Let’s Sing All the Swear Words We Know by Anita Goveas

You’re a girl with a bell-shaped nose and an anchor-shaped birthmark. You’re Antonia cos it’s the closest to the only name your father picked out. You’re not the reason he leaves, but you’re not enough to make him stay. Your lungs are healthy when nothing else is, and you cry like the rushing river, all deadly undercurrents and no end.  You only eat basmati rice and only wear shorts.  You tattoo all your Barbies with indelible ink and sing all the swear words your babysitter teaches you in a chant that all the slaps in the world won’t knock out. You’re a girl with crescent-shaped teeth and your father’s kidney-shaped earlobes. You wear grease like perfume and touch every slug. You love the way numbers line up in your head and hide in Maths lessons under your haphazard fringe and your Pearl Jam t-shirts. You’re drawn to the smell of heated tarmac and leaves as brown as you under a magnifying glass. Your mouth says ‘fuck you’ without you having to open it.  You’re a girl with grapefruit-shaped breasts and a watermelon bottom. You watch the boys as they watch you. You don’t have the words to make anyone stay, you talk to yourself when no-one’s listening. You leave as soon as you can and go back every weekend cos nobody else knows the words to your song.


 

AnitaAnita Goveas is British-Asian, based in London, and fueled by strong coffee and paneer jalfrezi. She lurks in libraries and her local independent bookshop, Bookseller Crow. She was first published in the 2016 London Short Story Prize Anthology, and most recently in Riggwelter Press, Anti-Heroin Chic, former cactus magLitro, and Longleaf Review. She tweets erratically @coffeeandpaneer.

Jack Rabbit by Travis Cravey

Leonard would have missed the jack rabbit completely if it hadn’t turned to run. The brown landscape stretching from Highway 90 south to the Chinati range had hid the jack well, but a fearful nature had exposed his cream colored legs to Leonard’s pick-up.

Leonard watched him dart back and forth. He wondered if that jack had any idea where he was going.

Leonard’s concentration was broken and he lost the animal in the scrub when Francisca’s cinnamon hard candies fell from her hand, one by one, onto the floor board. She had been awake a moment before, singing that when her “body was laid to rest, she would go the place that’s the best.”

It would be an hour before they reached the interstate, and three more hours after that to get home to Las Cruces. Normally when they visited her mother’s grave they drove straight, no matter the time, but he felt tired tonight. Van Horn would be as far as he would go today.

This was the first year that his daughter understood where they were, who was laid there, and Leonard was quietly angry she didn’t seem to care. And now singing about the after-life. He was confused. He was tired.

Francisca snored slightly, surely at peace in the arms of God as she knew it. Leonard’s God was, he hoped, still sprinting in the fading light, towards something in the shadow of Sierra Parda.


 

Travis

Travis Cravey is a mechanic in Southeastern Pennsylvania.

The Selwyn Place by Ann Gelder

 Edna Selwyn’s old house still hadn’t sold. It had been eight months since she died, and the house had been on the market for six. It’s true that the place was in bad shape, and Edna’s daughter had been too cheap (or too deep in mourning) to have it spruced up. The wallpaper was a sunflower pattern from the 1970s, the carpet the color of the red hair dye Edna favored. Also there was moss on the roof, and when the light hit it at a certain angle, the moss glowed in an otherworldly manner.

These cosmetic issues were secondary, however. I knew the real reason no one wanted the Selwyn place. You see, a child was living there—a five-year-old boy, seemingly ordinary, except no ordinary boy could have survived alone in that house for so long. I often saw him in the downstairs window when I looked out from my house across the street. He stuck his thumb against his nose and waggled his fingers, or slid his hand under his armpit and pumped his elbow, producing a flatulent sound.

Mrs. Burke, look at me, he sang. I know you can see me. Look at me.

The boy reminded me of one of my kindergarten students from decades ago, a very spirited child named David Dockery. When I said it was time for Silent Reading, David would take that as his cue to stand on his chair, flap his arms, and squawk like a chicken. More than once, when I was writing on the board and turned unexpectedly, I caught him mirroring, or rather exaggerating, my movements, waving his invisible chalk in great swoops and, for some reason, wiggling his behind. The other children found him hilarious. I admit, I secretly admired his anti-authority mindset. He wasn’t going to take any crap from The Man, or The Woman in my case, even if that crap was building the foundation for his future.

At any rate, whenever the real estate agent tried to show the Selwyn house, the boy must have peered out from behind the ragged old curtains, or stood behind the agent, silently mimicking her as she extoled the house’s hidden virtues. Confused and frightened, potential buyers made excuses and fled. Meanwhile, the place was deteriorating by the day, taking with it the neighborhood’s property values. And no one was doing anything about it.

Therefore, one warm spring night, I broke through the glass door at the back of the house with a tire iron and poured gasoline all over the living room. I lit a match and threw it toward the curtains. The flames flared with a Whump! that resounded through my whole body.

As I turned to make my escape, I noticed the painting of a young boy over the mantel. I had forgotten all about this painting, though there was no reason I should have remembered it. I had only been to Edna Selwyn’s house once, to discuss the AT&T box. All the neighbors refused to let AT&T put a U-Verse box in front of their houses, so I said, Sure, put it in front of mine. Now an ugly box looms over my lawn, and everyone has high-speed internet.

But who was the boy in the painting? Edna had no sons. The work was amateurish, likely from a garage sale, which was perhaps why Edna’s daughter didn’t want it. From the boy’s joyful grin, it was clear that he believed he was loved—at the time the painting was made, at least. Obviously, that was not true now.

I had no more time to ponder. The flames cackled behind me, yearning to consume me and the painting together. I snatched the boy off the wall and ran with him out the back door. With the painting propped beside me, I watched from my living room as the Selwyn place burned to cinders.

When the house collapsed, the painted boy, whom I decided to call David, turned to me and whispered, Thank you. He had been trapped alone in the house, you see. But when the place sold, he would likely have met an even more dismal fate in a landfill. His only choice was to keep buyers away as long as possible and hope a sympathetic soul like me rescued him.

After the fire, the debris was cleared away and the grass replanted. The lot is still for sale, at a reduced price, but at least we don’t have a decrepit old house bringing down our property values.

As with the AT&T box, none of the neighbors has thanked me for my efforts on their behalf. But I don’t mind. Since they’ve never given me a moment’s consideration, they will never suspect that I burned down the Selwyn place, even though the painting I technically stole hangs over my fireplace for anyone to see.

And now, at last, I have someone to talk to.


 

ann_gelder

Ann Gelder’s fiction has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Monkeybicycle, Tin House Open Bar, and elsewhere. Her first novel, Bigfoot and the Baby (Bona Fide Books), is a satire set in 1980s America.