Monthly Archives: May 2015

Brown Church


By Jennifer Houlton


On the broadcast, he’s talking about Souls, asks us if we want to send him ours in a FedEx box or a DHL like it’s something that you can wrap up and drop off. Who knows, maybe it really is? We’re inside the church waiting for the storm to come. The siren (now adjusted for the hard of hearing too) is lighting up hot yellow and red and we’re looking out onto the grey tornado light through stain glass windows. It’s cozy inside. Our small group is softly singing and we feel safe and gooey-childlike as if no harm could ever come to us.

And really…since we all did get to safety and evacuate – it wasn’t like when you were left outside – which I’ve experienced too – when you’re among flying pieces of corrugated metal or nails hanging out of 2 by 4s. In this situation, with the ladies making and buttering toast in the basement, we were safe.

In Italy, there had been a report of priests jumping off of the balcony of the Sant’Anna dei Palafrenieri in Vatican City. “They were like diving penguins, magically arrested midair and then re-hoisted by angels and taken flight,” the reporter gasped. “Sounds like total bullshit to me,” Alice pointed up to the flat screen above the pulpit. She smiled and looked at me with the confidence of someone who knows that they are truly beautiful… “I gotta take a piss.”

In the stairway, going down to the bathrooms – a pinhole of light led me towards a puncture in the wall… a crawl space, where there lay supine – through my tight-angled view, a single leg clad in jeans.

A man’s leg. Fidgeting, looking up at – maybe a woman – and waiting. I adjusted my footing and could now see a quarter of his face, anticipant. His mouth open just so that a single shard of saliva could be seen crossing his lips and his front teeth.

He whistled as another figure came down on him, destroying my view – so now all that I could see was a moving and gyrating mash of blue jeans and white cotton. Groans of pleasure followed. Wide moans that teased me and made me pull away from my viewing hole. I ran up the steps again and away into the brown box of a church while we waited for the wind to arrive.


– In addition to her work in flash fiction, many of Jennifer Houlton’s plays have been produced in New York. Her film HUNT was a favorite at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival and she was one of four writers who received an Emmy for her work on the online comedy FLOATERS. Jennifer is in post-production on her feature film, WATER. WATER stars SHEA WHIGHAM (Silver Linings Playbook), Tony award winner for WICKED, IDINA MENZEL, and Academy Award nominee, MICHAEL SHANNON. Jennifer is thrilled to be published in Oblong Magazine for the first time.




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By Nicholas Olson


We are in here. Here is where I come to pull you out of the scattered debris of who you are. Who you are is a collection of tattered trades and 45s whose dust crackles can be pinpointed to mishandling thirty years ago: an old liebe whose needle-placing skills left something to be desired. Your beard houses vermin and you scratch at it, at them. I try to smile.

I ask you how you are and you conjure that Beethoven fugue with da-dum and trills as premature moonlight pulls you into the pepto pink Chicago sky behind you, through the windows, where there are people who walk and drive and look in as you look out. Here is something for you:






a contrapuntal composition in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others and developed by interweaving the parts.



a state or period of loss of awareness of one’s identity, often coupled with flight from one’s usual environment, associated with certain forms of hysteria and epilepsy.

Did I get that from the Google? (When you say it, it becomes ze Googre.) Your peeling fingers swipe my screen as the other hand twirls the trill. How are your kids? They are fine, fine. Beethoven’s French name was Louis, you tell me. Louis van. Not as imposing as the Ludwig. His nephew tried to shoot himself. In those days it was a crime. Ludwig/Louis had him placed in the army to remove him from serving the time. You flick flaking skin from your forehead onto your lap and it piles.

Your father used to listen to old Große Fuge as the smoke rolled out of the factory across the strasse. You’d ask what they were making there, why all the smoke. It was like extra clouds being manufactured: cirrus, stratus, cumulonimbus, then little dragon puffs from candlelight stories when you could hear the Sturmbannführer’s boot heels clacking on cracked pavement. You ask me to show you Facebook and I find your daughter. She has 517 friends.

You want to walk, want to breathe in the lake’s briny fake-sea smell, so I go with you. The water is the color of the factory clouds and you tell me to be silent. We listen to the music of the water, you and I, du und ich, and I help you unlace shoes, peel socks off crackling feet. You go in up to your ankles, knees, neck. The tide comes in high and gathers you, swallows you whole, breaks you down into your composite parts.

I watch you disperse, watch till day cracks open the sky and I can hear the fugue you asked for, the one your 45 never played. I go home when I know you aren’t coming back.


Nicholas Olson earned his BA at Columbia College Chicago. A triple finalist in the 2013 Written Image Screenwriting Competition, he currently lives in Chicago where he’s writing a novel and wrangling a cat. He has work published or forthcoming in Every Day Fiction, Eunoia Review, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Foliate Oak, The Open End, and Flash Fiction Magazine. He can be stalked at

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