Category Archives: Fall 2016

Jude Higgins

Originally published in Visual Verse

Their Memories

I said everyone has a memory of walking through a field of corn, and you said it wasn’t corn, it was rye and you watched me pulling off a handful of grains to eat like I’d done ever since I was a child and waited until I was about to put them in my mouth before you said that rye gets a fungus called ergot and Ergotism can cause both physical and mental harm, including convulsions, miscarriage, necrosis of digits, hallucinations and death. And I said, why did you have to wait until I was about to eat them before you told me and what is necrosis anyway? So after that I stopped speaking to you for a while and made a point of eating all the unwashed strawberries from the carton we’d bought in the lay-by from the people in the rusty van, as if I couldn’t care less that the berries had been sprayed with goodness-knows- what, and you walked on in front of me, snapping off the long stalks and when we reached the common where the path was overgrown with bracken, you said I should have worn trousers, ticks love bracken. You said you’d some waterproofs in your rucksack I could put on – I didn’t want to get Lyme’s Disease, did I? And I said if I’d already contracted Ergotism what would it matter? You said I hadn’t actually eaten any rye, had I? – you’d stopped me – and not to be so childish, you were only trying to look after me, like you always did. And I said I don’t want to be looked after, I’m a grown woman. And you said, well act like one then. I reminded you this was the second row we’d had a field of grain. The first was when we were on that long walk and you said you could find the way home by looking at the way lichen grew on trees. When night fell, we were lost and you led us on a so-called short cut through a field littered with great spools of hay. It was humid and we’d been walking for hours. I said we had to have a rest and you were an idiot. You said you weren’t an idiot – everyone should get lost once in a while, that’s what made life exciting. I said it didn’t have to be on a day when it felt like thunder. It won’t thunder you said, so I spread out our picnic blanket next to one of the spools of hay and we shared a Snickers bar you found in your pocket and watched the moon come up. I remember that Snickers bar, you said, it tasted really good. It did, I said – do you remember the moon? And you smiled and said yes, it was a good memory. Then you rummaged in your rucksack, brought out a Mars bar and gave me the first bite.

~~

Jude Higgins was hooked on writing flash fiction after a workshop with Tania Hershman in 2012. Jude’s since been successful in several flash fiction competitions including the Fish Flash Fiction Prize, the National Flash Fiction Day Micro Award and the Exeter Flash Fiction prize. She launched the Bath Flash Fiction Award this year and has been co-running The Bath Short Story Award since 2012. Jude is published in the Fish Prize Anthology, 2014, in Cinnamon Press and on Visual Verse. With her colleague at Writing Events Bath, she leads creative writing sessions and puts on author events in cafes and libraries in Bath. She has an MA in Creative Writing from Bath Spa University.

Jane Zingale

Howard’s Girl

It’s August in the midwest. I’m fifteen and me and my cousin Coreene sit on the top step of her front porch. We fan ourselves, we swat flies, we sing, we just do stuff until maybe a big wave of heat will drive us into the house. My cousin has this thing called dermatographism; it’s a pretty big word for just meaning her skin is real sensitive. I draw a face on her arm with my fingernail it stays there for almost half an hour.

June bugs hum through the thick, hot air. In the field behind the house the sound of my uncle’s tractor slides along the humidity. Two blue and copperdragonflies circle my head just as a horse and rider come ’round the north bend in the road. The horse’s shoed hoofs slide and skitter sideways on the black top and the rider’s right shoulder just clears the top of a low hedge. Without missing a beat they come straight back up and stop right in front of me and Coreene. From the side of her mouth Coreene whispers, his name is Howard. At that moment I’m impressed by what I see; right then I want to be bad.

He slips down from the horse; he’s long, lean in his Levis his name is Howard.  He drops the reins. The horse stands still chews on his bit eyes us from the side of his head. Howard comes and stands at the bottom of the steps as if he wants something. I want him to want me. Together me and Coreene stand up. She motions Howard up the stairs. We three move to the hanging swing at the far end of the porch near the shade of a large Maple. We just sit, we watch clouds scud over us, we drink Root Beer. Coreene begins to hum a throaty little tune. I emphasize the high notes, Howard adds a Flamingo beat and the dog drools his paws quivering as he chases dream rabbits.  The afternoon whistle jumps in, jumps out. We riff past a blue sky that rolls into evening. Arpeggios from crickets and fireflies join our song as it rises up in timbres that softens into the air, hot as toad’s breath. I want to be Howard’s girl.

Today me and Coreene go to the new health food store. The odor is one of sanctity; sort of flat, dusty. I’m overcome with a damping humiliation; I like french fries. I think of Howard and that makes me want to rush out and sin. We stroll over to the creamery to see him. It’s butchering day for Johnson’s Meat Market across town. Howard guides us into a green tiled room with a drain in the center the size of a truck tire. He tells us to wait there and he leaves. A few minutes later he slidesopen a small door at the end of the room and out comes a pig. Howard ducks right in behind him, he looks so big and tall as he stands against the wall. He lifts a gun and shoots the pig. That pig runs around the room squealing, squealing  and bleeding all over the greenness of the tile. His hoofs click and slip in his own blood as it circles into the drain. Finally that pig drops down and me and Coreene leave.

We sit outside under a weeping willow tree near the creek and wait for Howard to finish up. Coreene wears a red and white checkered halter-top; her bare back is a perfect canvas so I draw a picture of that dead pig. It looks just like him.  I take a photo with my new color film and then I take few more just in case some don’t turn out.

~~
Jane Zingale is an artist, actor, writer and yoga instructor. Her education includes a
BS in Art from The University of Wisconsin, Yale School of Art and Architecture and an MFA from The University of Minnesota. Jane taught art at The Minneapolis College of Art and Design, The University of Minnesota and The University of Oklahoma.
She worked with the French artist Guy de Cointet and over the years she’s performed
his plays at LACMA, The Getty Center in L.A. at MOMA in N.Y. and in Europe at The
Renia, Sophia in Madrid, The Contemporary Art Centre in Sete and The Pompidou in
Paris, France. She’s taught performance techniques in Amsterdam, Lyon and Geneva,
Switzerland. She’s directed theater at museums in The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Switzerland. Her short stories have appeared in three self-published anthologies and The Hamilton Stone Review plus three podcasts for I Love a Good Story.

Bill Cook

Lulu

“The therapist says I’m a wreck,” the husband said.

“We’ve already established that,” said Lulu.

The husband pushed aside his ThinkPad, licked his fingertip and snapped open the daily classifieds.

Lulu sat across from him. “Uh-huh, I see.”

The husband frowned. Laid the paper on the tabletop and slid his bifocals down the bridge of his nose. “Unh-unh,” he said back. His eyes washed over the personal ads.

“Older men looking for younger women,” he said.

“Is that right,” said Lulu. She unpinned the man’s new dress shirt. She wore no lipstick, no makeup this morning. Only some lip balm, raspberry he had thought earlier.

The husband took a red Sharpie from a pencil holder, and said, “Let me see what I can do to fix this.”

He smudged the felt tip over their midlife requests. Saw sleazy hotels, late nights, and hot rod cars, old lust. No more moonless nights stargazing, milk-tea shared on the veranda, leafy backroad drives, in search of some yard sale find.

Finished, the husband cast the blunted point down the page and stalled on an eraser-worn crossword.

Lulu said. “I see you were at it again.”

With pins clumped in her palm, she lowered the ironing board, plugged in the steam iron and pulled his shirt flat.

She spritzed the iron, testing. “Almost ready,” Lulu said.

She was staring at a small bald spot atop the husband’s head. Kinked wires of silver-gray frazzled from a lack of sleep, sprung restless and unsubdued. Blue eyes betrayed mourning.

“You’ve been up fretting over those precious children again? Worried, Who’ll take care of them if I have a stroke, a heart attack, get run over by a truck? ”

The husband picked at his breakfast, rolled a sausage link along the rim of his plate with the tines of his fork. He had had trouble with insomnia since Mary’s memorial service.

“What’s the world coming to Lulu?” The husband was staring out of the large window, at his wife’s untouched hammock. He talked towards a leafless Sycamore. “When a grown man has to go looking for love from one of his daughters friends?”

Lulu kept the iron moving over the fabric. Sweat beaded on her face, shoulders, under her cotton top.

“I don’t know Mister Robinson,” she finally said, and lifted the husband’s shirt and held it in the air and shook it lightly. “You best finish getting ready for your interview. You don’t want to miss this chance. It’d be the third time this week, and it’s only Wednesday.”

“Well, I suppose you’re right again,” Mister Robinson said.

But Lulu had stepped into the living room. She was gathering up crumbled paper plates, plastic forks, crushed soda cans—a few emptied bags of popcorn—littered across the fireplace hearth. A clot of sofa pillows and an old Afghans slumbered in front of the widescreen. Their mother had knitted one for each of her kids. Lulu considered leaving them on the floor. It had been movie night, an old family pastime.

The eldest, Jamie and Jessie, were at school. Little Freddie was in the bathtub, soaking.

Lulu listened for troubling sounds as she carried Mister Robinson’s pressed interview outfit—a decent pair of ironed slacks, a newly purchased Claiborne dress shirt, a slender leather belt—into the master bedroom and rested them across the back of his reading chair.

The curtains were drawn as requested, a bare mattress. For a second, she stared blankly at the clean bedding. He had a chance this morning, she thought, but why? Why had she even broached the idea of his condition?

Lulu dabbed her finger to her tongue and pressed at a small crease on the shirt’s collar as the husband came into the bedroom. He stood in the expanse of the doorframe.

“Why’s it so dark in here,” the husband asked with a quizzical smile.

“I don’t know,” said Lulu, nodding. She shivered as if a window had been opened, gazed fondly on the husband’s profile. “Your getup is over here,” she said.

The husband switched the light and went over to the reposed garments. Draped the ironed clothes over his prostrate forearm and strode into the master bath.

When he came out, he stood in front of the closet’s mirrored doors, critiqued his blowzy reflection.

“What do you think,” he asked Lulu. “Do I need a facial or should I just shave?”

“Get out of here. I’m too busy to answer such silly questions. Shoo now,” she said, tucking in the bedsheet corners military style.

The husband yanked at his blue-striped tie. “These doggone things. I can’t seem to ever get a handle on them. If only Mary…”

Lulu was already tiptoeing over. She slipped her fingers around his collar and lifted it. “Hold still,” she said, “always fidgeting.”

“Okay,” said the husband. He crouched down, cocked his chin, and found himself affected by the cupreous outline of Lulu’s mirrored reflection. How had he not ever noticed her before?

“You must take real good care of your hair. It’s so beautiful. Naturally curly, am I right?”

“There you go,” Lulu said. “Now you have no more excuses for not meeting the world head-on.” She flung her copper-brown hair and it fell over her right breast. She pulled it into a hairclip.

“There. You won’t get distracted anymore. Will you?”

“I do have a first name, you know,” the husband said. He felt his face tingle and he smiled at her shyly.

“Yes Mister Robinson…Dave, I mean,” Lulu said. “Sounds like little Freddie’s ready to get out.”

Lulu went out into the brightly lit hallway and turned towards the bathroom. Strands of her girlish hair loosened from the clip.

“Lulu,” Dave said, suddenly breathless.

~~

Bill Cook resides in a small community nestled in the Sierra Pelona Mountain Range. He has fiction published in Juked, elimae, Tin Postcard Review, Right Hand Pointing, The Summerset Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, and in Dzanc’s anthology Best of the Web 2009.

Ania Vesenny

The Woman

They found her body in the mountains, face burned. In her locker at the train station they found nine passports and three wigs. Her names: Vera, Claudia, Genevieve, Astra, Layla, Vera (again), Melinda, Layla (again), and Alexia.

Kathy is sitting through her son’s piano lesson. She’s supposed to be taking notes, but instead she thinks that she could see herself naming her daughter Alexia. Pretty. She doodles letters and shapes and glances at the clock. Her son would rather play hockey, but hockey is too early, and too cold, and it is not a life skill, not like music—this is what his therapists told her to tell him, if he asked. He is still on book 2, in his fourth year, and it’s getting tedious. She might give him a choice to quit by the end of the month.

The woman (Kathy calls her Claudia) traveled all over Europe. Mostly Sweden, Norway, Finland, Germany. Some said she was a spy, others, a thief. Do spies have names like Claudia?

When she stayed in hotels she chose rooms on the first floor. Kathy thinks that at night Claudia imagined herself jumping out of the windows. A rustle in the hallway, a tap on her door, and she’s gone.

Out of the train window she’d see what Kathy imagines as endless dunes. Pale, smooth ocean at the distance. Silvery water under silvery sky. To people she met, she’d nod her head and say something in German. She was always a tourist.

The piano teacher tells her that she needs to make sure he practices daily. Kathy nods, and smiles, and nods again. As they walk to the bus station, it begins to drizzle. He skips ahead, his scarf streams behind him like a drawing. He is her Little Prince.

“Do you want to stop at the ice cream place?” she says. The maple leaves are falling, glistening red on the black sidewalk.

Some said she killed herself, but Kathy shudders at the thought. Someone stalked her from one hotel to the next, took the ferry with her, then the train.

It would be an evening, there would be a cafe. Claudia, sitting with her back to the corner, and he comes over and smiles. She longs for someone to know her real name, the place she was born, the food she adores. Their foreheads almost touch over the steam of her coffee.

Kathy likes to sit with her back to the room. She’d fail as a spy. The ice cream is melting on his spoon and he’s telling her something about computer games or that boy in his class who calls him “stupid.” “You are not stupid,” she says. He keeps talking.

She must have trusted him, to go for a hike with him, sit by the fire, gaze at the stars. It must have been a relief to be herself.

It’s dark outside, and Kathy examines her reflection in the window—the transparent face, the wisps of hair tucked behind her ears. Who would recognize her in a wig? No one.

~~

Ania Vesenny lives in Nova Scotia, Canada, with her husband and three children. One day she’ll have a cat.

Beverly Jackson

133 Words I Lost in My Memoir

The slam of cupboards and loud singing wakes me. I have to get my bearings, the strange bed, the fog in my head. Who is that? Wait, familiar voice. Tom!~ I can’t remember precisely what my new husband looks like. My temples throb. His loud rendition of “Hit the road, Jack, and don’t cha come back no more, no more…” makes me wince, and the smell of fresh coffee slightly nauseates me. It’s difficult to get the unfamiliar bedroom in focus.

Birdsong wafts from the floor-to-ceiling louvers on two walls facing a bougainvillea garden. Tropical breezes flutter tall palms. I reach to the foot of the bed for a white peignoir, edged with stiff lace, a gift from Tom’s mother. My cynical friends joked that it was fancier than my wedding dress, a simple pique.

Had we made love last night? I can’t remember.

Tom appears, framed in the doorway, holding a breakfast tray. He’s clean-cut, handsome in an Eagle Scout, asexual way; a whole-wheat kind of guy. Short, light hair, blue eyes fringed with blond lashes. Not my type at all.

 ~~