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.
It starts on the front porch
with a determined stare,
inspecting each of four French doors
through each of the twenty-four panes
it can reach, then over the fence
to the back porch, continuing
its ritual before settling
for a bedroom windowsill, hunched
against another numberless night,
nose pressed to window screen
as if to sniff the light, perhaps
recounting each pane, each door,
each windowsill before
hanging its head to doze, secure
in darkness, in silence,
that lonely scent of empty light
a curious, persistent dream.
by Richard T. Rauch
Richard T. Rauch was born and raised in the New Orleans area, and currently lives along Bayou Lacombe in southeast Louisiana. Rick’s day job is constructing rocket propulsion test facilities at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi to test the Space Shuttle replacement “Space Launch System” designed to get human explorers back to the moon and on to Mars. (Keep your fingers crossed…) Poetry credits include: Big Muddy, Confrontation, Crack the Spine, decomP, Euphony, Grey Sparrow, The Oxford American, Pembroke Magazine, Quiddity, Wild Violet, and the anthologies Love Notes (Vagabondage Press) and Down to the Dark River: Contemporary Poems about the Mississippi River (Louisiana Literature Press). Flash fiction credits include Infective Ink and Aspen Idea (Aspen Writers’ Foundation/Esquire Short, Short Fiction Contest finalist).
N 42°25’32.5″ W 103°43’58.5″
“…when they would talk among themselves he (Red Cloud) would call out to them to keep still as he wanted to hear what his wife or father or mother were saying to him.”
— Letter from Kate Cook to her sister Clara, 1908
A year before he died, Chief Red Cloud had gone blind
yet he could see, told friends he was now “so nearly dead”
he could once again see his dead wife, beckoning.
Your dying father, too, spoke with long-dead parents,
and in vivid dreams retraced younger maps,
hiking again that thin trail to the Little Huron where
he emerged from dark woods to find an Anishnaabe
encampment at the river’s mouth, as in ancient days.
He sat with the men all night, and listened.
No one knew it would be the last Encampment.
On the Great Plains, the Lakota build wooden scaffolds
for their dead, or placed them high in tree branches
where the coyotes could not fight over them.
What a blessing, when the sacred Eagle descends!
Sometimes the bones are found perfectly intact, the skeleton
composed. It is easy, then, to imagine some flash flood beginning
upstream, a wall of mud and water that will find mammals of the Eocene
unprepared as day-hikers in some sunny slot-canyon
outfitted with handheld GPS and two hundred dollar boots
about to be swept away by a gully-buster fifty miles west.
Isn’t that what happened to the Sioux? Wasn’t it
just a trickle at first, wasn’t the sun still shining
when the geologists and bone hunting expeditions arrived?
Didn’t a wall of “consumption” and “smallpox” and “Manifest Destiny”
roll in from the East, where they’d turned to see the Dawn?
The journals of early explorers describe a biblical plain
of milk and honey free for the taking, as soon as bison
were exterminated and sod which held the whole fabric in place
furrowed, and turned to dust —
In Westerns, there’d be an Indian Guide right about here,
a human segue saying “Since Then, Many Moons Have Passed.”
We’ve learned to lecture passionately, and write in verse.
We take classes in healing and empathetic listening,
regret the cavalry, and the dust bowl, for which we now atone
by washing plastic bags a dozen times, writing Senators
denouncing pipelines, composting vegetable scraps, managing herds with PhDs
because there are no wolves or nomads to control the bison numbers.
There’ve always been plagues of locusts, but don’t they eat everything
and move on?
The wind howls and booms and kicks like a mustang against our square walls.
In the Badlands, you’ll come upon a single fossil bone resting
like a lost war-club on the surface of a Chadron mud-mound
itself no larger than a sacred drum — all that remains of a great mountain of mud!
What force in this world makes things dwindle?
Your father, startled from a vivid daydream, looked wildly around the room
and said, “where did he go, that fellow who was just here?”
When tourists drive the Loop Road through the Badlands
with their air-conditioner running, sun-roofs open, windows down,
their music reverberates for miles, all different drumbeats
echoing against the stone.
It makes it hard to hear what the dead are trying to say.
Wrapped in his scarlet blanket of wind, Red Cloud keeps saying “hush.”
He asks that we please go back where we came from
or at least learn to be still.
by Kathleen M. Heideman
Kathleen M. Heideman is a writer, artist and environmental activist working in Michigan’s wild Upper Peninsula. She’s completed a dozen artist residencies with watersheds, scientific research stations, private foundations, the National Park Service, and the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists & Writers Program. A curious woman.