“Dispatch from L.A Public Transit” by Joshua Hebburn

46153009445_eaa6e9efaa_o.jpg Valentines day. Down below Union Station a subway car has released people. There is a subway in Los Angeles. It undergrounds from D.T.L.A to Hollywood and Westwood. Connectors, buses and a couple other light rail lines, attach and lead into many other counties of this city. 

I will take either train down below a couple of stops today to no Valentines special, just a scheduled meal downtown and some chatter. It happened to fall on this discrete day. Neither of us thought.

The concoursing of people out-from and in-to the shopping area, down and up the stairs to the Red and Purple lines, is disrupted. I have taken trains and buses for years, I have acquired a feel. It’s in how people are different in density, grouped less tightly, having been pulled back by something. It’s in their attitude, how they look backwards, or occasionally are making remarks to one another as clear strangers, a violation of good conduct under normal circumstances. Privacy is the sovereign value on the metro. 

I take the first de-escalator, down, anticipating.

This is one of the few places and times in Los Angeles you see a flow of people, rather than a gleaming bump or glimmering swish of cars. It is always a sight, populated like Los Angeles the city, by all human variation. Here all the people are again, today. There is the disruption, excitement backwards to it, but there is also Valentine’s day in the crowd. It can’t have been too bad, whatever it is. People are mostly calm. I look around more.

My heart rises in my chest. I am in an instant love sliding down the escalator and looking. It’s not with somebody, but with all these people in love with somebody, or at least in affection. Young and old, dark brown skin, tan skin, pale pinkish and whitish skin, holding hands, pecking rapid kisses, grasping boxes and bags and big bright bouquets, roses but also some sunflowers, a bunch of lillies, a bunch of tulips, one ridiculous orchid up-sticking, and people laughing. It is abundant. The focused or gently disturbed faces of regular commuters only sharpens the contrast like sand that a bar of gold is laid on. 

There is a landing between the escalators and the underground true, the tunnels. The disruption is on the landing, and approaches me as I approach. There are the chest-high yellow cones, tight pyramids, separating with their yellow yell. They have caution tape wound around them at the top to prohibit a zone. The darker yellow of the tape, the blocky san-serif lettering, holds a hand up. People move around, looking in.
A policeman stands off to one side, fat blueblack, with no definite aim other than his authority. The altercation is over. The cleaning crew is arriving off to another side, orange vests on baby blue metro shirts.

Inside the cones and tape is an almost empty space. On the tile are rose petals and thick drops of blood. Somebody has really gotten the thorns. 

I get on another de-escalator. There is an unpleasant humid wind in this open underground part of the station. It is caused by the displacement of air when another train arrives. I get on a train. That, I think, is the best fuck you I’ve ever seen. And what a day.

 


Joshua Hebburn lives in Los Angeles. His fiction is in Lazy Susan, X-R-A-Y’s Boneyard Issue, Maudlin House, and Hobart.

Twitter: @joshuahebburn

“Wild Goose Hunt” By Molly Gabriel

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He spots me alone at the party and hands me a beer and tells me the story of the cement goose.

The goose resided on his next-door neighbor’s front porch. It dawned outfits to match occasions. The obvious being a red Santa coat and hat for Christmas and bunny ears for Easter. But it also celebrated obscure milestones: a yellow rain slicker for April Showers and a tuxedo for the local high school prom. 

Actually, he remembers, the tux had only just been removed a few days before his abduction. This detail was highlighted in the neighbor woman’s letter to the local editor. She pleaded that the goose served as the family’s only pet and cherished heirloom. She titled the letter, “Who would do such a thing” with an exclamation point instead of a question mark.

I actually still have the clipping at my parents’ house in Ohio, he adds.

I do not question this.

He says he wrapped his arms around the goose and pushed it from their porch. He struggled the bird into the car and drove to a friend’s—after slipping a pillowcase over its head. When they arrived, he ripped it off. Two guys wrestled the bird from the car. The gander crashed to the drive with such force that its head cracked clean from the body. 

He says he scooped the head from the pavement and drew Xs over the eyes. 

He says he decided they couldn’t afford to keep the body. 

You need to dispose of the body, he reminds me. No body, no crime.

They loaded the goose’s body back into the car. They drove to a bridge. They dragged it out and dumped the flightless, faceless bird into the river. 

You know the river? The Cuyahoga. He says Burned through Cleveland. 

I imagine him then: pulling a crisp, white pillowcase over the cement goose’s head and driving, serenely, to his friend’s house—the 

He sets down his beer. I move up the stairs. He follows. He’s not talking about the goose anymore.

mounting hysteria in the backseat: the flapping of wings, desperate hissing, shitting and  struggling—his throwing open the door and fighting the body from the seat with his          weight in his heels;

I step into an empty bedroom. I don’t know how I know. No, I’m sure I’ll find it. 

the head freed from the body, black blood pooling on the pavement; the new silence of      the gone bird; motionless cement wings shoved and cajoled back into the car.

He takes the tuxedo. He changes quickly. He grins. I lead, pull him back down the stairs by the hand. I open the front door. He follows me through.

I study him: sleeves too long, pants dragging beneath his sneakers, and the limp, dangling bowtie. But I put my arms around him. (He gasps at my pressure.)

And I push.

 

Molly Gabriel is a writer and poet from Cleveland, Ohio. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Queen Mobs Tea House, After Alexei, and Jellyfish Review. She is the recipient of the Robert Fox Award for Young Writers. She has been selected for flash readings with Bridge Eight Literary Magazine and the Jax by Jax Literary Festival. She lives in Jacksonville, Florida with her husband and toddler.

Twitter: @m_ollygabriel.

“Special Attention” by Ryle Lagonsin

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At one point, I had resolved that it was something to do with my face. Perhaps I looked as if I beckoned, it seemed, like I was pleading for attention.

The first time I noticed someone staring it frightened me. I was four. Maybe three and a half. I was in a dress shop for children with my mother and it frightened me. The way his eyes bore into me, pierced through me with an invisible red light like laser beams. My mother didn’t notice. Whenever I brought it up here and there, she’d say I was probably imagining it. 

“Yes, Hannah, you were probably simply imagining it. Wouldn’t I have noticed if there was a man glaring at you that time? Wouldn’t I have— and, anyway, I remember it differently from how you tell it. Yes, differently because from what I remember, you were screaming and kicking and crying your eyes out.”

Then, she’d laugh and say ‘it’s fine,’ as if a screaming toddler anywhere was cute and acceptable and nothing at all like what it actually is, which is annoying. Then, she’d plant her palm on my cheek and she’d look close to crying and I’d both love and hate her because of that sudden change in her face with her hand on mine.

Besides, I remembered neither screaming nor kicking. I didn’t remember ever doing that. I only remembered the man staring at me when I was four or three in the dress shop. He wasn’t staring maliciously, no. Not menacingly, sinisterly, or treacherously, really. No. His stare was merely intent, I would say. As though he was digging, searching for something inside me for no particular reason that I could think of, and that frightened me.

Over time I suppose, I learned not to mind it. I wasn’t friends with anyone in school. None of the other children thought me worthy of company but the teachers loved me. I knew they did. They adored me. I wasn’t the smartest or the prettiest or the most useful in class but the teachers stamped stars on the back of my hands, never called on me if I didn’t know the answer. Gave me candy whenever I failed a test. They loved me. Many adults seemed to.

One time this girl sat in front of me out of nowhere. I was fourteen then and she looked fourteen. My Dad and I went out for burgers and he had gone to the restroom, so I was sitting alone in the booth and this girl just appeared in front of me. She started talking in this foreign language – foreign, well, because I couldn’t understand it – and contorting, pulling her face in different directions and I heard snickers and muffled laughs behind me. She left before Dad returned. She carried the snickers and laughs out the door with her. The old waitress smiled at me afterwards. Said our meal was on the house and several times, while we ate, I could feel her eyes on me. I was uncomfortable. Dad ordered another milkshake.

From time to time, I saw them, adults, wince once or twice from afar before they approached me. Before they smiled. And the look in their eyes would suddenly changed as they approached. Even my grandparents used to do that. My Aunts and Uncles would do that before they dragged my cousins over to say hello. It happened at every family reunion, and I guess it felt good that I was always given the third best place to sit, after my grandparents. I guess it felt good that my Aunts and Uncles doted on me while they hissed at their children to get their own food. I never became close to any of my cousins.

Anyway, I just turned eighteen tonight. I’m meeting this guy I met online. He’s 21 so he can drink and go to casinos and do whatever. He asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I said ‘to never ask for permission again.’ 

“no rly wut do u wnt? ill get u smthn.”

I asked for a lighter and a bottle of cheap wine. He texted back: weirdo :))

His car pulls up and it’s half two AM. I’m five streets away from my house.

“I’m coming back tomorrow, okay? Family’s coming over,” I tell him.

“No problem,” he replies. Sniggers. Tilts the rearview mirror down a bit. “Here’s to adulthood then.”

I catch my reflection. I see my face. I find nothing special.

 

Ryle Lagonsin is a writer from Laguna, Philippines. Currently, she is working on a novella-in-flash, although she thinks it might morph into something else. She still finds social media “quite creepy,” but has learned to tolerate it “to a certain extent.”

“Declaration” by Stephen Ground

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I used to see my whole family – Mom, Dad, little sister, a couple cats – hanging by their throats from rafters in the garage. Twice-weekly, sometimes more. Always after pounding the door code two, three times; first-try success hampered by warm Colt 45 and shake rips off pop can pipes, testing the limits of my Bambi-legged tolerance before curfew at eleven. Buzzed, sausage-fingered, I’d eventually crack it – the door half-up when I’d see them, mind’s eye but crystalline, tangible, dangling stiffly. I’d watch the door creep higher, awaiting toes pointed at the floor; shins, knees, ribs, necks wrung like dish rags. 

It’d nudged the end of the track; the roar paling. Mucousy light from the bare bulb coating the empty garage. I’d rush inside, lock up, and kill every light; trot upstairs to distance myself from a bad feeling, knuckles rapping wood railing in frantic beats, all three sides of my doorframe – inside, out – then each side of my dresser, the posts of my bed. Only then I’d feel safe, the last tendrils of dread releasing.

It felt normal – tricks of a tired mind, triggered by what I’d ingested recently in friends’ damp, half-finished basements: Silence of the Lambs. A Clockwork Orange. The Matrix. Imagination was easily blamed – it brought sleep, surrender to neon hypnagogia. I’d slip under the surface but didn’t need air, and sink, deeper but unknowingly closer to the beast leaving corpses strung in a declaration of war.


Stephen Ground is freshly-freed. His work has appeared in The River, Soft Cartel, antilang, and others which can be found at stephenground.com.

“A Thoughtless Name” by Kerry Lloyd

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We used to call it the construction site. A thoughtless name. Very simple. To the point. It was what it was. We climbed fences to get in at night. We watched for lights in the neatly arranged homes nearby to make sure that nobody would see us enter. I helped Ell over the fence. They had a harder time climbing than the rest of us. They lost their balance easily. I did too. I could always catch myself when I did. They couldn’t.

It was dark. We could see the shapes of the machinery. They were bigger than us. Fun to climb on. But we couldn’t ever quite see where we were going. We had to use flashlights. I stepped into one of the vehicles. It had a steel claw hanging from a long, bent arm. It was both sharp and blunt somehow. The door was unlocked. I tried to start it. I couldn’t start it. I looked for a key. There was no key. That was for the best. We kept walking.

We came to a hill. It was made of dirt and rocks piled up very tall. All displaced from other corners of the construction site. All of these machines, all moving around dirt and rocks. Like little ants. Ants in the construction site. Just clearing space before they build a colony. The construction site. At least, that’s what we called it. I was sure that it had a name. We didn’t need it. We climbed the hill.

Climbing was easy. Even easier than the fence. It was more like walking with longer strides. I was tall. My body was mostly legs. It was easy for me. It was harder for Reese. I helped him climb too. The moon had come out now. We could see without the flashlights. That helped.

We sat at the top of the hill. There was grass here, somehow. There wasn’t much. But enough. Any was enough. We looked at the moon. The sky was black, but illuminated. We could see stars behind the clouds. We could see the clouds. I thought one looked like a bird. Not an eagle. Something smaller, like a finch. I thought it was flying. Ell saw a shooting star. They swore they did. Reese didn’t believe them. That was fine. I believed them. 

There was a big tire at the top of the hill. We pushed it down. It bounced off the rocks and knocked dirt free into the air. I don’t know why we did this. It was satisfying. We didn’t get caught. 

We climbed down the hill. We kept walking. We played with more construction equipment. We kept walking. We hopped back over the fence. We kept walking. We didn’t get caught. We didn’t get caught. We didn’t get caught.

Kerry Lloyd is a nonbinary creative writing student lurking in the hidden and elaborate cave system under Manchester, New Hampshire. You can find them mumbling to themselves over at @razzkerry

“Motorcycle Emptiness” by Mileva Anastasiadou

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Tonight we climb up the hill, aiming at the top. We’re a team tonight, howling at the moon, like a pack of wolves. Liam holds my hand, screaming his heart out, for he’s happy and loved at last. Adeline is a few steps behind me, beside Noah, who looks right into her eyes, ignoring the view. Next time, I’ll drive you to the top, he says, not just to Adeline, to all of us. We all nod for we’re too tired to walk farther ahead. We don’t know yet, but we’ve reached the top already, although mom claims it’s far too soon. We’re too young to have reached that far. 

I feel dizzy, approaching the cliff, blaming the height, or the video game, or both, for it’s as if I were still playing that game, where the hero climbs up only to fall all the way down and I somehow sense that this could happen today. Only that hero has three lives, while I only have one. Liam says that’s far enough. We don’t need to reach the top, he insists. No need to go higher. He’s been invisible for too long, he’s been a ghost and I breathed life into him. He’s now seen. And heard. He’s happy. It could be the happy pill he’s been taking though, the one that makes him yawn so hard, he can’t hear me. That’s how it starts, the downward spiral, I say, but he doesn’t understand, he doesn’t even see the void beneath our feet. Liam takes off his shirt and I see the tattoo on his shoulder, an eagle it is, he says, like he’s proud of it. I’m now free, he tells me, for being loved set him free, he doesn’t have to please his folks anymore now he’s found me and I feel proud too, like he’s my tattoo and we’re stuck together, I tell him and he nods. 

Adeline walks next to me and we’re now both standing breathless, like we’re at the top of the hill, or the world and we’re not only seeing the view, we’re also watching the best part of our lives playing like a movie ahead of us. 

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be waiting for Noah to drive us up to the top. Up to the point we haven’t reached tonight. Only Noah won’t show up and we’ll spend the night at the mall, the place that dies at night, when lights go out. We’ll no longer be a team next day; we’ll be lone wolves instead. Lone wolves are a myth, mom will say, claiming wolves don’t remain alone for long. It’s over, I’ll tell her and she’ll close my mouth with her hands, mumbling comforting words, like it was God’s will, which won’t help much. I’ve reached the peak, I’ll say, it’s all downhill from now on, but mother will advise me to not rush into the future, to not confuse my peak with Noah’s peak. 

Adeline will fall apart. Noah, who is now a fling, will be the love of her life after he’s gone. Poor Adeline will be the first of the gang to fall out of the safety net and into the black hole of loss. That black hole that’ll take her to a parallel universe where loved ones disappear and people certainly allow a certain amount of time for mourning, but expect her to move on like nothing’s happened. Only, to her,  Noah’s arc will be a dream forever lost. 

Liam will spend his time rearranging the future. He’ll be the opposite of the over-achiever he’s been for most of his life, as he’ll  blame that goddamn top of the hill for the loss. He’ll try to live alone, away from the city, or distractions. He’ll try helmets to resist mainstream ideology, to not let it penetrate his mind, only helmets won’t help. They’re permeable to ideas. So he’ll spend most of his time in the shower, rubbing his skin, to wash off invisible bits of ambition. Liam will prove to be a shape-shifter, slowly shrinking his ego, turning into the eagle he now has on his arm, until he flies away, never to be seen again. Not as secretly as Richey Edwards, Adeline will say and I’ll agree. 

Mom will say it goes like that; you climb and climb and you don’t know you’ve reached the top, until that first slip, that first loss. You can only walk down gracefully after that, she claims, emphasizing ‘gracefully’ to make the descent sound better than it does. I’ll be rolling down, almost gracefully, fixing my hair every now and then, stretching my clothes, checking my make-up, swallowing happy pills which won’t work but will only make me yawn harder, to the point I’m almost deaf and the world is conveniently incomprehensible, trapped in a sad Van Gogh’s painting, among ghostly ‘roots and tree trunks’, mom blocking the way, to keep me high enough, or push me higher, but I’ll keep rolling and I’ll tell her what the painter allegedly told his brother: la tristesse durera toujours. The sadness will last forever and mom will nod, but I’ll get used to it, she promises. 

However graceful the attempt, the descent sucks, but we don’t know yet. We don’t even know we’re about to find out. We form a circle, holding hands and we sway to the music  of Motorcycle Emptiness, only we’re not yet familiar with that everlasting nothingness we sing about. We’re standing now at this point, the world at our feet, flying high like eagles in the sky, or on Liam’s arm, at the peak of our togetherness, drunk on the future that will escape us, and we party like there’s no tomorrow, because there isn’t, exchanging glances of complicity, of promises we won’t keep, but for now it’s only another tender night, one of those nights you don’t suspect you’ll always remember, but we all will, except for Noah.  

 


Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist from Athens, Greece. Her work can be found in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Jellyfish Review, the Sunlight Press (Best Small Fictions 2019 nominee), Ghost Parachute, Gone Lawn, Ellipsis Zine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Bending Genres, Litro and others.

“Dispatch from the Dollar Hot Dog Line” by Connor Goodwin

 

7981319450_8d47639532_o.jpgSaturdays at the ballpark were dollar hot dogs and two dollar tallboys. These two fronts, hot and cold, came together like a tornado, a tornado of undercooked anus and bottom shelf relief, to wreak havoc on Haymarket stadium. 

In the eye of the storm was our beloved Salt Dogs vs. the almighty Air Hogs. 

But first, we must traverse enemy lines. 

To be clear, lines are the enemies. 

Lines to get tickets. 

Lines to gain admission. 

Lines for dollar dogs. 

Lines for two dollar tallboys.  

Lines for the bathroom. 

Lines for tallboys. 

Lines for dogs. 

Lines to shake hands and say: good game good game good game good game. 

From an aerial view, an Air Hog view if you will, these lines formed a labyrinth maze of standing spectators. None of whom are in fact watching the game. Instead, each studies the progress of their respective line and measures it against other lines, wondering, always wondering, if they chose the wrong line.

But there’s only one line that matters. And that line has tripled by the time we doubled back. It’s the dollar dog line. It’s the two dollar tallboy line. It’s the only line that matters. 

There are other, shorter lines. Lines closer to our seats. But those lines are for rich people. Those lines are for $5 drafts, $6 crafts, and no dogs. 

“No runs. No hits. No errors,” the announcer chimes, casting light shade over the sunny diamond. It’s the bottom of the second. 

One sadist cradling an armful of dogs and cargo shorts loaded with tallboys saunters toward the back of the line. He’s a rich man: unfettered by lines, warmed by dogs, heavy with beer. The sadist openly gnoshes into the radioactive pink-green dog and speaks loudly into his bluetooth. We might as well have rabies: we foam, we yip, we pant.

It’s the top of the fourth and we’re next in line. 

“No runs. No hits. No errors.” 

“No dogs,” adds the vendor, trying to be cute. Not. Cute. 

The line bristles. The line boos and heckles and waves its tickets as if they were a deed to hot dogs.

“Five minutes!” he shouts and waves his white towel in surrender. But a line not moving is an agitated line. Friction between particles increases. Collisions become more likely. The line is a nuclear explosion waiting to happen. And then it does. 

It erupts in joy. In the distance, lesser lines have parted to make way for an acned adolescent, sunburnt pink, looking as fine as any blistered hot dog. Balanced on his head is a pyramid of hot dogs looking as immaculate as Queen Cleopatra herself. My hero. 

I polished off my fifth dog and cracked my third tallboy when the announcer summoned everyone to their feet, “Ladies and gentleman! Boys and girls! Lagers and Buds!” 

It was time for the main event. 

In the sixth inning, little boys dress up as tallboys for a race around the bases. Whichever tallboy wins is a dollar for the seventh inning. It’s Bud Heavy vs. Bud Light vs. PBR. Bud Light won last time. Fuck Bud Light. 

“At first base, weighing in at 5%, we have Buuuuud Heavyyyyyy.” Red cans scorch the air. 

“Clocking in at 4.7%, hailing from the Great Lakes, P! B! R!” We cheers and shotgun our beers. 

“And now, you’re reigning champ, at just 4.2%, Bud Light, a.k.a Bluuuuuue Lightning!” The crowd thundered back in a chorus of boos and cans rained down onto the diamond. 

Obviously, we are team PBR. We’d be ok with Bud Heavy winning, but not Bud Light. Fuck Bud Light. I’m worried though, because Bud Light is taller than the others and suggests he is rightful heir to the tallboy throne. 

“Ready! Set! Chuuuuuug!” 

Bud Light gallops ahead to an early lead. PBR trails nearby and cuts inside rounding second and is poised to gain the lead. They are neck and neck approaching third when Bud Light shoves PBR, sending him tumbling into the dugout. Meanwhile, Bud Heavy is doubled over, heaving. Bud Light pumps his tiny fists in the dusty air as he trots home, unchallenged. Volley after volley of PBR and Bud Heavy cans rain down from the bleachers and litter the field around home plate, as if Bud Light had vanquished his competition into mini particles of themselves. 

The game is over. 

The final score remains unknown. 

We close down the stadium and head to the bar.

 


Connor Goodwin is a writer from Lincoln, Nebraska. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Poets & Writers, Los Angeles Review of Books, BOMB, X-R-A-Y,and elsewhere.