Vestigial by Thomas Elson

What can loosen a bond of thirty years?

What can strengthen what can no longer be made strong?

David felt as if he were living inside his recurring fear begun decades earlier inside a chanked and abandoned farm building off a path hidden by overhanging branches surrounded by unproductive land more than fifty yards from a gravel county road when he sat on the wooded floor with the tip of a rifle barrel stuffed in his mouth.

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Garuka – Please Come Back by Ernest O. Ogunyemi

Verse 1 – days of innocence.

 Those days are still fresh, they’re all that remain of that time, like bombshells after an explosion, or the remains of a decomposed dead animal. Those days when we chased grasshoppers in the small bush in our backyard. There were basically three types: one had intricate patterns on its body: yellow and black stripes, dotted with white; another had the skin of lush grasses, and it was why we found it on rare occasions. The last appeared only during the dry seasons. It had the body of scorched grasses, dusty brown. We would watch them jump from blade grass to blade grass, leaning the thin grasses. And we would crouch whenever we came close enough to any – I would put my finger across my lips to tell you to be quiet, like they could hear our voices and flee –  and cup our palms closed on them. We didn’t want them to die. We would tie ropes around their legs and watch them jump, making creepy sounds, as far as the rope could get them.

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A Condition of Absolute Reality by Leila Allison

10:30, Sunday morning, 21 February 1970

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It was one of those little lost lamb spring days that sometimes wander into the dead of a Pacific Northwest winter. The sky was as clear as the devil’s conscience, and the temperature would reach well into the sixties by mid-afternoon. By and by, almost everyone in Charleston would go out to grab a piece of that little lost lamb spring day; for everyone knew it wouldn’t be long until another dreary storm blew in off Philo Bay.

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All I Love Dies Alone by Leila Allison

 Squirrel Pen Diary: First Entry

Last Wednesday morning I entered Our Lady Star of the Sea church during mid-week mass. While two dozen or so senior citizens went through the ancient, dusty rites (monotonously administered by an equally ancient and dusty priest), I rose unseen and snuck upstairs to a small balcony that communicates with the church’s attic. I climbed atop the guano splattered stone rail that hugs the balcony and balanced myself on one foot and held the other out as though I intended to take a seventy-foot step onto the marble walkway below. After I had done all that, there wasn’t much else to do except wait for someone to notice me.

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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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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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