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Jeff Alan

     Upon hard clay it rests, blue and broken: one burden too many for the robin, pushed over a rim of borrowed twigs. It will never fly, or sing, or give an old woman a reason to pour seed into a feeder. Its only gifts are its yolk, which has already nourished the earth, and two fragments of shell as blue as the eyes of a man who left at the first sign of motherhood. The woman kneels and cradles the fractured egg in trembling hands, her lips forming the syllables of a silenced name, her breath chilling the summer air.

Jeff Alan is a self-described gypsy, having lived in more states than he can count on one hand. He presently resides in a small, quiet town in North Carolina. His work has appeared, or will soon appear, in Yellow Mama, Flashshot, and MicroHorror, among others. His online home is Bonescribble.

Earth Mother
Judith Altschule-Lieber

     Starlings live and dine in my chimney, nest comfortably in the red brick proof of my labor. How did they know I built my house solid like the third little pig to shelter from huffing and puffing of wolves? How did they know I would sit without a fire on the coldest night while their squawking tumbled into my room, that I wouldn't be tempted by the crackle, the glow, the warmth of a fire, that I would be steadfast in my overstuffed chair with the coverlet tucked to my chinny-chin chin and not make a move for the matches?

Judith Altschule-Lieber wrote her first poem at age seven and had her first story published at age eleven. She got sidetracked by adulthood and spent most of her professional life writing manuals of every ilk in the corporate world. Her poetry has appeared in California State Poetry Quarterly, The Webs We Weave, An Anthology of Orange County Poets and Reflections. She has been a featured reader at many poetry venues in Southern California. Her first novel, How Mrs. Malcolm Delacorte Lost Her Name, is near completion.

Sorry for Breaking in
Matthew Salesses

     I don't mean to disturb. I've taken a look around. On the table is a note: "I'm sorry. I can't marry you. Thought I could. But I can't." By the door's a broken vase. Water has slipped out the crack. Really, I wasn't planning on stealing here, but I noticed the door unlocked. Where're the flowers? I listened to the answering machine. I couldn't help it, it was like a murder mystery. She called an hour ago. "Just nerves," she said. "Didn't mean it." I think this is what God meant for both of us: I decided to take the rings.

Matthew Salesses lives in Boston, MA, sans fiancee and cat, who are currently in Korea, where he was born. He is assistant fiction editor at Redivider Journal. His work is forthcoming as the 2007 Fine Line contest winner in Mid-American Review. He is working on a collection of how-to stories and a novel.

Times Past
Mark Dalligan

     The framed Kodak snap sits on the Belgian lace runner that crosses mother's piano. My father, frozen in monochrome, sits at the kitchen table, plucking a turkey. Feathers are everywhere. His mouth is open in that big round 'O' of tooth-filled laughter that became rarer as he grew older.
     When arthritis allows, mother still teases a simple tune from the ivories. After playing, a trembling finger often circles father's face through the glass. Then I clasp her hand and we examine the picture together, the laughing man, the well dressed woman and the young family. "Who were they?" she asks.

Mark Dalligan lives in the tiny village of Steeple in Essex, England. Determined to earn his living writing, he majored in American Literature at Sussex University in the mid-late 70s. Something went wrong and one morning a City banker stared back at him from the shaving mirror. A short while ago he began letting the writer out again on parole. So far this arrangement is working quite well with work taken by a number of on-line publications including LitBits, Apollo's Lyre, Bewildering Stories and Clockwise Cat.

     Ray left work at the counseling center early and hurried downtown to the bar to watch football with the other regulars. A commercial for an ED drug came on with a Dr. Phil look-a-like as spokesman, and the woman beside Ray, a divorcee who he had just worked up the nerve to ask back to his place, said how handsome Dr. Phil was, how soothing his voice, how only he could ever rekindle her interest in men. Sympathetic but somehow feeling limp and unlucky now, Ray asked the man sitting next to him whose chances he liked in the game.

B.L. Gifford has written news releases for a university public affairs office, sports and feature stories for a weekly town newspaper, and articles for a now defunct golf magazine.