April 29, 2013 Comments Off on Intent by Siddhartha Choudhury
Pages fly from his hand in a burst of wind soon to scatter into the sea. Slowly they sink, and swallow in their movement, all his hope and heart. With the short record of his poetic life now ruined by the whims of nature, the poet wonders how he should court her. She’s by herself, her chequered skirt flying high over her knees in the breeze while she looks at the debris and wreckage from his heart float, one by one, to the port of her feet. Through the blotted ink, she can make out it was poetry. Even as they lay anchor all about her, surrendered and defeated in their purpose, she wonders if the beauty of a poet’s intent is greater than his finished work, and she marvels at the subject that must have inspired such intent. In the meantime, the unlucky author of the disaster finally resorts to speech to make up for the drowned words.
© 2013 Siddhartha Choudhury
Siddhartha Choudhury is the author of numerous stories and abstract ruminations that lie placid in his hard drive. He lives and writes from Mumbai.
April 25, 2013 Comments Off on Sunday Morning, Two Weeks Later by Cory Cone
Momma looked younger. She wore girl clothes, not woman clothes: tight blue jeans, tight top. Her hair was cut short. I recognized her silver crucifix. She was drinking coffee from Dad’s mug. Her favorite one, with the picture of all of us at Disney, lay in pieces on the floor near the sink. I don’t know if she had dropped it, or smashed it, but that was the sound that woke me.
Bacon sputtered on the stove.
The room was heavy, clouded with her presence. She avoided my eyes except for half a second every time she sipped from the cup. Her fingers quaked and her long black nails clicked against the porcelain. Her foot tapped the tiles.
The bacon was burning, so I switched off the stove top, then took our broom and dustpan from beside the fridge and swept up the remnants of the broken mug while tears slipped past my lips.
She sniffled, the sound razor sharp, and pressed the flat of her palm to her left eye, smearing away wetness and mascara. “Who are you?” she asked.
I longed to throw the broom aside and embrace her with all of my might and anguish. I wanted to kiss her face and feel the warmth of her hands on my skin, but she shouldn’t have been there, in the kitchen, drinking coffee and waiting on the bacon that Poppa left burning. She shouldn’t have been.
“Thomas,” I finally said.
She set her mug on the table and moved a hand to her mouth. Her cheeks shone in the light of the kitchen.
Poppa came in as I was emptying the dustpan into the trash. He put his hands on Momma’s shoulders. His fingers dripped down her like vines. “Momma’s home,” he said.
Momma’s crucifix caught a ray of dawning light from the window and flashed in my eye. I left the room, turning my back on Poppa and that shadow of my Momma. I managed at the last moment to lift the lid of the toilet before the vomit rushed out in torrents.
© 2013 Cory Cone
Cory Cone lives in Baltimore, MD with his wife and two cats. He’s a Financial Aid guru at the Maryland Institute College of Art as well as a 2007 graduate. Occasionally he blogs at http://www.corycone.com. Sometimes he tweets, too. @corycone
April 22, 2013 Comments Off on Little Wing by Miriam Sagan
He turns her corpse over, as always. In the dream, he thinks the small figure in the black pajamas is a man or a boy, but it is not. It is a sweet-faced Vietnamese girl of sixteen, and he has killed her.
It isn’t possible to be a saint without having been a sinner, or even to become a carver of saints. He serves, comes back to Las Tampas, shoots heroin. He cracks up cars, deals, has three children with two women he never marries, pulls knives in bars. Everyone prays for him — mother, grandmother, aunts, and sisters. He had been a sweet kid, a good guy. They pray — candles, rosaries, the whole works.
He goes into rehab.
He shoots heroin.
A friend dies of an overdose, and he shoots pure smack into the disturbed earth of the grave, then goes back into rehab. He is thirty when the old man finds him, out shooting cans in the national forest.
“Hey, you,” the old man yells. “Help me with this branch. In the truck. And that stump.” They wrestle it together.
“Not firewood? What do you want this for?” he asks the old man, who doesn’t answer, just gestures to him to come along.
The studio is small, uninsulated, with a wood stove and a long view of blue hills and the Sangres. 10,000 feet. The old man gives him a chisel. He starts to carve. The old man is relentless — slower, faster, under, over, more rosettes, more leaves. The face of the saint. It is already in the wood. He drives over every day. Brings the old man tamales. On the truck radio, Jimi is singing “Little Wing.” He realizes it is the most beautiful song he has ever heard. She comes to me with a thousand smiles.
His saints curve out, unadorned, from the dead wood. He learns to paint. Carmine red. Madonna blue. He carves Our Lady on a crescent moon. Her face is Vietnamese. She wears a conical hat woven of straw. He wins best of show.
He carves, he sells, he marries his baby sister’s best friend Carmela and has three more kids. He wishes the girl in the song had a name he could use for a daughter.
The old man dies.
The studio is his.
He is clean and sober, a mentor in the schools, his work is in churches and museums. He turns her corpse over, as always. In the dream, as always, he thinks the small figure in the black pajamas is a man or a boy, but it is not. It is a sweet-faced Vietnamese girl of sixteen, and he has killed her. He tells her, take anything you want from me. But she does nothing, no more than she already has.
© 2012 Miriam Sagan
Miriam Sagan is the author of twenty-five books, including the poetry collection MAP OF THE POST (University of New Mexico Press.) She founded and directs the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College. Her blog is Miriam’s Well (http://miriamswell.wordpress.com). in 2010, she won the Santa Fe Mayor’s award for Excellence in the Arts.
April 18, 2013 Comments Off on Fourteen by Nathan Good
Susanne did not look at the stairs anymore. She lived exclusively downstairs, and she wore the same clothes every day, sitting naked whilst they took a spin in the washing machine each morning.
Nobody noticed. Nobody really looked at Susanne any more.
“Oh darling,” they’d say. “Oh sweetheart . . . If there is anything at all I can do.”
They’d say those things, but they certainly didn’t feel the terror that she felt. The way that those fourteen little steps made her feel was unfathomable.
Susanne slept on the sofa, but she didn’t really sleep. She’d lie awake and shiver in the dark. The house had always exhaled deeply at night, and she was familiar with its creaks and rattles, the timbre of each and every step on the staircase. Now Susanne heard nothing. The stairs, previously so vocal, were as silent and empty as the rest of the house. She pulled herself deeper into the folds of her husband’s favourite jumper and screwed her eyes into puckered slits.
She found the jumper soon after she had returned from the hospital. It was draped over the banister at the bottom of the staircase. Her husband had hung it there when he had come in earlier that night. It was blue, woven loosely from thick strands of lamb’s wool. It had been a birthday present the year earlier.
He’d been whistling. He never whistled unless. . .
She’d heard him come in, pulled back his side of the duvet, and waited for the creaks of the staircase: one, ten, twelve. . .
Twelve, not fourteen. Twelve and then an orchestral cacophony of crumbling and snapping.
Susanne stood suddenly, left her clothes to finish their daily washing cycle, and made her way to the hallway. She placed a hand on the banister. It felt strong and thick. It was not the rotten, woodworm-riddled skeleton she had come to think of it as. Up on the landing, the sun was shining through a window. It cast a dancing pool of light on one wall. She set that as her focal point. There were fourteen steps ahead of her, and with trepidation, she stepped forward onto the first of them.
© 2012 Nathan Good
Nathan Good is a writer from London and Essex. He writes flash fiction whilst not working, living or watching a seemingly endless stream of television boxsets. He has been published in numerous print and digital publications including an upcoming story in the anthology Lover’s Lies published by Arachne press. You can follow his misadventures @Na7hanGood or nathan-good.blogspot.com
April 15, 2013 Comments Off on Melancholia by Casey L. Scott
When Susan was a child, her mother took her to a beautiful little bakery down by the river. Her mother’s favourite treat was strawberry cake, and she often exclaimed — with a mouthful of cake and icing — that nowhere on Earth existed a strawberry cake as delicious as the one they made at that little bakery.
Susan, however, preferred chocolate like most children. When she asked her mother if she could have a slice of chocolate cake instead of strawberry, she noticed her mother’s eyebrows furrow, and so Susan learned to enjoy strawberry cake because her mother enjoyed seeing her eat it. If anyone were to ask her now why she liked strawberry cake, she would simply say that she had always liked it, even if there was something lacking in every strawberry cake she tasted. She could never seem to put her finger on the reason why, only that they were never just right.
She often thought back to that little bakery, back to the mouthfuls of strawberry cake and how peaceful she felt when she chewed, her shoulders relaxed, her mother seated across from her, smiling. She had always liked strawberry cake, right?
Then, the inevitable happened: her mother died.
After her mother’s funeral, she sat down to enjoy the one thing that she knew would lift her spirits, but this time the cake tasted bland and thoroughly unappealing. She sat and stared blankly at the half-eaten cake. Of course, it looked the same, smelled sweet just the same, but something was missing? Or maybe that something had always been missing, she thought . . . maybe . . . desire left on its own isn’t true desire at all.
2012 Casey L. Scott
Casey is a 22 year old procrastinator who has been published in the Imagine Journal and the Geelong Writers 2008 anthology. He writes speculative fiction which explores philosophical ideas. He currently has a degree in professional and creative writing with honour’s in philosophy and plans on pursuing postgraduate study. He has other writing and musical projects under the name ‘Malekei Leigh’.
April 11, 2013 Comments Off on Patterns By Richard Hartwell
I sit here, staring at the stains on the carpet, waiting for pictures to appear in their patterns. I know they will. Not when I squint my eyes or fog my vision, but when, with the intense focus of concentration, I will them to. I wonder what will come out tonight, hyenas again, or the lions of last week? Perhaps those bats with the heads of famous writers and artists that came to me for the first time last month.
When they come, they don’t seem to adhere to any schedule or routine. They don’t seem to be prompted by anything specific or, necessarily, repeatable. I wonder what the smell of bananas will recall?
Now they are back, crawling forth from the carpet, filling the living room, crowding the evening like so many cocktail-party goers.
From this, I segue to a recollection of Tina, Lee, and the visiting DeRosas, all attired in Mafioso black, complete with dark glasses, and all boarding the northbound passenger train in Gilroy, headed for a weekend in San Francisco, as if it was some upscale stylish in-thing. If it was, it was lost on the denizens of the Mexican bars and brothels at the south end of town. It was probably too early and/or too blurry, judging by the shadows, for any of them to notice how not fabulous it was anyway, the Mexicans as well as Tina, Lee, and the DeRosas: one drunken group on hand to wish bon voyage to another.
And where was I while all of this was happening? You see, I only have this single photograph, capturing with delight this convivial party of travelers. I was not present, probably never invited, not that I would have condescended to attend anyway, but where was I while this perfect outing was being captured on film? I was home, probably, planning what would be a night of drunken, boisterous carousing in delight of spring or summer or something and in spite of moral or familial conventions. We were all nothing if not predictable. And to think, I was not even related to Lee or the DeRosas and only connected to Tina by the thinnest stream of blood. . .
© 2013 Richard Hartwell
Rick Hartwell is a retired middle school English teacher living in Moreno Valley, California. He believes in the succinct, that the small becomes large; and, like the Transcendentalists and William Blake, that the instant contains eternity. Given his “druthers,” if he’s not writing poetry, Rick would rather still be tailing plywood in a mill in Oregon.
April 8, 2013 Comments Off on Ponderance and Activation by Tamara Wiens
I stood, at 2:00 in the afternoon, ardently poised over a heavy, portable, but rather unwieldy manual typewriter balanced on the side of a pedestrian bridge overlooking the light rail station. The gray, cloudy sky sighed, piercing gold beams of sunlight through blurred holes in the vacillating, indecisive weatherscape. I glanced briefly down at the train waiting in the wings at tracks’ end. Not mine. Half an hour. But why should I — hair strands streaking forward, an electric grin on my face — be standing here, high off the ground with this indisputably anachronistic piece of technology from the day before the day before yesterday? The whole scenario winked an air of surreal comicality. Oddly, the bridge’s side rail was just wide enough to safely support the typewriter’s considerable weight, allowing me access to the keys without tipping catastrophically in either direction. I had acquired the thing from a friend-of-a-friend, and recently, it had been a curious companion, announcing conscious eccentricity and writer-hood more immediately than any current wonder of technology. Taking note of and fingering lightly the scratches where someone had long ago etched their initials, I pursed my lips and tapped out a testing rat-a-tat-tat stream of characters in a cacophonous burst. Reaching the end of the page, I carelessly turned the wheel, and the wind carried it away, depositing my keyed thoughts languidly on the concrete below. The audible kisses and sunny staccato exclamations in Spanish uttered by a jubilant couple passing by drifted up to linger on reddened earlobes. Leaning over the edge, I self-consciously applied flavorless lip balm to my cracked membranes as the conductor hopped in, and the train underneath came alive . . . or maybe the wind had just carried it away, and as the paper canvas of splashed thoughts reached the ground, a crack in the pavement widened hugely. It engulfed, and I imagined the momentary impressions pounded into that thin page drifting further and further down, into the chasm well beyond where I could see them. All I could see was the stenciled, generic form of a pedestrian painted on the cement platform, underneath the word DOOR, indicating where the exit doors would be. At the end of the car, there was a similar iconic image of the same faceless pedestrian, riding a bike. White light became gold then bronze then rust. The sun set on that one.
2012 Tamara Wiens
Tamara Wiens is an undergraduate at the University of Colorado who continually seeks to make the leap from dilettante to polymath. She is fascinated by many things, including semiotics and metaphor, and enjoys using word processing software as her canvas over copious amounts of tea. The world intrigues her, especially at night.
March 28, 2013 Comments Off on Crimson and Clover by Carly Berg
Baby hair stuck up through the mulch, feathery blond tufts. Dammit, Millie thought as she tossed her rose clippers down and then yanked it out of the ground like a turnip. It remained still and gray even after the mud was scooped from its mouth. But when she snipped the roots, freeing the carcass for the trash can, it howled like a storm.
In the kitchen, the greedy thing drank half a bottle of liquid houseplant food from a dropper.
She laid him in an inch of water in the sink to keep him moist. He kicked his twiggy legs.
“Bring me a big flowerpot, would you?” she called to Jack, since by then she was thawing ground beef in a pan on the stove.
“Christ on a cracker, Millie. Not another one.”
“What do you want me to do about it?” she said. She’d told him that the house was built on the old Woodstock field, but he just had to have it anyway.
“Dirty hippies,” he replied as if he had read her mind.
“You got that right. See if there’s any more potting soil out there too, would ya?”
Jack potted up the new dirt baby while Millie fixed Hamburger Helper.
Late at night sometimes, they’d sneak a few babies onto the neighbors’ porches, and some mornings, they’d awake to find a few of the neighbors’ babies on theirs.
The little ones need their soil changed often and need to be fed by hand. The older ones hop around the garden, nibbling the plants down to nubs. They howl when they’re hungry, and they’re always hungry. They give no love. It’s all me, me, me.
© 2012 Carly Berg
Carly Berg’s stories appear in PANK, Word Riot, Bartleby Snopes and elsewhere. She was playing the song “Crimson and Clover” and wondering what the heck it meant and this is what she came up with.
March 25, 2013 Comments Off on To Dust A Man Off by Ahimaaz Rajesh
He remained where he was left — the chair in the drawing room — and now, there he’s been well past two weeks. He’d get up and go every now and then to take dump and to pee. That was it; otherwise, he remained where he was left. She’d bring him food from time to time, and snacks & tea. That was pretty much it.
“You don’t feel the need to come fetch him?” she once asked a friend on the phone. Her friend, she comes to visit now and then, and every time when she leaves — or most of the time — she leaves something she brings along behind. It could be a feather hat, it could be an empty wallet, or it could be a pearl stud —just something she’d leave behind, taking with her the left behind.
‘I don’t really know,’ the friend answered, failing at her reminiscing, sounding reasonably honest. Every time — or most of the time — when the friend would come back the following week, she’d find what she’d left behind right in the same spot she’d left it, and it would — most often — be clean, dusted. You know how swiftly the dust settles on any and all things, especially in cities.
‘This thing, it gathers dust awful swift,’ said the moving man from Dusters & Movers. It would be prudent, she’d thought then, to have him moved back to where he belonged. She’d be leaving home for a while, and this thing isn’t like other things. You know how a ball or a book, when left in one place for too long, never gives you a look when you return home. This thing isn’t like those things, not at all like them. It looks at you, like there’s something terribly wrong with you.
‘I would’ve dusted it myself were it a pen or a notebook,’ replied the woman just so the moving man wouldn’t feel the brunt of the task at hand. For the mover man, though, nothing about the situation seemed strange or in any way unique.
She smiled and thanked the moving man in earnest, and then he was gone, the wheeled casket-basket fastened to that chariot called truck. The thing inside of it, dusted and wrapped, was to be paid for by the recipient.
© 2012 Ahimaaz Rajesh
Ahimaaz Rajesh lives in India, works for bread, writes to breathe. Visit him at his blog: minimalust.wordpress.com
March 21, 2013 Comments Off on There Wouldn’t Be A Third by Nicole Rivas
Heath Lipscomb was splattered with the vomit of someone we couldn’t see. We had only been on the Ferris wheel for eleven seconds. Underneath the ride was a rickety pier, and underneath the pier were the cool, brown waters of the Pacific Ocean.
“Oh, Heath,” I said, scooting into the opposite corner of our compartment. “Don’t open your mouth.”
Heath closed his eyes tightly as the puke dripped down his forehead. There were pieces of kettle corn in it. He groaned from behind pursed lips, which were blue from raspberry licorice and from holding his breath.
“Can’t we turn this around?” I yelled down to the carnie. “He’s covered in puke.”
As our cage continued its ascent into the thin, salty sky, I looked down and saw the carnie opening the gate and tearing tickets for new passengers.
“I’m so sorry, Heath,” I said. “We should be back down in a minute. Here, let’s use this bandana.”
I untied the handkerchief wrapped around Heath’s backpack strap and used it to wipe off his face. He tried to open his eyes but the lashes were stuck together. He groaned again.
At the top of the Ferris wheel, the horizon was visible and the color of a melting Big Stick. Truth be told, it looked like it always had — lots of pretty oranges, and a warm bleariness that was both breathtaking and depressing.
Heath Lipscomb didn’t experience any of this. I looked over at him, and remembered the bland hotdogs he had treated me to for lunch. He didn’t look much different than processed meat — pink and smooth. It had been an okay second date. But there wouldn’t be a third.
After we got off the Ferris wheel, Heath ran into the ocean to wash himself off. While he was in the water, I wrote a thank-you note in the sand to the person who had puked on him. When I was done, I took a big scoop of wet sand in my palm and sifted it through my fingers. There was a small sand crab in there, which I placed on my knee to feel it wriggle off in annoyance. I erased the note with my foot and watched Heath shivering as he walked back onto the beach. I scooped up some more sand and another crab.
“What’s that?” Heath asked.
“A sand crab,” I said, putting my palm out.
“Disgusting,” Heath said, and then he smacked my wrist. The sand crab flew into the surf, disappearing forever. The Ferris wheel groaned as the carnie hosed it off. One way or another, we had all suffered.
© 2012 Nicole Rivas
Nicole Rivas received her BA in English from California State University, San Bernardino. Her fiction has appeared in The Pacific Review and Thickjam.