Short Story

The Pointillist Strain, A Requiem

Mark Knego

Two women walk in tandem down a cobblestoned street, one of many radiating like the veins of an emerald-green tree leaf from the metro down through the park towards a museum. The park is lined by elegant two-story mansions with beautiful balconies.
Children mount small horses inside the park in a corral of sorts, their moms adjust their helmets, while Daddy snaps pictures.

That Summer

Justin Aylward

It’s six years since I was last home. It’s funny how quickly you can forget yourself. London is a long way from the village in Limerick where I spent one August as a teenager. We used to go a lot when I was a small boy, but I couldn’t remember it very well. But it wasn’t until I was fifteen that it became a part of me. Until then, I never wanted to visit family. It was summer after all, I should have been with friends, but my mother made me go.

Out of the Blue

Ruth Langner

They say that the characters in a movie are affected by the developments the screenwriter creates between each of them, and that these characters are influenced by the paths taken within the plot. I envied characters that said or did things on the screen that they would never do in real life. In some ways, my life, or existence, was like a movie script—adventures sprouting up unexpectedly over many episodes.

The Law of Forgetting

Scott Pomfret

Sister has never sought recognition for her sacred work, but those afflicted with childlessness find her. They send heartrending letters. They send aged Manchego and Jamón. They send exquisite rosaries of rare wood and bone.
The couple from Salamanca is typical. It’s May 1973. They make a personal pilgrimage to the clinic, as if Sister were herself a saint.

A Barber in Abingdon

Vanessa Giraud

A chill in the air woke Ali. It was just a slight draft but enough to brush the hairs on the back of his neck upright, if he’d had any. He’d shaved them clean off though, like the sparse hair on his head. Back in the day when hair loss was his only concern, Madiha, his wife, had caught him researching transplants online. She’d laughed, slipped off her headscarf and shaken out her hair, ‘Want some of mine?’ If he concentrated, he could still feel its soft weight and silky texture.

Corona Choreography

Susan S. Levine

A large dispenser of no-name hand sanitizer should not be the first object patients see as they open the door bearing the engraved brass plaque SANDRA R. KRASNAPOL, PH.D. So, Sandra had positioned the bottle behind the lamp on the small bookshelf in the vestibule. Immediately visible, yes, but an offer rather than an outright command. She expected the alteration would not go unnoticed by her patients—and it didn’t.

Henry

Bill VanPatten

Henry Baker sat in his wheelchair outside the Caring Hearts assisted living facility in Mañana under the shade of a tree that he reckoned might be almost as old as him. Then again, maybe not. He was eighty-five and the home was built in the early 1950s, so unless the tree was already here, it may be only about seventy years old. He remembered when the building went up.

Meeting Mamie Eisenhower

Lori Crispo

At twenty-three, Marion Jennings (née Gustavson) is too old to be homesick.
Or so her mother says during their once-a-month, long-distance chat.
“There’s no time for wallowing, Marion Louise. You have a husband and a new baby to care for,” she tells her. “Instead of crying about living in paradise, you should be attending to your husband’s career.”
This is not what Marion wants to hear.

On a Sunny Friday

Hardev Matharoo

It was good weather for May. People were lying in the park, wearing short-sleeved tops against all odds and calling it summer. You walk outside with a jacket out of habit and regret it twenty minutes later. You’ll sunbathe but you won’t wear sun cream because somehow it feels like the sun can’t hurt you. If you’re so inclined, you start thinking those romantic springtime thoughts, where you wonder what summer might be like and whether you will be happy because happiness seems a right when so many people are smiling in front of you.

Ashes of Old Lovers

Jo-Anne Rosen

That couldn’t be my father on the phone. Forty years had gone by without a single card or message from him, and for all I knew he was dead. No, my elderly neighbor was teasing me.
“Pete dear, I’ve got a client on the other line,” I said.
“Mary Edwina, please listen.”
I listened. Pete could not have known my horrid middle name.
“I’m Edward Keller. I’m your father.”
“Hold on,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”

The One She Left Behind

Peter Alterman

It was Friday in Madrid. Hot. Humid. Noisy. The streets of the Centro were crowded with tourists foreign and domestic. By eleven A.M. it was almost impossible to move through the Prado for the crowds. Tour guides drilled pathways through the mobs with their colored pennants. Echoing off the marble walls and high ceilings, the din was as loud as the inside of a railway station at rush hour. The air dripped with garlic and stale breath.

Desert Venus

David W. Berner

From this distance, he’s not easy to see. Not with the naked eye. He’s old. I know that’s true. How old, I don’t know. He sits there on a beat-up couch on the porch, a big porch that wraps around part of the house and has screens on the sides to keep the bugs out. But it can’t do that too well if it’s just on the sides. I see him use his hand to swat away the eye gnats. They can be irritating late on a warm desert evening.

King Lane and the Devil

Seth Foster

A little time before I’d see my sweet wife Ellamae at death’s door, trapped in our burning house surrounded by leaping flames and black smoke, this bluesman they call Ol’ Boy walked into Joogee’s wielding a guitar. Joogee’s is a small juke joint way back in the woods. It’s just an old shack. Bullet holes here and there. Blood stains smeared across the floor. The smell of liquor oozing from the walls. You’d miss it if you didn’t know where to find it. But Joogee’s got the best damn blues in all of Mississippi.

Orion’s Arm

J. M. Platts-Fanning

A slash ripped open the night sky, like a great sleeping black eye had blinked open. A gust of wind blew out and rippled around the globe, then as if the black hole was inhaling, the wind blew backwards off the earth sucking anything not grounded into the tear in space.
Colossal lenticular fingers appeared on the top and bottom of the void lifting the eye open wider. Out stepped garnished Mycelia, illuminated by brilliant quasar beams.

Neighbors

Jayna Locke

Benny was at the window again, watching the new family across the street crawling around the property like wild animals. Not literally crawling. Just… everywhere. He looked on, annoyed, as an indeterminate number of children occupied themselves with balls, bats, jump ropes, skateboards, trikes and bikes, and even small cars. One was Pepto Bismol pink and branded after the ever-popular Barbie, and a red one was painted in a fire engine theme. Horrible.

Black Moon

Ruth Langner

A good deal happened after the fire devoured half the mountainside. People whose homes were now ash and rubble fought with their insurance companies over replacement or hired lawyers to litigate on their behalf. I had my own ideas about how these professionals operated: quietly evaluating how much each house was worth, talking in four-syllable words they thought their client wouldn’t understand, which they mostly didn’t, and throwing in some Latin.

Trotsky in Mexico

Sandro F. Piedrahita

I now see everything through the prism of my own destruction. As I lie here in the hospital room without my recently amputated leg, I realize that my life will also be amputated in a similar macabre manner. The past and the future are forever riven asunder by a simple and irrefutable fact: my body is now incomplete, and my soul is soon to follow. I write because the circumstances require my sincerity even if it pains you.

Semiprecious Memories

Katherine Orfinger

In the five years Jason and I have been together, never once has he said, “I love you.” Still, I know that he does love me even if he won’t say it in those words. It’s just not how he grew up, and he’d rather lovingly stroke my hair as I’m falling asleep, he’d rather surprise me with my favorite iced coffee…

Her Prime Conjecture1

Carsten ten Brink

‘Lasagne. It’s already in the oven, Mom,’ Cissy said. ‘And then I have a lot of papers to mark tonight.’ One and a half lies in that answer, but they were only white lies.
‘Don’t eat too much of it, honey,’ her mother said. ‘I know how rich your lasagne is. You can freeze the rest.’
‘Yes, Mom.’
‘Your father had a good week. The Chess Team reached the Third Round.’

A Widow’s Mind

Molly Seale

Lorrie Blue has been widowed for five years. She is bathed in sadness—a trigger to a relentless, dark hole, a vacuum of emptiness that won’t, can’t leave her. She is freshly arrived in Austin, Texas, where she will deliver a paper on a panel on the work of an obscure Russian poet, an émigré who writes in English, not Russian. She’s hoping simply being here in this city where she met her husband twenty-five years ago in the mid-seventies will somehow diminish the emptiness, fill the vacuum.

Outside, Snow Fell

Ben Raterman

The city sat like a Mughal emperor waiting for his palanquin. That’s how Mather described it later.
Outside, snow fell among the tall buildings, covering the street without regard for the cabs and delivery trucks crawling through the slush, creating disappearing black ribbons among the advancing white. The temperature dropped. The slush froze. The traffic followed.

Crimson Embers

Ruth Langner

Years pass and the path of one’s life can look as simple and straight as a draftsman’s ruler. A sudden movement and the pencil is jarred away leaving a dark streak across the paper. Even if one tries to erase the mark, there will always be a faint memory of the event.

Mr. Lincoln’s Money

William Brasse

I reckon I’d been in line a full hour when I got close enough to see the recruiting officer, and damn if it wasn’t the same lieutenant as in Elizabethtown three days ago. It surprised me that one recruiter would cover so large a territory. Of course, I didn’t really know how recruitment was done, and since Washington had only recently issued quotas to the states, probably no one else did either.

it is what your life is

Amy Jones Sedivy

The girl stood on top of the railing. I watched in wonder – how could the girl balance? Still, that was not the real question. The real question was if the girl would jump. The ocean rolled with winds from a far-off storm, and while someone could conceivably jump from the pier into the water and live, someone else with an intent to die could probably succeed.