Gorilla vs Dogs
By David M. Rubin
“Yooo! All dirty mongrels and mangy curs to the basement!”
That’s what I call them cause they’re actually dogs.
“You know I mean business, so get off your asses and be ready. I’m coming for you all whether you’re sitting or doing that submissive thing on your backs with your paws up.”
They should know by now this game is called Gorilla vs Dogs. I show up in the basement with a gorilla mask on and race around the empty carpeted floor swinging my arms. Most seem to forget the rules, but they re-learn real fast when the gorilla singles them out for attack.
“You know about my advanced status! Even as a big ape, I’m millions of years more advanced than even the smartest of you pretend professors, and I don’t give a toot if Phoenix the poodle knows 67 words.”
The toughest mad dogs go wild, chomping at my arms and leaping at my back to try to knock me over and nibble off the mask. They’ve never unmasked me. Some scared ones run away from the chaos and the fear of my new-look gorilla and “ooh ooh eee eees.” Most can smell real good cause they’re dogs and know it’s me, so those ones are good at this game. I think the ones who trust their eyesight more than their noses love the dancing leprechaun game better, as I don’t need no mask, just dancing and an Irish accent.
The gorilla usually ends up winning and pins most of them two to three times each and raspberries their bellies. Thor hates getting raspberried and won’t come near me for a week after. Or one of ’em bites too hard on my gorilla forearm and I’m rolling around yelling and crying like, “Julius, why you have to bite so hard, man? Yo Caesar fuckhead, fuck man, that’s so fucked up.”
“Yooo, which one of you littler twerpy fidgets bit my Achilles and ruined my sock. It’s all bloody. That’s not cool. Everyone out! Treats by the back!”
I limp up the unpainted wooden stairs. The no-holds-barred, no-mannered scrum of wild snarling nipping chaotic lunatics races past me with no rhyme or reason other than first dog wins. They don’t figure out ever about what Uncle Alex called “rate limiting steps,” like they could step slower cause nobody is getting a freaking treat till everybody is up and seated. Half of ’em sit real good by the back door without having to be told, and those smart ones have to wait for the other numbskulls and ne’er-do-wells to remember to sit. Me and Winky Do—I think she is like an alpha dog maybe—don’t think chaos and excitement and adrenaline is an excuse not to sit for a treat.
“Yooo sit, Senators!” I say with my God of the Treats voice.
By this point, only Awnry Willie don’t care enough to sit so he gets left out of treats. He just shrugs like if a dog could shrug. He ain’t so food motivated as they say. I flash him a middle finger, but mostly my face says, “Respect!” He nods.
“Listen up, Ladies and Gentlemen! Walk to the pond—and no leashes! Comport thyselves with some modicum of dignity! Dexter, you run off or put so much as one paw in the swampy part and I will really be pissed—you will hear some big human yelling then. When we get back, head to the basement as I am putting on the Lucha libre mask.”
Brown Bear, Brown Bear
By Lauren Voeltz
The grizzly bear loves going to the Old City Park with my family. The park resembles a war fortress, with three tall cement stones overlooking a lake. The bear hid in our trunk, and barreled out when we parked.
My husband and our four-year-old daughter climb the rocks, while I drink coffee in the car. My older daughter’s sitting in the grass playing Pokémon Go. With the door slightly ajar, my feet are up on the dash. I’m trying to relax.
The grizzly watches my youngest daughter. He’s drooling. He snarls. His pungent fish breath seeps over. My youngest daughter goes higher. She’s fifteen feet in the air. Her dad helps her. but I don’t know if he’s close enough. Can he catch her if she slips?
Her pink tennis shoes carelessly dangle over the edge, and–what if she leans the wrong way, coughs, sneezes from the sunlight, falls, dies? The grizzly grasps my neck. His nails dig in, and I gasp for air.
I stare up at the maple leaves fluttering above the windshield; they barely hold on. Like my daughter on the edge of the rocks. I see only red then, more red and more red.
My oldest daughter grabs my attention. Mom, what’s wrong? She touches my shoulder.
Go. I squeeze the word out of my tight throat. She sprints to my husband, while I sit, paralyzed, the world like a slow montage.
He lifts our little girl, placing her back on the ground. She grumbles, of course. The grizzly eases off me, but my skin still burns from his claws. He skips to the woods, sidling in between the shedding maple trees.
My husband hands me a tissue. It’s okay, he says. She was safe. You know that, right? His voice is buttery soft.
I hate myself for ruining my family’s outing. Hate that I feel this way at all.
On the drive home, the grizzly scrapes the leather with his sharp claws. I try to remember when he showed up.
Did the grizzly arrive when my husband was deployed? Or maybe his mama dropped him off when my son snuck off to the neighbor’s pool, and nearly drowned. Did the bear make a cave under the porch when I scooped up my niece before she toppled into a fire?
Tonight, the brown bear paces outside my room, whispering: sickness, heartbreak, falling, kidnapped, bullies, cuts, bruises, death, over and over.
But tomorrow …
Tomorrow the grizzly will sleep in. (It’s a Saturday thing.) He’ll plunk on the couch with me like an old friend, begging me to scratch his ears, and rub his belly. We’ll watch cartoons with the family. I’ll feel like it’s okay to have him around, and that I’m more prepared, more experienced than ever before. After all–I’ve kept everyone safe another day. I’ve kept it together.
He’ll run a hand over my matted hair and tell me I’m pretty.
By Tim Frank
Every morning Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein would fry eggs and toast bread while listening to country music in the flat above me.
They were bundled into my building in the Bronx by half a dozen CIA agents in the summer of 2010. Their heads were covered with burlap sacks, and they hollered and screamed as they tried to wrestle themselves free.
No one seemed to notice.
Our paths crossed for the first time in the laundry room as they were doing a cold wash for their delicates. Bin Laden grumbled about having to separate the whites from the colours while he reclined on a bench and gazed at the ceiling. Hussein said he wondered who decided which face was printed on the Dollar bill. Bin Laden said it didn’t matter, it was all a racket.
They seemed quite bored really.
As autumn approached, I heard the two men again on the upstairs landing playing cards, discussing their futile dreams of destroying the West, how they’d failed their families and followers worldwide.
I told my friends about my new neighbours over dinner. After a ripple of uncomfortable laughter, a friend drew me aside and told me in no uncertain terms that my mind had become unhinged after my husband, Paul, had died in 9/11. She said, “Why on earth would these global terrorists be placed here in this building? And why now?”
She reminded me how I had once said George W. Bush delivered a pepperoni pizza to my door, and how Colin Powell flew circles around the Statue of Liberty in a B-52 bomber.
“It might all seem crazy and I don’t expect you to understand,” I told her. “But I know I’m right.”
Just as my friends were preparing to go home, the deafening melody of The Star-Spangled Banner erupted from the flat above and I heard bin Laden and Hussein wailing along to the anthem, sounding like hungry babies.
My friends, feeling woozy and adventurous, sidled up the stairs to the top floor. On the landing were two men guarding my neighbours’ door, standing erect, wearing Aviator shades and earpieces. My friends panicked and tripped back down the stairs, piling into my flat, collapsing onto my couch in hysterics.
Finally, everyone settled down, sobering up as a cool breeze fanned in from the kitchen window. The national anthem from above suddenly ceased and an eerie, dreamlike silence cloaked the living room. Cutting through the mood, one of my friends seized hold of my shoulders and stared fixedly into my eyes. She said, “We’re going to find you a man. You’re going to be happy again—as loved-up as a frisky teenager and all that wonderful shit, okay?”
I teared up as I thought of Paul, his devotion to me and his brutal death. I could never shake him from my mind, neither did I want to.
My friend continued, “Listen, what you’ve got to get into your thick skull is that Paul is dead, gone, kaput, and so are your friends Saddam and Osama. Everyone knows they were executed years ago. Now snap out of it.”
After my friends had swarmed back into the night, I heard footsteps padding around upstairs. I could tell Saddam and Osama were watching the game as it quietly murmured in the background, and I felt strangely calm knowing they were there.
The next day I caught sight of bin Laden and Hussein chatting on the outside balcony, smoking menthol cigarettes and eating chocolate cake.
Bin Laden was wearing a powder blue Adidas tracksuit and had John Lennon style glasses, and Saddam was in his boxer shorts and threadbare slippers.
“I like American daytime TV,” said Osama, “I don’t care what anyone says about it.”
“All I ask is that you do your chores,” replied Saddam, “then you can watch as much propaganda as you like.”
“You’re so grumpy. I always thought you’d be crazy, but you’re very sane—just incredibly bad-tempered.”
“I need to get out of here,” sighed Saddam. “And away from you. Something’s got to give.”
Weeks passed by, I would hear movement from above—the odd sound of drilling, some tuneless Arabic chanting, but overall, I became less and less aware of my neighbours’ presence.
Then one morning, as drizzle slicked the deserted streets, a group of burly men in tight-fitting suits guided Saddam and Osama down my building’s front steps and forced them into a minivan. It was definitely them, though they were thinner than before, clean shaven and both wore I Love New York baseball hats.
They didn’t protest at all, just remained in their seats waiting for orders, watching the raindrops snake down the van’s windshield. An agent passed bin Laden a piece of beef jerkey and the terrorist leader chewed away with a look of satisfaction. Then the van drove away quietly.
I never heard anything about them again, not on the news or even on underground conspiracy websites, but nevertheless I knew the truth.
I’ll always remember them to be good neighbours, discreet and considerate in the main—certainly not troublemakers like one might expect. Maybe they just had been beaten down one too many times. I knew the feeling.
By Sai Shriram
I bury him under the tamarind tree, far from home. Far enough, anyway.
She’s still asleep. I scrub the blood off my hands and for a long time, I watch it spiral away.
I step into the shower and think.
I stuff my clothes into the garbage bag. I walk into his room and sigh. I’ve come this far. The rest is easy. I roll up the belt and push it into the bag.
Outside, I watch our clothes burn. I’m tired. Not long now. I look at her one last time and quietly leave.
I don’t fight it. I tell them everything. The moment they get me alone in a room, I tell them how I strangled him in his sleep and how he struggled and how I broke his neck. I never was a father to him. She makes sure to tell them about the drinking.
The cut-up body. The belt. The clothes. I point them in all the right directions.
I cry. I tell her I didn’t mean to. I tell her things got out of hand.
She punches me, spits in my face and screams. You bastard, I’ll kill you!
Before I go, I’ll tell you what I didn’t tell her. You’ve come this far. You deserve the truth.
I woke up early. The first thing I saw were his feet, five feet in the air. The belt around his neck, his face bloated and blue. And right there, I knew. After this, she would need someone to hate.
Just before the world goes black, I spot her in the crowd, her face filled with tears and rage. I feel the rope around my neck. Nearby, someone pulls a lever.
Act One, Scene Five
By Rajiv Moté
The high school auditorium is Verona, the stage is Capulet manor, and I’m a Korean-American Romeo, dragged to this party by my friends to get over unrequited love. Today we’re rehearsing Act One, Scene Five. Romeo and Juliet’s first kiss. Memorizing lines is easy. Mr. Fortney says acting happens between the lines. It comes from inside.
In this scene, Romeo is moping over a girl named Rosaline. I get into character by digging deep into unrequited love. Marianne Kim goes to another school, but our moms know each other from church. She’s Korean too. We played together as kids. There aren’t many Koreans in this town, so I thought we were on a path. But like Romeo’s Rosaline, she hath forsworn to love. To love me, anyway. So be it. The “girlfriend who goes to another school” is a cliché nobody believes. Romeo and I took it for granted that we had a chance. So now we’re bold, having nothing to lose. We’re in the reckless mood to make a mess of the night.
Before rehearsal Mr. Fortney asked me and Lori, our Juliet, how far we wanted to go. An air kiss? On the cheek? Lori declared that we’re actors. Her glance to me made it a question. We don’t need to hold back?
So let’s go for it, Lori. I say my lines through the swagger of Romeo-the-player.
“If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle sin is this:”
I take Lori’s hand. Juliet’s. Pale skin against my brown. Maybe in a bigger town this wouldn’t feel transgressive. Sure, plenty of Korean girls end up with white guys, but the reverse… You just don’t see it. A Capulet hand in a Montague’s. Romeo is playing recklessly, hurling himself off a cliff in the boldness of his heartbreak, but there’s hope, too. Something he never dared dream. Why not?
“My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”
Pure bravado. Seduce her with the trappings of the church she loves. It’s borderline blasphemous. And it would be, with Rosaline. Even with Marianne. But with this Capulet he just met? Why not play the rake? It’s a mask. It’s acting. Romeo has nothing to lose.
Lori presses her palm to mine and studies the contrast, light on dark. Her touch is soft, warm. Feminine. This is the motivation of a million stories. She delivers her lines, and when she says “holy palmers’ kiss” she tilts her head, looks up at me. She’s playing too. But this is not Romeo’s desperate abandon, and Juliet is no holy Rosaline. Juliet is curious. She wants to see where this will go.
“Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?”
Juliet encourages Romeo’s swagger. Suddenly, there are stakes. The game is afoot, and she wants to play. With me. With Romeo. Rosaline? Who’s she? There’s only Juliet. The sun in the east.
“O, then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.”
She considers this, and says her lines. Juliet doesn’t say yes, but she doesn’t say no. We don’t need to hold back, Lori said, and then our director told us what this kiss should be. Not a consummation of passion. Not yet. Just a question Romeo asks Juliet. The kiss lasts only as long as it takes to ask the question: “Yes?”
“Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.”
Lori is still, like a statue of a saint. But her lips accept mine, our only point of contact, and in my mind I ask “Yes?” We’re acting. But it’s my first kiss. Is it Romeo’s? Does it matter? What’s experience beside True Love? Romeo falls so fast. In some vague periphery around us, the rest of the cast hoots.
“Thus from my lips, by thine, my sin is purged.”
Mr. Fortney explained that now Juliet will answer Romeo’s unspoken question. Lori pouts, looks up at me with her blue eyes. Or are they green? The colors shift in the light. She complains that I’ve left my sin on her lips, and a gentleman would take it back. Juliet’s answer, clever and coy, is: “Again.”
“Sin from my lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.”
Lori returns the kiss. Soft. Warm. Feminine. I can’t explain the difference between giving a kiss and getting one, but I feel it. My heart is racing. I wonder if she feels it too.
We break apart. Romeo and Juliet learn each other’s identities from the supporting cast. We close the scene and bow to the nearly empty auditorium. Mr. Fortney claps, along with the scattered others in the audience.
Lori throws her arms around me. “That was amazing!” she says, our hearts pounding against each other. Then she takes my hand and pulls me down the steps, to the seats. “I want you to meet my boyfriend Kevin.”
Kevin is sitting in the front row. White, blond, with a lettered jacket. I’ve gone from one teen drama to another. “You were great,” Kevin says, slapping my shoulder. “Do I have to worry?” He laughs to show he’s joking.
“Lori, does Kevin have to worry?” Ha! Joking!
Lori rolls her eyes. “Come on, guys. Sanjin is a gifted actor.”
“It’s all you,” I say. Acting. I turn to Kevin and wink, playing the rake. “Don’t worry, I only date Koreans.” All the world’s a goddamn stage. “My girlfriend goes to another school.”
My Whole Life
By Elizabeth Kerlikowske
My whole life waits outside the back door. Of course it would use the back door; it knows me.
It’s much bigger than I remember with so much bling: Go-go boots, pianos, nametags, Billy Bass. I ask my whole life what it wants, but it tromps in silently and sits everywhere. All the furniture looks familiar and my whole life gets verklempt.
I wonder how it found me by itself. Is my whole life really that clever?
I offer it coffee, but it wants some of everything, which I decant into a tumbler. Glug glug glug. My whole life laughs suddenly then cries, fidgets and keeps changing chairs. “Where would you be more comfortable?” I ask patiently, which is rare.
Suddenly my whole life is wearing our loose red swimming suit from age 11, spilling out of the arm and leg holes. We were light then, unburned, where my whole life got to learn its gills and plunge and wither.
Back from the lake, my whole life sighs in our prom dress. The door blows open. Migration of colors in the alley.
This is our longest visit. My whole life is always rushing away but today sticks around a little longer. I make it a snack for the road, for its tremendous hunger. Who knows when it will visit again or where it’s headed.
We come close to touching, my whole life and I, but we don’t. One of us might disappear.
By Ernesto B. Reyes
Marie was in bed, steadily breathing through an oxygen mask, her eyes half-closed. She had just finished telling the man who was cleaning her room, Jake, a story of when she met her husband. It was years ago, she said, ‘many years before you were born,’ and she went into how she and her husband met at a fundraiser in town and that both had just gotten out of relationships. It was her husband’s friend who noticed her first. ‘Could you imagine what the chances are?’ Marie says out loud. ‘My life would’ve been so different. But I’ll tell you: I wouldn’t change anything. Not a single thing. Joseph, the love of my life.’ She pauses. ‘It seems chilly out. Could you tell him to come back inside when he’s finished with the outdoors? Joseph, always the outdoorsman. I remember our first camping trip together, it was right before we married, and oh, well, let’s just say it was the last camping trip together.’
Jake laughs. ‘Of course. I’ll be sure to tell him.’
‘Thank you, darling. You’re quite kind.’
Jake smiled and went back to cleaning.
After a while, Marie turned her sights to the television: a coffee commercial was on with a father and his son, both inside of what appeared to be a wooden cabin; the father had blue eyes and a salt-and-pepper beard, sporting a red-and-black flannel, while the son was young and small, his eyes barely peeking through his hair. It was a warm commercial, Marie thought, and she began to think about her father, a man who didn’t look unlike the father in the commercial. She remembers being in the backyard and watching her father tend to their garden: him on his knees, hunched over under the bright sun, wearing the largest pair of brown leather gloves she had ever seen.
In her memory, he was planting chili peppers, his and Marie’s favorite. They were the hottest peppers around, she often told people. She liked them so much that Marie’s father gave her the name of Chili Pepper Marie, a name that embarrassed her at first in her youth, but after the years, she learned to accept it.
‘You know, I’m lucky to still have my father,’ Marie finally said. Jake, who was now sitting on a foldable chair across from her, munching on the corners of a ham and cheese sandwich, looked at her. ‘Oh, yes. I’d say I’m very lucky. I do wish I could see him more. I miss his garden. His chili peppers. Come to think of it, I’ll have to call them later this afternoon. I don’t want him worrying about me.’ Jake had stopped eating and was quiet. ‘You know what’s funny? That’s just the way my father would eat his sandwiches too. Nibbling on the corners of the sandwich. Ever since I can remember, I always had my mother trim off the edges. But my father always said that those were the best parts. How silly is that? I’ll have to save my edges next time I see him.’
Jake was still. He didn’t finish his sandwich.
After a while, he stood up. ‘Is there anything else you need, Marie?’
‘Oh, no. That’s fine. Thank you, darling. You’ve been more than enough help,’ she said. She then turned over, reaching for her purse. ‘Here. I know it isn’t much, but you could buy yourself a nice Coke with this,’ she said, handing Jake a silver half-dollar.
‘Oh no, that’s fine, Marie. I couldn’t do that.’
‘Oh no, no. I insist. It’s the least I can do. You’ve been such wonderful help these last couple of months. I don’t know what I’d do without you here.’
‘Thank you, Marie,’ says Jake, cupping the silver half-dollar in his palms.
‘Of course,’ she said. That’s when the sound of a thunderous leaf blower entered the room. ‘Oh, that must be Joseph, always doing something. The other morning, in fact, I heard him cutting off a tree branch. I swear, that man. Can’t stay in one spot for too long. I do hope he comes inside soon. He might catch a cold if he’s out for too long.’
Jake peeked through the window and saw that it was the next-door neighbor, a man close to his age, in his mid-40s. Jake turned to Marie and agreed: ‘I’ll tell Joseph to come inside soon. I’ll tell him you’re worried.’
Marie smiled, and she gave a gentle nod of her small head, but she didn’t respond. Once the sound of the leaf blower began to fade, her eyes fully closed. Jake continued to stand in his place for a moment longer.
The entire room was filled with flowers: resting on the edge of Marie’s bed was a bouquet of white and yellow lilies, and on her nightstand was a small vase of red roses, her favorite. On the walls were old black-and-white photographs of Marie when she was a child with her parents and of Marie and Joseph when they were young and newly married. Also on the wall were hand-drawn pictures put together by Marie’s children and grandchildren. Some days Marie recognized this room. Other days, she struggled.
After a while, Jake walked to the doorway. His chest felt tight.
Inside the dining room area was his wife, Kimberly, paying some bills. Jake placed the silver half-dollar on top of the table.
‘What’s this?’ she asked.
‘Something my mom gave me,’ said Jake. ‘Wants me to buy a Coke with it.’
‘Oh, my. That’s so cute,’ said Kimberly, holding the coin in her hands.
Jake agreed and smiled again as he sat beside his wife. After a while, he turned to the window, with everything and nothing on his mind, hearing the rumbling sound of the leaf blower in the cold distance.
By Sam Selvaggio
As a hospice nurse, I work overnight shifts, giving a family the chance to rest knowing someone is watching over their loved one. I rang the bell of the Savage house and was ushered into a neatly kept small living room. The room was eerily familiar to me as it resembled the living room of my childhood, plastic-covered couch and all.
Paulette brought me to see her father. He lay in bed sleeping after just receiving morphine for his pain.
“Sometimes he will ask for something to drink.” She pointed to a water pitcher on the nightstand. A few more directions and she excused herself to settle in for the night. She bent over and stroked her father’s face as tears rolled down her cheeks. Then, gave him a tender kiss and left us alone.
The old man awoke hours later and uttered one word, “Whiskey.” I was overcome with emotions and flooded with memories of my father screaming the same command, demanding I bring him some whiskey. I tried giving my patient some water, but he refused it. “I need my whiskey.”
He repeated the request, and, at that moment, my humanity slipped from me. I hated my father to the very end of his life for the suffering he put me through, and I hated Paulette for being able to love her father when I couldn’t love mine. I gave him some morphine instead so he would sleep.
In the morning, Paulette returned as I prepared to leave. The old man opened his eyes and looked to his daughter, pleading, “Whiskey.” She opened the door and whistled. A black Labrador loped into the room and plopped himself on the bed, nuzzling his head next to his master.
“Good boy, Whiskey.”
HOCKEY NIGHT, 1953
By Debra Bennett
It was Hockey Night and the men were in the living room. There was a faint rumbling sound of the announcer’s voice, a whistle sometimes. But the loudest noise came from the men in there, stomping, groaning, whooping, as they watched the TV.
In the kitchen, three women sat on chairs around a table. In front of each was a teacup on a saucer and a small plate. One of the women held a sleeping toddler in her arms. At the side of another, a small girl sat on her chair. The little girl wore a pink patterned dress, its collar edged with lace. On her legs were white socks that drooped. Her hair was pulled back into a ponytail. On each side of it was a pink barrette, shaped like a bow. She was licking her forefinger and using it to pick up the last of the cookie crumbs from the plate on her lap.
“Don’t do that, Sarah,” her mother said sharply. “It’s bad manners! ” She turned to one of the women. “Those are the best oatmeal cookies I’ve ever eaten, Ellen.”
“I’ll give you my recipe,” Ellen grinned. “as long as you don’t tell Elizabeth North.”
Susan rolled her eyes. “You mean M’lady Elizabeth?” The other women snickered. “By the way, have you tried that new recipe on the back of Campbell’s tomato soup yet?”
The little girl began banging her feet slowly against the chair legs. Her mother frowned at her. “Stop that, Sarah!”
The shrill, distant whistle from the living room screeched. Then, feet were stamping. “Penalty! Penalty!” A cheer rang out. “He’s out!” More cheering. “He’s out!”
The women were discussing mashed potatoes now, pros and cons. Sarah’s mother paused and sighed. “What is it, Sarah?”
“I wish I could be a daddy when I grow up.”
Her mother stared at her, then began laughing. “Of course you can’t be a daddy! You’re a girl!”
Ellen leaned forward. “And one day, you’ll be a lovely woman and probably a mommy!”
The third woman smiled at her. “I bet you’re bored. Nobody to play with. I have some paper and pencils in my bag, if you want to draw.”
“Don’t bother, Louise,” Ellen said. “ I still have crayons and paper right here in my drawer.” She rose. “Want to draw, Sarah?”
The little girl nodded, confused. “Okay.” At her mother’s look, she said, “Thank you.”
In the living room, there was another loud cheer. “Score! Score!” Feet thumped.
Ellen brought a TV tray from the hall, clicked it together. She placed the paper and crayons on it. “That’ll give you some room,” she smiled.
Sarah nodded, “Thank you,” she remembered.
There was a roar from the men again and, and as Sarah bent forward with her crayon, she wondered why wanting to be able to stomp, yell, laugh, the way the fathers could, had somehow turned into her sitting in front of a TV tray, drawing.
Wherein the Labyrinth the Fridge Lie
By Nic Arico
The Labyrinth of Untold Horrors was next to the dry cleaners. Its high, sloped walls of crumbling brick made it easy to find, but the “no standing” sign out front meant that parking the truck was going to be a nightmare. Based on the job slip, he supposed it to be in and out, so he took the spot in front anyway and took the gamble.
He wasn’t sure if he should call. The entrance was a barred iron gate with a pull chain coming out from an overhang. He tried peering through, but all he could see was a thick fog emanating from multiple alleys. He shrugged and pulled the chain. It took more effort than he anticipated and had to heave up his tool belt after.
“Who seeks the Labyrinth’s treasures?” a disembodied voice boomed out.
“I’m from Lund and Sons Fridge Repair?” he said.
There was a clunking sound, a rattle like a great chain pulling and screams in the distance as the gate slowly lifted. When it was high enough, he ducked underneath and the gate fell with a slam behind him.
“So where exactly is the unit?” he asked. He looked around for someone, but the fog was thick. He stepped over a skeleton and tried to guess where the kitchen could be.
“Not all doors lead onward
And the walls deceive the eye
Right may be wrong
Only the purest find where the treasure lies.”
The house seemed strange, but he had gone on hundreds of calls and seen all types of homes. There was that brutal six-floor walkup, the family that had their refrigerator in their bedroom, all those creepy basements. He navigated this house easily enough, past the hedges of insanity and the stairs of eternity. The damned fog was making his nose itch.
On the last turn he discovered a backyard of sorts. The walls lowered and the fog dissipated. There were flowers and trees, bright and brilliantly colored in colors he could never describe. In the middle, by the pond and the hoard of treasure, was an Ice King TF429, a high-end model but prone to leaking because of the ice maker. He swung his belt down and wiped the blood off his multimeter and went to work, enjoying the heavenly angel song that played in the distance.
He fixed the drainage and even wiped down the shelves, moving the black apples and the half-empty box of baking soda and the severed hand with four brilliant golden rings on each finger.
“You should be good to go now,” he said, closing the doors.
He wasn’t sure where to leave the invoice so he simply tucked it underneath the skull by the entrance. When the gate opened again, he saw the ticket on the truck windshield.
Someone in full-clad armor walking past him saw his dismay.
“Fortune seems to have turned her hand against you.” they said, their voice muffled by the helmet.
“She probably read her invoice,” he said.