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Test Day
Teresa Houle

      “Did you study for the test last night?”
      “For a bit, then Survivor came on and I got distracted. Did you?”
      “Yeah, till, like 3 am. I barely slept and now I can’t remember a thing.”
      “Dude, watch out, you almost stepped in that!”
      “Sick! Who just chucks on a sidewalk?”
      “Let’s skip the test and do make ups later.”
      “What do you want to do?”
      “Go skate.”
      “I need new bearings, these ones are near shot.”
      “Let’s go to my place, I’ve got some.”
      “Okay, cool.”
      “Dude, what is that?”
      “What is whhhaaaa…holy shit.”
      “It’s crying!”
      “Call the cops.”
      “Pick it up, you know more about babies than I do.”
      “Shhhh…it’s okay baby.”
      “I need an ambulance, we found a baby in a ditch.”
      “Shhhh…”
      “Dude, is the baby warm?”
      “Not really, I think it needs a diaper too.”
      “Keep the baby awake, dude.”
      “How?”
      “Just keep it awake she said.”
      “Baby! Look at me baby. Keep those eyes open…ya, hi baby. Stay awake long enough for the ambulance to get here and get you safely to a hospital. BABY! Stay awake!!”
      “Don’t shake it, dude!”
      “I wasn’t shaking it. I just moved it to keep it from dozing off. Baby? BABY!”
      “Is it okay?”
      “It’s super tired now.”
      “I can hear the ambulance”
      “Hey baby, you’re going to be safe. You are going to be fine. Stay awake and the good guys are going to make sure you get a nice warm house to live in with people who love you.”
      “Yes, the ambulance is here, thank you.”
      “Hurry up!”
      “He says to bring the baby inside the ambulance.”
      “They aren’t just going to take it?”
      “Guess not.”
      “What are you doing? Why are you undressing the baby?”
      “I learned about this in science. She needs to be skin on skin with a warm body to absorb the heat.”
      “She?”
      “Ya, she.”
      “C’mon baby girl, you’re going to be okay. Oh my god, she’s cold!”
      “Hold her tight, you’re keeping her alive right now.”
      “How am I supposed to hold her tight when this thing is flying down the road?”
      “Deal with it. You’re the only thing keeping her warm.”
      “We’re on a beach in Maui, we’re in a tan…what? Hum?”
      “Just do what he says!”
      “Hmmm. Hmmmm.hmmmm…hmmmm…hmmmm…”
      “Dude, you’re crying.”
      “Shut up.”

Teresa Houle lives in Victoria BC with her husband and daughter. Her work can be found online at Flash Fire 500, Bartleby Snopes, The Legendary, Thirst For Fire and is forthcoming in GUD Magazine. She drinks tea like it's her job.





Week-end in Vegas
Anthony Kane Evans

     Driving in the desert at night, the odd cactus flashing by, Frank started laughing.
     “Maybe we should pull over and you should get some shut-eye.”
     “I’m alright,” he said.
     We drove another couple of miles, Frank started laughing again.
     “Maybe I should take over?” I suggested.
     “When was the last time you drove a car?”
     “Ten years back but …”
     “Forget it,” Frank said.
     However, he pulled over. There was a giant cactus out there so we went to take a look. It had a flower on it.
     “Cute,” Frank said.
     He slept for a couple of hours while I read some poetry by torchlight. It was a collection I’d found in the glove compartment of our rental car. There was one poem in particular that interested me. It was called Tangled I was in Love’s Snare. Every stanza ended with the same refrain:
     But ha! ha! ha! full well is me,
     For I am now at liberty.

     I woke Frank up.
     "What are we there?”
     “How can we be there, when you’re doing the driving?”
     “What did you wake me up for then?”
     “It’s this poem, I’m not sure I’m convinced, what do you think?”
     Frank read slowly. Like he does everything.
     “He’s still crazy about her. It’s a forced laugh,” Frank said.
     “That’s what I thought,” I said, “It’s like canned laughter.”
     We got back in the car and continued towards Vegas. After about ten minutes, Frank started laughing again.



      We were in the restaurant. It was one of those fancy places where you can only order hors d’oeuvres. It was romantic, though the décor was chilly, Scandinavian. I wondered if it was the right place to propose, after all. Maybe I should have picked the Italian? The floor was wooden. I imagined my knee down there. Me, precariously balanced upon it. Maybe I should have picked the Turkish?
      “Yes?” she said, maybe suspecting something.
      “I,” I began.
      “Yes?”
      I looked down at that floor.
      “Don’t be bashful now,” she said.
      The door to the kitchen burst open and the chef walked out of the back, hatless, his hair aflame. A hushed silence swept through the place. The chef walked calmly through, smiling, nodding here and there, making a witty remark to the woman in black at table five, punching a well-known boxer playfully on the arm. Finally, he was out in the rain. You couldn’t hear anything out there but a sizzling sound went through your mind anyway.
      I looked at her, my eyes wide with shock.
      “Yes?” she said.



      I felt a pin prick on my hand as I took my morning coffee and croissant over at Bar Dutski.
      “Sorry, I didn’t mean that,” a high-pitched voice said.
      I looked down and saw a fly.
      “I don’t normally bite,” it said, “I’m a fruit fly.”
      “And you thought my hand was an orange, right?”
      He flew around a bit then landed on my saucer.
      “No, nothing like that.”
      “What gives then?”
      “I’ve been reading those reports.”
      “What reports?”
      “About how loneliness is killing off us fruit flies. We’re dropping like, well, like flies.”
      “I don’t see how biting me will help. I might have lashed out and killed you.”
      “I thought it was worth the risk.”
      “What was?”
      I took a bite of my croissant.
      “A bit of company,” it said.
      “Well, I’m not staying long. I’m off to the cinema.”
      “Anything of interest?”
      “I don’t know ...”
      “I have very catholic tastes. That’s ‘catholic’ as in wide-ranging, not as in the religion. What they showing?”
      I took a quick slurp of coffee.
      “Taxi Driver 2.”
      “I’d be up for that.”
      “You’re not one of those people—I mean, fruit flies—who talk all the way through a film are you?”
      “No, I’m as quiet as a mouse. You won’t even have to pay for me. I’ll just come in on your lapel.”
      I stuck out my little finger. The fly flew onto it and bit me, only more playfully this time.
      “It’s a done deal,” I said.

Anthony Kane Evans has had over forty stories published in various magazines, including London Magazine (UK), The Tusculum Review (US) and Etchings (Australia). He's British but lives in Copenhagen. When not writing he makes documentary films on a freelance basis for the Danish Broadcasting Corporation.



Religion
Meg Tuite

     A woman limped out of a liquor store with the submissive stoop of the genuflected and the promise of a liturgy to come in a bottle. A radiant, old face with the slight tremor of the merciful, holding a brown paper bag reverently out in front of her with both hands as a priest holds his chalice. And what would be the difference? She has been living, breathing and drinking the blood of Christ in a lifetime of unparalleled singularity that the clergy can only read about and shamelessly attempt to enact, mouthing their long-winded, incredulous interpretations of the Bible, done up like showgirls in their mawkish vestments.

Meg Tuite has been published or soon to be published in The Boston Literary Magazine, Midnight Screaming Magazine, Galleys Online Magazine, Crash Magazine, Jersey Devil Press, SLAB magazine, Sleet Magazine, Calliope Magazine, Ink Monkey Magazine, Blue Print Review and Fractured West out of the UK. She won a cash prize in the fiction contest at Santa Fe College for a story that was published in the Fall 2009 contest issue.




The Deceased
Cassandra Lewis

      "Ma'am, please don't smoke near the deceased," the funeral director says.
      "Will it kill him?" Iris asks, exhaling a gray halo.
      "If you don't extinguish your cigarette I'll have to ask you to leave.”
      "Fine," Iris says, grinding the fiery end into the red carnation sprung from my body’s lapel.
      The funeral director's lips tighten into a pale knot. He removes the charred flower and disappears behind the curtain.
      Iris turns from the casket. Like a dancer, she moves in a delicate and controlled way. Yet there is a troubling riptide about her, as though she wants to grab the world by its collar and yank it down into hell.
      Her auburn hair that cascaded over her bare shoulders on our wedding day is now cut short and matted to her head. Her long turtleneck gown offers no view of skin except her salmon-hued face; so taut she looks like she's been locked in a wind tunnel overnight. Her eyes have narrowed and darkened behind unyielding slits of skin.
      Iris glares at each empty chair, counting them. When her azoic eyes find me, there is no hint of recognition. I watch her exit the funeral parlor and I wish for her to return, for her to burn my body again with a new cigarette.

Cassandra Lewis is the writer at Bastille Arts. Her plays have been performed in London, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. Notable publications include: The Best Plays of The Strawberry One-Act Festival Anthology, International Centre for Women Playwrights’ Mother/Daughter Monologues Volume 1: Babes and Beginnings, and a forthcoming anthology published by Bibliotekos called Common Boundary. She is a member of The Dramatists Guild and PEN USA.



Danger Below
Joanna Weston

     Gunshots woke Tim. He had pulled in late and parked under trees, uncertain of the sites. He went out into the dawn-lit campground cautiously and stood, barefoot, on the step. More shots, close by. He looked up: a squirrel dropped two pine cones on his camper’s metal roof.

Joanna M. Weston has had poetry, reviews, and short stories published in anthologies and journals for twenty five years. Her middle-reader, Those Blue Shoes, published by Clarity House Press. And poetry, A Summer Father, published by Frontenac House of Calgary.



Greek Diner
Dana Verdino

      The words are right there on my tongue and I almost say, “I can’t do this. I’m not me with you. I’m going home.” If he tries to talk about it, to ask me why, I’ll say he’s more annoying than mosquitoes in Connecticut. I’ll spit in his face. I’ll jam the butter knife into his mouth. But I don’t say anything. And the butter knife stays on my napkin.
      My mother tells me, “You make them leave you. Why don’t you leave first? He isn’t going to change.”
      I want to say to her, “Let me do it my way.” Instead, I nod my head in agreement. "I know," I say.
      Now I sit across from my current guy in a Greek diner and I ponder how I’ll make him leave me. I’ll cheat on him or ask him to have my babies. That’ll do it. He orders feta cheese and eggs. I decide I’ll cheat because I can barely stand to be around him, let alone pretend I want to have his babies. He makes clapping noises with his mouth and talks about eugenics. He tells me I’m hypersensitive with poor character as he dabs the sides of his mouth like an old woman. I can’t leave. I’m glued to the orange booth. The words are right there on my tongue but I don’t ever say them. The knife is right there on my napkin but all I can see is my cockeyed reflection.

Dana holds an M.A. in TESOL, and works as an ESL teacher. She has published a personal essay in Chemistry and Numbers 2, and is currently working on a memoir. She lives with her husband in South Carolina.



While I was Waiting
Jelena Vencl Ohlrogge

      I was waiting, staring through the window as if the glass wasn’t there.
      It was harder to do the same thing with walls. How funny, when you think about it, since both are made of sand. Walls and windows. Like coal and diamonds.
      I think I prefer the transparent forms.
      He came and turned around. Yes, the shirt was great, and he looked fine. I just wanted us to leave already, but he thought that the shirt did not really feel like The Shirt for The Evening. He needed more time to decide.
      I turned and looked outside.
      I was getting really good at this; now I could see through the curtain of snowflakes as if they were not there. But, the walls were not giving up yet. Well, I had plenty of time.

Jelena Vencl Ohlrogge moved too many times to count. Today she lives in Sweden, with her husband and their cats. She is fluent in at least three languages. Jelena is perceived by some as a programmer, engineer and mathematician. In her spare time Jelena writes, paints and occasionally pretends she is normal. Her fiction has appeared in Blink|Ink, Negative Suck, At The Bijou, 6S and is forthcoming in Pulp Metal Magazine.



Melancholy Jew
Phillip Gaber

      He was the Monday morning of human beings.
      The kind of guy who would confront you in a public rest room if you didn’t wash your hands or shooed you with his fingers and bellowed, “C’mon, c’mon!” the second the stop light changed from red to green.
      In the late afternoon, he started drinking Machiavellian martinis and by about 7:30 he’d become vaguely hostile.
      If you asked him a question, he purposely muttered something inaudible.
      If you asked him to repeat himself, he snapped at you and asked to be left alone and then wallowed in a kind of emotional reaction to either good or bad memories for the rest of the night.
      Once during a Passover Seder, with the entire family present, he stood up as if he were going to propose a toast and said: “Jesus Christ, with all the fardreyen kopf and shadenfreuding goin’ on in this family, is it any wonder why we’re so estranged from one another?
      Then, gulping the last of his Manischevitz Concord grape wine, he stormed out, taking the afikomen with him.

Philip Gaber is a freelance writer currently living and working in North Carolina. He spends the majority of his day attempting to reconcile differences between his conscious and subconscious. In his spare time he tries not to drift around his community as an invisible spirit or juggle more than a handful of moral dilemmas at a time.



Holding Hands
Wayne Scheer

      Oscar and Miriam hold hands wherever they go. His are large and meaty, calloused from years of loading and unloading trucks. He's proud of his workingman's hands, but enjoys the feel of his wife's rice-paper delicate skin. He takes care not to squeeze too hard.
      She appreciates his hands too, the strength and security they have provided for nearly forty years. She wishes she could persuade him to use lotion, but the image of Oscar Koenecke rubbing any kind of conditioner onto his meat hooks makes her smile.
      As they cross the street, he looks both ways and tightens his grip. He recalls the time their daughter, Lori, slipped from his grasp and ran into traffic. Over thirty years later, he can still hear the squealing brakes of a car skidding to a stop barely a foot from their daughter.
      Miriam squeezes his hand in assurance, just as she had when he came out of the anesthetic after emergency bypass surgery. She had been so worried she'd lost him, she kissed his fingers one at a time.
      He reminds her he needs to pick up some things at the hardware store while she shops for shoes. Their hands release and they go their separate ways, each feeling the impression of the other's hand.

Wayne Scheer has been nominated for four Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Web. His work has appeared in a variety of print and online venues, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, Pedestal Magazine, flashquake, Flash Me Magazine, Smokelong Quarterly, Pindeldyboz, and Camroc Press Review. Revealing Moments, a collection of twenty-four flash stories, is available at www.pearnoir.com/thumbscrews.htm.



Parental Anxieties
Scott Akalis

     “What a time to bring young ones into this world,” I worry to my pregnant wife. She puts her hand to her belly as if to cover the fetus’s ears. “Epidemics are everywhere. Look at swine flu: already killed thousands, most of them kids."
     “You know what the even greater threat is, right?” my wife asks.
     “No, what?”
     “Bacon,” she says. “Seriously. Childhood obesity is out of control. And heart disease ends up killing more people than anything else.”
     “True,” I say. “Maybe pink ribbons should warn us against pigging out instead of raising our awareness of breast cancer.”
     As we stand there, leaning against a wooden fence at the state fair, I look down at the massive sow sprawled out on her side. I half-wonder if she overheard our conversation. They say pigs are extremely intelligent.
     “Wow, look at those little guys go,” my wife says.
     The fifteen piglets scramble over each other for their mother’s milk. I figure the sow must have been too distracted to overhear us even if she could understand our words. Just then, she looks up at me with that one eye of hers that is not buried in the mud, and oinks that her biggest worry is humans.

Scott Akalis grew up on the east side of Lake Michigan, in Grand Rapids, and now lives on the west side, in Chicago. His path to fiction was not as simple; he completed a PhD in psychology and then went crazy as a management consultant before writing stories.



The End
Lisa M. Palin

      Run.
      It was her only thought.
      She breathed in once. Twice. The third breath caught in her throat.
      There he stood, magnificent, dangerous. His dark eyes were trained on her and her alone. She could read his thoughts as if they were broadcast over the loudspeaker.
      You’re mine, he said with his gaze. Mine, from here to eternity.
      She stepped forward, brought her back foot even with her front, paused. She took another step. Slowly, slowly, she surrendered.
      He smiled then. His smile settled her pulse. He took her hand.
      The preacher cleared his throat. “Ladies and gentlemen, we gather here...”

Lisa Palin is a lawyer who lives in Cambridge, MA, and is a graduate of Brown University, Boston College Law School, and Boston College Lynch School of Education. With all the writing she's done, personally and professionally, a one-hundred-word story is the shortest thing she has ever written, and likely will ever write. Her family, friends and colleagues are astounded, and wonder if she couldn't introduce that brevity into everyday conversation.



Migrations
Jane Banning

      The skies, nervous, shunt clouds and ready themselves for spring storms. Geese, high and higher, jitter overhead.
      A small bird rides south on a Canadian wind with the rest of the flock, buffeted dusty brown. Beak closed to the cold, wings full of furious travel, she lands. She sleeps only briefly, claws clamping and loosening on branches.
      She wakes; then struggles with twigs. The nest bobs, satisfied, in a planter where no long, curious comma of a cat can reach.
      Elmer creaks up from his rocker, scatters withered birdseed and turns over the dirt in his garden. There are the nightcrawlers: the little ones, just the right size.
      Twigs fall onto his chair, its cushion creased and sunken. A breeze, with mud on its breath, stirs the twigs. They roll back and forth, stuck in the hollow of the cushion. Elmer watches them. The bird will probably pick them up.
      With a still breast and gray lids half-closed, the bird sits on her nest and waits for the eggs. A beak pokes through. The babies bobble out, sticky, and the endless cycle of worm, worm, worm begins. The fledglings stand on anxious feet. At the time of the first crabapple nub, they hop off. Elmer fills the birdbath, spades up more dirt – the little worms deeper, now, than he can reach.
      The birdbath grows dry during a gaunt August.
      A Canadian wind blows from the north on a November day. A cold rain pools in the rocker. The twigs, unused, freeze to the cushion. No gnarled hand scrapes them away, and no eye notices a sparrow shiver.

Jane Banning lives in Oregon, Wisconsin with her husband and son. She has received honorable mentions in the 2008 Micro Fiction Contest and the 2009 Glass Woman Prize Contest. Her work has appeared in the University of Iowa Daily Palette, Six Sentences, Long Story Short, and Boston Literary Magazine, among others.






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