By Andrew Kozma
We found the beached humpback whale still glistening from the morning fog. It breathed hard and deep and ragged, its chest an old, moth-eaten bellows. The air wheezed between its baleen. Joe’s dog Joe Jr. sniffed the whale’s mouth and whined and jigged about, eager to get inside.
But the whale wasn’t going to die. We wouldn’t let it. We looked into its liquid, almost melting eyes and whispered comforts as we dug trenches in the sand to guide the water around its flanks and ease the whale’s flatbed of a body back into the Atlantic with the rising tide.
It took a while for the sea to reclaim the whale. We watched it the entire time. It didn’t feel right to abandon it before it could abandon us. And it watched us, too, with its alien whale-face. We were gratitudeless, but we didn’t do it for the gratitude. Joe spent half the time preventing Joe Jr. from pissing into the trenches we’d dug.
Then it was gone, slid backwards into its home, a majestic re-entrance. Joe called it pathetic, but I know he meant it in terms of pathos.
We both knew we’d never see anything so strange and unnerving again.
Continue reading “ISSUE 30: JUNE 2021”
Footprints in Fine White Ash
By Michael Kozart
The day Darlene pulled up to Jack’s, she was facing a night in a shelter or the car. She had searched the county for an affordable room. Rents were soaring. This was the last resort.
It was a ranch home, with crumbling chimney and faded pink aluminum siding, out of place on a rural road with vineyards and mansions. Darlene knocked on the screen door. “Jack Elmer? We spoke on the phone.”
There was cursing and he appeared: sweat stains, stubbled jowls, a clump of masking-tape around the angle of his glasses. He looked her up and down.
“Is the room still open?” she asked.
Jack opened the door. Inside, there was the strong smell of cannabis and pork fat. Down a dim hall with dusky carpet, he gestured to a room. “Thousand, first of the month. Take or leave.” Continue reading “ISSUE 29: MARCH 2021”
By Ravibala Shenoy
When my baby sister was a few days old, my grandmother showed me the soft spot on her head, how we had to be careful not to hurt her there. She said, my mother was going to be busy with the baby, and I should not mind because I was four-and-a-half years old, the big sister.
My mother’s thirteen-year-old brother tormented me with stories of Ghooghooms who he said roamed my grandmother’s house and garden. When night came, he‘d put a flashlight in his mouth and cover himself with a bedsheet and he’d go thump, thump, through the house making sounds like an owl, and I’d run away shrieking. It was no use telling my mother because she lay limp in bed with the baby.
One day, when my sister was sleeping, I brought from the kitchen the brass pestle that my grandmother used to grind peppercorns. My sister lay in a winnowing basket swaddled in a blanket. Her chest rose and fell with her breath and her round face and shiny hair looked as peaceful as a lake. Just as I was about to hit with the pestle the soft spot my grandmother had told me about, she ran in breathless and grabbing the pestle from my hand, pushed me away. Continue reading “ISSUE 28: JANUARY 2021”
IAN IN GLASGOW
By Madalyn Aslan
We’re all in the little guy’s car on Belswain’s Lane when Ian tells me his dad is in Broadmoor, prison for the criminally insane. I tell him I was born a bastard and we are poor. Ian counters, “But you’re rich in looks.” And I am like, man!
So we fall in love. He’s thirteen like me and looks like an angel and is going to be a playwright when he grows up. I love his hands. In the pub he talks about books with my mother. We discuss, seriously, names to give our future children. His mother Mae is a joyful drunk, fat and sexy in a tight flower dress, always coughing and laughing. She and my mother light up cigarettes with great animal sighs. My mother says she is from Scotland. So Ian is, too. After the little guy breaks it off with Mae, that’s where she and Ian disappear back to. Continue reading “ISSUE 27: SEPTEMBER 2020”
By Paul Ratner
Hiroshima, 6th August 1945
I was sitting in class staring at Mr. Takashi writing algebra in big loopy lettering on the chalkboard when the bomb landed. He was wearing a short-sleeved white cotton shirt with black slacks that billowed around his skinny legs and a pair of black-rimmed glasses that perched on the bridge of his rubbery nose.
I’m not sure why I can remember him so vividly now. It was just an ordinary school day and me and my thirty or so classmates had no idea when we filed into trigonometry that morning that this day would change our lives.
But somehow every minute detail of that day is seared into my memory, like it’s a part of me and I’m a part of it. And so my life became divided in two—those childhood days that came before the bomb and the days that marched onwards defiantly after. The bomb itself is somehow outside of my life now, like a break in a paragraph, instead of a chapter in itself. Continue reading “ISSUE 20: JANUARY 2019”
Three Summer Flights
By Tim Love
As usual, Dad collected her after breakfast on Sunday and drove her to Dunstable downs. The hillside was already full of families.
“You first, Tracy.”
She held the bobbin of string while her father retreated with the kite. Then he threw it skyward. “It’s new!” she said, watching the dragon soar.
“Yes, I made it this week.” When she pulled harder, the kite spiralled and fell. “It needs a longer tail,” he said, “Oh well, let’s have an ice cream.” They sat on the grass, licking 99s. While he studied the other kites, which to her were heavy and drab, she watched the gliders taking off below. Winched up, they climbed steeply until they were higher than she was. She watched the cable fall away, as if in slow-motion. The ice cream finished, she stretched out on the grass and looked up at the kites against the bright blue sky. Without warning a glider filled her vision, flying very low and fast. She would always remember the wide wings, the silent surprise. Continue reading “ISSUE 15: SEPTEMBER 2017”
This Heady Thing Called Love
By Linda Ferguson
He calls and I say I’ll come.
I haven’t seen him in three days. Unless you count Tuesday, in the dining hall. Ah, there he was, in line with the tall ballerina with the beret tipped over her Lauren Bacall bob.
Good thing the roommate is in class right now. I wouldn’t want her watching as I stand in front of the mirror and finger the magenta streak in my hair I added the day he first kissed me. She was here last week when I was a sodden, shuddering ball on my crumpled bed, having just heard his sudden confession. She crossed her arms then and said I could do better, her voice rising to vehemence when she called him a “lousy boyfriend.” Which makes me think she might not endorse my getting all gussied up now, smoothing on China-red lipstick, pulling on black fishnets, dabbing my throat with the perfume Aunt Jeanine sent me last Christmas. No, I don’t need anyone frowning at me as I clasp a slender silver chain around my ankle or as I turn in front of the mirror again to check out the short tangerine-colored dress with the coral stitching around its hem. Continue reading “ISSUE 14: JUNE 2017”
By Matthew Duffus
Pants and shirt pressed, tie tucked between the third and fourth buttons, he pedaled into the March wind. Once around the town Square, he dodged traffic and cut down a side street that would dump him onto the main quad in plenty of time to turn in the work he’d spent the weekend compiling before his 2 PM Calculus I lecture. His advisor had warned him not to go down the rabbit hole of Rajnipal’s Third Theorem, but after two years of proofs and equations, he was about to come out the other end. He’d be famous—reasonably so. Not cover of Time famous, but well-known enough to snag one of the ever-dwindling number of tenure track jobs on offer at flagship institutions.
Just as he squeezed the handbrake in preparation for the turn onto University Avenue, a car door swung open before him, followed by the chatter of a cell-phone-holding coed. “Can you believe she wants me to pay for the dress myself? I mean—oh my God, something hit me!” Continue reading “ISSUE 13: MARCH 2017”
The Sea in Her Ear
By Opal Palmer Adisa
She was drowning, and doing everything she knew she shouldn’t.
She opened her mouth and tried to swallow the sea.
Its ceaseless motion rocked her body; its voice whistled and echoed all around her. Splashing and crashing, its wetness clung to her like weighted cement that attempted to pull her down. The sea had gotten hold of her and was not ready to let her loose.
She opened her mouth to shout for help and gulped more water, then thrashed about frantically, her hands flailing like slender branches forced to dance under heavy winds. She was drowning and knew her survival depended on her relaxing and allowing the buoyance and heavy saltiness of the sea to keep her afloat.
Something about the neediness of the ocean scared her, the possessive way the water draped her legs, the intimate fishy smell that engulfed her nostrils, the roar of the waves locked in the chamber of her ears, the vast emptiness of the sea, slick like oil yet colorless, invisible. God’s Child knew only a fool would try to save someone bent on drowning herself, and she was both fool and self. She knew she needed to conserve her energy, but her heart was another current in the ocean gravitating towards other channels of currents so Yemaja, the great goddess of the ocean, dragged her down and rolled her like a barrel plummeting down a steep hill. Continue reading “ISSUE 7: SEPTEMBER 2015”