Child’s Play

When you’ve been following the cat around the house all day, you really can’t blame him for escaping beneath the armchair, hissing glinty-eyed as the three of you approach. And when the other girls tell you to climb onto the chair and look underneath, they know you’ll do their bidding as good friends do, so now you’re on your knees on the sunken cushion, your hair descending first, head heavy with blood as your eyes search the dark. Maybe the cat assumes a game is underway, your hair like tangled strings inviting attack, or perhaps he’s like Mother and he’s had enough. Either way it’s quick and your vision blurs, a stream too thick for water descending from your eye. The other girls run when your scream wakes Mother, when she screams even louder, why did you bother the goddamn cat? and she can’t see it’s more than blood you’re bleeding. But you won’t need to worry because here’s what will happen: the doctor will prepare you a gauzy patch and you’ll sit pirate-eyed in a sterilized room while he says a quarter inch to the right and you would have been blinded and you’re lucky the eye is the fastest-healing organ. And yes you’ll cry again to think you sidestepped a future as a girl whose single eye might draw attention, might draw anything, but really you’ll be crying about nothing again since the patch will come off in a few short days and your friends will be back in time for tea. You won’t make a sound as you pour the liquid since Mother says a person shouldn’t talk to themselves, but you’ll still exchange smiles as you sip sweet tea from dust-coated cups, as you listen to the beat of Mother’s crooked clock while the cat self-grooms from atop the chair. Tick tock, lick lick. You’ll sway to the music of childhood.

Andrea Lynn Koohi

Andrea Lynn Koohi is a writer from Ontario, Canada. Her recent work appears or is forthcoming in Pithead Chapel, The Maine Review, Sunlight Press, Lost Balloon, filling Station, trampset and others.

Breakfast with the King

 We had just graduated from Navy “A” School near Memphis. It was time to celebrate. Being we were all under 21, we chose Southaven, Mississippi where the drinking age was 18. There were six of us—three Marines, one Coast Guardsman, and two sailors. The sign read, “Ice Cold Beer and Music!” The place was jumping to a local band pumping out covers. All was cool until the dude with an albino snake wrapped around his neck waltzed in. This freaked-out one of the Marines. Words were exchanged and everything got quiet. That’s when the lighting flicked off and on.

“You all behave now!” It came from behind the bar. It sounded more like a ringside bell than a warning. Chairs began to fly, tables turned on their sides and pool sticks cut through the stagnant air with reckless abandon. Anybody who had a grievance with somebody was fair game. In front of the band, two women wrestled on the floor, tugging hair, bearing claws.

Once more, the lights flicked off and on.

“Law’s on the way. Anybody who shouldn’t be here might be considering viable options.”

We were the first to take his advice. Near U.S. 51, two cop cars passed us going in the opposite direction with lights and sirens. Fifteen minutes later those same cop cars had us cornered in a gas station parking lot.

“You all just leave that club up the road?”

“No sir,” I said. One of the cops was checking out the Marine’s ripped shirt.

“Get in!”

They drove us several miles until we saw the sign, “Welcome to Tennessee.”


“How far is Memphis?” asked the Coast Guardsman.

“Don’t matter. Start walking.”

We walked about five miles before taking a break across from a mansion with four huge columns. At the entrance were gates with music cleft notes on the front. We sat waiting for a taxi, or dawn—whatever appeared on the horizon first.

A couple of hours later, we heard the gates energize and creep open. Out popped a beefy-looking guy with red hair on a golf cart wheeling towards us. When he reached us, he thrust two boxes our way. Gibson’s Donuts was written on the top box.

“How you boys doin’?”

“Better now,” I said.

He pointed to a second-floor window at the mansion.

“Courtesy of Elvis.”

I looked in the direction of the mansion. The silhouette of a lone figure stood between the open curtains gazing at us. I gave him a thumbs up and saluted. He nodded his head coolly and returned the salute. He had a donut in his hand.

We tore into the contents of the top box. To this day, it’s the best chocolate-covered donut with color sprinkles I’ve ever eaten.

Breakfast with the King.

Stuart Baker Hawk

Stuart Baker Hawk is a resident of Portugal via Washington state with an MFA in creative writing from Mississippi University for Women. He has worked as a pizza cook, punch press operator, instrument technician, union leader, construction electrician, OSHA administrator, adjunct professor and risk manager. He has also climbed some of this country’s most difficult mountains, worked briefly as a white-water rafting guide in Tennessee, and rappelled from the cliffs of Red River Gorge in Kentucky. In short, he has lived a life well and good. He has been published in poetry, fiction, nonfiction, new media and photography.

The Night Ride Home

Mia blows gently on the bus shelter window. Her warm breath crystallizes on the cold glass, distorting the glare of the red and white lights of passing cars. Isobel watches as her daughter rounds her finger over a central point, drawing endless circles in the mist.

Isobel looks down the road as the sixty-five approaches. She follows her daughter past the driver’s cab and up the narrow staircase to the front seat. They settle in, bags on the floor, warm breath blowing onto cold hands as the driver below shouts for a straggler to hurry.

The bus bows a little under the weight of its newest passenger. Doors hiss as they close behind him, a sneer at his tardiness.  And then she hears him speak: a rich baritone that filters through the bus. He speaks in short, staccato sentences, answering the tin rattle of another voice muddled by the noise of the engine.  As he speaks, a familiar melody pours through Isobel’s memory: a flush trill sonata that flutters in time with the beating of her heart.  His distinct tone grows louder, accompanied by the measured timpani of footsteps climbing the stairs. A chorus of strings are set to symphony as the brakes are released and the bus jolts into motion.

His voice is so like another that has etched its mark on Isobel’s heart, but she will not look back. She will not turn to him and smile, as she once did on a summer’s day, when a boy with blonde hair and thick, evening stubble returned a playful grin as he moved to sit next to her.  She will not look back to that first kiss shared outside the off-licence, to the bristle of his rough cheek against her thigh, to the weight of his body on hers. To intertwined fingers held up to block the morning sunlight. To gentle arms that held her close when two pink lines appeared on a white stick. To the tear he quickly wiped away when a white spot hovered in a black cave, its centre pumping rhythmically, like a metronome setting the beat.  She will not look back to the shattered glass on the roadside, to red and blue flashing lights illuminating his bloodied, motionless hand.  To Mia’s first wails as she was pulled from the womb, her cry full of sorrow, as though she already knew, was already mourning.

As the symphony reaches its climax, Isobel chances a glance to the window. She sees the reflection of a tall figure with black hair.  He descends down the narrow staircase, his phone held tight against his ear.  The weight of the bus lifts as he steps out onto the pavement. The closing doors hiss again, and Isobel allows herself to breathe.

Mia blows gently on the window. Her warm breath crystallizes on the cold glass. Isobel watches as her daughter rounds her finger over a central point, drawing endless circles in the mist.

Natasha O’Brien

Natasha O’Brien grew up in the United States but returned to her native England in 2012 and has been pursuing her academic and creative writing ambitions since. She is currently studying for an MA in Creative and Critical Writing at the University of Suffolk, and in 2020 obtained a MA in Medieval and Early Modern Textual Culture from the University of East Anglia. Her creative work has appeared in the online literary magazine “The Write Launch”, and she was longlisted for the 2022 Student New Angle Prize. She is currently working on her first novel, a historical fiction set in the 17th century. Natasha lives with her husband, daughter, and two dogs near the Suffolk coast.

Talk Therapy

He watched his bride of fifty years as she read Science magazine while nibbling a liverwurst and onion sandwich. He carefully avoided looking at the liverwurst. He wondered how two such incompatible people could stay married for fifty years.

He peeked at the article. Something about mitochondria or whatever. She never bothered with the astronomy or quantum stuff. Who would do that? How could two such incompatible…

He should let her be, but something else was nagging at him. “How come I never make you laugh?”

Irritated, she answered without looking up. “With, or at?”


Now she looked directly at him. “You tell everybody you don’t know how to tell a joke or even remember an entire joke, and you ask me that?”

“I can’t remember ever making you split your gut, wet your panties, fall off your chair –”

“No thank you.”

“OK, how come you never make me laugh?”

“Baby, you laugh all the time. I hear you chuckling in the shower. Sometimes I hear you giggling when you claim to be ‘working.’ You are an infinite source of self-amusement. If you could cook, you wouldn’t need me for anything.” She turned back to her article.

That made him think. His favorite long joke of all time was the “European Heaven/European Hell” joke. He loved it, but he could never get it straight (“… and the Swiss… umm…”), so he carried a crumpled copy in his billfold. Looking back, he guessed nobody would be thrilled to hear some guy say “You wanna hear a great joke?” then see him pull something out of his wallet.

Then he remembered what she’d said about his dragging that joke out of his back pocket: “You just can’t keep it in your pants.” He laughed out loud and thought, Sometimes she’s wicked funny.

She turned another page, shaking her head. There you go again.


Thomas Reed Willemain

Dr. Thomas Reed Willemain is former academic who is swapping working with numbers for playing with words. His flash fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and has appeared in Granfalloon, Burningword Literary Journal, Hobart, The Medley, and elsewhere. A native of western Massachusetts, he lives near the Mohawk River in upstate New York.


A full moon turned the tops of the coastal dunes blue and shone silver off the Pacific. Alex sat next to Sophia, not touching, silent. They stared into the bonfire fueled by creosote bush and sage. Its smoke filled the air with a musky, earthy scent. Sophia’s shoulders shook. With her head bowed, her long blonde hair hid her face.

Alex turned, reached out and raised her chin. He leaned forward and lightly kissed each tear-filled eye, tasting the salt. Her trembling lips felt as soft as he remembered from months before.

“I’ve gotta go,” he said.

“Not yet.”

“It’ll get easier.”

“Easier for whom?”

Alex dropped her hand and struggled to his feet in the deep sand. “Goodbye, Sophia . . . sorry.”

He moved along the trail and into the nearby trees, using his cell phone light to guide the way. The eucalyptus rustled in the onshore breeze, their scimitar leaves rattling. Don’t look back. Whatever you do, don’t look back. Don’t look.

But he did.

Sophia sat cross-legged before the fire, still close enough for Alex to hear her sobs. She beat her legs with her fists and rocked back and forth. A night heron called. Alex stared at his cell phone screen.

With trembling fingers he texted, “Sophia, are you all right?”

Her cell buzzed and she dug into her purse and retrieved the phone. She stared at it for a long time before answering, “No.”

Alex’s cell buzzed when he received her reply. Sophia turned and stared toward the trees where he hid. She struggled to her feet, the curve of her belly mirroring the curve of the moon. She faced him across the darkness, a ghostly silhouette rimmed in soft blue. Alex felt that exquisite pain, that internal compression that can bend iron. He took a step back into the trees and breathed in their fragrance. The eucalyptus rattled even louder.

He moved forward, toward the fire and Sophia.


Terry Sanville

Terry Sanville lives in San Luis Obispo, California with his artist-poet wife (his in-house editor) and two plump cats (his in-house critics). He writes full-time, producing short stories, essays, and novels. His short stories have been accepted more than 440 times by journals, magazines, and anthologies including The Potomac Review, The Bryant Literary Review, and Shenandoah. He was nominated twice for Pushcart Prizes and once for inclusion in Best of the Net anthology. Terry is a retired urban planner and an accomplished jazz and blues guitarist – who once played with a symphony orchestra backing up jazz legend George Shearing.

Under a White-Hot Sky

My plane descended from the white-hot sky as slowly as the soufflé I had baked for the dinner at which I planned to celebrate my engagement to Ross.  He canceled, calling to say we should date other people, and hung up without a goodbye, good luck, or farewell kiss.  After several hours, I stopped phoning and texting.  I had my pride.

I tried hanging myself, but the heating pipe did not support my weight.  My life savings went to my landlord and his thieving plumber and carpenter.  Drinking myself to death failed as I passed out before my blood alcohol achieved a fatal level.  I turned to jaywalking, first city streets, then Interstates, but survived every crossing.  God had chosen me to live long and suffer.

Now, under a white sun, my mouth filled with sucking candies to guarantee an ample supply of saliva, I prepared to spit on the white pine coffin mocking me from the bottom of Ross’s grave.  Mourners shunned me as if they knew I was one of the damned. I did not try to hide it.

“I’m Ross’s mom.”  A woman, veiled and wreathed in black, offered a gloved hand.

I steeled myself against syrupy reminiscences.  She would expect some in return and I had none to offer.

“You must be Tomãs,” she said.  “Ross found out the afternoon he called.  He did not want to ruin a second life.”  She lowered her eyes and returned to the arms of her surviving children.

The heat-sealed my tear ducts and cottoned my mouth.  The sun fired my hair.  Shame burned away my skin, exposing my soul to the solar wind.  I hurled myself onto Ross’s coffin, clinging to it with such ferocity it took all eight pallbearers to break my death grip and wrestle my lifeless body from his grave.


Frederic Liss

Liss’s first novel was published in July 2020 and second novel will be published in May 2022. He’s a multiple Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Prize, the St. Lawrence Book Award, and the Bakeless Prize. He’s published over 55 short stories in, inter alia, The Saturday Evening Post, The South Dakota Review, The South Carolina Review, H.O.W. Literary Journal, Two Bridges Review, Hunger Mountain, The Florida Review, Carve Magazine, and Fifth Wednesday Journal. He earned an MFA from Emerson College, Boston, MA, and leads a fiction workshop at the St. Botolph Club, Boston, MA. Visit his website at for more information.

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