Crack the Spine
Issue 192 June 30, 2016 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2016 by Crack the Spine
CONTENTS Sarah Frances Moran This Evergreen’s Locking Up Everyone Who’s Ever LaidLauren a Finger on Me Lara John P. Kristofco
The Old House
The Sixteenth Boy
Eileen Ní Shuilleabháin I Climb
Urban Legends, Or Now That Your Emails Have Stopped
Shoshauna Shy Hunger
Thomas C. Dunn Watertight
Horseface in a Bikini
Sarah Frances Moran
This Evergreen’s Locking Up Everyone Who’s Ever Laid a Finger on Me These are the cages I keep where I harbor all the damaged broken animals of my childhood. They are not appropriate for rescue. They will never stop cowering at an outstretched hand. If you reside among them it’s only because you harbor abhorrence that can do nothing but trickle through the bloodstream of the root of the tree you’d wish to cut down. We cannot afford anymore infection. These are not the words you’re looking for. This isn’t the poem that makes you smile and these cages I keep are not filled with anything worth oohing or ahhing over. This is a prison, not a pet store. This is a place where the spectacle of adolescent minded adults are harbored. Where they have been judged and found guilty. Where a cavern of secrets whisper a trail to their isolation. Where an Evergreen plays turnkey.
Cage 1: If you ever dreamed of being a patriarch, you failed. You planted a tree then doused it in gasoline and attempted to burn it. But these roots are infinite. This is Evergreen. She nurtured it and the fire you carry is weak. Was her pale freckled beautiful worth your fist? How do the knuckles feel now when they connect with bark? You sit behind my bars and wonder why I don’t like to call you. why I never come to visit you. why the longest conversations you have with me are on my answering machine. This Evergreen stands tall for you. Knows what you’ve done. Knows where your choices left me. It’s never letting you go. Cage 2: There’s a tree in the front yard. It watches over who I’ve imprisoned. It’s the same one that spit you out of it after it had seen you force your hands all over my body. That tree that you’ll never forget because it’s limb, destroyed your limb and saved me.
What were you thinking as you climbed it? What were you thinking as you fell? Now you sit imprisoned in your thoughts of my skin. The greatest cage I ever manifested, the one that keeps my name on your lips, my touch on your fingertips. and the way the memory of the taste of me causes ripples of consequences to rack your body. This is the earthquake you created. The tectonic faults you placed inside the depths of me. The destruction you now suffer is mine. That tree wreaks havoc on you, breaks your bone perpetually. It witnessed me grow. It is my ...watchdog. Cage 3: She is Gemini. One of her I keep in my heart, locked away inside my ribcage where I canâ€™t touch her love because sometimes it is easier to be numb to it. She sits and she beats with me always. The other of her was unworthy of keeping. The weak one with disbelief and a fear of heights.
You are hard for me. Break my heart like no one else could. Have difficulty seeing evil even in the devil, but if he weren’t evil momma, the tree would have protected him. Turnkey: I rely on you. Your watchful eyes my proof of God. I rely on you. I rely on you. I rely on you… and your historied walls. I dangle from you. Legs draped over your branches and smiling. I dangle from you. I dangle from you I dangle from you….and I never fall.
John P. Kristofco The Sixteenth Boy
Mornings for Jeff and Janice Hedley had become a routine that had taken on the form of ritual. She’d wake a half hour before him, fire up the coffee, and take her mug into the den to catch a few minutes of the morning news. Jeff followed by getting the paper and pouring himself a bowl of cereal, munching while he scanned the sports section. An hour or so later, sooner if the weather and the roads warranted, they’d be on their way to work. This template had evolved over twenty-six years of marriage, shaped into the current liturgy by three post-children years. Their son left for Denver four years back, and their daughter was away at school in her junior year studying business. This morning, Jeff was previewing the weekly NFL schedule when Janice called in from the next room. “Hey, hon, don’t you know a George Vidovic?” He looked up from the paper. “George who?” “Vidovic, I think they said.” “Uh, that sounds familiar, but I can’t place it…..well……I did know a Billy Vidovic about a hundred years ago, lived two blocks from us when I was a kid, but no George, why?” “There was just a story on the news about this guy Vidovic. I guess he saved some neighbors in a fire last night. They got out okay, but he didn’t make it.”
“Jesus,” Jeff shook his head. “Maybe it’s a relative.” He looked back down at the paper; a small, crooked grin crossed his face. “That sure doesn’t sound like the kid I knew back in the day,” he muttered to himself, flipping the page. The boys had started arriving at 8:00, pedaling down to the diamond with baseball gloves hanging by the grips and bats set across the handlebars. Most wore the caps from their little league teams; all wore jeans, t-shirts, and dirty tennis shoes. By 8:30, thirteen had gathered in the faded green wooden bleachers along the first base side of the dirt infield. Most of them were eleven or twelve years old. Ben Tolbert and Alex Johnson, two of the best twelve year-old players in town, stood talking by the fence, looking over the day’s batch of players the way foremen scan the morning turnout of dock workers. The two were usually team captains for the pick-up games that happened two or three mornings a week from mid-June to the last week of August, right before school began. They stepped toward the diamond, and, like birds springing from a tree all at once, the other boys rose and walked out on the dirt and stood in a loose queue along the baseline. As they did, the figure of Billy Vidovic appeared like a ghost beside the stands. Though twelve, he was smaller than most of the others, thin and pale with a narrow, rat-like face and small dark eyes behind tortoise shell glasses that seemed as jittery as the boy himself. He did not walk out onto the field, but stood, as usual, by the fence with his glove. A baseball stretched his left jean pocket, and a handful of Bazooka Bubble Gum bulged in the right, just in case anyone wanted a piece.
Ben Tolbert tossed a bat to Alex Johnson who caught it with his right hand just at the trademark. The two then took turns wrapping hands around it until Alex’s index finger curled just below the knob at the end. Ben Tolbert then placed the fingertips of his left hand carefully around the edge of the knob, not touching Johnson’s finger. He turned to the nearest boys. “Yes?” They nodded, and it was thus determined that Ben would have the first selection in this makeshift draft. “Bobby,” he pointed to the tallest of those standing in line, and the lanky blonde strode out to stand beside him. “Mike,” Alex said quickly, and that boy moved forward. The process continued until eight boys stood in one group and seven in the other, an imbalance that usually meant one boy would play ‘all time catcher’ and bat for both teams, not a desired circumstance, but seriously considered on this day because the alternative was choosing Billy Vidovic to even the sides. Billy didn’t come to the field every day, but he came often, even though he had only been chosen, reluctantly, twice before. When he wasn’t selected, he would watch for a few minutes then turn and walk home. He didn’t own a bike. On those days, Jeff Hedley watched him go until he disappeared around the corner of the school building. Once, he asked Randy Evans beside him “Why does he keep coming? Why does he come down here when he knows damn well he won’t play?” “I have no idea,” Evans said, shaking his head. “I have no earthly idea.” Both boys chuckled and turned back to the diamond. That morning, Tolbert looked at the sixteenth boy who did not return his glance but looking, instead, into the pocket of his worn old glove.
“Whattya think, Alex? You want even sides today, or are you okay with Jimmy at catcher for both?” Alex Johnson shook his head. “I don’t know, Ben; he’s just about useless.” “Yeah, I know. But look, he brought a ball,” Tolbert said, pointing. “It beats the hell out of the taped-up things we have.” Johnson drew a long, slow breath, nodding. “Hey Vidovic,” he called out. “You wanna catch for my side?” Billy looked up sheepishly. He really didn’t want to catch, but he wanted to play. “Sure,” he managed quietly. Tolbert turned to Johnson and shrugged his shoulders, “Well?” Alex Johnson paused for a moment then tilted his head toward home plate. “All right, Vidovic, get your ass over there.” And as the other members of the team took their positions in the field, Billy Vidovic went behind the plate, donned Bruce Early’s dirty gray metal mask weighing down his head, and started stabbing at the warm-up tosses from his captain. He caught some, missed others. His throws back to the mound were about as spotty. In a pick-up game like this, the batter had to call his field (there were only two outfielders), and the pitcher soft-tossed so that batters would likely hit the ball. Three strikes still applied, of course, though infrequently, and there were no walks. A skilled catcher would snag most of the balls that were not hit. He might even catch a pop-up or two. But Billy Vidovic was not especially skilled at these, or similar athletic tasks, and catching usually meant fumbling around for pitches and occasionally taking a foul tip off the body.
“Jesus, Vidovic,” Jeff Hedley chided from the bench when the game got under way and another ball passed by. “Get your damn glove up!” Things didn’t improve behind the plate as the game progressed. Neither did they at bat. Billy had accounted for two of the day’s four strikeouts, the second coming to end the fourth inning with the bases loaded and his team down by two. In the sixth, Randy Evans fouled a pitch off Billy Vidovic’s thigh. The catcher grabbed his leg, crumpled in pain, and yelled out. The other players stood there as he sucked in air, trembling, trying not to cry. “Rub it up,” Alex Johnson called from the mound. Billy stayed down, tears streaming behind the mask, fogging his glasses. “Jesus, Vidovic, get up and shake it off,” Jeff Hedley spat out. The dusty catcher rose to his knees, damp trails down his dirty face. He swiped his left hand across his nose, his lips still quivering. “Okay, Vidovic, get up. You weren’t shot for Chrissakes,” came another voice from the bench. Billy stood, leaning forward, hands on his knees. He then turned, found the ball, and tossed it weakly to the mound. “Pussy!” came from somewhere in the outfield. Three innings later, with Johnson’s team ahead 14-12, three straight two-out liners to center made it 14-13 with Randy Evans on third and Jeff Hedley on second. After a swing and a miss, a foul past third, and an alleged foul tip (Billy was certain that the batter had not made contact, but he knew better than to protest), Brian Kaminsky smacked a ball into the alley between left and center. Evans scored easily, but Johnnie Petok made a nice play on the ball to his right,
planted his foot and fired to the plate. It would be close on Hedley who didn’t run nearly as well as he thought he did. The ball hit just beyond the mound with the runner about five strides away. Billy Vidovic stepped forward, one eye on the ball, the other on Jeff Hedley bearing down on him. Billy Reached for the ball. Hedley lowered his shoulder. The ball. Hedley. Contact! The smaller boy was lifted in the air, his mask and glasses floating toward the backstop as Hedley dove beneath him. The ball escaped from the glove and rose above the scene like a satellite passing over. Billy landed three feet back. Jeff Hedley, stumbled past the plate and fell full weight atop him. As the dust settled, a chorus of boys’ voices went up, half heralding victory, half glowering in defeat. “Jesus Christ, Vidovic!” Billy shook his head, sat up. “Hold on to the damn ball, moron!” The Tolbert squad gathered around Jeff Hedley in triumph. Billy Vidovic reached for his glasses, the right stem now broken off and resting alone in the dust. Bruce Early walked over, looked at Billy for a second, then stretched across him to pick up his catcher’s mask. “See ya, loser” he muttered as he walked away.
Billy stood up slowly, dusted himself off, and looked over at the faded green wooden stands where fifteen boys now walked back to their bikes, abuzz with conversation. He put his glasses on, adjusting to their new, one-stem tilt, took a Bazooka Bubble Gum from his pocket, popped it in his mouth, picked up his ball, and began walking. By the time he reached the bleachers, the bikes were already half a block away, en route to the ice cream stand across from the old shopping center. The last time Jeff Hedley saw Billy Vidovic was that following spring, at recess on the playground. As usual, he was standing off by himself along the fence closest to the door. His shirt and pants were frayed and disheveled, again, as usual. He still had tape holding the right stem of his glasses. The word at school was that his father was a salesman of some sort. The kids said that he must have sold dirt because it looked like he brought samples home for his kid. No one had ever seen his mom. Billy sometimes brought a book out to read at recess. Sometimes he’d talk with the younger kids, those who would listen, anyway. When the bell sounded, he got in line with the other sixth graders, as usual at the back, and walked silently into the building, the last recess on the last day of school for the year. The last time Jeff Hedley ever saw Billy Vidovic. The next morning, a half hour after Janice woke to perk the coffee and watch the morning news, Jeff got the paper and spread it out beside his cereal, keeping an eye on the clock; his shift at the steel mill started at eight sharp. As he opened the second page and saw the story “Local Man Saves Lives, Loses His,”
Janice called in from the den. “Hey, hon, there’s a story about the guy who died in that fire.” “I know; it’s in the paper too,” and he looked down to see the picture. His eyes widened. There on the right side of the story, the narrow head and beady, shifting eyes that he had not seen in thirty-five years looked out at him. Beneath it read: “George William Vidovic, local hero.” “They say he saved a young couple and their baby but got trapped when he tried to get back out.” Janice called out. “I know; I’m reading.” “He was a quiet guy,” a neighbor was quoted in the piece, “but he seemed friendly and always willing to help out. I mean, he saved those people’s lives…..that baby.” His boss at the store where he had worked for twenty-two years said “He never missed a day, was always on-time, willing to take an extra shift when somebody couldn’t. I don’t think he had a lot of friends, but we all thought he was a good guy.” In the next paragraph there was a quote from someone who served in the Army with Vidovic. “He was wounded on patrol one night,” the ex-soldier said, “and he earned a medal for bravery. He never talked much, before or after it happened; he never said anything about his Purple Heart, but I know we all respected him, thought he was a good guy, a solid guy. I’m sorry to hear that he died like that, but I’m not surprised. That’s the kind of man he was.” “He looks familiar, hon. You sure you don’t know the guy?” Jeff Hedley looked out the window as the sun filled the frame with green, brown, and shadow. He thought about those summer mornings at the baseball diamond and recess on the playground. He shook his head.
“No, hon. I never knew George Vidovic, never.” He looked at the paper once again and said quietly, as if to himself, to the picture, “I wish I did, though. I really wish I did.”
Eileen NĂ ShuilleabhĂĄin I Climb
K2 is the second highest mountain in the world and the most dangerous to climb. In 2008 a tragedy took the lives of 11 mountaineers. Some were never found. I Climb until all the horizons are round. Five miles vertical a freckled sky only stars to steer balancing the moon on my head. Black frost hammers the fixed ropes that keep me from scalloped rocks beneath. Un-natural shapes on glacier floors. Air is thin here. The sound of fatigue each breath a velvet fist to the lungs each foothold a breaching whale. At night the darkness breaks over rocks.
Sudden, the rope slips I lose my path. I remember cosiness in sunlit rooms my stronghold and you. This stillness cracks the mind the heart. Christ on Calvary do not talk to me of death or love while this mountain's shadow is stretched to China.
Urban Legends, Or Now That Your Emails Have Stopped
Suppose it turns out all your forwarded emails aren’t bullshit. I’ll laugh at the irony, though you always found my sarcasm unattractive. Imagine me late in the Stop and Shop parking lot, neglecting to check before, sure enough, the hoodlum beneath my Corolla cuts my Achilles tendon. Or, I flashing my headlights at oncoming traffic when bang, I’m shot dead, another victim of gang initiation. Or is it the psycho with a chainsaw in the back seat -- just like your friend of a friend heard about -- popping up in my rearview mirror just after I turn down that abandoned dirt road. You’ll say what was I thinking. After all the times you warned me. All the emails, the shares, the retweets. To think I go out, foolhardy, dressed in a haunted Vera Wang. Or wash my Pop Rocks down with a coke. I swallow an apple seed and let a tree take root in my spleen. Ignore a splinter until it finds its way to my heart. I dive in the pool directly after eating -- sometimes while I’m still eating – leaving soggy bread and lettuce chunks floating in my wake. Did you see the one about curing cancer with apple cider vinegar? Is it true baby aspirin prevents rabies? These days, I’m lost without your advice. Send me a message however you can. A little note in blood on the bathroom mirror. A pictogram on my morning toast. Until then I’ll keep tempting fate. Eventually something has to be true.
Shoshauna Shy Hunger
When I was little, I fed beat-up, stray and ugly dogs. Not that I wanted to keep them. Table scraps snuck onto saucers were placed on the terra cotta patio. It worked out fine till Mother missed her best china. Now I go to the Rainhall Tavern weekday nights. Scoop up the professor derailed from tenure track; the car mechanic who wished he could win back his new wife; the long-distance runner who failed to finish the marathon that day, the kind of man who is grateful for whatever he can get, wonâ€™t overstay a welcome, will politely slink away.
Thomas C. Dunn Watertight
I will have dinner with surrender tonight The main course, of course, is reality We will hold flint between our fingers And strike at each other The first spark is a deliverance of the dark Mind over tatters Dresses, skins, sinsâ€” Like gas flowing in wind These are our flags Snapping at half-mast I am building my destiny with matchsticks
Horseface in a Bikini THE END
With all the authority a tin star and a drawn weapon could command, Jasper ‘Coon Dog’ Doggerheim bellowed, “Mallory Truphane, git up, bitch, and turn around.” Mallory rose slowly, reluctantly. Her body—those parts not covered by a scorching pink bikini—burned red with humiliation. She had not worn her newest, briefest bikini for the benefit of deputy Doggerheim, the lowest, slimiest junkyard rat in the county. She writhed with agony when she saw that her body had ignited sparks of lust in his usually muddy, vacant, and dead eyes. Whimsically, she wished she were clad from head to toe in the skins of leopards to protect her from Arctic gales—and Doggerheim. She yearned to be the Pilsbury Dough Boy, the Michelin Man, a two-ton walrus on a rock, any sexless, shapeless thing that would douse the flames in Doggerheim’s eyes. Unfortunately the creature presenting herself before this reeking heap of deputy was not a flabby hippo but a rare beauty who had posed headless in underwear ads for Victoria’s Secret catalogs. She marveled that a monster so ugly had not been slain at birth. “And how,” she wondered, “can a wretch who stinks like a ripe corpse be sufficiently alive to hold me at gunpoint?” “Turn yer ass around,” growled Doggerheim, drool dripping from the left corner of his mouth.
Slowly, she turned. Doggerheim snapped the cuffs on her wrists, then pulled her bikini bottom up tighter to more clearly define her buttocks. He started to march her toward the door, then changed his mind. Turning her around, he said, “Hey, honey-bitch, ain’t no reason to face the press and the public right now. How about a little quality time in the sack?” The handcuffed woman spat in his face, ran to the front of the house, and astonished herself with the power she marshaled to kick the door open. She stood in disgrace in front of the press and public, but at least she was free of the arresting demon. A great disappointed tub of lard, Doggerheim walked up beside her. “Bitch,” he said. “You shoulda committed your crime in Illinois. Here in Missouri, we got the death penalty. And we like to use it almost as much as they do in Texas. Makes our dicks hard. Jack off and drink Coors. We done already got to November and we’ve kilt one asshole every month of this year.” THE BEGINNING
monumentally sorry for herself, Mallory trailed behind Ascroft Truphane as they searched the banks of the Mississippi River for the perfect picnic spot. She wore a cheerful violet bikini. Festive attire notwithstanding, she felt as wilted as a rose thirteen days after a funeral. In her left hand she carried a picnic basket containing four Big Macs, two orders of cooling fries, and four cans of Mountain Dew. Her right hand clutched a beech umbrella, and she had a blanket draped around her neck. Ahead of her, Ascroft Truphane plodded down the slope toward the river. He wore a blue pin-stripe three-piece Armani suit complete with vest, a new Rolex watch, and a Fedora from the 1940s. He struggled with an easel and a huge
chalkboard. When he felt that he could carry them no longer he said, “Mallory, this is the best spot on the river. Let’s set up our picnic here.” For Mallory, one spot was as depressing as another, so she willingly dropped her burdens on the riverbank. While Ashcroft set up camp, Mallory perched on a rock, morosely posing for a portrait that might have been entitled “Bikinied Babe Writhes in a Puddle of Her Own Woe.” But if ever a woman deserved to feel sorry for herself, it was Mallory. A decade ago her mother had made a pitcher of perfect Manhattans and poured each of them a glass, then spoke with the solemnity of a farting Puritan: “Mallory, honey,” she said, “from the neck down, you’re one of the most stunning creatures in the galaxy. You got that from me. But baby, because of your rotten father, I’m afraid your face has a trace of the old equine in it.” That gentle horse reference from her mother made Mallory cry. Quickly her mother assured her: “It’s not that bad, babe. You just have to keep people from focusing on the face your asshole father gave you. I suggest that from this day forth—and I mean this with the utmost sincerity—you must never wear anything but very tiny and very sexy bikinis. That’ll keep the world’s eyes away from your rather disappointing face.” If her mother’s words brought tears, reptilian “Ghoulie” Cockalorum’s jeering snot-filled voice pitched her on waves of rage and loathing: “Hey Horsefaced Mallory, come on down here. I wanta go for a little ride.” And just last week, her fiancé Perry Pelch said, “Mallory, you’ve gotta get out of my house. And you can’t ever come back. Your body’s perfectly splendid, but we’ve lived together for twenty-three days. And if I have to wake up on day twenty-four and confront once more the countenance of a horse, I think I’ll explode. I don’t want to explode, Mallory”
Search as she might, Mallory could find no bright spot, no silver lining in her situation. Her ravishing body and her wonderful bikini seemed wrapped in a murky cloak of misery. So with nowhere else to go and nothing more to do, she watched tall, handsome Ashcroft Truphane lay the groundwork for a most important picnic. Ashcroft had planted the umbrella, spread the blanket on the ground, and opened the picnic basket. But from his point of view, the most important object he set up was the huge easel and the gigantic chalkboard. She watched him as he neatly printed their itinerary for the day: 1. Get Mallory to stand in front of you under the umbrella 2. Start playing The Star Spangled Banner on your smart phone 3. Assume a solemn face 4. Kneel on your right knee 5. Propose to Mallory 6. If she says “yes,” kiss her. Hold kiss for forty-five seconds 7. If she says no, take her home and UNFRIEND her As he always would, he followed his notes exactly: “Come over here, Mallory,” he said, starting the national anthem when she walked toward him. He knelt as she stood before him. “Mallory Nott-Cow,” he said in a wee, pleading voice. “Will you marry me?” She hesitated a moment, wondering if anyone else might want her and take her away from her waitress job. Then she remembered her face. And that horse face reminded her that she’d be a waitress forever if she turned down this offer. Keeping that in mind, she accepted Ashcroft’s proposal with appropriate enthusiasm: “Oh, what the hell. Why not?”
The kiss sealing their vows lasted exactly forty-five seconds. THE WEDDING
MALLORY wore a chartreuse bikini to the wedding, outraging the groom’s parents, Major General Ballstern Truphane IV and Victoria (Chessiker) Truphane. “Ashcroft,” shrieked Ballstern, “You get some clothes on that bitch before I see her again, or you, young man, are a pauper. A pauper, I say, Ashcroft. A beggar with a bowl on the Bowery.” Red-faced and raging, Ballstern and Victoria stormed out of the church. Ashcroft burst into tears, collapsing on the altar. Sucking his thumb, he coiled into a tight fetal position and writhed like a tail-stomped snake. He lived in mortal dread of disappointing his parents, especially his father, and offending them was far worse than disappointing. This fear had instilled in him an unhealthy caution, which in turn prompted his insane need to enumerate every step of every action—no mater how small—in great detail on his chalkboard, which Mallory saw for the first time during his proposal to her. When Ashcroft had regained control of himself, the wedding proceeded without hitch. They exchanged rings and vows and kissed on the altar. Fortyfive seconds. When they broke the kiss, the new bride asked, “Who was that asshole who stalked out?” Ashcroft fainted this time.
THE FIRST NIGHT
“Mallory, you simply have to start wearing dresses when there’s any chance we might see my parents. That means any time we go out, you will be nicely dressed.” “Ashcroft, you silly twit,” she said, “if I wear a dress, most people will be looking at my face.” “It’s not that bad. Your face isn’t that bad.” “We’ll talk about this later. Come on to bed now,” she said. “Come to bed? Mallory, are you nuts? I’m much too emotionally verklempt to sleep with you tonight.” She looked at him as if great vines of snot had suddenly begun to spurt from his nostrils. He was a monster unknown to her. Then she shrugged, stripped off her bikini, and pulled back the covers. “Okay, asshole, I’ll see you tomorrow. Maybe.” Ashcroft slept on the couch. TONIGHT’S THE NIGHT—FOURTEENTH NIGHT
“Mallory, I’ve finally got my emotions sufficiently under control,” Ashcroft said. “We can now lie together as man and wife.” “Ashy, you dumb shit,” she said, “nothing human ever has—or ever will—talk that way. Why don’t you just shut your stilted mouth, smash that damn chalkboard, hop in the sack, and we’ll screw like sperm whales.” “Oh, no way. No way. I’m sorry, Mallory, but we might do it wrong. We might leave out something important. It’d be like driving over to Illinois without a map.”
Disgusted, she considered reaching above their bed, taking down the huge scimitar awarded to Ashcroft’s great grandfather, Major General Ballstern Truphane II, and hacking the hated chalkboard to pieces. Instead, she surrendered without another word, perching like a rapacious, sullen harpy on the side of the bed. Ashcroft turned to his chalkboard and began to write: 1. Take off my clothes 2. Remove Mallory’s bikini 3. Lead Mallory to the bed and lie down with her 4. Play with her left breast for 30 seconds, her right breast for 50 seconds 5. Fondle her buttocks for 45 seconds 6. Slowly insert penis in her vagina and ride for two minutes—if possible Seeing the list, Mallory was going to put her bikini back on and storm out into the night. But when she glanced at his erumpent cock, she decided it looked pretty nice, so she lay back and let him perform his ritual. THE TWENTY-THIRD NIGHT
“Ashy,” she said. “I’m going crazy in this house. We’ve got to go out to dinner tonight before my head bursts into flame.” “Okay, Mallory, but first we’ve got to list the pros and the cons on the chalkboard. There might be too many reasons why we shouldn’t go out.” Mallory stopped breathing until she turned blue and fainted. Before she awakened, she had a vision of the scimitar above the bed. But she forgot about the scimitar when Ashcroft revived her and said, “All right, Mallory, there were more pros than cons. We’ll go out to dinner tonight, but you simply have to wear a dress.”
“I am not going out in public wearing a dress,” she shouted. But she really was perishing from cabin fever and she really did have to get out of the house before flames ate her. So she repeated the same speech she delivered when she accepted his proposal: “Oh, what the hell. Why not?” She slipped into a wee black dress and off they went to Ahab’s Seafood Shack. When they walked in the door, she saw that the maître d was staring at her face. “Ashcroft,” she said, “that son of a bitch maître d is looking at my face and giggling. I’m getting dizzy. I can’t breathe. We have to go.” “He’s not looking at your face, Mallory. He’s lusting after your body in that sexy black dress. I’ve got a good mind to go over there and thrash him.” Mallory decided to stay, and Ashcroft was delighted that he didn’t have to thrash the maître d. They enjoyed a moment’s peace until the waiter arrived with the menu. Her left breast was about to pop out of her dress and proclaim itself magnificent, but that fine breast held no fascination for this brute. He was looking at her face. He was smirking. When the waiter left, Mallory noticed that the old couple at the next table was staring at her face. A man and woman in lobster bibs were doing the same. Ditto the teenage punk dressed for a high-school prom. Every eye in the Seafood Shack was fixed on her face. Mallory couldn’t take it any more. She leaned forward, vomited into her empty plate, and ran screaming from the restaurant: “I was born with this face,” she shrieked. “You assholes have no right to gawk at me and laugh. I hope you all die.” Sobs mangled her next words as she charged through the door. Ashcroft calmly ate his dinner as Mallory hailed a cab and went home.
LATER ON THE TWENTY-THIRD NIGHT
When Ashcroft arrived home two hours later, he found Mallory waiting for him in the foyer. She wore a festive lavender bikini, and in her right hand she wielded a scimitar. “I’m never wearing a dress again, and starting with you, Ashy, I’m gonna kill every son of a bitch who would try to make me wear one.” Then the powerful harpy began to hack, first driving the scimitar through the top of his skull, continuing to hack until she had delivered forty Lizzie Bordens and her late husband lay in bloody pieces on the floor. She surveyed her sanguine work for a moment before dragging out Ashcroft’s chalkboard. At the top of the chalkboard she wrote: WHAT WENT WRONG? 1. Ashy’s father was a pompous prick of an asshole 2. Ashy’s mother was a raging, snobbish bitch 3. Ashy was so afraid of disappointing his father that he lacked all spontaneity 4. This damn chalkboard may be cursed and it certainly drove me insane 5. I never actually loved Ashy. I didn’t even like him. 6. My mother, who might have been insane, gave me some dumb wardrobe advice 7. I might be insane. I might even share some of the blame for this bloody mess *****
Stuffing her late husband into industrial-strength garbage bags and dragging him in five trips out to the dumpster, Mallory scrubbed up the gore as well as
any professional scullery maid who ever lived. She finished the job by taking a long, steaming shower, washing every drop of blood from her body. Clean and dry, she dressed in her scorching pink bikini and sat down to wait. â€œLet it not be deputy Doggerheim who comes,â€? she prayed.
Contributors Thomas C. Dunn Thomas C. Dunn is a Los Angeles based writer. His screenwriting work has received worldwide film distribution and festival inclusion (Sitges, Austin, Brussels, etc.) He is the winner of Samuel French’s prestigious Short Play Festival. His plays have been shown across the U.S. and published in Samuel French’s OOB Festival Plays, Exceptional Monologues 2, and the Collective: 10 Play Anthology among others. His poetry was most recently published in The Missing Slate (‘Featured Poet of the Month’, October 2015), the West Trade Review and 99 Pine Street. John P. Kristofco John P. (Jack) Kristofco’s poetry and short stories have appeared in about two hundred publications, including Folio, Rattle, Cimarron Review, The Cape Rock, and Crack the Spine. He has published three poetry collections with a third, “The Timekeeper’s Garden,” due out in April. He has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize five times. Sarah Frances Moran Sarah Frances Moran is a writer, editor, animal lover, videogamer, queer Latina. She thinks Chihuahuas should rule the world and prefers their company to people 90% of the time. Her work has most recently been published or is upcoming Drunk In A Midnight Choir, FreezeRay Poetry,
Rust+Moth, Maudlin House and The Bitchin’ Kitsch. She is Editor/Founder of Yellow Chair Review. You may reach her at www.sarahfrancesmoran.com Dan Seiters As publicity manager for Southern Illinois University Press for more than two decades, Dan Seiters wrote jacket copy for about 1,500 books. His novel is “The Dastardly Dashing of Wee Expectations.” His nonfiction book is “Image Patterns in the Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald.” Among his short stories are “The Killer, Trained and Devastating” in The Viet Nam Generation Anthology, “The Untimely Demise of the Other Frank Sinatra” in the anthology, When Last on the Mountain, and “Bones and Blue Ribbons” in Front Range: A Review of Literature and Art. Kayleigh Shoen Kayleigh Shoen is in her final year of Emerson College’s MFA program. She teaches in the college’s First Year Writing Program and spends her Saturdays talking dystopic fiction with high school students in the emersonWRITES program. Eileen Ní Shuilleabháin Eileen Ní Shuilleabháin grew up in the Irish speaking region of Connemara on the West Coast of Ireland. Her work was previously published in The Galway Review, Apercus Quarterly, Boyne Berries, Scissors and Spackle, Emerge Literary Journal and The Burning Bush. She was also published in a anthology titled – The Tuesday Knights in 2011. She currently lives and works as a Psychotherapist in Galway city.
Shoshauna Shy Shoshauna Shyâ€™s flash fiction has been recently published by 100 Word Story, Literary Orphans, A Quiet Courage, Every Writerand the Prairie Wolf Press Review.
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