by Blue Silver
Two thin fuses lie buried in my face, and one day my skin will flicker and burn. I unearthed them in the mirror, and they creep towards my nose from upturned corners. You told me I had ignited yours, but levity and gravity always left you traceless.
These days, I watch stars from my porch and sometimes old newsreels of your launch, and your descent towards the red dirt. Tonight, I hit play on the last tape, the fireball upon landing, and wonder why your fuse burned quicker than mine. You might have loved the view from this porch too.
by Bernardo Villela
Beset by the world’s woes Bill Lee went to live at sea. Landlocked existence churned his stomach; acrid wildfires stung his eyes; the summer sun scorched his skin.
With fish and fresh air, he could live anywhere. Beneath the water line, in the brine, barnacles started growing upon his hide. Surfacing for warmth didn’t shake them or kill them off. He loved them as they multiplied, felt a symbiosis with them—they were Neptune’s gift.
They were his armor against mankind. When people approached he’d say “Woe betide to all who come this way.”
Off they ran, and stayed away.
Get Back to Work
by Nicholas T. Schafer
The framing nail stuck out of my chest. Everything stopped. I stared at the nail. Jesse, who was holding the other board, stared at the nail. Sam, our foreman, who had fired the high velocity shiner out of the nail-gun through the two by four into my chest, stared at the nail.
Only the nail moved. Up and down. I realized, with relief, that I was still breathing, and that breathing didn’t hurt.
Sam reached over, pulled the front of my shirt. The nail pinged to the floor.
“No blood, no foul. Get back to work.”
None of Us Is All Here
by G.J. Williams
This is where cigarettes are called christnumbers and the go-to place after death is referred to as The Shangles. What happens there is unclear but is generally thought to be agreeable. In the meantime there’s a white wall of silence; palpable; procedural. And there’s always someone who’ll pipe-up, ‘Hey, where isn’t Jesus?’ A more valid question can scarcely be imagined, given what’s at stake, which is to say: everything. Immortelles are in their vases, corridors cry. All is not well with the world. It comes on strong, adopts a joshing tone as it clatters in, the cutlery plastic.
by Xanthe Miller
I got fed up. That has made me wicked. By wicked I mean effective. Unapologetic. I’m not sorry, just hungry from years of genteel starving. Ravenous with a mouth full of my unspoken self, footsore with undanced dances. I am finally getting comfortable in this skin, just as it begins to shift and fade. I’ve opened the book of spells and have my favorites. So tonight at sunset I will put on the voluminous skirt that belonged to my mother and my grandmother and whirl and whirl while I can. And take what I take.
by Liz Betz
Jenny knows she could have parked straighter, but she’s running late. First the car needed gas and then she caught a string of red lights. Her toddler begins to cry at the door of the daycare. Jenny has to be strong and kiss her goodbye saying, Mommy has to hurry. Mommy loves you.
Her little girl would be okay in a few minutes, but will she? Back at the car, she sees the flapping paper. A ticket? No. A note. You SUCK at parking. SERIOUSLY. She can’t argue. She needs to do better.
Enough of a Triumph
by Ken Poyner
Playing croquet on a hillside complicates the game. Grass thickness comes even more into play. Strategy requires elevated thinking. You do not recover as well from a blunder. And yet, it adds thrill to sending an opponent’s ball thundering off. Differences in elevation drives subtlety in approach. Consider how long it will be, from all the leaning back or aside, before your hamstrings give out. I’m off to lay out my wickets in the cruelest of spots. I cannot wait to see the confusion on your face.
by David Henson
His words hang above the kitchen table even after he leaves for work.
She stands on a chair, grips one of the letters, pulls it loose.
She finds a toolbox. His odor spews from the letter as she files it to a point.
That evening when her husband walks in, she plunges the makeshift weapon into his chest, then calls the police.
One officer examines the husband’s body while the other takes her statement in the kitchen. He notices the hanging words—STUP D COW—and asks about the missing letter. The I couldn’t take it anymore, she says.
by Jeannette Connors
Iris routinely sought out seemingly happy people for advice on fixing her mental health disorder. Remedies ranged from a simple ice cream cone to an extravagant African safari. Iris thought those were clearly lactose tolerant people with no fears of a spontaneous wildebeest attack. She always went back to what worked for her though in seeking the comfort of her pet iguana, who neither offered advice nor any inkling he cared about such things.
by Liz Betz
In the past she’s listened to her friends, a group of women who are always in crisis mode. From their viewpoint they label my behavior as overbearing and narcissistic and place her unhappiness on my doorstep.
Now my wife has discovered she’s an empath that needs special care. She says she has a tendency to put others ahead of herself and that she’s wearing out because of it. It’s draining her energy. From now on she’ll state her needs and there will be accountability for those who ignore them.
Thank you. State your boundaries. I’ve been flying blind.
When Grandpa Stopped Babysitting
It wasn’t when he taught the boy to piss upright and straight-backed in the front yard, staring down disapproving neighbors as they crossed the street. It wasn’t when he wrapped up an airsoft rifle for shooting birds, and gave it to the boy on his eight birthday. It wasn’t even when he taught him how to drive the station wagon, though the boy could only reach the pedals standing up. It was later, when his own name escaped him, when he saw the boy and could only ask, “who are you?” and “why are you here?”
by G.J. Williams
Rue is a strong-scented Mediterranean plant with yellowy-green flowers and pinnately divided leaves. A bouquet of rue, rightly held, will signify sorrows endured, depths of loss untold. Marigolds and fennel won’t do. Violets daisies carnations ditto. And forget roses. But scatter petals of rue as you go and the world smiles wanly with you. True, there’ll be a curtain-twitching aspect to contend with but, all in all, your going hence will be accorded the flourish of a dance. Strew those petals, mutter those barbs, give what lives the finger. Rue the day, the very sunlight’s touch.
Hands of Time
by James Dupree
She holds his hand in hers and wonders how something so extraordinary can be so small. Growth is slow, but time is slippery. Years feel like moments to her, and his hand begins to fill her palm, threatening to break their bond.
Fingers continue to extend, and muscles grow stronger, and before she can ready herself for this inevitable change, his hand matches hers in size. She watches her own hand shrink till the skin sags around the bones. His hand begins to overtake. He holds her hand in his and wonders how someone so extraordinary can become so small.