Rains Came Too Late

The fire gnawed the grasslands to bone-cracked earth on the way to our village. We hoped the lake would save us, the buckets of life we hauled from the shore, the trenches of dirt we overturned, the drenched rooftops.

We saw it writhing across the plane, rivers of light beneath rainless billows, bound for our storehouses, our livestock, our children. We beat at embers, singed our skirts, lost our hats in the breach. We unmoored our fishing boats and cast ourselves on the mercy of the inflammable.

The lake became a cloistered room of steam and sodden embers, roof of smoke, wringing the breath from our throats. We drenched aprons and handkerchiefs, tied them round our sons and daughters, round their ash-flecked faces.

When our rowboats scrape the shore, the ground is still hot, patched with guttering flames. The soles of our boots melt. The stones by the lake are blackened and cracked, and the cattle have vanished to ash. The evening is yellow and gray with smoldering.

We remember the purple flowers that flourished by the water, the grass that tumbled toward the shore. We remember the woods across the lake, its mosses and mushrooms, its birds’ nests, its deer.

We remember that the fish are still in the lake, and the boats are in the lake, and our sons and daughters lie sleeping in the boats.


by Brianne Holmes

Brianne Holmes lives and writes in Greenville, NC. Her work has appeared in the Ivy Leaves Journal of Literature and Art, in which she was also named the featured writer in 2012. She has a piece forthcoming in the Journal of Microliterature. Currently, she serves as an editorial assistant for the North Carolina Literary Review.

What You Do In the Dark

He had only caught you a few times, sneaking up from behind, each step as stealth as a tiptoeing cat, shattering the silence with a WHAT ARE YOU DOING that booms in your brain but, in reality, is barely above what school teachers call your “inside voice.”

You do not answer and he does not need you to answer because he saw. On the edge of the bed—your side of the bed, not his, you remind him—you are hunched over, your back curved like a crescent moon or maybe a crescent roll with your feet dangling a foot above the floor, clipping your toe nails not into the trashcan, like he asks, but onto the carpet where your feet, not his, you remind him, step each morning and each night.

It’s what you do in the dark, you tell him.

The lights are all on, he says.

I can bring you a trashcan, he says.

That’s not the point but you let him anyway. You feign laziness. When he leaves, you return to clipping your nails over the carpet until they align perfectly with the edge of your fingertips. When you are done, you look down at the chipped nail polish-adorned toenail clippings—sharp confetti. Spreading them evenly across the carpet before you, your toes run through the razor sharp blades that will disappear when you vacuum on Sundays, only to be replaced by a fresh brood days later—virgins filed in millimeter-sized rows across your toes, steadily progressing towards execution.


by Melissa Darcey

Melissa Darcey is a writer based in San Diego, CA. She has a soft spot for Jane Eyre, coffee, and her orange cat, Milo. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Gravel, Extract(s), Litro, Black Heart, Cease, Cows, and elsewhere.

The Quiltmaker

It took her years, but she made a memory quilt the size of their home. At first, she used her husband’s worn work clothes. Some time passed and she cut, nipped, and threaded a fine needle through her children’s clothes, too. Her husband took to calling her fanatical; saying she no longer honored his wishes. The children grew and fell away like autumn leaves. Then the cancer stuck for good. She rolled her yellow eyes, lit her Marijuana cigarette, and touched him gently as she’d once done. Her life was coming to a close, she knew. Like flash cards in youth, quicker by the day. Now her children and husband gathered by her bedside; said their last goodbyes. They loved her dearly, but none knew what to do with her old clothes. They only wanted their fair share. But she hadn’t divided them; that they had done on their own.


by Bill Cook

Bill Cook lives in a semi-rural area in Southern California’s High Desert, and has stories published in Juked, elimae, Thieves Jargon, Tin Postcard Review, Right Hand Pointing, The Summerset Review, SmokeLong Quarterly and in Dzanc’s anthology Best of the Web 2009.


We lay in bed and smoked cigarettes. She wasn’t allowed to smoke in her apartment, but figured she’d find a way to cover the smell when the time came to move out. The future never concerned her much. Untouchable, unknowable things never did. Her naked leg rested on my stomach as we talked about the past, about music, about films. We both vowed to re-watch Twin Peaks, this time with each other. I worried that I’d never make it as a writer. We discussed this while listening to something like goth music, something she liked and wanted me to like too.

She said, “Hush. Don’t talk that way. Bukowski didn’t publish his first book until he was fifty-one.”

I said, “But Bukowski wasn’t serious literature. Philip Roth won the National Book Award at twenty-seven.”

She laughed and blew smoke in my face and said, “You can’t break out of prison and into society the same week.”

“What?” I said.

“John Wayne,” she said. “It’s from a John Wayne movie.”

“You don’t seem like the type.”

“I wasn’t born with black eyeliner and lace. Besides, Bukowski is twice the writer you are.”

I shut up and we made love. Later, she apologized about the Bukowski remark.


by Jason Christian


Jason Christian traveled for more than a decade, first with a carnival, and later in search of adventure. He is currently studying creative writing at Oklahoma State University and plans to pursue an MFA after that. He has published in This Land Press, Mask Magazine, Liquid Journal, and has a story forthcoming in Oklahoma Review.

Taking Comfort

My little brother has rolled himself into a ball in the back of Grandpa’s pickup while mom—Grandpa is a mean bastard she says—is hollering at him to hurry the hell up before little Sammy dies. We—my sisters and I, and my brother who is bleeding all over the place—are being thrown about in the back of the pickup as Grandpa races towards the far horizon. We are forty miles from the nearest town with a hospital. And mom can’t stop yelling, pointing, and she can’t stop giving little Sammy that worried look. We should all be afraid, but we’re not. Nothing bad has happened to us since Dad died three and half years ago.

Upfront, mom rummages through her bulging black purse, removes a cigarette and lights it. She holds the lit cigarette up for Grandpa to take. He puffs and exhales until it’s only ash—never once taking it from his mouth. After he’s finished, he raises his giant hand and adjusts the rearview mirror. So that I can see him every-so-often glaring back at us, glaring back at little Sammy. He’s old and wrinkled, his face droops heavy with skin the color of tree bark. His eyes, when they look at little Sammy, are as dark as clay. I try remembering when Dad was still alive, and what it was like when we didn’t have to live with Grandpa, but I can’t, so I close my eyes tight as I can and pray that Sammy will be okay. In the rambling wind, we all gather around him, huddling each other for comfort. And, quietly, I pray for the rest of us, even Grandpa.


by Bill Cook

Bill Cook, a Southern California native, has plied a variety of trades, including cabinet maker, carpenter, general contractor, home designer and builder, and currently is employed as a certified building inspector. He has been published in Juked, elimae, Tin Postcard Review, Right Hand Pointing, The Summerset Review, SmokeLong Quarterly and in Dzanc’s anthology Best of the Web 2009. He currently resides in a small community situated within the Sierra Pelona Mountain range.


When I turn my body inside-out I do it the same way you would a piece of clothing: by pulling the top through the bottom. In other words, I pull my head through my anus. Basically, I reach up with my arm through my anus and grab the top of the inside of my skull and pull everything down back through my anus. I do this in front of the body-length mirror I own so I can see what I look like inside-out, and what I discover after I’ve done all this—turned my body inside-out and all—is a man, another man, who looks nothing like me. The man—the man inside of me—is hypertrophiedly muscular and has a bald crown with two earmuffs of brown hair bookending his face. I am not muscular nor do I have a bald crown or two earmuffs of brown hair. Actually, what I suppose would be more accurate is the outside of me is not muscular nor has a bald crown or two earmuffs of brown hair, because, clearly, some part of me is muscular and does have a bald crown and two earmuffs of brown hair.

Every now and then I go further and turn the man inside of me’s body inside-out, and what I discover on the other side of him is a woman, a small Taiwanese woman. Neither I nor the man inside of me are Taiwanese. We are both white. Then I continue, turning the small Taiwanese woman inside-out, then the person inside of her, then the person inside the person inside of her, and so on, in search of the person I think I am, who must surely be inside of me somewhere, though, admittedly, I’ve yet to find him. Or her, for that matter.

by Trevor Fuller

Trevor Fuller is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at Wichita State University and a reader for the literary journal mojo.

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