And The Winner Is

We’d like to commend all the contestants for their courage and hard work. Creative writing requires exposure, at every stage of the writer’s development, to achieve its fullest potential. Posting your work for thousands of readers to scrutinize is always nerve-wracking. Sometimes it’s downright scary. The reward, even if you don’t win the contest, is that you’ve numbered yourself among those who try, and thus among those from whom winners are ultimately chosen.

Keep exposing your work. Keep trying.

We hope you’ve made new friends. If not, snoop around some more, identify pieces you like, and track down the writers. If they’ve responded to comments on their own pieces, often they’ve linked back to their own blogs. Adopting a suggestion from one of the contestants, next time we do this we’ll offer to link to a blog, website, or Amazon page—any place the writer prefers—from the byline below the story’s title.

Make all the friends you can. If you’re new to publishing, you’ll soon find out how much you need them.

Now to the stories. We studied every one, agonized over many of them. Too many, in fact: only a few can be recognized, in order that winning or placing in a contest will have significance. Which means we sadly had to turn down pieces we thought were wonderful. Speaking for myself (Steve), I agonized most over those that touched me emotionally, but that fell a little short as traditionally structured tales. That’s not to say that vignettes, character studies, and nontraditional structures have no place in fiction. Rather that in 250 fiction, nods will generally go to work that has a discernable plot, because among elements of fiction, plot is the greatest challenge within the confines of 250 words. Having said that, we couldn’t resist one or two that eschewed the norm.

Judging is highly subjective. There’s no getting around that. Keep writing and submitting.

First we’d like to thank the readers, whether contestants or not, who contributed to a sense of community. By commenting constructively on entries. By promoting the contest. In general, by being supportive of the event. Naming such readers is difficult, because any cut-off would be arbitrary. They know who they are, and so do we.

Next we’d like to thank the artist who provided the prompt. Catherine Vibert is a professional photographer in North Carolina. Her work has taken her to India and Asia and has earned numerous honors and awards. She is donating an 8 x 10 fine art reproduction of the prompt to the winner of the contest.

Finally we’d like to thank the guest writers. They do the same work as the contestants, without any expectation of reward. They do it for the love of writing and for the sake of sharing. And, in the case of Steve and Wendy, because they’re the judges and figure they need to put their butts on the line too:

#53 Precie
#92 Amara Royce
#100 Stephen Parrish
#106 Wendy Russ
#116 Sarah Hina
#181 Catherine Vibert

A finalist is someone who should have won, yet didn’t, for the sole reason that there can only be one winner. Congratulations to:

Finalist: #35 The Way the World Ends, by Josh Vogt

Finalist: #49 The Old Quilt, by Lee Wright

Finalist: #126 Revenge Served Hot, by Mary McCluskey

Finalist: #136 Daddy's Little Girl, by Sarah Laurenson

Finalist: #149 Less Than the Moon, by Donna D. Vitucci

Finalist: #165 Between Life and Death, by Heidi Heim

Finalist: #226 Mousetrap Thievery, by Chelsea Resnick

The winner of the 2012 Lascaux 250 Fiction Contest, out of 237 wonderful entries, the recipient of the virtual medallion depicted above, $250 in cash, a fine art reproduction of the contest prompt, and publication in The Lascaux Review, is

WINNER: #30 Visitation Rights, by Dino Parenti

Steve’s thoughts: the plot is embedded in a past routine, rather than presented in-the-now, but that doesn’t detract from its power. The theme, the bitterness of divorce, is integrated into the story in the form of allegories; for example, the estranged father takes out his frustrations over losing his house by firing a shotgun at abandoned houses. I especially liked the employment of detail (“gnashing on a spicebush twig”) and the metaphors (“bleed the day,” “exploded the abandoned silence”). And yet the whole is greater than the sum of its parts: when I read Dino’s story I immediately thought, “This has the feel of a winner.”

For 2013 we’re moving the contest to the spring; submissions will open 6 March and close 22 March, the Vernal Equinox. Prize information and other details will be provided as the contest nears.

The reason for the move is that we plan to conduct additional contests, in short story, poetry, and novel writing, that we believe are better suited for later in the year. The prize money for 250 as well as the others is largely dependent on how much we receive in donations.

Subscribe to this blog to keep up with future 250 contest announcements, or send us your email address using the “Stay Informed” link in the sidebar. If you submitted to this contest you’re already on our mailing list. To stay informed of other contests, check in periodically at The Lascaux Review.

Interested in joining our team? See this post.

—Steve & Wendy, with Erica, Jennifer, and Pete

2012 Index by Author

Aerin Rose, #159 Coming Apart
Ahern, Christine, #83 Freed From Greed
Aillen, R. Jennifer, #160 Birds of a Feather
Albert, Melissa, #38 The Night of Broken Glass
Alden, Jessica, #8 Flight
Allen, Quincy, #39 The Devil and God
Ama, Sofia, #119 In Reality
Ault, Marsha, #17 A Prism of Colors
Baldwin, Barbar Ellen, #77 My Father and I Wait Again For Amtrak’s 8:59
Barricklow, Douglas, #242 Episode
Barton, Cath, #202 Broken
Beling, Luke, #193 Death To Life
Bell, S., #163 That One Time Behind the Bike-Shed
Benard, Alaine DiBenedetto, #132 Waiting on the Sky
Bethancourt, Mirian, #79 The Clinic
Biston, James H., #185 The Last Day of Summer
Blackwater, Jade Leone, #12 Disabled Vet. Anything Helps. God Bless.
Blanton, David, #74 Our Ecstatic Days
Braker, Nick, #97 Septima
Brennan, Matthew, #27 Targeting
Bridge, Jude, #121 Small Packages
Brines, Mike, #76 First Contact
Bryant, Cathy, #162 Looks
Bryant, Charles, #216 An Old Cherry Pit
Budman, Mark, #98 The Phantom of the Office
Camacho, L.J., #243 Trauma
Campo, Anthony, #233 Don’t Feed The Birds
Chambers, Elle, #157 Besieged
Chambers, Stacy, #179 The Brothel’s Mirror
Clark, Emma, #11 Brilliance
Charman, Barry, #143 The Hunt for the Acid Peacock
Cohen, Jeffrey, #188 Matrimonial Roulette
Collins, Patsy, #82 Stained
Conboy-Hill, Suzanne, #64 Doomcha Doof
Cook, Karen S., #155 Blood and Wine
Cormier, Sandra, #55 Road Trip
Crowell, Carolyn Nielson, #237 Relief
Culbertson, Tina, #182 Please Come Home
Cummings, Tucker, #184 Somniferum
Dandridge, Gwen, #70 Faulkner Country Legacy
Dao, Jasmine, #230 The Museum of Unnatural Beauty
Davis, Selu, #130 Seaworthy
Dawn, Charie, #67 Dreams in Moments Passed
DeLuca, Alison, #20 Snow
De Marco, Guy Anthony, #42 Seeds
Derit, Raoul “Lee,” #220 The Murder of Anna
Dobson, Betty, #201 As Bad As It Gets
Domingo, J., #90 First Date
Dowend, Michael, #44 Over Easy
Downes, Mike, #239 “We Have No Consciousness of the Bus”
Doyle, Megan, #89 Kismet
Eaton, Loren, #115 Fragmentation
Enjeti, Anjali, #21 Revenge of the Sati Bride
Fahie, Rayness, #128 Crossing Over
Fallon, Sean, #43 Synaesthesia
Fallson, E., #178 The Dragon Eye of Alimsoar
Felegi, Catherine, #6 Calico Memories
Fultz, B.B., #235 May Ends
Gamboa, Rafael Hernán, #152 Being Born
Garth, Alan, #108 When Shamping* Isn’t Enough
Gembala, Danielle D.M., #138 Sunbeams Are For Wearing
Gibson, Larry, #192 The Other Side of Heaven
Gokhale, Shruti, #213 Chaos in a Kaleidoscope
Gold, Sheridan, #112 A Scream in the Night
Goldman, Ilene, #135 The Kaleidoscope
Gradowski, Janel, #61 Cocoon
Graham, Evan, #96 Finder
Green, Rachel, #4 Dietary Requirements
Greenberg, KJ Hannah, #28 “Social” Security
Gridley, Matthew, #54 Weird is Normal
Grondin, Elizabeth, #105 Aerial
Guru, #101 Karma
Hartel, Mary, #175 Sirens
Hawksworth, Elizabeth, #154 September Inspiration
Heim, Heidi, #165 Between Life and Death, Finalist
Henderson, Christine, #187 Party Girl
Hendricks, Kurt, #231 A Brittle Rainbow
Hickman, Michelle, #47 How Death Binds Us
Hicks, David #104 Screams
Hicks, Paul E., #107 Life’s Kaleidoscope
Hina, Sarah, #116 Orange Juice, Guest Writer
Howe, Laura, #228 Over in a 250
Huffer, Matthew, #227 Who's the Fairest of Them All?
Hunt, Tony, #208 Purperia
Huntley, Laura, #164 Peacocks and Butterflies
Jackson, Beverly A., #142 The Vertebral Bridge
Jackson, Mikey, #71 Taking a Back Seat
Jansen, Tiffany, #29 Shattered
Jasperson, Connie J., #31 Belezza’s Sons and the Fractal Mirror
Johnson, Maeve, #200 Light the Prism Colors of My Freedom’s Dream
Jones, M.A., #26 Writer’s Retreat
Jones, Rosemary, #145 Peacock Blues
Joyce, Thomas, #148 A Gathering Storm
Kelley, Caroline, #140 Last Words
Kenney, Mark, #24 Danse Macabre
Kerr, Calum, #198 Martian Skies
Kimball, Karen, #210 Blur And Fade
King, Kimberly, #52 Deadly Evidence
Kirk, Heather J., #113 Pilgrimage
Kirwan, Clare, #114 Blues
Knight, Carlye, #186 The Id
Knight, Sam, #50 Broken
Krieger, Christina, #168 The Light
Lacaden, JB, #59 Bullet
Lamb, Gregory S., #19 Reconstituting
Lapham, William, #91 The Bullet and the Babe
Lara, Josephine, #191 A Better Place
Larson, Richard, #51 This Is No Vineyard
Larson, C. Sonberg, #176 The Guardian
Larsson, Esthel, #229 Other Side
Laurenson, Sarah, #136 Daddy& Little Girl, Finalist
Lenzi, Christy, #34 Rapture
Liadis, Paul, #109 The Deep End
Lloyd, Adam, #80 Poseidon’s Pet Products
Luis, Christy, #10 Mr. Esper’s Chair
Lye, Julie, #95 Elsie
Lyonn, Brad, #88 Grenadine and Shattered Glass
Mahoney, Susanna, #18 Lascaux Fairy
Mainardi, Ran, #206 The First Step
Mannone, John C., #58 Forbidden Planet
Matheney, Kayla, #14 A Broken Lily
McCullough, Engelia, #5 Daniel
McMaken, Linda, #123 The 28th Panel
MacDonald, Joyce, #84 Afterimage
Manning, Cheryl, #150 Winter in July
Mar, Terra, #234 Sunset to Dawn
Martinez, Cee, #199 Ice and Candy
Masters, Meg, #222 Wanted
McCluskey, Mary, #126 Revenge Served Hot, Finalist
Medina, Heidi, #81 The Answer Lies Inside
Menorca, Janelle, #141 Mamihlapinatapai
Michalski, AnnaLisa, #183 Picture of a Hymn
Mitchell, Christopher, #37 Barmaid
Monte, Jei, #36 Cracked Memories
Monteleone, Merry, #151 We Need More Red
Moss, Jacob, #215 We Cling
Mrdja, Kathryn, #146 Broken
Musiel, DL, #238 Broken Colors
Negron, Chris, #60 Metamorphosis
Newcombe, Eric, #197 A Man Swimming Underwater
Norman, Hatty, #144 What Happened in Rio
Noronha, Fatima M, #209 Ma, are you there?
North, Sheila, #15 Shifting to the Front of the Queue
Noyce, Mark, #69 Tulips
O’Connor, Molly, #241 Runway Impact
Odhner, Melanie, #65 Pretty, Right?
Okayama, Clint, #219 His Son
Ong, Benjamin, #78 Labyrinth
Orchard, Peter, #166 Bad Day for the Labor Department
Oyila V, #194 Can’t get worse
Parenti, Dino, #30 Visitation Rights, WINNER
Parrish, Stephen, #100 Black Camel, Guest Writer
Paul, Monica, #169 The Car Window
Piercy, Jenny, #68 Suncatcher
Pilon, Kilayla, #56 A Murderer’s Art
Pingatore, Zachary, #158 The Farmer’s Wife
Plant, Susan, #189 The Mess page 4. A little light reading.
Potts, Brad, #225 Sometime Between Late and Early
powell, c. kelly, #122 Resentments Come in Many Colors
Powers, Alastair RW, #2 Punctual Rut
Precie, #53 Splinter, Guest Writer
Qualman, Janna, #46 Shattered
Radhadrishnan, Dr Roshan, #212 The Things I Never See
Raven, Maria, #177 The Shards of Glass on the Road
Renta, Kathryn S., #167 Shattered
Resnick, Chelsea, #226 Mousetrap Thievery, Finalist
Ricigliano, Sheryl, #120 &;Til Death
Rigsby, Joshua, #33 An Arab Autumn
Riley, Jonathan, #236 Monday Morning Mass
Riter, Paul, #205 Lack of Foresight
Robertson, Michael, #7 Daddy’s Girl
Robinson, Kelly, #131 Interment
Rodgers, Juliet, #207 The Mating Dance
Rogers, Wendy Jo, #195 No Place Like Home
Roman, Cheri L., #134 &;Mazing
Ross, Roslyn, #94 It Was The Dream
Rotblatt, Jennifer, #93 Life Beyond Cracked Promises
Roush, Bruce, #13 When Horses Dream
Royce, Amara, #92 An End to Prophecy, Guest Writer
Rugroden, RJ, #170 An Authentic Viewing Experience
Russ, Wendy, #106 The Pitch, Guest Writer
Sagri, Margaret, #117 Chasing the Sun
Sania, #41 Just like old times . . .
Sara, Madeleine, #240 Kaleidoscope of Emotions
Sauerwein, Robin, #45 A Piece
Savu, Teodora, #66 Fatal Love
Sawyer, Susie, #3 Accidental Artwork
Scott, Craig, #32 The World Beneath Our Feet
Shapiro, Dee, #25 Jose
Shin, Andrew, #214 Breathing in a Different World
Siebert, Bobby, #72 The Library
Singh, Natasha, #211 It's a White, White World
Smart, Gary B., #137 Missing Middles and Drivel
Smith, Gita M., #129 Stealing Beauty
Smythe, Deborah, #218 In Breathing Color
Sposto, Caroline Zarlengo, #173 The Truth About Eternity
Spruzen, D.A., #86 Sinking
Stalter, Harmony, #23 The Shattered Mirror
Stancek, Andrew, #111 No Butterflies
Stark, Louise, #204 Dreamcatcher
Stork, Miranda, #156 Shattered Glass
Swykert, DJ, #127 Beetlemania
SzélsőFa, #125 Gratitude
Takahashi, Yong, #87 Metro Beach
Tanner, Catina, #102 The Hate
Taylor, Dallas, #118 Abner's Dreaming
Templet, Jasmine, #172 The Walking Eye
Thakkar, Aniket, #103 Memories of Nobody
The Capillary, #221 Pretend My Life is a Window
Thériault, Anne, #232 Feelings are complicated, but throwing things...
Thompson, John L., #48 The Question of God
Truitt, Brian T., #85 Fractured Guidance
Veldhuyzen, Jen, #139 The Diamond Axe
Vibert, Catherine, #181 A Virtual Life of Dreams, Guest Writer
Vick, Edd, #75 Lacewing
Villalba, M.K., #63 Encounter
Vitucci, Donna D., #149 Less Than the Moon, Finalist
Vogt, Josh, #35 The Way the World Ends, Finalist
Voightlander, JoAnne, #147 Borrowing the Land of Men
Voketaitis, James A., #22 Curried Celery and Apple Soup
Volker, Jane, #174 A Bit of Broken Glass
Vosper, Martin, #203 Leaving
Waibel, Clara, #171 Rainbow Fins
Walker, Gillian, #133 Gotcha!
Walker, Townsend, #73 The Gun Wasn’t Hers
Wallace, Gordon, #57 Walk . . . Don’t Walk
Warren, D Lee, #153 Of Christmases Past
Weber, C.A., #40 Bull’s-eye
Weaber, Leah, #16 Without These Scars
Wert, Carla Phelps, #1 The Light
Wesley, T., #180 Never Look Into the Sun
West, Elizabeth, #110 Shattered
Westreich, Sam, #99 Spooky Action at a Distance
Whipp, Amanda, #124 Pulse
Whirlochre, #161 The Last Flower
Wilde, Michaelle, #9 Death of a Dream
Williams, Allison, #223 Pieces
Wolf, Rebecca Davidson, #217 The Akedah
Wood, Natalie, #190 Our Best Day
Wright, Lee, #49 The Old Quilt, Finalist
Yin, Lee Xiang, #196 Work In Progress

We interrupt this contest . . .

. . . to close the submissions. Well done, everybody. We’ve enjoyed each entry. Here’s what happens next:

Five judges, whose opinions will be weighted equally, will choose a winner and an as-yet-unknown number of finalists. Winners and finalists will be announced simultaneously. The number of entries has exceeded our expectations; the judging will likely take several days.

Meanwhile, this is the part of the show, after the final curtain has fallen, when volunteers wielding empty coffee cans man the exits and ask for donations. All Lascaux expenses, including prize money, come from donations, or out of our own pockets. Please help defray these expenses and insure the availability of future prize money by clicking on the Donate button and giving what you can. Anything you can.

On behalf of all writers, for whom payment in this industry has become a luxury, you have our heartfelt gratitude.

#243 Trauma

by L.J Camacho

“What is that mechanism?” Jonas asked.

Surprised by his question, she sat up in her chair. It was his twentieth visit since it happened. Every week Jonas would plop onto the plush blue couch and not say much more than pleasantries. Sometimes he’d talk about weather—sometimes, movies.

“How do people just pretend they’re not going to die? It can just happen. We don’t know when.” “Is that why you rarely leave your house?” She asked. “No. I don’t leave my house because there’s too much to do. I have no control. What is it that makes people so comfortable with not knowing? Why do—”

“I don’t know what the mechanism is,” she interrupted. “The brain does it automatically. Normal people don’t walk around thinking about their mortality all the time. Sorry, not normal. There’s no normal. I meant that clinically.”

“Life’s like playing darts,” Jonas said. “Imagine a dart board. When you’re throwing a dart, you gotta focus on the bulls-eye or whichever ring you’re trying to hit. Instead of points there’s the job ring, the love ring, and so on. That’s how people live their lives, dart by dart. Sometimes they miss; sometimes they get lucky. I can’t focus on one ring. No matter how hard I try, I see the whole board. It makes playing impossible. It’s overwhelming.”

“So is death when you don’t throw any darts?”

“No,” he said. “Death is when you run out of them.”

#242 Episode

by Douglas Barricklow

Mason won the lottery three days after he died. He bought tickets twice a week, five dollars a pop, ten bucks a week, forty dollars a month, four hundred eighty dollars a year for the past five years.

At first, he imagined what he would do if he won it. After a few months he stopped thinking about that.

He never thought he would die. It was impossible to imagine. He tried. When it came, he was asleep dreaming of a room in a strange house. Alone, gray light, a couch. Window mullions sliced the light into squares. Mason flew between the light and the door several times. He felt comfortable in his gray brain.

Then, everything closed down, as if a hand pulled a shade over the window.

She found Mason with his eyes open. She did not scream. When the 911 paramedics came to get him breathing again, it didn’t work.

She went through Mason’s wallet the day of the funeral. His body was going to be cremated, and the ashes strewn at sea. He did not have a boat, but he read many books about voyages to the South Seas, adventures men had on sailboats. They made Mason want to do that.

She found the last lottery tickets Mason bought, and the winning numbers. All during the brief funeral service she thought about the money, colors she would use on the walls in her house, new curtains for the windows. Nothing gray. She was tired of gray.

#241 Runway Impact

by Molly O’Connor

The hard rough edge of the chalet’s wooden door frame went unnoticed. It scraped along her spine as she slumped to the ground—pampered and tanned legs against grey granite. Diamonds sparkled at her wrist, her toenails glared scarlet. With knees drawn tight to her chest she released a long sigh in the late morning stillness.

A hawk struck, lifted its catch and disappeared beyond a mountain stream. Sun-streaked water played hide-and-seek through pinion pine then emerged as a silver ribbon far below Elysia. Her dark hollow eyes followed. A transient breeze lifted wispy fabric and carried her thoughts to distant places.

On a Parisian runway, trailing a chinchilla stole, Elysia stopped abruptly, turned sharply on 5-inch heels, flung the delicate fur around her shoulders; then letting the stole slip inch by seductive inch, stopped it just short of her rear cleavage. The Versace gown, shimmering lime and fluid gold, flowed over flawless skin and slim hips ending abruptly at a 10-carat diamond suspended at her ankle. Approval exploded in her ears; she flashed a brilliant smile . . .

Away from the mountain Elysia lived fast, on the designer ramps and on the streets. Her classic BMW was carried away, as was Elysia. Constructive surgery failed to repair her torn cheek and shattered chin; life on the runway extinguished in a fleeting moment of twisted steel.

A curtain of silken black hair fell forward; she lifted her manicured hand, closed her scarred mouth around the barrel and closed her eyes.

#240 Kaleidoscope of Emotions

by Madeleine Sara

Joe’s words left a kaleidoscope of emotions swirling around Emily’s sensibilities. The pain could not have been any more excruciating than if he had smashed her body through the car windscreen at speed. She swallowed as though her neck was made of tightly corded rope and her breathing quickened. Normally she was a good driver, but Joe’s words were creating their own road map through her mind, like the voice of an irascible SatNav that could not be silenced. Her foot pressed harder on the gas pedal, making the houses and mail boxes hurry past like bewildered onlookers. She just wanted him out of her life.

Anger raged in red hues like a rutting stag, while jealously slinked its way around her body; slithering green like a snake through smoky blue clouds that fogged her mind with depressive thoughts of suicide and despair. He had uttered that oh-so clichéd line “I don’t love you anymore. I’ve found somebody else” from those once beloved soft, pink lips that seven years ago had promised “I love you, ‘til death us do part.”

“You can drop me off at the corner” Joe said, breaking into her thoughts, as he unfastened his seat belt in preparation. He leant over the seat to grab his bag. Her foot automatically leapt on the brake pedal as the ginger tabby ran out into the road in front of her. Joe’s yellow skin was the colour that stayed in her mind; from damage to his liver, they said.

#239 “We Have No Consciousness of the Bus”

by Mike Downes

“What? Sorry I wasn’t listening. This damn GPS . . . Why is the ‘J’ greyed out? Ooh it thinks we’re in Michigan. Wait, consciousness? Bus?”

“Brat! I told you not to be fooling with that! Those machines always send you the scenic route. Just read the directions I printed out.”

“DK, it says to turn on Clinton Ave. We just passed Clinton . . . Street. Ok nevermind. Now what about that bus we passed? You know, you could say that a bus is kind of conscious, maybe not as conscious as a bird or insect or even a tree, but these days cars do react to external conditions to regulate cab temperature and tire pressure, and since a system’s ability to respond to it’s environment . . .”

“Lord almighty, you are a space cadet.”

“Why, what were you talking about?”

“I was talking about Ruby from Accounting, you know, her accent.”

“Yeah, she’s from Jamaica, right?”

“Guinea. We were in front of the office having our afternoon cigarette when some lady asks if the 79 bus went by yet, but we were talking so we didn’t know anything about those buses going by. Ruby, even though she’s been here twenty years, she says, ‘We have no consciousness of the bus.’” Kinda sounded like something funny you would say.”

“Weird. So you think I’m a weirdo?”

“All I’m saying is you can be looking right at something and still have no idea what’s going on.”

“Wow, Gramma D, that’s pretty deep.”

“Thanks, baby. You’re a good brat.”

#238 Broken Colors

by DL Musiel

She wonders where she went wrong. For all the stories told by humans to be wary of the Fae, the tales her kind tell of humans are darker, full of allusions that warn of the cruelty and capricious nature of the wingless.

Every parable, every story flew from her head, not from the beauty of his form or face, but the look of adoration in his eyes. She was small and nothing special for a Fae, but his gaze upon her spoke of diamonds and sunrises, amazement and bedazzlement.

In her naivete she missed the darker spots of possession and greed flowing under his hazel irises. Now, wings clipped, she is another pretty bird, caged, a crowning adornment in his aviary. Displayed for amusement, the people twitter and tweet over her beauty and song as they prance by in their swarm of feathered couture.

The Fae can’t cry. Those who hear her sung lament call it lyrical.

#237 Relief

by Carolyn Nielson Crowell

Eleanor tenderly massaged each withered finger. Today she would make art and every finger would need to contribute. She had been the youngest of nine children, seven of whom had survived their childhood. But now, she was the only one left. Unless she kept her mind occupied, she would spend the entire day wondering why.

It always came down to this: her art.

She’d spent the morning gathering materials: broken glass, feathers, tissue papers, and paints in rich tones of red, blue, green and orange.

The intensity and depth of each shade lifted her spirits. Her breath quickened. She’d finished her lunch of cucumber on pumpernickel bread. There could be no further delay.

If only her fingers would stop hurting and be useful. The massage had barely helped. Eleanor held her hands under the faucet, allowing the cold water to splash over them. Finally, relief.

She chose a thin stack of the deep red paper, tearing the pieces until their edges were raw and tattered. Eleanor felt a strong affinity with this pile.

She laid out broken glass shards between feathers, then spread the rough red tissues amongst them. She dragged strings through bowls of black paint, then draped them on top of it all like spaghetti. Stepping back to assess the finished piece, Eleanor sucked in her breath quickly.

It was the accident, William’s accident, three years ago. She’d done it again.

It was time for tea. Today, she’d also have a ginger cookie.

#236 Monday Morning Mass

by Jonathan Riley

Each Sunday morning the boy’s mother dresses him in a tailored suit and tie and drives them to church. She totes the small child like a fashion accessory then displays him on the cold pew. The quiet boy sits and looks at stained glass.

Today church is on Monday. The boy glances from pane to pane, finding a new story in each color. Black halos on cracked windows swim in Crimson chaos. Purple-Pizazz and Mango- Tango dance with the devil on a fractured glass canvas. Blizzard Blue combats Hot Magenta. Fuchsia flirts with Indigo. Razzle-Dazzle Rose tickles Wild Strawberry. White angel wings flutter in the heart of vivacious Crayolas, to the chorus of “Beautiful Hands, Beckoning Hands.”

The man in the white robe stands behind the woman in the mahogany box and says, “Rita was a great human being.” He waves smoke from a silver vessel, scenting the church with lemon and spice. The boy doesn’t know that his Aunt Rita will not eat with them next Christmas Eve. He sits, entranced by the stained glass.

The black halos and angel wings escape from their walled prison. They battle for the essence secured in the long box. Dark and Light clash above it. An explosion of grey summons a passion from the box; the boy’s eyes widen. He sparks a lone smile amidst a pool of a thousand tears. The glass tells better stories when church falls on a Monday morning.

#235 May Ends

by B.B. Fultz

She comes sublime, in her own time, and speaks of the viol and the vine. And here deep in this quiet place, of powder blue and gold, I wait. And when silk pools on the floor and she stand bare as a newborn, I take in all her wiles. She cocks her head and smiles. I raise the brush and know I’ll never do her justice, with these careless sweeping curves of color thrown on blank white space. She comes here for no wanton dalliance, no lustful alliance. No graceful dance, no great romance. She only comes to be remade with pallate and with paint, like a blossom waiting for the spring to lend it color and hue. To make it true. Yet I cannot finish, for I cannot begin. I take her in, and would fall at her feet, if even those would meet my lips, but I am I and she is she, and it is not to be. And so I stand and look, and linger in her smile, and all the while she speaks of viols and vines, here in this studio of powder blue and gold.

#234 Sunset to Dawn

by Terra Mar

She looked out from the familiar hilltop, wondering if she would live to see tomorrow’s sunset. Twilight filled her world, and this evening’s colors were astounding. Bright oranges dipped into beiges in one direction and blues in the other.

The sun had finished drenching her world in light and warmth. The half-moon would soon be bright, and pour silver slivers into night’s shadows. To those who knew, tonight the world would slip into perfect balance. The Fall Equinox signaled a perfect match of light and dark.

But she knew nothing of Equinoxes. If she did, this evening she would not have cared. Nothing less than her survival and that of her entire family occupied her thoughts. Along with the rest of her kin, she was preparing for the upcoming dawn battle. She had heard many tales of the enemy the scouts had seen. A whole army of them.

They viewed all who were different from themselves as “Other.” They never took prisoners, but chose to fight to the death. They dismembered their enemies—and enemies meant all who were not their own. Perhaps her people were not so much better. They chose not to kill the vanquished, but took slaves. Some forced themselves on the females. Life is brutal and war a living hell, she reflected. All she had was this moment, this concert of sunset’s colors.

Finally, she crawled away from the mutable sky that graced her anthill. The dawn and the Argentine ants would come soon enough.

#233 Don’t Feed The Birds

by Anthony Campo

“Why do you come here, Walker?” the girl in the rawhide jacket asked.

“To feed the birds,” Walker said. He reclined on the green bench. Denim on denim. His outstretched legs ended in broken old boots brought to heel on dark earth. Beyond his boots, the grey water of the lake. Beyond the lake, the grey sky. Around them black trees reached up into the emptiness. Their skeletal fingers swayed in what might have been wind.

“The sign says ‘Don’t Feed The Birds’ though,” she said. She pointed to the sign. The sign said nothing in return. It was silent.

Walker didn’t even glance at it. He kept looking out across the lake. Across the sky. Occasionally his hand dipped into a bag and drew forth breadcrumbs. Old ends and chewed crusts that he scattered across the dark pebbly soil with a careless gesture. Then he would pause. Look. Listen.

She lingered nearby. Leaning on the garbage pail with PUT LITTER IN ITS PLACE on the flap. Watching him watching everything else.


He turned to face her.

“There are no birds,” she finally said.

He turned back to look across the lake, across the sky, into a vast and colorless emptiness.

“I know.”

#232 Feelings are complicated, but throwing things is awesome

by Anne Thériault

The rock had already left Josie’s hand before she fully realized what she was doing.

It skimmed past Adam’s cheek and through the stained-glass window behind him, leaving a jagged hole nestled in an uneven sunburst of hairline cracks.

She stared at him, horrified, as he lifted a hand to touch the tiny beads of blood that were beginning to appear on his face. That she was nearing thirty, and still hucking rocks at boys, was unbelievable. That she had a heart to break, and was still letting it be broken, was unbelievable. That the look of pain and confusion on Adam’s face still stirred some kind of sympathy in her was unbelievable.

He was staring at her uncomprehendingly, his mouth a perfect round O of surprise.

“I just threw a rock at you,” Josie said helpfully. “I just threw a rock at your face.”

She started laughing, and couldn’t stop.

Adam pulled his hand away from his cheek and examined his fingers.

“I’m bleeding,” he said slowly.

“I know,” said Josie, tears of mirth streaming down her face. “I know. It’s because I threw a rock.”

Nothing had ever been as funny as this moment.

“Hey, kids!”

They both turned at the sound of heavy footsteps approaching them.

“Hey you kids,” huffed the fat old priest as he rounded the corner of the building.

Josie turned on her heel and ran, still laughing.

In all her life, she had never felt so free.

#231 A Brittle Rainbow

by Kurt Hendricks

There were no corners in the room. Narrow windows fitted with stained glass were cut into the thick stone walls of the small chapel off the infirmary. A circular, ornate wool rug covered floor, and soaked up the drips as they fell. Driving rain and wind continued, darkness stretched out forever.

Hunched forward on a chair, Brother Cysur's hands cradled the warm throat of a clay goblet. With deep and measured breath, he observed the floor. A rainbow of shards was cast beneath his feet, arching towards the damp, howling window. The rhythmic sound of drips falling, absorbing into the damp rug made Cysur grow drowsy. The fury, he mused, must have been drawn out into the cold dawn.

"Why, Brother?" beseeched the frail Infirmarian as he entered. “We have a Covenant!”

“A Covenant!” scoffed Brother Cysur. “How much merciless suffering must we witness? Attend to? Wait on as hapless servants?” he demanded. “The Covenant has been long broken!”

A thin beam of light crept through the storm clouds, past the jagged teeth of the window, spilling on the blood red carpet, illuminating the room.

“Within days,” Cysur's voice swam in stone-muted echoes, “the ground will be too hard to break.” He rose, taking the Infirmarian's shoulder in his heavy red palm. “Gather the Abbot.”

The Infirmarian acquiesced, pausing at the door.

“You're Hell-bound, you realise,” his voice cracked through tears.

“Enduring this plague, I'll remain unimpressed by any atrocities there.”

#230 The Museum of Unnatural Beauty

by Jasmine Dao

“Pound for pound, the koalaby is unmatched for its level of cuteness,” the head scientist explained. She adjusted her glasses, so thick her eyes appeared in owl-sized proportions. She could pass as one of the zoo’s exhibits herself.

She continued, voice lyrical from excitement. Inspired by the platypus, genetic engineering was used to combine animals in different combinations. Many sold well as pets; the more inspired creations went on display. The Zoo of Mutations was a horrible first name. The Flask Menagerie flopped. The Museum of Unnatural Beauty was the one that sold tickets.

The crowd stopped in front of a plexiglass which divided them from the green enclosure made to simulate a eucalyptus forest with an Australian backdrop.

The trainer brought out a box. The tips of furry ears could be seen, then a paw. The baby koalaby peeked out into its new world of greenness, daylight, a thousand eyes staring back.

The trainer picked the nervous joey up. It began pissing itself, and the crowd tittered. The trainer jerked in surprise. Suddenly the creature squawked, its eyes rolling back and furry body convulsing. The little ball of life disintegrated within seconds. There was silence. Then anger. A chant began and picked up in volume. “Refund! Refund! Refund!”

Moments later the young scientist could be heard apologizing as she doled out vouchers, something about “expired DNA polymerases.” A man came up. “No wonder this museum was so cheap. Cheap cheap!” and with that he flew off in a huff.

#229 Other Side

by Esthel Larsson

“See? That's what I hate.” Dave pointed with his fork at the summer terrace's epicenter of enthusiasm: a corner table whose occupants' vivid conversation rotated around coffee, fruit, and human-shaped robots. “Half my age, no manners, dining on glorified mac 'n' cheese, yet acting like the world is theirs to run. Intimate familiarity with the cheapest wine on the menu is a go-ahead to deflate the ego, wouldn't you agree. . ? Jay!”

“Sorry, I tuned out.” Jay smiled good-naturedly. “Negative space is full of decidedly positive revelations. That butterfly looks like the faces of two people sharing a kiss.”

Dave scanned the surroundings. “What butterfly?”

“It was tanning on the pepper grinder five seconds ago. You were saying. . .?”

“World domination. And the wine.”

“Right.” Jay took a sip, squinted with pleasure. “Fabulous. Italians do magic things with grapes. Even a simple vino di casa is heaven for the palate.”

Dave rolled his eyes. “Your verbal middle fingers are becoming sublime.”

The waitress brought gelato for one, overpriced sugary milk for the other. Jay scribbled “Grazie!” on the receipt; Dave rose to his feet with a rueful sigh.

“Need help?”

“No! This wheelchair is super-easy, I saw a guy do tricks in a half-pipe in one like this, can you believe it? I'm going to try it, too.”

They proceeded down the street, chatting. Sunshine, smashed to smithereens on contact with the misty glass shielding the prudent from the unpredictable, filled the air in the vulnerable wilderness with colorful whirls of excitement.

#228 Over in a Flash

by Laura Howe

I am 38, I am special and I will die today. This is not some twisted self-help mantra; it is simply the truth.

I am waiting in the dark and snug chamber of destiny. It is a place rumored to be filled with loud noises, intense heat, swirling smoke and laughter. For me, there is only silence. I feel safe and I look forward to fulfilling my life’s purpose. The sweaty fingers of death have chosen me and I am glad.

As it begins, my world suddenly spins and just as quickly, it stops with a jolt and a snap. I am part of something bigger and together we are tossed about through the air. Muffled voices are heard growing louder and angrier by the second. I feel myself rising up even higher.

For a brief moment, I am still. Then I slowly rotate to the left, a soft click is heard as I spin and a loud click when I stop. From behind me comes a loud snap. A deafening explosion as I am consumed by unbearable heat and pressure. I break free of my body and propel forward into the light. Piercing through the air, I see nothing of this world but a blur of colors. I rip through something soft, crash through glass and bury deep into wood.

My life was over in a flash. What happened? Was it special?

#227 Who's the Fairest of Them All?

by Matthew Huffer

“For kingdom’s sake!” pleaded the king, “Just tell her she’s the loveliest of them all!”

The tower shuddered from an explosion; the earth coughed smoky vapors into a hazy afternoon sky filled with jet contrails.

The queen screamed “I’ll show you to wear makeup Trudy Templeton, you little tramp! Fire!”

Somewhere above their heads a pilot nodded and pulled his trigger. Trudy Templeton, a girl begrudgingly described by Brian Smith as “cute,” watched her home disintegrate.

King Edward told Mirror, “It’s really not that hard, I do it all the time! Of course I think she looks fat in that dress! She looks fat in every dress—but I keep that to myself for the good of this nation!”

Queen Agnes interrupted: “Mirror, Mirror, upon the wall, who is the fairest of all?”

King and company watched Mirror, frightened. He answered: “Queen I cannot lie, far lovelier is Jennifer Finch of Briar Drive.”

“Kill her!” demanded the queen. A soldier rushed to comply. “And now?”

“Your beauty beneath, that of Carrie Anne Marsh on Grover Street.”

So suffered the kingdom for months as the queen eliminated her competition to no avail; the kingdom’s birthrate was simply too high.

“You say this,” the queen gestured to a red button, “will make me the fairest of all?”

“Yes,” Mirror answered, “it will.”

From the castle’s shelter, Queen Agnes pushed the button then asked, “Now who’s the fairest?”

Mirror rubbed his chin and said, “Well, the king did just get a haircut. . .”

#226 Mousetrap Thievery

by Chelsea Resnick

He wonders what it means, the image before him: phosphorescent licks of color behind a sheet of splintered glass. He’s in the museum, isn’t he? In the new wing where the modern art is displayed.

But the museum was Saturday night; and in the far recesses of his mind, he knows it’s Sunday morning, knows he’s actually sitting at the kitchen table, staring at the pink insides of his eyeballs. Nearby, the cell rings, and Lulu thwacks her tail against the floor. Her cheerful breathing has that early-morning, ravenous quality: Feed me. Feed me.

He raises his head from his hands as the phone launches into a fresh set of rings. He’s glad there’s no landline, no way to hear the amassing voicemails build into a crescendo: Carter, where are you? Carter, answer your phone.

It’s not long before someone pounds at the back door, a hard, jarring tempo. They know he’s in there—his car’s down the street. Lulu barks.

“Open up!” a voice says. “Come on now.”

He can’t block out the rising din: the phone, the dog, the door.

His chair scrapes against the floor as he scoots backward and stands tall in this house that isn’t his. When he’d broken through the window last night, he hadn’t expected anyone to be home. Carter was still supposed to be at the museum. Easy money. That was it.

And yet stroboscopic police lights flash in the windows, and Carter McDowell’s body lies prostrate on the floor.

#225 Sometime Between Late and Early

by Brad Potts

A forlorn bartender slides a bourbon across the bar toward me. It’s so hot the ice is already melting. Smoke hangs suspended like fog. The air is thick with a salty, primal odor. My feet make little ripping noises when I try to lift them off the floor, refusing to come up until finally giving way with a snap. Some hopeful person opens a window; no breeze enters, only a cacophony of laughter and shouting spilling in from the street. A sure woman answers with a guttural, longing bellow. A pale chain-smoking man drops his cigarette in an empty beer bottle. He plays a painful note on his guitar. A small group begins to dance wildly out of rhythm. She glances at her band, the tempo speeds. More dancers appear, their hips and hands stumbling through some semblance of motion, none caring.

Another bourbon slides into my arm. I must have ordered it. A man across the bar glares at me. I nod. He ignores me. I sadly tear my napkin. A white girl manages to fall gracefully after snaking around a table. She weeps soflty as her friends lift her up, muttering “I ain’t goin’ home. They ain’t no home to go to no how.” I drink my bourbon for her, shifting my feet again. I should go home. Maybe one more bourbon. It’s too god damn hot to walk, too early for despair, and too late to be sober. What a perfectly wonderful time to be lonely.

#223 Pieces

by Allison Williams

Her mother is always cutting out pieces from old aprons. Her father is putting on his boots for evening ride-out and asking if she’ll come. And she herself is watching his grey head bowed as he steps out the door, her words un-take-back-able, her love for him and the farm and her own little room packed away as carefully as she’d packed her single bag.

The bus came slowly then, lumping through the early snowfall turned to early slush, the field she’d cut across bare gold-brown stubble against big grey sky.

The bus now lumbers to a halt, the corner of Queen and John as far from the prairie as she could get with the money saved from babysitting and winter beans and selling her pig, money that was for college but withdrawable all the same.

She tells herself it’s better not to leave a message, that knowing her now, the her that owns two phones, one with the agency’s number on speed dial, would be worse than not knowing at all. But still, she lets the bus go by into the hazy heat and steps back to drag twice more on her cigarette, pull out the smarter of her two phones and dial.

“You have reached 780-525-7588. Gina, if this is you, please come home. We are not mad and we love you. Tell us where to pick you up and we will come and get you, no matter where. We love you. Please leave a message.”

#222 Wanted

by Meg Masters

She signed the letter and walked down the hall to stand in his open doorway. He was talking into his headset and clicking through his computer—attention split between two tasks, neither receiving full focus. His work suffered for it: typos, missed meetings, improbable commitments. How many times had she saved him over the years? Who would do that for him now?

He motioned her in. A dismissive gesture. The professional photo of his family stood like a guardrail at the front of his desk. Pageantry for visitors. The family attired all in white, his arm slung over the wife’s shoulder, children gathered round.

His blue, blue eyes at the center of the frame.

During her interview she had looked into those eyes and told herself, "Be careful."

When he ended it, his eyes had actually moistened. “It’s too distracting—having you right here in the office.”

She accepted it like an assignment.

He started wearing a wedding band. “Recommitting to my family,” he’d said, when she mentioned it. But he still traveled on business.

Then yesterday, he’d told her about the reorg—that he’d no longer be her boss.

She dangled the letter over his desk and shook it. She would not lay it down in front of him until she had his full attention. One. Last. Time.

#221 Pretend My Life is a Window

by The Capillary

Lissa waited at the bar. She checked the time on her phone and a picture of her daughter and husband were displayed on the wallpaper. Lissa shoved the phoned into her pocket, her guilt along with it.

A hand landed on her shoulder and a pair of lips kissed her cheek, “Hiya treacle.”

Lissa jumped a little before recognizing the scent of cigarettes and cologne, “Hi Sam.”

“You must be excited if you’re that jumpy.” Sam said winking as he sat down.


“How’s things?”

“. . .They’re ok. Could be worse.”

Sam nodded and ordered a drink from the bartender as Lissa took three massive gulps from her glass.

Icy blue eyes met hers, his stare hungry, “You look good.”

“Thank you.”

“You’ll look better with your clothes off.”

“Sam. . .”

“You have to be home tonight?”

“I want to be home every night.”

“No you don’t.”

“I do. I’m over this.”

“No you’re not. You want to be in my bed.” Sam said winking.

“I don’t.”

“Did your other half guess something’s up?” Smile dropping from Sam’s face.


“I don’t get it.”

Lissa inhaled deeply, catching Sam’s scent again, “Pretend my life is a window. Every bad thing I’ve ever done has added a little cracks to the glass. There are so many seams right now that if anybody leaned against the window the glass would shatter.”

Sam looked confused, “Now you’re scared of me shattering your life?”

“No Sam, you’re worth about a thousand and one cracks.”

#220 The Murder of Anna

by Raoul “Lee” Derit

Anna scrambles into her kitchen slamming the door! But strong hands prevent the door from shutting up. With her heart pounding against her chest, she pushes back with all her strength. Suddenly, she was thrown backward, landing on the floor a couple of paces away from the now fully opened door. In front of her stood a man in black leather jacket blocking the door with his huge frame.

Anna freezes, her hands and knees trembling. Before she could think of an escape, the huge man walks toward her. Instinctively, she pushes herself backward until her back slams hard into her oven. Things start falling on the floor. She grabs whatever her hands could get hold of, and hurls it toward her attacker. A bottle of black pepper hits a mirror and cracks it. However, Anna’s attacker doesn’t even wince. She screams, but it’s no use; she’s alone, and there’s no neighbor close enough to hear her.

Soon he was on top of her, his big hands grip her neck! Tighter. Tighter. Tighter.

This can’t be real. Anna, gasping for air, looks into his eyes hoping for a glint of compassion, but there’s none. Instead, his eyes are empty and cold like a machine. She struggles harder with her remaining strength, but it’s no use. Suddenly, it dawns on Anna that there is no escape, that she will die soon.

Why, her mind screams at her attacker. But he just keeps right on. Then the kitchen becomes quiet.

#219 His Son

by Clint Okayama

His son was coming to meet him. The day before the meeting, he hung up his apron at the diner and hummed a song they sang together back when his son was seven, some patriotic state song his son had memorized in school. That boy was so smart. Just like his mother.

At home, as he reheated three-day-old beef stew for dinner, he remembered going out for pizza every Friday until the boy surprised him one day by asking for Thai food instead. That was back in 1993. And now he was coming home for the first time in five years.

The next morning, the day his son was coming to meet him, he couldn’t sleep after five AM. He put on his newest pair of jeans, a collared T-shirt, his classic leather belt and cowboy boots. Over breakfast he practiced points to talk about but by lunch he threw it all out. He wanted it to be genuine. Real. He just had to speak from his heart, show how sorry he was and it would be all right. How he broke down when he saw happy families on TV.

At the Starbucks, there was a man in a suit who shook his hand, motioned to a table and held out a personal check for ten thousand dollars signed by his son, to be given on condition that he never attempt to communicate with his son again. There was a contract.

#218 In Breathing Color

by Deborah Smythe

She paused at my easel, halted, yet vibrant with motion, like the hummingbird at the foxglove before me. Her smile broke, warm, red, sudden. My brush hand ached. I should add a stray bud to the flower and stop thinking of the girl with the lifeblood and sunshine smile.

She motioned to a wax-faced man in a polished suit. "Look at the movement, the colors." Her fingers danced on his arm.

"It's pedestrian." He brushed her off, eyes blank. The paintbrush cut grooves in my hand. Little bird deserved better.

"It's genius." That smile again, for my work, for me, for him. "Let's buy it."

The husband's gaze chewed me over. Back when men fought for my work, I'd taken pride in my appearance, but these days charity hung on my bones and it suited. He tapped his lips. "Would you paint Lyla?"

Paint Lyla? The tilt of her mouth, the fall of her hair, like joy on fire, all of her on my canvas?

On his canvas.

He was undeserving and I no longer did portraits. I offered him a post-modern from my metal carriage instead and he paid me in paper money.

"I still love the flower," she whispered.

Giddy, I finished the foxglove perfectly. Foolish. The flower in the ground was already withering. Her attention though was on the canvas.

She dashed then, my hummingbird, after her husband. I could paint her from memory, and perhaps I would. But not today, not for a lifetime of days.

#217 The Akedah

by Rebecca Davidson Wolf

The truth is, there was no angel.

The truth is, I stood upon the mountain and I raised my knife and no one called out to me. I looked down on my son, my only son, and saw in his face my father’s when he returned to the shop and saw the damage I had done. I was a young man then, a proud man, full of my own self-righteousness. And now I was old, and still smashing, still destroying family bonds in aid of some other goal.

That was not my great moment of faithfulness, of devotion to God. No. I thought in that moment that I would rather have back all the old idols, motionless and useless and unresponsive, if it meant I could keep my son. I would rather false gods than one who asked that of me.

I saw a ram, and cut the bonds, and told Isaac I had heard an angel’s cry. I knew, or should have known, that by then, by the time I had stood with a knife over his throat, it could not be repaired between us, but I thought perhaps I could leave him with a love for God if not for me.

The truth is, God did bless me afterwards, though not quite for the reasons I pretend. But it was hard, the hardest thing, for me to bless God in return.

#216 An Old Cherry Pit

by Charles Bryant

The train rolled in, shrieking its arrival to the world, and the man straightened his back and took a drag from his cigarette. A minute or so passed and he saw his mark amongst the thinning crowd. He discarded the cigarette and, slightly trembling, crossed the street, never looking away.

To the other man’s credit, he did notice the stranger heading directly for him, stiff and suspicious, but by the time he made up his mind to do something a gun was being pulled from black slacks. And so he froze and his hands went up, and he backed against the gate behind him and his mind was ablaze with ideas and all the man with the gun did was stand in front of him, at the edge of the sidewalk, right hand trembling and breath convulsing and tears swelling and suddenly an accusation, a condemnation, about a stolen job and stolen girlfriend and stolen life, and the man against the gate was beginning to think more clearly and was shuffling slowly away and the man with the gun was crying now, almost bawling, and so the man against the gate bolted. And with a gasp and renewed conviction the man with the gun fired, and hit the arm, but his mark ran on, and so he fell to his knees, sobbing and clutching his weapon, and his arm repositioned and he felt the hot steel under his jaw bone and his last thought was a squeeze.

#215 We Cling

by Jacob Moss

They’re yet to create a mirror that sends back yourself. It’s always somebody else gawking back, wantin’ out of there. I wonder how she sees me. In this moment. Her eyes I feel, peeling paint off my face. I can’t see her; just the afterlife of love. But we still cling; like a headless chook runnin’ about, we cling.

Our haunches play the part while everything else fears the gallows. With the power of a colt’s gallop, we barrel across the marshes.

Something’s burnin’ inside. My nose is smokin’; my eyes are given in. She’s burying teeth into my chest; looking to bite out the life in it beating like bare feet on oil drums. Before love dies, it flashes before your eyes.

The room smells of fungus, but it’s being pushed out through the cracks; our breath, tears flood the room like water. She has a space to be filled; this is all I can give. A prick is all a man can offer a woman.

A piano is playin’ somewhere; volume risin’. “Rain on me,” panting, “Rain on me you bastard!” She hears the music too and sinks her nails, teeth. A tin kettle is boiling over; a church choir rises and sings. A gust of wind blows up the curtains skirt. We close our eyes tight like children.

Roosters crow; street lamp’s flicker; flocks of birds take off...

I roll off her. Lying there, sprawled. Left with nothin’. Nothin’ but the reflection of ourselves in the mirror.

#214 Breathing in a Different World

by Andrew Shin

Fuck, that’s glass. I got up from bed shivering. The nearly finished bottle of Jack Daniel’s was on the floor without a cap. At least I didn’t knock it over. I carefully walked around the mirror and opened the door . . . I crept in the dark towards the bathroom so as to not wake up the others. Bad enough I played that screaming music, loud as hell, at three in the morning, I thought.

I flicked on the light and went to the sink. Inspecting the bottom of my fist, I saw the shards were just big enough to pull out with my nails; a few specks of blood appeared. Afterwards, I washed my hands, put on a Band-Aid, and headed back to my room.

I began searching for the bottle cap. The stench lingering in the room only worsened the nausea I felt, and my eyes winced from the pieces of glass glimmering in the light as I stepped over them. I’ll clean it up tomorrow . . .

While searching for the top, I noticed my e-mail account was open on my laptop. Then, I remembered sending an e-mail earlier. I sat on my bed and clicked for my “Sent” mail. Oh, god, I repulsively thought.

I had promised myself, after printing out 23 pages of my unanswered e-mails, that I would never write to him again, but here was another one—the worst of them all.

Why do I still write to him?

#213 Chaos in a Kaleidoscope

by Shruti Gokhale

She started fidgeting with her hands. It shouldn’t take so long to fix a window. The noise and disorderliness made her cringe. She looked at the clock. She didn’t want her husband to come home to such chaos. She had worked so hard to ensure that everything had been perfect for 11 years of their marriage. This was her dream home, away from the commotion of the world, closer to the tranquility of the clouds. One window couldn’t spoil it all.

Her eyes darted to the clock again. It looked lopsided. Everything was going wrong. She squirmed. There was the same old shortness of breath that she felt ever so often. Schedules were made to be followed. “You should leave. You can finish the work tomorrow,” she blurted out. They shrugged, “Take care not to lean on the window.”

She got a footstool and aligned the clock. The doorbell rang. She rushed to put the footstool back. The doorbell rang again. He knew she didn’t like this kind of a rush. “The workers have left? I thought it would take longer to fix the window,” he briskly went to the bedroom. She followed, unable to confess that the work was incomplete. All her efforts of being perfect would be ruined. She looked on mortified as he placed a hand on the window and bent over. She heard a faint sound of crashing glass. She noticed a speck of red on the window sill and wiped it off with a finger.

#212 The Things I Never See

by Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan

“What do you mean, colours?”
For a moment, I think he hasn't heard me. I imagine him standing there, his eyes focused on what lies beyond those windows.
“How old were you when you lost your vision?”
“Seven.” I reply.
“What colours do you remember?”

I close my eyes. At first, there is only familiar darkness. But then, the palette starts to brighten.
I see my mom's wavy hair. . . “Yellow.” I whisper.
My toy car... “Red.”
The beaches... “Blue.”

“They're all there, child.” I hear his words, but the catch in his voice is even more audible.
“Why are you crying?”
I feel him bend down and place his arms around me, hugging me tightly, as the sounds outside grow nearer.
“Imagine all those wonderful colours together.”
“Like a rainbow?”
“No. Even more splendid. The whole sky is just painted in all these lovely colours. Can you see it?”
I keep my eyes closed and slowly all the colours start to appear. They flutter around, coalescing with each other indiscriminately. They envelop me within their vibrance and I am one with them.

“Yes. Yes, I see it. It’s amazing.” I feel his cheeks widen as he smiles.
A moment later, the missile hits our building. I hear its deafening fury and feel the scorching heat for a brief moment but I see it not. In my eyes, I see only the last images my daddy painted for me.
They are the most beautiful images I have never seen.

#211 It's a White, White World

by Natasha Singh

He turned slowly and started walking away.

I looked at him helplessly, no more words came out. The swirling snow seemed to float around aimlessly, as if not knowing where to go. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I wanted to stop him, tell him I was sorry, tell him it happened just once, tell him it was a moment of weakness and would never happen again. Run up to him, hug him tightly and never let him go. But I couldn’t move. My feet remained firmly rooted to the ground. The white snow seemed to have blinded me.

He stopped suddenly. Turned back.

The look on his face was enough. He didn’t have to say anything. He walked slowly back. His gaze held mine, filling me with hope & unimaginable happiness. It was almost as if the entire world had broken into thousands of bright and colourful pieces. Happy pieces.

He came up to me. Lightly stroked my cheek.

“You’ve come back,” I whispered. “I had to,” he said. “It’s you.” I closed my eyes, savouring this very moment. Opened them. The snow was falling rapidly on the ground now. Bright & vivid snow. I looked up at him. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.

And then he said it. . .

“There was someone. . . it was just for a bit. It didn’t mean a thing.”

The world turned white again. . .

#210 Blur And Fade

by Karen Kimball

There were shots, I remember that, but the rest is lost to piercing pain and the haze of confusion.

I am slumped over, cheek pressed to the wet-streaked table and the world gone sideways. I hear screams and sirens over the roar inside my head, everything too strange—too loud—as I struggle just to pull air inside my lungs.

I’ve loved this restaurant since college. What happened to it? Tonight was red-flower something (but what? The words won’t come, something important). Now it’s ruined. The owners should apologize for the blood and noise and mess.

I think I hear my name . . .

The window across the table is cracked in a kaleidoscope of bright colors and feathered edges, a beautiful dream half-seen from far away. I want to touch it but I cannot move. All I can do is look and try to figure out what it means.

Restaurant, flowers . . . anniversary. David and I came here to—

Oh God, where is David?

I can’t hear him, and all I can see is what’s right in front of me. What if he—if I—if this—

It isn’t supposed to end this way, it’s only been two years.

The colors blur and fade (though I’m chasing them as hard as I can). I try to hang on, fight the numbness taking over me, but I just . . . I can’t . . .

Please, God, please help me.

The darkness is coming.

#209 Ma, are you there?

by Fatima M Noronha

The scent of roasting red peppers and coriander seeds filled the little room, their home. Kamala sat cross-legged on the floor near her grandmother.

“Ammama, who broke the window pane?”

“Boys playing ball, Baby, long ago, before you were born.”

Her first memory was of a butterfly so big only its wings of pink, orange, blue and green were visible to her, as she lay on her mat by the window. Her mother’s voice was among those colors. Always, on waking, her eyes circled the room, hoping to see that brighter butterfly, her mother.

At six, Kamala joined Tera-Mera School, the school for working children. In the corner of the veranda they piled their assorted luggage—those who wore slippers left them there, some brought their bedding, usually a cotton sheet tightly rolled up, others, like herself, brought large poly-fiber bags which, after school, accompanied them from dumpster to dumpster around Shanti Nagar. From the rank mixed garbage, they quickly collected plastic and metal items, and whatever bits of cardboard and paper could be salvaged. The middleman they called Uncle weighed their finds and paid them twelve rupees per kilogram, though he paid the aggressive teenagers fifteen.

Kamala found a glossy calendar in the garbage. She took it home. She cut out gaudy pictures to stick on the walls and on the cracked window pane. At night the trains clattered past the closed window, lighting up all its colors like sudden memories.

#208 Purperia

by Tony Hunt (laughingwolf)

I rolled 1-1/2 times from my prone sleeping position on the queen size bed to the edge of the mattress, so I could sit up.

Shaking my head to clear it, and rubbing my eyes to see better, I then glanced at the bedside clock radio: it read 4:46 pm on a Tuesday, in March.

I could only assume it was still 1974, but three days since I had, literally, hit the sack.

The Granny Smith apple had a single bite taken out of it, but was still remarkably intact.

Bare feet on the pine floor, I ratcheted myself upright, staggered to the toilet, and watched the cascade as the piss hit the middle of the bowl while I held the wall for balance.

The tank only gurgled once when I pushed the lever, so I left it at that, vowing to fix it after I sobered up.

In the living room I activated the answering machine, where a voice said: “Stevie, baby.

“Jerry Garcia, here.

“You’re safely back from your trip, or you’d not be hearing this.

“After Friday’s gig, we’ll get some more Chinese, a few beers, and drop another card or two, if you’re up to it.

“If you don’t call back, I’ll assume you’ll be ready.”

We did, a few more wondrous times.

Hooked up with Woz, later, and got into making “black boxes.”

A helluva lot of phone fun we had those days.

Graduating to intricate hard- and software, the Granny Smith vision stayed prominent.

#207 The Mating Dance

by Juliet Rodgers

The fire department would have ejected half the students from the building if it saw the scene unfolding. Yet more college kids burrowed up the stairway that led to the dance floor, clad in scarlet, sparkles, and other outfits that exuded their longing to be noticed. When Kaitlyn and her friends joined the crowd, the plumage they had carefully selected in their dorm rooms only functioned as camouflage.

Upstairs, brilliant colors from the club lights swirled around the floor. The beat of the newest pop hit throbbed in the dancers’ ears. The room burned without fire. Kaitlyn’s social circle squeezed itself into a crevice that had not existed before, then discovered the rhythm of the music. Pop went the hips. Up went the arms. Sometimes feet moved, but not too far. Otherwise, they would stomp on other feet.

One by one, boys sniffed out the five new girls among them. The boys closed gaps with their arms, wrapping themselves around the girls by intuition. For a few beats, their hips popped out of sync before they learned how to dance together. They never exchanged names. Even if they tried, the music’s beat would obscure them.

The smells of sweat and cologne burned in Kaitlyn’s throat. Her hip pops slowed. She turned to face the nameless boy. He grinned at her. Her eyes met his orange shirt. She said nothing. Her face revealed no matching joy.

Kaitlyn thought he said, “What’s wrong, sweetheart?”

“I feel alone.”

#206 The First Step

by Ran Mainardi

Soraya thought of pulling the trigger. Again.

Each night it was like this. Every detail was the same. The imaginary gun still resembled an old revolver she once saw on TV years ago—although on a particularly uninspired night she would settle for two lethal fingers cocked to the temple—and she always stopped just before the gun was fired.

She hoped for a clean death. No blood, no sweat and no tears. There would be no brain matter bursting out and staining the pillow while a million pieces of her soul perished once that imaginary trigger-pulling was accomplished. Or perhaps they would simply soar like balloons and disappeared into the sky, depending on her mood that day.

As if.

Death is messy. Death is loud. That last pull of breath would come screeching and where would she escape?

Tonight, like any other night, she lay on the bed and tried to focus on something else other than the creeping dark. “You selfish bitch,” she scolded herself. “You selfish bitch.” Then a switch was flicked inside and she turned against herself. “You coward. Oh, you coward.”

She didn’t want to imagine the real thing. Soraya wasn’t ready although she often flirted with the line and thought of crossing it.

But didn’t they say that a thought is the first step towards action? If she continued replaying the scenario in her head, wouldn’t she arrive at it one day?

One pull. Just one pull.

Then her husband would be no more.

#205 Lack of Foresight

by Paul Riter

The genie stood before me, looking haggard and more than a little frightened. “Now, what is your third wish, Master?”

I gawked at him, utterly confused. “THIRD?! What happened to the other two?” I had just found the lamp and rubbed it, then everything got blurry . . .

The genie nodded nervously. “You don’t remember because technically it never happened. As I explained before, I am duty-bound to grant any wish, no matter what the consequences may be. The enormous amount of energy required to fulfill your first demand unexpectedly caused a sequence of events that would have rapidly lead to the complete destruction of the universe.” The genie shuddered, apparently from the memory. “Fortunately, before reality shattered completely, you wished that you had never made your previous request. I then used my powers to “edit history” . . . and so we find ourselves at this strange juncture. You only have one wish left, so the important thing—”

I was impatient and interrupted him: “—is to make sure I don’t repeat that mistake. I understand perfectly. I was considering asking for control over all of time and space, but after what you just told me I’ll keep my request far more modest.” I looked the genie in the eye and commanded: “I WISH I WERE IMMORTAL!”

The ground shook, the sun vanished and I felt a terrible sense of deja vu.

“YOU *FOOL*!” shrieked the genie as the world fragmented into brightly colored shards. “THAT *WAS* YOUR FIRST WISH!”

#204 Dreamcatcher

by Louise Stark

Black moonless night surrounds the house. More hovel than house, too small for those who dwell within it, its one room too small for those who call it home. But house or hovel, black moonless night surrounds it, pressing in against its sides.

Within the single room mats have been unrolled, thin floor coverings to act as beds, transforming the room from kitchen-eating area to sleep chamber. Individuals and pairs huddle upon the mats, curled into available space, crowding each other for warmth.

A child’s thought from the edge of slumber: Dark, dark. A face—big, furry, get me . . . The thought twangs from one string, careens to another, snares in their joining.

A teenaged boy fantasizes of a lover, beauty and temptation shifting into hideousness and repulsion. He writhes in his sleep as phantom arms reach and cling . . . The disrupted imagining strikes against wooden beads, smashing to nothingness.

A woman imagines a parapet, looking down to view the vista below, leaning, then falling, falling . . . A feather slides beneath the image, wafts it to safety.

A grandfather envisions a walk through a field, sun warm upon his skin, then realizes that he is lost, confused, alone . . . The image hooks onto the willow rim, circling, circling, to take him back home.

Black moonless night presses in upon the house. Within the small dwelling thread and bead and feathers gather the nightmarish strands, splintering them and granting untroubled sleep.

#203 Leaving

by Martin Vosper

Martha sat down on the sofa again and sobbed quietly so he wouldn’t hear; she’d lost count of how many times she’d been overcome by tears these past few weeks. From upstairs came the sounds of packing: clattering coat hangers, banging drawers and cupboards, then finally the thump of a suitcase being hefted from bed to floor.

The moment she’d been dreading had arrived. More tears flowed as she thought about how desolate she’d feel once he’d gone.

She understood the inevitability; people grow and change. Martha had known for longer than she cared to admit that one day he’d leave her. It was his own choice to go and she loved him too much to stand in his way.

A taxi pulled up outside.

As Martha heard heavy footsteps coming downstairs, she dabbed at her tears and got up to meet him in the hall; the hint of self-satisfied smirk played around his lips, but she didn’t react. She was determined to remain dignified to the end; she had to be strong for both of them.

“Goodbye,” sobbed Martha, flinging her arms around her son for what felt like the last time, holding him tight to her, “You will ring us as soon as you get to University, won’t you?”

#202 Broken

by Cath Barton

I walk through the glass-fronted streets, past a thousand people going to work and play. None of them is you. I look in their eyes and it is as if no-one lives. Time was we lived, you and I, although we did not live well. We were destroying one another. I left and you followed. I couldn’t get away. Through every glass I saw your face, pale and miserable, torturing me. Eventually you relented. I moved away, to a warm country without glass, where people are open to one another.

But things changed, the openness closed and I returned to this northern city, where people live behind the shield.

People here say you are happy now. I am not. I want you back but I cannot find you. Far ahead on a street I see a movement that is yours, but it is all illusion. In desperation I punch holes in the glass. I splinters and its brokenness reveals colour.

I walk through the glass-fronted streets, now full of light, broken into colour. You are not there. None of the people is you, and me, I am without colour. I am lonely and my heart is broken. I sink to the ground, without care, without hope.

A man speaks in my ear. The sound is like a bird singing. I do not connect it with you, but when I look I see that things have changed. The world is whole again and I no longer need to look for you.

#201 As Bad As It Gets

by Betty Dobson

You sit at the dinner table, drumming your French manicure on polished oak and cursing your husband for being late for the third time this week. Worry doesn’t cross your mind. You know he’ll never cheat—the prenup sees to that—and you’re so far above silly thoughts of car accidents, unlike the other corporate wives. Death and disasters feel like something that happens to other people on the other side of the world—or at least south of the forty-ninth.

You don’t realize it’s as close as the remote on the sideboard and the television perfectly aligned with the doorway so he can watch the scores scroll by while he eats.

You don’t hear the sirens at the city’s heart. You don’t see the hideous beauty of emergency lights reflected in shattered glass, the twisted metal sloping into the harbour or the dark stain newly formed beneath the surface.

That burning smell is just the once juicy pork roast now pushed beyond its limits. Following a practiced sigh, you race to the basement to hit the breaker for the smoke detector and wonder how things could possibly get worse.

#200 Light the Prism Colors of My Freedom’s Dream

by Maeve Johnson

The night is angered. The cold and stormy wind howls while the thunder roars upon the hour of my discontent. I fearfully ask, “Did I upset you?” The shadows brush up against me. I shriek, unknowingly. I beg, “Please, tell me what I did?” You say nothing. I suffer madness. Silences . . . save for the wind. Stillness, except for the dancing shadows of the night, my conscience and my life’s anger. The cold sings. Your conscience is cold. The galley won’t burn much longer.

“How long will you stay? You stayed away longer this time. Where were you?” Something’s different. This time, something’s different about you. No response. My shadow bleeds. Something stirs. “What is it? Who’s there? What do you want?” The galley dies. Cold shivers run down my spine. I am quivering. I feel a hand. It’s your hand. It takes hold of me. “What have I done? I am sorry. Please forgive me?” I’m a bird trapped in asylum madness. The light fades. It’s dark now. Time has stopped; frozen. I’m dreaming wide awake with the color of my prison’s inheritance and your conscience . . . a mere shadow now.

Bright lights awaken my soul’s sojourn. Silenced for too long, I’m ready to shout, “STOP! Stop now!” A testimony to my past, I lie there motionless and free of madness . . . a witness. I take one last glance as I leave the streets of my despair with my soul ascending on angel’s wings. I am free to light the colors of my freedom’s dream.

#199 Ice and Candy

by Cee Martinez

I. Ice

He lay on the ground as blood frothed his lips. Screams and gunshots married the sound of glass breaking into dust. It was a sound like ice.

He thought of soft ice, the kind that came in little crunchy pellets.

He remembered guzzling cold beer, and thought of cigarettes and sex.

He imagined the girl he married and her cool hands on his face.

II. Aftermath

I know the guy who did the autopsy. I just get out a lot, don’t know how I meet these people.

Anyway, he said the bartender must have been rolling around and swallowing glass. They said the glass was between his teeth and everything! Even if he did survive the the bullets all the glass had ripped his esophagus anyway! It just isn’t right you know?

III. Taped to the Gravestone

I had a dream you were a wisp—but I held you, and the wisp was glass, but then I ate you, and the wisp was candy—and then I woke up and the pain in my belly told me the wisp was real.

It isn’t and never was, which means I am awake with the pains in my belly of glass that never is and never was, with pain that was never meant to exist but can’t be wished away. Just wait and the wisp is gone, just wait, and the glass turns to powder, and powder is like candy and candy dissolves away, and candy always leaves behind sweet . . . doesn’t it?