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.