In Boxing Class
by Anne Wilding
Seeing me fill up, Richard calls time, takes me outside before I cry. “It’s okay… It takes time… Some people can’t hit.” He doesn’t ask why I stood rabbit-in-headlights while my classmates screeched, “Go on! He’s training to take it! Hit him!” And my sparring partner stood there impassive, waiting for the first blow. Outside, Richard holds me, lets my snot soak his shirt, says, “It’s all right… You are good enough.” And doesn’t ask why. It was the arms I was supposed to go for, at the top. Where it hurts like hell but bruises don’t show.
Before Father Lost his Mind
by D. D. Renforth
Before father lost his mind, we talked of his estate, and he said, “Come every month on the days when it rains, recite King Lear, and it’s yours.” Now we stand beside his lawyer outside his open window on rainy days and repeatedly recite King Lear from start to finish while our father with dementia listens but does not recognize us. When we reach Act I, Scene 4, he puts his head out the window and screams Lear’s line with us, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” and then returns to silence.
Like every Friday, you’re at the pub and you place your bet. You swell bright from liquor. Little to lose, that day you win a yellow boat in which you pack everything you own and take to new sights. You learn to tighten the grip on the oar handles in storming waters and become familiar inside blistered skin. The sea stretches its unclosed wings, inexhaustible territories waiting blue and haunted. Your breaths are as much collectible seashells as are your destinations. You think you must look like a rust flake to whoever watches you claim a draining soul search.
by Susan McCreery
She balled the toilet tissue and stuffed it in the plughole. That should stop the rats. Outside the bathroom window an earnest conversation was taking place. … marbles, she heard. Huh, they think I’ve lost ’em. … in a home. She smacked her palm on the high frosted window. Don’t think I can’t hear you! And I can smell your cigarettes. Rats, rats, the lot of you. Nibbling away at me. Go home to your families. No one’s pitching me out. She glanced in the mirror. Wild hair. Nightie unbuttoned. Who was that?
(“Rats” will be published in Susan’s upcoming book Loopholes set for release in December 2016.)
by Alexis Nau
His car smells like Sweet Pea perfume. He picks me up at 7:50 to take me to school because he’s a gentleman. He kisses me good morning and smirks at me. My mind implodes. I give him my confident smile, the one from fourth grade. Surely he smelled it within those guilty minutes between his house and mine. The scent of Rebecca Vaus’ signature fragrance; the smell that used to follow him in a cloud, linger on his sheets. Surely he breathed it in, bathed in it. He smirks again, knowing I know, and knowing I’ll never say anything.
Life Cycle of the Swimmer Gloria Sherman
by Lynn Mundell
A feral girl, she dog paddles to her mother, gulping the dirty water. Abandoning her JV parka like a chrysalis, she dives, long limbs skimming the surface, a white butterfly. For years, she favors the breaststroke, a sensible method for going the distance, abandoned once in midlife, a year of reckless backstroke, three injured, her included. Settling down again: swim, flip-turn, breathe — 25, 30 laps left, God willing. In her last summer, she crawls down the lane, swimmers behind her like cars trailing an RV. If she can, she won’t return to the earth but rather die in the water.
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?