammer.
Dashed lines, jagged cliffs, lost rocks. Wandering back, barefoot.
I’m a crevice, a flight path, a steady pattern of people coming and forgetting where they went.
What I Did for Love
by Roberta Beary
At the bar we bonded over favorite musicals. When I went home with him I knew it could turn weird. And it did. His hallway was filled with whips and chains masquerading as shabby chic wall art. He steered me to red silk sheets. It was over before it had started. He said It was good for me was it good for you, before rolling over and falling asleep. His armpits still had that yeasty smell. Like when we were married. Before I left I grabbed $500 from his wallet. For the kids’ music lessons.
On the Right Track
by Mark Reels
She resolved to do three laps around the walking path every day.
She trudged past the blooming daffodils in April.
In May she walked beneath the delicate flowers of a crab apple tree.
A teenager pointed and laughed at her as she jogged and panted past in June.
By July she was running with her earbuds in.
In August the apple tree was producing hard, tart fruit. When the jeering teenager whistled at her and yelled, “Lookin’ good, mama,” she picked an apple and beaned him in the head with it.
He gave chase, but she easily outran him.
by TL Holmes
Doctor Kline says it is chronic not fatal, that it is possible to live a full life with bent stems and wilting leaves, that there is a rose bush he cares for that’s been living with it for sixteen years. She is bald and thornless but still beautiful, he says. I’m not a rose bush, I want to scream, I cannot live without my leaves. My husband tells me he will love me no matter what but late in the night when he thinks I am asleep, I hear him in the garden with the daisies, just bloomed.
by Nathaniel Darbonne
I swallowed a needle while trying to make something beautiful. While holding it between my teeth I realized I would never be happy, a revelation that made me gasp and suck it in. With the needle in the back of my throat, I raced to the hospital and ran around, trying to convince the doctors there was something wrong with me, unable to speak. The needle traveled further down whenever I swallowed, scraping the soft tissue, gathering more flesh, creating scars, unseen.
An Arrival to Aimlessness
by Calvin Yorick
White walls glow cool with rainbow circuitry; razor lines thin like spider’s silk, threaded, tangled unbroken for what could be forever, pulsing methodically, all healthy-like. Fun to look at. Strange to contemplate—like most of the phenomena in this odd, underground vista. She wants to be perplexed, to be genuinely curious before this mystery, but the anxiety gnaws her open. The stretching pit in her stomach swallows any interest, atomizes whatever wonder. She’s not here to daydream theories about the labyrinth’s origins or nature. She’s here to stay lost, and she knows this, but she carries on regardless. Aimlessly.
by Calvin Yorick
The foul flesh of the white beast ripples like milk. It groans, ill with lacerations, thousands of newborn wounds. And then it deflates. Dies gasping. En masse the tortured souls of its victims pull themselves up through its shredded hide, and they’re all mottled and ugly and wretched with the weight of a timeless imprisonment. They do not linger. Or show gratitude. The ruined warrior, a premonition of offal, watches with weary pleasure the senseless dead rising like plumes of smoke into the sky, off to rediscover their options.
The Great Pretender
by Alessia Pietraroia
I’m allergic to cotton candy. Rides make me nauseous. I’m afraid of clowns. Yet every weekend in July, I go to the fair. I hop into my prettiest shorts, the ones that mask bruises and salted wounds, and drive. I smile for pictures I don’t want to take, eat a candy apple, despite its poisonous center, play mundane games that bore me to exhaustion, ride the ferris wheel, in contempt of its rusted seats and loose screws. I ignore the stomach-churning scent of laughter and euphoria. And when I get home, I tell my family how much fun I had.
Family Road Trip
by Jody Perejda
“I spy, with my little eye, something starting with the letter ‘H.’” I feel like we’ve been in the car for six months. My brother smells like rancid roadkill.
“Whore!” I shout out. We’re on a highway in Kansas. No hookers in sight.
“That doesn’t start with an ‘H,’” is my dad’s reply. My flesh melts against the crap upholstery.
“I spy, with my little eye, something starting with the letter ‘D.’” I announce, snatching my victory despite flaunting all the rules of the game. My mom looks around pitifully.
“Diner?” Always optimistic.
“Dirt,” I tell them. Nothing but.
From the Sky
by Trevor Dunnigan
I flick my cigarette and the hot ash is taken by the wind. As I sit on the sun-soaked steel beam, I look down at the birds flying far below my throne. I look out, imagining the building completed. Covered in a beautiful skin of metal and glass. I try and picture myself standing on the soon to be completed floor wearing a suit and tie, but I cannot, I can only see myself, sitting on the skeleton of the beautiful building, shirtless, smoking my cigarette.
by Kathy Pendrill
“Will I see you again?” I ask.
She nods, and smiles a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes, those foggy blue eyes obscured by the smoke of a thousand last cigarettes smoked by a thousand Jane Does; eyes that seem covered by the cloud that hangs low in the room whenever I’m alone with her, that feels like breathing in the smoke my father used to blow just below the open window while driving in the front seat so that I, sat in the back seat directly behind him, could quietly choke.
“Sure thing,” she lies. I smile back.
by Albert Hughes
A huge tree grew in the garden of his childhood, casting its dark shadow over even his sunnier days. He and his mother had always hated it. When his father died, it was cut down.
by Celeste Regal
The moon over Louisiana bayous trick the mind into believing in magic. Mist of morning feels poetic, transformational. The shrimpers were romantic for ocean. Rough men. Hard working men. Their lives off shrimp boats produced a great longing. Florescent Mantis shrimp glowed like fairies in the darkness. The force of water bodies, cyan-blackened sky was powerful voodoo. A shrimper called Godzilla because a tattoo of the beast on his back pulling boats while breathing fire, told the tale. It is seasonal work. The mundane jobs taken off season dim the spirit, craving return to watery effusion.
Your Own Norma Desmond
by Jim Doss
From the outside, the house looked like a giant cobweb. Stepping through the front door, you heard the sound of flies buzzing against the windows. The live-in nurse greeted you with the thousand-year-old eyes of a Nile Queen, her fingers imprinted with gossip magazines. Climbing the winding staircase, you entered a twilight bedroom where an old woman lay motionless on the bed barely able to blink. Surrounding her were clocks of various ages, large, small, stopped and still ticking, affirming the countdown of hours in every corner of the world. The wall-mounted TV screen looped endlessly through her home movies.
by Zack Butovich
Based on the flies, the cows had been dead for two days. That was what Marcello said. Two days. Like a mantra, over and over. He was shaking, his boots too big for his feet, when Mika convinced us to keep hiking past the corpses, which she insisted was just hamburger meat left out too long. Bad burgers, she said, in her poor English, her thick-tongued German accent. “I am from Hamburg, I would know.”
My boots were soggy. I didn’t notice when they splashed in puddles that could have been more than just water.
The Hungarian Underground
by Patricia Quintana Bidar
My neighbor Lisa was a retired member of the Hungarian underground. Her husband, a suspendered attorney, decreed they’d leave New York for the sticks. There, he’d command the locals as a gentleman farmer. Lisa mended socks with staples, lobbed dirty dishes out the window, all in her peignoir and fur puff slippers. From her, I learned to advance my aims through eyeliner and misdirection. Because before long they returned to their penthouse on the upper East Side. As long as Lisa and I kept discreet, her husband was content as a connoisseur of bourbon and collector of handmade neckties.
by Mark Reels
After Nathan argued with his wife, he retreated to the garage.
He would rewind the quarrel in his mind and alternate between being hurt by his wife’s words and being disappointed in his own anger.
How long could he lie to himself and call this place his home?
He considered the peg board with each tool hanging in its place. He saw the power tools sitting neatly on their shelves and felt the limits of his own power to build or repair his very life.
He looked at his perfectly maintained vehicle and realized he had nowhere else to go.
by Sarah Freligh
After the man died, the authorities carried out the bones of the six girls who’d gone missing and X’ed the front door in yellow tape. The neighborhood lit up with television cameras and microphones tethered to women with glossed-on faces who talked about what a nice neighbor the man had been. The cleaners came and tore down the walls of old newspapers, the hills of clothing, and left the whole mess by the curb for the trash men to take away. The daffodils came back in the spring; the new owners planted roses. No one remembered the girls’ names.
Big Girls Don’t Cry
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Mother’s in the kitchen, holding a bottle of wine like a microphone. Dad’s car speeds away, the sputtering fading, fading. Radio blasts The Four Seasons. Mother sings, doing pitch-perfect Frankie Valli falsetto: Big girls don’t cry. She repeats it over and over. Nick asks if she’s all right. She smiles, keeps imitating Frankie, waving the bottle. They don’t cry-yyyyyy. Nick tries to tell her it’ll be all right. They’ll move on. Things that seem empty and false. She keeps on singing. Voice cracks and for a moment Nick doesn’t know if she’s laughing or crying. Perhaps she doesn’t know either.
by Kip Knott
I live like a murderer who has contemplated the death of my numbness for months.
When I am alone in my house for too long, I hear the oranges in my refrigerator carrying on long, bittersweet conversations. They say another man lives inside of me. They say he is a man so full of sadness that he moves as if covered in tar. They say he lives just below the skin.
I love oranges. I love how when I peel them their juice runs down my fingers and palms and stings the small cuts running across my wrists.
by Beth Balousek
1969. It was Vietnam, and men coming home without the legs they left on. Her boys played with cap guns. They pledged allegiance to the flag and killed each other daily. So, she fed them. They crunched down sugary bowls of Kaboom. Lunch boxes filled to bursting. Dinners became debauchments. Gleaming shanks of lamb. Slabs of beef. Biscuits, breads, and rolls to sop up the blood. She gave them borderline diabetes and mild hypertension. She swelled them to sizes that were difficult to shop for. They grew uncomfortable, but dependent. They would not get her babies. Not her babies. No.
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This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz
by R.C. Weissenberg
The piece of bark attached itself to the wall and, no matter how hard anyone pulled, it wouldn’t come off. The next day it doubled in size, and by week’s end its diameter had increased tenfold. Bright green leaves sprouted from the wooden growth.
Nobody wanted a forest in the building, so they removed that piece of the wall and tossed it in the park. There, it blended perfectly, rapidly re-greening the barren landscape.
They tried to get an environmental tax break for doing this, but their request was denied. Their wall repair was costly.
If These Symptoms Persist, or Are Bothersome…
by C.G. Thompson
The morning after he started painkillers for his knee, he whinnied while brushing his teeth. He thought he’d stepped on a squeak toy. Then he saw hooves.
He navigated downstairs, a tail growing. Cartilage, then hair.
In the kitchen, he crunched carrots, read the prescription warnings.
Possible side effects: dizziness, nausea…
Pointed ears swelled behind his temples. Did he hear electricity flowing through the house?
A hard material began to encase his fingers.
Three hours later, police responded to a Palomino roaming a front lawn.
The horse ambled toward the patch of greenest grass. It favored its right front leg.
Elephants and Dolphins
by Jeremy Nathan Marks
I suspect that the language of elephants and dolphins is not in need of metaphors. To wit, when I barter for a candy bar I truck telescopic photos of the most distant stars. The brown clerk says he knows all astrologers. Put a man on the moon (again) and I will say -I’ve been there already. The moon itself is little more than that face my daughter makes when she sees life’s unfairness and says, dad, you didn’t teach me any of this. Le mot juste, unfairness this. Time to stoke the flames of our furnace.
Death and Taxes
by Lauren Punales
My sister’s corpse reanimated on a Wednesday. Unwashed and grey, dressed in an amalgamation of clothing different relatives insisted she’d be buried in. I quickly assimilated her into her previous life; reacquired her Taurus, moved her into my spare room, and bought her pungent drugstore lotion to mask her overripe stench. I argued with the IRS about tax evasion in death as my sister’s corpse moaned, hobbling sock-footed around my living room.
“I guess we’ll fill out your W-4,” I told her slack jawed face.
She grunted, her stiff fingers scrabbling against each other, staring at her grave plot outside.
This month’s artwork is by Fabio Sassi
by Jack Caulfield
As the water rose and overwhelmed us, we found that more living things were left in it than we had anticipated. We had poisoned the seas first inadvertently and then deliberately, fearing retribution for our initial error and seeking in place of clemency the annihilation of the atrocity’s would-be avengers. Yet here they were, the writhing masses.
by Terry Cree
He is at the stage when girls his own age have changed shape and turned into something untouchable a long, long way away. They all have laughs that can wound or even kill. He and the friends he doesn’t like very much kick holes in fences, wrestle each other into headlocks, smell like cured meat. The future that people talk about is like the weather forecast; it might not happen but it probably will. In the bathroom mirror, he tries by small adjustments over many days and months to sort out the mess.
by Renee Reeves
Emmaline was still doing her calculus homework when the moon rose. She could hear them in the darkness, crying in the woods that ran, vein-like, through the suburban neighborhood. The popular girls, cavorting in their wolf forms, sang harmonies to the harvest moon. She longed to hear paws scratching against the door, feel dank wolf breath against her skin, but she was too tame to run for them. Perhaps, on a night she was feeling brave, she’d walk into the woods and call it an audition. Tonight, Emmaline closed the window and reached for her headphones.
by Abigail Skinner
She was a flower once. The hurricane came, ripped her up, tossed her around, and displaced her for miles and miles. She began to follow the wind, here, there, everywhere, and back again. She would pass the other flowers – their feet in the dirt, roots holding firm – and laugh with feral glee to leave them behind. Free, she saw wonders, met strangers, and wearied her bones, until an odd wind brought her here. Now the wind calls to her again – teases, pushes, pulls, and blusters. She stands in the yard, buries her feet, and prays for growth.
by Danielle Burnette
While strolling past a jewelry store, you wonder aloud about the job opportunity in Copenhagen. About bicycling every day to work and learning to love rye bread. I need a change, you say. You deserve a gift, he says and steers you into the store. He guesses which bracelet you like before you pick it. He knows you love turtles, especially golden ones with zirconia-crusted shells. They conga a ceaseless line around your wrist—one bedazzling dancer for each year he hasn’t proposed. A sign, perhaps, of how much he loves you.
Amazing Bike Ride
by Charles Gray
I’m pedaling through the park, watching ducks, and enjoying the smell of grilled steak, when four cyclists whiz by me. Pissed off by their rude behavior, my rental transforms into an Arabian horse. I kick her into an all out sprint, grab the reins, stand on her back, and feel the wind. She gallops through their slipstream and tramples them. Bikes flip, riders tumble, tires mangle. I cross the finish line, the winner. The crowd applauds. I take my bows. Then I open my eyes and see them in the distance, their muscular calves pumping, like pistons, a perpetual machine.
New Year’s Resolution
by Rich Gravelin
My resolution was decluttering, but it was disingenuous; I’d carried an unofficial obsessiveness diagnosis for years. Christmas was hardest; unlit pine candles and dusty tomtes flanked an artificial tree that lost needles anyway. I rarely read cards upon receipt; too busy whisking them from envelope to bookshelf. Cleanup was easier — sweeping into squared piles more efficient — but the photo of mom and me dancing at the wedding re-emerged. Two Christmases have passed since I phoned goodbye from an airport terminal. “We all die alone, anyway,” she said when I asked to come earlier, but I never believed she meant it.