Whoopee, Hallelujah!

By Meg Pokrass

After a month with the psychic, Dad slunk home. Said he’d been in a trance but the spell finally broke. “I’m home in exactly one piece.” 

Mom glared, said “Whoopee Hallelujah!” 

Took Dad’s hand and the two of them hip-bumped down toward tracks. 

Only then, did I hear the train.

                                                              *   *   *


Meg Pokrass is the author of nine collections of flash fiction and two novellas in flash. Her work has been published in three Norton anthologies of flash including Flash Fiction America, New Micro, and Flash Fiction International; Best Small Fictions 2018, 2019, 2022, and 2023; Wigleaf Top 50; and hundreds of literary journals including Electric Literature, McSweeney’s, Washington Square Review, Split Lip, storySouth, and Passages North. Her new collection, The First Law of Holes: New and Selected Stories by Meg Pokrass, is forthcoming from Dzanc Books. 

The Last of the Marlboro Women

By Connie Millard

Dottie Dilberto was the last smoker at BusyBee, LLC. She knew it, but no one else did.  

In her thirty years of employment (had it been that long?), she despaired as her plethora of smoking buddies had dwindled from twelve to three to none. She missed rehashing what happened on her favorite TV shows like Dallas, and, oh, how she longed to indulge in some office gossip. When the last of their trio said they were finally quitting, they pressured Dottie to join.  

“C’mon, Dottie,” they said, “Smoking is getting too expensive.”

“It’s bad for your skin.”

“You don’t want to end up dead.”

Dottie had attempted to quit. She tried going cold turkey but could only manage six hours before chain-smoking four cigarettes. She’d stuck on the nicotine patch but was driven mad by cravings and itchy hives. She even tried the gum but gagged at the tackiness filling her mouth like ashy Silly Putty. After eighty packets of Tic-tac’s and three cavities, she gave up on the effort entirely and skulked to hidden areas of the building for secret smoke breaks.

She noticed how people side-eyed her for often leaving her desk, so she overcompensated by explaining her frequent need to pee thanks to her small bladder, too much coffee, or having three kids and no pelvic floor. Lately, though, Dottie didn’t want to be known as the lady from accounting who still smoked, couldn’t bear to picture coworkers laughing at her, saying things like, “Who even does that anymore, like for real? Gross.”

So, one morning, when Dottie logged onto her computer and saw the companywide email from John Gladhand, their long-time CEO, all tanned skin and white teeth, emphasizing the importance of “healthy living,” she decided this was her last day of secret smoking and resolved to quit for good this time.

Dottie pulled on her cardigan and felt around for the cigarettes and lighter stashed in her pockets. It was hard to hide anything in these modernized bare workspaces. Without cubical walls, there were just desks and open shelves. She saw everyone’s knickknacks, Jack’s gleaming fifth-anniversary plaque, Emma’s mountain of family photos, and Brayden the Intern’s toy dinosaur clinging to his monitor.

“Good thing, I’m quitting,” Dottie thought. She was running out of hiding spots. First, they banned smoking indoors, and just this week, they prohibited smoking within twenty feet of the building. Now, here she was huddled in a darkened corner of the parking garage. 

She blew out a plume of smoke, her shoulders relaxing, when an alarm roared behind her. Damn. A hidden smoke detector. She ground the butt beneath her heel and waved her arm to clear the air.

She heard foot steps behind her and whirled around to see John Gladhand, CEO, with a lit cigarette dangling from his fingers. He smiled and lifted his hand in salute. He texted something into his phone, and the blaring stopped.

“Hey,” he said, “Did you know that Dallas is now streaming on Netflix?”

                                                             *   *   *

Connie Millard is a working mom of three who once made it to final callbacks for the television show, Worst Cooks in America. After much perseverance, she now spends her time writing in between stirring risotto. She has an MFA from Lindenwood University and is an Associate Editor for the literary journal, Ran Off with the Star Bassoon. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee whose work has appeared in, Ghost Parachute, Dark Recesses Press, and Bending Genres, among others. You can find her at conniemillardwriter.com. 

Of Love & Longing

By Wendy K. Mages

Gran’s holiday feast. Warm cinnamon doughnuts on dainty doilies. Fragrant aromas wafting, mingling, harmonizing with hints of the pipe tobacco Grandad pretends he never smokes. Candles flicker. Flavors of love and longing, music, and laughter. A symphony of sentiments, sounds, and scents—yesteryear enveloped in wrapping paper, ribbon, and yearning.

* * *

Wendy K. Mages, a Mercy University Professor, is a Pushcart Prize nominee and an award-winning poet and author. She earned her doctorate in Human Development and Psychology at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and her master’s in Theatre at Northwestern University. As a complement to her research on the effect of the arts on learning and development, she performs at storytelling events and festivals in the US and abroad. To learn more about her and her work, and to find links to her published stories and poetry, please visit https://www.mercy.edu/directory/wendy-mages

Maybe This Isn’t A Dream


By Simone Swart

This is a dream in which my future husband and my grandmother go shopping together.

First, they go to a lamp store. (I say lamp store because this store sells only a very large amount of lighting.)

There are Tiffany table lamps with colorful shades. There are floor lamps with adjustable settings that promise a cozy atmosphere. There are paper star lanterns that look excellent for celebrating a Swedish Christmas.

This store might be in Sweden. (My future husband is Swedish.) But it is a dream, after all. So it is in the astral realm. 

But it still could be in Sweden. 

This store is also very long, and extremely bright. Since my future husband is dreaming this dream, he is the one who squints against the terrible brightness.

My grandmother also might be squinting. But it’s a bit hard to tell. She’s too absorbed in the floor lamp section. 

This is all taking place in the astral realm (since it’s a dream), but in the physical realm my future husband is a young man. He is twenty. Lanky, thoughtful, green-eyed. Studying architecture at university in Stockholm. 

In the physical realm, my grandmother is an older woman. She is seventy-eight. Loving, glamorous, white-haired. Dying of cancer.

My future husband wanders over to the ceiling lamp section. He is drawn to a wall spotlight with a chrome finish so shiny that he can peer at his reflection in it.

(He is a very lovely man.)

My grandmother comes over and says something to him. Since this is all taking place in the astral realm, their conversation is completely telepathic. 

(She is a very lovely woman.)

She says something about indecisiveness and mid-century modern style and design inspiration. He says something about my sister would have loved you and we should go to the chair store next and my future wife is going to miss you terribly. 

They look at each other. Somehow, she has finally chosen a lamp. (Time doesn’t exist in the astral realm.) 

She smiles at him. It is an arched floor lamp, with a very mid-century modern aura.

He nods. He is an architecture student, after all. They have the exact same taste, when it comes to interior design.

He says That’s a great find, Nancy, really brilliant and I absolutely love the style. She pats him on the shoulder and says Eternal thanks, Jakob.

They go to check out. The woman behind the register looks very Scandinavian.

This might be in Sweden, after all. But it still is the astral realm.

My future husband watches my grandmother as she sifts through her purse. It is leopard print. 

He is impatient, but not because she took an eternity to decide on a lamp. He is impatient because he is also sad. (Emotions can be strange in the astral realm.)

The Scandi cashier hands my grandmother her floor lamp in a very large shopping bag.

Before my future husband and my grandmother walk out of this store, he tells her Stop walking and wait just a moment.

My grandmother listens. 

He gives her a hug. She hugs him back, very tightly.

He says something like watch over my future wife for me and I can’t wait to see that lamp in your living room and my future wife is going to miss you terribly.

And she says something like but she’ll be ok and I’m excited to see it too, Jakob and death doesn’t mean I’m gone forever.

                                                         *   *   * 

Simone Swart is a 22 year old Irish-American writer. Currently, she is working on a debut novel. She lives in New England.

Never Forgotten

By Tom Alberti

Standing at the monument, I feel a heavy weight on my chest. Tears stream down my cheeks, just as they did twenty-one years ago. A chill runs down my spine, contrasting with the scorching sun that bathes my body. The gentle fall breeze brushes against my skin, barely noticeable. With a sense of reverence, I take off my Yankees cap, a memento from twenty-one years ago, when I eagerly expected my father’s return and our trip to the Yankees ballgame.

As my hand touches the engraved letters of my father’s name, memories flood my mind. Memories of fishing trips, of playing catch in our backyard. He was the one who taught me to be kind to others, to have courage, and to live not just by words, but by actions. He encouraged me to pursue my dreams. However, he never taught me how to live without him.

                                                                      *  *  *

Tom Alberti is a retired health worker. He had published on 101 word.com and self-published three crime books and one children’s  picture book.

Barista Central

By Arvilla Fee

I’m going to conduct an experiment. No; I’m not a retired science teacher; I’m a retired speech and debate teacher, and I believe today’s working young people have lost the ability to make eye contact and care about their customers. Here’s how I know. I’ve been going to Barista Central every day since it opened two weeks ago. The place is filled from corner-to-corner with bar-high chrome tables, black-padded bar stools, light bulbs hanging in long strands from the ceiling, and a colorful chalkboard menu the size of Maine. It’s a bustling place, especially in the mornings when I order my regular black coffee at half past 9.

There’s always a line, music blaring with words that make no sense, and a whole army of baristas shouting: tall frap skim milk, double espresso, white chocolate latte, caramel macchiato —over the grinding and whirring of at least a dozen machines that bear a startling resemblance to space ships. Now, I know what you’re thinking (especially if you’re under age thirty) Bro! Go to a different coffee shop. And I would, but this shop just happens to be a two-minute walk from my apartment, and while I might complain about the things I just mentioned, it’s actually a fascinating place to observe people.

But, back to my experiment. I’ve decided I will order the same black coffee every day, but I will use a different name each time to see whether the baristas take notice. I’m betting they don’t know any of their customers, and that’s a shame, considering I’ve already seen many “regulars” like me. Back in my day, customer service was valued, and employees called people by name. These young folks think they’re clever because they write names on the sides of cups, but they never match names with faces. 


Over the next week, I tell the baristas my name is Tom, Bill, Henry, and so on. When I slip into line on Saturday, I’m disappointed (but not surprised) that not a single one of them has matched my face to my real name. I see a new employee today, or at least I think she’s new. She has bright pink hair, a pierced eyebrow, and painted fingernails that match her hair. I order my coffee (saying my name is Cash—after legendary Johnny Cash) and step aside. I watch the machines, listen to orders, and then I see pink girl place my coffee on the counter.

She calls out “CASH!” but doesn’t scuttle back to her station like most of them do. She waits until I reach the counter and says, “One regular black coffee, Tom, Bill, Henry, David, Jack, Cash?”

I gape at her, and, for once in my life, am speechless.

She winks at me. “And what’s my name?” she asks.

Still staring, opening and closing my mouth like a fish, I try to read her nametag.

“Nope,” she says, covering the tag. “No cheating!”

“I-I’m afraid I don’t know,” I finally say, flushing red from neck to hair roots.

“It’s Wendy,” she says, grinning. “My mom likes Peter Pan. Thank God, she didn’t name me Tinkerbell.” 

Recovering somewhat, I grin back. “Nice to meet you, Wendy. I’m Noah.”

“I know,” she says. “Enjoy your coffee, Noah.”

“You’re not new?”

“No. I’ve been here every morning you have. I just changed my hair color.”

Yes. I recognize her face now. I raise my cup and say, “To failed experiments.”  

                                                         *   *   *

Arvilla Fee teaches English Composition for Clark State College and is the poetry editor for the San Antonio Review. She has published poetry, photography, and short stories in numerous presses, and her poetry book, The Human Side, is available on Amazon. For Arvilla, writing produces the greatest joy when it connects us to each other.

Stars and Salt

By Ella St. John

The diner was part of a filling station and sat along the highway on the outskirts of town. It was mid-afternoon and cold, nine inches of February snow on the ground. At a table for two, next to a frosty window, the girl sat alone. Each chime of the bell hanging from the door sent her eyes darting to the entrance. She flashed a hopeful, but brief smile, then her attention returned to Walter Cronkite’s voice booming from the black and white television behind the counter. Astronaut John Glenn had begun his reentry from orbit. At the counter, hunched-over men leaned in closer toward the news coverage. 

“Seven, this is Cape. Over.”

“Go ahead, Cape. Friendship 7. Over,” Glenn answered, his voice crackling with static from space.

Laughter from a cluster of ladies quieted, and their eyes fixed on the screen. Their children, full of late-winter energy, scuttled between the booths and counter. A blue and yellow ball bounced toward the girl. She smiled, tossing it back to its toddler owner, her gaze lingered on him waddling back to his mother.

The waiter approached the girl. “You ready, sweetheart?”

“Two coffees, please.” The girl said, glancing toward the door. “No, just one. I’m still waiting for my—” she paused. “boyfriend.” The girl looked at the timer on the screen, it showed 04:40:51, Glenn had been in orbit for almost five hours. She’d been orbiting too, she thought, but with a hell of a lot more gravity.

The waiter took the order pad from the pocket of his faded red apron and scribbled on it.

“Sorry, scratch that.” She hesitated, “I’ll just have milk.”

“Sure thing, doll,” the waiter said, then turned his head to the bell chiming from the door. The girl did too, tightening her scarf around her neck against the gust of cold air sweeping in. A man waved to the girl and stomped snow from his boots.

“A coffee too, please,” the girl said brightly to the waiter as he moved away. She stood, smoothing her hair and skirt.

“Howdy kitten.” The man pecked the girl’s cheek. “Your cheeks are so cold,” he draped his coat over her shoulders, then turned toward Glenn’s voice crackling from behind the counter.

“This is Friendship 7. Going to fly-by-wire. I’m down to about fifteen percent on manual.”

“Sounds like Old Glenny’s got his hands full,” the man said. “How’s life in the salt mines, honey?”

“Salty as ever, buddy,” the girl answered, echoing his mood. She tugged his coat tighter around her chest.

The waiter set the glass of milk and the coffee cup on the table.

“I’ll have what Old Glenny had before lift off.” the man said. “Two eggs scrambled, steak, toast and jelly, and a big glass of fresh American orange juice.” He smiled wide at the waiter, then to the girl, “You’re not eating?”

“Your girl’s already getting chubby. You know what the doctor said,” the girl answered.

“Come on honey, order something.” the man said, she shook her head at the waiter.

“I’m having milk,” she took a big gulp that left a white mustache above her lip.

“Milk isn’t food.”

“What is it then?”

“It’s for babies.”

“Yes. It’s for babies.” she said, wiping away the mustache. “And I’m not a baby, anymore.”

“Alrighty,” the waiter said, and left toward the kitchen.

“Can’t see why Glenn would go manual. I’d be flying by wire; makes more sense, don’t you think?” The man’s eyes were still on the screen.

“If you say so.” the girl said, dabbing her lips, leaving lipstick kisses on her napkin. “I have other things on my mind.”

“Don’t start.” the man interrupted. 

The girl dropped her napkin, bent down slowly to pick it up. “Start?” She said with her head still below the table. 

Across the diner, a little boy selected ‘Beyond The Sea’ in the jukebox, and everyone in the diner turned toward the music. 

“I love Bobby Darin.” the girl said to the man and began to sing. “It’s far beyond the stars. It’s near beyond the moon…”

“Colonel Glenn special.” The waiter put the plate and orange juice in front of the man.

“You know, just because you claim it’s so, doesn’t mean it is.” The man said to the girl. He cut a big hunk of filet and forked it into his mouth. “You don’t think I have things on my mind too?” 

The girl’s Bobby Darin smile faded. “Like what?”

“Like it’s going to be okay. That’s what.” The man put down his knife, reached across the table and squeezed the girl’s hand. “Come on, eat something honey.” He waved to the waiter. “She’ll have what I’m having,” he called out.

“The doctor said I should make sure not to gain too much weight.” She turned her head toward the television showing a picture of Glenn and his wife, standing behind their son and daughter. He is kissing his wife, and his arm is around their children. 

“Mrs. Glenn sure is brave.” the girl said, still looking at the screen. “More than him, even.”

The man’s face flushed. “You kidding me? He’s up in space in a tin can that could blow up at any minute. She’s probably sitting on the couch, watching this on television. He’s got the tough job, the responsibility.” He turned toward the T.V. “All she has to do is wait for me.”

The girl paused, her eyes narrowing slightly, “Yeah, all she has to do is wait for you.”

“Not me–him, Glenn. Dammit, you know what I mean.”

“It’s easier to leave, even in a tin can. She’s just gotta be brave there on the couch not able to do anything at all about anything–not knowing if he’ll be next to her in bed tonight, or ever. None of it is her choice. Seems all those people and cameras and all of this talk of history wouldn’t make a bit of difference to her; she loves him, not all that. I just know it, and he wants to come back to her too. They look happy. Don’t they?”

“I don’t know if they’re happy, and neither do you.” He paused. “Okay, sure they look happy enough at least.” The man looked at the girl. “Everyone in this place seems happy enough. That ain’t the point though, the point is doing what you have to do, that’s the point.” The man turned towards the men at the counter. “Glenn’s up there doing what he has to do.”

The waiter interrupted. “So, another Glenn special?”

“I’ll have half a grapefruit.” the girl said to him.

“You want sugar on that?” the waiter asked. 

“No thank you, I prefer salt.” she said and reached for the salt shaker.

“Salt? I was joking about the salt mines, kitten.” the man smirked. “Are we rationing sugar in the U.S. of A again?” He asked, looking at the waiter. “Bring a little sugar? Wouldya, pal?”

“I like it with salt.” She called to the waiter, who had already moved behind the counter.

“I think you’ll like it better with sugar. Please, be a good girl, just try it.” the man said playfully.

“Darling, I–” The girl shook salt onto the table, and ran her finger in circles through it as they sat in silence. “I just wish that this could have been the way I always thought it would be.” The girl breathed in, held it and moved her hand to her belly. “I wanted this to be a joyful thing.”

“That’s the thing, isn’t it, there are no straight shots.” 

“I can do this on my own. I will if I have to. I don’t want you to feel held down.”

“We’re here. I’m here, right now.” The man looked at her, lightly patting her hand. “And I don’t think I’m ever going to space in a tin can.” He did one quiet snort. She slowly pulled her hand from under his, took her napkin and dabbed her already dry lips.

“How about here on earth, I–” She stopped short; a commotion erupted near the counter. 

The hunched-over men had jumped up, cheering, and the kids did the same, but the kids didn’t know what they were cheering for and the mothers quieted their children. Glenn splashed down, and they’ve got him. He was better than fine. The girl thought about Mrs. Glenn.

“They’ve got him honey, he’s made it!” The man turned to her. “I told you, it’s gonna be okay, baby.” He took the girl in his arms, lifted her off her feet, and they spun around, and around–weightless for a moment. She felt his coat slipping from her shoulders; she tried but couldn’t stop it from falling to the floor beneath her.

                                                            *   *   *

Ella St. John, a native of the remote Mojave Desert, weaves the stark beauty of her upbringing into her narratives. She lives with her wife and their dog Fred, splitting time between Los Angeles and the mountains of North Idaho.

Young Poet at Workshop


By Victoria Garton

This was before young writers studied and got MFA after their names and therefore knew they were poets. This was when colleges brought in the friends of English professors as visiting poets and made chump change on spring poetry workshops. This was when young mothers who penned lines mostly kept the habit to themselves because there was no internet, no blogs, no social media and if they showed their writing, that person patted them of the hand and said, “That’s nice darling.” Our story involves one such young poet who, despite trepidations, sent a manuscript of a half-dozen poems and twenty of her husband’s hard-earned dollars and found herself sitting before a stage used recently by the drama department, hence the trellises, dusty ferns, tissue-paper carnations. She didn’t know that the three men and one woman on stage couldn’t divide the loaves and fishes and still eat their fill, so she assumed they would before the afternoon ended give her the keys to the poetry kingdom or at least a glimpse of whether her words would ever be on the high wall where real poetry was chiseled.

She sat on a folding chair surrounded by other supplicants: a few students having bad hair days, one old woman in scuff house shoes, several teachers with pencils stuck in buns or behind ears, several old men with neckties pulled askew like they had recently retired. All looked up to the female poet whose flowing tresses gave off shade like a conifer and threatened to up-stage the men. She was rumored to be the third wife of a prominent writer which conferred status more than the tiny book of poems she had written. Her fingers shuffled through manuscripts, stopping praying mantis like to tap a word here and one there.

The young poet could hardly breathe wondering if her manuscript was under those fingers. 

She had no doubt before the afternoon ended hers would be chosen, dissected, and perhaps polished a bit, given the gleam of truth by the poet who looked rather like the pop-bellied bear her little son played with or perhaps by the one on the other end who had the self-containment of a monkey in a balloon no child would dare approach with a pin. The middle poet rose to speak of Emily and Dylan and their views on poetry as if they had offices next to his at some esteemed college. She could hardly listen for breathing the mantra, “Mine, mine. Let mine be chosen.

But it wasn’t her name that was called when the speeches finally ended, and the tree-like woman lifted a manuscript and sounded out a name. A man a row ahead shook off surprise, reached for his papers, stood, and recited what to the young poet sounded like splay-footed pig Latin.

“Very interesting,” said the bear as if he had just heard the dullest poetry ever written. 

“Reminds me of the early e. e. cummings,” said the monkey, who then paraphrased one of his recent lectures. 

“Take this down,” The praying mantis finger of the tree woman pointed so the versifier sunk and began scribbling, erasing, and scribbling. Thus, the afternoon passed and even the grandmother in house shoes wasn’t spared. Undaunted, the young poet listened for her name and took notes and wondered at times if the four on stage really knew how to tell beginners how to write poems or if they were just trying to impress each other with big words. Tree woman won with the use of “onomatopoeia” though this was before Google so few in the audience knew what it meant or could look it up. No one on stage gave a clue by saying “oink” or “chirp” or “ding-dong.” The young poet was familiar with sound words because she read bedtime stories to her children.

Finally, “I think we have time for one more,” came from the bear as he patted his belly and yawned. Time for hibernation. The young poet gulped, her dreams of raining down words that would cleanse the ferns and flood the trellises threatened. Was she doomed to slink home, stick her manuscript in a drawer, and return to mothering? 

No, she was not. Even though the demigods of poetry passed over her words, she went home and kept writing. She wrote until she knew that the workshop poets had not failed her, that there was no key to the poetry kingdom. Even if the poet with long tresses could have let down her hair and pulled the young poet up, she wouldn’t have because that only happened in fairy tales. The young poet became an old poet, still sending out her words, some of which were published in little journals and chapbooks and collections. Some of which, most of which, were passed over.

                                                                 * * *

Victoria Garton’s books are Venice Comes Clean (Flying Ketchup Press, 2023), Pout of Tangerine Tango (Finishing Line Press, 2022), and Kisses in the Raw Night (BkMk Press, 1989.) The anthology, From K.C., MO to East St. Lou, (Spartan Press, 2022) featured ten of her poems. Recent acceptances are from Cosmic Daffodil, Sangam, Proud to Be, Thorny Locust, Waywords Literary Journal, and I-70 Review.

My Eureka Moment

By Jedediah Smith

After several years of marriage, I filled the bathtub to the very rim with hot water. Stepping into it, I found that the water did not rise or spill over the edge. I called to my wife and said, Look, I displace nothing. I am one with the water. I have found my place at last.

No, she said. Place is not the opposite of displace, and this is not your eureka moment.

The bath will puppy its way back to mother sea without you, or dogs will lap it up, and you will be left dry.

How dense are you that you can be divided by nothing? The only crown you wear is your head which cannot even dent the pillow on my bed.

So saying, she placed her hand on my brow and pressed me under the water. There, I could still hear the voices of children from the playground.

Now, she said, you are not gone because you were never here. I am not alone because you have always been.


                                                                   *   *   *

Jedediah Smith recently retired from an instructorship at the City College of San Francisco to a trailer in the desert. His poems and stories have been published in Reed Magazine, Midwest Quarterly, and Flash Fiction Magazine.


 By Angelica Liu

It is a beautiful morning, beautiful but sentimental. For the first time this year, she notices that the heart-shaped leaves on the tree that is framed by  her bedroom  window have taken on their autumn hues. Through the gaps between the blinds, she can see them shine in the sunlight as radiant as  golden coins. Their lovely organic design possesses a kind of wistful fullness, and their illuminant skin gives off a subtle cinnamon aroma as they bake under the autumn sun. The way they align along the slender branches is as though they are  offering themselves up just for her to gaze upon.  This is a perfect moment, she thinks, in a place where I do not belong.  

The sunlight passing through the tree casts a  dabbled pattern across her room.  She moves slowly as though trying to hold onto this moment as long as possible.  Following her morning preparations, she slowly slips out of her nightwear and puts on a common blouse and jeans and walks out of her townhouse home. The path leading to the gate is scattered with crunchy, amber leaves. Workers have given up the daily maintenance of  this secluded complex. Now they only come every few days with their deafening leaf blowers and lawn mowers. Her own patio is also covered with a thick layer of dry leaves, reminding her of an old dream that had repeatedly visited her the year before she came here. In the dream,  she is seated at a small table on the patio of a quaint little coffee shop.  She is reading a book. A tree standing near the patio, unseen by her, sheds its leaves. Fallen, golden leaves slowly pile up at her ankles. A sense of déjà vu both from then and now pervades her thoughts.

Since her arrival here, at this distant place in this universe, the vivid dream, that was  once a regular feature in her nightly landscape, no longer makes its appearance   It now is nothing more than a pleasant memory.    She muses,  Maybe,  this is a sign. Maybe such a dream will return when the time comes for a new journey. 

On the sides of the winding footpath are two-story townhouses lined one after another, all painted in white. This is a village for multi-universe travelers. Each visitor occupies one of the houses alone. It is impossible to travel across one universe to another with a companion. Such travel is always a solo adventure. The first few months of living here were exhilarating. As a temporary  visitor in a world she would soon leave behind, she enjoyed a sort of thrilling intensity, a kind of voyeuristic excitement enabled by the shroud of anonymity.  But, now, just as she marvels at the  changing of the season from summer to autumn, she is aware that a subtle change is taking place within her as well.

The differences between one universe and another are very superficial. Once you accept the difference, she says to herself, you can live anywhere. It’s just that simple.  After she had lived here for almost a year, she had learned to blend in,  but now the initial exhilaration that was so thrilling has slowly diminished. Now she feels like her time here has worn old. It starts to feel like…home.

She swipes her residential card through a slot on a machine at the gate. A camera on top of it flashes a red light and turns toward her. Her personal information appears on its screen: “Welcome, Guest 744771. Today is the 498th day of your visit. Your remaining time is: 24 hours.

She turns the handle on the gate and the lock clicks open. She walks out and stands at the roadside waiting. Before long a black Honda Accord arrives and pulls up to the curb next to her. She opens the door and slides in. A man wearing a pair of dark glasses sits in the driver’s seat. The man turns and smiles, “Where are we going?”

“Anywhere you can hide me.”

“Where is your luggage?”

“I don’t need any.”

The car drives off, and from a tree covered with golden hearts, a single leaf falls gently to the earth. 

                                                         *  *  *

Angelica Liu is from Hangzhou, China. She currently attends California State University where she is pursuing a  master’s degree in creative writing. Even though she teaches English, and reads English literature in English, up to enrolling in graduate school, she had never visited an  English-speaking country. She possesses a deep and abiding fondness for the English language and writing in English is a major theme in her life.  She is enchanted by the descriptive power found in English and enjoys writing for an English-speaking audience.  She is a Pushcart Prize nominee, an accomplished poet, and the author of a popular Chinese Blog.