9/30/09

Cezarija Abartis

Sick

The cold had me tied up, lamed, coughing, feverish, sleepless. It was just a respiratory virus, not cancer, not a loss of limb, not a spill from a motorcycle or a mountain, not tuberculosis or the plague, but it laid me up.

–Here is what it means to be enfleshed.

–Who asked you, I said to my body. I turned over on the bed and ached on the other side. A truck has run over me, has left tire tracks on my smashed body.

Beyond me the day was dawning, cloudlessly. But in me there were storms of darkness, plazas without a light. My bones creaked.

–You won’t remember this pain, said the body. You are in Barcelona. You will take photographs of its vigor and recall its flavors.

I sneezed. My mouth had no taste, my ears no sound. Oranges grew on the roadside trees, but I could not smell their fizz.

Inside I burned and yearned for a sheepskin coat to keep me from shivering away, from bringing the burn to the outside.

I wanted sleep, a little death. In that I could be healed.


Cezarija Abartis' Nice Girls and Other Stories was published by New Rivers Press. Her stories have appeared in Manoa, Grey Sparrow Review, Twilight Zone Magazine, and New York Tyrant (which also gave her story The Lidano Fiction Award). "Penelope and David" is forthcoming from Story Quarterly. Recently she completed a novel, a thriller. She teaches at St. Cloud State University.


9/29/09

John Madera

Beside a Ruin Nests the Eccentric

My hand met a glutinous paste, a jelly (from a toddler’s grubby hands, I thought), on a cozy length of cold steel pipe, the same rail my hand slid down every night after work. It was not. Perfunctory light revealed a glob of phosphorescent phlegm. Rail obliges mucus. Hand obliges rail.

I did not wipe it off. I watched it wedge into the webbing between my index and middle and ring fingers. Dorsal surface downward, I allowed it to dry: the novel narrative embedding hand. By the time my ride arrived, a calcareous cake flaked flurriedly onto my faux-croc shoe.

I was shaped like a pear. I walked with a cane. I took many breaks when I walked.

Entering a public restroom I always chose the unflushed urinal. My urine, mixed in, made the pool darker, changed it from a light beery hue to warm amber, from halfhearted lemonade into raw honey. Sometimes I found a pool murky from several anonymous streams, its color a rich malt. I would smile then. When I smiled, my face became a face. But usually all of the urinals were flushed. So I would begin one of my own pools.

Perhaps some of the unflushed urinals were the ones that I began. I don’t dwell on it. This is not territorialization. It’s a coloring book.

After I scratched my head, I remembered the dried phlegm. I was not alarmed. I did not wash the caked mucus from my hand or hair when I arrived home. After a shower dies the desert.



John Madera has been informed that he has just won the sum of 1,532,720 Pounds Sterling from the UK National Lottery Online Promo Programme that was held on Saturday, 20th of September 2009. All participants of this online promotion programme were selected randomly from numerous World Wide Web sites through a computer draw system and extracted from close to 125,000 unions, associations and corporate bodies listed online.

9/28/09

Darby Larson

Daisies

walks down a paved road. He stops at an intersection. He looks left, right. He chooses a direction. He continues walking. It begins to rain. A flower grows from his breast pocket. He looks at the flower. A daisy. He picks it from his pocket and throws it to the side of the road. He continues walking. Another daisy grows from his breast pocket. He picks it and throws it. Another daisy grows. He takes his shirt off and throws it to the side of the road. The rain stops. He continues to walk in the direction he chose. A daisy grows from the rear pocket of his jeans. He reaches around, picks the daisy and throws it to the side of the road. Another daisy grows. He takes off his pants, throws them. A daisy grows from his shoes. He kicks off his shoes. A daisy grows from his mouth. He closes it. Daisies grow from his ears, his nostrils. It begins to rain again. He sits on the side of the road, lays back and looks at the sky and the rain coming at him. He sinks into the ground until all that's above ground are daisies. The rain stops. Daisies grow around where he sunk. A chain of daisies grow in the direction he chose. The chain of daisies stop at an intersection. It begins to rain again. The daisies choose a direction and grow toward it. A finger grows from one of the daisies yellow centers. Another finger grows. Another. All the daisies have fingers growing from them. The fingers grow until they are hands. The chain of daisies continue to grow in the direction they chose. The hands grow until they are arms attached to shoulders attached to bodies. It begins to rain. On the paved road, the bodies walk in the direction the chain of


Darby Larson's writing is published or forthcoming in New York Tyrant, Caketrain and other places. He is the editor of ABJECTIVE.

9/25/09

Jon Cotner & Andy Fitch

Boom Box

A: I was lucky to have my calm train-ride interrupted by a breakdancing duo—a boy about ten and a man near thirty. They joined at the head and rolled around like a wheel. Have you ever seen this? Does that make sense?

J: I could I . . .

A: You should . . .

J: can picture it. So they became a . . .

A: They combined . . .

J: firm unit.

A: [Muffled] five rotations, or . . .

J: Landing on their feet.

A: revolutions. Landing? They rolled.

J: No I can’t imagine.

A: It was truly inconceivable. On the fifth roll the kid sprung and caught a subway-car railing and shouted Yes! At one point he’d flipped and banged his head on the um subway ceiling, but never lost composure. The train filled with applause as we pulled into First.



Jon Cotner and Andy Fitch's book 10 Walks/2 Talks is forthcoming from Ugly Duckling Presse. Their work can be found in Denver Quarterly, LIT and Paper Monument.

9/24/09

Gregory Sherl

texas

church church church
republican church republican cattle
standing next to tumbleweeds republicans in church don’t drink the kool-aid in church republicans eating cattle
in church
fucking tex-mex man so fucking good
     tex-mex god tex-mex church tex-mex tumbleweeds
tex-mex in republicans tex-mex on cows
fucking bugs man so fucking big
church nothing church full of nothings
feed the bugs kool-aid watch them float
     to the stars
stars are drugged bugs from texas
fucking stars man so fucking many
feed the republicans cattle
     in church watch them
fucking cattle man so fucking cute
     with their horns their whole skulls mantled on stucco walls.



Gregory Sherl has work published or forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review, The Summerset Review, decomP, and Open Face Sandwich. He is an MFA Candidate at Florida Atlantic University, where he was awarded The Lawrence Sanders Fellowship.

9/23/09

Jenny O'Grady


click image for larger size


This poem is part of a five-part series called "Homepages, 1–5," all of which were written in a variation of HTML code and focus on the lives of Martha and Bill Hall, whose marriage has been strained by the loss oftheir baby, Joey. Author Jenny O’Grady is an adjunct professor at the University of Baltimore’s Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA program. You can see two more Homepages poems online at the Urbanite.

9/22/09

Joseph Murphy

The Slow Release

At first, the prisoners were kept in their rooms. Then, they were kept in the halls. After a while, they were allowed to visit each other in other rooms that were not their own. Then the warden unlocked the gates, and they could sit with the guards and talk with them, smoking or playing cards with them at the folding tables someone had brought from home. When they were allowed to go outside into the prison yard, umbrellas were supplied by the warden's wife and the guard's girlfriends who came in by the truckloads to lather the prisoners with sunscreen so they would not burn. But every night, they returned to their cells, where they leaned back against the thin mattresses and thought about the day they had spent and fell asleep contently, though some of them had taken to staying up late to read or learn a language; some of them handled it better than others. There was a whole world out there—so they heard. In the summer, the warden had the device wheeled in through the front gate. The large, rusted wheel spun at the thing's center, set apart from the controls by a lever and a wire fence. And the warden and his wife announced, having climbed to the top of the machine, that no one was to touch it, not ever, not without permission at least. Then the inmates were all sent to their cots. That night, the first one of them snuck out into the yard and activated the device and threw himself into the center, cleaving himself down the middle. The warden and his wife were appalled that morning, severely disappointed in their trusted prisoners. How would they ever explain this? They wanted to know. And, yet, the machine was left there in the yard. From the windows of the cells on the eastern side and by mirrors from the northern and southern windows, the contraption was visible. At night, from a great distance, a traveler could see the light of the moon as it was reflected off the turning mirrors in the night, all those men watching the thing in the yard, seeing what it might do, and when they could arrange to meet it. And some of them still bothered learning languages of nations to which they one day might be released.



Joseph Murphy’s work has appeared on Prick of the Spindle and was nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize in 2008. Recently, he has begun an ongoing column, which can be found at letterstofamousdead.blogspot.com, entitled Letters to the Famous and Dead Composed at Work.

9/21/09

Christopher Citro

Improving the Odds

For Dustin Nightingale

If he spots a lily by chance at the side of the road,
he'll rush home and make a duplicate
with whatever is to hand—old newspapers, yogurt cups,
cat litter. Then he'll rush back and set his copy up
next to the original—not to replace it, just to
improve the odds that tiny little bit.
There aren't nearly enough beautiful things in the world.
Not enough clean rivers, girls with shaved heads,
blue glass bottles on windowsills, hawks soaring
over ice cream parlors. Two baseball hats in a Camaro
run over a bunny and laugh. Well, now there're two
lilies on the other side of the equation. On the way home,
he passes a limestone rhinoceros in a grade school parking lot.
Tomorrow there'll be two, one limestone, the other made
of old magazines, houseplants and walking sticks.


Christopher Citro's poetry, forthcoming in The Cortland Review, has been published recently in Harpur Palate, The Cincinnati Review, Poet Lore, Permafrost, Faultline, Arsenic Lobster, and Inch Magazine. His poetry has been featured on Verse Daily and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Christopher is co-host of The Poets Weave on the NPR station WFIU.

9/18/09

Mathias Svalina

Chapter Seven of Prehistoric America: A History
The Great American Play


The scientists had said “America is a land of constant change.” And now a great many people were really beginning to believe it. How could they help themselves? Why were there newspapers & magazines? Why did the people of prehistoric America wake up each morning owning a new animal that no one had ever heard of?

The people of prehistoric America got the feeling every morning that they were watching a great play. This is because every morning the animals that no one had ever heard of woke up early & wrote & produced great plays. The plays told the history of prehistoric America, which was very, very old. The creatures were small as animals go, but according to the critics they were gifted.

The scientists said there was something mysterious about the way the plays started. The scientists hated mysteries & so they blamed the start of the plays on the International Workers Union. The scientists had the members of the IWU rounded up & given tattoos of prehistoric America’s flag on their foreheads.

*

Because the people of prehistoric America insisted on believing the scientists when the scientists said “America is a land of constant change” the scientists had the phrase “America is a land of constant change” trademarked. There was, however, a typo & the scientist accidentally trademarked the phrase “America is a large mass of cells or an organ that removes substances from the bloodstream & excretes them, or secretes them back into the blood in concentrated or altered form with a specific political purpose.”

The scientists however knew that this was not the case. Therefore they founded prehistoric America. This country was geographically the same as America but existed before the enforcement of trademarks.

*

In honor of the founding of prehistoric America the scientists invented fishes, definitely fishes. Definitely fishes were a success. A thousand different kinds of definitely fishes roamed the shallow seas of prehistoric America. They swam around & ate what they could get & laid eggs & sued one another. It was their act of the play, their age—the Age of Definitely Fishes. They had skeletons & they had laws.

The earliest definitely fishes didn’t feel that skeletons & laws were protection enough. It would never do to leave their muscles where other definitely fishes could bite into them. Who could have foreseen the breaking out of war in every library?

The definitely fishes hired a team of marketers who designed coats of horny armor. The armor was as clumsy as the armor worn by knights. Some definitely fishes sat on their couches all day watching TV shows on DVD & not answering their cellphones. The armored definitely fishes lay low on the bottom of the shallow sea that covered northern Ohio. The lay & waited. Their open jaws were terrifying. They only had one tooth each, but that tooth was deadly. Their mouths were so wide that they had little TVs inside them so that their teeth & tongues could watch TV. They could even cut a shark in half.

The animals that no one had ever heard of wrote this all down & then performed it for the audience. That’s how it was in prehistoric America. It was litigious. And for a hundred million years the climate was just as the plants liked it.



Mathias Svalina is the author of Destruction Myth, forthcoming from the CSU Poetry Center. He is coeditor of Octopus Magazine & the small press Octopus Books. He currently lives in Denver.

9/17/09

Alec Niedenthal

Move Over

In fifth grade my mom gave me her CD player. I didn't own many CDs, only a few I remember, but I couldn't take it off my head.

"Take those headphones off," my teachers would say.

"Yes ma'am," I said.

Once or twice I did my hands like I couldn't hear so I'd be able to finish the song.

Inevitably the headphones landed on the teacher's desk. We would talk after class. She would hold and shake my wrist and accuse me of being a limp fish.

"I just really like it," I said.

"You have music class for music," she said.

"Music class is for the birds," I said to my mom after work.

"Speaking of, could you feed Walter?" Walter is a bird. "Barry is coming over later. I'm going to make bruschetta. You know, the bread." Barry was my mom's friend who I shared my bed with once over winter break.

My bed isn't big enough for two people. Maybe two small ones. I almost fell off so Barry stretched his arm over my chest to save me, and kept it that way.

Though in sixth grade my father took my CD player.



Alec Niedenthal has work forthcoming in Agriculture Reader and Sleepingfish. He currently lives in Sarasota, Florida, where it mostly is hot.

9/16/09

Rachel B. Glaser

God is popular

god is popular with athletes
they think about him while they practice
but rarely will he watch with one of his eyes

he has countless eyes
a hundred eyes, more
he is all eyes, but they hurt
and he can never sleep

the ocean is okay
but boats crowd it with their wakes
god can’t help but look at every bubble

it puts a strain on his eyes to watch small things and fast things
cities, streets, fingernails,
dots on a die

he prefers to watch other planets
Saturn and those ones
those are graceful
more one color

watching Rushmore be built
the Great Wall
something lengthy and accumulative

he hates fireworks
but the worst is to see a needle being strung
the little end of the string struggling to fit

his eye feels like its been injected with iodine
a space shuttle has crashed into the eye and now its stuck

he cannot rub it
he is invisible
no one can help him



Rachel B. Glaser has published work in New York Tyrant, Unsaid, American Short Fiction, Dewclaw, and many other journals.

9/15/09

Steven Trull

DEATH TO WHITEY

There was this long silence where nobody said anything and we just sat there staring into space. The space was everywhere, like, all around us. So, the space made us feel, I don’t know, just kind of spacey, like we were there and there was, like, nothing but space. So, there we were, I guess, like doing nothing in the space that was all around us. And I wanted to do something that I like to do when there is nothing. And, so, like, I wanted to say something to Crystal. But, when there’s all this space, it’s sometimes hard to say something. So, I leaned, to over, into the Crystal. And I tried to nudge her with something, but I didn’t know what it is. So, I said to myself that was inside me I don’t know what to say. And Crystal, it was cool, cause she didn’t say anything. It was like I wasn’t even there. Like I was sort of nothing, I guess. And I went back and I thought about it for a long time. Then I stopped thinking about this for a moment. And then I noticed the moment got longer until I realized that we were just sitting there not doing anything. I didn’t know what to say. So, I just sat there with Crystal and I didn’t say anything for a long time. Crystal was all quiet. Like, I was somewhere else, like, not even there. Which is cool because there was all this space and I don’t know where I could go in it. So, I just sat there with Crystal. Things got weird. And then she looked over at that thing and she said: So, what do you want to do?

It was funny cause the space just kind of took it and made it go away, like, whatever she said just sort of disappeared into the space and this made me sometimes forget it, if, I have all spacing, out in the space. So, I said something like: What? And, I don’t know, there was this long time, like when nothing happened. Like, we were sitting there and she didn’t say anthing again, and I sat there, like, all wondering about stuff. And so, I thought about it, like, it took me forever, but I said something Um, I don’t know. Just kind of like, I don’t know, nothing. The space was back there, like it was all around us in the space of stuff. And if you looked around you’d see stuff, but it was just apartments and things like trees and other things and this made me feel like there is sometthing to do, like, with all these things you could like do something other than just stare but because there was also all this space in the air that was kind of weird too. So, I thought about it a long time, like, all just sitting there in the space place and I said: Um, so, like, what do you want to do?

And the Crystal she said nothing like for this super long time and the apartments just sat there all around us except there weren’t that many because there were these little trees that were all little like someone just put them there and some parked things like cars and a super black van. And I stared at them. And Crystal said nothing for a long time, and then she said: I don’t know. Like, how about you?

And then we both sat there, like, we weren’t even waiting for anything. We were just sitting there, like, I don’t know, not doing anything. And then it got really long. Like it was so long that it was hard to say anything about it. And then she kind of said: Do you want to get some weed? And I said: Oh, yeah, I already got some. But then I said: How about some food? She said: No. Like she didn’t even have to think about it. I told her: I think Donald’s almost home from Burger King. I mean, I think he might have some pills. And then there was this long thing that made us almost forget everything, like she stared and I looked around at stuff and then I kind of forgot that she was there and then I started wondering about things.

Steven Trull (b. August 8, 1974, Anaheim, California) lives in San Francisco, CA. DEATH TO WHITEY is chapter one of his soon-to-be-finished novella STARE.

9/14/09

Ken Baumann

Hungry in the blue hot, hungry in the gord. Wantin out.
You know my husband? Tony?
So g'damned hot I just wanna sweat. Pour. Pores. Pores and pour.
Yes, I'd hope so. I married the bastard.
Pourin.
I'll let you two talk for a minute.
God almighty the ring on her, lookit that thing. Where's the man behind that chunk?
Just gettin a drink, honey. I have to, it's just swelterin!
God I hope the kids are behaving themselves. Back to that ring, that ring, my oh. Me oh my oh my. What I'd do to get my hands on that man, that man's money with my kinda body, hubby's body. His chin, specially. The boys have that chin. The boys have that face, handsome things. Word, can't be thinking about them like that. What He'd say! Boy. What He'd say, seein me with this drink.
NOW BOYS, WATCH IT!
Little bastards. Cute lil things.
Oh, were you? How convenient. You tell him about you're tan lines, too? You Texas summer whore
Oh, how funny! Girl, how funny.
I hope those tan lines are permanent. God, you're a bitch. Not you, Lord, lord. You. Joanne. Bitch.
Honey, I agree completely.
Look at him just smile and listen. Yeah, you better dart those eyes over to me. Makin you sweat a little, huh? We'll see you sweat later, you fuckin devil. Husband o mine.
I agree, this turned out so nice, Margaret did such a wonderful job with this.
Lil sparklers
Yes, yes! The kids have been great, too, even your little ones.
Take that, bitch
Boys will be boys.

Ken Baumann is. For more information, visit www.kenbaumann.com.

9/11/09

Randall Brown

Is This It?

In the back of a station wagon, he spent a childhood, beltless and bumpy. He leapt from stairs, disappeared into orange shag, never got a haircut, sat on a car roof, Mary Poppins and Herbie flickering far from somewhere. Kasey Kasem counted down endlessly and once, for certain, he’d heard his name as a long distance dedication. John Stewart sang “Gold” for him, and he imagined singers in the passenger seat, hoarse and dreaming of elsewhere. His heart held weakness since birth. He once dreamed of enchiladas before he knew they existed. When he had earaches, and his mother rocked him on the green La-Z-Boy, she told him something happened to lonely kids when they grew into people.


Randall Brown serves as the Director of the MFA in Creative Writing Program at Rosemont College. He is the author of the award-winning collection Mad to Live (Flume Press, 2008) and his essay on (very) short fiction can be found in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field. He has been published widely, both on line and in print.

9/10/09

David McLendon

Penumbra

The wires inserted beneath the skin during the cinching and draining allow me to position the limbs of each body perpendicular to the ground. This accommodates the shadows that move across the outside wall of my room. The shadows are each cast from the trees at the brake of the garden. Before I purify the bodies, I sit for a time and watch. Later I will braid the hair from where it falls and cut each braid from the hank of its root. The garments I will burn after unpocketing any overlooked possessions. I will scalpel each face from its undercarriage and mark the feet of each body with my colors. I will carry or drag or swaddle each body into the garden for its final ungristling. These are my duties. These are my evening chores. But for now I allow myself this small and peaceful time. Here the breeze off the water is lively year round. The darkness allows the moon a weak but sufficient light. The shadows of unmoving hands and feet are made to interact with the moving shadows of the trees. This overlapping of stillness and motion lobs up images of climbing and swimming and dancing. Something drops from the trees and the shadows are made to lift. The trees are not enough. There are people I still love, whom I no longer recall.


David McLendon is an Edward F. Albee Foundation Fellow. He is the founder and editor of Unsaid. He divides his time between Ann Arbor and Brookyln. "Penumbra" is from a work in progress.

9/9/09

Sean Lovelace

Drink & EBay: Bore Butter, $7 ($2.50 shipping and handling), Tuscaloosa, AL

Contact Seller: If that’s your wife in the photo, your wife is hot. We should go to Japan, tomorrow. I’ll buy the fucking tickets right now. My balls are big as oranges. You want to see my calves? I’m in shape. I have stamina. I wish I could invent a dinosaur that would eat dems and liberals and communists. Like with DNA. I am so sick of people and their guns. I love you, I do. I’d like to take your wife and just run away from all of this shit, this bullshit, and do it all over again. I’m sorry. I don’t know. They say in Japan nobody speaks English and nobody litters and there are 10,000 bicycles lined up outside the Tokyo airport and nobody steals a fucking one. You want to touch my chest? I think there are better people somewhere. I want to meet them. God I hate my ex-wife. Name one thing she’s said that’s interesting at all. One word. She’s the most normal person I’ve ever known. I think it’s bullshit that tsunami thing. The day after Christmas. God is crazy. People won’t say that but I will. I am so sick of people with guns. Nobody cleans them right. Nobody understands solvents and Rem-oil and bore butter. I seen people take them out of their little cabinets, go hunting, and put them right back. Without cleaning them! Then they wonder why it jams. My dad once said a gun is like a tool, but fuck him! Fuck rust. Fuck it. Fuck the bailout! Come bail me out. Come bail me out! Who’s going to do that, for me? Thing is the bicycles they don’t even lock them up to nothing.

He tries to sell his soul. He tries to buy another soul. But EBay has outlawed the exchange of souls since 2003 (along with human organs, bone, blood, waste, sperm, and eggs).

So he smells his fingers.

He likes to smell his fingers before he goes to bed.


Sean Lovelace likes to run, far. He teaches at Ball State University. He has a chapbook out of flash fiction called How Some People Like Their Eggs. He gets drunk and orders off Ebay and this gives a sense of wonder to his life, especially when the UPS truck arrives.

9/8/09

Peter Markus

What We Tell Girl to Do with Us Brothers If We Ever Stop Making Mud

Bury us brothers here. Cover us up with the mud of this river. Let this muddy river run up and over us brothers, let it run its muddy waters up into the insides of our mouths. Let the fish of the river, let the mud too, nibble and gnaw us brothers down to bone. And the weeds of this river, those flowers growing up from the river’s rivery bed, let them wrestle and wrap us brothers up into their leafy arms: so that we might be held here, down at the river’s muddy edge, down here where there are stones for us to turn over, with our fingers and toes, stones for us to up from the mud pick up for us to throw: so they can float back up to that rivery hand, so they can rise up into that rivery sky—that nest of stars they fell out from back when they, the fishes of this river, back before they turned into birds, first learned how to fly.

Peter Markus is the author of the novel Bob, or Man on Boat, published by Dzanc Books, as well as The Singing Fish and Good, Brother, both published by Calamari Press. He has a new book of stories, We Make Mud, coming out from Dzanc in 2011.

9/7/09

Gregory Luce

Finite

An anthill has a floor
and a hole in the top
a beehive the same
only in reverse
yet there is an inexhaustible
supply of ants and bees.
A river begins in a glacier
or spring and ends
in the ocean
but the river never
ceases flowing.
In finite things
the infinite.

Gregory Luce is the author of the chapbook Signs of Small Grace (forthcoming from Pudding House). His poems have appeared in numerous print and online journals, including Kansas Quarterly, New Laurel Review, Rikka (Canada), Iron (UK), Ochlockonee Review, Cimarron Review, Shades of Gray, Dancing Shadows Review, Link, Innisfree Poetry Review, If, The Scrambler, Rattlesnake Review, Pear Noir, and in the anthology Living in Storms (Eastern Washington University Press, January 2008. He lives in Washington, D.C. where he works as Production Specialist for the National Geographic Society.

9/4/09

Stephen Graham Jones

Modern Love

1. My son’s first-grade teacher doesn’t shoot heroin anymore. If her pupils are dilated now, she says, it’s with wonder. The children are supposed to have infected her with it. Maybe, I don’t know. At dinner, anyway, my son wears long sleeves, to cover the ball-point pen track marks they all do to be like her. His breath through the baby monitor just five years ago is still so clear to me.

2. Once when it was Paint-Your-Baby day at the stadium I hid him in blankets and smuggled him to the park. I’d meant for us to sit on the grass and make talking sounds, but instead just stood, clutching him, watching four women with a tarp stretched between them, taut as a trampoline. Every few seconds a straw man would rise up limp from the tarp, hang midair for a few impossible seconds, then fall, smiling the whole time. There was a rhythm to it I couldn’t deny. It was my son’s first sunburn.

3. My father was the kind of physicist who, in his later years, wore his oxygen tank on his back when he came to visit. As if he was scuba-diving, just visiting from some higher place. Like this place would kill him if he were to accidentally breathe it in. In the science he taught my son, people didn’t die, couldn’t. His world was gluons and leptons and anafranil in controlled doses, when necessary.

4. In the garage last week I found a letter my wife wrote to my son when she was fifteen. She’s thirty-four now. The letter starts out ‘Dear Robert: Today the man who would have been your father died in a stock tank. He was the first one to dive in. It was beautiful. What can I tell you other than that he couldn’t imagine breaking the surface of the water with anything other than his body?’ The thing is, my son is named Robert. And my father was named Robert. It all seemed so natural a few days ago.

5. Picture this: a man sits in a bar after his father’s funeral, and though he’s hunched protectively over his beer, still, the fight raging around him slings a dollop of blood into his mug. The afterimage of the red arc lingers in the mirror longer than nature should allow. The man follows it down to his beer, now with blood blooming in it upside down. He looks from side to side, for who might be watching, and, when no one is, swirls his mug gently, keeps drinking.

6. The most terrifying moment of the twentieth century has to have been when I walked into the living room one night and sat beside my wife in front of the TV. We watched it together for a while and I didn’t tell her that my love was like a wooly mammoth frozen beneath the tundra, a half-chewed daisy in its teeth, and she didn’t tell me what I wanted to hear, that topiary gardeners dream of a naturally occurring shrub in the form of a horse. Instead I asked her if this was a commercial we were watching, and she shrugged, and we waited it out.

7. A strange attractor in a system of repetitive motion is a point which seems to be organizing the system when, in fact, it’s the product of the organization itself. Which is an excuse, I know. But picture this: a woman’s finger resting on the plunger of her cherished syringe. One day she pushes it down out of habit and forces me up, through the green surface of the water, into another world. The grocery store, aisle after aisle, until there’s the policewoman who patrols my son’s school. Who keeps him safe. She’s in the perfume aisle, trying on scents, as if any of them go with polyester. I fall so in love with her.



Stephen Graham Jones teaches at CU-Boulder. He earnestly hopes to figure out either why humans went bipedal or how they can go faster than light. Until then, he writes a lot. More at www.demontheory.net.

9/3/09

Sherrie Flick

Arlene

In her old apartment there was nowhere to sit—or you could sit on the floor but there was nowhere to set things—except on the floor where the cat would lick at them and no one said a word.

The old man lived downstairs. He lived on and on and on as the house tumbled apart in chinks and chunks—first this light, then that one, the door handle, the latch.

They shared a garden, nothing in neat rows.



Sherrie Flick’s debut novel Reconsidering Happiness is just out with University of Nebraska Press. I Call This Flirting, her awarding-winning chapbook of flash fiction, was published in 2004 Flume Press). Her work appears in the anthologies Flash Fiction Forward (Norton) and New Sudden Fiction (Norton) as well as You Have Time For This (Ooligan Press). A recipient of a PA Council on the Arts grant, she lives in Pittsburgh where she directs the Gist Street Reading Series.

9/2/09

Giancarlo DiTrapano

Opener

One day please not heavy with family. He walks the road to the phone to call them. He dials the number and hopes for no answer. They pick up and say hello. They ask for his voice to say the hello back. They make him repeat them. He gives the phone a yeah, then a yeah, a no, then a can I talk to Mom. His sister yells for his Dad and hands the phone to his Mom. Mom closes her eyes, she puts it to her face, holds it with both her hands like he’ll disappear if she drops it. Her voice in it makes him unopen. She asks what he eats, who are his neighbors and do they sit at the window. Does he at least have curtains? He says fine and he says fine and he says yes and no and I've never met them, one of them is young. The other one, he never leaves. His sisters and his dad he knows are fine. If the mind is a terror gift, he is an opener. Mom talks of how she's quitting minding. His dad never sees. He pictures. Mom's the one though, not Dad. She made the let for him to get out. He does not convince himself that things have not gotten better. She's saying something when he drops the receiver, lets it hang like fruit. She is just into the big news when he checks for change in the little silver swing door that makes that sound, fingers a wad of gum in there, then steps out of the booth. He can hear her voice filling the box. He leans back, pulls the door shut, but can hear her voice clearer now, louder now. She says she hopes his brother gets out soon. He hopes for things that don’t involve his brother. She fills the box saying he looks good and he has his old confidence. At that he leaves. He’s kicking a flattened can down the street towards the building where his room is in the basement. He wants a voice from the other way from home.

Giancarlo DiTrapano lives in New York City.

9/1/09

Stacy Muszynski

Invasion and Retreat

A hawk flew over the Fiero today. I didn't know it was there above me until it cut out the sun. Its body was on me, swooping. There we were. I took the corner at 55. And then it was gone. Still, until that shiver, until I smashed the brake, there we were.

But, you know, it’s been a long time. I live in the country now.


Some of Stacy Muszynski's recent fiction appears at elimae and Opium Magazine. She contributes to The Rumpus, Identity Theory, and other excellent online journals. She is web editor of American Short Fiction.