• Big Table Publishing

OCTOBER, 2020

Updated: Oct 15, 2020


To Godfrey, the Horse Who Rode My Secret

Evangeline Sanders

I remember grinding the metal pick

into the groove of the hoof, the chipping

and clumping of caked dirt and straw.

The acid stench of peat and ripe manure.

I tugged on the saddle straps and wedged

two fingers between the girth and damp

horse-belly, feeling for space. I pulled

them out slimy and streaked with sweat.

The saddle creaked as I clenched my thighs

and clicked my teeth. We trotted beside the

tire tread slush, past the Barbie doll tricycle

with the pink-and-white streamers and the

oak that stooped into the algae pond.

You glanced back at me with your speckled

eyes and peppered lashes, swishing your tail

from the flies and heat that nipped at our

skinny legs. You bucked me off, once or

twice, and I dropped like a coconut

into the dirt and cried.

It’s funny— I don’t remember how to clean

a hoof or strap a saddle. I can’t recall how

a clump of your hair felt in my fist, or how

the sun tasted as it cracked our lips and

caked our tongues. But I remember the

way you watched me when the evening

bled into the night and the stars crawled

shyly out. When I thought of him.

Good boy. Good boy, Godfrey.

You and your grinning eyes.

Evangeline Sanders is an undergraduate student living in Charleston, South Carolina. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Eunoia Review, Teen Ink and Creative Communications. She is a two-time recipient of Teen Ink’s Editor’s Choice Award.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

You remember cigarettes

Carla Sarett

They say air in San Francisco

is like eight cigarettes a day.

And Manhattan's filled

with chain smokers.

They languish, ironically, in squares

Madison, Herald, Union, Washington.

Flaunting the older dangers

flicking their tattooed wrists.

You remember.

Cigarettes and coffee

your lipstick-stained butt,

burning in his ashtray

a quarter to three

they lit up the dark.

You remember ....

What we used to call risk.

Carla Sarett’s recent poems appear in Third Wednesday, Prole, One Art, Halfway Down the Stairs and elsewhere; her debut novel, A Closet Feminist, will be published in 2022. She lives in San Francisco.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Different Catalogues

Timothy C Goodwin

He continues washing dishes, after having just accidentally called her Laura.

He first thinks: GAAAAAAHHHHH

Then: Sure, I’m in love,* but that doesn’t mean the old files just get, like, deleted.

And: Maybe she didn’t catch it.

She caught it.

Catalogues it.

Catalogues, also, that he definitely recognized it, and now addresses it by asking her if she likes Doctor Who.

She shakes her head No and continues to dry the dishes.

*Again.

Timothy C Goodwin graduated in writing from The University of New Orleans and has been writing essays, music reviews, and interviews for local publications since then. He has written two novels, one firmly entrenched in rejection-letter phase, the other entrenched in editing purgatory. His latest piece, “Private Companion(s),” was published in Marathon Literary Review.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Theogony

Nicholas Shroeder

God had to decide what to do. Robots had wiped out the human race—in one fell swoop. But these robots, on the other hand; They were devout monotheists. And he really enjoyed their worship.

He could start from scratch. Design a brand new universe. But what a hassle. Wouldn’t the same thing just happen again? And the billions of years of boredom. God sighed.

God checked down on Earth. The robots were building a new church. The largest ever built. God concluded why not make the church even bigger. All he had to do was get in their heads’ and make them do it. He couldn’t do that with humans. There was that whole covenant of freewill he made. But he didn’t have a covenant with the robots. He could play with them like puppets.

God had such a great time moving things around, doing whatever he wanted without restriction.

Time passed, and then something happened... The robots recreated two humans in a lab—an act of mercy. They called them Adam and Eve.

“Fuck!”

Nicholas Schroeder is a philosopher, living in New Orleans, who enjoys writing flash fiction with a philosophical bent.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

What Goes Unseen

Christy Prahl

How is it that I’ve come to sleep in the car? An hour ago

we were fine. Mundane, even. Playing our favorite board game,

which you were losing, uncharacteristically, and you told me

you no longer cared about this game, at all, so I packed up

my tiles because winning seemed less important than the

feeling of simply being together in this broken universe, perhaps

on the brink of civil war, perhaps on the brink of fighting for

flour, of finding places outdoors to defecate because plumbing

required more water than we’d been rationed for the week.

Suddenly the packing up of those tiles became the

autobiography of our marriage, and it was terrifying

and vast in its emptiness, so we took out that pain on

one another because what other target did we have. Your

last move in the game was wear for just 14 points. Had we

continued, I would have added a y.

Christy Prahl is a philanthropy professional, foraging enthusiast, and occasional insomniac. Her past, current, and future publications include the Alaska Quarterly Review, Carolina Quarterly, Puerto del Sol, Blue Mountain Review, Cathexis Northwest Press, Bangalore Review, and Twyckenham Notes. She splits her time between Chicago and rural Michigan with her husband and plain brown dog.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Objects

Michael Loveday

“If you had to describe me as a household object, which object would you pick?”


“Do we really have to play this game?”


“Yes! Yes! Go on, what object?”


Simon thinks. It’s like balancing stacked coins – one false move and the whole construction will topple. She scrutinizes him with her bulging eyes. He wants to say magnifying glass of course. He’s the flaccid balloon that’s smouldering in refocused light. “I don’t know. Candle?” he offers. Sounds Romantic, big R.


"Not bad. Why?”


“You’re delicate, you light up the room, you’re relaxing to be around.” He feels pathetic, always crumbling into placating her.


“OK,” she says. “Now, your turn.”


He waits, eyes to the floor, chewing his nails.


“You’re a porcelain vase,” she says.


“A vase?”


“Without flowers,” she says, looking pleased with herself, and sits back in her chair.

Michael Loveday’s hybrid novella-in-flash Three Men on the Edge (V. Press, 2018) was shortlisted for the 2019 Saboteur Award for Best Novella. He is currently completing a flash fiction collection on the theme of secrets. He also writes poetry, with a pamphlet He Said / She Said published by HappenStance Press (2011).

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


My Day

Peter W. Yaremko

Mother called to say happy birthday as she does each year.

She told me of the day I was born: how she was at Woolworth’s on a winter’s spring afternoon, buying buttons for a sweater she knit.

Mothers did that. Knit sweaters for their babies. And there was always a Woolworth’s for the buttons.

Except this time she felt a little something that signaled a momentous day.

I teased, reciting the story along with her because she recited it to me annually.

She wanted me to remember my day. Because she had no one left in the world who remembered her day, where they were and what they did.

She wished it wasn’t so.

Mother’s gone now. So I have no one left in the world who remembers my day, where they were and what they did.

And I wish it wasn’t so.

Peter W. Yaremko is author of three non-fiction books: A Light from Within; Fat Guy in a Fat Boat; and Saints and Poets, Maybe. His novel, Billy of the Tulips, was released in 2018 by TouchPoint Press. Published poetry: Allegro Poetry Magazine, Ariel Chart International Literary Journal, Avalon Literary Review, Dual Coast Magazine, Loch Raven Review, Poetry Quarterly, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Third Wednesday Literary and Arts Journal.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

2020 is a Vampire

Kaecey McCormick

The world is a vampire, sent to drain…

Smashing Pumpkins, “Bullet with Butterfly Wings”

It’s 2020 and like the song says, the world is a vampire.

A global pandemic has made us freeze in place or suffocate.

My country is being ripped apart by the same old fight for power

and those who bear the brunt of the war are pressed

deeper into the ground beneath the feet of white privilege.

Storms tear apart the land, flooding cities, drowning souls.

My state is consumed by flames that claim back the forests

and wipe away anything that gets in their way — no exceptions.

My city is covered in layers of smoke and ash beneath

an apocalyptic sky that casts an orange glow on us all.

The world is a vampire, sucking away life as we know it

while we stream videos on Netflix in staggering succession.

2020 should be a call to action, a call to arms, a call to sit up,

wake up, take notice and scream, What the fuck?

It should be a clear message that change is in order

and we can either be a part of it or get swept away

like the ash that litters the streets all around me.

In the midst of it all, as the fangs press down on my neck,

I can’t help but worry about what to make the kids for dinner

and the pimple erupting on my chin and did I remember

to put the wet laundry in the dryer and the slow spread

of my hips on my working-always-from-home chair.

I wish I could be a selfless savior of the masses.

Instead, I close my eyes and lean into its bite.

Kaecey McCormick is a writer and artist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Named the 2018-2020 Poet Laureate for the City of Cupertino, her work appears in the book Pixelated Tears (Prolific Press) and numerous journals and anthologies. When not creating, Kaecey enjoys time with her husband and four daughters.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Love Can Live Outside of Words

Richard LeDue

Watching you smash your head

against the wall, and I can only

sympathize, try to remember being

five, imagine still speaking

in gibberish, wearing diapers,

yet knowing I was seduced by words.

Allowed the noises I still make

to flirt with meaning,

until realizing language is a loveless marriage.

Checking your forehead for bruises,

and inside my clenched mouth,

I taste sorrow,

its flavour similar to my own blood.

Being too polite to spit

into a napkin, I swallow it.

Then you grab my hand, needing

something I'll guess at, waiting

for your smile to answer me-

the sentences on this page can't help

but be jealous from their own

inadequacies.

Richard LeDue was born in Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, but currently lives in Norway House, Manitoba with his wife and son. His poems have appeared in various publications throughout 2019, and more work is forthcoming throughout 2020. His chapbook, The Loneliest Age, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Jules Never Told

Zvi Sesling

Jules liked to invent things. His latest contraption was a large chair in an even larger frame with a giant fan at the back and a clock in the front. There were dials and numbers and other doo-dads that, when the gizmos were turned on would spin and whistle and make clanking noises. So Jules decided he would sit in it and turn it on. It was July 4, 1898 and outside an Independence Day parade was in progress. They were playing patriotic music that seemed to fade along with the horses and buggies leading the marchers. Jules moved the handle to stop the machine and saw strange vehicles that moved without horses and whose metallic frames shone in the sunlight. He heard music he had never heard before and clothing on men and women that he could not have imagined in his wildest dreams. He pulled a lever back and the dials spun in reverse until he was back to where he had started. It had been an exhilarating but exhausting experience. Climbing into bed Jules Verne told himself that when he awoke in the morning he would write his next novel, The Time Machine.


Zvi A. Sesling is Brookline, MA Poet Laureate. He edits Muddy River Poetry Review and is author of The Lynching of Leo Frank (Big Table Publishing, 2017)and six other poetry books. His flash fiction book Secret Behind The Gate will be published in early 2021 by Cervena Barva Press. He has published poetry and flash fiction both in the U.S. and internationally. He lives in Brookline, MA with his wife Susan J. Dechter.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Zoology

Chad Parenteau

I know I would like to fuck you is the first line

in not-a-poem to not-his-wife (who waits

for breakfast), his mind set to cook

to the timer of the boiling eggs.

Every egg seems to come from a sick phoenix,

impossible to crack yet easy to smoosh,

thrown away half eaten, back in dairy aisles.

Eternal embryos and failure, two constants.

Wife's in bed, wincing at premature cracks.

He heads back for coffee, to catch the cell

before it rattles the counter with her reply:

I know. I would like to fuck you too!

Followed with, This could even end up helping

you both. Do you think I could ever talk with your wife?

He pictures his infatuation, her cyclopean tunnel vision versus

three-headed dog, headed by spouse and both in-laws blazing.

He walks Hades, looks back, his Penelope and family,

not going anywhere. Secret Delphi says it will be okay

with less footing than myth. His laptop's private browser

trojans porn away from all their eyes.

He imagines hunting and killing unreal beasts,

pictures wife transmogrified from real phoenix eggs,

her heart able to rise above its own ashes

recalling all his time in other rooms not sighing.

Her heart will burn but survive this decimation, forced

immolation, justification. It will endure. It had better.



Chad Parenteau's work has also appeared in journals such as Résonancee, Boston Literary Magazine Queen Mob's Tea-House, Cape Cod Poetry Review, Tell-Tale Inklings, Off The Coast, Ibbetson Street, Scriptic,and Wilderness House Literary Review. He currently serves as Associate Editor of the online journal Oddball Magazine. His second collection, The Collapsed Bookshelf, has just been released.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Take Me With You

Tane Kim

I sit down on the

metal platform and

try to block out the sirens behind.

Birds overhead

migrating in a “v” shape

utter distant “cakaw”s,

their pale wings

contrasting boldly with the maroon background.

“Take me with you

to warmer places

beyond the horizon”, I whisper.

My neck spasms and I relax,

looking downward for the first time.

The sirens are louder than ever.

I gaze with vehement disgust at

the river and harboring city that I call home, and

I spit, hoping that the saliva will hit something…

anything.

But of course it won’t.

I watch strainingly as my little white glob

makes its way down, and

the merciful wind carries it to shore.

Closer than I thought.

It’s almost sunset now;

I better get going.

As I prepare for my exit,

my eyes wander to the horizon.

Interesting.

I can still see those birds after all these minutes.

I guess the horizon stretches

farther than I thought.

The gulls' bodies now resemble unified snowflakes

or globs of spit,

hovering towards or away from

who-knows-where.

At least they are going somewhere.

Somewhere…

As the last crescent sliver of sun leaves departs the heavens,

the sky seems clearer than ever.

Still hard to bear, but clearer.

I place one leg at a time

onto stable cement

as they come to embrace

me.

Looking back towards the sky,

I can still see the horizon

and those birds drifting

to somewhere

in its endless reach.

Tane is an avid teenage creative writer who goes to the Irvington Union School District in the suburbs of New York. Through his work, Tane hopes to provide a relatable reading experience to other young adults who are going through times of hardship. In his free time, he enjoys eating... whatever the time, place, or food, Tane loves a good meal!

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

All Aboard

Paul Beckman

“I want you. You want me too. Take me now,” Sophia said sotto voce just as the New Haven Metro train was pulling into Grand Central Station. And I did as Sophia demanded and then lost my conductor’s job for the one person I couldn’t turn down—my former mother-in-law.



Paul Beckmanis a retired air traffic controller. His latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press) was a finalist for the 2019 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories are in Spelk, Necessary Fiction, Litro, Pank, Playboy, Thrice Fiction, and The Lost Balloon.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Month of the Dead

Deirdre Fagan

It seems wrong now, but at the time it seemed the most sensible thing

to suggest that October was the month of dying.

You told me you didn’t want to make it to the holidays;

you didn’t want one like this.

The hospice nurse, standing by the back door, told me you wouldn’t make it

to Christmas, told me you were ready.

“He’s waiting for you,” she said.

After stumbling to the minivan and driving blurry-eyed to pick up the kids,

I came numbly home, knowing the end was near.

The next time we were sharing, I made a tongue-in-cheek remark about how

the other four had all died between August and October, two in October,

so that at least by the Day of the Dead, the mourning season is past.

“Maybe October would be a good time…” I winked, “if you were looking to get out.”

You always did consider what I wanted.

The weekend you died, the sun stopped shining on Friday, and didn’t shine again

until you were gone two days later.

Your breaths were so shallow, your voice barely audible, our love for each other

and the children as immense and powerful as the sun that reflected on the leaves that had

yet to fall.

Deirdre Fagan is a widow, wife, mother of two, and associate professor and coordinator of creative writing in the English, Literature, and World Languages Department at Ferris State University. Fagan is the author of a chapbook of poetry, Have Love, a forthcoming collection of short stories, The Grief Eater, and a reference book, Critical Companion to Robert Frost. Fagan writes poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and academic essays on poetry, memoir, and pedagogy.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Invisible

Gerald Kramens

“So he never hit you,” said the bearded officer, to the thin woman slumped across from him in the interrogation room.

“No, sir. He used things besides his fists to keep me straight. Like the snakes he kept in a cage beside our bed. Said he’d throw them at me if I misbehaved.”

“Snakes? That’s all? Why didn’t you call the police?”

“What would you have done? He never hit me.”

“Never hit you, “ repeated the other officer, a petite Black woman, silent until then.

“I was always afraid, ma’am.. No money. No job experience. We married right after high school. He called me a sorry whore, said no other man would want me because I wasn’t clean.”

“And the gun?” asked the policeman.

“It was on a kitchen shelf, unloaded. The bullets were locked in a drawer, He’d said if I ever ran away, he’d use it to track me down and kill me. After he went to work yesterday, I used a screwdriver to open that drawer. I never fired a gun before.”

“You’re both lucky. He was barely nicked,” said the policewoman. “So he never left a mark on you?”

The woman being questioned momentarily stiffened, before sinking down into her chair. “Not,” she sobbed, “so anyone could see.”

Gerald Kamens has worked in a mental hospital, the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. His work has appeared in flashquake, America, the Christian Science Monitor, Baltimore Sun, Grief Diaries, Ravensperch, POZ, Dirt Press, Abbey Hill Literary, Strata, and Litro. Recent works include children's stories, essays, and short plays. His last acting role was in Chekhov’s The Seagull. He lives with his wife in Falls Church, Virginia, USA.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Goulash

Thomas R. Moore

Not an elegant Turkish çorba

with cumin, sumac, and bay spiraling

from the pot, but home-formula

Friday goulash, a basic stew for

ravenous kids. I love those burly

kitchen aromas after biking home

from mowing lawns or picking apples:

hamburger frying with onions

in the black iron skillet, canned

tomatoe