Cookie Purse

by Gina Douglas


My maternal grandmother and my father both told related stories about me when I was a child first learning to talk.  I don’t think my Baba and my dad ever heard the other one’s story, nor did they ever put their stories together into the real story.

My ol’ man used to proudly tell about the first two-word combination I put together.  He thought it was real clever.  We were in the grocery store, I was seated in the buggy.  I pointed at what I wanted and said the words.  The item was animal crackers, the kind that used to come in a small rectangular box, with pictures of circus animals in cages on the side of the box; and a piece of rope to make a carrying handle.  I referred to this as a “cookie-purse”.

On the Jewish side of my family, Baba used to tell how she was too clever by half.  I liked animal crackers, but the little boxes from the drug store across the street were not a good value; compared to buying a big bag of the same brand animal crackers at the grocery store.  But kids will do the darndest things, and when she offered me a plate of animal crackers from the big bag, I wouldn’t eat them.  Go figure?

They never put their stories together and realized that, in regards to the cookie-purse, I didn’t care about the cookies, I wanted the purse.

Post Apocalyptic Limbo

by Jake DeHaai


His bright blue eyes provided the only color to the barren wasteland. The deep creases around his mouth told tales of violence, love, and loss. He walked across the decrepit highway, the realization had set in, he was alone.  He was isolated. His past had hardened him, taught him to show no emotion. Yet his internal sadness had broken out of his hardened shell and was plastered on his face permanently.  The emptiness of this land constantly reminded him that everyone he had ever loved, spoke to, or even glanced at—were dead.

Screaming. Buildings engulfed in fire. People burning, trying to run from imminent death.

He used to walk the path of God; but after seeing what man could do to each other, he had decided that there was no God, for no God could let its creation do this to one another.

All the man had done was walk. He was constantly on the move, on the run from his pain, sleeping wherever he could, but never for more than a few hours. The soldiers would find him if he did. Every day was just like the last, wandering, trying to survive as the pale gray sky loomed over him.

Eyes blinded by the bright light, which followed the ear shattering boom. The concussion knocked over buildings, uprooted trees.

Pieces of his past came to him, but only in snippets. His conscious was in turmoil, plaguing him with despair. But then he saw the town. It was like a distant desert oasis, luring him with food and safety. But soon skepticism took a hold of him.  The soldiers patrolled the towns, looking for him. He gathered up his courage and decided to take his chances, for he needed food.

Upon approaching the town, with one hand on his pistol, he gazed out at the ramshackled buildings, lifeless and ruined, and his inner feeling of hope dispersed. He wandered the streets of the ghost town. The cracked pavement of the road and the dilapidated facades of the buildings set off an eery tone. The ruins of rundown park caught his eye. He could still see the frame of the rusted over swing-set. The metal merry-go-round was turning slowly in the breeze, creaking with each movement. He made his  way toward a faded bench. Sitting on it he opened up his rucksack. It was littered with .44 bullets and empty tin cans. As he noticed the bullets, the realization of his situation started to set in. An idea expanded across his face. It was appealing, for he had no food, no water, no friends, no shelter, and no hope.

He took the pistol out of his belt, pressed the catch on the side. He sat there and watched as the clip fell to the ground. The ringing of the metal hitting the street filled the town with noise. He didn’t care. He slowly picked it up, feeling its weight in his hands. He sorted through his array of bullets and chose one. He brought it to eye level and gazed at it. It was weathered and scratched with age. He brought it back down and pushed it into the clip. He put the clip back in the gun and pulled back the slide. He felt the cold hard steel in his mouth as he was preparing to pull the trigger. He squeezed.



He stole the stars above her house, pulling them out with a claw hammer. She wouldn’t love him anymore, so he left her with a blue-black vault of night — the color of the grackles he used to throw rocks at as they crowded out the other birds around their backyard feeder.

He wanted her to see that the sky had been looted. She never noticed though, because already she had taken a lover, and why would she need the sky and its Rorschach of light when she had a man to pin her to the bed each night?

Meanwhile, the stars were back at his place. It was hard to sleep with the glow of them leaking out of his dresser drawers and the bed too big without her. So off he’d go to the couch, which at least reminded him of the times when she had lived there.

Some nights, he’d get up, walk across town, and climb into the crook of her backyard maple — the one with a view of her curtains and the shadow play of bodies.

One night he waited for the other man’s car to leave. Then he reached into his pocket for the pebbles. The first one hit the window and the light came on. She peered into the night, and didn’t seem to notice it was a tiny bit darker. He tried to order his loneliness, to give it a shape so it could fit upon his tongue, but it only slid back and choked him. Then the window came down with a decisive thud, and the light went off again.

He knew he’d be up in her tree forever, and for the first time since taking them, he wanted to return the stars, to make beautiful the sky he would wait beneath.


Charles Rafferty is primarily a poet. Recent poems appeared or are forthcoming in The New Yorker and The Literary Review. In 2009, he received an NEA fellowship. His most recent book is A Less Fabulous Infinity. Currently, Charles directs the MFA program at Albertus Magnus College.

Some Other Living Arrangements


Amy’s voice is on the line before Ellen even hears a full ring.

“Thank God you called.  I’m at my wit’s end today, Ellen – he is On. My. Last. Nerve.”

Ellen sighs into her receiver; in her ear the air reverberates with a harsh blast. “What time did he wake you up?” She pinches the bridge of her nose between her eyes, pulls her hand slowly across her temple.

“Six-freaking-AM!  He wanted waffles.  Wouldn’t stop yelling until I made some waffles and then he knocked over the bowl of batter and it went everywhere. He spread it around the table with his hands; it was a fabulous freaking mess.”

“Did you try playing that puzzle that I sent you a few weeks ago?  Sometimes if you can get him to do something constructive with his hands—”

“I tried the puzzle!  He kept getting up from the table and getting into the cupboards instead.  He’s going through everything, pulling out papers and silverware and…” Amy’s voice is thick and wobbling as it trails off, fat clouds of tears gathering, ready to open and pour.  “Jason can’t stand it. He can’t sleep either and then he yells at me and…I don’t know if our marriage can handle this.”

“I’m sorry.  I know it’s hard.”  Ellen bites the inside of her cheek, a raw, smooth, sweet-tasting spot that she’s been making worse all month, an aching worry stone for these daily phone conversations with her sister. “Maybe it’s time to consider some other living arrangements for him.”  There.  It’s out.

Amy is silent in her ear, only breathing. Then a sniffle, a shaky breath.   Ellen listens hard, her body clenched, waves of energy pulsing toward the phone in her hand. Finally: “Maybe.”

“Poor dad.”

“Yeah.  Poor dad.”



Isabella became Iiisssaaa, moments after she was born. Her older brother, Miguel Trubino was five years old and was unable to pronounce her name as he held her in his twig-like arms at the hospital after her birth. What seeped between his jagged teeth was Iiisssaaa!

Their mother, had only minutes before pushed her newborn daughter through the narrow opening of her vagina the way you would force a boiled egg, absent of it’s shell, into a long stemmed shot glass. As she sat, her back propped on flat hospital pillows, her legs stretched beneath the thin blanket, she smiled and said, “¿Iiisssaaa? Qué lindo nombre.”

Iiisssaaa became: Isabella Rosalinda Trubino, weighing 7 lbs, 6 oz, and 13 in.

Isabella would grow up with a preference for knitting rather than sports, reading over socializing, and wearing rainbow colored clothing as thought a bag of skittles had melted and amalgamated into the thread that wrapped itself around her petite body. She wore dresses that reached the cap of her knees and sweaters with pearl buttons. Her dark brown hair and she wore it parted at the center with two braids crowing the top of her head.

She would often hide underneath the kitchen table while her family watched television in the living room or during parties her mother would throw for her and her brother’s birthdays, graduations, or holidays. As everyone else was outside battling for first crack of the piñata or waiting for their slice of strawberry and chocolate cake, Isa was under the table, in her pastel pink dress with hot pink ruffles and purple polka dot socks, knitting or reading.

It was there, with her dark brown hair haloed above her head where she first parted her lips and began to talk to Refugio, her imaginary dog.


Ms. Guzman is a first generation Mexican American with a Bachelors of Arts in Fiction Writing at Columbia College in Chicago.

From Darkness Into Light

by Kim Farleigh

The glass roof left rectangular light on the sand, the swaying bull swaying beside the light, as if listening to music, death’s orchestra calling, the bull’s left back leg in front of the leg it should have been next to, blood dripping from its nostrils, a gold rectangle of light next to where the bull was swaying, swaying to an irresistible calling, the sword sticking out of the bull’s back, the matador’s triumphant hand shaking before the bull’s face, the bull falling into light, a courageous bull that had run in straight lines.

The bull got dragged by horses around the ring, the crowd applauding a being whose courage had taken it from darkness to light, the bull floating through that light.

A blizzard of fluttering, white handkerchiefs erupted around the ring, an expression of appreciation for both man and bull, fabrics like butterflies escaping towards light.

Kim’s stories have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Whiskey Island, Southerly, Island, Mudjob, Write From Wrong, Sleet, Negative Suck, The Red Fez, Red Ochre Lit, Haggard & Halloo, Down in the Dirt, The Camel Saloon, Feathertale, Descant, The Houston Literary Review, The Sand Journal, Full of Crow and Unlikely Stories.

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