August 13, 2020| ISSUE no 264
crack the spine
Ziaul Moid Khan
"Piccadilly Faces" by Michael McGill
C. Christine Fair
short fiction by Robyn Ritchie
Loric shuts the front door behind him. Even from the end of the driveway, now inside the lush SUV, he hears his wife screaming after him. Or he could, if his wife were the sort to scream. But she is the sort to brood, quietly, and so intensely that Loric has adapted to hear it like screaming, through sonar, or wavelengths, or simply the webbing of a few married years. It makes his left eye twitch, clenches his fists on the steering wheel. He backs out of the driveway and swerves, rounding the curved top of the cul-de-sac and rolling toward the end of the lane. Overhead, the sky purples with dusk.
The neighborhood is finely manicured and silent. Houses like his, double-storied and bracketed by hollies and sourwoods, light up as dinners are being made, as scents of pot roasts and taco Tuesdays waft out into the October air. Children who played at the ends of their driveways have been corralled inside for such meals, all but, it seems, one, who stands on the sidewalk looking decidedly out of place: a little brown boy with a head full of thick black hair. Light-up shoes and camouflage shorts. Loric has lived in this cul-de-sac, Luna Terrace, for a year, and though there are many children here, some even this very size and shape, none are non-white.
Loric rolls the SUV a little farther past then pumps the brake. He cranes his neck to look back at the boy standing there, speck-like amidst the rolling green of well-watered lawns. Loric frowns, taps his fingers against the wheel. He looks ahead at the stop sign at the end of the lane. Then sets the brake, and heads out of the car.
On the sidewalk, he approaches the boy with careful footsteps, the way you approach a dog which could or could not be okay to pet. The boy is so small. He can be no older than five, and when he gazes up it is through the two brownest, widest eyes Loric has ever seen. There is a small imperfection in the right eye: a blackish dot which makes the whites even whiter.
“Howdy there, kiddo,” Loric says. That imperfection is something else. It tracks Loric more than the eyes proper do. It seems to size Loric up, categorize him. “What’re you doing out here?”
The boy makes a confused face.
Loric smiles. “What’s your name?”
Mumbling: “Not supposed to say.”
“Don’t talk to strangers, huh?” Loric hums. “Who told you that? Your mom? She’s a smart woman, if so.” He doesn’t get any smile or nod for this, in fact no response at all. Those wide brown eyes take on some purple from the sky. Some pink, too. Loric looks ahead at his house, sitting sullen between others. He says, “Well, I can’t let you stand out here alone. You understand? I can’t do that. Can I help you find your house? You live around here, right?”
The boy makes a strange gesture. Between a nod and a shake. His hair is dark, overly curly, and Loric thinks he must be of some Latino descent. He tries to think of where the Latinos live. He says, “That’s all I needed to hear.”
~ ~ ~
Luna Terrace stands back-to-back with Sol Terrace and neither neighborhood has much in the way of ethnic minorities. This is not an enforced rule of thumb by either of the Neighborhood Associations; Loric thinks that’s just the way it’s worked out. He told the wife (previously the fiancée, previously the girlfriend, previously Anne Matthews) this when they first moved up here from Tennessee, when she asked, “Is the neighborhood safe?”
She’d heard bad things about Baltimore in general. Gun violence, poverty, gangs. Loric told her it’s fine.
Six months ago, both Luna and Sol’s Neighborhood Association presidents banded together and threw a joint mixer. Loric can still remember the awakening vibrancy of April, the ripeness of fruit in the pies. Blackberry, cherry. The smudge of barbeque sauce on his wife’s lip, at which she later scolded Loric for not alerting her to its presence quickly enough. Sol Terrace’s president, Kay, hosted in her backyard; she laced the entire perimeter with fairy lights and broached the yard with an open brazier. Loric was introduced to people he was sure he would never meet again, never want to meet again, even back when he was securely employed and well-thought-of. With the job search now, he has barely enough time to interact with his own neighbors.
But he remembers Bonnie Ochoa. He remembers her high-lilted laughter, her smooth smile, her rich dark hair. He remembers the way she slung her arm over the shoulders of her neighbors, her cheeks dancing with furnace color from two beers. He looked at Bonnie then with his own arm around Anne’s shoulders and felt her stiffen.
Loric wonders if Bonnie will remember him. She and her husband are the only Latinos he can think of around here. He parks the SUV just down a house from hers in Sol Terrace, under the heavy shade of an oak tree. The cul-de-sac is quieter than Luna’s for its lack of children. But smells the same. There are dinner scents and, beneath them, a freshness of autumn, like cider. Loric makes sure the boy is safely buckled into the backseat and locks the car. He walks up the sidewalk to Bonnie’s house.
There is a long pause before she opens the door and when she does, Loric laughs. He laughs at the way her hair is afrizz, half undone from a ponytail, at the way her white shirt is splattered with kitchen mess. Surprise is in her smile.
“Sorry,” he says, raising his hands as if in defense. “Sorry, sorry! I’m not laughing at you, I’m just glad to see you. And really, God, my rudeness knows no limits. I should’ve called, but I don’t have your number.”
“Ah,” she says and takes a second to recollect him. He urges her from behind the wall of his skull: The barbeque, right? You remember. Of course you do. You were wearing red and I spilled beer on my trousers. It seems to work. She lights up. “Loric Hall! Hey, I remember you.”
“Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“No, I’m just–” She drags out a sigh. “Cooking. Is there something I can do for you?”
In the driveway, there is only Bonnie’s car. Loric imagines her husband still in the heart of the city or languishing in traffic. Somewhere nearby, a car door slams, and Loric looks at his SUV: silent, still. He turns back to Bonnie. “I was just wondering if anyone over here has any kids. Or, you know. Kids visiting. Relatives. You got any relatives visiting?”
She shakes her head. Her bare feet shift; she places most of her weight on the left and leans into the jamb of the doorway. “Nope. None that I know of, anyway. Why?”
Loric smiles. “There’ve been some kids coming around Luna lately. Teenagers. They make a lot of racket at night, and everyone’s all in an uproar. Just thought maybe someone here might know anything.”
Bonnie looks to be only half listening. Her eyes wander back into the house often. Distantly, a bubbling can be heard – perhaps on the stove. She says, “Um, well, I can ask Kay–”
“Don’t trouble her,” Loric says, smiling. “Don’t trouble yourself.”
“Might be the kids from Rolling Hills. Kay thinks they’re stealing her mail anyway.”
“Rolling Hills. You know, I didn’t think of that.”
“Yeah,” she says, half-laughing. “Kids. Always up to something. I guess you know better than anyone.”
Loric feels his face hold the smile. He says nothing and then a moment passes between them filled with unfounded apologies. She’s sorry but she must go. He’s sorry to bother. Loric walks away from the house and thinks she will forget about this conversation, and even him as a person, until the next time their neighborhoods converge. Until the next time the Neighborhood Association presidents have cause to force them together. He would have dumped the boy on her if he thought there was some relation. It’s getting dark out. Already the streetlights flicker on. But he thinks he can help the boy without Bonnie. He’s sure he can. When he sits in the SUV, he turns to the backseat, considering that small face which is pinched in rudimentary concern. Loric gives a hopeful smile and as he sets the car into motion, he feels good, bubbling over with purpose. He settles his fingers in the angry imprints he’d made before when leaving the house. He can’t even remember why he was upset.
~ ~ ~
Loric has thought about having children. Or, he has been made to think about it.
Anne has been in a state lately; she wears black: sweaters, underwear, nail polish. Loric recognizes her motions and movements – that indignant raised eyebrow she gives – as something borrowed from twelve-year-old girls. She is mourning the loss of her thigh gap, among other things. Thirty-five has taken her by storm. It has taken from her, she’s said. Their home has of late become grounds for this revelation: a cemetery and a place for rebirth, or birth, or newness. Her birth control pills flushed down the toilet. Loric milked for all he’s worth. Anne has said, pinching at her softening hips and thighs, “This is nature’s way of telling me it’s time for children. I’m not getting any younger, you know. You know. I know you can tell.”
“Not at all,” he’s said, over coffee or dinner or midnight-snack blackberries fresh from the fridge.
“You can,” she’s insisted and raised her eyebrow.
And Loric says nothing, because it’s what she wants. She uses him as a sounding board. They’re financially stable, she says – or did say, before the job loss – and they live in a great neighborhood. Luna Terrace is a verdant fold, green and ripe and budding, choked with children and Loric thinks their presence must rub up on her, do something to her insides. Get her organs pumping in a blood-soaked way. Loric has caught her in their bedroom’s body-length mirror: black laced underwear and nothing else. Skin burnished gold in the low lamplight. Form still shapely from college years of volleyball and lacrosse. She prods her pale thighs as if there are bugs beneath the skin. As if she could dig them out with her nails. She often does not acknowledge his presence during these times, except once, when she tossed blonde hair back over one shoulder. Her tone danced between teasing and exasperation: “Oh, but you’re so irresponsible, Lore. I can’t trust you with my children.”
~ ~ ~
The city is impaled with streetlights, taillights, some glimmering nail clipping of moon overhead. Loric’s body thrums with the bass of a car beside him. There is a flashing sign in green neon across the way, an open all-night diner. Loric looks up into the rearview mirror at a red light. The boy in the back wriggles in his seatbelt.
“Any of this looking familiar, bud?” Loric asks. He keeps his voice at a cheerful octave. When he was still a teacher’s assistant at Middle Tennessee State, ten long years ago, shadowing and observing at the nearby schools, he was told to chirp at the elementary children. They respond to high notes, like puppies. “Your folks live around here?”
The boy squirms, unfettered by a child’s car seat. He cranes his neck to look through the tinted window, out into the bustling night. Loric studies the subtle movements of his face: twitching plump lips, tented eyebrows. No recognition in his eyes. Loric drives on, mentally marking the groups of people in throngs along the sidewalks. A trio of black men on the corner. A woman in chef whites smoking against a concrete storefront. There are puddles in the gutter the SUV slides through, remnants from a midday shower.
From the backseat: a light rumbling. Loric eyes the boy in the rearview mirror, his expression veiled by shadow and illumined by streetlights in turns. Loric asks if he’s hungry.
“No,” the boy says.
“You don’t have to be so shy. What is it? ‘Don’t take food from strangers’ – that’s what your mom said?”
The boy makes no movement.
“Nod,” Loric instructs.
The boy nods.
“It’s give and take. This is a give and take relationship. We’ve got to help each other out, okay?”
“Okay,” the boy says.
Loric looks long into the rearview mirror at another red light. His own eyes – green, fervent, like summertime leaves – are crinkled in the corners with a smile hidden from view. Loric swerves into a parking lot of a nearby strip mall dotted with eateries and small stores. “Great,” he says. “Fear not. I’m on the case.”
~ ~ ~
“There’s an apartment building nearby called Rolling Hills,” Loric tells the boy in the florescent light of Dimples’ Diner. It is near where the woman in chef whites smoked languidly in the open and he imagines her now in the kitchen, hair gold with sweat, elbow-deep in fat and lard. He and the boy sit by a window on hard red booths, the fabric worn through and cracked by years of wear. Loric shoves blueberry pancakes into his mouth, bite by syrup-laden bite. “Some of my students lived there. They’re not so much older than you. It’s a little worn down but it looks nice enough – I used to see it on my way to work, when 83 was backed up. I’d take the side streets. Does that name sound familiar? Is that where your family lives?”
The boy’s face has changed. On the sidewalk in Luna Terrace, it was guileless as the sky. Somehow it seems the shadows of the inner city have moved into the open planes of his face, muddled him somehow. He looks soured, eyes never moving from the pancakes before him. He does not touch them, nor the chocolate milkshake beside the plate.
“You’ve got to help me out,” Loric says. “I can only do so much.”
The waitress returns to see to them. She is wide and smiley, and Loric is glad for the cheer. She gave the boy the milkshake for free.
“Everything okay over here?” She looks at the boy. “Hey, sweetie, the pancakes good?”
“He’s a bit shy,” Loric says.
“I can see that. Poor cutie-patootie. How old is he?”
“Five, now,” Loric says. He looks up, to the side, as if to remember a birthday not long ago: bright balloons, a cake, maybe double-chocolate. Streamers, party favors. The boy’s friends all around, ripe with that little child scent. He brushes sandy blond hair from his face. “Just over five.”
The boy looks at Loric.
“My wife and I,” Loric continues, “just adopted him last spring. Everything’s still a bit new to him here. He isn’t used to the big city. It’s an adjustment for us all.”
The waitress – My name is Sarah, the nametag reads – looks suitably impressed. Loric receives the self-satisfaction he supposes all adopters do when recognized for their magnanimous contribution to the world. Their fathomless charity. Loric has been envious of this since hearing of the science teacher, Marie Meyers’, endeavors to adopt a child from Ethiopia a few months ago. She strutted around the breakroom all teeth and head-held-high with her pictures of some emaciated, large-eyed child. Skin black as deep earth. The other teachers crowded around her as she told of the endless paperwork, the interviews, the money, the money being spent. They asked her, “Oh, but isn’t it so worth it?” and she gave a long-suffering sigh, “Of course, a thousand times of course.” Loric sat in the corner of the room sulking. He sits in the diner’s booth now, his spine soup-warm with pleasure.
The waitress lowers her voice. “I heard adoption’s expensive.”
“Oh,” Loric says, “but it’s so worth it.”
~ ~ ~
Loric has always considered Anne’s insistence that he is too irresponsible to have a child to be simple ribbing. He knows he can handle what a child may throw his way. Anne paints them in a malevolent, desperate light – deeming them something to be had only when all else is lost: her body, Loric’s prospects, their joint happiness. She hasn’t seen them the way Loric has: all bubblegum-popping, rowdy, frustrated at the approach of standardized tests. When they are far from home and lost. When they are needy. She has not seen that.
Loric stands in the darkened parking lot, lamps burning overhead, and looks back at the boy who stopped two feet short of the SUV. Loric tells him to come on.
The boy’s legs are lined with goosebumps in the cold. His little sneakers light up only half the time they are supposed to, perhaps nearing the end of their life. Behind him, Dimples’ Diner stands like a neon monolith against the sky. The boy quivers, clenching his shirt hem with tiny brown fists, and a line of urine runs down his inner thigh, calf, to puddle at his shoe.
~ ~ ~
Loric travels the opposite way from Rolling Hills. Down the main street rife with intersections and lights to the local Super Target. He has cracked the windows and the scent of urine swims around him, every now and then switching out for the salted scent of the Patapsco River which also lies this way. In the backseat, the boy is silent, like meditation. Loric has told him everything will be okay. He believes this, and he put that belief into his voice. Children respond to knowledge and strength.
Loric exits his seat, opens the back and takes the boy’s hand, and where there was hesitance on the way into the diner, there is more security now. The boy is soggy and red-eyed. Loric tells him not to cry.
They enter the Super Target, the brightness almost blinding. The vast expanse of the store is cool, sterile. It’s nearing 10 PM and the employees pay them little attention.
“Excuse me,” Loric says to a young man in a red shirt. “My son’s wet himself. Where are the restrooms?”
“Thanks so much.”
But first, into the sections of clothes for boys his age. Then, to the checkout line. The cashier there eyes their separate colors. Loric looks the man in the face and thinks: Ask. Ask me about my son. Ask me if I got him from Belize or Argentina. Ask how much he cost. I’ll tell you if you ask.
The cashier says, “Be thirty sixty-five.”
In the restroom, they are alone. Loric has checked the stalls for feet. He hoists the boy up onto the sink counter where he sits on soap-scummed faux marble. “Okay,” Loric says, like gentling a horse. “Okay.” He sets the bag of clothes beside the boy. Pulls off the tags with a rough yank, then proceeds to pull the boy’s shirt over his head. He tosses it in the garbage.
The boy’s torso is birdlike. Such fine bones. Such soft skin. There is a birthmark like a black butterfly just under his ribcage. Loric undoes the shoes next, little Velcro straps which first seem loud in the empty room and then are overtaken by the door creaking open. Loric continues unbothered, does not look at the man who enters. Only sees his Oxfords, black, cross the dirty floor and into one of the stalls.
The shoes are thrown into the garbage next. Then the camouflage shorts, the Spiderman underwear. The boy touches Loric’s hand gently, halting him from throwing the underwear in the trash.
“I like those,” the boy whispers.
“They’re soiled,” Loric says. “I’m sorry.”
“Mama can wash them.”
Black Oxfords exits the stall amid the toilet flushing. He approaches the counter beside Loric and stops before washing his hands.
Loric thinks he hears, from a hesitant mouth: “Mama uses Tide.”
“That’s really unsanitary,” Black Oxfords says. His voice is deep, like a drum, overtaking softer things. Loric doesn’t look at his face, only at what he means: the boy sitting bare-bottomed on the counter. Loric reaches back for the paper towels, wets one in the sink, and wipes the boy’s inner thigh down.
“Please,” Loric says, “mind your own business.”
“You’re not the only one to use this place, you know. There’re counters for that in the women’s room.”
“I’m not a woman.” Loric continues to wipe and the boy is shivering. Loric glances up and sees his eyes glossy through a veil of yet unspilled tears. Hair in obsidian curls around his cheeks. “We’ll just finish up and we’ll go. Don’t make a fuss out of something so simple. I’ve had a terrible day.” He motions to the boy. “Can’t you see we both have?”
There is a pause, during which Loric manages to dress the boy in the new clothes. A Batman shirt, bland khaki pants. Shoes that are a little big but Loric finds them stylish. The boy watches silently as the old clothes are discarded and Loric waits with tense shoulders to see if he will cry. But he doesn’t.
Black Oxfords washes his hands, muttering, “Fuckin ridiculous,” and leaves the bathroom in a huff. Loric helps the boy down off the counter and he looks brand new. Loric says it, with pride and wonder: “You look brand new.”
~ ~ ~
It could be that Anne is a victim of circumstance. If it is true that Loric can sense her anger through the web of their marriage, then it must also be true he can sense her longing. He did, a year ago, when they were seamlessly integrated into the Luna Terrace Neighborhood Association.
Meetings occur only on Sundays at the president’s home, sitting secured between sourwoods in the middle of the cul-de-sac. Juice for the children who run wild throughout the yard – front and back doors held open by small ceramic bears – and finger snacks for the adults as they laze about on cushions, chairs, in the living room. There is never much to discuss, only: Have you heard about the stolen mail debacle in Sol? And how are Mikala’s ballet lessons? And Riker’s baseball? Is that vase Lalique? Loric, what can you tell us about the new ISS policy at Black Fox?
That afternoon in September: one of the little boys ran muddy-footed through the living room, causing unrest. Yanked on pigtails of his sisters, smacked another girl with a cushion. His mother shouted at him. He grinned like the sun, hopscotching over pillows and feet and placed a hand on Anne’s knee, using her as leverage to vault himself away. His parents ran after him and someone said, in a bemused hum, “Boys will be boys!”
Anne looked where he had gone, the crying girls left in his wake, and Loric saw in her profile some softness. He imagined she once had her own pigtails pulled in such a way. That night in bed, she put her hand on his chest. It sat like a pale fish in the blue bars of light from the window.
“Everyone here has children, Lore. Did you know that? When you picked this place?”
Loric was aware. He said so.
When she coaxed him on top of her, she said, “Come inside me.”
He thinks he would like a son, first.
~ ~ ~
Rolling Hills is on the other side of town. The SUV and Loric and the boy within it sit far from the broken-down apartment complex, in the parking lot of Black Fox Middle School. The boy smells new from the store-bought clothes, unspoiled by laundry detergent or any personal things. He smells as if Loric picked him off a shelf in the store, paid for him at the counter. Sterile economics; legal tender for goods. Loric finds this system comforting.
The school at night is solemn, quiet, but for the jingle and yank of the swing chains off the playground. It stands only yards away: monkey bars, jungle gym, slide and all like ill-lit buildings. On the swings is a boy of fourteen, legs kicking out as he rides the air back and forth. He has been held back twice and when he is seen next to his classmates, looks out of place. But Loric foremost recognizes him by his ponytail which sways on the backswing, as he rides into a shaft of light from the parking lot. He allows his head to loll back, baring the dark skin of his throat to the sky. The clock in the car blinks a red 11:04 PM.
Loric waves an arm out of the window. He shouts, “Zephyr!”
Zephyr snaps forward suddenly. A marionette with strings pulled tight. He looks over towards Loric and the SUV – must recognize it, and suddenly he is loose again, all angles and grace as he hops from the swing and jogs over. His ponytail, a dense tangle of dreadlocks, in its pink hair tie bounces in his wake, swinging rhythmically from side to side.
“Mr. Hall,” Zephyr says, coming to stand at the driver’s side. His eyes are deep-set under the florescent parking lot lights. He drops the er from mister, sounds it into an ah, as he is wont to do when they are alone. It sounds luxurious, Southern, though Loric knows Zephyr is from Chicago. “Thought you weren’t coming around for a while. Your suspension get suspended?”
Loric shakes his head. “My suspension has, I believe, morphed into a more permanent situation.”
“Oh,” Zephyr says. He nibbles his lower lip where there is a small indent, usually filled with sugary saliva from Juicyfruit or candy. Loric has seen him popping gum in the back of the social studies room almost every day. The way he looked at Loric and turned the stretched gum around his tongue, winding it, blowing again. Zephyr leans with both elbows on the car door. “Hey, I didn’t tell nobody. I never–”
“I know. I know that.”
“You think somebody found out?”
“I think people have their suspicions.”
Zephyr gnaws his lip harder. He reaches a thin-fingered hand into the car and makes to touch Loric’s shirt collar. Stops short. He looks past Loric into the backseat where the small boy is quivering noisily for the cold air being let into the car. Zephyr stares for a long moment.
Loric draws his gaze back. “Do I look like a father to you?” he asks. He touches Zephyr’s hand, light at first, and then tightly. “Do I seem like the type?”
Zephyr looks again into the backseat. Loric does not turn back to see the boy. He thinks perhaps the boy would change if he did – that he would dissolve and remake himself into whatever it is that Zephyr is looking at. With a new pair of eyes, objects can change. The situation can change. Loric prefers things the way he sees them, alone.
Finally, as if shaken from a daydream, Zephyr turns to Loric on his own. He withdraws his hand and says, “Probably some nosy teacher or something. I know Mrs. Meyers doesn’t really like you.” He grins, only a little. Kitten teeth sharp as anything. Zephyr can bite hard. “Kids here are too stupid to put two and two together. You got another job lined up or something?”
“It’s too soon to tell.”
“Will I see you again?”
Loric says he must be going. Zephyr’s face pulls tightly into some unreadable expression, but he backs away from the driver’s side. He doesn’t wait for Loric to leave and instead pirouettes on one toe, and that ponytail of his flashes, each dreadlock bouncing, following him over the dew-wet field and into a copse of trees beyond the school’s perimeter.
~ ~ ~
They sit in the car, in the parking lot, long after Zephyr has faded like a deer into the woods and Loric tells the boy this story:
It took on the veneer of some drugged-out delirium, though he knew it could not possibly have been one. He led Zephyr down into a stale motel bed. He remembers bursts of beige surrounding them – dirty fingerprints on the wallpaper, the sagging look of the ceiling, knock-off replicas of Van Gogh’s Sunflowers. His own boxers were stained by some laundry accident. The roughened young-boy scent of Zephyr enveloped Loric, a scent like outdoors and sweat; Zephyr’s open mouth under his; Loric’s hand in Zephyr’s hair, nails against his scalp, gripping, exposing his throat and clavicle and everything he was to thievery. In the roar and heat churning through Loric’s body, he heard something. Perhaps it was a shout from beyond the rickety walls of the rented room, or some faraway memory buried in a messy childhood. Perhaps it was simply the greedy noises Zephyr made beneath him.
In the aftermath, Loric lay sweat-slicked and red all over; he looked beside him on the bed to see Zephyr in much the same state. That open-mouthed grin, the ski-slope arch still in his back. He looked exceedingly proud of himself and made a quip about extra credit.
In the SUV, Loric looks into the rearview mirror. He sees the boy’s wide eyes in the half dark, the shimmering glossiness. He says to the boy, “Cockiness is a fault. You’re better this way. Never lose that purity, even when you grow up. Okay?”
~ ~ ~
There is a place not far from the mouth of the Patapsco River where the water meets a rocky incline and then concrete and then cobblestone. Beyond that, and behind Loric and the boy, sit a long line of eateries and small shops which are darkened now with the late hour. The SUV is parked in a space before one of them. Loric’s cell phone is in the driver’s seat; he looked at it briefly before exiting, noting the three missed calls from Anne. Loric and the boy now sit on a black metal bench, cemented into the sidewalk, and they look at the water.
“You could almost believe it was an ocean,” Loric says, pointing out to where the dark water meets the dark sky. “If we ignore the Sparrow’s Point lights from here. Have you been out that way?”
The boy is draped in Loric’s black jacket. A small mass of goosebumps, he cried all the drive here but he has cried himself out. His face is doughy, exhausted looking. He stares down at his knees.
Loric continues: “My wife and I – Anne, have I mentioned her? – went out there when we first moved here. She liked looking at the boats. The honking sound, she liked that the best. She said she could feel it in the bones of her feet. Like an orgasm. We used to have all kinds of adventures like that. Then, we stopped. I don’t know why we stopped. I can’t remember.”
When the boy doesn’t respond, Loric looks down at him. He was remiss – he neglected to get the boy a coat of his own at the Super Target. He can forget things like that so easily. Simple things. He thinks of where might be a good place to get one at this hour. It is past midnight and much around here is closed. Perhaps somewhere out near I-97. Maybe farther.
The boy says, in a soft voice, “My name is…”
Loric tunes out, then looks up. The boy does, too. They see, approaching, a small but loud group of people. Loric can hear a familiarity in their voices – it is not so unlike the tenor he used to hear in the halls of Black Fox. Young people, perhaps late teens, drift along the sidewalk and scream, laugh, jostle each other. Under the burning streetlamps, their skins are rich tones of brown and black. Loric favors them with a long look, then stands. Cracks his back. He grips the boy to tug him towards the SUV; his small and trembling upper arm, the underside, where he is like veal and impossibly tender.
Les Cuisses de Grenouilles
My mother usually doesn’t have a past, or at least one she wants to talk about, but today while we scratched the mud off our ankles by a stranger’s pond and listened to the toads’ rumbling song, she said that her and her grandfather used to catch toads just like these ones. We had found this pond almost by mistake, trying to take a short trail through the back woods of the cabin we had rented. I leaned in to have a look, the pond was an extraterrestrial green, full of frogs and black speckled algae. It was springtime, season of frog fornication, and soon I realized that the songs we heard were ones of love, throaty croons to keep life tumbling on.
Where I leaned forward the frogs jumped back and another kind of dance, one of fright was taking place. Their eyes were large but smaller than the cartoons had made me believe. I hoped to see a tongue extend further than a winged insect could expect, but wondered if this too was only a childish dramatization.
My mother was behind me, her knuckles forming a closed cup. I heard a croak escape between the gaps of her fingers. Her boyish grin placed the scene to thirty years prior and I saw her as she once was and hadn’t been for a while— adventurous, in opposition of fear. She held the toad out to me like a slimy present and although I worried about dropping the creature, I couldn’t say no to such a Christmas gesture.
I bent down low and took him. He sat there, uncertain, body locked with wariness. I laughed just looking at his odd shape; his surreal, expression-filled amphibian face. “We’ve all got a lot in common, don’t we?” I whisper-asked him and then watched him catapult back into his grimy, ponded place.
I was turning to leave, brushing my damp palms down my jeans as I saw one floating by, legs spread wide on top of water, a daisy floating to his side. He whips them once, those legs— fast! — to propel himself. And now the swim stroke name makes sense, and now I shame the French dish. Who could yank off legs like these? Buoyant and boundless and natural.
We left them there, a whole community without a postal address. And I, a suburban recipe, got a taste of real water and real grass, and a picture of a frog completely at peace. For a couple of days after our return, my mother says at random times while stumbling around our dim, dirty apartment, “You really made me proud, holding those frogs, you really did make me proud.” My great-grandfather was a quiet man, with an angry wife, but I hope a few decades earlier my mother heard the same phrase from him.
flash fiction by Angelica Whitehorne
poetry by Gwendolyn Jensen
I wet my pants while speaking in front of my fourth-grade class. What the subject was, and what I was going to say about it, are not in the memory.
We are creatures of
a day, and we belong to
this warmth between my legs, felt good, like a later time when a stranger came up behind me and felt me as I walked up dirty stairs to a train platform. It felt good,
the hollowing out,
the density, “the little
that we get for free.”
And so the pee, not unwelcome at the start. But with it came the wet, cold and dirty wet, through the panties, down the legs, to the socks and shoes and floor,
out my inmost self, wondrous
this, the self surprised.
The teacher took me to the bathroom, cleaned me up, and I returned to class.
I Wet My Pants
After he subdued, then violated her
She was grateful it ended quickly.
Then panic’s tremors shook her shameful rage:
Was she pregnant? Was he diseased?
They counseled “pray for the strength to survive.”
If prayers worked, she’d pray for the strength to rip his flesh from his bones.
micro fiction by C. Christine Fair
A Date Rape in Amritsar, August 1994
The Two Bio Lab Skeletons
short fiction by Ziaul Moid Khan
The two human skeletons in the town school’s biology lab remained inactive during the day. But post midnight, they were like you and me, filled with some basic common desires: anger, love, hatred, jealousy, longing-for-sex and whatnot. The weird human remnants wore a grave look on their bony countenance and were the chief attraction of the otherwise-ordinary-lab.
The first skeleton was hanging loose tethered with a synthetic rope to a peg against the wall, while the second one was fixed in a door-less wooden cupboard. During the running classes, they seemed to have no common connection, no business with each other. But if somebody happened to visit this laboratory at night, mind you he’d find these two chaps sitting across a table facing each other and negotiating over some important issue over tea.
Yes, anyone present there at night could easily behold the two skeletons chatting heartily with a cup of tea in each one’s hand. I was always apprehensive about their eerie activities and casually discussed this matter with my students too. They, the students, were sort of shocked and surprised. A few others considered it just as a fleeting joke. And thus none took me seriously.
The automatic CCTV camera installed in the lab that was supposed to be in the night-mode at the fall of day, would stop functioning the moment the wall clock struck twelve, midnight. Thus no footage could be available of their skeletal activities.
The lab happened to be in the basement opposite to the library. On one side of the lab was the sports room; while on the other side was the music chamber with all its paraphernalia: banjo, Casio, bagpiper, half a dozen guitars, a music system and a couple of microphones apart from a big, king size mirror used during the dance classes once the annual function approached near.
Though, the rectangular bio lab did not have much magnetism save these two bony skeletons. A couple of microscopes, slides, test tubes, beakers, flasks, Bunsen burners and dissecting sets were all there neatly arranged in apple pie order in different closets.
A few soil samples in glass containers and chemically-preserved-creatures were not sufficient to hold for long a visitor’s attention. Yet, whenever I happened to visit the lab, there was something bizarre about the twin skeletons that I could not voice, but only feel it.
I suspected (and a bit sure too) of one thing, the two skeletons had a slight yielding towards literature. This I happened to conjecture, when one fine morning I found two books missing from the extreme right-corner shelf no. three of the library. I saw these books only last Saturday and wanted to get them issued but could not find them the following Monday.
Mr. Shyam, the librarian, checked in the accession register whether the said books were issued to some students or teachers.But as expected, such an entry was done nowhere. Under the circumstances, I had to satiate my reading taste with the second choice as I took up Fascinating Short Stories by H.G. Wells. My suspicion intensified, when during a pre-board exam’s invigilation duty I noticed a faint, weird something-like-smile on the jaw of one of the fleshless fellows. These chaps seemed to be something more than mere skeletons.
The library housed around ten thousand books including a few hundred specimen copies. In the last two years, I’d shuffled through almost all the book racks and could bet that my knowledge about this library was nowhere less than Shyam’s, for I frequented there more often than not.
Mr. Shyam was a rarely-found-slim gentleman whom students had nicknamed Mickey Mouse though he was unfazed of these kinds of remarks. He too looked surprised at the disappearance of the two books, but took no concrete steps to either search or recover them.
~ ~ ~
This is when I decided to check during one of my nocturnal rounds of the school building drenched in moonlight at that time. I stole an opportunity to walk down the flights to reach the basement. Once down in the corridor, I tiptoed towards the bio lab. It was a chilly winter night with stars glittering and the moon shining with all the poetic beauty.
The laboratory was faintly illumined with a point five voltage bulb. Due to its broken switch, the bulb was always switched on. Hamendra, the electrician, did not find time to fix it, irrespective of repeated reminders to him by Karniram, the school supervisor.
I never drank, never smoked and took no drugs either. I was not on high that chilly winter night. Thus there was no chance of illusion. I was sane and healthy and knew well were my feet were falling.
It was a wondrously hard-to-swallow sight: both the skeletons were sitting comfortably across the table facing each other with a book in hand. In the past, I’d heard about the ghost writing but never about the ghost reading. The first one, the wall skeleton, was keeping Homer’s Odyssey in his bony hands; while the cupboard skeleton was busy with Ruskin Bond’s Night of the Millennium. Both the chaps were totally lost in study with an expression of surprise and awe on their cheek-less bones.Truly, both the writers were timeless genius, for even their dead fans were taking keen interest in their works.
I was less amazed over their sitting posture and fondness of reading; but more so for their selection of the classic (taste of) books. Two cups of hot tea had its steam in the wintery air. Strangely, they were not only sipping tea but also sort of digesting it, for the tea was not splashing or spreading on chairs they were sitting in.
First I decided to keep standing and observe something more, but then retreated from there, for my teeth were bitterly shivering and anytime might startle the two voracious readers, who had surprisingly maintained their reading habit even years after they were dead.
~ ~ ~
The next night, I resolved to visit again the bio lab to witness the two friends’ activities. Though the temperature had substantially sunk down tonight and people were busy in the Christmas preparations. I was adamant to have a look at the two fellows. Put on my best warm clothes available. Wrapped a comforter around my ears and neck and wore sports shoes, for the leather ones were uncomfortable and made a slight eerie sound.
When Mona, my wife and Cosmos, my three-year-old cute-son were in the tender arms of sleep, I came out from my humble, two-bedroom accommodation situated in the school compound. That was convenient for me for this amateur research work casually undertaken. Mona says, “Don’t talk about ghosts at night. Who knows they might appear from nowhere.” But like my late exorcist father, I hardly bothered about their presence.
I thought, I inherited this bizarre interest in ghosts and apparitions from the old man who frequented the graveyards at countless nights. The weird man seemed to be more interested in dead people than those alive. He had an expertise in witchcraft. Launched the first Indian speculative Urdu magazine, Murda Aalum (Science of the Dead Souls), but one day mysteriously found dead in one of the village ponds. That was long back when I was four, and I never wanted to recall the sad episode of my life.
After a three minute stroll, I was standing again at the flights that led to the haunted laboratory. Precisely seventeen flights down, I was right there in the corridor. But then, I quickly realized I’d perhaps reached the spot a bit earlier than the scheduled time; for neither of the friends had moved an inch from his respective position.
I had a quick check at my wrist watch; it was still five minutes shy to midnight. Time moves at an extremely slow pace, when you have to wait for someone to arrive or something to take place. I stood like a statue transfixed waiting for some sensational scene, which was no less than that of a Hollywood horror flick.
The entire basement corridor had a weird ghost-silence. Faint, pale light through the laboratory window was making a squire cube in the middle of the corridor. The basement had its entry from two ends of the school building’s front. At a walking distance out of the key entrance of school was situated a graveyard, where at rare occasions, you could find some corpse under preparation to be buried by the villagers after someone’s death in the neighboring village.
~ ~ ~
Sharp at twelve, the two skeletons became alive. Spread their legs and arms and yawned as though they might have woken up from their deep slumber. They came down with a thud from their stable positions. At this juncture, they looked more horrible than the Egyptian mummies.
I was less fearful from the two skeletons, which had just become animated right in front of me; but more so, least I should be asked by the school authorities what the hell I was doing there at the wee hour. It would be hard to explain them. And by the way, no one would buy the skeletons’ theory, particularly when it’s narrated by an English teacher like me.
I started, for I heard some footfalls from the other end. I hid myself behind a round pillar and peeped out to see the new visitor. Initially, I could not figure out what it was. It seemed to be a night black female-figure of average height. She was walking with a limp, but when it passed the faint, diminished cubicle, I realized -to my horror- it was a skeleton fresh from the coffin.
A sort of weird green smoke was rising from her chest. The skeletal corpse entered the locked lab door without even knocking at it from outside. “Bad manners,” I thought. “Couldn’t she rap at the door?” This, I think, is the best specialty in ghosts and apparitions: they’re so thin they need not open a door to enter a room. We, petty human beings, have to do most of the things manually, forget about entering a door through its key-hole.
I could easily eavesdrop them chat, for there was enough fissure in the laboratory door-frame. The slightly charred body was given a warm hug by the two lab male-skeletons. Their all-exposed-teeth weirdly rattled as they talked. I muffled my face with the comforter and was all ears.
“When did you die, sister?” The first skeleton asked in a cold voice.
“Last year,” she replied with a gesture on her face that I could say was a broad grin.
“You, enjoying tea together, excellent,” she added with sarcasm in her voice.
“Good news sister,” the first skeleton said with an eager look. “Mrs. Poonam. Khanna, the newly appointed biology teacher, has proposed the management to have one more skeleton in the lab for practical purpose. This is being done keeping in view the increasing strength of the students.”
“Here is a grave opportunity for you,” the second skeleton said, holding his tea-cup mid-air. “If you manage to fit in the scheme of things, our family would be complete here.”
“I’d leave no stone unturned,” said the slightly charred body taking another chair to slip in. “Devils, I had to search a lot to reach you people.”
Then all they laughed together, while I was watching them mesmerized.
Standing out of the lab as I overheard them talk, I was almost frozen. Whether it was due to cold or terror, I was not sure. Still, I was happy to see a family reunion on a Christmas Eve. Festivals bring happiness even in dead people’s lives, this I was witnessing for the first time in my life.
Death cannot rob someone off the deep rooted family love and care, I was thinking while coming back to my accommodation. The crescent moon was playing hide and seek with winter clouds. And Hotel Moonlight opposite the school building was well lit and full prepared to welcome a happy Christmas. As I entered my bedroom, Mona and Cosmos were still sleeping peacefully. I lay beside them, thinking if I should share this story with Mona as she woke up.
This morning the large eye of his grapefruit stares up at him. He feels an emptiness, as if he will sink into it: the citrus sting, a sphere sliced in half, the sections crudely carved with a steak knife.
He knows now why his father bought canned soups, no vegetables; why he ate grapes and apples unwashed, fried salmon directly from the pan. Carl has discovered convenience foods, frozen entrees that need only to be heated, plantain chips to scoop cold artichoke dip. He has to go from hungry to eating in minutes or he won’t. He’d rather tinker, sort, split wood—anything to avoid facing a plate without his wife. His wife, who told people, “My husband won’t tell me his first name.” His wife, who eventually didn’t recognize him.
Carl’s father, decades a bachelor, always said he wasn’t lonely, but there was a reason he went out to breakfast—to a diner, a deli counter, even a convenience store where the coffee had been sitting too long. Breakfast must have been the easiest meal to be out eating alone.
At lunchtime, Carl decides to take his father’s advice: get out of the house. A supermarket clerk offers samples of sliced beets, topped with butternut squash or mango chutney, both of which turn his stomach. Catching a glimpse of himself in the glass, he is shocked by how old he looks, balding head, wrinkles. It seems he has aged decades overnight. He misses walks in the park with his wife, making fried rice together, playing double solitaire. Watching the young clerk scoop orders into containers, Carl imagines the man has a wife and children to go home to.
His containers of the proper food groups in hand, Carl takes them to the patio, where he sits at a bolted-down table with a view of the parking lot. The Boy Scouts, in their neat uniforms, greet every passerby. “Excuse me, would you like to buy some popcorn?” Distracted, Carl manages to swallow just enough so he can face going back in, where he wanders among displays of oranges, avocados, purple onions, bags of candied nuts, stacks of bread, cupcake towers. In the middle of the frozen aisle, a jumble of soup mix, fruit cups, dented cans reduced for quick sale. He imagines the meals he needs today, this week, this year—all the food he will need the rest of his life. It will become him. He will not survive without it.
flash fiction by Krista Lukas
Dew damp spider webs
bar our walkway
like thread-fine laundry lines.
crumple to my right,
I was told to deadhead,
then Dad left.
Pocket of my shirt holds
twelve sharp pencils,
erasers not yet chewed,
college ruled white paper,
pristine pee-chee folder
same white athletes
front and back.
Roast beef sandwich,
chips and snickers bar,
Pastel yellow lunch bag,
softening to silk
in my sweaty finger-clutch.
At the bus stop someone’s
gonna kick my ass.
poetry by Leland Seese
Afterward, the inkling that I should have followed my gut solidifies. By then it’s too late to unspool the events that lead to an era of mourning. Family and friends who traveled for the event awaited me at the venue. I’m the type who won’t keep people waiting. The type petrified of public displays of humiliation. Who sobs in the dark beneath the covers while people gossip.
The urge to slither deeper beneath the sheets is strong, yet I resist. After all, salads don’t make themselves, and I have a party to prepare. I descend toward the kitchen while rain torments the rooftop. Perhaps it’s an omen. Angry rain hasn’t relented since yesterday. Thunder curses the dark summer sky.
Behind me, the stairs complain. My grown nephew appears and says, “Good morning, Auntie. How’re you feeling about today?”
“I’m beat.” I force a chuckle. “I’m gonna have bags under my eyes.” It feels as though I haven’t slept in months. Maybe I haven’t. Time has grown unpredictable. The clock’s hands hardly budge one moment. The next spin so fast they blur.
My nephew swipes two unopened mega-packs of coleslaw from the counter, then dangles them in front of his cheeks. “Sort of like these huge bags under my eyes?”
This time my laugh is so genuine it brings tears. How I wish I could leave my duties and enjoy the day with my boys. The slap of rain against the windowpane relents to a tat-a-tat-a-tap.
My phone vibrates. The countertop trembles. Again and again. And again.
Is ur bro gonna help set up chairs?
You’ve got the table?
My partner is in charge of directing the set-up. Of getting his kids dressed and to the event in one piece. Has it been me taking care of the details all of these years?
At least my family is here to help with the grunt work. The salads are made. The tablecloths and napkins are ironed, folded and boxed. I tuck game instructions for the bride and groom into my purse.
The house is awake, so I push the salads aside, make a fresh pot of coffee and throw together a breakfast feast.
Everything will be a success.
The rain has stopped, so send everyone to help set up at the park around the corner.
Finally, I’m alone, and the house is still.
The jolt of my phone kills my serenity.
Don’t forget the bubbles.
Who’s handing them out?
I forgot to send the bubbles! My heart flutters—too much coffee. My eyes burn like a day at the beach. I’m not ready. It seems I’ll never be ready.
I should just throw in the towel. Call it quits. Instead, I place the box of multi-coloured bubble wands next to my silver shoes.
I text back, All under control.
My mind draws a blank. I haven’t even thought about what to do with the tangled mop dripping down my shoulders. Tears well up as I finger the clip topped with soft white feathers and lace. I frown at the dark circles beneath my eyes.
Good God, the rings! I drop the towel and pull the strapless gown over my head before I rush downstairs to tuck the wedding bands into my silver shoes.
My brother’s girlfriend—the one I just met yesterday— is a godsend. She sees my tears, says, “Sit. I’ll help with your hair.”
My cousin comes into the kitchen. “You look amazing,” she says.
“So do you,” I say.
She insists we pose for a selfie. I’m surprised when the photo reveals bright eyes and frizz-free ringlets.
Maybe everything will turn out after all.
Moments after my cousin and my brother’s girlfriend head to the park, Mom enters the kitchen. Her hand flutters to her chest, and she says, “You look so beautiful.”
I’ve just finished with my makeup, so the bags are well concealed.
“I must get it from my old mother,” I smirk so I won’t cry. “I’ve already got something old and something new. And my toenails are painted blue. Can I borrow your lipstick?”
She fiddles in her purse and pulls out her tube of petal pink. The talcum smell kisses me. Her eyes question my decision, but, like me, she is mute. As she fastens the clasp of my rhinestone necklace, I push matching earrings into my sensitive lobes. I’ll suffer later, but what would people think if I showed up without earrings?
Bubbles and rings in hand, game in purse, I step into my silver shoes.
Mom insists she drive us to the park, though it’s only a block away.Flute music breezes in through the open window.
In my head I yell, Keep driving! I clamp my pink lips over the thought. Everyone is waiting. The salads are made. I’m wearing earrings.
I text my son: We’re here! Come get the goods.
He appears, as handsome as his father was almost twenty years ago on my first wedding day. Before he trots away, he says, “Catch you on the other side.”
He has the bubbles and the rings. It’s too late to turn around. I take a deep breath as Mom and I link arms. We cascade toward friends, family and a backdrop abloom with lilacs.
These silly silver shoes pinch my painted toes. Why-oh-why did I choose them when I knew they weren’t a great fit? I should have learned this lesson the last time.
After the photos, my husband of twenty minutes is more frantic than he usually is. Red-faced, he rushes off with his younger daughter. His eldest—clad in a black dress that barely covers her rump—has vanished with the friend she brought along for the ride.
While they search for the missing girls, I head home with friends to transport the food and tablecloths to the hall. The men in my family dismantle the scene at the park. Everything but my husband’s affairs are under control. But it’s been this way all of the years I’ve known him. Why should anything change today?
When my husband’s car rattles into the driveway, I’m locking the front door. My pouting eldest-now-step-daughter sits in the passenger seat. Her friend and excited youngest -now-step-daughter are in the backseat.
“I guess there’s no room for the bride on her wedding day?” I half-joke.
My husband scowls. I wonder if he’s done this all along, and I’ve been determined not to see it. Heat crawls up my neck.
From her car, Mom frowns at me, eyebrows raised. I blink back the sting and shrug my shoulders.
Putting on my brave face, I square my shoulders and open Mom’s passenger door. “Your car smells better anyway,” I say.
“Glad to have company,” she says. We’ll both pretend this is fine until the guests have left. Squeezing Mom’s hand, I sink into the fog of tropical air freshener and Scotch mints. This isn’t the time to cry. I’ll have my lifetime to clear the debris.
creative non-fiction by Rachel Laverdiere
C. Christine Fair
C. Christine Fair is a provost’s distinguished associate professor at Georgetown University in the Security Studies Program within the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. She has previously published in 50-Word Short Stories, Echo, The Awakening, The Dime Review, Clementine Unbound, Sonder Midwestamong, and other venues. Her most recent book is “In Their Own Words: Understanding the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba” (Oxford University Press, 2019). Her professional webpage is ChristineFair.net. Read her blog here. She tweets at @CChristineFair.
After many years in academia, Gwendolyn Jensen retired from the presidency of Wilson College in 2001. “Birthright,” her first book of poems, was published in 2011 in a letterpress edition (with a second printing in 2012). Her second book, “As If Toward Beauty,” was released in 2014. Her third book, “Graceful Ghost,” is a letterpress edition and was published in 2018. Birch Brook Press is her publisher for all three. The print and online journals where her poems and translations have appeared include the Beloit Poetry Journal, The Denver Quarterly, Harvard Review, and Salamander.
Inspired by the vast Saskatchewan skies, Rachel Laverdiere anticipates that calm will erupt into thunderstorms, flocking geese will disappear into the sunset, and northern lights will traipse across the blackened stage. When pastures bloom into bouquets of crocus and sage, she forgets the chaos of a world that spins too quickly and remembers the pleasure of breathing. Her work is published in journals such as The Common, CutBank, The New Quarterly and Filling Station. Rachel’s flash CNF was shortlisted for CutBank‘s 2019 Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest. Visit www.rachellaverdiere.com to read more of her writing.
Krista Lukas is the author of a poetry collection, "Fans of My Unconscious," from which poems have been selected for The Writer’s Almanac and The Best American Poetry 2006.
Michael McGill is an artist from Edinburgh, Scotland who has recently had written and visual work included in Versification, HARTS & Minds and TheBohemyth. He has recently had written work published by Lunate, Rejection Letters, FEED, 24 Unread Messages, The Cabinet of Heed and detritus. His overheard comments and photopoems regularly appear on Twitter and Instagram. He also has visual work forthcoming in Rejection Letters.
Robyn Ritchie is a writer who can’t see past the ’90s. Her work has appeared in Southern Indiana Review, Southeast Review, and she is an Assistant Fiction Editor at Sundog Lit. Her vaporwave struggles can be read at robynritchie.com.
Leland Seese’s poems appear in Juked, After the Pause, The South Carolina Review, and many other journals. His chapbook, “Wherever This All Ends”, is forthcoming in 2020 (Kelsay Books). He and his wife live in Seattle with a revolving cast of foster, adopted, and bio children.
Angelica is a recent college graduate from The College at Brockport in New York. She currently writes at her desk with her twenty-one houseplants as backdrop. One day she hopes to write at a desk with forty-two plants as backdrop and her own book on the shelf. She will be published in The Magnolia Review‘s next issue, and has been published in Jigsaw, her university’s literary magazine.
Ziaul Moid Khan
Ziaul Moid Khan grew-up in North India countryside named, Johri. He is the youngest among his six siblings. His father A.M. Khan (d. 1990) was an Urdu writer and a sensational human being while his mother, Ansar Fatima is a homely lady. He is a speculative fiction writer and a romantic poet. Zia is the author of short stories: “The Gold Research,” “A Country Singer,” and “The Farmers in the Fields.” His work has featured in Fiction Southeast, Artifact Nouveau, Literary Orphans, PLJ, Smoky Blue Literary & Arts Magazine and elsewhere. He teaches English at Gudha International School, Jhunjhunu and resides in Rajasthan with his beautiful wife, Khushboo Khan and a cute three-year-old son, Brahamand.
Creative Non-Fiction Editor
Kerri Farrell Foley
Short Fiction Editors
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