Issue Eight: Fiction and Nonfiction

Have a look at the short stories of Issue Eight…


Matt Hollingsworth
The Sky Is Solid

Once there was a child named Donovan Baylor, and Donovan was the most handsome child in all the world, and his mother would sit him in her lap on the rocking chair and tell him that he was destined for great things. She said that he could do anything he wanted and to never listen to anybody who says, “You can’t.”

And as Donovan grew up, those around him discovered that he was not only the most handsome child, but also the smartest and hardest working. He would stay up late studying for school, never once slacking, and he always got the best grades. And he never listened to those kids who called him a teacher’s pet or try-hard, or anyone who told him, “You can’t.”…READ MORE.

Jennifer Stewart
The Exchange

From below, an unrelenting knocking upon the door breaks into her Saturday lie-in, her sanctuary of solitude. She doesn’t wish to interact or be disturbed. But no one else is home. So she clutches the banister and feels every shag stairstep down to see a boy, barefoot as she, standing on the front porch. Leggy limbs have a shameless running start, the trousers and shirt lagging behind, a bit demoralised…READ MORE.

Brooke Stanish
Oh, Lover of Bethlehem

They told me I was crazy when I confessed that I loved you—you, the man who washed donkey hooves for a living with a bowl and a cloth, gathering sweat stains on your lower back at which I couldn’t help but stare as if they were not drops of sweat but stars. There are few things more intimate than this. They told me I was crazy when I confessed that I’d do anything to be near you. Really? Even be a concubine? one of them asked—the one you never liked, the one with blonde eyes who’d bring her husband’s donkeys and hardly look at you, their hooves wrapped in earth. At first I said No, and then I said Maybe, and finally I hoped, Well, he’d never make me. He’d want to marry me surely, which, of course, you never did…READ MORE.

April Bumgardner
Anna of the Temple

Slightly bent, she drew her shawls loosely about her thin body. Otherwise, there was little else to belie her eighty-four years. Eighty-four years she had been on the earth, yet her eyes still sparkled. Her step was still lively. Yes, admittedly, her routine was set and her life likely appeared small, but the verve with which she arose each morning, scrubbed her face, and covered the kilometer to the temple was palpable and infectious. She greeted the same people each day on the way to the market, to deliveries, and on errands, and, of course, those who orbited the temple.

Eighty-four years. It was a long time to live, a long time to wait. But then, her people knew how to wait. Not always virtuously or patiently. Sometimes it was with bitterness or anger or accusation, but, oh, they could wait…READ MORE.

Kelly Duffy

I meet my gaze in the reflection of the plexiglass. The mascara stains I tried to wipe off in the car have faded into the red on my cheeks, and my once well-done ponytail is now a mess of static. I am a mess of static.

The sound of a heavy door pushing air into the room jolts me from my staring contest, and he walks in. Handcuffs. My chest flails, my cheeks flush. I shiver at the sound of metal meeting metal, coming closer to me, wrapped around the wrists of one of few men I once trusted the most in this lifetime. Any level of preparation I had for this moment is gone with my eventual exhale as the officer leads him to the seat across from me. Beyond the glass, he picks up the phone to the right, and I do the same…READ MORE.

Diana Pollin
Running From Mary Jane

I ran—who wouldn’t? I took the car, a beat-up Chevy SUV so dusty that you wouldn’t know its original color, couldn’t tell if it was black or dark blue or gray. It lurched when I turned the key and stalled. The dust of the desert settles on everything; it creeps into motors and acts like sandpaper. It covers everything as it eats its way in.

I cursed and tried again—this time I got the Chevy going. I don’t know how the car was still alive, or me for that matter. It was, is, her car—Mary Jane’s. I was, am, her husband. I turned the wheel and made for the gate. Right or left?…READ MORE.

Jeffrey Wald
Friggin’ Dvořák

I see you lookin’ at my tats. Every splash of ink tells a tale. Take this serpent here on my right forearm. My nephew was having a rough go of it, his dad having died in that farm accident, and his mom, my sister Diane, having a real hard time getting out of bed after that. So I’d told my sister I’d take Ronnie, that’s my nephew, on a bike trip.

We left Casselton about nine in the morning and hit Medora about four and a half hours later. I’d long ago taken to “roughin’ it” and packed light and didn’t much care for camp sites or being around people when I was trying to be out in the wild. I knew a little god forsaken dirt path, not even gravel, just outside Teddy Roosevelt Park where I could take the bike in about 15 miles, far away from everybody…READ MORE.

Joseph A Farina
Religious Studies

The Society of Mary of the Most Holy Rosary met each Thursday after school, at the rectory of Our Lady of Mercy Church, to pray the rosary and to clean votive candles. Kerosene and Hail Marys filled the air as we cleaned out old wax and inserted new candles in the red and white votive holders. All the while Mary Jane would be fingering her rosary, leading us in holy work and holy prayer…READ MORE.

Jay Simons
Ring Around the Collar

Function over form, the priest told himself as he pulled out onto the street in his old gray Volkswagen Golf. It wasn’t the nicest car he had owned, but it was functional, enabling him to run errands around town and administer the sacrament to housebound parishioners. He was obligated, of course, to be modest in his expenditures, though he had never been one for conspicuous displays anyway. The only adornment hung from the narrow neck of the rearview mirror: a plastic crucifix that suspended itself at impossible angles whenever he made a turn or ran into a rough stretch of road. On this Monday afternoon, the crucifix swayed to the left as he pulled into the parking lot of the religious supply shop. After this stop, it would be on to the grocery store…READ MORE.


Thomas O’Connell
Hell Is Nostalgia

The young girl’s fear of Heaven comes from her fear of situations that are tedious. How can you convince a child that sitting around singing eternal praises can compare with earthly passions? You are bound to embellish. That is when the cottony clouds become mattresses you are allowed to jump on, and the unfathomable uncreated creator becomes a bearded old man who fills heavenly tables with sweets and lemonade…READ MORE.

D.M. Gralewski
Baseball, Bootcamp & Ballet: Reflections on Biblical Womanhood, Alphabetically Arranged

Pitcher Connie Wisniewski was selected Player of the Year (1945) in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, featured in the publication Major League Baseball. That season, she won 32 games, lost 11, and achieved a previously unheard of .81 ERA. The “Iron Woman” pitched and won a double-header against the Racine Belles and led the win-loss percentage (pitching) for three consecutive years. She also played on the league’s first All Star team in 1946.

Fellow ballplayer Magdalen “Mamie” Redman remembered Connie as a mentor to her and other rookies: “She got us together and coached us… She was a big star. She didn’t have to do what she did. That was the kind of person she was.”…READ MORE.

Katy Huth Jones
Becoming Grace

My middle name is Grace. It says so on my birth certificate. I was named after my grandmother, who was a graceful and gracious woman. But no matter how hard I tried, there was nothing graceful about me for the first forty-six years of my life.

I was the awkward child, the one always picked last for team games at recess, the one who tripped over her own feet and fell off a skateboard, even while sitting on it. I missed the A honor roll because I couldn’t do a cartwheel in P.E., and Grandpa’s hammock wrestled me to the ground, no matter how hard I tried to balance. Do people actually relax in those contraptions?…READ MORE.

Bethany Jarmul
Wade in the Water

I’m 11, shaking beneath the pastel sky and shy June sun, wading in cold water up to my belly button, wearing a neon orange swimsuit and goosebumps. The smell of chlorine, cut grass, and dewy earth fills my nostrils. I bite my lip and look at the small crowd gathered around the reflective water. Their eyes are on me as I tuck a loose strand of hair behind my ear.

The 20 people surrounding me are all members of our “Amen”-saying, tongues-speaking, holy-rolling, driving-out-the-devil church from the hills of West Virginia. We’re here, around Pastor’s backyard pool, for a baptism ceremony. Pastor, a balding, glasses-wearing man with kind eyes, leads our 40-person non-denominational church however he sees fit. Today, that means I’m to be baptized in his pool, surrounded by my family, fellow saints, and a red-and-white privacy fence…READ MORE.

Denise Kohlmeyer
Lesson Learned

Nobody wants Hazel. Including me.

Hazel is unattractive, with dark, prickly hairs protruding from her chin and upper lip. Her fingers are grotesquely curled, her knuckles large as walnuts. Her grey-blue eyes bulge like a frog’s, and she is bent over like a broken branch.

I admit that the first time I saw Hazel, I recoiled. The old hag from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves came immediately to mind.

Nobody wants Hazel. Including me…READ MORE.

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