Fiction refers to literature created from the imagination. Traditionally, that includes novels, short stories, fables, myths, legends, fairy tales, plays, etc. The ever-widening scope of fiction in today's world may include comic books, cartoons, anime, video games, radio and television shows, it could be genre fiction, literary fiction or realism. But regardless of its form of conveyance, fiction is a device that immerses us in experiences that we may not otherwise discover; takes us places we may never go, introduces us to people we may never have met. It can be inspiring, captivating, and even frightening. In the end, it exposes us to a life not our own. It can help us to see ourselves and our world in a new light.
We invite you to join us as we embark on a journey of fiction created by these talented authors. We applaud all of our contributors and encourage everyone to continue to follow their artistic and literary dreams. For those whose works we’ve selected, we hope this is just the beginning of an illustrious career in the arts.
by Paul K. McWilliams
“We love those who know the worst of us and don’t turn their faces away.”
Mike Hanlon, an old childhood friend of mine, had cultivated the pot, not for kicks or profit, but expressly for relief. He was a poor and suffering soul growing a simple weed, an illegal weed that, when smoked, mercifully spared him the fantastic headaches and the terror of epileptic seizures. Light leaking around the clock from the two cloaked windows of the spare bedroom of his rented home is what likely brought the cops. The bust ushered a cascade of compounding misfortune upon Mike, leaving him broke, homeless, and alone.
Michael and I first became friends when we were eight years old. Our families had summer shacks at Minot Beach, then a minor but no less beautiful summer retreat and resort about twenty miles southeast of Boston. Michael was one of six children, third from the oldest. He had three brothers, one older and two younger, and two sisters, one older and one younger. I remember Michael then as always smiling and laughing, all boy with a real talent for harmless mischief. He was smart, witty, and a genuine joy to be around. I can still see him swimming like an otter, playful and at ease at any depth. I’d watch and marvel at his swimming prowess. It took till I was nearly a teen before I’d swim in water over my head.
By the latter part of...
by Maggie Mevel
Morgan smiled at the barista taking her cappuccino order. The coffee a small indulgence to celebrate a fantastic day. Two job offers. The gods were smiling on her, finally. She set her purse on the counter, and a rack of keychains beside the cash register tinkled at the movement. The glossy black of the eight-ball keychain caught her eye. She recalled a bratty cousin at a family reunion, sticking a full-sized one in her face telling her to ask it questions. He’d chased her around until she’d relented, then laughed and teased her for the rest of the afternoon.
She ran a finger over the smooth surface, and goosebumps spilled up her arm.
“That will be $4.50 for the coffee.” The barista interrupted her thoughts.
Morgan grabbed the eight ball. “Let’s add that.”
She wandered down the street, sipping the creamy treat and spinning the eight ball on her finger, pondering the pros and cons of her job options. A car horn honked, and she glanced up to see the front of the local lottery shop.
“I wonder.” She grinned and shook the eight ball.
Morgan scoffed but crossed the street, entered the shop and purchased a $2 instant win ticket. She used her thumbnail to scratch off the card, tiny curls of dark grey falling on the countertop. $50 winner.
She laughed at the coincidence, retrieved her surprise winnings, and resumed her walk home, twirling the keychain with job selection on her mind.
The VP of...
by Paul K. McWilliams
He recalls an old mill pond. He sees with ease the boy he was, a child smoking while watching the small red and white bobber he has cast out to the edge of the lily pads, hoping mostly for a bass or a pickerel while expecting a perch, or more likely still, a sunfish.
The pond, a favored place to fish as well as play hockey in winter, remains vivid to the man, grown from the boy. The boy absorbed and retained the details of the place, while now, the reflecting man wonders and yearns: had life been still enough, had there been more time, had there been room for more than one damn thing after another? Had there been time, then perhaps stories would have been told to the boy about the old mill pond and so much more.
The man sees it all again, the pond as well as the hell-bent rush of life. He sees anew the granite boulders, big as cars that shoulder up, hump-like, here and there around the old mill pond. He sees a wall of cut granite that fronts the coming water, high enough to have once powered a grist mill upstream and a sawmill downstream. On the upper east bank of the pond he can still see, in his mind’s eye, a large home and an even larger barn. They are both so utterly well crafted, so absolutely beautiful, they lasted long after the milling, long after the lumbering, ...
by Paul K. McWilliams
Jim Keohane drops his razor into the basin of hot soapy water as his body slumps suddenly with the news coming over the radio. Bobby Kennedy was fatally shot at the Ambassador Hotel just after midnight in Los Angeles, just after 3 AM, Eastern Standard Time. Alone, no one hears as Jim begins with a moan and ends with a howl, “Jesus Christ, not again.” It’s the first week of June and it promises to be better than 90 degrees in Boston today. It’ll be a little cooler amid the summer shacks of Minot Beach where Jim is living alone, separate from his wife and seven daughters.
Jim Keohane raises his head back atop his shoulders, arms braced straight, hands gripping the small, suspended basin, and in the mirror he can see old man Slater, rod in hand, off to fish the coming tide. That quick, Jim towels the shaving soap from his face and calls from the window, “Ray, have you heard?”
Old man Slater gives a silent slouch and a nod. He’s heard. “Jimmy, I got grub enough for two. Let’s hike on up to the hunting grounds. Bound to be returning Stripers.”
“Give me two secs, Ray, I’ll be right with you.” Jim jumps into his stained fishing pants, a plain white tee shirt, and slips on his old top-sider sneakers. All motion, he grabs two beers from the fridge, his smokes from the table, then snatches up his ever-ready fishing gear, heads out...
by Brigitte Whiting
Annie had dreamed of her wedding day since she was six years old and received a bride doll. She'd even planned and revised how the day would unfold a hundred times. Her mother had read the notes and lamented how she didn't remember her own wedding. Annie vowed she'd never repeat that mistake. Then, when her mother died while she was a teenager, she became even more detailed with her plans. The day needed to be perfect.
She stood now, dressed in the white lacy gown she'd designed and sewn herself, and waiting with her father behind the closed doors to enter the church, afraid she'd forgotten something.
"You've got five minutes," Dad whispered. "In case you change your mind."
She shook her head. She'd never do that. She pictured walking down the aisle, all eyes on her, and tripping because she was so clumsy. "One second." She released his arm, and dashed back to the dressing room, slipped out of her tight pink silk sandals, and pulled on scuffed running shoes. No one would see them.
"Ready?" Dad asked.
"One second." She opened a door just a pinch. Sigurd, her groom-to-be, the most surprising man she'd ever met, stood holding the reins of a great white steed, a silver and gold coat of arms embroidered on the black blanket draped over its back. No, no, no, he couldn't have taken her literally when she'd mentioned wanting to leave her wedding in a glistening coach that would carry...
by Dub Wright
Oily rags covered her toes and loose leather straps ran around her heels. A hint of blood seemed to darken each step she took through the falling Thanksgiving snow.
“Hav ye ah pence, kind sir?”
A single coin flew through the cold air, and a rag-covered hand suddenly fetched it from the mist. Not far from where she stood a streetlight was illumined by the flame of a streetlamp lighter.
“Beg yer pardon, mum,” a tiny voice cried beneath her. “Hav ye a penny for me sister and me soup this day?”
Hilda found the single penny in the bottom of her ragged bag. “Here, lad,” she said, “Feed ye sister.”
BIO: Dub Wright is a North Carolina novelist and short story writer. He has authored over fifty works of fiction and has contributed to regional journals and publications. He is a graduate of William Jewell College and Southern Polytechnic University. Dub previously worked in the communications industry. You can find him on Amazon.
by Peter Mancusi
Skippy Graycoat woke up early to the chirping of birds. It had been a long night for the young squirrel. He spent hours fixing up his new apartment, a fancy little hollow inside of an old, maple tree, and he was happy to finally have some privacy. No more annoying parents to lecture him about survival in the forest. He stretched out his arms and legs, then peeked his head outside for a breath of fresh, autumn air.
“Well, time for breakfast,” he mumbled to himself. He noticed all the other residents of the Maple Grove Complex gathering acorns and getting ready for winter. “Bunch of fools,” he went on, “working so hard when they don’t have to.” He chuckled then ran towards the bottom of the tree. When he reached the ground, he headed straight to his secret food spot: a large, white house at the edge of the forest.
You see, even though Skippy’s parents warned him not to rely on humans for food, he always ignored them. When they showed him and his siblings how to gather and store acorns, he never paid attention. In his mind, he’d always have his secret food spot to count on, but on that particular morning, he was in for a rude awakening…
“What the heck!” he shouted when he climbed the fence and noticed all the bird feeders in the backyard of the house were gone. Even the bowls...
by Brigitte Whiting
Clara Beth didn't remember that she'd promised to fill the cast iron bean pot for the Smithville Annual Bean Hole Bean Pot supper until late Friday afternoon when she received the call that the bean hole was prepared, the embers hot and ready. "Almost ready," she lied. What else could she do. Losing face would have the townspeople ribbing her about her memory for as long as she lived.
She'd do what she'd done last year and the year before.
"Stanley," she called into the house. No answer. He was probably in his workshop. She walked down the stairs to the garage. "Stanley."
"What's the hurry?" He'd stepped out of the shop so quickly he still held a Philips screwdriver in his gloved hands.
"Run to the store and buy canned pork and beans."
"Next year, I promise."
One thing about Stanley, he was a good sport, and in ten minutes, he'd gotten his wallet, put on his old camouflage jacket and hat, and backed their Jeep Waggoner out the garage and down the driveway.
She stood watching him go and he was down the street and around the block before she thought to tell him how many cans, and more importantly, what brands to get. Well, all she could do was get started with peeling and slicing onions, and dicing and frying bacon.
She fielded three phone calls from the fire pit crew asking her how much longer, found the cast iron pot tucked on a...
by Lisa Benwitz
“Don’t be ridiculous,” Angelina scoffed at Sam, her husband of sixty years. “You’re not leaving. You won’t last a day without me.”
“I can’t deal with you anymore,” he said as he walked out the door. As if she’d been the one to disappoint, to betray.
Angelina’s sagging flesh dimpled with shivers as she followed Sam into the icy morning in nothing more than her Laura Ashley slippers and flowered housecoat. She winced as it took him three tries to heft their ancient Samsonite onto their brand-spanking-new 2000 Buick’s maroon leather seat.
She bore silent, frozen witness as he slid into the driver’s seat and fiddled with the mirrors, which always drove her crazy. She hadn’t driven since the ‘70s, leaving Sam the sole driver of the car. How much adjusting could the damn mirrors possibly need? She waited for him to glance her way; but, as usual, he focused so firmly on his own agenda that he never looked up to see what was right in front of him.
As the car’s wheels squelched down the slushy driveway, a surge of panic broiled in Angelina’s guts. Run after him, her instincts screamed. Beg him to stay. As her instincts had never done her a lick of good, she ignored them.
A sudden swirl of wind buffeted the hem of her housecoat, chilling her in places she’d never felt cold before. The shock of it jolted Angelina to her senses. Here she stood practically naked, and...
by Nitin Mishra
The old grand piano sat in lonely corner of the room. Dust covered the piano body, and insects crept in through the keys. For the house’s inhabitants, the grand piano was merely a dead wooden sound-making device mechanically operated. No one ever tried to infuse life into the piano by at least hitting keys intentionally. It stood at that same corner for years and years, just like an item of broken old furniture, completely discarded and forgotten.
Many times, the owners tried getting rid of the piano. They even established contact with the local piano storekeepers, asking them to purchase the piano at a price the piano store could never find a customer to pay. But they still insisted on selling the piano, claiming it was the most elegant piano in the entire world with a superb tone, texture, and quality. The owners contacted many such piano movers and piano stores who might buy the piano at the price they asked for. But unfortunately, no one accepted the offer.
“Those cheap bastards…,” was the simple comment of the piano owners.
A middle-aged man of around forty-four worked as a butler to the couples who owned the house. Although he was hired as a butler, later his duties expanded far and wide-ranging to include a gardener, janitor, and even massage guy. He needed money so he could never resist whatever the couple demanded. His name was Frank, and he had a son. His wife, whom he’s adored much, was...
by Kim Bundy
Jake dropped the baby off at daycare early that morning and replaced three water heaters by lunch. There were two HVAC systems left to service, so he wolfed down a sandwich as he drove between jobs. When he got back to the shop that afternoon, his boss called him into his office.
“Take a seat. “ The fluorescent ceiling lights made everything in the room a weird shade of green. Mr. Huffman closed the door and dropped into a rolling black leather chair behind his desk that had nothing on it except a paper calendar. He bent over the calendar, fiddled with the chewed tip of a ballpoint pen, and cleared his throat.
“Jake, we’re going have to let you go. I hate this, because you do good work, but when the paper mill shut down, we lost lots of business.”
Jake’s face burned, so he looked down at the empty lunch pail still in his hands. His fingernails were caked with black dirt he had scraped off one of the HVAC units that afternoon. A clock on the paneled wall ticked loudly.
“Mr. Huffman, I really need this job.” He glanced up at his boss, who was looking at the pen. This was shameful stuff, a man losing a job, and they both knew it.
“I know. But you’ll find something, you’ll do the right thing for Ashley and the baby.”
His throat thick, Jake walked out of the office...
by Paul K. McWilliams
It’s my boat yard, and I don’t much care for the look of her. It’s a point of pride. You should be able to take a level to a boat up on lumber. Every day with her list, she stares me down. She looks guilty and sad with such a lean. Been so since December, ever since her skipper, Dan Parker, perished and her mate, Tommy O, turned to drinking. She’ll keep after me till things are right, till she’s afloat and put to fishing again. She’ll not wither into a heap. But, hell, it’s not my place to get the kid out of the gin-mills.
Best anyone can figure, a swell pitched Dan from the stern when he was bent over the side cutting fouled gear, figuring then that his “Ely Kay” gave him a fatal knock as she bobbed dumb. Tommy O was in the engine space warming himself. Sometime after, Tommy came out and found no one, only Dan’s knife plunged into the stern board. So, it is now, and there’s been enough sadness. It’s time to do as the “Ely Kay” has long pleaded.
Happy hour comes early in the joints favored by the fisherman. It’s not much past noon and the Satuit Grill is jammed with a boisterous lot. As I bump my way to the bar, I can see Tommy O, his hat askew, jostled, spilling his whiskey. Despite the crowd, he’s alone. I place both my hands on his drinking arm...
by Cyril Dabydeen
Creating an imaginary garden
with real toads in it.
Frogs circle the yellow-and-black snake in the trout stream by instinct, no less. Mr. Yorick, tall, but roundish, the owner of the fish farm, watches us here in Dwyer Hill in the Ottawa Valley. Sure, he wants to sell his farm, the whole “damn operation”, for two million dollars!
Could we be buyers? "No one really knows how many fish I have here. The Income Tax people can never tell, dammit!” A bloated expression rivets his face. “We’re just...visitors,” I say in reply.
“From America...real visitors?”
I cast a sideways glance across the stretch of farm, but the frogs and the snake in the stream preoccupy us, not how many rainbow trout the kids will catch. And oh, the headline blaring out: Attack of the Bullfrogs! Imagine frogs in all of eastern Ontario charging into the goldenrods across swampy ground. Earlier I overheard a man bemoaning that all the critters are now coming out on the road. A sick face he made. Turtles, blue heron, beavers, grasshoppers, rabbits, a fox–all coming out. Christ! Mr. Yorick with a malign glare again asks where I’ve come from. Not where we’re heading, see.
Tell him about frogs going berserk, and the landscape’s now changing due to climate change. Really that?
The kids laugh.
by Paul K. McWilliams
He hurts, body, mind, and soul. Death has made its introduction and he has given it a knowing nod. At this moment he’s in a hospice unit. The head of his bed is elevated and he’s in the consoling company of his dog, Emerson. The dog proved quickly to be polite and calm company, such that a special grant was extended, allowing the man’s precious pet to see him through. Like many such creatures, Emerson is, and has long been, a consistent and intuitive conduit of unreserved love for which the man has been ever grateful. Emerson is an all-black, curly-haired, miniature labradoodle and he knows of no other means than that of love and affection. These co-joined souls, this man and dog, they have been daily companions for better than ten years.
Presently, the man’s right hand is giving absent-minded caress to Emerson. The man is gazing out the light-filled window, looking upon a resplendent maple tree in its autumn glory. After a deep breath followed by a sincere sigh, the man reports to his now alert dog these whispered words, “The only way to have a friend is to be one. Ralph Waldo may have said it, but you, you my dear little Emerson, you live it.” It’s obvious to the man, it’s apparent in his dog’s extra careful manner; he can see the dog knows; he can see his loving friend senses both life and death are at hand.
The man now settles his head...
by Paul K. McWilliams
To all, excepting only Annie, Charles W. Durgin fell while fishing and drowned. It has been nearly ten years since she struck him with his own club, the club he affectionately called “the priest.” Nightmares still waken her upright and screaming. Not the stifled screams into his calloused hands reeking of fish. Rather, it is Annie exclaiming in retort, “But he was raping me.”
Was it murder, manslaughter, self-defense, negligence, or perhaps merely an accident? Within the mind of Annie Brown, it was all of these. Annie has long since settled much of her conscience by her knowing that Charlie Durgin lost his life because he was drunk, careless, and savage. This knowing is how Annie has kept the killing down deep enough to cope, day by day, with her once and sudden act.
Long ago, this brutal event drove Annie from her most cherished place, Strawberry Point. Despite the savagery that occurred, her beloved sanctuary still beckons her. Strawberry Point is a brief, pristine peninsula extending northeasterly from Minot Beach, Massachusetts. Woodlands of oak and cedar skirt saltmarsh and tidal creeks along its west side, while monumental granite cliffs plunge into cold and moody depths along the east. Going there had once been a frequent kindness she did for herself.
Now, compelled and seeking restoration, Annie has returned to Strawberry Point. As she stands staring at the very spot where she left him unconscious for time and tide, she recalls what she once so often...
by Nitin Mishra
It may have been the sultriest day of the decade, who knows, maybe two or even three decades and the excessive humidity had invited swarms of insects. In such a sweltering afternoon people were destined to stay indoors, and if anyone ventured out, the insects would certainly torment them. It was truly a suffocating afternoon and seemed so heavy. The only sign of life was the constant, relentless grumbling of a young man.
“Let me out…. Let me out,” he demanded in his cry-like tone and kept banging on the door that stood like an iron gate between him and the outside world. A pause for some minutes and then again the same banging with the same rhythm would persist and linger. It was very irritating to listen and re-listen to the same banging noise.
“For God's sake get me out of this damn hole…I will die here, or I will shoot myself,” the prisoner shouted at the top of his lungs, as if he owned a gun capable of killing a human. The constant repetition of the same cry reverberated again and again throughout the vicinity. But it seemed, no one cared to care and observe the man in such distress and panic. Why would anyone care when everyone and everything was enduring such an abominable heat, everyone was trying to find their rescue, but the torrid heat kept pouring on them incessantly. Anyway, they all knew who was making the noise and why he...
by Mick Clark
I was amazed by how many people were stuffed inside my uncle Henry’s corpse.
My aunt clung to me for the first time in her life, bird-bone brittle and ashen pale, while the mourners breathed crowds of ghosts into the icy morning air.
The coffin swayed on eight unsteady legs, like Sleipnir as a newborn foal. Instead of the usual six pallbearers, four sufficed, for in life my uncle was not the tallest of men and was never overweight.
My aunt, noticing that one of the pallbearer’s shoelaces had come undone, nodded to draw my attention to it and we laughed freakishly at the slapstick possibilities. A few mourners turned to finger-wag the outburst, but looked away thistle-faced when they saw the offenders.
The pallbearers paused at the church doors, waiting for God to let us in. When the doors finally swung open, The Lord provided the frozen congregation with some limp candlelight and gas heaters set on low.
The procession slithered inside like a drunken snake. Organ music wheezed. The vicar slapped cold crematorium ash from his cassock as we followed him and the coffin down the weary stone aisle. The light through the stained glass windows made my aunt’s face look cracked.
My mother, already up front, mantra-mouthed the eulogy I’d helped her write. She’d hated her husband’s brother for most of her life, but when my aunt refused to listen to his cancer talk, he’d turned to her and...
by Donna Abraham Tijo
When Coronavirus Comes Calling
A five-year-old declares, 'I wish to always have my favourite pancake in my world.'
An E-mail of Hope
He sent the e-mail to the school reserving seats for his daughter for the fall session. It’s in the new city they are relocating to. On the checklist, he ticks off School. House on Rent and Work Permit had been marked complete two weeks ago.
On the laptop screen, the ticker of the News channel scrolls, screaming in capital letters, ‘RESTRICTIONS ON INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL. COUNTRY IN LOCKDOWN.’
A minister in Germany commits suicide.
A prime minister apologizes. A genocide had gone amok under his leadership once and yet he rose oblivious to regret. I write and rewrite the previous sentence because I desperately want to blame the abstract noun, genocide. Why is it an abstract noun, anyway, when there are tangible bodies that give it a name? And what about a pogrom? The homeless from which can be touched and tossed with bamboo canes in shelters and hospitals to this day. Aren’t those the qualities of a concrete noun?
Well, the premier had expressed no guilt for turning away towards another spotlight then. And now, a virus has taken both over.
Suddenly, I think about the minister in Germany who felt deeply worried about his country before his final step and then I feel the severity of what we have in our hands, the virus obviously.
by Enza Vynn-Cara
Burnt toast, avocado, honey, two poached eggs laced with turmeric and garlic, and a new vitamin concoction that makes my stomach churn, and still, I guzzle half of it down with gusto, as if it’s our first Godfather Cocktail at Carlo’s Bar.
Why, you ask?
Because one should keep a woman happy if she did her damnedest to keep you happy the night before, that’s why. But for the Harley-Davidson Fat Bob, I don’t regret what I had to give up to have her to myself. Ten straight-arrow years on my part, and were it not for her insistence on feeding me this anti-COVID breakfast, she has made each year as palatable as a Route 66 Arizona ride-through (still on my bucket list) or the Tail of the Dragon at Deals Gap (done that right out of college, on Dad’s old Harley XLX).
I bite off a chunk of the burnt toast and gulp down the last of the concoction. It tastes like prune juice sprinkled with coconut flakes.
“New blend?” I ask, glancing at the hourglass squeeze above her hip.
The sultry way she looks at me from beneath the self-inflicted jagged bangs makes me want to say the hell with everything; let’s extend our virtual stay, a reward for all the extra hours I put in at work.
I was in for a bonus and a big one at that. But now all is in limbo, except paying...
by Brigitte Whiting
Madeleine saw the visitor in her Sunday school class, a man her age, maybe fortyish —she considered herself a youthful fifty —with a deep dimple in the middle of his chin. He wore no wedding ring. He introduced himself as having just moved to Cannington, and was the new supervisor at Central Mill. Good, she thought, a man with a job and single.
However, she was not one to push herself forward, so she hovered near him overhearing his conversations. He wore blue jeans, boots,and a blue-and-green checkered flannel shirt, and laughed a lot, at ease in his own skin.
"Next week, afterwards..." She was suddenly flustered, then coughed. "We have a monthly potluck lunch. For fellowship." She waved her hands too much and thrust them to her side.
"I think I can do that. Thanks for telling me," he said, then walked away, and she watched his casual and half-rushed gait toward his car.
She could not see what he drove but that was none of her business. All week she could not forget him and it occurred to her that she didn't know his name. Next Sunday, she'd ask him directly.
Saturday, she pondered which cake to buy at the supermarket bakery, but in the end, she bought what she always did—the Coconut Cake with lemon filling.
She slept well, dreaming of happily-ever-afters. In the morning, she tried on seven different outfits before she decided on a crisp navy suit and...
by Brigitte Whiting
First, there was dust everywhere, but now, far worse, there were chickens everywhere. They were pecking through the yard, leaving puffs of dust. They were roosting in the pine trees. And they clucked from morning to night. The five roosters vied for which was loudest and shrillest. Amanda had tried at first to catch a few to give them to the neighbors. She'd collected eggs from the oddest places, under the porch, alongside the flower planters, on the welcome mat under the front door—she'd stepped on those at first. She had dozens of eggs in the refrigerator. After the first week, her neighbors no longer accepted them. And still the eggs came and she was sure more chickens were hatching daily.
The chickens had chased her into her house. She watched them through the window and then dropped the curtain. There had to be a way of getting rid of them. Except. She stopped in mid-step. What would happen if she stopped chasing them? What if she left the eggs where they were? Ignored the lot of them.
She heard faint scratching at the front door and peered through the peephole. No one. She was hearing things. "Pull yourself together," she said out loud. Then there was tapping, louder and more insistent. She covered her ears. The windows rattled. The cup and saucer she'd set on the coffee table slid off with a crash and shattered into pieces. The chickens would destroy her house. There had to be...
by Joe Cappello
I buried him in the backyard one night after a rainstorm. The soil I removed from the hole was thick and sticky and clung stubbornly to the surface of my shovel.
I connected the hose to the backyard spigot and used it to clean off the shovel. Then I took a bar of soap I brought with me and washed my hands and arms up to my elbows. It was close to midnight and I knew I should go to bed. But I thought I owed him a memorial of sorts. Where to start?
The scrapbook. I often saw him leafing through it. I knew where he kept it even though he usually waited until I was out of the room before retrieving it. I turned to the first page. It was blank.
All of the pages were blank.
I fanned the pages several times, but couldn’t find a single photograph.
The diary. I remembered he kept it in the top drawer of the buffet under the stack of fancy china dishes I had inherited from my mother.
Empty. Every page, blank. I could see him in this very spot, pretending to read from those blank pages.
There was one story he repeated several times. Desiree. Desiree, he would say, his eyes staring straight ahead at the sound of her name. She would come to him in his dreams, said this boy whose mind was flush with imagination and discovery.
“Tell me a story,” she would coo. ...
by Joe Cappello
The young lady entered the laboratory with her eyes cast down reverently, as though entering a church. When she reached the gurney, she pulled a chair close to it and placed the things she was carrying on a nearby table. She removed the sheet covering the body and began washing the dirt from the face and hands.
“Good evening, Mr. Doe,” she said cheerfully, shaking her blond curls from her face.
“Today was my first day at the Chicago World’s Fair. It is the biggest event of 1893." She laughed. "You should have seen the big dome in the Administration building…I almost fell over looking up at it,”
She reached over and gently closed the eyes with her thumb and index finger. She asked God to bless the bottle of nard oil in her hands. She put some on her right thumb and anointed Mr. Doe’s forehead, lips and breast. She then placed some on the tips of her fingers and rubbed oil on the hands and feet.
“I celebrate the goodness of your life, Mr. Doe, and pray you find peace.”
She then folded her hands and sat silently watching over the body as a sign of respect, or, as her grandmother would say, “to keep away the evil spirits.”
Mary Ballard had been tending to these bodies since her employer, Dr. Randall Holmes, asked her to unlock the laboratory after hours to allow personnel to collect the cadavers.
“Medical schools are in desperate need of bodies...
by Joe Cappello
I am in a meeting at our England location in a typical rectangular conference room walled off from the real world of work taking place outside. Suddenly, I am a spirit floating above my colleagues, as though I had died only seconds earlier and am waiting to be transported to my final destination. Or, is my mind merely wandering, or are my eyes vacant like when you talk to someone and he isn’t listening? I suppose it is the latter, as my German colleague, Martin, asks me a question that snaps me back to the pretend reality of the conference room, coffee and laptop in front of me, my stomach sour from the traditional English breakfast I consumed earlier.
How do customer service people handle pricing? he wants to know. But I am suddenly seized by a déjà vu moment. I heard a question like this many times before during my thirty-year tenure with the company, perhaps spoken in a different tone, or phrased differently. I respond as if playing a recording made many years ago and filed in my brain under “C” for “Canned Answers.” I press my mental button and the answer plays automatically. I might as well not be there.
If you do it that way, you are leaving money on the table, Martin says, his face coming as close to a smile as I have ever seen on him. The two English guys on my right sit quietly not willing to get involved in...
by Chel Talleyrand
We were isolated that summer from the rest of the world. The excessive rains had pounded the fields into mosquito-infested pools, destroying our harvests of corn and beans. We heard it was worse in the cities. As food supplies depleted, guns decided distribution. Friends and families banded together to determine who would acquire the opportunity to live.
I knelt to the ground and plucked the dandelion plant from the row of broccoli that I had planted in our neighborhood garden. A year ago, I would have considered it to be a weed and thrown it in the trash to be taken to a landfill far away by men who I did not know – and would make no effort to know. Today, I am grateful for the power of these strong survivors who now nourish me and my family.
Although I suspected something was happening, I did not prepare. I did not know how to compensate for the beliefs of my neighbors and friends. The President was such an entertaining man. He made us feel that we were important, that our suffering would no longer go unnoticed, that it was okay to feel we deserved better. And so, when we heard news of things that made us uncomfortable, we accepted whatever explanation he delivered that allowed us to continue our faith – and hope.
The tanks and soldiers have not yet arrived. I will harvest what I can. But I do not prepare for tomorrow. I leave tonight. ...
by Chel Talleyrand
As a little girl, I had this recurring dream that would cause me to wake up in a cold sweat. A grand celebration was going on in a great hall, where my mother and father sat on gold thrones at the end of the room overseeing their subjects having a good time. In the middle of the room a spiral staircase turned, much like a carousel, bringing up from below fine food and drink, as well as other items to treasure that made the people squeal with delight. All needs were met in the great hall. No one went wanting.
“Where do all these presents come from?” I ask my parents. They smile and ignore me.
“Where do all these fine things come from?” I keep asking. They frown.
“Just be grateful for what we have,” they finally respond in displeasure. “Now, go enjoy yourself.” My mother points to the spiral staircase and says, “There, I see that pair of skates you wanted so much. Go quickly, grab them before someone else does.”
I move towards the spinning staircase. The laughter and joy of my country’s men and women pound at my spirit. When I get to the conveyor of treasure, I realize the skates are on the other side and decide to wait for them to rotate around. I notice a large ring on the floor by my foot, the kind that you pull on to open a trap door. I stoop down, grab the ring and...