We found your car in a ditch at 5 AM. Kevin’s truck illuminated your Saturn sedan covered in band stickers. Smoke leaked into the summer haze. The lights were off. Tire marks carved into the soggy earth. Auto liquids saturated the plush grass in burgundy. Kevin jolted out and bounded the hill, going No, no, no. Your door was stuck and dented inward. Your lifeless body slumped into the passenger seat. Your head smacked into the glass. Blood on the tan dash like mold on bread. Brown beer bottles all over the back seat. CD jewel cases busted and snapped on the floorboard. Lukewarm KFC chicken half-eaten in the cupholder. You know how laconic Kevin is, how much he can handle. When I heard his deep-throated scream, I fell to my knees. We knew that night it was on us, fuck. We didn’t hold you back. You always were an Aries.Continue reading “‘Rain Like Tears’ by Josh Dale”
On the internet I saw a freelancer say that a piece they wrote for a few hundred bucks “fucks” and I thought, when did we go from slaps to fucks? From the jump, I should disclose that I was a teenager in the 90s, so while attempting to solve the riddle of the new slang, my thought process was like this: I remember Ol’ Dirty Bastard (ODB) saying “My beats are slammin’ from the rugged programmin’” on his classic track “Hippa to da Hoppa,” and slamming, as an adjective for something that kicks ass, probably comes from fucking, because, well, fucking kicks ass. Other than slamming, we’ve got the RZA dropping “It’s bangin’ son, I said it’s bangin’ son,” on the intro to the Method Man cut “What the Blood Clot,” and banging obviously comes from fucking, right?
So now I’ve got a bit of a blind spot because, you know, the whole 90s thing, and I’ve got kids, so I’m paying attention to this slang, and I hear people talking about shit that slaps, and that’s probably referencing skin-slapping-skin-mid-coitus, and naturally, why not just go ahead and say that it fucks because ever since the 80s and 90s, when we were listening to Wu-Tang and talking about slamming and banging? We were always just talking about shit so good it made you want to fuck.
T.L. States lives in Tucson with his wife and kids, and he’s got marvelous shit at ‘Hobar’t, ‘The Daily Drunk’, ‘HAD’, ‘Rejection Letters’, and other places. He’s got a fledgling Twitter presence as @epmornsesh
A few flakes still swirled down, danced on the nasty gusts of bitter wind that always flush city streets in winter. The parking garage across the street was dark, and most of the restaurants and bars had closed early because it was a weeknight, and cold.
I was catching a breath of air outside the Hyatt House in the Mosaic District of Fairfax outside Washington, DC. Probably I was trying to decide if I should walk a block or two to see if anything was still open, if it was worth it to brave the cold to eat alone, or go back up to my room and take the salad I bought at the fancy Super Target across the street, the one with the escalator, out of the mini fridge and finishing watching Beauty and the Beast.
Among the few stragglers on the street, there was a man smoking a cigarette outside the Hyatt who glanced at me once, twice, and made his way over.
Oh, here we go.
“Cold enough for you?” he asks.
“From out of town? Here on business?”
“Me, too. My name’s (insert name). I do sales. Travel a lot.”
Maybe his name was Larry. He looked like a Larry. I never remember names on the first or second go-round. Actually, I think he had a more surprising name, something hip or young, like Mike or Liam. He was a couple inches shorter than me, round beneath his expensive suit, probably 15 to 20 years older, bald with some graying hair around the edges.
“Yah. I travel all over. Been to Chicago, Grand Rapids, Dallas-Ft.Worth, and that’s just last month.”
I waited to hear where this was going. It could be anything. It wasn’t that I automatically thought he was going to hit on me, although it was one possibility.
“Am I holding you up? Were you waiting on someone?” he asked, looking around like my phantom lover was about to appear. I looked, too.
“No. Just getting some air.”
He lit another cigarette, got a sad look in his eyes, kind of glanced across the street at the empty stores and sidewalks.
“So, yeah,” he said. “You travel all the time, kind of miss out on a lot. Aren’t always there for the family, wife and kids, you know?”
I thought of my own son at home, fending for himself for the first time, cooking ramen.
“My wife has to put up with a lot on her own, you know? See, my daughter, she’s had some problems…”
Ok. Stop. If I’m alone in this, it’s a curse.
In this case, it’s the fact that we are two travelers meeting in a strange city, alone. It’s the anonymity. He is never going to see me again. If I judge him for what he is about to say, it doesn’t matter much. I make a good stranger.
It’s part of the reason I avoid people. It’s also what will make me great at what I have come here to be trained to do. People ache to tell their stories. If you give them the chance, you don’t have to yank confessions like teeth. They just fall right out.
My card is The Fool. I’m just a weary wanderer stumbling through life, occasionally falling off cliffs. Somehow I come off like The High Priestess. I pick up my tramp sack and sling it over my shoulder, and it gets heavier all the time. I can’t set it down. It would leak secrets and those secrets are acid. They would eat a hole in the pavement right through the core of the earth. Maybe if someone could feel how heavy this pack is, they might carry it for a while.
There was a man who bought me a drink in a bar I used to frequent. I must’ve been about 19. He was quite a few under the table already. When I said I wouldn’t go out with him, he told me he just murdered his wife and buried her up off GA-400. His story turned out to be true. People tell me everything — people who’ve had things happen that never should have, people who have done things that you don’t ever want to know people actually do. People. The dark undercurrents of humanity flow like a cesspool into the steaming sewer called reality, while the citizens above walk the paradisiacal paved streets dressed in Armani and Louis Vuitton.
Every once in a while someone says or does something that shakes me to the core, something beautiful, innocent, surprising. Once in a blue moon. I never wanted to be this jaded. Every time a new dark secret gets added to my bag, I feel like I’ve been robbed of something else.
So the wind still bites and I’m sure Beauty has run to save her Beast from the villagers’ torches by now, and it’s kind of disappointing that he is actually a handsome prince when she was just getting used to the Beast.
The man standing beside me, Mike or Liam or Larry, blinks back tears because of his daughter’s battle with anorexia. If I were a better person, a more honest person, I would probably say exactly what I’m thinking which is maybe he should send her out to the bush because anorexia is a culture-induced entitled white girl problem and if she had to go survive on her own without attention or comfort or food for a few weeks she would be eating grub-worms quick enough and quit breaking her father’s heart. But, instead, I feel sorry that he is sorry, so I don’t say anything.
“You’re shivering,” he says. “Better get inside where it’s warm.”
I slip under the stainless white comforter in my suite and prepare to fall into a dreamless coma, wonder if there is anyone on earth who I could trust enough to tell my stories to.
Abigail Swire is just a wandering stranger, and only dangerous sometimes.
our ﬁrst computer
came in a big box
that looked like a cow
like a computer disguised as a cow
a computer harvested from a farm
I guess it was their marketing thing
it was supposed to be the computer of future back then
the name was even futuristic
it was like Christmas 1994
we also got an Encarta ’95 encyclopedia CD-ROM
what even was time back then
we also got a chess game and a golf game and a skiing game
there was also a ﬁghter jet game that made ﬂying stealth ﬁghter jets
seem very boring
until you were pelted with missiles
and you exploded
I mostly played the chess game
the CPU was named Ziggurat
in the beginning I liked Ziggurat
because on the Beginner level I could win
and Ziggurat explained the openings
there was the Giuoco Piano, the Queen’s Pawn Gambit
the Ruy Lopez, the King’s Fianchetto
I liked the Fianchetto for its dramatic sweeping bishops
and you could even occasionally catch Ziggurat oﬀ guard on Beginner
that’s when I felt smarter than the cow computer
(and if you ever feel smarter than a computer that’s a bad sign)
(to outdo a computer with emotion is another story)
after a few weeks on Beginner I skipped right to the Grand Master level
then Ziggurat wasn’t my chess pal anymore
Ziggurat got deadly serious
its moves were instant, eﬃcient and played with menacing intent
it was a wolf in a cow suit in a computer suit
I never won again.
soon I switched to the golf game or searched the Encarta ’95 CD-ROM
I fell absently into a portal to inﬁnite information
I searched for Rutherford B. Hayes because my dad’s mom’s like great- great-grandmother
was Lucy Ware Hayes, the First Lady
they called her Lemonade Lucy, I think it was because she liked lemonade and hated alcohol
I liked lemonade and hated alcohol too, but I was like 10
the article on Rutherford B. Hayes said he was considered an average president
it seemed weird to me that a president could just be considered average, but I was like 10
I wondered if being related to a president made me anything special
but no I was not anything special
I wondered who the last president would be, probably nobody that special
the last man on earth
might not be all that great either
(I wonder when men will stop
needing someone to tell them what to want and to do)
I wanted a lemonade and I was bored of Rutherford
I played the skiing game
the skiing game started slow and got faster as you slalomed further
down the slope and you could jump on the jumps and do tricks
like ﬂipping through space
until a big furry monster inevitably gobbled you up
then that was the end
the randomness of the ending bothered me, but I was like 10
then like a bunch of years went by
then I was in college and tripping on psilocybin
absently accessing a portal to ancient info
I was alone
and I had my head on my pillow
and my head was like exploding onto my pillow, but, like sweetly and softly exploding
and everything was a pale purple
a white and black pyramid grew out of my brain
and it kept adding levels and levels and
and I knew it was Ziggurat
a wolf dressed like computer dressed like a mushroom growing
from inside cow shit (my brain)
and I still sucked at chess
and Ziggurat was probably like three moves away from
gobbling me up furry monster-style
but it was diﬀerent now
it was cool
because I could just open
my eyes whenever
and everything would disappear
and I could just keep ﬂipping through space
just like this
The Paranormal Enthusiast Frat Boy Sees a Ghost Palindrome
A Disembodied Voice Makes a Command Regarding Muffins (chill out mix)
I stopped at the grocery store late one night
And I heard a computerized female voice say:
Enter your muﬃns.
I don’t like quietness in conversation. At some point it’s not a conversation anymore. It’s just me talking and the other person sitting or standing there listening. Not even a sound of confirmation, not even a head nod, just silence. It’s at this point where I begin to wonder where their mind has taken them and why have they not chosen to take me there with them. It’s important to involve others in your mind, to not let conversation become stagnant. It’s okay to let others in. One time I held a one way conversation with a woman and she stared at me the whole time. Once I was done talking I expected a response, actual politeness. At least acknowledge me. But no, even after I finished she stared blankly as if transported to some pleasant far away land. I didn’t ask. I just walked away from the rudeness. What use is conversation with a corpse? I ask you this question seriously. Even now I’m reminded of her rudeness, her sitting there leaning, her blankly being present and yet not present in conversing. A person is a shell if they refuse to converse. You might as well be discarded if you’re a shell, and she was a shell sitting there, quiet, like she hadn’t moved for a long time.
At the club people dance, romance; you want to join but you don’t know the meaning of coordination. So you sit back and watch, merging with the walls, becoming a pattern of flesh and bone colors. The people don’t notice. No one notices the person who has now become the scenery. They continue to dance and romance, so many bodies on the floor. It stinks in here and yet the smell is not unpleasant. Someone rolls over to you, almost catching your eye but you refuse their iris and instead pretend to be elsewhere. So they roll away and romance with another. The unrecognizable song blaring from the sound system suddenly changes and the people begin to bounce. They behave as if drug induced, bouncing off the ceiling and hitting the walls viciously. They move in coordination, booming and splatting against you, their bodies sweaty and large. How much longer can you last before you leave? Will you die here unnoticed? Finally, you exhale and withdraw from your self-made walled enclosure. Almost immediately vomit exits your body and the people are still bouncing. Some land in front of you, splashing and slipping in your waste. They seem not to notice in their current rate of motion. You apologize to no one and stand to make your leave. Just then someone grabs you, placing something small into your retched mouth. Now you are bouncing as well. There is no care in the bounce, no worries or troubles. It is almost like life itself is pulling you away from it all.
Rickey Rivers Jr was born and raised in Alabama. He is a writer and cancer survivor. He has been previously published with Fabula Argentea, Back Patio Press, Every Day Fiction, (among other publications). https://storiesyoumightlike.wordpress.com/. You may or may not find something you like there. Tweets at @storiesyoumight. His third mini collection of 3×3 poems is available now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VDH6XG5
Thank you to the obituary but the funeral wasn’t as funny as it should have been. You see, it should have been hilarious. There should have been dynamic colors and sounds. There should have been animals and puffy outfits. There should have been something worthwhile. Instead there was nothing, suits and tears. Imagine being told of a clown dying and expecting a speculator funeral showcase but instead receiving mundane mediocracy. It was enough to make me sick. I felt like I’d been tricked. A bunch of suited men and women without face paint, they probably weren’t even clowns. I had more make up on than anyone there. You understand how embarrassed I was? And this was a closed casket funeral too. I wanted very much to open the lid and see what the big deal was. Imagine if the clown in the box died wearing a funny face. Wouldn’t he want people to laugh one last time before his burial? Am I the only one with a sense of humor anymore? I know some people are afraid of clowns but the idea is so foolish that I absolutely refuse to acknowledge the phobia further. After the burial I walked around the cemetery looking at the gravestones. I began to make faces at them. Every single row of bodies received a silly face. I was so angry that I had to do this, childish as it was. I was so angry that I began to laugh hard and loud. No one came to me in concern and I ruined my face with wetness.
I’m a nurse. I’m in the business of care and pain management. I’m firm. Pain relief should be priority. Even when the doctor doesn’t agree I still help the patients. I have to. It’s my job. I don’t want them to suffer. It’s cruel. Being in a lonely hospital bed, staring at the walls, ceiling and television is no way to live. Imagine being surrounded by so many beeping machines and such, of course you’d want relief. They’re fragile. I feel that way. Of course they’re in pain and if I can relieve then I relieve. I won’t let them suffer so needlessly. If they buzz I run. I relieve. Trust that doing so doesn’t lead to addiction. No. I’ve never had a patient become a slur. Doing so instead leads to thankfulness and oh, such euphoria. Why buzz when you no longer suffer? Why buzz when pleasure has left you unable to lift even a finger? I satisfy. I relieve with the care and gentleness of a mother. When you’ve suffered for so long of course you’d want someone to whisk away worries and manage your pain so sufficiently that you’re left in brilliant states of bliss. As an angel, dress certainly doesn’t hurt, alas no wings for me. Oh, I do live to serve. I do live to assist. I care so dearly for them and I notice their affinity. It is accepted, respectfully, as are they.
I’ve been walking up and down for a while. These streets are lonely. People are cruel. They give dirty looks as if I’m a beast. I know this isn’t true. I am who I am. My life has led me here. Yesterday evening I saw a little boy sitting on the path. The boy was crying. I planned to walk on by but the boy’s crying began to anger me. What did he have to cry about? Past approach I stopped in front of the boy and asked what was wrong. The boy looked up at me, his eyes were stained red. He told me that his parents were fighting again. He said he left home because he didn’t want to see what would happen next. I looked behind him and asked him if his home was the one that seemed to be splitting down the middle. The boy nodded confirmation. I asked him if he had ever been struck. He nodded again. I wanted to take that boys hand and lead him to a better place, a place where he could be free from such violence, a place where he’d never have to cry from pain again. I felt for him, so much so that it physically hurt me to speak with him further. The boy asked where I was going. I said nowhere. He said “that sounds nice, to be nowhere.” I told him that’s wrong. He insisted, said “I want to walk with you.” I told him no, because my road doesn’t end. Cruel as it was I had to leave him there. He deserves a future, no matter if troubled.
Rickey Rivers Jr was born and raised in Alabama. He is a writer and cancer survivor. He has been previously published with Fabula Argentea, Cabinet of Heed, Back Patio Press, (among other publications). https://storiesyoumightlike.wordpress.com/. You may or may not find something you like there. His third mini collection of 3×3 poems is available now: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VDH6XG5
The wounded bird appeared out of the blue. I take it in my hands and carry it onto the operation table. I hold the scalpel tightly and clear the wound, pouring water over it. I’m the best of surgeons, but not a veterinary. I call the nurse but she doesn’t answer back. We have a life or death situation here, I yell. She ignores me again.
The bird stops making sounds, or movements. Cold sweat runs down my spine. I push up and down its chest and yell at the little creature, as if it was its own choice to pass out, as if it fell asleep and I only need to wake it up. The poor bird stands still, enduring my efforts, its eyes wide open, staring at me, as if blaming me for my incompetence.
The nurse finally rushes in.
What are you doing, she asks. Stop the nonsense, I tell her. She rolls her eyes like I’m stupid. She urges me to swallow the pill she’s put in my mouth. That’s my job I say, to repair reality, to step in and fix things, when the end seems inevitable. That bird is dying, I yell at her. She seems perplexed at my words. That stupid nurse is so incompetent, she hasn’t noticed the bird yet. I show it to her. It’s still on the table.
She holds the bird in her hands, squeezing all life that was left out of it, and I cry and yell but she doesn’t seem impressed. That useless nurse is killing the bird. Until there is no bird anymore. She’s now holding a piece of cloth in her hands. And she’s my daughter, her eyes blue like her mother’s, her brown hair cut short, the pixie haircut her mother likes. How did I end up in here? My brain is slowly penetrated by oblivion or illusion. Where’s the bird? Where’s my wife? I ask.
She turns around and I see her tears. I wipe her cheek with the back of my hand, and she smiles, but it’s a forced smile, like she’s still sad but wants to hide it. I can’t stand seeing tears on her face. When did I see them again? When she broke up with that boy from school. I’m sure that was the last time. Or was it later? I was standing above her mother’s dead body, a wounded creature who wished to live, a last attempt at resuscitation, but it all happened so fast. I’m a good doctor who’s saved many lives. How did I fail this time? It’s a complex thing, when your loved ones suffer; you suffer along, you may even ache more watching them suffer, yet from a safe place, where you’re safe and sound and slightly relieved you’re not in their shoes. And that complex emotion includes guilt which can’t be easily erased. I’m holding my head between my hands and close my eyes, as if memories will be obliterated if I shut down my senses. My legs are trembling, my heartbeat rises, while this painful reality fades away, like bad dreams fade and I won’t open my eyes before I wake up to a more tolerable version of the world.
It wasn’t your fault, the nurse tells me.
I’ll never forgive myself, I say. But then I see the bird move, then stumble, then spread its wings and fly high in the room and out of the open window, and I feel like a hero, for that’s what heroes do; they repair reality, despite all hardships, defying all rules.
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.
A steakhouse parking lot, first date, first dom
will ask to tickle. You’ll cooperate —
a subtle nod, half-closed eyelids. His palms
first touch your trembling ribs. Breathe against, wait,
until fingertips pry paroxysms,
open thighs, one hand around a throat, can’t
cum until you will comply — conditions:
you are a pleasure, denied, he may grant,
unexclusively, to you — and then some
friends. You could learn to like it or you can
hold it in behind a cervix fingers strum
numb. We are fucking happy. Understand?
A protocol practiced, parking lots before,
brings college girls to his living room floor.
Kristin Garth is a Pushcart, Best of the Net & Rhysling nominated poet from Pensacola and a sonnet stalker. Her sonnets have stalked magazines like Five: 2: One, Yes, Glass, Luna Luna, Occulum, Drunk Monkeys, and other places. She is the author of eleven books of poetry including Pink Plastic House (Maverick Duck Press), Puritan U (Rhythm & Bones Press) and Candy Cigarette Womanchild Noir (The Hedgehog Poetry Press) and the forthcoming Flutter: Southern Gothic Fever Dream (TwistiT Press, 2020) and Dewy Decimals (Arkay Artists, 2020).
Follow her on Twitter: @lolaandjolie
and her website (kristingarth.com)