Monthly Archives: March 2015

Open Wide

 

By Caitlin McGill

   

Cut the cobbler into exactly twelve slices. Measure a sheet of aluminum foil. Sixteen inches wide. Cover. Seal it tight as you do coffin lids. You know when people accidentally see inside they hanker for more, crave another peek. Don’t make that mistake again. Remember: your meticulousness is why they say you’re the best. Don’t lick the caramelized sugar off your fingers, either. You don’t even like cherries. Plus, you’ve only washed your hands twice since the last client.

Count your steps as you walk—one, two, three four five—down to the basement where Mickey lies. Tell yourself six days isn’t so long. You’ve stored them for weeks before, especially for non-religious kin. They’re never in a rush. This time, for triple pay, you agreed to keep the body off the books. You let Mickey’s wife keep her secret but wonder why she told you so much, why she told you Mickey’s favorite was cherry and that the last thing he did on this earth was pull a fresh cobbler from the oven, red oozing over the crust. You wonder why she trusts you. It’s making you anxious. But when aren’t you? Inspect the body again. Ensure the powder hasn’t caked onto his hardened skin. Ensure the lips are that perfect shade of alive that wins you compliments—and clients. Don’t fret about the skin blistering yet. You’ve got at least three more days, but the smell—that’s becoming a problem. Worry your grey split-ends in your naked, bony fingers. Button his slate dress shirt up to his neck, to cover the gash. The casket she chose reminds you of the snake-bark maples in your backyard. Run back upstairs and spot them outside, scratching the ashy fall sky with their purple-red branches, bark covered in silver, sinuous veins. Count. Seven. Same as when you checked two hours ago.

The doorbell sounds. Pull your apron over your head and leave the mixing bowls in the sink despite the anxiety this causes you. She’s early. You’ve never understood why people don’t care for precision like you do. How lovely to see you, Mrs. Donovan. Please—come in. Lead her to the kitchen where you reveal your thoughtful surprise. Peel foil from the tin and claim two pieces. Seal it tight. Don’t forget the forks. Take three steps to the right so you can’t feel her breath on your neck anymore. Thank yourself for using the knife before she arrived. Take her down to see Mickey again—you’re especially proud of your work this time. Let her stare. Let her try to exonerate herself—why couldn’t he remember I hate cherries? Why couldn’t he ever remember anything about me at all? Say you’ve never liked cherries much either—never liked people much for that matter. Assure her you understand until she insists you eat, in his honor. Feel the fork slice through cherry. Open wide.

 

Caitlin McGill is the 2014 winner of the Rafael Torch Nonfiction Literary Award, and her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crab Orchard Review, Digital Americana, Solstice, The Southeast Review, Short, Fast, & Deadly, Sphere International, Spry Literary Journal, and several other magazines. She is also a writing instructor at Emerson College, where her students continually remind her of the power of language. Currently, she is completing a collection of essays that explores identity, race, class, addiction, war, empathy, and the destruction that results from ignoring those very issues.

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The Reader

 

   

By Lynn Mundell

 

I build you a little house in the forest with my time and a pencil stub and with run-ons for hallways and for each wall. Fragments for the windowsills. My serviceable metaphor, of course, is the roof, like an acorn cap over its nut. My favorite punctuation—the dash—I save for the light switch—on—off—on. Can you see it yet? I write you, my tiny reader, into the corner, give you an armchair made of a rounded, solid U, wrap you in an afghan of lacy Qs crocheted together. After I install the stained glass in rouge and sapphire, I make us a fire in the hearth with bundles of brittle numbers, so we can stay warm all winter. Next, I shut the oak door with finality, as I would the heavy cover of an important book. Then I lock us in together with my very. Last. Period. But you have crept out the window I carelessly left open! All I can do now is watch your little footsteps disappear through the snow, like black type fading until there is only, once again, the empty, white page.

 

Lynn Mundell is co-founder and co-editor of 100wordstory.org. Her essays have been published in “The Sun” and “The San Jose Mercury News,” poetry in “Free State: A Harvest of Maryland Poetry” and “First Class Lit,” and fiction in “Eclectica.” She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from American University in Washington, D.C.

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No Heat

 

by Mitchell Grabois

 

The woman who owns this Umbrian farmhouse is poor at property management. She’s left us here to stay for the winter with no heat source but a wood stove, and no wood. The Australians used it all. They lied to her, and she didn’t check it out. It’s the coldest winter in Europe in a decade. All the seasoned wood has been taken. The only wood available is green as a fresh leaf. Even our Italian friend in Arezzo – so connected – cannot help. At least there’s a book – Boccaccio’s Decameron. My wife and I can read to each other all winter. We will not perish of the Black Death.

We will not perish from Ebola. We will not perish from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. And we will not perish from leprosy.

There’s a leper colony in South San Francisco, a little known place, run by the Little Sisters of Poor Claire, a quiet residence with clean hallways where long meditations unfold. Poor Claire was wealthy until she ran from her family to follow St. Francis. How they must have loved each other!

The Little Sisters of Poor Claire are selfless, but sometimes, in certain areas of life, lack judgment. The lepers, when they know they’re close to death, follow a self-generated tradition: they take a large duffel bag filled with their clothes into the City – sometimes Market Street, sometimes Potrero, sometimes Golden Gate Park – and scatter their clothes over sidewalks and lawns, hang them on water fountains. The sisters passively allow this. The Little Sisters of Poor Claire have wealthy benefactors and provide the residents with very nice clothes, so the people who find them never suspect that they were left by lepers, living and dying in a leper colony, not far away. Most of the time, the clothes are not contagious.

 

Mitchell Krockmalnik Grabois has had over seven hundred of his poems and fictions appear in literary magazines in the U.S. and abroad. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize for work published in 2012, 2013, and 2014. His novel, Two-Headed Dog, based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition. He lives in Denver.

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Mother-In-Law

 

By Leslie Blanco

 

We used to go shopping at stores we’d been told we could not afford, buy nothing, stand around smelling things at perfume counters, tap our feet at the saxophone players outside. Snow flakes blew innocently in every direction, as if they’d been born in mid-air. No one rushed us at all. Once, at a football game, we sat alone, without our men. We ate gummy bears, chocolate kisses, hot chocolate, pretzels, coffee, encouraged each other to eat more. They couldn’t tell us not to. She had a house she’d lived in thirty-five years. There were pictures of gap-toothed children on the walls, home-made rag dolls in clear plastic boxes in the closets. I liked to breathe the air there. I liked to hole up against winter and take the plastic lounge chairs out to the shade of the oak when spring finally came. Because it made me feel better she hid things from her husband too: the chocolate chips in the cupboard, the price of her Talbot’s shorts.

I asked her once the secret to forty years of marriage, and smiling, she told me a most un-Cuban thing: learn to hold your tongue and eat crow.

I never got to say goodbye to her. After the lies he told she wouldn’t even answer the phone. And I still dream of her. That her breast cancer has returned. That no one wants to come home for Christmas. That secretly, she thinks it was her fault.

I want to tell her to rest her bad knees.

I want to tell her that all her pleasures are taken on the sly.

And that if she is to keep a secret, let it be that she has a lover, that he feeds her guanabana milkshakes in bed and sings her boleros and is kind.

 

Leslie Blanco’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Confrontation,The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. She has taught creative writing and screenwriting at Lemoyne College, Syracuse University, and the Syracuse YMCA’s Downtown Writer’s Center. She has an MFA from Warren Wilson College.

When

 

By David Bussell

 

When the waiter poured the man’s wine and offered a casual ‘Say when,’ the man did no such thing.

Instead he watched, steadfast as the wine filled the glass, until eventually it found the rim and overflowed onto the tablecloth. The waiter cocked an eyebrow as if to say ‘Play fair, sir, say when,’ but the man remained staunch as the wine cascaded off the sides of the table, soaking the carpet and pooling at their feet.

Soon the wine collected around their ankles, then their shins, and still the man said nothing. Sweat beaded the waiter’s brow as the wine flooded to the edges of the restaurant and began pressing at the windowpanes. Say when, the waiter’s eyes screamed. For God’s sake say when! The bottle faltered in his hand but still the man said nothing, so still the wine flowed.

There was a sound of splintered glass, then the windows gave way and the wine gushed onto the streets; a claret tsunami. Traffic overturned, buildings toppled, civilians disappeared beneath the crimson riptide. Soon the Earth was drowned in wine – a wet ruby glistening against a jeweler’s black velvet.

‘When,’ the man said.

 

– David Bussell is an award-winning British humourist. Born in 1976, David spent his early years growing increasingly larger until he reached adulthood. Among his interests are amateur parkour, the Oxford comma, and writing about himself in the third person. Rumours that David was conceived on an Indian burial ground remain largely unfounded. David would beat you in a fight.

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