Luminary

Flash
Becca Yenser


Photo Credit: greenheron47/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

I found out this morning my old friend had killed herself. The last time I’d seen her was when my boyfriend and I asked her to get us some coke, and then we took most of it and turned her down for a threesome. “You guys are so mean,” she said from behind our locked door, as we let our pupils spread black until I had tiny blue rings and T.J. had brown. We laughed and fucked and moved from the bed to the bathroom floor. She left the house to go to a bar down the street.

It’s the new year. I listen to Bruce Springsteen on repeat. There is nothing to do here, in Albuquerque. I drive through streets that are coming down hard from a sorbet sunset. The Hispanic Center has a piñata exhibit. I pay eight bucks and photograph the poop emoji. The poop emoji is the number one selling piñata with little girls, the placard reads. I am the only person in the museum but I talk to the ticket lady twice, asking her questions, because I love the way she says piñata.

When I leave, it’s almost dark and everyone has set out luminaries. I drive up the hill, away from the sunset, up a street named Coal. There is something weird with my heart lately. My chest burns. The human heart beats 42,048,000 times in a year, which seems like too much. I remember how shitty that cocaine was. It tasted like baby powder running down the back of my throat. Girard, Yale, Bryn Mawr, turn. She probably shot herself, but I’m not sure, and no one will say.

pencil

Becca Yenser is the author of Too High and Too Blue in New Mexico (poetry, forthcoming, Dancing Girl Press). Her writing appears in: Pom Pom Lit, Dostoyevsky Wannabe, The Nervous Breakdown, CHEAP POP, Paper Darts, Metazen, 1001 Editors, Fanzine, Eclectica Magazine, decomP, HOOT, Entropy, and Filter Literary Journal. She is a first-year MFA candidate in Fiction at Wichita State University, where she is an editor for Mikrokosmos Journal. Email: becindow[at]gmail.com

The Raisin Rebellion of 1993

Flash
John Carr Walker


Photo Credit: LBMO/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

When my father was a child he choked on a raisin and had to be rushed to the emergency room.

When I was a child he made rules about eating raisins: I must be seated, holding still, with he or my mother watching from across the table, ready to save me. The rules applied to my parents as well. My father walked around the house eating handfuls of peanuts but never handfuls of raisins. My mother always put one last cookie in her mouth, chewing while she closed the tin, but didn’t multitask with raisins in her mouth. They seemed to believe a raisin would act maliciously if given the chance. A criminal class of food.

I suppose my father should know. He grew raisins for a living. He sat on the Sun-Maid board of trustees. My mother bought raisins from the company store in five-pound boxes; stacks of them filled the freezer in our garage. A bumper sticker on our station wagon read Raisins are Nature’s Candy—it might as well have read serial killers give angels their wings. We lived on a hundred-acre vineyard, surrounded by the murderers.

The first time my parents left me home alone overnight, I didn’t throw a kegger or invite a girl over to the house. I slept peacefully and alone, and in the morning, walked down our long driveway eating raisins, each one a dose of pure adrenaline.

pencil

John Carr Walker’s critically acclaimed story collection, Repairable Men (Sunnyoutside 2014), was a Small Press Distribution Best of the Press pick and a featured title on Late Night Library’s Debut podcast. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Prick of the Spindle, Prime Number, Eclectica, Nailed, Gravel, Hippocampus, Five2One, and Split Lip. He’s been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, was a Fishtrap Fellow in 2012, and is the founder and editor of Trachodon. A native of the San Joaquin Valley and former high school English teacher, he now lives and writes full-time in Saint Helens, Oregon. Email: jcarrwalker[at]hotmail.com

The Cross-Stitched Cryptogram

Flash
Jamie L. Sawyers


Photo Credit: Cross-stitch Ninja/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

The needle and thread were like a mallet and a chisel in her hands. Each stitch carved out her long-awaited accomplishment. It was a success she wished she could proclaim to the world. Recording what she had done would be as detailed as the crime. She had single-handedly managed to right a wrong done to her family. Maybe she did not do it the right way, but she was running out of time, and she had made a vow. At 82 years old, she could not spare a single second, so she pilfered the very rare coin, and no one had suspected her.

In fact, she was so unlikely a culprit that she was barely even questioned by the ambitious young detectives investigating the theft. No, they just saw her as an elderly, semi-retired seamstress to the stars, who was hired by a wealthy coin collector to sew a dress for his dog. The coin had been protected by a very high-tech computerized security system that someone like her would normally have no clue about.

“Do you know how to use a computer, Miss Jackson?” one of the officers had asked.

“Not really,” she had laughingly answered. “My great nieces and nephews keep trying to teach me, but I never really get it!” she fibbed.

The officers did not need to know that she could do just about anything on a computer, or that she had been hunting the coin for about sixty years. They also did not need to know that the coin in question originally belonged to her grandfather, and that it had been swindled away from him by the great-great-grandfather of the man who had reported it stolen. The loss of the coin was a great embarrassment to her family, and it was a devastation that her beloved grandfather never got over.

Now that the coin was in her possession, she had to figure out a way to let her family know its whereabouts without telling them. She was smart enough to know not to write everything in a diary under these circumstances. It always gets read by the wrong person at the wrong time, and the writer ends up in jail and the stolen item is returned to the owner. She was not going to risk her family losing that coin again. Therefore, she came up with a clever solution.

She combined two of her favorite hobbies to conceal and one day to reveal the whereabouts of the special coin. She loved working cryptogram puzzles and cross-stitching, so she created a cryptogram that, if solved, would tell where she hid the coin. Then, she used silver metallic embroidery floss to cross-stitch the cryptogram onto black 14-count aida cloth, framed it, and hung it on her wall. She marveled at her handiwork and knew that her grandfather would finally be able to rest in peace.

pencil

Jamie L. Sawyers is a poet, writer, and author from Tennessee. Several of her poems have been published in Nerve Cowboy magazine. She is the author of four volumes of poetry and three word puzzle books. Email: jamiesaw618[at]yahoo.com

Maps

Flash
Rolf Samuels


Photo Credit: Kara Brugman/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

I’d suggested an estate sale in Colona. It was a Sunday in early October, cloudy, not yet cold. M collected vintage blue bottles, a particular tint you couldn’t always tell from the photos on an eBay posting. M liked to drive, which was fine with me, but she was between cars, so today I steered and she navigated. We drove and drove, further and further east from the neighborhood where I’d mapped the sale. Houses thinned. Fields of stubbled corn grew.

“This can’t be right.” I pulled over, parked the car, and reached for the map unfolded on her lap. M couldn’t fold maps, but she needed them. She never got fully comfortable finding her way around the Quad Cities. She hadn’t grown up there, and her powerful memory wasn’t very spatial. I folded the map so the exposed panel showed Colona. “We’re here.” I pointed. “We need to go here.” I pointed. I handed her the map and u-turned the car.

I don’t remember being angry. I remember my voice as calm. That is what I remember.

M stayed mute, turned her face from me. She studied the flickering power poles. The car’s wheels whined. M rolled down her window. She held the flapping map at arm’s length and released it. “No. No, we don’t.” Behind us, the map fluttered, a mangled kite.

pencil

Rolf Samuels is an English professor at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin. “Maps” is part of a larger work, Prospects, in which a Quad Cities copy editor excavates the debris of a fallen romance. Email: risamuels[at]gmail.com

Carriage

Flash
Erica Plouffe Lazure


Photo Credit: Tamara Craiu/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Last week, on our way home from the library, we saw the woman who pushes a fake baby in a real carriage. Someone claimed she was crazy, that she’d killed her real kid in a car accident, which is why she walked everywhere with that carriage. Someone else joked she was too poor to own a car, but did not dispute the dead baby theory. And today, as I walked across the street after school, nose buried in the library copy of the fourth Narnia book, the lady with the fake baby ran right into me. The light had turned red, signaling for us to walk, and I thought I was safe except there I was in the middle of the intersection, with a skinned knee from her wheel and my book flung inside the carriage.

“Lucy!” the lady shouted, bending over the carriage to check on the fake baby.

“Can I have my book back?” I asked, my face hot.

The lights were about to turn and the cars revved with anticipation.

The lady looked at me for the first time, saw me clutching my skinned knee. “What are you doing here?” she said. “Stay away from my baby!”

“I don’t want your baby,” I said. “I just need my book back. It belongs to the library.”

She took the book, admiring the cover—The Silver Chair—then put it back in the carriage. “I like libraries,” she said.

The lights turned green and horns started sounding, and she continued to stand there as though we weren’t about to cause an accident.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Cora,” I lied. Cora was the name of a real baby I knew and sometimes babysat for.

“Cora, have you met Lucy?” she asked. She picked up the plastic doll—I could now affirm it had working eyelids, no hair, a serene expression between sleep and wakefulness, all wrapped in a dirty pink cloth. The woman glanced from the fake baby to me as the blare of horns grew, and I smiled through her toward Lucy.

“Nice to meet you, Lucy,” I said. Lucy’s eyelids shifted open when tilted upright. “And what pretty eyes you have.”

And even though I knew that the fake baby was plastic and her owner was crazy, as the horns grew louder around us, desirous of getting on with their daily commute home, I am certain that as I touched Lucy’s tiny plastic hand, I heard a small laugh, a baby’s laugh, coming from the doll, or perhaps from a presence alive inside the carriage, into which I reached and found my book, and escaped into the rest of my afternoon, into my novel, enchanted by the imagined worlds that I simply could not accept in real life.

pencil

Erica Plouffe Lazure’s flash fiction collection, Heard Around Town, won the 2014 Arcadia Fiction Chapbook Prize and was published in July 2015. Another chapbook, Dry Dock, by Red Bird Press, was also published in 2015. Her fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, the Greensboro Review, Meridian, American Short Fiction, The Journal of Micro Literature, The Southeast Review, Fiction Southeast, Flash: the International Short-Short Story Magazine (UK), National Flash Fiction Day Anthology (UK), Litro (UK), and elsewhere. She lives and teaches in Exeter, NH and can be found online at ericaplouffelazure.com. Email: ecplouffe[at]yahoo.com

April Diary

Poetry
Margaret Young


Photo Credit: Marju Randmer/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

1.

Carlos comes in, shakes snow from his paws,
crunches some California Natural then sits
to lick his crotch with that perfect vertical
leg thing all cats do.
Because I teach
pop culture I feel compelled to read
someone’s review of the new Britney Spears
album so then of course I have to watch at least
two videos and now she’s starring in my fantasy
Eva Tanguay biopic, dressed in feathers
or pennies, kissing fellow vaudevillians
singing I don’t care.

2.

There you go again, heart.
I don’t thank you, you and breath
enough for all you do. We liked
those vernal pools, skunk cabbages
no bigger than eggs, pale scrim
of last year’s beech leaves, snow-melt,
mud and granite blocks from walls
and glaciers, granite patched and pied
with lichen, moss.

3.

Cake for breakfast, followed by yoga class.
Lots of inversions, my mind clear
of Britney Spears until shavasana,
corpse pose, all of us trying to think about
elephants, their strength and grace,
I’m lying there and she drives out
the elephants with dancing.

Out in the woods the stream’s
still talking to the downed
cedar. And in the wires and air
the music goes around.

pencil

Margaret Young is the author of three collections of poetry, Willow from the Willow (Cleveland State Poetry Center), Almond Town (Bright Hill Press), and Blight Summer (Finishing Line Press). She teaches at the Global Center for Advanced Studies and lives in Beverly, Massachusetts. Email: margaret7414[at]hotmail.com

Two Poems

Poetry
Christine Wright


Photo Credit: Craig Piersma/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Portrait of a 21st Century Man

his limbs were festooned with images of Jason Freddy Michael inattentively drawn like a teenager bored in class. there was a softness about him, as if a lean and wiry adolescence had melted under a decade and a half of bad decisions and disappointments. he has a crush on me I told a guy friend who said OH NO NOT YOU and erupted in a laugh borne of three beers and ten years of friendship. he smoked (which I hated) but he used a vape (grape) so his clothes didn’t reek and neither did his breath. at least not when he kissed me. when I showed my girlfriend his photo, I said he isn’t not cute which isn’t exactly a compliment but I had no space. my ventricles were clogged with remnants of old sexual tension and unsatisfactory sex. my atria choked on distant pseudo-intimate conversations. my vena cava overflowed with men’s guilt dishonesty anxiety and entitlement like unwanted souvenirs. yet when he said the word pussy I ached. you have a beautiful pussy I love to lick your pussy touch your pussy for me. I dimmed the lights so I didn’t have to look at him then sprawled naked on the sofa, biting the tattoo of the Joker on his shoulder when I came.

 

Good-bye

watching you
in your black
Calvin Klein
boxer briefs

stalk the room
back and forth
brushing your teeth
snapping a watch
on your wrist

muscles flexing
as you pull a
fitted jacket
over your head
in the perfect
shade of blue

I wish I could
take your picture
without you knowing
so I could remember
this moment

the morning after
both of us sober
and your body
as beautiful
as it had been
last night

pencil

Christine Wright is a former therapist, rock journalist, and ecommerce business tycoon (darn that economic collapse!). Now, she’s a writer, actor and greyhound whisperer who likes power tools, red shoes, and white wine. You can learn more at her new website and follow her on twitter @WrightChrisL. Email: christinewright330[at]gmail.com

Shame

Poetry
Rodd Whelpley


Photo Credit: Martin Fisch/Flickr (CC-by)

Here is how to do it.
Fix your eyes forward,
the left wide, rounded,
unblinking,
the right squinted,
as if barreling down
a rifle sight.

Rake
your right index finger
repeatedly
along the back
of your left index finger,
pointed straight ahead.

Harder—
from the knuckle past the nail.
Make some sound,
like a Boy Scout,
vigorous
with a book of blue-tipped matches
working to ignite a fire.

That slight,
deafening swoosh
says
You do not belong.
You deserve
to not belong
for the thing you did,
the person
you fail to be.

This is serious stuff.
This is not ballet.
Never
practice this
before a reflective
shiny surface,
a mirror,
or a window
when it’s dark outside.

pencil

Rodd Whelpley is an “outside the academy” poet interested in the intersection, operation and value of poetry in the work-a-day world. He manages an electric efficiency program for 32 cities across Illinois and lives near Springfield with his wife, son, a dog, and stacks of books. His poems have appeared in Tinderbox Poetry Journal, 2River View, *82 Review, Right Hand Pointing, Shot Glass Journal, Spillway, The Naugatuck River Review, Eunoia Review, Antiphon, The Chagrin River Review and other journals. Email: rwhelpley[at]imea.org

Three Poems

Poetry
Alex Stolis


Photo Credit: anyjazz65/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

Postcards from the Knife-Thrower’s Wife
August 1 — St. John, N.B. Canada

I keep all your letters in a cigar box under our bed
next to grandmother’s wedding dress. This is a city
of ghosts of bars of brown pastures. You send me
postcards from all the places I’ll never go. They are
on a map I do not own. I am left with ink on fingers,
smudges of black on white on an unpunctuated loss.
Truth is something only paper can be witness to. I’ll
never wear that dress. Instead, I’ll meet you where
the earth is covered in blues and greens.

 

Postcards from the Knife-Thrower’s Wife
August 2 — Woodstock, N.B. Canada

I’m a girl on a dragon-fly on the back of a horse heading
straight into the wind under an unbreakable sky. You are
not here. You are made-up words in an invented language
spoken in whispers. I remember every detail of the world
we created from scratch. I remember that day the moon
eclipsed the sun and for a moment the earth turned cold.
The sky turned deep green no stars in sight. You wrote me
of a dream you had; lost, afraid and miles away from home.
You heard the low beat of wings. You felt the steady pound
of hooves and I readied myself for flight.

 

Postcards from the Knife-Thrower’s Wife
August 3 — Edmundston, N.B. Canada

Disregard my last letter. If you have not yet received it
bury it away when you do. I’ve tried to stop loving you.
It’s easier than I thought. Miles and time only sharpens
every memory. You would no longer recognize the land
but the sky is the same. I look up at your moon and your
stars. Imagine a blanket of quiet descends on us. I close
my eyes, can almost hear nothing. I’m an experiment in
exile. We don’t ever really lie. We believe and then find
out later we were wrong.

pencil

I have used the Al G. Barnes Circus Route from 1934 which began its season March 31 in San Diego, made a circuit through the United States and Canada and ended the season October 29 in El Centro, Ca. Each part of this series consists of one month from the season, April-October. The intention is for the work, as a whole, to be a narrative; a novella in chapbook/prose form. The original concept included photos as part of the narrative. The first four parts are completed. The entirety of part four was published in Verse. Individual poems have appeared in Drunken Monkeys, Autumn Sky, Blinders and Origami Poetry Project. Email: stolisalex[at]gmail.com

Defiance on my Tongue

Poetry
Susan Richardson


Photo Credit: Henrique Simplicio/Flickr (CC-by)

She seeps through bullet holes in
the window and down stairs that threaten
to crumble under the anticipation of my boots.
Her strides are peppered with impatience as
she paces to the brutal strike of the clock.
I step quietly through a crack in the door,
holding my breath in the pit of my throat.
I am ten minutes late.

Peering through glasses perched sternly
on the end of her nose, she looks down
at me as if I am debris that sullies her shoe.
She glances sharply at her watch and
tells me her time is valuable.
I feel the sting of her disdain in my mouth.

Copies of my poems lay strewn across the
table, torn apart by her overinflated ego,
slashed into tatters by a bleeding marker.
She tells me no one cares about my feelings.
Setting a timer for thirty minutes, she instructs me to
write about what I hear and smell and taste.
I taste defiance on my tongue and hear the rustle
of a sweater that carries the stench of conceit.
I attack the lines of a blank page.
My time is also valuable.

Sparks of disillusionment crowd the room
and ignite my impulse to escape.
I paid to savor the abundance of her language,
but she is barren and blends immaculately into
burning walls, singeing the fabric of my adoration.
Her imprint leaves a stain on the taste buds of my day.

pencil

Susan Richardson is living, writing and going blind in Hollywood. She was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa in 2002 and much of her work focuses on her relationship to the world as a partially sighted woman. In addition to poetry, she writes a blog called Stories from the Edge of Blindness. Her work has been published in: Stepping Stones Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Furious Gazelle, The Hungry Chimera, Sheila-Na-Gig, Chantarelle’s Notebook, Foxglove Journal, Literary Juice and Sick Lit Magazine, with pieces forthcoming in Amaryllis. She was also awarded the Sheila-Na-Gig Winter Poetry Prize. Email: floweringinkpoetry[at]outlook.com