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F l a s h F i cti o n

Publisher │ Dan Cafaro Editor-in-Chief │ Katrina Gray Managing Editor │ Libby O'Neill Fiction Editor │ Jamie Iredell Poetry Editor │ Michael Meyerhofer Mixed Media Editor │ Matt Mullins

COPYRIGHT © 2012 ATTICUS REVIEW A Publication of Atticus Books LLC http://atticusreview.org

A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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F la s h F ic tio n 5 A Woman│Isaiah Swanson 7 Nathan, Natalie│Gary Moshimer 11 Outside The Palace│R Dean Johnson 13 Scarecrows│Shelagh Power-Chapra 15 Mr. Green│Jazmín Oña 18 The Cave│Fernando Iwasaki 20 Man And Dog│Alex Russell 23 Jesus│Richard D. Hartwell 25 She Was Short│Avital Gad-Cykman 27 God Loves A Good Winner│Kurt Mueller 29 Whack│Michael Cocchiarale 32 The Bequest│Dennis Must

A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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A WOMAN B y I s a ia h S w a n s o n

What you had you had for a while and now you are eighty-seven and holding a small pistol behind your back. Two chunky children stand before you, one of them palming a frozen spaghetti lunch. The other, a girl without hair, has a half pint of chocolate milk and an apple. Think of something to say that will keep them here. They are not mute; in the dust-heavy corner, they are stunned by age. A widowed weeping willow barks at you against the open window. Your papa shot that man. This neighborhood makes you fear for your life. You tell them. They look like orphaned pumpkins. The girl frowns; your lips shudder anciently. Is your papa outside guarding the door? Yes. My papa taught me how to say no. I t was an accident. In drifts that sour dead smell from beside the pond. Minnows decomposing in dried-out frogs’ mouths. Memphis sun blazes and rains. The children deliver your lunch. Let them carefully touch your leather hands like strong weather in their persistence. Handle the grip, grip the handle. A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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This is how you protect yourself from monthly looters. Is there someone dead or going to? The boy doesn’t hear you right; his ears are connected somehow to the dangling, broken bulb on the ceiling fan. Honey-suckle sweetness drips in after a crack of thunder. The left hand doesn’t know wha t? Two children in a horrible toothy towering mirror converge. Your bladder, the sea urchin, madam, the concrete flooding creek after the 1950s. Silver pyramid downtown stabs at all the history I know, Papa: Your trigger finger is more like a bullet than a—remember: You are Ophelia.

A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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NATHAN, NATALIE B y G a r y M o s h im e r

My father and his partner wanted a baby. Simone, my father’s high school sweetheart, offered her body. She was glowing until that baby started to grow inside, pressing her spine and kicking, making her throw up. She worked in the new coffee shop attached to Fred’s general store. I went in every morning to try a new flavor. The front of her green apron stuck out. The smell of coffee was starting to make her gag. I saw her back heave as she brewed my cup. Her face was red and puffy and her orange hair flew out like a clown wig. Lloyd and my father came in, arm in arm. Simone barely acknowledged them. They ordered espressos to get them up to speed for the antique shop, which was booming now in the summertime. Lloyd said something about the sweet summertime and Simone said he should try carrying a baby around in this heat while smelling coffee all day and Lloyd made the sound of a cat hissing. Simone scratched his tan and fragile arm with her nails. My father was distracted. “Lloyd, I do not want to sell that cradle, even if that couple comes in with another offer.” A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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Lloyd rubbed his wounded arm. “It’s horrendous.” “I want it for little Natalie.” I yelled at my father and Lloyd for being the antique kind of gays and not the stylist kind. I wanted them to care about the way Simone looked and felt. *** I drove with her to Pittsfield, to Pamper Me. She said she was seeing a guy tonight — he was coming to her house. I wondered if that was right, seeing a man when she was carrying a baby, but she said life went on, if she met a nice guy she had to grab hold, right, given her luck with men? She said the baby didn’t matter – it wasn’t hers. I clammed up. She lit a cigarette and I gave her an evil look. She tossed it out the window. She went super short and blond. I sat there the whole time, watching the ladies purr over her, touching her belly, feeling the kicks. Simone said the name was Nathan. She left as a different person. *** “What have you done, girl?” Lloyd was examining his own face in the espresso machine. “It’s not you.” “That’s right, it isn’t me. I’m the stranger I should be, for this kind of thing.” “I don’t mind it,” my father said. “Oh, I feel so much better,” Simone said. “I have a date, from Match Mate.” “Is that a good idea?” My father examined his new mustache in the spot next to Lloyd. “What do you care? I’m a stranger.” He rolled his distorted eyes. “Simone.” He examined his teeth. A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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*** I didn’t like it, a stranger coming to her house. I thought there was a rule against that. I got there early, hid in the bushes and watched her little rancher. I saw her putting makeup on her red cheeks. She tried a few different lipsticks. I didn’t look away when she changed her dress. I got an eyeful of that belly. The car pulled up. It was dirty. It had driven back roads. The man opened his door and sat reading a piece of paper before getting out. He changed expressions, made hand gestures, practiced lines. He wore a gray suit that sagged when he stood. He rang the bell, but Simone never moved. She bowed her head. He rang again. Simone examined her mirror. She rubbed a washcloth over her face. The washcloth turned the color of her makeup. The man took a jackknife from his suit pocket and severed a single rose from the bush by the door. He rang again. She kept her face in the cloth. *** “It’s me. He’s gone.” She cracked the door. Her face looked old, with trails of tears. I handed her the rose the guy had dropped. She made me tea. She couldn’t stand coffee anymore. She said she would leave after the baby was born. Her sister had an apartment in Riley, nice one over a flower shop. The florist was hiring, and she had a knack. I put my head on her belly and listened. I felt the movements. I mouthed the names: Nathan, Natalie. Simone wished for Nathan because my mother’s name was Natalie. She died of cancer when I was little. Simone had loved my father in high school, but he left her for my mother, who was pregnant with me. *** “In a parallel universe, I would be your son.”

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I tried to distract her from the pain. She screamed. We were a mile from the hospital. I was driving too fast for fifteen. We had not called my father or Lloyd. The doctor met us there. She told him she didn’t want to know right away. She may never want to know. I told him I didn’t want to know either. He raised his brow. “What relation are you?” “I don’t know.” *** I packed my stuff. I peeked into the baby’s room. There were only neutral shades: beige and yellow. The antique cradle waited, cold and haunted. I walked to Simone’s. I hid in the bush and watched her brush her hair. I watched her rub cream on her empty belly. I rolled my suitcase to the door, cut a rose, and waited.

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OUTSIDE THE PALACE B y R Dea n J ohns on

Just before 2:00 a.m., just before the club closes, and I’m leaning against a car, my date leaning against me, waiting. The Capital Records building is right there across the street, a stack of deli plates reaching up into a marine layer that’s been planning all day to creep in from the coast. It’s not a good place to wait, but it’s not our car and God knows where Liam has snuck off to. The last I saw, he’d cornered this touchy, grinning girl while his date was in the bathroom. He could be anywhere. Doing anything. A homeless guy comes weaving across the street, headed for us. I don’t have my hands on any change; really, all I want to do is lean against the car and cool off from all the dancing and loud talking over the songs I didn’t want to dance to. I’m wearing a brand new shirt and a pair of pants that only come out on weekends, only at night. Who’d believe I don’t have a dollar? So I peer into my wallet like it’s a darkened room and pull a buck from between two twenties. “That’s all I got left, man. There’s more ATM receipts in there than bills.” “I hear that,” the bum says and takes the buck. After he leaves and word gets out, another bum comes over to us.

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“Let me get this one,” my date says, a brunette, a really nice girl whose name I’m trying not to remember since this is it, the last time I’ll see her because I’m not ready for a nice girl. She’s excited and cuts off his pitch about the war and his veteran’s benefits running out. She holds out the dollar like it’s an award, like the guy just won a Grammy or something. The bum stares at the bill. “A dollar? What the fuck am I going to do with a dollar?” She looks like she might cry, her eyes welling up a little and sparkling like her skirt, so I throw an arm around her. She drops her head to search through her little, leather purse for another dollar, or maybe a five, and the bum glances at me without moving his head. He takes a deep breath and his eyes follow the silent exhale to the pavement, and I know it’s an apology. He had to try it. He knows I’ve been paying all night. Knows she must have some money. It would be stupid if he didn’t try. And as a few more bucks come out I pull my date a little closer, firm but not intimate, and nod to him, let him know it’s okay and that, really, I’m no better.

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SCARECROWS B y S h e la g h P o w e r - C h o pr a

He first thought of photographing the scarecrows at breakfast. Dozens stood in the cornfields surrounding their cottage. Scraggy beasts, blunt features blurred by wind and rain, straw bursting out from burlap sleeves. And he was doing nothing then, had just moved to the village, flown across the ocean, traipsed across the salty sea, his wife liked to say, so why not do something? She had come to write a book and he was to follow; follow the folly, follow the raconteur, singing in the grassy knolls of her countryside. She was famous then, had written a book about a wolf boy–had soothed the savage, all the critics said. Her return home was inevitable; the prodigal girl returns this time to fanfare and socials.

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And he had expected pleasure: long-winded fêtes and tea parties and crumpets and bowler hats but instead there was bawdiness, rough pats on the head and forearm, heaps of burliness thrown at him in the local pub–this was the countryside, be a man, and my god, they practically threw a plow at him every time he walked by. He had been roped into the slaughtering of hogs, had been taught how to make hare stew and had even been given a tour of a urine soaked hound kennel. His wife seemed happy, had started a new book, it’s about New Jersey, she’d said and he sighed. But the scarecrows–he started to shoot in the late afternoon, when the sun was just bowing, the low flung sun that never seems to warm anything here. Alfred he liked to call one, a mopey fellow in Brandon’s marsh, a twig for a nose, why had they bothered? And there was Janet, her large breasts made from flour sacks stuffed with peat and someone had even created an old dog in a barley field, in mid-run, vapidly chasing unseen birds. He printed the photos himself, built himself a darkroom in one of the old utility rooms where the pasty faced cooks had killed chickens once and he always smelled blood as he developed the film, as the scarecrows merged from shadows and made themselves known. I like those pictures, his wife said, they remind me of something and he thought they reminded him of nothing; they were symbolic only of taste, he thought, taste and sound and he put a few up in the pub, the church even liked them! These are symbols of the Eucharist, the pastor said, the bounty of our bread and so on, holy good thoughts because he thought them all Wickermen and knowing and just then he had started to feel welcome. Felt he could sort of grind himself down now; wallow in their customs and pleasure and food. And just then, his wife wanted out; I want to go home, she said, my other home, my imaginary one, not this real one and they took a boat back this time and he often thought of the scarecrows, how the farmers never bothered to give them shoes, so if they ever thought of escaping, jumping from their wooden stakes and running through the fields and fens to find a home, any sort of home; the barley stalks, the potato fronds, would reach up and grasp their bits of straw and capture them and they’d fall and die once again.

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MR. GREEN B y J a z m ín O ñ a

but isn’t it weird to see him as a young man trying to show off? he was one of us once Doesn’t that make you feel better? It was Daniel and Sonja and me I was looking at Daniel, Daniel looked at Sonja and then at the screen and Sonja was looking at this stick of celery she was eating She’s one of those people who eat in really small bitesmade an awful lot of noise I didn’t like her. She and I never had too much to do with each other.

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She was there because Daniel had invited her and Daniel was there because I’d invited him and I was there because it was my day off and instead of going out to the beach and celebrating I didn’t have to spend six hours of my life stacking up cans I stayed home, with a broken air conditioner, watching YouTube videos with a lawnmower and a window shopper this is your life after high school when after high school there’s no college what did you want to be when you grew up? he was talking to me I told him I wanted to be a vet but I was lying I’d never wanted to be anything that’s why when I became nothing no one was surprised I asked him what he wanted to be he said an architect, but he gave up on it because he could never spell it right Sonja wanted to be a nutritionist She was the only one of us of everyone I knew really who was going to school nibbling a carrot kept the rabbit food inside a pink tupperware with white chibi bunnies on the sides I remembered that one time I was eating corn with a spoon from a can I’d snatched from the store, and kid sister, the one with collarbones that collect water, she sat in front of me and very concerned, she told me, you do know corn makes you fat, don’t you? A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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I thought Daniel was a pretty one I invited him home one hot day with one purpose in mind and he shows up with another girl I wanted to feel something other than boredom well, I was annoyed now Looking at him and how his skin beads with sweat looking at him looking at Sonja Eating carrots and tomatoes and celery sticks so much noise you can barely listen to John Green in the background showing off his plumage think of a small rabbit are you sure you wanna fuck that? well, yeah, apparently so I stuck my head out the window wind blew on my face imagined I was a model with a wind machine imagined golden eyelids and a pixie face imagined I had a future and I was someone else meanwhile in the background Daniel was going oh my god this guy this guy he was one of us

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THE CAVE B y F er na ndo I w a s a k i

(Translated by Toshiya Kamei) As a boy I enjoyed playing with my sisters under the sheets on my parents’ bed. At times we pretended it was a tent, and at other times it was an igloo at the North Pole, though the most wonderful game was the cave. How big my parents’ bed was! One day I grabbed the flashlight off the night table and told my sisters I was going to explore the bottom of the cave. At first they were laughing, but they got nervous and began to shout my name. I ignored them and kept on crawling until I no longer heard their cries. The cave was enormous. When the batteries ran out I couldn’t go back. I can’t remember how long it’s been since then. My pajamas don’t fit me anymore, and I have to dress like Tarzan. I heard Mom died.

A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

***

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La cueva Cuando era niño me encantaba jugar con mis hermanas debajo de las colchas de la cama de mis papás. A veces jugábamos a que era una tienda de campaña y otras nos creíamos que era un iglú en medio del polo, aunque el juego más bonito era el de la cueva. ¡Qué grande era la cama de mis papás! Una vez cogí la linterna de la mesa de noche y le dije a mis hermanas que me iba a explorar el fondo de la cueva. Al principio se reían, después se pusieron nerviosas y terminaron llamándome a gritos. Pero no les hice caso y seguí arrastrándome hasta que dejé de oír sus chillidos. La cueva era enorme y cuando se gastaron las pilas ya fue imposible volver. No sé cuántos años han pasado desde entonces, porque mi pijama ya no me queda y lo tengo que llevar amarrado como Tarzán. He oído que mamá ha muerto.

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MAN AND DOG B y A le x R u s s e ll

He’s hungry. He hasn’t eaten yet today. He sits at a diner counter and orders coffee. He looks at the cinnamon bun under plastic by the counter. It’s the last one. The waitress is old. It’s been decades since anyone wore bright blue eye shadow and lipstick that color in an honest way. Her hair is dyed bright red. Like a cartoon. He asks how much for the cinnamon buns. She tells him they’re three dollars. What if it’s a day old, he says. Two dollars, she says. Two days old? Two dollars, she says. How much is this coffee, he says. She looks at his hands. His nails are all ground down from chewing them at night. His shirt has a stain just under his collar from something he can’t remember. She says, Today all the coffee is free. He gets up and turns out the light. It’s pitch black in the room and he bumps the corner of the bed before lying down across it. She is gone. It’s just him in the house. With the dog. He can hear the kettle screaming. He doesn’t get up.

A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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It’s early morning and he’s sleeping. The dog scratches her cheek. She scratches it for so long that her cheek starts to bleed. She keeps scratching. She gets up and stretches. She smells blood and then sees it there on her foot, in her nails. She sits down and licks it clean. When he gets up it’s almost noon. The dog is still sleeping. She can hold it all day if she has to. She has had to before. It was a week ago. He got up and left the house without taking her out. She sat by the door and waited all day. She was shaking when he got home and finally took her out. She squatted and peed a long time. He looks out the window. The girl in the next apartment is in her kitchen wearing tight shorts and a sports bra. She pulls the drapes closed. He scratches the dog’s head. She opens her eyes. It’s hot outside. Hot enough to fry eggs on the pavement. He tried to do that once when he was young. His mother caught him and swatted his thigh with the wooden spoon. He stands on the porch. The dog goes into a bush to pee. The mailman is filling the boxes with letters and ads that later will be on the ground. He’s driving, on the freeway. He has no money but there is gas in the car. A man in a huge truck cuts him off. He pulls up alongside it and rolls down the window. He leans over and sticks out his middle finger. The man in the pickup starts cussing and gesturing, points at the side of the road. He gets behind the truck and follows until both pull over and stop. As soon as the man gets out of the truck, he stomps on the gas. The front wheels of the car spin out and the man has a look on his face like he’s just shit in his pants. He jumps out of the way, into the bed of his truck. He’s parked at the side of the road looking out at a cornfield. The freeway’s behind him. Traffic is backed up but no one is honking. His car is almost out of gas but he’s got enough to get home. The stalks of corn are eight feet high and the rows push off as far as he can see. He’s been in a corn maze once with his parents a long time ago. It was billed as the biggest corn maze in history. He was running along with his parents behind him. Then he turned around and they were gone. He thought they were joking, that they were hiding around the corner, waiting there for him. A kind of surprise. They were not.

A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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The dog is sitting by the door when he comes home. He lets her out and she shits on the grass. He gets a plastic bag from the counter and goes out to pick it up. She walks with him through the parking lot to the dumpster. A car screams over the curb and speeds at them both. The driver doesn’t see them until he looks up from his phone. The car just misses the dog but she falls down anyway and howls. There is a big bag of dog food in the house but only wheat bread and milk in the fridge. The dog has eaten and she’s lying down again in the bedroom. He puts two slices of bread on a plate and sits with them on the floor against the sofa. He’s never been so hungry in his life. He eats the two slices and looks out the window at the heads passing by on the walkway. They look to him like bobbing balloons with hair. He imagines that’s what they are. A girl’s head bobs by and she’s chewing gum. She blows a bubble and just when she’s out of sight, it pops. It’s late. When he took her outside the dog wanted to sniff every bit of bush and grass before peeing but he didn’t rush her. These are small pleasures for her, he thought, and this made him happy. She started back toward the door and then stopped. She looked up the walkway toward the parking lot and then down the other end into darkness. He watched her keep doing this, watched her look one way and then the other, until he put his hand on her shoulder. Then she went back inside. Now she’s lying on her bed with her eyes open. She’s watching him stand in the middle of the room. His back is straight and his eyes are downcast. His hands are down at his sides. His mind is empty.

A tti cu s R evi ew : G et L i t, R ou n d 2

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JESUS B y R ic h a r d D . H a r tw e ll

Sally is sitting on the couch telling the story of Jésus and Estella, the next-door easterly neighbors, to the red-Volkswagon girls, Amanda and Jenny. I guess this is what you’d call a coffee klatch without the coffee. I’m eavesdropping. I usually do. Sally is relating how Jésus showed back up from Mexico one day with his wife and five kids. He was supposedly dying and he wanted to bring them here from Mexico. Jésus introduced them all to Estella, his second wife, who was apparently without benefit of a first divorce. Yeah, Jésus has got huevos, in more ways than one, no doubt. No doubt about it! Anyway, with such a simple benevolent act, he sealed off both marriage beds forever. The wife with five kids returned south. Estella returned indoors. Jésus, who probably thought he had done the best he could, just didn’t die.

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He now spends his days sitting in a plastic, patio chair outside the open garage door. He watches the women and young girls go by. I think he’s dreaming of his dual life before Mexico and El Norte met. I see him there every day as I turn into the driveway. He’s old now. His breasts sag in tempo with his eyes and his breathing. His nights are spent inside, somewhere, bedless and despondent. He’s probably dreaming of Mexico.

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SHE WAS SHORT B y A v ita l G a d - C y k m a n

“She was short, salacious, and she laughed a lot, a little too loudly.” Never saw a tombstone with such words. No. “She was a mother of two, a sister and a friend to many animals.” Well, she wasn’t a sister AND a friend to many animals. Her sister will not appreciate it. And it’s dull, it doesn’t convey much about her. Perhaps, “Her death was as glorious as her life.” But her life wasn’t glorious, what with her long hours of teaching for a salary that didn’t last to the end of the month. Debts are depressing. Besides, is it glorious to run into a tree for a stray dog? Ask her kids what they think. Then again, this country needs a hero. This family needs a hero. Death is easier for those who believe that their dear ones died for a reason.

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“She died for a reason.” Now, what is a good reason to die? She wasn’t the kind who’d prefer death to life if you’d ask her. She probably didn’t think she’d actually die. Soldiers, too, never think they may die, do they? Right, she wasn’t a soldier. “She was a mother, a sister, a friend, an animal lover, a Salsa dancer, a teacher, a neighbor, a late sleeper, an optimist.” It’s getting out of hand. I’ll take a different angle. “Beloved by family, friends and animals.” It sounds nice, but her husband left her. So he didn’t love her, but he’s family. Or maybe he loves her in his egotistical way, but is he family after splitting up? She loved him, I know that much. I still ask myself why. I was there, wasn’t I? “She was unique, lovable, passionate, irresistible.” She deserves more. “She believed in life.” She’s dead. “What will we do without you?” I don’t know.

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GOD LOVES A GOOD WINNER B y K u r t M u e lle r

Television deified suicide, deemed it suitable for combat, for the war, for the terrorists, for the Englishman who went to Iraq to build a bridge and came home needing a new head, but I am sick, even if still a man, educated enough not to be superstitious, though having faced that education arm-crawling to the toilet’s base to vomit. Volume defied time, allowing a gallon of ice cream to disappear down my throat in a pizza’s cooktime, oven preheat included, but always a fag for fig, I’d top the ice cream with Newtons and eat Newtons between slices of pizza. A hundred forty Newtons a week filled the toilet; that made seventy servings, seventy-seven hundred calories of sugar and figs and corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup, pulled from guts by rusty wrists to arrange away alone along the pipes beneath the apartment.

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Hope grew glacial for families of hostages and prisoners; the television showed masked men behind a crying white woman, ready to AK that white away, and those troops tortured those brown people and the white people were upset, but really not too upset, and, you’ll die when you hear, and I’m sorry, I just can’t keep my mouth shut, but I remember this as very bad. I needed to buy food: frozen French bread pizzas, generic Oreo cookies, a big-ass tub of cheap ice cream, graham crackers, milk, potato chips, tortilla chips, Fiddle Faddle, some chocolate bars–for the famine: to starve it. God does not need to use the toilet, not to see the ghosts of binges past, not to find the Koran that television says went down, not to find any toilet secrets. God knows. Fear entails a certain existentiality, requires you to give a shit about what a gaunt, sickly man needs with twenty-five dollars of junk food, looking hardballed and back-roomed; it requires you to engage the engine behind the nerves and guilt and excitement of an impending binge. Fear entails knowing your weight on several different planets and being disappointed with them all, you diseased fat-ass sevenpoint-seven pound Plutonian piece of shit. Television stays always on, there in the corner it sits, keeping company, keeping time for us, and I always visited the bathroom right at the best parts, right when the number of civilians dead hit a nice, round number, right when the Texan landed a fighter plane and said the War was over. I visited God, belly-confessing, beating the truth out of myself, never able to keep it all in, kneeling on the wet floor, still trying to hear the television through the burps and gasps and heaves even though television repeats itself every fifteen minutes, and I repeated myself. I repeat myself: a sinner.

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F l a s h F i cti o n

WHACK B y M ic h a e l C o c c h ia r a le

Rachyl was gorgeous, so Greg excused in her way too many things, like munching in this cavalier manner, slouched in the chair, flecks of potato chips snowing onto her Juicy Couture. “He’s a sign,” Greg said of the man she’d dubbed “Side Sack Whack,” who’d passed the diner window for the third time now.Lowering his voice, eager to be ominous, Greg said, “Like a ticking bomb.” Rachyl nodded a few times, well past the limit of her attention span, then lifted blouse to mouth to vacuum the crumbs of potato chips. “Let me do that,” Greg said.

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“Uh, maybe next time.” “I’ve got a better angle.” Bashful hadn’t worked for Greg these last few weeks, so he’d been trying on audacity. It didn’t fit, of course—too tight in the figurative crotch—but he was not going to endure the further embarrassment of taking it back. Rachyl pounded on the window. “Whack! Whack! Whack!” she cried, just like a duck. On cue, Side Sack Whack—almost sporty in fleece and a cream colored baseball cap, a leather bag loose around his neck—ticked by the window again. Greg clung to a smile just long enough to keep Rachyl thinking she was funny. Then he looked back down at the Crux, where the police blotter listed other Whacks who’d been doing their best to add to the gritty charm of this urban university. Three muggings, two physical assaults, a drive by shooting, an attempted rape in the last ten days— and all within the so-called “Bubble,” the commercial thoroughfare between campus and town. “Travel in groups,” the article advised. “Let friends know where you’ll be.” “Be aware.” “Look like you know what you’re doing.” While they were at the counter, adjusting book-clunky backpacks and waiting for some change, Rachyl said, “When he comes by again, grab his bag and see what’s inside.” “Are you out of your mind?” “It’s the middle of the day. We’re in The Bubble.” Rachyl patted him on the cheek. “Think you’ll be okay.” If audacity was too constricting, then pusillanimity fit him like a pair of Sunday morning sweats. Greg reddened, a mixture of embarrassment and anger. How many hours had he wasted in this diner today? Two? Three? Lattes, hummus plates, slices of raspberry cheesecake—how many dead presidents had he kissed goodbye over the last few weeks in an effort to open her up?

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Outside, Rachyl tucked silky hair under her knit hat. She bit her lower lip. She donned pink mittens and rubbed her straw mushroom nose. The whole point, Greg thought through gritted teeth, was to be adorable. “Here it comes!” she sang, pushing Greg toward Side Sack Whack, who strode down the sidewalk, gathering steam, the black leather bag an ominous football at his side. The man looked winded, his mouth gulping air, his pale face glistening with sweat. He looked determined too: hell-bent, terroristic. Across the way, two security guards stood on the pedals of their bikes, heads tilted curiously, hands on hanging radios. “Now,” Rachyl said, giving him another shove. As the strange man passed, Greg chicken pecked at the strap of the bag. That’s when he saw the parted zipper teeth, the yawning void. Greg was taking a course in primitive art, and the blackness reminded him of terrible things: a cave, a world before fire, animal blood smiling against rock. He dropped his hand and watched Side Sack Whack puff down the street. “Oh, you have no balls!” Rachyl said, blowing bangs like shrapnel into the air. Greg reached out to touch her on the cheek, the chin, a breast. It was to be a quick, definitive portent of potency; at that moment, though, Rachyl turned, and his fingers plunked clumsily against her collarbone. The contact felt so good—so right—his fingers came back a fist. Rachyl stumbled into a garbage barrel, face wrinkling like a paper bag. The shouting of guards sounded so much like encouragement that Greg, his mouth agape, lobbed another one. This time, an explosion of tears. The newspaper in the diner had said, “Look like you know what you’re doing,” and, if nothing else, Greg was trying the advice on for size.

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F l a s h F i cti o n

THE BEQUEST B y D e n n is M u s t

“ T he im a ge nev er goes a wa y . “ I ’m una ble to s ee him , but I ca n feel his ha nd on m y r ight s houlder . I bla nch a t the odor of toba cco a nd booz e a s he wa r bles too clos e to m y hea d. His v oice is pr egna nt with r egr et, the elegy of ditched hopes a nd a m bition. I t ha s a s our m ela ncholy tha t ev en I , a s a k id, ca n ta s te: tha t life ha s s om ehow r un too fa s t out of his egg tim er , a nd m y fa ther ’s cr y ing in his beer . E x cept ther e is none, s o he weeps in s ha r ps a nd fla ts .

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“ At this m om ent I k now tha t the s per m m a k er ha s m a r k ed m e, a nd tha t his m elody will ha unt m e for the r es t of m y da y s . I ’m m a r k ed beca us e he won’t le t go; tha t if only he’d been giv en a nother cha nce, a m or e under s ta nding wom a n, or per ha ps ev en a better s on tha n the one he’s cr ooning behind . . . it’s a ll in tha t la chr y m os e tune I ’m r ecor ding for eter nity . E v en in the chur chy a r d, when it’s a ll da r k a nd the s lugs a r e k eeping m e com pa ny . . . tha t la m ent will continue to r ing ins ide m y fuck ing cr a nium . ” *** That was Adam’s legacy. Mine sings of the opposite sex. There were never enough. It’s as if he’d been possessed with discovering one who’d etherize him, cure his lust, open the windows to a stiff breeze, and stem the smoldering in his groin, delivering him from the body of a woman, any woman. Because that’s how he marked me. He breathed her tantalizing scent into my boy nostrils. A bedeviling, addicting odor that fired the mind. He couldn’t give his up—even in death.

I don’t ascribe a malicious intent for his bequeathing the “gnaw” embedded like shrapnel inside him. A niggling wound that never permitted him to forget what he wasn’t . . . or would ever become. Yet the man’s blood-in-kind detects it soon enough. In Adam’s case by sitting at a battered upright in the apple-green dining room spared of wainscoting. For me it occurred when I undressed my father, who, late one night, had returned home inebriated. I invited him to sleep in my bed. He had been locked out of theirs. There was wom a n deep in the crotch and legs of his trousers. She evanesced out of its blue-serge threads. A flower unknown to me, for the person in the room on the other side of our hallway had allowed hers to perish. I only wafted the scent of a sour perspiration and quiet despair when she embraced me. Even when she dressed for Sunday services, her perfume was one of chaste breath instead of hibiscus, magnolia—or ginger.

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In his cups that night, Papa watched my eyes light up as if a star had fallen out of the pitchy black and radiated at his groin when I spotted lip blush on his briefs. He took my head in his calloused hands. “Don’t touch it, boy, for it’ll scar you for life!” Only to fall back into the bed, laughing. And when I turned off the light, he slumbered like a tired dog, one that had chased a gnawer through the alleyways or a bitch in heat. He snorted, slobbered, chortled, and, more than twice, threw his arms onto me . . . the whore in his dreams. All of ten years old, my member scarcely rigid as a school-box crayon. But there was a spark in my nostrils that grassfired into my head. And there aglow stood a naked woman, the best one I would ever draw, pulling me to her torso and whispering,“ W hiff, boy . Now go find one for y our s elf. ” As if she’d stuffed a partridge under my nose, I was to race out over our backyard and alongside the creek that cut through it, flushing that bird out of the brush.

From that night I filter all things through that vision. In every slant of light, s he lingers. I dine in her presence. I slumber in her breath. My hands touch surfaces, even the coldest ones, as if they were her thighs, her breasts. My clothes are impregnated with her complex odors. The taste of the irrigate in her eyes, the salty scale off the soles of her feet, and I reserve the most intoxicating sip of sun-orange lotus at eventide, when I am most alone, when it feels as if this imminent darkness will turn pitchy black forever. That’s his bequest to me. Those dense, blue-serge trousers that I flung over my schoolboy chair. They hung there ablaze that night as I tossed and turned alongside the minx tracker who’d carried her home between his legs. His is a song too.

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Like Adam hears throughout his waking hours and beyond. It is the haunting refrain from these men that never silences. I wander about abandoned cities in my father’s pinstripes. The memory emanating from the trousers lighting my way. Once I lift the two-piece off its hanger and climb into it, I know we are going hunting. The garment causes me to adapt an engaging smile, affect a charm that I don’t come to naturally. It’s as if the suit possesses its own will, that it contains the memories of just where to go, what taverns and roadhouses to enter, where I might best make an assignation. He resides in it, that’s why. Put it on, boy . W e’r e going da ncing, y ou a nd m e. S ee how it wor k s for y ou. So I do and begin to feel like somebody else. The failure that I carry around inside me. The one who has found a way to beat death. He who could never get enough. The sirens lifting him out of the grave. And together the m a r k er and I are on the scent. Not for bear.

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F l a s h F i cti o n

A bou t th e A u th or s

S h el a gh P ow er C h opr a ’s work appears or is forthcoming in failbetter , B L I P, J uked, T he R umpus, F r igg, V ol. 1 B r ooklyn, N ecessar y F iction, U sed F ur nitur e R eview, and elsewhere. M i ch a el C occh i a r a l e lives and works in Chester, PA. Some of his other stories may be found in R E AL , Stickman R eview, E clectica, F lashquake, and T he Dir ty N apkin. Still T ime, his collection of short and shorter stories, is forthcoming from Fomite Press. A vi ta l G a d-C yk m a n writes shorts, short-shorts and long shorts as well as longer works. Her work has been published in M ichigan Quar ter ly R eview, T he L iter ar y R eview, M cSweeney's, Glimmer T r ain and other magazines. It has also been anthologized, nominated for a Pushcart and has placed well in contests. She lives with her family in Brazil. R i ch a r d D . H a r tw el l is a retired middle school language arts teacher living in Southern California with his wife of thirty-five years (poor soul; her, not him), their disabled daughter, one of their sons and his ex-wife and their two children, and eleven cats. Yes, eleven! When not writing he wishes he were still pushing plywood in Coquille, Oregon. F er n a n do I w a s a k i is the author of the novel L ibr o de mal amor and the story collections T r es noches de cor batas, A T r oya, H elena, and I nquisiciones per uanas. He lives in Seville, Spain, where he edits the literary journal, R enacimiento. His website is f er n a n doi w a s a k i . com . R D ea n J oh n s on 's essays and stories have appeared in, among others, J uked, N atur al B r idge, N ew Or leans R eview, Slice, and T he Souther n R eview. He lives in Kentucky with his wife, the writer Julie Hensley, and is an Assistant Professor in the Brief-Residency MFA program at Eastern Kentucky University. G a r y M os h i m er 's work appears at Pank, W or d R iot, E mpr ise R eview, B lue Stem, and many other places. K u r t M u el l er received an MFA from Southern Illinois University and now lectures professionally at the University of Wisconsin - Marathon County. His fiction has most recently appeared in B ull, H inchas de Poesia, Specter , and T he B ig Stupid R eview.

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D en n i s M u s t is the author of two short story collections: Oh, Don't Ask W hy (Red Hen Press, Los Angeles, CA, 2007) and B anjo Gr ease (Creative Arts Book Company, Berkeley, CA, 2000), plus a forthcoming novel, T he W or ld's Smallest B ible, to be published by Red Hen Press. His plays have been performed Off Off Broadway and his fiction has appeared in numerous anthologies and literary reviews. He resides with his wife in Salem, Massachusetts. For more information, visit him at w w w . den n i s m u s t. com . J a zm í n O ñ a doesn’t have much of a biography. She was born on August 26, 1991, graduated high school at 17 went to art school at 19, dropped out and moved to France. Besides that, nothing remarkable has happened. A l ex R u s s el l lives in California with his wife and two dogs. He will complete his MA in creative writing at U.C. Davis in 2012. I s a i a h S w a n s on is a writer, mainly of brief prose, living in Memphis, Tennessee. His passions include reading, writing, film, and community work. Some of his recent published material can be found in N AP L it M agazine and Digital Amer icana.

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F l a s h F i cti o n

P hoto/ A r t S our ce s A Woman: A B e a u t i f u l M i n d Nathan, Natalie: “Lost Playmate” by Gustav Mosler Scarecrows: Mark L. Power Mr. Green: S w i f t P r o d u c e Man and Dog: D’Arcy Norman on f l i c k r , CC Jesus: C h i c a n - i z m o She Was Short: Stock Photo God Loves a Good Winner: J e t C h e f Whack: D a i l y I n t e r e s t i n g F a c t s The Bequest: H I V R e s e a r c h C a t a l y s t F o r u m

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Get Lit, Round 2: Flash Fiction