Issue 22 / February 2019

"But Cora had never taken to the place. She said the looks were too much, the eyes boring into her whenever they went out, scrutinizing her with their heads tilted and eyes narrowed. 'Don’t be silly,' Hugh had said, because no one ever said anything directly. But he didn’t see what she saw, feel what she felt."
- Eighty-Seven by Shanelle Galloway Calvert

Issue 22

“Notes on Starvation”

Mary Sun

I always thought this poem would be about an ex,
or the child I still wish for sometimes.
Then I realized it was about you
and my bones stopped.

When I told you I had learned not to trust the village,
you cried with me. Held my tears in soft hands
and mixed honey into my tea.
Honey that outlasted us.

Issue 22

“Primetime Jabberwock, Harry Didn’t Clown Around,” “Septuagenarian’s Stroller Soundtrack,” and “Clownpourri”

Gerard Sarnat

Let's not get mathy Cathy or walk
away Resnais but Colonel Tibbets’
Enola Gay thunderous mushroom
fireburst above Hiroshima mon amour
41 days before I’m born instantly
zapped 79,831, perhaps somewhat
more than a third of that once
gorgeous city’s population --
it was filmed for our viewing
pleasure by a companion B-29
ironically named Necessary Evil

Issue 22

“Severe Weather Warning,” “Alive,” and “Mundane”

Samantha Rafalowski

Droughts are just as dangerous as floods
I’m not an artist I just like holes in my
body
And daydreaming of ink in my veins
Circling in charcoal patterns my father once drew
With strong hands. We shared the old studio.
I’m not emotional I just like the electric color of red eyes
And showering in the dark with someone else’s
Voice echoing my thoughts in the background

Issue 22

The Nocturnal Florist

James Swansbrough

The bicycle is his harbinger. Sammy flies the American flag from a three-foot stick duct-taped to his rear basket. We see that flag and know he’s coming. Both the rear and front baskets are interlaced with red, silver, and blue tinsel. By day the baskets may hold lawn-care tools or groceries. At night, they’re filled with flowers. Sammy is unimposing: few inches shy of six feet, not an ounce of spare flesh on him. He has the sinewy muscle common to laborers, endurance athletes, or users. Leathery dark skin taut over his sharp cheekbones and jaw, teeth set in a slight underbite. Weatherworn fingers, and bony, like they could lick fire from a harmonica.

Issue 22

Tenderfoot

Jim Fields

There were ten of us—three older boys and the rest of us younger ones. We were walking single file up the mountain on a hot summer day in July. The trail was getting steeper as we slowly worked our way up to the top, but still we pressed on. Grant Miller was our leader. He was a sixteen-year-old, six foot two, muscular high school quarterback with eyes that became narrow when he was mean, which was quite often. With his deep tan and athletic frame, Miller cast an imposing figure and everybody knew not to mess with him. He rarely talked, but when he did, Miller made it clear he was in charge and we were to do things his way.

Issue 22

Mrs. Rowe

Lissa Staples

The actual taking of the pills was a soggy event because Mrs. Rowe had thrown up, necessitating a second round, and also because she had been crying. The liter bottle of vodka was later found under the bed. Such a waste of good spirits her brother, Theodore, was heard to say at the funeral. There was no suicide note, or any other clue to explain Mrs. Rowe’s actions save the fact that she had been under the care of a psychiatrist, Zoloft and Lunesta for over six years

Issue 22

Kattadiya

Mesh Tennakoon

Francis thought her bladder would burst; walking the extra one hundred yards to the outdoor lavatory was out of the question. The zinnia patch, adjacent to the patio would have to suffice. It was nearly 9 P.M. and pitch-black outside; no one would see. Grabbing the battered silver torch, left near the back door, she stepped out on to the patio. The sweet perfume of jasmine wafted through the warm evening air. Breathing in the calming fragrance, Francis moved the dim flashlight up and down to orientate herself in the dark. Almost immediately, various insects, drawn by the faint light, swarmed the rim of the torch as she held it out in front.

Issue 22

Eighty-Seven

Shanelle Galloway Calvert

Dust hangs in the sunlight, floating white in the golden beam. Too much dust, Hugh thinks as he watches the particles meander through the light. It should be falling down, he thinks, with gravity. But the dust floats, moves diagonally, rising and falling and lifting again. Cora never would have stood for it. The TV flickers. Flat, grainy bluish faces turn camera and smile, flip their shining hair over their shoulders. Hugh can’t quite hear what they are saying. He hates having to change the volume up and down between programs and advertisements. They make the ads so loud these days, and the shows so quiet. He’s losing his hearing and he knows it.

Issue 22

Grace

Tahseen Béa

Once upon a time a young woman named Grace dreamed an impossible dream. She dreamed of a big love that would enter her life and transform her. She never spoke of it to anyone but nurtured it and waited until someone worthy of her love would enter her life. She was certain she had a gift of loving that nobody else had. Sure everyone loves, she thought, but not like her. When it was her turn to love, she would love with the tenderness of a girl and a fierceness of a woman. She would offer love as passion and as patience, as an ideal and as a living embodiment of that ideal.

Issue 22

The Chaos Drawer

Elizabeth Genovise

At first it was simply Paul’s absence that left her shattered and aimless, every moment of the day like the sudden drop to hardwood when one descends a staircase and expects there to be one more step at the bottom than there actually is. There were scores of these tiny freefalls, so that two months after her husband’s funeral, Annalee was persistently dizzy, reaching into the bathroom cabinet for the motion sickness pills she used to keep on the ready for their vacations. She was sixty-five years old and had married Paul when she was twenty.

Issue 22

Where the Light Exists

Jesus Raul Torres

A man known only as The Client enlists the help of a woman named Blackberry to find someone very special to him. As their journey progresses across a desert filled with enemies, The Client’s past is revealed in flashbacks. A boy awakens on a bridge with no memory of his past. He falls in love with the first person he sees, a beautiful young woman whose name he does not know. She runs off, and the boy follows her. This causes a chain reaction of people to try and stop him at every turn.

Issue 22

Spur Up Your Pegasus

David Kennedy

Kate had yet to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement with her husband. Sprague had insisted that Kate spend the summer of ’seventy-nine at the estate in Canonchet, near Narragansett, so that he might have some opportunity to see his children, but Kate knew that Sprague was more likely to spend his time playing billiards in a tavern and would merely pat Willie and the three girls on their heads en route to some drunken dissipation. It was not long before Sprague vanished upon some hunting trip to Maine with his cousin. Fortuitously, Senator Roscoe Conkling had some legal business in Newport, and it would have been impolite to fail to visit Kate, Rhode Island being such a small state.

Issue 22

Fathers

Jim Cavan

As I rocked with Rett the morning he was born, hoping to spark his first earthly dreams with whispered oaths to give him all I have and know, his fatal cancer still an unseen demon in his cells, I thought now and again on what I’d say to my own dad and damn near cried every time. It stemmed partly from the pride of new fatherhood, of the blue eyes and late-April birthdays our trio would share and the laughs and campfires and straight-up Manhattans to come. And then this inflective twinge that I’d never feel further from life’s nascency, from unremembered youth, as I did just then, not even at my deathbed goodbye.

Issue 22

Formations

Oksana Marafioti

Love. Vulnerability. One is a ghost without the other. As children, we’re masters of affection. We overflow with it. Love comes naturally, like the seasonal flu. You hurt us, we love you still. More and fiercely. Like you’re worth saving even if the world gives up on you. Having no idea this gift is precious, we squander it on those who don’t always deserve it, but it matters little, because our hearts are in bloom. Until the onset of adulthood. By then, our scars prevent us from blooming too much. Adulting and vulnerability are well-known oxymorons, not the norm. Once we’ve grown, emotional dignity becomes a commodity.

Issue 22

Picture Stones

Susan Niz

On my wrist, a single round bead, white with purple marbling, suspends on a knotted black cord. In one spot, crossing my vein like a rope bridge over a blue river, a single, dull thread wears thin. I hope it will stay on until he returns from Guatemala. With each shower or yank of my sleeve, the bracelet gets weaker. I hold on to it, precarious, as if it will tell me how things will turn out. As if, when he returns, I’ll put it on a silver chain and then things will be safer, better, more secure. As if keeping it will bring him back.

Issue 22

One More Thing to Make You Proud

Tara Wine-Queen

My grandmother, called Nanny, was magic. She saw everything good. If there was an ounce of goodness to be found, no matter how much flesh or how many years of disappointment and weariness it was hidden beneath, she could find that light, and she did. Once found, she would study it shrewdly but briefly, take in its shapes and test the sturdiness of its walls. She learned its contours, and then, sometimes with great delicacy, and sometimes with a great reckless enthusiasm, she would stretch it until those whose eyes were less suited to light-catching could see it, as well, and bask in the warmth of its wholesomeness.

Issue 22

Pay the Premium

Joanna Beresford

Lillian heard the woman before she spied her – a primitive groan carried on the breeze and caused her to lower the paintbrush in her hand. She carefully scanned the scrubby slope one hundred yards to the left. There a figure crouched, partially hidden behind a thicket of stringy-bark, banksia and bottlebrush, with skirt and petticoat pulled up to reveal pale, slender thighs.
Her immediate reaction was to avert her gaze and try to slink out of sight but an unwieldy corset prevented such a measure. There was nothing else to do but remain as upright as a rabbit sniffing out danger.

Issue 22

Complicit

Jessica McEntee

“Marinka. You—oh blonde one. Get down ‘ere,” Papa said as he called to me from the head of our dining room table. It was a sultry night in July of 1989, and we’d just finished an hours-long business dinner at our Greenwich estate. I replayed Papa’s voice in my head to make sure I’d heard it correctly. He sounded gruff, but I detected an undercurrent of curiosity in his tone, however momentary. Papa wanted me, for one of the first times in my nine years as his daughter. I blinked three, four times, before it occurred to me to stand from my chair.

Issue 22

First Cut: Chapter Excerpt

Carolyn Flynn

A red bulb of blood rose from my skin. I watched with exquisite satisfaction as it ballooned from the tip of my razor. If I pressed even a little deeper and swiped it across, it would cut a line and throw my skin open. Then the truth would bleed out, staining everything. I drew in a ragged breath. I rubbed the ancient marks along the inside of my left arm. As my fingers pressed through the lattice of scars, a burn soared up from within, surprising me. Like one last breathing ember. Like it had been wanting to be the one noticed, sparked again.

Issue 22

Dumb Religious Story #137

Marcus Lessard

With a month’s worth of anticipation throwing its collective weight into these waning few moments, Jackie transferred some of the tension pent up in her arms and legs to the situation at hand. She tightened her grip on the steering wheel, leadened her foot on the accelerator. Her ’85 Ford Pickup coursed the turn-off onto Pink Rock Road, and thrummed, rattling muffler and all, up onto Bear Path Way.