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.

Hiroshima Hentai- Henna Sjöblom/Murder Tramp Birthday

It’s tasteless, you said
erasing my search history.
I said I’ll do whatever it takes
to end this war.

Physically impossible?
Well honey,
that’s what they said about the atomic bomb.

I dream of a girl on a meadow
her face melting into purple wax
and cherries and brain-matter, meringue on top.
Shame breeds desperation breeds loosened morals and
Little Boys
causing trouble.

Basking in the afterglow,
I wipe the radiation from my face.
Through the walls of the shelter,
I still hear them scream
wishing for a white-hot impact,
waiting for their time to burn.

Henna Sjöblom,  the goth girl next-door. Aspiring author. Monstrophile. Horror enthusiast. She writes to cope with mental illness and everyday experiences. Find her at Murder Tramp Birthday

Tumble Weed Blues – David Lohrey

There can be bebop and billowing skirts,
hot pastrami and cold beer, but only if
we’re good.

That’s the catch. We’re weighed down by doubt.
Can all this wonder be had for free? It’s
time to take stock.

All the pretty horses can’t put humpty dumpty
together again. It’s partly a matter of will
power, sure.

It’s mostly a matter of power, pure and simple.
And the will is half-hearted. There’s no
zeal. There’s no roll.

Ketchup, but no mustard. There are eggs, but
Benedict died last June of a stroke. Whoever
said we could have it all, lied.

The billowing skirts were not the first to go, but
the girls get tired of playing. They’ve
been recruited by the army.

Now women carry guns. Our next loss is jazz.
Without the blues, there’s no rhythm. The
country’s lost its beat.

Everyone is out of step. The problem
is not the booze. It’s the money. We’re all
too rich for our own good. We’re unhappy.

Louis Armstrong was elated. Count Basie, giddy.
Think back. You remember. Jazz was rollicking: horns
toot-tooting, the pianist on his feet, the drums exploding.

We’re all miserable. Fattened up for slaughter. Now
we wait for the other shoe to drop, as the centipede
crawls toward the exit.

We know it’s just a matter of time. It can’t go on like this forever.
We’ve become too refined, far too delicate, too fat for
good music.

Anyway…no one has the oomph. It’s all petered out.
We’re out of gas. There’s an energy shortage,
you know.

For the most part, pictures will be enough, for a while,
like those of farmers. Nobody wants to get his hands dirty,
digging in flower beds, plowing, changing diapers.

No one wants to turn potatoes, feed the pigs or geld the stallions.
What is there to celebrate if there are no children?
That’s the question.

If there’s no harvest, what’s the point of drinking? And
now they say there’s no purpose in planting flowers.
The suburbs are obsolete, no pleasure in squirrels.

No need for dogs to bark. No need for evening walks. No
need for games of catch. Eliminate the lawns, they decree,
which are nothing more than symbols of Farmer Brown.

There’ll be nothing to remember, not even the sound of crying babies.
Family life is finished. Dirty floors, mother’s milk, chicken pox
are all a thing of the past.

Now the smell of grass must go. It’s no longer the Age of Aquarius;
it’s the age of exhaustion. We’re entering America’s very own
Cultural Revolution. At the end of the day, they’ll be hell to pay.

It’s the age of recrimination. People stand around pointing fingers,
as the time French women were made to pay for bedding
enemy soldiers. They were driven through the streets, naked.

It’s an age of exculpation. We all want to wash our hands of it.
The only music left is what we demand to see others face.
Otherwise we want silence.

[David Lohrey is the Shadow Lord of brain-seizing, heart-piercing poetry, and a medium for the ether words. He was born on the Hudson River, but grew up on the Mississippi in Memphis. He currently teaches in Tokyo. He has reviewed books for The Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register, has been a member of the Dramatists Guild in New York, and is currently writing a memoir of his years living on the Persian Gulf. Also, he’s freakin’ awesome.]

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Dawn Chorus-S.K. Nicholas/A Journal for Damned Lovers

Down by the river on a bed of leaves, we shed our skin and touch. We are lovers high on romance. We are lovers drunk on each other’s bodies and a mixture of vodka and gin and random shots of something that has left us with tears in our eyes. With your hands above your head, you submerge them in the cold, green water that flows so slowly without a reason why. Whispering into your ear, I tell you things no one else knows, things that have been kept inside through fear, the same fear I tasted on your lips the night we first met. The newspapers tell us that we are close to war. It’s on TV, too. But then we always are, and the saddest part is that we are even at war with ourselves and will continue to be until the day we die. Looking into your eyes, I can see you’re wearing the mascara you stole from Boots. Told you not to, but what good did it do? Still, you look so beautiful, and yet… And yet there will be a day when we go our separate ways and these tender moments will be left to fade. It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all, but how sad to think that there will come a time when moments such as these will be wiped from existence? Maybe it’s the booze talking, or it’s just my writer’s mind going into overdrive because of the fear brought on by the missiles North Korea are amassing. Lifting your hands from the river and playing with the curls of my hair, you ask me what I’m thinking, but I tell you none of this. Instead, I rest my head on your chest and describe the dream I had last summer where the earth was knocked off its orbit and shunted into outer space. It was a warm and bright day, and I was walking down the street of a local town by the name of Ampthill when the ground shook and the skies were sucked of all their matter. Within seconds the land was plunged into darkness, and as the air in my lungs ran dry, I turned to my right and could just about make out a young girl looking at me from the window of a library. She was waving, and as my vision dissolved, I couldn’t figure out if she was waving hello or goodbye. Raising my head, I ask you what it could mean but you give no reply. With a faint smile spread across your painted lips, you’ve silently slipped into sleep.

S. K. Nicholas is blogger at and author of A Journal for Damned Lovers.  To learn more about S.K. and A Journal for Damned Lovers read Jasper Kerkau’s interview with S.K. and his review of A Journal for Damned Lovers.

The Weyward Sisters: Hand in Hand – A Collaboration from the Women of Sudden Denouement

Stand, a nighean.
Call the moon.
Bring your Wolves
With you.
Let down the flames of your hair.
The Great War
Has come again.
 – Rana Kelly

In the end there will be fire and ash
But to us it will be like the Fourth of July
What could be more powerful than women
Standing together in solidarity
We’re taking a page out of Lilith’s book
The one you never read
We will not lie on the bottom
We will stand side by side.
Hannah Wagner

Thrills the Viking Whisper ice –
splinters of the north wind
Of the high noon blood of sister-raiders slain
The shield-maidens dine
Tonight, too.
Samantha Lucero

It is well within the fires
of burning words
and stolen wombs, ravaged,
we have birthed a beast.
Swaddled in the souls
of her mothers of fire
and maidens of ice,
she has been touched
with the wisdom of crones blazing,
and she will cast
her shadow upon the ashes
of their bones.
Nicole Lyons

hail the harlot
and crown the courtesan,
for she has seen seduction’s beast
and let it swallow her.
let her tread its veins like footpaths
and sleep upon its heart.
Lois E. Linkens 

We stand shoulder to shoulder with our sisters
Warrior women all
We draw down the moon and hold her as our shield
Our pens will be our swords
We will no longer be silenced
Hear the chorus of our voices
We shall ROAR!
Christine Ray

Nighean is Scottish Gaelic for “lass.”

Lilith is considered to be Adams first wife who would not lie beneath him in bed. She wanted to be his equal.

Shield maidens were Vikings who fought alongside the men in battle.

Weyward Sisters are a reference from the witches in Macbeth.

Wake Me When It’s Over- Nicholas Osborne


my boots are caked with mud and shit, and
likely other elements I’d soon withhold from mind;
I squat, with lumbar pressed into a man-dug ditch,
confined to this gashed earth we call a trench;
it’s damp out and my breath puffs precede me—
black smoke from a coal stack—sipping with mechanical
lips whatever lukewarm liquid sloshes in this old tin cup
I hold in palms that used to quaver, when blood
more innocent still coursed their length and width.

I’ve been told my hands look like a those of a pianist;
now just blunt and bloated stubs, with nails dipped in
midnight pitch—crescent slivers from the dark-side
face of a waning gibbous, so deep begrimed that I’d
need to hatchet-hack the digits off to separate
myself from this smut—the dirt that’s thick and
wet, and doesn’t wash off, though I could scour
my skin until I mined to bright white bone; it’s a hell
tar that bubbles up from whatever pit’s below, mixed
with melted rime from last night’s winter, puddled in the
deep, manifold impressions of confused and wayward boots.

and I don’t shake anymore—my nerves so frayed
they couldn’t pass a shadow in between them;
on edge so many shapeless days and nights that
‘scared’ has lost its meaning; I’ve forged my old fear
into a new-minted apathy I pass for courage—not
phased a twinge at the prospect of dying alone,
secure in the knowledge that my head will
tip from my neck soon enough, like what’s happened
to every other horizontal boy right over the ridge:
all dressed up and uniformed, posed like
alabaster storefront mannequins, showing off
their Sunday church duds to the ruptured sky;
splotched first here, then there with blooming crimson
flesh petals—a wild rose garden, sown in silent furrows.

I don’t’ think I’ve slept in weeks, but I tire more
of waiting; waiting for that looming sound to drill my ears
with jackhammer voice and ear-bleed whistle shrill,
demanding that I rise and drop this mug of sick—let it lay
forever lost, stamped into the muck and mire, to be
excavated by some shovel-wielding archaeologist, who sifts
where once I squatted— a few futures from now, in days when
time’s dementia has stolen the remembrance of my name.

girded with my brave indifference, I’ll wrap hands around my
gunstock, and sighing, mount that slimy slope,
where the only way out is over—the only way out
is out—when it’s a relief to finally expire, with nails in need
of manicuring; and I can exist as another cold fixture in
a larger human mural—a hunk of polished porcelain,
shaded thoughtfully in red acrylic that accentuates
my cheekbones; when this fucking waiting ends and
that brass tube screams its guts out, I can charge;
dead or free, or amputee—at last, I’m going home.


Nicholas Osborne

My thoughts sometimes stub their toes on a pen.