Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Anna Lea Jancewicz.
What with Daddy Gone and All
by Mathew Pereda
She keeps her eyes closed, not caring that she’s got to wear a dress that doesn’t cover her knees enough. Mr. Avery’s here with some papers. She hugs a corner of the house, arms out, gripping, as if that’ll prevent him shirking it right out from under them like a tablecloth—like those men on TV do it—leaving them all stalk-still and leftover, like fine china, she thinks. Her mother’s crying smells like whiskey. Mr. Avery has a face like an owl: a chin and jaws that skip a neck, with eyes that could just swallow her up.
by Diana Kirk
“You haven’t eaten your peas.” His fist would hit the oak table if my fork didn’t reach my mouth. I had about five seconds to make this happen. Meatloaf, potatoes, peas, meatloaf, potatoes, peas. I must have skipped the peas and he had seen. Scoop, bite, don’t look up, just chew. Thirty times, then swallow. Maybe he won’t throw our plates tonight if I can just remember. If I don’t mess up and look at her. Keep your eyes focused on this plate or he’ll throw her too. Just…chew. 1, 2, 3. Meatloaf, potatoes, peas.
by Alex Sobel
“Who’d want to live to ninety-eight, anyway?” she says, on his lap, six years to her name, sweetness in audacity. “Anyone who’s ninety-seven,” he says, an uncle. I eat pineapple chunks, pastries, drink soda. You’re in the other room, the casket, old stories that can get nothing but older, vaguer. “But she was loved,” he continues, “and she’ll continue to be loved.” I throw away my plate, uneaten pastries. I want to be that girl, have those questions, that lack of limitations. Instead, I leave to find you, wondering how strange it is that some death is worse than others.
by Nupur Balain
I knew little Timothy had been bullied again. I could tell by his shuffling gait, how he flinched whenever anyone neared him. I pitied little Timothy. His parents didn’t care about his situation; they figured putting him into a wealthy boarding school would make all their problems go away. They left it up to us, the teachers, to care for him. As he passed, I stopped him and asked if he was alright. He looked at me and said, “It’s fine. She said she’s coming for them.”
by Lee L. Krecklow
He asked if she had change for a five, and she said she did not, which was a lie, a small lie, but within it she realized a perverse power. She watched him go from table to table, asking the same and hearing the same, and she reveled in her control, understanding that it was a thing she hadn’t owned for years. It lasted until he found what he was after, from some naive teenage girl. He put his dollar in the machine, received his drink and returned to their table. “It’s not cold,” he said. Good, she thought.
Special thanks to Marc Corbier and Jessica Standifird for their editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Sarah Kayss.
by Stephen Gossett
The old house, standing naked and empty against the world, blank staring windows that cannot see. The door has locked out life. Flowers and shrubs growing and blooming, but for who? My youth peeled and blown away, only remembered as echoes. I had to cry today, standing in the deserted driveway. I am left bleeding and wounded. Through blurry eyes I try to see the old place in its former glory but it is small now. Time won out on its endless pursuit of the future.
by Luke Strickler
I never had a rocky relationship in my teen years, but I did have a summer job at the mall. I got paid minimum wage. You got paid in whatever weird version of sex teenagers were doing. I stopped finding customers interesting. You stopped finding them interesting. And together we both drove home in separate cars listening to punk rock; me just having let out the last show, and you just having sat through it alone. The only difference is now I don’t like the taste of popcorn and you don’t like the name Alex.
by Tyler Woodley
If there was a time he wished he had never met that girl, it was now. That girl who haunted his dreams, she danced in his thoughts for him as if she owned his consciousness. So close sometimes, he could smell lilac. The summer dress she wore teased relentlessly; twisting elegantly, eerily silent. Dylan squeezed his eyes shut to envision her face, but it eluded him.
“She has green eyes, green eyes, green as emeralds. Emeralds.”
She gave one final twirl as she reached the very edge of Dylan’s imagination; a faint blue flash, then complete darkness.
A Better Plan
by Diana Kirk
When I was thirteen my mother kept a gun in her bedside drawer. Tears dropped on my arms as I held it, heavy in my hands, loaded with six bullets. The decision would be final. I at least felt that. I had to pull the hammer back but couldn’t decide where I should be found. Why hadn’t I thought this through? Her keys jangled at the door and I panicked, dropping it back in the drawer. It would be there tomorrow. When I’d have a better plan.
by Nathan Hystad
I got off the sky train at the Omega sector. I looked around at the bleak planet and with a shudder pulled my trench tighter. The rain was ceaseless as I made my way to my new home. I walked around the green space for some time before I found my place. My name was carved in the stone, and I felt a tear mix with the rain on my face. I followed the instructions and laid down on the grass. My body sank into a casket. It has been hours, and I fear I did something wrong. I exist.