M

Automat

by Clio Velentza

 

It’s falling apart.

Better than nothing.

Here’s a newspaper.

What does it say?

That a young man with a serene face died on a bench at A–platz, last May.

Really? I’ve never been there.

Me neither.

What was his name?

They don’t know.

Must be Hans. They’re always called Hans.

Or Karl. They’re always called Karl.

How old is this newspaper?

Old… January seventeenth. That’s today! It’s my birthday.

Really?

No, not really. I always wanted my birthday to fall on an important day.

Is today important?

Isn’t it?

[A look.]  

How old was Hans-Karl?

“Young.”

Are we not young?

I’m not sure.

Do you think they’ll write about us too? “Two young women died in a crumbling automat at L–strasse.”

“Two young women with a serene face.”

One dies very differently on a soft May night.

Your face seems quite serene.

It’s the gloom.

I could be feeling serene. Or: “two young women of divine beauty…”

That depends on how they’ll find us. People hate hearing about “young women” starved.

Oh! I’m not hungry anymore.

You’re not?

I no longer feel it.

Imagine that!

Look, the snow stopped.

Now the real cold will kick in.

I always liked snow. It made my body feel like warm bread.

Coffee would make everything alright. If Hans-Karl had some coffee he wouldn’t have gone missing. Hans-Karl!

Yes?

We owe you a cup of coffee.

Why, thank you.

Now there’s no reason for you to go to P–platz.

A–platz.

We have everything you need right here: pork knuckles… Pickles… Jam doughnuts.

[Vast groan. Some plaster falls.]  

What’s that?

The structure can’t support the snow. What would you like to eat?

Doughnuts. And chocolate cake.

Only walnut cream cake, I’m afraid.

It’ll do.

[A snap, a cascade of snow.]  

How would you like to celebrate your birthday? We could go dancing.

I’d like best to go to A–platz, and find that bench. Do you think he’s still there?

Who? Hans-Karl?

Yes.

Most likely.

I’d like to invite him to dinner.

Can I join you?

Of course!

I believe I like this man with the serene face. We’d make good friends. What do you think?

“Two young women with a serene face…”

Do you feel serene?

Yes.

[Silence. Snow.]  

Me too.

 

Clio Velentza is a writer from Athens, Greece. She is a winner of Best Microfiction, Wigleaf’s Top 50 and The Best Small Fictions, and a Pushcart Prize nominee. She writes prose and plays, and her work has appeared in several literary journals. You can find her on twitter at @clio_v

 

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

“Automat” is closely connected to my time at the Greek National Theatre’s 3rd Playwriting Studio. The first draft was written at the end of our two-year stretch, using the same writing prompt as the one we had been first given for our samples accompanying the application process. It was so that we could highlight how far we’d come as writers in that time. After translating it from Greek I thought a lot about the original play format, and how that could be transcribed as to be able to stand on its own on the page as a literary text. One big lesson the Studio taught me was the value of ellipsis and economy. The text was then whittled down to half its size and into the bare essentials. Here for the first time I used italics to signify dialogue, and the visual effect of this was a pleasant surprise: it could be a dialogue of two people, or of two voices in the same head. It’s up to the reader to decide.

The Camels’ Apple Tree Series, 5 of 8

by Serge Lecomte

 

Serge Lecomte was born in Belgium. He came to the States where he spent his teens in South Philly and then Brooklyn. After graduating from Tilden H. S. he worked for New York Life Insurance Company. He joined the Medical Corps in the Air Force and was sent to Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. There he was a crewmember on helicopter rescue. He received a B.A. in Russian Studies from the University of Alabama. Earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Russian Literature with a minor in French Literature. He worked as a Green Beret language instructor at Fort Bragg, NC from 1975-78. In 1988 he received a B.A. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Spanish Literature. He worked as a language teacher at the University of Alaska (1978-1997).

He was the poetry editor for Paper Radio for several years. He worked as a house builder, pipefitter, orderly in a hospital, gardener, landscaper, driller for an assaying company, bartender in one of Fairbanks’ worst bars, and other jobs. He resided on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska for 15 years and recently moved to Bellingham, WA.

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Camels’ Apple Tree Series”?

Serge Lecomte began his life as a writer, publishing numerous poetry collections and graduating to novels. His novels could be described as somewhat surreal. Crossed realities usually yield amazing and sometimes shocking results. He works mainly in acrylics on watercolor paper but has recently begun working on canvas. He would describe his work as eclectic because he is still learning and is willing to experiment with shapes and colors depending on the mood (sometimes contradictory) of the theme he might be working on. The images are a blend of the natural world and imaginary creatures. Some of his paintings have a message (subtle), most do not. But then you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. After all, everyone has a view and take on the world around them. I am engaged with the world around him and vice versa.

To a Toddler Bawling in a Pram

by Paul Hostovsky

 

I don’t wanna,
either.
You’re right,
the world is hideous,
one can only
weep.
I feel like screaming
my head off
next to your screaming head,
our red
faces contorting
in concert,
the people passing by
joining in irresistibly,
wailing and
keening in chorus,
with you the lead
crooner,
bandleader,
maestro.

 

Paul Hostovsky’s newest collection, Deaf&Blind, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag. His poems have won a Pushcart Prize, two Best of the Net awards, the FutureCycle Poetry Book Prize and the Comstock Review’s Muriel Craft Bailey Award. He has been featured on Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and The Writer’s Almanac. He makes his living in Boston as a sign language interpreter. Website: paulhostovsky.com

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “To a Toddler Bawling in a Pram”?

We were on the trolley. It was crowded. It was stuffy. He was screaming his head off. And I thought to myself, he’s got the right idea. I would have started screaming my head off, too, but instead I started writing the poem. Thank god for sublimation

OPHTHALMOLOGY ii

by Vanessa Gebbie

 

An oculist, searching the retina, finds
mudflats, rivulets, tributaries —
sees everything but not the map
charting the soul’s discoveries.

 

Vanessa is a well published Welsh poet, novelist, short story and flash writer, editor, writing tutor and mentor, wife, mother and grandmother.
www.vanessagebbie.com @VanessaGebbie

 

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

I had occasion to go to the optician, for a regular eye update a couple of years ago – and they had a new piece of equipment, which scanned the retina and took photos. I was mesmerised – I’d seen these images of the retina before, but never mine. It was like looking at map of waterways, watersheds, both beautiful and slightly frightening at the same time. A journey of discovery into my own eye…

I wrote a longer piece, a flash length piece, soon after, entitle ‘Ophthalmology’ but it didn’t feel right. That piece got shorter and shorter – morphed into a poem, became shorter still. And finally it was saying what I wanted it to.

The Camels’ Apple Tree Series, 4 of 8

by Serge Lecomte

 

Serge Lecomte was born in Belgium. He came to the States where he spent his teens in South Philly and then Brooklyn. After graduating from Tilden H. S. he worked for New York Life Insurance Company. He joined the Medical Corps in the Air Force and was sent to Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. There he was a crewmember on helicopter rescue. He received a B.A. in Russian Studies from the University of Alabama. Earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Russian Literature with a minor in French Literature. He worked as a Green Beret language instructor at Fort Bragg, NC from 1975-78. In 1988 he received a B.A. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Spanish Literature. He worked as a language teacher at the University of Alaska (1978-1997).

He was the poetry editor for Paper Radio for several years. He worked as a house builder, pipefitter, orderly in a hospital, gardener, landscaper, driller for an assaying company, bartender in one of Fairbanks’ worst bars, and other jobs. He resided on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska for 15 years and recently moved to Bellingham, WA.

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Camels’ Apple Tree Series”?

Serge Lecomte began his life as a writer, publishing numerous poetry collections and graduating to novels. His novels could be described as somewhat surreal. Crossed realities usually yield amazing and sometimes shocking results. He works mainly in acrylics on watercolor paper but has recently begun working on canvas. He would describe his work as eclectic because he is still learning and is willing to experiment with shapes and colors depending on the mood (sometimes contradictory) of the theme he might be working on. The images are a blend of the natural world and imaginary creatures. Some of his paintings have a message (subtle), most do not. But then you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. After all, everyone has a view and take on the world around them. I am engaged with the world around him and vice versa.

The Plea

by Peter Krumbach

 

Clowns are exceptional
athletes. Imagine running
in those shoes. Wearing
that enormous polka dot
coat. The wig, the prosthetic
nose blocking each breath.
Clowns have no shrinks.
No one keeps records
of clown suicides. So
please, quit yammering
about lion tamers.

 

Peter Krumbach’s most recent work has been or is about to be published in Copper Nickel, jubilat, The Massachusetts Review, Salamander, and elsewhere.

 

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

Only after I’d written this postage-stamp poem, I began asking what it’s really about. Is it our tendency to worship winners and dismiss the losers? The habit of ranking drama above comedy? Anger? The injustices we witness every day in this circus of ours? And you thought I’d give you a succinct answer.

underwater

by Yanna Regina Mondoñedo

 

Pretend you’re drowning. Hold your breath. Know that a single slip
will kill you.

Peer through the thin white line — heart
stuck in your throat. Feel fear
whisper against your ear.

Ten more seconds, and it’ll be over.
Nine more, and you can breathe.
Eight, until you’re free.

Seven, you’ll live.
Six.
Five.

Four –

Found you,
          I whisper,
and you sigh.

You ask me if I want
to play something else.

 

Yanna Regina Mondoñedo is a homegrown local – born, raised, and residing – in the town of Los Baños. She is currently completing her undergraduate degree in Communication Arts at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. You may also find her published piece, entitled Elvira, in the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

 

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

I had written “underwater,” ironically, above it. I was mid-flight, from Singapore to Manila, just hours after seeing a childhood friend. Back when the Internet wasn’t as popular as it is today, we would play on gravel roads, muddy parks, or in the confines of her home. Hide and seek was one of the all-time favorites, especially on a hot summer afternoon. Part of the game, of course, was to hide until the seeker gives up, and to keep yourself still in a quiet house in sweltering heat was often only tolerable if one would pretend to embrace herself in cool, (maybe constricting, but still,) very cool water.

The Camels’ Apple Tree Series, 3 of 8

by Serge Lecomte

 

Serge Lecomte was born in Belgium. He came to the States where he spent his teens in South Philly and then Brooklyn. After graduating from Tilden H. S. he worked for New York Life Insurance Company. He joined the Medical Corps in the Air Force and was sent to Selma, Alabama during the Civil Rights Movement. There he was a crewmember on helicopter rescue. He received a B.A. in Russian Studies from the University of Alabama. Earned an M.A. and Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in Russian Literature with a minor in French Literature. He worked as a Green Beret language instructor at Fort Bragg, NC from 1975-78. In 1988 he received a B.A. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks in Spanish Literature. He worked as a language teacher at the University of Alaska (1978-1997).

He was the poetry editor for Paper Radio for several years. He worked as a house builder, pipefitter, orderly in a hospital, gardener, landscaper, driller for an assaying company, bartender in one of Fairbanks’ worst bars, and other jobs. He resided on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska for 15 years and recently moved to Bellingham, WA.

 

See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The Camels’ Apple Tree Series”?

Serge Lecomte began his life as a writer, publishing numerous poetry collections and graduating to novels. His novels could be described as somewhat surreal. Crossed realities usually yield amazing and sometimes shocking results. He works mainly in acrylics on watercolor paper but has recently begun working on canvas. He would describe his work as eclectic because he is still learning and is willing to experiment with shapes and colors depending on the mood (sometimes contradictory) of the theme he might be working on. The images are a blend of the natural world and imaginary creatures. Some of his paintings have a message (subtle), most do not. But then you see what you want to see and hear what you want to hear. After all, everyone has a view and take on the world around them. I am engaged with the world around him and vice versa.

Silence and Sound

by Mason Binkley

 

My toddler twins jump from the juice-stained sofa, soar and crash. They roll around on the floor in knots of naughtiness with their limbs buckling and bending at odd angles, their high-pitched screams and bursts of laughter echoing off walls.

The woman in the apartment below beats her ceiling and yells, “Shut up, it’s late! Control your kids!”

I’ve told them again and again to calm down, do something with their quiet voices: draw a picture, build a house with Lincoln Logs, or watch a cartoon on the television screen they cracked. Although they pretend to heed my instructions, their eyes and smirks betray their intentions and within minutes they’re spinning and howling and colliding, headlocks and knee kicks, louder and louder.

And where the hell is Hank? The man who said, “We’ll make it work,” after I had asked at twelve-weeks pregnant, “How can we raise twins when we can barely support ourselves?” The man who won’t answer my calls or texts, who will probably stumble in later smelling like a beer swamp.

“Come here!” I say. “Gobble, gobble!”

Tonight’s meal consists of Tyson chicken nuggets with ketchup, applesauce with cinnamon, and milk with a pinch of Benadryl.

They sit at the table, both shirtless with red marks on their bodies from the roughhousing. In near-perfect synchronicity, they reach for their cups. Their heads tilt back, white liquid zigzagging down from the corners of their mouths.

The woman below delivers the fiercest blow yet and says goodnight in her own special way, “Thanks for sucking!”

But for once there’s no noise.

It’s disorienting, this abrupt absence of sound. I close my eyes.

A memory presents itself, coming uninvited, but welcome: I was a girl, watching my mother practice “Ave Maria” on her piano in the living room. She played flawlessly from beginning to end, but what I remember most vividly was the instant the piece concluded, how still and quiet we were. I learned then of a silence so precious it must be divine.

The boys slam their cups onto the table and burp. They gaze at me with enormous smiles. Blake has a chipped tooth on the bottom row, whereas Brian has a chipped tooth on the top row. They have Hank’s dimples.

They inhale the rest and ask for more, globs of ketchup in their laps. I melt cheese on crackers, their favorite. How can their stomachs hold this much food? I imagine them as teenagers, eating everything I own.

My phone vibrates on the table. It’s a typo-ridden text from Hank: “Sorry. Was ketching up with the guys. On metro. Be home son. Keep twinzoes awake so I can tuck them infer bed. Xxooo”

How did I allow such chaos into my life? My parents raised me in a home marked by order and calm. After dinner, my father read to me or helped me with schoolwork while my mother practiced. She taught theory and composition, but her passion was performance. Night after night, she lost herself in music.

Blake and Brian slide down into their chairs, all droopy eyelids and extended bellies. They yawn back and forth.

“I don’t want to do this alone,” I reply to Hank, “but will if I have to.”

One of the boys, I don’t know which, finally mumbles those long-awaited words, “I tired, Mama.”

And again there’s silence, but not the kind that comes from awe. I can see my mother there in the living room, candles burning on the windowsill, her fingers frozen over the keys as the final notes of “Ave Maria” ripple through air.

 

Mason Binkley is the author of the flash fiction collection, Familial Disturbances (Ellipsis Zine, 2019). His stories have appeared most recently in JMWW, New World Writing, and New Flash Fiction Review. He reads for Pithead Chapel and lives in Tampa, Florida. You can read more of his work at www.masonbinkley.com and find him on Twitter: @Mason_Binkley.

 

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

This story, which underwent countless revisions over a period of one year, is rooted partly in experience. I am a proud father of identical twin boys, once lived in an apartment with a noisy and obnoxious neighbor, and have always cherished classical music, so I am quite familiar with variations of silence and sound. Beethoven and banging, Schubert and shouting. But fiction requires more than mere experience, as we know. At some point, imagination must come out and play.

CNF: The First Wife

by Wilson Koewing

 

My brother’s first wife died sitting on a couch watching daytime television. Morphine and sleeping pills. She was with a different man by then and that’s where he found her.

The first time seeing her was seeing her white Civic. She drove by my parent’s house with a friend. Tempting my brother outside. I was back from my first college stint. I drank in the garage, which had large windows and a view of the road. Over and over again she drove by.

It wasn’t long before she became a fixture at family functions. My brother was all-in.

A baby came. My nephew. A good and decent boy.

I recognized her as a problem early, but I was just a level-headed guy without a future; I watched my brother destroy his future on the big screen.

I was living on the coast, only branching out in the Carolinas then. Trying to get states away but unable to figure out how yet.

I came home at Christmas.

When she received her present, she flipped; my parents were replacing her car’s tires.

“No,” she said. “I want the money.”

“That’s a great gift,” my dad said.

“You should be happy with a gift like that,” my mother said.

“I’ll take my baby and never come back if you don’t give me the money.”

“You know you can’t use your child to get money from my parents, right?” I said.

Crying, she sprinted from the house carrying my nephew. I have no idea where she went to this day. Probably to drive around in her Civic with bad tires.

I wandered out to my dad’s garage with a beer. My brother followed. I was concerned.

“You know you can’t talk to her that way, don’t you?”

“I’ll talk to her any way I please.”

He jacked me up against the wall by neck.

“You’re never going to change me, brother,” I said, gasping for air.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?” he said, releasing me.

I brushed myself off and lit a smoke. I exhaled in his face.

“The fuck is wrong with you?”

***

I was living in New Orleans when I got word. I’d been living there a while. I went to eat crawfish outside at a place on Carrollton. The Streetcar dinged to a stop at the light every half hour or so like it was stupid. I devoured crawfish and drank local drafts.

When I was finished, I staggered toward my car. There was a little girl dancing alone on the sidewalk. Real slow. My phone rang. It was my mother. It was unlike her to call.

I was the only one around to witness that little girl dancing; she was living and dying in space.

“Your brother’s wife is dead,” my mother said.

I felt a strange prickle over my shoulders. Relief. I didn’t like her, didn’t know her, and had long since gone away. We both said it all by the things we avoided saying. I was years and miles from my family but couldn’t quit them. They say you are where you’re from. I’m sentimental enough to buy into about anything. So, there I stood listening.

When we hung up, I started walking. I headed up to Canal street. I couldn’t stop thinking about that little girl dancing alone. As I turned the corner and headed in the direction of the Quarter, I glanced back to see if the little girl was still dancing, but I couldn’t see her; there was already too much distance between us.

 

Wilson Koewing is a writer from South Carolina. He received an MFA in creative writing from The University of New Orleans. He lives in Denver, Colorado. His work is featured or forthcoming in Five on the Fifth, X-R-A-Y, Pembroke Magazine, Ghost Parachute, The Menacing Hedge, Tiny Molecules and The Hunger Journal. He is a fiction reader for The Maine Review, Fractured Lit and Craft.

 

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

“The First Wife” was difficult to write, as it pertains to a bad holiday memory and an especially bleak moment in my recent family history, but the pieces that prove most difficult often provide the best catharsis and the most striking results. I labored over constructing the second section of the piece to accurately reflect the day I heard the news and to capture the chilling coincidental presence of the little girl dancing alone on the sidewalk. My first instinct, the wrong instinct, was to present the section with hindsight that served to question the nature of the coincidence. I quickly (and wisely, I believe) decided to present the scenario more or less exactly how I witnessed it, without commentary born of distance. To this day, I am haunted by the moment; it felt like the universe gifting me a tiny glimpse into the fabric of reality and time. Of course, it was almost certainly a mere coincidence, but such a pointed, eerie coincidence demanded further exploration and at the very least, documentation.

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

07/06 • Vanessa Gebbie
07/08 • Paul Hostovsky
07/09 • Serge Lecomte (5 of 8)
07/13 • Clio Velentza
07/15 • Jolene McIlwain
07/16 • Serge Lecomte (6 of 8)
07/20 • Julie Benesh
07/22 • Beverly Jackson
07/23 • Serge Lecomte (7 of 8)
07/27 • Lynn Wagner
07/29 • Delaney Burk
07/30 • Serge Lecomte (8 of 8)
08/03 • Darlene Scott
08/05 • Jocelyn Ulevicus
08/06 • Amy Bobeda (1 of 6)
08/10 • Cynthia Belmont
08/12 • J. C. Todd
08/13 • Amy Bobeda (2 of 6)
08/17 • Jo Gatford
08/19 • Amanda Vineyardx
08/20 • Amy Bobeda (3 of 6)
08/24 • Eva Jordan
08/26 • Gary Fincke
08/27 • Amy Bobeda (4 of 6)
08/31 • Renee Agatep
09/01 • Başak Yirmibeşoğlu
09/03 • Amy Bobeda (5 of 6)
09/07 • Paige Welsh
09/09 • Avital Gad-Cykman
09/10 • Amy Bobeda (6 of 6)
09/14 • Julianne Di Nenna
09/16 • Joey Kim
09/17 • Erika Kanda
09/21 • Brittany Oppenheimer