SD Short Story Contest Finalist: Dear You – Teri Blades

Dear You

It’s been a few years since I wrote a letter to you and it’s been 365 days since we last spoke, 8760 hours since we last saw each other. Do you remember? The long walks on the beach every Saturday morning before we headed to the café for some drinks and a long conversation. I always wanted to go jog on the sand, to meet the early beach goers and run along with the stray and leashed dogs, and you with your weak ankles never complained and jogged right next to me. I was livid when I found out.

“Chris why would you go jogging knowing this would happen?” I remember complaining once the doctor walked out. You smiled from the bed like your ankles weren’t tightly wrapped and your eyes weren’t trying to hide your pain.

“Because you wanted to go.” You might not have known it then, but when I turned away from you, my cheeks flushed and as I write and think about that time, heat rushed to my cheeks.

Do you remember when we first met? I think about it almost every day now. I wrote my first letter to you after our meeting. My phone was broken and all I knew was where you worked – the sketchy looking bakery next to the even sketchier looking alley way on Fitz Street. Our meeting was not as bright as I would have liked. I wished we had met on a hot summer day, where my skin freely showed from below my skirt and my hair was high up, away from my face so that you could see the treasured pools of bronze that are my eyes. I wanted to say years from then when we were old and grey, that I was amazingly attractive and it was painfully obvious that you could not turn your
eyes away from my body. To say you approached me with long strides and wide curious eyes, which were slightly hidden under your grey cap.

Unfortunately, our meeting was not the start of a summer Hollywood Blockbuster. It was not nearly as delightful as a Romantic Comedy. It was the ‘Once Upon A Time’ in a Grim Brothers tale. It was the grittiness of an 18th century novel written on the wet streets of our island’s infamous city. You found me in the fog of the misty rain that drenched me from head to toe. My skin did not freely show from beneath my skirt’s hem line and the curls I had set the day before were miserable waves against my neck and forehead and for some unknown reason, the buses were like the sun; a rare sighting.

I was a sight for your sorry eyes, with my frowns and glares and I must say, you were very brave to approach me. Was I attractive despite my drenched state? Or was I so pathetic looking, you came to make sure I wasn’t dying? If you had walked by five minutes later, that might have been the case.

My first impression of you was very simple. I was enchanted. You approached me with an infuriating grin that was so infuriatingly adorable that it melted my cold wet heart. You would be laughing if you read this, knowing well that I am lying as I was freezing despite your large grin, and the umbrella you so wonderfully provided, did nothing to help my already pathetic state. Nevertheless, I was quite thankful for your effort and the company while waiting for the bus was most welcomed; I hoped my face said all of this, but I highly doubt it.

When I delivered the letter to you, I recall that you called me old fashioned. Old fashioned for writing a letter. Old fashioned for my music choices and old fashioned in my fashion choices. It’s been 365 days since you called me old fashioned and I would like to hear it again.

I never returned your umbrella did I? Though, you never asked for it back. That was something about you I grew to admire, your tenacity, as irritating as it was sometimes, to always think of me before you. I did the same no doubt, but you obviously wanted it to be a competition. Congratulations, you won.

I’ve been well if you were wondering, as well as I can be. I moved to a new home near the old bakery. It’s been doing well, business is booming, the food is great and I still wear your grey cap from time to time. I even still have the scented candles your mother bought on our 2nd anniversary.  She brought them from her trip to Canada with your father and your sister, am I right? The first night we lit them, our bedroom curtains caught on fire. Do you remember? You ran swiftly into the bathroom with an emptied plant pot and soaked half of the room, including the bed. We slept on multiple blankets on the floor that night. You were embarrassed, I was amused and it was definitely one of the best nights we spent in that house. She still buys some for me, but though, due to our first experience with her choice of candles, they’ve remained in their boxes, piling up
in my cupboards.

Tell me, where are you now? Are you still on the plane or have you floated so far away that even my thoughts can’t reach you? Do you remember that night? I had a nightmare, a nightmare you never returned. You, who kissed me on the forehead and continued to pack your bags, told me not to worry and left with one last gaze my way. I hate myself for not taking a photo, for my memory may one day fade that image away. Do you remember that day? When you hopped into your sister’s car and I waved at you until you were out of my sight? Did you happen to see my face? I watched you go while twisting the rings on my finger, my stomach full with uneasiness. I tried hard not to shed a tear, to not show my concern. Maybe if I had, you wouldn’t have gone.

I try hard each day not to reminisce. To not think of when I heard the news of a missing plane. I watched with my eyes glued to the television, ignoring the rings of the phone and prayed to a God I had forgotten. Maybe I should have prayed earlier. For when the news showed a plane in the ocean, I knew that my prayers were too late to answer.

Sometimes I swear I hear you call my name from time to time, and it’s funny because when watching horrors, I always used to yell at the characters for looking for the ghost and yet here I am hoping to see the phantom you looming in a corner somewhere. Maybe it really is you, laughing at me as I look around like a crazy person. It wouldn’t mind if that were true.

Yet even though I know you may not be here, I will still write to you. I will write about my day, about new things to tell you just as if you were here sitting on the other side of the table listening to my rambles. I will write about memories we can never recreate, about adventures you’ll never go on, pastries you’ll never taste and my hairstyles that you’ll never see – not that you noticed them before. Then maybe when that time comes, when I have written down everything I could ever say, maybe that will be the day I remember how to write with ink instead of pain.


I am an emerging writer and theatre enthusiast with a small upcoming theatre company based in Barbados.  Dear You was inspired from walking the historic streets of Barbados’ capital and dreaming of a tragic love.

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: The Chasm – Stephanie Clark

The chasm

His hands shake, trembling on fragments of the cool autumn breeze, but the subtle quiver of his upper lip says it’s nothing to do with the dropping temperatures.  Darting eyes, wide with anger and resentment, seek out a place to rest themselves but spy only treason and heartbreak. Pressing in on the periphery, memories of the street compound him and compress against his ribcage.

The gnarled apple tree on the unruly lawn, long barren and withered, is scratched and carved with the sounds of his youth – of unrestrained laughter and broken bones. Below the dying branches that continue to reach for God, a chipped mailbox stands, flag demurely flush against the wood. The red plastic flag had once pressed neatly against his lower vertebrae during his first kiss. Under his feet, now cramped with aimlessness, lay a universe of small stones. Each pebble perfectly round until, during a fall from a bicycle, cheek skinned against the asphalt, the eyes can spot the fissures in each stone that absorb a single drop of blood. He kicks the loose rocks, sending ancient helixes scattering across the street.

Through lacey curtains, a neighbour peers. She spots him, frozen at the end of the driveway his feet shuffling on the edge of suburbia. Her house is warm and yellowed, heated by an electric fireplace that dances meticulously in the exact same pattern- repeating, repeating. She cannot handle something as misaligned as a wood fire. Behind her the house groans with safety, with perfect lines and counted threads in all her sheets. But across the yawning chasm of the street, she spots a galaxy of scars and pricks that have tinted the man’s left arm to the hue of gluttony, of loneliness. There are no straight lines there – a cosmos of chaos and black holes. A tug in the lining of her stomach tries to draw her eyes away, the metered ruler of consciousness, but her curiosity is morbid. His clothes are loose, held together by gravity and bone marrow, resting on the sharp and crooked angles of his jutting elbows and collarbones.  In the light of the coming evening, a shadow clings to his hollowed clavicle.  She watches it shift, writhe; the absence of light dances a waltz, beat by the percussions of the thudding chambers and resounding valves.

The neighbour mentally tugs at the seams of the man outside, gently at first.  Each thread is wound tightly in her mind between memories and judgements. She pulls lint off a thin golden string. Unknots a thick tangle of brusque and prickly burlap. Lets a thin shard of satin fall to the floor. She pulls him apart, from his childhood to the waif in front of the home of his youth, unravelling the life that always was.  She watches him twist and strain his neck, unsure if he should turn around or step off the curb into oblivion.

The space between him and her is infinite. She is close enough to peel away the layers of coarse clothing, to slough off bruised memories, but the air that separates them is thick with prejudice. She sees his body, fallen and pitiful; she mutters to the empty room about shame for his father. She sees the ochre staining his cheeks and clinging to the sagging skin; she draws air through her clenched teeth, tutting to the window frame.  She cannot see the clefts that have drawn themselves on his heart; even were she to be pressing her upturned nose to his, she could not see the depths of his pupils. Could she lift herself up on the tips of her toes, could she let everything fall away, she would see the rim of the pupil – lush green forests surrounding the edge of eternity, waterfalls pouring into chasms of memories. She would glimpse at the bottom the fading faces of those who shaped him, glimmering words of paternal advice, memories that fade and fracture. Could she let herself listen deeper into the man before her, swaying, in the stillness between heartbeats – that pertinent moment where life hangs in the balance – she would hear the deafening sound of a father’s whisper; ‘I can’t do this anymore.’ And the splintering, the shattering of a son.

Her breath fogs up the glass, obscuring him from view. For a brief moment, his shape is soft, his peninsular bones melt together. She turns away from it all, from his loneliness, from his abandonment, and sets her sights on the mug of tea sitting on the table. A skin has formed, the milk clinging to the edge of the stained porcelain cup. A clock chimes gently in the warm, heavy air – as it has on every afternoon that she has lived in the house.

His hands shake; the street before him, paved from his youth, has never seemed so foreign. He hesitated, wanting to climb the apple tree one more time, to press his spine against the firm mailbox before the very molecules in the air change. With a single step, he watches the world he knew, the memories he cherished, pour over him and dissolve into the parched earth.


Stephanie Clark has been a freelance writer for over eight years. She finds her passion in the pause one takes when looking for the right word.

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: I’m Still Here – ZeinaA.G

Im_Still_Here_by_Zeina_Abi_Ghosn
Day 1

I’ve seen him around playing at the park. Glimpses of him kicking the ball keeps my heart beating. I stand behind the fence noticing his blonde hair bouncing with each movement. At least he is safe and looked after. If I approach, would he blame me for leaving?  A guilty sensation haunts me and I can’t understand why. Would anyone believe me if I told them I don’t remember leaving and the reason why? I could wait longer for my memory to come back but the more I linger on the subject the more I feel he is forgetting me. A sense of urgency rushes over me as a woman picks Noah up and I want to scream for someone to save him from her. Then the teacher helps him with his bag and it hits me that maybe my ex-husband has remarried. I stare numbly in their direction as I try to remember what kind of mother am I?  How could I leave my child unexpectedly?

I follow them to the movies and the woman meets my ex-husband in the parking lot. Thunder roars from a distance and I stare at the ragged clouds. The sky releases few drops of rain and the woman gestures for my son to run inside. I wonder if I should follow them inside and before I finish that thought I find myself inside hiding behind a gigantic movie poster. I despise that I have to hide but I don’t have a plan yet on how to approach them so for now I prefer to watch them. I can see them at the concession stand laughing as they order Noah’s popcorn. I retreat and leave for the day allowing the idea of Noah loving another mother figure to sink in. This is going to be rough on him if I show up out of nowhere with no explanation. I wonder if it’s selfish to ask to meet him when he has adjusted so well to his new life and I decide to drop it for today.

Day 2

Sometimes I think life is so fleeting and there’s this blinding light which I spot from time to time but it passes like a breeze, as if I’m passing near it in a car or it’s hiding behind a building. I’m not sure what it is, but as I get up this morning I know I have to try harder to get my son’s attention. I wake up with this sense of urgency that it has to be today, I need to talk to Noah today.

I get ready by noon, and head over to my ex-husband’s place but it’s too late they seem to be getting into the car and they go somewhere. I glare at his new wife enraged how they have kept me away from my child all these years. I’ve only seen the back of Noah’s head over the years; it’s as if they know I’m out there. As if they know, I’m desperate to steal one glance. I follow them to the park and wait for them to walk few feet away from me. I bend down on my knees and peer through the bushes my hand resting lightly on the wires. I stare at my little boy, my beautiful angel and I wonder if he still needs me. If he still remembers me, he turns around and I see his face. His baby features are all gone, and that frown on his face tells me he isn’t okay.

Dark clouds are growing ominous as I stand up fast whispering, “Do you still need me?” hoping he would hear and approach the sound. I have the courage to walk up to a clear space where everyone can see me. The moment I want to step closer I hesitate, the birthday balloons sway beneath my touch. My eyes water when I spot the huge banner I should have prepared and the birthday cake we could have baked together. I stare at Noah’s features again and I get a strange feeling that his sad, hazel brown eyes remember.

The day he was born flourishes into my memory as if had just happened. He clutched my fingers so hard as if he knew me, as if he was eager to meet me as much as I wanted to meet him. I spent hours, days and weeks counting these perfect little fingers and toes. I spent the nights dreaming of the day he’d run to me and drag me off my work so I could play catch with him. My idea of perfection was when he used to sneak into my bed each morning with his soft snuggly bear. He’d think I wasn’t awake but I was, I could feel his warmth against my cheek as he whispered, “Wake up, mommy!”

My memory is so groggy and I’ve felt sick for years that I have no idea if I have done anything wrong, could they have both moved on so fast? The step mum approaches Noah and she kneels down caressing his hair. I immediately feel myself float forward wanting to hear what she was telling him. I stare at the Spiderman birthday cake and the candle that says six. I look shamefully at myself knowing I shouldn’t have come without a present.

I’m practically behind them shoving my way to look and be present when the step mum whispers in his ear, “She’d be so proud of you.” She exchanges a pained glance with my ex and that is when it hits me. I stare at my hands which are turning transparent, and my feet that are no longer there. I watch myself wither before I get the chance to touch his soft cheek. It all comes back to me, the sick nights I was trapped in a fragile body. My husband comforted and lay near me. There was that one promise I begged him to keep, was to seek happiness, and search for stability.

The light gets stronger and I finally understand what it’s for. My son blows out his candles. I clap proudly and send him a kiss, which blows out his party hat. He giggles and picks it up. I notice the tears in my husband’s eyes. The emotion in the stepmom’s eyes freezes me; I bet she has been dedicated to my son’s happiness all these years because of the way he looks at her. I circle a ball of glow around the three of them which I know will protect them.

I hear a voice asking if I’m ready and I follow it through an endless foggy path. My concern grows as I float away from them, but as soon I step into the light, my son’s future flashes in front of my eyes. His future birthdays and milestones flourish in front of my eyes along with his teen years and even though I’m away now I’m certain he will be okay. A sense of belonging and peace overcomes me as if nothing is chasing me anymore.

The voice explains that I have to stay here until we are reunited one day and I accept it. As I watch their life reel, I witness my family’s happiness and my eyes water at their tribulations. As I stare at this beautiful, complicated world below me I ask the voice for one last request. I hear a low hum and then he asks me what I want. I clear my throat and speak out, “Each time my son encounters an obstacle or questions his faith… I want to send a whisper with a gentle breeze saying, I’m still here.”


I’m from Lebanon. I’m a photographer and I manage my parents’ photography studio. My passion for writing began since school days but I never acted on it until two years ago when I began writing a novel. I also have a blog where I write about life’s hardship. Writing with an Open Heart

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: Anomalies – J.J. Fletcher

Anomolies 1

Articulated. That’s what Dr. White called the brand new skeleton that moved joint by joint and was now hanging prominently in his private office. Henry Webster’s eyes were wide as he took in the skeleton, reaching out to stroke the ulna, to flex the phalanges. Most doctors didn’t have a skeleton, but then most doctors didn’t have their own apothecary shop or office. Dr. White wasn’t most doctors, and that’s why Henry liked him so.

Originally hanging in the front window, Dr. White moved the skeleton to his examination room under intense community pressure. The good people of Gilmanton, New Hampshire, were fervent in their belief that the dead should be buried as soon as possible and most certainly not desecrated, and that this monstrosity was simply not for the eyes of God-fearing people. Interested less in educating the masses and more in maximizing his profits with best-sellers like “Dr. White’s Soothing Syrup for Babies and Toddlers, pat. pend. 1873,” the doctor acquiesced to his paying public.

When Henry had tired of hearing his mother prattle endlessly about yet another ailment he stared politely past the brass mortar and pestle, past the small brass pill maker, and at Doc White until he received a knowing nod. Then, through the open door across from the apothecary’s cabinet, Henry wandered toward the skeleton’s new place of residence. He let his fingers trace the length of the examination table on his way to the adjacent private office. It was here that Henry did what he normally did under these circumstances: looked in on the perfectly preserved specimens floating in liquid. There was an eyeball, a heart, a lower jaw, a malformed foot, and, Henry’s personal favorite, an infant who died at birth—and its parasitic twin—on full display.
Henry could hear his mother asking for more laudanum. She was going on and on, questioning how people could have a funeral when they hadn’t even found the body to know he’s dead.

He’s dead, mother. He’s been missing for three weeks.

“I just don’t understand, Doctor. How can they do that? How can they give up hope?” Mrs. Webster’s voice rose hysterically.

Because they know he’s too stupid to last this long on his own. Henry snorted, then felt a twinge of guilt. It’s true. The guilt disappeared.

“I’m just not sure how I’ll get through Olin’s funeral without more laudanum, Doctor. It sounds devilish of me, but I’m thankful it’s my nephew and not one of my children. But these children–first Austin Bunker, then little Georgie Foss, then my dear niece Mary, and now–” She sobbed.

Henry closed his eyes tightly and allowed his thoughts to drown out his mother’s voice. It didn’t take long, for Dr. White’s office was a place of respite for him. He enjoyed making himself at home while he perused the specimens. Dr. White had given him free reign of the office long ago after learning of the boy’s interests. When Henry’s nosy sister Ellen discovered he was dissecting animals and told their parents, they promptly consulted Dr. White. The doctor dismissed their concerns about his mental well-being. In fact, he told them to encourage Henry’s curiosity. He even suggested they allow the boy to come round so that the doctor could teach him all he knew. Henry’s first lesson was how to make the mercury and alcohol concoction used in the preservation of specimens.

“You have a brain built for the scientific method, Henry,” the doctor told him one warm afternoon. “You aren’t bothered by the sight of the unusual, nor do you let our religious underpinnings trap you into thinking this is wrong. Your mind is open enough to see that our old ideas about the body being made of humors is incongruous with what we know–and can see.”

Soon thereafter, Dr. White presented him with a book by Andreas Vesalius called De humani corporis fabrica: On the Fabric of the Human Body. Henry was just ten but was fascinated with Vesalius’ depictions of the dissected human body. Bones, cartilage, ligaments, muscles–it was all there, and it enthralled Henry. He knew with this knowledge, things would never be the same.

Henry gingerly touched the bones one by one, flexing the joints to make each dance its individual dance. He thought back to the time when he feared the doctor’s office, before he’d found the human body fascinating, before Dr. White became his friend. Only three years ago, it now seemed to Henry like a dream.

A group of his classmates had walked home from school just behind Henry. As the group dwindled down to three of his cousins–Olin Mudgett, Samuel Whitehouse, and Josiah Webster–their abuse of Henry began. At 9, Henry was in the same grade as Olin, though Olin was 12. The boys usually picked on Henry about his intelligence, but anything was fair game to them, from Henry’s appearance to his sister taking a job cleaning for Dr. White.

“Henry, are you ever going to grow, or will you always be scrawny and skinny?” Olin started. Olin always started. He was pulling a small strip of leather through his fingers absentmindedly, like a mother would stroke her daughter’s hair.

“He’ll always be scrawny and skinny. He doesn’t even look like a Mudgett,” Samuel said.

“He doesn’t look like a Webster either,” Josiah added. “Maybe someone left him on Uncle Levi’s doorstep and Aunt Theodora felt sorry for him.”
Olin snorted. “Aunt Theodora wouldn’t remember if she gave birth or not, what with all the laudanum she takes.”

Henry kept his head down and continued walking. He didn’t stop even when he felt the crack of the leather sting his neck.

“You know your father really made mine mad, Henry,” Olin said, slowly drawing the leather through his fingers. It was attached to a stick, making the ‘whip’ part of a whip-and-top toy. He’d stopped playing with the top long ago and instead used the whip to torment weaker living beings. “He made it sound like our family’s not as good as yours, but father reminded him that we’re the same family.”

Henry rolled his eyes. He felt the leather take another bite of his neck. He kept going.

“I told my father our family is better than yours.” Olin jumped in front of Henry, forcing him to stop. They were next to Dr. White’s. “I think you’re a chicken, just like your father.”

Henry glared at him.

“Want to prove you’re not?”

“No.”

“Too bad.” He flicked the whip at Henry’s face, but Henry jumped out of the way just in time.

Josiah added, “I heard he’s afraid of Doc White.”

“I am not,” Henry said, glancing sideways at the doctor’s office. The boys were right. He was afraid. His mother came home from there once and didn’t know who Henry was. And whenever she took spoonfuls of Dr. White’s syrupy liquid in the brown bottle, she often fell asleep so hard Henry couldn’t wake her up.

“You’re afraid of what goes on in there.” Olin pushed his finger into Henry’s chest. “So I think you should go in.”

“No.” In spite of his best attempt to slow it, Henry’s heart was racing.
“If you don’t go in, I’ll make you go in.”

“I heard Miss Oberhund after school saying that Doc White got called to Old Man Wissen’s farm to help deliver a calf. So guess who isn’t here?” Samuel taunted.
Henry grimaced, but his patience was extraordinary. The boys hadn’t laid hands on him up to this point, and he was used to their verbal abuse. He could wait anything out, just like his father’s punishments in the attic.

Suddenly, Henry felt several hands on him, pushing and pulling and forcing him to the door of the doctor’s office. The small leather whip bit into his face and neck. He saw the solid wood counter go by. The glass in the apothecary cabinet glinted in the sun. Before he knew it, the boys shoved him into the doctor’s private office and pulled the door shut. Henry’s eyes roved all over the room, looking for an exit, but something on a shelf arrested his eyes. He blinked and cocked his head. He gingerly took a few steps forward, shortening the distance between him and the oddity floating in liquid in a huge glass jar. He let out a gasp. He clenched his eyes shut, but they flew open in seconds.

Is that the devil? he thought. It looked like a baby, but it had part of another tinier baby growing out of it. Only part–two legs, an arm, and part of a head. Atop the head was a small tuft of hair and a single tooth. That’s not the devil, he told himself. It’s just not normal, that’s all.

It grew dark, but Henry didn’t notice, for all he could see were the parts and pieces of humans in the other jars, labeled and lined up beautifully.

“What are you doing in here, young man?”

The voice startled Henry back to reality. His stomach rumbled. What time is it? He turned to see Dr. White.

“I say, what are you doing in here?”

“I’m sorry, Doctor White. My cousins, they–” Henry hesitated. He didn’t want any more tricks from the boys if he told.

“Three of ‘em?” Doc White asked, his voice turning friendly. “Another Mudgett boy, a Webster, and a Whitehouse?”

Henry nodded.

“What’d they do, son?”

“They shoved me in here and shut the door on me.”

Dr. White nodded. “Ruffians. I know they’re your cousins, but they’re ruffians.” He walked over to the specimen jars. “Henry, isn’t it?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Do you find these interesting, Henry?” The doctor put his large paw-like hand on Henry’s shoulder.

“Yes, sir!”

“You don’t find them scary?”

“No, sir. Why should they be scary? They’re just, well, they’re–” His nine year old brain couldn’t find the right word. “Like me. Like my brain. Different.”

“Anomalies, Henry. Anomalies. Not usual, different. And you’re right. They should not be scary, yet many people find them so. There are worse monstrosities walking this earth than that poor baby there.”

From that point on, Henry respected Dr. White more than anyone else, and not solely because he understood Henry’s preoccupation with the human body or because he assured his family that boys dissecting animals was a sign of robustness. Medicine was on the cusp of changing. Phrenology was on its way out, and real medicine was on its way in. In England, Dr. Lister championed for cleanliness in surgery. Many doctors thought him a quack until post-surgery mortality decreased.

The feeling was mutual. Doc White looked at Henry as his potential protégé, a boy beyond his years in intelligence and maturity, a boy who was not surprised by medical findings, a boy who was not deterred by what others found gross or against God. Henry thrived under Dr. White’s tutelage.

“Henry,” Dr. White called, breaking the boy from his reminiscence. “Are you–there you are, son.” He smiled at the boy. “I think your mother is ready now.” Henry winced at the reminder.

“Did you give her more laudanum?” Henry asked. He’d told Dr. White about his mother’s attentiveness to the little brown bottle.

The doctor nodded. “But–” He put one finger to his lips. “It’s diluted.” He winked. Henry winked back. “Remember, Henry, your mother has many difficulties in her life. Few people are as rational as you. And now, with your cousin, Olin…”

“I understand, sir,” he said. “I’m an anomaly.”

Doc White patted him on the shoulder. “It’s not a bad thing, Henry. Say, Mrs. Oglesby’s sow should be giving birth in the next couple of days. Want to help?”
Henry’s eyes widened. “Really? I can?”

“I think you’re ready. Have you been studying up on Vesalius’ book?”

“Every day, sir. Every day.”

“I’ll send for you when I get the news.”

“Oh, thank you, Dr. White. Thank you.” Henry was beaming. He was on his way to becoming a doctor.

“Off you go, son.”

#

Henry had skipped all the way home, circling back when he strayed too far from his mother. He didn’t care who saw him. He didn’t care that he was supposed to be in mourning like his mother and the rest of his family. He was going to get to see the inner workings of a real, live pig. He was happy being an anomaly.
“Henry!” His father’s voice boomed up the stairs. “Change into your Sunday clothes. Olin’s funeral starts in forty minutes.”

Up in his attic bedroom, Henry sat on his floor and pulled out the small wooden box from under his bed. He opened it and smiled as he admired Austin’s favorite marble, Georgie’s sweater button, and Mary’s white leather glove. He carefully made space for the strip of leather from Olin’s whip. His collection was growing.


J.J. Fletcher is an English teacher, writer, and dog rescuer. “Anomalies” is part of a short story collection that re-imagines the childhood of Dr. H.H. Holmes–Chicago’s (allegedly) first serial killer. Fletcher is currently at work on a crime novel, The Devil Inside Me, in which a descendant of Holmes resurrects his duplicitous and murderous legacy in the Windy City. Learn more at www.jjfletcherbooks.com.

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: Madame Guillotine – Brian J. Welch

madame Guillotine 4.jpg

In her heart of hearts, Charlotte was a knife. Almost everyone in Paris called her Madame Guillotine. Louis simply called her Charlotte. From the very beginning, they shared a singular intimacy, a tenderness that was theirs alone. Madame Guillotine had many lovers over the years, but she always came back to Louis. Six days a week she stood tall and proud in the square, kissing her lovers’ necks. But on those days, the one that her edge longed for was Louis. Every Monday, she gave herself over to his methodical devotion, relaxed in his hands and let his callused fingertips polish her edge.

Louis, a tinker by trade and a Romany by birth, spent much of his life traveling from town to town, repairing tools and sharpening anything with a blade, just as his father had before him. It was the only life he knew, and he was proud of the trade that he was raised into. When he first came to Paris, he found Charlotte standing alone in the crowd, embracing one of her many lovers and was immediately taken in by her grace.

Charlotte stood in the center of the square, unashamed. Her frame straight and tall, her shoulders slender but strong, she barely flexed at all when she let her heart drop and kissed her lovers. It was a delicate and beautiful embrace. In that quick kiss, her heart moved with force and purpose. No one would blame the onlookers for missing her true grace. It happened fast. Louis didn’t miss it, though. He had a keen eye, as keen as the edge of Charlotte’s silvery heart.

Charlotte was loved by many, all of Paris, in fact. Those she kissed loved the idea of her and the legitimacy that her kiss provided them. They loved her not for her but for the picture that was created when they laid down in her embrace and waited for her kiss. They knew that to be kissed by her meant that they were somehow more important than they were alone. In the end though, Charlotte could feel that each and every one was always a little bit afraid of her. She held her lovers tight, each and every one, and when she finally let herself go, let her heart drop, she always felt the same twinge of fear when they closed their eyes tight and waited for her kiss.

Those who watched loved nothing more than the entertainment that her kiss provided, something to break up their monotonous and feckless lives. The crowd saw only show. Louis, however, saw only her grace… and her neglect. He could see that although she stood tall and proud in the square, fulfilling her purpose, what she really needed was a few moments of tenderness.

It was a Sunday.

Louis sat in the square, watching Madame Guillotine and her lovers. He sat behind the crowd next to the local magistrate and all those that were counting their last minutes before they were to be laid down into Madame’s embrace. It would be romantic to say that it was a misty gray morning, or some such nonsense, but, truthfully, Louis barely even noticed the weather. He was entranced by her heart, knowing how, with the proper care, it could really shine.

“Madame, seems tired,” Louis said to no one in particular.

“Nonsense,” bellowed the bullish magistrate. “Our Madame is strong and agile! Just look at how she stands for all of Paris to admire.”

“Indeed,” said Louis. “Her frame is strong. She stands tall and moves with ease. She is beautiful and fierce. But her heart has a tender edge. If it is not cared for it will most certainly break.”

“What the hell do you know about it?”

“In truth, a great many things. Our lovely Madame, is strong, yes, but underneath that strength, her heart is a knife. I know about knives. Their edges need tending or they become brittle and will eventually break. Sir, you must believe me, Madame is in need of a little tenderness.”

Louis, the tinker, continued with care and wit to assure the magistrate of the necessity of allowing him to care for the delicate edge of Charlotte’s heart until the sour bureaucrat finally relented.

“Fine!” He said, “Return here in the morning and we will see about letting you hone our Madame’s edge.”

“Merci Monsieur,” said Louis. And, truly, he was thankful. His concern for Charlotte’s heart was genuine.

The next morning the magistrate climbed to the top of his ladder and clumsily tried to get at Charlotte’s heart. Louis watched with anger as the foolish man tried to undress Madame with a hammer and a wedge.

“Get down you fool!” he screamed at the magistrate.

As the magistrate climbed down, Louis stepped up to Madame Guillotine and lowered her heart down toward him slowly. So accustomed, was she, to dropping down swiftly that her frame trembled a bit as Louis brought her heart down slowly to his waiting hands. It was like a kiss in slow motion, such a lovely feeling.

When her heart had safely landed, Louis caressed her cheek and whispered to her softly. With dignity and respect, he released the grip of her stocks and pulled her heart from its casement, laid it down with care, mindful of her delicate edge, and wrapped it in oiled leather.

“I will return tomorrow after her edge is honed,” was all he said to the magistrate as he walked away with Charlotte’s heart in his hands.

The magistrate simply nodded and went about his business, eager to do nothing else of consequence that day.

When Louis returned to his encampment, cradling Charlotte’s heart, he climbed into his wagon and cleared off the small bench top where he had plied his trade for so many years. He laid Charlotte’s heart down on the bench and slowly unwrapped it. Her heart was quiet as she waited there, exposed and vulnerable on Louis’ workbench.

Even in her neglect, her heart’s edge was dangerously sharp. It is a brave and, some might say, foolish man that falls in love with one such as Charlotte, one whose keen edge has seen the end of so many. Still, Louis saw the way that Charlotte gazed back at him once he had wiped her cheeks clean. He knew that he would always love her, just as he had from the very start.

When Louis first began to work Charlotte’s edge, it was abrasive and uncomfortable. She shivered under the roughness of that first caress.

“I know, my love, it’s uncomfortable. But I will be quick. You must trust me.”

She couldn’t say why but from the first moment, she did trust him. True to his word, Louis’ caresses became progressively softer as the day’s hours stretched into night. He eased the roughness of each caress with greater and greater tenderness until she gleamed at him under the light of the oil lamp. Charlotte relaxed her heart and gave herself over to his nimble and rhythmic affection. It was exquisite. She quivered a little with each pass of his hands until his honing had perfectly exposed her sharpness. Her edge sang under his knowing hands.

Finally, after the grit of Louis’ caresses had dwindled to almost nothing but air, after the strop had licked clean even the tiniest burr on her heart’s edge, when Charlotte was perfectly honed, Louis plucked a single black hair from his head and let it fall slowly onto her gleaming heart’s edge.

Louis’ single black hair drifted down in the damp air and fell lightly into Charlotte’s kiss, silently splitting over her edge and gliding gracefully over her cheeks.

Louis saw the way she kissed that single hair and was filled with pride. There is nothing greater than the feeling helping one that you love so much to shine as only you know that they can. And indeed, Charlotte did shine. She, too, was filled with the pride of being cared for in a way that she knew that she deserved to be.

“The fools,” Louis whispered, “not one of them knows how to care for you.”

She gazed at him with his eyes, in the quiet lamp light of his simple cart and believed so too.

In this way, Charlotte and Louis spent so many tender Monday hours. For years, Monday was their day, until one day it wasn’t.

Louis just stopped coming. Three Mondays passed and still nothing. Louis didn’t come, and, with every new lover, her heart’s edge became more brittle and more broken. Madame Guillotine became more and more tired, until, finally, it was all she could do to completely kiss her lovers. Charlotte found herself stopping short a bit more with each passing kiss until the day that she couldn’t even finish kissing the lover that was laid down for her. He was inconsolable. It was all very gruesome. The magistrate had to borrow a sword to finish him off.

It was that Sunday that the magistrate sent for Louis. They brought him to Charlotte in shackles. He was broken and humiliated, but he loved Charlotte and there was nothing in the world that could’ve prevented him from caring for her if only given the chance.

The magistrate bellowed and complained to Louis, next in line to be her lover, that her heart was simply not up to the task anymore.

“Of course!” Louis barked. “No one has shown her an ounce of care in these last three weeks.”

The magistrate, in the way that useless men do, pointed his anger away from himself and demanded that Louis repair Madame’s heart. Louis did not need to be persuaded. He simply nodded and asked the magistrate to take down a list of supplies that he would need. The magistrate nodded as he wrote until the list was complete. He handed the page to a porter and turned to escort Louis back to his cell.

The next day, two men arrived with a box containing all that Louis had requested. They were followed by the magistrate and another feckless bureaucrat carrying Charlotte’s heart in his clumsy arms.

The men set down the box of abrasives and oils and dropped Charlotte’s abused heart onto the dirt of Louis’ cell. Louis was filled with rage at their lack of respect. He apologized for the bureaucrat’s behavior and for his own absence as he lifted Charlotte’s heart into his lap.

As he had done every Monday for years, he first wiped her cheeks clean and kissed each one lightly before attending to her heart’s edge.

“I’m sorry my love,” he said, knowing that the neglect they had shown her required a rougher embrace.

Charlotte let her heart vibrate under the calluses of his caring hands. She had been yearning for weeks for the scrape of his first touches, knowing that the glide of the strop would come soon after. She had missed the way that his hands made her gleam.

In the dark and cold of his cell, Louis attended to Charlotte’s heart, moving his hands over her edge, methodically and confidently. He knew how to care for her and she easily gave herself over, as she had so many times before. His hands, so accustomed to his task, so confident in their care, moved back and forth evenly, noting every chip, every bump, every burr on her heart’s edge. He smoothed over her burrs and slowly removed her folded layers until her edge, finally exposed, gleamed up at him again. Louis beamed back at her. After he had polished and honed her heart’s edge, as he had done on all the Mondays past, he plucked a single hair from his head and let it drift down in the still air. She kissed it and savored the way its halves glided over her cheeks.

Louis held Charlotte’s heart in his hands until morning when the magistrate came. He thanked Louis, in his shallow and ignorant way, and reached for Charlotte’s gleaming heart.

Louis, pulled back.

“Monsieur, please. Let it be today,” Louis begged.

“What’s that?” the magistrate scoffed.

“She will have many lovers waiting for her this Sunday. I know I am next in line to be kissed. I only ask that you let it be today. Please let it be without the crowd. I have earned the right to such a simple request. Just a little privacy is all I ask.”

The magistrate laughed off Louis’ reasonable request and clumsily reached for Charlotte’s heart again. Louis pulled back again.

“Do you even know how to put her heart back?” He demanded. “Do you know how to dress her?”

The magistrate, not wanting to admit that he, indeed, had no idea how to fit her heart back into her frame, reluctantly agreed to let Louis be kissed by Madame Guillotine that very day in exchange for putting her back together. Besides, it was better to have a test before Sunday’s work.

He granted his prisoner’s request and led him from his cell to Madame’s waiting frame in the square. Louis walked with calm and poise, still cradling Charlotte’s heart in his hands.

He lowered Madame’s rope and gently removed the grip of her stocks, exposing the inside of her casement. He kissed each of her cheeks lightly and carefully slipped her heart back into her frame. He dressed her with dignity and care, replacing her stocks and enclosing her heart back into her frame. He tied her rope and slowly raised her heart until it rested snugly in place just below her shoulders.

“Well done!” the magistrate said and grabbed Louis roughly by the neck.

Louis pushed back hard and freed himself quickly. “There is no need for that! I will lay down for Madame without your help.”

Louis didn’t get on his knees as every one of Madam’s lovers had before him. Instead, he sat down on the ground before her and laid back into her embrace. He relaxed into the grip of her stocks and watched his love’s lofty heart gleaming down at him. When the magistrate released the rope, Louis did not close his eyes, did not wince. He stared into Charlotte’s polished heart without an ounce of fear. Charlotte, full of love and a great sadness gazed back at her love with his own eyes as her heart’s perfectly honed edge hissed through the cold air and finally, after so many tender embraces, she kissed him.


Currently, I live in Austin and work as a designer in the construction industry. I have an MFA in Studio Art from Mass College of Art and Design where I focused on books as conceptual art. I have since decided to try my hand at writing a few, though I have not yet been published.

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: Las Luchadoras – Riley Mayes

Las Luchadoras 5

The last summer they were together, it was war time. Not in the battles that were fought overseas but in their chests and hearts and the bitterness of their mouths as they ate meals together in a taut line of silence. It was the intensity of bloodshed, and how they let themselves bleed. Sangre poured onto the dishes that went unwashed, the floor that went unswept, and the mirrors smudged with fingertips, until angry hands took it upon themselves to clean the messes they had made. But the blood still wept.

They were two strokes of fire in an unlit well. Flames rushing up either side and flickering towards the top, but never reaching open air; held tight to their little home of photographs all shuffled out of view and turned down on the cabinet tops. That girl, she wanted to hurl herself from the dark pitch of that well. Her anger was enough to seize the countryside and burn it to the ground. Trees, flowers, creatures, all she loved, down to the silt of the earth. Her anger was an unrelenting red that puckered and whined under the heat of her belly. She begged it, coaxed it, pleaded with it as her mother commanded, again and again: controla tu temperatura. With every pulse of her heart, she tried. You could see it in the half moons on her palm, where the nail bit. You could see it in the knuckles of her fists, that shone dark speckled bruises in the lamplight. But it was not a part of her she could maintain; it overcame and controlled her. Everything she was. The soft gentle aching was washed away with a steel wool sponge, little cuts and tears on her heart where the wound would never heal.

The two of them fought with silence, they fought with words. They fought like sisters. Dark like blood and wine, biting like salt and soil. Their voices were like the chapped underside of the lemon peels that curled beside the sink, sourness that burned white with age.

Even the house had turned against them. It came first in the broken bits. Door knobs falling from the handles, hitting the wood floor in the night like a porter tolling his midnight bell. Under the pressure of their wordlessness, the dishes cracked; and with their apologies, they broke. Crawling into the grout lines of their kitchen tiles and working their way in tidy westward lines, sugar ants invaded. The house groaned in the heat and the roof sagged with leaves that clustered there; the walls grew smaller all the time. Before them and between them, chair legs and arms seemed to shove every which way.

Just when it seemed like it could go no further, the summer broke its fever and breezes began to mourn in the windows at night. Quietly, their tempers dampened. Not extinguished, but not quite burning, either. The frosts were coming and soon mother and daughter would be leaving each other. Knowing this, their hands became soft on their plates. Their voices gingerly picked their way around the scattered pieces between them.

On the first day of September, when the daughter went to turn her key in the door for the last time, something caught her eye. It was in the crack in the front stairs, where the rain always fell through and warped the wood just so; no thicker than a horse hair, no taller than a blade of grass. Sweet and hopeful, shivering gently in the breeze. A tiny white flower, curled softly in the steps.


Having grown up in a family of librarians and book-lovers, I have always been a highly motivated writer. Whether this meant poetry, short stories, or critical essays, the written word has been my constant companion for as long as I can remember. I have received several awards for my writing, including first place in Maine’s statewide Merriconeag Poetry Festival, a Scholastic Gold Key, and second place in the 2017 Writing For Peace Competition sponsored by DoveTales, An International Journal of the Arts. Currently, I reside in Massachusetts as a student and research assistant, where I read, write, and create art as often as possible.

SD Short Story Contest Finalist: All Caps, No Spaces – Wes Trexler

All Caps No spaces
You’re completely disoriented as you run down the steps of the courthouse in Downtown Manhattan. This isn’t exactly your neighborhood, and it’s hard to get your bearings straight at first, but you know you have to move fast and catch a train soon, any train headed Uptown, so you move as quick as you can in dress shoes minus the laces.
Within a couple blocks you spot the green globes of a Metro tunnel, and head for the station at Foley Square.
On the platform you grow anxious. You were just sprung from Central Booking about fifteen minutes ago, and you’re humming with pent-up energy. You repeat some details in your head, memorizing acronym-encrypted chunks of vital intel.
“ROR…released on recognizance…three misdemeanors. Franklin Seigel from the NLG…you were sprung by Frank Seigel, CUNY Law professor…no, respected CUNY Law professor.”
You didn’t sleep at all in holding, so now, in a quasi-hypnogogic state, your head spins, leaning back on the plastic seat of the subway. You’re worried about things at home, but you can’t call ahead because they confiscated your phone. To stay grounded, you keep at it with the details, cataloguing facts and codifying the official scene for future recall.
Things you know: It’s Saturday. You’ve been released after about twenty hours in various kinds of NYPD lockup. You were arrested on your birthday. Yesterday was 11-11-11. You turned 33 years old on 11-11-11, and you got arrested for organizing a prayer circle in Central Park.
Old enough to know better, you think.
Now it’s nine PM, and you’ve gotta make it back to Brooklyn to host a loft party—a little punk benefit show you put together to buy socks and gloves for the people at Zuccotti.
On the L train you daydream about the last few hours, try to remember your own words so you can repeat them verbatim later.
You see yourself in the cell, jumping up when your name is finally called, stepping through the sliding barred-door into the narrow hall between cages where they shackle you to a chain with about a dozen other dudes. This is your last chance.
Loud and steady, for everyone up and down the hall to hear, you say, “The global class struggle has begun. Don’t be on the wrong side of revolution, people. I urge each and every one of you, when you get back on the outside, do whatever you can to resist, resist, resist.”
You’re not being at all ironic, and no one thinks you are, so you get some positive grumbling, a lot of head nods, one power-fist and one heckler.
Good enough, you think.
The Corrections Officer leads you through the maze of bare tunnels toward arraignment. When you get to a spiral stairway he hollers to the other guards, “Got ten bodies comin’ up the stairs.” He yells it dull and sterile like someone working the mic at Burger King.
“You got ten human beings,” you yell, to no one, and to everyone.
The officer pretends to ignore you. You are officially someone else’s problem now.
Again, you run. As soon as the L train lets off at the Montrose stop you book it to the loft. It feels good to run in the night, to stretch your legs as you move down the street past the Projects. You’re worried about the loft party, hoping GI Dave or one of the Yankou brothers took charge when they heard you got locked up. Hopefully someone found a good PA to use. Hopefully you’ll have no problem getting in the front door with no keys and no phone.
After three blocks you turn the corner onto McKibbin, and you can see from here a small gaggle of Westchester White-guilt punks hovering by the front entrance.
You’re right on time.
Once you’re home, things move fast. There’s a mild hero’s welcome from everyone at hand, but you just wanna know if Gloria’s there. She’s not. Nobody can tell you where she is. This infuriates you to no end, but you don’t let it show. You try not to, at least.
Gloria. The real one. The one Van Morrison’s always croaking about. The girl everyone thinks of as your ex-wife. The firecracker everyone thinks of as your ex-wife.
She’s the singer in your band. Her flight leaves in the morning. She’s giving up on New York, or running away, or taking a break or something. Everything she owns is piled up unpacked under your plywood loft bed, and scattered all around on the dirty floor.
People start showing up—teenage musicians with gear, listless scenesters and unfamiliar kids in skinny-jeans—then, Gloria’s all-time favorite NYC noise/art band TURBO-SLEAZE—all caps, no spaces—load in a trailer-worth of speaker cabs and amps, sprawling a pile of mic-stands and XLR cables across the stage in the living-room. Competent people are doing necessary things so you retreat to your bedroom and try to prepare for the show.
There’s acid. There’s cocaine. No, there’s no cocaine, but you call Ghetto-J down the street and he delivers. You share with no one and brood, make up malicious scenarios about where she might be, what she’s doing and why she’s late while you tattoo your little mirror with a razor blade.
The loft fills up with commotion and body-heat ‘til you can’t hardly stand it.
Out of frustration you start cramming her suitcases and bags with stripper clothes, bras and homemade dresses, clearing a path from the door to your desk.
You are about to vacate, to run sweating down the stairs for some fresh filthy air, when Gloria suddenly rolls in smiling, overstuffed bags bulging in each hand. She plops them down in the middle of the floor and gives you a soul hug. Tells you how proud she is.
The doom evaporates with the sound of her bags touching down, and you are right back to fighting-weight in an instant.
You share some with her. Tell her things about the arrest and about the prayer circle. You both laugh and get excited.
The drummer shows up. Bands play.
Soon, too soon, you’re on stage, strapped into the Flying V. All the pedals and cables give you some trouble at first, but you pull it together just in time. And by the first hook of the first song it’s perfect. Even with the untested virgin replacement drummer the sound is huge in the tiny loft. Gloria’s singing her guts out, and you know it’s right.
A bold smile crawls across your face as you tilt your head way back, trying to keep the snot and blow from dripping onto your lips. You start laughing, but try hard not to lose it in the afterglow of pure comedy. Two weeks ago you were still employed, working nine-to-five, running a fashion blog and writing PR in Midtown. That wasn’t possibly real.
All around you are friends and friendly strangers. Your producer and his wife are here. The other two dudes you were arrested with walk in and get high-fives from your roommates. “The Central Park Three,” you think, mythologizing in real-time. Half of the SLEAZE stand gyrating front and center. Random suburban high-schoolers get drunk or stoned at their first ever Brooklyn loft party. Even Ghetto-J comes back to check out the show for a minute.
When you and Gloria sing together on the chorus, you feel it for sure. This is what you’re after, what you’ve always been after: Freedom—or something very much like it. There’s no going back. From now on, until you end, you’ll live in breathless pursuit of this sensation, stalking these proximations of unfettered liberty at whatever cost, bound by nothing—ever again—but the audacity of your own will.

Wes Trexler is an American writer and filmmaker based out of New York City. Recent stories have appeared in the Wisconsin Review, Willow Springs, Story|Houston and elsewhere. Several others have appeared in the Rag Literary Review, including one which was awarded their fiction prize in 2015. Mr. Trexler was born in West Virginia. He studied at Eastern Washington University and attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers workshop in 2005. He plays clarinet.

Baby, I’m So Cold – Kindra M. Austin

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You don’t know what love is at noon o’clock on
Tuesday, when I tell you I’m so cold that I can’t even
fucking feel it
anymore, expect for
inside—just inside the doorway where
my walls still quake with a singular mind
not mine, but theirs.

And you can’t tell the difference,
like my stupid cunt
can’t tell the
difference—the
goddamned
difference ‘tween
pleasure and affection.

Noon-thirty,
you gotta get home cos she is waiting cos
your home is her home,
too—
I got no type of home worth
mentioning.

I don’t know what love is at midnight o’clock on
Wednesday, when I answer your call—
I’m so fucking cold that I can’t feel it
anymore.


Kindra M. Austin is a very sweary indie author and editor from mid-Michigan (you can find her books here). She’s also the co-founder of Blank Paper Press, a founding member of Indie Blu(e) Publishing, founder of publishing imprint, One for Sorrow, and a writer/managing editor at Blood into Ink, and Whisper and the Roar. Austin cut her poetry teeth in April, 2016, and joined the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective in 2017. You can find more of her foul mouth at poems and paragraphs.

Sudden Denouement Welcomes New Collective Member R. S. Williams – These Broken Gods II

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We and us, as gods of ink,
with stars snatched in fists made of paper and power,
shall sin.

Then, almost dutifully, we will eat the smoke
from worlds on fire with theories
of who we should’ve been.

And all the while, we will watch
as our names are pressed into
thick, gilded, holy pages,
like old flowers meant for sacrifice–
as if those frozen, broken stories
could possibly smother our own.

Later, our lungs will grow heavy
with the sort of magic that creeps through dirt
in shades of red, and we’ll carry it all
like a curse.
It’s sure to rot through our pens in much
the same way that tar tears into teeth.

But still, we are gods, and our magic,
though rough and violent and shot through with poison,
is still magic.

In the end, every word our voices crash into
will rupture and erupt into gold,
no matter how monstrous we may have been
while they were still ticking in our throats.

Even our worlds, dressed as they are in war and steel
and kept spinning by virtue of the aches in our blood
will seem beautiful to those
listening beyond what they were taught to believe
about us broken things in the first place.

For it’s the cracks in our bones
they always seek when in need of places
to hide.

And what are gods for,
if not to answer prayers?


R.S. Williams writes strange and provocative things, usually from multiple perspectives—human and otherwise. She has an increasingly codependent relationship with words and started writing them down as a way to get even closer to them. She loves them, they tolerate her—and they happily use each other like porn stars. You can read more of R.S.’ writing on Instagram and Facebook

The Crime of Understanding – David Lohrey

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He tells me Fashion has a purpose.
“You’re not against anything,” I say.
This is part of the problem. People
defend the end of the world, explain
it, like they don’t care. Like if they
understand it, they can control it.

I say denounce it. Call a spade a spade.
Bring back the capacity to object: tell
those boys to keep it down. Tell the
little ones to get dressed. We are losing
our will to power; we’ve given up.
That’s what Voltaire has done.

We’re not born free. We confuse ourselves
with lions. We are born with little.
They put us into cages. Tell your mother
to stick that rattler up her ass. Sucking
on plastic won’t get you anywhere. Get
dressed and stop wearing underwear.

Cry out. Protest your decapitation.
Life is a luxury. Stop playing it cool.
Renounce your throne. Cross the border.
Get yourself declared persona non grata.
Join the Klu Klux Klan. Drop acid.
Drink your own piss. Denounce Elvis.

I’m saying mushroom picking beats all.
Surfing the web is for sissies. Join the Army.
Relive Normandy. America’s falling apart.
They let Columbia crash to save a quarter.
This time around more will perish. The Report
On the End of the Human Race will be in braille.

You know the drill: pounce on these delightful
gifts. And know they will not pounce on you.
Look but don’t touch. They reserve the right
to deny service to anyone. Don’t forget your shoes.
Wear a shirt. Take out the trash. Sharpen your pencils.
One last thing: If you break it, you’ll get to keep it.


David Lohrey’s plays have been produced in Switzerland, Croatia, and Lithuania. In the US, his poems can be found at the RavensPerch, New Orleans Review, Nice Cage, and The Drunken Llama. Internationally, his work appears in journals located in the UK, the Netherlands, India, Malawi, and Hungary. His fiction can be seen at Dodging the Rain, Terror House Magazine, and Literally Stories. David’s collection of poetry, MACHIAVELLI’S BACKYARD, was published by Sudden Denouement Publishers. He lives in Tokyo. You can read more of his writing at Writing, Musing, Poetry