by Brad Nelms
“Why does your cat always lick me so much?” I asked pulling my hand away from the purring tabby squatting on my chest.
“I read online somewhere, that the Egyptians believed cats would lick people to purify their bodies before death so they wouldn’t get eaten by Ammit, the crocodile god,” she said without looking up from her book.
“Well, tell her to knock it off. It’s not like I am going to die anytime soon,” I said with a weak laugh. Locking eyes with the cat, I rested my hand near its mouth. “Get back to work,” I whispered.
by Ashlie Allen
I climb the mango tree, not to taste sweetness but to see something beautiful and feel the thrill of peace. The people below think I have a ghostly voice and that my teeth are sinister. Maybe I am an animal trying to be attractive so someone will take care of me. I ascend the branches so my shadow will be far away and so the earth can’t touch me. If my feet meet the ground ever again, I will eat fruit and celebrate all the seeds I cannot grow, only consume.
The Year My Mother Died
by Esther Smoller
Miss Kiltenham sat on my porcelain kitten and broke its tail. I begged my father not to make me go to my first day at school. He drove right up to the front door and allowed me to clutch his hand in desperation but let it go as I walked into the classroom. Because I was a small child, I was given a front row desk. Miss Kiltenham liked to sit on the edge of my desk—right where I placed my comfort kitten. I came home that day with a note pinned to my chest: “Esther vomited today.”
by Jen Finelli
We used to climb roofs, at night. Restaurants, chemistry labs—the physics building, with its medieval tower, rails and parapets, was a favorite. We watched people below, dodged security guard flashlights, shivered as the fog descended, tiles moistened, and the stars dimmed. We climbed because teens need adventure, struggle! One night we found charcoal, and drew on the tiles for the next adventurers to find. “What message do you want to leave the world?” I asked my buddy. “I don’t know,” he said. I wrote it down, sadly, but maybe he was right.
by Troy Evans
Brenda stormed out of the store. “I’m never shopping there again!”
Joel shuffled along behind, wishing he was somewhere else.
“Are you listening to me?!”
“I think that guy’s living in his car; he’s always sitting in it.”
Joel had learned that detaching from her rants saved time and was, to some degree, safer than engaging Brenda directly, even in spite of the abuse he would inevitably receive. He turned. She was behind him now, entranced by a display in a shoe store window. Just beyond her, paramedics were pulling the man’s lifeless body from the car.
by Georgene Smith Goodin
Irma said it was bad symbolism to get married in a funeral suit. I’d worn the only one I owned to bury Nana and Uncle Joe, so she ordered me to rent something. I thought that was bad symbolism too, like our marriage was on loan from strangers. There’s no arguing with that woman, so I picked through the rental rack while some pimple faces got outfitted for prom. Irma’s so stubborn, she wouldn’t even say I was right when I found her in the bathroom with our best man. “That didn’t take long,” I said, and closed the door.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Tobias Oggenfuss.
Fistfighting Etiquette for Girls
by Sue Ann Connaughton
You’re allowed to fistfight another girl if she says “Hi” to your boyfriend, calls you stuck-up, or smirks at you disrespectfully. Do not arm yourself with weapons, including rocks, sticks, and sharpened fingernails. Do not kick, bite, scratch, or pull hair. You may slap, punch, and arm twist. However, you may not strike her face or groin area. Do not cry. Shake hands with your opponent after grownups stop the fistfight. Laugh, when your mother cries while bandaging your bloody knuckles. Never fistfight again. Never mention it to your husband and children. Cry when you see your daughter’s bloody knuckles.
by Arthur Plotnik
“Mommy—you complete me,” Eric said as Linda drove him to pre-school.
“Why thank you! But where’d you hear that?”
“The wall, at naptime.”
“Funny wall,” Linda said, though it seemed less funny following his wall quote yesterday: “I’ve never felt so alive.” She’d blamed television, forgotten about it on seeing husband Gary, whose law work overlapped her hospital shifts. Mrs. Fosset, part-time nanny, fetched and fed Eric. “Sweetheart, does Mrs. Fosset have you nap after daddy gets home?”
“Sometimes.” Then, a giggle. “Silly wall! Nobody wants that.”
He used his moo-cow voice: “I want you in me.”
The Old Woman
by Kyle Hemmings
I loved exploring the abandoned house near a burn-out field. The stairs creaked and the empty rooms whispered. One day I heard a woman’s voice from the top floor. She was smiling in her rocking chair. Her hair was covered with cobwebs. Bees buzzed around her ears. “I’ve been waiting to see you,” she said, staring straight at me. She mumbled that I was her lost son. I ran. Out of curiosity, I returned. She took off her head and clothes. She was nothing but a voice.
by Brad Nelms
She came to check on him. She clicked the handcuffs closer to his skeletal wrists. Steel biting into ragged flesh. He stirred, a dry rattle creeping its way out of his throat. “Hush dear…Shhh…” She cooed. Stroking his thin, damp hair and bringing her mouth close to his ear, she whispered, “Save your strength, it will not be much longer. We need you to be empty so the Lord can fill you up. The stars are almost right.” Her eyes drifted over his gaunt form, bones were fighting to push out through sagging skin. “Soon,” she smiled. “Very Soon.”
How Did I Feel?
by Bertram Allan Mullin
My flesh fell off on its own. I couldn’t see, but I could taste and smell. My limbs were soft tissue. Somehow my ankle broke. I began to drag it everywhere I went. The only word I could say was, “Grawrr,” which was debatably not even a word. Then my right eye up and fell from its socket. The others pointed and cackled. Got hard to think about all of that, though, because I was hungry all the time. Endless cravings for blood, living skin, and of course brains.