How the Rain Rains is Everyone’s Business
by G.J. Williams
The rain does many things: settles jagged nerves, drowns out cries. It’s been doing so for years. Check out the unlovely house. Those windows have known rain you wouldn’t believe. Once upon a time branches clattered against them, adding mightily to the din. The trees have since been trimmed. But this is the last place you’d hear a pin drop. A little tarpaulin on the roof works wonders; when it rains it could be corrugated iron or tin. And it rains a lot. This is one of those places. What happens under cover of rain is what this place IS.
Life, in Slow Motion
by Jen Schneider
As a child, I’d watch the rain lamp on the console while the sitter watched Rain Man on TV. Neither of us were interested in pretend play. Neither of us were willing to pretend. She’d snack on goldfish, moisturize her arms with mineral oils, and read Greek mythology. I’d consume consommé and alphabet noodles, tally strands of filament, and study Aphrodite. Both of us would countdown to bedtime. All transactions timed. When the clock struck ten, the sitter would press stop on the remote. I’d pull the plug on the lamp. All (f)oils capped. Performance stops with the rain.
I see glimmers of her every day. Tiny purple shoes. Her chubby little fist. I remember how she’d grip my finger like a tether when I held her. I thought I could let her go, but she is my buoy.
My house is on the hill, near the field where they scattered my ashes. Because I lost my coin, Charon abandoned me, leaving me as a rootless specter.
Then I saw her flicker.
Now I linger, a sentry for her, anchoring in the loamy soil as I wait to watch her grow. As I wait to take her with me.
by Nicole Brogdon
“Honey, I swear, in the middle of the night, someone pulled our bodies out the bed by our feet. Then replaced us with two old people.”
Curtis stroked Annabelle’s thinning hair, yawning. “Is that so?”
“Look at yourself!” She removed the sheet, exposing grey chest hairs, soft belly, thin legs.
“Seriously! And me!” She jiggled underarm waddles. “I used to plank pose forever, on strong slender arms. These breasts… so firm once, I coulda served cocktails off of them.”
Curtis pulled Annabelle close. “Go back to sleep, Old Lady.” He smelled like himself, like a pear. But spoiling.
by Brian Beatty
Crows as big around as footballs filled the yard out front of Hurley’s rented trailer home.
As if taunting the hippie junk dealer and his decrepit hound. As if daring them to take their chances by stepping outside.
Hurley chuckled. “Where are you nasty buggers at the first of the month when rent’s due? Sure not around here.”
He understood talking to those birds meant he was essentially talking to himself again.
Monroe’s nose was working like crazy on the safer side of the screen door. Hurley had zero intention of letting his old dog out after them.
by Benny Biesek
His pastries took 1st. After the gala, he escaped to his bakery to think.
“What is it to become untouchable?”
Quite weary, he turned dough in his hands, then laughed.
He’d leave it all behind: renounce his riches.
In search of answers, he waits in line at the food pantry, quietly avoiding the dessert section.
I’m Not Creepy
by John Young
“I’m not creepy. I’m observant.”
That’s what I told Lulu looking through my binoculars across the street at the man who buttoned up his shirt every morning at 8:15.
“Observant means you notice details that others don’t see, not that they can’t see.”
The man stuffed his shirt in his pants, wrapped a tie around his neck, and grabbed a jacket hanging on the back of the chair.
“And just like that, he’s out the door.”
“What color shirt was he wearing?”
“What?” I said narrowing my binoculars on Lulu.
“His shirt. What color was it?”
by Steve Bates
The walk down the lane to the mailbox has become long and difficult, and I still have to walk back to the house. I no longer gaze at the trees and birds and butterflies on my trek, but simply stare at the ground while concentrating on putting one foot in front of the other. I hadn’t planned on getting old; it just happened when I wasn’t looking. At least it’s a cool, cloudy day, and it isn’t raining. As I near the mailbox, a sudden crash of thunder grabs my attention.
Stories Do What They’re Told
by G.J. Williams
What began with a syrupy drawl ends in a sandpapery whisper, the intervening years having stretched all notions of patience. Martha puts it down to the song she never got to sing, a classy number, the elongated vowels so huskily wrought they’d’ve cut every listener to the quick. That she’s neither pale nor sorry-eyed is testament to her faith in helpful strangers. But that’s another story. Or so we’re told. As it goes with stories.
While Genevieve worked full-time, Ned was the model stay-at-home dad. He finger-painted and read with the kids, made them their favorite foods, and took them on outings.
One day when he was chasing little Emma on the playground, he tripped and cut his knee. When he examined the wound, there was no blood. He saw…metal plates, wires, and circuitry.
He sat heavily on a bench.
Another dad, Ron, sat beside him. “You okay?”
Ned shook his head. “My whole life has been a lie.”
Ron patted Ned’s arm. “Think how I must feel. I’m an older model than you.”
That The Blood Won’t Turn
by G.J. Williams
No, the jackdaws have not turned grey, they’re simply covered in ashes. It’s the times we live in. If panthers were native to these parts, they too would have a dusting of grey. It’s just how it is. And to preempt any objection to my use of the word ‘dusting’in this context, be assured that I am all too aware of how deeply ingrained in fur feather and skin is this ash of which we speak. The roses are grey, the grass is grey. What we dread is what a flesh-wound might reveal: grey blood, its flow weak.
Walk Like Lovers
by Akmal Hafizi
As we’ve just missed a bus on our way back to the dorms, I was afraid you’d think this is the worst date you’ve ever gone on after lectures. But, to see you’re still gleaming those dilated pupils got me thinking it wasn’t really a bad idea to take a walk with you around the campus. And, as I regretted my dull “I’m not so sure,” to your “Was it all about the journey or the destination?”. Your “But I like the way we walk like lovers, and I actually wanna walk further,” really swept me off my feet.
by Linda Lowe
Among the hurly-burly of the aftermath: your couch, whose cushions have departed, your favorite chair, muddy and torn, the kitchen table, resembling firewood. Snagged in the old maple, a sheet, a blanket. And scattered about everywhere, clutter, including beads you hated, a gift from the man you divorced years back. It’s all years back, you realize, standing ankle-deep in broken dishes, glasses, and silverware, twinkling in the sun of a calmer day. Among the missing is your car, which took flight from this miserable existence. That car, old and sad. Do you really want to drive, anyway? Ever again?
by Kristen Walsh
For reasons I could never explain, I have always hated the smell of honeysuckle. I tried explaining this to my mother once, but she simply shuffled past like I had not spoken, had not finally told her something true. I told her there were rotten honeysuckle roots winding inside me. I told her they twisted in the core of my being, connected to something I could feel but not touch. I told her no matter how far I followed them down, no matter how hard I pulled, I could still smell their sickly, sweet scent whenever I saw her face.
Tell Us How You Feel
I’m sitting on a city bench, running on empty. Whatever vividness used to live here has just. Burned out. That space of empty space. Lost in something I have lost. It’s a feeling not like ice, but ash asking, “Where do I go from here?”
And then staring at the ground beneath my feet. Losing myself in the monotonous sameness of the pavement. Wishing that I could have. Wondering where I’m supposed to be. Then speaking the only other question on my mind:
“Do you know how long this train is supposed to take?” I ask, talking to the breeze.
First Time Lucky
by Alison Wassell
He boasts that they’re each other’s first and only. The grandchildren think it’s sweet. There was, she knows, the fling with Eileen in accounts at the knicker factory, and one with Valerie from two doors down who had a Hoover only he could fix. But she lets it go.
She does Wordle while he reads his newspaper and guesses the word the first time. She is raging, cheated of the fun, the tension, the near misses, the hard-won eventual success. It is, she thinks, just one more game she never got to play.
by G.J. Williams
Oblivious of the cowering furniture, he paced up and down, smoking one cigarette after another. The watercolours grew nervous. The cat was nowhere to be seen. That the whole house shook is not to be believed. This was not a house easily shaken.
Our realtor suggested we make an offer despite the chalk outline of a body on the bedroom carpet. “Some spackle will take care of the bullet holes and those blood stains should clean up quick.” The schools were good and the taxes reasonable and so we agreed, knocking 20K off the asking price due to the ghost weeping in the corner. Because the market was sizzling, we lost to a higher bid. On weekends we drive by and wave to the new homeowners as they sip coffee on the porch, the ghost seated between them enjoying a fresh buttered scone.
by Michael Stroh
This new pill makes you an extrovert for four hours, give or take. Right before the bouncer let us in, I swallowed one dry. The thump of bass and swarm of people engulfed me. I was terrified until I started laughing and swaying with hands raised like an idiot. Even met a guy. I let him buy me a drink, and we flirted, and we danced, and I forgot all about the time. He asked for my number as the pill wore off. Panicking and drowning in bodies, I ran for the door, and in the commotion lost a shoe.
The Place Without Insects
by Matthew McEwan
Cicadas chirped under a diamond sun.
The girl with the insect head hid behind bushes, swatting at buzzing flies.
She peered through serrated leaves, to a place of crisp air and champagne sunlight. A place of humans and smiling.
A place without insects.
Before she knew it, she had stepped out.
Hands clasped, insect head hanging, she stumbled over, presenting a wet, trembling palm.
She couldn’t even stutter ‘hello’ before innocent smiles contorted into open-mouthed screams. Brightened eyes; dark, deep, horror.
And they were gone.
The flies buzzed.
Given something sharp, she would have cut her own head off.
by Melissa Jornd
The man next to me seems nice. He’s quiet, which calms me. Although the staring unnerves me–should I be doing something?
I glance at my tablemates: the nice man, temples graying. Two young adults, clearly siblings. One toddler, all chubby cheeks and drool.
“Hello,” I venture. They smile back.
A sandwich, veggies, and pudding land in front of me. I hate pudding.
The man reaches over, using sleight-of-hand to replace it with a daisy.
And I remember.
I grasp my husband’s hand, desperate not to forget again.
“My Daisy,” he murmurs.
“I love you,” I reply, while I still can.
by Lester L Weil
Although he lives here, the pictures on the refrigerator are hers. Figurines atop the cabinets—hers. Paintings on the wall—hers. Knickknacks on the shelves—hers. Plants that he diligently waters—hers. It has been years—her ashes long scattered—but everything here is still hers. And as he wanders through the house, the mirrors reflect him—still hers.
by G.J. Williams
Details pertaining to fabrics twilled or corded leave her cold. So, too, tales of glossy silkstuffs trailing parquet floors. She knows how she cuts it as she goes. Too tall for her own good; bareheaded to a fault. A figure boding ill among the hedgerows; so local she’s a silhouette. If only she. But then again. There but for the grace of. It’s said her eyes up close are bloodshot pools. That monster word: loneliness.
Elixir for Unrequited Nostalgia
by Katherine DiBella Seluja
Start with childhood trauma. Your father throwing you out will do. Mix in your schizophrenic brother, evening locked ward visits. Add a fistful of teenage pregnancy. Let it simmer for thirty-five years. Spread it thickly over 2000 miles. Lace it with your mother tripping on the dog and falling down the cellar stairs. The doctor said, the first forty-eight hours will tell. Run up and down those stairs seven times. If you can, make it ten. Watch strangers walk out of your house, back their car down the drive. Resist the urge to tell them, this was my childhood home.
Practically Asking For It
Nadine is shopping for a new boyfriend – she’s looking for a two-takeaways-a-week, comes-with-his-own toothbrush type. She doesn’t have the budget for anything else.
In aisle three, there’s been some kind of spillage. A muscular man labeled Colin is clearing up. Watch out love, he says and points at the luminous Hazard, Keep Clear.
In court, Colin will say she stepped out anyway, right into his path. The judge will smirk. Silly Nadine. Too dumb to read the signs.
by David M Wallace
A thin stream of drool traveled from the corner of his mouth. It hung off his chin like a translucent strand of whitish fish eggs. His lips moved silently as he swayed back and forth. Gently tossed on an invisible tide. The beads of his rosary slipping through his fingers.
At the Hardware Store
by Jennifer Lai
A couple considers paint swatches: Desire Pink, Sleepy Blue, and Lauren’s Surprise. “Lyin’ Eyes” plays in the background while “Special assistance needed in the tools area” blares overhead. I’m wandering aimlessly when an employee asks if I need help. Her tag says Ask Me Anything. I want to know why my best friend hasn’t returned my calls in over a week and why my boyfriend broke up with me last night. Instead, I ask for the bathroom. She gestures left, right, then left again.
“There’s signs along the way”, she says, “but they’re easy to miss if you’re not looking.”
by H. A. Eugene
Michael couldn’t afford new ideas. So he regurgitated the words he’d read and presented the book to the librarian, closed; a good-faith gesture meaning the ideas within remained uncomprehended.
“I am choosing not to learn,” Michael announced, walking backward through the library’s entrance.
He continued, carefully placing one foot behind the other until his backside arrived at home, where he resolved to remain until such time that change may not feel so expensive.
by Robert Runté
Her skin had become so translucent, I could see the flow through the veins stop whenever I held her hand.
Called to her bedside, I asked, “Why now?”
“Birthday,” the nurse explained. “Either it becomes a goal—hanging on for whoever they have left to turn up for their 100th, so they can depart surrounded by family—or they refuse to believe they could get that old, and pass a day or two before.”
“Your mom’s new worker reminded her, ‘You’re turning 100 next Tuesday.’ Just making conversation, but your mom put down her tea. So I knew: this weekend.”
You could resign, storm out in high dudgeon and let the cards fall where they may. You could fantasize about finding another job where your skills are finally appreciated and imagine submitting your resignation with an air of smugness. You could become unmanageable and take the fired escape. (Except there’s the money, your unemployable middle age, the mortgage and the kids and your partner’s anger and the looming wasteland of your irrelevance to your former colleagues.) Or you could accept that you built this escape-proof prison and raise birds to release through the bars, before they become like you.
When the package arrived, Walter wrestled off the lid…then gazed at its contents and sighed.
The replicant Alice looked like a poor imitation. Same height, build, and hair color…but he saw gleaming rivets, which felt disconcerting, like he’d dragged home some Frankenstein’s monster to replace his dead wife.
He carried it to the sofa and draped a blanket over it.
Ten days later, he got up the nerve to turn the key.
Her eyes fluttered open–slate blue, like Alice’s.
He gasped. “I…made your favorite, carbonara.” Then he felt foolish; she couldn’t eat.
But she smiled. “Lovely.”
by G.J. Williams
Hope Towers. Inaptly named. And there’s a man who won’t move out of one of its third-floor apartments. How to make him see sense has replaced the weather as a talking point. He’ll be the song of the drunks yet. Category NETG: nowhere else to go, one of them. In short, one from whom there’s nothing to fear. Single male, middle-aged, keeps a cat. No comeback.
Gatesy sways in his overcoat. When he found it he could hardly do the remaining buttons up. But he has “lost weight,” as he puts it. I call it starving.
“C’mon,” I implore, “You have to eat.”
Now if you want to eat you have to show faith.
We pray, pick up bowls and under posters exhorting piousness, join the queue.
The server jokes, “What’s it going to be?”
As if there’s a choice.
After staring at Gatesy he adds more into his bowl.
Gatesy smiles as he eats.
“What’s so funny?”
“I got them where I want them”
When Tomorrow Was Perfect
by Angela Gilbert
“They’re coming!” Griff swipes his sword near Brett, blocking the villains from their assault. The forest teems with orcs only they see. “Fix your sword!” Brett’s frantic fingers tighten the fraying coils of rope connecting the wooden blade to its handle while Griff holds them off.
Their battle shields the lurking man from their notice.
Tonight will bring police. Interviews. Brett’s tearful mother asking Griff why they had walked home separately.
Tomorrow will bring posters, searches, and the beginning of a big forever without answers.
But right now laughter, sweat, and wooden swords hold the
promise of a perfect tomorrow.
Time to Move On
by Andrea Damic
All she can hear is the emptiness of rooms and corridors followed by squeaky floorboards and gushes of wind rushing through the hole in the roof. Pictures of family members displayed on tarnished walls alongside an unsteady spiral staircase whisper about the past long gone. She looks at their faces intensely attempting to remember their names but to no avail. Trying to put the puzzle together was like following a trail of disappearing bread crumbs.
For a moment she catches glimpses of her aged translucent body in a broken mirror across the hall. “Maybe it is time to move on.”
by Cheryl Snell
Before her legs gave out, she climbed into bed. Thought she could better track her body’s factories there. If she lay back and listened hard enough to the warnings–high winds rushing from ear to ear, vision blurring like raindrops on a windshield–she should have enough time to summon help. She looked at the brass bell she kept on the bedside table, a duplicate of the one her mother had used during her final illness. She’d ring the clapper dumb, never realizing the ringing in her ears was, as her friends liked to say, all in her head.