Category Archives: Uncategorized

A Glorious Darkness by Bill Fay

color pots of fairies
spilled
at November’s end
toward the certainty
of winter
ochre of oak leaves
rattling the teeth
of the breeze
exhales
farms and forests

the moon shines
in obligation
in the slow
drawl of darkness

bats fledge
over fallow fields
with eternal earth
whirling endlessly
on the turn
of a worm
coyotes
unpacked
and longing
disgorge
their tangled tales
and the twelve
stations of the stars
pass the hat
on cut-crystal horizons
while the wedge of night
rides the back
of the dragon’s
folded wings
to slain polaris

strange, the sound that light makes when it fails

a nightingale
singing like a brilliant cut
on a church steeple
the yard beneath
in dumb reply

this night
the angels
have fled
the head
of their pin

strange, the smell the darkness makes as it deepens

roses dry
as grandma’s heirlooms
chased in envy
as an echo

wondrous, the wisdom found in the mirror of day

why is joy a moment?
and regret forever?
why is nothing so dark and beautiful
as when a meteor mends its wounds in your eyes?

 

Bill Fay (he/him) is a retired program manager and poet. Bill enjoys flute playing, experimental poetry, hiking, running, and biking. His work has been published by numerous journals and non-profits. Bill’s haiku publishing credits span nine countries over three continents. His first book- “Passages: Immigrant Experiences” was published Winter of 2021 by Fox Island Press. Bill’s second book- “Hymns of the Homeless” is scheduled for publication Spring of 2022. Bill resides with his wife Nancy, and their two bodacious cats (Tucker and Annie) on Fox Island in Puget Sound near Tacoma. Favorite quote: “When the quill is sharp, the mind is never dull.”

An Act of Arson by Trevor Williams

The air

   creates sparks from friction

               with the earth.

The salt in our sweat

        transmutates into nitroglycerin

while we lay on a funeral pyre

   piled up against a red dawn backdrop.

                 We share the same script

            like two apostles kissed by fire   

               In a black box stage

under the night’s spotlight.

                       And then we detonate.

Trevor Williams (He/Him) observes and writes under the alias, The Sidewalk Scribe, bringing his typewriter to public spaces and writes poetry on-demand, based on pedestrian suggestions in the Pacific Northwest. Unlike most of of his pieces, “an act of arson,” is an outlier because it all took place on the internet, a 2nd place winning response to a contest from @revleryinread, for the prompt “kissed by fire.” Trevor Williams has participated in local events both virtual and in person over the years and is thankful for the opportunity to be included in all situations prior to now and those that follow.

Aftermath by Heather Pilder Olson

Earth tilts on its axis.
Disease takes away life.
We’re still here, we are trying
to rebound after strife.

Pandemic post-mortem:
What’s the latest report?
How’s the weather today?
Are we coming up short?

After pandemic, we’ll fix it in post.
I just want to tell you: I love you the most.

Take this chance to re-set
to rest, to reflect.
Find ways to do better,
treat the Earth with respect.

Did you notice the birds,
rabbits up on the hill?
How the animals thrived
when the humans were still?

After pandemic, we’ll fix it in post.
I just want to tell you: I love you the most.

What is that thing
that you most want to do?
Where will you go next?
Who will travel with you?

It’s okay if you’re numb,
didn’t write a great book.
Didn’t learn a new language,
didn’t learn how to cook.

If you are surviving,
that’s a wonderful start.
Keep breathing, keep going,
just keep making art.

We’re still here, we are trying
to rebound after strife.
What will you do
with the rest of your life?

After pandemic, we’ll fix it in post.
I just had to tell you: I love you the most.

Heather Pilder Olson has written, produced and directed several award-winning films, including the recent documentary The River. She was an associate producer for the documentary Gold Balls, which premiered at the Seattle International Film Festival in 2016 and screened on PBS Television in 2020. She wrote the teleplay Crack the Whip which was a finalist in the Bigfoot Script Challenge and selected for the SIFF Live Table Read in 2019. She has also written the teleplay 38 Minutes and the features Dodgers and Birth. She is the executive director of the Bigfoot Script Challenge and co-leads The Green Room. She has taught screenwriting at the Gig Harbor Women’s Prison, and co-leads writers’ retreats in Grayland, Washington.

From the Earth to the Moon by Richard Wilkinson

 

Richard Wilkinson is a Tacoma-based poet. His poetry excavates the layers of meaning in everyday events. He owes a twin debt to A 2013 Whidbey Island Writers’ Conference and Seattle’s Hugo House writing center for his development as a writer. In 2020 he published his first chapbook, “Electricity, Chemistry and Air.” “From the Earth to the Moon” was inspired by a prompt to write a moon poem, inspired by chapter Poetry and the Moon in Mary Ruefle’s collected lectures, “Madness, Rack, and Honey.”

The Rarest Kind of Mermaid by Katrinka Mannelly

“I think she’s the one, Dad. Please try to be open minded, okay?”

“I’ll try, Dawson, but you’re not making it easy, insisting I meet her out by the swimming pool.”

            “I told you, she’ll be more comfortable this way. She’s nervous about meeting you.”

            “If that’s the case, wouldn’t it make more sense to meet over dinner at Joe’s? Or grab a cup of coffee somewhere? Or a drink, even?

            “Dad.”

            “All right, all right. Let’s just get on with it. How is she not freezing, anyway?”

            Dawson slid the patio door open so father and son could step onto the concrete terrace leading to the backyard. The inground pool beyond their lounge chairs and barbeque glimmered. “I cranked up the heat.” 

            Underwater lamps and knee-level lights around the pool created a soft glow. Wisps of steam curled up from the surface. Paul saw a shadowy figure in the furthest corner, a few feet to the left of the diving board.

            Dawson’s smile stretched across his face and his eyes twinkled. He swept a hand toward the pool. “Dad, this is Penelope.”

            A gentle splash sent ripples across the surface and Paul watched as a silhouette glided toward them—arms outstretched, hands together, hair flowing, and tailfin pumping up and down.

            Penelope broke the surface in the shallow end of the pool close to where the to two men stood. She rested her arms on the tiled lip and let her body float behind her. She looked up at Paul’s face. He saw pleading in her eyes.

            “Hi Paul. It’s nice to finally meet you,” she said in a quiet voice. She lowered her eyes as soon as she finished talking.

            Paul gawked. He scrambled for something to say, but he rejected statement after statement as quickly as they came to him.

            “Dad?” An expectant look flashed in his son’s eyes.

            “Ah, hi. Penelope. That sure is some get-up you got there.”

            “Isn’t it?” Dawson gushed. “Completely custom made. She got it online. It’s one of a kind, just like her.”

            Boy, was it ever. Below her waist, overlapping, quarter-sized, silicone scales sparkled in graduated shades of blue. They covered her lower half and culminated in a feathery fin at least three feet wide from tip to tip. An ornate corset made up of synthetic shells, pearls, and swirling seaweed filigree covered her torso. Classic white clamshells shrouded her bosom.

             Penelope wore a shimmering tiara swathed with pointy whorled shells, sea stars and scallops. Glittering beads and little polished cowries dripped off it over long pale pink tresses.

             This is the one? This shy little thing playing dress up in the back yard? Paul continued to stare.

            “Isn’t she beautiful, dad?” Dawson prompted.

            Paul had to admit, she was. Weird, but definitely attractive in a sweet sort of way.

            “Dad, don’t you have anything else to say?”

            “Uh, I’ve got dinner. Inside. If you’re hungry.”

            “Okay, dad. Let me help her out of the pool. We’ll catch up.” Dawson unfolded the towel and silky garment draped over his arm.

            “Is she going to change?”

            “Of course not. We’ll be there in a minute.”

             Paul waited at the table. He opened the chardonnay and gulped down a glass. He knew it was rude, but he needed to calm his nerves so he didn’t do anything worse. He thought of how ashamed his wife would be of his ill manners. And then wondered what Melody would have made of this whole situation. Maybe he’d found a consolation at last—she was spared seeing their only child not only fail to launch, but now going gaga for a wannabe mermaid. He huffed to himself, amused. Ha, I’m glad meeting in the pool made her comfortable, because it’s made me a wreck.

            Dawson walked in carrying Penelope. She was small but with the rubber tail and all, Paul guessed she was at least one-thirty, one-thirty-five. He didn’t remember his son being that strong. Dawson carefully lowered her into a chair across from Paul and then took the seat between them.

            Penelope wore a long robe. She appeared dry everywhere except her hair.

            Paul cleared his throat and held up the bottle of wine in offering. Penelope nodded slightly so Paul stood and poured her a healthy serving. He moved to fill Dawson’s glass as well, but his son covered it with his hand. “I’ll be driving her home later. None for me.”

            Paul’s eyes opened a little wider. His son was not one to turn down a drink.

            Paul sat. “I made salmon. Do you eat, uh, fish?”

            Penelope smiled for the first time and let out a little laugh. “All the time.”

            Much to his surprise Paul found himself charmed.

            At some point, Paul complemented Penelope’s tiara. Before she could thank him, Dawson cut in. “Isn’t it great? She makes them and sells them online. You wouldn’t believe how much she gets for the fancy ones. She has a waiting list a mile long. My Penelope is a world-class jeweler when she’s not busy being a mermaid.”

            “Does being a mermaid keep you pretty busy then?” Paul ventured with a smile.

            “Yes,” Penelope answered with a modest nod.

            “I wasn’t serious…”

            “Dad, she’s part of a mermaid community. They do a lot, a lot of public service.”

            “Really?” He arched an eyebrow in Penelope’s direction.

            “Well, it’s not all good deeds. We do photoshoots and get togethers. We support each other, but we also stage meet and greet environmental swims in public places to teach kids about protecting the planet and its creatures. And we volunteer for a couple of children’s charities. Visiting kids with cancer. Stuff like that. It’s actually fun. They get us. They have a way of seeing through to a person’s true self.”

            “Oh.”

            “Dad, Penelope and I have big news.”

            Paul braced himself. What would it be this time? Was she pregnant? Were they buttering him up for an investment in some business scheme? Was Dawson going to whip out a fin of his own? Paul opened a second bottle of wine.

            “We’re moving in together.”

            “Penelope’s moving into the basement with you?”

            “No dad. We found a place, an apartment. It has a courtyard with a huge indoor pool. We got a two bedroom so there will be space for Penelope’s studio. It’s perfect for us.”

            “How are you going to pay the rent?”

            “We could afford it on Penelope’s income, but I need to do my share, so I talked to Blaine and got back on at Craftcade.”

            Paul stopped drinking mid-gulp. Blaine was the most recent in a long line of Paul’s clients who had done him a favor by offering his deadbeat kid work. It never lasted long and the gig at Craftcade was no exception. “Blaine agreed to take you back?”

            “Yeah. It’s not exactly my old position. He’s opened two new stores and really needs the help. I’m working as assistant manager at the newest location on Eighth. I know I’ve got to earn his trust again. It’s long hours helping with the rollout, but it’s worth it.” Dawson smiled at Penelope and took her hand in his.

            Paul found this shocking. More shocking than his son’s girlfriend’s tail.

            “I’m gonna clear some of this away. I’ve got dessert. Key lime pie. And I can put on some coffee.” Paul stood and gathered a few dishes.

            “Did your wife paint that?” Penelope asked, gazing toward a large sandcastle painting in the living room.

            “She did. It’s number five in the series that really launched her career.”

            “It’s beautiful. Do you have the others?”

            “No. Two are in museums, three are in private collections, and the last one she donated to the downtown library where it’s on permanent display.”

            Sandcastle #5 was a masterpiece and had been Melody’s favorite. The subject was a sandcastle on a beach, but a trick of perspective made it unclear if it was a small castle viewed from a close distance or a large castle viewed from further away. It displayed either an enchanted palace jutting out of the ocean or a magical castle further up shore separated from the sea, depending on how the observer saw it.

            “It calls to me. I’d like a closer look. Dawson, do you mind?”

            “Of course not.” This time Dawson lifted her, chair and all, and carried her across the room. Penelope examined it closely. Paul stared, impressed.

            “I’m going to give dad a hand with these.” Dawson grabbed some cups and silverware and followed Paul into the kitchen, where he pounced. “Isn’t she great dad? Don’t you just love her?”

            “She seems nice enough, but don’t you find the whole mermaid thing weird?”

            “No.” Dawson slammed a glass onto the counter.

            “Don’t get upset, son, but what kind of grown woman goes around pretending she’d a mermaid?”

            “She’s not pretending, dad. Jesus. I thought you’d understand.” Dawson’s jaw tightened as red started creeping up his face. “How many times have you, yourself told me, Mom was born to be a painter? You said that. Could you even imagine her being anything else? She was nothing like the other moms. She wasn’t like anyone else and you loved that about her.”

            “That’s different.”

            “Is it? What do you think her life would have been like if Grams and Gramps had forced her to go to nursing school? Or pushed business on her? What about you? What if someone said, ‘You’re not really an accountant. It’s all in your head. You’ll do fine as a builder. Or a lawyer. Or a god damn party planner.’ Do you think you could just turn off being an accountant and be a party planner because people expect it of you?”

            Paul looked at his son, slack-jawed.

            “She’s a mermaid, dad. As sure as you’re an accountant, Mom was an artist, and I’m a man in love. I think we’ll skip the pie. And don’t wait up for me. I’m staying at Penelope’s tonight.”

            After Dawson stormed out, as much as one can storm while holding a mermaid, Paul brought the wine into the living room and finished it as he scrutinized Sandcastle #5.


            Paul spent a couple of long lonely weeks waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. In spite of all the years he lamented his unemployed, basement-dwelling son, he missed Dawson. He called Blaine to check up on him and got a glowing report. “He’s a new man, Paul. He’s happy and hardworking. I’ve promoted him to supervisor of all three stores.”

            “Dawson willingly took on that kind of responsibility?”

            “He jumped at the opportunity. Said he’s saving for a ring. He really loves Penelope.”

            “Blaine, don’t you find the whole mermaid thing strange?”

            “Well, Paul, my oldest and her wife are raising their kids pagan. My middle son pays good money to jump off bridges tied to a giant rubber band, and my youngest practically lives in some online space realm, so who am I to say?”

            There was no denying Dawson’s new lease on life. Paul felt proud and knew he needed to make things right with his son and his future daughter-in-law. Marshaling his strength, he marched to the kitchen, grabbed a glass and fresh bottle of red, and headed to Melody’s studio.

            Paul stood in front of the door for an eternity. He had closed off the room on the day of the funeral and no one had set a foot inside since. Paul squeezed his eyes closed, held his breath, reached for the knob and turned it.

            Paul inhaled the chemical smells of oils and acrylics and felt Melody’s presence. Everything was exactly where she had left it, canvases, paintbrushes of all sizes, and shelves covered with knickknacks—driftwood, shells, and sand dollars. Paul picked up a big bleached conch and put it to his ear. Whispering waves transported him to happier days—romantic moonlit strolls with chilly surf tickling their bare feet, tidepool explorations with their excited young son, and blazing bonfires on the beach.

            He poured a glass of wine.

            “Our son is in love with a mermaid,” Paul announced to the room. “He’s going to marry her. I didn’t make a great first impression.” Paul took a sip, put down the glass, and started sorting through stacks. “I kind of messed things up. Oh, hell. I blew it babe. I’m going to need your help to make it right.”

            Paul spent the rest of the evening rummaging, reminiscing, and drinking. It wasn’t nearly as painful as he expected. Around midnight he found his prize—three rough sketch studies for Sandcastle #5. They weren’t as pretty as the final work but they revealed thoughts, plans, and dreams behind the painting. Paul wrapped them in craft paper, texted the framing company Melody always used, set them on the front porch for the courier and went to bed.


            A sensor chimed as Paul walked into the frame store. A stocky woman with maraschino cherry hair styled into a mohawk fin greeted Paul from behind the counter. “You here for the sandcastle sketches?”

“Yep.”

            “They turned out great. Take a look.” The three drawings shared a single frame, laid out side by side, matted in dark green.

            “It’s fantastic.”

            “Thanks. I do my best work when I’m inspired.”

            “You like them?”

            “Love them. They feel like home. I have a thing for all subjects aquatic though.” She stretched her arms forward and rotated them. Reef tattoos covered every inch like colorful sleeves. Drawn in, Paul spied eels poking out from rocky caverns, orange, yellow, and purple fish darting here and there, swaying corals, and an octopus extending tentacles in all directions.

            “Wow. You’re a regular mermaid.”

            “I sure am. I’m the rarest kind of mermaid. The two-legged variety.” She winked. “There are more of us around than people realize. But we’re easier to spot when you know how to look.”

            Armed with his peace offering, Paul headed to Dawson and Penelope’s place.

            The minute Paul walked through the door, warm air and the clean smell of chlorine hit him. It was just as Dawson had described– a large courtyard with an enormous swimming pool surrounded by two levels of numbered apartment doors. It reminded Paul of a Holiday Inn Holidome they stayed at when Dawson was little.

            Penelope was cowering in the far corner of the pool, turned away from Paul. Something rained down on her. She covered her head with her arms. Paul followed the projectiles to their source and saw two boys on the balcony. The older one tossed Ninja Turtle arms, legs, heads, and shells and yelled, “Get out, weirdo.”

            The younger one launched hard plastic Happy Meal toys and shrieked, “freak, freak, freak.”

            Paul leaned his parcel on the wall and turned to the boys. “What are you doing? Stop it, now,” he thundered.

            The boys paused their onslaught, but the bigger one challenged. “Why should we? She says she’s a mermaid. My mom says she’s looney. Get out, looney. We don’t want you in our pool, looney.”

            “Your mom’s wrong. She’s no looney. She’s a mermaid.” Paul said it with such conviction a questioning look crept into the boy’s eyes.

            Paul doubled down. “You have a real, live mermaid in your pool. Do you know how rare and lucky that is? They’re magical creatures, you know. Offending one is stupid.”

            He extended his arms down so Penelope could grab hold and pull herself out of the water. With a splash, she perched on the ledge next to Paul’s feet.

            The smaller boy looked downright worried. The spokesboy, uncertain. “How would you know?” His voice wavered.

            “I was married to one, although it took me a long while to realize it.” Paul turned to Penelope. “Can I help you to your apartment? I brought something for you and Dawson.”

            Penelope nodded. Paul leaned down, placed an arm around her back and one under the bend in her tail and scooped her up. Paul looked back up at the boys. “Don’t waste time. Learn to spot mermaids now, fellas. It’ll serve you well.”

            He turned to Penelope. Gratitude shone in her eyes.

            “I’m an old guy still figuring things out. I do okay, but I’m not as bright as my son. He’s an enterprising young man with his eyes on the real prize. He knows treasure when he sees it—the rarest kind of treasure.”

Katrinka Mannelly writes and lives in Fircrest, Washington with her husband Brian, daughter Tigist, dog Queenie and cat Riptide. “Triangulation: Extinction,” Parsec Ink’s 2020 annual speculative fiction anthology includes her short story “No One Needs a Chiweenie” Her flash fiction “Twinkle,” is currently featured on https://www.metastellar.com. Her book, “Section 130” is available at barnesandnoble.com and amazon.com.

The Bay Ate My Brother… Almost by Ken Malich

In the winter of 1950, I lobbed a rubber ball off the kitchen wall. The aroma of spaghetti sauce filled the room and nook. I slid across the linoleum floor and chased my seven-up ball. I never could reach more than ‘foursies.’

Mom, housebound by Gig Harbor’s record blizzard, tired, 24 inches of snow or not, frozen bay or not, decided to get outside. Didi, my grandpa, sat at the metal-legged kitchen table in the nook and sipped a small glass of red wine. An overhead schoolhouse light lit his Croatian newspaper, which sprawled flat as he clasped his glass. Dad was down at Pete’s tavern. No relief for mom.

She herded my brother, then me, and checked newborn Theresa napping on the other side of the breakfast nook table. Mom layered me with a shirt, sweater, wool coat and mittens. A red wool cap stretched over my tender ears as I stretched to reach the porch light switch. “I want to do it!” But Markey snuck from behind and flipped the light switch. He slammed the door and trounced across the lapstrake-boarded porch, thumping down the steps. The tongue and groove boards covered with salt needed new paint and nails. He skipped the four-boarded staircase and launched into the snow-covered sidewalk, landing on his feet, and rushing to the car.

Mom commanded, “Watch Theresa.” My fourteen-year-old sister JoAnn whined. She wanted to go. “Stir the spaghetti sauce.”

Didi mumbled, “Yes” beneath his breath, taking a sip.

I hopped, thump, thump, thump onto the shaky porch, down the wood-planked shoveled steps. My runny nose began to freeze. Crunch, crunch, crunch in the snow, my brother Markey trudged quickly towards the old bare wood garage with an attached woodshed. I stretched my legs to match his. At eight, his footprints spaced themselves too far for me. Mom jingled her keys. She kept to the shoveled walk avoiding the deep snow paths of my brother and me. If I had a carrot stick, I could be a snowman when I reached the rust-bucket car. Snow dust covered my clothes.

Markey shoved me to the center of the front seat of our 41 Dodge. “Shotgun!”

“Stop it!” I whined and shoved back. I wiped my nose on his sleeve. I yucked him. He wacked and slugged my shoulder. “Owwww! Mom… Markey hit me!” She opened the door and glared at Markey. He stilled.

Her foot on the floor pedal starter, the engine rolled, slow at first, then cranked as it rumbled to life. Our breaths steamed the windshield until the rackety heater fan cleared it. The brakes squeaked. The Dodge slid down Novak Street, turned left onto Harborview and circled along the bay to the Peninsula Yacht Basin, a long dock with a marina at its end. Gig Harbor Bay was filled with netsheds and purse seiners, now sealed in ice as they waited for next summer’s salmon season. Slightly lit houses lined the bay and crawled up forested hillsides into the low-hung clouds. I could only see upward since my head was below the bottom of the windows. An occasional streetlamp and rooftop were all I could see.  Markey rubbed his window to look out at the bay; then, he cranked it down. The frozen air circulated inside.

“Oh boy,” Markey shouted outside into the neighborhood, “we’re going to ice skate!” The street was empty. We didn’t own skates.

“Mommy, what’s ice skating?” I asked. “Can we really walk on ice? I’m hot. Where are we going?  I can’t see anything. I’m hot.” 

“You’ll see.” Her eyes were fixed on the road. She clenched her jaw under her white scarf tied under her chin and over her jet-black hair. Her long camel coat draped to the floorboards. Black shoes worked the clutch, the brake, the gas. “Markey, roll the window up!” Her strong perfume filled the air.

Our Dodge slipped and spun. Crusted snow chips sprang to sidewalks from the tires. Mom feared the drive. Harborview Drive wrapped the stilled harbor and tire tracks grooved to the head of the bay. Then, we parked, half into the traffic lane in north Gig Harbor. 

The ice on Gig Harbor’s Bay was 14 inches thick at its head while it thinned towards the mouth from tidal action. In January, dark clouds hung our frozen bay.

“Markey, you stay close. Don’t go running off.”  Mom grasped my mitted hand as we centered on the dock.

Scrunch, scrunch, scrunch, my feet made footprints in the path. Children squealed and squeaked. The distant sounds grew closer as we scrunched our way to a marina ramp. The Peninsula Yacht Basin pier reached into deep water. It held the only ramp down to water level. There, the bay’s ice stayed solid beyond the beaches, where tidal movement broke the thick ice into shambles. A Texaco sign lit a small fuel shack office. Inside, smoke wisped and floated. Three men lounged as they watched the activity on the floats and ramp. Mom squeezed my hand, gripped the frozen steel handrail and towed me. Down I stumbled. Down I tripped. Down I landed on the wood raft. Barnacle flesh oozed and stank ice scraping along the creosote pilings. Dim streetlamps along the floats lit the nearby frozen boats and rafts.

“Markey, slow down, be careful!”  Mom yelled to my brother. “Don’t go running off!” Markey skidded onto the bluish ice field and vanished into the darkness. He ran. The Voyager, an extra-large purse seiner that was almost tuna boat-sized, was dimly lit and held by an icicled anchor chain. Skaters circled it and pushed red flares attached to hockey-like sticks. Mom tightly gripped me when she stepped on the ice. I cried out. I became her brace from falling. She leaned on me, lifted me and towed me.

Echoed screams delightfully flowed from children as they wandered near us. The Hi, How are Ya’s? Ain’t this fun’s? People sang. Big kids towed little kids in snow sleds or pushed them in cardboard boxes. Many fell. Two kids spun a third on a wooden kitchen chair. A smiling toss spun him and spilled him. Yachts locked in the marina stalls stood quietly waiting for the spring thaw.

I stamped my feet and tried to pull away. I dangled with Mom’s grasp. Coldness seeped into my shoes. “Mom, let me go! I want to play! Let me slide!”

“Oh, oh, oh, be careful, don’t slip.” She crushed. Her breath fogged the dark sky. We stood only a few feet away from the wooden rafts.

The skaters pushing road flare sticks disappeared in the distant darkness. Red fireflies crisscrossed and weaved towards the bay’s mouth. Away from the marina light, it made sense, yet the darkness looked foreboding.

Markey accelerated and skidded near and far. His red plaid jacket and ear flaps flopped from side to side. He slipped to all fours and smiled as he spun past us. I shuffled my feet, slid and swung with mother’s arm, tugged and tugged. She held tight.

Mom shouted, “Don’t get wet! Stand up, Markey!” He accelerated for another long slide without falling. “You’ll get cold.” Even then, he showed his football star future at Peninsula High School by keeping his balance. I wanted to follow my brother. My feet kicked out from under me. I whirled and squirmed. When I get older, I’m going to get down on the ice and play all day.     

“Mom, Mom, Mom… let me go, let go, let go,” I said. She didn’t respond. More noise, laughter, falling and shrieking in the distance. “Mom!”  Time was running short. “Mom… let go; I want to play.”  I dangled. With her glare, without hope, I quieted. Perhaps, she would let go if I were good.

“Markey… Markey… come here, we’re going home.” Mom yelled.

I was still in tow. My brother hopped and slid, not wanting to leave.

“No,” he said. “Boy, it’s cold on my feet.” He spun his feet in place.

“Come on, let’s go; Kenny’s getting cold.”

“I’m not cold, Mom,” I protested, “Just let me slide once, Mom, just once.” 

Oh, no, we moved; I struggled to get free for the last time. Desperately, I gripped the handrail to keep her on the landing. We started up the ramp.

“One more slide, Mama,” Markey yelled, hopping and skipping along the marina walkway.

He took one last, long slide. Near the pier, he eyed two snow-crusted logs floating across the face of the pier as a buffer to hold the ramp and raft away from the overhang.

I watched Markey as he sprung for a big jump on the logs. Bang! Crack! He crashed through the thin ice shell.

“Arrgg!” He shouted and plunged into the water. He flayed his arms on the ice to break the plunge. Mother released me. She turned, and took full strides down the ramp. The ramp bounced. I hung to the railing.

Finally!  I thought. Finally, I was free, free to move, oh, so wonderful. I moved. I freely moved, but I stood. My brother floundered. Then I knew what ice was — not solid. I could fall through it. I saw it. Instantly, I knew my mother’s worry. Instantly, I saw the water under this frozen world.

“Markey, Markey!” Her coat flayed open. Eyes focused on Markey. She readied to jump and stretch to reach him. A nearby crowd silenced.

With one great push by his legs and arms, Markey sprang on the edge of solid ice. He crawled towards her. Wetness slowed him. Dark seawater splashed in the hole. The logs weren’t there. He faked a laugh, crawled farther and cast an artificial smile towards Mom. Trouble with Mom, for sure.

Two grown men scrambled down the ramp and lifted me to the landing; nobody noticed me while Mom was with Markey. I sprang for the Voyager. Off I scurried to slip and slide. Finally free! The cold bit to my knees. It was great. Smiles on my face, I looked back with glee towards Mom and Markey. “Look, Mom, look at me…. wheeee!”

Mother glared at my pesky brother, lifted him to his feet, slapped the water off his legs, and whacked his behind. The smokers looked down off the pier, smiling. I’m sure they thought, Serves you right, kid. Or Listen to mama, while other men pulled both of them away from the open water hole.

“You’re all wet. Look at you!”  Then she hugged him.

Happily, I slid on the ice around the wooden floats. Wow, this was fun. I wanted more. Then, it was over.

Mom pointed directly at me. I saw a firm and intolerant gesture. Mothers rule. I hurried, once more I slid, then scurried and bounced up the ramp in front. She collared my brother.

Quickly, I leaned out over the pier’s edge and gazed into the broken crust. Eerie blackness rippled of nothingness, a dark hole of water. Its mouth opened wider as if it invited the next boy to jump.

Markey was lucky.

Mom herded and kept me from the edge of the pier and pulled Markey back to the car as he dripped from wetness. Snow print to snow print, I hopped and romped to the car.

My brother shivered and whined. “It’s soooo coooold-d-d…” His teeth chattered.

The Dodge rumbled to life. Mom revved the engine to start the heater working, but it wasn’t much use in sub-freezing weather. The frosted windshield had to thaw for a peek-a-boo view. I didn’t care. I happily bounced on the back seat cushions, rubbing the windows to view the frozen bay as we hurried home.

“I slide on the ice,” I said. My moment of freedom had been short. It became the only time I walked on the ice of Gig Harbor Bay though I discovered frozen ponds and puddles in later years. Never again did Gig Harbor bay freeze solid enough to skate.

It was fun except for the brother part. 

 

Ken Malich writes and lives in Gig Harbor, Washington. His family initially settled in the harbor in 1910 and is a third-generation descendant. His first attempt at publishing a story was developed from his memory when he was four years old. He grew up in a fishing family and fished until he worked for the Navy at Bremerton as an engineer after receiving a degree from the University of Washington. He was elected to the city council and served four terms. He’s married to his wife Barbara and has a son, Matthew.

Nostalgia is a Taxidermist by Christopher Allen

Nostalgia, the original taxidermist
Stuffs skewed memories into happiness
Hides imperfections of pain under varnish
Revives distorted stories from barren time.
Nostalgia bronzes the few remaining butterflies
and prepares to glue shadows of solidarity.

Familiarity is the head mounted on the wall
It stares at the jumpy microbes in your soul
and begs for one last cigarette to self-combust.

Nostalgia, the decorated taxidermist
Traces the shapes to immortality
While it plucks off strands of animosity;
Nostalgia sculpts pride from muscles of tradition.

Nostalgia, the avant-garde taxidermist
Plasters heredity into redacted eras
Plants modern ideology into extinction.

Nostalgia captures the breath of perfection
As lavished desires break frigid glass
Absorbing fingerprints of tasty dreams.

 

Christopher Allen

Christopher Allen believes poetry is a defibrillator for the mundane. He calls himself the Curator of Hope, as his goal is to spotlight the hope that resides in everyone. Chris has been in the helping industry for fourteen years and in his spare time, operates a private Hypnotherapy Practice. He resides in Tacoma and always has the itch to travel the world. Those interested in hypnosis can see his website www.vibranthuehypnosis.com

Two Love Poems by Mariesa Bus

And Hera sent gadflies in pursuit

Tethered to the tree, Io
could speak only
with her great eyes.
And so I never wrote
you many letters, though
words rose up through
my fingers like unborn
Braille, though I strung
sentences by their feet
like dead pheasants,
it was too late—
words were not privy to
this new language.
             While I loved you,
             I remained a beast.


O heavenly powers, restore her!

1852: the Studio of John
Millais, her cavernous ears
holding echoes underwater
like sea caves, Lizzie Siddal
hears the muted rattle
of her own shallow
breath, holds still
in spite of her shivering,
as she has practiced.
The last time her eyes
strained to see down
the length of the tub, toes
were ripening into—plums,
she thought, knowing that once
her body held the desired
pose she could endure anything.
The heaters broke and the water
felt like ice (her own marrow), felt
              somehow necessary.
Hours later, she rose
from the tub, painting
the creaking floor with
wet footsteps and saw
              Ophelia drowning
in a river of the same mania.

 

Mariesa Bus (she/her) is an editor, reader, writer, and arts enthusiast who lives and works in Tacoma. She graduated from Pacific Lutheran University in 2006 with a major in English (Creative Writing Emphasis) and a minor in Publishing and Printing Arts. She is also a freelance editor, mother, actor, vocalist, matchmaker, and wedding officiant. Find her on LinkedIn to connect.

CC Reads: October Thrills

SO. WHAT ARE YOU READING? Reccs from the CC Community & Staff

Here’s what some of our board, our featured writers and readers, and generally wonderful humans in attendance at the 8th annual Creative Colloquy Crawl had to offer for Good Spooky October Reads. Enjoy!

PSSST: Here’s your reminder to find or order these books at your favorite independent bookstore whenever possible.

Something is Killing the Children, Graphic Novel by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell'Edera

Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera
~From Cameron, CC author & self-proclaimed Public Library Nerd. “Awesome, scary graphic novel with a kickass protagonist.”

My Best Friends' Exorcism and The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

My Best Friends’ Exorcism and The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix
~From Beth, Halloween-hearted CC editor. “Pulpy, yet self aware fun for those of us who grew up with Goosebumps.”

The Only Good Indians by Stephan Graham Jones

The Only Good Indians by Stephan Graham Jones
~From James, former CC editor and continual CC friend. “Horrifying in all the good ways.”

Frankenstein by Mary W. Shelley and He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies by Katie Cord

Frankenstein by Mary W. Shelley and He Left Her at the Altar, She Left Him to the Zombies by Katie Cord
~From Steve, CC friend and Tacoma historian. “A classic and an over-the-top Bridezilla.”

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne
~From Troy, deep-thinking, art-making CC editor. “Another classic for the mix, a short story that’s more spooky than scary.”

Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp

Jane-Emily by Patricia Clapp
~From Emilie, cowardly CC editor. “Gothic ghosts, scared the pants off me when I was in 4th grade.”

More Good Stuff

  • Silent Running— Miriam’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi movie recc that started this list.
  • Phryne Fisher Books/Series— Emilie’s not-too-scary preference for people who like murder and vintage fashion.
  • Midnight Mass— Beth needs to discuss this show with you all, NOW.
  • Something Wicked This Way Comes — We ALL remembered Bradbury’s spooky lines and scenes in the book and film.
  • The Old Testament— James’ current reading project with, “more ghosts than I expected.”

“Any of 100 Days, 2014” by James Stuart

Every morning has become the same.

You oversleep by thirty-six minutes. It is a lazy habit – one that has been reinforced by oddly-timed snooze cycles and a general lack of consequences. With each trill of your phone, nine more minutes slip away. Already, the early summer sun is warming your bedroom and your legs are sticky with sweat under the sheets. The hour grows later and any hope you have of making it to work early fades. You lie blanketed in half-sleep, willing your body awake without any true conviction.

Eventually, there is a spark, and then another. Your mind sputters to life. The anxiety of the night bleeds from you and is replaced by the distinct worries of the day. Alone, this is not enough to rouse you from the bed, so it is left to your bladder to finish the job. You march dutifully toward the bathroom. In the hallway, your bare feet slap against the cool wood flooring.

Your hair is oily and erratic in the mirror above the toilet. You strip naked and brush your teeth in the shower to save time, spitting, and squatting down onto the balls of your feet underneath the calcified spray. You balance there and let the water drip from the long ends of your hair as you continue to wake. Your skin turns pink and tingles with the heat. Again, you stand and begin to wash your body slowly. Your fingers wander over every imperfection, listing them as you go.

You rub at the rough pads at your elbows, then up across the chicken skin of your shoulders. Your legs are thick and short. The edges of your fingernails are chewed and uneven and hang skin bloodies each cuticle. The list goes on.

Like always, your touch lingers longest around your swollen belly and the broad expanse of your chest. The coarse, dark hair there is laid flat against your skin, mounding imperfectly over scars and moles. In the spaces where your arms press against your body, water gathers briefly then falls, splashing against the curved walls of the tub. You prod carefully at the soft fat around your waist and wonder what it would be like to feel strength there instead. Your own strength, yes, but maybe someone else’s, too. At this, you laugh.

You eat carelessly on your way out the door, your hair still wet and your pulse quickening at the sight of the clock on the stove. The drive from your home on the edge of downtown to the office where you spend your days isn’t far, but the slow stream of commuters seems to grow longer each day. Together, you bend through narrow corridors and one-way streets like a worm that is sliced in half at every red light, only to be made whole again three blocks later. With every stop, your eyes wander from car to car, hoping to catch a glimpse into the lives of others. What a wonder, these cars – thousands of pounds of steel and glass, each containing multitudes.

Your eyes tend to linger on certain cars more than others. Sometimes it’s a sedan, gray and shimmering in the morning light. Other days, it’s a luxury SUV with dark tinted windows, or a German hatchback driven by a woman belting along to Whitney Houston. Your thoughts match the pace of traffic, ebbing and flowing, going nowhere in a hurry. Some days, you notice a pickup with large, knobby tires or a sporty Jeep with the doors removed and a muscled, hairy leg hanging languidly from the driver’s seat. In those moments, your mind moves slightly faster. Then, the light changes and with a laugh, you set off again.

Like the mornings, the days, too, feel the same.

To the irritation of no one, you arrive to work late and throw yourself into a routine that has earned you both praise and opportunity. Day in and day out, you do just enough to seem busy, without the mental strain and heartburn of actual achievement. You take care to do the small things that make a person well-liked: you make a new pot of coffee without being asked; you stop in the lobby and speak with the receptionist about her weekend, leaving her blushing while the phone rings unanswered; you buy Girl Scout cookies when asked and donate regularly to retirement gifts; you never ask anyone for anything more than what you are willing to give of yourself. Your coworkers sometimes balk at the lack of photos on your desk. You tell them, I’ve been meaning to get around to that, and they laugh.

The older women in your department are the most insistent. Bored with their own sense of security, they clamor to resolve your own. Each of them comes replete with a seemingly endless supply of daughters, nieces, and neighbors. One after another, you listen as they list the relative merits and accomplishments of their chosen contenders – a teacher from Berkley, a young widow without children, a real estate agent who paints sunflowers on burlap when the market is slow.

Sometimes, you take them up on their offer and spend a few weeks, maybe even a month with a new woman. More often, you nod politely as they ask after your type and availability. Eventually, you gently change the subject, citing any number of complications or the existence of work that simply cannot wait any longer. A few offer suspicious glances in return. Most seem appreciative of your time. Today, a middle-aged woman from accounting is annoyed with your reaction. Lacking any shame, she pantomimes a limp wrist and raises her eyebrows to form both a question and an accusation. Together, you share a laugh.

There have always been girlfriends – a string of them in fact, with only the briefest periods of loneliness in between. Each has been wonderful in her own way, and only a handful have been worthy of your contempt. They all looked lovely on your arm and devilish in your bed. Twice, you have been in love. Once, it was returned.

Every evening is different.

You finish your work and attempt to leave the office with your head down, avoiding any lingering pleasantries with a discouraging charm. On nights when there are invitations, you must work harder to slip away. Tonight, you fail.

You find yourself at one of a dozen different bars within walking distance. Together with your coworkers, you pull at your beer with long, slow mouthfuls and feel your body loosening along with them. Your voices get louder, your language a deeper blue. With each drink, you all feel a greater insulation from the world. Your tongues unfurl. The women tend to leave early, and tonight is no exception. Your number is halved, but still the drinks come steadily. The married men spin the golden bands on their fingers – some in boredom, some with regret. The rest of you are young and single; your eyes roam without guilt.

The hour grows later, and you pick at the label of your beer as you sit contentedly in the company of the remaining few. Your blood slows, your body warm within the embrace of the alcohol. Across the room, a man in shorts and flip flops sits alone at the bar and watches baseball highlights on mute. His legs are tan with the season and his hair is cut close. His hands tear at a paper coaster, the tendons flexing and relaxing rhythmically as the pile of debris in front of him grows.

You notice the color of his eyes. He is unbothered by the noise of the room, and you wonder if he drives a Jeep.

In time, this memory will feel vivid and terribly important. You will dwell upon it and live within it until you have seen yourself from every angle. There will be moments, too, when it feels false – merely a result of too much beer and a restless mind. Worse still are the times it seems a betrayal. She will find her way to you soon, and happiness will not be far behind, but you must brace yourself. It will take a year or more to tell her about this moment and even then, you will not tell her about the pit in your stomach when you think of the lurking duality within yourself, when you think about a hand like yours, not like hers, touching the soft flesh around your navel. Not yet.

Instead, you will throw yourself entirely into her, your lives growing together until any absence – no matter how brief – feels cruel and lashing. She will look to you for wisdom and patience – even when you have none – and she will loan you her strength in return. She will listen and smile as you shed layer after layer. She may guess, she may not. In either case, the day will come when your fear and your melancholy secrets will feel like nothing more than broken cobwebs, waving as if with breath. And she will love them, too. But not yet.

The last third of your beer goes warm in your hand.

One of the men at your table makes a joke.

There is a tired punchline and a peal of laughter.

The man in the shorts stands to leave, motioning for his check and you don’t feel like laughing anymore.

James Stuart is an American fiction writer with an emphasis on short, impactful writing. He received a Bachelor of the Arts in English from Colorado State University. Stuart’s work has been published in Creative Colloquy, The Almagre Review, and Short Fiction Break, among others. I am currently in the process of launching “Twenty Bellows” – a literary journal-cum-zine featuring emerging authors of short fiction and imaginative prose. He also maintains his own fiction website, The Forge (www.storiesfromtheforge.com).