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The Jazz Mine by John Oliver Hodges

Yola stepped up front to check the hedges. I slipped the rag from the slit between the seats. It’s the rag she wipes—or should I say swipes?—her mammalian gourds up with eagerly each day’s end, her mammalian gourds meatly, not enormous exactly, but filled to bursting with stuff, call it guts, might as well, or grits, what the hell, or fat. Having from the slit grabbed Yola’s bat—I mean bandana, excuse me—I found some ivy heads poking up from the dreaded Asiack, the Asiatic. It’s the awfulest tangled mess you’ll dip your hands in ever. It’s jasmine. Jazz mine, jasmine, it’s the same shit, take your pick. / So I wrapped it, Yola’s rag, around a beefy poison outcropping of it, a head. I went ivy head to ivy head doing this, then put Yola’s rag back in the slit between the seats...

added 03.27.15

White Angel by Chuck Taylor

Well, I’d say I’ve done fairly well in this hardball game of life we all come to naked and crying. I’ve got two great grown kids—Sarah and Mark—who seem sane and happy, I’ve got my loving wife Mary of thirty years, I’ve got my two story home in suburban north Dallas, and a job with Grace Insurance that I’ve long been bored with but can do in my sleep./ Still, I’ll let you know that I could whip off my pants’ belt, right here in this moment, and hang myself from that railing up there on the upstairs’ balcony. All I need is a ladder from the garage to kick over. But of course I won’t—death is such scary shit—especially on this day, April 22nd, 1996, the thirty-fifth anniversary of my mother’s passing...

added 03.19.15

The Spanish Drummer by Carl Kavadlo

We first wanted to start a wedding band. This is where I met Scott Howard. He was a fat guy playing keyboard across from me in a Manhattan rehearsal studio. / The next week I had him over at my house. / I watched him wobble up the walkway. We lived in a place called the Butcher’s Co-op on Midwood Street, Brooklyn. I stood in the kitchen and watched him from my second floor view. He had nothing but a pullover, white turtle neck ski sweater for outdoor apparel. It was late November. It was twenty degrees that day. / I stood there waiting for him. He had picked an outrageously early time: nine-thirty in the A.M. / He strolled, all three hundred and fifty pounds of him. I watched him out of a small, narrow window. Then he disappeared into the doorway...

added 03.13.15

contributing writers : 03.2014 - 02.2015

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#eggnogriot by Tyler Malone
They wrecked the halls when the whiskey eggnog was snuck into the dorm after finals ended. Jeff was everyone’s hero. He bootlegged enough to of the ‘nog to keep everyone lit and alive until New Years. No one has to leave, joy demanded it. Parents were concerned within hours, though. Then snotty, boggy vomit fell from the dorm’s roof as young stomachs drank and danced for the first time with no one’s permission. Administrators attempted to force their way in but dismantled dorm beds barred the exits. Not even prayers entered. / Media and police park on manicured grass, stealing real estate from squirrels and undergraduates with guitars. They look at a dorm turned into a fortress, castellated with holiday lights in windows. Students didn’t need Christmas presents under trees to turn into laughing monsters, just Jeff’s eggnog... (added 12.24.14)

Anything Goes by Oleg Razumovsky
One day I sat with Natasha near her house, eating cakes. Her parents hated me. They thought that I was a useless scum. Even her Father, a pathetic drunk, despised me. But Natasha sorta loved me and sometimes brought some food from home. Even booze, on occasion. She was a kind girl. / Just the day before we had got shitfaced drunk. After we had finished two bottles of vodka at my place, we decided to go somewhere. I don’t remember exactly where and it is not very important. Maybe to Van Gogh, who had invited us to visit him last weekend. When we went out it was already getting dark. When drunk, Natasha rushes straight forward like a tank, and does not see anything in front of her... (added 04.18.14)

Bad Dreams by Joe Malone
Todd Smith woke to find a raccoon biting his chin. / "I was at camp, dreaming that my mom wanted me to shave. Christ, I've only got about four hairs." / Aaron Goldberg woke to discover that all his teeth had fallen out. / "I've had the same dream a hundred times. Out come the teeth. My therapist told me I was worried about losing my job, or maybe I was keeping a secret from someone. Turns out, she didn't know bubkes about gum disease." / Arvis Portlander was taken into custody at Microphonics, Inc., his place of work, nude in his cubicle. / "It was a lot more fun in my dream," he said. / Matty Logan, seventh grader, came down to breakfast on a Wednesday-morning school day. / "My mom was in tears. I asked her what was wrong. She told me she had had a dream...(added 07.25.14)

Big Thanksgiving Snow by Donal Mahoney
…At eighty Mrs. Day is legally blind with one good leg. She has a staff of her own to help her walk to stores and then back to her little house. The staff is at least a foot taller than she is. It was a gift from a now dead neighbor who was handy with tools and liked to carve and whittle. Mrs. Day needs that staff this Thanksgiving Day as she makes her way through drifts of snow, an unusual amount for this first big winter holiday. / With nothing in the fridge except old bread and prunes, Mrs. Day hopes to find a diner open. Even Jack in the Box is closed for Thanksgiving so there will be no coffee with a Breakfast Jack to go but Mrs. Day has time today to find one place that is open... (added 11.27.14)

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)

The Boy Who Laughed Too Much by Mel Waldman
No one really knew him. He was just a 20-year-old kid who sat in a corner and didn’t speak; another mental case and a mute. When he arrived, one of the psychiatric aides introduced him to me. I said hello and forgot about him immediately. / Then the rumors spread. I heard three of them. / First, the boy swallowed a bottle of pills and OD’d. They pumped his stomach in some ER, sent him to a psyche ward, and transferred him to us. / Second, the boy took LSD and had a bad trip. Which kind did he use? Well, again, I heard three different truths. He took sugar cubes or maybe Orange Sunshine acid or blotter paper LSD. Who knows? / Third, the kid witnessed some horrific event and went berserk... (added 08.08.14)

Cable TV Commitment Phobia by Diane Malk
I hung up the phone, mentally exhausted from the battle that had just ensued. I had just survived something worse than negotiating with a used car salesman. Talking to my cable TV provider. / After receiving the flyer advertising the new-to-me feature of On Demand, touting thousands of movies and channels at no extra cost, my interest was piqued. Weary of flipping through the 500-plus channels we already receive and rarely finding anything suitable for my viewing pleasure, it was only logical that I still craved more channel options. (I know what you’re thinking and I really do have a life.) / The woman who answered my call confirmed, that yes, I did qualify for the free receiver upgrade. So far, so good... (added 06.07.14)

Christmas Eve at Rosen's Deli by Donal Mahoney
...It's always quiet on Christmas Eve at Rosen's Deli but this time it's quieter than usual. Two regulars, Ruben Cohen and Ruben Goldberg, are the only other customers. They’re sitting at their usual spots at the counter, with an empty throne between them, facing each other in almost matching fedoras and arguing as always about the definition of certain Yiddish words. / Cohen and Goldberg have been arguing about the fine points—and not so fine points—of the Yiddish language for years with no sign of detente. Right now, the argument is over whether kunilemel and shmendreck are Yiddish synonyms, or not. Ruben Cohen says it's worse to be called a shmendreck than a kunilemel and Ruben Goldberg maintains that is not accurate... (added 12.22.14)

Clown by Ron Riekki
The frat near Whittier decided to have a clown party. It was Good Friday and seemed like the thing to do. / Nine teenagers from the party decided to cram into a top-down convertible and drive home. It’s what clowns do. Pile into a car. But clowns usually don’t do that drunk on a major California highway. / The car hit a tree going seventy-miles-per-hour. None of the clowns had seatbelts on. Most of the clowns went through the front windshield. Or over the front windshield. Some hit the tree. Some went past the tree. / They landed in parking lot. They landed on grass. They landed on each other. / We arrived to find a pile of clowns... (added 05.23.14)

Closer by Simon Pilbrow
He had been deeply in love, but love had stretched and thinned and wandered in three years. She wasn’t as into him, either. And that gave him panic attacks as he questioned his mortality, his relevance. Three years ago she climbed on him in the back of a taxi heading home. With real animal aggression, she didn’t give him a choice. Those were sublime days. They passed in a beautiful, unhealthy, sleazy fog. / After years, love had become such a routine, logical ordeal that he had had to get out: the claustrophobia or its rational equivalent, was unbearable. Three weeks of cowardice and self-abuse, and he ended it, and the worst thing was that she looked so surprised despite the way he had acted. He felt abysmal for months... (added 12.12.14)

Cooder by Oliver Zarandi
The funeral was big. / Cooder sat at the back. He was dressed in a black suit. He hadn’t shaved. He fiddled with a puzzle. He twisted it left. He twisted it right. / He could not solve it. / He’d probably never solve it. / The person next to him told him to shush. Cooder slouched into his chair and scowled. He slouched so low. He was being swallowed by the chair. / His ass was too big to be swallowed entire. / The commotion in the church, it died down. Can you call the people in a funeral an audience? / It’s some entertainment, Cooder thought. / He sat up in his chair. His shoes were patent. A woman behind him laughed and said the gentleman in front looked cheap. / Cooder released a clap of wind from his asshole. / Choke on it... (added 04.25.14)

The Cosmic Cardinal Coastal Club by Neil Post
Golf on television. What’s up with that? Do you know anyone who plays golf? / Here it is, Sunday afternoon, and I have finished my chores, emptied the garbage, cleaned the sink, brushed-out the crapper, and now, when I’m ready to sit down on the couch, there it is: another dumb golf game. / I am not knocking golf. Sure, golf is a fine sport for middle-aged men who like knocking their balls around on grass, but if anyone wants to watch golf, all anyone has to do is go to a golf course and watch people play, like, golf. Get it? / Golf is way too slow for television, but for as long as this dude has lived, all I get is the old televised golf game from name your country club here... (added 05.09.14)

Crooked by Shawn Macrae
It happened after a night of drink and drugs, licking, sticking, sucking and fucking her way into friendship at a party. Jenny was speeding the streets trying to make it home before her father found her gone. He was always up with the first chirp of an early bird, and her time was quickly dwindling, as the fading moon foreshadowed the sun on the distant horizon. She was almost home when she saw the sirens flashing in her rear view. / Goddamnit! / Jenny knew the town was over populated with pigs on patrol, and there was nothing for them to do but break balls. That was the general consensus in all small towns. More often than one would think, it was an upstanding citizen who fell victim...(added 09.12.14)

A Crumb for the Freudians by Kay Kinghammer
When I was in the seventh grade, I wrote a terrific and revealing story. I gave it to my English teacher to read. She lost it. Because I was proud of the story, I rewrote it several times trying to get it back. Each of the versions varied slightly, but the basics never altered. / I was young and beautiful. I was kidnapped by six evil but handsome bank robbers who carried me off to a cave in the woods and raped me every day for six months. I was terribly depressed. My life was ruined. I was no longer pure. Nobody would ever want to marry me. / This cave in the woods was very comfortably furnished, more like a cabin than a cave. It had beds with mattresses, a stove, a radio, and rooms with doors. My bank robbers weren’t voyeurs. I was just another convenience in the cave... (added 02.10.15)

Dreams That Trip by Namitha Varma
The train rocked her to sleep, though she drifted in and out of consciousness. Her eyes popped open every five-ten minutes with each jerk of the train. Her mind half-registered the beggars, the vendors, the passengers, her father next to her... Suddenly, she was naked. She was standing in the middle of the field, one very much like her grandmother’s in some corner of Uttarakhand that she never wanted to visit. For a moment, she thought she was posing as Rose in Titanic, waiting for her Jack to wrap her in his arms from behind. But then a crow came and sat on her head, only to fly off in a moment. She was just a scarecrow. She could see the green farm, she could feel the bird claws, she could smell the drying crops, but she could not move. She was a scarecrow… (added 01.09.15)

The Drowner by Mike Lafontaine
After praying all night at the foot of his bed searching for answers to questions that never got answered he decided that today was the day he was finally going to kill himself. After an exhaustive search online of the many and varied ways he could shuffle off this mortal coil. / He decided on drowning. / The beach was preferable, although he ran the risk of the lifeguard mistaking him for a person who needed assistance. He could pick a spot with no lifeguards, but he decided against that. He wanted this to be a deeply personal experience not to be shared with anyone, and the fact that he could not control his environment and that a stranger might pass by and try to be a hero made the solution to his problem all that much easier. /He would drown at home... (added 08.22.14)

Fat Andy by Mike Fiorito
That could have been me getting nearly killed that day as I sat on the schoolyard steps getting high with Ferrone. But it wasn't my turn, yet. / Only a few weeks earlier I had bought a ten dollar bag of weed on credit from Fat Andy. Fat Andy was a new dealer in Astoria Park. Being a little taller than I was, he had a tiny bald head that sat on his pear shaped body like it didn’t belong there. Despite his menacing look, he smiled a lot. Andy was about twenty, maybe five years older than me. / That day Ferrone bought a bag of weed. / “What about you?” asked Andy. / Shoving my hand in my pockets I said, “I ain’t got no money.” / Andy looked at me and said, "I'll give you a bag, but you gotta pay me when you have it." I shook my head agreeing and took the weed… (added 02.27.15)

Five Weekends by Carl Kavadlo
Tony was trying his thirteenth draft on this piece, 1234 words, into the top of the fifth double spaced page. It was a true story in Tony’s own life about how he almost got screwed, due to the follies and games that men play, out of a musical gig. The musical gigs were important to Tony as a livelihood and a passion. He had a beautiful voice and an extensive knowledge of popular and standard songs. The bossa novas, the Frank Sinatras, and so on, through the various rock and pop idioms. He doubled on guitar. It was one of those pieces where the parts couldn’t quite get put together, at least not in Tony’s mind. / Like most creative writing students at Touro College on the west side of Manhattan, this student did not bring in something new... (added 10.24.14)

For the Love of Snakes: Dr. Veenum and Dr. Wang by Louis Marvin
The letter said this project could change your life, so he sat in his University of Arizona-Herpetology Dept. office waiting for this Dr. Wang to appear before the United Nations. They were showing the general assembly on the cable news station, which was full to capacity, with folks standing on the sides. Protocol and safety were at their usual high standards, but today was a special day. / He looked over the letter. It called him their top choice, and one of only a very few even considered. He had already talked to the other two folks, and all agreed as to the enormity of the project. / She was sipping green tea with a little honey and lemon. Her notes, dog-eared and stained, had been gone over many, many times. She just wanted to go and deliver the good news... (added 10.18.14)

GI Magi by Johnny Olson
When word from our platoon commander came at 1800 hours saying that orders from Regiment was that we were to be heading out on patrol at 2000 hours, in full battle rattle, none of us were surprised. The Corps didn’t give a squat what day it was. Why would Christmas Eve be any different than Labor Day, Veterans Day, or the Thanksgiving that had passed while we were in this sandbox? The war machine doesn’t rest on holidays. That’s a reality all Marines accept. There’s no time for sentimentality in combat. The scuttlebutt was that the Iraqis were on the move, and their flurry of activity was making Uncle Sam and our allies nervous. / After the SITREP, we ate cold MREs and washed them down with stale water from canteens. We grabbed our packs and gear... (added 12.21.14)

Here’s To Kissing Chimneys by Addie Soaraki
Yeah, sure. You’ve heard the old line: The young lady tells you, “I smell smoke,” and you know how it goes: Where there is smoke, most definitely, fire exists. / Did I mention fire exists? Pardon me, buddy, but after being locked in the so-called basement of life, lorded over, of course, by the Masters of All Time and All Space, you sometimes feel like heading South and starting a little lightning of your own. Don’t you? / And right: Nice guys always finish last, don’t they? Not exactly. Especially when life is a bar, and all the admirals and body language experts, the college boys who numb their instincts with alcohol and Singapore Slings, only to be force-fed someone else’s Thai food, you end-up being not so nice as you used to be, don’t you? / Been there. Done that... (added 06.27.14)

Hoot by Ron Riekki
Shirtless and covered in blood, I walked into the Hooters. / John Donne said, God is an angel in an angel, and a stone in a stone, and a straw in a straw. / God is a bloody, shirtless man in a Hooters in a bloody, shirtless man in a Hooters. / I’d fallen on glass. I was drunk. My sister worked there. I needed a ride to the hospital. / They said, Dumb-ass, wait outside. / I waited outside, bleeding. / I didn’t know she wasn’t working. It was her day off. / I went to the front window, smeared blood on my face, just to make the point. I kept standing there, staring in. I’m sure a customer complained, because the manager came out and told me to go away. / I said I needed a ride. / Layla came out. / She’s every ethnicity on the globe. She comes from every country… (added 10.10.14)

In the Car by Elijah Budgeon
I sit in the front seat of my dad’s brown shitbox Honda Civic. It’s my weekend with him and we are on our way somewhere fun at four o’clock on a Friday afternoon. It’s mild outside, even as the sun begins to set. I wear a white shirt and so does he. We match today. We drive past his condo on Legion road with the windows rolled down half way. Goosebumps erect upon my exposed arm from the cool wind. I like the circulated air on my face. He says something and I respond with a smart ass quip through a slow forming smirk. / I hear the sirens. / I look behind me and see a police car follow us. I can see the officer motion Dad to pull over, and he does less than half way between Humber Bay Park West and East, and stops the car. I look at Dad... (added 03.06.15)

Indian Summer by R.A. Hernandez
It was about that time that I first started to notice girls. I was twelve and the girls I had known since elementary were growing what my father called “A woman’s curves.” / I would spend the summers with my uncle and grandfather in the country, while my parents went on missions with their church. The house was close to a lake and my uncle had a small skiff that he would let me use. The lake was private and large, hidden away in the deep country of East Texas. / The lake felt as though it belonged solely to us, my family, but it didn’t. It was just off the beaten path. I remember my grandfather saying the land belonged to no man. His mother was a full blooded Choctaw woman. He had a very calm peaceful way of talking. He was the first one to tell me about the lady of the lake... (added 12.02.15)

It's Beginning to Look a Lot like Christmas by Ronald Friedman
Janice picked up her phone to call her mother. I kept my mouth shut. / I’d offered a lot of useless advice in the past, but had learned to keep quiet. It was almost the end of October and the phone call was just something that had to be done. I was grateful that Janice was willing to call. / “I’m ready,” Janice said, holding up a fist. / “Go get ‘em, Tiger,” I said. / “Mom? Hi.” / I wanted to sneak out to the garage or down to the basement, but my self-serving flight would only encourage Janice to take out her feelings of impotent anger on me. Besides this was our row to hoe together so she deserved all the support I could offer, no matter how weak-kneed or cowardly. / “Sean’s a good boy, Mom. We’ve seen a lot of improvement in the past few months"... (added 01.23.15)

Kathleen Malone, Genius Detective by Alyssa Black
"Esmeralda seems to really like you." / "She's a cat." / "Right, and a cat has no motivation to lie about how she feels about others. She’s very useful when trying to decipher the intentions of those who are in question." / "Does that mean I can leave now?" / "No, no, you won't get off that easy. Even if you're not directly involved, you might know about others who are of interest to me." / "And if I refuse to tell?" / She shot off quickly, with fear-inducing ferocity, "If you refuse to tell, than I will have no choice but to go back to the drawing board. Considering the time and space, and resources of this endeavor, your refusal to cooperate could ultimately result in his death." / "I chose to accept that risk. After all, it's every man for himself out there."... (added 06.20.14)

A Kentucky Derby Hat in the Hay Maze by Kasra Omid-Zohoor
At this hour, we had the hay maze all to ourselves. Guarding the entrance stood a gang of white pumpkins on a bed of scattered straw. Tower rested his foot on the largest one as he pointed to Katie's milk colored Kentucky Derby hat. / "You wanna put that wedding cake in the car?" he asked. / "No, watch me beat you guys with it on," she said. / Tower laughed just once, then his phone rang and he walked off to answer it. / "So you guys have animals growing up out here?" I asked. / "Yeah, and we had horses but we had to sell them all when my parents got divorced." / I didn't say anything for a moment, until I said, "I'm sorry." / "It's fine. My Dad worked for an oil company, so he took international assignments after that. I got summers in Norway and Brazil."...
(added 01.30.15)

Killing Field by Tyler Malone
The way you can’t swallow, a thick throat, swollen with the need for a wet drop, that was their country. The hunter left his family to gather supper, a hog to slaughter. The kill would happen early, while the woman and children would pick cotton. The hunter would return with blood on his hands, food for bellies. With death, there’s life. / A grown woman and two girls receive kisses from the hunter, heavy with a rifle, ammunition brass, and a canteen of well water from the cool earth odorous with snakes and spiders. Oily, like worm bellies. As if it’s the taste of gold everyone seems to rush towards with cool veins and hot beating hearts, the hunter sips the well’s canteen but its goodness is blind to the eyes of the maker, washing out his wife and babies...
(added 07.18.14)

A Knock on the Door by Ruth Z. Deming
I was doing my dishes one day and heard a knock on the front door. I leave my door open in the summer and always have a pitcher of lemonade in the fridge. I love the way the lemon wheels float to the top and the glass pitcher gets all frosty. / Imagine my surprise when I turned around and saw a man standing there. / Not just any man, mind you. But one who looked exactly like Jesus from the Bible. / “Christ?” I called, as I walked to the door. “Is that you?” / He smiled that gentle smile of his and pushed a stray hair behind his ear. / "It’s me!” he said. “Jesus Christ, our Lord.” / I was so excited I didn’t know what to do. My mind flashed many thoughts. Was I properly attired to meet Christ, our Lord?...
(added 03.20.15)

La La Love Ya by Alyssa Black
So, today I drove to work in a car with no heat on a day that was so cold people even started caring about the homeless. When I got to work, my boss was waiting for me, ready to nag for twenty-five minutes about something somebody else did but averted reasonable suspicions to me because they knew I would just take it. They were right. I went to the bathroom and cried for ten minutes and finished my shift. The world felt cruel and inconsiderate, and I questioned whether I even wanted to be a part of it. I wanted to curl up in a ball and tell everyone to leave me alone. / After work, I checked my phone. Matt had texted me. / He said, “hey watcha doin? text when you get off.” I did. / I said, “hey dude. day from hell but id love to see you.”... (added 11.07.14)

A Little Ghost Story (The Intruder) by Ralph Freda
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 07.04.14)

London, Here I Come by Troy Johnson
I had been accepted to Oxford University after writing and winning an essay contest entitled, America and Britain-brother countries. In my essay I had wrote how America had gained its independence, yet there was still a connection between the two countries. We are sometimes brother countries. The university would pay my flight, room, board and tuition. I had never visited England, but I was as excited as one could be. I knew Bill Clinton and several others Americans had attended Oxford. Before I left my friends told me not to act American. / “What?” I asked. “Act American?” / They told me that whenever Americans visited other countries, they could be spotted right off the bat. “How is that?” / “Because Americans are always talking loud and walking fast... (added 12.05.14)

The Love Letter is Dead by Jeff Winke
The love letter is dead. / Love letters are not being written anymore. They’re not being lovingly folded, placed in an envelope, and sealed with a kiss. They are not being sent, read, and cherished. / There is no reason to anxiously wait for the mail carrier; no need for a length of satin ribbon, fat rubber band, or corded twine. Why? There is no stack of personal handwritten or typed letters, notes, or greeting cards to save. They no longer exist; they have become memories. / It feels wrong, incredibly wrong, to not see romance enhanced through love letters mailed or surreptitiously delivered in the middle of the night to a beloved’s mailbox or front door. After all, there is nothing better than receiving a handwritten letter filled with love and lust... (added 02.13.15)

Meeting the Replacement by Anthony Keers
I sank deep into a worn out couch that had felt the weight of more bodies on it than the world’s shoulders. I glanced around the room whilst taking a sip of my drink. Saturday nights always drew large crowds into the city. The stresses of paid slavery seemed to drive the people crazy and they loved to pound them to dust against the punch bag of the weekend. / As I looked over towards the entrance, I saw her walk in hand in hand with my replacement. / “Jesus, shit,” I whispered, “shit!” / I pulled the drink away from my face and sank further into the couch. I turned left then right, hoping to find a hole to jump into with my beer and hide until she left... (added 02.03.15)

More Decaf, Please! by Ruth Z. Deming
…Willie lives with two other men in a group home in East Oak Lane, Philadelphia. It's literally a beautiful three-bedroom house with lovely paintings on the wall and comfy furniture. / We stomped the snow off our feet when we got inside and Shelly introduced me to Ron, the house manager. / We made ourselves at home. In the kitchen, I plugged in the Mr. Coffee Maker and consulting Ron and Shelly, made 10 cups of coffee, Dunkin’ Donuts Decaf. Shelly cut the cheesecake from Trader Joe's and some holiday apricot kuchen. / We all sat down to eat. The TV was on with a noisy football game. In group homes the TV is always on. I’ve visited half a dozen and they’re all the same. The house managers are very important people and have power over people's lives just like parents... (added 11.21.14)

Most Pay Homage by Kim Farleigh
David was studying when his father came home. His father's face glowed, same as the mahogany table David sat upon. The wood looked burnished by silver light. / "Elizabeth and I are getting married," his father said. / Frank sat for the first time ever with his son at that table that was owned by Frank's mother. / "When?" David asked. / "The date hasn't been decided yet." / Silence consumed a car's droning outside as if the sounds never existed. / "It's not going to be easy for her," Frank continued, "living with three teenage boys. You, Richard and Rob are going to have to make things easier for her by doing the dishes and setting the table and taking out the garbage, etcetera. But keep this under your hat until the wedding date is announced." / "Okay," David said. / "I'm so in love," Frank declared... (added 01.13.15)

The Mystery of Mister Hollywood Zero by Erica Merkow
Oh, roll me over, in the clover, red hot rover, white cliffs of Dover… / Yeah, man. Cry me a river, baby. You came alive once, once in a blue moon, Angie, and it hurt me so badly to see your frantic performances on the patio stage as you, demonstrating no talent at all, sought to rely on your physical beauty to somehow pull you through the darkening nightmare of your life. Your voice, hoarse from too many cigarettes, cigarettes given you by using malcontents who wanted a piece of you for their self-gratification; your poetry a litany of hurt; then you disappeared... (added 09.15.14)

New Year by Oleg Razumovsky
On the eve of the new year, Oksana invited me to her place to acquaint with her parents. / In the corner of the room stood the Christmas tree, and in front of it, right on the floor, sat Oksana dressed like a toy from a Department store. / "Well, you look okay, " I told her, not even daring to sit nearby. Her red hair and a resolute face were reflected in a mirror. It rained outside. / "The New Year with a thaw?” I asked as I noticed her father, a truck driver, sitting in a chair, drinking and smoking, emitting an unnatural odor. / I must confess that I did not know whether to join Oksana and decorate the tree or to start drinking like the rest of Oksana's relatives / "Why are you so shy, boy?" asked their grandmother. I picked up a glass filled to the brim with the real stuff, drank it, and that very moment, an evil spirit left me... (added 12.23.14)

Nothing If Not Critical by Oliver Zarandi
The problem is that there are three problems. / First problem is that Clyde can’t cry. Hasn’t cried in, what, a year? / Second problem, he has stopped moving. Literally. / Well, not quite literally. He goes to the shop to satiate thirst and hunger with cheap food—chocolate-covered matchsticks, milkshakes and matzos. But still, his movements are decreasing. / He stopped going to work, you know? / I said, Clyde, go to work and he said, what for and I said to put bread on the table. He said look, there’re, like, two loaves on the table, eat some, finish it and I’ll go cornershop and get another two loaves, maybe three, or maybe four? Would four please you? / He has mold in his armpits. What’s worse is that the house is falling apart and I can’t do it all myself, you know?... (added 09.26.14)

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)

Oddly Mandible by Neil Rothstein
“Have we got anything to eat?” she asked, shattering the silence with her jagged crystal voice, “Have we got any fish? I want a fish,” she added, looking at me sidelong, not quite sure of her own motives. Her face was shadowed by the headrest. To me, she seemed like a horse underwater, not struggling but submitting to the environment. In the silence, I realized that she was expecting an answer. / Of course there isn’t any food. We have nothing! I thought for a moment and then shouted, “Obviously there isn’t any food,” somewhat astonished by her question. / She drummed her hands on the dashboard in a rare moment of animation and began to speak in an almost unbroken stream of words...(added 09.19.14)

The Oval Mirror by Mel Waldman
On sultry August nights I often close my wet-baked eyes and see the old doc and his oval mirror in my mind’s eye. When I taste the sweat pouring down my olive face and inhale the sweltering heat, I remember how this eerie journey began. / I met Dr. Jacob Lightman, the eminent psychiatrist and founder of Mirror Image Therapy more than three decades ago on a dog day afternoon. Hired as the new director of behavioral health at the Grand Concourse Treatment Center in the Bronx, I had the good fortune to work with him and other creative geniuses. / Yet when the CEO of the medical center, my new boss, introduced us, I was somewhat taken aback by his peculiar appearance. A ghostly man, he looked like an ancient scarecrow... (added 01.20.15)

Pitch for a Picture Book by Joseph Robert
“Hello, Trisha Donnelly, Mindful Child Publications, correct? Sorry I read your name tag there, well, in advance, thanks for a moment of your time, Trish. Can I call you Trish? Oh, sorry, no that’s better isn’t it, Mrs. Donnelly? Oh, of course! More business-like. Thank you. You see I have this fantastic idea for a children’s picture book that I honestly believe is an exciting property, one which I’m taking to you, Mrs. Donnelly, and to Mindful Child first, due to your fantastic reputation. Right! Here we go. The cover is of an adorable fairy wearing glasses who’s fluttering on her dragonfly wings in front of a giant carnation in full-bloom. First page: A sad girl in a nice room, a mountain of toys in the background—she’s doing homework in a notebook and frowning... (added added 05.02.14)

Riding a Broomstick by Johnna A. Hammerman
As a little girl I always puzzled over the idea that witches, like Elizabeth Montgomery in Bewitched rode broomsticks. Of course, I was young and a little too literal-minded to realize that a broom is not always a broom, and that there are many forms of “brooms,” kind of like the proverbial “womb broom.” / When I came of age I realized that the brooms witches ride are not exactly brooms, but, well, something entirely different, more along the lines of the “womb broom.” Imagine it: Fifteen-hundred-freaking-years of peasants frightened out of their wits by old men in dresses who were basically competing against Druid and pagan cultures: holy men, righteous men, men in dresses... (added 08.29.14)

The Shy Man by Darryl Lorenzo Wellington
Shyness isn’t stasis, paralysis, paranoiac fear of leaving the house, venereal disease, fire ants, or rain storms. Shyness isn’t cabin fever. Shyness is ambling along beneath cloudless weather and noticing the same buildings the same houses. Again. Again. The dead lay down. The terribly shy keep walking. / The staircase leads beyond the passages beyond, life’s slow accretion of days, perpetuating his daily, monotonous grind. The rings of hell could not best the monotony. The staircase climbs toward a horizon of mirrors. Reflections. None colorful, nor colorless. The tints slightly blur at the edge of the banisters when meteorological effects intensify, blurring the glass roof tops. And purpling the glass clouds. There are not experiences enough to fill the mirrors... (added 01.16.15)

Small Matters by Mike Fiorito
We got the call at 5 A.M. My father had woken from a coma after forty-eight hours and asked to see his family. / Before he had fallen into the coma, we had brought him home from the hospital. / “Take him home and make him comfortable; he doesn’t have long,” the doctor said. / We came home and ordered food. For my father, we ordered angel-haired pasta with shrimp. My mother, his wife for nearly 40 years, tried to help him sit up and eat, but he could barely lift the fork to his mouth. Eating was more of a gesture than a reality. / In three months, he turned bone white as the cancer tore through him. The doctors were right, despite my mother’s condemnation of medicine and all science...(added 10.31.14)

Staying Home by Mike Fiorito
"I dream about you a lot these days," I say to my dad. / "And for some reason I show you up in your dreams,” he responds, laughing. / It doesn't feel like I'm dreaming. His voice is clear. The wisps of his grey hair are fine and crisp. I see the individual strands layered on top of each other. I always forget that I’m dreaming until he reminds me. He seems so real. / "I think it's because I'm getting older that I dream more of you. Not to mention that stress makes me crazy.” / "You have no idea the stress I had, no idea about being in debt and watching my family suffer." His face looks sad and heavy. “A gambler can’t help himself.” / "I know, I think about it sometimes. I can't believe you were able to take it."... (added 06.13.14)

The Story About a Dog's Name by Roderick Richardson
One day a twenty-something white woman was walking down a sidewalk, in the suburbs, when she bumped into an elderly black man. She was startled because this man was walking the biggest Rottweiler anyone has ever seen. “What a big dog!” the white woman said. “What’s his name?” / The man then tied the dog to a tree and told him to sit, and the dog did just that. The man immediately asked the woman to walk a few yards away, and whispered, “His name is Nigga.” / “What? His name is Nuh—“ / “Hold on!” the man interrupted. “You can’t say that! I’ll explain... (added 11.14.14)

The Tickler by Harley White
Tonight would be special. I would be allowed to stay up an hour past my bedtime. There would be punch and cookies with the grownups. Music and dancing would make the living room and mother’s face look happy. / The sounds of a party were beginning to drift upstairs. My older sister and I combed and fluffed in white pinafores, sat carefully on our pink-topped beds, Now don’t you get dirty! still ringing in our ears. / I followed my sister to the top of the stairs. Here we took up our positions behind the railings, a vantage point that enabled us to see a portion of the living room from above. A table, dressed in white linen, held a glass bowl with red punch and three trays of cookies... (added 02.17.15)

Two Assholes by Paul Smith
There are lots of ways to get fired. Take today, for example—a call from dispatch that I should attend a nine o-clock meeting. And it’s Friday. I’m not talking about reasons for getting canned—just the methodology, the setup, the protocol. But I’m observant, notice I didn’t say smart, just observant. I watched a year ago in dispatch when Bob S. got called to his nine o’clock meeting. So my antennae were in the up position. / I looked down Randall Road where my favorite laborer worked with the blade and end-loader getting the sub-grade ready for gravel. I would miss him. I told Al goodbye and headed for the office. / Getting called in from the field is one way, but there are others... (added 08.17.14)

The Unselfing of Dr. Selby Leigh by C.B. Johnson
Dr Selby Leigh had never been very happy, despite his successes in life. Last Saturday he went down to the village café. On any day before this day it would have been routine procedure. Order a coffee, chit chat a bit with the wait staff while paying and tipping, browse the front pages of the papers, offer a friendly doctor’s smile to the non-professionals sitting about enjoying relaxed village ambience, and get going, hot coffee in hand, quick important patent leather steps. / Except this is the story of a man who played with fire, the fire of his own self. / You may have tried not to notice them, in the supermarket checkout lines, the discount chemists, and the streets of villages that have developed around car parks... (added 12.19.14)

Waiting All Day for the Mailman by Jim Meirose
I’m awake, I’m awake—I only look asleep because I am in the daily trance of waiting for the mailman; I’m sitting on the front couch with a cold coming on. But my mood is good—the mailman will come. She will— / When the mailman comes, it will just be wonderful! Who knows what she will bring what it can be what can it be what will it be— / Oh! Silly me! I dozed off—I peer out the window—still no mailman. I go to make a coffee in my Keurig machine to keep me awake—need to be awake, need to be, for the mailman—the machine does its job and I go back to the front couch, and set the coffee down on the coffee table how appropriate how appropriate— / I might be money, I always expect money this time of month... (added 07.10.14)

Warm Company by Oleg Razumovsky
In the morning I woke up knowing that I was absolutely broke, but it was necessary to have a drink. Very urgent. A matter of life and death. I got up, thanking God it was not necessary to dress because yesterday I fell asleep fully clothed. Outside it was very cold and my zipper was broken. I almost froze my balls off before I reached Dawn’s Tavern, where my buddies usually congregate. But fuck, it was empty. Everybody was still sleeping. What to do. I barely scraped some change for a small glass of beer, alone. I tried to talk the barmaid into giving me a drink on credit but she refused, the grated pussy, saying, “I once poured a guy a shot of vodka on credit, but he never gave me money back, since then I don't trust anybody for any reason.”... (added 10.04.14)

The Weary Enforcer by Kleio B
Her hands hurt. With great effort she whipped them. Born in the family of enforcers, she was destined to live cruelly and punish offenders. The queue of little labours persevered with their burdens, sometimes their backs broke with the weight. She would strike the poor creatures until they shrieked in action. With the advent of winters, she became brutal. There was less time and more to gather. Queen Ant wished to show her gratitude to her subjects, but protocol demanded otherwise. She cursed her obligations as she thrashed the weary ant that had dropped the granule of sugar. (added 01.27.15)

Yellow Whiz, Cracking Concrete by Addie Soaraki
At least Joe did get to see Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on cable. Sure. He was a movie buff from way back. And yes, while the Ang Lee cinematic display, an American-Chinese-Hong Kong-Taiwanese co-production, seemed vaguely entertaining with its goofy, Photoshop-eradicated tension cables that indeed allowed the chop-saki actors to swiftly glide from building to building in The Forbidden City of yore, that aspect of the entertainment seemed hokey to Joe, private and up-close film critic of solitude out there on the outskirts of Chicago. / Crimony. Joe’s excuse for an efficiency had dirty carpets of beige, tattered walls, some with fist indentions that indicated, at least to the critic, domestic abuse by past tenants... (added 05.16.14)

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