The Last Adventure of the Scorpion and the Frog

The worst thing you can say about her is that she was once your friend.

Perceiving that you stood side-by-side, you courted battle fighting the giants, while she secretly cheered for them to win.

On the last night you invited her into your home, you welcomed her to sit at your table, to eat, to talk of life. Recounting your adventures together would make for a feast, but she would only taste bitterness.

On that last night as the conversation dwindled in the air until there was only the sound of forks and knives clinking on empty plates, she began to tell you the story of the frog and the scorpion. The Great Adventure of the Scorpion and the Frog, she called it. You felt something there, in between the words.

Her voice carried on as you cleared the empty plates. Stopping short of the ending, right as the two are about to reach the riverbank together, she paused with an air of great satisfaction. Placing the dishes in the sink, your back turned, “Well, what happened next?” you asked. But you knew what happened.

It was for only a moment that it stung; the knife piercing flesh, scraping bone, a finite point in the unraveling.

The worst of it would come as you lay on the floor. Consuming you, the inevitability of reality, the world for what it was swirling in emotions of shock and disbelief and giants that were nothing more than windmills, adventures that were charades, friendship and loyalty, and belief in things that could be and should have been breaking before actuality and frogs and scorpions. You always knew that scorpions existed. 


by Michelle Hanlon


Paul Rogalus

Giant Rat

There was a giant rat that lived in our basement floor apartment in Boston that year. I lived with two guys that I didn’t know very well—and we were all very different personality types. One guy, Tom, worshipped David Bowie. He was a skinny, angular blond guy—with David Bowie hair and clothes. He called himself “Major Tom.” The other guy was Irish Mike. Irish Mike liked the Pogues and the Dropkick Murphies, and all things Irish.


The three of us didn’t have a lot of common interests to talk about. Therefore, we got stoned a lot, and we’d sit around in the living room—which was also where Irish Mike slept—and zone out, watching TV. And the giant rat would lumber across the living room floor, waddling like an armadillo. And we’d be dazed and numbed out, but we appreciated having the rat to focus on. “Holy crap,” someone would say, “that rat is huge!” “It’s more like a dog.”


The rat would squeeze into a hole behind the radiator in Irish Mike’s room and disappear. But then one day the giant rat got stuck. We could hear it—wedged in between the wall and a stud or a pipe in the corner of the living room. It would emit a low squeak and wiggle and push.


We told our landlord about it, but he just sent over an exterminator who left a lot of trays full of poison lying around the apartment. That was the end of the giant rat.


It was sad, like losing a pet. And we didn’t talk to each other about it. We just went about our lives, sharing the painful, tragic glances of parents who silently mourn their lost children.


Johnny Fist

A muscle-bound young blond man strode up to the bar and slapped both of his palms down hard on the wooden counter to get Sherry’s attention. She looked at him, expressionless. He held up six fingers.

“Six beers for Johnny Fist.” He was wearing a tight t-shirt that read: Johnny Fist will Kick some Ass tonight.

“The limit is two,” Sherry answered flatly, putting down two bottles.


Johnny Fist threw some bills onto the bar and smiled, picking up the beers.

“I’ll be back,” he announced.


I’d only been working at the bar for a couple weeks. I’d never seen this guy before. “What’s the deal with the inflatable man?” I asked Sherry.

“Johnny Fist? He’s here quite a bit. He’s a small time professional wrestler—you know, like in that movie with Mickey Rourke. He wrestles down at the armory—I guess he almost always loses. Somebody told me his tights have a black circle on the crotch, with a bright red fist in the center.”

“Figures,” I said, watching Johnny as he worked his way over to a table of girl-women near the bar.


“Who’s got a cigarette for Johnny Fist?” he barked out.

A girl in leather jacket, with a Nascar t-shirt gave him one. Johnny Fist nodded.

“Johnny Fist likes action,” he said with a smile.


“Oh Jesus,” I said, shaking my head.

“He’s all talk,” Sherry said. We watched him pose for the girl-women, flexing his muscle. “I carded him the first time he came in.” Sherry smiled. “His real name is Wendell.”

by Paul Rogalus

Paid Dues

Excerpt from Lily’s Odyssey, a novel, published with permission by All Things That Matter Press; its first chapter a Short List Finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award for Best New Writing


At the next session Dirk said, “To end your sense of abandonment you should find companionship. You have one foot in the traditional role for women and the other in women’s lib.” 

Yes, I’d been guided into the pink coral and branded with the “Triple O”: Obligation to God (church) and parents, Obedience to church and parents, Others take precedence over you, before being released to the marriage market; if I hadn’t returned to Nicolet City, I probably wouldn’t have strayed. I didn’t say anything so he continued; “I see about three months of work to get a new coat to protect yourself against obsessions.”

I stared at the hem of his pants and recalled Cal saying after first seeing Doctor, “It’s the first time I’ve seen a doctor wear leather pants. Is that some European thing like his mustache? He sure charges enough to make himself look like a doctor.”

“Do you think I should give Thomas Hirsch more information about what I’m doing?”

“Go right ahead.  Where’s the danger of letting it be known you’re doing so much because your bastard of an uncle won’t help?”

I was so surprised it was a moment before I said, “But it’d show him up,” frowning at the stained glass white dove with the black branch in its mouth.

When he folded his arms and said, “You’ve more than paid your dues,” I was surprised that being a Christian he’d say that. Yet, Doctor had said it too.


by Carol Smallwood


Carol Smallwood co-edited Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching (McFarland, 2012) on the list of Best Books for Writers by Poets & Writers Magazine; Women Writing on Family: Tips on Writing, Teaching and Publishing (Key Publishing House, 2012); Compartments: Poems on Nature, Femininity, and Other Realms (Anaphora Literary Press, 2011) received a Pushcart nomination. Carol has founded, supports humane societies.

You Told Him

You gaze at the clothes flipping in the washer, because you don’t know what else to do. They’re not even yours.

You told Brad you needed something more, something he couldn’t offer, something you couldn’t explain. You rubbed your damp palms over the lime green material of your dress and told him you wouldn’t forget. You didn’t mention the inoperable tumor.

You changed jobs and moved to the other side of the city, so there would be less chance of you running into each other. You didn’t tell your new employer you’d be there for less than a year. 

You changed your cell phone number and closed your Facebook page. You knew Brad would try to find you.


You spin the diamond to match the cycle of the clothes. You don’t think about the future. 

You handed Brad a valise with his stuff from your apartment when you met at the cafe, everything except the ring, that is. You told him you lost it. He was too shocked to be angry.

He asked why. You couldn’t tell him the truth. 

You walked out of the coffee shop, leaving him sitting with his mouth open. You told him not to follow you. You needed some space.

People stared. You wanted to tell them you didn’t want to be a burden, like your mother had been at the end.

by Jim Harrington

Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. His recent stories have appeared in Short, Fast and Deadly, Ink Sweat and Tears,  Near to the Knuckle, Flashes in the Dark, and others. “Redlining” was chosen for inclusion in the Pulp Ink, a collection of crime stories. He serves as Flash Markets Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles ( Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog  ( provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read more of his stories at

She Does Laundry

She scrapes the charred crumbs from her morning toast, then she does laundry.

She does ironing, then she strums a chord on her guitar, commiserating with herself, as the taut metal strings slice pain into her tender fingertips.

She does more laundry, then she spatter-paints with Pollockesque abandon.

Which inevitably generates more dirty clothes.

She has a shower, luxuriating in the incalescence of the near-scalding water, as it flows along the crevices of her fatigue.

She dries her tangled hair, then dries the laundered clothes, then nourishes the machine with another load.

She eats ambiguous leftovers with a plastic fork, then watches the kaleidoscope of colors intertwine, as purple shirt mixes with scarlet robe mixes with periwinkle underwear mixes with turquoise socks.

She wiggles open the encrusted lint filter and wonders why the vibrant hues always converge into a sluggish gray.

She does more laundry, writes a restrained haiku, then erases it.

She sips decaffeinated coffee, while she edits her fragmented novel, seeking flawless metaphors for unrequited love and grim despair and soul-sucking regret.

She classifies the laundered clothes and places them benignly onto hangers, slides them with innate compassion into drawers.

At ten o’ clock she slams the lid onto the overflowing wicker basket, as she crawls, debilitated, into bed.

by Gillian McQuade

The Cat, On Snow

Have you ever tried to listen to the footsteps of a cat walking through snow?  He takes gentle steps, as usual, but the top layer of snow – like the crust of crème brulee – betrays him.  I watched the cat walk across the yard this morning, after five inches fell last night.  The yard is a wide expanse, barren of anything but grass during the other months.  This morning, it was a canvas of snow, and I watched the cat from down the street walk slowly across my yard.  In another universe, one where you stayed, you hate it, sad to see the pristine snow get ruined by small footprints.

You, with your morning coffee steaming your glasses, call me over to the window and ask if I think we should chase him off the yard.  I say, “No,” and put my hand on your shoulder.  I stand here in this universe, without you, and I let him walk undisturbed across the Siberian landscape standing in for a standard suburban yard.

The cat makes slow and steady progress across the yard lifting one foot gently and then patting it down until he takes another step.  I try to figure out the pattern of how his legs move but just watching him transfixes me, hypnotizes me. By now, you are outside with a broom yelling some kind of profanity and I am inside crying at your cruelty.  But, without you, the cat is safe to cross the unknown spanse of winter desert, gingerly and silently stepping, feeling his way across what is at once familiar and completely new.

by Tim Fredrick

My writing has been published in Circa, TC Record, Changing English, and R&W Quarterly. I’m also the editor of Newtown Literary, a semi-annual journal dedicated to publishing and supporting writers living in Queens, NY.

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