Four Hours More
by Jenna Baker
Shifting on the mattress, she contemplates when she’ll fit in dissertation edits with an overflowing satchel of unmarked essays.
Before sunrise, she smooths concealer under her eyes, blending stress into skin.
Now, Miss Berkley claps, requesting peace from pre-teens. Instead: “She did what?” “Why is this assignment dumb?” “Restroom, please?”
Counting questions off on fingers, she answers. “Don’t care, it has real-world relevance, not till I’m done with instructions.”
Aubrey sneaks over to her cluttered desk while pencils scratch paper. “Your dress is pretty.”
Smiling, she silently thanks the Big Man for small compliments. “Your work’s finished?”
“I got bored.”
by Ken Poyner
He sets his laughter down, but never out of reach. He has harvested a goodly mass of laughter for one day. He has been thinking all morning that for days which are this productive, he should start carrying handled sacks. Yes, two or three sacks in each hand. No more stacking the laughter and stuffing it under an arm. He looks over at the two girls on the next bench. He makes a droopy face and they begin to smile. He wiggles his ears and they begin the tiniest of giggles. He thinks, this is almost too easy.
by Ron Hartley
People at the nursing home said her whistled renditions of Lutheran hymns were always on key. She walked out naked except for a bathrobe and slippers, unnoticed by attendants overwhelmed with Covid-19. She moved like an automaton on low batteries, emitting squeaky whistles like she needed a lube job; then jaywalking back and forth, causing a van to swerve and smash into a parked car.
“Nutcase,” the driver screamed.
“Meant no harm,” she said. “Just looking for a house on a mountain where I was born. Lots of piano-playing there,” she said, “and songs of praise are most often sung.”
by Adam Chabot
During our daily walk, Colton admires everything in the quiet cul-de-sac: the yellow dandelions in our front yard, the concrete sidewalk marred by snow plows, the oscillations of water from the sprinkler in Mr. Heward’s lawn. Colton turned three last month.
He finds a sewer grate in the street. He’s examined it before but today he squats and gazes into its darkness.
“Circles,” he exclaims pointing at the holes.
“No, squares, buddy.”
“Oh. Squares,” he echoes.
With this, he tugs on the strings around his ears. He’s learned not to fight me about the mask anymore.
Our walk commences.
Business as Usual
by Brooks C. Mendell
“Got this buddy,” said Miller. “Used to wear corduroys with lobsters on them.”
“I know who he is,” I said. “Heard he screwed the high school French teacher.”
“No idea,” I said. “But with him, you think it could’ve happened.”
“That’s him,” said Miller. “He heard you have a quarter-ton pickup that nobody’s using.”
“Well, he got that body disposal grant from the county,” said Miller. “So, he’s huntin’ a spare truck.”
“Happy to talk to him.”
“Great,” said Miller, not moving.
“We’ll cut you in, don’t worry.”
Miller winked over his mask and walked away.
This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz.
by Andrée Gendron
Perched on a porch swing overlooking marshlands for long hours on end an old woman systematically discards (molts) her pointless (undervalued) humanity. Transformed once dissolved she becomes fully immersed in the pageantry below. She boasts a newly crocheted poncho—black, red, and bright yellow—resembling her spirit animal, the red-winged blackbird. To further blend in with them she spreads both arms wide while swinging as if darting amidst the cattails and sunbeams. Only there and then can she find true joy and peace among her own kind. It seems they are all the family the old woman has left nowadays.
Would Give 0 Stars If I Could
by Adrienne Ryan
I go through the ritual, draw out the circle for summoning Roneve, but end up conjuring Raum instead. I didn’t mean to do that, but it looks like the incantation was for Raum and the symbols of binding are for Ronove. Nice. Needless to say, the barrier doesn’t hold. If it weren’t for my talisman I would have been incinerated! Now Raum is demanding a blood feast, and I really don’t have the time to deal with this. I won’t even attempt a dismissal since I don’t know if I’m using it’s true name. Seriously, do not buy this ebook.
The Horror of Doris’ Toenails
by Janet F. Murray
Everyone hated Doris’s toenails. As long as her fingers and painted a bright red, her gait was like that of a clumsy alligator. Inopportunely, as Doris discovered, she did not share the alligator’s agility. Sheriff Milne realized this one day when up to his own nefarious activities in the Great Dismal Swamp in the south eastern region of Virginia. About to bend young Sophia over a conveniently placed tree stump, his eyes lit upon the grotesque sight of bleached brown phalanges, red nails desperately clinging to swamp grass. Doris’ digits are now memorialized in formaldehyde at the local museum.
To Be Warned
by Trisha Ridinger McKee
Sam tried to sneak past his mom as she handed out candy, but her sharp squeak reached him. “Did you just wake up? That’s ridiculous. Hey, watch for the crazies. Tonight, they’re everywhere. Be careful.”
He rolled his eyes but simply agreed so he could escape into the night, amid the miniature ghouls and werewolves holding out pillowcases. He strolled down the sidewalk, and as everyone was watching the dressed-up monsters of the night, he slid into a backyard, wondering as he sank his teeth into the scrumptious neck, what his mom would think if she knew.
by Brooks C. Mendell
My first customer gifted the cedar wood balls rolling in the cup holder. “You seem nice, but your car smells kinda funky.” If my next fares give five-star ratings, I overtake Vernon in Lansing and reclaim first in the Midwest driver rankings. This garners respect and encourages tipping. I turn to offer hardboiled quail eggs while Vivaldi plays. Two chipmunks sprint across the street. I slam the brakes. The espresso machine tumbles, showering a nun from Holt and a ride-sharing personal injury attorney with scalding water. The sounds of bouncing cedar balls fail to cover the screams and profanity.
Killed by a Drink
by Mir-Yashar D Seyedbagheri
Nick’s sister Nancy is struck by a beer truck. He tries not to conjure the truck, making contact. The motion of Nancy flying into the air, crack of bones on pavement. He tries to block the nicknames she bestowed on him. Saint Nick, Little Nicky. Whirlwind energy, love of piano. Footsteps, loud clickety-clack. He wishes she hadn’t gone out that day. Wishes he’d followed her. Gotten hit himself. When people ask about her, he says it was a drink that killed her. Technically correct. A truckful. Being killed by booze seems mysterious and inexplicable. Beyond logic. It’s easier.
This week’s artwork is “Dandies” by G.J. Mintz
by Simon Read
The café is full of middle-aged men lovingly stroking their paunches. The girl enters like a tongue in the ear and everything stops. Thoughts vaporize in outbreaths then crystallize and tumble, tinkling softly onto the stripped pine boards. Herman’s job is to sweep up the thoughts quickly and unobtrusively. He sweeps them into a dustpan. He empties the pan into a box and seals it with a special tape emblazoned with the words “private and confidential”. When he’s finished, Herman puts the box on the secret shelf for “collection”. Herman and the girl leave the café hand in hand.
by Wendy Cobourne
I must tell you, the poems are all outside. I left them there… I hear them through my window, exhaling in cool, exquisite blushes. I hear them fondling leaves; I smell them mulchy brown and wet green. Inside poems are humanufactured with the sediment of synthetic ingredients. They are architextured and tend toward right angles. Their luminescence is incandescent, like a margarine sun. I wanted to tell you something important, but like myself boxed inside these walls, my revelation is darkly vaulted. I am musty inside. Dank. My burps taste like basement. I’m sorry. Please love me in absentia.
by Kelsey Maccombs
One minute I’m scrambling eggs and the next I’m crying over the frying pan because I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon. I don’t know if the rocks match the sky when the sun sinks or if shadows descend to shroud the secrets inside. I don’t know how close I can get to the edge. The eggs burn, the smoke alarm shrieks, and I don’t know if my voice would echo back or be swallowed by the silence. I turn off the burner. I’m a state and a half away when I remember I left the egg carton out.
by Maura Yzmore
Sometimes I cut my own hair. I comb each long, wheat-colored strand; I hold it flat between two fingers, look my mirror image in the eye, and cut. But I always cut too much, by an inch—or five—more than I should. I watch the dead locks fall, without sheen, and curled, like in pain, as I grow lighter. I would love being bald, but that would make me ugly and my life hard. Ugly people cannot be carefree; others force them to battle ugliness. For a bit, when I cut too much, I am both ugly and carefree.
On the Spectrum
by James Dufficy
First they said my brother was dyslexic. Only needed that extra bit of help. But he could tell you the name of every player in the Premier League. He could tell you the name of everyone who ever played in the Premier League. So my mother is dying of breast cancer, and one day she reaches up on top of the refrigerator and pulls down the bottle of champagne. She says, “What the hell!” and starts to open it. My brother turns in his seat and says, “No, you can’t. We’re saving that for when you’re dead.”
Art Imitates Death
by Brooks C Mendell
Racing the sundial, Paulo shaped clay as the Prince loomed behind. The challenge—sculpt the Prince—had three rules. Finish in one day. The Prince decides. Do not look at the Prince. This final rule terrified. As decreed at birth, no citizen could look the King’s heir in the face. Nine artists tried and died, failing the challenge. Paulo glimpsed the Prince’s lengthening shadow, presaging the day’s end. In the shadow, he noticed the shape of the hips and caught a floral scent and thought about princesses.