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Issue number four




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Short-shorts 1

Anima by Daniel Alamia

He pretends to sleep, peering through half-closed lids, hoping to witness it. It has done it before. Several times he has come out of a dream and seen that it has moved several inches. On occasion he has discovered it on the other side of the bedroom. But always it moves away from him.


The chair is a meager one. Straight-backed, built of thin, light wood, unimaginatively nailed together in perfect right angles. Yet in its simplicity he sees beauty.

Tonight he watches and waits. Already its back is turned toward him, and one slender tan leg bends tentatively forward like a child taking its first steps. It pulls itself forward a few inches, and the other three legs scrape the floor in high-pitched whispers. More boldly, the left front leg bends forward, pulls the chair further. He tenses his muscles, afraid to expose himself. Gradually, both front legs bend at their joints, dipping the chair down, and step. Step. Step. Then all four legs move delicately and gracefully. The chair walks to the window, edges itself into the space between the half-pulled curtains, and while he holds his breath it bathes itself in moonlight. He closes his eyes and hears a sigh. He wonders which one of them breathed it.

* * * * *

Born in Philadelphia, educated in North Carolina, Florida, and England, Daniel Alamia is assumed to now reside in Denton, Maryland, a town to which he traveled on a book tour, never to return. Anyone with more specific information on Mr. Alamia's whereabouts should contact his publicist directly.

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Waltzing down a ladder by Sabina C. Becker

The bridge is high, and I am frightened. I no longer know how I got up here; I only know that I must get down.

A crowd of excited spectators is gathering, expecting me to jump. I won't! I didn't come to kill myself. I don't know what I came for, but please, please, just get me out of here! I swear, I'll never come this way again.

A fireman appears, rigs up a ladder from his yellow truck. He urges me to climb down. No good—I'm as frightened of ladders as I am of heights!

He comes up, urges me to hang over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes so he can carry me down. Sorry, I tell him—I can't. That frightens me as much as being up here, as much as having to climb down. More, in fact, because I'm now relying on someone else not to let me fall.

All right, he says, forget the ladder. We're going to dance instead. Do you waltz?

I smile. I'm German, I tell him. Don't we all?

I hold out my hands, we move into our proper positions, hand in hand, hand on waist, hand on shoulder, and music starts. It's Carl Maria von Weber, "Invitation to the Dance." How did he know that is my favorite waltz?

We sway, dip, swing around and around. He's a lovely dancer, and I tell him so. He smiles, and waltzes me nearer and nearer the edge, where the ladder is waiting. I hold my breath and—hey! We're still dancing. So easily does he glide that I barely notice the rungs creaking underfoot as we swing, dip, sway down and down.

At last we're back on solid ground. The music stops, we back away from each other. I smile and thank him for the dance.

It was as easy as walking on air, I say, still feeling light.

He laughs. As easy as waltzing down a ladder.

* * * * *

Sabina C. Becker was born in northern Ontario, Canada, in 1967 and currently lives in Cobourg, Ontario. She has two bachelor's degrees: one in English Literature from Queen's University and another in Journalism from Ryerson Polytechnic University. She is currently working on a futuristic novel set in Toronto. Two of her stories, "Why they juggle fishes here," and "Writer's block at the Café des Poètes," appeared in Issue #2 of The Cafe Irreal.

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One pigeon saved, one lost by Ellen Lindquist

As an undergrad, I found a pigeon bloodied by my housemate's cat. I flurried to get the pigeon to the roof of the graduate library with the other pigeons. The librarian, a large woman with feather earrings, shook her head and said, "Nothing doing. Putting that pigeon on the roof is a danger for you and the pigeon both." I knew my little pigeon would never survive a world of cats, so I called the Humane Society. A woman dressed as if for a safari, carrying a cage, carted my pigeon away. Later that day, I was at the graduate library when another pigeon flew into the stacks. Flapping her arms to make her point, the head librarian led men with butterfly nets to the scene. They chased the pigeon around, stirring up a flurry of wings, till I appeared. Calm and sleek-headed, I called out, "Stop!" Did the pigeon hear me? He flew through my body, piercing my heart, into my arms and out the window I opened for him. We flew together until late in the evening.

* * * * *

The poetry and micro-fiction of Ellen Lindquist has been published or will appear in Many Mountains Moving, Art Mag, Midwest Poetry Review, and others. She won the Dekalb Arts Council Short Story Contest in Atlanta for "To Die of Egg Cream in New York City."

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The man in the red raincoat/Ivan and the rock by J.B. Mulligan

The man in the red raincoat

Every night at the station I see a man in a red raincoat. Whether I disembark from the front or back of the train, he is always waiting at the opposite end of the platform. If I walk toward him, he ducks behind a pole casually, as if by chance - and when I arrive, he is gone. This continues, day after day, for years. I have no idea who he is or why he is there, and the other passengers never seem to notice him.

One night, when I step down onto the platform, I realize he is not there. As the train pulls out, I turn to look, impelled by some strange force, and he is there in the train window, smiling sadly. I chase after the train, falling further and further behind, but unable to stop, and I cry out as it rounds a curve and disappears.

When I finally go round the curve myself, many minutes later, the train is gone. I gasp for breath and realize that the tracks themselves have ended. I go back, and see that the tracks I ran down are now gone and the station itself has disappeared. I realize that I am naked, and collapse weeping in frustration as a sudden cold hard rain drives nails into my skin.

Ivan and the rock

Ivan walked through his youth and the valley, inhaling the atmosphere of honeysuckle and grass. He saw, on the low bough of an apple tree, a bright smooth shiny red rock, and plucked it, smiling, and dropped it in his pocket. He whistled as he ran up the hill toward home.

Years passed. Ivan grew old. The rock became heavier in his pocket and stabbed into his thigh with a sharp and sharper edge. But when he took the rock out of his pocket, it was always shiny and smooth, and as light as when he'd found it.

One day, Ivan was walking high on a hill, and the rock in his pocket was heavy and edged, and he lost his balance. He tumbled loosely down the hill and was dead by the time he reached the bottom. The rock dislodged from his pocket on the way down and rolled into a stream. It shone like the beacon of a strange eye, and none of the fish in the stream dared go too close.

* * * * *

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. Two of his previous short-shorts were published in Issue #2 of The Cafe Irreal.

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To the woods! and The gift

To the Woods!

It is a taste-tempting wilderness we face, mined for essential additives among the cheesy arroyos. There you hear the song of nacho sparrows, which disassemble Triscuits and weave the strands into salty nests. There they'll bathe their young in lo-fat sour cream.

Dietetic dawns rise over the optional mountains. The sun glistens off lite mica. In the winter the flavorful snowdrifts lobby the light. The bacon cheeseburger poplars are naked under the rum-flavored clouds. Lo-salt bobcats and cool-ranch coyotes shiver in the herbed Arctic wind, and listen, and sniff for holy mayonnaise.

The Gift

As I lift the gift from the box, I wonder what it is, put on my best "Wow!" expression, hope to get a clue as to its identity. I suspect it is an art project, her special creation for me, invested with her thought and energy. I see the eagerness and fear in her eyes. The gift is lumpily round, sticky, and heavy, and despite a very slight yielding, basically hard. Though it is mostly dark gray, the colors shift as I look at it, like motion caught by the corner of the eye. Some spots shimmer or glint, others are dull. I lift it closer to my face. It smells musky, floral: I sort of like it, sort of don't, and realize this thing will quietly, slowly, fill my apartment with its scent, greeting me each time I come home, alone. I touch it with my tongue, and, again, I'm not sure what I make of this complex flavor--like the first taste of an alien cuisine, coping with several novel flavors at once, such as cilantro, lemon grass, fish sauce, coconut milk, chilis--torn between the desire to spit and to take another taste, and another. "Thanks, honey, this is terrific!" I see that she is pleased, though still unsure. Even though I know she doesn't expect my gift to match hers, I wonder if the boxed set of Talking Heads I got her will be enough--I doubt it. I kiss her, register her familiar taste. With eagerness, part real, part acted, I dig in the messy closet, fish out an old backpack, and use that to bear my gift, whatever it is, into my day.

* * * * *

David Oates lives in Athens, Georgia.

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