Merideth Taylor is professor emerita of theater and dance at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. In 2018, she published a book of photographs and stories titled Listening In: Echoes and Artifacts from Maryland’s Mother County. George F. Thompson Publisher. She is happy to now have time to wander in the woods and discover nature’s wonders on the micro level, including the common grape: green tendrils in spring and small sculptural characters in winter.
Wife calls me from her cell, says all the way to work whitetails lined the roadway, four and five deep in places, says they looked like passengers behind the line to board a train. I remind her that today’s the day the governor comes to town with his entourage and motorcade. I ask her if she saw the rabbits. Come to think of it, she says, it did look like the doe were wearing fuzzy slippers. And were there birds perched atop bucks’ antlers? Hundreds, maybe thousands, in the voice she gathers for amazement. She asks if they’ve all left their nests to greet the governor as he passes. I tell her each and every creature have been summoned for extinction. Did you not see the front end loaders, dump trucks in the background? Silly me, she says, you’re right, always with a new administration.
First Friday, and I am only visually deconstructing a mixed medium while sipping a snappy little chardonnay and blowing foam through my minced bologna when I trip over my own two feet and slice a piece of thigh on the slivers, squirt blood floor to ceiling on a new white wall and spectators gather while I text for an Uber to Urgent Care to get stitched up, then return to where everyone surrounds me like iron filings on a north magnetic pole, not out of concern for my accident but in awe of it although Pollock would deny the accident and I am gracious and even a bit proud yet properly acknowledge the on-call physician’s assistant, the glassblower, the grape stomper, the casing stuffer skyping from a range of locations and of course, my parents in assisted living for their feet in this.
Charles Springer has degrees in anthropology and is an award-winning painter. A Pushcart Prize nominee, he is published in over seventy journals including The Cincinnati Review, Faultline, Windsor Review, Packingtown Review and Tar River Poetry, among others. His first collection of poems entitled Juice is forthcoming from Regal House Publishing. He writes from Pennsylvania.
When you are fourteen, you and three friends spend two weeks hiking in Snowdonia.
One day you descend from the mountains and wander into the mining town of Ffestiniog. You enter a sweet shop and joke around with your pals as you wait in the queue at the counter. A huge slate miner buying a pound of Jelly Babies looks over his shoulder and gives you a funny look.
Outside, you are greeted by the miner and his seven massive friends. They form a semicircle around you and hem you in against an iron fence. No way out. Each miner looks like he could break all four of you in half with one arm. The ringleader—the one from the shop—says you were making fun of him for speaking Welsh. Very diplomatically, you say you were not making fun of him for speaking Welsh.
“Yes, you were,” he says.
Two of his friends unhook their belts. Heavy buckles clink on pavement. The miner is saying Welsh people don’t like being made fun of for being Welsh.
“Do we, Fellas?”
His mates agree. They start to shuffle forward.
Speech, you realize, is all that can save you. Strangely automatic, your mouth opens and emits a string of words.
“We ken wotzwot. We dunna mess wiv men az ard az rock. Any one a yo lot could smash uz inter bitz.”
The leader’s expression changes. A puzzled look appears on his face. His head moves slightly to the side. He holds up a hand to halt his mates.
“You be speakin with an accent, Boyo!” he says. “Where you be from then?”
All of you answer in chorus.
At the sound of the word, the miners take a step back, and—incredibly—smile.
“Manchester?” says the leader cautiously. “I don’t be supposin you be United fans by any chance?”
All of you say that yes you are United fans.
“Right!” the leader says with a swipe of his paw. “Everything’s all right then! We won’t be messin with no United fans—will we Fellas?”
His pals shake their heads. The two with the belts fasten them back around their waists. The leader has the last words.
“Just don’t be makin no fun a the Welsh!” he says as they let you pass.
You are all walking briskly towards the mountains when he calls after you.
Mark Crimmins’s fiction was nominated for a 2019 Pushcart Prize, a 2019 Pushcart Prize, a 2015 Best of the Net Award, and a 2015 Silver Pen Authors Association Write Well Award. His short stories have been published in Confrontation, Prick of the Spindle, Eclectica, Cortland Review, Tampa Review, Columbia, Queen’s Quarterly, Apalachee Review, Pif Magazine, Del Sol Review, and Chicago Quarterly Review. His flash fictions have been published in Eunoia Review, Flash Frontier, Portland Review, Gravel, Eastlit, Restless Magazine, Atticus Review, Apocrypha & Abstractions, Dogzplot, Spelk, Long Exposure, Chaleur, Pure Slush, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine.
Issue 99, published July 2021, features works of poetry, flash fiction, short nonfiction, and photography by Desi Allevato, Melissa Andres, Bordnick, Lawrence Bridges, Trent Busch, Alexandra T. O. Cooley, Natalie Coufal, Chella Courington, Lana Eileen, Caroline Fernelius, Ann Fischer, Nathan Gentry, E Laura Golberg, Alan Hill, Michael Hower, Kent Jacobson, James F. Latin, K. L. Johnston, Melissa Knox, Alex Lee, M. Ocampo McIvor, Robert Nisbet, Marijean Oldham, Marlene Olin, Anika Pavel, Shawn Pfunder, Sherry Mossafer Rind, Jim Ross, Caroline N. Simpson, Eric Stiefel, Lisa J. Sullivan, Steven Turrill, William Welch, Connie Wieneke, Linda Wimberly, Jean Wolff.
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