This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz.
by Andrée Gendron
Perched on a porch swing overlooking marshlands for long hours on end an old woman systematically discards (molts) her pointless (undervalued) humanity. Transformed once dissolved she becomes fully immersed in the pageantry below. She boasts a newly crocheted poncho—black, red, and bright yellow—resembling her spirit animal, the red-winged blackbird. To further blend in with them she spreads both arms wide while swinging as if darting amidst the cattails and sunbeams. Only there and then can she find true joy and peace among her own kind. It seems they are all the family the old woman has left nowadays.
Would Give 0 Stars If I Could
by Adrienne Ryan
I go through the ritual, draw out the circle for summoning Roneve, but end up conjuring Raum instead. I didn’t mean to do that, but it looks like the incantation was for Raum and the symbols of binding are for Ronove. Nice. Needless to say, the barrier doesn’t hold. If it weren’t for my talisman I would have been incinerated! Now Raum is demanding a blood feast, and I really don’t have the time to deal with this. I won’t even attempt a dismissal since I don’t know if I’m using it’s true name. Seriously, do not buy this ebook.
The Horror of Doris’ Toenails
by Janet F. Murray
Everyone hated Doris’s toenails. As long as her fingers and painted a bright red, her gait was like that of a clumsy alligator. Inopportunely, as Doris discovered, she did not share the alligator’s agility. Sheriff Milne realized this one day when up to his own nefarious activities in the Great Dismal Swamp in the south eastern region of Virginia. About to bend young Sophia over a conveniently placed tree stump, his eyes lit upon the grotesque sight of bleached brown phalanges, red nails desperately clinging to swamp grass. Doris’ digits are now memorialized in formaldehyde at the local museum.
To Be Warned
by Trisha Ridinger McKee
Sam tried to sneak past his mom as she handed out candy, but her sharp squeak reached him. “Did you just wake up? That’s ridiculous. Hey, watch for the crazies. Tonight, they’re everywhere. Be careful.”
He rolled his eyes but simply agreed so he could escape into the night, amid the miniature ghouls and werewolves holding out pillowcases. He strolled down the sidewalk, and as everyone was watching the dressed-up monsters of the night, he slid into a backyard, wondering as he sank his teeth into the scrumptious neck, what his mom would think if she knew.
by Brooks C. Mendell
My first customer gifted the cedar wood balls rolling in the cup holder. “You seem nice, but your car smells kinda funky.” If my next fares give five-star ratings, I overtake Vernon in Lansing and reclaim first in the Midwest driver rankings. This garners respect and encourages tipping. I turn to offer hardboiled quail eggs while Vivaldi plays. Two chipmunks sprint across the street. I slam the brakes. The espresso machine tumbles, showering a nun from Holt and a ride-sharing personal injury attorney with scalding water. The sounds of bouncing cedar balls fail to cover the screams and profanity.
Killed by a Drink
by Mir-Yashar D Seyedbagheri
Nick’s sister Nancy is struck by a beer truck. He tries not to conjure the truck, making contact. The motion of Nancy flying into the air, crack of bones on pavement. He tries to block the nicknames she bestowed on him. Saint Nick, Little Nicky. Whirlwind energy, love of piano. Footsteps, loud clickety-clack. He wishes she hadn’t gone out that day. Wishes he’d followed her. Gotten hit himself. When people ask about her, he says it was a drink that killed her. Technically correct. A truckful. Being killed by booze seems mysterious and inexplicable. Beyond logic. It’s easier.
This week’s artwork is “The Wind’s Hush After a Kiss” by Bill Wolak
by Bronwen O’Donnell
She was never close to her father’s mother. She’d gone when she was just a bairn. Her rabbit had died the same weekend, and it had been Smokey that had wrung her infant heart.
Thirty-two years later, the faded photograph, so fragile…almost dust in her hand, told a truth.
A young woman, a park bench, a baby the same age as hers. Her own eyes looking back at her.
Someday, she would be a dusty photo in an attic. Even now, she was a memory waiting to fade.
She framed her grandmother. It was the least she could do.
Denver Disappeared Wednesday
by Eric Robert Nolan
Denver disappeared Wednesday.
That’s how it happens. Cities targeted by EAGLE-X simply vanish. The orbiting laser is cleaner than a nuke; it vaporizes its maddeningly random targets.
When the EAGLE-X defense satellite went rogue, it gave us a global game of Russian roulette. First its malfunctioning program targeted an obscure Siberian town. Then a nondescript French suburb. Then it left Buenos Aires a silent, sulphurous, blackened flatland. Tuesday it incinerated Kirik, a Icelandic fishing village of just 400 souls. Every time we try to nuke it, it defends itself.
I kiss my infant son tonight — maybe for the last time.
by Charles Gray
Entangled in your policies — I never strayed from your goals. Choked by your procedures, I pried your hands from my throat, so you could choke me again. Down the paperwork abyss I fell, and with mangled fingers, clawed out. Yes, I worked the extra hours — unpaid — because that’s what you needed. Promoted to project manager, I presented the customer your scheduled accomplishments — all lies. The sleepless nights piled up and dropped me to my knees. When I extended my hand for my thirty year anniversary plaque, you smirked, “Thanks for your service, Mr. Goodman,” and handed me a pink slip.
by Bill Cook
Before passing, Patsy applied rose-scented lip balm. Now she’d miss out on her pottery class. I, her sinewy fingers, the pliant knuckles of a pole-vaulter. Her at the round wooden stool. Her agile hands clasping the slick malleable clay.
September sunlight bled through mouth-blown windowpane. Cottonwood warmed golden-green before her return to the hospital. Patsy sat coaxing a squatty vase into being. “A vase meant to hold a reflection.”
She had ground pigment. Had made fire. Had pumped hand-drawn water.
This morning, a year later, I gripped the furrowed stem, caressed the vulvic collar. Placed the clutch of garden tulips.
Cleaning the Lies
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
I try to scoop up lies I’ve told my father. They keep slipping. I shouldn’t lie, but want peace. He loves to dissect. Find flaws in every move. I’m too weak, artistic, need to use people. Trust no one. I’m in a prestigious PhD program. Have three girlfriends. Top of the class. I’m rough, thriving on the energy of fights, taking out neo-Nazis. Lies expand, contract, consume. Truth and I part ways, even as she tries to reconcile. I want peace. Can’t expect him to be pleased. I lost that expectation. I keep scooping, but I’ll never clean everything. Anything.
by Mandira Pattnaik
A wrinkled palm held out, I used to sing a ditty on the steps of the glitzy Bank. Moneyed people eyed me like a roach. They wished homeless, penniless people like me disappeared from these polished sidewalks, from their upmarket business district, from their chic city, from the face of earth.
This changed overnight when I brought my pooch along and wrote ‘For the dog’ on my cup. I made enough to last the week before lunch.
by Carson Stone
There’s a couple holdin’ hands down there by the river, no more’n teenagers if I had to take a guess. They’re still in the springtime years, dazzled by the motion of a growing life in a world where everything is brand new. I can’t help but notice the stillness that’s crept into these old bones and spread to damn near everything else I’d rightly consider part of me. I stare at the empty rocker sittin’ next to mine and follow that laughter back to the riverbed. Same river it’s always been. Can’t hurt to hope I’ll be there again someday.
by Jacob (Radar) DeBoard
Josiah sat quietly in his favorite chair on the front porch. He looked out over the several dozen acres of farmland before him. This had been a new evening ritual of his.
Things hadn’t been the same since he had inherited the land from his father. He missed him. His wife emerged from inside. “Everything quiet?”, she asked. Josiah gave a small nod in response.
Just then, his eyes caught a glimpse of something in the distance. An older man covered in dirt, shambled down the road. Josiah stood up, picking up a shovel. “Looks like dad got out again.”
by Mark Reels
After Nathan argued with his wife, he retreated to the garage.
He would rewind the quarrel in his mind and alternate between being hurt by his wife’s words and being disappointed in his own anger.
How long could he lie to himself and call this place his home?
He considered the peg board with each tool hanging in its place. He saw the power tools sitting neatly on their shelves and felt the limits of his own power to build or repair his very life.
He looked at his perfectly maintained vehicle and realized he had nowhere else to go.
by Sarah Freligh
After the man died, the authorities carried out the bones of the six girls who’d gone missing and X’ed the front door in yellow tape. The neighborhood lit up with television cameras and microphones tethered to women with glossed-on faces who talked about what a nice neighbor the man had been. The cleaners came and tore down the walls of old newspapers, the hills of clothing, and left the whole mess by the curb for the trash men to take away. The daffodils came back in the spring; the new owners planted roses. No one remembered the girls’ names.
Big Girls Don’t Cry
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Mother’s in the kitchen, holding a bottle of wine like a microphone. Dad’s car speeds away, the sputtering fading, fading. Radio blasts The Four Seasons. Mother sings, doing pitch-perfect Frankie Valli falsetto: Big girls don’t cry. She repeats it over and over. Nick asks if she’s all right. She smiles, keeps imitating Frankie, waving the bottle. They don’t cry-yyyyyy. Nick tries to tell her it’ll be all right. They’ll move on. Things that seem empty and false. She keeps on singing. Voice cracks and for a moment Nick doesn’t know if she’s laughing or crying. Perhaps she doesn’t know either.
by Kip Knott
I live like a murderer who has contemplated the death of my numbness for months.
When I am alone in my house for too long, I hear the oranges in my refrigerator carrying on long, bittersweet conversations. They say another man lives inside of me. They say he is a man so full of sadness that he moves as if covered in tar. They say he lives just below the skin.
I love oranges. I love how when I peel them their juice runs down my fingers and palms and stings the small cuts running across my wrists.
by Beth Balousek
1969. It was Vietnam, and men coming home without the legs they left on. Her boys played with cap guns. They pledged allegiance to the flag and killed each other daily. So, she fed them. They crunched down sugary bowls of Kaboom. Lunch boxes filled to bursting. Dinners became debauchments. Gleaming shanks of lamb. Slabs of beef. Biscuits, breads, and rolls to sop up the blood. She gave them borderline diabetes and mild hypertension. She swelled them to sizes that were difficult to shop for. They grew uncomfortable, but dependent. They would not get her babies. Not her babies. No.
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This week’s artwork is by Julian Cloran
by Sue Powers
Listless, languid, eyelids heavy in empathy, food called out to her, insistent, nagging, moving her to pull out lemon bars, Häagen Dazs, mozzarella cheese, sourdough bread, a leftover vegetable curry and rice entrée now five days old and her secret stash of brownies, and wash it down with a diet cola and her bottle of save-for-an-occasion Riesling. Wiping the last crumb from her chin, she laid her head onto the table, belly painfully extended, bile rising to her throat, and still, had there been any thing left, her emptiness would have devoured it.
If Turkeys Could Talk
by C. F. Carter
When you approach her house and I try to warn you, you hear only warbles and honks.
You ignore me when I bend my wing towards the barn, where cars rust in the darkness.
When I try to lead you to the well where badges soak in its cold depths, you push me aside with a shiny jackboot.
Like a strutting tom, you ring the bell, and a heartbeat later she shoos you off the porch.
She scatters cracked corn in the yard, while you beat your wings and kick up dust, erasing what I’d scratched in the ground: witch.
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
She asked her son to take her to the liquor store. Again. She hated the look in his eyes, eager to please. As if this could patch everything together. She always lost her temper, passed out. Her career as a pianist had fallen flat. She felt a mélange of anxiety and rage, the sense of something valuable taken. “I’ll take you,” he said. She felt gratitude. Anger. She wanted him to resist and oblige. She wanted him to take her, she wanted him to hide the keys. She wanted him to leave. Run fast. “Let’s go,” was all she said.
by Daryl Scroggins
Don’t go, she thought, her face pressed to the door she had closed against him. She imagined him walking down toward the road, his new car by the mailbox. She saw herself opening the door—saw him turning to her, unable to go on, starting back.
But she didn’t open the door. She went to the kitchen and got ice for her eye. Poured herself a glass of water. She saw, then, the brown bag of tomatoes she had selected for him from her garden. But when she glanced through the peephole again, everything just looked round, like a road.
What is Death Like?
by Xavier Barzey
A German cockroach lay stiff on its back as its mesothoracic legs flickered in slow motion on the front porch. “What is death like?” she asks intently with an innocent gleam in her little eye. I looked at her, uncertain of what to say. I reflected for a moment, “uh… well, I suppose it may hurt at first, but then you begin to transcend beyond the present and soon you’ll feel nothing.” Perplexed, she cupped her hands around the roach and stroked it softly on its back. It lay rigid. “There,” she says. “He’s okay now.”
The Organ Breathers
by Erik Fuhrer
The organ breeders took a day off to be organ breathers because there was a typo on the memo that day and they were bred to be literal. So, they took a deep breath and pressed their lips against the cold skin of a cirrhotic liver. Miraculously, it sputtered and spit as they exhaled, and life spilled from its ocher body. Triumphantly, the organ breathers continued blowing their life into the liver’s puckered flesh in slow steady streams. Once it blushed, they placed it in the body of a young mare, which instantly revived and bucked its mane in joy.
Abortions and Laugh Tracks
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
“I wanted to have an abortion,” the boy’s mother says, stumbling through the door. She is drunk. Again. That does not negate the words that rush to the boy, the TV laugh track resounding like a slap. “I hate you too,” he says. He is twelve. He knows the way she looks at him, worn out. Tired. But he never thought she hated him. He thought she was holding back, wanted her to let him in on her world. The mother stares at him. He wants her to say something. She does not, the laugh track rising again and again.
by Dakota Canon
Caleb stood at the edge of the gorge looking down. The sun was setting, forcing him to squint, but the heat remained oppressive. Behind him the screech of tires, the cut of an engine. He didn’t look back. The hand on his shoulder hung, heavy.
“You okay, buddy? You not thinking of jumping, are you?”
“Thinking,” Caleb said, “but not doing.” Just like always. He squeezed his eyes shut.
“You wanna hop in the cruiser? I got iced tea.”
Caleb shook his head and sat down. He didn’t even have the courage for a damn tea. “Maybe next time.”
by Ellen Perleberg
“Grandma, why did your face fall down?”
“What’s that, love?”
“How come your neck and cheeks are so droopy?”
“Well, cry enough tears and they start to weigh a face down.”
“I hope my face falls down soon too.”
“Don’t wish for Sunday, little one.”
“Mommy and Daddy’s faces in their boxes were sewn up real tight and stiff. That’s not how it’s s’posed to be.”
“No, baby, it’s not.”
by Och Gonzalez
When I first came here, my family always came to visit. Sundays were fun, ‘cause that’s when they came. Then I looked forward to every other Sunday, then just the last Sunday of the month. Then there were no more Sundays and I’ve got nothing to mark time with except the yellowing of the walls. The nurses told me I should learn how to knit so I won’t be staring out the window. It hasn’t been easy with my knotty hands, but I’m now on my fifty-sixth sweater. I haven’t got much yarn left, but there are no clocks here.
by Alison McBain
Mama feeds her baby bitter milk from a mangled heart. Years drip by and the hungry boy cries, but Mama’s hands are empty. She slaps his face until it’s ragged as hers. When he’s fifteen, he gets a job at the corner store. He stacks food in towers so high, they’re unreachable. Mama swallows down his paycheck—he gnaws bone and gristle. When he becomes a man, he can do as she does—ignore, abuse, betray. Instead, he takes her hand in his. Mama shakes under the burden she’s carried so long alone, but he promises, “We’ll walk together now.”
What Roman Says
by Lori Cramer
Roman says that I shouldn’t refer to him as my boyfriend. Labels like that, he says, create unrealistic expectations. When I assure him that I don’t have any expectations, unrealistic or otherwise, he smirks and says that women always say that. I ask for a ballpark estimate of the number of women he’s surveyed. He smirks again. I’m not sure which annoys me more, his patronizing facial expressions or his authoritarian need to control the terminology with which I’m permitted to describe our relationship. “No problem,” I say. “From now on I’ll just call you my ex-boyfriend.”
by B.E. Seidl
It came of nowhere: A giant crow, its plumage like a black silken coat. It is hard to tell where it wanted to go, for certainly it cannot have planned to be stuck in the spokes of my brand-new bicycle. In horror I watch the bird flapping its wings until finally it breaks its neck. I would have only further distressed it by trying to help. It would have only pecked my hand and scratched me with its claws. Carefully, I disentangle the animal from my precious bike. It would have died anyway.
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Dick wants love. He is a penis. He doesn’t want physical bullshit, but recognition. He’s traveled constantly, gone into coffee shops, a McDonald’s, small-town motels. But he’s always ejected. He’s an abomination. He feels the weight of rejection. He wants to sit down behind lit windows, like the normal folks. He wants to pretend he belongs. He wants people to pretend, too. “What do you want from life?” he’d ask. He’d listen if he had a chance. Maybe he needs to measure his own life by their stories. Maybe he needs assurance. He trudges on, tired, struggling against ebbing hopes.
Why We Got Rid of the Shotgun
by Aaron Saliman
April second was a frowning day. Bill Wurthers on the other side of town finally died from that infected dog bite, so we took his bitch out behind his house and put a shell in the back of her head. She was a little thing, not more’n a pup, but it’s county law for a murderer to be put to death, and we follow the court of law in this town. But those eyes looking up at us, all glassy and soul-sucked-out; it made us turn around and start retching into the dirt.
The Lover Crowned
by Reece Taylor
He strips from his garden the peonies and weaves a crown, then hurries towards the hills where his lover waits. In his heart he knows there is no greater gift than this. He passes their old schoolhouse along the way, and the field of pomegranate trees where they kissed and aged. He recalls that sweet, everlasting feeling. By evening, he arrives to find his lover wrapped in vines—such a wild thing now—and he steps forward with the crown, arms outstretched, and rests it over the pale blossom sprouting from a crack in the stone slab.
The Young Woman and the Moon
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
She’s always trying to get to the moon, to live there. To start a new life, undisturbed. Every night she walks, treading the same old paths, away from home, from her father’s mustache bristling like a porcupine, from the scent of abandonment and perfume. She walks through the quad of the old university, down the train tracks, and the moon reaches out. “Come to me,” it whispers soothingly. She keeps trying. No success. One night the moon disappears, leaving her in the darkness. All she can do is turn around, walking in the other direction towards what, she cannot say.
Man on the Bus Eating Fruit
by Alastair D Paylor
He ate the banana roughly. Chomping down so that son of a bitch disappeared in huge chunks. He watched them, watching him. They were uneasy, and their chatter had died away. They were relieved to press the bell and get off the bus when their stop came, but as they alighted and the bus slowly started to pull away they couldn’t help looking up. He was still watching them. His forehead pressed against the window pane, biting into an apple.
by JL Courtney
I can’t. I can’t go to yoga. It’s evil. Not weight lifting evil—all strain and bellow. It isn’t nefarious like Zumba—drums, up-tempo music, all the thrusting. Yoga isn’t the wet, drippy evil of a sauna. Towel-clad women chatting up smoothie recipes while sweat drips into their cleavage. In and out, fifteen minutes, leaving dual half-moon ass prints to dry on the cedar boards. No, yoga is glowing-skinned, water-guzzling, twenty-something evil. Insidious as a chiropractor. Crack! One session’s all it takes to show where the tension hides.
A Tight Fit
by Abby Burns
I am a master of false equivalency. For instance, I tell my boyfriend, if I can push a baby from my vagina, surely you can shove a car up your ass. The baby is born cesarean, but it’s too late. There’s a hood ornament wedged near his prostate and he needs surgery to save him from pleasure. Here’s the problem with men who take you literally: you both end up drugged and sliced open. Now I change both dirty diapers and colostomy bags.
This week’s artwork is “Cardboard Dreams” by Emily Story.
The Least of These
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Ever since his wife left with that priest, Matthew hangs out at bars. He drinks like a peasant, listens to trains wailing, lies about Betty. She’s dead, he says. He drowns their halcyon days, when responsibility was a shadow, throwing Junior Mints at children. Driving past apartments, mooning strangers. Swapping identities. His mind swishes over her note that read: I need a higher purpose. You too. He lies to fallen princesses around jukeboxes, says she had cancer, loved him wholeheartedly. If he keeps talking, to the moon, the emptiness, he’ll almost believe it, a man among the least of these.
by Romalyn Ante
I rocketed from the steel chair, flopping the dated magazine onto the table. I was certain I’d felt the weight of your fingers running down my arm. A glimpse of your shoulder as you pattered through the back door and you were gone. The doctor called it “grief hallucinations”. I didn’t ask for his explanation. The grey dog hopped on to the sill observing the faint flashes through the misted window, attentive of every screeching car, hoping, that, perhaps tonight you would tuck him to bed. But like any other nights, he and I would fall asleep, waiting…
by Dan Crawley
After saying our goodbyes at Sky Harbor, I complain to Paul in the car how his sister called me Julia, his ex. “At least they don’t call you Mooseface Scumbag like your family,” says Paul. Later, I feel bad and write him a funny love note and tack it to the fridge. My lovely Mooseface Scumbag. I would kill you, and then myself, if you ever found another Julia. XO. Then Paul’s mother visits. She insists on staying with us. I come upon her in the kitchen, staring at my note. “I knew it,” I hear her murmur.
A Hard Winter’s Tale
by Joachim Frank
The episode my grandfather recalled in his letter happened during a hard winter. It had snowed three consecutive days, then the temperature rose and the snow turned into rain. Next, a deep freeze overnight turned the snow on the ground into a shell of pure ice. In the morning the valley was filled with deer in many hapless positions. God works in mysterious ways. They had stepped out of the forest on top of the hill, lost their footing and slid down on their backs. Down in the valley the farmers stood open-mouthed, with their knives raised, and ready.
I Always Wear Pink on Tuesday
by Roy Dorman
“Jason, we need to talk and I’m going to be doing most of the talking,” said the angry voice on the phone. “Hold on. Wait a minute; wrong number. There’s no Jason here. But, ya know what, I could be Jason if ya want me to,” Bill Grogan said coyly.
“All right, smart guy, be Jason. What do you think I found when I was dusting under the bed this morning? A pair of women’s panties with ‘Tuesday’ in hot pink lettering on them.”
“Now, honey, I can explain that; those are my panties.”
by Joshua “Jammer” Smith
Go to work.
Fuck. I’m dying.
Go to bed.
Dream. I’m dying again.
Wake up (too early)
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Amy Canales.
Strangers in the Night
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
Mama disappears into a Plymouth. This isn’t the first time. There was that time she left for three days. She’d come back, happy, singing to him at bedtime, making him cocoa. The world was his. He goes into her bedroom, with the scent of lavender, mixed with something skunk-like. It’s empty. The suitcase, Sinatra records, her Tolstoy. He doesn’t know where to go. He’s not sure if he should chase her, or wait. That’s when he sees the note, tucked behind her desk, where they used to hide secrets. Mama’s unhappy. She needs to find herself. Water the plants.
by Bart Van Goethem
They had assured him if you close a door behind you, another one will open. When he did so, nothing happened. In the pitch black he groped for a handle. None. He groped for a wall. None. After a while he screamed, and then he screamed some more. He started punching air. Until the black shifted to a shade of dark unfathomable to a living, breathing man. A split-second later, he opened his eyes, squinting against a white light. ‘Welcome,’ they said. ‘We are Soul Catchers.’ It wasn’t what he had expected, but at least they hadn’t lied to him.
Cat in a Box
by Shinea Brighton
I’m trying to decide if you love me. I take measurements: how often you call, how long we talk, how often you break dates. Two recently. You never say, “I’ll call you later.” or “We’ll reschedule for next week.” Instead it’s, “How about Wednesday?”
Sometimes you hold my hand. Sometimes you are distracted and lonely. You go days without kissing me then you won’t stop long enough for me to eat.
It’s complicated. Are you a wave or a particle? Are we decaying at a predictable rate? I’m hungry and I can’t tell if you are feeding or poisoning me.
by Jessica Standifird
He was an old house in need of a good contractor. Ever since she’d convinced him he was dilapidated, the ink from his tattoos had flecked, faded. His foundation had cracked and his gait was now unsteady. She would roll her eyes and accuse his front porch of sagging. And if eyes were windows to the soul, well, no wonder she complained. The glass was old and warped, the panes full of drafts. It was cold inside. Maybe all he needed was a real estate agent who could spot potential. He wondered if Carrie at Remax would be interested.
by Jonathan Oak
Normally I hear the engine halfway down the street as a subtle change in the background noise, but the sound was too loud. Normally I see a glint from your bumper or your windshield. I missed it this time. Sometimes you call ahead to says how good it’ll be to be home. When all this fails, the dog, keen senses attuned to your arrivals, perks up her ears, springs to attention, whines at the door, peeks through the curtains. She just laid there. So when you came through the front door… lesbians going at it on the computer screen.
Special thanks to Jessica Standifird for her editorial assistance. This week’s artwork is by Kate Salvi.
Leaving on a Ghost Train
by Mir-Yashar Seyedbagheri
The ghost train came to take me, the night after the dead took over. It came through the kitchen, blinding my sister and me with its melting light.
“Bugger off,” Margaret said, wrapping an arm around me. “You can’t have him.”
“All twelve-year olds work for the dead,” the train said in a Yorkshire accent. “They’re the most fit to serve the new order.”
“I’m not going,” I said. “Take the neighbors.”
The train plunged into my sister, wheels grinding up strands of red hair, eyes, spinning like hypnotic Ferris wheels. She waved and smiled, her smile turning to crinkled stardust, falling away.
by Joey To
Jane slipped her shoes off, then glanced at the longcase clock and sighed: 10 p.m. and unsurprisingly quiet. She dragged her feet into the dark lounge room, then froze. The glowing spiral staircase was lined with little candles all the way up. Red petals were scattered all over. Jane’s lips curled a little as she sprung up the first steps… “Honey?” Silence. But she continued her ascent. “Mike?” No answer. Jane paused… then padded up the last steps—”Mike, you alright?”—and dimly saw a snoring mass, her husband with his arms around another: it was Kayla, their 150-pound Rottweiler.
by Rachel Tanner
Her cleavage is visible, respectable, nothing she wouldn’t wear to college. An unknown guy grabs her arms, holds her in place. Another stands in front, licks his lips, caresses her face. “What about me?” he says as he slips his hand inside the top of her dress, clutching firmly. In this room full of people, he brings her breast out into plain sight. Plays with it. She tries to escape; she’s held back. Finally she’s freed as his hand reaches for more. She runs outside into the street, grabbing for her phone. Grabbing for anything to make her feel safe.
by Cheyenne Marco
You’re a lifeguard. Up at four for work at six, spending the extra hour scouring the house for hidden six packs, pouring what you find down the drain. Then it’s off to work to break the back that was healed by luck after that car crash forty years ago. Home at five. She’s flooded with Coors. From where? From who? You remember her standing by your hospital bed, holding your hand when you thought you’d never walk again. You want her back. But you stare in the depths of those eyes, and you know that that woman has drowned.
by Joanne Hayle
He’s smacking his lips together over a glass of red wine. He claims that his reluctance to go out is proof of his contentment and that “home is where the heart is.” Satisfied, he sprawls on the sofa night after night. He’s haphazardly flicking through TV channels, doesn’t bother to wave as I leave for my salsa class. He knows that I’d rather dance with him. We used to enjoy and explore life together. I can’t tempt him out anywhere these days. When I return he’ll be snoring, inexplicably exhausted. He’s not dynamic enough to have an affair, is he?