Baptism by Fire by James Gilletti

Saturday, August 16th, 1952 — 12:45 a.m.

     The room sweltered like a sauna. My temples ached and my throat was bone dry, but I wasn’t about to walk out of there, not until I got what I needed. After four hours of listening to this punk shuck and jive I’d had enough. I leaned across the table and spoke low.
     “It’s over, Sol. We collared your crew tonight and every one of those bums just rolled over on you. Why don’t just you just come clean?”
     “Come clean with what?” he shot back. “I already told you what happened, heavy. I called the orders in and I showed up at Schoenfeld’s with the truck, right? And I told my guys to load up the sofas.”
     Solomon Offerman was a real piece of work. He was a drifter who’d run just about every scam you could think of since he was a teenager. How this goof wound up in Tacoma I’ll never know. Maybe he thought he’d have better luck flying under the radar if he set up shop outside a big city. He was only twenty-five when I busted him, but he looked like he was pushing fifty. I don’t know if he was originally from Brooklyn or if he just used that damn accent to try and sound like a gangster. Either way, it didn’t matter. Everything about the guy was a ruse, right down to the permanent smirk on his chipmunk face.
     “Then what?” I pressed.Continue reading →

How to Steal Copper Wire by Jonny Eberle

Step 1

     Hit absolute rock bottom. Sell your guitar and move back in with your parents. Send out resumes. Admit that a studio art degree was an unwise choice in this economy and allow yourself to be humbled by the experience of losing it all and starting over. Send out a few more resumes, but you can stop personalizing them for each job, because you know they’re just going into the junk folder. See how long you can coast on paying your debts, do elaborate budgeting on the back of a past-due envelope and realize that you’re screwed.Continue reading →

God’s Will by Jack Cameron

     “Does it help?” I don’t mean to have the sarcastic tone in my voice but given the situation, I can’t help it. She looks up at me like I’m an idiot, as if this whole thing is my fault or something.
     “Of course it helps. You should try it some time.” I decide not to continue the topic. Prayer to me has always seemed like something for people who never outgrew having imaginary friends. And in the two-year history of our relationship, I’ve tried to ignore Lisa’s religious proclivities.
     “You think the cops are here yet?” I ask. She doesn’t answer. We’ve probably been in here for twenty minutes now, but it feels like it’s been an hour. It’s getting seriously cold. Walk-in freezers are not meant for human habitation, but the guy with the gun who put us in here didn’t seem to care. If I don’t do something, we are going to die in here.Continue reading →

The Previous Owner by Daniel Person

I was sitting at my dining room table, repeating the mantra of the hung over: too much, too old. In front of me was buttered toast and black coffee, fat and carbs and caffeine to ward away the burning in my stomach and the pounding in my head. But at that moment the food might as well have been plastic set pieces for decoration; I couldn’t fathom putting anything more into my body for the rest of my days. That’s when the knock came at the door.

It was Sunday morning. My wife was at work, part of a 12-on schedule that was depriving me of her but providing me with this house and this bread and, yes, this hangover, considering the credit card I’d used to buy my drinks the night before would be paid, without question, automatically, from a checking account kept flush by her tireless labor. A good woman; an evil arrangement.

The knock. I could see the man who produced it from where I sat. Sixty-ish, pudgy, neat. Were the Christians doing same-day recruitments for their Sunday services? That was my first thought, if that paints you a picture of what he looked like. A beat longer and he would have turned and looked through the window and found me there, staring. So I stood, withstanding an onrush of vertigo and ache, and went to see what he wanted.Continue reading →

A Eulogy for LouCille by Joshua Swainston

1989

LouCille, my grandmother on my mom’s side, works at Preston Scientific in Anaheim, California, wiring computer components for NASA. Her apartment on West Ball Road serves as our family’s base of operations for Disneyland trips. The apartment complex has a hot tub, and around the corner stands a Fosters Freeze.

She’s kinda scary to me. A big woman, she wears gold bangles in her ears and on her wrists. I don’t think she likes children. Every year she buys a new car: a blue Camaro, a gray Cavalier, a white Impala.

My mom, Carla, is LouCille’s only child. My mom did not inherit LouCille’s stocky frame. My mom looks like a SoCal beach girl — like an extra from an Annette Funicello movie.

Grandmother lives with her own mother. My brother and I call Grandmother’s mom Grandma-Grandma. White curly hair crowns Grandma-Grandma’s head. She wears nightgowns in the daytime. Grandma-Grandma is kind to my brother and me. She pulls chocolate chip cookies out of the oven just as we arrive at the apartment.

LouCille says, glaring, “You boys sleep in the living room.”

We say, “I know.”

“You don’t know nothing.”

Continue reading →

Dearest the Shadows by Samuel Snoek-Brown

     All my nights here have been restless. Partly it’s these damned hotel pillows — They’re too flimsy, more rags than cushions. Also, I’ve been dreaming a lot. The first night at the conference, just into the hotel room and asleep in my clothes, I dreamed I was an animal wrestler, like bears and crocodiles, like at a country carnival. In the dream, I wrestle big dogs, Newfies and wolfhounds. I’m wearing one of those mucscle-man unitards from the ’30s and keep thinking I ought to feel embarrassed but I realize no one in the audience even knows me. And of course you aren’t there, either, which is somehow the greatest relief and the greatest sorrow. I wish you could see me, in all my ridiculous forms. Near the end of the wrestling match, I get into the dirt ring with a giant poodle as big as a pony and I’m hugging it, burying my face in its curled hair like wool, like a stuffed animal, but then it sinks its teeth into the back of my neck and I wake up with a migraine.Continue reading →