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Month: March 2020

I Played the Queen

by Pia Z. Ehrhardt

 

I don’t tell my mother what I’m thinking as I look around her dark, musty room. Throw things away, Mom. What she’s keeping is torn, faded, crumpled, dirty. Another metropolis of Styrofoam cups has gone up beside her kitchen sink. Again, she’s stuffing empty cups into the love seat. Does she think they’re hidden? The second sister bought her a pack of Styrofoam cups from Walmart, thinking kindness might outsmart our mother, but the fresh ones are in the cupboard, out of sight, and maybe this is the problem? So I toss what I can while my mother pleads for me to leave things alone, and I feel like a raider. My Polish grandmother hoarded. Her basement was a treasure hunt for kids who don’t separate what’s finished from what’s worth saving. My first sister and I would dress in moth eaten hats and scarves, tarnished costume jewelry, set a table for ourselves with chipped dishes, a tureen with a petunia pattern, a mismatched gravy bowl missing its handle. We’d dine on imaginary buttered toast points and sip fresh squeezed orange juice from cracked tea cups like the Queen and Princess of England. My mother used to have an eagle eye. Colorful pillows dotting the sofa, tchotchkes clustered on the coffee table, stacks of art catalogues, their spines color-matched; her violin bow placed on her music stand, just so, and waiting for her to come back and play. She smelled like flowers, and dressed for dinner. A silky blouse, her hair pulled back, slim black pants. Did she ever wear jeans? Out in the yard, Nina and I would practice gymnastics: back bridges, cartwheels, handstands, tricking gravity until our mother called us in to wash up. On our dinner plates would be an edible garnish, usually parsley. Now we worry our mother never gets clean because she needs help in the tub, and to allow someone in risks what she savors being taken for trash.

 

Pia Z. Ehrhardt is the author of FAMOUS FATHERS & OTHER STORIES. Her fiction and essays have appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Oxford American, Narrative Magazine and VQR. She is the recipient of a Bread Loaf Fellowship and the Narrative Prize. She lives in New Orleans, LA and Queens, NY

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “I Played the Queen”?

Alzheimer’s is taking our mother down, and away from my sisters and me. So to begin in scene in the now, in desperation and hopelessness, then inflect – infect – the draft with brightness and movement is to see our mother back in action. I wish her brain could straighten out long enough to read the piece, and see herself – and her mother – my grandmother – admired, appreciated, emulated.

ECT Series

by Lucinda Kempe

 

Whole Foods

Turn it up! The music plays as I drive and they sing of God and love. I never listen to music when I’m sad. I keep the silence close and let it cut me. Today I sing halleluiah and imagine my husband when he was young and wore the sexy French beret I’d bought him. Then when we were lovers. Now, I give him back rubs with my feet. He buys me clothes and brings them to the psychiatric hospital when one of the other inmates steals my pants. Love morphed, changed, not so sexy anymore. Palatable in a different way, but he’d still prefer a blowjob.

I dreamt I had an orgasm but not with my husband. Just me satisfying me. My girlfriend was there but she wasn’t a lover.

I’m the dandy driving, singing to a song I first heard yesterday, sung by a new young band on a hip New York station. I played it for my daughter and her boyfriend who’s her fiancé; they liked it. I convinced them to listen to WFUV my favorite station.

Heading to the grocery, I’m alone. No earbuds. No Kombucha tea. I’ll buy ready chicken, spicy noodle and cook dinner for my husband when he returns tomorrow. Be the first time I cooked since I arose from the hospital. Meatballs and sauce and orgasmic Italian orecchiette. . . but not just yet.

Right now, there’s just me and the car and the song.

Halleluiah.

Halleluiah.

Halleluiah.

 

 

Laboratory

Dive right in! You bet I do. Cleaning like I used to clean at Chestnut Street as a kid. Spring tidying in winter. Comforting. Not exactly what the psychiatrist ordered but, it hits the spot. “What are you doing outside of the house with people?” he asked. “Nothing,” I answered. “Not yet.” When you can’t mend the fence, tend the yard. The yard has gotten too damn cold.

So, I fill the house with flowers – in my daughter’s room a sweet pink bouquet, the den a pot of blooming white tulip bulbs, and the blue and white vase in the kitchen holds red carnations mixed with baby’s breath.

“More flowers?” My husband asks. He repeats the story of the Greek comedian whose wife buys flowers daily. The man is cheap and tells her if she added up how much she spent on the flowers she could buy an apartment.

How many will it take? How many are there?

He didn’t buy them. I did and I paid for them by listening to the anecdote. Flowers are the remedy for love.

A lagoon of suds greets me in the basement. Cat hair galore gallops on the rugs. Tomatillo stains cha-cha on the tablecloth.

“Stop all this mad cleaning,” my daughter cautions. “You should get a canine.”

Instead, I make my almost thirty-year-old son’s bed every day.

I love it. More busywork to do.

Clean the silver. Dust the chandelier. Spit in the spittoon.

Let your hair go gray.

Fuck it all for another day.

 

 

Turnip Bake

A swat team was brought in? How I got from our house to the Stony Brook psychiatric ward I can’t tell. I have no recollection. None at all. How I got my clothes, shampoo, hand crème, and pantiliners in the hospital is a mystery. Electroconvulsive Therapy fries your memory even if helps depression. I had nine treatments.

I didn’t like the ECT doctor or his smarmy, over eager, “How are you today” every time we were rolled into the therapy room. He charged our insurance $2500.00 per treatment. I felt like a guinea pig and I have no idea who decided to sign me up for the tune-up, but there I was flat on my back with the nurse searching for a vein in my sixty-one-year-old arms. Weeks later, I have a yellowed bruise from all that poking.

My psychiatrist warned me I could have a relapse if I discontinued too soon. So be it. I decided to try just the meds, and avoid the triggers that set off the depression before – isolation, too much booze, and catastrophizing my memoir I imagined was a failure.

The doctor suggested psychotherapy. Next time I visit him at headquarters I’ll tote along the sixty-eight-thousand-word tome, tell him – I spent ten years writing about my life with my dysfunction-junction-what’s-your-unction family in a broken-down house in the Garden District. I’ll be guillotined before I go over that with anyone again. Not even Jesus Christ if he begged me. Be worse than the third-degree. I lived it. The thought of publishing it made me cry. The publishing industry are motherfuckers – they want twenty-five-page book proposals of what you’re going to write for them before you write it. Then tell you what to write.

Maybe I wrote it to let it go. Maybe I just needed a break or maybe I wanted the world to love me and tell me I was okay.

 

 

Prizeworthy

“Wash your hands. Wash your hands,” I say to my son when he comes in.

I’m like a needle stuck in a record’s groove always goading. My son stands with wet hands and asks for dinner. I cut up his meat, inquire if wants juice. He’s near thirty and I still mother him as if he’s a child. Maybe to compensate for the bad mothering I did when he was small.

Then I hand him a story I said I’d never publish. It’s nonfiction and concerns his night in Stony Brook psyche when he was in his late teens. In it, I juxtapose my own teenage visit to a psyche hospital in Mandeville, Louisiana a few years after my father’s suicide. My son has various psychiatric ills and has been under the care of a psychiatrist since 1999, the same doc who’s taking care of me now. I picked up my son from the hospital, not my husband. My son delivered me to Stony Brook for my recent four weeks stay.

He leaves the story on the table.

I didn’t jog today. Spent the day reexamining my old work – reams of it. Drank a cappuccino late, picked up my daughter from her job. A dude swaggered ahead of me – slim hipped, tight jeans, cowboy boots and long-black popstar hair. He didn’t notice me, but I wanted him to. Old habits, lusting after something unobtainable, a fix that wouldn’t give me what I need, but oh would it make me high.

The next day my son is leaving for work.

“Pills! Pills!” I call out, prompting him, yet again.

“Did you take yours?” he replies.

It’s the best piece I have ever written. I wrote it years ago. I wrote it to survive. It has a great title – Dowels and Dovetails. The end uplifts.

 

Lucinda Kempe’s work has been published or is forthcoming in Elm Leaves Journal, Midway Review, Bending Genres, The Southampton Review, New World Writing, and Summerset Review. A 2018 Stony Brook M.F.A. graduate, her narrative nonfiction, Sam Soss Had Sex, was a semi-finalist in the 2016 Under the Gum Tree’s inaugural contest. Wigleaf long-listed her micro fiction in 2018 and 2019.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of the “ECT Series”?

This series was inspired by Jim Harrison’s Letters to Yesenin. Harrison was in a deep depression and suicidal when he wrote it. Letters is a series of one-page prose poems to the Russian poet Yesenin who hanged himself. My father was a poet and a paranoid schizophrenic. He hanged himself. Unlike Letters, these weren’t written to anyone particular but rather to an imaginary reader, who perhaps suffers from depression. I have had depression since I was a teenager. Depression is a mental illness that can kill if we aren’t vigilant.

This is first writing I have done since my hospitalization late last year. These flashes were birthed in a writing group called Hot Pants. I have been writing in a diary since 1973, the year before my father’s death. Words have soothed me since I was a little girl reading A.A. Milne’s When I was Six, one of my first beloved books. Words sooth me still. They save me.

Three Micros: Body Parts, Chow, In the Reports

by Kim Chinquee

 

Body Parts
Wake up! says Raven the dog, standing over us. She puts her nose to mine, then to my boyfriend’s, getting between us.

She paws at my face, the pace of her movement gaining in momentum. This stirs the other dogs: Bird, who talks in a whine. Part Husky, she sings when she’s sad or hurt, or hungry.

The other dog, our Japanese Chin, starts his routine of stepping all over us, and the other one, our Papillon mix, gets out from under the bed, hops up and starts his lick. He’s fond of the hair on my boyfriend.

I pull the covers over me, trying to get back to my dream of key lime soda, cauliflower crackers, a submarine that flies higher than an airplane.

The playoff continues: Raven digs with her huge paws. Bird speaks. She jumps. Our Papillon, Pappy, uses his tongue with a passion. Our Japanese Chin, Spiff, uses us as a treadmill.

I scooch myself, under the covers, under this trampoline, this gym class, closer to my boyfriend. His breath is warm, his body strong. I kiss his stubble. I nuzzle myself.

 

Chow
“I hear you,” I say to the dog, Pappy, from behind the door that comes between the bedroom and the kitchen, where I am, with two of our other dogs, filling their dishes, from my scoop of dog food. Pappy’s a fast eater, chunky, and I imagine his food already gone by now. We have a system for reasons like this one.

Raven, the other dog, the big and young one, is in the bathroom, probably not eating. Probably sitting by the door trying to hear what’s going on in the other rooms without her.

The bathroom has two doors: one leading to the kitchen and one leading to the bedroom. The bedroom has two doors: one to the bathroom and another, to the kitchen.

The two dogs in the kitchen: our Husky mix Bird, and our Japanese Chin, Spiff, look up at me. “Eat!” I say, and Bird paws at the water dish, which is empty. it topples. “Silly,” I say and run the dish under the sink and fill it.

As the dogs eat and drink, I add water to the vase of sunflowers that were gifted to me by my neighbors’ twin grandkids after I made them cookies for their birthdays. I finger the stem, and think of my son and his wife, if they really are never having kids like they say. They have a dog named Hazel, and a one-eyed cat named Nip, who is too fat from eating all the dog food.

Pappy paws at the door again, whines. Spiff and Bird make chopping sounds, their teeth into the hard nuggets. Spiff looks up at me with his big eyes, tilts his head. “Good boy,” I say. He looks like he’s smiling.

I head to the bathroom, where Raven is positioning herself, laying with her paws out. “Eat!” I say. But she doesn’t eat much when my boyfriend isn’t in the room with her. (But she’ll eat everyone else’s, if we let her.) “Dad’s at work, little girl,” I say. I scoop some of her food from her dish to the floor, which sometimes gets her started. I lift one kibble to my mouth, pretend to chew. “Yum,” I say and she yawns so hard and makes a sound like a Wow.

 

In the Reports
Be your best self, says my dad to me in a dream.

In real life, he doesn’t say this. He says things like, I’m sorry I was such a bad dad. Please don’t tell anyone about me.

I wake to the rain, my stomach rumbling. Look out to the peach tree in the back yard that I planted. I stub my toe on a chair leg.

I pee.

I start to wonder who my best self is, how to use the best of me. My regrets. Wishing some of my time back.

My daughter’s married now. A soldier.

When I was young, my good friend was abducted. I was the last one, at least in the reports, who saw her.

I make myself some toast. My four dogs surround me and they stir. My partner, still in bed, talks in his sleep. He says Sacrifice, sacrifice, sacrifice.

 

Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections OH BABY, PRETTY, PISTOL, VEER, SHOT GIRLS, WETSUIT, the forthcoming collection SNOWDOG, and the forthcoming novel-in-flashes, BATTLE DRESS. She’s the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes, lives in Western New York, and serves as the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Northeast Regional Chair.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of these micros?

These micros were created out of sets of prompt words and first-sentence prompts. I’ve been putting together a collection of dog stories, and these are a part of that. I also live with four dogs!

Sunday Focus: Gentry

Photo by Meg Boscov

Editor’s Note: This ongoing Sunday feature pairs photographs from Meg Boscov with a thought (or two) from the managing editor about focusing on tiny things to find something significant. Paired with this photograph is a prose poem from the series AFTER, a series of photographs & prose poems that imagines the world without us, after the melting.
 

Click on the picture itself to view at full size.

 

 

They have no tolerance for iron; this new order attracts, brings them back to the deserted hollows. They pitch their dew tents. In the guise of butterflies, they sweep the unkempt, construct dented acorn cannikins for their sweetest tea. This mid-summer, the woodland shimmers with occasional wings, with the whisper of sips, the tinkle of bells. No circle of daisies adorns, no peering from holes at the border. Familiar and complete, the fairies have set their table.

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training. She can be reached at her website or on instagram at megboscov.

You’ll Never Find Another

by Lydia Copeland
 

Last night I dreamed I slept with a man who wasn’t Tom. He whipped my body with a guitar string that left thin, stinging cuts in places where Tom would see and know I’d been unfaithful. The man was someone I knew. A former college professor. A shit in real life too.

I was in my house in the dream but it had extra rooms. Nearly every night I dream of houses with hidden rooms. After a few dreams, I know the rooms are there and begin to look for them, long hallways, doors in walls. I walk around in a green cardigan, opening cabinets, sliding curtains. A handful of lentils in my sweater pocket.

This morning I think about how good I have it with Tom.

I spoon mashed bananas, my mouth moving with the baby’s. My face taking on his expression. Tongue short like a parakeet tongue. The round cap of a mushroom. Tom laughs when he catches me in the act.

You can’t chew for him, he says.

The baby’s name is James. But we’ve started calling him Jimmy.

Jimmy swallows, moves forward and says, ooh-ooh-ooh-ooh!

There is a glob of banana–like a loogie–on his hedgehog bib.

I’ve tried hard not to lose myself in Jimmy. To keep some sense of my old life just as people told me I should when I was pregnant.

But I can’t stop staring at him. Wondering if he’ll get the loose kneecaps that were such a problem in my childhood. So easily dislocated. Will he get Tom’s tenderness? Bringing cups of water. Valentines on random days.

I still enjoy walks in the woods. The Paris Review.

Shower sex is the only sex Tom and I have lately. We can make noise there while Jimmy sleeps, and I can pretend to be someone else. Someone anonymous and less attached. Tom slips in behind me after I’ve warmed a while, and I lean against the back wall, the tile slick under my elbows. I let my mind unspool into a flash of faces. Mostly women and men with jobs in offices. But sometimes I think of sea foam on a shore. Or resin hardening into amber. Yesterday morning I thought of the Andean bone cave someone found in the basement of their home in Mexico.

Skulls petrified to the wall.

It has rained and rained. Rained for weeks on end, the way it does every February in East Tennessee, the way it did last February when we lost the giant oak, its root system a sponge of yellow fungus. The garden fence has lost its grip in the ground. Posts fall over like collapsed flowers. Two have snapped–rain-rotted–in the earth, and this weekend I’ll repair them with a set of stakes Tom fashioned in his woodshop. The stakes are stunning, as long as my arm with a picket point at the bottom. The kind of stakes that make vampires nervous.

Jimmy inches forward more. Crying now. He wants the banana, but he cannot figure out how to work his tongue. How to keep the food in and not push it out. I feel his frustration.

Let me have a go, Tom says. I give him the miniature spoon, the bowl of banana. We switch places.

It’s mid-morning and I’m already tired. Ready to fall into a quick sleep. My arm across Tom’s chest. In a dream world, dizzy with secret bathrooms, corridors and landings. I walk through tile by tile, plank by plank, stud by stud. Finding the prize of an unsung room with drawers from someone else’s life. Tissues in a box. Flowers on the wall.

 

Lydia Copeland Gwyn’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Elm Leaves Journal, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, the Florida Review, JMWW, Gone Lawn, and others. Her book of flash fiction, Tiny Doors, is available from Another New Calligraphy. She is an instruction librarian living in East Tennessee with her husband and children.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “You’ll Never Find Another”?

I usually write most of my stories within a day or two, and sometimes if I’m lucky the majority of the story comes forth in one fell swoop.I might tinker around with a word here or there or add a sentence of two of background information somewhere.

With this story I had to sit with it a few days. I was having trouble transitioning into the last paragraph of the story as you see it now. I kept writing transitions and new paragraphs trying to connect ideas, but everything I wrote failed to make that transition. I decided to sleep on it and let the story stew for a few days. This waiting period turned into a little over a week. When I came back to the story, I knew as soon as I read it that I didn’t need to write anything new. I just needed to rearrange the paragraphs. Originally the opening paragraph with the dream lover and the guitar string appeared mid-story. Opening with the dream, and rearranging a couple of other paragraphs fixed my transition issue completely.

CNF: Stochastic

by Tara Laskowski

 

It is on the anniversary of my mother’s death that I learn the word stochastic—something that is randomly determined—a word too technical, too mathematical for the article I’m editing, but I leave it in, charmed by the author’s use, wondering where he picked that word up in his lifetime, a word I’m sure I’ve never heard uttered before and probably never saw printed either.

I want to know if he uses it to try to sound smarter than he is, like the way I barged into my mother’s hospital room, demanding to see a doctor, my heart thrashing against my pink-speckled chest, blotches I get when nervous or after drinking too much wine too fast. I pretended to understand their diagnosis, the rapid-fire rattling of words too technical for me—were they, too, trying to sound smarter than they were? For ultimately none of them could fix her, none of them could save her from the infection in her muscle that grew and pulsed, that took hold like a small parasitic animal, feasted on her, spread. None of them seemed to understand its strength and its determination.

We don’t recognize the randomness, do we, until it strikes. Until it takes hold, like a parasite, upon us. How fragile we all are, how random it is that we are even here at all, the bumps of fate that bring us together and tear us apart. And when they do leave us breathless, when they murder us with their cruelty, we are left with the raging “what ifs.”

I’m a mathematician, digging deeply to discover a pattern out of randomness. I look for reasons and answers where there are none. I apply a formula to a problem that cannot be solved.

I didn’t know the word for it then. Hadn’t had a way to express it. Just like I had never before known the definition of grief. Of all that, I’m still learning.

 

TARA LASKOWSKI is the award-winning author of the debut novel, One Night Gone, and two short story collections, Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons and Bystanders. She won an Agatha Award in 2019 for her short fiction and was the longtime editor of the online flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly. A graduate of Susquehanna University and George Mason University, Tara grew up in Pennsylvania and lives in Virginia.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “Stochastic”?

I very rarely have to look up the definitions of words these days, but “stochastic” was a word that I’d never seen, and I wanted to make sure the author I was editing at work was using it properly. I’m not sure why the definition sparked a connection to my mom–maybe it was the seven-month anniversary of her death and her energy was hanging about–but the first sentence of this piece just popped into my head and it was such a strong urge that I stopped editing the piece and wrote a quick draft to make sure I got the rhythm of the voice onto the page. I often marvel at the creative process–how and why we write. It actually does seem random, and mired in our experiences. I can probably pull up any story I’ve written and tell you what random occurrence sparked that story, a story that wouldn’t otherwise exist if I hadn’t overheard that weird conversation, or seen that woman’s dress on the subway, or took the wrong exit off the highway. We are so shaped by the world around us, aren’t we? And yet we don’t often realize it until something traumatic, like the sudden loss of a loved one, happens. Then we come nose-to-nose with the cold, random unfairness of our lives. We see how little control we have over our fates, and it’s terrifying.

Sunday Focus: Buds

Photo by Meg Boscov

Editor’s Note: This ongoing Sunday feature pairs photographs from Meg Boscov with a thought (or two) from the managing editor about focusing on tiny things to find something significant. Paired with this photograph is a prose poem from the series AFTER, a series of photographs & prose poems that imagines the world without us, after the melting.
 

Click on the picture itself to view at full size.

 

 

Today, more than ever, in this far cry from the way-back-when, a buddy can create all the difference, can encourage you to settle. This bud wants to listen, cares not how many times you ask what chemical to defend, what color to attract. This bud has your back, will ensure you are not bug-meat. Remember how the gardeners luxuriated in the smell of fresh-cut grass, the aroma a chemical smoke-signal warning of imminent attack. Jeepers! The carving, the cleaving, gashing still stinks, does it not? But we can be birds of a feather, peas in a pod. Prepare to share. You are not growing alone; ah, yes, I feel the electricity of the moment. You are haunted by the caterpillar? Well, that my friend, my comrade, my bud is a horse of a different brew: alcohol, aldehyde, ketone, ester. Are you with me?

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training. She can be reached at her website or on instagram at megboscov.

** (untitled)

by Maureen Alsop

 

The night I left is not
the beginning
of desire’s autopsy.
 

All the men in town
were gone when I
returned. Orchards,
 

rancid in pollen’s decay,
chastened a slow surrender,
and Elleanor, saying
the unsaid, in what
she wouldn’t want to say …
says it is said now. We loved
who we loved.
 

 

Wind and dust
flattened the harvest
and brought famine.
 

The legend arose
with her arrival,
an ice covered carriage
cradled her casket. Snow’s
civilization cleared
the northeast
canal. In the village
cemetery, where customary
wreaths arranged
headstones, we monitored
the wind. Repetition
of cloud evoked
dialect. The sound
confirmed a question.
 

From where
did her shame depart.

 


Maureen Alsop, Ph.D. is the author of Later, Knives & Trees; Mirror Inside Coffin; Mantic; Apparition Wren. She is the winner of several poetry prizes including the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award through the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry and The Bitter Oleander’s Frances Locke Memorial Poetry Award. She teaches online with the Poetry Barn.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “** (untitled)”?

This poem evolved while undertaking what I believed to be a fictional piece of writing. I am still interested in writing a longer, more “nontraditional” form of fiction (perhaps a hybrid? novella? … I’m not entirely sure.). I accept path I am on in writing fiction is very murky, nothing less would do for me, even if the fiction becomes a poem (as it shows itself here). The themes and characters I am not ready to reveal as they continue to formulate. That said, some characters may be alive while others are deceased… war, illness, historic settings in a range of locations are filtering through the writing at the moment.

Three Micros

by Grant Faulkner

 

Skins
If only we could go out back, like when we were kids, and smoke and fool around. Our parents at parties, ashtrays filling up with butts, rumblings of laughter. There was always the question why they wanted us to grow up to be like them. They didn’t imagine we’d mingle with evil. They didn’t anticipate inclinations toward torpor. We thought the husbands loved the wives and vice versa, boxer shorts and JC Penney bras. But we knew better, mosquitoes biting our tender skin. We knew it’s best to stay out of the way, even if there is no way back.
 

Vapors
Barbituate thoughts traipsed through his head like an ancient centipede picking up one leg at a time. Sunlight fringed the door, a taunt. All the air held an annoying menthol crispness, as if he’d fallen into a container of Vick’s VapoRub. Tara scrubbed the kitchen counter, using three different kinds of disinfectant just to be sure.

“I read some germs are good for you,” he said. “Imagine that. A world with good germs.”

She cried when the elastic of her underwear stretched out. She cursed the wind for bending trees. She scratched a pimple on her cheek until it bled.
 

The Scar
The good thing about having a scar on your face is you’ve always got a story to tell, Henry said. Brianna planted tiny bourbon kisses around the scar as if her lips could heal. Mathilde traced it with her finger, an archaeologist of hurt. Tavi just stared at it. Henry liked to say he got the scar when he was a pirate, a bank robber, a boxer. It was just an ordinary summer day, though, his parents arguing like hopped-up mosquitoes. A razor blade, time to kill. None of us are born to tie knots, but most of us do.

 

Grant Faulkner is the Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and the co-founder of 100 Word Story. He has published two books on writing, Pep Talks for Writers: 52 Insights and Actions to Boost Your Creative Mojo, and Brave the Page, a teen writing guide. He’s also published a collection of 100-word stories, Fissures, and Nothing Short of 100: Selected Tales from 100 Word Story.
 

His stories have appeared in dozens of literary magazines, including Tin House, The Southwest Review, and The Gettysburg Review, and he has been anthologized in collections such as Norton’s New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction and Best Small Fictions. His essays on creativity have been published in The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. He’s also co-host of the podcast Write-minded.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of these three micros?

Each of these stories was written soon after I discovered the 100-word form. I became obsessed by 100-word stories, addicted to them. In all of the eras of my writing, this one stands out in a very particular and wonderful way. I saw the world in little snapshots that became stories. I found the 100-word form, in its strict precision and compression, a fascinating exercise that has informed all of my writing, long and short, fiction and nonfiction. Creativity sometimes needs constraints to flow. That’s the paradox I learned.

Sunday Focus: The Puffery

Photo by Meg Boscov

[Editor’s Note: This ongoing Sunday feature pairs photographs from Meg Boscov with a thought (or two) from the managing editor about focusing on tiny things to find something significant. Paired with this photograph is a prose poem from the series AFTER, a series of photographs & prose poems that imagines the world without us, after the melting.Click on the picture itself to view at full size.]

 

 

In that now sunken way of life, they permitted puffery—peacock words—to exaggerate an image: Most Liked, The Finest, Quicker, Most Effective, All-Purpose, The Best a Man Can Get, As Cold As the Rockies. They clung to an odd Truth: no one can prove it is; no one can prove it is not. The new adverts promise what you see is what you get. A bumblebee rows toward land inside a sombrero; a dove rides a snowboard down the slope of the floating firehouse. All around, Nature expresses an au courant agency; no longer subjected, the views expressed feature a for-itself objectivity. The only puffery produces real puff, a draw of curl, an invitation to the blowout.

Meg Boscov is a photographer who lives and works outside of Philadelphia where she continues to pursue her careers in animal-assisted education and dog training. She can be reached at her website or on instagram at megboscov.

News

Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.

Submissions

Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now OPEN. The submission period closes June 15, 2020; submit here.

Upcoming

09/28 • Chidera Ihekereleome-Okorie
10/05 • Josh Jones