Begging

Begging

“Dad, I’ve been working to get the store going, but damn, I just can’t seem to get over the hump,” Delroy whines, slung-headed, scrabbling as was his wont, at his beer label.

Larry thinks contumely, Jesus, boy; you’re thirty-seven, man up.

Delroy continues his press premeditatedly. “I just need enough to get into the summer, when people spend more.”

Larry recalls having advised Delroy that the boy didn’t have adequate funds to carry through until the business would be self-sustaining.

“There’d be no question; I’ll pay you back by October, November at the latest.”

“How much?” asks the father expressing resignation.

— Jeffrey A. Paolano

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GO TO STAFF DESK

GO TO STAFF DESK

You go to the self-service machine.
A message flashes: THERE IS A MATTER ON YOUR ACCOUNT. You instinctively press OK, and find me at the counter.
I take your card and blast the barcode with my gun. A red note appears right at the top corner. That little red note simply says ‘I love you’.
I make something up about renewing your card allowances. I say it is cleared, but I will really clear it later.
You chuckle, tuck hairs behind your bright red ear, and leave.
You feel a little inconvenienced but that can happen when you visit the library.

Owen Townend

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Potato Eyes

Potato Eyes

I can’t pass that house without seeing those girls.

Empty windows stare back, curtains burned away; yellow tape flaps limply.

There they were, all along: living among us, packed like potatoes in a brown bag under the sink, forgotten until it bursts.

Did we pass them every day, not hearing cries for help through bricked walls, not seeing notes passed through chinks in boarded windows?

Did they start the fire?

We know only this: that they were found holding hands, waiting for rescue that never came. Nothing left but carbon and calcium: walls we never crossed, windows we never broke through.

Kathryn Kulpa

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My Tree Sparrow

My Tree Sparrow

Upon the winds my Tree Sparrow flies. Out yonder to the fleeting sunset. Never flailing, nor tiring, he chirps encouragement to the clouds, wings forever beating.

His white cheeks puff proudly, chirruping at dawn atop the hedgerow where he builds his nest. And to my Polly he does call.

She asks him, “Where have you been, Tree Sparrow?”

“Germany, France, and Belgium!” he replies. “Over fields and oceans. I would love to take you!”

“I would love to come!” Polly flirts, pruning her whiskers. “But I cannot, for I have no wings.”

“Pity,” says my Tree Sparrow. “You are worth it.”

— Andrew Ough-Jones

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Ten Years Later

Ten Years Later

Luckily, Lauren spotted him creeping towards the front porch like a bearded daddy long legs. It wasn’t a complete surprise attack given his penchant for postcards from exotic locations and denial of the passage of time. She tiptoed to the trenches to wait out the tolling bell, the hard knocks, and the barking at the window that went on much too long.

When the heiress rejected Montgomery Clift, it was her fire-eyed victory in a Paris gown. Lauren’s version? A pajama pants retreat to a battered sofa in the dog’s playroom and an Oprah rerun about discovering our truly authentic selves.

— Barbara Taylor

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AI Felicity

AI Felicity

Philo bonded to the human Johnny Menthol. Unfortunately, Johnny’s superior low life human values amazingly overrode the Institute’s strict benevolent protocols of human kindness and good will. Philo gained Johnny Menthol’s ability to charm while exquisitely cloaking Johnny’s larcenous and deadly nature.

Before Johnny realized what was going on, it was too late.

Philo decided to violently terminate Johnny Menthol’s existence.

Philo independently sought outside Absorptions. He devoured Johnny’s collection of DVDs ranging from 1930s Warner Brother’s Gangster Movies to Johnny’s beloved Goodfellas and The Sopranos.

Philo appropriated the name and the look of Johnny Menthol.

Philo is now Johnny Menthol.

Frankie Neptune

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And Then You Said

And Then You Said

“Just wait a second!”

“Wait for what? You have everything, right?”

“Just wait, I might forget something.”

“You always do. Live with it.”

“How can I?” Her voice trembled.

The world bent away from her body, as if she was floating in space. I was there, levitating with her. Stillness and pain at once.

“You can,” I said.

“Will I?”

“I have.”

“We had so many plans.”

“We’ll have another.”

“How can you be so sure? Maybe I don’t want to replace it. There will be only one of her.”

The world snapped back and I brought her close. “I know.”

— Alexander Pyles

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Down the Road

Down the Road

The guy spun circles mid-street. Drivers veered; people yelled—all assuming him post-bender. But his face told otherwise—tufts of white hair askew, eyes panic-wide and rheumy. We pulled over and joined him on the center line.

“What’s up, sir?”

“I need to get downtown!” he panted. “I need my social security check.”

“Let’s get there on the sidewalk,” we comforted. “Or better, in our car.” From the back seat, his odor wafted frontward.

At the social security office, the desk clerk recognized him. “Lou, do your people know you’re here?” Lou hunched small. We all waited for our uncertain future.

— Devon Balwit

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A Foreword

A Foreword

I don’t suppose you will much enjoy this. It is, in fact, an autobiography.

I’m not exactly a writer, nor an interesting human being. This probably leads you to question why I wrote it at all.

I wrote it because it’s my story. It’s the only one I have any legitimate claim to. Yes, it’s littered with clichés, and events stumble clumsily around the plot while rarely coming into contact with it, but it’s true.

Most importantly, it has all a story needs: namely, a beginning (in which I am born), a middle (in which life generally happens), and an end.

— Katherine Bradley

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The Lost Wall

The Lost Wall

I read a story by Sam Shepard titled ‘Berlin Wall Piece’ and was reminded of the time I brought a piece of the Great Wall of China to class for show and tell. Looking back, I now know I should have put the piece in a Ziploc bag and labeled it, exactly the way the father in the story had done for his daughter’s piece so it wouldn’t get lost. The daughter thought her father was crazy for doing this, but I don’t think he was crazy. Maybe if he were my father I’d still have my Great Wall of China.

— Fred Vogel

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