Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Brian Michael Barbeito

How The Globalists Ruined My Summer Vacation

Those were WW2 houses- built just after the war, and they were all very similar. They felt like bungalows- because there were only a few steps up to the top floors- and the yards were small but well. What this meant was that they made sense. What that meant was that in those days, there were not as many extravagant pools and showy decks anyway. There were not four foot stainless steel BBQs and outdoor furniture. There was hardly any decadence and decay at all. Instead there was a moral fibre- and that is not said sarcastically- on the worst day there was moral fibre- more of it than on the best day decades later. See, in that time- the country was equipped with a strong working class. To be a radical was not even that threatening to many- but more of a Halloween show or youthful immature gesture full of romanticism and naiveté. And to be rich- well- that was for someone else- someone far away- and someone you heard of through another person, but didn’t know and would never know. There weren’t really cigarette boats on the docks or too many kidney shaped pools with a stone mason outdoor Jacuzzi. You just gotta have it! - Have you seen the latest? Well, those houses...they were well kept, and though sometimes the women knew things or took some work- for the most part they did not. The men- the fathers and husbands- worked in lumberyards, in factories, as motor rewinders, or as shipping and receiving men, as yard hands and drivers, as welders, and on roads, docks, and railways. Some were engineers, accountants, or even entrepreneurs. The seasons came when they were supposed to- autumnal hues in the late months that brought the dawn of winter on. Cold icy snow months- with icicles and boots- and the spring- where showers were directed into gullies and streams-. And of course the summer- its bright proud flowers watching the inhabitants of the place- these flowers growing in sync with the arching summer sun as it grew in the sky.
But something changed in the decades to come- and it was not only in that town. Sometimes the result of something you see has many factors- and things conspire to make a place downtrodden and sadder. And sadness can flip flop into constant melancholy- which can border on danger or hopelessness in time if not checked. And it was not the inhabitants only that experienced this- it was the brick and trees, and the trellises and eaves, it was the streams even in the distance- and somehow possibly the sun itself! It was impossible to really believe- to truly believe in the place- in the country- in the economy. The globalists had fucked everything up- willfully- through their plans. One couldn’t be an economic nationalist if one wanted- through any intention- unless you were a Freeman, or a Ruby Ridge type! Manufacturing was outsourced oversees- so was one third of the service industry- and how they did that through telecommunications was easy- and a sin- but they did it. Well, they could manufacture anything, and sometimes they even manufactured wars- just to keep their thing going- and to keep you looking the other way- like a global sleight of hand- magician playing tricks- and not a very good magician- but the only game in town. And the town. Well- many towns had polluted water from Hydraulic Fracturing- but that was another thing. The main thing was that that town was half unemployed. The next quarter was only marginally employed, and the fourth quarter was employed in minimum wage jobs- what the pencil necks and university geeks had thought to call- recipients of competitive wages. The audacity! “Competitive wages.” The guys who thought up terms like that were no doubt the sons and daughters of the globalists.

It went on like that. And on any given day in that place- you would not want to make too much eye contact- because it was getting rougher and rougher. The laissez faire economy and its trickle effect hadn’t trickled down. Someone had put a stop to the money-water. The only thing trickling was some beer that a shirtless man with sleeve tattoos spilt on his chest- as he raised his arm. Then he wiped his lips with the front of his forearms, and lit a smoke. Life was good, he thought, as it was a sunny day, - and he thought about the new tires he was getting. It had only cost four more dollars to order white letters. That was cool. That was awesome. As for the Globalists, he never heard of em’ really, and didn’t care much about basketball anyway.

© Brian Michael Barbeito 2011

Brian Michael Barbeito writes short fiction. His work has appeared at Glossolalia, Exclusive Conclave of Delights Magazine, Lunatics Folly, and Mudjob. He resides in Ontario, Canada.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Toby Tucker Hecht

Descent

Peter had ignored his wife Nella when she first began to complain about her symptoms. There had been earlier periods like that in their marriage, times when Nella wanted more attention, more gratitude, and more affection. At those times, she’d had headaches and indigestion, and had been given to emitting long pensive sighs, especially at the dinner table or while Peter was trying to enjoy thirty minutes of television before he began his preparations for the next work day. Peter had always responded the same way, by doing exactly the opposite of what was being asked. Giving in was a bad thing—for him and for Nella. It changed the rules of the game and created ambiguity. Once he’d refrained from love-making for an entire month until she got the whining out of her system. It was the tactic his brother had used with his wife, and it had worked for them; they’d just celebrated their fifteenth wedding anniversary.
Nella had wanted children. Peter knew this. He hadn’t exactly said no, but relentlessly postponed the possibility with her. He felt proud that he hadn’t hurt her feelings outright about it; he just did what he had to do.
Nella kept a journal. He imagined she wrote about her girlfriends, the gossip they never seemed to tire of, and complaints about their husbands. She wrote in it every night before going to sleep. He had no interest in looking at the journal. It was left unlocked on the night table beside the bed. She trusted him. They had a good marriage.

When she began to bruise—big purple and yellow splotches on her extremities, he asked her if she’d been walking into things. She stared at him and said that she thought she ought to see a doctor. Something was wrong. Very wrong. She felt so horribly tired and her gums bled when she brushed her teeth. Peter told her that she needed to floss her teeth more often. And of course she was tired. If she’d only get more exercise she’d be in better shape. He was happy that she accepted his suggestions without a fuss. He hated women who became defensive about everything.
A month later, Nella began to run a fever. Peter gave her Tylenol and said, “See how I take care of you. How many other husbands do that?” She could hardly hold up her head, but she smiled at him. She stopped writing in her journal.
Peter had been preparing a presentation that, if successful, would mean a great deal of money for his company. He stayed late at the office for days at a time, which was just as well since Nella had stopped cooking dinner. He often found her in her pajamas lying on the sofa under a quilt—even on warm days—when he returned at night. He wondered when Nella would snap out of her self-absorption. She’d become rather demanding, asking him to take off from work to accompany her to the doctor. He was a professional, not an hourly wage earner. Couldn’t she get one of her gossipy do-nothing friends to take her if she wasn’t up to going herself?

Then, he arrived home one day and couldn’t arouse her. He called 911. A whirlwind of ambulance sirens, IV tubes, and radio transmissions to the emergency room, was followed by blood tests, scans, physical examinations, and an admission to the Intensive Care Unit of the University Hospital. Peter waited for hours, sitting, pacing, and then he stood on the other side of the thin curtain listening to the doctors speak about her grave condition. Was she really not pulling a stunt this time?
And then they were talking to him. Nella was terribly far-gone. They told him the name of the syndrome. He’d never heard of it before. If they’d seen her earlier in the disease process, they said, they might have been able to save her, or at least prolong her life, but now, well, they were very, very sorry. It was a matter of weeks, at best.
“She must have been very good at covering up her illness to you,” one of the doctors said. “She must have had her reasons,” another added, fixing her gaze directly at Peter. “Go home and get some rest.”
He called a taxi and returned to the house. It was then he detected the penetrating smell of sickness in the bedroom among the still damp, crumpled sheets. How had he failed to notice it before? He sat down on the bed and put his head in his hands. That was when he saw Nella’s journal. He turned to the last page, an entry of over a month before. There was a date written in a shaky handwriting, next to which was a long letter, to him.
He didn’t read it then, although in the days and weeks and even years after Nella’s death—whenever he felt the need to do penance—he would.

© Toby Tucker Hecht 2011

Toby Tucker Hecht is a scientist and short story writer. Her fiction has been published in The MacGuffin, The Baltimore Review, THEMA, The Foundling Review, Red Wheelbarrow, Epiphany, and other print and online literary journals. She is working on a series of short stories with singing or dancing somewhere in the plot. When not writing, she can be found at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland where she is passionate about translational research, that is, taking promising concepts developed in the laboratory and testing them in the clinic for the benefit of cancer patients. Toby blogs at the Six Sentence Social Network http://sixsentences.ning.com/profile/TobyTuckerHecht

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Vivian Faith Prescott

A Dead Woman's Shoes

Ten pairs of shoes, laces intertwined with Styrofoam and plastic six-pack rings, piled together, tossed aside at the Wrangell City Dump. I untangled laces as if unraveling the mystery of her lingering within the musty cardboard box.
I rummaged through her life–way worn soles of brown patent leather, faded red cheerleader shoes, black dress flats, tennies and white canvas slides. Now, I wear the dead woman’s shoes and each stride senses that my footfalls have somewhere else to go; each step pulses her soul’s quickening. And as I walk, I wonder where her shoes might have tread, where she is now—if she even needs shoes. And if I continue to wear the dead woman’s shoes, will she forever be a transient, footloose—walking from her world to mine.

In My Father's Cabin

The oil-barrel stove sears fire, spinning black soot into spider webbed patterns on the ceiling. Wool socks hang drying on bunk bed rails, river sand scatters across the floor. On cabin porch, I swat mosquitoes, and glimpse a dark silhouette awash in graying light; its yellow eyes lope into my thoughts.

It is here at the end of the world that clan brother chases sun and moon, fleeing with tracks and windblown sand. Inside the cabin, my sleeping bag is unable to warm the howls wounding the nightfall; its aching bay answered
deep the timber behind the cabin.

Like the man beneath the transformation mask, the cry releases loosely hinged cedar, unfolds its split image panels and exhales on the burning lantern, bellowing the flickering shapes, shifting cabin wall to forest path, invoking a story my grandparents told me about hunting in Thomas Bay—
at dusk wolves ambled through the treeline and in waning daylight, stood—transformed—and walked like men.

Doubt

Last Sunday the preacher said she must believe
          in three gods, in wrath, in brimstone,

fire and death, things she could not see.
          But this, she glimpsed every night

from her veranda, their glint and flash,
          their phosphorescent fins.

So one night, shadowed on the cliff
          behind the old Iglesia, she stood atop

her grandmother's crumbling crypt,
          let her words be her guide, the black chant

of ancient fishermen curling her tongue in exotic fire.
          And with a hand loop on her wrist,

coiled line and net, the lead line over her left shoulder,
          she unwound her body into that space

between twilight and morning where belief
          sometimes nestles, gray and faded.

and pulled in with all her strength
          a castnet bursting with silver stars.

© Vivian Faith Prescott 2011

Vivian Faith Prescott lives in Kodiak, Alaska. She and her family are involved in the Lingít language revitalization in Southeast Alaska, and have established a non-profit called Raven’s Blanket, which is designed to enhance and perpetuate the cultural wellness and traditions of Indigenous peoples through education, media, and the arts; and to promote artistic works throughout Alaska by both Native and non-native Alaskans. Vivian has been published in several journals and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in Poetry. She blogs at: Planet Alaska http://planetalaska.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Callan

The Littlest Truck Driver

The family Holiday stood ankle deep in mud outside the gates of the graveyard. The sky rumbled and dark clouds rolled in. In the distance, lightning streaked the horizon. The tallest member of the family flung an arm upward in a futile gesture of frustration. There was an enormous crack of thunder that shook the ground and rattled the gates of the graveyard. The gates were not locked but the wind from the storm had slammed them closed in the night, and now the thunder shook the air, and the gates swung open. The man dropped his arm, startled at the coincidence. He rested his hand on the broad speckled back of his eldest daughter. He gave her a gentle shove. She was the first through the gate. Once on the other side, she turned towards her family and facing them broke into a short routine of light calisthenics. The rain began to fall, and after the applause she jogged towards her grandfather’s grave. The rest of the family followed, stopping at the gatehouse to retrieve the coffin. They marched in the mud with singular purpose through the storm, towards the open grave.
The grave was filled with water, and the coffin would not fit. The senior male member of the family looked skyward and signaled violently with his hands. Planes rushed over head in the distance. The slow pragmatic sound of heavy equipment could be heard. Temporarily the wind and rain slacked a bit. The dark sky hung above the muddy graveyard, and the Holiday family redirected their vapid gaze away from the scarred earth, towards the sound of approaching equipment.
The crew appeared, a flotilla of heavy machinery in the thick sea of mud. The tractor lost its balance and had to back up. “BEEP BEEP BEEP” it cried as it pulled itself free from the heavy mud. The driver had decorated the inside of his cab with cheery Christmas lights. The bulldozer behind him had lashed a pink Christmas tree to its grill and streams of blinking lights were dragged behind it in the mud. The truck with the sump pump pulled abreast of the two greater machines, but what the little truck lacked in stature it made up for in enthusiasm. The entire truck was outlined in lights and a deer shape comprising lights was mounted on top of the cab. It was a marvelous sight and a cheer went up from the Holiday family as they saw assistance approaching.
They were so eager to show their appreciation that they tore flowers from the funeral wreaths and stripped petals form the stalks, tossing them in front of the tractor. The operator was so moved that he leaned out of his cab, and steering with his knees, gave a gentle, magnanimous wave, coquettishly turning and glancing over his shoulder to the delight of the mourners, who laughed and clapped and cheered, until their joy turned on them and became a unified sorrow.
The Holiday family collapsed in a heap and began to wail, so that when the smug, festive little truck driver passed them, they threw no flowers and raised no cheers, and he took it to heart, and was wounded by their apathy. After all, he thought, I am the one who will drain the grave of water so that they can commend their grandfather to the earth.
He pulled alongside the bigger machines, exited the cab of his truck and approached the heavy equipment operators who were loathe to help him unload the sump pump. The heavy equipment operators didn’t want to know the driver of the little truck. They haphazardly helped him to unload. Then, they walked away without a word, leaving the driver of the little truck alone to complete the arduous task of drainage.
The family Holiday continued to weep as a group, finding consolation in their shared misery.
The driver of the little truck had to work furiously, against time, against the weather, all alone, soaked through to the skin, while the heavy equipment operators relaxed, waiting until they were needed.

*     *     *

At last, the grave was drained, and the driver of the little truck was exhausted. He slogged through the heavy mud to inform the Holiday family, who were moaning and flailing their arms in a demonstration of sorrow. But they had grown weary of their own show, and only wanted to get out of the elements, and when the senior member of the family saw the approach of the driver, he broke off from the group and met the man, rested a heavy hand on one of his shoulders and passed a damp twenty dollar bill into his hand. The little truck driver’s spirits were lifted. Anyone could see how empty the construction show was. People needed him. He should not get so down; he was the one people needed. He strode back to his little truck and hopped into its little cab and sped away from the graveyard. He moved so swiftly that the deer mounted on the top of the cab fell off, but he did not stop for it--only chased the rest of the morning through the graveyard gate, leaving behind the family Holiday, and the vainglorious heavy equipment operators.

© Callan 2011

Callan left Orange County, Ca. in 2007 and moved to the country to focus full time on her writing. Her work is featured at Six Sentences and her blog: theworksofjanecallan

Edward Dean

Bob Boyce (I'll Be Around)

The full dark straight hair that framed Bob Boyce’s long slender face made his large sleepy eyes more pronounced. It seemed to speak to his sexuality. His ruddy pock marked face added strength to the perception.
Bobby used his overactive libido to solve his loneliness. His frequent forays to the local bars could always yield a female in desperate need of attention. Alcoholic playgrounds seemed to be a magnet for the lonely. Everyone there was looking for a respite from seclusion. It solved the inconsolable need for human contact. Whether it was simple conversation or the warmth of another body, Bobby was always accommodating. Most evenings, a willing female participant accompanied Bobby home. His well honed skills as a lover made him a favorite with this frantic crowd. They used him to fulfill some void in their lives. He had a latent emotional sense that could satisfy their fantasies. His ongoing trysts never lasted. Whenever a female partner put burdens upon him or demanded that he be faithful, he gracefully departed. To say that he was shallow did not speak to the core of his being. It was more of a lack of a time. His most deep-seated fear was death. A family history of all closely related males dying prematurely gave cause to Bobby’s fear. Few had lasted for more than forty or fifty years. He knew his life would be short. In a way it was peaceful and easy for Bob. He faced his own mortality early on in life when it was easy to look into the face of death and not blink. The sudden shock of his first angina attack at an early age of thirty-six put this certainty into focus. From then on, every day was a new beginning for Bob. To taste every nuance of every offering from life was a mission that he pursued with vigor!
Most any evening, you could hear the soft lilting tones of Frank Sinatra or Tony Bennett emanating from his apartment. He had literally worn out two copies of Franks The Wee Small hours of the Morning album. If there was ever a piece of music that spoke to his soul, this was it! The serenity of the midnight hour was comforting to Bob; he had tasted and relished another day.
The song, Wee small hours, would set the tempo for his melancholia. By the time he got to When your lover has gone, he would be well into his second scotch. There was a voice or feeling lurking in his brain for every phrase of every song. His other repast was comedic movies. It was the pain in comedy that he identified with. He loved to laugh and did so with great gusto.
His and Suzie’s relationship was founded on common ground. They were kindred souls in many ways. Oddly they both wanted detachment. To be alone in each other’s company was their bond. A sharing of good scotch, music and revere’ gave them a sense of peace. Even in the bedroom, there was solitude as they shared each other’s body. To be able to savor and hold on to one’s own orgasm gave them a sense of contentment. To let the body speak uncontrollably, with no intrusion from the voices within their own minds was their holy grail.
Suzie was always thoughtful and gracious enough to call before going upstairs to his apartment. She never knew if Bob was entertaining. It really didn’t matter to Bob. He would always offer to have Suzie join them. Bobby wanted in the worst way to enlist Suzie and his newfound partner in a ménage a trios. Suzie would laugh at the suggestion. She was aware that this was every male’s fantasy.
‘When are they going to learn that they can’t handle one woman, much less two at a time? Maybe it takes the pressure off of them to perform and let the women take care of each other. Or is it the show that they’re looking for? I really don’t understand men sometimes. They can be so strange; and they have the nerve to talk about us women!’
A deep smoky voice answered the phone. “Sure, come on up Suz. Hey have you got any scotch? I’m just about out.”
“Of course Bobby.”
She grabbed her last bottle of single malt and headed up.
True to his casual ease with Suzie, he answered the door clad in his boxer shorts. The ever-present waft of Sinatra music greeted her as she entered the room. Bobby smiled gratefully as he took the most excellent single malt and poured them both a drink. He handed Suzie a large crystal snifter containing two inches of the delectable liquid with two ice cubes; just the way she liked it. Bobby always drank his neat. The importance of cut crystal, small art pieces and fashionable clothes were important in Bobby’s life. The finer things of life were his must enjoyment of the now.
They both fell back on the deep leather couch and began to cuddle. Suzie’s favorite position was between his outstretched legs. They sat that way for the longest time, listening to the music, saying nothing. The warmth of the darkness and a kindred soul satiated their needs. They both shared a knowing smile at each other when the ‘I’ll be Around’ track came on. Regardless of the sex, there was an unspoken pledge to one another. A commitment to be the lifeboat in each other’s sea of turmoil; nothing asked, nothing expected but a bond inherent in their own melancholy.
“You got a visitor upstairs tonight Suz?”
Bobby knew of her voices and certainly understood. He was never sure that he comprehended his own. He knew they were there whispering to him but they were never strong enough to assert themselves like Suzie’s did.
“Yea…..” She just didn’t feel like elaborating tonight.
He laughed softly into her ear,” Well would you like a visitor downstairs?”
“Not really Bobby. Do you mind? I just want to cuddle against your erection and enjoy this scotch. Just hold me Bobby and make me safe and warm.”
He smiled lovingly and gently rested his cheek against her soft perfumed hair. After the second album and a third scotch, sleep crept easily into their brains and the nagging voices grew silent in the warmth of their bonded flesh.

© Edward Dean 2011

This story was supposed to have appeared on Blake N. Cooper's Thinking Ten: A Writer's Playground, and may yet arrive there.

Double or Nothing

Double or Nothing by Michael D. Brown New beginnings are all very fine, but what happens when one starts having double vision? ...