• Big Table Publishing

JANUARY, 2020


Chaw Rob Dinsmoor

I’m on a converted school bus carrying us from our living quarters—essentially a Super 8 Motel—to the drug and alcohol rehab facility where we learn about coping with cravings and “triggers.”  We pass a stretch of strip malls, drive-in clinics, liquor stores, and check-cashing joints.  In the seat in front of me is a very attractive young couple in their early twenties. 

There’s a rule against the men and women sitting together on the bus, but it is rarely enforced.  There are many younger people at the rehab facility and, unlike old drunks like me, most of them are in for things like heroin, oxycontin, and crystal meth.


The man is chewing tobacco and it gives me bad memories about being back on the high school bus with the tough kids in Indiana.


“Can I try it?” the woman asks.


“Sure,” says the man, handing her a plug of Skoal.  “Just put it between your cheek and your gums and let it dissolve.  Don’t chew it—and whatever you do, don’t swallow it.”


There is something vaguely sweet about his patient instruction on the art of chewing.  She puts a wad on her mouth and her cheek and jaw stick out so far she looks like a cowboy.  I try to image her with brown teeth and gums.  I find it depressing that a pretty girl like that will eagerly try out such a nasty new habit, but then again, here we all are.


Rob Dinsmoor is a freelance writer who has published dozens of short stories, as well as scripts for Nickelodeon and MTV.  His collection of short stories, Toxic Cookout, was published by Big Table Publishing Company in October, 2019.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Beastly Thoughts

Michael C. Keith


I’m thinking maybe my dog is acting strangely because she knows I’m losing my mind. She senses my breakdown and is frightened for both of us. If I end up in the looney bin, where will she end up? There’s no one who’ll take her in. She has intuited our disaster. What a burden, her perception.


Michael C. Keith is the author of 20 books of fiction.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


The Ferry

Brady Peterson


We each drink a warm beer and talk

the world into being.

Tanks roll into the city, we scurry

across the rooftop,

wait for choppers to fly us

to an offshore carrier, wait to go home,

though I fear home has been misplaced.


I ride the bus to Dallas.

You head for Seattle, where you intend

to ride the ferry there back and forth

to and from Bainbridge Island.

I walk to Dealey Plaza

and sit on the grass.


At night sometimes, I speak to you

as if we were still young,

as if angels had wings.


Brady Peterson lives near Belton, Texas where for twenty-nine years he worked building homes and teaching rhetoric. He is the author of Between Stations, Dust, From an Upstairs Window, and García Lorca Is Somewhere in Produce.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Pearls

Robbie Gamble


Brick bowl of City Hall Plaza

brim-filled with trans-folk draped

in pink, white and blue, shouldering

together in this foul political season

so as not to be erased, and onstage

at one rim, a six-foot trans-woman

in immaculate eyeshadow is belting

her song “I’m a Queen,” while lifting

her heart under leaden skies, and

across the bowl, a scrappy knot

of counter demonstrators with cheap

megaphones are whipping up

something derogatory, but their words

are drowned down by a cordon chanting,

“Trans Rights are Human Rights!” and I’m

just a solemn ally, but I can surely 

tell the sonic grating of hateful howls

from iridescent waves of love and hope

and hard-won resiliency that swell

to envelop this toxic irritant,

the way an oyster accepts

a gritty shard, and layers it

into something precious.


Robbie Gamble's poems have appeared in Scoundrel Time, Solstice, RHINO, Cutthroat, and Poet Lore. He was the winner of the 2017 Carve Poetry prize, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. He works as a nurse practitioner caring for homeless people in Boston.


Listen to it!





* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Estrus

Catherine Arra

You invited him

to follow

behind lilacs, naked in early snow.


You sidled ahead

paused, coy

glanced back, lifted your chin.


You let him press

his wet nose into hind fur,

lean long into the lure of you


& then

you had him—six-point buck

all intent.


You crouched

ever so daintily, a back-leg curtsey

& as gently, as if to test his bulk


against your petite,

his force against your feminine,

he half-mounted & dismounted.


But then

the way thunder shatters sleep,

he climbed on top


with the certainty of a god

seeded you in three packed thrusts

withdrew, stepped back—waited


while you flicked your fully-fluffed white tail

as if waving a victory boa, or

fanning cool air into a hot canal.


Floating the stillness

in wildness, he waited—tending you,

his lightning eyes set beneath his crown


& set on you

while you waited for all to settle

into next season’s fawn.


Catherine Arra is the author of (Women in Parentheses) (Kelsay Books, 2019), Writing in the Ether (Dos Madres Press, 2018), and three chapbooks. Her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous journals online and in print, and in several anthologies. Forthcoming in 2020 from Finishing Line Press is a new chapbook, Her Landscape, Poems Based on the Life of Mileva Marić Einstein. Arra is a native of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she teaches part-time and facilitates local writing groups.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


If Time Heals Old Wounds

 Mark Saba


If time heals old wounds I still think of mine as a red scar an interim of ghostly life and ghastly death, the death of a loved one not quite gone.


The Chinese say it takes three years three years to not notice the scar, one that

has become so much a part of you you'd never want it to disappear.


I'm coming up on the third year. The scar burns when I dream of her the one who raised me the one who tended my wounds. I have so many old wounds it would be difficult to name them all.


Mark Saba’s work has appeared in many literary magazines and anthologies around the U.S. and abroad. His most recent book publications are Ghost Tracks: Stories of Pittsburgh Past (Big Table Publishing) and Calling the Names (poetry, David Robert Books).


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Buddy System

Chris Bullard


I was hoping we’d all see the end of days

before I died, so I wouldn’t have to travel

to the afterlife by myself. I wanted the sky

flashing over our past-the-expiration-date

republic like the little bulb coming on

when you’ve opened the refrigerator door

for a midnight snack, so I could be sure

the name of everyone I knew would appear

on the product recall list. Post-apocalypse,

waiting in the rubble for transportation

to wherever God warehouses all the souls,

we could talk sports shit and say screw you

to the bosses and the jobs that we hated.

It’d be like taking vacation time together.


I don’t want to be that kid sitting alone

on the bench at the bus station, his ticket

pinned to his jacket, ignored by the other

travelers, who find him sort of pathetic,

except maybe for some pasty-faced guy

asking him if he’d like a chocolate kiss.

If you say that it’s a much better place

I’m headed for, shouldn’t you come, too?

I know we’ve got the right tools to make

our extinction happen: drugs, plutonium,

etc. Corporate guys, it’d be so “proactive”

for us all to punch out at the same time.

Besides, why would anyone hang around

after I’m gone? It’s going to be so boring.


Chris Bullard is a native Floridian who lives in Philadelphia, PA. He received his B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania and his M.F.A. from Wilkes University. Finishing Line Press published his poetry chapbook, Leviathan, in 2016, and Kattywompus Press published High Pulp, a collection of his flash fiction, in 2017. Fear was published by Big Table Publishing Company in 2017. His work has appeared in recent issues of Leveler, Muse/A Journal, The Woven Tale, Nimrod, Cutthroat and The Offbeat.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Remember This Day

Steve Klepetar


Outside, rain thickening. Warm on the bus, 

but we are nearing the hills, where snow 

has begun to stick on the branches of pines. 

We are entering the land of shadows and drifts. 

A woman rests her head against her arm. 

She may be asleep, or trying to rest her eyes 

from the harsh light. 

We have left the city behind. 

Soon we will stop at a café where people 

sit on hard chairs staring at menus 

with photographs of food, huge portions 

of pancakes, sandwiches with melted cheese. 

A waitress flits by offering coffee, 

holding out the pot as our cups steam and fill.

The woman is speaking softly on the phone.

She slips it in her purse, lifts out a small bottle, 

shakes two red pills into her palm. 

She has asked someone to go away and now 

she gulps water from a large glass filled with ice. 

Somebody’s daughter, somebody’s battered girl.

Again and again you see those shadowed eyes, 

the distant look that will never connect.

A long time from now you will remember this day, 

the headache and long hours, windshield wipers 

clicking as the driver peers through streaks of ice,

the woman’s forehead leaning against cold glass.


Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. His work has received several nominations for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize. He is the author of The Li Bo Poems and Family Reunion.



* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Searching for Serenity

Rick Blum


I’m starting to sweat, shifting from one foot to the other, 

unsure if I should go right or left, or even back 

whence I came. Racks and stacks of clothes, 

fanning out in an endless ocean of personal primping, 

obfuscate my primal destination.


To my left: splotched jeans meticulously ripped 

to broadcast indifference to good grooming – 

a state that costs a minor fortune to achieve. 


To my right: mounds of sweat shirts proclaiming 

allegiance to all stripes of schools, sports teams 

and personal lifestyles, none of which I ascribe to. 


Beyond them jackets for days when water droplets fall

like bunker busters, or just mist mindlessly dawn to dusk.

For snowy days or blustery days. For days when a slight 

chill in the air cries out for seriously chic adornment. 


And everywhere signs flaunting designer names 

like Ralph Lauren, a nom de guerre carefully created 

to evoke a cross between manliness and preppiness, 

because Ralph Lipschitz duds would be a marketing dud. 


Finally my eyes spot a non-descript sign on the far wall, 

just below a gargantuan poster of a half-naked, 

totally ripped model sporting a look of total boredom, 

as if lingering in front of the camera was the last thing 

he wanted to do that day. 


Quickly I plot the shortest course to the opening 

just to the right of the sign: First jog left past the jeans, 

then right before the Dockers. Zig around the Polo shirts; 

zag after Calvin Klein’s underwear. 


Completing this cryptic course, I elbow the door open 

and position myself at the first empty stall. 

Ah, sweet pee. You bring an aging man joy – 

if only for a few hours, ’til another frantic 

search for serenity begins anew.


Rick Blum has been chronicling life’s vagaries through essays and poetry for more than 30 years during stints as a nightclub owner, high-tech manager, market research mogul, and, most recently, old geezer. His writings have appeared in The Literary Hatchet, The Satirist, and WINK magazine, among others. He is also a frequent contributor to The Humor Times, and has been published in numerous poetry anthologies. Mr. Blum is a three-time winner of the annual Carlisle Poetry Contest. His poem, “Tomfoolery,” received honorable mention in The Boston Globe Deflategate poetry challenge.



* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Winter Highway

paul Bluestein


The eastern sun shines

through a tattered blanket of clouds

thrown carelessly on the bed of the sky.

As I drive north, the shadow of my car stretches into the oncoming traffic. A ghost car,

speeding in the wrong lane,

colliding with southbound cars,

but the only sound is the wind and the miles

rolling away beneath my wheels.

The hills, rising up in the west,

have shed their leaf-soft June fur

and grown a spiky coat of bare trees

whose leaves now lie

dead and brown beside the highway,

victims of their own collision

with immovable December.


paul Bluestein is a physician (done practicing), a blues musician (still practicing) and a dedicated Scrabble player (yes, ZAX is a word). He lives in Connecticut with his wife and the two dogs who rescued him. If the Poetry Muse calls, he answers, even if it’s during dinner.



* ~ * ~ * ~ *


The First Time I Watched a Friday the 13th

Brian Fanelli


My mom kept watch on the sunflower recliner,

her brown eyes peering over pages of a paperback,

while I leaned towards the TV, inserted a VHS—

Friday the 13th Pt. 4.

I ran my hands over the sleeve—

the black holes of Jason’s hockey mask,

the silver knife that gleamed like moonlight

over Camp Crystal Lake.

I clapped at the first appearance of hulking Jason

power walking through the woods, stalking

first victims, camp counselors that guzzled beers,

traded joints back and forth like secret notes.

My mother said nothing about first kills—

a machete to the head, an arrow between the eyes,

the gasps of victims before the camera pulled away

and Jason dragged their bodies to the woods.

It wasn’t until two counselors disrobed,

reached for the buttons of each other's shorts

that mom rose from her chair, stormed towards the TV,

seized the tape, clicked her tongue in disgust.

For months I searched for the VHS, like goods

thieved from me I wanted to reclaim. I never finished

that scene, the kill that always follows sex in slasher flicks.

My mother, too,was a moral judge,

wanting to shield my eyes from the female form,

from the mysteries of sex a 10-year-old wanted to ask.


Brian Fanelli's latest book is Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books), winner of the Devil's Kitchen Poetry Prize.His poetry has been featured on "The Writer's Almanac" and Verse Daily and published in The Los Angeles TimesWorld Literature TodayPaterson Literary Review, and elsewhere. Brian has also written about horror movies for Signal HorizonHorror Homeroom, and The Schuylkill Valley Journal. Jason Voorhees will always be his favorite slasher.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Drive

Howie Good


1

I was driving like I always do,

as if I were transporting a heart

packed in ice for a patient

who would die soon without it,

when – boom! – a sparrow

crashed into my windshield,

scaring the absolute shit out of me,

but what was strange (I mean,

really strange) was that there was

nothing even to see, no blood

on the glass, no feathers, nothing,

only a long, snaky road ahead

and the spreading smoke of dusk.

2

I was driving because

she couldn’t drive a stick,

my window half-open,

the air rushing past,

whup-whup-whup,

when suddenly there was

a sulfur smell as of witches

burning. She looked up

from her phone screen

and saw the dreary sky

and a homeless vet on crutches,

then the ramshackle ruins

of an abandoned factory

behind prison fencing.

“Are we lost?” she asked.

Well, yeah, maybe.


Howie Good is the author most recently of Stick Figure Opera: 99 100-word Prose Poems from Cajun Mutt Press. He co-edits the online journals Unbroken and UnLost.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Looking Across Lake Clara

Jaron Childs


You do not have to move

to the country to see

Mallard give up

on its floating

and go clapping 

into the just-waking birches

and if you were

to move to the country

you do not have to drink a glass

of the coldest maple sap

or make your child smell the air

until they know

what cedar is

and you are under no obligation

to pick one thing

or another

or to make any gods at all.


Jaron Childs is a painter. He lives with his family on a lake near the Wisconsin River.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Something We Held in Common

Michael Allyn Wells


Did I miss you

because you were not here

or because I only knew a concept of you?


Can you be angry at someone

you don’t really know

and love them at the same time?


Your name was all I had of you.

It was our name; something we held

in common when I didn’t even have a picture


of you to hold. So, I didn’t really have you.

I could not produce you

for parent-teacher night.


I could not explain

to friends what I did not

understand myself.


When mom sent me with a proxy

to Indian Guides, it was the longest night ever.

Neither of us wanted to be there,


sitting cross legged on the floor

thinking of senseless Indian names

for each other in some cute father son way.


And later, when he wanted to take your name

away from me – in exchange for his,

I would have no part of it.


Michael Allyn Wells is an alumnus of the AWP Writer 2 Writer Program, Spring 2017 session. The poet makes his home in Kansas City, with his wife and three rescue dogs. Wells is an avid San Francisco Giants fan, likes wine white and black coffee. His work has appeared in Right Hand Pointing, Montucky Review, Nude Bruce Review, Remington Review, WestWard Quarterly, Best of Boston Literary Magazine, Vol. 1 & Vol 2, and Rockhurst Fine Arts Review, as will other venues.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Parking Lot: Bunker Hill Community College, Boston

Doug Holder

I always feel 

like I am in a movie.

The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Cutting a deal with Robert Mitchum

our voices rumble

with the roar of the Orange Line

His beat-up Chevrolet

the omen of fuzzy dice

swing from 

his rear view

my 200,000-mile

Honda

as dour

as the day.

Gray skies

fit with the

metallic city landscape

a bird's bleak beak

sitting on a rusty wire

watches us

with fierce objectivity.

A clandestine slip

from my to his pocket,

a tentative handshake.

He looks at me

with deep, world-weary eyes:

“The world is a tough place kid--

and it’s tougher 

if you are stupid.”


Doug Holder is the founder of the Ibbetson Street Press. He teaches writing at Endicott College and Bunker Hill Community College in Boston. The Doug Holder Papers collection is in process at the University at Buffalo's Rare Books and Poetry Archive.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Tiny Monsters

Len Kuntz


It is something like breathing, the way the wind walks backward through the switchgrass, honey suckle and butterscotch lifting lightly off each blade, here in this very field where you once fought your army of tiny monsters with a gnarled tree staff.  Even then you believed in the soul of imagination and the gift of summer solstice, a boy silly enough to adore and love, my son, whose voice I hear giggling in the catastrophic breeze.


Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State and the author of four books, most recently the story collection, This is Why I Need You, out now from Ravenna Press. 


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Bringing in The Wood

Melissa E. Mishcon


One full breath and the air swims

into you cold as a silver fish.

Skidding on the steps, you pile

the logs first this way, then that,

weaving a wooden blanket.

Chopping, splitting, stacking,

carrying, banging your boots

to shake snow from your treads.

So much goes into building a fire.


But so much goes into many things

that come to nothing. That tree house

started last summer, the rowing machine

that never hits the imaginary lake,

The shed that needs painting, having a baby,

finishing that novel. Many things don’t get done.

And what of things that do? A four layer cake

that listed left, grown child that won’t

call back, books that were completed.

The thing about bringing in the wood

fingers dry and split as the logs

being hauled, the long muscle

on your right side tugging on you

like a like tired child, this wood

will be laid on the iron grate,

flue opened, popcorn balls of newsprint

and sticks of kindling tucked inside

the tee-pee of lumber, a match set

to the structure. And after

all of that, there will be fire.


Melissa E. Mishcon has had fiction, commentary, and/or poetry published in: The G.W. Review, Blue Unicorn (Spring 2020), Urthona, Aaduna, The Literary Nest, Girls Gone 50, The Women’s Times, The Artful Mind, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Albany Times Union, The Berkshire Edge, to name a few. Her novel, Just Between Us, won first prize from Birmingham Southern University’s Hackney Award. She has likewise been named for commendation by Serpentine (1st Prize), New Millennium, as well as other journals and periodicals. She is a practicing psychotherapist who lives in The Berkshires in Massachusetts.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *



The Hook

R. Ellis Shore


Rose savors her wine. His blue eyes catch hers as he enters the bistro. She turns her head, exposing her best angle. Gage was not hard to seduce. Empaths make the easiest targets. They see the good in everyone; want to convince her that she actually has that goodness inside her, as they so desperately want to believe. He was just enough of a challenge that is has been worth her while and besides, when she gazes upon his slim body, raven hair, sharply cut jawline and smile like caviar or champagne–or both together; she knows he will be her favorite conquest yet.


She is changing, he thinks, as he sits across from her. She seems more open, willing to share snippets of her past. If he shows compassion, stays steady, builds her trust, then she will be able to heal her wounds, to become the amazing person he sees trapped inside. He imagines the harm that must have caused her to be so guarded, so wounded. His heart overflows with love and concern for her; he can hardly contain it. It feels like cashmere to care so much. He won’t abandon her, like others have.


She smiles shyly, knowing it will pull him closer. He leans in, gently takes her hand, believing this comforts her. Her anger flares at the unexpected affection, at his belief that he is the strong one. She will never lose control. Pulling her hand away furiously, she waves the server over, “Bill, please.”


R. Ellis Shore is a writer, mystic and dreamer whose fiction appears regularly at the blog Terroir Dark: Shadow Writings from the Midnight Psyche. Using the blog format to create “chapters” and visual art to support the words, Shore’s stories easily roll forward through each post, giving the reader an experience of linear time and a narrative arc. Because each chapter stands alone as flash fiction or word sketches, one can also choose to jump into the deep end, anywhere, with no expectations. This is equally an exploration of time unbound, of disintegration and dissociation, of utter falling apart and re-emergence. While informed slightly by an autobiographical sensibility, Shore’s work is fictional with spatters of magical realism, fantasy and erotica throughout, giving it a sense of strangeness, an otherworldly quality that explores something akin to the dark, luscious, swank, perhaps a bit dangerous side of life. At the same time, these explorations are heavy and intensely frank: themes of abuse recovery, of power and control structures, of submission and dominance, transcend individual experience to embrace the larger issue of a culture struggling to shift away from the confines of patriarchal terror.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Valentine Snow

Renee Podunovich


Morning sings more snow,

one white note and little rhythm,

a spell of colorless eternity—

just the crystalline and the splinters

in the center of my heart,

frozen fractures

—I keep them frozen —

to avoid feeling the sting,

throw handfuls of wishes and flakes into icy air,

watch them flutter again, less brilliant this time

than in their original flight.

To declare logical sovereignty

over my unreasonable heart,

I gather together all of the ways I loved him,

put them in a snow globe,

keep them safely contained.

I will not shake it again.

I won’t remember his jawline;

tight when his tears come, his elegant gestures,

the shape of his hands.

I will forget,

just as I always fail to recall,

the facade inside his sedative voice

that tempers the smart of his half-truths and lies.

I was a fool. but now

let all of the little loves I secretly held

fall to the bottom

— settle and land —

my feet are my heart now,

planted firmly.

I won’t misstep on solid ground.


Renee Podunovich is a licensed professional counselor and freelance writer living in southwest Colorado. She has two chapbooks of poems: Let the Scaffolding Collapse (Finalist of the New Women’s Voices Chapbook Competition by Finishing Line Press, 2012) and If There Is a Center No One Knows Where It Begins (Art Juice Press, 2008). She is the 2019 Cantor Award winner for the best poem by a Coloradoan in the Fischer Prize awarded by the Telluride Literary Festival. Her poems were nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2010 and 2011. Renee believes that poetry is a language that encourages us to transcend our constricted sense of self and connect to our essential nature within and the intelligence of the world around us. Poetry can help us express the rich inner life and bring deeper insight and meaning into the mundane. Renee facilitates poetry Well Writing: Wordcraft for Discovery, Wholeness & Connection workshops that are designed to use creative writing as a tool for centering, reflecting and for personal growth.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


A Dime’s Worth

Zvi A. Sesling


The way Jack tells it he is in his first job out of the service, back from Vietnam with two bullet holes still healing. It is late 1960s and he is glad to be out of the military because he cannot stand taking orders or having the enemy pump bullets into him. He searches the Help Wanted pages and lands a job with Carter Omega Advertising and Public Relations. His boss Herbert gives him two small accounts with which he does so well that Herbert gives him Odyssey Computers a $100,000 account from which he makes about ten percent, a lot more than he was paid by the military.


Anyway, as Jack tells it, Odyssey wants to increase its advertising and public relations budget to one million dollars and invites Carter Omega and five other companies to develop the next level strategy and campaign.


As Jack tells it he is paid fifteen grand a year and his boss drives a forty thousand dollar car with all the bells and whistles. Herbert tells him to draw up an outstanding strategy and campaign. Jack says he does it but Herbert does not like it so he creates a new one. They go to the presentation and lose out to Mason, Cork & Villa. Back at the office Herbert calls everyone into his office and screams that they are idiots and should all be fired and singles out Jack by saying guys like him come a dime a dozen.


As Jack tells it he reaches into his pocket, pulls out a dime which he flips on Herbert’s desk and tells him to go buy a dozen. Then he turns and walks out.


Zvi A. Sesling is the Brookline, MA Poet Laureate and a prize winning poet.. He has published poetry, short stories and flash fiction online and in hardcopy. He edits Muddy River Poetry Review and is author of The Lynching of Leo Frank (Big Table Publishing, 2017), Love Poems From Hell (Flutter Press, 2017), Fire Tongue (Cervena Barva, 2016), Across Stones of Bad Dreams (Cervena Barva, 2011) and King of the Jungle (Ibbetson Street, 2010). He is a four-time Pushcart nominee and has won several awards.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


First Day

Christopher Reilley


I have before me a span of days

with today being the first one.

While I am unsure how many are yet to come,

their nascent potential is beyond my scope,

with only this first, perfect day before me.

A full day, with an uncanny ability

to draw out my personal time

into an exact, measured meter,

yet still be full of the chaotic unknown;

connections to those I love, and loathe,

possibilities, problems, and most of all people

who will awaken in me the challenge of betterment;

in my choices, my responses, my thoughts.

The wings of my abilities will take me nowhere

unless my toes release

their white knuckled grip from the dirt.

I may never reach

the boiling point

but as of now, I am steaming.


Two-time Pushcart nominee Christopher Reilley is the former poet laureate of Dedham, MA, and the author of three collection, his latest, One Night Stanzas, is available from Big Table Publishing. His words can be found in numerous collections and anthologies, journals, and magazines. He lives in central MA with his wife, children, and three cats.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


If You Experience Any of These Symptoms

Phil Temples


Mrs. Nugent sips her martini while the television airs a prescription drug commercial. The ad features a bright-eyed woman, high on life, going about her business without a care in the world.


The commercial depicts a close-up shot of the drug bottle; it’s identical to the now-empty bottle that lay beside her—the entire contents of which she swallowed just a half-hour earlier. The ad warns of serious, sometimes fatal side effects, including—but not limited to—dizziness, vomiting, and in extremely rare cases, death.


Thank goodness, no vomiting. I wouldn’t like that one bit, Mrs. Nugent thinks as she peacefully drifts off to sleep.


Phillip Temples resides in Watertown, Massachusetts. He's had over 140 short stories and a novella published in various print and online publications, along with three mystery-thriller novels, and a short story anthology titled Helltown Chronicles. Phil is a member of the GrubStreet writing center in Boston and the Mystery Writers of America.


* ~ * ~ * ~ *


Absenteeism

Greg Metcalf


A nascent tumor in the bottom lobe of your left lung has been isolated. Should be eradicated without aid. Maybe have an apple with lunch. Couldn’t hurt.


This specific message fluttered into his brain as Glen woke and took a deep breath. He breathed again and felt the same flutter. Received the same message. This and the lingering feeling left by a dream he didn't remember created a sour mood.


Glen put on his robe and walked downstairs. Started a pot of coffee. While the coffee brewed, Glen stared across the room at his phone on the dining room table. He took another breath. Felt the flutter. Received the message.


He walked over and retrieved his phone, turned it on, and hit the button to call work. His manager answered.


“Hi. This is Glen. I don’t think I can make it in today. I woke up with a tumor in my lung. Stage one, I’m sure it will turn out to be nothing. But I should maybe take the day. I don’t think I’d be able to concentrate anyway.”


A long pause followed. His manager exhaled slowly. Purposefully into the phone. “Well, let’s see. I’ve been working all week with a level three tumor in my uterus, but if you think you need the day off because of a level one in your lung, I can make a note of it in your file.”


“I'll be in.”


Greg Metcalf is the author of Flowers on Concrete, a novel, Hibernation, a YA thriller, and the memoir Letters Home: A WWII Pilot's Letters to His Wife and Baby from the Pacific. He has four other completed novels, unpublished to date. His short fiction has appeared at Boston Literary Magazine, Toasted Cheese, and is forthcoming in Confrontation.

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