Week #40 – The money’s gone

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

The theme is the money’s gone.

Houston Street 6 PM by Catherine Davis
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Nimbus . by Glenn Blakeslee

In Elko the old Kawasaki threw a rod, and Poe watched as the man counted out two hundred dollars in wrinkled twenties while wheezing around an unlit slobber-soaked cigarette. With the money Poe bought a ticket and watched through the dirty window as the bus rolled a straight-line rift of red tarmac through sere hills dammed with rust-colored out-tailings topped with the sagging latticework frames of mining derricks. Later, as the bus wound the green barricade of the Sierra Nevada, he slept soundly for the first time in months.

In Vacaville Poe bought a soggy sandwich from a bus station machine, choked it down while sitting on a gum-spattered bench amongst people going nowhere, saying nothing. After thinking about nothing in particular while smoking his last cigarette, he bought a ticket to no place in particular.

In Eureka he stepped off the bus, hungry and in full crave, but instead of anything else he followed the highway over the inlet, seabirds coasting in a bitter wind over an incoming tide. He walked the road to where it ended and through dunes scattered with saltgrass and juniper down to the sea.

Poe sat in the sand leaning against the trunk of a redwood scoured clean of life, and he tied off for the last time. The sea rolled in long waves over coarse sand, the sky obscured by a nimbus of fog and particulate water, everything grainy and rough just the way he liked it, until the sun came out.

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Tea Pot . by Susan Tepper

After we buried all the large bills in her sweater bin under the bed, we put the twenties, tens and fives in her teapot collection. Annie didn’t want the money in her favorite one. It’s a teapot made to look like a lemon that we bought in Italy that time. While we were still getting along. The one that has a small ceramic lemon and green ceramic leaves sticking out of its lid. The one she uses for iced tea. That she used to use for ice tea. Before I cheated. When she still trusted me. When she trusted the water was safe for drinking. When she trusted the lemon peel was OK unpeeled in the pot. When she lifted the stove kettle without a pot holder. When she thought she was lovely. All that.

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Stone story . by Stella Pierides

Although Kareem is eight, he looks more like twelve. This is neither due to his hairstyle, nor to the long trousers and T-shirt he is wearing; rather the serious expression on his face, and the way he looks at you, straight in the eye. He sells stones.

He picked them himself carefully: not too big, for they will not travel far; not too small, for they will impress no one. He arranged them on his wooden tray and priced them accordingly: regular, one piastra; medium, two.

By the time the protesters wake up, he is standing in the furthest corner of the square, holding his tray for them to buy his stones. He pockets the notes and coins, and by the end of the first day of business he has enough money to buy his mother flatbread and tahina; and to pay off the loan to Aziz for the trip on the felucca he didn’t want his mother to know about.

On the second day though, the protest turns violent and few buy his stones; many grab them and run. Kareem ties his money in his handkerchief, puts it in his trouser pocket and starts for home.

Hours later, when he comes to, long after the van that knocked him unconscious sped away, he feels for his bundle. It is no longer there. His strength gone, he falls back to the ground and closes his eyes. He now looks the boy of eight he is.

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Paralysis . by Nicolette Wong

They say she is the wild card but the playground is empty. In the starlight I cannot see, cannot hear the voices coming from the sanctuary, a riot searing the night’s veil, ashes falling into her veins where she is turning into a statue, all grey and stone.

Her grief is green and mine is blue.

The playground stays empty every night.

Since she went missing I have burnt my world down: clothes, records, books and all documentary proof to my existence. Today I peel bank notes off my wallet and leave them all over the streets. If her flesh is gone, what else do I have to hold onto?

She is a young thing. So am I. Only I lost my soul early and saw it in time.

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Vagabond . by Maude Larke

The highway has changed quite a bit since last I travelled it; it cuts through a greener, shaggier land than I remembered. But you, friend, haven’t changed at all. You picked me up, thumbing, off the exhaust-choked asphalt edge in the same old car you had let me out of two years ago at my home (you thought), the house I had left wordlessly. You came to quite a sudden halt; you stared, rather aghast, as I slid into the low seat; you asked where I was heading; I answered “yes.” You moved the stick shift with a startled hand and we sailed down the highway. And no one seeing us together would have known if you were drifting with me or I was coming home with you. But, you see, we are both drifters; today we just thought to drift together once more for a change, for a while.

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GONE . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

You pause at the subway entrance. By the blind woman. Every evening she shows up for the commuter rush, rattling her cup, hustling for coins. Tonight you press your bagged lunch, uneaten, into her hands, then pull out the crumpled twenty you found wedged in your pencil drawer. She mumbles thanks, so you stuff your hat and leather gloves and the Ray-Ban’s your ex gave you last Christmas into her waiting lap. So many riches, all at once, and for the smallest instant you wish you were her, you wish you were anyone but yourself. She leans closer, she smells of grease and raw onion and the street, and peers into the Xerox box hugged tight against the curve of your hip. When you question the veracity of her condition, she laughs, a smoke-smoothed cackle, and you think, what does it matter?

The escalator whisks you silent into the dim bowels of the station. At the bottom, the box thuds at your feet: mug, wedding photo, the 25-year pen. You think you should feel lighter, somehow unencumbered, but you don’t. The platform trembles. The cold rush of air precedes the oncoming train.

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Purse . by Michelle McEwen

I have this purse— keep it in my hall closet. It’s gray with one strap and a zipper. Got it one Wednesday at the Salvation Army for a dollar; Wednesdays, everything marked with a blue ticket is half off. I don’t carry it anywhere, but not ‘cause it’s an ugly purse. I didn’t buy it for carryin’ nohow. I bought it to hide the money I’m saving just in case my man, Jewel, decides to take all of what’s in the bank and run off with another woman like he did to the woman before me. I’m the woman he ran off with when he left her. We got our lives started with some other woman’s money. I’m no fool— there’s always another woman. That’s why I’m saving. I know one of these mornings, Jewel’s gonna get to where he can’t hardly stand me— can’t stand my cornrows, my underarm scent, my twisted bra straps. That’s when he’s gonna get it in his head to stroll down to my bank and take all my money. He can gon’ on and do it, too, because I keep more money in that purse than I keep in the bank. Most of my work money gets put in the purse; what’s left goes in the bank. It’s not easy to find either, my purse. I got a bunch of heavy coats in that closet and a suitcase. Behind that suitcase is my purse and don’t nobody know it but me and you.

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The Cookie Company . by Melissa McEwen

Before Scotty got laid off, he used to give Cookie money every day –leaving a couple of bills on the dresser before he left for work. She used to have to ask him for it; she’d say, “Scotty, gimme twenty dollars,” and he’d ask her what she wants it for. She’d say, in her head, “None of your god damn business,” but out loud she’d say, “Just need to pick up a few things.” And Scotty would mumble something about never being able to save, while reaching down in his back pocket for his wallet. Soon it got to a point where she didn’t even have to ask; she’d just put out her hand like a cashier.

“I gotta hand over my money to the ‘lectric comp’ny, the phone comp’ny, the oil comp’ny, the Cookie comp’ny,” he’d say, half-laughing at his own half-joke. But Cookie would suck her teeth and say, “I don’t find nothing funny. Now gimme my money.” And he did.

She never bought things for the house (light bulbs or toilet paper or orange juice) like Scotty told her to. Instead she’d come back with “women soap,” stockings, and pound cake. But she can’t do that anymore since Scotty’s been laid off.

“All he does is lay up in bed plucking my nerves,” Cookie told her friend on the phone one day before hanging up and going upstairs to ask Scotty for a couple of ones to buy lottery tickets.

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Christmas 2000 . by Holly Day

The lady who owned the store told me that if I worked all day, a whole twelve hours straight, she’d give me fifty bucks cash a day. That sounded like a great deal, and even more so when she asked if I could work the fourteen days straight before Christmas. It would have been a lot of money for me at that time in my life, except that she never paid me. “I’ll give it to you after Christmas,” she kept saying. “I’ll be able to figure out all my profits then, and I’ll just give it to you in one big check.”

Leigha told me I was being a chump for believing the lady. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but then Leigha showed me where the lady lived and I knew I’d never see a penny of the money. She lived in a tiny apartment off Midway and was one of the only white people living in a neighborhood filled with new Vietnamese immigrants. People had chickens living on their balconies and in their patios, and the sidewalks outside were crowded with little naked kids. “Still think you’re going to get a big pile of money from your boss?” Leigha asked me as we slowly drove down the street, trying not to run over anyone’s loose chicken or kid.

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The Capitalist . by Robert Vaughan

“Greed is good,” Kennith Andrews said. He finished shaving, and he smiled at the image in the marbled mirror. He liked this week’s mantra, downloaded from mantra.com and taped on his moisturizer bottle.

He stretched his neck, had he slept well? Sleep. His nemesis. He could sleep on planes, as he had yesterday from Thailand to Oahu. His laptop powered on: seventy unread e-mails, double spam. Too many and not enough time. Never enough. He took a bite of his bagel. Sighed.

His iPhone rang. Wells-Fargo Bank. Open this early? He answered.

“Mr. Andrews?” A woman’s voice.

“Yes, what can I do for you?” He disliked business calls, they might trace his location. Could misuse the information somehow.

“Mrs. Shelton from Wells-Fargo. I’m sorry to inform you, there’s been some recent alarming activity with your savings account. Are you aware of this?”

“Alarming how?” Kennith walked to the blinds, peered out. Sickening sunlight. A neighbor speed-walked her dachshund.

“Sir, our records show that during the past twenty-four hours, your account was drained.”

“Dr-drained?” He couldn’t swallow.

“Yes, sir. The original balance of 478,000 dollars is now 2.78.” Complete silence on the other end.

“But, that’s impossible. I’ve been home this entire time. And no one but me has access. No one.”

“The activity was mostly between 2 and 4 a.m.”

“How? I was asleep.” Or was he? He traced his steps into his bedroom, as if surveying the wrought iron bed, or crumpled white comforter would give him clues, anything.

Nothing.

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Steel . by Roberta Lawson

She is writing up the business proposal: Excel and Word documents, razor-edged laminate folders, two hundred thousand cups of black coffee. The telephone shrills. Her parents – in flat tones – would like to buy her a house, a car, her parents would like to buy her. She bites so hard into her lip blood-drops form. Clutches the proposal tight as a baby.

* * *

He loves her.

But it isn’t working.

He loves her. The words are heavier and heavier on her.

He loves her. Is there somebody else?

He loves her. The only other person is herself. She’s beginning to think she overlooked that.

She’s so broke. Is there anything he can do to help her? He wants to help her. He has only ever wanted to help her.

She loves herself. She thinks perhaps she loves herself. If she gives love back to him, he’ll suck it into himself until she has nothing left, and he’ll be swollen.

When she speaks, he hears distortions. When he speaks, her head begins to hurt. He wants to help her. She doesn’t want to be helped. I want to love you, he says. She knows the shape of this love, and she is drowning.

She clutches the business proposal as if her life depends on it. You’re broke, he says. You need helping. Not from you, she says, not from you.

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The Money’s Gone . by Susan Gibb

They stood together in a circle around a fire that was slowly dying out. The man held out the last bit of paper, a one-dollar bill. He held it by its ends, his fingers trembling slightly, and stretched it out in front of him and stared at it a long time.

The others waited, there was no reason to rush him. He was a banker, yes; they could tell that from his suit now sooty grey. One man who used to be a mechanic on the street that used to be there found it funny that the banker still wore his tie. But then it would come in handy as a tourniquet if needed. Stranger things were being salvaged.

The banker let go of one end of the dollar bill. It flipped in the wind that blew hard and straight off the ocean, having neither trees nor structures left to slow it down. He took a few steps forward, dropped to his haunches and held the bill to the struggling flame. It flared as if it cried out with the metamorphosis into ash.

“Now what?” the former mechanic asked to no one in particular. Though some had looked to the banker as their leader, most had simply followed anyone that appeared to have a place to go.

The banker stood up, looked around beyond the people to the horizon. “I don’t know,” he said. “We just never thought…I just don’t know.”

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What I told the police the morning after . by Michael Parker

Adam was my scoutmaster. I mowed his lawn, especially while he was in Iraq. He built homes. Lost his job a year ago. I hadn’t seen him since his wife’s funeral. She was having a baby. It came early. She was bleeding. The baby was a dead boy. She died on the living room floor.

I went to say goodbye. I had just got home from work. He was moving. I mean, they were kicking him out of his house. His money was gone.

When he opened the door, he looked like a skeleton with skin. Eyes bulging, looked like he had been crying for years.

It was dark and cold. He had candles for light.

He was drinking. Empty liquor bottles were everywhere.

He hadn’t packed anything. It was all his wife’s stuff – the wall mirror, the curtains she made for the windows, family photos, and her favorite painting of Jesus Christ calming the sea. In the half-light, it was creepy: the disciples’ scared faces, Jesus’ arms stretched into the darkness that surrounded them, like a giant mouth of a beast was about to eat them alive. Adam saw me looking at it. He laughed:

“Miracles don’t happen to the poor.”

He bawled, said they were tearing him away from the “spirit of his wife.” She was there, he believed.

No, he didn’t talk of plans.

No, he didn’t talk about death.

Yes, I knew he owned guns. He loved guns.

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Pitcher . by Matt Potter

3D is killing my porn career.

So I stand at the end of my driveway wearing a matching white halter and latex micro-mini, pitcher in hand, selling homemade lemonade to drivers-by.

Traffic on the street has tripled since I started. Many drivers recognise me from Squat and Cough 7, my last big success. And there have been quite a few rear-end collisions too.

A frequent driver-by is Barney, my ex-husband.

“It’s your fault I’m doing this, Barney,” I screamed through the driver’s window of his BMW as he pulled up yesterday.

“You got the house and the pool boy in the settlement,” he yelled back.

“And you got the plastic surgeon!” Bending over, I had to hitch up my halter. “Now I can’t go within 200 yards of his practice or house or mother!”

Never marry a divorce lawyer. And if you do, never divorce him.

Barney buzzed up the windows and I saw my tits in the dark reflection: sagging, especially around the edges. I threw the pitcher at the car and smashed the window, lemonade and glass splattering everywhere. Tyres squealing, he sped off.

It’s hard getting work done that’s cheap and reliable, so sagging anything is a major career-crisis.

Tottering on my ten-inch wedges back to my lemonade stand, I imagined how many more glasses I’d need to sell before I can get my new super-size-me, gravity-defying rack.

As my career counsellor once said: Be proactive! If life hands you lemons, make lesbian porn.

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When The Music’s Over . by Michael Webb

Amy had come up on her bike, jean shorts over a bathing suit, early on that hot morning. Her sister had given her 20 bucks to clear out, so riding bikes with me, the only kid nearby who was in her school, became her plan for the day. I agreed and we took off, finally retreating back to her pool hours later, broke, sweaty and sugared up, once the money was spent on Italian subs, Cokes, and video games downtown. There was a Camaro parked in front of the house. “That’s Eric’s,” was all Amy would say as we pedalled past.

We compromised by listening to her station on the boom box, the one that played all the hits. I would have preferred the rock station out of Worcester at the other end of the dial, but I let her decide, her black hair and dark eyes enough to squelch my complaints.

“Do you think Daryl likes me?,” she asked.

I was silent. I was sure he did.

“I hope he does. I really like him. Does anyone else like me?”

The answer burned in my chest like the salami we ate. I was sitting on the steps by the shallow end, only my face above the water, looking at her from the side. She was sitting on the opposite side, her legs pointed straight at me like a gymnast, her hair spread out like tangled seaweed on the water.

“I don’t know,” I lied.

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Hunger . by Tawnysha Greene

Two times a year, we go to the government office, to get what Momma calls food money, bills with colored stamps that she keeps behind the plastic flap in her checkbook. Momma takes a number from a red machine and we wait on hard blue chairs, watch the television in the corner of the room. It plays The Neverending Story, a movie we’re not allowed to see, but we watch anyway, the flying luck dragon, the horse that drowns in a swamp.

When they don’t give us food money anymore, we go to the school down the street for the free milk, cornbread they offer in the summer. We sit on metal benches in the cafeteria, eat, watch the other kids watch us, their clothes dirty, their feet bare. At church, we help serve dinner to the congregation after the service and Momma brings her big purse, sneaks bread rolls, apples inside. Sometimes, when storms come through, service is cancelled, the dinner, too, and Momma gives us big cups of water before bed, tells us to drink, to make our stomachs full.

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A Fair Exchange . by Len Kuntz

To make it work, she borrowed babies–blue ones with bloated cheeks and the rheumy eyes of old men. In the dressing rooms she crawled beneath the stall slits while customers examined themselves in mirrors, verbose salesclerks lurching over shoulders like bleach-blonde jack o’ lanterns.

The junk people carried around astonished her. She’d been taught to ignore it, just grab cash, but still their oddity had a perverse attraction, like the strong pull of pornography, and so she kept some items: a gold-plated nail file, an old-fashioned opal broach with a rusted clip, day glow condoms, a paring knife, one lone shotgun shell.

She always brought the babies back by dusk. The exchange was not dissimilar to summers when she’d unload gunny sacks of potatoes from her Uncle Ernie’s truck. Uncle Ernie with his Polish jokes, his ratchet laugh and carrot-thick fingers busy up inside her.

Now, one of the infants follows her movements as if it wants to be hypnotized.

“He likes you,” the mother or relative or whomever says.

The other babies blink and bawl at the sound of an adult voice somewhat happy.

“He don’t like me,” she says, angry now. “He’s starving. Don’t you ever feed these kids?”

The babies go still.

She takes the baggy filled with bindles. She can’t tell by their weight if it’s a fair exchange. Later when it’s cooked up and boiling in her veins, she’ll know for sure.

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Rivals . by Al McDermid

The lock clicked and I slipped easily into the office, immediately sensing that something was off. Perfume, the scent too strong to have been left over since quitting time. I remained still, but sensed no one. I crossed the room to the painting that concealed the safe, clicked the hidden button, but then my heart sank. The safe was unlocked. I opened it and shined my light inside to find it was mostly empty.

Before this set back could register, the lights came on. I swung around and was simultaneously relieved and annoyed when I saw who it was.

“Vespa,” I hissed. “What are you doing here?”

“Same as you apparently,” she said. “To no avail, I should add.”

“Gone is it? Any ideas?”

“My first guess was you, so now I don’t know.”

“You don’t look dressed for this work,” I said, taking in her gown, a black silk number with a swooping neckline. “Is it new?”

“Like it?” she asked.

“Very becoming, but the perfume is sloppy. I thought I taught you better than that?”

“What you taught me was ‘easy in, easy out’,” she said. “I got myself invited to a party two floors up. I can explain being here. ”

“And I can’t,” I said, heading for the door.

“Let me check.” She looked into the hall, and then said, “Okay, clear.”

“Thanks, Love,” I said, slipping past her.

“Anytime, Dad,” she said. “I’ll stop by tomorrow.”

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Gambling . by D. L. Tricarico

“Money’s gone,” Sara said, collecting the toothpicks from the pot of our poker game. I’d been close to Sara and her boyfriend Kevin ever since we worked together at the video store in college. She was crashing on my couch because she had an interview at a fancy L.A. fashion school in the morning, and I had an apartment in The Valley.

“Pass ‘em out,” I said. “Let’s do it again.”

“No more toothpicks,” she said. The sleeve of her blouse had shifted during the game, revealing a pink bra strap. I fought the urge to stare. Kevin knew that Sara and I had chemistry, but so far I had honored his trust. One of us was a fool.

“Then what?” I said.

“Wanna play strip?”

Her eyes gleamed, but my conscience burned inside me, and I looked around as if her boyfriend might suddenly leap from behind the couch.

“And Kevin?” I said, my muscles tensing.

She shrugged.

“Tell you what,” she said. “One hand of Black Jack. If you win, we will and if I win we won’t.”

I nodded. The pink strap smoldered.

She dealt the first two cards, one each, upside down.

Then another card: a black seven on her pile, face up.

She flicked her wrist, the pink strap danced, and suddenly I was staring at a Jack of Hearts.

Our eyes met. The pink strap beckoned.

When I finally spoke, my voice came out husky and rough.

“Hit me.”

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The Money’s . by Darryl Price

The Money’s

gone but the
heart was never
for sale.

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Eclipse . by Kim Hutchinson

The bankers and businessmen appeared on television wearing thousand-dollar haircuts and sackcloth. Their faces were grim.

The money’s gone, some proclaimed. It won’t be coming back said others.

The money’s gone! cried the people. What shall we do? Citizens began to wring their hands and point fingers at one another.

A few people asked Where did it go? These voices were drowned out by weeping and wailing and by shrieks of fear.

We have to replace it, the politicians announced.

Where will the new money come from? asked many. We must mortgage the future, replied the bankers and businessmen. It’s the only way.

Confused, the people agreed. The losses piled up: credit, livelihoods, homes, families, communities, societies, hope.

Debt spread like a virus, bringing the ills of poverty. The sickened people paid and paid until there was nothing left to sell but their freedom.

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Everywhere, but forgotten . by Randal Houle

The money’s gone. She left in 1971 at the stroke of a pen and then tattooed on specially designed paper.

They spent it, lent it, stacked it, and taxed it.

Until it was gone.

Then they altered, bartered, and simply made more, lots more. With the stroke of a pen they printed billions, hundreds of billions, and then we all learned a new word: a trillion.

One thousand billion, that’s what that is.

They gave it away, threw it around, and told everyone to do the same. And the money rained, because money reigns.

Until it’s gone and someone says, what about gold? With the stroke of a pen they write articles, advertisements, and essays on the subject.

They mail it in, melt it down, stamp it into ingots. It’s a sad joke like a school house bully taking a kid’s lunch and leaving a scrap of paper worth less than the ink that prints it.

And now, I must end this little tirade, for the money’s gone. Like the stroke of a pen with a dry inkwell, a figment. Maybe it never really existed at all.

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The Lion of the Nile . by Tom Allman

The “Lion of the Nile” walked onto the balcony to acknowledge his adoring subjects. Legend has it, as a young solider, he’d killed a lion with a dagger then mounted the lionesses seven times each. Now, the lions of the Delta are gone, save one.

He gave the peasants a tight smile and a half-hearted wave. He failed to notice the upturned faces were gaunt, hungry and bent on revolution. The Lion believed that his teeth and claws were still sharp and that none dare oppose him.

His most trusted Toady tugged at his elbow and said, ” The people are starving, your excellency.”
“Throw them a few pennies to ease their hunger,” the Lion said.

“There are no pennies left to give, your excellency,” the last part delivered with a sneer. The Lion thought that the old Lickspittle was making a joke.

His fate sealed as well, the Lions’ servant angered, “Perhaps we should throw them a Mercedes or two, you have plenty to spare.”

It was then that the Lion noticed the torches and scimitars. He could now see the circling vultures and hear the hungry yelps of the jackals in the square. Only in zoos do lions die in their sleep.

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CAD20 . by Guy Yasko

It is the dogshit thaw, with the trees still bare, the grass still
dead. Black-ringed snow lines the streets. Head down under grey skies
and greyer thoughts: pea soup, shit job…

Dirty, dead-green grass offers up a swatch of blue-green. The queen, a
twenty. Coffee, a few hours in a warm café, tea, milk, ham…

All gone in an hour or two. Tomorrow there will be no twenty.

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Murphy’s Lay . by Martin Brick

Lizzie kicked my ass playing quarters at Bert’s party. I say damn she’s lucky and she says of course, she’s Irish. I’m Irish too, and after jokes about getting lucky she wants to prove her luck at the OTB because she’s amazing at picking ponies. Puts everything in my wallet on Murphy’s Law, the most Irish sounding horse, and when it wins at 50-1 we are flush. We take a room at the Crown Arms, and it feels like we can talk for hours, because we do. She loves dogs and I say I do too, and hear all about her dream of a dog day care. We’ll start one together. Then we break for sex that I thought only existed in movies, but maybe that was the pot. Anyhow, Room Service satiates our munchies. At 4 am we jump the fence to swim in the closed cool. No suits, but it’s pretty dark. Security catches on, so we hide, naked, in bushes for an hour. And this goes on until a day later I realize I missed work and I’m tiring of listening to her dreams, because I know she’s just a stoner who’ll never have it. Thankfully the money’s almost gone, so our holiday will end. I hoard the last of the bourbon, then pass out. Wake up to her jumping on the bed. Guess what, guess what? She went to the OTB and hit it again. Isn’t she just the luckiest? Aren’t we both just the luckiest?

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A Grand New Day . by Doug Bond

Earlier that night, hungry and tired, the man split his last $50 between a bucket of chicken and the copay for a new mega-tranquilizer. Lying awake, burping, and more anxious than ever, he begins to think he’s been had. When sleep finally comes it is a compromised somnolence marked by bad dreams, swallowing seas and great cracks in the earth opening under his feet.

At first light he feels it immediately, a change in the air, the lifting of a great many pounds. He hurries out the front door. A bustle and buzz attends everything he sees. Stepping up to the landing, a golden haired youth hands him a paper.

“But I don’t subscribe to this paper.”

“Don’t worry, no one does anymore. Not that way. Not the old way.”

The man’s never seen this many people in his neighborhood, all of them, frankly, as jaunty and free floating as quicksilver.

A choir of street barkers and pin-striped bondsmen stroll arm-in-arm down the cobbles singing:

We let go at the very first hint,
Broke the bank and the dusty old Mint.
No quid pro quo for your nickel and dime,
For now we know we’ve got plenty of time.

Foresake the Dow!
Stop your shilling!
Trust not in Trust!
We know you’re willing!

The man calls out to the paper bearer who has yet to turn back into
the fray. “What’s happened?”

“The money’s gone, that’s what. We’re free. Free at last. Thank God
Almighty, we are free at last!”

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The Way the Wind Slices . by Catherine Davis

Beneath your frozen boots a butt in every seam of the sidewalk, so quit counting. Quit veering towards the curb where cab after cab sprays the pooling slush, while honking at god knows what. Think back to the warehouse, those thousand pounds of womanflesh glaring at you one more time-card long. Shit, so it’s uncool to notice the spare tires on those five, six bitches, how they waddle –they are going to keep at it forever ‘cause you eat French fries at lunch. Right on past tomorrow’s snow day without pay, and how the fuck can below-freezing still be wet? Across the street, a homeless guy goes down on the black ice. Sure you’d like to help, or to think that you’d like, but it’s bitter and your fingers are freezing too. Yank the hat against the bite, hunker faster and tighter.

Still, the way the wind slices, you gotta admire. Wind knows its business.

At last inside with your frostbroken feet, it’s colder than it oughta be. Only when the light switch mocks you in the indifferent dark, do you snap to the disconnect notice fallen on the threshold. Today the power company came calling. How you’re supposed to pay, it’s no use to ask. Shut the door, dump your shit, light a joint. Gather the blankets and coats in the whole place on top of you. Reckon whether your feet will be colder with the soggy boots on or off. Contemplate your breath, fogging in the gloom.

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The Message Falls Flat . by Erik Knutsen

“It was an amusing sign, but what did he want?” Gerald asked. Everard looked back at the man clothed in dirt with distaste. The grime-arousing man began to chortle, his teeth waggling like alabaster seen through a river’s flow of urine. “They don’t know what he wants. Har-ha-hech!” He waddled up to Everard and Gerald as they turned to face him. Everard’s eyes, uncertain, flitted towards Gerald whose face was like a dark continent unwilling to yield its secrets. The man of sallow cheeks, screaming as if his fingernails were being removed whole, flung slather, “I want a God to redeem me, huh?” Gerald’s face began to emerge like the Sun from behind a cloud, “Then you would hear of our Lord Jesus.” Now, the man squealed, “Shut up!” Timid Everard backed a step away, too scared to run or to stay. “I don’t want to hear of that pissant. Just give me something to lave my aching, give me something to soothe my parched throat. Don’t pinch your pennies too tightly. I’m a beggar, but I’m a man, too. Allow me the decency to escape, even temporarily, from all this.” He waved a dismissive hand, speaking with an addict’s blunt honesty. Everard spoke up hastily, “We can’t help you with that, sir. Gerald, let’s go.” He grabbed Gerald, pulling him away. Gerald’s face collapsed inward like the rippling of a pool in reverse and he murmured to himself as they left, “I’m a beggar, but I’m a man, too.”

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Because the first bitter taste of grief is never preparation enough
by Kelly Grotke

We stand beside each other and your shoulder brushes against mine like a wing and I remember as it passes how long ago, a monarch butterfly with five legs found me and stayed for two days when I was very small, holding on to my hand as I took it out to feed on the yellow flowers my mother had ringed around the house, flying back again to my waiting outstretched finger for us to go inside, my improbable friend but aren’t all friendships improbable in the wide eternal expanse of time where beginnings and endings are the illusions left us in the wake of passing motion? And how the next day I found him, angled gently upon the carpet, beautiful, still, and departed, that was the first time and no, not again please no, I can’t tell you this, not now and not ever because who would be the butterfly, and who the child? I could obscure the heavens with platitudes, and still want to say more, the game isn’t over, the money’s not gone, I know the winter snow is deep, tempting and petal-soft but spring is coming soon and the music still plays on, you are listening to it now as your face turns to mine with a smile and suddenly, so clearly, you take flight, mute as a butterfly I stand and watch the sounds of it all lift you up and if a soul can take leave of its troubles then you have just now.

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If I had a little money . by Alexandra Pereira

“Money, money, money… must be funny… in the rich man’s world
Money, money, money… always sunny… in the rich man’s world
Aha-ahaaa… all the things I could do… if I had a little money —”

“Jason! Can’t you knock!?” I could, but I didn’t feel like it. She wouldn’t have heard me anyway with the music so loud.

“What do you want?”

“Abba again?” I chuckled, as she lowered the volume. “You just love them, don’t you?”

“Got a problem with that?”

“No, just that they’re ancient.”

“So are you.” She looked at me with a sudden tenderness in her voice.

“Ah… I need… I need a little money, sis.”

“Again?”

I looked at her with a half embarrassed, half begging and all hopeful face.

“I haven’t babysat in over a month,” she informed me, “and you haven’t paid me back from last time.”

“I know. I’ll have the money by next week. I promise.”

She walked over to the bookcase. “You’re lucky I don’t spend all I make.”

“I know”

She reached for the top shelf. “You’ll hit the jackpot one day, Jason, I know it!” My poor little sis. So confident in me. “And we’ll be rich and buy and do all those things we want!”

She opened Abba Gold: The Complete Story. Her mouth dropped and her eyes expanded like bubblegum.

“The money’s gone!”

“I know” I said to myself. Darn. I thought she had another hiding place.

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Crash . by Catherine Russell

Standing on the precipice between life and death, the man remembered – kissing his wife, holding his son, everything that made life worth living. The Market crashed, and he’d lost it all. After the house was taken from him, his wife and son soon followed.

Each step that led to this moment had seemed so inconsequential – until the last. It was true. Your life passed before your eyes.

He closed them now, felt the wind catch within the folds of his jacket like wings – an angel in flight.

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“Brava! Brava!” . by Andrew Stancek

I woke to a crash and the sound of coins rolling along the linoleum.

“Mom?”

She did not look up. Her shaking hand was gathering up the single crown coins, the fifty heller pieces. Triumphantly she rescued a ten crown note from the piggy bank shards.

“Mom?”

“Time for you to get up for school,” she said, ignoring the cut on her hand, the turned over drawers, the nighties and underwear on the dirty floor.

“You…have an appointment?” I tried.

“Hairdresser, first thing. I could not pay her last time but today I must. Ten o’clock audition. Your father…did not send anything this month.”

I went to help her up, passing the poster from her appearance as Norma in Vienna, her photograph with Karajan, the plaque for thirty years of distinguished service to Slovak Opera. Her eyes were wild. “I don’t have enough, Kamil, and Maestro likes the women to look stunning.”

I caressed her gray hair, the face with the drooping eyelid.

“Try not to excite yourself, Mom. I will look after the hairdresser.” The doctors warned me about agitated states, the stroke coming after the dementia. My father divorced her forty years ago; she had been retired for twenty-five. “No money” was a frequent fit; that was about the only thing not gone.

She looked around her, startled, “Did you have an accident?”

“Yes, Mom, I dropped some things but I will clean it up. Let me help you back to bed.”

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Another Loss of Innocence . by Thomas O’Connell

After the tragedy, everybody bought commemorative t-shirts.

One of my photographs was chosen for the image. Not that I’m some hotshot photojournalist, I just had the dubious fortune that the shooting occurred in my hometown. Before the national media set up camp in the soccer field behind the school, I acquired access to everywhere except the library and gymnasium.

I found myself in Mrs Hoover’s classroom. The high windows looked the same, extra textbooks stacked beside a terrarium on the windowsill.

One recess, Dave Whitmore and I snuck back into the classroom; our classmates muffled racket drifting through the windows. We met at Karen Armstrong’s desk, knowing she’d be sitting on a swing discussing horses. Dave slid her desk-drawer open. In one corner was a yellow horse eraser, which Dave stole. I took 5 quarters stacked in another corner and we rejoined our classmates on the playground.

When recess ended and students settled into their seats, I panicked knowing Karen would notice the theft. Not wanting to get caught with the quarters, I ducked into a bathroom. I heard the commotion while pacing the john. I stacked the quarters on the porcelain base behind the commode and returned to class. I never retrieved the quarters and rarely used that bathroom from then on.

I shot some pictures around the class before going into the bathroom. Everything looked so small, like a dollhouse. I knelt, reaching behind the commode to see if the quarters were there. My hand came up empty.

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Money’s all gone . by Stephen Hastings-King

Brother,

I write you because I feel the need to tell you about my life. But each letter falls like lint into a pocket of routine self-recrimination that I endure until I feel right and forget again. And later, when I find it, I no longer recognize who was writing. So I throw it away.
Then I start again.

It is winter and the electricity is off. We pirate from the line over the street. Our cable runs through a window in the kitchen. Sometimes I look at the splices partly wrapped in electrical tape and think: Nobody knows what they’re doing.

Over the weekend we broke into the rent. It may be gone now.
This morning, my eyes feel like marbles filled with something molten.

Across the room there’s a guy passed out in a chair. I don’t really know him. He says he likes the smell of paint and varnish. He tells strange circular stories about being a kid and sneaking pieces of raw meat from the road-kill that his father would butcher in the basement.

In between sentences I’ve been smoking ducks. I pull them from ashtrays and paper plates among the beer bottles and scraps of tin foil that cover the table. They taste like shit.

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Broke, busted, disgusted . by Walter Bjorkman

all gone, ain’t gots, arreared
broke, busted, badda-binged
crapped out, crunched, congealed

down and out, dead duck, disgusted
eat beans, eat dirt, even eat shit
flat on your back or face in the gutter?

gone-gone, gutted, gazpachioed
helpless, homeless, haz-matted
iced, idled, ignored and iglooed

junked, jived, jazz-exorcised
kerplutted, kerplunked, kryptonited
listless, liver-lovin-low-down-lobotomized

(get the pic? now I’m ionized)

mauled, mutilated, misogynated
nadired, neutered, napalm-ized
osterized, ostrichized, oprah-squatted-upon

(do i get a discount to hell for having a coupon
to heaven at the pearly cash register’s long line?)

pissed on, pooped on, potter’s field bound
quit looking for quotes cause I’m
ratso-rizzoed, really now –

(you thought I got enough simile-ans on me to finish this sad
tale of woe? Like I tole’ you, I’m broke, bus

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If Hell. . . . by John Wentworth Chapin

Even if…
we wake up in a hell of misery
lies tucked behind easier lies
bankruptcy
tumors rattling
or a hell of comfort
rusted water heater
cataracts
working late
or the hell of others
the sour waft of a secret
i know it’s late but you have to listen still

as long as it is we who wake together
i trace your brow
when i pull close, you pull closer
and hell is beyond

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The Weight of Water . by Michelle Elvy

Pop had the idea when I was around seven to sell bottled water. Everyone laughed at him, said he was nuts.

Which was true, mostly. He usually had one idea on the go, another in his back pocket. We were always up-and-coming. He started a swimming pool company once: we’d make it rich that way. We even built one in our backyard one summer, must have been ‘74 or ‘75. There are pictures of my oldest brother surveying the backyard, barely tall enough to peek through the lenses balanced on the orange tripod, and my other brother and me in the hopper, troweling aggregate smooth. Blonde kids up to their elbows in grey. When the water trucks came, we had not yet put the braces in behind the walls so they began to push out with the weight of the water. The bolts groaned as the sides nearly pulled apart. I didn’t know something so liquidy smooth could be so heavy. “Quick, grab what you can!” We hurriedly created our own landfill behind the walls, collected everything from our garage that we could find that was destined for the dump: old strollers, tents, games, trikes. So many items got buried that day. I still wish some hadn’t.

He’s long gone, Pop, and we moved away. But I loved that pool, skinny-dipped my way through my teen years with my best friend Beth.

Pop never did launch his water company. I reckon he should have.

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52|250 would like to thank Catherine Davis for this week’s picture, Houston Street, 6PM. Here is her succinct summation.

“Just so; whatever was I thinking? August 2000.”

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