Tidy Cats Bahama Sunset Litter

Flash
Shelbi Tedeschi


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

February 25, 2020

Purina
Office of Consumer Affairs
PO Box 340
Neenah, WI 54957

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to lodge a complaint with your Tidy Cats Bahama Sunset litter. It promises to get rid of litter box odor and “take your nose on a tropical vacay.” Bahama Sunset? What a scent for a cat litter. Tell me what exactly a Bahama sunset is supposed to smell like, would you?

Last week, on our three-year anniversary, David arrived home after work with a load of groceries. I picked up cat litter, I heard him call from the back door. These were the first words between us in days, after he’d refused to adopt another kitten with me, even after I showed him the perfect orange tabby on the local shelter’s site. I kept ignoring him but peeked inside the bags he dropped in the kitchen, and that’s when I saw your Tidy Cats Bahama Sunset litter.

We have four rescue cats together—Sweet Pea, Mermaid, Tigress, and Lily—and we are an Arm & Hammer Multi-Cat Easy Clump Litter family. After all this time, how would he not know that? And you had to tempt him with the label—cat silhouettes among palm trees—promising to fulfill all our cat litter needs.

Well, let me tell you something: Bahama Sunset is not a “tropical vacay” for my nose. The sweet, perfumey scent scared Tigress and Sweet Pea away, so they left puddles on our new LifeProof Flooring from Home Depot. David said, No big deal. Look, it wipes right up—that’s why we got the LifeProof. That’s not the point, I told him. I peeled off my right sock, soaked in cat urine, and the girls ran to hide under the couch.

Toss it! I told him. No—we aren’t wasting a whole tub of cat litter, he said. They’ll get used to it. We spent the night in silence, trying not to gag while cleaning up warm piles of cat feces in the hallway, and I spent the morning after my anniversary loading up David’s Subaru with boxes. He stood on the front steps, rubbing his temples: Don’t you think this is an overreaction?

What kind of person makes such drastic life changes for a family without consulting anyone? Trust was out the window. Three years of lasagna Thursdays and vacations to Branson, Missouri be damned.

I threw in the rest of the container of Tidy Cats and slammed his back hatch shut.

All this to say, this is the worst case of false advertising I’ve ever seen. I hope you’ll remember my four—soon to be five—fatherless girls and consider discontinuing the Bahama Sunset litter for good.

Most sincerely,

Linda Call

pencilShelbi Tedeschi is currently pursuing her MA in Creative Writing at Ball State University, where she teaches first-year composition and serves as an intern for River Teeth. Email: shelbi.tedeschi[at]gmail.com

Root of Anxiety

Flash
Clara Schwarz


Photo Credit: Bill Smith/Flickr (CC-by)

Just outside the entrance, Sophia paused briefly to glide the straps of her mask over her ears. She pinched it tight on her nose, nonchalantly picked a basket, and entered the fruit and vegetables area. The basket gained the weight of tomatoes, onions, courgettes, and broccoli, when suddenly, she spotted an unknown root. She approached it curiously and read: Parsnips, Loose, £1.15/kg. Three parsnips now rolled around in her basket, as she continued past cheese and yoghurt, reaching up to grab a pint of full-fat milk. She enjoyed it this way, each gulp coating her throat and filling her tummy with comfort. Sophia was a cooking novice, keen for the comfort of following instructions and the silent repetition of chopping and slicing. Not knowing how to prepare a dish or how to chop a vegetable made her feel insufficient, but her newfound root vegetable would provide some exposure. Surely, the variety of recipes online would spark delicious manipulations of this new root. She could boil it, fry it, grill it or bake it. Mostly, she was eager to roast the parslip, parnils, parnip? The familiar heat flushed her face, as she scrolled her cooking-app trying to find an enticing recipe for the parlip, but the app won’t recognise purnip! Jaw clenched and brows furrowed, Sophia serpentined past eggs and flour, made a beeline for the nut-free muesli, briefly browsed roasted and salted nuts, and indulged in a multi-pack of dark chocolate digestives. Wrists strained and biceps struggling, she dragged herself and the basket along the self-checkout queue. Her brain buzzed and eyes rolled back as she desperately clung to the sound of the root in her ears, trying to reconstruct its name from the echo of her internal voice. The queue inched forwards, as the echo inched further away. Her basket reached its destination, and she initiated the staccato rhythm of the beep. After she moved her acquisitions one after the other into the bagging area, she carefully placed the pale carrots on the scales, and selected “root vegetables” on the screen. She skimmed carefully, past turnips and beetroot, onion and sweet potato, her forehead warm and palms sticky. Her fingers swipe across the screen and finally, calmness washed over her: Parsnips, Loose, £1.15/kg.

pencilClara Schwarz is a researcher, educator, and podcaster based in Germany. They are passionate about social justice, creative writing, and researching queer friendship. Find Clara on Twitter @clararosawelt and their podcast @bullsh_tbinary. Email: claraschwarzz[at]gmail.com

The Bittersweet Taste of Greek Honey

Flash
Gigi Papoulias


Photo Credit: Ishwar/Flickr (CC-by)

I found Mamá sitting up in her hospital bed, breakfast tray untouched, staring out the window. “Aren’t you gonna eat a little?”

At month ten of advanced, incurable, gastric adenocarcinoma, eating or not, how much of a difference would it really make? Deep down, we both knew this, but said nothing.

“Just get me some tea.” She looked at me. “I’m OK,” she added.

*

It was Sunday morning. My cousin and I sat at the table, waiting for our pancakes, which our mothers had agreed to make, even though we were running late. Mamá was by the stove, stacking pancakes on a plate. My aunt, Thía Maria, put a jar of honey on the table. It came from their village in Greece.

“You’ll see, it’s sweeter than maple syrup,” Mamá told us. “It’s better for you. Now eat, we can’t be late for church.”

She placed the heap of pancakes on the table and Thía Maria said to her, “Remember when we saw what was inside the church?”

They had grown up during the war, and would sometimes mention a childhood memory. In this sudden recollection, they told us that when they were kids, after a deadly ambush on the outskirts of the village, they had slipped out and sneaked into the church—which served as a temporary morgue.

“Yeah, they were stacked one on top of another,” Mamá said matter-of-factly, while Thía Maria poured thick honey over the pancakes.

I sunk my fork into the fluffy stack. My cousin licked honey from his fingers.

Mamá shot Thía Maria a look and said to us, “Anyway, hurry now, eat.”

We ate in silence. I remember finishing the last pancake. It had absorbed all the honey and rested on my tongue just enough for me to savor the sweetness before I swallowed and it sunk into my bloated belly like a stone.

“Mmm, good,” I said as I stood up. But the heaviness inside made me feel like I was moving in slow motion.

*

I returned with two cups of tea. Noticing my red, swollen eyes, Mamá demanded, “What’s the matter with you?”

“Nothing.”

I put the tea on her breakfast tray. “You need to eat these pancakes, too.”

I placed the napkin on her lap. “Here, this will make it sweeter.” I took out a jar of Greek honey, poured some over her pancakes and swirled a spoonful into her tea.

“No honey for your tea?” Her dull eyes scanned the small amber jar.

“I never really liked the taste of honey. Or pancakes, actually.”

“But you loved pancakes and honey when you were little.” Her bony hand gripped the paper cup.

“Mamá, the doctor will be in soon, to discuss hospice care.”

She sipped her tea and swallowed hard. “Mmm, good,” she croaked, “I feel better now.”

I moved the tray closer to her, the thin pancakes drowning in a pool of honey. We looked at each other. Mamá reached for the fork and I nodded.

pencilGigi Papoulias was raised in Boston, a daughter of Greek immigrants. She lives in Athens and continues to coexist within two cultures, realizing it is mostly a privilege and sometimes a curse. A deserter of the corporate world, she enjoys writing stories and translating. Her fiction has appeared in Your Dream Journal, Literally Stories and in an anthology by Kingston University Press, London. Twitter: @manyfacesofATH Email: gigipapoulias[at]yahoo.com

Decades as Seasons

Poetry
DJ Tyrer


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

The decades seem like seasons to me.
The ‘Eighties a winter of contentment:
Dark and dreary with rain and snow
Yet warm with love and comfort.
The ‘Nineties a long, hot summer of the soul:
Bright and hot with sunbaked ground
And a drought of security and comfort.
But the next decade is a blur:
Maybe autumn is the metaphor
Decline and a haze of mist and falling leaves.
Now I might be in the spring:
Is this a period of rejuvenation
Or is the year about to come to an end
As the seasons finally die with me?

pencilDJ Tyrer is the person behind Atlantean Publishing, and has been published in issues of Amulet, California Quarterly, Carillon, The Dawntreader, Haiku Journal, The Pen, and Tigershark, and online at Atlas Poetica, Bindweed, Poetry Pacific, and Scarlet Leaf Review, as well as releasing several chapbooks, including the critically acclaimed Our Story. The echapbook One Vision is available from Tigershark Publishing’s website. SuperTrump and A Wuhan Whodunnit are available to download from the Atlantean Publishing website. Email: djtyrer[at]hotmail.co.uk

Two Poems

Poetry
Liam Tait


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

washing dishes

I was washing the dishes.
I scrubbed, lathered, rinsed.

My hands grabbed each plate in turn, then felt them all over—abrasively, I’d scrape the sponge. When the grime didn’t come off, I’d put it to the side and let it soak.

Once, I was washing this blue plate, blue like turquoise, like the ocean,
blue like the color green—only you couldn’t tell, it was so dirty.

So I scraped it with the sponge—and the dirt came right off—so I poured soap onto the sponge.
And I lathered, and cleaned, and lathered, and the soap had filled the sink, as soap does,

but I saw something I had never seen before—not the bubbles, each isolated and unique,
but the borders between them, the connections, white lace, pouring out—

I saw that these white lines created everything,
that while my two-dimensional perception could do nothing to perceive the entirety, the bubbles, at least,

had never been there.

 

lace and soapshine

We have arrived—a motionless journey.

Soap bubbles float among the bathwater. Yeah, we are individuals created individually in the smithies, tanneries, foundries and canneries—in the segments of our lives.

We relate like soapshine bubbles, so greasy and bordered, and we change only in size, not shape. Out of touch, we can see nothing but white lace: where are you?

Of course we clutch at loved ones. One segmentation we can’t let go: lovers. But love requires privilege, yeah commitment means we don’t leave unless we leave forever.

Happy, pleased, to have a partner. We are individuals, soap bubbles on bathwater.
How lucky that one has chosen us and not another, how lucky are they to be chosen?

Soapshine clinging through white lace.

We have arrived—a motionless journey.

White lace—soapshine bubbles—floats over and above the bathwater. Yeah, we appear individuals, created from intersections—segmentations from li[v/n]es of interaction.

We exist in relation, like the white lace of lather, we’d rather always be changing size and shape—intermingling. Pain comes, joy comes—we keep track of love through lace.

Love is a lace. Lovers come, lovers go—a lover left is not a love ended. Yeah, not unconditional, but commitment is to the lace, not the bubble. When you leave forever we will miss you.

Happy, pleased, to have partners. The lace is strong—relations lead to more relations—stops and starts in sex, friendship, love, if those are places to stop and start. Segmentations, intersections:

we are lace. We are
soapshine clinging through white lace.

pencilLiam Tait is a writer and acrobat from Michigan. When he is not upside down, he is writing; he does not recommend writing while upside down. Email: lhtait[at]gmail.com

Three Poems

Poetry
W. Joseph O’Connell


Photo Credit: Ken Lund/Flickr (CC-by-sa)

Incision

I deny myself
the pleasure
that comes from her…
things she did for me

swimming every morning,
cutting myself at night
therapy is happening,
in softness of heart

thought occurs to me…
try to find the help I need,
because I know
it is the knot in my stomach
and the scars
that need healing

 

There is No Reason Why

I feel like screaming
not knowing who I am
stopped being myself
even before I went to Iraq

today was hard
a doctor asked me to describe what I remember about the explosion that killed four soldiers
I think about that night all the time,
a nightmare I have lived with for more than ten years
struggling to stay in control of my emotions
numbing myself with alcohol and pills

nighttime, my usual walk through the neighborhood
realizing I was having a suicidal ideation
I didn’t consciously start having that thought,
it occurred to me by surprise

next day,
out of bed before the sun rises
then all day at work
the dread of going back to the house
the scenario I wanted to avoid
an all or nothing kind of life

every setback is a catastrophe
I am exhausted
when I get home,
I take a painkiller and lay down to sleep
awakening fourteen hours later
thank God, it is Saturday

 

Head Trip

Early morning, Sunday under the Florida sun
reflecting on the weekend
heading back home for Texas
first time I didn’t drink in a while
it takes all day to cross the sunshine state

I stop in Pensacola for fried-chicken dinner
then the long haul through the pinewood South,
bridges over green lakes and swampland
bugs splattering against the windshield keep me awake
something in me seems to ask myself, why am I trying so hard?

crazy, moving forward,
volunteering for every conflict that came along
twenty years in the service
anything can be justified to keep myself grounded
feeling everything and nothing at the same time

marriage was the first casualty of war
now the house is empty, and the miles traveled are lonesome
all that is left is an idea that I am destined to be alone
the road at night remains my best friend
as always, it lets me pretend I’m still the hero

pencilW. Joseph O’Connell is a writer living in Texas.  After serving combat tours in Iraq in 2007 and 2011, he was retired from the Army in 2020 for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He has published two novels, render, and dd 214. Twitter: @wjosephoconnell Email: bill_oconnell1968[at]yahoo.com

Souvenir

Poetry
Jenny Hockey


Photo Credit: solarnu/Flickr (CC-by-nd)

I found a Chinese baby’s shoe
with a bell to warn off mice

that’s smaller by far
than any shoe I’ve worn

and holds only the ghost
of my fat-toed child’s first pair,

one lost on a roadside verge,
one kept.

pencilJenny Hockey‘s poems range from the sad to the surreal to the celebratory. A retired anthropologist, she takes an oblique view of the ups and downs of everyday lives. In 2013 she received a New Poets Award from New Writing North, Newcastle, UK and, after magazine and anthology publications from 1985 onwards, Oversteps Books published her debut collection, Going to Bed with the Moon in 2019. Twitter: @JHockey20 Email: j.hockey[at]sheffield.ac.uk

Five Poems

Poetry
Mandy Haggith


Photo Credit: ccdoh1/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

Foxglove

Lynn’s brush
is delivering a foxglove,
a vixen
birthing a cub,
lick by lick,
onto the paper.

Hush settles.

Lynn’s brush
is smoothing the surface
until the foxglove
is perfectly reflected
in the still pool
of the page.

 

Tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica)
for David Sandum

Is it you I hear, here in fernshade,
showing me how the stump has grown
from scales, each fanned and fallen year
etched so we won’t forget?

We won’t forget. I come and go
with my weakening grief. You reach out
from a hockey-stick trunk, unfurl
a fiddler’s joie-de-vivre, let work drop away.

Drop away below. Here, light
is caught, sequestered, treasured,
shared in silver-backed shadows.

I hear your voice (‘Better get on’),
see how we shall carry on,
follow the guiding arrow of a frond.

 

Matsukaze

Monday
an onshore breeze
discussed in whispers
by twisted pines

Tuesday
missing my mother
hush say the pines
we understand

Wednesday
listened to the pines
dancing with wind all night
not sleeping at all

Thursday
I perfect the art
of pining
under quiet pines

 

Home

Robin in the rowan
casts snippets of gossip,
a crystal commentary
on this blue morning.

Hoar melts on rushes.
Frogs and newts splash in the pond
as if they haven’t heard
the forecast of frost.

Great tits and blackbirds flutter
the way people walked the marches,
boundary checking,
territory testing.

Badger, jaunty wood-snuffler,
you turn your head
and your bright black-button eyes
seem unafraid of me.

All of this
makes me feel
welcome.

 

January

The days are short, nights long.
Sun drops from below cloud.
Low-angled light

shafts
through
skeleton
trees,
all
still
resting.

Already the tide
has reached its nadir,
lapping, lapping at the rocks of the year.

pencilMandy Haggith lives in Assynt, Scotland, and teaches Literature and Creative Writing at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Her books include four poetry collections, most recently Why the Sky is Far Away (Red Squirrel Press 2019), a tree poetry anthology, a non-fiction book about paper and five novels. Email: hag[at]mandyhaggith.net