Means to an End
by Rachel Browning
I was hiding my lima beans under a flap of chicken skin when Dad told us the news.
I sensed that something was up when he arrived home from work later than usual, his face red and blotchy, an aroma of whiskey, cigarettes, and fryer oil drifting from the blazer he flung over the edge of the couch where I sat watching MTV. Read more.
The Garden of Eden
by Walter Weinschenk
A search for the Garden of Eden had been considered from time to time but the collective will to find it had never reached a sufficient level to justify the effort. There were some, however, who wished to proceed and there was no shortage of scientists, historians and theologians who entertained the possibility that the Garden, or what remained of it, existed somewhere in the world. Read more.
by Barbi Calusdian
Laura bustled around the kitchen, lighting the candles, rearranging the silverware and checking on the roast in the oven. She and Tim were celebrating their third wedding anniversary and she wanted everything to be just right. He was running a little late; he should have been home a while ago. She placed his carefully wrapped present next to his plate and poured the wine. Read more.
What You Know
by Mary Vensel White
Jasper wasn’t the sort of man who liked to share his food, never had been. This did not sit well with women. They always wanted “just a bite” of this and “a taste” of that and sometimes, he knew, they wanted to share an entrée to stay on their diets even though afterwards, they’d order a rich dessert and he would go home hungry. But these are lessons you learn, especially over the course of a sixteen-year marriage. Read more.
Weigh Her Down, See How She Moves
by Margaret Spilman
Shadrach, Ohio, remembers my family. Remembers me. On the rare occasions when I come back to visit the museum that once was our house, more than one hand has found its way to my shoulder to pat comfort. It’s a rhythm I’ve known since I was five years old. Since the day my little sister Dorothy was born.
She wasn’t the first baby born with Mylar’s Syndrome, not by a long shot. Read more.
by Walter and Margaret Munchheimer
I don’t recall exactly when it first occurred to me that I might be gifted at what I was doing. Others seemed to have noticed, and there were the occasional third-person references to potential—to a bright future. It all felt pretty normal to me, so I just kept doing what I was doing. The assignments quickly became more demanding, the challenges exhilarating and always thoroughly mastered. Read more.
by Zephaniah Sole
Eyague Ortiz de Toledo stood in the fresh white sand and squinted from the beating sun. It was very hot in this new place, this new place that did not feel so new, and Eyague mused on the favor granted by the Providence he liked to call… well… he did not like to call it Dios as his compatriots blithely pronounced with the tension of spittle between their teeth. No, in his mind, quietly and to himself, Eyague preferred to call it El Verdadero. The True. Read more.
by Ron Schafrick
In high school I was friends with two girls, Ida Kowalchuk and Fiona Petrowsky. Ida and Fiona had known each other since elementary, and shortly after I entered their lives the three of us became thick as thieves. Wherever we went, whatever we did, it was always as a trio. But Ida and I shared something undeniably special. We clicked from the get-go, as they say, while Fiona—a quiet, diffident girl, boringly polite—slowly moved from center stage to the darkened corners of the background. Read more.
by Tara Giltner
The brisk steps of heeled boots beat rhythmically against the hum of engines and horns. Skyscrapers tower overhead, leaving little room for light other than the billboard screens of advertisements and PSAs. Her gaze remains fixed forward as she moves within with the mass of people who surround her. The street ends at Central Park. She turns right along the waist-high stone wall that borders the valley below. Glancing over, she sees winter finches flit about cement walkways and barren trees. Read more.
by Elizabeth Powers
When I wake up in the morning, the snow has stopped falling, but outside my window I see a big mound of the stuff in the driveway. I rub my eyes and sigh, realizing that the mound of snow is actually a car and that I’m going to have to dig it out fast if I don’t want to be late to work. I throw on my khakis and dark green shirt, Harold’s Grocery sewn on the left breast pocket in yellow, loopy script, and then stare back at the car just for an instant to contemplate the freezing temperature of creamed corn. Read more.
by Andrew MacQuarrie
It sounded like a creaky door. Or a lazily deflating balloon. Or a territorial humpback moaning out its claim to the waters of the North Pacific.
What it didn’t sound like was lungs. At least not healthy, normal lungs.
Mai Fitzgerald closed her eyes and adjusted her grip on the stethoscope. It was all there—the prolonged expiratory phase, the diffuse high-pitched wheezing, the hoarse… junkiness classic for chronic bronchitis. She imagined the patient’s breath, hot and frantic, scrambling to make it through her tight, scarred airways. Read more.
At the Edge of a Long Lone Land
by Ben Woestenburg
I used to watch her walk the Coast Path every morning through my grandad’s old spyglass. Sometimes, she’d stand rooted to one place, looking out past Pordenack Point at one of the small fishing boats, or a merchant ship, and I could picture her in my imagination as a young Penelope searching for her Ulysses. It struck me at times that perhaps she was looking for a piece of herself out there—that maybe she’d given away a piece of her heart, or perhaps misplaced it. Read more.
The Brown Man
by Frank Haug
The Brown Man collapsed. Tan dust rose up in plumes from the desert ground. He sucked at the speckled air with stiff and halting gasps. All the muscles in his body were tired, especially his legs. He struggled to gather himself and get moving again. On this last trip he’d barely been able to get across the river. Years of wandering had left him thin and ragged and weak. Read more.
The Witch Window
by Rhiannon Catherwood
“Dad’s dead” are the first words of any substance that my sister has said to me in ten years. The phone call came at 5:34 A.M. It started with “hello” and “that is you, isn’t it Jimmy?” and “don’t hang up.” But we came pretty quickly to “Dad’s dead.” Those are the words that stuck. Read more.
by Molly Seale
He left her with six children, a few acres of poor farm clay, no money, and a house plain and sturdy. “You’ll have to send them away, Lettie,” the relatives told her. “There’s an orphanage over in Masonville. You can’t keep them.” They told her this when he was barely gone, his body cold but not yet in the ground. Read more.
How the Legend Ends
by Matthew Dentice
The sky had been an unusually brilliant shade of blue that day. Not that it mattered much now. Billowing smoke rendered it a kind of sooty grey against the approaching twilight. At least, that is how it looked in the small bit of sky which was visible through the high bows of the trees. A harsh, pungent smell wafted on the early evening breeze. The smell of burning. Read more.
A Compromising Photograph
by Sarah Roff
It was six o’clock on an August morning when an old war hero hobbled up to the front door as Anni was sitting in the kitchen drinking a cup of the bitter chicory that now stood in for coffee. Anni was listening to a bird and trying to decide what kind of warbler it was when its song was drowned out by the sharp trilling of the bell, a signal that traveled from the front door of the big house down a cable in the hall to the kitchen, where a series of clappers mounted on the side wall vibrated with alarm. She stood up from the table. Her mother had come down from upstairs, where she had been putting an inexperienced young housemaid through her paces. There was murmuring in the hallway that passed into the parlor. A few minutes later, the front door opened again, and the old soldier took his leave in low tones, his single boot crunching on the gravel as he retreated down the path. Read more.
by Melinda Keathley
When the doorbell rang, Shelley looked at the grandfather clock, wiped her mouth and hands with her napkin, placed her plate in her lap, and with one fluid motion reversed and turned her wheelchair out from the kitchen table. She rolled (the term she most often used to reference her method of self-propulsion) to the sink where she placed the plate to be loaded in the dishwasher later. It was 8:45 a.m. The showing was early, but Shelley appreciated the potential tenant’s punctuality. Read more.
by Jim Fairhall
Toward the end of the monsoon, after humping the green-roofed mountains and the elephant-grass hills southwest of Hué so long that they’d become my home, I got a rear job. There was an opening in the security platoon at Eagle Beach: I’d finish my tour of duty there. This was a lucky break, since the Army could just as well have made me a clerk in muddy Phu Bai, the rear area of my battalion. Read more.
a galaxy of fractured souls
by Edwardo Pérez
The ethereal stream ferried us to the Hub – a galactic repository for interrupted existence, a depot collecting the chaff of every species in the cosmos, a harbor for abandoned souls needing to belong. Didn’t matter what system you were from or how you were expelled. We all found refuge in each other’s exile.
Of course, not every soul felt at home. Some chose dissipation, others preferred isolation. Most of us just tried to quell the pain (even the soul-gangs were only looking to assuage the agony), but Śevvi had a different plan. Read more.
by Leane Cornwell
Low clouds parted briefly giving weak winter sunlight a chance to reach old Charlie, offering welcomed warmth. Perched on Charlie’s head was the old straw hat he wore any time he was outdoors, and he pushed it down to just above his ears before cautiously stepping off his front porch onto an ice covered walk. A tin Folgers coffee can tucked under his left arm.
Charlie’s front walk ran out ten feet before connecting with the town’s cement sidewalk, which eventually ended in the downtown section of small Howard, Nebraska. Charlie’s mailbox lived out here. He didn’t receive much mail but getting to it was risky business in winter. Read more.
by Linda Heller
When Della was thirteen and standing at the ironing board, her father walked in and said, “Change your dress. Your father is coming.”
“You’re my father,” she said.
The man told her no.
Change your dress. Your father is coming. How long had it taken him to say that? Ten seconds? Twenty? He was commanding and spoke slowly. No one dared interrupt him. So then it took twenty seconds to give her dark hair a new meaning, to make it a wedge between her and her milky brothers and sisters. Imagine the shock of such news, the sudden question of whether anything was what it appeared to be. Read more.
by Daniel Chawner
“He’s screwing up,” said the voice in Eileen’s ear. “He’s going to lose the mark.”
Eileen frantically typed send apps now on her iPad. A server appeared from the compact kitchen and placed a bowl of roasted cauliflower and a plate of sliced cheeses with olives and honeycomb on a wine barrel table.
“Gentlemen, let me tell you about our starters.” Eileen watched from her seat at the bar as the black-haired, wide-hipped server launched into a description of the food. Bright midday sunlight filled the small, high-ceilinged wine bar. Eileen shifted slightly on the barstool to block the light and remove the glare from the iPad screen. One half of the screen displayed a video feed of Punit glancing at his phone, the other half a chat window. Read more.
by Elsie Vandevere
They told me that no old house in the country was without a story, that they all held a long legacy full of intrigue, disaster, mystery, and scandal. I had even heard more macabre, whispered tales of specters on the moors and in the corridors alongside overwhelming family portraits and suits of armor and marble busts, but soon talk of homes was lost in talk of gloves and in flower arrangements, which it seemed held a much greater significance. Marriage was the topic of the day, not hauntings and secrets. Read more.