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Doug Mathewson

      Spence wasn't going to do it, no way.
      Such a selfish thing, her eating all those pills in that road side motel, and nobody sure why since the police kept her note.
      His sister-in-law only and never a dammed thing more to him.
      Older brother Larry has six more years in Mowhawk Correctional Facility way upstate New York and no week-end funeral pass even for his wife.
      Spence knew he had to head the family and be a man about it.
      First step was to forge a note to get himself out of school.

Doug Mathewson continues his love/hate relationship with reality from his home in eastern Connecticut. He favors hats, and rarely turns down desert. His work most recently has appeared in The Boston Literary Magazine, Cezzane's Carrot, Gloom Cupboard, and Poor Mojo's Almanac(k). Sporadically he is grasped by fits and starts of inspiration, equally he can be swept away into infinite worlds of busy-signals, radio static, and elevator-music. To read more, comment, or just poke-around please visit his current project, True Stories From Imaginary Lives, at Little2say.org.

Paul Luikart

      Up goes the ball at the crack of the bat and it lingers, just for a second, against the cloudless sky. Then it falls (thwap!) right into Ramirez's glove. Three outs and the Cubs trot off the field. Their turn at the plate now. Our turn.
            In a flicker it comes to me that, a long time ago, I taught my son Tyler how to catch pop flies. I used a tennis ball so he wouldn't hurt himself if the ball clonked him on the head. Maybe that's what made him soft, I don't know. He'd stick his glove up in the air and wave it around like he was trying to scare the ball away, and sure enough, the ball usually ended up floating in a puddle twenty feet behind him. I guess I should have used the real thing. Tyler lived on a commune in California for a while and now he's married and divorced with kids and he studies the migratory habits of gray whales for a living. Gray whales. Last I talked to her, his mother made it sound like he might even be with a guy now. They talk way more than him and me. I haven't been out there to see him. Them. Him and whoever he's with. I taught him way back when I was teaching how to catch pop flies that he could do whatever he wanted with his life, but—
      The crowd roars and I blink and take a look around the stadium. I'm eating peanuts and Cracker Jack with 40,000 of my closest friends. It's a bright day, a brilliantly bright day, perfect for a ball game. I watch the Cardinals take the field now, and they're hustling in their black hats and baggy uniforms. They toss the ball to one another. Their pitcher, a kid I never heard of, some phenom with sideburns who made it through spring training, takes his warm-up throws off the mound. He's got this wind-up where he leans too far to the left but after a couple more, he says he's ready to go. The catcher throws the ball down to second and the Cubs comes to bat and I get to my feet, first game of the season at Wrigley, here we go, and I holler, "Let's go boys, let's get some hits now, let's start things off right this time, come on, boys, come on!—"

Paul Luikart has a degree in creative writing from Miami University and he is currently studying fiction writing at the University of Chicago's Graham School. His writing has appeared in the Chicago Quarterly Review, Relief Quarterly and at the Burnside Writer's Collective. Follow more of his writing, if you are so inclined, at paulluikart.blogspot.com. He lives in Chicago with his wife Emily.

J. Boyer

      I know you, right?—What's your name, huh?—You're—You're that girl in that movie. What's your name, go on, tell me, what's your name?
      You're Connie, right? You played the little sister.
      I can't believe I met Connie Corleone. I was sitting with my best friend over there at that table and she's all, Oh my God, Cindy, Oh my God, Do you know who that is—
      Let me have your autograph, okay?
      What, you think you're too good to give me your autograph?! What's that all about! Here's a pen. Go on, just take it. Make it out to Cindy.
      Oh. Yeah. Right, fine, terrific. I can respect that.
      Yeah? Great!
      Sign this. Sign right here. Sure yeah whatever—just sign.
      And say, "Best wishes to you Cindy in all of your endeavors."
      Best. Wishes. To. You Cindy, yeah.
      Finish it though: In All Of Your Endeavors. That's right. Wow.
      "In All Of Your—"
      Then say, Love. Right there.
      Hey! What's this? What do you think you're pulling here?!
      You wrote "Talia Shire." Sign your name. Cross that out, okay? Just put a line through it.
      Now sign "Connie Corleone." Not Talia-I-Used-To-Be-A-Bigshot-Movie-Star-Whoever.
      Sign your name, that's what: Connie. Corleone.
      Who do you think you're dealing with here, a moron?!
      I thought you were great in The Godfather—Whatever happened to you anyway?
      Yeah, well, you want to know what I think? You got no one to blame but yourself, honey. I'd never let some man slap the shit out of me.

J. Boyer teaches in the creative writing program of Arizona State University.

Susan de Sola

     We called her the Balloon lady. She had done a course in Florida; had an actual degree in balloon decoration. Not sausage-dogs, mind you, but soaring, parti-colored arches, pillars and frames. Floating balloon bouquets for tabletops and enormous, globular icons of champagne bottles, bunny-rabbits, and birthday cakes. She'd assemble the creations in her garage, lined with helium canisters, load them delicately into a white truck, then deliver them to our parties, weddings, baby showers, and mall openings.
     The balloon lady had a pneumatic look to her. Her face was round and florid, her breasts full and her bottom generous. I was curious to meet her. I tapped her back. She turned around, "how do you do?" she chirped. She sounded just like a smurf. Was she tasting the merchandise? She bent over to move the canister, and then I saw it. Inside the circlet of the hair scrunchy, popping through the blond strands, protruded a twisted, latex mouth.

Susan de Sola has published essays in Modern Language Quarterly, Beyond Pug's Tour, Joyce: Feminism/Post/Colonialism, Beauty and the Beast, and A Collideorscope of Joyce. She has poetry forthcoming in The Hopkins Review and is working on a collection of poetry.

Hollie Loveless

     "Well, come on, out with it," she said.
     "I'd rather not say," he said, looking down at his trousers. The hem along his right cuff was working itself out of the fabric. He was hard on his clothes. And at 14, he was even harder on his mother. But not today.
     "Let's just change the subject, can we, mom?" He plowed his hands into his pockets.
     "No, William. You're going to tell me what happened or else you'll go straight to your room and not come out until dinner."
     He thought that a little harsh. He took a deep breath in. Then, he turned to walk up the stairs that led to his bedroom.

     Ten minutes later, there was a knock on his door.
     His mother let herself in. The crinkle in her nose gave rise to fingerprint-smudged glasses.
     "William, I've never known you to choose punishment over coming clean. It worries me."
     He held his head low.
     "Are you or are you not aware that there was a collection of beer bottles in the backhouse?"
     "I knew."
     "Well, what have you to say for yourself? And how do you explain the pink sash? Is this where you have taken your girlfriend?"
     "No ma'am."
     "Don't get smart with me young man."
     "I'm not," he said.
     "I want to know who you have been taking back there and when! And I want it to stop immediately. If I find one—"
     She continued, but her words faded out. William couldn't meet her gaze, not because he couldn't take its severity. He wasn't afraid of looking into her eyes; it was her looking into his that troubled him.

     About that time, there was a clash of metal-on-metal coming from the driveway. William and his mother both walked to the window. His father had pulled his sedan too far to the right, knocking over one of the aluminum trashcans that stood in front of the backhouse.

     How could he be so careless, William thought to himself.

Hollie Loveless lives in Houston, Texas. Her short fiction has appeared on-line at DiddleDog and is forthcoming from Full of Crow. She looks forward to spending part of this July at the Tin House Writers Workshop in Portland and is currently working on her first book, a memoir.

David Schembri

      His face was something to remember - pale and layered with sweat as he saw me staring at them both through his bedroom window. Luckily, her head was facing the other way so she didn't see his desperate gestures for me to depart. But, of course, I wasn't going anywhere.
      I signaled for him to meet me at his front door, and when he realized that I was serious, he nodded in submission. I made my way around the side of his house, trampling his rose garden (accidentally . . . I promise) and I stepped up onto his porch. I listened to his footsteps as they hastily approached and before I knew it, he swung the door open.
      "Good evening, pig," I greeted.
      "What are you doing here?" he spat in a harsh whisper. He had covered his nakedness with a twisted and sweaty sheet. "How dare you spy on me! Get off my porch!"
      "I will, Justin. But, I'm not exactly finished with you . . . yet,"
      "What? Listen, match maker! I paid you to get me a date with her, not give me counseling! Go away!"
      "Oh, yes. Your, 'date' . . . How long will it last, piggy? Knowing your style, you'll boot her out before breakfast,"
      "Stop calling me that! So, I'm a womanizer! Anyway, it's none of your business!"
      "Well, quite the contrary . . ." I huffed.
      In no more than a blink of the eye, I gave the swine a glimpse. I spread my white wings and allowed my skin to glow; his eyes widened with wonder.
      "Wha-whah?" he gasped as tears streamed down his cheeks. "Cu-Cupid? You are Cupid?" he muttered.
      "Congratulations! Your eyes work! Now, how about your heart?"
      "What do you mean?"
      "Come on, Justin! You're a sleaze bag! Those days are over. It's time for love, now,"
      "Love? I don't want love! I just—"
      "Sorry, dear boy. It's too late . . . I'm in charge of your destiny, now,"
      "B-B-But love hurts!" he wept.
      "Fear not. Love is also tender, warm and devoted. You'll see."
      With that, I pulled out one of my gold-headed arrows, readied my bow, and shot him straight through the heart.
      I stepped over him as he lay twitching on his back. My arrow was absorbed into his chest; doing it's magic. He looked at me, suddenly with terror in his eyes. "What if she doesn't return my l-love?" he cried.
      I knelt down to him and said gently. "That's the chance you take . ."

David Schembri's writings have appeared in: The Horror Day Anthology, Ripples Magazine, The Writing Show, Flashspec Volume 2, Flashshots, AntipodeanSF, LovePoetry, PenPricks, Micro Horror, Backhand Stories, The Specusphere, Long Story Short, and now, Boston Literary Magazine! He judged in the Australian Shadows Awards, 2006, is a committee member of the Australian Horror Writers' Association, and is also an award nominated artist. David dedicates this story to his lovely wife and two children. australianhorror.com.

Steve Young

      She woke before the sun was up to brew a pot of coffee. His eyes blinked open as he lay in bed smiling, smelling the fresh coffee mixed with marijuana smoke. He walked to the living room and sat next to her on the couch. He rested his head against her shoulder. She held a small joint to his lips.
      As the sun came up he smoked and read on the porch. Inside he could hear the sounds of house cleaning. He put his head back and fell asleep just as his old vacuum started to bump against the walls.
      The sun was in his eyes and his legs were still sleeping. He shuffled into the house but could not see. She had shut the blinds, no lights were on, and she had used duct tape to plaster junk mail over any of the cracks where light could come in. When his eyes adjusted they saw her on the couch, naked. She was in a fetal position and crying.
      "Hey girly."
      "Are you okay?"
      She slid off the couch and crawled to his feet. She wrapped her arms around his legs and started to beg for forgiveness. He knelt down to pull her hair out of her face. He wiped tears from her chin as he pulled her to her feet.
      "Stand up."
      "I'm so sorry."
      "What are you apologizing for?"
      "We need new batteries."
      "Come sit on the couch, girly. Try to stop crying. Why do we need new batteries?"
      "It's, just, you've been so tired lately"
      "But, that's not your fault."
      "I know, but I thought maybe the dead batteries around here were draining your energy. I put them all in a grocery bag, and threw them in the canal while you were asleep."
      She started to cry uncontrollably as she buried her face in his chest.
      "I'm sorry you married a crazy girl, but I just can't help it."
      He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her in. He held her there for a long time. He held her there tightly, knowing it was long past time to let her go.

Steve lives in Phoenix where he screams at walls, plates and palm trees. They never listen. But, he never listened when he was a palm tree, either. He spends his free time testing the old saying "too much of a good thing..."

Robert Scotellaro

      She gave him that look, scratching at the rug with one foot in pantomime. Watching TV in his underwear, he glanced up at her, befuddled. When she started clucking, he understood.
      In the past couple of weeks they'd done it in a hammock, in the road (like in the Beatles' song), and most recently and challengingly—locked together on a trampoline. And now she appeared to be moving it up a notch.
      "Seriously?" he said. And there was that look again.
      "Oh, what the hell. "Cock-a-doodle-do!" he sang out. And they headed for the hen house.
      "Oh…Cockle-boy," she sighed, amidst the battering of wings, as they flopped about in the small coop; shifting positions—knocking eggs from their nests and sending the startled residents into a frenzy.
      When Scheherazade fluttered up on his back, he uttered: "Wow. Oh, wow!"—thinking it was his wife's nails digging into him.
      Afterwards, picking feathers from each other, they slowly got drunk on the couch. When he noticed a bright block of moonlight land on his fishing photo, he did a crooked wine-walk to the window.
      "Ah-woooo," he howled, tilting his head back.
      "Really?" his wife said, padding over beside him. "Good Lord!" she gasped, gazing up at the small hill behind their home—gloriously crested with a smattering of trees and a deep mattress of wildflowers. A hunter's moon poised above it—blood orange and colossal.
      "I'll get the flashlight," he said, putting down his glass. "Not that I think we'll need it."
      "You're an animal," she told him.
      "You're a goddess," he said.

Robert Scotellaro's fiction and poetry have appeared, online and in print, in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Boston Literary Magazine, Ghoti, VerbSap, 971 Menu, The Laurel Review, Red Rock Review, Long Story Short, Six Sentences, Pen Pricks, Macmillan and Oxford University Press collections and elsewhere. He is the author of several literary chapbooks, three books of poetry, and the recipient of Zone 3's Rainmaker Award. Raised in Manhattan, he currently lives in California with his wife and daughter.

Laura LeHew

     they could spoil in the car the germs will get in or bugs you might put a finger in it there could be m & m's dancing around in there and they try to escape or worse what if a girl comes by and tries to kiss me it's a matter of safety we could trip on a rock and fall and not want to eat them up or they could be dropped in gravel we'd better hurry I have to go to the bathroom and I don't want to wash my hands again

Laura LeHew is an award winning poet whose work appears in a myriad of national and international journals and anthologies. Her chapbook Beauty, Tiger's Eye Press, was just released. She received her MFA in writing from CCA, a residency from Soapstone, interned for CALYX Journal and was nominated for a Pushcart. Laura is busy spinning up a new press: Uttered Chaos www.utteredchaos.org.

Nadine Gallo

     I met Ihedigbo while going door-to-door collecting signatures for a local candidate. I was in bad shape, after a medical visit that resulted in a false diagnosis. I've had many of these from polymyositis to kidney failure. None of them correct.
     Ihedigbo stood in his doorway as if he was looking at a giant grasshopper. No expression. I liked his face right away. He had a big round face full of honesty with no false emotion. He didn't pretend to like me or have any interest in me at all. I held up my clipboard toward him and handed the pen to his outstretched hand. He was puzzled.
     "What is it you're requiring me to do?" he asked in an accent that I placed as Nigerian. Bnin people. Wonderful artists but politically mixed-up. European influence had left Nigeria in a shambles.
     "I'm collecting signatures for Professor Magillicuddy who is running for state senator. He's an economist."
     Ihedigbo signed. Then he asked, "Why do you look so poorly? Are you sick?"
     "I've just been to the health center. They've misdiagnosed me again."
     "I believe you should be taking some dandelion root. Your liver is acting up. That will fix it."
     I believed him. After all, what harm could dandelion root do? My grandmother used to chew it all day long. Then she'd make a stew of the leaves. Ihedigbo's effect was overpowering. He invited me inside where his wife was tending the children. I learned that she was a Professor in the Education Dept. at the University. Folklore. On the wall were African decorations that would be the envy of the Museum of Natural History. Baskets, masks, musical instruments, family photos. The children smiled at me shyly. Ihedigbo made a list for me of the herbs I needed. He even told me where to get them if I couldn't find them locally by the side of the road or at the farmer's market. "In my village, I was the medicine man," he said.
     He convinced me. Why shouldn't a medicine man leave his village and work in Massachusetts, especially if his wife had a professorship. I suggested that he should advertise his services in the local new age magazines. So many fraudulent schemes were promulgated in these pages, surely a genuine medicine man should have his share of the market. I promised to spread his name around the town.
     "I'm also a Minister," he said. "When I'm not doing handyman work I have a congregation. Very small, of course." He produced from his pocket an I.D. card from the U.S. Information Agency. Was he also a spy?
     When I got home, I told my skeptical husband about my new doctor. He chortled in his usual way. "If you believe that, you're a fool."

Nadine Gallo writes and reviews on thenextbigwriter.com. Under their harsh lash she has produced two novels and many stories and poems. Amherst Writers Workshop helped shape her sensitive side. She is married to Ernie, a chili pepper professor, and mother of a physician and a fine furniture maker. Three brilliant grandchildren distract her from writing.

Claire Ibarra

      Maggie sat awkwardly in the chaise lounge as she scanned the beach, noticing couples walking hand in hand along the shore and children squealing and splashing in the waves.
      She tugged at her hot pink one-piece bathing suit, which was more than one size too small. It pinched the skin at her armpits and thighs, and she couldn't get comfortable.
      Hot pink of all colors! Her body doubled over, as her limbs crossed and wrapped around each other in a grotesque attempt to cover herself.
      "Give me my towel, please," she whined.
      "Maggie, I'm not going to let you cover yourself up in that towel. You're much too pale and need some sun. Besides, you're always trying to hide under something. Let yourself go, honey, and show off that new suit I got you."
      Her mother stretched her long, slender, tanned body like a spoiled cat and tilted her head toward the sun. She sighed contentedly just as Maggie let out a groan.
      "If you got a little sun on that big white ass of yours, not to mention a little exercise, you wouldn't look half bad, honey. Look at me, I'm more than twice your age and I could be YOUR daughter!" She laughed as she turned her body from side to side, admiring it from different angles.
      Maggie closed her eyes as if making a wish. Maybe she'll get skin cancer.
      "I saw Chloe the other day, you know, Nancy's daughter. She's your age, isn't she? Well, she looked six feet tall and skinny as a pole. She could be a model." Maggie noticed her mother's eyes dart over her, disapproval searing her fragile surface.
      She knew that her mother wanted a trophy. She wanted a beautiful daughter so that she could flaunt her, make her friends jealous and take all the credit with, "She has my genes."
      No wonder Dad left her, but why didn't he take me with him? She dreamed that one day he'd show up carrying a bouquet of flowers and a teddy bear and take her away.
      "Maggie, among other things, you should really work on your personality. Be more outgoing."
      Maggie jumped up and wrapped her arms around her middle, then ran as quickly as she could across the burning sand. She felt people watching her, as she jumped in the water and made a big splash. Maggie began swimming with all her might.
      I could drown, or get eaten by sharks, or maybe I'll be rescued by the coastguard— I can tell them I'm a rafter and then they'll send me to Cuba. Anyway, I can think of worse things. So, she swam into the vast ocean, then rolled onto her back and sighed as she let the tide take her away. The water rocked and swayed her like a cradle, as she floated on the crests and ever further out into the clear, embracing sea.

Claire Ibarra was a Montessori teacher for ten years. Now she and her husband own a hostel in the Andes of Peru, which is the setting for her novel. Her work has appeared in the journal Natural Bridge.

Sheldon Lee Compton

      We'll start with a birth. Up close and personal. No crotch shot, of course. Just thighs and a reasonable amount of blood. Sounds stentorian, uproarious. The usual things along those lines.
      Pan out and get the whole room. The grandmother is on the floor. The dad is in the room but he's a ghost. Lighting will be important here and I'll need full range for the dad throughout.
      We move through this kid's life. Just the high and low points. Abandonment, love, hurt, joy. There will be no redeeming qualities to the film, you understand. It will be a clear reflection of a life. Folks will see him married and divorced. Watch him struggle as a teenage father. They will sleep as we progress into the scenes dealing with his lung cancer and eventual death.
      Then, just as we are about to shoot the death scene, which could actually happen on the first day of shooting if my calendar isn't wrong, we'll wake folks up. Enter the ghost father again. We last saw him laughing from the corner of the room when our main character, let's call him Lucky, found out his girlfriend was pregnant.
      This will be involved, technically. I'll need that lighting to be perfect. Counter rotating shots of the ghost dad's face and then to Lucky's face. They will speak in sign language and we'll use subtitles. Then, in the last frame of the movie we have the ghost dad speak for the first time as the last line of the film.
      What will he say? What will he say. Yes, that must be considered. I'll have my writers work on that. But it will be powerful. Perhaps only a word or two, but those words will sum up a life. Words that bring all the rest into focus. A moment in film to rival all others.
      Or we could just start with a stillbirth. Same difference.

Sheldon Lee Compton lives and Eastern Kentucky. His work has appeared in New Southerner, The Beat, Zygote in my Coffee, The Cut-Thru Review and The Journal of Modern Post, among others.

Justin Ferraro

     I wake up with a headache and a bad taste in my mouth. The sunlight from the window is too much for my eyes and I turn away. There's a man sleeping across from me, he has been passed out for days. I think I could use a drink. I can't remember last night. Everything is blurred together. My head is splitting and I feel like dying. It's only the morning and I already wish the day were over. A nurse enters my room and tells me it's time for my Chemo.

Justin Ferraro was born and raised in Connecticut. He is a Writing, Literature, and Publishing major at Emerson College and has just finished his first year in Boston. Justin is a writer and cartoonist for Hyena Comedy, Emerson's humor magazine. Justin is also an avid songwriter and amateur composer.

Mary J. Breen

      "Did you hear that, Lillian?" Anna shouted. "That person said 'penis,' right on TV!" No one in the line of wheelchairs turned a head.
      Harry Winchester's singing was getting louder. "When the red, red robin comes bob-bob-bobbin'—"
      Anna poked her friend's arm. "Lillian, did you hear me?"
      "Yes, hush. People say things like that all the time."
      "Well they shouldn't, not on TV! And why doesn't someone do something about Harry? Like give him a tranquilizer."
      "He's only singing," Lillian said. "Could be worse."
      "I really have to pee. I told her at least twenty minutes ago."
      Just then a nurse stood up, glanced over at them, and then went to switch the TV channel. No more Law & Order. Now Bob Barker was trying to detach himself from a frenzied senior citizen clinging to his neck.
      "There'll be no more sobbin' when he starts throbbin'—"
      "I'm gonna start singing too!" Anna said. "A-a-ve Mar-i-i-a. Gra–hmm, can't remember what comes next. Lil, remember in school, we'd be desperate to go, and we had to raise our hands—one finger for number one and two for number two?"
      "Speaking of penises," Lillian said.
      "I wasn't speaking of penises!" Anna shouted.
      "Yes, you were, and I meant to tell you that Brendan, my little great grandson—he's only seven—came home from a birthday party last weekend and asked his mother what a penis"—Lillian leaned across the gap to whisper in Anna's ear— "he wanted to know what a penis extender was."
      "What? A PENIS WHAT?" No one moved.
      "Wake up, wake up you sleepy head, Get up, get up, get out of bed—"
      Lillian started giggling.
      "What did you say?" Anna whispered. "A penis what?"
      "A penis extender," Lillian whispered back. "I'm sure that's it. He saw it in a movie they watched at the party. Stupid parents!"
      "But," Anna said, sitting back to look right at Lillian, "who on earth would want that?"
      "The movie?"
      "No, the you-know, the penis thing."
      "I'm sure I don't know. Men, I suppose."
      "Cheer up, cheer up, the sun is red, Live, love, laugh and be happy—"
      Anna shook her head. "These kids, they know far too much."
      "But you have to admit, Anna, we knew far too little. Did I ever tell you what my father's whole 'sex education' consisted of? He sat me down in the parlour and said, 'Lillian, if anyone offers you Drambuie, come straight home.'"
      Anna threw back her head, whooping with laughter. That started her choking, and that brought the help in a hurry, but by then, poor thing, she'd wet herself.
      "I'm just a kid again, doin' what I did again, Singing a song, When the red, red, robin comes bob, bob, bobbin' along."

Mary J. Breen lives and works in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada. She has been a freelance writer and editor for many years, and she teaches memoir writing and creative non-fiction.

Eliza C. Walton

      Darla stares at the clerk. Inexplicably, instead of the item Darla wants to exchange, this woman holds up two separate offerings: in one hand, a pair of navy blue cotton socks; in the other, a pair of seal brown, bikini underwear. Darla came to trade one sweater (too big) for another, more flattering, to wear on stage, in two days. Something cute, for the conference.
      Now the clerk asks a question with her eyes, which conflicts with the one she poses out loud. "Which of these would you like to exchange?"
      And, it can't be true, but Darla recognizes, in the woman's solid, steady hands and in her incomprehensible question, that she has somehow brought in the plastic laundry bag from her hotel closet. She did not carry with her the Macy's bag, complete with receipt, that she believed she brought to this store, in this mall, in this town so far from home. If she's made such a severe mistake (her underwear, oh God, is there leakage visible?) performing such a mundane act, what kind of gaffes will her looming power point lecture let loose?
      Darla hears her own voice (not her mother's, not her daughter's, but very close to either, and not at all her own) squeak, "Neither, thank you. There's been a mistake, you see, I…" Then she trails to silence, swallows, and backs out of the store, stepping on someone's foot, jostling two teenaged girls, who, while they don't know exactly what just happened, leer at Darla as if they do.

Eliza C. Walton is an essayist, poet and memoirist living in Maine. A graduate of Bennington College, she has published in The New York Times and The Hartford Courant. She is currently working on her MFA in fiction at the Stonecoast creative writing program at USM. Her work has appeared on-line in DiddleDog and Six Sentences.

Tom Mahony

     The swell marched across the Pacific, massive, the biggest in decades. Enough to get the excitement flowing and the fear rumbling. It would hit the coast in a matter of days. Surfers discussed it at bars and jobs and beaches. With each beer quaffed and each hour closer to doomsday the bravado grew bigger, an arms-race of swagger.
     This was the challenge they'd been waiting for their entire lives. Old grudges would be settled. Reputations would be made or lost. Men would discover what they had and what they lacked and after the swell things would never be the same.
     They made preparations. They cleared schedules. They hugged small children.
     But when the swell arrived it was cloaked in wind and cloud and rain. Days of it, unsurfable. When the storm left, so did the swell.
     Not this time.
     And a collective sigh of relief descended over the coast.

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in central California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared or is forthcoming in Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, Verbsap, 34th Parallel, Void Magazine, SFWP, Kurungabaa, The Flask Review, Foliate Oak, Decomp, The Oddville Press, Bewildering Stories, Long Story Short, Flash Forward, Six Sentences, Laughter Loaf, and Surfer Magazine. He is currently circulating a couple of novels for publication. Visit him at www.tommahony.net.

Janice D. Soderling

     I would rather be a writer than a waitress at the Silver Dollar Diner. It would be so nice to be in control of your story. If you don't like the beginning, rewrite it. If you don't like the ending, change it. If your husband was unfaithful in the middle and flatly denies it, and sits there looking up at the ceiling sucking his teeth, you can put an end to his bad behavior by killing him. An insurance check arrives on the day it's supposed to, not like child support.
     If the doctor tells your main character that she has a brain tumor, or an ingrown toenail, or needs a triple by-pass, you can bust him for malpractice. You can in fact, as a writer, shut down the entire hospital for hiring such a dud in the first place.
     Nobody in a story lies awake all night worrying about how to pay the electricity bill. Just type in some silk sheets and slip a hundred bucks in the purse among the small change.. Just delete a few pages and years and get yourself a fresh start.
     Writing is so much cooler than real life, where you stand teary-eyed in the parking lot looking for your stolen car, where the refrigerator breaks down, and your check to the phone company bounces, where your kid, who you are trying to raise to be honest, gets caught lifting candy at the friendly neighborhood grocery (delete friendly), or your boss, leaning across the pinball machine, asks without blinking if he can put his finger up your—you don't need the exact words, do you—just for a few minutes, lots of people looking for work these days.

Janice D. Soderling is widely published in print and online journals such as Anon, Orbis, Mezzo Cammin and 42opus. She won first prize at Glimmer Train Stories for short fiction and her runner-up story in the 2007 Emerging Writer contest at Other Stories is forthcoming in an anthology. A dislocated Hoosier, she lives in a small Swedish village.

Brad Rose

     Exasperated, there was nothing left to do, so Ted read all the manuals, cover-to-cover. He even read some twice, but it was too late. Fifty-seven years gone by, three divorces later, and no (zero) children. What a fool! He HAD been doing it all wrong. ALL wrong.

Brad Rose is a Boston-based writer. "The Scream," has been accepted by Tattoo Highway and will appear in March, 2009. "Leaving Camarillo State Hospital" will appear in an annual anthology by FutureCycle Poetry, in November, 2009. "Clown Car," appeared in the Spring/Summer 2007, Up and Under/QND Review. "Pink Crab Spider Eats Bee," appeared in Getting Something Read, in April, 2008. Recent flash fictions pieces include, "The Tourist" and "Seven Husbands Later," both of which appeared in Six Sentences in February, 2009. "She Loves Richard," "E-mail Lovers," "Battle of Statistics," and other flash fiction pieces have been published by Espresso Stories.

Lorrie Sprecher

     My dog discovers a small statue of Buddha on my night stand and eats him. She doesn't eat all of him. I find half of him on my bed. I walk back to the bookstore to get another one. My dog becomes known as "the dog who ate Buddha." I feel it is good karma that my dog wants to be so close to Buddha and his teachings that she ingests him. The owner of the store gives me the second Buddha for free. She says she has never heard of a dog eating Buddha before. "His left ventricle is in her heart," she says.

Lorrie Sprecher is the author of the punk lesbian novel Sister Safety Pin (Firebrand, 1994). Her collection of short fiction, Anxiety Attack, was published as a literary pamphlet by Violet Ink in 1992. Her work has appeared in anthologies including: Dykes With Baggage (Alyson Books, 2000); Lavender Mansions: 40 Contemporary Lesbian and Gay Short Stories (Westview Press, 1994); Glibquips: Funny Words by Funny Women (The Crossing Press, 1994). Her work has appeared in journals including: The North American Review and Feminist Studies. She has a Ph.D. in English and American literature from the University of Maryland, College Park and resides in Syracuse with her dog, Kurt.

Tina Barry

     Seven days. Dad's not coming back. Seven days of Velvet and mother, folded together, lovers. I open the door to her room, just a crack, dust motes like dirty planets whirl over their bed. They wince, startled. "Go!" she yells at me. I stare. The hair we loved to comb is a nest of snarls; her eyes belong to a sleepwalker. "Go! Go!" She reaches for the blanket, the Chihuahua, as tiny as a bonsai, curled against her stomach. I linger outside her door. "Mom," I say, hoping she'll call me back. There's no answer.
     Bloop. Velvet's paws hit the carpet. The new man of the house is on the prowl for food, a walk. Breakfast was Rice-A-Roni; for lunch I'm serving Ring Dings. Perhaps he'd like a bite? Now he's cornered: me on one side, my sister on the other. "Herrrrrre's Velvet!" I say. He's a miniature Johnny Carson in a thin fur coat. "Herrrrrre's Velvet!" my sister mimics, her voice sweeter and softer than mine. We laugh. Encouraged, Velvet emits a yelp: Oh! He's forgotten we hate him.
     Beneath my arm, he's made himself as heavy as an old stump. Our neighbor waves as we rush past. Two girls and their dog. She can't see him quivering like a divining rod. Neither can the drivers who pass us with benign smiles, their thoughts on chores, dinner. We turn a corner, away from homes where housewives watch, away from traffic. There is a cement bridge no higher than my waist; below it a stream bounces over small rocks. "Look Vel," I taunt, lifting him over the side. He's frozen, then flailing. I wish his brittle nails would tear a hole in the sky, a hole my father could walk through. "Stop!" my sister shouts, "He'll fall." He's safe now, grateful, his silky head nuzzled beneath her neck. Our strokes are calming, gentle. We murmur "ssh," and "now there," and "it's okay." Words we remember and miss.

Tina Barry is a freelance writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Her food, style, and humor essays and profiles have appeared in the New York Daily News, the Forward, the New York Sun, Time Out New York and other newspapers, magazines, and Internet websites. Her work has been included in Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Essay and she recently won an honorable mention in the 100 Words or Fewer writing contest. Tina can be reached via e-mail: tbarrywrites@yahoo.com.

Greg Metcalf

      My bluish-green feet shape shift at the bottom of the pool. If I breathed from between my toes I'd have drowned by now.
      My niece, Shannon, in the water reminds me—the way toddlers remind me that walking is nothing more than catching yourself before falling—that swimming is simply saving your life. My sister pushes her off in a wave and she slaps and grabs toward me. Water splashes into my eyes, and she sinks when I blink just a little, enough that her smile dips below the water line. I cross the cement bottom with my arms outstretched, so she'll feel like she swam to me. I clutch her to my chest and tell her how well she's done.
      My sister takes a step farther away and motions her back. Shannon spins in my arms. I hear the wake of her quick breaths as she bobs in the water. Her heels dig into the baggy pants of my swim trunks and she pushes off. My sister, barely able to stand on her tip toes with her chin below the water line, remains in place. I decide right then that I'm never having children.

Greg Metcalf has been writing for several years. He has completed two novels, both unpublished to date. He lives in Ohio with Ebullience, his cat.

Tanya Jarrett

      I'm running away, I said. She had been yelling. I was eight. She sighed, but what will you take with you? She spent the better part of an hour with me in my room while we picked out a white Sunday dress in chiffon. We ironed the dress until the crinoline shone with stiffness and heat. She gave me the vanity bag with the mirror inside and five dollars, stood in the door and I waved and waved from the street in front of our low brick ranch with the irises and hibiscus heavy with blossoming. A yarn doll crooked under my arm with the suitcase; the flounce of my skirt reaching toward the ground like all those flowers. I walked in my patent-leather mary-janes, sailed rivers of asphalt, forded the creek to the end of the subdivision, and crested the hill overlooking a crevasse where the quarry lay. I sat under a tree that day, living off the land and honeysuckle, watching the men in their yellow earthmovers and the naked rock they carried upward from the darkness to the light. I watched until the sun fell and the streetlights bloomed.
      The day's end—a man aloft in a bulldozer crawled down and squinted toward the leaning sun with a hand over his brow, then wiping the grit from his face with a handkerchief. I followed his gaze: the sky's arms were tired from bearing up the sun, but there was a diffused light shining back onward from the hills. Is the star only the pinhole where the long fingers of god needled the firmament to the earth? Is the God behind the full canvas of the sky a god of light?
      Beyond that there was a room, a table filled with the fruit of the larder, a woman waiting. In that room, the walls beating like atria and calling out; she would wait forever. For each alone, there was a light in the darkness, burning, burning. How I hungered then for home.
      When I returned, Mama answered the door. I am hungry, I said. I was at the table eating under the dome light, my bobby socked feet still swinging above the ground. She then made herself a plate and sat across from me, asked: how wide is the world? I shrugged and we ate together wordlessly.

Tanya Jarrett is a current MFA candidate at Bennington College and has much too little time with all that literary stuff to huckster her work. Tanya Jarrett also has decided that this year, she is going to do just that. She also has affinities for certain words, like 'akimbo', 'numina' and 'huckster'.

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