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.

Charles Rammelkamp: Two Flash Fictions

What’s in a Name? 

_____Morna said, “Do you think he recognized me? Could you tell?”
_____I’d barely noticed the guy when he sailed past on his bike – a day-glo blue helmet, dark glasses. Who could tell what he saw? Besides, we were still in Morna’s car at the time, just pulled up to a meter.

**********

_____“We had a very brief affair,” Morna explained. “We were both on a panel judging a poetry contest. My marriage was at a low-point then, and there was a lot of alcohol involved. But I knew it wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t really like him, to tell you the truth. He was a snob, so superior.

_____We were having a pizza after a political rally. Another anti-Trump event. These meetings get to be tiring after a while, the need to sustain my outrage, but Morna and I hadn’t seen each other for a while, so it was an excuse to get together for lunch.

**********

_____“He was married, too. I wonder if he still is. I don’t see how anybody could live with him, but Bob and I are still together, so who knows? How’s it with you and Fred?”
_____“Ted. We’re still married. Everything’s fine, actually. It’s been nineteen years. Wow. He’s my second husband. The twins are from my first marriage.”
_____“That’s right, Ted. How are the twins?”

                                                                        **********

_____“You really don’t think he saw me? Recognized me? I didn’t know he rode a bike. Well, it figures.”
_____“How do you mean?”
_____“He was always worried about his carbon footprint. Don’t get me wrong. I think that’s legitimate. It’s just that he’s, I don’t know. Wow, I hadn’t seen him in ten, fifteen years.”
_____“I really couldn’t tell if he saw us or not, Morna. What’s his name, anyway?”
_____“You know, I’ve actually forgotten! It might have been Ted, to tell you the truth. Or maybe Fred.”
_____I wondered how many affairs Morna’d had. She was forever complaining about Bob. She used to drink quite a lot, too.

 

Thank You for Being a Friend

_____In the men’s locker room, Buddy Haskell was sitting in one of the faux leather lounge chairs watching a re-run of an episode of The Rifleman, a black and white western that aired in the late 1950’s, early 1960’s, starring Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain. Buddy watched this show every Saturday morning at the gym. I’d just been for my swim and was headed toward the showers when I heard the kid on the show, Mark, Lucas McCain’s young boy, say, “I can even say all seven stanzas of ‘Sheridan’s Ride.’”
_____Wait, a TV show where a kid recites poetry? Were people just more literate back then, was reciting a poem on a TV show not a big deal? “Sheridan’s Ride,” a Civil War poem by Thomas Buchanan Read, a portrait painter as well as a poet, though more popular in Florence than the United States. Portraits of Lincoln, Longfellow, Tennyson, the Brownings, William Henry Harrison. “Sheridan’s Ride” among his most famous poems.
_____On The Rifleman, General Philip Sheridan had just ridden up to the McCain Ranch looking for a place to stay. Mark, who worshipped the man the way very young children admire army soldiers, began to recite, “Up from the south at break of day …” and through to the last line of the first stanza, “And Sheridan twenty miles away.”
_____But after one verse, Sheridan interrupted him. “Sheridan twenty miles away,” he scoffed. “Now that’s what a man gets for trying to serve his country. They write a poem about him!” An attitude that may be the most American of attitudes. Sneering at literature.
_____In real life, Sheridan was a career U.S. army officer, played a vital role in the Appomattox campaign that brought the Civil War to an end. He was also the one who initiated the scorched earth policy Sherman would later follow through Georgia to the sea.
_____After the war, Grant sent Sheridan out west where he fought in the Indian Wars – The Great Sioux War, the Red River War, the Ute War. Popular history credits Sheridan with saying, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.”
_____In 1870 Grant sent Sheridan overseas to observe the Franco-Prussian War, and the next year he was in Chicago to coordinate military relief efforts during the Great Chicago Fire. In the 1880’s he became a great supporter of the Yellowstone area, preserving it from development. (later to become a national park, of course). .Sheridan died from a heart attack at the age of fifty-seven, in 1888, having just sent his memoirs to a publisher. He outlived Read by sixteen years, though obviously Read’s poem was still being read in the mid-twentieth century.
_____“Sheridan, what a bloodthirsty bastard he was,” I commented to Buddy, still marveling at how American history and literature’d been so casually part of a knock-off TV western.
_____Buddy grunted. We always greeted each other casually when we saw each other at the gym, not exactly friends but familiar, on a first-name basis.
_____“I figured he was a made-up character,” he said. “You never know, do you? The Golden Girls comes on next.”
_____A commercial for some kind of deodorant came on then, and I proceeded to the showers.

 

 

Charles Rammelkamp is Prose Editor for BrickHouse Books in Baltimore and Reviews Editor for The Adirondack Review. A chapbook of poems, Jack Tar’s Lady Parts, is available from Main Street Rag Publishing. Another poetry chapbook, Me and Sal Paradise, has just been published by FutureCycle Press.

Genelle Chaconas: “Catch”

Catch

Her baseball, rusty-skinned, moldy, tossed high as the sun, arches towards someone in the dead weeds we can’t see; they break him into a sea of ragged, liquid shadows. The breeze wilts. That silence more hollow than emptiness, that sound like electric insects, forms. Who are you throwing it to, I ask. She doesn’t answer. I watch her chase into the high weeds until I cannot see.

 

 

Genelle Chaconas earned their BA in Creative Writing from CSUS (2009), and their MFA in Writing & Poetics from Naropa University (2015). Their first chapbook is Fallout, Saints and Dirty Pictures (little m Press, 2011), and Yet Wave (the Lune, 2017). They serve as head editor of HockSpitSlurp Magazine.

 

Nora E. Derrington: “Apologies to Zelda”

Apologies to Zelda

My therapist mentions dissociative episodes, and I think immediately of the moments just after I found out about my ex’s affair.
—–I watched from outside myself as I screamed at him, shoving stacks of previously important documents onto the floor. I saw myself as a creature of anger, a furious golem of flame instead of clay. I wanted to hurt him the way my pride—even then, I knew it was just my pride—had been hurt, and I threw a paperweight at his head. It flew wide, the heavy glass ball cracking the drywall three feet away from his left elbow.
—–The watching part of myself recoiled in dread as I picked up our long-haired dachshund mix, Zelda. I held her out at my husband, crying, “You’re breaking her heart!” She didn’t struggle, just tucked her feather-tail under her legs and turned to gaze at me with baleful eyes—and that look brought me back to myself. I managed to swallow my rage long enough to set her gently back down, to feel shame creeping in to douse the flames.
—–Cancer claimed Zelda not long after, before my ex found out I had planned to leave him all along. I will never stop wishing I could take that moment back. “I know, Zelda,” I want to tell her. “I don’t know why I did that, either.”

 

Nora E. Derrington holds degrees from Boston University and the University of New Mexico, and she currently teaches English at Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. Her stories have appeared in Pilgrimage, The Future Fire, and elsewhere, and she reviews fantasy, horror, romance, and science fiction titles for Publishers Weekly.

 

Ran Walker: “A Closed Lid”

A Closed Lid


—–My mother ran into the den, terrified. My heart raced, as she, unable to speak, began to mime what she had just seen.
—–“Something’s in the bathroom?” I said, watching her point down the hall.
—–She nodded, moving her hand up and down like she was jiggling something.
—–“Something’s in the toilet!” I yelled.
—–This time she nodded so hard I thought she would make herself dizzy.
—–I jumped from the couch and approached the bathroom cautiously, several steps ahead of my mother.
—–Standing on either side, we stared at the closed toilet, unable to ignore the sounds of violent splashing within.
—–I instinctively put my foot on the lid, unsure if whatever was inside could push open the lid and run out into the house.
—–“What is it?” I asked, swallowing hard.
—–“A rat,” she deadpanned, her voice finally back.
—–It seemed as if the splashing was getting louder and louder.
—–“Did you try to flush it?” I asked.
—–“I’ll try—but keep your foot on the lid, okay?”
—–I nodded, more out of fear than obedience.
—–She leaned forward and cautiously pressed down on the handle, as if the motion might offend the thing inside. The familiar sound of the toilet’s flush filled the room.
—–Then silence.
—–We stood staring at the closed toilet, my foot still planted firmly on top.
—–“I guess we should look now,” I said.
—–“Wait,” she responded, running to the kitchen to grab a broom. When she returned, she lifted it, prepared to beat the hell out of whatever emerged.
—–I lifted the lid with sloth-like slowness until we could see the clear, empty toilet bowl.
—–Afterwards we laughed nervously about what had happened, but in the years that remained before I left home to go to college, I nervously looked down every time I used the bathroom, unable to shake the fear that something hairy might one day brush against me.

 

Ran Walker is the author of sixteen books. He is also the recipient of a Mississippi Arts Commission/NEA fellowship for creative writing and a Callaloo Writers Workshop fellowship in fiction. He currently teaches fiction writing at Hampton University in Virginia.