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First Cut: Chapter Excerpt

Issue 22 by 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.

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Complicit

Issue 22 by 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.

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Issue 22 by 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.

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Dumb Religious Story #137

Issue 22 by 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.

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Adrift and at Risk: Guide

Issue 21 by Yusuf DeLorenzo

What did I, Ettore, know of Algiers when I was swept to sea in the year 1788? What could I know? I was barely more than a boy living in a hammock strung nightly from hooks in a kitchen at a seaside bordello.

My mother died giving birth to me at that bordello, the House of Beautiful Swallows, so she never told me the stories of the ruthless Barbary pirates, the brothers Barbarossa, Dragut, Mezzo Morto, and all the others. But Josephina did, the kindly old lady at the House whose promise to my mother on her deathbed was to raise me as her own. I loved her, I loved the stories she told me, and I loved the pirates.

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Brigida: Chapter One

Issue 21 by Kate Spitzmiller

Marcus did not come home. None of them did.

Five thousand men. The entire Ninth Legion. Gone.

There were rumors. Rumors that the tribes of Caledonia had annihilated them; devoured their lines like the ancient giant Cacus, who consumed live human flesh and displayed human heads on nails outside his cave on the Palatine Hill.

I did not believe in monsters, only in gods and men. And I knew that the Romans had displeased the gods of Britannia, had spilt the blood of the tribes upon her dark, rich soil for generations. The Selgovae, the Parisi, the Carvetii. And the Brigante.

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Unfollowers: Chapter One

Issue 21 by Leigh Ann Ruggiero

Barb Eklund didn’t choose where she was born. She knew no one could. But her birthplace, instead of being something she was passingly grateful for, became a regret lodged between her ribs like the pain of a torn intercostal. Her parents brought her from Maryland to rural Ethiopia when she was four. Barb didn’t understand what she was leaving behind when she boarded the plane: her stuffed cat Oscar, the season of winter, or the red bike with training wheels she rode when winter was in abeyance.

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The Makings of Willa Mae: Chapter Four

Issue 21 by Jordan Clark

It had been a typical day for Willa Mae. She kept herself underneath the black walnut trees, out of the beaming summer sun, picking at the bugs as they crawled past her. She bent down and watch as they scrambled over one another in haste. Every once and awhile, she’d stick her thumb down and squash the ones causing trouble to the others. Her teeth would grind as she did it, her finger digging into the dirt to sink those bugs deeper and deeper. “Go on,” Willa Mae would say to the rest of the herd. “They ain’t gon’ bother anyone now.”

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Something Bigger

Issue 20 by Brian Howlett

My mother and her sisters have been waiting for their Aunt Del to pass on for at least ten years now. “It’s no way for someone to live,” Mom would tsk-tsk upon returning from a visit to “the home.” Funny we call it “a home” when it sounds like it’s anything but. I have never met Aunt Del, so when I offered to accompany Mom to the funeral service, she was surprised. She certainly didn’t need my support.

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carlos montoya

Issue 20 by John Paul Jaramillo

Summary: The titular character is faced with a reversal of fortune in almost every way: he loses a steady job, faces illness and disability, fails in his new marriage, and is betrayed by his closest compadre. He must confront his years of terrible parenting decisions and broken family ties after he is compelled to leave the green valley of San Luis, living as an outcast in the “steel city” of Huerfano, Colorado.

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Numbered Days

Issue 20 by Diane Botnick

1942. A baby girl is born inside a war. From one unfriendly womb to another she goes. It’s like living in a fishbowl: the view is panoramic but the glass won’t give. So it’s she who must. Learning this takes time.
It happens in winter, this birth, this unlikely, uncelebrated event. A winter that so efficiently brands her with its cold, she is never not cold again. So cold that of all the things she might wish to do over, chief among them is to have been born in summer.
It happens in Auschwitz, this birth.

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Birth of a Cosmic Being: Chapter One

Issue 17 by Sarah Ann Jennings

It was dusk when I awoke in this body for the first time.

I was on a screened porch watching the light fade from the clouds with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We sat on wooden chairs carved by his grandfather and looked out over the back of his land. It was shadowed fields of greenery at this point, and a few dark spots that could have been cows or bushes depending on whether they moved or not. Over the canopy of trees farther back, a smoky gray blue of fading light traced the tops of the leaves, and I could easily picture the crescent moon rising behind us.

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Don’t Hang Your Soul On That: Chapter Two

Issue 16 by Robert Hilles

He doesn’t notice the change in weather until dark clouds balloon overhead. It’s too late to take cover so he drops his scythe and arches his back to the warm downpour. When the rain shifts sideways, Ed straightens and widens his stance to keep from losing balance. His robe soaks through and droops heavily but the rain is a welcome reprieve from the steady throttle of afternoon heat.

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I Am Not Brad Pitt: Chapter One

Issue 16 by Ross Dreiblatt

Even though I’m not actually guilty, I know many of you think that I got what I deserved. You probably think people like me get by on their looks and coast through life without breaking a sweat. Well, in my case, coast through someone else’s life. I know for a fact, from the “fan mail” I get here, that there are lots of you out there that think I’m just a crazy man spinning a conspiracy theory. I’m used to that kind of judgement, it doesn’t bother me.

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Sugar and Dust: Chapter One

Issue 16 by Ella Kerr

This is what I knew of tragedy: run as far and as fast as you possibly can. The plane touched down on red African dust exactly five months and two weeks after the death of my mother. My shoulders were sore from hunching under the weight of her loss, and my legs burned with the fire of the restless. My heart slowed down the longer I stayed on that plane.

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The Wedding Bell: Chapter One

Issue 16 by Roxana Arama

First century CE. Rome is marching. Cities and temples are falling. In a fictitious kingdom by the Black Sea named Dhawosia, Princess Andrada, sole heir to the throne, wants to help her father unite his infighting chieftains against the growing Roman threat. But when she fails the trials they demanded of her, her father marries her off to a neighboring king

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Don’t Hang Your Soul On That: Chapter One

Issue 14 by Robert Hilles

By the time she selects a third papaya, he’s already certain that it’s no coincidence that she’s across the street from him right now. Even from here, he feels an instant connection. This means that they have known each other in a past life. His father has said that: The full influence of karma is only understood through dedicated, daily meditation.

He ignores those words and watches as she hands a papaya to the vendor who wraps it in newspaper and hands it back to her. She lowers it into a wicker basket and then turns slightly away from Tuum to pay. With her back to him, he notices that her skirt nearly touches the ground. She wears flat sandals and her hair is gathered in a single knot at the back.

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Personal Time: Chapter One

Issue 14 by J. M. Jones

This morning, someone shit on our lawn. Not something, as I’ll tell my wife. But someone. I’m sure of it. I’d gone to pull the car out of the garage, and when I stepped from the driver’s side, I saw it near the hedges, a brown smear. It might have been a dog. That was my first thought. But then I spotted the soiled paper towel tangled in the branches and thought, Son of a bitch, and turned to get the hose to wash it into the lawn, spread it out, dilute it. A couple flies darted off when I hit it with the spray, but they returned, taking up trace amounts I couldn’t clean off. As for the towel, I went inside for a pair of plastic gloves to pick it up. Then I took it to the trashcan, folded the band of latex over it, and dropped the whole thing in.

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