Featuring stories by Mari Christmas, Scott Koenig, LaTanya McQueen, JH Bond, Tamar Jacobs, and Traci Sauce, and poems by Mark Williams and James Lineberger.
by Mari Christmas
My husband manages a cheap hotel off the interstate five days a week, and every Wednesday night he visits the community center pool. Some days I meet him there. I like to watch him push the water around. It helps with the arthritis, he says, sculling the surface, making frog legs. He believes I deserve an office job, something that allows me to move between cities while wearing a thin blouse. We hardly speak. This is because of all the guilt. I look out across the pool. Children shiver in wrinkled suits, sucking their hair. Inside, it is airless, hazy, the windows fogged. The water a dark tangle of rope. Even though I cannot see him, I know he is there.
After swimming my husband will stay in his small room, equipped with a desk and a plastic lamp, and berate his romantic Romanian pen pal over the phone. He feels the need to give important looks, to demonstrate his rigor over a crowded table, and so forth, even internationally. “If you piss in the corner, I piss in the corner,” he tells her, speaking in English. For two bars of chocolate a month she puts up with all of that. He refuses to learn her language, as he cannot be bothered with the gender of specifics.
by Scott Koenig
It’s so bright even though the blinds are closed. Streaks of white light gash the wall. The wall Dad painted blue last month. Your favorite color is red but you like blue, too. There’s the humming of lawnmowers in the distance. Open those blinds.
Out there it’s green everywhere. Up above, it’s blue. There’s a white car in your driveway, too. Not our car, you think. Whose car is that. Green grass down here, around the strange little white car, and blue sky up there. The colors are so pure it kind of hurts. It’s nice, though. Do your eyes hurt? You could open the window to smell the grass but Dad got mad last time. Up on the hill where green turns into blue are big brown houses. If you squint they look like blobs of oatmeal raisin cookie dough when Mom lines them up on a baking sheet. And between the houses are thin lanes of grass where the older kids go sledding on snow days. The older kids with the colorful backpacks and the best Pokemon cards. Andy said one of the Meyer boys had three holographic Charizards. There’s no way. You aren’t allowed to go sledding on the hill yet. You just got allowed to ride your bike up to the black mailbox. The green mailbox after that is too high, too far up the hill, too dangerous, Mom always says. You know you can do it but you aren’t allowed. But soon you’ll be allowed to go all the way up – to the top of the hill. Then back down super fast into the coldy sack. Like how the older kids do.
by LaTanya McQueen
Because of her own curiosity she said yes when he asked her to put the bit on him. The bit, or gag, was an iron mask shaped like half a moon with a hook that went around the front of a person’s head. A spiked collar connected to the mask through a lock at the back of the neck.
He collected historical artifacts like these, the iron bit and scold’s bridle women were once punished with wearing, the shackles and chains forced upon slaves, items all from a not-too-distant era. When she asked him why, he told her he had a fascination for history long forgotten.
“Forgotten?” she asked and he shrugged in response.