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Month: January 2024

CNF: Flights

by Alyson Mosquera Dutemple

 

It wasn’t yet evening, and the tasting room had emptied out after the afternoon rush. The next wave of customers hadn’t started filling in, so for a while we were the only ones at a table, the inbetweeners, neither there for the daytime vibes nor the late-night ones, contenting ourselves in the lull, in the quiet of the radio, its melancholy music, full of songs that hit hard out of the blue when you’re alone in the car, or packing, say, for a long trip.

Our countdown to the day our child was leaving was down to single digits, but we weren’t speaking of it.

We were remarking instead on the beer selections, the Route 66 décor, the friendliness of the bartender, which we especially appreciated given the circumstances. We’d come to the brewery, after all, because our spirits needed tuning up. It was a happy occasion, yes, our child heading off to college, but even though it was something we’d been preparing for all summer, somehow we were still utterly unprepared for it.

We chatted about the owners’ vision for this new place, the repurposed desks dotting the room, the board games stacked on shelves, careful not to mention any memories they conjured of our own, our old, family unit. But still they were everywhere, these reminders of the big change just over the horizon.

The road signs hanging on the walls, pointed, poignant, were all filled with images of cars driving away.

We passed a quiet afternoon with small glasses of beer neatly lined up, then suddenly whisked away. All the while, a Pegasus on a rusty gas station sign hovered above our table like a weathered mobile.

So much leave-taking all around. Even the horse had wings.

 

Alyson Mosquera Dutemple’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Colorado Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Salamander, Passages North, Redivider, Arts & Letters, and Cincinnati Review’s miCRo series, among others. She is a 2022 runner-up for the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, and one of her stories received a Special Mention in the 2024 Pushcart Prize anthology. Alyson teaches and edits in New Jersey. Find her on socials @swellspoken and at www.alysondutemple.com.

 

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

I’ve written a lot of flash fiction, but I have always been too intimidated to try my hand at non-fiction flash… that is, until this piece.. “Flights” is my first CNF flash. I once read a quote from Richard Bauch about the flash form that ends with “in order to make it work in so small a space, its true subject must be proportionately larger.” I guess when thinking about the big change in my family life that is the subject of this micro, I finally stumbled upon a true subject proportionally large enough to write so few words about.

Rituals

by Nicole Monaghan

 

They must be burning hot, my wife’s baths. On damp fall nights it’s the only thing to ease her achy joints. She submerges herself slowly, her eyes still on the wine glass adorned with “Mom” in gold rhinestones, as if that will anchor her from drowning. I console her about our daughter canceling again. It’s Thanksgiving, I say. She never liked it much. Christmas. She will want to come home then. My wife’s arm emerges from the bath like a steak cooked rare, beef-red to the wrist, where it had been under water for just seconds. She grabs her wine, and I watch her neck as she swallows once, pauses, then sips and swallows again. She’s eerily lovely to me in all her moods, even body-deep in mournful resignation. I’m not counting on Christmas, she confesses. I assure her again: Sweetheart, she’d not miss the choosing of the tree. A glaze of tears coats her eyes at my mention of our tree tradition, as if I’ve given her more hope than she can afford. As if she already knows. I grab matches from the vanity, light the candle she likes best. I need to busy my hands to fill the emptiness of knowing her sorrow, and that I’ve inadvertently deepened it. The thing I cannot tell her is that I understand I can never fill up the space our daughter is the shape of. It’s better she thinks I’m dumb to this fact. I fuss with her bath towel, push a steamy strand of hair behind her blazing ear.

 

Nicole Monaghan’s fiction, essays, reviews, interviews, and poetry have appeared in many journals, both online and in print. She is editor of STRIPPED, a Collection of Anonymous Flash (PS Books 2011), author of fiction collection Want, Wound (Burning River 2012), and founding and managing editor of Nailpolish Stories, a Tiny and Colorful Literary Journal. Visit her at https://writenic.wordpress.com/

 

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

I wrote this piece over the 2022 holiday season, finally (a year later) working up the nerve to shoot for The Journal of Compressed and Creative Arts. I had built the story around the image of an arm emerging from a burning hot bathtub “beef-red.” That lone detail and description had come to mind intact during a bath, and I was compelled to make good use of it. With my fiction writing this is often the order of things: phrases or images I like, and then I invent the story to include them. Aside from that, I’m sure some details of the female character were loosely based on myself–I drink wine, have been gifted wine glasses by my children, experience joint pain, and take exceedingly hot baths. But the focus as I spun this tiny tale had become to portray a wife’s disappointment through her husband’s eyes and to reveal his feelings as he sees her in a familiar pattern of pain. Whatever the implied history the couple share relative to their daughter, I found myself most concerned with uncovering nuances of how the two characters react differently, her need to stew in sadness and his need to pretend he can help ease it.

50,000 More or Less

by Graves Thayer

 

Bus careening down State Street, so fast we’ve blueshifted. Emememe is hanging out in the back, trying to smoke discreetly, but the driver has locked the windows down tight so we don’t lose atmospheric pressure and the smoke is just hanging out, clogging people’s eyelids. The skeleton-shaped man beside Evensbee balances his head delicately on his bushy beard.

I’ve forgotten my books at school, a small boy says. Enraged, enlarged, enraptured, the bus driver looks lidlessly back, puffs a great breath, and grinds teeth on asphalt to turn the bus around, alternating the emergency brakes and the emergency gas pedal. It’s a full blown emergency, small boy #1 has forgotten his books. And back at school, the driver balks. He chews at the steering wheel like a dog on raw bone. Can his impatience be contained?

Emememe lies down flat, coasting up and down the aisle on his skateboard. There is a procession of legs lifting and bags being raised whenever he floats by. He’s tired of the ride and wilfully floats through the front windshield, never again to be seen on this page.

Evensbee has lived here for years but can’t find the guts to leave. You must be insane, her brother says, living in a city like that. You must be insane, her lawyer says, submitting her plea deal. I must be insane, Evensbee says, as she laces her shoes in a geometric pattern passed down for generations. It’s a really cool cross-thing when viewed upside-down and it’s cute but definitely heretical.

All this to say, later tonight we laid side-by-side. Whose hand held whose? If I move, everything goes back to normal. We’re out of time, it seems. We’re outside of time, it seems.

Bad news, Bus 42 is late to the stop. There will have been something wrong. It’s tense.

 

Graves studied fiction and maps at the University of Nebraska. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife, son, and cat, all of whom are incredibly patient with him. He writes fiction when he can and reads when he can’t.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “50,000 More or Less”?

This story started over nine years ago and was finished during an overseas deployment. I’d come back to it every few years but it wasn’t until I was far from home that I felt I captured its truest meaning. The prose is heavily influenced by the inundation of details we ingest and the process of trying to communicate with the people important to you. I’m doomed to fail, but hope to fail spectacularly.

CNF: Certainties

by Jill Michelle

 

after Regi Claire’s “(Un)certainties”

Before the social worker shows up

  1. eight-year-old me stands in Dad’s laundry room, stripped of the new dress I’ve worn out to play, grass-stained when Mom said it was supposed to be saved. Braced for pain, I stare at the Cheer box, imagine myself lost, its rainbow logo sweeping me away as Susan, our new step-mom, drops the blue bundle into the wash, apologizes before doling out her punishment—one light swat to my flower-undied bum. I can’t help the laughter that foams up when she finishes. Her mouth, a soap-bubble O, when I ask, That’s it? That’s all you’ve got?
  2. back at home my brother and I climb into the attic space to talk where we think Mom won’t hear us, navigate the plywood planks in sneakered feet, avoid the fluffy pink rising through the cracks, cotton-candy-sea of insulation surrounding us with what looks sweet, its prickles invisible until the sting. We’ll tell the social worker we want to live with Dad. Leave it at that—we agree.
  3. Mom shouts from the stairs in her best Sunday dress: Are your rooms ready? Social worker’ll be here any minute. We race up to find her mascara-streaked again, pulling the daisy comforter tighter on my already-made bed. I don’t know what I’ll do if you guys leave. Kill myself, I guess.
  4. my brother who knows I’m the one who first told reminds me, This is all your fault.
  5. We have to stay with Mom.
  6. all of the above

Jill Michelle’s latest works appear/are forthcoming in Hawai`i Pacific Review, LEON Literary Review, New Ohio Review, ONE ART and Red Flag Poetry. Her poem, “On Our Way Home,” won the 2023 NORward Prize for Poetry. She teaches at Valencia College in Orlando, Florida. Find more of her work at byjillmichelle.com.

 

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

Encountering Regi Claire’s “(Un)certainties” in the The Forward Book of Poetry 2021, I was impressed with the poet’s use of the multiple choice format in the roughly eight-page piece to explore the possibilities of what might have happened to her family member, who died in a tragic accident without clarity of detail. To draft “Certainties,” I used an inversion of that approach, writing just one question in the prose poem, instead of many as Claire had, and focusing on a situation where the speaker had too much information about a traumatic event instead of too little.

Well Done

by Kim Chinquee

It’s almost mid-November, the time Lisa’s husband starts to shop for neckties, removing his spring and summer polos from the closets and the dressers, leaving a parade of clothes that look like rugs spread throughout the hallways. He forgets about the dogs, how they make their own collage of dirty paws on his discarded costumes.

Fuck this, he says to his old styles. It’s time to go shopping.

He wasn’t always like this. They met in college, and he was always saving. She took out as many loans then as she was allowed, and once financial aid kicked in and took care of her tuition, she’d beeline the bus to Marshall’s finding earrings, shoes and hats. Fake eyelashes, fake nails, fake fur. The real stuff was expensive, and she didn’t believe in killing animals. She grew up on a farm and was friends with cows, and sometimes as a child, she imagined the farm life in reverse: what if the cows were in control? Milking humans, killing them, wearing human skins? Sending them to human slaughterhouses so the cows could sit at fancy tables, talking about eating them either rare, or medium rare, well done. And the waitress talking about specials. What wine would go best with Adam’s missing rib? With a side of Eve’s forbidden apple?

Oh, honey, Lisa says. At least her husband doesn’t wear leather anymore. He’s high maintenance, though, with his purging of outfits. She finds it a bit endearing, how he can get rid of his old clothes without blinking an eyelash.

And he donates. She’s not sure to where exactly. He says Peaceprints does a collection to help inmates adjust. He says former convicts always need clothes, especially his nice ones.

He watches murder mysteries obsessively. The TV’s always on, and it’s usually tuned to Dateline. With all the channels, there’s almost always an episode of Dateline. And if there isn’t, there’s always 20/20, 48 Hours, Law and Order. 

Lisa’s realized, over the years, he’s started paying less attention to her and more to the outfits of the people on the shows. He’ll say, Look at that scarf! Wow, what expensive shoes. There are blazers and sports coats. They hardly ever show the prison clothes.

Her husband never wears orange. He never wears jumpsuits. Nor elastic. He tried to get her to wear handcuffs once, but of course she said no.

 

Kim Chinquee’s eighth book (her first novel) Pipette was published with Ravenna Press (2022). She’s the recipient of three Pushcart Prizes, senior editor of New World Writing Quarterly, associate editor of Midwest Review, and chief editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal). She co-directs the Writing Major at SUNY-Buffalo State University, is a triathlete, and lives with her three dogs in Tonawanda, NY. Her website is kimchinquee.com.

 

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

This piece came out of a series of prompt words (and sentence) I provided for my Hot Pants writing group: “necktie, polo, eyelash, logo, parade, and the sentence: Watch a murder mystery.” I was watching a show on hoarding at the time, and also watch a lot of Dateline. As I was writing, I imagined this character and the relationship with her husband, questioning motives, and it kind of evolved from there.

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 closed. The reading period for standard submissions opens again March 15, 2023. Submit here.

Upcoming

05/27 • Claudio Perinot
06/03 • Amanda Chiado
06/10 • John Davies
06/17 • Lynne Jensen Lampe
06/24 • Valerie Valdez
07/01 • Carlin Katz
07/08 • Meg Eden
07/15 • Tim Raymond
07/22 • Mike Itaya
07/29 • TBD
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08/26 • TBD
09/02 • TBD
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09/23 • TBD
09/30 • TBD