The kids gagged at the stuffed cabbage I cooked for dinner, so I made some chicken nuggets—proud in my ability to be more compassionate than my mother had been. What a terrible waste of time all those battles fought over broccoli, liver, and fish, had been. That time when Mom tried to force mutton into my mouth with her other hand around my neck? Later that became an anecdote, retold at nearly every family gathering to much laughter. Funny how no one ever noticed me leaving the room so claustrophobic with anger and embarrassment that it hurt to breathe.
–––––––––– Renuka Raghavan is the fiction book reviewer at Červená Barva Press, and is a poetry reader for the Lily Poetry Review. She is also a co-founder of the Poetry Sisters Collective. She writes because it is socially more acceptable than running around and shouting stories at people.
Hump day? More like lump day. The lump in my throat swells because my anxiety has nowhere else to go. It feels like it’s breaking the soft tissue of my throat, the way your hands do whenever I say, “It’s over.” You see everything, even the moment my soul concedes behind bulging eyes.
The sun shines, birds sing, a red Beetle parks on the street below. Today you’re chipper, ignoring the bruises on my neck. You’re out of creamer … as planned. “I’ll buy more,” I say. Instead, I escape in that Beetle patiently waiting for me. You don’t see everything.
–––––––––– Katina Bertrand-Ferguson is an organizer of Atlanta Writes, one of Atlanta’s largest literary critique groups.
I’m sorry, he said, shrugging his shoulders. There’s nothing I can do. But surely … I’ve never seen it this bad. Not in all my years. They’ve always responded to treatment. I threw everything at it. We bowed our heads. Then I’ll see you to the door. Thanks for trying, And off he drove in his clean white van, the firm’s logo on the side. Well, I said, it looks like the end of the line for you. Sorry, old mate. You heard the man. You have to go. Time for an upgrade. A new laptop.
–––––––––– “I had to say a sad farewell to my dear old laptop; our laptops are friends, too.” – the writer
The orderlies are spreading out blankets and sandwiches. The sun’s shining, and bees are buzzing in the yellow flowers on the sanitarium’s grounds. I’m the only sane one here. I had to feign madness to avoid going to prison for murdering Stan. But in the blazing summer sun, the orderlies’ identities seem to flicker off and on, and half the time, they strongly resemble people I’ve known. One of them looks a lot like Stan. Is it Stan, back to haunt me? I’ll get the last laugh. I’ve gotten hold of the janitor’s pocket knife. I’ll wait near the river.
–––––––––– “I write because I have to! I love storytelling, and playing with the English language.” – the writer
The first mishap was outside the Martian embassy in Paris. “Oopsy-daisy,” Mr. Burblegurblex said, smashing an errant limousine door into the consul general’s Mercedes with his seventh arm. “Lucky my wife’s the ambassador!”
Guinevere, his Earth escort, grimaced. “No bother, sir. Nothing some polish won’t fix.”
That afternoon, while sightseeing, another mishap. “Oopsy-daisy,” Mr. Burblegurblex said, splattering chocolate ganache across Whistler’s Mother.
Guinevere swallowed. “No bother, sir. The Louvre has sponges.”
Later, in Guinevere’s office, a final mishap. “Oopsy-daisy,” Mr. Burblegurblex said, making slapdash love to Guinevere’s ficus.
Guinevere’s jaw clenched. “No bother, sir. Another cigarette?”
Sometimes, Guinevere despised diplomacy.
–––––––––– John “writes stories about teenage detectives, pelican-people, robo-butlers, cursed cowboys, and bear nuns to amuse himself – and hopefully others, too.”
I met him on a winding path beneath the bridge leading to the zoo. I had lost my girl. He had lost the plot though I didn’t know it then. We talked briefly beside the banisters as a blue Kayak passed us by. Before his accomplishments — his CV baggy with published poems — I was lost for words. “Take care,” I remember him saying. “He’s always had his head in the clouds,” a fellow poet once said of him. Perhaps that’s why a week later he climbed to the roof of a big city hotel and stepped off.
–––––––––– “Perhaps that’s why we write : to exorcise our ghosts.” – the writer
It starts with picking crayons, cartoons, interests, and curiosities. Choosing playmates and hobbies, eventually a trade and vocation. And then the choices aren’t so easy, resulting in consequences, trauma, bliss, or both. You’ll choose a partner or lose one, maybe. You might make a decision that sends you to an early grave or somewhere very much alive, halfway across the world. You’ll grow complacent or incomplete, nostalgic or hopeful; you’ll die alone or with a loved one. And it’s of uttermost importance, making choices, because it’s a series of choosing that dictates the quality and quantity of life, so choose.
–––––––––– “Writing, for me, is one of the most enjoyable existential distractions.” – the writer