Feb 152014

by Cory Wilson

It was the best train. His sixth birthday was announced with the sound of “choo choo” as he moved the sleek toy across the synthetic carpet. It was the perfect blend of tactile stimulation and intellectual involvement. All of the 6 year old children of his class had them, and his parents had known he would enjoy it.

Mark smiled at his son’s joy. As his son’s initial enthusiasm ran out and he began to tire of running around the room yelling “ZOOM!” while sliding his train across different surfaces, Mark picked up his son and placed him on his knee.

“Do you like the train?” Mark asked, as if he needed to inquire about a toy which had been so scientifically proven to be perfect for his son. His son lacked the precise vocabulary to articulate his pleasure.

“It wasn’t always like this,” Mark reminded him. “We had toys, but it was different, they weren’t always the right toys.”

“We had so many toys, hundreds of them! So many that we had no idea what toys were the right toy for us. Oh! It was terrible! Shelves upon shelves of them and picking just one that we wanted to play with was nightmare!”

His son laughed in disbelief at the absurdity of his father’s statements.

“No it’s true!” Mark insisted. “We had to pick, and almost always picked wrong; it was some sick joke of the adults. You’re lucky these days; you always get the right toy. They know what toy is right. “

He hopped off his father’s knee and ran upstairs.

Mark checked on his son to make sure he was comfortably asleep in his bed, and then he went downstairs and laid back on the couch, turning on the television with a one word command. The blue light of the screen bombarded his eyes, the news filled with images of protestors insisting upon one issue or another. “We want to make our own mistakes!” a furious protestor yelled at a camera crew with the intensity of a rabid dog.

Mark laughed at the people screaming about wanting to be unhappy. Humans had always been striving for one goal: happiness. They had it now. These fools felt the need to throw bottles and smash things to prove how much they disliked happiness.

This was their happiness, the confetti of broken glass and the  howling of their cries.

Mark turned off the tube and enjoyed the regulation beer, which provided a faultless blend of sweet, bitter, and carbonation. Perfect.

Feb 152014

by Fran Free

Disturbing thoughts crept into my distraught consciousness–up to nine more inches of snow tomorrow. My left hand slowly reached for the telephone receiver as my right hand dialed . . . the cheerful answer at the other end of the line: “Good morning. You have reached the Florida Tourist Bureau. If you’re tired of snow and ice, press 1 . . .

“Tired of snow and ice? How could I possibly be tired of snow and ice?” I yelled into the receiver, “We’ve only had, what, 72 straight hours of blizzard-like conditions with a total now including the current week of more than 16 inches of snow, subzero temperatures, including a day where it got down to 17-below (with a 40-below wind-chill factor)–two polar vortices! How could I possibly be tired of snow and ice?”

My immediate thought was to throw the phone out the window. “Is this one of Al Gore’s climate changes or something? I bet Sarah Palin doesn’t even have to put up with this,” I mutter under my breath as I press “1.”

Poof! It feels like I’m being jerked sideways and then spun around several times. I hear tropical birds singing, waves crashing on a beach; calypso music fills the air.

The nice woman with the colorful bird on her shoulder is saying, “Welcome to the Sarasota Springs Warming Center in beautiful Sarasota Springs, Florida. You’ve been teleported here, dear. We could tell you’d had enough. You can sign up for shuffleboard over there,” she pointed.

Oct 012012

By Edward Lynd Kendall

Leonard Small, a newly minted young attorney, struggled up the long stairway to their modest walk up in Queens. He looked a fright, his face was bruised and there was an ugly red scrape across his cheek. He was a tall and good looking man with a full head of brown hair. Ordinarily, he was well turned out in a conservative blue suit, but presently his clothes were rumpled and dirty. His pretty young wife, Mary Jo, met him at the front door. She was appalled. This was unbelievable.

“For God’s sake, what happened? Wait a minute, I’ll get a Band Aid.” She rushed to the bathroom. When she returned with a large adhesive bandage and antiseptic he was slumped in his easy chair. He slowly sat up and looked her in the eye. This would be hard to explain.

“You won’t believe this. Well, I stopped for a short one on my way home from the office. The ugliest bastard I ever saw came staggering into Arney’s. Looked like he was drunk. Started cursing, the dirtiest talk you ever heard. Walked right up and got in my face. I was just standing there at the bar minding my own business. I gathered it was all about politics. He was right of right, didn’t know what he was talking about. I tried to ignore him. Arney told him to cool down.”

“He obviously hated the president cause he was black. One thing led to another. Lost my cool. Let him have it–right in the chops. Knocked him out cold. Went down like a sack of potatoes. It’s the honest-to-God truth. You can see I had to do it. Somebody called the cops. When this big Irish cop came in, it was all my fault. There he was on the floor and I was standing. I was the provocateur. Legally, presumptive evidence of guilt. You know I don’t get into fights. He took me down to the station and booked me.”

Mary Jo looked at her husband somewhat puzzled. “To tell the truth, I am shaking my head here. You never get into fights.”

“Got a rotten headache,” Leonard grasped his brow.

“Poor dear, I’ll get you an ice pack. That might help.”

“I could use a drink. How about a scotch on the rocks?”

She hurried to the kitchen to fix the drink.

He marveled at his wonderful wife’s caring attention, while thinking she sometimes didn’t understand a man’s point of view.

Massaging his temples, feeling the pulsing pain in his cheek, it suddenly occurred to him. If he were convicted of assault and battery in the state of New York his career at the bar would be over.

He yelled, “Honey, make that a double.”

Sep 012012

By Christopher Battle

I have old man’s hands.

At forty-one, I have my grandfather’s hands. Hands I remember during those last years before he died. More than anything I remember those hands needling fishing wire through the end of a pole on the Savannah marshes, the invigorating stench of salt and mud in the air. Or spiking still-fresh shrimp to the end of an old hook. I remember the time the small barb caught his thumb and how he cursed. He cursed with relish but always in a toned down language. Dabnamit, he’d say. Maybe hells bells when he was really mad. I remember crabbing at the end of a long wooden deck, holding twine between my finger and thumb, slowing pulling it up, watching these brainless creatures slicing and shredding uncooked chicken meat hooked on the string, slowly rolling it up until the outline of the crab, maybe two or three, cutting, slicing, eating, emerged in the translucent top of the water, and then netting them. How they must have been surprised despite the obvious. Dumping the crab onto the splintered deck, shaking them reluctantly from the net. How one scrambled sideways and he reached down carelessly and grabbed it near its legs, but too much forward, and that same weathered thumb getting crushed in the pincer of that small creature, the water evaporating from its shell in the heat of the sun. He brushed away the crab, careless in the way of someone who has been stuck, pinched, nicked and scraped hundreds of times over the years.

When I say I have my grandfather’s hands I do not mean the hands of his youth. Even in old age, his hands were vice-like. Your bones felt it when you shook hands with him. If he wanted to hold on to you, whether by the scruff of your neck or the cuff of your wrist, he could do so for as along as he wanted. They were hands shaped by years of sports – baseball, basketball, boxing – all through high school and college and then thirty-odd years as an electrical engineer at a paper plant.

My hands are not vice-like. They are thin. The veins throb on the back of them. They are ill. They are my grandfather’s hands. They are wizened and lined. Chaulky in color, as if I had rolled my hands in flower. The redness of my palms show through, but these shrunken tributaries and recessed lines cross my palms and the backs of my hands mercilessly, aging me on the spot. Grayed flakes of skin drop floorward. The metacarpals rise blustery, as if they want to break free of this sagging skin, but they are secured, tied down, by blue veins rising across them. You look closer, under the bones and the veins and there they, these lines crisscrossing my skin with the parched ferocity of a desert.

I have old man’s hands.


Sep 012012

By Kevin Moriarity

I pulled my damp T-shirt away from my back with one hand while wiping sweat from my eyes with the other. I was sitting on tarpaper, crouched behind a short wall that surrounded the apartment building’s roof. The only sounds were occasional traffic three floors below and the buzzing of wasps. I picked up a leaf and tossed it into the sky. It came straight down. Conditions were just about perfect for the task at hand.

He wasn’t up yet. He worked, if you can call it that, late at night. I knew quite a bit about his schedule and habits.

My cell phone vibrated. It was the nursing home.

“Hello… Hi Jackie. How is everything in paradise today?”

“No change. Well, thanks for letting me know. Talk to you tomorrow. Bye.”

It was the same phone conversation every day for the past 17 months. My wife was still unconscious, but breathing on her own. The doctors called it a coma.

Two young men had knocked her off her bicycle on the trail. The cameras on the bridge caught most of it – one shoving the other into my wife’s path. The jury deemed it an accident. But the sneer the young thug directed my way as he left the courtroom told me otherwise.

I thought I saw movement in the third floor, fifth-from-the-left-apartment. I put my eye to the scope and watched the blinds slide open. I took a deep breath and moved my finger to the trigger.

One more deep breath and I squeezed ever so gently.

Sep 012012

By John Wesser

He was one of America’s most beloved poets of the mid-19th century. He led a short and tragic life, but not before he made the hearts of young maidens swoon, back in those early wistful days of America. Of course, I speak of Paul Uric Preston Love, otherwise known to his closest friends as “Pup” or “Puppy” Love.

What is it about a poet who can see things in the world that ordinary mortal men cannot even dream? “Puppy” had an incredible acumen for imparting beauty to his readers — male, female, young, and old. His feelings were expressed in a style that was unlike any of his contemporaries, and like no poet since. In his own unique bravura and agonizing egotism, he attempted to expound upon the torture and ecstasy experienced in the heart of the versifier.

Born in New Jersey, in a mud hut not far from the Atlantic shore, he often whispered that it was from these humble beginnings that he developed his intrinsic love of the earth.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck early for the young lad. He was only six when he lost his family. They moved to New York, and forgot to take him along. A tenacious child, he immediately set out to find them.

It’s here he encountered a duo of roaming troubadours who, feeling pity for his plight, took him in and raised him as their own. These times came to be known as his education in the “arts and letters.” This is when we learn of his affair with the three young girls that inspired  his incipient work “Young Infatuation.”

It was at the age of 17, while returning home from a long romantic get-a-way, that “Puppy Love” discovered that he had once again lost his family. Tragically, in his absence, his newly adopted kindred had all died from eating poison mushrooms. Henceforth, he renewed his quest to find his original parents. We might ask ourselves, would we have done anything different?

He supported himself on this trek as a common laborer — toiling by day, while writing and loving by night. Although most of his works were published posthumously, it was during this time that he wrote his deepest and most inspirational work, the haunting “Picking Cherries.”

By the age of 21, and just into early manhood, “Puppy” contracted what was then called “Muscular Catastrophe.” Although his body was failing him, his mind was still alert, as were his passions and amorousness. It is said, when he finally succumbed to death’s knock at the young age of 27, it was with pen in hand, writing the passion he could no longer deliver.

Obsessed with his own libido, “Puppy Love” wrote penetrating works — expressed in such memorable verse as, “I come unto you, and into you,” — leaving a legacy that will be kept forever warm in the hearts of every young girl.