Have a look at the short stories of our latest issue.
The day Darwin told his grandfather about his intentions, they faced each other like two players at a chessboard among the volumes and volumes of worn leatherbound copies, stacked ramshackle in bookshelves or in precarious towers he sometimes used as end tables to set his dingy reading glasses. Even slouched in his armchair, his grandfather towered above him. The bushy grey beard concealed his lips, and, when he spoke, Darwin often imagined the tips of those chin hairs singed by his words.
“Don’t tell me you actually believe all that nonsense?” he snapped… READ MORE.
Angel of Death Victorious
“He must be a hoarder,” Chaela said, finger falling from the wing of the green-tinged angel.
She blinked. “God. You know, the Father?”
Gabby smiled. The church had gotten one thing right: only a man could have caused so much pain.
“How’s he have room up there—for all the souls? And all the events, the memories everybody ever had.”
Gabby imagined her sister’s soul, dangling from a jammed drawer in a room bursting with all the heartaches and joys of the dead. And the Creator, bloated on a love seat, thumbing food stains on his muscleman tee… READ MORE.
Nicholas A. Carrington
Words and Symbols
Maisie grimaced as the needle hit her skin. She welcomed the pain though. Some pains are like wet blankets you throw over more fiery aches. The needle that carved through her arm was just that, engulfing the flames and leaving ink in its wake.
She breathed deeply, relieved to feel something different. For the last nine years, October 19th reminded her that she was alone, and she always tried something new to help her forget. This year, she was trying to remember… READ MORE.
If Jesus Doesn’t Mind, I Don’t
If it had been any other statue in his garden, Martin wouldn’t have minded so much. But there was something wrong about birds sitting on top of the Madonna’s head and defacing the baby Jesus in her arms. There were plenty of cement figurines and ornaments to choose from. This was a big flower garden riotous with color and overflowing with plants bulging around gazing balls, animal sculptures, bird baths, a sundial and a large pink flamingo with its foot upraised.
Martin did not consider himself a religious man. He’d quit going to church when the kids grew up and left home, but standing there on the sidewalk in front of the defaced Jesus, he felt a twinge that something was just not right about it all. The Madonna had been a gift to his wife, and it was a beautiful addition to the garden, white and serene and clean sitting on the edge of a bird bath above a sea of red roses… READ MORE.
Avery S. Campbell
David Falter turned into the uphill drive to an abandoned farmstead and killed the lights. The moonlight was bright enough for him to keep him on the path. Still, because of all the pot and the beer, he veered from one side to the other, barely avoiding the ditch. He brought the car to a stop beneath a lone cottonwood and shut off the engine.
Wolf and the girl he had picked up were already going at it in the back seat. David grabbed the three beers left in the six-pack and reached for the bag of pot but decided against it. Instead, he pushed the door open, stood up too quickly, careened back against the side of the car, and slammed it shut. There was a muffled “what the?” from the girl, with Wolf mumbling that it was just Falter.
David found his balance and lurched forward to the front step of the ramshackle farmhouse. He whirled dizzily, plopped down, pulled one of the beers from its plastic ring, popped its top, and tossed it into the weedy yard. He took a long drink, pulled a Marlboro Light from its pack, and lit up… READ MORE.
Her throat drained dry when the minister began his sermon. She tried to resist the cough, even with its patient insistence on spilling into the air. She formed a hallow space in her fist and exhaled into it. Still she felt the tickle at the back of her throat. She attempted to swallow the urge back into her body. For years she wished her mother would hand her a lifesaver candy like the boy in the commercial was given, but that never happened. Each Sunday she struggled to keep it under control.
While she squelched the tickle, she tried to absorb words, but felt the tightening of her shoulders. A nerve at the base of her skull began to twinge; pain burst from the top of her head.
She became restless in the wooden pew. Perhaps the weight of her halo was too heavy. She wiggled about, trying to tumble the halo off, until her mother stopped her with a quick, discreet, slap on the back of her neck. Sometimes that slap would knock the halo a little more askew. By eleven, her halo tumbled from her failed grasp… READ MORE.
“You aren’t the man I married.”
My wife had thrown that at me three weeks ago as she walked out the door. I resented the statement, but couldn’t argue. Sitting in my home office, the words played over and over in my head as I tried to concentrate on the presentation I had to finish before work tomorrow. It was always in the evenings I realized how empty my house was without her.
My gaze drifted to the picture still next to my computer. Making our vows to never leave. I gritted my teeth. Grabbing the picture, I swung around and hurled it at the wall. The satisfying crunch of glass released my tension and I turned back to the computer. What right had she to criticize me? After all, I’d only become the man I’d promised to be. Someone who could provide anything she ever wanted. That was who I should be. Wasn’t it?… READ MORE.
Cookies and Rosaries
To me, having a calling seemed like the coolest thing ever. Mostly, I had no idea what being called entailed, but the second I turned 20, I got mine. While other girls my age were cruising Central Avenue with the top down dying to experience one-night stands, I was hopping on a plane across country to minister to the needy. During my impressionable teen years, I devoured books about Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, and Ammon Hennacy. I stood in awe of people who sacrificed their lives for others—those chosen by God to do extraordinary things—like Father Damian, who went to Molokai to care for lepers. My mother, while thankful her teenage daughter wasn’t hooked on sex, drugs, and rock and roll, tried to sidetrack my save-the-world fervor by tempting me with fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies and shopping trips.
“Why do you have to go so far away?” my mother asked in a trembling voice. I had blindly signed up to volunteer at a Catholic mission 2,600 miles away. In an era before email, iPhones, and GPS tracking devices, parental worry came with the territory. She couldn’t even Yelp the place. “What do you know about this mission anyway?”
“I am being called by God. Don’t worry. I’ll write to you. It’s not like I’m going to Africa or anything,” I replied, secretly considering how that would have been way cooler, like in the movie The Nun’s Story when Audrey Hepburn becomes a nun and goes to the Congo… READ MORE.
Katy Huth Jones
Mum’s Not the Word, Love Is
When I first met my mother-in-law to-be, I was thrilled. Having been an Anglophile since my junior high crush on the Monkees’ Davy Jones, I couldn’t believe my good fortune to marry a tall, handsome gentleman named David Jones with a Mum from Manchester, England. How much fun we would have getting to know one another!
Even before the marriage, my illusions began to crumble. We wanted a small wedding, immediate family only and a few college friends. I asked my two sisters to stand with me, and he asked his two brothers. Mum insisted her twelve-year-old daughter had to be a bridesmaid too. And she “had” to invite her extended family, even though I explained there might not be room in the small chapel. I gave in to keep peace. After all, I didn’t want to start off on the wrong foot. I had dreams of a special closeness with my new mother-in-law, like Ruth and Naomi, since my mother and I had a strained relationship, due to my recently becoming a Christian… READ MORE.
The Return of Suzy Sunshine
My first real job at sixteen was as a laundry aide in a nursing home. I can truly say that job was awful. The smell. The heaping mounds of dirty bed sheets long before adult diapers were widely in use. The only time it was fun was when I took my cart full of clean laundry and delivered fresh bedding to patients’ rooms. Blankets, sheets, pillowcases, towels, facecloths, all sanitized, smelling of bleach and laundry soap, now bright white. The patients were so happy to see me.
Then I moved up in the world—literally from the basement laundry room to the first floor—where I now had a cart full of cleaning supplies. Housekeeping. Certainly better than filthy laundry. I remember the routine. Toilets, sinks, then bathroom floors. Dust furniture, dry mop, then wet mop floors in patient rooms. In and out. I left everything sparkling clean. When I’d first gone to work my father admonished me, “If you get paid for an hour’s work and you only do forty-five minutes of work, you are stealing.” I never stole. I took his work ethics seriously. Fifteen-minute coffee breaks. Half-hour lunch breaks. My sister worked as a kitchen aide (a glorified title for a dishwasher) and if we were on shift at the same time during weekends, we’d sneak away together to the basement TV room for our lunch breaks where we would catch Scooby Doo’s antics on the small screen. We weren’t allowed “Scooby Doo” at home because the show involved the supernatural—(You can guess by now that my father was very strict and this was because he was a Jehovah’s Witness, and he was raising us to be the same)…. READ MORE.