March 24, 2016 Comments Off on Recapitulation By James Guthrie
It was harder to ignore, once it started bleeding.
He’d been prodding at it for a month, kneading it, worrying it. It was some sort of cartilage, he told himself, some kind of like spinal nub. A proto-tail, perhaps. It was freakish, sure, but it wasn’t fatal.
Then the little hole opened up.
He tried his damndest to see in the mirror what was going on back there, but no matter how he twisted his body around, he could only see the smear not the source.
Don’t panic, he told himself as he washed the blood from his hands. It certainly wasn’t normal, not by a long shot, but if you pressed on anything long enough, it was bound to start bleeding. He’d just leave it be, for a bit, try to sit over to one side. The bleeding would stop.
An hour later, he dabbed at it again. It had slowed, but it was still spotting. A half hour after that, he dabbed again. Five minutes after that, he dabbed again. He went through a box of tissues, dabbing at it. His waste basket was overflowing with wads of pink dotted Kleenex.
He considered the responsible thing, briefly. He considered going to the doctor in the morning. There was a walk-in clinic a couple of blocks away. He could hobble over there, fill out a form, sit down, gingerly. But he couldn’t imagine actually speaking of the problem, let alone dropping trou and letting them prod at it. He could, however, imagine the diagnosis. He’d seen it in movies: the doctor’s voice would become very distant after delivering such news. War movies used the same effect, when a grenade went off nearby.
He considered Googling his affliction instead, but whenever you Google something, it always says cancer. He was pretty sure Googling his symptoms would bring up nothing but cancer, and he couldn’t face that right now. Seeing that word would only make it worse, and he knew the sorts of things he would start to think about if things got any worse.
He went to the cabinet and found his medication. Then he called his girlfriend and asked her to come over. He tried to sound like nothing was wrong, but she heard a catch in his voice, a quaver in a diphthong, and when she questioned him, he broke down.
When he hung up, he felt better. He took two pills instead of one. Then he lay down on his side, and waited for her knock.
© 2015 James Guthrie
James Guthrie studied English at the University of Toronto. His work has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail and Red Savina Review.
March 21, 2016 Comments Off on Seduction or Something Else By Vincent Barry
I tell myself stories. Today on the subway I told myself such a curious story that I missed my regular stop. My story was about, well, there was a girl in my story . . . and a bandleader with grey, sardonic eyes. The pucker-mouthed girl had pale, flaxen hair and thin, sensitive lips. In my story the bandleader was cleaning a room — a rumpus room or, perhaps, a bathroom, I couldn’t decide. Sweeping and mopping, mopping and sweeping, that’s what the bandleader did in the room in my story. The room was full of party paraphernalia, and the girl stood behind a glass door, showering. The bandleader didn’t notice. Later in my story the girl and the bandleader stood on a road, a distance of, say, twenty feet separating them. A suggestion of a smile played about the corners of the girl’s mouth, but not the bandleader’s. After a while, the girl sashayed down the road, turning now and again to cast sheep-eyes at the bandleader. The bandleader stood quiet and still. Then the girl turned full around, as if to address the bandleader. Suddenly, a cat came out of nowhere and darted about her feet, nearly knocking her down, and making me miss my stop. The girl shooed the cat away. “She did the same thing the last time I was here,” the girl said, of the cat, but she could have meant the bandleader, from whom no word came. The girl drifted off and faded away like a midnight mum behind a picket fence at the end of the road. From out of a yellow fog, the cat slunk toward the bandleader, growing with each silent step until it morphed into a tiger — an immature tiger, to be sure, but a tiger nonetheless.
I may call my story Seduction . . . or something else. I haven’t decided.
© 2015 Vincent Barry
Vincent Barry’s affection for creative writing is rooted in the theatre. More years ago than he prefers to remember, his one-act plays caught the attention of the late Arthur Ballet at the University of Minnesota’s Office for Advanced Drama Research and Wynn Handman at New York’s The American Place Theatre. Some productions followed, as well as a residency at The Edward Albee Foundation on Long Island. Meanwhile, Barry was teaching philosophy at Bakersfield College in California and authoring philosophy textbooks. Now retired from teaching, Barry has returned to his first love, fiction. His stories have appeared in Writing Tomorrow Magazine (“Dear Fellow Californian,” June 2014), The Write Room (“When It First Came Out,” Fall 2014), and Blue Lake Review (“The Girl with the Sunflower Yellow Hot Rod Limo,” December 2014). His story “A Lot Like Limbo” appears in the Spring 2015 print anthology of Crack the Spine.
March 17, 2016 Comments Off on The Time My Head Was Decapitated and I Had a Body No More By Smith Q. Johns
I don’t like it when my friends toss me around. And by “me” I mean my head, as my body got cut off and lost or something. It’s all a blur to me, but now I just got a head. Nothing else. No body. Nothing.
Sometimes my friends, and or bullies, like to pretend I’m a football and I have to yell at them to stop, which isn’t easy to do because I don’t have my vocal chords anymore. Even if I did, it wouldn’t matter; they’d just keep tossing me around.
“Don’t spike me!” I’d tried to yell in my Mickey Mouse voice one time before being thrown through a glass coffee table. I was too late. They spiked me anyway.
That’s the only really bad thing about being just a head: the Mickey Mouse voice. It’s really really bad. I mean who listens to Mickey Mouse when he shouts? No one takes that seriously. One time I yelled at my friend in anger — or at least I tried to yell, which in my opinion is barely yelling and shouldn’t be considered as such no matter what the volume — so she left me on a train. As I sat there motionless, stuck on the train, I tried to call for help, but people seemed too scared to come over to help me. People walked by and in my Mickey Mouse voice I said, “Help me. Help me … please.” Kids and parents alike just ran away. I don’t know why they were scared. It’s not like I can take anyone in a fight. I’m just a poor little head. People are so weird.
Finally a little boy came over and I thought he was going to help me, so in my Mickey Mouse voice, I said, “My hero,” but it turned out he’d just walked over to put a Barbie doll next to me and then he walked off.
It was discouraging and embarrassing. I wanted to cry but I’m a man … well, I have the head of a man.
But then the kid came back. The little boy was going to save me. I smiled so big.
I was saved.
But then he just put a Mrs. Potato Head on the other side of me and said, “Mommy, Daddy, come look at this. Head is a PIMP.”
A crowd gathered and everyone started laughing. It was the most humiliating moment of my life, and no, I didn’t drown in my own tears.
But I did almost drown in some ketchup later that night.
It was the worst night I’ve had as a head so far.
© 2015 Smith Q. Johns
Smith Q. Johns watches a lot of movies because he doesn’t have any friends. You can read some stupid things he wrote here: http://blueskirtproductions.com/tag/smith-q-johns/
March 14, 2016 Comments Off on Homo naledi By P.J. Wren
Our hunting party had been following the herd through the grasslands since the start of the dry season. We had walked for days without water. We crested each hill with the hope of a wet valley below. At last, Esa spotted a patch of green grass among a stand of odd dead trees. Green meant water, real water, not just another shimmering mirage.
We rushed to the valley, pushing each other, not noticing the sinkhole until someone nearly fell in. Our thirst drove us further down the slope to the shallow pool where we dropped on our grateful knees to drink.
After we refilled our gourds, Esa noticed movement in the trees. His eyes scanned the highest branches, and I matched his gaze.
“Apes?” I asked. “Here?”
Esa frowned. “Not apes, but … We’ll stay tonight.”
That night, as we rested under the stars, Esa remembered that his grandfather had taken him as a boy to a cave. In the flickering light, Esa had watched his grandfather draw pictures of odd ancient trees. In the trees he’d drawn creatures like us, but smaller. Like apes, but upright with long curved fingers gripping the highest branches, but also reaching upwards, as if to pluck the stars from the sky.
Esa’s grandfather called them the Old Ones.
The next morning, within hours of waking, we had captured all the Old Ones as they came out of the trees to drink. There were fifteen of them, weak with hunger, many too old or too young to walk far. We could have left them to the vultures, but Esa said no.
Esa thought of the sinkhole. One of our boys shimmied down and found a dry cavern below.
With the gentlest touch from our spears, we killed them.
We carried their bodies to the sinkhole, not on our backs as one would carry an animal but cradled in our arms, to drop them in, according to our most sacred rite.
© 2015 P.J. Wren
P.J. Wren is a scientist by day and a writer of short fiction and poetry by night.
March 10, 2016 Comments Off on To All the Liminal By Jen Corrigan
The doorbell rings.
It’s not for me.
It’s the twitchy kid from down the street, his face blanketed with throbbing pimples and freckles like sparks from a campfire. He’s asking if my little brother can come out and play: ride bikes, hunt for frogs, fight with swords cut from splintered lumber. The kid gives me an eerie feeling, like a bowling ball rolling over and over again inside my stomach when I see him through the streaked window, skulking up the driveway, a brittle scarecrow. I imagine him lighting fires, torturing small animals, throwing rocks at younger kids. One day we’ll read in the paper that he went ‘round the bend and sliced up a bunch of people in his basement, and I can be the one who says, “I knew it all along! I knew it!”
The doorbell rings.
It’s not for me.
It’s the nice elderly neighbor with the fancy yard, come to give us thick, green sleeves of lettuce, blushing tomatoes, and dimpled ears of corn, fit to burst. He and his wife do little more than work in their garden, turning the dirt over in their hands, tearing weeds from the ground and digging out little sticker bushes with rusty trowels. They used to have a dog, a sleek, shiny golden retriever named Molly. I haven’t seen their dog in a long time. I wonder what happened to it.
It’s not for me.
It’s the fat neighbor lady from a block over, dropping in for a cup of bitter coffee because she can’t stand to go home to her bitter marriage. Her mouth never stops moving, up down up down, as she churns out words, her jowls trembling. She talks about her husband, corpselike in his recliner. She talks about her kids and how they never talk to her. (She had to find out about Maddy’s eating disorder from the school guidance counselor, for God’s sake.) She talks about what that Mrs. Hansen a couple doors over said to her at the PTA potluck last week. The nerve. She talks and talks and talks so she won’t have to listen to the silence.
Or maybe it’s the religious nuts who come to bother us every other Saturday, consecrated clockwork. Such diligent apostles, they always come bearing pamphlets and brochures, their arms filled with the Word of God. They like to ask in milk-and-honey voices if they can come in and read us a few selections from the Bible. This time, I see them out the window before they get to the door, walking slowly and deliberately up the driveway in their conservative lavender skirts and ivory shoes. I turn off the lights and hide. We’re not home, we’ve never been home, we’ll never be home, so don’t come back.
The doorbell rings.
It’s for me.
© 2015 Jen Corrigan
Jen Corrigan has contributed to Topics in Recreational Mathematics (Volumes 3 and 4) and Alphametics Expressing Thoughts from the Star Trek Original Series, each edited by Charles Ashbacher. She is a graduate student in the MA Creative Writing program at The University of Northern Iowa.
March 7, 2016 Comments Off on Laugh by Martin Keaveney
Laugh his smile, his body shape standing proud. But no more. Gently, gently I allow him away, fluttering in the breeze, will be, will flakes of something, it is a joke, it is all serious, no one could keep it straight with this for the love of God if that be your taste, for the love of something. To be the one with this burden, light as a cliché, sad old world, sad old place, a joke, a funny sad story, a story nonetheless this needs must, has to be gotten through, never around, a queer therapy really. And far lost and gone we try again in this old circle, that old chestnut, scoop it out and blend it and push it back in again like some kind of comedy. Let me be free beyond the trees, the hills, the flowers, the grasses, the insects, the birds, the lakes, the roads, the paint on the buildings, the implements within the buildings, they offer me a funny kind of freedom, a far loss and gone and it is all too much.
© 2015 Martin Keaveney
Martin Keaveney’s recent fiction includes The Rainy Day in the anthology Small Lives (Poddle Publications), Last Order in Crannog, and A New Freedom in Gold Dust magazine with work forthcoming in Agave Magazine. He has a B.A. in English and Italian and an M.A. in English (Writing) from NUI, Galway, Ireland. He is currently a PhD candidate at NUIG, 2014-18 where he is researching the John McGahern archive and also writing a novel as part of the course.
March 3, 2016 Comments Off on From an Inner Chapter By Robert Laughlin
C.T. wanted to swim in the hotel pool, but the gate was locked. He rang and rang for the manager. Nobody came. Deciding this was a bad dream, he willed himself to wake and woke in a poolside chair, so he dove in, feeling the water surge over his multicolored wings.
© 2015 Robert Laughlin
Robert Laughlin lives in Chico, California, and received his BA from California State University, Sacramento. He has published 100 short stories, two of which are storySouth Million Writers Award Notable Stories. His website is at www.pw.org/content/robert_laughlin
February 25, 2016 Comments Off on Banquet By Daniel Finkel
That evening, Great-Uncle was outside, picking. Great-Aunt was in the garden, cutting, and I was in the cellar, talking.
Great-Uncle picked a falling star. He opened his basket and dropped it in, ripe as a celestial pomegranate, glowing like a spark of ice.
Great-Aunt carved a tree of glass, delineating every bright blossom and exotic bird. She stroked the wind across its bounteous, starry fruits, etching manifold mysteries into its smoking bark while tanning the flesh of the greedy serpents that were its roots. Then she shattered it. After gathering up the shards of flesh and smoke, she pieced them back together into burning suns; blowing leaves; and wriggling, bark-clasped serpents. Then, she shattered them again, built them again, broke them again . . . dropped them in a boiling pot, and stirred.
I was downstairs, talking to the devil.
Great-Uncle came down from the hill. Came down from the hill with a shining basket. Great-Uncle came down from the hill with a shining, bounteous basket of stars.
Great-Aunt came in from the garden, fingers dripping with fleshy paints, bearing a molten mirror of stars and serpents. They built a fire, set a table. Four plates. Four knives. Four cups of jig-sawed dust, and I invited Mephistopheles to dinner.
That night, we ate stars and drank glass. The devil said they were good, and we believed him.
© 2015 Daniel Finkel
Daniel Finkel is a writer from the Philadelphia area with a special interest in speculative fiction. He has published several short stories and poems, and serves as the fiction and copy editor of two local journals. He can usually be found at his desk, with a cup of hot chocolate, imagining himself hard at work.
February 22, 2016 Comments Off on Buy Me a River By Daniel Hickey
Sarah asked me to buy her a river.
“We can’t afford a river,” I said.
The following morning, at breakfast, she went on and on: “Buy me a river, buy me a river, buy me a river.”
I tried ignoring her, but that didn’t work, so I told her, “I’m going to the snooker club.”
I returned to find that Sarah had plastered the four walls and the ceiling of the bedroom with pictures of rivers clipped from magazines.
“How do you buy a river? Is it possible? Do you need a permit? Sarah, have you asked yourself these questions?”
“Just buy me a river,” she replied, and then she looked up at the ceiling. “The Congo,” she said, “I want the Congo.”
“We live in a one-bedroom flat, honey.”
“I want the Congo.”
“You haven’t been happy, have you, this last while, I mean?”
She shook her head.
“Are you crying?”
She was crying.
So I called the Embassy. “I want to buy the Congo.”
“Country or river, sir?”
I was put on hold.
“I’m sorry but it’s been sold, sir.”
“A Chinese man, sir.”
I broke the news to Sarah and suggested the Ganges, perhaps, instead.
“It’s not the Congo.”
“But it’s the Ganges. The Ganges!”
The Ganges arrived a month later. The deliverymen unpacked the muddy, corpse-infested waters in our apartment block’s underground carpark.
Sarah ran downstairs. I followed. The waters rippled under the fluorescent light.
“It’s beautiful,” Sarah said. I hadn’t seen her smile in a long, long time.
Squatting, she dipped her hands into the water. “See how it flows,” she said. She looked up at me. “See?”
© 2015 Daniel Hickey
Daniel Hickey is a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry from County Mayo, Ireland. His work has been published both in print and online, in publications such as the Mayo Anthology of Poetry, the Mala Literary Journal, Eastlit, and Ink, Sweat and Tears. Daniel has lived and worked in China, where he taught creative writing at Sichuan University. He currently lives in Dublin, Ireland, reporting on murder trials for the country’s national newspapers.
February 18, 2016 Comments Off on Checkup By Anthony Cordello
She took one look and said it wasn’t a cavity but a ghost trapped inside the tooth. She asked if I had fallen asleep with my mouth open near any fresh graves within the past month. I admitted that I had passed out in Hackensack Cemetery last Saturday and informed her that I had a copy of the police report if she needed it, but she just shook her head, patted my arm, explained that the extraction was very simple and painless except for the quick shot of novocaine. I shrugged and enjoyed the ride as she lowered the seat. Before recklessly plunging the needle into the roof of my mouth, she listed everything bizarre she had ever found inside teeth: a diamond chain, a beer tab, a fossil of a starfish, a green army man, a ceramic deer statue, a money order for five hundred and seventy-five dollars, a carabiner, a pill cutter. Before she hooked the suction wand to the side of my mouth, before she took my tooth apart with sickle and chisel, I told her how, early last Sunday morning, a deer had come out of the woods and ate away all the flowers from the tombstone.
© 2015 Anthony Cordello
Anthony Cordello went to UMass Amherst for his BA and Fairfield for his MFA. His stories have been published in decomP, Tin House’s Open Bar, and Thickjam.