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.”
Late Night Coffee
by Steve Bates
“That’s the last of the coffee,” she said. We’d talked half the night. She’d told me more about herself than I wanted to know, and I’d told her more about myself than I intended to. That’s the curse of two lonely people living in the same lonely apartment building in the same lonely city finally meeting. We’d revealed our dreams, dancing around our disappointments, which was really all either of us had found since moving here. No amount of small-town education can prepare you for this. “Should I put on another pot?” she asked. “Sure, why not,” I said.
It’s Not The Music
by G.J. Williams
He thinks the music brought back the rat. It’s not the music I said, and there is no rat. It’ll be the violins he said, the higher-pitched pieces. Or the promise of warmth in a cello. Neither I said, besides there being no rat. The walls are quiet when you’re around he said. And I certainly heard no pattering of feet across any ceiling. The music all the while stayed stopped. That’s not healthy I said, you love your music. There’s no serenading any rat. It’ll be the piccolos he said, it’ll be the woodwind the flutes the pipes.
Feeding the Hungry
Tiny tunnels lead through the grass to the crime scene – young squash vines strewn over the ground like corpses, decapitated chard shoots poking out of the soil, pole bean seedlings cut off in their prime, a harvest thwarted before it even had a chance. At the edge of the garden, a heron stands in silent vigil, then – stab! – and it’s vole for dinner. “Come back,” I call as it lifts its great blue body into the sky. In the shadows by the riverbank, a crow hovers over the heron’s nest.
Cradle and All
by David M Wallace
There was an official investigation, of course. No one blamed her. These things happen. It’s nobody’s fault. But next morning a little flurry of hail fell. She stood at the window watching it gather against the porch steps and dreamed of fairies and baby teeth.
This week’s artwork is by Shadowlance.
Coffee Shop Encounter
by Steve Bates
Dom remembered the first time he saw her two months ago, sitting alone when he came into the shop after moving to the city. He returned every Saturday, and she was always there. He’d nod, and she would smile. Today the place was crowded, people weaving and chattering like caged squirrels. His usual table was taken. When he asked if he could sit down, she said, “Alright, I’m leaving anyway.” It was the only time they’d spoken. As she walked toward the door Dom sipped his drink, then pulled out his phone to search for other coffee shops nearby.
by Benjamin Marr
The boy in the corner was visibly frightened. He shivered even though the fire roared just four feet away from him. Even after his mother wrapped him in a blanket, he continued to shake.
“This hot soup oughtta cure ya,” said the pirate at the stove. He wasn’t a real pirate. He was an old family friend who liked to dress as a pirate.
“Yes it shall,” a voice bubbled out of the soup. A tiny man swam to the surface. “Our whole village has never felt such warmth.”
The pirate sighed as his mind drifted back to sea.
by JR Walsh
There’s ways out of squabbles, even trapped in Nissans. The smallest bladder shall lead to salvation. Gas up first. Ask if chocolate will help. Two grunts for savory? Clenched jaws unclench. It’s the worst time to buy the amethyst rhinestone sword. Settle for a friction folder with bottle opener tang.
by Margret Wiggins
When you left you took the paintings and the blue chair. Half of the glasses, a shelf of books, a bottle of twenty-five-year-old whiskey. You took the Italian restaurant on the corner of 10th street and the ramen place on 2nd. The bar down the block, the museum, the coffee pot. You took entire neighborhoods. You left me plates I never liked and a sagging couch. Empty dressers and the sushi joint that gave you food poisoning. You left me the right side of the bed. But each night I stretch out, creeping over.
Change of Plan
by Keith Hoerner
Every time he checks the blueprints, something’s different. When he questions the architect, he sneers, as if to demand “What are ya talkin’ about bub; you were on board with the designs – just yesterday.” But upon today’s examination, the roofline has taken on a monstrous fortress-like appearance. Worse yet, each day, it continues to grow in strangeness. Now, as the house is complete, he does not question its organic shapeshifting. He lies in bed aware—as walls fold and floors slide around him. The house lives, takes on new forms, and against his will, locks its doors and windows.
Big in Japan
by Andrey Pissantchev
Sandra was already a nervous mess, but the pilot’s tinny voice sent her over the edge.
“Our slight diversion will take us over Japanese airspace. In a few minutes, you will be able to see the southern tip of Kyushu Island to our left.”
Sandra whispered to the stewardess, then pleaded, then shouted. Her fellow passengers found themselves having to restrain her as she yelled “we need to turn back” again and again.
It was all futile in the end. As they entered Japanese airspace, Sandra grew four times her size. The plane’s pieces rained all across the tranquil Pacific.