Week #39 – Password

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

The theme is password

Hands by Michael J. Solender
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Love . by Matt Potter

“I’ve met someone,” Trent beams down the phone.

Thank God, I think. The drought has broken.

“You must meet him.”

Standing on the corner, I wonder if Trent’s new boyfriend will look like any of the exes: tall and muscled, like Rodrigo, Manny and Bruce? Petite and muscled, like Kim, Jackie and Ba? Or hairy and muscled, like Spike, Max and Bruce (doing double duty ten years and a new body later)?

“Hi, stranger.” Trent’s arms enclose me. A bursting warmth shines through his eyes.

“This guy’s worked wonders,” I say.

“I’m like a new man,” Trent trills. Then holds up his hand, as if pledging allegiance. “Wait: I am a new man!”

“Come in,” he says, leading me through a side door. And into a church. Which I’d noticed while waiting but thought was just a meeting point.

Trent stops before a statue of a buff Jesus. “Meet the new man in my life.”

Trent’s had many phases: Madonna, Bette, leather, water sports, rollerblading, haiku, chicken queen, rice queen, muscle queen, daddy. But religion? This is new.

But there’s no denying Trent looks a different – certainly happier – person.

“How serious is this?” I say.

He lays his hands on my arm. “Come with me to my prayer meeting tonight.”

I look for a chink, to find the Trent I’ve always known.

“I can’t,” I say. “I have a date with the devil.”

“Oh,” he says. But I see the familiar spark in his eyes. “Tell him I said hello.”

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Dangerous Introductions . by Garrett Socol

I met James on a sunny Saturday at the gym. We found ourselves approaching the one stationery bicycle available. He flirted, but I got the bike.

Guess who happened to be leaving the gym at the same time. Coincidence? Yeah, right. He held the door for me and said the word blisskrieg. Not blitzkrieg. Blisskrieg. “What’s blisskrieg”? I asked. That became our password for tumultuous sex. We went back to my apartment and did it on my Versailles wool rug in front of the fireplace.

James often strolled up to me at the gym and asked, “Blizzkrieg?” I usually said, “Sure, stud. Right after I do a few pelvic pumps.” He said I was a Nordic goddess with the mouth of a Teamster, and he loved that combination.

I think we kept waiting for this profound love to develop, but it never did. And that was cool. We enjoyed being in each other’s company, and how many people can you say that about? So what if bells didn’t ring a ding?

Never once did he give me the slightest suggestion that he was criminally insane. If he’d tried to choke me, I would have fought him with every ounce of strength in my toned body. I would have kicked and shrieked and shoved and smacked him over the head with a frying pan. I’m glad the bastard is behind bars. Strangulation is not an acceptable way to end a date, even if you don’t get along.

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Repastwords . by JP Reese

“Pass the shocking fuzz, please?”

“This journey work of the stars is delicious! How did you make it?”

“It’s simple, really. I mix a cup of red, red rose with cloudless climes and starry skies and chill the ingredients in the fridge for a skunk hour before roasting at 350˙.”

“What’s for dessert?”

“Central Market had a special on handcrafted yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes, brushed with what did I know, what did I know to add just the right amount of piquancy. There’s also I’m nobody who are you? left over from book club–it’s lighter.”

“Sounds delicious. I’ll taste both.”

“Mom? May I be excused? My stomach’s thick as autumnal leaves.”

“You didn’t eat your red fox stain yet, and how will you ever develop big love-crumbs without finishing your persimmons, swelled, heavy as sadness?”

“I ate all the Girl Mad as Birds! I’m full. The next thing, I’ll be farting a bag full of God.”

“Well, okay. Run outside where I can see you sprinkled with rosy light, but avoid the caverns measureless to man.”

“Okay. Good night ladies; good night, sweet ladies.”

“Nice kid. Is there more of this delightful Coral is Far More Red? It has a great nose with hints of road tar, crimson joy, and Sweet sweet sweet sweet sweet tea.”

“Right here in the kitchen. See my new granite counters? The mason added quartz and watersmooth silver stallion bone.”

“Oh my! Everything is rainbow, rainbow, rainbow!”

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Done Fighting . by Deborah A. Upton

The man sits at the table glaring at the woman on the other side. Their eyes lock, causing him to scowl. Both of their shoulders tense up. For twenty six years he has been fighting this woman.

He clenches the edge of the table, causing his knuckles to turn white.

Her hand moves, then she quickly pulls it back. Her tongue clicks, then she growls, “No.”

Watching her intently, he waits for her to make a mistake.

Disbelief spreads across her face.

Maybe, just maybe, he thinks, hope rising.

Her lower lip starts quivering. “Pass,” she mutters, weakly, turning her head away.

“Finally,” he yells and slaps down his last tile onto the game board. “I not only have the last word, but I have also finally beaten my little sister at Scrabble.”

He smiles at her, fondly, realizing that he really does like her.

Maybe he always has.

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Password Profile Users: God, Love, Lust, Money and Private
by Robert Vaughan

God

She never misses church on Sunday, leads Wednesday night Bible Study class. Her kids call her a holy roller. When her husband moves south, she starts a Christian Online Dating Service, screen name is kittykitty. She struggles between saving money for Botox or Jesus.

Love

He’s been burned so many times he’s crispy. Downs Miller six-packs at the Trysting Place Pub. Writes sonnets that he’ll burn later in the firepit. Waiting for money at the ATM, he wants to remove his heart-shaped tattoo, cover it up with a pitchfork.

Lust

What the hell kind of name is Penfield? She wonders while he takes a leak off the back porch. She leans to see fresh bruises through curtains in dawn’s early light. She rolls too far, ends up on the bamboo-planked floor, giggling. Creepy- crawls under the bed, dials 911 on her mobile phone.

Money

He can’t recall the last time he was paid. Money doesn’t grow on trees, his mother had told him. And yet, he glances out the finger-print smudged patio door and there, in place of leaves on his prized beech, are hundred dollar bills fluttering, Benjamin Franklin’s irises staring at buzzing breezes.

Private

Those first days back. Horrible insomnia. 2 a.m. in their guest room, night sweats, bombs bursting in mid-air attacks. No proof, except those hacked memories he wishes he could erase. But he can’t. He opens the adjacent bedside table, retrieves his dogtags. Cradles them in his palm.

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Sweet Tea . by D. L. Tricarico

I broke the code to his heart, he said, I had the password. I set the tumblers in place so his soul could open and his love flow out like honey. I turned the key that opened the door that had been shut since Jesus was born. It was me, he whispered night after night in the darkness, I was the one. He promised we’d spend summers sipping iced tea spiked with lemon, warm ourselves by the fire in his winter house near the woods, make love in the cool fall mornings, wiggling beneath fresh white sheets that had dried on the line in the yard. Someday, he swore, we’d dance on the balcony of a fancy hotel while fireworks exploded over the shoreline, painting their blurry little rainbows in the sea. But that was long ago, and I don’t wait for him anymore. These days I sit alone on the porch, fill my glass from the sweet tea jar that steeps in the sun by the door and, if it’s warm, I might rock in the chair. If I think I hear his laugh or the sound of his car, I ache all over again because usually it’s just a rabbit or a fox, and I have to tell myself I’m wrong, it’s not him. The reason it still hurts is because he said I was the one who had what he needed. I had the password, he told me. I was the one.

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Trading . by Susan Tepper

After supper in the summer we traded baseball cards outside. My brother had the best ones and the other kids would give ten for his one. He was a cagey trader. I found it all rather boring. I only stuck around because there was nothing else to do. Plus I scooped up bubble gum that often fell from the cards to the ground during the haggling over the cards. My brother screamed loudest. He was stocky and strong. He brought Mr. Chips our German Shepherd along as mascot. If someone got out of line Mr. Chips growled. It kept a lid on things. Until the night Richie from the city came. He was visiting his cousin Louie for the week. We all stood under Mrs. Carney’s big tree. The spreading one with the caterpillars. Every so often a caterpillar would fall on the sidewalk or someone’s head or their back. We were used to it. Richie was afraid and started to screech and carry on. My brother screamed he should shut up he was spoiling the action. Mr. Chips barked loudly. I found a few more pieces of gum that were still nicely wrapped and tucked them in my pocket for later.

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“Yes” . by Doris Dembosky

Years after handing her heart to a boy who had died in The Battle of the Somme, Mildred still felt the loss of a life’s companion.

Driven by the thought that ‘time and tides wait for no man,’ she wrote a short advertisement and pinned it to a church notice board in the next village.

Her ad read: “Spinster, 62, wishes to meet a mature, tender man who loves books and doesn’t mind cat hair. Phone 372- 3037.”

The following Sunday, standing at the back of the church, the collection plate in his hands, Malcolm read the notice.

He noted her use of the word “spinster” and the bit about the cat hair. He liked the fact that she was forthright. Already he could see cat hair on his trousers and a stray cat hair in the broccoli.

Despite worries that someone might listen-in on the party-line, Malcolm phoned. “Hello. My name is Malcolm. I saw your note… on the bulletin board… at St. Anne’s.”

The following week, sitting in a teashop, Malcolm asked Millie if she would like a cream cake with her tea.

Millie said, “Yes.”

In May, Malcolm asked Millie if she would brave the wagging tongues and join him at Sunday service.

Millie said, “Yes.”

In July, Malcolm asked Millie if she would like to take the train to Brighton.

Millie said, “Yes.”

After dark on the shingle shore, Malcolm slowly unbuttoned Millie’s blouse. There was no need to ask: the surf was whispering, “Yes!”

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LOTUS . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

Drape me with silk
lustrous as the line of my thigh,
feed me oysters
champagne lapped, finger napped,
cream mountains whipped
to fill my hollows.
Make cartography with your mouth,
mountains with your fingers,
trace highways down my belly
with your tickle tongue
moan your prayers
hush in my ear you are done
with her.
But even these offerings will
not unfurl me.

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Tall Love . by Michelle McEwen

No more giving away what I got and gettin’ nothing back. I give my heart, my time, and what’s between my legs and all I get is a bunch of men’s backs on their way out the door. My old honey thought I was sleeping when he snuck out. I was awake, though— watched him tiptoeing out. Funny sight— grown men tiptoeing. I cried a spell about it, but no more of that nonsense crying for me. I’m at that age where my folks starting to drop like flies and I need my tears for them. Too old to be weepin’ over menfolk, too old for this one-sided love I keep gettin’. Aunt Tookie says I love too hard— says no man’s love ever gonna match how I love. That’s ‘cause I got this way of lovin’ that if I took my love, put it up against a wall, and marked off the height with a pencil, every day it’d be taller— a growing child. What I got is tall love. My men got short love; no matter what you do, it don’t grow. Unless I find a man with tall love, my legs staying closed. Gonna need a password to get ‘em open again. Won’t be no simple password like I love you. It’s gon’ be something tough like “Baby, I been all over Chicago. Had me some moneyed women, yellow women, plump women, but they got nothin’ on the one I got layin’ up next to me.”

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Sofia, Sofia . by Melissa McEwen

Junior is always leaving Sofia for months at a time, but he never leaves for good. He still has a key and Sofia never changes the locks because she knows he’ll be back, she just doesn’t know when. So every night before she goes to bed, she leaves the porch light on for him and a plate of food on the table and he’ll show up out of the blue like he never left, returning in the middle of the night, through the back door, and his heavy gait and the creaking floorboards will wake her. She’ll lie there and listen as he heats up his food in the microwave. He’ll eat like he hasn’t had a meal in weeks. She’ll comb her hair with her fingers and wait for him to come to bed. She’ll fall back asleep by the time he comes, but when he comes, he’ll whisper Sofia, Sofia in her ear and mechanically she’ll turn over on her back and open her legs.

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Beyond the Pale . by Thomas O’Connell

“Dad, it’s me,” Steven panted into the phone. “I called 911 on the drive over.”

“Steven,” a man on the other end said, followed by a low, deliberate inhale.

“Dad, I’m at the gate but I don’t know the code to punch into the keypad.”

“I would think you’d know.”

“But I don’t,” Steven shouted. “You need to tell me.”

He checked his phone, a half-hour since his dad called him.

“Dad, the ambulance won’t get in either,” Steven pleaded, grabbing the gate. “I need the code.”

“Maybe my birthday,” a soft voice said.

“Great, May 10th, no 15th? 0515?”

“That’s my birthday.”

Steven punched the keys, stepping back from the gate. It didn’t move.

“Not it, Dad. What else could it be?”

“Maybe the year your mother and I married.”

“Okay, what year was that?”

“What year?”

“Yeah, Dad. Don’t you remember?”

“Oh, I remember- 1963.”

“That’s not it either. You’ve gotta remember; I only have one more try. Punch in the wrong code three times, the system thinks someone’s breaking in.”

“I think it’s your birth year? You know that don’t you?”

Steven punched in the same code as his ATM pin.

“Not it, Dad. Now you’re screwed, I can’t get in.”

“I remember, the code is today’s date. Try that.”

“Today’s date? I can’t, I’m out of tries.”

Steven’s father adjusted his pillow. Reaching to place the phone on the cradle he knocked over the pill bottle, startling as it fell until he remembered it was empty.

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The Changed Password . by Joanne Jagoda

In the middle of a video conference with Japanese clients, my assistant mouthed, “your mom.” I scribbled a note to my boss eyeing me, “ mom emergency” slipped out and grabbed a phone. A feeling of dread bubbled in my stomach. She probably misplaced her keys again. I kept a spare set. She was forgetting simple tasks too. Last Saturday at 6am I got a panicked call.

“Dede, my coffee maker is broken. I put in the coffee but it is not working. I hate it.”

I rolled over in bed and groaned. “ Ma, give me half an hour and I’ll check it out.” She had put the coffee where the water was supposed to go.

I refused to believe my vital, intelligent sixty four year old mother; retired business woman, bridge player, and crossword whiz, could be showing signs of dementia. I attributed these changes to her getting over the sudden loss of my dad last year. My husband Stan was trying to prepare me that this was more than normal grieving.

“Ma, please, I’m in the middle of work.”

“Dede, I tried to get money out but someone changed my password. I tried it over and over, but the machine ate my card.”

I closed my eyes and tried to breathe. Tears filled my eyes. “I’ll come and find out who changed your PIN, uh..your password. Ma, where are you?”

She answered sheepishly, “I’m not sure. This nice man here in the handsome uniform will tell you.”

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The Moment It All Changed . by Michael J. Solender

Her eyes darted furtively and her lower lip became a thin line of string, tucked under her nose. The signal, an unspoken password, told me all I needed to know.

We’d been discovered.

Secretly I wanted it all to come to light. The mess would be dealt with, feelings would be hurt. Possessions would be parsed, pain would ensue.

Then and only then, the haze would lift.

No more hang ups after two rings.

No more guessing if that woman whose eyes lingered upon our dinner laughter was Julia’s coworker I’d met at the last Christmas party.

No more stroking my daughter’s hair and wondering what she’d think of her Daddy when he didn’t live in the house any longer.

No more longing for no mores.

They would all be replaced.

Starting today. It all went in motion. Certainty replaced doubt.

Her eyes said it all.

I would have given anything to have seen mine at that very instant.

What did they tell her?

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What it Takes . by Michael Webb

I had searched the whole evening for the code word- the secret joke or quick innuendo that would break through the crust of her fury. I had said something, or done something, early in the evening- that much was clear. All night at the beach and later, at the highway rest stop Burger King with the bored looking staff and broken ice maker, she had been crisp and matter of fact- one word answers, grimaces or silence after my puns and clever allusions. She was boiling, certainly, but still too conscious of her standing among her friends to dress me down in front of them.

I never found it, and watching her walk away, I noticed the way the skin behind her knees made an “H” when she bent her leg. I had studied every inch of her body, I thought, but I had never seen that before. Another fact about her that had passed by me unnoticed- ours was the sort of relationship where a lot went unsaid, unstated and unremarked. She walked firmly, like she was trying to put as much space between my car and her body as she possibly could. I watched her hips move as she crossed the courtyard area and went into her front door.

“What It Takes” was playing on the radio. I wondered if I was going to need to figure out how to let her go. She certainly seemed gone, I mused, as her door slammed shut.

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Revelation . by Len Kuntz

Since the apocalypse, we are all in search of new skins.

People troll dark places. Shadows are temporary havens where we tread in foul clouds. Withered forests roil underfoot, eager to pull us down.

The youngest amongst our group are the most vicious–toddlers who don’t know how to play gentle. We watch them wild-eyed, this new breed of evil gnomes, shredding each other with their claws and fang teeth grown unwieldy.

We’ve had all the time in the world to make sense of our destruction, yet the experts’ answers have kept us confused. Some say we had the wrong world leaders, that we gagged the environment, that we were greedy or not greedy enough.
We’re told about cycles.

We’re told there is a way out if we are reasonable.

There are abundant solutions but no one has the right password. The world is too gray to see, its people forever distracted.

So, our old dermis shrinks more each day, pain and pressure squeezing our skulls. We scurry and scratch, searching in panic for new skins.

When we find loaves in a shed, a happy wailing goes up.

As we eat, one wise person points to the faded wall sketch—a portrait, a seven, a series of numbers. We’ve seen it before, years ago, in a dream or book, heard it recited from someone’s animated lips, but now another of us finds a great cache of soup cans, so we wail again, we hoot, we set about making fire.

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Lotus . by Roberta Lawson

In our palms, small talismans. In our palms, small found objects: a photo, a gemstone, a discarded note. Hand to hand we pass back and forth these tokens as substitutes for love. Here we do not mention the cold – our words are only for our own ears and we ration them carefully.

Once a mute man placed a lotus flower in my hair, walked away. Once somebody’s mother took the earrings she was wearing, threaded them through my lobes. We share no common language of words. We make do. We better than make do.

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Password . by Barbara Lucy Hosken

He has a book full of passwords for everything under the sun. If he needs one he creates another, ranging through the names of his children, dog, boat and car, to combinations of family initials, birthdates etc.

He constantly complains about them, regularly loses them and always has to look them up. He often finds they do not work because he has changed them and forgotten to record the changes.

He doesn’t trust a computer record because he once had a disgusting virus which meant that he lost a tremendous amount of material, including the list of passwords he had at the time.

He prefers to trust his little black book, which is secreted in a drawer far from his desktop. It’s in a totally different room at the opposite end of the house from his office so discovering a password is a major operation. First find the book.

Passwords are truly the bane of his life.

She, on the other hand, has one password which she uses for everything. On the rare occasion when she needs a longer one, she adds the numbers of her childhood home address.

“I never need more digits than that.” she says.

He constantly suggests she lets him record it in his notebook, warning her that someone will find out what it is and then she’ll lose everything.

“That’ll only happen if you tell someone,” she says.

“But I don’t know it.”

“Precisely.”

She smiles and walks away knowing he’ll never guess it’s “iluvyoo”.

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Feral Growth . by Derin Attwood
she found it as we blew dandelion seeds to the wind
get rid of it
she talked about it like an old friend
we were friends first
she nurtured it
why did you treat it as special
she planted flowers
it grew and took over
it killed something beautiful
it drained her vitality
she said even weeds deserve life
you did too
“It gave me the password to heaven.”
it left me in hell.
she smiled as she died
I died too I didn’t smile
she wanted flowers on her grave
I planted dandelions and blew the seeds to the winds
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The Alarm . by Stephen Hastings-King

Rain pours through the suspended ceiling and the building’s fire alarm sounds repeated bursts of loud abrasive distortion 1 2 3.

In the pulse of red strobe lights, a large fireman who had moments before been sound asleep stands in the middle of the room. He holds a waterlogged ceiling panel. In the center of the panel is the alarm. Two bright blue wires run from the box and disappear overhead.

1 2 3

He has been looking at the configuration for some time. Around him, six other firemen have arranged themselves in postures that reference the gallery in a painting of a public dissection. The allusion is complicated by heavy raincoats, enormous boots and fire helmets, red strobe lights and recurrent alarm sounds.

1 2 3

The large sleepy fireman says: We do not touch alarms. Does anyone know the code?

Here follows an awkward silence.

1 2 3

What are we going to do now?
We could spend the night ignoring this alarm.
But what if the building catches fire?

Here follows another silence.

1 2 3

We’d be liable.

Some look at the rain pouring through the ceiling. Others at the growing puddle on the floor.

You shouldn’t have said that out loud.

1 2 3

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Word Power . by Kim Hutchinson

In the beginning, there is a word, a word of power.

The first appearance is by inspiration; it arises like magic in the mind of one with an open heart. The inspired one, the keeper of the word, passes it to a few who follow. The followers pass the word to a few more, and they pass it on, and on it goes.

The word represents an idea that changes everything: societies, languages, customs, individual lives. It spreads like a virus, morphing from language to language, growing in strength and followers.

A simple word creates a revolution.

Finally, the keeper, the one who first thought and spoke the word, dies. Those who remain behind must try to understand and honor the word of power. As time passes, some with less open hearts begin to fear it and try to contain it through interpretation and law. Others carve it in gold and ivory and place it on display, then bow to it without understanding.

Dark hearts misconstrue it, to harness the power for their own purposes.

Generations later, the word is laden with analysis and decoration, but almost devoid of meaning. Its message grows weak. The word’s power becomes hidden behind clouds of confusion and cooptation.

But like the sun, the word of power is always there, strong and shining, behind the clouds, waiting for us to hear it, to know it, waiting for another open heart to appear.

The word waits to begin again.

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Safe Room . by Catherine Russell

The woman huddled in the corner of her ornately furnished Safe Room, her arms wrapped arout her shoulders, hugging herself. After a lifetime spent seeking fame and fortune, she wished to God she’d settled for fortune alone. Wealth had provided her with the safe room discreetly hidden behind a false wall, alarms, monitors, and security cameras discreetly hidden in every room.

Fame inflicted her with the home invaders that now rendered her security useless. Through the monitors and impregnable steel walls, she viewed the intruders – faces hidden by ski masks, guns at the ready. They methodically searched the house, until they stood outside her little boy’s room where Dylan cowered beneath his bed.

Clutching his teddy in her hands, she reached out and typed the password that would take her to her son.

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Access: Women . by Randal Houle

The password to every woman is a multi-layered encryption.

She stretches her naked legs. Like judgment from outside, the harsh light filters through a thin veil covering the window. Put it on the nightstand, she says.

The password to this woman is money.

Her grades are above average. She studies her gender well so she will know how to make society treat her. On weekends, and sometimes during the week, she sips free drinks at a local pub. Her laugh is easy. The guys play pool and strategize. She taunts them with her repudiations. She delights in it. One of millions manages to swim the crowd. He has penetrated her formidable barrier. He buys her a drink. She has already decided to go home with him.

The password to this woman is confidence.

She hunches over breakfast dishes after a long day at work. Her arms are sore and all she can manage on days like this, it seems, is an hour or two of television before falling asleep. Her husband returns from his day. The two exchange obligatory pleasantries. The sparse indoor plants are dying and even the children, who are nearly full grown, have become surlier of late. He holds a heart shaped box to her. She holds up her pruned, withered fingertips at the end of dripping hands. She thought he had forgotten. Today is their anniversary.

The password to this woman is chocolate.

Or try these codes: kindness, respect, listen, give.

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Flash—Thunder . by Al McDermid

On the plane in, some guys fingered their crosses, but I didn’t have one, so I fiddled nervously with my signal clicker, breaking it. By then we were on our feet and hooking up.

I had joined the airborne because I wanted to know that the guy fighting next to me was the best, but I’d never liked jumping. Waiting for that green light, though, I’d watched one of the other planes break up after taking a hit, flaming paratroopers, guys I certainly knew, spilling from its door. After that, all I could think of was getting off that plane.

When I finally landed I was so surprised to be alive I momentarily forgot where I was, surrounded by the enemy, my weapon and leg bag torn from me by the plane’s prop wash, with no idea if I was anywhere near my drop zone. I crouched next to a tree, listening to the anti-aircraft guns, which didn’t sound nearly so frightening now that I was on the ground. Compared to inside the plane, where the noise had been deafening even before the shelling started, this grove where I hid was almost peaceful.

I heard movement close, but with no weapon, I feared using the password, feared giving away my position. Then I heard the sweetest word in the English language.

“Flash,” said the darkness.

“Thunder,” I said, emerging from the shadows. “Thunder.”

“One ‘thunder’ is sufficient, Trooper,” came the voice of my lieutenant. I could tell he was smiling.

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Don’t be Fooled . by Martin Brick

“Why’s your apartment smell like incense?”

“I asked Rhea over.”

Don cranes his neck into the living room. Deeming it safe he whispers, “Crazy new age lady?”

“Yes, she… She wants to help with Mom.”

Rhea does indeed. Candles. Incense. Ouija board.

“Come on, Jen. I know you don’t believe that shit.”

She doesn’t. Or didn’t. But desperation leads to conviction, and as she explains to her brother, “If ever someone needed to talk to the living, it’s Mom, with the way she went.”

So the three of them gather around the table in a darkened room. Don didn’t understand why it had to be darkened. They put their fingers on the planchette.

“We’d like to speak to the spirit of Helen Bauman. Helen are you here?”

Nothing.

“Are you going to ring a bell with your toes,” Don taunts. “I’ve seen the Houdini documentaries.”

Jenny offers an icy glare, but then the piece moves. YES.

Jenny wants to know if it’s really her. “Ask her favorite food.”

A – R – T … Artichoke hearts. Jenny’s eyes go wide.

Don is still stone faced. “A man comes up to me, says you and dad are hurt. He’s a friend, and he’ll take us to the hospital. But I’m suspicious…”

Rhea looks puzzled. Jenny too. But the planchette moves. A – S – H…

“Ashtabula?”

Jenny gasps. Their password. Never trust a stranger unless he knows…

“Okay,” Don admits. “Now you can ask her about what happened.”

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root access . by Guy Yasko

I like my cubicle. I have my sunshine, my tea cup and my figurines:
Jabba the Hutt, Chewbacca — all the good ones.

But what i really like is logging in. Push the button, type, return,
enter the circle. I can do things. I’m wanted. I belong.

Then i think i could do more, be further in. I want more.

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The History of Summer . by Michael Parker

Is there such a time as summer, long days, late afternoons on fire, the heat sticking to us like need, new lovers, day and night? I say, I remember what summer is. But that feels like an old memory, its colors fading to sepia, the edges blurring, and a memory’s details combobulating into others. And when that happens, there goes your own trust in your faculties to recall specifics, like a password to your only e-mail account, the mystical symbolism of each of your children’s birth times, or your vows at the wedding anniversary: the meaning of once important things. You and I both know that once a memory is called into question then your own history seems, well, lost, and no longer yours.

This is the history of summer: an old book in a specials collection, its leather binding brittle and breaking, and the stories written on each fragile page disintegrating if exposed to untreated air. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen old books opened. I’ve seen the fragments of words lifting off the page on thin wafers of paper the likeness of moths’ wings. That’s when you know the significance of each word: when you can no longer retrieve it to its home story.

Is there such a time as summer? If so, the recollection of it on these frigid winter days is fragile. My memory grows old. And the old books are blasted open and the blizzards are spreading the words across the plains.

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Arky to Frenchy to Augie . by Walter Bjorkman

“Vaughan, Bordagaray or Galan. Arky, Frenchy or Augie, that is better, da.” The guard tower was just ahead and Boris couldn’t have been better prepared for his mission behind enemy lines.

The KGB espionage revealed that after all the papers were checked the final test would be the question “Who played third base for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the war?”

But which one? Vaughan played the most games at third, but he left for the military himself in 1944. Bordagaray then mostly took over, but Galan was planted there on V-E Day. Boris decided to go with Arky, more likely known to a guy from Iowa, where he was supposed to be from. Use nicknames, Americans big on them. Boris decided to throw in the last name, not be so familial. Igor, his partner in the spy game was on his own, as he was supposed to be from Philadelphia.

Both were whisked through the papers part – had access to the best forgers in Europe. The moment of truth was at hand, Boris first.

“Who played third base for the Brooklyn Dodgers during the war?”

“Arky Vaughan”, Boris put on an immaculate midwest accent.

Truncheons appeared and battered him into a pulp as the Sarge said “I’m from Joisy an I dint know dat. Gotta be a commie.”

And you . . . ? looking suspiciously at Igor, the supposed Philly lieutenant.

“Aw, dem bums suck lemons!”

“Pass right on through, Sir!” The guard snapped to attention.

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Game Night . by John Wentworth Chapin

Seven empty wine bottles huddled on the coffee table. “URGENT,” I said to my brother. He stared blankly at me. “URGENT,” I repeated. You can’t say more in Password.

“I heard you,” he snapped. He stared at the burgundy dregs in his glass. I wanted to go to bed, but I wanted to win. Competitive and drunk.

“You’re taking too long,” my mother said. If she said anything else, he would explode. I couldn’t believe she didn’t know that by now.

He paused, long and deliberate, daring anyone to goad him.

“DELIVERY,” he said. I sighed.

“SOS,” his wife said to my mother immediately, barely a pause.

“HELP,” my mother responded. It was the right answer.

My brother glowered. “Delivery was a good guess,” he said.

“But it was wrong!” his wife chirped.

His eyes were glazed: the wine, the late hour, the competition. A bad combination. He and my mother looked at the next card.

“DOCTOR,” she said to her daughter-in-law.

“NURSE,” came the reply. My mother shook her head and frowned.

My brother stared at the card, again too long. He looked at me. “DOCTOR,” he said, nodding slowly.

“She just said that,” I groaned, my tone critical, bewildered.

“I know she just said that,” he snarled. “DOCTOR.” He nodded, persistent.

“You can’t gesture,” my mother complained.

I took in a sharp breath. “NURSE,” I hissed.

He called me a fucking asshole before he upended the coffee table and sent the bottles clattering across the floor.

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Block Party . by Michelle Elvy

Voices call me out of sleep
groggy, curious, I creep
toward the kitchen,
where the drinks are mixin’

 

This ain’t my scene, but I think
I’ll stay, like this song,
won’t you come out to play…

You, Cheshire-grin, know-it-all:
d’you like the party so far?
and you, boy in the spelling bee:
how’d’you get from A to Z?
butcher, baker, candlestickmaker:
you don’t belong here, take your
childish rhymes off my page!

(sigh)

This is better: I spy
shitgreen Staasi-shirts marching by
but wait, what’s that? why are they drinking
with Wolf and Biermann,– what’re they thinking?
that ain’t right: they’re not fighting the fight
but everything’s topsy turvy:
Hagen’s singing cabaret,
Liza’s communing with Krishna
and Johnny’s rotting in the corner with scurvy
Tamara sings Bye-bye my love and we dance
real slow, build walls, turn west

This Wall’s my Wall — gotta mount it
go under over maybe around it
build it, climb it, Christo-bind it
find a way to nevermind it

My catch-22: I want to keep you,
but I’ve got to show some the door
there’s a major cast, a major twist,
with a major ending, a major fist
fight in the toilet

But I can’t sustain this frantic pace,
I’ve got to trim, cut, paste,
shut some of you up lest you go and
spoil it

(And who let in that orangutan?
he jumped stories, he ain’t part of this plan!)

Gotta sleep, pull up the cover,
Let me know when the party’s over

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We would like to thank Michael J. Solender for his picture Hands. Here is what Michael had to say about this great shot:

I took this photo outside of Mysore, India in September, 2010. I went around the back of a petrol station in search of the restroom and found these young men playing this game. I was fascinated by their hands. I don’t know the name of the game but they were quite involved and barely noticed me.

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