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A Confusion of Weasels by Paul Weidknecht

November 27, 2016 Mainstream No Comments
A Confusion of Weasels by Paul Weidknecht

A Confusion of Weasels
by Paul Weidknecht

She hadn’t gotten there just yet, but Michelle knew it wouldn’t be long before she had her Wandering Deer Estates home, that Buck Ridge Terrace address. The timeline was anyone’s guess, but until then she would stay with the plan, let it play out, maybe visit the construction site a few more times. And now, it was in this soothing confidence that she stood in the doorway of her tiny kitchen watching the mess unfold without being all that angry.

Still, she wondered why they all had to prepare their lunches at the same time. It was as if a buzzer had sounded the start of a contest and the first to create something that resembled food was the winner. Skyler and Tyler, the teen and ‘tween, had begun work on an impossibly large mixed salad, much bigger than both of them could ever finish; while Don, off from the warehouse this Saturday, had thrown a handful of chips along side a tuna sandwich he’d put together. She peeked past Don’s sandwich to the countertop, then shot him a look, the meaning of which was lost in the bustle. A puddle of oil from the tuna and a tablespoon of diced onions glistened back, spread in a foot and a half swath across the counter. She sighed. Without a doubt, her next kitchen would be immense, spectacular; it would be a Wandering Deer kitchen.

Don looked down at the sock-footed three-year-old, Kyler, padding across the kitchen floor with a juice box in his hand.

“How come you got the kid dressed like a rat?” Don asked through a mouthful of sandwich.

Michelle would let that one go for now. Don had seen her in the back room night after night for weeks, cutting patterns and sewing together panels of material. He’d seen Kyler cajoled from his morning cartoons and bowl of dry Cheerios, marched in for alteration after alteration so the garment would fit like a second skin. Anyone with half a brain could see this child was not dressed like a rat.

“A weasel. We’re going to Shady Birch to visit Suzanna,” she said.

“It’s weasels now? Three months ago it was dogs, before that, cockatiels.”

“Yeah, I know. A while back a group of eighth graders from the middle school visited the home with several animals. Animal therapy. This time Suzanna really seems locked in on weasels. She’s got several pictures around her room, on the dresser, by her bed. She’s also asked me for a subscription to Weasel Quarterly, so I got her one. I figure it’s an investment.” *** Read on! ***

The Moon and the Ravine by Patricia O’Donnell

July 19, 2016 Mainstream 7 Comments
The Moon and the Ravine by Patricia O’Donnell

The Moon and the Ravine
by Patricia O’Donnell

Emily Stephens couldn’t decide if she hated traveling, or loved it. Traveling is stressful, she thought, as she leaned an elbow out the open window of the Fiat driven too fast by her new husband, Nate. She liked the feel of the wind whipping through her hair. It must be stressful for everyone, right? Why, then, did society—in this case, in the form of Emily’s mother and father—insist that a newly married couple subject their tender baby marriage to this turmoil, to this potential trauma? Tickets to Italy, and money for this vacation, were part of their wedding present, and could not be refused, or put off for a year. “It’s not a honeymoon if you put it off,” her mother had said astringently. “Then it’s just a trip.”

Travel did have moments of startling beauty. This morning from the hotel terrace Emily and Nate had watched thunder clouds rolling in the distance, over the mountains, while the sky above them was blue. They were staying in Basilicata, a mountainous region in southern Italy. At one spot in the distance rain poured down in a blue/gray misty sheet, while sun shone on the mountains around it. “That must be Fiorellino,” Emily had said, jokingly, referring to the town they planned to visit. Now as they approached the town, however, Emily wondered if it was true; the sky was growing overcast, and the air became suddenly colder. Emily rolled up her window just as the first big raindrops splatted against their window. *** Read on! ***

A Lift Back to Luscious by Susannah Carlson

February 9, 2014 Humor, Mainstream 5 Comments
A Lift Back to Luscious by Susannah Carlson

A Lift Back to Luscious
by Susannah Carlson

“Le chien est retourné à son propre vomissement, et la truie lavée au bourbier.” (Henry V, Act V, Sc. 3)

“I want pizza,” my stepson says from the backseat.

It is eight-thirty in the morning.

“Maybe after your test,” I say, knowing the test will last at least until dinnertime.

“I want pizza now,” he says, his tone an emotionless command.

“Well, Michael, we can’t do that. We have to be at Seaside in ten minutes.”

“I’m hungry.” He kicks the back of my seat.

“I gave you breakfast, Honey.”

“I hate pancakes.”

“You like them when your father makes them,” I say, sweetly as I can.

“I hate your pancakes.”

And I hate you, I think. “I don’t know what to do about that, Michael.”

“I’m going to tell my dad you didn’t give me a good breakfast before my test.”

In the rearview mirror, I see he’s holding his cell phone. My throat clenches. I swallow. “I gave you breakfast, Michael.”

“Nothing good,” he says, giving my seat another kick.

I tighten my hands on the steering wheel as if it were His Majesty’s spoiled little neck.

In my past life, I delivered lunches to Silicon Valley tech companies, lugging stacks of insulated carriers full of scrumptious numnums for engineers and executives and their peons. I made so little back then I often couldn’t afford lunch myself. Now, on a full stomach, in new clothes, my nails ground down to the quick and replaced with long, blunt, white-tipped acrylic, I steer my husband’s silver Volvo into a space in front of Seaside Taekwondo. I glance in the rearview at The Dauphin, who glowers in the backseat in his starchy white gi and danbo belt. He hates taekwondo almost as much as he hates me. It’s mutual. *** Read on! ***

Hassenlopf’s Stroke by Gary Cuba

May 23, 2013 Humor, Mainstream 3 Comments
Hassenlopf’s Stroke by Gary Cuba

Hassenlopf’s Stroke
By Gary Cuba

In the early afternoon of his first day of work at Reliant Data Services Corporation, Henry Hassenlopf suffers a massive cerebral stroke. It happens as he sits in his newly assigned cubicle, in front of his PC workstation. No one in the cubes surrounding Henry’s notices what has happened to him.

Henry’s initial panic slowly gives way to a cooler internal assessment. That there is still something of a mind left to self-referentially consider his own plight, he takes as a positive starting point. Under the negative column, he notes that he is completely paralyzed–no, not quite so, he realizes. As he takes sequential stock of his body, bottom to top, Henry realizes that he can still twitch the big toe on his right foot, flex his right thigh muscle, and move the first two fingers on his right hand slightly. His eyes and facial muscles still function. But he cannot utter a sound, not even a grunt. And he can’t twist his neck; his head remains fixed in position, staring at his computer monitor. Its screen clock reads 2:09 P.M.

What a pisser, Henry thinks. Sixty-four years old. After having searched so desperately for decent work in my field for the last three years. And I blow it on my very first day!

Henry sits and waits. He figures someone will eventually notice his problem and get help. Surely they will notice, he thinks. Eventually, they will. *** Read on! ***

Regarding Magic by David Bassano

November 11, 2012 Mainstream 1 Comment
Regarding Magic by David Bassano

Regarding Magic
by David Bassano

I can’t remember the name of that damn club in Wildwood. The front was painted blue and there were no windows, and the blue looked grey in the lamplight. It had a pink neon sign over the door but I can’t remember what it said. I think it just said BAR. The place looked like all the other bars along the boardwalk. If someone pulled the door open in the early evening the music would blast out until the door swung shut with a bang. Every time we left there was no more music or anyone inside to open the door.

The back of the place, which few people ever saw, was bare concrete blocks and broken glass on the boardwalk. I helped the guys carry their gear out the back door of the club. Like most places, it had its own drum kit, so I usually just brought my own snare, cymbals, and sticks. Sometimes I’d just put my sticks in my back pocket and go. And I always kept spare sticks in the car.

That late summer night I came out the back door carrying Ray’s amp head and that sound techie for the club was running his mouth like he always did. So whatcha got at home? he asked. Lemme guess—a double bass. And like a fool I said, single-bass Yamaha. Oh, I figured you’d have a double-bass ’cause you drummers always play too much, he said. Always gotta be movin’. Can’t let the music breathe, know what I mean?

And I asked him for the time and he said It’s three. So I walked out the door with the head and he followed me. Hey, ya don’t like what I said about drummers? I’m just tryin’ ta help ya, he said. I carried the head down the sand-covered steps to Ray’s silver RX-7 in the parking lot behind the place. I never listened to anyone who didn’t play well. And the guys who played well rarely had anything to say. *** Read on! ***

Waiting to Be Thin by Seenat Thongdee

December 20, 2011 Humor, Mainstream 10 Comments
Waiting to Be Thin by Seenat Thongdee

Waiting to Be Thin

By Seenat Thongdee

In my closet, there are three stacks of jeans. One stack for the “fit now” jeans. One for the “will fit if I lose ten pounds” jeans. And the last category—which, when I lay eyes upon it, sets my head into many fantastical journeys—is the “may someday fit after being stranded on an island for six months with only half a carrot and water each day” jeans.

I have struggled with my weight all my life. My mother breast fed me until I was four. Even as I drank my mother’s milk, I still liked to eat the powdered milk by the spoonful. By five years old, my relatives were already calling me “Baby Pig.” But at that age, it was endearing. They would squeeze my chubby cheeks and exclaim, “How precious!”, and afterward put little treats in my greedy palms. Childhood was the happiest period of my life. I was surrounded by the warmth of my family and relatives, and the goodness of sweets.

Then when I turned seven, my mother gave birth to my sister. Nothing really changed. I still had all the sweets I wanted, maybe even more than before. I ate while my parents tended to my sister. For many months, I thought she was the ugliest little thing—all red and wrinkly. But then she got better looking as she got bigger. I liked playing with her. I would tie her soft hair in little rubber bands of different colors and wrap her up in my mother’s colorful scarves. One day I gave her a piece of candy and she began choking. My parents said I shouldn’t give her sweets and told me to stay away from her from that day on. I was not to be alone in a room with her.

I am thirty-three now, and I never did lose that baby fat that my mother said I would lose. Instead, I’ve gained adult fat on top of my baby fat. And my sister’s wedding is in three months. There is still enough time left. I have my goals all written out week by week. Total weight loss desired is 30 pounds, which isn’t so bad. I’ve read somewhere that the first 5 to 10 pounds are water weight anyway. That leaves only 20 actual pounds that I need to lose. And then there’s SPANX, which gives the appearance of being 5 to 10 pounds slimmer. So the absolute number of pounds required to shed is 10. *** Read on! ***

Bro by Matt Hoffman

Bro by Matt Hoffman

By Matt Hoffman

Will knew she was getting tired of him, as they usually did—tired of the repetitive, unimaginative movement of his jeans against hers, barely keeping in time with the rap beat bouncing off of the basement’s brick walls; tired of the way his hands hung limply on the front of her hips. She had accepted his invitation to dance with a shrug, and as far as he could tell, her interest hadn’t increased. He wasn’t surprised when, as the beat faded away to a second of interstitial crowd noise, she released herself from his grasp, turned, and said that she was going to go use the bathroom.

“Okay,” Will said.

The relative silence was broken by a new beat, distorted bass and snare over barely audible synths. She squeezed her way through the crowd of dancing couples, heading in the direction of the stairs, away from him. Will watched her go for a second, looked around at nothing in particular, and started making his way over to the bar, apologizing as he pushed dancers up against their partners in an attempt to clear a path.

Will waited behind a cluster of people until the bartender, a muscled guy in a frat T-shirt, handed him a half-empty red cup and turned away to the next customers. Some of Will’s beer sloshed onto his sleeves as he made his way to the wall, where he had a little space to stand.

Will sipped his beer and looked around. A few colored lights flashed intermittently over the makeshift dance floor, turning the dancers’ skin and clothes red, blue, yellow. A few strobe lights were blinking, indistinguishable from the occasional flash of a digital camera. At the far side of the room, it looked like some stragglers were still being let in, two or three at a time. Were Will’s floormates around? He scanned the crowd and spotted Ed from the quad, who was standing on the calmer side of the room talking with a short
girl in a red blouse. Will decided not to bother him.

Will sighed, leaned back against the rough brick, and decided he might as well wait around for—had she told him her name? Whoever. Bathroom girl. There was a chance she might actually return. Will glanced over at the dance floor to see if she had found a new partner yet.

That was when Will saw him: The guy was moderately tall, dressed in crisp off-white khakis and a neon orange polo, the collar popped to his jaw, aviator glasses gleaming beneath his brow. He was grinding authoritatively with a pretty girl who had a tight pink T-shirt, a denim skirt, and long, dark hair. Her eyes remained shut as she danced, her face set serenely into an expression of entranced satisfaction. The guy held a red cup in one hand and bore the hint of an apathetic half-smile.

But he was Will. ** Read On! **

Gibraltar by Mark Sutz

July 29, 2011 Fantasy, Mainstream 1 Comment
Gibraltar by Mark Sutz

By Mark Sutz

Like most identical twins, my brother Oscar and I were indistinguishable from one another to most people. We weren’t the kinds of twins who harbored any unique moles or tics or cowlicks that would, to the discerning eye, separate us one from the other. On every square inch of our bodies, we were exactly alike, two people walking the earth who seemed in every hop, slurp, action or speech, to be the same. Even when we got into trouble, the harsh punishments were meted out in doubled, equal chunks. Our bar mitzvahs were even held in unison, our passage from boys to men held side-by-side, firmly cementing in our minds that we were going to travel through our lives closer to one another than most could imagine or desire.

The only thing different about us was the titanium rod that had been inserted into Oscar’s ankle when we were twelve. He’d sustained a nearly identical injury to me during a particularly vicious skiing accident, an impromptu downhill race we’d engaged in during a ski trip in Zermatt.

Even the scar left visible on his ankle we shared, but when the doctors had gone into my ankle they’d determined I wouldn’t need the permanent assistance of a metal rod to help strengthen my joint. The scar on the insides of our left ankles was shaped like a fingernail moon. Try as we might, we couldn’t ditch our identicalness.

That is, until we were eighteen and Oscar met Luisa. ** Read on! **

The Spider in the Sink by Jean Ryan

June 28, 2011 Mainstream 3 Comments
The Spider in the Sink by Jean Ryan

The Spider in the Sink

by Jean Ryan

 Ants are easy. Their very numbers make them expendable. They goad you into it, the way they march across the kitchen and besiege your sugar bowl in broad daylight. Who wouldn’t pick up a sponge and decimate them? 

But what to do about the spider in the sink?  No bigger than an aspirin, it shrinks in terror when your hand approaches. Somewhere the little fellow made a wrong turn; it does not want to be in your sink and now it can’t get out. With a splash of water you could send it down the dark hell of your plumbing; you wouldn’t even have to look. There is a chance the wee bug would never cross your mind again. 

You don’t take that chance. You tear off a piece of toilet paper and nudge it beneath the creature, and in your nightgown you walk through the house and out the back door and you shake the tissue over a bush. One day perhaps this spider will eat the aphids off your rosebuds. But that is not why you save it. 


 Your husband did not wave before he pulled out of the driveway and your thoughts keep snagging on this. Every morning you wait for that gesture, his hand arcing out the window, and today he simply drove off. Now as you push his clothes into the washer, you try to recall what color shirt he was wearing, which pair of boots, and your mind draws a blank. Not much was said over toast and coffee. Your heart did not melt at the sight of his thinning blonde hair and you can’t say if his gaze lingered on you. It would be on a day like this, without clues, without touchstones, that he would leave and never come back.  ** Read on! **

Georgetown Kisses by Sarah Harris Wallman

May 29, 2011 Mainstream 2 Comments
Georgetown Kisses by Sarah Harris Wallman

Georgetown Kisses

by Sarah Harris Wallman

Trimble had a bad habit of prolonged eye contact; the so-called windows of his soul seemed perpetually open for business. His wife used to call it his “basset hound look.” He remembered that every time he saw the basset-shaped bank by the cash register at the corner convenience store. You were supposed to deposit change for crippled children, or maybe it was pediatric cancer. Trimble was not a consistent contributor, though if he had pennies he’d just as soon give them away. He wasn’t without sympathy, he just didn’t have as much as his eyes suggested.

That day he put in a whole quarter. He was nervous about the way the clerk was staring at him. He’d paid with a twenty and they were waiting for her manager to bring her more ones.

“That’s real nice,” she said. “They help kids.”

He shrugged, but made eye contact. It was accidental. Her nametag said “Lena.”

There were three people in line behind him, waiting to buy formula or pints of ice cream. The store was one of the few in Georgetown that offered such low-key goods, so there was always a line. Trimble made sympathetic eye contact with all of them, too.

“Do you like to read this?” said Lena, poking at the copy of The New Yorker he was buying.

“Not really,” he laughed. It was true. He was looking for conversation-fodder on the off-chance he and his wife had a conversation. “I just live with someone who does.” This was not quite true. ** Read on! **

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