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Alternatives
Alisa Golden

     The alternative tour offers a respite from wax museums, flower marts, trinket shops, and views from high towers, and is led by an alternative tour guide dressed in flowing skirts and bangle bracelets that accentuate her large hands. She leads the parade of messenger-bag and camera-clad tourists through side alleys and abandoned graffiti-marked factories, pointing out the practical aspects of each as they go. Here is a room with a water heater behind it: good for warmth in the winter. Here, a ledge where the local bakeries leave boxes of baguettes after hours, there, the dumpster behind an upscale restaurant that has good coffee grounds. The route is neither marked nor the same for each tour. There, she says, is where I was found for the last time, passed out after a near overdose. Here is the Center that gave me this job. That is the school where my children now attend; and there is the apartment I share with my wife. If this confuses you, I am a woman by day and a man at night—but that is not important. What you should know is that I no longer live out of a suitcase or a paper bag.

Alisa Golden writes, makes art, and teaches bookmaking in the Printmaking Program at California College of the Arts. She is the editor of Star 82 Review and her work has been published or is forthcoming in NANO Fiction, 100 Word Story, The Monthly, and Flash (UK), among other literary magazines. Info: www.neverbook.com.




Druid
Ray Greenblatt

     It was a summer wedding at an old fieldstone house on green rolling land with groves and a brook wandering through it. However, a group of us ended up sitting on chairs in a circle in the scorching sun. Suddenly a hand-holding line of maidens—some flabby fifty—pranced from the house in long white gowns and bare feet. Round and round us they whirled, arms tossed to the sky, green wreaths in their hair, bounding back and forth across the little brook. Especially flown in from the other coast, the mother of the bride, red faced and muttering, awkwardly pried herself from her chair and was not seen again. Then out of the trees charged a giant figure wearing antlers, also bare foot and white robed, as horns bellowed offstage. He chased off all the other maidens until he stood with his bride at a primitive altar on the grass. They married each other using arcane phrases and flicking colored powders randomly at us guests. We sat there gasping and gaping. Some time later the officiants, now dressed in modern clothes, sat with us under a large canopy, eating normal food and drinking out of pewter steins what I assured myself was just Merlot.

Getting Away from it All
Ray Greenblatt

     The financial settlement allowed me to buy this small frame house at the end of this side road. It took over a year to find builders who would shore up the foundation, reshingle, then redo the plumbing, wiring, furnace. It was good fun that had me up at dawn overseeing all of this. I was sure I wanted no computer nor cell phone, microwave nor dishwasher. I have the books and magazines laid out but have not yet begun to read. Lately something bothers me. A car going down the street or even a squirrel twitching across the lawn has me running to the windows—like a ball-bearing let loose in my head. Another thing is worrying: I'm starting to connect dusk with whiskey. As a bit of fame had started, I felt I was rising off the ground. I could sense power unwittingly start to pump my biceps. The increasing money became dark glasses I couldn't see through clearly. Friends accumulated like unwanted warts . . .Perhaps I should talk to that single lady across the street; she brought me a homemade pie when I first moved in. But then things might start all over again . . .

Ray Greenblatt's crossover novel Twenty Years on Graysheep Bay will soon be an ebook published by Moon Press.





     Thursday night, me and Buddy were tossing back a few beers at the Pink Elephant, when Buddy looks up from his half-empty bottle, and with that dumbass look he gets on his face after he’s been thinking about things for too long, says, “I just hate stories that are set in bars, don’t you?”
     I said, “Yeah, why do you think there’s so many stories set in bars?”
     Buddy cocks his head a little and looks at me like I’d been to college or something, so I said, “Maybe it’s so the people in the stories can get drunk?”
     Then Buddy ordered me another beer, and before we knew it, we were ordering each other round after round—and starting to feel pretty darn good.
     About midnight, three guys—they sure weren’t regulars—walked in: a Rabbi, a Priest, a Pastor—which seemed pretty weird, but me and Buddy didn’t think too much about it, at first. We just kept to ourselves, minding our own business, and drinking more beers.
     Pretty soon, though, I noticed both me and Buddy were keeping our eyes peeled—kinda secretly looking over our shoulders every once in a while, in those guys’ direction.
     I think we both just wanted to make sure nothing really funny happened.


     Your long beautiful legs, candy kiss smile—almost too perfect. Million dollar valentine, your ideas of perfection were far from flawless. My voicemails unanswered, I stopped by Wednesday, after work, to find you, lifeless, head buried up to your blonde shoulders, in the Easy-Bake oven. Oh, my sweet, sweet Barbie, whose life were you really living, anyway? Your sherbet pink jeep now parked in the dream house garage, forever and ever and ever.
     How will I ever replace you?

Brad Rose was born and raised in southern California, and lives in Boston. His poetry and fiction have appeared in print and on-line at: Boston Literary Magazine, The Baltimore Review, The Potomac, Off the Coast, Third Wednesday, Imagination and Place, San Pedro River Review, Santa Fe Literary Review, Barely South Review, Right Hand Pointing, Tattoo Highway, Monkeybicycle, riverbabble, Blue Print Review, SleetMagagazine.com, Short, Fast and Deadly, and other publications. Links to his poetry and fiction can be found at: bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com. Selections of his published poetry can be heard here soundcloud.com/bradrose1.




Ride the Storm
Mary McCluskey

     It's raining. That hard, slanting rain that taps like music, slides down the glass. She can hear a low, rumbling thunder. It won't be storming there. Not where he is. It's too far. It's too hot.
     The sun will be harsh and bright and unrelenting and will show the dent in the bed where she isn't and the space in the kitchen where she is not cooking breakfast with her kids waiting. Waiting for cereal and the little plastic figures to fight over.
     He loves them, loves his kids. It's better for them. Of course it is. Security. A sensible father. With a chunk of a girlfriend with wide hips and hair that has never been bleached. Who doesn't drink. Doesn't cry without reason.
     She cooks. Of course she does. With hips like that. It's better for them. Isn't it?
     The thunder is closer. She wonders what would happen if she walked back in there and said—No! If she said it loud enough. If she said—look, get out, fat ass. I am back and these are my kids and I am not somebody who can be driven off. So I drink? Everybody drinks.
     What if I were the storm? A fierce fury; a terrible, unrelenting force.
     She hears a hard crack, sees a flash of fire and light and the sound grows. It's loud. It’s here. It's big enough, strong enough. It’s deadly enough. She could ride it. All the way home.

Mary McCluskey is a journalist with a base in Los Angeles and a home in Stratford-upon-Avon, UK. Her short stories have appeared in literary journals in the UK and US— including The Atlantic, The London Magazine, StoryQuarterly and Salon.com—and have been read on BBC Radio 4. She's presently doing the final edit on a novel.




And he cried, bring it on!
Michael C. Keith I think about that someone who I will never see again.
           ~ Malcolm McKinney

     The loss of the deeply beloved . . . oh, God, what it does to the soul! Clive was devastated by the death of Sara, his once and forever lover. She was alive one instant and gone the next. Is there any greater cruelty? Could life impart a more excruciating kind of pain, he wondered? No, how could it? He knew he would never get over the hurt. But he did not want to. That would mean diminishing what she meant to him, which was everything—the gathered molecules of the universe, the length and breadth of space. No price was too great to keep her vivid in his mind and heart. And he was good with that. Damn good with that.

Michael C. Keith is the author of several story collections. www.michaelckeith.com.




Lunch Time
Allison Futterman

     “Chinese or pizza for lunch?” This is what you asked your coworker, another “so called” health care professional. “I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m tired of the same things. What about Chipotle?”
     This conversation was taking place while I was waiting for a room to open. While I’m waiting to have a painful procedure. A procedure that will most likely lead to the conclusion that things don’t look good. That will lead to other, unpleasant procedures.
     You moved on to discussing the past weekend. “Honestly, I’m just sick of his shit,” you said, sounding exasperated. “I think he’s talking to some other girl on Facebook.” You continued from there and I know now that you had sex with him on the first date, that he’s a deadbeat dad and a loser. And also, that you can “do better.”
     Your coworker was enraptured in your soap opera. Me, not so much. I wanted to tell you to “shut the fuck up.” That you are in a place with very sick people who don’t want to hear your bullshit. I didn’t want to. I wanted quiet, to be alone with my thoughts. To gather myself. Not that I would have minded a warm smile or a gracious hello.
     I’m glad that your most pressing issue is what to have for lunch. That’s not the case with us. We aren’t sitting there thinking about lunch. We’re thinking about living. Or dying.

Local News
Allison Futterman

     He read about the crash on a local news website. He usually controlled himself from searching, from looking at what he knew was better forgotten. When he saw it, he literally felt all the air sucked out of the room.      Overpowering despair coursed through his veins, instantly.
     In the past few months, she had emailed him a few times, allowing the smallest glimpse into her world. “Things aren’t good with me,” she said. Sometimes she expressed her concern over him. “I need to know if you’re ok,” she said, worried about how he was doing. He had made up his mind not to reply no matter what. It was a Herculean task, but he knew it had to be that way. He also knew that she would feel incredibly hurt and angry by what seemed like indifference.
     “I have to do what’s best for me,” he would tell himself. “Just act like she doesn’t exist,” he thought. He was quite successful in training himself to do this. Still, in the back of his mind he found comfort knowing she did exist and perhaps one day, he would be able to set things right.
     The minute he found out she was no longer there, all the feelings came flooding back, overwhelming him completely. She had ended her last email with “You have acted in a cowardly, cold and disgraceful way.” Of all the thoughts that flooded his brain, the one that rose to the top, was, “You’re right.”

Allison Futterman is a freelance writer, originally from New York, now living in Charlotte, NC. She has written for the Charlotte Observer as well as several magazines. She has a master's in criminal justice and several of her book reviews have been published in criminology journals.







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