Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Amy Canales.
Strangers in the Night
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Mama disappears into a Plymouth. This isn’t the first time. There was that time she left for three days. She’d come back, happy, singing to him at bedtime, making him cocoa. The world was his. He goes into her bedroom, with the scent of lavender, mixed with something skunk-like. It’s empty. The suitcase, Sinatra records, her Tolstoy. He doesn’t know where to go. He’s not sure if he should chase her, or wait. That’s when he sees the note, tucked behind her desk, where they used to hide secrets. Mama’s unhappy. She needs to find herself. Water the plants.
by Bart Van Goethem
They had assured him if you close a door behind you, another one will open. When he did so, nothing happened. In the pitch black he groped for a handle. None. He groped for a wall. None. After a while he screamed, and then he screamed some more. He started punching air. Until the black shifted to a shade of dark unfathomable to a living, breathing man. A split-second later, he opened his eyes, squinting against a white light. ‘Welcome,’ they said. ‘We are Soul Catchers.’ It wasn’t what he had expected, but at least they hadn’t lied to him.
Cat in a Box
by Shinea Brighton
I’m trying to decide if you love me. I take measurements: how often you call, how long we talk, how often you break dates. Two recently. You never say, “I’ll call you later.” or “We’ll reschedule for next week.” Instead it’s, “How about Wednesday?”
Sometimes you hold my hand. Sometimes you are distracted and lonely. You go days without kissing me then you won’t stop long enough for me to eat.
It’s complicated. Are you a wave or a particle? Are we decaying at a predictable rate? I’m hungry and I can’t tell if you are feeding or poisoning me.
by Jessica Standifird
He was an old house in need of a good contractor. Ever since she’d convinced him he was dilapidated, the ink from his tattoos had flecked, faded. His foundation had cracked and his gait was now unsteady. She would roll her eyes and accuse his front porch of sagging. And if eyes were windows to the soul, well, no wonder she complained. The glass was old and warped, the panes full of drafts. It was cold inside. Maybe all he needed was a real estate agent who could spot potential. He wondered if Carrie at Remax would be interested.
by Jonathan Oak
Normally I hear the engine halfway down the street as a subtle change in the background noise, but the sound was too loud. Normally I see a glint from your bumper or your windshield. I missed it this time. Sometimes you call ahead to says how good it’ll be to be home. When all this fails, the dog, keen senses attuned to your arrivals, perks up her ears, springs to attention, whines at the door, peeks through the curtains. She just laid there. So when you came through the front door… lesbians going at it on the computer screen.
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.
Gabriel, Oh, Gabriel
by Jonathan Oak
She lay on the insertion room table. Her DNA screening had gone well. The GBRL came alive, unfolding as it approached her, wings of light illuminating the workspace between her legs, its arm extending a gently curved duck-billed facilitator. It hummed like Sunday mornings; early, sleepy dawns when her mother moved like a half remembered song, making pancakes, listening to sermons. Then the miracle of modern science happened, the immaculately conceived child, not born of lust, or desire, but in the clean, comforting atmosphere of purpose. They were making the world a better place, one unblemished child at a time.
Without A Song
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
The boy chases after the Chevrolet, rain falling from graying clouds. If he’s fast enough, he can stop Mother before she leaves him at Deerfield Academy. He doesn’t know anyone. Back home, he was Piano Boy, writing compositions about autumn and lonely kingdoms. It was hardly a compliment, but he knew where he fit. He remembers Mother smiling when he wrote his first composition. Rocking him to sleep after nightmares about dung-beetles. Dung-beetles who chased Mother across their favorite ice-skating rink.
The boy stumbles, the car fading into a pebble-sized speck. He cries into flickering shadows in the rainy, wind-swept street.
Every Time I Look
by James Croal Jackson
You sat alone in bed as the others filtered out. You did not inch away when I got close. You said “hey” so quietly I imagined it. Your head was on my shoulder like in a dream. I said, “I’m drunk.” You were, too. I felt the roughness of your jeans. Your fuzzy sweater clung to my arm. Your hairs brustled my cheek. I said, “I like you.” A chill inflicted the room when you told me I should have saved it for another time. From bed I watched the rest of the party dissipate into vast, empty space.
by Edward Palumbo
She was my Venus, and she had four limbs, although it was rumored that she was missing a toe. I never found out. “Make love to me in the dark” she would say, “and don’t look at my feet.” She painted in reds and umbers, odd, as she was a musician. “Someday I will be the greatest pianist in all Russia,” she promised, “if I ever get out of Milwaukee.” They came for her one spring evening. She called for my help, but I had a face full of shaving gel. Perhaps this is better.
by Marc D. Regan
Max decided a backdoor might be necessary. Like a dog door. Just in case. Because things don’t always work out. Divorce was huge in those days. The prospect of being left alone terrified him. Thus, without her knowledge, he devised a plan. A series of steps. He could go here or there. He would stash money. Just in case. Because people kept secrets. Media corrupted morals, bred fear. Friends modeled new possibilities. His wife had changed. She radiated independence. He needed a plan. Just in case. When he looked up from his scheming, she was grinning. Which meant what?