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Issue number two


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Short shorts by Ronald Donn, J.B. Mulligan, James Heflin and Kevin James Miller


Milk contains trouble for us by Ronald Donn

Reviewing the significance of milk, dear Mother has a couple of words. The engine is still running. I have sat on the hood and spread a checkered picnic blanket beneath, while the light pricks its usual holes.

The mincemeat pie, the soda. Dear Mother she has leaned over, making a list, listening, which she does frequently. I appreciate this but I've a criticism of Mother and of her notions of milk. She leans over with a pen to receive my critique and compels me to look into her, such is the white of the slim grey eye from which she speaks:

When the moon was a cumbersome sliver, and I in Rome, there was one Pope more religious than the other. He would never touch milk...

Mother, I can't hear you, speak up, because the engine is loud; like all older cars, its carburetor needs to be fixed!

When the moon was a delicate sliver on a patch of black felt, and I in Rome, there existed one Pope more sanctimonious than the other. He would never touch milk...

Mother, so hot today the mincemeat pie will melt on this hood. Lean closer, speak faster, I must get to school soon for Kafka Lessons!

When the moon was a delicate silver moon on the tanned wooden night, and I in Rome, there walked one Pope more revered than another. I lay asleep, sound in my conviction he had never touched milk...

There's nobody else around, the silence is deafening, the tulips are empty, and light is going away. Speak up, speak up. No, speak up! No, help! Not the Pope, not ever the Pope, but save her! Save her. She is drowning.

* * * * *

Ronald Donn lives in West Monroe, Louisiana. He works at Louisiana Technical University, where he teaches technical writing. Previous publications include Jones Ave., Wisconsin Review, Octavo, and CrossXconnect.


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Palm of the hand and A family man by J.B. Mulligan

Palm of the Hand

I went into the dusty brown tent at the back of the fairground. Inside the tent it was dark and musty. There was a small round table with a dirty cloth thrown sloppily over it, behind which sat a young, attractive woman, a dark-haired woman in a simple black dress. I sat at the table, and the woman said, "Hold out your hand."

She examined the lines of my palm closely, for a very long time. Sometimes she nodded, or muttered something to herself. Sometimes she smiled. Once she said, "Aha," and looked up at me.

Outside, the wind began to blow, and soon the rain fell like rocks rattling off the canvas of the tent. Then it stopped.

I couldn't tell if it was night yet. Some time later, I felt very strongly that it had begun to snow. It was very cold. A long time after that, it was warm again, and I could hear, in the distance, birds calling.

The woman was older now, her hair almost grey, lines spreading slowly on her face, as if it were cracking. Still she looked into my palm and mumbled, and I could not move, for I did not yet know what was in store for me, what would happen if I ever left the tent.

A Family Man

Every night at the same time, he came to the door of the little blue house on the corner and rang the bell. He waited for several minutes, whistling, looking around, smiling at the curious neighbors, then rang again and waited. Every night, as it grew dark, he left, sighing.

Each following morning, at the office, he told people that he lived in a world of love and laughter, of bright children and happy dogs and Sunday suppers that clouded the table with steam. He had pictures in painted frames on his desk. He showed off his Christmas presents and what he had gotten his eldest daughter for her birthday. Everyone smiled and nodded and laughed with him and walked away when they could.

One evening, on the steps of the little blue house on the corner, he let out a soft cry and dropped to the pavement, dead. In a few moments, the door opened a crack; excited voices babbled and gasped. Then a family emerged: old, in worn rags, whittled by hunger to little more than bones and branches. And voices shouted, "He is dead at last! We are free!" As they danced and sang in a circle, a shrivelled old yellow dog rushed down the steps to the curb and, panting, lifted its leg.

* * * * *

J.B. Mulligan has had poems and stories published in dozens of magazines including Troubador, Ducttape and The Rose & Thorn. He is married and has three children.


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The malahandra and Sidereal by James Heflin

The Malahandra

Its graceful feet have made men sigh. The grease from its flesh oils certain clocks. When it cocks its head, its keepers cross themselves. It is led trotting through the streets on festive days by a boy who kicks pebbles. Its feathers are exquisite; they fade quickly when plucked. Its beak unhinges slowly, as though it will speak.

Sidereal

The truth is, this room is a meeting of time's waters, a luminous intersection. Why here and not elsewhere is a problem I have learned to ignore, or perhaps blame on the cracking wall, or the wallpaper, where intricate blooms rain down in their soundless world. Through a tattered hole in the closet the aether of the past drifts in, and, looking in it once, I glimpse a bone-white man beside a carriage, gesturing, desperate and wordless, for me to join him. But I dare not reach more than a hand into that dank distance, and even then it comes back to me grave-cold and numb, and for hours I do not know if it is still my own. Among the rafters, splintering ribs, the days to come spin upward, a dizzying cyclone, and I do not go near because I could not resist, would tumble unchecked, crack apart, drawn and quartered.

The room is old. I huddle in its misaligned corners, humming one slow note, following the precise gyration of the sky outside, tracing the path of stray galaxies down the pane. I have grown used to the frigid drafts in the measured minutes of the night. I say to myself when they come: the past cannot hurt me, surely, the past.

* * * * *

James Heflin has published in Poetry Ireland Review, Graffiti Off the Asylum Walls, Magic Realism, Conduit, and has work forthcoming in Planet Magazine and Ravishing DisUnities: Real Ghazals in English (ed. Agha Shahid Ali).


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The cell phone by Kevin James Miller

She's on the commuter train at the end of the work day. Jane takes her cell phone out of her briefcase to call home, to talk to her husband and children. She (she thinks) accidentally dials the telephone number of another man, someone she thought seriously of marrying once when she was in college. They have a quick, embarrassed, hey-how-have-things-been-with-you conversation, and then Jane finds a way to elegantly back out of the chat and hangs up. She punches in her home number -- or means to, because this time she gets her mother, who has been dead for three years. Her mother's chief complaint about the afterlife is that there is no cable TV. Jane finds a way to end that phone conversation, and punches in her home number, going absolutely as slowly as possible, and saying each digit out loud, to make sure that this time she gets it right. She places another unintentional call, this time to Mr. Froggy, a character from Jane's favorite book, back when she was a little girl. After Mr. Froggy answers, Jane forgets her manners and hangs up abruptly.

* * * * *

Kevin James Miller is currently teaching college writing courses. He has also been a carnival ride operator, a door-to-door salesman, a film student, a petting zoo guide and factory worker. He has had ten pieces of fiction accepted and published by on-line editors. He will soon be writing short-short fiction, monthly, for the small magazine A.R.T.


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