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.
This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz.
Not Enough Yesterdays
by Christopher P. Mooney
Come in for a cup of tea? I ask, unreasonably pleased when she says she will. I let the bag stew for longer than she likes, knowing it will mean more time.
While she drinks it, I want to ask her to remember that during all of this, whatever this is, I am loving her. And that she loved me, too.
Afterwards, when she’s gone, again, I’m glad I didn’t say anything, didn’t ask. Because the awkward pity in her eyes – that used to see me – and in her words – that used to tell me – would have been too much.
A Peaceful Jane
by Raymond Sloan
Her complexion was busy in loud, uneven colour. The dress on looked musty and flooded her body. The room rung of a thick hush of condolences that Jane’s husband relished in behind the grief.
On cue, his eyes welled. Sorrow swelled. Words choked in the middle of a memory as he put aside his lies, affairs, the years of misery he put her through, to play the distraught husband.
Stopping to take the scene in for a moment, a feeling of betrayal arose when he realised every photo surrounding him was missing the one thing she now wore.
by John Barrett Allen
He inhabits the Invisible when his heart stops. No hovering over his hospital bed to gawk in shame at his whiskey-wasted body; no ambling down a bright corridor toward miraculously healed Becky, who offers a forgiving embrace. No. Instead, he wanders in fog-drenched darkness until his shin bumps metal. A rowboat’s stern. A river’s lapping edge. Infinite vessels, gloriously lit, the redeemed faithfully pulling the oars. Impatient, he clambers over the hull and everything disappears. He falls and flattens until a hard light pierces his tear-soaked eyes. Doctor says, relieved: “He’s back.” Another voice, Becky’s, agitated, follows: “Not your boat.”
At the Dinner Table
by Emanuel Hind
Scotch eggs, Cara surmised, furry and orange as they are, must one day hatch into highland cows, for they were very similarly clad and she was a very logical eight-year-old. Avocados, too, were surely the ova of fearsome scaly lizards. Naturally, then, an ordinary supermarket egg, brown and smooth, could never come from a feathery, squawking chicken: the two seemed nothing alike. Contemplating her thesis, her gaze fell to her hands, her arms. Brown. Smooth. Realisation. A canon of shrieks, a violent crash as the floor shattered the plate. That was the last egg her fork would ever touch.
Just like Weldon Kees
by Jim Doss
Class, that’s what he’d call it, seersucker suit, fedora with brim turned down, half-smoked cigarette between his lips, surveying Alcatraz at sunrise, plotting his escape into another life. The party ran late that night. One of the last to leave, he drove the opposite direction from home toward the Golden Gate, his keys left in the ignition to seed the mystery. Did he possess the courage to jump, his body drawn by anonymous currents out into the Pacific? Or did he swap identities, namelessly crossing the Mexican border, a gringo tolerating no questions? The trail of butts leads us nowhere.
by Janine Muster
The storm lifts the cover off their unfinished porch and blows down the ladder Hector had used to fix the roof. The sudden noise makes Elsa almost drop her bishop. Hector, ignoring her attack on his queen, moves his knight.
Elsa can hear the drops. Then something warm rolls down her back. She shivers.
“I thought you fixed it?” She takes Hector’s queen.
“Yes.” Hector takes her rook. “Chess.”
“Why is it still coming through the ceiling?” Elsa’s hand trembles as she moves her king.
“It mustn’t be the rain then.” Hector calmly traps her king with his rook. “Checkmate.”
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.
It’s Not Really the End of the World, Is It?
by Roger Haydon
This apocalypse doom thing really, really has to stop. Like now. My alter egos (yes, them, all of them) keep telling me that the world’s going to end. Without saying a date so I can’t prepare, the bastards. And then it doesn’t. I can’t trust them, liars and time thieves.
So, I’m outwaiting them. I’ve locked my bedroom door, closed the curtains, stacked the pot noodles, put on the headphones, turned up the music and I’m staying here until they turn up and tell me for sure, no messing. That was a month ago. I’m still waiting.
This Message Cannot Be Delivered
by Yash Seyedbagheri
“Old friends’ emails become inactive, enveloped by electronic monsters. My message cannot be delivered, electronic gatekeepers proclaim.
I can’t tell them of being alone. I can’t hear their off-color jokes about paraplegics and suicide, youth at its most delightfully stupid. Tell them of empty, sterile walls. I can’t confess I absorbed their stories of family, an electronic voyeur.
I keep trying. Messages come back.
I drive to distant homes. But staring through lit windows, I feel like a magazine, an obnoxious knickknack among order and precision. I imagine them discarding jokes, smiles replaced by starched replicas.
This message isn’t delivered.
by Louise Worthington
A piece of sheep’s wool snags on barb-wire. It remains there suspended, moving in the wind soundless, detached from its whole, a gentle reminder of what’s been and gone.
Mary pulls her wool coat tighter as the wind plays with her grey hair. January twelfth is the worst day of the year, her older sister’s birthday.
The barb wire is sharp and cold. It takes minutes to free the wool. Mary remembers the sound of her sister’s giggles as the wool tumbles and rolls along the grassy bank, skipping along until it submerges in the stream, succumbing to its end.
Graves with Periscopes
by Jim Doss
The needle in his arm injected a rush of white lightning throughout his body. First warmth, then a kaleidoscope of hallucinations overtook him, both terrifying and thrilling. Like other junkies, he slept the day off beneath park hedges, begged food and dollars in lucid moments, shot up at sunset, often found himself wandering miles from the park. Tonight he staggered past skeleton-shaped churchyard trees, tombstones rising into townhouses. The dead watched as his body separated at every joint, fell to the ground in pieces. His mother’s eyes blinked disapprovingly, as she silently swept up the mess she’d created in life.
What I Sow, Another Reaps
by Mark Reels
One spring morning, they told me the chemo had stopped working.
I spent the rest of the day planting pumpkins with my grandson.
We felt and smelled the warm dirt on our fingers.
We dreamed of the huge orange jack-o-lanterns that I wouldn’t see.
I taught him how to scoop out seeds from the mess inside and roast them with salt and cayenne.
Why would a dying man plant a garden he wouldn’t harvest?
Well, we also talked about saving some seeds to plant next year.
And maybe Abe will remember the day he planted pumpkins with Papa.
by Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon
Woodland trees spread proud, extend gnarled limbs. Wet winds prise leaves apart to stroke strong thighs. Breeze blown branches bathe as daylight dims; knotted rings fix fast amid old arboreal sighs. Lichen greens arched cracks and bark thickens, grey-ridged over stricken tree-trunk hearts. Hope crinkles each pillared hunk, to quicken wooden sentience. Meandering, splintered roots join separate lives; shared aquifers soak absences to meet in life-after-life. Still, Ents remember to yearn for their wives and blossom absorbs their cries. Connections recycle beyond memory and simple eyesight. Love moves along ancient pathways, far wider than tribes marooned in static silos realise.
by Brittany Hause
“It’s a sheep,” said Mike.
“A unicorn,” Seb insisted. Squinting at the creature before them, he added, “Male sheep are rams.”
“A ram, then,” Mike conceded, “but nothing magical. It’s just missing a horn.”
Seb’s eyes gleamed. “Right! So how many horns does it have?”
“The spell calls for unicorn blood. Uni-corn: one-horn! This is it! The final ingredient!”
In the face of such unwarranted enthusiasm, Mike caved.
“All right,” he told the vendor. “We’ll take this one.”
Seb beamed in triumph even as Mike muttered, “You better be ready to eat mutton for a month.”
This week’s artwork is “Piety and Supplication, With Fishes, Sharks and Letting Agents” by Julian Cloran.
Katie Anne Dour’s, Tiny Family Snow Globe
by Dan A. Cardoza
She’s conflicted. If she insists the lights off, will that be seen as a compromise? Katie won’t be punished for sleeping in layers of sweat-soaked bedclothes and blankets. Mother is aware she’s not a sweet Vidalia onion. Sure she’s upset about school grades and fighting. They call her Sour Lemon Dour. But, that’s not the reason. Katie will be punished for making it snow all night. Mother says, “How dare you expect a perfect summer with all that white noise?” There’s not a vengeful bone in her body. There are none. Katie Dour is a delicate, porcelain dolly.
by Calvin Yorick
The gray beast is gnarled all over like dead bark. It sits in the sky over moonlit ruins and the tattered masts of shipwrecks. It sings. Branchlike limbs swings concentrically in a silent dance, and a great, tangled head quivers in a gentle orbit away from the rising moon, humming softly. Electrically. We fall to fatigue; this ghastly birdsong bids us to sleep. And in dreams overgrown with sunflowers we wake to the firelit shores of an empty city, waiting eternally for morning and the inevitable nightmare which follows.
by David Henson
A tattoo battleship plowed the gray on his chest. He hoisted an anchor on each arm. An eagle stretched from wing to wing of his shoulders.
One day we found a blacksnake. He grabbed a hoe, and we chose between watching the body flop in the grass or his cat eating the head in his lap.
After his wife died, he spent every evening in an old caned chair, told us he let the stars fly out of his eyes to their places.
That last night he surprised us when he laid back his head and flew out with them.
by Abigail Skinner
I stood there, feeling the crisp breeze prick against my open and exposed heart. And she laughed.
“Right,” I said. I snapped my ribs back into place and tugged at the muscle. Slipped back into my skin. “Heh, you’re right.” Covered now, but not enough. The wind still cut through. I threw on a shirt.
She chuckled. I kept adding layer after layer. A sweater. A flannel. A hoodie. A coat. Finally, a windbreaker. Too late. The wind was already inside me, the chill deep to my bones.
She sobered. “Wait, were you serious?”
Gone for a Song
by Simon Barron
From his lofty banyan perch, a honey-creeper struck up in joy and expectation, for the time was ripe. Notes fell like diamonds sprinkled on the air. Swelling, he pushed the gallant question further.
The island, bounded by sullen seas, gave no like return. Yet there was life enough, with furtive cats and sportive rats and braying goats in pens.
Another interloper – a solitary ecologist – sat on a log-pile near the banyan and wept to hear the exquisite song fall about her. She knew what the honey-creeper couldn’t.
He sang all day, and never so well.
by Roger Haydon
From the other side of the ornate doorway, I thought I saw a house with open shutters, lights on and smoke curling from chimneys. I heard voices, saw figures talking and laughing, saw a manicured garden, neat lawns and bright flowers and children playing. And then, eagerly, I stepped through.
Now, standing in a shell of scarred walls pierced by empty windows and vacant corridors, the fine rain turns the rubble to mud and tears sting my cheeks. I can see sunlight on the other side but don’t know if I can go back or if I should even try.
This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz
Back to the Beach
by Joseph Yenkavitch
Maria sat stiffly on the multi-colored blanket leaning back on both arms her right foot fidgeting into the warm beach sand. Her husband, one hand holding onto little Grace, ran into the water while the more independent Kathy splashed nearby. Maria watched as the turquoise water encircled the children’s bodies. She sat upright as the waves climbed and lifted them. Catching her husband dreamily gazing out to sea, her hand grabbed a knot of cloth. Kathy waved as frothy water covered her. Maria leaped up remembering how Bobby had waved going under. But Kathy surfaced with a squeal of laughter.
Standing on Air
by Andrew C. Hartford
It was dark inside the prison yard despite the morning sun. Dressed in another’s Sunday best, Jeb Sanders trod heavily up the scaffold steps. No crowd had come, only the law and the faith, the latter of which was represented by a lone figure standing before the trapdoor. Moving to his spot, he made a quick study of the priest. Pale, baby-faced, the leather spine of his bible uncracked. His holy garb, though clean, was too long and fell past his feet, giving off the impression that he was floating. “Hey” Jeb said, “Mind showing me how you do that?”
A Slow Demise
by Seminare Ta’afua
My eyes opened yet the darkness did not go away. I lifted my head but it bumped into the ceiling. I moved my feet but could not bend my knees any more than a few degrees. Turning was also obstructed. I realized my demise and start to feel my tears roll down into my ears. I knew yelling wouldn’t help but impulsively- maybe by fear- I screamed out as loud as I could. I maneuvered my arms to allow for prime pounding position and proceeded to hit the coffin ceiling repeatedly. It didn’t take long until dirt started sifting through.
The Cockroach at the End of the World
by Jim Doss
He wants to be called Bernie, but no one’s left to speak his name. He stares from those sad Franz Kafka eyes, a body shriveled as if he’s lived for years in concentration camps. He combs through building rubble, nibbling on barbecued people, not bothering to hide since the bombs went off. Mutually assured destruction—some deterrent. His cells absorb radiation, mutate, then mutate again. He feels sick, both at heart and in mind. He isn’t transformed algae crawling out of a pond at the beginning of time, but he is the new Adam in search of his Eve.
by Matthew McEwan
She spotted it first through tears. It was a hiccup moment. Nothing significant, just something to notice; a small leaf sprouting against her grey wooden fence. The next morning, she woke up and cried. When the tears stopped, she saw two; a week later, three. Since then, she would cry in her empty double bed, then stare out her window, counting the leaves as her cheeks dried. Months passed and no longer did she cry, but one day she tossed her heavy duvet aside and rushed outside. She took hold of the blossoming vine in a white-knuckled coil and ripped.
This week’s artwork is “Hourglass Figures” by Julian Cloran.
Once Upon an Apocalypse
by GB Burgess
Grimm Forest had suffered its share of wolves, curses and wicked witches, but we weren’t prepared for a monster invasion. The creatures were small but many.
We fled up beanstalks, but the monsters were master climbers.
We hid in gingerbread cottages. The monsters’ gap-filled grins chewed expertly though sugary walls.
Our best weapons failed. The monsters gagged and recoiled from our poisoned apples.
In the end, there was no escaping. Monsters rushed at us from every direction, giggling madly, their sticky hands groping.
Defeated we little pigs, gingerbread men, orphans, princes and damsels succumbed to the hugs of the children.
A Future Scientist or Psychopath—Not That They Are Mutually Exclusive
by Zebulon Huset
She insisted we bake her mud pies. “They have a secret ingredient.” Ingredients, I’d learn. Each clay cupcake had a secret center of worms or centipede, three stink beetles or a tiny frog. She’d probably smushed it when forming the cake—enough to squeeze the consciousness from its tiny little head, to squish the function from its organs. Too tightly packed to still be alive when the steaming began, I tell myself as I wash my face before bed—desperate to avoid a vicarious nightmare of being baked alive in a wet sarcophagus. A sleeping bag sauna getting hotter and hotter.
by Charles Duffie
Come home late from night school, drop my backpack on the kitchen table, microwave the dinner dad always leaves for me. I sit on my bed with the warm plate in my lap and stare across the narrow hallway. He works early so he should be asleep but light flashes under his door and voices thrum with a machine rhythm like there’s a factory in there, an assembly line where ideas are welded onto his imagination, words blow-torched under his skin. I eat my vegetables, watching my father be remade, then go downstairs and pack his lunch for tomorrow.
The Bell Curve
by Tommy Mack
The bell curve glows on my collar. Like the ones carved on the town hall or above the altar in church. A fair deal: sporting odds. Attached on my retirement by the company. Everyone agreed the population was too old but no one liked the countdown to death. There were protests, suicides. So they made the collars. A trigger designed to execute, not on a prescribed date but with a fixed probability each day, like Russian roulette. At 84, I am an outlier, an object of curiosity to the local children and I can’t decide whether I’m lucky or not.
Listening to George
by Alan Beard
In his back yard. He’s big, reddened, rough with illness, talking about the manic-depressive next door who was putting up their mutual fence after taking a dislike to their previous one. He’s left it half done to go off for a fortnight’s ‘session’. And of his lodger with his fear of scrambled eggs. He cracks a joke about the rain we’ve been having week in, week out and then says his wife is leaving him. Has left him. I thought it was quiet. Then he jokes it’s the lodger, the neighbor. There are madmen all around.
Now You See Her
by Lisa Strong
The girl with the cannula, offers to show me a magic trick. She must have been here before, looks sick enough to be a regular. I’ve just never noticed. Her bald head is the bleached white of an egg, but her eyes are very blue. A shaft of light pours in from the high institutional windows picking out every blond eyelash. I wonder, is it possible to fall in love on same day you find out you’re dying or is this just a trick of the nervous system, some flood of endorphins, as the soul desperately clings to life?
Two Goats and a Basketball
by Matt Weatherbee
I had two goats named Lebron James and Michael Jordan. I asked them who the greatest basketball player of all time was, hoping they’d start fighting so I could declare the winner the greatest and finally have a definitive answer, but they just tried to headbutt me. Jokingly I tossed a basketball up in the air over their pen. It plopped in the mud and scared them. I left the basketball there and soon forgot about it. Then one morning a few months later I found Lebron James and Michael Jordan dead, the basketball sitting bloody and deflated between them.
by David Ford
She is always jolly. Her kids hate that. She strokes the palm of her hand with her thumb, the life line and the heart line, wishing they were longer. Then the finger on her lips as if silencing the question: who will miss me when I am gone?
He holds her tight but not tight enough.
Listening to Seashells
by Hannah Whiteoak
I lift the shell to my ear. “Come back,” the sea calls. “Finish what you started.” I remember jumping from the pier, the sudden cold shock I was sure nobody could survive. And then the arm hooking under my shoulders, the stranger dragging me to shore. Air swooshes around the shell like waves closing over my head. Giving up should have been easy, but I clung to that swimmer until we reached the beach, where I dug my fingers into the sand and wept with relief. Inside the shell, my heartbeat echoes, reminding me to hang on.
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.