Winning stories

 
1.52: Miscalculation by KM Zafari

Five years old. Capricious. Mischievous smile. He could still feel her tiny arms wrapped around his neck. “Faster, Grandpa!” she’d shout as he galloped around the house like a pony.

What a softie she turned him into. He, of all people, whose very name inspired fear.

Loving her left him vulnerable; he knew that. But there were unspoken rules, lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

Caskets were not supposed to be that small.

If they thought they’d finally broken him, they were right. Was it time to hang his hat? Perhaps.

But not yet.

He checked his watch. Dinnertime – perfect.

They were about to learn the true meaning of “family”.


1.51: Blackbird by Karl A. Russell

“Civil partnership, is that it?”

“What? No Mum, that’s something else.”

“Oh. Well, what’s that other one then? Humourist or whatever?”

I can’t talk to her, so I look out of the window instead. The smokers in the shelter look like bedraggled birds, waiting to spread dressing-gown wings and soar toward the sun. I wish I hadn’t quit.

“We were partners though.”

I look back, feeling my throat tighten.

“I know Mum. I know.”

She looks like a little bird herself, perched at the bedside. She’s still holding his hand.

“It’s called a humanist ceremony. Yeah, I think he’d like that.”

She smiles through tears.

“Humanist. Yes, that’s right.”


1.50: Cortigiana di Lume by Bill Engleson

Perfect, she is! Perfectomundo, she might once have said! In certain casually carnal company. In the end, all she could think, sadly, was how perfunctory it had become!

Glenys Walters sits before the mirror. Her finger traces a wrinkle that insists on flinging itself out from the left side of her face right near where her upper and lower lips converge, that little fleshy junction, spiraling into a demisemihemidemisemiquaver.

She has risen too far above her station; her wiles, her guile, strings pulled and plucked, the back stairways where the aromatics wander in search of favors, ever pandering for her piquant pleasures, for the courtesans indulgently intoxicating pitch.


1.49: Mother Knows Bert by Ed Broom

JAZZ COMES!

Mum’s right, of course, in her own unpredictable Nokia text speak. Lazy bones is exactly what I am. I should have popped round today to say hello and to talk about Col’s birthday. Unlucky lad had his Raleigh nicked last week and she wants me to find him a replacement on eBay.

THIS BILE. WHAT SHOULD I SAX?

Pay what you like, Mum. This 18 speed hybrid looks good, though. Auction ends later tonight and the current price is £40. I think it would be a steal at twice that.

OK. NAY 100 POUND. INCREASE MY AGE.


1.48: Merry Andrew by Karl A. Russell

Merry Andrew jigs and reels,
A-dancing through the fayre,
To frighten boys
Deflower maids
And tug their flowered hair.

In motley caravan he comes,
To sing the summer in,
On potter’s fields
And plague pit mounds,
With revelry and sin.

A powdered face, a rictus grin,
A crown of jangled bells,
But none dare meet
His shadowed eyes,
Nor hear the tale he tells.

For when the dance is over,
And all the sinning’s done,
The tent’s took down,
The earth stripped bare,
To claim them one by one.

And Merry Andrew travels on,
To spread his lies like cancer,
Of summer’s warmth
And endless joy,
That damned infernal prankster.


1.47: Da Capo All’Infinito by Steven O. Young Jr.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack. “You mean ‘British’?”

“No, ‘Brithic.’” I know. “You probably don’t believe me, but there’re aliens!”

“Oh yeah?” Smoke limits my words.

“They took me in my sleep one night.” You weren’t sleeping. “They experimented on my brain.” They were trying to repair the damages I’d done to your jigsawed skull. “I bet they don’t realize I remember it all.” I wish you did. Or could.

The ashes collapse as your story ends and I dread your moment of silence. Again.

“Brithic colonizers abducted me once, you know.”

I pull a cigarette out of the pack.


1.46: When the Student Becomes the Master by Brian S Creek

X.

Y.

Z.

How about W, for ‘who gives a crap’. Pythagoras, fractions, algebra; it’s all gibberish.

Graffiti on the page.

My son looks up with patient eyes. I’m supposed to be helping him with his homework but he’s the one teaching me.

I struggled with it back in the day and it ain’t no easier now. I used to blame the dyslexia but Frank down the road doesn’t let it beat him down.

My three-year-old walks over to me holding his new favourite toy, a second-hand Mr Spell. Damned thing is probably smarter than me too. It mocks me.

“Would you like to play a game?”


 1.45: A Hungry Business by @dazmb

“…body and mind aligned; push back into downward dog”.

The blond, skinny decaf lattes who took this class meant nothing to Durga.

Her attention returned to the class instructor. ‘Yogi’ she insisted on being called, as if she understood the deeper rituals.

Durga channelled her energy into the tiger’s eyes taped to her chakras.

“…and forward on all fours, left leg raised, into tiger pose.”

Summoning the power of her namesake Deity, she willed the transformation.

Padding forward, amidst the screams of fear, she growled deeply “I’ve come to devour…I mean take this lesson.”

She calmly pawed her whiskers. ‘Think of it as yoga, with some minor modifications…”


1.44: Submission by Steph Ellis

Love is a light that has faded from my life. The roads I have taken, dark and lonely. My journey, as I cast off friends like worn-out clothes, is one they cannot follow. It is obsession that has brought me here, to this place.

Will my words gain my admittance, my acceptance? Or will I be rejected and be sent back into the void?

I cling to my sanity, now wafer thin and leave my offering at these gates of perdition, my words, my other self. And wonder again at how I have been consumed by this craft.


1.43: In Memoriam by Rebekah Postupak

Plot (single): $2,000

Grave liner: $1,800 (seriously?)

Opening/closing of grave: $1,475 (note—Saturday surcharge because they can, the vultures)

Maintenance fee: $250

Headstone (includes installation): $3,200 (note: sappy text still needed for engraver)

Coffin (“solid cherry”?? as if. What a ripoff): $3,490

Flowers for funeral service & gravesite: donated by friends and family (awesome!!!!!!!! <– write thank you notes)

Funeral home fees (incl embalming & death certificate): $3,800 (Q: tip for (smarmy) director??)

Post-funeral dinner: covered by in-laws (TELL SOPHIA TO NOT LET M-I-L COOK!! BLECH!!!!!!!!!!)

Anticipated total: $16,015

Anticipated life insurance payout: $2,000,000

Whoops, hahaha! Almost forgot!

Dead body: kiss (disgusting! HELLO BREATHMINT) + $5 martini with a twist.


1.42: The Weight by Karl A. Russell

“Carry the tent first, then the beers.”

Simon sighed, hefted the tent and plunged into the freezing mud. Jay grinned.

“I’ll take the rucksack, then piggyback you across, yeah?”

The girl in the pink Metallica shirt giggled drunkenly.

It took a while, but she was eventually ferried to dry land. Jay and Simon slogged on towards the Pyramid Stage.

Simon sighed deeply.

“That was wrong.”

Jay shrugged.

“Let it go, man! You want a clear conscience, the Krishnas do free lentil curry… Or…”

He pulled out a pink Metallica purse and checked the contents.

“We can get burgers and beers before the Foos start.”

Simon’s stomach gurgled muddily.

“You’re on.”


1.41: A Winter’s Tale by Geoff Holme

“‘Catch me? You couldn’t catch a cold!’ Remember you used to tease me with that when we played tag as kids?”

My breath condensed into clouds in the railyard where I’d found him . I cradled Benjy in my lap as he stared into the distance, eyes like glass beads.

The syringe fell from his arm.

I thought my older brother was too wasted to hear my words, until I heard him whisper, “Momma always said life was like a box of chocolates: when you reach the bottom, you don’t have many choices.”

“Yeah, man.” I choked, a tear rolling down my cheek. “She always was good for a memorable phrase.”


1.40: Stages of Love by KM Zafari

Stage 1

Was when we met on the subway. You, in your overcoat and hat. Me, sneaking glances over the paper I was pretending to read.

Stage 2

Was when we found out we weren’t alone in the relationship. You, shaking in the doctor’s office. Me, holding your hand.

Stage 3

Was when I asked you to marry me. You, too sick to walk. Me, standing in the snow with a sign proclaiming my love.

Stage 4

Was both the happiest and saddest time of my life. You, beautiful in your wedding dress. Me, in tears both times I wore that suit.

Beloved Wife. The tombstone bears your new name.


1.39: In the Control Room by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt

“Six Five Seven through Seven One Nine — no response.”

“Reroute through the Eight Hundred block, but keep trying those pathways.”

“Received. Wilco.”

The center worked furiously, busy hands moving wire after wire. But no matter how fast the girls worked, the systems collapsed faster.

The supervisor turned toward the monitor. A hazy picture showed the face of a woman. She should know who the woman was, but…

“Not getting through on the Eight Hundred block, mum.”

“Keep trying. The answer is there. Somewhere.”

***

Barbara kissed her mother’s cheek. She would not cry. Damn Alzheimer’s. Damn that death by degrees.


1.38: Dull Silver by Iskandar Haggarty

Childhood is supposed to be golden.
6.
Fathers are supposed to wake up, bright and early, and make breakfast.
Bright and early, Papa put the barrel of his shotgun in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
8.
Mothers are supposed to tuck their kids in at night.
Mama cried tears of salt and cigarettes when the judge found me a new home, but she never visited.
Not even once.
10.
Friends are supposed to stick up for you.
The whole baseball team disappeared the day the bigger kids came for me.
12.
Childhood is supposed to be golden.
Mine was the dull silver of a dying star.


1.37: Wish Lists by Foy S. Iver

Big boobs.
Long legs.
Straight teeth.
No acne.
Skinny.

Big scholarship.
Long distance.
Straight shot.
No parents.
Skinny.

Big dinners.
Long nap.
Straight A’s.
No Bio Chem.
Skinny.

Big paycheck.
Long holiday.
Straight hair.
No landlord.
Skinny.

Big wedding.
Long getaway.
Straight flight.
No protection.
Skinny.

Big positive.
Long checkups.
Straight epidural.
No complications.
Skinny.

Big(ger) bed.
Long leaves.
Straight diets.
No stretch marks.
Skinny.

Big(ger) car.
Long nap(s).
Straight(ened) house.
No meltdowns.
Skinny.

Big girl.
Long curls.
Straight steps.
No messes.
Skinny.

Big fights.
Long silences.
Straight tequila.
No take backs.
Skinny.

Big changes.
Long walks.
Straight talks.
No defeat.
Baby brother


1.36: Miss Otis Has No Regrets by Ed Broom

“Urban Design” reads the self-adhesive sign on the closing door. Beryl wonders what became of that polished brass “Planning” plaque which greeted her for 35 years. Jim probably pocketed it when he retired. He got golf clubs. She has Amazon vouchers.

“Don’t forget us, Beryl!”

“I won’t!”

I already have, she thinks, glancing down at the 5pm gridlock. Jim’s idea, that one-way system.

As usual, one lift is dead. Such a shame they removed the paternoster. “On you hop, it doesn’t stop!” was Jim’s catchphrase. In the lift door, Beryl catches herself blushing. Those up-and-over journeys passed into legend.


1.35: Kiss of Death by Geoff Le Pard

Double vision, nausea, bone snapping pain.

They stack us up, serried ranks of decrepit bodies, left to corrupt.

You see it in their eyes. Once we were unique, individual. Now, in the throes of death we are ubiquitous, homogenised by decay and depersonalised by disease.

If you didn’t know they had abandoned you before, the perfunctory response to any request screams the truth. Yet even knowing their disgust, you still crave the careless spray of their spittle to moisten parched lips.

The irony isn’t lost on any of us for it was the self-same sharing of fluids that brought us here. Death determined by such a simple act.


1.34: Sleeping Beauty by Lynn Love

Under the leer of a new moon, inky slithers melt into life.

A mermaid licks salt-crusted lips, flicks her scales and dives, breaking through the waves of skin that roll across your chest.

The rose unfurls its petals, nips at flightless doves, thorns snatching at banners declaring ‘Stella’, ‘Gloria’ ‒ ‘Mum’.

You wanted ‘ink’ ‒ to be a man. Now the pictures that smother your skin smother you.

They weave and warp to form a tattoo where you never felt the sting before – your throat.

You dream of the needle, of the sea, of Sleeping Beauty cradled in her bramble nest. You stir, gasp, swallow.

Ink is your final breath-taker.


1.33: Thud by Jessica Franken

“Soap…he slipped…his head…” Squeak—thud. Ten p.m., my neighbor Jean at my door, backwards nightgown, barefoot in the snow.

Squeak—thud. I heard it through the bathroom wall. Squeak. So close I shot my arms out to catch him, but walls are still solid and living still cruel. Thud.

Squeak—thud. I heard it and knew Jean would come. In the seconds between thud and knock, even as I moved to the door I imagined myself far away, tending sheep on a quiet hillside.

But then the knock, then a deep breath, then Jean in my arms, her grief an aria in life’s savage opera.


1.32: Phantom by Marie McKay

‘Fear me,’ he says- just as he hands me my change; just before the train pulls up; just before the guy behind me shouts, ‘What’s keeping you, Lady?’

I try to find a trace of the words on his face. In the lines across his forehead. In his pinpoint pupils. In the shiny gold between his yellow teeth. But they’ve disappeared.

Except, somehow, I am in possession of them. I carry them onto the train, feel them fluttering at my chest. I try to pull them into some other shape. But the train thrums, ‘Take care! Take care!’ I turn towards the squawking skies and watch the noises flying.


1.31: Truth Silences Lies by Caitlin Gramley

“Face yourself,” The voice said. Cynthia looked in the mirror, “You’re hideous.”

She believed it. Her swollen eyes glared back at her, puffy from sobbing. Her hair, frayed yarn, looked as though it had been dragged through wet sand.

“No one could love you,” the loud voice hissed.

“I love you.” A still small voice whispered in the distance. Cynthia didn’t hear it.

“What did you eat today?” The loud voice filled her mind, gaining volume to attack the truth.

“You are beautiful,” the small voice sang.

Cynthia shook her head.

“COW!”

“Beauty. Precious. DAUGHTER.”

Cynthia wept.

“Fear not my child, for I have written your name in my book.”


1.30: Note to My Sister by Rebekah Postupak

First, I’ve brought your underthings, which are silk and smell of lavender. (That was a surprise!)

Second, your pantyhose, so nobody will guess how long it’s been since you’ve shaved. You crack me up! We don’t care, but I know you do, so.

Third, a new dress. It’s secondhand (sorry about that), but just LOOK at all those pearls!! It could be a queen’s gown, and the sea green matches your eyes.

Last is hair and makeup. I’m lending you my favorite lipstick. Just this once.

There, you wild angel, you star of my heart, you death-snatched sister, are you happy? You finally get your wish to be a lady.


1.29: Away Sweet Child, Ride Away by R Matt Lashley

“Wild thing, you make my …” The Troggs’ tune, barely perceptible over the whir of tires, crackled and popped from the front left of the new-to-her dark blue ’82 Datsun. The radio received one station: classic rock. The one working speaker, like her life, was shattered.

But today, the lonely, abandoned, broken girl who sold five dollar handjobs on the subway would disappear forever.

She wiped the dollar store makeup from her eyes then floored the gas. Hot desert wind blasted her face, baking her cheeks like sticky, fresh biscuit dough. Then she cranked the volume, tossed her head back and howled with Axl, “Woah, oh, oh, oh, sweet child …”


1.28: Full English by Ed Broom

George waves away her smoke and reaches for the ketchup. Sunlight bounces off the dog tag but the cat’s seen it all before.

“Mind your uniform, George.”

“You know me.”

He’s already changed his shirt after tidying last night’s empties and ashtrays.

“I made lunch.”

“George, you’re a saint. Your father would be…”

Her fingers trace the familiar embossing on the metal ID hanging from his neck: name, service number, blood group.

Glancing down, George sees his yolk submerged in red gloop.

“Mum, shut up and eat. You know what you’re like if you skip breakfast.”

“I know. I turn into a right dragon.”


1.27: Just Maybe… by N J Crosskey

Silent treatment, that’s what she accuses me of. Then it’s all: You Never, You Don’t, You Aren’t.

Well maybe I don’t and maybe I’m not. But maybe Glynis, just freakin’ maybe, YOU don’t and YOU aren’t either.

And maybe, just maybe, you sound like a flock of constipated pigeons. Maybe you’re a shrill, controlling harpy who kicks me when I’m down, so MAYBE, just maybe, I Don’t and I’m Not because of YOU.

Maybe I’ll smash your skull in with a freakin’ shovel. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll bury you on the hillside with the other cows…

…Or maybe I’ll just turn the sound up so I can hear the film.


1.26: Trinket Box by Marie McKay

‘Play!’ prods the electronic voice in her head.

She picks up her pace, an hour in and her tits and legs ache. She’s nauseous. Contorting and twirling make the air crawl up her exposed skin. The sensation triggers her synapses. She wonders if the men below still give their daughters music boxes that play You Are My Sunshine while the stiff pop-up ballerina spins.

‘Plaything number 1. You are thinking!’

Before she detaches again, becoming a distorted rag doll in a glass box, writhing for the ‘nice men’, she allows one last lucid thought to fire across her brain:

‘Please make this one a boy.’


1.25: Ancient Sound by Marie McKay

New layers of architecture rise beyond the minarets. The old muezzin looks up to see the changes, for the physical world is no different at eye level: children impoverished still naively play, kicking up the dust of decay.

The muezzin sits mute. He draws his eyes down knowing there are other changes for those who stay the same. The cacophony of the city’s noises are transformed. The diminished soundscape tires him: the blend of chants for prayer now a single electronic voice.

Taciturn he shakes his head, another layer, another coat that strips the ancient city of its old but colourful clothes.


1.24: My Life in Sunlight by Jacki Donnellan

Pride bathes my life in sunlight; my memories reprinted in white.

I joined you beneath the honeysuckle bower, white freesias cascading from my hands.

I didn’t wait and wait in a draughty corridor, tears draggling my wilting bouquet.

I kept the dress- for our daughter, one day! A wardrobe brimming with rustling white crepe.

I didn’t sell the dress to pay rent on the bedsit in which I gave birth, alone.

I took care that those diamonds on my wedding band didn’t scratch against my baby’s face, or my husband’s hand!

I didn’t wear a brass curtain ring to ward off pre-judgement; to fend off the cold sting of prejudice.


1.23: ctrl + alt + delete by Foy S. Iver

“Doctor that image, will ya?”

His poke sends pixels scattering. The muscles in my arm tense. I drive my fingertips into the keys to keep from smacking his flawless hand away.

Damn company people and their manicures.

Clawing through the sooty remnants of Earth left mine ashen from a million memories, bodies, souls.
I wipe the stick-and-blanket shelter from the image along with another piece of my autonomy.

“We can’t have Earth looking hospitable. Theo said you found trinkets.”

I nod.

“A knife, an iPod, a picture. Anything else?”

The badge burns a circle in my breast pocket.

It is humanity. A testimony. There are survivors.

“No.”


1.22: Pixelpusher by Jessica Franken

Beat the drums. Shout it out. Write it down. Document everything. Fill the archives. Build more archives. If I don’t describe it, it will remain undescribed.

Walking to work today I saw an old man in boxer shorts open his front door, float up his rosebud fingertips, and fold into a perfect arabesque penché to lift the newspaper from his front stoop. I worry so much that no one will know this.

Hunched modern scribe, I fantasize about ceasing—ceding to the universal subconscious (a gyre spinning slowly below, gathering in all our tiny hearts). Every sigh and sandcastle would be inherited, written onto the bones of the next generation.


1.21: Soulmates by Nancy Chenier

Old as the hills and heart just as trodden. Everyone I’ve ever loved has ground my lofty peaks to weary slopes. Sanae crushed me under her hopscotch Keds, her silky black braids flicking farewell. Natalie next, her DocMartins did harsh platonic work on my devotion, anarchy symbol imprints. Roger was a dabbler and me an equal-opportunity paramour until his plaid high-tops dribbled my blood tastefully down the pavement. Lady Luck, Lady Justice, Father Time—all similarly crushingly cruel.

Ah, but my sweet barefoot Ouzo! Our bacchanal never ends. Quick, quick, look upon me, dearest. For in your eyes, I am mighty Mount Olympus and this is our Golden Age.


1.20: True Artist by Steven M. Stucko

Blueberry was never bored. She saw possibilities for joyous expression everywhere. She made colorful collages from discarded magazines and gave them as personalized gifts. She bent soft twigs into heart shapes and suspended them from elastics pulled from her socks to make elaborate kinetic mobiles. She used broken blocks of cement to create art on the steps of the run down housing project where she lived with her six siblings. Blueberry saw beauty everywhere. In her mind she lived in a glorious wonderland of her own creation. She was the curator of a great museum on the hill.


1.19: The Risk of Living by Emily Livingstone

Spring came after months of huddling together with generators, fires, and blankets. They explored, invading the privacy of the dead, looking into houses and yards.

Leah believed they’d found treasure.

“But you know nothing about this.”

“Paul, it’s human tradition.”

They looked out the window at the empty streets. It had been two months since they’d seen another person.

“It’s risky, Leah. It could attract attention.”

“I miss people.” She donned the intricate lion head and danced toward Paul.

He removed it. “You don’t know what kind of people will come.”

Leah took a precious match and lit a stick of incense. “Tonight, fireworks. We need them—a festival.”


1.18: The Dying Swan: Dancer to the Last by Foy S. Iver

“…sweet, sticky tonic and there’s no certainty it’ll cure pneumonia–”

“Victor?” Anna lost in covers.

Her self-ascribed husband moved bedside, “Dearest?”

“Are they taking me to hospital?”

Victor’s eyes monitored him. The physician answered cautiously, “We can operate but…you wouldn’t dance again.”

“I could live–?”

“Love,” Victor’s words crushed hers. “You’re not thinking clearly. If you couldn’t dance, wouldn’t you rather slip away?”

She tried freeing her hand from the cage his fingers formed.

“You don’t want to be remembered that way. Not when the world could know you as ‘The Dying Swan–dancer to the last.’”

Fear turned her skin hard and white as a tooth.


1.17: God of the Diggers by Nancy Chenier

“Water?” Ricardo shuffles. “Blood’s better.”

“It’s all we got.” I make the offering. Tio, protect us.

“Behind me, hermano,” I warn, but he hustles ahead. The recent discovery of a zinc vein convinced him there’s silver ore hidden in here. Foolish. Tio hasn’t spit up silver in years.

Ricardo halts, drops like a coal sack.

No!

Tio’s poison fingers reach for me, but I can’t leave Ricardo. I tug him toward the main tunnel. Talons claw my throat. I cry out.

Answering shouts. Hands hook my armpits. But Tio’s breath is deep in my lungs.

A man mutters the Lord’s Prayer.

Foolish. Only one power reigns within the shaft’s gate.


1.16: Shifts by Emily Livingstone

Weight comes in many forms. Mine is Griff.

When he disappeared two years ago, I floated above the world, waiting for his return, for the phone to ring, for him to reach across the mattress and hold me in my sleep. Over time, I sank closer to earth; I waited for them to find his body, his killer, his story.

Life went on.

Yesterday, a cashier said, “Where’s the smile, huh? It’s not so bad.”

Don’t get me wrong—I work, eat, go out. It’s just hard to lift the corners of my mouth.

Today, the police found his body, and a gun. The weight shifts, but still, it’s loss.


1.15: Dis Manibus by Rebekah Postupak

Club to head caused death. Male, mature. RIP. –Marius Fossor, 285 AD.

Elderly male. Cause of death: violence to head. Blasphemous absence of icons. Reburied. –John, Vicar’s Son, 1248 AD.

Middle-aged second century male. Cause of death: head trauma. Bone stains probably mold. Curious addition of multiple 13th century religious artifacts. Reburied. –William Diggerson, 1682 AD.

32yo male, d 100CE. Cause of death: blunt force trauma to head. Significant traces of belladonna, hemlock, aconite, toad’s blood. No objects in coffin, though indentations suggest removal of such. X-rayed, photographed, reburied. –Dr. Ali Bissell, 1987 CE.

May the idiot never rest in peace. –Canidia, AD 65. Unrelated scroll fragment, depth 7th foot.


1.14: Bittersweet by Meg Kovalik

“Peace out, brah!”

The passing exchange startled her from her doze.

Happy festival-goers buzzed about in slanting afternoon sunlight, the constant background hum of conversation punctuated by drumbeats and snatches of melody. Laughter and incense mingled in the air as the bundle wrapped tightly to her chest squirmed and resettled mid-slumber.

Depression did not run in her family. Yet the black fog that settled after the birth of her child was unmistakable. She looked at his dear little hand with a mixture of guilt and self-loathing: she longed to love this child!

“One day, I will,” she whispered, holding her heart like a hard-won prize.


1.13: Horse and Carriage by Rebekah Postupak

“General.”

“Ephemeral.”

“Xylophone.”

“Dial tone.”

Jack threw his hands up. “Uncle! I don’t get how you do it, Naima.”

She smiled. “Years of practice.”

“That’s stupid. Why would you spend years rhyming?”

“Gets my mind off things,” she said.

“What things?” A faint growl shadowed Jack’s voice. “You have fancy clothes. A nice car. And any number of attractive females would pay to be in your shoes, hitched to a guy like me.”

“I know.”

“Whatever. I gotta go to work. Utilities don’t fix themselves.”

“No.”

“This city runs on muscle, baby.”

“I know.”

“I wish you’d get over this– this, whatever it is. I hate it. It’s …eerie.”

“Theory.”


1.12: To Fit The Crime by Nancy Chenier

Video comments:

Anon666 said: “ouch. Lol!”

LoveLupus: “Sooooo GROSS!!!!”

JCorner: “Yeah, thx for ruining my lunch. Why???”

DRs: “JCorner, #listeningfail.”

JCorner: “Over the trash thing? Thought that was a joke. btw #screwyouandyourhashtags.”

Maryanne202: “The jerk kept stuffing her blue box with his garbage. It wasn’t even recyclable! smh”

Cadensmummy: “Not sure the compactor a fair response. [[[TRIGGER WARNING parents with young children: excessive gore]]]”

LoveLupus: “ne1 know how to post this on fb?”

Rick_UnRoll: “She warned him like a million times.”

JCorner: “That chunk’s not recyclable either.”

Maryanne202: “True, the green bin woulda been more apropos.”

Gerty44: “Don’t you DARE post on facebook!”

DRs: “Careful, Lupus… Gerty’s tweaky about sharing.”


1.11: What I Taught My Daughter About Dating by Geoff Holme

’Rating’? No, it should be ‘dating’.”

I was looking over Hannah’s school essay about my work as a palaeontologist.

Fossilised dinosaur bones are found only in sedimentary rock. Researchers have to find adjacent layers that include igneous rock; radiometric dating can determine their age.

“They’re like bookends, indicating the start and end of the period when the sedimentary rock formed.”

I’d also explained how I use a rock hammer to dig out fossil bones. Bobby must have overheard.

Downstairs, he’d covered the carpet with dinosaur models and coal from the Aga and was using our finest dessert spoons to recreate the scene.

Thinking of Eve’s reaction convulsed my digestive system.


1.10: Disorder by Rasha Tayaket

Explosive sounds of pots and pans banging around erupted from the kitchen. Martha was disheveled, her hands gripped her hair and she was muttering about the mess.

“Can I help?” I asked. She did not respond. I started to cover turkey leftovers. She screamed and I jumped.

“Stop haunting me!” she shouted uncovering the dish.

“Haunting? Martha, I’m not a ghost.” I grabbed for the doctor’s note hanging on the refrigerator to once again remind Martha that she had been diagnosed with psychosis after the accident.

The sounds in the kitchen silenced as I pointed to my own name on the line diagnosed with hallucinatory psychotic disorder.


1.09: HANGER HANGAR by Bunmi Oke

Sacred it truly is, the privilege to peep through his favourite antique of a gadget.

But how objects at both extremes hang precariously bother me some – as though if my grip wobbled, the fellow on the ladder to the right with his aircraft would come sliding, crashing into the pretty lady in the center. Dad yaks about the device’s ‘wide angle lens,’ ‘aspect ratio,’ (or is it ‘field of view’?) as responsible for that ‘panoramic view.’ Whatever.

Thrill of my 6th birthday treat peaks with the brief flash on depressing the knob – this moment captured and cached into my childhood memory by the shutter’s clicking sound.


1.08: Not me- not today by John Cassidy

Thanks a bunch Uncle Sam. Two sweltering summers and frost bitten winters and this is what it’s come to – inflating a pink elephant. Reward for a vet who’s lost an eye.

These guys don’t get it. Don‘t get my mood today.

A pink elephant. OK for a ball game, I guess, with wide eyed kids hunting their heroes between hot dogs.
Today, no.
Nothing to be grateful for. Neither me nor those cowering widows with frightened stares as I ‘liberated’ them.

Don’t tell me “cheer up, buddy.” You don’t know what a buddy is.

Let’s get this done. You guys go home and gorge yourselves.

I’m done with giving.


1.07: The Nation’s State of Mind by Marie McKay

Mock vaccinations were clearing their gurgling lungs, drying their weeping sores, sewing together their broken spirits, stitching up their despair.

The Bowler Hats congratulated themselves on employing the most cost effective placebo since Jesus Christ.

But words got out and spread like a mutating virus:

TheygaveusnothingTheygaveussomethingTheygaveusdrugs
toKillusTheygaveusdrugstomakeusKill

So in the safety of shelters tucked underground, they bludgeoned and gouged, raged and violated, tortured and brutalised until only their corpses were left to top and tail.


1.06: Word of Dog by KM Zafari

Word by word, her fingers trailed along the page. The raised dots were well worn from years of reading, and she caressed them gently, reverently, as the familiar sound of paws scratched across the convent floor.

She reached out in anticipation.

Breath by breath, they found one another in their shared darkness, and he nuzzled into her hands, his downy ears like silk upon her weathered skin.

They left for their evening walk in silence, love filling the void. She followed his sounds down the tree-lined path, both content to share in the rustling of leaves and cool mist. He, alone, understood that there was no such thing as “blind”.


1.05: Directions from a Dirty Vagrant by R Matt Lashley

“Cross the tracks, take a right on Wilshire. Old community pool be on the left.” The dirty vagrant held out a hand like a bellhop in a five star hotel. I pressed a single into his filthy paw just hard enough to let him know there wasn’t any more coming. With his free hand, he grabbed my outstretched arm by the elbow and pulled me close, a power move I’d seen politicians and CEOs use then he grinned, displaying scattered blackened nubs, gifts from a life-altering meth addiction. When he released me, I ran toward the tracks, humiliatingly subservient. Behind me he laughed, deliriously dominant.


1.04: Salvation by KM Zafari

Earth was a myth, nothing more than a fairy tale used to teach children about the horrors of war and the dangers of overconsumption.

And yet, here it was. The blue and white marbling matched the crude picture drawn by his father’s great-grandfather.

But it was not ready; nature had not yet recovered. The air was still noxious, the rivers poisoned. The only remaining creatures fed on the carrion of the Earth, and its bones were nearly clean.

He returned to his ship and set the autopilot for home, the unknowing transport for a legion of hungry stowaways.

Humans, after all, weren’t the only ones looking for a new colony.


1.03: Graven Image by Geoff Holme

“‘Meat store’, Grampy?” she said. “Thought you wuz a veti-…”

“Vegetarian. I am, Becca. What have you found?”

He saw the creased Polaroid, its faded hand-written caption, and his heart flipped.

“It… it says ‘Me at store’, sweetie,” he managed to whisper. “That’s me on the cart.”

“The boys have funny hats,” she giggled. “They school uniform?”

“A uniform of sorts. I used to be Amish.”

“Army? You were a soldier?”

He smiled wrily. “No, Becca, just the opposite.”

Turning over the photo Kathryn had secretly given him that day, he saw again the phone number she’d written.

He’d known even then.

One day he would have to break free.


1.02: Lucky by Carlos Orozco

“Face.”

“You mean heads.”

“Yes, heads,” he says. We both stare at the silver eagle perched atop my thumb. I look at him just before I flip the coin. He is small for an eight-year-old, but his eyes show the anguish of an old man. He’s had a hard life.

I flip the coin sending it up with a metallic ring and hear it perch on my palm.

“It’s heads,” I say and pocket the silver eagle. His eyes go wide and he giggles. This is probably the luckiest thing to ever happen to him. He hugs the old, worthless typewriter. The corners of my mouth lift.


1.01: Live From The Foundation by Ed Broom

First, a big hand for the caterers. What about those meatballs?!

My name’s Bob Hope. I’m no stranger to academy awards though I was a little surprised at your invitation. I guess these occasions can become a bore. Am I right, Niels?

I flew over today with Mr Oppenheimer there. That Enola Gay is so noisy, Bobby thinks he’s become deaf!

At the airport, I saw Werner Heisenberg. I think it was him. I can’t be certain.

On the road to Stockholm – tack – we broke down. Two hours we waited. Now I’m surrounded by mechanics!

Anyway, the winner of the 1954 Nobel Prize in Physics is… drum roll… Max Born!

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