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my mom

i always thought my mom was a nice person.

there were basically two reasons ­ one, that she never beat me even though i was a total asshole of a kid.

and two, she had a couple of cats and a dog and she always fed them and treated them right.

but recently, i was talking to a woman that my mom worked with at a supermarket for a long time and she told me a couple of things that made me wonder if i was wrong.

the first thing , she said my mom lent her a book once that she never gave back and that my mom told her was the greatest book she ever read.

the book was “the fountainhead” by ayn rand!

and this woman also told me that my mom’s favorite book as a kid was ­ little black sambo!

i thought it was kind of strange that my mom never mentioned these books to me, but why

would the woman lie?

also my mom and i never talked much except for her telling me how stupid and full of shit i was, though as i say i was pretty hard to take and she never beat me.

here i was starting to think maybe i was in the wrong with her but maybe she was just as much in the wrong or more, you know?

anyway, it just goes to show you never really know about people.

rhoda penmarq

rhoda penmarq lives in america and blogs.

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Miss Jade

I can mark the time I got truly interested in Miss Jade, and that was just after she tried for some forty-odd minutes to sell me a block of 2,000 shares of common stock in The West Grove Costume Factory. I’ll confide that actually it wouldn’t have been impossible for her to have succeeded, but I was lightly turned off when she kept emphasizing that “the boys at West Grove know their niche—they specialize in making milkmaid, princess, and witch outfits—and they’ve never strayed or ventured outside of what they do best.” However, the thought that lodged in my mind after hearing what she said was that if I invested my money there, I’d be taking a position in a prejudiced outfit, a group of bruisers strong enough and wise enough to, yes, labor within the channel of their expertise, but not strong enough or concerned enough to manufacture make-believe duds for guys. So I smiled at Miss Jade and told her no thanks, it ain’t the time right now for me to be buying stock, but that doesn’t mean by a long shot I have no interest in you yourself, Miss Jade; a good and sincere interest, fueled by my wanting to probe more deeply your obvious business acumen. (I didn’t say beans about another genuine want: to do some pinky-finger to thumb-wide spreads and pivots of my writing hand across what looked to me like a pair of polka dot panties spanning her spherical ass.) But the business-acumen compliment was probably all it took to spook Miss Jade, and she began to rapidly skip away from me—the polka-dot globe fast-fell from sight—and I think that’s when my interest in her really started to throb and spike.

William C. Blome

William C. Blome is a writer of short fiction and poetry. He lives in-between Baltimore and Washington, DC, and he is a master’s degree graduate of the Johns Hopkins University Writing Seminars. His work has previously seen the light of day in such fine little mags as Amarillo Bay, Prism International, Laurel Review, The Oyez Review, Salted Feathers and The California Quarterly.

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Lights Out

She was in the dark corner and I was sitting on a cat-torn sofa watching her dance to Lou Christie on the radio. She told me, “In ’78 the snow knocked out the power and I sat on my parents’ big bed with my brother all huddled up and I thought I was important because my little battery radio was all the electricity in the house.”

Now she thought it again, a stout little redhead in clothes that passed for lingerie dancing in the darkness, as I had neglected or forgotten or failed to pay the electric bill, and had nothing left after buying beer to have it reconnected.

“Can’t you ask your friends for some cash?” she demanded.

She did not understand the luxury of friends or cash. the upstairs neighbors were blasting blues so loud that the plaster fell in chucks— bad blues, blues by a boy who never slept on the streets, who never missed a meal, or stubbed his toe, who always had a full bottle, who had a woman waiting outside his door in case the one he had inside got tiresome with talk.

Lou Christie went off and Van Morrison came on. She liked the oldies station. It was HER radio. She danced and poured an open beer can all over her tits and her face, then shook her hair and little white flecks went flying into the night. She swaggered over to me, leant down and let her breasts hang in my face, smelling of sweat and warm cheap beer. She laughed and purred through her lips and I smoked. Ash fell on the orangebrown sofa.

She flung her head back, splattering me with flecks of beer foam from the tips of her pussyred hair. Then she went and danced in the open window. All the blueness of a black night without electricity caressed her jealously, and I drank my pussywarm beer.

Electricity makes our beer cold; we take this for granted. Electricity powers the blue motel sign that flicks on and off, shades her fat thighs and arms so that they are almost lovable. She forgot that I had no friends. She forgot that I had no chance. She remembered fucking and danced like it. Whoever said death was more beautiful than love knew neither. The blue light on her thighs, the beer in her hair, her laughing, her blistered mouth painted over in red lipstick came to me and knelt, pulling me by both hands into the black bedroom.

I fantasized about her death, prayed that she would die by morning, then climbed up on to the mattress without sheets and took off my shorts.

Steven Fregeau

Steven lives in Canton, OH and enjoys whiskeys, art, poetry, music, etc., and time spent at dive bars talking to people who manage to get by in life somehow (his neighbors). He settled on a B.A. because an M.F.A. cost too much. He currently works as a tutor in Writing, Theology and Philosophy.

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Mother Night

Not long before third grade, Mom and I were having a quiet dinner at Luby’s. She never liked cooking. The friendly man appeared at our table, asking Mom how she’d been, inquiring why my father wasn’t with us, and I didn’t know how to act. Mom and Dad’s main rules for interactions with their friends were to be polite, don’t intrude, and always mention my stellar grades.

I thought my father was invincible. Each time he left town to protect a judge or jurors, I pictured him pulling his piece on some husky-voiced bad guy. I thought it was noble wanting to save the day. Not realistic, but still noble.

The friendly man joined us for dinner, paid for the dinner. Mom smiled throughout the meal, but it became more pained as we ate. I can’t remember how he talked Mom into letting him follow us back home. All I knew was that we were under attack, and there was no guarantee she could save us. As I played with my Hot Wheels in the living room, Mom and the friendly man sat in two facing recliners. Mom was adept with others. People always thought she liked them, but most were wrong. That night, however, I sensed her panic. When the friendly man stepped out to make a call, she whispered that I should announce in front of him that it was time for my bath, followed by bed.  Leave her alone with him?

Dumbly splashing in the tub, I didn’t know how long to wait. I was terrified of what I might see if I left too soon. Finally, I heard tires screech, a vehicle speeding down our street. Mom slipped inside the bathroom. She tried to breathe, had to try harder. She said I was a good boy. I needed to hear that. Was that man her friend? She insisted I never mention him again.  I sat useless in my lukewarm bath. At that moment, I loved my mother more than I ever would again.

Thomas Kearnes

Thomas Kearnes holds an MA in Screenwriting from the University of Texas at Austin. He recently won the 2014 Cardinal Sins Fiction Contest. His fiction has appeared in Necessary Fiction, Litro, The Adroit Journal, Night Train, The Ampersand Review, PANK, Word Riot, Eclectica, SmokeLong Quarterly, Johnny America, Five Quarterly, wigleaf, Storyglossia, Sundog Lit, A cappella Zoo, Spork, The Pedestal, Digital Americana Magazine and elsewhere. His work has also appeared in several LGBT venues. He is studying to become a drug dependency counselor. He lives near Houston.

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An Afternoon in South Philly

The bar is unusually empty for a Saturday and Alabama’s kicking Old Miss butt on the TV. Unfortunately, it’s half-time and commercial after commercial uses catchy slogans trying to convince me how to vote.

“You shouldn’t be listening to such nonsense. Rot your brain, it will.”

I look up and see my cantankerous Uncle Raymond.

“Hey there. Just waiting for half-time to be over. Sit.”

He orders a beer. “Politicians—they’re all liars and crooks, so which one wins doesn’t really matter.”

He takes a long draught of his beer and gives out with a sigh.

“Uncle Raymond, you look a bit down. What’s happening?”

“Just came from the vet. Daisy’s gone. With the arthritis she could barely walk anymore. I kept putting it off, but it wasn’t fair to her, she hurt so bad.”

Moisture glistens in Uncle Raymond’s eyes. Daisy, a scrappy little mutt, has been his constant companion for sixteen years—also a fixture in our neighborhood bar. I know how much she meant to him. In his divorce, to get Daisy he let Aunt Helen have everything else.

So we just sit and drink.

Otto, my bookie’s idiot nephew, comes in to collect on my losing Thursday night football bet. As I’m counting out the cash Otto turns to Raymond.

“Where’s that ugly fucking mongrel of yours?”

“Catch you later,” Uncle Raymond says to me and leaves.

I help Otto and his bloody broken nose off the floor.

“It’s not polite—and it’s definitely not very smart to insult Daisy. Raymond likes dogs one whole hell of a lot more than he does people.”

I stuff my bet money in his pocket and push him toward the door. I order another beer from Sam the bartender, who is as silent as ever.

My beer arrives just in time for the second half kickoff.

Lester L Weil

Ex professional bassoonist, ex professor, ex custom furniture builder, ex house builder. Retired in Arizona near the Mexico border and trying hard not to venture past the ranch gate.

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Envelope

My friend Cuviér had come over for another one of his all-night “discussions” which more or less involve a one-way monologue between his mouth and a bottle of Wild Turkey but I had no good excuses so I said what the hell’s on your mind and in between swigs he told me. Told me he’d been walking the day before, he likes to walk which takes him all around the city to places I’ve never been; honest sometimes I think he makes them up, and he says he comes across this coat on the ground. Just lying there, a coat, but it’s a nice coat and Cuviér’s in a not-so-nice neighborhood, you know? And so of course he bends down and picks it up, and it’s a nice coat, now, it’s clear, he tells me, the dirt just falling right off it, and it’s black in a way that’s also bright, so it catches the morning sun (wait, I say, this was in the morning?) and so of course it just makes sense when he swings it around his considerable wingspan that sucker just fits perfectly, doing the matador’s cape-sweeping motion for me right there in the low light, and then he’s two blocks down the street before he even thinks to check the pockets, the nut. And what does he find? “It was a letter in there, already sealed.” “Well? Did you open it?” Cuviér looked at me, affronted. “What do you mean did I open it, it’s somebody else’s mail.” “Well that’s someone else’s coat too,” I point out. “It ain’t a federal offense to put on another man’s coat,” and I roll my eyes. “So anyway who was the letter to?” I say, and he’s mid-swallow before he can shrug, “Some woman, I don’t know.” “But what did you do?” “What do you think I did? I put it in the mailbox. Jeeze.” “But you don’t know what it said?” He shook his head. “And you don’t know who it was to?” He shrugged again. “And you don’t even know who wrote it?” And now he’s not even paying attention to me anymore, he’s hit the ass-end of the bottle and he’s looking for another, and I’m looking at him sitting there, 220 lbs. and ugly, the Cuviér I know, in the dim light of my dirty basement, and I’ll be damned if he doesn’t look good in that coat.

Alexander W. Henderson

Alexander W. Henderson was born in Ohio, raised in North Carolina, lived in the Czech Republic, schooled in Washington, DC and currently lives, works and writes in New York City. This story was originally written on an envelope.

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Predator

Sam e-mails his friends that Wednesday is National Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day. He goes into work and, when his boss asks him to reformat the Xerox machine, Sam has already started practicing. Aye, he says, I’ll do it by putting me hairy ass on the glass!

Are you the one who’s been doing that, his boss demands, suddenly confrontational.

Sam quickly reverses himself. Arg! Me privates are me own, and I’ll keep ‘em that way!

But the boss looks at him with suspicion. For months he’s been trying to track down the ass copier, and everyone knows it, so Sam’s reference shouldn’t mean anything. But the boss has problems at home, and isn’t operating rationally.

Sam senses he’s made a mistake, but his pirate mind won’t let him make amends. Later in the day, the boss fires him. Sam needed that job.

The next day he returns with a black eye-patch and a multi-colored parrot on his shoulder, lugging a small, cast-iron cannon behind him. He blasts the boss to smithereens.

Sam spends Talk-Like-a-Pirate Day in a jail cell. He looks at his pale, white ankle and sees a peg-leg. He spends the next few years behind bars, reminiscing about his long and notorious career as the Predator of the Seven Seas.

M. Krockmalnik Grabois

M. Krockmalnik Grabois’ poems and fictions have appeared in hundreds of literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, most recently for his story “Purple Heart” published in The Examined Life in 2012, and for his poem. “Birds,” published in The Blue Hour, 2013. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for 99 cents from Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.

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Snow Angels and Sex Toys

“Sonofabitch,” Henry muttered.

It was around three in the morning and he was standing in his bedroom holding his dead wife’s silver vibrator. What at first seemed like a harmless, even useless, sex toy was becoming heavier, as if pregnant with a Steinway grand piano. Henry’s arm weakened and he dropped the thing. It landed with a thud, which sounded like a scream. He backed away from it in retreat, to the king-sized bed he and his wife used to share.

He sat on the edge of the bed, sweat pouring down his forehead. He had heard stories of ghosts or evil spirits possessing dolls, but never this – never a sex toy. The vibrator looked like a glow-in-the-dark jellyfish. Tentacles that would drag him into a world of underwater insecurity. He deduced that the vibrator was eight inches, a bit bigger than the average male penis. Bigger than his. Henry wanted to destroy the thing.

He hopped up off the bed, approached his dead wife’s silver vibrator, and brought it to his nose. He could smell the ghosts of orgasm on it, moans he did not create.  So this is how a wife must feel, Henry thought. Upon learning that her deceased husband of thirty years had been cheating. Had a second family, with other sons, with other daughters.

“These orgasms belong to me by right of marriage,” he said.

His wife was haunting the vibrator. Henry was sure of it. Why else would there be such an odd smell? Like sulfur. He wanted to cry. In life, his wife was always so sweet smelling, like Mercury in retrograde or a gargoyle statue. Henry concluded that his wife’s pleasant aroma must have abandoned her on earth and he knew what he had to do: bury the thing in the backyard.

The moonlight reflecting off the snow-covered garden reminded Henry of an old black and white TV set. He laughed. All the times his wife had told him that he needed more color in his life, a little vibrancy, had come back to bite him in the ass. Poetic justice, he thought. He dropped to his knees in the snow and the cold felt good.

“Every goddamn night I’d pray for more passion,” he confessed. “And every morning those prayers would let me down. I’m sorry I felt nothing. I’m sorry I could never get it up.”

Then, as if Henry’s life finally made sense, that at long last a miracle decided to touch him, he felt a tinge of passion. As he clutched the vibrator, tears in his eyes, Henry made a snow angel. It was the most romantic thing he had ever done for his wife.

Justin Karcher

Justin Karcher is a poet and playwright living in Buffalo, NY. He is the co-artistic director of Theater Jugend as well as the playwright-in-residence.

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A New Evolution For Our Species

Jack felt a pair of eyes staring at him as he made his way through the crowd towards the bar; he felt the dark pull of something strange pulsing threw his entire being and suddenly there she was.  A true beauty of a woman, resplendent in a blue rubber coat, knee-socks and a pair of boots that signalled she was no push-over.  Her long flowing blonde hair looked other-worldly hooking Jack in for the long haul.  He had no idea what to do or say as it had been a long time since he’d been with a woman, let alone one so unique and beautiful.

She sat staring at him as he drank his first beer and then grabbed his hand and dragged him outside.  Jack was aghast at her straight-forward approach but quietly appreciated her taking the lead.  It was then that everything became even weirder.

A light appeared from the sky above and focused in on the pair. Jack could feel his body being swept up in a weightless atmosphere and suddenly the town he called home was nothing but a tiny spot in the distance.  Even the island he called home could be seen fully, jutting out off the coast of Europe.

Moments later he was inside a room but it was unlike any room he had seen before.  The walls were made of paper and Jack was immediately intrigued until suddenly a voice began talking to him; it told a story he could really empathise with.  Evolution had failed, it had driven all sense of rebellion out of humanity and that was a disaster.  The voice continued to outline their plan for a re-population of the planet by a new alien-human hybrid, one that deserved to live by the noblest of human traits; those of rebellion and experimentation. They seemed to know all about Jack, his life, what he had achieved, how he had felt betrayed by the whole damn system and they were offering him an opportunity of a lifetime.  The voice continued telling him the plan for the future of the planet he had hated as his home for nearly all his adult life.  Jack, along with several hundred thousand other humans, would help re-populate the world once the inevitable war had been won.  It would be a case of alien fighting humanity for the future of the planet and Jack would be on the side of the alien force.  The alien army would be out there battling the humans who had ruined the planet whilst Jack would be back at the mother-ship.  There it was his duty to engage in wild uninhibited sex with a series of crazily beautiful alien beings in a bid to prepare a population for the soon to be conquered planet.  He took to the task with utmost determination and soon after the re-population had children spread all over the planet.  At last he had a live worth living.

Bradford Middleton

Bradford Middleton was born in 1971 and is a writer of poetry and short fiction who currently resides in Brighton after coming of age in London and then being somewhat transient for a while. He recently won the inaugural Brighton Festival Twitter Fiction Competition and has been published widely online including at Ether Books, The Weekenders, Word Riot, Decades Review, Dead Beats and Down in the Dirt as well as many others. He is also a Contributing Poet at Mad Swirl. He is in the process of writing his first novel.

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Emma

I was two blocks from my apartment, so damn close. Mist hung over the lights of the city like a bad dream. I walked through little droplets of water — rain suspended in air.

The first thing I heard startled me so much I thought my ears had deceived me, “How ’bout you put them pretty lips round my cock?” A gravelly voice said nearby.

I froze, looking up and down the sidewalk, my eyelids peeled so wide I could feel my eyeballs bulging.

An alleyway that had always spooked me was just ahead. I took a step toward it. I didn’t want to, but my body moved on its own. I put my hand against the brick and slid it along its hard surface until I felt the sharp corner leading into the alley. I peered around it.

Two bodies were on the ground, both struggling.

“Put that thing in my mouth, and I’ll bite it off,” said the woman in an oddly calm voice.

He hit her then, hit her hard with a closed fist. A thick slab of raw steak hitting a wooden cutting board, that’s what it sounded like. Nausea rolled over me. The only thing that kept the contents of my stomach down was my own fear; if I vomited, he would hear me.

The woman was still conscious, but barely. She loosely slurred ‘help’ a few times before he slapped his hand over her mouth and held it there. His other hand worked feverishly at her jeans, then her underwear.

In my mind I saw myself trying to help and ending up in the woman’s place, another victim of the pig. Still, I tried to take a step toward them, but my foot shook in the air.

Then I turned around and ran. I ran and ran and ran until my lungs seared and the muscles in my ankles and shins ached. Then, Christ, then I called the police. I lied to them. I said I was inside my apartment and could hear a scuffle outside. After I hung up, my fingers shaking so much that I dropped my phone, I leaned over a drainage grate and retched into it.

I still have nightmares about that poor woman. She begs me to help her, to save her, to please, Emma, do something. In my nightmares, I close transparent eyelids. In my nightmares, there’s nowhere to run.

Max Londberg

Max Londberg has written a book and is currently trying to publish little tidbits of fiction in order to gain the confidence needed to ask people if they'll publish his aforementioned book.

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