• Big Table Publishing

JULY, 2020


Ass

Paul Germano

On a crowded dance floor in a trendy club, a slightly-drunk bank teller with an athletic build, shimmies, shakes and throttles face to face with a lanky blonde with manicured nails whose name he is yet to find out. All the while, he is fully aware there’s a redhead in the shadows, checking him out, eyeing his ass and making no attempts at being discreet. He works out and he’s extremely proud of what he’s shaking. The blonde, he decides, talks too much. She tells him she’s a pharmacist and at first he thinks she’s making some sort of drug reference. She laughs. “No really, I’m a pharmacist.” She keeps talking and he eventually realizes it’s true. Turns out, she works at a drug store not far from where he lives. She’s nice enough and pretty enough, but he wants a crack at that redhead. He ditches the blonde and buys the redhead a drink. They sit at the bar and she’s frisky as hell, with her hands all over him. A wide grin stretches across his drunken face. “You’re not shy,” he tells her. “Guess not,” she says in a giddy voice. She takes a final sip of her drink and excuses herself to use the ladies room. “This one’s in the bag,” he whispers. He summons the bartender, orders another draft beer for himself and another Gin and Tonic for the redhead. When he reaches for his wallet, he discovers his back pocket is empty.

Paul Germano lives in Syracuse, smack dab in the center of New York State. Germano’s fiction has been published in roughly 35 print and online magazines including Boston Literary Magazine, The Drabble, The Fictional Café, Foliate Oak, Vestal Review and Voices in Italian Americana. In his nonfiction adventures, Germano has worked as an editor and writer for Le Moyne College, Syracuse University, The Catholic Sun, Syracuse New Times, The Post-Standard and Stars Magazine.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Passing Through Los Altos in the Winter After the Summer of Love

Judy Kaber

That summer everyone was young and no one was afraid.

We lay on the grass in the park

while the Diggers stirred pots of soup over illegal fires.

Small muscles of love swelled in us.

But winter was different. Winter pushed us inside,

up the hill to a cabin that we sublet for one fifty.

Los Altos held none of the new-blue-sky

techno-dreams then. We lived on food stamps, a chain

of wet hours hanging over us—you, me, your brother—all

strung together so that each irritant amplified, until we

couldn’t stand each other

and then we sublet the only bedroom to an acid freak who buried

his stash in the backyard beneath the persimmon tree. I’d never had

a persimmon before, the orange cream of the fruit beckoned me—

the first chalky bite left me swearing off them for life

and then one day your brother dug up the cup of acid, dipped in a spoon,

then split for Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, miles away, speeding wild

through that gray-glass day, vertebrae whistling with fire and he swore he saw

Ken Kesey and the bus, the horizon full of signs,


a wheel of belief driving him. Los Altos ambushed me,

thrust me into a film where I had no part or mumbled forgotten

lines. I turned my back on the lemons

growing beside the door, opted for the East Coast where

snow and ice zip lined in my veins.

Judy Kaber is a retired elementary school teacher, having taught for 34 years. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, both print and online, including Atlanta Review, December, The Comstock Review, Tar River, and Spillway. Her contest credits include the Maine Postmark Poetry Contest, the Larry Kramer Memorial Chapbook Contest, and second place in the 2016 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Praise Me

Laura Rodley

Minding my own business,

I adjust the setting

on the hose head, set it to

spray to water freshly planted

delphiniums, petunias, store bought,

not grown by me from seed.

Soil parched, it’s noon, not best

time for watering, spray filming

wide umbrellas of delphinium leaves,

forming cup sized pools:

praise me, from whom all blessings flow.

Feet braced for long haul, I hold hose

for dowsing, mist branching out rainbows,

then foot long garter snake edges forward

out of brush, red forked tongue darting

seeking droplets, slithering soundlessly closer,

head raised inch off ground, basks

underneath spray, turns to drape head by pool

formed beside delphinium, sinks head to eye level,

drinks, pale flaps behind jaw that allow

its mouth to open for wider prey,

expand, contract, just the way

you could see Cinnamon swallow water

behind her jaw, drinking five gallons

like a glass of water. The garter snake

continues to drink, expand, contract,

my shoulders burning from sun, I turn

hose off, set it down a ways away,

as the pool recedes, snake consuming

every drop he can.

Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner, is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Latest books are Turn Left at Normal and Counter Point.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Eau de Marketing

R.A. Allen

Start soundtrack: a torch song, French. Cut to a terrace in Positano. An open-collared hedonist gazes down upon a palm-dappled pool in LA. Zoom in on celebrity cheekbones and flaring nostrils deadpan behind obsidian lenses. Their hauteur is surely a trait of the privileged. Their faces, though striking, affect disaffectation. Their languor could be the sickness of ennui. Numbed into indolence, only one thing can rouse them! It comes in a bottle. It's what each of us wants: a fragrance impelling all others to love you— but with no obligations to requite.

R. A. Allen’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Quarterly, RHINO Poetry, B O D Y, The Penn Review, The Hollins Critic, The William & Mary Review, and elsewhere. He lives in Memphis and was born on the same day that the Donner Party resorted to cannibalism: December 26th.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Mr. Patel’s Unfinished Business

Vikram Masson

Poor Mr. Patel lay there, morphined up,

and only the pretty young girl

from No One Dies Alone waited with him,

slumped back in her chair, twirling a Twizzler,

observing the zagging waves on the monitors,

listening to the whoosh of the breathing machine.

His room has a view of the indifferent city,

its spires occluding the sun. A single

strip of green could be seen in the cityscape--

the park where he used to take his dog.

Outside his room, the hospice doctors are as cheerful

as ever—making plans for holidays, boasting

about their children, discussing their portfolios.

Though no one knew it, occasionally,

in a miasma of pulsing darkness, Mr. Patel’s sense

of self would return; he would see a flash of light,

would feel a beckoning, and then he’d remember

all the things still left to do—straightening

out his son who was mixing with the wrong sorts,

mending things with the brother he hadn’t spoken

to in years, making his last house payments.

Why, he was in the middle of writing his very own

Philosophy of Life which was to grapple

with the finality he had not yet quite reached.

And then the light would recede, his sense of self

would dissolve, and he’d slink back into the darkness.

Soon he will fall off into a final stillness,

and those who had been too busy to sit with him

will gather around his body—some will wail,

some will slap their foreheads, brimming

with a showy grief, some will quietly weep,

while Mr. Patel’s business remains unfinished,

and no one will know his struggle against such a fate.

Vikram Masson is a lawyer by training who lives near Richmond, Virginia. His work has been featured most recently in the American Journal of Poetry, Glass, The Blue Mountain Review and Prometheus Dreaming.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Record Breaker

Phil Temples

Tyler Lawson and Billy Hajo came across the giant Burmese Python in an Ochopee, Florida Subdivision lot and realized it was close to record-breaking size.


"It’s long enough, Billy, but it looks to be a few pounds shy of the one they caught over in Sylvan Shores last month.” All the while, a Standard Poodle breed barked at the duo and the snake incessantly from behind a neighbor’s fence. Tyler and Billy came up with the solution to their problem almost simultaneously. As an added bonus, there was no more racket.



Phillip Temples resides in Watertown, Massachusetts. He's published five mystery-thriller novels, a novella, and a short story anthology in addition to over 140 short stories. Phil is a member of the Mystery Writers of America.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Raven Talks About Her Clipped Wings

Cezarija Abartis

The man who owned me did it, saying it was for the best. He would keep me, feed me. They were experimenting on pesticides. His daughter was born missing a brain. The wheat crop was supposed to feed the hungry people of the world.


I beat my shortened wings, tried to lift off, the blue air still above me, pressing me down. I promised I would not eat his wheat, but he said he wasn’t a farmer, he wanted a safe pesticide that wouldn’t ruin his daughter.


My eggs are soft-shell, my chicks don’t get born. Now what? Now what?



Cezarija Abartis has published a collection, Nice Girls and Other Stories (New Rivers Press) and stories in Baltimore Review, Bennington Review, FRiGG, matchbook, New World Writing, and New York Tyrant, among others. Recently she completed a crime novel. She lives and writes in Minnesota.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Family Movie Night

Donald A. Ranard

With so much grim news, so much death and dying, they settled on something light and funny, a PG-rated romcom. “Now I know why screwball comedies were so popular during the Depression,” he said.


They sat on opposite ends of the sofa; she was immunocompromised, so they were being super-cautious. Their five-year-old daughter lay on the carpeted floor in front of the big-screen TV.


Thirty minutes into the movie, the man said to his wife, “All that touching and hugging. Seems kind of strange now, doesn’t it?”


Their daughter turned around, a look of alarm on her face. “Are they gonna get sick and die, Daddy?”



Donald A. Ranard's stories and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Flash Fiction Magazine, Every Day Fiction, 100 Word Story, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and elsewhere. His essay “The Accidental Hotel” is anthologized in The Best Travel Writing 2005. He lives in Arlington, VA.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Pandemic Dreams

Greg Metcalf

I had a dream that made it profoundly clear I had the passion to be a writer but not the talent and I should have quit years ago. I thought pandemic nightmares would be zombies and stuff, but instead they’re just your worst fears about yourself.


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 in Confrontation.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Poseyville, Indiana, 1953

Michael C. Keith

Our house was at the far edge of town on a gravel road that came to an end at the creek we spent most of every summer fishing. Because we hardly ever caught anything in it, it didn’t attract other folks. That was fine with Pa, because he couldn’t abide strangers or even people he knew, for that matter. In fact, it seemed he just barely tolerated us, although Ma treated him like he was the nicest person there was. It’s not that he wasn’t okay with me and my younger brother. It’s just that he never stopped telling us he had hidden a gun somewhere close by and he knew how to use it. He would say that out of the blue when we sat with him on the porch or work the fields with him. Blurt it out like there was someone else there with us. It didn’t seem like it was intended for us, but it didn’t seem like it wasn’t. My little brother would ask me about it, but I didn’t have an explanation. Finally, we just accepted there was a gun hidden somewhere on the property, and it was important to Pa that we knew it.

Michael C. Keith’s latest book, Insomnia 11, is his 15th story collection.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Riga, Riga

Robert Libbey

She was an angel, he says, pointing at the woman with red hair who happens, also, to be nude, green and somehow levitating and accepting a bouquet of flowers from a giant bird wearing a dress; but he’s juiced up already; and jumbled: does he means his wife? his mother? (with both former, now), anyway, he’s gesturing at the Chagall painting.


On the wall. It’s a reproduction. It’s the same thing all over, again. First, the gin and bitter lemon—sliced thin—his fingers fat as sausages; big swatches worn out of the rug, circling the stove, it all goes in: a head of cabbage; two carrots—shredded—three cloves of garlic; minced. Austere; Levitical—the smell (of formaldehyde): him.


The weekly shower…a battle: the iron vice grip, the vigor, undiminished; the endless kvetching: just dump me in Potter’s Field. If wishes had wings. These visits! Family!


Toweling the folds of skin; so icy; ashen. Dressed and then ensconced in the cleft of chair from where (or whence?) came the gesture. Fleeting; pitiless: more loss; the lost: rickets-thin, peering out the frame [the picture, sitting on a dirty doily; on the end table]: the brothers; the sisters.


Let’s get some air: I hector; the walker, tennis ball-capped chuffing the cobbles in the park. Bench-bound, spit bubbles floating words over his tar-stained lips: I could die for a cigarette. A clot of kids filtering past—“hey, whatchya doing here, where you from gramps”—Riga, Riga. Damn it: I’m from Riga.



Robert Libbey lives in East Northport, NY. He has work at: Ligeia, Anti-Heroin Chic, Cabinet of Heed, Spelk, Drunk Monkeys and elsewhere. He is a reader with Literary Orphans.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Launch

Leslie Anderson

the Kennedy space Center

warned us —

you will feel it,

then you will hear it

then you will see it,

and it was like being strapped

to the table

and his cry opening

into the world

like an iron rose,

and I sobbed before

the barb of him

was even in my brain —

before I thought

that is him —

before I saw him

bloody red and roaring

my heart was

already in his

sky.



Leslie J. Anderson's writing has appeared in Asimov’s, Barrelhouse, Strange Horizons, and Apex, to name a few. Her collection of poetry, An Inheritance of Stone was nominated for an Elgin Award. Poems from the collection have won 2nd place in the Asimov’s Reader’s Awards, and were nominated for Pushcart and Rhysling awards. She lives in a small, white house beside a cemetery with three good dogs and a Roomba.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Bar Fights and Brain Scans

Neal Suit

I struck the man’s jaw, the crack echoing down the long, wooden bar. The impact left a small cut trickling crimson down the crevices of my knuckle.


He fell backwards, his portly face making a sound like sludge being dumped into a bucket as it smacked the floor.


“What do you think you’re doing?” the bartender shouted. His name tag read Mark.


The portly man pointed at me. “This maniac punched me.”


“You were talking,” I said.


“Why’d did you hit him?” Mark interjected.


“Because he wasn’t saying anything,” I responded.

Christina walked through the door. We were supposed to meet here for lunch. It was where we first met 27 years before. “Gary, what’s going on?”


I realized my right fist was trickling a crimson waterfall. “Just a bar fight,” I said.


She pulled a cloth napkin from a nearby table and covered my fist.


“I got the results back,” I said.

“What did they say?” Christina’s eyes were filled with compassion.


I looked away.“Cancer.”


The C-word. Christina’s face contorted. “What did Dr. Phillips say?”


“He said they can’t operate.”


Mark turned away, fire melding into pity.


Christina’s head nestled into my shoulder. “Let’s go home,” she said.


Christina and I departed. The world had changed and was still shifting. No one else noticed.


"No more fights.”


“I promise.”


I held Christina’s hand. We joined the passing crowds, carried away by the unending parade of the temporal and the fleeting.



Neal Suit is a recovering lawyer. He is a writer of fiction and is working on his first novel. He lives in Dallas, Texas with his wife, two daughters, one cat, one dog, and periodic writer’s block.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

In Rotation

Zach Murphy

Aria caught the city bus as the sky donned a pinkish glow before the day’s final gasp. Her daughter Millie sat on her lap, gripping onto her mother's wrinkled hospital scrubs—the ones with the cat patterns on them. Millie had entered that age where she often asked all the difficult questions of the universe. Are the sun and the moon friends or enemies? Do aliens go to the bathroom? Why do other kids have a dad, but I don’t?


Ding!


“Here’s our stop,” Aria said.


After dropping Millie off at grandma’s house, Aria hopped back on the bus and waited for it to bring her to work. She gazed out the window and sighed. The city was winding down while she was just beginning her 12-hour shift. The bags under her eyes carried enough stories to tell to the stars. Sleep was just an elusive dream at that point.


Ding!


As she exited the bus, she dashed past a group of five nurses who were relishing a smoke break. She always wondered why her fellow healthcare workers would pollute their pink lungs, but she wasn’t hellbent on judging. Stress is a pervasive beast. Paranoia is a sneaky shadow that never leaves you alone. Uncertainty makes your mind spin in circles.


The moment she strapped on her mask and walked through the hospital’s sliding doors, she already couldn't wait to pick up Millie in the morning, then go home and change.


As always, she wondered: Will tonight be the night?



Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Ghost City Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Ellipsis Zine, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Lotus-eater, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Levitate, Drunk Monkeys, Door Is A Jar, and Yellow Medicine Review. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Consider the Stingray

Josh Brunetti

In the aquarium there is a large tank

Into which grey stingray are placed

At waist-level, we’ve the staff to thank,

For our introduction to a life encased,

Alien to us, without appendage or face,

Monocular observation, stern tail,

Gliding in centrifuge at a gentle pace

For leering bipeds with skin so frail,