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The Midline
Renee Podunovich

     Sitting on her patio looking over the streets and rooftops of (insert any city name here), she imagines they are the streets and rooftops of Paris. Would this cappuccino taste better if they were? Would her words hold more artistic weight?
     The demitasse is always half empty. If it fills a milliliter above the midline, she evaporates it by believing in Parisian cappuccinos.
     “Happiness is in your heart,” he said to her last night, tapping his finger on her chest, kissing her shoulder, then undoing her hair.
     “My chest is wrinkled,” she said, “and everyone can see it.”
     She can Houdini out of happiness—she escapes satisfaction, writhes out of it as if it were a straightjacket or shackles, as if she were underwater or buried in a steel box on land.
     This is the midline: A tree with red leaves though it is not fall, church bells and their metal voices, pigeon coos, an easy-going summer wind blowing journal pages and her pashmina shawl.
     A woman jogs on the street below. She gazes up to see a beautiful woman sipping coffee in the sunrise and imagines being so happy.

Renee Podunovich, MA, is a psychotherapist and freelance writer living in Salt Lake City, UT. She has published two chapbooks of poetry; “If There is a Center No One Knows Where It Begins” (Art Juice Press, 2008) and “Let the Scaffolding Collapse” (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Renee facilitates writing workshops that are designed to use creative writing as a tool for centering, reflecting and for personal growth. ReneePodunovich.com.

At Home
Ray Greenblatt

     The warmth from the fireplace feels so good. The crackling flames send out shadows which resemble primitive beasts. I ease back in my overstuffed chair to light a fragrant pipeful of latakia. Now what should I imbibe—a single malt or brandy instead? Chunks of fresh baked bread and imported cheeses. Bach plays softly in the room as my cat climbs onto my lap for a nap. Snow steadily falls to make an ideal picture through the window, but I have more than a sufficient supply of logs. A perfect day in a snug cottage for a contented bachelor . . .
     He stopped mumbling to himself. It took forever to turn his head in the sleeping bag. Longer than that to inch out a palsied arm to touch Phil, who lay beside him. Gone, he reasoned, the last of the climbing team. Icy blue, Phil's eyes continued to stare at the ceiling of the cave. Food gone, lantern down to a whisper, cold constantly growing. As he drifted off he thought, Snow avalanche sealed us into mankind's first home . . .

Not a Groundhog
Ray Greenblatt

     I meet my wife quite often at the train. I park to wait for her on the lot across from a house in which a single older man lives. When a groundhog emerges from his burrow in February, we have to admire his thick full length fur coat. But after he squats to chew on roots, his routine becomes boringly predictable. Not so the man. Many older people grow plump, but this man became Jack Spratt thin. His complexion pale, blue veins lie close to the surface in his face—cheeks, nose, forehead—even along his arms. His sparse air is combed straight back. I sometimes watch him in his kitchen. He sits drinking something at table or wanders to fridge or cabinet or sink or out of the frame. Other times he exits the house and walks away. Or gets into his car and leaves. Once he carried out a long indefinable tube to the car, pushed it through a front window until it stuck out a rear one, then he drove away. If this were a detective novel, I would have so many unexplained loose ends which I could not tie up.

Ray Greenblatt's crossover novel Twenty Years on Graysheep Bay will soon be an ebook published by Moon Press.

     We wait for the yellow bus, snow piled higher than the rooftops, dagger icicles point at the yellow pits left by wandering dogs. Bye kids, said Ma, who stood on the heat vent to warm her toes, heat waves blossoming her silk robe. Just you and me, I told Billy, it won’t be long. Tears like jewels crawled down his cheeks. He hugged his too-thin jacket, too cold, he whimpered. A branch loaded with ice fell near us. I held him close to protect and warm us both. If we returned now, Ma would only snap at us, her whisky breath floating about her like smoke from the fire within.

Wedding bells
Anna Peerbolt

     I unwrapped her secrets—wild flings while on an African safari and indiscretions at home. Leaked them to her husband a drop at a time. Precious fluid, an aquifer of deceit, a pond of musk and sweat, a trickle in his ear, his head averted, his mouth agape. He was a brokenhearted branch heavy with collected sorrow, ready to fall. And me supportive, an arm to lean on, a shoulder to rest against, an auditor for his pain, a true friend, his next wife.

Anna lives in Oregon and writes when it rains. Her flash and short stories have appeared in Drunken Boat, Prick of the Spindle, Apollo's Lyre, The Legendary, Long Story Short, DOGZPLOT, and elsewhere online.

Small Round Pill
Jeff Friedman

“Take this,” she said, and he swallowed a small round pill. Warm waves of air brushed against his body. He waited for something to happen, but nothing did, so he laughed. “I told you it wouldn’t work on me,” he said. But now a large red flower blossomed from her navel, and a fat black bee clung to the pistils, and the blossoms spread around him, lifting him, and the bee rose from the flower and hovered over him, turning into a dark cloud, and from the cloud, stingers rained into the flower. He covered up, but the stingers pierced his skin again and again until blood oozed from the pores of his body. He called out to her. “Take this,” she said and he swallowed another pill. And now he clung to the chandelier with no hope of getting down.

Jeff Friedman’s sixth collection of poetry, Pretenders, will be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2014. His poems, mini stories, and translations have appeared in many literary magazines, including American Poetry Review, Poetry, 5 AM, Agni Online, Poetry International, Prairie Schooner, Solstice, Antioch Review, Quick Fiction, New England Review, 100-Word Story, Pr Contra, New England Review Digital, Sentence, North American Review, Boulevard, Missouri Review, Big Bridge, Storyscape, Anthem, Vestal Review, Flash Fiction Funny and The New Republic. He is currently a guest editor for the fall issue of Storyscape and a contributing editor for Anthem Literary Journal.

     The doctor’s initial diagnosis had been wrong, and now, as he explained the “regrettable, but understandable” medical error—it had been a false negative—Denton’s physician couldn’t hide his cowish demeanor and litigation-avoiding tone of medical sympathy. But all Denton could hear at the end of what must have been a three-minute exposition filled with technical jargon and deadly acronyms, were the words, “I’m really very sorry Denton, but these kinds of errors are bound to happen every once in a while.”
     In order to block out the magnitude of his doctor’s speech, Denton tried to imagine the longest sentence he could concoct, which disappointingly, consisted of only 5 words, I’m going to fucking die. Then Denton’s thoughts immediately turned to the key question, But who will bury me? His wife, who would surely leave him the minute she learned of his deadly malady? His grown children who never spoke to him? His mistress, who claimed to love him because, as she often reminded him, he was—despite his unsteady gate, graying eyebrows, and unstoppably advancing years?" a sexual panther” in bed?
     As Denton grimly departed his doctor’s office and walked toward his parked car, he recalled that he had a small blue handgun at home, hidden in the rafters of his garage. If only he had strength enough to climb the ladder, remember how to load it.

Long Haul
Brad Rose

     The coffee smells like roadkill skunk. The booths are ass-smooth, marbled green Naugahyde. Smoking is outlawed by the state (behind the counter, you can see a big orange hanging sign that says “NO SMOKING”), but the air is thick with Camel and Winston smoke, because armed representatives of the state (like county health inspectors) seldom visit Jackie’s Highway Hideaway.
     Dipping low to reveal a décolletage not unlike Marie Antoinette’s, Jeannie Ann lands my plate of two eggs and beige grits on the table, like she was landing an FA-18F on the deck of the Kitty Hawk. I try not to shoot a peek down her blouse, but I can’t help it. “There you are, Hun,” she says to me, as she catches my wayward glance, and smiles like my mom used to, when she caught me reading Playboy behind my 8th grade math book.
     Jeannie Ann says, “You don’t get out much, do you, since the Missus left ya?” begins to turn away from the table, then pauses for a second.
     “Was a time I used to date long-haul truckers like you Buck. But not anymore. Their haul was never as long as they liked to think.”

Brad Rose was born and raised in southern California, and lives in Boston. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine; The Baltimore Review; San Pedro River Review; Off the Coast; Third Wednesday; The Potomac; Santa Fe Literary Review; Right Hand Pointing; Sleetmagazine; Monkeybicycle; Camroc Press Review; MadHat Lit; Burning Word, and other publications. Links to his poetry and fiction can be found at: bradrosepoetry.blogspot.com. His chapbook of miniature fiction, “Coyotes Circle the Party Store,” can be read at: https://sites.google.com/sit/bradroserhpchapbook/. Audio recordings of a selection of Brad’s published poetry can be heard here: https://soundcloud.com/bradrose1.

     Willow doesn’t know the year. Willow doesn’t care. Not really. But when the realtor pulls into the grass-filled gravel drive and parks, Willow gets excited. For the first time in a very long time. The house behind Willow, a stalwart brick Federal-style behemoth, looms, abandoned.
     Willow must endure the house’s silent shadow every day.
     The realtor walks around and takes pictures. She stops and snaps a pic of Willow and the pond. It’s a selling point, a reason for folks to drive to the middle of nowhere to capture the dream the realtor conjures.
     But Willow knows the truth. She will outlive the dreamers. The schemers too. The house came shortly before Willow, but Willow traveled in a China man’s pouch, crossed an ocean and endured tedious railroad construction only to end up alone. When her Chinaman left, tucking her safely in the ground beside the pond, he promised to return.
     Yet he hasn't. She still waits.

Stacy Post, a native Hoosier and librarian, resides in the heartland with her adorable family. A Pushcart Prize nominee for short fiction, her stories have appeared in moonShine review, Fiction365, One Forty Fiction, Referential Magazine, Rose & Thorn Journal, WOW! Women on Writing and Every Day Fiction. Her poetry has appeared in Sleet Magazine, Kansas City Voices, 4 & 20 Poetry, Pearl, Iodine Poetry Journal, Referential Magazine, Every Day Poets and Skylark. One of her poems was also featured on city buses in Lafayette, Indiana through the GLPTC: Words on the Go program. Her first chapbook of poetry, Sudden Departures (Finishing Line Press) debuted in spring of 2013.

Treading Water
C.G. Thompson

     Diandra calls from downstairs, asking when she’ll see the PowerPoint presentation I’m giving tomorrow. No matter how well I‘ve prepared, she’ll critique my stance, my voice. Every few months, she pulls out my office’s organizational chart and points to where she thinks I should be.
     “Is it finished yet?” she asks.
     She was always ambitious, but our first summer together, on our senior trip, she asked the possible. Swim and win. Stroke, pull, kick. In the intervening years, as strategies and game plans have grown more elusive, I sometimes want to tread water. But she’s alert to the signals and quickly reminds me of the days when I reached the side of the pool before anyone else.
     I keep a different memory.
     On that long-ago beach trip, we woke at noon, slept off hangovers in the sun, lived in quiet weightlessness outside time. One evening, the sun streaked orange-red, and the pool shimmied like an exotic mating dance, its lights radiating circles of heat. We were alone. I pulled Diandra to me, my back to the wall, my hand sliding across her smooth skin. She didn’t waver. Her lips were definite, her tongue warm, and we poured together.
     “Glen?” she calls now. “What are you doing?” Her voice is uncompromising.
     A mixture of regret and resentment pumps through my heart. I close my eyes and imagine standing on the beach, counting the waves. The surf hypnotizes me, a long, lazy yawn.

C.G. Thompson was recently a finalist for the James Applewhite Poetry Prize and has poetry upcoming in North Carolina Literary Review. Her short stories have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Main Street Rag, and The Bitter Oleander, among others.

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