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Cowboy Soul
Jon Sindell

     He just couldn’t lie, and she loved him for that.
     “I love your cowboy soul,” she had murmured that first time in bed, and she loved him for not saying “I love you” back.
     She loved his crazy passions, his noble defeats, and his hatred of praise.
     She loved his clowning as Brandon’s Mad Dad.
     She loved him for losing all of those jobs without making excuses—for that or their ruin.
     But he just couldn’t lie.
     So she waited for years, until Brandon had fled, and she said at last, with a trembling lip: “It’s the bottle or me.”

A human, Jon Sindell earns his bread as a humanities tutor. His short fiction has appeared or will appear in dozens of publications, including Grey Sparrow Journal, Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Word Riot, Zouch, New South, Prick Of The Spindle, Crack The Spine, Switchback, Weave, and Beatdom. He curates the Rolling Writers reading series in San Francisco.

     I held her. First with tenderness, then with passion. I nestled between her legs and nuzzled her neck. She welcomed me inside; together one with the universe as God meant it to be. I rocked gently, making our moment last. She responded, thrusting violently until I came.
     I wanted to ask about her day. Her dreams. About us. Her cell rang. She pushed me away and answered.
     “Woodlands Inn? Room three-oh-nine?”
     She pulled her dress over her head. Slipped into her heels. Touched her hair and tucked the hundred in her purse. Before I could say good-bye she was gone.

Jeff Switt is a retired advertising agency guy who loves writing flash fiction, some days to curb his angst, other days to fuel it. His words have been featured at Dogzplot, Boston Literary Review, Flash Fiction World, Nailpolish Stories, 50-Word Stories, 100 Word Story, A Story in 100 Words, 101 Word Stories, and Shotgun Honey, and have appeared at lots of places that take whatever you send in.

     She asked what was the inciting incident and I had to stop a second because I thought she said insighting incident, and that sent me in a whole different direction. Would that be like sitting under just the right tree, like the Buddha did? Would lightning fill the sky?
     But that’s not what she asked. At least I don’t think so.
     So the answer to her question was: when the guy in the Ford pick-up threw the beer bottle at me. If it had been to me rather than at me, we’d maybe be on the right track with insighting.

Tony Press lives near San Francisco. He strives to pay attention, to appreciate, and to act with kindness. Some of his stories can be found here: BorderSenses; Boston Literary Magazine; 5x5; Foundling Review; Grey Sparrow Journal; Halfway Down the Stairs; JMWW; Linnet’s Wings; MacGuffin; Menda City Review; Qarrtsiluni; Rio Grande Review; riverbabble; SFWP Journal; Switchback; Toasted Cheese; Workers Write. His “Crossing Ohio” – in JMWW - was nominated for the Million Writers Award.

     When I start thumping my head against the living room wall, Granny says, “That boy’s just missing his daddy. When’s he due back in town anyway?” Before I say a word, Mama shoves me out the backdoor. I grab my bucket and run to the creek to water the gladiolas. Mama says gladiolas only bloom once a year, but I tend the plants anyway. Water the dirt, pull the weeds, shoo the flies away—every day, at daddy’s grave. Come dusk, mama stomps down to the far field, pinches my ear and drags me home, so I won’t miss supper.

Von Rupert is a wife, mom, writer, and podcast producer living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. She writes poetry and flash fiction. Find her on Twitter @VonRupert.

The Last Word
Wendy Russ

     Charlie sat in the back row at Frankie’s funeral. They’d stopped being friends the day Frankie turned right instead of left. Charlie told him, but noooo, you can’t tell Frankie anything.


     Frankie met the girl—who caused the fight, who hated Charlie, who married Frankie, who bore the three children who hated their father and fought over the inheritance despite Frankie still being conspicuously above ground. The deaf Father O’Flannery, age 90, officiated.
     Before the lid closed, Charlie leaned down to kiss Frankie goodbye and stuffed a note in his hand that read, “I told you LEFT, knucklehead.”

Wendy Russ is a writer living in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. Her work has appeared in Rose & Thorn Literary Journal, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, the internationally syndicated radio show Tales from the South and elsewhere. She is the author of quirky adventure tale The League for the Suppression of Celery and Managing Editor of The Lascaux Review.

Alone with the Stars
Jonathan Levy

     The astronaut exited the shuttle and looked all around, floating. He was alone—except for the stars, which made the galaxy sparkle, and the earth so far away.
     His heart pounded, and each breath required much concentration at first. When it became easier, he reached a gloved hand into his suit and pulled out a small, burlap pouch. He turned it inside out then pushed it away.
     Ashes scattered from the pouch. Soon, the astronaut couldn't tell which specks were the stars and which his father.
     “You made it, Pops,” he finally said, where no one else could hear him.

Jonathan Levy is a law school graduate now living in Arlington, VA. He started writing fiction late last year and is thrilled that this is his first publication. Thanks for reading!

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