White Ribbons by K.B. Carle

My mother loses herself in the sounds of fingernail clicks and the dull thuds her forehead creates when colliding into the corners of our home. She dwells in these crevices where two walls meet, biting her lower lip until she bleeds. Releasing all the tension she carries throughout the day until the diaper she wears under her patchwork jeans overflows.

And she smiles.

Despite the smell. Despite me watching her, imagining the rapid clicks are a form of Morse code, a puzzle only I can decipher. A noise she makes just for me. I go to her, even though the smell of shit and lavender makes me cry. At least, this is what I keep in my mind as I wrap my arms around her waist and rest my chin on her shoulder.

“Tell me where you are,” I whisper in the same voice she saved for scraped knees and bedtime stories.

“Birds mocking tales,” she giggles through parted chapped lips revealing blood stained teeth.

“Turn around,” I say. All I want is for her to look at me, to acknowledge my presence in a world outside of her corner.

And, if our eyes meet, to ask her why she won’t let me join her in a world of her creation.

The doctor says my mother has Alzheimer’s, a word that I’ve learned starts with a sigh and gets caught on the “Z.” I keep the word to myself, letting it linger in every sentence I’m supposed to say but hoard in my mind. When my mother becomes lost in one of her corners, I fill the quiet with the places she might be.

She is 12 with white ribbons braided into pigtails that rest just above her shoulders, the part cutting the surface of her scalp in half revealing hazel skin. Toes send tidal waves along the surface of the lake where she watches her brother drown. She swallows her words for two years, believing that if a cry for help does nothing to save a life, what’s the point in speaking. When she decides to speak again, she will always twist the story of her brother’s death to match her mood or to gage the amount of emotional stress those around her can handle.

My mother loathes pity in all its forms.

She is 14 with a white ribbon twisting around her pointer finger, hazel skin her father loves, turning purple and cold. Toes send tidal waves along the surface of the lake where she watches him stand in the shallows, talking with bullfrogs and fireflies instead of going to work. She watches him go, carrying his brown leather suitcase with holes and handle patched with duct tape hanging from his side, beyond the screams of her mother followed by the clang of pots and pans crashing into walls and shattering windows. Beyond the lake, until she is left wondering why he left her behind amongst the sounds of the bullfrog songs he also claimed to love.

She is 18 watching a white ribbon float on the lake’s surface, blades of grass scratching her hazel skin. She glances at her mother through the kitchen window every time the sun catches the glass, knowing her mother will keep on drinking until her anger feels fair, scream until there is nothing left but to face the darkness that awaits her. She watches her mother’s shadow fade in the kitchen window, wonders how many steps her father took before he felt safe enough not to look back. She counts how many steps it takes to be free from her mother, not knowing that, even after her mother dies, the counting never stops.

She is 30 watching her baby play with a white ribbon in her fist, fingernails occasionally scratching her hazel skin. Sunlight punctures storm clouds, soaking them in raindrops large enough to create their own lakes and tidal waves, washing away what remains of her past. She thrives outdoors, listening to the sweet songs of Cardinals and Bluejays, her child matching the movements of her lips. Neither of them knowing she has already lived half her life.

“Tell me where you are,” I ask again and this time she glances at me.

At least, this is what I hope for.

In the world I create for us, I am four years old. An age where I am able to speak while knowing the pleasures of being carried and napping in the warm crook of my mother’s neck. She keeps stories of her brother from me, her father and mother becoming tender figures she models herself after. I ask her any question that comes to mind, fingers tracing her unchapped lips before cradling her hazel cheeks in my palms.

And she responds, not with fingernail clicks, but with arms that embrace me. Chokes the life out of songs by shattering the high notes and out-of-tune attempts to remember all the words. Who sees me. Hears me, and makes me believe that all the love is still there.

Without her voice.

Without her mind.

But this is not the world she has left me for.

Her teeth release her lip, gnashing with rage inside her cheeks. Her mouth quivers, body stiffening in my grasp. The clicks come in rapid succession sending signals I don’t understand.

“Please,” the words catch somewhere in my chest and everything I’ve hoarded threatens to come out at once but instead, I let them stir in my mind.

My mother has Alzheimer’s and has forgotten my name. No, she’s forgotten more than that. She is lost and I can’t reach her because she no longer knows who I am, who I was, who we were. And, because of this, I can no longer find her.

“Tell me where you are,” because I’m afraid to be without you.

Her lips part and, for a moment, I think my name somehow lingers on the edge, wanting to invite me in.

 


 
kbcarle

K.B. Carle lives outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and earned her MFA from Spalding University’s Low-Residency program in Kentucky. When she is not exploring the realms of speculative, jazz, and historical fiction, K.B. avidly pursues misspelled words, botched plot lines, and rudimentary characters. Her work can be found in The Offbeat, Fiction Southeast, The WomenArts Quarterly Journal, and FlashBack Fiction. For more information visit her at http://kbcarle.wordpress.com/ or follow her on Twitter @kbcarle.

Trail Blazer by Nick Black

I thought some of the men might balk at voluntary castration but they followed me on that, bless, as they do on everything else. “I left my heart in San Francisco. We left our stones in Tijuana. Soon we’ll shrug off these bodies entirely.” Your eyes twinkle like black diamonds, replied their shining faces. Your words lie our minds down in green pastures.

We take pains to avoid potholes driving North from the clinic.

Crispin points through the windshield to the comet, says “It looks the same here as in the States.” “There are no borders where we’re going,” I say. I say this as our Camaro sits with its engine off in a queue of hot metal stretching ahead of us, behind us, vendors jogging up to our windows with chiller boxes of soda tied around their necks. In between the cars, they slow, double over, rub cold cans down over those knobbly necks, the backs of their heads, pointing down at the road. Then, smiles back on their faces, they jog up to the next car.  I watch them in the rear view, their dusty behinds getting smaller and smaller. I’ll buy us all a Sprite, the next one comes.

It’s hellish hot in here. Once we’ve transcended, Bill Wyres is going to tumble our Earth-stuck carcasses into a pit and torch the flesh and bones before joining us. We’ve discussed this at length. Marion fancied a Viking funeral pyre, our bodies pushed afloat on a boat across a lake, smoke rising up as we’re consumed by fire. Billy Wyres said “Fuck that!” We bought him an ergonomic wheel barrow which promises not to tip over with heavy loads.

Crispin sticks in a cassette of one of my sermons. “When we transcend to the spaceship,” my voice never sounds like it does in my head, “all of our terrestrial pains will be negated. Our shames will be negated. Our mistakes. Our identities. Our pasts. Our fears. Our hurts. We will become holy and bright, as pure and colourful as sunlight passing through the clearest of crystals, and we will cease to be ‘we’ and it will be beautiful.”  The recording ripples with the group’s laughter, crying–happy crying!–the dulled slap of palm meat. He presses Eject, says he thinks the tape’s melting.

I met Marion in a psychiatric hospital. They’ll make a lot of that when this is done, but that’s nothing I can alter now. She was a nurse there. She told me she felt we’d met before in a past life. She said she knew we’d meet again because the aliens had informed her this was our destiny. I wondered if she really was a nurse or one of the patients who’d stolen a uniform. When I raised this with another member of staff, though, they simply upped my medication. Her husband at the time wasn’t too thrilled to hear she’d found Christ Returned in me, and knowing Marion as I’ve come to, I’m sure he heard this day and night and all points in between. He turned up at the hospital with a tyre iron and called me a ponytailed fruit. I turned the other cheek and he split it wide open, taking most of the teeth on that side of my face with it. Over the years, I’ve fantasised the most unholy scenarios involving him. Leaving him and everyone else behind on this doomed planet should be revenge enough, but I still slip out of reverence for our mission every now and then to picture… Pain causing. Extreme pain causing.

Fabio–what a fabulous name–leans over from the back seat with a bottle of tequila. We bought a couple of bottles to wash down the phenobarbital and apple sauce, a memento of our trip. Crispin says “Better put’t away, looks like we’re moving,” and starts up the engine. Up above us, backlit by the midday sun, the comet blazes, ever closer.


20180815_124021-1

Nick Black manages two small public libraries in North London. His writing has been published in lit mags including Entropy, Jellyfish Review, (b)OINK, the Lonely Crowd, Open Pen, Train Lit Mag, and Funhouse. He tweets about things he likes as @fuzzynick.

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.

 

Limbo Land by Claire Polders

My silent mother returns to our silent home with stitches in her brow, swollen cheeks, her warmth extinguished. I’ve barely slept since Power took her away and sleep even less now. Each morning, I dab her wounds and brush her skin with my lips, crushed to find her scent is gone.
We don’t talk about the boys. We don’t mention how they doubled our days, promised us purpose, helped us hope. We don’t dare to wonder where they are now. They were foreigners and strangers, yet also ours. Their absence rattles our bones.
Power must have used force from the start, cracking my mother on the third day. What happened to her afterward, I wonder, when Power came for the second time, went straight to the attic, busted the secret door, and didn’t find what it had been promised?
I tell myself, had I not told the boys to run, all her suffering would have been in vain.
At night, I relive the moment right before Power dragged my mother away, when my eyes told her to keep quiet: I would never forgive her if she sold out the boys.
I make new soaps and experiment with the recipe—more herbs, less sunflower oil—not knowing what I hope to accomplish.
Time passes and my mother’s wounds heal. Even her warmth flares up: she strokes my cheek and says, I would have survived the moment of my betrayal, not the memory. But her words cannot restore me. The world in which I am innocent and brave seems no more real than the world in which I can fly.
She used to smell so reassuring, woody and wondrous, like a poem in summer rain. I wish it were my nose, my guilt embodied, and she has returned unchanged.

headshot_polders_BW_300
Claire Polders is a Dutch author. Her stories and essays are published wherever they are appreciated. Her first novel in English, A Whale in Paris (Atheneum/Simon&Schuster, May 2018), is a kid’s book for all ages, co-written by her husband. You can find links to her short prose at http://www.clairepolders.com.

Moose Lodge #1384 by Lisa Ferranti

The lodge sits in the middle of cornfields, the cornfields sit in the middle of the Midwest, the moose sits on top of the lodge, and Ray and I sit on top of the moose. Ray’s in front, my arms looped around him as if I’m a passenger on a motorcycle. On a motorcycle, the wind would be whipping through our hair, mouths clamped tight against bugs. But the moose is stone still, made of molded plastic, and my mouth is open, licking the back of Ray’s neck.

“See, over there.” Ray points to a small fire in a nearby field.

“Bonfire?” I ask, leaning back to adjust the straps on my lavender taffeta bridesmaid’s gown, third one this year, all of varying pastel colors and equal never-to-be-worn-again hideousness. Ray left his tux jacket in the pickup he drove us in from the reception to the Lodge. We waited long enough for Betsy, my college roommate, and his cousin Ben, to drive off, their car trailing aluminum cans, before making out in his truck.

When we came up for air, he said, “You gotta see the moose,” and with a few shots of tequila in me, I said, “Sure, show me the moose.” And now here we are.

“Not a bonfire,” Ray says as we survey the fields, the first fire burning in a perfect circle, another spot of flames appearing in a neighboring field.

He twists toward me, one hand holding onto the moose’s antler for balance. I lean forward to kiss him, but he grabs my chin with his free thumb and forefinger. “Aliens,” he says, and my tequila haze subsides for a moment as I consider that I’m sitting on a roof with someone I met the night before at a rehearsal dinner, who I know virtually nothing about other than he’s Ben’s cousin and he lives in this town where they grew up and works at the paper mill.

I laugh, but he says, “Really,” and turns my face to purview the fields as small fires sprout around us. “I think they’re aiming for the animals,” he says, “like a game.” I picture the computer game my mom plays obsessively that involves collecting livestock. In the field closest to us, I see what I think is the outline of a cow go up in flames.

“I’ve asked them about it,” Ray continues, “but there’s a language barrier.”

I kicked off my lavender-dyed heels at the bottom of the metal ladder we climbed to get to the roof. I think I could make it down myself if I had to, even though one of the rungs is split in half and Ray had grasped my forearm and pulled me up. I saw a pay phone inside the door of the Lodge, but who to call? Betsy and Ben on their way to the Bahamas?

I lean back, size Ray up. His black hair curls up slightly over his tux shirt collar, his blue eyes shiny from the reflection of the neon 1384 sign. He might be crazy, but I want to kiss his chiseled cheekbones.

“See?” I say. “My married friends can’t do this,” and I rip open the buttons of this almost perfect stranger’s shirt. “Tell me about the aliens,” I say, touching his chest. We rock atop the moose, and he recounts how they only come to him here, in this place. How their forms are pure light. I reach forward and grab an antler, crawl over Ray so that I’m in front, lean forward and hug the moose’s neck. Ray hikes up my dress, whispers in my ear, says that sometimes when they come he goes with them, and I let myself go, watch the burning circles and imagine they’re fireflies.

He drops me off at my hotel that night and I stand on the sidewalk, my heels dangling from my hand, and watch him drive away. There’s a faint scent of smoke in the air.

The next day I help Betsy’s mom with post-wedding activities, fold the wedding dress into a box, offer to drop it at the dry cleaners. Betsy’s mom touches my hand before I leave, says, “It’ll happen for you, too, dear, when you find the right man.” I swallow hard, hug her. I hear my own mom’s words before I left to come to the wedding, when I told her about my latest breakup: Men don’t buy the cow when the milk’s free. My dad: She’ll get married when pigs fly. They’ve never set foot on a farm, yet they throw around farm animal idioms like they’re the McDonald’s.

On my way to the airport that evening, I stop at the Lodge. I don’t see Ray’s truck, but I walk inside and the woman tending bar says, “He’s not here. Disappeared last night. Probably on a bender again.” I nod and walk back outside. I look up and wonder, but the only thing hovering above me in the dusk is the moose head.

It’s almost dark by the time my plane takes off. I’m alone in my row, in the window seat. I slouch, look toward the ground. Bright circles light up the fields, perfect circles of flames. I sit up straight, lean forward for a better view. Could it be? Off to the side of one of the circles, there’s a smaller fire, an organic shape. I press my face against the window, stare at the misshapen spot. A campfire? We inch higher into the sky. Streaks of color emanate from the smaller fire, liquid lavender fingers bleeding orange. I imagine starch-stiff taffeta melting into earth. From this height, a membrane-thin rim of pink lines the horizon, and I reach toward it, but my hand meets glass. On the other side, blackness. But further off, just beyond, white light beams.


Lisa_Ferranti_PhotoLisa Ferranti’s fiction has been a Top 25 finalist in a Glimmer Train Family Matters contest, twice short-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, a Reflex Fiction contest finalist, and highly commended in the 2018 Hemingway Shorts contest and National Flash Fiction Day 2018 micro competition. Recent stories have appeared in Literary Mama, FlashFlood Journal, Hemingway Shorts, the 2018 NFFD Ripenings Anthology, and Reflex Fiction. She lives with her husband, son and daughter near Akron, Ohio.

François by Didi Wood

You should have leapt the instant you heard the splash. But in that breathless, urgent moment, you hesitated, scanning the murky water, waiting for her to bob to the surface so you could get a better fix on her location. You didn’t see her fall, you weren’t looking – there was just that smack of something hitting the water, and you knew before you whirled around that it was she, that she was gone, her tiny pink parka a crumpled chrysalis on the weathered boards of the dock.

You waited–just a second or two–any reasonable man would have done the same. And then, the second splash, as someone else jumped in first.

You wish you hadn’t thought about how cold the water would be, how filthy, churning with grime and bacteria, even as you prepared to jump. No one knows what you were thinking. How could they? The papers reported you shedding your phone and wallet along the way, implying that you were concerned about losing them, damaging them, instead of focusing on your daughter–your baby girl!–drowning in the dark, frigid waters of Elliott Bay.

And whose fault was it she fell in the first place? You hadn’t planned to bring her along, but your wife wanted a break, and she thrust kid and coat at you and pushed you out the door. You’re not stupid: you should have been watching, not fiddling with your phone, checking your email. You know that. You know! But that’s how kids are–ask anyone–look away for half a second and off they go, palming the hot stove or tumbling headfirst down the stairs or dropping like a stone into the goddamned freezing filthy Elliott Bay, with everyone watching and judging and that Frenchman diving in and reaching her first, saving her first, then disappearing like Superman from the scene, humble and gracious and noble and strong.

Your daughter is fine, and you’re grateful. You are. You held her, your coat tugged around her tiny, shivering body, as she choked and sputtered and wailed, and then someone handed her a stuffed rabbit, and she stopped crying and clutched it and smiled, tears and filthy bay water sparkling in her eyelashes.

A miracle. You don’t need to be told; you know it could have been so much worse, the worst.

But when she wakes in the night, gasping, afraid the waters are closing over her head, you can’t console her, no, only the rabbit will do, named for the rescuer, her savior, that Frenchman. She clutches it, tiny fingers working the tip of an ear, eyelids fluttering as she murmurs his name, syllables soft and sibilant: François, François, François …

François. The Frenchman is there, in your daughter’s room, in her bed, in her arms. He’s there in the moment before the meat on the grill turns from done to burned; in the seconds before your wife has to ask you (again) to take out the trash, for god’s sake; in her sidelong glance while you’re fucking, just before you come and she does not; and you know what she’s thinking, she’s thinking about him, the Frenchman, that fucking François, everywhere and everything that you are not.


 

Didi Wood

Didi Wood’s stories appear in Smokelong Quarterly, Cotton Xenomorph, Vestal Review, Jellyfish Review, and elsewhere. She’s fond of the serial comma, board games, and creepy dolls. Often she is festooned with cats. Find her on Twitter @DidiWood.

 

Planetary Disappointment by Kristen Seikaly

She couldn’t choose between one balloon planet or two. Saturn with its lush rings beckoned to her like a siren in the sea, but she pitied Uranus a bit because it wasn’t much to look at and had an unfortunate name. In the end she settled on Jupiter. The size almost made her capsize, but the eye of the storm hypnotized her. She held on tight. In some small way she imagined it would take her to the outer depths of space, although she did not know how it would do such a thing.

Skipping down the New York City sidewalk, she gripped her Jupiter balloon. It bashed into other people’s heads, a planet far too large to keep on a string. She failed to notice the disgruntled looks of those whose days had been disrupted by her round joy. Jupiter and her, a team uncaring and unbeatable.

Most thieves think to steal purses, but this city slicker with his callous lean and his sideways stare saw gold in the Jupiter balloon. He swiped at the string as she skipped on by, causing the girl to scream and scramble to reconnect with her planet. The thief’s satisfied sneer came a moment too soon, for they both lost in the end.

On that New York City corner, they each watched with regret as Jupiter flew back into the sky. They both felt the weight of having touched something of immense value release, though they would later disagree on what that value was. As they watched it float away, the girl wished she had selected the Uranus balloon after all. At least then it would have felt a little love for a little while. Plus the pain of loss would have been less acute, for Jupiter’s size meant she had to watch it disappear into the sky for that much longer.


Kristen Seikaly's Headshot - 2017

Kristen Seikaly is a Michigan native discovering the culture of city-living in Philadelphia. Her work has appeared in Thrice Fiction. With two degrees in music, she now works as a freelance writer and voice teacher. Find her at www.KristenSeikaly.com or @KristenSeikaly.

Cry, Baby by M.J. Iuppa

Whenever I see her skunk-streaked hair and black eyes, I
feel broken eggshells under my feet. Oh fidget. I smile in
a pinch, that’s what my momma taught me, to be polite while
waiting in the line outside the old Flame movie theatre. She
yammers like we never left off, and I listen like I’m keeping
my lips just above rising water. I look up into the dull night
sky & see the red pulse of the weather satellite passing over. I
interrupt her spew. Sure feels like rain, I mutter, my clenched
fists shoved into my tight jean’s pockets.


 

M.J. Iuppa lives on a small farm near Lake Ontario’s shores. Check out her blog: mjiuppa.blogspot.com for her musings on writing, sustainability & life’s stew.