The Crying List

The Snark Zone
Theryn Fleming


Beaver demonstrates how to show emotion through dialogue without piling on the adverbs.

In this one-sided conversation, long-suffering Daria provides a shoulder for Marla to cry on as she swoops through the following emotions: courage, curiosity, despondency, happiness, hopelessness, irritation, jealousy, longing, love, lust, misery, passion, pettiness, rage, regret, sarcasm, smugness, uncertainty, wonder and worry. (And no, they’re not in that order. 😉 Try matching them up!)

“God, Daria, that’s the third time this week I’ve got “JK” on my apple, it has to be a sign, Jason and I are meant to be together…”

“Oh, what am I saying, he doesn’t even know I’m alive.”

“Look at him over there, talking to his friends…doesn’t he have the most beautiful eyes you have ever seen? The first time I saw him we were in fifth grade… I saw those eyes and right then I just knew he was ‘the one’…”

*

“Daria! You’ll never guess what happened! Jason said Hi to me in the hallway this morning!”

“I can’t believe he knows my name! He knows my name, Daria! I was so in shock I could barely say hi back!”

“He is such a hottie!”

“What did he mean by it? Do you think he likes me? Maybe he just says hi to everyone. Could he maybe, possibly, just a little, like me? Do you think he might, Daria? Daria?”

*

“I’m going to do it. I’m just going to walk right up to him and ask him if he’s going to the dance.”

“Oh, God, Daria… What if he’s not going? What if he asks me why I’m asking? What if he laughs at me?”

“Oh, Daria! I asked him and he said yes, he’s going to the dance… with Crystal! ‘Crystal?’ I said. And he said, ‘yes, she’s my girlfriend’. Oh, Daria, she doesn’t deserve him! He should be mine!”

“‘We’ll see you there’ he said. See you there??? Is he kidding? I hate her, I hate her, I hate her! If she comes near me I’ll kill her.”

*

“Look at her all hanging off him like that! She is such a ho.”

“Daria, what do you think he sees in her?”

“Must be the big hair and that adorable store-chick purse with the feathered roach clip pinned to it.”

“If only I had said something to him when he first said hi to me…”

“I just want to die!”

“I’ll never have a boyfriend. Ever. I’m doomed to spinsterhood. Doomed.”

*

“He said ‘Hi’ to me again today. He’s all walking down the hall with his arm around her and he says ‘Hi Marla’ just like everything’s the bomb. Is he stupid or something?”

*

“Daria! Did you hear? Jason and that bitch Crystal broke up on Saturday night. I knew it would never last.”

*

“Oh, Jason!”

pencil

Beaver, our resident dam-builder, can be found at Ink in Unfailing Supply, Second-hand Dagger-proof Coat and Merely Conventional Signs when she’s not busy chewing down trees or posing for the nickel. She can be reached at beaver[at]toasted-cheese.com.

Silver and Blood – Chapter One

Best of the Boards
Trina L. Talma


The intense stare of the sandy-haired man on the opposite side of the table sent a shiver down my back. I drew myself up in my chair, trying to match his gaze. Since sitting down with Kela and me a few minutes ago, Corrian Volf and his companion hadn’t said a word. I could almost hear the question in Volf’s mind as he looked at me. What could a young woman wearing cast-off men’s clothes want with a man of his reputation, whose name was immediately recognized not only here in the slums, but in all Keldwon? I hoped I could give him a good answer to that question.

I had arranged this meeting at Idon’s tavern, where I was well-known and Volf was a stranger, because I didn’t know what to expect from him. As usual I could see a few acquaintances among the tavern’s late-night customers. The smoky taproom was busy but not crowded, though close quarters doubled the noise so that I felt surrounded.

I concentrated on Volf despite the distractions. My hand rested on the hilt of Janor’s long knife at my belt. The solidity of the silver-chased ebony reassured me somewhat, even as it reminded me of Janor himself, and my reason for being here. It was almost the only thing he had left behind when he disappeared. With his blue eyes still fixed on me, Volf signaled the barman with one hand. His companion, a tall bony man with dirty blond hair, slouched in his chair, his gaze wandering over the dim room. I guessed that he was Volf’s bodyguard, watching the men and women around us. He would be hard-pressed to pick out a single threat here, where almost everyone was a potential thief or killer-for-hire. But the throwing-knives he wore in leather bracers on both arms and the bare shortsword hanging from his belt would no doubt deter anybody not already put off by his fixed scowl.

I knew Volf was trying to unnerve me with his silent stare, to test me the way people in our line of work always did when first meeting. The best chance of survival any criminal had was to know how to read people, to learn more about them by watching and listening than they would ever tell you of their own accord. I already knew that Volf was a confident but cautious man. Indeed, he could hardly have risen to his present status if he weren’t. I wondered what he might be learning about me.

Suddenly Idon broke our line of sight, setting a tray down on the table between us. The bodyguard reached out first, grabbing a wooden mug and immediately swallowing nearly half the ale inside. Kela stared at him in disgust as Volf removed a dusty bottle and a second mug from the tray. I wondered how Idon had known what to bring him; the bottle of wine wasn’t standard fare here.

Idon stood beside the table for a moment, waiting to be paid. Finally Volf turned, leveling the blue-eyed stare on him. “Get out of here,” he suggested. His voice, though quiet, still managed to penetrate. Idon, who was big enough to break Volf over his knee, faltered in the face of that stare and walked away. Never in all the years I had been visiting this tavern had I ever seen Idon back down.

Volf’s companion chuckled, a strange sound that for a moment made me think he had choked on his ale. Then he smashed his empty mug down on the table, crushing a beetle crawling across the scarred surface. The crunch of wood on wood barely made an impact in the noisy room. A man in a shabby brown cloak at a nearby table turned to us for a moment with an irritated frown, but the bodyguard’s insolent stare turned him back again before he said a word.

“What do you want with me?” As Volf spoke he touched the silver pendant, a prowling tiger, hanging from a chain around his neck. I knew he did this to remind me that his hands were away from his weapons. I had seen the long knife at his belt when he came to the table—the large bloodstone on the pommel made it hard to miss. He probably had more knives hidden somewhere in his loose-fitting clothes.

“I’m Alyza Reyn.”

“I supposed that you were. Alyza Reyn asked to meet me here, and here you are.”

I felt my face heat up, but I went on. “This is Kela Tors. I know I didn’t mention bringing her, but this is her business too.”

“Pleased to meet you,” Volf said, though he did not look either pleased or displeased. “What do you want, that we have to meet at this hour?”

“It’s late for young ladies to be out on the street,” the other man added, looking at us for the first time with a leering grin.

I shot him a glance of cold steel, and he shrugged as if bored, turning away again. In my neighborhood, “lady” was not a compliment. Ladies were rich women from the Outer Ring, the residential district. They were naive outsiders here in the Inner Circle of the slums. He might as well have called us children.

“Anyway,” I continued, as Volf poured the dark red liquid from his bottle, “we’ve heard you’re one of the best in Keldwon at—shall we say—gathering information.”

“You’ve heard right.” He passed the bottle on to me, and I took a hesitant swallow. It was a surprisingly mild drink, sweeter than what usually passed for wine around here. This man wasn’t quite what I had expected, though I couldn’t say the same for his companion. I took another drink and passed the bottle to Kela.

“So what do you need?” Volf asked. “Someone or something?”

“You know Janor Tors?”

“In a way.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” I was growing tired of this game of half-truths.

“I know him well enough to sometimes wish I didn’t.”

The bodyguard started to laugh, that strange choking sound again, and Volf turned to him. “Trane, would you mind leaving? Wait for me outside.”

Trane got up, shooting me a look so venomous that a snake would have backed away from it. Then he walked out of the tavern, leaving me with the impression that I wasn’t the only one not sorry to see him go.

“Now, what business do you have with Tors?” Volf asked.

I gestured toward Kela. “She’s his sister, and I’m his partner.”

“Ah. Then I guess it’s true what I’ve heard—that he’s vanished?”

I ran my tongue over my dry lips. “Yes.”

Kela spoke up for the first time. “He’s told us about you. We thought you could help.”

Volf shrugged. “Well, I know him, as I said. But I can’t help. I don’t know where he’s gone.” He took another sip of his drink, looking away as if he had already dismissed us.

“You’re our only hope,” Kela protested, an exaggeration to be sure. “Don’t you even wonder what’s happened?”

“Curiosity doesn’t pay. When someone disappears in the Circle, there’s no point asking questions. People might be missing you next.” He favored us with a mocking smile. “Maybe that’s what happened to your brother.”

I could tell Kela took this hard, but I was getting angry. “We’ll pay you to help us find him.”

He shook his head with a laugh. “You want to hire me? I told you there’s no point to it. You’d be wasting your money.”

“That’s my choice.”

His expression stiffened. “Listen to me, young lady—”

“Maybe I should make something clear.” Janor’s knife seemed to spring into my hand, hovering an inch from Volf’s throat. “I’m no lady.”

The few people who noticed my action simply glanced at us, and then turned back to their own business. Only Idon stopped to watch, though I knew he was more concerned about damage from a possible fight than about my well-being or Volf’s.

“I’m not the child you seem to think I am,” I went on. “The only person who has a claim on me is Janor Tors, and that’s no affair of yours. I just want your help to find him.”

To give him credit, Volf barely flinched. “All right,” he said, looking at me rather than at the knife. “All right, I’ll help you. Just put that blade back where it came from.”

I sheathed the knife, but kept my palm near the hilt. From the corner of my eye I saw Idon relax and return to serving the customers at the bar. “Give him the money, Kela.” My friend drew out the small pouch of coins we had scraped together. Volf raised his eyebrows when he saw it, but made no comment. “Now, what can you do for us?”

“I don’t know for certain. But meet me back here the same time tomorrow night. I’ll see what I can find out.” He tucked the money away in his belt.

“And I’ll remember how to address you in the future.” He got up from the table, gave me a mock-salute, then turned around and swaggered to the door.

I couldn’t tell whether I had wasted my time or not. There were plenty of other people who could help me find my partner. Kela and I both had friends who were almost as concerned about Janor as we were. But I knew that Corrian Volf had eyes and ears in every part of Keldwon, not just here in the Circle. If Janor was to be found alive anywhere, I felt sure that this man could help me do it. But the question remained of whether he would.

“Everything all right, then, Alyza?”

I had hardly noticed Idon’s approach. “All right,” I said, as he collected the tray and the empty mugs. “More or less.” I picked up the half-empty wine bottle, and he had the good grace to pretend he hadn’t been reaching for it. He would only have topped off the bottle with water and resold it to someone else before the night was over.

Instead he said, “They’ll be talking for a week about you facing down Corrian Volf.”

I stared at him with narrowed eyes through the smoke. “How did you know who he was, Idon? I’ve never seen him here before.”

Idon shrugged. “I never laid eyes on Volf before, that I know of. But I know Trane.” He grinned. “You made a big impression on him too, I noticed.”

I didn’t smile back. “I never liked mercenaries.”

“The rest of his men ain’t much better. But Volf’s got a good reputation.”

“And I guess it travels ahead of him,” Kela said, gesturing toward the wine bottle. She probably knew the wine’s quality even better than I did.

“It ain’t often I get someone in here who’d appreciate my private stock,” Idon admitted.

“We appreciate it.” I got up, taking the bottle with me. “We truly do.”

Idon sighed, but said, “Keep it. It’s worth the cost if it brings the likes of Corrian Volf in here. Not to mention the entertainment you gave us,” he added with a wink.

As Kela and I made our way out of the tavern, Idon called, “Good luck to the search, Alyza.”

“Thanks, Idon. See you soon.” Little did I know how long it would really be before I walked through the tavern’s door again.

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Trina has been writing for most of her life (evidence dates back to the age of 6), with phenomenal success that has occurred only in her own mind. She can be reached at hrtsmom[at]qwest.net or visit her Web site, Brain Dump, to see what’s on her mind.

Mr. Tidwell’s Soul

Best of the Boards
Ginger Wiegman-Cousens


Two things happened on my eleventh birthday.
Our neighbor Mr. Tidwell disappeared
and my dad built a scarecrow.
These two things seemed ominous to my young mind.
I was at school when Dad built the scarecrow.
When I got home there it was
in the middle of the vegetable garden.
Every evening at supper my Dad ranted
about the Tidwells,
the Tidwells’ cows in our pasture,
the Tidwells’ kids climbing over the fence,
and especially about Mr. Tidwell, that lazy dirt farmer.
That evening the Tidwell children
arrived to share my birthday cake.
By this time I was fairly sure Dad had killed
Mr.Tidwell and made him into a scarecrow.
I knew he was perfectly capable of such a crime.
Did he not kill my pet rabbit and
then eat her for Sunday dinner?
I did not share my suspicions with the Tidwell children.
Months went by and still no Mr. Tidwell.
I could not go near the scarecrow
but the crows did not seem to be intimidated.
They dive bombed and pecked at it
in angry forays and over time tore it to shreds.
By the end of summer little remained.
I was convinced they were eating
Mr. Tidwell and devouring his soul.
Fall arrived and while I was in school
the scarecrow disappeared.
Years after I left home
I received a letter from a gossipy friend.
Mr. Tidwell, it seems
had run away with the redhead
who worked at the “Curls For You” beauty parlor.
So now I can only wonder, “Who was the scarecrow
hanging In the middle of the vegetable garden?”

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Ginger is the mother of 3 sons and 1 daughter and has several grandchildren. She lives in Woodinville, Washington with her youngest son and a devoted daughter-in-law. When she is not writing powerful poetry, you can find her feeding the birds and squirrels, playing with her Pembroke Welsh Corgis, Pili (Peelee) and Killee and amusing the cats who allow her to live with them. Ginger can be reached at krystalwvr[at]att.net.

Three Poems

Poetry
Jerrifaye Gregoire


Forever Changed

Chaste in familiar sands
searching for treasures,
building sandcastles,
she waits for her voyage;
as moon-inspired tides
of perpetual curls and swells
shape her, without notice.

Young men stand by
to captain her ship.
One offers a chest
rich with promises,
beckons her to explore his sea.
The winds refuse to blow,
leaving her grounded ashore.

Without the winds to guide her,
she releases the towrope
of safety and drifts into perilous
uncharted waters with him.
She surrenders to currents,
watching as flotillas of affection
turn into anchors of ownership.

Innocent and with abandon
she plunges into the sea
and proves most daring,
swimming the swift strong surf
where others fear to tread,
never realizing how quickly
turbulent undertows can conquer.

Intoxicated by potent wet spirits,
he seizes her completely,
taking her deeper and deeper
into tumultuous waters,
reaching the point of no return.
Engulfed totally,
she submits to him.

No longer innocent,
tainted by his tidal wave,
she returns to shore
from her maiden voyage
with a new sea surging
and swelling inside her:
forever changed

 

Blackjack

A dowry of tokens
feet under your table—

in a gesture of agreement
I accept round after round,
dole out tokens of me
hope for safe secure hands
and rewards

card concealed
a table advantage
bit by bit
lose all I am
never secure
my cards
will avoid a beating
cards of chance
until I leave, it’s:

“Hit me one more time.”

 

An Unspoken Covenant

Neither remembers the moment
their approach changed
too busy to notice
Thoughts and feelings
no longer sought
Distractions—
looks, touches of a hand
an arm around a shoulder
disappeared
Loyalty remains
Bygone intimacies
fade from thought
Together
an unspoken covenant
speaking in any real sense
would cease
Comfort, ambition
the finer things
complacency
Beyond matters
directly affecting
smooth acquisitions
they did not talk about it.
They did not talk.

pencil

Jerri can be reached at jfgjerri[at]bellsouth.net.

Loneliness

Poetry
Kim Foyle


In the late hours of night,
and the early hours of morn:
Silent tears fall from
my swollen eyes.

All my tears have fallen,
now my eyes remain swollen.
A sweet smile on my face
—a weak light in the winds of loneliness.

Each time a friendship begins
each break in my heart deepens.
I entrust my heart, all my emotions
only to be drowned in betrayal.

Now—my heart bruised and ravaged
is captured behind walls of fear and doubt.
My heart is buffeted from bruising,
from myself:

Loneliness whistles entry…

pencil

Kim is a writer who lives in South Africa and is currently working on first novel. She can be reached at last_lines[at]hotmail.com.

Private Show

Poetry
Heather Robertson


Carla sits in the dark
strokes the fuchsia boa
draped over her shoulders
caressing bare nipples.
She’s careful not to loosen
feathers on the aging souvenir;
gray hairs mingle with faded plumage.
Sipping a hurricane,
swaying to “Sweet Georgia Brown”,
she remembers dancing with him
down Bourbon Street
to Dixieland and soulful jazz
as the sweet red concoction
splattered on the pavement.
The aroma of gumbo and beignets
clung to her chocolate curls
when he pulled her into a shop on Decatur,
wrapped the feathers around her neck,
whispering “Dance for me wearing only this.”
Twenty years, every Friday night
she flew into a burlesque show;
flecks of pink swirled inside Saturday’s vacuum.
Eyes closed, she can feel
his arms and hands
embracing and fondling her.
She hums to “When the Saints go Marching In”
and swings herself to sleep.

pencil

Heather can be reached at honey6599[at]ivillage.com.

Empty

Poetry
Mona Wanlass


parched fine
loess silt
Empty is the well

wind swept
dry stone
Mouth where echoes dwell

pray rain
whet lips
Tend this barren cell

fill pail
sate me
Empty is the well

pencil

Mona can be reached at Ciquing1[at]cs.com.