By Harmony Button
I had a pretty awesome childhood. My best friend Greg lived on a hill out in the middle of farm country with corn fields and grape vines and crab apples. In the fall, the trees would drop buckets of gnarly apples that would roll down the drive and collected in a soupy bank at the side of the street. This was back in the days when disgusting things were totally entertaining, so of course we poked at them, squealing at the worms and mush. We didn’t have The SnapChap or The Twittergram, so instead of taking pictures of ourselves pretending to eat nasty worm-apples, we had to get a little devious.
I don’t remember whose idea it was, but it didn’t take very much effort to relocate the sweet heap of semi-rotten fruit into a speed-bump-ish berm that spanned both lanes of Dublin Road. Then we crouched down behind the corn stalks in the field on the far side of the road and waited, gleefully, for the next vehicle. Continue reading
By Dana Bowman
Contemplating the beginning of a run is like contemplating world peace, cumbersome and impossible. She proceeded anyway, and slowly her jangled nerves and tired muscled eased into a rhythm. The soft pad, pad, pad of her feet against the sodden leaves on the road kept time with her heartbeat. A squirrel skittered across her path, and one of the neighbor dogs barked longingly at her as she passed. The town felt quilted from loud sounds by the cold.
It was Saturday evening, so she avoided Main street. Usually this was a favorite part of her run, always someone to wave to; the glowing windows filled with antiques and snow shovels or cheerful floral displays. But this night she headed out of town, to the dirt road that would lead her to fields brown with stubble. She craved a solitary place so badly it made her grimace. The dirt road was lumpy and damp, slowing her considerably. This, she realized, was good. She could watch things. She could just run and breathe and look. In the distance, a creek bed was laced with more of the inky black trees, their branches like spidery cracks in a windshield. The night glowed behind them creating cut images and silhouettes in the blue. On a fencepost she actually spotted a hawk waiting for some poor field mouse. It fluffed its feathers and posed for her, looked cross. No meal yet. Tonight was not for speed or pacing or tempo runs. Tonight was a night to run as far away as possible. And then, run farther still.
By Joelle Berger
“Oh babe, those look phe-no-me-nal!” cooed the saleswoman at Saks. With such great articulation, she must have been serious.
“Seriously, the sparkle is like, so special – SO special. They will look fab-u-lous with your wedding dress – they’re SO you. They’re you!”
After being an integral part of my life for about nine minutes, she certainly thought she had me figured out. I wobbled toward a full-length mirror for a closer look at these Jimmy Choo four-inch silver stilts. Rocking my gray boyfriend tee, weekend hair knot, and hole-ridden short jorts – a relic of jeans from college – I twisted and heel-toed my feet to see the sparklers in action.
“Uh, I’m sure they’d look better if I was in my dress,” I called back to my seated 78-year-old Mom-Mom. Under grandma goggles, she usually thinks I look beautiful in everything (or hides her true feelings quite well). But this time, even my utmost supporter looked concerned.
“Can you walk in those?” she asked, as if it mattered.
By Cory Johnston
Maybe it’s because I’ve been here before. In previous years, down to the day, down to the hour. Sweat pools on our shoulder blades. A Camelback is passed around the circle, same as always. But the view from atop Mount Kearsarge is different.
We see the same things, of course: the vast green forests of western New Hampshire that stretch out under the blue afternoon sky on their way towards becoming eastern Vermont. We hear the same sounds: the wind against the steel weather tower, the conversation of fellow hikers echoing off the stone mountainside before falling into the shaded forest path.
But to hear people’s words echo, to stop once more, and once more, to examine a small film of lichen on some nearby stone, summons no deep chill from my spine. That sense of awe does not return, as I do. I accept that the scene is beautiful. I consider the fact that it must be so. But the mountaintop that once blinded me with brilliant sunlight reflecting off stone and trees—reflecting off everything—today falls in the penumbra cast by a slate grey cloud that passes through the sun’s gaze.
The others laugh and breathe deeply. They exchange the Camelback’s water for bottles of pale beer I brought in my pack. They line up cameras and take pictures, then line up cameras at different angles and take more pictures.
Louis Staeble lives in Bowling Green, Ohio. His photographs have appeared recently in “Foliate Oak Literary Magazine” and Ohio Environmental Council’s 5th Annual Photo Contest.
By Brittany Kerfoot
It’s a fifteen-minute drive to the dead-end street where they park the car and climb into the backseat together. They make the trip twice a week on their lunch break, stroking each other on the way and kissing at red lights. She tries to make conversation but he’s a quiet man, she knows this, so she watches him drive her car with one hand, the other resting heavily on her thigh or petting her between her legs as he swerves around slow-moving minivans. It comforts her to know he’s just as eager to reach their spot, an empty cul-de-sac of half-built houses and plots of barren land. She locks the keypad on her phone every time, paranoid her foot will accidentally bump her purse and dial her boyfriend’s number, leaving him a voicemail of her screaming another man’s name.
They take off their jackets and toss them into the front seat; she kicks off her shoes and lunges for him, awkwardly straddling him as he grabs a fistful of her hair and bites her bottom lip. She sucks his long fingers and digs her nails into his shoulder, a small part of her intent on leaving a few semi-permanent marks. When they’re done, her body aches and she lies across him, naked and unafraid. He looks at her shyly, smiles and says, “You’re amazing. You’re the best I’ve ever had,” and she almost believes him, and she almost starts to cry.
By Danny Thiemann
The photo showed a tall brunette. They’d broken up. He didn’t say why. Wasn’t hard to guess. For him, love came on stilts, awkward and out of reach. Abby was beautiful. Her eyes were not brown so much as wicker woven to carry her present moments into the past. He woke holding her photograph—his knuckles five backs bent in harvest of a world beneath his palm. He looked at her the way fire must watch the stars, or how the moon must watch the sea, seeing himself in a past he could not reach. Abraxas got dressed and lay face down on the bed. He traced the dirt on our sheets. Motel mattress-stains were a poor man’s atlas, even better perhaps, at mapping islands of others’ pasts.
Tell her you love her and that’s why you’re giving her the facts, I said.
That ain’t love.
It’s a start, was all I could say.
By Mercedes Lawry
I listened to the sirens for a good fifteen minutes. It must be bad, I thought. Likely fatal and a fair amount of destruction. As children, we’d been taught to say a Hail Mary when we heard a siren. Somebody clearly needed a prayer one way or another and those words still jump into my mind though I no longer believe in the church, or God or the Blessed Mother. I did like her blue robes.
By Patrick O’Neil
The movie was French, promising subtitles, a scruffy looking protagonist, and skinny women with non-Hollywood implant breasts and complex dispositions. The theater was one of those art house independents that cater to the affluent. The type who want an espresso with biscotti instead of a forty-ounce soda and tortilla chips covered with a slimy orange substance commonly referred to as nacho-cheese. The popcorn looked and smelled fresh. It was actually popping in the machine as we entered the lobby. I glanced across the concession counter filled with boutique cookies and European chocolate bars and felt my stomach go queasy. It wasn’t because of the array of sweets and baked goods, although for some reason the stench of cooking oil from the popcorn wasn’t helping.
I touched my forehead, I was sweaty and my skin felt hot. I looked over at the usher standing by the door staring at his pointy shoes. He was short, in a baggy black suit, with big curly muttonchops and greasy long hair. I was reminded of a lonesome cowboy and wondered if there were ever any French Westerns. A woman wearing sunglasses that covered most of her face pushed her way in front of us. Her hand held out as though she was holding a dog’s leash. Perhaps it was just habit. Seems everywhere I go women are walking dogs and picking up shit with little plastic bags. Thoughts of whether she washed her hands slid through my mind as she shoved the ticket in the usher’s direction. He continued to look at the floor so I didn’t even try to pretend I had a ticket to show him.
By Thomas Burke
Svetlana is so efficient and organized that it’s borderline nauseating. But she’s a laugher with knockout dimples, and she wears bright, eccentric European couture, so it’s easy to like her.
She’s not the director, but I’m her subordinate. If our employer, the annual Summer Literary Seminars program in St. Petersburg, Russia, were an old car, Svetlana would be the carburetor. I, on the other hand, would be something of a backseat window that doesn’t always close all the way.
In the welcome sheet given to all the North American participants and faculty, my bio lists me as the one that can help “if you need some heavy lifting done” or if you want to know a “decent place for lunch.”
Here’s a scene: Svetlana has cell phones to both of her ears, she’s pecking something into the computer, she’s hugging to her chest seventy-five passports and two thousand dollars cash, and I grimace and say, “Can I help you with something?”