Friday, November 30, 2018

One Time in Brooklyn by James Kowalczyk

James Kowalczyk tells a short tale of three junkies in an apartment room in Brooklyn.

Susie Spotless, the old hag from 5B, used to throw buckets of water on the sidewalk in front of the apartment building twice a day, 365 days a year. Hence the name.

"Why don't you watch where you're going!" she'd yell at anyone who happen to get splashed as they passed by. There was no stopping Susie.

As far as anyone in the neighborhood remembered, she'd always lived alone. Her fibrous outgrowth hair was perennially in rollers and she wore the same stained house dress with frayed slippers that showed her crusty overlapping toes. She was never seen outside except for when she did the water. It was rumored she ate cat food that she'd bought at the 24 hour bodega across the street in the wee hours of the morning.

Susie Spotless ultimately brought down the Blue Room.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Two Hearts by Robert Boucheron

John and Rebecca are teenagers in love, but it it too soon to make a lifelong commitment? By Robert Boucheron.

John Shakewell was a slender young man of seventeen with flat brown hair and a will of iron. As a boy, he once built a treehouse using a carpenter's level, a plumb line, and pulleys to raise the scrap wood. The completed structure had a shingle roof, a carpet remnant on the plywood floor, a window you could open, and a door you could lock. The tree fell in a storm, and the treehouse was long gone, but he still had the key to the door on his keyring.

Rebecca Flibbert was the same age as John. She too had brown hair without a hint of wave. She wore it long, with bangs. Good manners masked a quiet determination. To do what?

John and Becky looked enough alike to be mistaken for brother and sister. They both sang in the Hapsburg High School chorus. They performed a duet in the Fall Follies, a Broadway show tune they memorized and rehearsed with Ms. Metzger on piano. The music teacher drilled them in simple dance moves. Becky performed with energy and style, but John was stiff.

Friday, November 23, 2018

The "D" Word by Jennifer Otte

Ayla and John watch their parents argue through soundproof glass doors; by Jennifer Otte.

Ayla paced the length of the bed closest to the door. Her tiny fingers pulled at a strand of hair that had come loose from her pony tail. She came to an abrupt stop and turned toward the other bed where her brother was stretched out. "Do you think it's the 'D' word?" Ayla asked.

John sat up and turned his attention from his sister to the patio outside of the hotel room. Their parents were sitting across from each other at a small table covered by an umbrella. He shook his head before addressing his sister. "And just what would you know about that?" John asked.

Ayla quickly moved to the bed her brother was on and flopped down beside him. Her attention drifted to her parents but quickly returned to John. "I know a lot. Cindy's parents got one and it's made everything worse for Cindy. She barely sees her father, and her mother spends all her time going out on dates so she never has time for Cindy anymore," Ayla said.

Monday, November 19, 2018

The Beauty of Horses by Rick Joy

The horses outside Zack's home start to behave oddly, as if coordinated by a sinister intelligence; by Rick Joy.

Just hours before Zack's mind was stolen, horses standing on the nearby ridge were backlit by the setting sun, surrounding each with a warm, slightly fuzzy glow. Zack paused from his daily walk with Roxie, his chocolate lab, to soak up the vision.

The leaves on the trees were astounding, with sun-bright yellows giving way to heart-warming oranges and lush, dark reds, all contrasted with a polka dot spray of still-green leaves. And the fall smells, crisp and earthy, made the walk that much better. It was Friday, the work week done, temperature cool but not cold. This was a good walk.

Zack and Roxie lived alone now that Sheila was gone, so Zack tried to take Roxie out every day after he got home. Partly from a sense of guilt for leaving her home and partly because the walks were calming after a stressful workday. For a while after Sheila left, Roxie wouldn't even greet Zack when he came home. She would just lounge on Zack's bed waiting to hear food being poured into her bowl. Zack assumed that Roxie blamed him for Sheila's absence. He still didn't completely admit what happened between them, although it was obvious. Long hours and then coming home with a headful of work left little time or energy for their relationship. Sheila wanted and deserved more.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Keeping Company by Rudy Eiland

Rudy Eiland tells the story of three lonely characters: Ainsley and Amica, who rely on each other for company, and Amica's slow-witted brother Felix, who relies on his own inner world.

The conversation had been hesitant and labored at first. It took the quiet passing of several houses before Felix started speaking more easily, talking now to Ainsley and not simply to himself. Each domestic facade peered coldly down on them both, Ainsley felt. He asked Felix a few questions until he hit upon something Felix was interested in, the fence in the backyard, and then the man talked more easily. As usual, Felix had kept to himself at first, even with his brother-in-law, until the other had waded a little ways into his world.

Despite the prediction of snow in a few hours, they had set off at a steady gait through the badly lit streets and the sidewalks covered with yellowed grass. It was only October, but something in the air foretold Christmas, a distant elation hanging there, the happiness of someone somewhere. Someone else's happiness. It was a long walk to his mother's, and so far Felix had remained sufficiently well behaved. The drizzle of sleet that came up every now and then was like somebody waking from a doze and drifting back off.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Gunslinger by DL Shirey

DL Shirey's character wakes up in a storeroom, confused and almost certainly in some kind of trouble.

I flinch awake. My shoulder blade sears, the afterburn from a dream. Everything but the pain evaporates, leaving half-remembered threads: a horse thief, face pressed in dirt, a boot on the back of his neck. My neck. Arm wrenched up an instant before feeling the red heat of metal; a branding iron hissing skin.

The dream is displaced by another unreality: I don't know where I am. There's a trail of ants on a bedside table converging on an ashtray and a half-sucked peppermint. Alongside it an empty J├Ąger bottle, a lighter and pack of smokes. The first inhale tells me this isn't my brand. When I kick away the ratty blanket and curl my legs off the bed, the floor comes too quickly. The mattress and box spring have no frame beneath them. Between knees I see my nakedness, cement floor and a spent condom.

I stretch and my shoulder blazes again. In reflex I grab the spot and pain compounds when I touch the braille of welts. The jolt clears fog from my eyes but where I am has no associated recall: cardboard boxes stacked five-feet high, makeshift privacy for the bed. No windows, a double row of fluorescent lights hangs from the ceiling, half on. A sick bleach of color coats the flickering walls of a storeroom. It looks like my mouth tastes.

Friday, November 9, 2018

On the Water's Edge by Kat Devitt

Frederick spends his life running, callous to who leaves behind, until he finds himself confronted by a divine mystery in Kat Devitt's mythic tale.

Frederick Wilde started running the moment his feet sprouted from his mother's womb. He kicked and flailed coming from her watery depths, because he already knew he had a father to escape. An angel engraved it onto his soul before sending him into her belly, because three days after his birth, his mother would die.

Never mind he was made from the same flesh as his mother. Never mind his father's blood ran through his veins. Frederick gave her difficulty coming into this world, ripping her open. When she heaved her final breath, he had become a murderer to his father; a crying infant, swaddled in snowy white blankets.

But he'd done his mother a kindness by helping her bleed out.

Monday, November 5, 2018

The Brawl at Mac and Stan's by Howard Vogl

Howard Vogl's character reflects on his childhood in 1950s Buffalo, hanging out with his dad in Mac and Stan's Bar.

I decided to stop in Buffalo on the way home from a business trip. It's hard to explain the attraction of the old city to someone who wasn't born there, but for me it's real. The house on the street where I used to live was still there, although now it's only a cheap rental. On the corner was an empty lot where Mac and Stan's Bar used to be. That was the real reason I stopped.

Mac and Stan's was a typical corner bar from the Fifties. Neon signs hung in smoke stained windows leading to a long straight bar and the backroom. The mirror behind the bar doubled the number of whiskey bottles on the ledges in front, and tacked to the wall was a display of Blind Robin smoked herring that I never saw anyone eat.

Mac and Stan's was my dad's hangout. An easy one at that, since it was only three doors down from our house. Dad would spend a few hours there on a Saturday afternoon and on most Saturdays he'd drag me along. He'd have a few short beers with a shot of Corby's, and I'd have a root beer or two while playing around with the pinball machine in back. During the week, when Dad was working, the bar still figured into my life. After running around the block a few times, I could stop in for a glass of water. Pretty good for a five year old.

Friday, November 2, 2018

When We Go by Damien Krsteski

Serco and his girlfriend Dora plan to emigrate, but Serco feels a duty to stay for the sake of his mother and brother; by Damien Krsteski.

When I go, I want to go like a rocket.

Leaving the world at breakneck speed, upright, arms like fins, legs trailing a column of smoke; and the dusk sky, a postcard ripped in two by my passing.

And then, no explosion. But a winking out as space swallows me whole and the earliest star outshines me.

And then -

Wind blowing the smoke away; people scattering, going home to cry at photos that end up packed away into shoe boxes, shoved under beds to gather dust. People moving on.

People forgetting.


"Pepperoni?" she asked Serco, holding up the box.

"Grab two."

Dora rummaged through the refrigerator. "There's just the one." Shrugging, "They got broccoli."

"Broccoli's fine."

She dumped the pizzas into the cart, and Serco steered it sluggishly toward the register, the cart's wheels squealing on the supermarket's freshly-mopped tiles. Closing time.