by Ken Poyner
Six yellow dogs consider the long dirt road. There is the porch, the water trough, the food bowl, the dirt road. Grass comes and goes along the dirt road’s edges. Too few cars for six dogs. Too few cars for four dogs. Too few cars for two dogs. One dog would not feel slighted by the lack of cars. He could dream what he wanted to dream, rolling in his somnambulant readiness on the careless porch boards. The color of that dream would not matter. He might dream of six dogs, of being the one dog worthy of a car.
by Anastasia Kirchoff
“I named her Bessie!” He says, pointing a small finger.
I don’t tell my son that Bessie is more of a cow’s name than a goat’s. “Pretty,” I say instead. Tufts of their dichromatic winter coats have begun to shed, littering the pen in discarded heaps. Soon my hair will be like that—scattered detritus. Unlike the goats, I will not grow springtime fat. Though I suppose we are both near to slaughter.
But not quite yet.
“Let’s check on the chickens.” I watch his chubby legs carry him away, trusting that Bessie will be there tomorrow.
by Esther Zigman
Cucumber scented curls tickle my lip as my toddler falls asleep in my arms. The corkscrew curls that bounce happily when she runs, and glow chestnut brown in the sun. The ones that compel strangers to comment.
“What beautiful hair!” they say.
We smile. I thank them.
“Too bad it’s a pain in the ass to manage.”
She doesn’t understand, so she keeps smiling. She brings that smile home; the one that goes all the way up to her eyes.
One day she’ll understand. That day she’ll bring home tears.
And hair irons.
She’ll borrow them from me.
by Howie Good
A woman named for a dead grandmother crossed her arms across her chest in a conscious attempt to hide her trembling. She thought the birds up in the trees sounded like they were asking, “Hey, you all right?” Most of her communications with the world were strained or superficial. It took a while before she realized that everything she was interested in saying was contained somewhere in a book. Now when she closes her eyes, she can see flowers, fire creatures, viruses leaping from the cracked tarmac. She hesitates to call them visitors. More like chasing pink, she found red.
by Ran Walker
Terry continued to unwind his kite as it sailed higher and higher against the burnt orange of the sunset. Coltrane, his Lab, had given up chasing after it, choosing instead to trot along the coastline, its paws tracking the sand like musical notes.
That evening Terry would get his weekly phone call from his mother and how she worried about him being single at his age. But she couldn’t see the sunset, the kite drifting toward the violet of dusk, or Coltrane nestling against his calves as he stood there with the sand between his toes.
He was just fine.
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This week’s artwork is “I Had a Bad Dream” by W. Jack Savage.
by Lynn Mundell
She had no feeling for the color; it barely registered. Then it was everywhere. The newborn with his jaundiced, puckered face. The buttery sunlight the nurse held him up to, that set his amber down ablaze. The lemon her husband had painted the nursery, until her mother claimed the color agitated babies. Then the egg white with a hint of honey on the freshly painted walls. The rubber duck, the sodden diapers, the pureed squash, all saffron. And her own fear, that something would steal away this golden happiness, became the darkest shade of all—a stinging wasp, a poison.
by Len Kuntz
In the locker room he lit a small tuft of tobacco.
“It’s not okay to smoke in here,” I said.
“You a fireman now?”
“You shouldn’t be smoking at all.”
“Now you’re my wife?”
“Listen,” I said, feeling brave, “how about we go grab a drink?”
His eyes dropped to my shorts, and I felt myself blush.
“You might want to take care of that first,” he said.
I turned toward the locker, stared into the gray, metal slits. I counted backwards from one hundred in my mind. By the time I got to zero, he was gone.
One in the Eye
by Clay Greysteel
The bullet entered his eye socket, tore through brain matter, and exited the back of his skull. The police arrived first to find his sobbing wife and a gun in his limp hand. They thought maybe it was a suicide attempt as they administered first aid, but a bullet in the eye was a choice they’d never seen before. As he recovered in the hospital, they asked him what happened. “Was just checkin’ to see if it was loaded,” he said.
by Lauri Rose
The deer remember where the lettuce grew last year. They still go searching for it, their bright black noses snuffing the dirt for something that no longer grows there. Tender lettuce is good spring and summer fare. But in the fall the deer will want the life-sustaining acorns. I fed you acorns also, but it did no good. You left me anyway, despite the hours spent pounding brown nuts to mush. Now, I miss your broad shoulders in the morning and there is no one to remind me why I love the first daffodil so much.
by Rachel Warren
Isaac was not his real name. He knew this. But he’d learned in the last few days not to argue the point. Carol, the woman claiming to be his wife was buckling him into the passenger side of her car. Both of his arms were broken. He couldn’t do it himself. She smiled as his buckle clicked. That fake smile she’d been using ever since the look of horror wore off after he stopped insisting Isaac was not his name. Everything about her—her hair, her eyes, the scent of her shampoo—all of it entirely unfamiliar. This car, unfamiliar.
How Was She to Know?
by Shreyasi Majumdar
The Indonesian’s “rare reticulated python” sales pitch was totally unnecessary – it was love at first sight. A 16-foot long beauty, it became a coiled up marvel that made its home in a sheltered corner of her house. Placid and inert, it would lay there, its Sauronese eyes watching intently. Through the wedding and when the baby came, it watched unblinking, a mute spectator. One afternoon, as she lazed on the patio, it uncoiled. Muscles rippled. Somewhere in the dim recesses of her tired mind, she heard a baby cry. When the crying stopped, she drifted into a deep, dreamless sleep.
by Nancy Nguyen
On a rainy afternoon, I received a care package at my new house. It was at my doorstep, the size of an abandoned infant. I left it next to the bare coat rack. Even after the rain stopped and the sun dried everything up, the box stayed drenched for days. A briny smell permeated every room. When the smell became too much, I opened the package to find an electric blanket, a humidifier, and a broken bottle of fish sauce. I called my mother for the first time in a year.
by D. Quentin Miller
Staring through a diner window, late at night, humidity heavy, contemplating something self-harmful. Trying to remember when she felt this exact feeling, because she has, but it hasn’t been on a night like this when her lover dumped her. Gnawing on a ragged fingernail. Spitting out a microshred, a sliver of herself, onto the sidewalk damp from the thundershowers. Aware of a man in the diner staring at her. Fumbling through her purse and finding her rape whistle and putting it in her mouth, but not blowing it, just leaving it there, like an unlit cigarette, just in case.
Mostly Straight But…
by Anne Wilding
The thought of coffee with her is enough, pushes me face down on the sofa, on my back, my side. I find myself, I think, on the floor. The ceiling, floor and walls collide with want. I’ll be late and she won’t know why. My head in a corner has time to think Need to dust before there is only pleasure and my body. Hands and clothes and head reeking pheromones, I’m giddy out the door, dreamy on the bus, but arrive on time. She smiles. “You’ve cobwebs in your hair.” And runs her fingers through the dusty remains.
by Phil Temples
I hop on the bus and grab my favorite seat. It looks like the same bus. It smells like it. Yeah, this is the same goddamn bus. I put my hand under my seat and feel around. There! I find the same wad of chewing gum from yesterday. I could continue to chew it. Or I could stick it someplace else. Friday, I unbuttoned my blouse and exposed my left tit to everyone behind me. No one even noticed. They were too busy texting or looking at Facebook. What’s a girl got to do to get noticed?
Artwork: “City Garden” by Kyle Hemmings
by Sarah Vernetti
She could barely see her neighbor’s yard. She had to open the blinds all the way and stand just so: over to the right side of the window, hugging the wall while looking sideways. But the view felt unavoidable. She wanted to spend more time in her own backyard, checking on the cacti, pruning the lantana, watching hummingbirds flit in and out of the spires of autumn sage. But her job, her role, had become inseparable from herself, and so she stood each morning, pressing her chest against the textured drywall. Waiting patiently, reporting to no one.
by Michael Jagunic
He laid his forehead against the backseat window and undid his bow tie. Beside him, she cradled the smashed up layer cake in her lap like a dead baby.
“We can fix this,” she whimpered, trying to convince herself. “We can still fix this.”
He feared the same thing that she did: that life was crumbly, that some things cannot be fixed. So he reached for her arm and gave it a squeeze. “I know.”
The cabbie, a real professional, suffered their boozy nonsense in silence.
by Chad Greene
Doubt that anyone on the streetcar clattering across the steel bridge noticed us at the edge of the river, let alone the circle of empty Pabst cans we had arranged around the base of the white cross. I had loved him the most; that’s why I left the tallboy. It towered over the 12-ouncers everyone else had left.
A Song Before Dying
by C.C. Russell
The twang of another guitar through another bridge bringing us back again to the familiar chorus. Someone says “Didn’t we just leave this party?” as a joke, but it falls flat. Outside, over the music, we can hear them scratching their way through the trees. We can hear them coming; closer every second. No one thinks to reach over and turn off the stereo. No one thinks of anything that could save us.
by Marc D. Regan
That ubiquitous moon lights dark heavens and reflects now as it did then: the burning hole in me; my corrupted innocence and the lengths to which the word love could be stretched. When my back was no longer able to bear that shameful weight, I shed bloodied sheets and a childhood of midnight lies. But after five years, I still cannot outrun that moon.
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