A Haunting by Tiffany Aldrich MacBain

MacBain photoBeyond the golden years of trick-or-treating, Halloween morphs into a high-pressure holiday, like New Year’s Eve or the 4th of July, when you feel like you must have plans or else endure a long night of loneliness and self-loathing, a night pierced by the cackling laughter of fun-havers outside your window, a night most unhallowed. If you happen to have plans, your suffering is of another sort: weeks in advance of the party, you have to figure out what you’re going to “be.” And then you must buy and assemble components of a costume, and then you have to wear it all.

Having a child relieved me of that burden: the moment I dressed my infant as a peapod the focus shifted to her, and because of my ever-advancing age, thank god, I will never attract such attention again unless some darkly or too brightly humored person one day dresses me as a peapod, and by then I will be too far gone to know or care.

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Cold by JF Speed

jfspeedSnow was blown bits of metal that would dot your face with blood if you rode your bike fast enough. Rain became hard splats of gum and a breeze was something that could rip the hair out of your head. Sue Lynn had raced him down a hill so high it seemed to be a mountain. They called it Sack Mountain but his momma said it was really a hill. If you wanted to see a mountain, there was the Rockies where she grew up. As if you could compare them. One was stone teeth in the sky and the other a mound of grass and gravel that blocked everything until you reached the top. One was warmed with green and gold leaves of oak, the other blue and sterilized by cold. It was like running in two different directions at once. Couldn’t be done.

The wild apple tree was the same knobby but oddly lacy ones that were in her mother’s garden.  She had walked past it for 10 years, never paying attention before. But this was the first time Virginia saw a man sitting in the middle of the branches. He didn’t glance her way but kept watching the sky as she got closer.

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When She Was Sick by Vince Genna

vinceWhen she went through it,
I captured every moment as I helped her,
Push aside every doubt that,
Maybe she wouldn’t make it out; Alive and well,
We were swell…

I would act like everything is fine,
It wasn’t; I could see it in her eyes,
It was too painful for her to cry,
She would bat them in pace with every second the clock would tick,
So she wouldn’t have to see my face as she lost me…

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A Swimmer in Time Part 2 by Martin Chase

chaseYet my head does not explode from the pressure of being overwhelmed all at once by everything that lives, breathes, flows, falls, and crumbles under a the light of a trillion suns. I, and the Odinic Travelers before me, whose memories are preserved within my own brain, have seen them all before in all our sojourns throughout the span of the universe. My cranium is stable for now, or so I think (is it?).

Then, after being lost in a raging river of visions, and flowing streams of time, the courtyard cuts back to nothing. But should I be surprised at the stark transition to nothingness? For what is nothing, but just another facet of everything?

But alas! I am not alone! For kneeling and meditating solemnly in the middle (or perhaps the end; I cannot tell. It is hard to tell when there is nothing but cobblestone and vapor as far as the eye can see) of the mystical courtyard is a man. He is both close and far from me, visible, and invisible. I see him, yet I do not see him. Whether he is there or not is a matter of continuous fluctuation. Why must everything be in a state of flux, especially here (and everywhere?). Is nothing fixed?

Squirrels Hate Robots by William Turbyfill

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“Squirrels hate robots.” He says it with such earnestness that it catches me off guard.

“I beg your pardon.”

“Squirrels. Hate. Robots. It’s really not that complicated.” The five year old is right. It is not a complicated concept to comprehend and yet, I have questions, not the least of which is, ‘if squirrels hate robots, do robots in turn, hate squirrels?’ “I could draw you a picture of it if that would make it easier for you.” I’m not a fan of his condescending attitude.

“How do you know this, about the robots and the squirrels and what not?” I say this while looking for a pencil and paper. As much as I want to smack him, if I’m honest, I also really want him to draw me a picture of squirrels hating on robots.

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Jitters by Christian Carvajal

Carv Author PhotoBrad Slayton was one of those middle-management tool chests who treat every business lunch with a woman like it was a date, and every date like a business transaction. From where I sat, he was there to debrief me on the Tokyo deal, which, to his credit, he locked down in record time. He seemed convinced it was more about waging a scorched-earth assault on a Bedrock-sized rib eye and flagon of Lagavulin sixteen-year. Between, often during, red mouthfuls of cow, he was talking to me, his direct superior at Cheswick Financial Group, like I was a first-week receptionist on Mad Men.

“The thing about Tokyo,” he declared, “is it’s a man’s world. They respect a guy who looks ’em in the eye and says, ‘Hey, now, here’s how it’s gonna be.’ I mean, you’re a player an’ all. I don’t mean to say you ain’t got no moves. You’ve got moves. I like ’em.” His face remained impassive around all that chewing.

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The Ambassador’s Horses by Cyndisa Coles-Harris

Acclogo groom, in the course of his service to the private stables of a much-admired ambassador, found himself in the vibrating belly of a specialized cargo jet.  He was not alone in that place.  A veterinarian and an armed guard were there as well, all three men secondary to the purpose of the flight, an entourage for the ambassador’s horses.  Three fine hunter mares stood quiet as cargo, neatly slotted into caution-yellow container stalls; a black, a blood-bay, and a sun-golden sorrel, all pedigreed and proven, sound and glossy.  In a fourth stall, also breathing grassy warm into the caustically clean atmosphere of the jet’s interior, was a new acquisition of the ambassadorial stables; a piebald pony gelding intended for the use of the great man’s young daughter.  

And the plane’s nose pointed east like a weathervane in an unwavering wind, seeking the capital city of the nation of the ambassador’s new posting.

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