Issue Five: Fiction and Nonfiction

Have a look at the short stories, both fiction and nonfiction, of our latest issue.


Fiction

Tom Brewer
The Mounting Snow

A silent snow fell over Westerling. White flakes, tranquil little blessings, glided to the Earth and piled one on top of the last. Tricia Langley watched the peaceful winter scene from the drafty front room of her modest home. This was the Lord’s work, this snow, the white landscape proof of His brilliance. Fire popped and cracked from the hearth in the living room. The glory of God’s snowfall warmed Tricia’s heart.

When she was a girl, snow meant sledding with her sisters. The three of them, all bundled up in their coats and hats and scarves, raced awkwardly to Hardy Park and ran up the hill, their tiny little steps leaving tiny little tracks in the snow. They lied on aluminum trash can lids and sped headfirst to the flat, grassy area near the swing set, practically flying until they slid to a stop and, giggling, ran back up the hill. Those were the best of times, those winters when life felt wondrous and the world felt big. She only saw them on holidays now, her sisters. Cathy was in Chicago and Pat had settled in Philadelphia, but Tricia, the youngest, stayed in Westerling with her parents and her husband and her memories of those fun days in the snow. READ MORE.


Jack Harrell
Hearts Fail

You wake in the morning, feeling a weight that touches your skin but not the blankets, not the pajama pants or tee-shirt you’re wearing. Light comes in through the curtained window but the room seems dim. You hear your wife breathing beside you. The weight makes it hard to turn and see. Her eyes are open but she doesn’t move. She doesn’t speak. She stares at the ceiling, at nothing. The room is the same as always—your grandmother’s armoire, its doors closed; the open closet door and the clothes hanging there; the clutter of books and papers on her nightstand by the lamp. You push against the weight to turn and check the time on your phone. It’s 10:34 AM. You went to bed at ten last night—you don’t know how you could have slept in so long.

You find it difficult to speak. But you manage to say “It’s past ten” to your wife.

She doesn’t move. After a long moment, she simply says, “Oh.” READ MORE.


J.V. Sumpter
My Unspoken

My “house parents” should have been here ten minutes ago. Mr. DK waits with me to make sure I don’t dart out the office lobby and give my friends at Child Protective Services more reports to file. He keeps glancing at the clock. I swing my feet onto the chair next to me.

“Do you think putting Nair in the shampoo bottles is frowned on at the Home?” I’m trying to get used to saying “the Home” instead of “the Oklahoma Baptist Home for Girls.” I guess I could call it “the Asylum,” since it must be a place for crazy people. I mean, they’re sending me there. “I hope not. Shared laughter is the best way of making friends, and the Nair prank’s the only one I know.” READ MORE.


Nonfiction

Michelle McMillan-Holifield & Jennifer Marquez
Sook Jesus: The Vera Letters

Jenn, remember when we were about twelve, we sat down with Vera Jewel (or Veer Jool, as everyone called her) and recorded her stories? Back then, you donned thick-rimmed 80’s glasses. I was a short, stocky third baseman. She, our common thread, our silver-haired grandmother.

How blessed we are to have those recordings. I listen today and relish how easily and sweetly she talked about Jesus, how she’d break into old hymns, her age-worn voice lifting in falsetto but her heart: her pure heart so full. Jenn, how sweet that sound. READ MORE.


Charles Eggerth
A Better House

The houses in his dream were imaginary. Plausible, but imaginary. In a better world, they would have been built.

He had dreamed his father and uncle had houses side by side, on his grandfather’s farm place. His uncle really did have a house there, by a driveway lined with boxelder, cottonwood, ash, and elm trees, but his family lived on a different farm place two hours away.

The reason for that was pretty simple. His dad and his granddad didn’t get along. At least not in proximity. READ MORE.


Jessica Hartenbower
For the Darkest of Deserts

On Ash Wednesday, I cried for mercy. As the church entered the season of Lent, I lamented my own spiritual desert. I grieved again the perpetual feeling I can only describe as dark. I have lived here for much longer than forty days. With little hope left in my heart, Ash Wednesday reminded me that Jesus suffered a desert, too. So I cried again for mercy.

I don’t know how to describe my ever-looming sadness except through jumbled metaphors and spiritual symbols of liturgical tradition. I suppose in some ways it’s the outworking of the deep-rooted feelings of my unworthiness to be alive, and therefore to be loved at all, especially by the God of the universe. That type of existential insecurity doesn’t leave much room for joy. There are people who have seen glimpses of my brokenness and tried to understand, to offer fragments of healing. They have been near while God has felt distant, each tangibly revealing God’s character toward me when I couldn’t see or feel Him on my own. READ MORE.


Desiree McCullough
Slick and Safe

I wouldn’t drop my baby.

Intentionally, right?

The vacuum hums in and out. Back and forth. Back and forth. My husband vacuums our tiny living room. My firstborn child is knit within my stickiness as I gaze from the balcony of our third-floor apartment.

Our dog’s hair formed a mesh-like layer on the carpet that has now become intolerable. We’re still in survival mode. Training our baby to sleep with background noise is not a priority. That’s for later. Today, I yearn for his continued slumber because, well, I’m petrified for his waking. READ MORE.


Christianna Soumakis
Dear Danny Middleton

It was 2013 when I met you on that mission trip to Cap Haïtien, Haiti, to build a church/school for underprivileged children. It was my first missions trip, and the first trip I ever went on without my family.

It wasn’t your first mission trip, or your second, or your third. You and your wife lived in Arkansas with your many children and grandchildren: biological, adopted, and fostered. You looked a little like Santa.

I remember your voice better than your face. Like an old log, kind and crumbling. A little decadent, soft with returning its nature to the earth. Low as the ground, a quiet rumble. I remember you made a joke about our trip leader, irreverent and completely at peace with your irreverence. We laughed in surprise and delight. READ MORE.


Bob Kunzinger
Offer It Up

Walking the Camino de Santiago, the roughly five-hundred-mile pilgrim trail from France through Spain to pay homage at the tomb of the apostle St James the Greater, is a psychological and physical challenge for the strongest of minds and healthiest of bodies. On the one hand, the patience, pacing, and contemplation necessary to walk day in and day out for a month were more common traits in the 12th century, making them mental roadblocks for the average American used to a 21st century momentum. It takes several days at least to accept that every single step must be considered and carried out consciously instead of habitually. READ MORE.


Anthony Butts
Visionism: Of Schizophrenia & Spirituality

My second ever “vision” lay transposed between myself and the nineteen-inch black and white television before me, sitting as a five-year-old child in my Coke bottle glasses in the year 1974. I thought nothing of it, having been witness to so many tragic events already (as I knew, even then, that we were the true Addams family). The vision shown hazily before me, sort of grayish and transparent, almost schematic in nature. A tiny television camera pointed back at me from within a screen. READ MORE.


Niles Reddick
In the Fullness of Time

It was a roll of the dice whether I felt the call or felt the elbow shove of one of my friends, trying to get me saved, so we could one day ride bikes on the streets of gold in heaven. We felt nuclear war would come because we’d heard it was a toss-up whether Reagan was the anti-Christ (Ronald Wilson Reagan=666) or whether it was Gorbachev with the mark of the beast being a birthmark on his forehead. Either way, I found myself in the center aisle of the church and stumbled toward the “This Do in Remembrance of Me” table while the minister ushered me to the front pew until after the last verse of “Just as I Am” where he could show me off to the members and they could vote on my salvation. I was twelve. READ MORE.


Read Issue Five:

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