White Picket Fence
by Paul Beckman
Monday, Madison wore her cheerleader’s uniform to breakfast. Mom and Dad clapped–brother Charlie teased her about her big thighs and ate two more chocolate chip pancakes, Madison scrambled her egg whites. They ran to catch the school bus as Mom and Dad stood in the doorway smiling, arms around each other. Mom cleaned up then after lunch popped two Oxycontin pills and watched “girl on girl” porn on her laptop while Dad was driving to meet his sister-in-law at a motel and Madison was in the school bathroom, fingers down her throat, and Charlie was busy bullying a freshman.
No One Believes Anymore
by Naomi Parker
“What does she want with teeth, anyway?” they wonder. She skips down the dark hallways at night, feet lightened by visions of children digging under pillows for a prize. Through the cracked door, casting slight night-light shadows over discarded toys, she creeps. Under the cover of slow breaths, clasping her coin purse so it doesn’t clink, she gently lifts the pillow. All she sees is a puckered sheet, again. One hundred thousand reminders every night that no one knows or cares. Still, she is a good fairy, so she has taken to hiding the loose change under sofa cushions.
by Mark Burnash
“It tickles!” little Elliot squealed as the sunflowers nuzzled him with their disc florets. They had been laughing, singing, and dancing all day long. When the sun reached its zenith, some sunflowers formed a canopy with their ray florets to provide him shade while others told him fantastic fables and fairy tales. When evening finally fell, Elliot, delighted yet exhausted from the day’s festivities, collapsed onto a soft bed woven with green leaves. When dawn broke the next morning, try as they might, the scavengers couldn’t find a single scrap of meat left on Elliot’s bones.
by Franziska Hofhansel
The one thing you do remember was the flick of her wrist. She made a gesture and the way her wrist bent, carefully, a no nonsense upward motion conveying nonchalance, grabbed your gaze and held it there. You turned to ask her something, or maybe just stare, because you’d never seen someone so mired in life and when she took a breath you thought of elderly couples picking apples and when the brakes slammed and her neck snapped up, hard, you thought of that wrist flick.
Bill Died and Left Me a Pig
by D. D. Renforth
Bill died and left me a pig I swear is Bill.
My wife Ellen smirks, “Really? Bill is Hardy the pig?”
When she approaches, Hardy shakes his bottom, smiles, his tongue hangs then stiffens.
Hardy always winks at me with strange eyes, too red for a pig, then turns and farts. In private I scold it, even whip it for mocking me.
“You need help,” Ellen says and makes an appointment.
The doctors ignore me.
The priest holds my hand and prays.
Only the fish in the waiting room agrees.
“You’re right,” it says, “Hardy loves your wife.”
The War on Drugs
by J. Bradley
I look at the officer as she writes down her version of what happened. I calculate when she might not be paying attention to try and make myself more comfortable against the wheel well. The officer stops writing when she hears the chaff of fabric and metal against the tire. She looks at me, moves her hand halfway to the Taser holstered on her belt. An itch spreads across my cheek. I want to grate the dandruff out of my beard in front of her using only my shoulder. No need to wait for the dogs, I want to say.
by Paul Alex Gray
The bitter wind is drowned out by the yips and howls of the younglings. They prance and circle the fire kicking at embers. Russet, tan and sable fur shimmers, not yet burnt to hunter’s cloaks. Teeth glint and shine, knife sharp and hungry. I run my tongue across my own, taste in the pocks and scratches a thousand days and nights. Casting back I still feel my dawnday cap of feather and bone, my mother’s well wishes. The kill is coming. Blood games will begin. Pass the carcass round and round till the last one wins the heart.
by Brett Blocker
I threw a stick into the cornfield and Biscuit brought back a leg. That’s how we found him; the gurgling pulp in a flight suit. Sophie took one look and said “Yuck!” So that’s what we called him. Having ruined some of the crop with his airplane, Dad says it’s up to Yuck to pay us back and if that means selling him off, then so be it. I knew we couldn’t keep him forever, but every time the gypsy wagon comes down the road with a bigger offer, Dad repeats himself. “Maybe tomorrow.”
by DL Shirey
My little sister’s screams filter through salt water like the tremolo of a surf guitar. Who knew the undertow had a soundtrack? It crouches out where the slant of sand drops deep, always moving, crabbing sideways behind bones of coral, peeking up, pulling hard. I call to my sister. The words skitter up the frets of my throat into a useless strangle of bubbles, left behind with scratched strings of flesh, cut by coral, picked by fish. Black-green stands of seaweed block what little light remains. The last thing I see are long shadows swaying to the strums of riptide.
by David Galef
For the Special & Gifted School, students must achieve at least 130 on the Wechsler test, but also be measurably damaged. Rachel scored 148 but did abysmally on the Initiative Index. Her first day, she was too timid to go to the girls’ room and by 10:30 sat in a small yellow puddle. On one side of her was a boy who’d turned his notebook paper into origami turtles; on the other, a girl reading two books simultaneously while eating lunch early and smearing mayonnaise on the pages. “You fit right in,” declared the teacher cheerfully, handing Rachel a mop.
by Michael Kulp
It is May, and my only son is graduating. In May, the tadpole enjoys the shallows’ golden light, reveling in the third dimension. By June, he will be unhappy, new legs ruining his beautiful sleekness. In July, he will be restless, sensing that more changes are coming. In August, he will be a frog who remembers a little less each day about the delight of the third dimension. He will leave the pond and join the peculiar land creatures. Will he find a mate to share the darkness? But right now, it is May, and my only son is graduating.
Sounds About Right
by Mark Burnash
When we die, we’re all reincarnated as squirrels; you know that, right? Yep, each time a person dies, a lightning bolt strikes an acorn and a squirrel is born. The lightning is caused by satellites and clouds from cloud factories. The Beatles invented the satellites. Did you know Jean Claude Van Damme was one of the Beatles? Yep, that was when I owned Disney, but the C.I.A. took it away from me. The police laced my cigarettes with cocaine to frame me and they took away my children too. I didn’t mind too much; they were Nephilim abominations anyway.
by Marquis DePrevbal
Carlos returned to Mexico to care for his dying mother, so the grass grew high. By May, it was unruly, and the neighbors began to comment. By Memorial Day, it reached my knees. They stopped saying hello and stared uneasily at my untamed meadow during evening walks, as if leopards might be crouching behind the mailbox. The guy next door mowed almost daily, demonstrating his disgust. Someone from the HOA took a photo. The code enforcer would be next. What would come first, I wondered: A citation, or Carlos, sweating out his grief as he dragged me back to civilization?