Fred Melton: “Paranormal Paranoia”

Paranormal Paranoia

As a thrice-divorced, somewhat bald and possibly paunchy forty-seven-year-old man living in a basement, I’m proof cancer doesn’t always kill (in spite of a lack of maternal love) with proper vigilance put in place.
_____Early detection, and the help of an Asian pedicurist and her Tao cheese grater, conquered carbuncular carcinoma of both my big toes. Contracted weekly visits: $43.99 (cash only).
_____Last year, a genticulated sarcoma burrowed into me with the determination of a one-armed well-digger. Cure? Hoffa-style yoga and onanism. This, of course, my mother did not appreciate despite WebMD documentation that success skyrockets if self-flagellation is performed before a priest during Easter Mass—which most certainly occurred. Twice.
_____Two months ago, I expected to perish from pineal gland obnubilation, a clouding of that testicular-like nub perched atop my amygdala—that scrotal blob, when locked and loaded, causes otherwise well-adjusted white males, like myself, to spray lead and mayhem throughout movie theaters, usually matinees, and across gay bars, long after Happy Hour. Prevention? Percolated free-range coffee enemas.
_____Until last night, I thought my long-term prognosis was excellent.
_____Around ten, not one minute after plopping down in my Yoda jammies and party hat, bottle of Gray Goose squeezed betwixt my loins, just as a tightee-whitee’d-look-a-like Joel Osteen charged across a rented big screen TV toward a Brazilian jujitsu submission demon, my mother goes ape-shit. Yes, I may have used her credit card for this once-in-a-lifetime-pay-for-view cage fight, but she’s the one who left her purse wide open.
_____However you look at it—and I’ve looked at it all day through the lens of weed—she had no right to yank open the door to her basement and scream, “I’m gonna kill you, you motherfucker.”
_____Something’s amiss.
_____Vigilance is to be increased—followed by purchase of a Taser.



Fred Melton has work published in Best American Mystery Stories 2002, Jabberwock Review, Passages North, Front Range Review, Oyez Review, Bellingham Review and Talking River Review, as well as other magazines.


Christopher Laverty: Two Sonnets

On Seeing Manchester at Dawn

The sky is charmless as a filthy rag -
as daylight breaks, the traffic shuffles filed;
indifferent roads are littered, bins are piled,
the clay-like Sun's first smiles with sadness sag.
The city's ragged as a vagrant hag,
and seems a lightless land for souls exiled -
yet somehow by this sight I am beguiled,
my spirits roused that in dejection drag.
I did not see - so hushful in the stone -
this loveliness I unexpected meet -
see these subtle charms all of their own,
that play around each weather-beaten street -
see in these buildings - that like flesh and bone
stir and wake - the city's hidden beat.

On Seeing the Aosta Valley

To add more notes to birdsongs would – I know -
only mar the passing hearer's bliss,
more hues just cloy the glory of the rainbow;
monarchs crowned would little gain or miss
if crowned once more for show – while here below
this scene is such that art I can dismiss.
Tranquil it sits in winter's parting chill:
the shops and cafes of the village seem
drowsy with sleep; surrounding mountains gleam
with fading snow; only the churchbells fill
the alleys hushed and calm; all life is still,
ruled by the rhythm of the gentle stream -
low clouds enfold the valley in a dream,
as we stand and watch it from the hill.


Christopher Laverty writes, “I am originally from Cornwall, but currently live in Manchester. I work as an English teacher and also in catering. I like to write on a variety of subjects using many different forms. I mainly enjoy poetry, but also short stories and essays. My hobbies include reading, music, films, travelling and scuba diving.”

Greg Farnum: “Other Wars”

Other Wars

_____It was a very bright hat. It was mostly black, but it was a very bright black. Same for the gold that spelled out the words RETIRED ARMY. You probably had to pay extra for such bright colors, even though it was only a baseball cap. It was the first thing he’d noticed after he pulled in next to this car in the bank parking lot, the bright hat sitting on the dashboard. That and, on the passenger seat, letters from the VA. Then, as he began to walk toward the bank, the vanity license plate identifying the driver as an ARMY VETERAN and the bumper sticker of a US flag in the shape of the US, with the words Land of the Brave. Inside, the lobby copy of the newspaper said the famous Silverdome was slated to be torn down. After a moment he set the paper down and moved to the counter to cash his Social Security check, noticing the old veteran from the patriot car at a desk off to the left trying to get a loan.

_____The food pantry was crowded when we arrived. You were allowed to visit the place once a month. This was the first day in August that they were open, one of the few days they would be open this month because they’d be shutting down in the second half of the month to give their volunteers a late summer break, so the people who used the place — the “clients” — had jammed the waiting room and all the chairs were taken. I leaned against a wall and Mike went outside for a cigarette. Eventually, though, as some of the people ahead of me were processed and left, I was able to sit down…just in time to hear a guy in a Vietnam Veteran hat explain about the war. His stories — the usual sort of old codger Vietnam vet bullshit — met with a receptive audience. It seemed he’d gotten back about six months before I did and I was tempted to ask him where he’d been — maybe like me he’d been in the Americal Division — but decided not to interject myself in the conversation when he started to explain history. As many people were killed in the Korean War as in the Vietnam War he told his fellow clients, even though the Korean War lasted for two years and the Vietnam War lasted for seven. Wrong, of course, on all counts. Of course the audience didn’t know any better, but I didn’t expect them to. But if you’re going to wear your little hat and hold forth on war, and wars, you should at least get some of your facts straight. At that moment the history lesson ended when they called his name. He rose to claim his box of free food and take it out to his car. As he did someone called out “Thank you for your service.”

_____It was so unfair, the old veteran explained to his daughter — We were paying their soldiers and they were using our rifles and then… and then he seemed to switch to a different war. “They bombed the marine barracks and killed 221 marines. So we bombed them and killed some of their civilians and oh, they were so mad we had to promise to be more careful in our bombing.” And then it was time to go. He rose carefully to his feet and, with his daughter leading the way, slowly pushed his walker towards the door.


Greg Farnum: “Soldier, student, soil tester, factory worker, pizza deliveryman, journalist.”

Alex Richardson: “Back Where I’m From”

Back Where I’m From

I’m in the backseat of my own car,
Hurtling toward my hometown
With the kids up front,
Playing too loudly the first minute
Of every song they know I do not know.
My wife, their mother, lounges beside me,
Wondering how we got back here,
Staring absently out the window at a landscape
I can trace with eyes closed, winding back to family
For afternoon cocktails,
Our portable wet bar rattling and clinking
With each twist and pothole.
It’s then I recall being in my parents’ backseat
Forty years earlier,
Rolling over these same roads,
Stretching out to nap on the floorboard,
Moaning ‘How much longer?’
Dad would tell me forty-five minutes,
Nothing else. Then he’d offer five bucks
Not to ask anymore.

Alex Richardson has published poems in over thirty magazines, journals, and anthologies. His book, Porch Night on Walnut Street, came out on Plainview Press in 2007. He teaches English at Limestone University.

Robert Halleck: “Father in a Drawer”

Father in a Drawer

After father’s funeral, after the food,
the daughter opened the drawer
next to his bed. What is this:
an expired passport, a bag of
French coins, Air France playing
Cards, 4 corks from
Domaine Matrot Bourgagne,
three photos of an unknown woman
on a beach, on a balcony, at a
sidewalk café, four Valentines
signed Sandrine, the name he
had suggested for her daughter.



Robert Halleck lives in Del Mar, California. He is a member of San Diego’s Not Dead Yet Poets. His work has recently appeared in Main Street Rag and The North Dakota Quarterly. His recent chapbook is Poems From The Blue Highways.  

Joseph Farley: “In this time of remote love”

In this time of remote love

I shall wrap my finger around your wrist,
and lift it gently towards my lips,
politely not asking if you have washed,
for love must not wear too much gauze,
and romance kept at a safe distance
went out with the troubadours.
It’s spring and we are roadkill anyway.
Let’s take the path of least resistance
and fill our desires while we still have them.



Joseph Farley edited Axe Factory from 1986 – 2010. His poetry books and chapbooks include Suckers, Longing for the Mother TongueHer Eyes, and Waltz of the Meatballs. His fiction includes a novel, Labor Day, and a short story collection, For the Birds. His work has appeared previously in The Big Windows Review, and recently in Mad Swirl, YgdrasilHorror Sleaze TrashUS 1 WorksheetsHome Planet News Online, Wilderness House Review, and Ya’sou!

David Petruzelli: Two Flash Fiction Pieces

El Paso

Before Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald went off to Hollywood in the winter of ‘27, they left their daughter, Frances Scottie, in the care of Scott’s parents, who lived in Washington, DC.; on their last afternoon in town Scott took his mother, Mollie, to a matinee. Scott was never sure whose idea it was to see Flesh and the Devil, though Mrs. Fitzgerald adored John Gilbert, and Greta Garbo was one of those secrets Scott managed to keep to himself. Gilbert gave his mother a lot to think about that day, and even though she annoyed Scott with questions about a cartoon they watched before the movie began, her warm thank-you afterwards surprised and touched her son in a way that made him think he’d never see her again, and at the same time knowing this wasn’t true. On the train the next morning, relieved that his daughter seemed content to stay behind, he was still sad that in the last reel Garbo fell through the ice and drowned. Then somewhere in Kentucky, feeling a little tight and dozing off, he kept breathing Zelda’s perfume and dreamed he was rescuing his idol.
_____It was his first trip to the west coast, and Scott was convinced he could write a feature for United Artists, and go home with easy money. They were introduced to Lois Moran, an up-and-coming 17-year-old actress, and Scott couldn’t believe how beautiful and intelligent she was, then made the mistake of describing her in similar terms to Lois’s mother, all within earshot of Zelda, who went back to the couple’s hotel room, where the evening clothes intended for their first Hollywood party were laid out on the bed, and used Scott’s straight razor on them.
_____In the end United Artists passed on his flapper comedy, about a magic lipstick that made its wearer irresistible to men. He and Zelda took screen tests and quickly grew bored with the process. Zelda ended up making faces, and Scott hated how he looked: too pale, too old. On the long trip back East, they were going through El Paso when they again quarreled about Lois, and in the club car that night, his wife removed the platinum wrist watch Scott gave her when he was courting Miss Sayre of Montgomery; Zelda opened the nearest window and tossed it out. The train gave a long, mournful whistle. In the Texas dark, Lois, or maybe Garbo, found it in the deep grass.

Chinese Coffee, East 52nd St.

Half a block away it seems too busy in front of my building: neighbors, strangers, all looking like they’re in the way. And there I am, about to walk into it after finishing work, ready for the bad news about the break-in, or the child found unconscious in the foyer, a hand trying to keep us back. And sure enough someone notices, turns from the others to step in front of me, though her voice tries to be friendly: “Hi, could you wait a minute? We’re almost done.” But what they’re doing isn’t police work, they’re making a movie, and the short sad-faced man looking homeless in the middle of all these people is dressed for fall even though it’s June, with a grimy raincoat and black beret pulled down to keep his head warm. In a low voice he explains what’s going to happen next, and I realize he’s talking about the brick wall two doors down, and the sunlight still on it and how well this works, and if you get rid of the coat & hat and clean him up, the poor guy could pass for Al Pacino, and with the woman next to him saying Al this and Al that, maybe I’m right, and I listen to the voice again, and yes, it’s Pacino—louder now—“OK, let’s try it.”
_____Then everyone comes off the steps as if they know where to go and what to do, and I’m wondering who the director is and where’s the rest of the cast and what are they calling this thing? “Chinese Coffee,” one kid tells me like it’s a password or he just made it up, but that’s really the name, Pacino’s directing himself, and even the title says the film’s being shot quickly and cheap, though it won’t be released for another three years, with Pacino as an unsuccessful New York City writer who in the scene they’re filming today gets mistaken for this serial killer by a quartet of detectives jumping out from their beat-to-death undercover car.
_____I watch as they slam him against the wall—over & over, take after take, with Pacino each time forced to press his whole body into it, the bricks painted a rich deep red that in the finished film looks redder still. A close-up shows you his weariness, but also surprise, as though the man can’t believe these things keep happening to him, while the actor once more feels the wall on his hands and face, the warmth left over from the first time.


David Petruzelli has had work published in crazyhorse, The Gettysburg Review, The New Yorker, Pleiades, The Southern Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. A poetry collection, Everyone Coming Toward You, won the Tupelo Press Judge’s Prize and was published in 2005. He lives in New York City.

David Henson: “The Glassblower’s Wife”

The Glassblower’s Wife 

When they’re young, he plies her with crystal roses and hummingbirds. He even promises a life-size unicorn, but quits after fashioning the horn. The years break the fragile things, some glass, some bone. But she manages to protect the horn.

The last time he tells her not to wait up, she tries to calm her thoughts by doing laundry. But when she folds his sweaters, she’s twisting his arms, breaking his ankles as she does his socks.

The minute hand pounds cracks in the face of her wristwatch. Dishes and cups slide from kitchen wallpaper tables, pile jagged grins on the floor. Moonlight caves in the picture window, leaves long spears lounging on the couch.

Sometime before dawn, headlights flood the bedroom. A car door thunks. She hears him plodding up the steps, feigns sleep.

He’s quickly a pile of snores in the dark. She takes the horn from under her pillow, her heart a fist opening and closing around a shard of glass.



David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has appeared in various journals including Gravel, Moonpark Review, Bull and Cross, Literally Stories, Riggwelter, and Pithead Chapel. ( @annalou8)

Tom Block: “Mystic”


_____I hang my head in shame.  “I’m not a mystic.”  I raise my head.  I look her full in the eyes.
_____Jazmin lowers her gaze.  “I,” she begins.  “I didn’t mean to . . .”  She turns away.  “Tankeen will be here soon.”  Then: “He – would you like to meet him?”
_____Tankeen is Jazmin’s Shaykh.  I do not want to meet Tankeen.
_____Sanjay is there.  He is a professor of Urdu.  He has two children.  He says he is spiritually drowning.  “I will wait for Tankeen,” he says.  “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
_____“I had a premonition that I would meet him,” Jazmin says.  “I was in class.  Suddenly, my head was completely enveloped with a purple color.  Like a scarf.  Or a haze.  The next day I met him.  Purple is the color of his tariqah.”
_____I feel nauseated.
_____“When Takeen took the bayah in Senegal.  The Grandshaykh served oatmeal for breakfast.  Tankeen did not want to eat it.  The Grandshayk’s son kept saying: ‘you eat it you eat it you eat it’ until Tankeen ate it.  Tankeen had a bad back.  That night, he had a dream that a zipper zipped up his back and made it better.  Some people think that the Grandshaykh put something in the oatmeal.  But Tankeen —”
_____Tankeen breezes into the wood-paneled room.  It is the lobby of a century-old dormitory hall at Columbia University.  He sports a jazz goatee.  His dark skin melds with the aged wood all around.  A red scarf hangs over his shoulders.  His face beams.
_____“Here he is,” says Sanjay.  Sanjay steps back and then forward.  
_____“Is this —” begins Tankeen.
_____“This is Sanjay,” Jazmin flutters.  Tankeen thrusts out his hand, grabs Sanjay’s hand and pulls Sanjay to him.  Sanjay sighs.  “And this is Tom.”  Tankeen takes my hand, lets it go and then places his hand against his heart.  
_____“It is nice to meet you,” I say.
_____Tankeen and Sanjay sit down on the hard bench, face to face.  Sanjay hopes that Tankeen might be able to save him.  
_____I move with Jazmin to the side.  “I want to go,” I say.
_____“I’ll escort you home,” she says, her voice a scattering of butterflies.
_____“I don’t want to go home.”
_____“I’ll take you where you want to go and then come back.” 
_____“I want to go to a bar.  To sketch.  But I need a sketchbook.”  Am I spiritually drowning, as well?  I frown.  “Take me to a drugstore.”  A drugstore might have a sketchbook and a pen. “I didn’t bring my sketchbook,” I apologize. 


Tom Block is the author of five books, a playwright, 25+ year exhibiting visual artist and Founding Producer of New York City’s International Human Rights Art Festival ( He was a Research Fellow at DePaul University (2010), LABA Fellow (NY, 2013-14), Hamiltonian Fellow (2008-09) and recipient of funding/support from more than a dozen foundations and organizations.