July 2011


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AMYNTO FORCE SINKS ETERNAL VIRGIN, 1500 DIE by Jamie Loftus.  Charlie frowned, releasing the paper to the wind and grabbed the railing of the now-vacant boat. “Where the fuck did they get that figure from?”
“Sounds familiar,” she said offhandedly, pulling another cough drop from her purse.
“Well, it pisses me off. Suddenly six people is a thousand,” he returned. “Now we’ve actually got to sink the damn thing. Those journalists, they don’t piss you off?”
Amynta smoothed out the long orange sleeves before her. “What’s the point? People like that aren’t telling you a story, they’re eating someone else’s shit and shitting it out themselves like it was the first shit to ever be taken. Forgive me if that’s a little much, but I don’t see a way to reason with someone who considers that a profession.”
“Says the woman who kills in cold blood,” he laughed, leaning on the rail.
She shrugged. “That’s the one thing death has going for it,” Amynta answered. “It’s very difficult to plagiarize, and even more difficult to get just right.” This was true enough, and Charlie thought his time would be better spent in the library, figuring how to actually sink a ship. FP

Musical Criminal by Amit Parmessur.  I paraded to the town school, quite impressed that the music teacher I was going to replace was found dead in her soft bed listening to Celine Dion’s I’m Alive on repeat mode.

I was instantly introduced to my mournful students. “Come on! Take your mischief out of the bag,” I said, “come everyone, stand in front of the piano. Concentrate! Punch it and devour its keys as if they were delicious chocolate biscuits.” We had some chocolate party.

During the flute session I stopped one student blowing some crap music. “Take your fingers and carefully close all the holes in the flute until it suffocates and dies,” I snapped solemnly. “Everyone!”

They all enjoyed their novel status of criminals and the newly-painted walls echoed happiness. The afternoon caretaker was quite baffled to see so many flutes in the dustbin. “They are all dead, so, he can’t think of selling ‘em,” one student murmured.

I adored his logic.

I then showed how to hang the drum at home and learn boxing. I even taught my disciples how to take the trumpet, blow into it once and throw it wildly over their roof. We also learned how to mold the triangle into a perfect square to compose a peppy song, à la John Deacon.

I was about to demonstrate how to strangle one’s sadness with guitar strings when the rector came, a caretaker grinning over his shoulder.

I went home, slammed the door and listened to The Doors’ The End. FP

Flamenco by Samantha Memi.  I was a flamenco dancer. I stamped my feet, picked an apple from a tree, clicked my tongue, snapped my fingers, clacked my castanets and with all the stamping picking clicking and clacking I fell into a swoon. Antonio, the torero, my dancing partner, caught me as I fell, and I heard the crowd cry olé as he carried me to his dressing room where he undressed me to give me air, and held me close to his body to listen to the beating of my heart. As I came out of my reverie I realised what he was doing and said, ‘Antonio, what are you doing? Not here. Let’s find a cheap hotel together.’

We spent the night in the Hostal Guadalquivir, where he gave me what for with his capo de torero, and made my Sevillana sing with duende. ‘Oh oh, Antonio,’ I chirruped in his arms and I fell once more into a reverie and I found myself stamping picking clicking clacking and as I danced I realised my swoon was just a dream. FP

Tryst  by Paul Beckman.  M carried her memories of the business trip back home with her. She would, for the next month or so, when her husband and kids weren’t around take out this one-time lover’s shirt and breath in his essence. She danced with it, rolled on the rug with it wrapped around her and once even slept with it when she was alone for the weekend.

J buried her panties deep in one of the pockets of his briefcase. He would reach in from time to time and feel their smoothness and think of her. Sometimes he would smuggle them in his pants pocket to a safe place at work or home and re-live their loving with her smell.

She told her best friend and confidante who called her a true romantic.

He told no one, although he was just as romantic—more so, even, he believed. One lunch time his boss, a woman he’d had a brief affair with, walked into his office without knocking. J, in the throes of M via her bunched up panties under his nose, reacted quickly with a fake sneeze and a quick wipe while his boss was none the wiser.

Afterwards, M’s panties no longer elicited the desired effect so he tossed them. M kept his shirt for years until his essence had long since dwindled and she survived on its memories.  FP

Existence by Lilyyy Dawn.   “I hate hate hate, bro. I'm so fucking mad. I am so goddamn mad. I wanna cry about every fucking wrong thing in the world. I wanna cry my motherfucking eyes out. I hate hate hate.” I woke up to a voicemail from Adam on my cellular telephone and that's what it said. He hate hate hates.

I called him thinking he was dead somewhere.

“I'm alive,” he said, “I don't know how I haven't alienated all of my friends. I'm glad that I haven't, but I figure that it should've happened by now.”

We ended up meeting downtown.

“Today has barely existed,” he said. He wasn't looking at anything. He certainly wasn't looking at me. He demonstrated the day: dully passing with nothing to look at.

Adam barely existed.  FP


Dolly by Katie McGuire.  It was the 90s, but they hadn’t yet heard of *NSYNC.  There were no Backstreet Boys, no battle for top female vocals.  They were the generation lost, the ones who would be young enough to be forced to debate the individual merits of Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Mandy Moore, but too old to really give a shit about any of them.

It also didn’t help that it was 1991 and Sam insisted on love ballads from the past.  They were his guilty pleasure, the songs that had country crooners bearing their heart-broken souls and women wailing about lost causes.  Men and women traded verses, rehashing what went wrong or declaring their eternal flaming passion for one another.  Women were floozies or saints.  Men were either innocent victims or cruel-hearted rednecks with a taste for imported beer and foreign women.

Sam loved that shit.  And anyone that commented on his selection of Whitney Houston over Pink Floyd got their asses handed to them (and usually ran out to buy Whitney’s latest single).  His girlfriend, Mariah, was one who didn’t see the allure.  She was the only one who escaped a physical beating for her take on Sam’s musical tastes, but she had suffered plenty of emotional smackdowns whenever she reached for the radio dial in Sam’s dad’s aging Cadillac.

And that’s how Mariah ended up losing her virginity in the backseat of that car, to the tune of Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”  She hated that song. FP

The Destiny of Weeds by Ron Koppelberger.   Bothering the ambition of speckled flowers, blossoms in sweet fragrant answer to the spring and desires of an adorned bride, the ragweed sprouted and sang the song of an unwonted bloom, in tiny eyed dander and a poor mans rose, in the spaces between trees. Shrub and open fields of play lay the dreams and destiny of weeds, the innate consciousness of a haven inhabited by the unruly and the sturdy, the weed being tougher and more abundant in its propagating birth, in its unabashed growth. The destiny of a weed in favored places and desolate untrod ground, to live ugly or perhaps beautifully by the promise of an appreciative glance and a day borne only for weeds and the castaway wonder of what’s understood by few but the love of a peasant admiring the wishes of a dandelion.  FP

Wandering Mind, Yearning Heart by Dominic Knight.  Nothing in the pages made sense. Every turn of the sketch book continued to puzzle him. The faces were familiar, but he couldn’t put names to them. He could guess and call these strangers whatever he wanted, but that’s all they were; strangers. Two months in this hospital and he’d filled up four books with the same people. Each book now spread across the table before him.

Flipping the page of one, he watched the people change. Expressions of the same person filled one page before shifting to someone new. The facial features were similar, which lead him to believe they were all related. But kin to whom, he wasn’t sure. His next book had three children, happy, carefree and grinning up at him. However the final two books were his biggest mystery. A woman stared up at him with penetrating eyes despite her smile.

Tentative, his finger traced the pencil, leaving a small smudge. No one could tell him who these people were; they were as clueless as he. Sighing, he closed the other books and continued to stare at her. Flipping a few pages, he stopped again, staring at another joyful expression gracing her delicate features. Still nothing signaled he knew her name. Inhaling deeply, he tried to calm his pounding heart; some part of him remembered her, yearned and loved her.

He just wished the rest of him would catch up with his heart. FP

Blue Moon by Samantha Memi.     He said,

—Look into my eyes and see a vision of the night.

I looked and saw muggers, drunks, street cats and homeless children.  There was no moon, no hope, no love, nowhere to go. I shuddered back and looked at his mouth, full sensuous lips, he smiled and a glint of white shone through the saliva where his lips had parted.

—Don't you like my night?

—Not really, I dissented.

—Try my day, and he opened his shirt to reveal, inside his chest, a beach with palm trees, sun, rolling waves, bathers and a wide blue horizon.

—Come inside and feel my warmth, and I went and never returned.

  I live here now, I've got used to his beating heart and his indigestion. Of course it wasn't summer for long, winter set in, the sea froze, the beach turned to grit that bit into my skin, and then the inevitable sneezes. In my sleep I have nightmares of drunks and muggers, but I can't say I regret my actions. I have never seen any point in regretting. My dad always said: it you don't like it change it, if you can't change it put up with it, but don't moan.

Todd and I don't go out much anymore, and friends have largely stopped visiting.  We watch TV, eat, sleep, sometimes we argue, but not too often; I'm too cuddled inside him to disagree with him now.  FP


May 2011



Honesty is the Best Policy by Katie McGuire.  He rolled into town in the backseat of his best friend’s Beemer, pressed against the driver’s side door and lost in oblivion.  He watched the quiet sprawl pass the tinted windows with a pout, missing city life already.  Why had he agreed to come along, wasting precious summer weeks in no-man’s land when he could be trolling Providence’s finest bars for hot undergrads?

Because he’d been promised women.  That was all Drew needed to take him anywhere, even a beat-up and bruised little place like this.  His best friend played tour guide as they passed a ramshackle apartment complex.  And there she was – his perfect woman, lazily waving a straw hat over her bikini-clad frame as she sipped at something golden and delicious in a long glass.  Drew pressed his nose to the window, salivating at the sight of her.

“Stop the car.”

He fought his way out of the backseat and onto her front lawn, waiting until she pushed back her sunglasses to introduce himself and invite her to join them at the bar later.  She was sleazy, she was tawdry, she was capricious; all things his mother liked to say to his dates’ cat-eyed and pouty-lipped faces.  He would call her all these things, and worse, by the end of the night.

“You’re sick,” he’d cackle, around two in the morning.  And, to his surprise, she’d just grin, eyes narrowed, and show him how depraved she really was. FP

She Lives Alone by Samantha Memi.  He came home drunk, vomited on the floor, hit her because she wouldn't clear it up, kicked her for fun, left her in a pool of blood.

In the morning he said sorry. She wouldn't listen. He grabbed her and shook her and kept on shaking her until she accepted his apology.

She went to see her friend. Her friend said, Leave him. She said she couldn't.

But she did.

He followed her and found her. Leave me alone, she pleaded, I hate you I hate you. He didn't hit her. He wasn't drunk. He went down on his knees and pleaded with her to take him back. She refused. She still loved him but the memories of violence had scarred her mind. She didn't want to go through anything like that again. He grabbed her arm the way he used to when he forced her to listen to his sorrys. She looked at him. Her look said I hate you. He let go of her arm and walked out of her life.

She lives alone. He drinks.  FP

Words by A.C. Gates. I was alone in a bar. The wounds weren't healing.

The place reeked because damaged men like myself sat on wooden stools and smoked the finest we could afford.

I turned around and watched some people dance. They were untainted – free from the curse of war.

As I finished smoking, I saw a woman walking towards me. Her bright orange dress and golden hair stood out from the sea of white and black.

“Marty?” she said to me. I was the only person in front of her.

“I'm Ricky,” I responded.

She came up closer. She rubbed her smooth fingers over the rough stubble on my face.

“No, you must be my Marty,” she said.

I sighed as I rubbed my forehead.

  “Sorry love, I'm Ricky. I was a member of the 445th-”

  “You look just like him.”

“Maybe that's coincidence but-”

  “You have the same raspy voice as him.”

  “Cigarettes gave me that.”

  “He smoked.”

  “Who doesn't?”

  “You're my Marty. I know it.”

“I'm Ricky. I don't even know you. Accept it and move on.”

  Her blue eyes were watery with defeat.

“I'm sorry,” she said, walking away.

As I reached for another cigarette, I realized she might have the same wounds as I did. We could heal each other. I grabbed my jacket and followed her out.

  She was looking in the sky as I tapped her shoulder.

“Do you want to talk?”  LS

Orange Groves and Oil Fields by Sissy Buckles.   Flipping through an old Cha-Cha Charming magazine there's a black and white early Ronettes fan-photo, tough looking street smart homegirls grouped around a parlor grand piano working out 3-part harmony, beehives piled high with Aqua Net hairspray, dressed alike in stylin' empire waist frocks and t-strap kitten heels.  Their exotic dark eyes kohl-lined, babyfaced smiles still innocent before Ronnie's Stockholm Syndrome imprisonment, fighting for her life behind Phil Spector's crazy Wall of Sound and little star Estelle homeless wandering streets of New York in agonized schizophrenic wonder.  

A photo reminding me of visiting my cousins in LA when I was a kid, all of us roadtrip piled into the Country Squire station wagon, my sisters and I wearing pink plaid sundresses that matched our Mom's who'd made them for us on her old Singer sewing machine.  On the way up from San Diego we'd fight with our brother, passing steel mills, orange groves, and miles of Long Beach oil fields and my cousins lived in a neighborhood so different from our quiet lawned homes, louder and more alive, intense colors and spicy smells mingled with concrete and corner liquor stores.  Then we'd go have huge potato salad picnics at  South Gate Park on Tweedy Blvd. where we'd all play, our Dads listening to the Dodger game on the transistor radio.  FP

Untitled by Jamie Loftus.  Testa and Hart had tied in every road race for the past two years, and were wonderful friends. They had spent many afternoons jogging
together along the path that led to the high school, then through and
out to the other side. They would watch television and sometimes make
each other dinner, then wake up and continue running the next morning.
Not as much lately, but certainly most of the time.

“How’re you feeling, Testa?” Hart asked, lacing her shoes sleepily.
She hadn’t been able to sleep in some time and wasn’t feeling well.
Testa nodded wildly in response, hopping from foot to foot, not
betraying a word; Hart rarely said what she thought, either.

Crack. The gun sounded and Testa sprinted half a mile, leaving Hart to
meander her way along the course, which didn’t have any clear finish
line--they were to run until they tired. Slow and steady, Hart
thought, slow and steady, but found herself to feel far more slow than
she did steady.

“Testa!” she shouted, slowing to a walk far sooner than she used to.
“I’m finished! You win.” Testa loved winning and being patted on the
back, something Hart wasn’t as concerned with.

Silence. “Testa!” Testa had never tired and was five miles in the
distance, turning onto the highway and running through zip codes and
counties into a whole new state, although Hart didn’t know of what.

It seemed they hadn’t been as close as she thought. FP

The Start Of The Big Rumor by Thomas Sullivan.  “Hello?”

“Evening, is Emma Smith available?”


“Emma, I’m with a national, non-partisan polling firm. Do you have a moment?”

  “Well, if it’s quick…”

“Great. Here’s the first question. Would you rate the President’s policies as socialist or communistic?”

  “Uh, socialist.”

“Okay, great. Next. On a scale from somewhat damaging to very damaging, how would you rate the impact of unions.”

  “I don’t know. Somewhat?”

“Great. Okay, two more quick questions. First, what is your reaction to reports that the President is officially renaming the White House to the Black House?”


“What is your…”

“I heard you. That’s true? I didn’t see anything on TV.”

“Absolutely. According to the Center For Truthful Politics…”

“What’s that?”

“A research group based in…”

“FRED!! You have to hear this! Hold on, he’s downstairs.

“No problem, so how are things in, let’s see, Hammerton?”


“Never heard of it.”

“That’s how we like it. Population two thousand, we never lock our doors. FRED!!”

“Probably not much left to steal.”

“What’s that?”

“I, uh, said…”


“Fred, this man says our President’s gonna rename the White House.”

“C’mon, you’re kidding. What to?”

“The Black House.”


“Yes sir, you hadn’t heard?”

“Jesus. That fella speaks English real well and all, but I knew something was up.

“Oh god. I gotta go tell Mabel about this. Fred, answer this gentleman’s last question.”

“Jesus, this is unreal. Okay, go ahead.”

“Mr Smith, would you rate the corporate tax burden as heavy, staggering, or outright crushing?”  FP

Rivulets by Dominic Knight.  He curled into the front seat, eyes watching the rivulets of rain descend the smooth glass. Glancing to his Aunt, he could see her focus as she drove. It had been hours since they spoke. The radio had long been turned off—a lack of good news and reception.

There hadn’t been a plan on the destination. She hauled him from his bed and forced him in the car. It had been the wee hours of the morning; birds had yet to sing their greetings to the sun and most hadn’t left for work. Virtually everything they owned had been left behind. Some boxes were on the backseat, but their contents were unknown to him. His only companion, Tosha, sprawled across a blanket on the floor.

“I could drive too,” he offered, breaking the silence. Studying his Aunt, she continued with her eyes on the road.

“You’ve no idea what to do,” she murmured. “More dangers lurkin’ about.”

“If you tell me where we’re goin’ I could—“

“Drivin’ straights all you need knowin’. You’ll be safe soon.” The roar of the engine filled the silence. Shifting in the seat, his eyes returned to stare out at the brooding clouds. FP

The Miles Between by Katie McGuire.  There weren’t enough miles between Boston and Braintree.  You could still feel the effects of the closed port.  You could still hear the gunfire from Breed’s Hill.  You could still imagine the musket balls flying, the bayonets plunging into supple flesh, the cannons taking down family homes and shops.

In the early days of her marriage to Peter, Rebecca hadn’t been quite so imaginative.  A year ago, seated by the kitchen window in their new window, the young wife would admire the delicate spring trees and coo at the tiny child growing inside her.  She had been the perfect wife and Peter – he had loved her.  That was enough.  He was a failed sailor, but she had loved him anyway, from the very first day they met.  She still did.

Now, scrubbing shirts in the washbasin and listening to the gentle breathing of her little daughter, Rebecca couldn’t help but see the bloodstained grass and the sea of advancing enemies.  Her daydreams were vivid, full of terror; the clear sky was lost on her darkened eyes.  She looked into the basin and saw not New England dirt marring the water, but American blood.

Peter was a failed sailor, but he had been so sure he would make a far better soldier.  How had he expected to live up to the role of warrior, of murderer, of patriot?  Rebecca had not received word from her husband in nearly three months.

There were far too many miles between Boston and Braintree. FP

And so it goes by Cath Barton.  I had already been on the road for ten hours, and this was not the kind of thing I wanted to hear.

“Shuttlecock  County is a bit of a drive, lady. I’d say six hours.”

I had to do it. Michael was waiting for me and there wasn’t going to be a second chance this time. I got back in the car, revved the engine and swung out onto the highway.

All along the dusty road I passed the time by playing tracks from back then.  Tears for Fears, The Cure - songs from when we were just babes and didn’t know which end of anything to suck.  Twenty years had passed  in a wash of forgottenness and I was in Texas now, Michael only hours away and nothing  to stop us. Just this goddam road to travel.

We’d not known what we were doing. The quarrel had been so stupid, but I’d pulled myself back into a semblance of shape eventually, met Harry, taken the expected path. Until the unexpected had tripped me up and sent me headlong into this crazy journey.

There were things I couldn’t think about. Like what Harry was doing right now. Feeling too, because he sure as hell had feelings. I turned up the volume. Billy Joel was singing. About me, singing about me and Michael. I stepped on the gas. “That’s if the choice were mine to make....and you can have this heart to break”. Sing out, Billy boy.  FP

Clutching Forgiveness by Katie Moore.   I clutch the jerk, wrapping my right arm around his left, grasping the cuff of his leather jacket. My left arm moves for him, across my body. My hand slides over his chest.

I grip the far collar of his jacket and turn, press my face against him. Jacket. Cold. I move closer, wedging my left leg between his. I settle, straddling his thigh, resting my face on the t-shirt where his jacket gaps. Our right hands hold, with his left he runs one finger through my hair. We breathe deep and sigh together. Release. Alone. Home. I close my eyes and smell him, sniffing, feral. I cup my hands together around my nose and draw his scent closer.

He grips my hips and rocks me on his thigh. I make noises like a little animal. I want to lick him, so I lick his mouth while his eyes are closed. He laughs before trapping my tongue in a smile that turns into a kiss. I moan into his mouth. He puts one big hand around my neck and sucks away my breath. I let him take it. He gives it back. We share one swallow of air until the oxygen runs out and our ears buzz.

I fall against him, panting and giggling while asphyxiation fireworks explode behind my eyes. I laugh, and cry, which makes me laugh harder. He holds my head with both hands and lets me. I forget he was a jerk.  FP

The Long Ride Home by Aleia Sears.   She looked over at the white knuckle grip on the steering wheel. She turned away quickly so as not to show fear. She surreptiously wiped the beading sweat from her upper lip and watched the Arkansas Black Oak streaking by so quickly the blurred together like her wasted future. She could feel the pulsing anger rolling off her mother and she felt as if she were drowning and involuntarily gasped for air. Red, Yellow, Brown whizzed by her window as she contemplated her immediate future of telling the rest of her family and the future of the horizon where she would be trying to take care of it. The hour in seething silence pulled at her skin like a weight until she felt as if she would be ripped asunder and left an exposed pile of beating heart and blood and shame. She took a steadying, deep breath as the future came sharply into view in the form of the tiny ramshackle house with the gravel driveway. She promised herself she would not cry. She would not give them that. FP                                                                                                                          
March's Theme (or not): Hiding Place
Trembling Breeze by Erika Hearken.   I saw you here again…

Tears trembled down your face as the flowers withered in your clenched fist.  You asked me questions I just couldn’t answer; even if I had tried.  I watched as you took my silence in the wrong way.  You threw the flowers down at my feet; you turned away from me to storm off.  I chased you, but couldn’t catch you. 

You paused so suddenly I almost ran into you.  You had stopped to stare at the beautiful tiny child staring up into your questing eyes.  My heart clenched at the sight.  Did you see her?  Did you see her bright, brilliant blues gazing at you adoringly?  Could you hear her gurgling coos that begged for her father’s attention?

You inhaled deeply and slowly…

You opened your mouth and my heart stopped…

“Damn wind.”

I cried tears that were dry as I collapsed to the cold frost covered earth; through my tears I witnessed you leave here again.  Leaving us behind again in the grass and stone covered hills.  In our own silent, secret hiding place among the cool earth and emotionless winds…FP

The Return by LaNell Haydon.  It was like the sigh of a ghost.  It was a breath, a movement of a hand across your back when the door shut.  It had been like dying, it had been like falling, when you lay down on the bed. 

You are in a dark room trying to catch your breath.  But where?  You can't remember.  The air is thin, and you strain to see the faintest of light.  There is only darkness. 

You close your eyes and remember.  Remember the doctors moving like shadows in the room, contemplating with hands on chins, speaking to each other as if you weren't sitting right there.  Were they angels who had come to pull you from this nightmare in which your daughter was dead?  No, they were not. 

A thump hits hard against the door.    

You sit up. 

It hits again.  

You run to the door and open it.  A ball bounces out of the darkness and your daughter stands before you.  You reach out.  She takes your hand, and finally you remember.  You had fled the doctors and returned to the hotel where you had last been with her, where she had died in a fire. 

There is now another fire.  You started it just minutes ago.  The air gives way to flames.  You are entombed in a fiery coffin...with your daughter holding your hand...cannot breath ... burning...flames...ashes...you...and she...be...come...one.  FP

Deep Forest by Evangeline Crow.  Miles away, the cheery sun laughs and spreads light.  The curtains of rain have opened, and the forest floor is bright. Clothed in brown, I sit in the damp moss at the edge of a shadow and think.  Like the wind, my life seems to change in length and speed with every passing day. I hide my face underneath a brown hat. It seems as though nothing in my world is complete; I view it from only a half-shell and I’ve never seen beyond my mossy prison. I cannot move and only rain will set me
free. But will it ever come? 

My twin sits beside me, but all I can see of him is the point where his foot is becomes the moss. We do not speak; simply wait for the rain to touch our half-dark world.  What lies beyond the rain we do not know, only that it is where our existence began, and it may be where our individual existence may end.  But here in the forest there is no end.  It begins to rain with this thought. When the rain ends, I adjust my cap. For the first time, I see my forest and my sky, and my twin’s face.  He is still. So following his example, I give my light to the forest, and leave behind the empty shell of a brown clad figure one with the  moss of the forest floor.

But here in the forest there is no end.  FP

1985: What I Wanted by Misti Rainwater-Lites.  I wanted I wanted I wanted I needed I needed I needed. I did not have. I wanted long straight blond hair. I wanted plump round breasts. I wanted a boyfriend named Chris who played tennis and had excellent improvisation skills to fondle and kiss my breasts in his bedroom with his parents in Europe and the Thompson Twins on the radio. I wanted to be a cheerleader with three Swatches on each wrist. I wanted to sit at the cool table in the cafeteria and be in on all the jokes. I wanted a name that no one could make fun of, a safe name like Heather Smith or Michelle Jones. I wanted a closet filled with Guess? jeans and Esprit shirts. I wanted to look in the mirror and not see what I saw.  FP

Lullaby by Diana Ferguson.  The tingling in my arms wakes me; I am bound tightly in the fetal position, enmeshed in the coverings.  If the lack of blood flow had not woken me, my shivering would have.  I burrowed down into the thick comforter, but it was useless. Now that he’s gone, the comforter does nothing to abate the chill.

I must have fallen back asleep, for when I wake, he is there.  Soft, warm, breathing.  I move against him, his back aligning perfectly into the curve of my body.  Touching, connecting, our feet entwine.  I feel the heat emanating from him, slowly spreading over me, penetrating finally.  I begin to relax. His breathing becomes regular, heavy, and deep.  It’s a lullaby.  I press my face into his shoulder breathing deeply of his scent.  Calming.   As I inhale his presence, my mind wanders.  Words drift lazily by as I float into peaceful oblivion:  strength, peace, love, home.  FP

Damp Shoes by Dominic Knight.  It smelled of mold; damp shoes and soaked polyester jackets. To most it wasn’t a pleasant aroma. But it only took a few minutes of sitting in the enclosed space before it wasn’t there. In fact, it started to smell more like sour acid from the pages of his sketch book. The scent reminded him of pickles.

His mouth was open, tongue barely visible as his pencil slid across the page. He liked drawing in here; his closet away from the yelling of family, of school, of life. In here, he could focus on himself and think. This space was just what he needed after draining phone calls and long study sessions with him.

No matter how hard he tried, he always got caught staring. Whether it was at his lips, or the way his hair fell across his brow. A smirk would appear on his face, and that’s where it’d all start. He’d melt at the sight and yearn to be close to him; finally their skin would touch.

In the back of his mind, he knew he didn’t see him the same; that he was just a warm body. There was never that glint of affection in his eyes. It was pure needFP

Untitled bv Jamie Loftus.  “Hot, warm, and dark” is an ideal hiding spot for many people and perverts in this world, and Ron was no exception. Ever since his fifth birthday party, when he discovered that the closet in his bedroom was ideal crawl space to escape the immense gravitational of his great-aunt’s lips to his cheeks, it’d been his only place to seek uninterrupted solace. “Come back down, everyone’s waiting!” came the disembodied voice at the bottom of the stairs. “Don’t make your mother come up there!”

His breathing quickened-- would she really show? That had happened at his twelfth birthday party and she’d mistakenly assumed he’d been in there to masturbate, instead of avoiding the train wreck that was his family. “God can still see you in there!” she’d screamed in horror at the sight of her son curled up between family videos and rotting sandwiches.

“Goddamn,” the voice continued as stairs creaked, “I’ll come get you myself.” Ron could hear the voice’s slow ascent and huddled back, his own breathing louder than he could have imagined. 

As footsteps grew closer, the closet door flung open without Ron touching it, and a little boy tumbled out of the closet from the opposite side. “Don’t make me go back, Dad!” the boy shouted, pounding his fists. “Aunt Lacey is scary!”

The father’s eyes widened as they focused on the grown man in his closet. “Ron Dearing?” he asked in disbelief. “You sold us this house five years ago, you creepy bastard!”

Shit.  FP

Small Town Barney By Matt Rafferty. “Did you kick the back door of your house in?” The cop asked me again. He stood below me on the front porch stairs of a buddy’s house.

            “Honest to God, officer, it wasn’t me.” He was staring at my shoes; I was trying to breathe sideways, hoping the wind would carry away my whiskeyed breath.

             “What if I took you over there, in the back of my cruiser, and we compared your shoe to the foot print carved in that door? What size shoe do you wear Mr. Gerradey?”

            “Um, a fourteen. Now listen. I’m gonna tell you the honest truth. We got to arg-yun, and she threw me out ‘gain, and locked the doors! Then she opened the storm winder, and started yellin’ that I’d never see my dog ‘gain. Well, sir, roofin’ makes a man’s legs almighty stro-nk.  And hell be sure no damn Chinese locks gonna keep me from Rhoda.”

            “Mr. Gerradey, I appreciate your honesty. Now I just want you to answer one more question. Are you gonna fix that door tomorrow?”

            “Oh yessir. I’ll stay here at Big Haas’s and then tomorrow I’ll fix that door.”

            “Well that’d be fine.” Small ton cops. “Oh, and Mr. Gerradey, I got a wife, and I got a dog. I love my dog.”  FP

Secret Hiding Place by Aleia Sears I have always thought it strange and wonderous that feelings and moods can alter so drastically because of the difference in Day or Night or even the Seasons. We had just been hiking all day by a hidden waterfall that you could even crawl behind. It was wet, cold and incredibly slick but we had made love there for hours. Afterwards we had jumped in the frigid, swirling waters after daring each other for almost fifteen minutes. It had always been fun and comfortable around each other the way it is when you are first dating. We were now in his bed in the euphemistically titled "Garden Apartment" which was really a basement with a very small window to let light in. He was laying there awake with a Mona Lisa smile. I had never understood the appeal of that painting until now when I realized how intensely beautiful that mysterious smile is. The moonlight was only falling on the defined muscles of his chest and looked very much like a marble statue of some obscure Greek God. I laid my hand upon his chest and he turned to me and smiled a little fuller and in that complete silence I knew that his arms would always be my Secret Hiding Place. FP

Alone in the Desert  by Cath Barton.  Mahmoud pointed down the wadi. "You just go straight as you can. Saad will meet you at the turn."

I'd been that way before, but always with Bedouin who knew the invisible paths through this big-bouldered landscape. I trusted Mahmoud though. He wouldn’t put me in danger.

It was early, the sky was already clear blue but the valley bottom still in shadow. After a couple of hundred metres I turned and waved to Mahmoud. Soon he was out of sight. High on the hillside  women were gathering herbs for their goats. Being back in the desert felt good. It had been seven years and my life in England had not gone well during that time. Time to rediscover the essential.

I was about half way to my meeting-point with Saad when my senses pricked. I rounded a large boulder and nearly walked into them - a group of Egyptian military policemen. In my way and waving guns.

"Papers!" barked one of them.

I fumbled out my passport. The man gestured me to move back. "What you doing here? Where your guide?" 

The Egyptians were laughing at something. I couldn't understand what they were saying. Then one of them took out a cigarette lighter, clicked it and held it near to my passport.

"You want me to burn your papers?" I froze. "Or you want to come with me?" The second question was accompanied by a lascivious smirk.

The day had gone cold. Very cold.  FP

March by Katie McGuire.  Flashbulbs weren't her thing.  The realization came too late, after years of watching red carpet coverage and imagining herself there, practicing her winning smile in the mirror.  The smile still wasn’t a winner, but she was stuck on the red carpet now, like it or not. 

  It’s really more of a maroon.  All those years, thinking it was crimson.  Now, it just clashed with her gown.  That stung, especially since she’d designed the damn thing herself, right down to the fabric.

Her head swam when she stepped from the limousine the studio had been shocked to hear she’d been planning to go without.  “I’m a writer, not a celebrity,” she’d rationalized.  She could walk.  Take a cab.  Ride a bike?  They weren’t having it.

Maybe the tulle was too much; that was the problem, definitely.  That’s the nerves – all from the dress.  A valet steadied her on her jewel-encrusted feet, then she teetered forward on her own, nearly run down by Leo DiCaprio’s arriving limousine.

The crowd roared to life, some her fans, some crazy over the dress.  The photographers clicked away, shouting her name.  Ryan Seacrest was beaming at the top of the carpet, expecting her.  She towered over him in these heels, but knew she’d never match his confidence.

She inhaled.  She took another tiny step forward.  And then she sprinted down the carpet, cowering behind an enormous Oscar statuette until the reporters left her in peace.  FP

Drought by Lyndsay Johnson.  103°.  Fucking California.  We sat on opposing sides of the room- I was sprawled out on the sheets, while he was sitting in the chair next to the fan.  The bed was “too stuffy” for him.  Of course, right?  Something always had to be wrong.

We sat silently in the dark, the only light leaking in from the window made a silhouette of his head.  Stealthily, afraid that even the slightest exhale or twitch of a muscle would make the room even a single degree hotter, he lifted his 40 to his lips.  He melted in the leather chair, every so often peeling his skin from the surface.  The smell of sweat and beer was sickening.

“It’s a fucking sauna in here.”

Yeah, no shit.  Everyone within a 60 mile radius is feeling the same exact heat, but for him it’s unbearable.

“I swear, this house has no insulation.  I wanna swim but I can’t even get up to drive there.  I think a layer of my skin has fused to this chair.”

I didn’t have the energy to roll my eyes.  Time after time, I heard his complaints.  Sure, things might suck, but you have to deal, right?  It’s either that, or complain.  I’m no beacon of hope or anything, but he made me look like the patron saint of rainbows and unicorns.

It took everything within me to muster up a response.


It was too damn hot to argue.  FP

Playing Safe by Nicolette Wong.  She takes a last drag of my cigarette, her eyes squinting at the stranger who has travelled half the globe to walk down her street. As she relishes the last smoke ring, I turn to leave.

Are you sure you aren't coming with me?' she asks, passing me the cigarette butt stained with my saliva and her dark red lipstick. Against the lamp post she looks tall and rough in a faux fur coat, her skin the color of sand. Her eyes speak of an old soul I once met, a girl who crawled on my table like a wild cat.

I throw the cigarette butt into the bin.

‘You're going to be in good hands,' she says.

Does she have vodka bottles hissing on the windowsills too, when the wind blows through the afternoon shadows? I bet this one is too busy to notice anything beyond her bed and nightstand. She must work all day whenever she picks up a customer on the street. I'm not strong enough for that.

Past the entrance to my temporary home, I hear the whirling cry of a possum, out to kill.

‘Has Wesley been out for the day?' I ask my fiance.

‘No, he hasn't. It's not safe for a girl to wander around this neighborhood at night,' he says.

I grab our cat and put him on my lap. There are too many ways to be safe.  FP

Snowed In by Jane C. Chute.   "It roared across the landscape like a conquering warrior, cutting down all in its path."

Marcy hit 'Delete.' She looked down at her frozen, arthritic fingers, now burning with pain, and recalled the last words the newsman spoke before the power outage robbed her of her wireless lifeline to the world.

Roads impassable...up to two additional feet expected...lines down...stay indoors...

She blew on her hands to warm them; her breath, coming in short bursts now, sent smoky trails wafting through the frosty air. Her atrophied legs, cold at the best of times, had grown number as the day wore on.

She listened for signs of life outside the tiny, ice-encrusted basement window, but the only audible sound was the whirring of her motorized wheelchair. No birds; no people. Nothing. Five-foot drifts blocked all but a sliver of light from filtering in beneath the door.

Her lips cracked from thirst; she'd finished the last of the water hours ago, just before the pipes had frozen. The overcast grey sky grew dark as ink. The sun set, robbing her of light. Of warmth. Of hope.

She typed a single word on the keyboard, and watched as the battery died:

H E L P.   FP