June 12, 2019| ISSUE no 252
Ashley N. Roth
One Night to be Confused
short fiction by Logan Thomas
It’s the kind of night that can suck you in and trick you for a moment—and not just a fleeting one—that maybe tonight’s the night, that maybe the world will finally stop and you’ll be there in the dimly lit restaurant for all of eternity, sharing a bottle of wine with a person who laughs at all of your jokes and agrees with most of the things you say but not all of them, just enough for some banter and spice, so that you can grow and learn and make the other person better, or so the story goes.
You’re leaning in to the table and so is she, elbows planted and arms crossed. It’s not too loud to hear but you lean in anyway, an unscented candle in the middle of the table providing just enough light to make out features but not quite enough to discern blemishes. Young waiters scurry about in a practiced panic, black shirts tucked into black pants, their arms and legs blending in with the dark background so that they’re almost indistinguishable, the people and the place.
She’s tilting her head back, closing her eyes, putting a hand over her mouth, trying to be quiet. You’re not even that funny.
She asks if you’d like another bottle and you say sure, because nothing’s better than a wine drunk—nice, fuzzy, optimistic. But also contemplative, albeit in a clumsy sort of way, one that lets you think you’re having insights and solving problems when you’re really just drunk.
Other couples get up to leave, putting on jackets and paying bills, but you ignore these movements because tonight—finally, tonight—is when time loses its significance. Another glass of wine helps, and you think you might've figured out, this whole time and life and meaning thing. You give her a rambling synopsis but she’s too distracted by the food, a dish neither of you can pronounce.
Your everlasting night theory takes a hit after you finish desert, tiramisu, which you both agree isn’t half-bad. A check comes, a card comes out, maybe two, and then you’re outside and the air hits you and it’s cold.
You turn around to look at the restaurant to make sure it’s still there. It is, which is a relief, and then you start walking, hands together, more jokes, more stories, more of this night. She invites you up. You’ve been here before, it’s not your first dinner together. You’ve been together a few weeks, a few months, maybe more, maybe less. You get in the elevator and blink, the bright lights above—and the buttons, too—acting as an alarm and signaling to your brain that the night is over, even though, technically, it’s not, not yet.
The darkened hallway saves you from the light but you know can’t crawl back into the night’s cocoon. The warm fuzziness fades as you follow her into her apartment. She turns on the lights and throws her keys onto the counter. She goes into the bathroom and then her bedroom, comes out in pajamas. Without being explicit about the non-explicit activity she craves, she hints about how tired she is and how you should take off your shoes and jacket and come sleep with her, in the literal sense. You’re relieved to hear it, a sad thing to admit to yourself, that you’d rather not have sex, a realization that gives you a jolt because you’re 28 and that’s just too goddamn young to be apathetic towards getting laid. You keep your hands in your pockets and tell her that maybe you should go. It’s impossible for her not to take this the wrong way but you don’t feel like explaining, not that you could. The night’s escaping and you need to go back in search of it. Call it self-sabotage, call it whatever you like, but while you’re just standing there with your hands in your pockets, she’s suddenly awake, tears coming to her eyes, and you tell her that you’ll be in touch, and then you head downstairs, using the steps instead of the elevator.
You get outside and feel excited, and you do your best not to let your thoughts wander back to the crying woman in pajamas on the eleventh floor. You walk to the restaurant and look in. More diners, more food, more wine. The candlelight bounces off smiling faces. Your waitress from earlier makes eye contact and you look away, feeling foolish. One foot in front of the other until you’re no longer standing there like some stalker. You wonder what’s wrong with you, just standing there and staring in at a restaurant like that. Was the food even good?
Fatigue hits and your legs somehow carry you to your apartment. Elevator to the seventeenth floor. Dimmer lighting on this one, thank god. Your head hurts and so you open the refrigerator and pull out some sliced ham. You eat four slices, put it away, and then eat four more. You pour a glass of wine but it doesn’t taste great and you don’t really want it anyway.
You put on Friends reruns and sit on your couch and think about how you wish, even though you know it’s bullshit, that your life could be more like theirs. Whatever that means.
It doesn’t make sense, you know, what you’re thinking and what you’re feeling, which is exactly why you never talk about any of it. You couldn’t articulate and they wouldn’t understand anyway. Who’s they? Everyone, and speaking of, how come everyone else is always figuring shit out except you?
What exactly does it mean that you wanted time to come to a stop so that a meal at a three-star Italian restaurant could last forever? (Yelp, not Michelin.) That you allowed yourself to go numb towards a woman you cared about, or at least thought you did, just because you missed the chatter of diners, the clinking of silverware, the glow of the candles. The warmth of your wine drunk, unspoiled by a walk in the cold.
You consider briefly that maybe you’re just a terrible human being. It’s not that you’re particularly bad or anything, it’s just that you’re not anything. You can’t even manage to get drunk enough to pass out, and so you brush your teeth and get into bed. The headache’s started already and you hope that’s a good sign, because maybe that means tomorrow’s won’t be so bad.
You wake up and realize you were wrong. It’s bad. No more wine, you think, all the way until 6 p.m. when you drink a glass and make a phone call.
Sorry about last night. You don’t know what the fuck is wrong with you.
It’s true: you really don’t. You decide to meet up for dinner in a couple hours. You drink another glass, take a shower, and get dressed. Before heading out the door, you drain what’s left of the bottle.
You meet outside and she looks great, or so you say. You walk into the restaurant and order tapas. It’s so dark you can barely see. This place is louder and more intimate, and so you really do have to lean in to hear each other.
It’s great, maybe even perfect, and as the wine flows, you hope that it never ends.
The girl lay on her bed pressed against the wall, nudged from sleep by clattering pans and the smell of cooking oil from the kitchen. Her dreams had been filled with buzzing. She lay half dreaming, wondering about the noise that had become a crowd murmuring and an idling chainsaw. She realized it wasn’t only the buzzing of dreams, but of waking.
Curious, she pressed her ear against the wall– bees? Bees inside the wall? She gasped and jerked her head back. Holding her hand against it, she felt the heat and vibration of the hive. They’d burrowed through the sheetrock until only its paper and a layer of paint separated them from her hand. She fought the urge to push her thumb through, opening a hole for them to swarm into the patched-together shack.
She imagined the bees crawling across her flesh, stingers swaying between their legs. They’d wait for a fearful move or a flicker of anger to violate her, to pierce her delicate flesh until there was nothing left of her. She would become like sun-warmed honey, melting away, leaving behind a sticky trail and bits of sheetrock on the cracked linoleum floor.
flash fiction by Blaze Farrar
poetry by Philip Wexler
sentient, no other
way to put it. hairy
heads of decapitated
by palm trees
lashed by wind,
bending in the storm.
for cover as the trees
propel the bombs
in a kind of arcade game -
knock down the tourists.
but hats, towels,
purses are abandoned,
sandals flung off.
anything to get away.
everything gathers moisture
coconuts crack apart
on the ground.
before the milk sinks in.
they bound into and off
sink into sodden
as it began
for the dead and injured,
as funny a scene
as you could imagine.
Always men tossing their babies up into blue skies, then propping them in sitting positions that require luck and punishment to maintain. Everyone waving. Sunlight forever stuck on Easter.
My father, ninety, needs help, so I go to him, driving out from another state. Along the way I try not to anticipate the arrival of the green mile-markers on the road.
We watch the old home movies. He is putty, slumped in his recliner. “You sure wanted me to sit up straight and be still,” I joke, sipping my coffee.
“I can’t help it,” he says, “It’s my bad back.”
micro fiction by Daryl Scroogins
Reels in the
The first time Terri heard the word son was in 1982 when a nurse with bad skin and a wrinkled uniform wheeled her to a big plexiglass window. Terri had peered inside at the lines and lines of plastic beds, at the swaddled sleeping babies arranged like rows of bullets. Pastel knit caps and the same squished, round pink faces. All had tiny bow mouths.
“I don’t know which one is mine,” she’d panicked, not daring to look the nurse in the eye. Terri’s voice was raspy and adolescent. She didn’t want to be in a wheelchair, in a maternity ward. She wanted to tease her hair and sing off-key to the Cars and Cheap Trick and go see Fast Times at Ridgemont High four Saturdays in a row with different boys and different six-packs in their different backseats.
But wasn’t that the problem? Wasn’t that how she came to this moment, to the words mother and son? Too many boys and beers and backseats?
The nurse wheeled her into the sterile room, silent except for the synchronized sucking on plastic pacifiers. They’d shown her which one was hers. An unnamed fleshy worm with her name. Her name only. Landry. David.
“This is your son. You’re his mother,” the nurse shoved him into her arms. Terri held him with both hands, first at a distance and then squished up to her deflating middle like she could push him back in and incubate him just a little longer, just until she was ready to be his mother.
She’d assumed age would make her ready—but her son was born over thirty years ago and she still isn’t worthy of that weighted sobriquet. She is merely a person checking next of kin on a piece of paper, merely a woman following the man eager to clear the morgue of another unidentified body.
“Mrs. Landry, before we can identify the bod—your son, we’ll need to prepare you. This is never easy, especially for parents.”
The man leads her into a dark room, flipping on a hissing track of fluorescent lighting. At the center of the room is a black table, at its center a thick manila envelope. Terri tastes the chemicals of the bug spray, of the astringent cleaners they probably use after each person sits through this process. The man pours Terri another cup of watery coffee. She chews the cup’s soft, dissolving rim. He grabs the manila envelope and hands her a thin glossy piece of paper advertising a local mortuary and cemetery. A snapshot of fluffy greenery, a smiling elderly couple, polished tombstones, blooming flowers. Terri had never thought that far for herself, much less her child. A funeral. A room of crying people who care. Terri tries to arrange her family in the pews, all hunched over an expensive casket.
But she knows they won’t come.
They wrote him off years ago, even before he’d shown up with scabs speckling his arms and reeking of melting tires. Terri’s own mother had whispered loudly, “Just let him go and live his own life. Don’t let him ruin yours.” They weren’t there when she sat silently on the limp couch cushions watching his squeeze pus from the holes in his arm.
“He’ll only kill himself from some disease or from those drugs he’s doing,” her father later said after a tense Thanksgiving. Terri told her father he was wrong, that he didn’t know David. When her father’s wallet went missing, she stayed quiet. She squeezed her eyes shut and pressed on the sides of her head after her parents told her David was missing, too. Her brothers insisted she had to let him go, she had to live her life and let him destroy his. They were the ones who noticed the accusations splattered over the morning and evening news. They told her about the girl who was violently attacked downtown. They told her about another girl who had disappeared, and was later found dead inside a McDonald’s dumpster. They called to tell her the composite drawing looked like David. It looked like her son. Terri’s brothers told her David was a wanted fugitive. She wanted to be surprised—but he’d already been a delinquent, a junkie, a waste. David’s sixth grade science teacher was the first to vocally predict a criminal future. He scheduled an abrupt parent-teacher conference after the frog dissection—leaving frantic, breathless messages at the noisy bar she worked at. He filled her answering machine tape. He called her parents. His voice cracked in person when he told her David didn’t wait for instructions before he turned his frog’s belly into pulp—stabbing over and over—plucking out tiny gleaming organs and impaling them with safety pins to his desk. The teacher stared at the stack of ungraded lab papers when he told Terri they’d found the class pets—two shivering white mice—gutted in the same violent way, their own tiny innards pinned to David’s desk, too.
“You’re wrong,” Terri had told the teacher, a jowled man in a gray button up shirt and navy tie. She lied. She looked past him, past the periodic table chart to the blue sky outside the tiny closed window. She’d heard the stories of how criminals began. Harming animals. Harming themselves. Terri had noticed the bleeding slashes when David forgot to roll his sleeves down.
“I used to do that too,” she tugged on his sleeves before he wriggled free and slunk into his room, locking the door and blaring unintelligible, screaming music. She wanted to claw her way through the door, to wrap him up in his dirty sheets to tell him she really did understand. He was still her baby, even if she’d never been able to nuzzle him close to her face.
“Mrs. Landry?” the man at the morgue is impatient, yanking her back to the present, to the manila envelope. Her pushes a paper plate filled with brittle sugar cookies towards her.
“I’ve never been married,” Terri’s throat is grainy. Why tell this stranger that now?
“Ms. Landry, this isn’t going to be like the movies. We won’t slide out your son’s body. We won’t you show you things you don’t need to see. We’re only going to show you photographs, just some identifying marks first,” the man sips his own weak coffee, “You know, tattoos, scars, things like that. We’ll look at his face last, and I’ll give you a warning. We can go slow. I understand this is difficult, as his mother.”
Names that belong to other women, other creatures. Birds hunched over delicate nests. Dogs panting in labor, licking the postnatal goo from squirming, wet puppies. Women at the supermarket pressing their cheeks into the giggling faces of the smiling babies who reached for them. They are mothers. Terri remembers David's jack-o-lantern mouth first pushing out sounds, his nearly bare gums humming an M. He looked right at her, chanting, “Mama. Mama. Mama,” holding out fanned, sticky fingers. She’d turned away. His round eyes were bright, his dimpled wrists and elbows slathered in slimy baby food and curdled spit up that made her gag. Everything smelled rotten. Her clothes were always wet. When the doctors in the hospital tried to show her how to nurse, pressing his drooling mouth to her breast, she’d flopped her arms and pushed him away. Hard.
“Easy,” the nurse said in a steady voice.
“Please. It feels gross. Please,” Terri cried. The nurses carried canisters of formula into her room, powder that smelled sour when mixed with warm tap water. It was still better than being touched or slobbered on. Terri held the bottle at the angle they’d told her too and David had sucked hard from the nipple that wasn’t hers.
Women lied to her when she was pregnant. They said it was different when it was your own—but they never said what to do if it wasn’t different.
Maybe they didn’t know. Maybe she’d asked the wrong women. She should’ve found the mothers of serial killers and rapists and other scum—maybe those mothers felt like her and turned away from their babies, covered their ears with their hands and locked themselves in closets waiting for the howling cries to simmer, to turn to whimpers, to turn to silence, and finally become babies who stared for hours at the shadowless stucco wall.
“The first photo,” the man in the morgue slides a flimsy sheet of computer paper across the table. A poorly printed photo blistered from the condensation rings on the table. A pixelated image of a silvery scar, smooth and welted. It could both on any part of the body. It could belong to anyone, but Terri knows the way the veins branch it’s a wrist and she knows it’s the same wrist she held onto in grocery stores, in the mall, in the line to collect food stamps. She knows the scar was two decades hold. She can close her eyes and be instantly back inside her ’88 Civic driving David to the hospital, an entire roll of paper towels coiled around his bleeding wrist.
“Hold harder,” she’d yelled, almost nicking a line of parked cars and running three red lights. Before the doctors and nurses stitched his wrist and interviewed him, Terri had asked if he would die. They’d all looked at her, waiting for her to cry. They’d later told her he should start seeing a therapist. He’d only gone to the one appointment she could afford.
“Yes, that’s him,” she murmurs, sliding the paper to the floor.
The man pinches the skin between his eyebrows, pushes on the bridge of his nose.
“Are you okay?” he asks. Terri nods.
She confirms fragments of David in other photos. Piercings and tiny moles and freckles that could belong to anyone, to any dead body. A faded birth mark. A stack of photographed tattoos. Barbed wire ink from the late ‘90s wrapped around a flaccid bicep. Kerouac quotes in scratchy handwritten font. David’s veneration of the Beats always made her cringe. She’d been a ravenous reader and begged him to read something new, something outside the typical male canon—away from the Hemingways with the drunken brutishness and the flat, lusty Kerouac women; away from Bukowski who bragged about detached fucking; away from Bret Easton Ellis who celebrated a life of blowjobs and cocaine.
“Even I used to romanticize Less Than Zero,” she told David, handing him a wilted paperback Mrs. Dalloway. She wanted David to read about Septimus.
“Mom, I’m reading. Why isn’t that good enough?” He threw her book into the trash compactor, twisting the knob to ON. Terri hadn’t been quick enough to save her book, to stop the machine from gnashing its pages to dust.
She took her son to Crown Books when the newest Ellis novel came out, as a strained atonement. On the way to the bookstore, she gushed in a voice that even she knew wasn’t hers:
“I know what it’s like when books speak to you. When I was sixteen, I read The Bell Jar until the pages fell out.”
David turned the radio to full volume, the car shuddering from the guttural bass. Terri tightened her fingers around the soft steering wheel. She held her breath the rest of the drive. He opened his mouth when they stood in line with the book. A hiss like a dry radiator, like he was parched.
“You can’t keep all the men out of my life, you know.”
Nobody else in line heard him. When they got home, he locked himself in his room.
“Do you recognize this?” the balding man is asking her, shoving another picture at her, another tattoo. A fiery thirteen above a topless blonde pin up girl. It was his first one, carved in the dirty kitchen of a surly girlfriend who was covered in gratuitous ink. She’d dumped David six months later for the man who’d etched David with a kit he’d learned to make from broken pens and sewing needles.
Metallica’s famous slanted logo. David’s first concert when he was twelve. It was the only thing he’d ever asked her for, staring at his open Hit Parader magazine and asking if she would go with him. The one friend he had at school hated heavy metal. Terri and David sang until their throats throbbed. He’d even smiled during “Creeping Death,” telling her she really knew how to headbang. Terri spent the next week kneading Bengay into her neck.
“That’s him,” she says again to the man in the morgue.
“Do you want to slow down?” he asks.
“What about this one?”
Terri doesn’t mean to slap the picture, to cover it with both hands, to shove it back at the man.
“This isn’t his?” he begins to fold the paper in half. Terri opens her mouth like a fish yanked from water. Her lips smack like David’s had as a helpless, lolling newborn.
“I need to see it,” her throat swells. She’s afraid she’ll pass out. Her vision whorls and shrinks and she wonders if she’s dying, too.
It’s a picture of a tattoo Terri’s never seen—but she knows it’s her son’s. It Beastly, the benign and clumsy villain from the classic Care Bears cartoon. The furry, snouted sidekick to the sinister No Heart, a creature who wore stringy goggles and pedaled a helicoptered bicycle through the clouds to stop the bears and the world from caring. He was slobbery and loud and stupid—and David had adored him. Terri loved him, too; he was part of their Saturday routine when they woke up early and ate Cream of Wheat laden with gritty C & H sugar. He drank grape Kool-Aid and she drank strong coffee. He laid his head across her lap, her fingers tangling in his matted dark curls. It was an ephemeral shard of serenity, of normalcy, of delicate motherhood.
If only they’d been able to snare those moments. If only the show’s episodes were longer than thirty minutes. If only David hadn’t grown out of puffing his stomach and waddling over to his stuffed animals, to the squirrels chattering in the trees, to the paper bags overflowing with empty beer cans. Terri closes her eyes and presses the printed photograph to her chest. She can still hear his tiny nasal voice: “We care!”
If only the neighbor’s cat hadn’t disappeared. If only Terri hadn’t found the cat inside one of her own pillowcases. The yellow pillowcase was sprinkled with dry dirt, wedged between the thorny stems of the dead roses she could never ressurect. The cat’s head was twisted, his mouth and eyes wide open.
If only she hadn’t shaken David by his small, tender shoulders and screamed in his face.
“What is wrong with you? Why would you hurt that cat?”
Tears rolled down his fat, red cheeks and down his neck. He cried out that he didn’t do it, that he was sorry. It wasn’t many years later when she screamed at him again. The cops had brought him home in handcuffs, telling her he’d tried to rob a liquor store with a plastic squirt gun. David had been damp with sweat, pungent with the stench of pot and Miller Lite.
“What is wrong with you?” she shouted. She’d almost struck him in his face. He was taller than her by then and the baby fat was melted from his cheeks, but his face was still red and wet with tears.
“Why couldn’t you just be my mother?” he screamed back. “Why couldn’t you just be a regular mom?”
What did he mean by that? The ways she’d found to pay the bills? Did he mean the times she’d refused his hugs? The times he’d puckered up and reached for her and she pretended not to see. Was he mad because she let him sing along to Appetite for Destruction or see The Terminator in first grade, or was it the gruesome books on Jack the Ripper she left laying around? Which irregular thing was he talking about?
“Ms. Landry, do you recognize this one?” This man—who probably wants nothing more than to be done, to have a cigarette, to get rid of this body—looks directly at her for the first time.
Terri sets the paper down. Watermarks from the table turn Beastly transparent, ghost-like. David never told her about this tattoo. Her fault from the beginning, when he grew and kicked inside of her and she told everyone it was indigestion. In delivery she pushed too hard, eager to be alone again.
“Ms. Landry, you need a break? Water?”
“He’s a character from Care Bears, this picture. It’s Beastly. He was David’s favorite.”
“So, it’s his?”
“He didn’t tell me he got it, but I know it’s him.”
The man sets the picture on his left. All the others are to his right.
“I know it’s his,” Terri says louder.
The man ignores her.
“This will be the last one, and it’ll be the toughest to see, so if you need to take a break—“
“No. I don’t.”
“Often when people hang themselves, they look different in death. It can be an unsettling thing for a mother to look at. Mrs—I mean, Ms. Landry, he won’t look like your son.”
Terri holds her breath. The man slides the paper to her, image facedown. Air whooshes from her lungs like cartoon balloons. She flips it over.
It is her son.
His eyes closed and swollen, his lips open and blue. His chin crusted with dried saliva. When he was a baby, a child, an adolescent in and out of juvenile courts; when he was a young man thrashing in withdrawal, a thief returning for more loot—when he was all of those things, she’d watched him in his sleep. Those were the moments it was safe to crack the door open, allowing fingers of dim light to shine over his face, catching the little tufts of dust hovering in his quiet breath. He slept beneath a wooden shelf she’d hammered to the wall while he was still in his crib. The same shelf hung above the tiny twin bed, the futon; it was there when she found the used needles. On that shelf sat a stuffed Care Bear who shriveled with age, more decayed each time she checked on her son. Terri would bury that toy with her son.
Peeking in the room was when she felt like a mother.
She swore she’d grow in it. It wasn’t just because she was young the rashes and sour spit up made her gag. The rocking made her anxious: screeching wood and metal hinges, a baby with colic and isochronous wails she couldn’t calm down. Her cooing was grating to the flailing infant, not comforting. But she was only eighteen—she’d only babysat some of the neighbors’ kids on the weekend. Kids who sucked their thumbs but were old enough to dig in the dirt while she drank Tab and beers she stole from dark garages, collecting her ten bucks for the day.
Terri wanted to grow into motherhood. Jake believed she would. Jake. The gentle man she met at work who sent her huge bouquets of bright flowers, who brought over bags of groceries, who changed her oil in his driveway. He owned a home with a fenced in yard. He wore cologne and knew how to knot a tie. Jake took her to nice, quiet dinners and wanted to take her to France. She was thirty-one when he got down on one knee, kneeling on the stained berber carpet. David was thirteen.
“I don’t care about the charges or the stealing. I’ll pay to get David into counseling. I care about him. I care about you,” Jake’s eyes had watered. Terri’s hand went limp. Jake smothered her fingers between his warm palms.
“We can have more children,” he promised, trying to shove the diamond ring on to her finger. Her hand curled into a fist.
David couldn’t be fixed.
And neither could she.
“Is it him?” A man whose name she doesn’t know needs to know if this is her child. He has other bodies to identify, to dress for their funerals. Terri stares at the picture. David’s barely puffy, not too bruised or distorted—and not waxy like the faces she’s gawked at in coffins at funerals. He isn’t warped like the man said he’d be. He’s her baby. Finally calm. Finally quiet.
Now, she can be his mother. She can cradle the photograph and say softly, “Yes, this is my son.”
Next of Kin
short fiction by Ashley N. Roth
The Greatest Leap
She drove them to the Falls of Shin. He sat silent the whole thirty miles; no knowing what he was thinking - if anything. But this had been his idea the last time he had spoken to her - properly spoken. Maybe he had forgotten that too.
“Remember,” she said, as they turned into the car-park, “our first time here, and how we saw the salmon leap? That was such a good day.”
He frowned but not in annoyance. Was that a spark in his dull, cod eye? He seemed about to speak but then turned away, staring out at the lightly spotting rain.
She parked and got out. No need to lock the car; she coaxed him out, guided him stumbling, down the narrow pathway to the viewpoint with its warning signs and rails.
They stood and watched a long time but then at last a salmon leapt, taut as a bow, pitching its will against the fury of the water
And then another, battling to the spawning grounds, and did the salmon know it meant their death?
“Let's go, my love?” she said and took his hand. Kissed it, held it to her cheek.
And then he turned and looked down at her. Really looked. No sign of the dementia, his eye re-kindling golden salmon fury.
It was him again.
“Life's been so good”, he said. “And better for you being in it, my loveliest one. But I’m done here now. There’s nothing more I want. You need to let me go now, girl.”
He turned away, laid one hand on the rail.
“No!” She seized him by the arm. “No! I didn’t come here for it to be like that. I can’t be without you.”
“Well then,” he said, slowly nodding. “Let's go together then. But we need to do it now, while I’m still here with you. Let’s go now, girl.”
He gathered her tight and she closed her eyes and let him.
The fall was fearful, fearless.
flash fiction by Katie-Ellen Hazeldine
to withdraw one's feelings of attachment from a person, idea, or object, as in anticipation of a future loss
I wear shades to block your light
but still recall the hanging moon,
how it bathed your face
in whisky dark. I block my nose
among the roses but their thorns
still perfume the air in every room
that held your breath. I press
a cold spoon to my mouth to freeze
the lip of my resolve, swing a hammer
at the panes to change the view.
I use the crayon you once used
to color doors of my heart shut,
fade the songs of meadowlarks
to barely hued. The way your touch
travelled through me like a blessing
for the damned, I watch the sea
extend to shore its watery hand.
poetry by Diane DeCillis
Cowards in the Face
The college roommate’s son had a box of Play-Doh. You were all in the basement after dinner, after a drive through where doctors and engineers live—a mall like a city, yards like pocket parks—after a commute on an underground train that was routed eventually over ground. The son had the name of your husband. He was a good eater. Now the college roommate’s daughter wanted a window to be a door. A nudge from the rear was required to get her through. You were all cowards in the face of children. The college roommate’s son had been given this cardboard house two years ago his birthday. Either you or the college roommate could fit in this house, small-adult sized. You all knew why the daughter found it a comfort. The college roommate’s son made the daughter cry, rolling the Play-Doh into a ball and enjoying the geometry of coordination. Many things in the basement were secondhand. The husband could rewire. There was always a vacuum nearby, a bathroom around every corner. Your college roommate’s bras hung inside the door of the bathroom. The bathmat was better than your pillow. You had never stepped on anything like it. The college roommate’s daughter broke out into hives. The college roommate’s son had a hand crank that made Play-Doh stars. He tugged you toward the floor, and you knelt, tights to concrete polished as if a floor. He poured the stars onto you. Your tights curled down your stomach, making room, making room, and you shook your hair against the onslaught.
creative non-fiction by Jennifer Gravely
Diane DeCillis’ debut poetry collection, “Strings Attached” (Wayne State Univ. Press, 2014) has been honored as a Michigan Notable Book for 2015, won the 2015 Next Generation Indie Book Award for poetry, and was a finalist for the Forward Indie Fab Book Award for poetry. Her poems have been nominated for three Pushcarts and Best American Poetry. Poems, stories and essays have appeared recently in Adirondack Review, Columbia Journal, Minnesota Review, Mizna and other journals.
Blaze Farrar’s work has appeared in Gravel Literary Magazine, Dual Coast Magazine, and has been featured on NPR station KQED’s Perspectives series. Her flash fiction piece, “The Light,” won an Honorable Mention in the Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition. When not writing, she spends her free time relaxing with her partner Michael and her dog Betty or hiking in cemeteries and under redwoods in the San Francisco Bay Area. She works at the University of California.
Jennifer Gravley makes her way in Columbia, Missouri. She is a writer of sentences, a watcher of bad television, and a reference and instruction librarian. Her work has recently appeared in Still: The Journal and Poetry Northwest, among others. Find her online at jennifergravley.com.
Katie-Ellen HazeldineKatie-Ellen Hazeldine lives in Lancashire in the UK, on the NW coast, and works from home as a professional tarot card and rune reader, and freelance English Tutor.
A Best Small Fictions 2015 Winner, Dave Petraglia’s writing and art has appeared in Bartleby Snopes, bohemianizm, Cheap Pop, Crab Fat, Crack the Spine, Five:2:One, Gambling the Aisle, Gravel, Hayden’s Ferry Review, matchbook, Medium, McSweeney’s, Mojave River Review, Necessary Fiction, North American Review, Per Contra, Points in Case, Prairie Schooner, Popular Science, Razed, SmokeLong Quarterly, Up the Staircase, and others. His blog is at www.davepetraglia.com
Ashley N. Roth
Ashley N. Roth writes from Nashville, Tennessee. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Jersey Devil Press, decomP, Moonsick Magazine, and others. You may find her daydreaming about moonlighting as a silent film star, conjuring up pity laughs at comedy open mics, or gorging on vegan donuts with her daughter—or find her here: www.ashleynroth.com.
Daryl Scroggins lives in Marfa, Texas. He has taught creative writing and literature at The University of Texas at Dallas, The University of North Texas, and the Writer’s Garret, in Dallas. He is the author of “Winter Investments,” a collection of stories (Trilobite Press), and "This Is Not the Way We Came In," a collection of flash fiction and a flash novel (Ravenna Press). His flash fictions and poems have recently appeared in Blink-Ink, Blue Lake Review, Cutbank, The Coil, Dime Show Review, Microfiction Monday, New Flash Fiction Review, Sky Island Journal, Star 82 Review, Third Wednesday, and Unbroken Journal.
Logan Thomas writes short stories and novels. Originally from Appalachian Maryland, he now lives in the Washington, D.C. area.
Philip Wexler lives in Bethesda, MD. He has had over 160 poems published in magazines. He organizes Words out Loud, a spoken word series, in Glen Echo Park, MD.
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Creative Non-Fiction Editor
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