Category Archives: Wk #51 – Unintended consequences

Week #51 – Unintended consequences

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

The theme is unintended consequences.

Marr4 by Kim Pollard
The Writer Aged . by Martin Porter

His life flows like ink from his fountain pen,
The type that sucks up the blackness by capillary action
Effortlessly, until one day
A blockage might occur in the feed
Or the sac begins to perish
And decay.

He wears his hat at a more jaunty angle
But fails to conceal the less distinct nature
Of his hairline, the smudged boundary
Between lip and chin, the creased parafiltrum
And the lines on his face drawn
With time’s fine nib.

He knows he is in the wrong stanza
Of a poem he writes, but
It is his readers who create the character,
He has lost control, is not who he imagines himself to be
And nor are we, drifting along his script,
And he is aged.

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Owl . by Susan Tepper

All night until the owl starts braying they play Monopoly. Rudy wins Park Place and Boardwalk over and over like a mafia don. I am so tired. I just hang on the wicker couch in the porch. They play on in the living room under the dim chandelier until the owl. Porky counts six from the owl. He says it’s over and flips the board. Rudy punches him and my sister Alma shrieks. My cousin Blink says shut up! shut up! I want to sleep in the woodshed but the vicious dog from next door hunts rabbits in there. He could be in there right now snooping. All the bedrooms are occupied by elder folk. We kids are supposed to sleep with blankets on the floor. I won’t. Bugs creep along the floor at night. Mice sometimes. I will stay on this stinking wicker couch until my back breaks in half and everyone notices I am two parts.

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Detritus . by Zoe Karakikla-Mitsakou

The house is dusty. Piles of small deaths lurking in the corners; sneering at cells that have trickled from my body and are forcibly suspended in rhythmic spasms before they land on the fragments of our lives. There are no arachnophobes among the blind. The visual representation of a spider triggers a primal part of our brains into action, an evolutionary reaction to a primordial threat; in the absence of the visual stimulus, fear is also absent.

My father’s bones were exhumed, thrown in a bone crusher and buried as dust and flakes in a mass grave with no names. I walk over the tomb in silence as my eyes flicker in horror between the priest who, after drowsily saying a prayer I know my communist father would have hated, holds his hand out in expectation of a monetary reward; and a small fleck of grime caught in the breeze, dancing its way to oblivion: is this a crumb of someone from that grave or me?

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Smells Like Burning . by Chad Smith

Stanley had a crush on Sarah. They were in Ms. Goldman’s freshman chemistry class together fifth period. That day they were working on homework at Sarah’s house while her parents were gone. Stanley was in heaven.

“Break time!” Sarah woke Stanley from daydreaming, “I want to show you something.”

She leads him to the closet in the hall. Inside the closet, they sit down on shoes and close the door. There is no light. Sarah pulls Stanley’s tee-shirt off. He doesn’t resist. Suddenly a spark and the closet lights up. Sarah had flicked a lighter.

“I read it was recently discovered kids born and raised in California have higher levels of fire retardant in their blood than kids in other places do. Chemicals used to keep our teddy bears, clothes and cribs from going up in flames have been leaking into our bodies.”

She sticks her tongue out over the flame and rolls it in and out of the fire. Sarah puts the flame on Stanley’s bare nipple. He’s startled at first. When he sees it doesn’t hurt, he reaches his hand out and holds it in the fire. No marks.

“Somebody’s got to do something about this!”

“Actually, I think they have done us a huge favor,” the flame goes out and it’s black again, “When we go to Hell after we die, we won’t burn.”

She pulls him close and kisses him. Her tongue spreads his mouth open. She grabs his hand and puts it on her chest.

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Unintended Consequences . by Linda Simoni-Wastila

You sit there bleary-eyed morning tired and coffee growing cold. The headlines blur. Your mother’s chitter-chatter segues into wall-paper and you try to remember where you parked the car, whether it’s pulled in nice and tight in the garage or whether you left it curbside, afraid the garage door lifting at god-knows-when would wake mom, but you can’t remember, you don’t remember much of anything, not driving, not stumbling up the stairs, not sleeping. Nothing.

But you remember this: mom already on the couch with her Scotch and week’s worth of Tivo, she assumes you’re with Brad and Mac, and you are, but not at the movies, you’re chugging beer and smoking blunts in Lorraine’s basement while you listen to Zeppelin, Morrison, Hendrix, the stuff your mom plays when she feels old, and for the first time all week you stop worrying how you bombed AP biology and how you missed the Berkeley deadline and what the hell you’ll do about college, you don’t have the dough for Stanford but damn if you’ll go to San Jose State, and then Lorraine pulls you from the couch, so alive, warm, so smiley, and you pile into your Mercury and barrel down the street, windows down, the air smells like sea, the night goes forever.

The milk smell makes you nauseous. Your mom says, “Pity about Stacie, some drunk ran over her dog last night,” and you remember the crunching sound when you took the corner at Beloit and Anderson, tires squealing.

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Honest Intentions and All That Hooey . by Susan Gibb

One night I woke up and caught my boyfriend cheating at a game of cards. I was devastated.

“It’s only Solitaire,” he said.

“It’s only Solitaire!” I cried.

“Yes!” he said.

“That’s right!” I sobbed.

We argued long and hard till dawn broke through the window, sharing its light with the walls, the floor, the cat playing with her empty food dish, but not with us. We could not see each other’s point of view. I fed the cat, packed my things and left. I mean, come on, how could I stay with such a man?

Life kept on kicking me hard after that, toppling everything I dared to touch. I was being so careful, so conscious now of playing by the rules. In fact, sabotaging my every effort at my job (I gave a rave review of a coworker that put her in a supervisory position over me), my new apartment (gave up the second floor for the first and was broken into three times in a month), and in love (answered his questions honestly, i.e., “No, you’re not the one with the biggest…”) losing each new man almost immediately.

It took a while, but I wised-up. I lied through my teeth and am now happily the head of my department, ensconced in a fully paid-for apartment on the Avenue, and am sleeping with the married CEO of the company.

Let’s just say I learned how to play my cards.

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Firewood . by Nathan Alling Long

One day I slammed my bedroom door after a fight with my parents, and there I stood alone in my room, the sound of anger echoing off the walls. Ugly, ugly, I thought, and I vowed–tenacious and absolute like all teenagers–to never show anger again.

And like that, I stopped. I transformed into ice calm, a person unflusterable.

For years, I was a monastery, a fortress made of bones. I sat cramped for hours in a pick-up, an October wind spinning up straw dust into my eyes. There were snowstorms with bare hands, fasting through spring, the hot summer on a bus that smell of chemicals and urine. I let old aches burn without salve.

Things were once distinct like that, certain, discrete. Now things morph into other things: the days, feelings, the songs I like and hate. Red lights have a hint of orange, the sky is never a perfect blue. What happened was this: the human touch.

We were talking in a field, the fire of night above us. The cold wet dew was settling into the grass, and all our words took us to mountains. Then his hand brushed against my arm. The monastery dissolved and became a playground. As we touched, the space between the world and my body wriggled and slid away. Then we fell into a well of warm liquid. Afterward, I smelled like his body. The doors, once softly shut, were now unhinged, dismantled, offered to the fire.

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Isolation . by Georgina Kamsika

Yesterday, a stray dog had wandered through the aisle – everyone smiled. When I followed on its heels, people frowned and turned away. A little boy made a retching noise before his mother shook him to be quiet.

Today, the bodily contact was more physical contact than I’d had in weeks, months. Yet the guy leaned into the aisle as far away from me as possible, his mouth gaping in a rictus.

It’s not my fault, it’s not even communicable.

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Guidance Systems . by Grant Farley

Pasadena, 1959

“Who will live and who will die?” His wife asked as they lay in bed.

“Is this one of those psychological puzzles? If seven people are on a desert island and one has to go…”

“No. You will choose who enters. Power of life and all that. Does your brother die?”

He sat up. “Eddie lives too far away. He’ll never make it.”

“So it’s a matter of geography.”

“No…well, in a way, yes.”

“Amy’s little friend next door?”

“Christ, I don’t…No.”

“Then innocence is not a factor.”

“She’s not family.”

“Not family.”

He stared at their moonlit comforter. “It may never happen.”

“Who do you suppose is at the other end of your bombs?”

“I design guidance systems, not bombs. You know that. Anyway, they’re our bombs. All our bombs.”

“…our bombs, then?”

“A military target.”

“Perhaps there’s another scientist over there being told the same thing.”

He moved his hand toward hers. “Why are you doing this?”

She moved hers away. “Why are you doing this?”

“By ‘this’ do you mean providing a good life for you and the girls? Defending our country? Or building our bomb shelter in the event…”

“They are the same.”

“What has gotten into you?”

“I will not go into your shelter.”

“Yes, you will.”

“No. Look at me. I will never go in.”

“Why does it have to be like this?”

“Are you still building it?”

He paused. “Yes.”

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Implications . by Robert Vaughan

The moment I opened the door, I knew something was wrong. He paced in the kitchen, told me how, not why.

“Let’s sit down,” I said. I turned off Entertainment Tonight. My hand shook as I set down the remote.

“She came at me with a knife. I had to do it. She was gonna kill me.” He covered his face with his hands.

“Where…is she?”

He stood up as if to go. Sat back down. “I buried her.”

Shocked, I knew what we had to do. “Does anybody else know?”

Shook his head no.

“We have to call the police.”

“NO-” he protested. “Mom, please.”

“I’m sorry, Mark. But you told me.” My voice shook. “Now I’m implicated.” I waited for him to respond, but he just sat there, head hung. “When you’re ready, make that call. Don’t force me to.”

While he dialed, my heart nailed itself to the cross. Everything we’d worked for, poured ourselves into. Gone. I couldn’t breathe. Our only son.

After he hung up he said, “Do you have any chocolate milk?”

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Unintended . by Darryl Price

The wash of something blue into the red of something
momentarily melting and beautiful but not for long. The promise
of a living blackness to come. Black that will darken
every doorstep, conceal but not restrict every attempt at dancing.

The movement of all living things rushing together towards another
chance to see another day through to its flashpoint. Forgotten
starfish crawling into each other’s history,making starfish history keep
with the times, with its arms, or are they all

legs?But not alone. Never alone.No. All things continue
to consume the universe and the universe continues to regenerate
itself through the daily cannIbalism like a coat of many
colors turned insideout. You can easily wear it either way

and it becomes the season you are in.Consequences happen
so fast that your reaction time seems like a joke
in comparison. You might die tonight. The notices will all
have mouths of their own, teeth stuck in your dreams.

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Partners . by Len Kuntz

Silence is an instructor telling me now, what you’re doing and with whom. I am not so dim.

My organs sag like wilted crepes. I am suddenly jowly everywhere. I am a rain-soaked picnic while the tarp above the table sounds like a wet harpsichord about to burst its water belly.

We agreed. We promised to make our partners happy.

I know what you’re doing.

It’s happening right now, isn’t it?

I kick off the lights. I put on music. The moon is trying to call me out for a slow dance and, after a skip of hesitation, I decide to go.

I’m not as busy as you.

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Conviction . by Matt Potter

“Cancel everything!”

Their jaws drop. Tears well in my father’s eyes.

“You’ve turned this into a circus!” I say. I fold my arms and glare.

My mother lays her pen on top of the seating plan. “And disappoint your father?” she says. “When that’s all he’s looked forward to throughout his illness?”

Dad sniffs. I don’t look at him.

I jab the plan with my finger. “You’ve put all my anorexic friends on the table nearest the buffet,” I say. “And all my bulimic friends on the other side of the room away from the buffet and the toilets.”

“There’s no point wasting good food,” says Mum.

Flicking my veil behind my shoulder, I stomp out of the room and into my bedroom, slamming the door behind me.

I slump on the bed, twisting on my bottom so my head hits the pillow and my feet, in their dental assistant-like white, rest at the other end, beneath the cross on the wall.

Mum taps on the door and stands in the doorway.

“Sirên,” she says, using the Christian name I’m giving up. “This going away party is the last time we’ll be able to do anything like this. Soon you’ll be in the convent. Have a heart and let us do this the way it should be done.”

She looks at me doe-eyed.

“At least while your father’s still with us.”

I roll my eyes. People think being a Christian means you’ll put up with anything.

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Auto . by John Riley

You alone?
Not my fault.
Where’s your mom?
Did you get the wallet I sent you?
The one with the cowboy on it?
I made it in the leather shop.
No one cares about cowboys.
Can’t teach an old dog new tricks.
Bow wow.
I got out last week.
You heading our way?
That was the plan.
What stopped you?
’57 Thunderbird. Creamy white. It was cherry.
Sounds yummy.
It should have been locked up.
People are fools.
It wasn’t my fault.
There you go.
It was cherry.

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She tells me I am already gone . by Lou Freshwater

The new nurse wheels me into the theatre. It isn’t easy to navigate
the small space between the stage and the front row of seats. She
turns my chair until she’s able to fit me into place at the end of the
row. Sixty-years ago I was an actor. I controlled the emotions of
rooms like this. Now I cannot even control one hour of my life. I am
trapped in this body with hunched shoulders. Rusted wire hands covered
with skin that tears like nightmare rice paper. Watery eyes, washed
out eyes. Bones that never stop humming with ache. Muscles that hang
there, dying, saying no. A mouth that is always dry, choked with dry.

Without moving anything except my eyes, I am able to see a woman. She
is perfect. Her hair, straight and blond, like light. She tucks it
behind her ear, and I see the small pearl earring she has chosen. Her
sweater scoops just below her collarbone, that most beautiful part of
a woman. She looks at the man next to her. She smiles and looks down
at her fingers and she begins to move her fingertips around her thigh,
like she is tracing letters there. She looks towards me. But she does
not look at me. Then she looks at everything around me, but not at me.
Usually I get the small smiles women give old men, like we’re stuffed
animals, no longer predatory, not really alive. But she won’t even
give me that.

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E-Harmony Connection #54421 . by Meg Tuite

We met at The Corrale. The adrenaline was rising with his hair that puffed like a pastry every time he swept it up with his hand. I ordered Cuervo and a pina colada chaser. I was in an island disaster kind of mood.

He asked hot questions.

He was volatile, vacuous, a smile crumbled around his lips.

“Who would you rail it for, Gumby or Pokey?”

I took a swig of Cuervo.

“Pokey. No question. Got a bad rap. Gumby’s everywhere. Just because he’s politically Green?”

Zefron ordered another Kahlua. Things were plummeting in the right direction.

“If you were a whirling dervish, which way would you twirl?”

“I’d whip myself all the way back beyond infancy.” I felt something move down there, where it counts.

“Ever had a Mickey Mouse watch?”

I sighed, nodded. Zefron lifted his arm: vintage.

He grunted crackerjack love my way, flicked his tongue. Time to quit the Corrale.

E-Harmony to the 10th degree.

Green, phallic creatures were plastered all over this fruitcake’s lemon Smart car. Zefron threw me against the car, submerged me in the gorge of his pharynx. I pried myself away. “Why?”

Zefron’s eyes swung both ways. “Opposites attract. Gumby-loving groupies collude, but to crave the likes of Pokey? Exquisite.”

We were destined by chemistry and plastic figurines to give it a go. Zefron opened the door to his flaming Gumby mobile. I stuffed myself in, couldn’t wait to see what radioactive wallpaper Zefron had glowing in his pad.

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Tattoo Park . by Annette Rohde

The park was quiet for a Friday morning. The sun warm, leaves golden and grass still slightly damp from an early autumn shower.

It felt like home away from home.

She sat on the park bench, frail and forlorn, crouching over and clutching her chest. Her strikingly transparent blue eyes welled with tears, her aged leathery skin covered in tattoos of names and dates; just like mine.

There was a new tattoo on her chest. Her husband had died two days before.

I sat beside her and handed her a cup of tea from my thermos and a slice of cinnamon teacake still warm from the oven. Her eyes warmed with gratitude as she looked up at me, “this was one of our favourites!”

We meet in the park each week to share tea, cake and stories of our tattoos. For each person or pet we have loved, we point to a tattoo. On our birthdays, we both get a new tattoo. I feel as though I have known her all my life, her memories now mine and mine are hers.

This morning I wait for her in the park but she hasn’t arrived. She had one tattoo left, the first tattoo she ever had. She seemed to find that one too hard to talk about.

I arrive home to find a letter from her. She tells me about the first tattoo. It was to remember a daughter she had given up for adoption.

The date is my birthday.

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Dance Revolution . by Mike DiChristina

Z was President-for-Life, but inside his plump body he was a dancer. Sporting his trademark Napoleonic bicorn and gold lamé tunic, Z went viral on YouTube whenever he danced in public.

On La Fête Nationale, Z delivered an impassioned speech from the palace balcony and then tap-danced to the roar of his minions, helping them overlook the perpetual State of Emergency and the recent disappearance of a Nobel laureate.

At the following week’s UN conference in New York, Z stole the show by slipping out of his titanium-reinforced limo to breakdance with tattooed American youths on the sidewalk. The Daily News dubbed Z the “(Mentally) Ill Duce.”

Back in the Maghreb, when the French ambassador stopped in for a sanity check, Z leapt off his throne and executed thirty-two consecutive fouettés, matching Baryshnikov’s legendary Swan Lake performance at the Ballet Russe.

M. L’Ambassadeur pronounced Z a superb dancer before departing to Paris for “les consultations.”

At Z’s last cabinet meeting, as the citizens of his emirate rattled the palace’s gold-plated gates, Z hopped onto the table and performed a grand jeté that left his ministers speechless. When the crowd surged into the compound, Z and the Royal Dance Instructor were whisked away in a helicopter from the palace roof.

Z trained for months in his Alpine redoubt. Finally, the call came from America. Z jetted to Hollywood, where, dressed as a gaucho, he stuck his nose between the breasts of a fawn-eyed goddess and tangoed on Dancing With The Stars.

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Earth’s the Right Place for Love . by Andrew Stancek

Mirko has not been sleeping and sees danger behind every post. As he is opening the front door of the apartment building he senses someone behind him. He turns around as she says, “Hi there,” in an exaggerated sultry voice. Mirko can feel the handcuffs tightening around his wrists, the slap of the policeman arresting him, hear his mother’s wail in the courtroom as he is sentenced.

“Long time no see,” he forces his voice not to shake. “Dad isn’t home yet, said he’d be late tonight.”

“It’s you I want to talk to,” she says. “Invite me in?” She follows him. He puts the loaf of bread on the counter, the salami in the fridge. When he turns around she has her top off and is climbing out of her skirt. “I don’t like old men that much,” she says. “We don’t have to talk. No one will know.”

She is thin and her breasts sway as she walks to his father’s bed. Mirko’s mouth is dry but he follows, unbuckling his belt. He is on the bed next to her, finally naked when they hear the key in the lock. Mirko freezes but she laughs, puts her arms behind her head.

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Death in the Afternoon . by Guy Yasko

— Bobby! Bobby! I’m home. You call Liston yet?

— Bobby?

Must be gone. Curtains closed. Sunlight through curtains, like when
you’re sick.

— oh.

No color. White? Blue? Not breathing.

What do you do when someone dies? Call 911? He’s already dead!
Chrissake. Have to call anyway? Bureaucracy of death. Police? They’d

You have a drink, that’s what you do. Mark the occasion. What though?
His stuff? Not me, not now. Not even. Stuff from Sandy: Calvados. What’s
that, Spanish? Good enough.

Got what he wanted — or did he? Spite? Escape? That’s it? Ran away from
me, now life. Fuck him. Me, this what I wanted? Don’t know. No. Not
really. Waste of my life, too. Gone now.

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We are walking outside together . by Doug Bond

He was 4. I was 40. The day was bright and we were two gentlemen at
home with a day of things to do. And then that sound I thought I
heard. One I’d never heard. And the phone ringing. His mother in Park
Slope. And the big eyes looking up saying, “What’s happened? What is
it Daddy?”

Why I thought we should walk down I don’t know. I felt crawly sitting
in front of the TV. Felt it right to go see what we could see. That’s
I think what I said, singing, for some reason, “The bear went over the
mountain….” And he answered, “…To see what he could see.”

The Promenade. A front row seat it turned out. Hard candies in my
pockets I put him up on my shoulders. On my shoulders. Time ran in a
direction it never ran before and then he said, “The building fell out
of the sky.”

We ran, walked, ran, double ran, back. Gina was already there. Furious
for what I had let him witness. We had only been separated since
earlier that summer. There was still so much anger, waiting in
reserve, tinder.

We worked with him. He drew us pictures. Black crayons, red arrows,
tiny lines in different colors arcing down the sides. Gina and I took
turns holding him. Holding each other.

He is 14. I am 50. He runs in screaming with his mother, hopping up
and down with the news. We are walking outside together.

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Speed Racer . by Stephen Hastings-King

This time he is a race car driver who struggles with recurrent sing-song strings of rhyming words that run through his mind disrupt his focus and interfere with his reduction to a volume in motion but then meltdown Piltdown the scene changes quick as a flip book and now he remembers race car drivers in television shows full of espionage open cockpits and aviator goggles, the whine of engines and implications of lubrication but cannot access the mythology so remains trapped within himself hurtling around a cartoon racetrack before a crowd of make-believe prehistoric men.

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La Gioconda . by Cheri Ause

In the early hours of the morning on the Saturday before Independence Day, the Jolly Roger, a place widely known for its “Brews, Blues, and Bar-B-Q,” burned down. By 8 A.M., most of the town’s population of 512 had come and gone, murmuring condolences to the owners and shaking their heads over the heap of charred timbers still smoldering on the bluff overlooking the Pacific.

“Not sure how it started,” Mel announced to the small group of folks keeping vigil at the edge of the street. He stood outside the yellow police tape the sheriff’s deputy had strung around the gravel parking lot an hour earlier, his eyes fixed on the blackened rubble. “Not sure of the cause yet,” he said to no one in particular.

Not far away, Carol leaned close to Leona, who owned the Sea Trader gift shop across the street. “We’re going to be fine,” Carol whispered, pulling her sweater closer around her. “It’s Liz worries me.” She nodded toward a thirty-something woman standing off by herself at the far end of the parking lot. “Running this place for us is all she’s got since she gave up that crazy notion of opening that cupcake shop in Portland.”

A handful of locals ducked under the tape for a closer look and were quickly joined by three or four tourists. “Sheriff says there’ll be an investigation,” Mel called after them. “Don’t want to be getting too close.” His voice faded beneath the clicking of cameras and cell phones.

Liz stood not far from the only corner of the building left standing, the last scorched remnant of the former juke joint still displaying its painted flames and the words “Smokin’ Hot Ribs!” Her blue eyes luminous and distant, she slowly stroked the white tips of her short dark hair, a twitch in her cheek tugging irrepressibly at the corners of her mouth.

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Unintended Consequences . by Catherine Russell

Frank drove with seeming carelessness to his job in the big gleaming building downtown. Every time he sat behind the wheel and drove the silver lined streets to his office, he was reminded of how far he’d come. The ghosts of his past were banished to the shadows – places he no longer frequented. Highrises lined the boulevard like silent sentinels.

One day after lunch, filled with benevolence for all beings, he decided to return to work by an alternate route. With the characteristic care and foresight that helped him rise among the ranks of his peers, he placed the extra food he’d ordered on the passenger seat, drove to his former haunt, pulled alongside a vagrant, and offered the crumpled brown bag along with his own wide grin.

Frank noticed only the indigent’s beatific smile as the man descended upon him like the angel of death. When he awoke on the pavement in the pungent clothes of his attacker, he remembered nothing else. Without memories of his former life, without home, without family, he consumed the contents of the crumpled brown bag and wondered where he’d get his next meal.

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Confession . by Stella Pierides

The lake sparkled. Puffs of cloud travelled on its surface. The mountains were wrapped in haze, as if wishing to hide from view.

I walked on the pier listening to the water swishing through reeds and lapping to the shore. I thought a big branch floated ahead. Shocked, I realized it was Johannes, our local war hero gone missing.

He was still dressed in black, as always since he returned from the war. Facing down as if obsessed with the bottom of the lake, he rose and fell with the water. He’d been my hero too, though whatever else transpired between us in the past was no longer there.

He had come back another man, spending his time by the lake fending off imaginary enemies. Youths teased him and asked him about the war. But he never answered them.

The mountains across the lake now looked as if sitting in judgment. I found a piece of wood and, leaning over, tried to pull him towards me. A water snake slithering away frightened me and I swayed to avoid falling in. I stood there feeling guilty, as if I had violated him with my branch.

Once the water settled, I saw he was now turned sideways, the way he shyly used to turn whenever I tried to catch his eye, before he went away. At that moment, I saw shades of dark red, and dusky purple on his face, and I thought, I must confess, that these colors suited him.

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Air Freshener . by Marquita Cabrera

“I can’t sleep,” I say.
“Why?” asks the bull.
“I got too much on my mind.”
“You really should shut your eyes.”
“I just told you I can’t sleep.”
“Well, just try,” the bull says.

I flick off my bedroom switch and watch the curtains sway as the wind from the open window hits the edges. I roll over to my right side and close my eyes. The bull rolls over facing my side and grabs my hips. His fierce nostrils spray hot air on my neck. I immediately open my eyes, sit up, and stare at him. “What are you doing?” He stares back with an amused smile on his lips. “I’m rocking you to sleep.” I scratch my head and look around for anything I can hit him with. I look back at him. He still has that amused smile on his lips.

“I was just helping you out,” the bull says.
“I was on my way to Lala Land, thank you,” I say.
“What’s wrong with cuddling?”
“You’re aggressive. You don’t strike me as the sensitive type.”
“You need to stop being racist!”
“What? That doesn’t even make sense,” I say.

We turn to opposite sides of the bed. The bull faces the open darkness next to the dresser. I face the window where the wind continues to blow the curtains. He plays with his nose ring while his horns puncture the pillows under him. I rest my eyes again. The cool air feels good.

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Fuggedaboutitkid’s Gal . by Walter Bjorkman

Eddie always knew what the time of day, week, month and year it was, but never knew if the right time for anything was now or later or then. Marzy had a hard time getting past knowing the week, but she knew when the time was right and always took the right action.

Unless Eddie was around, then she became the man’s putty she never wanted to be and she let her guard down, just once.

Chalky, the third wheel on this tandem bicycle, knew neither the time nor when the time was right, and as a result had been caught in situations like trying to smuggle two endangered snakes in his pants, the day after Richard Reid tried to bomb a plane with explosives he carried in his shoe.

Now they were railbirds at the Big A and as Fuggedaboutitkid rounded for home, Chalky was pounding his ass with a rolled up Racing Form as a whip, urging “getem! fuggedaboutem! getem! fuggedaboutem!” in increasing furor as the longshot whisked towards the finish line to top off an $18 thou triple that would erase all his gambling debts and set him up in the snake business for life, all with the tip that Marzy had given him and which she didn’t bet herself because Eddie liked The Dreamer, hoping to pay for the wedding he thought it was the right time for. The nag finished dead last. Marzy smiled, for the wedding which Marzy knew it was not the right time for, would have to wait.

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After the Fall . by John Wentworth Chapin

Pop-pop and Lily were in the garden again. His hands were knobby and mottled, ugly things, but she took them without hesitation when he offered them to lift her out of the dirt or onto his knee, setting her there like a giggling princess. Pop-pop couldn’t talk since the stroke, but his gestures were broad with warmth and love.

Dee, Lily’s mother, watched from the porch, hiding her rare cigarette from her father and her daughter. She was as ambivalent about Kent III’s as she was about her formerly monstrous father charming his granddaughter. For a long bit of her childhood, he’d come drunkenly into her bed and made a mess of her life; it started after she quit ballet and ended around her first period. She had to count the years on her fingers, but she remembered the markers.

She forgave him, she supposed. It had been easy to do so at the hospital when he was gray and papery. Now, it took a cigarette to steady her when she watched him touch Lily, another drag to quench the fire when Lily shrieked with delight. Dee trusted him, but she couldn’t look away. Yearning, horrified, resigned.

Perhaps he was hollow, without memory behind his now watery eyes. Perhaps this was a peace offering. Perhaps it didn’t matter. They were a family, now, these three: child, widow, widower.

Lily aped a pirouette and collapsed giggling onto Pop-pop’s lap. Dee inhaled.

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The Gift . by Michelle Elvy

Jane bought Jerry a new phone for his birthday because he didn’t want to share any more. They had shared everything in their life together, and she really didn’t need her own phone, but when he said sharing had turned to controlling, she thought she’d try something new, let go a little.

Now Jerry texts and telephones all day while Jane wonders when he’ll start talking to her again.

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We greatly thank Kim Pollard for Marr4, this week’s art. Here is some background from her on how it came to be:

Marr4 was somewhat of a happy accident. I was contacted by the former owner of a local ranch that has fallen into disrepair. He asked that I take photos of a collapsed barn on the property that was once cherished by his family, I was given permission by the current property owners to traipse around and take some photos of the barn and yard. The fallen and decaying building was so pretty and sad at the same time. I got some great shots and ended up feeling almost as nostalgic as the former owner and his family after they viewed the photos.

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Filed under Wk #51 - Unintended consequences