March 26, 2012 Comments Off on Onion Soup by B.R. Hostetter
Catherine will leave you, you’re sure. She insists she won’t, but you don’t believe it. She tells you you’re emotionally unavailable, that you can’t cry. You don’t know what to tell her, so you say, “Sit.”
“Why am I sitting?”
“I have a surprise for you.”
“What kind of surprise?”
“You’ll have to wait and see.”
“Oh, you know I don’t like surprises.”
“This you’ll like.”
“Just sit, okay.”
“I don’t know why, but okay.”
In the kitchen, you have six onions, olive oil, sugar, two cloves of garlic (minced), chicken stock (not beef), a cup of dry vermouth (because you prefer it over dry white wine), a bay leaf, thyme, salt and pepper, eight slices of toasted French bread, and grated Parmesan Cheese.
“You’re still there, aren’t you?”
“I am,” she says.
“I’ll only be a little while.”
“Jeremy, you know I have little patience.”
“I know, but please—”
In a large saucepan you sauté the onions in the olive oil until well browned (not burned); you do this for thirty minutes (no longer or else you’ve ruined it).
I’m in here loving you,” you say.
You shuffle a pot and a pan.
“What? I didn’t hear you,” she aks.
“Almost done,” you reply.
“I’m getting tired, Jeremy.”
“I know. I know. Just a little bit longer.”
You add sugar; carmelization it’s called. You add garlic and sauté for another minute. You add your stock, vermouth, bay leaf, and thyme. You partially cover the pan and simmer. You want your flavors to blend just right; this takes about thirty minutes. You’re sweating.
“Not for long. You’re taking forever.”
“Please, Catherine, another couple of minutes.”
You season to taste with your salt and pepper. You toss in the bay leaf; you do this because the recipe says so. To serve you pull out a large bowl and then two smaller bowls. You ladle the soup into the two bowls. You cover each with sliced French bread and then Parmesan cheese. You broil the two until the cheese bubbles and is slightly brown.
“I’m leaving,” you hear.
“No wait,” you say.
“Jeremy, I’ve had enough. What are you doing in there?”
You pull out your last onion because the first did nothing. You slice it more and more, but nothing. Sweat pours from your forehead.
“Jeremy, I can’t wait any longer.”
You chop and you chop, but the onion does nothing.
“Okay,” you say. “I’m coming.”
You set the two bowls down.
“I made you soup,” you say.
“Jeremy, you’re crying.”
“No,” you say. “It’s only sweat.”
© 2012 B.R. Hostetter
Ben received his Ba in English from Virginia Commonwealth University. He lives in Charlottesville, VA, where he writes everyday with his cat, Copernicus.
March 22, 2012 Comments Off on Resplendent by Brian Warfield
Betty’s finger got married to the circular saw on a brilliant Saturday in June.
It wasn’t her ring finger, but whatever.
There was one witness, and he referred to the blood-spurting ceremony later as “resplendent.”
I knew the circular saw from my high school days. We’d cut class and not smoke cigarettes out behind the gymnasium. Cigarette after cigarette we wouldn’t smoke together, flicking no butts end over end into the gravel there.
The saw was round by definition, 1/4″ thick, vicious gnashing teeth carved into its rotating maw by some other, steel-cutting saw. The light of the mid-70s afternoon, glinting off sharp points.
Betty moved in over the donut shop in ’82. Her legs were as long as a flight of stairs. Her hair existed, and whole queues of gents waited to run their fingers through its tangled embrace.
I, like everyone else, trained my binoculars through her windows to watch her eat pasta. She was always at the far end of a noodle from some tramp.
I rode up and down the strip in my Camaro, the circular saw strapped in the passenger seat egging me on to go faster. We wanted danger. We traded curse words for the color purple under our eyes. We traded fat lips for bloody knuckles. It was free market mercantilism, all violence and unchecked emotion.
That year, I watched Betty run her mollusk tongue down the unterraced terrain of the circular saw’s body. They were at the drive-in, and a 1,000-foot projection of severed body parts flashed on the screen.
I hid under the car like an oil spill.
And then they disappeared like an elopement. I sat in my apartment and painted it egg-shell white. I opened the window and stuck my head out trying to wear my whole house like a body. I wanted to peel my body off and be done with it.
The next time I saw her, Betty’s finger stopped short at the knuckle. I wanted to tell her how much safer she’d be strapped into the chair in my basement. But my teeth were stained with a bloody sheen.
© 2012 Brian Warfield, first appeared at Fictionaut
March 19, 2012 Comments Off on The Music Plays on By JP Reese
There he goes again, swinging his legs around on the piano bench toward the audience, playing the effeminate fool, clasping his hands together against his heart, and they LOVE it! He slips in a little gossip about the chilly heaven that is Martha’s Vineyard in autumn. The empty gray beach, the wind singing in his ears, the songs he writes afternoons in front of the little fireplace warming our cozy cottage. He adds a bit of homespun about the crisp maple bacon I grill for him every morning as he lies in bed and hums show tunes a la Liza and Babs.
He might want to lay off the flappy wrists and that lisp. They don’t get the laughs they used to. Times have changed, and some of the more strait-laced tourists are beginning to avoid the show. After all, there are church ladies in his audience from Toledo who must be protected from the flotsam and jetsam of his slippery tango with the dark side. These ladies tonight still think he’s cute, and safe. A crooner he is not. A player? Yes, I’ll admit he is still fair at that — the cotton tops clap when the show’s over like sweaty penguins in a sudden snowfall. I miss his lovely body, slick against my hips.
Martha’s Vineyard was a lifetime ago. We survive. I hug him half-way round his expanding middle after the show. He pulls off his tux and hangs it behind the door, its knees baggy and shining in the mirror’s reflected light. He changes into jeans and a jacket while I count our portion of the take.
There are many things we should discuss: my mother’s will that left me nothing and gave the cottage to a distant cousin, the tumors blooming in his head like poisoned mushrooms, his anxious glances in the mirror, and the heedless way he pulls out strands of hair and drops them at the bedside as he reads late into the night. His lover’s unfaithfulness. But we glide through the darkness and substitute arguments about whether we should flag a taxi on 49th, or if our belongings are still safe in the locker at Port Authority, whether to stop for a bagel or a beer, or decide to ride the subway to Danny’s loft instead. Maybe he’ll agree to take us in again tonight. We head out the stage door, passing blind alleys as we walk away.
© 2011 JP Reese
JP Reese has work published or forthcoming in over forty print and online journals. Reese is Associate Poetry Editor for Connotation Press: An Online Artifact, www.connotationpress.com and Poetry Editor for THIS Literary Magazine, www.thiszine.org Her work can be found at Entropy: A Measure of Uncertainty, jp.reese.tumblr.com
March 15, 2012 Comments Off on Mud by Charles Huschle
I spent the entire weekend at the nude beach without my husband because it was the logical thing to do, and above all else, I value practicality and logic. I’m sure he would have preferred I be at home making the Sunday pancakes after his usual fruitless attempt to wind me up in the bedsheets, make me have an orgasm, or get himself off, or neither, or both. That seemed to be his weekend morning plan, and no matter what progress he made each week with me, he seemed drawn back to the same old, same old plan the next week. It was driving me insane. I told him so. I told him that the beehive he had for a brain was overpopulated and that he couldn’t seem to go for one minute without desperately thinking that I was going to leave him when I’m sure I gave him no evidence to that effect at all. He did all these things to get me to stay: that was his logic. He sent me flowers at work after an argument; he sent me long text messages apologizing for something he thought he’d done to hurt me but which I’d forgotten hours ago — or at least didn’t invest with the same meaning he did; he endlessly cleaned the kitchen and the house, and I could see his color change with the combination of resentment and hope that it would make a difference. I could see him grow old and bent before my dark eyes. It became so easy to topple him into guilt, despair, and hatred that I nearly enjoyed myself saying this thing or that thing when I knew it would feel like a punch in the gut or a stab in the back. I had fun making him believe he was wrong. Can you blame me? Our relationship tasted like a radish. All I wanted to do was get him to snap at me. So, inch by precious inch, I would snip, snip, snip away at the cord he wanted to bind us with. He began to grow a beard without discussing it with me. This was when I realized it was all about to drip away and then evaporate. He wasn’t around when I woke up Saturday morning, and I didn’t think he’d be back. So I went to the nude beach, smeared salty mud on my breasts, and lay out in the buff. And when a pot-bellied man with a small ass sat next to me and made small talk, I let him stay.
© 2012 Charles Huschle, first appeared at Fictionaut
Charles writes, meditates, gets on the water as much as possible, and loves his children.
March 12, 2012 Comments Off on Cauldron by Cheryl Anne Gardner
It was such a clear night, the moonlight dancing through the crests of the trees, the wind nothing more than a crinkling shiver through the dry leaves.
A sailor returned to the shoreline of his death, bare feet sunk in the sand, collecting the rotten bits of fish and seaweed that pushed and pulled at his ankles with the urgency of the tide.
He couldn’t stop them.
Not in his own lifetime.
Not that he hadn’t tried to douse the fire with selfish lament and prayer, but even then, he couldn’t stop them clinging to their hatred, and, their despair.
“Too young,” he said to the small fish lying lifeless in his wet hand. “You’re too young, and I’m too old, dead, and alone to strip any meat from a well-worn bone.”
© 2011 Cheryl Anne Gardner
Cheryl Anne Gardner prefers writing stories to writing bios because she always seems to forget what point of view she is in. When she isn’t writing, she likes to chase marbles on a glass floor, eat lint, play with sharp objects, and make taxidermy dioramas with dead flies. Her flash fiction has been published at Dustbin, Dark Chaos, Carnage Conservatory, Pure Slush, Negative Suck, Danse Macabre, and at The Molotov Cocktail among others. You can find more of her work at Twisted Knickers Publications. She is also the administrative muscle behind this site. If you want to leave her a message, you will have to leave it with the nurse at the front desk. Visiting hours are over.
March 8, 2012 Comments Off on A Certain Scent by Townsend Walker
I take the number 36 to work every morning at 7:45. Sal pulls the bus into the stop in front of me.
“Looking a bit tired this morning,” Sal says. “Late night?”
“You know me, always on the go.”
At the next stop, a woman gets on and sits down beside me. She’s not a regular. The tap-tap-tap tells me she’s wearing heels. She doesn’t brush against me when she sits; most people do, seats are narrow. She’s slim. A moment passes–I hear the near silent sibilance of nylon against nylon as she slowly crosses her legs. She doesn’t bother to pull her skirt down; I’d sense the movement. But the skirt thoughts don’t linger as I become enveloped in her scent. Top notes of orange blossom followed closely by notes of rose caress my nose and tongue. While I’m conjuring a pale long-haired honey blonde, base notes of vetiver and sandalwood drum their way into my consciousness, revising her to a lithe henna haired Mediterranean. Such a woman would wear this fragrance.
But at this time of day? On a bus? Where would she be going? Or more likely, coming from. From a night of story telling? Was this the first night?
I turn toward her to say something. But what? Do you ride this bus often? Bland. Are you on your way home? Forward. Where are you off to this fine morning? Lame. That’s an interesting perfume you’re wearing. A maybe. Hurry Harry, say something. The bus pulls into my stop before I find a line.
I get off. She’s behind me. This can’t be happening. Through the front door of the building, to the elevator. I’m dreaming.
“Excuse me.” A husky voice, trace of an accent, maybe French. “Is this the elevator to the East Tower?
“No,” I reply, my heart dipping. I can only guess at the disappointment on my face. “It’s on the other side of the lobby.”
I stumble toward her. “That’s an interesting perfume you’re busing home.”
“Thank you, it’s Je Reviens.”
© 2012 Townsend Walker
Townsend Walker is a writer living in San Francisco. During a career in finance he published three books: foreign exchange, derivatives, and portfolio management. His stories have been published in over forty literary journals and included in five anthologies. Two of his stories were nominated for the PEN/O.Henry Award. Four stories were performed at the New Short Fiction Series in Hollywood. His book “A Little Love, A Little Shove: Stories” is forthcoming from Shelfstealers Press in September 2012. The website is http://www.townsendwalker.com
March 5, 2012 Comments Off on Famously Expert by Joseph Lerner
Our CEO makes a surprise visit to the little bistro I manage. (We’re tucked behind the deli/wine shop, a stone’s throw from crystal/glassware, home furnishings, diet/nutrition, and gardening/janitorial supplies.) He’s famously expert: ace plumber/mechanic, feng shui master, medical guru, world-class pastry chef. Today he demos the art of dishwashing: the rag held so, the hand’s circular motion, the precise degree of steam (now roiling everywhere, plates and glassware shattering in the wake). The busboy gapes, the waiter and line cook smirk, the sommelier, reddening, looks away. But the CEO, catching my terrified eye, winks: They never understand geniuses like us.
© 2011 Joseph Lerner
Joseph Lerner’s poetry and fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in 100 Word Story, Compass Rose, Furious Fictions, Gargoyle, Modus Operandi, Pif, PoetsWest, and elsewhere. He blogs at http://furiousfictions.com
March 1, 2012 Comments Off on The Narrow Way by John Dougherty
What began as a day of leisure ended the moment Andrea peered under the tarp. It was frayed and covered with the first leaves of autumn. The sheet of vinyl looked out of place buried among the foliage. Andrea was ten minutes from the city, but felt a world apart among the sycamores. The blue tarp was a crude reminder of the ecotone.
Emma trailed a few feet behind. She approached her sister with caution. “Somebody’s tent?” she asked, winded.
“No, it’s a tarp…probably a homeless person’s,” Andrea replied as she picked up a corner with her manicured hand.
“Well don’t lift it. There might be a dead hooker under there,” Emma joked. “I can’t believe the homeless just leave their stuff everywhere. It’s so disgusting. Can’t there be one place on this planet we don’t use as a garbage dump?” Emma was set to press onward. The last mile of the trail was downhill. She could be home in time to watch the sunset from her balcony. A hot shower, a light salad, and a glass of chardonnay would have capped the perfect day, but Andrea peeled back the tarp and found strips of leather and clumps of matted yellow hair clinging to shiny bone.
“Oh Jesus,” Andrea screamed.
The smile disappeared from Emma’s face. “Oh my god, I was only joking.”
Andrea let the tarp fall back to the earth. A gust of air wafted up the smell of decay. It clung to her pallet and erased the pleasant taste of her morning latte.
Emma stood frozen with her mouth in an O of terror.
Andrea returned to the trail. She placed a hand on her sister’s sweater. “Do we call the police?” There will be questions, statements, and interrogations. There will be a parade of hikers in their wake. Why couldn’t they discover the body under the tarp? Why did it have to be them?
Emma paused and shook her head. “No, Andrea. Let’s just go.”
The pair walked silently down the narrow way. The birdsong and afternoon sunlight, which dappled the forest floor, had lost their magic. Andrea’s thoughts were consumed by darker things, hidden things. Things left undisturbed, things that were sacred.
© 2011 John Dougherty
John Dougherty works odd jobs to support his writing habit. His fiction has appeared in Aphelion Webzine. He dedicates his free time to pursuing his passion, writing short stories from his home in Santa Barbara, California.
February 27, 2012 Comments Off on Airplane Guy by Richard Hartwell
Two, or perhaps three, times now I have recalled the next-door neighbor at 1010 Chevron Court in Pasadena (amazing how I have filed away certain addresses from my childhood and yet cannot remember names) and how he used to make miniature airplanes from pine wood. These were carved and glued, and either painted brightly or in the olive drabs, the grays and blues of wartime bombers and fighters, with unit and national insignia detailed in fine brush strokes. Most would easily fit on this page and were delicate without appearing insubstantial. The neighbor used to let us kids hold and “fly” most of these; only a select few were reserved as untouchables. I didn’t then, but now I wonder why? I wonder what his “story” was. Was he ever in military service? Which side? Was he associated with planes in any way? How did he come by this knowledge? I remember that all of us kids held him in high regard. I have a vague recollection of going over there one time and being informed (I have no recall as to how or by whom) that he, the next-door neighbor, the “airplane guy,” was dead and that we wouldn’t be able to come over anymore and see the planes. I wonder if his planes survived his death and his family? It doesn’t really matter though, for I remember them, and him.
© 2011 Richard Hartwell
Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school English teacher living in Southern California with his wife of thirty-five years (poor soul; her, not him), their disabled daughter, one of their sons and his ex-wife and their two children, and eleven cats. Yes, eleven! He has previously been published in: Midwest Literary Review, The Stray Branch, Flashquake, PigeonBike, Steam Ticket, Burnt Bridge, Indigo Rising, Lowestoft Chronicle, Thoughtsmith, The Rainbow Rose, Catapult to Mars, The Camel Saloon, The Shine Journal, Candidum, Red Poppy Review, and others, both print and e-zine. When not writing he wishes he were still pushing plywood in Coquille, Oregon.
February 23, 2012 Comments Off on Murder at Your Door by Stephen V. Ramey
Imagine a man outside your apartment door. Imagine his tentative knock.
“Sally? Open up, Sally. I want to see your face.”
Your first impulse is to look through the peephole. You don’t. Curiosity kills the cat. You’ve seen that movie where the killer drives a 40 penny nail through the portal bridging him to you.
“Sally? Come on, Sally. We have to talk.”
You wonder about his voice. You’ve heard it many times. Yet, it could be a recording. Digital. Is that static along its edge?
“Come on, Sally!”
Emotion boils through you, a volcano of the stuff. Your hand clenches. Knuckles and tendons and blood. It is made of these materials. You are made of these materials.
“All right, Sally, have it your way.” An envelope slides under the door. You hop back. Your panicked gaze fixes on the intruder, so slick, so innocent on its surface, deadly within. One touch of Ricen and you will die.
Footsteps in the hall. A pause. They return.
“I didn’t mean for this to happen, Sally.” The door rattles, then a sigh. “Sally!”
Footsteps recede. He’s gone. You imagine him emerging from the building, a swat team waiting atop the roofline opposite yours. You imagine bullets descending, the subsonics and angles they create. A red hole penetrates his forehead. You recall a rose, cologne, the touch of someone’s hand on yours.
2011 Stephen V. Ramey
Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania, home to not one, but two pyrotechnics manufacturers. His work has appeared in various places, including The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Bartleby Snopes, and Caper Literary Journal. http://www.stephenvramey.wordpress.com