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By Robert Earle

A suburb that once was a few estates roofed with old hardwoods on a peninsula bordered by two rivers flowing into the Atlantic. The man knew the way (he’d been married there), but the woman directed him where to turn. They were looking for her childhood home, not his. Only she had memories of the woods that stood before these roads were built and of the barn being torn down when she was five and of the trees her father preserved to ensure their privacy as he sold off twenty acres, one after another, and kept just three for themselves.

They turned up a side street. There, set back a good eighty feet, stood the house with its shingles painted silver-gray and its trim in perfect condition, likewise the rain gutters, and the window in the second floor gable behind which she had lived from her birth until she was eighteen.

She said, “I’ve got to knock.”

“I’ll sit here. They’ll react better if it’s just you.”

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Jade Staircase Lament – In a Station of the Metro

By Martin Porter

Just as the sun sets across the Tuileries, the spring moon rises above the Rue de Rivoli. The air is clear, the sky radiates colour with spectral translucence. I descend into the Metro, grasping the glossy brass handrail so as not to slip on the verdigris-stained brass-edged steps, illumined brilliant jade in the jewelled dusk.

The air is rank, dank with the sweet smell of cherry blossom mixed with the perspiration. I catch my breath and catch a glimpse of her waiting for him, dressed comme des garçons in oriental silk, smart, déshabillé, classic Parisienne chic.

Her face glows, transparent as a nimbus, yet real, more real than everybody else. A gust of hot air sweeps through the station as a train approaches. Hats are held to heads, unbuttoned jackets flap. Nothing about her is disturbed. Discarded tickets blow about her. Specks of dust sparkle through her.

She had already seen him in town dashing through spring showers, as if to a meeting. She was early, buffed and scented for their rendezvous, anticipatory. She was early. He was late.

He is late. Even now, she waits, uncomplaining. He is, to put it simply, never going to arrive. Against hope, she still waits.

Looking away, I push the turnstile and enter the desolate black dendritic roots of the metro. Waiting on the sooty platform, a discarded flier rises in the draught from the tunnels. I brush a pastel pink petal of cherry blossom from my collar.

Martin Porter was born in Jersey C.I., but now lives a retired life in Whangarei, New Zealand, writing poetry and flash fiction.  He has recently had flash fiction published in Flash Frontiers, Blue Note Review, Flash Flood, Flash Mob 2013, Bare Fiction magazine, was an invited reader at Auckland Library for the NZ National Flash Fiction Day Awards 2013, and won the Whangarei Library Flash Fiction prize in 2012 and 2014.  He can be found on the web at poetrynotesandjottings.wordpress.com.

Photo Credit: Metro Paris – Ligne 13 – Porte de Vanves by Greenski

The Awakening

By Dave Dormer

It wasn’t until my early twenties had I realized just what I’d done.

We walked for what seemed like miles through overgrown and choked hiking trails. The odor of campfire smoke clung to everything we owned and my throat felt like it would collapse at any moment. There were little trails of blood on my shins from whipping branches that my brother, who walked ahead of me, would let loose when I wasn’t looking, ‘Sorry’ he’d reply with a grin. I can’t recall how many times I rolled my ankles on the rocky trail, but I had to keep up to my dad who’d always stride ten feet ahead of us hollering, ‘C’mon guys. Keep up!’

We finally reached the fen, my favorite part of the trail and a little easier to navigate. It was still early spring and not much moved other than whiskey jacks flitting about the trees. I kept my eyes trained on the tree line of the marsh’s border in hopes of seeing a moose on its way to drink or swim, but nothing moved.

As a chubby kid and not much for stamina, I eventually trailed behind the rest of my family and our dog. The rustle from the plastic bag in my short’s pocket was a reminder that I was on duty to clean up after him. When my gaze returned to the trail, that’s when I spotted it. A brown wooden box nestled among broken, decaying branches and roots of a dead-fall. I stopped. I looked at the box, and then to my family who were quickly disappearing around a crook in the trail.

‘What is it? Why is it here? I couldn’t take my eyes off it. My stomach twisted in knots at the sight of it. It was like looking at a Christmas present that I couldn’t have. I imagined my dad’s voice booming in my ear as if caught standing again, admiring his shotgun that hung on our wall, ‘Don’t you ever touch it!’ Continue reading

The Gambler

By Alexander Drost

When I arrived in Sparks, Georgia it smelled of grit and dark pine. The air was so muggy that my shirt was its dampest shade of gray. A clan of children hopped on the bus just outside town.

“That was some hit, Peggy!” One of the boys said. “You really beat the devil out of it.” Peggy smiled.

The bus hissed, the children skipped off and disappeared into the hanging woods. I watched them retract from the road and fingered the poker chip in my pocket, gently edging the engraved 19 with my thumb nail.

“This is as far as we get to it,” the driver said. “The Inn is half mile up there—You’re the Thomson boy coming in, yeah?”

“Yesir.”

“Mmmhm—well stand straight Mr. Thomson. Folks in Sparks can spot a weak spine.”

I thanked the driver and sank off the bus into the clay. It became heavier with every stride I took, and it wasn’t long until my slacks were a violent weighty-amber.

STARKEEP INN

The sign was almost unreadable; its paint had eroded to the wood and the post from which it hung was cracked with sap. The Inn’s veranda railed along its face and its wooden sides were peeking through two trees, grotesquely twisted, and feeding off the lawn. I followed the stepping stones.

A screen door slap jolted my glance upward to face two women, most definitely twins. Both dressed in black gowns which in no way accented a lick of beauty.

“Mr. Thomson,” they said simultaneously. Continue reading

Faces Out of Folkus

By James Penha

“Eh, you sonyamabeach,” Porky smiled to a passerby who, deaf to the words spoken from the other side of the front window, tipped his fedora enthusiastically. Porky waved back. He turned to me. “Stupidoudatowna. Minneapoli, whaddayatink?”

We played such games during the afternoons at Folkus.

I used to hope Porky would, in appreciation of the beers I nursed during the quiet hours, reminiscence about the folk singers and rock stars whose plastic-covered pictures lined the back of the bar and, especially, about the legends, living and dead, whose glossy eight-by-ten adolescent faces gazed with ours through the window onto West Third Street.

I used to prod Porky to orate on the subject of the cultural phenomenon of which Greenwich Village was, during the late Eisenhower years through the few Kennedys and early Johnsons, a pulsing center. And Folkus was somehow its . . . well, its focus. Continue reading

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

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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