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”
Portrait of a Young Woman During Quarantine
By Darcy Casey
Ten at night and the woman’s stomach rumbles; sleep is impossible when her insides have so much to say. She turns under her blankets, a crocodile rolling in a kill’s final moments, but nothing dies except her resolve. She peels the ruined blankets from her body, careful not to wake her husband. From her guts rises a more insistent growl. The stomach, itself a cavernous brain, knows where she is going and is glad. She walks and, reflecting on the day, is pleased to realize she has not eaten a full meal. But wait: can this be true? She considers. It is true. Continue reading “ISSUE 26: JUNE 2020”
By Cody Pease
Michel waters the plants in rotations. He starts with the tillandsias hanging in the copper-wire cages, then the oreganos and vanilla orchids near the south-facing window, then the begonia on the dining room table. The succulents need to be split, and the philodendrons need more sunlight. His hands are too weak to lift the watering pot; instead, he uses a wine glass like I showed him. It’s a small task to strengthen his muscles. “How are you doing?” His movements are slight and slow, but he smiles. “Well,” he says. I’m afraid to press him further. I leave him to water, then I peel the sweet potatoes for dinner. Continue reading “ISSUE 25: MARCH 2020”
By David Galef
Maggie and I lived in a prim white house at the intersection of Maple Road and Main Street, and when she left to teach every morning, I’d stay home and stare out the front window because I lost my job at the bank. It’s a busy crossing, particularly when children are walking to and from Fielding Elementary School, where Maggie once taught fifth grade. The crosswalk is marked by a plastic stop sign in the middle of the road, with a capitalized warning for cars to stop for pedestrians. Yet drivers zoom by, narrowly missing people. I’d bang on the windowpane occasionally, to no effect. I don’t like that kind of response, as Maggie well knew. After enough mornings, I left the house and crossed the street, taking my time. I crossed back again. I waved my arms, getting in the motorists’ faces, forcing them to stop. Continue reading “ISSUE 24: JANUARY 2020”
By Charles Rafferty
There’s a funny smell around Register 8 and none of the cashiers want to use it, but it’s Saturday, a couple of weeks before Christmas, and Maggie is stuck there.
Maggie is the cutest girl in Marshalls, and she worries people will think that she is the source of the smell. This is preposterous. The sight of her in the break room makes me think, unaccountably, of vanilla extract, of cakes leavening behind the little window of my grandmother’s oven.
A men’s wear price check comes over the PA, and because I’m in the pants section, I’m able to make it to the register more quickly than Adam, who is over in the dress shirts, straightening the rows. Adam has been hitting on Maggie ever since he got hired for the Christmas rush. Maggie and I are year-rounders, and the first thing I check on the schedule each week is when our times will overlap. To take a belt or a fleece jacket from her hand means the possibility of contact, of rapture. Continue reading “ISSUE 23: SEPTEMBER 2019”
Here We Are on Planet Earth
By Meg Pokrass
Today we are tanning near each other on bright red beach towels on the sand at Hendri’s beach. This time I don’t let my mind worry too much about Blythe’s exhibitionist traits. I’ve overcome my shyness, and we both have our bikini tops off. They’re lying next to us like useless rags.
Sometimes, there’s a language in her eyes that makes me freeze in my tracks, but my goal in this world is to become less uptight. We are thirteen, and happily, only one of us has an attractive face. The other one of us has an attractive body. My body has some potential but there is no way to know if things will turn out.
Driving around in Blythe’s brother’s SUV, we make weekend plans. We whisper in the back seat. Blythe calls him Jeeves and we hate his jokes. Sometimes he flips us off in the rearview mirror. Continue reading “ISSUE 22: JUNE 2019”