Artwork: “City Garden” by Kyle Hemmings
by Sarah Vernetti
She could barely see her neighbor’s yard. She had to open the blinds all the way and stand just so: over to the right side of the window, hugging the wall while looking sideways. But the view felt unavoidable. She wanted to spend more time in her own backyard, checking on the cacti, pruning the lantana, watching hummingbirds flit in and out of the spires of autumn sage. But her job, her role, had become inseparable from herself, and so she stood each morning, pressing her chest against the textured drywall. Waiting patiently, reporting to no one.
by Michael Jagunic
He laid his forehead against the backseat window and undid his bow tie. Beside him, she cradled the smashed up layer cake in her lap like a dead baby.
“We can fix this,” she whimpered, trying to convince herself. “We can still fix this.”
He feared the same thing that she did: that life was crumbly, that some things cannot be fixed. So he reached for her arm and gave it a squeeze. “I know.”
The cabbie, a real professional, suffered their boozy nonsense in silence.
by Chad Greene
Doubt that anyone on the streetcar clattering across the steel bridge noticed us at the edge of the river, let alone the circle of empty Pabst cans we had arranged around the base of the white cross. I had loved him the most; that’s why I left the tallboy. It towered over the 12-ouncers everyone else had left.
A Song Before Dying
by C.C. Russell
The twang of another guitar through another bridge bringing us back again to the familiar chorus. Someone says “Didn’t we just leave this party?” as a joke, but it falls flat. Outside, over the music, we can hear them scratching their way through the trees. We can hear them coming; closer every second. No one thinks to reach over and turn off the stereo. No one thinks of anything that could save us.
by Marc D. Regan
That ubiquitous moon lights dark heavens and reflects now as it did then: the burning hole in me; my corrupted innocence and the lengths to which the word love could be stretched. When my back was no longer able to bear that shameful weight, I shed bloodied sheets and a childhood of midnight lies. But after five years, I still cannot outrun that moon.
This week’s artwork is by Kyle Hemmings.
Tired of Jewels
by Justin Willoughby
He was tired of her holding his hand while he drove. So he bound bracelets on her wrists. He was tired of her foot on the dashboard blocking his view. So he tied anklets around her feet. He was tired of her asking if they were lost. So he shoved a tongue ring in her mouth. He was tired of hearing her muffled voice in his ears. So he wrapped a locket around her neck. He dug a bed for her and tossed Jewels in with a dirt blanket. He was not tired anymore. So he left her to sleep.
by Brittanie Drinosky
John’s hands were huge and hard. They were used to fight, to crush, and to feed his dog, Penny, who was almost as mean and ugly as him. She howled all night, that dog, and Tim’s mama would open her window and yell curses and make threats. When John found Penny with a screwdriver through her eyeball, he didn’t make no threats. He howled all night.
by Richard Jennis
I miss the taste of you in the early morning. I miss dangling from the rooftops like turtles flipped over on railroads, staring unsuspectingly at tropical skies. I miss watching the passersby pass by. And the fluteman whistling tunes with notes that curled into the air forming tunnels so black. I miss the way the dandelions lingered years after we breathed them into multiplicity. Coming home is like the moon landing. I plant my flag but all this was never mine. I know my memory will soon be bleached white by lurid winds that don’t understand the meaning of nostalgia.
In The Beginning
by J.G. McClure
In The Beginning the warrior and the dragon are fighting. Rip off one dragonhead and another dragon buds from it. Same goes for warrior heads. Soon the world is one roiling sea of tearing and birth. The gods, horrified, shatter it with lightning—a new world sprouts from each rocky chunk. They argue ethics, and in their rage start blasting one another; more and more gods bloom. Weeping and laughter fill the abyss. The universe grows and breaks and grows and breaks and all is born: love, cigarettes, the post office. The melon we’re eating. The seeds we spit out.
by Heather Valenti
Living in a hole dug sixty feet in the ground, within an endless cavern, gets to you. Not in the, oh well, isn’t that interesting, sort of way… more, nails uselessly clawing stone, you’re going to die and you know it sort of way. “My husband will come for me, you know,” Ethel whispered. He imagined her hands digging into her head, her graying hair being tugged mercilessly, as she said this. Her chains clanked as she readjusted herself. He tried to make his voice sound confident. Reassuring. “I know.” Chains rattled. Numbering the lies they told each other.
by David Galef
At a one-woman show in a downtown gallery, I saw a dozen sculptures of women with Buddha bellies, arms big as thighs, thighs thick as waists. Intrigued, I tracked down the sculptor to see what she looked like. She was completely ordinary, regulation size, and seemed expectant yet annoyed at my curiosity about her. “I know your type,” she said as she shut the door against me. “Get a life!” I stood there for a moment, unsure of what to do. Back at the gallery, I bought her entire catalogue.
by Ashlie Allen
I took a walk around the reservation to get in touch with my land. It had been two years since my feet touched the earth. On my way down the road, I saw an old friend and said hello. He told me he’d been dead a week now. When I asked where he was buried he answered he wasn’t.
The Man and the Strangler
by Matthew Konkel
His throat was dry so he hired a strangler to choke him.
Before the man died the strangler asked: you are surrounded by water, why did you not have a drink?
There is too much, said the man, I couldn’t possibly drink it all.
Having pity, the strangler helped the man dispose of the water until only a tiny swallow remained. Now you can take a drink, said the strangler. The man did so and his throat was no longer dry.
Then the strangler choked the man dead. Because that’s what the strangler was paid to do.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Tobias Oggenfuss.
Fistfighting Etiquette for Girls
by Sue Ann Connaughton
You’re allowed to fistfight another girl if she says “Hi” to your boyfriend, calls you stuck-up, or smirks at you disrespectfully. Do not arm yourself with weapons, including rocks, sticks, and sharpened fingernails. Do not kick, bite, scratch, or pull hair. You may slap, punch, and arm twist. However, you may not strike her face or groin area. Do not cry. Shake hands with your opponent after grownups stop the fistfight. Laugh, when your mother cries while bandaging your bloody knuckles. Never fistfight again. Never mention it to your husband and children. Cry when you see your daughter’s bloody knuckles.
by Arthur Plotnik
“Mommy—you complete me,” Eric said as Linda drove him to pre-school.
“Why thank you! But where’d you hear that?”
“The wall, at naptime.”
“Funny wall,” Linda said, though it seemed less funny following his wall quote yesterday: “I’ve never felt so alive.” She’d blamed television, forgotten about it on seeing husband Gary, whose law work overlapped her hospital shifts. Mrs. Fosset, part-time nanny, fetched and fed Eric. “Sweetheart, does Mrs. Fosset have you nap after daddy gets home?”
“Sometimes.” Then, a giggle. “Silly wall! Nobody wants that.”
He used his moo-cow voice: “I want you in me.”
The Old Woman
by Kyle Hemmings
I loved exploring the abandoned house near a burn-out field. The stairs creaked and the empty rooms whispered. One day I heard a woman’s voice from the top floor. She was smiling in her rocking chair. Her hair was covered with cobwebs. Bees buzzed around her ears. “I’ve been waiting to see you,” she said, staring straight at me. She mumbled that I was her lost son. I ran. Out of curiosity, I returned. She took off her head and clothes. She was nothing but a voice.
by Brad Nelms
She came to check on him. She clicked the handcuffs closer to his skeletal wrists. Steel biting into ragged flesh. He stirred, a dry rattle creeping its way out of his throat. “Hush dear…Shhh…” She cooed. Stroking his thin, damp hair and bringing her mouth close to his ear, she whispered, “Save your strength, it will not be much longer. We need you to be empty so the Lord can fill you up. The stars are almost right.” Her eyes drifted over his gaunt form, bones were fighting to push out through sagging skin. “Soon,” she smiled. “Very Soon.”
How Did I Feel?
by Bertram Allan Mullin
My flesh fell off on its own. I couldn’t see, but I could taste and smell. My limbs were soft tissue. Somehow my ankle broke. I began to drag it everywhere I went. The only word I could say was, “Grawrr,” which was debatably not even a word. Then my right eye up and fell from its socket. The others pointed and cackled. Got hard to think about all of that, though, because I was hungry all the time. Endless cravings for blood, living skin, and of course brains.