Aunt Nettie

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Bronze
Charmaine Braun

Photo Credit: galaxies and hurricanes/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

They told me to beware. I didn’t listen. I should have listened.

I’m scared.

I looked up from the diary and squeezed my tired eyes shut, took off my glasses and pinched the bridge of my nose. The tiny slanted handwriting was hard to decipher and I had to keep my face close to the book. I stretched my neck and heard a crack. The current entry was dated March 15, 1926. This could be it, I thought.

A conversation with my mother about ten years ago started the search. I asked her about our family tree and she began to rattle off names and dates as I frantically scratched them out on paper. When she got to Aganetha Hiller—Great Aunt Nettie to me—I was at a loss. I had never heard of her. I had dabbled a bit in genealogy, mostly by asking random relatives about their family, but no one had ever mentioned Nettie before.

I was curious. I signed up for a genealogy website and typed in the names. I found a birth record for her but after that she disappeared from history. When I asked relatives about her they would either say they didn’t know anything or change the subject. I was so annoying about it, after a brief hello and a hug the only relatives that talked to me were less than two feet tall and mostly said mama or dada.

After years of hounding every relative I saw, weird cousin Larry slipped an old red, tattered book just small enough to fit in a pocket, in my hand last night at his sister’s wedding, telling me, “you didn’t get this from me.”

I hid it in my jacket and said my goodbyes before heading back to the hotel.

I entered the hotel, kicked off my shoes and started reading. When I opened the book five hours ago I was excited to find out that it was a diary and even more when I read the name written on the first page. Now am elated that I might finally find my lost aunt. I rubbed my eyes, put my glasses back on and started to read again.

Everyone told me not to be stupid. I know my other entries are dull. No one cares about shopping or people they never met. This was supposed to stay a secret. I wasn’t going to write about it but I want my family to know what I saw if something happens to me. I have a run tonight and I don’t know if I will make it back.

I worked at the hotel. No, not as a chippy, I served drinks when I met him. Legs. I liked him right away. He was gorgeous and had money to burn. He was keen on me too. We started to spend more time together. About three weeks later he asked me to do the first run.

It made sense. Who would expect a woman?

The money was great and I got to drive a fast car. A really fast car. So what if it was a little illegal. The law couldn’t catch me.

I dressed ritzy, in some of the most beautiful dresses I have ever seen. Nobody would recognize me. They had the car ready for me and I just drove it down. If the law got wind and started to chase, I just put the pedal to the floor and left them in the dust. I love those cars. I haven’t been caught yet and don’t plan to be.

About a week ago, the last run went all kinds of wrong. It started the same as always except the big boss from the other side of the border was there to ‘check out the operation.’

When he saw me he blew his top. ‘Who’s the dame?’ he yelled and grabbed me by the neck of my dress. I’m glad he didn’t rip it, even if I don’t get to keep them.

I told him I was the driver. He said dames don’t drive. I told him I was the one doing the driving for the last four months and he always got his stuff on time. He pushed me away. ‘Who said you could drive?’

I didn’t say anything. He pulled out his gun and looked at the boys gathered around. Legs told him. The boss said, ‘Let’s see if the broad can drive.’

I got into the car and the boss got in beside me. He kept the gun in his hand. Drive, he said. So I did.

I always took the trip by myself. It was easier. He made me nervous. He didn’t talk. He just stared out the window. As we crossed the border, the lights and sirens started and the coppers gave chase.

They were good. I’m better.

I stomped on the gas and we jumped forward. We were leaving them behind when the boss leaned out the window and the shots began. I had never been shot at before. The boss fired back and one car spun off the road and into the ditch. The other kept coming. The boss fired until his gun was empty. He sat back in his seat and yelled at me to go.

Go! I was already going as fast as the car could go. The bullets were still hitting the car and I started to swerve and then turned the car around so we were facing the coppers. I drove at them without letting up. The boss was screaming at me and hitting the dash. Our cars were getting closer and I settled in. When we were almost even, the cop swerved to one side and I swerved with him and hit the front of his car with ours. Their car tipped into the ditch and rolled over. I turned the car around and drove to the meet. The boss gripped the seat so hard I thought he was going to rip it in two.

I switched cars at the meet like usual and changed my clothes and headed home.

The next morning the newspaper said that two cops were shot and killed. The two in the car that I pushed off the road were fine.

That night when I came back with Legs, one of the boss’s boys was in my house. He was sitting in my kitchen. He had his gun on the table. He rushed at me when I walked in the room and pushed me up against the wall. He pushed the gun into my cheek. Legs tried to pull him off, but the other guy was bigger and shoved Legs to the floor. The lug grabbed my face and told me ‘you didn’t see nothing.’ I nodded. He spit on Legs as he left the house.

The next morning the newspaper said that the other two cops got bumped off in an alley. No one saw nothing.

They told me to be ready to drive tonight. I’m frightened. What if they decide to get rid of me too? I’m no snitch!

I’m hiding this in a safe spot that only Pete knows about. He’ll come get it if no one hears from me in a couple of days.

Brother, I want you to give this to Mom and Dad and tell them I’m sorry. I hid the money in the spot where we saw that bird that time. I love you. I hope I’m being a Dumb Dora and you never have to find this.

The diary ended and I flipped through the last empty pages. A folded envelope fell out. I opened it and pulled out a slip of paper. A yellowed newspaper clipping fell into my lap. I set the clipping aside and read the paper.

So, cousin, you finally get the answer that you were looking for. She was a bootlegger. And by her account damn good at it. You can see why no one wants to talk about her, but I thought you should know. You can finally stop with all the questions. I found the clipping in the same box. I think that Pete might have cut it out. I thought you might want to look at it.


I set the paper aside and picked up the short clipping.


An unidentified dead woman was found on March 24 in Milk River. Two fishermen found the woman in only her undergarments floating in the river. Police suspect foul play and request that anyone who has any information contact them.


Charmaine Braun lives in Edmonton, Alberta. She has recently rediscovered her love of creative writing and had finished one (unpublished) novel. She is currently working on a fantasy trilogy. Email: charmainebraun[at]

Beware: A Prue Klatter Mystery

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Silver
Cayce Osborne

Photo Credit: Jorn van Maanen/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Diary of Prue Klatter
March 15, 1952 (aka my 30th birthday)
Lawrence, Kansas

They told me to beware. I mean, not in so many words. That’s not how these things work. I’ve only worked for the FBI six months, but I’ve learned that much.

The voice on the tape actually said: “If you’re hearing this, you’re in danger. If I had another way…” The next words were lost underneath a noise, something familiar. “I need your help, you’re the only one I can tell. I saw something I shouldn’t—”

The recording cut out.

Usually, the tapes I transcribe are boring. I know I’ve gushed about my job on these pages and at first it seemed like a dream, but every day is the same: I sit at my desk in a long row of other transcribers. Lawrence is the central facility, so tapes are sent by agents in the field, from all over the country, then distributed among us girls in the dictation pool.

All we get to hear are snippets. Sometimes I’ll get a tape marked 2/3 and my friend Laurel, who sits next door, will get 1/3, and neither of us ever gets to see 3/3. I try to get details out of her on our walk home sometimes, to fill in the holes, but she likes to “leave work at work.”

I can keep my mind from wandering by piecing together clues. Each tape is marked with an alphanumeric code to match the agent who is speaking and the field office he is working out of, to the case. And yes, it’s always a he. No girls allowed in Eddie Hoover’s clubhouse.

That’s how I knew today’s tape was special: the voice being piped into my ears through my headphones belonged to a woman.

I must’ve listened to her fifty times. Until the floor matron noticed I wasn’t typing and scolded me. I started clacking randomly at my typewriter keys, the purple mimeo ink recording my gibberish onto the duplicate pages. It looked enough like work, I could concentrate on the voice and what had interrupted it.

I knew that sound.

I just needed to figure out how.

Tuna fish. That’s what I was eating when it came to me. I’d made my tuna salad too wet, and it’d sogged the bread something terrible. Chewing it, there was a nauseating chomp and slosh sound. Laurel glared at me so hard her cat-eye glasses slipped down her nose. I tried to chew quieter. She slid farther down the lunch table bench.

The sound was almost a slosh and swish, like the sound the SuperMat laundromat makes. I walk by it each night on my way home from work, so I hear it a lot. That’s what was on the tape: a symphony of washing machines, overlaid with some sort of long, high whistle.

“What’s got you so moony?” Laurel asked.

“I’m not,” I mumbled, swallowing the last of the tuna fish.

“You still sore about tonight?”

We’d planned my birthday celebration at The Flamingo Club weeks ago, but her cousins decided to come to town so dinner was off. I haven’t had the heart to write about it, which is why I’ve been lax in my diary entries. I’m over it now, mostly. Thirty isn’t such a big deal. Certainly not compared to whatever the woman on my tape got herself into.

“It’s not that. It’s the case I’m transcribing. You ever hear something that’s made you… worry, or need to know more?”

She fought back a smile. I thought she was laughing at me.

“So-and-so went to this address at this time and was driving this make of car? No way. It’s all so dullsville! I know you want to be an agent someday, but me? I’d rather marry one of those men than be one.” She finished drinking her coffee. “Something good on your tapes today?”

She slid back down the bench. Humoring me, only asking because she knows I like to follow the cases on my tapes. But if there was a reason to beware, I didn’t want to say too much. I also wanted to keep the intrigue to myself a bit longer. Laurel would talk me into flagging it for supervisor review, as we were trained to do with unusual recordings.

I waited for a group of other girls to pass before answering. “No, nothing good.”

Laurel didn’t seem put off by my lie. She patted my hand, wished me happy returns, and went to wash up before lunch hour was over. I hurried back to my desk and pulled out the slim notebook I’d taped to the underside. That’s where I note the alphanumeric codes I’ve managed to decipher.

P24 at the beginning of a code means the tape came from the Philadelphia field office, for instance. I discovered this when local landmarks were referenced on recordings all marked P24. When I recognize recurring voices, I can tie agents to the cities I’ve already identified. I don’t know them by name, of course, only by code. I hide my discoveries using a simple substitution cipher (the same one I use in this diary, actually) in case anyone finds my notes.

I thought if I could match the ID code on the mysterious tape to one of the agents or field offices I’ve already identified, I’d be closer to figuring out the rest. After the floor matron passed my desk, I examined the code inked on the tape’s label: S38-BV93.

I’d noted in my book S38 was the code for the Seattle office. BV93 was not an agent I’d been able to place. But the city was a start. I looked up to see Laurel watching me. Pretending to need a new sheet of paper, I leaned down to my desk drawer and slid the notebook back into hiding.

When afternoon break came, instead of meeting Laurel at the coffee pot as usual I ran to the pay phone across the street, scrounging in my purse for a nickel. By the time I got my sister on the line, half my break was over.

“Susan! I need your help. Does the Lawrence Library have any Seattle telephone directories? I need to know if there are laundromats near the Seattle train station.” I waited while she put me on hold, left the circulation desk, ran to the stacks, and returned with the answer.

“There are two within a mile.” She rattled off their addresses, breathless. “Are you going to tell me wh—”

I hung up before she could finish, hurrying back to my desk.

“Bad tuna fish,” I told the matron when I returned late. I tried to look nauseous. I almost was, but with excitement.

When the five o’clock bell sounded, I looked for Laurel to excuse myself from our usual walk home, but she’d already left. I went to the corner store for change and then to the phone booth, not wanting to make my calls from home. (As I’ve noted many times in these pages, Ms. Rainey who runs my boarding house has trouble minding her own business. Thankfully, she hasn’t the sense to understand my cipher.)

The first call was answered right away, by an elderly woman with a creaky voice. I engaged in some light conversation until I was satisfied it wasn’t the laundromat from my tape. The machines in the background were too whiny, like they needed a tune-up. The next call was a failure as well. When the train whistle blew, it was deafening, masking the sound of the machines.

I gave myself a pep talk on the walk home. Real investigative work isn’t easy: lots of footwork, lots of phone work, lots of… work. If I ever want to become an agent, I need to make peace with that. Before leaving work, I’d stuffed the tape back down to the bottom of my stack so I’d have more time with it. There must be other clues, and I was determined to find them.

As my resolve rehardened, the SuperMat came into view. Maybe I’d just stop in, I thought, to see if being there jiggled any inspiration loose. It was silent inside as I tugged the door open, no customers in view. The minute my feet hit the linoleum, life exploded. Laurel and the other girls from the dictation pool. My sister Susan. A few friends from high school. My parents, for heaven’s sake! They all jumped from behind the washing machines, tossing streamers and confetti my way.

“Happy Birthday!” they called in unison.

The B&L coal train, which passed through town twice a week, whistled in the distance as if it too wished me well.


Cayce Osborne is a writer and graphic designer from Madison, WI. She currently works in science communication at the Wisconsin Initiative for Science Literacy at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She has been a staff writer at Brava Magazine, and her fiction has been published in Exposition Review and the Dread Naught but Time short story anthology from Scribes Divided Publishing. She also collects her work on her website. Email: cayce.osborne[at]

An Unapparent Suicide

Three Cheers and a Tiger ~ Gold
Miguel A. Rueda

Photo Credit: Bethany J. Baker/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

They told me to “Beware.” Warned me to “Let dead men stay dead.”

The anonymous posts starting popping up on my Facebook business page—Max Haas. Bonded Private Investigator.—the day after I accepted the gig.

I’m not good at remembering random dates: my ex-wife’s birthday, my second ex-wife’s wedding anniversary, but the day the messages began stuck with me, March fifteenth, the Ides of March. Together with the use of the word, “beware.” Yikes.

Not that I’m superstitious but I’ve been known to call off a stakeout if a black cat wanders between me and my suspect.

I did a quick sign of the cross and knocked on my desk, y’know, just in case.

Misty Magnussen had hired me to investigate her late husband’s death. Two weeks earlier, her now-late husband, Lance, took a header out of a back window on the second floor of their brownstone. He landed on the patio in their backyard.

If the plan were to do yourself in, a two-story fall isn’t usually fatal, unless you’re lucky enough to land on the top of your head.

Lucky Lance.

Misty didn’t believe he’d done it. She said the police wouldn’t tell anyone what the note said until their investigation was over. I guessed that her husband’s self-inflicted homicide meant she’d get zip of a fairly hefty life insurance policy.

She told me how they met—she was working a party at his posh Upper West Side home—and that they were making plans for a family. It’s why the note didn’t make sense.

I told her my fee and she pulled a wad of bills from the matching purse she was carrying. In hindsight I should have asked for double.

Lance didn’t have a social media presence, but I did find the public info about him: his obit, how he made his money—investment banker, that Misty was the latest in a long line of brides for Lance; she was his fifth. I guess the rich can afford to keep a priest on retainer.

In contrast, Misty was the proverbial open (Face)book. Although her profile was set to private, I sent a request and she accepted immediately.

A quick look showed that she had the art form down, she had selfie game.

The posts went back to high school. Prom photos, cheerleading… she got a job working catering for high class parties. In one of those, I recognized Lance with his arm around a woman who must have been his previous wife. The couple was standing behind Misty and she was looking over her shoulder at him. Maybe this is when she first set her sights on bagging him.

Photos dated just six months later were of Misty and Lance on a beach together, and two months after that, together at a lavish wedding.

Her last posts were somber, and although her attire didn’t show any real bereavement, maybe that’s just Misty the party girl. Sadness never gets in.

I did everything I could online; I had to get into the house.


Yellow police tape was strung across the front doorway and a blue-and-white NYPD cruiser sat in front of the house. I recognized the officer, Patrolman Daniel Hulkenberg, and knocked on the window.

After exchanging enough small talk to make it appear that I wasn’t plying him for information, I asked about the investigation and he confirmed what the widow had told me and said closing off the house was merely a formality. He had been the one to respond to the frantic calls from neighbors about a body with a pool of blood in the backyard.

Hulkenberg said that the body had been there all night.

Thanking him, I asked that he AirDrop me the info for the lead investigator and if he minded if I looked around a bit.

He shrugged, tapped his phone a few times and waved me off.

My phone chirped as I walked up to the door and I saw two drops. One from Hulkenberg and one from an unknown sender.

I clicked on the second.

It was close-up photo of Lance’s bloody skull and the single word: “BEWARE.” Dude was definitely into drama.

An AirDrop meant the sender was within Bluetooth range, couple hundred feet at best.

Looking down the street, the only thing out of place was a pearl white Saleen Mustang. It’s a rare car; it stood out among the nondescript sedans and SUVs. I didn’t see anyone in any of the parked cars.

Hulkenberg had said he had to break down the door because both it and the rear door were locked and chained from the inside. All of the windows, except for the one Lance took his swan dive through, were latched.

I headed up to the second floor. A gem-encrusted dream catcher hung askew from above the window. Unknotting the strings let me see that one spider-web shaped piece was missing.

I walked out the back door and looked up. It wasn’t that far a drop. Lance had to be dead set to die, forgive the pun, in order to jump head first. He’d be more likely to end up a vegetable, than a corpse.

The townhouses ringing the block created a private park for the residents. I walked around, not looking for anything in particular, when I noticed an extension ladder against the back of another house. As I got closer, something glinted in the sunlight. I walked around—not under, I’m not stupid, knock on wood—climbed up and found the source of the reflection, the missing piece of the dream catcher.

That’s when I knew who killed serial-groom Lance.

When I nonchalantly asked Hulkenberg for the address, he didn’t ask if I had found anything or why I needed to see the ex-wife. I then asked him about the note.

He said it was the one thing that struck him as odd; Lance apologized to his former wife, the ex, not the widow. He was sorry he had betrayed her and had made a mistake.


She lived just outside the city in a neighborhood with big lawns and bigger tax bills. I noticed the rear end of a car just visible in one bay of the three-car garage. The taillights of a pearl white Saleen Mustang.

I thumbed the safety off my .38, sent out a quick text with a dropped pin, and knocked on the door.

It was answered by a woman who resembled the one I had seen standing in the photo next to Lance, but she appeared different than in the picture; she had definitely taken up a workout regimen. Lance’s ex was buff.

She invited me in as though I was expected.

I had to play the game as though she knew everything I knew, which of course she did.

I talked about the neighborhood and the weather a bit before offering my condolences. She said she had made peace with it since he had apologized for betraying her in the note.

Casually, I mentioned it was unusual for the police to release a note since the investigation was still ongoing.

She smiled a bit, and that’s when all hell broke loose.

She was on me like a shopper on the last new game console on Black Friday.

I didn’t even have time to pull my gun and she had me in a headlock and was flinging me around the room. My adrenaline kicked in just in time to keep my face from smashing a mirror.

If a woman kicks my ass in a fair fight so be it, but seven years of bad luck? No, thank you.

Everything was going dark when the front door busted in and my new best pal Hulkenberg was standing there, gun drawn, barking for her to drop me. Which she unfortunately did.

Right into the mirror top table. Dammit, almost made it out unscathed.


Hulkenberg got my text and pin and raced into the suburbs at full lights and siren speed.

Lead Detective berated me for not calling her, and after I shared the who and the how of Lance’s unapparent suicide, she told me the why.

Lance had a habit of providing for his ex-wives and their children in the event of his death by splitting up his fortune between all of them. Whoever his current bride was would only get his life insurance, nothing else.

Ex number four decided that she was good with that arrangement and decided to stage his death. And it turns out that in addition to being a gym rat and a tad homicidal, she was a big fan of Shakespearean plays. Tragedies mostly, what with all the murder and whatnot.


Email: waynehillsauthor[at]


Baker’s Pick
Buffy Shutt

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

From an article in last Friday’s newspaper:

The article misstated that Laundry Camp was free. The fee is $25 for one class, two loads. She admits to being high when she signed up. Her building’s washer is still broken.

The article misspelled her fiancée’s new start-up. It is A Hack Job, not A Wank Job. She says he doesn’t own a tablet. She doesn’t believe he can do this on an iPhone. He popped her.

The article omitted the facts that with her new promotion, she had to kiss her boss on the cheek and agree to keep picking up his dry cleaning. She says the dry cleaner guy gave her a winter jacket that no one had claimed for three years.

Because of developments after the paper went to press, the article failed to note the landlord gave her an eviction notice as her check was returned twice due to insufficient funds. She has a car and she and her son are living there for now. They park in the back of the dry cleaner’s.

The article had incorrect information provided by her mother.

Errors are corrected during the press run whenever possible.


Buffy lives in Los Angeles where she writes poetry and short stories. She spent most of her working life marketing Hollywood movies and documentaries. A two-time Pushcart nominee, her recent work has appeared in Bird’s Thumb, Magnolia Review (awarded the Ink Award), Califragile, Split Lip Magazine, Rise Up Review, The Hedge Apple, Dodging the Rain, Cobalt Review (awarded the Earl Weaver Prize for the baseball issue). Email: buffyshutt[at]

Love Means Nothing

Beaver’s Pick
DS Levy

Photo Credit: Dustin Gray/Flickr (CC-by-nc)

The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World drills forehands at the backboard with the accuracy of a cold-hearted laser beam. The green wall with its imaginary net issues a dull echo: Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump. The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World could drill like this all day. She’s a machine that never misses. Before the yellow ball ricochets off the backboard she’s already got her Ultra-Lightweight Composite Professional Tennis Racquet Endorsed by The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World’s extra-wide head poised to pounce. Overhead, the sun crosses. Her shadow dances west to east, the pleats on her white tennis skirt flounce up and down. Geese fly high overhead in pattern. The moon rises. Lightning bugs dodge her blistering forehands. Orion cinches his belt a little tighter. The Big Dipper looks like a ball-hopper she doesn’t need. Her boyfriend walks down the asphalt path. She hears his sneakers before catching a glimpse of his shaggy brown hair. He laces his fingers between the chain-link fence, pokes his nose through and whispers: “Are you ever, ever coming in?” The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World says yes, no, maybe. When you’re a winner, you have to stay on top of your game. Everyone wants to knock you off the trophy perch. “In tennis,” she reminds him, “‘love’ means nothing.” And when he trudges off into the dark, she blasts the nap of the fluorescent ball and the hollow ping it makes echoes in the darkness. The Tennis Champ of the Whole Wide World isn’t willing to lose—not even her own cold, uncompromising heart: Thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump-thump.


DS Levy’s work has been published in New Flash Fiction Review, Little Fiction, MoonPark Review, Cotton Xenomorph, The Alaska Quarterly Review, Columbia, Brevity, and others. Her collection of flash fiction, A Binary Heart, was published in 2017 by Finishing Line Press. Email: deblevy[at]


Nan Wigington

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

“Behind the Wheel Training” was a a course for losers—the timid, the fat, and four-eyed who were scared by the wreckage and blood they saw in Mrs. Taylor’s driver’s ed films and just wanted a chauffeur or a time machine to whisk them to independence and college. Lana didn’t want to sign up, but she had no one left to teach her. (Her father, dead; her brothers, gone to war; sister, pregnant and married; mother, willing, but usually drunk).

There were three possible instructors—the geometry teacher who was accused of sleeping with a 13-year-old, the football coach who talked ball control, always ball control, and the wrestling coach, the new god in the pantheon.

Lana drew the wrestling coach. She felt like a worshiper pushed into the wrong temple when she met him in the hall—the way he grinned, clicked his pen, and said, “Well, look there, I got the girl.” But no horns grew from his slicked hair, so she proceeded.

“I drive first,” he said, “so you can see how it’s done.”

The grin reappeared as Lana slipped into the passenger seat. He took off before she had her seat belt on. He modeled none of the caution, the look-twice wisdom of Mrs. Taylor. He was the king of aggression, charging at lights as if they were opponents. He gripped the wheel as if he was going to take the car to the mat. Lana sat, mouth open, curls sweating straight, thighs pressed together, ankles crossed, nailed into place. He winked at her when he rolled through a four-way intersection. Lana looked his way, then past the chisel of his nose and chin to what she thought would be a speeding car from the left, the “sure T-bone” Mrs. Taylor had warned of. Did he think she was impressed?

The coach took his hands off the wheel, steered with his knees, and popped his knuckles.

“First flight is in the country,” he said as he resumed Mrs. Taylor’s ten and two.

Lana looked as the streets blurred by—103rd, 112th, Melody Way, Harmony Avenue. She thought of the places she’d rather be—Latin, Chemistry, World History. Better to navigate the cytokine storms of the 1917 flu epidemic than this asphalt and this impending country.

The gas station, the cemetery, the edges of the suburb appeared in the mouth of the rearview mirror, then fell down the throat of a hill. To her left, Lana noted an idle backhoe and a field full of pipe. To her right, a wall-eyed cow and calf. She knew what lay ahead, the fields, the curves that followed the canal.

The coach pushed hard against the accelerator. Free country, she guessed, no speed limit. Part of Lana expected the car to set sail, glide irrevocably toward disaster, two wheels tipping, whole chassis rolling.

The coach turned onto to dirt road, half-nelsoned the car to a stop. They were at the lip of a ditch. Only winter wheat and gray sky for witness.

“Here’s your future, girl,” the coach said and tossed the keys toward her lap.

Lana did not open her hands. The keys rolled and dropped to the floor. Lana bowed her head. There were seconds, minutes maybe, before she heard the man grunt, his door moan, his feet crunching against the dirt. A shadow fell across her window.

The coach pulled her door open. The hair on her arms bristled as she watched his hand claw down and unbuckle her seat belt.

“Your turn,” he said and prodded her in the shoulder. As if a poke could get her moving.

Lana bowed her head, watched him from beneath the shield of her hair.

He leaned back, squared his shoulders, staggered his stance, put one arm under her knees, the other behind her shoulders.

But Lana took her inspiration from the fields and sky and sat as still and heavy as she could. She would have a first flight one day, but not with this man. The coach grunted, backed away.

She knew he would try again—a level change, a wrist lock, a double grapevine. The second time he approached, she turned unexpectedly and kicked. He screamed, fell back into the ditch.

When he reemerged, his hands were muddy, his pants wet, and his eyes narrowed.

“You’re a real—“ he started.

Lana threw the keys at his feet.

“Lady,” he finished.

They drove back to the high school in silence.

Lana was afraid she would flunk the course.

Mrs. Taylor made sure she didn’t.


Nan Wigington’s work has appeared in Pithead Chapel, Gordon Square Review, Defenestration, and Spelk. Although she knows she has to do it occasionally, Nan doesn’t like to fly or drive. She gets around mostly by bike, foot or bus. Email: missprothero[at]

The Wild One

Greg Jenkins

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

When the doctor walks my daughter out to me, I can’t help but smile. Lacy looks good, very good, all things considered. She’s twenty-nine years old but appears much younger, like a girl fresh out of college, ready to dazzle the world. She’s a slim, fetching brunette—some red highlights in her hair—with big impish eyes and a big happy grin. Her white T-shirt is emblazoned with the word ‘Juicy’ in purple script, and her faded jeans have been artfully ripped at both knees. When she pauses in front of a picture window, the warm sunlight glimmering in her hair, I’m ready to believe that anything, anything at all, is possible.

“Hey, babe,” I call to her, and she comes right to me, and we give each other a tight squeeze. “So how you doing?” I ask.

“Great, great,” she says.

“They taking care of my little girl?”

“Oh, yeah. Everybody’s cool, Dad. Everybody’s great.”


“Liz here, she’s the best.”

‘Liz’ would be the doctor who brought Lacy out, Dr. Elizabeth Roy by the name tag that hangs on a thin silver chain around her neck. I turn and give her a glance; she’s right there at my elbow. A proper woman in a stone-gray pantsuit, she returns my glance with a long, penetrating stare. To say the least, she seems a bit skeptical of me, and I guess I know why. I’m wearing my motorcycle garb—black do-rag, black nylon mesh jacket, black jeans and heavy black boots. I’ve done her the courtesy of removing my black wraparound shades, but this minor detail doesn’t seem to be helping much. She figures that maybe Sonny Barger of the Hell’s Angels has just invaded her rehab center.

“I’ve got a motorcycle,” I explain.

“I see,” she says.

Naturally, I’m eager to get Lacy off someplace where the two of us can speak privately, but this Roy woman sticks to us like a burr. A burr that talks. I gather that she’s part doctor, part administrator, and one hundred percent a pain in the wazoo. Her idea is she’ll take me on a cook’s tour of the facility and spell out exactly how their program works while Lacy tags along. I tell her it isn’t necessary, but in her button-down mind it is, so away we go.

They call the place Sojourn House, and it sits way out in the country amid the trees and the birds and the squirrels and the sweet clean breezes that touch your face like a mother’s fingertips. We’re islanded from the evils of the city—or that’s the concept. Before it became a rehab center, Sojourn House was a baronial estate, owned by some reclusive zillionaire. Even now it looks a lot like a giant house, except inside it’s been modified into apartments, offices, activity rooms, a cafeteria and so forth. Out back are a volleyball court, a barbecue pit and a flower garden aglow with colors—with pink hibiscus, fiery zinnias and golden-yellow daylilies.

“It’s all very nice,” I say, “but, but what I really—”

“The attention we give our residents is extremely focused,” Dr. Roy tells me.

“I’m sure it is. But, uh—”

“In the United States alone,” she says, jabbing her finger at me, “more than fifteen million people are alcoholics. And if we’re going to help any one of them—your daughter, for instance—we’ve got to be intense about it.”

“No doubt. Buh—”

“Dad,” Lacy cuts in, “this is my apartment.”

By now we’ve circled back inside to a carpeted hallway, and as she gestures at a nearby door, I can see the trail of scars on her forearm from when, a couple of years ago, having drunkenly lost the keys to her home, she rammed her bare fist through a window in an attempt to get in. Get in she did, but she also shredded her arm and was lucky she didn’t bleed to death.

“Let me show you my digs,” she says, and Dr. Roy nods her approval.

The second-floor apartment strikes me as small but adequate—functional, you might say—and the only part of it that really draws my attention is the wooden deck outside. Exactly two deck chairs sit there side-by-side, facing the green and rolling grounds, and the glass door that separates inside from outside looks pretty substantial to me. Pretty soundproof. This, I decide, might be the ideal spot for a confab between father and daughter.

“…medical supervision,” Dr. Roy is droning on, “psychiatric evaluation, and not only individual but group therapy. For their own good, we watch our residents continuously.”

“Very impressive,” I say. “But listen, I wonder if I might talk to Lacy for a while myself.”

The doctor’s gray eyes, which seldom offer a trace of genuine emotion, blink as if I’d just proposed something indecent.

“You’ve been talking to her,” she says.

“I mean just the two of us. Lacy and me. We’ll go out on the deck, and you can—”

“Haven’t you heard,” she demands, “a single word I’ve been saying? At Sojourn House, our vigilance is nonstop.”

“You can watch us from in here.” We’re standing in the kitchenette.

She gives her frosted perm a shake. “Well, no, I don’t… I’m not…”

“Hey.” Sometimes when my temper flares, the back of my neck gets hot, and suddenly I seem to have a mini brush fire under my collar. “Hey,” I go at her, “who do you think’s paying the bills for my daughter’s treatment? Huh? I may not be wearing a three-piece—”

“Dad?” Once again Lacy has cut in; she puts a soothing hand on my shoulder. She puts her other hand on Dr. Roy’s shoulder. “Liz,” she says, “it’ll be OK, I swear. Ignore the do-rag, all right? He’s my dad.”

The doctor looks at her gravely. “Well…”

“Just fifteen minutes,” Lacy promises.

“Fifteen,” the doctor repeats, as if confirming the deadline for a wartime prisoner exchange. Not too cheerfully, she waves her hand in dismissal. “I won’t be far.”


Lacy’s a drinker, a practiced, hardcore drinker. That much I know. She’s probably got some other issues as well, some psychological quirks, but she’s definitely a drinker. Now, whether this longstanding fact can be changed, even partway, is the critical question. Though it won’t be easy, I believe she can remake herself if she wants to; she’s got the tools. But what Lacy truly wants has always been something of a mystery to me.

Sometimes I suspect she simply likes to drink, the way other people might like to play golf, or collect stamps, or bake gingerbread.

Or even ride a motorcycle.

In any event, she got started early, back in her mid-teens, the way many drinkers do. I don’t think she was driven to drink as a result of some shattering upheaval in her life. More likely her friends were doing it, so she tried it too.

Actually, her mother and I did get divorced during that period. But the split wasn’t overly messy, and I felt we all handled it reasonably well. Divorce happens; it’s commonplace. In fact, my own parents got divorced—I came home from school one day and found my father naked in the living room with a dishwater blond neighbor named Irene Gruber, also naked—and I was able to manage it. No, I didn’t particularly like it, and yes, I was a frazzled kid for a while. But my world didn’t collapse, and to this day a drinking bout for me consists of sipping two or three Buds, tops.

I remember Lacy’s first encounter with the law; there’d be others. She was seventeen, and I dropped her off at a high school football game. The plan was, she’d watch the game with some friends and, when it was over, I’d come by and pick her up. But no more than ninety minutes after my “You take care”—it wasn’t even halftime yet!—the police called me and said they had her jailed on three or four misdemeanors, mainly underage drinking. When I arrived at the station, I was stunned at how incoherent with alcohol she was. Nuanced conversation wasn’t about to happen.

“Ha’ li’l problem,” she said.

Her eyes were glassy, and I tried to calculate how she could’ve gotten so bombed, and so blatantly bombed, so quickly.

“What the hell happened?” I said.

No answer.

Eerily, my question would have more staying power than I ever could’ve dreamed at the time. It’s still with me now. Still unanswered.

In those days I was inclined to see Lacy’s missteps as merely a case of youthful high spirits. At the same age, I was no altar boy myself. But as she got older, her drinking remained heavy and all too consistent. Then it became even heavier and even more consistent.

Her personal life was erratic. Over the years, she went through a Mardi Gras parade of husbands and boyfriends—I don’t have a precise count—and they, like me, fell into the sorry category of flabbergasted witnesses more than anything else. At a lakefront restaurant, I once sat down for a chat with one of these guys. His name might’ve been Jim or it might’ve been Lionel (they came and they went), but I do recall the lost and almost desperate gaze flickering from his hangdog face. He looked like a man who’d won the lottery and then somehow misplaced his ticket.

“You can tell her,” the guy said, “that she drinks like a fish… and she’ll agree. You can tell her that it’s abnormal… and she’ll agree.” He rubbed his chin. “But then she doesn’t stop. She won’t stop.”

Lacy’s professional life followed the same ragged, up-and-down path as the personal. She had no difficulty landing a job, or not at first, anyway. With her array of attributes—she was attractive, smart, educated, personable—she was more hirable than most. Her problem lay in keeping a job once she had it. Usually she got canned for the expected transgressions: she was late for work, she didn’t show up for work, she showed up but was creatively rude to a customer, she showed up on time and was gracious to everyone but she reeked of Jack Daniels Old No. 7. Other times she was shown the door due to misbehavior that smacked of real imagination and perversity. The last termination, coming about a year and a half ago, occurred immediately after an office Christmas party that saw her get sloshed, climb up on her boss’s desk and perform a grinding striptease, so help me God, to the innocent, holiday rhythms of “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Then, in recent months, came the meltdown. For reasons unclear to me, she left one of her husbands for one of her boyfriends. But when that gentleman tired of her shenanigans (she managed to misplace his brand-new Lexus, necessitating a police search), he booted her out. Since she had only five dollars and a cell phone to her name, she was essentially homeless. The next two nights she slept in someone’s backyard hammock. Next morning she used her cell phone to call me, and I helped her gain admittance to a far-off, rural rehab center named Sojourn House.

I have to wonder, though. Has she hit bottom? Does she mean to get cured? Or did she simply need a more civilized place to sleep?


The deck chairs outside Lacy’s apartment are a trip in themselves. Their rounded metal framework is flamingo pink, and the puffy cushions we sit on are sunny yellow with a sprinkle of fat white polka dots; it’s a combination almost militantly upbeat. But the chairs are comfortable enough, and the view beneath us is rather pleasant.

I gaze down and out at the sylvan scenery—plenty of trees and shrubs—and I like what I see. The sheer natural wholesomeness of it. Right in the midst of things stands a large weeping willow, its dense canopy a soft and gorgeous green. Butterflies and hummingbirds flit around it in a kind of syncopated dance, and at its shaded foot is a cluster of blue and purple geraniums. I’ve never been much of a tree buff, but the willow, which appears both sad and beautiful at the same time, holds a strange appeal for me.

Over to one side is a parking lot, where, of course, my motorcycle awaits me. It’s a Triumph Bonneville, the same make once favored by movie legend Steve McQueen. Mine’s blacked out, no chrome anywhere, and it sits there in the sunlight gleaming darkly at us like a massive chunk of anthracite coal. Magnificent machine.

“That’s a hot-looking bike you got there, Dad,” Lacy says.

“Thanks.” I wait a few seconds and add: “I ride it when I’m tense. Helps me relax.”

She throws me a look of disbelief. “You don’t get tense! Do you?” Pause. “What makes you tense?”

“You,” I say. “You make me tense.”

She laughs and flicks a hand at me. “No need for that. I told you, I’m fine. I’m just as smooth as goose juice.”

One thing I must say about Lacy—I’ve rarely seen her downcast, regardless of her circumstances. And she’s had some circumstances to contend with. Yet her relentless positivity leaves me confused. Should I salute her resilience or doubt her judgment?

“I’ve got to admit,” I say, “you look fine. Lean and fit. They got you on a diet or what?”

“They do. I’m on a dopamine diet.”

“Dopamine! Is that a diet for dopes?”

She laughs again, and I’m pleased to see her sense of humor is still intact. “It’s just basically no caffeine, no sugar. Who needs a bunch of sugary crap anyway?”

“You’re sweet enough as is,” I tell her. “You working out?”

She bobs her head, causing her long cinnamon hair to shift and shimmer. “Volleyball, yoga. I like yoga.” She stands up, does a one-legged ‘tree pose’ and sits back down. “We’ve got a gym, too. You see it?”


“You want to?”

“Maybe later.”

I ask her to tell me about her therapy, and she says it mostly comes down to blabbing to others about her problems.

“We’re trying to determine who I am,” she says.

“So who are you?”

She crinkles her pug nose. “We don’t know yet.”

“Do you like therapy?”

“Oh, I love it. I love talking to people.”

“But are you…” Here I hesitate. I’m choosing my words cautiously. “Are you making any progress?”

“I guess. This morning they told me I’m bipolar.”

“In addition to being…”

“An alkie, yeah.”

“That’s not good, is it?”

She shrugs. “It’s good to know what you are, even if you don’t know who.”

Behind me, I hear the glass door slide open, and Dr. Roy thrusts her head out almost like a giraffe.

“Everything OK?” she asks.

“Everything’s wonderful,” I answer, and I hope I don’t sound too sarcastic. I have a peek at my watch. “We still have some time,” I remind her. Without another word, she withdraws her head and shuts the door firmly behind her.

“Boom,” says Lacy, in response either to the door closing or to my closing down the officious doctor.

It costs me some effort, but I catch my daughter’s eye and hold it for a moment or two.

“Any friends or relatives been by to see you?” I ask. “Besides me, I mean.”

“Nope. You’re it.”

“Not your mother?”

“Nope. Just my dad.”

“Well, listen.” I take a breath, knowing I’m heading somewhere, though I’m not sure where. “You’ve, you’ve disappointed some folks with your…”

“My wacky behavior.”

“Yes. And more than that, you’ve worried us. I tell you, my phone rings in the middle of the night, and I—”

“You’re a worrier.”

“I never know—”

“You’re a worrier by nature.”

I shake my head. “Not by nature,” I correct her. “But for a while now I have been worried.”

I sketch out for her this silly vision I first conceived when Lacy was a newborn, a vision that nags at me still. In it, I see us both growing older and, as we do, becoming increasingly coequal. Just as she’s always counted on me, I can count on her. I can have faith in her because, like most adults, she’s acquired a measure of wisdom and responsibility. I can chat with her about her home (a real home), her job, her husband and her kids. About her goals and her projects. About her investments, both financial and spiritual. I can trust in her opinion, knowing it’s a sound one, and I can be confident that she’ll be on hand to care for me as I take to wearing an old man’s scruffy fedora and baggy brown pants and go hobbling uncertainly into my final years, dimwitted and arthritic…

“But then,” I say, “I open my eyes to this.” I wave my hand at Sojourn House. “To reality.”

“Oh, Dad,” she chuckles. “I’ll be there for you.”

“Lacy, I want you to be there for you.”

“I will be.”

“Will you?”

“My word of honor.” She tilts her head at me. “You know,” she says, “I get it from you.”

“You get what from me?”

“My whatchamacallit. My wildness.”

“From me!”

“Yep.” She flings her arm toward the parking lot. “In the whole world, how many sixty-year-old guys ride a motorcycle?”

At this, my fatherly instincts leap up, ready to tussle. “Quite a few,” I say. “And Lacy, at least I can afford a motorcycle—unlike some people. Because I’ve got a steady job—unlike some people.”

“All right.”

“And I don’t ride the thing drunk.”

“OK, OK.” Eventually she smiles and brings her big brown eyes to bear on my smaller ones. “I’m getting better,” she says.

“I hope so.”

“I’m doing everything Liz wants me to. And I can feel myself changing.”

“Good,” I say. “That’s my girl.”

“I’m getting stronger. Healthier.”

“Good. Good.”

“And I want to thank you,” she says, “for all the love and support you’ve shown me. Not just the rehab thing. Everything.” She leans over and kisses my cheek.

We can sense Dr. Roy looming behind us, and we stand and stretch as if cued.

“Tell you what,” Lacy says. “Soon as I get released, you and I’ll go out on the town to celebrate. We’ll both get snockered, OK? We’ll do it up right.”

I’m not sure I heard her correctly.

“And don’t give me that look,” she says. “It’ll be one time only—purely to celebrate. We’ll really get hammered, OK?”


“Course you’ll probably have to foot the bill.”

The glass door slides open, and out steps Dr. Roy. She presents us with a chilly smile; it’s a smile that would suit an IRS auditor or an oral surgeon.

“Time for therapy,” she announces.

We all take turns staring at each other awkwardly. At last my daughter and I share another hug, though this one feels a hint different.

“I’ll be back before you know it,” I tell her. “In the meantime, babe, keep working.”

We step back inside the apartment, which, after the splendorous sunlight of the outdoors, seems dim and shadowy. I’m trying to see where I am. Briefly, I turn to the doctor, supposing I should grant her a comment as well.

“You too,” I say. “Keep working.”


In the parking lot, I stand next to my bike and put on my gear in a distracted but methodical way. Shades first, then my World War II-style helmet, then my gloves. The weather is still nearly perfect, just a few thick white clouds are drifting along. They look like mounds of vanilla ice cream, a treat that a youngster, a ten-year-old girl, would love.

I fire up my Triumph and just sit for a while appreciating its throaty rumble. The exhaust note is assertive but not crass; this is a motorcycle of refinement and taste. Finally I kick it into first and zoom off on the flat curving blacktopped road. The lively torque makes me grin with pleasure.

Traffic is sparse, and I slip the bike into second gear and pull back on the throttle. The wind smacks me, but I savor it; it feels cleansing, like an air shower. As I find third gear, the roar from the liquid-cooled parallel twin fills my head, pushing other matters far away from me. For the time being, I feel terrific, like Sonny Barger in his youth.

Like Steve McQueen in his prime.

No worries.


Over the years, Greg Jenkins has had four books, including his recent novel A Face in the Sky, and roughly 55 short stories published. His work has appeared in such journals as Prairie Schooner, Prism International, South Dakota Review and Chicago Quarterly Review. Email: drgjenkins[at]

Crouching Tigress

Savera Zachariah

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

She follows his every move, watching intently. The man doesn’t know that he is in the presence of the one-eyed, man-eating tigress of Champawat. The tigress crouches, poised to pounce.

The vultures wait in the sidelines. They hope there would be some carcass left. The lions are not bothered. They are too stuffed anyway. The chimp, hiding from view, watches with glee. One less human. These mutated apes mock him all the time.

The man walks towards the tigress. The animals draw a collective gasp. He is fearless.

The taxidermist places the glass eye into the empty eye socket. He steps back to view his work, checking for imperfections. Satisfied, he walks away.

The tigress fixes the man’s retreating back with a glassy stare. Tomorrow, she will be taken to the Natural History Museum.


Savera Zachariah is a freelance writer with bylines in a few International publications. She enjoys writing flash and creative nonfiction pieces, and loves experimenting with different forms. Email: savzac[at]


Tim Love

Photo Credit: James Jordan/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

At dawn she’s still asleep beside me. She’ll be asleep for hours. Not wanting to leave her, I start YouTube on my iPhone, decide to search for “Wish You Were Here.” I didn’t realise there were so many versions—by tribute bands, street musicians, even Guns N’ Roses. I choose the original.

In my teens I taped a friend’s Pink Floyd LP. I used to listen to the recording lying on my bed, my head sandwiched between loudspeakers. I played it loud. I didn’t care about anyone else. I miss those crackles and scratches now.

I get up to stop waking her with my sobs, watch the landscape learn the language of light—first scattered specks of frost, a background murmur rising from the horizon, plains surfacing from silence as syntax chains glint to glint, a surging chorus of fields and roads leading into the past, the land brighter than the sky.

Minutes must have passed. I look back. I want to touch her to see if she’s still breathing, like I did with our firstborn. The sun cures nothing, shining like the moon. She’ll take vitamin D pills instead, stay inside, use me like the weather—something to talk about when there’s nothing left to say. I’m the rain from Blade Runner, the Teletubbies sun, the note she’ll find on the breakfast table saying “Sorry, I’ll be back.”


Tim Love’s publications are a poetry pamphlet Moving Parts (HappenStance) and a story collection By All Means (Nine Arches Press). He lives in Cambridge, UK. His prose has appeared in Cortland Review, Connotation Press, Dogzplot, Forge, Stand, Unthology, etc. He blogs at Litrefs. Email: tl136[at]

hand me downs

Peter D. A. Wood

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

Grandma had dozens of books from her college days
the classics like Poe, Tolstoy, Hardy
no women though and oddly enough
not a single Bible. I pass my fingers over the dry
worn down pages, wondering who else has done so, too.
From the now-ignored shelves I spot a quintessential read—
The Idiot—how appropriate this would make for me
a half-joking birthday gift. There is a short note in
the back etched in now illegible handwriting.
Maybe it’s a confession, to murder or something more
sinister like continuing a lineage. I set the book
down before I read too far between the lines.


Peter D. A. Wood is an aspiring writer originally from Iowa most recently living in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Email: peter.david.arnould.wood[at]