by Kim Mannix
As he boarded the train, she drew a tissue from her pocket, thinking the tears would come any second. They didn’t.
Numb. I’m just numb now, she thought, dabbing at the corner of her eye anyway. In case he was watching.
“Last trip for the year,” he said on the drive to the station. “Then it’ll be just us together for months.”
“I can’t wait,” she said, grateful he was looking at the road instead of her face.
After his train pulled away, she stepped up to the ticket booth.
“One way for whatever gets me the farthest,” she said.
Every day, Johannes sends Mila presents. Some days, it’s sweetmeats from the market. Occasionally, it’s a rare artifact wrapped in brown paper.
Yesterday, he sent a scarab frozen in amber, all the way from Cairo, wrapped in tight packaging and bound with tape. Unwrapping the multiple layers without the use of a knife inflamed her hands, but she managed it before he came home.
Today, despite Mila’s curbed appetite, Johannes sends candied fruit. Tiny, pink squares like unsunned flesh, dotted with yellow sugar the color of her bruises.
by Brennan Thomas
I’m not doing this charade ‘til the end of the boardwalk. Soon as we pass that frozen fruit stand where the guy dips bananas on a stick in chocolate, I’m done with this. I’m ripping my hand out of his sticky grip. I’m pulling the ring off. I’ll start walking ten feet in front of him and lose him in the crowd. I’ve already checked out of the hotel. I have what’s mine—tote and carry-on—sitting in the trunk of a cab idling at the entrance to the Barclay Tower. He doesn’t know that—why. I do.
The Likeness of Bolsheviks
by Kevin Campbell
Over 1000 square feet to paint, to tug at the threads of the entire fabric. This will be no feckless mural, this will be history, present, and future.
The artist’s patron furrows his brow. He imagines himself a patron for all things. But really all things within reason. For behind his quixotic gloss lies a fragile scion, built on the corpses of striking Colorado coal miners.
The artist barks back “If you remove any of it, then destroy it all!”
Jeff was standing in the middle of the hallway in the empty house. His wife and kids had gone out for a walk in the park, to pretend for an hour life was normal. He picked his nose. He studied the greenish-yellow flake on his finger for a few seconds, then flicked it away. He didn’t see where it landed. He thought “Why does everyone feel so confined so quickly? There’s plenty of freedom to enjoy at home. Especially in small quantities.” Jeff went into the living room and lay naked on the dinner table for a while.
A Plague of Farmers
by Nan Wigington
Springtime, the farmer’s breath thrummed. A cold, he told his daughter.
In May, his breath was sticks breaking.
Next came sunburns, molting.
His daughter called a doctor.
“Farmers do that,” the doctor said.
The daughter didn’t say how the farmer had taken to chewing on the wheat, jaws working side to side, not up and down.
July, breath was like a band saw.
The daughter’s heart broke when she saw it, scapulas piercing his shirt, his flesh, wings emerging, furling, the crack as membranes stretched, hardened, how her father like a locust lifted, joined his people in the sky.
This week’s artwork is “Lotus” by Shadowlance
The Fates Watching Over John Henry
by David Henson
Tonight, John Henry, you’ll come no closer to sleep than watching it raise and lower your Lucy’s breasts. You will not understand why the moon weeps through the window and oils your shoulders for tomorrow. Why, this night, the stars seem heads of silver spikes only you can drive into the sky.
You carefully untangle straw that has leaked from the mattress into Lucy’s hair. We’ll leave after we grant you a snagged curl to awaken her.
But, John Henry, we must return when dawn hammers the horizon.
by Nicole Burton
When they would listen to her no other way, Echo learned to whisper in the ears of the pale-skinned gods who sat around boardroom tables. “You always have the best ideas,” she whispered to Pride when she took his coffee order. “If you invest, the company could never fail.”
Every day, she whispered daffodil words to him, and he unknowingly echoed her praise as if it were his own. “I think we should invest.”
Every day, she ran his errands and watched him turn her words into skyscrapers and gold, knowing they would never be hers.
by Phil Trafican
Once there was a rich man who walked with a limp. His town folk wanted to be rich, too and copied everything about him that they could. So, of course, every man, woman, and child began to walk with a limp. Even the dogs were hobbling around.
But then the rich man hired doctors who cured him of his limp. He could now walk fine while everyone else still limped for they had forgotten how to walk the right way and could not afford doctors. In the meantime, the rich man got even richer selling the town’s people crutches.
by Jago Furnas
Late in an empty dive bar, a beautiful girl hands your arse to you over the pool table and drives you home on the wrong side of the road with Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ blasting. Any pre-emptive performance anxiety is replaced with survival anxiety, which is kind of liberating. She makes sudden stops to roll cigarettes every few hundred meters. The two of you will laugh about this in ten years on the porch of your weatherboard house in Thornbury, as you make sure your beautiful kids have their helmets on before they ride their bikes around the block.
by DS Levy
Standing at his locker, he hears firecrackers and sees Billy Evans in his black trench coat. He touches his chest; his fingers, smeared in blood. Unlike the movies, he feels nothing—until he does, a searing spasm. The light fades as handfuls of Luna moths flutter out of his chest, wingtip-to-wingtip, and he hears Mr. Lewinski, his biology teacher, saying how they spend two weeks as eggs, six to seven weeks as larvae, and nine months as pupae before emerging as beautiful lime-green bodies, big as small plates with moon spots, and live for one short, but glorious week.
How It Was
by G.J. Williams
It’s so cold the stone weeps. Write that down, comrade; it’s all in the detail. It was so cold the stone wept. Walls. Put walls down too. Walls weep. It was so cold the walls wept. That’ll be us, comrade. It’s the tale they’ll tell. Make a note. How the walls wept, how the stone ran, as winter closed in. And how it was the writing hand turned blue. And wolves, don’t forget how we heard the wolves. We’ll hear them soon enough. Let it be known it was their call we died to. Make the moon full.
A serpent wraps back on itself and starts to swallow its tail having decided it was unhappy with how it got to where it was. It thought, “I’ll start here and eat my way back to the beginning so I can start all over again. The tail disengaged and wrapped itself around the head saying, “I’ve already seen the end and don’t want to sit through the movie again from the beginning.” The belly, sitting quietly in the middle of the conflict, laughed content to eat what was served.
This week’s artwork is by Shadowlance.
Blow Wind Blow
by Kevin Dardis
Tattooed from shoulder to sole, cute and clever, Emily was way out of my league. When the inevitable happened and she left me for someone else, my friends did not speak of my having been dumped, but of my relegation. Our relationship lasted fewer than six exhausting months, but I seriously struggled to find my balance once the whirlwind had twisted away to surround another. I had become used to leaning into the wind and when it suddenly stopped blowing in my direction, I fell face first, cutting my hands as I tried to soften my landing.
I’m still bleeding.
Daniel fell in love with Jacqui because she had an earthy femininity unusual for New York City. She gave birth to their children in an East Village apartment, sitting on the bathtub’s edge, pressing her hands hard into her thighs as she pushed out three babies in three years. A stainless steel mixing bowl had famously caught the placenta of the middle child. Daniel often served his prized Israeli salad in that bowl, recounting to their Friday night dinner guests the miracle of life, as he mixed diced cucumbers and tomatoes with a spoonful of fresh lemon juice.
by G.J. Williams
The moon is a liar. The lake is a liar. The sonata’s a liar. The glass is empty and the fog dull. Mother-tongue’s a liar. The house is a liar. The windows know it. Even the silence lies. Listen to it. You believe that? In THIS moonlight? By THAT lake? After SUCH music? I don’t think so. This house has had it with people. Listen to it. If that’s not empty, what is?
by Milton Swami Parraga
“You are the moon that orbits my planet.” Water droplets glided towards the Earth on her cool cheekbone. When I opened my eyes again, it had already passed. I didn’t stop myself from saying it. “Without you there is only darkness.”
On the train ride home, I put my earbuds away. The rain lulled my eyes shut. They would remain this way until the feeling faded. It was still palpable. The tincture of her lips.
by Alison Lowenstein
Sarah could track the trajectory of her life through lipsticks. Pastels to deep reds, colorfully tracing her passage from girlhood to adulthood. After three decades of makeup applications, she’s an expert at blending concealer over her wrinkles. She only feels confident after the makeup is smoothed into place.
Sarah once thought makeup enhanced her looks, but now she believes it’s the only thing left of her looks. Each morning, when she stares in the mirror Sarah doesn’t recognize the reflection until she blends in the foundation and adds colors to her eyelids. Once completed, she smiles back at the familiar face.
This week’s artwork is by Christine Duncan.
Even Though I Don’t Believe in Such Things
The room is ghost white then black again and the sky cracks with such violence the bed frame shakes. The rain thwacking wet against the glass sounds as if God himself is throwing drumfuls of it. The dog whines like she is heartbroken we deserve such punishment. She buries her nose under my feet, coveting more of the duvet from my side despite the neat, empty plentitude on yours. She’s still waiting for you. And even though I don’t believe in such things, if there was a night for ghosts, this would be it.
The Loved Ones
by Pratik Mitra
The under construction skyscraper could be seen from her slum. Lockdown delayed it’s work. Nights were still left to stay dark and mornings echoing with birds’ chirp. Things would change soon into a cacophony of halogen lights, metallic clanks, and screaming of exhausted men. She wondered while peeing just outside her hut under open sky for how long that pee would be able to go and fall into that disputed marshland on which the skyscraper was being built up. The only thing that she loved besides her body was that marshland and yet…
by David Henson
As we drive through the Illinois farmland we pass a coyote sprawled roadside I want to pull over get out pick up the broken teeth rattle them shout this is all you’ll ever hear from me we might as well put our lips to this growl only the asphalt can hear exhale the last breath of our marriage over this slab of tongue and into the flat sacks that were lungs and call someone to haul this poor beast away.
But a dead coyote’s a blink at sixty. We have more to do with the corn.
by Angelo Aita
He was infatuated with her when they first met, but as soon as they slept together he pulled away, though not before he said he’d love her until the world exploded, which was not technically a lie; and although she didn’t much like him, she became obsessed with his pulling away, i.e., reading into the late-night text messages he’d send (seemingly at the precise moment she’d begun to accept his pulling away) in hopes of continuing their sleeping together at an emotional distance he was comfortable with, ad infinitum.
After Her Daughter’s Suicide
by Molly Clark
She burned the dinner. She had spent hours preparing it, chopping the vegetables, caramelizing the onions, marinating the meat. She was responsible for feeding her family and the failure burst out of the fire extinguisher with a blast of cool death. A finalizing air. Her husband was disappointed; the party was ruined. Everyone went out to eat instead; they needed a meal she couldn’t destroy. She stayed home and scrubbed the pan.
by Ana Gardner
On opposite sides of the Atlantic, two titanic women played ping-pong with a little girl.
“You can have her this summer,” said one woman, paddling the girl across the ocean with a backhand spin.
The other paddled back. “Take her for Christmas, but I want her back in January.”
A serve went awry, once: the little girl fell in the ocean and swam by herself, in any direction she pleased, and she never wanted to go back.
This week’s artwork is by Shadowlance.
Coffee Shop Encounter
by Steve Bates
Dom remembered the first time he saw her two months ago, sitting alone when he came into the shop after moving to the city. He returned every Saturday, and she was always there. He’d nod, and she would smile. Today the place was crowded, people weaving and chattering like caged squirrels. His usual table was taken. When he asked if he could sit down, she said, “Alright, I’m leaving anyway.” It was the only time they’d spoken. As she walked toward the door Dom sipped his drink, then pulled out his phone to search for other coffee shops nearby.
by Benjamin Marr
The boy in the corner was visibly frightened. He shivered even though the fire roared just four feet away from him. Even after his mother wrapped him in a blanket, he continued to shake.
“This hot soup oughtta cure ya,” said the pirate at the stove. He wasn’t a real pirate. He was an old family friend who liked to dress as a pirate.
“Yes it shall,” a voice bubbled out of the soup. A tiny man swam to the surface. “Our whole village has never felt such warmth.”
The pirate sighed as his mind drifted back to sea.
by JR Walsh
There’s ways out of squabbles, even trapped in Nissans. The smallest bladder shall lead to salvation. Gas up first. Ask if chocolate will help. Two grunts for savory? Clenched jaws unclench. It’s the worst time to buy the amethyst rhinestone sword. Settle for a friction folder with bottle opener tang.
by Margret Wiggins
When you left you took the paintings and the blue chair. Half of the glasses, a shelf of books, a bottle of twenty-five-year-old whiskey. You took the Italian restaurant on the corner of 10th street and the ramen place on 2nd. The bar down the block, the museum, the coffee pot. You took entire neighborhoods. You left me plates I never liked and a sagging couch. Empty dressers and the sushi joint that gave you food poisoning. You left me the right side of the bed. But each night I stretch out, creeping over.
Change of Plan
by Keith Hoerner
Every time he checks the blueprints, something’s different. When he questions the architect, he sneers, as if to demand “What are ya talkin’ about bub; you were on board with the designs – just yesterday.” But upon today’s examination, the roofline has taken on a monstrous fortress-like appearance. Worse yet, each day, it continues to grow in strangeness. Now, as the house is complete, he does not question its organic shapeshifting. He lies in bed aware—as walls fold and floors slide around him. The house lives, takes on new forms, and against his will, locks its doors and windows.
Big in Japan
by Andrey Pissantchev
Sandra was already a nervous mess, but the pilot’s tinny voice sent her over the edge.
“Our slight diversion will take us over Japanese airspace. In a few minutes, you will be able to see the southern tip of Kyushu Island to our left.”
Sandra whispered to the stewardess, then pleaded, then shouted. Her fellow passengers found themselves having to restrain her as she yelled “we need to turn back” again and again.
It was all futile in the end. As they entered Japanese airspace, Sandra grew four times her size. The plane’s pieces rained all across the tranquil Pacific.
The boy is quick to sleep while her waking mind remains stubborn. Twilight through the window illuminates his long aquamarine locks. Its strands slide through her fingers like seawater sluicing—her mind floats to his snow globe gift.
“It’s Rome,” he’d said, knowing she loves traveling.
Beneath the dome, Santorini’s blue roofs mimic its turquoise waters. She knows she’ll never witness the whitewashed walls or feed the island’s famous feral felines with the boy as he’d promised, which was fine.
Because she would again feel the sea on her fingers—sure as she feels his silky hair at that moment.
by DB Cox
A passing breeze lifts dead leaves and scatters them over a tattered rag doll lying beneath the statue of a bronze soldier—forever frozen in an intrepid pose of war movie bravado.
Summer tourists stare at the pathetic apparition wrapped in an army overcoat, nose-down in a pool of piss. Baptized—purified–crucified in the mute humility of his own guilt. An unconscious monument tangled in green, triple-canopy dreams. While inside crusty ears, the noise of city traffic hums like a Huey. Spectral MedEvac searching for a soul—lost more than fifty years ago, somewhere along the Mekong river.
by R.T. Raynaud
Despite what it looks like, the old mental hospital isn’t that scary of a place. Sure, every so often, groups of people will come out of the surrounding woods to attack me. But, they aren’t that hard to kill.
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why they always seem so focused on taking selfies and writing things on the wall in spray paint. It makes it too easy to get the jump on them.
Not that I’m complaining, of course. They always make sure there is plenty to eat around here.
It’s not that difficult to get things into the ground, my grandma had told me every spring. It’s getting them to come back up, to reach for the sun, that was the hard part. I hoped she was right, and that what I’d just buried would never see daylight.
Dinner alone was strange, but something I felt I could get used to. I was draining a second glass of wine when I heard the thunderclaps, followed by the rush of a murderous downpour.
Time will tell, my grandma would have said. I sincerely pray it doesn’t say a word.
by Tim Goldstone
She keeps a dream in which she looks out of a window onto a wide avenue where a hundred yards away uniformed men are advancing, smashing their way into every house they pass. There are charred, smoking tree stumps down both sides of the avenue. She has a baby in her thin arms. Two hours old. The only way out is the front door. She clamps the baby to her and runs out into the avenue. Freezing wind shakes her eyes. She gasps and runs towards the horizon. They fire. She wakes. She knows others who didn’t.
by Voula Labos
She saw herself in New York City.
Sawing through the moving bodies, toward her destination, coffee cup in hand, mint suede shoes, try to not get stepped on, nearly unavoidable at 7:54 on a Monday morning, but it was all in the attempt.
The rain, the shoes all muddied, coffee spilled, burning, and she was two and a half minutes late but it was New York and not okay but half expected and was what you had to do to be a part of the city and she’d gladly trek through quicksand to continue with this life.
by Kent Oswald
Never believing his mother’s repeated reassurances he was just a late bloomer, Mark had always regretted what seemed a burden of terminal normalcy until the day he hid from work in a toilet stall and timed himself reading Victor Hugo’s “Les Miserables” for an hour and three minutes. Thinking “who else would do that?” he resumed his accounting with unbridled optimism, unaware—and finally with no concern—that nobody else noticed nor cared.
Under The Eight-Mile Bridge
by DB Cox
Most nights he slept in the silent space between freights that rolled overhead like a storm. Rocking concrete pillars planted along hidden fault lines—under the eight-mile bridge. Where gods spoke through broken wine bottles and drunken-tongued stumble-bums coughed up old tales that colored the air blue. Haunted faces, like hopeless ghosts, tallying old mistakes under the eight-mile bridge.
His mind was gone when they brought him back to the county home—where he lies under nights too quiet staring up, restless and confused, wondering what happened to the thunder under the eight-mile bridge.
Dish towers sway beside ornithology magazines; a shoe gathers mold in the sink. He tries to be better, like a skunk trying to fly. Junk-winnowings, selective, sparing more than he trashes. Useful items, never used. Still, mail lurks in the bathroom, pamphlets avalanche the unwary—his wife mourns old checks, dated 30 months prior—artifacts from the past, never cashed.
“Let’s see a couple’s therapist,” she says. They don’t. Instead, when they drive to the city two years later, it’s to meet a divorce lawyer, who draws up the paperwork her husband later shoves into the gap behind the sofa.
Silver Years Self-Discovery
by Laxmi Vijayan
Didn’t have the cash nor the courage to leave country, so I kept my ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ near Virginia. My granddaughter says local is en vogue.
I ate my way to my stomach, and through its lining, at them Korean places? It was authentic cuz none o’ them understood a word I said.
Y’know, I meant to find God at that temple in West Virginia. But He wasn’t worth driving through 200 miles of mountain roads, so I settled for Buddha at Luray Caverns.
At my age, I can find love right here, playin’ board games at the Senior Center.
by Maggie Childers
Oh, who am I when I listen to vinyl? My old boorish vinyl—the stories behind these records must be rich and telling! Oh, who am I when I gingerly flip through these stories, pressing them onto my player? Some 70’s song playing intricately in the background, surely the soundtrack to a movie! A glimpse into this room is a glimpse into a cinema. A film of a girl with a record player plays under stars, under bed comforters, under parents’ arguments. She believes in this song. This dance. This subtle nod at all that’s happy. Amongst a wretched summer.
by David Henson
She dreams moonlight turns to frost in his lungs, and he scrapes his breath from the mirror when he shaves, coughs up hail.
His shivering awakens her, his body spooned to hers. She piles blankets. So cold, he says, darkness separating him from his voice. A shiver slithers up her spine. She tries to make her thoughts July.
After he’s gone, she looks through memories on his phone, finds a photo of herself standing near the water, whitecaps riding her shoulders. Her face is shadowed, and her head blocks the sun, its light flaring through her hair.
by Yash Seyedbagheri
Cynicism never abandons you.
It’s easy to laugh at smiles and contemplate what pills people take to induce jocundity.
It’s even easier to laugh at Mercedes and BMWs, imagine that some so-called family man is compensating for extramarital affairs. He doesn’t know his kids’ favorite bands or wife’s worst days.
It’s very easy to dissect Leave It To Beaver reruns.
Ward’s beating Wally and Beaver off-screen. June plans to abandon them, plans disguised within starched smiles and nicknames.
At dusk, I absorb long bursts of tangerine, pale blue, and lavender. I almost smile.
But there are layers beneath clouds too.
by Rebecca Ford
He knew the importance of fastidiously picking out his clothes each morning. Crisp tangerine shirt, ironed khaki shorts and matching orange shoes donned with a crisp and donning a gray tweed ascot cap. Moisturize. Reflection. Reflect. He grabbed his gray Irish terrier, locked the door and went out for his walk. This is what kept him from falling into tatters. He had been fractured once. His body – limp and lifeless. Enraged and polarized. His skin had sagged. His bones had crumbled and his organs and fallen into themselves. Turned to powdery ash. Of course he knew this at the time.
Jon the Watchman
by Harman Burgess
After many years of experimenting Jon has managed to capture the nature of time within himself.
He did it with rubber bands.
The true meaning of each second writhes around inside Jon’s stomach like a hungry serpent trying to devour its own tail.
It is quite uncomfortable.
Space, responding to time, acts on Jon’s body; folding his physical form in on itself in a mandala of cosmic light.
This is also uncomfortable.
The movement of Jon’s consciousness is one with time. It ticks forward from hour to hour with the world changing around it. All Jon can do is watch.
by Nydiir E’ries
No one would rescue him now. Blue veins protested to the surface like lightning breaking out of the clouds. This was a reminder of life’s cruel torment. Rocking, he watched the sky and eavesdropped on the conversations around him.
“Ma, we did miss you.”
“Driving down is hard.”
“I want to go home.”
“Will you disappear like Grandpa?”
“Why is that old man sitting alone?”
“His family will visit.”
“Ol’ man ain’t go’ no family.”
“Who would leave him alone during the holidays?”
“Should be, ‘what’d the ol’ man do ta be left ‘lone?’”
Long Term Storage
by Cara Nighohossian
Lisa’s new neighbor, Marcy, sat on the bed chattering about swings and highchairs. Lisa opened the closet to arrange her sweaters on the shelf and noticed a black dress. As she grasped the old wooden hanger, her fingers brushed the fabric. An arm appeared in the sleeve, pulling her inside the closet, inside the dress. From her black lace prison, Lisa saw herself smiling, hand atop belly, coveralls spattered with blue paint. She screamed. Nothing. Marcy prattled on, oblivious.
New Lisa leaned forward, whispering, “Thank you. I’ve been waiting such a long time.” The door creaked on its hinges. Darkness.
by Alexis Gkantiragas
Today is the day! After only two years, I’ve officially been promoted to volunteer at my firm! No more paying to work – I’m breaking even at only 26.
Maybe my parents will let me have my room back now they don’t have to rent it out to cover my employment. Goodbye futon!
by David Klotzkin
When I was a kid, my father read me a novel about lost explorers in the Brazilian jungle. A native boy saved their lives repeatedly but the explorers sailed back to Europe without him, leaving him to the jungle.
I was thunderstruck by the cruelty of the author who left the boy there! I wrote my own ending on the flyleaf, where the explorers civilized the native and brought him to England, and he became a famous soccer player.
Just a generation later, my daughter found the book and asked, what Eurocentric cultural elitist wrote on the flyleaf?
The Turquoise Typewriter
by Liz Dickinson
The turquoise typewriter was not bequeathed to me,
but donated after your house clearance.
“We thought you’d like this,” not,
“She’d have wanted you to have this.”
A gift of vintage typography, in lieu of love.
At my wedding, you refused to sit at the top table.
“I’m not family, seat me near the fire exit.”
I picture you, typing on your keys,
And I wonder, upon seeing my long, piano fingers,
you knew then, I was not worthy
of your typewriter.
When my piano fingers type, I hear music in the typeface:
The reciprocation of an unsolicited gift.
Four Hours More
by Jenna Baker
Shifting on the mattress, she contemplates when she’ll fit in dissertation edits with an overflowing satchel of unmarked essays.
Before sunrise, she smooths concealer under her eyes, blending stress into skin.
Now, Miss Berkley claps, requesting peace from pre-teens. Instead: “She did what?” “Why is this assignment dumb?” “Restroom, please?”
Counting questions off on fingers, she answers. “Don’t care, it has real-world relevance, not till I’m done with instructions.”
Aubrey sneaks over to her cluttered desk while pencils scratch paper. “Your dress is pretty.”
Smiling, she silently thanks the Big Man for small compliments. “Your work’s finished?”
“I got bored.”
by Ken Poyner
He sets his laughter down, but never out of reach. He has harvested a goodly mass of laughter for one day. He has been thinking all morning that for days which are this productive, he should start carrying handled sacks. Yes, two or three sacks in each hand. No more stacking the laughter and stuffing it under an arm. He looks over at the two girls on the next bench. He makes a droopy face and they begin to smile. He wiggles his ears and they begin the tiniest of giggles. He thinks, this is almost too easy.
by Ron Hartley
People at the nursing home said her whistled renditions of Lutheran hymns were always on key. She walked out naked except for a bathrobe and slippers, unnoticed by attendants overwhelmed with Covid-19. She moved like an automaton on low batteries, emitting squeaky whistles like she needed a lube job; then jaywalking back and forth, causing a van to swerve and smash into a parked car.
“Nutcase,” the driver screamed.
“Meant no harm,” she said. “Just looking for a house on a mountain where I was born. Lots of piano-playing there,” she said, “and songs of praise are most often sung.”
by Adam Chabot
During our daily walk, Colton admires everything in the quiet cul-de-sac: the yellow dandelions in our front yard, the concrete sidewalk marred by snow plows, the oscillations of water from the sprinkler in Mr. Heward’s lawn. Colton turned three last month.
He finds a sewer grate in the street. He’s examined it before but today he squats and gazes into its darkness.
“Circles,” he exclaims pointing at the holes.
“No, squares, buddy.”
“Oh. Squares,” he echoes.
With this, he tugs on the strings around his ears. He’s learned not to fight me about the mask anymore.
Our walk commences.
Business as Usual
by Brooks C. Mendell
“Got this buddy,” said Miller. “Used to wear corduroys with lobsters on them.”
“I know who he is,” I said. “Heard he screwed the high school French teacher.”
“No idea,” I said. “But with him, you think it could’ve happened.”
“That’s him,” said Miller. “He heard you have a quarter-ton pickup that nobody’s using.”
“Well, he got that body disposal grant from the county,” said Miller. “So, he’s huntin’ a spare truck.”
“Happy to talk to him.”
“Great,” said Miller, not moving.
“We’ll cut you in, don’t worry.”
Miller winked over his mask and walked away.
This week’s artwork is “Writer at Work” by Chuck Taylor
by Yash Seyedbagheri
Once, we called people coming to the hills visitors.
Virus spreads. They’re invaders. Carriers.
Beige RVs and trucks rolling resemble tanks.
We defend the market. Wrap ourselves in the royal we. Sterilize, stock toilet paper. We don’t see frightened families, young couples wearing naked impulse and fear.
Invasions are easier.
by Ursula Hoult
Her perfect paw pushes the coupon over the real estate ads. “25%-off premium cat food”.
Pandora is the adult in our relationship. I’m the one who buys lattes and smashed avocado on toast. She’s the one who cancels the Netflix subscription because we don’t use it anymore.
I know she has a goal. She hasn’t been happy in our fifth-floor apartment for some time. When I watch her at the window, her whiskers twitch and sometimes she mutters “Birds” under her breath.
Under the coupon is an ad – “two bedrooms + garden”. Pandora tells me we now have enough.
by Jeffrey Griffiths
Grandpa’s face pointed out to the ravine that dropped beyond the street and lawn and picture window to a dirty creek that my uncle once saved a drowning friend from. The grass was brown and the sky was grey. I saw a gold foil wrapped Easter egg on the window sill behind the Jade plant that my sisters must have missed four weeks ago. Grandpa touched his chest, two fingers between the buttons of his pajama shirt where white tape and gauze covered the opening that would, if given time, become a bumpy pink line.
by Jeff Burt
Listening to sirens, I stood on my good leg, dislocated leg held up like a triangle, sole of right foot stuck to the knee of my left, making the number 4. The sun had turned my skin a brilliant pink. Lips cracked and bleeding, each word had become a razor.
Riding a bicycle furiously towards me, smiling, was Walter Schenk, naked, holding a glinting silver suitcase, sunglasses atop his head.
We had stolen forest and river, made a fortune and lost it. The DEA was burning the crop.
But we had the seeds. That was all that mattered.
The Reverse Curse
by David Henson
The reverse vampire is cursed with a body that produces too much blood. It swells his veins till he feels about to burst like a balloon full of tomato juice. When he can stand it no more, he draws the excess, filling his syringes. Men and women awaken the next morning with a single puncture in the neck and a flush in their cheeks. He returns again and again, bringing them to the point of aneurysm, wishing them no harm, but obsessed with finding the one who can take all he has to give.
A Wish Come True
by Suzanne Samuels
“Make a wish,” Mother says.
Always, the same one. But when I try to blow the candles out, I start to cough. Pappa leans in, pinching the wick of each tiny flame.
I cut the ribbon. Unwrap the gift. A castle. Rapunzel, in the witch’s tower. Belle, in Beast’s mansion. Me, in this body.
I see the problem right away. The castle is cardboard. Hardly indestructible.
But I let my fingers meander along the drawbridge. The turret. The walls. This is a castle. A haven, for as long as it lasts. In that moment, there’s wholeness. A wish come true.
by James Gaskin
I could not sleep there long. Too many things that were not mine. Every door exposed more bones. A cabinet of used cups. A drawer overflowing with silverware. First timers never want to share.
Towns like these take a dozen of us each coming of the snows. We come from places where no-one knows our names. One cycle of the seasons and we’re gone. The possessions gathered are always too heavy to move.
We all end up here, in walls like these. Every room looks alike. Sooner or later, we learn not to bring anything with us at all.