Displaying items by tag: fiction

Friday, 05 January 2018 10:39

Madeleine and Sarah by Jack Fisher

Madeleine and Sarah by Jack FisherMadeleine stands on the doorstep, both hands balled into fists. The right, close to her side, clenching a coil of notes. The left poised three inches from the door. She turns her head down the street to the boy standing, waiting. The boy she might have told herself she loved, but who now seems like a malevolent stranger. He stares back at her. She takes a breath, tenses the muscles in her right arm in an effort to control the shaking, and knocks. Nothing. She knocks again. There are sounds of movement. A man’s voice. Footsteps, getting louder. A shadow across the peephole. Keys turned in locks, the door eased open, caught by a chain. Two eyes, cold and suspicious. Eyes she recognises.

‘What do you want, kid?’

‘A rock.’

A laugh, a dry, croaking laugh, and a muttering. ‘Fucking hell’. Then, more clearly:

‘You got money?’

Yes.’

The chain slides back. The door opens. The man, pale and mean-looking. He looks her up and down. When he sees the money he holds his hand out, expectantly. But Madeleine looks past him. She is waiting. There is movement, then, silhouetted by the sun streaming in through the back door, she appears. Sarah.

Published in Issue 56 Jan 2018
Sunday, 10 December 2017 07:49

Mark of Cain by John DeLaughter

Mark of Cain by John DeLaughterAlys stood nervously outside the pen where her cow was being judged. She was new to the town, new to FFA, and this was her first big contest. She’d worked a long time getting Lummie ready for the show and now all she could do was wait. But the three judges had been arguing in the pen for nearly an hour. If only her parents hadn’t had to work; nice as her Vo-Ag teacher Mr. Jameson was, she really wanted to hold Poppy’s hand right now.

“This is ridiculous,” Mr. Jameson said suddenly. “They aren’t even... Stay here. I’m going to talk to them.”

Alys peered anxiously through the bars as her teacher went into the pen with Lummie and the judges. Lummie looked placid, but then she always did; that and the coloring were reasons that Alys had chosen a Holstein for her project. Alys was proud of what she’d been able to do.  Mr. Jameson was, too, once he got over the initial shock. But the judges seemed to think differently. Though they were whispering, Alys’ sharp ears let her hear what was being said. So far, she hadn’t liked it much.

“I still say that we should disqualify her!” Judge Parsons insisted. “Her entry is, is--undignified!”

“I don’t recall ‘dignity’ being one of the scoring categories,” Mr. Jameson said. The three judges scowled as he walked up to them.

“You shouldn’t be in here,” Mrs. Andrews said crisply. She was the President of the PTA and always scared Alys a little; she seemed to be looking down on the world through her half-moon glasses and not liking what she saw. “It is most irregular.”

“So is taking an hour to argue over whether or not you’ll even judge an entry,” he shot back. “What, exactly, are your objections to Lummie?”

Published in Issue 55 Dec 2017
Sunday, 10 December 2017 07:44

Letters From Santa by Caelan Corbeil

Letters From Santa by Caelan Corbeil“Melanie! Are you still in bed?”

Mom climbed the stairs to my bedroom. With each pounding step, I cringed, not knowing whether she’d barge into my room and drag me out of bed.

“Leave me alone!” I yelled, as I pulled the covers over my head, wishing I could tune her out completely.

“Get up! You missed the past two days of school - I’m not calling out for you again!”

“Whatever!”

Mom opened my bedroom door. “Get up right now! You are not missing another day, and I can’t be late to work again!”

Mom wasn’t going to let me be. I had to get up. She seemed relieved as I got out of bed.

“I need to get to work. Walk Alex to school,” she said, as she put on her navy blazer, and swept her brown hair behind her shoulders.  

I pulled on some clothes, threw my books into my bag, and walked downstairs, not caring what my hair looked like or that I didn’t brush my teeth.

“C’mon Alex,” I said.

“I want to finish my breakfast,” he said, with a mouthful of cereal, milk dripping on his favorite Minion shirt.

“I don’t care, we need to get going, okay?”

Mom left for work and I walked Alex to school. If I couldn’t summon the energy to get myself to school, at the very least, I could do something for Alex.

Published in Issue 55 Dec 2017
Monday, 13 November 2017 07:44

Reasons For Being by Frank Morelli

Reasons For Being by Frank MorelliShe was a shadow. A field mouse. The fuzzy ball of lint you find in your pocket and flick to the wind without thinking. She was a modern-day Dodo bird.

But, most of all, she was different.

Not in a way that she dressed in Medieval robes on weekends or had six fingers on her right hand. No. Nothing like that. She was just weird. Strange. Peculiar. And any one of those on its own was a death sentence at Sherwood Junior High. Nobody talked about it, but everyone knew it.

Everyone except Sandra Sunavian. The weird one. The one who sat alone at lunch tables and danced by herself at school formals. The one who hid in the back of classrooms and scribbled in her sketchbook even as the spitballs whizzed past her ears. The one who could never be normal.

At least half the school knew her only as ‘Spooky Sandy’, and the other half was convinced she didn’t exist at all, like some kind of legend or tall tale. And it wasn’t as if anyone felt sorry for her, because she had brought it upon herself. Because a girl can only jump out of trash cans and make creepy faces at her classmates so many times before people start to think she’s a lunatic. It’s kind of, like, human nature.

And that’s not an exaggeration. Spooky Sandy really did have a problem. Or at least I thought she did until yesterday in Mr. Rowley’s class. See, she does this thing. This extreme, mind-boggling, and utterly bizarre thing.

She scares the heck out of people.

Published in Issue 54 Nov 2017
Monday, 13 November 2017 07:42

Demon’s Due by Robert Walton

Demon’s Due by Robert WaltonOrange smoke swirled, thinned and finally revealed a hideous face, fanged and horned. “May I be of service, Mistress?”

Gerutha - Queen of Nordheim’s witches - smiled. “You're solicitous for a demon, especially Loki’s demon.”

“I must serve as my master directs. I may as well keep things pleasant.” The demon Gron bowed.

“Until I step on a magical line or leave a syllable out of an incantation?” Gerutha raised a long, scruffy sarcastic eyebrow at her slave for hire.

Gron raised his head.  His gray lips twisted and he offered a fang-packed grin. “That goes without saying, Mistress.”

“I acquired this child a few hours ago.” She patted silken hair on a delicate seven-year-old head.

Gron sucked his right canine. “There were times, Mistress, when you'd eat babies for breakfast.”

Gerutha shook her head. “Never breakfast, Gron, only luncheon.”

“Still, you'd not hesitate to cook them up.”

“Ah, boiled baby, what a treat!”

“So is this one for the pot?”

Published in Issue 54 Nov 2017
Saturday, 14 October 2017 12:17

Wren by Elise Ring

Wren by Elise RingThe reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not “get over” the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.

~Elizabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, “On Grief and Grieving”


Part 1 – Denial and Dollhouses

Wren. She fit her name perfectly. Small. Shy. Quiet. Quick-witted. Mousy-brown hair and sharp, dark eyes completed her almost anthropomorphic quality – as though she were an animal trapped in a human body and perpetually perplexed by her state of affairs. She melted into the background if you weren’t looking for her. She was my best friend.

It’s still hard for me to talk about what happened. I’m still not sure I really understand anything about the events of last year. I still have trouble believing it. I keep expecting her to walk through my bedroom door, smile in her shy­ but confident way, and ask me if I want to go for a run. I thought I was the only one who really knew Wren. Maybe not. But this isn’t about me. It’s about her. And I think people need to know who she was.

Wren was well-liked by most people, though hard to get to know and slow to let people in. Generally, people admired her brilliance. Or were jealous of it. She didn’t have movie star good looks, but she had her own quiet charm. And she was always happy when she ran.

She was an amazing runner – star of the school’s cross country and track team and never-ending source of pride for Mr. and Mrs. Rabast, the husband and wife dynamic duo who had coached our school team from nothing to provincial champions three years in a row. Wren was their biggest success and they talked about her incessantly, in and out of training.

Published in Issue 53 Oct 2017
Saturday, 14 October 2017 12:14

The Memory Gambit by Beth McCabe

The Memory Gambit by Beth McCabeThor falls off the coffee table and rolls under the couch. I scootch down, dig the fragile piece out of the dust bunnies and popcorn, and set him carefully on the coffee table.

Dana moves her Valkyrie a few spaces toward my Odin. “You are so screwed, Rocky,” she gloats.

Even though I’ve been out of chess competition for a year, my big sister is still the only one who can beat me. Dad tried grooming her for grandmastership a few years ago. But Dana has other plans. She’s going to be one of those scientists that combine two scarily difficult things, like astrophysicist or neurobiologist. She doesn’t have time for endless rounds of chess practice, club meetings, and tournaments.

I was Dad’s consolation prize. I’m not as straight-out talented as Dana, but I love the game, and I don’t care if that makes me a geek. When my brain lights up with a series of moves it’s like tiny alternate universes playing out inside my head. The world just makes more sense when I’m playing chess or even thinking about it.

At least, it did until about a year ago.

Dad’s truck rumbles up the driveway just as Dana puts me in check. But the reprieve is not entirely welcome. The Norse Gods set is one of the fancy ones Dad gives me every birthday and Christmas. “These are not to play with,” he always cautions me. “These are collectors’ items.” I try to appreciate his gifts, but I can’t help wishing I’d get Celtics tickets or a new gaming console instead. So sometimes I play with them anyway.

Published in Issue 53 Oct 2017
Friday, 15 September 2017 14:24

Gorgeous By Andréa Rivard

Gorgeous By Andréa RivardThe evening sun glinted off Johnny’s coppered skin and the flask in his hand. His effortless cool poured from him in the way he held his cigarette and the way he drank from the flask.

He had tucked his shirt into his back pocket the way I’d asked him to, and his dark hair was styled so he looked like Marlon Brando, although much younger. He sat on the fence flawlessly: legs apart and feet hooked under the second cross bar. He stared eastward over his shoulder through his dark Ray Bans.

I loved that he needed so little direction to capture a mood.

I lined up the shot in my Vito B and clicked off three successive shots.

“Great! Keep doing what you’re doing!” I called to Johnny. “Your turn, Dean!”

Right on cue, Dean biked over from his waiting spot. I followed him with the lens, clicking off three more pictures. When he reached Johnny, he took the flask from him. Click. Then the cigarette, resting it casually between his lips. Click. Then he pulled back for the punch. Click. When he made contact, Johnny’s nose broke. I heard it over the click of my camera. The blood sprayed up into the air in a perfect arc. It would make for a glorious picture. My project was to show how hyper-masculinity was destroying manhood as part of my submissions portfolio for the fall.

Published in Issue 52 Sept 2017
Friday, 15 September 2017 14:20

Gift from the Dead by Tori V. Rainn

Gift from the Dead by Tori V. RainnThe small cottage swallowed in weeds and vines might as well be a hole in the brambles rather than a home. The thistle-covered trail in front of me led out into the thick forest away from my hovel. If I attempted to run on the path to free myself, my bare feet would bleed and suffer for days. I had to consider possible infection, and the time spent in the forest until I reached the nearest village.

Staring at the road, I sighed. A magic carpet would be useful. Or anything with wings to fly me right out of here.

Mama called from the threshold, a dark glare stitched on her face, her long hair always kept better than mine. “Grace, get in here, now.”

My heart sank. Something in her shrill tone told me she was up to something, and when I glanced at a mysterious object clutched in her hand, I shrank. Before I could enter the house, she placed her hand on my shoulder and gripped it. “What is this?” The half sewn sock I’d tried to make from Mama’s stolen red-checkered scarf, dangled from her hand.

My stomach lurched. I couldn’t very well tell her it was part of a plan to hike that rough road out of here.

“Nothing, Mama,” I answered, trying to soften my voice and hide any deceit. “Is just a skirt I’m making for Bunny.”

She raised her hand and slapped me across my face. “Liar! No shoes or socks allowed! You little witch.” She squeezed the fabric. “It’s ruined!”

Another slap across my cheek and I crashed on my hands and knees, getting a good view of her perfectly shined flats covering thick socks. She once tied me to the barn for taking those shoes for two days.

Published in Issue 52 Sept 2017
Wednesday, 09 August 2017 15:44

Tell Empathy by Alex Rezdan

Tell Empathy by Alex RezdanThey say lightning struck at the exact moment I was born and caused the power to go out, as if mother earth herself had bore the brunt of the pain of childbirth. I was too young to remember it, obviously, but it’s something that has always stuck with me after I overheard my mother tell it to her friends one night.

No, my earliest memory comes from a different kind of thundering crash when I was four years old. I was playing with my favorite doll when the sound came from the hallway. By the time I crept over to investigate, my mother was on her knees holding the shattered pieces of her beloved antique vase.

“I don’t know what happened,” said my older brother, Francis. “It just fell over.” But I could see clearly in his mind that he knocked it over on purpose and was proud of his achievement. Even at the age of six, he was already inflicting his little vendettas in order to get attention.

“It’s okay, honey,” said Mom. “Careful you don’t cut yourself.”

Her actual words weren’t nearly as pronounced as the voices in her head cursing him as a stupid, spoiled little brat.

“But you pushed it over,” I said.

Francis opened his mouth to contradict me, but my mother spoke first.

“You shouldn’t blame people without any evidence, Amelia,” she said.

My brother glared at me while Mom cleaned up the mess. It didn’t take a mind reader to see that he hated me for ratting him out.

Published in Issue 51 August 2017
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