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Crack the Spine Issue Seventeen

Crack The Spine Issue Seventeen March 26, 2012 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2012 by Crack the Spine

Contents Kyrie Amos………………………..………………...Natural Born Creep Samantha Memi……………….…....It Always Happens to Me in Paris Deborah Drake…………………………………..….…The New Seasons Eric Prochaska……...……What Are You Afraid of on Fourth Avenue Linda Crate………………………………………...….…...Lost Thoughts I’ll Remember Trapped in Indecision Rachel Ambrose….………………...……...……….A Pinch of Mortality Jason Brightwell..………………………..……..……….Pushing Nickels

Natural Born Creep By Kyrie Amos

Motel room shag carpet filth of a man, Staring me down on the corner of Fifth and Broad. Cigarette holes in his shirt, A window A peephole if you will Into original sin. I try to decipher his stance, yet all effort dies inside His mustard stained collar. He licks his lips in a fixed gaze Heat radiates But does not melt my cold shoulder. A car breaks his focus, I shake off the second degree disgust.

Kyrie Amos hails from a bustling, eclectic town in the heart of Georgia by the name of Athens. She has been writing privately for over ten years now. Most recently, she began submitting her work and will be in the upcoming April issue of Emerge Literary Journal. The journal mirrors what she is doing, emerging onto the scene. She describes herself and her pieces as unconventional, unchained and free. Her goal is to venture the depths of my mind and deliver what she has found to the masses, causing them to take a second look at all the wonder and darkness within the psyche.

It Always Happens to Me in Paris By Samantha Memi

You can be sure of seeing me in Paris. Not quite here and not quite there. But if you were there you would see me. I would be in a bar sitting as far away as possible from a noisy machine which takes money from those foolish enough to gamble. I would be drinking coffee, or cognac, or both. As you entered I would look up, and, catching your eye, quickly look away; yet, intrigued by your beauty, as your eyes turned elsewhere, I would catch a fleeting glance of your profile as I, nervous of your catching me watching you, made out as if to glance around the bar, perhaps to check if a friend were there. You would want to invite me to a drink but would be nervous about introducing yourself. If it was raining and the bar was full you could push over to my table and with a nonchalant, 'excuse me, is this chair free? ingratiate yourself into my domain. It wouldn't be difficult; my mouth would dry with fear with you so close, but I would be able to utter, 'certainly, certainly. Have you just escaped the rain?' And wonder, Is that a stupid question to ask? till you answer. 'It would seem so, it had just started as I came in.' And I would think, Did it start before you came in, or had you entered before any rain fell. You would sip your beer. 'It's very crowded in here. Is it always like this?' 'Often yes, especially on Saturdays. Because it’s popular the beer moves fast and because the beer's fresh it's popular.' And I'd smile as you gripped you beer and I’d enquire, 'Where are you from?' 'Not far, just over there (or where ever you are from) and you?' 'Me? I'm from round here. Haven't been here always. Went away for a bit. Then came back. It'd changed. Couldn't recognise it. Thought I'd be going back to where I'd been before and instead I went somewhere new that I thought I knew.' 'Yes.' You'd ask Did you know —? and Do you remember —? and I'd answer Yes or No depending, and you'd tell me about your life. You would have been a model for Paris Match and then, in Italy, an actress with Antonioni and at the moment you are an architect in Lisbon. You tell me of meeting Nico in Munich and of how her dark luscious voice seduced you to her bed and, as she squeezes your ears with her thighs she told you white lies about being in love with a guitarist who loved anal sex lubricated by blood, and you half wink thinking I would be shocked but I only smile and say, 'rather unhealthy in this day and age,' and immediately think, What a stupid thing to say, In this day and age, but once said it's too late and, to cover my faux pas I say. 'The best lubricant for me I always find is love sweet love.' 'Oh, I quite agree.'

After a few more drinks I invite you to mine. It is early morning as we walk home. It has stopped raining. The birds are singing. In bed I remember your name. The church bells prevent the sleepy from finding solace in dreams. Children in the street scream and kick tin cans. Making love I gaze into your eyes and see an island drifting on a sea of blue and I want to be there, not alone but with you. Would you be able to live inside your iris and still see me looking at you. In the morning, after croissants, you leave. When I phone the number you gave me all I hear is a recorded voice saying, This number is unobtainable.

Samantha Memi used to spy for western powers. She was caught and subjected to fiendish torture. Noticing her nail polish had been scratched she broke down and divulged state secrets.

The New Seasons By Deborah Drake

Time pulls at my bare shell, slowing me, a feral cat playing at its whim, a gouging of wrinkles with each swipe of its outstretched paw. The head clock counts down with a click. Claws, ticking a circle around me, match tempo with tune. Twenties jazz fuses into the power source while Time curls into Its fuzzy circle over my chest with a purr ever quickening. Never hunting breath of baby or crone, Its prey reincarnates from birth. And Time is up at last! It rises, padding away, ignoring the clock. I gain awareness before my body stirs, to greet a webbing grid of lights sparkling, stretching before us, welcoming our pulses. Prepare us for our first dawn here. Time and Tech work their magic. The rite is done. We step out, dispersing, Settling in a slower cycle for the new seasons of this land.

Deborah Drake lives in upstate New York after many years around New York City working in the music industry. Deborah devotes much of her time and energy to writing, art, and web development. Deborah has work appearing in e-book and print form in two anthologies. She has also been known to sling a bass guitar around her shoulders on occasion.

What Are You Afraid of on Fourth Avenue? By Eric Prochaska

It should surprise you to see the train charging toward you down Fourth Avenue, no tracks under it, and more than a half mile away from its route in the first place. But it isn't until the horn wails that you pay it much attention at all. That horn whose howl could pulverize a granite mountain to a shuddering mess of rubble. So much grief and its resultant fury contained in a train's bellow. It drowns out the immediate world, tunnels deep enough to obliterate memory. You stand in terror of its undertow, its rumbling determination. That train made of iron as dark as repressed memories. And when it passes the world fades back into focus, your trembling resides with a oncentration of effort, and your breath is once again brought under control. As the train disappears you know it was never the roaring locomotive you were afraid of. Fourth Avenue. How many times had I walked its length all the way from the downtown blocks bordering the river up to our house? Somehow, I preferred its overgrown tree cover to the open sidewalks of Third or Second. And I had always preferred walking to taking the bus. Especially at night. The streetlights were always smothered inside a swarm of Sycamore leaves this time of year. Their glow was dim as a flashlight dropped into a river. But I knew every tree trunk, every telephone pole, mailbox, and phone booth. I would know if something was wrong. So what was there to be afraid of on Fourth Avenue? Nothing so much that I wouldn’t dare stroll up the middle of the street in a pair of pajama pants and t-shirt, apparently. It must have been past midnight. The hours when the wind stops breathing. I couldn’t remember why I had come out or how I had blinked and wound up as far as Fourth Avenue. I remembered the hotel room. The paintings on the wall were the same as those that hung in the living room of the duplex where I lived years ago. Before I had left this town and turned myself into something. And now I was back, bringing my manufacturing enterprise with me, ready to put down roots, ready to be the man I could not have become if I had stayed here. And now I was back, on Fourth Avenue, without a clue why. Suddenly, the stench of garbage clutched my senses.

The man stepped into the street, his stare fixed on me for a moment before he looked down. He had ascertained my trajectory and knew I would not break it, because to break it would be a sign of fear. He knew the lamb would rather stride to the slaughter than let the lion in on his secret fear. He peeked up to confirm I was still on track. I nodded like men do to other men, even men who might not be friends. He knew exactly where I was, exactly where I would be. He knew exactly where I was, and still our shoulders collided solidly. I slowed just to murmur an apology-like phrase, and he knew the lamb well enough to be ready. He snared my shirt just below the collar, spinning me in my tracks and also pulling me toward him. Toward the gun in his other hand. Poking the gun into my stomach, he said, "Just your money." I couldn't react. I wanted to reach for my wallet to show him it was empty. I wanted to smile and tell him to relax. I wanted to do whatever I had to stay alive, but anything I might have done could have gotten me killed. "Your money, man!" he urged, stabbing the gun deeper. "Hey, this is your lucky night," I said. Was I a fool? Was this the courage I wished for? "No, this is your lucky night, because I'm gonna let you live if you give me your fucking money!" "Listen," I said. "I'm just on a walk. I couldn't sleep. Look at the way I'm dressed. I didn't even bring my wallet." "Yeah? How's that make me lucky? Just give me your money!" He released my collar and plunged his hand into my pockets one at a time. I stood perfectly still, hands raised to either side of my grinning face so he could see I wasn't trying to trick him. "I told you, I left my wallet at the hotel. Listen," I said, "it's a good thing we met like this." He grunted a sarcastic retort. I wasn't sure if he was about to bolt, but I no longer felt the fear. Why didn't I let him go, then? No. He would just disappear. I would not let him just disappear. "I need a man like you," I told him, bringing his darting eyes back to my face. "I need someone to do something for me."

He was done searching me and was now examining his options. There I stood, staring him in the face with that grin on my own. If he thought I was mocking him, he might have shot me, but I could not erase that grin. "I need someone to deliver a message, if you know what I mean," I said. "No, I don't fucking know what you fucking mean!" But he was listening, and I not only knew I was going to live, I knew I was acting out of courage and not foolishness. There's this guy, an ex-business partner of mine, who screwed me out of a lot of money." "How much?" he cut in. He was fixated on money. "A lot. Enough to buy a nice house. But it's gone now. That money's gone. So I need you to visit this guy. Rough him up. Let him know it's not just water under the bridge. Let him know someone's watching him." "You telling me to kill a guy?" He took a step back, the gun pointed at me from his hip. "No, you don't have to kill him. I want him to live in fear. It's the worst thing that can happen to a man, to live in fear. He isn't a man anymore. And he can't redeem himself. Maybe he took that money from me, but he can never go back and reclaim his manhood." "How much?" "I've never done this sort of thing before, so I don't know. Maybe two, three grand, if you do it right." I let my hands down to my sides. "I'll do it right," he said, insulted. Now he had something to prove. "But I want it done now," I said. "Tonight." "I'm not doing anything until you pay me," he said, again with the gun raised. "That's fine. I just want to be able to sleep again. This thing is eating me up. You get a mask

and some gloves, and maybe a baseball bat or something. You get that and meet me at Century Park, at the playground, in one hour. I'll get the money." "You think I'm stupid? Where're you gonna get the money? An ATM? You don't have your wallet, remember?" "No. Just listen." He thrust the gun under my chin and I raised my hands again. I knew he didn't want to shoot, but that didn't mean the gun wouldn't go off. "I've got money in my hotel room. In the safe. I'll go get that and you go get ready." "I'm going with you." "To my room? Your face'll be on the hotel surveillance tapes. Then they'll have you, and they'll have us together. No way. You get ready, I'll go get the money, and then we'll meet. You don't have to worry. You've got services I need. I'm not gonna let a guy like you get away." He stood there, staring me down, waiting for me to crack. Finally, he said, "OK. You get the money and you be there!" "I will be." Anyone else would have gone back to the hotel, locked themselves in their room, and stayed awake the rest of the night out of fear and the rush of almost being mugged, or worse. But I had something to prove, too. So I got dressed and headed back out through the empty lobby, past the vacant reception desk. At the B Street police station I asked, “May I speak to the watch commander?” I told him the story and he just grinned. “Look, I know you think you’re doing something great, and all, but this really isn’t something we do.” “You don’t catch criminals?” “We don’t involve citizens in impromptu stings to catch criminals. Look, you got away from a hairy situation. You should be happy about that. Anything could have happened.” “I know. But you don’t understand. I’m not happy just to be alive. I need more. I need this guy arrested.”

The female officer who had been listening in moved from leaning against the wall to sit on the edge of the desk. “We can’t arrest him for this crime you’re hiring him to do, you know.” “What? I know,” I said. I did a double-take as she bore an uncanny resemblance to someone knew. “I know. It’s just a way to trap him. But he did commit a real crime tonight. That’s all I want him charged with.” “You know, the chances of him doing any real time are non-existent,” she said. Mrs. Watkins! My tenth-grade history teacher. That's who she looked like. No, she didn’t look like her. She was her! “That doesn’t matter. I don’t know how to explain this, but it’s just important that he’s arrested. Okay? I don’t care if he doesn’t go to jail. I just need him to be arrested for what he did.” I watched as they exchanged looks. They thought I was naïve. They thought I was wasting their time. They thought there was no point in catching a criminal unless it was the Grand Slam of arrests. They couldn’t imagine the importance of going through the effort to arrest a dime-a-dozen thug when it wouldn’t make a measurable impact in crime. The time left until my meeting with the mugger was shrinking fast and I starting tapping my foot from anxiety. We would never have another chance to catch him. We would never have the chance to catch him again. A muffled, waking thought told me this was ridiculous. There is no way this could be happening. So contrived and streamlined. Utterly improbable. But the other thought reached and pressed a pillow firmly over its objections. The other thought urged these events along, encouraged velocity. “Well,” the watch commander finally said, “I guess it won’t hurt to just see if he shows up.” So they watched, four officers, from furtive locations, as the mugger approached me in the park. He was hesitant to step out of the shadows near the hedges, but once he was in the open he strode toward me so quickly I almost thought he was going to just march by. But he stopped. He raised his forearm to show that he had the curved end of a crow bar wrapped into his palm and the shaft of it concealed up his sleeve. “Where’s the money?” “I’ve got it,” I said. “In my car.” He looked toward the nearest street, where an almost uninterrupted chain of cars all seemed the same color under the street lights. It was amusing to see him as afraid of approaching the light as he knew his prey should be of chancing the dark.

“Come on,” I said. I led him out to the sidewalk, into the street, and across it, to the row of cars. But he stopped at the asphalt. “Where’s the money?” he said. I stopped with my hand on the door handle. This was like landing a prize fish. I needed to be patient, or he'd get away. “In my car. Right here. I thought I’d drive you closer to his house. Come on. You don’t think I have a gun in here, do you?” I chuckled to calm his nerves. A gun. I invited him to a rematch and I told him to play by my rules. He brought a crow bar, and I could well have brought a gun. He didn’t trust me. He didn’t know how to trust. He had only let me go earlier and only shown up now because he was gambling. He stepped closer to the car… all the way across the street, and then between the bumpers of my car and the car behind it to get in on the passenger's side, just as I had gestured for him to do. One moment I saw him walking to the other side of the car, cautious eyes trained on me. The next moment, a flurry of justice dressed in navy blue long past midnight swarmed upon him, and dragged him to the ground. The police had sprung from their crouched positions behind the cars. They had caught him. He had not gotten away. He would never get away with this.

Yes, that would be a happy ending. You can close your eyes and imagine all the beautiful futures you like. You can make yourself what you thought you might be, if only this hadn't happened. But it did. And you cannot see any way to restore what was lost. You are still sixteen, standing on the skeleton train bridge over the darkness of the Cedar River. You are still sixteen, never having had the chance to transform completely into a man, a model of courage. Sixteen... and the train is a mile away when the bridge begins to shiver. You wait. You feel it swelling inside and rising and wanting out. And when the howl begins you add your voice with more volume than your lungs believe they can sustain. The mass of black iron pummeling through the moonlit night. You breathe deep and again howl like a wolf joining the cacophony of the pack. Until the train is nothing more than a rhythmic klak-klak, klak-klak of steel

wheels passing over the gaps in the tracks and you have been reduced to a sobbing, huddled shadow who will never feel safe again. They came from behind the dumpster. As soon as you had thrown the bags into its open hatch and began to turn back toward the back door of the restaurant you knew the shadows were moving and you knew that they would ensnare you. One with a knife to your throat; one with a gun to your head. You led them in just as they commanded. You will never forget the smell of his breath from under the ski mask, the one with the gun, the one who spoke. You were not a hero. You lay face-down on the freezer floor without protest, a frozen sheet of chicken blood and ice against your cheek. Through the thick freezer door, you only listened as they beat the manager because she refused to open the safe. The robbers gone, you sat in a booth at the front of the restaurant, exposed by all the glass. You watched the cars prowl up Fourth Avenue, not knowing who could be looking back at you from inside those opaque windows. When the police came to take statements, you could not see at first that they were only going through the motions of their job. You wondered why they said, "Well, the truth is, there's really very little chance we'll be able to find these guys.” Why was the newspaper article so short, buried near the end of the first section? Why didn't anyone understand what had really happened? The money didn’t matter. It wasn’t yours, and it didn’t matter. Why didn’t anyone see what they had stolen from you? No one sensed what was missing, and only you knew that it could never be reclaimed.

Eric Prochaska teaches, hikes, wonders, and writes among the sky islands of southeastern Arizona. He has been writing for over 20 years, and, when life and work allow, he even manages to get a few pieces published in fine showcases such as Whistling Shade, riverbabble, Crack the Spine, and Blue Lake Review. His short story 'Lines' has been selected for nomination for the Pushcart Prize. His first collection of short stories, This Great Divide, was published by Halo Forge Press in 2006. He is currently compiling short stories from the past several years to present in a new anthology and steadily working on a few longer projects.

Lost Thoughts By Linda Crate

the lisps of fate fall upon the lips of mortal men that struggle to convey their thoughts most aptly when the situation calls for it — they stutter like an autumn leaf trembling in the sky before it falls upon the mud soaked ground of an apathetic world tinged with the flames of indifferent men, which burns brighter and hotter than white light.

I’ll Remember By Linda Crate

I’ll remember me even when you forget, remaining on the tongue of my own consciousness — you once knew my face well, now I fall into the labyrinth of things you once knew but no longer recall; you tell me that you had a daughter once, it takes all the arms of the oaks to hold back my rain — I am the daughter, I am your daughter, but you don’t know; my words and my face remain shapeless as they come swinging into view like a pendulum, linnet wings are the only things that litter the attics of your mind — I cannot compete with the spiders sliding down purple eyelids; you sleep and yet you’re weary, exhaustion is the only friend you know and insomnia winks his head at you as he tips his hat, and I cannot leave but I cannot linger for if I remain here too long you’ll hate me.

Trapped in Indecision By Linda Crate

you are a pendulum you swing back and forth on the rim of indecision — you bathe in the waters of regret; I wish I could pull out the plunger in your toilet and tell you to stop fretting over things that don’t matter, but you’d stain the floors lavender with your tears.

Linda Crate is a Pennsylvanian native born in Pittsburgh yet raised in the rural town of Conneautville. Her poems have been previously published in Magic Cat Press, Black-Listed Magazine, Bigger Stones, Vintage Poetry, The Stellar Showcase Journal, Ides of March, The Blinking Cursor, The Diversified Arts Project, The Railroad Poetry Project, Skive, The Scarlet Sound, Speech Therapy, Itasca Illinois & Willowtree Dreams, Carnage Conservatory, Daily Love, Dead Snakes, The Camel Saloon, Write From Wrong, Moon Washed Kisses, The Wilderness Interface Zone, Samizdat Literary Magazine, Danse Macabre, Crack the Spine, The Horror Zine, Boyslut, Flutter, EMG-Zine, From the Depths, Trapeze Magazine, and The Rusty Nail. Her short stories have been published in Carnage Conservatory, Daily Love, Yesteryear Fiction, Circus of the Damned, Linguistic Erosion, and Three Minute Plastic.

A Pinch of Mortality By Rachel Ambrose

Roxanne walked down the path to her house, blue eyes squinted against a steelcolored sky. The doctors had said she had three months to live; “just take each day as it comes,” was the distinctly unhelpful advice one of them had given her. Her bag was weighed down with prescriptions for pain killers, caffeine pills and muscle relaxers: the five (or six or seven) pills got her through the afternoon so she could make it home from work. She heated herself a frozen pizza and munched at it through the evening news, which always made her cry. After dinner, she took her dog for a walk, drank a half-glass of white wine along with a cocktail of the medications, and went to bed. She followed this routine for exactly four days, seven hours and twenty-eight minutes. At 7:29 AM on the fifth day, she called in sick to work, went to a local cooking-ware shop, and bought her very first stand mixer. It was pink and white, with gold trim, and she called it Polly. “I need to make macarons,” she told her dog, Max. She didn't believe in naming things, normally, but Polly was different. Polly, she knew, would become her salvation. Macarons were Roxanne's very first love. They were the pastry she had fallen in love with during her school days in Montmartre. The crunch of the outside crust, the gooey texture of the filling, and how everything dissolved into the most delectable paste, flaking against her back teeth. She was British, but her parents had sent her to school in France to better educate her. She still spoke with a slight French accent when she was happy. When she answered the phone a few afternoons after buying Polly, her mother's voice said, “Why, my darling girl! You've got your accent back, how lovely.” She told her mother that she had quit her job to make macarons all day, and her mother said, “Well, dear, just don't let them go to your waist. You won't fit into your funeral dress. I've picked it out special.” But most days, surrounded by sugar, egg whites and the light rose of Polly's paint, Roxanne didn't feel like dying at all. It wasn't that she just felt good. She felt like having a conversation with Death itself about how that whole kicking the bucket thing just couldn't happen right now. Friends were paying good money for her macarons and she was coming up with more ideas every day, sometimes so many that she'd have to go out and buy a new notebook just to jot them all down. Pistachio and almond-coconut were her two most popular flavors, but mocha and strawberry were having a good run as well. Polly seemed to whirr with happiness every time she put

out a fresh batch, and her house constantly smelled like heaven. Sometimes she would feel bad in the afternoons, but a long stretching session often took care of that. Before she went to sleep about three weeks later, she decided to pour herself a glass of red wine instead of the white. The sweet berry of the wine put her in a mood to have some blackberries, so she had those. It was a completely normal night, until there was a knock on her door. Frowning, she went and answered it. Pulling the door open, she blinked at the young woman standing in front of her. “Oh,” she said. “You must be...” “Suspire,” said the lady, white nails clicking against each other. “It's quite cold out here, can I come in? I've heard about your macarons, is all, and I'd like to see if mine are better than yours.” She gestured at the black car in the driveway. “I brought my equipment and everything so we can each make a fresh batch.” “How did you hear about me?” Roxanne asked. “I've never heard of you.” “Oh,” said Suspire. “Here and there, through the grapevine.” She hefted the big canvas bags at her feet. “You know, your macarons are quite the thing. So I'm prepared to make you an offer if you'll allow me in.” Roxanne shifted aside for Suspire to pass, noting with distaste that the woman smelled like funeral flowers. She was probably one of those bakers who made lilac-flavored macarons with rose-flavored filling; pretentious as hell. Who knew what lilac petals tasted like anyway? Now, a strawberry was something that filled up your mouth. Once they were both in the kitchen, Suspire turned around to look at Roxanne. “I've been informed of your situation,” she told her. “You don't have long to live, you know. So I'm going to make you a deal.” Roxanne arched an eyebrow at Suspire, who merely smiled. “We're both going to make a batch of our favorite macarons,” she said. “And if yours are best, you get to live. Not just now, but for however long you wish. And if mine are best, I get to take your soul with me tonight.” Roxanne realized what “suspire” meant, then; it was an old vocabulary word, and it meant “to breathe.” A shiver went down her back. “All right,” she said. “I'll play. What do I have to lose? I'll be dead in a few weeks from the sounds of things anyway.” She pinched her middle. “Mum's going to have fits about my weight gain, but never mind.” She walked over to Polly and pulled her little recipe book down from the shelf above. Almond-coconut like her life depended on it (which it conveniently did). “But wait,” she said. “Who's going to judge?” Another knock on the door sounded. Roxanne went and pulled it open, gasping as she saw who it was. “My dear,” said the woman standing on her threshold, “you must be fearless today!” Stepping inside, Roxanne noticed, still mute, that the edges of the

woman were shimmering. “Um... Mrs. Child? J-Julia?” Roxanne tried. “Are you going to be judging our macarons?” “Well, who else, duckie?” Julia said, smiling. “They would have had Jacques Pepin, but he's not exactly one of us yet, if you get my drift.” Stepping into the kitchen, she nodded coldly at Suspire. “Well, you have two hours to cook, and then we'll see.” She lit a cigarette and sat back in one of Roxanne's kitchen chairs. “I do so love macarons, and I've heard that yours are a revelation, Roxanne.” “Oh,” said Roxanne as she mixed up the egg whites. “Well, thank you. I quite like them.” She was sure she was turning about ten shades of red at the compliment. “I wish I had gotten to try yours.” “Ah, mine were nothing special,” said the ghost, shrugging blithely. “What flavors will you both be giving me tonight?” “Almond coconut,” said Roxanne, as Suspire replied with, “Violet pear.” Two hours later, Roxanne swiped a hand through frazzled hair, testing the finished batch with a finger. The shell was nice and firm, like it should be, but with a hint of give. She smiled. They were her best yet; the flavors were so balanced. Handing one over to Julia, she watched as the ghost slowly chewed, her eyes closed, finger tapping on the kitchen table. “Yum,” she said, swallowing. She gave Roxanne a wink as she accepted Suspire's macaron. Roxanne turned away. She couldn't stand looking at Julia's face when she was judging Suspire's confection. About thirty seconds later, Roxanne heard an odd hissing sound. Suspire wasn't in the kitchen anymore, but there was a very angry looking black cat, which slowly disappeared like steam. She grinned and looked around at Julia, who was smiling in that oh-so-Julia way of hers; eyes alight with humor and good cheer. “You were fearless,” she said. “Your macarons were just better than hers, that's all. Of course I'm not biased.” She winked again. “Good luck to you, my dear.” She slowly faded until all that was left of her was a slight warmth where she'd sat, like coals of a fire. The next week, Roxanne's happily baffled doctors pronounced her cured. Her mother was disappointed about her weight gain, but took pleasure in feeding Roxanne large amounts of pasta and cake. She opened a bake shop later that year and named it Julia's Blessed Bakery. She didn't think its inspiration would have minded one bit.

Rachel Ambrose is a Connecticut native with a Southern soul, having graduated from North Carolina's Meredith College in 2010. She currently lives an hour away from New York City and spends her time working in restaurants, making hoity toity espressobased beverages, exploring the wonders of ham radio, and of course, writing. She has been published in Meredith College's Colton Review (from 2006 through 2010). In the 2009 issue, her flash fiction piece "Sentinels" was awarded second place in the juried reading for the Narration category. Her work has also appeared in Exiles Literary Magazine. She may be reached on Tumblr (victorywhiskeyjuliet) and Absolute Write (holy_shiitake).

Pushing Nickels By Jason Brightwell

Using his fingers, he shines ol’ Jefferson’s head and frames out a tiny circle in wet concrete at the base of a light post to push a nickel into.

He does it because he knows that if he’s lucky, this embedded nickel, will be all that remains of him long after he’s gone.

Jason Brightwell lives in Baltimore, MD, where he finds himself regularly haunted by one thing or another. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in journals including: The Blind Man’s Rainbow, Phantom Kangaroo, Red Fez, Quantum Poetry Journal, and The Battered Suitcase among others.

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