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.
Hear a Fly Buzz
by Rachel Oestreich
Hear a fly buzz. Trapped on a windowsill—the forgotten kind, where moths decay into ash beneath sun-faded pillows—bulbous body and silver-veined wings smash against thick-paned glass. Broken drones eclipse into silence, seconds—maybe minutes—and many dust motes float unhindered until the fly cracks its body against the glass again. Look the other way.
by Clem Fandango
“So how was your day?’”
She rolled her eyes up to the ceiling, looking for unexpected ways to frame the expected. “Jenny wasn’t in so I had to pick up her work… You don’t realize how much someone is needed until they’re gone.”
“Absolutely right. The other day I—” He recounted a similar story with the enthusiastic eyebrows of someone pretending like this was conversational new-ground.
She listened with the nods and smiles of someone pretending they weren’t bored.
The dialogue trailed off, soft laughter and softer smiles concealing the shared feeling that they might die like this.
by Rudy Koshar
He puts the water on, drops in two large brown eggs from the co-op, organic, free-range, opens his digital edition of the Times, reads that wildfires are devastating a part of the San Gabriel Valley and Britain has left the European Union, he hears the water boiling, there was a bloody riot in a private prison in Texas, of course, and oh, the plight of Syrian refugees, then he remembers he forgot to set the timer, takes the eggs off, submerges them in cold water, cracks one open, and damn, it’s undercooked.
by Jennifer L. Freed
Now that Grandpa’s gone, Grandma’s coming to live here. She’ll use my room, and I’ll share with Connor. Connor says I’m a freak and he’ll make me sleep under the bed with the monsters, and if I tell he’ll lock me in his closet all night instead of only before school. He knows the Voice lives in the closet. The Voice is worse than monsters. It says, eat only brown food today. Pee twice in my pants. Collect red pills from the medicine cabinet. Give Grandpa those pills, not the white ones Grandma put in my palm to bring him.
by Kenny A. Chaffin
The goose on the gurney was rushed once more into the operating room. Another golden egg had to be surgically removed from its rectum. Technically of course it’s not a rectum, it’s a cloaca, but that isn’t the point. It was actually a production problem. The heavy-metal food, the purified water, and the trips to the emergency room were quite expensive. It was a losing proposition. Impossible to win, much less break even. Realizing this, the owner felt fortunate to foist the fowl off on a farmer’s son, a young boy named Jack who happened by that very same day.
This week’s artwork is “Altar” by Madeleine Barnes
by Alex Creece
Rigor mortis at reception desk. Groundhog Day in grindhouse fashion. Vulcanised flesh raises no unexpectdead questions. Demands are bleated above the sound of viscous, visceral humours bubbling in a guttural cauldron – toxicity within a casket of taxidermy. Hooks of obligation pull the corners of my mouth into a gruesome smile, pull my eyes open to groping, grappling, griping zombies. Shame oozes up my throat from somewhere I knew well but could not specifically pinpoint. It solidifies upon my epiglottis. I cannot breathe through it. I cannot swallow it. Something trickles down my neck, my spine. The undead just keep bleating.
by Jennifer L Freed
In the dream, it is your birthday, but there’s no cake. You are afraid. Your doctor has just told you something urgent, but you’ve forgotten what it is. You hide in a cave, feel safe there, warm. Shadows flicker, reminding you of candlelight. When you half-wake in the darkness, you remember nothing, yet think briefly of your doctor. You’ve found a tiny lump at the base of your skull. You slide deeper beneath your blankets, drift off again, dream of chocolate cake.
Change in my Pocket
by Kenny A. Chaffin
Sick of our constant fights I fled to Safeway for beer. The translucent red cube was there when I pulled change from my pocket to pay the cashier. I stopped, entranced by its billions of tiny blinking specks deep inside. An entire universe of swirling galaxies and stars full of possibility. “Seventeen ninety-five!” he said. Back home I held the cube out to her. “Look at it dammit! Look at it!” She rolled her eyes. I pushed it under her nose. “Look!” I said, touching it, tapping one, two, three times, and she was gone as if she’d never been.
by Michael Shattuck
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, thought as one. As an adult, I took that child out, past the woodshed, to the marketplace and ordered it to work for me. I spend its pay on what helps me forget the woodshed and the marketplace, which invents newer and more elaborate childish things. Now I speak into a prophecy mirror; no thought is unknowable, no time beyond understanding. That child says it wants its own child. It too will send me its pay or I will set a time to take us all out behind the woodshed.
by Laurie Stone
At camp we rode horses to a general store. That’s where I saw the yellow haired children on a splintery porch. Their clothes were ragged, their teeth blackened to little daggers from drinking Cokes, their elbows scabbed. They stared at the coins and bills we tossed lightly on the counter. Corkscrew rolls of flypaper hung from naked rafters, thickly coated with buzzing flies. The pale, blond children faded into the heat. Their orange kittens were too languid to squirm away. I did not speak to the children. The screen door banged each time we flew in or out.
by Ima Ocon
She told me to twine my hair around the chopsticks, praising its silky length, never looking closely enough to notice black blending into dark brown. Her glasses were gone. She had no need for them, even when she was stumbling over her clogs and we had to rush to her side because a hip surgery would kill her the moment they cut her skin open. Sometimes she sang, incomprehensible: I could not bear being taught its syllables, or her refusal at my refusal. I pick up rice in between the chopsticks, and my hair at full hardly grazes my shoulders.
This week’s artwork is “Beggar King Does Whilst the Earth Boy Plays Human” by Ege Al’Bege.
The Book of Jobs
by Kenny A. Chaffin
Maybe it came from reading science fiction, watching The Matrix or remembering Biblical burning bushes. I asked Siri what would happen if I was somehow sucked up into the network where she was. It must have been one of those super-secret Easter egg phrases because as soon as the words were spoken I found myself inside, reborn, resurrected, and bodiless; Googling answers for a million simultaneous strangers with ease and ponderously speaking the results. What now, I thought, beginning to panic. Then I heard a familiar voice. “What is this beating, this pounding I feel in my chest,” Siri asked.
by Allison Huang
My father woke to streaks of hair on his wet pillow. The day we found our mutt’s warped body in the street was the day my father decided to shave his head. Teddy found a broken bottle in the recycling where he cut his fist, and more nestled like birds under the stove. Now frost soils the ground. My father’s body disappears into the maw of a casket. A butcher shuffles outside to watch a dog bleed red shadow onto the street. What a lovely shape, he says before ducking back in to carve another breast to pieces.
by Dave Donovan
My father would ask children if they wanted to see a monkey. Then he would show them their reflections in a small pocket mirror. Some nights he walked in from work wearing a horror mask and spread his arms for a hug. I remember trembling. Dollar bills on invisible fish line would zip into his palm while my fingers snatched at air. The old man is dying. I carry a picture of a pygmy marmoset, ready to hand him, tell him I found a photo from his youth he might want to see, back when he had all his hair.
Neither Here nor There
by Joshua James Jordan
Riding a unicorn through San Francisco, I saw a man holding a sign: “Anything helps”. Grey and white streaked through his beard and he wore a military jacket, the colors faded. I reached into my bag and gave him a green nugget so that he could buy his own unicorn. “God bless you,” he said, offering toothless smiles. More showed up but I was blessed with my currency, befriending many, feeding five thousand with a single loaf. We lit their struggles on fire and exhaled. They followed me, riding through streets of rainbows. The troubles of another world faded away.
by Charles Rafferty
Our neighbor Bonnie had a lot of loud sex. To be fair, she tried turning up the stereo, but her boyfriend always pointed her right at our headboard. One night, Donna and I were making love while Bonnie was getting fucked. Bonnie came repeatedly on the other side of the wall, and hearing her, or knowing that I was listening, made Donna more vocal, more passionate. Bonnie, in turn, got louder still. But then, over breakfast, Donna denied having come with Bonnie, and that afternoon in the communal laundry, both of them kept quiet as they measured out their soap.
by Ashlie Allen
I want to sleep inside a flower pot, but mother yells at me. She says I feel sorry for myself and think of pretty plants too much. When I was four, I stammered through the neighborhood with an orchid pot on my head, searching for my friend. He didn’t have a face, only an oval shaped hollowness setting on his neck. He hid beside a creek. “Do you hate me?” I asked, sitting beside him. He grabbed my hand and set it inside the hollowness, like he was trying to plant a seed inside of it so he’d grow features.
by Nels Hanson
It’s safe. Don’t worry. Put your arm through here. Now buckle up. There, that’s good. I’ll tape the wire to your right wrist so you can hold the controls in your hand. It’s simple. Green is go, red is stop. Blue’s the parachute. You have it straight, what the boss wants you to do? You sure? Okay, give me your hand. Good luck! Just bend your legs and put your palms together, like you’re jumping upward for a swan dive. Now I’ll stand back as you ignite the booster. We’ll send the signal when we’ve got you tracked over Montreal.