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High and Inside
Rob Tyler

      I once read a story about a baseball player who took a fastball in the eye. I guess that’s what you get for looking at what’s coming. I made the same mistake the day I met her – the red hair, the way her green eyes flashed when she made change for my cup of coffee. I handed her a five and she said, “they’re wrinkled today” as she gave me back some ones. “Wrinkled?” I said, distracted by the luminous skin of her neck at the collar of her tee-shirt, where a lacy beige strap peeked out. It was the first day of spring and everything was vibrating. She placed the bills in my hand and flashed me a smile more generous than justified by what I’d said or the way I looked or the amount of my purchase or anything other than perhaps the sun streaming through the plate glass and the warm breeze blowing in off the street. She looked at me like that and I thought of what the baseball player had said, how he didn’t feel anything when he was hit, just saw a burst of light and felt his mouth fill with liquid, like when you eat a handful of sour balls or bite into a ripe peach. That’s how it was when she threw me that look: my mouth watered up and my eyes filled with light, and I didn’t feel any pain at all, not at first, not for a long time.

Rob Tyler writes short fiction on themes of love, loss, and transformation, and occasionally ventures into the absurd, which is not so different from his day job as a marketing writer for a software company. He lives in a crooked old house in Fairport, NY with a snarky cat named Attica (after the supermax prison from which she was liberated) and likes to run roads or trails with friends, hit the gym, or paddle an Adirondack lake when he’s not pounding the keyboard. He’s humbled by the knowledge that both his 20-something daughters are smarter than he ever was and ever will be. When they appear as characters in his stories, they almost always love their dad.




Religion
Samantha Edmonds

     You used to talk to God while you walked, but now you talk to a man. You are afraid that you are finally starting to understand what it means to love someone more than yourself—but you’re loving the wrong someone with the love that is meant for Jesus.
     You used to raise your hands and offer up praises to God. Now when your arms come up so does the shirt, and it is not for worship. You used to kneel down by your bed before sleep, tie your fingers together, and give the Lord your soul to keep. Now your fingers are in knots in his hair, you’ve offered to the man what was supposed to be God’s, and when you are on your knees it is not for praying.
     You used to trust that God will always be there even if you couldn’t see him, and you used to think that the man was like that too and that religion meant never being alone. Now you’ve abandoned God and the man’s abandoned you and alone is just what’s left over.
     You used to talk to God when you walked, but now you just talk to him. He is like God, in that neither of them is there anymore, and you realize these soliloquies to the man aren’t so different from your prayers to the Lord: The man you love, the God above—when you speak, you are begging them both to save you.

Addiction
Samantha Edmonds

     They were in his bed and she was in his T-shirt, in his arms. Her boyfriend thought she had spent the night with her friends at school. The man beside her was about to go outside for a smoke.
     She said, what does it feel like when you need a cigarette?
     There was a long moment while he thought. The smell of tobacco and nicotine was already on his breath when he sighed. He listed the symptoms:
     He said, the first one feels amazing when you wake up and you have it straight away.
     He said, sometimes it feels like anxiety, like you feel when you’re waiting for something that you’re really nervous about, and knowing that it won’t go away until you can get outside and light up.
     He said, sometimes it’s like being hungry, like an empty feeling in your stomach, and it’s as if there’s nothing else in the world that can ever satisfy you.
     He said, your head starts to hurt sometimes when you’ve been too long without it. Maybe you get irritable, or depressed, or you feel like you’re losing your mind.
     He said, it’s this itching in your fingers like your hands need something to do every minute of the day.
     He said, it’s like everything is wrong all at once and the only way to set it right is to get that buzz again as soon as possible.
     He said, it’s hard to explain. I don’t expect you to understand, being a nonsmoker.

Samantha Edmonds' biography, as it currently stands, is shorter even than her flash: She is a soon-to-be graduate from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where she studied creative writing. This is her first official publication. Learn more about her @sam_edmonds122.




Password
Suzin Odlen

      He was on a golf course (isn’t it frequently on a golf course?) when it happened. His first thought—no, his initial thought was ‘how stupid of me’ so it must have been his second thought—was ‘Jake Drosner got killed this way’. Before he was struck, in the split second before that electric tentacle gripped his torso, he smelled the bay in the clogged air. It was lonely air. Nothing stirred in it. Then he went down.
      When he awoke, a nurse, cute, with blonde hair and a tight athletic body, was leaning over him, adjusting his bed. Was it his imagination, wishful thinking, or did she really press her boobs against him just a pinch too long? And she smelled good. Not burnt. Was it lavender?
      Then thoughts formed. Before the golf outing, he was on his laptop, researching engagement rings. He wasn’t wild about the idea, but he knew his girlfriend wanted one. He even opened an account at Tiffany’s online. He even tossed a few gemstones into the shopping cart while he mulled it over. Pear shaped, emerald cut?
      Out of the hospital and back on the computer, he couldn’t remember his password for Tiffany’s, which, luckily, he’d written down. The password was Lighting Bolt. More than intrigued by the coincidence, and better yet, his lack of memory of it, the high voltage message wasn’t wasted on him. Maybe he’d check out that blonde, he thought.

Space Camp
Suzin Odlen

     Once, I was a lucky girl, and my parents sent me to space camp. It was costly. Not every little girl is so fortunate, my father told me, and my mother nodded her head in acquiescence, as she was prone to do. At space camp, the cosmos will care for your needs, he told me. We won’t even need to pack a steamer trunk; not even a valise, like when you rode the bus to the Poconos. And you will bunk inside a cloud, and drift with all the puffy ones, stopping to swing on moon beams or sprint between the stars in relay races. You are such a fast runner. I know you’ll win the competitions. And the first prize is star dust. If you sprinkle it on your shadow, your dreams will come true. And you can play hide and seek on the moon, he told me, and burrow in deep crevices and read all your favorite books, which will fall into your hands as you want to read them. Anything you long for will appear, and you’ll never have to worry the way you do. And you can dangle from lightning bolts like a trapeze artist, and nothing will harm you. Just picture it, he told me. You will leave from a launching pad. And you’ll never have to ride the bus, that hot bus, ever again.

E. Suzin Odlen is a retired casino cocktail waitress who lives in South Jersey with her Golden Retriever, Derby. She received a BS from Temple University, an MA from Rowan University and studied creative writing at Stockton University. Her most recent work appears in Red Fez, Postcard Shorts, Vine Leaves Literary Journal and in an anthology entitled Puppy Love: 2015 by Zimbell House Publishing.





     You’re always happy to see me, when I’m passed through the window, and I feel warm in your lap. You boys, born in the year 1989 and onwards, whisper shit so sweet to me when you unwrap me from my wrapper, squeeze Fire Sauce on my lettuce, bite through my soft tortilla and into my cheesy layer, where you crunch through my hard shell, and I burst with wetness… But once you take your last bite, why you gotta bury my sagging crumbs and wrappings, in the can, out on the curb, beneath Sunday’s paper?

Simeon Ben is from Salt Lake City and now lives in San Diego. For much of his adult life he has worked as a high-rise and residential window cleaner. Currently, he is studying literature and creative writing at San Diego State University as well as instructing young people to argue on paper, though he can't remember when, if ever, he last won an argument. He also still cleans windows, so if you or anyone you know in the San Diego area need your windows serviced, he's likely available.




Excused Absence
Patrick R. Shepard

     Ida quick steps into the breakfast room, patting down her gray hair. “I’ll be late coming home.”
     “Mm-hmm,” her husband answers from behind his newspaper.
     “I forgot that I’m tutoring Santiago after school.”
     He grunts again.
     She grabs her purse. “See you tonight.”
     He finally puts down his paper and stands up and goes to her. “Now, don’t you look pretty?”
     “Clifford, I have to go.”
     “I know, but how about letting me drive you to school this morning?”
     “What?”
     “On the way, we’ll pretend we’re crazy newlyweds again.” He winks. “Remember how we were always late for work?”
     “Oh, Clifford, sometimes you go on. I have—”
     He gently leads her to the den sofa. “You have to sit here looking like a doll while I find my car keys. I’ll be right back.”
     She glances at her wristwatch. “I’m always reminding you that if you put them in the same place when you come in, you’ll always know where they are.”
     “I know, hon, but I keep forgetting.”
     Her fingers drum the purse on her lap as she hears him moving around in the back of their home. She sighs, and leans back against the sofa.
     Moments later he returns to the den, pulls an afghan over his wife snoring softly, and takes her shoes and purse.
     He reaches above her, straightening the framed Teacher Recognition Certificate on the wall, honoring her for 45 years of dedication before retiring five years ago.

Patrick R. Shepard is an agricultural journalist/photographer. His assignments have taken him to Australia, Germany, Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico and Egypt, and from California to the Carolinas. He and his wife live in Germantown, Tennessee. His fiction has appeared in the Boston Literary Magazine and the Molotov Cocktail.




Sweet Healing Mercy
Bob Zappacosta

     In the agonizing terror of a dark garden she came to me and pushed aside the tray from the chair I was sitting in. Then she bent down and took hold of my feet. Looking up with kind and determined eyes, she said she needed to get a reading of my pulse. Her hands were warm and soft. I could feel her energy entering into my body, fingertips gently pressing against pressure points. And when it became obvious to both of us it was taking much too long, she smiled, and told me how she had burnt her fingers the night before baking deserts. To me her hair still smelled of warm sugar, and I was hungry on my cross, thirsty, for what I did not have.

Bob Zappacosta is a Poet/Playwright/Performer. He once won a $75,000.00 jackpot in a poker match against the most interesting man in the world. Of course, he did this by bluffing. As it goes he then lost it all on the six horse at Tampa Bay Downs. Now he is looking for someone to publish his poetry book, "Circus Husdonius" so he can have something to sell and buy food. His favorite song is "I'm One" by The Who.




Scrambled Eggs
Elaine Crauder

     She sat across from the Sunday morning scrambled eggs, the perfectly golden whole-wheat waffles, the Vermont maple syrup, the tall glasses of orange juice, the mugs of espresso with steamed cream. Across from her husband, who balanced a forkful of eggs mid-air and gazed into the open laptop that he’d placed in the middle of the table as though it were a vase of flowers.
     Before the children grew up and left home, her biggest fear had been that he would keel over young with a heart attack like his father. The children were now safely on their own.
     She soaked her waffle in syrup, took a bite, and let the abundance of sweetness permeate her mouth. Swallowing, a thought appeared unbidden and swept across her chest and down her arms, like a splash of coffee seeping over the tablecloth: What if he never dies?

Elaine Crauder grew up in a village in Ohio and—though she's lived outside Philadelphia long enough to call Philly home—sometimes still waves at passing cars so as not to be considered rude. "Scrambled Eggs" placed in Fish Publishings Flash Fiction Awards; several other stories have placed in various contests, included four in Faulkner/Wisdom contests. Her fiction has also been accepted for 2015 publication by the Eastern Iowa Review and Penumbra.




Last Shot
Digby Beaumont

     Mum would have been the first to say, "Go, Robbie, go. Take your time. Have an extra shot on me. Don't worry, darling, I'll still be here when you get back."
     In Cafe Coho I closed my eyes and inhaled the sweetness of the freshly roasted Arabica beans.
     "How's your mother?" Sophie, the barista, asked.
     "She died," I said.
     Sophie took her hand off the milk steamer. "So sorry. When?"
     "Just now."
     I saw the picture forming in her mind, but I didn't need to say how it was: Mum trying to hum Molly Malone as I plumped her pillows; the thumbs-up sign she gave; the look that came over her face, as if she were resting her eyes and would open them again any second and ask me to turn on the TV, saying that Gardeners' World was about to start on BBC 2; and me knowing that soon enough the house would hold the scent of her with no actual Mum padding around inside and I was in no hurry to let her go.

Digby Beaumont's stories have been published widely in magazines and anthologies both online and in print. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net Anthology. He worked as a non-fiction author for many years, with numerous publications, and lives in Hove, England.




Robin's Egg
Patricia Rossi

     Cast in glorious blue...adorned with speckled symmetry
     A pencil lined fracture...jaggedly darkens, unveiling a saw-toothed pinking sheared crevice
     Literal fragility...
     Gingerly... I lift it from the pebble-encrusted concrete and place it in the palm of my left hand
     And I......wonder.....was this the emergence of life? a beginning? a hatched freedom to soar?
     Or.....Death? a tragic ending.....a sudden fall from a feverishly built precariously meshed womb strategically balanced on a limb, high atop a towering tree?
     I.....will never know

Patricia Rossi is an attorney, freelance artist and writer. Her poetry has been featured in Long Island magazines and published in “Poetry Haiku. Her personal essays have been published in major New York newspapers. One of her academic papers was featured in New York Magazine. Patricia leads creative writing workshops for cancer survivors. She is also the recipient of a number of New York state funded individual artist grants. Patricia has utilized the grant monies to create and implement writing empowerment workshops for women specifically in underserved communities in New York State. Patricia lives on Long Island with her husband Ed and their adorable pup, Flanagan.







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