by Kim Mannix
As he boarded the train, she drew a tissue from her pocket, thinking the tears would come any second. They didn’t.
Numb. I’m just numb now, she thought, dabbing at the corner of her eye anyway. In case he was watching.
“Last trip for the year,” he said on the drive to the station. “Then it’ll be just us together for months.”
“I can’t wait,” she said, grateful he was looking at the road instead of her face.
After his train pulled away, she stepped up to the ticket booth.
“One way for whatever gets me the farthest,” she said.
Every day, Johannes sends Mila presents. Some days, it’s sweetmeats from the market. Occasionally, it’s a rare artifact wrapped in brown paper.
Yesterday, he sent a scarab frozen in amber, all the way from Cairo, wrapped in tight packaging and bound with tape. Unwrapping the multiple layers without the use of a knife inflamed her hands, but she managed it before he came home.
Today, despite Mila’s curbed appetite, Johannes sends candied fruit. Tiny, pink squares like unsunned flesh, dotted with yellow sugar the color of her bruises.
by Brennan Thomas
I’m not doing this charade ‘til the end of the boardwalk. Soon as we pass that frozen fruit stand where the guy dips bananas on a stick in chocolate, I’m done with this. I’m ripping my hand out of his sticky grip. I’m pulling the ring off. I’ll start walking ten feet in front of him and lose him in the crowd. I’ve already checked out of the hotel. I have what’s mine—tote and carry-on—sitting in the trunk of a cab idling at the entrance to the Barclay Tower. He doesn’t know that—why. I do.
The Likeness of Bolsheviks
by Kevin Campbell
Over 1000 square feet to paint, to tug at the threads of the entire fabric. This will be no feckless mural, this will be history, present, and future.
The artist’s patron furrows his brow. He imagines himself a patron for all things. But really all things within reason. For behind his quixotic gloss lies a fragile scion, built on the corpses of striking Colorado coal miners.
The artist barks back “If you remove any of it, then destroy it all!”
Jeff was standing in the middle of the hallway in the empty house. His wife and kids had gone out for a walk in the park, to pretend for an hour life was normal. He picked his nose. He studied the greenish-yellow flake on his finger for a few seconds, then flicked it away. He didn’t see where it landed. He thought “Why does everyone feel so confined so quickly? There’s plenty of freedom to enjoy at home. Especially in small quantities.” Jeff went into the living room and lay naked on the dinner table for a while.
A Plague of Farmers
by Nan Wigington
Springtime, the farmer’s breath thrummed. A cold, he told his daughter.
In May, his breath was sticks breaking.
Next came sunburns, molting.
His daughter called a doctor.
“Farmers do that,” the doctor said.
The daughter didn’t say how the farmer had taken to chewing on the wheat, jaws working side to side, not up and down.
July, breath was like a band saw.
The daughter’s heart broke when she saw it, scapulas piercing his shirt, his flesh, wings emerging, furling, the crack as membranes stretched, hardened, how her father like a locust lifted, joined his people in the sky.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Amy Canales.
Strangers in the Night
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Mama disappears into a Plymouth. This isn’t the first time. There was that time she left for three days. She’d come back, happy, singing to him at bedtime, making him cocoa. The world was his. He goes into her bedroom, with the scent of lavender, mixed with something skunk-like. It’s empty. The suitcase, Sinatra records, her Tolstoy. He doesn’t know where to go. He’s not sure if he should chase her, or wait. That’s when he sees the note, tucked behind her desk, where they used to hide secrets. Mama’s unhappy. She needs to find herself. Water the plants.
by Bart Van Goethem
They had assured him if you close a door behind you, another one will open. When he did so, nothing happened. In the pitch black he groped for a handle. None. He groped for a wall. None. After a while he screamed, and then he screamed some more. He started punching air. Until the black shifted to a shade of dark unfathomable to a living, breathing man. A split-second later, he opened his eyes, squinting against a white light. ‘Welcome,’ they said. ‘We are Soul Catchers.’ It wasn’t what he had expected, but at least they hadn’t lied to him.
Cat in a Box
by Shinea Brighton
I’m trying to decide if you love me. I take measurements: how often you call, how long we talk, how often you break dates. Two recently. You never say, “I’ll call you later.” or “We’ll reschedule for next week.” Instead it’s, “How about Wednesday?”
Sometimes you hold my hand. Sometimes you are distracted and lonely. You go days without kissing me then you won’t stop long enough for me to eat.
It’s complicated. Are you a wave or a particle? Are we decaying at a predictable rate? I’m hungry and I can’t tell if you are feeding or poisoning me.
by Jessica Standifird
He was an old house in need of a good contractor. Ever since she’d convinced him he was dilapidated, the ink from his tattoos had flecked, faded. His foundation had cracked and his gait was now unsteady. She would roll her eyes and accuse his front porch of sagging. And if eyes were windows to the soul, well, no wonder she complained. The glass was old and warped, the panes full of drafts. It was cold inside. Maybe all he needed was a real estate agent who could spot potential. He wondered if Carrie at Remax would be interested.
by Jonathan Oak
Normally I hear the engine halfway down the street as a subtle change in the background noise, but the sound was too loud. Normally I see a glint from your bumper or your windshield. I missed it this time. Sometimes you call ahead to says how good it’ll be to be home. When all this fails, the dog, keen senses attuned to your arrivals, perks up her ears, springs to attention, whines at the door, peeks through the curtains. She just laid there. So when you came through the front door… lesbians going at it on the computer screen.