Week #19 – The last time

Welcome! Here is this week’s Flash, posted in the order received.

The theme is The Last Time.

i want to marry my bike but the evangelicals would burn me at the stake by Anna Ball

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O’erleaping Ambition . by Matt Potter

Practice makes perfect,” I barked. “Now sing!”

I opened the suitcase on the bed, tossing tap shoes and Tovar-Tresses wiglets inside.

“Please, Francine,” she whimpered, red-rimmed eyes sodden. “Not again.”

I pulled her stage costumes from the wardrobe, wire hangers screaming against metal rod. “You’ve got God-given talents and you’re gonna use them.”

She moved to the window as I folded faux chinchilla and cerise velour into the suitcase.

“That’s what I want,” she said, looking outside.

I glanced too. Next-door neighbours were at their mid-afternoon carpool routine.

She sighed. “That high school carpool looks like heaven.”

I grabbed her shoulders, shaking her from lacquer-laden hair-do to fishnetted-feet.

“Listen, Mother – you’re my ticket out of this burg and I’m not about to cash it in!”

“But vaudeville’s dead, Francine!” she cried, head jerking. “It’s been dead seventy years.”

“But variety television’s still alive. Don’t let the dream die, Mother!”

I let her shoulders drop.

She stumbled, tapped her foot in awkward rhythm, then stopped. “This isn’t the life your father dreamed for us before he died,” she sniffed.

“I quit high school and worked three Dairy Queens to pay for these costumes,” I snapped, slamming the suitcase shut. “I’m only doing this for you.”

I dragged the suitcase down the stairs. Maybe Mother was right – maybe we needed a new act, something original, entirely extra original.

The suitcase clunked to the bottom of the stairs. A lightbulb flashed. The answer was obvious.

A double-act.

Mother … and Grandmother.

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Two . by Susan Tepper

Even on your anniversary you fight. An argument over who will scan their credit card at the market register. You say you need the mileage points. You’re low on points and desperate to go on holiday. He has lots of points, how can this matter? He ignores you, as if you haven’t explained and pulls out his own card. None of this lost on the check-out lady. She smirks enjoying the entertainment. You ask for the two cake slices in a separate bag. At the last minute you had grabbed two slices of chocolate cake from the case. He saw you, and wagged a finger. Stood near the paper towels wagging his finger. At first you pretended not to understand. But you knew he was ordering you to put the slices back. You wanted to scream out across the market: This is our anniversary cake GODDAMMIT! You held onto them, each in their plastic container, and moved toward him, silently mouthing: you want one too? Tense-looking, he walked to the bakery case, poked around, then switched his slice to a darker more devious chocolate. Dense-looking; no pores breathing there. Then moving quickly he tossed the other food items onto the belt. A woman checking-out in front of you sensed his aggression; looked startled; grabbing her bag of oranges she left. You began feeling weak in the knees. You watched the check-out lady putting the cake slices into a separate bag. You always did it that way. To avoid damage.

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The Last Time . by Darryl Price

we met you wanted to
be hungrily kissed in
the dark with a small moon
for your only pillow
and just stars for your billowing

nightgown. How am I
to go forward with so
much sweet chaos in my
mind? I am wrecked upon
your lips like a delirious

dilapidated
old sailor who embraces
the surrounding
sea like it’s an arrow
through a sad thirsty heart.

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The Things He Didn’t Know . by Michael Webb

The sound of his phone ringing was distant, and kind of hollow. It was a very long distance call. He picked up, sounding a little out of breath.

“Hello?”

“Hey, it’s me.”

“Hey!”

He tried to brighten when he heard who it was. It didn’t sound real.

“I need a favor. Again.”

He sounded crestfallen. “Really? They keep calling?”

“Uh huh.” I tried to add emotion to my voice, which wasn’t hard. “I need another two hundred.”

He sighed. “I can’t keep doing this, you know. I’ve almost used up that whole credit card.”

“I know, I so appreciate it. I wouldn’t ask if we didn’t need it.”

“Send it to the same place?”

“Yeah.”

My heart pounded. Was he going to do it? I felt a solid, responding thump, lower in my abdomen.

He sighed again. “OK. Let me hang up and call Western Union.”

“Ok, thanks! I’ll pay you back! I love you!”

“Love you, too,” he said resignedly, and disconnected.

I had dumped him almost a year ago, taking off for Hawaii winding up pregnant and broke when Jonathan got laid off and started moving meth to keep the refrigerator full. Then he started using, and then things got tight, and then I’m calling an old boyfriend, begging for him to wire me money.

He didn’t know about the baby.

He didn’t know I wasn’t coming back.

He didn’t know I couldn’t pay him.

He didn’t know I didn’t love him.

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Last Time, Last Man . by Susan Gibb

He finally asked her out. She was ecstatic. He, a junior partner of the firm and the only good-looking guy who wasn’t married. There were other unmated lawyers but toads were better bred.

Evelina started life as Evelyn but changed it as being more exotic. She was, by more opinion than just her own, a beautiful woman. Skin of milk chocolate melting into molded curves, soft straight hair from genes likely left by rape before the Civil War, and the golden brown eyes of a mink. She was smart Southern charm. No one, least of all Evelina, could figure out why she hadn’t been down the aisle long before now, at thirty-two, as her melting curves threatened to layer into double-dipped thickness.

They met at Trattoria, he waving her from a darkened corner table. Evelina smiled, striding confidently as if she hadn’t been hiding in the ladies room for twenty minutes because she’d arrived too soon. He ordered for them, which she found both endearing and outrageously annoying. Since she would have chosen the same thing, she let it ride but did murmur about it being overcooked.

In bed he swiftly took over, instating her in the woman-on-knees position which she’d never liked. He also took a long time, leaving her exhausted and grumpy by the time he came.

“Last time, last man,” she told her new friend Leah. “I think we’ll have the swordfish,” she told the waiter, ignoring Leah’s protests.

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Dark Water . by Matthew A. Hamilton

The last time I saw my wife she was on the porch reading a book. Her bare toes scrapped across the wooden floor. The sound of the rocking chair wrapped around the enclosed silence of my eyes. I couldn’t help but stare at her. She had beautiful tan skin, yellow haired curls.

I kissed her forehead. “See you in a few days,” I said.

“Love you,” she said.” I knew she didn’t want me to go. Something was wrong, but she wouldn’t tell me. In retrospect, I should have pressed the issue. Instead, I smiled. “Me, too,” I said.

Now she is only in my dreams. Yesterday I ran my hand across her stone house. I spelled her name with my fingers. I lay in the cool of her soft mound. I told her that I’ll sleep with her for eternity. I heard her voice speak to me through the roses.

I’ll never forget the day I returned. Mom said that her car flew off the bridge. Cause of death was drowning.

I screamed into her arms. She gently pulled me away. “There’s something else,” she said.

I wiped my eyes, sniffled. “What?” I asked.

“Did—
She hesitated. “Did you know she had cancer?”

“No, I said. Are they calling it a suicide, then? How long did she have?”

“Yes, she said. She put her arms around me, held me like only a mother can.

“Six months. Son, I’m so sorry. I loved her like my own daughter.”

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Joe’s View . by Heather Taylor

The first time he climbed out on the window ledge at work, no one had seen him. He had waited until the cleaner left. Then Joe forced open a window and squirmed out onto the granite ledge in the dark. He worried that someone would look up from the honking streets, maybe some crazy kid. The kid might see the white dazzle of his shirt, might scream. Nothing happened and Joe stood outside enjoying the salty floral stench of the sea breeze as it rushed past his sweating face. It was a hot summer.

Joe got addicted to the ledge. The cleaner never worried why Joe was the only one who worked late. His boss never worried either. Anything after 5 was unpaid anyway; that was the contract Joe had signed up to.

When autumn came the wind washing in from the sea changed. It smelled of funky dead things. High above the tiny yellow cabs things got colder and Joe had to wear his jacket which was black. He was more comfortable in black.

That winter there was freezing rain. The last time Joe stepped out onto his ledge, he had just ended a call with his ex-wife so the fall didn’t seem so bad. He landed on top of a yellow cab and squashed the roof. The ice on the ledge didn’t count in his favour; the city newspaper described the 34th suicide of the year in a small column on page D4, the Metro section.

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I Should Not Have Rushed You Through the Rain
by Linda Simoni-Wastila

At the hospital, we know the routine. I haul out my laptop, emailing students, writing papers no one reads. You stare at the same first page of the John Grisham you’ve carted here for weeks. An hour passes. A nurse finally walks you to the bathroom to pee in a cup. Another hour. The phlebotomist ambles in and pricks your arm. Blood fills the tubes, purple and thick. Three hours. No doctor, no saline drip, no reassurances of ‘soon, soon’. On the way out for coffee, I blast the woman behind reception. I should realize when she says pharmacy hasn’t received orders to prep your erlotinib. But I don’t. I fume through the hospital lobby, paging the clinical trial coordinator, rescheduling lectures and exams, scowling at my watch.

When I return, the doc stands over you scrunched in the arm chair. He taps an x-ray and shakes his head. You push yourself up, using the armrests for leverage. It takes three tries, but at last you waver on your feet, hand extended. You thank him. The doctor leaves, not recognizing me when he passes, and you collapse. What looks like tears on your cheeks is sweat.

I wheel you down to valet parking. It’s late afternoon, the ride home will be hell. You reach back for my hand, squeeze it. A fine cool mist falls from the opaque sky and splatters crystals in your hair. You smile and try to say something, but the car arrives.

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You Said It . by Marcus Speh

Jane, I didn’t send the book back. I should have. That’s what I did last time and the whole week after I’d sent it back, I wondered if they’d give me my money. When it arrived it was Friday and I felt as if I’d mislaid five days like a set of spare keys: not that I needed those five days back, and after all, it wasn’t anybody else’s fault, but that’s almost the entire time it took to create the world if you believe it. Or if you don’t, think of a week at work, right from Monday morning at the desk to Friday afternoon still at that damned desk. I know that’s not the same, Jane. No, I’m not trying to insult your god. I’m more comfortable with one of my work weeks than with a week in the life of the Lord, even if it’s the first week ever. I’m not blasphemous. I’m only trying to tell you that I didn’t send the book back which I ordered by mistake. I know I fucked up. You already told me last time. “I’m telling you for the last time”, you said then.

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Firecrackers . by Christian Bell

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The last time I shouted at my parents, they made me leave. Mom cried. Dad pushed me out the door. Their dog growled at me.

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The last time I visited the coffee shop it was a gas station. I was twenty. My friend, alive. Days young, air sweet like candy.

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The last time the wind blew I hopped on a leaf and soared. Carefree, eyes closed, unconcerned where I’d land, what new home was mine.

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The last time someone pointed a gun at me I laughed. Do us all a favor, jackass, and fire. Those days I was explosives, cyanide.

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The last time I drank too much the following words applied: vodka, prank, panties, vomit, Doberman, theft, pizza, tears, grammar, nudity, supine, firecrackers, sprint, warthog.

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The last time, you said, an unfinished thought. Brain misfire, it happens. You stood, quizzical, eyes searching for the rest. In the kitchen, popcorn burned.

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The last time I pointed a gun at someone it was empty. Old girlfriend. We were stoned. To her, pointing meant shooting. We both cried.

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The last time I jumped off a building I bounced. Sixteen stories. People ask, why. I say, I knew I’d bounce. Hopeless liar. Elastic posterior.

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The last time I talked to my dead friend it snowed. We drank wine, watched stupid movies, made snowballs. Let’s get together soon. We parted.

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The last time. Here’s where I put my foot down. That’s it. I’ve become my parents. No more. I’ll remind you of past trespasses. Explode.

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Unfinished . by Dorothee Lang

It happened years ago, in another city that was captured by a heat wave. The air didn’t cool down, not even in the nights. We were colleagues since a year, her and I, and sat outside in a café, sipping iced drinks, basically to postpone the moment of having to step into the hotel, into solid, sticky spaces, where our alarm clocks were already waiting to be set.

Maybe it was the heat that melted the line between being colleagues and being friends that day, I am still not sure of it. Yet at one point, we were miles beyond small talk. It was the last time we were travelling together, but I didn’t know this yet.

We kept talking, moving from one theme to the next. A man walked by, he played a guitar, and the tunes were like concentric circles, floating through the street, together with our words.

We ordered one more drink. “There’s this concept”, she said, her eyes suddenly all clear and open. “Or more something like a wish for life – to never be finished.”

Two weeks later, seemingly out of the blue for many others, she quit her job. I thought we would meet again, continue the talk we had on that evening – I kept feeling I missed something back then, something important. Unfinished, the word returns to me even now, with its open end, and I still don’t know how to feel about it.

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Drink . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

His father didn’t drive his mother to drink. He hit her to it. And left her to it. There was another woman, of course. The last time he saw his mother, she was yellow and bloated in a hospital bed.

His lover knew this because he told her two months after they met—the second time they saw each other, second time they touched other, second time they shared a bed. The last time she saw him, he left bruises on her arms that turned yellow two weeks later.

I didn’t hit you. I shouldn’t have shoved you, but I’d never hit you.

fuck that distinction, she texted back.

I love you, even if you don’t love me.

She didn’t reply. She had three-quarters of a bottle of whiskey left. She drained it. Down the sink. She knew it would kill him if she drank like that.

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the last time . by Tom Allman

the last time the black comet passed this close to Earth, it left the ELDER ONES
the last time THEY walked the Earth THEY marched through our blood and gore
the last time THEY slept was for ten thousand years
the last time that man awoke as master of the earth was this morning
the last time

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Julian Series . by Stephen Hastings-King

In the faintly orange air of a late afternoon I sit at a tiny metal sidewalk café table across from another.

I ran into Julian again. I remember the book he comes from but not how he migrated from it.
Migrated?
From one plane in the world to another.
Fictional characters are as real as you are.

Each of us is embedded in a time-space. Each carries embeddedness like a fan. When they overlap transparent mosaics form in the air.

Julian and I talk about lines of flight.
Lines of flight?
The desire to become someone else by being somewhere else.
The desire to find the place that will save you from yourself.

I look at the mottled sky from which everything seems suspended.

Every encounter with Julian is exactly the same. .
Exactly the same?
Each time the realization takes shape beneath the surface of the conversation.
A series within a series that makes seconds seem smothering

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The Last Time . by Catherine Russell

The sweet aroma hung heavy in the air as the creature watched the young girl collect flowers. Roses, violets, and daffodils lined the path she strode, but the strongest scent by far was jasmine.

The girl’s loveliness exceeded that of the garden. Her hair flowed down her back like a cascade of shimmering gold. Milky white skin, rosebud lips, and sea green eyes attracted the demon to her. The bushes rustled slightly as the fiend leaned closer, mouth open, fangs exposed.

“Who’s there?” called the girl. She dropped more flowers into the basket and turned toward the sound. No one answered.

The demon returned to his realm. Overcome by the shadowy reflection of the heaven he’d left behind, the banished angel clutched one thin jasmine strand. His punishment had not rid him of the desire for love and beauty, only the ability to experience it. Hot tears stung his cheeks, even as the flower in his hand withered, filling the air with the smell of burning jasmine.

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Alive, una tarde . by Piet Nieuwland

Alive, una tarde, one afternoon

Amongst the bread, the wine,
and my soul in lemon yellow hours

Looking at her immediately
In a deep red dazzle

Shankara, giver of joy
Wandering in the ocean of deathless life

Echoing funereal rites
In fecundate stanzas, octaves of romancing
Cascades with drumsticks, rivers of guitars and gongs

Tropical torrents of devas igniting

Dining together, they spent their life for a moment

In a diamond sutra threading
A night woven of bodies and naked hearts

On the axilla of a fragile oar

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Final Notice . by Stacey Allen

Dear Ms. Reller:

This is the last time you will receive a written notice from us. Your animals must be removed from the premises immediately. Failure to honor this request will result in another call to Animal Control.

Enclosed please find another copy of complaints filed with the Avenue Association, in order of receipt:

1. Mrs. Hornsby has stepped in your dog’s poop 14 times. In her own yard.
2. Mrs. Gabriel reports that her two young children have been traumatized by the guinea pig incidents. (involving your free roaming guinea pigs and our neighborhood bald eagle, who is a very messy eater, apparently.)
3. Ms. Baker is unable to retrieve the cantaloupe rinds and corn cobs your goddamned squirrel pulls out of your garden compost and deposits on the roof of her shed.
4. Mr. Wilkins is tired of moving your dog’s poop from his yard in to Mrs. Hornsby’s, even if it is funny to watch her step in it.
5. Mrs. Gabriel would like you to remove the decapitated body of Mr. Snuffles that the eagle left atop her mailbox. It is starting to smell.
6. You have a squirrel? For real?
7. Mrs. Gabriel reports that her mailbox is covered with maggots, and other unappetizing things. She believes the maggots may be your pets as well.
8. Our community bylaws specifically prohibit camels. Even camels that are called “llamas.”
9. Your camel spit on Mrs. Gabriel again today. While eating maggots.

Sincerely,
The Avenue Association Board

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Family . by Al McDermid

The last time I saw my only brother, he was spitting mad, but refused to discuss it; the ‘slight’ was something not within my control. Our mother tried to reconcile us, to no avail, and so, I went my way and he went his. He died two years later, the bitterness still lingering.

The last time I saw my father, I saw a broken old man and not the terrorist that haunts my youth. I sat on his dusty couch while he talked about people I vaguely remembered or never knew, and his drunken caretaker harangued me about Jesus. A storm was moving in and the forecast was for ice, so I took that as my cue and left a day early. We speak on the phone every few months, whenever his heart acts up, and even though we never have anything to say, we still try to say it.

The last time I saw my grandfather was a perfect summer day. We fished for bluegills in a small lake of black water on land he used to own. I don’t remember what we spoke of and it hardly matters. After, we picked blueberries; I baked two pies and brought most of the fish home on the plane, frozen in a small cooler.

The last time I saw my mother, she was doing well despite her 90 years. We speak often and I’m careful that a cross word never passes between us, in case it is our last.

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Love . by Lou Freshwater

The last time they made love she could feel the hint of pain and loss which would become her. There were still the moments of god she always knew with him, but there was a confusion that began to interrupt what had been the silence that could only be heard when she took someone she loved like that inside. When she took them inside of everything she was, will be, and had been. The last time they made love there was a strange separation, a fluid wall of water which could not be pushed or pulled or moved. She could only dig her nails into the warmth of him in order to quiet it, to calm it, to bully it. The last time they made love there was a her and a him, but always there was also them. The last time they made love she loved the smell of his unwashed hair, his statue calves, his blond eyes and soft and rough lips, the way he took control of her hips. She loved him in ways she could never make him believe. She loved him. The last time they made love she loved him so much she forgot to breathe. A moment which would become all she could think of, because the last time she made love to him she had no idea it would be the last time they made love.

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Magic, Inconspicuous . by Katherine Nabity

“We never figured out how you did it.”

Aleister didn’t like it when his past caught up with him. It always seemed to happen in an airport bar. He tried to never be early for a flight, but he couldn’t do much about delayed planes. At least not with all the airport security watching him.

“Can you still do it?” His name was Jerry. Aleister remembered him from grade school. He hadn’t seen Jerry in over twenty years.

Jerry pulled a dime from his pocket and placed it on the table.

The trick was simple. Aleister, blindfolded, would reach under a hand towel and touch a dime. If he didn’t think about it, he could easily rearrange the substance of the coin, turning it into gold. Or at least something as soft and yellow as his friends believed gold to be.

The only time he failed was when Dave Harris moved the cloth to see if Aleister was replacing the dimes. The last time he performed the trick was when Grandma Betsy caught him. He feared a spanking, but Grandma Betsy simply shook her head in disappointment. He promised to never use his talent so conspicuously again. His magic would fail him if everyone knew about it.

“No,” said Aleister, “I don’t do that sort of thing anymore.”

Jerry, sitting across from him, didn’t notice that the liquid in Aleister’s glass became a little more Jack and a little less Coke.

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Anything Again . by Claire King

Poised precisely at her table for one, she is immaculately groomed, her sunglasses by Chanel.

The waiter brings six oysters on a bed of crushed ice, placing them before her with an unwelcome flourish.

Minutes pass. Finally she lifts one shell, sips a little, then swallows the creature whole. As its saltiness slides down her throat she inhales its sulphur breeze. Like the last time her bare toes touched down on sand. When coastal gales blew hair across her smile and the horizon was wide.

The waiter brings toasted focaccia, piled with sautéed chanterelles.

She leans into the rising steam, turns the plate slowly – once, twice – then spears the mushrooms on silver tines and touches them to barely-parted lips. It is in her mouth again, the peaty earth where she buried her face the last time she was by his side. When they lifted her away screaming so the void could be filled before dark.

The waiter brings chocolate tart, glossy, almost black, perfectly central on oversized porcelain.

Someone once told her chocolate is addictive. That the physical pleasure from its chemical rush is like falling in love, like orgasm, like bliss. She pushes the spoon into her mouth and waits to feel anything again.

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No Goodbyes . by Kim Hutchinson

She arrives early. The movers are there. The truck is already packed.

He sits on the porch, smoking and talking with the movers. Where are you going? he asks them.

They only know the city.

She walks through the house she’d bought for them years ago. The filth and the stench of mould nearly make her retch. Dead fleas line the windowsills, the dressers, the floors.

The dog, her dog, is nowhere to be found.

In the walled garden, a shaft of sunlight illuminates the young rosebush at the base of the birdbath. It glows a cheery pale pink. They are the first roses to have survived a winter.

The sight is ironically beautiful.

He watches from the porch as she follows the truck out of the driveway.

She turns onto the road and doesn’t look back.

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She Took it All Too Hard, You See . by Kelly Grotke

She dreamt that night of a silent and predatory force gliding beneath the still dark surface of the narrative, a wayward ripple had reached her for warning and her nerves raced to the shore where she now lay heaving with only seconds left for looking backward as it surfaced and made of all time an eternal horror. And then she awoke.

As her breathing calmed, eyes first and then thoughts focused slowly on the contours of her prison cell; how ironic to find an effective antidote to fear in the deadening familiarity produced by years of confinement. A nightmare, then, that’s all, a common thing and she imagined the many scattered characters waking like she was now, all hoping to dispel the author’s morbid panoramas and rescue the story with the first purposive touch of a foot on a floor alongside a bed. Hardly an original state of affairs for any of them, but then again it was an historical novel.

Still, it left her in a foul mood. The situation was absurd. First the nightmares, then years of captivity obliquely condensed into a single morning, and throughout it all not one knowing side-conversation or subplot, nothing so much as an abandoned pile of words left in a corner somewhere to play with. “I despise you!” she shouted out truthfully, if not eloquently, into the stale air of her imprisonment. What a troublesome and judgmental character, thought the author. I believe it’s time for another execution.

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Monsieur Editor and Madame Malaprop . by Frank Rasky

They slept in the same bed but that was all they had in common. He, an editor, had shelves filled with literary works and she, his wife of many years and never much of a reader, had strewn their apartment with Madeline children’s books.

“Good morning, Monsieur Editor,” she said, in her singsong of half English, half French. “Today’s menu is made of eggs du jour.”

He sighed, got up, adjusted his royal purple pyjamas, and said, “Thank you, Madame, but I think you meant to say eggs are ON the menu. A menu can’t be made of eggs.”

She smiled, kissed him on the cheek, and said, “Ecoutez, cherie. The kettle is perking. I’m making you café very au lait.”

He grunted, put on his polished leather slippers, and said, “Thank you, Madame, but I think you meant to say the kettle is BOILING. Coffee pots perk.”

She smiled, took him by the hand, and said, “Allez to the balcony for brekkie au soleil. ON the menu are croissants. No crumbs.”

He grimaced, but said nothing. She led him out onto the balcony. “Where’s breakfast?” he asked.

She stood behind him, and pushed. Over the railing he went, landing twenty stories down.

“Voila!”

She got a croissant and a copy of Madeline in Paris, returned to the balcony, and sat in the sun.

He was tout fini. She would illiterate him from memory.

“I tried to tell you, Monsieur Editor,” she said with ennui, munching her croissant. “No crumbs.”

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HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO . by Lee Prewett

Ft. Lauderdale was baking under a yellow, dull November sun. We didn’t spend much time outside. I saw the beach from the room; there weren’t many people down there, I thought, sweating, broiling, turning to leather, probably getting skin cancer.

I took a picture of Claire, something she had once said she’d never allow, and Claire looked surprised, but said nothing. Just gave me a look, considering, her head back as she surveyed me over a long distance from those implausible Russian Jewish blue eyes. Claire had once told me all her rules about men didn’t seem to apply to me.

But I knew she was cheating on me, had confronted her, and all she would say was the others didn’t mean anything to her, not the way I did: she’d try not to do it again. But I knew she was; I knew I’d have to leave her soon to keep my sanity.

At the airport, we had separate flights, and kissed good-bye like a hundred times before. Then I turned to go and Claire hugged me from behind, holding on to me, an awkward touch that turned out to be the last one.

A week later we were talking on the phone; I don’t know how it happened, I reached a pain threshold beyond which I refused to live, and it was over. At least, I knew I’d never see her again, though she insisted I’d return. Getting over her would be harder than having the will to leave her.

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The last time he thought of her, he thought of himself
by Ryder Collins

Richboy’d strewn his path with the hearts of girls and boys he’d encountered. He was always always on the lookout for a tortured artist heart, tho. He thought maybe they could change him, those artists with the big tortured hearts; they could make him feel something for reals. He knew downdeep he was a cliché and this knowledge was what caused him to drink and piss himself and go drugging and snorting and smoking and pilling and coking and tripping through life. There was a voice in his head that was always always commenting; there was a voice in his head that sounded like Baudrillard; there was a voice in his head with a French accent and a craving for Nutella and big milky cups of coffee; there was a voice in his head that sometimes wore an ironic beret and propelled him to McDonald’s; there was a voice in his head that told him he was inauthentic – that everything he did and said and thought’d been constructed for him by someone else and he’d never ever escape this and it was his burden and maybe if he’d been born poor he could drink tallboys of Pibber gladly and if he’d been born poor he could read Bukowski freely and if he’d been born someone else he could be happy.

He wanted to be someone else and it filled him with a self-loathing that made him only think about himself and how he wanted to be someone else.

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Thursday . by Randal Houle

Every Thursday, around 11 am, right after the cemetery where I work receives the daily shipment of cremated remains to be interred, a frail nonagenarian steps out of the driver’s seat of his Lincoln Continental and walks, unassisted, up a flight of twenty granite steps, disappears around a corner, sits at a chair – that I set up two hours earlier along with a small bouquet of flowers, and visits his wife who waits behind a one inch slab of granite. He visits for fifteen minutes, then leaves.

Thursday. The flower delivery is late. The time is 10:55. I speed up the hill. A Lincoln Continental has just pulled up. I know a back way. I set the chair and the flowers. A petal drops to the ground and I pick it up and put it in my pocket. I hear his footsteps — shoes scraping each step as he shuffles his feeble legs up twenty granite stairs. I’m forced to hide around the corner. He visits for fifteen minutes, then peaks around the corner.

“The flower delivery was late. Sorry. I was trying to stay out of the way.”

The man smiles, sighs, and resumes the journey back to his car.

Today, one week after the last Thursday, the time is 11 am. There is no Lincoln. I carry flowers and an urn containing cremated remains up twenty granite steps. The interment takes fifteen minutes, then I leave.

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Catacombs . by Guy Yasko

I

The last time I was in Paris, I slept next to a piano and ate with
sopranos. I painted the bridges. (Everyone does.) I sketched in cafés
and bars.

– May I see it?

– Yes, of course.

II

We walked through Montparnasse and sat on a bench in January sun. “I
want to die there.” I meant another place, where she was from. I held
her hand.

III

I ran to answer when the phone rang. Wet footprints from the shower. I
told her I’d visit. I said I’d write.

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Final Resting Place . by Doug Bond

The realtor’s office has turned a minor miracle, a quick sale in difficult times, the lot adjoining the Holy Trinity Cemetery and my estranged father dead a week in the upstairs hall.

There’s still an hour before the limo leaves for the airport, so I head up the short path, a communion of sorts, for a glimpse of a place I venture hasn’t changed much in the 25 years I’ve been gone.

He and my step mother closed escrow on a June day nine Presidents ago. We were moved in by Fourth of July. Little flags of red white and blue filled our eyes the first time we peered through the tree line into the rows of rough edged stones, chiseled names, green grass and flowers.

Later that summer the older neighborhood boys called me out of the woods. Told me I couldn’t jump from the top of Cribari’s Crypt. It was an easy climb built into the side of a hill, but the leap off the front roof ridge was twelve feet straight down to the ground. I hunkered in above their silent stares and finally let go, my knee caps slamming into my chin as I hit ground. A bleeding lip the only cost for joining their club.

I feel a strange elation seeing it’s still there, the green grass climbing its flanks. I take off my suit coat, my tie, my shoes, and bend my knees slowly at the edge of the top of the tomb.

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Substitutions and Equivalencies . by Marty Brick
1 c. buttermilk = 1 c. milk + 1 T. lemon juice
3 buttermilk pancakes = 1 Sunday morning
1 Sunday morning in bed making love to wife = 10,000 buttermilk pancakes
infidelity = 0 Sunday mornings in bed + many nights on couch
1 very tall woman = fantasy shared with George Constanza
1 redhead = any man’s fantasy
1 very tall redhead flirting with you for weeks = fate’s cruel trick, especially after diagnosis of “terminal”
lost chance to sow wild oats while young = comfort of knowing only her body in a perfect compact
confession to wife = clear conscience before death + angry wife + couch
last time made love to wife = can’t remember, I think missionary, that Tuesday before the diagnosis
desire to be able to determine the actual last time and to make it special = greatest desire + marker of forgiveness
being cheated on by dying husband = catch 22: how can you not forgive him but then, how can you love someone who uses a “get out of jail free” card on your heart?
3 buttermilk pancakes = each morning’s peace offering
1 month w/o sex = lifetime in cancerland w/o love
1 night she comes to the couch, sheds nightgown = acknowledgement that you are slipping away
forgiveness
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The Last Time . by Walter Bjorkman

“Whhhheeeat” came through her pursed lips as the gentle whoosh of wind from them only accentuated the picture, already formed in Eddie’s imagination, of fields of grain arcing in the Kansas breeze. Professor D. Gale always began her weekly seminars on the history of the amber grain in America’s Heartland this way. Eddie hadn’t missed any of them.

“Kansas has Whhhheeeat” she exhaled again, this time with a glint in her eyes that revealed her youth through ruby sparkles of memories that Eddie could not resist.

‘The Last Time’ was the topic for this nineteenth week. After the fields had been harvested by the horse and tractor-drawn, the children’s chore was to spread out in the fields and gather up the isolated areas of shoots still standing, with the elders swaying the scythe. They were not finished until at least eighty bushels were added for the family’s own winter needs, no matter how many days it might take. A bushel is four pecks, but a last is eighty bushels.

Stalks were scythed to submission one stroke at a time, she sweeping the fallen strands from behind her uncle’s rhythmic swings, gathering the golden reeds into the fold of her dress.

When the children had gathered a last, their reaping chores for the season were done.

Eddie awoke from a deep sleep in his Topeka apartment and realized it was all a dream. A last would be 4,800 lbs and even with a wizard’s help those munchkins couldn’t make it happen.

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dinner for one . by John Wentworth Chapin

you scared the shit out of me, knocking
on my back door like that while i washed dishes
at the sink in my ratty camo boxers
and sipped discount boxed chablis,
looking out the window at the black december night
which falls so early
that i undress for bed before i make dinner for one.

no one else comes in my back door but you,
so when i didn’t bother with clothes or modesty,
i saw your eyes narrow, wondering if anyone else
comes in my back door
since i tossed you out the front one.

because i would rather be miserable
even in my threadbare underwear
than cause conflict,
i let you in and you stood with december behind you
and me in front.

your eyes drank in the wine and the boxers and the exhaustion
and knew it was more than politeness.

i guess you were watching me through the window
down the shitty wine and pour a second glass
and adjust my balls and stroke them
as i wished for clarity.

while you fucked me bent over the kitchen counter
for the last time,
my only regret was the chablis standing between me
and remembrance
of whether i was crying while i looked out at the night.

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A Good Day . by Michelle Elvy

The last time Emily wore her hair down was fifteen years back. But this was a celebration. Hairpins lay scattered on her dressing table, the tight dark twist finally released.

She went downstairs.“You look good,” said a friend, tucking a tendril behind Emily’s ear.

And why not? Paul lay six feet under ground. Finally.

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The Editors of 52|250 wish to thank Anna Ball for her artwork this week. An artist living in Piedmont, South Dakota, Anna is inspired by the high plains and Black Hills and can’t figure out which is more fun–riding the mountain bike or painting.

The last time Anna rode her bike it was for a 50 mile mountain bike race/tour in the northern Black Hills. She made it to the finish line in a hair less than 8 hours. Not first but also not last.

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