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Tina Barry

     I’m shoveling the driveway while my boys throw snowballs nearby. “Asshole,” the little one says, as the wet mound, flung softly, hits him on the chest. We’re okay, my sons and me, until my wife appears. I swear I can smell her perfume—roses and burnt candy—before I see her coming. Ice crunches beneath the wheels of my car she “borrowed,” and there’s something loose and rattling in back. She’s waving, Hey, I’m home! Like nothing’s happened. Like weeks haven’t passed since she left. We stand there, frozen in our spots. She pulls up to the curb and lowers the window. With a big, fake pout she asks the boys, “Aren’t you happy to see your mom?” They look at me like they’re asking, Can we dad? I shrug. What am I supposed to do? Tell them not to love her? The door opens and she steps out. As she bends to grab her coat off the seat, I see a new tattoo, I think it’s an eagle, above her ass. Out come the gifts—her disappearing acts always end with gifts: a Game Boy and a fancy science kit wrapped in plastic with their price tags still on. The kids take a few steps toward her; they’d run if I wasn’t watching. She pulls them closer. One has his head against her shoulder; the younger one’s arms are wrapped around her hips. I hate myself for wanting to be where he is. My hand right on that eagle where it’s warm.

Tina Barry’s articles and short fiction have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Tiny Lights: A Journal of Personal Essay, as well as newspapers, magazines and the Internet. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. Tina can be contacted at tbarrywrites@yahoo.com.

Jeff Schnaufer
      Door opened.
      “He’s here!” something cried.
      "Back already?" Wastebasket groaned.
      "Why doesn't he leave us alone?" Lamp sighed.
      Man was in the room. He flipped up Lightswitch.
      "Not so hard," Lightswitch grumbled.
      Lamp turned on, casting her light to the four corners of the room. It was a small space, underlined with a wooden floor and surrounded by white walls. The walls were cluttered from top to bottom with movie theater bills from old science fiction films: King Kong, The Invisible Man, War of the Worlds and many more. Along one of the walls was a little Bed. Lining the far wall was an old roll-top Desk, with only a half-chewed Pencil on top. Before it sat Chair. Beside it stood Lamp. Beneath Lamp lay Wastebasket, empty.
      "What's he going to do?" Chair asked.
      "What else?" flipped Lightswitch.
      "Shut up, Switch," Pencil snapped. "Maybe he won't. Maybe not this time."
      Man closed Door behind him. Then he walked up to Desk and sat on Chair, who squeaked in protest.
      "He's gained a little weight," Chair grunted.
      Man's hands reached into Desk's drawer, tickling him slightly, and produced a piece of Paper. He placed it on Desk's top. Then he reached for Pencil.
      "Uh oh," Pencil said.
      Man lifted Pencil into the air and looked down at Paper. He did not move for several moments. He looked thoughtful. For a moment, hovering in the air above desk, Pencil dared to hope that Man was suffering from the illness that attacked so many writers.
      "Please have the block," Pencil whispered, "Please have the block."
      Man, as always, did not respond. Instead, he lifted his eyes from Paper to the wall of posters. Then he began to chew on Pencil.
      "For crying out loud!" Pencil hollered. "Just finish me already!"
      "Why doesn't he leave us alone?" Lamp pleaded. "Poor Pencil is already half gone."
      "Don't worry about him," Paper told her. ""Pencil's gonna go out in style. This man is about to begin the Great American Novel. I can see it in his eyes. He and Pencil are gonna go down in history."
      "Isn't that what the last piece of Paper said?" asked Chair.
      Man's eyes fell back on Paper. He stopped chewing. His hand plummeted down. Pencil cried out as he struck Paper. Man's hand moved rapidly. Then Pencil and Paper screamed together.
      Everything gasped.
      "Oh no," whispered Desk. "He's only doodling."
      "What a waste," sighed Wastebasket.
      "Why doesn't he just leave us alone?" Lamp asked.
      Suddenly, Pencil's lead broke, drawing a wail of agony and grief. His life was now a few millimeters shorter.
      Angrily, man tossed him aside. Then he crumpled up Paper and chucked him, only half-used, into Wastebasket.
      "Paper?" Wastebasket asked as he landed on an empty soda can.
      No answer.
      "Paper, can you hear me?"
      Nothing. Not a rustle.
      "I'm sick of this Man's garbage!" Wastebasket exclaimed. "He makes the mistakes, he draws the blanks and everything else suffers. Last time it was poor old Laptop. I've had my fill of it, I tell you! I want to create! I want to be an artiste'!
      "Oh, why doesn't he leave us alone?" asked Lamp.
      Man pulled out another piece of Paper and was frantically searching for something else in Desk's drawer.       "Darn it," he said to himself, "where are the rest of my Pencils?"
      "There are none," Desk answered.
      "Heck," Man said. "There are none. Where's my sharpener?"
      "You lost it," Desk said.
      "I've lost it!" Man cried, dumping out the drawer. Over a hundred sheets of Paper fluttered to the floor, prompting many to yell out in surprise things like: "Hey, take it easy!" "Banzai!" and "I left the woods for this?"
      Man tossed the drawer back on Desk.
      "That's not where it goes!" Desk protested.
      Man pushed himself away from Desk and jumped up from Chair, knocking him over.
      "Oaf!" Chair cracked.
      Man did not stop. He made his way towards Door. He flipped off Lightswitch as he swung Door open. Lamp went out. Man slammed Door behind him. The Room was plunged into darkness.
      "Hinge-breaker," Door muttered.
      "Good riddance," Wastebasket added.
      "Here, here," Desk echoed.
      "I thought he would never leave," Lamp said.
      "We can do fine on our own," Chair declared, still on his back.
      "You said it," the pieces of Paper cheered. "So...how about helping us off the floor?"
      "Excuse me?" Desk said.
      "We said, 'Why doesn't one of you help us up?'"
      Desk stammered. "Well, um...I can't...Uh, Chair? How about you?"
      "I'm sort of in the same position as Paper," Chair replied.
      A pause.
      "I...see. Well, uh, why don't you let me think about it for a minute?"
      Everything agreed. A chorus of, "Sure!" "Of course!" and "Take your time, Desk!" rang out.
      "Thanks," Desk replied. Then he added, "Um, I could probably use a little light, too. Lamp?"
      "Don't talk to me," Lamp said quickly. "Talk to Lightswitch."
      "Sorry Desk," Lightswitch said, "but I need Man to—"
      He stopped.
      "You mean, if he doesn't, you can't...?"
      "Well, no."
      "But what if he never comes back?" Wastebasket asked.
      "Don't think that!" Desk yelled. "He'll be back. He always is."
      "But what if it's different this time?" Wastebasket went on. "He could get hit by a car. Or an asteroid."
      "No," Chair whimpered.
      "Asteroids aren't particular."
      "I've heard stories. He could never return."
      "Then I won't be able to...," Lamp gasped.
      "And I'll never..." Chair groaned.
      "And we won't..." the Paper cried.
      "And I'll be bored to death!" Pencil shouted.
      Everything began to worry.
      "Oh, why did he leave us alone?" Lamp cried.
      Just then, Door stiffened.
      "What's the matter?" asked Lightswitch.
      "Something is coming up the stairs," Door whispered.
      A sense of excitement swept through the Room.
      "Could it be?" Chair asked.
      "Oh, please," Lamp begged.
      "Maybe he's ready to start the Great American Novel," all the Paper hoped aloud.
      Something moved behind Door.
      Everything went quiet.
      Slowly, Door opened.
      "He's here!" something cried.
      "Back already?"

Jeff Schnaufer
      Her breath stank.
      She wore a band-aid on her glasses.
      And she towered over me like a giant.
      And right now, she was the only thing between me and a big, fat raise.
      The bet I had made with my boss was simple: beat her in basketball, get a 5% raise. Lose and I was going to have to bring her lunch—made by me at home—for the rest of the year.
      I was up by a basket on this blistering July day on the asphalt by the shipping docks, where the basketball hoop stood as the unbiased arbiter of all unsettled scores in the office. I hadn’t received a raise in a year, despite my reputation for being the best driver at the Pennywise Piggy Bank Company. My boss, Ursa, had a reputation for being the company’s best slave driver. A collision was inevitable.
      Nearly blind from the sweat stinging my eyes, I decided I’d better shoot before it was too late. The ball arched over Ursa’s grimacing head and bounced off the backboard.
      She caught the rebound and dunked it before another drop of sweat could fall from my face. 8 all. Tie game. Next basket wins.
      I picked up the ball, wiped the sweat with my cap and dribbled in from the half court. Her eyes focused on me intently for a moment. I dribbled up to her, keeping my distance from those sweeping arms, and waited for my chance.
      “Your glasses are steaming up,” I said. “You must be getting tired.”
      That did it. Her face reddened and she reached in for the ball. I spun around her and drove for the basket - only to feel the strangest sensation that made me lose control of the ball.
      Did she just pinch my butt?
      Before I knew it, Ursa had the ball and leapt for the basket. Two points. Game over.
      I turned to her angrily, accusingly.
      “You pinched my ass!” I yelled. “You cheated!”
      Ursa just smiled. “Don’t act like you didn’t like it.”
      I was stunned. Not because of her attitude. But because, I realized, she was right.
      “Screw you,” I said, weakly.
      “Anytime,” she cooed, walking away with the ball.
      And that, children, is how I fell in love with your mother.

Jeff Schnaufer is a graduate of the University of Southern California Masters in Creative Writing Program. His fiction has appeared online in Bewildering Stories and Ray Gun Revival. He has also written more than 1,000 newspaper and magazine articles.

KM Rockwood
      Another vacant apartment. Assuming you can call these room-and-a-half holes-in-the-wall apartments. Makes five on this floor. Only six apartments total on each floor. Getting a bit lonely.
      Doesn’t matter. I lived in this apartment thirty five years; not likely to leave now.
      The good janitor left. The guy they have now doesn’t even bother to sweep the halls. And the elevator’s broke.
      Doesn’t matter. May take me a while, but I can still climb the stairs.
      Can’t blame people for leaving the neighborhood. The library branch closed down. Barber shop is gone. The bank’s now this ATM thing that I don’t know how to work.
      Doesn’t matter. My social security is direct deposit. I can cash checks at the money exchange. Costs something, but I can do it. Wonder how many checks I have left.
      Not too many places to spend the money anyhow. Liquor store’s doing fine. Since the grocery store burned out, I get most of my food at the dollar store. Who’d’ve ever thought you could live mostly on stuff from the dollar store? I do miss bananas, though. And fresh veggies.
      Doesn’t matter. Can of chili every couple of days. The beans keep me regular.
      Sure do miss the coffee shop. Course, I couldn’t afford the coffee there anymore; before they closed, they started serving all these weird things with foam and all. Charged a couple bucks for a cup. And then the laundromat closed down.
      Doesn’t matter. I can wash out my clothes in the sink.
      New sign on the lobby door. More like a notice, really. Can’t read it; the print’s too small. Haven’t been to the eye doctor lately. Or any other doctor. Not easy to ride the bus. Hard to get up those steep stairs. And I almost fall over every time it lurches.
      Doesn’t matter. If the sign says anything really important, I’ll find out sooner or later.
      Don’t get the newspaper anymore. Went up to fifty cents. Print was getting blurrier lately. Cheap ink. Phone don’t work anymore, either. Probably forgot to pay the bill.
      Doesn’t matter. Who would I call?
      Getting cold at night. Wonder when they’ll turn the heat on? Seems like it should be soon. Think I’ll have some ramen noodles for supper. Good and hot. Put on my warm sweater. Maybe my hat. Wrap up in my blanket. Watch some of that reality TV. Stupid, mostly. Seems like they just do it so they don’t have to pay anybody to write the shows, or any actors.
      Doesn’t matter. Still something to watch.
      Wait a minute. Power’s out. No light. Can’t boil water for noodles. TV won’t work.
      Doesn’t matter. I’ll just sit here in the dark. Open a can of chili. Not much to be done for it anyhow.

KM Rockwood enjoys reading all types of fiction with a special fascination very short fiction, and at times feels compelled to turn experiences and people from a varied background into stories.  Previous work has appeared in several other publications, both on-line and in print.

Tom Mahony
     They were on a health kick. In search of truth, of meaning and control in a brutal world.
       They meditated, did Tai Chi, hiked long miles through redwood forest, abstained from sugar and dairy and meat. They juiced strange vegetables into oddly colored liquids. She pushed for yogurt enemas but he drew a hard line at rectal penetration.
       One evening they drank shots of wheatgrass and watched twilight descend over the mountains. They closed their eyes and inhaled the ambience.
       “How are you feeling,” she murmured. “Are you feeling the bliss yet?”
       A creek trickled nearby, a cool breeze rustled the redwood canopy. Ravens called in the distance. The answers were out there, somewhere.
       “I’m feeling,” he said through steady, soul-cleansing breaths that culminated in an exhale so deep he glimpsed his first sacred truth. “So fucking hungry for a cheeseburger.”

Tom Mahony is a biological consultant in California with an M.S. degree from Humboldt State University. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in dozens of online and print publications, including Surfer Magazine, Flashquake, The Rose & Thorn, Pindeldyboz, In Posse Review, Boston Literary Magazine, 34th Parallel, Diddledog, Foliate Oak, and Decomp. His short fiction collection, Slow Entropy, was published by Thumbscrews Press in 2009. He is looking for a publisher for several novels. Visit him at tommahony.net.

Memoirs of Icarus
Will Fenton

     It began with a bb gun, a lawn chair, a coffee thermos, a thousand party balloons, ended with his wife, children, their Chihuahua, Isabella, in a sunny Idaho field; in between, he dangled his feet above the Oregon Desert, a whisked cappuccino.

Will Fenton grew up in a small town on the coast of Maine. In 2005, he received his Bachelors degree in English from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. He has worked in contract (Just Communications, London), commercial (Create Magazine, Orlando), and educational (Harcourt, Orlando and New York) publishing. He is currently a candidate for Masters in English with Writing Concentration from Fordham University in New York City, where he intends to continue on for his PhD.

Power and Light
Salvatore Pane

      Every year my father goes Christmas shopping with his best friend, and at twenty-five I’m finally old enough to be invited. We drive in Dad’s pickup to the mall in Dickson City. We walk through Sears and Macy’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond. We don’t buy much, and I don’t tell them I ordered all my gifts off the internet a month earlier. When we’re through pretending to shop, we stop at a bar to watch the Eagles game. Dad and George have been going there half their lives, but I’ve never set foot inside. One of those off-the-beaten-path places where everyone wears Carhartts and drinks lager. We share a pizza and two pitchers and the night is good.
            My father knows everyone. The bartender, the old couple at the end of the bar who have begun to resemble one another. I don’t know anybody and wonder how that’s possible. I haven’t called Scranton my home in six years and this startles me sober. When the game’s over and the last pitcher’s empty, we settle up. But then Dad sees someone he’s missed and goes over to speak with him, to badmouth the bishop and complain about the mayor. George gives me a knowing look and we wait outside, both trying to ignore the cold, our bellies heavy with beer. George talks about the cutbacks at his job. He works for Pennsylvania Power and Light, and they might force him to retire early. He’s only fifty years old, and I’m just beginning to realize how young they both are.
              George turns towards the Scranton skyline heavy in the distance, the Times Building, City Hall. He speaks without looking at me and says I was right to leave, that there’s nothing here anymore. I nod and agree, mutter something about how most people my age left town the same time I did. But I wonder if he knows how untrue that statement is. That everyday more and more of my old friends are sending out wedding invitations, announcing their intentions to stay here forever. They think of me in the past tense. I shove my hands in my pockets and kick a rock toward the gutter. We wait for my father.

Salvatore Pane was born and raised in Scranton, Pennsylvania and is finishing his MFA in Fiction at the University of Pittsburgh. He has been published in Quick Fiction and Folio and is the current editor of Hot Metal Bridge. He also reviews books for BOMB.

Pool of Narcissus
John Cofran

     Artie, a high school dropout with an acne-ravaged face, stands behind the one-way glass window of the bank he cleans weekday mornings accepting, as if it were meant for him, the loving look each passing pretty woman, in the silvered surface of the glass, offers to herself alone.

John Cofran has a B.A. in English from the University Of Southern Maine. He lives with his wife Beverly in Portland, Maine. "Pool Of Narcissus" is his first published work of fiction. His non-fiction articles have appeared in The Maine Scholar and Theatre Survey.

Robo Co
Anna Muench

     "Oops, sorry," she said, putting a hand over her bag and patting the pockets to make sure everything was still there.
         "No, it was my fault."
         "I wasn't looking where I was going."
         "Neither was I."
         They both laughed. It was the same laugh.
         "I like your purse," the redhead said.
         "Thanks, me too."
         They both laughed again.
         "Where're you headed?"
         "New New York, you?"
         "Me too. Work."
         "Bummer. What do you do?"
         "I work for Robo Co."
    Uncomfortable silence settled in.
         "Oh," she let out a disappointed sigh, "I was just headed up for a protest. Of Robo Co."
         "Oh. So you're one of them, are you?"
         "It's nothing personal, I just don't like their- your- err, the policies."
         "I'm not the one that comes up with them, you know."
         "I know."
         "It's not fair to put so many people out of work just because you don't like their politics."
         "I'm sorry, but even more people are going to be hurt if they don't stop."
         "I don't believe you."
         "Oh god."
         "They've brainwashed you, haven't they? They've convinced you that what they're doing is right!"
         "They pollute our rivers! They're killing our food supply and poisoning our air!"
         "They are not! That's just lies the other companies spread to keep you from buying Robo Co stock!"
         "Yeah right! Why should I believe you? I bet the company pays you to say that."
         "No, it's the truth, I swear."
         "How can you believe that? I've seen kids in the hospital with cancer from living too close to a Robo Co plant, and for what? To make cheaper robots so some sickos can marry the robot of their dreams?"
         "My husband is a robot!"
         "Your company killed my daughter!"
         Tense silence pervaded until the bus arrived. One by one the people waiting filed on, and then found their seats.
         "So," the redhead said, and the other girl looked up to see what her opponent would say, "what's your favorite movie?"

Anna Muench is a student at Mount Holyoke College and plans to graduate in spring of 2013. She hopes she will have a career as a writer in English and Spanish after graduating.

Speak Spinoza, Speak!
Doug Mathewson

            Your endlessly repetitive inquiries if I would be “ok” were so insistent and relentless that I was unable to respond. As the kids might well say, “No, I am not good with that.” You going off on some so called “business trip” with your friend “Michael” (who as far as I can tell doesn’t have job at all) is most unseemly. What kind of business trip does an unemployed person go on, I ask? I watch enough daytime television while you are out to have a very clear picture of what your “business trip” will consist of.
          I understand your not taking me to Las Vegas, and frankly I was just as glad not to go. The very thought of that city at nose level is revolting. What I do find disturbing is the haphazard arrangements you have made for me in your absence. I could stay with your ex for example. Steve was always such a thoughtful and kind man, (unlike this “Michael” you seem to hold in such high and undeserved regard). I am quite sure Steve would be more than willing to have me stay the week. He lives in a farm in Connecticut for God’s sake! We could frolic in the autumn leaves together and dare I say, I might even chase bunnies! But rather you have chosen to board me at “Happy Dale Acres” What a misnomer! Who ever heard of a kennel on the twenty third floor of an office building in mid-town. There are no “dales”, no ”acres”, and I for one am not happy. The overwhelming smell of copy-machine toner, comings and goings at all hours, and elevators that make strange unsettling noises have left me sleepless and unable to eat (not that any dog with a home would eat what is offered here).
          When you return I feel it would be in the best interests of our relationship to discuss this and other matters further. We have had many good times together over the years, and these shared memories I hold dear. My desire, my hope, is that we may return to a relationship where in we once again regard each other as “partners and companions” on life’s road. I wish for us to stand on an equal footing, your two to my four, as we share time together mutually interned on this plane of existence.

I await your response.

Jack-Russell Terrier
Happy Dale Acres Kennel
Musgrave Building

dictated to Doug Mathewson

Doug Mathewson lives on the Connecticut shoreline. He writes very short fiction that occasionally changes of its own volition into poetry or essay forms. He has been published here and there online, most recently at The Boston Literary Magazine, Doorknobs & Body Paint, and Six Sentences. His current project, True Stories from Imaginary Lives, can be found at www.little2say.org.

Test Day
Teresa Houle

      “Did you study for the test last night?”
      “For a bit, then Survivor came on and I got distracted. Did you?”
      “Yeah, till, like 3 am. I barely slept and now I can’t remember a thing.”
      “Dude, watch out, you almost stepped in that!”
      “Sick! Who just chucks on a sidewalk?”
      “Let’s skip the test and do make ups later.”
      “What do you want to do?”
      “Go skate.”
      “I need new bearings, these ones are near shot.”
      “Let’s go to my place, I’ve got some.”
      “Okay, cool.”
      “Dude, what is that?”
      “What is whhhaaaa…holy shit.”
      “It’s crying!”
      “Call the cops.”
      “Pick it up, you know more about babies than I do.”
      “Shhhh…it’s okay baby.”
      “I need an ambulance, we found a baby in a ditch.”
      “Dude, is the baby warm?”
      “Not really, I think it needs a diaper too.”
      “Keep the baby awake, dude.”
      “Just keep it awake she said.”
      “Baby! Look at me baby. Keep those eyes open…ya, hi baby. Stay awake long enough for the ambulance to get here and get you safely to a hospital. BABY! Stay awake!!”
      “Don’t shake it, dude!”
      “I wasn’t shaking it. I just moved it to keep it from dozing off. Baby? BABY!”
      “Is it okay?”
      “It’s super tired now.”
      “I can hear the ambulance”
      “Hey baby, you’re going to be safe. You are going to be fine. Stay awake and the good guys are going to make sure you get a nice warm house to live in with people who love you.”
      “Yes, the ambulance is here, thank you.”
      “Hurry up!”
      “He says to bring the baby inside the ambulance.”
      “They aren’t just going to take it?”
      “Guess not.”
      “What are you doing? Why are you undressing the baby?”
      “I learned about this in science. She needs to be skin on skin with a warm body to absorb the heat.”
      “Ya, she.”
      “C’mon baby girl, you’re going to be okay. Oh my god, she’s cold!”
      “Hold her tight, you’re keeping her alive right now.”
      “How am I supposed to hold her tight when this thing is flying down the road?”
      “Deal with it. You’re the only thing keeping her warm.”
      “We’re on a beach in Maui, we’re in a tan…what? Hum?”
      “Just do what he says!”
      “Hmmm. Hmmmm.hmmmm…hmmmm…hmmmm…”
      “Dude, you’re crying.”
      “Shut up.”

Teresa Houle lives in Victoria BC with her husband and daughter. Her work can be found online at Flash Fire 500, Bartleby Snopes, The Legendary, Thirst For Fire and is forthcoming in GUD Magazine. She drinks tea like it's her job.

Brenda Malkiel

     Joanne is tall and blonde and beautiful and when I'm with her, I am too.
       We meet at the combined age of 98 and discover that we have marched through life on parallel courses. The fact that we share a birthday (or, as Joanne prefers, that she was born the day I turned two) assumes prophetic dimensions. When we are together we are the too-cute second graders who dance around the classroom in matching flowered dresses, the obnoxious teenagers snapping their gum as they gossip and flaunt their superiority.
       I tell her my secrets but really there's no need.

Brenda Malkiel lives in Jerusalem. Her publications include the autobiographical "This Is Love" and "Intro to Psych" (All of Our Lives I and II) and academic articles on translation, translator training, and corpus linguistics.

Brian Ted Jones

      “God dammit.”
      “You see that bitch?”
      “Thatun there.”
      “Ohhh boy.”
      “Looks like twenty miles a bad road.”
      “Well I’ll tell you what my fool ass did.”
      “What’s that?”
      “I took her home one night a couple months ago, when I first got into town.”
      “Shoot, let me back away before whatever you got jumps off and lands on me.”
      “Shut up. See, thing was, dont know why—but I assumed she was a whore.”
      “Yeah. Way she . . . way she talked and acted. Everthing.”
      “Yeah?”? “She acted—well, she just plain acted whorish as hell.”
      “So you took her home an fucked her and tried to pay her and then what? She get all pissed off? Ha!”
      “No,” he says darkly.
      “Well . . .”
      “See . . . I took her home. Fucked her. We fell asleep, and in the mornin I asked what I owed her. She looked a little funny, but—”
      “Oh my god.”
      “But she didn't say nothin. Just, she told me, ‘a hunnerd dollars.’”
      “Oh my god.”
      “Yeah. So. I paid her, she left. Come back here about two weeks later, sittin with old Clyde Stapp and Bill Reeker. Clyde’d just got out of the Army and he was itchin for some pussy like no man I’d ever seen. So I pointed that gal out to him and said, ‘cost you a hunnerd dollars and there you go’. Bill, he looked at me kinda sideways and said, ‘what?’, and I said, ‘that gal there,’ and he said, ‘you mean Clarice Johnson?’ and I said, ‘I guess,’ and he said, ‘you think she’s a what now?’ and I told him ‘she’s a whore,’ and he looked over at her and back at me and said, ‘since when?’”
     “Yeah. So I said, ‘hell, I dont know. You've lived here longern I have,’ and Bill said, ‘you god damn right I have and me and about a full bay-talion a swingin dicks have stinkied our dinkies in ol Clarice Johnson’s hamhole, but you my friend are the first I ever heard of to pay cash money for the honor.’”
      “Ohhh, boy. I can just hear old Bill sayin that.”
      “Yeah, fuck. ‘She aint a whore?’ I said. ‘Well, depends. In the sense she’ll fuck anything and anybody—yeah. In the sense she gets paid to do it—aside from the occasional windfall off a blind idiot like yourself—no. She aint.’”
      “Good lord.”
      “I was i-rate.”
      “Did you try and get your money back?”
      “Thought about it. Hell, I was too embarrassed.”
      “You oughtta be embarrassed to tell it!”
      “Ohhhhh damn!”
      “I know.”
      “Shit. I cant believe youd tell it on yourself!”
      “Just, you . . . just keep it to yourself now. Okay?”
      “You can be good and goddamn certain I wouldn't tell it on my self.”
      “Well. That was an odd time for me. Mistakes were made.”

Brian Jones was born in 1984 and raised in Oklahoma. He is a graduate of St. John's College. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Jenne, and their sons Oscar and GuyJack.

Seth Edgarde

      You and I build a Viking boat and sail the Indian Ocean. You slay a two-headed sea serpent off the coast of Madagascar, but in the tussle, you knock over a cushion with your foot.
      “All hands aboard! We’re taking on water!”
      You leave the boat to make repairs while I hold your hand to keep the currents from taking you away. You fight off a shark, climbing back onboard in the nick of time.
      “You kids be careful of that coffee table!”
      You look at me, face frozen in a mischievous smile.
      Dinner is ready, and you ask if I can stay.
      You know that I want to and that my dad will say yes. But you can see that I feel bad about leaving him alone. You ask if my dad can come over too.
      He does, and you look at me as I watch him take in your mother’s kindness in bites and swallows, a small balm against the cut of the one we lost.
      Years from now, when our grandchildren sail on their own Viking boat, you will have gaunt cheeks and rubbery yellow skin, but you will still look at me with that playful grace, and you will still give me that same smile.

Seth Edgarde is a writer and consultant in Santa Monica, California, where he lives with his wife. He earned a bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Chicago and master's degrees in applied mathematics and computer science from Brown University. He has since studied at the UCLA Extension Writer's Program and just completed his first novel, Hart Island. In addition, he has an upcoming piece in The Houston Literary Review.

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