Issue #87

Summer Issue | August 2023

In this Issue:

I Keep Trying to Name the City I Often Dream of by Valerie Fox


I'm not getting evicted, but it feels that way. I have a little clay animal in my pocket, a gift from the year of the pig.

My father, recently retired, turns up to help me move. This place I'm leaving is like the one I lived in for five years in Ikebukuro, back in my twenties, while I was teaching English at a junior college for women in Japan.

My father loads up my suitcases into his milk and bread delivery truck. He has milk and bread in there, maybe a few live animals, hopefully no poisonous snakes. I remember the truck from when I was a kid and used to go with him now and again on his deliveries during the summer. The shelving in there smells sour and yeasty. Read more...

Four Stories by Ali Hildyard



There was once a monastery on a mountain. It was a small monastery with only one priest's cell and one chapel offering protection from the cold, only twelve monks' cells and twelve monks' dormitories offering the means to live and to meditate, one cloister and twelve oratories on the roof of the chapel providing light and space, only one street and one square, and only one well with twelve houses, one named after each saint who had done his best.

Much of my childhood I did not understand why the whole structure burned so brightly and so evenly, why the monks on the roof of the chapel always spoke together, why masses were celebrated every day, why in the small dormitories twelve monks slept, why the twelve pilgrims who constantly journeyed through the gates by the great stairs sought to reach the top of the mountain but never got any further. Read more...

With the Virion by NM Whitley


The virion, if I am to describe it, has a grave and pensive air, like a headmaster smoking a pipe. It is a bacteriophage; this much can be ascertained from the large polyhedral form of its head and its base of five spidery legs. What cannot be ascertained is why it is standing here, two-and-some-odd meters tall, at the foot of my bed.

I am unprepared for this confrontation. There is a searing pain in my tonsils, in the delicate bones of my inner ear. An atrocious ache in my hips and shoulders from tossing this way and that. Five whole nights, to and fro in darkness. I roll over, bury my head once more, and pray that this time I might, by some miracle, fall asleep.

The sun is only just now going down. Another night of eternal torment awaits. Read more...

Notes on the Disappearance of the Headless Child by Matthew F. Amati


The Headless Child has vanished. In the empty nursery, a shattered pane, a bed vacant and damp. Mother howls. Father puts his entire fist in his mouth. The gardener is forbidden to leave.

Someone calls a detective. The detective found a lost pin. He found the footprints of Adam, and the first flower of Creation. The missing child eludes him still.

In a yellow notebook Inspector Nil writes:

"The child is nowhere on the grounds, but something has changed.

"Worms slither in the crawlspace. Strange flowers sprout in the hedge. In some there are hardnesses of fingernail, in others the sheen of a human eye. Read more...

Distance from Loved Ones by Paul Blaney


After his wife cheated with a mailman, Peter decided to get the Porsche he'd always coveted. He flew to Germany, picked up his new automobile, and embarked on a driving Tour d'Europe. Somewhere between Stuttgart and Paris, sobbing helplessly at 120 mph, he T-boned an Audi. Remarkably, Peter walked away unscathed. (The Audi driver lost his left big toe.) But a brain scan at a French hospital revealed a tumor in his cerebrum (if you know where that is). Immediate surgical excision was advised and subsequently (successfully) performed. Ten days later Peter flew home, horizontal, Paris CDG to Dallas-Fort Worth. His shaven head bore a five-inch scar that (even in first-class) caused the stewardess to wince audibly.

All of this my brother relates on our Christmas Day call, and I say: 'But who is this guy Peter?' Read more...

Sea World by Thomas J. Misuraca


Gerard stepped on a jellyfish on his bedroom floor.

An electrical jolt ran up his leg. It knocked out power in the house.

As Gerard fell to the floor, the jellyfish pulsed.

His wife, Cheryl, slightly stirred at this commotion. Seaweed shrouded their bed, reminding her of that seaweed wrap she had at the spa on their honeymoon. She curled up and went back to sleep.

Doing her best to ignore the eels wriggling at the foot of the bed. Read more...

Snow on Snow by Katy Wimhurst


Snow flutters down in her living room, even though the windows are closed. She blinks. The flakes pattern the carpet into white lace and dust the top of her cacti collection. She can't afford to heat the flat, so she puts on a woolly hat and curls up on the sofa, tugging a tartan blanket around her. She gazes at the white miracle. How remarkable!

When the snow stops before bedtime, she makes hot chocolate and changes into fleece pyjamas. Snuggling under the covers with a hot water bottle, she remembers camping in the garden for a week one December when she was a teenager, sixty years ago; she preferred the quiet, cold tent to the heated rows of her parents. Before she drops off to sleep, the icy tingle on her face tells her more flakes are falling. Read more...

Five Stories from The Neighbor by Peter Cherches



It was Sunday morning at 10, time for one of my favorite TV shows, Everybody's a Philosopher! It's one of the longest-running programs on PBS, having debuted in 1965, and still with the original host, a Princeton philosophy professor, now emeritus and in his nineties. I started watching about 40 years ago, when the host had a shock of luxurious jet-black hair; over the years I've watched him go bald and turn gray. The premise of the show is that the week's interviewee is not some kind of expert or public figure, but rather a regular person, just like you or me or your next-door neighbor. The host, also the show's creator, calls it "an adventure in practical philosophy." 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.