Mandira Pattnaik: “Expropriate”

Expropriate

_____She heard footsteps on the terrace. A man poking his walking stick on the terracotta burnt-red tiles? She could be wrong though. She was wrong. Maybe. She huddled her kids to the warm bedroom nestled between the spiraling wooden staircase and the archaic attic, and waited. The kids lay on either side of her—their home on this Greek island was snug like their mother’s lap. Within minutes their combined rhythmic exhalations lulled the kids to sleep.

_____With ears attuned to each rustle of the dry Sal leaves in the garden, each cry of the mourning cricket and each groan of defeated waves hitting the shore, she lay stiff and ready.

_____This started two weeks ago when her sailor husband left. The neighbors saw his wagon pull out at dawn. Mrs. Grace of the Elementary School down the bend insisted she saw two forms buckled in the front seat—one of whose head lolled. But her eyesight was failing. Over tea and cookies that afternoon, the missus told her that the sailor was gone to Scandinavia.

_____Before leaving, Mrs. Grace had waved to the kids emerging from their log house in the nook of the dried Magnolia that split into three at the base. The kids were playing hide-and-seek.

_____She unspooled canned images from that day. The night before, and until the dawn, seemed to rush in her mind—hazy and indistinct, but the evening stood out—like an aftermath. She remembered watching sunset sitting immobile on the cane chair, the grass of the lawn like velvet at her feet. Darkness descended from the rock faces and slithered down—down—down to the distant ocean. Between gusts of moist sea-winds, she evaluated the broad stretch of the ocean bathed in ephemeral light. Half invisible fishing trawlers swayed in the grayness. Nothing seemed amiss.

_____Down to her right, between the dark mass of the low dunes and the white sands, dominating the whole view, were colossal trees, heavy and dense, full of the brutal force of nature left to itself. Left to oneself natural instincts are always brutal.

_____The monotonous hollow whisper of the crashing waves had sounded feebler and feebler as she had slipped into a battle-weary sleep.

_____Would she keep the log house? She knew that is where her children hid, night after night, to escape their mother’s cries, waiting for their father to collapse in a drunken heap. Hard solid wood—would fetch a decent price. She couldn’t always be wrong—like he thought.

_____No! She wasn’t wrong. He was.

_____She’d have to do something about the walking stick too— his father’s—which he used on her back. She would plant it upright near the creeper; let the Devil’s Ivy expropriate the stick. Like she would—his money, the children, this house—while the waves gnawed away the sailor and his wagon at the bottom of the cliff.

 

Mandira Pattnaik writes flash and poetry. She is humbled to have her work published by The Times of IndiaFewerThan500, 101words, Runcible Spoon, Lunate Fiction (forthcoming), (Mac)ro(mic), and Eclectica Magazine. She loves to travel and embroiders to keep busy.

 

 

Robert Wexelblatt: “Surprising Consequences of Our Revolution”

Surprising Consequences of Our Revolution

_____Like all objects, the object of our revolution was unknowable-in-itself, accessible only through its secondary qualities, its taste, color, odor, texture. Like all revolutionaries, our revolutionary vanguard failed to understand that the object of their sacrifices was unknowable. On the contrary, they passionately believed in the glorious end, not just the taste, color, odor, and texture of the revolution. As we massed on the hills overlooking the spread-eagled capital—literally on the precipice of victory—our leaders smiled at one another. They could smell and touch and taste their final triumph. And it came swiftly, too.
_____Bottilini, the immensely prolific court composer, died penniless in a gutter at the age of forty-two. In his last appeal to the new Ministry of Culture he had written: “So I mastered the composition of the string septet. So I wrote over four hundred of the things. Look, I admit the string septet happened to be favored by the Ancien Régime, but is that my fault? Couldn’t you people use a few string septets too?”
_____The celebrated orator Halbschwacher fell silent. He had been the scourge of the Royalists who had not dared to imprison him for fear that he would convert the other prisoners, the guards, that his eloquence would captivate the very locks. Now that thunderous voice was heard no more. He retired to a cottage on what had once been his country estate, took up bee-keeping and knocking together wooden tables and rush-bottomed chairs. In response to an attempt by the Minister of Propaganda to recruit him, he replied, “What’s there for me to say? You want slogans. Slogans are vulgar. Without the cognoscenti of the Court my talent for invective is obsolete. Best wishes.”
_____The revolutionaries now had an inkling that all the consequences of their victory might well have been unknowable and they hastened to fill this intolerable creeping vacuum with ugly apartment blocks, agricultural collectives, hydroelectric dams, steel mills, nuclear reactors, wind tunnels, and rocket engines with enough thrust to launch the Royal Museum into solar orbit. The achievements of their frenzy were amazing. But what of their object, their original goal? Faint traces of its taste, color, odor, and texture may still be discerned from time to time in the swirling, multicolored effluents fouling our rivers.

 

Robert Wexelblatt is a professor of humanities at Boston University’s College of General Studies. He has published five fiction collections; two books of essays; two short novels; a book of poems; stories, essays, and poems in a variety of journals, and a novel awarded the Indie Book Awards first prize for fiction. Two collections, one of Chinese, the other of non-Chinese, stories, are forthcoming.

 

Alexina Dalgetty: “Getting the Cogs to Fit”

Getting The Cogs To Fit

Michelle mixed colours never seen before, golden and fresh green daylights, purple and orange night times. She dusted over old landscapes with new ideas. She shifted perspective. She elongated trees. She owned the leisurely landscape.

Her paintings sold. They sold well. They sold for more money than Michelle thought anyone should pay for a modern day painting. She searched her canvasses for clues to their value. She eyed their competence and plausibility, their creative use of new colour, shadow, and perspective. It bewildered her. But still, she painted.

Her children grew older and left home. They had children of their own. They clattered through her house, demanding she paint their squirming babies. Her colours didn’t mix right for babies. They looked underdone and over roasted. Her children didn’t care. They oohed and ahhed. They paid for frames and hung the awful likenesses.

Her husband stopped working. Instead of packing a lunch and going to an office or wherever it was he used to go – she couldn’t quite remember, so much art in her head – he stayed in bed until late. He did odd jobs around the house and volunteered with the local historic society. He spent peculiarly long periods of time in the garden shed.

Gliding elegant into old age, Michelle woke one day compelled to paint cogs. Dry sandy dust coloured cogs. Orangey, browny, sludgy cogs. Each fitting into the other. Working in harmony. She saw them with the painterly eye that lived in the fibres of her heart. Cogs in motion, an engine to life. Each morning she painted the cogs and each evening she painted the canvass blank. The cogs refused to fit in paint the way they fit in her heart.

 

Alexina Dalgetty lives in Stratford, Ontario, the traditional territory of the Anishnabek, Haudenosaunee (Iroquois), Ojibway/Chippewa peoples. She has recently started writing short stories.

DS Levy: “Reverse Psychology”

Reverse Psychology

Pauline decided to rent a cabin in the woods where she could die peacefully. She sold her house and everything in it except for some clothes, her car, and a framed photo of her beloved toy poodle, Beau. For weeks, she lived among tall trees where no light could penetrate. At night, her heavy head sunk deep into the pillow. Once, she heard a terrible scream, but knew it was a vixen calling out to her mate. She went back to sleep, unafraid. If it had been human, if someone had wanted to come in and kill her, so what? She put her trust in the Good Lord, knowing that soon she would enter His Holy Kingdom.
_____Instead of growing weaker, however, Pauline grew stronger. The food she’d packed in had run out. Her appetite, ravenous. One afternoon, she decided to drive her old reliable Buick into town to buy some groceries. On the way, she passed a purple Baja Bug in a dumpy car lot. A frivolity, the modified Beetle nonetheless called out to her. She had always lived her life inside the lines. She went back, traded her car on the spot, and drove off.
_____When she got into town it was late. She was famished. There was only one restaurant, a bar, its neon sign promising “Liquor – Dancing.”
_____A good Baptist, Pauline had never let alcohol pass through her lips. Nor had she ever smoked or danced. Entering a place like the Stumble Inn was sinful. Even so, she parked her Baja Bug outside and went in, sliding into an empty booth in the corner.
_____A man with a mischievous mustache sashayed over and slid in across from her. At first, she thought he might be a ghost who’d walked out of the wood paneling.
_____“You must be new in town.”
_____“Just passing through.”
_____He offered her a smoke. Though Pauline had been taught that cigarettes were harmful to one’s health, her body a temple, she thought, Why not? The man tapped out a stick, and she put it between her lips and let him light it, and immediately she choked. The man raised one of his bushy eyebrows. They both laughed. After a while, she got the hang of it, holding the cigarette gracefully between her fingers, sucking its smoky warmth into her lungs.
_____The man plunked some quarters into the jukebox.
_____“Dance?”
_____Pauline didn’t hesitate. He escorted her onto the floor where it was just the two of them. The bartend and waitress looked on, while Tony Bennett crooned “On a Clear Day You Can See Forever.” The man reined her in tight, his flannel shirt soft against her skin, his Old Spice Cologne tickling her nostrils. He pressed her tightly, their hips held together like praying hands.

 

DS Levy‘s work has been published in New Flash Fiction Review, Little Fiction, Barren Magazine, MoonPark Review, Cotton Xenomorph, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia, Brevity, and others. A collection of flash fiction, A Binary Heart, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press.

Brady Harrison: “Buffalo Jump Brother”

Buffalo Jump Brother

_____Sometimes, when a buddy asks a favor, you agree whether you want to or not.
_____One day, your buddy—call him Mackey—says to you and another buddy: If it ever looks like it’s going to happen again, I want you to kill me. You look at Arlo—he’s wiry, ropey, his bullshit-detector running hot, the leader—and he nods: you know why Mackey asks what he asks, and after all that spite and ugliness, you know he means it.
_____Mackey had said it: “I had to marry her so I could divorce her.”
_____A few years later, Arlo brings Mackey to Montana to see you. The old buddies getting together, the Buffalo Jump Collective, catching up, sipping whiskey, telling lies, cutting up, talking music, guitars, cigarettes. But Arlo knows, and you know—and Mackey’s gotta know—that the trip West isn’t just for fun, for old times, because, yes, he’s done it again, and you and Arlo owe him, you made your promise, and Arlo’s at the fridge at 6:00 a.m., sipping a Moose Drool, cracks one for you, and a half-hour later the three of you leave for Glacier, Going to the Sun, and you pull over, and everybody knows how it has to be.
_____Arlo says: “Call it a hike,” and Mackey looking at the clouds says he always liked Montana, says it’s not like Gasoline Lake, that’s for sure, his hometown in the Illinois bottoms along the Mississippi. Oil refineries, superfund sites, depopulating towns, Church of Christ and biker bars, streams with names everybody knows but that don’t appear on maps.
_____Later, the Rangers will say, Where did he come from, from a plane? Christ, how far did this guy fall? Or maybe he’s falling still, your brother, your Buffalo Jump brother.

 

Brady Harrison’s fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in Cardinal Sins, Cerise Press, J Journal, The Long Story, Mattoid, and Serving House Journal, among other literary journals. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and a novella, “The Dying Athabaskan,” won the inaugural Publisher’s Long Story Prize from Twelve Winters Press. Recent poetry appears in the anthology Poems Across the Big Sky II. His most recent book is the co-edited collection Punk Rock Warlord: The Life and Music of Joe Strummer. He lives in Missoula, Montana.

Paul Kindlon: “The Ideal Woman”

The Ideal Woman

I was in Paris on assignment, but I was given a day to adjust and re-orient after having spent a year in Syria. My options were limited: stand in line with five-hundred Chinese tourists at the Eiffel Tower or visit the Louvre.

Before I went to the museum I chose to enhance my aesthetic experience by taking a hit of pure acid. I then stopped at an up-scale café for some quiche and a nice bottle of Bordeaux. The name of my server was Pierre. How’s that for a nom de guerre? I spoke in impeccable French making sure to over-emphasize my American accent. Oh Pretty Pierre. I’m sure after work he exchanged his black vest for a yellow one. The French have to be the biggest complainers in the world, am I right?

By the time I got to the Louvre the acid was starting to kick in. This could get interesting.

Everyone has their favorites, right? I happen to like the Impressionists. Yes I know that “mind blown” is a tired old cliché, but on acid the term was “le mot juste”.

My next stop was Giaconda herself – LV’s little masterpiece. I swear… the painting seemed to beckon to me with some mystical magnetic force. As I drew nearer I suddenly realized why so many artists and critics believe the painting to be so extraordinary.

“My God she’s beautiful!” I uttered a bit too loudly.

Her enigmatic smile instantly changed into a frown. Those gentle eyes became fierce and defiant. She was clearly angry.

“How dare you objectify me!” she said.

“But Lisa…I’m just being honest”

“You are focusing on my physical features as if they alone define who I am. Moreover, I know what men are doing when they call you beautiful. It is an attempt at leverage over a woman. To make her self-conscious of how she looks”

I happen to love feisty women. And her sassy attitude really turned me on.

“I want to kiss you Mona Lisa!”

At that point two security guards grabbed me by my melting arms and took me to a room with no paintings. I was still seeing colors though. They started playing fifty questions with me which was ridiculously ironic, but it was messing with my high as well. To save my ass I had to blow my cover and confess that I worked for CNN and the CIA.

Their supervisor called the embassy and within minutes I was released with polite apologies and two free tickets to the Moulin Rouge.

 

 

Paul Kindlon is a Professor of Humanities. He holds a PhD in Philosophy and Russian Literature and taught in Moscow, Russia, from 1994-2017. His publications include 11 short stories, 9 poems, 30 polemics, and a brief memoir.

 

Ernesto Reyes: “Day-dreamer”

Day-dreamer

_____I came into the kitchen to grab a quick snack—an apple, strangely, I was craving. My mother’s in the kitchen as well, stone-faced, hand-writing my father’s will. My father, in the living room, is watching a game show, sitting on his chair, smoking on his cigarette, coughing his lungs out.
_____The people on the game show seem young, inarticulate, and naive. They’re asked, “In the 1954 film On the Waterfront, who is the actor that famously says, ‘You don’t understand! I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I could’ve been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am.’”
_____The young people look at each other, stumped, and struggle for the right answer. My father nearly jumps out of his chair and yells into the television, “Brando! Marlon Brando!” but unfortunately, he’s here—and not in the game show; the young people decide to use one of their lifelines.
_____My mother, who doesn’t like movies or music or art or books, says, “Even I know that.” (She doesn’t move nor look up from her writing when saying this.)
_____“I know, those dumb kids—must be college students,” my father says somewhat sarcastically, although there’s always, always, a pinch of seriousness whenever he talks. My father inhales on his cigarette, starts coughing uncontrollably again.
_____My mother chuckles, and turns to me: “Yes, or maybe they’re poets.” I don’t say anything. I only take a hard bite out of my apple and leave and spend the rest of the day in my room, flipping through the worn, yellow pages of my aged book—one of my many—to explore, to discover, to escape.

 

 

Ernesto Reyes is currently an undergraduate at Fresno State, where he is studying English literature and creative writing. His stories have been published in the San Joaquin Review, Flies Cockroaches & Poets, Subtle Fiction, the Acentos Review, and Brilliant Flash Fiction.