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The End
David Galef

      I like to hang out with people who don’t have much longer to live. I’ve never been into drawn-out relationships. Give me a woman with terminal lymphoma and we can chat for an hour, if she’s not too nauseated from the chemo. Genetic disorders are fine. I’m not crazy about preemies and those who’ve slipped into senility because you can’t really talk to them, but anything in between’s okay. Last year I met a gal with cystic fibrosis, and we had a little romance going before she succumbed to her last respiratory infection. I sent flowers.
     The population at Valley View Hospice is fairly upscale, if tilted toward the older generation. These are people who’ve often accomplished a lot, like Frank, who was an award-winning architect before he contracted ALS, or Rita, a former trial lawyer whose undiagnosed palsy is taking over her body limb by limb. I adjust pillows and fetch beverages, read to people and sometimes bring little presents, like a snow globe or a book of poetry.
     They’re mostly grateful. But they’re unpredictable, and I like that. Whether they’re into denial or bargaining or some other Kübler-Ross stage, they can get into a lively dispute before settling into acceptance. What I do is provide an audience. I spend time with them. I hold their hands. I look into their doomed eyes, and I listen to voices that won’t be heard next year.
     What can I say? They make me feel alive.

David Galef has published over a dozen books, including the novels Flesh and How to Cope with Suburban Stress (one of Kirkus’ 30 Best Books of the Year) and the short story collections Laugh Track and My Date with Neanderthal Woman (winner of Dzanc Books’ inaugural short story collection prize). He’s also published flash fiction in W. W. Norton’s Flash Fiction Forward, Agni Review, Fiction Southeast, Sonora Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and many other places. His latest book is Brevity: A Flash Fiction Handbook, recently out from Columbia University Press. He’s a professor of English and the creative writing program director at Montclair State University. His website is www.davidgalef.com and his Twitter handle is @dgalef.





     It is suppertime and his many eyes watch the back door of the farmhouse. The last of the water has been lapped away and the banged-up metal dish sits, overturned, on the grass like an enormous silver tortoise. In front of his wooden dog hut an iron stake driven deep into the hard soil anchors the heavy chain that connects to his leather collar. Six yards is all he gets.
     Though not as free as he once was, he does not have much to guard these days, either. The nearest gates are over at the old pioneer cemetery and the high school kids sneaking around after dark are nothing like the hellions and thrill seekers that used to mill about the threshold of Hades.
     But when the newspaper boy rides by every afternoon on his red bike, wheels churning up chalky clouds from the gravel road in front of the farmhouse, there is a great deal of barking and howling until the woman yells from the kitchen window, tells Cerberus to hush up and lie down, and to be a good boy.
     There is nothing to do after that, except to nap on the grass in the summer or inside the shabby dog house in the too-long winter, dreaming now and then about the old days, the glory days, the days of many gods and monsters, till the back door creaks open and the farmer’s wife emerges and walks his way with a large dish of food.

David Dominé lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches foreign languages and translation at Bellarmine University. He holds and MFA from Spalding University and he just published his twelfth book, a memoir titled Voodoo Days at La Casa Fabulosa. His current projects include Daedalus in the Milking Barn, a collection of poetic vignettes that imagines the gods and monsters of ancient Greece banished to the Midwest of the post-war years.





     Jemmy bought her husband a coloring book—the one he asked for—strategically displayed nowhere near the kids section of the bookstore. It coined itself under the koan that it promoted both Zen, release, yet promoted creativity from previously unknown crevices of thought, which Jemmy thought didn’t make all too much sense, but she checked out and plopped it on his desk. He thanked her with a kiss below the earlobe and withdrew four colored pencils. Jemmy went to bed, layering the blankets against the winter chill. She fell into a deep sleep with a slow estuarine decrease of heart and brain function; the last thing she heard was the house shudder, pipes choking somewhere near the bathroom.
     Jemmy woke up, somewhere around four, to the sounds of frustration. This was the man she married: a once haunted young boy finding solace in plotting mathematical topologies, and graphing curves upon the ruled paper of his notebook. Something now, about the way he was, was turning into a pile of calcareous rubble. She remained on her side in the dim of the still-dark morning, the hammer of her heart sounding deep within the canal of her ear. She knew what he was doing: seeing if it was possible to color in the pages of the book with no more than four colors so that no two adjacent regions had the same color. It was a theorem that haunted him. It was a question posed to a shadow, never to her.

Thomas Hrycyk is currently a candidate for an MFA at Queens University of Charlotte and has worked for multiple literary journals including Fifth Wednesday Journal. His most recent publications include a novella, L’Amande et La Fleur (Wapshott Press, 2016), and a short story in GTK Creative Journal. His work is forthcoming in Fiction International.




Getting Out the Vote
Doug Mathewson

     When he was nominated the business of who would be the first not actually completely human candidate for office was resolved, and Ball Joint was fantastically popular. He had good looks, a quick wit, and always seemed to be enjoying life. His appeal was universal. He was a household word, if not one spoken aloud.
     Human people did not care to admit they knew him as the world’s most popular droid-porn star. Other droids would point it out with pride and hybrid or humanoid citizens found this aspect of Ball Joint’s success story hilarious. Now he was “Candidate Ball Joint” and the world could move on towards election day.
     All adult citizens got to vote. Fox people, dog people, rabbit people (don’t call them “bunnies”), all species and of course androids. Everyone except zombies because fuck them, and are they alive or what?
     Droids were the first to get the vote. The old style original humans were few, and those few were faltering. Everyone loved droids. They were pleasant, polite, often charming, and always willing to take on the most unwanted tasks. The jobs no one wanted to do. Like being a poet. Who would want that, with such long hours and so little reward?
     Some in the press called him “Nick Chopper”, a reference to Dorothy's Tin Man without a heart when he proposed major cut backs, even on oxygen production to balance a budget that had long been mired by decades of neglect and abuse. Ball Joint’s supporters came up with the slogan “Oil Can” in response. The slogan that soon appeared on T-shirts, banners, and bumper stickers.
     The real clincher, the move that would be credited for his eventual win, was when Ball Joint started making his appearances in full droid porn gear with a big old fashion oil can in hand. Giving a knowing wink, he’d shoot a couple of squirts from the oil can and say; “This election,.... it’s gonna be tight”!

Glow-Bee and Me
Doug Mathewson

     Our implants told me and Glow-Bee that we won a rabbit in a raffle. She didn’t know what a rabbit was, and I’d never heard of a raffle before. It’s hard sometimes when you’re pan-dimensional like us. Or that’s what we think we are anyway. Glow-bee just says “Same shit, different day”, but I don’t agree with her about that. I call her “her’ because sometimes she appears as a very tall older woman. Mostly she looks like a big glowing iridescent bee. Twice now that I can remember she was an entire K-pop band from a hundred years ago. Mostly I’m people. I’m like a slide show and I’ll look the same for maybe a couple of days or only a few minutes. Always, always I have a beard. Usually some fat guy with a bushy face, but a few bearded ladies. Glow-Bee says sometimes when I’m sleeping I look like a squid with a beard (I have no idea what she means by that). Anyway now we have to find a common plain where we both have physical bodies and go see about that rabbit. Glow-Bee is after me about something called a “ticket”, whatever that is.

Doug Mathewson writes short fiction and takes non-related photographs. His work has most recently appeared in The Boston Literary Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, The Binnacle, Bop Dead City, Chicago Literati, DOGPLOTZ, The Donut Factory, Jersey Devil, The Odd Magazine,Sweater Weather, and Rocky Mountain Revival Podcasts.




Twenty-Pound Salmon
Joe Giordano

     Since my wife died, women pursue me. The women attracted to me when I was twenty. They're old too. I don't resemble Robert Redford. I drive, walk unassisted, and don't carry a gut the size of a Brontosaurus egg. And I'm alive. Men like me are musical chairs. Not enough to go around, and our numbers ever diminish. I'm pursued with the energy of an angler trying to land a twenty-pound salmon.
     The women are divorced or widowed. A few, I suspect, henpecked their husbands into an early grave. They miss the conversation. Married, they were invited out by friends. Couples don't include single women. Awkward as a left-handed handshake.
     Young women attract me, but I get grandpa smiles. They hold the door, or offer to carry my packages. Not my self-image. As long as I don't look in a mirror, I forget my age. I don't ask them out. Creepy, they'd think. I imagine expressions of disgusted surprise. I'd rather stick with my fantasy. Passion's in the past, not like sporadic skin cancers, diminishing sight, and pissing three times per night.
     My wife, Debra, and I were together forty-seven years. Cancer. Quick. Not having to watch long suffering, was her last gift to me. I hadn't cheated, except for that high school reunion. Former girlfriend. Stupid. I never felt completely forgiven. When the pain of Debra's passing diminishes, I might date. Grief from the loss of my parents took a decade to ebb. Probably, I'll die first.

Find Them
Joe Giordano

     Amanda's smile made me gasp. I pulled my silver Camaro into a lovers’ lane. I persisted, she resisted. Three dates later, I told Amanda that I loved her. She didn’t stop me.
     Months later, eyes welling, Amanda announced the news. An abortion, she said, would be a second sin. I loved her, but marriage? I gulped. She was seventeen. My angst spiked. Her parents could've nailed me. Instead, they moved to California. Unknown address. Our hands touched before they pushed her into the blue Ford. My indelible memory, Amanda's face through the rearview window, streaked, glistening wet. Her father should've punched me.
     Thoughts of Amanda and the baby faded. No longer my problem. Queer sense of relief. Life moved on. Many other women. I learned the lesson and used protection. I never married.
     Decades later, when gray hair thinned, my life seemed a landfill. What was the point? A glimmer arose. I had a son or a daughter. In their late thirties. The bounty of my love for Amanda. Why couldn't the self-centered bastard that I was see it? Probably married with kids of their own. Grandpa. Wow. Would they reject me; hate me? Bar me? Who could blame them. Abandoned. Amanda? Married to a wiser man. I'm the bad memory, except for the child. I imagined, "You should've stayed away," and a slammed door. Would rejection rip open the depths of my emptiness? The shovel pat on my grave? Still, I had to find them.

Joe's stories have appeared in more than ninety magazines including Bartleby Snopes, The Saturday Evening Post, decomP, The Summerset Review, and Shenandoah. His novel, Birds of Passage, An Italian Immigrant Coming of Age Story, was published by Harvard Square Editions October 2015. His second novel, Appointment with ISIL, an Anthony Provati Thriller will be published by HSE in May 2017. Read the first chapters and sign up for his blog at joe-giordano.com/




Posthumous
Catherine Moore

     She was good at ending things: meetings, sentences, marriages. My stepmother’s death was my invitation back home to visit all the things I never really wanted again. Same dark shadow from the green mushroom water tower with its rusted top. The stone cabin with a grim porch—Vera called a veranda—where she held court. That dreadful smell of the brackish creek that once peppered all our arguments. I had my usual sense that the devil was everywhere here, in this house, in those old waters. This death from the outside-in was all she left me—a battered house, a cold heart, and a pile of manuscripts. All induced, if memory served, by a hillbilly heroin thing.
     The weight of her written work was astonishing. Most of the ramblings made no sense. They hit the wastebasket bottom with a thud. As I dug deeper into the pile, I felt my soul rubbing against the sharp edges of bad feelings. A chapter titled “The Killing” confirmed it—dad lies somewhere along the riverbank. Surely eaten away by time. I looked at my cell phone to see if it registered even a weak signal. A train rattled in the distance but close enough, always, to make it difficult to call for help. Not that the neighbors would ever respond. I bagged up the dreadful pages, grabbed my flashlight, and slipped on Vera’s boots.

Catherine Moore is the author of three chapbooks including the recent “Wetlands" (Dancing Girl Press, 2016). Her work appears in Southampton Review, Blue Fifth Review, Caesura, Still: the Journal, Mid-American Review and in various anthologies. A Walker Percy fellow, she won the 2014 Gearhart Poetry Prize and has work included in “The Best Small Fictions of 2015.” She was also awarded a Nashville MetroArts grant. Catherine earned a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Tampa, and she teaches at a community college. She’s tweetable @CatPoetic.




Theft
Ray Greenblatt

     A tall young man with shaved head in an orange jump suit stood in the court. "Did you rob the Equity Bank at 100 Central Avenue in Earleville at 9:15 AM on Monday, October 30?" asked the prosecutor.
     The young man glanced at his attorney and replied, "No, sir."
     "Thank you, Mr. Jessup," responded the prosecutor with fatigue in his voice. "Mr. Wilkinson?"
     Heads in the jammed courtroom shifted as they tried to spot the second man.
     He finally emerged into an open space also in an orange jump suit. However, he was in a wheelchair. The judge had said little so far, chin propped on one supporting arm. A wise god surveying his domain. He stared down at the second man.
     "Mr. Wilkinson, this is a preliminary hearing. You have a clean record. Yet, you were in possession of a hand gun. Did your lawyer tell you that in this state that's five years minimum?"
     Wilkinson simply said, "I'm guilty." The court was silent.
     "Fortunately no one was hurt and the money recovered. But good lord, man," continued the judge "how old are you?"
     The man answered, "73."
     "This is tragic! Why would you do this at your age?" The judge and everyone in the room waited.
      "Your honor, I'm sick . . .I can't afford medicine. I have nothing . . . and nobody. At least the state will take care of me . . .I don't want to be found with just this lousy wheelchair one day lying frozen on a sidewalk."

Ray Greenblatt teaches a "Joy of Poetry" course at Temple University in Philadelphia. He is on the board of the Schuylkill Valley Journal. His latest book is Shadow with Green Eyes (A Meg Kennedy Publication).





     Grease! Grease is everywhere and I can’t take it anymore.
     We work in a lubricant factory—what do you expect—sawdust?
     No, but I’m going to speak to the plant manager about this. Don’t you think you should speak with the foreman first? Chain of command and all that.
     Fuck chain of command.
     Well, how’d your talk with the plant manager go?
     He passed me up to the vice president.
     And how’d that go?
     He walked me into the president’s office to have me explain directly.
     And?
     Put it this way—grease is no longer a problem in my life.

Paul Beckman has had over two hundred stories published in print and online in the following magazines amongst others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Literary Orphans, Blue Fifth Review, Flash Frontier, Metazen, Boston Literary Magazine and The Brooklyner. He's had a novella and three collections published; the newest, "Peek" by Big Table Publishing in Feb. of this year. His published story website is paulbeckmanstories.com..




Guillotine
Brad Rose

     Sunday, before attending mass, the executioner inadvertently sliced his oblong chin while shaving with the straight razor he’d “commandeered” the week before from one of his now deceased prisoners—a small, homely man with a remarkably thick neck, who’d been convicted of the fatal slashing of three “ex-girlfriends” from the Rue Saint Denis. His attention suddenly sharpened, the executioner peered at the reflection of the bloodied shaving crème and breathed a mental sigh of relief, It’s just a nick.

Brad Rose was born and raised in Los Angeles, and lives in Boston. He is the author of a collection of poetry and flash fiction, Pink X-Ray (Big Table Publishing, 2015) Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Brad’s poetry and fiction have appeared in, The Los Angeles Times, The American Journal of Poetry, Folio, decomP, Lunch Ticket, Right Hand Pointing, The Baltimore Review, and other publications. Links to Brad’s published poetry and fiction can be found at: bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com. Audio recordings of a selection of his published poetry can be heard at: https://soundcloud.com/bradrose1




Divvying Up
Duncan Whitmire

     The baby was hers. That much was simple, and the house? Hmm. She left the house for later, thinking that maybe once the smaller items fell into place, the larger assets would make sense. One car apiece, the dog with him. And the fish? She didn’t think either of them wanted the fish. Maybe the fish should be tied to the house in kind of a tit-for-tat situation.
     Downstairs, home from his supposed work function, he was banging around with the loose gait of a man fresh off a bad decision. She rolled over to face the darker half of the bedroom.
     The friends would need sorting too. Pity cousin Mel counted as family and not an acquaintance. He and Mel had bonded over a shared interest in Russian cinema years ago. At family get togethers she could count on the two of them drifting off to the edge of the party, leaving her to fend for herself. They’d probably still swap emails from time to time, but he’d have to feel guilty about it. Of all the things he should feel guilt over, this seemed like a distraction.





     We know it’s wrong to do, but we can’t help ourselves. It’s the ripple where the diaphragm convulses, and we avoid eye-contact.
     We’ve done this too many times, and we don’t want people to stare, to think that we’re being disrespectful. It’s not even something we can explain to others.
     There is no one true catalyst that causes tears to stream down our faces and mouths to hurt from straightening. Can’t help that we- we-
     Maybe it’s the way that the dark hairs jut from her chin. Or it’s the way her jowls jiggle when she strains to reach a high note. We think, maybe, it’s her voice itself, the way it shakes and wobbles, a whaaaalalalala whaaaalalala that is almost in cadence to our quivering shoulders.
     And we catch one another looking back and forth from her to our knees. The fleeting second, just a glance, increases our fit. It hurts to repress it, and we cling to one another with eyes closed and hands clutched.
     The altar boy spills a little plastic communion cup into Mrs. Gibson’s massive lap, and we start all over again.

Amanda Bigler grew up in a small town in Kansas. She completed her BA in English literature from the University of Kansas, where she won the KU creative writing award in 2010. She then completed her MA in literature with an emphasis on creative writing at Loughborough University in 2013. Currently she is finishing her PhD in contemporary short fiction and empathetic writing devices and is an English language and literature lecturer at the University of Lorraine and Sciences Po in Nancy, France. Her publications can be found in the Wicked Young Writers Award, Serving House Journal, and the Creative Process, amongst others. Her young adult novel, "The Takers", was published in 2015.







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