Spring 2013 Issue

Published April 2013

 

(Please scroll down to find each story.)

 

 

  Flash Fiction>>

 

  • Carly Berg, Beanstalk Revised

  • Eric Blix, Going Home Via The Internal Combustion Engine

  • Henry Brown, Flood Victims – Man and Boy

  • Robin Wyatt Dunn, Last Friday

  • Joe Giordano, The End of the Italian Bread

  • Kevin Hall, In From the Rain.....................*Editors’ Choice*

  • Joe Kilgore, The Rangoon Eye

  • Stephen Koster, Forgetting the Real Paris 

  • Stephen V. Ramey, A Snifter of Absinthe.................*Editors’ Choice*

  • Charles Rammelkamp, And They All Lived Happily Ever After.......*Editors' Choice*

  • Rob Schultz, Shopper's Paradise

  • Phil Temples, Purpose

  • Laura Woofitt, Hosea

 

Prose Poetry>>

 

  • Will Dixon, A Course...............*Editors' Choice*                                     

  • Alan Reed, Patches of Green

  • Olvard Smith, Doom

__________________________________________________________________________________________

Flash Fiction

         

Beanstalk Revised

by Carly Berg          

           

Jackie moved to the city for thrills and money. Instead, she got a lousy receptionist job and a mildewed basement efficiency. It was cold, gray. Other buildings blocked out the sun.

 

She went to the shamaness next door. Surely, anyone so spangly and kohl-eyed had a big life and could get Jackie one, too.

 

Shamaness snapped her fingers, jangling her bangles. "Magical bean," she prescribed.

 

This was no pinto bean or navy bean, but a big beefy banana-sized bean.

 

The bean did not look safe to eat. So Jackie bought potting soil and a big pot, and planted it. She put the pot under the high window.

 

The next day, Jackie didn’t care when a client yelled at her for the boss’s mistake. Nor when the boss blamed her, too. She only cared about getting home to find out if her big life had begun.

 

The dank apartment smelled herbal fresh, lush green instead of gray-white. The giant bean had sprouted and split its pot in two. It grew toward the sun, bursting straight through the window.

 

A thrill chilled her. She cleaned up the glass on the floor, and poured more soil over the plant’s roots. She poured a drink and put on some blues as a person with a big life would do.

 

Someone knocked.

 

Shamaness flowed in, pink and gold and peacock with red, red lips. She pointed through Jackie’s window to a window in the next building, three floors up. The beanstalk had crashed through, drawn to the light within. “Go get the cash, under the mattress.”

 

“Huh?” Jackie snapped off the music.

 

Shamaness marched her outside. “Climb,” she ordered.

 

Jackie was beginning to think Shamaness had a sour disposition. The beanstalk was quite sturdy and had knobby footholds. Jackie climbed it and went through the window.

 

Inside, she feared she’d leave footprints in the ultra-plush carpet and get caught. She made her way to the bedroom anyway. She lifted up a corner of the mattress, and grabbed the envelope thick with bills.

 

The bathroom door opened, and Jackie slid under the bed.

 

The man probably did see her footprints in the carpet. He pulled her out by her feet.“What have we here?” he boomed.

 

He was so tall his head grazed the ceiling. “Well,” she spluttered, having not really considered this possibility, “The Shamaness said to climb the beanstalk, and…”

 

The giant dialed the police, as he held her down with his bare goat-sized foot.

 

Jackie was put in a cell with pale green walls.

 

The guards seemed bored. They walked by her cell and shouted, “Fee Fi Fo Fum,” then doubled over in laughter. They didn’t think the fairy tale ended fairly. Why should that nasty, thieving Jack get to steal from the giant, chop down the beanstalk and keep the loot? This, they said, was the way it should end.

        

#       #       #

 

Carly Berg's stories appear in a couple dozen journals and anthologies, including PANK, Scissors and Spackle, and The Molotov Cocktail. She thinks Jack got off too easy.  

 

____________________________________________

Going Home via the Internal Combustion Engine

by Eric Lloyd Blix

 

So the legless guy and I got onto the bus. The driver strapped my new crippled friend into the handicap spot where the seats are parallel to the aisle and fold up. Then he drove a few blocks and neither the legless guy or me said anything. I pretty much had my eyes closed and didn't care much about the stuff around me. My head hurt and my insides felt like they were full of grease. The only thing I could hear besides the bus and the idiots talking in the seat next to me—the kind that face forward, for I was in the other parallel to the aisle seat—was the kerchink of the squeaky parts on the legless guy's wheelchair. He was homeless and therefore had a wheelchair that kind of sucked. It was second hand, I think, like he got it from the Salvation Army or some do-gooder committee.

         

“Hey,” I said to him, “there ain't no ramp at my place. How you gonna get up to the second floor?” He simply sat broken-down-like. “I live on the second floor, friend. Wanna just decide when we get there?” He gave a nod that looked like the bus may have been moving his head for him at least partially.

 

Some more people got on after a few blocks and, since we'd spent the morning hunched over some cold ones without saying a whole lot, I asked the legless guy, “Were you in 'Nam?” He just sat there quietly like a piece of shitty machinery. At this point I got kind of mad. His ears should work, I thought. “Hey,” I said again, but louder, “were you in 'Nam?” I didn't get no answer because the idiots in the next seat over were looking at me like I had a bolt in my head knocked loose which distracted me from the question at hand. The bus driver, too. With his union job and his cushy seat with its own little suspension system that let him in a way move like he was apart from everything around him. To the homeless guy I said, “You're a fuckin' dive into real, old world pathos, my friend.” He moved like the coin box by the door. Rigid and stuck to the floor and rocking upright like at the whim of the bus.

         

I called Sheila and told her about things because the legless guy wasn't giving me the time of day. “He doesn't have any legs,” I said. Then, get this, I actually had to tell her, “It's not fuckin' funny. He has no legs.” Made me feel kind of lucky, actually. But also it kept me frankly kind of pissed off. Especially so since those same people one seat over couldn't mind their own fuckin' business and kept giving me these self-righteous looks. “I just got to shootin' the shit with him and he said he was hungry,” I told Sheila. “I wasn't at work,” I said, “because I got fired this morning.” Sheila freaked out. “Beats me what for,” I said. “I was just doing my job, the thing they fuckin' hired me for, working on the forklift, turning some bolts on the rear tire's engines, and the thing fuckin' slipped off the jack when I had my back turned. Wasn't my fault.” The bus driver lowered his sunglasses and looked at me in the mirror which quieted me down because I didn't want to get kicked off the bus and make the legless homeless guy use his crappy motorized chair to wheel all the way to my building.

         

“All that shouting, pissing and moaning,” I said into the phone. “The idiots having a smoke and lunch at 9:30 in the AM should have been paying stronger attention, it seems to me.” At least they were all nimble when the situation called for it. And who the hell might I add would pick a spot to fix on the fuckin' forklift where it could roll down the loading ramp with its forks out? Wasn't me, that's for sure. Could crush a limb or impale a person. And what's more who would pick me to fix on it in the first place? “I went to school for welding,” I told Sheila, “which I'll tell you right now is a whole hell of a lot different than turning bolts on little electric motors.” The homeless guy, then, I noticed as I was focused on the machinery on his metal chair, scratched one of his stumps. “I got more important stuff on my plate now than that piece of crap job, anyway,” I told Sheila. I hung up because she was pissing me off and I was getting looks out the wazoo from people so I thought I'd better ease up a bit, but also because I thought of something. I have a tendency to go overboard and yell, which if anything is probably what got me fired, I was so hot under the collar. It gets me into trouble sometimes, my temper does. I almost punched the foreman in the mouth this morning, I was so mad at the things he said, calling me an idiot and, no joke, a nincompoop. Which, I thought, might have been why I kind of liked the homeless guy without any legs in the first place. Seeing him wheel out of the bathroom at some downtown bar when it was still fuckin' morning out, I wondered how the guy took a leak. His body just didn't function right, but there he sat all strapped down and nonchalant with his stumps sticking out from his chair like he was waiting for some sorry payload and he didn't give a shit about if it came or not. And the fuckin' things still itched.

         

Well, I thought as the hydraulic lift beeped and lowered and we got off the bus, looking down at my arms and legs, in the context of getting the homeless guy into the kitchen of my second floor apartment, my limbs ain't broken. I made a plan to wrap my arms around him and hold him to my chest, one repaired unit sharing a set of legs up the stairwell, and a smile grew over my face like a sunrise.

 

#       #       #

 

Erik Blix lives and writes in Minneapolis. He has flash fiction forthcoming in theNewerYork Press's Electric Encyclopedia of Experimental Literature.                  

                              _________________________________________________

 

 

Flood Victims - Man and Boy

by Henry Brown

 

Driving down County Road, he looked for wild hogs swimming in his flooded cornfield. His step-son, nine years old, riding shotgun, looked over at him. “Your daddy let you shoot when you were nine?”

 

He stopped the truck. The man thought about it. “My old man, he never let me do much of anything,” he said.

 

“How come?” said the boy.

 

“I don’t have a answer for that.”

 

“My daddy, we used to do stuff together all the time,” said the boy.

 

The man killed the motor, and they both sat quietly, looking, listening for some movement in the water.

 

“Boy, you know what your mama and me do in the bedroom when the door’s closed?”

 

“Naw,” said the boy.

 

“Huh?”

 

“Naw.”

 

“Huh?  You don’t know?

 

“Naw, I reckon not,” the boy said.

 

“Huh? You don’t hear your mama and me in there sometimes at night?”

 

“Naw.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Naw, I said I don’t,” the boy said, surprising himself with his own loudness. “I said I don’t.”

 

“That’s okay, boy. Don’t you think another thing about it. Forget I mentioned it.”

 

With that the man took down the rifle from the rack behind them and handed it to the boy. “See that fat one right over there?  See if you can make ‘em holler.”

 

#       #       #

 

Henry Brown lives in Memphis where his writing life revolves around fiction-writing and meeting with a long-time fiction writers group. He has been published in various small journals and is currently working on a novel.

 

Last Friday

by Robin Wyatt Dunn

 

I knew I had him layin' there, some old stump of a man, traded three times by now to the Fancies off his hectic yammerin’, saying, do this, and do that, and I got your momma in a Bank Niner, like he would know what to do with her if he had her.

 

Don't reckon there's much about a man underneath you need to be told about, but I can commit my body to the ground just like anyone else, whether you let me or no. I carry my governmentally issued cyanide pill just like everyone else does in this county, and that is all I have to say.

 

Wasn't what I thought though. He was still dyin'. He was still dyin' like granddad did, under the stones we'd raised in his name. But this here was only the man's shack, it weren't holy, so I dragged him out, to see if his kin had raised any but there weren't none.

 

I admit to likin' the drunks, and yeah, it's what brought me, but there's only so much you can do to raise consciousness in these parts.

 

 

"Sylvia!"

 

"Yeah!"

 

"This one's near dead!"

 

"Well hold on!"

 

You believe in the holy spirit?  I do, myself, though atheism is something I understand too. Me, I figure the holy spirit might actually believe in atheism. It's alive like we are. You don't need no God for the holy spirit, not really. Some people it’s always “the Lord God this, and the Lord God that” like there are really Lords around here or something. This here is still America, goddamn it, and we do not have kings. Those are men we kill, you try to put a crown on your head. George Washington did not put on that crown, though folks wanted him too, you can understand that, it was all they had known. But he didn't do it. He let Adams take over.

 

And another thing:  Did George Washington say he was God?  Did he say, God has put me here to rule over you and to interpret His will?  No.

 

We do a fair amount of steam engineering here and so sometimes I do get to thinking it's the 18th Century all over except we're stupider is the main thing. So much stupider. All these stupid little Fancy kings declarin’ for themselves over the mountains.

 

"Jesus, he is dyin!" said Sylvia.

 

"Say a prayer over him, honey, go on."

 

And he spoke then, this old drunk, like I knew he would, and he said:

 

"What's your name?  Got a name on you?" Real raspy.

 

"He's still transmitting, Sylvia, just say a prayer now!  I don’t care if they hear that much."

 

"Land, you under our feet, we ride your ways and so does this man . . ."

 

"What's your Co, ord, in, ates?"  he whispers. Fucker's actually smilin’.

 

" . . . fire rise and fall, so too to the raptors and fishes, dust in the wind. Amen."

 

And I put a bullet in his head. I hate to waste bullets, but I think you can see why I had to. I never saw how someone could consent to putting a big old slug of iron and silicon in their head. All so they can plug into a Bank in those new cities. That nonsense terrifies me.
                                                         *    

I don't even know why I'm writin' this down. I guess it's because it's something my grandma did, late at night. We had good electricity then but she liked kerosene still, and I kinda liked the smell of that lamp, watchin’ her write there on her papers. She wrote all kinds of things down. Deaths and births and marriages, myths, rumors, pancake recipes. She made the best pancakes.

 

I taught Sylvia to read. She don't like to do it much, but I know she's proud I taught her that. Makes a person feel ignorant not to read.

 

I do believe I'll have a son, even now I believe that. So this is to my son: 

 

Son, your Daddy got the drink off him. That's how you'll be too. We keep close to our stones and so will you. The holy spirit makes broad and wide over this patch of earth, always threatening to turn dust bowl, but you make good with it and it'll do the same with you.

 

Stories are all we got. Even when someone tells you they don't want to hear them, you find a way to tell 'em. That's what I've found drunks are best for. They'll listen. And you tell ’em right, the recordings they make, the people over the mountains who listen, they won't even care. Not right by their law, they say, they say they’re unholy lies, but there's spiritual law, boy, the law of your blood, an’ that’s how narrative is, it sticks in your ribs and it makes you go.

 

One day you're goan come, boy, and that'll make me so happy.

 

#       #       #

 

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.

                            ______________________________________________________

 

 

The End of the Italian Bread

by Joe Giordano

 

Sal said, “Gimme the cucuzza.” He filled a water glass with red wine from a jug.

         

Jenny said, “Why can’t you call it the end of the Italian Bread, like everyone else?”

 

Sal and Jenny Cagliano ate spaghetti in their Brooklyn apartment. Sal had straight, black hair and wore a white tee shirt with a paper napkin tucked under his chin. Jenny, a strawberry blonde, wore a mid-calf, blue flowered dress. Sal sat at the head of the table. The exhaust fan in their bedroom window pulled a needed breeze through their three-room, railroad apartment. Jenny had sliced into crusty Italian bread on a wooden board.

         

Sal said, “Cucuzza is what my mother calls it.”

         

Jenny said, “Your mother.” She rolled her eyes.

 

“What?”

 

“The two of you, like Jesus and Mary. She believes you walk on water, and you think of her as virgin.”

 

Sal muttered, “Fa Nabbala.”

 

“What did you say?”

 

“I said, ‘Vai a Napoli.’ It means, ‘Go to Naples.’ It’s another of my mother’s expressions.”

 

“Is that like, ‘Go to Hell?’”

 

“No, no. Just gimme the cucuzza.”

 

“You always take the end. Maybe today, I want the end.”

         

Sal said, “C’mon, since when do you like the crust? Your Irish mother fed you Wonder Bread, soft as marshmallow with the taste of wallboard.”

         

“Maybe I want to try something new.”

         

“Yeah, like what?”

         

“Well, I might as well tell you now. I took a job.”

         

“What?”

         

“At the textile factory just off Utica Avenue. It’s a half-day to start, but the boss says it could be full time in a couple of months.”

         

Sal pushed his plate with the heel of his hand. “What, I don’t provide well enough for you?” His voice raised an octave. “You don’t have enough to eat? Enough nice clothes to wear?”

         

Jenny’s lips tightened. Her shoulders pulled together, and she looked away. “I knew you’d react this way. I dreaded to tell you.” She turned her face toward Sal. “Why can’t you be happy I have something for myself?”

         

Sal was more cold than calm. “I forbid it.”

         

Jenny stood straight up from the table. She clutched her paper napkin in her fist. “You forbid it? You’re my husband, not my father.”

         

Sal and Jenny glared at each other. After a few minutes, Sal took a gulp of wine from the tumbler, and Jenny sat in her chair. They picked at their spaghetti in silence.

         

Then Sal said, “Gimme the end of the Italian Bread.”

         

Jenny’s eyes were on her plate. She said, “Vai a Napoli.”

 

#       #       #

 

Joe Giordano was born in Brooklyn, and grew up in a blue-collar section of New York City. He and his wife, Jane, lived in Greece, Brazil, Belgium and Netherlands. They now live in Texas with their little Shih Tzu, Sophia, where Joe studies writing at the University of Texas in Austin.

 

Joe's story, "To See that Look Again," appeared in "The Summerset Review" June 15th. On July 6th, “Dead on the Turnpike” was in “Forge,” and on July 22nd, “Texas Badass” was in “River Poets Journal.” On August 1st, “She Lost Her Ear in Curitiba,” was in the Marco Polo Arts Magazine.

                                          _____________________________________

In From the Rain

by Kevin Hall

 

I’d never seen a sadder birthday girl.

 

She smiled maybe once, earlier, between sushi and cheesecake, but it was less of a smile and more of the memory of an inside joke once forgotten before slipping back into her own thoughts. She waved at me from the far end of the table. I don’t think she knew who I was.

There were songs, the standard birthday choruses, of course, mixed with some Bocephus and Beatles and, oddly enough, “Come On, Eileen.” She had a candle and blew it out, her wish lasting about as long as the drifting smoke. If she even made one. She never told us, we didn’t ask.

 

Pianos played behind her, begging her to dance, just one twist of the hips, one shake of the ass, in her sleeveless black top and jeans that every man noticed but none dared approach. No one wants to dance at someone else’s party, I guess.

 

Until they did. The dancing, I mean. And singing. Stories shared as beer slopped from clumsily poured pitchers, more focus paid to laughs than a steady hand.

 

“ … they have me down for working Saturday, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to call in sick and go meet Misty instead. Her profile looked soooooo hot, dude …”

 

“… saw Aerosmith three times. Knew most of the words to everything, too. Particularly that one they did with Run DMC, you know, ‘Walk This …”

 

“… ‘we went back inside, sat down, had a few drinks, and all we kept talking about, was’ …”

 

Not her.

 

Not one word.

 

She left the table, slipping through the crowd, left or right, you couldn’t really tell, the heads and bodies blending into a mass of perfect hair cuts and white smiles, at least until the drunk sweats took over.

 

She was gone. To smoke, I guess.

 

Or maybe just to feel the cold lick her skin, the February wind reminding of her of reality, bitter and distant.

 

Twenty-nine years old, but not a day past high school. Couldn’t leave it behind, or maybe it just followed her, no matter how hard she tried to shake it off, a dog coming in from the rain. Maybe a few pills, sure. Some drinks. Whatever it takes, you know.

 

Yeah, just a dog coming in from a cold rain.

 

I left to find her, no shining armor, just a blazer and jeans. She stood alone, huddled against the bricks, warm smoke in her lungs and cold breath out her mouth. She hugged one arm across her body, fighting for heat while the other hand held tight to the cigarette. I gave her my blazer.

 

“You’ll freeze,” she told me.

 

“You’ll have to smoke fast, then.”

 

She inhaled, blew it out the side of her mouth, careful to keep it out of my face.

 

“You look too smart to smoke,” she said.

 

"I also probably look to smart to stand here in the cold, but, well, here I am."

 

She moved toward me, turning a shoulder near my chest. I took the hint, put my arms around her, pulling her in close, smelling the smoke in her hair.

 

“You having a good birthday?” I asked.

 

She looked away, answered, “Yeah.”

 

“I don’t believe you.”

 

“It’s cold out here.”

 

“I know it is. I’m the one without a jacket.” I leaned to her ear, whispered, “And you’re the one avoiding my question.”

 

She moved back a half step, still keeping the embrace. “I answered.”

 

“You lied.”

 

“I have to pee. Walk me to the bathroom.”

 

“And you’ll have fun after?”

 

She turned away, grabbing my hand as we walked back inside, the doormen checking our hands and letting us pass. We weaved through the people, her arm reaching back, keeping a close grip on my fingers, guiding me darker and darker, away from the music, anywhere but here.

 

I saw the bathroom signs, promised to wait for her but only if she gave back my jacket. “We should be so lucky to see those shoulders, my dear.” A fair trade, and then she disappeared through the door while I waited longer than I should have.

 

#       #       #

 

Strother K. Hall is a native of Powell County, Ky., and currently lives in Georgetown, Ky. He spent several years as a newspaper reporter and editor. He has several incomplete projects floating around and thinks it's about time to start knocking them out again.

                     _____________________________________________________

The Rangoon Eye

by Joe Kilgore

 

The young man's heart was pounding in his chest like a toddler turned loose on a Chinese gong. Rounding the corner, the soles of his shoes skidded across the pavement and only a deft balancing act kept him from sprawling across the concrete. Righting himself, he knew he was still ahead of the police, but he didn't know how far. It was no longer a question of getting away, but rather one of not getting caught with the precious stone. He ducked into the next door to his left, never noticing the sign above it that read S. A. Tan's Curio Collective.

 

Had his chest not been heaving so, and his mind not racing so, he might have noticed the banging of the bell over the smoked glass door, or the faint smell of sulfur that hovered in the room like nascent carrion. From behind the counter, a wizened Asian said, "I am S. A. Tan. Do you seek something special?"

 

"Just looking," the young man answered quickly.

 

"Here's looking at you, kid," S. A. replied. "Casablanca, 1942."

 

The young man didn't respond. He hurried toward the back of the store in search of as much privacy as possible. The deeper he went, the more the store's eclectic merchandise encircled him. Jukeboxes. Road signs. Red wagons. Tiffany lamps. Fainting couches. A marble headstone. Then, he found what he knew he needed even though he hadn't known what he was looking for. On a shelf between a decorative Spanish mandolin and a copper incense burner with intricately carved dragons, an open-topped glass vase stood. It was filled to the brim with multi-colored marbles. The young man reached in his pocket, pulled his fist out and buried it in the middle of the cats’ eyes, oxbloods and agates. Both hands were back by his sides though when the bell over the door announced the arrival of the police.

 

The kid  had come half way back to the front of the store before he was grabbed, cuffed and walked to the waiting squad car. As they took him away, the Sergeant looked at S. A. Tan and said, "Sorry about barging in, but we were in hot pursuit. Here's my--"

 

"Badges?" I don't need no stinking badges," S. A. paraphrased, adding, "Treasure of the Sierra Madre, 1948. What is the young man wanted for?"

 

"There was a theft at the museum. The Rangoon Eye. Some priceless, round jewel that belonged to an ancient Burmese prince."

 

"What goes around," S. A. said.

 

A week later, Tan was behind the counter when the bell tolled and in walked the same young man he had seen so rudely taken away in handcuffs. He seemed calm, deliberate, at ease with himself and the world.

 

"Nice to see you again. Everything work out?" S. A. asked.

 

"A misunderstanding," the young man replied. "Nothing more." Then he walked again to the back of the store. When he returned to the counter, he was holding the vase filled with marbles.

 

"Oh, so sorry," S. A. said, "That is not for sale."

 

"What do you mean?” the young man asked. “It was on the shelf with all the rest of the items. Just tell me what it costs and I’ll pay for it."

 

"No. I’m sorry. Is not for sale. Sentimental value, you see. Some of my old Indian heads, micas and opals are in there. Holds lots of memories for me. Could never sell memories."

 

Trying his best to maintain a pleasant demeanor, the young man said, “I really don’t mind paying whatever you ask. Just let me know how much.”

 

“Sorry, not for sale,” Tan repeated, his mouth smiling but not his eyes.

 

"For the last time,” the young man said menacingly, "how much?"

 

"As I said, three different times now, is not for sale."

 

The young man pulled a gun out of his coat pocket and pointed it directly at the Asian’s face. Expressionless, S. A. Tan stepped on the silent alarm behind the counter.

 

"The vase is coming with me, old man" the kid said. "You could have named your price. Now I will."

 

"Little Caesar? Edward G. Robinson, 1931?"

 

"You're nuts, old man, nuts!"

 

"Please put marbles and vase back where you found them, and be on your way."

 

Sticking the gun against the Asian's forehead, the young man said, "Here's twenty bucks. Write me a receipt."

 

"You will regret it," Tan began, “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life. Casablanca, 1942."

 

"Write the damn receipt, you old idiot!"

 

S. A. seemed to acquiesce, but dithered in doing it. He found it hard to find his receipt book and pen. He took a prolonged amount of time writing the receipt. He tore up the first receipt he started, and began a new one, giving the police more time to respond. After he could hesitate no longer, he finally handed the receipt over.

 

The young man snatched it with one hand, and with his other brought the gun down on the old man's skull, dropping him to the floor. "That’s for being such a prick." the kid said, “If anyone asks, just say you hit your head on one of your damned items that ain’t for sale. Then, with the vase under his arm and gun still in hand, the young man swung the door open wide.

 

The bells clanged loudly. But not as loudly as the volley of shots that followed. The kid crumpled to the concrete. And as he fell, he dropped the vase. It shattered on the cement. Lying there, blood and breath slowly leaving him, the last image that flickered before the kid’s waning focus were marbles bouncing, careening, and rolling as if magnetized toward, along, then into the gutter.

 

The Sergeant rushed inside and found Tan on the floor. He called the paramedics who gingerly sat him up and began to bandage his head.

 

"What happened to the young man?" S. A. asked, already knowing the answer.

 

"Didn't make it." The Sergeant said.

 

"My marbles?"

 

"Into the gutter, I’m afraid. God knows where by now."

 

"God has nothing to do with it," Tan said. "And...The Rangoon Eye?"

 

"Gone."

 

"With the wind," S. A. sighed. "1939."

 

"Are those old movies all you ever think about?" The Sergeant asked, not really

caring one way or the other about the answer.

 

S. A. didn't reply right away. He wasn’t really thinking about the question. He was

thinking about the kid, and the first time he came in his store. He was thinking about how he had walked to the back, after the police had taken the kid away, and gone through the vase filled with marbles. He was thinking about the spectacular emerald-green jade that had not been in the vase before. And he was thinking about how he had removed it and placed it lovingly in the top of the dragon-carved incense burner that still sat on his shelf.

 

Before the old man got around to answering the Sergeant's question, the Sergeant asked another. "Any idea what a stone like that Rangoon Eye would be made from?"

 

"Indeed I do." S. A. Tan replied, turning toward the street so the Sergeant wouldn’t see the whites of his eyes turn crimson as he heard the ambulance start its engine and pull away from the curb to take the kid to the morgue. The morgue that would serve as simply the kid’s first stop before moving on to S. A. Tan’s private warehouse of lost souls.

 

"What is the Rangoon Eye made from? " Tan repeated. "Why…the stuff that dreams are made of. Maltese Falcon, 1941."

 

"Well, give the devil his due," the Sergeant said, "you sure as hell know your old

movies, don’t you?"

 

"An interesting phrase, Sergeant," S. A. Tan replied. "I’d be careful how I use it."

 

#       #       #

 

Joe Kilgore’s short stories have appeared in creative journals, magazines, online literary publications and anthologies. He also has one novel to his credit. For more specifics, please visit his website: http://www.joekilgore.com

 

 

                                 ____________________________________________________

 

 

Forgetting The Real Paris

by Stephen Koster

 

An efficient lover climbs out of bed before nine. An overconfident lover pulls her back. They kiss for a while, but being not enough in love, they eventually leave for work.

         

(Back in Paris lies a girl completely alone.)

         

At work there is so much optimism it gets annoying. You can’t be this happy, they think. You’re at work. Their co-workers all think this. Back in bed seems far away but certain. All that has to be done is to wait and then it will happen.

         

(Back in Paris she begins to forget all the oily, slippery English she learned over the summer.)

         

The writer of this story thinks, meanwhile, alone and without pants on, that it is time for a metaphor. So he writes: As evening pulls in and asks quickly to the gas pump attendant who watches over the sky: “Which way do I go to get to darkness?” and the employee in grey overalls solemnly nods, “Just follow the sun, like you usually do,” Evening winks to the attendant and says, “Here, have some Aurora Borealis for your troubles.” But people who work at gas stations don’t want coloured lights in the sky; they need cash. The writer decides to re-focus on the girl in Paris.

         

(She sits on her bed, does her make-up in the over-sized mirror, hoping someone will like her new face. It’s time to go out in France.)

         

Back in the New World, the overconfident lover follows evening’s beat-up cadillac into darkness and finds the efficient lover is waiting for him at the apartment, lit by the moon. She, however, is wearing her usual face.

         

“You’re early. You should have texted—”

         

She kisses him.

         

“That’s not an excuse, missy. You’re not getting out of it that eas—”

         

They kiss again, and he forgets. She holds his hand, pulls him upstairs, and he forgets some more. (Lips press together and become full again. The lipstick is a bright red and now so are her lips.)

         

The door to her apartment opens. Looking out the window, the overconfident lover notices evening has found its way to darkness after all.

         

The roommate says hello. The roommate is politely dealt with; and feels vaguely ignored. He is being ignored. Garlands of dried herbs hang over the kitchen sink. The roommate feels like one of them. Then he realizes he’s being stupid. You can’t feel like a dried herb, especially one over a sink. But, like the herbs, and the girl far away, he is being forgotten too.

         

So, the work day is over, and the two of them are alone again. This feels to the girl like the morning, which feels like the night before, which in turn feels like the week before. They feel this erotic continuity and scheduled romance.

         

(She plays music by a café with her band. No-one is there, but the band still gets paid.)

         

He wants a slow night. She wants a fast night. They are caught in crossfire.

         

They end with quick love and favours, exchanges and sixes and nines that get flipped and jumbled to make them into pretzels and eights. Pretzels aren’t always sexy, and apparently French pretzels are especially un-sexy, as they are eagerly forgotten.

         

(She is told she sings beautifully. Applause from the waiter. Merci, she says, politely.)

         

Then these two bangers sleep. They’re not lovers anymore. After that display, they are clearly bangers. If they were expecting a twist they were wrong. They are people. And people sometimes sleep. Bangers sometimes sleep. People and bangers take up half the bed and smell sour and taste bad in the mornings, and sometimes kick you in their sleep because they can’t sleep if they are touching, not because they don’t like it but because they can’t sleep. And being not enough in love, they set their alarms and pick the same side of the bed to fall asleep on every night. But they still kiss each other for a while before they doze, and that is enough to make them both forget.

         

(Her apartment is again empty without friends to populate it, but there is wine. There is always lots of wine.)  

         

They can’t forget everything all in one night—it will take time and concentration. It will take maybe a long time to get rid of it all. He’s trying hard to forget. Miss Efficient is trying to forget as well, but seems to only end up remembering.

         

(She eats a little bread with cheese before bed and does some work for her paper, but she thinks of a certain foreign gentleman the whole time. The overconfident one.)

         

Yes, he is the same person, adds the writer.

         

(She feels old; she doesn’t think people should get stuck on one thing at so young an age, one thing already gone, one person, like she has. Like ruminating on a breath of candle-light after leaving it and letting it die. Like the waxy jars spread out on the floor before her.)

         

Some people never forget it all, and it causes them much trouble; but the writer has faith in these two people that he has called lovers and then bangers, because they wake by each other, and not by the light of the sun. So the writer will put his pants on. But first he thinks of the girl in Paris who does not exist—who does not speak French because he does not speak French. She is lonely and so is he. He didn’t have to include her in this story but she is there. He knows who the character is but he is unsure out of what she was made from. His main character has forgotten her, and the story is about his new life and new girlfriend and new perfection. Yet she remains.

#       #       #

 

Stephen Koster was born in the Ottawa valley in the imaginary land known as "Canada."

He resides in a fictional house, with a fictional wife, and four make-believe cats named Who, Where, What, and Why. He is recently graduated from University and only twenty-two, so there's still plenty of time for him to get a real job, Mom.

                                       _____________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

A Snifter of Absinthe

by Stephen V. Ramey

 

She swirls absinthe in a snifter half again as large as her delicate hand. Her eyes are green, and shine with their own light. I take the stool next to her. The bartender sidles over, a bear of a man with lamb chop sideburns, very retro.

 

"Babel on the rocks," I say. "And bring the lady another drink." He nods and moves away.

 

"So," I say. "My name's Jack." Her name is Fay, according to the nametag affixed to her blouse. She must be an off duty hostess.

 

She turns an icy shoulder. She has small breasts, a pointed chin. I imagine those slender fingers serving coffee in bed. I imagine that petite mouth blossoming into smile.

 

"Look, I'm just making conversation," I say. "I'm not trying to get into your pants." Pause. "No way would they even fit me." Usually that gets a smile. This time, nothing.

 

"You seem a little down," I say. "What's the problem? I'm a good listener."

 

I pay for our drinks. Fay pushes the new absinthe toward me. I reach, using the motion as an excuse to touch her fingers.

 

A spark shoots between us. Twisting, impatient energy migrates up my arm, splashes into my thoughts. Explosion casts shadows and shapes. For an instant I see a city inside the snifter. Not a city, the city. New York. Skyscrapers, Statue of Liberty, green waves. My breath catches. A sour taste swells along the back of my tongue, raw vegetation, chlorophyll. I want to spit, but swallow instead.

 

The city is gone. I can't stop feeling it was there, that I have glimpsed my own surroundings from a distance.

 

"They think it's the iron," Fay says. She's watching me. All I can see is her eyes through a tunnel of green light.

 

"We were born in a baby's laughter," she says. "Why should we fear iron?"

 

"I... don't... uh, know?" I can't turn my gaze. I grasp blindly for my drink, anticipating sweet Kahlua. Glass clicks on tooth. I taste metal, a suds of mortar on my tongue. Fay sips from her snifter, and shivers. I catch a glimpse of translucent wing, gone as quickly as it appeared.

 

"It’s not only the girders," she says, "but also what they replace. Trees, flowers, grass."

 

"You lost me."

 

Fay smiles, and it's everything I hoped for. Perfect white teeth, a pleasing oval mouth.

 

"Perhaps I've drunk too much?" she's says. A titter sparkles from her lips. The mist of it breathes past my face. A memory of Mother comes, perfectly formed, as if she were here and not a million miles away in Phoenix. There's so much left unsaid between us. I want to call her right now, immediately.

 

"Love," Fay says, nodding. "It's almost enough." She looks sad. "There's too many of you, Jack. We cannot keep up. The end is nigh."

 

"End? You mean, like Global Warming."

 

She shakes her head. "More sudden. A different tipping point. Everything we maintain, undone." She downs the remainder of the green liquid. "Alcohol helps a little," she says. "Numbness, you know?"

 

I nod without understanding. I do understand numbness, but not what she means.

 

"It was nice to meet you, Jack." She hops down from her stool.

 

"Wait," I say. “I bought this for you.” I take the untouched snifter into my hand and extend it toward her. "One for the road. For old friends."

 

A strange expression comes over Fay, a faraway gaze, as if she's considering something a lot more important than absinthe.

 

She shakes her head. "Too late, Jack." She hurries to the door and pushes through. The sudden sunlight stuns me. I close my eyes and watch an afterimage of Fay's silhouette rise up again and again behind my eyelids.

 

When I look next, the bar is dark. A television blares. I feel alone. I feel the building perched above me, tons of steel and mortar and glass. Concrete below, a basement soured by mildew.

 

Too much, I think. Too many. The absinthe is still in my hand. I stare into the snifter green, and wonder.

#       #       #

 

Stephen V. Ramey lives in beautiful New Castle, Pennsylvania, a small city with a big heart. His work has appeared in many places, including Strange Horizons, Microliterature, Bartleby Snopes, and Daily Science Fiction. He edits the annual Triangulation anthology from Parsec Inc and the twitterzine, trapeze. Find him at http://www.stephenvramey.com

And They All Lived Happily Ever After

by Charles Rammelkamp

 

“Man, for a guy who’s so disorganized I really pack this gym bag like a pro,” I muttered to Doyle, stuffing my swimming goggles, water bottle and earplugs into one zippered pocket, shaving cream, shampoo, razor and body wash into another, combination lock into a tennis shoe stuffed with a sock so it wouldn’t spill out.

         

Doyle laughed and gestured to his own duffel on the floor. “This was my ex-wife’s. I’ve had it thirty years.”

         

This was the first I’d heard of an ex-wife, not that Doyle and I were close friends, but we’d been coming to the gym before work at about the same time in the morning for about five years. I knew about the current wife and their son, a little boy who loved to play baseball. Doyle was always taking him to practice, tossing the ball around in the yard with him.

 

After a pause I said, “Part of the settlement?”

         

Doyle laughed. “Thank God we were still in school and didn’t have much money. Just had to sort out the record albums. She used to get some sort of statements from her father’s business, so she may have been sitting on a huge pile of money, I don’t know.

It didn’t matter.

         

“Her father was a remarkable man,” Doyle went on, suddenly loquacious, reminiscing. “A neurosurgeon in Boston. Her mother too. She was a concert pianist. I really missed them. They were so successful, and when Audrey flunked out of grad school she felt she wasn’t measuring up. It didn’t help that I was doing well. She just had to leave me, had to get away.”

         

Doyle finished zipping his bag and closed the locker, headed to the door. He was through with the memories and shrugged. “And then they all lived happily ever after,” he concluded, a bemused look on his face. “At least I did.”   

 

There’d always been something melancholy about Doyle, and I saw it flicker again across his face when he said this.

#       #       #

 

Charles Rammelkamp’s collection of poems involving missionaries in a leper colony in Vietnam during the War, FUSEN BAKUDAN (“Balloon Bombs” in Japanese), has just been published by Time Being Books. He edits The Potomac, an online literary journal: www.thepotomacjournal.com. 

 

Shopper’s Paradise

by Rob Schultz

 

 

Stephanie, up ahead with the cart, zips past piles of zucchini and yellow squash, but stops by the 2/$1 sign above a glossy bank of eggplant. As she leans looking in, streaming hair in the moment hiding her face, Nick--lagging among kaleidoscopic bins of apples and cherries and luminous gobs of strawberries--sees this other woman, pretty, red hair streaked with silver and cut to fall straight along the shoulders of her rust-colored blouse, turn empty-handed from the tomatoes and move up the aisle toward the specialty produce. She meanders in big S’s or zigzags from one stall to another, pondering figure of Stephanie with her burden of bloom blending into a background of pumpkins piled high as a burnished bush.

 

Nick watches the swing of this woman’s hips ahead of him. She pauses to test the firmness of yellow and black-spotted plantain, drumming fingers against skin, then in turn handles the fuzzy kiwi, a pomegranate, mango; but finding none of these exotic fruits to her liking, she crosses to the other side of the wide aisle, islands of dark plums and nappy peaches and tight-skinned pears in the middle, and picks up an apple. Hand- held basket hanging from her crooked elbow is practically empty--a bottle of white wine rests against a box of tissue paper. Now she has the apple, which she brings to her glossy lips and bites into.

 

“Oh, ma’am?”

 

Startled, the woman glances up the aisle, sees Nick, gulps down bite of apple, and looks to the other end, where the produce manager, pushing a figleaf-shaped cart filled with fresh artichokes and asparagus, is holding up a hand for her attention. She grasps the bitten apple tight to her breast, white flesh modestly turned in.

 

“Excuse me, ma’am,” produce manager says, drawing closer. “We ask our patrons not to consume the produce on the premises.”

 

She says. “Surely you know I’ll pay for it.”

 

“Sure you will. I’m speaking to you for your own benefit. Although we spray the produce, we can’t guarantee it’s as freshly-washed as you might like in your own home.”

 

“For God’s sake!”

 

“Here, let me help you.”  The produce manager unrolls a plastic bag from the spool above the Red Delicious and snaps it off smartly. “Pound be enough?” he asks brightly.

 

“Whatever.”

 

He bags two apples and extends the sack for the one she clasps to her breast. But before dropping it into the plastic, she takes another quick bite, reddens as though sud- denly struck by wind-burn, or fever, then offers the produce manager a bite.

 

“Boss wouldn’t like it,” he says, shaking his head.

 

“I thought,” she says, smiling from a face firm as an apple, tanned brow cinctured with the aisle’s shimmering lights. “You’re the boss.”

 

“Not me. Not the big guy upstairs.”

 

“Some guy, huh?”

 

Nick, flap-limbed, picks up an apple the size of his fist.

 

“No. Plums.”

 

“What?”

       

“Plums,” says Stephanie. She idly lifts a bouquet of yellow rosebuds from a skeletal rack off one side of the aisle. “They’re on sale.”

 

“Can’t I have anything I want?”

 

“So far, you’ve had practically everything.”

 

“Let’s get both, then.”

 

“Nickie.” She sighs, touching tumid tummy, little upward lift in the middle of her lip palpable, and lays the bouquet in the basket’s pullout baby-seat. “Must we go through this again?”

 

Nick, nodding, looks past the watery glint of wrapped muskmelon and honeydew halves on ice to the checkout lanes where girls in bow ties and red-checkered aprons are busy scanning, adding things up, and sees the red and silver glint of hair and ruddy shim- mer of a blouse eclipsing the landscape. A presence he is unable to ignore. As if this other woman will always be there at the edge of his vision, or just up the aisle he is wan- dering along, a measure of what lies ahead.

 

The woman, looking sad and lonely, delicately draws asparagus spears from a wooden basket hanging below bunches of beets and kohlrabi, light glancing off the glass making the lines around her mouth more mellow than he thought, face older, but giving her figure a limpid weight and heft as if illuminating everything that has happened, or will happen to us all.

 

“Why not?” Nick says as Stephanie turns, leading the way to the milk cooler.

 

#       #       #

 

Rob Schultz has published a novel, Styll in Love; another novel, “On-Air,” and a book of stories, “In Hart,” are in the process of being considered for publication. His stories and poems have appeared in over thirty publications and are forthcoming in eight others, included Blue Lake Review, Cobalt Review and Northwind.

 

Purpose

by Phil Temples

 

Yog Goloth bent over and picked up a large block in his pincer. He placed it carefully into an empty space he had prepared. The block fit perfectly. As he carefully inspected the placement of the block, Yog Goloth could see only the tiniest of lines between it and the adjoining blocks.

 

This is good, he thought.

 

For as long as Yog Goloth could remember he had labored at this task: mining the cresmite ore, painstakingly constructing the blocks to exact dimensions, and placing them just so. Every few hundred years Yog Goloth would receive visits from beings from other worlds. The beings would invariably ask him, “What is this structure you are laboring to build? What will be its purpose?” In response, Yog Goloth would merely smile and continue his work.

 

Yog Goloth had long ago forgotten the reason for his endless toil, or the eventual use for the structure. Perhaps the structure itself was irrelevant. Perhaps his labor was the sole purpose.

 

It is good to have purpose, thought Yog Goloth.

 

#       #       #

 

Phil Temples grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. He's lived in and around Boston, Massachusetts for the past thirty years and works as a computer systems administrator at Boston College. For over ten years, Phil has written flash and short sci-fi/fantasy primarily for his own enjoyment.

 

His stories have appeared (or will soon appear) in several online journals, including: Boston Literary Magazine, Bewildering Stories, The World of Myth, InfectiveINk, Daily Frights 2013, Bleeding Ink Anthology, and Stupefying Stories. Phil recently participated in National Novel
Writing Month, producing a full length murder-mystery novel, 'The Winship Affair” that will be published by Blue Mustang Press in 2013.

In addition to his writing activities, Phil is a singer in a garage band and an avid ham radio operator.

_______________________________________________________

 

Hosea

by Laura Wooffitt

 

Her voice breathes into his ear, the words dirty the way he likes them. The body eases back enough, just enough for him to kodak the way her tattoo glistens from the breast to the navel. This is definitely worth the 800 bucks he will dish out at the end. But what to do with it? Her mind turns with possibilities.

 

His breathing turning ragged, body tensing. Almost done. But the door slams open. The new man’s expression pained. She eases off the paying man. Her wrap quickly flushing around her form, you know I’m going to run again. Her husband replies, 70 times 7.

#       #       #

 

Laura Wooffit's first short story, "Sleep Deprived," was published in Punkin House Press in 2012. She is a graduate student of Eastern Kentucky University in Creative Writing: Fiction, and is an editor at Punkin House Press for their collections of poetry, short stories, and novels. She and her husband live in Middletown, Ohio. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prose Poetry

 

A Course

by Will Dixon

 

It’s running its course, at least according to Dr. Rodriguez in this appointment;

taking great lengths explaining what and when to expect, prospective treatments, etc.—

by which time I’m wearing a  somewhat interested look, drifting off—

watching pelicans hug perfectly straight lines of surf, sharing glassy waves with dolphins

and the familiar looking slender, young blonde riding her weathered shortboard so well it seems a part of her. She yells, dropping into the tube, slicing its walls with fingertips until it finally closes around her.

 

Ahhh, my Maria...

 

“Tom, we’ll try different courses of these new medicines.”

 

—damn, I’m back, freezing, sitting on the edge of the examining table, doing my best to hang onto the table with the paper that only seems to stick to my bare bottom.  More “courses?”  No, I’ll keep my mouth shut and not point that out to the good doctor who’s getting his second wind on our “discussion.”  Don’t rivers have courses they are created to follow?  Relationships follow their courses—some short, some longer— and those like with Maria. And pompously in a typically grandiose vein, how does this all fit in the course of history?

 

In the course of time?—oh crap, time—

 

I’m aware we’ve been sharing a silent five minutes, most of which has been spent

by the doctor checking his watch, his vibrating cell phone, clicking his pen, loudly clearing his throat. 

I have been lost in my shallow philosophy and daydreams---and memories--

His intense look—pursed lips, wrinkled brows, eyes focused on my face—yes, he’s waiting

for a response to a question I missed that is more of a mystery to me than the color of the surfergirl’s eyes.

Think—some words must be there—yes, part of the “course” (which he has promised will happen) is that I will lose words—hmmm—think he called it aphasia, now perhaps, no, this instead—“Sorry, Doctor R.,

 I really didn’t sleep very well last night, you know, with a lot of stuff on my mind—sorting it out.

 

And, yeah, she wanted to talk.”

 

Dr. Rodriguez’s face softens when I ask him about, no, can’t say highlights, “Would you talk again about what symptoms and when, side effects from the meds, oh yeah, what about my insurance?”8888

 

He purses his lips again (a habit?), looking for words also.  So he starts again about the “course” thing. Even though he’s smiling, this smile is different from our last appointment when he shared his strategies of flounder fishing in low tide versus high tide.  And he beamed talking about his daughter’s christening when I commented on how beautiful his wife and baby were in the photograph on his wall.  No, this appointment isn’t a Manny and Tom talk—this is polished, professional tiptoeing around news he would rather be giving a complete stranger. Maybe because we have been friends so long.  Or because here’s another picture, an old one of our high school football team with us standing side by side.

 

But the pain that has lived behind my eyes for so long flares up as I take a deep breath and grab the side of the table that is riding its own waves now.  I see kindness and his own pain in his eyes when he asks me if I want to lie down a while.  I nod a slow “no.”  He takes my arm and steers me into a straight chair.

 

“Is Maria in the waiting room?”

 

Again I nod slowly “no.”

 

He calls his nurse Charlotte—ignoring me— to help me dress.  “Tom, no spectacular falls today—you should see the last guy I worked on for a broken bone— they call him Shifty now.”  We both smile—just for a moment it’s Tom and Manny again.

.

That fades.  “Tom, next time you need to bring in Maria. She can set the time; I’ll juggle my schedule if I have to. Oh, I almost forgot—I’m sorry, Ese—Can’t let you drive anymore.”

 

“But Manny, I finally have the old truck and the shovelhead—that old Harley I’ve had since high school—I’ve got them both running—you should hear ’em.”

 

He looks down, “No, really, Tom, I got no choice.” —A faraway look, “Hey, remember, we couldn’t get that Harley going—junior and senior year?  At least Maria looked damned good sitting on it. Brother, I’m not saying this, just outside town, off the main road—don’t get caught.”

 

His smile fades, “Tom, you could have a long time left—hell, you could might even beat this.”

Looking down, trying to find words. Then he locks eyes with mine. “Don’t you dare think about anything stupid—If I even suspect it, I swear I’ll rat you out to Maria; she can kick your ass, she’s always been able to do that.”

 

“Okay, okay—Maria’s picking me up; it’s her lunch hour.”

 

“She’s some woman, she’ll take care….” he trails off—turns back with damp eyes—“I still never understood how a loser like you could get a woman like her.” He picks up the football picture, looking at Maria in her cheerleading outfit. “Man, she must have felt sorry for you.” He stops; his face bright red. “I’m on my fourth marriage—you guys have been together forever. Gosh almighty, since kindergarten—she looks better now than this picture, even after three kids. “She’s here. Wait, that’s your oldest, Bella. She’s almost as pretty as her mother.”

 

“Hello, Uncle Manny.”—a long hug for me, “You look good, Dad...Mom said I could drive.”

 

Maria rushes in, no makeup, worn jeans and an old t-shirt—but like our daughter’s name, beautiful,

“What’ve you boys been talking about, Manny—fishing or football?”

 

“About what a lucky man your husband is.”

 

I return my Maria’s smile and kiss—

   draping arms around the shoulders of

    my wife and daughter,

 

“Hey, let’s check the surf. We’ve got three boards in the truck.”

 

Maria’s eyes plead with Manny, who smiles and shrugs—

“You wanna know if he can go?

                                        With you?

                                         Of course.”

 

                                                                               #     #     #

 

Tennessean traced back to at least 1700’s, but have spent almost half of my life on east coast of Florida. Spent over twenty years and travelled a lot of miles in Air Force. In writing, prefer content and character development over format—any rhyme or meter likely to be purely accidental.    -- Will Dixon

 

Also highly recommended:  Will's story, Conversations With Zip, Summer 2012 issue.   -- Ed.

                                           _________________________________________________

 

Patches of Green

by Alan Reed

 

I saw her sitting alone
At a corner table
Of a poorly lit inn

Her blouse was apricot pink
the hue 

of a prospering rose

She had no clue
Who else was in the
Tavern and did not care

She was reading
From what looked like a diary,
in good spirits

 

Occasionally drawing

  musical notes on a sheet

she had pulled from her kitbag

Infrequently sipping
From a half empty glass
Of avocado wine

Her hair was colored
Gold as shiny as King
Tut’s venerated chair

She looked like a model
Unsuspectingly posing
For a photo shoot

With her cheek bones
Placed high in her face
Her eyes made of jade

When I looked at her
From the far side of the room
A lime-flushed Swallowtail joined the locale

And softly settled
On the rim of my wineglass
Levitating my heart

On occasion she would
Posture a smile more
Captivating than a Mona Lisa

I stood up slowly
My feet growing colder
While I approached her

Hello, I said
To myself and
Haughtily fought

My chi and feigned
Indifference when I soberly
Lost course and

Spun toward the exit
Leaving my rose behind
And keeping it my secret

Nobody noticed
As I solemnly walked past
The prophet’s scrawls

On the walls and
Made a point to step
On each crack in the sidewalk

 

#     #     #

 

Alan Reed is the author of “Eyes Blue, or Random Meanderings of a Manic Depressive,” a book of short stories and poetry. A retired Foreign Service Officer, he began writing prose and poetry in 2008 and is currently working on a second book.

_____________________________________________________

 

Doom

by Olvard Smith

 

Only when you’re ready, says the Father to us, and us amongst ourselves. 

 

Ready for what? we think, say, pray, beg. What should we be ready for? What does it mean to be prepared? But we are met with the eerie whistle of the wind sliding beneath closed doors, tingling our every spine with a sharp coolness inciting us to hold our blankets, children, and lovers close. Faced with our confusion we wrap ourselves in one another, burrow our necks in another’s collarbone, hold our noses to another’s hair and take in the scent of the familiar and with it feelings of safety, warmth, passion, love. We hold tightly to each other as if another body could anchor us against the thing we should be ready for. We cling to backs and shoulders as if that would somehow ground us when finally rocked by the violence of the world.

 

We hope and hope that the day never comes.

 

And then it does.

 

A grumbling, a deep resonant roar that gets louder. And louder. And louder. Asphalt snapping under the pressure of our feet. Dirty pebbles spattering our windows like broken glass. The ground kicking up its own mud in monumental geysers. The earth fissuring and sinking and crumbling into its own cataclysmic core of molten lava.

 

Only when you’re ready, the Father had said to us, and us amongst ourselves during our desperate embraces. Though we hoped the day would not have come, we always knew it would. And in this moment we wonder, How could we possibly have been ready for this? as we hold on, flesh against flesh, hearts beating the same rhythm against each other as if sheltered under the same skin. Many of us are experiencing something of an end, thousands by the second, crushed by rocks or felled telephone poles or buildings—roofs collapsing on pious hopefuls in the pews of the churches and temples and other respectable religious institutions.

 

Father has written His name on the world in the language of Doom.

 

We watch on as houses, schools, hospitals, office buildings, malls, markets, roads, bridges, parks, and places of worship, are all swallowed by the earth. We imagine this happening to ourselves; the ground we had always been so sure of giving way to abyss. We will close our eyes and say words that are important to us, praying ourselves into eternity.When it—a rock, a telephone pole, a building—finally happens, will our touching have mattered?

 

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Olvard Smith is an undergraduate creative writing major at Cal State University Northridge. Graduating in May 2013, he is in the process of sending out MFA applications. His primary goal is to further develop his writing and publish a fiction collection. Later in life, he wants to teach narrative. His story, “Unformed,” appeared in the spring 2012 issue of The Zodiac Review.

 

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End of Spring 2013 Issue

 

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