By Amye Hartfield
“It’s weak,” she announced, eyes sparkling. I laughed. I cried. I cried because she hadn’t spoken in months. I cried because her salty humor still existed. The disease hadn’t swallowed it as it had her bent body.
“Mom, it’s steamed vegetables,” I smiled, stabbing a broccoli crown, raising it to her paper lips. They remained closed and curved upward in a defiant smirk on a normally barren face. She was with me again, for a moment. Then, like lowering a yellow shade, her withering face went blank again. Wiping my eyes, I lifted another bland forkful to her open mouth.
By Carolyn Black
She’d cherished the little pot for 40 years, remembers slipping it into her pocket when she found it, the rusty nails inside made a tinkling sound and the soot-blackened lid left a smudge on her coat. Cleaning revealed the silver cap and delicate, multi-faceted glass sides.
In her possession it had contained, variously, earrings, paperclips, moisturizers and face creams. Her daughter dipped her fingers into the coconut oil and asked her about the pot’s history. She’d always admired it and it fits in her hand perfectly. Soon, when she dies, her daughter will inherit it. Somehow she must tell her.
By Kerry E.B. Black
My children stir, wiggle beneath the duvet, tiny stretches too early. I encourage them to rest. Ancestral wisdom looks to a groundhog and its shadow for prognostication, and although the rodent’s seldom right, this year deserves prudence. The air’s too cold. Frost leaves the ground glistening.
However, the young are easily misled by the urine-yellow sunrise. They point to a sky stained with nursery pinks and declare their day’s arrived. The push aside their downy blanket and burst upon the day, faces radiant as new blooms. I marvel and fret – with good reason, because at sundown, the frost reaps.
The atmosphere had been tense for days and the Threat Level had fluctuated between ‘Moderate’ and ‘Substantial’. Warning signs were clear: skirmishes more frequent, escalating in intensity. It was only a matter of time before disaster struck. That morning it was clear: the situation was deteriorating. By lunchtime the Threat Level was at ‘Severe’, and during the afternoon it rose to ‘Critical’. The world ended at teatime:
“But I wanted the green plate!”
The child wailed, limbs thrashing on the floor.
Later, the child soothed and sleeping peacefully, a toast was drunk to surviving the end of the world – again.
By Mary Ellen Gambutti
Focus of our new basement rec-room, a stylish red mid-century mural depicts dog caricatures in a saloon tended by an aproned shaggy dog. Dad’s laid the red and white checkerboard tile. Mom’s painted turquoise and red stairs and trim. Behind the fully-stocked redwood bar, in a color print dated June, 1955, Dad looks merry wearing a white apron. Broad smiles on Pat, Rose and Myra, Dad’s siblings, they raise highball glasses. The photographer is Mom, and she’s also captured us cousins squished cheek-by-jowl on the grey convertible couch, the mural above us. Were there future rec-room gatherings, I don’t recall.
Mary Ellen’s stories appear or are forthcoming in Gravel Magazine, Wildflower Muse, The Remembered Arts Journal, The Vignette Review, Modern Creative Life, A Thousand and One Stories, and more.
By M. Thomas Ellis
I leaned against an old oak
unduly envious of it
and so much more.
I looked up
waited for an autumn leaf to fall
just one for me to focus on
but in its own time.
I was prepared to watch it tumble
end over brittle end
down to the creek below
curious what might happen next.
A breeze coaxed
the right leaf fell
I watched it catch the current
and drift out of sight.
You will always be my muse.
By Baisali Chatterjee Dutt
The morning chill
nipped at my ears
in different languages.
in yesterday’s newspapers
and today’s leaves,
Lonely is a teardrop that never falls.