Week #29 – The palm of your hand

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

The theme is The palm of your hand.

Magic Land by Eliq & Kids
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Poet . by Catherine Russell

Blake imagined infinity in the palm of his hand-
Whitman sang the body electric-
What next will poets spy
hidden within the bodies of saints or sinners?

In the mind that witnesses the miraculous
in the mundane,
the ordinary does not exist.
There’s poetry in a grain of sand.

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The Infection . by Len Kuntz

The blade was rusted, but it was sharp and drew a jagged line of blood.

When I jerked my palm away, wincing, Mickey grinned.

He sliced his own next, slowly, smirking, his eyes a pair of red hornets.

When he was done, Mickey held his hand up, as if ready to be sworn in. I did the same. Then we mashed our bloody wounds together. “It’s official,” he said. “We’re brothers for life.”

At the airport the next day, Mom said to shake hands goodbye, but when I did, Mickey squeezed so hard that the gash ripped free of its scab, my palm screaming murder.

“Blood Brothers for life,” Mickey whispered. “You’d better not forget.”

I hardly slept that night. My hand throbbed. Past events kept flashing in front of me—Mickey stealing my Dad’s meds, his liquor, Mickey rifling through my sister’s underwear drawer and stuffing pairs in his pocket. The worst, though, was the fire he’d set. The old Lederman place was abandoned, sure, but Mickey knew about the kittens inside. We’d both heard them mewling before he struck the match.

When I woke, my palm was swollen and discolored, with wide pockets of pus.

In the garage I saw the vise, tightened it around my wrist. I said a quick prayer, hoping this would rid me of any allegiance to Mickey.

I used my shoe for balance, and pulled the ripcord. The chainsaw rattled, angry and eager. I brought it down fast. I pictured fire.

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Spinning China . by Grey Johnson

There was not a blinding moment. Cheryl liked to imagine that there was one, the instant before the big event that changed everything. She liked to think of him having a split second of regret, so that afterward, he would be forever aware of the harm he had done.

But it didn’t happen. He slept through the entire thing, after being saturated at party, and rolled into the car by a friend. They swerved about in the night, ignoring a stop sign. Severed his aorta. Bled out clueless, his pals said, shaking their heads, while drinking beer on the porch. Oblivious.

She went to bed before the last consoling acquaintance left, exhausted enough to go to sleep in spite of all the chatter in the rooms downstairs. Her bones knew they were being pushed into the mattress by a dream, but from the outside, she seemed blessedly unaware.

In this dream, he was desperate to make her laugh, running about spinning china on the ends of sticks. She begged him to keep the dishes from crashing. All his unpredictable movement made her want to escape. She felt trapped with him in a scorching white room, crying, “Stop, and be yourself again.”

“Here,” he said, “take these. They’ll make you feel better”. She opened her hand, expecting aspirin, but when she looked down, there was a stunned moment, and a communion wafer, marked with the image of a roadside cross.

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The Wedding March . by Robert Vaughan

The congregation whispers, fidgets, and breathes like bellows. The wedding party are running way behind schedule. Tensions mount as the ceremonial time passes. The bald pastor rearranges his papers. Checks his watch, the lines deepening on his face.

Her wedding party fixes, adjusts, makes last minute preparations. She can’t seem to get her ringlets to behave, to twist in the manner they did at her run-through. “Do something,” she pleads with her maid of honor. Her panic mounts. She grabs the curling iron, snaps, “You’re just making it worse!”

To calm her, dad leads her aside, into the narrow hallway. He wants to savor these last moments with his sole daughter. His pride and joy. He takes her hand, opens it face up in both of his. Says, “When I was your age, we could fit everything we owned right here.” Traces a circle in her hand with his finger. “We had nothing.” He sighs, thinks of his own failed marriage. He asks her, “You’re sure you wanna do this?”

It takes her by complete surprise. The one question she wishes he might have avoided. She glances outside to steel herself, into the churchyard. The sun gleams on the gravestones. It feels like she’s wearing ankle weights as the organ barks the wedding march.

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Berniece . by Matt Potter

Justin cradled her head in his hands as she breathed her last. Berniece had been a good dog. But she was also twenty years old – blind, bald, bedridden, deaf, diabetic, and doubly-incontinent. We should have had her put down years before but Justin couldn’t bear the thought.

We buried her in the back garden with full honours. Then I snuck off to make the call from my mobile in the car.

“I offer a professional service, Mr Smith,” the hitwoman said over the ’phone. “I charge a cancellation fee.”

“But Berniece died of natural causes,” I said.

“I’m not an amateur.” Her voice was measured and menacing. “You told me your home had smelled of dog excrement for five years. And I offered you relief from that. I expect 50% of the agreed fee. In cash.”

I dropped the envelope at the designated spot and parked up the street.

Leisure-suited at a snail’s pace, she came walking three ancient, droopy dogs. Dipping behind the bush, she took the envelope, put it in her pocket, and walked on.

I got out of my car as she drew nearer. She glanced at me from behind huge sunglasses, red lipstick bleeding into the wrinkles around her mouth. Serious grey hair, svelte and bobbed, framed her face.

“Nice dogs,” I said, knowing they were probably dribbly and demented.

“Yes, they’re my life,” she said.

I watched her turn the corner. And wondered how much blood money was keeping those dogs alive.

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Fifth Inning, Mid September . by Michael Webb

It was over, he thought. He didn’t know the numbers, but he knew the trend line. You could plot it by games started, or by wins. You could look at his shrinking salary, or at the smaller number of teams faxing offer sheets to his agent’s office each spring. You could look at the lower number of offseason speeches he gave, or the tinier number of baseball camps he was invited to over the winter. You could look at however you want, he thought, it still adds up to one thing. It’s over.

The kids, and both of his wives, didn’t want to hear that- they didn’t want the gravy train of diamonds and consumer electronics to end. He didn’t want to disappoint them- didn’t want his youngest daughter to not get a BMW the way the oldest one did- but the math was clear. His old way of life was ending.

He looked down at the ball in the palm of his hand. He had called time out, here in this half dead stadium in the middle of a nothing game between two teams who quit trying around Independence Day. He bent to tie his shoe, feeling the ache in his right shoulder that used to come and go, but never went away now. He had to throw, and keep throwing, ignore the pain and get hitters out, because it was all he knew how to do.

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Palm of Your Hand . by Murray Dunlap

The magic of driving is an activity taken for granted. But a brain injury and vision problems swooped in and took it away. That was three years ago. So now, having entirely lost my patience and sickened of the number of times I have fallen down walking to the grocery store, I have decided to take the ‘driving rehab’ required to be legal to drive, once again. In an hour, they will be here to ‘help’ me with this. Oh to have such a simple activity in the palm of your hand jerked away because someone else ran a red light and seriously impaired my brain…Unfair in an epic fashion. Unfair. But nonetheless, I have to play by the state rules, or no one will be happy. And so I sit, writing of course (as I am a writer), and wait for the palm of my hand to be refilled. I wait and wait, thinking of a time in the future when I will be allowed to drive to see friends all over the country. But really, to drive across the street to the grocery store -if just for that- it will have all been time well spent.

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Oasis . by Susan Tepper

When you screw open the water bottle it rips the skin on your palm. There are lines in your palm there, but not your life line. That runs higher. The rip is in that fleshy part you call your oasis. You think about water under there, a whole city of date-palms and sand and low clay hovels with people squatting outside cooking on small fires. It bothers you to have this shallow wound puncturing your oasis. Your life line doesn’t seem all that long anymore. When you were younger it seemed endless like it stretched off your hand into outer space. Now you rub the wound with your other index finger. It’s bloody and slightly raised. When you get to the oasis, will there be a place for you to stay?

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It Stops . by Claire King

Your temper was part of the fabric of our house, a stain between the coving and the flock. At night your foul, beer soaked threats and my pleas for mercy were ghosts floating through walls into the kids’ dreams. In the morning we’d breakfast on silence and bruises. I felt sorry for that child inside you still fighting some painful injustice – a beating handed down along with patched up clothes, a rationing of wartime love. Until years later, when the kids told me how you’d take your belt to their bare backsides behind closed doors. Bastard.

We made our escape on grimy streets under skies filled with crows, flapping like litter in the wind.

For years you drifted angrily alone. Then the grandchildren were born.

“A new start”, you thought, packing your narcissistic bags and dumping them on her kitchen floor. You were soon boiling over again, but her husband stepped in.

“Not in our house.”

How you raged then, the world proven to be as cruel as you’d painted it. Everyone against you, you angry little man.

She says she feels it too sometimes: the chemical rush of fury in flesh, telling her to grab their arms, shake and bellow and slap. When it comes she falls prostrate, pressing her face to the floor, waiting urgently for it to pass. “Here,” she says, “it stops.”

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How I Came to Live in The Palm of His Hand . by Susan Gibb

I snuggle down between the deepest creases of it, between the heart line and the head line of his left palm. His fingers curl over in a blanket. I am safe and warm.

On windy days he puts me in his pocket. Though still I feel the turbulence of the flying sand against my back, I face the warm beat of his heart and fall asleep sometimes, I am so safe.

It is easier now–though one would never think so–to cook his meals and clean our little house. I fly through as light as a cottonseed on the wind. My feet never touch the floor. I peek into the pots of simmering soups, stand on the edge and stir aromas into the air with my arms. I sleep upon a pillow by his side and barely make a dent into its silken softness. He smiles at me more warmly now and kisses me sweetly as he holds me in the palm of his hand. His hand I need no longer fear. His hand that is caressing, warm and safe.

I feel loved and cared for. I feel his admiration. I am the perfect wife, the perfect woman, here in the palm of his hand.

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Crumbling Bridges . by Jane Banning

“The bridge footing gave way. Just crumbled like sand,” said the man from the semitruck in front of me. His eyes were clear as quartz and he laid a warm palm on my arm as I sat in my car. Traffic was backed up for miles.

“Who the hell you talking to?” my husband asked, on the other end of the cell phone. His voice sounded murky, miles away at home.

“Just a guy,” I said. “I’ll call you back.”

The man took his hand away and eased it into his pocket, rocked back on his heels, exhaling a languid breath.

“How long will we be stuck here?” I asked him.

“CB radio says it’ll be a while. Long as it takes for this whole line to get turned around.” His forearms glinted with golden hairs, lying down flat and silky.

“It’ll be hours, won’t it?” I asked, feeling my face glow with an expected heat.

“Probably. Nothing anyone can do but wait and make the best of it.”

My phone buzzed again like an angry insect in my lap.

“Can’t you tell me what’s going on?” my husband asked. “Jeez.”

“Nope,” I said, something settling in me like warm pebbles finding their places. “All anyone can do is wait and make the best of it.”

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Something else in their language . by Alex Lockwood

She’d never heard of the Isle of Hand before the six-seater plane clawed a landing out of its tiny airstrip. Winds were stopping them getting closer to their destination. ‘It’s one of the smaller islands,’ the pilot explained, ‘but it’s got somewhere to set down.’

‘Worse coming,’ Walter, sitting next to her, said. They had not met before, a tall and bearded Norwegian not part of the expedition, but he’d heard of the problems. ‘We’re not like you,’ he said when she told him what they were doing. ‘When things happen to our sea, we know about it.’

She could see the Isle was not hand shaped, with five fingers splayed out into the Arctic and ridged with laylines. It was curdled, petrified rock.

Her colleagues were standing a way off, debating whether or not to unload the kit.

She asked the pilot about it.

‘It means something else in their language,’ he said, standing with a shoulder on the wing. ‘Don’t lend anyone a hand here.’

‘It’s warm,’ she said, although she still pulled up her coat collars. ‘I thought it would be colder.’

‘It’s a strange place,’ said the pilot. ‘Look.’

Along the edges of the landing strip stood, incongruously, palm trees. But then the Gulf Stream touched this place, she knew. She looked again. The palm trees shook in the wind, as if they were lurching towards her, their long leaves gifted upwards, splayed and reaching.

She looked around. But no-one was talking about it.

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Conga . by Stephen Hastings-King

When I woke my hands were straining against their shape. They were large purple, fashioned from sausage and pain.
I thought perhaps I had fallen. What I did was worse.
A mediocre conga player builds no calluses and never remembers tape.
A mediocre conga player is continually surprised: beneath the skin of the heads is a metal ring; hitting the metal ring affords you control of pitch.
The recognition is electric.
When you are electric a pulse emerges and an inner automaton comes.
It’s arrival is the pulse is giving way to a series of descending pitches and what is underneath them.
Soon everyplace is a pattern made from interlocking patterns each of which unfolds a particular number series.
Together they define a temporary machine comprised of x musicians, which is a something that is always about to fall apart.
When the pulse starts to blossom with lattices of pain, you see them as counter rhythm. When you cannot pick up your beer, you say it’s better to moderate.
And so the evening subdivides
Later I fell asleep with my hands straining against their shape.

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Letting the door slam shut . by Stella Pierides

Even though the fairground sirens were deafening, the flashing lights
of the dodgems and carousel delighted the eye and excited the senses.
Katerina stood mesmerized, her eyes sparkling. It was then that a
woman whispered to her,

“Your fate is written on the palm of your hand. Show me your lifeline.”

Instinctively, Katerina opened her hand, only to withdraw it, embarrassed.

“Thank you,” she said, and walked on joining the crowds. She didn’t
believe in fortune-telling, but something about this woman left her
puzzled. She rubbed her hand on her skirt and slipped it inside her
pocket.

Katerina put the incident out of her mind – until next morning, when
she chanced upon the woman as she entered her place of work. Pushing
past her, she felt a spark of static electricity from their jackets.
She didn’t want her to see that she had injured her palm with a knife,
trying to cut open a pomegranate.

The woman followed her in.

“What I said about your lifeline – I meant, I thought I saw…”

Katerina held out her hand: a deep wound still oozing blood. The woman cringed.

“I should have told you straight, but I was trying to break the ice
talking of palmistry; I saw something in your eyes I thought you
should know… ” she trailed off.

Letting the elevator door slam shut, Katerina faintly heard her saying,

“… the unequal dilation of your pupils… a sign of a neurological
problem requiring urgent attention…”

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Rash Reading . by Elizabeth Kate Switaj

I got a rash under my wedding ring. I took it off and filed for divorce the next day. Mike begged me to stay. But when you can’t trust your judgement, you have to trust the signs.

Mommy had a rash like that. I used to see it in the shower. People think it’s strange we washed together until I moved away, but when she stood behind me and shampooed hair, I knew daddy hadn’t broken anything important. Was it wrong? I can’t trust my judgement.

At university I dated a man with long dark hair, but my roommates said he treat me badly, so I never spoke to him again. They set me up with a man who took me to LDS ward meetings. If I wanted to sleep in late instead, he would yell. But everyone said he was nice, so I stopped complaining. When I dropped my favorite mug one morning, I should have known it was a sign.

The next week, I had the flu and couldn’t get up, so he beat me. I called an ambulance after he left. I never went back to his dorm, and my roommates kept him away from mine. Then I met Mike.

After I left, the rash spread to the palm of my hand. Mike took me back and bought me hydrocortisone cream. The rash went away. When you can’t trust your judgement, you have to trust the signs.

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Guy Fawkes . by Heather Taylor

Stubby fingers greased the shank of the sparkler as Bernice held it as tightly as a five year old could well past her bedtime and her stomach full of saveloys and half a pint of her Uncle George’s Export. Sparks ripped from the tip as she waved it in circles, tracing yellow lines of fire in the night. She passed wind as she twirled. Her sister Alice made a face and poked her tongue out, pinching her nose. The adults sat in lawn chairs watching and laughing, piles of beer cans growing under their feet, voices raised to beat the yells from their children.

A collision with her brother chipped a burning chunk from the sparkler. It fell onto the crease of Bernice’s hand between thumb and index finger where it buried itself into her flesh. Skin melted and a curl of smoke rose. Bernice stood still to enjoy the sweet smell.

Then Alice screamed and Mother yanked Bernice into the house. Savage and dry eyed, the little girl fought, twisting in Mother’s grip. Unable to escape, she lashed out at Mother’s shin and connected.

When the palm of Mother’s hand found her cheek, the amount of illicit beer Bernice had consumed outweighed the saveloys and she threw up. It was only then, at exactly midnight, that Bernice started to howl. Somewhere a long way from that suburb, hidden in the dark scrub far from the lights, a wild dog heard the little girl’s calls and joined in.

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A Rough Approximation of a Map . by Martin Brick

“Where are you,” Jane asks.

“I just passed Tomah.”

“I know nothing about Wisconsin. Where’s that?”

“Hold out your right hand. Palm up. Do you see Wisconsin?”

“It’s a little tall.”

“Work with me. Tomah is near the middle of the palm. A little to the left.”

“And you’re cutting across diagonally?”

No, I’m zig-zagging, he thinks, but says, “Minneapolis is near the pinky and Chicago is where you take a pulse. The line connecting is I-94.” He contemplates transferring to a college even further away.

“I don’t have a line between there.”

Christ on a crutch, she’s literal. “Theoretical line.”

“There’s a line slashing the opposite way. My loveline. You just crossed it. How sweet.”

He senses the perfect moment. She just said crossed. Point that out to her. They are running perpendicular, not parallel. Point that out. And then, “We’re different. Still friends?”

But who breaks up on Thanksgiving? Heartless. Especially over the phone.

But Christmas is next. Worse then. After that, Valentine’s Day. He’s on the hook until spring unless he acts now. And he won’t be able to keep Bridget and Jane oblivious of each other forever.

“All this time apart has me thinking…” Her voice turns awkward, hesitant.

Thank you. “Me too.”

“I think my loveline intersects… intersects my lust line. Do you understand? I think I’m finally ready.”

He tells himself, I’m not shallow. This is for her. It’d be extra cruel to break up now. And he tells her, “Maybe another two hours.”

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Waiting for Dungeness . by Doug Bond

The girl slammed the car door and started down the hill, skittish and
full of wire. He had been preoccupied with the ebb and flow of tiny
points of light stretched out along the horizon, and his neck was
stiff from turning towards her. He realized that these were the lights
of crab boats. He’d read about them just that day, how their season
was off to a bad start.

Halfway down the block the girl stopped. She wasn’t half his age, but
close. Times like this the years wouldn’t compress. He rolled down the
window a crack, but didn’t say anything. In his hands, he held her
coffee, felt the warmth press into his palms. The wind was coming in
stronger now and her hair tossed about as she sidled back closer to
the car, a hat scrunched into her coat pocket, and ears turning red.

She stood and wandered about outside in the cold, and he watched her
for a long while. She looked, he thought, absolutely beautiful,
unsprung if only briefly from the tedious routine of stolen drives,
furtive errands, distant lunches, and dangerous late night calls. The
meds he was on seemed to make all of this fine, both the having and
the not having.

Reaching down for the button at the bottom of the seat, he stretched
out, and thought of those crabbers’ distant lights, what it must be
like to tend the pots and wait, sitting on the mostly unseen, heaving,
cold dark water.

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K . by Guy Yasko

I

I have a K in the palm of my hand. It’s there because the Y-top of a
cyclone fence makes Ks in human hands. I can play ninths and tenths with
my left hand, but not even an octave with my right. I live with it. What
else can i do?

II

We had played together all day, but when i cut my hand, i ran away from
him. I sprinted up the alley holding my wrist, stomped up the wooden
steps of the back porch, and pounded on the door. No one. The woman from
upstairs took me to the hospital. I don’t remember Johnny being there,
though he must have been.

III

I was the last to hear. The news passed through friends, in laws, a
librarian and finally my wife: “Johnny is –.” She never finished her
sentence.

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Disappearing Inc. . by Randal Houle

You won’t like this story. It’s the most frightening story I have ever imagined.

It’s not the story about the merits of eReaders versus paper books. As long as you feel good about it and it’s convenient and the price is right and it doesn’t ultimately wind up in landfill with all that corrosive acid eating through it not to mention the unit itself, which will outlive your great grandchildren….

But this story isn’t about that, it’s about freedom.

Remember the flames of hate that consumed piles of books? They weren’t books, they were words. Tyranny’s greatest weapon is the power to destroy words, and the greatest enemy of tyranny is words – especially words organized into books – the pages like phalanx against ignorance.

Despite tyranny’s best efforts, a few tomes escape, hidden away by cooler heads under the penalty of death. I hold these noble people up to you as the true heroes of history.

I told you this would be frightening, but it gets worse.

Take your electronic device, the one manufactured by a handful of companies, which has hidden deep within the architecture the ability to delete at the push of a button. Where will you hide your words when they come for you? There will be no warning. One day, your device will log on to the air and the deed will be done. Your story gone from the tomes of history, and with it, your freedom, snatched from the palm of your hand.

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Palm of Her Hand . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

When Lorelei emerged from the Bentley draped in pink silk and pearls, E.B. Whiting’s heart quaked all the way down to his RocketBuster boots. For over a year he had pursued the Geisha, through the cobbled streets of the French Quarter to the high rises of Hong Kong. Rebuffed in every city, he paid for her best courtesans instead. The next morning, he sent her ivory roses, accepted but never acknowledged.

He strode across the foyer, Dom Perignon clutched in his hand. She followed him to the window. Below, the Dallas skyline glittered. American flags and Whiting banners floated ghostlike from dozens of cranes silhouetted in tiny white lights.

“You have built a kingdom,” she said.

“As have you.” They clinked flutes. “Have you considered my proposal?”

She rested the champagne on the table and took his hand. The subtle scent of vanilla wafted from her. He trembled as she splayed open his palm and traced the left side with her finger.

“Long career line. And success, but the two do not intersect.” She pulled his hand closer, her breath warm on his skin. “Love line also long, but see?” She drew quick perpendicular cross-hatches with her nail. He winced.

“Marry me,” he whispered. “Please.”

“Life line starts here.” She slowly trailed her forefinger from the base of the thumb to the middle of his palm, and stopped. A frown creased her forehead, then smoothed.
“Yes,” she said and smiled. “Let us marry.”

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Infinite Space . by Katherine Nabity

Marion liked the man on television, the one that talked about being bound in a nutshell and becoming the king of space. He had wide, wild eyes and an askew grin. Marion felt like that most of the time. Wild and askew. Her family didn’t understand her, but the man would.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t figure out how to be bound *in* a nutshell. The biggest nut she had in her collection, the brainy-looking walnut, fit easily in the palm of her hand. She couldn’t become small enough to go inside it.

But maybe…

The thought wormed its way into her thoughts even though she didn’t want it to.

Maybe…

If she cracked the walnut open and ate the insides.

Maybe…

But she had never cracked any of the nuts in her collection. Never ate them! Her sister threatened. Her sister ate the nuts from her Christmas stocking every year, all of them…except the walnuts.

Yes. The walnut. To be the queen of space, she would sacrifice it.

Scared, she held the nut steady, crenelated meat mallet in her other hand. With one deep breath, she brought the mallet down. The shell cracked and the awful noise tore into her mind, into her soul.

Space was cool and quiet. Marion didn’t find the king, but in the end, she doubted that he would have understood about the walnut either.

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Heart Line . by Kim Hutchinson

One sunny morning, a big-bellied ball of yellow fur surveyed a yard full of prospective adopters and ran straight to one.

She’d been chosen.

The breeder called the craziest pup in the litter Climbing Ivy. He tried to pull a switch with two other pups, but she knew. The pup was ADD riddled with far too much energy; she understood. She’d loved many dogs, but this one loved her.

The dog loved to run, never happier than free-flying down a laneway, and swim, paddling with so much heart that her chest lifted above the water.

A second’s inattention during training, and the pup shot off. The leash snapped. So did the ring finger on her left hand. Her wedding band had to be cut apart.

They were inseparable. The dog waited all day until the computer went off, then her day began. In a dark, miserable life, the dog was her bright spot, the only love she knew.

When she had to leave, she had nowhere to go; at least the dog would be cared for where she was. Sunlight streamed through the kitchen window. The dog stood staring at her, whimpering and confused.

Walking away was her last act of love.

Remembering, her left hand throbbed. It had never healed properly, leaving drawn, tight tendons clinging together. The palm was a mountain range, the life and heart lines unreadable, a lasting imprint of the truest heart she had ever known, still aching.

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Hands . by Matthew A. Hamilton

The cracks in my hands told me
I’d live forever. They told me
that one day I’d be wealthy.
When my hands held you
for the first time I knew
it to be true.

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Terrible Gods . by Al McDermid

I’m sitting in the park, under a big maple, intent on reading some poetry, when a fledgling drops out of the tree and lands next to me. It is so young and ugly that I cannot discern its breed, and it’s squawking like all get out, undoubtedly at the shock of suddenly not being in the nest.

I look at it for awhile, thinking I should perhaps let natural selection take its course, do nothing so this individual can’t pass on the clumsy gene, or the over-anxious gene, or whatever gene caused it to tumble from the nest. It seems of little consequence one way or the other. Thousands of birds fall from nests and that’s that. Had I not been here, this one would be no different.

But this one is different. It’s flailing in the grass next to me, right now. I look up into the tree, dubious of my ability to reach even the lowest branch, let alone find the nest. Then there’s that thing about mother birds rejecting chicks handled by humans, but I don’t know if that is even true, or if it is, that it’s true for all birds.

So I pick it up, see how easy it would be to close my hand and decide the issue, and understand why we imagine that our gods are terrible.

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Let me whisper in your ear . by Bernard Heise

When I hold in the palm of my hand the life of someone like you, about whom I’ve learned everything I need to know from the pronouncements you have splattered across television, radio, and the internet, and whom I now have before me in the puffy flesh, sweaty and pale, wheeled by frantic paramedics into the soul-scorching lights of my operating room after a hell-bent ambulance ride because the cumulative effects of a bad diet, lack of exercise, and vitriol finally sprang the corroded springs of your blackened heart, knocking you flat and breathless just as you were raising a glass of expensive chardonnay to your thin lips to toast the jackals who have made and kept you fat in exchange for promises to create laws that will assure vast profits for the few by perpetuating the misfortune of the many, and I look into your predatory eyes, still very conscious, and glimpse a flicker of fear but also the demand that I save you, I suddenly become a man of faith, knowing that the good Lord himself has delivered you to this table beneath my scalpel, and I wonder whether I should say a prayer that my fingers might slip, which they never do, or that a random infection might take hold, which rarely happens, or if I should simply show my gratitude for the opportunity I now have to serve my country and fellow citizens and apply the blade decisively, remembering that God helps those who help themselves.

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Jesse’s Time . by Walter Bjorkman

Jesse walked unsteadily out of the wood shop, goggles flittered with sawdust. The fresh cut wood’s odor brought her to the small basement where her grandfather once worked on the same violin over and over, with his now shaky hands once patterned for finer movements. As a boy and a man he was a cobbler by trade, but his passion was in shaping the instruments of sound whenever he could.

Jesse never could master the strings, nor did she have the desire; she was more intrigued by this hunched figure with his green visor, working the wood over and over in his palms for twenty years, the last five on what was his fifth and final one. Well into his seventies, he’d stare at the work table, hands trembling as he tried to position the bridge just right, then stringing, tuning and lifting into the folds beneath his neck, the sound only to disappoint once again. He never gave even a sigh, just methodically placed it down, then turned his head to the overhead window to the alley. After a quiet minute or two, he went back to the bridge, or at times disassembling the body – was it perhaps a misshapen or improperly positioned piece that made his masterpiece incomplete? This went on month after month, five days a week. Jesse sat quietly, trying to make sense out of his gyrations, learning never to question the whys or whats that so desperately wanted to be heard.

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Blood . by John Wentworth Chapin
We decide not to go to the emergency room; explaining what happened would be beyond embarrassing. Once the blood stops gushing from my mouth and the pain subsides, we have a good laugh about it. It looks like domestic violence, but it’s anything but that. 

We crawl back into bed and nestle in each other’s arms. Sex is out of the question, but that hunger for intimacy lingers, dissatisfied. I show him where the BB lodged decades ago in the palm of my hand, a faint scar where the pellet entered and an even fainter one where it was surgically removed. He traces the spot with his thumb, and I feel his pulse. He shows me the scar where a window sheared a cone of flesh from his teenaged palm. Blood spurted like you wouldn’t believe, he says. That pale oval is colder than the rest of him, and I warm it. Ravenous for more, we go on.

Gay men fear each other’s blood, so we don’t kiss. It is perhaps the answer to a lifelong prayer that we can’t couple just now. Wrapped in arms bigger than my own, I am satisfied.

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Dandelion . by Michelle Elvy

Here, you say, take it
even as the wind
whirls it away

I clench my fingers closed
roll the dandelion in
and hold
you here
forever

Mama, you say

I open my fingers
roll them out
aaaaaaaaatoward you
and we watch the dandelion
whisper away

you place your hand in mine
your monkey grin your lion mane
flying in the wind

A fistful of love
here in my hand
enough for a lifetime
here in the palm of my hand

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We would like to thank artist Angelique Moselle Price for this week’s art, Magic Land. We asked her to tell us a little about this unique work:.

“The Child Within is a series of work I am doing with my son, Josiathe. He usually draws the pieces and I color them in. Sometimes I draw as well. Ever since he was old enough to hold a marker we have drawn together. Josiathe is my greatest inspiration. He keeps me joyful and light. We started these when he was three. He is now almost 10 and we have so many to finish. They are my favorite pieces of art. They are so precious to me.

Magic Land is by Josiathe’s second grade art class and myself, done with sharpie markers on bristol paper.”

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