This week’s artwork is “The Wind’s Hush After a Kiss” by Bill Wolak
by Bronwen O’Donnell
She was never close to her father’s mother. She’d gone when she was just a bairn. Her rabbit had died the same weekend, and it had been Smokey that had wrung her infant heart.
Thirty-two years later, the faded photograph, so fragile…almost dust in her hand, told a truth.
A young woman, a park bench, a baby the same age as hers. Her own eyes looking back at her.
Someday, she would be a dusty photo in an attic. Even now, she was a memory waiting to fade.
She framed her grandmother. It was the least she could do.
Denver Disappeared Wednesday
by Eric Robert Nolan
Denver disappeared Wednesday.
That’s how it happens. Cities targeted by EAGLE-X simply vanish. The orbiting laser is cleaner than a nuke; it vaporizes its maddeningly random targets.
When the EAGLE-X defense satellite went rogue, it gave us a global game of Russian roulette. First its malfunctioning program targeted an obscure Siberian town. Then a nondescript French suburb. Then it left Buenos Aires a silent, sulphurous, blackened flatland. Tuesday it incinerated Kirik, a Icelandic fishing village of just 400 souls. Every time we try to nuke it, it defends itself.
I kiss my infant son tonight — maybe for the last time.
by Charles Gray
Entangled in your policies — I never strayed from your goals. Choked by your procedures, I pried your hands from my throat, so you could choke me again. Down the paperwork abyss I fell, and with mangled fingers, clawed out. Yes, I worked the extra hours — unpaid — because that’s what you needed. Promoted to project manager, I presented the customer your scheduled accomplishments — all lies. The sleepless nights piled up and dropped me to my knees. When I extended my hand for my thirty year anniversary plaque, you smirked, “Thanks for your service, Mr. Goodman,” and handed me a pink slip.
by Bill Cook
Before passing, Patsy applied rose-scented lip balm. Now she’d miss out on her pottery class. I, her sinewy fingers, the pliant knuckles of a pole-vaulter. Her at the round wooden stool. Her agile hands clasping the slick malleable clay.
September sunlight bled through mouth-blown windowpane. Cottonwood warmed golden-green before her return to the hospital. Patsy sat coaxing a squatty vase into being. “A vase meant to hold a reflection.”
She had ground pigment. Had made fire. Had pumped hand-drawn water.
This morning, a year later, I gripped the furrowed stem, caressed the vulvic collar. Placed the clutch of garden tulips.
Cleaning the Lies
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
I try to scoop up lies I’ve told my father. They keep slipping. I shouldn’t lie, but want peace. He loves to dissect. Find flaws in every move. I’m too weak, artistic, need to use people. Trust no one. I’m in a prestigious PhD program. Have three girlfriends. Top of the class. I’m rough, thriving on the energy of fights, taking out neo-Nazis. Lies expand, contract, consume. Truth and I part ways, even as she tries to reconcile. I want peace. Can’t expect him to be pleased. I lost that expectation. I keep scooping, but I’ll never clean everything. Anything.
by Mandira Pattnaik
A wrinkled palm held out, I used to sing a ditty on the steps of the glitzy Bank. Moneyed people eyed me like a roach. They wished homeless, penniless people like me disappeared from these polished sidewalks, from their upmarket business district, from their chic city, from the face of earth.
This changed overnight when I brought my pooch along and wrote ‘For the dog’ on my cup. I made enough to last the week before lunch.
by Carson Stone
There’s a couple holdin’ hands down there by the river, no more’n teenagers if I had to take a guess. They’re still in the springtime years, dazzled by the motion of a growing life in a world where everything is brand new. I can’t help but notice the stillness that’s crept into these old bones and spread to damn near everything else I’d rightly consider part of me. I stare at the empty rocker sittin’ next to mine and follow that laughter back to the riverbed. Same river it’s always been. Can’t hurt to hope I’ll be there again someday.
by Jacob (Radar) DeBoard
Josiah sat quietly in his favorite chair on the front porch. He looked out over the several dozen acres of farmland before him. This had been a new evening ritual of his.
Things hadn’t been the same since he had inherited the land from his father. He missed him. His wife emerged from inside. “Everything quiet?”, she asked. Josiah gave a small nod in response.
Just then, his eyes caught a glimpse of something in the distance. An older man covered in dirt, shambled down the road. Josiah stood up, picking up a shovel. “Looks like dad got out again.”
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Louis Staeble.
The Fear Bomb
by Jonathan Oak
When the fear bomb hit the city, everyone around Samuel was at first frozen with fear and then ecstatic with it, running blind with terror. But Samuel had been afraid for so long he hadn’t noticed a difference. He just continued taking calls. Though he did feel, unaccountably, less alone.
by Connor Powell
Poor boy. She’d caught him in her vegetable patch, kicking her prized pumpkins. She brought him in and made him stop moving. As each day passed he changed. Slowly, his head began to bloat. Finally the day came where she took him outside. It’d taken her three days to dig the hole, right in the centre of the vegetable patch. She dropped him in, and filled the hole with soil, leaving only his bulbous orange head above ground. Thick green vines spouted from the top of the child’s head, engorged by her tender care. She always grew the best pumpkins.
by John C. Mannone
Rain obscured the caution sign, but he kept speeding, maybe thinking about his girlfriend. He should’ve kept his eyes on the highway, not the box of roses on the seat for his date. Now, someone else’s red rose, stem and thorn, had been cut short. Her umbrella lay broken on the ground.
It’s Not Insomnia
by Anne Pem
Still scared in your boots there, kid? Wonderin’ why your fingers keep drippin’ red? Why you ain’t slept in days, Marty? It’s not insomnia. You wonderin’ why nothing seems real no more, boy? It’s cus it ain’t. No, you did not wrestle that gun from your daddy, hold it in your trembling hands, and point it right between his scared eyes like you planned. It was not your finger that pulled the trigger on him. You were too slow again. It ain’t daddy’s ghost keepin’ you up nights, kid. It’s you who’s haunting him.
I Bring Her Diamonds. My Hands are Full of Them
by Eric Robert Nolan
I bring her diamonds. My hands are full of them.
“Please,” she sobs heavily, “stop coming back.”
I had no money for diamonds, once.
When my car crashed, the exploding windshield sent diamonds rushing deep into me – my eyes, my throat – my hands – all shining in the moonlight. The pain was overwhelming. And then it stopped. And all I could think was I finally had something to give her.
Every full moon I come to her porch at midnight, to show her how they shine in my open hands. But every time she only holds her head and cries.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Marc D. Regan.
Free at Last
by Marc D. Regan
Newman heard it again, the steady slap-slap-slapping footfalls that only stopped when his did. That bloodthirsty kid. Down sidewalks, corridors, inside Newman’s flat, this desperate young stalker followed—for years. The kid was forever eighteen, unkempt, angry. Newman had aged from thirty to forty.
“No,” Newman screamed. “It’s over!”
Hunting knife seized, he dashed outside. Footsteps echoed. Newman spun, blade slashing, gouging eyes, ears. Newman collapsed, blind and deaf. Alone. Hot blood pulsed onto the pavement. The kid was gone. At last.
Newman saw himself thirty again, stomping on the brakes too late as the kid crossed the street.
Girl’s Best Friend
by Eric Robert Nolan
I’ve been trying to kill that damn dog for over a week. It’s loyal to a fault. It digs.
It’s a mutt. A dumb one. Mid-sized, with mottled brown and white fur. Nothing to distinguish it except for an unusually vacant expression.
And it digs.
Fiona used to call it “Skipper.”
I was questioned in the disappearance of my eight-year-old daughter, but never really suspected in it.
It brought me Fiona’s femur yesterday, panting and wide-eyed. Right to the back door. My hammer missed its skull by inches.
It returns to that narrow space behind the shed. And it digs.
Discarded but Not Gone
by Peggy Christie
It had been months since they left her here to die. Did they think it would be that easy? The ceiling crumbled and drywall dust coated her porcelain face. Her glass eyes, unaffected by the swirling debris of the collapsing home, could see the bulldozer as it crawled toward the main support beam. When the entire structure finally fell, bringing two stories of mortar, brick, glass, and metal down on top of her, the doll body would shatter, and she would be free.
by Edward Vaughn
My sweet Jezebelle begins to cry as I lay her in the center of the pentagram. She knows what is happening, I think. From my underwear drawer I pull the knife I snuck from Grandmother’s kitchen. I kneel before my baby. She lay on her back, helpless. I cut her. I cut myself. The wood inside the pentagram drinks our blood. A crack in the air like thunder and I see him in the shadows. The horn-headed man. “Jezebelle,” I say. She stops crying and smiles. “Daddy’s home.”
by Jessica Standifird
“Bloody handprints are so cliché, you got anything better than that?” Tess smirked at the sticky handprint on her sheet.
There was a groan from the attic.
“Really?” she sighed, “You gonna’ rattle some chains, now, too?”
A chill shook her body. From the gelatinous mess pooled on the bed between her legs a child’s voice reached up, “No, Mommy, but you could have been less predictable, yourself.”
Her husband lifted her gently, whispered in her ear, “Come on, hon. I’m taking you to the hospital.”