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Jenny wrote the list on the pad she kept by the phone.

    Take up smoking. Twenty per day.
    Take up drinking. Spirits. Whisky. Vodka. Bottle a day?
    Harder drugs? Research. Psychedelic?
    Meaningless sex.
    Travel. See the world. Blow savings.
    Overeat. Chocolate.
    Break the law once a day.

     She underlined the last one, then studied her list. A catalogue of things she’d never done. She’d never even felt the need for resolutions before. But the diagnosis changed everything. A year left, the doctors said. Despite all her goodness, a year. Well. She’d make damn sure it was a year to remember.

Simon Kewin is the author of over 100 published short or flash stories. His works have appeared in Nature, Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex and many more. He lives in England with his wife and their daughters. His cyberpunk novel The Genehunter and his fantasy novels Engn and Hedge Witch were recently published. Find him at siimonkewin.co.uk.




Missed Connections
Doug Matheswon

     You—Three thousand dollar McLaren stroller and sleeping child.

     Me—Six hundred dollar car and someone else's dog.

     The light was changing, I rev’d the engine, you flipped me off, I blew the horn, your child awoke crying, the dog went nuts.

     Next time, coffee?

Doug Mathewson has rejected the advice “write what you know” since he knows nothing. Most recently his work has appeared in Right Hand Pointing, Cloud City Press, Postcards Prose & Poems, riverbabble,and Jersey Devil. He is senior editor of Blink-Ink and runs Special Ops. for Ms. Kitty Wang.




Husband and Wife
Margaret Brinton

     She glances frequently at the clock on the kitchen wall, her anticipation of the early afternoon stirring her blood. She slaps his pancakes and a slice of fried ham onto a plate and tells him to go ahead, eat it while it's hot, while she pours batter for her own breakfast into the sizzling iron skillet.
     With their meal finished and the dishes washed and dried, she sits with him in the living room to catch the morning news, covertly checking her watch, wishing the minutes to click more quickly away.
     She kills restless time by doing laundry and other mundane chores until she finally hears him rustling about, preparing to leave on his business trip.
     "How long did you say you'll be in Miami?" she queries with an unintended lift to her voice.
     She no sooner gives him a peck on the cheek as a farewell then she assembles a tall stack of classical CDs, gathers her needlepoint project, brings out her collection of foreign films and settles into a pleasant, marital reprieve, a steaming pot of tea at her ready.

Margaret Brinton grew up in the mushroom-covered woodlands of northern Minnesota where her love of the outdoors has persisted years later into daily walks amidst the chaparral of San Diego's inland foothills.




The Shadow Box
Patti Rossi

Displayed within, tangible pieces of my anguish, remnants of my sorrow


With a haphazard intent these encapsulated vestiges are scattered about

     a faux pearl button from my favorite overcoat, handmade by you, decades ago…

    wooden rosary beads, your abacus of prayer, noticeably worn from a lifetime of your daily recitations…

    a sepia drenched photograph of you donned in faded youth…

    a lonely pink petal, from the single rose I laid upon your coffin on that windswept,

frigid day in March…


Centered on the stark white mantelpiece, there it sits, The Shadow Box, gathering more than dust, a paradoxical

reminder of the fragility of life, the proximity of death and ….my firm belief in your immortality

Patricia Rossi is an attorney, freelance artist and writer. Her poetry has been featured in Long Island magazines and published in “Poetry Haiku. Her personal essays have been published in major New York newspapers. One of her academic papers was featured in New York Magazine. Patricia leads creative writing workshops for cancer survivors. She is also the recipient of a number of New York state funded individual artist grants. Patricia has utilized the grant monies to create and implement writing empowerment workshops for women specifically in undeserved communities in New York State. Patricia lives on Long Island with her husband Ed and their adorable pup, Flanagan.




Darby, Nightfall
Michele Finn Johnson

     Dottie unlocks her bedroom window and waits in the dark for Bobby‘s taps. Lately he’s startled her, his window taps coming long after she’s gone to sleep. But tonight Dottie waits for him, vows to stay awake. She can hear the sounds of her mother in the TV room—phlegmy coughs, the snap of aluminum pull-tabs, burps. Dottie stares at her window screen. So far, it’s been the only thing separating her and Bobby. He’s been very patient. Tapping. Waiting. Window opening. When they say goodnight, they press their hands together into the spiky mesh of the window screen. The other night they’d kissed through it, Bobby’s lips smooth and metallic. Dotty thinks this must be the same taste her mother always has in her mouth. Electrified tin. Dottie wonders why it is always like this with Bobby, the darkness, the tapping. Why in the hallways at school Bobby turns away from her. Who’d live in Darby dump, she’d heard the other day, said to Bobby, but not directed at Bobby. Bobby is an Ardmore boy. Bobby doesn’t have to wait for much. He won’t wait forever. Dottie unlatches the screen, pulls it to the floor.

Michele Finn Johnson's fiction has been published in Necessary Fiction, The Conium Review, TheNewerYork Press, and elsewhere. Her narrative nonfiction has appeared in Puerto del Sol and the anthology “Fracture: Essays, Poems, and Stories on Fracking in America," and won an AWP Introduction to Journals Project award. Michele lives in Tucson, Arizona and studies creative writing at Lighthouse Writers Workshop.




She Visits
Sarah Vernetti

     She visits me, but only when I’m running the vacuum. At first, it didn’t make sense. Why doesn’t she stop by when I’m sitting on the back porch, watching the dog chase bugs in the dark? After all, the vacuum always frightened her. Instead of the loud noise, it was the thought of vanishing into the maze of plastic tubing that bothered her. With every sweep, she would skitter away in a panic. She ran with her heels in the air, as if she were moving over hot coals. I’d sweep back and forth, and she would move away and near, away and near. Once a week we did this, and every time I told her not to be so silly. I still struggle to understand: afraid of a vacuum cleaner being pushed by her own mother, but not hesitant around the man in the white car, the one who needed help caring for his new kittens. She trusted that man for reasons that are beyond my comprehension. I’d ask her, but I don’t want to scare her away.
     I think about it often, why she appears alongside the roar of the vacuum. Maybe the sound of it signals danger to her, and she’s trying to protect me. Whatever the reason, we have beautiful conversations when we manage to hear each other over the motor.

Sarah Vernetti is a Las Vegas-based freelance writer. When she isn’t writing about travel and food, she’s busy crafting short stories and flash fiction. Her writing has appeared in 300 Days of Sun, Eunoia Review, Foliate Oak, Vending Machine Press, and others.




Freeze Frame
Caroline Couderc

     That moment, frozen and still. Your silhouette against the window, ironing. Steam rises like water powder, smelling of cotton freshness and a whiff of starch. A monotonous radio reads stock prices. I’m lulled, cocooned. Behind you, the window is a frame, the sky a painting, snowflakes falling in and out. I’m crouching on the floor, building a village with my toy houses, shrubs, and miniature people, while you explore another life, softly whispering to unseen people. You put the iron down and sigh. Your face, confused, stares at the small woman on my market square. The snow has formed tiny snowdrifts on the windowsill.

Caroline Couderc is a multilingual writer and translator living in Switzerland and the UK. She has degrees in French Literature, Linguistics and Cultural Anthropology. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Fine Linen Magazine and Daily Science Fiction.




When
Jim Harrington

     When Angela learned she couldn’t have children—something she’d looked forward to since getting a doll house for her third birthday—she turned to drugs and alcohol.
     When she awoke in the hospital after the overdose, her sister, Eileen, sat in a chair reading a Bible.
     When Angela exited the rehab center for the second time, Eileen waited in the car to take her to the halfway house.
     When, three months later, Eileen opened the door to her home with a smile, Angela hugged her sister and wept.
     When her nephew, Joseph Anthony Ridgeway, was born, Angela was in the delivery room.
     When she held Joseph for the first time, she felt joy.
     When the bridge collapsed and the swollen river swallowed the car containing Joseph’s parents, Angela’s mind went numb.
     When Joseph first called her Mommy, Angela felt complete again.

Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. Jim's Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at jpharrington.blogspot.com.




A Worried Sam at Rest
Matthew Thibeault

     Sam decided there was no way he was going to kick alone in his apartment. He would mobilize his dying self with a walker and head out there in the wind and rain of October. He decided it would be a Starbucks. Sam hated the place. Bad coffee, full of bums, but always packed—no chance he’d be alone. He set out to spend nine to nine in a Starbucks for as many days as it took.
     After two weeks of 12-hour days Sam was worried about kicking in his sleep. He stopped sleeping. He would wait up looking at himself in the mirror of his bathroom. Sagging, old-man breasts and bloated cancer-gut. Worse than that, his face was falling off, like one of Salvador Dali’s clocks.
     When Sam was young his father died in a bathroom, alone, on the toilet. Sam’s mother found him wedged between the porcelain and the wall, with his pants around his ankles and his face pressed up against the tile, where years of urine and cigarettes had made the grout turn yellow.
     On that last day Sam hadn’t slept and he was sure it would be the day. But when he got there it was empty. He sat and waited and before long nodded off and started to dream that the place was full and that he was dying with beautiful, reassuring faces all around him.

Matthew K. Thibeault's fiction and reviews have appeared in F(r)iction and The Malahat Review. He spends summers in Dawson City, Yukon.







The Winner
Ryan Dempsey

     “Jose, mi bebé. Mi bebé,” his mother keeps saying. They are in the hotel room, where happy laughing people dance and drink, come and go. He knows maybe a quarter of them, but his mother tells him it's okay. Jose sits on the bed while the music plays, his face still swollen.
     Jose's sister brushes back his hair. There are still spots matted with blood and sweat because he hadn’t washed it well. He moves to the edge of the bed and his mother strokes his hands. His knuckles swell and pulse with his heart. He stares ahead as his mother places them into a bucket of ice water.
     Jose keeps seeing him fall to the canvas, lifeless like a rag doll, his arms flailing with the tug of gravity and the push of momentum. It is as if the room is empty and Jose still stands in the ring, watching over and over as the man falls. His final touch not a loved one’s pat on the hand or brush across the brow, but the weight of a heavy fist trying to push through him.
     Jose thinks of this as the image cycles through a second and third time, his memory adding and exaggerating more detail as it becomes embedded in him forever.

Ryan Dempsey currently resides with his wife and daughter in Pittsburgh, PA. Ryan's fiction is published or forthcoming in such places as The Portland Review, Toasted Cheese, Gravel, Drunk Monkeys, Linden Avenue Literary Journal and Almost Five Quarterly. Email him at Ryandempsey82@gmail.com.




Threat
Ray Greenblatt

     The souped-up car panted in the shadows of the street lamps. The man lounged in the driver's seat, his shaved head and various pins glinting. The tattoos on temple, cheek, neck like veins. The old lady in the housedress and porcupine hair leaned in the car window. "I heard you had target practice in your cellar," she rasped through their cigarette smoke. "Shot at an apple on top of my daughter's head, while my grandchildren had to watch."
     He said nothing, and the sneer was still there.
     "I was a hoofer once," she continued as if in confidence. "I hoofed across these United States. Her father sang while I hoofed. I like to think we brought some happiness to people. It was goddamned hard work, but we made enough money—honestly—to live and take care of our kids. You bring nothing but pain."
     He said nothing.
     "My husband's dead now. And I'm dying. I got incurable cancer. She's run away from you for the last time. Now she and the kids are staying here with me and getting a lawyer." She raised the bat he now saw in her hand. "I have nothing to lose. If I see you around here again, one of us will be dead!"

"Over the years Ray has written stories for Caprice, Innisfree, Legacy, The Moon. His experimental novel—Twenty Years on Graysheep Bay—is available online."




The Hole Truth
Harry Mishkin

     “I like Swiss cheese,” she said as I reached for a cracker and a savory slice. A cue for conversation from the organizer of this gathering of local literati. If I was as sharp as the cheese, I would have offered her my snack. But her cue might as well have been a metaphor for my riddled attention span. Gazing at the yellow succulence as I guided it towards my mouth, I fell through one of its holes.
     I could still see our vibrant hostess as I hurtled through a tunnel of hope for arriving at the shore of inspiration, anchored only by the stories, offered before the break in festivities, on writing and of appreciation for one of its chief practitioners, the focus of this celebration.
     “I like revelations,” I responded from some distance beyond the audible spectrum.
     “I like epiphanies!” I shouted to my private universe
     As I unraveled the lines of reverie and revelation cast into the crowd during this celebration of the art and artifact of writing, my frenzied craving for my own material blocked out all external sight and sounds. Until an explosion of taste opened my ears to the crunch of the cracker that was in my hand.
     “I don’t just like Swiss cheese, I love it,” I told her.

Harry Mishkin is a performance artist who combines words in the form of poetry, stories and narrative with original music for live audiences and television viewers across New England and New York. His approach to creativity was forged by his work in free-form FM radio in the early seventies and his participation in the avant-garde music scene in San Francisco later on in that decade. Experiences as a crisis counselor and prison grievance investigator provided content for his writing and fueled his conviction to look beyond appearances for understanding.







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