Bright Flash Literary Review

Artwork courtesy Joanne Sala. All rights reserved.

Welcome to Bright Flash Literary Review, an online literary journal.

Submission guidelines: Flash fiction (50-word minimum), fiction, and memoir will be considered. 1500 word maximum for all submissions. Simultaneous submissions are permitted. Please notify us ASAP if your work is accepted elsewhere. 

Please include a brief (200 words or fewer) third-person bio. SUBMISSIONS WITHOUT BIOS (add at the end of your piece on Submittable or use Duosuma’s designated space) will be declined.

No page numbers or headers. 

Translations not accepted.

Submit only one piece at a time and wait for a response before submitting again. 

Average response time is 30 days. If you have not heard from us in more than 60 days, feel free to follow-up.

If your work is accepted, Bright Flash Literary Review obtains first Northern American rights. All rights revert back to the author upon publication. Writers are strongly advised to honor other publication’s guidelines concerning previously published work. If your piece is accepted by another journal after publication in Bright Flash Literary Review, please ask for first publication attribution to BFLR.

If your story is accepted, please wait six months before submitting again.

If your work is declined, please wait 30 days before submitting again.

Repeated violations of our guidelines may result in being blocked from our site. We accept submissions from writers 18 years of age or older.

We are a non-paying market, but also do not charge submission fees.

Submit below through Submittable or Duosuma. E-mail submissions are not accepted. New stories are posted at the beginning of each month.

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Bad Optics

By Sara Dobbie

    The new glasses are classic cat eye frames, black with tortoise shell temples. Andie arrives home, puts them on, and the world is immediately brighter; clear, crisp, bursting with life. She is walking around the back yard realizing how vibrant the flowers are, spots two squirrels sitting together in the highest branches of her neighbor’s walnut tree. She feels foolish, having wasted so much time muddling through a dim, blurry landscape. 

     Inside the house Andie wonders how they make her look, she’s always envied women who wear glasses and appear fashionable or intelligent. She walks into the bathroom to check her reflection in the mirror and her mouth opens in shock. Large letters scrawled across her forehead spell the word LIAR. She rubs her fingertips across the markings, but the letters don’t smudge or fade. She takes the glasses off, and the word disappears, but when she holds the lenses to her eyes, there they are, bold as a neon sign. 

     Andie is dumbfounded, and when her husband Cole arrives home from work, she expects him to react accordingly. She watches him approach, he smiles, he makes small talk. He tells her the glasses look good, that they suit her face. “You don’t think there is anything strange about them?” she asks. He does not, and she is left with confusing thoughts scurrying inside her head. 

     Maybe, she thinks, nobody can see the word except me. Maybe the glasses are magic. Or maybe I’m going insane. She had been on the brink of exhaustion lately, working long hours at the office and helping her sister with the kids on the weekends. She definitely feels overwhelmed, neglected, and a little bit angry. Perhaps all this emotional turmoil is burgeoning into full blown hallucinations. 

     In bed, Andie racks her brain for any forgotten prevarications. She has never been one to gloss over the truth, not even with little white lies. Andie is a good person, honest and hardworking. She dreams of an ominous judge in a wig bashing his gavel, she tosses and turns. The next morning, Cole asks her if she would mind picking up his drycleaning since he is going out for drinks with friends and won’t have time. “I don’t mind,” she says, and then it dawns on her. 

     “Are you all right?” he asks, and when she assures him that yes of course, she’s fine, she excuses herself to the bathroom to observe that the color of the letters has deepened to a hot pink like a newly sealed scar. 

     I AM a liar, she decides. I lie all the time. She splashes cold water on her face, moisturizes and applies foundation but the letters remain fixed on her forehead. At work, she is nervous that someone will notice her unusual condition, but everyone smiles, blind to her new reality. 

     She sits staring at her computer, perusing the depths of her depravity. She lied to her boss when she said she’d be happy to take on an extra project. She lied to the janitor when he asked her if she enjoyed the weekend. “It was lovely,” was what she said, but the truth is that Cole had come home extremely drunk, and they got into a massive argument because he had promised he would only be an hour or two and he had actually been gone for precisely five. 

     Andie breaks it down logically. The lies she tells don’t hurt anyone. In fact, she is telling them what they want to hear so they will feel happy, or at least somewhat satisfied. Andie’s lies justify their actions or smooth over their concerns. The only person she’s hurting with her outrageous falsity is herself.             

     Perhaps she is avoiding a fight or sparing someone’s feelings, but with each lie it’s like she’s picking up a stone and putting it in her pocket. One after the other, day by day, but now her pockets are overflowing and her back hurts from carrying too many things. 

    Cole is taking her out for dinner to make up for abandoning her on Saturday night. They are seated at a table covered in white linen; they are sipping at glasses of white wine. He is asking if she forgives him, and though her instinct is to say yes, she recalibrates. Her new glasses allow her to see her image reflected in the large mirror on the wall behind Cole and she decides to be completely honest.

     “No, I don’t forgive you.” Her hand flicks to her forehead, wondering if this feat of integrity has erased the incriminating brand. She looks at Cole, who never changes even when he promises to try. Who willfully lets her down and thinks he can fix it with a flower or a song, as though she is some cartoon wife.  

     The waiter passes behind Cole and a pitcher of water glints in the mirror, drawing Andie’s eyes back to her reflection, her brow clear, smooth, unblemished. 

     “I love you,” Cole says, leaning forward to take her hands. Andie opens her mouth to return the sentiment but remains silent. Trails her fingertips across her forehead. Adjusts her glasses.

                                                                *   *   *

Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her stories have appeared in Fictive Dream, JMWW, Sage Cigarettes, New World Writing, Bending Genres, Ghost Parachute, Ruminate Online, Trampset, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. Her chapbook “Static Disruption” is available from Alien Buddha Press. Her collection “Flight Instinct” is available from ELJ Editions. Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie, and on Instagram at @sbdobwrites.

Compost

By Thomas Kent West

In the summer I started a compost. It stood at the back of the lot, out past the trees and the grass on the edge of the wood. It was a good spot because it was half sun, half shade, and the smell didn’t reach the house.

In the compost I put the dead grass that dried up in the sun. I put sticks and twigs and dried leaves. I put dandelions and logs and whole fallen branches, and soon I had a great heap of dead things.

Very soon after I added scraps from the kitchen: eggshells are best, but veggie scraps and moldy lettuce and the end of carrots will do. Next came paper: receipts and wrappers and rotting books from the attic, old drafts of unpublished manuscripts, finger paintings from children that no longer came to visit. All of these entered the pile, reduced, became dirt.

The trick, they say, is heat. Inside the pile after the pressure and the time build up, press down, the stuff at the very bottom heats up. Like the molten core of the earth. I imagined it like this, a slow, flameless burn.

Summer passed into fall and the pile grew, now with orange and red leaves, now with oceans of dried grass.

I began adding more food: chicken bones and pork fat. Half uneaten birthday cake. The ends of bottles of beer. The aroma from the pit was foul and startling, and the hot waves of it reached the house at night, cutting through the chilled autumn air.

I didn’t care. Compost was all about starting fresh. Making new soil out of old rot, working through the dead things to make something grow. I smelled that rot and dreamed of roses, arugula, sweet peppers and beets and high stalks of corn reaching for the sun.

I added the dog’s refuse, then mine. I started loading more and more onto the pile: whole TV dinners and Thanksgiving leftovers and bottles of stale champagne.

I threw in novels and plays and files and folders. Then old farm scrap and kid’s bicycles and baby cribs with star/moon sheets. I checked out what I had from the bank and scattered it in the pile.

Soon the heap was so large that it took ten minutes to walk around the base of it, and smelled so foul that the neighbors — who lived a good five miles up the road — moved away.

And the pile still grew — it grew towards the woods and swallowed trees, rotting out their trunks until they fell into the muck. It grew over wildflowers and prairie, the old tool shed and the kid’s rotting play-set.

Years passed and yet the pile grew no smaller. No matter how much I fed it, no new soil formed in the engine of decay. So I walked the highways for fresh roadkill and fed the pile slowly. Years later, when the old dog died, I placed him gently on the heap and walked away.

The house went next, year by year. The pile crept in through the windows, through the back door, reaching from room to room with tentacles of branches and rotting flowers and cracked bones. Soon the foundation crumbled in, and still I fed the heap, hoping it would become something new.

And the day came where I had nothing left to give. I waded into the heap, fingers parting the grass and bones, and fell away into the splendor of rot.

                                                               *   *   *

Thomas Kent West is a queer writer of speculative fiction. He is the winner of the Rue Morgue “Artifacts of Horror” Contest, the Content Flash Fiction Contest, and the Black Hole Entertainment Short Fiction Prize. His work has been featured in The Other Stories, MetaStellar, and elsewhere. You can read more of his work by visiting him on Twitter @ThomasKentWest or at ThomasKentWest.com.

The Smell of Earthy Things

by Zoë Blaylock

Twelve years I kept the dog for them. Then they took her back. 

Twelve years of cradling her in my arms, feeding her from her own plate at the table, combing the neighborhood so she could sniff around. Expand her horizons. 

Now I’m alone again. 

It’s not just unfair. It’s criminal.

But when I called the police to complain, the officer said Wofferine belonged to my daughter and her husband, not to me. It was right on the license. In ink. Both their names. Not mine. 

If I wanted to dispute it, he said, I should take it up in court. Maybe engage a lawyer. 

“Engage?” I said, hopeful because I’ve always had a way with men. Eighty-some years-worth of practice to be precise, which netted me four husbands. Two are still alive. Why the good die young is something I’ll never understand. 

“That’s not what I mean,” the cop growled, “I mean hire a lawyer.”

“Hire! Hire! Lawyers cost an arm and a leg, and mine are no longer limber. Who would want them?” I asked. 

The cop gave me one of those looks.

“I’m kidding, I’m kidding.” I said. “Don’t get in a tither, copper! And don’t go carping that I’m not making any sense. Sometimes humor is nonsensical.”

When did being funny become an infraction? When did using a little humor like a weapon if not a salve become evidence of dementia? 

That’s what they said I have, when they took Wofferine.

She howled! How she howled! You mustn’t think that dog went willingly. She is as attached to me as I am to her. We understand each other. She’s a real comedian, like me.

#

I’ll bet that now she paces all night. We used to sleep together, her butt not far from my head. You get used to it, the smell of earthy things. And, we both slept like logs. Though at daybreak we were each glad for a long, long pee. We held it in, you see. We never wet the bed.

I now walk the night away. Of course, not in heels like a lady-of-the-evening would. What I do is pace. Pace, pace, pace in my slippers or in my bare feet, the way mad-with-worry-souls always have done. Since time immemorial. Times I remember well. I’m kidding, dear Jesus, I’m kidding.

“Is Wofferine suffering too?” I ask myself as often as the night is long. “Are they feeding her enough fat? Enough meat? 

Vegans they call themselves. Vegans. Sounds like a warrior race from another galaxy. Not that I ever watched science fiction. The Golden Girls, they were my thing. 

Do they give her the dried liver treats I bought on Amazon? I sprung for next-day delivery since I’m not a Prime member.

Prime. I haven’t been in my prime in decades. On the other hand, if fifty is the new thirty, and the shift holds exponentially, I’m in my early sixties. That’s good isn’t it? Not too old to have a dog. Right? 

#

Did I tell you that in my generation girls aged-out of their prime while still in their twenties? That’s when my first kid came. The one who grew to rip the dog from my grasp. And all because I’m old. Past my prime. My grasp is not what it used to be.

#

I once had grasp the way men have balls. 

Did I tell you I was as good at math as boys were? And chemistry? But they wouldn’t let me take anatomy. The subject was not delicate, not appropriate for impressionable young ladies. My, my…

And yet I could always tell when Wofferine had a tummy ache. I understood how her stomach churned, and I knew just what to do. How to boil the chicken. When to add the rice. 

Now they say they’ll bring her for a visit, like one brings a dog to the vet, something no dog wants. And they say that I’ll learn to like it—my new home. 

It costs an arm and a leg, they boast as if such would please me. “Hope it’s your arm and your leg,” I smile and add, “Because who would want my old weak limbs?” 

They don’t answer. They shift the conversation because they’re shifty. 

They tell me that I’ll learn to enjoy all there is to do at Casa Last Stop. 

“Choir,” they say sing-song, “Chair-obics. Crafts. Even a class called The World of Yesteryear.” 

As if I need to be lectured. As if I need reminding about the good old days. 

I had a little dog named Wooferine in the good old days, did I tell you?  

She slept with her butt not far from my face. 

You get used to it, the smell of earthy things. 

                                                 *   *   *

Zoë Blaylock is a Pushcart-nominated writer whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Examined Life Journal of the University of Iowa School of Medicine, the other side of hope: journeys in refugee and immigrant literature, La Piccioletta Barca, Mulberry Literary, Front Porch Review, and in other publications. She lives in San Diego California with her husband and a series of large, old, gentle dogs. HereForThePresent.com

Daughter, Father

By William Kitcher

Ekaterina sat on the steps of the courthouse and looked at the prison gates across the road. This was the day her father was being released. She had never met him. She was sixteen years old.

Her father had been innocent, according to everyone in her town. The Tsar’s court disagreed.

Alexei waited inside the prison gates. He glanced at a guard, who took out his pocket watch, opened the cover, and stared at it, not looking at it. “Not yet. A few minutes more.” The bastards were going to wait until the last possible moment.

“I wonder if anyone will be here to greet me,” said Alexei.

“Everyone forgot about you a long time ago,” said the guard.

Alexei nodded in agreement.

At six o’clock, the prison gates opened. Ekaterina stood up and walked slowly across the road. She knew only vaguely what her father looked like. Men changed a lot in sixteen years, even more when in prison. The description she had been given was sixteen years old, and had come from her grandmother, who was very old. Ekaterina’s mother had died many years ago, and her brothers were fighting in Crimea.

Seven men came out of the prison. A small crowd, including Ekaterina, moved toward them. Alexei looked at them all.

An old woman broke through the crowd and embraced one of the released prisoners. “My son! My son!” she cried, and kissed him. She wouldn’t let go, and the two of them left together. Other relatives embraced other prisoners.

A young girl approached Alexei. “Father? I’m your daughter. Svetlana.”

“Svetlana?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

Alexei looked into her eyes.

“Let’s go home, father. I’ll take care of you now.”

She took him by the arm and guided him down the road. As they went, Alexei locked eyes with Ekaterina. They smiled at each other. Alexei and Svetlana disappeared.

There was one prisoner left. Ekaterina spoke to him. “I’m Ekaterina.”

“Who?”

“Ekaterina. Your daughter.”

“I have no daughter.”

“Are you Alexei Ivanovich Beloglazov?”

“Get away from me, you horrible child.”

                                                   *   *   *

Bill’s stories, plays, comedy sketches (and one poem) have been published, produced, and/or broadcast in Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Czechia, England, Guernsey, Holland, India, Ireland, Nigeria, Singapore, South Africa, and the U.S. His stories have appeared in Fiery Scribe Review, Ariel Chart, New Contrast, The Prague Review, Helix Literary Magazine, Eunoia Review, Once Upon A Crocodile, Pigeon Review, Little Old Lady Comedy, Yellow Mama, Black Petals, Slippage Lit, and many other journals. His novel, “Farewell And Goodbye, My Maltese Sleep,” will be published in 2023 by Close To The Bone Publishing.

Love Can Be Found in AnyBODY

A Memoir by Sisi Afrika

I am raised in a society that tells me what is right and what is wrong. This society is never wrong so if it tells you something is right, then it must be right. And if it tells you something is wrong, then it must be wrong.

I am told I can never find love in a certain body, a body that is exactly like mine in every way; if I do, then it is wrong.

Who better to understand my soul, my mind and of course my body other than that someone else who shares exactly the same structure that serves as a vessel for my soul? Sharing the same body is a bond in itself that cannot be shared with someone who does not understand my physical body realities.

I am told the love I have for someone who has the exact same body I have is wrong.

How can it be wrong to love a mirror image of myself? How can it be wrong to love MY body but in a separate vessel? How can it be wrong to be attracted to everything I see in myself each time I look in the mirror? Why am I being forcefully and socially conditioned to hate myself by hating another woman I am attracted to? Why is the love for humanity being restricted to love certain body forms and be repulsed by someone sharing my body type?

The society tells me what’s wrong and what’s right quite alright but I have always had my own mind; and so when I had my first kiss from a girl, I smiled all the way home.

Because that was not wrong. It felt right, it felt like I was home. It felt like my body found an ally in another human, my cells calling to hers for unity, for support, for some steamy orgasm.

I am not here to argue whether the society is always right or always wrong.

However, I am here to say love cannot only be found in people who do not share my body or gender identity, love can be found also in people who share the same body as mine.

I will not let go of a person with a beautiful soul and a sound mind just because of the vessel encompassing their essence.

The society is wrong, on this one, after all.

Love can be found in anyBODY.

 

Sisí Afrika is a professional Nigerian writer with a self-published book to her credit. She is a feminist activist and a narrative therapist.

Come Early Morning

By Amanda Norman

She left her innocence in a vinyl board doublewide just south of that lonesome sierra, where stars shimmered shyly in the crisp New Mexico sky, where the Spanish monks chanted their Midnight Mass and the Natives bowed before Chimney Rock with restless arms raised, and tears speckled her glasses like desert snow — fallen to evaporate come early morning.

                                                          *   *   *

Amanda Norman holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from The University of North Texas and an M.Ed in Teaching from Toulouse Graduate school. She writes fiction, creative nonfiction and screenplays that subvert the traditional zeitgeist of what a story can be. She lives in Dallas with her guinea pigs.

The Icing on My Life Cake

by Nick Gregorio

Bill was a vanilla birthday cake. Nice on the eyes. Tasty. But plain. And a little stale, to tell the truth.

Genoise—Gen for short—was everything Bill was not and so much more. Mouth-watering, soft, sumptuous. The type of cake other cakes wanted to be. The type of cake to which humans assigned fancy names, like Genoise. She had never once acted as some would assume such a profound beauty would act, however, and the air of that quality was the very thing that afforded Bill the gumption to say hello to her—albeit after a brief bit of deep silence once Bill had been set next to

Gen in the display case.

Bill and Gen spent all of their time together—truth be told, they didn’t have much of a choice, being cakes and all. Still, they would chat and laugh and poke fun at one another. Discuss their fears of being sold. Promise to make sure they’d do their damndest to find display case spaces next to one another once the baker used their recipes again someday. Then more laughter. Even more after that. And then more still.

It would have been a delightful little dance to behold if the other cakes and cookies and pastries weren’t so jealous of Bill’s luck and/or confused by Gen’s taste in desserts.

“How could she spend so much time talking to such a bland cake?” The Danishes whispered to their cupcake pals.

“Who does he think he is?” The other birthday cakes asked one another.

“She’s slumming it,” the cookies said.

“He needs to lock that down ASAP,” the pound cakes grunted.

“She should be with her own kind,” the Cannoli said. “Italians, like us.”

But the chatter, no matter the volume, didn’t seem to bother Bill. He was spending his time with a cake next to whom he could imagine himself on display at an extravagant human party; ornamented in lit candles, inches away from his one and only someone—who, by the way, needed no additional trappings to look as fresh and lovely as the day she was pulled from the warmth of the baker’s oven

And Gen, unburdened by the inane ogling from the riffraff in the display case, was her fullest self with Bill. Honest and silly. Funny but sometimes sad. Kind and caring and whip-smart. All the things the pound cakes would never assume her to be in a billion years. All the things the cookies and the other birthday cakes couldn’t see. All the things Cannoli say they want from a delicious cake, but wind up completely emasculated by once they experienced such qualities in person. And every moment Bill and Gen were able to spend with one another, no matter how fleeting, felt like those big moments every dessert hopes to have a handful of times over the course of their lives—without the arrogant presence of wedding cakes, of course; those insufferable elitists.

Life went on like that for a good long while—a good long while for sugar-based foodstuffs, anyway.

But one day, a human came for Bill. A kind-looking one, searching for something simple for a party they were throwing.

Something everyone would like. Nothing fancy.

As Bill’s box was being folded into shape, he said to Gen, “I wish you could come with me.”

Gen said, “I wish that too.”

There was a pregnant pause between them. A thing the likes of which hadn’t happened since the first few moments they were together. So Bill said the first thing that came to mind: “You’re the icing on my life cake—cake life—no, life cake—no…”

Gen smiled, in so much as cakes could smile, and said,

“That’s the corniest thing you’ve ever said.”

Bill was embarrassed. He’d had one chance to say goodbye and he’d blown it with that pathetic life cake/cake life line. Whatever that meant.

“You’re my icing too,” Gen said, lifting Bill’s spirits. “And if I were a human, I’d call dibs on you the moment I laid my eyes on you too.”

They didn’t say much after that.

Bill was lifted from the case and placed gently into his box.

The baker tied a string around the box and into a little bow.

Then the box was handed over to the customer.

The human left with Bill.

Gen understood what it was to be a cake. How fast things happen. How quickly things can end. How extra little by-chance circumstances—two cakes being placed next to one another for no reason other than their both being cakes—can make a life positively shiny for a lifetime despite having only lasted mere moments. And nothing ever really ended anyway, did it? Recipes would be followed again. Spots in display cases were vacated nearly constantly. Gen and Bill could be sitting next to one another again in no time.

Until then, though.

Until Gen could make a regular old birthday cake like Bill feel like a dessert crafted for the coronation of some festooned-in-velvet-robes human king out there somewhere.

Until the next time Gen could sit, and be, and do nothing at all with Bill; no expectations, no demands, no pressure.

Until the next time life could be so soft and sweet.

Like icing. 

                                                                        *   *   *

Nick Gregorio is a husband, writer, teacher, dog-dad, punk, nerd, teeth-grinder, and mall-walker living and writing just outside of Philadelphia. He is the author of four books, and his work has appeared in many print and online journals. For more, please visit: www.nickgregorio.com.

Delivery Girl

A Memoir by Dorian Burden

The first money I ever earned was for delivering liquor when I was about eleven years old. Mom had phoned down for a delivery of her favorite Scotch from the store which was just an elevator ride and a few steps away from our New York City apartment building. Sam, the store owner, said he didn’t have anyone to deliver it that night. But my mother said that I could come down and pick it up. I was often the one dispatched to get our milk, bread, the newspaper and her cigarettes. When I was very little, she’d send me with the empty flattened package of Camel’s to show the counter person. She didn’t want me bringing back the kind with filters—otherwise she’d have to tear them off the cigarettes. I often took my time on these errands—stretching them out as long as possible, chatting to the neighbors or the doorman or talking with friends from school. Mom never let me just go out to play. She said kids hanging out outside were just hooligans with nothing better to do.

This was the first time I was picking up her Scotch. I didn’t like it when she drank. She talked funny and her eyes got all smudgy, but I was glad to be getting out of the apartment. I had dashed out without a jacket, but it was a warm fall evening. I wore the clothing I’d gone to school in that day, a long sleeve shirt with multi-colored polka dots and some jeans. It was dusk and the neon light of the Domino Sugar logo on the factory across the river was already lit. The apartment complex we lived in was between the East River and the FDR Drive, the highway that ran along the east side of Manhattan. We were cloistered away from the regular streets of the city and the traffic. There were four buildings, each of them towering more than 30 stories high over a large plaza with several shops. The liquor store was one of them. 

When I got to the shop, Sam was just hanging up the phone. My mom had told him I could help with any other deliveries that night. I collected the bottle of Scotch, brought it to my mother upstairs, then dashed right back down to Sam who gave me another brown paper bag with a bottle in it to deliver to someone else.

A petite woman with short curly hair opened the door. She seemed a little older than my mother.

“Oh!” she said, raising her eyebrows when she saw me, then fumbled in her purse for money. She counted out the dollars to me carefully, as if I knew how much she was supposed to pay. Sam hadn’t said. Then she dug further for some change to give me and put two dimes in my hand. 

 “That’s for you,” she said.

I smiled and said thank you as she shut the door. It hadn’t occurred to me that anyone would give me a tip. I folded the bills and put them into the pocket on the front of my shirt and put the two dimes in my jeans pocket and pranced off to get to the elevator downstairs. At the next apartment I waited for what seemed a long time while a couple worked together trying to count out the money. They kept making mistakes and having to start all over because they couldn’t stop giggling. I thought maybe they started drinking before I even got there with the delivery.

For a couple of hours that evening I darted back and forth between the different buildings and the liquor store going up and down in the elevators, telling the doormen, importantly, that I was making a delivery for Sam, and they would wave me in. I was given quarters and dimes, and one person even gave me a dollar. 

When I rang the bell for last of the evening’s deliveries, a man with gray scruffy hair and dark-rimmed glasses opened the door. 

“What’s this?” he asked. He was either confused or mad. Maybe both.

“Your delivery,” I answered holding the bag containing two bottles out in front of me, pretending not to notice how annoyed he sounded.

“It’s almost 9 pm,” he said nodding his head. “Shouldn’t you be in bed by now?”

“Well, this is the last delivery I’m doing,” I said with a giant smile, but my face was already reddening. 

He took the bag from me and closed the door without giving me a tip. I didn’t understand why he was so mad at me. He was the one who ordered the liquor.

I went home with the change jingling in my pocket. When I got in I heard mom on the phone. She already had the funny accent that made her sound like an actress from an old black and white movie. I snuck into my room glad she was talking to someone else. She could get pretty weepy and slobbery when she drank. Before getting into bed, I put the tips into the large pink piggy bank that sat on my windowsill. 

I helped Sam out a few weeks later when he asked, and I continued to help occasionally whenever he was in a pinch. Anything to get out of the apartment.

                                                          

                                                                       *   *   *

Dorian Burden was raised in New York City, her earliest years spent in the scrappy, immigrant neighborhood of the Lower East Side. She attended Hunter College where she studied English and began a career in magazine publishing, working at such publications as Working Woman and Psychology Today. She later became a New York City School Teacher. She is currently a middle school English and history teacher in the Hudson Valley. She has had essays published in The Huffington Post and Human Parts. She maintains a curated series of her essays at medium.com/@dorianburden.

Regurgitation

 By Cecilia Kennedy

         Twisted and rampant with weeds and wild blades of grass, a flat parcel of land stretched lengthwise across from my house. A two-lane state route and barbed wire separated me from it, but I found ways to cross, crawl under, and sit before the towering oak tree, its trunk wide, a knotted hole in the middle with a large fold of roots inside that made it look like a stomach churning bodies. The fields, and even part of my parents’ property, were the site of a tuberculosis hospital. I wondered how many bodies had been sacrificed to the tree. I wondered how many escaped.

#

Making a fleet of paper airplanes requires patience, but I like folding the paper lengthwise, the shshshshsh of making the crease, folding the corners down and down again—and then comes the wings and the test flight past the open window—and I repeat: down the center, fold the corners, make the wings, shshshshsh.

#

On the other end of the phone, my mother tells me Dad’s going into the hospital to have a mole removed because it’s cancerous, so they’re also checking to see if the cancer has spread—and her voice trails off in a whimper. Dad picks up to laugh and tell me he’s fine, and he doesn’t think he’s going anywhere just yet. 

#

The paper airplane fleet has grown. Every square inch of the attic is wings and points and snow-white flutters that shshshshsh when the air kicks on. It’s the day of Dad’s surgery and his test to see if the cancer’s spread, and I sense the planes are intending to fly. They lift off the floor in the slightest breeze, so I open the window and let them go. They take off in perfect formation, still shshshsh-ing, and they never touch the ground. I watch until they’re just a dot—a speck in the sky—flying on their own. The shshshsh-ing stays in my mind, lulling me to sleep, so I rest my head where dust gathered around paper points and tips, spread out my arms like wings, and imagine myself soaring.

#

The phone rings. I’m folding paper, making lines and creases. When I pick up, Mom’s voice is all bells and birdsong—relieved to know the results of Dad’s test—that the cancer hasn’t spread, and I’m so caught up in the bells of her voice that I almost miss her question: Did I know what she saw in the sky above the fields? A fleet of paper airplanes. They touched ground briefly, she said, then rose again. 

I cut my finger on the edge of a crease.

#

I hear shshshsh-ing rising in a crescendo outside the attic, so I open the window, let the planes back in. I reach for them with my bandaged finger. Their tips are bloody, the wings soaked crimson—and I think again of that tree, with the gnarled bits like a churning stomach—and what must have happened to let my father live.

                                                       *   *   *

Cecilia Kennedy (she/her) is a writer who taught English and Spanish in Ohio for 20 years before moving to Washington state with her family. Since 2017, she has published stories in international literary magazines and anthologies. Her work has appeared in Maudlin House, Tiny Molecules, Rejection Letters, Kandisha Press, Ghost Orchid Press, and others. You can follow her on Twitter (@ckennedyhola).

Intersections

By Elizabeth Murphy

Mrs. Wilson

While Mr. Wilson takes raspy breaths on his nursing-home deathbed, his Mrs. is downstairs in the salon, head under the drying hood, curlers in her dyed brown hair, preparing for the up-coming wake and funeral where she’ll look her absolute seventy- eight-year-old-spring-chicken best following six decades of marital blah that passed without pulse or spark, without a hint of attraction between them, more of a partnership, the kind that led them to the holy altar in the first place, sparing him a mother’s nagging and offering her a childless union, she so fearful of blood and pain, he so preoccupied with building a prince’s fortune, which he did, then saved it all for a deluge of a day that never came, more like a drought, intensifying as the decades went by, as they grew used to each other’s silence and settled into parallel lives that intersected only in the quotidian, around the teapot and toaster, in front of Jeopardy, reading the paper, never touching, for hadn’t they tried that early on with disappointing results, unworthy of a repeat, no point kissing either, nothing beyond the perfunctory peck on the cheek for show while in the company of others, a rare occurrence, small-talk not his forte, nor hers, though there’d be an excess of it at the wake, scripted lines such as, sorry for your loss, all of us have to go sometime—lines she’ll thank them for with a tissue crumpled in her hand, raised to her nose and long blinks during which she’ll wish for it to be over so she can move on with her new life because seventy-eight is not young, not with all those dollars in the bank, life insurance soon to be paid out, everything left to whom else but her, his brothers and sister in an urn, few friends, associates who’ll send cards of condolences and apologize for being otherwise engaged during the wake and funeral and for an opportunity to see the new Mrs. Ms. soon to be in possession of a new life with a fortune to squander, no thanks to her, never worked a day in her life, not even at home, not with a girl available to cook meals, scrub floors and take care of other housewife’s duties, leaving her to enjoy a daily game of solitaire, occasional trip to the shopping mall, weekly visit with her sister, the spinster, once a shopgirl, forever jealous of Mr. Wilson’s Mrs., rightfully so for isn’t he a fine husband, never hit, nor scolded her, didn’t drink besides the polite sherry now and then, didn’t require that they share a bedroom, she a snorer and lark, he an owl with a restless leg, a fitful sleeper, forever preoccupied with earning more, building bigger, doing better, no different today than when they first met in high school with a courtship that lasted mere weeks in an early nineteen-sixties meat-and-potatoes world hardly worth reminiscing about like they were good old days because no days could be better than those up ahead, filled with the burden of choice, barely a minute to spare, book that cruise, buy that new TV, new wardrobe, hairstyle, makeover, and throw in a face-lift while she’s at it because, sooner or later, she too will be on her deathbed cared for by a nurse in those final hours, race over, good luck, good riddance, good karma, something along those lines, something maybe Nurse Carter is mumbling to Mr. Wilson right now or maybe on his phone, checking that Facebook thingy, playing computer games, biding time till his shift’s over, till his patient’s final breath, or till Mrs. returns, out of breath, curlers still in her hair, to pay last respects, whatever that means in a union such as theirs.

Mr. Wilson

There’s a quiet steadiness to Mr. Wilson’s breathing, an even ebb and flow, aided by an injection of midazolam to reduce anxiety and calm the images scrolling past like in a dream with the creditors banging on the door, then at the funeral, they handing their cards to her, she so unsuspecting of her husband, a man who’d learned to be discreet in all matters including the receivership about to take place, every penny gone, though not his fault, blame it on changing consumer habits, his fine stationary supply company like him, on the deathbed, the funeral prepaid at least, thank God, no need to dip into the life insurance payout, something the creditors can’t touch, not worth much anyway, enough for his Mrs. to live off of, as long as she moves into a studio instead of a two-bedroom, in a different building without the girl coming by to do housework, which is a lot to expect, especially for a woman deserving of his gratitude, something he barely hinted at for the past sixty years, neither of them inclined to flaunt feelings, least of all his Mrs. who, for example, remained so placid when she saw him, hand down Spencer Dean’s bell-bottom pants in 1971, and again in the eighties with the irresistible young delivery fellow, his black Hanes boxers discovered under the sofa cushion, then disposed of in the garbage, no more than a blush from her, no reprimand, no lecture about possible repercussions, spoiled reputation, no threat of divorce, nor expression of revulsion, certainly no jealousy, of course not, their relationship one of convenience, he merely the provider, up until now, bankrupt in all the ways that matter, the damage done, the only hope that at least his lover Carter, will look out for his Mrs.

*   *   *

Elizabeth (she/her) is the author of the novel An Imperfect Librarian (Breakwater Books, 2008). In a previous life, she was a professor, researcher, and author of one academic book and oodles of academic articles. Born and raised in the Newfoundland of E. Annie Proulx’s Shipping News, she now lives a quiet life in Nova Scotia. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @ospreysview