March 26, 2015 Comments Off on Springtime in the Courtyard of a Picturesque University By Emily Eckart
A cherry tree is blooming in the corner of the green. Brick buildings’ upper corners punctuate the sky. Office windows shine like mirrors, reflecting round, and white clouds.
Students sit at tables, type on laptops, chat in groups. Petals from the cherry tree drift over their heads — petals and something else: feathers. Scholars walk the asphalt runway, down and petals floating over them, as if to signify their thoughts.
In the top of the cherry tree sits a hawk. It jerks its head up and down, left and right. The robin in its talons has a gash in its breast. With each thrust of the hawk’s beak, newly-torn entrails dangle like threads. Partly alive, the robin trembles. Feathers scatter in the warm spring breeze.
Rabbits scamper beneath the rhododendrons, eyes wide and wet, noses twitching. They nibble on new grass, retreating when students approach.
A baby rabbit sits in the open, near a picnic table. Unlike its elders, it is utterly still. It does not move when a squirrel explores nearby. Its brown fur looks soft, like cashmere.
Four men come to move the table. They look down, see the rabbit, falter. One man stoops to poke it. It tips over, stiff.
“You just killed a bunny,” his friend says.
“I saw a fly on it.”
“Get a body bag.” They laugh. The first man makes a call on his walkie-talkie.
They flip the picnic table, balance it on a dolly, and roll it away. A janitor arrives with a black garbage bag. He covers his hands with the bag’s edges so he does not touch the rabbit. He shakes the rabbit in and ties a knot. He deposits the bag in the dumpster behind the cherry tree.
Clouds drift through false skies in office windows. Students sit at tables, type on laptops, chat in groups. Daffodils and tulips nod calmly in the breeze.
© 2014 Emily Eckart
Emily Eckart studied music and English Literature at Harvard University. Her stories have appeared in Potomac Review, Literary Orphans, and elsewhere.
March 23, 2015 Comments Off on Train Tracks By Rachel Tanner
Our town is separated by train tracks. They don’t go down the middle or split the city into any discernible patterned means of identification. No one else but me realizes that it’s even split. But the tracks split the land into two parts: your side and my side. By the liquor store and the weird condos with the parking beneath them that some batshit crazy realtor decided to market as office space, the train tracks run below a few overpasses that look as basic and common as any other part of any other city. But I know better. I know that as soon as I cross the tracks, I’m in your territory. I’m near your home, near the place you’ve staked out for yourself and where I’m rarely welcome.
I used to go on late night drives to clear my head. Boundaries didn’t matter then. The town was merely a town and none of it was off limits. But now I have to think about which parts are mine and which parts are yours.
Remember when all of it used to be ours? Remember the apartment? I know it was technically mine, but I did what I could to make it ours. I made you a key. I tried to make you feel at home. But I failed. I failed on my side of the tracks so you jumped ship and moved away. That’s the way it goes sometimes, though. I couldn’t define your home for you; you had to define it for yourself.
© 2014 Rachel Tanner
March 19, 2015 Comments Off on Sharp By Robin Wyatt Dunn
Sharp dreamt, daydreamt really, in his master’s lap, or his master’s friend’s lap, they were much the same size lap. He dreamt of a distant wood, smells impossible to resist, a river he had once seen, in a dream, far away brightly shining, terrifying really, thrilling.
For in adventure is the cousin swept sundered from our breast, for what now remains? Only within.
Only within, or into orbit, are the worlds now for us, yet —
Sharp is running.
His master’s friend too, has sensed the moment, has seized it; they are running together.
What is it to move into the new valley? What terrible embrace of love yet reborn extends even now into our ancestral memory, into the dog’s mouth, into my hand?
His fur is warm and sweet, and so is my blood, set to run at a fecund time, a fertile frequency, on the long run out and the swift run back, for all exits are entrances, baby —
Sharp needs to know, or wants to know, just what he is missing. Just what he is missing out on.
Beyond the door, beyond the yard, beyond the end of the street . . .
Out into the world.
I who am not a dog am close enough, for I too hunger for the unsniffed breeze, I too wonder, what is beyond my yard? What is beyond my gate, down the road, out into the world, behind the sky and all that’s mine and not and what’s why, when we have smells, running us under each other altruistically expressed as man-dog, running, running, under moons and skies, each wondering why each exists, and not the other, first or last, an aegis painted and at thirst, for our deeds of glory, or at least something worth barking at, our aegis hungers for our souls, we must broaden them with our accomplishments, our stories, so musically inexpressible, as a breeze, filled with thunder, like the dog’s laugh —
A small dog but big dreams as I am full waked in my bier, O in my bier, my dog, come so we can clasp the last thing we may know —
But no bier yet, I seize the dog and it scowls, laughs, we are walking, a sort of a walk but more, more of a fever, show me wherein whereout who where and when for what in which and all the presences prescient and amazed, my laugh and my tongue, the state and grace of suns and sermons on a droplet of moisture on the grass, this sermon is my thought, it lasts only a moment, like the feeling of thunder, long before it has arrived —
Each other, yet:
Each has arrived a beating heart made serious and worth within the barking goodness dreaming afternoons, but what for? Who with?
In this barking dream what reasons meant after the season’s aftermath are changing now and when? And what will happen next?
© 2014 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
March 16, 2015 Comments Off on On an Evening in Late September… By Matthew Beach
On an Evening in Late September, I Read Cormac McCarthy
and Watch You Gather Stones for a Fire Pit.
You find the best ones riverside. All sizes and textures. You carry them hammocked in your shirtfront, back to site. You stack logs then light. Feral horses grazing. Mares, orange and yellow. Stallions, blue into red, rearing and bucking, stirring up eddies of ash into the air like moths from cocoons. You pen them up in endless circles. They whinny mad and native in their cavessons, trapped in a stone corral, waiting to be tamed.
© 2014 Matthew Beach
Matthew Beach is a high-school English teacher, writer, and visual artist from Canton, Ohio. His poems and stories appear in The Prose-Poem Project, Metazen, Weave, Heavy Feather Review, and elsewhere. His work can be found online at http://mtbeach.wordpress.com
March 12, 2015 Comments Off on Judgement Day By Simon Kewin
“There’s a queue is there?” asked Dan.
The woman standing at the end of the line turned to look at him as he arrived. She wore a smart business suit he found immediately intimidating.
“Yes,” the woman replied, “some problem up ahead, apparently. This man was just telling me. There’s going to be a delay.”
Dan nodded. The line of individuals ahead of them snaked backwards and forwards in great loops, meandering its way to a point on the distant horizon. People became blobs, then dots, then a mere line.
“How long have you been here?” Dan said, shouting to the people on the next loop of the queue. They were dressed in retro 60s clothing from a hippy party maybe. Must have been some terrible disaster for them all to be here together.
One of the hippies shrugged. “Difficult to say, man.”
“Have you moved at all?”
The man shook his shaggy head. “Some problem up ahead. There’s a delay. We gotta wait.”
The grey plain they all stood on was featureless, its floor trodden sand. Dan wondered how many grains of sand there were. The sky was a bowl of uniform grey, low light like on a winter’s day. He was no longer at the back of the queue anymore. Maybe thirty, forty people had joined the line behind him.
“What happens if we just leave?” he asked the businesswoman. But she was too busy studying her mobile, a frown on her face, and didn’t reply.
Shrugging, Dan stepped out of line and began to walk away.
“Hey, you can’t do that!” said a man further down the line, burly, angry-looking. “I was a policeman. There are rules. You can’t just leave.”
“Has anyone tried?” asked Dan.
“You can’t. If we stop queuing what happens then? Everything starts to break down.”
Dan studied the man. He didn’t like the look of his red face and his scowl. “Well, I’m leaving anyway.”
“You have to wait.” The policeman was shouting at Dan now. “There’ll be trouble if you don’t.”
Several people tut-tutted in agreement. Others deliberately paid no attention, as if the exchange was too embarrassing. The businesswoman continued to tap away at her mobile with shiny blue fingernails and didn’t look up.
Dan ignored the man. He could just discern a distant line of hills across the plain, a line of darker grey. He wondered what the view was like from on top of them. He wondered what lay on the other side of them.
Not looking back, he left the queue and began to walk towards that distant horizon.
© 2014 Simon Kewin
Simon writes fantasy, SF, mainstream and some stories that can’t make their minds up. He lives in England with Alison and their daughters Eleanor and Rose. His fantasy novels Engn and Hedge Witch were recently published. Find him at http://simonkewin.co.uk
March 9, 2015 Comments Off on Narratorial Impersonation With Meteor Shower By Soren James
Maybe this will imitate
the form of a sentence
and be told
by an impersonation
of a narrator —
conveyed in replica words.
In this sentence I will be your narrator. In this one, bob will play narrator — but only under my close supervision. In this one, Carole will pass through a doorway for about eighteen hours and then take four years to change her mind about something that‘s not there.
That said, a shooting star has just fallen in my back yard, and I don’t know what to make of it. I’m not sure whether it’s a sign to stop writing, or a sign to continue writing. Perhaps it’s neither, and it’s just a shooting star doing its own thing, for its own inscrutable reasons.
But I can’t help sticking my theories onto it. Getting my block head ideas and projecting them all over that innocent piece of space dust. I’m aware that our ideas seize upon approximate, even non-existent, things — because ideas like a game. Or they just like the idea of a game that’s not there. Or maybe they like falling through their own anus every so often to reaffirm the pointlessness.
I don’t know. All I know is that I said something. Said it. And left it at that. And if that’s not enough to be going on with, then we’re all fucked. Some of us more than others.
© 2014 Soren James
Soren James is a writer and visual artist who recreates himself on a daily basis from the materials at his disposal, continuing to do so in upbeat manner until one day he will sumptuously throw his drained materials aside and resume stillness without asking why. More of his work can be seen here: http://sorenjames.moonfruit.com/home/4580917876
March 5, 2015 Comments Off on Toast Ghost By Daniel Cetina
The ghost left toast everywhere in the house. I’ve found slices of buttery brioche stacked between plates in the kitchen cabinet; dry pieces of browned sourdough lining the rim of my bathtub; and even stale remnants of garlic bread stuck in the couch cushions. I hired a priest to exorcise the place. He was reluctant to do it for free after I explained the nature of the toast ghost’s haunting, and he insisted on a donation for his time. I reluctantly agreed. The priest pulled a pocket bible from his briefcase, which I told him made him look more like a serious businessman than a priest. Performing exorcisms, he said, is serious business. He recited a couple of words — loud ones with names I couldn’t spell even if I’d wanted to — then sprinkled some holy water on my carpet. The air felt warm, suddenly like home after a long time of feeling not like home. I sniffed, then he sniffed, and nothing happened. With a sigh the priest said, “I’ve done all I can but give me a ring in the morning if anything happens, okay?” But when he opened his serious business briefcase to replace his bible, he froze. He looked at me the way you look at a spider crawling on the ceiling above your bed at night. “What is it?” I asked. Mouth agape, he slowly revealed a slice of burnt Challah bread. “You might want to call a Rabbi,” he said. But in the end I would never get around to it.
© 2014 Daniel Cetina
Daniel Cetina was born to a family of accountants, truck drivers, environmental biologists, and street fighters. A graduate of the University of California Santa Cruz, he has a BA in Literature and Creative Writing, and is the author of the short story collection, Come Crashing Down: Stories. He currently lives in Santa Cruz where he works as a video game writer. http://danielcetina.writersresidence.com
March 2, 2015 Comments Off on Malady By Ray Nessly
When the malady struck and the world fell dark at noon, she and I groped the walls and found our front door. Outside, bewildered, we heard the whine of jets in free-fall, explosions in the imagined distance. And we heard a car — or was it a truck that veered into the ditch across the street? On its side, wheels spinning, we guessed because we could hear them rattle and squeak.
Heard the driver too, begging for help. Poor soul, screaming, right there in front of our eyes: trapped in fire and twisted metal, we feared, but could not see. Because the malady had blinded us by sealing our eyes closed.
This strange new darkness. Like the hand of God had sutured our eyelids and left us nothing but to wonder . . . why?
I took her arm and she mine to wander the streets, blind. Nothing stirred. Everybody gone. Why?
We remembered hearing, the day before, the sound of a blade on wood. A neighbor chopping firewood, next door. We searched his yard, our arms groping the blackness, until I tripped on the axe. We broke into houses with it. Storefronts. Hoarded every last weapon, bottle, match, tin.
Windows open, all that winter long, we took turns sleeping, the other listening for trouble.
And now it’s spring. And last week — or was it longer ago? –you found us. She and I, hiding. From survivors. Fellow blinded survivors. All because we had imagined you to be more savage than ourselves.
And now she’s dying because I botched it.
Gave her too much to drink to dull the pain. Too much ice on her eyes. She couldn’t guide my hands, couldn’t cry out when I slashed her eyelids open, couldn’t warn me I’d gone too deep with the blade.
There’s only one way.
You, with your hand on my shoulder. Spare me your empathy. Spare me the alcohol; spare me the last of the mountain ice. Grope this place, would you? Find me the box cutter and hand it to me.
Now I take the same hands and blade that infected her, that truly blinded her. This time, I’ll know exactly where, and how hard, to press. Because it’s my sense of touch that’s doing the guiding. And it’s my eye.
Later, when my wounds heal and the pain subsides, take my arm, one of you. I’ll show you the packets of seeds amid the store shelves in their scavenged hundreds. We’ll go to the field, together. And I’ll show you — show all of you — where to dig. Where to empty your buckets of water. Where the field is free of shadow from morning onto dusk.
© 2014 Ray Nessly
Ray Nessly hails from Seattle and lives near San Diego with his wife and their two cats. He writes short stories, non-fiction, and is currently wrapping up a novel. His stories appear or are forthcoming in The Tavern Lantern, Literary Orphans, Do Some Damage, Thrillers Killers ‘n’ Chillers, Yellow Mama, and in the collection, Literary Bondage: An Exploration of Potential Literature.
February 26, 2015 Comments Off on Mimetic Imperfections By Jonathan Dittman
The replicas drank blood like tea. Charlie’s replica even extended a pinky finger, poised in the civilized fashion downloaded from the streaming database of British dramas located on the CentraNet servers. The irony of the situation was apparent to the other replicas, and though they did not laugh, they were cognizant of how incongruent blood and tea were in terms of human consumption. The three of them sat around the table, right legs identically draped over the left, right index fingers looped through the smooth, ivory handles of the tea cups. Neatly stacked in a pile near the corner of the room were the three originals. Charlie’s replica raised the cup to its lips and let the red, metallic liquid pool in his mouth before the synthetic fibers triggered a compression of the rubberized esophagus and it swallowed. As the blood settled in its temporary containment box, the replica finally understood what it was to be human.
© 2014 Jonathan Dittman
Jonathan Dittman’s work has appeared in Creative Colloquy, thick jam and The Pitkin Review, and his essay on language and identity theory appears in the book collection “Perspectives on Percival Everett.” Jonathan received his MFA from Goddard College in Port Townsend, Washington. He lives in Minnesota with his wife and two children.
February 23, 2015 Comments Off on OZZIE By Paul Beckman
Ozzie entered the hospital at eleven PM, three hours after visiting hours ended. He was allowed past the reception desk and given directions to his mother’s room after showing his I.D.
Ozzie removed his backpack as he entered the dimly lit room and started walking over to give his tubed-up mother a kiss on her forehead but stopped when he noticed her covers had been kicked off and her gown was open revealing her private area.
He took a seat near the door even though there was a chair next to the bed. He opened his backpack and took out a stack of letters. He held them on his lap and stared at his mother, whom he hadn’t seen in over a year. He’d been traveling doing unnamed jobs for an unnamed company and just last week picked up his mail.
His eyes unwillingly kept going back to the dark thick patch between his mother’s legs as the monitors kept up their staccato pace. He selected a letter but didn’t open it. It was the letter making him her sole beneficiary and giving him the power to decide her fate should an occasion such as this arise. She said that she wanted a quality of life, and he thought it an odd phrase for someone who’d never had much quality to her life.
She lived a solitary existence in a tiny apartment on a small pension from the sewing factory and her social security check. She took no help, in fact, never cashed any of the checks he sent. Their relationship was not so much contentious as it was benign.
As he sat there, Ozzie had the feeling that his mother’s head, what he could see of it, was shrinking, and her privacy was growing. Now that the morning sun was coming up he could see it was streaked with gray.
Around six Ozzie was still sitting in the chair when a nurse walked into the room. She straightened out his mother’s gown and sheets and checked her vital signs and feeding tube. After that, she sat on the edge of the bed, took his mother’s hand, and spoke to her for a few minutes, telling her about her previous night’s dinner and TV shows she’d watched.
When she got up to leave she saw him sitting in the shadows. “Ozzie?” she asked.
“Your mother will be so glad you’re here. You’re the only person she ever talked about.”
“How long since she’s spoken?” he asked
“Quite a few months,” she said. “Actually, it’s been almost a year.”
Less than an hour later Ozzie walked out of the hospital.
© 2014 Paul Beckman
Paul Beckman used to be a Realtor, Air Traffic Controller, Saloon Keeper, Pin Setter, Numbers Runner & many other things. These days he’s a Zeyde who writes, travels, and takes pictures both above and beneath the water. He’s been published at Metazen, Connotation Press, Existere, Molotov Cocktail, and Pure Slush among others. http://www.paulbeckmanstories.com