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Alex Sons – Gone.

Gone.

There.

Jaw chiseled and strong. Mouth wide open; a smile flashing blindingly white teeth. Eyes displaying chronicled accomplishment. Hair black and full. Tan skin conceals athletic muscles and bones. The A.C. pumping and humming as hard is it could, keeping him cool.

I step out of the car and into a new environment surrounded by popsicle sticks adorning backpacks. He looks at me, “Well, this is it. I’m always here for you. Good luck in college.”

He was never prying or probing. Always helping and holding.

He says, “I love you, Son.”

I wanted to tell him I loved him. I wanted to thank him for everything that he had done for me. I swallowed my words as I assured myself I could tell him that some other time.

I nodded and shut the door.

Gone.

Here.

Jaw slacked. Mouth propped open. Blood stained teeth from dry lips. One eye shut. One half open. Grey, thinning hair wildly glued to his head. Low on platelets, the skin can barely hold the blood. The breathing apparatus pumping and whining as hard as it could, keeping him alive. Mechanical limbs extend themselves. Prying and probing. Helping and holding.

Popsicle sticks adorning white gowns hurriedly flood the room. Up, down. Up, down. Over and over again. Prying and probing. Helping and holding. Words from the doctor’s mouth. Words from my mother’s. White gowns exit and disperse.

Tears flow onto the frail form of my father. No more whining, no more pumping. No more prying, no more probing. No more helping. Just holding.

“Dad, I-“

Gone.

- Alex Sons

Author’s Note:

This is a creative non-fiction/flash fiction piece about a son having a difficult time expressing his feelings to his loving father. The son cannot overcome his own apprehension before time runs out on their relationship.

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Bryce Taylor – My Strange Addiction

My Strange Addiction

I cannot stop licking picture frames. Wood frames, plastic frames, circular metallic frames, rectangular ceramic frames, leathery antiques, dusty collectibles, South American frames, frames with inspirational quotations inscribed on them, I want to lick them all.

On the night I met my ex-fiancée’s parents, her father walked into his study to find me mid-lick with a frame circumscribing a portrait of his ostensibly Confederate great-great-grandfather. I tried to apologize, but my tongue had got caught on a splinter.

My therapist tells me we all get to decide what it means to live A Happy Life. My priest disagrees. He says, “Even if Hitler had felt warm and fuzzy standing over the carnage of a concentration camp, he was not happy. Happiness is an objective state comprising the virtues that make us truly human. Licking picture frames is not one of those virtues.” When I ask him if he is comparing me to Hitler, he says yes, in a certain respect he is. “Well, goodie,” I reply.

They have no 12-step program for me. I spend hours at a time on Amazon lusting after frame upon frame, filling up the Shopping Cart, depleting the savings that would have gone to my children’s education if my ex-fiancée had had children with me as opposed to throwing the engagement ring in the general direction of my bleeding tongue and storming out of her parents’ house on the aforementioned disastrous night.



There is something about the saliva-frame connection. Catharsis, liberation, as if every least anxiety were being excreted and given away, transfigured into a moment of glorious clarity and order and balance. I am licking a frame even now, as I type. Do I feel wonderful? Yes. Are the warm fuzzies multiplying within my gut and general chest area? Yes.

Am I happy?

- Bryce Taylor

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Kimbery Sailor – Filing Papers

Filing Papers

The woman in front of me has an emerald green pea coat, so naturally I am back in
Ireland. He said driving on the wrong side of the road was no big deal, so long as it
wasn’t a narrow country road with a wide tractor puffing past. But we smoothed
everything over with thick beer, national radio stories about “those bad boys from Cork,”
and merry music at the pub that played all night.

It’s so humid and uncomfortable down here, and now I’m back in Costa Rica and our
jungle-side room with the light dusting of mold on the walls. “The parrots! The monkeys!
The green sideways-running lizards!” I told him on the plane, just before I napped on his
arm and he played with my hair. I know I dreamed of adventures in wait.

We bought a well-appointed condo on the east side the year before we were married.
We were smug young professionals, him at a powerhouse real estate agency, me at a
slick marketing company, and boy did we enjoy opening new bottles of wine on our
twinkly rooftop garden. “This one came from that Napa tour,” he said, pouring it into
oversized glasses with owls etched on the side. I could hear people below, leaving the
office, going to dinner, waiting to meet a stranger, but we’d created such an enchanting
world that my own community grew dimmer and dimmer as I lay in his light.

A man leaves the line, his phone dancing in his palm, and we all shift forward in a slow
tango. Heat, bad air, anger, low lights: how does anyone work down here? What’s this
life like?

I never had less than the best; than every upgrade, juiciest cut, thickest threads,
sleekest car, cutlery that would never, could never, tarnish or bend. We were twenty-five
year-old dream-stealers. But when we lost the baby at twenty-five weeks, then I knew.

At some point the nurse put ink on the baby’s feet and captured two black smudges for
the baby book. I wasn’t really aware of this, or his whereabouts, or anything except the
sudden absence inside me. The rest of the baby book pages remained blank. I finally
used it all as kindling last night. The glossy pages made the fire blue.

By twenty-eight, I knew we were very different; he was the manager, and I stayed the
same. He was away on indulgent trips by himself, luring more clients and cash, and I
stayed behind. He confidently took the road we’d paved together, while I turned off and
walked the city fields alone.

I hung on until thirty-three, today, my birthday. Last night my friend and I sat on my bed
together while he was downstairs filing acquisition paperwork. He was floors away, but
we whispered, because he didn’t know.

“Well,” she said, staring blankly at our comforter, “Most historians think Jesus died at
thirty-three. So really, you have a whole second life ahead of you. You’re just going to
start right over. You made it further than He did.”

It’s my turn in the basement. “Yes?” says the man in white behind the counter.

“I’m here to file divorce papers,” I tell him, sliding a stack under the glass.

“Sounds good,” he says, smacking the top layer with an inky date stamper.

- Kimberly Sailor

Author’s Note:

This story reveals one couple’s outcome after experiencing the highs of early life success.

 

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Karla Cordero – The Perfect Pinecone

The Perfect Pinecone

They walk through the park holding each other’s hands like crazy glue had met their palms. Ben picks up an object he finds buried beneath the tall grass. “For you, the perfect pinecone,” he says. Jane laughs, holds the pinecone to her nose, and breaths in the scent from yesterday’s rainfall. She scrunches her nose and sneezes, loosening a few seeds from the pinecone. The seeds sneak down into her blouse and nuzzle in between her small breasts. “Bless you!” said Ben.

The next day Ben calls Jane only to be teased by the voice of her answering machine. Three days later, still no answer. Ben questions whether he did or said something to upset her. He jumps into his car and rushes over to Jane’s house. Jane’s Toyota sits parked in her driveway. He knocks on the door, noticing a small leaf sprouting from the keyhole. Ben pulls at the leaf and unlocks the door with a spare key from under the welcome mat. An explosion of green vegetation camouflages a home no longer familiar. The carpet is thick with moss. Vines spread along the living room ceiling, fencing in the chimney. Shrubs furnish the counter tops and a single frog croaks inside the kitchen sink. Down the hallway, gardenias reframe family photos. The walls are painted with fern leaves. Sobbing escapes from Jane’s door. “Jane are you ok?” “Don’t come in, please, go away!” He opens the door. A forest oasis grows from Jane’s breasts. She cries profusely on her bed. Tears stream down her face, watering the wild garden on her chest. A squirrel runs across the room and hides behind a bush by her nightstand. Ben looks at Jane, “You are absolutely beautiful.”

- Karla Cordero

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Ryan Garcia – Monthly Business Trip

Monthly Business Trip

The cool marine layer had crept over the city through the night, seeping its way into cracked windows, tugging at the edges of blankets. Highway headlights dimmed a little, and the comfort of shorts and shirts soon turned into jeans and jackets, maybe a scarf. Scarves, Henry thought, what a joke. Henry made his way through the lobby towards the elevator doors, suitcase in one hand, rolled blueprints in the other. His visits to Los Angeles felt tropical; a nice getaway from the sleek and sting of a New York winter. He sought them. He sought any opportunity to venture west.

The elevator doors slid open. He began to read through the small calendar he kept in his pocket as he made his way up to the 28th floor. Carefully, he drew lines across the day’s agenda list, feeling the smooth wave of relaxation beginning to blanket his shoulders in the comfort of a productive day. Hotel hallways were always the loneliest part of Henry’s day, the burning seconds between his business on the outside and a warm room inside. Gently sliding his keycard up and down the lock, he exhaled. The bathroom door was ajar, cracking just enough light in the room to make the bed look as though it was glowing. Henry smiled.

He loosened his tie delicately; a Christmas gift from his wife last year – all black, pencil shape, his favorite. He placed it over the wonderfully tacky chair that stood just next to the bed, and began to undress to nothing. Henry threw the covers from the bed, scooted towards the middle, and stared at the ceiling. It was these last moments he had when he missed New York the most; the few moments lying between the day’s anticipation of the night and the overwhelming sentiment of love. They were moments he believed to be the darkest. Waiting.

The bathroom door finally opened, and Henry began to bask in the evening’s promise. Now completely consumed by his adoration and passion for something he planned his whole month around. She walked to the bed and placed herself next to him so gently that it felt to Henry that she was set there delicately by God.

I’ve missed you, she said.

I’m here.

The city is colder when you’re gone.

She grabbed him tenderly, and felt his body tremble. The marine layer began to thicken, passing by their window with the stealth and discreetness of a lover. Henry felt his body getting colder, allowing himself to be enveloped by the cool ocean air that he so seldom felt back east.

- Ryan Garcia

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Natalee Singleton – Inflammation of the Soul

Inflammation of the Soul

A man sits across from me. He speaks of taming wild thirsts; my fierce, unholy hungers. Of bread and blood. And meat and seed.

He crusades to turn my eyes inward and soul outward. He wants to see the prospect of nature everted and poke at the diseased spots of its pink, fleshy core.

I listen to the living word carried on his musky breath – like the dusty old books on his shelves. It smells like nothing has lived or stirred there in a long time. He spits when he pontificates.

A framed certificate confirms an ordination for God, but I keep expecting a demonic, bifurcated tongue to emerge. Oh God, don’t think of tongues.

He leans forward and asks if I’ve known the smell of sulfur. Have I been to Old Faithful? Visited St. Helens?

“It is better to marry than burn.”

I burn anyway. I burn for her. Because of her. Me. Us.

I wonder what passion looks like to him. Crumpled roller-permed hair and pit stains on his undershirt, every third Thursday of months without an r?

Has he seen passion like ours, ethereal and framed by the sun? Maybe if I hid it, if I tucked away our glow and loved her under the covers, to shield from Heaven’s eye all the parts of us we shouldn’t be. We could cover our mouths, with only whispers on our tongues to say the sun was ever there. Hide away, and covet my own cause for believing.

Our cocoon probably looks like a bundle of kindling to this man. With calm and folded fingers, he touts joys, simple and domestic, from a world of dutiful roles and plentiful, ripened fruit.

I want to scream; I want to hit him; I want to cry and get on my knees and beg him to absolve me.

“Shameful, unnatural… the evils from inside that defile you.”

I white-knuckle my armrests until I hear them creak in distress. But the fleshy pads of my fingers won’t draw blood from the wood.

He doesn’t understand. I’ve loved her before. I know I have. On an un-Grecian shore, when we were as we should be. I’ll just sit here and listen until I can remember – our names, the time and the place and the years of our age – and I can explain.

He reads me a passage and calls it breath.

But it can’t be the one I know. Because I’ve felt an angel’s breath on my skin, in the bliss of a little death.

Paul says I have choices, his verses or my own.

——-We’ll build them like Us
——-to walk as We do,
——-Our flesh to wear
——-Our will to bear,
——-to eat when they’re hungry
——-and starved for the truth,
——-to burn hot on the pyres
——-of many delicate fires.

- Natalee Singleton

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Harold Stallworth – Brothels

Brothels

I grew up in a shoddy trailer park just east of Roanoke, Virginia. My hometown has always been a hotbed for deviant behavior, an incubator for miscreants. I suppose this made it easier for me to reconcile with the idea of dropping hard earned cash in foreign whore houses. Jamilla was mortified by my tales of erstwhile debauchery.

“Oh my God,” she shrieked in the most judgmental tone she could muster. “How could you?!”

“How could I what?”

“Have you ever seen that documentary called Trap Door?”

“Yeah, I think so. Is that the one about the Mongolian Empire?”

“Worse! It’s about human trafficking and illegal adoption rackets. The girls that work in those cat houses overseas are sold into that life. Spending money in those places makes you complicit in horrific crimes against defenseless women.”

“Oh.”

“It’s on Netflix,” she said, reaching for her laptop beneath the coffee table. “Let’s watch it.”

“Ugh!”

“You should be more knowledgeable about the consequences of your actions. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of you glorifying a parasitic culture.”

“This is why I never tell you anything, Jamilla.”

My stint as a piddly deck seamen on the USS Somerset was undoubtedly the best four years of my entire life. I traveled the world twice over in a drunken stupor, occasionally seeking respite and refuge in exotic brothels along the Mediterranean coasts of Europe. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I was naive to assume Jamilla could unsaddle her high horse long enough to admire my off-color exploits. She cued up the documentary with a disturbing fit of enthusiasm. I squirmed about the couch, bracing for an impending wave of retroactive guilt.

No more than two minutes into the film, before the conclusion of the opening credits, Jamilla slammed the laptop shut and pivoted toward me, legs folded, arms crossed, attentive in a way that was equally creepy and endearing and endorsing. Her sunken brown eyes begged for honesty. Continue Reading »

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