by David Galef
Denvers was halfway down the trellis when the miasma hit. The breeze carried bougainvillea and pollen that stuck in his throat. He grew dizzy, about to fall when a child’s hand pulled him through an open first-floor window. He fainted on the linoleum floor, waking up alone in the darkness, which is how he spends most of his time these days. Once in a while, he’ll raise his head to look at the garden, but the effort costs him. The child never returned. The window is now barred. Those at the institution act as if he’s no longer there.
by Andy Brennan
I don’t know what else to say except I’m sorry. You were faithful; you stood by us through the evacuation; you bristled on the trail; you scented danger; you listened in the night. You were good. I told the kids you’d broken your leg in a trapper’s trap. They knew we couldn’t carry you and that we couldn’t heal you. They didn’t know we’d eaten our last can of navy beans two weeks prior. They didn’t know it wasn’t possum stew. You gave and gave and gave until the very end. That’s always how I’ll remember you.
by Debora C. Martin
Tom tossed in the king-sized bed while Sally assembled the 5,000 piece puzzle portraying the Milky Way. He wished her star gazing would end, and remembered a better life before her sobriety. Leaning over the wobbly table, neck and shoulders aching, Sally inserted lavender-hued pieces into purple skies speckled with microscopic stars. In her trance, she failed to hear Tom descend the stairs and walk to the kitchen, opening and closing cabinets. But, she ceased working, and commenced hating herself, when he entered the room and handed her a glass of wine.
by Hannah Whiteoak
Lying awake, imagine buying a patch of land in some remote place. You’ll build a tiny house: no space for his smelly socks, dishes piled in the sink, gadgets he buys but never uses. You’ll plant potatoes, keep chickens, walk in the wilderness with only a shaggy dog for company, and finally figure out who you could’ve been without him. He rolls over and drapes an arm across you. Remember your career in digital marketing has not equipped you with housebuilding skills. You’ve killed every plant you’ve owned. Animals frighten you. At least he’s stopped snoring.
by Jim Doss
A Solzhenitsyn look-alike slumps into the chair beside me, scowling. I always pick slot #13 for its anti-luck in this world of science. We don’t believe in miracles. We grunt at each other, starving men in a bread line awaiting our meager portion. The nurse hangs his bag of treated blood before feeding a clear liquid into my veins that shrouds me in fog. We live trapped in the gulags of our minds each day, never knowing when the bullet might come, or the gates swing open to forests filled with life, freedom beckoning like a mirage.
by Paul Alex Gray
The bitter wind is drowned out by the yips and howls of the younglings. They prance and circle the fire kicking at embers. Russet, tan and sable fur shimmers, not yet burnt to hunter’s cloaks. Teeth glint and shine, knife sharp and hungry. I run my tongue across my own, taste in the pocks and scratches a thousand days and nights. Casting back I still feel my dawnday cap of feather and bone, my mother’s well wishes. The kill is coming. Blood games will begin. Pass the carcass round and round till the last one wins the heart.
by Brett Blocker
I threw a stick into the cornfield and Biscuit brought back a leg. That’s how we found him; the gurgling pulp in a flight suit. Sophie took one look and said “Yuck!” So that’s what we called him. Having ruined some of the crop with his airplane, Dad says it’s up to Yuck to pay us back and if that means selling him off, then so be it. I knew we couldn’t keep him forever, but every time the gypsy wagon comes down the road with a bigger offer, Dad repeats himself. “Maybe tomorrow.”
by DL Shirey
My little sister’s screams filter through salt water like the tremolo of a surf guitar. Who knew the undertow had a soundtrack? It crouches out where the slant of sand drops deep, always moving, crabbing sideways behind bones of coral, peeking up, pulling hard. I call to my sister. The words skitter up the frets of my throat into a useless strangle of bubbles, left behind with scratched strings of flesh, cut by coral, picked by fish. Black-green stands of seaweed block what little light remains. The last thing I see are long shadows swaying to the strums of riptide.
by David Galef
For the Special & Gifted School, students must achieve at least 130 on the Wechsler test, but also be measurably damaged. Rachel scored 148 but did abysmally on the Initiative Index. Her first day, she was too timid to go to the girls’ room and by 10:30 sat in a small yellow puddle. On one side of her was a boy who’d turned his notebook paper into origami turtles; on the other, a girl reading two books simultaneously while eating lunch early and smearing mayonnaise on the pages. “You fit right in,” declared the teacher cheerfully, handing Rachel a mop.
by Michael Kulp
It is May, and my only son is graduating. In May, the tadpole enjoys the shallows’ golden light, reveling in the third dimension. By June, he will be unhappy, new legs ruining his beautiful sleekness. In July, he will be restless, sensing that more changes are coming. In August, he will be a frog who remembers a little less each day about the delight of the third dimension. He will leave the pond and join the peculiar land creatures. Will he find a mate to share the darkness? But right now, it is May, and my only son is graduating.
Sounds About Right
by Mark Burnash
When we die, we’re all reincarnated as squirrels; you know that, right? Yep, each time a person dies, a lightning bolt strikes an acorn and a squirrel is born. The lightning is caused by satellites and clouds from cloud factories. The Beatles invented the satellites. Did you know Jean Claude Van Damme was one of the Beatles? Yep, that was when I owned Disney, but the C.I.A. took it away from me. The police laced my cigarettes with cocaine to frame me and they took away my children too. I didn’t mind too much; they were Nephilim abominations anyway.
by Marquis DePrevbal
Carlos returned to Mexico to care for his dying mother, so the grass grew high. By May, it was unruly, and the neighbors began to comment. By Memorial Day, it reached my knees. They stopped saying hello and stared uneasily at my untamed meadow during evening walks, as if leopards might be crouching behind the mailbox. The guy next door mowed almost daily, demonstrating his disgust. Someone from the HOA took a photo. The code enforcer would be next. What would come first, I wondered: A citation, or Carlos, sweating out his grief as he dragged me back to civilization?
This week’s artwork is by Kyle Hemmings.
Tired of Jewels
by Justin Willoughby
He was tired of her holding his hand while he drove. So he bound bracelets on her wrists. He was tired of her foot on the dashboard blocking his view. So he tied anklets around her feet. He was tired of her asking if they were lost. So he shoved a tongue ring in her mouth. He was tired of hearing her muffled voice in his ears. So he wrapped a locket around her neck. He dug a bed for her and tossed Jewels in with a dirt blanket. He was not tired anymore. So he left her to sleep.
by Brittanie Drinosky
John’s hands were huge and hard. They were used to fight, to crush, and to feed his dog, Penny, who was almost as mean and ugly as him. She howled all night, that dog, and Tim’s mama would open her window and yell curses and make threats. When John found Penny with a screwdriver through her eyeball, he didn’t make no threats. He howled all night.
by Richard Jennis
I miss the taste of you in the early morning. I miss dangling from the rooftops like turtles flipped over on railroads, staring unsuspectingly at tropical skies. I miss watching the passersby pass by. And the fluteman whistling tunes with notes that curled into the air forming tunnels so black. I miss the way the dandelions lingered years after we breathed them into multiplicity. Coming home is like the moon landing. I plant my flag but all this was never mine. I know my memory will soon be bleached white by lurid winds that don’t understand the meaning of nostalgia.
In The Beginning
by J.G. McClure
In The Beginning the warrior and the dragon are fighting. Rip off one dragonhead and another dragon buds from it. Same goes for warrior heads. Soon the world is one roiling sea of tearing and birth. The gods, horrified, shatter it with lightning—a new world sprouts from each rocky chunk. They argue ethics, and in their rage start blasting one another; more and more gods bloom. Weeping and laughter fill the abyss. The universe grows and breaks and grows and breaks and all is born: love, cigarettes, the post office. The melon we’re eating. The seeds we spit out.
by Heather Valenti
Living in a hole dug sixty feet in the ground, within an endless cavern, gets to you. Not in the, oh well, isn’t that interesting, sort of way… more, nails uselessly clawing stone, you’re going to die and you know it sort of way. “My husband will come for me, you know,” Ethel whispered. He imagined her hands digging into her head, her graying hair being tugged mercilessly, as she said this. Her chains clanked as she readjusted herself. He tried to make his voice sound confident. Reassuring. “I know.” Chains rattled. Numbering the lies they told each other.
by David Galef
At a one-woman show in a downtown gallery, I saw a dozen sculptures of women with Buddha bellies, arms big as thighs, thighs thick as waists. Intrigued, I tracked down the sculptor to see what she looked like. She was completely ordinary, regulation size, and seemed expectant yet annoyed at my curiosity about her. “I know your type,” she said as she shut the door against me. “Get a life!” I stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do. Back at the gallery, I bought her entire catalogue.
by Ashlie Allen
I took a walk around the reservation to get in touch with my land. It had been two years since my feet touched the earth. On my way down the road, I saw an old friend and said hello. He told me he’d been dead a week now. When I asked where he was buried he answered he wasn’t.
The Man and the Strangler
by Matthew Konkel
His throat was dry so he hired a strangler to choke him.
Before the man died the strangler asked: you are surrounded by water, why did you not have a drink?
There is too much, said the man, I couldn’t possibly drink it all.
Having pity, the strangler helped the man dispose of the water until only a tiny swallow remained. Now you can take a drink, said the strangler. The man did so and his throat was no longer dry.
Then the strangler choked the man dead. Because that’s what the strangler was paid to do.