By Hedayat Reda 

“Start from the pain” they often tell you when you’re stuck. Just put words on paper and it will come. I’ve tried to tell this story a lot of different ways and have yet to succeed at finding a way that works. For some reason every time I click on a button to put words on a page the ink melts. Whatever was there becomes out of focus, like you’re looking at the words through a cracked magnifying glass. I reach into the recesses of my mind and wonder if this would work better with real ink. If turning the ethereal into the physical would somehow solidify the non-solid. If that’s where I could start.  At about this time I begin to wonder what your version of the story is. If it’s somehow more corporeal than mine. If it’s told in first person or in third person. If it includes as many almost fairytale-like moments as mine does. If it ends abruptly or leaves some room for wiggle. I wonder if we were two passengers boarding the same ship or if I was on some kind of special rocket, you know— the kind that reaches the moon really fast. They say that one-sided love doesn’t really exist. In order to feel love, it must be reciprocated. I say that those who believe that have never felt it. Love is one of those things you can’t describe until you’ve been through it and even then, all the metaphors in the world fall short of the real thing. I seem to remember a time in which we didn’t know each other. A time in which I wasn’t constantly checking my phone or waiting to bring your name up in conversation. Without falling into cliché, I long for that time. For that me. The transformation happened really fast. One day you weren’t there and then suddenly you were. It’s unbelievable that such a pace could birth the stillness that characterized my time with you. And yet I couldn’t imagine it any other way.  I wish we had started differently. Single, for one. Attentive, for two. I wish your name wasn’t already fused to mine in my head and we could laugh at our mutual propensity for gin instead of bond over it. I wish for clarity instead of comfort. I wish for slowness. I wish I had really taken in the details instead of letting you do the guiding. I wish time had been on our side. Or, barring that, I wish for a lack of sides. I wonder if you have graduated yet or if you’re still slaving over the books. I remember the first time you raved to me about your hopes and dreams. I remember noting that yours were singular and mine were plural. That still gets to me. My best friend really hates you. Every time I mention you she says k*ssomo (fuck him). It’s become almost a gut reaction of hers. I would be a lot funnier if it wasn’t true. Remember that time we went swimming at sunset? You were half-drunk and kept trying to make me touch your feet. I thought then that this was the beginning of something new (boy was I wrong). I now flinch every time I hear that accented lilt you had in your vowels. I would never admit this out loud, but sometimes, I elongate my own vowels just to feel a bit closer to you. The thing I miss the most is that freckle on your neck. If I got a do-over I would spend all my time kissing it and inhaling your scent there. I wonder if she’s noticed it yet. It pains me to think you might be touching her ankles the same way you touched mine. I saved a playlist with your name on it. Now every time I hear Anderson Paak, it takes me back to that first time with you. I wish I could take my gifts back. It’s petty and stupid but I hate that you still have a physical part of me. In an ideal universe I’d sever the tie clean. But then, what would happen to you? You would never understand why I feel the need to put these thoughts down. For you, silence always reigned supreme. It took me a long time to realize, but that was your particular brand of selfishness. Your assertion of control. I’d like to say that I regret meeting you. My life would have been much richer without your tendency to ghost. Unfortunately, I don’t. That’s another thing about love. Even if it sucks, you’re happier to have experienced it than not. There are probably a hundred different ways this could have ended. You could have manned up and told me the truth. I could have gone out on a limb and confessed. We both could have worked through it. I don’t know what it was about us, but for some reason it never worked. It was a bit like Marilyn Monroe singing Happy Birthday to the president. Beautiful, but unoriginal. Sometimes I wonder if you still think of me. And if so, I wonder if it’s in present tense or past tense. More than anything though I still think about that time we almost made love. How fast we shed our clothing. How luminescent you looked in the moonlight, the smooth R&B playing on the speakers. How your eyes said all the words you could never say to me. 

                                                                     *   *   *

Hedayat is an Egyptian experimental writer who dabbles in different genres and styles. She uses writing as a way to figure out the world and give voice to the voiceless. Hedayat is pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at City College. Her work has been published in 433 online magazine, Promethean Literary Journal, and on the Womena website. Hedayat lives in Egypt with her family and dog.

The Loop

By Alea Giordano

“I’m going to need you to get up on the scale Mrs. G; let me help you.” The doctor took Jane’s frail hand and assisted her onto the platform. 

The glowing blue numbers flickered before settling on a decision. She was down to 105 pounds. It had been a tough two-year battle with cancer, but at 84, Jane was a warrior. She’d survived extensive surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and was still full of life. Her body had been trying to give up, but she wouldn’t let it.

“One last surgery on your lymph nodes, and you should be in the clear.” 

Jane thought about her doctor’s appointment as she climbed into bed that evening. She’d always been a petite woman, hovering around 5 feet tall, but she hadn’t weighed 105 pounds since high school. As Jane drifted off to sleep, she thought about how approaching the end was similar to approaching the beginning. 

The next morning, Jane woke up feeling better than she had in years. She momentarily paused to stare at the ceiling, knowing she’d be unsteady as soon as she tried to stand.

“I call first!”

“I call second!”

Jane abruptly sat up. That was strange. She could’ve sworn that she’d just heard her two younger sisters, Bett and Sis, calling their turns in the bathroom. For some reason, Jane was slightly disoriented, so she took her time getting out of bed. Her vision was blurry, which was odd because she’d never needed glasses for anything other than reading. However, when she put her feet on the floor, she felt incredibly sturdy. 

It was a pleasant surprise for Jane to reach the bathroom so quickly. As a habit, she sat down but didn’t need to pee since the cancer had taken her bladder. She stood up and moved her hand to the side of her stomach, searching for the urostomy bag, but nothing was there.

“What the heck?” Jane said out loud. The bag had gone missing. Could it have fallen off in her sleep? As Jane continued to feel around her body, she also noticed that her abdominal muscles were extremely firm, muscularly firm, in fact.

Jane darted over to the foggy mirror. Had she taken a shower and forgotten? She used her hand to wipe away the cloudy vapor.

“Oh, my God!” Jane said as her vision came into focus.

“Daddy! Jane just said the Lord’s name in vain!” Sis called out.

There was no time to think about her sister tattling. Jane’s reflection was incomprehensible. Staring back at her were the eyes of her 16-year-old self. She immediately looked down her nightgown and saw two perfectly prominent breasts. “Oh, my God,” she whispered. “I’m either dreaming, or I’m dead.” 

Jane walked back to her room as if in a trance. She ran her index finger along the seam of her green chenille bedspread and then walked over to her window seat. As she looked out, she had a clear view of Rambling Stella and Lovely Lady being guided out by the stable hand for their morning exercise. Jane smiled. Her fondest childhood memories were the ones where she was riding horses. 

How could she be 16 again? Jane got up and walked over to her dresser. She used the soft-bristled brush to pull her hair back into a ponytail and then teased out her bangs that had clearly been set with a sponge curler. The next logical step was to get dressed. A short sleeve button-up blouse with a Peter Pan collar and a navy blue poodle skirt would do the trick. As the final touch, Jane wiggled her tiny feet into a pair of saddle shoes. They were much stiffer than she remembered, and Jane was glad for the advances in footwear since the 1950s.

The room that Jane grew up in was the biggest of the three sisters and had a door to a separate stairwell that went down into the kitchen. Before she descended, she could smell the eggs, waffles, bacon, and maple-brown-sugar steel-cut oats. Her breath lodged in her chest as anxiety began to overtake her, but Jane forced herself to fully inhale. In her real life, Sis was the only other living member of her nuclear family. Her mother, father, and middle sister, Bett, were all deceased. She had to keep going to see them with her own eyes. 

Sure enough, everyone was gathered around the kitchen table. Jane’s mother was standing by the stove in a full blush-colored floral dress with an apron overtop. Her father was seated, wearing his usual shirt, tie, and vest. Jane’s sisters sat on either side of him and talked excitedly as he read the paper. If Jane was dead, then she couldn’t imagine a better entrance into heaven. 

“Jane, are you alright?” 

Jane turned her head. “Yes, mother.” It had been nearly thirty years since she’d last uttered those words.

“Sit down then and have some breakfast.” 

The remainder of the day was precisely the same as any day of Jane’s junior year of high school, from cheerleading practice to making out with Paul in the parking lot. Her father had even had his one after-dinner cigarette before they’d turned in for the evening. Only now could she appreciate how wonderfully monotonous this part of her life had been.

The next morning, Jane realized that it had all been a dream. A beautiful dream, but a dream nonetheless. She placed her feet on the ground and headed to the bathroom to start her daily routine.

As Jane opened the door, she was greeted with a shrill scream.

“Jane! Try knocking!”

A thousand thoughts flooded her mind as she stared at her 14-year-old sister perched on the toilet. Embarrassed for both of them, she quickly shut the door. A new anxiety caused her breath to catch. If yesterday wasn’t a dream, then was she really stuck being a teenager again?

                                                          *   *   *

Alea grew up along the shores of New Jersey, where she developed a close relationship with her grandmother, who now doubles as her best friend. Alea spent the last fifteen years building a successful career in scholarly publishing and is passionate about Open Access. In addition to her profession, Alea is currently enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing program at Rosemont College. Alea deeply loves all things antique, including buttons and glass goblets. She currently resides in the Philadelphia suburbs with her husband, two young sons, and four cats.

In the water, with fins

By Michelle Hoeckel-Neal

Here, you see the parrotfish pecking. Its false beak bops bops bops off the coral, munching. It is your favorite species, something about royalty, or traffic. Its fins, iridescent. A glimmer of gold, scales like sapphires, sharp pink borders. You wonder what it means, to be both parrot and fish. You make shapes with your lips, speaking now to the parrot. The fish does not have a return message. It is so close to you. If you’re not careful, you’ll slap it with your rubber fins. You are constantly twisting behind yourself, or arching your neck downward, checking that your fins are not damaging the coral, not slapping the species. It is exhausting, this contortion. Like a dog chasing its tail, you spin and bend, fins kicking.

The parrotfish disappears behind the cetacean blue curtain, the place where your eyes can’t see your fins below your knees. You mourn the bird, the fish, the princess. Whatever it was, you grieve that it is gone. It has evaporated, into the beyond. Beyond the protection of a sea floor, of coral and sunlight. You gaze into the darkness. It is not an abyss, it is solid. Impenetrable. The tide does not seem to reach this space. There is no shifting, no swirling. As you stare, you drift toward the curtain. Are you pulled? Or do you push? You think, it is not the darkness that scares you. It is the opposite. The light, a needle, pierces. And there is your parrotfish, only now it is: parrot. fish. It is in two. Tail feathers detached from false beak. Between the halves, the curtain, and you.

                                                                       *   *   *

Michelle Hoeckel-Neal is a graduate student of English concentrating in creative writing at the University of Maine. She is a writer of short things, strange things, and things that aren’t all-the-way true. She is also a teacher for the University’s first-year writing course, and an editor for the Spire Journal of Conservation and Sustainability. She is not much of a tweeter, but you can find her @MHN_hello.


By Annette Gulati

I dial her number, take a deep breath, shield my heart. When she picks up the phone, I ask questions she never asks back. How are you? How do you feel? Is everything okay? 

She opens fire. Got an extra chicken leg from KFC. Harold fixed the window blind. The surgery is next month. Her words slide off my back easily. My counterattack is equally harmless. I shoot back—nice, great, oh. 

The onslaught continues for thirteen more minutes, then we hang up. That’s when her unspoken words creep in, slicing, mincing as they go. I retreat, my invisibility intact. 


                                                                            *   *   *

Annette Gulati is an essayist and freelance writer living in Seattle, WA. Her creative work has been published or is pending in Five Minutes, Nunum, The Oregonian, Sasee, Chicken Soup for the Soul, and elsewhere. She’s also the author of twelve children’s books. 

Thunder Only Happens When They’re Bowling

A Memoir By Ingrid Wright

The air smelled like a mixture of orange flavored Jell-O and wet plastic lunch boxes. It was snack time and as a five-year-old, I remember that being a special time in my daily school routine.

Every day at 10 am, Miss Clements asked us to get our lunch boxes from the cubbies that were lined up along the wall of the classroom, and then to sit in a circle on the carpet covered floor. The circle that the twelve of us made was never a perfectly round shape. Each day I sat between two girls, because sitting next to a boy was annoying. They were messy and ate their snacks much too fast while talking with food in their mouths. Gross!

It had been raining all morning and the classroom windows were wet. I was mesmerized staring at the water running down them in tiny streams. The raindrops hitting the windows produced a steady rhythmic sound, reminding me of Grandpa who liked to rattle the loose change in his pants pockets whenever he was telling a story. It was still possible to hear the rain being blown against those windows, even though the indoor noise level from my classmates was starting to sound like a tree full of chattering monkeys at the zoo. 

Just as I was closing my lunchbox, a bright flash of light shot through the windows into our classroom casting an eerie ghost-like mask over all of us.  We collectively let out an uncontrollable gasp.  Within seconds the loud thunderclap followed, producing yet another gasp from all of us.

Miss Clements reassured us that we were safe. She explained that lightning was an electrical flash common during storms and said thunder was the sound that followed. 

“Why does it make that loud noise?” I asked.  

She touched my arm and answered, “The sound happens when angels in heaven are bowling!” 

“How do angels bowl when they have such big wings?” 

Sally was crying, so Miss Clements didn’t hear my last question.  I decided the angels must tuck their wings behind when it is their turn to bowl.

Decades later, I silently count the number of seconds between flashes of light and the deep rumbling to estimate how close a storm is because, as an adult, I still imagine that thunder only happens when angels are bowling in heaven.

                                                                       *   *   *


Along with building a very successful dental practice, Dr. Ingrid Wright has also enjoyed careers in modeling, and as an artist, author, and wedding officiant. Ingrid has been married for over 40 years and has recently received the title of “Grandma,” which she loves!

The Kid Calls Home

By Jim Latham

It’s her first night in Alaska. She tells me it’s 1 a.m. there, the sun’s still up. I ask how’s that possible and she says something about the Earth’s axis being titled toward the sun. I ask if she’s drunk and she says not so drunk she forgot how to tell time or what the sun is. I tell her drink water and be careful. She says Oh Dad and rolls her eyes. I can’t see this, of course, but I know my daughter, and she is a champion eye roller. She got that, her gray-green eyes, and her smarts from her mom. She tells me her job is surveying culverts, making sure the baby salmon can get to the ocean and the adult fish can get back home. She uses words like stadia rod and grade points and Bernoulli and I don’t understand all of it, but I remember cutting up cereal boxes to make flashcards when she was learning her times tables. Before she left she told me, Salmon live in the ocean for five years and then navigate thousands of miles back to the stream where they were born by smell. The oven timer goes off. She asks what I’m making, and I tell her brownies, the ones with dark chocolate and ancho chilies. She says she can smell them all the way up in Alaska. I tell her I’ll make them every day so she’ll always be able to find her way home. She clears her throat. Dad, she says. I hear young voices calling her name and tell her to  have fun, get some rest. She tells me she loves me and hangs up. I put my mitts on, and when I open the oven door, I’m hoping I don’t have to wait five years.


                                                                   *   *   *

Jim Latham ditched the oilfields of Alaska in favor of central Mexico. He lives out of two zebra-print suitcases and divides his time between hiking volcanoes, teaching English as a second language, and writing. He publishes flash fiction every Wednesday on his Substack, Jim’s Shorts, and less frequently around the web.

Of Hedgehogs and Foxes

By Amy Marques

~ A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing. – Archilochus 


Sam was the only one who went to headquarters for the meeting. Every other desk was empty. Everything was online: files, conversations, people. Most agents had never even tasted the coffee in the lounge. Maybe that’s why they still drank coffee.

“We need someone on the inside who can join the troupe,” the boss said.

“Why?” Dennis asked. He always asked, even when he knew the answer: need-to-know-basis. They weren’t cleared to know anything beyond the company went places they needed to go and met people they needed to reach. A perfect cover. 

“Can we just wiretap?” Emme asked, their little Zoom box blacked-out with just a giant E for a name. 

“We tried that. I think we tried that,” the boss said. “Jess?”

Sam sipped her tea and listened as Jess, head of cybersolutions rattled off everything they’d tried: the quietest drones were too loud on stages known for amazing acoustics, ceilings were too high for wires to catch conversations, and nothing ever stayed still long enough. Props come and go, curtains rise and fall, dancers are everywhere, and there’s never anything consistently close enough for them to tap a wire into.

“So, who will it be?” the boss asked. 

Sam’s face gave nothing away. She was too good at her job for that. But she wondered at the stupidity. Once upon a time the powers that be understood that you can’t google your way into expertise. Some things take the time they take.

The boss shared his screen populated with pictures of fresh-faced agents. Versatile. Savvy. Every agent on that roster could speak multiple languages, prepare a drink, drive, fly, sail, and parachute out of planes. They could play a part. Not just act it out on screen, as an actor might, but actually play the part: barista, gardener, driver, assistant, receptionist, consultant. So many consultants. But you can’t play at being a ballerina. 

“Miller?” the boss asked, “She looks the part.”

“Knee injury,” Dennis said. “Green? She ran a marathon last week, so she can more than keep up.” 

Sam couldn’t stop herself then. She snorted. Nobody heard. Her zoom was muted. 

She unmuted herself.

“This isn’t going to work,” Sam said. “You can’t just add someone to the troupe.” 

There was a pause. They respected her. Or her history. Maybe. They were tolerant of her presence. Invited her to meetings. Gave her every job that needed an invisible little old lady planted on a scene. She was useful. And, usually, she was quiet. You don’t last long in this job if you have too many opinions or think too much for yourself. Or of yourself. 

“I appreciate hearing your thoughts, Sam,” the boss said, voice carefully pitched in the tone one uses for beloved children, powerful dimwits, and the elderly. 

Sam noticed that he didn’t ask her to clarify. He always asked others to clarify. He hadn’t heard her thoughts. Yet.

“I’m happy to clarify,” Sam said, not pausing, knowing that if she kept talking, he would have a harder time interrupting on zoom. One of the few advantages of moving department meetings online. He couldn’t just tip his chair and spread his hands out on more than his fair share of the table. The little boxes on the screen were all the same.

“You can’t crash-course an agent into becoming a ballerina, and—” Sam held up a hand, preempting a disagreement, “AND—even if you could, no troupe would take an unknown dancer wholly new to the scene. It’s too small a world for you to fabricate a dancer’s background. It would be tissue-thin. Unbelievable.”

“Do you have any better ideas?” Jess practically sneered. The cyber department was not well versed in nuanced interactions and never had to learn to hide their thoughts or modulate their tone. 

“Yes,” Sam said. “Yes, I do.” 

“Well?” the boss asked, his voice was no longer modulated, and Sam gave herself a beat to enjoy it. 

“You can’t train an agent to be a ballerina, but you can train a ballerina to be a spy.”

If it had been a regular meeting, there would have been a cacophony of voices speaking over each other. As it was, with so many muted boxes, all Sam saw were mouths moving and eyes widening.

“Sam, it’s not that easy,” the boss’s voice was back to tentative, deceptive softness. “It would take years. You know how rigorous a program it is to join the team. Besides, not even I have been cleared to know all the particulars of this job. We can’t use informants because we don’t know what questions to ask yet. We need someone who knows what they’re doing.” 

There was no longer any reason to mask her thoughts, so Sam allowed her face free reign as she stared him down until his explanations trickled into silence. 

“It is that easy,” Sam said, using a voice she’d have used on Charlie when he was a puppy and insisted on licking toilet bowls. Like Charlie, the boss backed off. “I should know. How do you think I was recruited?” 

It didn’t take long to convince them. They needed someone who could travel with different troupes, access stages, and be inconspicuously present when VIPs were entertained. Many dancers qualified. The rest was fairly easy. Not that the agents enjoyed hearing their skills described in mundane ways, but any dancer who’s reached proficiency has perfected the skills of smiling through pain, working towards precision, and conforming to arbitrary rules and impossible demands. In fact, having experienced both, Sam knew it was easier to please the agency than a choreographer. 

All that was needed was to teach the dancer what to listen for and how to report what they learned. To expand observation of nuance in music and movement to all interactions.

“Okay,” the boss said. “You got the job.” 

“What job?” Sam said.

“You’re picking and training our new agent.” 


Sam had thought to pick the understudy. And a woman. Rule number one of spy school: always be prepared to change your mind.

Ari was perfect. He was a swing, dancing in any position they needed, adjusting to any part. In the short time Sam, under the guise of a feature reporter, observed him, he’d danced in seven different positions and nailed every single one. He was flexible—body and mind—and he watched everyone and everything like a hawk. 

“Thank you for speaking with me, Ari,” Sam shook his hand and noted, with satisfaction, that his grip was firm, his stance confident. He smiled with practiced ease. Too practiced, maybe.

“Of course, Ms. Night.” 

His voice was cultured, she noted. There may have been an accent once, but she couldn’t place it. Perfect tone. Unthreatening. Soft. Immemorable.  

“Tell me, Ari, why aren’t you a soloist?” 

“I’m allergic to the spotlight,” Ari guided her towards a seat with such practiced grace that Sam’s body instinctively responded as they walked in a plie-and-push she thought she’d forgotten long ago.

“Really, Ari,” Sam laughed, adjusting her media badge, “Nobody’s allergic to attention!”

“Ah, but I am.” 

Sam would’ve raised an eyebrow, but she’d never quite mastered that skill. No need. Ari understood.

“Some of us were born to be shadows, Ms. Night.”

So we were. 

Ari was a natural. He sped through every manual, mastered every task. Even offered suggestions. He could send information coded into dance routines, merge languages to add a layer of complexity, purposefully make mistakes to keep himself from moving up in the corps. He kept himself in the role of swing, substituting for those who missed a show. A replacement. It kept him moving. Replaceable. Everyone is replaceable. 

And he could move between companies, troupes, countries. The Agency could throw him into anything. He always landed, gracefully, on his feet.


See Epilogue.


It had been seven years since she’d last seen Ari, and though she’d purchased a ticket for tonight’s performance, Sam still wore her media badge. A cover, even if it was no longer needed.

He was perfect. 

A star.

The spotlight followed every move of his graceful solo. Each detail precise. Seemingly effortless.

She stood for the standing ovation, even though, leaning heavily on her cane, she couldn’t clap well. It was over. He’d been the perfect choice. 

There would be a party afterwards. She hadn’t been invited. But she preferred this: an empty theatre; the echoed aftermath of a performance. 

“Thank you for the flowers,” Ari slipped into a seat beside her.

“What are you doing here? Why aren’t you at the party? What happened to your face?!” 

“I told you,” Ari smiled his easy smile, but his whole face was covered in rashes, “I’m allergic to the spotlight.”


Agent Dancer to be awarded the Distinguished Intelligence Award for outstanding service during operation REDACTED.

                                                                  *   *   *

Amy Marques grew up between languages and places and learned, from an early age, the multiplicity of narratives. She penned children’s books, barely read medical papers, and numerous letters before turning to short fiction and visual poetry. She is a Pushcart Prize, Best Small Fictions, and Best of the Net nominee and has work published in journals and anthologies including Streetcake Magazine, MoonPark Review, Bending Genres, Gone Lawn, Ghost Parachute, Chicago Quarterly Review, and Reservoir Road Literary Review. You can read more at https://amybookwhisperer.wordpress.com.

The Olive Room

        By Liz Green

did not have a sign—you simply pushed on the outside wall, vaguely discernible as a tall, heavy door that swung slowly inward. Inside was romance and cool, outside was downtown Montgomery: hot, silent streets, a fountain where a slave market used to be; the sense of inhabiting a Twilight Zone episode of the kind my then-husband might remember on TV, but I wouldn’t, not having been born yet when he lost his virginity. 

Trips to the Olive Room helped us imagine that our marriage might thrive among impossibilities—the restrictions of small-town Alabama, where toilet-papering an oak, or attending an Auburn faculty cookout at Chewacla State Park, were the only social outlets. So we had to escape in his Honda to this nearest city, an hour away, which even on a Saturday looked dejected, with vacant storefronts and hulking pickups parked in odd places, in the middle of the street, as if abandoned. 

Interpose into this setting a thrillingly romantic, glimmering restaurant with a whiff of Mafia about it—plates of caprese, yellowfin tuna and field greens, globes of Sangiovese, and dozens of candles set on a ridge in the wall encircling the room, the wax melted into strange shapes. Even the bathrooms were hip and seductive, marked only by a lit-up M or W visible in the floor and, when you groped your way inside, feeling a bit stupid, lit by a black light under which a crystalline-black toilet and sink glowed purple. At our candlelit table, we sat thigh to thigh on a bench seat and were waited on and drank our wine and talked about the life—the child—we hoped to have, somewhere else.  

A couple of years later, a thousand miles north in a town of blazing fall leaves, anti- George “W.” Bush bumper stickers, and plastic baby swings hanging in trees on the strip of grass bordering the sidewalk, on streets with crisply flowing names, Tioga, Cayuga—I would live alone in a half-submerged “garden level” apartment. I’d taken our cat with me, and my family furniture. 

Those first weeks of the separation, in the early dark, I huddled in front of my TV as if before a little fire and watched films rented from the library on Green Street. The tall, dark-bearded man in Claire’s Knee reminded me so much of my husband as he had looked young, in pictures, before I knew him, it saddened me with desire as this actor, this French man in 1970 when the movie was made—on the lush Côte D’Azur even more distant than Alabama—clumsily wanted a girl, and she was indifferent. Above me, high, wide windows seemed cut into the bottom of a hillside. The windows opened sideways so that my mother, helping me move in, away, had instructed me to lay a long wooden dowel on each sill, in the groove where the glass might slide open at some outside man’s touch. 

                                                                       *   *   *

Liz Green is completing a PhD in creative writing at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where she received the Dr. James H. Wilson / Paul T. Nolan Creative Writing Award in Drama, and performs as a member of The Milena Theatre Group. She holds an MFA from the Warren Wilson Program for Writers. Liz works as a licensed mental health therapist (LPC) in New Orleans. Her work has appeared in journals such as Forklift, Ohio; anderbo.com; H_NGM_N; The Hunger; Fourth Genre; and Bending Genres.


By Judith Speizer Crandell

Crying myself awake year after year, it’s the fear of never talking to my suffocating mother again that grabs me out of sleep over and over tangled in love-worn sheets and sooty plaid blankets, strangled by opposing stabs, “Don’t you need to lose 27 pounds?” “Why aren’t you dating a Jewish boy?” “Call me at 5 p.m. tomorrow, 2:34 p.m. Saturday, 7:59 AM Sunday.” “I love you.”

She plays the piano over and over as I sing from my teenage repertoire, “The Sun Will Come Up Tomorrow,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Somewhere,” “If Ever I Would Leave You.”  

One morning I scramble around the dusty floor using my left claw as a miniature crane like in the Plexiglas cube where I never could snatch a button-eyed stuffed panda, a toothy rubber crocodile and she called it a waste of her money my desperate search for comfort toys, hunting for my zipper-blown sweatshirt and bead-dangling moccasins.  I come up empty, find myself unable to discern the difference, awake-asleep awake-asleep awake-asleep.  

My mother’s death is nightmare-transfused reality.  Her open mouth emptied of sound.  My ears blinded by psychedelic sirens.  High alert.  Over.  I roll over.  Now.  I can go back to sleep. 


                                                     *   *   *

An award-winning writer, Judith Speizer Crandell received residencies at the Rockvale’s Writers’ Colony, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Yaddo, A Room of One’s Own and was chosen for the 2014 Tucson Festival of Books. Writers’ conferences she attended include San Miguel Allende, the Joiner Center, Mendocino and Byrdcliffe. The Maryland State Arts Council granted her their Individual Artist Fellowship for her novel, The Resurrection of Hundreds Feldman. Delaware chose her to attend the Delaware Division of the Arts and Arts Council 2018 Seashore Writers Retreat. The Woman Puzzle, received the Delaware Women’s Press Association 2020 first prize novel category.

Fool’s Spring

By David Henson

“This is nice,” my wife says as we seat ourselves at a window table with a view of Lake Michigan. It was her idea to drive up for the weekend. She thinks the change of scenery will be good for me, hopes I’ll be more willing to talk about it.

The water is on the other side of a meandering road that follows the shore of the finger peninsula. The tourist towns are still a few weeks from coming out of their winter slumber. 

Lucy doesn’t waste any time. “Is it me? It —” She stops talking as the waitress approaches. When the server asks if we’re having lunch, my wife and I exchange glances. Sometimes we can almost read each other’s minds. Sometimes. “Just coffee,” Lucy says. The server fills our cups and goes to another table. 

“It must be me,” Lucy says. “At least partly.” She sips her coffee, her eyes crouching above the brim of her cup as if they’re about to pounce.

I turn and stare out at the lake, so wide here you can’t see the other side. “You shouldn’t have been snooping on my phone.” The comment rings hollow even to me. My wife and I have never had an issue with using the other’s phone if it’s handier. 

“I knew something was wrong, and you wouldn’t talk to me. But you spoke with a stranger for two hours?”

I watch a gull fight the wind, then swoop down to the water. “They’re trained. I wasn’t thinking straight.” I face my wife. 

She leans in, forearms on the table. “If it’s because of what happened, we could try again. We knew there was no guarantee it would work the first time.”

“It’s too hard. Harder on you.”

“I’m willing to try the procedure again.” 

Motion swims past the corner of my eye. A couple with two small children strolls past the cafe. The girl opens her arms and skips backwards. Maybe we should try again. But I have to get it together first. I sip my coffee. “Strong, but it’s not bitter.”

“Are you talking about the coffee or me? Because I’m bitter.” Lucy looks down at the table, then back up. “I want to help. They passed you over for the promotion. Did that have anything to do with it?”

A gust rattles the window. Lucy deserves an answer. I wish I had one. “I don’t think it is, was, anything specific.” I let the lake take my gaze again as my wife takes my hand.“That’s not going to work,” I say.

Lucy pulls away. 

“Not you.” I nod toward the beach at a guy holding a red kite. As soon as he lets go, it shoots up, slashes back and forth then nose-dives into the sand. “You need a longer tail on a day like this.”

“You promised that when we got up here, we’d talk about it.”

“Aren’t we?” I watch the guy retrieve the kite and stuff it into a green trash barrel, the tail lolling over the lip.

“Not really. Was it because your father —”

“I hadn’t seen that asshole for 20 years.”

“Still, when your mother told you what he did, it must’ve been a shock. Maybe it dredged up something. Then missing the promotion and what happened to me.”


“It’s a lot to land on somebody almost all at once. Maybe it overwhelmed you. Temporarily.”

Temporarily? I hope. Lucy stares at me. I feel as if she wants to grab my shoulders and shake me until The Reason falls out of my head. I wish it would. I’d pick it up and examine it like a seashell. I’d put it to my ear and listen to everything it could tell me. 

My wife puts her hand over her cup when waitress comes to our table.

“Please,” I say, then nod toward the lake. “The ice is gone. Spring’s coming.”

The server tops me off. “You’re not from around here, are you?” 

“A few hours away,” Lucy says.

The waitress wipes a dribble from the table. “Ice drifts out of sight, and folks who don’t know better think the weather’s changing. Next day, ice drifts back in. We call it fool’s spring. Likely as not, we’ll get more snow in a few days.”

“When daffodils blossom,” I say, then go quiet when I feel my wife’s foot press mine. 

The waitress hesitates, then moves on. 

“We didn’t drive up here to talk about signs of spring,” Lucy says, her eyes frozen on me again.

She’s right, but I just don’t know what to say. Nobody speaks. The silence is heavy as March snow.

“Unforgivable,” Lucy says.


“When I was a kid in Sunday school, they said it was an unforgivable sin.” My wife gasps and throws her hands over her face.

I see out the window that a black Lab chasing a frisbee has run into the road. An SUV swerves; the dog snatches the prize out of the air and dashes back to the beach.

“Is it over?” my wife says, still hiding her eyes. 

I take a last sip. “The dog’s OK. Ready?”

Lucy uncovers her face. “Promise that if you ever feel that way again, you’ll talk to me, not some stranger on the phone.” I can feel the tremble in her hand when she squeezes mine. “No,” she says, “talk to whomever you need to. I hope it’s me.” 

My wife puts down cash and stands. When I rise, she leans so close, I can count the orange specks in her eyes. She tells me she loves me. I say it back and feel a twinge. I don’t know if it’s from love or guilt. Lately I’m not sure there’s a difference. I have to snap out of it. “Take a walk?”

“Along the beach?” Lucy says. “A bit windy, isn’t it?”

“Around the village.” Maybe we’ll see daffodils. Maybe when we get home, I’ll plant some of my own. 

                                                       *   *   *

David Henson and his wife have lived in Belgium and Hong Kong over the years and now reside in Illinois. His work has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, Best Small Fictions and Best of the Net and has appeared in numerous print and online journals including Eunoia Review, Fictive Dream, Pithead Chapel, Moonpark Review, Literally Stories and Fiction on the web. His website is http://writings217.wordpress.com. His Twitter is @annalou8.