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Tabitha Payne – Misophonia


When you’re desperate, you’ll try anything once.  So there I was, sitting in a folding chair around a table in a church basement with a bunch of alcoholics.  I think every adult who’s been through the shitter and back has found themselves at an AA meeting at least once.  Most of us don’t stay.  We buck up, get jobs, pay our bills, and start drinking like adults again.  I was in quite a bind though so I was trying this on for size.  To ensure I sat through the whole meeting, I tagged along with a friend of mine who had been successful in the program.  She was my ride home.  I wasn’t going anywhere.

It seemed all right.  I was jubilantly conversing with the other losers around the table when a shimmery faced granola girl in cotton shorts sat down beside me.  She was chewing gum.  I grimaced at the discovery.  I’ve never been able to maintain my sanity when someone around me was chewing, on anything.  Gum is the worst.  I was reading an article on Wikipedia about a neuropsychiatric disorder called misophonia.  The word literally translates to the hatred of sound.  The disorder is characterized by the insurgence of extreme anger, and even violent thoughts in reaction to specific sounds.  Apparently, I wasn’t the only one suffering this ungodly affliction.

Every felonious smack of her mastication billowed through the air in hellish cacophony.  It was all I could hear.  The smacking grew louder and louder, echoing like the screams of a banshee, amplified by the superior acoustics in the church basement.  I could see her jaw gyrating in my peripheral.  That bothered me, as it was a cruel reminder of her lack of concern for my suffering, so I cupped the palm of my hand over the side of my face in an attempt to blind myself from the image.  Just as I was doing my best to maintain my composure, the tics started to occur.   The Wikipedia article discussed how some people afflicted with misophonia symptomatically suffer from involuntary tics in reaction to hearing their trigger sounds.  The main one cited in the article was mimicry of the sound.  Mine were a little different, yet no less severe.  Violent foot stomps, involuntary twitches, and exasperated sighs overcame me with every chomp of this vile woman’s gum.  I suppose this is why misophonia is classified as a neuropsychiatric disorder rather than a mere psychiatric disorder.  Continue Reading »


Cynthia Long – My Other

My Other

Rush hour traffic grinds to a halt at Lake and Bryant. Cold rain pelts the stopped cars, bikers, leashed dogs and one unmoving body heaped in the intersection draped in a purple cape; legs bent unnaturally back, broken eye-glasses inches from still hands, and silver hair bloodied. The purple now yielding to streaks of red. The paramedics’ frantic movements give way to a methodical loading of a dead body.

An elderly man leans against the ever changing stop light facing the accident.  Rain floods his weary eyes, soaking his gray braided beard, his lips muttering “my other.”

“You OK? Looks like you’re sliding down the pole.”  A tattooed twenty-something with a skate-board tucked under an arm says. “Let’s get you to the bench. There you go.” The old man says nothing, but lifts his hand, each finger supporting a huge Lake Superior agate, and points toward the accident.

The shaken man recognizes the purple rain cape, now flowing down from the hoisted stretcher.  He gave it to her on her last birthday. Her seventy-sixth. They met on the noisy dance floor of the crowded Minneapolis Gay Nineties. He crossed the bustling oasis to the big haired blond, dodging poppers and flailing arms along his way. Holding her Benson and Hedges high above her head she gyrated to “It’s Raining Men, Hallelujah”.  Decked out in psychedelic polyester, he slurred, “If I were a woman, I’d dress like you.” Hiccup. “Sorry. I mean if I were straight I’d ask you out. Or hell maybe both.”  Taking a deep drag, blowing it out just to the right of his face, she squinted her heavily made-up eyes and laughed, “Why thank you doll.” Continue Reading »

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Ti Sumner – The Root of all Things

The Root of all Things

“Men-men, honey, you have to stop!” Hume yelled. He took a few steps toward his wife, lifting his polished shoes high and placing them in the remaining grass-covered spots in the yard. 

“Men-men!” he yelled from his grassy plateau, the lines in his forehead fissuring deeper. 

Hume knelt on the ground, holding his hand to his princess, his beloved, his dirt-stained wife. “Men-men, pleeeease…please come up out of there,” he pleaded to his wife, her head level with his feet as she stood in her pit. 

Spraying her white dress with loose dirt, Men-men tossed a billowing shovel load to a pile of earth’s layers behind her. 

“Erimentha!” Hume yelled, punctuating each syllable with the staccato of the summer cicada. 

Red-faced and smiling, Men-men looked up, smearing mud across her cheek as she pushed hair from her face. 

“I figured it out,” she sang like the sparrow peering at rain-soaked grass. “All this time I had been looking for the worm hole of the earth – all this time I thought it was just beneath the surface, but then I saw,” she panted between words, her pupils too large for a sunny day, “this morning I saw the drilling monster at the big blue gas well and I realized,” she exclaimed, “there is no hole!”  Continue Reading »


Leslie Conner – Murder 101

Murder 101

Watch for her from across the street, making sure to steal glances from underneath the rim of your baseball cap. You don’t want to stand out, so you wear a Red Sox one, just like your dad used to have. Wait beside the pretzel kiosk and look casual. If you buy a pretzel, it will look more authentic. As you rip open the mustard packet with your teeth and spit the hard plastic corner onto the sidewalk, smirk at all the people rushing home, trying to avoid the rain, failing miserably. Become a backdrop to the human traffic, scurrying across the pavement like roaches.

She finally steps out into the rain, wrapped in a smart wool coat, fumbling with her red umbrella, jerking the handle until it blooms out in front of her. You notice her hair, not really blonde, the loose strands worming their way out of the ponytail and dangling just under her chin.  The roots sprouting from her head divide her skull in half, right down the middle. She wears lipstick two shades darker than a good girl would. You decide to call her Tiffany.

Her shoes clop down the sidewalk, the heels making her calf muscles ball into little apples. Follow her shoes in rhythm, your steps in time with hers, keeping at least ten body lengths between. When the excitement makes you surge forward, remind yourself that patience is a virtue.

You know the way without looking. On the right, the boats creak and moan in the harbor, the sharp pings of ocean slapping against the hulls. On the left, the echo of your breath, your steps ricochet off the cement barrier that muffles the engines crawling down Commercial Street.  You close your eyes and let the echoes guide you. Continue Reading »


Charles Tarlton – Puff Piece

Puff Piece

An interviewer asked a famous writer: “How do you know what your characters are going to say?”

“Because they’ve already spoken,” she responded. “They’re real people and I’m just trying to remember what they said.”

“Then you aren’t really writing fiction?”

“I’m adding fiction to life,” the writer said, “making up a parallel world.”

“So much for your much-admired imagination,” the interviewer said.


“So, a famous writer was being interviewed,” the writer said in a somber voice, “by someone who kept questioning her methods and integrity. After putting up with it for as long as she could, the famous writer took a pistol from her purse and carefully shot the interviewer in his left eye.”

(Another pause)

“That’s not funny,” the interviewer said.

“Perhaps not,” the writer said, “but it’s not entirely fictional, either.”

– Charles Tarlton

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Alex Kenzington – Walked Off

Walked Off

It was almost funny – the way his was flattened across the satin pillow that propped him up like a doll. Everything was so incredibly deflated, as if someone had hooked him up to an air pump, blown him up real big, and then forgot to tie up the holes so that the air leaked out– whistling out through the nose, leaking out between the tiny lines that encompassed the balls of his eyes, heaving out of his mouth to leave him deflated. His cheeks were like a giant whoopee cushion except with his ears jutting out at the sides, and headphones plugged in as if he was listening to a soundtrack we couldn’t hear.

Maybe that’s why I wasn’t sad.

It was all so odd. I was staring at this deflated balloon man lying on satin who was pretending to listen to an Ipod. A fit of giggles rose up in my chest as my hands gripped the edges of the casket and I swallowed a mouthful of air to keep the laughter from rising. My back shook in response and my mother standing beside me reached over and squeezed my shoulder and a choked sob escaping her as she did so. I turned away so she wouldn’t see the twitch at the corner of my lips. She gripped me even tighter and I felt her head bury into my neck as she wept loudly, while I sat there focusing desperately on the ipod. The screen was broken – the point of impact right in the middle with a cracks cobwebbing outwards to the edges. So he had had this with him when he walked. What an odd thing to carry when you decided to walk off of a 14-story building. I mean, what was the best soundtrack to committing suicide?  Continue Reading »

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Mahesh Nair – A Distance Away

A Distance Away

Randy’s wish

I’ve rented a motor boat for two hours. I’m in a maroon tee and bermuda shorts, waiting for Jane. The twilight is a tint of orange with threads of red rising from the horizon, which may not last long, unlike her presence that placates my soul.

I have known her for sometime, only know that she works for a store, but it’s enough data. Love, they say, is blind.

But I have a point to prove, and have long waited for this moment, like a poor Alaskan waiting for years to get to Florida, away from the sucker cold. Worse, I was treated like a pole a dog would lift its legs to pee on, and using the smell as a mark for other dogs to shame me and my competence. I laughed it off, never protested, but I was dying within. They pushed me into desk jobs, I wanted the field.

Listen, it’s been my persistence, and Jane’s promising presence. May this cruise be a good omen, a start. Continue Reading »


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