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Plant
Susanne Forsyth

     My three year old son sleeps with his small hands clasped tightly over his ears, like the monkey of 'hear no evil'. When I pull at his hands softly, he resists the pull. He wants absolute quiet. What demands the sounds of silence in one so young? I worry that he has heard too much quiet in the house.
      Fingernails filled with dirt, we dig deep in the backyard, churning the dark soil in readiness for the planting of a raspberry bush. My mother would have enjoyed this hole digging. She would stand in our kitchen, stirring raspberry jam slowly as it thickened. She'd proffer the warm wooden spoon, stained a deep berry red. She would have understood all this, how one never knows who they'll love until they do. That sometimes you just plant yourself in the place where you stand, and send the roots deep or risk being blown away.
      We live on a Northern coast, where the sun sits kind and bleakly overhead. Alexander never met my mother but I have told him of raspberry jam. When I cannot rest I watch my son sleep, his mouth open and his teeth, tiny pearl buttons, just visible in the dark. I think of my mother and envy Alexander the sleep of children, heavy and moist, where the sound and taste of the days' weight is sweated out the pores. I close my eyes and the small flutterings of dread are let loose and fly.

Susanne Forsyth grew up in British Columbia and currently lives in Brooklyn. She has a Masters in Public Finance from New York University. She has written in both nonfiction and fiction genres and on various topics including travel, real estate and renewable energy. Her work has appeared in newspapers, magazines, literary publications and the Internet. The author can be reached at susanne.forsyth@yahoo.com.




Rats
T.L. Sherwood

     The faint smell of a fresh choked neck steeps and seeps and slips wraithlike across the floorboards, rising up to tickle my nose.
     The trap worked. The rodent scarfed down a robust helping of the peanut butter for its last meal and now my brown furred white bellied nemesis is dead. His glib tongue thick swollen tight shut from letting yet another lie slip from his lips. Nut allergies are so appealing in a first husband, boyfriends who are bound to disappoint, lesser men.

T. L. Sherwood lives beside Eighteen Mile Creek in Western New York with her talented husband. Her flash has appeared in Vestal Review and was selected for Eclectic Flash's Best of 2010 Anthology. She conducts a writer's critique group in conjunction with the Springville Center for the Arts. This is a link to her blog: www.tlsherwood.wordpress.com.




Target Practice
Jeffrey Miller

      As he strolled through the foreigners’ cemetery in western Seoul, Mark Thompson asked the caretaker why many of the tombstones appeared damaged—some had noticeable bullet holes; at least two looked mortar-damaged.
      “During the Korean War, the North Koreans and later the Chinese were bivouacked here,” the grizzled caretaker said in passable English. “They must have gotten bored and used the foreign ones for target practice.”
      Thompson, who had recently moved to the city, grunted and moved on to another group of tombstones. History was for the dead, he thought. He just bought some land adjacent to the cemetery and planned to build some new apartments that would overlook the Han River; too bad this cemetery spoiled part of the view.
      “Come here, I want to show you something.”
      The caretaker took Thompson further back in the cemetery to a secluded spot where a tombstone had been toppled; what had once been a stone cross on top had been broken, the pieces missing.
      “Korean War?”
      The caretaker shook his head. “Look again.”
      When Thompson bent down and looked at the tombstone, the caretaker took a piece of the tombstone he had been gripping in his hand and bashed Thompson in the back of the head. The first blow wasn’t enough; he had to hit him two more times.
      There would be others who weren’t that interested in history and he would have to take care of them, too. He just needed a little more target practice, that’s all.



      As soon as I heard Howard Cosell break the news on Monday Night Football that tragic December night, I raced to the fourth floor of Freeman Hall and burst into my friend Paul’s room.
      “John Lennon’s been shot,” I said, out of breath. “He’s dead.”
      “Now, I know the world is going to end soon,” Paul said, looking up from the beanbag chair where he sat. “Someone shot a Beatle.”
      Paul tuned in WTAO and I lit a joint I had been saving for the weekend. We listened to one Beatle song after another. News of John’s death traveled fast. Soon, some friends joined us; candles and incense were lit; a hash pipe and a bottle of wine were passed around.
      “I can’t believe he’s gone,” Abby, one of our friends cried. She rested her head on my shoulder. “What’s this world coming to?”
      I wrapped my arms around Abby and gently rocked her as we listened to “Imagine.” I forgot what time it was when everyone shuffled off to bed or the candle light vigil on campus; Abby and I slipped off to her room.
     In the bluish glow of her television showing a hastily assembled John Lennon tribute—the grainy black and white footage of the Beatles arriving in New York and their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show—Abby and I took a hit of acid and we finally got around to making love. It seemed fitting if the world was going to end soon.

Originally from LaSalle, Illinois, Jeffrey Miller has been living and teaching in Asia since 1989. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in A-Minor Magazine, Bartleby Snopes, Caper Literary Journal, Eunoia Review, Full of Crow, Grey Sparrow Journal, Negative Suck, Orion headless, Short, Fast, and Deadly, Thunderclap! and the Toasted Cheese Literary Journal. His first novel, War Remains was recently published and is forthcoming from www.Lulu.com. He can be found online at www.jeffreymillerwrites.com and www.jeffreyalanmiller.wordpress.com.




Special
Lee Robertson

      The old woman's breasts poured from her chest like pale pancake batter. Her brown and uneven Gustav Klimt nipples were an insult.
      "I used to be attractive," she said in a plaintive voice, turning away from the mirror.
      She struggled into her bra, frowning as she fumbled. She pulled on her new pink shirt, bought at Target by her daughter. She took pride in her appearance. Some residents walked around like it was Halloween every day: nothing matching, wrong sizes, unbrushed hair...
      Over her lips she smoothed a crimson lipstick that caught in the cracks and looked violet. Her eyes shone bluer than blue. It could almost make up for the dark purple flourishing beneath them. The older she got, the less her body could conceal. All was rising to the surface and revealing itself. Her spirit glowed through her features.
      She closed her lavender door, number 6, and trod lightly down the hall. In the elevator she met Lilian, eighty-three. "Not the brightest bulb," she'd told her daughter. "But nice..."
      On the ground floor she walked out and found Harold on his bench, his white hair soft in the breeze. He lived in Building C.
      "Donut?" he offered, opening the box. His voice was gruff. "My son brought 'em."
      "Ooh," she said. Her fingers plucked out a pink-frosted one with colorful sprinkles. A celebration of color.
      "Now what's this one called I wonder," she said.
      His gaze was pure affection. "That one's called Special."

Lee Robertson's fiction has appeared or will appear in Thuglit ("Pink Champagne"), Yellow Mama ("Doppelganger") and The Absent Willow Review ("Emma Bovary"). Visit her blog at www.writerleerobertson.wordpress.com.




Wages of Sin
Wanda Morrow-Clevenger

      You said you were leaving your wife . . .
      Raindrops pummeled, rivaled by stinging tears spawned from a lower plane. A torn wiper, forgotten in the revel of sunnier days, thumped the windshield mimicking Reverend Piety's pulpit-pounding edict: Thou shalt not commit adultery.
      promised me a future . . .
      Headlights blinded in spotlight interrogation: Where were you tonight? What time did you leave the city? Who split your lip?
      I sacrificed everything . . .
      Three police cruisers, blinking blue incrimination, blew past Pam's Saab and vanished in the rear-view. An EMT bus hydroplaned in the backwash.
      The posse, I presume. And the doctor wannabes. Let’em find you with your pants around your ankles.
      Harmony Estates' northbound exit ramp, no longer the road to home-sweet-home, melded into the night. A trembling hand whisked dry a swollen eye, then reached for the radio.
      Lightning lit the highway. Thou shalt not kill. Thunder crashed. Pam startled, swerved.
      Country's Best WIBI crackled one hundred commercial free minutes, filling countless miles. Garth Brooks weighed in with “The Thunder Rolls.”

Wanda Clevenger is a 2009 gradate of Long Ridge Writers Group. Twenty-five pieces of her work appear in: the Storyteller; Nuthouse; The Nocturnal Lyric; Up the Staircase; Flash Fiction Offensive; Leaf Garden; TheRightEyedDeer; Every Day Fiction; Matter Daily; Short Story Library; Clockwise Cat; The Short Humour Site; Long Story Short; The Ultimate Writer; Conceit Magazine; Staccato; Golden Apple; and Daily Flash 2011: 365 Days of Flash Fiction. Forthcoming in Falling Star Magazine.




Unbelievable Worlds
Uzodinma Okehi

It was her friend’s birthday so of course there was a tab at some exclusive club, and she’d be there for drinks. This was at the store on Wooster street, which was Soho, and the big highlight was when they brought in this Czech girl to work the up-front counter. Or the friend that just bought a new West Village condo, she was going over to celebrate. She’d be telling the other, regular girls about her vacation, a few weeks staying with her friend in Geneva. I worked in the back, in the stockroom so I guess it made sense for her not to make eye contact. I was always turning corners right into her, and I felt bad about it, squeezing past, holding my eyes down, like: you gotta be kidding me—carmel skin, nine hours in the bookstore, coming from the bathroom and this bitch still smells like coconuts . . . And who were all these gratuitous friends? In spite of myself I couldn’t help but wonder what that must be like. And why couldn’t life just be about six-foot Euro chicks swing-walking, breezy, easing by, gliding in calf-strapped sandals down hallways and on into unbelievable worlds?

Uzodinma Okehi lives, breathes, writes, and draws comics in New York City. For back issues of his zine, Blue Okoye, try: okehi@hotmail.com (Thanks for reading!)




Mother and Daughter
Wayne Scheer

      Weeds grew high around the rusted singlewide except for a dusty path to its front door. A dim light shone through well-worn kitchen curtains.
      Lucy Grimes stood at the sink. Her daughter sat at a cluttered kitchen table.
      "What happened to Duane?" Lucy asked. "He used to hang around here like a stray puppy waiting to be fed." She washed the dishes by hand because the dishwasher had stopped working months ago. "You two have a fight?"
      "No, Mama. We didn't fight. He just stopped coming 'round."
      Lucy looked at her sixteen year-old daughter's flushed face, her teary eyes. She knew. "He knocked you up, didn't he?"
      Leanne bit her bottom lip. "I think so."
      "What you mean, 'you think so?' Don't you know so?" She glared at her daughter.
      "No, Ma'am. Not for certain. It's been two months since I got my…you know."
      "Did you tell Duane?"
      Leanne nodded. "That's when he…"
      "Flew south, huh?"
      "Yes, Ma'am."
      Lucy wanted to slap the foolishness out of Leanne and beat her bony behind. But that was what her own mother had done when she told her she was pregnant.
      "Come here, baby." She held out her arms. "First, we got to find out for sure. Then you need to decide what you gonna do."
      Tears rolled down Leanne's her cheeks. "I'm gonna be a mama just like you."
      Lucy watched a roach scamper across the kitchen floor. She closed her eyes.

www.pearnoir.com/thumbscrews.htm. Wayne lives in Atlanta with his wife and can be contacted at wvscheer@aol.com.


The Lone Cowgirl Rides Again
Janice D. Soderling

     Meanwhile, a few minutes or centuries later, and back at our original ranch, the Bar Nothing, I ride around the range to check out the damage from the twister, earthquake and avalanche that came on one and the same calamitous day. I'm riding a new horse, old Calm. I stopped flogging poems out of the dead one, old Love, remember him, he had a spot between his eyes; it looked like a bull's-eye even before the deadly silver bullet went in. A lot of blood ran out of that tired old nag. I think about it as I dismount Calm to clear away some sagebrush that blew into the sweetwater well. Then I ride off into a convenient sunset, knowing that despite the cactus and tumbleweed and despite the grueling storms, the Bar Nothing is a nice little spread where, with better irrigation and no rustlers, two hardy homesteaders could have made a pretty decent life. And I forgive you, kemo sabe. And I forgive me. And I think about old Love with something close to affection now and hope he found greener pastures in that Big Prairie in the Sky. And you too.

Janice D. Soderling writes from Sweden, but hails from Indiana. Her work is found at many fine print and pixel sites including Studio Journal, New Walk, dotdotdash, Coe Review, Turtle Quarterly, Tilt-a-Whirl, Now Culture, Literary Bohemian, Literary Mama, Fiction at Work.







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