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Rags and Gasoline
Matthew Dexter

The worms are eating away at the clown’s stomach as he collects coins from automobiles before the traffic light turns yellow and the horns from the taxis make him nervous as he sprints for those last quarters and pennies. The clown juggles fire and spits it at the windshields of drivers who never tip him. He has been kicked out of six circuses and has turned to freelancing during the afternoon rush hour. He has been making love to a gypsy who teaches kindergarten. It is a decent life and the children treat him as their hero. He is saddened that he must soon leave all this and return to his winter job playing piano in a whorehouse. His fingers are blistered and arthritis has diminished his ambitions to bring the show on the road. He torches his magic wand and swallows fire. The plumes above his head rise higher with exhaust, babies and drunks inspired by the bravado; a clown is more favored than a windshield wiper any day of the week. The clown’s lungs are caked with cancer. He knows that those broken keys will be the answer; sitting at that piano after midnight, bathed in moonlight and whiskey, he can finish the concerto. He will spit fire and phlegm till the sirens come and take his corpse from the center of the intersection. He will let the flames melt away the makeup, waiting for that swan song until he runs out of rags and gasoline.

Like the nomadic Pericú natives before him, Matthew Dexter survives on a hunter-gatherer subsistence diet of shrimp tacos, smoked marlin quesadillas, cold beer, and warm sunshine. He lives in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.




On the Run
Ray Greenblatt

The white plaster was crumbling off the walls. He peered through the small distorted window panes. A group of horsemen moved slowly up the street until out of sight. He sensed something. He did not like it. The old planked floor creaked at every step. He finished cleaning the matched pair of 45's and slipped them into their holsters. The pearl handles still gleamed as much as when they were presented to him. From the grateful citizens of Cheyenne for cleaning up the town. But soon after, things went in an unexpected direction. He had shot the wrong man, the law had stated, and he was on the run. He knew it was the right man. He would somehow clear himself of the accusation. Not seeing his wife and children for—how long was it now—two years, more or less. He felt things closing in. He heard a voice say,"Colonel Cummings?" As the door slowly opened, he whirled and drew both guns. But they turned to dust in his hands. He staggered toward the nurse on the right, arms outstretched like claws. With wide eyes the other nurse yelled down the corridor, "We need restraint here—stat!"

Ray Greenblatt has published poems, stories, and reviews across the U.S. He has been in Off the Coast, Ibbetson Street, Newport This Week, Connecticut River Review. His newest book is Leavings of the Evening (Foothills Press).




Guess Again
Gary Clifton

     It should have been a patrol call, but they sent Homicide to a brawl in the Tender Touch, a gay bar off Cedar Springs. A patron had damn near taken off the owner's left ear with a bar stool, then split. I knew the owner, Brooks—fortyish, slender, soft blue eyes—from a killing in the place the year before.
     "Swear, I dunno the guy, McCoy," the eyes lied.
     We'd bag the dude around the neighborhood soon enough. I drove Brooks to Parkland and badged him to the front of the line. Forty-eight stitches and I dropped him back at the Touch. He lived upstairs.
     The guy in the bushes tried his damnedest to get smaller. When he ran into the darkness, the piece in his hand was cannon size. I caught him in ten steps, a choke hold settled him some, then he grabbed at the ground.
     "You wanna die, mister?" I leveled the magnum. "Don't reach for it."
     "In the name of God, no," Brooks staggered up. He clutched the assailant and they stood, locked in embrace for several seconds.
     "I'm so sorry baby," the bushes-guy showered Brook's battered face with blubbery, wet kisses.
     By flashlight, I saw the object on the ground was a box of chocolates, for God's sake. The assailant wasn't a patron...he lived there. I retreated to the cruiser. This one needed to go in the bottom of the pile. A lover's spat, even a 48 stitch one, could be forgiven.

Gary Clifton, forty years a Federal officer, has an M.S. in psychology from Abilene Christian University. He published a novel in national paperback, Burn Sugar Burn (publisher's title) and has short fiction pieces on several online sites. Retired, he lives on a ranch fifty miles north of Dallas and patiently waits to see if rain ever falls on Texas again.





-Wheat toast. Orange juice.
-And----?
-Coffee.
She wrote it down.
-Dolyn? Her name on a badge.
-Yes.
-An odd name.
-It's the last half of Gwendolyn.
-I see. Yes it is.
-I'll get your order.
She brought his breakfast, poured coffee.
-Are you an out-of-work actress or singer? he asked.
-I'm an out-of-work dancer, she answered.
-Oh, of course. Waitresses are almost always something like that, aren't they?
-I'm just part time here.
-Where are you from?
-Oh, I'm a long way from home.
-Oh,oh, I'm prying. Sorry about that. Just curious.

Everyday then; breakfast and Dolyn. There was such promise about her. She took away the gloom of a lonely apartment.
-Any luck?
-No, not yet.
-Another audition soon?
-Whenever. Doing it for two years now.
-Oh my, that long. Well, you must keep trying.


He depended on her; her future to redeem his past. He changed his order to white bread often so she had to ask. It kept her at the table longer. And he learned the odds; very few jobs, lots of ambitious out-of-work dancers.
-This week, I feel it. You're going to get something.
-I'd like that.


-Dolyn's not here this morning? he inquired.
-She's gone.
-Wonderful! She got a job, a gig.
-Oh no, she just went home, Wyoming.
-Home? Why?
-Said she got a better job.
-Better job?
-On an oil rig, full time.


-Coffee, toast-------. Oh! You're new, aren't you? Jennie, I see. Well, Jennie, are you---------------------?.

Emma's Come Home
Kurt Klein

     When Emma Joy at last came home to Penelope, Nebraska most everyone in Baggett County came by to see her; county commissioners, Sheriff Brogan in fresh-creased uniform, Trooper Swick all spit and polish, volunteer firemen in spiffy maroon jackets, dozens more. Emma's own uniform was crispy-clean with rows of ribbons, her lieutenant's bars shiny and pure. Pastor Bailey meandered through the crowd, said to Sweeney and Thelma Joy, "We are blessed to have Emma home."
     Buster Beaupre said to Teddy Stimm, "Seems a body can't ever be so quiet as she is now. Not even Emma."
     "Always was a quiet girl."
     "Not like now, she wasn't."
     "In her work quiet keeps you out of trouble."
     "Yeah. Maybe just once she wasn't quiet enough," Buster said.
     Penurious Hawthorne Brown reluctantly tended to the bank himself so his people could join in. Other merchants closed down entirely. The American Legion color guard rehearsed on the courthouse lawn. Two trumpets from the high school band loitered nearby in homemade uniforms, pom-pommed shakos jaunty on their heads.
     After much visitation the gathered citizens in Penelope Village motored off in mute precession according to plan. The two restless trumpets finally got to play, echoing one another across indifferent prairie. Pastor Bailey closed the sound with benediction, said "Amen," and Baggett County scurried back to work in sheepish relief. Emma was abruptly alone.
     Buster Beaupre said, "Folks do hurry to forget things, don't they?"
     "Outta mind by suppertime," Teddy Stimm responded.
     "Outta mind awready, I reckon."

Kurt Klein lives in Chadron, Nebraska. He's old, 87, upright but leaning.




Autumn Lake
Jon Bishop

     I’ll start by saying this: I’m young, but I’m not. Thirty feels old, but I do understand that I have a long way to go. But I don’t care. Everything seems to be on autopilot.
     In college, I used to go this lake with friends. We’d drink until the early morning and talk about our lives and then stumble back to our buildings. Once, I brought a girl here. We made love and later awoke to a purple and gold sky. The air tingled with passion.
     But life sped up. I haven’t seen anyone since school; we all do our own thing. And for a while I didn’t mind.
     Recently things were different. I needed to get out—away from the job and my apartment and the city.
     So I decided to drive back my school—to the lake—because I wanted to get lost in my thoughts. Tonight, the past was palpable—you could touch it, feel it.
     I skipped a rock across the surface. It sent ripples in all directions and bounced a few feet before sinking below the water.
     I inhaled the fresh air and, immediately, all of it came flooding back.
     All of it—the time we slept here and were late to our classes; the time that my friends and I talked about what everything meant.
     I shut my eyes for a moment.
     An autumn wind blew. It carried leaves—and my memories—away from the ground and into the sky and into the past.

Jon Bishop is a writer from Wilmington, MA. He works for the local weekly and, in his spare time, writes fiction and essays.




Monet's Kangaroo
Doug Mathewson

     I was specifically told to buy wine, and even more specifically to “pick something people will actually like.” I buy wine based on the label. If it has nice artwork, it must taste good. I chanced into my friend Maurice in town. He was back from Jamaica. Another hurricane had taken the roof off his mother's house. As much as he loved his mother, it was the third time in five years, and that's twice too many. We joked the next roof should be perforated with soccer ball size holes so the wind couldn't lift it off! His Mother would have to tarp the house, but only when it rains.
     So, I forgot to buy wine. The little market near home has wine, and just because they sell gas doesn't make it gas-station wine. The two back aisles were full of bottles, but I didn't know what to get. Classy-looking dark bottles with kangaroos on them filled four whole shelves. Flamingo pink, shamrock green Barney purple, and more. As I turned looking in desperation for guidance or inspiration, I saw her. Her in her New York City Taxi Cab yellow sun dress that was a little short, but matched the wide yellow ribbon holding back her dark pretty hair and the yellow kangaroo bottle I was considering. Case closed, I took two yellow ones and wiped off the dust with my shirt. With my shirt pulled up, and my glasses sliding down, I was smiling at her when she took two big bottles of something clear and slid them into the ugly oversize Monet sunflowers shoulder bag she carried. She turned then, caught my eye, and graced me with a big smile and a wink! I smiled, she smiled again and shrugged.
     Was she short of money? I was going to charge mine anyway and could pay for hers. Was she underage? Was I smiling the way I was smiling at someone that young? Buying liquor for cute underage women could only lead to disaster and a complete misunderstanding of my generous intent. I put the yellow kangaroos back and took two red ones. Fire Engine red to match my face.

Doug Mathewson as a writer he is best known for his mixed-media sculptures. The art-world remains unimpressed with the exception of his “Head-of-Goliath-a-Day” series. Using modeling clay and found objects he portrays the image of young David with the severed head of the giant Goliath. The tiny dioramas (inside walnut shell halves) portray men, women and creatures from across the ages as David. David could be a robot, space squid, pop-star, house hold pet, or just someone on the bus The artist is always the head. Gratefully none of this involves The Boston Literary Magazine, where the author is very flattered to appear, nor Blink-Ink which he edits.




Backhanded
J. Spinazzola

     The woman at the bar wears a giant rock on her left index finger, and based on the chiseled biceps exploding out of her sleeveless shirt, she looks like she doesn’t take crap from anyone.
     “How about I save you and the girls from this dive?” I say, looking down in an obvious manner at her well-endowed pair.
     I can feel her backhand, diamond first, coming as she bloodies my lip and unsteadies my stool.
     “You want another one?” she says.
     “I do like them in pairs.” The next blow knocks me off my stool and one of my front teeth to the floor. I’m looking up from the ground, the light from the bar sparkling off her ring hand. She’s a lefty, and she’s flexes those guns of flesh and steel like they’re supposed to intimidate me. Though between rounds all I can think of is my next come on.
     “Hey, baby, why don’t you join me on the floor? You’ve already gone through the trouble of preparing us a bed.”
     She bounds off her stool to hover over me and gives me a chance to say something humble and apologetic. The right combination that might signal submission, but caught in the blur of courtship, she’ll have to deliver the knockout punch before realizing she’s fallen for a masochist.
     Her diamond ring is cocked and ready, and I give her my best gap-toothed grin.

J. Spinazzola is a writer and former attorney. His stories have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Charlotte Viewpoint, Full of Crow, Metazen, The Molotov Cocktail, The Nakedist, and Stymie: A Journal of Sport & Literature. His serialized crime novel, No Crime in Pleasure, is forthcoming from Jukepop Serials.




A Dream about My Wife
Rupan Malakin

     Last night I dreamt I left my wife. I went to London and hung around with old friends. I had an amazing time! We went out every night, to bars and gigs, to clubs. In a car full of girls, I said witty things. They found me erudite and mysterious. When I arrived back at my brother’s flat my wife was waiting with her suitcase. She told me she was getting the train and said it was my last chance to come. I said, fine! I said, go right ahead! I told her I’d already met another girl, and I had, a beautiful girl who, when she removed the bandages from her face revealed only a few issues, a scabby chin, her nose maybe too close to her mouth. But I thought I could get used to such things. So I said to my wife, go! Have fun! And when I woke up, I found her side of the bed empty. Although I knew she had just gone to work, I panicked. I called her and called her until she answered her phone. At the sound of her voice, I felt a sudden despair.

Rupan is a tall writer of short stories. He has been recently published in Eclectica, decomP, and Bound Off, and can be found roaming the internet at www.rupanmalakin.com, or @rupanmalakin.




The Poor Bastard
Bob Zappacosta

     It is Tuesday 9:27 in the morning, he's walking in the pouring rain, sandals and white socks– can of beer in his right hand, a case in the other. He has a cigarette between his fingers and he's trying so hard to keep the glow from going out. I can see him today because my windshield wipers are working. Yes, and my gas gauge is far above E. Which by the way doesn't change the awful fact that I have a 9:30 appointment with my dentist for a procedure he laughingly calls, "A Simple Root Canal."


      The man who makes the dead look good sits in a dark corner of the restaurant, with him is County Sheriff who has aspirations of one day being the Governor. Both men believe in Swiss bank accounts. One orders the Chicken Cordon Bleu, the other, Salmon Florentine. They're both so use to always saying, "Cheese!" You can make a lot of money burying poor souls. You can make a lot of money being a politician so long as you remember the friends you owe. Drinking a glass of red wine at the bar is a man in a black leather coat. He orders a grilled cheese sandwich without the cheese. The barmaid says, "You're strange!" as she writes his order down. Twenty minutes later as the stranger makes his way to the door he can sense the heavy weighted stare of the undertaker and the Sheriff watching him. Suddenly, a customer sitting at a window table eating a double cheddar cheese burger falls to the floor from a heart attack. The waitress screams, "Call 911!" But the stranger knows there is nothing anyone can do except let the dead bury the dead. He steps over the body buttons his coat and walks out the door.

Bob Zappacosta's poems have been published by The Aurorean, Boston Literary Magazine, Bowersock Gallery, Pasco Arts Council, PEARL, St. Petersburg Times, Tampa Tribune, Verdad. And the soon to be published poem , "Eve and Artemisia" in Ink Sweat and Tears.





     A single tear moved slowly down her cheek. She resisted the urge to wipe it away, as that would mean she had acknowledged it. Better to ignore it and the cause of its existence. Her moist eyes held his gaze; she would not be intimidated to look down into submission. Slowly, her hand searched behind the car seat, till fingers gripped the handle of a sixteen ounce straight claw hammer, her weapon of choice. The delicious irony of it having been a gift she had given him upon becoming a member of the Carpenter's Union was not lost to her. She asked him to open the glove compartment to get her a tissue. As he turned away she struck him on the temple with more force than the confined space should have allowed. Years of suppressed feelings propelled the hammer towards its target. Blood, skin, hair and scalp all combined to paint an abstract upon the windshield. Strangely it resembled his profile. As he handed her some tissues, her fantasy ended. She loved him, but there were times ...

TM Man was born in Boston MA. He works a blue collar job by day and writes by night. He loves to inundate Boston Literary Magazine Staff with persistent poetry submissions.




Swing
Chris Connolly

     ‘How could someone do such a thing?’ Mary’s neighbour was saying, shaking as she told the story. ‘To a cat! I just can’t understand it…’
     Mary felt on edge, shocked at the news and unsure of what to say.
     ‘I mean, a cat! How could someone do that to a cat?’
     Mary said nothing. She couldn’t understand either; she didn’t want to.
     ‘John found her when he was putting out the bins, just hanging there. He couldn’t see what it was at first, he just saw something in the tree but…. hanging, Mary, just hanging there! Somebody did that to her…’
     ‘Are you sure? Maybe…’ Mary trailed off, unable to think of an explanation.
     After her neighbour left—following several tearful cups of tea—Mary sat alone at the kitchen table.
     Jimmy was in the garden, playing.
     He was on the swing, swaying limply, staring vacantly ahead. He noticed her watching. Slowly, mechanically, he raised his hand and waved to her.
     As she returned his wave, his dulled expression causing her whole body to shudder, she felt like throwing up.

Chris Connolly was born in Dublin in 1983. His work has appeared in the Global Shorts short story anthology and The New Guard Review, among other publications. In 2012 he was the winner of the Canon-Sheehan Perpetual Literary Award. He was also shortlisted for the RTE Francis McManus Short Story Award and the Fish International Short Story competition. Chris is currently working on a short story collection.







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