Week #50 – Home sweet home

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

The theme is home sweet home.

Hello Moon by Abby Braman
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Granny’s Mouth . by Martha Williams

Her lips are sealed but I can hear her voice.

Bugger you! Look at you, with your rolling eyes and arse-pokey lips, thinking I’m too stupid to know what’s coming — how I did a sinful thing so you must take my baby. Poor you, the burden on your morning, have a biscuit with your sigh. Thank God you’re never wrong, eh? Well, bugger you.

They didn’t lock her up, nor take her baby. Instead my mum was born and raised within the family, edged from household into married household until Grandad arrived and Mum could land Granny’s nest.

Granny’s laugh, Can’t believe what came out o’ my own mouth, that day…

Now Mum, who doesn’t know her own beginnings, sees Granny sucking biscuity teeth while her shrunken hands pluck, pluck, pluck at her blanket.

“Mother, you need help. St Mary’s have a room.” A sitting‑circle of old folk with their heads on one side, bags of pee bulging at their knees.

I wait for Granny’s reply, bugger that... or for Mum to say we’ll visit every Sunday.
Mum steps closer, “Mother, did you hear me?”

Granny sits, wheezing crumbs. Age has done what no man could; she is placid, “Eh?”
“Granny, you’re coming to live with us.”

Silence.

I stare at Granny, wondering where my words came from… wondering if she even heard? Mum gapes… and Granny turns.

Her eyes bore into mine, as if examining a mirror, and her lips part in a gurgling, thunderous laugh.

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Spaces . by Lou Freshwater

“March snow doesn’t fall, it dives,” Joyce said looking out the window.

“It’s pretty though. And sometimes the flakes are so big and wet they look little tea doilies,” Ellen said, looking, too.

“You always see the bright side, Ellen. Always. It could be snowing rat shit and you’d see chocolate chips.”

“You know, Joyce, I don’t always see the world like that. It’s just that I don’t see it like you do, like some dark closet that keeps shrinking all the time.”

“Whatever. There’s freedom in being a realist.”

“Are you still thinking about moving back to New Jersey? Your life would be so much better if you weren’t always scraping by.”

“New Jersey fucking sucks. It’s like some dredged up dystopian nightmare.”

“My god, Joyce, even if we weren’t born here, and even if I wasn’t raising my two children here, that would still be an awful thing to say.”

“I’m staying where I am. New York is the only place in the world that’s man enough to handle me.”

“I just want you to be happy.”

“How sweet.”

“You know, Sis, you are right, I shouldn’t be sweet, or kind to you, I
should be honest. I should say that New York doesn’t handle you it just tolerates you just like the other toxic chemicals it is forced to process day in and day out.”

“Fuck you,” Joyce said, as she wrapped her arms around herself, and
squeezed her eye shut in order to imprison the tear.

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Back Home . by Jesse Peacock

Eric took a long drag on his cigarette and coughed. He looked angrily at the stub between his fingers; it was burnt past the filter. He sighed and flicked the butt away. His fingers groped in the tight pocket of his artfully torn designer jeans for the crushed pack of clove cigarettes.

It began to drizzle. He leaned forward from the stone wall until he could see the steeple with its cross, outlined against the pewter clouds. He gave it the finger.

He opened the sanctuary door to a blast of stale air. He cast a glance at the casket and the worn-looking woman standing before it. He made his way toward the back row, but was intercepted by a burly man wearing a moth-eaten tan suit.

“Boy, what you doin’ here after all this time?” the man demanded.

Eric shrugged. “Mother said something about a will,” he replied coolly. “Wouldn’t want to miss out on the five bucks he left me, would I?”

“I think you need to leave,” the man drawled.

“Well, honey, that’s just too bad.”

“You disrespectful son of a…” He paused and glanced up to the gaudy plastic form of Christ at the pulpit. “Sorry, Lord,” he muttered. “You git on outta here, boy.”

Eric turned away. A fist slammed into the side of his head; he saw a burst of color as he went down. He lay on the floor, blinking in surprise. And people always asked him why he never went home.

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Ulysses Reconsidered . by Aaron Robertson

Just like Farnese’s birds, whose voices became caught
on an unchanging view of palaces in ruin,
you fell into a dream: one of rivers that ran
with sentimental ease before your family seat.
But left to choose, you changed the eternal for light,
where gifted canon’s robes allowed your mind to turn
from thoughts of chimney smoke and gardens seldom seen,
the limestone of your end betraying words of slate.
The Fleece still hangs unclaimed, yet slowly I’m pulled back
to forest-covered hills and hard volcanic rock,
unsure of how the tide has brought me to this shore.
Your counsel holds no truth for sailors who have come
to crave the open sea, when mesmorized by fame
you never knew the life you claimed to hold so dear.

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Memories of Home . by Susan Gibb

When Mary Brevins died, she took the memory of the sun with her. It wasn’t as big a problem as the engineers had thought since light had been established in all but the most remote sections of the earth and even several light-lanes spanning the major oceans had been completed.

For Joyce Fields, however, it was a major event, for now it placed her in the position of having the last living memory of the sun. The officials came to pick her up before she could get away.

“What do you mean, grass and trees and even buildings change color during the day, or if there were what you call clouds to dissipate the light?”

“Why wouldn’t your sun prevent the snow?”

“Change the color of your skin? Impossible!”

“Okay, so show us which hill it hid behind at night.”

Finally they let her go. Convinced she was simply an old woman in the early stages of dementia. They laughed as they reread the things she claimed were true when she was young before all the technology took over simple functions.

Back home, Joyce Fields sat down in her favorite chair. She hadn’t known Mary Brevins but she felt the loss. She closed her eyes and as she always did, brought up her favorite memories. She recalled a morning when she went fishing with her dad and brother. The way the sun came up and colored the small pond like a paintbrush dipped in water.

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Homies . by Grant Farley

I hop up the wooden steps, my summer feet too tough for splinters, and slip through the back porch and plop down next to Manny on the wicker. Somewhere beans simmer in cast iron. Abuelita‘s face is dark skin folds.

She is Manny’s grandma, not mine. But I’ve sort of adopted her. Her iced cinnamon coffee wobbles in her hand as she heads for us. She always wears a black dress and these thick black shoes that clunk on the hollow floor. She sits down facing us and eases the glass onto the ledge and lets out a sigh.

Then she pats her knees and leans back like she’s going to sing-song one of her tales about funny people, the earth and the sky, animals that talk, and even witches, brujas, as Manny squeezes the sounds into English for me. There is always a lesson for us.

I wait, staring out at a world gone soft through old screens. Under that cinnamon coffee breath she has this old lady purplish smell. But the way Abuelita’s mouth scrunches, I’m figuring our b.o. must be pretty funky after all we had just done. There is not tale.

Instead, she stares at her Manny and then back at me. She’s wondering, finally, whether she wants her mijo hanging out with this freckled bandito.

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Saturday Afternoons . by Meg Tuite

Oh yeah, there were fabrications up and down our pristine block. A perversion of flawless green-as-Ireland lawns, pot-bellied monoliths to dadhood grunting and sweating, pushing lawnmowers like workdays, bald spots of ruddy, brick skin all the way down past plaid shorts, hairy, yellow-tinged legs into some kind of moccasins they got for Christmas one year and squeezed their veined feet in. Back and forth they strained like chronic arthritis, listening to the Cubs losing yet another one, swearing and yelling out to each other while the wives, old china tucked away behind glass, could be glimpsed running around in those sacks they called housedresses, dusting away years of oppressive silence, except to yell out for their kids in unseasoned squeaks, “get inside for dinner,” when six o’clock rolled around and the hodgepodge of beasts would stampede down both sides of the block with baseball bats, basketballs, jump ropes and roller skates babbling in one long wailing narration of summer.

While inside our living room the tick of the clock could be heard in our heartbeats, a cough or clearing of a throat as the four of us lay like kindling around mom with five new books we each got from the library stacked up beside us. Each of us lost in a landscape, family, history unmasking itself every Saturday afternoon. Mom giving us the same answer whenever one of us asked. “I’m not the damn dictionary. Find it yourself.” And then she’d return quietly again to her own private world.

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Matron . by Robert Vaughan

Mrs. Harry Lynde Bradley says, “Call me Peg.”

Has a lifetime supply of Aqua Net.
Swims naked in her sixty square foot fishtank.
Dances the lindy, sits under picnic tables.
Whistles a multitude of birdcalls.
Is batshit about Badger games.

“She was a bitch,” her maid, Opal recalls.

Daphne says, “A gem, a true-blue friend.”

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THE KISSING TREE. by Linda Simoni-Wastila

I’ve driven hours now,
down roads wending
through wood and field.
All slows to childhood:
endless red clay, the kudzu’s
slow creep, the pitch of pine
seeps past rolled-down windows.

Past the derelict Exxon, the sno-cone
shack, the trout pond muddied
from goose leavings and algae bloom,
the Baptist church where voices
lift the clouds on Sundays.
The car shudders into the four-way.

Here, the usual kid bicker lessens
from the backseat, you stop
twirling the lonesome dial looking
for stations beaming songs of loss.
Here the ancient oak throws
its heft across the road, shadow-
softened mistle-toed limbs akimbo.

Here, we would kiss, the long trip
Home but two corners
and over-the-train tracks away.
But tonight the moon pounds
the pavement full and unabated and I
turn to your seat, wishing for my kiss.

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jelly beans and gummy bears . by Alexandra Pereira

Kylie loves jellybeans, the red and orange ones. Says they’re the sweetest. I prefer gummy bears, the green ones. I like the taste of green. Yesterday after school we spread out a tablecloth on the large table in the back porch and made houses with our goodies. For the first time, she borrowed some of my green gummies to finish her chimney and front door. She was really inspired and made the biggest house ever. “One day I’m gonna have a house like this one. I’m gonna call it The Rainbow Mansion!” And then she looked at my house and said, “You’re always makin’ green houses. Who wants to live in a green house? That is sooo ugly!” And she squeezed her eyes and wrinkled her nose so that she ended up making a face that was much uglier than the ugly she said my house was. I looked into her shriveled blue eyes. “My bears will eat your beans,” I whispered in my serious voice. And I must have had a scary face because that’s when she looked at me like she had just peed her pants.

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Beloved . by Mike DiChristina

Paul D, a character in Toni Morrison’s Beloved, is one of my favorite characters in literature, a model of hope, strength and resilience.

Still human, still capable of love, after years of wandering through a vicious world, Paul D finds Sethe, a woman he knows from their days at Sweet Home, a Kentucky plantation.

Sethe welcomes Paul D into her house outside Cincinnati, and the two survivors soon become lovers. It is not long before Paul D realizes the house is haunted by the ghost of Sethe’s baby. Learning of Sethe’s role in her baby’s long ago death, Paul D runs off, fearful for his life and sanity.

Ultimately, Paul D forgives Sethe for her tragic act.

Returning to Sethe’s home a second time, a prodigal lover, Paul D opens the front door and stands for a moment in the quiet. Thinking Sethe must be up in her bedroom, he turns and climbs “the luminous stairs.”

When I first read Beloved, I wished Morrison had ended the story with that beautiful image.

“Less is more,” I said to my wife as we lay in bed reading.

She slid her always cold feet under my legs.

I went on: “The last few pages put you to sleep – Paul D finds Sethe; he touches her face; he holds her hand; he tells her ‘you are the best thing.’ It’s all there in those luminous stairs. End of story. You have to leave some things unspoken.”

“Shut the fuck up,” said my wife.

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Shape to Shore . by Nicolette Wong

–For Brian

Home sweet home is the water we sink into in the music of your dream. The strings will not give & my lungs are wheezing, from embraces I fail to make towards you in green. Your eyes are crazed, of a water ghost murdered in his past life by a recalcitrant lover.

We used to draw bubbles at drowsy hours. Mine was a string of insanity crawling down the dotted lines, until you snatched it from my hands & held it to the light. ‘Oh baby,’ you said. ‘Go get some sun.’ Your bubbles were light, foaming at the corners & other surprising spots on the scrap of paper. Like love.

Since we parted you have been to home & hell & back. Crashed your bike against the fences to dive into the lake for a mock suicide. Boarded the plane to a foreign land to suffocate from polluted air among strangers. Hopped on an overnight train to cross the border, passport & a dead heart at the control point.

Now you reach out to me in a muddy green. ‘Our homes lie in people,’ you say. ‘Don’t fool yourself.’

I have no choice but to close my eyes & forget about shore. It is the only way I would reach it.

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Calendar . by Susan Tepper

By the time it was spring the kitchen still wasn’t cleaned up. Every dish and pot and pan and bit of silverware filthy with dried on food. Potholders and dish rags and dish towels filthy. The countertops and table. Even the window sills had crud. I saw something that might have been old spaghetti sauce splatters. I scraped at it then sniffed. It smelled like something not tomato. Blood? There was a murder in this kitchen right around Christmas. They came in while we were sleeping and shot Wulka dead. He was cooking meth he knew his days were scattered. He used to say that after he made us promise. Keep quiet or your days are scattered Wulka said. Tootie was afraid and used to whimper in his sleep. We shared a room up top the house. I was scared but being older couldn’t let it show. After they shot Wulka someone hung a cloth calendar of the new year. It could have been his mother. She’s crazy-mean too. Home Sweet Home that calendar says in fancy lettering across the top.

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Insistence . by Maude Larke

Dad said it was better. He didn’t explain why. He never did. But since he was the one going through the bother, Elaine stopped arguing.

The hole he cut in the garden shed wall was big enough for the cat, but too small for the beavers that could wander up from the marsh. The old rubber mudflap that he nailed to the inside curled away just enough so that Starbright could push her nose under and lift it. When he pulled the cardboard box lined with old towels out from under the folded ping-pong table in the garage, he made sure that Starbright was watching.

“See, Starbright? I haven’t touched your kittens. I’m just moving them.”

He walked purposefully out of the back garage door to the garden shed. Starbright walked purposefully behind him. Elaine followed, sulking.

Later Elaine went into the garage to get an ice cream from the freezer. In through the back garage door came Starbright with a ball of orange fluff dangling from her jaws. She stared at Elaine with hard gold eyes, then plopped the fluffball down under the ping-pong table next to two others that were mewling on the concrete.

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Cross-stitch . by Matt Potter

Home sweet hoe, it said in red stitching.

Her ancestors weren’t great spellers but who cares when it’s worth a bucket of money.

Took it to the framers after I found it in her old girl’s shed. “Need this framed yesterday,” I said, thumping the counter. Two hours later had a massive gold frame with flowers and shit all over it. Scratched it up a bit so made it look old and the auction bloke fell for it.

“It’s not spelled right,” I said. In case he didn’t know.

“The mistake gives it its value,” he said.

“Well, the wife’s family weren’t too bright in the upstairs department, if you know what I mean.”

Took it home, banged a nail in the wall and stuck it up.

Janice’s jaw dropped when I told her how much we could get for it. “Enough to never work again and get a nice new pair of these,” I said, squeezing her tits.

And the wife said the same that night when she got home from shotput practice.

But Janice didn’t want to wait. “When am I gonna get my new tits?” she said.

Booked tickets to Bali and got Janice a perm. Told ’em at work I wouldn’t be in Monday.

Went to grab it from the wall but only the frame was there, and a note.

Sold the cross-stitch and have run off with Barb my shotput coach. We’re somewhere on the Great Ocean Road, ya miserable fuck!

Went to work Monday.

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Inside the Heart of the City . by Len Kuntz

The youngest of us has grown fangs and claws and his licorice pupils are dry from staring. We should care more, but our own ribs are poking into our bony arms. We huddle together in somber silence. We’ve been told to stay at home—no roof games or playing with the pigeons.

Papa was a baker. He stole husks of bread before he got busted. Now he’s out hustling on the streets. Mother we haven’t seen but in an old photograph where her chin is tilted toward the moon.

Below this apartment building, the air is rotten with taxi cab car horns. Someone called it the greatest city in the world, and perhaps this is true, but we are becoming carcasses and I am running out of excuses.

Selma wants to know why we don’t go to school like other kids. Rico wants to know if magic really works. I say I don’t know to Selma and to Rico I say, “Sure it does, let me show you.”

A punch to the gut shuts him up. Little Rico thinks I’m being cruel, but I’m just finding ways to distract him from the hunger pains.

Our room is so small that I can hear Selma saying The Lord’s Prayer. We get free rent if Papa does some things for Manuel, the Super. It beats being on the street.

I saw a sign once: ‘Home is where the heart is.’ I think I know what the author meant. I hope I do.

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Destroy the Evidence . by Chad Smith

The oven door topples off of its hinges as she kicks and climbs out. She growls and quickly slaps out her still smoldering sweater shoulder. Taking a kitchen chair by the back, she swings it over her head and shatters the window. The chair breaks into splinters as she pounds it into the countertop. She snatches a handful of broken window shards and shoves them into her mouth. They crackle and tinkle as she chomps down. The kitchen sink faucet snaps and water sprays out when she yanks it free using her teeth. She punches a hole in the wall, pulls some planks out, bites and gobbles them up. Enraged and cursing, she knocks the kitchen table over. The door explodes from the front of the cottage when she puts her boot through it. On the porch she pulls a post off the railing and starts eating it.

“Great plan Ruth!” she screams. “Build a cottage in the forest made of gingerbread, cakes and candy. You’ll attract all the children you could ever possibly want to fatten up and eat!”

What she hadn’t planned on was the little monsters getting away. They would probably be bringing back their idiot woodcutter father who would demand an explanation as to why she tried to eat his children. Licking the frosting off of the mailbox, she looks at the cottage and moans. It was going to take forever to eat this thing and flee. She wonders where she has left her matches.

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Substitute . by Fred Osuna

It had been two months since he carried her to the hospital and asked for relief for them both: no more seizures or blindness for her; no more heartache and worry for him. After the deed, the doctor’s assistant put her arm around him and leaned into him but he just stood there, mouth half open, gasping silently. Within him, the pain created a tension that coiled in his chest like a bungee cord stretched to its limit. That loss stayed there for weeks, stretched and taut.

Yesterday, he saw a peace plant in a store. It sat drying in dust on the 75% rack, next to three broken bags of peat moss. He paid the cashier $5.49 and took it home. He manicured its errant stems, the brown, withered ones, its torn leaves. He wiped it with a damp cloth. He set it in a glazed clay pot next to the sofa and admired its scrawny handsomeness.

Then he slept.

Just before dawn, he awoke and listened. He expected something, but there were no feet padding down the hallway at the sound of his rustling. There was no early morning litter-box smell, no pukey gift in the hallway, no hairball-hacking yack yack from under the bed. He walked into the living room, settled into the easy chair, and stared at the peace plant. It stared back, living but lifeless, bracts raised as in a shrug: Now what do I do?

Spathiphyllum, he thought, you are no Felis catus.

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The Inheritance . by Derin Attwood

They were modest old ladies, maiden sisters who had always lived together in their Papa’s old house. Neither married, although there was a whisper of gossip about the younger and prettier sister. Their long dresses were buttoned at the neck and covered many petticoats. They were the epitome of Victorian proper manners.

I had tea with them every four months from when I was first able to hold a tea cup. From the demurely dressed teapot to the lace covered plates and saucers, everything was hidden. Even the tables had voluminous pantaloons peeping demurely from beneath long ruffled tablecloths. The conversation omitted mention of male – men, boys, stallions, bulls, stags and rams were banned from the discussion – difficult in a country area.

Their deaths meant little to me, until I was told I had inherited their house. I threw open the drapes that kept the rooms in deathly dimness. I took the furnishings down to be washed, a needed spring clean.

Is it possible to be shocked by table legs? They were pornographically carved, phallic structures standing proud and showing signs of much use.

How they must have laughed at their visitors – so prim and proper – with penises under the tablecloth.

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Bare Branches . by Doug Bond

When they finally dredge the boy up from the bottom of the pond he lifts high on the winch dangling like a forgotten Christmas ornament tucked alone between bare branches. Swinging in a night with no wind, he is lowered in arcs and stutters by a man busy at black knobbed controls towards a father so racked in grief and loosed with bourbon no one stands anywhere near him. Mercifully, the color and catalog of struggle is masked by a sun an hour past setting. Even the search lights turn haltingly away from the sudden clamor of connection for what it was everyone has been trying to find.

I am close enough that pond water waves ripple up close to where I stand apart from the others, watching breathlessly as dank weeds and rivulets of water slip from sloped arms and skewed feet. They are bare, blue tinged and rest limply without the shoes that lie buried as ransom in the muck.

Women hold their children and men hold their dogs and I finally let go my breath into a wailing siren sounding for nothing but for its leaving. And with darkness fully down and the houselights bright across the banks I hop logs and run streaming through low branches thick with webs and wide leaves and pull the heavy air wet into my lungs until bounding up the back steps I go looking for my daughter, but find she is already gone to her mother’s for the night.

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Home and the road . by Dorothee Lang

It was in a coffee break between two powerpoint presentations, with her expecting nothing but the usual small talk, that they came to talk about home. How it takes a while to feel home in a new place. How sometimes, you never reach that point.

“All my childhood memories are in another place,” he said. “When I moved here, I didn’t feel at home at all. It was just the place I lived, currently. Then, one weekend, I visited a friend, and after I left, somewhere along the road, I had this feeling of driving home.”

Maybe it was the combination of the two words that triggered the memory: home and road. “Once, when travelling in India, I went on an organized desert trip,” she remembered. “In Rajasthan, that was. Two days of desert, riding on camels, camping out there. A jeep picked me and the others up at the guesthouse, to take us to the starting point. They had music playing, Take me Home, Country Roads, and Sweet home Alabama. The songs accompanied us through the desert, and in the evening, at the camp fire, we sang them again, in the middle of this huge, empty, sandy landscape: Take me home, country roads, to the place we belong. Which was right there, for that song, for that day.”

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Fishing . by Stella Pierides

If you are looking for a disaster story, stop reading right here. Turn the page, if you can. Make yourself a cup of coffee. This story is not about disasters, or even little unhappiness. In all truth, it is not even a story. You know, it has no plot. It is just me writing and you reading. What did you expect?

I am reminded of a cute little tale, but this is neither the place, nor the time. May I show you my home? Look around you. The Isfahani rug, by the fireplace, is priceless. That globe on my desk was once aboard the Nostromo, in the captain’s cabin. As a child, I used to spend hours tracing with my finger the Amazon, the Thames, and the Nile.

I hope you like the sound of the waves crushing on the rocks below. For me, it is the music of the seas. From your face, I can see you like my home. I am never alone up here. Many like you visit me. Sleepless, they scour the internet and stumble upon my doorstep, expecting sympathy, a little entertainment, even excitement. Well, I say to them, and to you, well, you should’ve stayed in bed, should’ve snuggled up to your wife, should’ve appreciated your sweet home. Why? Because by now, my homemade virus XFauDE.xe has bored into your computer and infected your system. Because, by now, your soul’s essence, together with your passwords, is downloaded onto my computer.

Thank you for visiting!

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Birdhouse . by Derek Ivan Webster

He was waiting for the chickadees. They had left with the cold; went south or whatever. He cleaned their house out over the long winter. The roof was patched and the new paint shiny and white. He had done the right thing, everything he could. The chickadees would come back soon.

He told himself it was a late spring. The little pond was still cold, the goldfish sluggish. But the cardinals were back already. So were the robins. They were so much more colorful, easier to spot. Maybe his birds had already returned. It was so hard to see them sometimes. He had to remember to pay attention. They needed attention. It would be different this time.

He knew better, even before the goldfinches took over the empty house. The chickadees had abandoned him. He wasn’t angry. That had been before; that was what had driven them away. Instead he closed a curtain over the window that faced the pond and the birds. Now he could clean out his house; patch up the fist sized holes in the drywall; make everything shiny and white again. She had loved to watch her chickadees. He wondered if she missed them as much as he did.

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Where They Have to Take You In . by Andrew Stancek

“Why in the name of all that is holy….” Mirko wakes to his stepfather’s yelling voice, cut off by his mother’s soothing one. The scream is related to him, Mirko knows, even if he is unaware of the transgression.

“Two days in your old room, a chance to tell us about living at your father’s, we’ll catch up,” Mother said. At Saturday dinner the Beethoven is so loud the chandelier shakes and Mother keeps grinning. Drying dishes afterwards, Mirko drops the crystal whisky tumbler, giving himself a deep gash on the foot.

“Bloody hell…,” his stepfather starts before Mother’s look and Mirko can almost hear the counting to a hundred before he continues, “Plenty more where that came from. Let’s look after that cut.” Mirko allows Mother to bathe the wound with iodine and bandage it.

He looks around the bedroom stacked now with boxes of sheet music, a bass in the corner, two violins, a cello, batons on the dresser. His eyes finally find the clock. Not quite six. Sunday morning beginning with a bang. Accused, found wanting, sentenced.

At Father’s the bed is lumpy and his stomach usually empty.

He turns over, hoping he might sleep again. Minutes later he splashes cold water on his face, puts a note on the kitchen table. “Thanks for having me.” He makes sure the door does not bang behind him.

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Care Center . by Leah Brennan

On the way to the funeral, Kerry told me about the last time she saw her grandmother. She wouldn’t use a fork and scooped up bits of manicotti with a sugar cookie instead.

“I don’t like this,” the grandmother kept saying, crumbling the miniature Christmas tree between her fingers.

“It’s ok. You don’t have to eat it,” Kerry’s father said.

“Mom,” Kerry’s mother said. “Ma! Do you want something else? Something else?”

After Christmas they moved the grandmother to Care Center, a maze-like network of hospital buildings. Kerry’s father worked with the insurance companies, and her mother brought over bags of towels. Folding them reminded the grandmother of sewing. The grandmother caught scabies and had to wear a metal anklet that beeped if she strayed too far. For her birthday, Kerry’s parents bought her a special clock that displayed the time and the day of the week.

“I don’t like this,” the grandmother said, sweeping a pile of crumbs onto her lap.

“I hope none of us gets it,” Kerry’s mother said as she cleared the table.

Kerry’s parents had begun playing Scrabble every week and were learning Spanish online.

I turned into the driveway of the funeral home, and a man in a grey suit holding an umbrella waved me towards an open space.

I watched Kerry’s reflection in the passenger side window.

“Scabies is contagious,” I said. “That’s why you didn’t visit.”

She nodded, patting her swollen belly.

We unbuckled our seatbelts and stepped into the rain.

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Welcome . by Martin Brick

Christine told Steve she didn’t feel comfortable in the house.

“We’re new to it. Takes time.”

“No, it’s different. I can’t say why.” It was summer, and warm, but she crawled under the covers.

Hank rang the bell, 6-pack in hand. “I’m the neighbor. Welcome.”

They sat on the porch and uncapped the beer. After three Steve felt comfortable with Hank. He asked, “The house was cheap. There something I don’t know?”

“It has a troubled history. In a small town like this, everyone knows.”

“Troubled?”

“The last owner spent 5 years in prison. Unintentional homicide. He wasn’t a drinker, but left a picnic with one too many. Pure bad luck. His wife kept the house, waited patiently, and finally he came back. But he told me the house never felt right after. Couldn’t sleep. Bumped into things. Like a stranger’s house.”

“And people think it’s cursed because…?”

“There’s more.”

From the upstairs window he saw Hank’s daughter. Twenty-two, bikini, tanning. It wasn’t sexual. Five years ago, there were twinges of that, and guilt over eyeing the girl he watched grow up.

But now he just kept seeing the girl he killed. Same age. She had friends, constantly on the phone. Pretty. Fun.

Sees her every day.

The closet pole was sturdy. His belt smooth. He left a note so his wife wouldn’t have to find him.

In the morning Christine got a dress from the closet. Felt cold. “I’m going to change in the bathroom. Just… I don’t know.”

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Home . by Karla Valenti

I watch them as they sleep, the three of them sprawled into each other, their limbs of varying sizes intertwined in the backseat of the car. The oldest rests his head against the window, his arm lays gently across his sister’s lap. The middle one holds her brother’s hand and has lent her other hand to the baby who, in his sleep, has wrapped his tiny dimpled fist around her fingers. Our tiny mess of a car shuttles them through the night, their moonlit sighs mingling with the warm breeze that spills in through the open window, while the road ahead holds steady in its course determined to get us home, seemingly unaware of the fact that we are already there.

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No. 66 West . by Guy Yasko

I am accustomed to sheriff’s deputies, Jehovah’s witnesses and
partiers looking for 66 East.

This caller is different:

– Do you mind if I have a look around? My happiest days were in this
apartment. It had such positive energy for me. Didn’t you ever wonder
about this doorknob? I put it on. Don’t you love it?

I let her in. Her voice echoes off bare walls. There is nothing but
apartment, me and her.

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Earth Day . by Tom Allman

I have sailed the eternal ether sea

between stars

I have pushed out to meet the silence

and laughed

I have touched the mote in god’s eye

and wept

Today is my earth day

intrepid explorer

I have returned home

hero’s welcome

I shall lie beneath her green grass

and rest

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The Past . by Stephan Hastings-King

I remember at the top of the path from the footbridge over the multi-colored river in the basement of the house there was a collection of seashells arranged in transparent polyurethane cubes stacked with an eccentric sense of geometry into a 3-dimensional map of an imaginary sea. Aquarium paraphernalia has been placed around the map to enable a functioning ecosystem.

I remember the cavernous sense of empty gymnasium and the sense that I had interrupted something invisible and secret.

I remember being a commando wielding a plastic gun on the roof of the high school until the police came with weapons drawn. I yelled “It’s plastic” again and again, still not understanding the situation.

I remember becoming other people.

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Home . by Catherine Russell

he kissed the earth,

sweet mother,

to whom all returned

in the end

-dust-

he breathed

Cleopatra’s last breath,

becoming one with

creation

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ain’t no such thing . by Walter Bjorkman

No such thing a home when you are an afterthought the runt the grunt the stepson the one lost in the crowd because you do what you do and you never draw attention to yourself because the few times you did you were quickly smacked down into your place homes mean nothing they are just a place where you are supposed to stay to keep out of the storm and where you are supposed to do the things necessary to survive which put you in a vulnerable position to predators like cooking eating sleeping and taking a crap in safety but the predators live in that same space and shit eat and fuck while caging you into a corner then that ain’t a home no one does those things even if they say you are in a loving home the fuckers turn on you in a second if it means them losing anything michelle would poison barack’s soup if it came down to her or him it is total bullshit when anyone says they will die for anyone else we just hear people say it and they die running to save their own goddamn asses and we dress it up and make it that way after the fact because we can’t bear to face the truth so don’t give me this home sweet home because there ain’t no such thing

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Dangerous Questions . by John Wentworth Chapin

“Dammit, I am good at what I do,” Evie slurred, overly loud. Her wings ached.

“You got one job and you do it, Evie. You do it good, the hive thrives. You do it bad, we all die. You want praise? Pfft. We all bust our stingers around here.” Shirley stubbed her cigarillo out on a dead chunk of honeycomb. “Be happy. The queen crawls around and squirts out your future all day long. You want that shit job?”

A drone raised his honey-soused mandibles. “Shut your trap about Her Holiness.”

“Mind your own beeswax,” Shirley warned. Goddamned uppity drones. “You got freedom to fly, at least, doll.”

“I’m not complaining, Shirl. Well I am, but not about the work. Why do we do it? We don’t see no payoff. No one does, not you, not Her Fatness. We just continue on, year after year, pollen, babies, honey. What’s the point?”

“I puke up honey and squeeze wax out of my ass for a living. If I don’t work, I don’t eat and then we all die. I don’t want to die. There’s your motivation, babycakes.”

Evie stroked her thorax drunkenly. “What if I refused? What if I wanted to sleep in one morning?”

The drone gaped. “She’s thinking about herself,” he half-whispered.

Shirley eyed the drone warily. She’d have to eat him before he spilled the beans about Evie to the hive.

She’d have to keep her eye on Evie, too.

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Ol’ Ornery’s Home . by Michelle Elvy

Twila was an ornery thing. No one liked her though she’d lived in our neighborhood forever. They said she was crazy, possessed even. We believed it — her wild orange hair and wandering eye were enough to make us know it was true. We played a game to see who could look her way the longest: if her eye wandered your way and caught you, you had to pay up with your week’s ice cream money. Jimmy and Terry collected a lot of my ice cream money back then.

One day I skinned my knee, slipped off a stone at the creek. I was hurrying past Twila’s house, my eyes stinging from salty tears and afternoon sun and the dirt I’d rubbed into them with my muddy hands. I hobbled past quickly but just as I was near the corner, almost safe, she called me back. It was the first time she’d ever spoken to me. No use pretending I didn’t hear either.

“Boy, where you goin’ with that knee?”
“Ummm…”
“Come on inside,” she said, raising an eyebrow over her Evil Eye which in that moment did not seem so evil.

So I wandered up her porch steps and went inside, where she bandaged my knee in her mothball house without saying a word. Then she sat me at the table and cut watermelon into small triangles and didn’t scold me when the juice dripped down my arms to elbows and pooled on her polished wooden table.

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52|250 thanks Abby Braman for her watercolor Hello Moon. Here is what she has to say about this haunting vision:

This piece was painted a few months ago — I didn’t have anything too specific in mind when I created this. I was listening to one of my favorite bands, Elliott Brood — a dark folk band, and the ambiance of the song just put images of seedy motels out west and dead bodies in the back of someone’s trunk in my head. Not that this piece is super ‘dark’ but I used a bit of that influence from that specific song I was listening to, and Hello Moon was the end result. I enjoy the feeling this piece gives me (and hopefully the viewer), an eerie, yet serene vibe. The kind of vibe that makes you think, “ this is awfully creepy, yet I’d like to walk around in this painting.” It was painted in water color paints on water color paper. My artwork tends to lean towards the dark, yet beautiful atmospheric side.

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