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A Fan of the Poet
Richard Holinger

     The poet has died. A hardened heart. I read about it on his daughter’s blog. The last two days more morphine was pumped through his tubes than a gas station fill-up. He sat up once, she wrote, watched the news, ate a brick of Neapolitan ice cream, and returned to bed.
     I was there. In spirit. I combed his hair, washed his feet, nourished his soul. He felt my presence.
     I gave him a reason to profess his take on the world in a thin collection every three or four years. Every time a new title emerged, I searched for my name in the poem, under the title, or in the acknowledgements. Never. At signings, every time he had to ask me my name even though I’d taken all his classes. He wrote “To Mara, Best Wishes,” misspelling my name.
     I owe him a lot, though, nearly as much as he owes me. That’s why I’m piling his books beside me and going on eBay to unload them now that he’s dead, their cash value at least doubled. That should pay for the tactical weapon I’ve been scoping out at Wing, Hoof and Fin Emporium, an ebony semi-automatic that will do a lot of damage to an audience packed into Gerald’s Book Stall’s reading room next time Gerald invites a self-serving, adulterous, manic-depressive overrated charlatan of a poet to read. Unless Gerald asks me.

My work has received three Pushcart Prize nominations. My manuscript, Not Everybody’s Nice won the 2012 Split Oak Flash Prose Chapbook contest. A chapbook of innovative fiction was published last year by Kattywompus Press.

My fiction has appeared in Witness, The Iowa Review, Flashquake, Other Voices, ACM, Cream City Review, WHR, Flyways, The Madison Review, Downstate Story; creative nonfiction and book reviews in The Southern Review, Midwest Quarterly, Cimarron Review, Crazyhorse, Northwest Review; poetry in Boulevard, Chelsea, Southern Poetry Review, Blue Unicorn, the new renaissance, Hampden-Sydney Poetry Review, ACM, Manhattan Poetry Review, Webster Review, North Dakota Quarterly. Essays in anthologies include The Writing Group Book (The Chicago Review Press) and In the Middle of the Middle West(Indiana University Press).

I teach English in an independent high school in Aurora, Illinois, and live in the Illinois Fox River Valley west of Chicago. Degrees include a PhD in creative writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago.




The Queen
Virginia Nosky

     Adrenalin coursed through Joe. “When do you think she’s going to make the Fly-Up, Herbie?”
      “Jeez, how should I know? Any time’s too soon for me.”
      “Whatta ya mean, Herbie?” All Joe’s eyes sparkled. “Think of it. The queen takes off from the hive, the little worker gals crowding around to see her off, humming and buzzing the songs. Oh, I tell you I’ve heard them practicing. Gives me chills.”
     “Sure. You’re the favorite to get to her first for the Big Screw. I mean she’s beautiful, but it’s the last thing you’ll remember. Then kaput. You’re gone, pal.”
     “Think of the glory, man. Dude, you’re good. Aren’t you going to even try?”
     “Oh, sure. My DNA and all. I don’t have to like it.”
     “Hey, the gals are swarming.” Joe jostled to the head of the drones. “Here she comes. Oh, God, she’s so hot!” He stretched his wings. Tried a few buzzes to get ready.
     The worker bees’ voices swelled to a crescendo as the queen moved majestically to the top of the hive, lifted her golden wings and soared into the sapphire sky. Joe and two hundred tumescent drones rose after her.
      He faltered, felt a sharp pain in his starboard wing.
      Herbie passed and called back, “Joe? Joe…”
      Joe spiraled down.
      Then he felt himself lifted, higher, then…then…to the head of the racing drones. A surge flung him into the embrace of the queen.
      Herbie’s voice faded away. “Get a piece for me, Joe…”

Virginia Nosky has published eight novels, is a screenwriter and published poet. The author sets most of her novels in Arizona and the Southwest—the topography and climate inherently theatrical and add their own drama. Blue Turquoise, White Shell won the Independent Publishers Gold Medal in 2009 and the Arizona Book Publishers Association Book of the Year and Best Multicultural novel. White River, a sequel to Blue Turquoise, White Shell came out in July of this year. Nosky’s poetry and short stories have appeared in several anthologies. She lives in Paradise Valley, Arizona with her husband Richard and rescues golden retriever Barkis and Lab Peaches.


Friday Commute
Jay Duret

     I am driving into work on a Friday. The Parkway is two lanes wide and I am in the left lane coming up to a light. The light is green. In the right hand lane, a bus is stopped to pick up passengers. I am passing on the left when a bike rider pedals out from the front of the bus, directly in front of me. I am going 25 mph. He can’t be more than fifteen feet in front of me.
     I stomp on the brake. My SUV skids forward, shrieking.
     The rider is wearing a red helmet. He has a tuft of red hair under his lower lip. He doesn’t acknowledge that I am hurtling at him. He lazily moves forward and then, inexplicably, stops dead in the middle of the lane, broadside to me.
     The skid takes hours. I won’t be able to stop in time. The biker appears to see me, but he remains utterly indifferent to the coming impact of a 4,000 pound SUV smashing into his hip, leg, ankle and foot.
     I come to a stop; I am within a foot of the biker. He pedals forward, never looking at me. He doesn’t give me the slightest recognition. He simply pedals on.
     I am vibrating like a tuning fork.
     The bus on my right starts up. I am blocking traffic. I put my foot back on the gas and go forward to another Friday at work.

Jay Duret is a San Francisco writer who blogs at www.jayduret.com. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in many online and print journals. Jay's first novel, Nine Digits, is to be published in early 2014. He is currently at work on a book about eavesdropping in San Francisco.




Where Once We Watched
Andrea Fischer

     What saved us was this: macular degeneration.
     The German officer could not read what was on our papers and so had written our name down as "Fischer" instead of "Fisher," the interloper "c" instantly stripping us of a thousand years of Jewish history. You were too young to read it as anything at all and twisted to look at the ground where your mother's handbag had fallen. She left it there and took you out of my arms. Later your mother told me that she had needed the weight of you to help keep her from shaking.
     We went home that day a new family, both afraid of and grateful for the error that had sent us home instead of on a train to one of the camps.
     The next day we walked to the pond, where we once watched you learn to walk among the geese. There was a parade and we cheered and watched for the man with everyone else whose names were not mistakes. We cheered for survival, we cheered for a look at the future, we cheered because our hands needed to feel something solid rise up against them. Adolf himself came and touched the top of your head and smiled at us and we did not move and we did not cry and became frozen in this way for many years. And this is also what saved us: the ability to become someone else entirely.

Andrea Fischer lives in Pacifica, CA. Her writing has appeared in Eunoia Review, Granta.com, and other publications.




The Failing Heart
Lee Reilly

     If I had cancer, I’d have a view of the lake. Heartsick, I get the southern view only, traffic deadlocked and waiting for relief. Also: the Chicago River running backwards.
     I’m not complaining. I can’t afford to. It’s your health insurance.
     You look to see if I’m awake, a status I’m reluctant to reveal because I haven’t answered your question: Can you have an affair with Marion?
     Yes. No. Please, not yet.
     Look. See? To say the river is running backwards is an exaggeration. More like rippling. More like seeping, trying to find a place of rest.

Forgiveness
Lee Reilly

     How can Rosaleen love her son from a room with a hotplate and pictures of his kids flaunting their newest toys?

          Of course she regrets the violence of his upbringing.
          And she does appreciate holidays with the landlady.
          And, let’s remember, he pays the rent.

The author of two nonfiction books, Lee Reilly has published essays and fiction in Florida Review, Quarterly West, Self, Quiddity, Hunger Mountain, Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. For five years, she wrote a column for Vegetarian Times, answering difficult questions from worried readers, such as, Is dry cleaning potentially hazardous? (yes) and Do cows explode if you don’t milk them? (no). It was a joyous skip over to flash fiction, which she loves.




The Smell of Time
Chad Hanson

     Grady let the hound loose in the lot behind the mall. A girl went missing thirty-two hours before. A reporter spoke with the sheriff. “Hounds can smell time,” he told him, “They can tell when people have been through.” Before nightfall, the hound led deputies to the lost child from Bellingham. The mayor praised the dog in a television press event. While the politicians spoke, the sheriff noticed the hound in the back of Grady’s truck. Grady walked in the woods behind the podium, putting his nose to the branches of maple trees. The sheriff leaned to a stranger and said, “Grady found her. He brought the dog because he likes the company.”

Chad Hanson serves as Chairman of the Department of Sociology & Social Work at Casper College in Casper, Wyoming. His poems have appeared in The Fourth River, Cold Mountain Review, A Clean Well-Lighted Place, and Amoskeag among others. A recent collection of his essays, Trout Streams of the Heart (2013) is available from the Truman State University Press.




That Much I Can Say
Jeffrey Zable

     I’m fairly certain that we are living in Medieval times and that the Black Death is taking its toll on everyone. I keep going higher and higher because I know the danger is on the ground. The only problem is that the higher I go, the more out of touch with reality I become. The clouds are fine but there is always a chill inside of me, and sometimes the shapes scare me. Everyone said it was the rats, but I suspected the real rats were the people, the ones I knew from day to day: the butchers, the merchants, the so-called healers. All I could think of was going higher and higher until eventually I’d reach that place called Heaven where they say everyone is safe no matter how terrible things get down there. Right now it’s lonely, but at least I’m alive, and still have my thoughts. That much I can say. . .

Jeffrey Zable Has published poetry and prose in many magazines and anthologies including New York Quarterly, South Dakota Review, Caliban, Wormwood Review, etc. He's published five chapbooks including Zable's Fables with an introduction by the late great Beat poet Harold Norse. Present or upcoming work in Subliminal Interiors, Literary Juice, Mas Tequila, Toad Suck Review, Clackamas Literary Review, The Cannon's Mouth, and others.




Remnants
Greta Igl

     A pair of mating doves tumbles into the street. I brake and swerve, but too late.
     My rear view mirror reveals no flattened feathers or bloody smears. The road behind me stretches, straight and clear, exactly as it had been before our encounter. Had they escaped? Were they tangled, mangled in the machinery beneath my car? I imagine parking in my safe garage, lying on dank concrete, and praying I find no fretty remnants.
     My breath catches. For one dangerous moment, I think of you.

Greta’s short fiction has been published by numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Every Day Fiction, Right Hand Pointing, Falling Star Magazine, and Word Riot. She is currently revising her novel, Somewhere on the Road to Me.




Every Pretty Girl
Carlos Fonts

     It's the kinks and knots that make a girl wonderful. It's the crooked tooth. The freckles. The wild, unkempt hair, colored brick. It's the girls who whisper secrets in groups and the ones who keep every secret and the ones who hold none. The ones who can't finish a story. The ones who let men cry, never speak of it again. The ones who run in the rain past midnight and never take taxis.

Carlos J. Fonts is an avid fisherman, black and white photographer, and writes prose-fiction. He is the creator and chief editor of Nomans Journal, a literary magazine based out of Massachusetts.




On 82
Sheena Sauls

     In the Texas of my childhood the highways linger like a fall sunset, and Dad can finish off a six pack between one bend and the next.
     He likes best when I sing, but the county road signs confuse all the lyrics, and the dirt roads groan beneath us as I send generations of country-and-western talent to rolling in their graves, he says.
     He lets me toss the cans on Fridays. Up on my knees I lean out, dodging bird shit and grabby branches, leaving a trail we'll follow back to Mom’s on Sunday afternoon. He'll play peg-the-can, slip me a dollar in her driveway if he hits more than ten.
     The air is on fire, and it tastes like cow, and coffee, and old pennies. I wait for his fingers: there, tight there on my belt loops, and then I let go.

Sheena Sauls is an MFA candidate in fiction at UA Monticello and managing editor at A Moveable Press, a nonprofit organization committed to preserving those voices that have traditionally been silenced in literature and otherwise. He has short fiction forthcoming this year from Gertrude Press and Matter Press.




Rope Burn
Doug Mathewson

     Thursday or so the Dallas Daily Dollar ran a story about music legend Quincy Jones turning ninety years of age. Over breakfast that day at the Silver Spurs Retirement Ranch Lasso Larry Lariat just about choked on his buckwheat mush when he read the quote. “Sex at my age is like trying to play pool with a rope”. The scenarios just started unfolding one after another for the old Rodeo rope trick artist ...

Unravel
Doug Mathewson

     Back home, back where we came from originally, the word for “trouble” has both a masculine and feminine form. The literal translation would probably be “unravel”, but trouble is what it means. These days the masculine is for big problems, and the feminine for smaller ones. Back then it was to distinguish between the troubles of men, and those of women. That spring day when my Grandmother cried out the masculine form and smashed a dish, then threw another and began to cry; we knew, my sisters and I, that our Father would not be returning from the war.

Doug Mathewson writes some decent short fiction and some pretty average poetry from his home on Connecticut’s eastern shore. He has been published by exceptionally kind people both here and abroad. Readers are welcome to rummage about in his online file cabinet at little2say.org. He is a member of Full of Crow Press and Distribution fullofcrow.com. His current secret project is called the Mambo Academy of Kitty Wang. Further information not available at this time, as it is a secret. He is the Senior Editor of Blink-Inkblink-ink.com , the hottest in ripping edge ragged contemporary 50 word fiction. Also he is Planet Betty section editor for DK&BP at Pandemonium Press of Berkeley California.




Telegram
C.G. Thompson

     October 1974. Her mother phoned Western Union to dictate a telegram to her father, who was on a business trip and staying at the apartment of a bachelor co-worker.
     “Jay, whenever I call Dave’s apartment, a different woman answers,” her mother said. “Stop.”
     Patty had heard other telegrams, non-angry ones, knew that “stop” indicated the end of a sentence. She was eleven, lay on the den sofa, fetal position.
     “I’ve been trying to find you for three days. Stop.
     “If I don’t hear from you by tomorrow, Patty and I are leaving. Stop.”
     Patty couldn’t sleep all night. At school the next morning, head nodding, she took a geography test, tried to remember that Chicago wasn’t the capital of Illinois, and Houston wasn’t the capital of Texas.
     That afternoon her father called to say his flight would arrive at 8:30. Concord, Frankfurt. During dinner, Patty cut her steak into little bites, the way her mother used to do for her. Providence, Tallahassee. Her mother smoked but didn’t eat.
     At the airport, her parents didn’t kiss. Olympia, Bismarck. Her mother started the car and pulled onto the interstate without a word. Patty wished she had an older brother or sister to confide in. Richmond, Sacramento.
     The car sped up, and capitals ran like a roller coaster through her mind. TopekaBostonSalemDoverPhoenixAtlantaColumbiaHelenaJuneau. Patty thought she was going crazy. “Stop!” she screamed. Startled, her mother slammed on the brakes.
     Her father wasn’t wearing a seatbelt.

Peoria
C.G. Thompson

     Ray wasn’t ready to marry again, but his children were guilting him into it. “If you drink the milk, buy the cow,” his son said. Ray laughed.
     “It’s not funny,” his daughter said. “How do I tell my children their grandfather’s living in sin?”
     “They’re four. Don’t tell them anything.”
     “Sex should be saved for marriage,” his son said.
     “You were fifteen. I didn’t want you getting anyone pregnant.”
     “So they’re situational?” his son said. “Your beliefs?”
     Standing in his daughter’s kitchen, Ray met his children for the first time, realized the high cost of abdicating to his ex-wife. He’d backed her up, believing parents should present a united front.
     “Say I don’t get married. Will it play in Peoria?”
     “It won’t play here,” his daughter announced.
     He knew he wouldn’t be welcome in her home until he married Janet or broke off the relationship. He and Janet had the same friends, the same church. Ending things would cause a landslide.
     Ray felt like an imitation of a person as he started his car. Reaching the DON’T BACK UP sign and the spikes at the guardhouse of his daughter’s gated community, he looked into the future. He’d marry Janet, and her subtle ability to get her way would become naked insistence. She’d make him retire, buy a condo, eliminate his one beer a night. She’d edge friends and hobbies from his life.
     What he didn’t foresee was this: she’d ease his family out, too.

C.G. Thompson writes short fiction and poetry. Her fiction has appeared in Main Street Rag, Main Street Rag Short Fiction Anthology, The Bitter Oleander, and The News and Observer Sunday Reader, among others. Her poetry has appeared most recently in North Carolina Literary Review and Pinesong.




Moonglow
Charles Coe

     The guys were in an extremely mellow mood—just hanging out enjoying some of Mother Nature’s happy-making vegetable matter and watching the tube. The fellow onscreen was talking about Apollo 14, and the momentous occasion of the first human being playing golf in outer space.
     Tony asked if anybody knew how far away the moon was. “About 240,000 miles,” I said. “Depends on where it is in its orbit around the Earth.” He stared at me a moment, then frowned and shook his head. “Naw, that don’t sound right.”
     Nowadays you'd just whip out your smart phone to settle the matter. But those were in short supply in the winter of '71 so he sought a second opinion. “Yo, Will! Wake up, dude. How far away is the Moon?”
     Will roused himself and squinted thoughtfully through the smoke. “I don’t know, man,” he said finally. “I ain’t from around here…”

Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry: “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents” and “Picnic on the Moon,” both published by Leapfrog Press. He also writes feature articles, book and music reviews, and personal and humor essays. His poetry has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies, including Poesis, The Mom Egg, Solstice Literary Review, and Urban Nature. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, including Beth Denisch, Julia Carey and Robert Moran. His prose has appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. In addition, Charles is co-chair of the Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union, a labor union for freelance writers. Charles has been selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014.”




Utopia
Deborah Rocheleau

     After only thirty days in paradise, we began to critique the sunset. I don’t remember who mentioned it first, as we skipped rocks out by the trout pond on the edge of the commune, enjoying our after-work hours. Someone mentioned the sky, reflected in the ripples of the water. A shade darker and it would be the color of corn muffins. Lighter, and it would resemble buttermilk. We should have seen it last night, someone said, the light bruising the clouds tangerine. Then someone compared it to the sunsets in Montana, deep blue with a splattering of Aurora Borealis á la James Pollock. This was a Rembrandt sky, with an appreciation for realism yet too much constraint. What we’d give for a Picasso, the twilight blurring the lines between day and night. We came up with our own criteria, each to his (or her) own. Atmospheric lighting, intensity and duration of color, even the night sounds evoked by the departure of the sun. Clouds were optional, though the best sets, the masterpieces that would stand the test of time—if, that is, we believed in photography—incorporated all the elements of good painting. A few strokes of cloud, a wash of stratosphere, and the spongy mark of the moon. In time, we learned to read them with the scientific accuracy of auras. Passionate red, intuitive indigo. The true art was, of course, in the criticism.

Deborah Rocheleau is an eighteen-year-old writer and language fanatic. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the Tin House Open Bar, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, Flights, 100 Word Story, Kingdom Pen and Mock Turtle Zine. She is currently writing a contemporary young adult novel. She blogs at deborahrocheleau.wordpress.com.




One Night Bandstand
Kurt K. Klein

     When you write you ponder, and odd happenings mosey into view. Thus I am young again, nineteen, leaning against a bar in Ballard, Arkansas. Yes, Ballard; seven hundred people.
     So it was one day. In hitchhiking you take what you get. I got this creaky wooden town, July, 1944.
     A bar there is empty but for one, a girl bartender who’d been a waitress earlier, next door, until that restaurant closed. We met there, she served my dinner, and now we are friends. But bars close too. Why stay open for one customer, some soldier stranded in Ballard, Arkansas?
     I sleep in the bandstand in the town square, head on my ditty bag. A warped plywood floor is a lousy bed, but I manage it.
     Until she wakes me, that is; past midnight as I remember. She’s brought hamburgers and two bottles of beer, explains she’s closed the bar but wants to talk. And after some time she asks, “Will you hold me? No more. Just hold me for a while.”
     Whoa, I’m uncertain about this, but I say, “Okay, nothing more.” So we lie side by side, her head on my chest, and she talks about her husband, dead in Italy somewhere. Talks and sobs.
     Finally we stand. “Take my story away,” she pleads. “Away from Ballard. Please. I can’t handle his memory.”
     “You sure?”
     “Yes.”
     “Alright, it’s my story then.”
     “Yes! I can live with that.” And she kisses me and goes away.
     Someday I’ll write about this.

Kurt Klein lives in Chadron, Nebraska. He's old, 88, upright but leaning.







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