White Picket Fence
by Paul Beckman
Monday, Madison wore her cheerleader’s uniform to breakfast. Mom and Dad clapped–brother Charlie teased her about her big thighs and ate two more chocolate chip pancakes, Madison scrambled her egg whites. They ran to catch the school bus as Mom and Dad stood in the doorway smiling, arms around each other. Mom cleaned up then after lunch popped two Oxycontin pills and watched “girl on girl” porn on her laptop while Dad was driving to meet his sister-in-law at a motel and Madison was in the school bathroom, fingers down her throat, and Charlie was busy bullying a freshman.
No One Believes Anymore
by Naomi Parker
“What does she want with teeth, anyway?” they wonder. She skips down the dark hallways at night, feet lightened by visions of children digging under pillows for a prize. Through the cracked door, casting slight night-light shadows over discarded toys, she creeps. Under the cover of slow breaths, clasping her coin purse so it doesn’t clink, she gently lifts the pillow. All she sees is a puckered sheet, again. One hundred thousand reminders every night that no one knows or cares. Still, she is a good fairy, so she has taken to hiding the loose change under sofa cushions.
by Mark Burnash
“It tickles!” little Elliot squealed as the sunflowers nuzzled him with their disc florets. They had been laughing, singing, and dancing all day long. When the sun reached its zenith, some sunflowers formed a canopy with their ray florets to provide him shade while others told him fantastic fables and fairy tales. When evening finally fell, Elliot, delighted yet exhausted from the day’s festivities, collapsed onto a soft bed woven with green leaves. When dawn broke the next morning, try as they might, the scavengers couldn’t find a single scrap of meat left on Elliot’s bones.
by Franziska Hofhansel
The one thing you do remember was the flick of her wrist. She made a gesture and the way her wrist bent, carefully, a no nonsense upward motion conveying nonchalance, grabbed your gaze and held it there. You turned to ask her something, or maybe just stare, because you’d never seen someone so mired in life and when she took a breath you thought of elderly couples picking apples and when the brakes slammed and her neck snapped up, hard, you thought of that wrist flick.
Bill Died and Left Me a Pig
by D. D. Renforth
Bill died and left me a pig I swear is Bill.
My wife Ellen smirks, “Really? Bill is Hardy the pig?”
When she approaches, Hardy shakes his bottom, smiles, his tongue hangs then stiffens.
Hardy always winks at me with strange eyes, too red for a pig, then turns and farts. In private I scold it, even whip it for mocking me.
“You need help,” Ellen says and makes an appointment.
The doctors ignore me.
The priest holds my hand and prays.
Only the fish in the waiting room agrees.
“You’re right,” it says, “Hardy loves your wife.”
The War on Drugs
by J. Bradley
I look at the officer as she writes down her version of what happened. I calculate when she might not be paying attention to try and make myself more comfortable against the wheel well. The officer stops writing when she hears the chaff of fabric and metal against the tire. She looks at me, moves her hand halfway to the Taser holstered on her belt. An itch spreads across my cheek. I want to grate the dandruff out of my beard in front of her using only my shoulder. No need to wait for the dogs, I want to say.
In Boxing Class
by Anne Wilding
Seeing me fill up, Richard calls time, takes me outside before I cry. “It’s okay… It takes time… Some people can’t hit.” He doesn’t ask why I stood rabbit-in-headlights while my classmates screeched, “Go on! He’s training to take it! Hit him!” And my sparring partner stood there impassive, waiting for the first blow. Outside, Richard holds me, lets my snot soak his shirt, says, “It’s all right… You are good enough.” And doesn’t ask why. It was the arms I was supposed to go for, at the top. Where it hurts like hell but bruises don’t show.
Before Father Lost his Mind
by D. D. Renforth
Before father lost his mind, we talked of his estate, and he said, “Come every month on the days when it rains, recite King Lear, and it’s yours.” Now we stand beside his lawyer outside his open window on rainy days and repeatedly recite King Lear from start to finish while our father with dementia listens but does not recognize us. When we reach Act I, Scene 4, he puts his head out the window and screams Lear’s line with us, “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child!” and then returns to silence.
Like every Friday, you’re at the pub and you place your bet. You swell bright from liquor. Little to lose, that day you win a yellow boat in which you pack everything you own and take to new sights. You learn to tighten the grip on the oar handles in storming waters and become familiar inside blistered skin. The sea stretches its unclosed wings, inexhaustible territories waiting blue and haunted. Your breaths are as much collectible seashells as are your destinations. You think you must look like a rust flake to whoever watches you claim a draining soul search.
by Susan McCreery
She balled the toilet tissue and stuffed it in the plughole. That should stop the rats. Outside the bathroom window an earnest conversation was taking place. … marbles, she heard. Huh, they think I’ve lost ’em. … in a home. She smacked her palm on the high frosted window. Don’t think I can’t hear you! And I can smell your cigarettes. Rats, rats, the lot of you. Nibbling away at me. Go home to your families. No one’s pitching me out. She glanced in the mirror. Wild hair. Nightie unbuttoned. Who was that?
(“Rats” will be published in Susan’s upcoming book Loopholes set for release in December 2016.)
by Alexis Nau
His car smells like Sweet Pea perfume. He picks me up at 7:50 to take me to school because he’s a gentleman. He kisses me good morning and smirks at me. My mind implodes. I give him my confident smile, the one from fourth grade. Surely he smelled it within those guilty minutes between his house and mine. The scent of Rebecca Vaus’ signature fragrance; the smell that used to follow him in a cloud, linger on his sheets. Surely he breathed it in, bathed in it. He smirks again, knowing I know, and knowing I’ll never say anything.
Life Cycle of the Swimmer Gloria Sherman
by Lynn Mundell
A feral girl, she dog paddles to her mother, gulping the dirty water. Abandoning her JV parka like a chrysalis, she dives, long limbs skimming the surface, a white butterfly. For years, she favors the breaststroke, a sensible method for going the distance, abandoned once in midlife, a year of reckless backstroke, three injured, her included. Settling down again: swim, flip-turn, breathe — 25, 30 laps left, God willing. In her last summer, she crawls down the lane, swimmers behind her like cars trailing an RV. If she can, she won’t return to the earth but rather die in the water.