Demigods Pray for Rain - April Bradley
The Luteal Phase - Elizabeth Wolfcale
The Realist - Clair Polders
That Deep Post-Coital Sleep - Michael C. Keith
Post No Bills - Len Kuntz
School Conference - Len Kuntz
July 21, 1965 - Jeff Burt
Turning Silk into a Sow’s Purse - Jeff Burt
If Only - Anthony DeGregorio
Private Space - Anthony DeGregorio
Last Day at the Office - John G.F. Bonnanzio
Daily Blessings - Renuka Raghaven
A Wild Night - Renuka Raghaven
Almost - Kimberly Misra
Alone at the End of the World - Tommy Dean
Demigods Pray for Rain
We lay on the beach in a tilt-a-whirl of gin and watched the stars. There had been little rain all spring and she was unaware of it. I asked her how could she be ignorant of a drought. She told me that she couldn’t read everything so she avoided the news. She asked if it was serious, if crops were harmed, were people suffering. It had been a bad one; yes, we needed the water badly. Hadn’t she noticed the lawns? She laughed and reminded me that I had brought her to Westport to dine where the lawns thrived like the trust funds. She slid her hand under mine and said she’d pray, ask for rain, and that’s when I laughed at her. She raised our clasped hands toward the sky and said, “Can you bind the sweet influences of Pleiades or loose the cords of Orion?” We were drenched by the time we made it back to the car, and I was too afraid and desperate to kiss her goodnight.
April Bradley is from Goodlettsville, Tennessee and lives with her family on the Connecticut shoreline. Her work has appeared in Hermeneutic Chaos Literary Journal, Narratively, and Thrice Fiction, among others. She is a nominee for Sundress Publications’ Best of the Net Anthology 2015 and serves as the Associate Editor for Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine. Find her online at aprilbradley.net
The Luteal Phase
You hear him come in, a long day, front steps taken slowly, a pause, then passing the foot of the stairs, he moves in the kitchen, drawing water, opening the fridge. You compose your body over the pressed sheet, the bed too flat, not enough wrinkles, camouflage for the aging skin. Do you look hopeful? No. Expectation’s heat wilts desire. You turn, lie on your right side, plump your right breast, the stuffing still somewhat resilient. You part your lips, bunch the sheet over your hips, think: Sophia Loren. Damn, forgot to pull the shades. Downstairs, the toilet flushes, stair steps flex and creak, almost there. At the last moment you pull the sheet up, open a book on your chest and look up with drowsy stupor, “Didn’t hear you come in.”
Elizabeth Wolfcale has found that there is “more scope for the imagination” in tending her garden, feeding chickens, and throwing the ball for her Jack Russell than in owning a restaurant. She and her husband live on a small farm in Northern Michigan.
She practiced at home in front of the mirror, then dressed up for the part, tucking her minor cash reserves into her bra. But she was a realist. After negotiating for hours, stern-voiced, she left the garage empty-handed, saying: “What’s a car gonna add to my life anyway?”
Claire Polders is a Dutch author of four novels. Her short prose has appeared in anthologies and magazines in print and online. She's currently finishing her first novel in English.
That Deep Post-Coital Sleep
Michael C. Keith
“It was so good, Johnny. It was the best ever. I’ve never felt like that before,” she whispered moments before falling into a state of delicious unconsciousness.
To her delight, her lover awaited her in the dream that followed. His chest was exposed, revealing his sculpted pecks and broad shoulders. His muscles rippled and glistened in the bright moonlight and set her passions on fire . . . again.
“Take me,” she said breathlessly. “Take me like never before.”
And he did as she asked, pulling her into his strong arms and ravishing her short, stout body until every molecule of her being was rendered numb with pleasure.
“Oh, Johnny!” she cried in ecstasy, her arms tearing at his deeply tanned flesh. “Love me . . . love me hard and forever!”
When she awoke hours later, she discovered the page from the romance novel she’d been reading was missing . . . apparently ripped out of the paperback.
“Oh, no!” she exclaimed, "Another one of those love you and leave you types.”
Michael C. Keith teaches college and writes fiction. michaelckeith.com
Post No Bills
Her face is thirty feet tall. An airplane shadow cuts a gray scar across her cheek, but otherwise she is stunning, perfect.
He remembers before she was famous, the wounds on her wrists, once finding her in the garage, car windows rolled down, engine running.
He’d told her she had things to live for and, though she never believed this, the one great love of his life left their small town behind.
It’s the other words he hadn’t said that haunt him now as he stares up at the billboard, city air thick with grit and blaring cab horns.
They’re here for their fifth anniversary. His wife comes up holding their lattes, light snow fanning her face.
“What are you staring at?” she asks.
“I know what you mean.”
“This city’s so overwhelming,” she says, “like a graveyard and a carnival all in one.”
David is out of town again and so she attends alone, seated now on a bench outside the office.
The wait is unbearable, time like a spindly centipede crawling up her spine.
When the door finally opens, her daughter’s teacher waves her in without speaking.
He has the cartoon jaw of an old boyfriend and there’s a diamond stud imbedded in his left lobe that she’s never noticed before.
He points toward his desk which is uncluttered for once, the walnut top gleaming.
She imagines how hard the wood is, how flat and unforgiving it will feel against her back.
Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans. His work appears widely in print journals and online. His story collection, "The Dark Sunshine" debuted from Connotation Press last year. You can find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com,
July 21, 1965
The bottom of the boat blew into lake water when the lightning caught his rod just after he noticed his rubber boots were on the prow and his favorite lure stuck in the pickerel’s grip.The thought of the story he could tell of catching both pike and pickerel on the same July day seemed too good to give up.
It was not the initial strike, his wife would tell, that killed him, just illuminated him like an ember in a fire pit. But the glance back he made, the look that said he’d hooked a big one and could not let it go, was the divorce between them. She had been tossed abruptly into water and watched him twitch, scorched, clothes smoldering, the rod reaching upwards, shivering with anticipation, and the sky yielded once more and granted the wish with pinpoint authority. They found his body stuck in rocks twenty feet deep, not from sinking, but wedged, compacted into granite as if hammered by a sledge.
She survived, spent the rest of her life in fits and starts but never endings. She made a planter from the bottomless boat, dragging it to shore and twenty feet up the yard, with the tackle box fused to an oar lock and a charred rod imbedded in a plank like a piece of straw driven by a tornado into soft wood. She planted violets and pansies the first spring, forsythia the fall.
Turning Silk into a Sow’s Purse
Lost the summer I was twenty-three, I patrolled the early morning streets hefting garbage cans with rank liquid pouring from the rusted bottoms over my boots, lurching to the truck trolling ahead at three miles per hour. Sometimes my right hip and flagging biceps launched fifty pounds of trash to the truck’s reeking maw dumping bottles, Styrofoam, rotting food, papers, cans, razors, nylons, and greasy cardboard. Done by noon, I walked the three miles home in high heat and stripped my boots, shirt, and pants at the back door in full view of my retired neighbor and her nosy terrier. I entered my apartment to bottles, Styrofoam, rotting food, papers, cans, razors, greasy cardboard, wishing just once that nylons hung from the bathroom door.
Jeff Burt has work in Eclectica, The Nervous Breakdown, Clerestory, and Agave.
He recalls her remarks, and desperately re-inserts himself into the exchange from a decade ago with, of course, perfect knowledge of the future, i.e., his actual present. The successful time traveller, he hears himself say, “Yeah, well in five years from now I’ll get cancer. And then five years after that (now/the present) I’ll still be kicking it, good as new practically. And where will you be, huh?” Of course she is helpless to reply, frozen in his cool clairvoyance. “Didn’t think you’d have much to say! Maybe you’ll be malignant. Maybe you’ll be all fat and disgusting. Maybe you’ll be dead even—ever think of that? Your slimy old corpse rotting in a box, smelling worse than meat gone bad, infested with maggots, and lookin’ like a grotesque black honeycomb!”
The plane overhead breaks his concentration and brings him back to the present. He has no idea what has become of her (nor himself for a moment) and cannot verify the validity of his prognostication. He is not so much unhappy as unsatisfied, unfulfilled with his lot. He is in a dream, which is to say, constantly interrupted by his life. His days, he reckons, are like TV shows paused regularly for mindless commercials selling soap or detergent, or scented and miraculously soft toilet paper.
The long abandoned automobile sits next to an uneasy rambling house. A dark skirt of wild grass at the tires, the doors, reaches up over the shattered taillights. Often at night this decaying machine comes to life and forges a delicate path to rain-slick highways, back to the scene of its last ride. The undulating wall of blades around it is a sweet green smoke of hissing camouflage. Upon its return, an hour or so before dawn, its back seat sinks closer to the soil of its last inexperienced driver. The pause of adolescence cut short wakes the stiff springs that exhale an empty rattling moan. The compressing rusted frame tears its peeling brown skin and spreads it over asphalt-grey earth that reddens with the warm moisture of a bleeding sun.
Safely before the wife rises automatically, neither resigned nor hopeful; before the coffee maker’s red light spots the dark yellow kitchen like an unchanging traffic signal; before the husband begins his daily litany of explanations to himself for his son’s absence and his wife’s silence, the car is again at rest in its private space. The dew-veiled grass sponges its body in another unsuccessful ablution.
Anthony DeGregorio has a master’s degree in Writing from Manhattanville College, where he has been teaching a
tutorial in expository writing for seventeen years. In another life or two (or three [via the not-so-
parallel universe of simultaneity]) he worked in various capacities for the Department of Social
Services for too many years. Prior to that, back in the Middle Ages, he lived in Houston, various
towns in Vermont, and built stairways to nowhere in particular, concocted drinks for the thirsty,
made pizza for the hungry, and generally ranted about anything.
Last Day at the Office
John G.F. Bonnanzio
With her dress pulled high above her waist, the middle-aged woman’s white, unflattering legs were bent at right angles from her torso, twisted by unapologetic physics into the same impossible posture that had also forced her head to face incorrectly up at a flight of steel-grey stairs upon which she had free-fallen and, in so doing, would be the very last sight passing through her once-sparkling eyes that had long ago captured the rapt attention (and the heart) of the man who, just moments earlier, pushed gently against her back.
When not writing about mutual funds, Mr. Bonnanzio spends his time carefully navigating stairwells.
“Please Madam, we have no food. Give us some blessings, please Madam,” the young homeless girl begged as I was walked up the steps of the ancient stone temple.
“Pay them no mind. Once you give them something, they’ll never leave you alone,” advised the guide. “They have been known to follow tourists back to hotels and harass them.”
I looked back.
The girl continued begging.
Tourists continued ignoring.
Inside, the priest clothed only in a long cotton swath wrapped around his waist, planted a small basket of fruit in my awaiting hands, “Accept these fruits as blessings for your visit today.” My mouth salivated at the thought of biting into sweet deliciousness.
On my way back down the steps, the girl approached once more, making a last attempt, “Please Madam. I have nothing to eat. Just give me something small, no?”
I took the basket of fruit I had been given and placed it in her hands. The girl flung the basket behind her, the ripe fruits smashing against the stone wall.
“I want money. Fruits I can get daily.”
A Wild Night
“Let’s do something really fun,” she whispered in his ear.
“What’s wrong with what we’re doing now?”
“We’re stuck in a rut. Don’t you feel it? We never do anything wild or exciting anymore.”
“What’d you have in mind?” he asked.
“Let’s go upstairs and—”
“Shhh! The movie’s starting.”
Renuka Raghavan is the woman in front of you in line at the store who just piled on a month’s worth of groceries onto the conveyor belt only to realize she left her wallet in the car. Next time you see her, say hi, she’d love to meet you. Born in India, raised in Florida and Texas, she is now perfectly content calling Massachusetts home (sweet home) with her engineer husband, two children, and Maya the Great (Beagle). Prior to Boston Literary Magazine, Renuka’s fiction has been published in The Rio Review.
The car that pulled alongside was old, rusty, a type of car you could not identify when it mattered, except to say that it was kind of gold-ish, and big like Granddad’s. Twelve-year-old girls don’t pay much attention to that sort of thing. You had been scrunched up with your best friend, walking and whispering, complaining about your brothers, debating if it would be too hot to wear your new jeans the first day of junior high.
When the car approached the two of you broke apart a bit, just in case it was someone you knew, with maybe a boy you knew in the back seat. An unfamiliar face leaned from the partly cracked window, but he smiled with clean white teeth, so that was alright, probably just some lost tourist. You started to say where the lake parking was, while your friend rolled her eyes to make you laugh.
He said, ”Want a ride girls?” and pointed to the back seat, piled with grease-stained food bags, cracked running shoes, a blanket adorned with long black hairs.
“C’mon, get in,” he said, and one of his hands, brown-spotted, with neat short fingernails, reached around to pop the door. Luckily, the neighbor’s house was close, and the neighbor’s wife had a phone, and she called your parents first, then the police. They never did find the guy, but everything was alright and you had a story to tell on your first day of junior high.
Kimberly Misra writes from her home in western Massachusetts where she spends most of her time homeschooling her four children, driving them all over the place, and overseeing a menagerie of farm animals, plus two dogs and a cat. This is her first published fiction piece.
Alone at the End of the World
The old couple are sitting in their hollowed-out 1930 Ford Model A and watching the TV. The man, a retired electrician, wired it to run off of the radio circuit. The windows are rolled up, though they would be flimsy protection against the temperature, the nuclear fallout, and looters. But they don't expect to survive. Arthritis, finally, the least of their worries, they wait for the Nova blast to wipe out the bedazzled starscape. Four days, The news has promised them the end of the world. They believe the news anchor. He's shown them the footage from the other countries. Tonight is their last night, but they pretend it's the beginning of their love affair. They're right where they started so long ago at the drive-in. He pushes a button and a movie fills the screen. Jimmy Stewart or Humphrey Bogart, it doesn't matter, as long as they can pretend.
"Ready?" he asks.
"If we must." She kisses him on the cheek, her neck too stiff to let her reach his lips. Her hands her the pill. Government issued for those that don't want to risk starving to death in makeshift bomb shelters.
"Any final words?" he asks, but they've had time to say it all.
"Give em hell," she says and places the pill in the center of her tongue.
He grips her arm. "Wait." But she's already losing consciousness and for those seconds it takes him to swallow his own pill, he is alone at the end of the world.
Tommy Dean is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. A graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program, he has been previously published in the Watershed Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, r.kv.r.y, Boston Literary Magazine, Foliate Oak, and Gravel. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter.