The End of the Night – Scott Laudati

I remember some good years.
The old pilings of
the Baltimore pier
that swayed under the crowd while
we watched our favorite band.
And when I told her
I didn’t love her
for the third time
she threw their record at me
and it hurt
but we laughed
I decided to break her heart again.

There was the year
I ate sixty oysters
at the Aqua Grill.
She’d paid attention
when I said
I only wanted to eat oysters
from states I hadn’t been to
so she had the maître d’
bring out a special menu
and I tried them all
and the Damariscottas
and Hog Islands were the best.

I woke up in the parking lot
of a Long Island casino
one time
and when I put
two chips
on red
I won $800.
I paid for everything
that weekend
and the four of us walked home
arm in arm
puking in the snow and laughing
like it was our last night
on earth.
We don’t call every year but
I still smile when I think about
that birthday
and the best friends
I never see.

Some years
I feel like I’m losing.
And there are others where the score
seems to be even.
I’ve lost cousins
and girlfriends
and a brown dog
with a white cross on her chest.
But there were the other years.
There were friends who
didn’t leave me in their wake.
Girls who left me believing I wouldn’t
always be let down.
And my mother,
using expensive ingredients
to cook me a birthday dinner
that fit with my new diet,
always making sure something was safe
in a world that started licking its teeth
as soon as you
walked out the door.

Tomorrow doesn’t always come with a nightmare.
Seeds grow.
Leaves fall.
I tell my friends to hold up their bottles
and look around.
“Remember our tribe,” I say.
“Nothing will ever be better than this.”
And I know I’m right
because I still haven’t found a place safer
than a backyard
in New Jersey.
And no matter how long I’ve been gone
there’s always a family waiting for me
when I come home.


SCOTT LAUDATI lives in Bushwick with his shnoodle, Dolly. His work has recently appeared in The Bitter Oleander and The Columbia Journal, among others. Visit him on instagram @scottlaudati

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Round And Round The Garden – Helen Laycock

No one ever passed Ettie Budu’s house without crossing the street first. It was an unwritten rule, a fact of our childhood. And you didn’t just pass it, you ran.

Ettie Budu’s house was a place to be feared, where malevolence resided, as heavy as a sack of ditchwater. It hung in the air and clung to the building like a ball of flies.

Get too close and who knew what would become of you? It was well known that she was a witch and that, behind that rotten brown door and those filthy windows, she concocted spells.

The house had become the personification of evil long before our lives had begun.

Everyone knew of it; there was no need to point it out. Find the worst house on the street and you had found Ettie Budu’s dwelling-place. Her hovel.

Unlike the other semis, Ettie’s had no front wall at the end of the garden. The grass grew high – an enchanted forest – and would, no doubt, shackle any child that dared to wade through. The windows, thick with grime, were as still as the eyes of the dead, but we knew we were being watched. It was impossible to see in from across the road – and no one was ever brave enough to peer in at close range. It seemed that dirty nets had been draped at the edges, but they may well have been cobwebs.

Day after day, at the end of school, groups of children would take a deliberate diversion in order to pass the house. None of us ever had permission to walk home that back way; it was a ‘lonely’ place where bad men hung out, but no one was willing to lose face and refuse the route. We’d climb a gate which took us to a narrow, grassy pathway along a little river, a ‘reen’. Gardens backed on to the side where we walked, and there was wasteland on the other. The gate we had to climb at the other end was just opposite Ettie’s.

Our status moved up a notch if we stopped and stared at it for a moment or two. It was a way of asserting bravery.

Sometimes a chant would begin: ‘Ett-ie, Ett-ie, Ett-ie.’

We’d adopt a stance: feet splayed, knees bent, hands on thighs. Quick glances would be exchanged, but we had to watch the door. Always.

It never lasted long. No one had the guts to see what would happen if she came out.

In the winter months, when grey afternoons sheathed the village in darkness, we would linger – not for long – on the opposite side of the street and watch the upstairs window as it flickered with candlelight. It was a scene far removed from our experiences of modern living; it had the intrigue and bygone age-ness of a grotesque fairytale. We knew she’d be stirring a cauldron in that upstairs room. An imagined face at the glass, hollowed by the light, would send us squealing and running.

Then, one day, I felt big and brave. Omnipotent. Adrenaline coursed through my veins, like fire bowling through a tunnel.

In an instant, I took off from the safety of the opposite pavement, leaping onto the road from the kerb and hurtling towards the unkempt lawn, seeing the house closer than I had ever seen it before – the parched windowsills, the gouged brickwork and the cracked glass of a dying building.

The ground was unexpectedly uneven beneath my feet as I ran in difficult circles through the long grass, lifting my feet high and holding my arms up for safety. I felt glorious and daring, and looked for approval as I curved around for the second time to face my awestruck onlookers.

I was a hero. I, the unnoticed one, was suddenly visible – the eye of the storm.

Then, chop. Everything changed.

Like the jerk of a reversing second hand, their gaze shifted from me one notch to their left.

As one, their smiles fell.

Their jaws dropped.

Their bodies flinched.

I heard a sound behind me.

I saw my friends run.

Should I look? Or run?

I recall the instant as if it all happened in slow-motion. As my chin passed my right shoulder, I saw a wiry, old man who had stepped out of the front door and was now feet away from me. His face was scrunched up in anger. His left arm was raised, and when I looked up at it, I saw that he was holding a cleaver. In a beat, he ran at me and I stumbled out of his garden, my legs taking great unwieldy strides.

I didn’t look back. I sprinted right to the end of the long, long road where the other children were hiding around the bend, fizzing with excitement and terror.

‘That was Ettie’s brother. The madman,’ I heard someone say. My heart was beating like a caught bird, and my chest prickled and burned as I panted.

‘A brother?’

This was news to everyone. There were two of them living there?

Double evil.

Our whispers filled the evening air like frenzied bats before we dispersed to the light and safety of our own homes, each a little more afraid than we had been up until that day.

The challenge had taken on a whole new dimension. The danger was real. We had been right to fear the sinister embodiments of depravity which dwelled inside that house.

I avoided any route that would take me past Ettie Budu’s after that. Maybe she didn’t exist at all, and it was just a vicious old man who lived there.

I wasn’t convinced.

At the age of fourteen, I took a Saturday job at the local supermarket, weighing out the fruit and veg for customers and pricing the brown paper bags. I was positioned right at the entrance.

Even though the incident had been years before, my breath caught like a wedged pebble when a hunched figure shuffled in just as we were closing, late afternoon, one dark November.

It was Ettie.

I experienced a cold thrill. I wanted my friends to see how close she was.

The stench was putrid. She was wearing a headscarf and a huge overcoat, and was dragging a battered trolley. She bypassed me and went straight to the tins just next to my fresh produce.

I could see her filthy face, whiskered and warty, the very image we’d concocted when we were ten. Her mouth hung open as she rasped and wheezed; I imagined beetles and spiders being exhaled with each whispering breath. She had only a few black teeth.

I shuddered. Even now I was a teenager, she still had the power to unnerve me. I dreaded a direct look from her; her eyes would turn red and she would throw a curse upon me as though netting a fish.

She really did have witches’ hands, too. Her nails were long, thick and brown and when her sleeve rose, I could see that the skin on her arm was impregnated with dirt.

I watched her steal a few tins of peaches.

As soon as the manager had locked the main door and was switching off the lights, I grabbed my coat and left by the back entrance. It would take her a while to get home. I could catch her up.

I had no idea why I wanted to be in proximity to someone who could strike me down with black magic. Perhaps I had been charmed.

I could see her shape, rounded, no head, shuffling along ahead of me. She looked like a dark toad under the streetlights. Because of the peaches, or the brother, or the state of her house, I felt immense anger towards her. She moved steadily through the night.

I stopped trailing her within a safe distance of her house.

She still scared me.

All through the winter she came for peaches.

She never paid. I never said.

She was always dirty. She always wore a man’s coat. I began to wonder if she might have been thin underneath. What else did they eat, she and her brother? Though I must have stared, she never looked at me. Her gaze seemed fixed on her dirty boots. She was bent like a bridge.

On the last Saturday of February, Ettie didn’t come. I had moved the last few tins of peaches to the front of the shelf for her. I left through the back door as the manager flicked off all the strip lights. There was a frost on the bins and the air was sharp. I wrapped my scarf around my mouth and headed for The Hovel.

Apart from a stutter of candlelight in one upstairs window, the house was in darkness. I imagined how cold they must be without electricity. Ettie – was that even her real name? – probably kept on her coat indoors. Her brother’s cast off maybe. Or did she ever have a husband?

Over the next few evenings, I walked by again. The house seemed to have fallen into a deep sleep, every window full of night. I no longer felt watched.

Sunday morning was crisp and cold. The sky was a dirty white, and as I made my way to Ettie Budu’s, it began to snow. Frozen flakes melted on my cheeks and caught in my eyelashes, and by the time I had got there, the blades of grass were tipped with white. It was almost pretty.

I crunched across the garden, older and braver than I had been the first time. Years of neglect had made the windows opaque, so I crouched down and pushed in the letterbox.

The humming seemed to come from everywhere: an incessant drone from an orchestra where violinists bowed the same monotonous note. Every inch of space was inhabited by moving black specks.

Funeral confetti.

I was reminded of shaking a snow globe, but in negative.

Layer by layer, my senses became drunk with excess, and I covered my nose and mouth with my free hand as the putrefaction seeped out of the letterbox and into my air space. The blood smell at the supermarket meat counter always made me gag, but the intensity of rotting flesh that was now spewing out of the rectangular aperture made me reel. Desperately, I scanned the hallway, but only had a sense of dark brown through the cloud of flies, nothing more.

Catching sight of movement in my periphery, I let the letterbox go with a snap. Three maggots were pulsating across my left glove. I shook them off on to the ground and ran.

The day they took the bodies away, there was a small crowd outside.

‘The mad brother chopped off Ettie Budu’s head with his axe,’ I heard a boy report as he swung an imaginary weapon towards his friend, ‘and he survived by eating bits of her until she was all gone.’


But I think that their ending was far from dramatic. We had made it that way. In truth, they lived together in the only way they knew how, an older sister caring for her brother, and surviving by whatever means were at their disposal. They were poor, cold and hungry, and society had shunned them.

We were to blame.

When Ettie had gone, the peaches had stopped coming. And, without peaches, her brother had dwindled, along with the melting candles.

The house had been dying all along.


HELEN LAYCOCK, previously a lead writer at Visual Verse, features in several editions of The Best of CafeLit. Recently longlisted by Mslexia, pieces are showcased in Popshot, Poems for Grenfell, Full Moon and Foxglove, The Caterpillar, Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction and Lucent Dreaming, whose inaugural flash competition she won.

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Sunflowers – Amanda Saint

The woman behind the counter in a snake skin patterned sari doesn’t look at Daisy as she says, ‘Thirty rupee, madam, please.’

Daisy smiles anyway as she hands the money over in exchange for a fresh coconut with a straw stuck in the top. Nothing can stop her feeling good today.

On the shop’s rickety veranda she sits and watches bony cows and mangy dogs mill about. Down the street a harassed-looking woman bundles children into a tuk-tuk. Horns beep and the air is thick with dust and exhaust fumes from the constant stream of traffic going past.

Goodness still trickles through Daisy’s veins from the cold, sweet coconut water though. She can feel it. When she’d arrived at the retreat, only days after getting out of the hospital, her skin had been a dull and dirty yellow, showing the world what she was. A coward. Running and hiding in bottles of vodka until her liver nearly died.

When she’d woken up in the hospital the first thing she’d seen was a bunch of wilting sunflowers in a chipped jug on her bedside table. She’d blinked unsure of where, and when, she was. Then he appeared, sitting on a hard, plastic chair wearing his retro 80s t-shirt with the smiley acid house face, and faded jeans. What he’d been wearing that day.

‘Hey,’ he said.

‘Hey yourself.’

He leaned forward, dropping the softest, gentlest kiss on her parched lips. ‘You’ve got to stop this now. It wasn’t your fault. Just an accident.’

Daisy sank back into sleep again. When she awoke he was gone, of course, as were the flowers. They were the ones he’d given her on their first date. The chipped blue jug the only thing she’d had to put them in. Wild young things didn’t own vases.

When she’d been released from the hospital, she booked the retreat and a flight leaving the very next day. Then she went to a florist and bought every sunflower they had and took them to his grave. She knelt in front of it, sprinkled the flowers all around. A splash of happy sunshine on a grey and gloomy day.

She ran her fingers over the inscription:

Robert James
12th August 1972 – 2nd October 2016
Beloved husband of Daisy.
Taken too soon. We were all we had.

Daisy sobbed while she smiled then kissed her fingertips, pressing them against his name. ‘Hey you. I’m going to be okay now. Thank you.’

The last slurp of the coconut water through the straw pulls Daisy back from that dank English graveyard. She takes the empty coconut back into the shop and places it on the counter.

The woman ignores her again and doesn’t look up from her phone. Daisy shrugs and carries on her way. Maybe she’ll stay here. Nothing to go back for, after all, and the insurance money would go a lot further. A nice little place by the beach where she can live a quiet, healthy life. Yoga, walking, reading, painting. No booze and lots of delicious vegetarian food. It’s what Robbie would want for her.

Daisy kicks her flip-flops off and stuffs them in her bag when she reaches the track to the beach. The warm sand caresses her feet as she climbs up and over the small dune. Later it will be too hot to walk on. At the top the beach opens out before her. Just a handful of fishermen fixing their nets. The milky sea glinting softly in the sun.

Daisy walks right to the end of the row of sunbeds. Takes the one in the front row so that no matter how busy it might get later, she can feel like it’s just her, white-hot sky, ocean, and burning yellow sun.

She lies back and stares up into the dried palm fronds of the parasol, a smile on her face. She’s turned a corner. She closes her eyes, lets the shushing sound of the tiny waves fill her mind.

She doesn’t see the snake until it’s curling around her leg.

With a breathless little scream, Daisy kicks out. The snake rears back, then strikes at her leg one, two, three times. Before slinking away into the shade it had been seeking.

Daisy’s leg swells and reddens instantly.

‘Help,’ she calls.

But the snake has stolen her newfound strength.

Nobody hears.

She grabs for her bag, her phone. But her fingers won’t work.

Then she’s still. Her breath coming in shallow gasps as the sun beats down, slowly turning her body golden again.


AMANDA SAINT is the author of two novels, As If I Were A River and Remember Tomorrow. Her short fiction collection, Flashes Of Colour, is coming in 2020. Amanda founded Retreat West, providing writing competitions, courses and retreats, and Retreat West Books indie press publishes short fiction, novels and memoirs.

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Growls of Fate – Katie Nickas

Sometimes when I’m alone in my apartment, the maker speaks to me. It talks about my husband.

We had a blowup last summer. I got mad and moved out. Our cat listened to it happen from the ledge, because cats hate shouting. Now, she stays with him. She’s sweet and adorable, with a face like an owl that peers from the ends of hallways and claws that dig into flesh to show affection. He has her and a good job and a nice place to live. He should be happy, but he’s not. I know this, but the maker tells me, anyway. It whispers like a surrogate conscience all the things he does to try not to be alone.







In the daytime, I go for long walks through the blue-green hills that resemble bunches of broccoli. I look at the bluebirds and marshmallow clouds and walk to the store to buy groceries. When I get home, the rooster on the weathervane is stuck pointing south, its figure suturing the fog. I carry in the groceries that I’m addicted to buying and pour water and grounds into the maker, switching it on and listening to it brew. The whispers begin almost immediately. They’re palpable in the silence.

“He wants to be alone,” I say, unloading heads of garlic, carrots, celery, cheese, crackers, thinking I’ve been transported to some other dimension.


“He pushes people away and then asks them to come back.”


“He’s bad.”


“He can’t stop.”


Though soft at first, the sounds become more plangent as the cycle runs its course. I pour a cup, lean back in the chair, and close my eyes. Images of family and friends appear. Their features are nondescript, like tiny grains of sand swept in and out of form. I imagine my neighbors sitting down to dinner all throughout the neighborhood. It’s twilight. I know what happens at twilight. Shadows rise and mists settle, holding everything in their vaporous breaths until morning.

Sometimes, the maker splutters at these times. That’s when the heaviest truths are divulged—when it’s running on steam and wants to be fed more water so it can continue talking.

I sip and think I must have really good hearing.

They’re all gone now, those closest to me. Not gone—distant. It’s only the maker and I in this thick, cloistered silence.

Suddenly, I hear the flawed person inside and panic. Its voice fills my head—the voice of someone who’s been abandoned and who’s doomed to ask questions with no answers. I’m angry—angry that my husband treats people like puppets, bending them to his whims.

“Why did he do this?”

The thought sends shudders through my collarbone and pushes up beneath my skin, wanting to be let out. A plaintive growl spreads out across the room. Except instead of making a sound, it forms a word. There’d often seemed to be an echo in here, and while the maker’s percolations have been well timed to coincide with my questions, they’ve never implied they belong to an actual being or presence—a mind. I’d fed it water, electricity, and grounds. From those ingredients, it pressed out something like a piquant juice—sometimes smoky, others intense—but always juice and no more.

Yet the word was unmistakable. I straightened in the chair, my back turned rigid.




More than a growl—an affirmation, with the maker reaching into its grizzled depths to lay a finger on its pulse and measure the beats of its efficient, little heart.

“He is, or intends to?”

No answer.


My imagination spirals back to all the possible causes: Childhood abuse, neglect, the old tunnel with no light at the end, his loss, our loss, the growing apart, the splitting after so many years together.

“Will it be fast or slow?”

No sound.





Yes, I might have guessed that. He’d already been killing himself slowly. One moment later, another question arises.

“What can I do?”


“Buy him a book?”




“Cakes? Treats? Records? Phone calls?”

My brain kicks itself. You’ve already tried all that. For god’s sake, think of something more original.

Finally, it comes.

“Maybe, somehow, I could help him live?”

I hear the longest growl of all. Not only a growl, it’s something chthonic that seems to rise from the earth and shift through night’s inchoate shroud—something that speaks for others.

Clutching the sides of my chair, neck laced in sweat, I realize it’s not the maker at all. It’s he. He’s somehow found his way inside and is channeling himself through it.

The notion seems to lift some of the fog. To hear from another source that his life is truly out of control offers closure. But I’m just as unnerved as before, wondering what can be done to help someone live a life whose intent is on ending it, however gradually.

Rising from the chair, I walk to the kitchen and look at the maker sitting on the counter, its contents settled in the bottom. I could give it more water to listen to it talk some more. I could do that.

Instead, I pick up the phone and call him.


KATIE NICKAS writes off-kilter fiction. Her work is published or forthcoming in journals including Anti-Heroin Chic, Asymmetry, The Furious Gazelle, formercactus, FRiGG Magazine, The Oddville Press, Sidereal Magazine, Soft Cartel, and STORGY. Find her on Twitter @katienickas.

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Tornado Preparedness Drill – Ace Boggess

If the power’s still on, make coffee.
If you prefer whiskey, sleep
on a futon by the nearest phone.

I have better ways to spend my time:
complaining about loud noises &
worrying over this coming storm

which brings with it fish &
frogs that fall from the sky.
In the past hundred years:

one tornado in this county,
that so small the horror-movie
flying cows ho-hummed.

Nobody asked for my opinion,
but I give it while the city sirens
hit their spine-chilling notes &

radio stations sing,
“Get down, get down,”
as if a disco boogie jam.


ACE BOGGESS is author of four books of poetry, most recently I Have Lost the Art of Dreaming It So (Unsolicited Press, 2018) and Ultra Deep Field (Brick Road, 2017). His writing appears in Notre Dame Review, Rhino, North Dakota Quarterly, Rattle, and many other journals. He received a fellowship from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts and spent five years in a West Virginia prison. He lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

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Last Will and Testament of Gaia – Sheila Scott

I, Gaia, third planet of the Local Interstellar Cloud, Orion-Cygnus arm, Milky Way, declare this to be my Last Will and Testament, hereby revoking any and all Wills and codicils previously made.

At four point five six eight billion years of age I am of legal age to declare this Will and, despite the best efforts of some of my lodgers these last fifty thousand years, I am still of sound mind. My wishes contained herein do not result from undue influence.

Having experienced no major collisions, I have remained single and without children excepting one satellite. However, this sole relation has remained distant throughout and I leave them nothing.

Whilst I realise, but do not care, that this may cause some consternation, I hereby nominate, constitute and appoint God and Richard Dawkins as my Joint Executors to act in my interest regarding my estate and other items. In the event that these Executors be unable or unwilling to serve jointly, I appoint Rihanna as sole Executor. This Will authorises these Executors to act in my interest regarding my estate, debts, funeral expenses (see accompanying document ‘Par-tay’) and other items.

The assets I am legally entitled, by which I mean, I have decided to bequeath are as follows:

1) The Atmosphere I give to the Penguins. This one is too important to everyone and honestly who doesn’t trust these little dudes. Plus the flightless element has always tickled me.

2) Whales and Cetaceans, you get the Oceans. You know your ass is too big for firths and rivers so just stay the hell out of them – you’ve got plenty of ocean to swim around in now.

3) The Freshwater Lakes I give to the Crocodiles. You always acted like you owned them: now you do.

4) Fish, you can have the Rivers. I know how much you love those currents whether you’re surfing to the sea or battling upstream (physics kinda passed you by, didn’t it?) so enjoy, they’re yours whichever direction you’re travelling.

5) The Hills I bequeath to the Horses. Hell, you just look so damn good galloping over their rolling horizons. Off you go and make me proud.

6) Mountains I am giving to the Goats. You’ve not done a damn thing to earn them, but it takes a bit of nous to understand gravity and frankly you guys are the only ones just too dumb to fall off.

7) The complete collection of Soils is to be the domain of the Invertebrates. We all know you have your job to do but, let’s be honest, you’re no fun to look at. So, do everyone a favour and stay indoors.

8) Plants, you are entrusted with the Valleys. Some of you like sunshine, some don’t. I have faith you can sort who gets which face between you. But no secession: there’s room for everyone.

9) The Volcanoes are made for Dragons, if only to prove you exist beyond Welsh kids’ cartoons. Be careful making s’mores, though – those things are sticky little fuckers and can totally ruin a good rug.

10) Cats, you get the Tectonic Plates. Plan is that way most of the time they’ll just sit at peace. But when you’re not sleeping, no batting them back and forth just for fun.

11) The Tundra I was going to leave to the Reindeer, but the melt’s made it a challenge for you big boys getting about now. Therefore, given the more favourable feet-width to body-weight ratio, Geese, it’s your ball now. Reindeer, you know who to take it up with.

12) Bit of a no-brainer now – Camels, you get the Deserts. It may not be the most exciting asset, but it’s far and away the fastest growing – you’re on course to be Kings of the World. But play nice and enough with the spitting.

13) Wide open Plains are for the Skunks. The others have been pestering me for years over this, so use your space thoughtfully.

14) Regarding the Polar Ice Caps, Penguins you got the atmosphere so the Southern one is going to the Polar Bears. Big guys, you would’ve got the Northern one too, but you do like you ice-Lilos and it’s just sea up there now.

15) Finally, all my Glittery Rocks I leave to the Humans. You’ve always been obsessed with these at the expense of everything of value, so good luck eating, drinking, and breathing your bling.

Despite claims that will undoubtedly be made to the contrary (by I think we all know who), there are no prior legal contracts into which I have entered in relation to these assets. Anything that suggests otherwise is a crock of shit.


Signature: Gaia

Name: ____Gaia_______

Date: 21st October 2018


Hybrid writer-scientist, SHEILA SCOTT most enjoys sitting with pen and paper turning idle thoughts into short narratives and illustrative doodles. Published in Causeway, Cabinet of Heed, Ellipsis Zine, Flashback Fiction, Bangor Literary Journal and Poetic Republic, she also helps lead New Writing Showcase Glasgow. Her intermittently hyperactive Twitter account is @MAHenry20

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Bed 3, Bay 2 – B F Jones

Day 1

They wheel me into the room after the surgery though I tell them it is unnecessary, I can walk. But there’s been a considerable blood loss and they’re concerned I might faint again. A stupid accident really. Avocado hand. Yes that’s right, I’m hospitalised for a pretty trendy affliction. I wish I could say 13-year-old me that I’m finally trendy. I wonder what that loser would think.

Anyway. After the knife blade lodged itself deep inside the fleshiest part of my palm, tearing through the skin before cutting through a small artery and quite a bit of ligament, I managed to call 999 between two bouts of wrenching and a mild fainting episode. I opened the front door wide, mucking it with blood before crouching against it, trying not to look at the little bids of fat oozing out of my skin and this is where the paramedics had plucked me from.

Day 2

The pain wakes me early. The monitor attached to the lady next to me and going off everytime she gasps for oxygen doesn’t conduce me to fall back to sleep. Neither does the Christmas tree blinking just outside the ward. I re-live the previous day. The blade going in and the cracking sound of the skin as it tears. You should have kept the knife in, they told me in the ambulance. It would have helped reducing the blood loss and damage to my ligaments. No need to mourn those, the damage is done now. At least I can breathe unmonitored.

Day 3

Janet from the office has popped over to say hi. She’s brought me a card signed by the team and an adult colouring book. I look at my heavily bandaged hand and thank her. She doesn’t stay too long. The day stretches. I wish I’d brought a book and my toothbrush. The doctor comes and says I should be able to get out tomorrow. The nurse changes my dressing.

I take an approximate shower and have an average dinner. The old lady bips and there’s a new arrival, a teenager with a broken leg.

Day 4

The teenager has loads of friends, they bring him coke and Haribos and some magazines. His girlfriend gives him noisy snogs and access to her chest that he fumbles clumsily before they leave, the stench of sweat and Lynx and chocolate bars remaining until the leek-potato soup is served. The doctor comes and says I can go out tomorrow. The nurse changes my dressing. The old lady bips and the teenager types furiously on his phone. I miss my home and my bed and my tub and Socks purring on my lap.

Day 5

The Xmas tree blinks to the rhythm of Staying Alive. That same rhythm you use when you do CPR. Blink, blink, blink, blink, blink blink blink, blink blink blink. And again. And again.

The teenager has left and has been replaced by a 3rd degree burn.

The doctor comes and says I can go out tomorrow. The nurse changes my dressing. The old lady bips and the burn victim weeps. I read a battered copy of Gone with the wind wondering if touching it might give me an acute case of e.coli. This is unbearable.

Day 9

I don’t think I can take this anymore. I just spent the last 3 days plotting my escape as I’m desperate to go home.

Janet has come back saying that she feels for me, and also implying they might want to replace me if I don’t come back though, and reminding me I owe her £3.99 for the cat food.

I tell her I’ve just seen the doctor and that he’s said I should be able to leave tomorrow. The nurse changes my dressing. The old lady isn’t there anymore and the burn victim has just left, being replace by a pretty nasty case of anaphylaxis.

Day 10

I didn’t sleep well. A young couple came with a baby around 2 am. I was hoping to see their baby this morning, I love babies, but when I woke up, they were gone.

Janet pops over with some paperwork for me to sign, I’ve been dismissed. She asks if she can return the colouring book since I haven’t used it yet and she could repurpose the £4.99. She doesn’t stay long but that’s fine by me.

Day 13

I was meant to leave today but I told the doctor I didn’t feel too good and tomorrow might be better. It’s quiet as the old lady’s bed is still vacant and the anaphylaxis guy is pretty out of it.

Day 14

I told the nurse it might better if I stayed overnight as it it’s icy and I’m worried driving with my injured hand in such conditions. Also it’s potato leek soup night.

Day 15

I had a panic attack after watching the news and not being able to remember the prime minister’s name. There was that lady looking like a praying mantis addressing the nation, she was familiar but her name had disappeared from my memory.

They gave me Xanax and I had a good night’s sleep. I’m still a bit woozy so it’s safer for me to spend the night and leave tomorrow.

Day 17

Terry, my favourite nurse, has written the name of the prime minister on a post-it note for me. I use as a bookmark for the copy of Catcher In The Rye she’s brought me. Apparently I’ve read 14 books since my arrival. I don’t remember much of them.

Day 18

Terry has come for a quiet chat about my mental health and to say goodbye as I’m being moved to a different unit. I give her a hug and tell her I’ll miss her, before I erase her from my memory.

Bed 6, Bay 1

Day 74

I like it here. Apart from that young woman that occasionally rambles on a about rats and cats and talks to an invisible person called Libby, it really is very cosy. Doctor C says I can stay as long as I want.


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Trainwreck – Alexa Locksley

First time in Denver, a highrise hotel
Smooth sweep of the sliding door whispers class traitor
recessed lights nod in agreement
My companion’s asleep—
exhausted by the mesas of Utah
the hazy opulence of Vale
or maybe my sullen silence
Tiptoe through the lobby of the Grand Hyatt
dress too short
hair too disheveled
flannel too flannel
too many toos for this place
and a copy of Burroughs tucked under my arm
catches the camera eyes of the elevator woman
fluorescent glare from her black plastic shells
insect eyes bulge from her face
She adjusts her orange hibiscus print dress
smiles a false robot smile
and telepathically opens the doors.

Cross the stone corridor
step out into the steaming gray morning, stand under wet humid sky
my antennae drooping, two wilted celery stalks
Take refuge among leather and lamplight
Crack open gold coins, melting yellow streaks
Cell walls expand, jelly replenished
synapses of cellulose stronger with intake:
poison word hoard and rich burn of espresso
wine & sour oil
faint hints of charcoal at the back of the tongue
an imagined memory of withered grass, oolong reduced to ash
false dairy, shelf stable and sanitized
in another world, twin apricot suns below ground
in the lindworm’s tunnel under Munich streets

Shake off the memory
shake out my powdery wings
dodge the streetcars and blend in with gray concrete
Disguise myself as a steamed salmon
lemon slice to keep up with the fashion
and join in the stream

A fresh bucket of deep-sea dread from a long-past meet&greet
(too serious and literary for the ampersand)
Warst du schon mal in Wien?
that deceptively innocent questionmark a tiny tadpole sprouting tentacles
octopus whirlpool spirals down to the depths
until your friends fish you out
reel you in
admonish in hushed strained voices because Jesus Al you can’t say that
and the sting of the fishhook still slices into your cheek

But now in the diegetic present
face to face
you’re one of us, I’m almost sure
our panicked transaction of phrases a mutual trainwreck
jumbled words casualties that limp from the wreckage
and for a moment I belong.


ALEXA LOCKSEY is an escaped Midwesterner living in Las Vegas, where they teach English. Their poetry and short fiction has appeared in Ghost City Review, Peach Mag, Shot Glass Journal, Rose Quartz Magazine, and Bone & Ink Literary Magazine. They are on Twitter and Instagram @AlexaLocksley.

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Thirty-Two Keys Stud the Body of Each Sax, So It Logically Follows That.. – Jim Meirose

I got a tape for you to hear Sonboy. I got a tape you’ll hear to make you decide.

Mom. That’s great but I don’t need help—I—

Yes here sit down it’s short hear it out here.

Her finger jabbed in starting it coming. It came. It said, The last but not least dimension of anyone’s ascension to virtuoso-level sax playing, is the patterned pushing so fast it seems random but each push has a purpose a name and a meaning and more and more to it, depending on how deeply into the documentation you dare to delve—

Mom. I don’t see. I—

No, listen.

—thirty-two keys stud the body of each sax; nine fingers are used to press the sax keys, and that in itself is easy to conceptualize. Here’s a finger, the first of ten. There’s the keys baby, so press one any one; there’s the cards baby, so pick one anyone; look at it remember what key it was—

Mom I can’t follow this. And—I never said I wanted saxophone.

Hush! Listen.

But I never—


—tear the card from the sax put it on the table and remember which key it was; look at it remember what card it was put it face down on the table and remember which card it was; do this for each and every key until none are left and there are thirty-two torn off keys from the now-unusable sax lying on the table—

Sorry but I don’t get it.

Maybe if you stopped resisting you would. Hush.

—do this for each and every card until none are left and there are fifty two picked-out cards from the now-nonexistent deck not anywhere anyplace anymore; now take the sax to a sax repair man and he will charge five hundred dollars on average to restore the sax to playing condition; now take the deck to anyone at all who knows what a deck of cards is—

Cards. Mom, I never have been interested in—cards.

Sonboy shut up and let it come.

—and he will charge nothing on average to pull all fifty two cards back together into a usable deck; now here’s the bottom-line cost-benefit analysis—it’s not really that but that sounds pretty impressive; this has cost the sax player five hundred dollars; this has cost the card player nothing. And the added benefit tipping the argument to cards is that the card deck can be restored by the potential card player themselves.

Thank God is that the end—This shows—my God there’s more? Mom.

—that in the final analysis, any logically impassive mechano-person to whom such numerical decision-making holds appeal, should forget sax—

Mom I never said I wanted to play the saxophone Mom. Mom—

Shut up!

—and take up one or more of the hundreds of table games which are based on a deck of cards, or take up some other non-game related pastime that nonetheless uses a deck of cards, such as magic, making bicycles sound like motorcycles—which also requires a big box of wooden spring-style clothespins, building houses of cards, constructing card bridges, making balls of cards, doing origami, making card boxes, or attempt to match the cardistry skills of Dan and Dave. Their most holy. Good-bye—and may you enjoy a profitable day!

Her finger jabbed out stopping it going. She turned to.

Sonboy, there—you.

Sonboy, hey! Sonboy get back in here right now!

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The Magpie – Babette Gallard

Silence is our bond, the no-need to say whatever it is we might be feeling, because we know. I know Kerry is feeling my brush as I paint her, following the folds under her breasts, and I know she doesn’t mind. Her breasts are large and beautiful, even the filigree of lines drawn by their weight and traced, by me, in silver. Perhaps I love them even more, because my breasts are like walnuts, with as many folds.

The sun has moved down below the window behind her, its shadows filling hollows I hadn’t seen before. I want to go on and paint their darkness, but sense her cold. “Let’s take a break,” I say.

“No, I want to see what you’re seeing now.”

The magpie flies in just as I’m opening my mouth to say something in reply. Big and brash on the window sill, snapping his beak.

Kerry turns round to look for the disturbance, a hand on each nipple, which makes me laugh and say she needn’t worry, because, “human breasts probably aren’t his thing”.

Our silence and our laughing, shared and private. Sniggering like hogs, at the beautiful Spanish girl with hairs growing out of her ears, sitting two seats down in the coach from Burgos to Logrono. Both of us thrown out of the amateur opera, for laughing at Carmen, because her singing sounded like my mother’s orgasm. Our love is grounded in moments like these, so now I drop my head to the magpie and thank him. Kerry says I’m following an ancient pagan tradition and that she’d always known I was a witch. I kiss her, and we go to bed.

Him, strange that I never thought of him as anything else. He could have been female, but I never wanted to find out. He should have been she in my world of women, where men are only allowed in on special terms, but he was my boy. The Boy, named by me, just two days later. “Looks like The Boy’s here to stay.”

I remember now, that she didn’t reply. Perhaps our silence had already begun to lose its value, or perhaps I wasn’t listening.

Anyway, the Boy moved in, sitting on the backs of chairs and tilting his head, pointing a black eye at the brush in my hand. “Perhaps he wants to be a painter too,” I say. “I could teach him.”

“Try it,” she said. “He’d probably earn more.”

In the past I would have laughed, but The Boy has taken over, his raking laugh already better than mine.

I’m working on a big commission, a real one that could pay for our flat and probably even a car. Being gay is, for once, an advantage. The husband has said that only another woman, who loves women, could know how to capture the beauty of his wife. Her amputated legs lying bare on the floor, their fleshy ends as soft as cream cheese, flattened against the silk.

“Silk for the reflections,” I tell her. “Do you mind if I move this leg closer?” She shrugs, still angry with her husband, because this is what he wants to see of her.

The Boy is watching, one spiny toe scratching the other.

Today, Kerry has said she has things to do, and might be late getting back. I asked her to help me put this hurting woman at ease, leaving me to work, unseen behind the canvas. But Kerry is too busy, so it’s just The Boy and I, testing each other to see if we can be a team.

“Is he tame?” The woman looks over to where he’s sitting on the back of a chair. Another reason to be tense and not want to be here, on the floor of my studio where, I have told her, the light falls best.

“Tame enough,” I smile back, in a way I hope is reassuring. “Wants to be a painter too.”

The Boy claps his beak.

I see her face change when he flies over to sit on my shoulder. “Incredible,” she whispers, after a while. “He’s following everything you do and then looking at me, as if he’s checking to make sure you’ve got it right.”

That’s it. The Boy has done it, dissolved the knot inside her, and now we can work, the three of us a team.

Ellie, the woman, comes every day for ten weeks, understanding now why the silk is so important for me. How it tells the whole story and why it can’t end with her legs. The Boy hears her coming every time, and beak-taps the uneven rhythm of her steps on each stair.

Kerry drains her cup of coffee. “You don’t need me here. I’ll finish my research in the library.”

I put my hand on hers, wanting to push it down so hard that she can’t move, ever again, but instead my fingers trail like feathers over her white knuckles. “It’s the last day, please stay with us.”

“What for?”

“To see me finish,” I say. “No more painting. She’s just coming to check the final version before her husband sees it.”

“And then?”

The silence drips between us, blood-soft and as dark. When I call her, she says she’s having a drink with some colleagues. When she doesn’t come home, I’m not surprised. In the morning I look at The Boy and want to hate him.

Kerry has gone, every trace, even her smell. I’ve tried to find it, sniffing into the corners of the cupboard where she used to hang her clothes, at the edge of the bed where she always slept, curled like a kitten, when her period pains were bad. The Boy sits on my shoulder, watching while I search my phone for the digitally preserved love that has died in the flesh. It’s the silence I need, but The Boy has taken it, whistling at the back of his throat the way Kerry used to when I got out of the shower, snoring like me, when I’ve got a cold.

Night after night, I lie on our bed, playing our past in my head. The day we first met, both of us blobby and gauche, passing a spliff we didn’t know what do with. Then again, all those years later, when she’d finished her Phd, and told me I had to call her Doctor. I refused and answered that she was too beautiful. She was, by then, especially her breasts.

“What have breasts got to do with intellect?” She’d stuck them out at me like a rude tongue and we laughed for the first time, and then always after that, in a way I thought would be forever. The silence came later, when we both knew who we were and didn’t need to explain anymore. Laughing and silence, the key to our being. She’d written it on the blackboard we used for shopping lists, and I’d coloured in the curves of her letters.

During those first weeks alone, I used to draw her all the time, holding onto her in the only way I could. The parts I remembered most, her eyes and the fold under her chin, but when I’d done that, there was nothing left, so I told The Boy I was leaving and he would have to look after himself. He laughed with her voice, so I left, but when I got to the bottom of the stairs I had to go back up to check that he had really gone. The window was closed, and the sill outside it, empty. The Boy gone and Kerry too. Perhaps one because of the other, but mainly because of me.

When I paint now, I paint the spaces, the white between the black on The Boy’s feathers, the silences between two people who think they are talking. When I see a magpie I always nod and say thank you.


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Edginess – Jacob Kobina Ayiah Mensah

The cloudstreet hums,
walls vibrate, tears drop from the metallic hardness of the distance between
us, with an alarming speed,

rooms filled with sea currents,
we are filled with sickly smile.

Every parts of life floating across everything capture beyond
unpredictable lurch,
everything cross the rough strip

and everything remains a trait of certain vibrations and insinuations, the
house falls into a special version of afterimage, we are
lost in its weight.

Shadows follow
the shape of things to come,

and your time has past thirty years,
we lie awake,

forthcoming changes,

everything through
the blur of the water, everything remains imported confession,

sea waves come in your way,
a ray of moonlight

without shedding itself is all the feeling of guilty,
everything is looking like a urine sample.


JACOB KOBINA AYIAH MENSAH is the author of the new hybrid works, The Sun of a Solid Torus, Conductor 5, Genus for L Loci and Handlebody. His individual poems are widely published and recently appearing in Rigorous, Beautiful Cadaver Project Pittsburgh, The Meadow, Juked, North Dakota Quarterly, Cathexis Northwest Press, The Sandy River Review, Strata Magazine, Atlas Poetica, Modern Haiku, etc. He is algebraist and artist and lives in the southern part of Ghana, Spain, and Turtle Mountains, North Dakota.

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Mimo – Adam Forrest

The life of Mimo begins today. Everyone is very pleased. Such a pretty nose. Such a lovely mouth. The eyes and ears are completely flawless. In any case, the committee has deliberated long enough and final deadlines have now passed. No more tinkering. Mimo, you are terrific just as you are. You fulfil our brightest hopes and all of the client’s demands. More than that Mimo, you are beautiful and you have made us cry.

Is it important to catalogue all the misfortunes involved in your conception? No, probably not. But it may allow you, Mimo, some insight into your origin. If you understand the difficult creative pregnancy, it may give you some sense of what is expected of you, some sense of yourself as a delivery vehicle for the hopes and dreams of girls and boys all over the world. But enough with the burdensome jargon. Let’s stick to the basics.

The client wanted an illustrated figure representing the International Children’s Foundation (ICF). The icon was supposed to be non-gendered and racially ambiguous. The organisation wanted a symbol of innocence, but also one of dignity and independence, ready to inspire the world.

So we started with a head slightly tilted to one side, creating a sympathetic gesture of curiosity. We tilted it a tad more and suddenly the gesture became one of stupidity. So we tilted it back, but slightly too far back, and now the empty head seemed to speak only of jaded scepticism. We found the correct angle and composed a mental note: no more messing with the 7° head tilt.

Next, the mouth. We cheated a little here. We took the mouths of Tweety Pie, Pebbles, Snagglepuss and Squiddly Diddly and we put them all through a programme on our computer. We thought the composite might look a little ridiculous, but it was not ridiculous at all. It is the same mouth you have today Mimo. We added the tiny ears and pointy nose by way of polling. A simple, fuss-free method.

The hair was a bigger problem. We noticed, on our research trips to the toyshops and swing parks, that neat hair had become fashionable. But neat hair was harder to keep gender-free. Short neat meant boy, longer neat meant girl. In the end we went with medium-length messy hair, but it was a very organised, symmetrical kind of mess. So you see Mimo, we never gave up. We pushed on into the early hours, pulled you this way and that. Some things came gently, others came gently undone.

All this talk of pushing and pulling. It reminds us that perhaps your head is a little too wide, your cheeks a little plump. Can we say chubby? Can we say pudgy? We cannot, but the cynics have done. What will these horrible people do with you? Deface your precious features? Slim, shrink or stretch you out further to fill the required space on their baseball caps, promotional pencils or desktop wallpaper? So be it. What happens to you now, sadly, is no longer under our control.

Anyhow. We deliberated, again and again and again. We were under a lot of pressure. But remember Mimo, all of our anxieties and erratic behaviour made you what you are, and what you are is terrific. Think of it all as the adding up at the side of a tricky math problem. You Mimo, are the solved equation, standing alone as a solid truth. A truth that can be replicated as often as required.

But what about the feet? Did we get those lovely little feet wrong? Do tiny feet imply hesitancy? An unwillingness to move from here to over there, if over there is the place innocent, dignified and independent children should be? No, no – enough! Your feet are fine.

The eyes. Your eyes happened upon us as if by magic, on a late-night cigarette break. We wandered along the river where the answer was waiting. The water was a depthless blue film, the moon a light shining on the surface. It was hard to tell which was more real. We threw stones to break the spell. Then we realised – as the river swallowed the stones, as light and water shimmered in slow motion – we realised that if we reversed the typical order, turning the white of the eye blue and the pupil pure white, then we had something strange and wonderful. Mimo, we whispered, and you were all but done.

After thickening outlines, we filled your shoes, sweater and dungarees with red, green and blue. You were about to become digital, a one-zero whole. Here we faltered once more, hummed and hawed and lingered. We argued over meaningless details, like how thick the lower lip should be. Dungaree buttons: yes or no? That kind of thing. But we took a deep breath, looked at the bigger picture, and saw beauty on a flat screen.

Now that you are a fully copyrighted entity, Mimo, now that you actually exist out here in the world as we do, we seem to find ourselves quivering shamefully yet again. The eyes. Those haunting eyes. Will those big, beguiling saucers need further explanation in the ICF’s target countries? Perhaps we could now produce a short book illustrating Mimo at play? But have we then failed you Mimo, if you cannot stand alone without further puppetry and exposition?

We only hope all expectations will be met. We wonder if you will be happy. We want you to be happy just the way you are, just the way we finished you. We hope, we wonder, we want. And for you Mimo, life begins today.

Please feel free to create your own Mimo in the space provided below. This may help you better understand the difficulties undergone during the creation of the real Mimo.




ADAM FORREST is a journalist also writing flash fiction and short stories. He lives and works in London.

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Dulie Hud – J Edward Kruft

She was startled when a wide woman yanked open the red door. “You’re late!” she accused. “Never mind. Come in, I’ll get you up to speed.”

Sunlight beamed through clerestories as Calliope followed the woman. “Dinner is in the fridge. Warmed it up at 5:00,” she instructed. “He doesn’t like breakfast but he’ll eat dry toast if you leave it in front of him long enough. Medications here. I’ve written it down for you, see? I’m Ms. Godfrey.”

“Oh. Ms. Jones…but I think….”

“I trust the agency told you about his TIA.”


“Mini-strokes,” she said, on the move again. “They didn’t tell you? Worthless! Not you, dear. I left a pamphlet on the table that explains it. Watch for the signs and call 911 if you suspect something.

“Well, I guess that does it. I’m awfully late so I only have time to introduce you and get out the door. Well. Come on then.”

The living room was aglow from the wood stove. The furniture was more modern than she would have imagined for Dulie, except for a worn club chair by the picture window that looked out on a hemlock stand. Across the room, a small man sat covered by an afghan, his head bowed.

This man was once Dulie Hud.

“You have a visitor,” Ms. Godfrey said as she shook his shoulder. Dulie lifted his head, looking all of his seventy-eight years. He glanced toward Calliope, his eyes working to focus.

Oh, but those eyes – green, at once probing and tender – they were Dulie’s.

“This is Ms. Jones. She’s here for the weekend. Be a gentleman and say, ‘how do you do, Ms. Jones.’” Dulie licked his lips but said nothing.

Ms. Godfrey, coat and purse in hand, all but flew to the front door.

“Behave yourself, Mr. Hud!” she called. “Good luck, Ms. Jones.” And before Calliope could correct her, she was gone.

There was only the ticking of the wall clock as they stared. Breaking his gaze, her eyes moved, as if by design, to an oil portrait of a woman in a red dress and a single strand of pearls.


Her eyes shifted again to across the room where boxes looked waiting to be filled.

“Are you moving, Mr. Hud?” Immediately, she regretted keeping up the charade. Why didn’t she simply declare: “I’m not the weekend woman. It’s me. It’s Calliope.” Instead, she bit at a cuticle. “I’ll look at what’s for dinner,” she said, leaving Dulie alone.

She sat at the kitchen table and glided her hand across the smoothness. There was no question that Dulie had made it himself. When they were falling in love at Stanford, when Dulie was finishing his engineering degree and she was beginning hers in American Literature, he had built her a small cedar chest, the kind brides of old might have kept their trousseau. She still had it. Only hers didn’t contain linens or preserved gowns, but stories started and forgotten; poems abandoned and then grieved; her dissertation on Hawthorne, of which she had once been so proud. With this, anger muscled into her gut and she returned with conviction to the living room, only to again find his frail head bowed, and her anger dissipated, and she wondered: why had she come?

“Mr. Hud?” He raised his head. “I have a favor to ask. May I call you Dulie? I’m not very formal, you see, and I’d like it very much if you called me Calliope.” Dulie’s green eyes held her gaze, and he nodded.

Calliope sat in the club chair; it felt comfortable and familiar as she fingered its buttery arms, trying to harken its history. In her reverie, she hadn’t notice Dulie’s stare.


Calliope was startled by his voice – dry but strong – and by the question. “Once. I married late and divorced early,” she said, forcing a laugh.


“No.” Dulie went silent. And although she knew the answer, she asked anyway: “How about you? Do you have children, Dulie?” he shook his head.

Once, the two of them had spoken differently about children, bundled under a blanket at Golden Gate Park. “Three,” Dulie had said suddenly.

“Three what?”

“Children. That’s how many we’ll have.” Calliope laughed at the notion.

“We’ll see.”

Then, Korea. He wrote and she wrote. And then only she wrote. Finally, he returned, a Korean woman in tow. Adira. Adira Hud, who would lose that baby in the fifth month, but by then, the dye was set.

Dulie looked to be sleeping so Calliope slipped out to have the daily cigarette she allowed herself. It was going to be a cold night, she thought. She’d best bring in more firewood. She blew a final stream of smoke into the fading sun and stubbed her cigarette on the head of a garden gnome.

She adjusted the afghan on Dulie’s lap.

She put another log on the waning fire.

She set a TV tray next to Dulie, and another next to the club chair.

She put that evening’s bounty of medications into a souvenir shot glass.

She placed the meatloaf in the oven and set the timer.

She set their plates, and Dulie stirred. He looked at her, startled.


Calliope drew a quick breath. “No, Dulie,” she said. “It’s Calliope.”

Dulie turned to his wife’s portrait: “Oh, how you grieved.” He closed his eyes and went silent, but his head did not bow.

Calliope sat in the club chair and wondered, wished: to whom did Dulie speak?

They were at dusk, and it was clear to Calliope that the weekend woman was not coming. They sat quietly together, as they might have for many years had circumstances been different. Calliope watched the last arc of the sun over the hemlocks, then she too closed her eyes and slept, to be awakened by the kitchen timer.

“Well then,” she said, rising from the club chair, stirring Dulie.

Off she went to the kitchen to fetch their supper.

J. EDWARD KRUFT received his MFA in fiction writing from Brooklyn College. He is a Best Short Fictions nominee, and his stories have appeared in several journals, including Soft Cartel and Typehouse Literary Magazine. He loves fried zucchini blossoms and wishes they were available year-round. He lives with his husband, Mike, and their adopted Siberian Husky, Sasha, in Queens, NY and Sullivan County, NY. His recent fiction can be found on his Web site: and he can be followed on twitter: @jedwardkruft.

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A Self-Analysis – Brice Maiurro

Some days I leave my arms at home
to give other people the chance to show me
how to conduct a symphony.

I am an owl in many ways
but most of all in the way I like to be alone at night
staring out my window
sitting on my tree branch
waiting for the field mice to come to me.

When I look at the hairs on my legs
I see thousands of tiny trees and I think about
the day each seed was planted.
I think about the way I am so very large
because I am one billion things so small.

I have a hard time with spiders
because I don’t want to kill them and
I know that I am ultimately unimportant to them
but I feel them crawling up my leg in bed
and when I look they’re never there
but my vulnerability is sometimes counter-intuitive
to my survival instinct
there is a certain amount of acceptance of death
that comes along with trust.

I refill ice trays in the freezer like a madman
like some great fleshy robot filled
with a singular algorithm to make sure there is never
one moment where this house will be without ice.

I don’t drink enough water.

In the middle of the twilight I talk to ghosts.
They carry all these stories about regret and war
and I’m just trying to sing myself
to sleep with songs of faith and renewal
but they clean their guns on the edge of my bed
and sometimes I like to swim
on top of their uneasy oceans.

I papercut my finger
on my contract to myself
and when the blood begins to run
I put it beneath the cold water faucet
and watch as it pours down the drain
and sometimes the water rises
and the sink fills up and the bathroom floods
until I’m underwater in my apartment
scuttling along like a crab
on the warped wood floor
but I do not drown, I sleep best in rip tide.
I dance in disaster.

Sometimes I fall asleep to radio static.
There is a room so quiet you can hear your blood
in your veins and the silence will drive you mad they say.
I talk so loud about how good I am at silence.
How American it is to always know what to say and that’s the thing.

I think I’m an auditory citizen of the world until it gets quiet
and I can hear the national anthem reminder
that I don’t know how to sight read a page of rest symbols.

I dance like I am protesting dancing,
Like if I flail my arms enough they’ll call it satire.

When I dance with women I follow their hips
and pretend I am so keen to the difference between
control and influence.

Sometimes I get stuck in the middle of a poem
and I don’t know how to end it.
Sometimes I’ll get real cute
and just throw out a one-liner like something
Oscar Wilde would say at a cocktail party
but sometimes I’ll just take a minute to be in it.
I’ll walk around the poem like an empty apartment
opening the closets looking for clues about
the person who lived here before
and sometimes I’ll find that there’s nothing but
wire hangers in the closet
or sometimes I’ll run out screaming
chased by skeletons

not tonight.


BRICE MAIURRO is a poet and writer from Denver, Colorado. He is the Editor-In-Chief of South Broadway Ghost Society and the Poetry Editor of Suspect Press. His second collection of poems, Hero Victim Villain, will be out June 24th, 2019 through Stubborn Mule Press. You can find more about him at

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Image via Pixabay

Frozen Fingers – Jim Bates

“Jerry, how are those matches holding up?” Steve asked, blowing on his frozen hands. “Can you get that kindling lit?”

“Shit, no,” Jerry swore. “I’ve got three left and I can’t feel my fingers. Can’t feel a damn thing.”

Those were not the words Steve wanted to hear. It was twenty degrees below zero. If they didn’t get a fire going soon, they were going to freeze to death.

Jerry fumbled lighting the match he was attempting to hold. It flared for a moment and then fell from his numb fingers into the snow, sizzled and went out. Two matches to go.

Next to them the rushing water of the Yellow Knife River cascaded over ice covered boulders on its way to Lake Superior ten miles to the east. Steve and Jerry had been on a winter hiking trip along the trail that ran high above the river when the ledge of snow they were on collapsed and they tumbled thirty feet down the steep slope into the frigid water below. In just seconds they were both not only soaked but numbingly cold. They scrambled out and found a level spot in the snow. Steve had sprained his wrist. It was up to Jerry to build the fire.

That had been fifteen minutes ago. A combination of wet stick matches and a wind swirling down the canyon walls made lighting a fire difficult. They’d built a small teepee of twigs and pine needles but getting it to light was proving next to impossible. With two matches to go, their prospects were grim.

Steve moved closer to Jerry. In a gesture of profound intimacy, he motioned to his friend, “Give me your hands.”

When Jerry balked, Steve said, “Don’t give me that macho BS.” He motioned again and said, softly, “Here, let me help.” Steve took his friend’s bare hands in his and, ignoring the pain in his wrist, drew them to his lips and blew on them, warming them with his breath.

After a minute, Jerry said, “That good. Thanks, man. They’re better. I can feel my fingers, now.”

He took the second match and struck it against the side of the match box. Nothing. It was too wet. On the second try it broke apart and fell to the snow.

The two men looked at each other. They were in their mid-thirties and had been best friend since grade school. Now it all came down to this. The sun was setting behind the pine trees lining the rim of the canyon. With the lack of sunlight the cold was settling in deep and hard.

Jerry took the last match, resolve set in his eyes. He looked at Steve. “Let’s do this.”

“Go for it, man,” Steve said.

Jerry struck the match. Both men watched, their lives hanging in the balance, as it flamed…flickered…then caught.

They quickly built a roaring fire. There was hope for them yet.


JIM BATES lives in a small town twenty miles west of Minneapolis, Minnesota. His stories have appeared in CafeLit, The Writers’ Cafe Magazine, A Million Ways, Cabinet of Heed, Paragraph Planet and Mused – The BellaOnline Literary Review. You can also check out his blog to see more:

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Image via Pixabay

As The Current Combs My Curls – Faye Brinsmead

He paints me gliding through spinach soup. Past white picket fences furred with algae. Past fish-flicking mailboxes. Past the coral-encrusted wrecks of our neighbours’ houses. He captures my tippy-toes gait. The golden banner of my hair. My water-distorted smile, its echo on the dugong’s face.

The title curves above my head in bouncy black letters. Drowned Woman with Dugong.

“Your best yet!” I say, kissing his black moustache. We waltz around the studio. The gramophone plays “I Can’t Stop Loving You”.

June 12, 1967. Greek-born artist’s exhibition celebrates Australian alps

My scrapbook, open on the kitchen table, keeps miraculously dry. I leaf through honey-coloured clippings while my hair sets. He loves my corkscrew ’do. “My mermaid,” he murmurs at night as the current combs my curls.

The hydroelectric scheme brought people from all over to the Snowy Mountains. He wandered into Jindabyne not long after my 17th birthday. Worked odd jobs when he had to. Other days, he’d set up his easel at the river bend. I couldn’t keep away. Familiar vistas cancanned across his canvases in fancy dress. Never more themselves.

One day, there I was. Tiara on my head, meat cleaver in hand. Butcher’s Shop Princess.

My parents disapproved.

“He’ll never put meat on the table.”

“I’ll take care of that,” I said.

August 5, 1967. Flooding of Jindabyne valley to begin any day

I wore them down. “Your choice, darl,” Mum said.

“You can work in the shop for a wage. Apart from that, you’re on your own.”

The ring, a hair’s-width gold band from the main street jewellers, emptied his savings sock. We’d live on love, art and T-bone steak.

December 12, 1967. Last wedding at Saint Mary’s

The newspaper photographer was nicknamed “Blur”. He managed to tilt us 45 degrees as well. Our smiles are watery. My eyes ask: “Can you tell I’m wearing a shower curtain?” My brother’s suit, lent for the occasion, is too tight across my husband’s shoulders. Its buttons pincer his belly like tiny black crabs.

We spent our honeymoon in my parents’ squeaky old bed. The lino had just been laid in their new house up the hill. The bedroom suite was their pride and joy: rosewood veneer with real imitation mother-of-pearl inlay.

“You two can squat in the old place till the fish move in,” Dad said.

We whitewashed the walls, hung his paintings everywhere. Pretended we’d lived there forever.

My husband loved painting the creeping lake. “When it’s deep, it’ll be green. Green as spinach soup.”

The day water came snuffling under the front door, we cried. Blew our noses, stowed the paintings in my parents’ shed, pitched a tent on higher ground, near the bridge. Once they blew that up, it’d be curtains for old Jindabyne.

The town council turned it into a gala event. We joked that all we’d need to do was open the tent-flap. Front-row seats. But on the big day I didn’t want to watch. I mooched along the new lake shore, stealing white-faced herons’ eggs.

February 1, 1968. Tragic accident: bridge explosion kills newlywed

That one, a front-page story, isn’t in my scrapbook. Unforgettable, unbelievable, it eddies the lake’s surface. A pilotless motorboat, whizzing round and round.

Down here, where the spinach soup is thickest, the aftershocks are blunted. The fish welcomed me back home. The dugong, which came to me in dreams, never leaves my side. Stroking its knobbly head, I watch my husband work. A self-portrait. His best yet.

Smiling Ghost with Paintbrush.


FAYE BRINSMEAD lives in Canberra, Australia. A lawyer by day, she writes flash in all the snippets of time she can find. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, MoonPark Review, r.kv.r.y. quarterly literary journal and The Ekphrastic Review. She tweets @ContesdeFaye.

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Image via Pixabay

The Doughboy – Nathan Dennis

I find myself here —
All covered in chicken wire
Plumped full of metal:
A bled out, trussed up Christmas roast of a man
Spilled over on no man’s land

I feel the wind on my liver.
I always hated the wind.
In the winter, it felt like it cut me
Like it was going right through me.
Now it is going right through me.

Can anybody see me?
I can’t see well now.
Everything is very grey.
Though it was grey earlier.
Exhaust and snow and gas make the best ash to hide the dead.

They won’t hide me, though.
I am high off the ground.
It will take a mortar to dislodge me.
And I’ll have died by then.
I won’t lie to myself. Snowflakes feel hot.

I should think of my last words —
Something someone may remember me by.
Or something I may remember myself by.
“Mother?” “Father?” “God is great?”
“God damn you sons of bitches who sent us here in your stead?”

The chicken wire seems so soft now.
A brilliant string of lights that decorates my body
Bedecked by pooling jewel ornaments of my blood
I catch a warm snowflake on the tip of my tongue,
A snowflake that tastes of somewhere not here.

The twinkling stars of machine guns blink hello
And sprout maroon goose feathers through my wounds.
I gurgle out through iron-rich froth,
“Happy Christmas.”
I am an angel. My God, How beautiful I am.


Nathan Dennis is a Manhattan based playwright and poet of Floridian extraction. A graduate of NYU Tisch Department of Dramatic Writing, he served as a Rita and Burton Goldberg Fellow, and was awarded Outstanding Writing for the Stage in Spring of 2015. He received the Magnolia Review Ink Award for his poem “Meditations on the Creation,” in January 2019. His most recent play, Circle of Shit, was presented by Dixon Place in March, 2019.

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Image via Wikimedia Commons from the private collection of David Ball [Public domain]

Development Hell – Patrick Chapman


The foley artist chops a white cabbage in two. The chhkk will be edited with a fast scrape of iron on steel. Something like that. Cutlery, maybe. I forget how those guys do it, but it’s smart. The sound is because I’m playing Lois XIV. Lois was a cool customer. She liked rock music, even though it didn’t even exist in her century, you know? In our movie, it does. It’s called anachronic or something. Hey, that’d be a great name for me if I started a band.

You know I didn’t really die. You got that. You know this is a movie. There’s a prop head in a prop guillotine. A blade falls but it doesn’t hit anything, not really. The rope holds it up. No way is it going to hit my actual neck. That’s not in my contract. They have a bag of fake blood in there, pig blood, I think, sterilized so no one gets pig-AIDS. That wouldn’t be kosher. I think I knew someone once, a Mexican wrestler, who had pig-AIDS he got from a midget whore in Tijuana.

Jenna Brown’s title on the first draft I saw was Liberté, Egalité, Sororité but no one gives a shit what she says although I think it’s a great name. Terence Morton wanted to call it Lois XIV but Jerry Silverberg figured the audience would take it for a sequel. What does he know? Well a week later he said, ‘It’s a feminist movie, so I know, why not call it Lois XIV?’ Asshole. Morton lets Jerry have the credit for the title so he gets to take the credit for the rest of the flick. ‘Choose your battles, Becs,’ he tells me, ‘choose your fuckin’ battles.’

Morton calls a wrap, and I realize it’s me he’s talking about. I’m done. It’s my last shot. Maybe some pickups later or whatnot. Everyone applauds and I make a short speech and Morton screws up his own little ramble in praise of me. Word is he has the speech written down and just changes the name of the actor each time he has to give it.

I move my behind off the set in my Lois XIV costume and it feels like the walk of shame. But I’m telling you I am so proud of this picture, of what we have achieved together these last nine months. That’s what it says in my speech. Am I glad to be done with this hair.



Sheila wipes rouge off my cheeks and powder off my forehead and makes me back into Rebecca Wood from Arkansas. I send her away. Sheila, I mean. When she goes, I sit looking at myself in the mirror. Those lights can give you a migraine but I wouldn’t mind having a headache so hard all I can see is stars, like I’ve been fucked good by a pro. I like my head outside itself. If I could make that a permanent state, I wouldn’t have to listen to other people’s crap. Like that vlogger who wrote I wanted to be blonde but didn’t have the bottle. Was that even supposed to be funny? It’s old, is what it is. Old and not original. I stand up. I don’t need help getting out of this costume, I want to do it on my own, to have one last visit with my character before leaving her forever. Then I just need to be by myself, is all. Isn’t that what Garbo said? ‘I just need to be by myself, is all.’

In the light from the mirror bulbs and the windows, like dusk in the afternoon, my body looks expensive. Nature lights me. I am my own stand-in, Robert told me once. He said my body is ethereal, insubstantial, two-dimensional. I think he was saying I have bulimia. He was just being cheap. He’s right though. My body is very adjective. I turn from the mirror and strip off my dress. It’s harder than I expected to get out of. Whalebone. Real actual whalebone from whales, which Fernando in craft services says is a country but it’s really a fish. I tear the dress off. They won’t need it again. In less than a minute I’m baby-photo-naked before the mirror. I’m so money, I want to fuck myself standing up. So, I do, until I fall over.



I hear the lights. I hear them pop off. They do that: pop! The hollow coughs of those big drums each time sounds like a cannon shot out of a cannon. I should be gone. I should have left hours ago but I’ve been standing nude, looking at me. I am going dark very slowly. It’s pretty awesome. I am pretty awesome. I go to the closet and open the door and see myself nude in the mirror inside there too, behind the clothes. I am so naked. I like it that there are 18th-century dresses and 21st-century tees, jeans, jackets, skirts, all jumbled together like in a fashion show held across time zones. Behind them all is me and I don’t even need to take a selfie to know that I am fucking hot. I don’t need to share this. This is mine. I don’t want to share this. I am dressed, in a way, you know? I am naked under my clothes. I take out a blouse and a pair of jeans and I put them on. I call the driver. He’ll be here in five. Lois XIV is done. She is done. I am here. Now what do I do with all these fucking flowers?



Two revolutionaries drag Lois into the square where the crowd calls for her head. And it’s a pretty head. Sean Young in Blade Runner pretty – but period. She’s all serene calmness but you can tell in her eyes there’s turmoil. The revolutionaries are putrid in ragged clothes, tricorn hats, big fat guns. (Did they have guns?) Lois walks fearless to the platform in the center of the square where the guillotine waits; an executioner and a representative from the People’s Commune (check this) stand beside it. One guard shoots a look of remorse at his co-worker. A queen to the end, Lois walks up to the scaffold. The executioner, fat and greasy with a blindfold and cummerbund – think Hamburglar but a prototype – he steps away from the guillotine. Lois takes her place in front of it and removes her Grace Kelly headscarf. Silence. Her locks have been shorn so the blade can get a clean lop at her neck. The executioner nods. Lois kneels and places her head in the frame. She doesn’t close her eyes. She wants them to look into her soul before they separate it from her body. The executioner puts his fat hand on the back of Lois’s delicate neck and pushes it down. He steps back and a guard takes out a scroll. He reads out the list of her crimes. Revolution, bad table manners, fucking burglary – they’re making this shit up and she knows it but Lois doesn’t answer. She’s kinda busy. The executioner tugs on the cord to release the blade. Whop!



The rope breaks, the blunt guillotine cracks on her head and everyone stares at Rebecca Wood.

Terence Morton yells. ‘That’s a cut!’

‘What did you call her?’ the DP whispers.

Morton grumbles, waves him away. Then he realizes what has happened. Shit! She’s fridged!

Pandemonium breaks out. It takes a minute for someone to call a doctor, by which time Morton is speeding Rebecca to the hospital in his Ferrari.

They tell him later that he shouldn’t have moved her. He says she was gone already and he hoped they could bring her back. He liked Rebecca. She was going to be something.



Lois XIV, Terence Morton’s $253m. post-feminist take on the French Revolution—here Louis XIV is Lois, played by Rebecca Wood (22)—hiatused Wednesday when a prop guillotine impacted Wood’s head. The actor later died in St. Mercy’s, Oakland. Morton’s reported to be disappointed but Fox says the flick will release July 19th next year, right on schedule. TMZ reports Wood is not dead, she’s just had radical work done. read more



This endless airport departure lounge. It’s very exclusive, populated entirely by celebrities. That’s what they tell me. I have been here forever. They tell me that, too. At least it turns out I was a celebrity. That’s something. But all I can think of is Robert Hermes fucking Jessica Rand. Well she did win Best Supporting Actress for Stringless. Best Film Ever about a paraplegic cellist’s romantic obsession with an artist’s puppet. Being John Malkovich meets Boxing Helena, that was the pitch. Nurse Sheila tells me nothing. I may be in a coma. I hope it’s only a coma, because I hate the thought of meeting Michael Landon. His hair! Nurse Sheila says I have anger issues. What does she mean? But who cares. Robert Hermes. Jessica Rand. Seriously. This corridor goes on forever.



As her eyes open she sees what’s going on, so she shuts them tight again. She isn’t ready for this. She isn’t ready. Morton was wrong. Rebecca Wood is not dead. Now in her hospital room a news crew waits; St. Mercy’s probably has a deal with the studio. This could even be going out live. If only she’d known, she would have got up weeks ago when they weren’t looking. Nurse Brown welcomes the crew personnel in as Rebecca decides to go with it. She stirs. An eyelid. She moves her lips but no words come out. Nurse Brown says that someone should have called Doctor Hermes by now so why isn’t he here? He might be watching from his office. ‘I’ve got footsteps in my head,’ Rebecca says, then her lips flatline as she dives naked back inside her coma. At least the coma is real.



Everything. Everything happens at once. I’m in stage two now. I rise at an hour that could be dawn or dusk, one of those, or morning or night, who knows? This morning, that night. While Nurse Brown applies my face, I find the talcum powder here is cocaine. I developed a habit and am out of detox, both in the same moment. Simultaneously, I’ve never tried the stuff in my life. Drugs are confusing here, but at least I have the mirror. This enormous mirror in the Academy ratio follows me around on motorized castors. In the mirror, I am more beautiful even than Sean Young as Rachael with her hair down. That was a look. In return for all this wonderment, I only have to let John Hughes film me. He’s making a movie of me, all me, sitting paralyzed on a pink couch in the corridor. An homage to Kubrick, he says. Molly Ringwald isn’t dead yet, so she’s not available, so I get the part. Funny how the casting process works. He says the aliens are fascinated by the activities of humans and enthralled by the trivial. What the hell does that mean? Last week they were turned on by a spot for a body modification studio that ran during a musical special about a famine in Yemen. I guess it’s a pity about Robert and Jess, but life goes on. Just deal with it. I’ve already done the course of TM I’m about to embark on. People are all the same. I once stood a producer up on a date and he sent me a dead rabbit in the mail. I was on a strict diet at the time, so that proved he was the wrong guy for me. I will have my revenge on Robert when he turns up. Which he will. This isn’t any old joint. This is the big place they all talk about when they talk about the big place they all talk about. Boy, is he sure going to be pissed to find out the religions all got it wrong. When Robert gets here, he is mine. I can make him write the most beautiful stories in the world then I’ll reject all his scripts. That’s gotta hurt. Or! I can get someone to give him an infinite bout of herpes. Little blisters everywhere, new ones all the time, blisters on top of blisters. I think he has nerve endings so it should be real crusty painful. Or I can turn him into sushi, actual sushi; he’d have to be transformed into fish, which is great because he’s allergic to seafood. It’s possible to keep him conscious through all of it. After I eat him with wasabi and soy sauce and ginger, I’ll vomit him into a bucket for feeding to the angel sharks. Then who has bulimia, Robert? Here I can do anything. ‘Hey, Robert! Culkin says hi. Nurse, can I get a Pepsi? I am so happy. Can I get a Pepsi?’ Hold on a second. Yeah. If everything here happens at once, how come Molly Ringwald isn’t available? Answer me that, Hughes. You must’ve really wanted me for this part.


‘That’s all you got?’ Jerry Silverberg flung the treatment back across his mahogany desk at Jenna Brown. She is me.

And that was all I got.

‘You don’t like it?’ I shifted in my seat and stared hard at him.

He looked like what he was, an executive. ‘Listen, Jenna, you’re a good kid. A nice kid. You come in asking for a chance, I give you a chance. And what do you give me back in return for my investment in you? My investment of hope that someone in this town can come up with something better, something more, something purer than the fucking robot movie sequels and the – not robots that are fucking, movies that are sequels that have robots in them – and the teen apocalypse crap and the…

Ah shit, Jenna, you give me this. It’s experimental. Jenna, it’s experimental. I mean, who gives a shit about whoever, and how about this? I don’t think the audience is asking is this feminist. They want Boy-meets-Whatever. Sure, the French Revolution, but didn’t we just have one? Les Miser-fucking-ables. Don’t the French have a revolution every year? Throwing sheep at each other? Can’t you write me something about that? You know, with people in it?’

As he spoke, I wondered what tiny insult might push him into spontaneous human combustion.

‘Jerry, listen.’

He flopped down in his seat and his body seemed to deflate like a pierced space-hopper.

‘Jerry,’ I continued, ‘the French didn’t just have a revolution. The last time they got close was sixty years ago.’

Jerry sighed heavily. ‘Why don’t you write that! Put a love story in it. And why don’t you have an ending at least? It makes me look bad if I greenlight this, and I’m not going to, I can tell you that now, thanks for asking.’

I put two fingers on the treatment. It felt cold to the touch. I dragged it into my lap and felt despair flow through me in full 3D with Smell-O-Vision. The room began to fuzz. Maybe it knew something I didn’t.

Well, screw the room. ‘It has an ending, Jerry,’ I said. ‘It has a good ending. I gave it the ending I did, because it’s Kubrickian.’

‘Who’s Kubrickian?’


Jerry took a serious moment before opening his lips again, as if he had to pay Teamsters to move them. ‘Why did you name a character after me?’

‘This happened,’ I said. ‘This story really happened. You were in it. So was I.’

‘Get out of here!’ The words flew from his mouth, a verbal Heimlich maneuver.

I grabbed my case, stuffed the treatment into it then hightailed it out of the room so I could let Jerry simmer. I didn’t wait to hear the inevitable violence to furniture.

He wouldn’t be asking for a script.

At the front gate, I paused to consider the day. It was noon. The palm trees were swaying and the cars growled by. Every day at every hour it always looks like noon. That’s what it looks like, here.

So. I’d blown it with Jerry. Never mind. Artie Mold might take a look. I’d call Laurie and ask her to set it up.

Something. Something would turn up.

I went to a Starbucks and sat with an espresso and a drink of water and then it hit me.

I felt it in my bones.

An inconvenient truth.

I was not a writer.

Not really.

But if I wished on a star that I could be Tina Fey, maybe I would be. I could be someone good. Tina Fey was good. I could be her.

To distract myself I listened to the yadda-yadda. I heard nothing, despite my ear for dialogue.

This failure to sell my script. It was not really my fault. It was the fault of this town. This town was dead. It was time for me to pack up and head home to Arkansas. I could get a job at the university.

Unless Jerry asked for a new draft.

That could happen.

Then something did.

I was about to raise my coffee but saw a distorted face reflected in the black liquid. Then I saw the face wasn’t distorted. For a big man grown fat on success, for a bear of a guy twice my age, Jerry sure could creep up on a girl. Ninja-like.

I turned to face him.

‘Listen kid,’ he said. ‘You’re young. You’re beautiful. I’m going to give you a second chance. How about it?’

I turned and furrowed my brow, which took no effort at all. ‘What the hell do you want?’

Jerry Silverberg grinned back. ‘Nothing!’

‘I’ll think about it,’ I said.



I forget which Starbucks we’re in. Jerry is yakking about the movie keeping the feminist angle but could I just kind of make it accessible? Could I give the studio this one and the next one is mine?

‘It’s a French Revolution picture,’ he goes on. ‘Female Louis. Fine. And if Larry can be Lana, what the hell. If Andy can be Lilly too, why not. Hiddleston is perfect for Lois. Come to think of it, Redmayne. Tick. Now, Rebecca. Let’s see. Scarlett? Not Portman. Scarlett. Or Phil Collins’s kid. She can do a British accent, right?’

‘Is this a script talk or a casting talk?’

He smiles. ‘I like to put a face to the character.’


‘It’s all good, kiddo. I myself am a feminist. I marched with Gloria Vanderbilt in the 1970s. Even burnt her bra for her, though she was wearing it at the time.’


‘OK, let’s cut to the chase. Redmayne is Lois. The Collins kid is Rebecca cos I dig the eyebrows.’

‘You said Scarlett.’

‘Careful.’ Jerry’s expression turns icy. ‘Don’t throw it away. You got a nice face and a future. Are you listening to me, Jenna Brown? Don’t throw it all away.’



Dinner doesn’t count. That means it’s our one-year anniversary minus two days, because in two days it’s the one-year anniversary of when I first slept with him. Jer says we can celebrate twice if we like. Rewind the film. Jer always says he’s going to leave his wife any day now, but I don’t want him to. I keep telling him no. I don’t want to ruin her life. I don’t want the static. I like what I have with Jer. They did a great job with the script. Redmayne wouldn’t commit, so Cruise signed on. Too old, I think. The picture is a musical now. It’s called Louis, Louis! Jer says we’re going to the Oscars with this one. Jess hates the Oscars and she’s given him carte blanche to take who he wants. She doesn’t know about us. Or maybe she does. Which is why I think Jer should stay with her. As long as he never owns me, I’ll be OK. This one’s for the studio, the next one is for me. But isn’t it exciting? The movie is in prep but what is almost in post, is our child. Jer says he’ll take care of us whatever happens. If it’s a girl, I’m to call her Rebecca, after his mother.


PATRICK CHAPMAN’s latest books are Open Season on the Moon (Salmon Poetry, Co. Clare, 2019); Anhedonia (stories, BlazeVOX Books, NY, 2018); and So Long, Napoleon Solo (novel, BlazeVOX Books, 2017). With Dimitra Xidous he edits The Pickled Body.

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Image via Pixabay

Portrait of a Woman as a Young Mother – Katie Venit

Year 0

In the framed photo, a woman in profile—eyes smudged with dark circles, shoulder adorned with an epaulette of spit-up—hugs a newborn tight and high on her chest, resting her cheek on his head. The baby’s eyelids look like closed pistachios. His ears match the monkey’s on his swaddling blanket. Next to her, a laptop displays Google’s homepage.

● How to increase milk supply

● Fenugreek near me

● Fetal microchimerism*

● How to get baby to sleep in crib

● How to put sleeping baby down without waking

● How to sleep when baby sleeps

● How little sleep do adults need

● Hallucinations

*Examples of fetal microchimerism have been found in every type of placental mammal. Although the process is two-way—cells from a fetus transfer into the mother’s body via the placenta and vice versa—far more fetal cells persist in maternal blood and tissue than maternal cells in a fetus. Fetal cells seem to be both beneficial and deleterious to the mother. At times they act like stem cells and swarm C-section incision sites and other wounds. However, high levels of fetal cells are also associated with increased occurrence of many diseases such as Parkinson, Hashimoto, and Graves Disease.

Year 1

In the photo shared online, a woman wears sensible shorts, shirt, and shoes–nothing flimsy or hard to wash. Behind her, park lawns stretch to a river frothing with spring melt. She grips the wrist of a toddler who wears soaking wet white-and-navy-blue train engineer overalls and matching cap. He carries a stuffed monkey and a Superman sneaker; the other sneaker pokes from the pocket of her water-stained shorts. The woman stares into the distance with an expression of resolution. The boy’s limbs are blurry.

● Hey Siri, how do I unlock a door?

● How do I unlock a door from outside?

● How do I unlock a bathroom door from outside?

● Where can I find eyeglass screwdrivers near me?

● Can a toddler drown in a toilet?

● Call the local fire department

● How do I make a whiskey old fashioned?

Fetal microchimerism may play a role in the resource conflict between mother and child. Fetal cells may concentrate in those areas of the mother’s body that best aid the child postpartum in order to manipulate her into providing more resources to the infant than is in her best interest or the interests of her other children, current or future. Those areas are the thyroid (which regulates body temperature), the breast (which regulates lactation), and the brain (which controls emotional attachment).

Year 5

The live photo is one second long. A boy in front of a red brick elementary school wears sensible shorts, shirt, and shoes. He holds a slate that says “1st Day of Kindergarten.” His smile reveals a missing tooth. A woman’s tanned arm reaches into the photograph with a bedraggled stuffed monkey. We never see her body.

● Alexa, order a reusable lunch box

● Order a pencil case

● Order crayons

● Order all the school supplies

● Order How to Listen so Kids will Really Talk

● Play Time after Time

● Play If I Could Turn Back Time

Most fetal cells in the bloodstream are destroyed after birth by the mother’s immune system, although those embedded in tissue fare better. Fetal cells that survive the postpartum culling establish lines that persist for decades by becoming part of the organs that harbor them. Those in the brain become brain cells. Those in the lungs become lungs cells. Those in the heart become woven into the cardiac fibers, mingling with the mother’s own cells and even those from her mother, genetically distinct, pulsing in unison.


KATIE VENIT lives in Wisconsin. Her work has appeared in Volume One Magazine, Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life, 365 Tomorrows, and Neutrons/Protons. She sits on the advisory board for the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild.

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Image via Pixabay

Super Blood Wolf Moon – Danielle Jorgenson-Murray

“I’ll text you if there’s no change,” he said, and there was no text all evening.

The alarm clock wakes us up at half past five with birdsong, a cuckoo and other distinctive voices I always tell myself I’ll look up but never do. It’s minus three outside, the night sky is a faded black sheet and the moon is eclipsing over our balcony.

I roll over to check my phone and see a message: Call me when you get this.

I can’t call now, especially not with the time difference.

The husband is watching me look at my phone from the foot of the bed as he pulls on his dressing gown. I scroll up and see messages from him to Dad, sent when I was asleep, a hushed private conversation. I hope everything goes without stress. And a reply: Thanks for looking after her.

“Are you okay?”

I nod.

He puts his hand on mine.

I have to remind him to put some slippers on before he opens the balcony door, as though we’re still in a place and time where we can have these normal conversations. This is a grace period. A false vacuum. It’s not real.

The moon is already flushed dark red, dim but clear in the sky, and perfectly framed over the roofs of the flats opposite. We could watch it from here.

The cold night spills in through the balcony door, so I pad to the bedroom and read the messages on my phone again, pull on slippers of my own absently, marvel at this proof that the world continues to exist while I’m asleep. Things are somehow still allowed to happen even when I’m not watching.

I’ll phone at seven. I can’t phone now. There’s nothing I can do about it now. It’s happened already. There’s nothing I can do and the moon is eclipsing.

The husband is screwing pieces of the telescope together. It amazes me every time that he remembers how to do it. I remember listening very earnestly to the man we bought the telescope from, standing in his cluttered cellar in some village at the end of a train line, and immediately forgetting all of his advice and instructions. All of this jumble of things, screws, poles, lenses, cardboard boxes, forgotten advice, belong to the same stratum of time in which she was alive. I’m sitting on the cliff edge of that time now, cheating shamelessly, but when you’re a human being stuck in time’s amber all you can do is cheat. You have to cheat.

I don’t need to phone. I already know.

I go outside for the first time when the telescope is finished. There’s a skin of still frost over everything, stretched out over the open doorway, and when I cross the threshold I shatter it into stinging splinters. I pace the balcony and eye up the old pots and stacked fridge trays that we promise ourselves we’ll deal with but never do.

We take turns squinting into the telescope’s eyepiece. The dim, perfect moon becomes even clearer, each crater close enough to stick a curious fingertip into, coat it with coppery dust. Taste it. Every flaw and meteor scar laid bare. A reminder that far away things are as real as we are.

It’s so cold that it hurts, so I retreat back inside again, having seen all of the moon that I can see, and I carry with me a perfect mantle of winter air pressed between skin and dressing gown. Glance at my phone in the bedroom. The same words waiting. The clock reads 5:59. Can’t phone yet.

Back out to the balcony and the moon’s moving even as we watch, sinking and dimming. It’s going to dip behind the roofs just before it hits the full eclipse. There’s still a fingernail paring of silver cupping one edge.

Another look through the telescope and this time I watch it until it drifts out of the eyepiece altogether, touching the icy body of the telescope with my fingertips. The husband readjusts it and gets out the camera to catch it before it goes.

We could watch it from the sofa. We could sit curled up together, wrapped in a blanket and holding steaming mugs of tea, and get just as good a view of that copper coin in the sky, like a new two pence piece. The kind that as children we’d keep a beady eye out for and our grandparents, yielding to our magpie hearts, would point out for us to pick up.

Yes, I think, we could watch it from inside, but neither of us goes to move. Neither of us closes the door. The cold pours in and twines around us.


DANIELLE JORGENSON-MURRAY is a videogame translator based in Frankfurt, Germany, originally from the North East of England, and can often be found wandering around urban wildernesses.

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Image via Pixabay

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