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The Choices
Soren James

     On our planet individuals can choose between 26 billion different body types—with appendage options now exceeding 14 billion. There are 62 million eye colour options, 18 million hair colours, with 1,284 billion different hair styles, and 2,649 billion outfit options. There are 128 billion shoe styles, and 378 billion boot styles.
     There are 422 birthdays to choose from, and 421 death days (no one is allowed to die on the memorial day of Prince Kadd). There are 5.8 billion ways to die, 17 billion sexual positions (dependent upon appendage choices made), and 589,000 substances with which to get intoxicated.
     You can choose to live in 89 million different cities, and choose from 39 million house designs. There are 15 billion different pets on offer—with appendage options now exceeding 30 billion. There are 5000 different careers available (mostly in clothing and hair-care), 77 lifestyle choices, eight philosophical choices, two religions, and one government.
     Much of our time on this planet is occupied with choosing things—so we don’t get to think much.

Soren James is a writer and visual artist who recreates himself on a daily basis from the materials at his disposal, continuing to do so in upbeat manner until one day he will sumptuously throw his drained materials aside and resume stillness without asking why. More of his work can be seen here: sorenjames.moonfruit.com.

The Bank Note
Don Cummings

     He wanted to tell her that the note had once been a novel, with a main character who lived in the suburbs, worked a white-collar job, had a wife.... He had written hundreds of pages of this novel–at night, on weekends–creating a protagonist who represented, for him, some sort of 21st century hero–dutiful, honest, hard-working, kind— white-collar knight in a world of greedy, unprincipled Wall Street dragon-men.
     Then, with the onset of the banking crisis, after the financial services industry started crumbling, he lost his own job; lost his house a short time afterward; lost his wife after they moved into a one-bedroom apartment and started bickering.
     The novel suffered as well.... Despite having more time to write, he decided to shorten it–chop some fat off the characters, simplify the plot; sacrifice the characters and abandon the plot, in fact, in search of an ending.... When he had come up with three or four ways to end it and found the one that he wanted to use, he wrote it down on a piece of paper and left the boardinghouse, where he had been living.
     He wanted to tell her that it had once been a novel, but he could see from the expression on her face that the note itself had made a big enough impression.
     After she read it, the prettiest teller, she quickly handed him the money.

Don Cummings is a schoolteacher in the Boston area. Having taught in Japan for many years and read lots of haiku, he has gained an appreciation for the importance of being brief.

Near Future Parking
Doug Mathewson

     Preoccupied valet Morpheus backed Neo’s Element right into the grille of a parked Matrix, while we watched in horror, safe here in the Outback.

Lend a Hand
Doug Mathewson

     Depending on the season Gus-Boy worked construction or fixing cars.
     Place he bent wrenches fixed up donated cars and gave ‘em away. Just old cars to get you to work or for folks with kids who lived out in the hills.
     Painted his name on the trunk of everyone so if he or a friend saw it broke down, they’d know to stop and lend a hand.

Doug Mathewson is seriously annoyed by the current “Mindfulness” movement. Annoyed to the degree he proposes an opposing campaign of “Mindlessness”. Anyone wishing to offer support or experience managing Kickstarter funding may contact him via this publication. Most recently his work has or soon will appear in Boston Literary Magazine, The Song Is, Poetry Pacific, and Virtual Verse.

Within the Garden
Patti Rossi

     The weathered trellis precariously dons its dangling ivy amid the pastel laden landscape, as a wind chimed harmony gently announces a summer breeze.
     The ornamental birdhouses waltz in synchronicity to this lonely serenade while the empty garden swing creaks a rustic melody in iambic pentameter to the swooping sparrow’s euphoric chirps. Mother Nature’s chamber ensemble… softly She plays within this embellished rectangle, but sadly Her songs of peace and tranquility are mute to the gardener, the owner of this white picked manicured patch, for at this moment her ears hear a cacophony of phones ringing, bombastic verbal demands and a verbosity of office politicking
     Her present rectangle…a gray four walled cubicle, where endlessly she pushes paper back and forth across a file ridden desk, florescent bulbs beaming down upon her dark head of hair… tragically unaware of her backyard symphony.

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.

     You remember nothing about your grandmother, except this. You were sucking on a chalky peppermint candy when you felt it lodge in your throat. You couldn’t talk or cough. Your grandmother was washing dishes in an enormous white sink, too high for you to see inside. You walked over to your grandmother and pulled on her skirt.
     “What is it, child?” You just looked at her. She knew. She picked you up, bent you over her doughy forearm, and smacked you in the back, hard, three times. The pink mint skittered across the kitchen floor and spun like a top. You coughed but you did not cry.
     Your grandmother said, “There you go.”
     Your grandmother said, “There’s no need for your mother to know about this.”
     Your grandmother said, “Would you like a pudding?”
     You would. You sat at the kitchen table with your legs dangling. You scooped rice pudding into your mouth and it soothed the scratches in your throat.
     You still hate the taste of peppermint.

Stephanie Thurrott’s fiction has been published in decomP, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, MonkeyBicycle, Bartleby Snopes, and Blink-Ink. Her novel in progress, The Right Place, is set in Dedham, Mass., where she lives with her family. She studies fiction at Grub Street in Boston.

Irish Time
Reynold Junker

     “I’m in then?” The younger man said. He’d been drinking and the skin on the knuckles of both his hands was broken and red. There was a large yellowing purple bruise over his right eye. A green and white Dublin Shamrock Rovers football club badge was fastened to the torn lapel of his dirty tan corduroy jacket.
     “Unless I hear something in the next five minutes or so from the folks below.” The older man pointed at the red telephone on his desk. There were six lighted buttons on the phone. Each of them was labeled. None were flashing. There was what appeared to be an ordinary thirty minute kitchen timer on the desk beside the phone. The timer was ticking.
     “Couldn’t you hurry a bit?” the younger man pleaded.
     “Please…sir,” the older corrected.
     “Couldn’t you hurry a bit? Please… sir.”
     “Cassidy is it?”
     “Yeah, Yes. Sean Cassidy… sir.”
     The red telephone chimed, light flashing. The younger man started. The older reached then paused, hand hanging in the air over the phone. “On your way then. God bless. And mind your manners, boyo. This isn’t Dublin.”
     “Front gate, Patrick,” the older man answered the chiming phone. “No, Peter’s on holiday. Two weeks. I’m subbing. Cassidy, Sean? Yes. He’s gone just a minute ago. Sorry. God bless.” Then what appeared to be an ordinary thirty minute kitchen timer buzzed. The older man smiled. He finger combed his beard and rattled his large ring of keys.

Reynold Junker’s writing credits include, among others, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, America, U.S. Catholic, Crannog(Ireland), Italian-Americana, Feile-Festa, West Marin Review, VIA-Voices In Italian Americana, The Herald(Portsmouth,UK), Flash Frontier(New Zealand), Skive Magazine(Australia), Ky Story(Christmas anthology), East Coast Literary Review, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Hippocampus, Emerge Literary Journal, The Bookends Review, Boston Literary Magazine and 50-Word Stories. Subway Music, his memoir about growing up Italian and Catholic in Brooklyn, New York, was awarded first prize in the Life Stories category of the 16th Annual Writer’s Digest International Self-Published Book Awards competition.

Junk Mail
Renuka Raghavan

     She waited for his soft thudding footsteps out in the hallway before leaving her apartment. She met him at the alcove of mailboxes. He was already reaching into his tiny metal cube and pulling out a handful of envelopes and weekly flyers as she inserted a key into her own box.
     “Beautiful day out,” he greeted.
     She looked up at him, smiling, “Mm hmm, sure is.”
     He began sorting through his pile and she pretended to do the same.
     “More junk than anything else,” he continued, to her surprised delight. Dumping some flyers into the waste basket, he looked at her and asked, “Why do they even bother? Nothing but a waste of time, right?” He didn’t wait for her response, just smiled and retreated, once again leaving her world.
     "See you tomorrow," she whispered to the dark, empty corridor.

Renuka Raghavan is the woman in front of you in line at the store who just piled on a month’s worth of groceries onto the conveyor belt only to realize she left her wallet in the car. Next time you see her, say hi, she’d love to meet you. Born in India, raised in Florida and Texas, she is now perfectly content calling Massachusetts home (sweet home) with her engineer husband, two children, and Maya the Great (Beagle). Prior to Boston Literary Magazine, Renuka’s fiction has been published in The Rio Review.

     Weekends are spent at the pool like this: my son losing every heat, my mother fawning over him as if he were a miniature Michael Phelps. One of the swim team dads tells me the reason my son is so slow is because he swims directly in front of himself. He needs to swim further ahead, the dad instructs, motioning with his arms. He looks at my mother and me, expecting praise for teaching us something. “That’s nonsense,” my mother says. I pat her arm, soothing her. There, there.
     The truth is my son is slow in the pool, his movements practiced, labored. I can almost hear him counting in his head: one, two, three, breathe. My mother says his technique is good and speed will come later. She read in Swimming World that studies show no correlation between event times at eight and twelve years old. “Look it up,” she says.
     It would be easier to believe her predictions for my son if she hadn’t convinced me all those years ago that I was a talented dancer. Because of her, my son thinks he is a good swimmer. “Did I finish first?” he asks after the first heat: the 25-meter freestyle. “You were last,” I say, pointing to the times, his lane—number 6—at the bottom of the board. “Well, I was almost first,” he says. “That’s right, baby. You were so close,” my mother says, gathering his wet body in her arms.

Shasta Grant is the winner of the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. Her stories and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Gargoyle, Epiphany, cream city review, wigleaf, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and is a prose editor for Storyscape Journal.

     It’s unknown if the line is busy because the signal’s no good or because she’s talking to someone else or he dialed the wrong number and that person is talking to someone else or that they’ve dialed simultaneously—his belief—for they couldn’t be ruined, only unsynchronized for a while.

Chuck Strangward delivers the mail. When not doing that he cooks, writes music and watches movies with his wife. His work has appeared in Brevity, Monkeybicycle, and McSweeneys (online). He lives in the Peanut Capital of the World.

Ten Minutes
Tamsin Hopkins

     He sat on the edge thinking about the coming day, the meetings, problems, people, back hunched towards me, his head, neckless, sunk onto his chest. His sweat, sheeted for six hours, curled upwards and outwards, making its escape.
     Fully ten minutes he sat there, through the snooze, the second clock, its snooze. He passed his hand over his head. Perhaps he was thinking about us, the night before. Never go to sleep in anger. Always talk it out before you sleep.
     He sighed, rocked his weight forward. With a grunt he was on his feet. He shambled to the bathroom, what hair he had stood upright. I watched the ceiling, listened to bathroom noises. The morning evacuation, the flush, the sink, the shower. On the third hawking shower snark, I sat up. I didn’t need this. I could be dressed and out quicker than him. Down the stairs into the cold, coat flapping, keys thrown in my bag, makeup on the train. Out and away. I waited for the gargle, the radio, the snap of the light switch. I closed my eyes.
     He squeezed my foot as he left, knowing I could have ten more minutes in bed. His footsteps clicked down the hall, key rattled in the lock, the door slammed. Only then did I swing my feet round to the floor, sit on the edge of the bed, my side. I sat for fully ten minute there, thinking how to face the day.

Tamsin Hopkins writes short fiction and poetry. Her first collection of short stories Sand Tranny and other River Stories will be out in February 2016 with Cinnamon Press, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Neon, Fiction Desk Ghost Stories II, Flash in the Attic II, Used Gravitrons, The Story Shack and a variety of other anthologies. She is currently working on her first poetry collection.

Charlotte Crowder

     In the snarl of rotary rush-hour traffic, Renée saw the usual players. The guy with dreadlocks and red-crayoned sign, “God bless you, I’m homeless,” high-fived the disgruntled commuters, flashed a sunny smile. The man in the blue ski jacket was less upbeat. His sign, more perfectly lettered in black magic marker, read simply, “Out of work. Out of luck.” The jacket, likely pulled from a shelter’s Goodwill box last winter with the tags still attached, was grubby now. The third regular attempted to emulate his dreadlocked friend’s high spirits, crossing back and forth in the green space. He still limped, but the bandages around his feet were gone.
     Somewhere many miles ahead, a light turned green. The traffic eked forward. Drivers jockeyed for position in the amorphous lanes of the rotary. Here, there were no apparent rules of the road, or none drivers remembered from Driver’s Ed. Bullying and deference to the more expensive models prevailed. Renée was not good at this game. The traffic flow ferried her to the outside lane and she saw the girl. No more than fifteen, she walked along the edge of the rotary, dangerously close to the jockeying cars. She held a red Solo cup up to the car windows. She carried a backpack, too large for her petite frame, no sign. As she approached the passenger window of Renée’s car, Renée threw the car into neutral, leaned across the seat, and flung open the passenger door. “Get in. You’re coming home with me.”

Charlotte Crowder lives and writes on the coast of Maine. She is a medical writer and editor by day. Her short stories have been published in Maine Boats, Homes and Harbors magazine and The Maine Review.

Free Will
Phil Temples

     God perused his/her/its surroundings along with the rest of the universe God created.
     It was good. It wasn’t perfect. But it was good.
     It seemed like only yesterday that God brought forth a great explosion to start this creation. God wasn’t sure why all of God’s creatures naturally believed in a creator who was perfect and all knowing. After all, could they not observe the chaos and strife that surrounded them? God relished the many, many instances where beings treated one another with kindness and compassion. But God could also see numerous examples where things weren’t turning out right. It was the price one paid for granting free will, God supposed.
     At that moment, God was very unhappy about the wars and slaughter that continued on several far-flung worlds. God had allowed sapience to spring forth in the creations there. Soon after, the beings evolved in intelligence, and developed tools which, naturally, were used as weapons of war.
     It was always war.
     Why did they feel such a strong need to define their creator? Why couldn’t they simply be content in not knowing? And why destroy others who held different beliefs? Obviously, God was doing something wrong. He/she/it needed to contemplate this and correct it.
     God’s attention was momentarily diverted when the lady of the house came in with a treat in her hand.
     “Here, Shango. Come! Mommy has a surprise!”
     God wagged his/her/its tail furiously, stood on hind legs, begged, and was rewarded with a tasty dog biscuit.
     “Ruff, ruff!”

Phil Temples lives in Watertown, Massachusetts and works as a computer systems administrator at a local university. He has published over seventy works of short fiction in print and online journals. Blue Mustang Press recently published Phil's murder-mystery novel, “The Winship Affair." And his new paranormal-horror novel, "Helltown Chronicles," was recently accepted by Eternal Press.

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