Friday, September 21, 2018

"My Love, Ana" -Tommy by Jhon Sánchez

Tommy and Ana fall deeply in love with each other's internal organs in Jhon Sánchez's quirky vision of the future.

For Melissa Ortiz, Ninotska Love and Yani Perez, three ladies who can easily steal your heart.

My wife divorced me because doctors removed my tonsils. She said that I wouldn't be the same. "A different being," was the precise wording she used. I was appalled. My mind flooded with images of the first time I saw her.

Initially, I hadn't been particularly drawn to her insides, her heart, her guts. I had asked the matchmaker for someone different, unique, like Grandma was for Grandpa. Their pictures together, their love notes and photographs, were like an oasis of warmth and care scattered throughout the apartment that they left for me.

Of course, I marked on my application all of the regular boxes of women I didn't want at all. No people with kidney stones, no people with risk of coronary disease, no HIV/AIDS, no risk of cancer, just the regular stuff that everybody asked for. I wanted someone who would die of old age with me like Grandma and Grandpa - sixty years of marriage - but also someone unique, who kept me mesmerized all the time.

Monday, September 17, 2018

SHORT by Doug Hawley

Doug Hawley returns with a not-very-PC screwball comedy in which Duke Hanley is fed up of being discriminated against for being short.

Duke and Gary, actuaries for a large Portland insurance company, were having lunch together. As usual they were complaining about their treatment as short guys. Duke started off with, "You know, we're usually ignored, and stats prove we get paid less and don't get the promotions we deserve. Studies which have been corrected to take account of all other variables show that."

"I know that, Duke. We've been whining about that for years. At least you've got a great wife. I have a hard time getting a date, much less laid or married. How did you attract a great gal like Sally?"

"You aren't the first or the tenth to ask me that. Sally has a strange history which made her avoid tall or even average guys. Everybody else in her family is over 6 feet tall, even the women, and she is only 5'3". I think that her 6'3" father wondered if he was really her father and always called her runt. Then there was the time at the circus where the so-called tallest man in the world had a heart attack and almost fell on her. In high school, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came to give a talk on education. Sally was to present him to the student body, but he suffered from food poisoning and vomited on her. After that, she would only date short guys like me."

Friday, September 14, 2018

Delivery by Stephan Malone

When Stephan Malone's character orders a pizza, the self-driving delivery car gives him a lot more than he wanted.

The whooshing din of distant latter-evening traffic hushed through my partially opened patio slider door. My phone vibrated harshly against the coffee table stone, breaking the ambient calm. "Your pizza has arrived Jayden," the phone announced, casting a cold, bluish-white light against my living room ceiling. For a moment I mindlessly stared at the faint luminous glow above me.

"Be right out," I said.

The phone acknowledged my response with a short blip. "Delivery vehicle notified." I rolled off my couch and shuffled toward the front door. Not a single light illuminated my house's interior save for two small under-the-microwave pilot lamps, for it was in the darkness that I took in a strange yet fortifying comfort during these newly borne days. After my four year relationship with Aeliana reached its inevitable conclusion several weeks ago, my spirit lingered in an unfamiliar, heady space located somewhere between the celebratory freedom invoked from a fresh start and the palpable melancholy that emerged from recalling familiar comforts, now lost to memory alone. I imagined that I would find my way just as everyone does when such things happen.

But for now, I have to eat.

I walked outside, elaborately donned in sock-feet and pajama bottoms, the empirical attire of suburban bachelors everywhere. After all, would anybody care what I'm wearing? The automated car certainly wouldn't. I rounded the delivery car's front bumper, lights on, idling in absolute silence. It looked to be one of those old Chevy Volts from the middle twenty-tens, blacked out and de-badged, retrofitted with a high capacity battery and re-purposed for driver-less metro deliveries.


Monday, September 10, 2018

What Tomorrow Brings by Charles Tabb

Jenny waits for her boyfriend at her favourite restaurant, and she does not expect what tomorrow will bring; by Charles Tabb.

Jenny Fremont sat alone at the small table in Mama Guali's, her favorite restaurant. She and Bob had discovered the small Italian diner one night when a sudden rain storm had forced them to find refuge. Now here she sat once again, waiting for Bob.

While she waited she thought of how she had fallen in love with the simple ambiance of Mama Guali's the moment they had dashed in from the cloudburst. Tables with just enough space between them to prevent crowding while promoting coziness dotted the dining area like small islands. Each was draped with red and white tablecloths in a cliché checkerboard pattern, while wooden chairs gathered around the tables, keeping them company until someone sat down to join the party. Colorful, net-wrapped globes of glass on each table held a lit candle and squatted beside a drinking glass offering stale bread sticks. Aromas of tomato, basil, oregano, and garlic melted from the kitchen into the dining area, making mouths water. Yes, simply being here made her smile.

Friday, September 7, 2018

Soulmates by Roger Ley

Martin, who never quite fitted into the gender binary, finally finds a woman who understands him; by Roger Ley.

Martin had never been comfortable in his masculinity. As a child he hadn't enjoyed rough and tumble, camping, climbing trees, making campfires. His mother described him as 'gentle,' his father rustled his newspaper and tried to ignore him. The other boys derided him and occasionally beat him up. He was an easy target, being of medium height and light build. As he grew into his teens, he suffered the taunts of the football oafs, the noisy muscle heads. He found it easier to spend most of his time alone in his bedroom. Thank God for the internet. He was still interested in girls but for different reasons. It was their makeup, their hairstyles, their nail polish, their clothes, their perfumes, it was all so self-indulgent, so narcissistic. It fascinated him.

Things were easier at university. Staff and fellow students were more polite. Everybody tried hard to be PC, more tolerant of sexual preferences.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Metaphysics 101 by Mark Joseph Kevlock

Dottie falls in love with a man more concerned with philosophy than reality; by Mark Joseph Kevlock.

"I wish you'd stop asking questions that take up the whole class," Dottie said.

She and Humbert were walking together.

"I know. But I can't help it. This is stuff I just need to understand."

Dottie thought about taking his hand. But that could lead to a lot of things.

"I'll try not to do it today," Humbert promised.

Moments later, Professor Carlsbad called on him in class. "Yes, Humbert?"

"What is the true first step, then, to begin us all upon this worldwide shift in consciousness?"

Dottie sighed and sat back in her seat.

Professor Carlsbad took his usual grip upon the edges of the lectern. That meant he was in it for the long haul.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Kensington Street by Robert Boucheron

Robert Boucheron's character starts work at an architecture firm in 1970s Connecticut, and learns on the job.

Ray Constantine is a burly, middle-aged man who used to be a remodeling contractor. After a heart attack, his doctor told him to ease up, eat less, and stop smoking. Now he runs Fair Haven Housing, a nonprofit agency, and chews on an unlit cigar all day.

On a Monday morning in June, Ray teaches Zach and me how to measure existing space using the office, an old house. We are graduate students at the Yale School of Architecture, and this is a summer job, our first day. Ray looks at our sketches.

"Use the one with fewer smudges," he says.

That is mine. I hold one end of a steel tape measure and write dimensions on a rough plan, while Zach holds the other end and calls them out. Zach is at the smart end, Ray says. We discover that I misjudged the thickness of walls, made the stair too small, and missed some closets. I erase and redraw. When we complete the first floor, I hand the sketch to Zach.

"Did we leave anything out?"

Zach stares at the paper, crowded with numbers, notes, and arrows. "Beats me."

Monday, August 27, 2018

Ten Seconds by Megan Prevost

Lyle undergoes a dangerous initiation to become friends with Noah and Ethan; by Megan Prevost.

"I knew you were a wimp, but damn, it's just water," Ethan said. He stood with his arms crossed, a few feet from the hole in the ice. Ethan had driven the three of them out onto the frozen lake. Noah and Lyle had watched while he cut through the ice. He created a hole big enough for a person to fit through.

The wind bit at their faces, it was almost midnight and the temperature crept below zero. The three stood to the side of the lake where the ice was the thickest. The only light came from Ethan's headlights.

Lyle cowered away from the freshly carved hole. "How cold do you think it'll be?" Lyle said. He inched closer and peered into the water below.

"Pretty cold," Noah put his hand on Lyle's shoulder. "But it's safe, we've all done it. Just ten seconds and then you can get out. It's not that bad."

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Dead and the Restless by Paul Lubaczewski

Peggy befriends a local voodoo practitioner while volunteering on a renewable energy project in disaster-scarred Haiti, but there are people who do not want her there; by Paul Lubaczewski.

Dear god, it was hot. This was nothing in the way of a surprise, though, Haiti was always hot, just like the Arctic was always cold. It was always hot, and steamy, and often miserable without air conditioning or a ton of fans. So why was she here? It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but then again MANY things seemed like a good idea at the time, hell was probably full of people who said that. "It'll count towards your degree!" "You'll be doing good for a community!" OK, and maybe the treacherous honest thought, "Free all expenses paid trip to the Caribbean!" might have been in there somewhere. Peggy had thought she knew hot, she went to Cal San Diego for Pete's sake. She had now discovered, though, the phrase, "But it's a dry heat," was not just a phrase but a steaming hot reality.

Why SHE was here, though, was that Haiti was viewed by many in the Green Revolution as the ultimate opportunity, born of the most terrible of tragedies. Due to natural disaster after natural disaster, the energy infrastructure had been reduced to almost nil, this provided a chance to start from scratch. Enter David, and his company, Green Sun Rising, a solar energy firm. David was a Cal grad and a former Prof who had left to form the company. Now, he used the connections he had with the college to get undergrads to use for labor. What a beautiful sales pitch, doing good, free travel, learning by doing, the exact sort of thing that might appeal to you if you were naive as all hell, and sitting around an off-campus apartment a few credits short for the year. Especially if there had been a lot of those "Feed The World For Pennies A Day" commercials running that week.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Brigid's Fire by David W. Landrum

Musician Mathias Berends meets an Irish goddess, but her sister is determined to keep them apart; by David W. Landrum.

Brigid told Mathias she had come from Ireland as an exchange student. She said she liked the sequence of songs about fire he often did when he performed.

"How did you decide to do something like that?" she asked.

He smiled. "I got the idea from something I saw on TV once. I laughed and laughed. It gave me the idea for a new routine."

"People seem to like it."

He loved her Irish brogue, pretty face, and marvelous legs.

"They seem to," he answered, I've gotten a lot of good gigs since I started doing it. But enough about my musical career. What are you studying over here?"

"Mythology. I'm doing a degree in comparative literature with emphasis on Celtic story and how it relates to myth."

"What's your favorite Celtic story?"

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Threat by Beryl Ensor-Smith

In the sleepy South African dorp of Prentburg, the Church Sisters face a mutiny by a group of younger local women; by Beryl Ensor-Smith.

The Sisters of the Church were surprised to receive an urgent call to an Extraordinary General Meeting. While some grumbled at the disruption of other plans, curiosity ensured a full turnout and they fixed their eyes on the chairwoman, Helga Swanepoel, as she walked to the podium. She shuffled papers, put on her spectacles and stared back solemnly before declaring: "Sisters, we are in danger of being ousted!"

Once the hubbub had died down, she explained further.

"There is a group of younger women in our church who have been voicing the opinion that the sisterhood is, to quote the ringleader, 'An ageing bunch of dithering has-beens who should retire and let a younger generation with fresh ideas introduce the changes needed to meet the challenges of a new age!'"

This time there was no quelling the storm of outraged protest that resulted.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Judgments by Gary Beck

Two corrupt cops interrogate an old man in the wild desert of the Great Divide Basin, about the legends of a local troublemaker; by Gary Beck.

The minute they walked into the store I knew they were cops, but not locals. Some kind of state boys come up from Cheyenne by the look of them. I started for the bathroom to avoid them, but the meaner looking one, in a blue suit that looked like he found it in a thrift shop, called me.

"Just a minute, sir. We'd like to talk to you."

I turned to my assistant, Bobby Runs-with-Elks.

"Why don't you help these gentlemen, Bobby."

"We need to speak to you, sir," the oilier looking man said, taking off his sunglasses, revealing black eyes as soulless as lumps of coal.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Divine Guidance by Gary Ives

When Mexican teenager Tomás is struck blind, he must find a new way to help support his family; by Gary Ives.

My blindness came rapidly. Our house, like all the houses in our village, lays under a high conical roof of reed thatch and tessellated palm fronds. Tree rats nest between the thatch and the palm. Other than occasional nighttime squeals the rats are not a bother. The year I turned fifteen, a strange kind of insect moved into the thatch. Tiny black specks fell from these little bugs in the night. Only later did we learn that the little black specks from these thatch bugs could cause blindness should they fall into the eyes.

Each spring my family travelled north in big stake trucks with several other families to work the fields of the gringos, picking lettuce in Arizona, then to California for tomatoes, moving north to the peach, apricot, and prune orchards. Since I can remember, with my family I had worked these fields and orchards, proud to contribute to my family's security. Sometimes families continued further north to harvest apples in September and October, returning late in the year to our little village tired but rich. I loved those summers working in the north. Sure, the work was very hard, but evenings and Sundays in our encampments were so enjoyable. The children played games while the adults smoked and told stories. Too there was gringo television in some of the camps. By the time I was twelve years old I could speak English which I had learned largely from the gringo television and road signs. I am very strong, and my father was proud of my work. Somedays I earned more than three, even four days' wages for a man in Mexico. This all for my family. Our jefe was Don Francisco. It was in his trucks we traveled, and it was he who negotiated the contracts with the gringo rancheros. Don Francisco, a very large jolly man, was much respected for his fairness. Other jefes cheated their workers. When my father reported to him that I had suffered this blindness Don Francisco said I would not be permitted to accompany the rest of my family. My father argued that even though blind I could pick tomatoes by feel and use of a tether. But Don Francisco was firm in his denial. My father told me to trust in God and stay strong. "You will be in our prayers every day, my son. You must realize that even though this blindness has come, God will show you a way if you trust in Him."

Monday, August 6, 2018

The Killer by Ronald Schulte

Ethan's career is paralysed because of his fear of public speaking, until he finds an app that claims to change your personality; by Ronald Schulte.

My mind was completely blank.

I glanced around the conference room, frantically trying to remember the words I had prepared. The silence stretched into awkwardness. I was acutely aware of the changing facial expressions of my audience. Many looked away as I struggled. Some nodded encouragingly, trying to will me back on course.

Finally, the hiring manager tried to jump to my rescue.

"Ethan? Why don't tell everyone a little about yourself?"

It took me a second to focus on the manager, whose name I couldn't even remember. My mind was a black sludge. This whole thing was a mistake; I didn't belong here.

"I'm sorry," was all I managed to croak out.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Turtle Bay by Henry Hitz

When his marriage fails, a man returns to his parents' house and retreats into his shell - literally. This story by Henry Hitz first appeared in Magnolia Review.

The collapse of your second marriage has left you feeling numb, wandering around in a fog, unable to think, or feel, or do much of anything. You left her, so you don't really have a place to stay. You impose upon your friend Matt for a while, but it's clear you are in the way of his complicated marriage. You decide to leave the Bay Area and head back east.

You collect some supplies and hole up inside your Toyota camper, hauling your camper shell on your back, complete with bed, refrigerator, stove, stereo, library. You wear nothing but turtleneck sweaters even though it's summer, you drive, slowly - very slowly, out of California, across the country, stopping only every other day or so when the white line begins to blur, camping by the side of the road, all the way to Pike Lake, your ancestral home in exurban Wisconsin.

You allow yourself two months to recuperate before you will have to return to your job as a writer for an environmental magazine. After a brief tour of the place to find your old haunts: the boathouse, your shack of a hideout, your dank mad-scientist laboratory in the basement, you hibernate in your old room, your childhood room, with walls and ceiling of manly knotty pine.