My father’s father died four years before I was born. Dad reacted by hoisting a massive trunk containing the man’s every worldly possession into the backyard trash barrel and setting it on fire. Mom, who had talked him out of destroying family heirlooms on other occasions, arrived at the pyre too late to protest. She could only stand near the blaze, chastising my father ineffectually, watching relics succumb to engulfing flames.
“The antique trunk alone was worth a fortune,” Mom said. She recalls its contents: Dad’s baby dress, a shift of cotton lawn. A yellowed blanket. A gold ring set with a turquoise stone the size of a grain of rice.
Photos of his parents and grandparents. There was even one of Evelyn, the sister who had died of some unnamed disease at the age of six, leaving behind a corpse the size of a doll’s.
“Why’d he do it?” I asked.
“Because if it’s gone, he doesn’t have to think about it.”
My grandfather, according to family legend, was a layabout. He’d had a stroke in front of the television at the boarding house where he stayed, bottle of bourbon in hand. For half a day the other residents assumed he’d passed out.
I get my dad’s distaste for nostalgia.
There was that Christmas that was perfect. My cousins and I spun wooden tops on hardwood floors as the fireplace raged and cookies baked in the oven. It would forever hover there, a reminder of what Christmas would never be again. More often Mom and Dad, bound for grandma’s, would turn the car around after some knock-down, drag-out argument.
What will trigger tears is unpredictable now. I toss our wedding scrapbook into a pile in the garage but feel a pang when I throw away your moth-ridden Yoda shirt.
by Shannon Thrace
Shannon Thrace is an IT professional, a grad student pursuing a master’s in English, and a devotee of farm-to-table restaurants, summer festivals, all-night conversations and formidable philosophy texts. She is passionate about unplugging, getting outside and seeing the world.
He stepped off the curb into the street, turned around and stared at me. A bunch of us were waiting for the light at Broadway and 44th. Tall, wild-haired, enormous brown eyes, wide mouth slightly open — I immediately looked away.
“You are beautiful,” he said.
I pretended not to notice him, or to hear his astonishment.
“You’re really beautiful. You’re amazing.”
I looked over his head at the crush of people waiting on the other side.
“I mean it,” he said, looking directly at me and holding out his hands. “You are truly beautiful.” His voice enveloped me like warm vapor.
Heads turned in my direction, straining to see what he was seeing. I wanted to move, but the orange hand of the traffic signal nailed us all to the spot. He kept talking, his words gathering speed, his voice rising in intensity.
“Please,” he said, “look at me. I must tell you. You are a dream, where have you been, you are so very beautiful.”
I flushed. I looked down, then away. A neon white “walk” had replaced the orange hand, and the crowd surged forward. I glanced at him as I stepped into the street. His face was earnest, his eyes searching. He moved backwards, arms lifted, still facing me. His coat billowed around him like wings.
“My God, I swear. You are the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.”
I hesitated, then veered around him to the right. His hands flew up, fluttering in front of me like prayer flags.
“Wait, wait. Don’t go. Please.”
The bunch on the corner was dispersing, some looking back, a few smiling. Now he was at my side.
“Wait, I don’t want to lose you, please.” His words loomed out like a lariat, tugging on me.
“You’re a goddess, you’re my life. I mustn’t lose you!”
Turning sharply, I broke away. A bus was coming down Broadway, and I ran for it. Never mind lunch with Norma. She’d understand. Waving my arm above my head, heart pounding, panting to myself—please, bus, don’t pass me by.
Miraculously, it slowed. The doors hissed open and I lunged aboard without looking back.
The doors snaked shut behind me. He hadn’t followed.
Relief spread through my body and I collapsed into a window seat. Good God, what ever was that? I looked out the window. I had never thought myself beautiful. Maybe nice-looking, okay, but not beautiful. Now suddenly I was beautiful—to someone. Someone who saw something in me no one else had ever seen.
Someone I would never see again.
The bus lurched across the intersection. I felt a huge hole inside. I glanced back down 44th. There he was, standing in the middle of the street, arms aloft, coat flapping and mouth moving, but not in the direction of my departing bus. He was facing the curb, his eyes and his words pinned on a pudgy middle-aged woman who was standing there, waiting for the light to change.
by Sandy Robertson
Sandy Robertson’s interests in teaching literature led her to writing fiction a few years ago. She has published two short stories and is currently at work on a novel. She lives in San Diego, California.
Inside one Russian doll is another,
dressed in a different nationality
and inside that one is yet another.
and so on until all of them
gang up and storm the opera house
demanding to see the mayor.
Which of them crossed the border
may depend on fingerprints
and the next referendum.
As one nation collapses,
another rises up from the same dolls,
each a pawn in a clever sacrifice.
So now the earth is flat
Since nothing’s truly round
Not even a plutocrat
Rolls without a sound
On wildlife habitat
Hydraulic drilling pounds
Skinning mountains flat
Unearthing sacred mounds
The Fed’s still keeping track
Of stocks that leap and bound
Payback for any kickback
Their graphs are never round.
In jazz clubs singers scat
Because the earth is flat
Keep both feet on the ground
by Michael Karl Ritchie
Michael Karl Ritchie is a retired Professor of English from Arkansas Tech University with work published in various small press magazines, including The Mississippi Review, Margie, OR Panthology – Ocellus Reseau. He has had three small press chapbook publications and Winter Goose Press has just published his collection of poems Ampleforth’s Miscellany (2017).