Issue Nine: Fiction and Nonfiction

Have a look at the short stories of Issue Nine…


Greg Rapier

Phil sipped on his Coke. Counted his chips. One black, three greens. Handful of reds. Nowhere near the five-hundred he started with, but he was trending up. He could get there. If he played right.

The dealer slid a Jack and a three across the table. Gave himself a nine. The crinkled printout in Phil’s wallet—which he had memorized but carried anyway—said to hit. So, he hit.

Tap, tap—another three…READ MORE.

Margaret Beasley

The man behind the curtain was singing again. He’d been singing when they’d brought him in early that morning. It wasn’t even truly singing—more like humming. The song was stirringly familiar, yet somehow Eastman could not name it. The man was out of tune…. Out of tune. Shell shock seemed to affect them all differently; he was out of tune. It was beginning to disturb Eastman. The only thing in his possession was silence—and the man was robbing him of even this…READ MORE.

Maura H. Harrison
The Final Sentence

I never expected Death to show up wearing a gold lamé jacket, red caiman cowboy boots, and silk evening gloves. The shininess of her surfaces made me think of vitality and inspiration, not completion and conclusion. Her cloud of fireflies was also distracting, each fly hovering and blinking on-and-off in the shape of a word, with the overall effect being a staggered and syncopated coming and going of poetic thought. “Little” and “love” and “see” appeared near her neck, disappeared, and then reemerged as little sparks of “today” and “paradise” and “me” at the tips of her fingers…READ MORE.

Mathew Block
Nunc Dimittis

Simeon was in the supply closet, taking a break and eating his supper: bologna and mustard sandwiches. As was his custom, he was also reading his Bible as he ate.

Simeon had spent nearly forty years working at the school as a janitor, and he took pride in his work. He wasn’t the smartest man, he was quick to say, but he knew cleaning inside out. Even so, he was getting older, and the job didn’t go as smoothly as it used to. He was taking more breaks each evening, and the hours required to get everything done were growing. Worse, his eyesight was deteriorating, meaning he had to bend down to inspect his work more often than he liked…READ MORE.

Zee Mink
Sometimes the Rain Comes Hard

I lost my job yesterday. Today my father died. A flat tire greeted me on my old Ford pick-up… something else unexpected. I threw my coffee-stained canvas satchel into the front seat. I changed the tire, climbed into the cab looking straight at an old black and white photo clipped to my visor. A tiny girl clad in faded overalls and a flannel shirt was clasping the hand of a large dark-haired smiling man. Prying myself away from comforting memories, I look out my cracked windshield, seeing evening storm clouds brewing in the New Mexico sky. I push in the clutch, shift into reverse, back out the driveway heading to see my father’s serene face for the last time…READ MORE.

Noelle Wells
The Gospel of Skirts

“God intended to clothe you,” my mother would say when every skirt I wore was too short and every shirt gave opportunity for Daddy to sermonize the scandal of my neckline, “Higher up! Lower down!” He’d preach and I’d follow, hungry for the whiff of his presence blowing in then speeding out of our home…READ MORE.

Robert Kibble
These Three Remain

Alice sees the church door, and as with every door for such a long time, she imagines someone standing behind it, ready to pounce. She walks on, and with an effort avoids turning to check.

Alice stands at the back, surprised how many people have fitted into the small church. The heat of the afternoon gives way to an uncanny chill inside the ancient building. Somewhere under this vaulted ceiling stands her sister. At the front, probably, or the first row back. She will have planned everything to the last detail, as is her way. She will have thrown herself into organising in order to distract herself from yet another tragedy…READ MORE.

Avery S. Campbell
The Watcher and the Boy

I had little to do but watch and had watched for a long time. I have wondered why I made an effort. All there was to hold my attention was the boy and his doomed attempts to keep his little stream in its banks.

When I grew even more indifferent, I gazed at the horizon. Unlike the boy and his little stream, which did change, all be it slowly, the backdrop never did. Just sterile plains where the short brown grass never grew taller or varied in color. So, there was nothing to do but watch…READ MORE.


Nicole T. Walters
When Memory Becomes Prayer

Body and mind unite in the moment as I am fully engaged in the task before me. It takes every piece of me to navigate the complexities of this city. My brain is on high alert, scanning for every potential hazard in my path. I eye the cracked sidewalk. Broken by a gnarled tree root, it rises to gash my sandaled toe. I cast a hurried glance toward the man sitting by the mosque repeatedly crying “Allah” in hopes of a taka note or two. I dodge the car honking at my rear and the bicycle rickshaw skimming my thigh…READ MORE.

Steve Adelmann

Gravity reveals itself in the dark places. I’m seven years old and drowning in a quarry pond because I’m too hard-headed to learn how to swim. So many kids are in the water that I’m invisible even before I disappear. Through the murky green, I can barely see the tracks made by my clawing fingers in the slimy clay drop-off that got me. It’s pointless: Gravity is massive, and I am tiny. Desperate now, I push off the muddy bottom and feel my right hand break the surface before I sink. Again I rise and again I descend. I’m spent. One last push as Gravity patiently waits for me. Except for her. Scarcely older than me, her hand surrounds mine, and I am lifted. With a name I’ll never learn and a grasp I’ll never forget, she is both a giant and an angel in this moment. She isn’t stronger than Gravity; she merely understands how to work with it…READ MORE.

Robert L. Jones III
Within Five Minutes

On the morning of December 24, 1970, my mother came into my bedroom to awaken me well before I wanted to be awakened. I was seventeen, an age when a boy’s mother can do little right, and she babbled on about having slept on her stomach. This annoyed me greatly because she had interrupted my sleep to tell me how she had slept. I remember saying something along the line of, “Fine—go sleep on your stomach.”…READ MORE.

Blake Kilgore
The Letter

Back in 1991, when I was eighteen, I left home for the summer to work selling educational books for the Southwestern Company. I packed clothes, a few books, a journal, a Bible, and an anthology of love notes from my girlfriend (one to be read each day of the summer) in the back of my car. I drove to Nashville, Tennessee, for training, and ultimately to Elon, North Carolina, where I was to live for the summer. Lulled by promises of the opportunity to make enough cash to pay off college in a little over ten weeks, I had unwittingly signed up to become a door-to-door book salesman…READ MORE.

Herbert Herrero
Three Places to Find a Man

A man is seated. His feet, barely covered by the frayed hem of the undergarment, are set firmly on the ground. Days of walking tire, form calluses, and wrap the feet with dirt. He appears unable to groom himself. His beard and hair, loose and unkempt. No furrows show on his forehead. His nose and brows are prominent, his cheeks, sunken, his chin, receding. His lips are together, absent of utterances. His skin is pale, the kind of paleness attained for lack of sleep. His hooded eyes are deep and blackened too, most likely for the same reason. He stares downward at nothing, as if loneliness has engulfed him, as if he is resigned, as if defeated and in despair. His face is weathered like the rocks that surround him…READ MORE.

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