Fiction

In Reflection

{by Stephen Parolini at Counting On Rain}

In the mirror across the bar she is twelve. She is standing in the wings of the Big Top, breathing the scent of hay and earth and animal with deep, happy inhales. She hears the crowd’s cheer rise and fall in waves, pictures a man and a woman flying through the air in matching blue and white costumes. She looks at her own costume. It is pink. Color, Maya, color! The circus is all about color! It is the voice of her father, a voice she has never known but somehow recognizes. I want to match you and mom, she says.But you match Kimba!

“Another?” She is back in the bar, her elbows leaning on the mahogany counter, her fingers wrapped around a sweating glass. The man she has been dating for three months touches her hand. He is a handsome man and she wonders if that’s why it was so easy to say “yes” to his dinner invitation all those weeks ago.

Maya looks down at her empty glass. She doesn’t remember the last sip.

“Okay,” she says. He lifts his hand from hers, and her whole body aches in the absence of his touch.

In the mirror across the bar, Kimba lifts her gray trunk, tickling at the edge of the curtain, playing with a fraying cotton rope that hangs from the exposed metal frame above. Kimba is wearing a pink ruffle around her neck. Kimba doesn’t like the ruffle. She endures it. Maya thinks this is how she feels about her pink outfit, too.

The applause becomes a symphony. Spotlights flash by the entryway. Her father sprints past, blowing a kiss to Maya. Her mother slows, reaches up and wraps her fingers around her daughter’s pink-slippered foot. Stand tall, her mother says, then follows her father back into the darker rooms where circus acts are stitched together with sawdust and magic.

“You seem quiet tonight,” he says as her drink is refilled. He notices things. She wonders if this is why it was so easy to say “yes” to spending the night after that first dinner. She had never done that before. Not so soon.

“I’m fine,” she says. He knows this means she needs the quiet; that she’s daydreaming or remembering or sorting. He will touch her again to acknowledge this. And he does, his hand on her shoulder.

In the mirror across the bar, Maya is atop Kimba, carefully adjusting her stance to stand tall as the elephant marches behind a parade of clowns into the biggest ring of the three-ring circus. Fireflies spark from the crowd when the youngest star makes her entrance. The flashes don’t really help, she hears her father say later, on the drive home in a rusty brown station wagon. The cameras are too far away for the flashes to matter. Maya leans against the car door, watching the blurring trees. They matter to me, she whispers to the clouds.



Once there had been a mother

{by Beck from Frog and Toad are Still Friends}

(photo credit)

Once there had been a mother.

He remembered her, a bit – her breath that smelled like communion grape juice and cigarettes, her harsh laugh and her sudden rages, the way he was frightened and small and hiding underneath his bed, in his tent, under the slide at the playground, hiding from her giant hitting hands and her loud voice.

Ruby made her go away.

He didn’t remember much of that night – nothing much more than Ruby giving him warm funny tasting milk at bedtime and then his sleepy awareness of raised yelling female voices and a sudden loud noise and then silence. Then he woke up the next morning to Ruby bright and extra cheerful and the kitchen extra clean and a new vegetable garden in the backyard.

He likes working in the garden. He likes putting his hands in the dirt, likes watering the fat jolly vegetables. Ruby smiles and brings him lemonade and they have picnics for lunch and sometimes he sits on the swing even though the swing is getting smaller and smaller all the time.

He keeps forgetting to ask Ruby about the shrinking swing. He forgets sometimes that Grandma went away a long time ago and finds himself standing in front of her house where strangers live now. He forgets that Mom went away, too, and hides under the piano bench, hides under the front steps, until Ruby lures him out with gummy worms and trips to the ice cream store.

Ruby,” says their neighbour Mrs. Huffington over the fence. “You’re doing a wonderful job looking after him, but your whole life is passing you by.”

He remembers that sometimes, the way he remembers the surprising bits of red in the kitchen, the loud sound, his mother’s sharp breath and giant hurting hands. But then it’s time for a picnic and the sun is bright and it’s time to work in the garden again, their special garden where the vegetables come up so big and ripe.

::

Beck has even more spooky Halloween stories with some of your favorite characters, like the one featured here. She also writes with wit and compassion about her life and family. She just started a new blog, check it out.
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There’s nothing shiny here

{by She Was}


Cylence Gray was 12 years old when she stopped believing in god and started believing in love. Standing alone, and to the side, slender pale arms wrapped around her black waist, Cylence watched the magpie, head cocked, watching her. Cylence liked that her face was turned to the sky. It meant that she didn’t have to look at the spring wet hole they were slowly lowering him into.

Cylence had been cracked open by grief and from that opening faith flew. Many years later she remembered. The tugging was the worst part. Being forced to look, to acknowledge, to know. As if somehow she could unknow. The tubes and the rattle rattle death breath, the corridors, closing in on her, as she waited, as they all waited. The mashed potato and gravy portrait her mother painted on the white wall. Her mother’s anger, at her, at her, for being there, for having held his hand and for having heard his heart beat when it stopped. She would never not know. Never unknow.



What Happens After The Happiest Day of Your Life

{by Jonniker}

She picked up the glass, twirling the crystal stem in her fingers, holding the paper-thin bowl up to the light. They were the perfect glasses–Baccarat, not Waterford, as everyone knew Waterford was too fussy. All those facets, she thought bitterly. I don’t want to drink out of the Chrysler building.

She remembered the day they picked them out–well, the day she did, anyway, whirling around Neiman’s with the glowing red gun. He resisted initially, insisting that they were too expensive.

“Babe, I don’t want my grandmother forking over $300 for a single water glass,” he said. “Can’t we get these instead?”

He’d pointed to a display of Lenox glasses. Goddamn LENOX. She rolled her eyes at the memory. As if I’d be caught dead entertaining with a $36 glass. She won him over by insisting that the glasses were an investment.

“An investment in a lifetime of memories,” she cooed.

Stupid. I’m so stupid.

She turned the Baccarat upside down again, watching the light bounce off the rounded stem. She put it back on the table and twisted her hands for a moment before letting them fall into her lap. They rustled in the folds of her tulle slip, and she realized with horror that she was still wearing her wedding dress.

Her hands smoothed the fabric as she glanced down at herself admiringly.



Cheating at Golf

{by Joe Flood}

That morning, Ted got dressed, picked up his clubs and headed for the links. At the club-house, he had a drink, a Bloody Mary reeking of vodka and Tabasco. The TV played CNBC, news of the financial storm overturning all boats. Ted ordered another drink, handing over his credit card to the bartender.

“Charge it while it still works,” he said.

The first golfers were heading out into the humid dawn air. A group of vacationing orthodontists were looking for a fourth. Ted fell in with their group, a little tipsy from the vodka.

Ted sent his first shot racing into a drainage ditch, a line drive that sent up a big splash in the early morning mist.

“I’m taking a mulligan,” Ted said.

“Yea, it’s practice!” the shortest of the lot said. He was the oldest, the richest, and was the leader of the group. His name was Danny.

Ted’s second swing wasn’t much better. He seemed to slip on the dew-wet grass, his left leg jerking out, as if it had been yanked like a marionette. The ball overflew the drainage ditch and bounced over the neighboring fairway.

“I should’ve hit the driving range,” he explained.

“Hey, it’s early,” Danny said.

Ted took another mulligan and, on his third try, sent a decent drive down the middle of the fairway. Danny then launched a ball high over his, by a good fifty yards. His colleagues congratulated him.

“It’s the Bertha’s!” Danny exclaimed, holding the oversized driver in his hand. The club was nearly as tall as he was.

Ted scooped his ball out with a nine iron and sent it arcing onto the green. Danny did likewise.

The men lined up for their putts. The orange sun was just over the palm trees, starting to heat up the day.

“Did I tell you?” Danny said. “Winner buys drinks.”

“Got it,” Ted said, aligning himself with the hole. He was short by a good ten feet. Danny sunk his ball, a smile alighting on his face.



Nineteen Eighty-Hare

Nineteen Eighty-Hare

{Originally posted on Adam P Knave}

I leaned heavily against a wall. Trying to catch my breath was a mistake but I couldn’t keep running. I just couldn’t. “BIG RABBIT IS, WE SAY IS, SON ARE YOU LISTENING, BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU” was painted along the wall. How they found space for the lettering I don’t know.

I found the strength to keep moving.

The thing of it was, I didn’t have the heat on me. No one was after me and I could’ve just gone back home. But after what I saw that night, after that, I just couldn’t. I found what they did to Porky. Poor bastard.

Technically they took him to ask a few questions. Technically he had decided to move to another city. Technically… a lot of things. This night someone had left me a key to a door I didn’t know existed, and it was there I found him. Well, films of him, anyway.

Stripped naked in a cage of rats, he squirmed and squealed like, well, to be fair, a pig. I’m not sure why I was given the key, the directions, shown what I was shown but I had a feeling…

For weeks now I kept a journal. A journal of my thoughts and dreams. Stuff that I wasn’t supposed to have, much less think. It must have been found. So I ran. I ran though no one actively seemed to pursue me. I ran to find my love. Marvin. Oh, how his helmet shined in the light. He wasn’t from around here, as it turned out. Despite what we were told. He said the wars were fake. He said he loved me. He said we’d be safe.

Damn it, I couldn’t break down in tears. Not yet. Not until…



Romeo and Juliet Live, Have Children, And Bicker About Laundry

{Originally posted on Goody Bastos}

Juliet: I thought you were going to take out the trash.

Romeo: It’s your turn for the trash, my week to bag the recyclables. Look at the chore wheel on the fridge, for Chrissakes.

Little Tybalt (looking up from his Legos): Mommy, Daddy swore!

Romeo: A greater power than we can contradict hath thwarted our intents to be the best husband and father, I’m sorry, Little Tybalt. It’s just that Mommy and Daddy have been through a lot.

Juliet: I’ll say. There was a plague on both our houses.

Little Tybalt: Hunh? What’s Mom talking about?

Juliet: Never mind. Why don’t you go play Wii?
(Little Tybalt takes his Legos and sulks off)

Juliet (reminiscing while drying the Ikea china): Remember how in love we were?

Romeo: Do I! It seemed to me you were a rich jewel upon the cheek of night.

Juliet: It seemed to me that parting was such sweet sorrow, and now I can’t wait for girl’s night out.

Romeo (slapping his palm to his forehead): O woe!

Juliet: What is it, honey?

Romeo: I forgot to take out the clothes from the washer. They’ll be all mildewy.

Juliet: Again? Didn’t I tell you not to forget to take them out of the washer? Little Tybalt’s gym clothes were in there and he needs them for gymnastics tomorrow. O woeful, woeful, woeful day! Most lamentable day. Most woeful day that ever, ever I did yet behold O day, O day, O day! O hateful day! Never was seen so black a day as this. O woeful day! O woeful day!



Heart Masks Mind

Heart Masks Mind

{Originally Published on Secret Agent Mama and originally featured right here on November 20, 2008}

Oh fiery colors, how short your stay,
Merrily tantalizing my sense of sight.
Against the blue sky, as if to blaze the way,
Towards the promise of a new day, bright.
It is in autumn that I reflect the most,
The end of the year spinning my mind around.
Like the trees that wait again to host,
My thoughts pause to absorb the sound.
Through the standstill, I look forward and back,
Considering past, dreams turn to a future of hope.
I wonder: Are the trees hopeful while they lack?
Or have they just found a way to cope?
My mind it is filled with worry and doubt.
Though my heart, a hopeful tree, dreams about.



What Happens After Impact

{by Two Busy}

And in that instant

I am aloft in a way I’ve never known before, a growing cushion of air rising to fill the space between my skin and my seat, the wheels and the road, my head snapping back with effortless, eyeblink ferocity and colliding with the headrest (the crush of my hair against leather, pressing through the foam to touch the steel within) then a whipcrack snap forward, vertebrae compressing and releasing like pistons firing at neural speed, the engine still running strong and loud and my heart surging with adrenaline and

in the periphery of my vision I can see the earth spin and turn, as if the axis of the world has shifted

I think: how odd

and the sound, the sound, it’s incredible, that terrible squeal and crush of metal bending and tearing, iron wrenching from iron and glass and the compression of air in my lungs and those seconds – one, and two, and the long heartbeat stretch to three – when it all dissolves to echo and gravity fades to myth and I become aware that I am still pressing down on the accelerator, as though I might catch up to this impossibly swift rotation of earth and sky and in matching its speed slow its pace and return to the world I’d known and all I hear is the engine the wheels freed from the restraints of physics straining to catch hold on this cool evening air and

then a corner connects – I cannot tell which one, and in not understanding I lose some illusion of control – and there is a new eruption of torque and velocity, of moving so many different ways at once, and I am the tail of a kite arcing and spiraling in a strong wind, diving and soaring and fighting against myself and this thin brace of fabric that cuts deep across my waist and the forgiving skin where neck and shoulder meet

where you had rested your head, seeking solace and comfort and this

is all

it’s all happening so fast

and the adrenaline fills me with strength and fury and my arms and chest swell — with will, with purpose, with terror and defiance and

something catches



Practice is an Art

Fiction and Poetry Blog Nosh Magazine{Originally posted in Goodword Editing}
First appeared on Blog Nosh Magazine on October 16, 2008

(Scroll down to find the audio link to hear the poem read by Marcus Goodyear.)

for David Tulley

The pianist plays alone every time
learning not to let the world decide
when he creates and when he rests.
Studios, concert halls, practice rooms
hallowed, not hollow, never empty.
The walls, the chairs, the carpet tremble
with potential decisions. Synthetic
fibers of carpet twist together,
their friendships forming expectant
berber curls, their voices hushed
waiting for the performer’s approach.
He clacks the cover from its keyboard,
coughs once and begins to say this
I am
Meaning something more than self,
more than These hands are mine. These legs
pump pedals, sustain notes, build chords.
This room was not empty before.
I have not filled it except with thanks.

Though as for that, no thanks
depends on him or the one listening,
who wandered into the studio looking
to kill time and fighting music instead.
The battle lost, the audience slumps
low in the back row and hears
practice give voice to everything here.