A Compromising PhotographSarah 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.
The TenantMelinda 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.
Eagle BeachJim 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 soulsEdwardo 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.
How the Legend EndsMatthew 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.
Charlie’s PlaceLeane 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.
Sighting LovelandLinda 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.
Unfair AdvantageDaniel 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.
Something WickedElsie 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.
“Good afternoon. Could you kindly let Maritza know that Val is here to see her?” Val observed the woman at the counter look her over with big almond-shaped eyes drawn tightly in suspicion. Perhaps her polite demeanor was throwing the receptionist off her game.
“Yeah. Wait here.” The receptionist walked through a beaded curtain to the back. “Yo, Maritza, some lady is here to see you. Val or whatever her tight-ass name is.”
Val could hear laughter in the back. Her mother’s cackle was hard not to hear; it was usually the loudest, the most obnoxious. Read more.
Battle CreekBrad Neaton
They were raised in the same town but could not have been more different. Read more.
The Ruler of the ArmyAndré Fleuette
I woke in darkness and cold and listened to the keening of the wind as it tore at the walls of the staging building where we had taken shelter. It became known as Walaka. The Storm. The phrase, that word “storm” is inadequate. Read more.
Everything about this day has felt different from the beginning. It all started when her mother made bacon and eggs for breakfast. They usually only have bacon on Sundays. Read more.
Mr. WilliamsRon Schafrick
When I was sixteen, I took organ lessons from a dour, quick-tempered, talented British man named Mr. Williams. No one else I’ve known, either before or since, was as self-sacrificing for his instrument. Nor as old-fashioned. In the nine or so months I was his student, I never saw him dressed in anything other than a three-piece suit that had long gone out of style, a tie with what appeared to be a school crest on it, and horn-rimmed glasses dating back to the Kennedy administration. A gold cross was invariably pinned to his lapel. He was the only man I knew who still used Brylcreem in his hair, so much so that it looked like a solid, shiny mass. Not that he was an especially old man. Rather, he seemed ageless somehow, as if caught outside of time, belonging neither to the present nor to some earlier era. Read more.
As Zach flew over the handlebars of his mountain bike, his body a rigid missile parallel to the ground, he figured it’d be bad. He’d been going pretty fast. On the good luck side, nothing too serious broke save a couple of ribs – those hurt like a mother, though. On the bad luck side, he landed next to a rattler who promptly bit him in the shin. He hollered to holy hell, rousting a couple of homeless guys who had been squatting peacefully not ten yards from the trail. A small but vigorous debate ensued. Read more.
The WriterKacie Faith Kress
Once upon a time, I met a girl.
Now, you’re probably thinking two things. One: Jacob, for God’s sake, you’re a writer. You’re really going to begin the story with ‘once upon a time’? What is this, a Grimm fairytale? And two: a long, extended groan followed by, another story about a boy and a girl?
But it’s not like you think.
She’s not like you think.
I want to start from the beginning, but right now she’s next to me, and I’m reminded of why I haven’t been able to write a single thing for the last six months. Read more.
After SkinnyMaya Furukawa
The phone was vibrating, short spurts of three vibrations at a time accompanying Simple Plan’s “I Won’t Be There.” Kira reached blindly for her phone, face still pressed into her pillow, and succeeded only in knocking it off of her desk.
“Shit.” Kira groaned, lifting herself up from the bed just enough to feel around on the ground. Her fingers finally wrapped around the phone and she collapsed back onto bed, swiping right to answer the phone. “Hello.” Her voice came out scratchy, so she cleared her throat and repeated her “Hello” in the same monotone.
“Honey, you have to get up,” her mom chirped. “It’s after ten. If you were public schooled, you’d be three hours late already.” Read more.
The Hunchback of the FlatironTracy Daugherty
It didn’t look like a New York kitchen. It reminded Bern of a Cold War California ranch house, a long, slender space showcasing massive appliances (an old electric Kenmore sheathed in bacon grease), linoleum tile floor and Formica countertops, blind storage corners and a sink cabinet as big as a washtub. Tentatively, he tested the stiff buttons on the soap-encrusted old dishwasher.
Just a week ago, he’d rented this small apartment on Perry Street. The bulky kitchen overwhelmed the rest of the place (actually, a single open area partitioned by bamboo screens); poorly ventilated, it disseminated years of liver and onions, garlic, and black-eyed peas throughout the apartment; and the too-big window above the kitchen sink overlooked a grimy brick wall next door. Read more.
Another Kind of KindnessNeil Randall
It was no secret that I hadn’t seen or spoken to my father for many years prior to his passing. A fact which fascinated a great number of people – literary aficionados, academics, biographers and journalists. You don’t achieve that level of professional success without your personal life coming under intense scrutiny. In that respect, I cannot even begin to recount the number of interviews I have declined over the last decade. But my desire to tell my story now has nothing to do with appeasement, or of trying to set the record straight. Nor will it be sensationalised nonsense penned purely for financial gain. I want to write about my father to try and understand our complex relationship and work out exactly how I feel about him today. Read more.
Peach BasketsLarry Sherman Rogers
One morning, when I was unhappy with my old man, a U.S. Army drill instructor, who often brought his instructional (bullying) tactics home, I followed a little path through morning dew to a tin-can town where a bale of terrapins idled in sunlight beside a brook that did not babble. I liked it there and decided to stay forever, but later that day I was found by a search party led by the drill sergeant himself. The local paper called it a rescue but the leader of that search party and I knew better. Read more.
That night after the opera in Barcelona, I think that was when. I suppose I’ll never really know. I was there with Rob, our last night before he went to Paris on the train. Walking out of the opera at the Liceu, my heart was bursting, too wild and too big for the crowded streets pouring into La Rambla. I still ached with Aida’s torn loyalty. The voice of the enslaved Nubian princess trembled near the back of my throat. I still wanted to understand why people fall in love and lose all reason. Read more.
The Deceitful DovesPeter Prizel
The quintessential immigrant during the late 1800s and early 1900s usually tried to assimilate into American culture to a degree. If they did not, they were often destitute, which almost certainly led to their children’s assimilating. Harry Houdini was one of these children. Born in Budapest, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the son of a rabbi, Harry moved far away from his father’s rabbinical world of thought. Houdini was much happier hopping trains from metropolis to metropolis, performing his magic tricks rather than pursuing his studies and taking an interest in ancestral traditions Read more.
Dream of the Shadows DarklyLysabella Barrett
In the nighttime when most things are sleeping, the Fae murk about freely. Masking their true visage with glamour spells, humans often see them as fireflies, glittering and twinkling in shadowy areas at dusk. In the daytime they pretend to be hummingbirds, chipmunks, or dragonflies. It is through this deception they spy and when night falls, they steal away with your most fanciful dreams, your lover’s breath, and sleeping babies. You should never seek them out, call on them, or make any deals with them whatsoever. Read more.
War HeroesNick Gallup
Mamma owned a small grocery store on the corner of Keller and Howard. Howard was the main street and paved with asphalt. Kellar was just a side street and paved with crushed oyster shells. The smell lasted for about a year, gradually fading away. Or maybe we’d just grown used to it.
Kellar was all white folks until the railroad tracks; then it was all blacks until Division Street. After Division Street, it became white again. Division Street was aptly named. Read more.