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Thom Mahoney – Blow Wind Blow

Blow Wind Blow

Blow wind, blow wind, blow my baby back to me.
Blow wind, blow wind, blow my baby back to me.
Well you know if I don’t soon find her, I will be in misery. 

–”Blow Wind Blow,” McKinley Morganfield (Muddy Waters)
 

When the wind stopped, there was an eerie and sudden silence before debris began returning to Earth. Shower doors and 2 x 4s and spatulas and stuffed animals tumbled from the sky alongside terrified cats and dogs. And when the dazed residents began emerging from their bathtubs or hall closets or from under piles of scattered rubble, the horror was everywhere. Roofs pulled and tossed like playing cards, cars toppled over and piled like Lincoln Logs, second stories sliced from houses like layers from a cake. Leafless and barkless trees stood naked and withered, their branches reaching skyward, asking, pleading: Why?

And then car alarms and police sirens and the anguished cries of neighbors and friends.

Three days later, 139 people were still missing. The President had come and hugged and promised, volunteers had brought bottled water and shovels. Media crews swarmed like insect infestations, gawkers and looters circled like jackals.

Zombie-like survivors wandered through the streets searching for loved ones. Photos posted on bare trees and toppling utility poles, hastily copied flyers handed out to anyone, everyone. Rescue dogs and expert trackers were brought in, hi-tech listening devices, robotic probes.

Sandra Nichols had been laying a flagstone path through her vegetable garden with her daughter, Amelia, when the warning siren sent them into the bathtub with the mattress pulled atop them. Then the wind came.

But, she couldn’t hold on, the wind yanking her daughter from her arms and sucking the scream from her throat.

Now, she wanders the Salvation Army and Goodwill, the hospital and clinics, the emergency services, and like all the others, she stands at the doors of the makeshift morgue and wonders why they won’t let them look at the bodies. Surely she’d know her Amelia, they’d all know their loved ones.

These people – these survivors, they are called – they wait for their DNA to be matched, while praying it never is.

And as the sun begins to set for the fourth time since the wind came, you can hear the cries of the living for the lives they have lost, as they pull wet teddy bears and shattered family photos from twisted and splintered piles, looking for artifacts of how life once was.

While mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, wander the streets hoping to hear, hoping to see, hoping to find what others have not.

“Amelia. Amelia, can you hear me?”

- Thom Mahoney 

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Heather M. Browne – Letter From Speedy Stevie

Letter From Speedy Stevie

I’m sorry Daddy, I made you run. I tried to be good.
I’m your Speedy Stevie, cuz I’m so fast and loud. I screamed real loud that night, huh?
I didn’t know the coppers would come.
I shouldn’ta tried to make you stop.
Or go.

Mama cries all night long, holding her pillow real tight, so I don’t hear.
Trying to make everything white & soft like Snowflake’s fur.
Wishing her pillow was you.

She says it’s not my fault. I was just scared and wanted it to stop.
But she never cried all night ‘til now.
I got so mad yesterday I broke that plane we made. Threw it so hard
it flew straight out the window.
Oh Daddy, I laughed! But Mama screamed and yelled, wouldn’t let me help
or pick up the pieces. Her hand got cut too, kinda bad.

Mommy needs you back so she can sleep.

I tried to take Johnny,
cuz I don’t think he’s bad.
But I’m just fast and not that strong.
So I took his pillow & let him cry into it, just like Mama.
Making everything white & soft like Snowflake’s fur.
Wishing his pillow was you.
He kicked real good, Daddy – a fighter. He beat me with those little fists
as long as he could.
I bet when he got big he coulda been a real fighter, like you.

I left him there all quiet,
so Mama can rest. She’s real tired Daddy.

So come home now, Dad. I’ve run away with my loud, loud voice.
Runaway, like you.

Heather M. Browne

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Greg Letellier – Angels

Angels

At the bell, Nick and Marvin are walking unwillingly into the gymnasium. Colorful chairs are set up in neat rows. Most of the seats are already taken.

“Let’s squeeze in over there,” Nick says, pointing to an almost empty row.

Nick and Marvin met on the first day of high school. They met in an English class on the American canon. Nick really likes Salinger, but he prefers English writers. Nick writes, too. He writes long historical fictions about wars in other countries. Marvin doesn’t like to read or write, but is intrigued by Nick’s stories.

They squeeze into the row, trying to slide past people’s knees.

Then something happens.

An older boy grabs Marvin’s ass. He clenches on his ass cheek so tight that Marvin yelps. Nick doesn’t see or it hear it, so he keeps walking. Marvin’s eyes water in pain and humiliation. The two boys sitting on either side of the ass-grabber laugh hysterically.

“Faggot,” the ass-grabber says as Marvin shoots him a look.

Marvin says nothing. He makes his way as quickly as he can over to where Nick is sitting. He can still hear the laughing even as he gets closer to Nick. He can still hear them howling with laughter and he wishes he was deaf or able to bury his head in sand.

Nick is waving him over. He waves in a way that reminds Marvin of a baseball coach. Marvin never played a day of ball, but he imagines it. He imagines running on the baseball field down the road, smelling the grass and dirt, and having Nick wave him safely into third base.

“You ok?” Nick asks. “You look like you’ve just seen a ghost.”

“I’m fine,” Marvin says.

They sit silent until the assembly begins.

Later, Marvin walks home along tall snowbanks. He takes a long way home so he can walk along the train tracks. He stops and sits by the tracks and draws in a notebook. He draws the tracks and a big train with a light on the front of it. He takes off his hunting cap and fills it with snow and lays it on the tracks, to leave a piece of himself behind. Then he continues walking, listening for a train. He turns three times thinking he hears it, but it’s always just the wind.

Marvin arrives home later than usual, but nothing seems different. The only thing that seems different is that someone shoveled the driveway. Besides that, everything is the same. The same few shingles are missing from the house. Marvin’s mother is in the window over the stove. His father’s car is gone.

Marvin walks over to the lawn and lays on the snow. He has always wished that snow was warm like sand at the beach. That way he could sit in it longer. He wanted to be entombed by the clouds of snow; boy that’d be magic.

Then he hears the front door creak open, and close.

“What the hell are you doing out here?” his brother Dillon says, hovering over him. “Dinner is almost ready and you’re out here trying to give yourself pneumonia?”

“I’m not gonna get pneumonia.”

“Then your arms’ll fall off,” Dillon says. Dillon is in college and aspires to be in the Air Force. He’s always talking about limbs falling off.

Marvin starts waving his arms and legs. It feels cold. He starts laughing out white wisps of breath. He laughs and laughs.

“You think getting sick is funny?” Dillon says. “Think dying out here in the snow is funny?”

“No.”

Dillon pulls him up by his coat. Marvin has stopped laughing. Marvin tries to fight him off, but Dillon is stronger and tougher. He stands face-to-face with Dillon.

“What are you doing then?” Dillon asks.

“Making angels.”

“Well grow the fuck up,” Dillon says, shoving his brother back down into the snow. “You have no idea what life is like.”

Marvin watches Dillon turn and eventually disappear into the house. Marvin stays outside in the snow.

It’s cold and windy, the air bites at his face. He stays out there a while, even after the dark is tossed over the day. He is waiting for stars. They come, but only after the snow starts lightly falling. He tries to think of what Nick might say about the sky and the stars, but all he can think of is Nick as a baseball coach again, waving his arms like mad, and yelling two words, over and over: Come home! Come home! Marvin’s ears are pink and stiff in the cold, and he wishes he hadn’t ditched his hat down at the tracks. That’s life, he thinks. He starts laughing again and makes another angel.

There is not much need for the comforts inside.

- Greg Letellier

Author’s Note:

“Angels” emerged as an attempt to write about male relationships, and the way masculinity is defined through the eyes of other men.

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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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