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.
by Alison McBain
Mama feeds her baby bitter milk from a mangled heart. Years drip by and the hungry boy cries, but Mama’s hands are empty. She slaps his face until it’s ragged as hers. When he’s fifteen, he gets a job at the corner store. He stacks food in towers so high, they’re unreachable. Mama swallows down his paycheck—he gnaws bone and gristle. When he becomes a man, he can do as she does—ignore, abuse, betray. Instead, he takes her hand in his. Mama shakes under the burden she’s carried so long alone, but he promises, “We’ll walk together now.”
What Roman Says
by Lori Cramer
Roman says that I shouldn’t refer to him as my boyfriend. Labels like that, he says, create unrealistic expectations. When I assure him that I don’t have any expectations, unrealistic or otherwise, he smirks and says that women always say that. I ask for a ballpark estimate of the number of women he’s surveyed. He smirks again. I’m not sure which annoys me more, his patronizing facial expressions or his authoritarian need to control the terminology with which I’m permitted to describe our relationship. “No problem,” I say. “From now on I’ll just call you my ex-boyfriend.”
by B.E. Seidl
It came of nowhere: A giant crow, its plumage like a black silken coat. It is hard to tell where it wanted to go, for certainly it cannot have planned to be stuck in the spokes of my brand-new bicycle. In horror I watch the bird flapping its wings until finally it breaks its neck. I would have only further distressed it by trying to help. It would have only pecked my hand and scratched me with its claws. Carefully, I disentangle the animal from my precious bike. It would have died anyway.
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Dick wants love. He is a penis. He doesn’t want physical bullshit, but recognition. He’s traveled constantly, gone into coffee shops, a McDonald’s, small-town motels. But he’s always ejected. He’s an abomination. He feels the weight of rejection. He wants to sit down behind lit windows, like the normal folks. He wants to pretend he belongs. He wants people to pretend, too. “What do you want from life?” he’d ask. He’d listen if he had a chance. Maybe he needs to measure his own life by their stories. Maybe he needs assurance. He trudges on, tired, struggling against ebbing hopes.
Why We Got Rid of the Shotgun
by Aaron Saliman
April second was a frowning day. Bill Wurthers on the other side of town finally died from that infected dog bite, so we took his bitch out behind his house and put a shell in the back of her head. She was a little thing, not more’n a pup, but it’s county law for a murderer to be put to death, and we follow the court of law in this town. But those eyes looking up at us, all glassy and soul-sucked-out; it made us turn around and start retching into the dirt.
This week’s artwork is “Coca Cola Tango” by AF Knott.
by Zack Stein
When tantruming on account of something small, but motivated by reasons big, Mom would go through the kitchen drawers and throw spoons at my father and me. Always spoons. Never the forks or knives, and I thought that was a nice gesture. Still, she never tried to discipline me. She just let me twist her static hair as she slept under white duvets for most of my adolescence. My father always said she was ill or tired, but I saw it in him, too. Sometimes I’d watch him dip his face into a bowl of cereal until his fingertips relaxed.
by B.E. Seidl
I looked at the bug, and he looked at me. There was only his head, the rest was still under my skin. For days I had anticipated this moment, when I would finally stare into those colorless eyes. I had felt him moving inside my arm, had watched him growing under an itching bump. All I wanted to do was rip his head off, but I had to wait until he came out on his own. It seemed like hours that we were eying each other. Finally he squeezed himself out and fell to the floor.
Young Lovers Go Camping
by Vincent Aldrich
On the bus to Baltimore she bites her nails and listens to slow music in her headphones, slumping in the red hoodie he paid for, watching traffic out the window as the sky goes dark. Her boots are still muddy. Both her eyes and cheek are deep, inky purple, veined bilirubin yellow, starting to heal. Her mouth is slightly open because she still can’t breathe through her broken nose. Her cellphone and wallet are somewhere in the Susquehanna River. The gun in the backpack on the seat next to her is missing four bullets.
by Ellen Perleberg
Café Arusat was like every other café in Tripoli. Men loitered for hours over strong coffee and debates. Hakim had run the café for five years. According to custom, he should’ve bonded with the same twenty men occupying his ironwork chairs every afternoon, but generations passed through too quickly. They died fighting for Gaddafi or the rebellion. The survivors fled to Europe. Or jihadi camps. Those who stayed were blown up or murdered. Whenever a patron disappeared, Hakim scrubbed his old chair with bleach, as though the disinfectant could scare away the djinns and the ghosts of his broken country.
by Doyen Sump
Though I distinctly remember going to bed last night, I am somehow fully clothed and on the bathroom floor when I wake. I get up slowly and look in the mirror. I am pale and haggard. After splashing water on my face, I exit and find my wife sitting at the kitchen table, looking frustrated.
“The police brought you home again,” she says. “You were wandering the street eating a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”
I want to believe she’s joking, but I taste cinnamon when I swallow.
“Wasn’t me,” I say.
“Never is,” she says.