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  1. The Model –- Emily Gilbert
  2. Los Picos de Europa –- Dustin Brown
  3. Fun and Games –- Phil Jones
  4. Rain –- Peycho Kanev
  5. Be With Us –- Jeannette Leopold
  6. Counsel –- Brian Burt
  7. Refugee –- Lisa Majaj
  8. Admissions Left Unsaid –- Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas
  9. The Strange Case of Hank Jensen –- Timothy Reilly
  10. Various Things About Leaving –- Karen Jones

The Model –- Emily Gilbert

This is what happens when it’s summer you’re working at the front desk of the university’s gym handing out towels and chasing the townie kids off the squash courts, updating the community bulletin board, tearing down old advertisements for things like palm readings and a rock band inexplicably in search of a cellist. You see the flier:

NUDE MODELS WANTED FOR ARTIST GROUP
$20 an hour
MUST HAVE EXPERIENCE

There’s a phone number.

“Have you modeled before?” asks a gravelly voice.

“Yes,” you lie.

“Can you do contrapposto?”

“Of course,” you say.

* * *

After your shift at the gym, go back to your room and strip and stand in front of the full-length mirror. Turn so you’re in profile. You’ve been sucking in your stomach since you were eight.

* * *

Naked under the lights against a white backdrop. Their are ten pairs of eyes staring at you expectantly. Do whatever comes to mind first. Hunched over fashion pose, hands clutching waist. Arms bent behind head so your breasts are perky. Body arched as though shooting a bow. Pretend you’re a ballerina in fourth position.

Next, get on a chair with your legs spread. Think of Georgia O’Keefe. It’s a warm summer night and through the screen door you can see the faint outline of the horses in the field as dusk settles. Horses are always naked.

What you know about horses, aside from their smell and how to ride English and pick the dirt out of their hooves, is that in 1878 the first high-speed photograph of a gallop was produced, proving the existence of the the moment when all four feet leave the ground and the animal is airborne.

During the break look at the easels. One person has given you a long neck that is not yours. It is not you they see. It is a body part or a muscle or a shadow coming off a hip. You’re distorted and dismembered.

* * *

It’s an addiction, giving yourself entirely to someone else. You read the paper now, scanning the classifieds for this kind of thing. He lives in a complex and the interior of his condo is black. Walls, window coverings, upholstery, even the lampshades. He explains that natural light is inconsistent. Try not to wince when he shines the hundred-fifty watt bulb directly into your eyes. He’s balding and squints through his wire-rimmed glasses.

He doesn’t stop talking. He has many theories about the government and the corrupt bureaucracy of publishers and Area 51. On every available surface are stacks of newspapers and canvases and old manuscripts. The title of one peaks out, Anarchy and Animals. He uses thick acrylics and his paintings are of atrocious shapes, faintly feminine, bulging things, like a Matisse that has binged on McDonald’s.

The entire three hours you model for him, think about all the terrible ways this could end. Chopped into little bits sounds the best, like a chef has prepared you for a soup. No one would know. No one would think of it until days later and by then it will be too late. The little bits will have been flushed or tossed into the woods like bird seed.

* * *

The beginning of September now and everything is still green and hot. Alphonse is another flier, another artist in need of a model. His white hair is longish, parted down the middle, and his face droops. He offers you tea, which you never drink but say yes to be polite.

He asks what you study and you tell him. He brings you into his library and shows you a book.

“Have you read my father?” Shake your head. “He wrote this. It’s very famous. You’ll probably end up reading it for class.”

He tells you he used to date a girl who went to your college in the eighties. “Is Amarillo’s still there?” he asks.

“I’m a waitress at Amarillo’s,” you say.

He runs a long finger down the spine of his father’s book.

“Everything changes. We used to go there, a group of us. That girl I dated became a fashion model. Vogue and all that.” He’s fiddling with a camera now, checking the aperture, wiping the lens. “Let’s go onto the deck,” he says.

The south side of his house is made of plate glass windows and you’re standing against the railing watching yourself watch his camera as he is taking pictures of you. He’s telling you to take down the top of your dress. He’s telling you to stop looking like you’re thinking. The sun bounces off the windows and your eyes water. He brings you back inside and undresses you. Lie down on the black leather sofa. The camera clicks. Change position. When it’s over he hands you a crisp hundred and a picture. Don’t look at it until you’re in your room. In the photo you’re lying on your belly, propped up slightly by your arms. In the middle of the curve of your back is a giant red pimple.

* * *

Most of the reasons why you say yes have to do with good manners. You crave the high that exists in the pale sliver of time when you can still say no. But yes is what you say. To do otherwise is impolite. This is what you’ve learned.

* * *

Alphonse always offers you tea. He asks how your week has been. He likes to show you around his house he designed, all 4,000 square feet of it. He tells you he received his Masters in Architecture from Yale. There are framed pictures of his two sons, of their mother, hanging on the walls.

The next time you see him he asks to shave you and then takes you out to lunch. He drives to a country club on the side of a hill, but it’s closed. A minor embarrassment. He tells you about his years after college, when he lived in Paris and Rome and London and Berlin.

“I bought a Porsche,” he says. “I drove around Europe for two years. You should try it.”

You eat outside at a small bistro. It’s windy and your napkin escapes more than once. The second time this happens he looks slightly annoyed. He asks what you like to write about. “I don’t really know,” you say.

The conversation turns to his art, his process, the recent death of his mother, models and drugs and the gallery he used to have in New York. But it’s hard to pay attention to what he’s saying. He wants to remove hair from your body and you will let him.

* * *

It’s a quiet ride back. The horses are in the fields, their brown coats reflecting the sun. They are so close to the white fences you can see their long tails flicking away the flies.

* * *

On your hands and knees on an expensive over-dyed rug made in Afghanistan. He is behind you with a razor, a can of Barbasol, and a small metal bowl filled with warm water. The Bach Cello Suites are playing on the stereo.

He is gentle, first lathering you with the shaving cream in slow, rhythmic circles, then the cold snick of the razor. A metallic clang as he dips it into the water and taps it on the side of the bowl. At intervals he uses the cloth to dab away any excess. He tells you to lie on your back and then you watch him between your legs. You’ve gone way up over yourself. You’re in the mirror on the wall and you see everything.

“I bet your boyfriend’s going to really enjoy this,” he says. Your reflection laughs awkwardly, her breasts jiggle with the motion. Then she looks stern. She asks you if you really think he’s shaved all his models? What if he puts his fingers inside you? She says not to worry—you never have to tell anyone. All you have to do is lie there.

When he’s finished he sits back on his haunches and admires you. He says, “Lie however you’d like,” and gestures towards the cushions piled on the floor.

Arrange yourself and close your eyes. One of the windows is open and you feel the breeze across your skin. Why did you say yes? Your reflection is behind your eyelids now, accusing. A fly lands on your stomach and starts crawling lower. It tickles but you cannot move to swat it away. This is what he’s bought, your stillness.

* * *

That night you go to a party at someone’s house in town. It’s the end of September and there is a small bonfire. Chain smoke and drink too much vodka. All of these people and none of them know. Their orange mouths open wide and they shout sounds at each other. They are dancing in an upstairs room. They are getting high in the bushes. There is a worn floral couch on the lawn. Sink down into it and watch them. A girl you know from freshman year is next to you. She takes your hand and strokes it. “How was your summer?”

Your reflection tells her you enjoyed it, all of it, every last minute.

She asks if she can read your palm. You shrug and she tugs it to her then laughs. “I don’t know how.” Her words slur together.

“It’s okay,” your reflection tells her. “I already know what happens.” But she has turned away. She is talking to someone else and then she is gone and someone is handing you a can of beer. He’s sitting next to you and putting his arm around you and asking if you’re cold. He’s stroking your shoulder with the pad of his thumb. His breath smells like cigarettes and he is telling you how beautiful you are. He’s telling you how much he wants you and you will let him.

Emily Gilbert’s work has been previously published in The Greensboro Review and she has won The Robert Watson Literary Prize.

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Los Picos de Europa –- Dustin Brown

We climbed, not up the path,
but along the loose-fitting rocks,
mountain goats or sorraias
or the first curious men.

I tripped and scraped on unsteady
hills of rubble that avalanched
in streams at our step.

Lunch on the mountainside, overlooking
the valley below, rimmed and overflowing with holm oaks
and evergreens, steaming with primordial warmth.

Bread and bananas,
we left the peels for the mountains
cold gray and wind colder.

The sea of clouds below,
like a fog circling dawn.
Rays of impossible white penetrated through in
arcs cast around raindrops.

Over the crest of a hill, a ranch of horses
fed on the surviving grass.
They all drank from a small pond,
rainwater of ten centuries.

The wind blew icy in my face, but I didn’t turn away.

Dustin Brown is currently working on a BA in creative writing at Western Michigan University. He’s also a fiction reading intern at Third Coast Magazine and an editorial intern at New Issues Poetry & Prose. His poetry has been published at Poetry Quarterly, Coe Review, Third Wednesday, and Strong Verse Online and has work forthcoming with Hollins Critic and the Laureate.

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Fun and Games –- Phil Jones

I know I should have seen it coming. Susan’s always been a bit hasty – lashing out whenever her hormones run riot. I’ve lost count of the number of jobs she’s walked out on or the friends upset by her sharp tongue. But once the blood cools and reality hits home she’s usually filled with remorse. Self-loathing even. And it’s always my shoulder she cries on.

“My big softy” she calls me.

Well, I’m more easy-going, see? I mean, life’s too short, isn’t it? I don’t let things get on top of me the way she does.

I make sure we have a bit of fun. You can’t beat a night out on the razzle to put things in perspective, though we usually end up going to the Miners. Friday nights they have a sing-song. Susan tells everybody I’ve got a black belt in karaoke. Well, I can belt out a fair rendition of Delilah. And Susan’s First Cut is the Deepest is as good as the original I reckon. Everybody says we’re the ideal couple. Compatible, see. Though her mam’s forever telling us it’s time we stopped acting like a couple of big kids now we’ve got a grown-up daughter. But you’ve got to have a laugh haven’t you?

Take tickling for example. If you haven’t had a proper tickling session under the duvet then you don’t know what you’re missing. And it was Susan who started all that. We were lying there one Sunday morning, me watching the Formula 1 on the telly and her going on about the nose job Cindy Evans had had done. I just made a joke how it might have been better if she’d got herself a boob job, and the next thing I felt Sue’s fingers probing inside my vest. She wouldn’t stop.

I totally lost control – ended up helpless as a drowning man.

Of course, I had to get her back. Had her begging me to stop within less than three minutes. Screaming that if I didn’t pack it in she’d wet herself.

Well, it didn’t come to that, thank goodness. But there were tears. She got really upset. Said I was a bully who didn’t know his own strength or where to draw the line. And I’ll admit when I saw the bruises I realised I might have gone a bit too far. But we were only having a laugh. And we soon kissed and made up.

It was Susan who suggested we start playing games. In bed. Something she’d read in one of them women’s magazines – how to spice up your sex life. I was a bit wary but she’d already got one of the dice from Megan’s ‘Monopoly’ set. We had to take it in turns to throw. And every number had a special … well. I’ll spare your blushes.

But like most things in life it got a bit humdrum after a couple of months. The same as Delilah. So we gave it a rest for a week or so until the night she suggested we toss a coin. Heads or Tails. Susan was quite content with five or ten minutes of Heads if there was something worth watching on the telly. We’ve got a 40-inch screen plus the full Sky Sports package. But then, not long after the football season kicked off, she accused me of fixing things so Tails never came up any more. I mean, I ask you. How can you rig the toss of a coin?

I lost my rag. Lashed out at her without thinking. She finished up with a split lip and I regretted it the moment it was done. She took some calming down as well. Threatening to walk out and take Megan to her mam’s and all sorts. Well, I wasn’t having it. It was accidental after all. I grabbed hold of her and told her to cool it. She said I was hurting her but I wouldn’t let go until she promised to forgive me. And she did. It was all forgotten by the following day.

Fair enough, things got a bit awkward at bedtime for a week or so. Susan went on strike — determined to make her point. And I went along with it until the weekend Megan went away with her gran to Pontins. I suggested we could try something new for a change now we had the house all to ourselves. Rock-Paper-Scissors. Whoever won got to choose … you know.

Sue made a song and dance about how she wished she’d never suggested the idea to begin with. But she soon came round and everything was hunky dory again. People don’t realise you have to work at a relationship to keep it special.

That Sunday afternoon Wales were playing Ireland in the first game of the Six Nations. It was live on the telly and they were showing it on the big screen at the Miners. Mrs Jenkins had laid on sandwiches for the regulars and by the time the match was finished everybody was well tanked.

Lewis Farrell: his mam works at the Co-op. He’d wormed his way next to Susan while I went to get us another round in. I could see him whispering in her ear – his hand slithering up and down her back like she was his special bit of stuff. As soon as Susan caught me looking she rolled her eyes as if to say, “I know. He’s being a right pain”.

Well he’s only eighteen, if that, and he was bladdered. But I wasn’t having it. I decked him when he went to the Gents and he never come near us again.

Sue clammed up the rest of the night and didn’t breathe a word until we got home. I was ready for her, mind you.

“What got into you?” she started.

“Into me?”

“Well, yeah. I seen the way you went after Lewis. He weren’t doin’ anythin’. He’s ‘armless.”

“I could see his hands up and down your back like a ruddy accordion player. I don’t call that ‘armless.”
“God, I wish you’d grow up.”

“Grow up? I wasn’t the one acting like a pair of kids on some hot date. It’s a wonder you never invited him back here for more fun and games …”

Like I said, I never saw it coming.

No ‘One. . . two. . . three. . .’.

Just ‘Paper’.

Palm open. Fingers extended. Right across the mush.

Slap!

My reaction was pure instinct.

‘Rock’.

Clenched fist. Whap! Just above the left tit. Her entire frame seemed to spin and collapse in on itself at the same instant. Head whipping back and legs crumpling beneath her as she fell against a dining chair before ending up sprawled on the kitchen floor.

I rubbed my knuckles. God, that had been one hell of a punch. Calzaghe would have been proud of me.

I reached down to grab her hand but she wouldn’t let me help her up. She shuffled herself across the floor until she was wedged between the fridge and the waste bin. I’d never seen such a look in her eyes. Fear. Defeat. Enough disbelief to make me beg for forgiveness. But I couldn’t move. I watched impotently as she struggled to her feet then stepped aside so she could open one of the kitchen drawers.

I didn’t hang around. I could hear her running the cold tap as I fled upstairs to the loo to flush away the shame. And climbing into bed the thought did cross my mind that she might phone somebody this time – her sister or her Auntie Jess. Might even entertain some stupid notion of packing her bags and walking out on me.

But no. Susan wouldn’t go that far. She knows which side her bread is buttered. She would come round in her own time. Always does.

I must have dropped off because the next thing I felt was the mattress sagging on her side of the bed. She had on her flannelette nightie but her skin still felt cold. I rested a hand against her belly and told her how I hadn’t meant to hurt her for the world. It was the drink. And besides, she was the one who had started it. Slapping me. What did she expect?

“It’s ok. It’s all forgotten.” She clasped my hand and pushed it away.

There was a tremor of uncertainty in her voice but there were no broken bones. Painkillers and a couple of days off work and she’d get over it like she always does. We’d both get over it.

I was ready to roll onto my side and drop off again but her right hand had begun to stroke the hairs on my chest. Then slowly I felt it creep lower until she had hold of me. That touch that never fails to ignite. I’d not been expecting her to forgive and forget quite so readily.

“All mended now, pet?”

“All mended.”

The gentle squeezing increased in pace. Her fingers became more insistent to my response. Gradually I heard her breathing grow shallower as her grip tightened: tight enough to hurt. A cold, almost metallic pressure as if I was being held in some kind of vice.

“What the hell you doin’ down there?”

I thought I could hear her breath falter. Weeping perhaps. But it was actually that sexy laugh of hers. Her lips pressed hard against mine and I could taste the Worcester Sauce on her tongue from the Bloody Mary. Then as she pulled her mouth away a whisper fluttered close to my ear.

“Scissors”.

Phil Jones is a Welshman currently on the run in the Scottish Highlands. His hill-walking guide to Snowdonia ’80 Hills’ was published in 2010 and he also has a short-story collection, Summertime Blues, available on Kindle. Writing as Cyan Brodie, his debut novel, DreamGirl, won the Red Telephone 2011 Young Adult Fiction Novel Competition. Contract duly signed, this is for publication any time soon. He is currently working on his third YA novel, Dark Sky, set closer to home in a tiny fishing village on the North-West coast of Scotland.

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Rain –- Peycho Kanev

Air, blue timelessness,
and silence. Yellow
sweetness hangs on
the heavy clustered
branches. The dew
wails and falls to
the dirt where the
ants stand still with
their legs in the air
as if they are praying
to someone.

Peycho Kanev is the author of 4 poetry collections and two chapbooks. He has won several European awards for his poetry and he’s nominated for the Pushcart Award and Best of the Net. Translations of his books will be published soon in Italy, Poland and Russia. His poems have appeared in more than 900 literary magazines, such as: Poetry Quarterly, Evergreen Review, Columbia College Literary Review, Hawaii Review, Cordite Poetry Review, Sheepshead Review, Off the Coast, The Adirondack Review, The Coachella Review, Two Thirds North, Sierra Nevada Review, The Cleveland Review and many others.

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Be With Us –- Jeannette Leopold

Greyson blew out smoke. He held his spliff in long, thin, delicate fingers. Fingers that looked like they’d break if you stepped on them. Bony, pale fingers. He slid two fingers into his jeans pocket and pulled out a ten dollar bill.

“The good stuff,” he told the bartender.

The bartender laughed and turned away. Face reddening, foot jiggling on the stool, Greyson yanked his wallet from his oversized-jacket’s pocket, flipped it open, and took out another ten, which he slapped onto the counter. He pulled his red cap down almost to his eyes and watched the bartender pour a drink and bring it to the woman near the door who was reading by the light of the small candle in the middle of her table.

“You tell her who sent it?” he asked the bartender.

“You told me not to.”

“You tell her who sent it?”

“No, Jimmy, I didn’t fucking tell her who sent it.”

He went back to his work. Greyson licked the edge of his cig, then sucked in again. “No need to get all riled up. Gimme a PBR.”

The bartender reached into the fridge behind him and pulled one out. Greyson slid him a five and popped the top into the can.

The woman was sitting by herself, and Greyson knew, he knew that he should go sit with her, chat her up, ask her out. He felt the urge to do just that pulse through his body. He ignored it.

“Friend of yours?” A woman slid into the seat beside him. Odd looking woman. Thick hair to her shoulders, pointy face, long nose. Big boobs.

“Who?” Greyson asked.

“That woman you’re sending drinks to.”

“Oh, her? Heh. Nah. Well, you know. We will be. She just doesn’t know it yet.”

The woman smiled. She had lipstick on her front teeth. “Waiting for the right moment to introduce yourself?”

“I might be.”

“Well, sweetheart, if she doesn’t work out—”

“You have lipstick on your teeth,” Greyson said. He blew out smoke.

He glanced over at the woman sitting near the door. He wondered what she was reading. Her gaze was intent, and she didn’t respond to the world around her. Her fingers curled around her glass of whisky.

“If you don’t know her,” said the lipstick-toothed woman, smiling at him again after a brief hiatus, “then why did you send her whisky? You think most women like whisky? That’s a little funny, yeah?”

Greyson’s arm twitched with the temptation to push her out of her chair. The nosy, weird-looking tramp. But he took a deep breath and breathed in weed and nicotine, and breathed it out again and said, “I just have a feeling this woman likes whisky. You can tell these things, if you think hard enough. Like you … you’re about to order a cosmopolitan. Now, don’t tell me I’m wrong, because if you do I’ll know you’re lying.” He swallowed half his beer. Pause. Breath. Burp.

“As a matter of fact, I was just about to order a cosmo,” the woman said.

“I know.” He tugged his jacket against himself. “Now, that woman, not that it’s any of your business, frankly, but that woman is the type who’ll wear a leather jacket and go read in a bar by herself on a Saturday night, and walk out smiling. That woman drinks whisky and dark beers and whatever’s in the flask. She probably ate a light dinner because she just wasn’t interested. Spent the day wandering and had coffee with a few friends, where they laughed for an hour straight. Came home and scheduled an interview with a shrink. Wonders what mysteries life holds. Wonders if she’ll ever be married, have kids. Doesn’t know if she wants to. That woman wishes she lived in a wooden house with a great big fireplace in a state in New England where the seasons are exciting and the snow is beautiful. She bought lipstick a year ago and it’s in the bottom of her purse, which is shoved in the back of her closet. She’s wearing heels tonight because Yahoo Answers told her it would be a good idea.” Greyson took a deep breath. That had been a lot of talking. He looked at his cigarette, saw the red tip glowing in the darkness of his part of the bar. When he looked up, lipstick woman was gaping at him.

“You some kind of stalker?” she asked him.

Greyson’s arm twitched again. He finished his beer. When he picked up the can and tilted it, only a little bit swished around at the bottom. The dregs.

“No really, Mr …? Are you some kind of stalker?”

“No,” Greyson said.

“His name is Jimmy,” the bartender chimed in. He pounded another PBR onto the bar.

“Who asked you?” Greyson said to the bartender.

“Just trying to help out with common etiquette.”

“Well, don’t.”

“Sometimes I wonder why I let this guy sit at my bar.”

“He’s dropped thirty bucks already,” Lipstick replied.

Across the room, the woman had finished her drink. She leaned back in her chair, pulled a strand of dark hair behind her ears, played with the zipper on her jacket. She was frowning, staring off into the depths of the bar.

“How do you know so much about that woman?” Lipstick asked.

“I don’t.”

“Then why’d you say it?”

“I’m pretty sure.”

“How?”

Greyson put out his cigarette. “I know about you, lady,” he said to her. He pressed three fingers of one hand against the palm of the other. “You’re married. One to three kids. Came to the bar tonight looking to get laid, even though you’re not sure that’s what you want. You cheated once before, last year, it didn’t feel too good physically but the next day you felt so powerful. You’d done something your husband didn’t know about, and when he asked you why the dishes weren’t cleaned and his shirts weren’t ironed you could deal with it easier. But then for months you felt guilt. Your son has his eyes. Your daughter has his smile. When they said I love you you felt something curdle around your heart. During the day when your kid is napping you surf the web, mindless. You go to his room to wake him up and suddenly your shoulders press down and your hands freeze in midair, over the crib. You look at your sleeping child and in this moment that the moms and the books say is supposed to fill you with joy, you feel indifferent. You wonder what’s wrong with you. You wonder if your heart’s gone sour. Your baby slowly curls his fingers and you think, what if I left right now? What if I walked out of the house and down the road, past the neighbors mowing their lawns and the kids riding trikes, down to the bus station, and took a bus to who knows where, and started a new life? What if I did? What’s out there? What’s in here? What if? What if? What if?”

The weed was hitting his brain. He popped the top of his beer and he could feel how smooth the can was. The pop echoed in his ears. The woman – he’d forgotten the woman! There she was, across the room, absorbed absorbed absorbed in her book.

“Who the fuck are you?” Lipstick asked.

Greyson jerked his gaze back to her. He smiled a soft smile and shrugged. “People are people,” he said. “I don’t think you’re good or bad for what you think. Your thoughts belong to you, you alone.”

“Then why do you know them.”

“I don’t. I’m only guessing.” He peered around Lipstick. “Would you mind scooting in? I can’t see her.”

The woman suddenly broke off from staring at nothing and looked down at her book, and smiled. Through the fog of the weed that smile cut like a knife across the bar and into Greyson’s mind.

“She gets it,” he whispered.

“Sure,” said Lipstick, and she drained her cosmo.

The woman bent over and put her book in her bag. She zipped her coat all the way up. The dim lighting should have hid her angular face but it seemed to glow with its own light, and Greyson saw her clearly. He saw her look at him and smile.

You’re here. You’re here. You’re here, Greyson heard her say, her voice resonating through his mind with such force that he had to put a hand against his head to press back against it. And there there is nothing and there there is nothing and there there is nothing but here, at least, is you. Nothing nothing nothing, you, but at least you feel your skin, the beer can is cold, your heart is beating. Too much too hard to move but at least you’re not there where you might not feel anything. The weight the weight crushing you, enveloping you and squeezing it doesn’t go away and you sit here and drink and wonder, wonder where did you go wrong? You call your mom Sundays and she doesn’t listen. Your dad died. Your dog ran away, you guess you must be nasty and unable to love. You teach high school but in the last few years you’ve wondered if you’ve ever actually taught anyone anything. You used to draw at night but now you sit at the table with the pad of paper in front of you and pick up your pencil and lay it down, bewildered. You wonder what it was that you used to love about life, because you did used to love life. Desperately.

You’re here. Be with us, love.

Greyson became suddenly aware of the wood of the bar beneath his forehead and of the slickness his tears and snot were leaving under his face.

Love.

“Don’t cry, Jimmy,” Lipstick said, and Greyson shook with that effort. “Man, does he have issues or what,” she said to the bartender. She smoothed his hair down on the back of his head, over and over.

Be with us.

Greyson shoved his hands against his eyes. Hot tears washed over his long fingers as he shook and cried, his head so full of images that he thought of nothing but the way the woman’s hand felt against him.

Jeannette Leopold is a recent graduate of Swarthmore College, where she studied creative writing (among other things) She is currently teaching fourth grade in Connecticut.

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Counsel –- Brian Burt

— for Paul J.

The thing is, to keep busy, or
so they tell you the
first morning of the
first day after
they’ve checked you in, as
you slump slack in
a brown metal folding chair in
an off-white room with
gray linoleum flooded with
fluorescent light in
a loose circle of
other chairs filled with
other people slumping or
hunched or hugging themselves or
rocking back and forward, humming with
the words they’re scribbling in
the margins of paper scraps while
one man has hands wrapped around
a cup of coffee gone cold and
another mutters unheard words —
most already know that
keeping busy is not even close to
the thing and so you wait for
someone to arrive who
might tell you whom you should pretend
to be today, what should occupy
your nights, what might pull
your mind forward through
one day and one day and one day and
move you out of the pulse of
your panic into
a less fractured light and
pluck you, blinking, out of
the slumbering black river
you’ve worked so hard to
let your life become.

Brian Burt is a poet and photographer based in Concord, Massachusetts. His first full-length collection of poems, Past Continuous, will be published later this year by Back Pages Publishers.

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Refugee –- Lisa Majaj

She was like an olive tree:
firm, graceful branches,
leaves whispering and sunlit,
wood heart-ringed,
bark resonant with birdsong …
another year of believing in life
against the odds. She stood
through the seasons,
a witness, centuries collecting
beneath her shade,
hard ovals of bitter fruit
falling to the ground
as leaves sifted gray green light
to earth like drops of rain.

Lisa Suhair Majaj is a Palestinian-American poet and writer. Her book Geographies of Light won the Del Sol Press Poetry Prize. Her poetry and essays have appeared in over 100 journals and anthologies worldwide. Some of her work can be read at http://redroom.com/member/lisa-suhair-majaj. She lives in Nicosia, Cyprus.

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Admissions Left Unsaid –- Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas

“Don’t dream of the departed”, my mother would say
“they bring you closer to death, they know
your secrets, they watch you sleep as your breath

rises through light fixtures, past the wind and over
eucalyptus trees.” I have seen a haze at bedtime
that upswings towards the ceiling in the shape

of birds and yet, I close my eyes on the verge
of thresholds, inside places of locked doors
and wooden frames, hollowed beds and opened

drawers, my head full of letters unsent, as if
the act of being in the midst will save me.
In my dream, I wear a necklace that was hers.

A tiny ball that carries small souvenirs; moments
in my life like little diaries. This is my entrance fee,
my collection of endings. I had a friend who died

before I forgave her, before she knew I was better
off for having her in my life. There’s a whole page
with her name on it, folded up like origami art.

I dream of her too, the way she despised her beauty
giving herself up to anyone who’d sing her praises,
then drink to a comatose state. Oblivion, the best

place to find her on Saturday nights. In my dreams
she’s never drunk though she sulks about in search
of vodka martinis; her glass full of stars instead

of spirits. I’m most terrified of what I don’t know
to be true and I’ve loved what I’ve almost done
more than anything I’ve ever been able to do.

In my mind I’m not accountable to chronology.
In my mind I am my mother’s mother. Her body
marked with scars, a frail silhouette; her own

confession of suicide; fingers bared where diamonds
once burdened with rings. Her chin quivered a few
minutes and then I watched her breath lapse
for lengthy gaps, until her lungs filled with wings.
I took her hand. Someone said they saw her smiling,
someone said they heard her speaking. I thought

it was my father’s voice, but he’d been dead for decades.

Carol Lynn Stevenson Grellas is a six-time Pushcart nominee and Best of the Net nominee. She has authored eight chapbooks along with her latest full-length collection of poems:Epistemology of an Odd Girl, newly released from March Street Press. She is a recent winner of the Red Ochre Press Chapbook competition for her manuscript Before I Go to Sleep and according to family lore she is a direct descendent of Robert Louis Stevenson. http://www.clgrellaspoetry.com

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The Strange Case of Hank Jensen –- Timothy Reilly

–For Jo-Anne

 

The Story of the Door

“Why is this door locked?”

“I’m busy!”

“Is that you?”

“I’m busy!”

“Why have you locked this door?”

 

Internet Search for Spanky

I was searching for information about the “Little Rascals” when I stumbled upon a very different kind of Spanky. This Spanky had absolutely nothing to do with the 1930s Hal Roach comedy features. I should not have read on; I think it may have ruined a friendship.

I recognized the person calling himself Spanky. But there was something transformed in his face: something about the eyes—mascara, maybe … contact lenses … I don’t know. He was wearing a weird blue wig. There was another photo of him wearing one of those Guy Fawkes masks. The caption read something like: We are all … somebody-or-other. I can’t remember exactly. There was other information, but it wasn’t the typical comic-book-anarchist schlock; there was something darker going on here—something really twisted.

 

Hank Jensen was Quite at Ease

A few weeks ago, I saw Hank Jensen sitting on a park bench, eating a tall chocolate ice cream cone. His wretched little dog—more of an insect, actually—was sitting next to him, covetously eyeing its master’s treat. Hank acknowledged my presence by saluting me with his ice cream. He then allowed his flea-bag pet several licks off the cone. The creature (a male) became aroused while eating. Hank took a few licks from the same area of the cone, and I made a sound indicating my total disgust.

Hank suddenly glared up at me, with an expression I had never before seen in his face: a strange blend of smugness and contempt. “Do you know how many germs there are in the human mouth?” he snapped.

 

Hank’s Full Statement of the Case

Uncle Ned was a sweet man, our favorite uncle, but his little pal “Teddy” scared the bejabbers out of some us. Teddy’s teeth clicked when he spoke, as did his bulbous black eyes: which raced back and forth before locking onto our faces, giving the impression he was suddenly able to read what was inside our heads.

“Don’t play coy with me, buddy-boy,” Teddy would say in his head-cold accent. “I know what you’re up to.”

Uncle Ned would never have said the things Teddy said. Yet Uncle Ned allowed Teddy to sit on his lap; allowed him to make lewd comments to all the women in the room, and fling embarrassing insults at all the men—even Uncle Ned himself.

Years later, after Uncle Ned had died, Aunt Tillie donated Teddy to the Good Will. She said she’d never understood Ned’s infatuation with that creepy little puppet.

I understood. I didn’t say so then, but I knew exactly how Uncle Ned must have felt: the liberty to unleash pent-up things—nasty things, forbidden desires—through the clicking mouth of a ruthless little avatar. All eyes focused on the hardwood double, as the real culprit watched from a shelter of false respectability. Behind his kind and benevolent gaze, Uncle Ned was secretly gorging himself on Teddy’s generous portions of cruelty and lasciviousness. This was real freedom! Freedom from guilt, freedom from inhibitions, freedom from taking responsibility.

I was impressed by how much Uncle Ned had been able to get away with, but I desired much more than mere ventriloquism could offer. It was science and technology that would rattle my teeth; concepts born in the minds of undereducated financial wizards: gods of gadgets. The marvels of Social Media and its protean offspring would set me up in my personal universe of endless wicked pleasures: freedom and anonymity!

It was everything I could have wished for. But my appetite made me careless. I will require the services of a cunning lawyer.
Of course no one has the right to judge me by my naughty side alone. Let’s not forget that I wore ribbons for Breast Cancer and for Wounded Veterans; I gave generously to homeless shelters and Toys 4 Tots. Above all, remember this: Everything Spanky did was in the aether of cyber space. Where’s the harm?

People are so judgmental. I’m sorry I got caught. That’s all.

 

Mrs. Jensen has the Last Word

“My husband is a good man. A dentist. You have no right to seize his computer.”

Timothy Reilly has published stories in Relief, The Seattle Review, Flash Magazine (UK), Blue Lake Review, Slow Trains Literary Journal, Amarillo Bay, Foliate Oak Literary Review, Passager, and several other print and online journals.

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Various Things About Leaving –- Karen Jones

I picture you from a distance; remember your shape, your broad shoulders. Always walking away, that’s how I imagine you, Dad.

She took you back every time. As a child I was pleased to see you, ran to you, wrapped my chubby arms around your legs and buried my face in the scratchy wool of your grey coat. You’d sweep me up, spin me round until I was sick and dizzy with happiness, set me down at your feet, an appropriate position from which to worship you.

And Mum worshipped you. As a teenager I remember being appalled that she tied your boot laces ‘to save your back’, that you didn’t know what you took in your tea – milk and two, by the way – because you were a man, so you didn’t worry over these things and on the ships there was the boy who made the tea. But a man should know what he takes in his tea. A man should know the basics of his own life. A man should know his own tastes.

I learned, over time, that your tastes varied. Your life was a cliché of a girl in every port, the more exotic the better. Recently I discovered that I have many brothers and sisters of diverse colours and creeds. You would never give her what she wanted, another child, a sibling for me, because you were too busy spreading your love so thinly it cut us all to ribbons like the sharpest blade on your belt.

From what I’ve found out, we were the ones you called family and this village, in this country, is where you called home. The others accepted their lot as accessories. What I struggle to work out is why. Why we weren’t enough. Why she took you back, knowing, as she must have, what you really were. Why the others took what little of you you were willing to give. I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to understand.

When I remember your voice, damaged now as I am by all I know, it’s not the sweet lullabies that drift across the years – it’s the thick tongue of a fallen drunk spewing curses onto the kitchen floor as Mum cries and begs you stop. To stop cursing, to stop drinking, to stop leaving. But you could no more stop those things than you could stop breathing.

You’ve stopped breathing now and I’ll keep these thoughts in my head. Mum’s long gone, the other women are too far away to attend, the many brothers and sisters have no interest in you and no one here would care to know the truth. My eulogy for you, Dad, would only end up being various things about leaving.

Karen Jones is from Glasgow. Her stories have appeared in numerous magazines and anthologies. She is addicted to short story competitions and has been successful in Mslexia, Flash 500, Spilling Ink, The New Writer, Writers Forum and Words With Jam. She is also addicted to zumba, salsa and yoga, which are far healthier, cheaper and stress-free. Her short story collection, The Upside-Down Jesus, is available from Lulu or direct from the author – contact joneskaren902@googlemail.com.

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This issue © 2014 The Waterhouse Review. All stories and poems remain © their respective authors. No part of this e-zine may be reproduced without written permission.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. January 1, 2011 12:48 am

    eh. the bruce rogers story is nice. fine stuff!

  2. January 12, 2011 6:14 pm

    An excellent crop of stories there, Gav. I think my favourite is Michelle’s, by a whisker – but they’re all pretty good.

    • January 12, 2011 9:01 pm

      Thank you on behalf of the contributors … esp Michelle.

      Gav

  3. Londy permalink
    January 14, 2011 8:55 pm

    Michelle’s is my favorite. I quite like Gumeny’s as well. Too bad so much swearing though. Interesting stories, all.

  4. January 15, 2011 5:11 pm

    Great stories.

    I found myself really moved by “Vanishing Point”. Beautifully written and very poignant.

  5. April 1, 2011 5:35 pm

    Gavin – I like your approach, the reader friendly look of the site and the variety of writing you’ve chosen.

    Cheers -måx

    • April 1, 2011 6:06 pm

      Thank you, Max. And thanks again for trusting us with your work.

  6. Londy permalink
    May 6, 2011 2:13 am

    VERY much like “Cross” and “Secondplace.” 🙂

    • alangillespie permalink
      May 6, 2011 4:39 pm

      Cheers Londy! Glad you liked the story.

  7. Laura Gatzow permalink
    October 4, 2011 10:03 am

    Lovely mix of stories and poetry–my fave is Judy’s “Sticks and Stones,” and I’m not biased or anything! 😉

  8. Lola Jo permalink
    January 3, 2012 1:50 pm

    really liked ray or ray or ray by richard owain roberts, that was probably my fave but i liked the others too. good read, lola jo x

  9. January 12, 2012 6:17 pm

    Rene Schwiesow’a story of a homeless woman was interwoven with Emerson quotes. I found this a most admirable technique, one that I never dared try. But the caramel latte and the wisteria on the trellis won my heart. Homelessness can happen to anyone and this story brought that to mind. Very sad, she had no friends or family to take her in.

  10. February 15, 2012 11:10 am

    Gavin, this is a great ‘magazine’; such a lot of work has gone into it. We missed you at the Stirling Writer’s last night. There were some really good contributions and interesting feedback. I believe you’re in the USA as I write —– if you see/hear my son, Robert Gillies [the singer songwriter living in Boston who you met at the Stirling Writer’s Christmas party], say hello for me!

  11. April 3, 2012 8:29 am

    Gavin, this collection is a great blend of the beautiful, the heart-touching and the entertaining, and I couldn’t agree more with Max’s comment above.

  12. Maggie Mae permalink
    October 1, 2012 3:23 am

    I liked Jay Sizemore’s piece. Although, I don’t think writing poetry ever “became cool”. 🙂 Great readings.

  13. January 17, 2013 5:46 am

    “Current Issue ” actually makes me personally contemplate a somewhat more.

    I really enjoyed every single component of it. Many thanks ,Leif

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