The Funeral by Kevin Counterman

Sonny’s hand shook as he took a drag from his cigarette. Rain drops from the eaves above bruised onto Sonny’s faded grey scaly cap. He watched on as his lifelong friend Daniel reached the walkway to the funeral home. With his head down, and hands in his rain slicker’s pockets, Daniel walked down the cobbled path. “Sonny,” he said with a nod, as he reached the tall, twin hinged doors. The two men shared a moment of a silence, backs toward the funeral home, long faces towards the rain, as Sonny’s cigarette began to fade.

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What Follows (The Chair) by R. Harlan Smith

On the night Frank Pearls died, he gathered his little congregation around his chair and gave each of them a little snack like a priest giving Holy Communion. They received their snacks gleefully and smacked their lips to show their appreciation. Then he settled back in his chair, swallowed another glass of whiskey, filled the glass again, and in his calm, pleasant voice,  proceeded – sometimes he would read to them from Joyce, or Kierkegaard, or Al Capp, or sometimes he would just talk to them about philosophy, but he would never tell them it was philosophy. Tonight he would talk.

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The Cleaner   by R.L.M. Cooper

October

Frank always hated rainy days. He hated them when he was working and he hated them when he was ill. Like today. Today was gray and wet. The leaves, falling steadily from the big oak out front, randomly blew against the rain-splattered window beside his bed and stuck there momentarily before gradually sliding down onto the sill where they gathered into a brownish, wet pile and ultimately fell to the ground beneath the rhododendron bush.

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The Many Sad Fates of the Family Jones  by Lucy Caird

My Mum didn’t die a peaceful death. She got bitten on her toe by a rattlesnake whilst walking through the big park at night in her flip flops. She didn’t have the cell phone with her because my Dad had it that night. The poison got into her veins and stopped her heart. The next time when we saw her, she was all stiff and puffy. But her face was angry, most likely about the cell phone, I think. My Dad says she comes back in the form of a hurricane every few years or so and it’s our goddammed duty to weather the storm. He says they can call ‘em whatever they want – Irma, Katrina, Harvey, but they all Hurricane Josephine to him.

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The Distress of Newly Made Ghosts by Karl Miller

I’m on my third slow loop through a nearly-empty parking lot, passing by darkened stores as the last workers depart on a Sunday night.  The land on which the mall sits was once part of the Everglades – I helped survey it as a summer job years ago.  I’d wade into the forest with a machete and mark the trees developers would be saving – the slash pines were going, but the live oaks would stay to be stranded in asphalt.

Three days ago, Tristan, my cousin’s boyfriend, was waiting at a stop sign on his motorcycle when an inattentive driver plowed into him.  If I delay my arrival any longer, I’d miss his viewing completely, so I finally drive across the street to the funeral home.

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A Half Century Come and Gone by Tom Sheehan

 I could picture what it would be like if we met again all these years later. It might go down like this: After 670 miles of a pretty cross country haul, I’d see the meeting-place pub we’d picked sitting brown and ugly like a hovel at the side of the road, a meeting place for the century, out there in some square, hard country setting. And I’d brace myself for comrades, the long stretch between get-togethers, wondering what the hard stuff would do to me this time. Undoubtedly it would leave tracks again.

I closed my eyes, wondering all over again. I hoped Balbo would be in there and Diaz. I hoped Archie’d be in there, red in the face, after his fifth visit, his third wife, his second hospital stay, counting his visits, keeping the tab at his elbow, paying it with no fanfare at all, sometimes embarrassed by his own quick acceptance of it, owing somebody, always owing somebody in this crazy life.

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