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At the Edge of the Dry Land

by Norbert Kovacs

The two-story white house that embodied the front of the Last Out Hotel was inching ever closer to ruin. Its wooden siding was worn and broken, and the house’s color, once a sleek white, was fading fast after decades of buffeting by the desert wind and dust. The dark roof had dulled under the strong sun and its shingles had peeled upward, tired.

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The Nocturnal Florist

by James Swansbrough

The bicycle is his harbinger. Sammy flies the American flag from a three-foot stick duct-taped to his rear basket. We see that flag and know he’s coming. Both the rear and front baskets are interlaced with red, silver, and blue tinsel. By day the baskets may hold lawn-care tools or groceries. At night, they’re filled with flowers.

Sammy is unimposing: few inches shy of six feet, not an ounce of spare flesh on him. He has the sinewy muscle common to laborers, endurance athletes, or users. Leathery dark skin taut over his sharp cheekbones and jaw, teeth set in a slight underbite. Weatherworn fingers, and bony, like they could lick fire from a harmonica.

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Tenderfoot

by Jim Fields

There were ten of us—three older boys and the rest of us younger ones. We were walking single file up the mountain on a hot summer day in July. The trail was getting steeper as we slowly worked our way up to the top, but still we pressed on. Grant Miller was our leader. He was a sixteen-year-old, six foot two, muscular high school quarterback with eyes that became narrow when he was mean, which was quite often. With his deep tan and athletic frame, Miller cast an imposing figure and everybody knew not to mess with him. He rarely talked, but when he did, Miller made it clear he was in charge and we were to do things his way.

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Mrs. Rowe

by Lissa Staples

The actual taking of the pills was a soggy event because Mrs. Rowe had thrown up, necessitating a second round, and also because she had been crying. The liter bottle of vodka was later found under the bed. Such a waste of good spirits her brother, Theodore, was heard to say at the funeral. There was no suicide note, or any other clue to explain Mrs. Rowe’s actions save the fact that she had been under the care of a psychiatrist, Zoloft and Lunesta for over six years

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Kattadiya

by Mesh Tennakoon

Francis thought her bladder would burst; walking the extra one hundred yards to the outdoor lavatory was out of the question. The zinnia patch, adjacent to the patio would have to suffice. It was nearly 9 P.M. and pitch-black outside; no one would see.

Grabbing the battered silver torch, left near the back door, she stepped out on to the patio. The sweet perfume of jasmine wafted through the warm evening air. Breathing in the calming fragrance, Francis moved the dim flashlight up and down to orientate herself in the dark. Almost immediately, various insects, drawn by the faint light, swarmed the rim of the torch as she held it out in front.

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Eighty-Seven

by Shanelle Galloway Calvert

Dust hangs in the sunlight, floating white in the golden beam. Too much dust, Hugh thinks as he watches the particles meander through the light. It should be falling down, he thinks, with gravity. But the dust floats, moves diagonally, rising and falling and lifting again. Cora never would have stood for it.

The TV flickers. Flat, grainy bluish faces turn camera and smile, flip their shining hair over their shoulders. Hugh can’t quite hear what they are saying. He hates having to change the volume up and down between programs and advertisements. They make the ads so loud these days, and the shows so quiet. He’s losing his hearing and he knows it.

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Grace

by Tahseen Béa

Once upon a time a young woman named Grace dreamed an impossible dream. She dreamed of a big love that would enter her life and transform her. She never spoke of it to anyone but nurtured it and waited until someone worthy of her love would enter her life. She was certain she had a gift of loving that nobody else had. Sure everyone loves, she thought, but not like her. When it was her turn to love, she would love with the tenderness of a girl and a fierceness of a woman. She would offer love as passion and as patience, as an ideal and as a living embodiment of that ideal.

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How to Win at Losing

by Marrie Stone

Take a selfie. Consider the pros and cons of removing your shirt. Remind yourself that it’s a rare man who, at forty-eight and no stranger to Big Gulps and barbeque ribs, should ever remove his shirt. Instead, stand in front of your canary yellow Corvette and raise your cell phone camera high on its stick. Higher. Lean on the hood. Button your shirt. Higher. Make a mental note to buy a bigger shirt.

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Daffodil Road

by AS Renard

A SHIVER pricks his spine. It is a soft tingle, just enough to rouse him from the depths. Face down in a pool of drivel, the young lothario is unsure of his place in the world. This reluctance is palpable as he drinks in the blackness like a homemade amer, slowly swishing the gloom this way and that across his tongue to best capture its flavor. The acrid tone confirms his suspicions — here is a realm detached from the sovereignty of his dreams. Not Eden, but Gethsemane, where dangers are many and miracles few.

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Hooked and Hanging

by Marina Hatsopoulos

Even in the dark, I spotted Stefano’s loose stance on the platform as my train from Rome pulled into the station. The guys I was used to spending my days with—engineers, lawyers, investors and other entrepreneurs—had more skills than him, for sure, but they didn’t look like that. I’d never mentioned it to John, but then again, why would I?

I jumped off the train and stood on tiptoes to reach around Stefano’s neck. He brushed my curls away from my face and looked at me, as if at a painting, up and down.

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Names of the Dead

by David Bontumasi

They gave me a pencil and a single sheet of paper and they told me to write slowly and clearly, so that I wouldn’t miss a thing. I looked first at the angular man with the protruding chin standing above me and then the round dark-haired woman who stood slightly behind him. I thought it odd that they were the same height and their skin the same color: a lifeless, milky pink. Their faces blended together to make one misshapen head. One of them smelled like potatoes, though it may have been both of them. It made my temples throb.

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Limfill

by Siu Siu Sik

About three months ago, if you had had the opportunity to visit Lucy, you would surely have seen me, wrapped in a white plastic bag, sitting on the floor and leaning against the side of a shoe rack against the wall right beside the door to the outside. Certainly, you would have been able to tell, by experience or by instinct, that I was not supposed to be deserted there, indeterminately, in that unsightly condition.

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Parking Lot

by Timothy Ryan

Pulling into the long-term parking lot at Dulles, Cindy trolls past metal wheeled containers lined up like colorful storage facilities in the hold of a military transport, finding a spot in the Blue Lot, Row H, Number 58. She estimates forty meters to the bus shelter.

Gazing up through the windshield. Jet contrails across the blue overhead as sharp as scars. Meandering, fading, they bleed into the sky like an accelerated version of the human body healing and forgetting.

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death, at work

by Nicholas Eveneshen

“Well then, Andrew, ought we to start with the basics? Please, take a seat.”
I had never met Bill from Fleet Safety before, but his presence disturbed me. The main office door to our left was closed, the thin light at the bottom barely visible. Bill had spread out his documents on the table before us and now sat with his hands folded, expectant. Steam rose out of the cup beside him. His suit was as black as the coffee he drank.

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Tidy Hair on a Boat

by Simon Lowe

“I’m chock full of cancer,” said Mrs Winston, sat in Patty’s salon.
“I’m sorry to hear that Mrs Winston.”
“Agony it is.”
“Some cancers aren’t so bad though, are they, these days?”
“Who told you that?”
Trey had a friend. People said she was going to die. Trey visited her friend after work and sat on a bean bag, consoling her with optimistic words and cups of tea. The cancer had a name similar to Trey’s maths teacher, Mr Hodgkins. The cancer came and went. Her friend recovered. Trey felt she had been misled.

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Peninsula

by John Herbert

They were both shocked when the letter arrived, the stationery matt and generous, unlike the crabbed hand it bore. The pages, when Róisín opened it, gave off the stale reek of cigarette smoke.
‘Who’s it from?’ Sheila asked rubbing her hair with a towel.
‘Only Guillame Le – fecking – Quennec,’ Róisín said with a grin. ‘Says he’d love to come and read at Peninsula next month from his new book.’

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Flight

by Wendy Tatlonghari Burg

So that was it; her sister was dying. Riza received the call this morning from her niece in D.C. She was expected to go to Manila. Her daughter Melanie was already there, sleeping on a cot in the hospital room. Riza shut her eyes tight and rubbed her forehead with her fingers. She searched her mind for a reason to stay. What could she tell them?

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Sisters

by Linda Butler

Janie was dead. For real this time.
Connie rounded the familiar curve at Hooper Hill Road, pulled over to let an impatient driver pass, and used the moment to once again check her rear-view mirror. They said she’d get used to it but she hadn’t.

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