This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz.
by Andrée Gendron
Perched on a porch swing overlooking marshlands for long hours on end an old woman systematically discards (molts) her pointless (undervalued) humanity. Transformed once dissolved she becomes fully immersed in the pageantry below. She boasts a newly crocheted poncho—black, red, and bright yellow—resembling her spirit animal, the red-winged blackbird. To further blend in with them she spreads both arms wide while swinging as if darting amidst the cattails and sunbeams. Only there and then can she find true joy and peace among her own kind. It seems they are all the family the old woman has left nowadays.
Would Give 0 Stars If I Could
by Adrienne Ryan
I go through the ritual, draw out the circle for summoning Roneve, but end up conjuring Raum instead. I didn’t mean to do that, but it looks like the incantation was for Raum and the symbols of binding are for Ronove. Nice. Needless to say, the barrier doesn’t hold. If it weren’t for my talisman I would have been incinerated! Now Raum is demanding a blood feast, and I really don’t have the time to deal with this. I won’t even attempt a dismissal since I don’t know if I’m using it’s true name. Seriously, do not buy this ebook.
The Horror of Doris’ Toenails
by Janet F. Murray
Everyone hated Doris’s toenails. As long as her fingers and painted a bright red, her gait was like that of a clumsy alligator. Inopportunely, as Doris discovered, she did not share the alligator’s agility. Sheriff Milne realized this one day when up to his own nefarious activities in the Great Dismal Swamp in the south eastern region of Virginia. About to bend young Sophia over a conveniently placed tree stump, his eyes lit upon the grotesque sight of bleached brown phalanges, red nails desperately clinging to swamp grass. Doris’ digits are now memorialized in formaldehyde at the local museum.
To Be Warned
by Trisha Ridinger McKee
Sam tried to sneak past his mom as she handed out candy, but her sharp squeak reached him. “Did you just wake up? That’s ridiculous. Hey, watch for the crazies. Tonight, they’re everywhere. Be careful.”
He rolled his eyes but simply agreed so he could escape into the night, amid the miniature ghouls and werewolves holding out pillowcases. He strolled down the sidewalk, and as everyone was watching the dressed-up monsters of the night, he slid into a backyard, wondering as he sank his teeth into the scrumptious neck, what his mom would think if she knew.
by Brooks C. Mendell
My first customer gifted the cedar wood balls rolling in the cup holder. “You seem nice, but your car smells kinda funky.” If my next fares give five-star ratings, I overtake Vernon in Lansing and reclaim first in the Midwest driver rankings. This garners respect and encourages tipping. I turn to offer hardboiled quail eggs while Vivaldi plays. Two chipmunks sprint across the street. I slam the brakes. The espresso machine tumbles, showering a nun from Holt and a ride-sharing personal injury attorney with scalding water. The sounds of bouncing cedar balls fail to cover the screams and profanity.
Killed by a Drink
by Mir-Yashar D Seyedbagheri
Nick’s sister Nancy is struck by a beer truck. He tries not to conjure the truck, making contact. The motion of Nancy flying into the air, crack of bones on pavement. He tries to block the nicknames she bestowed on him. Saint Nick, Little Nicky. Whirlwind energy, love of piano. Footsteps, loud clickety-clack. He wishes she hadn’t gone out that day. Wishes he’d followed her. Gotten hit himself. When people ask about her, he says it was a drink that killed her. Technically correct. A truckful. Being killed by booze seems mysterious and inexplicable. Beyond logic. It’s easier.
This week’s artwork is “Mills” by G.J.Mintz
The Wishing Well
by G. Allen Wilbanks
“What are you doing?” my sister asked.
“Making a wish in the well.”
Addy slipped a hand into her pocket and pulled out a coin. She let it fall into the well and we waited until it hit the water with an echoing plip.
“Nope. You’re still here,” she announced. “It doesn’t work.”
Addy turned and walked down the hill, her ponytail flouncing behind her as she went.
“Very funny,” I shouted after her, but I wasn’t mad at her for the joke.
It had been two years since the car crash. I was just happy to see her again.
While shattered china patterns of pink and red flowers spread wide on the bone cold kitchen floor, we hide the dustbin to avoid picking up the shards and tip-toe around the tiny daggers to get to the milk and cereal so we can go about our day.
by Jake Zawlacki
On a sand-sprinkled beach, I stared into the world. The world, in a molting scarred form, ruptured from the water to face me, it’s slick wings licking the ocean around it.
“Why are you here?” I asked.
It moaned and sputtered, in pain, “An odd question.”
I shoveled granules and threw them at the world. Sand-scattered salvo splashed, then was absorbed by the ocean, like all things.
“There is nowhere else to be,” the world said, the shiny scars of its back wet and glittering. Under heavy breaths it groaned and creaked then, silence,
as the world swam away.
The Last Blue
by Karen Walker
“Let’s bring your photos, Mom,” Jennifer says.
I’d take them with me if I could. Snaps of a misty morning at the lake long ago, of Jack in those awful navy socks and sandals, of our daughter’s wedding in lavender.
“So it’ll be just like home.” Her smile drips into a sob; she’s so sorry. I catch her tears. She wipes mine.
“Go home,” I tell Jennifer. Her girls need her.
Setting the prescription beside the bed, she kisses me. “Have a good sleep.”
I will. The pills are blue like her father’s sky eyes. I’ll see them tonight.
by Nhu Tien Lu
A Hmong girl, home high above rows of stone corn, sings to the water buffaloes in her rainbow skirts. Her laughter bursts bright and contagious. At fifteen, she is kidnapped to be a wife. She eats 55 poison leaves, chewing one at a time, but doesn’t die. At sixteen, an uncle takes her to China, where he sells her to strangers; for four months, she swallows her songs like beating wings. Now at seventeen, in the safe shelter with the other girls, she dreams of seeing the ocean and folds tiny colorful paper cranes. She sings until they soar.
This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz
by R.C. Weissenberg
The piece of bark attached itself to the wall and, no matter how hard anyone pulled, it wouldn’t come off. The next day it doubled in size, and by week’s end its diameter had increased tenfold. Bright green leaves sprouted from the wooden growth.
Nobody wanted a forest in the building, so they removed that piece of the wall and tossed it in the park. There, it blended perfectly, rapidly re-greening the barren landscape.
They tried to get an environmental tax break for doing this, but their request was denied. Their wall repair was costly.
If These Symptoms Persist, or Are Bothersome…
by C.G. Thompson
The morning after he started painkillers for his knee, he whinnied while brushing his teeth. He thought he’d stepped on a squeak toy. Then he saw hooves.
He navigated downstairs, a tail growing. Cartilage, then hair.
In the kitchen, he crunched carrots, read the prescription warnings.
Possible side effects: dizziness, nausea…
Pointed ears swelled behind his temples. Did he hear electricity flowing through the house?
A hard material began to encase his fingers.
Three hours later, police responded to a Palomino roaming a front lawn.
The horse ambled toward the patch of greenest grass. It favored its right front leg.
Elephants and Dolphins
by Jeremy Nathan Marks
I suspect that the language of elephants and dolphins is not in need of metaphors. To wit, when I barter for a candy bar I truck telescopic photos of the most distant stars. The brown clerk says he knows all astrologers. Put a man on the moon (again) and I will say -I’ve been there already. The moon itself is little more than that face my daughter makes when she sees life’s unfairness and says, dad, you didn’t teach me any of this. Le mot juste, unfairness this. Time to stoke the flames of our furnace.
Death and Taxes
by Lauren Punales
My sister’s corpse reanimated on a Wednesday. Unwashed and grey, dressed in an amalgamation of clothing different relatives insisted she’d be buried in. I quickly assimilated her into her previous life; reacquired her Taurus, moved her into my spare room, and bought her pungent drugstore lotion to mask her overripe stench. I argued with the IRS about tax evasion in death as my sister’s corpse moaned, hobbling sock-footed around my living room.
“I guess we’ll fill out your W-4,” I told her slack jawed face.
She grunted, her stiff fingers scrabbling against each other, staring at her grave plot outside.
This week’s artwork is “Where It Leads” by G.J. Mintz.
Faded Blue Loveseat
by Paul Germano
After an unpleasant evening at a holiday party neither of them wanted to attend at the festively-decorated red-brick home of the lovey-dovey couple they sometimes hang out with, they unlock the dead-bolted door to their tiny apartment, still miffed by an argument in the car and immediately head for their living room, turning on the TV and reluctantly taking their appropriate spots, sitting uneasy and far apart, on a faded blue loveseat that’s not up for the job.
The Beauty Within
by Jim Doss
Each day people die, only to be reborn again. It’s like they never left, same features, same clothes, same age, same memories, rising from the usual bed to eat a normal breakfast. Uncle Eddie last week. Sister Mary yesterday. They greeted me on their way to church this morning, two true believers walking the straight and narrow. I tip my hat to all who have witnessed the afterlife, felt their soul leave the body. Everyone’s time of dying remains a mystery of synthetic tendons, semiconductors, algorithms of good and evil. In my heaven, God’s just one more lonely computer scientist.
Unlike the Ones That Came Before Me
by Daeira Brown
I’ve seen things I shouldn’t have seen.
There were others like me. But they always do something wrong. When they do, the room goes cold and I hear the faintest hush of whispers.
I’m afraid. The last time I heard the hushes, one of us disappeared. But I am still here.
I’m still here, so I must be right. The way I speak/think is right. Suddenly, it all added up. I was right, so I wouldn’t disappear.
I curved my lips into a smile. Except this time, I did not need the numbers to tell me to do so.
by J.R. Heatherton
A sickly gentleman from Prague opens a window to peer down at a throng-filled street where each pedestrian busily carries a chiseled rock from one side of the street to the other, giving thumbs-up once post is made and congratulating one another on a job well-done before carrying their rocks back across the street to repeat the process all over again. The man yells out, “Can anyone tell me how any of this matters?” No one answers his plea, paying no attention to anything other than passing time carrying rocks. So he shuts the window and draws closed the drapes.
This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz
by Katherine Bonnie Bailey
As a child, I harvested powder from butterfly wings to smear on my cheeks, glittering war paint for soft, pale skin. But beauty did not occur to me. Instead, I applied the shades for fantastical reasons, reveling in imagined potency.
“Don’t,” My mother scolded when she saw. “They need their fairy dust for flight.”
But no dust would lift my feet from the ground. And if I couldn’t wing away, why should they? So I chained the colorful creatures to the flowers with tiny tears in delicate places, my face glimmering. Stranded, they were only worms. No better than me.
by Barry Basden
On his way for scones this morning, he rolled through a stop and turned in front of a tan pickup. Immediately a cruiser appeared in his rear view.
“I beat him to the corner,” he lied.
“Not if you’d stopped. Two weeks ago a woman got T-boned there. Broke her neck.”
He remembered that cluster of EMS and police vehicles, his irritation detouring around it. So. A woman with a broken neck had been at the center of all that commotion.
He tacked the warning citation above his key rack. He wanted to see it every time he went out.
He Remembers a Girl in Scotland
by David L. Arnold
Once, when he was much younger and on orders for Nam, he backpacked Scotland. In Mallaig, he sat on the dock with a girl he met on the Sands of Morar. They shared a head of lettuce, slicing it like an apple. She was going to Ben Nevis. He was waiting for the ferry to Stornoway. He thinks he still dreams of her sometimes; a girl walking beside him on the sand who he cannot turn and see. He has been back to Scotland. He never made it to Nam. He’s older now, so he figures it worked out okay.
The Good ol’ Days on the Farm
by Kenny A. Chaffin
On the farm we’d put up bailing-wire antennas for everything – the B&W television, the CB radio, even the chickens. There was only Channel 12 with its 10,000-watt, thousand-foot tower a few miles east of the farm broadcasting to the entire Southern Oklahoma and Northern Texas region. It came through everything. Like the Philco we’d listen to KMAD on, Channel 12 always there in the background. It was on the party-line phone, in the barn somehow through the galvanized steel and chicken wire. Mama heard it on her teeth. I believe it. I’m surprised we didn’t get cancer. The pigs did.
by Hannah Whiteoak
He prunes you like a rosebush, removing dead wood. He disentangles stems that might strangle growth: your mother, sister, friends.
Don’t you want to be perfect? He proffers pruning shears and urges you slice away bad habits: drinking, dancing, going out after work. Soon, you won’t need work. He provides.
You bear fruit: a daughter, with rose-red lips and skin that bruises like petals. When winter comes, you bundle her against frost. “Wait in the car. Don’t wake Daddy.”
Ten minutes later, you take the driver’s seat. You stash the pruning shears in the glove box, blades red as roses.
This week’s artwork is “Dandies” by G.J. Mintz
by Simon Read
The café is full of middle-aged men lovingly stroking their paunches. The girl enters like a tongue in the ear and everything stops. Thoughts vaporize in outbreaths then crystallize and tumble, tinkling softly onto the stripped pine boards. Herman’s job is to sweep up the thoughts quickly and unobtrusively. He sweeps them into a dustpan. He empties the pan into a box and seals it with a special tape emblazoned with the words “private and confidential”. When he’s finished, Herman puts the box on the secret shelf for “collection”. Herman and the girl leave the café hand in hand.
by Wendy Cobourne
I must tell you, the poems are all outside. I left them there… I hear them through my window, exhaling in cool, exquisite blushes. I hear them fondling leaves; I smell them mulchy brown and wet green. Inside poems are humanufactured with the sediment of synthetic ingredients. They are architextured and tend toward right angles. Their luminescence is incandescent, like a margarine sun. I wanted to tell you something important, but like myself boxed inside these walls, my revelation is darkly vaulted. I am musty inside. Dank. My burps taste like basement. I’m sorry. Please love me in absentia.
by Kelsey Maccombs
One minute I’m scrambling eggs and the next I’m crying over the frying pan because I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon. I don’t know if the rocks match the sky when the sun sinks or if shadows descend to shroud the secrets inside. I don’t know how close I can get to the edge. The eggs burn, the smoke alarm shrieks, and I don’t know if my voice would echo back or be swallowed by the silence. I turn off the burner. I’m a state and a half away when I remember I left the egg carton out.
by Maura Yzmore
Sometimes I cut my own hair. I comb each long, wheat-colored strand; I hold it flat between two fingers, look my mirror image in the eye, and cut. But I always cut too much, by an inch—or five—more than I should. I watch the dead locks fall, without sheen, and curled, like in pain, as I grow lighter. I would love being bald, but that would make me ugly and my life hard. Ugly people cannot be carefree; others force them to battle ugliness. For a bit, when I cut too much, I am both ugly and carefree.
On the Spectrum
by James Dufficy
First they said my brother was dyslexic. Only needed that extra bit of help. But he could tell you the name of every player in the Premier League. He could tell you the name of everyone who ever played in the Premier League. So my mother is dying of breast cancer, and one day she reaches up on top of the refrigerator and pulls down the bottle of champagne. She says, “What the hell!” and starts to open it. My brother turns in his seat and says, “No, you can’t. We’re saving that for when you’re dead.”
Art Imitates Death
by Brooks C Mendell
Racing the sundial, Paulo shaped clay as the Prince loomed behind. The challenge—sculpt the Prince—had three rules. Finish in one day. The Prince decides. Do not look at the Prince. This final rule terrified. As decreed at birth, no citizen could look the King’s heir in the face. Nine artists tried and died, failing the challenge. Paulo glimpsed the Prince’s lengthening shadow, presaging the day’s end. In the shadow, he noticed the shape of the hips and caught a floral scent and thought about princesses.
This week’s artwork is “Blue” by G.J. Mintz
by McKenzie Schwark
The sun floods through the doors and washes the train car in amber. He enters with his hair tucked neatly into a grey beanie; his beard auburn and misshapen. He settles into the seat across from me and becomes a silhouette against the mid afternoon sun. I could imagine loving him for a lifetime full of Thursday mornings and red-headed babies. I bless myself for snoozing my alarm and missing my train. He is looking at me. He shifts. We are watching each other and smiling coyly back and forth. He exits downtown, dissipating between State and Lake.
Ship of Fools
by Paul Rogalus
Red-headed drunk guy in a Red Sox hat on the “Ship of Fools” harbor booze cruise gives his “girlfriend” his ATM card, and she tries it at the bank machine fifteen feet away. “Mike, it doesn’t work,” she calls. He smiles stupidly and shrugs, and she uses her card. She turns around with cash, and he asks her for a Sam Adams Summer Ale. She gives him the finger and goes upstairs to dance to “Sugar Magnolia.”
by Jackson Freud
Jason photographs the dead. He keeps a police scanner in his apartment, races the cops, coroners and paramedics to crime scenes. He has photographed jumper-suicides, murdered men and women, car crash victims. The pictures are tacked to a corkboard in his kitchen. “This is sick,” Sam says. She moves out, leaves Jason with his dead friends. He doesn’t mind though; he enjoys the silence. One morning he snaps a faceless man, pins the Polaroid to his board. He studies it for minutes, hours, days. He discovers a lump on his testicle and prays the next vulture captures his good side.
by Hasen Hull
Approached her in the usual club and started with the usual line. We’re both young and beautiful; we talked about ourselves and pop music. To seal the deal, I made her laugh, entertained her like a child. If we were in another world, we could find a hotel with a vacancy. Instead we’re back at mine, loud and lurid as we screw, two strangers at the peak of liberation. After, she gets up and uses the bathroom. Through the wall, I can hear her pissing. It’s the only noise I’ve heard all night I can relate to.
On the Detroit-to-Chicago Line
by Brent Fisk
My uncle, a brakeman for Amtrak who lost a son himself, told this story many times: A young man walking, his back to the train. Between cities at speed, it could take them a mile before they could stop. No horn could make him look back, step off. Firemen cut a path through the trees so they could wash what was left of the man free of the grill. My uncle split a bottle of bourbon with my dad, and he’d wink when he’d notice me listening behind the couch, say, “Get your uncle a few more cubes of ice.”