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And One for Good Luck
J. Spinnazzola

     “If you blow out all the candles, you get to make a wish.”
     Though it was her first time in the country, I was surprised the concept was new to her. By the look on her face, she was sincere. I have never seen anyone so intent on blowing out her candles. She asked if it was the right spot to blow from in order to get them all out at once.
     Nothing would stop her from casting the room into darkness.
     “That’ll be fine,” I said. And she let them have it.
     “I do it. I do it.”
     The candles went out only to flare up before she had a chance to clap.
     This couldn’t happen to her, not on her first birthday in America. She almost broke down in tears.
     I didn’t know how to tell her they were trick candles. I didn’t even know if she’d understand the concept: why I’d unravel a popular myth before she could cast a wish.
     Had I known this was all new to her and that she had decided on a wish related to her American visit, I would have saved the extra dollar and bought regular ones.
     “There must be something wrong with the candles,” I said. “Perhaps next year.”
     But she’d be home next year where they don’t give out wishes on your birthday.

J. Spinazzola is a writer and former attorney. His stories, poems, and legal articles have appeared in print and online. Most recently, Charlotte Viewpoint published his short story, “The Next Big Thing.”




Orrin's Opus
Kurt Klein

     When Orrin and Adelaide rode north out of Benjamin County the boy rode with his mother, his legs too short to span a saddle but cinched up tight to mama's belly. All those days Orrin managed a soft hum set to invented music. It got the boy to sleeping on wild nights and seemed to comfort him as they rode. And when, at a later time, this lad moved on with Mattie, he'd hummed his way along too, same peculiar tune, now shared with four children.
     Over a life's time every offspring got asked, Do you remember traveling, how we moved around? And they'd all answered, Sure, especially the tune. At family gatherings (how did there get to be so many?), with guests of course (all those admiring females), they'd hum and laugh and get dizzy drunk, then mellow their noise and muse on their lives, all started with an unwritten hymn on a plodding horse.
     One of the youngest boys of the clan, Orrin the third (or was it the fourth?), usually kept aside from the others. He busted broncs as a daily chore and would sit straddling the top rail of a corral fence smoking Camel cigarettes. One day, when darkness moved in, he picked the tune out of an evening breeze and felt the rail bend and churn under him and took in the scent of those women, and he said to one, Come along with me, it's travelin' time.

Kurt Klein lives in Chadron, Nebraska. He's old, 87, upright but leaning.




The Wedding
Dolores Regan

      Angela never thought she'd do anything as cliché as fall in love at a wedding, but there you have it. She was smitten. All the symptoms were present; racing heart, damp palms, lingering stares. She half expected the band to play, Some Enchanted Evening.
      There was something about the way he moved that appealed to her. She was watching him when she was distracted by Mathew's honking laughter. The man strode passed like some majestic cat passing up a donkey.
      They hadn't even met. How silly. Yet, a faint sound nearly escaped Angela's throat when he headed for the exit. Without much consideration she followed him.
      He didn't seem surprised when she walked up beside him. The band was barely audible like a music box playing in another room. He commented on the good fortune of such lovely weather after so much rain. They both looked toward the sky as if to confirm his statement.
      “I don't want to miss my train,” he said.
      “Oh, no,” she managed.
      A taxicab pulled up and Angela became aware of an ache in her chest.
      “My train,” he said as if to apologize.
      “Of course. Have a good trip,” she replied.
      He got inside the cab and rolled down the window. “You are the most beautiful bride.”
      Angela stood and watched until the car was out of sight. She returned just in time to cut the cake.

Dolores earned an MA in Women's Studies & Liberal Arts from Stony Brook University. Her work has been published in Bartleby Snopes, Scarlett Rosebud and Six Minute Magazine. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two sons.




Sunset
Mike Nicholson

     Julie stood on the balcony, watching the sun set across the lake. After all the storms that week it was pleasant just to stand there, soaking up the stillness. She looked up at the window, where Patrick was no doubt going through his nightly bedtime ritual.
     The sun crept down below the horizon, and the final rays of light filtered up to turn the sky crimson, almost matching the fresh bruises covering her back and arms.
     When the last reflected light dissipated from the still surface of the lake, she gripped the knife tightly and headed upstairs to bed.

Mike Nicholson is a displaced Englishman living in the countryside just outside Stockholm, Sweden. He moved there for work, stayed for love, and would like to leave for the winters. In the small slices of time between work, child-wrangling and sleep he occasionally finds time to write.





     One day this gal, a waitress I figured, drove up in an old Fairmont. She was pretty in a Polish sort of way. Blonde hair pulled back, deep-set eyes. Solid. Two kids in car-seats in the back—a light-haired girl about two and a chunky baby boy. Her uniform was creased like she just pulled it out of the box. ZADIE according to her nametag. I figured it’s her first day on the job because she’s all nervous, rooting around in her purse for the toll. Gave me a dollar bill and a big smile. Told me she was sorry, like she’d been keeping me from something important. I handed her two quarters and she said, “Thank you, Patrick.”
     I nearly fell out of the booth. After that, every day, it’s, “Thank you, Patrick.” I wanted to say, “You’re welcome, Zadie,” but that would have been crossing a line. Then just before Christmas the boy’s seat was empty. Zadie didn’t smile. She just took her change and drove off like everyone else. Didn’t see her again until Easter.
     She looked tired when she pulled up to the booth. Her uniform hung on her. The little girl sat beside her in the front seat. No car seats. No baby boy. When Zadie handed me her money she smiled, but that was just because she’s a nice person. I squeezed her hand and gave her a little nod. I’m not supposed to do that.

Len Joy lives in Evanston, Illinois. Recent work has appeared in Annalemma, Johnny America, Pindeldyboz, LITnIMAGE, Hobart, 3AM Magazine, Righthand Pointing, Dogzplot, Slow Trains, 21Stars Review, The Foundling Review and The Daily Palette (Iowa Review). He is working on a novel, American Jukebox, about a minor league baseball player whose life unravels after he fails to make it to the major leagues. His blog, “Do Not Go Gentle…” lenjoy.blogspot.com chronicles his pursuit of USA Triathlon Age-Group Championships.




Go Time
Bob Shar

     It felt like forever since he’d slept under a roof that didn’t leak. Longer since he’d slept with a woman who used soap and had all her teeth. Monroe would give anything to stay in this white girl’s apartment and not end up freezing on some sidewalk like his Uncle Rupert.
     “Your uncle achieve popsicle-hood,” the bug-eyed Hindu woman at the shelter said by way of consolation. Kept saying it till Monroe had no choice but to hit her in the face and keep hitting till they pried him off and banned him from the Samaritan.
     Monroe hid his sweetness down deep. Showed some the other night behind Costco, helping this new girl tie off and shoot up. Didn’t know the girl owned this apartment with central heating, hot water, clean toilets, whatnot.
     “Karma” that Hindu might have said.
     Monroe thought, if necessary, he would marry this girl. He’d be a fine husband. Wouldn’t run around, wouldn’t hit much, wouldn’t steal from her, long as she shared.
     Monroe was ready to commit. For better or worse.
     Bitch stepped out of the bathroom then, dressed tight for work. “Yo,” she said. “You’ve got to go.”
     And he went off.

Bob Shar is a former newspaper editor, burned out little magazine editor/publisher (The Crescent Review, 1983-1988), disreputable bar mitzvah instructor and recently retired librarian living in Winston-Salem, NC. His short stories have appeared in Greensboro Review, South Carolina Review, Barge Journal, Cold Mountain Review, Fringe, Bartleby Snopes, Foundling Review and various other places, online and in print.





     Jack Frost is down the street getting ready to sing in an air-condition Ice Palace. Me? I'm here in the kitchen sitting at the table writing poetry. Sometimes I just don't know what to do. Yeah, it's Books-A-Million tonight and it seems I'm always one page behind.
     I met a middle-aged woman last night, slight of hand, hazel eyes. She told me how she was once married to a strongman, he grew up in the circus never learned to read or write, and poetry ... it was the furthest thing from his mind. I asked her if she had ever felt the texture of handmade Japanese paper. She answered, "No, but I once saw an oriental film with midgets who carried samurai swords taller than the shadows they cast and if you plan on asking me anymore questions like that I suggest you order me another drink."
     The bartender brought over two whiskeys and a complimentary bucket of ice. And than we waited—waited for the bar to close. One month into the New Year and I am still looking for the lost and found—a frost bitten soul seeking some relief from the cold.
     Yeah, "Come in" she said, "I'll give you shelter from the storm."

Bob Zappacosta's poems have been published by The Aurorean, Bowersock Gallery, Pasco Arts Council, PEARL, St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune, and Verdad. His poetic short film "Jack Buchanan—rough cut, a work in progress" was recently shown at Progress Energy Art Gallery. His work can also be found on YouTube.




His Mother
Kelli Slimp

     Javier's onesie has two holes: one under the armpit, and one near his ankle. It's second-hand, and stained in a few places, but it's clean and freshly laundered. He's been dressed with love, which can never be shabby.
     I press my nose against his baby-sweet neck. Scents of soap, warmth and a mother's perfume are nestled there.
     His small head teeters on a wobbly neck, straining to investigate the ceiling above him. Eyes rest on a rainbow-colored kite suspended from sagging tiles. In a gentle voice I tell him of light and prisms, color and sunshine. He listens, gnawing thoughtfully on a dump truck as I speak.
     We spend the hour similarly engaged, while a dozen other children shout, sing, laugh and give chase around the toy room. Javier stands, tiny fingers wrapped around mine, and bounces with enthusiasm. I point out that he is quite a big boy now, and shortly will join the teeming mob. Childhood will soon be upon him, complete with all the mysteries and whimsy that are his right.
     A whistle blows, and my shift is over. His mother, herself only seventeen, scoops him from my arms. Softly, and as rhythmic as the shuffle of her slippered feet against the linoleum, she hums a lullaby. Her music creates an acoustic veil between Javier and the din of the homeless shelter and lulled, as if by incantation, he becomes unconscious of the turmoil surrounding him. She closes her eyes, wishing to do the same.

Kelli is a fledgling writer of fiction, and especially likes to imagine new phrases and unlikely but thrilling scenarios as she walks down wet streets in a hooded black coat. Currently, she does this in Boston. Previously, Dublin, and initially, Texas.



Wrong Side Love
Myra King

     Mammy says I was born wrong side love, not keeping with the colour. She tells me, it’s not my fault, even though I never said it was. Boss Man, he’s the whitefella, and the reason my eyes are blue. But I don’t call the Boss Man Pappy, ‘cause then Mammy wouldn’t get the leg-o-pork he gives her every Friday that becomes the Sunday roast every Sunday.
     When the tears come, Warrigal licks my face. He is a mix of dog and dingo. The colour from one, the silence of the other.
     The mission people say he has no soul, that only us people, we have the soul.
     I know better from the Dreamtime. From the ancient ones’ stories. And some nights I listen to them in the tall trees, in the wind driven howls and the rushing creeks after the Big Rains.
     Wrong side love. Wrong side love. There she goes, that girl born wrong side love. I hear them aunties saying it when I get sick of the washing for the Boss Man and his pickity missus, and six bloody kids, and go out walkabout. I don’t come back for weeks sometimes. I got myself my own whitefella to stay with and soon I’m going to have a wrong side love kid too. But I aint going to tell her that and I hope she don’t have the blue eyes. It’s blue eyes what brings the sorrow I reckon. It’s something to do with the colour.

Myra King is an Australian writer living on the coast of South Australia. She has written a number of prize winning short stories, including first prize in the UK-based Global Short story competition, and has a short story collection published by Ginninderra Press. In 2010 her short story, "The Black Horse," was shortlisted for the US Glass Woman Prize. Among other publications her work has appeared in The Pages, BuzzWords, Little Episodes, Orbis, Eclecticism, Meuse Press, Dark Prints Press, Battered Suitcase, Admit 2 and Heron’s Nest. She has upcoming (or recent) work in Boston Literary Magazine, Eclectic Flash, The Valley Review—Meat For Tea, eFiction, Red River Review, Fast Forward Press, Illya’s Honey Journal, Psychic Meatloaf, The Fiction Shelf, Short Story America and The Foundling Review. Visit her on the web: myrakingprofile.webs.com.




Entropy
Uzodinma Okehi

     Think of your body at rest. Or you can think about holes, rotting your teeth, your bones becoming brittle, plaque, thickening the walls of your arteries, like that ever-present, ceaseless pressure, building. Or maybe the trick is not to think at all, another eight-hour day, but the surreal part is this fifteen-minute break warming in the sun, convincing yourself it’s worth going back. This ice-blue window of time. Your heart beating in your ears, your breath smoking in the cold. Stretched out on the same bench, little park, the fork in the road between 14th and Union Square. The junkies shivering, nodding off around you, birds chirping in bare trees above. Fifteen minutes, with sunlight lancing between buildings to fall across your legs and shoulders, and what you wonder about is what happens to all your big dreams during these weeks at a time when you’re just limping along—do they also curdle over, fold up and decay—that’s what it feels like, or are they still out there waiting for you, or are dreams themselves part of the churning, infernal machine that grinds people up, while you sit out here, begging yourself; Man, wake up . . .

Uzodinma Okehi lives, breathes, writes, and draws comics in New York City. For issues of his zine, Blue Okoye, find him at: okehi@hotmail.com.




Three Day Journey
Doug Mathewson

     My great grandfather told me “You need to travel for three whole days before you come to someplace else.” His idea of adventure was to ride a plow horse through Sweden’s western farm lands circa 1880. This morning I left my fortified suburban enclave and traveled thousands of miles in just hours. Nothing changed—I haven’t gone anywhere at all.

Doug Mathewson is a writer, editor, and photographer. He is working member of Full of Crow Press and Distribution and the Editor of Blink-Ink. He guest edits the street zine MUST. Most recently his work has appeared in The Boston Literary Magazine, Right Hand Pointing, and riverbabble. Very sporadically he posts at Little2say.







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