Summer Vacation by Anne B Wright

Daytime summers in southern New Mexico are brutal. Hot. A filmy layer of gritty dust settled on the tiled floor but I laid down on it anyway, just to feel something cooler than the air. This way I could see the spider webs in the corners where the walls met the ceiling. Even they were coated with bits of dust. I looked forward to the evening when I could sit outside, under the roofed patio and watch the rain move across the desert, throwing up billows of dust in its path, flashes of lightning streaking the pastel violet sky. Once I sat on the patio in the rain and I saw a dog walk toward me on long skinny legs. His paws were oversized and his eyes shone amber, or was it the setting sun reflecting sparks of yellow light? The dog plodded across the yard and sat in front of me, his long red tongue drooping from between white …Read More

All Writing is Confession by Anonymous

All writing is confession. Masked and revealed in the voices and faces of our characters. All is hunger. The longing to be known fully and still loved. The admission of our own inherent vulnerability, our weakness, our tenderness of skin, fragility of heart. Our overwhelming desire to be relieved of the burden of ourselves in the body of another — to be forgiven of our ultimate aloneness in the warm body of god or the common work of revolution. These are human considerations that the best of writers presses her finger upon. The wound ruptures… and heals. ………………….Note from the editor……………………. Though this piece does not fall into the traditional definition of short fiction, it is an offering, an interruption of services so to speak in support of writers. And it is beautiful, no? –Curly Red.

The Old Guy Who Used to Drink My Coffee by Zachary Fishel

Flat rimmed glasses rested on the crescent moon of a nose he had plastered on his face. He smoked three packs a day and rarely read anything other than hunting magazines, but he sat here in the library for hours in the steady hum of fluorescent lights and bleached floors. I often looked at the old man from the tops of the spines of Kerouac, Keats, and Twain because there was a mystery about him, like he was expelled from college for being too brilliant. His voice was raspy like Tom Waits if he drank sandpaper martinis, and he never checked anything out just read it in the library minding to return it to its proper place like a crooked necktie after the final page was turned. Sometimes I could hear him muttering curses at the outdoor writers, like a 1970’s cynic pissed off about the latest critique of Howl. I brought the old man coffee, even though I never …Read More

Sometimes There Just Aren’t Enough Rocks by Zachary Fishel

I just wanted to know how she could hate me so much when all I ever wanted was to hold her like a magician in the inky nights of a January, unforgettable. I wasn’t a sweet reliable machine, but a broken mess like cigarette filters turned over in cans outside of courtrooms. “I loved you, you know?” She said this in between sips of hot chocolate at a Starbucks across town, I walked through fifteen blocks to see her kick me in the face with those perfect Pointe toes. I loved her, more than any neo-theologian loved their self-made God, more than candy on Halloween and I just wanted to figure out how such a delicate flower could wield teeth like barbed-wire fences at Auschwitz, where snagging skin was the only love making available. Nothing really happened so I told her that I hoped she had a good life, sorry things didn’t work, and drive safe. That last part was …Read More

Love Your Endowments by Stacey Dennick

Emily lifted up her t-shirt.  “Go ahead,” she said.  “Take a look.” Where her breasts should have been, used to be, were twin scars, slanted like closed eyes. “Can I touch?”  I asked. “Sure” I brushed a fingertip against the taut skin, my throat tightening with tears.  Another woman in the hallway stopped to see what we were doing.  Soon, she and several others from this retreat for women with cancer were exposing their chests, comparing, witnessing. “Now let’s see yours,” Emily said. I unhooked my bra and lifted my shirt.  A five-inch scar ran the length of my right breast, puckering the skin.   Once again, I was embarrassed by my extravagant endowment.  Some of these women had nothing, and here I was worrying about a scar. “This is a scar,” Eva said.  She pulled her shirt up and her pants down to reveal a fat scar that split her belly in two, from just under the sternum to the …Read More

PEACE NOW by Anthony Christiansen

PEACE NOW the bumper sticker on her ’68 green Impala said in red, white, and blue.  Me and my hound Bobo were walking in the woods and came upon that mess of cars down by the Carmichael hay barn where the creek runs east.  Would’ve recognized it about anywhere, I figure. The day Flower came by to pick up Bobby she’d just come back from that fancy girls’ college her daddy sent her to up North. Had to sneak over to our place when she came home at Christmas, too, because of what her daddy thought of Bobby. Looked all different with her tie-dyed shirt and blue jeans and moccasins and all. Tell the truth, I hardly recognized her. Bobby said she’d become a hippy up North. Standing there on the front porch, breeze dancing in her long blonde hair, throwing it in her face. Just smiled at Bobby, jingled her car keys at him. Said I could come if …Read More

Pumping at The Richfield by Debra Gordon Zaslow

I pull into the Shell station and edge my car up to the pump.  I always have to think which side my tank is on, which wrenches me out of the muddled reverie that my brain is in when I drive.  A young man in a red shirt leans toward me and says, "What can I get for you?" I answer, "Fill it up with Ethyl."  He stares back at me blankly.  It is 2001.  He has never heard of Ethyl, and he doesn’t think I’m funny. He never met George and his wife, Lee, the owners of the Richfield station on the corner of Nordhoff and Sepulveda  in the San Fernando Valley where I grew up. We knew them so well that nobody in our family even had to show them our Richfield Card.  "Just charge it to my parents,” I’d say breezily to George, as if he and Lee were our best friends and the station was in …Read More

’57 Chevy by Debra Gordon Zaslow

My grandparents have come over to show us their new, ‘57 Chevy, smooth yellow, with glossy chrome trim. The San Fernando Valley heat rises off the sleek fins, as we stand at the curb and marvel.  My parents and sisters and I look like any suburban family. With our bright shorts and sunglasses, you could match us with any of the tract houses in “Storybook Lane,” where the floor plans repeat every fourth house. My grandparents don’t fit. Grandpa wears rumpled wool trousers and a long-sleeved shirt, while Grandma has on a worn flowered dress with a handkerchief tucked into the bosom. She doesn’t approve of anything he does, but this extravagance has her really steamed. Grandpa, a solid man with a perpetual smirk and breath that smells of old cigars, lets us touch the white vinyl upholstery, roll the windows, and switch the radio to KRLA Top-40, while Grandma grumbles. “Our legs vil stick to dat seat in dis …Read More

The Mexican Crib Crisis by Lupe Fernandez

October 1962- In a little brown house, Salvador, lying on his baby belly, turns face down. The crib mattress presses into his face. His breathing stops. In the living room, his parents watch a special television broadcast. His mother, Claudia, interprets the dire news into Spanish for her husband, Tomás. A black and white image of President John F. Kennedy announces the blockade of the Cuba to stop Soviet atomic missiles from sprouting on the former casino island paradise. Premier Khrushchev intends to keep his promise of burying America. Salvador’s pressed lips dribble salvia onto a white bed sheet. If Salvador doesn’t start breathing in three minutes, his tiny brain will starve from oxygen deprivation. His chubby cheeks will turn blue and his heart will stop beating. He will be among the millions of babies who die mysteriously in the crib. If neither Uncle Sam nor the Red Bear blink, a destroyer will be torpedoed or a submarine will be …Read More

Seven Days Ago by Lupe Fernandez

Seven days ago, a paroled pedophile was arrested for loitering at St. Augustus Elementary School. Seven days later, I was taking photos on a scorching summer afternoon Hermosa Beach, near the restored pier.  The black barrel my vintage 1988 Canon A-1 zoom lens focused on a sweaty man digging a hole in the sand. As I snapped the image, a four year old blond boy, face plastered with sand, crossed into view. Click. “Excuse me.” A curly blond woman in a one piece black bathing suit padded up to me. “Who’re you with?” She smiled politely “With?” Was she picking up on me? I looked at her and then my camera. “No. Not with a newspaper if that’s what you mean.” I cradled my Canon in both hands. “This is just for fun.” “Fun?” “Fun,” I nodded. “Steven!” The blond boy plodded up to his mother with a bucket full of sand. The mother hugged him tight and glared at …Read More

Elephant in the City by Nora Nadjarian

It happened as I was crossing over and I saw it, him, right in the middle of the street, blocking the traffic. A woman stood in front, and everyone watched in horror at first, because she might get trampled, the elephant might stampede and she might die. But none of that happened in the next few minutes. The woman touched his thick skin with her hands, and she wept and wept, as if she’d found the one precious thing in life which she’d lost, and more traffic stopped and people stared. No beeping of horns, just complete silence. No panic, just calmness. There’s this one word: serendipity. If she hadn’t gone shopping that day, they wouldn’t have met. If he hadn’t escaped, she would never have found him. If the cars hadn’t stopped, I wouldn’t have looked. If the woman hadn’t wept this story might not have been written. Think of it as a kind of sequence, luck in slow …Read More

Buffalo Park by Calder Lorenz

The church bells have settled back down and it’s a struggle for her to keep up with a flock of emaciated white streaks as they slide against the intense light of the day’s blue sky. ‘Miss, Miss,’ a man calls. ‘Did you ring for this cab?’ ‘It wasn’t me,’ she says, squinting into the car’s interior. This man, with his unbuttoned shirt, gold chain sunken into his grey chest hair, frowns and shakes his head. ‘I doubt I can help you,’ she says. ‘I lost my sunglasses and it hurts my eyes to speak with you.’  Her hand in her purse. ‘That’s not my problem,’ the man says, as his thin mustache dances like a pelvis, perfectly in time with the rhythm of Italian disco. She thinks, I should walk down this cement hill and buy a cheap pair of shades. ‘Toronto is hot in July,’ the cabbie says. ‘There’s a strike there, miss. Trash piled up in the parks.  …Read More

February Rain by Calder Lorenz

She’d left her lunch shift without her tips and called him from a red pay phone on Parker Street, a tumbledown replica of a once cherished London style phone box. Inside the box there were delicate militant patches of grass that had broken through the concrete. The splintered door to the booth was without its protective glass and now her socks were stuck to her skin as the demented February rain huddled her up against a few panels of un-smashed glass.  The phone picked up on the first ring.  Terra Jean heard heavy breathing.  The other side sniffled.  Coughed.  “I’ve thought about it,” she said. “I know that you want her. But so do I.” There was silence on the other end.  A lowered punk song she had once liked scorched along in the background.  Her earring dug into her neck.  “You can’t keep her,” she said. “You just can’t.” “No worries,” he said. “That mutt shit on my floor.” …Read More

Killing Time by Zach Wyner

At 10:30 AM the doorbell rang.  Faye noted the time, thirty minutes to kill before she’d have to start getting ready for her appointment.  She stubbed out her cigarette and there followed a knock.  She got up from her desk, breezed down the hall in her sweat shorts and tee and opened the door.  The heat smacked her cheeks.  She shielded her eyes from the glare, smelled the baking asphalt.  Before her stood the same thickly built UPS man as always, betraying no hint of recognition. “Morning,” he said, thrusting a clipboard at her, a shoebox-sized package tucked under his left armpit. “They said it’s going to be over a hundred again today,” she said, as she signed.  She handed the clipboard back.  He nodded and scanned the paperwork.  “Must get hot in that van.  That is… well, I assume you have no air-conditioning.” He lowered his eyes to hers, black like his hair.  He tilted his head the right, …Read More

Wavy, Blue Lines by Zach Wyner

I’m babysitting my five-year-old niece today, my sister Suzanne’s daughter, Ellie.  I’m back home for the week, staying here because Sis has a house now (whop-dee-freggin-do) and she thought that it’d be easier than staying with the folks.  Besides, she said, it’ll give you a chance to spend some quality time with Ellie.  Like Ellie and I need to catch up.  Like she has something to say about anything besides boogers and ponies. Anyway, Ellie and I are sitting at the kitchen table because that’s where the TV is.  The kitchen.  Apparently it would kill them to put one in the living room with the suede couch.  Sis and her hubby are out socializing with other people with kids, and I’m thinking I’m a sucker, and no wonder she was so eager for me to stay here.  Ellie’s working on some drawing and I’m half watching TV because the game is on and half talking to the kid because I …Read More

Scrapper by Niya Sisk

My two neighbors cut their grasses together, the same day, the same hour every week. I sneeze and think of water, the olympic size pool I’ll swim in later. It’s my respite; the large body of water that flushes the fuzzy little ants of worry into the wavy folds behind me. There is a knock at the door. One of the neighbors, well… I gave him two dollars to a few weeks back. Today he asks for seven. His story is always the same, “his kids aren’t home, he needs his medication.” My other neighbor  said to me last week, “Oh him. Didn’t anyone tell you? He’s a gambler. We’ve all been hit up. You’re just new blood.” Perhaps he took advantage like this early, never stopped, and now into his sixties he runs the same red sentences over and over, and cuts the same grass over and over, while telling himself the story that gives him hope. He has …Read More

Fairy Matching by Raphael Cushnir

The Japanese are wizards at serenity. Think of the tea ceremony and Zen rock gardens. What these placid products of Japan have in common is a high degree of order. Every element fits in its perfect place, and doing so harmonizes with every other element. There’s lots of space, too. The sips of tea come with such deliberateness that each moment of repose, before and after, feels as important as the activity itself. The rake creates its graceful sand patterns as if following invisible, previously etched grooves. All this serenity is critical for the Japanese because the rest of their society is so frenetic. They live crammed together on teeming islands. Their cities overwhelm the senses with a neon-drenched cacophony. You might say that the meditative aspects of Japan are an attempt to bring balance to a lifestyle that would otherwise be totally out of balance. And this begs the question – what would a lifestyle look like that was …Read More

Cockroach Wisdom by Raphael Cushnir

Toward the end of the Eighties, my body stopped working. After what seemed like an ordinary bout of the flu, I never fully recovered. For many hours each day I was beset by staggering fatigue. My previously iron stomach, for no apparent reason, became an unpredictable minefield. Searching for an explanation, I went to the doctor. And then another doctor. And then another. Over and over I heard the same verdict – there’s nothing wrong with you. But clearly there was something wrong with me, psychosomatic or otherwise, and I needed guidance in how to address it. This need sent me on a deluxe tour of complementary medicine, from its well-respected center to the diciest of its fringes. Wherever I went, a new culprit for my malady was revealed. Sometimes it was a virus, such as Epstein Barr. Other times it was a syndrome, like Leaky Gut. Most often it was labeled an “imbalance.” Usually there was a test administered …Read More

What Water Can’t Wash Away by Laurie Cannady

The fire hydrant shot water onto the street with the force of a tidal wave.  A long, black boy with a small curve in his back and arms that seemed, like stringy noodles,  to stretch past his knees, braved the savage force with a square board fashioned out of the top of a broken coffee table.  He meticulously slid the board under the jutting water, forcing the wave into the air to be released into millions of water droplets, dangling like icicles dripping onto the sidewalk.  Like a maestro conducting a symphony, he lifted the board, entreating the notes of water to rise higher and with a flick of his wrist, he lowered the board, allowing them to shoot onto the ground like the last melody of an aria.  As he stood behind the hydrant, straddling it like a wild horse, the water sprayed into his smiling face.  The muscles of his stringy arms, jumped up and down in excitement, …Read More

Museum of Life by Laurie Cannady

“We can’t be here much longer,” she leaned over to roll up the passenger seat window, even though Dereck was sitting in the seat. “ Why Ma,” he asks, “I like it here.” She knew why. It was nothing like Avis, Pennsylvania, where the entire neighborhood tucked itself into bed at 7:00 in the evening. Here, the sun going down was like a rooster calling to its minions, signaling that the day had just begun. “Can’t we just stay the night here with Aunt Tricia? I’ve been having so much fun hanging out with my cousins.” “No,” she quickly responded. She knew that she didn’t belong there anymore and she hoped he’d realize that he would never belong there as well. She didn’t want him infected with the comfort that had cursed many Park inhabitants into a life of poverty. Dereck looked at her with disappointment, with doubt in his eyes, while she eyed the group of guys littering the …Read More

A Little Fictional Heat by Niya Cristine

She owned a restaurant in the desert that had copper kites pinned to the walls like flies to dried up lemonade. There were other things too that filled the room. Couples sat at low-lit tables and three chefs had the same hairdo; stiff little Mohican waves that curl at the tip. She’d been here longer than she expected. She’d purchased the restaurant, a home, and a pure bred Irish Setter. She bit her nails and soaked her feet every night after work. What had she left behind for the high altitude and ancient, dying Junipers? The south wall of the restaurant turned a silvery claret while a woman having dinner put her wedding ring down on the table in front of the man across from her. He held the empty finger and massaged it; his expression, slightly bored but tender. In the kitchen, she prepped the powdered milk for the next day and picked out a fallen black hair. The …Read More

Our Skies by Joshua Mohr

No one knows what you’re doing. You, a rogue cater-waiter who none of the guests see slip away even though twenty minutes earlier they all begged you for free glasses of champagne or apple martinis or cosmopolitans, the entire bar tab paid for by an ad agency that six months earlier you’d worked for and had been wrongfully terminated on a bunk allegation of coming to the office under the influence of alcohol, a charge totally bogus, but what, were you going to sue a billion dollar corporation? Could you really exact your revenge against their Ivy League lawyers whose assholes smelled like cappuccinos? It hadn’t been booze that affected your job to such a shimmering detriment, but music. Music you never knew existed. Music that dwelled in the binary code you helped maintain and manicure and nurture as a programmer in the company’s IT department. You never expected to find song in that ocean of ones and zeroes, but …Read More

I Dream in RGB. I Fear in Grayscale by Mark Gurvis

CAMERA Click. Click – again. Click – and again. Wait…click. The walls are never going to assume a new pose. Concrete is so awfully gray. Go on, walk out…click. Another vantage point. Click. It’s under-exposed. Click – caught something – 1/125th of a second. No exposure compensation. No morality meter. In 1906 the certainty incinerated. In its place the great City arose again. This time we will withstand an 8.0; at what price exactly? The business travelers arrive. They bunk down in the rooming house of cells. It’s a comfortable jail. They can’t open the windows, so they have to breathe the conditioned air. They become conditioned. Humans are so adaptable, they can survive almost anywhere. Even in downtown America. Click. The fog and clouds make a mockery of your slab-sided edifices. A leaderless society just got a leader. I go to the orange bridge. The air has shifted. It’s colder now, and blowing from the north. F-7.1 at 2 …Read More

Salmon Becomes Them by Kathy Powell

I am chiseled by the plane of your brow. The pattern of your features and line are simple, elemental. Provocative, haunting and familiar like a well loved ghost story told in winter in the musky cedar long house.• • •Meat hung low, a fire burning small and mindlessly tended. Children are gathered sleepy and helter-skelter on planks one tear up from the fire pits. Aunties and brothers busy over berries and hides but comforted knowing word for word the story that will come again from the grandmother’s own personal weaving of the Salmon Boy story. Generations of winter tellings about when he will be swallowed by Salmon and the promise Salmon makes that the people can always sleep well knowing the lost boy will return each Fall and Spring bringing the Salmon for his people to fish and dry. Children are crumpled in the laps of the older ones. The littlest ones are asleep before the Salmon Boy returns. They …Read More

Ice Bar by Niya Cristine

It’s cold. The hair on the back of my neck stands up in a feeble attempt to function as an insulating fur. From this place, from the blue ice the blood is busy in everyone trying to constrict and create heat. And from here… the brain fuses with more than alcohol. • • • I try not to look at the burly man to my left with the blue lips and a three-inch mustache. He orders his fourth whiskey and moves closer. He laughs at my melancholy like it was a flat thing–a dead animal to strip of its fur. Why be melancholic when you can float your thoughts on whiskey in a blue ice bar? As he talks about his skill as a hunter on the ice, I set my gaze on the long, shiny, carved ice table to his right. It looks high class. It looks like its surface is made of Italian marble. He tells me stories …Read More

Camouflage by Kate Adams

A free hour between meetings is reason enough to leave campus, to chase coffee and errands. The suburban streets have settled into the lull between lunch and the first lap in the long story of rush hour. On the raw edge of the new big box strip, there’s no one but me, slowing to make the turn, and a man standing at the corner, looking right through my windshield as I approach. He doesn’t have a windshield: he has a cardboard sign and my eyes graze it so quickly that if a detective later, investigating a crime, were to ask me, all I could offer would be guesses, the usual suspects: “homeless”? “please help”? “god bless”? But there is no crime here, just a middle-aged woman slowing to turn, a short haired man wearing camouflage pants and a khaki t-shirt and his dun-colored sign. And because we need to make stories as much as detectives need answers, mine begins spooling …Read More

God on Vacation by Lyssa Tall Anolik

God decides to take a vacation. Not a long one, just some down time to sit on a beach somewhere on the planet Earth that he created several billion years ago. He always fancied Jamaica. He can blend in there, because the locals are so relaxed. He’s been there a number of times before, and they always recognize him, but they don’t make a big deal. “Hey, Mon,” they say. “Welcome back. How ’bout something tall and fruity?” God nods appreciatively. He settles into a lounge chair on the white sand beach and watches the aqua-blue water lap against the sloped beach. He congratulates himself on water and white sand, sun and palm trees—all good. And fruity cocktails; even better. Sure, there’s lots of poverty and war and famine, and with global warming on the rise, there will be progressively more water and less land, but there’s nothing he can do about that. These earthlings are going to have to …Read More

Alzheimers by Lyssa Tall Anolik

Violet says, “No.” I say, “Yes.” The second hand on the plastic Garfield clock above the china cabinet ticks and inches forward. Violet doesn’t remember buying the clock at a garage sale in Woodburn last summer. We’re sitting at her kitchen table, and I’ve been working on her for ten minutes now, trying to get her to come out to the garden with me. The fresh air would invigorate her, and I want her to see the yellow heads of the daffodils that she doesn’t remember planting. Again, she says, “No.” “Why not?” I ask. “Because.” “That’s not an answer.” “Is to.” “We’re not in grade school anymore,” I tell her. Sometimes I get impatient. I can’t help it. She says, “So?” I say nothing. Garfield continues to tick away the seconds. Violet sits across from me, her hair tied into a neat silver bun and her hands folded primly on the table in front of her. She sits up …Read More

My Brother Buddy by Verna Wilder

The day two nuns in a station wagon ran over my brother Buddy, I had been rollerblading along East Cliff Drive wondering why I never fell in love with appropriate women. I fell in love with fun women, mind you, interesting and even exciting women, but not with women who could make a commitment for more than about five minutes, and I was well into version 176 of this thought, which ought to give you a clue how much I thought about this and to what incredibly stupid depths, and I remember rolling over to the fence along the cliff and just hanging there when the ambulance passed, having no idea my brother Buddy was in there, with a broken leg and such a scrape on his forehead and along his cheek that you can still see the bloodstains in the handicap parking space outside Lucky’s Supermarket, and I guess in a way he was lucky, since the nuns didn’t …Read More

Jon Boy by Niya Cristine

His name was Jon. And he looked like John Boy from the Walton’s. Our first date was a walk in my neighborhood in Mill Valley Ca. It was a beautiful day, everything smelled alive and his stringy blonde hair looked like that of a 7 year old. I was jealous because my hair was pool worn and straight iron worn. I also didn’t know if Jon could win me over with his masculinity, he looked so…well, John Boyish. I decided as we walked, why not test him out a bit? It was the late 90’s, I was in the most confident time of my life as a woman. lots of flirting, lots of floundering and not caring. So, I said to him, “It’s sad really…” he looked at me curiously. “Well, how boys are taught the 1, 2, 3 method of seduction with a girl. When they grow into men they usually keep it up.” “Oh, pleez…tell me more, this …Read More