By Gerard McKeown
I scratched your name in the sand with casual strokes of my big toe. Like I’ve done on every beach I’ve visited since we met. As I wiped cold sand off my feet and put on my socks, I saw people in the distance, walking my direction. I looked down at your name and wondered if, by some chance, they knew you.
I pished the letters away before they arrived. The tide was coming in, but not fast enough to erase you. I couldn’t be bothered waiting. Besides, you were already gone, regardless of ways I try to evoke you.
Gerard McKeown’s work has been featured in The Moth, 3:AM, and Litro, among others. In 2017 he was shortlisted for The Bridport Prize.
By Richard Helmling
As the ash piled up on the sixth day, they finally decided to head south.
“Por favor,” they made their son practice as they drove.
They avoided El Paso because the last radio broadcasts they had received said it was impossible to cross there.
So they found a seemingly desolate stretch of the wall. They approached with rope ladders slung between them, slapping their thighs, and he winced, remembering his vote in the previous election.
On the other side, he looked back over his shoulder at the six-foot high graffiti: “No les des de comer a los Americanos!”
Richard Helmling’s work has appeared in English in Texas, The Rio Grande Review, Fiction Brigade, Black Heart Magazine and Arsenic Lobster.
By Salvatore Difalco
Uncanny pewter light, late winter afternoon: snow falls. Snow falls and the ambience follows suit, tiny tinkling bells, crystalline swells, a ruby glow from someone’s hearth.
“You’d best be leaving, lady, blizzard blowing in.”
“I can wait. I like the white.”
“You won’t make it through the night in those feathers.”
No sign she understands. Later, she blasphemes the gusts.
Such are the imprecations of conviction. We spin the globe but often return to the middle space, where we exist, side by side, with ideas about flying south next winter or building a warmer nest.
They argue over everything, especially when it comes to packing the car.
Her approach is to plan ahead and pack methodically, whereas he grabs items on sight and packs with brute force.
One morning she challenges him to prove that his method is more efficient. He spends the rest of the morning squeezing everything they own into the back of the car, determined to prove her wrong.
Once finished, he brings her outside to inspect his work.
Thank you she says, before getting into the car and driving away forever, happy to have conceded their final argument together.
By Deb Whittam
It was a well-worn path; she had walked it a thousand times. When the sun shone she had meandered down its length, enjoying the warmth as she admired the flowers blooms. She had cursed when the rain came teeming down, hurrying down this treacherous path clutching her precious load to her chest as she slipped on the uneven cobblestones.
Sometimes in her more philosophical moments she believed that this daily walk encompassed her whole existence. It was the measure of her joy, heartache, despair, even resignation but then reality forced her to concede she was only hanging out the washing.
A weathered vine
through an accident of ice
in the wintry wind.
By J. Hardy Carroll
Her expression is wrong. And her hair. For the first time, he is glad she is dead. This would have upset her.
He goes to the bathroom to wash his hands. They smell like the funeral director’s oily aftershave – flowers and death. He washes them twice, sniffs his fingers. The smell won’t go away.
He never should’ve shaken the man’s hand, but there really wasn’t a choice.
He wants to change the arrangements, go closed casket. His shoes sink into the red carpet, making no noise.
Through the closed walnut door he hears the funeral director call him “the bereaved.”