She gave you a lot of different looks from the start. Did that throw you off? How cold it got on the final drive?
There are always variables you can’t control and sometimes things go wrong. Can’t blame the conditions, that’s for sure.
Did you get an explanation?
Some of our moves weren’t as smooth as they could be, we had communication issues and, let’s be honest, she knows how to avoid contact.
There have been some rather significant rule changes recently. You think they affected the outcome?
They were taken into account.
She suggested at one point that you were not very imaginative, like she knew just what would happen beforehand.
We try and take what they give us and make the most of it. Each night is a different challenge and, let’s give her credit, she’s tough, she can be a real force out there. In hindsight, of course, there are things you’d like to take back. Things that were sloppy, that you didn’t execute according to plan.
But the way it looked she could anticipate what you were doing before you did it. You think you’ve become too predictable?
You’ll have to ask her. We’re on to Saturday night. Anything else?
Did you feel you got unfairly penalized?
We’re not getting into that. Saturday night. One more.
Let me rephrase: she intimates there was some kind of breakdown at the end. What accounted for that?
Well, if that’s what she says. You’ll have to ask her.
Since 2015 Alexander’s stories have either appeared or are forthcoming in Buffalo Almanack (recipient of its Inkslinger Award for Creative Excellence), Umbrella Factory Magazine (a 2015 Pushcart Prize nominee), New Pop Lit, DenimSkin, Per Contra, Constellations, The Bicycle Review, Lakeview International Journal of Literature and Arts, Flash Frontier, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, Down in the Dirt, Contrary, the Blue Bonnet Review, The Nite Writers Literary Arts Journal, and The Binnacle, the latter of which won Honorable Mention in its Twelfth Annual International Ultra-Short Competition.
Her hair is distracting. Her hair is blue, and it’s distracting. I know that blue. It’s that, I don’t care that you’re watching me blue. Why can’t she be normal? Sitting on her knees on the subway. Maybe I could talk to her if she’d just sit like a normal person. Maybe I’d walk up to her and tap her on the shoulder if her hair were yellow, or red, or brown. Why does it have to be blue?
She rides to her stop, gets up, and squeezes in front of me, like I’m not even there, like I’m no one, and I can’t move. I can’t breathe, because if I do, it’ll go right down onto her neck. Why does she do that?
It’s her hair. Her I don’t care that you want me hair. That salty, ocean water blue that she runs her fingers through as though to say, yeah, you could drown in me…if I let you. But I won’t. Every day, I’ve watched her blue hair fall over her white shoulders. I’ve counted the freckles hidden beneath the blue strands when her skin peeks through. I’ve watched her walk away from me, down the aisle, and through the door. I’ve watched her step out, and drift through the crowd. Her blue head bobs away among the normals. The nobodies. Every day since Monday, I’ve watched that un-natural, un-normal, fuck you hair leave me standing alone. And every day since I first saw her, I’ve wished that I were drowning.
But I’m not.
And all I can think of is tomorrow.
Amanda Goemmer is a Kentucky native, currently pursuing an MFA in Fiction and Creative Nonfiction writing at Virginia Commonwealth University. She is working on her first novel, in addition to a collection of nonfiction works.
He’d just scooched his ass down into his favorite vinyl booth for a celebratory drink at his favorite Republic bar, had just signed half his life away to his bitch of an ex-wife (and the other half to his lawyers), and now it was her asking him why he had called.
His large hands fumbled with the thin phone as he tugged it out of his back pocket, nearly dropping it twice as he turned and twisted in his seat to better hear over the din of bar sounds and bar voices.
“It was an accident,” he said.
“What was an accident?” she said.
He watched a young couple enter—the woman with a radiant smile and large expressive eyes and the young man smiling in her wake. He envied their happiness in these “salad days” of their relationship.
He’d forgotten her for a split second while in reverie over the young couple, now making their way down to the other end of the bar to visit with another happy young couple, hugs and kisses all around.
“What was an accident?” she repeated.
He turned away from the happy couples and stared blankly at the hockey game on the television behind the counter. A terrible urge came upon him—to call her a “slutty whore” and “cunt” for putting herself before their kids and family. But then a wild and sinister and better idea came to mind.
“This call!” he said. “It’s a butt dial, bitch!”
Glancing up and down the bar, he spread his fat thighs, then cupped and lowered the tiny phone into the little vinyl amphitheatre he’d created there and let out the loudest and happiest fart of his crazy busted life!
Dave Barrett lives and writes out of Missoula, Montana. His fiction has appeared most recently in Midwestern Gothic, Gravel, The MacGuffin and the Scarlett Leaf Review. He teaches writing at the University of Montana and is at work on a new novel.
Blood drips onto the plates as he chatters away over supper, seemingly oblivious to the dead end that awaits them all. The kids slink silently away, as though escape is possible. Surely they know that later in the night, he will thump up the stairs in search for them as she lies in bed wondering when they auditioned for this drama.
A new morning, and she awakens to find shattered glass littering the kitchen floor. The kids stare eerily ahead while slowly munching cereal. Milk bubbles from the corners of their mouths. Silence hangs heavy until he slaps the bottle on the table.
The kids’ expressions remain impassive as their tongues flick over pale lips. They rise and she notices their backpacks leaking blood.
“STOP,” she shouts, “people will know.”
“Everyone already knows.” They turn their empty gazes on her.
“You auditioned for the part, Ma, your name is in the obits.”
“You’re a terrible actress, I might add,” he cackles.
The kids leave and she starts vigorously mopping the floor. She is forever taking up where she left off and everything is always overwhelming.
Blood drips steadily from the ceiling, and suddenly, she is too tired to clean, too drained from yesterday, too fearful of tomorrow, too paralyzed to participate in the present tense. The chambers of her heart deplete as she struggles to recall events leading up to this point. A vision appears of her kids’ bloodless lips murmuring fateful words:
“Your whole life is a lie!”
“Only 80 proof,” she objects, knowing she is not the first to lie. Relief floods her as their accusing gazes fade into the cold, hard light of another day that she will thankfully never see as she sinks into the deep, dark, blissful deadness of oblivion.
Pavelle Wesser’s fiction has appeared in many webzines and anthologies. She writes in the wee hours of the night when sleep eludes her and she is usually slated to wake up early the next day, ensuring a never-ending cycle of run-on sentences and short-term memory loss. Originally a New Yorker, she currently resides in New England with her family and several dogs.
Old M1911, the puppy your father handed you at breakfast on your twelfth birthday, right across your Honey Smacks, before he tramped out the door toward any place but here. You stroke her barrel as she whimpers in your lap, your only puppy ever. In high school, she slept under your pillow. You whispered to her. When you had your own kids and pulled out the dirt driveway to work, she was your Annie Oakley, stowed under your seat. On weekends, after you moved out, she was an outcropping of your own hand when you toted her into your stall at the firing range. She slept quiet as you cut through the hidden part of town, where the down-and-outers live. You liked to stop at the Biscuitville there before looking for work. She slid into your feet when you rear-ended the F-150. She’d always been standup. But now, when you reach down for your little waggly-tail, she takes her sweet time coming to you, as the man busts out of his vehicle all wild-eyed and red-faced, hastens back to you, reaching behind him, wears that close-inspecting look you get when a man figures he might come under assault. The codger’s thinking just that—he eyes you up as you reach down for Brownie. You stiffen as he reacts to sun gleaming off steel, recoil as he fires two rounds into your side. Your Colt Browning falls from hand to lap, right on top of your Fried Chicken Biscuit. The shooter leans in, you can hear his breath, as you, for the last time, pet your little partner, now wet with what looks like ketchup. Something’s stirring in the man, he calls out, “Hey! Hey!” Then asks, “That you, son?” But by then it wasn’t. It wasn’t you anymore.
by Ronald Jackson
Ronald Jackson writes stories, poems, and non-fiction. His work has appeared in Blue Monday Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Firewords Quarterly, The Gateway Review, Kentucky Review, North Carolina Literary Review, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and in anthologies and online venues. Recognitions include honorable mention in the Doris Betts Fiction Prize competition in 2012, third prize in Prime Number Magazine’s 2014 flash fiction competition, honorable mention in the 2014 New Millennium Writings short-short fiction competition, and runner-up in the 2016 Lamar York Prize in Non-Fiction.
Arlo was strolling down Pike Street one morning when he saw a woman sitting on a bench in front of a sex shop, madly trying to light a cigarette. She looked to be in her early twenties, was tall and slim with azure blue hair, and her milky white skin was adorned with tats and piercings. She looked vaguely familiar so he offered her a light and they chatted it up a bit.
Her name was Oona, and he found out that they were at the same Poetry Slam event the month before. She told him that she just moved to Seattle, used to work as a dominatrix, and that her wife, Didi, was a tranny. She also revealed that she once lived in a coven and was a witch.
Afterwards, he took her shopping at a place that carried a wide assortment of the dark, Goth clothing befitting her persona.
They met several other times that month, always followed by more shopping sprees. Arlo could see what was happening but it almost didn’t matter because he just wanted to be in her presence, at whatever cost. He liked to buy her needful, shiny things. She liked to get those needful, shiny things.
During the following months, Arlo fell into the role of servant to Oona and Didi: running errands, delivering takeout food, chauffeuring, and helping them furnish the apartment they shared with another tranny. He truly enjoyed this role.
One day, she told him that she unexpectedly inherited some property in New York and would be moving back there within the week.
Arlo felt hurt and lost without her. Eventually he figured out a way to sooth the pain and kick-start his life back up again; he would immortalize her in print.
by A.R. Bender