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Fiction

FICTION / Drunken Spoils / Stella B James

The bartender hands Jenny a fresh drink, and I stretch her hand out, taking it as I make her teeth sink into her lower lip in silent promise. Ah, sweet Gail, the side of her she never seems to remember. She wishes to have my charm and bravado. Only copious amounts of alcohol bring me out to play, but when I do come, she freely gives over the wheel.

FICTION / We Are Us and Then There Are Other People / Tai Farnsworth / Writer of the Month

It was a Friday. They invited me over to play games and I didn’t leave till Saturday morning. Their roommates, swimming in the pool or lounging on the couch, nodded their ‘hello.’ Where did you meet them? they asked. At a dog groomer’s, at the grocery store, on a hike, I said.

FICTION / The Big Bambu / Robert Libbey

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Midnight and Mom hits up my cell: Munchie’s run? 31, off the hamster wheel and comfortably lodged back in my old room: I’m all in, a thumbs-up emoji my reply.

 

She’s hooked on Bugles. The tatted cashier nods approval. “Let’s face it, Mom’s a pothead,” I text my brother. Beside himself, a coast away: “She’s out of control with the messages, you know, the kids have homework.”

 

“Look, I love your brother, but he’s a tight-ass: I’ve already had two fathers,” she says, meaning hers and mine, “I’m over that.” Still stinging from a strict upbringing (+ marriage) she’s a late bloomer: a middle-aged, rebellious teen.

 

Why should I complain? “One day, all this will be yours,” she gestures at the carnage of the living room. Stripped of all the vestiges of wifely (and motherly) duty she lets it all hang out, sinking into a cushion. The table’s littered with paraphernalia: empty chip bags, packs of rolling papers…

 

The afternoon routine begins. She runs her tongue to seal a spliff. The turntable spins Dad’s remaindered Cheech & Chong. “Sister Mary Elephant” is her favorite: a deranged substitute teacher who’s lost all order in the classroom. The tracks meld one into the other. LOL: two feet away, she texts me; the cell: her new life-line.

 

“She’s posting weird selfies to Instagram,” my brother bothers. Ah, dog face filters: the button nose, the close-cropped hair now frosted pink. Nice. This medicinal weed’s some dope shit. I see she’s crying; then laughing. The couch tilts sideways; imperceptibly, day clicks to night.

The record skip wakes me. How long has she been staring at me? Glassy-eyed, she says, “You’re my favorite pupil.” “I thought I’d disappointed you.” Smiling she shakes her head no, gets up, unsteadily.

The room’s dark, but I’m seeing her in a new light. Desperate, my brother has sent me a fresh text, “she’s signing her messages with a strange signature. Who is this woman?

I remain mum.

Mom opens the album cover as I restart it. “Let’s Make a Dope Deal,” drops. She pulls out the actual, gigantic rolling paper (a marketing gimmick) that came with the record. “Bucket list,” she says, only half joking. 

Wired, she won’t sit. The skit is tight but it’s hard to concentrate. Her restlessness is contagious; driven by the mother of necessity (the will to live) she’s become a force of nature. Our cells hum. The message: let’s rock n’ roll kids; let’s get our nightly fill.

One foot out the door, one foot in I shoot back my brother: this woman?!


Robert Libbey lives in East Northport, NY. His work has appeared previously, or is forthcoming, in The New York Quarterly, Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, Brilliant Flash Fiction, and Blue Lake Review.

FICTION / The Judgment of Helen / Linda McMullen

This event remains something of a Troy College legend.  Many called the event anti-feminist (when not calling it something worse), and I supposed that was fair. But I would have also noted that the feminist crowd had less on offer. If they had given me a crack at free tuition, room, and board, I’d have participated in their Elizabeth Warren Forensics Competition or RBG Debate Forum or their Inner Beauty Pageant too. Until then, there I was.

FICTION / Five Things Big Girls Can't Do / Tai Farnsworth / Writer of the Month

While washing your hands you glance in the mirror and the face that stares back at you isn’t your own. You’re changed. You’re scarred. This could have been avoided if the public restroom architect gods didn’t allow Victoria’s Secret models to designate the stall dimensions for you everyday folks.

FICTION / Lemon Steam / Sequoia Hack

We ate the curd on toast, on crumpets, on scones, and over ice cream. I ate a spoonful a day, and I washed my face with it. I read ​Plumbing for Dummies ​and Mama helped me detach the water main so we could fill the bathroom pipes with lemon curd. Eventually, I showered in lemon and washed my hands with lemon and bathed in it once a week. It was as if I was back in Grandma’s kitchen, immersed in lemony nirvana.

FICTION / Memory Games / Ethan Leonard

For somebody who’d woken up in a near-stranger’s bed after a night of drinking, Vahid had surprising enthusiasm for the unexpected, grotesque task. Hunched half-naked over a realistic-looking corpse, its steel frame and latex skin shuddering against his ankles, he clicked at the teeth with his thumbs the way most handle routine texting. In less than one minute, he had five teeth in the correct order. 

FICTION / Cracked / Richard Leise

Home, the front door locked, Justin gnaws on a carrot. He hides the girls’ Easter baskets. Justin places eggs inside every room—several contain clues as to the baskets’ whereabouts—before, out back, double-checking to make sure the privacy fence is locked, he arranges the rest, tossing the carrot near the gate. All is still and good. Tomorrow will largely be terrible, but the morning will be fun.  

FICTION / Redwood / Joseph Thwaites

As he stared out the window absent-mindedly taking in the scene, a single red balloon rose and ascended out of view. Then, a few seconds later, several more passed, this time of yellow, blue, and green. Robert stood, but his movement was interpreted as an effort to leave, and as he rose, so too did several of his family members, ready to amicably prolong his departure. He made a move for the window, but his mother was quick to obstruct the path. 

FICTION / CPA of the Sith / Mike Sweeney

It was a free trial of Star Wars Galaxies. He should’ve just waited till he got home. Instead he logged on to an external server from inside the Department of Justice and spent two hours roaming the Dantooine countryside as “Darth Laser.” It was the name Mark used when he played Star Wars as a kid and now it was going to be officially entered into his record.