Luisa twirled about her exposed brick loft with green scroll and red flower motif
scarves in the same hand as her glass of Zinfandel. She was in a fugue state,
gliding around the furniture, fantasizing about later that night: shimmying her
hips in front of the bass brand at Les Montagnes, eliciting lust-filled gawks
from husbands dining with wives. Besides, she got a thrill from being
Mark’s raps against the door caused her chest to shiver and sent her heart aflutter,
triggering her first expectant hit of dopamine. He hated the dramatic way she
opened the door with her hips thrust out and bent left knee. “Which is
better,” she asked, holding the scarves against her cheeks.
“Neither, it’s not cold and we’re late.”
“I like the red better but then I’ll have to change my dress.”
“Then wear the green. My car is idling in a tow away zone. Come on.”
“Okay, let me change quickly.”
“No, we don’t have time.”
“You know I’d do anything for you darling, but I can’t possibly leave looking like
this. Why don’t you pour some wine?” She knew exactly when she started seeking
unnatural pleasure from Mark. How could she not? But as she stood—just waiting,
not deciding—in her shoe closet, she wondered if he’d irredeemably broken her;
after all, she was relishing returning the favor.
“Christ,” Mark yelled. She quivered to hear the anger in his voice. “Christ, they’re towing my
car.” He ran from the loft and slammed the door behind him.
From her window she could see him arguing with the tow truck driver. “Please, tow
it,” she prayed, aloud. The idea of him needing her for transportation was too
much of a dream. He would hate that more than anything.
Waiting for him to return, her whole body was exposed nerves. He would
surely let her have it. After all she wanted the credit for his beloved
car being towed.
“I hope you’re happy,” he said, with slouched shoulders.
“Of course I am, darling. You know how excited I get on date night.”
“You can’t seriously still think we’re going anywhere?”
“Certainly, it’s Thursday. Thursday is date night.”
“You’ve got to be kidding. Do you have any idea what a mess you’ve caused for me
tonight?” If he were a speeding truck, she was going to be the dainty deer
dashing from the dark, into the road, that crumples the hood and shatters the
“Don’t pout. I’ll drive you wherever you need to go.” She leaned into him so he could
whiff her perfume.
“The Hell you will?”
“But I will, I’ll do anything for you. And, of course, to you.”
“How about letting me go? I’m about to lose it, and you don’t want that to
Her body was tingling. There was no certainty it would materialize, but
she felt intense frisson in her upper thighs. She was at the precipice, now she
just had to keep prodding his mounting anger.
Matt Trahan lives along Buffalo Bayou in Houston. He works at a commercial HVAC
“Excuse me, Ma’am. That’s a really nice purse. I’d like to buy one like it for my mom. Can I ask where you got it?”
“Hmm? Oh. The purse. Yes it is very nice, isn’t it? It’s a Birkin, you know. I very much doubt you can afford one, young man.”
“You’re probably right. Ain’t you worried it’ll get damaged in this rain?”
“I don’t care. I can always have my Pierre send another from France. My Pierre owns a private jet, you know.”
“Your Pierre must be a very important man.”
“Of course he is. You’ve never flown in a private jet, have you? You don’t look the sort to have ever traveled in style.”
“No, ma’am, but I sure admire you for it. Maybe someday--”
“Ah, my cab. I know you were here first, young man, but I’m in a bit of a hurry. Surely you understand that of someone of my distinction.”
“Yes, ma’am. I do understand. Lemme get that door for you.”
“Heh heh. You should be more careful, Oh Great Lady of Distinction, that your wallet isn’t sticking outta your Birkin when you talk to strangers. Thanks for the cash, ya ol’ biddy!”
Rick Brooks writes feverishly every Sunday morning for four to five hours--or until he’s had so much caffeine he can no longer focus. Inspired by several muses (his beautiful wife, wonderful daughters and his friends in recovery), he continues to write the 20-year novel, for which the deadline is still 16 years away.
1. The advice and constructive criticism of a “writers’ group” is
2. Fuck those people in the writers’ group. They don’t know
3. Shitty first drafts. Shitty twentieth drafts! Just keep
4. Cutting is writing. You just wrote several pages of material, and it all has to
go. But the one paragraph that you kept, which wouldn’t have come out without
writing (and subsequently letting go) of the other pieces, was worth it. This
is the pain and tragedy of the craft (this last sentence should be cut, I can
just feel it!).
5. The part you think is funny, or witty, is nothing of the sort. It doesn’t
matter that you did painstaking work on it. Sorry. Meanwhile, the bit you wrote
on a whim will be considered rip-roaring hilarious— genius even. Even
though you it came to you quickly, in your head, while on the toilet. Yes, a
momentary defecation of the mind will be your greatest accolade.
6. What to write about? Don’t worry, the ideas will come naturally. Just make sure
to have a life filled with painful, awkward experiences— this, most certainly,
will come naturally.
7. Non-writers (and certainly non-readers) will laugh, yawn, or scoff at
your efforts. Ignore them. They don’t actually read, nor do they have
appreciation for something truly wondrous. I know, I know, they have a bunch of
books on their bookshelves, or they’ve claimed to have read all the classics as
well as the hot new releases. Nope. They’re liars. You should probably drop
them as friends as well.
8. On the rare off-chance these people feign interest in your endeavors, they’ll
ask the question that is utterly impossible to concisely answer: “What’s your
book about?” You’re free to say just about anything, as they’ve already stopped
supportively listening — their commitment is only to nodding in a phony sense
of agreement while they gather material to lampoon you later. “Oh, ‘the
writer!’” they’ll joke uproariously to your mutual acquaintances.
9. Prepare to not have time for anything else.
10. “Failure is just a step on the path to success” is the well-known, lofty creed
of many-a-motivational speaker. Put aside for a moment that these inspirational
orators are usually struggling charlatans who grind out false hopes to scrape
by, a house in foreclosure here, an outstanding child support payment there. A
writer should still, nonetheless, adopt this mantra. But replace “failure” with
“rejection”or, its cousin, “a lack of any response to your submission,” and
similarly substitute “path to success” with “increasingly delusional dreams and
There, now you’ve got it just about right.
Matthew A. Taub is a writer and lawyer living in Brooklyn, NY. He is currently working on his first novel, DEATH OF THE DYING CITY, a panorama of New York City's rapid gentrification and multiple ethnic enclaves through rotating character-driven vignettes, all of which are connected by an imperiled lawyer-protagonist.
Excerpts are available at www.delusionalaspiringwriter.com
Down by the vacant lot you’d tell me there were buried treasures. In
Springtime, there were. Wildflowers grew thigh high, and I’d sometimes crawl on
my hands and knees and sneak up behind you. Grip your ankles like I was some
wild animal. You’d get mad and not speak to me for the rest of the day. Call me
names, and swat me on the back of my head hard enough to make me cry. Compared
to cabron or pendejo, butthead became a term of endearment.
It was one of the joys of being your little brother.
Marigolds and poppies covered the empty lot from March through August.
You and I were in the field practically every day. Mama didn’t understand what
drew us to it, and forbade us from going there. Te quebras tu pierna, she’d say.
There were pot holes, and once or twice I almost did break my leg. Another time the
Ramirez’s doberman chased me halfway down the block. I climbed our fence like a
squirrel to get away with my ass in one piece. When my Ma saw what I did to my
brand new pair of Levis, I wish the doberman woulda taken me
You stepped on a nail.
Mama grew the best roses on the block, all of Boyle Heights, maybe, and
you convinced me it had something to do with the mariquitas. The ladybugs came
by and ate up the aphids in the empty lot on the East end of Pomeroy Avenue.
We’d catch them all spring and scatter them in Ma’s garden, in the spots where
the aphids were at their most potent. They were all colors, the ladybugs. Most
were red with black spots.
“Peasants, like you and I,” you’d said and laugh. You read too much, and
sometimes I didn’t understand your jokes, but I laughed anyway. We’d play games
to see who caught the most of the other colors. Orange with black spots always
reminded me of Halloween. There were
brown with black ones, too.
“Those are the color of mierda,”
you said, using one of Mama's forbidden words.
There were gray with white spots. Those were worth the most points; they
were the hardest to find.
On the days that you were being an inconsolable bitch, I’d tell on you
every chance I got. You were five years older than me, and when I was ten, a
suave dude from Lord Street started coming by and talking to you at the gate to
our home. When I’d spy you two, I’d tell Mama. She’d shoo him away like he was a
black cat who’d bring dishonor and death to our family if you so much as looked
at him. When she realized it would be the norm, she’d keep an eye on you from
the porch, make sure he didn’t put anything over the fence that he didn’t want
Most times we got along, though. As well as siblings did, anyway. We
still went over to the lot, but we didn’t look for the mariquitas anymore. You
were too old for that, but you’d watch as I crawled on my hands and knees to
find them under bottles, in shopping carts tangled in spiny weeds, in the ashen
abandoned campfires of the homeless that sometimes slept in the lot, on their
way to not-so-better things. In ten years time they’d build brand spankin’ new
homes that would take all that away, but you were gone by then so it didn’t
I’d walk on the sidewalk and stop at the front of those homes like I
could still see that empty lot. Like I could still see you in it. I’d wonder if
you knew that you were in every word I write. I’d wonder if you knew I miss
I miss you.
Mathew Allan Garcia lives with his wife in Hesperia, California. He has four dogs, and
countless demons he has yet to exorcise on to paper. His work can be found
mostly in his head, as well as First Stop Fiction, Parable Press, Mused Literary
Review, and Mad Scientist Journal.
So here I sit, thoroughly drunk. Because that’s what you do on planes, isn’t it? You drink until that little voice that likes to remind you of your mortality is hushed. You drink it into submission. You drink it until it frays nicely at the edges and you can breathe again.
So I’m drunk. I’m drunk on mimosas because they’re free. Or $300. However you want to look at it. Fuck it. It feels really good.
The only down side is that I constantly have to get up to pee. And I have the window seat so I have to disturb the gentleman to my right and shamefully announce my need. He doesn’t stand to let me by, as you would expect, but rather does his best to fold into himself. He’s not as successful as he thinks and I’m forced to squeeze past him, the backs of my thighs rubbing suggestively against his knees. Slowly, as if I’m seducing him. Because I’m drunk, and I’m moving with that over-caution that drunk people employ to convince the world they’re okay.
He stole my omelette, by the way, this old dude with the hairless, blue-veined legs. The flight attendant handed out our breakfast (free or $300, however you want to look at it) and when she got to our row she announced there was only one omelette left. I said it was up to my aisle buddy, because I’m polite that way.
“It makes no difference to me,” I said to him, “You decide.”
“I’ll have the omelette,” said my brazen travel mate. And I was stuck with a bowl of cold cereal.
But it’s cool, because my old friend here is on his way home from Haiti where, he tells me, he did some very important volunteer medical work. I ask you. Who deserves a free $300 omelette more - me, or this humanitarian I travel with?
Besides, I’m drunk. I’ll eat anything right now. And my bladder is full again. So that omelette cost my old friend here any guilt I might have felt for repeatedly disturbing him.
Or he gained a free lap dance every hour, on the hour.
Either way. Whatever.
However you want to look at it.
Claudia Recinos is a wife, a writer, and avid crocheter, but mostly she is a stay-at-home mom to a 14-month-old baby boy who keeps her busy, busy, busy. She does most of her writing in the dark at 4 a.m.
I awoke, sat up and realized that the circular platform I was on was floating high above mountains and under a high cloud. I had no idea how I got there and I don't know how it just hovered there like that. Two others were there already, Utina and Paul. They immediately wanted to know my story, especially what I'd been dreaming. I told them that I had been in my jail cell, alone, sleeping and my dreams were the nightmares I always had, of combat. My outpost had been overrun by Afghan rebels after more than twelve hours of constant fighting, lots of it hand to hand, bodies everywhere. I was lightly wounded, I thought. My nightmares got so bad that I later tried killing people on the streets of San Diego. SWAT unit stopped me with a tranquilizer dart. I was jailed and went to sleep on the cell bunk. "It's never ending combat once I fall asleep," I explained to them.
Suddenly, I heard the whistling incoming of a mortar round. I dragged Utina and Paul into the recessed center of the circle and told them to get down. Bullets were flying. There was smoke and men running firing weapons. I was sweating and began screaming. I didn't even have a gun. Utina wrapped her arms around me and said, "I'm here with you" into my ear. Immediately, the bullets stopped, the smoke cleared and all the fighters were gone. The mountains and clouds were back. All was quiet.
They explained that our dreams controlled the wheel we were on. These two had just experienced my combat nightmare. We rested a moment, then I saw that Paul wore a long desert robe from a different tribe than those of Afghanistan.
Paul told us he had been traveling to Damascus by horse with warrants to arrest the followers of the 'way'. They were to be taken back to Jerusalem to be tried for blasphemy. Just outside of Damascus, a great light came out of the sky, unhorsing him. When he spoke these words, the wheel abruptly shifted under us and light blazed in from every direction. We protected our eyes. I couldn't look up but I saw Paul reach up with his hands and speak to someone in the air. He begged not to be killed. He grabbed his head and shouted that he had not realized. Begging for mercy for himself and the others traveling with him, he knelt and prayed, then prostrated himself saying he would serve forever. He repeated the name Ananias of Damascus who would baptize him. Slowly, the light dissipated. Utina and I crawled to him and asked if he was all right. He rose to his knees, shaking. His pupils unfocused, he could not fix his gaze on anything. We helped him lean back against the sloped wall of the recessed center. Paul, said the light spoke to him and changed him from Saul, his old self, to the Paul we knew. His vision returned after a while. Utina asked if he often dreamed of the light. He said he dreamt of nothing else. His dream always made him relive the great change again.
Utina calls this platform the dream wheel. She's been here longest. Some guy named Dogen and a woman named Clara were here before her. They told her of people before them and some of the dreams they'd witnessed, the wheel's power manifesting itself. Utina tried getting off. She jumped over the edge but the thing has gravity. She even crawled around to the underside, but you just hang there, upside down. She's seen one hundred and twenty-seven dream sequences. Yea, she's counting. Many have seen her dream. I asked what her dream was. Without warning, a large man grabbed me from behind and threw me onto the surface of the wheel. Just as I turned over, he was on me, trying to tear off my shirt and pants. I heard the others scream. I slugged the guy and knocked him off me. I rolled away, jumped up and caught him with a fast roundhouse kick, sending him sprawling. He sat up and I caught him in the temple with my heel. The guy on Paul looked like a twin. I kicked him in the back of the head and he fell over, out cold. Paul grabbed the one on Utina and wrestled him off. I kicked him in the kidney and head and he went down. At that moment, the three disappeared. They had been identical. We held Utina, told her they were gone. She trembled uncontrollably. Paul rubbed her hand. "Who are they?" I asked. She said they were her father's favorite brother, who has molested her since she was sixteen. That the dream multiplies him. I asked if she'd told her father. She huffed and said her father would kill her if she said such a thing. I thought and then handed her my big switchblade knife.
"He'll put his arms around you. Reach behind him, press to open the knife, stab deep into the kidney and twist hard. Either kill him or use the knife to flee and never return."
She froze and her big eyes grew even larger. I could see her mind working on it. It happened so quickly that I reached out, but too late, she was gone.
I heard Paul call out behind me. A young girl, maybe ten or eleven years old, was sleeping in the center. She opened her eyes and looked at Paul and I. She got up and walked all around the wheel before approaching me. Her dress was ankle length, long sleeved, of heavy brown cotton. Her shoes fully laced low black boots and on her head was a white sun bonnet. She just stood there.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Susette. What is this place?" she said.
"Some call it the dream wheel. I'll try to explain."
Edward G. Gauthier is a retired English teacher of thirty-one years, a member of the National Writing Project, and a fellow of the Dairy Hollow writer's colony. A partial list of publications that have accepted his work are:
Louisiana In Words, (an anthology) edited by Pelical Publishing, New Orleans;
The Advocate Newspaper, Sunday Advocate Magazine, Baton Rouge, LA;
The Journal of the Image Warehouse, Athens, Texas;
The Voice: Newsletter of the National Writing Project, University of California, Berkeley, CA; Ordinary People in Extraordinary Times, AuCajunal Publishing, University of Louisiana
I’m really good at acting like I’m dead. I do it all the time. Sometimes my husband tries to wake me up for work and I just lie there, holding my breath, staring at the ceiling, not blinking at all. I’m so good at it. I can stay so still and my eyelids don’t move or anything. I can hold my breath for ages too. That’s the secret to acting dead. You have to be able to hold your breath for at least a minute.
After about 30 seconds people start to get worried. You can hear it in their voice. It goes a little higher than normal, a little more strained. But I just stay there. As still as a dead person, trying not to laugh.
I do it everywhere. On the bus, in the swimming pool. Once I got so into it that I let the lifeguard actually dive in and drag me to the side of the pool. He was about to give me mouth to mouth before I broke up laughing at him.
I did it on a plane last month. I was sitting in the aisle seat and just as we began to take off I slipped out of my seat and let my whole body hang, with my head on the floor of the aisle. You should have heard my husband “Not this again, I can’t believe it.” Hilarious!
All the airhostesses came running from every side, trying to push me back on to the seat. I don’t know how I kept a straight face, I really don’t!
My husband was trying to tell them all that I was only messing and I have mental problems and they were all like “well sir she isn’t breathing so we actually are going to take this seriously.” I opened my eyes and just burst out laughing, it was too hard not to. They said that it wasn’t funny but I know they were lying; they just didn’t want to be unprofessional. I’m sure I heard them all laughing about it when they closed the curtains on their little section of the plane.
My husband stopped coming to sit beside the pool half way through our holiday. He said it was because he was sick of me playing dead in the pool every day, but I know it was really because he was getting too sunburnt. I know him too well. You should have seen all the tourists and lifeguards who fell for my trick in the pool every day. I’d put my head under the water, let my body go limp and sort of float around like a little island. I bet I looked hysterical. All these people kept jumping in to save me, some fully clothed, some with full trays of food in their hands. It was brilliant!
The best night though was when we went out to dinner. My husband wasn’t talking to me. I think it was because earlier I’d beaten him at a game of scrabble. I knew the best way to stop him being angry at me was to make him laugh, and I can literally make anyone laugh.
So I ordered soup and when it came I pretended to choke. It was the most dramatic fake death I’ve ever done. I’m not one to boast but I was really good at it. I heaved one last breath and plonked myself face first into the soup.
Quietly, in the middle of all the commotion I could hear the distinct sound of my husband chuckling softly to himself.
Lucy Montague-Moffatt is a 23 year old writer, comedian and student from Dublin. She has a poem and short story featured on the ebook Wordlegs Presents: 30 under 30 available on Amazon and a short story in the recently published collection 30 Under 30 and The Bohemyth. She was one of the winners of the Fishamble: Tiny Plays competition and her piece will be performed in The Project Arts Centre in March 2013. She was commissioned to write the first year play for Inchicore College of Further Education last year, which was performed in March 2012 and has been commission to write the play this year too, which will be performed in March 2013. She was a Funny Woman Competition 2012 finalist. She wrote and performed two comedy shows as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011. Lucy is currently a columnist for the UCD Observer.
I learned what it means to really volunteer when I was in 11th grade. I joined the key club in high school and had many great experiences. I learned there that when you are doing things for other people, out of the kindness of your heart, it makes you feel good. Not good like having sex or smoking drugs, it’s a good feeling deep down that you feel inside of yourself. A feeling that tells you that you are the absolute shit for helping those who can’t help themselves, and they know you are too. They confirm your awesomeness with every “thank you” that you receive. You can truly do good in the world for people once you come to realize that through your awesomeness of being willing to humble yourself and help those around you, for absolutely not very much money at all.
The first time I ever did community service was with my family. I was pretty young, and it was gay as hell. It was close to Christmas time and we were separating donated toys and clothes for those less fortunate. We were in a stinky old out of commission classroom, and I was with a bunch of weird ass people I didn’t know. It was pretty cool doing a service and all, but I didn’t get any confirmation from other people about the good work I was doing. At the end they gave my family a little box set with the Disney movie "The Incredibles" as a thank you gift. I was like “oh ya thanks for the shitty movie.” Seriously, that movie is ridiculous, and I mean that in the worst way possible.
After that I didn’t bother to do any service work until I got into high school. I went to Maple Mountain High, and they had this awesome key club. We would go around and do good deeds for the community and shit, and then they would sometimes buy us pizza and ice cream. And good pizza too, it was usually Domino’s, none of that Little Caesar’s bullshit.
One of my favorite memories of my service to the community involved putting together blankets for kids or homeless people or some shit. It was such a great experience. It was one of those experiences that truly make you happy for being able to help. I got to skip fucking algebra! I was so excited. We all met in one of the classrooms down the hall. We spend some good time cutting fabric and having people sew stuff. It was really cool. But the best part was the pizza! No lame ass fucking cafeteria corn dogs for me. My lunch was spent in the class room doing service and eating my lunch. It was so awesome. I ate like 5 pieces of pizza! They bought so much. That was definitely worth it.
The next act of service we did was collecting food outside a grocery store for more homeless people, or maybe not homeless people but just people who are really fucking poor. It was probably the latter. I remember it was the day of the BYU football game against the Utes. We had one bin for BYU and one for the U. People were supposed to buy food to donate and then put it in the bin of the team of their choice. We were in Cougar territory so they BYU bin was getting stacked. Then we had a genius idea. We took all of people's donated food out of the BYU bin, and put it in the U bin. Those fuckers didn’t know what hit them. As soon as they saw the BYU bin was empty while the Utes were getting support from everybody, they were buying shit like crazy. Fucking douche bags, they all spent so much money and it probably wasn’t even to help those almost homeless people. They were just trying to support their team. Well, I think BYU lost that year. Serves them right those fucking douche bags. Best part of this service was the hot cocoa. The key club did not fuck around, they bought that good fancy hot chocolate reserved for people like us, I bet those people who we were getting food for couldn’t afford hot chocolate at all. That was a worthwhile experience.
Then the other act of service we did was collecting money outside the library for those who are poor as fuck. I had to stand by the street holding a sign and waiting for people to hand me money. It was awesome having so many people see the good deeds I was doing for the community. I worked with a girl from my school that I had never talked to before. She was chill, she told me about how she liked to do Adderall before school, or how she had lesbian sex with this other hot girl we went to school with. It was fun. And we got the fancy cocoa shit again. I’m telling you the Maple Mountain Key club doesn’t fuck around.
Well, I was only in the key club that one year. I transferred schools after that. I haven’t done any service work since. But that’s ok because I will get to do more in the future. I’ll do some good stuff for some homeless people, and then maybe collect money for cancer research. Then I might get involved in that Secret Santa program, I bet they get so much cool shit that people would never notice if it was missing. Whatever I do, I will make sure it’s worthless.
Adison Connors is a young man from Mormonville, Utah. He comes from a very Mormon family and also really hates Mormons. This piece is an assignment he had to write on the importance of volunteer work. It tells the true story of his volunteer experience through his very Mormon high school career.
Three days before Christmas, Mary slipped in the shower and cracked her head on the soap dish. I found her a half hour later. The water was long cold and her skin had turned purplish, like an overripe plum. Her speech was gone, and she gave me one of her impatient looks: what took you so long?
I wrapped her in her favorite plaid blanket, then carried her to the car and drove to the emergency room. After all the tests, they told me it was brain cancer, four to six months to live. That was seven months ago.
Outside her hospital room, an old man pushes a walker. He wanders the hallways, lost. I call him Gary Cooper, not because he resembles the actor, but because he resembles Gary, the head mechanic at Cooper Automotive down on Fourth. Split yellow tennis balls cup the metal legs of Gary’s walker, like grinning Pac-men. The wheels, they squeak, squeak, squeak. Mary’s head twitches, keeping time with their mechanical rhythm: squeak, twitch, squeak, twitch. Inside her ravaged mind, she might be dancing.
We used to dance. Every Thursday night. She made me take lessons with her, to keep busy after retirement. We learned to waltz, swing dance, and do the rumba. Towards the end, we were pretty good. How she laughed; the twirl of her dress and swing of her childless hips, the staccato of her heels on the wooden dance floor. When she twitches, I like to think she’s enjoying the music of a ghost band, warm in my embrace, but maybe it’s just the gasp of drowning neurons, mired in a swamp of cancer.
There was a mass in the center of her brain. The doctors said it was hopeless, but they cut the thing out anyway. It was the size of a golf ball. I wonder what they did with it. Is there a place where they keep these things, or did they throw it in the landfill? Maybe there’s a little piece of my wife out there, feeding the crows.
Her bed sits next to the window. Outside, the patter of rain is gravel in a steel pail. She refused to drive in rain or snow, because the roads got slippery. Like a bathtub. I wish someone would make Gary Cooper stop his endless walking, tell him to go to bed, or put some grease on those wheels. I wish those grinning Pac-men would eat him up, walker and all. I wish I’d brought some WD-40. I wish a lot of things.
A couple argues by the nurse’s station. He forgot to pick up the kids. Her mother is dying. There's something about a cat. I get up from my uncomfortable plastic chair and close the door, but five minutes later the nurse comes in and props it open again. She doesn’t want me alone with Mary.
Big cushiony pads surround her bed, a dance floor for a broken ballerina. The nurses put them there because even though they tell her not to get up, she still tries, and then she falls. She’s stubborn that way. Bruises cover her arms, the same shade as the lilacs I brought. Beneath her, the mats are a deep ocean blue. If you squint just right, her bed floats, adrift in a sterile sea. A crash comes from the room next door. Someone weeps, and footsteps rush down the hall.
They call the place where the tumor once lived “the void.” It means there’s an empty spot in her brain, airless and dark, a vacant room echoing with the meaty sound of tortured brain cells. We planned a trip to Maine next month, but unless God changes his mind in a hurry, we’re not going. We looked forward to our Golden Years. We only had three of them, and now this. She wanted to eat some Maine lobster. All she eats now is a glucose drip.
The TV news ticker scrolls red across the bottom, thunderstorms and tornado warnings. Hail the size of golf balls in Harris county. My car sits in the hospital parking lot, Row 4E, exposed to the storm, defenseless. I’ve forgotten to pay my insurance premium. Mary always paid the bills. Would one of those chunks of hail, those frozen golf balls, fill the void in my dying wife’s skull?
Some days are better than others, but every week is a bit worse. She opens her eyes at the sound of thunder. Her blue, blue eyes are muddy, pain-filled marbles, scared. Darling, I want to go home
, those eyes say. Her once sunny voice has turned into a meaningless wet gurgle, a coffee maker down to its bitter dregs.
After forty-one years of marriage, I know what she wants, but I can’t do it. I prepare for another night of her absence. I kiss her cheek and step into the hall. The nurse’s station is empty. Gary Cooper and I are alone. I nod at his confused stare, but he turns away, pushing his walker before him. I close Mary’s door and walk to the elevators, towards the parking lot and the car that still carries her fragrance.Kip Hanson
lives in sunny Phoenix, AZ, where he chronicles the life of an exiled Nordic Warrior King at http://misterass.com
. You can find him at Bartleby Snopes, Every Day Fiction, Waterhouse Review, Eunoia Review, A Twist of Noir, and a few other places. When not working on the next Pushcart nomination, he makes a few bucks cobbling together boring articles for technical magazines. He writes to keep the flying monkeys away.
I noticed her through the crowd.
He came right up to me in the street.
She had long blonde hair and a face like an anime character.
He seemed sweet. He had a nice smile.
I said she should give me her number.
He asked me for my number. He was all shy and stumbled on his
She put it right in my phone.
I was nervous at first, giving him my number, but I did.
She was stupidly hot.
He texted me as soon as he’d walked away and asked me out.
I called her a couple of days later and took her out for dinner.
He took me to McDonalds.
We had a great time.
Some kid spilled his drink on my shoes.
After dinner I took her home.
After dinner he took me home.
She invited me in.
I didn’t want to say goodbye so I invited him in for tea.
Her house was cool. There was a massive TV and two games consoles.
I gave him a quick tour while walking through to the kitchen.
Her roommates seemed pretty cool.
We bumped into my parents on their way out. Dad gave us a little
She asked if I wanted to see her room.
I asked if he wanted to see my room.
Upstairs she pushed me on the bed and started kissing me.
We sat on the bed for a while. He said he’d had a lovely evening.
He said he thought I was beautiful. He started kissing me.
She was a strong kisser, her tongue knew it’s way around my mouth.
We lay down and eased into it. He was really gentle, placing kisses on
my lips and face and ears.
All of a sudden she pulled me out and went down. Her tongue knew its
way round that even better.
All of a sudden we were undressing each other. He kept asking me if it
was okay. His smile made me feel safe.
She stripped all her clothes off. She was even hotter naked.
Almost naked, I got up and turned the lights out. He told me I was
She climbed on top of me and started riding.
We climbed under the covers naked and just laid there, kissing, holding each
We did it twice. Once from behind.
In the morning we had breakfast together. I made pancakes, he helped me
whisk and kept kissing me on the shoulder.
I left before she woke up.
He’s been texting me these lovely messages all day.
I’ve been screening her calls all day.
Alex Thornber has been writing short stories for a few years, some have been published in
places like Metazen, Wilderness House Literary Review and on Featherproof's
Tripple Quick Fiction App. He is currently working on a story collection.