Car Parts

Once, I asked my mother “What is the worst part of a car to break?”  She said it was the radio. Weeks passed since I inquired and the famous question why? taunted me more each  time I eyed her attend to the radio before the adjustment of her seat. Finally, I gave up on wasting countless hours in a desperate attempt to figure it out. It was practically a pant by the time the words “Why the radio? What about the engine? My god, we live in Florida, what about the air conditioner? Or the wind shield wipers? Why the radio?” frantically left my lips. She sat her Breakfast At Tiffany’s mug down carefully and stared at me as if I were a foreign figure rather than her daughter of sixteen years. “You never want a radio to break because without it, you’d be able to hear all of the other problems rattling around.”

I went to bed satisfied with her response. She must be right, too. For it wasn’t until a silence fell around our shoulders that I realized we had been malfunctioning for quite some time.


Abby Kalen Belanger

Abby Kalen Belanger is a junior in high school, attending a School for the Arts for Creative Writing. She has been writing short fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction since the age of eight and aspires to continue as a professional upon obtaining a Master’s Degree for Creative Writing.


I think of my grandmother’s skin—warm creases, her hands rinsing off a peach, its hair smoothed from the softness of wellwater just eat from my hands, can you taste how ripe it is? I just picked it in the orchard this morning.

Or the first day I met Rebecca in that cold café and how the overhead lighting made her nervous, so she pulled and stretched at the bottom of her shirt whenever she talked, and sometimes even when she listened these lights make me itch.           

Or the time Keith and I sat on top of Angel Ridge, his legs hanging over the ledge, his dark hair dissolving into the thickness of the night, sitting by my side, his thumb softening my ear, his words frightening me we are all alone.

And no matter how much I try to remember the warmth of my grandmother’s hands or the way I saw myself in Rebecca’s nerves, I can never escape the night of Keith, the night he made me believe, made me see—that we are no more important than the roots of the trees below.


Bethany Freese

Bethany Freese is a writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest.

A Tree, A Rabbit, And Naiveté

That autumn morning as we neared our tree, Grandpa stopped hard and pressed a meaty finger to my lips. A snowshoe hare had taken refuge under our Sugar Maple, shaded pistachio and apple.

“God’s little creatures need heartening too.” His voice was like gravel, even his whispers were wieldy.

I was nine, unwilling to share. So while he watched the young leveret frolic and scout, I pursed my lips, folded my arms and forsook the blessed gift.

Eventually, the hare scampered on, “One day boy, you’ll find peace in others’ joy.” We strode to our precious tree and sat beside each other in the stillness. Her seeds had fallen early – they were crisp like toast. Grandpa swept some kernels into his hardy hands and flung them high; they rained down like tiny winged horseshoes…

“A Sugar Maple seed carries partners, a boy and a girl. See?” Every Sunday walk included lessons in nature – but I didn’t mind. “Through mighty gales and sweltering heat, they are bound.

“If they break apart?”

Grandpa culled a samara and split it, “Then it was meant to be.” He blew its parts into the wind, “Sometimes, a seedling flies higher alone.”

He died that spring.

Ma daubed at the grief on my face, “the foliage is striking this year.”

Our maple stood prodigious, her branches reaching out like a prayer. I perched beneath her.

There’s such betrayal in her eyes…

The leaves crunched like paper under my feet.

But suspicion is folly…and sinful…

To the right, a silver hare peeked around a mossy stump then continued grazing.

I ambled away but glimpsed over my shoulder to behold the elfin critter, carousing under our tree.

“Enjoy.” I grinned. A sole seedling danced in the solace.

And my wife bedded down with her lover.



Chad Broughman



Anna Zumbro

No Good Deed


He might have been twenty-five, or fifty. His face was so dirty it was impossible to tell.

Mayra first saw him picking through a pile of litter near her dormitory. His purposeful search stopped with the discovery of a half-eaten cheeseburger. Horrified, Mayra watched the burger travel from the grass to the man’s mouth and disappear in two bites.

Her friend Lauren, a social-work major, said, “That’s Big Bill. Shelters don’t take him because he’s usually drunk, but he’s harmless.”

            He’s still a person with dignity, thought Mayra, who tried hard to see the spiritual beauty in everyone. She gave him a ten. He thanked her.

“You’re just enabling him,” Lauren rebuked.

“But someone’s got to help.”

And she did, organizing a benefit concert and convincing the university to hire Bill as a janitor. When Bill stepped into the entrance of his new apartment, reporters were there to capture the moment. Conscious of the spotlight, he examined the secondhand furniture and full pantry with stoic gratitude.

Mayra chose to major in journalism after reading the feature article and deciding she could do better. A year later she won an internship at the local newspaper.

She interviewed Bill and discovered he was homeless again and unemployed. His breath reeked of vodka. She choked back her heartbreak, filed the story, and resolved to forget.

Two days later, she received an email.

            Thank you so much for writing about Bill Arnolds. I’ve been searching for him for years. He’s my son.





“Joe, get rid of that gum! You’re goin’ to church!”

Joe extracted the pink blob and smashed it into the coin slot of the parking meter, then ran to catch up with his mother.

His older sister Maggie scolded him. “That was nasty. God will get you for that.”

During Mass, Father Mayhew opened a birdcage and released two doves. As they escaped toward the open window, one defecated on Joe’s head.

Maggie elbowed him. “I told you. That was God.”

No, Joe thought, that was just a bird. And for that, he felt guiltier than he’d ever felt before.


Anna Zumbro


Last Day On The Job

Bill’s desk was clean, nearly antiseptic, holding a stapler, a rolodex and a computer terminal, the computer tower stashed under his desk. He had always believed the neatness of his desk represented his efficiency, and thus his value. That and his expertise with the Infamous system. By now, he was its resident expert. Surely that guaranteed job security.

He had recently seen others “let go” during the current downsizing, but he knew he was safe. Until he tried to log on to his computer:


Then his phone rang. It was Jim from Human Resources.

“Bill, can I see you in my office for a minute?”

Walking down the hall, his footsteps muffled on the carpet, Bill felt as though he were following an invisible executioner leading him to the gallows.

Jim’s office was sparsely furnished: a wastepaper basked next to a desk with a chair on casters behind it and a straight-backed metal chair in front.

“I’m sorry it has to be this way, but the company’s been downsizing for some time now…” Jim droned on. Bill stopped listening and stared at the curtain fluttering at the window.

After eighteen years, no retirement, no “golden parachute,” just a man saying something about “references” and “severance pay.” References? For what? At 58, who would hire him? He was alone; no children, his wife dead five years.

He began to listen again. Heard “… let you go,” and, at the word “go,” did just that – ran to the open window thirteen floors above a concrete sidewalk.


Lon Richardson

He has been writing non-fiction and fiction for about 20 years — in journalism having been published in newspapers, magazines, industry newsletters, and have had short stories published in two literary journals: From The Depths (“Two Tickets,” December 2012) and The Torrid Literature Journal (“One Thing Led To Another,” October 2013).

Wyatt Thrailkill

Big commotion last night. Brianna O’Quinn ripped a shotgun blast into the night on Lookout Mountain. No one knows what she saw. She won’t tell neither. The widows on picket duty say they found her on her haunches, eating dirt. But they must of confused her with Darkish. No one else eats dirt but her.

I’m a man of few words. Back at LaGrange, my mama always told Gib and me, “Quiet, boys.” I listened. Gib didn’t.

But I want to ask Brianna what she seen last night. I want to do what I do best: listen. I sit with her at breakfast. But I don’t know what to say. All the widows look at her queer. But I remain with her. Brianna’s appetite has doubled since last night. She stuffs as much food in her mouth as possible. Eats like a hog, except she chews her food slow. She closes her eyes, which look like they might could tear up.

I want to talk to her, tell her whatever she thought she seen last night is gone. But I cain’t. Don’t have the words.


Jeff Stayton

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