By Matt Paul
‘Seek Immediate Cover,’ flashed the tornado update before the TV died. I screamed for Callie until my voice splintered. She wasn’t in the basement, under mommy’s bed, or hiding in the fairy-lighted crawlspace. I called my wife’s name, forgetting for a moment. Hailstones battered the front porch, and I spotted Callie in the street. Her mother’s red hair wind-socking, pink gel shoes peeling from the asphalt. As I bolted out the door she stretched her arms skywards, to the better place I’d said mommy had flown, her tiny hands clenching-releasing as if reaching for a hug.
By J. E. Kennedy
Old Mrs Bergman’s roses were the envy of the village. The bushes bloomed in a congregation of scarlet and coral, sun-flare yellow and delicious tangerine. They spilled over the walls and lit up the pavement with their scattered petals, like delicate wishes skipping along the breeze, destination unknown.
Mrs Bergman plucked and preened, watered and fed. She whispered sweet nothings. She told the roses all that she would have told him if he were here. And they bloomed.
At night she would take the fading telegram from the drawer: Missing in action.
And she waited to meet him again.
First, you must shed the detritus of your life. The car will be the last worldly belonging to go: donate it. Toss your phone in the river. Photo albums, love letters, diaries: burn them. Cash out your bank account, stuff the cash into your couch cushions. Drag the couch to the curb, put a FREE sign on it. Flush the pills. Tie your wedding ring to a helium balloon, wait for a gust, and let go. Don’t watch. Swallow the hurt.
Now, walk away and don’t stop until you’re gone.
By Cap’n 575
Only to survive
a nanosecond longer
mountain battles sea.
Someday (not today)
We all become the mountain
We are all the sea
By Hannah England
He was four when she lost him, tomorrow he will be eight.
Her own mother had died, a loss she cushioned with increasing alcohol before being dismissed from work, excused from her marriage, and barred from motherhood. Without the strength to claw her way back, he has been without her for half his life. He probably has no memories of her, just fleeting glimpses of the shadows she cast during his babyhood.
As she darts down dark alleyways, she hopes his dad is wrapping birthday presents in colored paper. She doesn’t know what she would give him, if she could.
Hannah England has written for The Guardian, the Same journal, SpillWords Press and Our Queer Stories.
By J. Hardy Carroll
After the funeral, I made arrangements for the bills to come to my office.
Every month, I paid her rent, her electric, even her phone.
At least once a day I would call her number and pretend she might answer it, hear her voice on the answering machine.
At first I left messages, but then I couldn’t.
I’d turned her apartment into a time capsule.
In September I got a letter that her lease was up.
Time to face it.
I needed to move on.
I stood at her door a long time, key poised in my hand.
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.