Saturday, December 20, 2014

Flash Fiction by Cathy Ulrich

The Ghost Haunting You
The ghost is only a little boy. He’s told you he was hit by a car while running across the street after his ball.
Statistically speaking, do you know how many children are killed chasing after balls? you say, while I rinse leftover oatmeal from my breakfast dishes. It’s more than you’d think.
Before we moved here, you never really thought about ghosts. All your family was long-lived and died without regrets. You hadn’t even seen Poltergeist.
Didn’t the little girl die of cancer? you asked me after we watched it. I heard she died of cancer.
You thought how tragic it was for someone to die like that, unfulfilled, young. You began setting goals. We’d be married by the end of the year. In our own house by spring. You’d cut your hair. You’d get a promotion. We’d have a nice car.
Still, you didn’t think about ghosts until we came here.
Now you think about them all the time.
The creaking on the stairs is the little boy going up and down, you tell me. He had a happy childhood, just like you did. Death came for him so quickly, a blue sedan’s brakes squealing, his head striking the pavement, his ball rolling into the gutter.
You have conversations with the ghost of the little boy while I brush my teeth for bed.
Oh, I see, you say. Oh, I see.
The ghost of the little boy never speaks to me. You say it’s because I don’t believe in him. It’s true that I’ve asked around the neighborhood and nobody’s ever heard of any little boys getting hit by cars and dying.
People don’t talk about that sort of thing, is all, you say. No one wants to talk about a little boy who got hit by a car and died.
Except you. You want to talk about him all the time. That’s all you ever talk about anymore.
Don’t you believe in ghosts? you say, and I roll away from the cold space beside me, where you used to sleep.
Cathy Ulrich writes when she can and works at a funeral home. There are no ghosts there, but she always says good night to the dead people, so they don't feel lonely.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Flash Fiction by Cristine A. Gruber

Give Me a Sign 
Boy meets girl. Boy wants girl. Boy gets girl. And thus a life is made…
The sign on the lecture hall could be seen from across campus. It was six feet high, twenty-two feet across. The glowing sentiment could be read, word for word, from anywhere in the quad. It was a glorious and utterly over-the-top expression of undying love. And it worked. The boy got the girl and they were married less than six months later. They had two children in as many years and became the proverbial family of four by the time they were both twenty years old. Young but mature, they did just fine, better than most. They raised their children well, one destined to be an artist, the other bound to be an attorney. Life was varied and interesting.
The boy went into the I.T. field and did quite well for himself. The girl went into banking and did just as well in her own right. But career successes took a back seat to family life. Days were filled with softball games and karate tournaments, Girl Scout outings and PTA meetings. The children thrived. The oldest, a son, grew up kind and sensitive and full of heart. He married young, as his folks had, and settled down in the same town. The second child, a daughter, left home at seventeen to attend college. She did well, as expected, and later went on to Law School, getting accepted at a prestigious university clear across the country.
Empty Nest Syndrome is a misnomer at best, for it’s not a syndrome, but rather a dark, vacuous virus that eats one’s soul and leaves a person a walking shell of his former self. The day they got back from taking their daughter to Columbia, the boy, now a pseudo-man, spent most of the day rearranging the garage. By the end of the day, he was moving half the stuff from the garage to a storage unit across town. By the following weekend, he moved out. Married twenty-five years, over, just like that.
The girl never saw the signs.
Their son did reasonably well as an artist, but as is common with creative types, he had eclectic tastes that eventually led to his undoing. Late one Friday night, while visiting a bar on the questionable side of town, he struck up a conversation with the wrong sort of fellow. A crushing right fist and a broken beer bottle later, and the son’s body was removed from the premises on a stretcher, sheet drawn over his face. The family never recovered. The daughter excelled in her profession as well. She prosecuted the bad guys and put them away. The media called her The Eliminator, single-handedly removing the scum from the streets. She was in a parking garage when the shots rang out. Hit from behind, she never saw the bullet coming. The family sunk deeper into the pit.
Boy met girl. Boy wanted girl. Boy got girl. And thus a life was made…
The boy died of a heart attack at 63. The girl outlived him by another 30 years. She never remarried. At the age of 93, alone and delirious with dementia, the one thing she kept asking for was a sign; give me a sign, she kept saying. The nurses thought she was asking for a sign from God. But no, she wanted her sign, the one that had started it all, saved all those years, tucked away in a box under the hospital bed. They never figured out what she wanted. She died, alone, asking for a sign.
Cristine A. Gruber has had work featured in numerous magazines, including: North American Review, Writer’s Digest, California Quarterly, Dead Snakes, The Endicott Review, The Homestead Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Miller’s Pond, Napalm and Novocain, The Penwood Review, Pound of Flash, Pyrokinection, Red River Review,  The Tule Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, and The Write Place at the Write Time. In 2014, her short stories, "Imprisoned," and "Stash," both received an Honorable Mention in the Writers Weekly 24-Hour Short Story Competition. Cristine's first full-length collection, Lifeline, is available from

Monday, December 15, 2014

Flash Fiction by Heather Heyns

The Chicken Dance
When it came down to it, I slept with him because Mom made a dead chicken dance. She hefted it up under its wings as if presenting a child. A trail of pink slime dripped on the counter as it kicked and shimmied its way across. A dead thing, a used-up thing, a pitiable thing, but for two minutes it danced and soaked up a little admiration.
I met him at the park, behind a line of shrubs, when my friends and I shared a single cigarette I'd stolen from Mom. I tried to smoke the one he gave me without coughing as he played with the strap of my dress. His skin cracked over his knuckles, like a road map of a hard life. His hair had started to recede, and lines creased the corners of his lips. The years that sat behind his eyes doubled my own, but the way he watched me made me forget to care.
He drove me to the end of a dirt road. I stared at the frayed hem of my dress, pulling at a wayward thread when I couldn't bring myself to look at him. The shadows cast by the light of the dashboard made his face dangerous. The anticipation eluded me as it always had. Shame scrubbed away any excitement, leaving me covered in welts like road rash.
The weight of the night smothered me like his body did. His calloused hands felt rough and his shadow of a beard scratched my neck. I felt no pleasure, and swallowed down the complaints and refusals that always crawled up my throat like bile. Instead, I closed my eyes and clung to his shoulders as he made me dance, a dead and used up and pitiable thing soaking up a little admiration.
Heather Heyns is a freelancer writer from Southern California. Her work can be found in Howl Literary Magazine and upcoming issues of Literary Orphans, Thick Jam, and Yellow Mama. 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Flash Fiction by John W. Sexton

Mouth to the Sky

The speckled thrush stepped onto the sunlight conveyer-belt to the hedge-depth and was gone into shadow.  Somewhere in there the thrush became a cat, or was eaten by a cat, or killed the cat and wore it as a coat; but out the far perimeter of the hedge emerged the cat.  The cat approached the opened door of the car, the car shining black like a soul, a soul of darkness so pure that the sun turned it white as a flash.  Out the other side of the car stepped a woman in black coat, a coat so black it absorbed the sun.  She opened her mouth to the sky and out came the song of the speckled thrush.

John W. Sexton lives in the Republic of Ireland and is the author of five poetry collections, the most recent being The Offspring of the Moon (Salmon Poetry, 2013).  He also created and wrote The Ivory Tower for RTE radio, which ran to over one hundred half-hour episodes from 1999 to 2002.  Two novels based on the characters from this series have been published by the O'Brien Press:  The Johnny Coffin Diaries and Johnny Coffin School-Dazed, which have been translated into both Italian and Servian.  He is a past nominee for The Hennessy Literary Award and his poem "The Green Owl" won the Listowel Poetry Prize 2007.  Also in 2007, he was awarded a Patrick and Katherine Kavanagh Fellowship in Poetry.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Flash Fiction by April Salzano


In truth, she did not bubble OMG! or spit like totally when, in medias res, the teacher skipped into the meeting being held to discuss my autistic son, his progress, inclusion in a regular first grade classroom, but this is how I will retell the story of how the twenty-something teacher paralleled my son to her dog.  Again.

My son had begun wearing a weighted vest at school, a replacement for inappropriate touching, which sounds much worse than it is.  Neck, face, smooth undersides of arms of classmates, teachers, support staff.  Extra feels copped for baggy, dysfunctional skin, deformities.  The vest is designed to help by applying constant pressure, to deliver a hug of sorts.  The weights bring him down from the ceiling where he is not hovering, but zipping above his peers in wingless glory, laughing the kind of laugh that makes everyone want to be that happy, able to forget fact families and bar graphs, the meaning of dipthongs and consonant blends.  The vest had been working, progress noted.

"So," and here I will always insert the word like, "when I first saw this vest, my question was, how long can he leave it on?  I had all these questions about [like] how this device worked and I had to laugh at myself for asking because, well, we got one for our dog" (emphasis mine, mostly).

No, she didn't just say that.

Yes, she did, and she went on to describe how this garment "like, calms the dog," that though it was meant for thunderstorms, they knew, the just knew Fido or Fifi didn't want them to take it off.  "What's even funnier," she went on (and on and on), "was how we decided to order one (no it isn't) and if you tell anyone, my husband will just die" (does that apply to you as well?), "but, [like], we put a Christmas dress on her and she was so, y'know, like happy!  So this vest just made sense . . . "  Wait, it gets better, or worse, depending on how you feel about your child, your dog, or both.

In a separate incident, my son had been sick and after missing three days of school, I emailed this teacher to giver her an update on his progress.  He had been weak and I had to carry him to the bathroom, when we made it at all.  Shit, piss, vomit, covered us for several days.  Toilet, tub, washing machine, an endless assembly line of cleaning.  My mistake was adding any detail to the email I decided to send her.  Simplicity would have been so much better.  This time, she actually did say, "oh my God!" adding praise for the strength it must have taken me to haul this stocky boy to the bathroom.  "I can't even pick up my dog!"  How that was relevant, I am still not sure.

When combined with the autistic support teacher labeling my son more a pet than a peer during an IEP meeting, I feel justified in saying I have had my fill of this metaphor rolling off everyone's tongue like thunder.  I feel justified in ridiculing her epic fail as a small token of a smaller act of revenge on behalf of my son, who knows none of this now, and probably never will, dog willing.

April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two sons.  She is currently working on a memoir on raising a child with autism and several collections of poetry.  Her work has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in journals such as Convergence, Ascent Aspirations, The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle.  Her first chapbook, The Girl of My Dreams, is forthcoming in spring, 2015, from Dancing Girl Press.  The author serves as co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press (

Friday, November 7, 2014

Flash Fiction by Linda Casper


The young woman offering me water in an enamel mug was wearing a headscarf the colour of marigolds.  I accepted gratefully and gulped it down quickly while she nodded her head, smiling, revealing even, white teeth.  I thanked her both in English and French but she spoke in a language I couldn't understand.  She turned and went swiftly through the doorway into the dark interior and re-emerged with some wet muslin with which she dabbed my cheeks and forehead.  As she did so, I noticed the sleeves of her brightly coloured top were soaking wet and wondered if she had piped water or whether she had used some of her precious supply to attend to my needs.  Three young children wearing coloured beads round their necks and little else peeked out at me but disappeared when I said hello.  I tried to think if I had something in my bag I could offer in return for the hospitality she had shown me.  A crumpled notebook and a few pencils were all I could offer and they would be little recompense for quenching my thirst.  As I rummaged about my hand found a small oblong shape.  Perhaps the children would find a harmonica amusing.  I drew it out, put it to my lips and played one of the few tunes I could manage.  Three little faces appeared once more, hands covering their mouths as they tried to stifle their giggles.  Not for the first time, I thought children are children the world over.

Linda Casper hails from Yorkshire and, after a long career as a high school teacher, she has recently begun to write and has had many short stories, poems and travel articles published.  Linda has a keen interest in gardening and is a judge for Yorkshire in Bloom.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Flash Fiction by Joan McNerney

Where the Lost Gather

"Maintain your perspective just keep going" she thought while waiting for the bus.  The sky resembled an ink blotter drenched in grey and black.  People trekked along avenues attempting to cross over mounds of snow.  Teenagers ganged up huddling under broad awnings.  Their brightly colored jackets spread like rainbow clusters against brick buildings.  She twitched her umbrella awkwardly, its handle was cold.  Where were her gloves?  Would the bus ever come?

Stepping off the curb twisting her head fidgeting . . . "Stay optimistic.  Be brave.  Everything will work out eventually."  The familiar tape played over and over in her brain.  Another appointment, another pill pusher . . . another doctor as healthy as a horse.  How could he possibly understand?  Always the same questions.  What about her habits . . . smoking, drinking, taking street drugs, having an active sex life?  Was she anxious, depressed?  Prying into her life then offering no solutions.  A waste of money with so little cash left.  And a waste of time.  But time stood still now. . . heavy hours pressing down crushing her.

The doctor's office needed a paint job.  There was no coat closet or water fountain.  An old magazine minus its cover curled up next to the lamp.  Lorraine wished she had brought her crossword puzzle.  Increasingly annoyed by the long wait, she realized her turn was hours away.  Looking over the other patients, wondering what was wrong with them.  Finally the doctor had time to see her to listen to complaints about fatigue, shortness of breath, being dizzy.  Promising to run some tests, he left.  A nurse entered to draw her blood filling three vials with a long needle.  The results would be available next week.  Handing her check to the receptionist, that was that.

It was so great to get home, she felt so free, so happy after leaving the oppression of the doctor's office.  Home now:  beating a retreat under lumpy bedclothes where several paperbacks and her eyeglasses were hidden.

Many pages later windowpanes clatter like nervous teeth.  Zillions of icicles etch fine line portraits of frost.  Snow fell and kept falling.  Unleashed . . . storms overtake darkness . . . making all mute.  A storm of light covers the night as she slid to sleep.  Dream sliding to a house of mirrors where countless images surrounded her.  Where is she?  Reflections without number repeat her every gesture.  Somehow she must look for her real self.  Sifting within these icy sheets of glass, suddenly all her fingers began to burn.

Joan McNerney's poetry has been included in numerous literary magazines such as Seven Circle Press, Dinner with the Muse, Camel Saloon, Blueline, Vine Leaves, Spectrum, three Bright Hills Press Anthologies and several Kind of a Hurricane Press Publications.  Poet and Geek recognized her work as their best poem of 2013.  She has been nominated three times for Best of the Net.  Four of her books have been published by fine literary presses.  Three ebooks have also been produced.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Flash Fiction by Jeffrey Zable

A Hemingway Day

While on a short vacation in Havana I ran into Ernest Hemingway at the bar Floridita and he invited me to sit down with him.  Of course, he did most of the talking, telling me about a recent hunting trip in Africa and marlin fishing with some movie star friends.  At some point, while there was a pause, I decided to tell him about a recent event that happened to me back in New York City.  I decided to tell him the story even though I doubted that a man like Hemingway, who'd been everywhere and done everything, would be much interested in what I had to say.  Mainly I wanted to find out what he would have done in the same situation.

"So I was walking down the street on one of those hot, muggy days in Manhattan when I noticed a child in a stroller eating an ice cream.  Stopping to watch him lick at the ball of ice cream, it was only a short time before it fell out of the cone, bounced off his knee and onto the sidewalk.  Immediately the kid started crying and screaming, while his mother tried to comfort  him.  Seeing that we were right in front of the ice cream parlor, I walked up to the mother and asked her to wait there a moment.  I then went inside and ordered a fresh strawberry ice cream on a cone.  Of course, I failed to notice what flavor the kid was originally eating, but just decided on strawberry because it was the first flavor that I saw.  I walked out and tried to hand it to the kid, but he just looked at it for a moment, and then started crying and screaming even louder than before.  Obviously embarrassed, the mother thanked me anyway, and started pushing the stroller down the street while I stood there holding a melting strawberry ice cream.  Not really caring for that flavor, I walked over to the nearest trash can and dropped it inside."

At this point, I looked closely at Hemingway and realized he was staring to the side of me at a group of people sitting at a table.  Sitting with the group was a beautiful woman who seemed to have captivated Hemingway's attention.  "What would you have done?"  I asked him, and still looking to the side of me, he responded, "It's not what I would have done.  It's what I'm going to do!"  And he got up from his seat and went over to the table where the beautiful woman was sitting.  He introduced himself, and because everyone knew who he was, they immediately invited him to join them.

Now sitting there alone I wondered if my story would have impressed anyone other than an average person like myself, who never had a 'Hemingway Day' in his entire life, and probably never would . . .

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro-Cuban folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area.  He's published five chapbooks including Zable's Fables with an introduction by the late great Beat poet Harold Norse.  Present or upcoming writing in Toad Suck Review, Clarion, Kentucky Review, Edge, The Alarmist, Skidrow Penthouse, Uppagus, Ishaan Literary Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Futures Trading, One Trick Pony and many others.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Flash Fiction by Carroll Susco

Mary Queen of Scots

I would have liked nothing better than to have lived with my parents in a fishing village, or at least by the sea.  But ideally, dad would have been a fisherman and mom and I would have baked bread and knitted sweaters by the hour in our quiet little house.  I would go out to feed the chickens and the horses and the ox.  We would have a pet rabbit that slept at the foot of my bed and made little rabbits that danced around the yard and that mom tapped with the broom when they got underfoot as she swept the rubble away, and we would have loved out homes and not wanted to leave Scotland ever.  It would have been our solace and people free from tyranny, hunger, and Queen Elizabeth.

What did I do in my cell for 18 years before she found a way to execute me safely?  I dreamed of another life.  A fishing village.  The sheep herder who would come with his son to visit.  He would trade lamb for fish and my father would gut them with care.  The boy would follow me out as I went to look at the sea and he would stare at me instead of the blue and he would say my eyes were like water and my hair like lamb's wool and my hands small treasures he wished only to hold.

I picked out names for our children.  One I would name Maria and she wold be a poet with long red hair over her shoulder and against such pure fair skin.  I lost my father when I was 6 days old.  Our children would not lose Joseph, my sheepherding faithful hearted truth loving husband.  Any my parents would grow old and come stay with us and it would be a house full of love.

The day of my execution I stopped dreaming and said:  Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on Earth, as it is in Heaven.  Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the Kingdom and the Power and the Glory forever, Amen.  In the name of your son, Christ, who died for our sins and who I hope redeems me too because I can't stomach spending eternity with Queen Elizabeth.  I can't forgive her for my unborn Maria, a poet I think.  Yes.  Maria will find the words to make it all right.  God, is that you?  My soul feels lighter.  God?  Holy Ghost?  I'm being embraced I think by an angel.  Thank you.

I kneeled before the chopping block and rested my head on the stone.  It was cold.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Flash Fiction by Stacy Lynn Mar

The Girl in the Coffee Shop

She always had an appetite for coffee, house blend was her favorite.  A morning cup meant bliss, but, really she'd drink it all day long.  She would enter every cafe she passed, flamboyantly flashing her silver rings and the jangly doo-dads of her bracelets.  She loved the sound of the percolator, a whistling teapot, liquid creamer dripping.  In fact, that's where she met him, at the Busy Bee cafe.  He ordered a double-shot mocha latte and she thought the Gods must be sending her a signal.

During their first date, she was a jumbled ball of nerves, unsure if she should disclose that some nights she felt like a reincarnated Janis Joplin dancing before her bedroom mirror.  But the sun set early during their dinner, the rare blood moon spreading pink clouds like blooming, effervescent flowers across the sky.  Pink was her favorite color, and so she felt that was a good omen.  She quickly fell in love, and, he, into her bed.

It was summer break, ten days full of two bodies spilling their chemistry into the sheets of her bed, the old couch from her first semester in college, the shag carpet that absorbed her tears when on the tenth day his call never came.  She was okay for a few hours, wringing her hands and smoking cheap cigarettes (usually she didn't smoke at all).  But soon her irritation with the front door grew as she waited for the 9 pm knock that never came.

In a fevered tantrum of grief and shame, she busted the colorful coffee mug he gave her, save for the one lone point of porcelain, the shard she used to scrape his face from a polaroid picture of them together.  The only picture she had of them together, actually.  And in a pitiful fury of revenge, she flushed the bitter beans of his favorite Columbian coffee down the toilet.  After that she spent long days sleeping and took up baking.  She learned to make fruit loaf yeast bread, sweet buns and sour dough, though she rarely ate anything she made.  Her loaves of fresh bread became sick gifts she gave to friends and neighbors.  She lost so much weight that her favorite sweater dress hung limp at the elbows.

Desperate for caffeine, she started making tea.  She preferred it unsweetened so the tang of herb and tree leaves would tingle atop her tongue for hours.  Until one evening in October she ventured into a bookstore, surprised to see a homely cafe nestled into the far corner.  She couldn't remember the last time she drank anything besides chamomile tea, so she quickly bought the current issue of Poetry magazine and ordered a Hazel Nut espresso.  As she savored the bittersweet nectar and words of poets by names she'd never heard of, she felt more like herself than she had since . . . him.

Now every evening you can find her there, in her long necklaces made with charms and hemp, reading poetry and having coffee.  Her favorite seat is in the back right-hand corner so she can choose to lose herself in a book, or observe the hipster patrons engaging in conversations about new age rigmarole and the slow demist of pop culture.  Every day she orders something different . . . Vanilla Bean Latte, Macchiato, even black coffee.  But she never drinks Mocha anymore.

Stacy Lynn Mar is a 30-something American poet.  Inspired by the works of Sharon Olds and Anne Sexton, her work is primarily confessional.  She holds three graduate degrees in psychology and attended Lindsey Wilson College of Human Sciences as well as Ellis College of NYIT for a BA in English.  Shacy divides her time between her young daughter, her forays into writing, a genuine love of books, film, coffee, vintage things, and her life partner.  She is founder and masthead of a new literary ezine for women, Pink. Girl. Ink, and also has a book review blog.  She invites you to visit her personal blog  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Flash Fiction by A.J. Huffman

Why I Choose To De-Stress in the Shower

Milk baths are supposed to be relaxing.  I do not find them to be so.  The strange feeling of milk trickling over my skin is odd, disconcerting, as if I were sitting in a giant bowl of cereal and I am a rapidly-sogging grainy flake.  I feel as if I am waiting for some unseen hand to swoop down with an enormous spoon, scoop me up, devour me.  Or worse, I am a cookie bobbing, softening, every second of submersion weakening my body, breaking it down, making it easier to dissolve between anonymous dentures once gnarled fingers manage to maneuver me up to cragged lips, barely parted.

Bubble baths used to be a possibility, until I realized the softly-scented glycerin drops are only a dash of aroma therapy oil away from the detergent I use in my kitchen sink.  Suddenly the loofa I use to scrub my back feels like steel wool, and I am a casserole dish, a day’s worth of cheese baked to my sides.  I scour until I bleed, but realize the only real hope of salvation would be to slip from my own hands, crash into a million useless pieces on the tile floor.

Plain soap and a tub full of warm water was effective, until I heard the parable about the frog and the boiling kettle.  The frog would not jump into the boiling kettle, because, obviously, it was boiling.  However, the frog jumped right into a warm kettle, and happily stayed there as it warmed to boiling, because it happened slowly over a long period of unnoticeable time.  Suddenly, I am bathing in arctic water, unable to bring my hand to reach for, let alone activate the hot valve, turn myself into frog soup.

So for now I stick with the shower, content to clean myself in the sanity of the regulated auto-draining spray of its head.  The process safe from strangulated semi-psychedelic mind-trips, at least as long as no thoughts of subterranean water systems collecting acid reign creep into my head, begin dripping into my pipes.

A.J. Huffman has published nine solo chapbooks and one joint chapbook through various small presses. She also has two new full-length poetry collections forthcoming: Another Blood Jet (Eldritch Press) and A Few Bullets Short of Home (mgv2>publishing).  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, and her poetry, fiction, haiku and photography have appeared in hundreds of national and international journals, including Labletter, The James Dickey Review, Bone Orchard, EgoPHobia, and Kritya.  She is also the founding editor of Kind of a Hurricane Press. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Flash Fiction by Cristine A. Gruber

Standing Room Only

Like a scene from a hospital show from the 90s, I stand in the hallway, one hand on the wall, fingers splayed, not so much to hold myself up, as much as to simply have someplace to put them, something to do with my quivering digits, the other trembling set wrapped firmly around my waist.  I'm polite as you give me the news, nodding slowly, my eyes never leaving your face, focused on your mouth, possibly believing if I stare hard enough, I'll be able to rearrange the words spilling forth, thus altering the news, changing the course of the landscape.  You apologize more than once for the lack of privacy as you tell me the MRI shows an undetermined mass at the base of my brain.  I think I ask you for a more precise explanation of what I'm supposed to do with that information, but the effects of the morphine rushing through my system make me question whether I speak at all, or merely hear the words inside my head, false niceties alongside vicious curses I'd only heard in movies I'd never admit to watching.  Tears well up, but not for me.  Surely, they're nothing more than tears of empathy for the look of pain on your troubled face as you graciously conclude by telling me it will be another three hours before the Attending on Duty will have the time to get to my chart, review my paperwork, and find me a bloody room.

Cristine A. Gruber has had work featured in numerous magazines, including:  North American Review, Writer's Digest, Writers' Journal, Ascent Aspirations, California Quarterly, Dead Snakes Online Journal, The Endicott Review, Garbanzo Literary Journal, The Homestead Review, Iodine Poetry Journal, Kind of a Hurricane Press:  Something's Brewing Anthology, Miller's Pond Poetry Magazine, The Penwood Review, Poem, Thema, The Tule Review, and Westward Quarterly.  Her first full-length collection of Poetry, Lifeline, was released by Infinity Publishing and is available from

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Flash Fiction by Jim Meirose


Margaret came in the yellow kitchen and flicked on the light.  Centipedes scurried out of sight under the stove and under cracks in the baseboard.  Margaret got the big black iron stew pot from the refrigerator, put it on the stove, and lit the gas.  Mother Rose came into the room trailing her scarf as Margaret put knives forks and spoons and plates out onto the chrome trimmed table.  Mother Rose went to the glass-fronted side cabinet and opened it and reached for the dark brandy bottle.  Margaret was quicker--she pushed Mother aside and grabbed the brandy bottle down from the shelf and pressed it to her breast.  Rose grasped at it.

Give me that bottle, said Rose--I need it--I want to get out of here--this lousy place--the brandy takes me out of here--give it to me.

No Mom, said Margaret, holding the bottle closer--you're a damned drunk--

No, I'm not, shouted Rose--I need that give it to me--

As she clutched at the brandy bottle, Jeffrey came in the room, open mouthed and haggard.

--give me the bottle--Margaret, I am your Mother--

--No--you're a lush, Mom--you're a damned lush--

God, said Jeffrey, tearing his hair, looking from Rose to Margaret and back again--don't argue--you're always arguing--please don't argue--

Ignoring him, Rose went on, pounding her palm into her own chest, her black eyes bulging.

--I need the brandy for my nerves Margaret--you're a damned prude--a damned prude is what you are--

The stew pot softly simmered.

Margaret held Mother at arm's length.

No Mom--it's bad for your health--it will just make you more nervous--you know how you get when you've had the brandy--

Jeffrey raised his hand and shouted and pushed between them.

No--Me!  I have had it with both of you--I will decide who gets the bottle!

No! said Margaret, setting the bottle on the table and pointing into Jeffrey's chest--you have nothing to go by to make that decision--

Oh no?  And why not--listen, he said, tearing his shirt--I am the man of the house!

Rose and Margaret froze a second, wide eyed.

--I am the man of the house--and you are mere women!

The stew pot bubbled on the stove.

What do you mean, mere women, barked Margaret.

What I said, yelled Jeffrey--just what I said--

As Margaret and Jeffrey faced off, Rose fumbled for the bottle--

Mom! said Margaret--no--no!

The two women wrestled with the bottle and it slipped from them and smashed to the floor.

Oh real smart Margaret, yelled Rose, kicking at the broken glass--real smart--

Margaret pointed from Rose to Jeffrey, saying If he hadn't said those shitty things bout us being mere women, it would never have happened--it's his fault--

Rose turned to Jeffrey, eyes ablaze.

Yes it is his fault isn't it!

The stew pot boiled harder.

Rose grabbed a kitchen knife from the table, as did Margaret--they advanced on Jeffrey, like two jagged toothed sharp clawed winged creatures, two harpies.

He did it--

Yes!  He did it.

Jeffrey fled out the door, ran across the living room to the staircase, and ran up and locked himself in his room.

My God, he yelled as he ran--my God--

In the kitchen, atop the broken glass and brandy puddle on the ground, Margaret and Rose smiled at each other as they waved the knives, and stamped hard on the glass shards on the floor, crushing them smaller and smaller until you'd never have known they had been a bottle.  The stew pot boiled up, finally out of control, spattering, spattering, spattering.

Jim Meirose's work has appeared in numerous magazines and journals, including Pound of Flash, Collier's Magazine, the Fiddlehead, Witness, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Xavier Review, and has been nominated for several awards.  Two collections of his short work have been published and his novels, "Claire," "Monkey," and "Freddie Mason's Wake" are available from Amazon.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Flash Fiction by Janet Shell Anderson

“You keep the children.” Jason disposes of them just like that as the aurora burns over the Vermilion River. Witchlight. We’ve been married nine years. “I’ll keep the dog,” he adds.
Across the river, a wolf edges out of the forest to drink. Our sons, Jeremy, eight, and Kevin, six, sleep in our tent, unaware. Upriver, wolves cry, a pack. Jason doesn’t explain, but I know it’s Sharon, honey haired, golden, one of those twenty-somethings in the Montana Café in town, charming as otters, smooth and quick. Jason saw her, wants her. Her father’s rich.
In a sudden wolf silence, the river talks, chugs over hydraulic potholes. Our fire snaps. Jason’s throat works as he drinks cold beer, sits firelighted, honey gold as Sharon. I can almost hear the thunder of the falls, south of us. I can imagine the deep pool at the cliff foot, black water there, or maybe gilded by the streamers in the sky, running down the magnetic lines, like a script, like a written language of gods.
Ten miles north is the border. I’ve crossed it a hundred times. A lot of us from up here are very good at border crossings. Late at night. In any weather. Summer or winter. Private business. Nothing ever stops us. Jason has forgotten that. He’s from the Cities, from Minneapolis, not really like us.
The wolf drinks, looks at me, a knowing look. Wolves cry like humans sometimes, late, late at night on the Vermilion when the aurora shines. Things happen in the forests, at the border. The terrible witchlight of the aurora flickers green, white.
“So Medea,” Jason asks, “you gonna be all right with this?”
Janet Shell Anderson writes flash fiction, has published a "flash" novel, has been published by decomPVestal Review, FRIGG, Convergence, Grey Sparrow, Cease Cows and others and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for fiction. She is an attorney.


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Flash Fiction by Daniel Clausen

Mr. Brown Still Lives There
Early in the morning, he can shake the apathy off his shoulder. The calm dullness of the morning sunlight beaming down on him, the momentum of his body as his feet hit pavement, the feeling as his glasses bounce ever so slightly on his nose--it’s easy for it to fall off and die on the pavement. The apathy on his shoulder never stood two halves of a quarter of a chance in a lottery rigged so the mayor’s son would win, no sir. Apathy couldn’t really stand up to the power of morning sunlight, cool air, and the will to put feet into motion.
Mr. Brown can shake the apathy off his shoulder, but he can’t shake the apathy off the shoulder of that kid sitting silently in his classroom, looking down, not concentrating, carelessly careful to avoid achieving the slightest bit of momentum. Not there, no, not there.
When he runs, though, when the adrenaline is at full tilt, when his feet move so fast the cool air becomes cooler, and it’s that super-real thing called “will” pushing him forward, thoughts become power and defeatism loses to feetism (the power embodied in feet), then, maybe, maybe….
He wakes up at dawn in two places; two people. One place is the kind of nice neighborhood he lives in now, its occasional garden, occasional luxury car, and quietness. The other place is not so nice, with the occasional fight, the occasional drug dealer, occasional drug bust, and the ever-present noise. The calm dullness of the morning sunlight keeps him focused on his path and his goal: to shake the shadow behind him.
When he runs, he runs with his glasses on. His feet hit the pavement to the rhythm of his heart beat, faster than a sleeping heart beat. He takes pride counting them. Then, when the feet hurt and the will wavers, the screaming starts. He screams loud things in his head to frighten off the shadow of a man who would look with complacency at the comfort and old age education has brought him—more than he fears gangs, disease, and politicians, that shadow of a content man. Not a real man as far as that super-real thing the “will” is concerned. When he finishes the occasionally nice neighborhood is there, but the ghetto remains in his head.
He runs a mile, eats breakfast, and is fully dressed for work before the clock taps seven. He shows up to work an hour early and reviews his notes for the day. He reads newspapers, essays, and magazines. Debating in his head he thinks now he can make the words move and work for him.
When asked by his students why he became an English teacher, he replies that he believes there is no nobler profession than an educator—a potentate of potential, a facilitator of facilities, negotiator of knowledge, farming fragile faculties. He preaches the virtues of reading and rereading. He says it’s soul-inspiring, life-nourishing, life-saving. It’s the words that can do the work of saints and devils, and word-users anyway are paid more than mechanics.
He can shake the apathy off his shoulder, but he can’t shake it off the shoulder of a kid,
face-down, there and not there. But when he wakes up at dawn, runs, screams loud things in his head to scare off the shadow, comes to work early, does the debate in his head and then makes the words dance, he believes he can shake the apathy off the kid’s shoulder--hell, off anyone’s shoulder.
When he wakes up at dawn he thinks he can. If you can get a head start, if you can wake up when that alarm goes off, you can accomplish anything. You can shake off the disadvantages heaped on you for generations and accomplish those amazing feats that seem ordinary. If you can wake up before the sun you can wake up in the projects where you were born. Wake up, relive them, and run past them. You run past them so fast you run the next kid out of the ghetto with you.
He runs in a pretty average neighborhood, teaching and preaching to pretty average students, accomplishments so average you wouldn’t hang them on a wall anywhere except in the ghetto in your mind. Mr. Brown still lives there.
Mr. Brown thinks only of the ache in his feet, the debates in his head, and words moving like lightning.
Daniel Clausen’s fiction has been published in Slipstream Magazine, Zygote in my Coffee, Leading Edge Magazine, and Spindrift, among other literary journals. You can learn more about his newest novel, The Ghosts of Nagasaki, at:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Flash Fiction by Melissa Duclos

I Never Told Anyone About That Trip to Serendipity
            I was seven, and thought my father and I were going into the city for a special date. I’d gotten dressed up and had wanted only to order a fruit tart because it looked delicate and grown up inside the glass case. My father pushed for the hot fudge sundae, perhaps wanting something he knew would take me a long time to finish.
            He started up with his ums and ahs when I was just a few bites in, and as he continued talking I began shoveling larger and larger bites into my mouth, barely stopping to taste the ice cream or the chocolate sauce, feeling only the sticky film on my hand and the end of my spoon and around my mouth.
            When he finished talking, finally, we both sat staring at the cherry I’d left in the bowl, so red it was almost obscene, though that couldn’t have been what I thought at the time. He asked me then if I was going to eat it, as though it had been any other day and any other dessert and I leaned over and threw up beside the table. My vomit looked like some lunatic’s idea of happiness, just like my parents’ marriage.
Melissa Duclos received her MFA in creative writing from Columbia University, and now works as a freelance writer and editor, and writing instructor. She is a regular contributor to the online magazine BookTrib, and the founder of The Clovers Project, which provides mentoring for writers at various stages in their careers. Her fiction and essays have appeared in Cleaver Magazine, Fiction Advocate, and Scéal literary journal Her first novel, Besotted, is a work of literary fiction set in Shanghai, for which she is seeking representation. She lives in Portland, OR, with her husband, two children, and Yorkshire Terrier, Saunders. 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Flash Fiction by Mark Amidon

It seemed like such a good idea at the time.
Perhaps she was inspired by the beautiful vista she could see from her ski chalet, the beautiful white snow coating the landscape, the crystalline beauty, the way everything looked like an iced cake, not an iced mountain range.  And when it occurred to Dr. Ingridsen that sugar was a simple hydrocarbon, C6H12O6, which was easily photosynthesized from carbon dioxide and water, she believed that she'd hit upon the cure for global warming.

When she returned to work, she got her team working on an airborne plankton, one which could take both carbon dioxide and water vapor from the air and excrete sugar.  Was it really as simple as it sounded?  Why hadn't the biosphere done it already?  The answer to that was that plants normally consumed the sugars they produced, but a few tweaks to the DNA put more emphasis on producing and excreting, with only a minor amount needing to be consumed.  The extra energy was sapped from the air's ambient temperature, as well as from sunlight.

Their first test was their last test, due to a broken seal in what was supposed to be an hermetic chamber.  At first, they were excited to see that CO2 and humidity levels in the chamber had dropped, and that a beautiful white precipitate was left on the floor.
But when they awoke the next morning, everything glittered.  Leaves of grass caught and turned the dawn's sunlight, refracting tiny rainbows, and making the whole area seem magical.  Everything, in every direction, was coated with an inviting frost.  Trees sparkled, their leaves iridesced, and children rapidly discovered that licking the bark was sweet.

Ants and bees and all manner of insects had also discovered this, and were swarming to get as much as possible back to their queens.  Many small birds delighted in this.
Roads proved to be a bit slick, but this was not discovered until after people had figured out that neither a simple pass of the windshield wipers nor a spritz of wiper fluid were sufficient to clear their views.  Worse, after an initial scrubbing, the non-vertical windows all became obstructed again when the vehicles weren't moving.

An early afternoon drizzle made the ground, the lawns, and the roads quite sticky.  Spray from passing tires soiled clothes and spattered spectacles.  Some noticed that their shoes would have to be gently pried from the sidewalk with each step after walking through any shallow puddle.  Some noticed the green haze in the puddles and the air above them.  Some noticed that the air was cleared by the rain, but that a green fog returned with the passing of the clouds.

Meteorologists began to notice as a front of frosting well above freezing was wending eastward from the town that held Dr. Ingridsen's laboratory.  Humidity levels were dropping, even as the sprinkling of sugar was falling.  Storms forecast for the afternoon proved to be nothing but showers, and showers forecast for the peripheries never happened.  Instead, the strangest form of snow, which wasn't snow, started to accumulate.
Some took advantage of this.  Annoyed that she had to bring her laundry from the clothesline and then wash it again, Mrs. Leigh suddenly stopped, snapped her fingers, then baked a pie and set it on the backyard picnic table to cool.  As she expected, the crust was delightfully glazed.
Of course, there were some grumblers.  Folks who were out for a hike noticed that the insects were abundant, and that they had to wash down their backpacks and hair.  The water from the ponds and streams was no good for this, as it was all sweet to the taste and didn't clean well at all.  They also saw that pine needles were sticking together in clumps.

As the day started winding down, Dr. Ingridsen had no choice but to report her team's accidental release of their noble experiment.  She initially spoke with her laboratory's administrator, and together they informed their funding board.  After a brief flirtation with the idea of covering up their involvement, everyone agreed that things were getting even further out of control, and that some form of disaster agency needed to be told.  More meteorologists were brought in, and many reported that the drop in humidity that accompanied the flurry of sugar also led to a thinning of the airborne plankton, and so the whole thing should reach a new equilibrium soon.  Everyone exhaled great relief.

Then the fires started.
Mark Amidon has too many things going on in his professional and family life to be sitting down and writing like this.  He has a wife, two teenage daughters, two cats, and a retired dog, not to mention an entire internet to correct.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Flash Fiction by Alan Catlin

Her motto was: "The other side of life."
In the eyes of a smiling death head tattoo; matching yellow butterflies.
Lying on the love seat, alone, caressing a wooden crucifix, she watches Kiss of a Vampire.
Reading Keats, she escapes The Chase of The Urn, becomes caught in Le Belle Dame Sans Merci.
In the night, parted ceiling tiles revealing worlds trapped inside.
Watermarks bleed through waxed papers when exposed to the burning light.
Cracked mirrors reveal nothing, shadows hide the emptiness, the soul.
She wakes in the morning wrapped in torn bed sheets whisper­ing of The Mummies Curse.
Broken stakes mark the receding staircase to the sun.
Steam escaping from frozen vent pipes fogs the textured bathroom glass, rasping the air.
Her skin slides from her bones like wax work.
A stopped pocket watch held in a flat palm, bent hands leaking time.
Kissing the lips of a Fata Morgana, sipping the breath of forgetfulness.
She comes in colors like a rainbow, etched in acid, strung out on radio waves.
Sitting  in darkness, watching candles light implode, tiny worlds, declining orbits around a flickering sun.
Crystallized light reflects in the broken prisms of her eyes.
Sipping red wine from the death head, stains leaking from the eye sockets like butterflies escaping.

In the palm, the lifeline extends, the future a thin fila­ment of sealing wax.
Her jagged teeth cuts lines of flesh on glass.
Dust devils touch the wings of yellow butterflies stretched taut as flexed muscles.
Her lips extend, a lamia kiss, a taste of bella donna, sweet as blood in the mouth of a dead poet.
Tiny diamond tongue studs are for traction touching skin.
Smoke hardens like wax skin on bones of flickering light.
A hot shower of quicksilver leaves puddles of pointillist light, carved images in the shape of a cross.
Standing silhouetted against an empty window, her body is a transparency veined by an absence of light.
Negative light at the center of light reveals yellow butter­flies poised for flight.
She whispers in the ear of the hourglass sifting time in­stead of sand.
Behind the silent television glass, the voices of dead poets crack against the unyielding surface.
All attempts at flying met with a sky like ice.
Glowing death heads impaled on poles like street lights illuminate electric butterflies.        Bodiless, she encounters sleep in the waxed eyes of butter­flies pinned to flesh.
"And this is why I sojourn here alone and palely loitering: though the Sedge  is withered from the Lake and no bird sing."
The moon is a field of death heads lit by butterflies.
The red wine of dreams puddles in palms of wax.
She sings  high c notes that crack like ice.

A puff adder in a dream of shallow waters stares through her eyes, splits the surface.
Snow falls inside broken glass, bleeding white hard blue lips, leaving a residue like ash.
Silence in polished stones inhabits the dark, casting melt­ing shadows that come in flocks like crows.
Through the wind screams of a sea of forgetfulness her hair is a kinetic, flashing fire.
The hand cupping a candle's flame feels the heat it cannot expire.
Her hands pressing against cold window glass feel the rain beading inside like wax, like blood.
The lifeline of yellow butterflies extends from the palm to the mind.
Her face painted for a masked ball is a yellow butterfly, each eye centers  an unfolding wing.
Pinned to a love seat cushion a specimen  sealed by wax.
Polishing her crystal ball, the glass becomes a glowing death head, yellow eyes forecasting the future.
Light skins a waxed skull held tightly for dreaming.
Her eyes are split movie screens, one side showing The Hun­ger, the other Bride of Frankenstein; her dreams caught in be­tween.
The full moon, eclipsed sinks in the desert melting like stones, like wax.
Her fingers are bones of butterflies tracing lines like veins on her cheeks, hollowing the bones of her face.
She sees herself framed in a mirror cracked by electricity, glowing, turning black and transparent like a waxed full moon.
She is she.
Alan Catlin has published in many forms and prose genres from flash fiction to novel length works, from surreal horrific fictions to gritty realistic.  A novella based on his bar work experiences is called “From the Waters of Oblivion”. Despite his adamant insistence people still refuse to believe it is fiction.  It most defiantly is": no one could be that obnoxious and tend bas as long as the main character did.