Darren Montufar: Nothing Changes but the End

“I’m tired,” Ramona said to Henrietta. “It’s my heart arrhythmia.” 

That was the diagnosis of her doctor back home. Ramona’s once-estranged daughter, Carrie, had scheduled this meeting with a practitioner, Henrietta, hoping to ease her mom’s symptoms. The appointment had been made as a sign of goodwill, but also of love.

“Consider this stuffed bear,” Henrietta said, setting a stuffed bear on a table within reach.

Ramona looked at the stuffed bear. “What kind of doctor are you, again?”

Continue reading “Darren Montufar: Nothing Changes but the End”

Christie Cochrell: Release

“Where’s she going?” Denny’s cousin Jayden demanded.

“I’m just going,” Georgiana furiously answered Jayden’s incredulous snort, as he and Denny stood together in the doorway, looking all but twins, from buzz cut down to Naked Pig Pale Ale bottle in each frat-ringed right hand, to the Look they were giving her, in perfect unison.  They filled the sharp-edged doorway of the Airbnb kitchen she referred to inwardly as heavy metal—floor to ceiling stainless steel, in her mind like the lifeless steel of a morgue in one of those crime shows they watched way too often.

Continue reading “Christie Cochrell: Release”

P. M. Baird: Weary

He looked up from his phone and stopped, his hand on the glass of the building’s door, cool at first, then, as he stood there, he felt the heat of the day pressing in or his own heat pushing out. He was trying to formulate something that didn’t entail walking right by her. He wouldn’t know what to say if there was anything to say. What was there to say? Why would he say anything? It had been at least two hours since he’d watched her leave Jenn’s office crying. Had she been sitting there with her legs tucked up under herself on the edge of the company parking lot since then?

Continue reading “P. M. Baird: Weary”

Don Stoll: The Honest World

Maggie Dalton with me? In my dreams, you might think. You might think, not in my league. Like she’s Alabama and I’m some weak sister school from California. Stanford, let’s say. No chance. But why not try? Nothing to lose anymore. She says no, she says no. Not like worse hasn’t happened to me. Anyway, shit I’ve been through, who’s to say what she’s been through doesn’t have me beat? So maybe she needs a friend, even if it’s just one night.

Continue reading “Don Stoll: The Honest World”

Anthony Ashley: Coyotes

They sit aside one another, two brothers, cleaning dove as the last light stretches and dies. They sit on the porch in two worn metal chairs and work their hands, stopping only to drink from the bottles beside them. They make the same movements for each dove. Mirroring one another. Locked together in this. They pull and pluck the breast feathers until the dark purple of the meat appears. They grab the small knife from their laps and cut where the breast touches the bone. They pull, sliding their fingers into the bird’s chest and bringing them away so that they hold the delicate pearl of meat. Then they place it inside the bowl that sits between them, toss the waste, and take a drink before beginning again.

Continue reading “Anthony Ashley: Coyotes”

Parker Fendler: Complimentary

As with so many next mornings, he contemplated the previous night’s mistakes. A lump shifted under the covers, twisting the sheet from him. He wrenched it back and wrapped it around his waist as he forced himself onto wobbly legs.

“Baby, it’s cold,” the lump said. Then it burrowed under the comforter and was quiet.

A sliver of light peaked through the seam in the blackout shade to guide him across the spinning hotel room until his feet found the cold marble of the bathroom floor. He let the sheet fall so that the only thing he was wearing was his wedding ring. A misfired stream of piss sprayed the tile. He dragged the sheet through it with his foot. The poor maid. Was there a grosser job than Las Vegas maid?

Continue reading “Parker Fendler: Complimentary”

W. T. Paterson: Barn Cat

Arlene awoke to the loud purring and uneasy shuffling of Purdy the pregnant barn cat ready to pop. She reached over with a chin scratch to calm the aches of the mother-to-be. Once Purdy gave birth, Mrs. Krieger promised Arlene a kitten to keep as an early eighth birthday present. She couldn’t wait to raise the baby animal the same way the Krieger’s had adopted and raised her on their Wisconsin cattle farm. Every day was a new chore, a new harvest, or a new blossom as the grass grazing field blended into the golden hay field, all rippling like water in the wind. When Arlene’s unwed mother got knocked up once again by a local, she was sent to live in a convent for wayward women near Chicago, where the land swelled with hardened brick and empty pavement. The concept of family wasn’t as black and white as other townspeople liked to preach.

Continue reading “W. T. Paterson: Barn Cat”

Barbara Kuessner Hughes: Parakeet Green

It’s always too late in the day to get through to Dylan, or too early.

‘Dylan . . .’ Annabeth says, going up to the sofa where he has sprawled for the past six months, and looking down at his clammy face.

Either he’s just had a drink and entered a parallel plane where he’s unreachable, or he needs a drink and can’t concentrate.  Annabeth feels like rapping on his skull with her knuckles.  Hello, is anybody home?

He surprises her by opening his eyes. ‘Going shopping?’ His voice is oiled with inebriation.  She looks into those dark pools, once bright, now brackish, searching for the slightest shine of affection. She might as well be gazing at a stranger in a tube train.

Continue reading “Barbara Kuessner Hughes: Parakeet Green”

Joel Hinman: Nobody Listens

Dekko Cahill is a bull of a man. His head has the girth and heft of a field stone. There are places where his skin even looks like pink granite, a dull tongue color flecked with gray patches underneath his eyes. Dekko grips the edges of the examination table with both hands. His shirt is off and his braces dangle down to his boot tops. The great silver shag of his chest rises and falls as he watches the doctor pace back and forth. Dekko looks down at the man’s tiny feet. He doesn’t want to be here nor hear what the doctor has to say. 

The doctor opens the medical folder theatrically. 

“You were supposed to come back and see me 18 months ago,” the Doctor says. 

Dekko kneads his scalp with thick fingers, knuckles raw from rough work. “When I feel poorly my wife gives me a pill,” Dekko says.

The Doctor glances over. “She’s a pharmacist?”

“A vet,” Dekko says. 

Continue reading “Joel Hinman: Nobody Listens”