The Marriage Trying to Reverse the Hex

By David Henson

The marriage sutures the wings back onto the bat, rubs the nub to help the lizard grow back its tail. With puffs of breath, the marriage coaxes a spider into crawling clockwise around its nose, tracks down the woman with one blue eye, one brown and smuggles her hairlock into her purse.

The marriage is all swinging arms and whistle till it sees the holes of sunlight in its shadow.

Clothes leap from the closets as it searches for the long-lost mojo it tried to ignore. By the time it reaches the old dresser in the cellar, its fingers pass through the wood whenever it tries to open a drawer. 

*   *   *

David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Illinois. His work has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes, Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions and has appeared in various journals including Bright Flash Literary Review, Pithead Chapel, Gone Lawn and Moonpark Review. His website is His Twitter is @annalou8.

Stone Lion

By Mark Connelly

Newman looked forward to his monthly meeting with his parole officer.  Samuel Felber was the closest person he had to a friend since his release.  As Newman presented his pay stubs and recounted his AA meetings and volunteer hours, Sam’s approving nods and smiles calmed his nerves.     

But this afternoon Sam was absent.  His substitute, Ms. Ortega, sat behind the desk, file in hand.  

“I remember your case, Newman. The accident on Howell.”  She tapped the manila folder.  “Two girls dead in the other car.  You got a DUI and two vehicular manslaughters.  Served eight years.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Newman admitted quietly.

She flipped open the file, perusing it with pressed lips.  “Graduated Marquette law.  On the law review.  Worked at Corcoran and Cross.  Top firm.”

“Yes, it is,” Newman agreed.

“Ex-attorney,” she sighed, shaking her head. “What do you do now?”

“I teach GED classes and volunteer at the food pantry.”

She muttered something under her breath that sounded like a chuckle. 

Unlike Sam, who quickly and deftly accepted his paperwork without comment, Ms. Ortega examined each pay stub and food pantry sheet.

“This one is not signed.” She held up a green volunteer form.

“Oh, that was for last week.  Mary was not in the office when I checked out.  You can call if you need to verify. . .”

“I will,” she said tersely, interrupting Newman mid-sentence.  “And the AA meetings?  I have your word?  I know they don’t take attendance.”

Her voice was smug and sarcastic. No doubt she had reasons to be suspect.

“Every meeting.”

She sighed, glanced at her watch and made notes.  She closed the folder and waved Newman toward the door without looking up.

Newman left, his legs trembling.  He had planned to buy a shirt he had seen on sale, a kind of discount celebration.  But he was in no mood.  He was shaken by the unexpected encounter, that chuckle.  He headed back to the halfway house, then abruptly turned east and walked toward the lakefront. 

Visiting the park, he normally stopped for coffee at the columned pavilion to savor the view.  The strand of beach and distant sailboats reminded him of Antibes.  But today he walked directly to the arched bridge braced by massive stone lions. Corcoran and Cross once posed beneath one of the lions for pictures.  Newman had been given a prominent spot.  Corcoran had placed his hand on his shoulder. The day after the accident the firm revised its website.  Newman’s profile was deleted.  The group photo was altered so Corcoran’s hand now blessed Jayne Kellerman’s padded shoulder. Like Trotsky, he was banished from history, his face and very name an embarrassment to be greeted with disdain or feigned amnesia.  Newman who?

Leaning over the railing, Newman could see his former condo in the distance. Farther south was the yacht club. He wondered if his boat was still harbored on Lake Michigan.  No doubt both would be unrecognizable to him now, having been redecorated, repainted, updated, and renovated by new owners.  Any marks or embellishments he had made had been long erased.  

He drummed his fingertips on the stone parapet, remembering his spacious law office with its rosewood bookcases, polished credenza, and paneled walls decorated with plaques, antique maps, photographs, and awards.  A breeze ruffled his hair and a pair of fallen leaves skittered across the bridge.  The October trees bristled yellow and red. Autumn was a time for reflection.  Memories of lost loves and years past.  Everyone dwelled on the past this time of year, but Newman immersed himself in it, like a condemned man denied any future.  

The wind picked up, and Newman felt chilled.  He gazed up at the stone lion, then retreated to the pavilion to drink coffee and mourn his losses.

                                                                                *   *   *

Mark Connelly’s fiction has appeared in Indiana Review, Milwaukee Magazine, Cream City Review, The Ledge, The Great American Literary Magazine, Home Planet News, Smoky Blue Arts and Literary Magazine, Change Seven, Light and Dark, 34th Parallel, The Chamber Magazine, and Digital Papercut. He received an Editor’s Choice Award in Carve Magazine’s Raymond Carver Short Story Contest in 2014; in 2015, he received Third Place in Red Savina Review’s Albert Camus Prize for Short Fiction. In 2005, Texas Review Press published his novella Fifteen Minutes, which received the Clay Reynolds Prize.

i am my mother’s child

By Akshita Krishnan

amma braids my acrid, rotting esh with jasmine, and feeds me persimmons & mangoes & nectarines. her wrought hands crush my fingers and sink into me like my dog’s teeth as we make chapathi for the first time. she plaits plush silk until the skin between my back and hips, the vertebrae, do not touch. i feel her paint overlay my body, slowly peeling into ivory. 

somewhere, across the Atlantic, i hang a garland over her portrait and chop onions like the lines following the are of ribs: someone mistakes her legacy for mine. 

                                                            * * *


Akshita Krishnan is a South Indian writer whose works have appeared/are forthcoming in Eunoia, Atlas and Alice, & Girls Right the World. You can nd her at 

A Special Greeting From the Sergeant Major

By Mark Boatwright

John Phillips was what lifers in the Marine Corps refer to as a Shit Bird. John wasn’t especially mean, lazy, or disrespectful. He was good at his job, a radar operator in the Missile Battalion. What he was not good at was being gung-ho. He was not the baby-faced killer that the higher-ups wanted him to be. They had trained him to kill, shipped him to Vietnam, and assigned him to stare at a radar screen. He was watching for enemy planes that had no chance in hell of reaching Chu Lai. Although bored, he considered himself lucky. Leaches, jungle rot, and firefights were not primary elements in his job description. He would do his job and do his time, 237 days and a wakeup, and then be gone,

Phillips sat, leaning back in a canvas folding chair in front of his hooch. He wore cut-off pants and enjoyed the glorious sunshine. He’d spent the past ten hours in a blacked-out radar bunker. If he looked east, he would see the South China Sea and headquarters. Running westward up the hill, two ascending rows of hooch’s. At the top, past him, was the mess hall. The climb was steep, and he was glad he was only two doors down. If he’d been watching, he’d have seen the Sergeant Major ascending the hill toward the mess hall.

Sergeant Majors, at least in the Marine Corps, are a breed apart from other mortals. They are the ‘generals’ of the enlisted ranks. Although even boot Lieutenants outrank them, they take shit from no one. And they run the whole fucking circus. Even generals stop talking and listen when they speak. Sergeant Major Jackson was a massive man. He was a six-three, two hundred-twenty-pound Black Adonis. He wore a pristine starched utility uniform and polished boots that all but gleamed in the sun. 

As the Sergeant Major reached Phillips, he stopped and looked down upon the sight before him. “Corporal Phillips, what is your first name?”

Phillips looked up and thought, shit, ‘the biggest lifer in the compound. With a nervous smile, he said, “Ah, John, Sergeant Major. My first name’s John.”

The Sergeant Major seemed to roll the name around in his mind for a few seconds and then said, “Well, fuck you, John.”

With that, Jackson turned and proceeded up the hill to the mess hall.

Phillips was dumbstruck by the brief exchange. The Sergeant Major had actually told him to fuck off. As if he, a lowly Corporal, were a real human being and worth the time and energy to curse. He sat in his chair and pondered the encounter and what the hell it might mean. Time passed. Phillips saw Jackson leave the mess hall and proceed back down the hill toward him. 

When the towering man reached his doorstep, Phillips raised his head. “Ah, Sergeant Major, what’s your first name?”

Lincoln paused, looked down, and smiled. “Well, John, my first name is Sergeant Major,” and proceeded down the hill.

                                                        *   *   *

Mark Boatwright is a Marine Corps veteran who served two tours of duty in Vietnam. He is a native of southeastern Wisconsin, a retired grant writer previously working in the Health and Human Services genre, and enjoys reading, writing, hunting, fishing, the great inland sea, and virtually anything outdoors.

Mattress Shopping

By Brett Pribble

Mason lay in bed, his body a broken string. On the floor, his socks and shoes loomed like landmines. He twisted on his bed like a lizard on a burning rock. Creeping out from the safety of his covers, Mason slipped off his twin bed. He commenced his plan to end his depression by buying a new mattress. 

He drove to the nearest Mattress Kings store. Through the glass windows, dozens of mattresses dozed like cotton-white coffins. He remembered what his neighbor Gary said: No respectable woman would date a guy with a twin bed. That he was forty for Christ’s sake and needed to have adult furniture. 

Mason hated Gary. 

Inside the store, a salesman with a goatee and mustache marched up to him. “How are you doing, sir?”

Mason stared at his shoes. “I’m all right, I guess.”

“Me too. Two more hours and I’m outta here. You off today?”

“Not exactly,” Mason said. He’d been living on unemployment since his depression took over.

The salesman laughed. “I’m not exactly anything either. Can I get your phone number and email address?”

The muscles in Mason’s arms tightened. “I’d prefer not to.”

“Well, what’s your name then?” 


“Great name, Mason. I’m Tanner. Feel free to call me Tan or Tan Man or whatever you like.”

Mason nodded.

“Perfect. You a stomach sleeper, side sleeper, or back sleeper?”

“I don’t really sleep.” 

“Well, that’s what we got you here for. What’s your price range?” 

Mason ruminated for a moment. “How much for a mattress that’ll make someone love you?” 

“I’d say we can accomplish that at a reasonable rate. Why don’t you lie down on this bed for me.” Tan Man waved his hand over a mattress.

“I’d rather not.”

“It’s okay. You’re with friends. Just give it a good lay.” 

Mason lay down. He drifted into the middle of the ocean. He couldn’t see below him in the dark water, but he sank. Deeper and deeper. All choices left him impotent. If he tried to swim his arms would tire and he’d drown faster. If he stayed afloat a great white shark would emerge beneath him and gnash into him as his body burst in a vomit of gore. Powerless. No one could hear him and no would care even if they did. 

Tan Man patted the bed to wake him. “How is the softness? Too soft? We can get a harder one?”

Mason smiled as best he could. It wasn’t something he had much practice with. “Fine.”

Tan Man waved his hand over another mattress like he was casting a spell. “Try this one. It’s got memory foam and cooling features. It cooled my girl down enough to let me try some new things, know what I mean?”


“Just bounce on it for a sec like you would if it was a sweet honey.”

Mason shook his head. “I don’t want to lie down again.” 

Tan Man smiled. “I believe in you, Mason. Come on, man. Lie down on this queen here. Work hard, play hard. I am right?”

The title queen-sized suggested to Mason that only royalty was allowed to sleep in nice beds. Peasants had to choose a twin or a full. He grazed the linen with his fingers. “The queens are a bit pricey. How about a full? I only have a twin bed right now.”

“Nothing is too pricey for love,” Tan Man said. “Check out this king-sized bed. It’s adjustable.” He pressed a remote control and the mattress raised. 

The last time Mason saw a mattress that large was in a hotel. A fancy hotel where they change the sheets more times in a week than he did at home all year. It was large enough for two people to sleep on without bumping into each other all night. They could remain untouched as they slept on two connected islands, together but alone.

Tan Man grinned. “So, what’ll it be?”

Mason swallowed. “What’s the cheapest mattress you have?”

“Cheapest? I thought you wanted love. No one is going to love someone who is cheap, am I right?”

Mason’s head drooped. “Maybe, but the rest of my unemployment checks are for groceries.”

“Perfect. No problem. We’ll get you on a payment plan. This king-sized bad boy is only 500 a month.”

“I can’t afford five hundred a month. I only wanted to spend about three hundred.”

Tan Man laughed. “Sure you can. Just cut out those lattes from your budget.”

“Can I think about it?”

“Of course,” Tan Man said. “But what are you thinking about?”

“I don’t know.”

“Just take me through your thought process. Step by step.”

Mason couldn’t breathe as his breakfast climbed up in his throat. He spewed warm chunks onto the remote-controlled mattress. 

Tan Man put his hands on Mason’s shoulders. “Holy shit.” He inspected the bed. “Oh buddy, what a mess. I guess you have to go on that payment plan now, huh?”

“But I told you I can’t—”

“None of that matters now, pal,” Tan Man said. “That’ll be seven thousand dollars or five hundred a month until it’s paid off.”

Mason gasped. “Seven thousand?”

“Yes sir, my friend. It’s our most expensive mattress. What credit card will you be using? I can also automatically withdraw payments from your bank account if you prefer.”

Mason moved towards the door.

“Buddy,” Tan Man said. “Where are you going?”

Mason darted to the exit.

“Hey!” Tan Man shouted. “You can’t just leave here. I’ll call the police.”

Mason burst through the door. Near the street, an inflatable, yellow man jerked around in the wind like he was hanging from a noose. Mason jumped into his car and sped all the way home. Back in his twin bed, he buried his face in pillows and imagined he was the only living person on earth.

* * *

Brett Pribble’s work has appeared in Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, decomP, Stirring: A Literary Collection, Saw Palm, The Molotov Cocktail, Five on the Fifth, Maudlin House, and other places. He is the editor-in-chief of Ghost Parachute. Follow him on Twitter @brettpribble.

Spicy Angry Stew

By Marco Etheridge

Homemade Spicy Anger Stew:


Fear cut into 1/2” cubes – 3 cups

Shame roughly chopped – 1 cup

Insecurity quartered and sliced thin – 3/4 cup

Vulnerability minced fine – 1/2 cup

Rancid Oil – 3 tablespoons

Tears of Frustration – 4 cups

Past Threats grated – 2 tablespoons

Powdered Anxiety – To taste

Syrup of childhood trauma – 1/2 teaspoon (optional) 

Heat a large stew pot and add rancid oil. Throw fear, shame, insecurity, and vulnerability into the hot oil. Sear quickly until all ingredients are blackened. Pour tears of frustration over the sizzling mess. Bring to a rolling boil and reduce heat. Season with past threats, powdered anxiety, and trauma syrup.

Simmer on low-to-moderate heat, stirring occasionally and violently, until the stew thickens to an ugly reddish color.

Under no circumstances should one substitute compassion for any of the main ingredients. Compassion negates the hot bite of anger and your Spicy Anger Stew will be rendered bland and insipid.

                                                    *   *   *

Marco Etheridge is a writer of prose, an occasional playwright, and a part-time poet. He lives and writes in Vienna, Austria. His work has been featured in over one hundred reviews and journals across Canada, Australia, the UK, and the USA. “The Wrong Name” is Marco’s latest collection of short fiction. When he isn’t crafting stories, Marco is a contributing editor for a new ‘Zine called Hotch Potch.
Author website:

Burning Nest

By Stephanie Flores

The great horned owl looked toward the east from her nest high above the forest
floor. Tongues of fire lapped at the distant forestry, devouring its greenery and leaving charred bony remains. Smoke choked out all light in the sky and entered her lungs with every breath. She shifted her body weight. Twigs dug into her underside, but her eggs were safe and warm. Even as the wall of fire advanced towards her nest, the safety of her eggs was all that mattered. Last week, an unbearable heat rose from the east. Thick ribbons of smoke rising toward the heavens soon followed. Other birds, prey and predator alike, flew past her nest as they made their escape. Yet she remained where she was. Her eggs wriggled underneath her body and she heard faint scratching sounds coming from within them. They were due to hatch soon and she could not leave her owlet to fend for themselves. Even if the fire spared her nest, a famished eagle would not be as merciful.

A pang of pain jagged into the owl’s underside. Not the slight discomfort that will occur when her owlets claw out of their eggs, but the deep gash of hunger. Her mate left a few hours ago to fetch her some food. As the smoke drove prey out from their hiding places, he should have caught something and returned by now. 

The owl let out a hoarse cry, a reminder to her mate. “I am here.  I am hungry. I will see the birth of our young. Please stay safe.”

The roar of the flames drowned out her cry. In the distance, she saw a pair of broad burnt wings struggling to remain afloat. Embers gnawed away at its feathers and with a single weak flap, the wings pummeled into the smoke. The owl let out another cry. 

Ash poured out of the sky and stung her eyes. She took a laborious breath, in and out, as the remaining oxygen was fading. 

The owl turned her head towards the east. The wall of fire reached toward the soot-colored sky and was swiftly advancing toward her nest. The owl shifted her body weight once more. Her body won’t be able to shield her eggs from the greedy tongues of fire. Fear and maternal instincts warred inside of her, one ordering her to flee and the other begging her to stay. The owl rose to her talons and spread her out to their full length. If she leaves now, she might be able to escape. She’ll fly to a thick lush forest, find another mate, and build another nest. She’ll lay another clutch of eggs and…..

The owl tucked her wings close to her body and repositioned herself on her eggs.

The wall of fire drew nearer. The panic cries and the chittering of other animals had died out, and the roaring of death filled the owl’s ears. Her mottled brown feathers were stained an ashy-black and she tasted grime on her break. There was no escape now, even if she gave into her survival instincts. Thick layers of smoke obscured the passage to freedom. Airborne embers would burn away her feathers, and she would plummet to the ground. 

Eventually, the fire began to gnaw at the branches surrounding her. Leaves turned black before dissipating into the smoke. Tiny twigs glowed red.

The great-horned owl shifted her weight, fully shielding her eggs from the destruction around them, and closed her eyes. 

*   *   *

Stephanie Flores is an emerging author from Connecticut, currently enrolled in Southern Connecticut State University’s Creative Writing MFA program.
Besides reading and writing, she can be found admiring rocks in her free time.

Better Off

By Ciahnan Darrell

The men shoved her toward the emergency room and ran. Stumbling, she fell forward, belly first, her head behind, whipping into the pavement with such force that it spun her onto her side. A spasm of vomit broke from her mouth and tumbled onto her grease-stained sweater as the world went dark. 

She woke up alone, confused, an IV in her arm. 

Where was her baby?

She was only vaguely concerned.

They must have given her something. 

Naloxone, probably. 

She’d been on fentanyl; such a golden high, bathed in sunlight, floating on a bed of clouds. 

Coming down had been like slamming through crushed glass.

She almost hadn’t noticed the men roughing her up.

Someone appeared at her bedside, dark skinned, a mask.

No, she shook her head, no insurance.

The man gave her an odd look and left.

She blacked out again. Woke, slept; time dissolved into dust and the dust into a tangled wind. 

Awake again; a nurse wanted her to sign something. 

A birth certificate.

She wrote her name in a ponderous, quivering script, left the space for the father blank. 

He’d been a banker, had given her her first hit. 

She’d been nineteen, his intern, home from college. 

He’d flattered to deceive, poured honey in her ear, bed her.

She hadn’t known he had a family: a wife, four children. 

He’d said he’d made a mistake, that he never meant to hurt her.

She had nodded, bravely.

We’ll stop, she’d said.

He’d peered down at her, six foot four to her five three.

I won’t say a word, she’d said. Ever.

He’d shaken his head.

I promise.

And they did stop, and she was silent, no matter how persistently her parents asked her to tell them what was wrong.

Nothing, she always said, putting on a smile. 

Two weeks passed, three, and even though she cried, sometimes, late at night, life resumed its familiar patterns. But then she missed her period, and the banker informed her that he had to let her go and gave her an envelope containing $3,500 and the name of a clinic out of state. 

She’d had a few packets of powder leftover, snorted them successively over two-and-a-half days, found a way to get more.

Pictures of the banker’s family floated through her head sometimes, four blond girls in matching skirts, but she never cared when she was high.

She awoke to find a woman checking her chart. Was it a boy or a girl? she asked.

A boy, the woman read, turning. 

Oh, the girl said.

The banker finally has the son he’s always wanted, she thought, and he’ll never know.

And she wouldn’t, either, she realized. Know the boy.

Cops. They’d be waiting. She had to go.

Her eyes ran from wall to wall in terror, looking for her clothes, but couldn’t find them, so she stole a pair of scrubs from the closet and dressed. They were three sizes too large, but she didn’t care.

She had to go—now. 

She ripped the IV from her hand and fled, steeling out of her room and down the hall, skirting a doctor immersed in her clipboard and a patient care tech pushing a cart, turning the corner at a fast walk and running face first into the nursery. 

Eleven babies screaming behind plate glass as an overworked pair of nurses did their best.

She paused, scanning their bawling faces, their kicking feet, ignoring the pink caps, setting upon the blue.

Which was hers?

It didn’t matter, she thought, crumbling into the window beneath the shattering pain of the blood rushing through her head.

He’s better off with them.

She felt something hot on her leg and looked down to see blood spotting her pants. She forced herself to turn away and walk. 

Better off, she thought.

Better off.

                                                               *  *  *

Ciahnan is the author of two award-winning novels: A Lifetime of Men and Blood at the Root. His short fiction has appeared in multiple journals, including The Columbia Review. In addition to his creative work, Ciahnan has published essays on race and class relations in America, and he holds a PhD in comparative literature from the University at Buffalo, where his research focused on racialized and gendered violence in South African literature.

The Distance Between The Fowlers

By John O’Keefe

“Well why not? It’s not as if you would do any of the work. We have the staff!”

The husband lay in the bed, his eyes tracing patterns on the ceiling. 

“Janie and Frank have two already! If we keep putting this off, people will start to ask questions.”

“Maybe one day,” the husband mumbled.

“Really? That’s all you have to say?”

He sighed and shook his head. “Why don’t you do something to take your mind off it? Go for a drive in the new Mercedes. It has that new Burmester sound system you were so interested in.” He pulled the keys from his pocket and dangled them before her.

“You can’t be serious,” she said.

“I just don’t understand what you expect from me. The DOJ is down my neck over that bullshit with the media division, and Joseph’s attorney, the damn–”

“I can’t hear this again,” she said, waving him off, turning and heading for the door. He listened as her footsteps faded in the distance.

 Above her in the hall, a baroque chandelier glistened on the African Blackwood walls, and to her right, an antique console table featured priceless vases and china. Turning the corner, she entered the kitchen where marble countertops stretched across the room, reflecting the glow of the pendant lights overhead. A row of stainless steel appliances stood like sentinels, and a large central island served as a hub for culinary work. 

Standing beside the sink, she pulled a pack of Parliaments from the drawer and lit one, stuffing the pack in her pocket. Puffing on the cigarette, she walked to the fridge and pulled out a bottle of Dom Pérignon. She pulled a flute from the cabinet and filled it, drinking as she crossed the kitchen and walked through the backdoor. 

In the garden, the air was hot and the champagne was refreshing in her throat.  Blue water poured from a white marble fountain before her, while a gray oak tree graced shade to the garden’s right side. In the beds, red tomatoes, green cucumbers, and orange bell peppers were vibrant, while above, the sky was painted on a canvas of purple and orange, the sun descending beneath the horizon. She glanced down and appreciated the smooth emerald lawn, the fragrance of freshly cut grass filling the crisp air. With a sigh, she lifted the cigarette to her lips and savored the final drag, then stomped it out in the grass, noticing something at her feet. 

Small, shriveled, and alone in the short green blades was a pink baby bird. She squatted down and stared at it, naked and exposed save for a single black feather atop its barren skull. 

“Where’s your momma?” she asked.

The bird chirped.

Mah-ma. Where’s momma?”

The bird chirped.

“Me? No. I’m not Momma.”

The bird chirped.

She smiled, extending her hand towards it. To her surprise, the bird made no attempt to retreat, inviting her touch as she grazed the soft expanse of its skull. Then suddenly, a deep voice broke through the tranquility. 

“Will you not run from me?” he sighed, stepping out the back door. “I’m sorry.”

She teetered at the sound of his voice, placing her hand on the ground for support. She stood, brushed her legs, and turned to face him. “I’m not running,” she stated, crossing her arms.

“Okay. But I’ve just been busy. You know that.”

“Yes, you’ve been busy.” 

“You can say that all you want, but you know it’s true. You know I’d do anything for you,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. Above them, a plane flew overhead, the atonal hum of the engine choking the air. 

Pulling the cigarettes from her pocket, she looked at him and chuckled, lighting one as she stared into his vacant gaze.

“I wish you wouldn’t do that,” he said, rubbing his forehead. “It ages you – turns your skin to leather. How many times do I have to say it?”

You age me, Brian. I’m not some doll for you to flaunt around for your public facade.”

“Don’t be dramatic,” he said, waving her off.

“I’m not being dramatic, Brian. These are normal things I ask for! You always said you would give me the world,” she said, slapping her thigh. “This is not everything. This house, this yard, the cars – this is not the world.” 

Crossing his arms across his chest, he looked down at the grass, his eyes locked on a single yellow blade amidst the sea of green. 

“Are you even listening, Brian?”

He shook his head and grimaced, then shifted his gaze to the bird, his countenance tightly wound. He took a deep breath, sighed, then turned to glance up at the oak tree beside them. 

“There’s a nest in the tree. Do you want me to get the ladder?” he asked.  

“I’ll take care of it,” she said, puffing on the cigarette, looking down at the bird. He shook his head and turned away, walking through the back door. 

When he left, she knelt down and stared at the bird, watching as it chirped and squealed, its eyes round and black as it gazed into her face like a living mirror. With a heavy sigh, she scooped it up in her hands and looked over at the tree, watching as a robin swooped through the air and landed in the nest with its chicks. 

*   *   *

John P. O’Keefe is an experienced musician residing in the colorful city of Burlington, Vermont. With his band Blackwater, John has performed in various venues across the state, ranging from the eclectic basement scene of his home city, to nationally recognized venues such as Higher Ground and Nectar’s. John brings a unique literary influence to his music and is excited to express his creativity in a manner yet unseen by enjoyers of his music.