• Big Table Publishing

JUNE, 2020


1969

Ron A. Kalman

It was the summer of ’69 and I was 10 years old.

I had a friend named Mark who lived

in half of a two-family house.

His father was a carpenter,

and they had a bulldog that once bit me.

My sister was in junior high.

She wanted to go to a place called Woodstock

where they were having a rock festival.

I imagined this as a festival for people who liked rocks.

My father talked about a demonstration downtown.

People had started throwing bottles,

and the police used teargas. My sister,

who had been out shopping,

had to run to a church to escape.

Mark’s brother, Don, was in Viet Nam.

Once, I heard Mark’s mother

read one of Don’s letters. He had to stay up nights

to keep watch over the camp

to make sure no gooks snuck up on them.

Later that summer, I saw an old car drive to a center divide

and watched as a young guy plucked a flower.

I told Mark, and he said, Did you yell at him?

did you yell, ‘Hippie!’ That’s what I would have done.

But the next day Mark found out that the guy in the car

had been a friend of his brother.

He was leaving the city

and had plucked the flower as a memento.

Ron A. Kalman received his MFA from Emerson College and has lived in the Boston area for most of his life. His poetry and translations have appeared in The Exquisite Corpse Annual, The Main Street Rag, The Somerville Times, Muddy River Poetry Review, The Whiskey Review and other publications.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The Faultfinder

Rhienna Renee Guedry

My mother’s memory 

is a record skip she

recalls the color 

of the backpack she packed 

to send us out the door she 

oscillates between thin-lipped 

fighting words to tears to mending 

a halter top we will never wear 

during the commercials of 

the television show she never turns off

She thanks herself 

for her hard work 

which stopped when we 

stopped being small

the depths of her love she 

describes as mourning

for little girls that didn’t die 

but grew up instead

Rhienna Renèe Guedry is a writer and artist who found her way to the Pacific Northwest, perhaps solely to get use of her vintage outerwear collection. A Jill of All Trades, she enjoys time spent creating, riding her bicycle, and curating the best Halloween parties this side of the Mason-Dixon. Her work has appeared in Portland Monthly, Bitch Magazine, Scalawag Magazine, Taking the Lane, and elsewhere on the internet. Rhienna holds a MS in Writing/Publishing from Portland State University. She is currently working on her first novel.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Consolation

Carla Sarett

You’ll never meet my sad self.

You’ll never see 

the wear and tear, 

the caution I’ve acquired.

You’ll never see how

I lock the doors

I shut the windows

I lower the shades, 

even if no one’s looking inside.

(No one is looking.)

And the oven I left on,

It’s off now.

I won’t start a fire, 

not now.

Nothing’s unprotected,

just as you wanted 

all those disorderly years.

Or did you secretly like guarding me

while I paid no attention to 

anything but you

unaware of the

distant thunder?

Carla Sarett’s work appears in literary magazines including Hobart, Across the Margins, Black Rabbit Quarterly, and in press, Third Wednesday, Prole and The Virgina Normal; and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize (2018) and Best American Essay. Her debut novel, A Closet Feminist, is forthcoming in 2022. She lives in San Francisco. 

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Fishing

~ for my father (June 16, 2019)

Corey D. Cook

You must be

a hundred miles away,

trolling for lake trout

on Champlain.

I can picture

your freckled shoulders,

the tacklebox

with its rusty latch,

the lures,

their barbed hooks

like inverted talons,

dangling two by two,

the downriggers

that will take

the lifeless decoys

and drag them towards

the rocky bottom.

I can picture

the open mouth

of the net,

its handle

just within reach.

Corey D. Cook’s fifth collection of poetry, The Weight of Shadows, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2019 and is available for purchase online. His work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in the Aurorean, Brevities, Freshwater, The Henniker Review, The Mountain Troubadour, and Viscaria Magazine. Corey works at a hospital in New Hampshire and lives in Vermont.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Highfalutin

Michael Estabrook

I long for those days

we’d stroll Newberry Street

wandering in and out

of art galleries searching

for the next painting in our collection.

Exciting seeing the various textures

techniques and colors

landscapes and portraits

classical, abstract, figurative, contemporary.

We’d talk with gallery owners as if we knew

what we were doing

sometimes meet the artists themselves.

After a while we had enough paintings

not room enough to hang any more but still we’d go

gallery-hopping hoping for something

that took our breath away or at least for a gallery

that served cookies and tea assuming

we had money to go along with

our sophisticated highfalutin airs.

Michael Estabrook has been publishing his poetry in the small press since the 1980s. He has published over 20 collections, a recent one being The Poet’s Curse, A Miscellany (The Poetry Box, 2019).


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Corvid Spring Elizabeth Moore

Bird-watching soars amid COVID-19 as Americans head outdoors ~AP headline, May 2, 2020 Since I cut your hair on the patio the backyard birds have been threading it into their nests. Now chicks come of age in your curls. Early mornings I hear them clamoring to be fed, all mouth and inborn insistence cleaving the shell of the cold. What to make of all this life and all this sickness? How to account for this world? Up the road, at the asphalt refinery, I recently heard a man and crow going at it, one cawing back at the other in call and response, as if arguing or speaking a common language. Crow to man, or man to crow—you couldn’t have said who was who, who wanted to keep living more. Nothing to do but make do; the nests hold forth through the seasons. The inexorable earth turns summerward as your hair grows in to feather the tips of your ears.

Elizabeth Moore is the author of The Truth and the Life (Alternative Book Press, 2014), and her poetry has appeared in Pangyrus and Print Funeral. She lives with her husband in the MetroWest area of Massachusetts.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Mourning Dove

Barbara Alfaro

“The doves are here!” I’d yell

to my husband in another room

as if weekend guests had just arrived.

Something about their quirky

elegance always got to me.

Visiting our wood deck often,

inculcating warmth in the sadness

of their sound, bobbing, preening,

grooming one another with caring pecks,

they seemed in every way a perfect couple.

One morning there was only one.

Had the partner died from some disease

I don’t know the name of—

or a hunter’s bullet? Like a fool,

I whispered a prayer. For weeks,

I saw the dove, then not again.

I don’t know if that prayer was for the dove

or me. Familiar with the strength of omens,   

I know how cruel even soft gray ones can be.  

Barbara Alfaro is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Playwriting for her play Dos Madres. Winner of the IndieReader Discovery Award for Best Memoir for her memoir Mirror Talk, her poetry has appeared in various literary journals including Poet Lore, The Journal of Kentucky Studies, and New Millennium Writings.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Library

Jane Snyder

“Great stuff,” he said, looking up from his book. “Her holding it in, resisting. She won’t let him see her writhe with pleasure! With pain! But then he draws the yip of his riding crop down her spine and she shudders. I didn’t see that coming.”


“I kind of did,” she said. “How about this: The success of the dish depends on using the freshest goose fat available?” 

 

“You’re turned on by cookbooks?”


“Butter.” She touched the tip of her tongue to her upper lip. “Whipped cream.”


Rendered leaf lard,” he read. “Couldn’t hurt to try.”

Jane Snyder’s stories have appeared in Five On The Fifth, Pithead Chapel, and Bending Genres. She lives in Spokane.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Sultry Summer Morning

Laura Rodley

“Slide the boards over,” he says,

as I hand three cedar siding lengths to him,

sit thirty-eight feet off the ground.

In the heart of the wood are swirls

resembling amber, green,

and coral swirls of sand receding from shore.

We study the amber liquid

in the green vial on the white plastic level,

straighten the lengths,

pound nails hard into the pressed sand,

no sand drips out, only boards

crack if the nail is too close to the edge.

All lawnmowers silent,

I climb back into the bathroom window,

late for my second job.

“There’s no one here to see you

if you end up dangling.”

“Why do you think I might fall?”

as he wears no rope or harness,

slides his blue-jeaned backside

over the planks,

holds the nails in his mouth.

Laura Rodley, Pushcart Prize winner is a quintuple Pushcart Prize nominee, and quintuple Best of Net nominee. Latest books Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Publishing and Counter Point by Prolific Press.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Sister

Francine Witte

She’d follow me, puppy that she was, the two of us new in the bicycle wind. The mist of adolescence just ahead but not just yet. She’d grab the flounce of my jacket, she on her roller skates, me on my bike. She’d squeal me to go faster, go faster. I wanted to slow down to an ooze. Never wanted to get to the part where her daughter calls one night to say she’s gone. How even now, I can’t help but look behind sometimes to see if she’s still there.


Francine Witte is the author of four poetry chapbooks and two full-length collections, Café Crazy and The Theory of Flesh from Kelsay Books. Her flash fiction has appeared in numerous journals and anthologized in the most recent New Micro (W.W. Norton) Her novella-in-flash, The Way of the Wind has just been published by Ad Hoc Fiction, and her full-length collection of flash fiction, Dressed All Wrong for This was recently published by Blue Light Press. She lives in New York City.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Inflatable Man

K. Wergland

Twenty-three years ago, I found an inflatable man in the back seat of a Boston taxi. He had been deflated, but something in his Gallic expression drew me closer. Was it the frank, friendly gaze, or his easygoing smile? He wore nothing but a pair of swimtrunks; a curl of black indicated chest hair. He was a swim toy, nothing more.


At home, my housemates and I discovered the leak that had flattened him. We patched him up, and I put my mouth to the nipple in the center of his back. Fully inflated, he stood about five feet tall. Soon enough, he came to occupy the sofa opposite my bed.


I leaned my head against his shoulder as I read the newspaper. Before long, I started talking to Lance—over morning coffee, while I got dressed, and as I drifted off to sleep. We shared a love of merlot and the occasional Gauloise. I bobbed in the water at the beach with Lance in my arms, supporting me.


But after all the loving and the hugging and the carrying him about, he came to develop another leak, one I never patched. I'm not sure why I neglected Lance in this way. Was it because I had finally realized the over-large position he had come to occupy in my life? Or was it my new boyfriend, who seemed to feel upstaged by the little man?


When we moved in together, Lance was left behind, on the floor of my closet, or the back of the moving truck, like an emblem of my youth. I had exchanged him for something less airy. More substantial. Marriage and children drove Lance further into the past. But oh! the times we had.



K. Wergland was nominated by the faculty of Vermont College for the Best New American Voices competition. Her fiction has appeared in The Emerson Review, The Long Story, Phoebe, The Pinch, and The Urbanite. She is at work on a novel.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Innocent Objects

Emily Judds

It had been the promise of Sun Chips, the Garden Salsa kind she always bought from the break room vending machine, that had gotten her through the slew of morning meetings. They left her fingers sweet and lickable, something she hadn’t been for a long time.


The machine whirred to life, twisted its shiny coils, pushed her chips over the edge, and— NO! She slammed her palms against the glass. Last night it had been Sam who’d slammed his palms against the living room wall, one on either side of her head, but she was trying not to think about that. Desperate, she pounded the sides of the machine. Her shiny little bag of chips was backed into the corner of the next row down, cowering and defenseless.


She stopped her pounding, stood still for a moment. There was cottage cheese in the refrigerator. Even Sun Chips had to keep themselves alive, after all.


Emily Judd’s non-fiction work has been published in the Mighty, as well as The Startup, The Ascent, and Coffeelicious. Her short story, “Peacocks and Lampstands”, was awarded Honorable Mention in the Bess Streeter Aldrich 2020 Short Story Contest.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Porsche 

Leah Browning

Helene decided she’d finally had enough of his shit and left.  He got drunk and called her, crying, at her mother’s, and begged her to take him back.  She felt sorry for him and said she’d think about it. 


A month after she moved out, Raymond won the Powerball jackpot. 


Helene still hadn’t called him back.  He bought a Porsche 911 Carrera Cabriolet with a vanity plate that said SHES2L8.  He drove the car all over town, parking near her favorite places.  

 

At some point, Helene moved away, but Raymond still drove the convertible with the top down.  It was a kind of habit, by that point.  Showing her.   


Leah Browning is the author of six chapbooks including Orchard City, a collection of short fiction published by Hyacinth Girl Press in 2017. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Mojave River Review, Four Way Review, The Forge Literary Magazine, The Threepenny Review, Valparaiso Fiction Review, Watershed Review, South 85 Journal, Superstition Review, The Homestead Review, Newfound, Clementine Unbound, Belletrist Magazine, The Literary Review, Poetry South, The Stillwater Review, and elsewhere. Browning’s work has also appeared in anthologies including The Doll Collection from Terrapin Books and Nothing to Declare: A Guide to the Flash Sequence from White Pine Press.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heart Trouble

Steve Klepetar My aunt sat down in the street, right there on Yellowstone Boulevard, with her shopping bag. She was breathing hard. Was she having a heart attack? Panic attack? All the way home she had been talking about Prague, a city she rolled into a little green gem carried in a pouch around her neck. People walked by staring, cars slowed, windows open as they approached, then speeded past. ‘I’m ok,” she said. “Just let me rest a minute.” She wouldn’t let me take her pulse, but when I flagged down a cab, she got in, though she yelled at the driver about the best route until he screeched to a stop a few blocks from her house and ordered us out. Wouldn’t take my money, just drove away. As we walked, she sang an obscene Yiddish song about a goat, a drunk, and an owl in the strawberry moon.

Steve Klepetar lives in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. He is the author of fourteen poetry collections, including Family Reunion which is available from Big Table Publishing Company.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Symbiosis

Nadine Gallo flatworm grows own food garden of algal cells biodome with lunch Nadine Gallo lives in Hadley near dairy farms and writes fiction as well as haiku and other poetry. She is working on a story about teaching in the pioneer valley.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Buckley his name had we kept him

Len Germinara

Found a blue-black Labrador retriever

abandoned on the New Year

huddled around a garbage can

in a dog park 

borders the I 50

Obviously, shell shocked

howling terror and WTF in woof

I shared a look with my dog

said let's help this poor

son of a bitch out

It took some doing

fear like that

requires caution

My dog Jake knows what to do

never seen him falter

in a touchy canid social encounter

a true Tick Not Hound

He wags

they wag back

This will be an understanding

forged in urine

licks and sniffs

The obligatory

submissive roll

Every move I make

reminds him of the

night just passed

So, I sit at a slight remove

wait for this puppy

to return from the hell of

being thrown away

The dogs

     tentatively at first

begin to play

while the morning doves ask

who, who

He comes around

quick as any infant

terror already forgot

sidles up to me

in the hope that I’ll

pat him and tell him

it’s OK, it’s ok, it’s

Len Germinara is author of 7 collections of poetry. His work has appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. He was the 2003 winner of the Cambridge Poetry Award for best narrative poem. His collection of poems “Back Story” is available from Amazon Books. Founding member of Spoken Word Nantucket and the Moors Poetry Collective. Len ran a Spoken Word venue on Nantucket for 12 years and one in Southern Massachusetts for 4 years. In addition, he has provided literacy workshops on poetry and bookbinding for a host of schools in Massachusetts and Colorado for over 15 years. Recently moved to California, Len is board secretary of the Sacramento Poetry Center.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

A Mother’s Tale

Elizabeth Lorayne

Morning approaches

Hands intertwined we mix dough

Together we rise

–––

On our backs we paint

Observing sunlight breach clouds

Our homeschooling break

–––

Head to head we read

Our breathing harmonizes

This mother’s love song

Elizabeth Lorayne is the author of the award-winning and critically acclaimed children’s picture book series (written in haiku) The Adventures of Piratess Tilly (White Wave Press, 2015) and The Adventures of Piratess Tilly: Easter Island in 2017. Her next project, The Historical Heroines Coloring Book: Pioneering Women in Science from the 18th and 19th Centuries, was released in 2018. Her work has also appeared in The Haiku Foundation Blog. She holds a B.S. from The New School in Manhattan, where she studied art, psychology, and creative writing. She lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts with her husband, daughter and three cats.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Ghost Fleet

Avram Lavinsky

“You know, I never really slept on board. If she changed course, even a few degrees, I woke. I’d just put my hands under my head and stare up at the ceiling.”


“Keith, you have to let it go.”


He nodded sheepishly, still handsome, boyish, in his stiff sailor’s way. On a better day, he looked like a silver haired version of the man she married. “I know, sweetheart, I’m a bit pathetic.”


“I just hate to see you this way.”


“I knew it was coming...once they started plundering her parts for the Lexington. Guess that’s why they call it the Ghost Fleet.”


The courtesy call she feared came around nine thirty. They were a tight bunch, old navy commanding officers.        

  

“It went through?” she asked as he placed his phone back on his nightstand.


“Seven point two million.”


Augusta put down her book. “So much? I thought the Texas firm only offered five hundred thousand.”


“A New York agent with offers from scrap dealers in Taiwan and India. No rules about asbestos disposal there.”


She stroked back the finger-length hair above his forehead. His blue-gray eyes glazed over. He needed time.


She went back to her mystery novel until the words began to blur. Then she marked her page with a pamphlet and shut off her light.


At two thirty, she rolled over to see the shadowy outline of Keith, hands folded under his head, eyes focused beyond the ceiling at the unseen stars beyond.

Avram Lavinsky has placed in the Writers of the Future contest and was a semifinalist in this year's VanderMey Creative Nonfiction Prize competition. His work is appearing in an upcoming issue of the San Antonio Review. He lives on Boston's South Shore, where he has enjoyed the invaluable support of the same critique group for over four years.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Jesus In Disguise

Stephen Young

Miss Hickok’s apartment stunk of soiled diapers. Her legs were black and blue and swollen with open sores. She did not cover them, I assume, because a sheet would be painful. She was not as old as most clients, but Miss Hickok was sicker. She yelled at me, “You buzzed my buzzer. Don’t ever buzz my buzzer. Don’t bring me milk. I need orange juice, not apple or tomato. Walk in here the way you should. What took you so long to get to me today?” The acid smell alone stunned me, and I cringed in the face of it all. I wrote a poem about Miss Hickok and read it to my poetry class. The horror returned together with the guilt of breaking a promise of confidentiality. A poet friend, Kik said, “Miss Hickok is Jesus in disguise,” But I thought and then said, “The truth is worse than that. Miss Hickok is just a poor sick woman, and I am a poor sick witness to her suffering.” I did not tell Kik that my own depression and hospitalization for suicide, a year past, made facing Miss Hickok difficult. I really had been as sick as Miss Hickok in a way that Kik could not see. I said to myself, “Yes, ma’am, I am sorry.” I remembered I opened Miss Hickok’s refrigerator, and it was filled with nothing but milk, apple, and tomato juice.

Stephen Young is a poet living in Providence, RI. While raising three children, he worked as an English teacher, a driver for Meals-on-Wheels, and other jobs. Now retired, he volunteers at his local food bank. His poems have appeared in Passenger, Third Wednesday, and Literary Mama. He is currently at work on a book of short fiction about his experiences delivering food to the elderly and disabled in Rhode Island.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Teeth of the Storm

Darrell Petska

Observing for 70 years humanity’s flirtations with destruction, you’d come to anticipate a bang of an ending—nuclear holocaust, terroristic apocalypse, climate-degraded disasters like sizzling ozone holes or hurricanes on steroids, not a whimpered conclusion wrought by a sniveling virus that puts you to bed with barbells on your chest till you expire. Rate that a zero.


Where along the way did you miss “How Life Usually Works 101?” Your first clue: age 4. The jaws of your neighbor’s cute corgi suddenly manifest in the bloody, lacerated flesh of your calf. But you don’t learn. Age 13: true love’s first kiss. Age 13.5: love’s jaws shred your still-tender heart. Age 19: you’re slinging burgers—beware a trend?


No. Hope’s high octane drives you into the teeth of marriage (at 21) and assistant management for McBurger’s (23), where you suddenly realize you’re surrounded by ravenous carnivores. Still, several years transpire with nary a nip to your person, so you forget you ever knew a corgi, when Billy (30), Margarite (32), and Timothy/A.K.A. Butch (34) appear. Every look they give you says “Bite me!”


Hello, are you awake?

You are now (60), when acrid hamburger fat and fried potatoes finally drive you to retire and take a cruise with Betty, who leaves you (62), after which you duck your head and await Chairman Kim’s missile, road rage or asteroid KxGC-9.


You hang on—but hold everything: is your forehead hot, your throat growing sore?


Age 70.5.


Darrell Petska’s fiction has appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, Flash Frontier, Bird's Thumb, Right Hand Pointing, Boston Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. With 30 years on the academic staff at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, 40 years as a father (seven years a grandfather), and longer as a husband, Darrell lives outside Madison, Wisconsin.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Undersides

Kathryn Silver-Hajo

Ted woke from sleep with a start. His father had tasked him with guarding their morning catch while he went out for one more quick run, “just to see if I can nab that slippery son-of-a-gun”—a big striped bass that managed to wriggle off Pa’s hook somehow. Ted had drifted off, head on a cushion from the boat, lulled by the slap of waves against the bottom of the dock.


Poor fish, he thought, looking at the pale undersides of the cadavers in Pa’s blood-and-gut smeared cooler, the odor turning his stomach. The breeze of the morning had strengthened into a steady wind, and the trees that loomed over the beach cast long shadows over the dock, the leaves lashing against themselves, clouds closing in. Ted pulled his knees up to his chest as goose bumps pimpled his bare arms and legs.


It was raining now, just a mist really, but Ted could barely make out the buoys where the bay met the inlet. He squinted into the murk, straining for a glimpse of the pointed bow of Pa’s boat.

Kathryn Silver-Hajo studied in the MFA program at Emerson College and at Grub Street Writers in Boston. Recently, she’s worked with Andre Dubus III at Writers in Paradise at Eckerd College on her short story “Of All the Coffee Joints in All the World” and with Ann Hood and Stewart O’Nan at the Spannocchia Writers Workshop in Tuscany on her novel, Roots of The Banyan Tree. Her poetry and stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Flash Fiction Magazine, The New Verse News and Rusted Radishes literary journal.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Most Bang for the Buck

Pradeep Niroula

When I was six, my father, keen on inoculating in me the value of reading in English, dragged me to a bookstore to buy me my first book. 


Neither of us had ever stepped inside a bookstore before. The sheer number of geometrical aligned shelves stacked with glossy, colorful volumes was overwhelming to both of us. 


My father accosted a store employee and asked, “What do you recommend for a boy his age?”


“Little boy wants to read, doesn’t he?” the employee ruffled my hair. “Children’s books are straight and left.”

We walked over to the children’s section which was brighter and merrier than the rest of the store. My father picked up a couple of skinny books and flipped the pages with curled lips. “Too colorful. These aren’t serious books.” Before I got to even read the title of the books he thought were beneath me, I was ushered to an austere shelf labeled American Literature. “Ah, yes, the Americans write good books,” he said with deep conviction.  


He surveyed the aisle, occasionally pulling out a book, weighing it and flipping through its pages. One particularly sturdy book caught his attention. “This one looks very durable, doesn’t it, boy? No superfluous colors, thin pages, and small, tight letters. This will give the most bang for my buck.” He was finally satisfied.


And that is how, at age six, I ended up with a copy of Moby Dick. 

Pradeep Niroula holds a BA from Harvard and is a graduate student in physics.


~ * ~ * ~ * ~


Solidarity

Willow Barnosky

Ever since Roxanne and her husband moved into the upstairs apartment, my dad won’t go with us to Aunt Dana’s. “That damn bell,” he said, shaking his head like when his cousin said I was a pallbearer at my brother’s wedding. That shake that meant unbelievable. So it’s just me, my sister and my mother in Aunt Dana’s dining room. Aunt Dana is at the head of the table, skin smooth (no sun and no smiling), a topaz – her birthstone – on each finger and a larger one on her head scarf. Although she doesn’t smoke anymore, she has a husky voice that even I can tell is meant to be sexy. The sideboard behind her displays photos of her, the largest ones of her three weddings to Uncle Hal; she’s wearing a different, Cinderella-style white ballgown in each. She lifts the flowered porcelain bell at her elbow and shakes it, and the stairs creak overhead. A few creaks later Roxanne steps into the room, into a slanting line of light, dust particles floating around her head like tiny fairies. Aunt Dana waves jeweled knuckles at her: “Get my guests some tea.” Roxanne bends over each of us, awaits our orders. I say, “No thank you,” and I watch my mother’s face, my sister’s, for discomfort or guilt, as they say, “Earl Gray with two sugars and milk” and “Chamomile” without even a “please.” Roxanne straightens before addressing Aunt Dana. “Will there be anything else, Mother?”

Willow Barnosky lives in Northern California. Her fiction appears or is upcoming in The Honest Ulsterman, Spelk, Feed, and The Write Launch, among others. She hopes to resume her work this fall as an English Language Fellow, teaching and training teachers in Poland.

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