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Timothy O’Leary – The Tower

The Tower

Barry hated cell phones. He shuddered when trapped in a crowd, people yacking at maximum decibel, as if everyone within earshot was buzzed to hear about dysfunctional families or drunken golf outings.  He detested camera phones, users blocking sidewalks, or rudely delaying meals to photograph the perfect tuna melt. He considered “selfies” an addiction for the self-obsessed. It saddened him when couples, heads tilted crotch-ward, abandoned human interaction in favor of text-talk. He’d scream “pay attention” at obtuse blockheads as they attempted to simultaneously type and walk.

But the biggest reason Barry hated them?  They’d murdered his wife. Diana was headed downtown in her Toyota Prius when sixteen-year-old Becca Hughes, oblivious to the road while texting a friend, ran a stop sign and killed them both.

To add insult to injury, Barry learned of Diana’s demise via a cell phone. While he refused to own one, Barry’s publicist carried the newest Apple anything, which she handed him after he’d delivered a speech to the Missoula, Montana Rotary Club.  “Barry, you need to take this, it’s your brother-in-law,” she said, her complexion as white as her iPhone 6. Standing in a dark corner of the Holiday Inn, the air reeking of moldy carpet and baked chicken, a sniffling voice informed him that the only woman he’d ever loved wouldn’t be picking him up at the airport in Portland tonight. Continue Reading »

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Daniel Finkel – The Salesman

The Salesman

A man comes to town.  He wears spit-shined shoes and a lime-green coat.  His hair is all slicked, and there’s a pack on his shoulders.  He looks bright and flashy, like a light bulb.  I see him walking down the road, the noon sun sizzling on his head, with his feet raising little clouds of dust.

It’s a midsummer inferno outside, and all the windows in our house are open.  I’m lying on the grass on our front lawn, Hector at my side, just lazing around.  It’s too hot to think, much less do anything.  Inside, somewhere in the dim swelter, mama’s cleaning pots and pans.  

The man stops at a bakery window and looks in at a loaf baking in the oven.  They have it on a rack in there, and it’s going around and around like a little white planet.  When he sees it he whips off his spectacles and cleans them on his shirt cuff, and a greedy look gets on his face.

After he’s stared for a while he moves on, and the first thing he does is come towards my house.  He walks down the front path, and I can tell he’s nervous because he’s fussing with his hair and sniffing his breath and rubbing the sweat off his forehead.  He looks at me, lying on my back in the middle of the lawn, chewing grass, and I look back at him.  At my side, Hector sits up and starts growling.  The man gets to my front door and knocks.  No reply.  He knocks again.  Still nothing.  Bang!  Bang!  Bang!   Finally, mama answers. Continue Reading »

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Jose Romero – blueRed


          Oh, but the physicality of my thinking is chaotic. Outside of my apartment someone is walking up the stairs. I sometimes walk up those stairs and stumble. But I wasn’t always like this.


          I’m gonna write the letter. I’m sorry for not knowing if I loved you. Because things get confusing and my mind’s fucked up. The tears don’t let me write. If what matters are my actions then I never loved you. But it’s the world—this fucked up world; like a mind-rape.

          Right now someone is falling in love with someone that will never love them back. Someone just found out their mother has cancer. Someone is losing a job. Someone is killing a baby they never wanted. Someone is having sex at a bar. Someone’s daughter is crying. I can feel the world around me. So much pain. Everything, everywhere. Staring. Accusing. In the walls, liquifying through the streets.

          The bottle’s in the floor. The wine is going to leave a stain. If you were here you would clean it up. It’s not my fault. They stare. Or carefully not stare. I want you to regret me. (I’d regret me). This hybrid of thoughts and actions and sicknesses and desires and a self-destructive mind accompanied with an ever-changing personality.

          You need to know that that night wasn’t my best. Pills seemed peaceful. But I didn’t do it right. So no, you could say I never loved you.  Yes, I didn’t. Maybe I am too selfish to love. There was always too much pressure from you; to love, to be in a specific way. I never liked that part of you.

          A girl just fell outside. Should I feel bad for her? Feel sorry, only by the mere appearance of innocence? Why is it that we can’t accept that humans are predesigned to do evil? Well, to be selfish, which in a community, is evil. Yet, when faced with a deathly situation, we’ll always think about ourselves. Blood in my nails from scratching too hard. Instinct will always push us to survive. And instinct is nature, nature is good. Therefore, Love is evil?  Love goes beyond nature, it Transcends. That’s it. I can’t love you because I’m selfish, and selfish is good. Yes, I’m good. It’s not my fault. Continue Reading »

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Melissa Ostrom – The Shortest Distance Between Two Places

The Shortest Distance Between Two Places

          Near the bridge, one leaves Jack’s Java.

          Three blocks down, on the opposite side of Main, another exits Alma Books.

          The two approach each other under a patchy sky, where blue tears whole swaths of winter from March. They notice: black hair wind-raised in a question mark, sunlight winking off a silver buckle, brown blazer, turned gaze, one’s loose gait, another’s briskness.

          Passing cars interrupt the observations. Storefront windows darkly double them.

          They appreciate. They dwell. There is much to like.

          This could be fate.

          One wants to stage an encounter, pretend a sudden street crossing is part of the afternoon’s agenda. But then what? How to bring about more than a nod, hello, and backward glance?

          The other wonders the same, rapidly weighs which possession (phone, book, gloves) can suffer a timely plunge to the sidewalk and warrant a halt, exchange, closer inspection.

          One toys with the trip-and-fall.

          The other considers a false-recognition. Didn’t we meet at…

          One: How’s it going?

          Other: I love your shoes.

          One: Do you know where I can find an ATM?

          Other: You are beautiful.

          One: seizure

          Other: stroke

          One: mystical fit, talking in tongues

          Other: heart attack

          Closer and closer. They are nearly abreast, only the street between them: a few yards of rumbling sedans, a skidding newspaper, the matched dip and spring of swallows, a keening gust, oxygen, nitrogen, a little argon and methane. Mostly just air. And one and the other: barely apart but inexorably separated, similarly planed yet mapping parallel lines with lagging steps.

          If only an intersection could be drawn, a single point in common, to undermine the infinite divide, to meet and to see.

          They pass.

          So they’re done.

          The untried word problem. A sad lesson in geometry.

– Melissa Ostrom

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Eduardo Santiago – Below the Knee

Below the Knee

            He did not want to see her and comforted himself with the thought that she did not want to see him either. It was too much!   
            He did not want to think about that, so he thought about the summer of seventy-four or seventy-five instead, when they had both read The Great Gatsby and all summer long imagined themselves very bohemian, very 1920s avant-garde,people of affairs, perhaps, or at least people not shocked by affairs.  
            Yet for the Halloween party that year they did not dress as Jay and Daisy, or even Scott and Zelda, but chose Bonnie and Clyde because she had been seduced by Theodora Van Runkle’s costumes on Faye Dunaway’s flawless frame.   
            In particular, the beret.   
            He had gone along because he dug Warren Beatty. Secretly, he read her movie magazines on the toilet. Warren lived not in a house but in a penthouse atop a Beverly Hills hotel and night after night slept with the most beautiful women in the world.  
            She was the most beautiful girl in his world. And she was his girl, even if he didn’t know what that meant, exactly.   
            At first it had meant that he could kiss her and she wouldn’t resist, she would,in fact, cooperate. But then she wasn’t his girl, like when she met other men for drinks. Just drinks, why can’t a girl have a man friend without everyone getting all worked up about it? She’d say.  
            Well, he didn’t like it.   
            He was not a man of affairs.  
            A few years later it meant that when he went to bed, she went to bed, right next to him. And when he woke up, she was right there.   
            Except on those mornings when she didn’t.  
            The answer to where were you, he discovered, was: Out.
            Out was no answer.   
            And her jumping in the shower to avoid more questions was even more pestiferous.  
            So she left him, or he left her. It was unclear because he didn’t want her there but he didn’t want her to go. 
            He simply wanted her to change.  
            So she changed her address.  
            He tried living in a hotel, sleeping around.  
            But the hotel was not in Beverly Hills but rather, in Monrovia.  
            And the women were not the most beautiful in the world, but rather the most beautiful he could get.  
            Mainly, they weren’t her.   
            And he discovered what Warren Beatty probably already knew. A hotel room, night after night, with just pussy passing through, can get sad.  
            And kind of disgusting.  
            Enough time had passed, so he called her.  
            She told him point blank that she has been in a car crash, that her boyfriend had been killed, and that she had lost a leg.  
            She had a boyfriend?  
            Rather than dwell on the tragedy, he tried to make her laugh.  
            And she did.  
            She laughed at his stupid jokes the way she used to.  
            Before she so swiftly walked away.

Eduardo Santiago

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A.J. Huffman – Paranoia


My mind imagines, bleeds
ink for almost-profit in shades
of depravity most could not even begin
to conceive.  I sleep
with scissors beneath my pillow
for sanity, sit with my back against walls,
always keep doors in view.  I walk
my dogs, carry a Maglite
that has not worked in years
as a weapon, ready to strike at shadows.
I am a product of my own darkness.
The boogiemen whispering from closets
and corners wear nametags I gave them,
wait for dialogues I have yet to write.

A.J. Huffman

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Blake Kilgore – Beyond Flickering Lights

Beyond Flickering Lights

It was a bitter cold December evening, and Officer Pierce wished he was home with his family. It was the holiday season, after all.

Soon he arrived at the scene, which had an ominously festive appearance. Blue and red lights flickered, reflected in the glass shards that covered the ground like a light dusting of snow. The crunch of his boots on the glass sounded like a stroll through a winter wonderland. But there was death here.

It was a dangerous corner, a turn that coincided with an intersection established long ago, when drivers heard hoof beats or the jingle of horse-drawn buggies, and paused, tipping hats and bidding good evening to neighbors they knew, not only by name or appearance, but by voice and words and deeds.

Officer Pierce had complained, but it was just this sort of curious merger of lanes that drew visitors, gave impulse to the wanderers who came here to reminisce over what they had never really known, but somehow understood was lost. The city council stonewalled, and his stack of accident reports climbed.

He looked beyond flickering lights; saw the rose encrusted crosses, the photographs of those who paid the ultimate price for sentimentality and carelessness. The paramedics were waiting for the Jaws of Life to disentomb the teenage boy’s body from the crumpled vehicle. They stood about, restless; this job was tedious, one of gloom. They were only here to testify to what already was fact.

The car had been t-boned, struck as it passed the intersection by a pickup pulling into the main road. It had been launched diagonally and flipped several times before slamming into one of the large oaks that lined the ambling country lane. The driver of the truck survived, having departed minutes earlier in another ambulance, its paramedics busy, hopeful for success.

Officer Pierce continued to survey the wreckage and finally saw the elderly man, leaning on the hood of his undamaged car, head in hands – a witness. He walked over to the man, waited for him to look up.

“Mr. Brogdon, may I take your statement?”

Moist cheeks and reddened eyes soon emerged from behind the shelter of his shaking hands. His voice was quavering, but full of conviction, agitated.

“I killed him!” Continue Reading »