Phillip Sterling

As Much to Speak of Weather

I do not write of my father because he loved me, a truth I have come to believe in for its obviousness—no less obvious that is to say than the way one speaks of rain, its beauty and betrayal. Today’s rain is preemptory, a windless gravitas:  what a speaker of political mindset might refer to as bi-partisan, claiming a democracy of garden and glass. How parental! (How paradoxical, both bound and torn asunder!) To speak of my father’s love, then, is as much to speak of weather as if weather is all there is to speak of. My father—who has since taken his words to the grave—has nonetheless left me with rain, another season’s first chill of rain.

Words Frequently Confused: Historicism, Histrionics

If you don’t know the width of the forest when you enter it, how will you know when you’re on the way out? Or do you mean to settle there, to burrow under the dry root of a defeated tree and stay, an abundance of honeybees and berries nearby, a small clear stream? Haven’t you notified the children already, sold every earthly possession, signed up online for Your Majesty’s benefit? Come on, Columbus, isn’t that the way of forests? Aren’t you lost before you know it? Aren’t you penalized half the distance to the goal?

Phillip Sterling

Phillip Sterling’s books include two poetry collections, And Then Snow and Mutual Shores, two collections of short fiction, In Which Brief Stories Are Told and Amateur Husbandry, and four chapbook-length series of poems (Significant Others, Abeyance, Quatrains, and And For All This: Poems from Isle Royale). A fifth series, Short on Days, will be released in 2020.


The social club is a cross between a coffeehouse and a hotel lobby, with chic décor and trendy chairs. The woman I’m meeting is a potential client. She works in real estate development and I work in communications. I’m optimistic.

I’m dressed in a jacket and skirt, tall boots. She wears a yellow sweater that complements her dark skin. Her hair sits in an elaborate, braided crown on the top of her head. I perch on my chair, uncomfortable in its faux-schoolroom design of wobbly metal legs and a carved wooden seat.

As she details her history, I listen, but I split my attention. I face her, but I have an imaginary satellite pointed to my right, angled at the corner of the room, attempting to beam in every word. That’s where I spotted him as soon as I entered. The woman across from him is much younger.

“I really think I need to lose another ten pounds, to be perfectly honest,” he says, and I cringe, remembering him saying the same to me, fishing for compliments. He is handsome and charming as ever. Now she’s laughing at something else he’s said. I feel a pang of stale jealousy, faint, like a water ring left on a table.

I shut down the mental satellite and force my whole attention back to my meeting. I ask two questions and note her answers. She’s telling me her vision for the city, and it’s interesting. I take a sip of coffee while she accepts a fresh pot of tea from a waitress. Over her shoulder, out the window, I see snow begin to fall. It’s March, too late for snow to be welcome, but it’s pretty.

I feel lips against my cheek before I can register what’s happening.

“Hello,” he says. “I just had to say hi.” I am stunned.

“Hello,” I say. Then he walks back to his table, without greeting my companion.

I blink at her, wide-eyed. She stares back at me. She is tall and strong. She is independent. She is a business owner. A man has just kissed me in public without my permission. In front of her. I am mortified. On her face, I see understanding. It has happened to her, too.

An audio clip plays in my mind:

“Trump: I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

Bush: Whatever you want.

Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”[1]

Our meeting ends and when I rise from the table, I turn to the left and do not look at the corner of the room. We walk down the stairs and out into the snow, making promises to follow up, to see each other again soon.

[1] From Transcript: Donald Trump’s Taped Comments About Women, New York Times, October 8, 2016


Marijean Oldham


Marijean Oldham is a public relations consultant and writer. Her essays and short fiction have appeared in The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature and the Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review. In 2018, Marijean authored the book 100 Things to Do In Charlottesville Before You Die, Second Edition (2018 Reedy Press). In her spare time, Marijean bakes pies competitively.

Short Leash

His co-workers lounged against the building, drinking coffee and smoking before punching in for the early shift.  The elbow nudging began as he got out of the truck, walked to the driver’s side window, and kissed his wife goodbye. He sensed the men’s envy as he watched her drive away, and could just make out the familiar, mocking whispers of pussy-whipped, on a short leash, and under her thumb before he turned and the smirks quickly vanished.

They never said anything to his face, the chicken-shits. Must have been something about the way he carried himself or the old knife scar bisecting his right cheek that quelled even bigger men’s voices. But he’d seen their stares when she brought him his lunch every day, wearing those short-shorts and bare-midriff blouses, the way conversations halted and sandwiches stopped midway to mouths when she shook out her blonde curls.

He knew they wondered how somebody who looked like him had gotten someone who looked like her. Hell, he wondered himself. So, if she liked taking him to work, bringing his lunch, and picking him up at the end of his shift, he didn’t complain. A short leash anchored both ends.


Bob Strother

Bob Strother’s work has been published internationally and adapted for film. A three-time pushcart Prize nominee, Strother has four novels and a short story collection in print, as well as several magazine articles.

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