Clapping Game

They played on the rug, Erica Hashimoto and her mom, they played the clapping game. Her mom said the words, and they clapped their hands across the empty air.

Willy was a German,

Willy was a thief,

Willy came into my house,

And caused a lot of grief.

Erica knew the game. Her mom had learned it in camp, where she and the other girls had clapped their mittened hands and laughed, and the only variation was to say it louder than the last, because in camp what else was there to do?

Her mom stopped playing on the rug. She got up. It was 1965, and there were lots of things to do. The moms were coming over for the big luncheon. Becky Sakamoto and Erica and the other girls were to play in the front yard.

* * *

Willy was a German.

Erica could see the moms through the big window. They were seated in the living room around the rug and talking. What were they talking about? Erica was bored with the girls’ games, so she went in to sit on her mom’s lap. She watched the women smoke cigarettes and talk in allusions she did not understand.

Willy was a thief.

“What is camp anyway?” she finally burst.


Willy came into my house.

Erica slipped out of her mom’s lap and went back to the other girls, her bobbed hair bouncing. Click of white leather sandals. Erica was not curious about camp. Not really. And her mom never suggested that she should be.

And caused a lot of grief.

Erica found her dad on the front lawn, watching the children play in the street. He was standing on their half of the duplex lawn, beside the dried out vegetables patch with its little Popsicle sticks that told you what had tried to grow. Erica took his hands, and allowed herself to be spun, round and round, saying “Willy was a German, Willy was a thief, Willy came into my house…” Then Erica’s white sandals dragged in the brown grass. Her dad was done. They held hands. He said nothing. He fought for breath.

“We don’t say those words,” he wheezed.

And caused a lot of grief.

Erica didn’t ask her dad about camp. She knew the story, how they called him Charlie Hustle, the way he ran the bases, even when the dust was bad, he ran so fast, and the dust stuck in his lungs, and Erica didn’t ask because she knew. Walking out to the girls in the street, she held her dad’s hand. He didn’t hold hers back. She didn’t expect him to.

We don’t say those words.

We don’t say any words at all.

Evan Morgan Williams

Evan Morgan Williams has published over fifty short stories in literary magazines famous and obscure, including Kenyon Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, ZYZZYVA, Witness, and Antioch Review. He has published three collections of short stories: “Thorn,” winner of Chandra Prize at BkMk Press in 2014, “Canyons: Older Stories” self-published in 2018, and “Stories of the New West,” published by Main Street Rag Press in 2021. Williams holds an MFA, tattered and faded, from the University of Montana in 1991. He has just retired after 29 years as a Language Arts teacher in Oregon’s toughest middle school.

What the Squirrels See

I’m up my favorite tree in our woods and I get to see what squirrels see,  then Dad walks into his man cave right underneath with that neighbor lady who brought that board with butter and stuff smeared on it to the block party and she says he’s handy and then she makes noises like she’s running on hot sand and he shushes her and then he says Oh, God, Oh, God and I wonder was that in vain, then she says Oh, God, it’s already six-o-clock and she rushes out then he leaves, and at dinner Mom asks Dad why wasn’t he home early because when she tried to call he didn’t pick up and she called his assistant and they said he already left, and Dad says my assistant can’t keep track of anyone she watches those flash mobs all day and he yells you don’t know how hard I’m working and Mom cries, and my cousin said that’s what my aunt and uncle did before they got divorced they yelled but the main thing is my Dad lied, and when my cousin kept asking my aunt why did she get a divorce from my uncle my aunt kept saying we both love you very much and it’s not your fault, but finally my aunt told my cousin, he lied, that’s why, your Dad lied.

Michelle Morouse

Michelle Morouse is a Detroit area pediatrician. Her flash fiction and poetry has appeared recently, or is forthcoming, in Midwest Review, Prose Online, Best Microfiction 2022, Touchstone Literary Magazine, Faultline Journal of Arts and Letters, Litro, Unbroken, and Paterson Literary Review. She serves on the board of Detroit Working Writers.

A Show of Concern

“You’re going to get in trouble if you sleep in class, it’s that simple. You sleep at home, not in class. You know this.” The Principal leans back in his faded burgundy chair, arms crossed like the period at the end of sentence.

Marley nods, scrunches down in the hard, wooden chair in case she might actually be able to disappear.

“You should be tired of this by now. How do I get you to understand?”

Marley stares at the front of the wooden desk, the ugly words scratched there, bites both lips since her fingernails are already gone.

“Then why do you keep doing it? You know it’s not okay? Why not just go to sleep earlier?”

She wants to answer, wills the words to expose themselves, but nothing happens.

“Watch less TV… listen to classical music….”

Marley’s fingers strangle each other in her lap.

“Do you have something you want to talk about?”

It feels as if one of them might snap.

 “I can’t help if you don’t let me.”


“Do you go to bed early?”

Somehow her head bobs once vertically on its axis.

“Then why are you so tired?”

She doesn’t even know where the shrug comes from.

 “Do you have nightmares?” He seems hopeful. “Is something waking you up?”

A single nod, like a flower poking through snow.

“Yes?” He straightens.

Marley leans forward almost imperceptibly, lips parted.

“You can tell me.” The Principal leans in to meet her.

Marley tastes the words, not sure if they even make sense.

The Principal collapses back into his chair. “I can’t help if you don’t let me.”

Marley struggles to make the words work in her head first. Some things you have to live to understand.

The Principal sighs and drops his head, waiting patiently. Marley blinks, trying to see clearly. A plane goes by outside. The words mix, get lost, mix again, then form something she allows to squeeze through the cracks. At first just a small croak escapes her, then something just above a whisper… “My mother… she… gets sad a lot… at night… she wakes me up so I can… help her sleep.”

There’s a long pause as the Principal stares into his lap seeming to take this in. Marley stares into her lap as well, waiting for whatever comes next. Another plane goes by, just a sound, hundreds of people riding a hum in the sky. She listens, wishing she were anywhere else. Then another sound from under the desk, the unmistakable whoosh of an email flying through the ether.

The Principal looks up at her with a concerned frown. “Look, I can’t help you unless you’re willing to share. We’ll overlook it this time. Get back to class and sleep at home. Okay?”

Teja BenAmor

Teja BenAmor is a fiction and screen writer from East Village, New York City. Her screenplay Toothbrushes & Cowbellswas a finalist in the Cinema Street Screenplay Competition. Most recently her work has appeared at Every Day Fiction.

The Mirrored Shields

For thousands of years this was a peaceful place – pine trees stretching up toward the sky, hawks gliding at the line where the clouds met the infinite blue, fish scuttling down full rivers, one might even get lucky and see a brown bear, a flopping salmon in its mouth. But then the bulldozers came, ripping the ground with violence like a dagger cutting deep into flesh, shattering the idyllic mirrored surface of the lake, those still parts of the river, with the boom of seismic blasts, draining the land of its blood. Pipes were laid for oil to flow but no one who lived here wanted this. The people arrived to defend the land like birds in murmuration, huge crowds, a mass of bodies, there to put their flesh in front of the bulldozers. The people were peaceful. They were told to hold their ground and not panic. But then the riot police showed up to make an example of them. The people were shot by rubber bullets, sprayed with mace, assaulted by water cannons and blinded by tear gas.

After many days and months of camping in frigid temperatures, the people were close to giving up but then one morning as a hawk squawked across the sky, they opened their tents and discovered mirrored shields had been placed in front of every tent. They held these mirrored shields up in front of them, feeling like superheroes. They moved toward the riot police like a unified silver mass of shimmering scales. The police gasped to see themselves reflected back in these mirrors  – their black helmets, bullet proof vests, combat pants, guns strapped to holsters, but underneath all that gear they were still human, still of this land, like the stardust they were born from and the dust they will return to.

For a moment there was a vibration of shared humanity -that underneath the uniforms they were just like the people they had been told to fight.

Christine Arroyo

Christine Arroyo’s work has been published in X-R-A-Y Magazine, Flash Fiction Magazine, Dark Recesses Press, Beyond Words, and Variety Pack, to name a few. She lives with her husband in New York’s Hudson Valley with her rescue dog and cat.

All the Time in the World

Wherever he went, a thundercloud paraded behind him. Just a little one, about the size of a coffee grinder. Black-ish, oblong, floating along in the wake of his head. He could never, ever see it. But, if he looked back—as he always tried not to do—he could mark its tiny path of damp devastation.

You should get that looked at, said his best friend, who had come along for the ride.

You should get that looked at, said his hairdresser, who had to nudge the thundercloud out of the way so she could study the back of his neck. Stand back, peering, to make sure everything was even and as it should be.



Her sign said Hairdresser for Men, not Barber. Over a long life, she told him, she’d learned that the only thing that mattered more than how things appeared, was what they were called.

You should get that looked at, he said—he was accustomed to telling people all day what to do—when she retreated so far from the back of his head in order to see it that she bumped into a portable coffee cart and sent the grinder flying.

You should get that looked at, said his friend—he was accustomed to going along with everything, plus he knew a good appliance repairman.

The hairdresser gazed out the window and pointed at what she saw with her extreme far-sightedness (which is just a term for everything close being confusingly blurred): a dark cloud rolling in.



Afterwards, he was never sure what to call what had happened. Just that, once again, something had.

You shouldn’t look, said his hairdresser, about the back of his head after she slipped with the clippers. A small breeze—a warning unheeded—tingled his newly bald patch of scalp. We’re outta here, he screamed, furious, his friend’s insouciance once again parched ground to rain. He jerked his head towards the door with a lopsided flounce.

You shouldn’t look, said the drenched paramedic in the storm, about his best friend being cut from the car he’d just smashed.

You shouldn’t look, said a new thundercloud, purring into his ear like a full coffee grinder, as if there were all the time in the world to even things out.

Kimm Brockett Stammen

Kimm Brockett Stammen’s writings have appeared or are forthcoming in Litro, december magazine, CARVE, The Greensboro Review, Pembroke, Prime Number, and many others. Her work has been nominated for Pushcart and Best Short Fiction anthologies. She holds an MFA from Spalding University.

Dating Tips

He sits up next to me in bed, well into the night, the dawn birds’ song nearing, scrolling through a Tumblr account of topless girls on his, what, first generation iPad? He’s not even touching himself or anything. He’s scrolling like he’s reading the news, like he’s reading some half-baked cultural take by a nepotism-baby journalist, his brow tense, his glasses resting too low on his nose to be of use, so what’s the point? But still he scrolls, his finger flicking up, up, up. The topless girls are faceless, too. But I see them. And I see what he’s doing. Does he see me? He makes no movement to suggest he does. He scrolls, his finger flicking up, up, up. Now the dawn birds’ wretched noise begins. And I’m grateful because I can stop pretending I can sleep in this too-hot room, in this too-hot bed that is definitely bedbug-infested, but he won’t admit to that, either, just like he won’t admit I can see him scrolling up, up, up through these girls that aren’t me. I mean, I don’t need them to be me. But he doesn’t know that. He thinks I love him. It’s a game we play called something I don’t yet have a name for. Just like the topless and faceless girls. If we sit with this stale air between us any longer I’m going to do something terrible.

Rachel Stempel

Rachel Stempel is a queer Ukrainian-Jewish poet based in Binghamton, NY. She is the author of the chapbooks Interiors (Foundlings Press), BEFORE THE DESIRE TO EAT (Finishing Line Press), and Dear Abbey (Bottle Cap Press).

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