Flamingo

By Brian Kelly

Short Story

If I ever said I loved Francine it was to get her to set the kitchen knife down on the countertop before something awful happened. To her, I was the “looney.” Especially after she rocked back a row of wine coolers.

“You got a sick head,” she stammered, swinging the blade at me. “When you gonna get help now?”

“Fran,” I said, trying to grab her arm. “I said I love you. You see? I just said it, again.”

 

mika is looking at a plastic bag, is that a cat? she wonders, i hope she’s friendly, i just love petting things so much, i don’t know why i do, oh, nevermind

at home, she ignores the phone and thinks that it’s really funny, i can’t believe it, she buckles under her laughter, it’s still ringing, oh my god, ha ha ha, she laughs, why…won’t….it…stop…buzzing?

later, she eats two things and gives the third away before falling asleep

Racquet

By Jackson Frons

Short Story

Tonight I will see Bonnie for the last time, but I don’t know it yet. We get together roughly once a month. We get drunk. We get high. We don’t have a ton to talk about, but she’s cool. We’re both downers, but she makes a lot of money. And I’m happy about seeing her. I’m happy that the early afternoon sun is out and that it finally feels like fall—cool crisp breeze, sky a vacant shade of blue like animated swimming pools.

I’m walking down Willoughby Avenue to work. I coach tennis in the park. I’m wearing a furry black sweater I stole from my dad. He stole it from a Norwegian television station. My beard is long. My hips hurt from running on cement 28 hours a week. My head buzzes from smoking too much pot last night. Most nights. I’m happy in a sad way. Like I know this is pretty great, the way I’m living, and I wish I could enjoy it more.

After my hometown high school burned to the ground, my parents sent me off to boarding school in the Blue Ridge mountains. It was kind of like that movie Dead Poets Society except instead of reading poems the students traded amphetamines for painkillers and dug underground tunnels into downtown Asheville to smuggle strippers onto campus. Once a kid stole a pony from a nearby farm as a prank and tied it to the goalpost on the football field. It wrapped the rope around its neck and almost choked itself to death. It was that kind of place.

On the day we met, she told me she was named after the sexiest country music star alive. And that she knew how to fire a gun. And that she was one hundred percent Cherokee.

My mama says I’m named after nobody. We don’t have a gun in our house. I have blonde hair and blue eyes.

Well, it was last fall and I was just finishing up moving stuff out of the farm up in Belgrade to move Nana down to Saco into her new condo. And I was picking up stuff in the yard. She had left a blue tarp out in the woods that she was using to put all the rusted, metal pieces on top of. The pieces she’d collect for me. She would dig up rusted, metal pieces out of the ground while she was gardening and she’d save them for me. To make things out of. Which, I wasn’t really making things out of, but she thought they looked cool, so she saved them for me. So I put the last of the chunks of the rusted, metal pieces in my truck, and I was picking up the blue tarp, and I noticed that underneath the blue tarp—stuck to it—was this brown… looked like a sac. Maybe about an inch and a half in diameter. Kinda made out of a tough… felt like a really tough paper. Like Tyvek. Do you know what Tyvek is? Tyvek is what they use to… it’s a sheath, kinda like paper… it’s what they use to wrap houses. When they’re building houses, before they put the shingles on. It’s really strong. That’s what this felt like.

Our first month over there in Najaf, while we were keeping the morning watch, me and Judson would hold our M16s out level with that well-dark sky and count down. The horizon was deep as a mineshaft, black and sucking up all my voice and air. One moment the world was blank, just the faintest blue haze smearing around the edges, and the next, that bullet of light would rocket up and blind you, full and ripe there just above the horizon.

Prize

By Elle Nash

Short Story

Meg walked home from work through the shortcut of her apartment complex and saw a fire engine out front of building two, where Jodi lived. Jodi was older and had a habit of standing outside with her neighbor Blake, who sold weed to everyone in the complex. Meg loved to talk to Jodi because she knew all of the news of the neighborhood and Meg was missing it. Jodi had beautiful, sun-stained blonde long hair, and tanned, wrinkled skin. She wore glasses. She offered to dye Meg’s brown hair to a better shade of brown. Often her eyes were red and she had a soft, spacey look to her. She could remember everything there was to know about what happened in buildings two, three, and four on their end of the complex.

THERE ARE GREAT FIRES that burned everything down that everyone still talks about at all the ruined remaining coffee shops. It’s all everyone still talks about. There are no more wild animals in the world, no more wild animals roaming the Earth, and purebred Dogs are more celebrated than God now. Every day I see there’s proof that things fall apart. Buildings are ruins and the ruins are buildings. The air is less like air, there are fewer trees around, and it’s hard to breathe sometimes. My wife wakes up at four in the morning to pray and she does so staring out the stained glass hallway window, and because I can’t sleep anymore, I have insomnia, I like to wake up with her, sit at the side of the cold bed, and watch her pray through the doorway. I smoke a cigarette and turn on our little box fan. I can hear her whispering to God in a sweet acapella that I try to mouth along to, but I never bother her until she’s finished. She prays for seven hours. I don’t believe in her God anymore.

From the short story “Here I Am”

I’m the last thing people imagine when they think of a funeral director. For this late night house call, I’m wearing a purple dress and heels to match; my nails are painted lavender. I’m hardly the dowdy thing in black the family expected.

The son hesitates, but shows me in. First, I verify that their grandmother is in fact dead: breath and pulse, no, and doll’s eye test, negative. The old woman’s eyes roll right along with her head. Though the hospice doctor’s been here and gone, you can’t be too careful in this business. Last week, some guy in Mississippi woke up in a body bag on the embalming table. It was all over the news.

From “The Three Mornings of José Antonio Rincón”

It is true that if pressed, José Antonio Rincón would have denied enjoying the experience because, regardless of the changes he endured during those three days last April, his basic nature remained the same. That is to say, José Antonio was, is, and will always be a contrarian. During his almost six decades of life on this earth his contrarian nature only grew stronger each year, with roots as reliable and resilient as those of a northern red oak. So if you asked him, did you like it, José Antonio? Was it pleasant? He no doubt would frown, purse his lips, and shout, “No, it was hellish!” However, if you said: Oh, what horrors! How did you survive it all? He very likely would smile and say it was all quite delightful, and he would sincerely express his hope that it should happen again and again and again.

Spent Saints_Book Cover_Full Spread_Final_1.30.17Eye for Sin

I climbed into the passenger seat and Tinkles lifted the pint of Southern Comfort from between his legs and offered me a shot. Took a good chug, handed it back and twisted an air conditioning vent in my direction. Pretty much all we needed to say to each other.

Tinkles wheeled the old Corolla back out onto my street, and turned west on Van Buren. We took it easy through downtown, headed north on Seventh Ave. and rolled toward Sunnyslope, a dark burb that rises up a sun-crested hill. There were few cars out and butter-colored streetlights fanned across the windshield. Tinkles flipped the car stereo on to Cher’s “Believe,” and turned it up. I reached out and turned it down. Blown distorted speaker, horrible song. Ears didn’t want it.

dance-movie-full-cover-1-1170x1747This is a dance movie! Teenagers are dancing. They are popping, locking, tutting. The teenagers must stay loose, stay low to catch each step. To roll from beat to beat. The teenagers must be careful not to overemphasize the downbeat.

One teenager, a boy named Robert, is dancing down the street. Robert is practicing. He is snaking his arm. He makes it fluid: shoulder, elbow, wrist. Or tries. Several times. The audience feels his pain. The audience knows Robert must master this move. Robert and the other teenagers must win a competition. Robert, in particular, must win this competition in order to get a scholarship the girl laid. Robert must get laid. This is a dance movie!

Robert must get laid by a deadline. To win a bet? Possibly. In this way, this dance movie is also a teen sex comedy. Except this comedy isn’t so funny. Or maybe it’s funny. It’s sort of funny. Its funniness depends upon the audience’s appreciation for schadenfreude. The problem is Robert is likeable, making it harder to laugh at his expense. Or rather, likeable to certain viewers. Robert is likeable because he’s pretty, making him likeable to girls and gay boys, this movie’s target demographic. Most teen sex comedies are about ugly straight boys. Critics rave about these movies because, being ugly straight boys themselves, they identify with their protagonists.

Raeff_JungleAroundUs.inddThe Doctors’ Daughter

“Don’t forget to feed the chickens,” Pepa’s parents told her when they left for the jungle to take care of the yellow fever victims. As if she could forget such a thing. Wasn’t she the one who took care of them, who collected the eggs, swept up the droppings, slit their throats with the scalpel her father had given her for this very purpose? If she had forgotten to feed the chickens, they would have come pecking at the back door, would have jumped onto the kitchen windowsill and poked their beaks between the louvers. How could she possibly forget to feed the chickens?

The chickens had been Pepa’s idea, after all. Her parents had not approved at first. “What do we know about keeping chickens?” they said. But they seemed to forget that in the beginning they had not known any of it. They had not known how to cook beans, had not known the taste of fried bananas or the Spanish word for rice, had not known how to hang mosquito netting or the sound of monkeys screaming in the night or that you had to bribe the health inspectors as well as hide the water cistern when they came around every so often looking for what they called “standing water.”

yancy-4-2Can we talk about something other than fetal surgery?

Oh. Okay. Facial reconstruction?

 

On second thought, forget it. Fetal surgery it is.

I don’t mean to be obsessed, but if I were a character, it would be one those formative backstories.

 

See, look at that. Even during an interview you’re starting with backstory.

You can begin at the beginning, or you can work your way back there.