Issue #85

Winter Issue | February 2023

In this Issue:

Three Stories from The Neighbor by Peter Cherches

strange bird

I picked up the latest Paris Review. To my surprise, upon perusing the table of contents, I discovered that the issue featured a story by the neighbor. Who knew he was a writer? And not only a writer, but in The Paris Review, a journal I've tried unsuccessfully to break into for forty years. I did come close once, though.

Anyway, I read the neighbor's story first. I was curious. What did he write like? Was it stiff and humorless, as I viewed the neighbor himself?

Not at all. In fact, it was quirky and funny. This guy's good, I thought. Then something struck me about his story. It sounded like something I could have written. Read more...

New Adam and King of the Crows by Salvatore Difalco

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New Adam

No one knew about the latex mask Adam had made from a plaster mold of his own head by a local cinema effects outfit specializing in such things. No one knew it had not come cheaply and took two weeks to complete, not including the enhanced detailing by a master mask-maker that consumed another week and more capital. The result of their collective efforts covered a mannequin head on Adam's vanity table staring blankly. He'd not yet figured out the eyes, whether to use expensive prosthetics that matched his own or to improvise. Golf balls, for instance, were too large, stretching the eye sockets monstrously. Moreover, he'd not yet decided what to use for the head's stuffing. Read more...

Nixon Returns by Elizabeth Broadbent

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Note: just before her autotuned single, "Stars are Blind," Paris Hilton owned a kinkajou named "Baby Luv."

He was blind, deaf, limp, and strangely warm. Life returned in pieces. Everything seemed cuddling and confusions. Blindness endured but soon his eyes opened and he could hang by his tail. He sifted through fogged recollections of zoos; someone called him “kinkajou.” The Queen of England slurped her soup; the Lincoln bedroom was not nearly as impressive as he’d hoped. A Marine with old-fashioned good looks saluted. They petted him. Greedily, he sucked a bottle. They carried him like a baby. Once they’d cheered, then booed: tapes, a helicopter. Read more...

Angst, My Death, and Inside My Head It's Snowing by Tom Whalen

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A stranger is asleep in my thought dreaming in German. We are on a train to Aalen, though I know no one there, and he is asleep within me. Also, I do not know German, have never studied it, have no idea why I'm in Deutschland. Ich spreche kein Deutsch, kein Deutsch spreche ich.

Is the man asleep within me my antecedent or I his? Read more...

My Last Remote Work Day by Lorraine Schein

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The screen flickers, a black circle whirling relentlessly on it, then blips out. Odd. I frown, and wonder--will I be able to connect?

I get ready for my weekly work from home meeting, put a shirt over my pajama top, and clear the pile of empty delivery boxes behind me. The usual desktop appears. Relieved, I turn on the sound, adjust the camera, and log on to Zoom.

My office mates slowly fill the grid, each square labeled with a name. Everyone is here today.

A new person appears in one of the squares, just a dark figure. I don't recognize the silhouette and no label is under his box. Read more...

Hoarse, Pink Foam, and Strangers by Simon Collings

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Ben had talked so much at the party that he had become a horse. He stood amid the assembled company out on the lawn munching on small sticks of carrot people held out for him. 'Such a gorgeous face,' one of the women said. 'His eyes are like sapphires.' It was a warm summer's evening and he began to crop the sweet-smelling grass at his feet. He was sure his metamorphosis was due to a typing error, but he couldn't speak, so had no way of communicating this to anyone. Sooner or later, he thought, someone would notice and change him back into his former self. He was in no hurry. The novel he was in wasn't exactly literature and he didn't much care what happened to his character. Read more...

A Memorandum by Dylan Ogden

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At some point on the afternoon of November 7, Mr. White discovered a problem. That is to say, more specifically: we suspect he was not yet sure of the scope or even the exact nature of the problem, but he had become reasonably certain that something was amiss, and that furthermore this something constituted a problem. Sitting in his office, he reviewed the paperwork scattered about his desk, perhaps in an effort to confirm whether the problem was merely a misunderstanding on his part (in which case it was not really a problem at all, just a momentary lapse of reason), or on the contrary, whether it was a genuine problem that would need to be addressed.

At 3:12pm, Mr. White called his colleague, Mr. Smith, and after three and a half minutes of forced small talk, Mr. White stated the following: "Listen, I think, uh, there might be a problem." Read more...

Shallow Roots by P.G. Streeter

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On TV, a lifelong herpetophobe reclines in a bathtub full of cobras. After ten whole minutes, she climbs out, cured.

"Fear's roots are shallow," she proclaims to raucous applause. You think, Yes! If she can do it, I can too.

Trouble is, no one takes you seriously: "I suffer from

[sciurophobia] /

[coulrophobia] /

[potnonomicaphobia]!" you declare to all who'll listen, praying for some sympathy, some act of solidarity. Read more...

About Our Coffee and Other Fare

Please Note: All of the coffee served at The Irreal Cafe is fair trade, organic, shade-grown and not real. All of the food served at The Irreal Cafe is organic, vegan, locally sourced and not real. See "At Our Cafe" for more about what we would serve at The Irreal Cafe and how we would serve it if there were an Irreal Cafe.