Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Raptor by Wendy Ingersoll

By the river, a great smudge of dusky bird
abruptly separates from the oak—

a bald eagle, beating at the breeze.  I break
into a jog. Where river meets creek

he wheels, heads north on the lesser current,
alights upstream.  I slow my pace.  

Herons spill from the reeds,
cards peeling off a deck,

rasping as they cut the air.  A pair
of ospreys startle, cree, swoop.  I scurry on

past cardinals red-flagging the bank
like words refusing to be blocked —

faithful so long as we both—  I veer
to follow the creek.   That’s when I see,

high in a sycamore, the eagle’s nest—
I spot his hulk above the knitted sticks. He lifts,

flaunts north— no eagle, but a buzzard, bizarre
as in a carnival mirror, bamboozling the day

like an old pipedream.

Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll’s book Grace Only Follows won the 2010 National Federation of Press Women Contest and was a finalist for Drake University’s 2012 Emerging Writer Prize.  Her poems have appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Passager, Caesura, Controlled Burn, and received a Pushcart Prize nomination.  She’s a retired piano teacher.

Banjo Birds and Circles by Dah Hemler

Outside, at this café,
the muddled noise
from so much chatter.
The color of the sky
is a blue circle.
At the same time, a woman,
dressed as a hillbilly,
strums a banjo in such a repetitive way
that each recurring chord is like
the metallic backwash of a sickness.
The birds have stopped singing
out of fear
that the intrusive banjo is a predator.
Abruptly, a table of older men
erupts into extended laughter.
The deformed banjo noise stops.
The birds are singing again, and,
with hasty movements,
the Hillbilly packs it in and moves on,
and my eyes can do nothing
but follow her until she disappears.
The color of the sky
is a blue circle. The sun
is a yellow circle. The café tables
are black circles. And the birds,
with their ancestral songs, are all
that is needed to complete
this circle of beauty. 

Dah Hemler's poetry has been reviewed most recently in The Sandy River Review, Stone Voices Magazine,Diverse Voices Quarterly, Orion Headless, Words & Images In Flight, and Miracle Magazine,and is forthcoming in Perfume River Review, and the Berkeley Poetry Review. The author of two
collections of poetry from Stillpoint Books, his third collection is to be published by Stillpoint Books in 2014. Dah lives in Berkeley, California where he is working on the manuscript for his fourth book.

June Evening Along the Glen by Megan Duffy

I do not want ties.
The branches of the linden angle down here,
do not move but for the wind.
The sinking sun is mindless—it does what it does—
again and again it returns to its floating shelf.
Just here is a spider winding her way up to her swollen eggs.
She clings to her creation, a dangle of instinct housed
in hyaline weave, barely detectable against white-not-white-gilded cloud.

Never having wanted to become a mother,
I have resisted such primitive threads. Yet I spin them out reflexively
each time I touch her face, each time I kiss his forehead goodnight.
But this evening I have left them sleeping in their beds,
have walked to the glen to sit, untethered.
Relief from reliance comes to me like sharpened sight—
the muskrat sinks again in fetid mud.
Its tail is a hollow stick, slapping out the current.
Above my head, the luna moth hazards a guess:
nothing matters but flight.
So agrees the range insect, one I cannot name,
that sits on the blanket beside me, waiting for me to rise.

Megan Duffy has been reading and writing poetry since she was a child. Her poems have appeared Off the Coast, Blood Lotus The Wildreness House Literary Review among other journals. Poetry is forthcoming in The Lindenwood Review. She holds a BA in Literature, Writing, and the Arts from Eugene Lang College: The New School For Liberal Arts and an MA in English Literature from Rutgers University.

A Month of Masks by Katherine Yets

My boyfriend left me
and thought it was a good idea
to send me a picture
of himself every day.

This was over a year ago,
and now, I stumble on one of these photos
and laugh.
Black and white for dramatic affect
his head cocked to the side
bar light illuminates his face.
His finger rests on his temple,

and I wonder what he was thinking.

Katherine Yets recently received her BA in English with a writing emphasis from UW- Whitewater.  She currently resides in a small hodunk town in WI, which inspires her daily.  She plans to continue on to graduate school in the very near future.

Uncle Archie by Iain Macdonald

 Like nearly all the island lads
he couldn’t swim a stroke,
yet brought his skin back whole
from three straight sinkings
on the Murmansk Run.

He drowned off a fishing boat
in peacetime,
the familiar coast of home
slipping from his eyes.

Ian Macdonald was born and raised in Glasgow, Scotland and currently lives in Arcata, California.  He has earned his bread and beer in various ways, from flower picker to factory hand, merchant marience officer to high school teacher. His chapbooks Plotting the Course and Transit Report are published by March Street Press.

Twelve by Bailey Bloyd

Embrace the body.
Embrace the overdeveloped,
underappreciated goddess that you are.
There is no manual
for what you have.
You have this vessel
that men will die for
and boys will cower from.
Cushioned skin covers your hips
And tightens at your waist.
Thighs scream to kiss one another.
Summer will not be your season
but baby you flourish in the Winter.
Because this body before you,
not the mirror,
has already been written.
You are a vivid
violent blossom,
waiting to erupt.

Bailey Bloyd is a senior at Marywood University in Scranton Pennsylvania. She will be graduating in May with no job but a BA in English and writing. Bailey focuses on spoken word poetry and creative nonfiction. She is a New Jersey native, bagel enthusiast and poor college student. 

WHIPPER SNAPPERS by Shareen Knight

Oh you young whippersnappers,
vampires flinging down your words
like petticoats, not stones,
don't call your mother a whore
and stop blaming my generation
for all your woes.
Take up a pen, if you must, but please stop
your simpering prose. First, name a grandchild
or two. Wait until you've crossed the country
a time or two. Slept beside the road in Big Sur,
then you'll know the price of rice.

That is if you don’t run straight home from such a rude waking.

Wait until you’ve tried a dozen or more professions
before you try to tell anyone how hard it is
on the soft side of your lazy life. Then, we will listen.
Because you’ve paid the price of admission.

And, it will show.

So, keep writing.
And talking your game.
You’ll get there, if you’re not too careful.


Shareen Knight is an artist and playwright who loves images and the rhythms created by words.

Milkweed Butterflies by Mary Lu Perham

            Pleasant Valley Township, where I spent my childhood, produced tremendous crops of milkweeds, which loved the sandy loam soil. From springtime on, pastures and ditches were dotted with their soft, downy leaves and purple crowns. On a hot day, a blindfolded person would know the flowers by their musky, unpleasant smell. I’d break off a leaf or stem, and watch a sticky milky substance bubble up from the wound. I avoided getting it on my hands because that bitter smelling white stuff stuck to skin like glue.
            The curious shape of the seedpods fascinated me. They looked like medieval shoes, with their pointed toes turned up. The pods, soft and springy when I squeezed them, were stuffed with bundles of white silky filaments. These filaments were attached to hundreds of flat brown seeds that overlapped one another like fish scales.
            One day while touching the fuzzy leaves of a milkweed plant, I spotted a long fat worm with yellow, white and black stripes crawling under a leaf, an inch from my finger. I cringed. What was this ugly thing chewing away at the leaves? Learning it was merely a caterpillar that would become a monarch butterfly didn’t remove my fear of touching it. From then on, around milkweeds I kept my hands to myself.
            Eventually the leaf-eating worm became a jade green chrysalis hanging suspended from the underside of a leaf. I wasn’t lucky enough to be on hand when the monarch butterfly finally emerged from its protective casing. The caterpillar-to-butterfly cycle went around three or four times during the course of the summer. In the fall, with the reproduction cycle complete, the last crop of butterflies departed for their winter in Mexico. I was free to collect seedpods, pop those that were still unopened, releasing hundreds of white filament parachutes. The oldest pods had already dried and split, emptying their seeds naturally, leaving the two halves dangling from their stems like pendants.
 As the town dweller I later became, I recalled those childhood wanderings through the countryside. Reflecting on my appreciation for the milkweed plant, from the first fuzzy shoots popping out of the ground until it stood brown and dry when its life was over, I wondered why I feared the monarch caterpillar in the full bloom of its youth. There had seemed to be something foreign and dangerous about that creature with the vibrant color and rippling movements, even though I knew it to be nothing more than a butterfly in costume.
            Today, as one who has lived too long away from wild things, I wonder how it would be to once again run my hand over the fuzzy leaves of a milkweed plant, only to discover a monarch caterpillar resting near my finger. Advancing years and varied experience bring to us the gift of a greater appreciation for diversity, if we are willing to accept it. I would like to think I could now view the caterpillar with the eye an artist, recognizing the soul of a butterfly within its multi-colored skin. I would like to think I could bend down to see it more closely, to know it as another of the beautiful creatures of the land.
            Perhaps it’s time to leave behind my familiar and comfortable, yet constrained life, to roam the fields of my youth and find the milkweed plant. If I’m lucky, a fat striped worm will be sitting on a leaf, eating lunch. I’ll sit down, make my peace with this quiet little creature.

Mary Lu Perham has worked as a security officer, welder, carpenter, horse-drawn carriage driver, has taught university classes and coordinated programs for non-profit organizations. Now retired, her writing draws upon past experiences and her enthusiasm for exploring possibilities.

The Wedding by Shiv Dutta

Our wedding took place on a July evening in Kolkata, a couple of months before Chhoton and I were to depart for Canada. On that evening, the rains were coming down with blistering ferocity, as if the sky had opened up to pour out a gush of tears. The roads were submerged in ankle-deep water. I lived on the south side of the city, a good fifteen miles from Chhoton’s house. Accompanied by five friends in a hired a taxi, which ploughed through the puddles of water in pelting rains, I headed for Chhoton’s house.
"What’s Chhoton's sister’s name, again?" my friend, Arup, asked. He didn't turn in the seat to look at me.
"Just call her Babli," I said. I was glad my friend had been able to come. He and the others in the taxi would be my only representatives at the wedding. I had not told my family about it. I could not, because my brother, the provider-cum-guardian of the family after my father’s death, would not have approved.
“You’ve two sisters and a brother ahead of you,” he would have said. He was a strict traditionalist and believed marriages had to happen in order of seniority.
But I was not going to Canada without Chhoton.
We were mostly quiet inside the taxi. The rain was loud enough outside.
When we arrived at Chhoton’s house, she was already decked out in full regalia of red and gold, tiny dots of sandalwood paste framed her beautiful face, and the meticulously drawn kohl lines made her eyes look dreamy and bashful. She looked more beautiful than on the day I had first seen her four years before. We were both students at Jadavpur University in Kolkata. I was on my way to a class when my eyes fell on her. She was in a purple dress, leisurely walking with a bevy of friends, giggling and chattering and obviously having fun. I was stung by her mushroom-white skin, black hair, dark eyes, and her sparkling smile. I wanted to walk up to her and introduce myself, but my shyness held me back. Nothing could hold me back the next time I saw her that weekend.
Following a ceremonial welcome with garlands of roses and marigolds and wick-lit oil lamps, by the lavishly adorned women of the bride’s party, my friends and I were escorted to a flower-bedecked room set aside for the bridegroom and his companions.
Outside the room, blue and yellow tinsels and streamers hung in and around the shamiana pitched for the occasion. The place was teeming with an august gathering, tricked out in festive punjabis, colorful saris and jewelry, ready to revel in the mirth and merriment of the evening.  The mouth watering aroma of shrimp malaicurry, moglai lamb curry, and chanar pilaf wafted across from some corners hidden from public view. Thankfully, the invitees, absorbed in relentless chatter, kept the curiosity about my absent family to themselves.
The wedding venue was packed, mostly with eager women, and the priest was perched in the center, ready to initiate the evening’s main event. Chhoton and I took our assigned seats, side by side, across from the priest.  The cacophony of laughter and ceaseless chatter filtered in from outside, and as the plaintive refrains of Shahnai provided an apt accompaniment to the occasion, the priest launched into an elaborate ritual of chanting and lighting of sacred fires, meant to ward off evil spirits and set us off on an auspicious journey together. All eyes were at the center of the room. When the long ritual finally came to an end, we repeated our marriage vows after the priest, and Chhoton and I were declared man and wife. The Shahnai struck up a new refrain, and with the wedding feast that followed, the curtains slowly came down on the evening’s proceedings.
“Some day, hopefully not too far into the future, we’ll throw a huge party to celebrate our marriage and invite everyone from your family,” Chhoton had said at the time, sensing my sadness.
I nodded. I hoped so too. But somewhere in the future there would be a letter - me confessing to my brother - and no mention of my marriage in his replies. It would be years before I could get back to India, to talk to him, to make things right. And when I did finally go, it would be to his funeral, to the emptiness of never knowing if he forgave me.

Shiv Dutta’s publications have appeared in The Evansville Review, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Hippocampus Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Epiphany, The Evergreen Review, Silk Road Review, Pilgrimage, Front Porch, and other journals. Dutta has also produced 45 technical papers and two technical books. One of Dutta’s personal essays was nominated for Pushcart Prize this year. By education and training, Dutta is a physicist and a computer professional, but interest in literary writings goes back to Dutta’s middle school years.

Finals by Khristian Smith

“What a sunset,” I coughed.
I do not know why I remember this, but I recollect my deplorable health. Nulling stress,
little sleep, sparse food, and too much nicotine were at fault. By some means, I found myself
lounging on a pleather sofa perched on a concrete balcony. Boone’s Farm helped little in this
scenario. I recall the flavor: Snow Creek Berry. What the fuck is a snow creek berry, anyway?
            “Right?” whispered a guy I didn’t know. Dark cyan sky lit his sunk eyes, defined jaw,
uncombed mop. Thunder broke through the steel clouds. He smiled. “Sounds like storm
 I recognized his voice, but cigarettes and cheap wine kept me puzzled. I strained from
asking more questions than necessary. The night was too beautiful to eat at with queries. A light
breeze kissed my cheeks flushed from the wine and I breathed in mountain air.
 “Petrichor,” I spat.
 I laughed. “Petrichor. It smells like petrichor.”
            “Is that some of your literature scholar bullshit?”
            I snorted. It seemed he knew me. I hacked and spat over the edge, threw my legs up
onto the railing — sank further into the tan pleather. It had to have been from the ‘80s. “Yeah,”
I admitted. “It’s the scent of rain on dry earth. Grass and the like. Romantic shit.”
 “A’ight. I dig.”
 I heard him fight a Zippo. He won, for an orange flare opened my nose to the smell of
cannabis burning in glass. The stranger coughed. I reached out for the lighter, tipped a cigarette
into my mouth and sucked until I burned. Swing low, sweet chariot, I thought. Then, I knew the
taste of cancer well.
 Rain plashed. Gentle drops crashing against the veranda. The guy inhaled.
            “Petrichor?” he asked.
 “Yep.” I sucked until my cigarette seared my tongue. What use was it with few meals?
            Churning storm turned a pallid dusk sable. Streaks of ozone-rich lightning flared verdant
against the nimbus vortex. Devil’s fire — angels at war, as my grandmother explained weather
phenomena. Strands of Christmas lights along the gutters flickered; a solar timer brought them
life. Another strand of lightning. Distant. It broke violet. Violet and jade. A war of color in a
black sea as rain crashed in sporadic, heavy sheets.
 “It’s raining sideways,” the stranger cackled. Horizontal sweeps brushed my boots. I
huddled deeper in my sweater, flicked my dead cigarette butt into the tempest, rubbed my
numbing hands. Atypical cold seized April, but recurrent showers retained. The stranger sucked
at his bowl, rolling French inhales and putrid smoke rings. “Fuck finals,” he spat.

The Throne and Parliament remove Catholics from London following Guy Fawkes’s
Gunpowder Treason in 1605. Isolated to the suburbs, they relied on communal efforts to
survive. As an example: Alexander Pope’s The Rape of Lock, a heroi-comical poem,
attempted alleviating a growing feud when Arabella Fermor and Lord Petre’s scandal
threatened dividing and conquering his Catholica community.
Bioluminescence — the production and emission of light by living organisms. Marine
vertebrates and invertebrates (such as plankton), some fungi (such as foxfire),
microorgansims, and terrestrial invertebrates (glowworms and fireflies) are common

“Don’t remind me,” I hissed. I lit another cigarette. Flaming lightning split like spider’s
legs across the void. A brief, effulgent ball branded the horizon. I coughed, closed my eyes, and
St Elmo’s Fire — weather phenomenon where coronial discharge from objects in strong
atmospheric electric fields forms a luminous plasma. Named after patron saint of

I drifted as thunder broke and the stranger lit his second round.

Khristian Smith is a senior at Bethany College in Bethany, West Virginia.

The Glance by Alexander Pyles

Eyes met, glance away, and then meet again.  An awkward dance, like junior-high students mingling, yet it still caused Luke’s heart to jump.  The eyes peeked out from beneath the brim of a faded baseball cap.  The navy had turned a mottled gray; the Cubs logo was a pastel peach.
He could feel a rush of warmth as his heart beat kept a frantic pace.  Luke looked out of the bus windows.  He gripped the overhead bar tighter as the bus came to a squeaking halt.
Luke looked back to the woman with the Cubs cap.  She was just staring out the window.  He could see the gentle slope of her nose as he gazed on.  Yet, when she looked up, he winced.  There was something. 
His mind flashed with the thought of a woman not long ago.  Her face wrinkled in disgust.  Asking him to fight, but he hadn’t.  He couldn’t. Those blue eyes beckoned him, though.  He straightened, wetting his lips.  He had to talk to her.
The bus stopped again and he watched to see if the woman rose, she didn’t.  Luke decided not to leave until she did.  His stop was only a few more, but when they came to it, the woman still had not budged from her seat.  He grasped the rail for several more stops, until she finally stood, and exited the bus.  Luke froze almost unwilling to follow, but he caught a faint wisp of lilac, reminiscent of a home he once knew.
Once he reached the street he looked frantically for the woman and saw her heading down 40th street.  He half-jogged half-walked, to catch up with her.  Luke slowed as he grew closer, his crocs scuffing on the concrete.  
She turned slightly to see who was coming so quick behind her.  Her hands clutched her bag and she drew away slightly unsure what his intentions were.  Those eyes flashed at him.  Luke was almost struck to stone by that look; he slowed to a stop, but he did stutter a hello.  
She returned it, but continued on to say, “Who are you?”
Luke’s face rippled as he realized there was no good way to say it, “I saw you on the bus.”
“Oh,” she said, though her face was still wrinkled in uncertainty. “Well, I’m Maggie,” she said.  She extended her hand to him.  He gently took it, his breath catching as their skin touched.  He struggled out, “I’m Luke.”
They let go of their handshake and he realized he was going to have to say it.  He couldn’t.  He wanted to, but heart and mind wrestled for an instant.  His heart lost.  Fear won.  “I just wanted to tell you that your eyes are beautiful.”
            Her eyebrows rose at him, disappearing in the cap’s shadow.  She rocked back on her feet, adjusting her bag on her shoulder. She finally replied, “Oh, thank you.”
            Luke could hear the nicety and his heart fell.
            “Well bye,” Maggie said.  And then she started walking.  
Luke said goodbye to her back.  And he walked the other direction.

Alexander Pyles is a graduate philosophy student at Franciscan University of Steubenville.  He is hoping to break into the world of novel writing and/or screenwriting, with hopes of bringing literature and beauty to the foreground of culture.  When he isn’t writing, he enjoys; reading, movies and hanging out with people.

When Harry Met Sydney by Walter Pierce

Harry was sitting on a park bench soaking-up some of that free Vitamin D doctors were telling folks to absorb this time of year. The sun’s rays felt warm, hinted at the prospect of better weather, but it wouldn’t be the first time, he thought, when we’ve been sucker-punched by a surprise late April or early May snow storm.
Harry liked to take walks through various neighborhoods and then sit down for a lunch break in some cozy restaurant he discovered along the way, topping it off with a glass of wine or beer to celebrate the occasion.
Lately, he was slowing down, seemed to lack the stamina of a few years ago when he could speed-walk up Beacon Hill to the State House without stopping to lean on a lamp post to catch his breath. 
He was past seventy, closer to eighty and maybe the inevitable was in sight. Better not to think about it.
He was feeling a bit weary, caught himself dozing off, but soon he’d awaken feeling recharged, and that always brought a spring to his step.
He was surprised to see a former neighbor, Sidney, heading his way.  He couldn’t believe it. Harry attended Sidney’s funeral a month ago. Harry admits his eyes are not what they used to be, what with the cataracts and all, but dead is dead. It must be some guy who resembles Sidney.
He couldn’t resist. “Is that you, Sidney?”
The person stopped, stared at Harry, began to shuffle along much the way Sidney used to drag his feet as he walked.
Harry said: “Sorry, I thought you were someone I knew.”
The person turned and said, “It’s me all right.”
“You can’t be here.”
“Why not, it’s a public park.  I’m not trespassing.”
“But you’re dead.  I attended your funeral.”
“I saw you there. You didn’t look unhappy.”
“I’m not one to display emotion.”
“For a friend you could shed a tear. How long did we know each other – ten, fifteen years?
“Maybe, closer to twenty,” said Harry.
“That’s not worth a little grief?”
“I told you I’m not an emotional person.”
“Come to think of it, nobody showed much grief. It was an obligation they were forced to attend, but couldn’t get away fast enough. My own daughter acted as if she was missing a once in a lifetime sale at Filene’s Basement. I should have cut her off without a cent, given my money to some bogus charity. Family is overrated, remember that.”
“What are you doing here?” asked Harry.
“I’m taking a walk, it’s a nice day. Is there a law against that?
“Do dead people do this?”
“I can’t speak for the others. For me, a daily walk keeps me fit. Otherwise, I get lazy, lie around, do nothing.”
“What’s it like over there?” asked Harry.
“You’ll find out soon enough.”
“Can you tell me a little of what to expect?”
“When it happens, it happens. Then you’ll know.”
“Just a hint, that’s all I’m asking.”
“I have no time for that. I have a way to go before lunch.”
“Do you still eat lunch?”
“A guy gets hungry.”
“What do you eat?”
“What did you have for lunch yesterday?”
Harry thinks a moment: “A little soup, a sandwich, some tea.”
“So there – lunch is lunch. You eat what you like, I eat what I like.”
“Does it hurt when you die?" asked Harry.
“I suppose it hurts if you’re in an automobile accident or a fire. But if you pass in your sleep, you just wake up on the other side.”
“Do you have a room, an apartment?”
“It’s what it is -- could be better, but not so bad.”
“Do you have furniture, a bed, TV?”
“You don’t need that stuff – it’s a lot simpler.”
“Tell me more," said Harry.
“What’s to tell? You’ll find out soon enough.”
“What do you mean soon enough? Do you know something about me – my future?”
“I’m getting a headache from all these questions.”
“I want to know, and yet you won’t tell me anything,” said Harry.
“What’s to tell?”
“See what I mean. You evade the issue – answer a question with a question. Tell you what. I’ll take you to lunch – my treat.  We’ll go anywhere you like, just answer a few questions – is it a deal?”
“I don’t make deals -- that was in another life.”
“All right, no deals, just a chat about the other side.  What I should expect, stuff like that.”
“You make it sound like you have to pack a bag, bring the right clothes.  No need for anything like that.”
“I want to know the living conditions,” said Harry.
“There are no living conditions – you’re dead. It’s not a hotel – you don’t check in.  You arrive, that’s it.”
“And then what?”
“You’ll find out.”
“Can’t I have a hint?  Something to help me get ready – it’s a big move,” said Harry.
“I have to go."
“I’ll slow down, be more discreet.”
“Goodbye, I’m on my way.”
“Wait. What about lunch?” asked Harry.
“I’m heading there.”
“Can’t I go with you?”
“Your time will come soon enough.”
“No, I meant to have lunch with you,” said Harry.
Sidney picked up the pace of his shuffle and disappeared from view. Harry got up from the bench intent on following him but Sidney was nowhere in sight.

Walter Pierce has been writing short fiction since his retirement as managing director of the Celebrity Series the major presenter of music and dance in Boston. His story "Foliage Weekend" was recently published in the 2013 Vermont Literary Review.      

Mr. and Mrs. Barrow by Brandon Madden

            I pulled my car into the driveway of a bird blue bungalow. The screen door opened slowly, and a tiny, hunched woman walked out. Simply dressed in black pants and a gray sweater, with a totebag on her arm, Mrs. Barrow had been my next door neighbor since the time I moved in seven years ago. She and her husband had been the first to welcome me to the neighborhood with baked goods and a smile. I put the car in park, opened the door, and walked towards her to assist her down the stairs.
            Fresh snow crunched under our feet as she grabbed my arm and we cautiously walked down the concrete steps.
            “Would you like me to take your bag?”
            Keeping the bag close to her, she gave off a small smile, deepening the wrinkles around her mouth. “Thank you, dear, but I can carry it; after all, I am seventy-five years young.”
            She opened the back door of the car and took a seat, nestling the bag on the ground in front of her.
            “You can sit in the front if you’d like.”
            “That’s alright dear,” she said. “I get vertigo if I sit in the front.”
            I opened my door, pulled out of the driveway, and drove off.
            “Thank you again for taking me to the bank,” she said. “My husband said that he was going to run some errands this morning and will meet us there for our appointment.”
            “It’s no problem,” I said. “I wasn’t doing anything today anyway.”
            “That’s nice.”
            “So, is it a special occasion today?”
            “Oh yes,” she said as her eyes lit up. “Today is our anniversary of when we first met.”
            “Congratulations,” I said, looking in the rearview mirror. “When did you two meet?”
            “I met him at a friend’s house in January of 1930,” she said with a smile. “I just knew when I saw him walk through the doorway that I would be with him for the rest of my life.”
            I smiled. “You know, Mrs. Barrow, people don’t talk like that anymore. Which is a shame, if you ask me.”
            “Are you dating anyone, William?”
            “Oh,” I said, stopping the car as the light ahead turned yellow. “Well, no. Work is busy and I just don’t think I have enough time to do that.”
            “Nonsense,” she said. “Mr. Barrow and I grew up during the Depression. We made plenty of time for each other.”
            “Maybe you’re right.” I said as the car hummed. “But wasn’t it hard during back then? How did you manage to survive?”
            “Well, William,” she said as the light turned green. “Mr. Barrow came to me one day and said that if we left home we could go from town to town and find whatever money we could. He said that there was no money to be had here, but there would be more if we travelled far enough.”
The car continued to roll down the slick road. Ice had accumulated in large patches, forcing all the cars to go slower than usual.
“But most importantly,” Mrs. Barrow continued, “he said that if we did this that we’d always be together. My mother and father wouldn’t have been pleased if I told them I was running out of town with him, so I told him we would have to leave at night. And that very same night, he came with his car and we drove off and stayed together, just like he’d promised.” 
“Did you ever speak to your parents again?”
“No,” she said as she looked out the window. “They were probably too disgraced and shocked at my gallivanting around with him.”
“What did you and Mr. Barrow do for money?”
“We robbed banks.”
            I laughed. “Oh, Mrs. Barrow, I surely can’t see you doing that.” I looked back in the rearview mirror. Mrs. Barrow was applying red lipstick using her faint reflection off of the window.
“Okay dear,” she said, puckering her lips to smooth out the lipstick.
“Did you and Mr. Barrow move a lot?”
“Oh, yes,” she said. “Why, I can’t remember the last time we were stationary, until we moved here.”
“Got tired of robbing banks?” I asked.
“We wanted a quieter life.”
“I’m sure a life on the road must have been stressful.”
“Of course, dear, even more so when you have the police chasing you.”
I laughed. “You’re far too funny, Mrs. Barrow.”
We turned the corner onto Main Street where the bank was. Standing outside, on the side of the road, was Mr. Barrow. I slowed the car, and he approached. He was wearing blue jeans, a black sweater, and around his arm was a plastic bag. Hunched over from old age, he used a cane to walk cautiously over to the car. I rolled down the window.
“I have your bride in the back, sir, safe and sound.”
“Thank you William,” he said. He opened the door to the back of the car.
“Did you bring our favorites?” he asked Mrs. Barrow as he climbed into the back.
“Of course,” she said.
Out of the totebag, Mrs. Barrow drew two pistols. My eyes widened, and my lips parted.
“I got the bullets for cheap. Buy two boxes, get one free,” he said as he loaded the bullets into the revolvers. Both of their heads were down and staring through the rearview mirror. All I could see were shades of light and dark, and gunmetal gray.
“That’s a great deal,” Mrs. Barrow said. “Dear, you should pay William for driving me here. He took time out of his day off to do this.”
Mr. Barrow reached into his pocket and took out a fifty dollar bill.
“Thank you, William,” he said.
I froze, trying to make sound come out of my mouth, but failing to produce anything audible. Mr. and Mrs. Barrow got out of the car. Both hunched over slightly, they began to walk towards the bank.
“Happy Anniversary,” said Mr. Barrow
“Happy Anniversary,” replied Mrs. Barrow.

Brandon T. Madden is a recent graduate from Michigan State University. He has recently published short stories through "The Red Cedar Review", "The Offbeat", "Outrageous Fortunes" and "S/tick". In 2011, he published his first novel "V.S.A".

Fading by Sherri Ellerman

     I have watched her die every day for 6 months.  I love her more because we are losing her yet hate her for leaving us.  I despise myself for feeling angry as I pass my parents’ bedroom door and hear her moaning from a drug-induced sleep.  I turn my head to avoid seeing the metal hospital bed crammed into the space between my parents’ bed and their dresser-afraid of seeing the frail stranger lying in it.  Just as I reach the safety of my room, she calls out.  Her voice is so soft I could almost pretend it wasn’t her, but I hear it again, a little louder this time.  
     I pause at my door and wait, hoping Mama will realize that it’s me she hears.  It has been three days since I heard her utter my name.  She is silent again, but I still turn back toward her room.  It’s dark but for a thin ray of light that slips through a small opening in the bathroom door and falls across the sharp angles of her face, cancer having robbed it of the soft curves.  Her eyes are closed.  I trace the light as it slips from her body and falls upon faded Holly Hobby sheets, the only ones we have that are small enough to fit the hospital bed that enables Mama to remain at home-with us.  The light outlines a splash of red, the ink still as bright as the night my twin sister used a permanent marker to color one of the tiny dolls.  The only Holly Hobby with a red dress appears three dimensional among the others-a constant reminder that not all things are permanent. 

     I lean over the bed, cringing as the cold, metal rail presses against my chest.  She is so quiet.  So still.  I close my eyes and lay my hand across her chest. It rises and falls. 

     “Mama,” I whisper.  She doesn’t answer, but it is enough to know she is here. 

     A faint trace of her scent, Skin-So-Soft lotion mixed with hairspray, still lingers in the room.  It doesn’t smell right mixed with Bengay and sickness.  I have to work harder to smell it every day-terrified of the day that it is no longer here.  I have convinced myself that, no matter how faint it becomes, it will never be gone. 
     As I stand to leave, her eyes flicker behind thin lids, and I wonder who she is in her dreams.   Is she the Mama who lived in my past, or has cancer reached her even there?  I wake up every morning in fear that it will have taken what is left of her from us yet wonder how even that could feel any worse than watching her slip away.   I push the thought away as I slip quietly from her room.
     Sleep comes to me slowly tonight, but when it does, I am dragged into a deep, dark place.  I am chasing something that I’m running from, catching up to it just as I escape, screaming for it to leave me alone yet begging and pleading for it to stay.  A cold hand grabs my bare arm and pulls me from the nightmare.  I hear myself scream but do not feel it.  In the heavy silence that follows, I hear Daddy whisper.
“She’s gone.”

     Another scream, coming from my sister’s bedroom, rips through the silence, and I wonder why it isn’t coming from me. I cover my ears and take a deep breath, holding it for as long as I can while waiting for the faint, familiar scent that doesn’t come.  The next scream explodes through the silence, and this time I feel it. 

Sherri Ellerman is an Occupational Therapist who has put her career on hold to homeschool her children.  In her free time, Sherri enjoys writing, mostly creative non-fiction and short fiction.

That's Twice Now by Leah Christianson

Earlier in the evening, they had dinner with friends. She made a salad and he picked up a red blend from McEachern’s. She hadn’t liked it. He drank the wine himself. They ate their fill and returned home. Now they sat at the dining room table, facing one another.
“I don’t love you anymore,” she said.
“I’ll get you more wine.”
She wiped at invisible dirt on her cheek. He went to the kitchen.
“I don’t want any.”
He returned with two glasses. They were gifts from her mother. There used to be four, he remembered.
“Alright, Ok. I’ll pay someone to fix the end table.” He sighed. “Will you, just? Here.”
He poured the wine.
“You can keep the table. You can throw it out.”
“Did you pay the babysitter?” He pushed the glass towards her. A bit sloshed over its crystal edge.
She waved her hand as though swatting at a gnat, lips pursed. Running her finger along the stem, she cleaned the maroon streaks dripping down. She sucked it dry and made a face.
“You don’t—“ she began.
“Don’t be ridiculous, now.” He patted her arm.
“Listen,” she said.
There was a small knock at the door, a suggestion. He took a sip.
“Can you believe Denise’s pie?” He adjusted his belt.
“We have to talk about the kids,” she said.
“I’ll put some coffee on. She sent leftovers.” He stood.
The wine that escaped her fingers seeped onto the tablecloth. It soaked the cotton and pooled above the waxy film protecting the dark mahogany. There was another knock, insistent now. He lifted the glass to his lips, still standing.
“I’ll do better.”
“I’m going to stay with Denise and Mark.”
“I’ll do anything.”
“I don’t want anything.”
There was a slam against the door, like something being thrown. In three strides, he reached it. It flung open.
“You didn’t pay me,” said the babysitter, a hefty girl with shaky hands. He knew he should know her, but it took a moment to place her face.
“Your wife said she would be right back. I’ve been waiting in my car. It’s getting late.”
“My wife?” he asked. “Said she would pay?”
He looked to the dining room but the table was empty. The Earth was moving, he realized. He felt it shift under his feet.
“But why now?” he asked. The room echoed back.
“It’s been a while now.” She looked at her watch, as if to prove a point. 
“What did you say?”
“Didn’t you hear?” The babysitter recrossed her arms.
“Who do you think—?” He took a step towards her.
The babysitter lifted her chin, exposing blue veins in her pudgy neck. He thought about latching his fingers around it and pressing. He would close out the words. He would tell her that she would never see his boy and the two girls—no, she wouldn’t see any of them again. Emma, only three, wouldn’t even remember her name. He would push her against the wall of this house that he built—he built—up from nothing, where his children slept and his wife made brisket and he stayed up late watching Letterman and drinking gin with lemon, not lime. He would make her feel it all. Then, he would let go.
“This should cover it.” He thrust a fifty-dollar bill her way.
He shut the door. Returned to the empty table. Emptied her full glass into his. A bit more spilled out, splattering the tablecloth again. The stain would be permanent, he knew. Like blood.
“That’s twice now,” he said to no one in particular.
Soon, a thumping began. Like something being dragged down steps.                                                                                                                                                                                                     Leah Christianson began writing as a sixtteen-year-old suburbanite outside of Minneapolis.  After graduating with an honors thesis in short fiction from UCLA, Christianson began working in consulting.  Her work has appeared in Westwind Literary Journal and received the Ruth Brill Scholarship for fiction. She currently resides in Los Angeles and various airports.