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Sue Ann Connaughton

     Weddings, funerals, and graduations bled together as interchangeable events in Pietra’s mind. She could write a script for the conversations, so identical at each gathering: somebody found a job, lost a job, underwent surgery, sold a house, couldn’t sell a house, while she repeated over and over, her husband’s excuse-du-jour for not attending. Either his back hurt, or his acid reflux acted up, or he developed vertigo.
     After a long-ago squabble over their mother’s estate, his brothers and sisters had mended, moved on, but her husband continued to avoid his siblings.
     To calm herself before attending yet another in-law celebration, solo—a nephew’s christening—Pietra spent a few hours beforehand working on her sculpture in the garage.
     She chiseled and gouged and sanded the cement form until it resembled a familiar figure: the Virgin on the Half Shell statue in her mother’s garden. Pietra was six years old, when hurricane winds beheaded the Virgin. Three weeks, it remained in the garden, the terrifying, jagged-necked statue, before her father carried it away. How serene the lopped off statue now appeared in her recollections: anonymous, devoid of obligations—nobody prayed to, or expected favors from a headless icon.
     Pietra dressed and set forth on the two hour drive to St. Stephen’s church. Wind blew through the open car windows. Hurricane-like, it whipped about her head. She drove fast, faster, past the exit to St. Stephen’s church. She kept driving. Tomorrow, she’d mail the christening gift.

Sue Ann Connaughton writes compact fiction from a drafty old house in New England. Her most recent work has appeared in White Cat Magazine; The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts; The Citron Review; Red Dirt Review; Unlikely 2.0; Oberon’s Law; Linguistic Erosion; Bete Noire; and Twenty20 Journal. One of her stories was recently nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

Churning Butter
J. Spinazzola

     Doesn’t this ever seem absurd? She says. Dancing in the bedroom to old jazz tunes, the kids downstairs playing on the computer. What would they think?
     That their mother has two left feet.
     And you?
     They’d know why I’ve put on so much weight since the pictures.
     Really? She says. Twirling in the moonlight.
     Like butter. That I’ve gotten fat on their mother.
     You couldn’t think of something better than butter?
     Not for you.
     They’re dancing cheek to cheek and belly to belly with the record skipping over the same spot they always come to after they’ve been dancing long enough to feel the other’s sweat.
     Don’t stop, she says, I’m just getting into a rhythm. She’s always just getting into a rhythm. She is.
     And they dance, belly to belly, cheek to cheek, with the record skipping, the kids playing, the computer humming, the two of them sweating, the record skipping, and the moonlight looking absolutely absurd.

J. Spinazzola is a writer and former attorney. His stories, poems, and legal articles have been published in print and online. Most recently, his stories have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Charlotte Viewpoint, and Stymie: A Journal of Sport & Literature. He is also executive producer of "Tell Me a Story" as seen on CMT.

Carla Pierce

     First, the chicken is going to die. No matter how attached you get to the chicken, it's going to die. You are going to hold it down on the cut side of a tree stump while I chop off its head with a hatchet, and then we'll let it run around until its nerves stop firing or whatever that's all about. Just preparing you for the way things work around here, and there's no getting around the fact that we're going to scald the chicken in boiling water before we pull off its feathers and gut it. Cut into pieces it's easier to forget what it was.
     My mom will salt and flour the chicken, and fry the pieces in hot fat until they are horribly burned, because she always loses track of time as she looks out the kitchen window. "Do you hear the music?" she will ask, and you'll wonder if she ever drank beer and wore jeans to the dances held on Saturday nights at that rowdy bar down the road. Her hair is still pretty. Smoke will fill the kitchen and my dad will come rushing in and shake her too roughly, but he will carefully take the burned pieces of chicken out of the pan with metal tongs and place them on a perfect white platter. No matter how much you hate the taste of burned chicken, you'll pretend to enjoy it after we sit at the maple dining room table, hand-in-hand, and say grace.

Carla Pierce has an MFA from San Diego State University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Fiction International, Redivider Journal, and Eclectic Flash. Currently she is finishing up a novel. You can find her at www.carlapierce.com.

Strangers in the Night
Autumn Humphrey

     I still remember the smell of her. Sweaty from dancing under the hot stage lights, her skin glistened in the darkness of the back room, faint light and music filtering in from the club beyond the door.
     Breasts bare, tassled pasties guarding her nipples, she slipped her sequined g-string down over her thighs, the woman-scent of her released and filling my nostrils. My hands can still feel the flesh of her breasts, wet and firm beneath my palms. The taste of her mouth, all tequila and salt, I savor in my memory, licking my lips as if it were yesterday.
     I hadn’t expected it to happen, after all, it was two days before my wedding. There was no shame for either of us, shaking off the last of our climaxes in that musty room, arms and legs and sweat entwined. How many times have I wondered, and hoped, that she conjures up the memory of that wild tryst as often as I do?
     Married more than five years now, I haven’t had sex since that night. The wife and I, we “make love” or “try for a baby.” I’m not complaining. I love her. But I do hold on to the hope that, someday, she will don that sequined g-string and pretend we are strangers in the night, once again.

Autumn Humphrey's stories can be found at Every Day Fiction, kill author, The Legendary, Aurora Wolf and other sites. She lives in Long Beach, California where she is an active member of the Long Beach Writer's Group. She cut her teeth writing short fiction in a factory not far from here where the sound is click-clickety-click and everything else is silent.

Minority Interest
Kurt K. Klein

     If I were challenged to write a person's biography in two hundred fifty words I'd do Hawthorne Brown's. As a matter of fact, this man was such a single-purposed individual that a mere one hundred words might do it. He spent his entire life, conspicuous for its gleeful unpleasantness, in the town of Penelope, Nebraska, a prairie town, remote and struggling.
     Hawthorne owned the local bank, the Agri-Bank of Penelope, and he tended its assets with Scroogian vigilance. He doled out loans with snarling reluctance and collected interest with the ferocity of a gored bull. He distrusted men, lusted after every visible woman (eyes scrolling up their legs as they passed him by), openly despised children, kicked dogs, and consumed more cheap whiskey than decent. Brown was a dour personage in a very prominent and desirable position, his bank the only one in all of Baggett County.
     Hawthorne Brown was conceived in frenzied haste, nurtured on hardscrabble prairie, educated somewhat at a Lincoln university, learned the banking trade as a devious accountant, and acquired the Penelope bank by intimidation rather than merit. He gave the Baggett County Fair Board five dollars on three occasions, and died in miserable affluence, all the while certain he was a much-appreciated fellow.
     Brown never married although he possessed no want of sensuous interest. He is survived by no one willing to admit any relationship. Overtly disliked by most, Brown was, in the privacy of their meditations, seriously envied by many.

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

Bare Motives
T.M. Man

     She leaned towards the window, using it as a mirror. Her icy eyes skated left to answer his heavy sigh. Looking at his watch, he said, "Jeeeeezzzz, you look great. Let's go!"
     Turning to face him, she straightened herself. "They can't start without you. YOU’re the guest of honor!"
     "Yeah, yeah, I just want to savor every second of those pretty boys kissing my blue-collar butt!"
     He was the last of a dying breed, having started on the assembly line fresh out of high school, he worked his way up through every department in the company. Husband, father, he also attended community college nights while working full time. The Ivy League silver spoon pretty boys got a free ride.
     He secretly hated the new corporate recruits, while wanting to be accepted as their equal. He did not see himself as the employees did. He was liked and respected for his knowledge, integrity and work ethic.
     She moved closer and picked some lint off his shoulder "You look great, Mr. Murphy!"
     He shrugged and brushed her hand away. As they entered the building, he removed his suit jacket and swung it over his shoulder for effect. At forty-five, he was proud of his flat stomach.
     "Just let me give you one last check?" she offered. "I'm fine, you're fine, let's go!" he replied.
     They entered the room together, she on his arm looking magnificent. Him, smiling, head high, chest out, (zipper down) as he strode into company legend.

T M Man was born in Boston MA. He works a blue collar job by day and writes by night. He loves to inundate Boston Literary Magazine Staff with persistent poetry submissions.

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