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Mark Dalligan

     "Will they be long?" Anton asked, peering into the darkness.
     "They may not come at all," replied his sister Celine.
     The boy had insisted on accompanying her. Now he wished it was yesterday evening again and they were eating slow roasted lamb, the special treat for his eleventh birthday.
     He chewed his fingers, thinking of the presents.
     Mother had raided grandfather Jerome's trunk and found a pair of WWI binoculars and these now hung around his neck on a string. Father had wanted to give him the folding shotgun his father had given to him. It would have been fun to hunt in the woods together. With things as they were though, it was best to leave it hidden. Instead, from somewhere, he'd obtained a Swiss army knife, full of blades. Grinning, Anton had taken it, imagining its uses. He'd always wanted a rabbit foot, they were supposed to be lucky.
     There was no present from Celine and he'd resented that. When the meal had finished he'd wandered into the village.
     "I hear it is your birthday, not so little now eh!" the commander of the Bosche occupying the village said, reaching inside a smooth black boot. "I have a present for you." The soldier handed Anton a long bladed Hitler Youth dagger. "A man's weapon, not like that silly toy from your father!"
     Anton grinned, cutting the air with his 'best-ever' present.
     "Now, can you do something for me?" the officer asked.
     The sound of an aeroplane engine broke the calm of the night.
     "They're here!" Celine hissed.
     As his sister and the other Resistance members moved toward the taxiing aircraft, he held back, watching through the glasses.
     Soon the machine guns began to chatter from the cover of the trees.

Mark Dalligan lives in the tiny village of Steeple in Essex, England. Determined to earn his living writing, he majored in American Literature at Sussex University in the mid-late 70s. Something went wrong and one morning a City banker stared back at him from the shaving mirror. Just a few months ago he began letting the writer out again on parole. So far this arrangement is working quite well.

In the Blink of an Eye
Janet Thorning

She asks you to pass the salt, but you do more than that, you touch her hand with romantic intentions. She smiles at you and in your mind you are driven to leap across the table and kiss her on the lips. After dinner, in the living room, you touch her hair. It's soft and bouncy and you want more. Later, on the porch, you ask her if she would ever date a white boy. She giggles nervously and says yes. You feel glad and reach for her hand. She gives it to you with a smile that says, you can kiss me now. So you lean forward to kiss her, but before you can reach her lips, a voice grabs you and pulls you back, hard. Stop. You can't kiss her. She's black. Your friends will call you a nigger lover; a traitor to your race. But your heart knows the truth. She's beautiful and funny. She likes cartoons and football and butter pecan ice-cream. So you kill the voice forever and kiss her. When you open your eyes, she is smiling and you feel perfectly happy.

Janet Thorning lives in Toronto, Ontario, with her husband and three children. Janet is currently working on her first poetry chapbook and her first novel, and she has recently published in The Rambler, Arabesques Review, and 971 MENU.

The Birdcage
Sonia Hartl

The old woman found me in the grass; the fall had broken my wing.

She took me into her home, wrapped me in a bandage, and whispered a lullaby to sooth me to sleep. Each day she has fed me fat worms from fresh earth, while she serves me water from a silver cup. In return, I sing my gratitude from the perch in my golden cage.

At night, I weep for the trees.

Sonia Hartl lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan with her husband and daughter. She has been published in The Writers Post Journal and Delivered, and she is currently working on her first novel.

Behind My Back
Ian Dorward

     Shelby stood beside me as I brushed my teeth. I was absorbed in the hard brush strokes, intent on the annihilation of millions of plaque-forming bacteria. But soon I noticed in the mirror that Shelby's eyes were curiously transfixed by something between my shoulders.
     "You have a thing. There."
     "What thing? Where?" I asked, toothpaste dribbling from my mouth in a fluoridated goatee.
     "A thing on your back."<
     I pictured a spider crawling, poison glands plunging. "Well then get it off me!"
     "No, silly, it's in your back."
     I calmed, turned to see it in the mirror. It was a lump with a pink penumbra, arising at the base of my right shoulder blade like a mass grave for skin cells.
     "Look, it has a hole in the center. Let me try to squeeze it."
     "No," I said.
     "Why not?"
     "Just no, okay?"
     "You're not making any sense. Why not?"
     "Because it's a part of me."
     "It's no more a part of you than some nasty zit on the tip of your nose."
     "You say that as if from an implicit understanding that a zit on the tip of my nose wouldn't be a part of me."
     "Whatever," she said, tonelessly.
     She spoke no more of it. But still her eyes pursued, furtive and covetous, drawn to my flaw.
     I fell asleep that night with a heavy head. Dreams came as lucid meanderings, my life writ in queer pastels. One dream culminated with a walk down a purple alleyway, water dripping upwards from puddles on the pavement, when something stabbed me in the back. I reached around in search of the knife, or the arrow, or the spear.
     I awoke when my hand found hers.
     "What the hell are you doing?" I asked, shoving myself to the far edge of the bed.
     Her jaw muscles rippled. She held an unfurled paper clip, bloody, in her clenched right fist.
     "Shelby?" I said. But she was gone, staring through me, in thrall to something foreign and crimson-weeping that used to be mine.

Ian Dorward lives in Missouri where he writes in his sparse free time, having so far published work in Ars Medica and Foliate Oak. By day he toils as a neurosurgery resident in a large and busy hospital--and in case you were wondering, yes, writing is harder than brain surgery