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Unrequited Love
Phil Temples

     “I can’t begin to tell you how much this means to me,” said the woman.
     “I know,” he replied, almost in a whisper.
     The man walked to the closet, reached in, and pulled out a heavy fleece coat, muffler and gloves. Methodically, he armed himself against the elements as he contemplated the act he was about to undertake in the name of love.
     “I’ll always treasure this,” she said.
     It was an awkward moment for both of them.
     He glanced in her general direction, keeping his eyes averted, slightly downward. He was afraid to look into her eyes, knowing that he might see some subtle sign of reservation or tale-tell hint of doubt that could dissuade him from proceeding ahead in this eleventh hour.
     “Be careful!”
     Fully dressed for what lay ahead, the man kissed her tenderly on her cheek. Then, he reached down and grabbed Scruffy by his collar and snapped the leash in place. He and Scruffy headed outside into the darkness to complete Scruffy’s appointed rounds.

Phil Temples grew up in Bloomington, Indiana. He's lived in and around Boston for the past thirty years and works as a computer systems administrator at Boston College. For over ten years, Phil has written flash and short sci-fi/fantasy primarily for his own enjoyment. His stories have appeared (or will soon appear) in several online journals, including: Bewildering Stories, The Zodiac Review, The World of Myth, InfectiveINk, Daily Frights 2013, Bleeding Ink Anthology, and Stupefying Stories. Phil recently participated in National Novel Writing Month, producing a full length murder-mystery novel, "The Winship Affair" that will be published by Blue Mustang Press in 2013. In addition to his writing activities, Phil is a singer in a garage band and an avid ham radio operator.

Death Row Hugger
Nancy Stohlman

     For some reason it’s always at night. It’s always in the same room, the light is always jaundiced. The room smells musty, like wet clothes were shoved and left to die in all the corners.
     I guess I’ve always been destined for this job. My parents were not the hugging type, so I’ve always had a malnourished craving for arms around me. I started out as a professional baby cuddler for the preemie babies in the NICU; each night after visiting hours, I settled into the wooden rocking chair with these miniature little babies and their ancient, sculpted faces and whispered in their ears of a future when they would be strong and full sized.
     But nothing could prepare me for being a Volunteer Hugger on Death Row. You enter that holding room, and there they are, trying to enjoy their steaks or lobsters or Cuban cigars or whatever. My job is to hug them just before they take that long walk. It’s not a sexual hug, though I have felt a few erections, and a few have tried to kiss me, but I politely turn my cheek and hug them harder. Because there’s this moment in the hug, you see, where it goes from something awkward and obligatory to the moment when they melt into my arms, weeping with their bodies if not with their eyes. Every now and then I hear one of them whisper in my ear, and once one called me Mama.

Nancy Stohlman is a founding editor of Fast Forward Press, and her books include Searching for Suzi: a flash novel, Live From Palestine, and Fast Forward: The Mix Tape, an anthology of flash fiction that was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. Her flash fiction has been published in over 30 journals, anthologies and magazines. She’s currently a writing professor in Denver and the lead singer for Kinky Mink. www.nancystohlman.com

Doug Mathewson

     On the bus to New York she made a dozen lists, and changed each one a dozen times. On the plane to New York he made dozen lists, and changed each one a dozen times. Always first on her list was a knife. A good sharp knife and she'd use it too if that bastard (or anyone else) came after her. Always first on his list was a knife. A good sharp knife, that's the first thing you need in a kitchen his grandmother had taught him. Overhead was her duffel. The few clothes she could grab, and of course her iguanas Peaches and Herb. Overhead was his duffel. The few clothes he owned worth taking, and of course his drawings and books. Dozing she thought of the husband she left, how he hit her one time too many. She could still picture him, drunk, breathing heavy, belt doubled in his hand. She ran. Dozing he thought of his grandmother, all she taught him, the heart break of her death. He could still picture her, with her short orange hair, smoking a little home made cigar, and walking her old iguana Judas on his leash. He couldn't stay. Off the bus from Texas she found a cheap Brooklyn rent. Off the plane from Ecuador he found a cheap Brooklyn rent. She cut her hair short, to look like a city girl, dyed it woodpecker red. He cut off his long braid, to look like an American, saved it wrapped in tissue. She took what work she could, wouldn't file for aid. He took what work he could, visa long expired. Hot summer night. She's on the fire escape, smoking what she rolled, hunting knife, cutting up bananas for Herbie in her lap. Hot summer night. He's on the fire escape, lemon soda, chef's knife, cutting up plantains to fry for dinner.
     Knives in hand their eyes meet. She smiles, then smiles again. He seems nice.
     “My Christ,” he whispers, what a beautiful woman....... She reminds me of someone."

Doug Mathewson as a writer he is best known for his mixed-media sculptures. The art-world remains unimpressed with the exception of his “Head-of-Goliath-a-Day” series. Using modeling clay and found objects he portrays the image of young David with the severed head of the giant Goliath. The tiny dioramas (inside walnut shell halves) portray men, women and creatures from across the ages as David. David could be a robot, space squid, pop-star, house hold pet, or just someone on the bus The artist is always the head. Gratefully none of this involves The Boston Literary Magazine, where the author is very flattered to appear, nor < ahref="http://www.Blink-Ink.com">Blink-Ink which he edits.

     Scene 98: a woman follows her husband to a Manhattan restaurant. Standing on the sidewalk, her breath puffing out like a comic-book thought bubble and stretching skyward in the December air, she sees him through the plate glass window. He is wearing his best suit and dining with another woman—her best friend. When our heroine confronts her husband on a sidewalk bustling with Christmas shoppers in red scarves, he reveals that was simply asking her best friend to confirm that this is, indeed, the three-carat diamond pendant of his wife’s dreams, that it is the perfect gift for the surprise vow renewal he has planned in Bora Bora. “I love you twice as much as I did on our wedding day, sweetheart,” he says with a box-office smile. They clinch as flurries descend on Fifth Avenue. Roll credits.
     But this is not a movie. Your love-handled husband is cheating on you with your best friend, a woman who thinks Raymond Carver is a Food Network personality. The pendant was for her. Now that he has lied and said it was for you, he feels obligated to buy her another. When a homeless man on the corner of Fifth Avenue asks for spare change, you hand him the pendant. “Ho ho ho,” you say, not making eye contact, not breathing in his stench.

Brian Ross lives with his wife in Hoboken, New Jersey. He blogs at www.thedweekly.com.

For Jen
Peter Anderson

     Second place in boxing is like being the valedictorian of summer school and in the dressing room that reeked of sweat and crushed hopes she contemplated exactly this. Looking down at the second place trophy in her still wrapped hands, it spoke only of unfulfilled toil. Eyes blackening and tongue swelling, she could taste blood in her mouth when he walked over—the club’s feckless tag-along. I think the second place trophy is prettier than the first, he said in his whiny voice moments before he lay sprawled across the floor. It was the best punch she landed that night.

Dr. Peter Anderson lives in Oxford England where he teaches economics at St. Edward's School. Between grading homework and handing out detention he likes to write fiction as a hobby.

     My kid would visit. “How about the painting classes or Bingo, mom?”
     “Why honey, I’ve been painting.”
     I didn’t tell her I took a brush to Rosy Bassethound’s face while she snored one night. Transformed her into a silent movie star with green face, black lips. She was mute, so it seemed appropriate.
     “No worries, child, I have ample activities to amuse me.”
     I hid behind the bathroom door, the place the old coots spent most of their time, and tripped them one by one as they shuffled out. The latest had been yammering on about his dearly depressed wife and some hernia operation he’d barely lived through while I tried to zone him out, watching Dancing With the Stars.
     The one before him was peeing on random doors every Tuesday night. I’d caught the bastard mumbling to himself, heard a slight rain shower against wood, smacked him with the door right on his shriveled, sagging trinity until he collapsed with urine-stained pants circling his veined, gnarled feet.
     Another one stole dentures and kept them piled under his bed. When he went sailing, I slapped miscellaneous teeth in his trap to shut him up.
     It’s not like I didn’t run out to get help each time another depraved one went down and search the rug around the moaning wretch for the treacherous obstacle that must have felled him.
     “I’m so glad you’re getting more involved, mom!”
     I smiled and hugged her. “I try to do what I can, honey.”

Meg Tuite's writing has appeared in numerous journals including Berkeley Fiction Review, 34th Parallel, Epiphany, JMWW, One, the Journal, Monkeybicycle and Boston Literary Magazine. She has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She is the fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press. She is the author of Domestic Apparition (2011) San Francisco Bay Press, Disparate Pathos (2012) Monkey Puzzle Press, Reverberations (2012) Deadly Chaps Press, Implosion and other stories (2013) Sententia Books and has edited and co-authored The Exquisite Quartet Anthology-2011, stories from her monthly column, Exquisite Quartet published in Used Furniture Review. Her blog: megtuite.wordpress.com.

     We’re up all night amid the flesh puppets at the punk factory, the music’s blue hammers flailing against the voltage of my impeccably simulated ulterior motives. When, above the music’s lashing din, you suddenly shriek, Honey, those are nearly lifelike feelings you’ve got there, I yearn to whisper sweet passwords in your ear, to confess copyright (pending) algorithms, to reveal my inner search terms. Then, you add, Why don’t you come a little bit closer, Winston? I’m shocked to discover that you’d like to reboot me—although not here on the dance floor, of course. Although I fear you don’t really want a ghost in the machine, least of all, one emitting mixed signal to noise while robotically moshing in the alternating current, in my heart of hearts, I’m confident there’s no substitute for love’s simulacrum. I hunger to set flame to the cacophonous quantum, the biochemical fabric of this mirror-ball moment, especially if you and I can reciprocally depolarize one another’s neuronal bionics. You suggest that we retreat to your fervent apartment, where your collection of feral electrons and natty android equipage promises to set a tranquilizing mood for one sublime intertwining. As we are about to leave, however, you declare, Winston, no matter how anode or cathode, human or non-, desire imitates art, and art, victorious advertising. Undeterred, I remind you that the voltage of love runs along the truest of circuits, regardless of who’s done the programming, especially in this great, unmanned land of ours. Yes, you reply, thank God, operators are always standing by.

     Brad Rose was born and raised in southern California, and lives in Boston. He admires Rilke and Groucho Marx. Rilke nobly commented, "The goal of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things." Marx keenly observed, "In Hollywood, brides keep the bouquets and throw away the groom." Links to Brad's poetry and miniature fiction can be found at: bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com.

Emma Rosenberg

     We used to see her when we drove to the beach, sitting under the highway bridge. She had long hair and a collection of dirty sweaters and soda cans that she kept in plastic bags.
     My mother told us she lived under the bridge because she liked it better than a house. Windows made the world look deceivingly small. The floral drapes kept out too much sunlight, and the carpets itched under her feet. The house was too warm in the winter, and too cold in the summer, and the exterior needed a new paint job. She felt like the front door that let her in would never let her out again. She kept needing to call the repairman about the broken doorknob. Her husband never would. She was sure the whole house was going to topple over both of them.
     When I was older, I stopped by the bridge and asked her if this was all true. At first she didn’t hear me. So I repeated it again. She told me my mother was a fucking bitch and she should shut her goddamn trap.

Emma Rosenberg is a writer and artist living in Boston, MA.

In Lieu of Wings
Robert Scotellaro

      Her legs are pretzeled together in a full lotus, and she's hopping up and down, flapping her knees. Leaving the carpet for an instant, here and there, crashing back down, butt-smashed, several inches away.
     "Did you see that?" she asks, elated, breathing heavily. Beside her is a friend she met at a workshop, pumping up and down even harder. "Yes!" the friend says, who's been "teaching her" to levitate. "Keep at it," she encourages my wife. "You're doing great."
     I look back out the window I'm sitting by. There is an empty pail, my daughter's, which will soon be filled with sunlight—the shade it sits in, shrinking. A crow, from the crest of a clothesline pole, lands deftly atop a shingled roof. And gravity will not stand in its way. It does not long to ride a bike, or bang a tambourine. Monosyllabic, it will not change a single iamb from the other birds fluffing out the tree next door.
     My wife has propelled herself, gradually, nearly a foot across the room, beaming. If only we lived our lives in freeze frame, that snip of time, off the ground, could be more fully savored.
     Sweat dripping off the ends of their noses, they continue to struggle up and down. Down, because gravity is a bitch. Up, because some things just seem to matter that much.

Sex and Death
Robert Scotellaro

     I watch a cheetah on TV chasing down a young gazelle, staying just enough behind to touch it with both paws now and then, waiting for its heart to explode. An easy kill plopped over into a blue-plate special. The narrator could have just as easily been describing the Taj Mahal, or counting bricks on a brownstone in Harlem. Funny, what we come to accept. My daughter, when she was little, chomping away at a mouthful of animal crackers—her cheeks ballooned out with the mashed up sum of her menagerie—nearly cried when she found a giraffe in the box with its head missing. That long neck without a top. Took it so personally.
     I switch the channel. A Mexican soap opera. I don't know a word of Spanish, but watch it anyway. No claws. At least not yet. And someone's cooking with plenty of garlic and its afterlife is working its way into the open window. There are two pigeons on the sill and it seems they are in love. The one, puffed up in a feathery profusion, is doing most of the talking. I turn from the enigma of Spanish to translate: Let's screw. Let's screw. Let's screw. Our lazy old cat, more refined, finds romance with a patch of sunlight on the rug. I turn back. A hand with painted nails, reaches up to a five o'clock shadow; two silver bracelets tinking down from her wrist. I lean back, decide to take up Spanish.

Robert Scotellaro has published short fiction and poetry in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. He is the author of five literary chapbooks. His most recent collections are Rhapsody of Fallen Objects (Flutter Press 2010) and The Night Sings A Cappella (Big Table Publishing 2011). A full length collection of his flash fiction, Measuring the Distance, has recently been published by Blue Light Press. He is the recipient of Zone 3's Rainmaker Award in Poetry. He is also the author of three books for children. Raised in Manhattan, he currently lives in San Francisco with his wife and daughter.

Cal Carbo
Ray Greenblatt

     Classic case of a kid who hated school; except for machine shop. Cal had magic fingers. He worked on his own cars, fixed his buddies'. Raced souped-up VW vans on the track; won a lot of trophies, some cash too. Got a cushy job in an annex behind a building Attila—new from the Hungarian Revolution—rented. Attila sold used foreign cars, Cal repaired them. He had an office with Franklin stove, Victorian sofa, rock 'n roll music , purring cats all over. I bought a half dozen Beetles from them, then when they switched over, just as many Hondas. Cal's son inherited the same fingers. Suddenly Cal's wife contracted cancer but ran off with a Harley salesman. Cal continued to race but stacked up injuries: steel plate in his skull, rebuilt knee, rod in his back, permanently numb shoulder. He drank too much on weekends but never brought it to the job. Always quality work, fair price. Then his secretary/girlfriend stole a wad of Cal's pre-signed blank checks; he never pressed charges. One night the annex caught fire. Firemen got it under control only after it was gutted. Attila turned on Cal, blamed it on the drink, and Cal disappeared. Couple years later we heard Cal had his own garage. Stove, sofa, soft music, purring cats. "One day they'll find me stiff under one of these oil-drippers." Cal's eternal croak turned into a cackle.

Ray Greenblatt has written stories for Innisfree, Legacy, and Schuylkill Valley Journal. His literary reviews have appeared in Drexel Online Journal, English Journal, and Joseph Conrad Today.

Noel Sloboda

     Whenever my sister and I visited our grandparents, we held our breath as we entered the foyer. We didn't exhale until we had safely traversed the minefield of glow sticks scattered across the entryway floor and squeezed past the cases of bottled water piled up to the ceiling.
     Always an avid newsreader, Granddaddy had been overwhelmed near the middle of the 1990s. His dreams became haunted by headlines about global warming, terrorist attacks, and plague outbreaks. Convinced an apocalypse was imminent, he began to prepare.
     Unlike the cases of water, the mountains of MREs in his garage regularly went bad. About every two months, our parents sent us over to help clean out soon-to-expire stores. During these gatherings, Granddaddy insisted on running a simulation. The flickering lights were powered by his generator, and we shared our meal accompanied by its nonstop rumble.
     My sister didn't mind the noise or the occasional blackout. But she always complained about the food. It didn’t matter whether she had spaghetti or enchiladas, chipped beef or roasted turkey. Granddaddy responded that everything would taste better after the end of the world.
     After dinner, while my sister sulked and Nana cleaned up, Granddaddy unrolled a map of town. I stood close to him, quietly studying the map, trying to find an escape route that might one day save my life.

Noel Sloboda lives in Pennsylvania, where he teaches at Penn State York and serves as dramaturg for the Harrisburg Shakespeare Company. He is the author of the poetry collection Shell Games (2008) as well as several chapbooks.

Caitlin Barasch

     Funny thing is, you’ll probably read this. I know where you work, what mail cubby is yours, and why it always smells like bagels because your coworkers leave bags of them there as a joke ever since you gave that presentation to the boss with poppy seeds in your teeth and everyone smirked through the hour and you could only awkwardly laugh along with them. I even know where your mother lives, and I have awful memories of that dinner she cooked for us at your childhood home, her eyes so hopeful—Dan, is she The One? Is she finally the ONE? The steak smelled so rich, too rich, suffocating—I became a vegetarian that evening and I told her so, trying to look apologetic but failing and you stared at me as if seeing me for the first time. She didn’t know how to move forward from there, so I remember it being a very painful evening, and I’m sorry. You will probably read this because I know I could so easily reenter your life through your bagel scented mailbox, and this might be the only way I am able to tell you. I let myself delete the temptations from any accessible keypad, so I wouldn’t call you up after a drink or three and beg for forgiveness in silence. You wouldn’t be able to tell that behind every breath crackling over the receiver is a heartbeat that is slow and mournful and misses you.

Caitlin Barasch is currently a sophomore at Colorado College, studying in the shadow of Pikes Peak. Her most recent work can be found in Thought Catalog and Leodegraunce Flash Fiction. When she's not writing, reading, attempting a hike, or riding horses, you can probably find her eating Peanut Butter Cup ice cream straight from the carton.

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