Monday, November 26, 2012

“Broken” by Victoria Slotover

“Methinks you are my glass, and not my brother”
William Shakespeare, Comedy of Errors

She was my reflection in the morning, she was me at night. In her there was me and in me there was her. Now the mirror is cracked and we’re both gone. We had always been together- neither separated by a second nor divided by a day. From the moment our cluster of cells split in two to become one, she had been me and I had been her.

They say people don’t remember the womb, but we do. Not in any aural or visual sense- we’ve forgotten the darkness, we don’t recall our mother’s beating heart, that came later, but we do remember not being afraid, feeling warm and safe and together, knowing that no-one could hurt us or come between us. Knowing it was just us. So much so in fact that when we came out they say I was gripping her ankle, tearing our mother apart but holding us together. We say that means that neither of us is the older since we came out at the same moment, as one.

From womb to room we stayed together in the same crib. At night they put us down top to toe, though swaddled as we were there were of course no toes in sight, just two pink purpley plums with matching blonde tufts and lips that sucked in our sleep. By morning we were top to top, nestled together like two quotation marks. And when our mother fed us she did so at the same time, each at a different breast but still listening to the same beating heart.

Later our parents worried that we weren’t talking, that all we said was babbly nonsense. Their friends with children our age were ‘streets ahead’ of us they worried to each other. Loudly, in our hearing, thinking possibly that lack of speech was the same as lack of comprehension. They were the ones who didn’t understand though. We were talking, to ourselves in our own way. What other way would we have needed? Who else would we have wanted to communicate with? They might not have understood us but we understood each other. ‘Grunt groogle,’ she said to me. ‘Gush goo,’ I replied taking her by the hand to help her get the doll she’d asked for. And when we did finally speak our first words were of course each other. ‘Me’ I said pointing at her. ‘You’ she said pointing at herself.

We didn’t really needed language at all though, not when we could hear each other’s thoughts in our heads as clearly as our own. ‘I’m scared,’ I felt her say that day. We were on holiday where the sky was as blue as the sea and the water in the pool crackled in the bright sunlight. I was sitting at the edge watching my legs change shape, change colour as I dangled them over the side while eating a packet of wheaty hoops. I kicked and the spray scattered across the surface breaking its mirror.

‘I’m scared,’ she said. ‘Come to me.’ I didn’t ask where to come, where she was. I didn’t need to. She tugged the invisible thread that held us together and pulled me beneath the water towards her. My eyes were shut but also wide open. I could see her sitting on the bottom sucking her thumb waiting for me. When they pulled us out we were clinging to each other, her blue face becoming rosy beneath my touch, born together again.

‘Will they be alright?’ my parents had whispered then and more recently. Huddled by the stairs and outside our bedroom door as they watched us play, they asked the same question constantly that last week. We didn’t know what they meant and so didn’t especially worry about it. Now we understand though and if we had tried to understand then perhaps we could have done something about it. But then again, perhaps we couldn’t have.

Even that morning as our mother matched us in grey- grey socks, grey tunics, grey shirts and even little grey hats- we didn’t really understand what was happening. ‘Important to meet other children,’ she said plaiting our hair. ‘Difficult at first,’ she said buckling our shoes. ‘So exciting, so grown up,’ she said kissing us goodbye before steering us towards two different doors. Two different doors? We still didn’t understand but we started to pay attention.

She howled as much as I did, at least to begin with. I could hear her down the hall and in my own head as well. I felt it both in my chest and in my ears- the sound and sensation of being torn apart. I clawed the door. ‘Sit down dear, come and sing Twinkle Twinkle with us,’ said a little orange haired woman with a cushiony face and dangly earrings . I wanted to both bury my head in her lap and to hurl her across the room. ‘I need me,’ I said. ‘Where’s I?’ The orange haired woman clucked at me and tried to lift me up. I kicked her hard on her shin. It felt good. For me anyway. Just for a moment.

Whenever I’ve skinned my knee or even shut my finger in the door the pain has been hard to bear, nauseating at first, but gradually it has subsided. This pain didn’t wear off though. If anything it got worse- a road drill driving through my chest deeper and deeper to my core. I could feel her pain which intensified my own, a wildfire catching my body’s fibres. ‘Come to me,’ she said again only this time I couldn’t.

I let another woman lift me over to a window seat and rock me, she had cinnamon skin that I itched to lick. The pain still burnt strongly in me though I felt it dampen in her. Her voice in my head grew faint and I felt her cover her ears against mine. ‘Where are you?’ I screamed in my head. ‘Soon, I’ll be back soon,’ she said. I’d never had to ask where she was, she’d never wanted to make me wait. I started shaking, the fire’s heat becoming ice.

The woman holding me cradled my face in her hands. I jerked it away from her towards the window and in that moment, in that motion, I saw and understood.

She was strolling around the playground eating a cookie, hand in hand with someone that looked nothing like us. The someone whispered something to her and she giggled. I could hear the laugh in my head-water rushing over stones, wind chimes on a breezy day, the birds outside our window before it was time to wake up- her laugh, our laugh shared with someone else.

I clutched my stomach, sure I was about to be sick, sure also that when I removed my hand it would be drenched crimson for had I not just been split open, split in two? I looked down and imagined my blood crying out to me from the ground just as I had cried out to her.

My mother came to collect me. ‘Hush, hush little one,’ she said. ‘Mummy’s here now’. She didn’t realise she wasn’t the one I wanted. ‘Don’t worry, the first day is always the hardest, you were very brave, I’m so proud of you.’ I brushed off her kisses when she wasn’t looking but allowed her to take me by the hand. I tried to remember how to breathe, how to walk, how to hold my head up on my neck when all I longed to do was to crawl into the earth. To become nothing. To be nowhere.

There’s a lot I don’t understand but I do know this, the she in me has gone and when I look at her now I no longer see myself.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

“Struggle Is, So We Are” by Rusty Kjarvik

Mother’s nest, inexperienced. Flight, vivid, unlike a visit to origin.

I am an Occupy demonstrator. Stereotypical shaggy hair, wiry beard enough to age me youthfully. Impressionable, fire-born, Sagittarius without regret or remorse. I have a taste for the insane rush of amateur denial. Ferocity grows within me.

“Bleed with the public truth of mass suffering at the hand of the one percent.” Plastic mantras defied. I feed off the morning dew, preparing. The violent march of our militant society exhales its smog of consumptive dread over the undreamed folds of a quotidian, earthly stress.

With sudden instantaneous manifestation, my surroundings turn into a punctilious mold. Congruent geometry. A shapeless mass of grey and beige frosts the walls of my interior perception with gross boredom. Enraged, I tear with mad vivacity for a new paradigm. Social dominance does not stray from my line of sight. It defies internal contemplation, and steers ever clearly into the bedrooms of the one percent. I give them raw, open tenacity: ringed middle finger.

I am reminded of W. Bush. We geared to angry maximums, first trip outside of the U.S. after his term of totalitarian presidency. “Show torrential defamation at his name.” Our raged rained.

Now, there is a slump in public demonstration. The efforts sway to clandestine operation. There is an underground swell of purpose. An optimistic slumber chimes beneath the sidewalk cafes. I am welcomed at a subterranean meeting place. The air is unpredictable. A contingent wades in passersby and onlookers, wondering about the movement’s end. “Is it nearer than feared?” Thought is palpable.

I have purpose. My delivery is made. Desperate, I ask for a place to sleep. I need to rest on softer surfacing. Concrete smoothed by nylon ages. The muffled sound of sheets once quelled my silent might. Now, I am only stirred with the jarring gripes of untrustworthy leaders from this, our autonomous modus operandi. Darwinian survival.

Sleepless, I cower trenchantly. Guarded walls around the American Embassy in Cairo, Egypt turn the outdoors inside. The streets are emptied with sacred failure. The notches of murder scale high across the batons of the street police. “Have I come here to die for American hubris?” I wait restlessly. Dealing with bureaucrats in twilight hours is like having blow-up sex.

The Cairo dawn inflames my vital organs. I need to escape devil-coaxed Americana. Savagery. I fight for the freedom to move. For my wife and our sanity. We ask only to be awake, and not depraved of a social camaraderie. I know collective suffering. I’ve shared common pain through public speech. I have been communally lightened through action for one being, ninety nine percent whole. We fight for the dignity to rest our heads on a feather of respect in a factory of anthropomorphic holes.

Monday, October 29, 2012

“Lost Weekends” by K. Lee

Lana likes to play flag football on Saturdays. She likes to run up and down a grassy field with David, Terrance and John. Lana likes John. David likes Lana, and Terrance just likes to play football. They all have their own agenda. They each enjoy running and panting down a well-manicured field on fall Saturdays like the happy cast of Friends.

Lana likes to wear short shorts and tube socks. She says she likes the Chrissy Snow look. She saw her a few times on Nick at Nite. “Nick at Nite has the best old shows and fashion” she exclaims every time we sit on the couch at night flipping through the channels and talking about John. “Mary Tyler more has the best capris; Fran has the best makeup!” Lana loves makeup and pearls and jerseys and John. I like movies.

John knows Lana likes him, but he likes to play the field-- literary. When they play football on Saturdays he has a fan club of girls cheering his name, glossing their lips, talking on their cell phones. He says he loves women who are consistently cliché. Lana wants to be cliché; she wants to be Chrissy Snow cliché, without the annoying laugh. She believes John will ask her out one day.

On Sundays, Lana tells me all about the game she played on Saturday. I learn about the grass stains from John accidentally knocking her to the ground, conveniently landing on top of her. I learn about the after game trek to the coffee shop. How her leg or arm brushed against John’s and he smiled. She tells me about how jealous the sideline girls are when they watch her leave with the boys, sometimes arm and arm. She tells me a lot of things.

Throughout the week we talk about the game. We never really talk about our day or our week. We never talk about movies. Sometimes Lana reminds me of Melanie in the Birds. She’s Melanie in the bird shop trying to fool Mitch, convince him she’s a feisty salesgirl. She only shows tough, independent Melanie when we spend time together. She is Melanie in the boat, Melanie at the church, Melanie battling birds. Most times we just talk about John. When we eat, we talk about John’s beautiful tan, his Adonis abs, and his Heisman winning smile.

I feel like I’m forgetting something. Something as important as man first walking on the moon, as important as that first date kiss, as important as me telling my mother I like girls, and my mom saying, “it’s okay.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

"Legacy" by Ann Rosen

It’s all mine now, she thinks, gazing out at the expanse of tall grass that undulates Thanksgiving colors in submission to the West Dennis wind. She is now the proud owner of seven acres of overgrown marshland; most of it useless to just about anyone who isn’t seeking a staggering case of Lyme disease. Like most of her life, the scene is deceptively lovely right now. Threadbare sheets and underclothes flutter playfully on the clothesline, flirting with cotton candy clouds that pass above them and she is both amazed and offended by the resilience of her little world. She and Hank gave it nothing to rejoice in, so it draws vitality from the sky.

She looks up, inhaling salt and wind, hoping there is something left for her, and it feels like the first breath in thirty-seven years. Her feet crunch along the crumble of rocks and shells that constitute their, no, her driveway as she walks around to the front of the house, shaking her head at the absurdity of self-inflicted vandalism. Ugly orange “No Trespassing” signs and barbed wire line the blackberries bushes that grow wild along her side of the dirt road to keep beachcombers from “stealing fruit”. Now only the birds can get to them.

She already knows that she’ll sell the land to Chuck Severs. He’ll buy it all just to get the buildable plots adjacent to his family resort. He’ll tear down the house - reduce it to sawdust without a moment’s consideration for the two hands that built it. She’ll get a small place in New Bedford near her sister and buy new underwear, the silky kind with lace trim. She’ll get the fancy ice cream with real vanilla beans.

No more Mrs. Hendrige. She’ll go by Caroline.

Monday, October 15, 2012

“Space, Vodka and Dust” by Christopher Woods

she's washing the greasy dishes after another evening performance, he's on the patio with his telescope, boring guests again, oh, they come because he's famous for going into space, maybe they'll get an autographed picture for the grandkids, but hell, he never even walked on the moon and most have forgotten who he was, she's thinking, and another thing, ever since his return, how he changed from the man he was into some kind of cosmic beast who loves to barbecue for people who come to chow down for free at his astronaut-trough, getting tooted up on vodka, but none can hold a candle to his vodka prowess, and that too is something new since the flight, how he sees the rest of his life earth-bound, and maybe it's sad for ten seconds but hey, what about everyone else, most of all what about her having to stay with him, as no astronaut's wife gets a divorce, not smart, not patriotic, she's been warned, in the last few years as his body loosens and flabs she knows she's trapped, as he enters history's black hole, a zero of a man but that doesn't stop him from coming riproaring drunk, addled on viagra, to bed at the end of another mind-numbing astronomy lesson on the patio, guests nodding off or passing out, and in his mind he has his thrusts going full blast, but it's over too soon and he gets pissed, curses at her, then a slap or two, followed by the big punch, and then the inevitable blackout, and she's looking out the window at stars and wishing she was anywhere but here, and she hopes he'll die soon, and she knows she can't have anything to do with it, not patriotic and all, or if she does, how it has to be a secret, and she's not sure how it will be done, but for christsake it will happen and when it does she'll play the obligatory role of the astronaut's faithful widow, dressed in black, like space, as she has his inebriated ashes launched on a rocket that takes them away from this place, this earth, and she knows she'll select one of those bogus, fly-by-night companies that always crash their rockets in the desert, where she likes to think of snakes slithering through what's left of him or maybe sandstorms scattering him to absolute fucking oblivion.

Monday, October 8, 2012

“For Fed Ex, Overnight” by Brittany K. Fonte

She’d carried the box, stamped “Fragile!” and “Fleeting!” from the front door to the mailbox, arms straining. She’d set it down, softly, and paced around it. Her watch spoiled her thoughts with screeching: 6:23 am. Dawn.

She was born breech, she was told. The doctor had reached into an abyss, and blood, and piss and turned her: right. Nothing had been right since then. Today, there was no monitor to read her, no one to offer breath or food or even a warm washcloth to wipe the grime off with. This grime had been building. She slept, each night, under the kindness of buildings once occupied, tried, now abandoned for younger buildings with more tenants and bigger closets.

So she’d decided to send it off, to save it from what it could be in a world where that was important and tangible. She’d lulled it into complacency: some singing, hugging, and, when that didn’t work, slugging. From Louisville. From fear that made her ill. From mercy.

It cried out, once. But it knew its birth had foretold all this. It had been traded, bought and paid for, lost and stolen and levied in Thailand for less than what that man got paid in an hour behind a desk. In an air-conditioned room.

She’d filled out the Customs’ form. Under “Contents” she’d written: “Childhood.” Under “Quantity,” “1.” Under “Worth/ U.S. $,” “More.”

Monday, October 1, 2012

“My Father’s Ghost” by Lee Wright

My father’s ghost sits next to me on the porch of the old hunting cabin as the last day of summer seeps into the dry ground. The muggy air is thick with mosquitoes and the sickly-sweet stench of vegetable rot unique to Appalachia in summer.

Inside the cabin, it’s always the past, always a great time to be a man. Out here however, I am forty years old, overweight, and balding. My wedding ring lies beneath a pack of cigarettes in the breast pocket of my sweat-soaked work shirt. I’m sure I can feel the metal pressing against my chest with each beat of my heart, but that’s probably just another of my bittersweet poetic delusions. Or maybe I’m just drunk.

I fish the last bottle of beer out of the cardboard six-pack beside my chair and open it using the rusty opener nailed to porch rail.

The yard is overgrown—waist high and brambly in places—and stinks of wild onion. Even the wide gravel driveway is almost lost to the forest. And then there’s the kudzu. It eats everything. It swarms over the rusted shell of the old F-100, climbs the rails of the porch, shrouds the roof of the cabin, and creeps in the windows. The weed is relentless, tenacious, inexorable, and, in its own perverse way, beautiful.

My father lights another cigarette. He’s maybe forty-five, heavy around the middle, and not quite a decade from the heart attack that will put him in his grave, but the hands are the same as they were the first time they held me: hard, rough, and strong, the jagged nails yellowed by nicotine.

“A man’s got to have his own place,” he says quietly, almost as if talking to himself.

I stand and my back cracks just the way my father’s used to. I toss my cigarette into the brown weeds at the end of the porch. I can smell rain in the air and, somewhere beyond the valley, thunder rumbles.

“Does it hurt?” I ask my father’s ghost.

He looks at me for a long time, his face all but lost in shadow. Finally, he nods almost imperceptibly. “We don’t talk about things like that—especially in a place like this.”

I smile. My dad, possibly fearing his own restless potential, usually talked only sports and Louis L’Amour novels. They were safe subjects and he knew them well.

In the darkness, I can’t see the smoke at the end of the porch where the cigarette smolders in the dead grass, but I can smell it.

Holding onto the leaning, splintery rail, I ease my way to the overgrown gravel driveway. You’d need a 4x4 to drive all the way up to the cabin now so my little convertible—probably the only thing I’ll get in the divorce—is parked up by the highway. It’s a long walk in the dark, but, already, there is light behind me, flickering, dancing, lighting my way.

Monday, September 24, 2012



“Isn’t It That I’ve Just Been Human?” by Tammy Peacy

I’ve made a big deal out of little and useless. Paid too much attention to none of my business.

These two girls behind me talked loud. The way young people did because whatever they had to say was very important or because they didn’t know yet that sometimes people were paying attention, even when it seemed they weren’t. These girls hadn’t figured out much just yet. Too busy sharing their experiences with one another.

“It was thick, thick,” one girl said, with an accent, something Latin, maybe Puerto Rican.

“Oh, ew. I don’t like that,” the other said.

I didn’t have to strain to hear them, even with all the noise the train made, but I would have, if I’d had to.

“No? I do. And it was, like, black, real, real black. And, like, shiny,” the supposed Puerto Rican continued.

I waited for her to go on. Fought the urge to turn in my seat and say, “And then?” but they’d finished. The conversation ended there. They were off at the next stop.

Monday, September 17, 2012

"Arthrogram" by Elizabeth Wade

You were not there when the doctor drew an x on my body, when he tried to insert a needle into that x, when he tried to flood my joint, tried to create contrast. And you were not there when he failed, when he failed and failed and failed again, not there when he finally quit probing and delegated me to a colleague. I do not know when we quit probing. I know that you were never good with equations. I know that I was sloppy whenever I solved for x. I remember forgetting to think about inversion, about how once they are squared, the positive and negative look just the same. I was never good at starting with mystery, at quantifying things, at defining possibilities. I was never good with more than one variable, never saw how x fit with y, never grasped their dependency. The year I took my only college math course, I spent a lot of time looking for y. That was the year we agreed to meet in the middle, picked a spot on the map, and drove all night. That was the night we got lost, the night we circled each other for hours, the night when I found you by the color of your shirt, not knowing that was the wrong variable, not knowing that night in that town belonging to neither of us that we would never solve for x. Years later, I lay in the hospital without you as the needle kept trying to find its way inside me. I did not know it until I got home, but there at the injection site, beneath a piece of my skin I do not think you ever touched, bled a single sphere of ink, the center of the x that doctor kept chasing. A man who’s not you told me I think that’s how they do it in prison, meaning the way the convicted take their allegiances into their bodies, the way they decorate themselves, how they bear the ones they lack, how they signal those outside.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Outside To Defrost" by James Lawless

On a sweltering Italian summer morning while I was inside my apartment sweating through my yoga I listened to the people ordering their dogs around in the adjacent park. They were just voices and shadows behind the hedge not far from my open window.

A heavy masculine voice: "Bring it here! Hurry up you lazy coward".

A high pitched feminine voice: "Be good. Do your duty. Did you finish?".

I imagined the masculine voice didn't pick up the shit his dog left behind, but the woman had a plastic glove already slipped on her hand. And I thought these dog owners will soon head off to work, but at this very moment it was they who were in command, a command that will be passed over to someone else the moment they put Fido away and prepare to punch-in.

And then I thought about the flat tire on my wife Libera's bike. I told her I was going to fix it, but she insisted I didn't. "Don't bother with it," she said. "It's an old tube. It might just leak again. It's better I buy a new one at the bike store and for a few extra Euro they'll put it on for me."

"You mean you can't stand watching me get angry as I do tedious physical work, often swearing at the tire as I fix it."

"Yes, that's a big part of it."

"This time I won't get angry at my work."

"Each time you fix flat bike tires you say that, but you always get angry and swear. You always do."

She's right. This makes me think how much women are better than men. They rarely swear; they usually have patience for whatever they do. And they're better than men at most things, especially things that need care, tact and brains.

Then there's this Italian library where I'm currently writing. It's as hot as a firecracker outside, but inside it's freezing. I brought a long sleeved shirt with me and I'm wearing it now, but I'm still cold. I feel like a pickle in a pickle jar stuck in the back of a refrigerator that is over-cooling and freezing what's inside. So I blow on my hands, send this off, and go outside to defrost.

We're back!

So September is upon us already. Feel free to submit your best short fiction now. Make the transition to fall a little smoother for us by giving us something cool to read.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Summer Hiatus

Like everyone, we here at (S)FC long for the warm summer nights, free from responsibility. Therefore, we'll be taking a break until the end of August. Submissions will be back open beginning on September 1st. So get your stories polished and send them after the heart of summer has begun to fade.

"Duck Sauce – Big Bad Wolf (4:53)" by Brian Oliu

The wolf does not announce its presence—it does not answer the spitting of ashes into the air with its name; it does not stretch vowels out like fingernails, like smoke trails curling in on themselves, like the smell of fire on our clothes long after we have gone to bed, long after we fold the blankets under our feet to keep them warm: our eyes in the dark watching the slide latch on the door. This wolf founded this city: licked at its toes, stuck its wet nose into the red clay and kindling, found us there: cold and waiting for the next war to send black soot up our noses. When the wolf died, it became a ghost—it walked through us like an open jaw, tooth glinting. In the story, the wolf swallows the girl whole and gets a knife to the belly for his ambition: a long cut straight up from the navel and to the bottom of his gullet—the girl pulled from the stomach bloody and swimming in everything the wolf has eaten: a small smashed berry, muscles left behind on bare bone. I saw the girl, dripping red, eyes closed, and she reminded me of you—scratches on her arms, a small mouth too delicate to open. I am waiting for the girl that is not you to announce her presence, to wonder what has happened: what became of the wolf she lived inside, that someone must be worried, yes, someone must be worried sick. The wolf, I would tell her, loved you. The wolf who loved you is inside out, eyes to the stars. Your mother, the one with the pearls, threw herself into the woods. This is what I would tell her if she asked. I would tell her about the girl she reminded me of: bread cut into triangles, every song memorized, neck stiff from looking downward. The girl that found a city where there was no city, who kicked glass until it stuck in her soles, who threw her shoes into the tree. The girl who knew what to say to the wolf. The girl who crawled into bed with him while I watched from the trees. The girl who stood in front of the mirror and asked for something to come back to her, to come back whole, never eaten, never clawed to vinegar. I would never tell her that no one gets swallowed whole: that they are bitten and chewed like teeth through skin, like mouths over bark. I would tell her that I found you, you are safe now, I found you. Here is the house where we both will live. Here is where we will make our beds.

"God #143" by Sean Lovelace

Cold day indeed. The clouds all socle, the winds all skirl or some other language plastique and so I mean to say Tuesday and someone kissing a concrete floor at Guantanamo Bay while I sip a latte and drive a hybrid car (Did you know they had to add engine noise to hybrids?—They were silently running people over!) and park the car and punch in for the day and walk over to this large oak tree and climb up, up to my platform (a dictionary nailed to a sturdy branch) and I sit and sit and sit…Yes there goes a 3-legged coyote with a crumpled sonnet in its jaws and yes the sky coughs a bit and smells like laughing leaves, remote control acorns, something anchored in history, OK, move on, supple, undulations, video feed, winter light, etc. And wouldn’t you know it! Wouldn’t you know God appears under the tree, but just off my right shoulder and me right handed—think about it: off right shoulder/me right handed—and there’s no damn way I can get the gun about to that awkward angle, no way I can even aim at God, much less shoot Him in the vital area (imagine a basketball: heart, liver, lungs) without Him noticing, so I sit there quietly—shhhhh—and hope He’ll work his way around the tree, into my shooting lanes (I cut these lanes back in spring, pruning the limbs, stomping down the shrubbery) but it doesn’t happen; nothing happens. Nothing, not even lexical richness or a good voice, like with NPR this morning, the NPR ditty, then some talk of Haitians who today—right now, this very Tuesday—are dying of cholera, whose lives are beyond replevin, very much funky-junked and thorned, yet still I support NPR and Burger King and thank them both for Science Friday and the fast food vegetarian burger (hold the mayo, extra tomato), because I care…right? Why else would I perch so high in this tree? In fact shivering now, and the wind sniffs and snuffles as God subtracts into the morning mist (there’s a reason Appalachian people call Him the Grey Ghost) and I curse His name and climb down the tree and punch out and drive my hybrid home, very pleased with the gas mileage, no doubt, and obviously happy with the prose poem’s unhegemonic sway, but very upset with using an entire packet of hand warmers for nothing, and also it’s Tuesday, God’s favorite day, Tuesday, can’t you see the entire world—a young girl huddled beneath a destroyed Russian-era tank in the Panjshir Valley; a well-dressed drunk fellow passed out on the eighth green of Old St. Andrews; a fourteen year old Border Collie in Oklahoma City with bones stiff as boards–waking up and looking up at whatever they must look upward to, and all of them mouthing quietly: Tuesday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Two year anniversary

We've made it! Now, to celebrate that awkward stage between always crawling and sort of walking, we'll be holding our second annual short story contest. Free to enter, TWO winners chosen, possible cash prizes. Click on the hit us up page to the right for more info. More details here.

Monday, April 30, 2012

“Bags” by Matt Margo

I drove home from college one weekend and returned with a couple of plastic bags. The bags were blue and they contained some groceries that I had bought. I stocked the refrigerator with milk and carrots and fruit juice. I put a bottle of bleach in the closet next to my laundry basket. I ate a few pre-packaged cookies and set the package on top of the refrigerator. I dropped the empty bags onto the floor and left them there. My roommate never said anything. He was busy playing a computer game, shooting aliens in their heads with a laser beam rifle. I drove home the next weekend and the weekend after next and every weekend after that. I always took a trip to the local supermarket and always brought my purchases with me back to the dorm. I never stored the bags anywhere, and I never reused or recycled them after unloading my groceries. They always went to the floor.

My roommate’s family lived on the opposite end of the United States, so he rarely ever drove home. He only left on holiday breaks, never on weekends. After Thanksgiving or Christmas, he would return with his own plastic bags to toss aside carelessly, but they were usually white, not blue. As the school year continued, the weekends and holidays began to pile up. We became more and more surrounded until neither of us could walk without a cacophony of rustling and swishing beneath our feet. The noise was deafening; it drowned out the sounds of my roommate’s intergalactic conquests, even with a pair of buds fit tightly into his earholes.

Eventually, the bags were everywhere in our room. The floor was a carpet of them. “We need to stop kidding ourselves,” I told my roommate. “It’s time to get rid of these bags.” He wouldn’t listen to me. He was battling against the final boss. I looked at a dying bonsai tree on his desk, then grabbed the tree and threw it into a bag. “What are we going to do with all of these?” I said. I wanted an answer, but my roommate gave me none. The bags needed to fulfill a purpose. I refused to let them go to waste any longer. I picked another bag up off the floor and put my alarm clock in it. I put my roommate’s alarm clock in a bag. I put the textbooks for his history class in a bag. I put all of my shirts in a bag. I put my laptop computer in a bag. I thought about putting my roommate’s desktop computer in a bag, but I didn’t want to disrupt his progress in the game, and the computer was too large to fit in one bag anyway. It took me hours to pack everything away. By the end of the night, we had no more possessions, but there were also no more empty bags on the floor. They had all been filled and taken to the dumpster across the street. Feeling triumphant, I lied on the rough metal springs of my bedframe and thought about what I would eat for lunch tomorrow while my roommate stood in front of his computer, firing a gigantic missile at a tiny green planet in the distance.

Monday, April 23, 2012

“What’s a Girl For?” by Michael Henson

He liked the way that girl swung herself down the sidewalk. Not like one of these common, cheap things that walked these streets looking all hard with their cigarettes in their hands and that fuck-you look in their eye. He leaned across the hood of his car to watch her better.

“Hey, Benny, one of the boys called from down the street. “Let’s go shoot some hoop.”

“Later, man.”

“We need a fifth man for a team.”

“Go on ahead,” Benny said. “I’ll be down.”

He heard the boy mutter to the others. It bothered him and he glared at their backs. “Your momma,” he wanted to shout. But he decided not to play that game.

In fact, he was tired of games. He had felt a change coming over him in the past few days, a growing tired of the tricks and lies, tired of wasting time, tired of the same-old, same-old. He had looked around him one day and saw that everybody he knew, from the junkies to these jocks, was playing games, joking with time. He was fed up with it. He wanted out. At eighteen, with a job and a car, he didn’t need what these streets had to offer.

“When did you get so high and mighty,” his old girl said when he tried to talk about what he was feeling.

All he had said was I’m tired of this place. All he had said was Man I want to get up out of here. And then she had to hit on her cigarette and look at him all crazy. What’s a girl for if you can’t talk to her? These girls down here, they act all crazy; they act all hard.

This one, the one he watched as she swung down the opposite side of the street, was different. She wasn’t all that pretty, but there was something about her. Something in the way she swung herself so easily, her hips and shoulders loose and relaxed. She wasn’t all huddled up and hard like these girls from down here. She wasn’t all corners and cut-at-you looks. He could tell it by the open way she looked the street up and down. She didn’t walk with a dead-ahead stare like these girls from the neighborhood, half the time with their arms folded in front of them like they were cold, with their faces all screwed up hard.

His old girl, Julie, used to walk all hard like that. Even when they were out together, he would try to hold her hand, do the kind of things people ought to when they were on a date. But she’d walk like that, all stiff, like she’d been tied up for days, like she’d been stuffed in a box and couldn’t get loose.

“Man, why you gotta walk like that?” he asked her.

She said, “What’re you talking about?” Like he’d said something crazy. She didn’t even know. How was he supposed to explain if she didn’t even know?

But this one didn’t have that hard look. She didn’t look like some stuck-up preppie either. She looked like girls he had seen at concerts, had seen in school, had seen in magazines. She looked relaxed, easy-going, not cheap, but free-moving and fun. Damn, he thought. I want to scope this out.

He didn’t know what she could be doing down here. She walked like she belonged here, but she looked so freed up.

That’s the way it ought to be, he thought. People shouldn’t have to walk around all stiff and screwed up and hard.

The girl was headed up the street and would soon be gone into the maze of traffic and pedestrians. What the hell, he thought. I might as well play this out.

As he crossed the street, he lost sight of her. Fearful she might turn a corner and be lost to him, he fretted behind an old granny pushing a shopping cart. The girl’s head bobbed ahead into the distance. He dodged right and dodged left and dodged right again before he could steer past the granny and prepare to sail up the street after the girl. B ut the sidewalks were still crowded. What was more, he didn’t want to look the fool, dogging after some girl. But he didn’t want to lose her either. So he walked faster, weaving as best he could in and out among the shoppers, the kids eating ice cream, the red-faced winos, the old men on walkers, and the hustlers leaning into doorways, watching for that mane of blonde hair, that sway in the shoulders among the other heads and shoulders of the street.

She was nowhere among them. He was sure she was lost and gone into some shop or around some corner.

But then he saw her. Coming back. She had turned around and was headed straight back toward him. If he kept up at this pace, he would run dead into her, so he slowed. She was smiling and looking out into the street. He thought to himself, What if I try to talk to her? What could I say?

Then: no. he couldn’t believe it. He slowed even more, then stopped to watch. She had stopped abruptly, pivoted, and stepped to the curb where she now leaned and smiled into the window of a car. He saw the car pull over and saw the way she brightened when the car stopped. She looked once up-street and down, then leaned closer into the window. There was no way to mistake it. She stood that way for less than a minute, he hip cocked and her purse swinging in her hand. Then, in a swift move, she slung her purse onto her shoulder, opened the door of the car, and swung herself in.

The car took off into the traffic, leaving him alone in the middle of the jostling sidewalk. Ripped up with rage, he stalked down the street, looking for something to throw, something to damage.

Monday, April 16, 2012

“Dying Among Them” by Andrew Dinsmoor

Tim Willard moved to Las Vegas to die. With nineteen surgical staples biting a seam into his scalp, he drove until I-15 turned into Paradise Road. Until he was sure he’d never see another set of eyes asking if he needed help. Growing up he held his penis with his right hand to piss, but what was given to him at birth was taken away after the first incision into his skull. So he learned to pee lefty, and he learned to never charge over twenty on his MasterCard, because signing was too damn embarrassing—even for a man so near death.

When the tremor started in his right arm he brought it across his chest and held it firmly at the wrist with his left hand, like trying to steady a jackhammer. He had thirty seconds to find soft ground before the world convulsed violently and he woke delirious, in his own urine and tears. But when he got to Vegas he needed a job. His hands shook like plucked guitar strings, but anticonvulsants helped enough—a couple months would do it.

His first five interviews lasted less than ten minutes.

Then on his sixth, Tim became a handyman for Hilton Hotels. He had built beautiful homes his entire life, and carpenters of forty years experience would watch him work and tell him his hands didn’t need saws and hammers to shape wood. “Nothin’ but buildin’ a birdhouse for people,” he’d reply.

At Hilton he replaced light bulbs, tightened door hinges—fixed hotel rooms while he knew his body would forever be broken. Tim worked slower than the other carpenters at Hilton, and after two weeks the healthy sat opposite him in the break room. I need to make peace, anyway, not friends, Tim thought over lunch breaks, and his tongue and lips moved to the words of the Lord’s Prayer each night.

On Sundays he stepped left foot first into Low Avenue Church, his listless right leg dragging like a tired child. He sat alone and sang the same songs he had when there was hair atop his head and a better life to hope for. He offered ones and fives and quarters and nickels, and he drank Christ’s blood and he ate Christ’s flesh every Sunday.

On his third week at Low Avenue, Tim stood, removed his khaki beret and lowered his head in respect for God. From the pew behind came a gasp. He turned in place to see a young boy with fingers for eyes and a frightened woman gawking at the barbed-wire scars on his scalp. He thought back to when he was a boy, healthy and unmarked, and, for a moment, he wanted to run from that church and back to his mother. But like everyone else, she was busy living. So he turned forward and hung the beret on his head. He collapsed at the waist, hands clenching the pew ahead, and cried while the happy people around him sang in the name of God.

Monday, April 9, 2012

“Ortigia” by Michelle Reale

We promised each other we would work on ourselves. First. He went fishing like he always did. I wanted to record every day life. I felt like I was missing so much since we decided to live together. There was only one window. The walls were pink and damp though the heat outside left every thing brown and crackling. I couldn’t reconcile the two.

I set up the video camera. I wanted to see what the little house looked like as I went about my every day life. I did everything from the inside out.

He surprised me when he came in. He hadn’t been gone long. He held a shiny black trash bag. His stomach was protruding through his orange t-shirt. I thought of the fuzz below his navel. How I longed to stroke it, but knew that and other things were off limits for a time.

What have you got there? I asked, even though I knew, because who doesn’t like to let their own narrative unfold?

He laid the bag on the floor then pulled out a bundle wrapped in an old flannel. Unrolled it gently. I saw the blood, first. Then I recognized the flannel.

Tell me, I said.

First he talked about how the line snapped. Then, how the fish kept leaping out of the water, banging into one another. How they threw themselves against the boat and seemed disoriented.

Bloody hell, I said, but felt excited anyway.

But, he said.

I waited.

He held both of the nearly navy blue fish in the fist of his left hand. He was sweating. He looked into the camera. Is it on? He asked.

I nodded, stepped into view, and provocatively adjusted the straps of my red bra. I imagined he would find it an interesting gesture when we watched together later on. The fizzy wine was cold and I desperately wanted a glass.

Shut it off, he said. His breath was rapid and choppy. I thought of the ocean. We were only a few feet away from an ancient sea wall. I heard the waves breaking.

He was rooted in place. Only his eyes were moving. I pried his fingers off of the squashed tail fins of the gleaming, speckled fish and set them side-by-side on the table.

I tip-toed in front of the camera. Complied with his wishes.

Monday, April 2, 2012

“His Hands Are Off Her Now” by Rachelle Mathis

On the morning of the day I killed my boyfriend, I woke up before the sun rose and snuggled closer to him in his bed. Sleepily, he turned his head toward me and brushed my cheek with his lips. He caressed my arm softly and then he was out again. I lay awake staring into the dark, not knowing why I felt so uneasy. At almost nine he rolled away from me and out of bed, saying,

"I'm gonna shower, baby, and then we can go to the farmer's market like you wanted."

I didn't reply, merely glanced at him, and then back down at the bed. He looked confused.

"What's the matter?"

I held my arms up and he laid down beside me again. Ignoring his question, I pressed my mouth to his. I felt his surprise, but he kissed me back eagerly. My hands ran up his bare back, my nails made welts on his skin.

Once we were done, after he had made a wet spot on the blue striped sheets, he left me to take that earlier intended shower. I dug into my backpack, pulled out the mini skirt and t-shirt I had selected at my own apartment the night before. The skirt slung low on my hips. I had lost weight since buying it, too much weight. He sometimes liked to gently slide his hands over my collarbone, my ribs, anything of mine that felt fragile.

"Baby, you're like a doll." he'd whisper in my ear, loosely gripping the base of my neck. "My little doll."

In just a few minutes he was out of the shower. He had always been quick like that, forever impatient at how long I took to get ready. That day I was done before him. I had just pulled my long hair back into a ponytail and skipped any make up, knowing I could opt to cover my face with sunglasses. I watched him dress. I studied the muscles in his back as he pulled a shirt over his head. I knew how good looking he was, how lucky I was that someone like him loved me.

His car was so clean it reminded me of a hospital, or some other sterile environment. My own vehicle was so messy that he refused to ride in it. As soon as we were on the road he reached over for my hand and held it tightly. Squeezing it now and then to get my attention, he would grin at me once I looked over and say something like,

"You're beautiful, Baby."

I'm still not really sure why I never fully believed him. I would glance into the side mirror and study myself, never satisfied with what I saw.

The farmer's market was crowded with other professional couples. It was the thing to do. We were all the same. We lived on the same Spanish-named streets. We shopped at the same IKEA. We drove the same route down the PCH. We all lived our lives for each other. He did most of the shopping, a little of everything here and there. Filling our trendy burlap sack with things our parents never worried about buying when we were growing up, like organic honey and heirloom tomatoes. It was my idea to get apricots. They looked so fresh and appealing. Tasty. I bought a bag full of them.

"You don't even like apricots." he told me. "You said the taste makes your mouth itch."

I ignored him. Instead I thought about being little, and always wanting spinach at the store because that's what Popeye ate. I would whine and cry until my father bought some for me, but when it came time for me to eat it I would throw an even bigger fit and he would have to toss it out. I wondered why Daddy kept buying it if he knew I was going to do that.

He wanted to take the scenic route home, through the canyon and wooded areas surrounding our suburban community. Singing along to the radio and holding my hand, he would take his eyes off the road to glance at me every now and then. I would smile slightly, and wish the heaviness in my heart would go away.

I had such perfection with him, a steady relationship with a loving man who had a great job. The things that scared me about him were my own problem. I was the abnormal one. The look in his eyes when he said "I love you" wouldn't make other girls uneasy. The way my skin crawled and stung when he put his hands on me wasn't his fault.

"Baby, why are you crying?"

I dropped his hand and traced a finger under my eye. I was crying. I couldn't answer him. What was wrong with me? I started to shake. I wrapped my arms around myself and leaned against the door. His concerned expression was making me angry.

"Did you take your meds today?"

I still didn't reply. I stared ahead at the road, at every curve the car approached, at every beautiful bit of scenery that was supposed to make me grateful for life. Without a word, I reached over and jerked the wheel as hard as I could. The impact felt better than his kisses.

Warmth was the sensation that caused me wake up. At first I thought it was just my crying, because I was crying harder than ever before. But my hand to my face brought back bright red. It hurt to turn my head to the left. What I saw hurt worse than that. I didn't have to check his pulse to know he was dead. Half of him was inside the car, half of him was outside. None of it looked human.

I unbuckled my seat belt and realized that as fastidious as he was about most things, he never wore his. I never did well enough in English to remember if that would be classified as irony, but I decided to call it so. The bag of apricots had broken open, and the smell of busted fruit mixed with that of copper and death. One rested in my lap, as pure and perfect as it had been when I bought it.

Cradling the apricot to my chest, I kicked at the passenger door until it opened. I crawled up the embankment and sat on the roadside. I knew I had a while to wait until someone drove by. Biting into the apricot, I noted that it was the best thing I had ever tasted.

Monday, March 26, 2012

“Sleepover” by Jesse Prado

Last night I went to a fair with a select group of friends.

The ride we stood in a single file line for was supposed to take us up several stories before dropping us. Only I had a bad feeling, three spaces away from our boarding, similar to the feeling Devon Sawa had in “Final Destination.” The sensation I had was enough to convince my friends to leave with me and go back to my house, where I thought I might be able to fit all four of us in my fridge.

When I opened my fridge there were three rows of shelves stacked with food. I knew I would have to move out if I wanted all four of us to fit inside. I started to work with the kitchen light on when I heard my mother’s door opening from all the way down the corridor. I dropped everything to rush two of my friends inside before she arrived.

When she got there I told her that my friend beside me was helping me clean out the fridge. She thanked us and went back to her room. My friend and I stepped into the fridge where I shut the door on all four of us.

Being in there made us cold, none of us could sleep. But mother would find us here in the morning when she woke up for her coffee. Unless she noticed that I had placed the jug of milk out there to make all of this space. Then she wouldn't have to.

At this thought I started sweating. I panicked, not knowing what to do. One of my friends told me that's just something that I have to be a man about.

This must have been what made me drift off.

Monday, March 12, 2012

“The Queue Jumper” by Lily Murphy

A sizeable crowd had assembled at the bus stop and a sizeable amount of rain began to fall. On this damp Tuesday afternoon the bus came right on time and pulled up nice and slow as an orderly queue began to take shape behind me. The queue contained a mixed bag of societies best and worst, some school boys, a few university types and your usual ordinary shoppers, then one of societies worst arrived: a queue jumper.

This queue jumper took the form of an elderly woman and as I was about to set foot on the bus this old woman pushed her ancient frame in front of me. The dismal weather provided heavier rain but I disregarded it as I decided to challenge the queue jumper. ‘Excuse me’ I said, ‘you have jumped the queue.’

The old woman swung herself around to face me and my eyes nearly went blind with the sight they had fixed upon. She had the most repugnant expression across her loathsome face, hair jetted out from the base of her chin in as much viciousness as her sneer which showed teeth were at a minimal in her mouth, yet her tongue was razor sharp and it spat the most repulsive profanity into my face.

I was left in shock, firstly at the undeniable ugliness of the old woman and secondly at the heavy expletives she threw at me. Such was my shock that I got on the bus without paying the bus fare. Like zombie fashion I made my way onto the bus and passed the bus driver who failed to notice me neglecting to pay the bus fare. As I sat at the back of the bus I fell out of a state of shock and fell into a state of worry, what if the bus driver knew he was carrying a criminal passenger, me, the fare dodger! The very next stop the bus made I quickly jumped off, back onto the street under the hard hitting rain and let it soak me back into reality as I walked home.

Monday, March 5, 2012

“Coalball” by Dan Hart

I liked cats. Furry dragons--imagine being a sparrow. More fun to be the stalking, climbing, flying cat. Perfect hunters of unmatched caliber. Yeah, I liked cats.

Smartest cat I ever met was one I picked out myself last year. There’s objectivity here: I watched all the cats play for days. Studied each in detail until the shelter manager threatened to call the police if I didn’t leave. I wanted to train the best hunter a cat could be.

Coalball wasn’t a kitten. Both his ears were torn. He lacked the ostentatious nobility most cats possessed but embodied the hunter ideal I sought. He was courageous--never did I find his dark gray fur cowering under the bed. He embraced the unknown with careful arrogance.

Even without my encouragement he loved to kill birds. He was too good at it; he grew fat. I started to help the birds, startling them whenever he approached to put them on edge. Coalball didn’t mind. He changed tactics, trading stealth for Mach speed.

No collar lasted an hour.

I built an obstacle course for him. He seemed to understand its purpose and trained on it. I made iteratively more complex leaps and puzzles. Mazes were no match for him. He learned from his mistakes.

I trained his teeth and claws with oven mitts, playing until my arms were too exhausted to continue. Coalball never tired.

He did get lazy, though. I thought to encourage him with a water pistol. Coalball would have none of it. He didn’t hiss. His back didn’t arc. He just leapt at me, thrashing the pistol out of my hand. He landed on my leg and grinned. His front claws pierced my jeans into my thigh. When he jumped down his back talons sliced both sides of my face, jaw to ear. He turned his tail on me and strutted away.

He doesn’t put up with my antics, any more. He gets what he wants--if his stare doesn’t work his claws will. I understand his gazing eyes so perfectly. Like he knows everything about me and is smugly superior. Like monkeys should be honored cats bother with them at all.

He’s taken to rearranging the obstacle course. Whenever he looks at me, he grins. It’s evil. He slashes, hard enough to scratch but not cut. His selfishness is always satisfied.

I should have inquired into his injuries earlier instead of just thinking they were sad but adorable. Coalball was too smart to be a victim. I’d adopted the meanest cat bully in the city, and taught him to bully me.

Lately, I’ve been looking into ferrets. I’d like to train one to be the best acrobat a ferret can be.

Monday, February 27, 2012

“Women and Men (Both Little and Small)" by A.M. Taureau

Underneath us Los Angeles is a peach-white blur, with the shadow of the plane growing and shrinking in shaky rhythm. In the middle of the endless low landscape is the laughable downtown, near a ridge of almost-mountains that give the Hollywood sign a place to sit. The shadow of the plane gets darker, more defined, more stable, larger, stretches out indefinitely, and then Mike kisses me and we land.

Once we are on the ground and outside the airport, the city loses its peach softness, and becomes stark and white, its shadows harsh.

“Happy?” Mike asks me, and I nod. We are happy to get away, happy to meet up with his old mentor Ray, who is going to introduce us to his newest wife, before they embark on a yearlong trip around the world. Mike and I travel well together; it should be us taking this sort of trip, but we both have mid-level jobs, able to accommodate a short three-day trip from San Francisco, but not much more than that.

I’ve only met Ray once, about six years ago, when Mike and I first started dating, and Ray came out to visit. He was in the midst of his second divorce then, and after he left Mike told me that Ray’d been uncharacteristically quiet, that he was usually dynamic, but I had liked him all the same. He’d treated us to nice restaurants, and had danced with me when we went to places where people danced, since Mike doesn’t. I learned how to rumba from him, a skill I haven’t used since.

At the hotel, they are already there, waiting in the lobby, and Edison hugs us through the introductions. She wears diamond earrings shaped like starbursts, and smells like coconut sun cream. She is even younger than me, though Ray is older than Mike by twenty years, and Mike is older than me by two.

We go out to dinner that night, to a restaurant with thick white linen tablecloths and valet parking, and then shopping the next day. Edison helps me pick out a dress almost like the one she wore the night before, which I admired. “This one,” she says, without hesitation. “This one will suit you better; it complements your coloring,” and I buy it, without even checking the label.

“You have to take it back, Grace,” Mike says, sprawled out on the bed that night, when he sees the price tag, but I convince him to let me try it on for him, and when he sees me in the dress he capitulates, admitting that Edison might be a good influence on my wardrobe, but I should look at price tags next time she takes me shopping.

I say, “She should take you shopping,” and instead of laughing he raises an eyebrow, looking thoughtful.

The hotel has a pool, though there is the beach just across the street, and Edison and I stretch ourselves out in the deck chairs. She is more tan than I am, despite the fact that we live in California, and they have come from Philadelphia. I go to the hotel store, and buy a sunscreen with a lower SPF; it amazes me that in Los Angeles one can still buy tanning oil. Edison rubs the thin lotion on my back while the men swim laps.

That evening Mike dances with Edison, while I dance with Ray.

“What’s your first stop?” I ask him, the hem of the new dress fluttering against my legs with the wind of our movement. Edison is wearing another beautiful dress, a silver one that makes me feel dowdy and too tall, though she answers my compliments with her own.

“We fly to Hawaii on Tuesday,” he tells me. “Then after about a week there we’ll hitch a ride on a friend’s sailboat, to Australia. Then Indonesia, and Vietnam, maybe.” We switch partners, and Mike and I sway back and forth, trying to remember the name of his former coworker, the one who transferred to Australia three years ago.

It is while we’re leaving, and Ray is helping me on with my coat, that he dips his head and lightly touches his lips against my shoulder absentmindedly as he is talking to Mike.

“Oh my god,” he says, when Mike coughs, and looks back and forth between us. “I thought she was Edison. She has the same dress, I think.” We all laugh about it, and then Mike makes a big show of helping Edison on with her coat. For the rest of this last night we go back and forth like this, jokingly, with Mike bringing Edison drinks as Ray gives me a shoulder massage and calls me “honey.” While we are in the ladies’ room together, Edison lets me try on her diamond engagement ring, which turns out to be too small; even her fingers are delicate, while mine are the same size as Mike’s.

We fly back early the next morning. They drive us to the airport in their rental car, and as Edison hugs me goodbye she presses a bag into my hand; inside is the dress from the night before. “I won’t have any need for it again on this trip,” she tells me, “and when we get back we’ll be trying for a baby.” I smile and thank her and congratulate her, and board the plane, watching the city dissolve back into softness below me, straining to catch a glimpse of the vivid blue ocean that stretches between Los Angeles and Hawaii. When we reach San Francisco again, I often try on the dress, but I can’t make it fit just right, and I never wear it out.

Monday, February 20, 2012

“No More Stories About The Moon” by J. Bradley

“Do you think Jesus believes in giving women oral?” Nancy stares at the cancer spreading slowly across the moon.

“I think that’s still considered sodomy, even if Jesus did it.”

“That’s probably why we don’t really believe in Jesus. I mean he could work miracles but couldn’t let Mary Magdalene ride his face once in awhile?”

“He’d rather eat ham than pussy.”

Nancy and I watch the cancer spread further.

“When we have a child, I hope it’s a boy and I hope he’s old enough so I can show him a lunar eclipse and explain that’s God’s way of showing men how their mouth should act when a woman willingly opens their galaxy to him, prayerful and slowly widening.”

“What if he wants to eat ham instead?”

“His cheeks will burn like Sodom and Gomorrah by my hand or by the fact his mother is talking about giving women oral.”

“So while you give life, you can take its dignity away?” Nancy nods. Our lawn chairs creak as we settle in, her thumb rubbing ozone in my palm.

Monday, February 13, 2012

“Sunken Treasure” by Daniel Cooper

We’re sitting outside on the back porch. It’s Thanksgiving day. It’s the afternoon, or maybe it’s night. It’s hard to tell. He’s sketching in a notebook.

‘Fine,’ he says. It just happened.

‘I guess.’

He has a face like mine, but better. I hardly ever look at him. We aren’t really friends; he’s just my brother.

‘Are you hungry?’ he says.

‘No,’ I must seem lost in thought, but that’s how I always am.

‘You sure?’ he says.

When I don’t answer, he draws in the notebook. That’s James. Always wanting to draw, always wanting to eat. He doesn’t try to hide it from anybody. Maybe he does, but that’s just James.

‘Let’s talk about it.’

He shuts the notebook and tosses it on the table. ‘I can’t remember what happened,’ he says. ‘Do you remember anything?’

‘Not much.’

Some grad school student is sitting right next to me in group. He’s crying his eyes out and I couldn’t care less. Actually, I’m just trying to look unimpressed so he won’t look at me anymore. He’s paying two hundred dollars a week to take his turn crying and talking about his problems. I don’t remember his name. He’s bald. He’s fucked up. Like really fucked up. His childhood was shitty. His parents abandoned him and he was lived in shitty foster care. I almost cried at some parts. He was beat up, he was raped. Now he’s confused and he wants to end it all. I sympathize with that last part.

Mary’s in my room sitting on my bed. She has my laptop and she’s listening to some of the songs I’ve recorded. I get angry for some reason and slam the laptop shut and leave the room. I go into the kitchen to get a beer. When I get back she has the laptop open again. She’s looking through my browser history.

‘You know,’ she says. ‘Usually when I open a guy’s computer the first thing I see is porn.’

‘Yeah,’ I say sitting.

‘But yours is clean. You’ve even cleared your browser history.’

‘Fuck,’ I say. I accidently sit on my guitar. A long crack opens up on the body.

Mary looks at me. Like she knows I’m about to lose it.

A year ago I accidently killed my friend Rory. That’s not totally true, he actually killed himself. He’d tried to before too. He was in a coma for a couple of weeks before he finally woke up. I always wanted to ask him about it. What it was like. What he had seen. What he had felt. Would he try it again? But when I saw him I never brought it up. Then, later, he killed himself. This time for good.

‘Did you ever sexually abuse me when I was younger?’

‘ I don’t know. I don’t think so.’ I text back.

‘’Cuz I need to figure this shit out and I want a real fucking answer. ‘Cuz I’m so fucking confused it makes no sense.’

‘I told you. I don’t know. I don’t think so.’ I text back.

‘Fuck you,’ texts James.

My Dad told me later that after he talked to me he went and tried to chug a liter of Drano. But he threw it up before it did too much damage.

I check my email. There’s just a bunch of junk mail from paranormal themed sites, except for one. It’s from Mary. For a moment I think she still loves me. That there’s a chance. ‘I miss you. I wonder where you are and how you're doing, if you still think you're crazy and your parents still don't get you and your brother's finished his meltdown yet. I wonder about how things would be different if I'd never ruined your life by sitting on that guitar.’

‘But you didn’t sit on the guitar,’ I reply. ‘I did. And now I’ll still never know what happened. I’ll never know if I’m gay or not. I’ll never know who I am or what I want. I’ll continue to get angry or cry and not know why. Fuck, where does this fucking shit come from?’

She lets that sit, and I guess thinks. I’m too tired to feel out the silence. Or else everyone and everything’s tired except me.

‘You just over think everything,’ she finally replies. ‘Both of you. I don’t care. You two are in love with each other. I have problems of my own.’

Last night I looked through James’ notebook from cover to cover. I’d been avoiding several parts. I wanted to know what Mary thought about it. She sat on that stupid guitar; she fucked everything up and made it sick. I wanted to show her the pages of James’ notebook that were filled with sketch after sketch of me. I wanted her to be the one to say it.

‘Yesterday I was helping Dad in the garage take down the Christmas boxes when and I found a box of Papa’s old journals. There were about fifty of them, bound in red leather. I couldn’t help myself. I opened one and started looking through it. It was from the seventies, it was a meticulous list of his day’s activities. Before I knew it Dad was shaking me and telling me to go away, to leave it alone. He’d finish moving the boxes by himself.’ I tell James. We’re on the porch. It’s Thanksgiving day. We’ve just gotten back from one Thanksgiving dinner and have another one to go to in a little bit.

‘I’ve seen those,’ says James. ‘I feel like if I looked through them I’d have a schizophrenic breakdown.’

‘I left the garage and just started punching the walls. I wanted to beat the shit out of the dining room table. I tried to tell Dad that we should get rid of those stupid notebooks, but I think I yelled it instead.’

They found a shotgun in Rory’s room after his first suicide attempt. He had taken a bunch of anti-depressant pills, but had a shotgun in his closet. I didn’t ask how he did it the second time. It was a closed casket. But I don’t know if that means anything.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

“The Jordan Flea Market” by Jesse Prado

The drive to my grandma’s house is off of E.14 Street in San Leandro and it usually only takes me five minutes to get there from my house in Hayward, off of Royal Avenue and A Street, so I had no idea why the ride going down E.14 Street ended up feeling a lot more like the roads going out towards the outlet malls in Gilroy or Petaluma.

I owed Steve money so I guess he figured this would be the best form of a repayment when he realized that this would mark the last week of the Jordan Flea Market. Everything at the Jordan Flea Market was said to be 90% off up until the last day and the way Steve told me about it made me feel like he was one of the only people that knew of its’ existence.

For that reason amongst others is why I wouldn’t believe this until I saw it. Another reason was because he told me it was at the end of E 14th street and until he told me that I didn’t even know there was an end to that street. Not to mention he couldn’t explain to me what the end of that street was like at all.

When I asked him, he said he had never been there, himself. So three days away from the last day and at supposedly the third light away from this Jordan Flea Market, Steve offered me a shot of five hour energy which I accepted right away after realizing how tired I was of him, his car and his rap music, and how obvious my overall demeanor was making this. However it may, after that shot the scenery suddenly changed from busy to desolate.

On either sides of the road we were driving all I could see as any sign of life were what appeared to be shoe displays off in the distance. What told me that they were shoe displays were the lifesize shapes of Jordan sneakers ranging numbers, I could see clearly from the twenty-first sneaker to the first where we stopped at the last light, which I now couldn’t see the point of after seeing beyond that there was no more of E.14 street left to drive.

After the light changed Steve suddenly got very excited as we passed what appeared to be a clerk at the only register there was in the middle of this desert and as we passed him up slowly the clerk turned around from whatever it was he was doing to follow us up until we parked not too far away from him. After so many attempts of trying to get out of Steve’s car as soon as it’s parked I had by now learned that his locks were automatic, which was why he got so pissed off when passengers of his vehicle tried to get out before he turned his car off. That impatience could potentially jam his automatic locks. With this knowledge I waited patiently for Steve to turn his car off when an outside force tried to open my door for me causing the same sort of jam.

Rejected, the outside force waited for us to step out of the vehicles ourselves before he introduced himself to us as Hafazz, the owner of this Jordan Flea Market, decked in a cream colored polo, tucked into a pair of khakis, cuff linked over a pair of what looked to me like Alfanis. With a strained smile worn before, during and after his greeting, I noticed his nametag before I looked around and also noticed him as the only one working. After that recognition I walked away from them and towards the first display where my hallucination had been confirmed as a reality as I reached out to touch the giant styrofoam replica of the first Jordan sneaker ever made.

Hafazz asked me right away what I think of the giant styrofoam replicas that his son had designed himself.

I told him I thought they were excellent before I asked him where his son is.

Delorious, Hafazz said he is no longer with us as that strained smile changed into a sort of frown.

Not wanting to start anything I asked him if he had given everyone the day off.

And after he said no to that he wandered off back to his desk with his head looking down at the sand.

Surrounding these styrofoam replicas were the sneakers that these replicas were made to replicate so there were only twenty-one of them and they were a fair amount away from each other up until the twenty first. By the time we got to the eighth Jordan styrofoam replica we sat on the sand because there were no benches, which was weird to me. Usually shoe sales consist of an area somewhere nearby to permit the trying on of their products but there was no place to sit down or mirrors to look into for miles, probably away from this lot at one of the gas stations before the twenty-first styrofoam Jordan replica.

Steve had that pair of Jordan’s on his feet so I knew he wouldn’t want to walk that far just to see that unless he thought there were something else over there for him. When I approached the eighth replica of the number eight Jordan sneaker Steve got up in a crouched position next to the shoeboxes surrounding it scanning sizes.

‘Don’t you have that pair?’ I said.

‘I sold them.’

‘To who?’



‘I don’t know.’

‘How much did you sell them for?’

‘I don’t remember.’

Steve knew why I was interrogating him about this and he was desperately searching his head now for a reasonable price when he didn’t have to name one after he found a box that marked his size. All in one motion he yanked the box from the bottom of the stack throwing the top off only to find that there was nothing in there at all. Taking the top off of another all he found was the same thing.

This frustrated him, causing him to go through several boxes before he finally gave up saying that Hafazz must have them up at the front. During his tantrum I found a pair of size eights with the pair actually inside only I didn’t want to tell him this because I wanted to leave now. I knew he would want these, even though they weren’t his size and paying Steve back this way didn’t feel right to me anymore.

By the time we got back Steve had his shirt off and I had a cigarette being occasionally placed between my lips for a drag by my own willful hand and my eyebrow raised some when we found Hafazz missing from his desk. Exasperated with defeat Steve gave up his search for the shoe salesman after one look under his desk and finding the same results as he did in that box he threw hard into the sand. Twelve feet away from where we stood I could see a blue Porto potty that I missed on our way in so I dismissed myself to go use it.

Steve would be in his car when I get back, only I didn’t use the Porto potty. Someone was in there crying and with one knock the sobbing accented voice told me two things; one being that this was indeed Hafazz behind that door, and a plea to go away. Something about his sobs reminded me of the sobs you hear from a failed artist and I had no idea where Hafazz failed, but I had an idea of where I might have failed and where Steve might think he had too and by the warmth I could feel gathering in the pits of both my own eye sockets I had to get away from this Porto potty, this place in general.

Confused and irritated I walked back to the car when those feelings turned into a legitimate empathy for the hysterical, loud and elongated wails coming from Steve off in the distance outside of his car’s driver door. With both hands stretched out to the furthest length on either sides of him I could see Steve with his back to me letting out long wails into the distance.

Instinctively without questions, I ran up to him wrapping him up in an embrace that I would not withdrawal until he stopped screaming.

All I had to keep telling him is that everything would be ok.

Monday, January 30, 2012

“Avital” by Noah Cicero

Avital said, “So I spent last weekend in my room. I couldn't handle going to school again. The idea was too oppressing.” While she spoke her face was animated, her arms were flapping, there was such feeling in her voice, she continued, “I couldn't take it. The whole world, maybe the universe, I kept asking God why, why God, why high school? I took some sleeping pills and went to sleep when I woke up Saturday morning, I went to sleep. The sleep felt so good, so nice and good and clean. So much cleaner than anything this world offers. I want to feel clean, you know, clean. I am not clean. I woke up around 3 and ate a bowl of cereal and some fruit. The fruit tasted good, it was, I think strawberries from the garden, so they were like, you know fresh. Then Eric called me on the phone, and I was like, I have to go over. You know. He said he had money and I need pills, I like pills, I have no money, I had to get money from somebody. So I went to Eric's. He was horrible. We went into his bedroom, his parents weren't there. We had sex, he gave me 30 dollars. I don't know why he gives me money. I don't even know why I had sex with him. Before I left he told me, 'Don't tell anyone about this.' Then he punched me in the stomach. I didn't mind, I've been punched in the stomach before. I went home and took another sleeping pill. I needed sleep. Nothing mattered. I needed to get away. I went in my house, my dad was there, and he was like sitting there reading a book, my mother told me about how the church was having a fundraiser the next day for somebody I didn't know, that I needed to go and eat pancakes. I didn't want to eat pancakes. I went in my bedroom, listened to Fleetwood Mac, I sat next to the speakers, and just listened, I kept thinking that something good would happen if I just laid there long enough, I remembered I had a Darvocet. The Darvocet made me feel better. That reminds me I need to get some pills. Then I finally went to sleep. I fell asleep right on the floor. I woke up wearing my shoes. I was so fucked up; I forgot to take them off. I didn't know where I was. My mother came bursting in the door, she yelled at me to get up, that we needed to go to church. I went, I went to fucking church. Oh man, there were people everywhere, there was pancakes and sausages everywhere. There were a lot of old people there. The old men kept gawking at me and my newly formed breasts. It was devastating. Then after the pancake dinner I went to Jim's house down the street, he sold me some Vicodin. I took the Vicodin and tried walking down the street, I felt too weird and fucked up to walk. I walked into the woods and laid on the ground. I watched the squirrels and birds for like two hours. I just sat there; it was great, nobody bitching at me to do something like go to a fucking pancake breakfast. I moved so little, that a squirrel came within five feet of me. I stared at the squirrel and said, 'Hi, little squirrel.' The squirrel didn't move. Eventually the squirrel left. I was so fucked up. Then I finally got up, it took everything I had to get up and leave that woods. I thought I might have died. But then I realized I could still move. I moved, I could still move my body, my body moved. I walked home. My mother told me that I needed to get a good nights sleep so I could be fresh for school when I got up in the morning. I went to my bedroom and cut myself for a while. My thighs looks terrible. Oh god, why am I alive?”

We all sat stood there listening to her. She talked like that constantly, she would start something and she would go through every little detail of the story. Ryan passed around a bowl and we all took turns smoking.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Print Issue In The Works

We just launched out Kickstarter project! It's open until the beginning of March and if we get enough funding we'll be coming out with our first ever print issue sometime in the early summer. Very exciting stuff. Regular web submissions are still open. We'll be in touch to select writers in the near future about submissions for the print issue and we'll keep everyone up to date as we hear more. For now, go here for more details.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

We're Back Open!

Holiday hangover has passed. Time to get reading again. Click on the proper link on the right side of the site.