Category Archives: Issue #10

Pamela Banayoti

In Andy’s Arms

It was so nice. He actually cuddled me. He thought I needed one, that’s what he said, so I sidled up to him. We were on the ground at this point. Vertical, so we had a lovely view of the damp. I rested my head on his shoulder as the night lamp flickered. Talking about how much he loved his girlfriend, he stroked my arm, conjuring up a warmth on this cold November night. I got goose bumps even though maybe I shouldn’t have. But he would never cheat on his girlfriend. It was endearing to hear. I cried when he told me he couldn’t play rugby anymore because the amount of injuries he’s racked up has damaged him forever. Even his girlfriend didn’t know. I brushed my thumb across his chest and in the entirety of that minute, it felt like I was for him, and there he was, imparting this piece of himself where I could keep it safe and locked up for him whenever he needed it. The soberer he got, the more he talked about his girlfriend and less about how we had a connection. When dawn broke and the purple of the sky heaved heavy on our night, he realised his girlfriend would probably get mad if she knew he spent the night here, with me, even though all we did was talk. We didn’t come close to kissing. I wouldn’t call that cheating.

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London living, London loving. Pam’s past experience includes Editorial, Public Relations, and bringing joy to the world. She has a BA in English Literature and an MA in Creative Writing.

 

 

Kyle Hemmings

Edie Sedgwick and the Dog that Could Not Forget Her

I’m waiting for Michael at the train station. How romantic to fall in love with a fellow mental patient. Did we have tentacles and talons? Did we speak the slippery code of starved fish? Of course, the rest of the world thinks I only become addicted to men with incurable stones in their eyes. I hope he didn’t forget the Quaaludes and the three-grain Tuinals. The windows at this station are mighty foggy. I guess no one wants to be seen clearly.

And what does Michael bring me? A cute Chihuahua who’s almost as small as its own bark. After Michael hands him to me, I say What is its name? He says You tell me. I name him Wannabe. Because that’s all I ever was. Now I’m the returning little duchess who kept losing a shoe at all the wrong parties.

Wannabe licks my face then manages to spring from my arms. I’m too scrawny to hold him. I think he can fly, like it’s some silly magic that’s true. Things and people are always flying into and out of my life. I’m growing frantic looking for him. He might get crushed under a train. Or the wrong stranger will bring him home and spike his dog food, make him think that he’s something other than a dog. In time, Wannabe will be nothing.

I find him sitting near a turnstile. Children hold out hands to play with him. His huge dark eyes speak fear of the unknown. I squat and coo to him. “Come here, my little man. We all need a home, now don’t we?”

He’s back in my arms. He knows my girly scent.

I’m pushing my way through the crowd. I’m hoping Michael can see us. But with Wannabe so small and me being so skinny, it’s like we’re invisible.

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Kyle Hemmings is a retired health care worker. He has been published in The Airgonaut, Jellyfish Review, Twin Cities Review, and elsewhere. His latest collections of poetry/prose are Scream from Scars publications and Split Brain on Amazon Kindle. He loves 50s Sci-Fi movies, manga comics, and pre-punk garage bands of the 60s.

Andrew Stancek

Champagne Kiss

When I open my eyes, Glinda is still gone. At the Parsons’ house the terrier is yapping, deranged again. I roll out of bed and fall on the floor. Among the dust bunnies under the bed I see the glint of the thin gold bracelet I’d given her for our first anniversary. She said she loved it but I knew she was lying. I leave it lying in the dust and stumble to the kitchen. Bubblegum ice cream, scoop, I smack my lips.

I introduced my first girlfriend to Father when I was six and that night he said, “Lots of fish in the sea.” When I was ten he left to get a pound of butter and four years later sent a postcard with a grinning shark.

I should have bought her a Rottweiler instead of a bracelet and then she would have stayed to feed it. She killed the Boston fern, too.

The peony drapes in our bedroom will go to Goodwill today and I’ll never shop at Whole Foods again.

If I grow a beard she won’t recognize me when she comes back. Most of her make-up still clutters the bathroom counter. I draw a smiley face on my reflection in the mirror with her Veuve Clicquot lipstick. A fly licks the outline but I refuse to kill.

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Andrew Stancek entertains Muses in southwestern Ontario. His work has appeared in Tin House online, Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Vestal Press, Necessary Fiction, Every Day Fiction, fwriction, Pure Slush and Camroc Press Review, among others. He’s been a winner in the Flash Fiction Chronicles and Gemini Fiction Magazine contests.

Cari Scribner

How to Say Goodbye

 

Ignore the pain. Feel it grow. Try to have the conversation. Avoid it for weeks.

Actually, write a pro and con list. List that he is depressed and doesn’t get off the couch. List that you have nothing to say to one another anymore. List that he’s the first person you go to when you need something. List that you love him.

Call your mother. Feel worse afterwards. Feel your heart split down the middle like a broken zipper.

Have the conversation. Try to be calm and logical so it all makes sense, ties up in a neat little bow. Cry when it doesn’t.

Tell him you believe you are saving his life. Tell him to go south, where the winters he hates so much don’t exist. Cry when he leans his head on your shoulder and you smell the laundry detergent you use on his t-shirts.

Decide to tell the kids. Tell the oldest first. Watch her face become stoic. Tell the youngest. Watch his face crumble into confusion. Try to find reasons to show them the marriage is not working. Come up empty. Remind yourself they’re your kids, not his, so they will understand some day. Hold them when they cry anyway. Offer him one of the little dogs to take south. Offer the one that barks at night. Laugh when he says that’s like a booby prize.

Agree to try and make things seem normal, even for a little while. Go to the home goods store and buy black and white bath towels. Buy a rose scented candle for your desk. Realize the smell of flowers will make you sad for the rest of the summer.

Get a pedicure. Cry when she asks if the water’s too warm.

Get a haircut. Cry when you see the too-short results.

Cry at the market when they don’t have unsalted rice cakes.

Remember the wonderful summers with him. Remind yourself of the long winters when everything collapsed in despair. Force yourself to believe you weren’t the cause of his sadness.

Feel your zippered heart burst wider when he says the house and everything in it – the glass top coffee table, the painting of a bowl of apples, the angel Christmas tree ornaments – belong with the house and should stay with you. Think briefly about a garage sale. Feel your stomach lurch at the thought.

Sit on the front porch in the white wicker chair with the quiet dog and the one that barks.

Don’t talk about when and how he will go.

Cry when he pumps up the tires of the bike he never used, then rides it down the sidewalk because he wants to use it once before he leaves. Smile when he puts on the tight Superman bike shirt he never wore. Remember how sad you are. Question how you could smile, even for a moment.

Watch him ride away.

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Cari Scribner is an upstate New York writer whose work has appeared in a wide array of publications including Gravel, The Tishman Review, Fiction Southeast, Corium, Brilliant Flash Fiction and The Nottingham Review. She is currently at work on a novel. For more of her writing, see www.scribnerfiction.com

Nicholas Cook

The Great American Southwest

My brother has two rocks so he gives me one. We shoot them across the red soil and they bounce like they’ve got some place better to be. I rub the spot on my shin where earlier my brother had called me a dirty, rotten cowboy and smashed a different rock against my leg like the rock was a water balloon, my blood the water.

He adjusts his headdress and says, “I ain’t going home.”

My brother is an explorer of the great American Southwest. Today, though, he is native. His face is painted with red splotches of soil mixed with hose water. The soil is caked on like Mom’s foundation, flaking like the bottoms of her feet.

“We live with the earth now,” my brother says.

Mom says we shouldn’t play Cowboys and Indians anymore, what she calls Police and Natives. We shouldn’t be seen outside, my brother in his dollar-store headdress, face painted like a real American. Mom is one-eighth Navajo which makes us one-sixteenth. Dad calls us mutts and scoundrels. He calls us bad boys.

My brother runs to fetch the rocks. His headdress is too big and weighs his head down to one side. I lower Dad’s cowboy hat over my eyes until I can’t see anymore.

~

Dad says we rose like phoenixes out of Mom’s belly, but Mom say’s we arrived, like Albuquerque. “One day you were just here,” she says, as she takes off my brother’s headdress. She makes him stand by the sink and washes his face clean with a soapy dish rag. The same rag we saw her use earlier to clean off our dirty breakfast plates, when her face had been doing something funny with her eyes from all those onions. Now she says, “How many times have I told you?”

My brother hisses and counts out loud. “Six, eight, seventeen, twenty-five, one-hundred.”

“That’s right,” Mom says.

My brother’s face is red from the rag. Mom looks at my bloody leg and frowns but doesn’t say anything. Instead, she cleans the rag and wipes my leg after I sit down at the kitchen table. I count Dad’s scrunched up beer cans by the trash. There’s six of them—the number of days since any of us have seen him.

“You boys don’t know how to play nice,” Mom says, “you get that from your father.”

“Nuh uh,” my brother says, sitting down across from me, opening a Mexican Coke. “He fell exploring, ain’t that it?”

I nod, but Mom knows our truths from our lies.

“Give me food,” my brother chants, banging his hands on the table.

“You boys will eat me out of home,” Mom says. “You will eat me out of life. I wish I could have kept you inside my belly until you turned to stone.”

~

Mom says if we’re good boys, she’ll take us out of Albuquerque and farther west, where the soil is brown and things grow as tall as the sky.

Her white friend with the oversized jade necklace comes over after my brother goes to bed, and they sit around the kitchen table, ashing their cigarettes, talking about their husbands.

“Sometimes it’d be easier if he were dead,” Mom says.

She doesn’t know I’m listening. I’ve become an expert at being covert. My brother the explorer, me the documentarian. We’re not bad boys, we’re just misunderstood.

I wear my brother’s headdress because, at night, I get to be the Indian and he the sleeping cowboy.

Mom and her friend laugh like wild desert animals. The kind you hear late at night making all those pitiful noises, the ones in those documentaries my brother watches on TV. I watch Mom and her friend hold hands across the table.

Outside, I go behind the ancient juniper tree that tells me and my brother stories. The soil is red and talkative. I dig up my brother’s slingshot, the one I buried last week after he pummeled my legs indigo with bruises. I wash the slingshot off with hose water and pick out rocks for my brother—not small rocks, but rocks the size of fists, rocks from the great American Southwest.

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Nicholas Cook lives in Dallas, TX, along with his dog. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Jellyfish Review, (b)OINK, 100 Word Story, Lost Balloon, Unbroken Journal, and elsewhere. His story The Peculiar Trajectory of Space Objects won second place in the Feb 2017 Bath Flash Fiction Award. Find him at nicholascook.com.