The Last of the Sea by John Gerard Fagan

Taro awoke with watering eyes from a shallow sleep. Another dream of being back in his childhood village. Running over grass towards the old temple with his brothers. The scent of spring in the wind as it blew through pink flowers. Everyone smiling. Fresh takoyaki and cherry ice wafting from food stalls. A dangerous dream to have floating over dark water. Images could drive a man crazy while he breathed stale cabin air and had salt permanently etched in the folds of his skin.

He’d lost count of the days. The Antarctic waters were unforgiving, but he finally had enough money to get back home. That’s all that mattered. He’d been gon—

It took a few heartbeats to process Kazuki standing over him. The grip on his hair brought things to clarity as his head smacked off the wall.

“I won’t tell you again. Get up! Have you no idea what’s going on?” Kazuki screamed. Had never seen such panic in the old man’s face before.

The boat jerked and Taro was thrown out of the bunk. He pulled on boots and rushed up the stairs. Rain pelted the deck. The boat was leaning, fast taking in water. The waves were choppy with every third pouring over. The sky thick with black clouds.

“What happened? Where’s the captain?”

“I don’t know. He and the life boat are both missing. Get over there and help Jiro,” Kazuki said.

Jiro was frantic and trying to get the nets back on board. Taro held the edge and pulled towards the starboard side. Kazuki was shouting on the phone in the pit. He was slapping himself and kicking the steering wheel.

“What do you mean? Do you not understand our situation? Hello? Answer me. Answer me!”

“Taro get me a knife from the kitchen,” Jiro shouted. “We need to cut the nets.”

Taro nodded. The boat slammed against the waves. Before falling down the stairs he saw Jiro flying overboard.

Taro held onto the bunk as the boat swayed and water rushed into the room. He managed to kick the door closed. A noise like breaking metal echoed and he was thrown against the wall. He struggled into the bunk and held on as tight as those hands would grip.

The feeling of being dragged. The boat was already well under and headed for the deep before he realised he should have gotten out of that room. He scrambled to the door and peered out the circular window, seeing only darkness. He climbed to the top bunk and kneeled. Water leaked in from the joints in the door.

It was quiet. Then there was a dull thud. The sinking stopped. Three quarters of the room had filled with water, levelling just under the mattress. Didn’t know how long the air would last. A red cigarette box and its contents floated on the water. A picture of Kazuki’s granddaughter. That was all.

“Kazuki?” he whispered. The light flickered. Panic churned inside. Breaths became much deeper. “Kazuki? Jiro? Anybody?”

No answer.

The rescue party would be there soon. Kazuki told their co-ordinates. The captain might even have been going for help. Had to just stay calm and wait. He curled into a ball and pulled a damp blanket to his chest. Exhaustion swallowed him.

Taro opened one eye. Hands numb, pins and needles crawling in his legs. The water level had risen and the walls were groaning. He took both hands out the water and rubbed them. Teeth chattered. The bulb flickered. After three breaths it went out.

He held knees in the darkness. Even if they knew where the boat was, why would they rush down there? He was dead; that’s what they’d all think. It would be weeks, if ever, before they’d try and salvage the boat.

No one was coming to save him.

No one.

Only death.

He clenched his jaw and dropped into the cold water, gasping. He wasn’t waiting to die in there. He took a series of deep breaths and paused. Silent. And smashed his elbow into the center of the glass. The glass shattered and water rushed inside. He pulled himself through the window and swam through the darkness.

Taro ran over the grass towards the old temple with his brothers. The scent of spring in the wind as it blew through pink flowers. Everyone smiling. He was home.

 


 

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John Gerard Fagan is a writer from Scotland. He teaches writing classes at Meikai University in Japan, and has published short stories in venues ranging from Black Static to The Grind. He writes Scottish fiction at https://goosegog5.wordpress.com and tweets @JohnGerardFagan.

Esta es la Linea Azul by Becca Borawski Jenkins

The meth-heads and heroin addicts get on the bus and off the bus every day like I do. The city-employed men in yellow vests harass them. Not because they’re meth-heads, but because none of us can figure out how to pay to ride the MAX. To pay the ticket machines. The silent judges of whether we get to progress. They take your money and don’t print. They don’t take your money and don’t print. The button is stuck. And that button, too. It won’t scan your credit card. It rejects your cash. It rejects you. The screens don’t even light. It won’t be forced to acknowledge you. Especially in the pouring rain, the kind that flies sideways and the architectural wonder, the design student’s wet dream—those damn hipsters that ride their bikes around downtown with their coffee-cup holders and ridiculous jeans and a guilty mother’s money on every single First Thursday—of a public transportation stop that can’t help you stay dry. Try the next machine and the next. You should have gotten off at the subsequent stop and paid when the previous one didn’t work, says the yellow-vested I’m-more-employed-than-you man. He’s got health insurance that isn’t even on the exchange. Go wait in line behind all the folks who’ve already done their business at the methadone clinic and act like you don’t know that’s what’s happening, he says. He didn’t say it, but let’s not pretend. We all know. One day I went into work late and everyone on the train had armbands, had medical tape around their forearms. How strange, I thought. Then I realized they’d all donated. The plasma joint is one block up, the methadone clinic is right next to the train station. They donate, they re-up, and they ride with their new cash and their new high and I’m old news just going to work to sit at a desk, or if I’m lucky I get to stand, and earn what I earn to pay for my dinner, my rent, and my clothes, and maybe one night of over-priced vintage cocktail happy hours with day-old oyster shooters per week even thought the coast just isn’t that far away. Let’s not even talk about insurance. The other riders know I don’t belong because I don’t wear the armband. They’ve got tokens for free food and the lady next to me wears a lanyard that I know means she never pays to ride this thing, or the bus, or the streetcar, too. Maybe even the cab. The news says there’s an underground token market. You can get sixty cents cash for every dollar of tokens. Buy all the drugs you want. The meth-heads hang out near the newly remodeled yet authentically retro Voodoo Donut—the one in the Northwest, not the one in the Northeast, I know we’re riding from Gresham, but please—and you can barely tell the drugged-out zombies from the art students and viticulturists. I know the lady with the lanyard has got it worse than me but sometimes it still makes me angry when I sit at my desk and wonder what it feels like, what’s so worth riding all the way across Portland and waiting in line after line, to slug back that little plastic cup.

 


 

beccabjenkins-bioBecca Borawski Jenkins holds an MFA in Cinema-Television Production from USC and has short stories appearing or forthcoming in concis, The Forge, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Jersey Devil Press, Five on the Fifth, Menacing Hedge, and Corium. She and her husband live in a RV they built by hand. They split their time between an off-grid mountain cabin in the Idaho Panhandle and wherever their whims and the winds take them. 

Survey by Mary Lynn Reed

I’m doing a survey of all the ways to screw up a good thing. All the ways to make nothing out of something. All the paths to seek the unobtainable when it sure as hell feels like it ought to be obtainable. It’s an honest way to begin. Get it out on the table up front. So it won’t come as a surprise later when we’re both sitting at the other end of nowhere, trying to figure out how it all unraveled so goddamned fast. When just a few days before the sky had opened wide and blue—in the middle of the darkest night—and the unthinkable began to look like real possibility. When it felt, maybe just for five minutes—but they were a damn fine five minutes—like I might be able to deliver all the things you said you wanted and a good handful of the things you needed but never admitted to anyone—yet they were there, buried somewhere deep inside—and you would never tell me either—there wasn’t time, because I was doing this survey. And I promised it wouldn’t be a burden or take too much of your time. I’m very efficient and respectful and would never push you. Never overstep any bounds. You’ve been a great help and neither one of us should still be thinking about all that untapped potential, about how gentle it was that time, and how hot, or how good it felt to open the door and let someone in. Endings are important, too. Endings tells us who we are and that’s hard to capture in a survey. Hard to explain how nothing and never again and five fine minutes turned out to be quite something after all.

 

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Mary Lynn Reed’s prose has appeared in Mississippi Review, Colorado Review, The MacGuffin, Smokelong Quarterly, FRiGG, Sakura Review, and Whistling Shade, among other places. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Maryland.

Swimming with Dolphins by Spencer Chou

There was this stupid charity event in the town square. Some firemen were walking through the crowd, collecting for one of those ‘make a wish’ children’s charities. They were going to pull a fire engine with a rope. I didn’t give them anything. I hate those things. It’s always swimming with dolphins or going to Disney World. I swam with dolphins once, and I thought it was shit.

It wasn’t a wish being fulfilled. I wasn’t dying or anything. We went to Florida in the summer break when I was twelve. One morning dad drove us all to the coast. Mum said we were going for a day out at the beach, but she was one of the worst liars anybody had ever met. When we got there she turned around in her seat, smiling like an idiot. ‘You two know what we’re doing today?’ she asked. It was supposed to be some big surprise. My little sister Mattie almost broke my eardrums with her screaming when mum told us. She was ecstatic. I didn’t blame her though, because she was just a little kid. She didn’t know any better.

Anyway, we got out of the car and there was this wooden hut nearby and on the side it had this awful painting of a smiling cartoon dolphin with a rainbow above its head. You should have seen it. We went inside and some old man was there. He made my parents sign some forms, probably so we didn’t sue them if we drowned or got bitten or something. Then he got these life jackets out. I told him I didn’t need one, but he said, ‘You don’t wanna drown out there, boy.’ I kept telling him it was too tight, but he kept saying it was fine. I think I’d rather drown than wear one of those again.

Outside, there was this wooden jetty that had two rowboats tied to either side of it. Mum looked like it was the happiest day of her life and she wasn’t even getting in the water. Oh, isn’t this magical?’ she said to dad. He just nodded. I don’t think he cared either. Maybe that’s where I get it from. He didn’t even raise his voice when he caught her with someone else that time. That was the problem with dad. He never cared about anything.

Mattie ran ahead when she saw the dolphins.

Be careful now, you hear?’ the man shouted, but she wasn’t listening. Once she got her mind on something you could never talk her out of it.

She stopped at the end. There must have been five or six dolphins there, jerking around like excited dogs when they know they’re about to go for a walk. The man climbed down into the water, then held his arms out while dad lowered Mattie to him.

I jumped right in. I just felt like doing it. ‘Hey,’ I shouted, ‘what do we do now?’

What do you mean? Enjoy yourself! You’ve got a half hour out here before the next group arrives. Just enjoy yourself.’

I still didn’t get what I was supposed to do. I kept my arm around the steps at the side while the man and Mattie played with those damn dolphins.

Let’s get a nice photo for grandma,’ mum said. How are you supposed to get a nice photo when you’re floating around with a stupid life jacket on and you’ve got these things wriggling all around you, smelling you or whatever, and you don’t even know what you’re supposed to be doing? That picture is still hung up in grandma’s living room. I hate it.

Anyway, some of the women in the crowd in the town square were going on about how damn sexy those firemen were. Whistling and everything. But they’re not like that in real life, are they? When you see them, real ones, I mean, they always look normal, no better than anyone else. Some fat, even. Some the wrong side of fifty.

They picked up this rope that was attached to the front of the fire engine. Nobody really knows how heavy those things are though, do they? And it’s on wheels, so really all you need to do is get it going and then it rolls all by itself for a while, so it’s not that impressive if they’re sharing the weight. But some people in the crowd were gasping like it was the most amazing thing they’d ever seen.

I got really worried all of a sudden. There wasn’t anything separating this thing from the crowd, nothing telling people how far back to stand. They were standing all over the place. Kids running around, everything. There wasn’t anyone in the driver’s seat ready to slam the breaks on if something went wrong. I saw it. They were going to pull it forwards and lose control and the crowd would be dragged underneath it and there would be nothing anyone could do.

I sort of wanted it to happen, the more I thought about it. I wanted everything to go wrong for them so everyone would realise that these guys weren’t so great. But nothing did go wrong in the end. They pulled the fire engine forwards for a bit and people moved out of the way and it rolled to a stop and the crowd started clapping and cheering and then started to put even more money in the bucket. That was it. I didn’t hang around for long.

All I’m saying is, those kids the firemen were collecting for are probably going to end up disappointed with whatever they get. That’s the problem with those things, isn’t it? I know they’re ill and everything, but what do they have to look forward to after they get their wishes? I don’t know. I don’t know what I was expecting. I’d rather have gone swimming with sharks, I think. At least you know where you are with a shark.

 


spencerchou

Spencer Chou is a writer and editor from Nottingham, England. He runs the literary magazine and publisher The Nottingham Review, and has been published in various places. In 2016 he was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award. You can find him on Twitter @spencerchou.

 

Imperfect by Sudha Balagopal

Stout Sister Flavian is at her desk as I enter the classroom. She shoots a glance at my shirt, wrinkles up her nose and barks, “Monica, come here!” My ears heat up; trouble’s brewing. Every head in the classroom turns. My toes curl inside shoes that are one size too large—for growing into, my mother said.

I’m sure Sister doesn’t wrinkle up her nose because of the smell from my shirt; I took it off the clothesline this morning. The nuns at my school are particular about uniforms—white shirts, navy skirts, white socks and black shoes. They are particular about our nails, and our hair. They are particular that notebooks should be covered in brown paper, labels stuck on the top right hand corner with our first names, last names, subject and grade level inscribed in all capitals.

My mother bought my uniforms a year in advance in a larger sizefive shirts, five skirts. She knows the rules and sends me here for education and discipline.

“Was this shirt washed?” Sister asks. I stare at the mole on her round chin. The white hair in the center of it wiggles when she talks. “I said yesterday that shirt is more yellow than white.”

When I tell my mother Sister Flavian says my shirts are more yellow than white, I don’t think she hears me. Mother’s always busy with the babies, or in the kitchen. Everyday, I take the public bus with friends from my neighborhood.

Sister lifts my arms. Sweat stains make semi-circles. I pray someone flings a paper rocket across the room.

“Early hormones,” she says.

I don’t know what she means.

“Yes, it was washed,” I mumble.

I want to tell Sister I don’t wash clothes. I’m nine.

The nun’s thick finger lifts my collar. “Tsk, tsk. Your collar has a ring. Needs scrubbing.”

She turns to one of my classmates.

“Pia, when you go home for lunch, take Monica with you. Get her a clean shirt.”

I want to learn how how to faint.

Perfect Pia is not my friend. This girl wears shiny, polished, black shoes. Blue ribbons thread through her tight braids. Her navy skirt has pleats ironed into sharp creases. She gets the highest grades. Perfect Pia, teacher’s pet, sits behind me in class.

I study the once-white, now gray, socks on my feet. Will Sister ask Pia to give me a pair of socks as well?

Pia doesn’t say a word as we walk to her home. The place is as perfect as she is. The apartment has clean, tiled floors. I’m afraid my shoes will leave dirty marks. Six red cushions sit in a row on a beige couch. A red table cloth drapes the dining table.

Pia asks the maid for a white shirt and one appears, crisp, bright, and ironed. I change in a bathroom with shiny faucets. I abandon my yellow-white shirt by the sink.

The maid places cheese sandwiches, sliced apples and glasses of milk on the table. We eat lunch and walk back to school. I thank Pia but she won’t answer.

The next day, Pia’s shirt goes into the pile of washing and I wear one of my other yellow-white shirts. Sister clenches her teeth.

“Pia, can you take her home again? I will send your mother a note.”

I’ve heard Pia is the only child of busy lawyers. Again, we only see the maid. Again, I thank Pia and she won’t look at me. I change into her white shirt, and leave mine behind. I eat a cheese sandwich, gobble up the sliced apple and drink strawberry-flavored milk.

Sister nods in approval when we get back. Anything less than a brilliant white is imperfect.

Three days later, the nun wrinkles up her nose again. “Why can’t your mother get you new shirts?” she asks.

By now, I’ve learned not to feel bad when Pia whispers to her friends. I imagine row upon row of white shirts and navy skirts hanging in her cupboard. Her mother won’t mind giving me a few. They are rich.

When I take off my tired shirt, I see someone has pinned paper on the back of my shirt. It reads, “Monica is stupid.” I dump my shirt on the floor.

I have three white shirts now. But then, we get a couple of rainy days. Two of Pia’s shirts hang damp on the line and one waits to be washed. I know what to expect from Sister.

We go through the same routine. Sister wrinkles up her nose, shakes her head. Pia makes a face but takes me home.

I try hard to stick to the four white shirts I now possess; Sister leaves me alone.

Until my mother gets the flu. Four days of clothes remain unwashed.

I tell my mother I don’t want to go to school. She tells me if I stay home, I’ll get sick too.

I wear the fifth and last of my old yellow shirts. Will someone stick another note on my back?
Sister gets that glint in her eye. Pia makes a face, again.

After I change, I drop my last yellow shirt in the bathroom sink. In a way, I am relieved. I have five white shirts now, one for each school day.

My mother gets better, washes the mountain of clothes. White shirts shine in the sun. She irons them too, not a crumple in sight.

I come to school, confident. Hoping to receive a smile, I grin at plump Sister. She ignores me,

Instead, she wrinkles her nose at imperfect Pia who wears a yellowing, white shirt.

 


 

Sudha

Sudha Balagopal’s short fiction has appeared in Peacock Journal, Foliate Oak, Superstition Review, and The Tishman Review, among other journals. She is the author of the novel A New Dawn and the two short story collections There are Seven Notes and Missing and Other Stories. More at www.sudhabalagopal.com.

Truth and Rules by Jac Jemc

After Anthony’s comedy show, they waited for the second of two buses they’d take home.

“I didn’t like it when you yelled at that guy.” Becky was not an improviser herself, but she’d seen enough shows to know the rules.

Becky and Anthony had met in the Film, Video, & New Media Department in college, and so Anthony knew the rules for the work she made, too. Because of this, they encouraged each other to speak frankly, but each individually found the experience of stating their criticism of the other’s work uncomfortable. Secretly, they thought they’d prefer to provide each other unwavering support, looking past the inconsistencies and believing in the trajectory of the other’s creative career as a whole, allowing faith to fill in where evaluation currently resided.

Plenty of people have opinions, Becky said to herself, uncertain whether this qualified as an argument for or against.

Becky thought of how she forced herself to bite her tongue when she talked to her mother. Even if her mother contradicted herself, even if she criticized Becky for an action clearly parallel to something her mother herself had done, Becky practiced not reacting. Her mother was not asking for her opinion and she wouldn’t change even if Becky offered it, so she’d begun opting out. She provided a sympathetic ear and little more, and, since then, she and her mother had been getting along much better. Fewer phone calls ended with abrupt dial tones. Syrup-voiced terms of endearment replaced the cool greetings. The calls left her feeling empty, but not angry. She’d convinced herself this was an improvement.

She wanted her relationship with Anthony to be different, though. She wanted a partner with whom she could speak honestly about the things that mattered most. She wanted their ethics to align and so, she supposed, she also wanted the right to get upset when it seemed like they were pursuing different ideals. If his kindness fell prey to ambition, she wanted to call it out. If he noticed her valuing abstract notions of safety over real life economics, she was willing to discuss it. She had no interest in loving someone who was not willing to hash out such important and complex systems of value. And so, occasionally, quarrels ripened.

“I had to yell at him,” Anthony said. “He wouldn’t play the game. When someone pressed the imaginary button, we were supposed to spin around in our chairs.”

Becky nodded. “I got that, but you were supposed to be playing Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t yell at a talk show host for not spinning in his chair. It confused the boundaries of that character.”

“I started as Hillary Clinton,” Anthony said, “but then she got mad at the talk show host who wouldn’t spin in his chair, and I became a version of Hillary Clinton. That guy was being lazy and self-righteous. He shouldn’t be allowed to get away with that.”

“But couldn’t your coach have scolded him after the show? You focused too much on the rules. You made the scene about improv rather than about entertaining people, or even about the truth of that character.” She knew how much Anthony valued truth onstage and she hoped this comment would hit home. But Anthony also loved rules. He carried the rulebooks for new board games on his commute. He insisted on walking on the right side of the sidewalk  and refused to move until people were forced back into their “lane”. Once Becky had asked Anthony if he’d pull the shower curtain closed after bathing to prevent the liner from growing mold. After that, on the rare occasions she herself forgot to do this, he reminded her of her failure by pulling the curtain shut slowly, his eyes trained on hers. They’d laugh about it, but still Becky could sense his genuine displeasure.

On the bus, Becky felt uneasy. Tomorrow, she would leave town for a three-week shoot, and she and Anthony always seemed to grow short with each other as these periods of separation approached.

Anthony asked Becky if she was all right. “You seem downtrodden,” he said, and she laughed at the word.

“I didn’t like fighting about that,” she said.

“Me neither,” Anthony said.

On the walk from the bus, they saw a man, in jeans and a wool coat, running along the parked cars glancing behind him. “What’s that guy’s deal?” Anthony said. “Why won’t he walk on the sidewalk?”

“He’s probably trying to cross. Maybe his meter ran out or something.” The man made it across the street, but continued running alongside the traffic, looking back.

“What’s he doing? What a creep,” Anthony said.

Becky was sure the man would stop at the double-parked car, hazards blinking, but just short of it, he crossed back to their side of the street and darted down an alley.

Becky’s best friend had recently regaled her with the tales of suspicious characters she’d read about on her neighborhood watch website, re-introducing a fear and skepticism to Becky that she’d denied herself for a long time. She was doing her best not to let this color her instincts. In moments where she might naturally assume the worst in people, she’d been trying to compel herself to say something hopeful instead. She saw the man running across the street, subverting unspoken social standards, and she assumed he’d broken many other more serious rules, but instead she said, “I hope he’s okay.”

“Should we follow him?” Anthony asked. “I want to know what all this is about.”

Becky couldn’t help but think of Anthony onstage, reprimanding the performer who didn’t follow the guidelines, the scolding itself a variety of broken rule. She flashed to the call she’d had earlier that day in which she’d refused herself the satisfaction of calling out her mother’s habit of saying one thing and then, immediately afterward, the exact opposite. The truth, she realized, was beside the point.

“No,” she said. “Let’s go home.”

 


 

Jac JemcJac Jemc is the author of The Grip of It, forthcoming from FSG Originals in 2017. Her first novel, My Only Wife (Dzanc Books) was a finalist for the 2013 PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and winner of the Paula Anderson Book Award, and her collection of stories, A Different Bed Every Time (Dzanc Books) was named one of Amazon’s best story collections of 2014. She edits nonfiction for Hobart.

Powerball for Drifters by Chris Milam

Ryan’s left pocket was all bulge and jingle as he walked through the doors. He was dressed in his best cargo pants and v-neck because he wanted to mimic the other shoppers, disappear in the swarm of normal people who were doing normal people things like buying groceries for their families. His savior was to the right, in front of the registers.

The sedentary, generous machine was hungry for metal. He eased out the plastic bag, fed the tray in small doses. He was a mixture of softness and speed, dying to get out of there but also aware that more coin sound meant more stares gouging his neck from the people on line behind him. The ones who used credit and debit cards. The ones who would not understand why a man might have a jingle in his step.

Ryan didn’t do any kind of pre-count, he knew by the heft of the bag it was a solid haul. He loved the jolt of surprise when the grand total was revealed on the screen. A quick fist-pump was his response when he saw the tally: $17.00 plus a few stray pennies; a lottery jackpot for the lost. When he took the ticket to the customer service desk, he debated whether to snatch the microphone or telephone or whatever they use and tell every responsible, organic-addicted person in the place to go fuck themselves. And their Toyotas. And homes guarded by trimmed shrubbery and red mulch. PTA conferences. Soccer tournaments. Ice cream waffle cones at the packed Arctic Swirl. All of it, all of them, from their boat shoes to their designer bifocals. Instead, he just cashed out and headed to his car without making eye contact with anyone.

The beater wobbled across the parking lot; the temporary donut on the front was now a permanent donut on the front. He landed at a red light.

Ryan had a choice, left or right. That time he stole ribeyes from this same grocery by shoving them down his pants, he chose wrong. He sold the meat to a drunk iron worker at The Alibi and went about doing what he always does.

Staring at the store in the rearview mirror, he knew what those normal people would do. He hated them because it was easier than becoming them. He hated them because they would make the proper turn. Part of him wanted to run back in there and beg them for guidance. He wished he could borrow one of their brains to help him pick the route home.

He could take the money and buy his daughter a gift, a random one, a belated birthday present out of the blue. He thought Olivia would love that. He knew he would love that. The dollar store sold toys, he could fill a bag with them, drop them off today, maybe even get to see her again and pretend they were close. They could have a water gun battle and laugh at his corny jokes and share a banana nut muffin and go for a stroll in a park bursting with sunshine and birdsong. Visions of her skyrocket smile carved up his insides. If self-pity was currency, he would be the wealthiest drifter in Jefferson County.

He always veered left. It was in his DNA, this impulse to steer into oncoming traffic. His entire life was a left turn. But it didn’t to have to be that way, people change. They learn and evolve and make amends and transform themselves into a respectable, semi-normal person like his brother Greg, who went from a halfway house to night school to paralegal to beloved son. Or maybe some can and he can’t for reasons that are unknown and invisible to the middle-class eye. His heart sought light but his mind thrived in the dark. Hell, he thought, this is my curse, my anchor with a rusted chain and busted winch.

The light turned green. Choose, it said, it’s
time to go. His foot hovered above the gas
pedal, hesitant and unsure.

 

Chris Milam

Chris Milam lives in the bucolic wasteland that is Hamilton, Ohio. His stories have appeared in (b)OINK, The Airgonaut, Jellyfish Review, WhiskeyPaper, and elsewhere