This week’s artwork is by G.J. Mintz
by JW Goll
I’m on my second vodka and ginger ale. Delilah has had five, but as always, she’s steady and lucid. We sit in cheap plastic chairs near a greasy motel pool in Sturgis. We talk about Vietnam and she mentions a cousin killed at Hue, a childhood friend crippled at Dac To. She opens the second fifth, ignoring the ginger ale.
The light turns golden as does Delilah’s skin. A large praying mantis lands on a nearby table. It’s a love animal she declares. She takes a long drink from her tumbler. I wonder who it is here for, she says.
by Tim Frank
Why did the lonely boy from the high-rise estate, with his scarred wrists and nicotine breath, kill the dead-eyed drifter with a machete in the local park?
Why did the community act shocked and alarmed when behind closed doors they claimed he had it coming, like all the boys with infected tattoos – that they were a stain on the neighborhood, and deserved to have their stomachs carved up like pizza dough and then left to rot in a hole, forgotten forever?
by Betty Stanton
“Talk to me about one time you saw God’s hand at work in your life,” his counselor prods him. Doctor Jim is a small, serious man with milk-colored hands.
He could be a hand model, Andrew realizes, and then he bites his lip until he tastes the copper of his own blood and tells Doctor Jim that he doesn’t believe God has hands.
Presumably for stepping on things.
The Last Flight of the Honeybees
by Michael Anthony Fagan
The terminal honeybees cut their wings off, forcing their bodies through the compact wire fence. Their bodies fall onto plastic flowers (doused in peppermint and sage); their journey is in vain.
Her eyes command a tempest. A queen no more. The world around her is dying. She is picked up by leather fingers, crushed into a frosted glass, and smeared onto a faux Kandinsky painting by the bald bourgeoisie artist whose father owns the mill house.
by Kapka Nilan
Back then when I used to have a father and there used to be snow for as long as I remember before my memories turned into slush and the future became all too real without the intricacies of snowflakes and with the knowledge that all Santas are temporary but melting into nothing is a bonus as that way they would never get old and develop a catalog of illnesses that can only leave one half-alive.
by Matthew Corbyn
The sun poured champagne into the ocean. Pristine water bubbled on the white sand.
The porcelain woman lay on dark mahogany, shaded by postcard palm trees. Her oversized sun hat and sunglasses, a polite ‘do not disturb’.
She had meant to leave two days ago.
Her phone buzzed. She ignored it.
A local walked by early evening. She didn’t return his greeting.
Even as the crowds gathered under the full moon, followed by red and blue flashing, revealing the deep, dark ocean. She dared not open her eyes, lest another sight would be her last.
If I Could Give My Former Self a Fortune Cookie
Five years from now, you will live in a modest home, in a small town, with a fulfilling job, and a new partner. You will have a golden retriever named Lucky.
But right now, you are alone, crouched on the floor in the last bathroom stall, your head in your hands, sweat droplets running along the small of your back, your knees pulled up and pushing against your palpitating chest. You smell urine and Japanese Cherry Blossom, and a layer of coffee stagnates in your mouth. You keep lifting your feet to feel the slight pull of the sticky floor.
Hug Me Once
by Tim Frank
As a child I refused hugs, always offering a firm handshake instead – even to my mother who watched sadly as I grew into a frail teenager with perpetually clammy palms.
On her deathbed, grandma offered my greatest challenge.
“Give Nana a hug, darling,” she said, with dull grey eyes, stretching out her arms. “Not long for me now.”
Reluctantly, I leaned in, pressed my cheek against her wiry purple wig until I heaved contented sighs that turned into tears.
Then I burst into flames, incinerating my grandma, leaving her charred remains glowing on the mattress.
“Oh, right,” everyone said.
by Tim Frank
It’s just that Gina’s pregnant, her mum’s just flown in from Nigeria with giant snails packed in Tupperware and they don’t fit in the fridge, they’ll rot, they’ll rot, shrieks my mother-in-law then Gina says it’s coming, and as she sobs in the toilet her mum says, I told you so, he’s no good, and the truth is we have a flat the size of a ping pong table, I work in a fucking bar and cigarettes cost twenty a box. I guess I’m not ready for this, I don’t even feel like an adult.
It’s not OK.
Alex and the Face
by James Burt
We were in 6th form when Alex found the face. He was happy to share it and we all took turns wearing it. At first, the new features made my skin ache, with its tighter cheekbones and small nose. I soon grew to love the feeling of being someone else – there’s a thrill to playing with your identity when you’re a teenager. Sometimes we’d go to the pub and swap it between rounds. I still sometimes see the face in town, and long to say hello, but I don’t know for sure if it’s one of the old gang.
by Nancy Welch
On the downward slope of your forties, you marry, acquire a stepdaughter, and learn to ski.
“So brave,” friends say. “At your age.”
But gentle groomers forgive your wedge. For the occasional yard sale—skis and poles strewn—your newly-wed husband skis clean-up.
From the lift, you watch the toddlers, tethered to one parent while the other slow-carves a protective perimeter. On this hill, your husband has explained, he and his ex taught their daughter. You picture them each time the unforgivable fact of you spins the girl into a yard sale, her father, on clean-up, hopeless to retrieve what she’s lost.
The New Measuring Device
by Divya George
“What size should we buy?” she asked him, sipping tea. Her phone opened on Amazon with ‘skewers for kitchen’ in the Search bar.
He jumped into action.
Her attention shifted to skewer composition, wood vs steel.
He walked in circles, murmuring, “can’t find it.”
She didn’t notice him pick something from near her and head into the kitchen.
He reappeared all smiles. “How big is our new clock?”, he asked.
‘Totally unrelated’, she thought. “Let me see”, she replied, her eyes now on Order History. “14 inches.”
“We need smaller”, he said, holding out the clock. “This doesn’t fit.”
Absentee Friend Found
by James Mahone
In three weeks Fernie went from burley to that sinewy/striated look of a feral tweaker found hanging around Kum and Go parking lots at odd hours. Every vein conspicuous like electrical wiring in a stripped house, every dehydrated muscle furrowed and popping like his skin had been removed and the muscles underneath painted beige. Looking at him gave M the fantods. He thought about those exhibits with the corpses in various poses of activity and leisure, where they lacked skin but had popping eyeballs and whitened teeth; everyone always looked up into the assholes of the anatomical displays.