Category Archives: Featured

Place: Roberta Beary

On the Last Ferry to Inishbofin

Lost in the landscapes were the blue gulls careening their watchful dance. The sea was the colour of loss, of father’s last words. Nothing so grand as be not afraid in the original. Though as a scholarship boy my father read Latin. In those altar boy summers he would out-swim the rich New York relations. Who called my father Paddy to remind him of the Inishbofin blood that shaped the distance between them.

As the days stretched out my father’s dying I would swim in his sea green eyes carrying messages from my brothers. Too depressing to visit. I’m not as strong as yourself, little sister. Sure wasn’t I only with him last month. And that is how it came that none were present to hear our father’s last words: Fetch me my blue cap, girleen. Then all speech faded and his mouth formed soundless, repetitive words. When his lips grew tired of moving his hand reached mine. Speaking our secret code. Squeeze and squeeze back. So passed the hours while the watchful gulls waited for sea green eyes to turn brown, then black. Where the relentless riptide took hold and my father, the strongest swimmer in the family, went under alongside the last ferry to Inishbofin. Until his hand turned as cold as the grey marble landscape empty of gulls after a night of lashing rain.

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Roberta Beary writes to connect with the disenfranchised, to let them know they are not alone. Author of two award-winning poetry collections, The Unworn Necklace (Snapshot Press, 2007, 5th reprint 2017), and Deflection (Accents Publishing, 2015), her micros have appeared in The New York Times, Rattle, KYSO Flash, 100 Word Story, Cultural Weekly, and Best Microfiction. She lives in County Mayo, Ireland, where she edits haibun for Modern Haiku and tweets her micropoetry @shortpoemz.

Steven John – Senior Fiction & Features Editor

Place: Julia Strayer

Boy Things

I scuff through the woods waiting for hips that won’t come. Heel toe heel toe down the length of a fallen tree. Roll a rock—pill bugs, millipedes, the smell of earth.

My breasts finally made an appearance, large enough to make clothes look different. My best friend has big boobs, and a boyfriend who’s always trying to cop a feel.

Around a patch of stinging nettles. Way around because some things deserve space. Past an old oak with gnarled roots that remind me what it takes to grow that tall. Step step step along one root that serpents above ground and below to the fort constructed of saplings bent together into a teepee, tied at the top, leaves for walls. Sit on a tree stump across from the Henry twins—two years older, talking football, holding a deck of cards.

“You’re late,” they say. “Strip poker.”

“Whatever. Just deal.”

One manhandles the shuffle, squeezing half the deck in one hand, shoving with the other. Some cards bend. The ace of diamonds falls. He clamps a shoe on it. I shake my head, pick it up.

“Give me those.” I shuffle a perfect arch that ruffles like a clipped card against spokes of a fast moving bicycle wheel. Cut the deck one handed and deal. I am good at cards because I know I need to be better at boy things than boys are. I can pull cards from the bottom of the deck, place a card where I want it.

After thirty minutes, they’re sitting in white briefs. I’m short one shoe. Their underwear tight enough to show the outline of whatever they keep in there. Shifting, growing like some sort of animal.

“You’re cheating.”

“They’re your cards.” I reach for my shoe.

“Game’s not over yet.”

I bunny ear my laces and pull tight. “I’ve seen enough.”

“We haven’t seen any.”

“You should’ve been better at cards.”

They grab at me, but I roll under the leaf walls and run. They chase, but these are my woods and I’m fast as a deer, leaping, swerving, sprinting, and I’m gone. I don’t look back.

I learned everything about boys when I was five. My mother told me to play with the nice boy next door. He lured me into his garage, damp, smelling of oil and dust.

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Julia Strayer has stories in or forthcoming at Glimmer Train, Kenyon Review Online, SmokeLong Quarterly, Atticus Review, and others, and is anthologized in The Best Small Fictions 2015. She teaches creative writing at New York University, and is completing a linked story collection. https://juliastrayer.com/

Steven John – Senior Fiction & Features Editor

Place: Andrew Stancek

Weather-beaten

On the road shoulder across from our church, our former church, our home, our former home, I am gathering courage to put my Rambler into drive, to step on the gas. Four hundred and thirteen days we’d spent; I came to know the weather-beaten boards, sealed shutters, peeled paint, creaky doors, bell without a clapper. I take breaths now — and stare.

We scraped together enough for the down payment: our home, the only way we could have a home, was decommissioned. We laughed; you said we’re also decommissioned. I imagined I saw vestiges of altar, holy water font, holes in the floor for the pews. There were times in our rejoicing, I hold onto that as an unshakeable truth, that we performed something holy in those same spots.

I’m a drunk. I don’t have to stand at a meeting and proclaim it. You knew, and I felt my luck changing when you agreed to a new start with me. Marvin, my brother, died of grief soon after his son’s crash, and although most of his money went to a vets’ organization, bequeathed just enough so when you added your “egg money”, our bid for paradise was approved.

The boards creaked, window frames never fit and carpenter bees burrowed. Our one winter was mild and many nights we shared a sleeping bag for warmth and love. Propane cost too much; we heated with our kitchen wood stove. You made the best Crabapple Brown Betty ever, although the two gnarled trees provided feasts mainly for crows and jays.

“How could you?” you cried. You slapped my face three, four times and I didn’t even put my hands up and the heel of your hand connected with my chest; you walked away. I want to hit myself, too. I thought of running the car exhaust, ending that way, but our palace has no garage. 

I suppose the bank will reclaim. I have no excuse. I’m a bum, a miserable no-good bum. I can’t make sense of it myself. I loved this place, the only home I’ve ever had. I loved you, the mole by your lip, the dusting of grey in your hair, your hoarse laugh. I’ve let myself down.

I finger my bruised cheek and turn the key in the ignition.

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The work of Andrew Stancek has appeared in Tin House online, Frigg, jmww, Peacock Journal, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, New World Writing, New Flash Fiction Review and many other fine venues.

Steven John – Senior Fiction & Special Features Editor

Place: Tommy Dean

Stitches Unravelling

We’re in his old hometown, where the buildings sag on their foundations, and the metal siding of the ‘70s is rusting, sun-scorched and dusty from cornfield weed killer. “Lucky, we didn’t all get cancer,” he says, pulling out the tassel from a female corn plant. He shows me this trick every time we get near a stalk of corn. Forty years old and he’s still trying to impress me with these pre-teen magic tricks.

He’s going in for some tests tomorrow. The kind where they poke and prod, scoop out blood from your veins like grape jelly and then make you wait two weeks for the results. Bone disease, MS, arthritis, everything is possible when they open you up and shine a light into the cave of veins and sinews, God’s stitching unravelling.

We stand in front of the press box that leans over the t-ball field like a disapproving teacher, ready to correct an unlucky student’s grammar mistakes.

“I got my first hit right there,” he says, and I have to stop myself from reciting the lines of a movie I’ve already seen fifty times.

“A looper over the second basemen’s head. I watched it roll through the clover. Startled into running the bases when everyone started yelling. Frantic,” he says, picking up a piece of gravel the color of a rotisserie chicken. The clouds puffy and white like a steaming pile of mashed potatoes. I’m hungry, but I can’t say anything yet. He’s thrown himself in the pool of nostalgia, and I can’t help him swim through it.

He kicks the metal fencing of the backstop, his hands gripping the chain link.

“My dad volunteered to announce the games. No color commentary back then. Just who’s up to bat, who’s on deck.”

“One time,” I say, arms crossed, but he’s already taking his place at home plate, pretending to swing a bat, elbow up just like his father taught him.

“Sexy,” I say, but he just nods.

“Carlson’s up to bat, swinging for the fences,” I yell, my voice cracking.

I wait for someone to tell us to leave, but no one comes, and I’m stuck here for as long as his memory holds, for as long as he can still hold up that elbow, run these bases. My voice continually cracking, following the arc of an invisible ball rolling through the clover.

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Tommy Dean is the author of a flash fiction chapbook entitled Special Like the People on TV from Redbird Chapbooks. He is the Flash Fiction Section Editor at Craft Literary. He has been previously published in the BULL Magazine, The MacGuffin, The Lascaux Review, Pidgeonholes, Pithead Chapel, and New Flash Fiction Review. His story “You’ve Stopped” was chosen by Dan Chaon to be included in Best Microfiction 2019. It will also be included in Best Small Fiction 2019. Find him @TommyDeanWriter on Twitter. 

Steven John – Senior Fiction & Features Editor

Place: Nod Ghosh


Kā Roimata o Hine Hukatere

I see faces in the ice. There’s a word for it: pareidolia. Sometimes I see an arm caressing the body of the glacier, its reach expansive. But despite her appeal, this frozen mistress courts death and destruction.

Although it’s unwise, since Jenny died, I walk these pathways on my own. I check the routes, looking for fresh crevasses and stressed seracs that might topple on us. My clients must be safe when they tackle the glacier’s backbone with their sticks and crampons.

The clouds scud overhead like closing curtains. We may have to postpone the 10.15 ice walk if the weather closes in.

I stop for a cigarette. Sitting on a jutting mound, I marvel at the range of blues and greys around me. Looking down, I see two eyes under the glassy plaque at my feet.

I often see faces in the ice.

But this is different. This is no pareidolia. Nor is it a missing tramper shrouded in polyprop and fleece. Her hair is loose, encased in resin-like ice. Her lips are blue. She looks like Jenny.

When I push my tears away, she’s sitting next to me. The woman tells me her name is Hine Huketere. I know this before she speaks. I have always known it. I follow her, not because she calls me by my name, not because she takes my hand, but because I must.

Perhaps it’s not possible to know something that constantly shifts. I thought I recognised every ice cave, every feature of this glacier. But Hine takes me somewhere I have never been. She removes my clothing. The inevitability of death slows my heartbeat. Standing naked in front of her, I accept my fate.

“You are like very him,” she says, stroking my face. Embracing the contradiction of the warmth in my belly and her dry ice breath, I sink into her cold warmth. We don’t make love. This is about baring our spirits. This is an attempt to save each other. This is so much more than sex.

Her tears are unstoppable. She cries for the loss of her lover.

Some call this place Franz Josef Glacier. But the ice comes from her tears, kā roimata; her tears made solid. This is her last farewell, along with so many like her.

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Nod Ghosh’s novella-in flash ‘The Crazed Wind’ (Truth Serum Press) was released in July 2018. Short stories and poems have appeared in many publications.Further details: http://www.nodghosh.com/about/

Steven John – Special Features & Senior Fiction Editor