During a high school trip to France, I meet Her for the first time in her climate-controlled chamber. Afterwards, a boy packing some hashish leads me to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, where we smoke, then he lies on top of me while I gaze up at the shivering canopy, thinking about how disappointing seeing the painting had been.
Several millennia later, as a phantom wandering the ashes, an urgency to encounter Her again overcomes me.
I ghost through every underground vault on Earth, searching.
Find Her at last, mouth now drawn into a corpse’s rictus.
Time has robbed Her of ambiguity.
Writer Tim Boiteau writes and lives near Detroit with his wife and son.
After my visit home that year, the gossip started.
I can see it still. You leaning in, eager. Mother whispering her villainous thoughts behind cupped palm.
“How strange they acted. Did you notice? They must be queer.”
When I phoned later, you slipped in this news with surgeon’s skill. You always savored any words she uttered against me.
I bent over then, to hold myself together, stunned, broken, as if my womb had split open, spilling blood.
Dianne Moritz writes poetry and books for kids. Her picture book, 1, 2, 3 BY THE SEA, was on Bank Street College’s “best book list of 2014.”
By John Brantingham
Since Felix retired, and he’s had nothing to do but golf and get breakfast with the boys, Vietnam has been coming back in flashes he never had before. When a couple of raccoons get under the house, and his son-in-law starts yelling at them, he has to beat it into his den to get away from the noise. He sits down on the sofa and puts his head in his hands, and goes back to when he was shot and lost his rifle. It’s the shouting that stays with him. Then they shot him again. He just breathes until he feels eyes on him, and they’re in the window, two raccoons, and he doesn’t have his rifle, so all he can do in this moment is hold his breath and pray they don’t fire on him, pray they just let him go.
John Brantingham is Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park’s first poet laureate. His work was featured in The Best Small Fictions 2016. He has ten books of poetry and fiction including The L.A. Fiction Anthology (Red Hen Press) and A Sublime and Tragic Dance (Cholla Needles Press). He teaches at Mt. San Antonio College.
By Lorna Stewart
I am currently out of the office.
For any urgent matters contact Linda on the number below. She will be stressed believing I have gone to the vending machine. Instead, unauthorized, I have taken the pool car. Hopefully by the time they realize I will be in a hotel bar with a fancy cocktail waiting for that geeky guy from IT to arrive with plane tickets.
Otherwise you can visit our website but we are currently experiencing technical difficulties. This is due to Andrew, geeky guy, inserting a virus so we could empty the company bank account.
Having grown up in a typing pool, Lorna moved to switchboard for a short period before joining the sales office. She likes to day dream of escape while staring out of the tinted windows pretending to be working.
By Alanna Donaldson
His mother remembers something he does not remember. Once, he wouldn’t stop crying, so she put his basket outside and shut the door. Inside, exhausted, she fell asleep.
Forty years later she tells him what happened. She only wanted a moment’s peace, to hear herself think. She hadn’t known how tired she was. How can someone know that?
He understands the impulse; he has a baby of his own now. He tells her he forgives her. He doesn’t tell her about cold, or loneliness. He doesn’t tell her he has been shut out, waiting to come in, all his life.
Alanna Donaldson works in publishing and lives in the countryside, surrounded by small birds and short stories.
By David Berger
This morning I woke up invisible. It took a minute or two to get used to. Wife and kids away. Wow!
It’s freakin’ 50° outside, but I don’t care. Glass and dog shit on the sidewalk Who cares? I’m headed for that house nearby no one talks about. I knock on the door. The lady opens up and I slip by her.
For an hour, I watch girls do odd things with gentlemen. It gets boring rapidly.
Back on the street headed home, I bang into something hard. It’s another invisible person.
“Who is that?” I hear my wife say.
Dave Berger is a union organizer living in New York City. His wife is a “stupendous jazz singer.”
By Hannah Clark
It’s time to prove your worth, kid. Dig deep and find something within yourself that no one can be certain is there until you reach in and drag it out, hand over fist. Deeper. Go deeper. It has to be in there because your parents assured everyone they put it there. In every act of kindness that they showed you and in every criticism they withheld from your hearing; they have instilled compassion in you. Now it’s time, you hopeless golden child, even if hunched and panting from the effort, to lower your phone and say: Can I help?
Hannah Clark is an MA student at Manchester Metropolitan University, studying Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in Spelk Fiction, Litro, Reflex Fiction, and been shortlisted for The Short Story Flash 400 Autumn 2018 competition.