A Prayer in Cinnamon
by Ellen Perleberg
Wander to the kitchen at one a.m., sleepless. She’s there, of course. Try politely not to notice She’s been crying. She looks up, smiles, conspiratorial. It’s less lonely when there are people in the house. “I was about to make hot chocolate,” She says. “Want some?” She hadn’t really been intending on cocoa. But it’s what people do for each other in midnight kitchens. She respects that. People need their litanies and lullabies. Take a seat at the table while She whisks chocolate, the kind that comes in disks and dissolves grainy, imperfect, into milk. Real cinnamon. Taste and see.
The Pastor and His Dark Church
by Stephen D Gibson
Someone changes the porch light bulb to red again. A “red-light district” bulb. A persistent prank. It doesn’t seem, to him, an accusation: “Pastor, you prostitute.” His parishioners are always outraged. It bothers him less. He advises turning the other cheek. Changing bulbs. They want private security. “No,” he says. “Who wants angrier, more expensive vandalism?” They’re conservative. Sharing wealth, even with God from whence it came, is difficult for them. So, he walks toward his building, sunrise only a glow. The barest pink behind the silhouette of the church comforts him. Stepping inside, he leaves the porch light burning.
The Summer of Love
by Jim Doss
1967. They were Barbie and Ken. Everything perfect, the world before sex and death. Plenty of money, Cadillacs, steaks cut into precise squares. Each evening always full debonair dress, hand in hand, hand on waist, violins swirling. Nothing could spoil the magic, not even war, that distant echo growing louder in foreign jungles. Then the draft, daddy’s money failures, deferment that didn’t happen. Mekong, Tet Offensive, napalm, flame throwers, tunnel rats scurrying past bullet-riddled bodies. Fear that makes a person retreat into themselves, cowering behind a wall of corpses. In his room the light goes on, off, on, off. Forever.
by Mark Reels
When Chelsea stopped by the supermarket, they were setting up for the wine tasting. The store put on a “Six for Six Celebration” with six appetizers and six samples of wine at little stations throughout the store. She bought a pregnancy test and headed home. When Brad picked her up, Chelsea didn’t tell him about the baby. Instead, they complimented each other’s outfits and drove to the store. Later, she stood in the gluten free aisle sipping a dry Chardonnay while scrolling through her phone looking for a clinic. She used the online form to make an appointment for Monday.
by Kelsey Maccombs
“I got you cinnamon tea. Is that okay?” Cinnamon tea tastes like screeching brakes and burned skin. Like pushing open the classroom door, still gasping, forty minutes after the exam started and explaining to the teacher I canttakethetest, needtogohome, donthavedryclothes, cantstopcrying. I spent an hour cleaning cinnamon tea out of the seats before I learned what totaled meant, so no, it’s not okay. But this is a first date, so I drink it anyway.
The Organ Breathers
by Erik Fuhrer
The organ breeders took a day off to be organ breathers because there was a typo on the memo that day and they were bred to be literal. So, they took a deep breath and pressed their lips against the cold skin of a cirrhotic liver. Miraculously, it sputtered and spit as they exhaled, and life spilled from its ocher body. Triumphantly, the organ breathers continued blowing their life into the liver’s puckered flesh in slow steady streams. Once it blushed, they placed it in the body of a young mare, which instantly revived and bucked its mane in joy.
Abortions and Laugh Tracks
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
“I wanted to have an abortion,” the boy’s mother says, stumbling through the door. She is drunk. Again. That does not negate the words that rush to the boy, the TV laugh track resounding like a slap. “I hate you too,” he says. He is twelve. He knows the way she looks at him, worn out. Tired. But he never thought she hated him. He thought she was holding back, wanted her to let him in on her world. The mother stares at him. He wants her to say something. She does not, the laugh track rising again and again.
by Dakota Canon
Caleb stood at the edge of the gorge looking down. The sun was setting, forcing him to squint, but the heat remained oppressive. Behind him the screech of tires, the cut of an engine. He didn’t look back. The hand on his shoulder hung, heavy.
“You okay, buddy? You not thinking of jumping, are you?”
“Thinking,” Caleb said, “but not doing.” Just like always. He squeezed his eyes shut.
“You wanna hop in the cruiser? I got iced tea.”
Caleb shook his head and sat down. He didn’t even have the courage for a damn tea. “Maybe next time.”
by Ellen Perleberg
“Grandma, why did your face fall down?”
“What’s that, love?”
“How come your neck and cheeks are so droopy?”
“Well, cry enough tears and they start to weigh a face down.”
“I hope my face falls down soon too.”
“Don’t wish for Sunday, little one.”
“Mommy and Daddy’s faces in their boxes were sewn up real tight and stiff. That’s not how it’s s’posed to be.”
“No, baby, it’s not.”
by Och Gonzalez
When I first came here, my family always came to visit. Sundays were fun, ‘cause that’s when they came. Then I looked forward to every other Sunday, then just the last Sunday of the month. Then there were no more Sundays and I’ve got nothing to mark time with except the yellowing of the walls. The nurses told me I should learn how to knit so I won’t be staring out the window. It hasn’t been easy with my knotty hands, but I’m now on my fifty-sixth sweater. I haven’t got much yarn left, but there are no clocks here.
This week’s artwork is “Coca Cola Tango” by AF Knott.
by Zack Stein
When tantruming on account of something small, but motivated by reasons big, Mom would go through the kitchen drawers and throw spoons at my father and me. Always spoons. Never the forks or knives, and I thought that was a nice gesture. Still, she never tried to discipline me. She just let me twist her static hair as she slept under white duvets for most of my adolescence. My father always said she was ill or tired, but I saw it in him, too. Sometimes I’d watch him dip his face into a bowl of cereal until his fingertips relaxed.
by B.E. Seidl
I looked at the bug, and he looked at me. There was only his head, the rest was still under my skin. For days I had anticipated this moment, when I would finally stare into those colorless eyes. I had felt him moving inside my arm, had watched him growing under an itching bump. All I wanted to do was rip his head off, but I had to wait until he came out on his own. It seemed like hours that we were eying each other. Finally he squeezed himself out and fell to the floor.
Young Lovers Go Camping
by Vincent Aldrich
On the bus to Baltimore she bites her nails and listens to slow music in her headphones, slumping in the red hoodie he paid for, watching traffic out the window as the sky goes dark. Her boots are still muddy. Both her eyes and cheek are deep, inky purple, veined bilirubin yellow, starting to heal. Her mouth is slightly open because she still can’t breathe through her broken nose. Her cellphone and wallet are somewhere in the Susquehanna River. The gun in the backpack on the seat next to her is missing four bullets.
by Ellen Perleberg
Café Arusat was like every other café in Tripoli. Men loitered for hours over strong coffee and debates. Hakim had run the café for five years. According to custom, he should’ve bonded with the same twenty men occupying his ironwork chairs every afternoon, but generations passed through too quickly. They died fighting for Gaddafi or the rebellion. The survivors fled to Europe. Or jihadi camps. Those who stayed were blown up or murdered. Whenever a patron disappeared, Hakim scrubbed his old chair with bleach, as though the disinfectant could scare away the djinns and the ghosts of his broken country.
by Doyen Sump
Though I distinctly remember going to bed last night, I am somehow fully clothed and on the bathroom floor when I wake. I get up slowly and look in the mirror. I am pale and haggard. After splashing water on my face, I exit and find my wife sitting at the kitchen table, looking frustrated.
“The police brought you home again,” she says. “You were wandering the street eating a box of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.”
I want to believe she’s joking, but I taste cinnamon when I swallow.
“Wasn’t me,” I say.
“Never is,” she says.