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.

Miss Livin’ Is A Breeze

I’m standing on my head and typing with my toes
because this is for you,
So …
Who’s going to sell those autographs-of-jesus?
Who’s going to snort Beethoven to the clouds?
Who will anoint our hearth with Velveeta?
And who will love me like Livin’ Is A Breeze?
beanie-brained as we pleased,
it was easy to be in love
when livin’ was a breeze.

“Let’s take our feet with us wherever we go”

Ok.  And keep them safe inside our shoes
(but if a puppy sucks on our toes, that’s ok, too).
Then we’ll run down rabbits on the way to our soul,
ask the wind which way to go,
then finally, we’ll know how sad we can be:
Making love,
we couldn’t help but press your dying into me;
couldn’t help but want
my life for you.


Gary Lee Barkow practices Tai Chi and walks around feeling loved. He keeps a flashlight by his futon in case he has a brilliant idea at night. He doesn’t know where poetry comes from, so he enjoys the mystery. He likes: Mathematics, aeroplanes with propellers, earthworms, the San Francisco 49ers and rock ‘n’ roll.

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