This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz
by Katherine Bonnie Bailey
As a child, I harvested powder from butterfly wings to smear on my cheeks, glittering war paint for soft, pale skin. But beauty did not occur to me. Instead, I applied the shades for fantastical reasons, reveling in imagined potency.
“Don’t,” My mother scolded when she saw. “They need their fairy dust for flight.”
But no dust would lift my feet from the ground. And if I couldn’t wing away, why should they? So I chained the colorful creatures to the flowers with tiny tears in delicate places, my face glimmering. Stranded, they were only worms. No better than me.
by Barry Basden
On his way for scones this morning, he rolled through a stop and turned in front of a tan pickup. Immediately a cruiser appeared in his rear view.
“I beat him to the corner,” he lied.
“Not if you’d stopped. Two weeks ago a woman got T-boned there. Broke her neck.”
He remembered that cluster of EMS and police vehicles, his irritation detouring around it. So. A woman with a broken neck had been at the center of all that commotion.
He tacked the warning citation above his key rack. He wanted to see it every time he went out.
He Remembers a Girl in Scotland
by David L. Arnold
Once, when he was much younger and on orders for Nam, he backpacked Scotland. In Mallaig, he sat on the dock with a girl he met on the Sands of Morar. They shared a head of lettuce, slicing it like an apple. She was going to Ben Nevis. He was waiting for the ferry to Stornoway. He thinks he still dreams of her sometimes; a girl walking beside him on the sand who he cannot turn and see. He has been back to Scotland. He never made it to Nam. He’s older now, so he figures it worked out okay.
The Good ol’ Days on the Farm
by Kenny A. Chaffin
On the farm we’d put up bailing-wire antennas for everything – the B&W television, the CB radio, even the chickens. There was only Channel 12 with its 10,000-watt, thousand-foot tower a few miles east of the farm broadcasting to the entire Southern Oklahoma and Northern Texas region. It came through everything. Like the Philco we’d listen to KMAD on, Channel 12 always there in the background. It was on the party-line phone, in the barn somehow through the galvanized steel and chicken wire. Mama heard it on her teeth. I believe it. I’m surprised we didn’t get cancer. The pigs did.
by Hannah Whiteoak
He prunes you like a rosebush, removing dead wood. He disentangles stems that might strangle growth: your mother, sister, friends.
Don’t you want to be perfect? He proffers pruning shears and urges you slice away bad habits: drinking, dancing, going out after work. Soon, you won’t need work. He provides.
You bear fruit: a daughter, with rose-red lips and skin that bruises like petals. When winter comes, you bundle her against frost. “Wait in the car. Don’t wake Daddy.”
Ten minutes later, you take the driver’s seat. You stash the pruning shears in the glove box, blades red as roses.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Tobias Oggenfuss.
Can Anybody Here Juggle?
by Barry Basden
I hardly recognized that guy in last night’s movie. He looked weary, just hanging in. What was that film in the ’80s with him so cynical, so beautifully stoned? Stoned–a lovely way to endure these streets melting in the dark, empty but for the neighbor’s yowling cats. Not at all what I expected. Tonight’s late late movie: Busby Berkeley, colorized by Turner. Orchestra in tails. Syncopated ladies in drag. Acrobats. A magician perhaps, something new up his sleeve for a change.
by Robert Scotellaro
He was in there smoking pot again. Mixed with the deep, otherworldly sounds of his Tuvan throat singing. His fifteen-year-old peep-tone voice, plummeting. Like his CDs, which sounded like devils chanting with frogs in their throats. You hungry? she asked through the door. Her hands hungry to make something. His No! soaring back several octaves. She poured some coffee. There was sunlight on her azaleas, needing watering. There was the cat brushing her for food. There were still a few teen years left. She over-sprinkled fishy stars into a bowl. Some things were just easier to fix than others.
by Tony Lee Marman
“You told her?” I say.
He holds up his hands. They’re trembling.
At first the girls are impressed when he doesn’t try to get in their pants on the first date. Second date, the kissing goes okay, but it progresses no further. Soon after, they start to think it’s them. Finally, he admits he’s terrified of the sex act. They laugh before realizing he’s serious. (This realization can take a week or more.)
“She dumped me,” he says.
“So what now?”
“Live a long and lonely life. Nothing wrong with that.”
“The ‘lonely’ part?”
by Anne Pem
When I sit on the public restroom toilet, the cold presence of something wet is there. Someone else’s piss—or maybe just toilet water thrown on the seat in a violent flush—contaminates my skin. I wipe, but it remains throughout the day as a patch of nervous discomfort growing larger than the bounds of the initial contact. The contamination spreads with everything I touch. My husband grabs my naked ass before bed, and his hand becomes infected. Everything tainted until we’re all-over dirty with someone else.
by Clay Greysteel
New Mexico. They set up camp in abandoned city ruins. Groups were territorial, hoarding provisions, fighting.
Lars sat with Alaina in the shade after she’d become faint. Her belly grew larger every day. Lars suspected she’d been raped, but he never asked and she never told.
“We can’t keep fighting over leftovers,” he said, watching as the others prepared for a raid. “We need to become self-sustaining, or work together, or… something.”
“Belief is power,” Alaina said, patting her belly. Desperation within the group had led to rumor that she was Mary, and the baby, Jesus. “We use this.”