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.

Brian Winters: “Saint Merle of the Desert”

Saint Merle of the Desert


—–Lee was already into his second cup of decaf when he saw Caryl pull his pick-up into the Black Bear Diner parking lot. He folded up the Visalia Times and watched Caryl lock the truck door after getting his cowboy hat. There was that mutual nod of acknowledgment as Caryl walked in behind a family whose bleary-eyed children did not look to be in a traveling mood.
—–“I’m guessing you read the same thing I did this morning,” Caryl said as he seated himself.
—–“That I did.”
—–“So, they’re saying they have nothing in regard to leads.”
—–“Who is they?”
—–“The cops. In New Mexico. I thought you said you read it.”
—–“Right, right. I did. Okay.”
—–“They have nothing to work with. When I was on the phone with them the other day, they were getting ready to talk to investigators and behavioral specialist people.”
—–Lee started fidgeting with the coffee creamers. “That sounds like it,” he said nodding. “To analyze him. To come up with speculations then draw conclusions. That figures.”
—–Both men paused as a waitress brought coffee. Outside, they could see the pale morning light shine on the Southern Sierra Nevada mountains.
—–“So, for right now, it’s anybody’s guess as to why Merle might have done this and where he disappeared to.”
—–“Aw, that’s just nonsense. Why else would someone park a U-Haul on the side of the 81 highway, pull out all the things that tied him to life—his coffee machine, his two-thousand-dollar big screen, the diplomas, his custom suits, his iPhone and iPad, the laptop, all that stuff—and just dump them onto the highway, then strip down to nothing, toss whatever it was he had on into some improvised bonfire, then walk bare-assed out into the open desert, looking for a hole to live in like some kind of hermit?”
—–“Yeah, well, we know the answer to that one, don’t we?”
—–That was Caryl, unwrapping the silverware from his napkin.
—– “What I want to know is how this didn’t happen sooner.”
—–That was Lee, questioning the complexity of a man’s patience with the world.

 

Brian Winters generally writes about the restless or the unshaven. His story “Mjorgonlar, Class of ’88” was recently featured in the Manzano Mountain Review.  Having lived in Kansas, Idaho, and Kentucky, he currently hangs out in Twain Harte, CA, and can be found eating street tacos on most weekends.

Jim Hilgartner: Two Flash Fictions

Time Is Running Out

            And once again the water leaves the shore, fading away to the horizon. The shore extends itself into wet flats, miles of rippled mud draped with long strips of sky. These turn back to water, gray like the mud but lit from within, when the wind blows in from beyond the distant waves.
———-Small boats settle and sprawl on their sides, abandoned by the water that lent them grace.
———-We sit on the birdlime-spattered rocks, in the gray wind, and watch the water leaving.  We say nothing, each thinking, There it goes. The water rushes outward, toward the edges of the earth. The gray sky lowers; sheets of it lie on the mud and turn to water when harried by the wind.
———-Time is running out. We see it, we know it. Give me your hand.

 

Doc Barfield’s Dreams

———-As a younger man, dreaming, Doc Barfield relived incessantly the morning his two boys drowned. He’d smell the bacon and eggs as he stirred them in the skillet, admire the first salmon-colored streaks on the horizon as he walked with the boys to the dock. He’d shake their hands—very manly—and make them promise to wear their life vests. Tell them to bring back a stringer of bream so he could fry them up for lunch. Realize his life was over the moment the sheriff tapped on his door. . . .
———-But in his later dreams, Doc Barfield’s boys remain undrowned. He has lunched with them on the bream they’d have brought back if their canoe hadn’t capsized, attended ball games, graduations. He’s bailed the younger, Toby, out of jail, and discovered with the elder, Frank, that he is gay. The boys he dreams are all grown up now, out living on their own. This is a source of comfort to Doc Barfield, whose cancer is quite advanced, and who can’t say what will happen to his dreams once he is gone.

 

English Professor (Huntingdon College) and Fiction Editor (THAT Literary Review), Jim Hilgartner has published in journals including Apocryphal Text, The Chapbook, Greensboro Review, Mid-American Review, New Orleans Review, Red Mountain Review, SLAB, and Vermont Literary Review, and twice received Fellowships in Literature from the Alabama State Council on the Arts.

Salvatore Difalco: “Playmate”

Playmate

Amorphous, hazy morning. The fleshy stocking-clad brunette in my bedroom requests a Coca-Cola and a magazine. She is an image from a dated magazine, and I am the printed ephemera crowding the margins. Instead of despairing, I gaze out the kitchen window.

Blue, red and yellow dots make up the view, with passing people thick-lined in black to separate them from the scenery and from each other. A wandering path with no clear point of departure or arrival meanders anesthetically through different densities of green.

“Where’s that drink? I’m bored. I’m really bored.”

“Coming right up, hon.”

And I am like a defeated nation; fear and dread fill my mind like stick figures fleeing from fire. Many comrades fell during the fighting. The generals are all mad. I need more than psychology to sort out the minefield my thoughts have become.

“Hurry. I’m dying of thirst. And I’m dying of boredom.”

“There are better ways of expressing society’s failings.”

I am not hurrying. I shut my eyes and move through suspended bamboo poles of resentment, into a spot-lit clearing, the poles gently swaying and knocking together behind me like giant wind chimes. Photographic fragments of my past flash by. A lost history. But all memory is lost history.

“I’m getting sweaty!”

“Maybe you’d rather bleed.”

“What’s that supposed to mean? You can’t talk like that to me. I’m American.”

“You’re from Buffalo.”

“I’m still American.”

“You grew up an hour away.”

“You don’t own a gun, do you?”

The word gun slides into my ears like mud. A chill goes through me. The kitchen looks composed of Ben Day dots. I feel like an opium smoker resting against a monument. I feel incongruous.

“I feel incongruous.”

“That Coca-Cola better be cold.”

The hard edges of her words clack together, then soften and merge to form one sound: “Caw. Caw. Caw.” It’s as if a giant eagle occupies my bedroom, with a giant beak and cruel, horny eyes.

 

Salvatore Difalco‘s work has appeared in a number of print and online formats. He lives in Toronto.

Marina Rubin: “Nefertiti”

Nefertiti

For years I’ve had this exuberant bed that looked like The Egyptian Crib for Nefertiti.

A man I was living with in 2001 picked it out, 6 months before we broke up.

I kept the bed.

Last week when I returned from Italy, I was changing the sheets and the bed fell apart, literally crumbled to pieces–one wood panel collapsed, the other became unglued, the footboard dropped to the floor with a loud thud and then the massive headboard plummeted down almost killing my cat…chips and splinters flying everywhere around the room…There was such wonder and magnificence to this spectacle that I just stood there, mesmerized.

Then I tucked each panel under my arm and took the elevator down to the garbage area behind my building. As I tried to maneuver the planks into the dumpster, one of my neighbors–a recently divorced woman with two kids–walked by and asked me what happened. I told her the bed had come undone for no apparent reason.

“You think it ever brought me joy?” I exclaimed, slamming the last panel to the ground.

She paused looking at the mahogany debris scattered all around the yard and then said, “Why don’t you come over to my place tonight for a glass of wine.”

In all the 15 years we had been neighbors, this was the first time she ever spoke to me.

I didn’t even know her name.

 

Marina Rubin’s work has appeared in over eighty magazines and anthologies, including 13th Warrior Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Dos Passos Review, 5AM, Nano Fiction, Coal City, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Jewish Currents, Lilith, Pearl, Poet Lore, Skidrow Penthouse, The Worcester Review, and many more. She is an editor of Mudfish, the Tribeca literary and art magazine. She is a 2013 recipient of the COJECO Blueprint Fellowship.