An old woman stands on the corner of 5th and Wall, a book of poetry in her tattered wool jacket.
- She shouts to no one in particular.
- She used to be famous. I heard it from the postman.
- I think I knew her.
- She was my teacher in first grade.
- She was my Girl Scout leader.
- She is my mother.
- She is not my mother.
- It’s me. I am on the street corner and I am all alone.
- There is a white dog with scruffy fur in the alley. His front right paw is deformed and he limps. He is focused on his daily quest for food and sex.
- I call him goat dog.
- He protects me from the addicts.
Meanwhile, on the opposite corner.
A yellow haired man with whiskers is holding a fortune cookie and sobbing.
- He’s loved her since the day they met, at the office Christmas party. She had her hair in a bun, loosely tied with a gold and red garland.
- She doesn’t love him. She is ambivalent about love.
- It is raining outside. They are too busy with their mental chess game to notice. He wants her. She wants his job.
- The office is on the 15th floor and with a view of the street.
- He has a cold and left his raincoat in the car.
- She doesn’t have a cold.
- He wants to get married and start a family. That’s all he’s ever wanted. Being promoted to Director was never in the plan.
- He is terrified of ending up alone.
- She’s terrified that this is all there is in life.
- This is all there is in life.
by Sheree La Puma
Sheree is an award-winning Author, Producer, and Social Media Strategist. She holds an MFA in Critical Studies & Writing from California Institute of the Arts and has published articles/fiction/books on a myriad of topics. In addition, Sheree has over 30 years experience in the charitable non-profit sector, working as a social scientist, synthesizer, and wordsmith. In 2012, Sheree traveled to Ghana, Africa to meet with a child trafficking survivor. Changed by the experience, she spent the next two years writing about his journey. Passionate about women and the rights of the child, Sheree wants to reach out and inspire the voiceless.
When I was young I met a bird woman, who seemed just like a regular woman except she called herself differently.
“I’m not a woman. I’m a bird,” she told me. She was on her fourth glass of wine, which I figured was probably why.
“Well, I’m not a woman, either. I’m a… song,” I said, trying to play her game. She just looked at me with a soberness she couldn’t have felt and didn’t mention it again, not that night or the night after.
It was on the third night, when I tried to sleep with her, that she backed away nervously and I saw a flutter of what she meant.
“I can’t,” she said. “You’re a woman, and I’m a bird. It won’t work.”
We went our separate ways, though I couldn’t forget her. I tried to capture her with pen and paper, memory and dream.
A bird woman is a woman with hazel eyes. If you approach her, she flies. She builds her nest in the trees. She does not fit inside her skin. She is too expansive or too thin. She is more or less than her boundaries. She is impossible to catch.
I became a fan of bird watching, though I never saw another bird woman; still, memories of how I imagined we could have been would come to me unbidden on cold nights alone.
“What does a bird say,” I would have whispered. “How does a bird fly.”
And I would sigh and wonder who I was; if I was a bird woman, too, or something different altogether.
I put up a dream catcher, because my dreams would not stick. It was an imitation spider web with imitation dewdrops in the form of clear crystal beads.
Perhaps it was with that that I caught my man.
I met him at a bar. Playing darts. Winning.
I liked the fact that he was good at it, though he didn’t look like the type. But he was the handsomest of the group and he hit a bull’s-eye and then he caught my eye. Perhaps that was all the magic that was needed: the thrill of the win, and me seeing him.
We were wed, had two children, had full lives—full of things, activities and each other.
In busyness, it is easy to forget.
But time has a way of catching up.
In silences, maybe, in gaps, the distance we’ve crossed from there to here snaps, and that is what happened to me—
Suddenly I was as a mere girl again. Unwed. And lonely.
I still had my bird books. I remembered all their names. I watched them in the garden and scattered seeds and on the finest spring day of the new year of my new old life a perfect little bluebird landed right at my feet, and all I could think was:
Are you bird or woman? Woman or bird?
And I held my breath, not caring which, but hoping she’d stay.
by Dalena Storm
Dalena Storm holds a BA in Asian Studies from Williams College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Bennington. Her short fiction has appeared in PANK and The Scores. Her first novel, The Hungry Ghost, will be published in Spring 2019 by Black Spot Books. Learn more at dalenastorm.com.
(Based on a scene from The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood)
Identical red dresses and white winged bonnets crowded around the drugged man, the rapist. His pulpy face a mess of cuts and purpling bruises. His stench forced me to cover my nose and mouth. Sounds of retching and murmuring in the soupy air. Then, a shrill whistle signaled “Kill him.” Our pent-up rage surged: a red blur kicking, punching, pulling. Spilled blood blended into our Handmaid’s dresses. Later, trembling uncontrollably, I learned he was no rapist.
by Loreen Lilyn Lee
Currently tutoring English and writing at North Seattle College, Loreen Lilyn Lee is a Seattle writer fascinated by topics of personal and cultural identity and how we are shaped into becoming who we are. Her writing often reflects her three cultures: Chinese (ethnicity), American (nationality), and Hawaiian (nativity). She has received fellowships for a Hedgebrook residency and the year-long Jack Straw 2014 Writers Program. Her personal essay “Being Local” was published in The Jack Straw Writers Anthology. She has read her work in numerous venues in Seattle and Portland, including being selected for the Seattle performance of “Listen To Your Mother,” which was produced in 41 cities in 2016.
A couple moved into an apartment. They discovered that one of the doors was locked. They called the caretaker who explained to them that the room behind that door had been designed and built automatically. No human being had been involved in the process whatsoever, or had even seen the room, and all data pertinent to its construction had been carefully deleted. It therefore contained each and every possibility – as long as the door remained closed. The couple was happy in the apartment, and often joked about what the room of possibilities could possibly contain. The child that they raised knew for sure: “A swinging rainbow monkey.” At that her parents laughed, but in fact they too entertained different fantasies about what could be in there. Sometimes they shared those fantasies, which made them grow closer, yet other times they kept their thoughts to themselves. Some things deserve to stay secrets. They married and led a simple life, whatever that means these days. But above all, they were happy. However. As the years went by, the man couldn’t help but feel that something was missing. Nothing new and exciting ever happened. Everything was dull routine. Why, for instance, hadn’t they ever opened that door? Was it even locked? He couldn’t remember. Sure, it was fun to play around with thoughts about what was in there, but what if they had forgone a world of riches, pleasure and excitement? One night, feeling particularly weary, the man got up, walked to the door and pulled the handle. The door opened like nothing. It didn’t even make a sound. Pitch darkness in there. He felt the wall for a light switch and found one. A simple lightbulb hanging from a chord gave off a neutral white light and illuminated an empty fucking room. He immediately realized his mistake. The next morning his feet almost touched his daughter’s face. She looked up and saw red eyes, orange skin, yellow hair, a green tongue, a blue face, indigo fingers and, where the chord tightened, a violet neck. All the colors of the rainbow.
by David Olsson
David Olsson is 38 years old, lives in Stockholm with his family. He works as a copywriter and writer and is the creator of the experimental literary initiative “P_R_O_J_E_K_T_E_T,” which currently consists of the Instagram-account @p_r_o_j_e_k_e_t and the blog www.projektet.org. His work has previously been published in Microfiction Monday Magazine and The Esthetic Apostle.
I thought about taking up Art once. Before I met Margery. Before I went into investment banking. Something I picked up in the military during the war. Not a real war. More of a military intervention. The Mongolian Intervention we called it. The gas fields of Northern Mongolian. We were liberating the gas lines there. We did liberate them. Very successfully. Exxon stock went up 15 points. Wall Street gave us a parade.
A bit of art can be a great solace to the human spirit. Especially alone, in a drafty barracks, in a strange land at thirty below, somewhere north and west of the Yangtze. Nothing that unusual, actually. It was quite big back then. Painting-by-Number. That’s where the pattern of what you are to paint, the picture, is already printed on the canvas in very faint blue lines, with dozens and dozens, if not hundreds and hundreds, of little blue numbers inside of them. And you begin to paint. Filling in each little numbered space with the correspondingly numbered pigment. It’s quite systematic. For an art.
I did a very handsome Spaniel I recall, and then a Golden Retriever, 12 by 14, but my favorite was the Old Masterpieces Series, “Recreate the Experience of the Old Masters in Your Own Home,” it said on the box. I did a rather nice BLUE BOY, that’s Gainsborough; a very good MONA LISA, and a passable Van Gogh, because with Van Gogh, for some reasons, I kept slipping outside the lines. There were sunflowers. A big vase of sunflowers. I used up two entire tubes of Cadmium Yellow #17 on that one. Oh, those sunflowers nearly did me in. Sometimes I was tempted to cheat, and smear over some of the numbers, but I restrained myself. I stuck with the rules. To the finish.
You need a great deal of patience to pursue Painting-by-Number. And a very steady hand. Not mine tonight. A young man’s hand. I recommend it, because at the end of the road, when you’ve painted in that last number 17, you have a very fine piece of art, your own Van Gogh, done in your own hand. You’ve sort of re-experienced his suffering. But without having to cut off your ear, of course. No amount of money can buy that. That sense of accomplishment is priceless. It stays with you a lifetime. My very own Van Gogh.
by Charles Leipart
Charles Leipart was a finalist for the 2017 Tennessee Williams Fiction Prize for What Wolfman Knew, Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival; What Wolfman Knew is published in the Summer 2017 issue of the Jabberwock Review. His work has appeared in the Bayou Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, Panolpy Literary Zine, the Eastern Iowa Review, the Scene and Heard Journal, QU Literary Magazine, and Projector Magazine of the University of Greenwich, London UK. Charles is a graduate of Northwestern University, a former fellow of the Edward Albee Foundation. He lives and writes in New York City.
Amidst the murky gloom of San Francisco’s fog, on my commute to work into the Financial District this morning, a little boy got on the bus with his mom as I yawned. He must have been no older than seven or eight. The boy resembled my father when he was that age, which is probably why I couldn’t keep my eyes off him when he sat across from me. We shook hands with a glance.
The boy sat next to a man who’d brought onto the bus a husky-looking dog. The dog sniffed the boy’s feet. The boy looked down, and it was then he realized the dog had two different colored eyes. This fascinated the boy, as did me and everyone else who’d noticed. After some curiosities were shared between boy and Mother, the boy asked the man holding onto the leash what his dog’s favorite color was.
You could see the man contemplating how deeply to go into the fact that a dog’s color perception range is limited compared to that of a human’s. Or, maybe the man was under the influence of the myth that dogs are colorblind and did not want to be the equivalent of a stranger telling a believer that Santa isn’t real.
Instead, the man simply stated, “That’s a good question. I’m not sure. He tends to be more interested in food than colors.” To which the young boy replied, “Brown. It’s probably brown.”
During an intimate moment between boy and dog, when the man reached to pull the cord to notify the conductor of his desire to get off at the next stop, the dog turned to the boy, nodded like men often do when saluting each other as they walk by, and then winked with its crystal blue left eye at the boy. The boy tugged at his mom to see if she had observed this moment, but she too was reaching for the cord.
All four got off at the corner of Market and Third streets. Man leading dog by the leash up Market Street. Mother pulling boy by the arm heading toward the Third Street crosswalk. But the dog and boy remained locked, looking back at each other in a scene of beauty, silence, and sympathy that can only be described as colorful.
by Julián Esteban Torres López
Julián Esteban Torres López spent 13 university years studying Philosophy, Communication, Justice Studies, Political Science, and Latin American Studies. He’s a researcher, writer, educator, and editor with nearly two decades of experience working with publications, historical societies, and cultural and research institutions, and has held leadership positions in the academe, journals, the business sector, and history museums. His debut collection of minimalist poetry, Ninety-Two Surgically Enhanced Mannequins, can be found on Amazon. You can follow him on Twitter: JE_Torres_Lopez