ISSUE 1 

FEATURED DRIBBLERS

 

Life

by Brandon Daily, USA 

     “It’s this realization that life happens, time moves on; the moments of now, they’re just memories tomorrow. And by the time you realize that, it’s too late. It’s hard, but that’s what life is. How it’s meant to be.”

     “I know,” he says, “but I don’t want to forget you.”

Afternoon Storm

by Brandon Daily, USA

     While voices on the radio tell of dropping pressures, of a storm that will not stop anytime soon, Mary holds her baby tight to her chest. The river will rise, and the water will come and lap at her ankles. Maybe, she hopes, it will come and cover us entirely.

***

The Van Gogh Hotel

by Bronwen Griffiths, England

     The Van Gogh Hotel stands alone on a wooded knoll, a twenty-minute bus ride from the city. The hotel bears no relation to Van Gogh, except for a tatty poster of his sunflowers and a vase of yellow plastic flowers. But later, a starry, starry night; a blossoming moon.

Behind the Sofa

by Bronwen Griffiths, England

     She is searching for your shoe. Perhaps it’s behind the sofa or in the cupboard where her mother keeps the cleaning stuff. She will not find it because you are long gone. Now she gazes out of the window, at the smoke rising, and this is the price she pays.

***

Cold Comfort

by Gail Ingram, New Zealand

     He sends us text messages–skin pinker today, bp 145 over 91–an obsession–streaming her health, his greatest desire, for her to get well. He’s wishing on the midday sun, the words he writes grow darker, blot the screen.

     She looks away, grapples for his jittery hand, the electricity

 

Rose Red Would Stare at the Illustrations for a Very Long Time

by Gail Ingram, New Zealand

 Here is an angel-child watching her on a precipice, who gives her conviction she can cross motorways blind, for she is chosen, she chooses, she comes from a river of dust where each person is a star, or a garden of roses so red they're almost black with longing.

 

OTHER DRIBBLERS

Ella Sees Something; Ella Says Something

by Paul Beckman, USA

Ella sees something, so she walks up to the Metro Cop in the subway, speaks to him, and points to the fire extinguisher. The cop laughs and sends her away. But, she’s seen a man off in the corner connecting wires, then hanging the extinguisher back on the steel post.

Lately

by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, USA

 

Who spools such soft-eyed gruel? Pages

flip on niche and cubbyhole: bloated

poems, bigwig professorships, who’s

eiderdowning whom?

WORDSWORDSWORDS

Penned, perused, picked over.

And then there’s the curbside lily in hot July,

defiantly orange and ordinary. Lines

that bloom between the mailbox

and recycling bin.

Singing us back to life!

Dust to Dust                                     Best Microfiction / Pushcart Prize Nominee

by Dreena Collins, England

Behind the chest of drawers, I find a garden of you. Your sunflower pendant, searching for the sky. Bobby pins scattered as a cloud of tadpoles. Two hairbands looped together in a kiss. And the ring you say was stolen, wrapped in mottled tissue, now crumbling to ashes and dust.

First Date

by Lori Cramer, USA

Parked outside my apartment with you, I can tell you’re eagerly awaiting our first kiss, but I can’t stop talking about the game we just witnessed, a no-hitter broken up in the ninth. Tears fill my eyes. You look confused. Oops, did I forget to mention the pitcher’s my ex?

Kickboxer

by Michael Estabrook, USA

As you get older, after sleeping 8 hours, you do not wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed—like when you were only 18—but instead stiff, sore, stuffy, and groggy. But what to do about it? Googling tells me get up, hydrate, take a kickboxing class, and I laugh and laugh.

Sour Notes

by Joe Giordano, USA

Silvia’s smile in the photograph shines like a mirror in sunlight. Match strike... I watch the image curl black with flame as I tinkle sour notes on the old piano. In winter’s moonlight, I sprinkle the ashes like unmelted snow and sigh. If only I could fall in love again.

Tree of Life

by Howie Good, USA

The town clock is frozen at half past, but no matter the true time, or where at this moment we think we are, you, me, even people we don’t know, we’re all in the same place, under the overhang of a sheltering tree. It’s what makes the dark so dark.

Human Versus Gods, It's a Probable 12 to 7

by Andrew Paul Grell, USA

Sisyphus does what he does best, cheat Prometheus, Hercules, and Atlas come to the poker game. Sisyphus draws to an inside straight and, somehow, manages to fill it. He wins Prometheus’s liver, then wagers for the punished Titans’s labors. Hercules, overjoyed, gives Atlas the stables in exchange for the world.

A Summer Romance

by John Grey, USA

Saying goodbye
while waves crash all around us.

Should be melodramatic

but it comes out feeling blah.

No kiss.

No hug.

A turn.

Slow trudge across deep sand

in opposite directions.

Brief fling.

Nothing deep.

Nothing serious.

Summer romance,

you might call it.

Strange, how even nothing

has a name.

Mother's Heirlooms

by Lynnnette Cruz Honiker, USA

 

My sisters? Your roses. Me?

Only bramble. My inheritance:

a life

 

weeding, pruning, fertilizing

your

growth.

 

I can’t get the sweet stench from my nostrils,

the thorns from my skin,

the dirt from my nails when run

 

under the spigot of memory.

Only scars remain. From cuts

caring

for you.

Hamed Looks Up at Michael Jordan

by Blake Kirkland, USA

Hamed looks up at Michael Jordan. Forty-five, not twenty-three. That’d be too unlucky. Worse. Worse than what was? Bombs overhead. Nothing is ever right since they came, but he doesn’t blame them—Americans. He doesn’t know much about Chicago. Windy City, he’s heard—like Jinn swirling against mountainsides.

Nameless Poem

by Jack e Lorts, USA

We got two free lunches today at Xtapa

Restaurante, 

while listening to a man talk about

cremation.

He said that for two-thousand three-

hundred thirty-eight dollars,

they would take care of everything:

from flying our bodies home from

Greece,

to giving the kids our ashes in a

cardboard box.

Before After

by Geoffrey Miller, Canada

The Christmas decorations in the yard aren’t ironic; Sam just doesn't realize it is March. Phebe mentions it to him just before the semi-finals, but that night he throws seven strikes—and it never happens again. By June, the snowman's faded enough to camouflage its new bird’s nest.

Equipment List

by Chris Moss, Australia

To Bring:

Backpack

Tent

Pegs and Rope

Torch

Sleeping Bag

Water (5L)

Rice

Jerky

Vitamin Pills

Medical Kit

Shovel

Belt Knife

Axe

Hunting Rifle

Bullets

Helmet

Combat Armor

Shield

Note: Poison has no effect. The brain must be destroyed. If bitten, amputate the limb or shoot into roof of mouth.

Inside the Montana State Penitentiary

by Leah Mueller, USA

Rows of barren, abandoned cells… Prisoners free or barricaded elsewhere. A noose hangs overhead, immobile. We stop walking, stare up at the frayed rope. Soon our relationship will die, too. Its neck will break in an instant, and no one will be around to scoop its body from the floor.

This Christmas

by Amanda Quinn, England

Bill would have joined in once. Been first to grab the microphone or don an amusing hat. Today, he sits staring at a twist of tinsel. He’s wearing a shirt bought some twenty parties ago. In all of this, she thinks, his collar size is the thing that hasn’t changed.

The Trees

by Austin Shirey, USA

The thin, tangled arms of barren trees reach spindly fingers to a blinding, nectarine sky—as if pleading, begging for rain. But, the rain does not come. Now, these withering, skeletal fingers reach out to rake our flesh and draw the water from our blood—desperate to slake their thirst.

Flown Away

by Pete Tonery, USA

It’s been too cold and damp for Shelby to struggle with the high-up bird feeders, so they’ve been empty for almost a week. Her ‘flock,’ as she calls them, returns the first two days, searches frantically—then resignedly—for seed and suet. Afterward, they are gone: like her husband Robin.

Collateral Damage

by Lynn White, Wales

Once they were cities

noisy

alive

lived in.

Now

only blackened carcasses

remain

still

standing

where all else has fallen.

Jagged towers

the bare bones

of dreams

standing

still.

Still as the lost dreams

stopped in their tracks.

Standing

still

the graveyard of the lost

the lost

dreams and dreamers.

FEATURED DRABBLERS

Mourning

by Brandon Daily, USA

    From the car, you watch the door, expecting someone to walk outside, light a cigarette, catch air. But no one comes.

    You miss her more than ever. Her hand on yours. Soft skin. Warmth. If she were next to you, she’d hold you close and wipe away your tears. 

    But she’s gone, and you are here, waiting outside her parents’ house.

   You take a deep breath and turn away, knowing that someday it’ll be your turn. Someday, someone will wait outside your house. And then they’ll climb the steps and walk inside, not knowing what to say to anyone there.

Canvas Wall

by Brandon Daily, USA

 

Paint me over in blood so that veins form

and show beneath my paper skin.

Cover my wounds, the tears in my flesh.

And breathe life into me with

Whispers you dare not share.

Trust in me your secrets of time and

Make love against my palm so that

My fingers caress your back and tangle your hair

While your sweat drips down my body.

 

I have been witness to births and deaths,

Bedtimes and shadowdreams.

I have felt the warmth of breath,

The cold of grief, 

And I have studied laughter and joy,

Hoping to become real with them.

***

The House of Gauze

by Bronwen Griffiths, England

The house is shrouded in pale yellow gauze.

'How many years has it stood like this?’  

Mary says 'twenty.' Evie says 'longer.' 

‘Why is it still vacant?’

Mary and Evie look at each other. Birds twitter. I can’t tell from where. 

'We were just kids,’ Mary says.

'She was murdered. Carved up like a chick-en,’ Evie says. ‘In that room. The husband disappeared after.'

I stare at the house. Nothing but the yellow gauze. As if the place is waiting for renovation. 

An unexpected noise. Like a garment rend apart. And suddenly–from up there–a shower of black birds. 

The Dead Fox                                   Best Microfiction / Pushcart Prize Nominee

by Bronwen Griffiths, England

     When you kill the fox on the road—do you not think of the girl in her red boots, her leg splayed out at an impossible angle? As the bones of the fox snap under the car wheels, what are you thinking? Are you thinking of its soul, or how the crows will come later to feast on its entrails? Do you wonder how long the girl will lie there in the street, in the broken city, dead in her red boots? Or are you thinking only of the long road home, your carelessness something you do not care about?

***

Kurangaituku (the bird woman)

by Gail Ingram, New Zealand

 

She might have the bones of moa

to set her hair up, and the wings of a falcon;

she’s naked, except for the tattoo

decorating her buttocks, her calves.

She keeps a dwarf, imprisoned

in the cave of fantails and king-

fisher; he taunts her; she hunts him,

flares up

in the steam of a geyser.

 

                              *

 

It might be the dreams of flying

that stalk my waking, and the claws,

the monstrous deeds she does with her mouth.

But how she drops hard little seeds

into the palms of so many leafy hands

that we may understand the wind,

screaming.

Invisible Woman

by Gail Ingram, New Zealand

Dressed to the nines in my new red salmar kameez, I dreamwalk into the oldest temple in Kerala, imagining glances from men other than my husband.   

                              I remember

the worn stone walls and the throng of male tourists bumping my shoulders and view,

                               and when

the only other white woman on our tour floated in too–her new blue sari, long blonde hair, and youth back lit by the entrance,

                             and the men

ran from their viewing, exclaiming please madam, can we take your picture?

 

and I stood outside the circle, frozen in a clear space I had never known.

OTHER DRABBLERS

The Strong Man Breaks Down

by Jesse Bradley, USA

“This could save our marriage” is how your wife wins the argument. You are used to lifting things five times your size. What is one more thing to heft into the heavens? You smile when so many new women marvel at your body. “Can you lift all of us,” one giggles; the black light makes her teeth look like the moon. You are about to answer, until you see your wife kissing someone else. You have the women fawning over you—follow you outside. “Watch this,” you say, as you grab the corner of the building and begin to lift.

There are no dogs in this story,          Best Microfiction / Pushcart Prize Nominee

no ambassadors, no vintage cars, no Yukon Gold potatoes. Likewise, no sepia memories, bagpiped dirges, or panting lurking in the loving shadows. Simple tact requires mention of the sullied socks tumbling down cellar steps, various mismatched nonce verse forms, and the overdue water bill leaking all over the desk. But then again, isn’t  (even the messiest) imagery right at home—here—signifying nobler purpose? Nonetheless, no purebred, no mix, no mutt. For this isn’t some couch or cartoon doghouse or carefree Frisbee fête. It’s a fidgety, friendly, slightly smelly, shedding story that urgently needs to be taken for a walk.

by Felicia Sanzari Chernesky, USA

Medusa

by Dreena Collins, England

    Do not look at her. Do not catch her eye. Ignore her mewling, hissing cries. If you must look in the cot, if you really must, you will see her slither and squirm: limbs tangled, skin scaled, gummy teeth surprisingly hard, mauling her own hand.

    One day, you will be allies. I promise. You will stand together, Gorgons, immortal. She will shield you and you her; men will quake, turn to stone.

    But no, not now. For now, you will bow to her demands. And you must stand, oppressed with hormones, fog, fatiguesobbing and leaking beside the bed.

Indecision

by Michael Estabrook, USA

Of everything over the millennia in the history of the earth, I would have loved most to have walked among the dinosaurs or met Abe Lincoln or Albert Einstein or witnessed Jesus raising Lazareth or handed some paints to Michelangelo for his ceiling or heard Cleopatra’s voice or watched Mozart conducting Don Giovanni or acted in the first performance of Hamlet or kissed Marilyn or helped Dante proof a canto or two of his Commedia or shook hands with Julius Caesar or Vincent van Gogh or marched with Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King or helped dig the Panama Canal.

Sexy Donut

by H.A. Eugene, USA

     This place used to be weird. Time was, if you drove this way, you’d see elaborate murals or even a couch or a toilet or a car sticking out of the side of a building. Like aliens stuck it there.

     In fact, you shoulda seen what was on the roof of that donut shop over there. Here’s a picture. Hoo-wee, legs from here to we-bop-a-loo-bop, am

I right?  

     Instead, these days—it’s condos, ten-dollar coffees, twenty-dollar burgers, and rent that would make Jay Gatsby blush. And I think that’s great. 

     Because I hate laughing, smiling, and feeling good.

 

March Break at Airport Security

by Martina Freitag, Canada

My mother leaves a partner, a language, a life in Austria. I can't leave the two-portion porridge pot. The zipper bulges on my flight bag, but the pot and a shoebox of photos fit. In her borrowed wheelchair, my mother hunches tiny into her baggy blazer, eyes closed, but she grips the MRI that finally shows the cancer. I will translate German remarks to Canadian oncologists. For herI will interpret the specialists, the food, the jokes. The jigsaw of my life intersecting with hers. Cooking oatmeal with cream each day until she gains weight, walks, and laughs again.

Love Note

by Howie Good, USA

Even though the sign says, “Do not swim near seals,” we'll have fun, go on a picnic in the hills, maybe spend the whole night there, so many stars that the sky looks perforated by cosmic buckshot, or we’ll sleep in and then helicopter over traffic jams, moving, breathing, shining from rehab center to wedding-cake palace, while the angel of death rolls a cigarette and the border wall sinks another quarter of an inch, and this will happen again and again and again, people turning up at all hours to complain bitterly about being written out of our story.

Tit-for-Tat

by M.J. Iuppa, USA

She sits on her porch with a bowl of pistachios in her lap and a cold can of Straw-ber-Rita within reach. It is Happy Hour, and she is alone, having feigned a migraine to get out of watching—yet another—baseball game with her neighbors. She grimaces as she cracks open a pistachio and pops the green nut into her mouth. Just as she hears cheers roaring down the street, she takes a sip from the can & it catches in her throat—she starts to sputter & choke—no one there to slap her hard on the back—

                                   

 

                        Attagirl.

Visiting Albany

by Jack e Lorts, USA

Passing through Albany on the Coast Starlight heading for SLO, the young woman in front of us was getting a little mouthy, somewhat rowdy, flirting with the guy she was seated with. The conductor approached, tried to settle her down. She cussed him out, told him, “Go to hell.” We saw him returna little laterwith an Albany policeman, ordered her off the train. She refused; the cop had to drag her off, not a pretty sight. Outside on the pavement, surrounded by Albany’s finest, she was twitching from the

                               

                        Taser.

We think of this whenever we’re in Albany.

In the Ruins of the Forgotten

by Will May, USA

     And so it is said that in the ruins of another city, whether set in the former Yugoslavia or warring Syria or right here in the United States, the children continue to play, the lovers continue to make love, and the healthy continue to tend the maimed… While all dreams are set in motion against the starry sky and an old man plays the piano well—in the upper floor of a building without electricity or water.

     Outside all the doors, the dying goes on, the people learn the language of hate, the gunfire rages. And love dies another day.

The Zombie Learns a New Language                Best Microfiction / Pushcart Prize Nominee

by W.E. Pasquini, USA

The Zombie is clumsy, but fast, and by walking at nightcovers several counties. On the twelfth night, a storm bathes him, so he drifts into a diner for eggs and bacon. The yolks stream golden through his fork, so he uses a spoon. The bacon isn’t pigs’ brains, but it has a pleasant bony crunch. Afterwards, he visits the local library and reads a magazine. There’s an article about typography and Ipsum Lorem that seems tasty. He mumbles, “Vestibulum ut laoreet mi.” He doesn’t know what it means, but he loves the meaty thump it makes within his mouth.

Present of a Lifetime

by Fabrice Poussin, USA

Made of many secrets 

the world touches her in infinite ways

to a shiver, a tremble, a murmur of the flesh.

 

A dialogue begins through the air

unheard languages speak to her fibers

syllables penetrate her whispers.

 

A plea strives to survive in the ether

shapeless child seeking a life

silent scream for a moment of her world.

 

Offerings at her naked feet the inform mass

the pieces rest for her to embrace

supreme gift to the last breath.

 

Pondering ways to a language

he kneels in the face of the grand monument

submitting to her as she continues on.

Birthday Present

by Manoshi Roy, India

Last week was my 9th birthday. Dad missed it this year. I got so many presents—but I'm waiting for the best one—to be sent from my Dad. I see Mom on the phone, her face turned toward the wall. I know my gift has already arrived; Mom is trying to keep it a surprise. I let her continue the act. After all, I’m a big girl now. When we reach the collection point, there are soooo many boxes. I ask Mom which is mine. She quietly points to the one at the end… wrapped in our national flag.

Transported

by R.E. Rule, USA

Each day the book becomes more vivid; the scenes materialize around me. I think it only my imagination until the antagonist frowns, asks who I am. Today, I step inside to close the cover and stay forever. Words blur by; the clash of swords rises up—then pain. I stare at the arrow embedded in my belly; blood spills from my mouth onto the page. “Fool forgot armor,” the valiant hero sighs, kneeling next to me. “Be you friend or foe?” I have no words to speak, and the book falls shut as he drives his sword into my chest.

The Guest

by James Russell, Spain

They all stop trying. Lethargy, indifference, seeps into the cabin like a dense fog. The air… heavier to breathe, heavier to move through. The weather colludes. The wind and rain hem them in. Chocolatesthe guest has broughtlay open on the table, untouched since the first obligatory taste on arrival, when it was still smiles and expectation. Taking one could perhaps reset time, taking the three of them back to a sunnier, more tolerant place, but they realize they don't want that. Conversation stalls; will exhausts. They just want this to be over, but time will pass no quicker.

Gentle Fierceness

by Christopher Scribner, USA

Two faces pass close, musky, bristly. A neck extends, draping over the guillotine-block of a shoulder. The gushing warmth of relief when no blade falls. Next time, they grapple... whose arms over, whose arms under? The clench commences: too stifftoo strong, then relaxes as the heart of one thumps in the other’s chest, and they smile. Next time, eyes close, baritone vibrations rumble deep in those chests as they growl. Every time, they’re surprised, their arms don’t reach all the way around, and they smile. Here, duration conveys significance; handshakes just grow strange and stale the longer they linger. 

Shoes

by John Scheirer, USA

Jackson’s dress shoes squeak on the tile hallways at work like a toy in a puppy’s mouth. It is worse on rainy days. He wipes his feet but can't completely dry the soles. New coworkers snicker when he walks by, also eyeballing the small stains on his tie and threadbare cuffs of his slacks. But his longtime colleagues ignore the clown-like noises and decaying wardrobe. Jackson himself knows his shoes squeak. How could he not? But his wife had given him those shoes for Christmas five-years ago. That was the Christmas just before her diagnosis, decline, and inevitable departure.

Suitor

byTeek Spectrum, USA

He says, “What’s it like to be you?” I start rapid- fire talking about empty spaces lined up

like doorways, distinct, invisible... chatter on about times I’ve spent gazing at rusty barrels, rolling and oxidizing in the dirty water under the rickety pier, counting all the shades of orange, considering myself very discerning. Despite all this, he sticks around, ends up reaching for irony at the back of my throat, hoping against hope his d**k can reach that far. Dull eyed, I stretch my lips over my teeth, gagging on the need to bite down and let him

find it.

Holy Saturday

by Pete Tonery, USA

     Lydia gripped the subway strap hard, marveling at her path. She’d been wildly passionate and eagerly naïve entering the convent at seventeen: destined to become a ‘Bride of Jesus!’

     She regretted the lost years of her self-important virginity. Happily, hormones and curiosity surmounted ignorance and embarrassment. She cherished the cloistered secrecy, the nervous moist risk;

her gentle mentor with the penetrating touch. But women had been the gateway, not the answer. 

     Full circle, she thought, pursed lips yielding to a soft, sacrilegious smile; I can barely wait to get home and screw my big brown Jay-suse!’ Halleluiah! He is risen!

***

ISSUE 2

FEATURED DRIBBLERS

This is Love

by Sudha Balagopal, USA

I tell Mother—his kisses promise to fly me ‘round the sun. She shakes her head.

     I tell her—he promises jewels of stardust, moonbeams. She frowns.

    I tell her—he flings me to earth, stares at my dirty palms. She places her hands on mine, washes the muddy debris.

Parts Unknown

by Sudha Balagopal, USA

I let my flight depart.

   My husband'll hound my relatives, my friends; he'll look through bank statements. 

    Using a card I stole from my sister, I book another ticket, to a city where I know no one.

   “Going home?” the attendant asks. I look away, wishing I could say, "yes."

***

Chasing Quinn

by Grace Coughlin, USA

While in pursuit, she lifts her shaky palms off the handlebars, barreling wildly into the deepening darkness. She lets out a cry that sounds like joy, but means help. She shifts her knees and sets her gaze ahead, resolved to keep her hands lifted, until she is good and gone.

Sound Waves

by Grace Coughlin, USA

Edging up the driveway, your hand falters above the ignition. You will let this song finish before you walk through the gate that you remember, like a childhood dream. You play the wordless gamesilently asking yourself the question. You make the same choice every time, subconscious as your heartbeat.

***

Famous on Facebook

by Howie Good, USA

So many friends (1,306) all shouting at the same time, some confessing, others arguing or bragging, until I think I should give up trying to be heard and just go back to what I once knew best, a quiet that was old and steady and tightly woven like a poem.

Protest Song

by Howie Good, USA

No one’s coming to save them. They just wash themselves with bottles of Coke, which helps minimize the sting of the tear gas. The ones who are killed by the police or the army will return in our dreams. Small fires get extinguished, but the big fire, it goes on.

OTHER DRIBBLERS

Dad’s Private Stash

by Paul Beckman, USA

 

Mom supplemented our last canned soup with rusty tap water and lawn pickings. Still hungry, we found Dad’s black caviar and Smirnoff. Laughing and spooning the caviar, he finally showed with bags of food. He made us spit out his caviar and gave us cold Hot Pockets and warm Moxie.

 

Boys Will Be Boys

by Bru Benson, USA

 

They smelled of garlic and cheese, both sitting at the table with great big grins. Bread crusts disemboweled on plates of half-eaten food. The children’s tummies were so full and fat, their shirts wouldn’t meet their waistbands. Fat full children each with halos, until father came home. Then everything changed.

 

Elle’s Bed

by Henry Bladon, England

 

Everyone who ever slept in Ellie’s bed received a rating (not including the fluffy snow leopard she had retained from her childhood). She marked them harshly and most got less than 7. Tommy rated highest, with a 9.5, but that was only because he kept his socks on. Ellie likes quirky people.

Faded City

by Bronwen Griffiths, England

When the city fades and nothing is left of it but faint notes of music, then you know you have left for something new, but what that new is you cannot yet know—because you are, for now, suspended in the haze of sky and water, and a disappeared horizon.

 

First Born

by Amanda Daily, USA

He looked up at us, eager for the same attention, wanting to join in on our silliness but also wanting it all to himself. Like before. The laughs, the touch, the one-on-one love. Little did he know, I wanted that too. And in that moment, I held him like before.

 

War Story

by Brandon Daily, USA

His breath came in short rasps while I held his hand. I hadn’t known him longer than these few minutes, but it was enough for both of us. I needed to escape this burning world, and he needed to hear it would be okay, even when he knew it wouldn’t.

Scream

by Michael Estabrook, USA

 

The deepest manmade hole in the Earth

is the Kola Superdeep Borehole:

40,230 feet

d

o

w

n

in the Russian wilderness.

They stopped going

d

 

e

 

e

 

p

 

e

 

r

because the intense heat at that depth

melted the drill bits.

But also the workers swore

they could hear screams

of the poor souls

stuck in

h

 

 

 

e

 

 

 

l

 

 

 

l

 

Fast Rejection

by H.A. Eugene, USA

 

Clarkesworld, three days. Threepenny Review, one. Hell, McSweeney’s will sometimes send you a rejection in hours. But this is ridiculous. I open the email.

​     Thank you for considering our publication, but I’m afraid we’ll have to pass.

​     Good luck on your future endeavors.

                                                                    Sincerely,

                                                                    eds.

     I hadn’t sent them anything.

Effervescence

by Jon Fain, USA

 

Marcy got to a predictable point in a relationship and her insecurities kicked in. Her outburst or sharp-edged personal attack would follow, and pop whatever bubble she and this latest had managed to float. It left her miserable and broken in the clouded sky of her loneliness, again, again, again.

Smoking Pot in the Attic

by John Grey, Australia/USA

 

amid dust

blown dead

where light penetrates

the back of heads,

dines on brain matter

inches from mice under floorboards, thin teeny voices

lodged between bare toes

while you weave smoke

like an old man's bent finger

and I gulp

your residue

in a quest for a likely vanishing point

Darkness

by Fionna M. Jones, Scotland

 

The argument from your parents’ room fades out somewhere between midnight and dawn. But, half-asleep, you hear in the wind or your own echoing mind the same angry voices—rising and falling, conflicted, unresolved. In darkness, whole years stretch out behind you and before you and always full of this.

The Road to Conversion Therapy

by Blake Kirkland, USA

 

“There’s just no breathing room.” she says. Miles of nothing roll by—endless rolls of corn, filing past like blades on a ceiling fan. “Sure,” he says. without looking up from the GPS. Swallowing, she looks out the windows, then back at him, “Worked for me.” “Yeah,” he says, finally looking back.

Return Ticket

by Manoshi Roy, India

I place the posy of fresh flowers beside the previous day’s faded bunch. Graveyards are like the libraries of the world, I think. So peaceful, quiet. I carefully slip the train ticket under a tulip. A return ticket for her to come back when she wakes from her deep slumber.

​Zazen

by L Schwartz, USA

 

As intentional as rain, as sudden as sunrise, as lost as crows returning to the winter roost, as fickle as gravity, as susceptible to touch as the Milky Way, as sarcastic as a tardigrade, as noble as a suicide note, as forgetful as dirt, I forgive my rambling morning thoughts.

 

The Instinctive Drowning Response

by Alyssa Jordon, USA

Mila dreams of everyone she has ever met, before and after the world fell apart. A tremor runs down her spine. It takes hold of her legs, then her feet. They start to sync with everyone else.

She has to keep moving, Mila thinks. She has to follow the beat.

The Swelling of Clay

by John C. Mannone, USA                                         Best Mircofiction / Pushcart Prize Nominee

I bend over, scoop up the wet stuff of stardust. The goop in the shallow of my hand glistens in afternoon sun with an iridescence of flocculent micelles—liquid spheres fashioned into a pantheon of membranes trapping nucleotides of life.

            I imagine I’m on an ancient riverbed holding Adam’s heart.

 

Fledgling

by Teek Spectrum, USA

I flap my strong arms and shimmy and tremble till all the ugly shakes out. Now I can tolerate my graying days, as an eagle fledgling tolerates a fall. Home sacrificed, but flight gained, a fresh joy, manifested in song, shouting back the beautiful names the Universe has for me.

 

Dying Market

by Pete Tonery, USA

 

Charles looks out over the abandoned cabbage field and shudders. Thousands of heads; pale, bald, and now, late March, beginning to stink and decay. In the Special Forces in Southeast Asia in the early seventies, he’d secretly slipped into Cambodia.

            He’d seen this spectre before: skulls stretching out into infinity.

 

Sands of Time

by Meredith Suter-Wadley, Switzerland

In a lakeside park, I see a youth walking on his hands. Thirty years earlier, you were youthful and strong and bold, balancing yourself on the packed sands of an oceanside beach and walking on your hands into the beats of my heart, teaching me the delicate acrobatics of love.

FEATURED DRABBLERS

Philtrum

by Sudha Balagopal, USA                         WINNER 2021 Best Microfiction &

                                                                    Pushcart Prize Nominee

After your deployment, after the static-riddled calls, after the thousand-word emails, after you return at Christmas break, after I memorize the indentation above your upper lip, after you say it's called the philtrumfrom the Greek for love charmafter the solitude of cold sheets when you leave again, after your helicopter splinters, after your ashes arrive, after he is born, after he's placed in my arms, after I don't want him, after I recognize you in the dip of his upper lip, after I fall in love again, I ask you, why must this beginning come after an ending?

Bach, Beethoven, Ravel

by Sudha Balagopal, USA

 

The past few summers, my wife played classical violin in our garden. 'Plants can feel vibrations,' she said. She wore a red ball gown, placed the music stand before her.

     Despite my earplugs, her discordant music assaulted. I turned up the television as she rendered unique versions of Bach, Beethoven, and Ravel.

     Her plants danced and flowered, producing healthy, competition-winning vegetables. She fried yellow zucchini blossoms, made carrot cake, stuffed bell peppers—creating a palette of delicacies.

     There's no dissonance this season; I don't wear earplugs. The carrots are tiny, the tomatoes anemic. They must miss her. As I do.

***

Surface Tension

by Grace Coughlin, USA

The way you look at the world is like trying to scratch water—I can’t feel resistance in your perception. I wonder what it would be like to accept everything at face value. When you look at me like you accept what I am, I wonder what you are missing. Did you know that there are things you can’t see—can’t catch with your wide blue net? I want to scream until you’re mad enough to see me. Sometimes, I think that if I touch you, my hand will fall through yours and there will be no connection: only static.

A. B + C. D = Infinity

by Grace Coughlin, USA

     You waded out so far that your head blocked the dropping sun, the streaking colors set your black hair ablaze. Finally you stopped, turned your coffee eyes back to me, smiled wide, and sunk. On the ancient roots, exposed from years of coastal erosion, we held our breath ‘til you broke the surface.

     Walking out to the lighthouse, I followed in your vanishing footprints because I couldn’t look away from the water and sky, the mutual reflection. I sat on its foundation as you read all the names of people who thought theirs + another name would last forever (<3).

***

Dust and Bone

by Howie Good, USA

I was walking across the parking lot at Staples when I saw you through a rain-warped windshield, and my heart leaped, but barely a second later, I realized it couldn’t really be you, dead all these years, just a woman who kind of resembled you, and as I stepped inside the store to buy an accordion folder, I thought of us and the saltiness of your kisses and then something like rage followed me along the aisles, and by the time I found the folder and paid for it and walked back out, the you that wasn’t you was gone.

The Secret Goldfish

by Howie Good, USA

My mother, during one of her frequent fits, flushed my goldfish down the toilet while I was at school. This was long before children had only the water from toilets to drink. I'd won the goldfish at a carnival by somehow tossing a Ping-Pong Ball into the fish's bowl. But awful sights were creeping up on me even then. I have memories of little ballerinas in disintegrating tulle tutus and dance slippers made of bubble wrap and tape. And because I was in the country I was in, there were dim streetlamps at dusk, there were burnt holes for eyes.

OTHER DRABBLERS

 

Insanity

by Corrine Anderson, USA

 

Are we self-destructive—laser-focused self-sabotagers single-mindedly aiming our trajectory at what we want, right now? Even as other opportunities arise, we allow them to fly by like bats in the night: silent winged-bullets.

            We are coated in so much possibility—we barely notice that the cake inside the icing is molding.

            We just keep eating, like the gluttons we are. How does our demise taste? Like poisoned penicillin? Maybe.

             I don’t know how many times we play this game. The rules are everchanging but the actions are the same. We’ve played too many times for it to be sane anymore.

 

Layoffs

by  Kay Rae Chomic, USA

 

With pink slip in hand and no caution, Carla walked across Interstate 19. Cars slowed, and swerved. Horns blasted. Loose gravel lodged between her toes in too big huaraches. The air conditioning and darkness of the Agave Bar sucked her in. She heard Timmy Martinez before she saw him. Carla slid onto a bar stool, and nudged Timmy with an elbow.

            “I got laid off, too.”

            He drained his beer, hollered at the bartender, “Dos cervezas, por favor.”

            “What are we going to do?”

            “Get another job. Make some babies. Die poor.” He kissed her cheek. “Same-o, same-o.”

 

Lost in Happiness

by Marie Connelly, USA

The neon night is trying to put my fog out, like the storm, attempting to take everything with it. I sniffle, my corner’s getting colder as the clock strikes midnight; the scent of cinnamon and sex lingers on my coat. I light another cigarette in an attempt to warm myself; needing a distraction from the sounds of beds squeaking behind me. Lost in happiness, lost in happiness, lost in happiness: a never-ending mantra in my head. A purple haze illuminates my exposed skin; the frost making it appear a deep, deep blue.

How can one be alone but never lonely?

 

Half Past One

by Brandon Daily, USA

 

I sat on the hard-backed chair, my gaze flitting between my watch and the phone on the side table.

            They said they’d call by one, but that was half an hour ago. I sighed, then stood and began to pace the small room. I couldn’t help but think of how soft the rug was beneath my feet. At this, I laughed, realizing how, in the most devastating of moments, there’ s always some minuscule distraction when you look... A smile when a smile seems impossible.

             And I continued to laugh, waiting for the call that would end this brief moment.

 

Kidnapped

by Cassondra Feltus, USA

 

I hear the sounds of the highway: rattling cars, booming semis. The air hits my face in a steady slap. My body is a bag of sand. I feel the heat from the sun warming my eyes that are too heavy to lift. My mouth produces a strained cry I didn’t know I was trying to make. I breathe in the smell of cigarettes, coughing enough to wake myself. Fighting my own body, I try to lift my head from the car window. I feel a large heavy hand rest on my chest. A deep voice telling me to hush.

 

Puberty

by Michael Gause, USA

 

If you catch it at the right time, it’s like a dream: a whole town of Laura Ashley virgins. Hudson is hungry for anything pure. I’m watching as the children learn to mix the innocence and the greed needed for the future. The purchased and sold begins to buy up vacant lots inside us, and it’s too much. It has always been too much. You can catch the rye, but you can never hold it. Tags in the alley can be covered, but it’s blood itself that is maturing here. The street is a tenured teacher, its reason for being.

 

No Exit

by M.J. Iuppa, USA

 

It is no accident when the doorknob falls into his soft hands. He stomps his bare feet: What then? A wild stampede to summon someone passing by in the hall, or asleep next door. No one hears his racket. Help me, his mind pleads. He presses his forehead against the metal door, praying to sense tremors from the elevator shimmying its way to his floor. This is a nightmare. He flings the doorknob against the wall and it bounces hard into the window, shattering its safety glass into a complicated spider’s web without breaking. There is no easy way out.

 

House of Blood

by Alyssa Jordan, USA

A broken moon reigns over the House of Blood. It shines on bone-white walls and sand that sticks to the corner of your lips. This is a desert with blood for water, bodies for soil, tears for drink. They take heads for grey rock and green leaves, hang men for all to see.

              The rules were once simple—peace over bru-tality, open palms instead of fists.

              Pause; reset.

              Now, you want your hands to grow until the rest of you is just a freckle, a speck, until you can wrap your big hands around their throats and make them sing.

 

The Medicine Man

          After ‘The Dawn Sprinkler’ by Virgil Nez

by John C. Mannone, USA

 

My face hides behind a mask

              wearing smiles of the gods

    

In my blue hand, a gourd rattles beads from a cactus plant                 

              whose needles have fallen unto dry ground

    

I squeeze a handful of feathers and mourn

              the eagle to find peace in the shadows of the wind

 

The skin on my skin has turned to the color of hope

              and I sing to the goddess who sparkles the twilight sky

 

I pray to her to change the dream—the blue-green

              of my desert land to what it once was—warm amber                         

                       sifting through my fingers before they came

 

Chair

by Monica McHenney, USA

It's an old chair. A well-used chair. In the dining room, it seated its share of guests and heard a quota of secrets, while providing measured comfort. The chair occupied the nursery for decades, a cushy seat for the nursemaid when she wasn't walking the floor with a colicky infant. That was you. After the nursery became a study, the chair had a grand refurbishing in burgundy velvet. It sat under a bright lamp, digesting scholarly papers while your father snored. Trapped in the attic, there’s a mouse nesting in its seat. Recover it. For the baby’s room. It’s yours.

ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ

by Melissa Myers, USA

 

My brother found my journal under the mattress. He teased me for weeks. That’s when my friend came up with the secret code. It wasn’t anything elaborate, but because we were kids, we thought it was unbreakable. For consonants, we just tracked back two letters. For vowels, we used the one that came next in the alphabet. After graduating from high school, I lost touch with my friend, but she reached out to me yesterday. I got an email that read: JANR KA. It had been years since I thought of the code, but I recognized it instantly. HELP ME.

 

The Young Widow

by Kirby Olson, USA

 

Her husband was wheeled away in a blur of blue-scrubs. The machines were all quiet in the western wing as wires hung in mid-air. There was a smell of Listerine. Somewhere down the hall a telephone rang repeatedly, as busy nurses walked by. Her license plate was being read on the hallway intercom. Her Ferrari was blocking an emergency exit. The wife’s clothes bulged from winter. Furry boots, furry hat, furry gloves. A box of Reese’s Pieces lay on his tray. She knocked out the last few pieces, and ate them. She threw the box, but missed the can, alas!

 

Child With a Child

by Teek Spectrum, USA

 

My final, desperate resort was to the patient piranhas, genteel haters, well-meaning thieves, who claimed to be kin to me. I asked them for help. I tried to explain about being broken, not yet ready for a child. They didn’t care about that; they were sure my queer-ness would kill the kid. They took him away. They sent him to Jesus School, where he would learn that his mother is a traitor to every story they told him to believe. He watched my lips, I watched his eyelashes as I explained, “When we meet again, you will not know me.

 

Pantone 375 | Remains

by L Swartz, USA

 

Just as I expected, I find pieces of you. Your hair, fingernail clippings, ordinary bits at first. But then one day you pin your eyes at me as an angry parrot. Next I spot a patch of lighter colored moss exactly the shape of your breast; your footprints in dew where no one has walked; your favorite pan left dirty in the sink; a ripe honeycrisp apple placed on my desk where you liked to sit; a stray dog with your smile, looking hungry. Suddenly you're all around. You died, yet you're present. Neither of us can escape this grief.

 

Surprise Party

by Angela Teagardner, USA

 

Raccoon tracks look like tiny handprints.

          Even as I processed the utter destruction, I admired those diminutive handprints – chaotic patterns of white and yellow scattered across the picnic table.

          We’d been gone five minutes. Maybe ten? That glorious cake – festooned with buttercream daisies, supposedly snug in its baker’s box – was to be the showpiece, the pinnacle of a little girl’s birthday.

          There were furrows where masked faces ploughed, the trail of a frosted tail across one bench, and everywhere – everywhere – little hands sticky with cake.

          Daisy came outside, wide-eyed. I braced myself. But. Instead of tears, giggles. So many giggles.

 

Fellowship

by Pete Tonery, USA

 

In Group, Clyde recalled the camaraderie he felt on the boat during the war. ‘Nam wasn’t really bad for the guys on a destroyer. He had a bond with those men, especially his gunnery crew. Talking about it now, he began to realize how genuinely happy he’d been in the service. Why did I leave? he wondered. All I ever did was drift and screw up. He’d drink, beat up a girlfriend and have to scram. Gradually, Clyde began to realize that he often felt that Navy Way here—the solidarity and sense of belonging—safe, at home, in prison.

 

Constraints

by Karen Walker, Canada

“Absurd! Not wearing glasses to impress a girl,” Mum says. Missy Oulipo lives in Unit N+7. Hard to find: signs in our housing estate have graffiti, other erasures. Something’s in the window. I squint. “Knock loudly and wait”? Or is it “Knockout loudly and wait”? Tough neighbourhood.

           My dictionary brain kicks in.

           “Knot loudly, wait”? True, I’m shy. I haven’t asked anyone out before.

           “Knowledge loudly”? Mum’s saving for university, wants better for me.

           “Knuckle loudly”? No, I bruise easily.

           Maybe K is L, N is A. Scrambling now. “Lab loudly and wait”?

           I leave, sadly afraid of big dogs.

 

Colorful

by Ran Walker, USA

 

Seeking to add to his budding authorial legend, Princeton Watts planned to acquire a pet of sufficient exoticism. Flannery O’Connor kept a yard full of peacocks, and Salvatore Dalí enjoyed strutting an anteater down the sidewalk, so whatever Princeton acquired had to be shocking.

          Having grown up on The Dark Crystal, he selected the cassowary, an enormous colorful bird that resembled a Skeksis. The bird was perfect for a fantasy writer.

          He understood his mistake only when he watched the bird withdraw its claw from his abdomen after an attempted feeding, his blood just another color among the feathers.

 

The Space Under My Door

by Lisa Weldy, USA

 

I wipe my eyes from my twin-sized bed and hear the familiar whoosh of paper and guilt slide across the floor. Your cursive words await.

           I will always love you, even if I don’t love your behavior.

           Hours pass silently; I can feel you waiting in your bedroom across the hall, willing me to be a better daughter than I am, questioning how a loving mom like you got stuck with a selfish bitch like me.

            I don’t respond.

            The space under my door is not deep or wide enough for the words I want to say.

ISSUE 3

FEATURED DRIBBLERS

 

Ashton

by Ireland Dillard, USA

 

When she was born, the world ceased its turning, suspended motionless on its axis, to observe this magnificent event. The child does not yet know, but she possesses the melody of the sun. Her fingers are like fire, scorching guitar strings and melting brass instruments—a maestro like no other.

 

Coffin Birth

by Ireland Dillard, USA

 

He is expelled from the womb in the curt fashion he was conceived—quick, rough, distasteful, unkempt. She was no more meant to be a mother than he a son. They find her three days later, needle in arm, baby between legs, and ask themselves, “Is this tragedy or mercy?”

 

***

 

Public Market

by Pete Tonery, USA

 

You know, when I see fresh strawberries all I think of is how delicious they’ll be in a bottle, said Rich. That’s funny, replied Glenda looking at him, when I see jam I remember how beautiful and fragrant the berries had been.  Suddenly, she won-dered if they should get married.

 

Buried Feelings

by Pete Tonery, USA

 

Dr. Ethan feared dementia was causing his hallucinations. Since retiring, he’d glimpse strangers out the corner of his eye; solitary men with angry, accusing faces. They'd glare and point…always pointing! When he’d turn to look, they’d be standing normally, ignoring him. The old urologist decided he needed a psychiatrist.

 

***

 

Eleventeen

by Francine Witte, USA

 

Then, I was about to woman. Lashcurl and lipgloss. Most of me still little girl. Barbie scent and mac and cheese. Then, geometry boy asking me to walk in the woods. Later that night, my mother, sorting the laundry, asking me where the leaves in my underwear came from.

 

Hair Salon

by Francine Witte, USA

 

Roots gone after all these months. Back at home, the wall calendar blank as an ice cube tray. Hair looking good for a zoom cube. Meanwhile, I put my shoes in the closet, balled up newspaper—because it’s important that they don’t forget the weight of my feet.

OTHER DRIBBLERS

 

Your name that I love to shout out loud in a crowd of strangers because I’m too shy to say it in front of our friends

by Jeff William Acosta, Philippines

I spent two 

or maybe five,                                                                                            

or still maybe now,                                                                                                         

talking to my two best friends,                                                                                    

my bed and pillow                                                                                                                 

Of how my heart ticks,                                                                                                     

how it endures.                                                                                                

My bed,                                                                                                                     

who gets jealous every second;                                                                                       

can’t blame him,                                                                                                           

for I hug my pillow tightly                                                                                                 

every second I pray your name.

 

Kiddo

by Swati Moheet Agrawal, India

 

Some days she doesn’t even leave her room. She cannot tell a Sunday from a Monday. But today is kiddo’s birthday. As expected, Maa is up at the crack of dawn, attired in her favourite silk sari, baking mango cookies for him. Kiddo, my younger brother, died 10 years ago.

Huff, Puff

by K Dulai, USA

 

She had never seen one up close—a real black eye. So when the fist that had made it pounded on her office door, she held her client tightly. He had followed them, tracked them like a storied wolf. But unbridled hunger was no match for her brick heart. Huff-Puff.

Blue

by Michael Estabrook, USA                           Best Small Fictions / Best Microfiction / Pushcart Prize Nominee

I bring Gertrude Stein along each summer when                                                          

we vacation on The Cape but after                                                                                  

one or two of her poems                                                                                                    

her poems her poems                                                                                                           

I get distracted                                                                                                                                 

by the waves and the gulls                                                                                          

leave her alone                                                                                                              

in the beach bag beneath                                                                                                 

the big blue umbrella                                                                                                          

blue umbrella blue umbrella

 

Storm Clouds by

Lisa Fabish, USA

Her dress billowed as she fell, one knee driving pink crepe into the mud, the other bare and wet as the wind twisted the fabric up around her thigh. With words muffled by my double-pane window glass, she was demanding something of the dense night. I let my curtain fall.

 

No Early Birds

by Jon Fain, USA

“Broken refrigerator suitable for smoker.” It was the last line in the ad. Walking back to his car after seeing it on its back, door-less, at the yard sale, George imagines it as a trough for livestock. Whatever. He puts the cool used records he has bought in his trunk.

 

Tonight, I Want to Be the Hands of the Man with the Purple Prayer Beads

By Marianne Forman, USA

Pacing the water at Port Mytelini, I want to fret away everything with beads bruising my fingers late into the night. In the evening glow of St. Symeon Church, I feel the blasphemy like incense cover my face.  My tears—holy water I offer you to bless yourself with.

 

War Baby

by Howie Good, USA                                        Best Small Fictions / Best Microfiction / Pushcart Prize Nominee

Hitler was dead. But nothing fundamental changed. The magician, after all, doesn’t actually make the card disappear. On the birthing table, the red queen, her feet in the stirrups, her mind full of animal fables, pushes and pants and pushes again. Then, calmly and coldly, petals fall. Tyrants clink glasses.

 

Hisss, Hisss

by Joey Ingram, USA

 

A snake s l i t h e r s in a gloomy room bloated with intoxication

You wanna be the tough guy and ignore your insides

       gutstighteningtoahumiliatingnervousness

You drink a beer and look casually at an acquaintance adrift in

       narcissistic thought

Any rapid movement will spook the snake

His split tongue is out wagging, hisss, hisss

 

Driving at Night

by Kate Landers, USA

 

Our headlights cast a Venn Diagram onto the single-lane county road. Putty-colored single-wides randomly dot the countryside like the featureless houses of an abandoned Monopoly game. Shadows scurry and slink into turbid ditches. I swallow stones, count my bullets, and wonder if we’ll make it out of here in time.

 

Judy’s Advice

by Karol Nielson, USA

 

Judy told me a story about a writer who drew a picture of her ideal man. She and her mother went looking for him. They found him in a bar. He was illiterate, but he looked like her drawing. So she married him. Judy says I could meet someone anywhere.

Angels at Rest

by Marta Avilés O'Brien, USA

 

I remember the night sky weeping. Flooded with fear, I watched. She wasn't herself anymore; cancer had seen to that. Clinging to a world that had become a threadbare blanket, her grip was less desperate, her breaths mere whispers. Dawn welcomed a world without my sun and stars and moon.

 

Here’s a Thing You Weren’t Expecting

by Jim O’Loughlin, USA

 

You ignored the man feeding bread crusts to pigeons you had shooed away. You wanted a quiet lunch at an outside table. But he caught your eye and warned with a wink, “Stand back, love.” Then he grabbed a pigeon firmly, opened the restaurant’s door, and let the ‘shitter’ go.

Moonnapped

by Kenneth Pobo, USA

 

The bus driver took several wrong turns, got lost, and no one ever saw him or his passengers again. Some say that God took them home. Others say that the devil snatched them up. The moon weighed in, "I took them. In my shine they never argue.  They share stories."

 

Reverence by

Kristin Procter, USA

He cradles the fish. Hooked deep. He stares at his palms; such power hands hold. He cuts the line, pushes the fish through water, but it can’t catch its breath.                   Mother-fear rages at a world that compels him to wield his strength ferociously.                                                                                                                                   He rethreads the bait. Casts. Hooks another.

 

Killer Cook

by Raymond Sloan, Ireland

Julie searched the cupboards for the necessary ingredients, pulling the recipe from memory. Imagining Ben relishing every morsel. He’d get all sentimental. An odd quality for a bigamist, she thought. She then reproduced their first meal together, secreted with a new kick. Happy anniversary, sweetie. He’d be dead by dawn.

 

L’amour

by Stef Smulders, Italy

He invited me to come and sit next to him and I, the silent one, accepted. We occupied the front bench in French class. He chattered about Radiguet’s ‘Le diable au corps,’ the young guy sleeping with a soldier’s wife. Word by word the devil took hold of my soul.

 

Brown Bag Bathroom Barter

by Amy Lynn Specker, USA

Shifty eyes enters w/bag; exits. Blithe lady enters; exits w/bag. #WHAT JustCensoredSelf-IsGoingON? Shady deal; what level shady? Exact same bag; different guy enters; leaves w/out bag. Shifty eyes again; leaving with bag. Must apprise brown bag bathroom barter before train stops; they bail!

 

Layover at Manifestation Junction

by Bob Thurber, USA

Everything she had been, whatever she might next become, none of that mattered. Momentarily unrestricted, marooned between lives, she lingered effortlessly, undistinguishable, seemingly everywhere at once. During the next incarnation she’d label everything, using new sounds, constructing different words. She detected thumping, steady as a pulse, pulling her into language.

 

FEATURED DRABBLERS

The Plunge

by Ireland Dillard, USA

 

She ties Molly up to the big oak tree ’round back and makes her way down to the lake. The incessant barking should annoy her, but it doesn’t. The dock, soaking up the sun, scorches her bare feet, but again she feels nothing. I forgot a towel, she thinks out of habit, but then realizes it doesn’t matter. The stones in her pockets are smooth and heavy, finally inciting some feeling inside her as she slowly rubs her fingers against them. Uncharted territory, a new beginning. Molly keeps barking, loud enough that she can hear even when she is submerged.

Kaleidoscope

by Ireland Dillard, USA

His seventh birthday was less of a celebration and more of a wake, now that he can remember. He liked the intimacy of the small party at the time, the placing of the candles, singing of the song, cutting of the cake. His favorite gift was a blue kaleidoscope. His uncle took him out back to show him how to use it, facing the sun to enhance the colors. Red, purple, green—circular motions, both in the lens and on his leg. A hitch in his breath, sudden paralysis, and the promise of black holes in which to escape—forever.

***

Order

by Pete Tonery, USA

It drove Phil crazy the way his wife never picked up after herself.  Make toast: leave the bread, butter, knife and toaster out.  Drink juice: bottle left on the counter.  Peel an orange: skins on the sink.  Have a cookie: bag open on the table.  So often he’d yell at her: This is just like my Goddamned mother!  She never put anything away! All the time I was growing up our whole house was chaos! One night his wife left a mess and he shouted at her and she shouted back, Shut-up! and he hit her: just like his father.

Noisy Lady

by Pete Tonery, USA

Bernice had a huge purse bursting with ancient receipts, dried-out pens, expired coupons and loose coins.  When she breeched it, the sound was like a small fire. At the movies, she had the noisiest cellophane and invariably choked on popcorn.  She’d cough sporadically for ten minutes, her hacking punctuated by wheezy, Whew’s! or Oh my’s! Predictably, at some dramatic moment, Bernice was the one asking, in a stage whisper, What’d he say? Her wheelchair was loud and clunky, always banging into doors and furniture as she struggled to get around.  Bernice was noisy. She was, after all, a middle child.

***

Radio Stutter

by Francine Witte, USA                                  Best Small Fictions / Best Microfiction / Pushcart Prize Nominee

Yellow morning and the bathroom mirror is clouded with doubt. Shower steam and breakup words sitting on your tongue. Later, in the kitchen, you take spoony stabs at your cereal. Crackle and pop and all.  Your sandalwood aftershave spices the air. You splashed it on like it is raw meat marinade. Like you are tendering yourself for another woman. All around us radio stutter. You blame it on low power in an old building. You insist it’s not the radio’s fault. I listen for the words that are missing. All around us, flecks of us are falling to the floor.

Places He Won’t Think to Look

by Francine Witte, USA

Plain sight. His heart anymore. My heart anymore. The arms of my lover. The arms of my other lover. The third shelf of the refrigerator. The box of wrinkly prunes I brought home for him last week, and (surprise!) he hasn’t touched. The end of his arm. The tip of his silly nose. His girlfriend’s apartment. Me in a car across the street from his girlfriend’s apartment. The head of lettuce on the third shelf of the refrigerator. The head of lettuce next to it that is carved out with a hole for my dainty little handgun. Again, plain sight.

 

OTHER DRABBLERS

 

Missing by

Juanjo Bazán, Spain

"The mechanism is simple, your honor: once reflected in the cubic mirror—the subject is trapped inside it. If someone from the outside utters the right spell on the frame, then and only then, the person can leave again. Our job is to transform disbelief into admiration; we raise dreams to the category of realities; we awake amazement in the tired gaze. When I ask for a volunteer from the audience, I can't tolerate incredulous rebels‘ cravings for notoriety—willing to ruin the show. So yes, I broke the mirror. And yes, I did it on purpose," the magician testified.

First Session of the Last Full Day of the Loneliness Symposium

by Michael Cocchlarale, USA

The old man arrived late, lowering into a chair in back, hard-shelled suitcase by his side. Before the last presenter began, the man stood, squeezing the handle. “Sorry to interrupt,” he said. “I can’t stay—but before I go, just, well, marvelous job to all of you. I learned a lot in the time I’ve had.” Hand to heart, the moderator said, “You are too kind!” The man paused at the door, tears streaming. The moderator stood, but he disappeared, the case following him out. I thought of a casket first, then hind legs, a dog eager for its reward.

 

Poetry Is Universal

by Dr. Thomas Davison, USA

“Is that another poem Dr. D?” asked the denim-clad inmate in a strident voice. “Yes—it is Mr. Jones.” I removed photocopies from a see-through container – required inside prison. I began, “Who said ‘All the world is a stage?’ ” A tattooed, well-muscled inmate in a deep baritone: “As You Like It,  Shakespeare.” I nodded, “Very good Mr. Jackson.” I next queried, “If you poison us, do we not die?” An introverted Mr. Washington answered quietly, “The Merchants of Venice, also Shakespeare.” I responded, “Good...Class, we have a new poem: ‘The Rose That Grew in Concrete.’ Let us begin.”

 

Execution of a Deaf Mute

by Stephan Dillard, USA

She’s a scrawny, nameless thing that appears after the group of migrants leaves (letting them enter the town is universally regretted). At first, it’s easy to pretend she doesn’t exist. But she becomes more difficult to ignore. Things go missing. After a few months, every single family is reporting stolen supplies. And worse, she’s bolder, strolling down Mainstreet as if she owns the place.                                          Something must be done; it’s agreed. A man from the city (“it’s entirely painless”) is brought in to remove her. The decision at first subdues folks. But the town is soon back to its lively self.

 

Tryst

by Jamie Etheridge, Kuwait

I ran three miles down the dirt road behind my grandmother’s house to meet you that cold November, toes frozen in thin shoes. You never showed. The barn smoked, a pile of black burnt boards and sticks. Churchgoers sang hymnals at the weekend revival in the next pasture. We were washed in the blood of the lamb that winter. Only I had another kind of blood, virginal, impatient, coursing through me. I wanted shot of it. Then the snows melted. The river flooded and you pulled up alongside the pier, bloated and yellowing. Birds scattered when they brought you ashore.

Ice Cream, We Scream

by Frances Gapper, England

The ice creams melt even as I’m passing them through the van window. The orphans lick my hands and search for drops on the yellow concrete. I’m tempted to dive into my freezer cabinet and pull the lid down on myself, but that would be fatal, I mean for the generator.             The orphans have lost their baby teeth. The sky is like plastic soup, labeled tomato. Anything we adults do, or that children unwittingly do, is wrong and will cause damage. The moon exceeded its sell-by date long ago. Under this mouldy moon the sea shines, radioactive but pretty anyway.

Blessed Mary of the Detroit One Coney Island

by Emily Gibson, USA

Chili, mustard, onions cover the fries on the already greasy plate. I'm trying to stave off the inevitable hangover that is already creeping in, bringing the diner into sharp focus. That's when I spot him and her in the booth across the way. In a hushed tone, "You need to have more respect for yourself." She smiles at me lazily, eyeshadow and glitter smeared on her cheeks. We both know that there isn't much hope for either of us. A different hangover, a different John, the same bullshit. She leaves with him, and I turn to my food for salvation.

 

Rainy Day Woman

by Howie Good, USA

She was sitting on the edge of the bed, crying and feeling something’s wrong, I should be asking for help, but she couldn’t remember who or what she should be asking. Everything in her brain was white static. Secretly she wanted to see beautiful color, a purple that vibrates at the very end of the spectrum. Anyone observing her would’ve concluded she would never get away – away from the tyranny of structure, clock faces with Roman numerals, people going mechanically about their day on a busy street. When something needs water, you water it; you don’t just hope for rain.

Holding, Still

by M.J. Iuppa, USA

Everything is a set up.  She twists her thick Turkish towel around her head. Steam fogs the vanity mirror—fogs her phone’s camera lens. She stares breathlessly as her digital twin becomes her portrait—the one that she’ll post with a comment about how she thinks the knots in her narrow shoulders and skinny neck are holding her together. Friends sympathize. They tell her she’s un-brea-ka-ble. She mouths their word, emphasizing each syllable, as if she were spelling insults—a thousand tiny cracks outline her eyes, her cheekbones, her mouth. She’s stressed-out, knowing her one true enemy is herself.

In a Subway Parking Lot in East Brainerd, Tennessee

by Kate Landers, USA

Cigarette butts sprout like weeds in the grit. Plastic straws, prisms of cellophane, Styrofoam cups, and a losing lottery ticket scuttle toward the sewer. The sun cooks puddles of oil and grease. Stubborn grass refuses to die, though everyone wishes it would. A whole street of minimum wage and crumbling dreams. The only wildlife is fire ants, and someone will poison them next week. It’s too hot to get out of the car, so I let it idle with the A/C on full blast, and here, in this part of the suburbs, it feels good to contribute to the destruction.

 

Please Don’t Sit Next to Me

by Marc Littman, USA

There were plenty of seats on the bus. I turned toward the greasy window and softly prayed that he’d mosey past me. Yet, I couldn’t help myself. I glanced at his man bun and beard and fit physique. He exuded masculinity except he wore a glittering red cocktail dress and matching sequined boots. I scolded myself for judging him as I’m sure others cruelly do. But my prayers drew him like a lodestone. He sat down. For a while I stared downward feeling his gaze on my cheek. Finally, I looked up. “I like your boots.” He smiled, “Thank you.”

 

Getting to Morning

by Beth Mead, USA

The sadness felt heavy, a thing that hung around his shoulders like an old scarf. All he had left of Ellen now was this house she’d left him in, these rooms filled with piles of clothes and paper and chalky figurines and nothing that mattered. He’d decided to give himself one task per day, some accomplishment to help push him toward the next morning. Today it was the dishes stacked in and around the too-big kitchen sink. Hot soapy water to soak his tired hands in, plates and bowls to scrub and stack. It felt like a kind of living. 

 

Nearing Shelter

by Darrell Petska, USA

How can anyone justify this scene, this whitetail doe near death, that mean arrow stub protruding from her side? Benny sniffs the doe’s hoof, her heaving belly, then settles against her flank. She’s beyond rising, but her eyes flare as I near. To ease her bleak passage, I speak softly of sweet meadow grasses she’ll soon nuzzle, the cooling springs she’ll frequent, the sheltering thicket close by where she’ll gather with her kind. Until then, I’ll keep vigil beside her. No one can tell me her eyes aren’t sorrowful in the autumn sun warming the wild rye pillowing her head.

 

Morning

by Kristin Procter, USA

I used to yawn into Saturday morning with both mouths thirsty. Limbs slick and breath flimsy, I never appreciated that my biggest challenge before noon would be deciding between banana pancakes or eggs Benedict. Now, every morning begins before night has melted the sharp edges. Ravenous lips slip on swollen breasts and tears streak both our cheeks. All the mistakes that a mother can make flutter like bats in the moonlight. By the time birdsong cracks dawn, stillness settles. Pressed against the rhythm of inhales and swallows, I wonder if my appetite will ever return, for something more than this.

 

The Curious Fate of Flashes

by Marzia Rahman, Bangladesh

Writing flash is hard, yet strangely addictive. It must be concise, starting in the middle, close to the climax, ending with a twist. A short but difficult journey where the words sometimes become clichéd, meanings get lost or wash up on some shore. How can one conjure up images in a flash? Is it even possible to encapsulate life in a few words? A flash writer, therefore, must be patient like Buddha, while the war rages on in Yemen and Syria, fire breaks out in forests and refugee camps, a grandmother cooks eggplants. And a young mother sings a lullaby.

 

A Pause

by Stephen Sottong, USA

The flowers were brilliant blues, pinks, blood red. After walking so long, he stopped, sat, gazed at the splendid cacophony. Spring was magnificent here. Nicer than North Dakota. He didn't have to get up. He could stay here, lost amidst the flowers. It hardly made sense to walk further with only thirty minutes oxygen left. Besides, his suit was clammy after trudging from the crash site. Someone said the atmosphere smelled heavenly – before it killed you. A rise half a mile farther beckoned. He could make that. He stood, brushed the poisonous potpourri from his suit and walked on.

 

Collections

by Kelsey Swancott, USA

Her life had always been a blur, like the bright splash of colors on her skin’s canvas, swirling together like the last sips of wine. All the brash and dazzling years of travel that she experienced were showcased on her body: tiny white lines scattered along her legs, like the butterfly kisses of ghosts, reminding her of childhood to ones she chose to display…like her tattoos. She was a collection of the people in her life—friends, family, lovers—they all became a part of her—the same way those tiny white lines did, slowly enveloping her like words on a page.

 

Match Game

by Bob Thurber, USA

Well past her due date and feeling unrelenting pressure, Mary visited the restroom for the fifth time, while Jack recalculated the tip. As he slid from the booth, the waitress leaned in, a cigarette resting in the V of two fingers. “Light?” She was a slim, red-haired woman with lacquered fingernails. She held the cigarette an inch from her glossy mouth. Jack didn’t smoke, but he patted his pockets anyway.  “Sorry,” he grimaced. “Don’t be!” She pressed a book of matches into Jack’s palm. “My number’s inside,” she whispered. One year later, Jack used those matches to light birthday candles.

 

Dumas

by Ran Walker, USA

Mrs. Miller had asked her eleventh-grade students to give a report on an assigned famous writer. She tossed surnames at them with the air of a person who’d been teaching the same subject the same way for twenty-five years. Kendrick had gotten Dumas. As Mrs. Miller sat back, preparing to hear about The Three Musketeers for the umpteenth time, she found herself learning about a Black writer named Henry Dumas, who’d been killed by transit cops in 1968: a writer Toni Morrison once called an “absolute genius,” a writer, whom, up until that point, Mrs. Miller had never known existed.

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