This Word Is Teach

by Harmony Button

I was in the back of the bus, and I didn’t know when to get off. I couldn’t see out the front — there were too many kids in the way — but the houses and trees I could glimpse looked familiar. I pulled the yellow cord above the window — the bell went ‘dink!’ — and I began to gather my things. That’s when I realized that I was holding an open can of Strongbow Hard Cider: cold, delicious, totally-illegal-in-a-moving-vehicle-because-it’s-quite-alcoholic cider.

I had to drink it before anybody noticed! — but the bus was already coming to a halt, so I poured the perfectly golden bubbly brew into the two potted trees that I was (suddenly) carrying. It fizzed into the soil and I was sad, but I threw my beach umbrella over my shoulder, held my three-hole punch under my armpit (because you can’t leave those things laying around — they get “borrowed” if you turn your back and you’ll never see them again) and picked up a tree in each hand.

I had to get off that bus.

The driver’s eyes flicked up to his mirror, impatiently. I was trying to make my way down the aisle, but the trees were unruly and difficult to carry. Their drooping branches blundered into other people, catching in hair and smacking at faces. My potted trees were drunkards.

The bus driver asked who had signaled for the stop. Me! I shouted. I’m coming! But there was too much noise. He didn’t hear me. The other kids watched me struggle, their faces blank and pitiless. The bus started rolling forward, past my parents’ house.

Wait! I called. But it was too late.

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Forge a Tomorrow

By John Michael Flynn

That last night. That last counterpunch with a sneer toward death. And life. All so unreal and he a ghost somewhere between those that conformed and those that fought while wired on dex, meth and Jack Daniels. That night he and Terry and Neil snaked the back roads of Mecklenburg County at high speeds –was there any other way? Neil said he was just one more black man nobody cared about and it was the same for his brother, Charles, who had been killed on his Harley outside of Hampton Roads. That last night – he and Terry and Neil together. Now gone. All of it gone. Continue reading

How You Get Around

By Casey O’Malley

My bike commute was born as a prayer. A rattley, squeaky prayer, punctuated with potholes, angry cab drivers, and flat tires. One that sang through the frame of a twenty-year-old mountain bike transplanted to the city. A prayer that took unexpected left turns to avoid the traffic sneaking up Fifth Avenue, one that surprised with a bold swoop through the traffic circle. It was an invocation to escape from the mechanized, scheduled world and to soar, unfettered, on the noisy streets. It was prayer to get out, without actually leaving. It worked. Continue reading

Sleepers (Part 4)

By Sidney Williams

This is part four of a four-part serial published July 10-31 2014. The rest of the story can be found here.

Renalda and her friends on the message board had to be deluded, and footage could have been faked in the fifties as well as now. The presence of Baraz and Hadia suggested a more recent effort and that coordinated steps were being taken. She didn’t want to think of what it might mean to have them present in footage that really came from decades ago.

Getting Delilah back, trying at least, was more important than any bizarre hoax, and she let her daughter’s face fill her thoughts as she sat on a bus. Ship ahoy. Successful completion of the gig was a step toward fighting Jody. That was her real battle.

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Sleepers (Part 3)

By Sidney Williams

This is part three of a four-part serial published July 10-31 2014. The rest of the story can be found here.

Renalda Coates managed a hair bar—stark white interiors over a hardwood floor in Islington. Stylists aimed blow dryers, taming miles of hair while she hovered near a desk where a clerk worked a phone.

“We can do a beautiful job with those locks, Luv. What would you like?”

Aubrey smiled. “They told me you’re Renalda.”

“Right. Can I help you?”

“I’m curious about Casbah and your grandfather.”

Her features went through a moment of denial.

“Anything I ever posted about that blasted show was a warning. I don’t know how you tracked me down…”

“A warning’s what I’m interested in,” Aubrey said. “Is there somewhere…?”

Minutes later they were in a booth at an internet café a few doors away. More chai, these cups sweet and fiery hot.

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Sleepers (Part 2)

By Sidney Williams

This is part two of a four-part serial published July 10-31 2014. The rest of the story can be found here.

She answered the knock that came a shower and make-up touch up later, adjusting her robe’s neckline to make sure it didn’t conceal too much.

“Welcome back. Glad you’re still on duty.”

“I work most weekdays. We trade off on weekends.”

He gestured to his side, to a woman with skin as smooth and bronze as his, large black eyes and hair equally dark and glossy.

“This is Hadia. An apprentice with me today.”

Aubrey felt her smile fade as her cheeks flushed. She gave a cool hello then found her glass and a formal tone.

“Knots in neck and back if you could help with those.”

She watched him set up the table, watched his biceps and forearms ripple with the effort. Her skin warmed in spite of Hadia’s presence.

“Ready,” Hadia said.

“Would you put this somewhere handy?” she asked as she slipped out of her robe, hoping the look was tantalizing and frustrating since Baraz’d brought the chaperone.

“If you’ll lie face down,” he said.

She complied, and he touched her calves first with the backs of his hands, almost a teasing caress.

“Progress today?”

“Strange. I met a rather odd little man who used to work in the theater. I thought he might have some leads, but it didn’t work out.”

“Did you have any success?” Hadia asked as she watched from beside the table. With a glance Aubrey took in her beauty, white tee and crisp shorts hugging her form, her hair tied back.

Didn’t seem prudent to mention the discovered page, but Baraz’s palms glided across her flesh, moving to the tops of her thighs, brushing against her ass. Something inside relaxed even as little waves of pleasure rippled to her core.

“A partial on what I was looking for.” She wasn’t supposed to say that. “Not a complete song, just the middle page.”

“Intriguing, though. A portion could be played, give you the tune, no?”

“A start.” The last word slid out in a sigh. “Can you go higher? I spent a lot of time sitting on the Underground today.”

“Perhaps Hadia’s touch would be helpful.”

Before Aubrey could protest, the girl’s palms were moving up her legs. But she didn’t have time to analyze. Her thoughts blurred as those wonderful hands began kneading, brushing under the sheet, leaving the tops of her thighs behind.

Was there another question about the music from one of them? Were they working for a competitor or for Amil? Did she answer?

Aubrey’s face pressed the table as her breaths came in slower measures. Her eyes closed tight. Electric ripples of pleasure coursed through her. Both sets of hands were on her, and the girl’s waist-length hair spilled free.

For a while she could forget about everything.

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