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After the Game
Nathan Graziano

      After the game, James "Deuce" Stanton is going to fix the broken knob on his daughter's door. Then he will drive, half-cocked, to the gas station and fill a five-gallon jug so he can mow the lawn the second he gets home from work tomorrow. Upstairs, the thud of his wife's deliberate stomps shake the light fixtures on the ceiling like the guts of a rung bell. With a beer bottle pressed to his lips, Deuce rolls his eyes. The Red Sox pitcher left a slider up in the zone. Tie game.
      In college, Deuce threw a fastball, with late pop, in the low-nineties and breaking junk that earned him a nickname. On the living room wall, a framed photo of Deuce pitching his one-hitter against Providence College shakes a bit, too.


Two Kisses
Nathan Graziano

      When Cobain left us dental records, we softened to Steely Dan. On the rides to work in Todd's van, the four of us passed a joint, our aprons stained with ash and ketchup.
      In the back, beside the paint cans, I sat with a girl I loved for two weeks. The sunlight shot like a tongue through the circle window, and "Rikki Don't Lose That Number" rattled from the speakers' lips. It grew too much, and we kissed. Once.
      Last night, while shivering in bed with a fever, I kissed her again, trying to recall the taste of warmth.

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester, New Hampshire with his wife and two children. He is the author of Teaching Metaphors (sunnyoutside, 2007), Not So Profound (Green Bean Press, 2004), Frostbite (GBP, 2002) and seven chapbooks of poetry and fiction. His work has appeared in Rattle, Night Train, The Coe Review, The Dublin Quarterly, and others. For more information, visit his website: NathanGraziano.com.




What It Is
Alex Myers

      Jack sat next to Courtney in the darkened hall as artsy folks whispered insights to each other. Under any other circumstances, Jack wouldn't be caught dead here. But he was in love with Courtney, and she was in love with art. So he had been dragged to this, the final presentation of her short film class. Jack found the movies hard to understand. There were some that were mostly pornographic. Those he got. Others featured no humans at all; they jerked from object to object: a knife, a tree, a chair. Courtney whispered her interpretations: "Hatred of the father figure. Expression of repressed sexuality. Very counter-hegemonic." Jack nodded as if he understood.
      Courtney's film came and went, a few minutes' footage of birds in a tunnel, flying and flapping and heading for the distant opening, eventually emerging into the daylight. Jack had no idea what it symbolized, but Courtney was gorgeous, so to Jack it was worth an evening in a stuffy theater.
      Courtney sat up straight as her piece ended, hoping to catch any comments that might be murmured. The next film was shot in the college library and featured what was surely a violation of library rules. After a smattering of applause, another student's film started up and Jack felt Courtney's body clench in nervous fury.
      "What is it?" Jack murmured.
      "Christina."
      "Who?"
      "I hate her. Every class, she has to be better than me. Thinks she knows everything about art," Courtney's whisper cracked with the effort of keeping her temper. Jack took the opportunity to slip his arm around Courtney's shoulders, but she shrugged him off, intent upon the film, focusing her emotions on her rival. Jack sighed and tried to concentrate on the images that flickered before him.
The opening sequence of the film showed an empty playground, a merry-go-round slowly spinning. Snow on the ground, silence. Courtney leaned close to Jack's ear and hissed, "A trite display—so cliché—lost childhood."       Onscreen, an empty swing moved through the air, then, suddenly, came to an abrupt stop just below the top of its range. The audience took a breath. Slowly, the swing began to melt and distort. The whole scene twisted and curled. Jack caught a faint whiff of acrid smoke and heard someone, presumably Christina, wail, "It's ruined!" Courtney shook with suppressed giggles. In front of them, the last shreds of celluloid crumbled away, and the screen was suddenly nothing but an empty white glare. A pause. Then clapping. Around him, Jack heard the audience's excited commentary, "destruction of innocence," "symbolic self-sacrifice," "the fleeting nature of art," "how noble." Courtney was beside herself with rage. "An accident! A stupid mistake! How could that be art?" She growled at Jack.
      The film, he thought, was probably vastly improved by melting. But he didn't share this opinion with Courtney. Instead, he wrapped his arm around her and let her lean on his shoulder. Art, not art. It was all the same to him.

Alex Myers lives and teaches in Rhode Island. In addition to writing, he enjoys playing tuba and competing in triathlons.



amicus melior
e. miller

     relief-soaked and syncopated, we slide off our formalities and scatter them in puddles at our feet—splattered across blanket-strewn carpets, we confer and confess from our heads to our hearts and connect under poorly-painted ceilings. the shallow walls eavesdrop on our whispers, but we pretend we do not notice and giggle behind our hands. when we sigh our love to the stars and our own clasped fingers, i mean every breath that drips from my lips and i hope you do the same. i am electric with you, here—can you feel it? we do not sleep (but we come close); dawn strokes our precipitating eyelashes. in unison, we flutter. inhaling the crawling fire, we do not need to speak. the words that could not condense in my trachea are now painted upon the horizon and we look at each other and smile and adore the daybreak and each others' quiet breath. but with light comes life, and we must flee as to not allow the poisonous truth to seep into our secrets. alas, no tryst lasts forever. inevitably, we must gather our faces and our fear from the entryway; we apply them like mascara, and tighten them like ties. we resume our callous regime, but my god, i'll dream of you tonight.

e. miller is fourteen years old and a freshman at a small arts academy on the West Coast. She enjoys writing and theatre, and is very excited for her first publication at Boston Literary Magazine.




1.
You play possum under the bus bench. You have one leg left, the other torn off years ago in an accident on the train tracks. You're alive, but right now you play dead. The heat cooks the asphalt of the street and you cannot move until the sun goes down and the pavement cools.

2.
You look up. The bus bench is splintered and chipped with graffiti. Two wood planks are missing from the back and one from the bottom. Gnawed balls of gum stick between planks. At one time the bench was white. You liked it then, a fine place to meet up with friends and family. The community you remember no longer exists.

3.
A lamppost hangs over the bench. It is plastered with moving sale signs and lost and found flyers. The mesh trashcan on the corner hasn't been emptied in a week. Used condoms hang from the holes in the mesh. Crumpled bags of fast food, empty bottles of beer and old newspapers overflow. You're happy when you find sesame seeds from hamburger buns to eat.

4.
A woman walking on the sidewalk sets her dog down. It runs over to the base of the bench and squeezes its wet nose between planks to smell you. The woman yanks on the leash, pulling the dog away from you. You've played dead for so long, you begin to believe it.

5.
A man with wild white hair asks the woman with the dog for directions to the library. His speech is crippled and incoherent. She shrugs. Her dog yips and kicks back its legs. They cross the street to a beauty salon. The man with wild white hair sits on the bench. He peeks between the planks and sees you dead on your side. You know the way to the library, but stay still instead.

6.
A bus stops and opens its doors. The man with wild white hair mumbles at the bus driver for directions to the library and the bus driver says that a homeless shelter is nearby. The bus shuts its door and hisses, easing into traffic. You watch black smoke pour out from the tail pipe and it reminds you of the time you ate a cigarette.

7.
Looking down, the man with wild white hair sees you playing possum. You and your one good foot hobble out from under the bench. You chortle and choke from the black smoke of the bus. You flap your wings, but fly nowhere. The man with wild white hair scoops you up in his hands. He holds you to his chest and says, "Pigeon, I thought you were dead." You nestle into his shirt near his heart. You say, "The library is just around the corner."

J.R. Angelella lives in Brooklyn, New York. He currently attends the Bennington Writing Seminars where he is at work on his novel about adolescence, alpha men, and apotemnophilia—a disorder where people elect to have body parts amputated, unnecessarily. Visit him at The Agonist.



Angie Smibert

      There are three ways I can win this fight. That's what I tell myself as ugly words hang in the air between us like movie-house bullets suspended in time.
      With a flick of my wrist, I could deflect those bullets as if nothing you'd said mattered. I could send them tearing back at you at 200 frames per second. I could watch them rip through your defenses, into your flesh and bone, sending you stumbling away from me, your eyes filled with hurt and betrayal.
      Or I could rewind the film, recast the scene, the entire movie even, so that your part was played by someone with whom I could exchange balletic spin kicks and bone-jarring blows. Someone I could walk away from after an apocalyptic battle in the third act. Someone I never really loved.
      The words waver in the air, straining to part the very molecules around them. I see you willing them back into your mouth, but, once released, bullets have a momentum all their own.
      I make my choice.
      The frames of our private little film move forward. I let those ugly words rip through me at 24 frames per second. I don't back away. I don't return fire.
      The only way to win this fight, I realize, is to lose.

Angie Smibert's work has appeared in numerous publications, including Pedestal, Odyssey, Flashquake, and, of course, Boston Literary Magazine.




Circles of Light
Deborah Bauer

      Ella reads of the royal and religious figures buried in the tombs and stops at one point to steady herself. She's not eaten in twelve hours, nor slept in eighteen. She's light headed, woozy, and makes sure that there is no one watching and as she leans her forehead against smooth, solid, stone. She knows now that she will be able to give herself over to the trip, the time traveling, the absence of daily routine, and the assimilation of new experience. She wants to share this feeling with Kevin but holds back. She will hold back the entire trip, for that is what it's really about, separating their togetherness in mind and spirit. Not taking leave in the physical sense as expected, but distancing in the same room, in the same space.
      This is the second time she held back. The first being at the airport, an airport like no other, gilded, blazing, orbs of light spinning on walls, on the granite under their mundane soles. A transverse with no benches, moving walkways, or baggage carts. She'd wanted to remark on the otherworldliness, to remark how beauty could garnish the most utilitarian space, but she didn't.
      Where is he now? She walks on and finds him staring through a simple hole in a wall, at a circle of natural light. He's lost in it, focused, entranced. He doesn't care who is buried in this place. He isn't interested in thick fortress of wall, and she's certain that the airport's splendor was lost on him too. She feels sorry for him for always seeking out the simplest pleasures.
      "Kevin," she calls.
      He continues to stare at the light, oblivious, or ignoring her on purpose.
      "Kevin," she calls louder.
      "What?" He doesn't turn to look at her.
      "Let's go eat, okay?"
      "Yes, alright." He finally turns his head away as if the light were a magnet and his head made of steel. When they venture out to the street, they both squint in the sun.


Is That So?
Deborah Bauer

      Aging was not working out as Loralee expected. The following Monday they were going to dig out a hunk of her husband's nose and lob off the tip of his right ear, but he'd be suffering no stigma. She was the one who'd have to look at the dents in the flesh, the former smoothness reduced to the texture of the moon. If only people could see their own noses or the tips of their ears without a mirror! Then maybe Garrett would have been more careful.
      She'd been ranting about sunscreen and hats for years, yet if she wasn't there to slather it on his pale skin he didn't bother. She hoped that this would be his wake up call, the warning that it was time to take charge of the cells going awry, the spongy and yellow, belly fat gathering under the belt. She loved him to be sure, would always no matter what, but they saw their inevitable decline through two different lenses, she looked up close, while he took the long view.
      Garrett scooped mashed potato from the edge of the serving bowl with his index finger. He belonged to The Empty Plate Club, and not just his own plate. The welt on his nose had turned dark and the tip of his ear raw where the most recent scab had dislodged in the swimming pool that morning.
      "So do you want me to go with you on Monday? Will you be dopey after the surgery?"
      "It's not surgery. It's a scraping."
      He always made everything sound as though it could be done with a tool from the Home Depot. She half expected him to take care of it with a rusty pair of pliers.
      "It's a bit more complicated than that. They have to put the area to sleep, don't they? Do it the right way, and all."
      "Not a big deal, Loralee. You always have to make a damn mountain out of a molehill. I'm driving myself, and going back to work directly after. I'm having the carpets cleaned at the Verde St. property at 3:00 PM sharp." He surveyed the table for any leftover morsel still on a plate.
      "Suit yourself." But it was cancer, real cancer. A cell could break off, propagate, multiply, until the poison careened through his bloodstream invading the organs with torpedoes from a fleet of microscopic submarines. Why didn't he realize that and act accordingly? What would she do without him?
      She had only the last kernel of corn in her gunny sack. "Well, I'd be a trifle more worried if I were you." She took up the chicken platter before he could run his thumb along the greasy rim. "It could very well be the end, the very end, if you know what I mean."
      "Is that so?" He licked his thumb, plunged it into the tub of margarine. He swirled it around leaving an impression, deep and wide.

Deborah Bauer's work has recently appeared in Carve, Poetry Midwest, Literary Mama, and Word Riot. She is a past finalist in the Tucson Poetry Festival Competition. She received an MFA from Antioch University, Los Angeles, in 2006 where she completed a novel.



Color
Oonah V. Joslin

     Grey slanting rain painted the world a weary monochrome. No flowers she'd said. Undeterred, brave crocuses hurled a splash of defiant saffron at the day.
      Gran called it the colour. She said it was the colour of heaven and it only happened when sunset was sweet and calm. It turned the sky every shade of gold and the sea into a surging swell of honey that threw up Demerera crystals on the sugared shore. It made a dreamscape of the deep, pink pillowed dunes, a place of peaceful rest. It was no pigment but a living light. You couldn't find this colour. It found you.
      As Sharon plumped up the pillows she asked, "Tell me about the colour again, Gran." Gran just looked bemused and asked, "What colour?"
      As Sharon walked home alone with her memories, the clouds suddenly split at their base and a stream of light spilled from beneath them and was reflected upwards, burnishing the grey sky, turning it into a dome of rosy gold; almost blood red where it gashed open the cloud. It threw long, turquoise and dusky-purple shadows across the hillocks of snow. Subtly the tones paled and shifted, enigmatic like petrol on water, yellow, green, indigo, violet. It sank in tone until the sky was engulfed in a liquorish slick of darkness.
      Pity Gran wasn't there to see it.
      There would be a dome of crocuses next year over the grave, saffron crocuses. Sharon would make sure of that.

Oonah V Joslin was born in Northern Ireland and now lives in North East England. She was the winner of the 2007 Micro Horror trophy and most read author in Every Day Fiction, January 2008. She is currently one of the invited judges for The Shine Journal's poetry competition. She has had flash or poetry published in Shine, Micro Horror, Bewildering Stories, Twisted Tongue 8 & 9, Static Movement, and 13 Human Souls. Every Day Fiction has published one of Oonah's stories every month since it went on-line. The Linnet's Wings and The Ranfurly Review have also accepted pieces for publication. Visit her website at:Writewords




Dying Wish
Chris Handrahan

      The last time I saw Ms. Wilkerson was the night she died. She was never one to complain, though she had as much or more cause as anyone. On the night of her eighty-fifth birthday, I brought her a muffin with green icing without the traditional one lighted candle for I didn't think her charred, gristly lungs could muster the wind to blow it out. She picked at morsels she raised to her mouth with rickety fingers. When she finished, I couldn't resist the impulse to kiss her on the lips, and she asked what it was for as if I was a fool for doing it. The excited capillaries of her pale cheeks flooded red like tributaries and a last gasp of her blood. That was a week before she died.
      She had no family she ever talked about. You never know how long someone might have spent alone. It's best not to ask many personal questions. No one ever visited her that I saw. She owned no religious icon, like so many do. She was brave to face it utterly alone.
      I often found her awake late at night, and we would play a game of cribbage, though she barely had the energy to compete one game before it would tire her. She didn't like to sleep much anymore, just close her eyes.
      Sometimes, she would tell me what she most wanted as a last wish for a dying woman. I called her crazy and said she'd never get it from me.
      When she wasn't highly medicated, as she sometimes preferred for lucidity, she was in pain. I saw the look in her I had seen many times before in others. I saw that time was closing in, asphyxiating her as it ticked away.
      I came to her in the middle of the last night. Even in her state, she sensed the difference in me. She said I brought it for her. I said I did. From the pocket of my outfit, I removed a cigarette and lighter. I lit and placed it between her fingers. She pulled it to her thin, shuddering lips and fatly dragged on it. She blew the smoke out without much inhalation as her lungs couldn't take the further punishment. She coughed, waving away my care with her free hand. For a while, she stayed motionless, the cigarette between her fingers, the smoke eddying upward through the yellow haze of the nightlight. As I sat watching her, she intermittently dragged on it, blowing the smoke away as quickly as she took it in, smoking it like a child does with invisible, comic exaggeration. Finally, down to a filter, I pried it from her fingers. When she touched and momentarily held my retreating hand, it was her last appreciation.

Chris Handrahan writes fiction from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. His writing is current or upcoming in Pequin and Clockwise Cat.



Forgiveness
Catherine Trizzino

      She looks like Madeline—cinnamon curls, corkscrew tight, bounce in every direction as she plays, cheeks pink like spring tulips from chasing butterflies, button nose smattered with amber colored freckles. She must be three or four - Madeline's age when she left.
      I watch the girl in the vivid pink romper covered with daisies and my heart aches, a feeling I have grown accustomed to, a part of me forever. I think about Maddy with a smile so bright it could warm the coldest winter day and her quirky habit of sucking on the knuckle of her forefinger.
      Yesterday was her tenth birthday. I can envision her party, decorations in her favorite colors—pink and lavender, colors of youth and innocence. The lanky bodies of the girls bounce in the music filled room. Oh how Maddy loved music. Even as an infant, her tiny body would wiggle the moment she heard the first note—the sunny sing-song of Barney or the serene melody of Beethoven.
      I imagine myself bringing out the Hannah Montana cake, two levels piped with iced ribbons, eleven candles on top—the 'one to grow on' in the center larger than the rest. Leaning to blow out the candles, Maddy holds back her long unruly hair and I think about how she would refuse to ever keep it tied back. My heart fills with joy as the girls giggle, giddy from sugar and togetherness. Their happiness, like bubbles floating through the air, bursts abruptly when I hear a panicked scream—a mother's scream. Instead of looking toward the cry behind me, my eyes instinctively seek out the little girl. In horror I see her on the edge of a small pond, bent over to touch a lone mallard. I reach the water's edge as she is swallowed by the murky brown water—only tiny helpless arms can be seen flailing above the surface. The water hits me at chest level when I run to her—right at the line of my heart. Pulling her out of the merciless water, I immediately try to hush her. "Shush sweetie, Mommy's here—I won't let anything happen to you Maddy."
      Hands reach to take Maddy and the emptiness in my arms forces me to realize it wasn't my daughter I held, but the girl covered in pink daisies. Words of thanks choked out between tears tell me I have saved her from the very anguish I have lived with all these years. Can the sin of a mother unable to save her child ever be atoned? By saving this girl so like my precious daughter, can I finally forgive myself for not being there when she drowned in the care of another? I look at the young mother cradling her daughter, the wet curls matted to a face now red from crying and I silently ask for my daughter's forgiveness.

Catherine Trizzino (cattrizz@yahoo.com) lives with her family in Maryland and feels blessed to be able to focus on her passion for the written word. She loves writing fiction of various lengths, but has a special affinity for short fiction. She has recently been published in several online magazines.



The Last Charade
Avis Hickman-Gibb

      I lie in our bed, on my side—facing your back. Mirroring you, wanting to touch you—and yet I am not able. You sleep, quietly pushing air in and out—oblivious to my need. Listening to you gives me comfort; I can pretend it is &mdash before.
      Before we knew.
      Our time has been shortened, but I am not finished here. I still need you; I am not ready to give this up. I yearn for you, and knowing this you play along, giving me time; weaning me.
      I will you to wake, but know that when you do—the charade will start again. The players will assume their marks, make believe; say the parts given to them. But these are just words on a paper sheet—dog-eared and worn.
      Every day, we go through the same patterns, make the same noises:
      You’re looking better today.
      You think so?
      You’ve gained a little weight.
      Maybe you’re right.
      Just take these last pills—for me?
      Ok.


Knock 'em Dead
Avis Hickman-Gibb

      "I don' wanna!"
      The cry rose petulantly from baby lips painted into a crimson rosebud. All around little bodies squirmed into satin sheaths, sophisticated, sleek—womanly. Flashes of vermilion, peacock, sharp citrus lemon, each trimmed with feathers, sequins or frills; incongruous style where dirty dungarees would fit best.
      "Sugar Pie Baby just..."
      "I don' wanna! I don' wanna! I don' wanna!" Sugar Pie Baby screamed—on top note.
      Her mother gritted her teeth. This was the finale, and they had no time for nerves; Little Miss Universe (Regional Heat 3). She would just have to get a grip.
      "Sugar Pie! Listen! This will pick you out from the others—make the judges take notice. You have to—come on I'll put it in for you." Her mother advanced, the harsh lights glinting wickedly on sharp metal.
      "No! It'll hurt me. I don't want a belly ring!" Baby started to sob hysterically, backing into a corner.
      "Don't cry—you'll puff your eyes up." Her mother ground out, then paused.
      After a deep breath, she continued in a soft, crooning voice:
      "Come on Baby... Momma knows best. You'll be a little princess... you'll see. And princesses don't cry for a tiny prick like this. That's right just let Momma... there done! Don't cry Sugar. See there's hardly any blood, and we can take it out right after the show."
      Her mother stood back to admire her handiwork:
      "See, Sugar, it adds that splash of colour - you'll knock 'em dead!".


Time Management
Avis Hickman-Gibb

      I am standing at my dinning room window, and watch her as she passes by. Surely they can't all be hers? Dribbles of infantile whines reach me through the panes.
      "Mammy, I don' wanna go! I got earache in me tummy"
      "He pushed me first"
      "I'm hungry"
      8.55—the clock ticks away the morning.
      They are going to be late—again. Always late, on the run; rushing through the day.
      The kettle's whistle sings to me from the hob. Time to make my tea; toast my bread, slather it in marmalade. Smugly, I think of my one son already deposited at school. My magnum opus.
      A geriatric primagraveda, one nurse called me. Once. The look on my face stopped that. I didn't find it funny. So what if I'd waited a long time before heeding the call of biology?
      Another ticking clock—counting down to eternity.
      Sitting down to eat my leisurely breakfast, I see her rush past pushing just one child in the trolley now; rushing home to get her day's chores done, before the rest of the horde is picked up again at 3.10.
      She only looks a girl herself. Vaguely this bothers me; surely they can't all be hers?

Avis Hickman-Gibb is a newly established writer, living in rural Suffolk, England with her husband, one son and two cats. She gained a BSc. in Environmental Chemistry more years ago than she cares to admit, and worked in the fledgling computer industry whilst still a babe-in-arms. She's had stories published in Every Day Fiction, Twisted Tongue, MicroHorror, The PygmyGiant, Backhand Stories, Shine! & Boston Literary Magazine, and has up-coming stories in Bewildering Stories & The Ranfurly Review. She is currently working on a book of short stories and is addicted to writing flash fiction. If you want to read more of her writing, you can find links at: Writewords



Learning Curves
Vicky Fish

     Carla lay on her side. One arm curved over her taut belly, and the v-neck of his undershirt she wore drifted away and he saw the brown coin of a nipple, like a deer's eye.
     Jade nuzzled Carla's hand hanging off the side of the bed. Jade seemed protective lately, as if she remembered birthing puppies and knew Carla's time was soon. Though Jade came with Will to the marriage, she had a preference for Carla.
     "I'll take her out when I finish grading these tests," Will said, the pressure of a Sunday afternoon making him sit up straighter, his back against a pillow and one foot in the small of Carla's back. He was like Jade, he thought. The late afternoon light shafting in the wavy panes was weak and watery.
     "I'll take her. I need to pee. Anyway you know she wants me." Carla pushed herself up, her hair mussed by her nap.
     "I want you too my darling." He leaned forward to kiss the back of her neck.
     "Poor Will! Have I been neglecting you? It is crowded in here, though." She spread her hands like fans over her 8-month big belly. He put a cheek against her and was surprised, as always, by the firmness of that space, how separate it was from the softness of her breasts, the curve of her hips. He wanted to crawl in sometimes, to feel how it felt to be inside, right next to her heart.
     He heard the sound of zipping, the excited swing of Jade's collar, the closing door. Will tried to refocus on the geometry exams he was correcting. He saw them out the window, struck by the symmetry of Jade's arthritic walk and the wide-legged roll of Carla's gait, so pregnant. At moments like this, when the sun didn't sink so much as just fade away there was a softness to the landscape that made him feel he was made of longing and loss. Was she going far? He should have called out to her to bring a flashlight, or no, to go no further than around the pond and back.
     He'd just gotten her back, really. If you laid it all out on paper, graphed it or even created a contour map of their relationship, it wouldn't be there for others to see. And that was the problem for him, too. Her disappearances into doubt and even deceit were like the hidden features of the landscape and she was so good at turning it back on him and making his fears seem like something he'd made up or wasn't able to let go.
     There was a silence in the darkening house that felt both vaguely disquieting and inviting. He realized he was never alone at home anymore, ever since Carla began to work from home a couple months ago. He stood now and could just make out the burnt orange color of her jacket nearing the pond and Jade's tail wagging in the high grass.
     Her laptop was quietly humming on her desk in the corner of the living room. That was one thing he'd prided himself on, not stooping to spying on her. Not rifling through her drawers or her purse or trying figure out her email password. He could ask her to show him the contents of her bags, to open her email and let him scroll through and she would, but then that would always be between them, forever, him not believing her.
     Will walked over to the computer and sat down, touching the key board her fingers grazed, her mug of tea, half-finished and now cold, on the table. He had an acidy-burning in his chest, he'd been eating Tums at the same rate she was. "It was a professional relationship and over now." Was what she'd told him, and told him and told him and in that insistence she tipped her hand. He put his hands on cover of her lap top and snaps it closed. He will wash her mug, tidy her stack of papers. Let her wonder.

Vicky Fish's fiction has appeared in Hunger Mountain, Spring 2007; Quality Women's Fiction, Summer 2007; Cell 2 Soul, Spring 2007; The Wild River Review, Fall 2006; Slow Trains, Spring 2006; and the Northwoods Journal, Spring 2001. She is a freelance writer, a writer of short stories, and a mother of three boys, among other things, and lives Norwich, Vermont.




      My eyes are closed, my heart has slowed and soon I will be dead. I should be thinking about my wife but instead, here is Molly Baker standing in front of perfectly trimmed hedges in the front yard of her house, and I am twelve, wondering desperately what her bush looks like, even as I appear safe and non-threatening as a boy-friend (as opposed to a boyfriend) is supposed to look. And she's twelve too, looking every bit of it—skinny legs dotted with mosquito bites, red miniskirt just above knobby knees, brown ponytail, braces. The braces back then were serious heavy metal, but on Molly they weren't so bad because her lips were always pink. Even now, as I lay quietly dying on a hospital room bed that stinks of rubbing alcohol, I wonder what made her lips so pink, and I can still feel the urge I felt then: the burning curiosity of what her lips would feel like if I kissed them.
      Her breasts were almost too small to be considered "breasts," but they were definitely there, and naturally they didn't go unnoticed, even as she stares at me, with her hand on her hip, looking irritated.
      "Are you listening, Scotty?" she says, because we are in seventh grade and the boys still allow the girls to boss them around.
      "Huh?"
      "What are you staring at?"
      "I dunno," I said, focusing instead on her brown eyes and the freckles sprinkled across the bridge of her nose. "I like it. That's all." She lifted a doubtful eyebrow at me and rolled her eyes. I cleared my throat. "So," I said. "What were you sayin'?"
      "I learned how to do a round-off." She stood straight and squinted at me in the sun.
      "What's a round-off?"
      "It's like a cartwheel. Watch."
      She motions for me to move back, which I do, then steps to the corner of her yard and lifts her arms up like a gymnast. In seconds she is barreling across the grass and flipping over on the palms of her hands, and what began as a boring acrobatic act suddenly becomes truly amazing, because when she has her legs over her head, her miniskirt collapses into the hem of her shirt and I am standing less than fifteen feet away from Molly Baker's white cotton panties. I only get a glimpse — just long enough to piss me off, drive me wild, and make the crotch of my shorts shuffle. Soon she is back on her feet and brushing blades of grass from her palms.
      "Well?" she asks.
      "Nice," I reply.
      But I should be thinking of my wife.

K.E Entrada is 30 years old and a graduate student in English. His fiction has appeared in Story Philippines, Asians in America Magazine and the Kartika Review. "Molly Baker" is his first piece of flash fiction, and he has learned that the challenges of writing flash fiction can be addictive.



Payment
David Stelzig

      Bastard. For twenty years and more, Spumelli has sent his thugs to steal from me. Protection he calls it. Protection? I have no need. Stealing is what it is.
      Now he is here, in my shop, expecting to be treated with respect.
      He looks up at me with cold, dead eyes. His face is a tangled patchwork of thin, purple, spiderweb veins. His skin, a pasty-white parchment. The complete lack of wrinkles belies his eighty-four years. So does his full head of long, black hair that he has center-parted and plastered to the sides in flat, oily mats. When I bend forward though, I see, near his scalp, snow-white roots.
      Spumelli continues to look at me. Expressionless. Unblinking. He mocks me with his serenity.
      I stare back. Seething. Powerless. And yet…I am in control. I furtively glance over my shoulder. We are alone. Before anyone can stop me, before I change my mind, I pull a scalpel from under the table and, with two quick slashes, emasculate my old enemy.
      I step into the bathroom and flush the evidence and then, humming softly, return to work. Speed is important now. Viewing of the body begins in three short hours.
      The extortion? I'll continue to pay; a younger brother, Joseph, has taken over the business. But Joseph is not that young. Soon he too will visit my shop. And then I will again extract my small revenge, dispatching another eunuch to hell.

David Stelzig spent 22 years as biochemistry professor at WV University in Morgantown. He then opened an art gallery, which he sold in 2004 and moved to MD, near Baltimore, with his wife, Mary. He has dozens of research publications in refereed scientific journals and has two short pieces of fiction accepted for publication in an anthology with the tentative title, "More Voices from the Susquehanna."




     A long, lazy fly ball sailed over the shortstop toward the gap between left and center. With the crowd urging him on, the runner on third base sprinted for home, but just as he reached it the ball fell into the glove of the center fielder and the inning was over with the score still tied at two runs apiece.
     At once, Barragan rose to his feet and nudged his son to stand too.
     "What for?" Robbie asked, shelling a peanut.
     "To stretch your legs."
     The gravel-voiced public address announcer then invited everyone in the ancient stadium to sing along with the taped recording of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game." Only a few did, including three inebriated sailors behind Barragan and his son whose voices were as gravelly as the public address announcer's. Barragan did not join them, his voice was as flat as a manhole cover. Instead, he watched the groundskeepers drag the infield with long-handled bamboo rakes.
     "You're not singing, Dad," his son observed with a smile.
     "Can't," he answered, content to confine his singing to a shower stall. "I've got a sore throat."
     "Since when?"
     "Since now, kiddo."
     He hadn't been to a game in a very long time, only came today because his son had been begging him for the past month to take him to see a game at Veterans Stadium. He seldom went to the Vet because of what happened there nine years ago when he made a fool of himself during the seventh inning stretch. He decided to use the occasion to propose to his girlfriend at the time. At first, he thought about having a friend hold up a proposal sign in the left field bleachers but, worried she might not see it, slipped five dollars to a balloon salesman to put the engagement ring inside a balloon so that he could then buy it for her during the stretch and invite her to release the air and find out what was inside of it. Incredibly, just as the balloonman handed her the yellow balloon, it slipped through her fingers and floated over third base then out of the stadium. Immediately he ran outside to retrieve it but by the time he got there it had disappeared over the surrounding hills. He was devastated.
     When he told his girlfriend what he had done, she was furious and made it clear she didn't want to marry someone who could have concocted such a ludicrous proposal. He figured she would eventually calm down and change her mind but she didn't and they never got back together to his amazement. He smiled about the crazy stunt now, even told some others about it, including his wife. But what kept him from going to the old stadium where it happened, he knew, was that he still harbored strong feelings for his old girlfriend and they were much stronger than the feelings he had for his wife.
     The bottom of the inning began with another lazy fly that kept going until it drifted over the right field wall and everyone was back on their feet, cheering, except for Barragan who was still looking for that yellow balloon.

T.R. Healy was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. His stories have appeared in such publications as Canopic Jar, Freight Train, Knock, Limestone, and The Square Table.



The Chesterfield
Doug Mathewson

     The best summer of my life was when I lived on a couch in the Divinity School lounge. Long haired and bearded I appeared more spiritual than Ivy League, but maybe that's why my presence went unquestioned. It was easy to swipe a "dog-collar" and head out to any of the Irish bars. Bartenders called me "Faadaa" and gave me free beer, payment perhaps towards the great hereafter. Barmaids tried to fatten me up, and maybe take me home just to teach me a thing or two before my final vows.
     Tired and happy I would make my way back to my sofa, dropping off my very wrinkled, sweaty and stained clerical collar at the desk in "Lost and Found".

Doug Mathewson lives on the Connecticut shoreline. He writes very short fiction that occasionally changes of its own volition into poetry or essay forms. He has been published here and there online, most recently at The Boston Literary Magazine, Doorknobs & Body Paint, and Six Sentences. His current project, True Stories from Imaginary Lives, can be found at www.little2say.org.