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     The emergency crew worked carefully into the night to extricate Mary from the steaming, mangled thing that was her car. Such was her memory that she could recall in detail her frantic escape, but not how the accident occurred.
     Mary, being deep within the wreckage, could not see anything except the darkness in front of her. She thought she was dead.
     Feeling the motion of the gurney, she thought she was floating above herself.
     Gazing into the bright lights in the emergency room, she thought she was arriving at the gates of heaven.
     She looked at the nurses, gowned in gentle pastel shades of blue and green, and thought they were angels.
     She saw the doctor, confident and authoritative, and thought he was God.
     A euphoric wave swept over her and she blacked out.
     When she awoke, she saw her husband, standing with raging eyes in a shadowed corner of the recovery room. With quiet despair, she realized she had not gone anywhere.

Jon Beight lives in the wild and untamed land that is Western New York. He has been published in Microliterature, Thickjam, Front Porch Review, and other fine publications.




Sleepover
Lizzi Wolf

     Sally’s house was even messier than ours her bedroom had dog poop hiding under the toys one time she got spanked with her sister’s blue plastic hand-mirror till it broke her mom whose boyfriend was in Vietnam and slept with his eyes open made psychedelic teddy-bears and called us little shits. She drove a purple Gremlin they were always out of toilet paper you had to wipe yourself on a towel when it was number two. Sally said we had to walk in the street to get to the candy store because when you went past the old Greek lady on her porch she would grab your crotch to see if you were a boy or a girl but I stopped spending the night there ‘cause Sally’s mom made us eat windmill cookies it was more fun at my house we could let my brother pretend to hump us in his bunk bed and drink grape cough syrup from the upstairs bathroom cabinet.

Magic Potion
Lizzi Wolf

     One time we decided to make a Magic Potion. We closed the drain in the bathroom sink and ran some water, then added apricot shampoo, strawberry cream rinse, green apple bubble bath, Red Sea bath salts, emerald after-shave, medicinal mouth wash, K.Y. jelly and coconut mousse. The crowning glory was when Sally squatted majestically over the sink and peed into the mixture. Her mom yelled at us to hurry up and get ready to go to the movie so we found an almost-empty perfume bottle and filled it with our brew. At the theater we bought pink peppermints which we sprayed thoroughly with Magic Potion before eating them.

Moving
Lizzi Wolf

     In the Spring of 1973 we sold the house in Detroit and moved to the country so Mom and Dad could save their marriage and because some neighborhood kids stole my brother’s bike and spray-painted HONKY on our sidewalk. For three days they sent us to stay with our friends the Bakers so we would be out of their hair during the move. The Bakers had a blue glass bowl of raspberry, root beer and butterscotch hard candies on the coffee table but you weren’t allowed to eat them. Mary told me her brother and his friend who was a wrestler made her pose with her legs spread open pretending to insert a tampon. They threatened to strip her naked and throw her in the snow if she didn’t do what they said. She showed me her workbook that teaches you how to draw human anatomy like hands and ankles and elbows then we rode our bikes to the lake and back and played Operation and Funny Bones. I didn’t believe her about the tampon until we sneaked into her brother’s bedroom and found the photograph in his underwear drawer.

Lizzi Wolf was Born in Detroit, has lived in Ohio, Indiana and South Carolina, and moved to Salem, MA in the fall of 2013. She holds a B.A. in English from Oberlin College and a Ph.D. in American Culture from University of Michigan. Her novella, "Charcot," was published in the Seattle Review (Vol. 6, no. 1, 2013). Her verse and prose poetry have been published in 360 Degrees, Parting Gifts, Quarter After Eight, and the Silt Reader.




Plastic Stars
Alexandra DeStefano

     I live for these moments. My head is on the window glass. We are reading her favorite story and although she cannot read, she is reciting each line without flaw. I see each page through the eyes of a new mother. Each weekend we visit the grocery store and in the store I am the mother with the unruly child. No one around knows why she cries in the middle of the aisle, and I don't have to explain. She has eyes much lighter than my own. Her hair, it flows softly against her cheeks in tight swirls that once were in tangles. This child does not resemble myself nor the man she clings onto as he pushes our cart through the store.
     Every Sunday I take her out for ice cream and he walks along her side in the park. Passersby often smile and comment on her undeniable beauty. "Your daughter is adorable,” and we just smile back in a polite reply. Each night she begs me to sing her to sleep and we never forget to read her favorite story. For now, the pale pink walls of her room protect her from the haunted dreams of her past, she believes they can protect her forever. She doesn't know it’s temporary, that soon she will return to her parents. For now we read. We read this story together with my head against the window and her eyes gaze from the pages to the plastic stars above her bed.

Alexandra studies speech-language pathology at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. She completed a minor in Literature because taking creative writing courses forced her to keep writing. Alexandra feels most comfortable writing about the strange reality of human existence. This is Alexandra's first publication.




Obsolete
Patrick R. Shepard

     His weekly lawn maintenance demanded two hours. And a six-pack.
     He’d first mow his oak-shaded front lawn with the walk-behind mower’s blade set high, the cushiony fescue crunching deeply beneath him and springing back up behind him. And then he’d drink a beer.
     He’d next edge the driveway and sidewalk, the border grass standing straight up like the front of Wally Cleaver’s flattop. And then he’d drink a beer.
     Finally he’d banish grass clippings from the driveway and sidewalk with his leaf blower. And then he’d drink a beer, and start over in the backyard.
     Finished, he sips the six-pack’s last beer, recovering in a wrought iron chair on the back pine deck. A blue jay splashes in the bird bath. A mourning dove coos lamentably. Honeysuckle smells sweet.
     “Well, you’re a pretty sight!”
     He shoulders sweat from his gray-stubbled jaw, and glances up at his wife in the patio doorway. “Didn’t hear you pull up.”
     “Your face is beet red and your clothes look like somebody hosed you. You’re retired for Christ’s sake!”
     He takes a pull. “Must I keep reminding you that the department forced me to retire?”
     “Well, you look like a stroke waiting to happen. Why don’t you hire a lawn service to do the yard?”
     The blue jay had disappeared. The dove, hushed.
     “I do it so I’ll feel useful.”
     She rolls her eyes and goes inside.
     He sips, thinking, And drinking numbs knowing that I’m not.

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. This is his first published fiction piece.




Poetic Influences
Bob Zappacosta

     I became an electrician because the thought of live wires in my hand excited me. Reading Plath’s poetry I began to understand what electricity could do for you, and to you, and how important it is to have ground fault and overload protection. Later in life I found myself in the rank of trash man, knowing the smell of bleach, piss, and shit, like Bukowski, I’m a survivor. Hell, I even work as a cook for a while after I heard Dylan sing about it in a song. All things work for good when the music is pure. Some say it's no mystery—Beauty that is, dancing on a razor’s edge.

Bob Zappacosta - Poet / Playwright / Performer




Evaporating Landscapes
Robert Scotellaro

     I stand before you like a man straightening his toupee after an unexpected wind. Dignity after all. You, like a boxer on spaghetti legs. A night dropping down like a hat so large it covers our eyes completely. It is 9:32 in the morning.
     We are waiting for The Call. A doctor who likes playing with his eyeglasses when he speaks behind a big desk. An ocean liner desk, with us on the other side, sinking.
     The phone rings. We let it. Then put it on speaker. Hear the good news. The torpedoes whizzing by. The phone click. The long hug. A quick change into something more comfortable. Sloppy and familiar. Something you swim in. Breaking the surface like a head through an old sweater. Sky and air and land, an inch away. The same terrain. The same terrain again. And, Hey, what's for dinner?

Her Life on Crooked
Robert Scotellaro

     My sister (a liberal) is dating a cop named Ned. A hard-nosed bruiser who listens to Rush Limbaugh. Feels at times, like she is infiltrating a biker gang. Stalks about my kitchen with a bottle of Windex killing ants. The scouts, she says, are the ones you want. Those lone marauders with a megaphone. A trillion troops at the ready.
     Why him? I ask. She shrugs. Gives a coquettish look, which means the sex is good. I follow in her wake with a paper towel, wiping up the saturated corpses. Think of the blind man I saw once, with his tie on crooked. Every mirror, a blackboard. What I feel she gazes into. Her life on crooked.
     She shows me a picture of them on her iPhone. Small beside him. A barnacle on the side of a boulder. Will you stop, I say, the kitchen filling with fumes.
     You get the scouts, she tells me, it's clear sailing. And I think, when is it ever clear sailing? You navigate the waves; their bumpy roads, make peace with wind. Remember when we were kids, looking up at shooting stars, how her half-eaten apple turned brown. Afraid she'd miss something. How small we were. How big the sky was.

Different/The Same
Robert Scotellaro

     My roommate was playing the accordion, leaning against the fridge. I'd broken up with Fran, was a bit pulpy and wanted to talk. When I told him how shitty I was feeling he squeezed off a polka, stamping his foot, saying what uplifting music it was. Told me to quit playing "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands" in my head. I wished he was an older sister.
     He reached in the fridge and cracked open two cold ones. Drained half of his and belched. Went to the window, letting winter in, when I wanted it outside where it belonged. Fuckin' A, he said. Fresh air.
     I had an uncle slap me once, when he caught me and a friend sword fighting with florescent light bulbs. Jackass! was all he said.
     You could have blinded yourself, hon, my aunt told me later, sliding over a plate of homemade cookies. They were both in boxes now. Different. The same.
     My roommate put his can down and I lifted mine up. He played a festive tarantella; the perky bellows breathing in and out. Grinned over the top of it. I tapped my foot.

Robert Scotellaro has published short fiction and poetry in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. He is the author of six literary chapbooks, and another due out by White Knuckle Press (2014). His story "Fun House" is included in the forthcoming anthology Flash Fiction International by W.W. Norton. A collection of his flash fiction, Measuring the Distance, was published by Blue Light Press (2012). A full-length book of his micro fiction, Close As We Get Sometimes, is due out later this year. With Dale Wisely, he co-edits the online journal One Sentence Poems. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and was the recipient of Zone 3's Rainmaker Award in Poetry. Raised in Manhattan, he currently lives in San Francisco. Robert can be reached at: rsflashfiction.com.




Bobbing Heads
Jon Sindell

     Let go of your thoughts, let go of your thoughts, your thoughts are a river passing you by. I’m next to a river watching my thoughts.
     Those are heads floating by! Ten or twelve floating heads, what the hell was that saying—if you sit by the river the heads of your enemies will come floating by? That’s bull, you should get `em before they—that horse head scene in The Godfather was cool, who the hell was that actor?
     Just let it go, Bob. Oh, so many heads floating by, floating, bobbing like apples—who the hell bobs for apples? That’s a Golden Book thing, Little Golden Book thing, who the hell reads that crap? Who the hell brings apples to the teacher, even, even brown nosers don’t. God I’m fat. Man I’m fat. My arms feel fat on the arms of the chair—sweet, wonderful chair, soft and sweet like me, cost me six–hundred bucks—it takes a real man to earn money like—
     Breathe, damn it, your blood pressure needs it. Breathe in, breathe out, man, the old man’d cough his lungs out from that, what a fool, dead from smoking—I’m ungrateful to say it, Dad’d whack me for that!
     Candy cigarettes were good. All these dumb kids today, we’re so over–protective—like Sandi, dear god, just let the kids be! Man, it makes my blood—
     Breathe in, man, breathe out. Watch your thoughts float—what’s that? Jesus, Sandi, I said keep those kids—
     “Quiet out there! I’m effing meditating!”
     Breathe in, breathe out, breathe

Jon Sindell is a humanities tutor and a writing coach for business professionals. His flash fiction collection, The Roadkill Collection, is scheduled to be released by Big Table Publishing in late 2014. Jon’s short fiction has appeared in over sixty publications. He curates the Rolling Writers reading series in San Francisco.




The Newlyweds
Ron Van Swerigen

     He kissed her gently on the forehead, his hands shaking, although he tried to control them. His uniform looked tired and it annoyed him. Above all, he respected cleanliness and personal hygiene. Under normal circumstances he would never be seen like this.
     But these were not normal circumstances, the world was coming to an end. Perfection and purity were being destroyed forever, the world was being robbed of its divine destiny.
     He could see she was nervous, her eyes were red from crying. She rarely looked up, as if trying to avoid him or the circumstances. He sat down beside her on the leather sofa, placing a handkerchief containing a small white capsule on the coffee table before them
     "Would you like a brandy my dear?'" he asked gently, leaning toward her.
     "That would be nice," she answered weakly, twisting the gold wedding band on her finger.
     "Are you content to be married?," he asked, handing her the brandy. For a moment, a smile flashed across her face, then faded quickly into sadness.
     "Yes" she replied softly," I always want to be near you, Adolph."
     "Good," he replied, dropping the white capsule into her glass.




Porches
E. Suzin Odlen

     Porches are like little worlds, attached to the house, neither inside, nor out. My screened-in porch faces northeast and takes the brunt of bad weather all winter. When it snows, flakes cover the concrete floor, so the storm, itself, is partly in- and partly out. In the summer, it is filled with shade.
     “You always wanted a screened-in porch,” my mother said, when I bought the house. And it was true; my needs were simple. I wanted window boxes to plant with provocative, cascading flowers… and a screened-in porch.
     My mother bought me porch furniture that first year. The striped turquoise cushions sighed summer when I looked at them, like awnings, or umbrellas on the beach. It was a happy porch. I entertained family and friends on it, serving drinks before dinner, coffee after.
     I received a bird bath as a wedding gift. My husband placed it in the yard, in front of the porch, so I could watch the birds that visited from my little half-in, half-out world. Mother loved cardinals, and now, when one appears for a drink, I pretend that it’s Mother, coming by to check on me. “There’s no downside to believing,” my husband told me.

E. Suzin Odlen received a BS from Temple University and an MA from Rowan University. She is a retired cocktail waitress who lives and writes in South Jersey. She has had poems published in Cedar Rock Press and Red Cedar Review, short stories in Quarterly West and West Branch, and an essay in the New York Times.




The Draftsman
Stephen Parrish

     Dinner was almost ready, so she peeked into his shop. He was hunched over the work bench, as usual. Toying with compass and protractor. Doodling. She leaned over his shoulder and saw geometric figures he had sketched, objects with faces, edges, and terminating points.
     “Designing Christmas ornaments?” she asked.
     “They’re crystals. Inorganic compounds whose molecules stack in patterns.”
     “And each one is unique?”
     “No, not this time. Not like living things. Crystals dogmatically follow the same thirty-two forms.”
     She studied his notes and diagrams. The objects varied in color as well as symmetry. They were alluring, they attracted attention. People would covet them.
     “You realize,” she said, “this constitutes evidence. Alligators and butterflies appear on Earth, but nowhere else. These things,” she tapped the drawing, “will show up anywhere in the cosmos where there are sufficient inorganic compounds, opportunity for them to get together, and room for a matrix to grow.”
     He nodded. “That’s the idea.”
     “Think they’ll figure it out?”
     “One of them will.”
     She kissed him on the cheek. “Hungry? I’ve got blueberry pie for dessert.”
     “Blueberries?” He straightened up and glanced across the workbench. “Have I drafted blueberries?”
     “If not, you’d better hurry. Dinner’s in ten.”

Anniversary Gift
Stephen Parrish

     “And she won’t know the difference?” Mr. Wallace looked up at my father with soft, trusting eyes.
     “She won’t have a clue.”
     My father was right, it took experience. In the case of cubic zirconia, you looked for small orange flashes in the stone. He showed Mr. Wallace a two carat ring. Big enough to impress his wife, but not so big that she’d be suspicious. We would need a day to size it.
     Mr. Wallace held the ring up to the light. “What if she has it appraised?”
     “Oh, come now, Peter, when has Maria ever had one of your gifts appraised?”
     The next day I came by after school in time to see Mr. Wallace pick up the ring. Again the moist eyes, the trusting look. The eyebrows raised hopefully.
     “If you can’t tell,” my father assured him, “neither can she.”
     After Mr. Wallace shuffled out my father said, “It’s sad his grocery store is losing customers. He gave me my first job. Twenty-five years ago.”
     “Wish there were something we could do,” I said.
     “He’s a proud man. He’d turn down any offer of help. Or gratitude.”
     Later, as we were closing the store, I noticed a loose transparent gemstone sitting on the counter.
     “Shouldn’t we lock that up?” I asked.
      My father shook his head. “Don’t bother.”
     I turned off the overheads and only the security lights remained on. As I walked out I looked back at the gemstone and saw a tiny orange flash.

Stephen Parrish is the author of he Tavernier Stones, a #1 Amazon mystery, The Feasts of Lesser Men, and various stories, essays, and poems. In 2011 he was awarded an Independent Publisher (IPPY) gold medal. He presently serves as editor of The Lascaux Review.




Uncle Ross
Erin Jenkins

     I am about 5 or 6 or so when my mother announces that Uncle Ross is about to visit. She explains that he is our oldest living relative. We all pile in the car to go to Gramma Mary's house to meet him, and when we arrive, everyone is already there, excitedly talking in hushed tones. I somehow sense that this event is important, though I'm not sure why. The door opens and a man is helping an old man get through the doorway. It seems to take him forever to get into the living room. Relatives line up to shake hands with him. Mother explains that he is 113 years old.
     It's my turn to meet him. I walk up to him and he reaches out a trembling hand. I grab it. It feels cold and dead. He says, "How are you, Cookie?" which is my mother’s name. I look to my mom for help but she just waves her hand as if to say to let the mistake go. She later explains that the last time she saw him, she was about my age. A week later, we find out that Uncle Ross had drowned when he walked out to see the lake and kept walking forward at the shore. I remember thinking that was a beautiful way to die. I imagine the fishes all poking him with their noses, giving him goodbye kisses as he walked deeper and deeper into the water.

Erin Jenkins lives and writes in Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in True Story Magazine and Shemom Poetry Magazine. She is currently working on a chapbook of her poetry.




B-L-T
Jeff Switt

     I normally don’t eat the slice of pickle that comes with my BLT. Or the chips. I lift the top layer of toast from the sandwich, stab the slices of tomato with my fork, and set them aside. Three strips of bacon beckon from a bed of lettuce.
     My forefinger fidgets against my thumb. I lift a strip of bacon to my mouth. If I were a woman I would rub it across my lips like lip balm. That would be the way for a girl to pick up a guy: bacon-flavored lipstick. I wish the bacon was crisper, and I nibble around that limp area of fat between the crisper brown parts, those meaty stripes that always show in the packaging at the grocery.
     I slip the second piece into my mouth and push it to the roof with my tongue. I close my eyes, and my throat makes that moaning sound lovers make when things are good.
     I poke the last slice of bacon in my mouth like a stick of gum and chew the life out of it. The woman at the next table gives a smile and adjusts her hem. We make eye contact, and she leans toward me. Her slim fingers, nails painted red and violet and yellow, pluck the pickle from my plate. She makes that seductive O-shape with her lips and sucks the pickle into her mouth and winks.
     I grab a handful of chips and follow her out the door.

Jeff Switt is a retired advertising agency guy who loves writing flash fiction, some days to curb his angst, other days to fuel it. His words have been featured at Dogzplot, Boston Literary Review, Flash Fiction World, Nailpolish Stories, 50-Word Stories, 100 Word Story, A Story in 100 Words, 101 Word Stories, and Shotgun Honey, and have appeared at lots of places that take whatever you send in.







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