Town Cafe

By Linda Chandanais

The money drawer is short on the days I work. It’s not me, but suspicions pointed my way. I’m extra careful with every ring-up. I like this job.

The morning cook, who’s worked here forever, says her money’s on Sally. She covers the noon rush with me.

The cook has no evidence. “It’s my gut,” she says with wise eyes.

Today Sally’s off and the drawers short. It’s not looking good for me. I really liked this job.

The boss calls me. “Tomorrow morning count the drawer before you open and keep it quiet.”

Now there’s a new cook.

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“(I write) because I don’t knit.” – the writer

‘Til Death Do Us Part

By Liv Strom

Ghosting someone isn’t the same when you’re basically dead. He would expect me to haunt his every step, because a knife in the back isn’t easy to forget, but instead, I’m having a ball.

Jumping in puddles without back-splash, watching the neighbor’s kink without shame, flying Superwoman style — who’d want to wake again?

Nevertheless, a thread yanks me back to a beeping hospital bed. He hovers at my side, pretending grief and regret, whetting my appetite for revenge, death and deceit.

I smile with fake amnesia, as if my ghost didn’t see the whole bloody thing. Let the true haunting begin.

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Liv Strom has loved disappearing into made-up worlds since she first learned to read and write, “hoping to give others the same experience.”

Soup is Life

By Anthony Rome

An oiled pan. Your beginning and motivation.

Start with aromatics. This is foundation and essence. Use what you have. Onion is enough – celery if you’ve got it.

Now comes substance. Make the choices that will dictate your outcome. Are you using bacon? Or mushrooms? Potatoes? All is potential, but you need to choose.

Add the liquid. The appropriate environment for your choices to thrive. Chicken stock or beef? Suit your goals. Season with what makes you happy.

Boil away. Thicken and season. Pay attention. Be simple or elaborate. Creamy or light? It’s your soup. Finish to taste. Eat and enjoy.

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“(I write) To stay alive.” – the writer

The Novelist

By Ran Walker

One day he will get an idea for a book. He will write it, and it will come out like drivel. Then he will write it again, and it will get only slightly better. He will abandon this idea. Later, he will read a book and remember his old idea. He will look at the second draft and realize it wasn’t completely irredeemable. He will write a new draft. It will get better, even though it will never look exactly like he originally envisioned it. He will learn to love this new book, and one day it will get published.

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Ran Walker is the author of twenty-five books. He writes because there are millions of stories that need to be told.

The Sweet Crocodile

By Doug Jacquier

That skinny German tourist’s leg didn’t really agree with me yesterday. Mostly gristle and I’ve still got lederhosen stuck in my teeth. Parked the rest of him under a log for a few days to mature.

Still feeling a pit peckish. Saw a mother duck and brood floating past. I thought ‘Yum, baby ducks’. Ate my lunch and had a nap in the sun on the river bank. Later, mother duck came back searching for her ducklings. She looked so distressed I put her out of her misery.

Sentimental, I know, but that’s just the sweet guy I am.

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“I see my writing as sea shells which, when placed against the ear, whisper cryptic messages from an Other Place, just in case other people are in an Other Place, too.” – the writer

Worse Than Nothing

By Tina Siegel

Turns out he was right. Sometimes something is worse than nothing.

Something is the copy of Anna Karenina he gave you for your one-month anniversary. It’s the Baader-Meinhoff t-shirt he left in your closet and the Scotch that you both love.

It’s the way these things can kneecap you, if you aren’t careful.

Nothing is empty and quiet. It isn’t good, but it isn’t bad, either.

Not that you’d admit it to him, even if you had the chance.

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Tina Siegel is a music, animal, and book lover who writes “because she has no choice.”

Nowhere to Be Found

By Peter Cherches

She called to ask if she had left it behind. I told her I’d take a look. I wanted to find it. If I found it, I could tell her to come by and pick it up. Then I could see her again.

First I looked in the obvious places, then the less obvious, then the highly unlikely. It was nowhere to be found. If it was here in the apartment, it was lost. The phone rang. I picked it up on the first ring.

“Forget it,” she said. “I found it.”

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“I’ve been publishing since 1976, and writing longer. I write because some people seem to like what I write.” – the writer

Lifelike

By Jim Latham

“Let’s try a puzzle.” Langley’s counselor tipped a box. Brightly colored pieces flooded the tabletop. Langley smoked. Puzzle pieces had smooth edges and joined up. Not lifelike. Not like Langley’s life, anyway.

But. His counselor looked so hopeful. So earnest.

Langley dropped his butt into the stale coffee at the bottom of his Styrofoam cup. What the hell. It’d get him out of talking. One by one, he turned the pieces facedown. The pieces would take ages to fit together, and the picture would be drab and barren with cracks all through it.

Not lifelike, but getting closer. Like Langley.

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“I write because things go sideways if I don’t. Plus it’s fun.” – the writer

Delayed Resuscitation

By Adrianna Sanchez-Lopez

When I was a girl, you told me to wear layers—to avoid getting wet—because when the cold enters, it refuses to leave. After you died, I forgot.

Grief, like a bird, pecked my heart ajar. The coldness of your absence crept into me.

Now bitter winds live in me, whistling hollow memories. My blood aches, lost in this shuddering body maze. With each breath, icicles form—jagged points stabbing my tongue, trachea, lungs. Marbled chrysalides encage my lashes, my dreams: frozen, forever stillness.

On sleepless nights, I whisper: You can’t scream. This cold will shatter you like ice.

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“I write because I believe in the transformative power of story.” – the writer

We Got the Beat

By Lori Cramer

Our band’s falling apart, and nobody but me seems to care. Daphne forgot her sticks again, Candy and Flo won’t stop arguing about who’s got the cooler axe, and Bobbie Jean would rather be at her boyfriend’s baseball game than tonight’s rehearsal. When Daphne returns with her sticks, I call a group meeting to remind everybody how hard we’ve worked to get where we are. We can’t quit now, I tell them, and once they all agree we finally get to playing. Our signature tune sounds amazing. Tighter than ever before. Flawless. Too bad we don’t know any other songs.

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“I write to discover.” – the writer