All Hallows’ Tree

By Anuja Mitra

When I asked Ivy what our Halloween prank was this year, she said “to make something eternal.” 

Nearly everyone we’d known from school had left, but leaving was a habit people had in our town. Gone was the buzz we’d felt around Halloween as children; spinning around the sidewalks at night, the moon closer and more mischievous than ever. Now all the evenings felt brittle, like autumn was slipping by faster than we could keep up.

To hell with everyone who’d abandoned us, Ivy announced. We were going to paint the town red. That is, the tree by the gate of our old playground. We were going to paint spooky faces on the tree.

I’d wondered, why a tree? But Ivy just shrugged. “A tree never has to die.”

It didn’t, not like us. Deforestation was no threat; they’d stopped felling trees when the town had stopped trying to attract anyone new. A tree couldn’t leave, couldn’t forsake us for the city like our friends. As long as there was sun and good soil it would go on living as life changed around it. 

We worked until our arms got tired. The wet paint was luminous in the dark, making our masterpiece stand out better than we’d hoped. I admired the wailing mouth and its jagged teeth, the oversized eyes in the pumpkin-like face. 

It was garish and stupid and perfect — as real and proud as lovers’ initials, declaiming to all who drove by: someone was here, someone always will be. 

                                                              *   *   *

Anuja Mitra is a writer from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her short prose has appeared in Lamplight, Year’s Best Aotearoa New Zealand Science Fiction and Fantasy, and A Clear Dawn: New Asian Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand. Her Linktree and occasional commentary can be found on the dying platform that is Twitter: @anuja_m9.


By Isabela IIowska

Once certain words are spoken, you can’t take them back. But you can translate them into another language. Ungrateful, stubborn, controlling, self-absorbed, cold. This is just a list of adjectives. They seem abstract, they don’t hurt me. Their Polish equivalents, on the other hand, are more problematic, burdened with personal associations. I see Damian as he puts his jacket on and leaves the flat, slamming the door behind him. A few hours later my telephone starts to ring. Damian says that it’s over and that he won’t come back. Sometimes he threatens to swallow pills or to slash his wrists and hangs up before I have a chance to ask where he is. When he calls again, he keeps his voice calm, impersonal. He tells me about a woman he met some time ago. They have been seeing each other regularly ever since. He says that she is younger than me and cooks very well. He wants to know if I’m jealous of her. When I don’t respond, he gets angry at me. We begin to insult each other with the same cruel words. I feel exhausted when he finally hangs up. Ungrateful, stubborn, controlling, self-absorbed, cold. The list goes on and on. I write down some of the adjectives on a piece of paper and then I translate them into English. My heartbeat slows down, my breathing becomes easier, my hands stop trembling. 

*   *   *

Izabela Ilowska holds a PhD in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Glasgow. Her flash fiction has appeared in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine, The Bangor Literary Journal, and Free Flash Fiction.


By Jim Beane

Elaine and I met by accident at Timmy’s Grill on Valentine’s Day. Timmy’s is the only restaurant I pass on my walk home from the bus stop. Timmy’s serves drinks and hosts a Friday Night Happy Hour. When I hopped off the bus at Delaware and Sixth, the rain started. After a half-block trudge through the downpour, everything below my knees was soaked. Hard rains come and go, but wet and cold is wet and cold anywhere. I ducked in Timmy’s, went to the bar and ordered whiskey. The whiskey warmed me up, and I ordered another.

The bar stools were all taken, and most tables were full. I lingered at the bar but noticed one woman sitting alone at a table with two empty chairs. I walked over to her table.

“Mind if I use one of these chairs?”

“Yes,” she said.

Before I could protest, a beefy arm brushed my hand off the chair. A gruff voice grumbled.

“Get lost,” it said.

The voice seated himself across from the woman in the chair I’d been holding. He kept his back to me. The woman was young enough to be his daughter. He tossed his wet hat and coat on the remaining empty chair and turned to look at me over his shoulder.

“Something else?” he asked. 

His size intimidated me. I shrugged off the question and squeaked away in wet shoes.

A man and woman seated by the front window stood to leave and I grabbed their table and signaled the waitress. Two more whiskeys and I got comfortable watching raindrops big as nickels pound the streets.

The storm was worsening. Traffic crawled. Horns blared. Nerves frayed.

I ordered another whiskey and lit a cigarette. A haze of smoke hovered above the bar swirling in the slow spin of the ceiling fans. The waitress passed and I ordered another whiskey, then tossed a ten-spot on her tray.

I grinned and felt a little light-headed. 

She winked.

The bar clock read ten after ten. Better get food, I thought, before the night slipped away. I looked up to signal the waitress and found the unfriendly woman I had approached earlier standing before me without her surly escort. She placed her hand on the back of the empty chair across the small table from me.

“Mind if I use this?” she asked. 

I couldn’t speak but nodded yes and she pulled the chair away from the table and sat down. She hopped it closer to me.

Shoulder length auburn hair shined under Timmy’s dim lights. She leaned toward me, her eyes were clear, lucid. Beautiful.

“Had enough?” she asked.

“Enough what?” I was trying to be cute.

“Time to go home,” she said. “I’ve called you a cab. Tell the driver your address when he picks you up.”

“The storm has passed,” I said. “It’s a nice walk to my place.”

“No thanks. The taxi will get you home.” She pushed her chair back and stood. She looked down on me with pity, as if I might be someone in need of her help.

“C’mon, we can walk to my place. It’s not far and we’ll have drinks.”

“There is no we,” she said.

“Okay, okay…” I held up my hands in surrender. “Then let’s have a drink here.”

“I don’t drink,” she said. “And you’ve had too much. The cab will be here soon.”

“Whoaa…hold on,” I said. Standing proved difficult. Walking was worse. She wouldn’t let go of my arm. I stopped at the front door and leaned against the frame. She nudged me out the door. 

“How do I know your pal the moose is not lurking around the corner?”

Her hand pressed against my spine, and we were back outside in the cold.

Under Timmy’s canopy, she hooked her arm inside my elbow and clasped her hands so I couldn’t pull away. But pulling away had not crossed my addled mind. I wanted to remain like we were beneath the green canvas canopy at Timmy’s. She relaxed her grip and hesitated before speaking. 

“He’s not my pal,” she said. “He’s my sponsor. I call him when life gets rough for me. He takes me out to dinner and cheers me up. We talk.” She looked at me. “We all have rough times…”

“My name is Henry,” I said.

A cab pulled up.

“Take care, Henry,” she said. “Give me a call, when you’re ready.”

The business card she slipped into my coat’s chest pocket had Elaine printed on it, no last name, and a phone number. Two bold black capitalized A’s were embossed in the lower corner of the card. One day at a time was scripted like a slogan beneath her name.

Elaine patted my back and helped me into the cab. 

“Henry,” she said. “Don’t forget to call.”

                                                                *   *   *

Jim Beane’s fiction has appeared in numerous print and online literary journals including The MacGuffin, The Evening Street Review, The Baltimore Review and the anthologies Workers Write and DC Noir. His five-story collection was published by Wordrunners in 2019. His forthcoming novel, The Deadening will be published in 2024 by Mandel Vilar Press/Dryad Press. He is a mentor for the Veterans Writing Project, an instructor for the Writers Center in Bethesda, Md and lives west of Baltimore with his wife and family.

Self as Other

By Alexander Penney

Stirred from my rest, I glance around my barren bedroom, frozen in place. A soft wind feeds in through the cotton curtains and the scent of deep autumn draws my attention. In the corner of the room looms a figure hunched, facing away from me.

I call out for help, to free me from my rigid form. With face lowered, the form turns and approaches me, a wheezing breath mixing with the night gust. The creaking of floorboards and bones sends a shiver down my immobile spine as the shadowed visage lowers directly above my head. 

Staring back at my own sunken eyes, I try to scream, but my voice is buried in my chest. With a grin, the other me raises its hand and with two fingers closes my eyelids.

                                             *   *   *      

Alexander is an occasional writer and musician. During the day, they work as a Social Worker in NYC. In their downtime, they dabble in poetry, fiction, and music that ranges from confessional to the mystical and all-around surreal.


Nonfiction by Andrea Marcusa

Sometimes when I’m engrossed in a book, the sun streams through the window, and brightens the pages, startling me.  I blink, notice the minute flecks of dust dancing on its beam and the cold January day outside is transformed by a moment of light. 

In the adjacent room, my husband is consumed with his culinary alchemy—sauteing garlic, grating ginger, deftly slicing vegetables for a stir fry. It is during such moments that the depths of my need for him become vividly apparent.  I know we are here for a lifetime, yet our days together feel more fleeting than ever.  It took almost losing him for me to grasp the steep cost of love. 

His voice calls out announcing that lunch will be ready in twenty minutes.  His industry and enthusiasm offer me a comforting sense of security. There’s a gusto and zest about him, a zeal that’s been absent for years, and it fills me with a warmth that’s hard to describe.  I want to drink up every moment of our lives together, savor it like a slow melting sweet lozenge.  But I always feel the other, too, looming, like the relentless ticking of the clock on the wall, that knowledge that any moment our lives together could vanish, like the day the wildfire smoke descended upon us from up north and transformed the sunniest, longest day of the year into a sinister twilight.

                                                                       *   *   *

Andrea Marcusa’s writings have appeared in The Gettysburg Review, River Styx, River Teeth, New Flash Fiction Review, Citron Review, and others. She’s received recognition in a range of competitions, including Smokelong, Cleaver, Raleigh Review, New Letters and Southampton Review. She’s a member the faculty at The Writer’s Studio and also a member of the school’s the Master Class where she studies with Philip Schultz. For more information, visit: or see her on Twitter @d_marcusa.


Washed Out

By Maya Bairey

I am the best beer glass in this bar.

I don’t say that lightly. I’m younger than those I share a shelf with. Many of them are milky with tiny scratches, others even have chips in their base. The ones who chip their rims—well, we never see them again.

I’ve been through a few rounds tonight already. I get filled with bright beer, flown to a table, and steadily emptied. Then it’s back to the hot water, the astringent rinse, the long wait on the rack as I dry, until I again stand ready in the frosty cooler.

Being used invites scuffs and spills and worse. I’m strong, though. I can spend years in this place, being filled and wiped out, before the wear will show.

I’m pulled from the chill by tonight’s bartender. I like this one. He has steady fingers and takes care not to clink me against the tap. The crisp lager he fills me with leaches away some cold, and condensation clouds my outer walls.

I feel the small scar between the bartender’s thumb and forefinger. He told someone once that he got it in a fight, but it was from a broken bottle in the kitchen. He swore and threw it viciously into a bin. The splintering clangor made us all tremble on the shelves.

He has tattoos but the motley skin doesn’t feel different from the plain. He wears fire and weapons, but they don’t feel hot or sharp. It intrigues me that I feel the scar but not the colors. I suppose it’s like the difference between engraved and printed logos.

He sometimes tells lone women sitting near that he dreams of going back to a music festival. Lost in a crowd of others like him; bombarded, hot, alive. It sounds a bit like the dishwasher to me.

The liquid in me tickles, tiny bubbles precipitating at the crosshatched engraving at my deepest part, my nucleated base. What a great job I do, keeping the foamy head from fading! So well designed.

The waitress with inky-stained hair snatches me from the bar. This one distresses me at times, her tired wiry fingers lifting me recklessly by my rim. I join my fellows on a cork-lined tray and am whisked up high, wavering above the spindle-legged chairs in her path. We’re not in danger, not really. Her balance is sure and we’ve made this trip many times.

My destination is last, my full comrades leaving for their assignments two by two. Veering around the last chair, she lowers the tray and clutches my base. It’s safer, but I wince at the feel of her cheap ring against my sides, the glass pavé whispering of potential scratches. A long gray hair is caught in it, webbing into space. It clings to me wetly.

I’ve heard her talk as well, late at night when the doors are closed and lights on. She dreams of living in a large city, alone there, anonymous. She’s known here and wants to lose herself in a busy place before it’s too late. Maybe a big city is like the drying rack, all glasses alike in rows.

She sets me on a gummy table, sliding me across. I don’t catch and spill because she knows how much force to use. One day when I’m less smooth this could end in disaster.

The man who reaches for me is one I know well.  He doesn’t use coasters, which annoys me. A puddle of condensation around my base will eventually cause obstinate water spots.

This man wears no ring, but often taps weak fingernails on my side or spins me around and around for no reason. His skin is sallow and dry, the hair on his knuckles limp. He empties me with regular voluminous sips, mustache bristling over my rolled rim.

He often lays a device near me, then picks it back up after it vibrates. It holds his attention more than I do. He sometimes talks to it. He speaks of meeting someone, inviting them here to get to know each other. No one’s ever come while I’m in his company.

His dream, often the last thing muttered before he leaves, is for his ex-wife to just listen. He makes a pointless sound, I suppose. Perhaps that’s like the times people clink me against another full glass, the tiny chime we make together pure but risky.

I’m soon making the floating trip back to the sink where I’m briefly swiped at in the soapy water. I get a rinse, then back to the drying rack, upside down.

Empty and waiting for my next touch, I wonder at this secret thirst for dishwashers and drying racks and ringing contact. If it’s important, why do they only speak these wishes aloud when few are near, sometimes just to themselves?

My regulars circle the same steps with me most nights, never disappearing to these things they want. We live here, first dreg-stained then washed out.

Some people I meet never return, and I think they might have gone looking for their dishwasher place.

It’s good that I wait here as I dry. If put into the cooler while still hot, I might crack. An imperfection can plink me into a casualty. Then I would be a broken pile, serving nothing.

Would I dream then of the soaring tray? The burble of the beer tap, the lace on my half-drunk insides?

When the lights are out and we sit in rows, I choose. I’d like to stand behind the bar, under mirrors and lights. Spotless and polished, not yet so used that I’m foggy with scratches, but having made enough trips from bar to table to know I won’t shatter. I would take in the light and pour it back out in unexpected directions.

I am a beautiful glass.

Well, I already said that. Listen to me, repeating myself like those who drink late.

I am the best beer glass in this bar.

                                                       *   *   *

Maya Bairey has written over three million uncredited words during her career in corporate journalism, and finally decided to write stories she can put her name on. Her debut novel, Painting Celia, is Maya’s heart on paper.

Maya lives in the middle of the Columbia River in weird and problematic Portland, Oregon. She paints, programs, and protests via street theater. While her husband of three decades races their sailboat Pearl, Maya watches from their balcony with Dory the cat, making up new stories. 

Connect with Maya at

The Family Rhubarb

By Gemma Elliott

It was time to divide the crown again. This had been happening for more than a century and it was thus impossible to trace back exactly what fraction of the original rhubarb crown remained. Traditionally, every time a member of the family married, they would be gifted a section of the family rhubarb plant, usually separated from the motherplant of their parents. More recently, in line with changing values, the family had decided to award a plant to any family member who was forming a household with another person, no matter whether legal marriage was involved.

Once presented, the new couple usually place their rhubarb crown in the ground of their garden and watch it flourish. Eventually, if they have children, it becomes their turn to divide and pass it on. In the meantime, they enjoy a plethora of crumbles and, more recently, home-prepared flavored spirits and elaborate frangipane tarts. Of course, not all family members choose, or have been lucky enough, to live in a home with a garden, but thankfully rhubarb was also known to thrive in a pot on a doorstep or a balcony. 

Sharon’s plant had lush green leaves and thick, healthy red stalks. Her son, Matthew, was due to marry his university girlfriend at the weekend, and so she was splitting the crown as her wedding gift. Her late husband, John, was on her mind as she dug into the soil around the plant. He had been very pleased with his inherited rhubarb, nurturing it until it was perfectly sweet. Sharon’s rhubarb pie pales in comparison to John’s, but she had hope that Matthew might make his father proud with his own fruit creations.

Matthew and Laura met in their second year of studying when his flatmate, Sam, was in an on-off relationship with Laura’s friend Amy. Things were not always perfect between the two of them, but they made it to graduation as a couple, appearing in the photos that each of their grandmothers displayed on mantle pieces and sideboards. Before either could really stop and assess where they were, they were moving to London together and taking up graduate jobs that promised to pay well eventually.

Now, they had moved back to Scotland. Matthew and Laura had bought a semi-detached house for as much as a studio flat would have been down south. It was an exciting time for everyone. They were getting married a week after picking up the keys for their new home. They had a small suburban garden, five miles from Matthew’s childhood home, in which to plant their portion of the family rhubarb.

But, in all of the packing and the planning and the payments, both Matthew and Laura were separately having doubts. They hadn’t rushed into this, having met a decade earlier, but neither felt quite right about their relationship now that it was being formalised. Sharon, of course, didn’t know this – they hadn’t told one another never mind anyone else – and so, with difficulty, she was attempting to unearth her rhubarb to divide it for her son.

The plant was not cooperating. Its roots had spread wide and deep in the decades since Sharon and her husband gave it over to the ground. On a recent episode of Gardeners’ World, Monty Don had informed her that splitting a rhubarb crown was an easy task, and she considered herself a relatively accomplished gardener, but she was growing more and more frustrated. It almost felt like the rhubarb had no wish to be rehomed. Eventually, with the help of her young weightlifting neighbour, Sharon eased the plant out of the ground just enough to slice a spade through its centre and scoop half into a glittery gift bag. Sharon’s remaining half crown slipped back into the soil easily, as healthy as ever.

Matthew and Laura went through with the wedding. They had to, people had already paid for a kettle and casserole dishes for the house. And it was fun, and they felt loved and special, and, after the honeymoon to a Greek island where all they did was have sex and drink wine, they felt closer and happier than they had in a long time. Before they left for the trip, they had planted their crown, sealing the deal of their marriage. They had been roped into many conversations at the wedding, some verging on competitive, about the ideal conditions to care for one’s rhubarb. The consensus was that you didn’t have to do very much except remember to stick it in the ground and make sure it gets a bit of light, but not too much.

They shouldn’t have had to think about it, should have just been appreciative of the plant when it eventually bore fruit after a while in the earth. But the rhubarb began to cause Laura some anxiety a few months after their holiday when she got home from work one day to find it leaning to one side as though caught in a violent storm. Nothing else in the garden had been affected. She righted it and it seemed fine for a few more weeks until it did the same thing again, and again, and again. Matthew didn’t believe her, said there had been no wind at all – it was a warm late summer by then – and that the plant always seemed fine when he looked at it. This trivial issue caused one of their worst arguments ever, with accusations of lying and gaslighting. 

Secretly though, Matthew was also worried about the rhubarb. He had furtively pulled out a stalk as a little test while Laura was out with some of her new colleagues. After a rinse under the tap and a dunk into some sugar, he was anticipating the glorious sweetness he knew from childhood. Instead, it was so bitter that even the sugar tasted unpleasant. Thinking he’d pulled it too soon; Matthew didn’t say anything to Laura. He checked with his mum a few weeks later, messaging her a series of photos, and she said that it looked ready to go, but once again the taste was horrible. On closer inspection, he noticed that the centre of the stalk was leaking a brown sludge.

Later that evening, after he had forced himself to vomit up the tiny amount of rhubarb that he had consumed, Matthew broached the subject with Laura. She blamed him, saying that he never did anything around the house – true, he didn’t keep up with household tasks – and that he had neglected the garden – also true – and the plant – not really true, rhubarb needs so little care. The argument grew and spiraled, put down roots of its own, and bloomed into words shouted and wedding gifts thrown. By morning, Matthew and Laura were fairly sure that they were going to divorce, and the rhubarb had withered and died in the night.

                                                                       *   *  *

Gemma Elliott (she/her) lives in Glasgow, Scotland, and works in local government. She has most recently published short fiction in Neon, Idle Ink, and Divinations Magazine. Gemma can be found on Twitter or Instagram @drgemmaelliott.


The Man Who Could Tickle Himself

By R. Gatwood

There once was a man who worked hard not to let his left hand know what his right hand was doing, and vice versa. To pour milk over his cereal, he pivoted on his right leg, his left foot dragging across the floor. If his hanging left arm twitched forward wanting to help, he forced it to relax. If his left eye tried to judge the position of the carton relative to the bowl, he closed it or let it drift outward or in-. He soon gave up on the milk and ate his cereal dry, chewing patiently with the molars on one side.

For hours each day, he lay in a box of his own design, one side of his body buried in gravel while the other was surrounded by mirrors. With one eye he watched his perfectly symmetrical body perform perfectly symmetrical gestures; meanwhile his gravel-buried side shifted occasionally in the dark, wanting to join in but learning, slowly, to lie still. At intervals he switched sides.

When he walked, his two sides stumbled along at different gaits, then fell into a rough sync like the partners in a three-legged race. Still, the man preferred not to walk. He had a terror of finding himself ambling along smoothly and evenly someday, perhaps even breaking into a spontaneous run, and realizing his two sides had merged together, all his painstaking practice undone.

The man’s secret goal in all this was something he never allowed himself to mention even to himself. But then, there were many things he never mentioned to himself. He knew that knowledge could exist on one side of the brain or on the other, and so he disciplined his thoughts with the same rigor as his body. He used his left eye and hand to trace left-hand thoughts in the air; he painted right-hand thoughts upon the screen of his right inner eyelid.

To have the corpus callosum physically severed was not possible. He had asked—begged. The surgeons had avoided his unfocused eyes. No one would perform such an operation without a sensible rationale, something he could not give.

So the man survived by this amicable cooperation with himself. Strangers crossed the street to avoid him, gaped as though he were grotesque; perhaps he was, he thought on one side of his mind, grotesque. Every day he maintained his discipline, his sides working separately to feed himself, to pull on his clothes. Every day he stayed inside the separate hollow spaces behind his eyes, waiting for he knew not what.

And one morning, it came. His halves were lying still in bed, eyes shut, when he felt a hand press against his. Tentatively at first, stroking lightly and pulling away. Then a shy fumbling—trying to draw the other hand into its grip, entice it to play. He reached out, touched and was touched. He held hands. He gave and felt a squeeze of delighted comradeship. His closed eye brimmed with happy tears, and so did his other closed eye.

It was not a first meeting. It was a reunion, a joyous remembering of something once lost. With the two sides of his mouth the man whispered across the divide. The secret twin language of his early childhood was back on his lips as though it had never gone. And so, gradually, the two of him came to know each other again.

                                                                      *   *   *

R. Gatwood ( is the emergent consciousness of a spectacularly inefficient library shelving system.

The Thousand-Mile Voyage

By Gregory Halley

Onto the barren wasteland he stepped, beginning what was to be the most arduous journey of his life. The clouds broke just as he began. What would have otherwise been a cool day would now be blistering hot. He considered returning to safety, but the reward was too great to hold off any longer. It’s funny how powerful a motivator food can be. Across the dangerous crag was a lush forest brimming with delectable cuisine. He would be well-fed for months if only he could reach it. It was now or never.

Behind him he dragged all his life’s possessions, his back straining under the weight. He couldn’t leave them behind as scavengers and opportunists would surely snatch them, leaving him nothing but a hollow shell of his former self. They meant everything to him, and so he pulled.

The jagged rocks were unforgiving. He was assaulted by horrid flying monstrosities who wanted his head. These hunters may not have been a problem for stronger travelers, but he was no fighter. The only defense he had was to hide among his possessions to appear as a derelict junk heap. He held his breath in suspense each time. Would it be enough to stave off the pursuers? Fortunately, none were curious enough to investigate. He longed for the days where he need not risk his life to survive in this cruel world. But in this cruel world, those days would never come. Instead he marched, and he strained, and he ached, and he struggled, and he toiled, and he slogged, and he feared, and he hoped, and he prayed. For one thousand miles across the barrens. 

Then he made it. He carefully traversed across a final deadly crevasse and felt a gleeful chill as he touched the fresh soil. The sensation of dirt on his flesh was one he desperately longed for. Surrounding him on all sides were bounties of food unparalleled to anything he’d seen before. He ate to his heart’s content, brimming with joy and wishing for nothing more in the world. It was difficult for him to fully accept that he had indeed survived the trials of the wasteland. He was safe. Perhaps there would be more journeys ahead in time, but that was not his concern. For now, he reveled.

After all, only the bravest snails cross the sidewalk.

                                                                      *   *   *

Gregory Halley is a young and aspiring writer currently based in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. He has previously self-published a speculative fiction / horror short story on Amazon and Audible (self-narrated!) called Ever Downward. He is extremely passionate about writing and would love to share his stories with you!


By Andrea Watson-Canning

You think there’s something important in there?” Alice asks.

“It’s locked. Why would he have a locked box?” Eddie shakes the box. “Hear that? Papers. Objects. Secrets.”

Alice contemplates the box. “You think he left it on purpose?” 

Eddie opens a drawer, rummaging for needle-nose pliers. He drags the box away from Alice, then jams the pliers into the lock, twisting and turning. It stubbornly refuses to budge.

Alice exhales in the silence. “What do you think you’ll find?”

Eddie traces the edge of the box with his thumb. “Maybe there’s something for me? There has to be something for me.”

Eddie switches tactics, ramming the pliers into the seam, pumping up and down, trying to force the hinge. Finally, it loosens. Eddie pulls, twisting until it pops.

He rifles through the box. “Our life together. It’s all here.” Eddie picks out a ticket stub. He walks to the cupboard, returning with a lighter and an old pot. He looks at the stub and takes a deep breath. 

The flame is bright as he holds the ticket between his fingers. He lets go, and it floats down to the pot. They sit in silence, watching it burn.

*   *   *

Andrea Watson-Canning (she/her) received her MFA in Dramaturgy from UC San Diego, worked in the theater for a while, and then somehow became a teacher. Her work has been published in The Dillydoun Review, Capsule Stories, and Bright Flash Literary Review. She lives on the gulf side of Florida with her partner, Bill, daughter, Fiona, and some geriatric dogs and cats to keep it interesting.