Week #49 – Cold front

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

The theme is cold front.

Near Nanaimo by Bernard Heise
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Immobilized . by Maude Larke

Adèle shifted – yet again – in her seat. Her neighbor had apparently given up glancing and humphing at each of her movements. She glanced at him. His forehead was against the window. She wondered if he had succeeded in falling asleep. She wished she could.

Her eyes ached. It seemed to her that the ache came from the surrounding darkness. And that darkness also seemed to ooze out the cold that gauzed her legs. Adèle wished she hadn’t worn a skirt. Even though a skirt went best with the new bottines that she was so proud of. She pondered taking off her coat and laying it upside-down over her, to allow the fake fur of the collar to warm her ankles. She decided against it. It was not done to wear one’s coat upside-down.

A snore rose from the end of the car. Long, sonorous, enthusiastic. It began a regular rhythm that would have been lulling in any other sound.

From the other end of the car, a small flashlight beam arrived, angled to the floor. A felted voice gently displaced the silence.

“Monsieur l’Agent, n’y a-t-il aucune nouvelle?”

“Sir, is there no news?”

“Still none.” Adèle recognized in the answer the adenoidal voice of the gray-haired conductor who had stamped her ticket when the train was moving, how long ago?

The other voice rose again. “But we’ve been here how long?”

“We have a delay of five hours,” the conductor articulated in a characteristic professional tone.

The voice muttered indistinctly. A female one muttered back. A “Shh!” resettled the silence.

The beam walked forward. As it arrived at her seat, Adèle spoke.

“Excuse me, sir, is there no way to have some little heat?”

She felt the conductor bend over her, and smelled again his bizarre after-shave. The beam slid to the waistline of her coat, then down her legs.

“Sorry – madame? mademoiselle? – but the entire train is electric, and we can have no heat until we reestablish the current.”

He bent farther down, and spoke still more softly.

“But I’m sure I could find a way of warming you.”

Adèle’s cheeks tingled.

“Thank you,” she replied coldly.

The conductor straightened, the beam walked on. The snore was interrupted by a swallow, then recommenced.

Adèle humphed to herself.

She began to feel the need for a toilet. But she wasn’t sure if the toilets could work without electricity. It wasn’t done to use soiled toilets.

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Frigid . by Catherine Russell

He shivered from her icy touch,
pulled away from her cold feet and hands-
her physical body echoing her spirit-
never once asking himself
if her condition was merely
from lacking his warmth

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C/old Front . by Dorothee Lang

Every day
h/our plan
of life –

This stack
of b/oxed hopes,
of I th/ink

G/rows
a little higher
a little edgier

When win/ter
moves in
we w/ill leave,
we say,

surprised
by the hidden mean/ings
of our words -

all those layers
we haven’t been
a/ware of

this
c/age
of possibility

this
s/low
c/lock
c/all

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The Cold Front . by Susan Gibb

Colonel Houghton knelt down by his cot and put his hands together. “Please dear God, clear weather for tomorrow. Guide our troops on ground and safely through the skies.” He licked a finger and thumb and put out the wick and lay down. He fell asleep to the peaceful plans of the strategic implementation of war maneuvers.

Private First Class Petry lay shivering on his cot despite the desert day’s heat that radiated from the sand. He bit down on his blanket to keep his teeth from chattering.

The others were coping much better. Most were snoring out their positions. Chelmuk was at the far end but sounded next-bunk loud. Hood was whistling music through his nose. Kriscenski was a stop-breather. That, for the first few weeks, had scared them all more than the war that slithered closer every day. “How would that look to his family,” Chelmuk said, “dead in bed! Just stopped breathin’ that’s all.” They all had laughed.

Petry relaxed by thinking of things like that. It took his mind off tomorrow. Still, just before he slipped into sleep, he whispered, “Please, Lord, make it rain.” Which in the arid Middle East, was a bigger favor than the Pope asking for a single day of global peace.

The soldiers woke to the slap of hard-hitting rain. Each–except for Colonel Houghton–thanked God for their luck and modern technology; there would be no war that day.

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Looking Back . by Deborah A. Upton

I had noticed how Evelyn treated me in front of everyone, mainly how
cold she was toward me, but I didn’t say anything about it, even later
when we were alone. I just figured it was something that occurred
between sisters, once in a while. But when the phone rang early the
next morning waking my husband and me, it shocked me to hear that my
sister had taken her own life. No one had prepared me.

It’s strange how you look back for clues, telling yourself you should
have seen more. Maybe I would have if I had remembered when I was
three years old how my Aunt Ellen slit her wrist and bled all over the
stairs as she came down to die on the floor in front of the couch
where Uncle Bobby slept. No one talked about it ever again after her
funeral, Momma told me, as I cried for my sister. But it was when I
was told that my grandfather, who had died long before I was born, had
committed suicide by hanging himself from a limb of the tall
cottonwood tree on the back acres of his farm that I began to see the
pattern. I’ve always dreamed of being beneath the water watching the
sun’s rays penetrating my world where I am hidden. I wonder if Evelyn
was hidden in her own world when she swallowed the pills that took her
away.

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Cold Front . by Stella Pierides

In our part of the world, the weather is unpredictable. It has defied
the best of our weathermen. Except, of course, Tim Bates, at least for
a while. But then, no need to tell you that story, is there?

I see a question mark on your face. OK, you are not from these parts,
and you’ve come a long way. Internet roads are long and littered with
all sorts of bits and pieces. I’ll tell you. He always got the weather
wrong in the beginning of his career. Young Tim’s wrong again, we used
to say, winking. He had a cute way of admitting his mistakes every
night on the box. He was devastated, though; ambitious little thing he
was.

So, they say, he made a deal with the devil. He promised him his soul
in return for precise weather reports. That’s how he made his career.

Then the devil changed his mind. He had a better offer from a
weatherwoman. He gave her the right information, and Tim the cold
shoulder. Poor man! Suddenly, he got his predictions wrong again and
had to apologise. We could all read the fury in his face. He didn’t
last long. The corporation sacked him. He now spends his days on his
riverboat fishing, they say. I know it is true. I often set up tackle
downstream on the towpath. I hear him sigh a lot. And he wears a heavy
coat all year round, as if expecting a cold front.

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Hypnagogia . by Eryk Wenziak

The table’s pants are long. Too long. Leaving it unable to run far. Nor fast. I sew it a new pair. A shorter pair. A pair the length that when worn would prevent me from catching it. I approach the table from behind. Clap my hands. Warn of my presence. I give it the newly sewn pants. The first leg in. Then the second. Followed by the third and fourth. I pull a gift from my leather bag: a checkered, green and white flag. The table grabs it and runs off. Disappears into the horizon’s curvature. It will be waiting for me. Many years ahead. At a finish line drawn in fishbone powder. It will wave the checkered flag upon my arrival. Congratulate me on my endurance, while remembering to throw in a few lines of ‘appreciation’ for my generosity ‘all those years ago’—thanks ignored at the time. But I always understood the table’s intentions. It was young. (And the wood it was carved from was also young.) I will pick up the flag and trace a figure eight into the high sky. Like a child burning their name with a sparkler. The figure eight will fall on its side. Become infinity. But this time I’m sure I’ll never see another finish line. And my sense is the table will already know that, and will no longer wait. No longer draw a chalky line. No longer give me thanks.

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The Shit You Remember . by Mike DiChristina

Canastota, New York. August 1969. Eighteen.

Working the onion fields down by the lake, dark chocolate earth forever, the muck, we call it. Warm liquid air wilts the world.

Denny leans on his hoe, bandana-hatted, t-shirt hanging out his back pocket, brown concave chest. Adams apple bobbing, he chugs the canteen, tossing it to me saying, Screw this I’m out of here. You know who they got lined up this weekend? The Who. The Band. The Dead.

Then go with Darryl I say, sucking down the gritty warm water, suddenly cool wind on my neck, all around us the muck scored with mile-long rows of spiked onion plants unraveling into the haze, never converging, melting into white sky.

We leave now, we catch Hendrix, says Denny.

We leave now, our asses are fired, I say. After work, I’ll water ski with Charlene, carving the lake with that swish of her hips.

Denny nods to the west.

Half the sky purple, we drop our hoes and walk sprint to the old wagon in the middle of the field a half-mile away and when the storm breaks we crouch under the wagon, arms wrapped around our knees, streams of rainwater gush lightning-thunder-wind. The Muck a black quagmire, onion plants flashing silver undersides like the chopper-whipped rice paddies we will soon patrol.

I stare down at my red Chuck Taylors stuck in the black earth. Rain cool, then cold on my neck and I look up to see Denny gone.

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The Signal . by Chad Smith

I take the plastic off of the last videotape and stick it in the VCR. I make sure the channel is on 6. Still a commercial. I get my notebook, turn it to the next page and write today’s date on top. I get ready. I don’t really like the back and forth banter the other news anchors try to engage him in every night. Most viewers probably do though. I wish they would just say, “Here’s Matt with the weather,” and be done with it. Oh, and here he comes! I push record on the VCR. He starts his weather report. He’s looking exceptionally handsome tonight. Wearing a gray suit. His dark curly hair combed back yet still tousled. Radiant blue eyes. I transcribe his words in my notebook. “We had a high today of 52.” He moves with such confidence as he points to the map. Then he says it: “A cold front will be pushing up from the south bringing rain showers.” How often does a cold front come from the south? It’s the signal! The secret message I have been waiting for. He is ready to stop living a lie and finally leave his wife and kids. He is going to run away with me. We will be together at last. “Bringing rain showers,” means I should meet him at the TV station tonight after the the broadcast. I hit stop on the VCR. I need to hurry and get packed. Find something nice to wear.

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transplant . by linda simoni-wastila

when the specialist arrived in his shiny white jacket and latex the room stilled, a sterile still life colder than the air used to keep the machinery blipping and bleating pushing red cells through my arteries, gushing antibiotics like city hydrants when summer swelters hot from the pavement into my veins, the frigidity keeping engines cool from shorts that would gum wires and tubes and send electric shocks down lifelines to the system, my system, and when he shook his head, a brief motion, his mouth a hyphen, the air grew colder yet and heaved my heart into a pulsing mass of valves and vessels, one last gasp before it puttered into a puddle of tissue necrotic and grey, of hope gone south with the geese

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Cold Front . by Robert Vaughan

COLD

The way those Hot Wheels track welts felt on my ass.

FRONT

Before I fucked every member of the Coalition of the Willing.

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To the Trees . by Nicolette Wong

Cold front is you on the morning I cut through mist. Around the park where old men wave their wooden swords in unison, blunt-edged glory boiling in their veins. I tread a path of oval stones to haunt the trees, reading their names & spirits to make them my allies.

I must reach my stop before the sun scorches my eyes.

Since you passed out from too much alcohol in my bed, I have turned it into an ummarked grave. I shoveled dirt over your blonde hair fused with grey, your blue eyes burnt by past phantoms while you ran up the tower you built around yourself, panting, holding onto me for lights from a distance. Every step of yours made me cringe; it made me run to that snowy landscape where a fox smiled & flitted past, a reminder of your false love.

Now I must run to the last tree I could find & wrap my arms around it. Only its embrace could save me.

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Watch How the Slip Tips . by Piet Nieuwland

watch how the slip tips itself over and flies headlong into a dive that wings into an arrow riding on the force of the throw and the magnetism that large objects emit, following the curve of vectors and wind resistance, the shaft vibrating through hillsides of toetoe torched with lightning, the satin plumes splinting the blue horizon with fire stippled bursts and shards, trapezoidal crystals and zags.

in my mind is a wave, a surging crest of intelligence breaking upon an open sandy beach on the western coast, it rolls up into the shallows and foams into a long line of surf, tearing open the pent up energy of a large ocean crossing, pulling a net through the deepest passage of currents and tidal floors, enveloping the wisdom of fish and seabirds that plunge through masquerades of reflections, the wave it bursts and throws out incandescent showers of sparks and glowing particles in an effervescent mirage under a dome of mirrors repeating themselves thru infinity by factors of prime numbers and combinations of polygons and floating orbs that drift slowly like bubbles, and coalesce

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Late Night Radio . by Kim Hutchinson

Welcome back. You still awake after that last tune? Well, then, you must have a lot on your mind.

There’s a saying around here: If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. It will change. Let’s hope so. This is the coldest spring in years. By now, people are usually basking themselves and playing on the beach, and as far as the eye can reach, it’s boobs, balls and babies.

But today it was grey and gas and food prices are skyrocketing and nobody was outside except a couple of dead-eyed street kids and their Rottweiler. Everyone’s hiding, waiting for the next cold front to come in across the water, a wall of angry weather advancing like a runaway freight train, kicking up waves and kicking over trees and anything that isn’t bolted down, waiting for the future, hoping that when it’s over they can climb out of the wreckage one more time.

Legends say that this place is where God put her hand down when she was making the world. It could be paradise, but nobody’s gonna let that happen.

So many places could be paradise. It doesn’t take much.

But for now, let’s take a little vacation. Just close your eyes and put yourself on a warm beach. Feel the sun on your face? There, that’s better. And here’s a classic feel-good tune from the sunny 60s to keep you there for a while, The Girl from Ipanema.

Sleep tight, my worried lovelies. Try to stay warm.

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Parrot . by Andrew Stancek

“A parrot? Are you crazy, Mirko? What are we going to do with a parrot? Who’s around to spend time with it?”

Mirko shivered, pulled the heavy blanket around himself. He took a peanut out of the bag, holding it between two fingers offered it to the bird. The parrot squawked, grabbed it. “I’m here, Dad. I’ll look after it,” Mirko said.

The father poured his beer, made sure the head was just right, sipped, burped, stared into the glass. The parrot screeched, scratched his tail feathers. The father glanced at Mirko, scratched the top of his head sticking out his tongue and grimacing. They both broke into laughter.

“Does he at least swear?” the father said, wiping his cheeks.

“Your mother does sailors,” the parrot screeched.

“We’ll get along just fine then,” the father roared. “I’m used to the place being cold, Mirko, but it looks like an early winter this year.” He burped again, looked at the dirty plates, empty bottles, spilled mustard on the counter. “Tomorrow we’ll get wood for the stove.”

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Coldfrontation . by Alexandra Pereira

That autumn morning, as usual, Henry woke up early, had his oatmeal before washing his face, and walked to the park to feed his birds. Today a woman sat on his bench.

“Nice to see I have some company today.” The woman sat like a broken statue. Only her hands continued to knit the scarf that covered her thin legs.

“My wife use to knit too. She…” He pointed to his chest. “She made this sweater, you know?” The noise of the needles was the only response Henry got.

“I come here every morning to feed my birds… My birds…” he chuckled. I call them my birds ‘cause I take care of ‘em.”

The woman sighed, pulled up her glasses, laid her hands on her lap and stared at the scarf.
“It’s cold today,” Henry continued. “Winter’s on its way. I bet that scarf will help keep someone warm.” The woman’s hands started to tremble.

“You know, talking helps keep us warm. Moving our mouth is like exercise.” He paused. “But it’s the words that really warm us on the inside.”

He smiled and rubbed his large, dry hands together. Suddenly, the woman covered her ears and squinted at the line of trees in front of her.

“You remind me of my husband,” she said. Her words shot out like ice cubes. “I hated him.”

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The Lice Storm . by Doug Bond

When I picked her up Janey couldn’t speak she was shaking so much. Her
face was pinking. She looked miserable. I asked her how it was. She
said, “Wonderful, Mom!”

“Wonderful?” They must have told her to say that. Just another one of
their hooks. There was nothing they wouldn’t do.

The terms of the “intervention” stipulated I’d get her for only a few
hours after school on Fridays. Supervised, of course.

I’d been on thin ice from day one with these people. First, the
warning, registered mail, from the power-bitch mom attorney downtown.
It was terse: “I hope what I saw on your daughter’s head was dandruff.
A thorough and regular hair wash is advised.” A week later, the clerk
of the Health and Safety committee called to reiterate the school’s
strict “No Nit” policy. Someone wrote “Lousy Bitch!” in bright red
lipstick on my windshield.

Then they finally put the clamps on.

I’d just pecked her on the cheek, handed her lunch when a phalanx of
them, five across, came bearing down the sidewalk and were upon us
like a line of dark clouds.

They lifted the hair above her nape, and began dictating notes for the
exam “Inflamed. Crusty. Scabby. Add the mother to the relinquish
list!”

The one in the tight tweed jacket and the frosty white hair winked as
she told me that whoever got her would treat her like their own. And
then she took my car keys and tossed them in the bowl.

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Live at Five . by Martin Brick

“With that cold front moving in, expect temperatures in the 50’s all week. I’d keep a jacket handy. Allison, back to you.”

“Thanks, Bruce. Guess you have to expect that during spring in Wisconsin.”

“We had beautiful weather last week, while you were out.”

“Just my luck.”

Allison used every ounce of her Miss Winnebago County (and Miss Wisconsin second runner-up) experience to keep a smile on. A producer signaled wildly with his hand and she announced the break.

“Denver, right?” Bruce asked. “Bigger market.”

“I don’t think I got the spot, if that is what you want to know. I think they are going with some blonde idiot from Bismark.”

The producer and cameraman looked at each other awkwardly, like children around freshly divorced parents.

“I’ve got another interview next week. How are your prospects looking?”

Bruce knew she didn’t just mean career path. She meant has he started dating anyone yet? Was he still in the dingy divorced-guy apartment? Has he found anything to replace the excitement of their tawdry little fling? Has he reconsidered his stance on guilt, his desire to break it off? Has he patched the anger he felt toward Allison for telling the wife about everything?

“Allison,” he said, 30 seconds to air time. “You have to do something with your hair. The dye is obvious. If you want to get out of this market, take a look at yourself.”

It was true, and he wanted to help because he needed her gone.

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Monsoon dialectic . by Guy Yasko

I write naked. It is too hot to do otherwise.

Tomorrow will be the same: high skies, relentless sunshine, token
clouds. There is no hope for change, not until the monsoon dialectic
generates its own destruction.

My neighbours take refuge in air-conditioning and ghost stories. I
take cold showers and dream of thunderstorms.

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Glacier . by Chelsea Biondolillo

Thousands of miles away, you are sitting as still as stone
Your face, highlighted by the screen into thin slivers of blue
scowls, while you chip away at some imaginary landscape of pixels and light.
You are afraid that I am gone.

Next to me, miles of ice stretch toward the horizon
Crushing into the mountain, cracks become blue chasms under its weight,
as rocks groan out the injustice of gravity. I try to climb above the treeline,
try to catch my breath, try to escape.

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Virus . by Stephen Hastings-King

Words write themselves on my walls. They creep into paintings and photographs, erase elements from image, replace with themselves.

Words take shape in clouds of cigarette smoke. They fill up my ashtrays and pile up on tables.

Some days I trail them behind me like a smell.

When I get home in the evening, words are hanging in the air like dust. They stick to my glasses.

The cabinets in my kitchen are full of nouns. Stale verbs I never eat sit in boxes atop the refrigerator.

Words accumulate on my wardrobe like dandruff. There are fragments of stories in my sock drawer. They might be better than this.

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Frost Bitten . by Meg Tuite

There was an elasticity to Camilla’s arctic mouth that crunched and spit out anything anyone else said better than any ice-maker I’d ever come across. Her biting insults cut across the teeth-gritting tundra of her lips into the bulls-eye of her numbed audience’s ears like frostbite.

“Really,” Camilla would say, after I’d just come up with a great joke to impress the girl next to me who was giving me the eye. “Amazing that you can even comment on any subject, Jack, when your lack of brain cells make up for your…wait what was it?” Then her wintry whites would show through, she’d laugh, “Oh, yeah, suck down another shot of that grain alcohol you love to drown in, so the girls can find out what else you lose besides brain cells. You know, a vertical construct to work with.” Camilla would point her index finger in the air, then roar like those piercing, insufferable winds that lock-jawed my face into some kind of remote, bleak desert and I’d sit there, next to what I imagined was a sultry, soon-to-be-yours-for-at-least-a-week date, who turned quickly from torrid to frosty, now staring through me.

“Don’t bother trying to get away,” Camilla would snicker as I tried to slip another girl past her and out the door, hoping again for some steamy action. The piercing nip of Camilla’s bull-dozing blizzard blasted over me as I mumbled to myself, “Why the hell did I ever go out with that frigid beast?”

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Raincoat . by Matt Potter

“It’s about basic working conditions!” she says, rubbing ice cubes on her nipples.

I hand her her plate and she clicks it into place in her mouth. It’s her signature look, buck teeth. Heaven knows what the punters would think if they knew even her teeth were fake.

I hand her the vermillion-sequinned g-string. Stepping into it, her flashing platform shoe snags on the crotch. I grab her elbow.

“Fuck those cockies,” she says, steadying to snap the g-string into place. “It’s them or me.”

“So you’re a match for a million-year throwback?”

She bends over in front of me. “Am I straight?”

Fingering the waistband, I shift the t-bar a centimetre to the right.

“I hate the bastards in this business.”

I pick the plastic raincoat from its hanger. Holding it out, I slide the sleeves over her arms then button up the front. “When you’re on-stage, don’t let the cockroaches in this dressing room get you down.”

She grimaces, checking her teeth in the mirror, then picks up her umbrella. ‘Singin’ in the Rain’ is her biggest strip.

She stands in the doorway. “The Hungry Doughnut has offered me twice as much money and a cockroach-free clause: for every cockie I see I get an extra $100.”

“Oh,” I say. “So … you want me to collect as many cockies as I can so we can take them with us?”

“Yeah.” Her cheeks rub the raincoat as she turns around. “A little bit of pre-history never hurt anyone.”

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Candy Cane . by Michael Webb

“Are you cold? I’m cold.” Jennifer always answered her own questions like that. She pulled on a pink cardigan that was hanging on the back of her chair. Sitting behind her, I couldn’t help but stare at her toned, even arms and back as she shrugged on the sweater. She carried an air of superiority, even if she didn’t intend to- her marriage was perfect, her kids were perfect, her work was going perfectly.

Without another word, she got up and left our little office. Typically, she would prelude her trip with a little salutation- “I’m going to get a candy bar” or “I’m going to go get some paper clips”, or even just, “I’ll be right back.” As she left, her stride was firm, almost aggressive.

Was she mad? I couldn’t help that her husband spent more time looking down my dress than at the decorations during the Christmas party. I couldn’t help that he laughed loudest at the story I told about my brother’s first year at college. I couldn’t help that I thought I could convince him to follow me into an empty office if I had wanted to, and I couldn’t help that she knew it.

She came back in, her stride strong on her modestly heeled shoes.

“You OK?,” I said uncertainly.

“I’m just cold,” she said, snapping the words off like a candy cane to be divided between squabbling kids.

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Cold Front . by Susan Tepper

On the eastern border of Siberia they say nothing grows. Not even a cactus says Tootie. Oh will somebody shut that kid up. I want to kill him. I hate the way he eats. He slops his food like a little hog. I would like to take him to Siberia. Lose him in a big snow pile. My brother says Tootie is something we have to live with. Why? Why do we have to? I have seen other things go by the wayside. The turtle we named Fastie, for instance. It was put on Gramp’s old record turn table and spun off into space. We searched the whole room. Fastie was gone like a snow melt.

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The Living Room Chill . by Joanne Jagoda

“Living my life in a slow hell”…Kid Rock has it right. I drop my backpack with a thud. She’s at her desk wearing her stupid half glasses… doesn’t look up.

“You’re late. Maria left dinner.”

What happened to the days when I would walk in and grab her ass and nuzzle her neck in that soft spot that turned her on.

I mumble, “…faculty meeting.”

She doesn’t answer.

I open the frig. Chicken breast, broccoli, mound of white rice covered in cellophane. I pitch it down the disposal. I just devoured a super grande burrito oozing black beans and guacamole and drowned in mango salsa. She wouldn’t approve of the six glazed donuts in my backpack either.

Her nagging refrain chips away at me like a relentless ice pick. “You’re getting a big gut. You’ve got to watch your cholesterol.” She never eats anything.

I try to be civil. “How was your day?”

She’s mastered the raised-eyebrow look, “Big liability case… court next week. Look, I’m too busy to chat. We’ll uh…catch up soon.”

“Oh, sure, no prob….” Icicles of indifference surround her. I swear her breath comes out in wafts of cold vapor. I can’t stop thinking about Tess, the new librarian. Hell, she’s chubby and cute, and I want to melt in her chocolate eyes. I know she likes me…brought me muffins this morning, still warm. Tess just can’t seem to get you off my mind. … Isn’t that what it says in that song.

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Southerly . by Duncan Smith

The spring day was bitter as Bruce Murdoch headed off to milking for the last time. A cold front had gone through in the night, sweeping the sky clear.

He was a third generation farmer. It had been two years since he had quit his desk job and returned home. He’d burnt a few bridges; this was meant to be a new beginning after all. Bruce had taken on the farm, the cows and a mountain of debt. And his father’s right-hand-man, Charles.

He had known Charles in boarding school. Charles had been in the same house, three years ahead of him. Bruce thought he could handle him but realised too late that Charles wasn’t interested in switching allegiances. Like all good bullies Charles was clever and subtle. Nothing overt, just casual needling and subversion which over time slowly wore Bruce down. Bruce had tried to sack Charles, but his father wouldn’t have it of course. And the Celexa the doctor had given him hadn’t helped.

The wood of his Grandfather’s old Remington felt warm in his hands as he lifted it from the tray of the truck. He found Charles already in the pit, putting the cups on the first row of cows. Bruce lifted the gun and shot Charles once in the throat. Then again in the chest as he lay gurgling in the shit, just to be sure. The cows lowed and complained but soon settled as Bruce finished milking on his own.

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numbing . by Walter Bjorkman

Blue. The first memory or memory of a memory, though it must have been white. He had never seen one before, be it in pictures or real life. This was when the differences were still blurred, the lambs and bunnies all lived behind that bulbous glass wall in the tall wood box that stopped him from petting them, and he knew they were not real, but had a hard time accepting that. This photograph, fallen from a book, was the first solid memory ever, holding someone within its borders that looked curiously like a smaller self, all swathed in blue, in a baby blue tv-like box lying on its side, though it must of — had to be white. He remembers the top of the doll-like head being large and protruded, like that screen that divided realities. The cradle the baby was in, different than the one he used to have as a bed, smaller, barely held the still boy, who was a cold gray-ashy white, not blue. His mother gently took the photograph she never looks at from his clutching hand and sighed at him, knowing that if the figure in her hands were still real, the one looking puzzlingly up at her would never be there.

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Eggshell White Frigidaire . by John Wentworth Chapin

When he was seven, he and his four-year-old brother hunted raspberries in the ravine. They found an old abandoned refrigerator covered in brambles. He continued filling his coffee can with blood-red berries, maneuvering carefully around thorns, eating any over-ripe fruit. He called for Will but got no response; Will’s can was perched on the old off-white refrigerator. Will was inside: warm, not breathing, limp as a wet towel. He pulled Will out and their jeans and skin caught on the brambles. He tried to drag his brother, but it was too much. He ran for home, screaming for help in the silent ravine. A hollow space opened inside him.

His mother gaped as he blabbered incoherently, dripping his own blood and vomiting bloody red raspberries onto the linoleum. He couldn’t make her understand; he was hollow. He ran from the house with his mother on his heels screaming at him to stop and come inside.

When they got to the bottom of the ravine and she saw what had been Will, she ran to her boy, flaying herself on the brambles, shaking him and pounding his chest and kissing her baby. He threw up again. The hollow space engulfed from within, emptying him.

“What did you do to him?” she howled at him, at the brambles. But he was a blown egg now, fragile around nothing. He had no answer for his mother, then or decades later, long after she stopped asking.

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Nothing Happens at Sea . by Michelle Elvy

“Nothing happens at sea,” he had told her, and for the most part he was right. Mile after mile is the same: the blue sea-sky-scape he’d always known, the slow undulation of ocean swell, the maddening froth and staccato rhythm of storms, the constant hum of wind over canvas. An occasional pod of dolphins, an occasional albatross. An occasional moment of terror with an unfamiliar noise. An occasional evening symphony in the cockpit – sometimes Brahms, sometimes Zappa.

On this passage, there’s Christmas pudding, too. Every day, because she gave it to him as a parting gift. She is in the pudding. She is everywhere.

He had laughed when she gave him the pudding, 40 tins in all — one for every estimated day in the Southern Ocean — for the rich bricks will last much longer than his passage from Auckland to Punta Arenas. “So you won’t forget me,” she had said, patting the boxes gently. “I will not forget you,” he’d said. “But will you come back?” He had not answered, for as sure as she is from there, he is from nowhere.

But he feels the answer pounding in his chest, and he thinks it was wrong to say nothing happens at sea. Because he sails east but looks over his shoulder with every sunset and feels his heart change. He feels her hot whisper in the cold wind, and he’s not so sure he’s a nowhere man any more.

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We thank Bernard Heise for his photograph for this week’s art.

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