April 28, 2014 Comments Off on My Vegetable Love by Samantha Memi
I was born into an ordinary family in Berlin in 1938. My father was a stick of celery, my mother, a tomato. I was a grapefruit. My father sometimes queried the origin of my birth. My mother never answered.
Never had a grapefruit in the family, he would say.
She stayed silent.
I went through the state education system, and more by luck than talent, I arrived at university to study Vegetable Bake for Amateur Cooks. I wasn’t happy; I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to treat vegetables so cruelly. I left during the first year. I drifted, hung around in grocery shops, got in with a bad lot of spinach. It looked like my life would turn out bad. Then I met a gorgeous Maris Piper potato. He was new but, despite that, could find his way round the supermarket shelf. We married, had a baby carrot. I was so pleased.
Then one day we heard marching bands. We looked out the window and saw what we later learned were storm troopers. Two weeks later the door was smashed in and my husband was arrested. I heard later he’d been boiled and mashed. Didn’t they have souls, these people? He was a frying potato.
I was alone with my baby carrot. Everyone stared at me in the street. I realised it was because I was fruit and my daughter was vegetable. What gave them the right to judge me?
Then we were put in a camp where I was forced to chop up leeks and cauliflower for swarthy arrogant soldiers. It was a horrible job and I was warned that my daughter, who was too young to work, would be old enough to bake in a pie. I met a leek from the escape committee; he said they could help my daughter escape. They couldn’t help me; they only worked with the vegetable community. It was heart-breaking to say goodbye to my little carrot.
Mummy, she cried, don’t leave me.
You’ll be safe where you’re going, I said and stroked her topsy-turvy leaves, and then she was gone, driven off in a van painted as an ambulance but full of veg.
I was distraught. Friends said I had to continue working otherwise I’d be steamed. But I was so depressed I thought a good steaming might be better than the miserable existence I had.
Then other soldiers arrived. They killed our captors, and freed all the fresh veg. Some of the elders couldn’t be saved, but at least I was free. We had a party. I got sliced into segments and tipped into a fruit salad. A melon pip told me my daughter had married a handsome young cucumber. I was glad. I hope she is well.
© 2013 Samantha Memi
Samantha Memi lives in London. http://samanthamemi.weebly.com
April 24, 2014 Comments Off on Racquet By Tamara Walker
At least once a week, in a recently refurbished bookstore, two women briskly approach the magazine section from opposite sides. Each carries a racquet. One woman is diminutive and attired smartly, in khaki slacks and a white blouse, long light sepia hair and rimmed spectacles. Her racquet is for hitting the papier-mâché porcupines that emerge periodically from the burnished clay pipes surrounding her home. She’s obligated to pound the creatures whenever they’re about to shoot quills. This pounding reveals the multicolored shells inside, which her friends weave into tunics in emotionally humid gatherings every other Friday.
The other woman is urban-sporty and looks like her racquet is actually for playing tennis: tall, with short-short black hair, a glare that somehow manages to look nurturing, disaffected, and fiercely competitive, and a tennis outfit (!) comprised of neon shorts, new shoes, and an airy mesh top.
They’re both there for a transparently shrink-wrapped manga magazine that reads, in terse characters across the top: Shojo-Ai. Girls’ Love. This time there’s plenty of copies, a fresh stack recently installed on the shelf. The women on the cover, clad in school outfits with their fox-like ears and cat-like tails, are embracing each other. These girls are glossy. As glossy as the polished porcupine pipes, thinks the sepia woman as she trembles slightly and lifts a copy into her modestly manicured fingers. The tennis woman, who’s glowing florescent green and appears to have just finished a grueling match, seems relieved.
“Which series are you following?” the tennis woman asks kindly.
The sepia woman shifts her weight from her left to right foot and twists the racquet around in her hands. She doesn’t reply, pretending she didn’t hear instead, shoving the magazine into her book bag and hastily walking away.
The next time, after the gawky button-down male otaku types have come and gone, there’s only a single copy left. Both women speed towards the rack as this possibility becomes distinct in their fields of vision. The tennis woman arrives first. Her arm mechanically projects outward and sticks the head of her racquet on the shelf to block and claim it. The sepia woman catches up. The sound of a string breaking on her clutched racquet pings through the silence. She thinks about porcupines. How when the papier-mâché is struck, the strings often break. Her racquet is strung with considerably more tension than the tennis woman’s, who prefers a loose stringing pattern for greater distance, power, and spin.
The tennis woman glances with flickering concern at the sepia woman and relents, giving her a pitying stare. “I guess you probably need this more than I do.” The sepia woman begrudgingly stares at the ground and accepts.
The next time they meet, the sepia woman is wearing a tunic with colorful shells woven in. She meets the tennis woman’s curious stare as they reach the magazines. “You shouldn’t judge people,” she says.
The tennis woman smirks with the impending thrill of a challenge. The ball is in her court now.
© 2013 Tamara K. Walker
Tamara K. Walker loves writing on manual typewriters even though they were thoroughly obsolete before she was born. Her writing has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Apocrypha and Abstractions, LYNX: A Journal of Linking Poets, Gay Flash Fiction, nin: a journal of erotic poetics, and Scifaikuest.
April 21, 2014 Comments Off on Victoriana By Robin Wyatt Dunn
I got a smell and it’s a killer cause I wet it on the afterjack, my reason is a pleasing dome for you to kiss at; it’s serpent but it’s filler so let’s just set aside the mints for dinner and get into the meat:
Baby: it’s too good but it’s the end, and I got to say I don’t know what it means, but I know what it doesn’t mean: we’re not dead. It’s the end but that’s because it always is. We chant and we arise. Lover. It’s good but it’s coming now to quits and we got to stamp the season on our mints, the spiking of the running quarter’s thumb — what do you call that? — the spikes along the wall, the thrumming of our call, we got to call the spot, five dollars down on the freeway —
East or west? It’s west baby. Still west.
Still a westerly is blowing in my name, and I got to say it’s not what I would have thought, it’s cooler and it’s colder and it makes my head erased but I am he who will not say the last embrace, I’ll just do it —
It ain’t yet.
It ain’t yet!
I got a smell of you! It’s a killer cause I wet it on the afterjack, after I met you steaming fast into the shipping lanes of sky inside my heart and mind, smoking me and telling me I got it done.
Yeah, you can kiss my ass but I won’t kiss yours, but let’s leave it till after dinner cause I’m coming close to the little war we keep inside our pants, not sex but politics, a murder and an ace, not up my sleeve but in my anus, a bomb to bring into the city.
Honey it’s getting colder all these things the Victorians warned us about; they were reactionaries, you know, they were building the empire and they were remaking themselves so fast it was unbelievable; the original Futureshock, and they didn’t say shit.
They kept their mouths shut like the original mobsters; cause they knew they didn’t know shit. They didn’t’ know one fuckin’ thing.
Victorian. Victoria. 1850 to 1900 on your afterburner tail, take my lover take me there — we got to get inside your cunt, we got to take those table skirts and put ’em round our lace and embrace the horror inside your gun, it’s the biggest one around,
I’m packing heat but it’s quantum, honey, it’s deeper than I ever wanted it to be, or ever could explain, I’m packing heat and it’s real bad, it’s cosmically enactive and it’s surgically enhanced; it’s grafted to my brain but so are you, so come with me cause we’re gonna jump, we’re gonna jump to light speed lover but Victoria the bitch is coming with us —
© 2013 Robin Wyatt Dunn
Robin Wyatt Dunn lives in The Town of the Queen of the Angels, El Pueblo de la Reina de Los Angeles, in Echo Park. He is 33 years old. You can find him at www.robindunn.com
April 17, 2014 Comments Off on Mirror by Kalin Winans
1993: I’m curious about you.
You’re different from the others.
1994: I wait for you to notice me
And for the smile that will stretch across your face when you do.
1995: Now I’m up close and personal with your mouth.
My view invaded by your tongue
Banging on me as if you’ve found a new friend.
2000: You look so happy
You little plastic princess.
2006: Bring on the close-ups. I can’t contain my laughter
As I watch the deformed faces you make as you try on sixty-seven shades of eye shadow.
2007: Why the fuck are you making that face? If I could talk, I’d tell you that
You will be hiding those pictures in four years.
2009: I’ve been dealing with your flashes for three years now
So many new faces have joined you
And never came back.
2010: You look fine. What is that?
The fifth outfit I’ve seen in the past 20 minutes?
Get it together.
Your flavor of the week will be here soon.
2011: Why are you wearing an orange robe with that stupid excuse for a hat on your head?
Sorry, but you look like a pumpkin
After all the outfit struggles we have had over the years
You’re really going to go out like that?
2012: Where have you been?
I haven’t seen you in a while.
It’s good to see you. You’re different.
But the same.
2013: Stop. Why can’t you see what I see?
You. For you.
All I see is you.
So what the hell are you looking at?
© 2013 Kalin Winans
April 14, 2014 Comments Off on First Cancer Then The True Self By Kirie Pedersen
Let that feeling bubble up in you, effervescent, almost like euphoria. ~Winifred Wilson
When my husband was dying of cancer, I never once thought I would have cancer. Such is the power of DNA. But when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I developed it that very day. My mind was scrubbed, and I could upload nothing. Nouns slipped away, then verbs, those beloved parts of speech. Then my father suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, and I got those, too, often many times a day, and always on the left side.
The ailments that killed my parents, unimaginable before, became my constants.
Now, in Winifred’s class, I often cry. This is quiet crying. I feel a dampness on my cheeks, and when I touch the flesh below my left eye, I find tears.
Almost from birth, I was on guard. My earliest memories are my mother clutching the first three in her eventual litter of six, weeping as my father raged. I envision that infant and then the self I currently occupy, and I want to be my own elder. I want to be effervescent almost euphoric with kind eyes. In a dream last night, the elder kissed my forehead.
I want the tenderness of women and men who aren’t blood.
When I hike in the Los Padres wilderness, a new friend touches my wrist to make a point. Sometimes she holds my hand, stroking my palm as if divining my fortune. Despite warnings of cougar and bear, even when I walk alone along the canyon trails, I feel brave.
© 2013 Kirie Pedersen
Recent work by Kirie Pedersen has appeared in Quiddity, Eleven Eleven, Folly, Chaffey Review, Caper Literary Journal, Avatar Review, Bluestem, Glossolalia, Folly Magazine, The View from Here, r.kv.r.y Quarterly Literary Review, Laurel Review, and South Jersey Underground. She holds a M.A. in fiction writing and literature and blogs at http://www.kiriepedersen.com
April 10, 2014 Comments Off on Educated By Kathryn Roberts
Life found me twenty-three, downtown and colleged, apologized into a job. The paned glass frame of graduated paper hanging above the door jamb dictated I earn its keep. Even in sleep it stared out at me, interrupting my dreams with demands for fulfilling. Cornered to the first city block, I officed daily, eight to later, trying to make the urban legend of nine to five with time for lunch encompass the files closing in the dark during mid-winter when the sun joined the moon for drinks before I even hit the subway.
But here’s what I discovered: by the time you’re above loving a job and have started settling for getting set-up with groceries each week, you develop a taste for receiving away with. I stole seconds at first, inching an extra paid ten from the faucet that took a third-look to make sure it stopped dripping, another fifteen pretending the copy machine needed sheeting, a half-minute readjusting my ergonomic chair’s headrest. When my pay raise failed to enact, I escalated to minutes explained as a bad bladder, an influx of emails asking for pertinent information, difficulty reading the plastic tabs on file folders as I sorted, a pressing need for paperclips and staples, and elevatoring to accounts payable for every individual page.
My bosses rotated, and I circled through them. The first was Ivy-beleaguered into believing he was hot-shot for secretaries with a lesser degree. I penciled myself into his daytimer for nights thrice weekly, spiking into his office in the lapse between punch-out and pushing vacuum cleaners. We kissed like turtles, tonguing in and out of his mouth to my shell, crawling slowly over arms and all desked below fluorescent. The second worked courage through shy investors and urged me into day trades between the water cooler and her clever condo. She taught me nothing but the purpose for awkward furniture: to opportune positional variants.
The third? We coaxed elliptically.
When I quit for a different corner, a cubicle with dividers, I packed my oversized purse with extra bags, which I pulled out and uncrinkled into containers for the last day heist. I sacked chewed pens, strands of hair loosed from over-twirling harbored along the edges of keys — specifically a and r — and caps lock, stubbed erasers pressured down to shaped oddities, a brand new package of binder clips able to secure a baker’s dozen of paired socks to clothesline. I wondered at a big enough bag to hold the third boss but he wouldn’t go willingly and I hadn’t yet graduated to kidnapping.
My final discovery: the most educated thing about me was how I buttoned my blouse up my back so my new bosses knew exactly what they were looking at when they walked by me working.
© 2013 Kathryn Roberts
Kathryn Roberts received her BFA from Goddard College, where she served as Managing Editor of Guideword. Her work has appeared in print and online in various journals, including Pithead Chapel, Black Heart Magazine, and Slush Pile, and her debut novel is forthcoming from Fomite Press in spring 2014. She currently lives in Vermont, where she writes, paints, and tries to keep warm in the snow.
April 7, 2014 Comments Off on In An Outer Suburbs Candy Store By Edward Brauer
I’m headlight-frozen at the sight of an incredibly obese young woman, moseying into the candy store. She has a round baby face that glistens with sweat, and she couldn’t be more delighted.
With her is this fellow — a grey bearded, top hatted gent who walks with a black cane. He wears a cloak that drapes off him in the wizardly fashion. His arm is locked with hers and he walks slightly behind her like he’s being dragged.
They terrify me.
The Chinese cashier smiles and says hello.
“Do you have any of those peanut butter Twix bars from America?” the enormous woman asks. She has a distinctly shrill voice and the smile that she gives the cashier spreads across her face like a deep-hung hammock.
The wizard also smiles, saying nothing. His teeth are brown and riddled with rot.
“Yes, we have one left,” says the cashier. She comes out from behind the counter and walks over to a box on one of the shelves — the one for the peanut butter Twix bars. The store is a psychedelic explosion of pastel colours; an edible Mardi Gras parade. She looks into the peanut butter Twix box, frowns, then turns to the fat woman and shrugs.
My heart feels like it’s trying to punch through my chest.
“Sorry, we have no more. I thought we have one, but no. Sorry.”
Un-phased, the fat woman continues to beam. “You’ll tell me when you get some more in though won’t you?”
The wizard smiles and says nothing. His cavity riddled teeth have shrunk in the brief time since I last saw them and they protrude only slightly from his gums like severed, dead shoots.
“Oh, yes,” says the cashier, nodding slowly. “We like to make you happy.”
“I’m happy as long as I buy all your stock of those peanut butter Twix bars.”
The wizard smiles and says nothing. His mouth is now toothless. Our eyes meet for one long, dizzy second during which I experience the sensation of falling sideways into nothingness.
“Okay, can I help you with anything else?”
“No, that’s all?”
They leave. I blink twice and go to the counter to pay for the peanut butter Twix bar I’ve got in my hand.
© 2013 Edward Brauer
Edward Brauer lives with his girlfriend and cat in Melbourne, Australia, where he works as a network administrator for an unsuccessful cosmetics company. Otherwise he spends his time making music, building furniture, reading paranormal journalism and playing senselessly violent video games. He is interested in the ways that absurdity, horror and comedy can be fused together, without detracting from each other.
April 3, 2014 Comments Off on I’ll Love You Forever By Mariah Wilson
Truman marched up the hill toward her. He kept his eyes cast downward; this would be easier if he didn’t have to look at her. He clutched a bouquet of long-stemmed red roses in his hand. A thorn stabbed him in the palm, but still he held tight. It was a small price to pay for the pain he was about to cause.
He walked past and stood with his back facing her. He couldn’t look at her today, not this time. He just didn’t have the stomach for it. He swallowed the lump of fear that had built up at the base of his throat.
“I have something to tell you, and I need you to hear all of it, Penelope.” He cleared his throat and continued. “I can’t keep doing this. I love you. I will always love you, Penny. You’re still the best thing that ever happened to me.” He choked back a sob as his heart cracked and splintered into a thousand shards of broken glass.
He looked up at the sky, as if it held some sort of answer, some sort of way to make this easier. “I remember when we were on that boat, that stupid little row-boat. It was dark, except for the moonlight glimmering on the water. You were so beautiful. You made me promise that night, that if I tipped the boat, I had to love you forever.” As Truman started to laugh, a tear slipped down his cheek. “You looked like a drowned rat. Your hair hung in your face, and you crossed your arms to cover your chest. I always swore I didn’t do that on purpose, but I’m sorry, darling. I lied. I tipped the boat. I wanted to see you dripping wet. It didn’t matter that I had to make that promise to you. I’d already promised it to myself, the moment I first laid eyes on you.”
He stopped for a moment and looked at the flowers. They seemed cheap in the face of memories so vibrant and rich with emotion. “Penny, darling, forgive me. Her name is Shania.” He smiled in spite of himself. Even in a horrible moment like this, the very thought of Shania was a beacon in the darkest night. “She’s smart, probably too smart for me, and she’s graceful. Oh, you should see the way she dances. Her feet are like feathers dancing on rose petals.” Truman cleared his throat. “Sorry, I guess you don’t want to hear that.”
Truman turned around. “I’m so sorry, my sweet Penny, but it’s time for me to go. I’ve held on long enough.”
Truman’s voice broke under the weight of his anguish. “I love you Penny. I always will.”
Truman placed the flowers gently on the grass below the headstone. “Goodbye, darling. I’ll love you forever.”
© 2014 Mariah E. Wilson
Mariah E. Wilson is a writer from the central interior of beautiful British Columbia. Her poetry has appeared in The Loch Raven Review, The Corner Club Press, Every Day Poets and The Kitchen Poet.
March 31, 2014 Comments Off on Excuse Me, You Seem to Have Fallen Asleep on My Shoulder by Peter McMillan
What’s this little black gangsta think he’s doing? Does he know he’s fallen asleep on the shoulder of an old Jew, someone he may have been taught to mistrust, possibly hate? And all these other people … why are they ignoring this?
Friday night, rush hour on the subway like any other weeknight … but not. There’s a head, tucked deep inside a dark gray hoodie, leaning on me, no, more like pinning me in my seat. It’s not particularly threatening, not in any violent sort of way. I mean, he’s just a boy. I guess he could have — wouldn’t be surprised if he had a knife … or even a gun. But for now, while he’s sound asleep, it’s a rudeness, an intrusion … a violation of my space on this overcrowded subway car.
A tall muscular man, with menacing tattoos up and down both arms, pushes his way through the standing patrons, looks our way, and says “Ain’t that thweet? Ith like a Norman Rockwell,” just before he steps off the train.
Across the way, between the suits hidden in their papers, through the ebb and flow of one-sided conversations, and past the bobbing, swaying heads immersed in silence, Grandma stares vacantly in our direction, yet there is a faint smile out of the left corner of her mouth. The right side doesn’t move. Fixed there, as if by a stroke.
In the background off to my right, a young woman is excitedly going over her guest list with her girlfriends. Over to my left, a little girl is whispering loudly the questions that I myself have been asking. Her mother shushes her and tries to distract her with one of the presents she’d just bought — a book about ballet, Peter and the Wolf, I think I hear her say.
For twenty minutes we ride like this. My friend fast asleep on my arm. Not snoring, not drooling — thank God — just quietly sleeping.
By now, mostly people are leaving the train at the various stations, but occasionally we pick up riders headed further down the line. One, a scruffy-looking thirty-something, who has an air that doesn’t suit his scruffiness, ends up standing directly in front of us though there are plenty of empty seats nearby. After a minute or two — maybe the time he needed to consider the awkwardness of my situation — he asks whether I’d like him to wake the youngster.
To my surprise, I say “No, I don’t think so. He seems to be exhausted. But I’m getting off in three stops. Perhaps then you could take my place.”
© 2013 Peter McMillan
Peter McMillan is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers. He has published two anthologies of his reprinted stories: Flash! Fiction and Flash! Fiction 2.
March 27, 2014 Comments Off on Saint Jude By Carly Berg
Mama had thirteen kids, and a taste for shiftless men and corn whiskey. Us older kids brought home dimes from our paper routes and errands for the neighbor ladies. But Mama still had to go to St. Jude the Apostle’s for hand-me-down clothes, canned goods, and help with the rent money.
Mama said they gave an ounce of charity with a pound of moralizing, which made her so mad that one day she came home with the church’s most sacred holy relic in her brassiere. She pulled St. Jude’s pinky bone from between her bosoms for us kids to behold. Even the latest shiftless gasped.
That night came knocking from under the floorboards, same say someone would knock at the front door. Mama opened the inside door to the root cellar and there stood St. Jude himself. I knew him from Sunday school prayer cards and the ring of fire around his head.
He said, “As the patron saint of impossible situations, I see I’ve found the right place.”
Mama blubbered in her lit up state, but St. Jude lifted his hand to halt her. Well, his hand except for the pinky finger.
By and by, we settled back into our usual ways, figuring he needed impossible situations as much as we needed bailing out of them.
Sometimes Mama even called him Jude the Prude. She’d make him fetch her a bottle of hooch. Once or twice, she made him wash her feet. The latest shiftless man spluttered and gawked. But Mama said saints were martyrs, so they liked to be done wrong.
© 2013 Carly Berg
Carly Berg is a dark cloud hovering over sunny Houston. Her stories appear in several dozen journals and anthologies, including PANK, Word Riot, Bartleby Snopes, and JMWW, and she’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize as well. http://www.carlyberg.com