Red Ink

You’ll never guess what I just found. Ann steps over the pile of boxes blocking the doorway, a small black object in her hand. Haven’t seen one of these in years.

She hands it over. An old floppy disc.

Bloody hell, me neither. Where was it?

Found it unpacking a box of your old college stuff. Any idea what’s on it?

Not sure. He turns it over. There’s a crack in one corner, and an illegible red scribble on the label. Chloe Hide’s handwriting. Oh.

The class was paired into teams. He and Chloe were put together. For the whole afternoon she sat beside him, shoulders bare in the muggy heat, red ponytail down her back. When she stretched her arms over her head, he craned forwards to peek at her breasts, turning away as she relaxed, afraid she’d catch him staring. They talked and he made her laugh. At the end of the lesson, they saved their work on a disc and he promised to look after it. Outside, the wind tossed her hair over her shoulder, the clear sky glinted in her eyes. Ask if she wants to go get a cup of tea, or something to eat maybe. Just ask her.

OK, great. See you tomorrow. Her smile showed her braces.

He watched her turn the corner, then ran the other way for the bus. Chloe walked home alone. The police recovered her two weeks later.

He strokes his thumb across the red ink. It doesn’t smudge. It dried decades ago.

It’s nothing. Just some old college junk.

I’ll throw it out then if you want. Can’t use it for anything. Ann holds out her hand.

No. It’s fine.

Ann shrugs and goes back upstairs. He sits down, and slides the disc into his pocket.


Sam comes from East Yorkshire but now resides in Lancashire. He recently completed a Masters in Creative Writing at Lancaster University, and has had two books published, one in 2020 by Alban Lake, and the other in 2018 after it won 1st Prize in the National Association of Writers’ Group’s 2017 novella competition. When not writing, he likes cooking, hiking, and spending time with his fiancé and his cat.


Sam Graham

The Trio of Kiev

The concert hall took a direct hit during the first week the city was shelled.  Sandbags piled alongside the walls protected the stained glass windows of the former church, but the roof was punctured and the interior set ablaze.  With rockets landing in the quarter and water mains shattered, the fire burned unabated.  When the fighting ended days later, crews began to sift through debris.  Combing through the ashes, broken plaster, and fallen brickwork, the orchestra conductor located the thick bound volumes of old concert programs.  He dusted them off, smiling to himself.  Their history had been saved.  The roof and rows of charred seats could be replaced.  Fortunately, most of the musicians had taken their valuable instruments home with them.  Digging deeper, he found stacks of music stands, ash-covered but intact.  Beneath them, though singed and water-stained, sheets of music for the Friday concert were still legible.

Looking at the soiled pages, a thought came to him.  Three violinists lived within walking distance.  If they were home, if they had their instruments, and if he could contact them, they might be able to play.  The orchestra had not canceled a performance in forty-eight years.  As conductor, he had never missed a concert. It would be a haphazard orchestra for a haphazard audience.  A few violins would barely be heard over the distant explosions, sirens, and the barking of stray dogs.  But they could perform, their history maintained.

That late afternoon, with snow falling, two men and a woman in overcoats, played the Brahms violin concerto on the steps of the shattered concert hall.  A half-dozen shivering rescue workers clustered around a small fire listened, some closing their eyes.  A pair of reporters recorded the orchestra with their cell phones, broadcasting the performance to the refugees, the fighters, the relief workers, the traumatized, and the bedridden of Kiev.


Mark Connelly’s fiction has appeared in Indiana Review, Milwaukee Magazine, Cream City Review, The Ledge, Smoky Blue Arts and Literary Magazine, Change Seven, Light and Dark, 34th Parallel, The Chamber Magazine, Mobius Blvd., and Digital Papercut. In 2005 Texas Review Press published his novella Fifteen Minutes, which received the Clay Reynolds Prize. His most recent short story “That Forgotten Monday” appeared in The Chamber Magazine in October 2023 and was published in Möbius Blvd in December.


Mark Connelly

V Club

Remember Twiggy, her skeletal body was all the rave. That led us to

Form the V Club.  Teachers thought we meant Glee club. (Not V for Vomit)

It wasn’t until three 8th grade girls were taken away in an ambulance that

the school got wise. I was called the Ring Leader which made me hear tinny

circus music.


My curvy mom came to see the school counselor with me.

The counselor said, (no kidding, her words exactly),


“Oh, now I get it, you’re Italian and predisposed to fat, pasta fat.


My mom smiled and replied, Yes, me and Sophia Loren.



Gloria’s published novel, The Killing Jar, is about one of the youngest Americans to serve on death row. Her memoir Learning from Lady Chatterley deals with her life growing up in Detroit. Breathe Me a Sky was published by the Moonstone Arts Center, and a collection of her poetry entitled The Dark Safekeeping, a chapbook, was published by Mayapple Press in 2022. She has published poems, essays, and pedagogical chapters in mainstream presses and literary journals. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a finalist in The Longridge non-fiction contest.


Gloria Demasi Nixon-John

Featured Author, Mark Crimmins


There’s a run on peaches. Soon the shelves in Produce are empty. I go down to the basement to get more. When I step out of the lift into the warehouse, I see my boss.

Disco Dez.

There he is in his bellbottoms, bouncing what looks like a tennis ball on the ground. Except it doesn’t bounce as high as it should. Then I see him put the ball in a tray of peaches. He takes another peach from the tray and tries to bounce it off the concrete back into his hand.

I ask him what he’s doing.

“Wot does it look like ahm doin? Grab some a these peaches and chuck em at the floor,” he says. “If they’re bruised or damaged, we can send em back to the supplier.” He hurls one to the ground. Picks it up. Smashes it down again. Inspects it. Puts it back in the tray. “Damaged goods,” he says, lighting a smoke. He takes out a third peach and dashes it against the concrete. “Come on,” he says. “Grab a few and bash em like this. Otherwise, we’ll ave to take em upstairs and fart around arranging em on the shelves.”

I tell him it’s no problem to take them up to Produce.

He’s back at me right quick.

“Oh, fuck off! Ah can’t be bothered doin that! Ahm knackered! Ah were at Pips Disco last night. Met a real scorcher. Took er ome too. At it all night, we was! Ah dunna feel like faffin around merchandising fruit. Ah just wanna stay down ere wiv me cigs.”

He replaces the third damaged peach and mashes a fourth against the tray’s wooden edge with his right hand while he puffs on his smoke with his left.

“There we go! Bita variety—This one got damaged in transit!” He takes a fifth and hurls it to the floor. “Bruising’s the best, though.”

I just stand there and watch him.

He looks at me.

“Wotz fuckin wrong wiv thee? Bruise some a these bloody peaches, lod! Come on, mon! Is somet up wiv yer earz? Ooze the fuckin boss around ere?”

I tell him I won’t do it.

He takes a deep drag on his smoke and looks at me incredulously.

“Did ah bloody ear you right? Yer not telling me yerd rather shove the fuckin trays onto a dolly, lug em up the soddin lift, and stick em on the bleeding shelves!? Wotz yer fuckin probo?”

I tell him I won’t damage the peaches.

“Right then!” he says.

He grabs a tray of undamaged peaches with both hands and tosses it at me. I catch it and turn towards the lift.

He shouts after me as I walk off.

“Yer ken wotz wrong wiv thee? Know wot yer fuckin probo iz? Yer a fuckin workerolick, mate! Addicted to bloody work—that’s wot you are! Not me!”

He jabs a thumb into his chest.

“Ahv got a bituva fuckin life to live!”


Mark Crimmins grew up in Manchester, England, dropping out of high school to work in the textile industry. He emigrated to the United States as a skilled labourer in 1978. In the States and Canada, he received a literature education, with a BA in 1985, an MA in 1993, and a PhD from the University of Toronto in 1999, specializing in Contemporary American Fiction. His stories have been published in Chicago Quarterly Review, Apalachee Review, Columbia Journal, Tampa Review, Fiction Southeast, Confrontation, Permafrost, Atticus Review, Kyoto Journal, Queen’s Quarterly, and Flash Frontier. One of his flash fictions was nominated for a Pushcart Fiction Prize by Kansas magazine Inscape.


Mark Crimmins

Under the Texan Sun

Bernadette lives in a flat house in West Texas. She often forgets being old until she walks past a mirror or a window and sees the skinny, slightly hunched, somewhat wrinkled body she knows is now hers. She ignores it by keeping busy, tending to the flowers and trees in her yard which seems to get a little bigger each year.

“Hello, kitties,” she coos as she comes outside to sit under her patio awning, shielded from the relentless sun. She listens to them mew as they slink around her, making overlapping curvy trails that crisscross her legs and each other as if they are weaving a tale.

“Here’s your dinner, my sweets,” she says, wishing she was serving watermelon to grandchildren and not stray cats looking for Meow Mix. The cats stop crying and eat without fighting when she puts all the aluminum pie plates down.

I’m still here at ninety-one, she tells herself. My legs work and brain work and I have a roof over my head, owned free and clear. I have my telenovelas and Lester Holt every evening. I have leftover barbecue chicken and a fresh peach from my neighbor. I am fine.

The warm breeze dries the sweat on her face and arms, cooling her. She leans back in the lawn chair and closes her eyes for a few minutes to rest. Bernadette sees someone walking in her yard, coming toward her from the road so far away. It’s a woman who is very small at first but keeps getting bigger as she comes closer. She appears gray and nearly transparent but gradually becomes bright and solid, and the old lady gasps, seeing the woman wearing a multi-colored dress.

Bernadette remembers that dress from long ago, recalls buying the fabric and carefully cutting it out, using a special pattern begged from her older sister. Bernadette pinned the parts together and sewed the seams one by one, fit each of the sleeves into the arm holes, which was always tricky and took patience, something Bernadette had little of then. It took hours to set in the zipper and make it smooth and even. Finally, she ironed each seam flat like her mother had taught by her.

This dress was for a dance. A nice young man had invited her, and her mother had said okay. It was her first dance and her first date. The dress had to be perfect. She could still feel the fabric resting on her arms, soft and clingy. The skirt cascaded from her tiny waist, hugged her hips, and fluttered against her knees.

Bernadette was sixteen. She had long black hair and eyes so dark people swore she had no pupils. Everything was brilliant and new and special that night. She danced for hours, and her feet didn’t feel the floor. He held her gently like she would break if he let her go.

Suzanne C Martinez

Suzanne C Martinez’s fiction has appeared in Vestal Review, The Citron Review, Gone Lawn, and The Broadkill Review, among others, and was nominated for Pushcart Prizes (2019, 2020), The Best of the Net (2020), and Best Short Fictions (2022). She was a finalist in the 2023 Tartts First Fiction Award for her linked story collection. She lives in Brooklyn. Website: X: @SuzanneCMartin3 • IN: s.martinez1441 • FB: scm1441

The Coat

She saw the coat. Its colors and its wool and its plaid and its extremely careful collar rounded to fit a grown-up man and make him happy—all this contained in the glass storefront window—and its dryness in the humid air yet its ability to contain the magic charge of the moisture and the dryness of the air—and to keep scents and aromas of the body, and of rooms the wearer had been in, the scents of other clothing stored in his closet on sad lonely hangers—excited her. She imagined the perfect person to wear the jacket, a person who was completely soft and restful in his life, was only waiting for the strange and somewhat painful junctures of travel to change his life, his trajectory in the world. And then, would he return? Or never come back?

We were all once creatures underwater, she thought to herself. Yet we never wanted to go back to water, except to splash around in it briefly, or lie on a beach and feel the wind and hear the lonely seagulls which made you feel less lonely in comparison.

School was tomorrow and a chance to see him again, the boy who could grow up to wear the jacket and to stay in the town or travel far away from it and never return.

For days she would be what people called high, whenever she thought of the warm camel color at the base of the plaid, and the coolish dark green and dark red working through the camel color, as tightly wound and woven threads which traversed and simultaneously anchored the camel color. The camel color was caramels, almost an edible color, but also the forever color of sand.

His parents, everyone said, had given him the new car. Of course they had given him the car, of course he had never had a job, and would not bother with part-time jobs: he had better things to do. Plotting out his future. Or letting his future be plotted out, by gravity of boredom.

She was sending submissions to magazines called things like The Sun—it was fun to send a submission (only poor people submitted; rich people laughed at the idea of submitting, surely, as the word submission indicated your willingness to be a slave to something, namely, your poverty). Her last submission had begun Dear Mr. Sun—

Rebecca Pyle

Stories by Rebecca Pyle appear in Pangyrus Literary, The Third Street Review, The Lindenwood Review, The Hong Kong Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Guesthouse. Also a frequently-published poet and visual artist, Rebecca’s fiction has been nominated for a Best of the Net award and the Pushcart Prize. She is currently living in France. More information about Rebecca and her work can be found in

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