online magazine for short, good writing

Category: Fiction

A PSA About Love

by a contributor

Sean Pravica

I metamorphosed into a bat and life has become difficult. My wife doesn’t love me anymore, but I can’t see her anyway so perhaps it’s just as well. All the other bats are loud and loveless. They remind me of my in-laws. You could say though that while I’m getting the hang of it, I would give anything to be a man again.

If I were you I would kiss my wife like I was Al Gore, before he and Tipper separated, of course. You may wake up one day and suddenly everything has changed.

Sean Pravica is a writer and entrepreneur living in Southern California. He has been nominated for writing awards including Sundress Press’ Best of the Net as well as storySouth Million Writer’s Award. His first novel, “Stumbling out the Stable,” is due for release by Pelekinesis Press in November 2015.

See Sean’s list of 5 Things in our ongoing contributors’ series later this week.

Moon Men

by a contributor

Erik Doughty

Hi, Ms. Paley. This is Jimmy Chang, calling on behalf of my son, Kevin. It seems he never received Julie’s RSVP for his birthday. The party just ended, but what if I told you he planned his whole kickball-themed day around Julie being here, yet he is terrible at all things requiring foot-eye coordination—even walking? What if none of the other booger-snacking overbiters in attendance even mattered, because only your daughter gives his heart a brain freeze?

Kevin’s been courting Julie since third grade, keeping track of how many teeth she’s lost and her favorite crayon color, which is somewhere between Pumpkin and Snazzy Sunburst. From what I understand, he said “hi” to her once by accident.

Sure, Kevin is not the ideal fourth grade boyfriend. He doesn’t know the secret handshake or not to share his chicken nuggets with the class pet iguana. But that’s on me: me failing him, not the other way around. See, he has this “eject” button on his belt loop that he presses whenever he gets stuck inside someone else’s joke. It was cute at first, but knowing what I know now, it’s like who can I ask about this? What words do good parents keep in their pockets?

Sometimes, I take him out on the roof with a telescope and a cookie dough bucket; we talk about buying a condo on the moon after we sell our lucky stars. I tell him, “I don’t know how much those go for on craigslist.” He chews with understanding.

Then, we talk superpowers: telekinesis or teleportation, the pros and cons of secret identities. Kevin would change one of his arms into a bazooka that shoots pterodactyls made of fire into the sky where they breathe rainbows and poop clouds. I thought that was weird but totally badass.

This is how I know the kickball thing is about Julie, because with the right genetic mutation, Kevin would use mind control on her friends so they’d always pick her for their team; that way, her face would never get rainy underneath the playground slide. When he asks about my powers, I claim superhuman strength and an unbreakable heart.

Ms. Paley, our kids are at the best age right now—before middle school, which just plain sucks because everyone outgrows you and your corduroys overnight. In high school, they’ll never be appreciated in their own time, learning too young to text their prayers and autocorrect their love. One or the other’s marriage will end in divorce. And it nukes my gut to think I might not be around to tell him not to fight if his wife leaves the light on in empty rooms, skyrocketing the electricity bill. Because it’s worth it—all that light in your life.

For now though, they still scamper to us when we pick them up from school. It’s the tail end of the scampering era. And the way they look at us, as if we became everything we once saw in ourselves: that’s the closest we’ll come to stadium lights.

Now, I know it’s late, Ms. Paley, and Sunday nights are school nights too. But if you and Julie would consider stopping by, we still have a decorate-your-own-cupcake station. We have videogames and pizza bagels and Kevin is saving the good controller for her. And while they play, maybe we can talk about superpowers too: about TiVo’ing real life and living without commercial interruption—about turning any water fountain into a tap with your favorite beer. What if we could save up time like it was money, and blow it all on those rare perfect moments, stretching them out for decades? Like when a spring day gets lost in January and you’re driving with the windows down, your kid and his dog in the backseat with their heads out the window—ice cream on both their noses.

Erik Doughty is an Asian American writer living in Boston, whose work has been published in The Drum, Corium Magazine, and Annalemma, among others. He is almost a lawyer and carries a notebook, air guitar, and inhaler with him wherever he goes. More of his stories can be found at

See Erik’s list of 5 Things later this week in our ongoing contributors’ series.

Brief Spaces of Light

by a contributor

Susan L. Lin

The night starts like all others seem to—someone says something about me that I don’t like and I throw it back at them.

Stop making generalizations, I want to say but don’t. I try to laugh instead but come up short. My trachea tightens, makes a sound like someone being strangled. Someone, not me.

Nights like this I feel myself flatten to the floor, like construction paper glued to Bristol board, a bookend being pulled away from either side of me. Am I just everyone else’s collection of body part cutouts, mismatched and held together with brass brads, I’ll move when you want me to?

At Mallory’s place, my mom leaves messages on the machine: Baby, I miss you. I haven’t even spoken to her since I left home after high school graduation to move in with Mallory. “It’s only an hour away. I’ll come visit,” I’d said, knowing what I couldn’t leave behind would fit in a recycled chocolate tin and a pillowcase with a train running across it. On the recording, her voice sounds like an unfinished jigsaw. Her words are incomplete, almost like they’re missing their vowels, almost like I’m standing on one side of the railroad tracks, only able to catch glimpses of the world on the other side as they appear, filtered through those brief spaces of light between moving train cars.

I m—ss y—. C—ll m— b—kkk.

When I see a blue Chevy Impala speeding down the freeway, it turns into a bed rolling down the hospital hall. My father is lying down on it, connected to half a dozen feeding tubes—he’s smaller somehow, younger, thinner than I remember. I can see his bones sticking out in strange places.

I wake up not knowing where I am, lying next to a head, connected to a body, the taste in my mouth like I don’t know what, pretending I don’t remember anything. I roll away, untangle myself from habit just so I can fall into it again some other night.

On my way home, I stumble over the word—H-O-M-E—wondering where it is. Lift my foot to look under my shoe—no, not there—for some reason I think this is hilarious and laugh so hard I start to cry.

Everyone I pass on the street starts looking like a stranger with familiar eyes. I see them all pale blue, something recognizable on their faces: concern maybe, disgust more likely. There’s a bum standing next to an intersection a few blocks away from Mallory’s apartment, wearing a red knit sweater with a huge likeness of Santa’s jolly face emblazoned on the front. It’s the middle of April. The glow from street lamps, blue reflectors on the road, the red-yellow-green pattern of traffic signals, all become oversized strings of Christmas lights decorating the city.

“Please, can you spare change?” the man on the corner says. He’s carrying a cardboard sign with the word HUNGRY scrawled on it in all caps. I shake my head, no, Santa glaring at me through his woven eyes.

I have to swallow as it gets later, earlier—what time is it?—to keep myself from hurling, losing more.

Susan L. Lin hails from southeast Texas and holds an MFA in Writing from California College of the Arts in San Francisco, CA. Her novella Goodbye to the Ocean, which these pieces are excerpted from, was a semifinalist in the 2012 Gold Line Press chapbook competition. Her short prose has recently appeared in Hayden’s Ferry ReviewGhost Town, Hypertext Magazine, Gravel Magazine, Portland Review, and elsewhere.  She blogs intermittently at

The Decree

by a contributor

Eric Howerton

Because we’d lost our sense of value, the day came when the animals voted us out of our cities and towns and homesteads. Their spokesman—a giraffe in a cashmere suit—stood before a horned and winged mob. He made a case we couldn’t contest without looking like undignified jerks. And what, if not for our dignity, separated us from the beasts? From fauna who eviscerated their young and creatures wallowing in filth?

“If you truly embrace the spirit of democracy,” the giraffe said eloquently, hoofs pressed against one another in quiet majesty. “If you truly believe that the vote of every sentient creature is equal in respect to the vote of every other sentient creature, then we ask that you vacate your residences at once.”

“What about our votes?” our president objected, scrambling so that we might remain in the ranch-style houses and luxury condos we delighted in filling with catalogs and circulars and baubles containing trace poisons and food gone sour. “We haven’t even had a chance to run a campaign.”

“Irrelevant!” the giraffe said with unequivocal force. The mob behind him rose and stirred. “We outnumber you by a wide margin. And everyone, with the exception of the badgers, who are old and tiresome and would rather stay rooted in their dens, wants you to leave.”

It was hard not to take the giraffe seriously. With such a neck, his tie was the longest we’d ever seen.

“I see,” our president said, biting his lip. He conferred with his delegation. “Can we at least come back and visit?”

“Do you not understand the meaning of exile?” the giraffe asked in consternation. 

“But we’ve grown accustomed to a certain standard of living,” one of the pillars of business grumbled. 

“Too bad,” the giraffe said. A brigade of pachyderms stepped forward. Vultures and pigeons circled menacingly overhead. “You’ve grown accustomed to television and clean clothes and Snickers bars.” The giraffe licked his lips: “They’re our Snickers bars now.”


The following day we packed our bags and left city life behind. From the rolling hills we watched in despair as the animals moved into our former homes, assuming the roles we’d abandoned. We found flat patches of arable land and sowed seed and built lean-tos from thatch and twig. Some expired from eating noxious weeds, which was sad, but no sadder than the many who expired each day from electrical failures and plummeting elevators and the reckless behaviors guiding the wheel.

Thankfully, nobody has tried to construct a new city or resurrect the old ways. Once habituated to the chill of the public bath—a small pool fed by a breathtaking cataract—there isn’t much to be missed. Each day begins with the sun and ends with the stars. I no longer dread the workweek or fantasize of hurling my boss out the window because there is no workweek and there are no bosses. In the wild, everyone is equal. Some days our former leader—who I call Nate now instead of President Rutherford—brings me a handful of berries. Some days I bring Nate a blistered potato hot from the coals. Together we sit on the bluffs and crack jokes about an impatient turtle cursing the creeping drive-thru, a coyote howling at the indifferent customer service rep, a confused bat being asked, “Which is clearer—A? Or B?” We laugh and laugh. We die in different and occasionally gruesome ways out here, but we laugh all the same.

Eric Howerton is a graduate in Fiction from the University of Houston’s PhD in Creative Writing and Literature and from the Pennsylvania State University’s now-defunct MFA program. He lives and teaches in Ogden, UT where he spends his days skiing, hiking, writing, gardening, and seeking out native mushrooms. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Revolver, The Masters Review, Driftwood Press, Foliate Oak, and others. 

See Eric’s list of 5 Things tomorrow.

Scientists Confirm the Physical Properties of Negative Emotions

by a contributor

Eric Howerton

Freeing himself from envy, gravity no longer held him. Below, he saw dots that used to be people. Smaller and smaller each one. Every new breath buoyed him toward space, distancing him from the world of bonds, securities and insecurities, gabled roofs, prized possessions. Gold chains. Above, the great nothing. Above, the possibility of never falling down. The clouds were his company now. And soon, the stars.

Eric Howerton is a graduate in Fiction from the University of Houston’s PhD in Creative Writing and Literature and from the Pennsylvania State University’s now-defunct MFA program. He lives and teaches in Ogden, UT where he spends his days skiing, hiking, writing, gardening, and seeking out native mushrooms. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in PANK, Revolver, The Masters Review, Driftwood Press, Foliate Oak, and others. 

See more from Eric tomorrow.

Cousin Jeff

by a contributor

Rose Wednesday

My cousin Jeff did prosthetics, and when I was a kid I remember being scared to go and visit him in his workshop in back of the house because there were body parts everywhere. Legs and arms on shelves, and hung from chains from the ceiling so they could be rotated, and held in clamps while different components solidified. There were silicone molds of hands and feet, jars of glass eyes. Posters up on the wall of cross-sectioned bodies. When I had to deliver Jeff a sandwich or a beer, I’d open the door a crack, slide in the plate or the can, and then run like hell before I saw something that would haunt me.

The day I found the box turtle with a leg chewed off down by the creek, everyone I talked to thought that it would be kindest if someone took it away from me and quietly bashed it with a rock somewhere. I could see that look in their eyes as they reached for it, and I snatched it away and ran and hid in the one place that even the adults didn’t like to go. I shut my eyes as I went in the door, which was how Jeff was able to sneak up on me and grab the turtle.

He took it over to the work bench and said, “we’ll need to stitch ‘er up.”

I opened my eyes. He had his first aid kit out, and was treating the turtle’s stump with a bottle of peroxide. The turtle had completely retreated into its shell. I stood by the table and watched.

“We’ll put a hot wheels car on ‘er here,” he said. “Or maybe two baby carriage wheels on an axle, with a pad here and a strap here.” He was already drawing in his head as he pointed at the parts of the turtle. “It’ll be the fastest turtle in the west.”

The turtle didn’t live to the prosthetic stage, but I brought him other animals, and started telling people what he could do. By the time I was twelve, we had a host of bionic animals: a cat with a pistoning paw, a very old dog whose teeth were mostly artificial, a large ornamental koi fish with a cleverly-constructed aluminum and ripstop tail.

Cousin Jeff was not supposed to be a good friend for a girl child; he chain smoked and kept girly magazines around, scattered in between his books of medical illustrations. He read them while he ate his sandwiches and smoked his unfiltered Newports. He subscribed to one that was all pictures of amputee girls in boudoir lingerie, and he’d sometimes show these pictures to his lady clients, women in wheelchairs or on crutches, or with one foreshortened arm clutched protectively to their side. Cajoling them into looking at the pictures, they were first alarmed, and then pleased by what they saw, blushing furiously.

My mother ultimately blamed Cousin Jeff and his girly magazines for making me what I was, but if anything, he made me more interested in men than I think I would otherwise have been. He was tender with animals, unapologetic in his yen for his lady clients. And while he never pressed either his cigarettes or his pornography on me, when I stole them from him he seemed proud, almost brotherly. I thought about him while I looked at the ladies in the pictures, and I stared out at his still-lit workshop when I smoked out of the window at night, with Tripod the Cat kneading my legs with a gentle hissing sound, getting piston grease all over the floral sheets.

Rose Wednesday is an MA student in fiction at the University of Maine. She has been published previously in “The Armchair Aesthete” and was the 2013 winner of Maine’s Grady Award for fiction. She writes in Maine and blogs at

See Rose’s list of “5 Things That Are Slowly Killing Me” in our ongoing contributors’ series on Wednesday, June 25.


Because the Brick

by a contributor

Jason Newport

Because the Brick. Because the ice machine was acting up. Because it was still early and the place was dead, except for Leroy Jackson in his customary spot at the end of the bar. Because old Leroy would sit there with his newspaper spread out and two sips left in the bottom of his glass and tell anyone who happened to come in off the street just to set a spell and wait, because O’Malley would be back in a jiffy with a couple of bags of ice from the corner store. Because who would need a drink so bad at that hour that they couldn’t set a spell and wait a little bit for it? Because the ceiling fans and window blinds kept everything cool and shady in O’Malley’s place, that was for sure, and it was nice just to come in out of the hot sun and set yourself down at the bar for a bit, take a load off. Because you wouldn’t have to wait but a few minutes. Because it was just the ice machine acting up again. Because O’Malley wouldn’t pay to have anybody fix anything that he could usually take care of himself, like the side door that wouldn’t stop banging shut in the cross breeze, that was just as easy to prop open with a brick from the alleyway. Because who in their right mind would go so far for a few lousy dollars? Because what kind of fool couldn’t get a cash register open without smashing it all to hell? Because old Leroy couldn’t hardly swat a fly, but he might could tell what some crazy fool looked like. Because he was in his customary spot on a hot afternoon. Because the brick was at hand, and O’Malley was not. Because the newspapers couldn’t soak up all the blood.

Jason Newport received an MFA in creative writing (fiction) from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. His nonfiction has most recently appeared on, and his short fiction and poetry have appeared in many fine journals. He is an English instructor in the Southwestern College Professional Studies program and a contributing editor for the Chautauqua journal.

See Jasons’s list of 5 Things You Should Read tomorrow  in our ongoing contributors’ series.