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Tom Mahony

     At the end of a long day he reclined in bed beneath a gloriously rumpled pile of sheets and blankets. She walked in the room and eyed him.
     “You want to make it?” she said.
     He smiled and lifted up the blankets. “You animal. I thought you were tired.”
     “Not make it with me, I meant make the bed.”
     “Oh,” he said, lowering the blankets. “Why would I make the bed right before going to sleep in it? That’s like folding your clothes right before putting them on. It’s completely illogical.”
     “Don’t you like to sleep in a freshly made bed?”
     He shook his head. “I’m philosophically opposed to the whole concept.”
     "Because we all have a limited time here on earth, and I won’t spend those precious moments making a bed right before getting in and messing it up. If you take those nightly few minutes of bed-making and add them up over an entire lifetime, the tally is extraordinary. That’s time I could spend getting rich or curing cancer or writing a manifesto of some sort.”
     "You’re just lazy.”
     He yawned. “Yes, that too.”
     “What’s your philosophy about forced abstinence?” she said. “Maybe you’ll get a chance to write a manifesto about that.”
     He got up and helped her make the bed.

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications. His first novel, Imperfect Solitude, was published by Casperian Books in 2010. Visit him at tommahony.net.

Windows streaked with the dirt from years of abandonment. The grocery store, the coffee shop, the hardware store. The superstore on the edge of town gloats with its bright lights, full parking lots, and super sales. Downtown used to thrum with the voice of commerce and the pop of radial tires skimming over cobblestone streets. Now the grout shows between exposed brick. The shadows come well before sundown as the security lights are all broken. The town was formed around the river, and then the railroad. The old highway, a two lane crumble of road, is circumvented by to the east and west by the four lane express route that takes visitors north to the big cities. We that remain—farmers, teachers, life insurance salesmen—pass downtown with a shake of our heads and wonder when someone will do something; wonder how long it will take before the windows are all broken. Once the windows are gone, then maybe we’ll leave. Maybe, we like to say. Maybe?

Tommy Dean is a supplanted Mid-Westerner living in the heart of North Carolina. A graduate of the Queens University of Charlotte MFA program, he has been previously published in Pens on Fire, Tuesday Shorts, Apollo’s Lyre, and Pindeldyboz. He is currently working on an untitled novel.

The Chsae
Sara O'Connor

     I swerved my wheel to the left, nearly colliding with a pedestrian when I made my screeching turn at the red light. They were on my heels now, about three or four of them, lights flashing and sirens wailing. I was short on time; my heart pounding in my ears. I needed to reach the border before they could apprehend me. I made another abrupt turn left, but this time the manoeuvre proved unsuccessful. My car slammed into another vehicle parked on the shoulder. I was surrounded now. Game over...
     I rummaged the pockets of my jeans for another quarter.

Sara O'Connor lives in northern Indiana, where she earned her bachelor's degree in English Literature from Saint Mary's College, Notre Dame. She has written numerous features for a local newspaper and has been published in Religious Life Review magazine. She is currently a contributing writer for Demand Studios and teaches at Ivy Tech Community College.

Kurt Klein

     Dad, can we please go home tomorrow? my son asks.
      We are in a cabin, prairie cabin, logs, amid long reaches of nothing; land and hills that vanish into more of the same. There is little but an aroma, the smell of grass, clovery and strong. And there is wind to convey the smell to bedside and in six paces I am on the porch, in nine more to a pasture fence, there to sense the past for it is the past that comes to me through the land and grass and the wind that blows between the legs of grazing animals. The sky is stuttered by flecks of light, each mutely fastened to blackness. And the smell persists.
      It is not a fleeting smell. It is seasoned with the yowls of coyotes, the rustling, ever rustling, of the moving history of footprints, the whoops of owls, the swish of raptor's wings, the thunder of vanished events. Combined with this essence, from very far away, I hear the roll of semis and the chug of trains. And mixed with these I am aware of another smell, smokey and menacing.
      Back in the cabin I am not at ease. Sleep will come, however, it always does. In daylight I will stand one last time by the fence. I will work to bring back the smell. I will hear the traveling noises.
      Yes, I tell him. Tomorrow we will go home.
      Good, he says. But its been a nice experience, Dad.

Kurt Klein lives in Chadron, Nebraska. He's old, 87, upright but leaning.

Houdini's Ghost
John Gorman

     This straitjacket pinches my gut—feels like it might squeeze out my pancreas. I’m a hairy fetus trapped in a mammoth, wrought iron safe. I’d see stars if any damn light seeped through—it’s spookier than the bottom of Lake Erie. Oh, how they’d love to see me choke on my own breath. Fink of a magician. Son of a failed rabbi. Can they prove any lock-picking? The cops postage stamp these keyholes. A whir like a Victrola comes to a bleeding halt. Then it cranks again. Knock it off, I want to yell, but my lips are sealed shut with plaster. Snap of whipcord. There goes the straitjacket, but I’m still wriggling in cuffs. A drug rush whistles through my veins. The whispers and whimpers of lesser men vie for my ear. Want to share their wounded hearts, squandered hopes, and last chunks of beef. I feel the oil, sweat, and fears of these men, skin to cuff, a bridge to humility’s trampled road. Godless. The loudest squall weeps from my father, jibberish sputtering into a vacuum. He pales to a ghost all the zeal sucked clean from his wrinkled flesh his bald head slumped beetle eyes smirking at his scraggy shoes. I shed the cuffs, but not my father. With dumb luck, I kick open the door. They forgot to lock it. Fools them all, again, but I’m shaking. Fear and shame cling to me like shadow.

John’s stories have appeared in Mississippi Review, The Rose & Thorn, Monkeybicycle, Word Riot, Nexus, Writer's Digest, and elsewhere. His debut novel, Shades of Luz, is published by All Things That Matter Press. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pacific University.

Doug Mathewson

     Eat right, exercise three times a week. spend a few hours cutting and stacking firewood, feeling fit... now Girl Scout cookies. Damn it!

Doug Mathewson continues his love/hate relationship with reality from his home in eastern Connecticut. He favors hats, and rarely turns down dessert. His work most recently has appeared in The Boston Literary Magazine, Cezzane's Carrot, Gloom Cupboard, and Poor Mojo's Almanac(k). Sporadically he is grasped by fits and starts of inspiration, equally he can be swept away into infinite worlds of busy-signals, radio static, and elevator-music. To read more, comment, or just poke-around please visit his current project, True Stories From Imaginary Lives, at www.little2say.org.

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