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Joseph Young ~ How to Write Flash Fiction

Begin

Begin with a thing. Make it a spar­row. A spar­row cling­ing to the stem of an Easter Lily. Make the spar­row silent. We don’t want too many voic­es this ear­ly on. Let the lily speak for itself.

Enter

Now, enter. This is how things get going. You need a dog. This dog is red but the top of its head is blonde, bleached by the sun. The dog swims every day. Get that dog mov­ing! Don’t for­get about –more

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N. Minnick ~ Four Poems

COWBOY BOOTS

Sometimes an urge takes hold of us and pulls us onto the dance floor
even though we only want to sip our drink and observe.

I don’t mean one of those sud­den, fleet­ing urges
like pee­ing off the back of the boat

or kiss­ing the girl you’ve been stam­mer­ing before
under a porch light that is being pecked by moths,

but an urge that leads to a life no one saw com­ing;

like leav­ing your com­fort­able –more

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Christopher Linforth ~ Belief

On the day we flee town, we will want the neigh­bor­hood to know what hap­pened. We will tell sto­ries about our step­fa­ther to the kind and not-so-kind men on our street, to the cops who size us up to see if we are under­age, turn­ing tricks, will turn a trick with them. We will run door-to-door and con­fess to the rumors cir­cu­lat­ing in town. We will bypass the church­es, the mosque and syn­a­gogue, and the –more

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Gary Percesepe ~ Philosophy

The para­troop­ers fall and as they fall
They mow the lawn. –Wallace Stevens

Everyone was talk­ing about a phi­los­o­phy of life. It seemed impor­tant and the kind of thing that could stand one in good stead for years to come. Things were falling apart. The ex: mon­ey again. No news there. My best friend Flipper was freak­ing out on me again. Two kids in need of school clothes and new footwear. And I had –more

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Tommy Dean ~ Here

            We all live poor­ly here. Use mail-in rebates at the hard­wood store, get drunk at Sammy’s on Friday nights, and let our chil­dren run around in their under­wear in our front yards. They wave flags, swords, and guns, prac­tic­ing for the com­ing days when sol­dier is the only job that comes with ben­e­fits. 

            We –more

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Jay Merill ~ A Cousin from Leicester

Late but not quite mid­night. Marina Melba stands on the com­mu­nal bal­cony of the flats. She pulls a cig­a­rette with ele­gance from a pack­et. Lights it with­out look­ing, eyes fixed on the balustrade and fog­gy sky. 31st December is the date.

            Tess on her way to meet friends stops by the ele­va­tor. Pops out to the bal­cony for a sec­ond, –more

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Jules Archer ~ From the Slumbarave Hotel on Broadway

The hotel key was ours. A rec­tan­gu­lar piece of hard plas­tic with the words PLAY SLEEP REPEAT on the front. New York City. That humid sum­mer day when it rained frogs and peo­ple shield­ed them­selves with their umbrel­las, only to be pelt­ed any­way. Four con­cus­sions. One death. And us? We were snug in our suite. Plush pil­lows, silk sheets, turn­down ser­vice. A mini bar we emp­tied. We filled that hotel –more

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Mason Binkley ~ Whoa Golly

We’re togeth­er again, three old buds stand­ing in a dark clos­et at our thir­ti­eth high school reunion. We can hear the eight­ies music from the audi­to­ri­um one floor below us. What are we doing? I’d let Larry tell you, but he’s wor­ried he’s hav­ing a heart attack. And Justin, he thinks the police will barge in any sec­ond. He’s already prepar­ing a legal defense. 

We’re still best friends, –more

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David Dodd Lee ~ Two Bronze Figures Near the Ocean

Her hair some­times sailed on her. She was a point in the dis­tance, as if the entire uni­verse had poured from a con­ver­gence. She thought, It’s just as well.

     Hardwick under­stood her, if he were also some­times spar­tan in the extreme, bare pots stored in bare unpa­pered cab­i­nets. Once again, he watched as she was absorbed, turned to vapor in some oth­er sphere. Her hair, tak­en –more

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Peter Jay Shippy ~ Three Prose Poems

Hatchings

Parades always made her tired, so it wasn’t sur­pris­ing that the assas­sin fell asleep on the roof.

As she napped, the roof became quite crowd­ed.

A fam­i­ly of six had a pic­nic, fried chick­en and pota­to sal­ad. Their baby gummed lime gela­to.

The super pre­tend­ed to repair the cool­ing duct. His tool­box was full of ale.

An octo­ge­nar­i­an who had learned to swim in the Baltic Sea leaped into the wood­en water tow­er for her dai­ly laps.

A boy wear­ing an aviator’s hat fed his pigeons. One of the birds, Charles, was wor­ried about Amelia, his mate. She hadn’t returned from their after­noon flight. The boy under­stood, so he stroked Charles’ head and whis­tled, “Volière.”

The octo­ge­nar­i­an climbed out of the tow­er only to dis­cov­er that she had for­got­ten her tow­el. The fam­i­ly cleared their pic­nic and after apol­o­giz­ing for the crumbs and green stains, wrapped her in their plaid blan­ket. She invit­ed the fam­i­ly, the boy, and Charles to her apart­ment for choco­late cov­ered prunes.

The Super emp­tied his last bot­tle, closed his tool­box, walked toward the rail­ing to take in the view and almost stepped on the assas­sin. He noticed her rifle. Italian. A Marinetti. He picked it up and looked through the scope. There was an old hen cir­cling the build­ing. The sky was melt­ing like a Creamsicle. He clicked off the gun’s safe­ty and tucked it under the assassin’s arm.

The assas­sin dreamed that she was a girl in her bed­room hav­ing a pil­low fight with her sis­ter.

Feathers fell through the air, tick­ing their cheeks.

Insomnia

My doc­tor rec­om­mend­ed that I rent one of those birds trained to whis­tle lul­la­bies.

I was dubi­ous, but des­per­ate.

On the dri­ve from the rental place, Polly per­formed a beau­ti­ful ren­di­tion of “Scenes from Childhood” fol­lowed by Satie.

I was hope­ful.

Once home, I broke her neck, plucked, cut, brined, bast­ed and a few hours lat­er: Perroquet au Vin! Lovely.

And you know what—it worked! I slept like the dead.

Of course, the rental place charged me a late fee.

Que sera, sera.

An Eel Soup Digression

Because the nav­i­ga­tor did­n’t under­stand that the crease in the map depict­ed a crease in the sea, the ship had to weigh anchor. The cap­tain forced the nav­i­ga­tor to row a dinghy through the line, to reck­on its effects.

Meanwhile, in the gal­ley, the cook was cre­at­ing a bouillabaisse—conger eel, sea robins, fen­nel, cod bones, bou­quet gar­ni, saf­fron, mus­sels, olive oil, gar­lic, white wine, smoke of the after­life, French bread, cayenne pep­per, lit­tle neck clams, toma­to paste, and Thibault, the very lob­ster that was con­duct­ed through the streets of Paris by Gérard de Nerval.

Concurrently, the nav­i­ga­tor was remem­ber­ing a poem about a boy who thought the cres­cent moon was a bro­ken moon and the stars were its pieces. He could smell the soup. At least, he thought, as the water began to churn, I’ll have some­thing good to eat tonight.

~

Peter Jay Shippy is the author of Thieves’ Latin, Alphaville, How to Build the Ghost in Your Attic, and A Spell of Songs. His 5th book, Kaputniks, will be pub­lished by Saturnalia Books in 2021. About A Spell of Songs, John Yau wrote: “One day, not long ago, Meret Oppenheim walked past Edward Hopper in Paris, and an elec­tric cur­rent passed between, and from that cur­rent was born Peter Jay Shippy.…” Shippy has received fel­low­ships in dra­ma and poet­ry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2002 he won the Iowa Poetry Prize and in 2005 he received a Gertrude Stein award for inno­v­a­tive poet­ry. In 2009 Shippy received the Governor’s Citation for Outstanding Artistic Achievement. He has pub­lished wide­ly, includ­ing The American Poetry Review, The Boston Globe, Iowa Review and Ploughshares. Shippy teach­es lit­er­a­ture and writ­ing at Emerson College in Boston.

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Gary Percesepe ~ Berrigan

My mom just called from the nurs­ing home. She sur­vived anoth­er painful heart episode. She asked me how the peo­ple liked the Italian songs I sang in church. She has asked me this before. I have sung no Italian songs, in church or any­where else. Then she sang a lit­tle bit over the phone. It was love­ly, though her light sopra­no voice is now low and hoarse. I asked her to sing some more. I thought, I need to learn some good Italian songs and sing them in church.

I’ve been read­ing Berrigan’s auto­bi­og­ra­phy, as some of you know, the der­ring do of the rad­i­cal Catholic priest who loved America enough to speak the ter­ri­ble truth about America’s addic­tion to vio­lence, racism, and war. And again and again, Berrigan tells of his moth­er, who stead­fast­ly stood by him. “With her, a thou­sand dif­fi­cul­ties did not cre­ate a sin­gle doubt.”

After his broth­er Philip was arrest­ed for throw­ing human blood on draft files in Baltimore, while he him­self was arrest­ed in Washington dur­ing a protest against the war, Daniel called home. His mother’s calm on the phone touched him. He explained things, as best he could. “You mean,” his moth­er respond­ed, “that you are out of jail and your broth­er is in?”

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Glen Pourciau ~ Gala

I couldn’t see my way clear to make it to the annu­al Gala.  I had RSVPed under self-imposed pres­sure, but I wasn’t above claim­ing a sud­den ill­ness should any­one men­tion my fail­ure to attend.  I’d cleaned myself up in a more fas­tid­i­ous man­ner than usu­al and had stuffed myself into my aging tux, which had over the years man­aged to elude moth­dom.  I’d then gazed with revul­sion in a too-large mir­ror and asked:  “Do I wish to present this per­son as me?”  Who was this alleged per­son?  Not some­one I knew, I was sure of that.  I imag­ined all the buffed-up human beings pack­ing the Gala hall, beam­ing with mer­ri­ment, chest-high drinks abet­ting the façade.  How would I fit in, one who was unable to ban­ish from con­scious­ness my unpol­ished and frag­ment­ed self-image.  I couldn’t arrive in my nat­ur­al state of iden­ti­ty while in tux dis­guise, and I couldn’t tol­er­ate hours of unabat­ed grin­ning by every­one with­in eye­shot.  I had an embar­rass­ing his­to­ry of rude­ness when con­front­ed with repet­i­tive ques­tions or sto­ries from cer­tain annoy­ing peo­ple who seemed to lie in wait for me.  My per­for­mances had the humil­i­at­ing out­come of mak­ing me less bear­able than they were.  Take Trowbridge, who’d some­how caught wind of my prostate trou­ble and had grown exces­sive­ly fond of shar­ing his prostate issues and ask­ing me: “How’s our favorite gland doing?” I didn’t like the unin­tend­ed impli­ca­tion that my prostate could be his favorite gland.  After sev­er­al sim­i­lar encoun­ters I’d asked if he want­ed me to bend over so he could address his favorite gland direct­ly or if he want­ed to make an exam­i­na­tion and reach his own con­clu­sions.  I should have been more sen­si­tive, respect­ing the trau­ma of his prostate surgery and his desire to com­mis­er­ate with me on the decline of one of our most pri­vate parts.  Yet, I did not see it that way and didn’t care to pre­tend that I approved of his out­sized inter­est in my out­sized prostate.  Trowbridge retreat­ed upon hear­ing my heavy-hand­ed mes­sage, and when­ev­er I see him I sense endur­ing dis­tress from my out­burst.  Also sure to be there was Mossland, a man deeply in love with his hunt­ing dogs and full of sto­ries detail­ing how they’d helped him kill great num­bers of ani­mals.  I’d final­ly told Mossland that I envi­sioned a future dog breed that would halt in its tracks and point at flee­ing flocks of hunters so that high­ly evolved apes could more eas­i­ly shoul­der their rifles and pick them off.  He hasn’t come with­in close range of me since, and I sym­pa­thize with his desire to avoid me.  I couldn’t doubt that if I attend­ed the event, numer­ous peo­ple would be unhap­py to see me there, despite my past char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions.  I thought it best not to inflict myself on oth­ers, con­ve­nient­ly elim­i­nat­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of oth­ers inflict­ing them­selves on me.  By stay­ing home, I was mak­ing a small con­tri­bu­tion to social well-being at the Gala.  I heard it was an unmit­i­gat­ed suc­cess.

~

Glen Pourciau’s sec­ond col­lec­tion of sto­ries, View, was pub­lished by Four Way Books. His first sto­ry col­lec­tion, Invite, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. He’s had sto­ries pub­lished by AGNI Online, The Collagist, Epoch, New England Review, New World Writing, The Paris Review, Post Road,and oth­ers.

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Lucinda Kempe ~ Queer Birds

I sat on the back­stairs, on the top step near the screened kitchen door, wait­ing. I did a lot of wait­ing. For Maud Ellen to come talk, or my grand­moth­er, Mamoo, or Daddy when­ev­er he’d appear, or for our dogs, Wanda and Beebee. Pinning down the dogs was easy; I could pre­tend to be a dog if I had to. I did wait­ing so well I’d turned it into art. But some­times I got bug­gy. Buggy made me feel like I’d burst. And around here burst­ing spelled trou­ble in a bot­tle full of lit­tle white tabs.

Maud Ellen mate­ri­al­ized from the front yard and dropped into Uncle Walter’s chair made of plumb­ing pipes, the same chair my father hanged him­self on. She had a Don Q and her Lark 100s.

Let’s talk about bats, Mama,” I said, using the inti­mate to snag her atten­tion. I was hap­py she’d come. I had to talk quick. Everybody in my fam­i­ly, except the dogs, liked flight.

Bats?”

I like bats.”

I know noth­ing about bats.”

Why not?”

Bats are not some­thing I am inter­est­ed in.”

Why not?”

I don’t think about them.”

I do. Bats eat bugs. I don’t like bugs.”

Yes, I sup­pose they do,” she said, puff­ing on her Lark.

I bet they eat those cat­fish-sized cock­roach­es like the one fly­ing around the chan­de­lier in the front hall last night. Mamoo was so fun­ny, shriek­ing and flap­ping her arms like she might fly, too, and you bat­ting at the roach like a slug­ger. Would Uncle John real­ly throw us out for break­ing Mummy’s antiques?

Maybe we could trap a bat, bring it inside. Get it a bat house and a swing. Whenever those roach­es come along, we’ll let it loose and watch as it sucks their necks. Or maybe it swal­lows them whole, feet first—the way the French do when they eat those lit­tle birds.”

Maud Ellen stirred the air, and almost blew me off the step. She stamped out her cig­a­rette. “I’m going inside to eat a banana.”

Don’t you think a bat would eat those bugs?”

I have no earth­ly idea,” she said.

She prac­ti­cal­ly flew up the steps. I jumped up to let her pass. The screen door slapped its frame. I want­ed to tell her we wouldn’t have to be afraid any­more about bugs and Mamoo pop­ping Phenobarb to calm down. As usu­al, I’d said too much.

In her hur­ry, Maud Ellen left her Larks. I sat back down, tucked my arms around my knees and prac­ticed wait­ing again. This time I’d wait for a sign. The sky was fast dis­ap­pear­ing around the arm of the oak. That’s when I saw it, a queer dark bird with a plas­ter-white face and eyes-as-blue-as-my-blond-head­ed dolls, fly­ing in the yard. The clos­er it came the big­ger it got until it got right up in my face. I opened my mouth. It glid­ed inside. As high as a kite on white tabs, I unfurled.

~

An M.F.A grad­u­ate of Stony Brook University, Lucinda Kempe’s work has been pub­lished or is forth­com­ing in Midway Journal, Bending Genres, The Southampton Review, Elm Leaves Journal, and the Summerset Review. Wigleaf longlist­ed her micro fic­tion (2018 and 2019). Her fic­tion “I Became a Girl” was nom­i­nat­ed for the 2020 Pushcart Prize.

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James Robert Steelrails ~ Reason

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Kim Magowan & Michelle Ross ~Abuse and Other Words My Mother and I Disagree About

My moth­er acts like the con­flict between her and me is seman­tic, rather than due to her crap­py par­ent­ing. For instance, when I try to talk to her about how when I was a kid and she was pissed at me, or sim­ply found me irri­tat­ing and noisy, she would make me sit in the garage by myself for hours (pitch dark, smelling like ran­cid milk), she says, “It’s ridicu­lous to call that ‘abuse’! I nev­er laid a hand on you. Your gen­er­a­tion is much too loosey-goosey with words.”

Which makes me smile— mad­den­ing as my moth­er is, the way she’ll let fly some phrase like “loosey-goosey,” as if she’s a fifties house­wife in a flow­ered apron, kills me.

So I press her. I want to know what oth­er words she takes umbrage with.

She gives me a look to con­firm that I’m not mess­ing with her (my moth­er and I have min­i­mal trust in each oth­er), and says, “All right, what about gen­der? In my day, gen­der was a con­crete thing that you just were. You all act as if it’s a cos­tume you can just throw on. ‘Today I’m feel­ing like a girl.’ Gender is not some­thing you feel!”

Says the woman who tells me I ought to make an effort to look more fem­i­nine,” I say. “And what about your birth­day twin?”

My moth­er hates it when I call David Bowie her birth­day twin, though it is true they share the same birthday—same year as well as the same date. I real­ized this only after he died, and weird­ly, this fact prompt­ed me to call her when I heard the news. I took Bowie’s death hard. What my moth­er said: “You didn’t even know the man. It makes no sense to be so sad.”

Impossible to explain to her that as a kid, I felt more seen by David Bowie than I did by my own moth­er. Those long, dark hours in the garage, Bowie was who kept me com­pa­ny. I sang “Life on Mars?” to myself and the crick­ets.

On the phone that evening, I repeat­ed “sad­den­ing bore” over and over again until my moth­er said, “Finis!”

Now she says, “His songs are non­sense.”

And what do you mean by non­sense?”

My moth­er looks at me, again to ver­i­fy that I’m not fuck­ing with her, and appar­ent­ly decides instead I’m a moron. She twirls one hand in the air, con­vey­ing dis­missal. “Poppycock. Balderdash,” she says, and again my irri­ta­tion at her dis­solves in the face of her words. The fifties house­wife with the apron morphs into some Victorian lord with a hooked, dis­dain­ful nose and a bur­gundy vel­vet smok­ing jack­et.

Sometimes I think my moth­er and I would final­ly get along if, instead of try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate, to explain our­selves to each oth­er, we just sat across a table and occa­sion­al­ly emit­ted sin­gle words: “star­ship,” “per­ni­cious,” “grasshop­per.”

~

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teach­es in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short sto­ry col­lec­tion Undoing (2018) won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her nov­el The Light Source is forth­com­ing from 7.13 Books this July. Her fic­tion has been pub­lished wide­ly.  She is the Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com

Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (2017), which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award.  Her fic­tion has recent­ly appeared or is forth­com­ing in Alaska Quarterly Review, Colorado Review, Electric Literature, and oth­er venues. She is Fiction Editor of Atticus Review. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.  www.michellenross.com