Round Pond

On fine spring days, my mother and I take the number 52 bus — “a tuppenny and a penny, please” — to the Round Pond in Kensington Gardens. Today, however, I’m with Father and we have travelled here by taxi. I’m holding my solid, blue sailing-boat which we’ll sail together, like other fathers and sons, although this is not something we have ever done before.

While with my mother, I exercise caution. I place my sailing-boat carefully on the water and — disregarding her encouragement — I set it on a shallow course along the rim of the pond. I know my mother to be a woman who is willing to take risks. This is not a temperament I share.

My sailing-boat is nothing more than a crude wooden hull with a light cotton sail. I know this but to me it’s still precious. I’m at a blessed age when what I have is what I want and — although I greatly admire them — I’m not envious of the older boys with more elaborate craft.

I watch them adjusting the trim, wading a few feet out into the water, holding their sleek ships in position, waiting for the right gust to fill the sails. Away they go across the ocean. All the while I clutch my boat tightly.

Father looks on while I make my timid coastal voyages. I release my boat and run to be there to retrieve it. Run and retrieve. Run and retrieve. Is it boredom that prompts him to suggest, very gently, that we could be more adventurous?

Little by little I pick up courage until at last we decide to launch the boat across the pond to the far shore. The wind holds steady and we’re there to meet it when it makes landfall.

Which of us suggests we should try one final voyage across the pond before we go home? Maybe you’re fearful this will end in disaster? Don’t be. It doesn’t. It’s true there’s a moment when the wind drops and changes direction, but it picks up again and my boat sails safely back to shore. I go home happy, relaxed, relieved.

My mother and I return to the Round Pond as before. It’s an uncertain day of sudden squalls. I won’t risk further voyages across the pond and my mother is content to let me potter by the edge of the water while she reads her library book on a bench.

She isn’t witness to an episode later that afternoon. A boy with his father watch as their boat — becalmed and water-logged — sinks in the middle of the pond. I always knew this is how it might end. The father’s helplessness, the son’s heartbreak. I pick up my boat and walk thoughtfully back to my mother. She closes her book and we catch the 52 bus home.

That summer we move house. Our visits to Kensington Gardens come to an end. My blue sailing-boat is consigned to the bottom of a cupboard where — in time — it’s forgotten.

Nicolas Ridley

Nicolas Ridley lives in London & Bath (UK) where he writes fiction, non-fiction, flash fiction, scripts and stage plays under different names. A prize-winner and twice a Pushcart Prize nominee, his short stories have been widely published in anthologies, literary magazines and journals in the UK, Ireland, Canada and the USA.

The Watch

In 1969, we had just started dating. Michael was in twelfth grade and I was in eleventh.   We were standing in the halls of Miami Norland Senior High. Lockers were clanging and feet were shuffling. Holding out his hand, Michael offered his wrist.

“It’s from my uncle,” he beamed.

The face read Bulova, the band black, the dial stainless steel.  At first glance it looked like any other watch.

Michael side-glanced like he was telling a secret. “It’s for my graduation.”

That watch followed him everywhere. He wore it at our wedding. To Michigan where we finished school. To the law office where he had his first job.  But while we grew up and moved on, the rest of the world went backward. His parents divorced. The uncle and his wife divorced. When we bought a house and a car, the so-called grown-ups downsized. And when we started a family, they started smoking pot. How crazy it all seemed!  My husband in his Brooks Brothers suit.  My in-laws and the uncle with their new hippie lifestyles. Lava lamps and waterbeds. Nehru jackets. Bongs. On good days, we were amused. On bad days, we were mortified.

The uncle was the oddest of the oddballs.  And it didn’t take long before drugs addled his brain.   Birthdays were forgotten and bills were overlooked.  Instead of furniture, his living room was filled with pillows. To have a conversation, you had to reach down to his level. Lay on the floor. Shout over the rock music. Pick at food on paper plates.

There was the time Michael’s first cousin got married in California. Little did the uncle know that pot on the West Coast packs a punch. An hour into the cousin’s wedding, someone called the rescue squad.  They thought it was a heart attack, but the father of the groom was just stoned.

How Michael laughs at this story, like it happened to another family in another life.  One glance at his watch and all is forgiven. One kindness erases a lifetime of hurt.

Years passed.  My husband’s parents died. Then the uncle slid into dementia and he died, too.  The uncle’s second wife is still around.  She’s about our age, or she says. She’s a little bit like a stranger and getting stranger all the time. Though we invite her to Thanksgiving and Seder, she seldom makes an appearance.  If she comes, she’s the last to arrive and the first to leave.

But all is forgiven.  Each year we make an invitation. And each year she either ditches us or leaves. Like the hands of a watch, time circles in a loop.  What’s the use of complaining?  Memories fade. The heart heals. And after two or three shakes, that Bulova still ticks.

Marlene Olin

Marlene Olin was born in Brooklyn, raised in Miami, and educated at the University of Michigan. Her short stories have been featured or are forthcoming in publications such as The Massachusetts Review, PANK, Catapult, and The Baltimore Review. She is the winner of the 2015 Rick DeMarinis Short Fiction Award, the 2018 So To Speak Fiction Prize, and a nominee twice for both the Pushcart and the Best of the Net prizes.


Forgetfulness runs in my family. My brother, the original absent-minded professor, offers me a ride home. “My car’s not far away,” he says, “I’ll be right back to pick you up.” We part outside the Fine Arts building on the campus where he teaches. I wait, and here he comes… and goes, right past me. His car disappears down the street.

Oh well, I think, he’ll remember eventually. And he does. Soon, his car glides up and he rolls the window down. “You’ll think I don’t love you,” he says, “but I came back as soon as I remembered.”

Forgetfulness often involves cars. I have trouble remembering where I park, so I have a system. When I go to a familiar place, I park as close as possible to the same spot each time. When I can’t, I’m grateful that my key has handy buttons that make the horn honk. But in the parking deck today, I wander around my favorite spot, looking for my car. I press the “lock” button until I hear my horn. At least, I think it’s my horn. It does sound a little muffled. I walk on, and the sound recedes. Have I passed my car? I retrace my steps, and it happens again. Finally, I realize I’m on the floor directly above my car, and hear it honking when I pass over it.

I’m not alone. I approach my grocery store entrance and meet a woman coming out. She pauses, looking back and forth, “Now where in the hell did I park my car?” she mutters. Perhaps the fault lies in our cars and not in ourselves.

Water is almost as bad as cars for provoking forgetfulness. After boiling two pans dry, I give up and buy an electric kettle that turns itself off.

I’ve had plumbing-related floods in two homes, so I’m instantly on alert if I hear water running. Today I start a load of laundry, go upstairs, check my email, take out the trash, then happen to walk through the hallway by the bathroom. Then I hear it, the telltale sound of water in the pipes. I wiggle the handle of the commode; it’s not the problem. I run to the basement – no water there – then to the first floor powder room. Mystified, back in the kitchen, I finally remember my laundry. The rinse cycle has started.

I console myself that forgetfulness is common. Else, why would they sell electric kettles? Why would my friend Marlene wear a necklace that says “I Can’t Remember?” I’ve even seen packs of gum labeled Instantly Remember Where You Left your KEYS – intense memory-stimulating mint gum.

Did I mention that forgetfulness runs in my family?


Sandy Fry

Sandy Fry is a writer, photographer, traveler, and lifetime art student. Past publications include Minerva Rising, Number One, StoryNews, Dreamers, and an essay in the ‘Your Turn’ column of the AARP Bulletin. Her photographs have appeared in Minerva Rising, Unearthed, Oyster River Pages, and The Longleaf Pine, as well as in the Light Space and Time online gallery.


I circumambulate Mt. Rainier, tallest of the Cascade volcanoes. My friends come and go for different legs of the journey. They take away my dirty socks and supply the next days’ food. Everything is calculated— 93 miles in 9 days, the weight of my gear, the calories of my food. It is summer and I am between teaching. I won the lottery. You can only circle this volcano if you’ve won. I’ve been given a gift— being able to skirt danger at rest. I walk clockwise, its summit in view over my right shoulder. For days, I put one foot in front of the other, one thought spilling into the next.

I am 16, driving for night-hours in my white mini-van on country roads truncated by suburbia. My friends and I sing Dylan, Joplin, and The Doors. We belt “White Rabbit” until catharsis strips our vocal chords and empties us of everything that was misunderstood by day.

Beside the volcano, I catch up with each of these friends in my head—I haven’t seen them in years—before dropping them off one by one. I pull up to my house and kill the engine, abruptly putting an end to Dylan’s raspy drawl. I look up at my house looming still and dark as if my newfound hollowness conjured up the dreams that cradle my brother’s schizophrenia and the sleep that holds my parents’ silence.

Who knew then that someday I’d be 36, circling a volcano, thinking of the smoke rising from my childhood chimney and oak leaves backlit by streetlamps? Of the way my house appeared at the top of a hill, like a fortress, on those late nights?

The crater steams from vents that lead deep into the earth. The hot air sculpts ice on its way to the surface. I never asked when the last eruption was, or when the next might be. I imagine phantom rumblings in my solar plexus.

I cross bridges over icy rivers. I look into heads of glaciers slithering down valleys, ancient snakes so cold against the warm emptiness below. I walk among the purple larkspur and yellow lilies blooming atop the volcano’s fingers. I am at home beside a mountain that can gut itself at any moment.


Caroline N. Simpson

Caroline N. Simpson was a 2020 Delaware Division of Arts Established Artist Fellow in Poetry. Her chapbook, Choose Your Own Adventures and Other Poems, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2018. She has thrice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, both in poetry and nonfiction, and in 2013, a collection of her poetry won Honorable Mention in Hot Street’s Emerging Writers Contest. She teaches high school English at the Tatnall School in Wilmington, DE, and has taught at international high schools in Turkey and Spain. You can follow her at

Teaching Trouble

Style is born, I told my students the other day, when writers lose themselves in writing they admire. Gay, urban, sex-loving Jewish Allen Ginsberg could and did recite all 193 lines of straight, bucolic, prudish, Christian John Milton’s 17th century elegy, “Lycidas.” Clicking my way to Ginsberg’s poem, “Howl,” I added, “And see—Ginsberg’s style is unmistakable!”

I read the beginning aloud. I’d forgotten it contains the phrase, “through the negro streets.” As I read, I wondered, “will some student report me to the Dean for saying an offensive, racist word?” I asked myself how often I think of a writer whom I wish to mention, then find, while I’m already reading aloud, some term that could get twisted into a meaning neither I nor the poet intend.

The problem’s worse when I teach Maya Angelou and Mark Twain, both of whose writings contain words this journal probably won’t print. Consider how much the euphemism “n-word” undermines their efforts. Angelou’s writing cannot be separated from her experience as a black person growing up in the Jim Crow South any more than Mark Twain’s experience as a white person growing up in a slave-owning family can be separated from his experience as a writer. These writers have the right to expect readers not to censor their language.  The words of those who have the literary power for these uncensored words to inspire sadness and joy in all of us should not be expurgated.

But if I use the word, and if a student complains, any discussion I might try to have about how I and the class vicariously experience the sadness, the terrors of either of their lives, about how I and the class, through our common humanity, feel identified with their writers, would be rejected—and would be rejected by a number of New York Times journalists who are writing, and printing, things like, “I don’t ever want to hear that word come out of a white person’s mouth.”

For writers, censorship and bowdlerizing remain signs of disrespect. I do worse than dishonoring writers by euphemizing their words. I create a fantasy dogma in which black people feel one thing and white people feel another, neither can understand the other, and both are filled with fear. The point of literature gets lost. Forbidden words become powerful, fetishized.

I know what Allen Ginsberg would say: “America, why are your libraries full of tears?”


Melissa Knox

Melissa Knox’s recent writing appears in Another Chicago Magazine, Image Journal, and WOW. Her book, Divorcing Mom: A Memoir of Psychoanalysis, was published by Cynren in 2019. Read more of her writing here:

No Regrets

My mother and I went to Prague because she believed that “Travel is the university of life.”

“Two rooms?” asked the clerk at the hotel check-in desk.

“No, just one. This is my daughter.” For an unknown reason my mother added, “she is still a child.”

The clerk, his hair thinning although he was quite young, peered at me over his spectacles and said, in a matter of fact voice, “Yes, still a child, but already interesting.” I was thirteen years old, tall, skinny with no breasts in sight, but I understood that I had received my first compliment. I decide to live up to it.

The energy of the city intoxicated me.  While my mother did her best to get me excited about Prague’s historic sights, I was focused on the future. When the sound of an ambulance siren interrupted our conversation,  my mother sighed in regret at the possibility of a life lost. To me the sound signaled the hope of life saved. I resolved to aim for life without regrets.

“Non je ne regrettte rien,” I sang with Edith Piaf on my transistor radio.

We returned home to my little town in southern Czechoslovakia. I finished my education and eventually my breasts appeared.

I left, to travel and to learn. Soon after, Soviet tanks rolled down the Wenceslas Square and I would never live in my homeland again.

I went from sleeping in a London telephone booth at the railway station to magazine covers and film, even becoming a Bond Girl. The Vietnam war ended and man flew to the moon. I fell in love, and travel did prove to be an education.

I watched in awe as my children’s lives took shape. I experienced happiness in situations I never thought that I would: the unconditional love of a child. The joy in helping people.

The Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia freed people in my country and I decided to go back to Prague, to see the change. I took my thirteen year old daughter with me. I booked us at the same hotel where I had stayed  with my mother.

The hotel lobby looked mostly the way I remembered it. There was a couple checking in with a boy who looked to be about eleven. The clerk at the desk was now old and bald. He handed the couple the key to their room. Then he looked at the boy over his spectacles, and said, “What an interesting boy.”

My daughter rolled her eyes, recognizing bullshit when she heard it. I smiled at her with satisfaction and pride, humming quietly, “Non je ne regrette rien.”


Anika Pavel

Anika Pavel was born Jarmila Kocvarova in Czechoslovakia. She became a refugee when the Soviet Union invaded her homeland. She lived in England, Hong Kong and Monte Carlo before settling in New York City, where she is a writer. She writes in Slovak and in English. Her short stories have been published in BioSories, Potato Soup Journal, Tint Journal, Nixes Mate Review and others. Her story “Encounter With The Future” is currently nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

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