Saturday, July 31, 2010

S-O-R-R-Y.


Mary Ann Loo
Decorated – 491 words

            “What’s that on your arm?” she asked.
            “Oh, this?” He laid his left forearm, palm upwards, on the stainless steel table.
            “Yeah,” she said. “It kinda looks like an R.”
            He reached across the table with his right hand, and placed her right index finger on a slightly darker spot half an inch beneath where his upper arm ended. He traced her fingertip over the gradually apparent letters: S-O-R-R-Y. He released her, sat back, and smiled.
            “Did you get a tattoo removed or something?” she asked.
            “Nope,” he said, leaning far back in his squeaky stainless steel chair, his hands clasped behind his head. “I cut myself.”
            “What? Why?”
            He laughed. “Because of a girl.”
            She leaned back, her eyes searching his expression. She reached for her iced coffee and stirred it with the straw, took a sip, and replaced the clear plastic cup on the tabletop. It was a warm summer evening; they’d discussed some politics, exchanged funny stories, and there’d been a little bit of mutual teasing. He’d known her two months now, but previous relationships had been unchartered conversational territory. Until now.
            “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have asked,” she said.
            He laughed again. “It’s alright. It was a long time ago.” He ran his fingers through his thick dark wavy hair, and sat upright, folding his forearms on the table. “Ask away. You know you want to.”
            “Nah, it’s fine.” She seemed flushed, and slightly looked away when his deep blue eyes met her grey ones.
            “Really, it’s cool,” he said. “Had a girlfriend junior year of high school. She was accepted into a London university, we did the long-distance thing and…”
            “How long were you dating?”
            “Almost four years. She wrote me a long letter, said she met someone. We broke up. The end.”
            “Why ‘sorry’?” she asked.
            He shrugged. “Just felt really guilty at the time. I don’t know.”
            “Did it hurt?”
            “Not really.”
            “How did you feel after?”
            “Better somewhat. But I had to cover it up for weeks.”
            “How long ago was this?”
            He leaned back, staring into space. “Um… Three years I think.”
            “Have you had other girlfriends since?”
            “I’ve dated. Nothing serious.”
            “Are you seeing anyone now?”
            He reached for his mug and downed his coffee. “Not really.”
            “Oh.”
            “Well, I’d like to chat some more, but I really gotta run,” he said, grabbing his backpack from the chair beside him.
            She said, “I’m sorry.”
            He grinned. “Nah, it’s all good. See you in class.”
           
            He stepped into his one-bedroom apartment, laid his backpack on the parquet floor, and headed straight into the bedroom. He yanked open a drawer, and sifted through its random contents to retrieve a dog-eared poetry book. Inside was a photo of a beautiful green-eyed girl, and a razor blade. His jeans around his knees, he sank to the floor and spread a thin red line over the pale brown ones that haphazardly decorated his inner left thigh.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Just a Moment

Sudden - 77

Ben Azevedo


A screen came to life on the wall. It was muted; Miles usually kept his TV this way. He was just reclining on his couch to relax when a loud tone sounded. The sudden noise startled Miles, and he tumbled off the couch, upsetting the remote, which un-muted. As the tone sounded again, Miles touched a button on his left ear and answered the phone.

“Hello?”

A deep voice, “Miles.”

“Yes?”

“You have a mission. Two hours.”

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Derrida Still Lives

Near - 142 Words
Lindsey Thompson

Explosions In The Sky plays and I watch the past scroll by in brilliant photographs of where I once lived. Names and faces and places and bodies that used to be close seem so far removed from reality, only existing in my mind. I feel the crescendo and revel in how near you are.

I sleep alone, or with someone but still alone. And those people change from night to night but never offer any more comfort to my runaway skin. The shudders of the ceiling fan pull my brain back to summers waiting and waiting and waiting for nothing. Something out of nothing. Something secret about being secret.

You told me he was dead and I felt the years, the miles between the us I dream of and the us we are. Your eyes are warm and close as I weep.

I, the Acadian

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

made

Made - 406 words
Kevin Foster

He was predisposed to fall in love, quickly and violently, and he despised this about himself. He had always felt a deep and shameful connection with the British Romantics; their words blitzed his mind and any that he was unable to evade sank deep into his brain, became a part of his being. Sarah was her name, he thought he remembered a friend telling him, though his concentration was held effortlessly by her movements in the kitchen at the party, laughing and pouring drinks. They met again on the porch; she was idly smoking a cigarette and he immediately and mindlessly reached in his right front pocket for his own. He hated cigarettes, but there he was, chain smoking and not minding the buzzing in his head, the pulse in his eyes, the dizziness. He guessed he would be feeling these things anyway.

As it is wont to do late in the evening, especially at these sorts of parties, faux high-brow affairs, conversation lulled occasionally as the students milling on the porch stopped to admire themselves – these quiet moments were the most divine, the way she pursed her lips, stylishly and possibly uncomfortably, presumably for the benefit of the friends and would-be suitors who might glance in her direction. What other reason is there? Headlights from a car on the road that bowed in front of the house washed the porch in light for a fleeting moment; he noticed the way the light seemed to burst from her dress in refracted beams, though it was so brilliant that no individual ray could be isolated by the eye, giving her a golden aura not unlike that of a cheesy Hollywood depiction of a person deeply irradiated. She did not blink her eyes at the sudden light, but stared out at the car dully, willing it to speed off around the corner; he took this as a sign of her courage, her steady hand. Would he jump into traffic to save her? Yes, he decided, he probably would.

Taking a drag of a cigarette, feeling both very sated and very starved, he left the porch, leaving her to brood coolly and sliding back into the lightly pulsing living room. Because he loved her and others before her so intensely, often before catching a name or hearing a voice, he had learned to distrust his swelling chest and his mind’s elation. This, of course, made the feelings even stronger.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Playing Cards With Squids

Maid - 442 words
Sarah Van Name

The last job I had was as a maid at the Shady Breeze Inn. So, you know, I vacuumed the floor, salted the waterbeds when necessary, refilled the shampoo, made the beds with new sheets. It was a shady place. People thought it was shadier than it actually was because we had such a big squid clientele. I mean, you might not want your family to stay there, but it wasn’t the kind of place a half-baked executive would bring his mistress, either.

It was right on the beach so when the squid were making trips inland, to the casinos or strip clubs or whatever, it was a pretty good lodging option for them. That was part of the reason it looked so run-down all the time. It’s a lot less trouble to keep an Oriental carpet looking nice when there aren’t tentacles walking across it all the time. I would never let Ricky hear me say that, though. Ricky was the manager. Big squid sympathizer. He insisted on the sign in the window, “All CreaTures Wellcome See And Land” (sic) and was thus the primary reason that my job blew so hard.

I guess you might think that I’m what the politically correct call cephalophobic. But I’m not. In fact, I’ll tell you a story. One day, when I got to room 305 late in the afternoon, these three squids hadn’t left. I was about to give them the what-for when one of them inked on a paper pad real casual, “We’re playing poker, wanna join?”

If you really look at squids they aren’t so intimidating. This one had particularly shiny tentacles. I guess if you were into that he was kinda cute. And he wasn’t lying. They were playing seven-card stud. I used to be something of a poker champ in college, and Ricky was dozing in his office, so I figured what the hell and sat down.

Playing poker with squids is weird shit until you get acclimated. But they’re not unreadable. Their tells are just different from humans’. Big Shiny’s chromatophores paled a little bit when he had a good hand, his friend’s left tentacles floated up infinitesimally at a bluff. You know.

I won eight hundred dollars and six premier giant conch shells from those squids. I have to say they were honorable, and their room was clean as can be when I came back to it after hitting the fourth floor. And eight hundred dollars in this economy isn’t much, but it was enough of a jump-start for me to quit my job and move here. So anyone who says I’m a cephalophobe, they’re dead wrong.

Poker Face - Lady Gaga

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Half - 141 Words
Aaron Dethrage

I see a girl–her nose buried in a book–sitting near the ornate fountain outside the library where I work. I am looking at her intently, but she never breaks her gaze, never glances my way. Her feet are submerged up to the ankles in the pool that the fountain forms; her faded jeans grip loosely to her knees, rolled up with a haphazard care. She is swirling the water in small, opposing circles that form magnifying ripples, filling the pool like a majestic song, and I am gazing still. I wonder what it is she’s reading and how I might compete, what words I might speak to spread a smile across her freckled checks. I decided not to try, to abandon my efforts and continue walking home, and with a half-convinced heart I fell it better to roam.


Song to Come: I am Certain I am a Train - Levi Weaver

Saturday, July 24, 2010

What a Life is Made Of.

Mary Ann Loo
complete - 381 words


When he turned six, Mom and Dad bought him that fire truck he’d seen in the local toy store, the one he’d cried about when Mom first said NO two months earlier. It was a shiny bright red and had a ladder that could be extended to twice its length, a long hose, and two tiny fireman figurines with detachable helmets. For the first time, even though he didn’t know it yet, he felt his life was complete.

When he was ten, Mom and Dad bought him that new bicycle he’d always wanted. It was royal blue and silver, with a loud bell he’d ring so much that all the neighbors knew he was around the corner even before he’d appear. He zipped around the neighborhood on it, explored strange lands with his comrades on their elder siblings’ hand-me-downs, and pretended sometimes they were flying as they sped down the hill. He’d wanted those days to last forever.

When he was sixteen he fell in love, and likewise so did she. They spent an entire year holding hands, lying in the sun, kissing, laughing, planning their futures, watching the sunset… and he knew she was the One. But soon they went to college on opposite sides of their world, and she met someone new.

When he was twenty-two he landed his first job; when twenty-four his first promotion; twenty-seven he made partner… but still somehow he felt a lack. And then by chance they met again, and he loved her still, and she said YES, and they were married, and built a house with the white picket fence, and had a baby girl. He worked all day and all night, and time always seemed to run out.

When he was thirty-two, they left him with an empty house, and child-support obligations. When he was fifty his daughter invited him to her wedding, only to see her stepfather walk her down the aisle. When he was sixty-two he had a stroke, and was forced to retire into the care of a nursing home.

When he was seventy he laid alone on his deathbed, wondering where his youth had gone, wondering how he could have wasted so much time, wondering what it was that made a life complete.

And then he was gone.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Inside the Arch

Miles -144
Ben Azevedo


Chapter 2

Inside the polished confines of the arch, Miles was pacing. Room 1045 was about two-thirds up the A arch, city-side. The city was where Miles wanted to be. Unfortunately the weather drones had failed to pick up the storm front that was now doing its best to destroy everything. The music of Mr. Bullinger’s architecture did nothing to sooth Miles’ irritation. In fact, he had turned the music down to just a whisper. You never wanted to turn it ALL the way off, because it was the most reliable indication of a storm. Without the music, the only other sound in room 1045 was Mile’s shoes across his carpet. The storm outside was completely muted by the building.

Angrily, Miles stopped pacing and flopped onto his couch.

“Damn weather drones…” he muttered, and flicked a button on a remote lodged somewhere in the cushions.




Thursday, July 22, 2010

The River

Driven - 167 words
Lindsey Thompson

Her legs were crossed beneath the table, short skirt clinging to her smooth thighs as she tapped her free foot to the invisible rhythm of the music circulating unyieldingly in her mind. Her soft fingertips caressed the red patterns on slick cards. She licked her lower lip slightly, and smiled. She knew all the men envied how she touched the cards, looking wantingly at them and at her.  

"Jamie," one of them called, "your bet."  

She glanced once more at the flop, flicking her cards as though drumming her fingers. Her smile never faltered. "200," she replied. She casually tossed the chips in, like she didn't need them or miss them once they left her hand. 

"You're bluffing." He repositioned his trucker hat, glaring at her innocent expression and pseudo-empty smile. "I'll call." The others followed suit. 

Her smile widened. She knew they would underestimate her prowess. Male pride. Their Y chromosomes and lustful pockets made them fools. They were always driven to conquer.

"Here comes the river."

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

place mcholder

Gift - 230 words

Kevin Foster

Tom had a gift for lying. He lied regularly and about, well, everything. Tom lied about what time he would be home and what he had been doing while he was away. If you took him at his word, you might come to believe that Tom had seen every movie ever made, heard at least a few songs by every band – or at least any that you had specifically mentioned to him. Professors and employers, parents and policemen, all adored Tom – he was indeed charming – but of course, none knew of his serpent’s tongue, the one he used to turn their anger over his tardiness into pity for the truly strange occurrences in his life that could not be accounted for; he was instantly and intimately relatable. This was a gift for Tom and not for others, his friends, family.

Of course, to say that it was a gift may be slightly inaccurate; in Tom’s case, it was more a compulsion, the natural shape of his tongue and lips. He lied when it was unnecessary and even when it hurt him to do so. Tom lied to be understood, to be liked, for camaraderie, for love. Tom often looked for the truth, but found that it had left him or been misplaced. He wondered if he had ever known it to begin with and whether it really made any difference.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Interior Decorator's Youngest Daughter

Vase - 113
Sarah Van Name

Mary was oldest.
When the women of the family chose
her wedding gown, the air was bruised
purple with the passive-aggressive
tendencies of generations, and she picked
a dress too long – too beaded – too much.
Pressure and surrender.

She’d wanted a short dress.

You could’ve looked like Marilyn Monroe,
I thought as I watched her approach
down the aisle like a cumulus cloud.
My bridesmaid dress felt like saltwater
on a razor burn, but I saw the love
in their eyes,
independent of tulle or lace.
This was enough.

...They tenderly kissed and cut the cake
the bride then tripped and broke the vase.


You could’ve looked like Marilyn Monroe,
I thought, wistful.

Death of An Interior Decorator - Death Cab for Cutie


To let our small readership know, at least five out of seven of our writers (Aaron, Stephen, Lindsey, Ben, and me) are at the beach or, in Ben's case, on a cruise. Mary Loo and Kevin may also be, I've no idea. But that's the reason for the slowness in getting posts and songs up this week. Hopefully everything will return to normal soon.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mama won't give me matches, 'cause she says they can't burn the memories.

Lens - 104 Words
Aaron Dethrage.

I have heard throughout my entire life that hindsight is always 20/20, but as I grow older, I am realizing that this is hardly true. I look back at us and clearly see the wreckage that remains, yet still I perceive you as perfect, my ideal companion. You weren’t. You aren’t. You never could be. However, through the foggy, shattered lens of the past, I gaze. I sleeplessly toss, consumed by thoughts of what could have been. I want to burn these wretched memories like I burned your letters, but my mind is not nearly as kind as my matches proved to be.


Song to Come: Motion Picture Soundtrack - Radiohead

The title was a line that my good friend, Sarah Musgrave, wrote in a lyrics, and I became quite fond of it. Kudos to her for the simple yet brilliant imagery that I stole to make this short piece worth reading.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Third Place.

Bronze - 492 words
Mary Ann Loo


Sandra sits on the windowsill, her bare feet dangling above the 90-foot drop to endless oblivion. It is 8pm, and despite movements in the lighted windows of the surrounding buildings, despite the orchestration of various blaring TV sounds, the world is seemingly silent in this one frame of time. A silence that echoes, screaming louder and louder in her ears, pounding through every trembling fiber of her body – the inevitability of that final moment when she’ll loosen her grip on the tiny ledge, and allow herself to fall, fall, fall out of this life, out of this pain forever.

“Good work, Sandra,” the teacher said, handing her the Math test with a red 97 scrawled on the top right corner. Sandra returned to her seat in the first row, her heart pounding wildly as the question arose within: why hadn’t Mr. Lee congratulated her for coming in first?

“Come on, Sandra, it’s just a test.” her boyfriend said as they walked to the bus stop outside the school. “It’s not like you did bad – you got 97! So what if you didn’t top the class this time? James and Geraldine only beat you by like 1 point!”

Sandra came home that afternoon, took a quick shower, sat at the table in her bedroom and opened her Chemistry textbook, overtly highlighted and underlined, the empty white spaces between chunks of text peppered with her tiny penciled handwriting. Chapter 10 was unsullied – the class wasn’t starting on it for another week – but not for long. Sandra had her highlighter pens laid out: pink for new terms, orange for main points, yellow for supporting points, green for formulae… She systematically worked though her color scheme, capping and uncapping, shading, underlining, and all the while the red 97 haunted her thoughts; three hours later, chapter 10 was colorful, but her memory retained none of it.

How was she going to explain to Mom? Sandra has topped her class in Math, English, History, and Chemistry every single year, every single test, every single assignment. Just like Mom. She was class president, president of the debate team, and she’d just been appointed valedictorian. Just like Mom. As far back as she can recall, she has rarely met anyone outside of school, she goes to bed at 3, wakes up at 6, even on weekends; she’s always working, working, working. Just like Mom. And Mom expects only the very best, and nothing, absolutely nothing less.

So Sandra finds herself on her windowsill, 90 feet away from repose, from an eternal escape. She looks back at the tiny bedroom, its white walls decorated with the periodic table and a famous scientists calendar, the chemistry textbook at the beginning of an untainted chapter 11, the letter in her tiny handwriting. A few moments from now, Mom will be home, she will walk into an empty bedroom, and see the open window, and the words: “I’m sorry for being in third place.”

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Windy City

Element - 405

Ben Azevedo



Chapter 1


The wind roared around Building A with as much fury as it could muster. The tornado was close now, and its vicious fingers were searching for a hold, any hold, to tear down the offending building. Building A leaned gracefully on its counterpart (Building B) and appeared unconcerned. Its graceful contour and symbiotic design with Building B was intended to withstand the very winds that tore at its surface almost daily. The two buildings were spaced roughly one hundred yards apart, and arched gracefully towards each other for their entire 347-foot height. Their outward surface appeared to be made of solid steel, polished to a mirror finish, and without a single blemish visible to the human eye.

Building A was, itself, one of hundreds of residential buildings in Suburb 3 of New Chicago. If the Windy City had been considered windy before, its successor put it to shame. Element was barely a habitable planet, and the few places on its surface that could support human life were plagued by almost ridiculously exaggerated renditions of weather on Earth. Like any other obstacle, though, humanity had risen to the challenge. The particular design of Suburb 3 was courtesy of one of New Chicago’s finest architects, Sam Bullinger. He had arranged all of the building pairs at different angles throughout the district, much to the annoyance of road planners and mapmakers. Each arched building was slightly unique as well, which irritated James Gavey, the detail oriented mayor of New Chicago. That is, until the first storm of the season arrived. As the first winds blasted through Suburb 3 of New Chicago, the residents were surprised to hear music playing. It was only after the storm that everyone realized Sam had designed the buildings to funnel the air into a musical masterpiece.

Building A, as one might imagine, was the first building of Suburb 3 in New Chicago. Consequently, it was the closest to the city proper. Though it was too dangerous to have window openings during the stormy season, the view that one might have enjoyed from Building A was spectacular. Downtown New Chicago would have been designed with the same dreams as Old Chicago (tall, taller, tallest) were it not for the nature of Element. Instead, the height of New Chicago was curbed by the need to interrupt spires with counter-spires, towers with grand arching supports, and a uniform use of the same polished steel material.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nuclear Explosions

Leash - 36 words
Lindsey Thompson

Fury crackles at the edge of my speech,
and i'm combusting in the core
from invasion and resonance.
Silence is your shield?
Coward.

Your word is law, and i'm tugging at my leash to know you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

pleased

Pleased - 30 words
Kevin Foster

stomach thrust skyward
cigarettes in pocket
cigarette in mouth
porch stifled breeze
conversation without course
somnolent adoring greens
lid covered blues
anticipate the morning
anticipate and leave
anticipate and return

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Mourning

Lease - 360 words
Sarah Van Name


When Melanie leased the apartment downtown, I don’t think she expected to be playing host to me and Eliza most weekend nights but that’s the way it’s turned out. She is weary but resigned – I think Melanie recognizes that both of us are irrevocably caught up in the sorrow that draws Eliza out of her house in the evenings. We are good friends to her.

Most Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights, Melanie is studying, but my work ends at six and I’m free and Eliza’s my roommate and she’s restless. Eleven rolls around and she leans against the doorframe in a sequined dress, looking flushed, and even on nights when I’m already in my pajamas, I sigh, go to my room, and change.

Originally I argued that it was too expensive for us to go out this much. Which is true. But having memorized the dates of Ladies’ Nights at the clubs within a mile radius and the restaurants at which we won’t get thrown out for ordering a single appetizer, Eliza manages to coax me out anyway. And we have fun.

Until twelve-thirty, maybe, or one. Then we start walking home, and without fail, we walk an unnecessary block further, to a certain intersection where there have been no less than seven accidents in the past half-year. Usually, at that time of night, it is empty, quiet and dark.

She spends a minute or two staring at the pavement in the middle. The traffic lights echo and shimmer off her dress – green, yellow, red. They drip from her hair onto the sidewalk. She holds a fixed and unblinking focus on the pavement in the middle.

It’s then that we walk another block, to Melanie’s. As soon as the door opens Eliza starts crying. Sometimes she says, “It’s not fair,” or, “I loved him so much,” or, “It’s not fair.” On these nights I am not enough. And that’s why we both sit next to her and smooth her hair until we can wipe off her makeup with a cool washcloth and lay her down on the couch. And that’s why Melanie never has her apartment to herself any more.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Runaways

Secure - 222 Words
Aaron Dethrage.

They hadn’t even made it half of a mile from the neighborhood when the bottom fell out of the ominous clouds above, sending the rain cascading down onto thirteen-year-old Jillian Bloom and her twelve-year-old sidekick in mischievousness, Warren Taylor. The lightning lit the entire bay area with tremendous streaks of daylight that were instantly followed by infinite night and the piercing crack of Mother Nature’s hand.

Warren already wanted to turn back, fearful of the certain and severe punishment that awaited him for sneaking out and, admittedly, rather afraid of the wolf-like howling in the gusting gales that swirled around them. Just then, Jillian let out a laugh, an explosive and maddening roar that unnerved Warren more than the storm’s fury ever could.

“Don’t you see,” she screamed, “we are free, Warren! No parents, no rules, This is what real freedom tastes like. Goddamn ₁, I just want to hold on to this, keep it forever, know it as mine.”

However, Warren didn’t share Jillian’s passion for this new world. In fact, all that was on his mind were dry cloths, a warm bed, and his mother’s shimmering goodnight smile.

₁ Jillian had recently discovered the taboo world of profanity and still paused before each utterance, like a child looking left-and-right before crossing the street.


Song to Come: Fake Empires - The National

Saturday, July 10, 2010

"What's up with you?"


Scoop - 287 words
Mary Ann Loo

“So… they’re fighting again,” Claire says, plunking herself in the steel chair beside me.

“Who?”

“Grant and Grace.”

“Yeah, nothing new there.” I close my book. “How are you? How was your week?”

“Same old,” she replies, an unlit cigarette between her teeth, as she rummages through her purse for a lighter. “Guess what they’re fighting about this time.”

“Don’t know. The weather?”

“Hey, where’s your lighter?”

I open my pack of Marlboro menthols and hand it to her. “Just make sure you don’t take it with you. You owe me like 6 lighters now.”

“So,” Claire says, while lighting up, “apparently Beth is like the middleman in the relationship, and Grace thinks Grant is cheating with Beth.”

“That’s absurd. Beth and John have been dating like forever. They’re practically married. Grace is just really insecure or something.”

“Oh, I think Beth enjoys the misunderstanding. She complains about becoming the mediator, but really, she loves it.” Claire takes a drag on her cigarette.

“Yeah, I don’t really want to get involved. Whatever it is, it’s between Grant and Grace to figure things out. If they can’t do it by themselves, they shouldn’t even be together.”

“What’s up with you?”

“Not much. Just trying to finish this book by next week.”

“No, I mean like, did you have a bad day or something?”

I sigh, retrieve my lighter from atop Claire’s cigarette case, and replace it in my menthol pack. “You know what, I just remembered I have to be somewhere. We’ll catch up another time, yeah?”

“But I just got here.”

“Yeah, but you were an hour late so…” I say, standing as I stuff my book and cigarettes into my purse. “I’ll see you soon. Bye.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

At the beach

Generate - 110

Ben Azevedo

He tried to generate momentum, but the undertow was too strong. That was his favorite part of the ocean though. Man against Nature. You could never win. No matter how many waves you crashed through, inevitably one would drag you down. The best arrangement you could achieve was a sort of truce, a pact with the sea to allow you to live.

Today was not his day. A storm was blowing in from the south, preceded by a sweeping wind, which whipped white spray from the fingertips of the waves into his face. The storm current matched the wind, pulling him down the beach and further away from the house.


I am... At The Beach - The Avett Brothers

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bear. Bear with Coats.

Bear - 423 words
Lindsey Thompson


Almost all of my life, I wanted to be a bear. Not the type of bear that wanders in the wild, scratching at trees and roaring and sniffing and stuff. I wanted to be a sophisticated bear. I wanted to be a bear in a suit coat, with a monocle and a bow tie. I adored the thought of being a strong omnivore with fur and claws, able to sniff and hear from miles away people or parties I’d want to attend, but able to sit down and have a persuasive argument about William Shakespeare and his inability to actually have written the plays that bear his name……no pun intended. To be an animal that could shed the trappings of man and race across plains while maintaining the sense of propriety to hang his hat at the door and wash his paws before sitting down to dinner. A bear with a coat.

But, since bears have a coat already, I suppose it would be a bear with coats. Plural.

This dream buried its hooks into my brain after my friend Lisa doodled a bear cub in 5th grade. We were supposed to be working on math problems, and since neither of us understood or enjoyed math, she drew frequently. That day, she created a cute grizzly cub chewing on some paper with a speech bubble exclaiming, “Bears don’t need to do math.”

We both giggled to ourselves, making our teacher spin on her heels and glare us down for interrupting her tirade against the lost art of check writing. Why 5th graders needed to learn to write checks, I’ll never know. Turning back to my sheet of loose leaf, I began to doodle my response. Lisa was a great artist, but sketching was my passion. I released this haughty, proud-standing polar bear wearing a suit jacket over a smart vest and a paw on his chest, retorting, “SOME bears need math, and do it quite well.”

For whatever reason, that polar bear remained with me. Perhaps it’s my size, or lack thereof. Not only am I occasionally teased when I ask my fiancĂ© for assistance reaching the top shelf, but I fear I am also not taken seriously when my passion surges to fill my tiny body and bubble over. I also wish I were better able to protect the things I love: my art from the thieves that came last August or my little brother from the bullies at school. No one would challenge a giant bear that spoke Latin. No one.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

there is an order to all of this

Order - 497 words
Kevin Foster

He had grown at the same disproportionate rate as the skyscrapers in the city, towering over all of the children his age, over six feet tall in 8th grade. As it turned out, he had just come to his growth spurt early and he petered out at six feet four inches; though still a large man, broad-shouldered and strong, the world had caught up to him long ago; he was now only slightly above-average, and appropriately so considering his privileged position at the Smithson Brothers firm. He thought about all of this right around dusk in his two hundred eighty square foot office on the fifty-sixth floor of an office building on the southeastern tip of Manhattan. Sometimes, when you were down on the streets, you couldn’t tell when it was turning from day to night, for the lights never went off, each building burning like a sun in its own right; up here the transformation was just surreal.

Over the years, his office had moved higher and higher in the building; he shot up the ranks of the company as quickly as he had grown in adolescence; this time he had not slowed down. He was now the company’s youngest head officer, the COO at thirty-six years of age, recognized by others in the industry as an organizational genius – the rise of Smithson Brothers stock coincided with his to power and many within the company and without attributed their success to him in jest, though their was truth in their mockery.

He could see more of the city than he ever had thought possible from an office, but he realized the details faded at this height; the faces of the weary, pulling up their collars as they disappeared into the subways; the smells that somehow bludgeoned their way through the thick glass, or were imagined, but no less real – hot dogs with every fixing, the smoke funneling in between the buildings from what now seemed like an oddly placed four-story apartment complex adjacent to the Smithson Tower; the sounds that rode the trail of the smells, the constant construction and the bleating taxi horns and the shouts and the rare lulls, the silence being louder and more noticeable than the rest of them combined.

Most things seemed much smaller now that he was older, but the city is so expansive that he wondered if it would ever seem less than behemoth to him and if he would ever catch up to the top of the buildings. ‘Even if I get there, I’ll never be on top,’ he thought, ‘Tomorrow, somewhere on the horizon, some giant will materialize, taller than anyone ever thought possible, and I will be dwarfed.’ As he sat, drink in hand, pondering these thoughts out over the city, he missed being able to see the faces of the people down below, and he wondered what was on the top floor that he was chasing and whether or not he would ever get there.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sin

Chaos - 85 words
Sarah Van Name

i wrap myself up like water in cloth
(strawberry juice, sun poisoning, birthday cake)
would melt on your skin if my love’s touch was soft.
(dirty sheets, classic novels, swimming pool)
in the depths of july there’s a deep chocolate hum
(silk skirts, sea salt)
the sound of the river in the heat of the sun
(white paint)
you’re the guitar, the whistle, the soul and the drum
(spilled sugar, storm warning, fresh tattoo)
you’re the chaos in the center of the blind man’s song.

Navesink Banks - The Gaslight Anthem

Monday, July 5, 2010

The power of story

Myth- 227
Stephen N. Dethrage

As the ship rocked viciously on the furious waves of the sea near Crete, his blood, almost black in the inky darkness of twilight, splattered first, staining the faces of the surrounding crew, then poured out onto the deck, then, in the end, merely dripped weakly into the growing puddle below. The storm around them intensified so fiercely that the very sea seemed to leap onto the deck, and the resulting brackish tides raced along the planks of the ship until, at last, they met the crimson pool beneath him. Terrified crewmen looked on as his blood mingled with the waters of the deep and foamed obscenely, as though the sea god himself sought to taste of the sacrifice. Around them, the waves calmed for the first time in days, and in mere minutes, the placid surf around the ship seemed more like a lake, and less like the unforgiving oceans that had so aggressively haunted their entire voyage. The crew relaxed at last, and knew deep within themselves that the ragged man before them was not murdered. He was a necessary appeasement to the gods they all served. Beneath them, the boards of the ship began to absorb the shed blood of another fool who chose to blaspheme Poseidon, the stains of which would forever testify to the power of story over the minds of men.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Slow Motion Riders Fly the Colors of the Day.

Mud - 362 Words
Aaron Dethrage.

Trickling trails of crimson and rose streamed down her chin on a cool, summer afternoon in the park. In vain, she tried to puddle them in the palm of her hand amidst uncontainable laughter, carefully holding the remaining half of a strawberry with her hooked ring finger clamping it against her thumb. Her cheeks flushed pink out of embarrassment as she tried to slurp the stray juices with some semblance of elegance, and I laughed at her, my eyes speaking words of endearment and acceptance as I drew her into an embrace.

It was the fourth of July, and Katherine and I had decided to actually attend the city’s fireworks show this year. The hassle and crowds typically persuaded us to ignore the festivities, but something felt different this year. We felt more proud of this place we were living in, more grateful and involved.

We arrived at the park around two o’clock and stretched our blanket out against the soft, green park grass like an ornamental rug against a hardwood floor, front row seats for the evening’s performance and a quiet escape from work for the day. She wore a brightly-spotted sundress that showed off her awkward and bony tomboy knees, but thanks to some strange, surge of confidence, she didn’t seem to mind them for the day.

We were in love, and I felt more content that day than I had ever known before. As Katherine rested her soft, brown hair on my lap, I twirled my fingers through its natural curls. My eyes scanned the bright blue, cloudless sky, and I let out a sigh, overwhelmed by the bliss of the day.

Half-asleep, she looked up at me and asked, “John, do you wish that we could see the future, know where we will end up before we’ve even left?”

Surprised by the question but always quick on my toes, I replied, “I’d only want to know it if it was filled with the girl that I am looking at right now.”

It wouldn’t be.

But as she nuzzled her head into my lap for a refreshing, sunbathed, summertime nap, I knew that I’d surely meant it.


Song to come: Saturday in the Park - Chicago

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Congrats.

Pawn - 46 words
Mary Ann Loo



He called; he wanted back those diamond ear-studs, the ones that had celebrated our first official year.
I sold them; purchased designer shoes and a purse, and two cheap crystal look-alikes.
He pocketed the velvet box; didn’t open it.
I said, “And by the way, congratulations.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's a Common sort of Elation, really.

Common - 317
Ben Azevedo

I don’t feel common at all. I feel alive, invigorated, young. The car goes too fast with the spirit of my youth. The cool night air streaming through my car whips away the smoke of my cigarette. Smoking while driving is dangerous, deadly even, but no one cares. I don’t. I’m invincible anyway.

In just one week, I will see my love again. Just the thought gives me energy, lets me continue. I will feel her arms around me, so hot they bring tears to my eyes. I will smell the warm smoothness of her neck as we embrace. I will feel the hairs on my neck move as she whispers her love in my ear, and I shiver in anticipation. I don’t feel common.

In just one week, I will see my family again. The origins of my being. I will hear their excitement and look into their eyes to try to remember their depth. They will radiate all the hopes and dreams and expectations and goals that they desire for me, and I will bask in that glow and shoulder the heavy burden of their words. I will not feel common then either.

In one week, I will fly. Soar effortlessly over the clouds and tear out of the sky to roll to a stop in a new but familiar place. It will take exactly 1.5 hours for me to do this. This seems impossible, but it is quite common. Still, as my body begins to ascend to the heavens, I will not feel common.

In a week, I will stand on the edge of a continent. I will battle Nature herself, and inevitably lose. But I will call it a draw, and feel as though none can best me. I will feel the wind in my hair and be at peace. I will not feel common.

I feel this way rather a lot, actually.


Round Here - Counting Crows

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Would You Rather Be Happy Or Right (Abridged Version)

Salute - 418 Words
Lindsey Thompson

I’m sitting to coffee at midnight, looking over my haggard brother just home from the front. He takes a drink from his own container, hidden deep beneath layers of leather, and shoots me another wild-eyed gaze. He hasn’t slept in days; I can see that in the bloodshot vessels streaming across to the iris, I can smell it on his tainted breaths. I didn’t expect him to call for me, of all our family, to pick him up. We aren’t close; nothing between us is similar, save a Y chromosome, and the identities of our parents. Neither of us says a word as the second hand ticks and the fryers sizzle. Finally, after another sip—this time of coffee—he opens.

“I know what I said when I signed up for this. You and I both knew the money was a big part of it, with everything paid for and thousands to spare. But that wasn’t all of it, you saw that too. I told you I was ready to go bust into towns and shoot down some Arabs and terrorists, that I wanted to protect my country by killing whoever ran into my fucking crosshairs.” Another sip from the hidden elixir. A breath, a clearing of the head. I remain silent, stoic, my insides churning. “Fucking Arabs were easy to pick off. Turban-heads.” Here he leaks a sardonic smirk. “I was damn good.”

“There was this battle. We don’t go close range much, but we were in a town. And…there was this kid. Maybe 13 years old. God, there’s no way his voice could have dropped yet. He screamed when he saw me, eyes full of fear. He scared the shit out of me, coming around a corner. I…I didn’t mean to shoot, I didn’t know I had pulled the trigger until his head rolled back.” The tears are coming now. “Then his older sister rounds the corner and sees him, and she screams like I’ve never heard a human yell before. She glares at me, head and hands covered in his blood, and grabs a gun, screaming in Arabic.” His breathing is heavy. “I killed her too. I shot them both so fucking full of holes to shut out the sounds…”

His mouth opens, but nothing comes. He lifts a shaky hand to his mouth, and tears begin to trickle between his fingers. I see that his sleep is haunted, his silence shattered. All I can do is sit across and watch him crumble, for I am frozen.

I Want To Destroy Something Beautiful - Josh Woodward