Zero by xTx
He could never be a super hero because apathy and procrastination had taken him over.
Twin sisters, aged nine and a half, cute as a Welch’s grape juice commercial, could be stuck out on a balcony an arms length away from becoming a fiery blaze’s bitch, screaming in such a manner that would make mothers’ hearts from Texas to Timbuktu contort in empathetic agony, and he’d casually look up from the newspaper and mumble, “Be right there…” and then go back to finishing an article how the Lakers cleaned up in Miami the night before.
He knows that the media is calling him Captain Slack and he doesn’t care.
He’s too tired to save the world. Now he’s old fart old and would rather curl up with a Playboy Girls of Summer Special Edition, a tumbler full of scotch and a side of Sports Center than leap tall buildings or wrestle into tights.
With electric yellow trim.
Towels by Robert Lard
Her hips won’t survive a pregnancy. There’s no way for him to stop that from happening. He knows this and in five years, a marriage is all but guaranteed. That’s all fine. Watching her fold towels, that’s all fine. But what about a year after the baby is born and she’s not exercising? He bought her the expensive stroller to jog with.
How much encouragement to exercise is appropriate and what’s the best way to bring it up? His friend’s wife Jill is so slender; it’s not going to be a problem. And they have so much money.
She’ll finally take an interest in the TV shows he almost begged her to watch, years ago. That won’t please him. “I think I like the Wire. McNaulty is so funny,” she’ll say. “Is Omar gay?” He’ll wince. “Well he’s having sex with men isn’t he? What do you think?’ She’ll be hurt. He’s so short with her.
That’s in five years. Things are still pretty smooth right now. She finishes with the towels and lays her head on his lap. “I feel like having some chocolate. Can you get some?”
Lift by Parker Tettleton
He repeated Honey, I miss you. He could be cruel. He let their son chase his kite for hours in the park while he sat between two tourists on their way out of the city just last week. He could hear her now, running a bath for herself, forgetting John’s Apple Jacks before school. He glanced at the window, the sloppy piles of snow dotting the hills, the ski lift. The coats and their fur trimmed tops shadowing the faces of strangers going up and down. He had ten minutes before the dining hall. He sat on the made bed. He picked up the phone, pushed three.
Flight by Martha Williams
You fat, crazy, stupid bitch. Leave. Be someone else’s ugly bird. A coffee ring, his stamp of disapproval.
So she runs. Clutching his letter. Huffing through the burbs: pavement, road, lawn, pavement, road, lawn. Breath rasping, breasts banging. Fleshy thighs rub nylon whispers thunk, shwee, thunk, shwee ’til concrete melts into sand where children play and someone kicks a ball so she runs beside a boy, ball, boy, ball, her breasts stop banging as she crouches to go faster and she’s on all fours, tongue out, faster, faster, her haunches bunch, stretch, bunch, stretch until they crash into the surf. And the boys gets the ball as she rides the wave, sweeping up, up, her fur to foam and she is surfing, surfing, rising and with the greatest reach of will and wing she flies over the ocean leaving only a misshapen shadow and wet letters on the sand.
Seamstress by Kirsty Logan
He was all movement and talk. He emptied wine bottles then filled them up with his words, his cleverness enough to overflow a cellarful. Her side of the conversation wouldn’t even fill a thimble, and after a while she stopped talking.
He moved constantly, the hems of his clothes always worn by the friction. Every night she sewed shut the holes, but stitching is tedious.His limbs and his verbs were enchantments; threads tightening around her chest. But tonight, this night, she has had enough of sewing and silence.
Red Tag by J Bradley
I watch Gabrielle pick through the bargain lingerie like jerky.
“I need to look amateurish”, she says, holding up a lacy black babydoll teddy with a swatch of white with black polka dots poxing the cleavage to where her bellybutton should end up. “What do you think of this?”
“It should look good.” I abandon “on my floor”.
No Middle by Miriam Drori
His eyes lit up. “You’ve made soup. And strawberries. Mmm. What’s the main course?”
“Sorry, I didn’t get round to making a main course.”
“No main course? You wouldn’t write a story like that, with a beginning and an end but no middle.”
When they finally broke in, the smell drew them to the kitchen. On the table, beside two empty soup bowls, lay two dishes of rotting strawberries.
Little Dots by Mark Hage
Lu sent to The Review. Umbart mailed to The Journal. Jo Jensen forwarded the same one to thirty seven. Takeda sent three to just one. Hemky mailed to The Anthology, a check for $33.27 to Con Ed clipped along. Putyuk mailed to a hopeless, spit on the flap, and kicked the mailbox. Knightly was nice when asked, and sent one with enough postage to a shitty one in Nice. Grieshaber read each of their previous ones, before he sent a thing. Raffoul picked ten and mailed: eeny meeny miny moe. Dinta forgot one of her umlauts, and a nineteen-year-old, shot her the form. Khorayem Farazdaq-Elnashashibri sent to The Rapture Rag, three Salvation University rejection slips flew out: all for that same one. Anders fucked an agent, and hopped on the fast track. Klytie wanted to fuck too, but hers held its own. The Third Tireless Boulder lost Tuesday’s mail, including Schulto’s masterpiece, two days before he died. Trista almost sent her only stamps there, but she overslept and missed the deadline.
The Book Killer by Phoebe Wilcox
Sometimes after bookbinding for a few hours at the hand-sewing table, Jillie would, after scraping her knife too roughly over the glue of an old book’s spine, feel not like a resurrector of literature, as she should, but like a killer.
Not a calculating or skillful killer either. Just a clumsy, sleep-deprived one. One whose fingers after a few hours at work, and fewer hours of sleep, were committing involuntary manslaughter of countless innocent old books.
It wasn’t time to make the donuts. It was time to kill the books. Serial killing. Sitting there smelling the smoke from last night’s bar in her hair. Scraping and knicking and drilling and killing.
That was the joke that kept them going and got recycled day after day.
And what if she could do it all over again?
What would she do differently?
Move to New York and try her luck there? Hey, how about becoming famous for something? Nah . . .
If she could do it all over again?
Well, for one thing, she wouldn’t be so cheap and pathetic as to not even buy a Walkman for God’s sake. The music they played in that place sucked to hell.
All These Violent Children (Noah) by J.A Tyler
Noah writes in his journal I am Noah. Noah writes in his journal It is raining. Noah writes in his journal My heart is an ark.
Even if rain were not falling on Noah’s not-journal, all of these things would be true. This is Noah. It is raining.
Noah’s heart is an ark because it is a hollow bowl floating and because the world has lined up two-by-two for entrance into where Noah is.
Noah writes My body is full of animals and it is. Noah’s body is full of animals. Noah hears a giraffe rolling down leaves with its tongue inside of his body where rain is falling.
Noah is an ocean and Noah is, writing it in his wet journal as the arks fall down into rain, separating from the world those who are from those who were. I am Noah writes, and waits to believe in these truths.
Surprise by Marcus Speh
My friend Morgan Rogen said some very insightful things about my sex life the other day. She said I looked like someone who needs to get down and dirty with more than one woman every day if possible at all.
She also said words aren’t sexy: smells are and fluids. Words are heady, and you couldn’t give head with words in your mouth.
I asked her how we got into discussing words and heads when I thought we were talking about my sex life.
Morgan did not respond to that and said instead she almost choked last time she gave head to her father only three days before he died at 65.
I asked: your father? She said yes. I said I was sorry to hear it that must have been awful and that I was surprised to hear her talk about it so freely. How she felt about it.
She said it was OK and that there wasn’t much to say about it, really. ‘What happens in the family stays in the family’ were her exact words, I think.
Morgan Rogen doesn’t even exist. I only made her up to have someone to talk to. She surprises me every time.
Brutal Awakening by Nathalie Boisard-Beudin
The mirror exploded in my face. Again.
It was there, perched on one leg on a corner of the cabinet. Not a very stable place, I’ll grant you that, but one that commands enough light to allow introspection. The routine challenge of searching for new cracks and fine white lines in the image I try to pass off as mine to the outside world. Mirror,mirror on the rickety cabinet, tell me who is the youngest of all?
Maybe I should just give up; wash, dress up (or down) and go join the rest of humanity for a day’s work or leisure. But then again, everywhere I go, I get assaulted by images that blare “ Get thinner!” or “Get younger!” in my face as if I was a criminal to be seized and locked away for no obeying those very basic rules. So each day, before venturing out, I have to examine the damage brought on by the luxury of living those few extra hours, repair the crevices with skin coloured plaster, and paint the white hair black anew.
And this is what I was doing that morning. Playing around with the tiniest brush in front of the mirror, colouring the white roses on my head a more acceptable colour.
Then the answering machine in the next room picked up a cheery “Happy birthday!” and in an instant there was glass everywhere.
Nobody by Martha Williams
I’m Nobody. I know I’m Nobody by the way my children play without me, the way Jas doesn’t call because she’s busy with a book… character… word. I can’t complain; she started writing because I was too book-busy to talk. Now she’s incommunicado. Perhaps the meta ate her. Perhaps we’re both Nobody?
We used to slam vodka and howl our contempt for sex without love, swag without sharing… asking, ‘really?’
Then we shifted shores, went to words – emailing ether as Jas’s voice changed to Dee’s. Dee: half-written, is she a mother? I gave Dee children, Dee gave Sarah semi-colons… and Sarah grew bigger than Dee. Dee withdrew.
Design Flaw by Ali Bacon
Most people, like Simon, carry an extra brain. Tucked under an arm, or slung casually over a shoulder, these stylish auxiliaries easily outdo the integral kind. With their batteries powered up, they don’t need a caffeine kick-start or to recharge in a restaurant at mid-day. And after work? Shut down, switch off. Instead of work-place dreams, choose neural silence.
The girl on the train two seats in front keeps hers in a Gucci pouch, and clasps it to her like a soft-skinned daemon. Behind her a sales rep in a shiny suit unfolds a
battered laptop that auto-starts on Excel. Simon looks away. He’s proud of his own brain. It’s high-spec and compact. It fits in the palm of his hand, or hides in the pocket of his suit without spoiling the cut.
At the station he starts the silver saloon that purrs into motion just for him. But at home his wife wears Agnes B. and a frown. ‘You’re late,’ she says to the mirror,
her pout of resentment disguised by a stroke of Rouge Noir. Simon is confused. His brain did not remind him of the dinner date.
At the party he’s greeted and seated and given a drink, but feels out of sorts, disconnected. At the black glass table dressed in white sushi, someone asks him a
question. ‘I’m sorry,’ he says, ‘I was miles away.’ His wife dismisses this with a wave of the arm. ‘Don’t mind Simon,’ she says. ‘He left his brain on the train.’
In her silence I heard my children playing and their voices had grown tall. And I realised, Sarah isn’t me… I’m Nobody now.
I told Dee. She shrugged, outgrew me and said, ‘whatever’.
And what’s Whatever if not a step toward Nobody?
Promise to Rome by Brian Mihok
Roger promised his aunt he would attend the vacation to Rome. He saw thirteen men he didn’t trust and twenty-three women he would have liked to sleep with. Near a fountain his aunt shrieked at the beauty of the piazzas. Roger toyed with a toddler, throwing pennies in the fountain. When his aunt was laughing so loudly Roger could barely think he threw a penny at her which ceased neither her laughing nor his wish to be rid of her. At home in Chicago Roger was a bank teller.
Pistachios by Stephen Miller
They were eating pistachios all afternoon and they were going to be eating pistachios all night.
When they weren’t eating pistachios, they were shucking pistachios or at the very least thinking or anticipating or meaning to shuck pistachios.
It was just that kind of an afternoon and it was going to be just that kind of a night.
Their baby was two years old, barely, shooting across the carpet like a tiny monorail and if he wasn’t careful, he was going to be buried alive in dead, discarded pistachio shells.
Writer’s Block by JP Reese
The unfinished screenplay blew around his bloody Brook’s Brothers; the custom-made briefcase lay sprung near his hand. He was dead long before his head split like a water balloon on the asphalt. The Valentino tie was a complete loss.
You couldn’t see the color of the thoughts he left behind to haunt the air-conditioned tenth floor,
though Sally said on the TV that they were typed out neatly and left on his Mac in perfect shades of gray.
It certainly wasn’t a disappointment for the spectators who blinked from their benches over at Grant Park. They lived for quality entertainment such as this, (really terrific stuff doesn’t come along very often).
But you know, he could have flicked himself like spit from a passing car, or even screamed his way down, maybe rolled right up to their boots reciting his latest offering, now THAT would have been worth optioning!
Well, sure, you could predict the guy’s attempt at flight — His words these days never seemed to stick. Instead they always floated for a moment on the air, then swirled away like last night’s news. He hadn’t gotten a bite in weeks, nothing but rejection slips.
He was way too serious about it, way too depressed. Benny called him, “the king of premature articulation.” But hell, if you’re going to admit it, guts and blood do tend to liven up an otherwise ordinary day.
The Upswing of Falling by Robert Vaughan
The car was gone when he went outside. That’s okay, she thought, I’ll just jump out of a plane instead. And the air felt cold by then, as chilly as she’d become with him. With everyone really. Odd, as she was sweating profusely from the back of her neck. The floating fear of falling once you’ve faced gravity head-on. The whoosh of contagious, like a rollercoaster hands-free loop-de-loop. The ground a blank spot on a static mesa.
He was never planning on coming back, so you suspend there, falling slightly further, challenging time without meaning to. You hang mid-air, arms akimbo, glance askance. Resigned. Jubilant. As we are when any end is imminent.