Heather Bourbeau



“I do not see the need to burn the houses of those slaughtered;

everything has already been taken,” I say over strong tea and thick porridge.

My colleague says I will not make a good bandit, that I do not understand the effectiveness

of hideous acts to achieve future obedience. And I wish that were true.


In this dust and smoked-filled harmattan night, with a moon blood orange and near full,

my breath is shallow. I cannot avoid the greedy sucking of shisha by expats—

some false sophistication of those closer to death by lungs marked and rotting,

like my grandfather’s at the sallow, emaciated end, despite decades free from the habit.


Before me, one man swims laps methodically. Up and down the middle of the pool.

Hardly a ripple. His broad back barely rising to allow his mouth to draw in air.

His arms deep beneath him to glide scarcely seen. The thick water calls me, to dive, to crawl,

to sink into oxygen free of carbon, to savor moments free of fumes and dust and pain.





In Guam, invasive tree snakes invent a new way to slither.

Good news for their survival;

bad for nesting starlings.


In Washington, men with furs and Molotovs storm the Capitol.

Coddlers and goaders slowly renounce them,

try to make themselves palatable in the new light.


In my garden, overrun with green,

a juvenile stag, nubs where horns will be,

curls himself to sleep. Back so thin I count each vertebrae.


They become a rosary. Hail Marys replaced with silent thanks

as I breathe with this deer, safe here and now from wildcats,

as the hummingbird circles for sage.


Heather Bourbeau

Heather Bourbeau’s work has appeared or will appear in 100 Word Story, Alaska Quarterly Review, The Kenyon Review, The MacGuffin, Meridian, The Stockholm Review of Literature, and SWWIM. She is the winner of La Piccioletta Barca’s inaugural competition and the Chapman Magazine Flash Fiction winner and has twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She has worked with various UN agencies, including the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia.

The Tree of Life

The mangos were rotting—that’s how I knew she was going to die.

Doria Day was a simple woman—some people are just like that. She would get up in the morning and walk her three miniature poodles, shower, and drink coffee while she read the newspaper. Doria Day still read the newspaper.

When she’d moved into town, there was already a mango tree in her backyard, right in the view from my window. I’d lived there my whole life, and there had never been mangos. The day after she moved in, there were plenty. She would pick them, placing them delicately into wicker baskets—but there were always mangos.

My grandmother had taught me about the trees when I was young. She’d said they just wait for the right person, like a soulmate. That’s why some people called them Soul Trees—my grandmother had called them Trees of Life. These Trees of Life say a lot about a person—what they’re thinking, how they’re feeling. They droop when the person is sick, and they flourish when they are well and happy. Everyone has one, somewhere—we had one for me in the front yard, but it was apples. Bright, shiny red apples, growing since the day I was born.

Doria Day’s mangos were rotting. The leaves were still fine, implying she was in good health—an accident then? Supposedly, they could tell the future like that.

I made plans to see her—we agreed I would take her to do her weekend shopping, after she walked her three miniature poodles, showered, drank her coffee, and read the newspaper. She insisted on reading the newspaper.

That day, I put on shoes and a light jacket to protect against the morning chill, and stepped out of my front door, stopping only to take in the presence of my own tree—sometimes, it just felt comforting to see my thoughts and feelings, my health and wellbeing, reflected in the tangible world, something to remind me that I was doing okay. Reaching up into the branches, I plucked fruit from between the leaves, taking a bite; I’ve always loved the taste of apples—it was like the taste of existing. I’d been so busy with school and work lately, it was a relief to finally stop and savor the sweet fruit for the first time in over a week. Delicious juice dripped down my chin; I licked my lips clean as I stepped away from the tree, tantalizing flavor bleeding over my tongue as I chewed.

Thoughts turning to the day ahead, my foot caught something soft and unnatural. I swallowed the fruit in my mouth, and looked under my shoe to see a rotting apple, oozing into the grass, brown and rancid.


KJ Angelo

KJ Angelo is a queer Latinx writer, editor, and translator living in Portland, Oregon; KJ is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing from the Rainier Writing Workshop.


Not earbuds but headphones so big the phones cut out any unwanted sound. That was the way Jeffrey wanted it. He wanted to stay in his inner world with his music and his basketball. He had no need to nod or say hello or anything to the vague inhabitants of the gym, people he saw everyday but didn’t see, didn’t want to see, particularly women who seemed to be drawn to him for some unknown reason.  God knows he wasn’t particularly attractive, gray hair, kinda short but decent muscles from years at the gym. Maybe it was his indifference that attracted them. Ever since Covid he wore a mask even when he didn’t need to like when he was working out hard on the rowing machine, building a sweat. He liked the mask, extra protection against anyone who tried to enter his space.

He used to be friendly. “Hi,” he’d say to the guys shooting baskets. (When he was a kid, he dreamed of being a professional). “What’s up?”

They’d shake hands maybe or bump knuckles and tell stories about how many baskets they used to make or which team they were sure would win the championship. It was nice the way it used to be, warm, the sun blasting through the gym window on summer days, so you were grateful for air conditioning, you were happy to be alive.

Alive was what it was all about. And Olivia was hardly that anymore, her slow decline, the headaches, the weakness, the insomnia until they diagnosed Covid. Olivia protested, “I wore a mask, I washed my hands, avoided crowds…” She was certain she’d never be infected, that they’d never be infected, but she was.

“How’s your wife?” George asked the other day. George was a trainer but out of work since the pandemic hit and the gym closed for several months. Now he was hoping to get back at it like so many others.

“How’s your wife?” Carl asked yesterday climbing the stair stepper.

“How’s your wife?” Don inquired adjusting the weights on the arm extension.

“How’s your wife?” “Your wife?”  “Your wife?”

Jeffrey wished he could answer. Wished he could say she was better, she was fine, they were leaving on vacation next week, flying to Paris, or Hawaii or Madrid…

Instead, he turned up the volume on his headphones and pressed them closer to his ears.


Elaine Barnard

Elaine Barnard’s collection of stories, The Emperor of Nuts: Intersections Across Cultures was published by New Meridian Arts and noted as a unique book on the Snowflakes in a Blizzard website. She won first place in Strands international flash fiction competition and was featured on their webinar. Her work has been included in numerous literary journals. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small Fiction. She was a finalist for Best of the Net. She received her MFA from the University of California, Irvine, and her BA from the University of Washington, Seattle.

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