Rags - Barry Basden
Manipulating Marco - Jim Harrington
Couples Counseling - Jacqueline Doyle
After the Whistle - Tony Press
War - Mark McKee
Lively Projections - Bradley Sides
Reluctant - Greta Igl
Not Fully Vetted - Paul Finnigan
Old Man Pozorski - James Valko
No Lie - Lee Barton
Free Water in Tucson - Burgess Needle
In the Supermarket
I guess the young guy in front of me in the check-out line thought he was in a singles bar instead of Star Market; he was hitting on the woman at the cash register so hard it was getting embarrassing. “Is it hot in here or is it just you,” and “I think I lost my phone number; can I borrow yours?” (Seriously.)
She was probably twenty years his senior, a raven-haired beauty who must have had high school boys walking into lampposts, but at the moment obvious...ly just wanted to finish her shift, go home and kick off her shoes. From long practice she smiled and gracefully deflected his inane blather, and when he strutted off with a final “I’ll be back” she just shook her head and started ringing me up. “You know,” I said, “If you told him to meet you outside in ten minutes you’d probably scare him to death.”
“Yeah, you got that right,” she said. “Never send a boy to do a man’s job…”
Charles Coe is author of two books of poetry: “All Sins Forgiven: Poems for my Parents” and “Picnic on the Moon,” both published by Leapfrog Press. He also writes feature articles, book and music reviews, and personal and humor essays. His poetry has appeared in a number of literary reviews and anthologies, including Poesis, The Mom Egg, Solstice Literary Review, and Urban Nature. He is the winner of a fellowship in poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council. Charles’s poems have been set by a number of composers, including Beth Denisch, Julia Carey and Robert Moran. His prose has appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines. In addition, Charles is co-chair of the Boston Chapter of the National Writers Union, a labor union for freelance writers. Charles has been selected by the Associates of the Boston Public Library as a “Boston Literary Light for 2014.”
His aunt lies on a gurney, toothless, wheezing beneath strong lights. Despite pleas, she has disinherited his mother, her little sister, for some ancient slight playing in her head. Still, she asks him to be her executor. No, he says. Do you want a minister? No, she says. Hell, no.
She is his favorite aunt. He's always been a little in love with her. Once, she gave him an early photograph of her standing in a field of bluebonnets, wearing jodhpurs, a soft blouse, and knee-high boots. She looked stunning. He heard later that back then she'd been the longtime mistress of the town's bank president. And that spring she bought his mother the gown she wore to her senior prom. When, years later, she'd finally announced her late engagement to that ex-marine, he felt the sharp jealousy of a ten-year-old.
He searches for his earliest memory of her: It is late at night. He is five, his father gone, his mother in the hospital, giving birth to his brother. He is at his aunt's house, in bed with her, aware for the first time of the world's strangeness and his loneliness within it. He touches her arm, begs for comfort, for her to suckle him. She gathers him in, holds him until he sleeps.
Now, he leans over his aunt's emaciated body, stares into her sunken face. Yes, he says. Yes, I'll do it. Her eyes close. He listens to her breathe, a sound not unlike rags tearing.
Barry Basden lives in the Texas hill country with his wife and two yellow Labs. He edits Camroc Press Review and is coauthor of CRACK! AND THUMP: WITH A COMBAT INFANTRY OFFICER IN WORLD WAR II. He is working on a collection of compressed pieces related to war.
Marco, the high wire walker, fell to his death. Gasps echoed through the tent. Clowns held a tarp around the body to block the view of the audience. The police declared it an accident.
Katarina, the mind reader and Marco’s wife, knew Marco fell because he was distracted by the argument they’d had just before his act began; the one where she told him she was going to let everyone know about the affair. As expected, the threat roiled his Latin blood and focused Marco’s mind somewhere other than on his act.
Just to make sure of his mood, Katarina positioned herself in the cast entrance where Marco could see her leaning against a bleacher support, arms crossed over her chest, her face occupied by a scowl. Marco put a hand behind his back to give her the finger just before he lost his balance. She feigned horror when his body hit the dirt floor and bounced.
She left for her trailer, escorted by the ringmaster. The rubber woman, who sat near the exit, winked as Katarina passed by. Later, Katarina and the rubber woman soothed each other with wine, lust, and laughter.
Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. He serves as the Managing Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. His Six Questions For . . . blog (http://sixquestionsfor.blogspot.com/) provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at jpharrington.blogspot.com.
Me and the wife, well yeah, things have been better. She stayed at her sister’s for two weeks last month. Claimed I was unable to communicate and insensitive to her needs. Sensitivity, my ass. Probably something she read in a magazine at the hairdresser’s, you know? Well yesterday we went to a marriage counselor. Her idea of course. It was pretty obvious during the whole hour that the counselor was trying to get her to see how she was pissed off about nothing, but she just wasn't getting it. I sat back and just watched and she just wasn't getting it. It's like the counselor knew that the problem wasn't with me at all, it was just with her, and she was trying to get her to see that—you know, steering the conversation in that direction, but She … Just. Wasn't. Getting. It.
Jacqueline Doyle lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her flash prose has appeared in Vestal Review, Sweet, elimae, Monkeybicycle, The Rumpus, Prime Number, Café Irreal, and elsewhere. Visit her online at AuthorJacquelineDoyle.
After the Whistle
A whistle had blown repeatedly—not the shift-change whistle but the alarm—and the town’s people rushed toward it. Albert did not hear it. When his co-workers spoke of it later, after the funeral, they remarked how he had always “heard” whistles before, in some fashion none could explain.
Waiting at the gate with the others, watching the insistent flames and then, as the fire fighters began to control things, the smoke that usurped the sky, Hazel had been fearful, but not overly so. Some women were frantic, wailing, sobbing. Her Albert was so cautious and even-tempered, unlike some of the men who lived as much in the bars as in their own homes, and often worked under the influence of—at best—terrible hangovers. Albert was not like that.
Albert was her husband, the father of their son, and the man who had penned his name on her thigh the night he explained he could neither hear nor speak.
But quickly Albert was the sole missing worker, and then he was found, but there were no cheers. What was displayed was not Albert at all, but a charred impostor of the man she loved. And yet she knew the truth. Only one worker’s life had been lost—his. As two wives held her close, she squeezed shut her eyes and strove to remember something her father had said—either at the table or from the pulpit—that might be of use to her now. She could not.
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.
Traffic. Always. I fiddle the knob on the stereo, all ads. I count the cars in front of me. One, two, ten. The light turns green but no one moves. In the left lane traffic moves freely. Five cars every three seconds. I have time to count. Still, no movement. I roll down the window, look out. No reason to wait. The light turns red. Cars pass in the left hand lane. One, two, six. Behind me someone honks. I raise my hand, wave. Casually I flip them off, but I understand. It's war out here. Every man for himself. Take your life in your hands. Every time. I slap the steering wheel in frustration. The horn honks. The person in front of me waves, flips me off. I wave back. The light turns green. No one moves. A traffic report is on the radio. The commander says, "Avoid JFK Parkway. Major delays." But then we're moving. Slowly at first. Inching forward. Nearing the cross street, a platoon of humvees cabooses a long procession heading east. Stars and stripes, headlights in daytime. I pause briefly to salute a fellow warrior, then floor the accelerator, counting the seconds I have left.
No bio available.
On his seventh birthday, my big brother died. He fell into the pond behind our parent’s house. It was cold, and he was skating. He told me to watch him jump. He flew up high, laughing while in the air. When he came down, he fell straight through. He came up splashing, with his hands grasping onto the sides of the ice. He told me to go get mom and dad. I ran as fast as I could, but I tripped over rocks and roots sticking up from the frozen soil. By the time I found them and we got back, it was too late. Kevin was already dead.
When we visit him at the cemetery, he can’t wander away too far from his grave or he gets blurry and we can’t see him. The projector doesn’t work that well if it’s rainy or the wind is blowing. It’s fun to go when it’s first getting dark. We can play and run off a little further than we usually can. Mom and dad like to tell Kevin about sports and school. They smile a lot. At the cemetery, I hear all the laughing and see all the families together.
None of the dead people are old. I used to think that they were the only ones who died. Mom and dad tell me that billions of old and young people died before technology saved the world. No one has to be sad or alone now.
Bradley Sides is a graduate of the M. A. in English program from the University of North Alabama. He currently teaches junior English in Tennessee. His work was recently published in Inwood Indiana. He resides in Florence, Alabama with his wife.
Spring pouts, temperamental, one day June warm, the next spitting March chill. In the backyard, silver maples tire of caution and unfurl claw leaves, so glossy and thin-skinned an overbearing sun might singe them. Not so the tulips, still clenching crimson fists. We lay thick mulch to protect the bulbs, but the tulips don’t trust spring’s caprice. They will open when they are ready.
You run through the yard, a transplant, your tiny feet lost in grass we have no energy to cut. You are impressed with your shoes, but not with us. One day, you climb onto my lap and kiss my cheek with shy lips. The next you spit at me when it’s time to come in. We clench our fists, wary of one another’s whims. We will open when we are ready.
Greta Igl’s short fiction has been published by numerous literary magazines and anthologies, including Every Day Fiction, Boston Literary Magazine, Falling Star Magazine, and Word Riot. She is currently revising her novel, Somewhere on the Road to Me.
Not Fully Vetted
“Well I’ll be a son of a bitch,” muttered Vern Kravchuk as he leafed through the Farnham Chronicle.
“A 1978 Vette and in mint condition.”
Ever since he was a kid Chevy’s Corvette Stingray was Vern’s favorite car. His uncle Mike had owned one and had been the envy of every guy in town. Not only was the Vette the smoothest, raciest car on the road, but you could also pick up the best looking girls if you drove one. Uncle Mike was always cruising around with a perfect ten. Vern clipped the ad from the newspaper and began to study the finer details. Red, 1978, four speed transmission with white shag interior and an asking price of only $3100.00. It was almost too good to be true. The contact on the ad was Art Lever. Vern raced to the phone.
“Hello,” came a response.
“Hello, is this Mr. Lever?”
“Mr. Lever, I’m very interested in seeing that car you listed in today’s newspaper.”
“Sure, but you’d better not waste any time,” Lever replied. “I’ve already had three calls about it this morning.”
“What’s the address, sir?”
“48 Darkside Lane.”
“Darkside Lane!” yelled Vern. “I’m on my way.”
Vern beetled out the door, sprinting to the address in four minutes flat. Panting, he banged on the door.
Vern’s heart sank to his knees when his eyes finally fixed on the car. For there, parked in a corner of the garage sat a glimmering, candy apple red, Chevy Chevette.
Paul Finnigan is a Canadian, freelance writer whose work includes numerous short stories and postcard fiction. Recent publications include Go Ahead Bobby and A Solid Solution. His latest short story and personal favourite is entitled Heading For Dillabough.
Old Man Pozorski
When I was a kid, I was fascinated by our neighbor, old man Pozorski. My parents said he’d come to America for a better life.
Every day of the year, in the still blackness before dawn, Pozorski would pedal his bike five miles to Lake Michigan, no matter rain, wind, or subzero cold. Then he’d ride home with his catch.
I can still picture him on cold winter days, pedaling up our icy street, snow crunching beneath his knobby Schwinn tires, a fresh trout in his handlebar basket. A pipe was clenched between his teeth and a fishing pole twined onto the fender rack like a warrior’s lance. His hooded face was blood- red, his eyes cold and hard, deep and unbreakable, like the frozen lake from which he’d journeyed. Yet there was a sparkle, a glint of victory.
I was too young then, too naïve to understand. “Why does he do it?” I pressed my parents one morning, over a steamy bowl of Cream of Wheat. To me, fishing was sport, riding fun, and food could be gotten at any supermarket. “Why does he ride his bike all the time, even in the rain and snow?”
“He has to,” was all Dad said.
That next year the pollution came, the Great Lake ravaged by corporate offenders. Millions of fish washed ashore. And though I continued to look out my window each day for old man Pozorski, I never saw him ride again.
James Valko is a fiction author, screenplay writer and professional copy writer. He has written two novels, The Find and Ironwood several screenplays, and has written numerous TV commercials and advertising campaigns for Fortune 500 companies. His latest screenplay, Ironwood, was a Diamond Award winner at the California Film Awards screenwriting contest. He is presently shopping it around to Hollywood producers. He lives in Clearwater, Fl with his wife and two cats.
It wasn’t happening. It couldn’t be.
The dismay in her eyes, her trust collapsing like a punctured beach ball. “How can I believe anything you say?”
But he loved her. That’s what mattered. Forget the other stuff.
All right, maybe he hadn’t actually been a CIA spy in Uzbekistan. And the Trappist monk thing, okay. Or that physics Ph.D. from Princeton. But it was never a lie that he loved her.
Besides, admit it, she liked the stories. That first night at the restaurant she’d leaned forward, twisting the strands of her hair, while he told her about playing keyboards behind Rihanna, and the semi-finals of the World Series of Poker, and Spielberg optioning his screenplay. She was interested. She’d never have given him a chance otherwise.
For God’s sake, didn’t she even have a shred of compassion? Was she so shallow?
No, no, forget that, he didn’t mean that, she was perfect, he loved her.
But now she’s leaving. The apartment door closing, a last glimpse of the backpack slung over her shoulder, and he knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she doesn’t mean it, she can’t mean it. She’ll come back. It’s not in her heart to leave him alone in this bleak indifferent room.
Lee Barton is a software engineer and writer living in Lexington, Massachusetts. He is a member of Grub Street Writers and has studied with Steve Almond, Ellen Litman, Christina McCarroll and Celeste Ng. This is his first published piece.
Free Water in Tucson
I awoke to a chilly Tucson morning and, looking out at the street, I could not help but notice small, free-standing bodies of water. Just like that. Water sitting there out in the open. An erudite neighbor of mine referred to them as puddles. I looked the word up and discovered: Middle English podel; akin to Low German pfudel for pool, Old English pudd ditch. First Known Use: 14th century. Extraordinary. So, these so-called puddles have been appearing in the course of human history for hundreds of years. I have this strange urge to go outside and jump in one just to see what happens.
Burgess Needle joined the Peace Corps in 1967 and taught English as a Second Language in Thailand for two years. He got a degree in Education from the University of Arizona and for the next thirty years happily worked as a school librarian. His first collection of poems, Every Crow in the Blue Sky was published by Diminuendo Press in 2009, and Thai Comic Books, poems about his experience in the Peace Corps, was published by Big Table Publishing Company in 2013. He is currently editing a journal he kept while teaching in Thailand. Please visit him at BurgessNeedle.com.