Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance.
Altercation in the Garden
by Neil Harrison
In the sudden silence, the rich perfumes of roses, peonies, and myriad flowering trees scent the spring breeze. A moment later, the chorus begins again—robin, blue jay, chattering squirrel. On his knees now, on the brick walk lined with daisies, a middle-aged man stares down at the fat drops blooming red between great flowering lilies on the pond, his mirrored image leaning slowly toward the water, the reflection of her face, amazed and puzzled, as she considers her next move.
by Clay Greysteel
They sat across from each other at the dining room table, him extolling the virtues of the carefully worded divorce papers, her with a knife, carving a paperback book from his collection. Though he gritted his teeth at her defiling his things, he refused to give her the satisfaction of a reaction. He just kept pointing out who got what property and how the finances would be divided.
“Are you even listening,” he said.
She lifted her head and held up the book, which she had carved into a pistol. She pointed dead center of his forehead. “Bang, bang.”
Easy for a Monday Morning
by Dwayne D. Hayes
You might guess the scrambled eggs would be too runny, toast a bit soggy, bacon burnt, or the coffee too strong. But no. Everything was fine, if not perfect. No complaints. He glanced around the cafe. Two teenage girls at another table stared at iPhones. A couple sat silently sipping coffee. Several older men congregated at the counter, arguing over last night’s ballgame. All normal. The world was surprisingly normal and everything seemed too easy for everyone—too easy for the judge who’d ended the marriage with few words and the scratch of a pen in the courtroom that morning.
by Jim O’Loughlin
He was only a ghost in the technical sense of the term, in that he was dead and haunting the Earth. Most of the time he thought of himself as a commuter, like countless other souls taking the train in and out of the city each day. He read the paper, preferred window seats, and glared at passengers who spoke too loudly on cell phones. When it was busy, he would always give up his seat for an older passenger, and when it was especially crowded, he would melt into the walls.
by Joey To
“I could use a hamburger,” muttered Kate. Like her nineteen colleagues, she was soaked. And tired. The rain was a barrage of cold punches.
Tom sighed. “Yeah, don’t we wish.” He gazed at the cliff wall ahead and pointed. “Look, a cave. Let’s camp there.”
The team rushed into the black hollow.
“Someone get a fire going,” yelled Kate as a deep growl reverbed through the walls. It didn’t sound familiar.
All heads turned. Eyes squinted. Rifle safeties were released. Silence… then a quadrupedal giant emerged from the depths.
Tom gasped. “We’ve found it! It’s real!”
And it tasted awesome.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Steve Cartwright
by Jonathan Lyons
All afternoon, Marissa shaped sand into towers, turrets, a moat. She avoided broken bottles near the trashcan. “Marissa,” mother called, “dinner.” Marissa returned to the beach house. Later, summer sun still high, others’ footprints cratered her castle. Marissa rebuilt, gathered shards, and slipped them into castle walls. Smiling, she skipped home.
by Aline Carriere
“I dare you to do it,” Sandra teased.
Eager to take the challenge, Jen ran up the stone staircase. Legend declared that at night, when shadows conquered the twisting rocks, a weeping Madonna appeared at the top to reveal the saddest moment of a person’s life, past or future.
“Behold, my destiny,” Jen announced giggling. Dramatically circling her arm, she settled her hand on the apparition, closed her eyes and screamed.
Sandra laughed at the pantomime until Jen began to tumble down the unforgiving steps. Jen’s lifeless body splayed beside her, Sandra watched the spider skitter from a bloodied sleeve.
Oppositional Defiant Disorder
by Clay Greysteel
Officer says, “This time we caught him breaking into the prison.”
Brian flips me off as blood drips from between his fingers.
“Can you get him a towel?”
Officer nods to his partner. Partner steps out. “Ten times we’ve picked him up in the last six months.
“He broke into the prison?”
“Attempted. Cut his hand on razor wire.”
Partner returns, hands Brian a towel.
“You charging him?”
Officer sighs. “Your brother needs help.”
“So that’s a no?” I nod toward Brian, “Let’s go.”
As we leave, Brian wipes the bloodied towel along the wall.
by Tessa Mission
Lana drew fractal designs all over her arms with a green ink pen. Like maybe she wanted to be a tree. Without looking at me, she said, “I want to kiss him underwater. I think that would be fun.”
“Wouldn’t your mouths fill with water when you opened them?”
“Exactly,” she smiled, cap back on the pen. She looked out over the lake. “No, really the trick is to make a good seal. You have to press your mouths together hard enough. Then your tongues can go back and forth doing whatever.”
“But how do you breathe?”
by Seth Oden
She photoshopped his picture, giving him absurdly large muscles, and emailed it to him.
He responded with a picture of her, photoshopped so that a finger went up a nostril and poked out her eye.
She aged him in return, made him a hundred and two.
He photographed himself on one knee, holding a box with a ring in it, and shopped it into a picture of her smiling with surprise.
She messaged him back: You’re funny.
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.”