Before the Call
by Sandra Schnakenburg
I stared at the phone, wondering what to say to a man I thought all my life— was dead. In 2008, two years before the call, everything I once knew had vanished. My angel Mom, who had given me hope, had passed away. I pondered what I would do next. After some inner work, my purpose crept up inside me like a wildfire needing to be tamed. I heard the call. Read more.
by Clare Simons
A mongoose scurried along the mossy rock wall, darted under a pile of wood and dashed in front of my feet in search of tasty vermin. Its beady eyes glared up at me as if to say, “Entrance not for everybody.” The lumberyard stocked cremation woods heisted by timber smugglers from endangered forests, carried by porters, hauled by lorry drivers, and sold on the black market with bribes paid at every junction. Read more.
To Grandmother’s House We Go
by Robert Eugene Rubino
When you were thirteen, your paternal grandparents Nonnina and Nonno already seemed ancient, having been married fifty years. Now you’re older than they were then. But you remember … Three things hang on their walls: a gruesome crucifix, a framed wedding photograph, and a billy club. Read more.
by Jeniah Johnson
Despite its cozy name, despite its gentle rise and dive through corn fields and cow pastures, Comfort Hill Road has its hazards. In the warmer months, when driving to and from town, I watch for entitled tractors, escapee cows, flocks of cyclists racing for the cure. But today, a January afternoon in Vermont, it’s just “Collie Lady” on the road. Read more.
by Michael McQuillan
Jesus lived and died in vain if he did not teach us all to regulate the whole of life by the eternal law of love, the Mahatma Gandhi said. Solidarity with the poor set both men’s moral conduct beyond mortal norms, but we placed them on pedestals rust-crusted with age. Read more.
by Anna West
I put a pomegranate in his hands. His hands once strong and brown, long fingered, now rested empty of life. Closed. Wrapped like torn paper around the red plumpness of the fruit. I could feel the seeds resting like jewels beneath the thickness of the pomegranate’s rind. Thirteen pink paper hearts cut from what felt like my flesh I put in the pocket of his jacket,… Read more.
Church-Sized Tarantulas and Other Realistic Threats
by Chan Brady
First time I did it I was three and a half, complete with gold, bouncing curls and freckles from a summer spent in the sun. I went to daycare every day, and that night I went to daycare, too. I didn’t know what to call such a menial moment. Eventually settled on calling it a “blue-skadoo” like my favorite television show. Nobody believed me except my friends at the church. Read more.
by Etya Krichmar
A long time ago in Kotovsk, a small town in Ukraine, right before dusk, a little crowd of the neighborhood children gathered around the handmade, rough picnic table. The usually unruly kids sat quietly on the four wooden planks hastily attached to the table’s perimeter and waited for Baba Sasha’s arrival. Read more.
by Siobhan Ring
A tree fell across the road that leads down to the lake. There was no wind, just days and days of rain. The soil loosened its grip. The tree’s roots stretched to the sky behind yellow caution tape and a Seattle Parks Department truck with flashing lights.
We are, at the moment the tree gave up, 22.5 months into a pandemic, significantly too far into a climate crisis and leaning over the precipice of our democracy. Read more.
A Punk Like Me
by Marianne Dalton
I discovered the babysitter looking through a taboo photo collection with my five-year-old daughter as I stepped through my front door. My quickening heart beat faster and faster and, fearing it could explode out of my chest, I focused my sights on control. Gliding into the living room, I channeled my perfect Stepford-wife-voice, and asked, hey, how was your night? Read more.
by John Sanderson
Long-Post-Short-Good. It doesn’t take long to become immersed in the ebbs and flows of the call schedule. On Long Days, the medical team admits patients from noon through the evening — each one requiring detailed history, a thorough physical exam, a working diagnosis, and orders for the appropriate nursing care, diagnostic testing, and medications. On Good Days, there are no new patients. Read more.
by Kathleen Tighe
Viewed from the top of the minaret, the desert stretches for miles until it touches a brilliant cerulean sky. On the horizon a blazing sun moves toward its afternoon descent. Even now, all these years later, I can still feel the rays of that sun burning my scalp, still feel my parched lips sucked dry of moisture. The desert sand shimmers in the sun. Read more.
by Mary Jumbelic
“Mom, why are all the police cars and fire trucks here?”
“What did you say, honey?” I said, covering my free ear. “Police? Fire trucks?” Noise at the reception counter made it difficult to hear. I gestured to co-workers to lower the volume. A quick reply of silence followed. They listened to the boss, my prerogative as the Chief Medical Examiner. Read more.
Watercolor for Beginners
by Janna Whitney Rider
It was as if all my colors had changed. There was no control or curation to my feelings anymore, only raw and wild outbursts. I tried explaining to a friend, “I’m a Jackson Pollock painting right now. Red! Blue! Yellow! I prefer a bit more nuance. Something impressionistic typically suits me, like shadows that fade in the afternoon sun. Purple and gray into peachy yellow ochre – these are my colors.” Read more.
A Bright Cold Day in April
by Michael McGuire
It was a bright cold day in April of 1984 when I tested positive for the HIV virus. I remember the date and the weather because not only does the devastation of life-altering news make one hyperconscious of his environment and bring the physical world into magnified bold relief, I was that week also reading Orwell’s 1984 for the third time… Read more.
Ignoring Vital Signs
by Hilton Koppe
These days I see my mum less often. But I see her better. Since I moved from the city to work as a country doctor twenty-five years ago, she visits a few times a year. She stays for a week or more. We get to share breakfast, lunch and dinner. Tonight, I am sitting with her in our lounge room. My kids are in bed. My wife is out. We are watching Fiddler on the Roof. Read more.
Papa’s Mysterious Rex
by Etya Krichmar
It happened a long time ago in a small town of Kotovsk, located in Eastern Ukraine, which belonged to the Soviet Union. Mama, Papa, and I sat in the back of the menacing-looking, Khrushchev-Era four-story building in front of our ground floor apartment’s window. The three of us enjoyed the last few days of the good weather. It was pleasantly warm for an October evening. Read more.
Dora’s Deathbed: First Movement
by Gary Levi
“I can’t feel a pulse,” Mae says, her rose-lacquered fingertips probing the carotid of her dying friend Dora. Mae’s a just-retired nurse, so what she says carries weight. Even though she’s here in her civilian capacity, like the rest of us, to watch Dora die. Read more.
A Father’s Arms
by Su Cummings
The thermonuclear bomb and I practically share a birthday—that was the first hydrogen fusion device with the power of 800 Hiroshima bombs. They called it the superbomb, the “city killer.” Physicist Enrico Fermi said its “practical effect is almost one of genocide.” I always knew the fear-begotten arms race and I grew up together. Read more.
Antidote to Truth
by Carol Ann Wilson
Standing in Tiananmen Square that autumn day in 1998, I marveled at its vastness. The few people populating its more than fifty-three acres seemed like ants on an enormous sidewalk. The square could hold many, many more. Multitudes. Read more.
by Anna West
I was watching a gothic tableau play out from the corner of a hospital room. A pale girl lay on the bed below. Dark hair on white pillows. White sheets between her legs stained with blood. I felt compassion for the pale girl and the three people bending over her. Two nurses and a young doctor. A cry caught in his throat. “We’re losing her!” Read more.
by Madelaine Zadik
Hope is what filled Helga’s letters, in fact, they were overflowing with hope. Hard to imagine so much hope inside a prison cell. That first year awaiting trial moved slowly, with little to do inside that cell. Helga was in solitary confinement for over eight months.
My mother and her sister, Helga, were part of the resistance in Nazi Germany. As teenagers they worked as couriers, smuggling anti-Hitler newspapers across the mountains from Czechoslovakia into Germany. Read more.
Bobby’s Irish Goodbye
by Joyce McKenna
It’s always been remarked upon in my family — by family I include all my cousins — that whenever there’s a large gathering, my brother Bobby, youngest of all the twenty-one cousins, will slip away unnoticed, thus aptly demonstrating the “Irish Goodbye.” He began his disappearing act at the age of two and a half. Read more.
The Other in Paris
by N. M. Campbell
Marianne paced as she walked around the space praying. It was a lull between the movements, so she took a moment to stretch her legs. Fourteen years ago and a month, she did not remember this being so hard.
“Mama!” Marianne ran back to her daughter’s side and squatted down next to her. Read more.