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Bondage Games by Vincent Vassilev

Oh yeah. They wanna make ravens out of all of us. Like, how many ravens can a guy see in Miami, Fla.? Don’t not ask me how, but I did see a raven. Kind of a square head, looked downtrodden, dusty, sickened, perhaps because of the heat. I thought about Edgar Allen Poe’s “Nevermore,” and even said it to the raven as I was leaving a book store. I had bought some books about history of the Kennedy assassination. Sitting there, juggling around in that plastic retail bag, the books were just waiting to be read. You know, like books do; they wait to to be read, not said. Oh yeah, I say that a lot. Oh yeah, like I’m the Kool-Aid Man. Oh yeah! / It was fricking hot out here in Daytona Beach, and yes, it was surprising to see a raven that had flown so far south...

added 04.11.14

Objects and Illusions by Stephanie Bradbury

They had the kind of house that looked like no one lived in it. It was a beautiful three story brick home with a brilliantly polished wood staircase curving down the middle. Each piece of furniture in the living room was positioned too far apart from the others, as if to avoid confrontation. On the coffee table a photo album sat precisely in the center. The cover photo was of a boy and his Golden Retriever running on a black and white beach. I assumed it was the picture that came with the album. The rest of the book was empty. / There were too many mirrors in the house. I saw on a design show once how mirrors can be used to create an illusion of space...

added 04.04.14

The Generosity and Versatility of Scatology by Jenean McBrearty

“Da-da, do-do, do-da-da.” / That’s some good shit, man. / You’re shittin’ me. / It ain’t worth a shit. / It’s all bull-shit. / She’s just talkin’ shit. / You don’t know shit from Shinola. / No shit, Sherlock. / Scared the shit out of me! / I don’t give a shit. / That’s some sorry-ass shit, all right. / “Here’s the thing. It sounds low-class. It’s street talk. You’d never hear the Queen say the word shit. Least not in public.” / Marty nodded his head, seriously pondering Freddie’s wisdom. “We’ll never hear the Queen say anything. Here’s another thing. All around the world, people are talkin’ shit and we never hear them either. You ever wonder what people are saying in places like Paraguay or Papua New Guinea?”...

added 03.28.14

contributing writers : 04.2013 - 03.2014

peruse our short story archives here

'63 by Rose Aiello Morales
In was the summer of 1963. We lived on the fifth floor of a high rise in Sunnyside, Queens, close to the cemetery where my relatives were buried, the Queensboro Bridge, and the EL tracks. Our terrace had a view of the large water tanks by the river, and a great big bakery billboard. It was heaven. / Though I didn't like the subway very much, (there had been an incident in which I'd been left on the platform) and my sister and two brothers teased me mercilessly, I loved going for 5 cent egg creams at the sweet shop, skating around the block with the skate key bouncing on a string against my chest. We played chicken with our baby doll carriages, and later, when they got smashed beyond repair, with shopping carts. My brothers played stick ball in the street and threw firecrackers off the building rooftop... (added 07.20.13)

After the Anti-Depressants by Mike Lafontaine
He met her funnily enough when he had to fill out his prescription. He was working as a mechanic at the time and he kept getting these headaches, no matter what he did, no matter how many Advil he would take, these headaches would not go away and since he did not have insurance and his work didn't have medical coverage, so he just lived with it. It was only when he blacked out at work and almost had a car that he was winching fall on top of him that his boss Roscoe told him to go to the doctor and that the company would pay for it. / After the doctor made him take some tests and made him follow his finger and asked him some personal questions that was none of his damn business did the doctor finally say that he didn't know what was wrong with him... (added 09.10.13)

Along Flatlands Avenue by Carl Kavadlo
I discovered a little playground. Preschoolers were running around. They were maybe 3, 4 or 5. I’m a white cracker: haggard, bedraggled, red-eyed, neurotic, irritated today due to anxiety—irritated more than usual, and some of it real. I visualized a minor news article: Bum found dead on the street, frothing at the mouth. At least I had I.D., so they could identify me. / All the little children were dark—African-American, some Hispanics, Indian children from India. / Unbothered by the hot temperature, they were scampering and shouting and squiggling, running, jumping. (added 05.25.13)

babygirl by James Rodehaver
you got any cash? / no. / you got a ride? / no, not really. / how'd you get here sugar? / my dad owns this station. i live across the road, with him and my sister, sal. / aah. hey, you wanna screw around? / um, are you a prostitute? / WHAT DID YOU SAY?! (reaches into her pocket.) / i'm sorry miss, it's just... / DO I LOOK LIKE A WHORE TO YOU?! (pulls out a 9mm. points it at him.) / NO, miss i'm real sorry, please don't shoot! / now, i'll ask again, (puts gun away.) / do you wanna screw around?... (added 08.24.13)

Back to Bad Homburg, Again by Addie Soaraki
Like, for sure. Got my gutter crown on and I’m pitching rocks from the bank of the crick, drinking cheap beer, a full quart of rot-gut, malt liquor really, and that’s about all there is. For me, at least. / Did I say the park’s gone dark? It’s amazing when you’re sitting in the cool evening of the fall, your back against a tree, maybe an oak or a sumac—how the heck am I supposed to know? I’m not a botanist and biology is not an interest here, man—so satisfied with the iPod and swell of warmth in the stomach that you’re out of Swisher Sweets and it isn’t even 7:30. / All the benches are broken. Gang-bangers. You know, fourteen-year-olds out for the thrill of empires nobody even knows exist except the gangs, the rival gangs, and the other gangs, and then the gangs outside the other gangs, a concentric circle of military activity right under my damned nose... (added 02.28.14)

Bars by Carl Kavadlo
...And so, there are bars for the daring of the night. / Then I left too. / And that’s what you see. The wild cherry cocktail sticks inviting adventure. Bars give you relief from the ordinary humdrum. / In front of the club, I lit a Marlboro cigarette. “A band named Pacific Radio Fire…” I inhaled, exhaled twice. “And who thought people under 25 read Richard Brautigan again in 2014?” I took another drag, staring at headlights, considering the possibility of Bukowski’s transmigration. I was pretty drunk, and maybe the whole thing happened, or maybe it didn’t happen at all. / Then I flipped the cig high in the air watching the yellow, glowing arc spin... (added 01.11.14)

The Beach Out of Reach by Leilanie Stewart
The sea is at low tide, the muddy sands covered in worm casts. You’re walking along by yourself and you see three figures far on the horizon by the distant water’s edge. You try to catch up, but you can’t. You wonder why you’re having trouble walking; you look down and realise why. You’re a swan. / You’re in the wrong place; you shouldn’t be at the beach. You take off, tucking your legs under you. You fly across the wide sands, but still the water stays out of reach and the figures stay the same distance away. / You feel empty... (added 05.07.13)

Because of You by Mike Fiorito
Making a big entrance, Uncle Tutti arrived late at my high school graduation party, like a Hollywood star. He wore a smart black suit, buttoned near the collar and black and white Domino shoes. / “My godson,” said Uncle Tutti, pinching my cheek with the thick fingers of one hand and slyly handing me an envelope with the other. / “Now, I’m going to sing you a song,” he said. / Tutti pulled away from me, his periwinkle blue eyes sparkling like precious stones polished by the Mediterranean. / Now with his back to us, Tutti began speaking to the musicians, giving instructions. Tutti adjusted his suit, giving his white-gold pinky ring a twist, making sure the sapphire stone faced forward. / He turned around, looked toward me, and said, “This is for you, kid. I love you.”... (added 03.21.14)

Bernie’s Plum by Michelle Baker
Privy to the indiscretions of the local girls, we gathered outside the general store for our weekly ritual. I supplied the Mary Jane just to keep them talking candidly in my presence. I learned more than any boy could have ever known with the amount of experience I had – which was none. / Bernie, we can tell you because you are just about a doctor among us, what with all the bodies you have seen – but the way little Johnny kisses is like being slimed by a hog, his wily tongue slapping around my mouth willy-nilly-like no direction making no sense, making me feel lost in my own mouth and I wonder, Johnny, what in God’s green earth are you trying to do in here, excavate?. (added 07.27.13)

Bestial by Owen J Traylor
Kevin finished reading aloud from the dog-eared book of quotations on the table in front of him, and took a mouthful from his pint of bitter. He looked across at his drinking partner Ron, who as so often seemed lost for words. After a few moments’ silence Kevin continued: / “That’s what makes us different from animals, Ron,” said Kevin, as ever formulating his opinion as an incontrovertible fact. / “What’s that then, Kevin? Money? Animals don’t have money, do they?”asked Ron, his inability to follow Kevin’s line of thought (or anyone else’s for that matter) Kevin found both amusing and irritating by turns... (added 03.14.14)

Between the Barricades by Shawn Macrae
A friend of mine had once advised me to refrain from making friends with my neighbors. This advice proved to be useful, but had I followed through with it, I would not be writing this. At the time I was naive, and thought nothing of a friendly chat with the neighbor next to whom I had just moved. I lived on the corner of Leffingwell and Carriage where I occupied a room in an apartment building. I had a single neighbor to my right, two neighbors above, and a heavily wooded forest to my rear. What initially drew me to the place was the beautiful garden just outside of the building. It was wonderfully tended to by the neighbor to my right / His name was Frank. He was a rather soft spoken individual: an odd and off-beat character who thoroughly rubbed me the wrong way. He had a problem keeping to himself... (added 07.02.13)

By Their Fruits by Charles D. Tarlton
When the police arrived, the old woman was still in a state of confusion, having stumbled over the row of decorative bricks by the bay window and rolled down the slopping lawn to the road. / She declined any kind of medical attention, though, and would have walked off to town in a sort of huff, if the police had not insisted on a medical examination. / “I just want you to know that I’ve seen what’s going on around here,” the old woman said, turning her face away from the policeman. / The young Trooper winked at us, put her in the back seat of his cruiser, and drove away. / “She actually seemed annoyed with us,” Betsy said, “and she was the one trespassing.” / “Does anyone know who she is?” I asked, as we watched the police car turn at the big hedges, and disappear. (added 08.20.13)

Clown Car by Steven Gowin
I drove the clown car (used to, anyway) before I quit the shows. / To be clear, I ain't talkin' about ass clown drivin'... racing like these young no class fools do. / No. What I say is that KiKi LeBlanc worked the circus. Never mind white face, never mind Bull Clown. My job was take the falls, act the dope, finish at the wrong end of the slapstick for the blow off. Auguste, the fool. / I know you gotta find out about that car. Can't wait. OK. First off, clowns don't come up no trap door and flood out. Think about it. You can't count on a trap door every venue, and we used a tent most of the time. Them roustabouts dig no tunnels. / My car was the real deal. Kept a little bitty Chevy, American brand, and painted it red white and blue with big white stars—patriotic clown shit, understand?... (added 12.27.13)

Coffee Break by Roger Real Drouin
Under one of the oaks of the dense hammock, Bryan poured the last of the coffee from the thermos into the stainless mug. / It would have been good on ice, but it was strong coffee, and it would do and hold him over until they got to camp. The tiny myrtle warblers traded calls and flickered through the oak’s shadows. / The hound mutt lay across the only patch of light coming through the hammock, listening to the warblers, and Bryan remembered one of those mornings when he’d wake early and get out the muddy hiking boots and the lanky and lean pup would start running in circles in the small apartment. She knew what the boots meant, that the weekend had come, that they’d ride out in the old truck... (added 06.25.13)

Coming This September: The Antichrist by Joe Malone
Mark your calendar. This September 15th, the Worldwide Christian Family Missions Network presents Antichrist: The Reality Show. / Six contestants will compete over six weeks and complete six projects. They'll use every underhanded, dastardly, sneaky trick in the book (not the Good Book, of course) to succeed. / We all know that the world is going to hell, that the Apocalypse is due with Armageddon right behind it. The Rapture might be complete by this fall and some of us are going to be left behind. We'll need our TV programs more than ever then. Good news. The Antichrist will be in the house! / We've lined up six Antichrist candidates. It wasn't hard. They're all over the place. Google "Antichrist." Recognize any of the images?... (added 06.29.13)

Draw the Line ‘Tween by Dawn Wilson
Elevator got stuck. It jam jam, man. No go. Like a can o’ spinach with no Popeye, no extra virgin Olive Oil no ga-ga-ga-ga and no two men vying for the rape of that extra virgin. No crime so long as she’s ripe, man. / I crawl down its hole. Like peace. Without the prosperity. Too much dust. I ain’t no allergic little shit ass like that kid she bring home says is hers. Like hell. That bitch never gave birth. And while I’ll give Jesus an immaculate conception—shit happens—there’s no way in hell Mary got so lucky with the birth. No tearing, fucking breach baby just slides right out? Hell no. You know Jesus was breach. Backwards to the whole world. Maybe wasn’t ready to see the shit he was falling into. / Fix it up my son fix it up fix their little red wagons. / Down the hole this ain’t no Lewis Carroll shit. No white rabbit ever came down here... (added 10.31.13)

Editor by Rose Aiello Morales
I am not a morning person. / That being said, most weekdays I am up at five o'clock to make Alex breakfast. Somehow, the eggs are not broken, the scramble is light and fluffy, the bread is perfectly toasted, the myriad of pills Alex takes are all laid out in the right dosage. I lay the food and accouterments on the table, kiss my husband goodnight, and then go back to bed. The last half hour was obviously a dream. / I actually awaken at 9:00 am, a civilized hour for a civilized person. I shoo out the lucky kitty who gets to share my bed, make coffee, toast a bagel, and bring it to the computer to consume while I write. / Fog rolls in, fog rolls out. I check the pleas from friends to read their work, go to YouTube to watch some videos, chew my fingernails because there are no pencil erasers... (added 01.24.14)

Evolution Days by Mark Benedict
Some bitches don’t know when to quit. Or maybe most bitches. Was there ever a bitch that wasn’t a bitch? Somebody oughta research it. Cassie the biggest bitch of all is still here in his trailer still screaming some stupid shit about some stupid shit. Seriously what he’d really like to do is he would like to clobber her with an armadillo. Oh yeah would he ever. Bitch would bleed like a colander and topple right down. / Now she is turning to leave finally she is turning to go and he can get back to some peace and NASCAR but then what the fuck! What’s this stupid shit? Before the slut closes the door she grabs out some goo from her pits and throws it on the cringing couch. The jumpy slime spreads itself across the cushions. He leaps up but then it scrams up onto him. Fucking hell!... (added 07.30.13)

Exploring Space and Time in Rappahannock County by Mike Lafontaine
Millie and I bunkered down against the cold months in Rappahannock County by sitting near the fireplace and reading books aloud to one another while watching old black and white films. / I had never felt peace like that before or since. I grew up in a household with an abusive father and an overbearing mother. My sisters were loud and my surroundings were ugly. We had no pets and when we welcomed in strays they usually died or ran away within a few weeks of living with us. / I realized at an early age I was being taught the wrong things so deeply ingrained was this belief that I disregarded everything my parents wanted for me. Faith. Servitude. Intolerance to others... (added 12.20.13)

Female Lovebird Available to a Home, Any Sort of Home, Doesn’t Even Have to be a Good Home by Diane Malk
They were a cute couple, those lovebirds. Sporting deep blue feathers and black heads; they were almost identical looking, except that the male was a bit plumper. They were known collectively as the Nummers. We never even bothered to assign them individual names. Sitting together side-by-side on their perch with their little birdie torsos touching is how they spent their days. / One morning I looked into their cage and discovered Mr. Nummer’s corpse lying on the bottom, motionless. Odd, he had been the more robust of the two. In the days that followed, it surprised us to see that his feathered widow was chirping so happily... (added 03.07.14)

Fifteen Round Fight by Jim Meirose
Round 1: In every profession there are a few who choose to rise above the commonplace. / Fighter 1: Undamaged. / Fighter 2: Undamaged. / Round 2: Along the path, each in his own way must, of necessity, exhibit judgment, accept the burden of responsibility, and with diligence fulfill his vital role. / Fighter 1: Undamaged. / Fighter 2: Cut ear. / Round 3: Your visit to Las Vegas in part at least should be tax deductible. / Fighter 1: Cut lip. / Fighter 2: Cut ear. / Round 4: Putting aside the obvious benefits of prestige and personal satisfaction, consider for a moment what an all-Cadillac fleet can mean to you as a businessman. / Fighter 1: Cut lip. / Fighter 2: Cut ear, swollen hand... (added 10.18.13)

Fighting by Rose Aiello Morales
Sometimes it gets into my dreams. English/Italian words, one language turning into see jack fuck you geloso cagna asshole và a farti fottere! run. Someone's hammering nails, soda bottles are falling, marbles are rolling on the floor. / Then I wake and I know just what it is. They're fighting again. Mommy and Daddy screaming around the house, doors slamming, Daddy argues better because he knows more languages. Mommy knows some Yiddish, but not enough to say what she really wants to say. / If I'm in my room, I stay there. I never want to be in the middle, but sometimes it happens. Mommy grabs me so Daddy won't hit her. Daddy promises me that he'll take me away and Mommy will never see me again. (I wish that one were true)... (added 09.28.13)

Flurry by Owen J Traylor
Susie turned off the TV and dropped the remote on the coffee table in front of her chair. She felt no ill will towards Kate Middleton. The news said she was the great-great-granddaughter of a coalminer on her mother’s side, so Susie thought her grandfather, who had worked down the mines in Pennsylvania, would have liked that. What Susie resented was the flurry of news-reporting, just because this lucky girl was 12 weeks pregnant. Sure, the child would likely become the King or Queen of England, in maybe 50 or 60 years’ time, whenever the dashing young Prince William died. So that was important, Susie got that. But why all the attention on just one unborn child? What about the 20,000 or more children who die every day out in the real world? She had read that figure in a magazine at the hair salon where she worked, and it had stuck in her mind. (added 06.12.13)

The Gateway Arch by Addie Soaraki
No ride to the top for Louisville. / Nope. Not enough money. He and Burt stood right on the cusp of going under the St. Louis Gateway Arch, this 630 foot tall monument that the better folks proclaim is the Gateway to the West. Yeah, right. Some gateway. Too expensive to reach to the top on the little elevator that all the Homer Simpsons of America and their families flock to like the pigeons they really are to just plain get high for five to ten dead presidents. / “Hey, dude,” Burt suggested, “we could walk to the top.” / Louisville was quick to quash that superfluous suggestion: “But you’d be in the magic arch. We’re gonna go through it, like in Stargate. / “What the f— How?” / “It’s magic, dude.” / Louis, named after this very city, St. Louis, called himself Night Train, mainly because that’s what he is all about. (added 04.16.13)

Going Nowhere by Roger McMurphy
She liked to let the bird out. She liked to let her out and watch it fly free from room to room of the house, from windowsill to windowsill. She liked the flurry of the wings and the mild brush of air that wafted over her when the bird flew by. Nothing should be caged up all its life, she knew; nothing as beautiful and innocent as this bird. It came out of the cage like a baby being born each time, its joy obvious as it flew gracefully around the perimeter of the room. It reminded her of a happy child—and she imagined the child growing through the years as the child she’d always wanted would. (added 09.17.13)

A Good Student by Amy Barry
Sean and Rose met in an online chat room. He proposed after their second in-person date, and she said yes. They honeymooned in Bali, and it was the most romantic setting either one had ever seen. One evening they watched the sunset at Tanah Lot Temple. After dark had fallen, they were entertained by the “Monkey Dance” performance with seventy men dancing in a semi-circle around a bonfire. The only music to accompany the dancers was the beats of their palms hitting their chests and other parts of their body, accompanied by chants and shouts. Sean showed an overwhelming curiosity at the hypnotic performance, as if he was under a spell. (added 12.06.13)

House Hunting Through Space & Time with Rhonda Hillap
by Lara Dolphin

...At first, folks thought the case studies would lead to helpful therapies. Then, the Quacksalvers began peddling an emetic/laxative combo pill under the label Insta-Sane. As if retching and running to the commode were not enough, there was another appalling side effect. Namely, the drug actually worked. Surprised that their supposed placebo, in fact, produced a cure for all mental illness, the Quacksalvers promptly fired the pill’s inventor and pulled the drug from the market. Subsequently, the beings from Yed Posterior lived in floridly psychotic bliss and blatantly ignored attempts at treatment giving rise to the beleaguered response, “Whatever.” (added 05.14.13)

The Hunger of Heaven by Paul Magnan
Mage Allia of House Themis dug her slipper-clad toe into dry soil as she waited for the young girl. She ran a bony, liver-spotted hand over her head and looked up at the Six Houses. They towered above the scattered huts of the forty tribes who clawed this land for sustenance. The Houses stood on towering poles of blue steel, their oblong shapes tapering to long silver points that reached to the sky. / Allia finally saw the girl, escorted by a servant of House Themis. She was twelve or thirteen, on the cusp of puberty, and had thick red hair parted twice, once over each ear. Her violet eyes looked at Allia with a steady maturity that belied her childish stature. / Allia dismissed the servant then took the girl by the arm and led her to an open elevator beneath the House. Once inside, the elevator ascended quickly, gliding past the poles. (added 07.16.13)

I Do Not Exist by Mel Waldman
I do not exist. I died yesterday. I can’t recall the exact date. It doesn’t matter. A year ago, 10, 50 years ago, 1 day, yesterday, it happened. A mad metamorphosis occurred. 1 hour, 1 second, 1 nanosecond ago. Puff! / I died. / “Oh no,” you say. “You’re still here. I see, hear, and smell you.” / “So what?” I say. / “But you’re alive,” you protest. / “Alive?” / “Yes.” / “What is life?” I ask. / “One infinite breath.” / “Infinite?” I say, looking quizzically at the other. / “Almost infinite,” you reply. “You breathe until you stop breathing,” you clarify. / “But what if you live for only 1 breath?” I say. / “That 1 breath seems eternal,” you say defiantly. / “I don’t believe you,” I protest. / “Too bad. Life is mysterious. Truth is fantastic. And you are alive.”... (added 02.07.14)

Independence Day by Oleg Razumovsky
On Independence Day we sat with a former translator Phil in the park near the bronze deer. Soviet soldiers brought it from Goering's hunting ground and gave it to civilian children. / Phil quit translating right after the last default, then worked as a guard and drank like a pig cheap counterfeit vodka called Freedom. / We sat, drank Freedom, and talked until we smelled an aroma of the expensive perfume. We raised our murky eyes from vodka on the bench and saw a group of officials led by the governor himself. They were passing us quickly by, looking at us disapprovingly. To celebrate, we began spontaneously throwing up in the most insolent manner, praising Freedom, the best among the cheap alcohol, but then it was too much of a good thing... (added 01.17.14)

Integral to the Whole: The Voyeur’s Role in Culture by Jeff Winke
I'm a voyeur. / But rather than surreptitiously stealing glances through the open blinds of a neighbor's windows while sauntering or crouching behind a bush for a longer gaze, I sit in plain view. I’m right here. I am not a peeping Tom. My name is not Tom. / I feign the look of disinterest, but I watch and see what's going on. I see life scripts being acted out. I see the depth of lives, from the shallow to the deep yearners. I see the scars and beauty, the heartless and saints. / Amidst the clutter, there are those who sponge attention. They are the lush, broad green leaves that require the sun. It's evidenced in more than how they dress—although, the trim and fit of clothes help. There is an attitude. A tilt of head, sideways glance, a posture that exudes a desire to be admired. They clearly need it. (added 09.03.13)

It Must Be the Coffee by Lorene Aurelia Holderfield
Among the soft darkness of the coffee house, a distinct scent of rich aroma instantly overwhelms one’s senses, almost purifying them from deep within. It is as if some strange, unforeseen magic had long been buried here, only becoming active when someone crosses the invisible threshold that lies between this hectic, modern world and a completely quiescent world. / The wan morning sun dimly illuminates the smooth, glittery surface that forms the portico. The crimson-painted walls become a richer hue. And every human who walks through that invisible threshold sheds this dreary, crushing weight that had slyly zombie-fied them. These people instantly smile. Their bodies are erect and color enlivens their drained features. Their hearts are filled with great warmth. “Stranger” becomes foreign to all. Just where did this come from? It must be the coffee. (added 06.04.13)

It's Almost Sunday Morning by Donal Mahoney
In the summer of 1956, on any Saturday at midnight, especially when the moon was out and the stars were bright, you would be able to see Grandma Groth sitting on her front porch swing waiting for her son Clarence, a bachelor at 53, to make it home from the Blind Man's Pub. He would have spent another evening quaffing steins of Heineken. / Many times that summer, before I went away to college, I'd be strolling home at midnight from another pub, just steps behind staggering Clarence. Unlike Clarence, I’d be sober, so I'd always let him walk ahead of me and I'd listen to him hum "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Sometimes, very quietly, I’d join in. I don’t think he ever heard me. (added 06.15.13)

Just Sleeping by Pattie Flint
I've always hated the smell of almonds. / One time when I was fourteen I was baking some cookies. I think they were some sort of vanilla cranberry shortbread cookie. I was very proficient at baking. / The recipe called for two teaspoons of vanilla extract, but I wasn't looking when I pulled the dark brown glass bottle out of the revolving spice rack in the cupboard, and as I was pouring it, my hand slipped and half the bottle's contents spewed out into the mix below. The stinging smell of almonds wafted up and assailed my nose like a physical blow. I was horrified. It reminded me of the time that I tried to make old fashioned yeast bread but the yeast didn’t take and so the bread was harder than steel. I was reminded of this fact every year when my brother would jokingly re-gift that very same loaf to me for Christmas. But I baked the cookies anyway... (added 10.02.13)

The Las Vegas Hangover Cure for a Poet by Brenton Booth
I was hungover and alone on a Thursday morning in a Las Vegas hotel room and decided to go to a cage fighting gym and do some training. I took a taxi to 4055 West Sunset Road. The gym was full of guys I’d been watching on pay per view and dodgy pirated DVDs. / I looked at the schedule and signed up for a grappling class. Truth is my wrestling is terrible, though my jiu jitsu is okay. / I was immediately paired with Peter, a nineteen year old from Denver that trained at this gym every day and wanted to get into the U.F.C. Shit, didn’t they know I was a thirty-one-year-old poet! I honestly hadn’t even trained properly since my jiu jitsu coach returned to Brazil two years earlier. And even without the hangover, I was way out of shape... (added 11.16.13)

A letter to Frank Weatherman by Amy Barry
Dear Frank, / How are you? I hope the journey was smooth for you. What is life in Okinawa like? / The day you left, I thought the clouds were falling on me and the sun had vanished. My lonely self consumed by the weight of emptiness. One time I thought I was going blind from the cascading tears blurring my vision. / Stevie Ray Vaughn's song “Bad to the Bone” and Billy idol's “Sweet sixteen” were playing in my ears non-stop. I am delighted you left them for me. / The day you left, Tita took the afternoon off work. She accompanied me and entertained my erratic moods. Another time, she drove me to the side entrance of the American Embassy. I felt strangely rooted, unable to move. I imagined you walking out the back gate to greet us. I waited in vain. I was being foolish... (added 09.24.13)

The Man Who Wrote Too Many Poems by Liam Bishop
He is 57 years old. He lives in a shabby house with shabby floorboards and damp, tacky wallpaper his wife had chosen to decorate the home with, many years ago. His wife: 55. Her name: Georgia. His dog: Sally. He walks her nearly every day while his wife is at home or working at the homeless shelter. They live on West Norton Street. Once, the street occupied over 35 tenants on the entire strip of the road. Now it only occupies five tenants of whom he and his wife do not talk with and vice-versa. Deprived homes stretch along the street. Boarded up windows, hanging gutters and white, thick, bird shit cover the steps and porches of the homes... (added 12.12.13)

Midnight Satan by Mel Waldman
I found a new thrill in the summer of 1968. I compiled a list of New York cemeteries allegedly haunted by ghosts. Then one afternoon, I drove upstate in search of Scarlet Hollow Cemetery in Freaksburg, New York. / I got lost a few times before I arrived in Freaksburg. When I found the town, I parked my car, went to a local gas station, and asked a teenage boy at the register for directions to the Scarlet Hollow Cemetery. / The kid told me he had heard of the cemetery but didn’t know how to get there. He showed me a map. It looked like Scarlet Hollow Road was near Freaksburg Road. But first I had to find Freaksburg Road... (added 07.06.13)

Mr. & Mrs. Mosquito by Wes Henry
A mosquito turned to his wife one day and said, “You’re a blood-sucker.” / “And you’re an asshole,” the wife shot back. / “What?” the husband said. “No, no, no. You misunderstood me. I didn’t mean it like that. I was just stating a fact. You are a blood-sucker. You land on animals and poke them and siphon blood from them like drinking through a straw. I, however, am not a blood-sucker. I eat only plants and nectar. That’s all I was saying. I didn’t mean anything by it.” / “I didn’t mean anything by it, either,” she said. “I was also just stating a fact.” (added 08.17.13)

Mr. Piper's Lament by Gene Fehler
As kids, most of us listened to nursery rhymes; as adults, many of have read nursery rhymes to our own children or grandchildren. But seldom do those verses show the nursery rhyme parents. To remedy that oversight, here's a brief look at one parent. / "Say there. Piper. I haven't seen you at the bus stop for about a week now. I hope everything's okay." / "Okay? You got kids of your own. You oughta know. I just don't know what to do. I've been having problems with my sons. They're both getting hard to handle. Even my daughter Mary's getting on my nerves. My wife says not to worry, it's just a phase, but—" / "What kind of problems are you having?" / "Well, my oldest boy, Tom, he stole a pig. Can you believe that? A pig." (added 06.08.13)

My Dog Converted to Islam by John Vaughn
Sheila, my dog, used to be a very fine dog. She was quiet, well behaved and a gentle companion. She’s a Toy Australian Shepherd, 15 inches tall and 15 pounds, with no tail to speak of and a fondness for chasing rabbits. For a few years I really did not believe that any finer dog ever existed. / So you can imagine my chagrin and dismay when she converted to Islam and transformed our happy home into a place of strife and disarray. I blame myself, really. I should have known what was happening months earlier. I saw the small tell-tale signs of impending conversion but I failed to connect the dots and see where these unorthodox behaviors were leading. I simply missed the larger picture.(added 11.22.13)

My MFA College Application by Nina Hart
Dear Mr. and Mrs. School Monger, / I am an important figure in the history of writing here in the United Republic of the State of My Apartment’s Swimming Pool. And I will be a very important figure in literature. Especially after the global-enfolding tornadoes hit and all the people on earth are gone. / My purpose on earth is to get through writing this application. I am very happy to provide you with recommendations from people who think I am wonderful. You can talk to them about the reasons you should hire me as a student into your gracious program. I am like a genius or something. You should recognize me as gifted and special and like the second coming of Hans Christian Winston Salem the 3rd, because I am, Hans Christian Winston Salem the 3rd. (added 04.30.13)

Normal Daze by Chimera Loe
There are normal days on highway 56 going Southbound: / Traffic at standstill, the late august heat making the air sticky and heavy with the pungent odor of gasoline, the sounds of a hundred cars clenching on their brakes at various intervals, and the disharmonious din of opposing music genres melting together through the tops of open windows, every driver sighing and squirming, trying every sort of mental gymnastic to keep from dozing off in the evening sun, which is still sweltering. / Trapped in their respective vehicles, they call old friends or spouses, change the radio station, clench and unclench, sigh, hum, tell stories, run off lists in their head, go over the day’s affairs, rehearse the evening, the upcoming weekend, or even the distant future; some reorganize goals and dreams, lament the passing of time, make resolutions, face their demons, forgive and forget. (added 09.07.13)

Northern Boredom by Neil Rothstein
There is a light in the abandoned house across the road; a half crescent shape winks towards me, a solitary tooth in a cold grin. What would it be like to be a clock? To feel time, to understand each second like a friend or lover? Would every second be the same and act the same as it passed over my face? Would hours pass by like strangers? Could I allow these rigid entities to settle, to resist the drag of want? Yes, hours and days would slip away, uncontrolled, unfettered, as my face gathers dust and atomic accuracy / Words fall sometimes from my mouth. Without real thought, sounds form before thought, then reason comes later; then regret follows that: the dialogue that ensues with your own bizarre logic calling upon every demon and god to rip the very skin from your bones. (added 05.28.13)

On Radishchev Street by Oleg Razumovsky
At the beginning of the summer, in the heat, I hit the bottle. My wife, as usual, kicked me out of the house. I had absolutely no place to go. / For a while I cried at the window and begged her to let me in, but then I remembered that Father gave me the number of his new mobile the other day. / Father is my last chance in this life. He rescued me many times at critical moments. Just my savior in life, I'll be damned, I thought as I crossed myself and called him. Father was in a good mood. Most often he is not in a good mood and gets angry, then becomes fucking paranoid. / “Come over here, idiot, we will rescue you!” he said. / Well, we got shitfaced drunk, of course, on Radishchev Street, close to the marketplace there where they trade and cheat in the afternoon and rob and kill at night, at the time a rat woman sells moonshine. It's cheap and worse than poison... (added 10.10.13)

Paper and Pearl by Corina Roche
On paper, everything had been done more or less correctly. Married her college boyfriend, they both had good jobs, their son, albeit skinny and spotted, was doing well in school. Money in the bank. Equity. / It was their thirtieth wedding anniversary and it was the year they were supposed to open the wine they bought on their honeymoon and saved for this occasion. It was a Spanish wine they had bought in Andalucia. While the memories of their Spanish romp were foggy, she remembered walls were all colorfully tiled. The staircase was narrow. In the cafe, they sold wine wholesale and she got the idea to purchase a bottle for this day. They didn’t declare it at customs, a small act of defiance... (added added 02.21.14)

Pedro Seaman (Fishing for Tales) by David Michael Joseph
Dave and I sat outside the coffee shop on 6th Street, the one with the crazy Russian Barista who told stories, mostly with an insane and violent bent. The coffeehouse was the place for the dregs, the crazy and the downtrodden, sipping small coffees in between screams, fearful ranting and meth-induced rocking. I knew Dave through Gonzalez, John Gonzalez to be exact. I’d see him at the dark condo that overlooked the harbor. Now, I was on the computer and he was sitting in the corner, waiting for John’s instructions. / The story: years ago John was paralyzed in a surfing accident off Cabrillo Beach. Dave, a random onlooker, had saved his life and they became lifelong friends. He was John’s driver in the family van; chauffeuring him around the harbor city... (added added 11.09.13)

Please Don’t Argue With Me, Okay? by Mike Lafontaine
Christmas had come and gone and he was home alone. So he started drinking heavily. It was an easy life when he was by himself with no one to tell him what to do. He sat on his couch in his living room and looked out the window – he saw a park with many trees across the road. He was very curious about a faded purple armchair that someone had managed to shift underneath a tree. It reminded him of one of those chairs that today would be called retro. He kept on drinking from his beer that he got from the cooler he kept near him – he had a smile on his face. He wanted to see someone sit on the chair before he put the gun he was holding in his mouth. He sat alone in the dark for a very long time until he could not keep his eyes open any longer. (added added 06.01.13)

A Random Hardworking Man by Chad Stroup
A random hardworking man punches Friday’s clock, wipes the grime from his brow, walks toward his ’84 Ford Ranger that’s in desperate need of a tune-up. If I choose to rob him for his easily forgeable paycheck and whatever pittance happens to be in his wallet at that moment, would the karmic scales be balanced if I were to donate half the money to Jerry’s Kids? Or would it be best to blow the dough on a twenty-buck BJ from a hooker with two kids? / I don’t exactly have Friar Tuck within my ranks, if you catch my drift... (added 08.04.13)

Rape of the South by Johnna A. Ammerman
I suppose I am a little boy now? How in the world did this sex change occur? When I wasn’t looking. Oh, I suppose like a manikin. / I will never forget those goddamned Southern Baptists blaming me for having been raped and then condemning me, shunning me, throwing me literally out of the band. I do not forget. I will never forget. / Surely I drank too much that night at the Kappa Alpha fraternity rush party, but I never planned on being roofied and thown back-down on a pool table during a party so crowded, so confusing, and so drug-oriented, I didn’t know up from down. Now did I? / Those little Civil War re-enactors. What in the world is wrong with their dumb world? They force their pledges to wear Confederate army uniforms and march around campus. A friend of mine leaned out of dorm 14 and shot the bird at the little bastards... (added 08.13.13)

Rendezvous with Dr. Spirit by Mel Waldman
I’m dying. I need emergency surgery. But I can’t leave my blood-red studio apartment, an antediluvian basement in a 2-family house on Thanatos Street, Brooklyn, New York. I’m too ill. In the past few weeks, I’ve called 911 a couple times, and when EMS arrived, they took me to the ER. On these occasions, the doctors admitted me for a few days. But always, they sent me home to die. My illness is incurable. / Only one man can help me. His name is Dr. Spirit. He lives in some esoteric and unknowable place in South America. I can’t get there, wherever it is. / He heals the sick via psychosurgery. While in a deep trance, Dr. Spirit performs a mental surgery without physically touching the patient’s body... (added 10.25.13)

Roken Is Dedulijk by Austin Brookner
"Make less noise," said the hotel owner, somewhere between a request and a command, while I walked up the stairs to my room. His near shout left me befuddled. But I most certainly sensed aggressiveness in his tone, something I had probably earned during my three day stint at the Hotel whatever-the-fuck it was called. I made my way up the narrow and steep windy stairs to my room. It was on the top floor. / "Where've you been?" / "I went to get cigarettes, remember?" / "That was at least two hours ago. What the hell, Austin?" / "Calm down. It wasn't two hours. Here're your Luckies." / "Don't tell me to calm down! I am calm! Jesus, would you look at the picture on the back of this box, it's horrible... (added 08.06.13)

Sedentary Escapade by Neil Rothstein
In the corridors outside I can hear footsteps receding softly—there they go, receding into chambers, chambers that I have never managed to find, although I know they exist somewhere in this portentous building, the echoes they create seem to be a physical lasting memory, a manifestation certainly. / I sit here at this table squinting my eyes at the glaring fluorescent light; all three of them are burning tightly into me like fingers. Outside there is a cold light reflecting on the surfaces, (but the expansionist view is the idea I can’t quite get rid of), the thin light hits my arms I notice, making no impression or change in the atmosphere in the room... (added 09.21.13)

Separation by Mike Fiorito
“Why did we separate?” my son Theo asks. He’s seven years old. / “We're not separated now, right? I'm with you tonight,” I say. “’Today is Monday and l will see you Wednesday, and Friday too.” / We’re drawing; we always talk when we draw. I can never get him to talk if I just ask him questions directly. I bought us each a drawing pad. I want him to do his own drawings. He often looks at my drawing and wants to draw in my book. But then I start drawing in his pad. If he likes what I’ve done, he’ll take over and make his own drawing. Beginning is hard. / “Where's your father?” he asks. / “My father died,” I tell him. / “Where'd he go?” / “I don’t know.”... (added 01.03.14)

Silver, Black, and Red by Chimera Loe
“Why did we separate?” my son Theo asks. He’s seven years old. / “We're not separated now, right? I'm with you tonight,” I say. “’Today is Monday and l will see you Wednesday, and Friday too.” / We’re drawing; we always talk when we draw. I can never get him to talk if I just ask him questions directly. I bought us each a drawing pad. I want him to do his own drawings. He often looks at my drawing and wants to draw in my book. But then I start drawing in his pad. If he likes what I’ve done, he’ll take over and make his own drawing. Beginning is hard. / “Where's your father?” he asks. / “My father died,” I tell him. / “Where'd he go?” / “I don’t know.”... (added 01.31.14)

Small Town Noir by Jenean McBrearty
Phil called his penis "Pounder" because it was so heavy it bowed when it was hard. You might say it was Phil's version of the L'arc de Triomphe. Anyway, after Maxine personally verified the nickname's namesake, she spread the info all over Bonita. Soon Phil had rep n' cred, not to be confused with crabs n' stank, her info on Phil's friend, Joe. No surprise that Phil got more action than Joe even though it wasn't Joe's fault, exactly. Maxine caught him after his latest trip to Tijuana where he got so drunk he nailed a hoochee-mama from Santee and started itchin’ himself raw. / Phil didn't like Maxine all that much. She hogged the mic at the karaoke bars and still thought it was cool to stay till last call...
(added 06.18.13)

Soothe as Excalibur by Uzodinma Okehi
I’m gonna draw comics, for the prestige. Not for me. But for those all-over guys just like me, for every glimpse of doubt, for that stand-still paralysis and the way those moments can convince you something is missing... And something is always missing. If I can I’ll draw that on paper, because it’s the one thing I might tell myself if I could go back in time. Because of all the people starving out there, and Yoga classes won’t help. Going back to school won’t help. Macrobiotic food won’t help. A cuter girlfriend won’t help, not necessarily. More money won’t help, either. You gotta to give yourself that grand purpose, and it can be anything, in fact the more trivial the better, but you have to weld yourself to it, some big idea, to the exclusion of all else... (added 05.21.13)

Sprinklers by Eric Suhem
Do what you love was the message of a self-help book that Sam was reading on his lunch break at Acme Mega Corp. He worked in the sewage billing division, processing invoices for plumbing fixtures and toilet components. Sam was not doing what he loved. / Looking up from the book, Sam gazed out the window at the manicured lawn of the corporate office park. His eyes were drawn to the lawn sprinkler jets about twenty-feet away. One sprinkler jet was situated in such a way that its angle in relation to the oleander and juniper plants nearby triggered something in his brain chemistry that felt like a religious experience. He had a vision of a group of men riding bicycles on the edge of a cliff, each of them wearing a long, white lab coat with a big black question mark on the back... (added 04.23.13)

Statement of Proof by Stephanie Bradbury
I look around the psychiatrist’s empty waiting room. All chairs. Thin skeletons of chairs linked together at the ankles like prisoners waiting for lunch. At least two dozen of them crammed in here. Surely there must be a couch, if not out here, then back in his office. There’s always a couch. Sometimes they are faux suede, sometimes cloth, and in the older offices, they are worn leather, with just the right amount of care given to keep them soft and pliable. / A phone rings. It isn’t mine, though I always jump and look around quickly to find the source of the noise. It rings a second time, a third… At last a gray haired lady answers it, eyeing me from the side while cupping her voice around the end of the phone... (added 07.23.13)

A Surprise to Many with Isolated Egos by Liam Bishop
But no one can know where he is if we do not ask. We came into it, blankly, without question and there is no way we would get answers. So, we didn’t ask. / The ship came and we boarded on while some showed hesitation and some did not. “What is your plan?” he asked. / “To get stinking drunk” I replied. He gave no reply and I did not search for one. The ship was crowded and the people were loud, very loud, I could hear guts rumbling, an extreme bowel movements, sighing, yawning. We were all too close. / Then, during the night on the ocean, we saw a bright light ahead of the ship, no shape, no sound, just waves and intense light that blinded us for the duration. Now, the yawning, sighing and bowel movements turned into gasps, jaws dropping and wide eyes... (added 02.14.14)

Their House Is Not a Home by Sheree La Puma-Watson
This is true. / There were three of them. / They lived down the street on the opposite corner – father, mother, daughter. / They lived in the suburbs and their daughter grew up. / Her name was Mary. / Mary Beth, really, but the boys in the neighborhood shortened it. / This seems ironic now, because her name had a mere three syllables. We were young then, I was fifteen and Mary fourteen. It was the summer of ’82 and Graceland, the home of Elvis, had just opened to the public. / Graceland symbolized a different kind of house, extravagant, sexy, fun. It had a royal-blue-and-white living room, complete with a limousine-sized couch. / Mary’s house was yellowed, stale, her couch ordinary-crusty-brown, like a parched lot in the desert. You couldn’t give it away, the house, couch, our lives. It didn’t bother me. It bothered Mary’s mother... (added 06.22.13)

Whiskey World Peace by Elvin "mAsKeRaiD" Holderfield
It should be required for everyone to get trashed underage, and at least once a month overage. / Nothing quite like talking to random people that you won’t give a shit about the next day. And there’d nothing quite like being best friends with them for 52 minutes. / There’s your world peace! The wells are only $2.00, and we’re all poor as hell. Screw work, but thank God for the bartenders that are working. / Buzzed yet? It’s only 10 PM. / Nothing like people crammed together like some damn factory farm. Nothing like a small, dim lit room with sticky floors. Nothing quite like yelling excessively to people five feet away from you ‘cuz it’s too damn loud. Nothing like getting shoulder bumped by douchebags and apologizing for standing where you are. Nothing quite like brushing up against a girl’s breast, and letting your elbow slowly graze past it... (added 09.14.13)

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