Tom Baragwanath: Gorgeous Blue

Keller was late to the party, later even than the Phillips had come to expect. He’d neglected to wrap Rachel’s gift before leaving and had to stalk the house for paper and ribbon, settling on a vaguely festive red bag mashed inside a kitchen drawer.

The hallway mirror told him the chowder stain across his breast was more apparent than he’d realized. It was his only jacket; he’d have to find a dark corner of the ballroom and hope no one came too close. Then, as a grace note on the evening’s already stammering shuffle, he found his station wagon still loaded with cement mix. By the time he unloaded everything and pulled into the road his collar was soaked, his skull squeezed tight. He wished he’d remembered a flask.

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AN Block: Once the Fireworks Start

My Bubbe came over from the other side packed in steerage like a sardine when she was eleven, then headed straight to a shirt factory. She had no choice. One of twelve children, she never learned to read or write, she spoke broken English and had to go through a lot of hardship in her lifetime. By the time I came along Bubbe needed a cane, she walked side to side and stopped to rest after every few steps, but she’d seen things other people hadn’t, and knew things they didn’t know.

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Susan Dugan: Rice Pudding

I have no photos of that bleak holiday when I was eight years old. My mother had died, along with my unborn sister who was to be named Jackie, just two weeks before President Kennedy’s assassination. There’s only a collage of mental images more vivid than Kodachrome that I sometimes still shuffle through when awake in the middle of the night. Always, I am drawn to the specter of me kneeling at the tarnished grate in the floor of Aunt Louise’s guest room, peering down at the cavernous wood stove, straining to decipher a hushed conversation between my aunt and father at the kitchen table beside the iced-up window just beyond my visual field.

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Don Fredd: Temp to Perm: A Journey

May 7

Edwardo is on my case again.  The temporary title of acting manager at The Napolitano Ristorante weighs uneasily upon his crown.  I can always tell when the “suits” that monitor this branch of the franchise are planning an inspection.  Everything is swept, then double swept.  I am warned to follow the rules with regard to how many ounces of topping the manuals call for.  I’ve explained all too often that, when I’m busy, it’s grab a handful of mushrooms or peppers and dress the pie.  I don’t have time to weigh everything.  I usually add the fact that I’m the only pizza guy who works alone, juggling and tossing the pies with dazzling acrobatics which has them nearly touching the ceiling—a great crowd pleaser.   I then dress many different combos while my sixth sense tells me when to check the oven.

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Anne Goodwin: Her Knight in Shining Armour

Ella looked up from where she knelt at the fireplace, raking cinders from the bottom of the grate. Her father loved a log fire in the evenings but, like a small boy begging for a puppy, he had no notion of the time and energy lost in feeding it and cleaning up its mess. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “I’d love to, Gris, but you know what it’s like.” Continue reading “Anne Goodwin: Her Knight in Shining Armour”

Matthew Andrews: Seeing Tomorrow

Lewis rolled onto his back. He first noticed it when he could see the dark outline of the tip and bridge of his nose against the morning light leaking through the window blinds. No no no, he thought. As a test, he raised his right hand toward his bedroom ceiling and opened both eyes wide. Beyond the front edge of his nose, he only saw his hand and the beginning of his wrist. He slowly moved his arm left. It was not until his arm crossed his torso that Lewis could see his forearm. “Shit!” he shouted. He pounded the bed with his right hand clenched. “Not today.” His breath quickened. Moisture built in his eyes. Continue reading “Matthew Andrews: Seeing Tomorrow”

Chris Pellizzari : Trapped in Darien

Jimmy Belino sits up in bed, his heart pounding. He looks around his room. He breathes slowly, through his nose and out his mouth. He knows the routine. He has battled anxiety and depression in this room more than any other place. Damn this insomnia, he says to himself. He falls asleep for a couple hours, then wakes up. It takes him another three hours to fall back to sleep. It plays hell with his anxiety.

“St. Therese, why am I still here? Why didn’t you take me last night?” he says out loud. Continue reading “Chris Pellizzari : Trapped in Darien”

G. W. Clift: My Husband Had a Mid-Life Crisis

One night when Dan was out of town, I awoke in the middle of a rain storm, sure I had heard a voice between the bursts of thunder coming from outside my bedroom.

“Look in the cistern,” the voice whispered in my ear. “Look in the cistern and you will find . . .”

The final words were covered by a timpani roll and I couldn’t make out what it was the voice was telling me. In fact, I figured the message was intended for my husband. Ghostly voices didn’t usually speak to me in the middle of the night. Continue reading “G. W. Clift: My Husband Had a Mid-Life Crisis”

Alice K. Boatwright: Life Sentences

Jack Hillyer waited on the deck while the Masons made a last tour of the house. He studied the scene below him: Easton, tucked against its curving harbor with a ferry standing at the dock, the pale green landing strip carved between dark woods and golden meadows, and, beyond, other islands floating like green hummocks on the shining water.

The cove where he and Patti lived was down to the left, hidden from this vantage point, but he knew exactly where it was and could picture everything in its place: The woods, the cabin, the patch of garden, and Patti. He set Patti on the porch, reading in the butterfly chair, her legs folded up, long red hair pulled back with a rubber band. Not that she was a big reader, but he had seen her that way one afternoon and liked the image. He carried it in his memory like the faded photograph of his two children that he kept in his wallet. He would call it up and say to himself, “This is Patti, the woman I love.”

He glanced at his watch and took out his cell phone to let her know he’d be home soon, but the muffled sound of a door closing made him put away the phone and turn back to the house instead. Continue reading “Alice K. Boatwright: Life Sentences”

Robert Wexelblatt: Hsi-wei and the Three Threes

Before retiring to his cottage outside Chiangling, the peasant/poet Chen Hsi-wei had always been on the move.  When the news spread that he was able to receive visitors, several came.  Among the most welcome was Liu Qing-sheng, who, before his own retirement, had been a second minister in the last years of the Sui dynasty.  Liu and Hsi-wei had been pupils together under Shen Kuo, an exacting and formidable master.  As the two friends shared recollections, both noted that the pains of their youth were somehow more delightful to recall than the pleasures.  “The alchemy of age,” Hsi-wei mused, “is magical.  It seems to have transmuted resentment of our Master’s sarcasm and fear of his bamboo cane into something almost like affection.”  Continue reading “Robert Wexelblatt: Hsi-wei and the Three Threes”