There’s been another shooting, and now the birds call for revolution, refusing to fly and walking everywhere, causing traffic jams. Their shit fills the streets instead of decorating rooftops, cars, and people’s heads. Squirrels shut down Brooklyn Bridge in protest. Rats congregate on the White House lawn to plot the best points of entry. We’re tired of being your fucking metaphors, they shriek. Read more Pidgeonholes
“She’ll take you, Señor. She’ll take you and make your forget, just like she took your wife,” the abuelo says to him, his face crinkled like old cabbage. He gestures to Gil to withdraw his gaze from the two faint lights in the horizon. “We are in Carnival now,” the old man continues, taking Gil by the arm back to chaos of the city streets. “Venga. See the dancers.” Skeletons shimmy their way around bodies barely covered in bright tops, short skirts, loose shorts. He watches, fascinated by the rhythmic jounce of those bodies thrusting in and out in perfect time to the drummers. It had been the same scene when his wife disappeared a year ago. Read more at Bourbon Penn
Charlotte, North Carolina, 1977: I am being baptized in the PTL swimming pool while Mom is fucking a cop in the Shoney’s bathroom. The giant Big Boy in front of the restaurant smiles, holds his hamburger up high into the clouds. Pastor Tom talks about how they will soon be breaking ground for the new studio site. My mother is already cracked open, body backed up against the wall, legs bent and twisted around some thick-waisted uniform, her glasses placed on the hand dryer so they won’t fall off. Without them she’s blind, can know the world only if it’s inside her. First published in Prick of the Spindle. Reprinted in Gargoyle #64
It is our second Tinder texting marathon, where all messages are ten words or less, many of which Autocorrect tries to unnaturally fix so that our correspondence resembles more a game of Boggle than the chase-and-catch. I once tried to tell a guy that I was on my way to teach a class and had no time for texting, but that we should grab drinks at the Rubin Museum later; it came out as no time for sexting, let’s get drinks at the Ruin Museum, which is apparently where all the naughty sexting girls go. Read More at Queen Mobs
She smells of olives and honey every time she passes me in the temple, her long fingers lightly grazing mine. Like crushing on the cool girl, I’m not allowed to speak to her or even look her in the eye. She calls me servant in public but once, by the river, mouthed lover when she saw me—a virgin acolyte serving a virgin goddess. You play by house rules. Seventh-grade rules, which change depending on who has the best Instagram. When the sea god tells me to hold still and runs his hand through my hair, I obey. His other hand parts my knees and slowly spiderwalks up the length of bare leg until I whisper her name, like a curse, and run. Read more at Sundog Lit
Forty miles south of Las Vegas lies a vast depression of sand and scrub brush called the Pit. Not quite a valley, nor do any of the surrounding stone outcrops count as true mesas. It will turn into a landfill soon enough; for now, there’s nothing but stone, dirt, and sky—and the cavernous trenches created by excavation equipment. We’ve been here three weeks, and in two more, we’ll be gone. Then the reporters will come, to gape with awe at what earth and art will show them.
Mr. Bianchi. One of the foremen runs up to me, sweat beading on his broad forehead and dripping freely down his cheeks. He mops his brow and tries to catch his breath, then shouts above the din of the bobcats and excavators, We’ve hit something. One more swipe of the brow with his shirt sleeve. We’re not sure… Listen to the rest here or get the print version at Gargoyle #69
Not upturned like a cat’s to bat at the men and women you meet, nor wide and innocent like Eve’s before she bit the apple. No, your gaze is unwavering, brow hovering so close that people ask if you’re angry or sad when you’re not, and I wonder what you’re plotting, whether to set your brother on fire or do the dishes like I asked. They’re not hooded enough that we’ll have to heavily shadow your lids to make your eyes “pop,” neither are they large enough to stare me down when I question all the unsavory choices you’ll make. Some days you wear red just to see if wolves exist. Read more at Sundog Lit
“What’s it like?” she asks, and he knows better than to tell her but she nudges him in the arm again. They had instructed him to tell her stories. Help her get through the pain, they whispered as they wheeled him into her room. The first thing he saw was a moonscaped little face, deep pock marks and shiny red folds of skin crisscrossed over where her nose should be. Don’t ask her what happened, just spin her one of those fantastic tales of yours…
“Tell me, please.” They are eye to eye — he in the chair, she in the bed. Her arms are crossed now to show him she is getting impatient. He smiles, knowing what she wants; the little imp. He knows neither of them could get very far in this state, even if they had help. Read more at Bourbon Penn
She wasn’t the kind of girl you went looking for, or were particularly glad to find. People thought her secretive, with those hazel bedroom eyes and dark hair that fell halfway across her face. She could look straight into you, that one, with something akin to brazenness. But they were always soon to find out that she never had the kind of secrets they wanted. Because in the South, things happen. Cypress trees weep Spanish moss. The birds speak in tongues. There’s a room in every house the family leaves alone because of the ghosts it keeps. Read more at A capella Zoo
There could have been a barn that day, with giant haystacks and a pitchfork that somehow always got lost. It could have been a one bedroom apartment in Jersey City. There could have been a baby pig so small the mama pig forgot all about it. Or an old pit bull that pissed on the carpet because it couldn’t make it outside in time.
Either way, the dad wanted to kill it.
We learn to live underground, in whatever tunnels can be etched out. My father and I are at Mesa Verde, the Green Table. The tour guide, whose badge tells us in big printed letters that her name is AMY, explains how the Anasazi disappeared mysteriously in 1300. This baffles archaeologists, as well as my father, who want answers—signs of a massacre or famine or migration. Amy continues to rattle off astonishing facts none of us will remember while Dad mumbles something about me needing to find a place to stay for Christmas.
No matter, I say. I’ll probably be too busy skiing to want to come home. This is a lie. I loathe skiing—the heights, the cold, the possibility of falling. Read more at Prime Number
When Jane graduated college, her father gave her a man’s gold watch and a gun.
“Where are the bullets?” she asked.
“Already loaded,” he said.
Jane noticed the safety wasn’t on.
“Don’t get any ideas,” he warned. Jane’s father had warned her of many things: to keep her legs closed because boys were scum (unless they bought her dinner first); to keep a look out for the water towers because they were really alien ships soon to launch. Read the rest at Cheap Pop
There’s been another accident. John barely heard the words that came after that. Greenhouse 12. Two workers. Masks removed. Reasons unknown.
John closed his eyes. ‘Any sign of a struggle?’
Not that we can tell. He laid down the cell phone. Greenhouse 12 was his creation, but there were protocols in place to keep everyone safe within the giant stalks of engineered crops. Some called his work monstrous. John shook his head as he walked down the hallway to his lab…Monstrous was what his father had experienced working the salt mine at Avery Island from dawn till dusk, until he stumbled home to slake his thirst on the cheapest beer available. “Everythin’s too white,” he used to slur. “White walls, white floor, white ceiling. It’s like livin’ in a g-d dam snow globe.” Read more at Corvus. First published by Denver Art Museum
Nancy Anne was thirteen when her father died. Luck was with the family though, since both her parents had bought their coffins one year earlier at a side-walk sale. The local funeral home was going out of business and had lined up casket after casket right outside their store with big neon yellow and orange signs (the kind you see on car lots) showing the original price with a line through it and then the sale price. The coffins themselves were extraordinarily beautiful so that her parents (who were relentless bargain shoppers) could not resist buying two on the spot.Read More at Up the Staircase Quarterly
Gil had no use for the rust colored suede jacket, the one with a fringe all along the backside and down the arms, the one that smelled faintly of mothballs since it belonged to his ex-girlfriend’s grandfather. Why the grandfather had bequeathed the jacket to Gil in his will remained a mystery to both Gil and his ex, who, while on semi-friendly terms, had been taking a break from all communication. (Read the rest or listen to audio here at Five:2:One)
We were on our third date, not that I was counting or held much stock in the power of numbers. Not like Christ rose on the third day or after two plane crashes there’s always that extra one to look out for. Not like I trudged through New York City sleet, transferring three trains just to make the pilgrimage from Brooklyn to Washington Heights on a Sunday night in hopes of a decent movie date. Not like there were twelve of them in his apartment. Does the exact number matter of Buddhas matter? Read more at Thrice Fiction
Songs of My Youth (creative nonfiction)
Facebook has had one of those circulating memes, the ones that ask you to make lists that somehow make you feel nostalgic for a life you’re not sure you ever really had. The latest: list ten albums that influenced you as a teenager. Then: list ten albums that influenced you before you were a teenager. I do not make a list. Instead, I read your list, the choices that betrayed your rebellion or geekiness or prescient cool factor. I want to make my own list, but your list is better. I want to make my own list, but my throat catches as I hum songs I once took great pains to forget, songs that betray a disjointed yet emotionally accurate soundtrack.
1) At my grandparents’ house, I watch the Lawrence Welk show right before bed. Singers belt out “Good Night, Sleep Tight” for their final number. I am usually in my pajamas and afterwards my grandfather will tuck me in. He will touch me. He will make sure it feels good. I cannot remember him without remembering those singers dressed in bright yellow, swaying side to side, as if life will always be this grand. Read more in Cleaver Magazine. Reprinted in Gargoyle #70
Beatrix Kiddo, aka Black Mamba, attempts to break though the coffin where she’s been left to die. Her captor left her a flashlight before nailing shut the lid, though a flashlight does little good so far underground. But now Beatrix can see the narrow walls, the low roof. She remembers Pai Mei’s warning that one must be able to hit an enemy only three inches away. Her knuckles are already torn and bloody after three tries.
You’re diagnosed with bipolar 2 disorder and put on medication to reroute your brain from the killing machine that it is. You go to therapy, give up alcohol, and exercise daily. Still, your plants wither and die. The turtle you’re petsitting has disappeared. Read more at Ghost Parachute
- Till We Have Faces, Gone Lawn
- The Mummer’s Dance, Red Fez
- Tell Tale, Cleaver Magazine
- Conjecture, Literary Orphans