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A bit about Earl: Earl Sanders, writer, lives in Columbia, Missouri, "because St. Louis is weird."

Featured Stories

The Social Aid & Pleasure Club Prepares for Earl Bourbon’s Funeral, August 7th 1977

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Grace is standing on the captain’s chair, working her fingernail under a thumb tack, & there’s New Orleans outside the window, stretching its spine like a cat in a puddle of sunshine. “Don’t break your nail, Sweetie,” says Annie. “I gotcha some flower decals to put on ‘em.” Something hilarious is boiling in the kitchen (as always), but hilarious doesn’t …

June 8, 2024 :: 0 comments
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You Shouldn’t Be Here

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A chain and padlock ensured no one could open the gates of the park. Eva had expected this. She glanced at a wooden board. It read: Closed, dusk to dawn. Eva grasped the vertical bars of one of the gates and hauled herself over the top. The chain rattled as she jumped and landed on an asphalt path. With a …

June 1, 2024 :: 0 comments
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The Labyrinth

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One night, I got stuck in Pueblo, Colorado. It’s not a bad place, a steel mill town, semi-arid land sprawl, and as in a lot of towns, the bus station where I landed happened to be an underground hypermart: prostitutes, both sexes, dealers, and of course, all the big shots a road hog like me would ever wanna meet. The …

May 25, 2024 :: 1 comment
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Contributed Stories (Past Year)

Peruse our short story archives here

A Box of Broken Dishes

There was a barrel of fish in the basement, by the pool table. The barrel was full of brine, and when somebody ordered fish, the cook would come downstairs and grab one from the barrel. That’s how it was done then. Augie was also down there, an awful lot, practicing trick shots on the pool table. The felt had small …

A Cellar Tale

Bobby was a born storyteller and loved an audience. Always had. The family reunion dinner would be the perfect place to perform. He stood up after grace and clinked his spoon against his raised water glass. The group quieted in anticipation. “Before we start, I have a story to tell…” “Picture a woman, in her seventies… Alone in the house, …

A Dream Move 

The last thing I remember as my eight-year-old head hit the pillow was that we had to move. The landlord sold the building and the new owner wanted our apartment. I opened my eyes to a bright morning. How could this be? The sun usually waited until late afternoon to shine in my bedroom. Puzzled, I peeked out the window. …

A Prediction Model

Adam sat at a silent desk for the first time since he could remember. He thought about how hard true silence was to come by now and savored every second. This silence was different to the quiet he guessed he had gotten used to. There were no whirring fans, clicking drives, or the most remote chance of a ping or …

A Second Cerebral Cortex

It was a choice between a new bike and a second cerebral cortex. The first cerebral cortex was getting a tad fuzzy, she was definitely in need of an upgrade, but there was no denying that this was one sweet bike. Thirty-two gears! So, Lindsey took it for a spin. Felt like the chain was a little loose. As she …

Acquaintanceship

He winked. My lips curled in utter disgust at the foam that gathered in the corners of his mouth. He thought his inebriation was well-disguised. Not to my eyes. His nostrils dilated with words he was at a loss to find. His tongue had grown quite numb with huge amounts of rum and every pore in his body exuded a …

Almost Perfect

July 9, 1969. We were sitting in the top row of the nosebleed seats at Shea Stadium, watching Tom Seaver and the New York Mets lay a serious ass kicking on the Chicago Cubs. With each low flying plane that passed overhead, coming out of LaGuardia Airport, the entire upper deck shook. Some flew so low we could see passengers’ …

Amber & Stefan Circle the Block Three Times

Stefan put the Malibu in gear and pulled away from the curb. He said: “Amber, I’m uncomfortable with the falsetto. I mean, a little is okay, but not for a whole verse. Maybe just the first two bars. I want you to think hard about this.” She pretended to think hard about it and Stefan made a right turn. Two …

American Woman, 1999

(excerpt from the chapter “American Woman 1999″ from the debut novel “Tramp” by Joey Cloudy) “Don’t come hangin’ ’round my door I don’t wanna see your face no more I got more important things to do Than spend my time growin’ old with you” ~ Lenny Kravitz Monika’ Elisabeth Whittaker didn’t have any female friends but that day she tried to …

Another Fine Long Beach Day

Ferlinghetti once wrote “Some days I’m afflicted with Observation Fever.” I can relate. Like today I walked on the beach and was confronted by angry gulls upset that I had disturbed them. I couldn’t have been that disturbing though since the place was loaded with people biking, rollerblading, flexing, jogging, fishing, sunning, and spiritually laser focused on their yoga, so …

Atmospheric Disturbance 

The Camellia Japonica full bloom red back lit by the rising sun, a painting without paint yet by an unknown artist. The blooms arrived late March this year, three months later than last. The squirrels haven’t feasted on them yet for they didn’t notice their arrival. It will only be a matter of time. All in nature is beautiful and …

Band Biz

The dance was on the second floor. The leader played sax and flute. He brought along a drummer, bass player, keyboard man, and guitarist. All the players shared the singing responsibilities. They were each capable of doing lead and background harmony. This was to be an easy gig because a lot of speeches and award-bestowing rituals for gang members, for whom the dance was …

Beer Buddy Blues

It was fortunate when Peter Williams chose our newspaper, and specifically me, to tell his story. Now I was visiting him on death row, one day before his scheduled execution. A guard led me through a series of locked doors to a ten-by-ten room, painted battleship gray, with two olive folding chairs and a chipped steel table bolted to the …

Ben Lee Holley’s Top Five Most Haunted Locations in Northern Alabama

1. Crybaby Hollow Suck Egg Road in Guntersville, Alabama This long stretch of two-lane blacktop best known for being the back way connecting the wet county where the bars, grab-a-grannies, and cold beer stores are located to the dry county where I keep my house trailer on a spit of land in the Hope’s Bluff community. Due to the lack …

Beneath Contempt

“I feel nothing but contempt towards him,” said she, her lips curling in revulsion involuntarily. “Contempt with intensity,” responded he, after a long contemplation of her very expressive face. “I never thought unrequited love could engender so much hate. No, it’s rather malice of a rare breed,” resumed she, with apparent difficulty. “Did you break his heart?” asked he, in …

Bottled Residence

The second time that I opened the door to the Procyons’ house, I still saw no family portraits. However, I noticed a bottle of liquid soap had been left on their kitchen table. The Procyons had hired me via email. Their instructions were to accept offers no less than five per cent off their asking price and to encourage tenders …

City Smell

Dimly lit under the streetlamps in an old alley at midnight, a nostalgia wells up. A perceptible city smell tickles the nostrils in humidity fueled singed heat. Yeah, the lamps bestow light on the strays lying down on empty alleys—clean, and silent as the rains wash away any debris otherwise invisible to the naked eye, slants through the midnight streetlamp—dark, …

Composition

The unsteady movement of his slender wrist enables me to hear the remote sounds of a piano. I am usually in another part of the very large house, but at this moment he is just across the hall, writing in the study, describing the piano music. Occasionally he looks up from the faded, pale notebook paper, gazing through the specially …

Curfew

When night falls, I sit on my balcony and gaze at the streetlamp below. A week ago, I kissed Maria beneath its globe. A cop, with a twisted smile, arrived and warned us that the curfew would soon begin. Anyone found on the street would be arrested. Maria had to prepare a lecture on Freedom. So she rushed to her …

Dancing On the Rim of a Volcano

Berlin, 1925: Berlin wasn’t Chatham. Nora’s parents stated this twice a day. Remarkably, Nora agreed with them. The bank that employed Nora’s bowler-hatted, umbrella-carrying, Times-perusing father had sent him to Berlin to oversee a merger between two financial institutions. A less cosmopolitan couple would be difficult to conjure. Father spoke nothing but the King’s English, a strange source of pride …

Diamond Shoes

Whose diamond shoes are too tight today? he asks, giving the newspaper a hard flick. Reading the agony column aloud is a custom in their household, one way to compare the problems of other peoples to theirs. It usually makes them both feel better. He reads about a woman, having cut off sex with her husband, is now embarrassed that …

Dollar Storing

It was my first trip to a dollar store anywhere, this one on Broadway, and she was aghast that I’d never been to one before. Dollar Tree was her idea of a darn good time. I was back in Knoxville after burning through money in Beverly Hills like Satan was after it. Had some good times, paying the price after. …

Drunken Boxcars

Dear Sir Lancelot: When that Brett Kavanaugh dude told me he likes beer, he became my Catholic beer bro. And whiskey. You know: Wherever two or three are swigging a round, there’s always a fifth. But seriously, it’s always been beer for me. Remember? The afternoon I got drunk and found Jesus. And the true meaning of pontification. And the …

Emergence of the Cyber Kolossoi

This is a test. For the next three minutes, this station will conduct a test of the Emergency Broadcast System. This is only a test. The cell phone virus contaminated and defeated the United States easily. There was no trace of any war crime. No one was held hostage. Most people felt significantly more important with a camera phone. There …

Fidelity

Everyone in his department knew John wouldn’t get tenure because he smoked pot in his office. John knew that too. John was tall and thin and sported a beard and long hair — too radical for a college in West Texas. He told me once about waking up in the middle of the night and smelling gas all over their …

Free Bird

“I’m here for those flappy boys,” the cop said. I didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know how to react. “M-my birds?” I asked, incredulously. I’d just bought them. Parakeets, two of them, annoying little buggers – but I thought that was all. Little did I know. First night I had them, it was Bedlam. It was two women, turns …

Free Time

Natalie scanned the park. She was there as a mother taking her preadolescents on an “adventure.” She, herself, had visited those grounds many times during the earliest spans of her life. As a girl, she had used the baseball diamonds for softball. Similarly, she had rocked on the playground’s plastic horses and had used the swings to reach the moon. …

Had I Lost Nothing

The lakes are robust, and the water systems in Italy that were dry for many seasons are now in good shape. Today was the first brief sun we’ve seen in weeks, and now the sun weakens through clouds, with a rain forecast for afternoon, evening, and night. I had an eventful morning that merits examination. The air was cool on …

Hawke Services

“There was broken glass all over the kitchen,” I told my husband when he returned my call. “Both windows were shot out. I found BB gun pellets on the floor. I keep finding shards, so I am sweeping again. That’s why I have you on speaker phone.” My husband hated the hands-free mode. For him, my voice was garbled whenever …

Head Against A Wall

Cut Your Own Head Off. Cut Your Own Head Off. Cut Your Own Head Off. CYOHF CYOHF And I carve into my arm once more: CYOHF And I have no idea what time it is or how many days I’ve been inside, but milk bottles of urine line the wall. I am naked and my left forearm bleeds but this …

In Stillness

Well then? What did it matter whether she was living or dead? My mother’s pictures were strewn across the iPhone screen like innumerable stars in a night sky. When I viewed them, they looked exactly the same as the ones who were still living that I had not visited in ages. In stillness, it didn’t matter. They all looked alike. …

Ineluctabilis

I will leave the building with her. We will walk together for several blocks. It will be night. Before we leave, she will say something to me, she will make some remark about the tone of my voice. When I speak to her, the tone of my voice will have a certain effect on her, and so she will make …

Insomnia

Something had woken him up. Terry wasn’t sure what it was. It might have been Eve turning over, pushing her knees into his side. They were lodged there now, warm and soft, but perhaps they’d been there for a while. It might have been a noise but if it was it’d stopped by the time he was awake enough to …

Jeannette, Reigning Sweet Potato Queen of L’anse Mauvais Chus

It was 1953 one of the hottest, wettest and most hurrican-ed summers yet. People on the South Louisiana Cajun Prairie were pounded with the craziest of weather. Louisiana is known for its interesting, to say the least, meteorological feats! One of the reasons this Barefoot Cajun lives here. Gonna take more than a spot of poor weather to move this …

Julia and the Archbishop

The church was quite basic. A converted nineteenth century Women’s Christian Temperance Union meeting hall with simple icons, a recently-installed iconostasis, a fellowship area into which sixty or so souls gathered after Sunday services. Julia may have been overlooked among the cluster of morning images–children squirming, men with freshly scrubbed red faces, women patting their hair, smoothing skirts, the movements …

Jury Duty

If Maddison had not once known someone called Henrietta, she would have thought that there was not a soul in the whole world who was currently called Henrietta. Perhaps in the time of crinolines and night carts, but not social media and lattes. And there was the Henrietta, who Maddison once knew, when they were twelve, and taking dance lessons …

Jye Pumped

Jye pumped. His breath came out in loud bouts as he pushed the lever up and down. He had never seen a rear wheel tire flatter than his. Sighing, he weighed how the incident had happened, that is, how the unseen nail had punctured his wheel in a flash. He wished such events would stop happening to him. It was …

Lost in Paradise

He is sitting alone on one of those hard-wearing combination double bench/tables found outside pubs and fast-food restaurants, coloured dark brown to make you think they are wooden, when they are in fact toughened plastic. Built to last, never to be eaten by worm, to be rotted by wind and cold. I doubt he has given the bench a moment’s …

Man with a Guitar, 2000

Perhaps Braque’s man with the guitar was Frankie, the boy she used to play with in the subway not so many years ago. It was never about her, as her father and her husband and his family had reminded her so many times. Still Mary thought that she was looking at what she might have been, the Future of Man. …

MOMA, 1992 

The old man, Frankie’s father, used to like to sketch Mary, but she thought of herself as one of Braque’s collages, a still life made of wallpaper, newspaper, scraps of drawings, all at odd angles. But she wasn’t a still life. She was in motion – like this painting in front of her. George Braque’s Man with a Guitar. This …

Night Nibblers 

My mind, unlike my body, remains intact. I remember exactly how this all started, after a night of gaming. Mortal Kombat to be exact. It sounds cliché but Ma lives in the house overhead and lets me stay in the basement. Temporarily. The girlfriend kicked me out and I had no place to go and no money since I lost …

Nomads

When they first came, they seemed almost an answer to prayer. They were smaller than us and thin. They had mouths, but never smiled. Their eyes were much bigger than ours. They seldom blinked. They wore one piece outfits made from some type of blue material. They spoke without opening their mouths, using telepathy. They communicated effectively with us, letting …

Once Upon a Time, the Outer Wall of the Castle was Called the Bailey, and It Enclosed Everything

Bailey’s body cast a big shadow across the property, protecting the castle and the inhabitants in times of attack. That is what I told myself, anyway, when I purchased the property on East Ghouland Avenue in Philadelphia. This magnificent estate, built in 1857, not only included the bailey with a beautiful courtyard, but also a three-story rounded tower with battlement-style …

One Vote

I rapped on my son’s bedroom door for the third time. “Jamie, get up now!” I heard him mumble something and listened for telltale creaks of the mattress. There were none. I’d had enough. I knocked once and opened the door. The smell of socks and sweat assaulted my senses. “This room’s a dump,” I said. “It’s almost 6 pm …

Preservation

On the whiteboard, using an erasable Sharpie, Lewis replaces the Science of Embalming with The Business of Mortuary Practice. He calls for a ten-minute break before the next lesson, his feet swollen in tight shoes. Students glide out of the hall and Lewis sits by a table beaming his laser pointer on the ceiling: it has failed on several occasions. …

Que Sera Ist Sehr Gut

There are loud bangs and whistles, screaming reds and greens bursting overhead. We stand among the masses, shoulder to shoulder, bum to bum. Gluhwein and champagne slosh over onto our frozen fingers. It’s a divine ablution meant to cleanse us in holy preparation on this New Year’s Eve for the coming of the King. Music pulses over head-high speakers, cameras …

Raspberry Patch

Lottery numbers were picked that year in July for the draft. He was old enough to be in the group so his number was drawn. Now, all he could do was wait to see if he’d be called or not. It was a long, hot summer. The relentless sun beat down unmercifully. The air was wet with humidity, like a …

Recipe for Upholding Calm and Peace at the Reading of a Will

Switch on power full of family values and traditions. Put the papers tied with red ribbons upfront. Let it stew for a while. Stir often but take care of the temperature. Keep the sunny side up. Pour stories heard from grandparents and neighbors long gone. Mix family feud with family drama. If situation turns sour, Add half-yellowed family group photos …

Red Hen’s Sweet Shop 

“Someone is holding their finger on my door buzzer,” Renee said to her newish boyfriend, Neal. “It’s probably Michael,” he said, and rolled his eyes. “It’s Sunday. He knows you’ll have some tasty morsels for him.” Michael is Renee’s brother. He is round with a turned-up nose. He is a better baker than Renee but lacks any sort of follow …

Retirement Ceremony

We planned the retirement celebration for 10:30 in the morning before lunch on Thursday to have the largest number of employees. Too many took off on Thursday at lunch, if they had expendable leave, and didn’t return until Monday; had we selected another day and time, many would still grumble because that’s what they did. The grumblers had been the …

Road Kill

I didn’t know much about the history of Holland, Michigan, when I made my first solo road trip to The Tulip City to visit Mike, my little brother. A yearly festival draws busloads of mostly senior citizens to the picturesque downtown and surrounding area, but I wasn’t making the trip to see the flowers or buy wooden shoes. Mike and I …

Ruthless G-Ma

Not long ago, I got this letter from my aunt. I’d like to share it with you. Dear Eddie, There have been big doings since I wrote last. We’ve had some gun violence and other forms of mayhem in town. And yes, your grandmother participated in some of it. People have taken to calling her Ruthless G-Ma. Given events, I …

Sarah’s Losses, Too Great to Bear

The child died within the womb. Sarah, the mom, had a miscarriage. She had gotten knocked up in a car outside a big dance hall at an intersection where three parishes met. On Saturday after mass, the place was full. Sarah’s mom had dropped her off and said she’d pick her up before eleven o’clock p.m. Sarah, embarrassed to be …

Save Your Pennies. Better Yet, Save Your Breath

There are very few things in this world that are still free, and we covet the few that we have, like good conversations, hugs, and the fried sausage samples at Costco. “Freedom is having your own individual toothpick, Charlie Brown,” said Lucy, adding, “That’ll be five cents please.” I learned a lot about freedom in a course I took in …

Sea-Language

He lived on the coast while I was on the top of a prominent hill from which the sea looked like a huge bluebell. He once espied me collecting shells on a very rare visit to the beach and decided to woo me with his tan, a few nets and a couple of strange-looking reeds–his only assets. My father, who …

Speckled Toad Beer

I hate to admit it, but I never knew that the inspiration for the character of Uncle Sam in the WWI recruitment poster was the artist himself. He’d dilly-dallied on doing the painting until it was almost too late. At the last minute, he did the initial drawing based on his reflection in the mirror. He liked what he saw …

That Heavy Burden

An increasing amount of sweat dripped into the scout’s eyes as he spied the enemy’s position on the ridge. As the sun rose higher in the sky, the temperature climbed. Hot or not, the weather be damned, this mission was life or death. He was their best scout, the one who could find a hole in the other side’s positions. …

The Birth

As the pebble from the tree fell, the apple from the deepest dungeons of the Gaia sprouted a tiny leaf. When the sky was green & the seas were yellow. Violet was the sun, and red was the night, a worm of utmost beauty, conceived in the minds of the writer and her influenced romanticism, wiggled its way through the …

The Flour Maestro

Heloise poured the chickpea flour into a bowl. She added baking powder to the legumes that she had pulverized in her coffee grinder. She hoped that chickpea pancakes would be tasty. Meanwhile, every time that a fighter jet boomed overhead, she’d stop measuring. She paused for air raid sirens, too. Normalcy was becoming as scarce as fresh meat or fresh …

The Foreigner   

Mrs. Lipton held my wrists with her hands flat to the desktop and leaned her equine face down to mine. I could smell her hot breath and feel her anger. She was strong. Her plunging neckline revealed three inches of cleavage that my eyes refused to disregard. “I warned you,” she said hotly. “But Miss—” was all I could muster. …

The Geostorm

It groans in the West-North corner of our apartment. I do not know why its wailing brings Wuthering Heights and the Irish banshees to my mind. Only this household is without a child. The lightning flashes as in some Hollywood horror episode. We wonder whether to stay or depart. We opt to spend another night in our not-very-spacious car. I …

The Land Owner

From Meth Mountain Chronicles I wanted to be a pacifist, he said to no one in particular. There were five of us in the bar if you include the barkeep who kept on cleaning the same five glasses again and again. One guy stood at the bar drinking whiskey and rye, nearby another sat on a bar stool and every …

The Last Owner

I am going to view a house. It is a wet afternoon in May, one of those without any color except green. I am on my own. My wife said she had an important meeting. More important than house viewing. I am sitting in my car waiting for the estate agent and watching the rain drops stretch and distort on …

The Power Number

Searching, she ran her fingers along every crevice in the house, wherever he might have kept his computer password, like along the inside upper ridge of the cabinet in the dining room. It was actually a curio cabinet, and it mostly stored her grandmother’s cocktail glasses, for show, because during her entire thirty-something-year marriage, she and Tony only ever drank …

The Raft

“Turok, watch out for that wave!” Andar yelled. “Whoa!” Turok took a stick and pretended to paddle out of danger. “Whew. Thanks, Andar.” He wiped his brow. “How’s that?” “We’re safe now.” “Man, that was close,” Turok said. “Yeah, it was.” “Thanks for the warning.” “No problem.” The brothers smiled at each other. The older one, Turok, was at the …

The Reverend

He was standing on the side of the road trying to get a ride. He was hitchhiking in the San Fernando Valley. He knew the temperature was one hundred and ten degrees because he had seen a thermometer on the side of an old gas station a few miles back. He was walking and hitchhiking at the same time, just …

The Search for Enlightenment

One day, I felt an existential emptiness deep within myself. In my soul. I decided to fill it with some delicious cookies, speckled with real strawberry bits and drenched in chocolate, just sitting in our cupboard waiting for me like that had been created to give my life purpose. These cookies tantalized and danced on my tongue as I munched …

The Trouble with Okra 

Troy was raised by a mother who grew the family’s summer vegetables in a large garden behind their house a couple of miles below New Iberia, Louisiana. Dinners consisted of fresh fish or roasted chicken, fresh greens and, at least twice per week, okra that was roasted or cooked on the grill. He loved his mother, and he loved her …

Two Italian Stories

An Entertaining Tragedy Suburbs of Milan Italy It was a summer night with the first scent of autumn. We watched the blue moon rise, a bit larger than usual, red turning to yellow. I walk arm in arm with my companion. I say moon gazing is more impressive than the falling stars. (August brings San Lorenzo when many Italians spend …

Voices Without Sounds

Beautified with holiday lights, the last of the year’s leaves fall. Some are yellow but entire trees are also solid green with one lone orange leaf that seems to know the season. Not even trees know what’s going on while mosquitoes disappear and carolers from Heavensgate Christian Academy arrive with rehearsed songs to Timeless Oaks Retirement Home. Under the awning, …

Walter Ego

Milan, Italy I’m walking up the steps of San Maurizio’s Church wearing the regulation Covid mask that moves in and out as I breathe or talk behind it. It filters the air rendering it odorless, which contradicts the clear day. I will dance the reader through the following dialog. Commence with anything, I tell myself. Anything? I ask. Anything, I …

What Not To Do Here

The basement was soaked in the humidity of the summer night’s heat. At first, there was a gathering of young twenty-somethings there, carrying on like they were doing something. When all they were doing was what they had room to do which was standing next to the keg. The steps down to the basement sunk, so as she stepped down, …

Your Source of Protein?

The man came in almost unnoticed. He was dressed as the other waiters so I didn’t notice him. Yet in no time he was hovering over my plate. “Gnats, sir,” he whispered in my ear. Before I could stop him, he proceeded to seed my red snapper Vera Cruz with more than a light dusting of the little buggers. Black …

Zoushen

In my mother tongue, zou (走) literally means walk, while shen (神) means spirit or deity. Together, zoushen is a set phrase commonly used to describe the psychological state of being absent-minded, but during my recent China trip, I learned from my 83-year-old mother that it is also jargon referring to the shamanistic art of evoking a spirit. When I …