Thorns

By Victoria Griffin

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If he had been sitting on a lazy cloud, looking down at the world, it might almost have looked nice. The patchwork of rice paddies could have been a green quilt thrown over the earth. Henry’s rifle hung heavily from his shoulder, and silently he wept—knowing that I could not weep aloud.

Guns and smoke were tattooed over his mind, blurring the image of five young faces. Even through the haze of regret, he remembered the way the eyes had looked as were jolted out of this world by soldiers’ bullets. Death should be peaceful, a gentle settling, the end to a long journey. Not accompanied by groans and shouts. Not full of agony like flares erupting in their skin. Not pain. That wasn’t the way to die—certainly not at eighteen years old. Damn kids were to young to grow beards. Now they’re dead because their skin and uniforms were the wrong colors.

Henry walked on, surveying the land and the approaching huts, his head held high, his pride evident, and his wretched guilt consuming him more quickly than war. The civilians scattered as he stepped through the settlement. He watched a woman gather up her child and set off in the opposite direction, leaving him only a hollow glance.

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The Tower

By Timothy O'Leary

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Barry hated cell phones. He shuddered when trapped in a crowd, people yacking at maximum decibel, as if everyone within earshot was buzzed to hear about dysfunctional families or drunken golf outings.  He detested camera phones, users blocking sidewalks, or rudely delaying meals to photograph the perfect tuna melt. He considered “selfies” an addiction for the self-obsessed. It saddened him when couples, heads tilted crotch-ward, abandoned human interaction in favor of text-talk. He’d scream “pay attention” at obtuse blockheads as they attempted to simultaneously type and walk.

But the biggest reason Barry hated them?  They’d murdered his wife. Diana was headed downtown in her Toyota Prius when sixteen-year-old Becca Hughes, oblivious to the road while texting a friend, ran a stop sign and killed them both.

To add insult to injury, Barry learned of Diana’s demise via a cell phone. While he refused to own one, Barry’s publicist carried the newest Apple anything, which she handed him after he’d delivered a speech to the Missoula, Montana Rotary Club.  “Barry, you need to take this, it’s your brother-in-law,” she said, her complexion as white as her iPhone 6. Standing in a dark corner of the Holiday Inn, the air reeking of moldy carpet and baked chicken, a sniffling voice informed him that the only woman he’d ever loved wouldn’t be picking him up at the airport in Portland tonight.

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