Literary Brushstrokes Winter 2012-2013

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Literary Brushstrokes

Cover photo by Lisa Allen Lambert

Winter 2012-2013

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Winter Issue January 2013 Vol 1, No 3

~~~~~~~ ©January 2013

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From the Editor When we conceived this magazine and began brainstorming ideas for its name, we thought about all the things that make good writing great. We kept coming back to the idea that good writing paints a picture in the mind of a reader. Thus Literary Brushstrokes was born Welcome to the third issue of our literary journal. Though this issue is small, it is mighty – filled with the work of talented writers and the cover is graced by a fabulous photo – it makes you want to walk down that path and sit in the chair and read. We would also like to give a big thank you to those who contributed their editing skills for the creation of this issue. Enjoy!

Mary Mary Chrapliwy, Managing Editor

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Table of Contents Poetry Yesterday’s Sand by A.J. Huffman – page 6 Troublous Markers by Richard King Perkins II – page 8

Flash Fiction Trials and Tributaries by Caleb Gannon – page 10 Aftermath by Robert Goodman – page 14

Fiction The End of the Night Music by Vicki Carroll – page 18 The Painted Narcissus by Deborah Nagy – page 24 Black Friday by Albert Ruggiero – page 33

Artist and Author Bios – page 38

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Yesterday’s Sand by A.J. Huffman I stare at the space beside me. Where you should be. And I remember the way our arms held each other. The warm breath: the soft scent of our skin intermingling. With candles and cotton linen. I try to recreate a picture of us. But I am fading. And dawn’s light dancing through the pane is echoing nothing but reflected light. Too harsh. It shows me the missing of every single grain.

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Troublous Markers by Richard King Perkins II The valley is surmounted by a growing whiteness. This will not make the practical lowlanders any less satisfied. A hot-air balloon hovers noiselessly above. A bulbous swan slower than breeze— the silent flapping of banners. All afternoon the world has been whitening washing-out the aniline dyes of billowy fabrics, the troublous markers of Scotland. The promise of snow is intriguing, offering to keep the land in hushed solitude, a godless haven, a clear alcohol.

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Trials and Tributaries by Caleb Gannon Flash Fiction

James exhaustedly sat back down in his chair and watched as the prosecutor approached the waiting jury. He listened to what was said but with a mind at rest knowing his job was done and all that was left to do was wait for twelve people to shuffle across the hall into a room where the verdict would be reached. James had grown weary of the courtroom with its ornate wooden ceiling and high bench atop which perched a bald, bespectacled old judge who carelessly observed what occurred before him. Before trial all efforts to convince his client to accept the plea offer were met with obstinate refusal. James bluntly explained that, “the police officer is going to testify she arrived at the scene and observed your truck stuck in the snow bank on the side of the highway; you were the only person there and you failed the field sobriety tests.” “Like I told you,” his client answered back, “my friend was driving the truck when we went off the road and then he got out and walked home.” “I see, your friend got out of the truck on the highway and walked home at three in the morning … in January … in Massachusetts.” “Yes.” James had become adept at showing the light to his clients. In his own mind he had become something he despised – a salesman – and not just any salesman, because the “product” he peddled was jail. He had not intended to become a criminal defense attorney. In law school he studied that idealistic area of the law referred to as environmental law and fantasized about pursuing cases designed to protect wild trout habitat. Instead, he sold jail to his clients more often than not. This was not out of weakness, but in the best interest of the client when the evidence made it so. And his desk was buried with case files that made it so. “We go to trial,” was the client’s unwavering response in this case however. After the prosecutor concluded his closing arguments James wandered the halls of the courthouse counting the minutes followed by the half hours and then the hours waiting for the court officer to indicate that the jury was ready to read its verdict. It was difficult to ignore the deeply pessimistic and impersonal attitude that pervaded the courthouse as its influence was hopelessly contagious, especially for those like James whose immunity was slowly deconstructed through daily exposure.

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Several hours later the moment came and everyone settled back into their respective seats as the judge laboriously asked the foreperson what verdict the jury had reached. The word “guilty” filled the courtroom. The case was over and the jury rose to exit the courtroom having fulfilled their civic duty. After escaping from the courthouse and safe in his car, James headed north on the same highway his client had that fateful night almost six months earlier. It was a warm afternoon in late June and a quick study of the sky revealed an ominous cloud bank to the south. After making several turns, the houses along the roadway quickly diminished in number and were eventually replaced entirely by the solid wall of a New England forest. An occasional break in the trees revealed a picturesque series of dark green hills. The road grew more deteriorated as James drove alongside the river until reaching the turnoff. As the car pulled into the tall grass the first heavy drops of rain splashed on the windshield. A bright day had grown dark as a sudden flash was followed by a crack of thunder. The wind had turned over the leaves revealing their pale undersides as it whipped through the trees and the deluge of rain pounded the car. The storm passed almost as quickly as it had arrived and reaching behind him, James grasped the metal case from the back seat which contained his fly rod. After entering the forest there was a steep descent to the river. Steam rose where hazy beams of sunlight penetrated the canopy and touched the ground. The freshly fallen rain unleashed the scent of the forest. James studied the river as he approached focusing on the current as it worked its way around a large rock at the head of a pool and cut through its deepest section. The coolness of the water pushed against his waders as he crossed the narrow river channel. Several trout could be observed feeding from the surface of the water as he tied a fly to his line. After several false casts the fly settled in the current and drifted downstream until it vanished beneath a spontaneous splash. James raised his rod and followed the line as it cut through the water, first downstream and then back up. After stepping into the river and netting the fish, he held the large healthy brown trout and admired the black speckled body with bright red spots after removing the fly from its jaw. Upon release the trout darted back into the depths of the pool. Further upstream, caddis flies began to flutter along the surface of the water. Just beyond the high grass along the river bank the smooth surface of the pool was being disturbed. A cast of the rod placed the fly into the drift of the current upstream. Despite the knowledge that several trout had been hitting the surface James still started at the sudden violent break in the water’s surface and vanishing of the feathered hook. A lift of the arm set the hook and the weight of the fish bent the rod. The trout plunged to the depths of the pool nearly catching the line on a large submerged rock.

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The rod was pulled away from the underwater structure with as much effort as the line could bear. Slowly the trout tired and, wading in with net extended, the catch was landed. Raising his net from the water it revealed the large, writhing brightly colored mass. Realizing that dusk was upon him and that it was time to make his way back to the car, James worked his way upstream passing under an abandoned mill that loomed hauntingly over the river. Odd rusted pieces of metal that were once part of its industrial machine littered the ground. The road was across the river and up a steep embankment. Looking back, the dark, dense foliage appeared foreboding once emerged from the woods. The far-off howls of coyotes rolled down the hills to the road as James approached his car. He sat heavily in the front seat. Without the satisfying distraction that the pursuit of trout brought him, James vividly recalled the stacks of cases on his desk, all of which required his immediate attention.

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Aftermath by Robert Goodman Flash Fiction Maritza Ortiz had her arm wrapped around Anna as the bus moved slowly to their destination. Her daughter had her face tucked into her side; refusing to look out the window. From how the world outside the bus now appeared to Maritza, she understood Anna’s behavior. She looked across the bus aisle at her mother, Millie, who was also looking out the window with her hand covering her mouth in disbelief; her eyes moist and weepy at what she beheld as the bus rumbled along. As the FEMA coordinator had advised them just moments earlier, the entire area was devastated by the storm. Not a building in this peninsula town was left untouched by the hurricane and the flooding. He told them that they should be prepared to see entire homes and businesses destroyed by the force of wind and water during the storm. Maritza, and her husband, Paul, moved here several years ago from Bayonne. Paul had gotten a job in this tiny shore town as a paid fireman and they rented an apartment at the end of River Street. The second-story walkup was part of an old, seashore Colonial home that had been converted into two apartments. Although it was small for the four of them, it had a good-sized balcony that overlooked the Shrewsbury River. With its view of the river, the bridge and the boats, it quickly became their favorite spot to gather; often serving dinner at the small teak table with matching chairs that had been there when they first moved in. Although the storm had occurred nine days ago, this would be the first time the evacuated residents would be allowed back in to see the condition of their homes, or in the case of severe damage, retrieve any salvageable personal belongings. As the bus came to stop outside the borough hall, Maritza could see that this building too had sustained significant damage with part of the roof caved in and covered by a blue tarp. The sign touting the city’s slogan was blown off the building and now hanging twistedly from a single bent bolt. The sign once cheerfully depicting the sun, seashore and sailboats now, ironically, proclaimed “Where Ocean and River Meet”. They disembarked from the bus with the other evacuees. Maritza looked around at the others stepping off the bus and saw faces tired and lined with worry. She wondered where they all had evacuated to during the storm. The Ortiz family stayed with Maritza’s sister several miles inland since the day before the storm hit the shore. Where would they stay if their homes were gone? Paul had entered the town earlier in the day with a contingent of other fireman who were assisting

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in removing damaged vehicles and other large debris from the roadways. He planned to meet them at the apartment as soon as she got off the bus. She opened her phone and texted a message to him that she, Anna and Millie had arrived. He texted back that he would meet them at the head of River Street in 10 minutes. After receiving a final warning from the FEMA coordinator to avoid all downed power lines, the women set out for the two-block walk to their River Street apartment. As they walked along Ocean Avenue, they could see the damage for the first time. The oceanfront bar built along the sea wall and had entertained beachgoers for decades was collapsed into a large heap of wood timber and glass. The luncheonette with the large oak tables where the family often had breakfast on Sunday after church had all their windows blown out. The dining tables, chairs and plywood all scattered askew outside the building along the sidewalk and street. As they neared River Street, Anna pointed to the pair of concrete benches that previously had graced the entrance to the beach club across street a hundred yards away. They now sat upside down in the middle of Ocean Avenue. Maritza turned to look at the beach club and saw that nearly all the cabanas had been washed into the parking lot, many of them broken and crushed. As she turned back towards the intersection of River Street and Ocean Avenue, she could see that Anna had run ahead to Paul who was waiting at the corner. Maritza waited a moment for Millie to catch up with her before proceeding. As she approached, her worried face told what she said next; “Esto es desgarrador…” … this is heartbreaking. Maritza hooked her arm in Millie’s and guided her to where Paul and Anna were waiting. After exchanging hugs, Maritza asked if Paul had seen the apartment. He indicated that he had not as he was working further north on Ocean Avenue and had been relieved for this break. They then proceeded down River Street and noticed immediately that they had a clear view of the river where houses and apartments had once stood. Maritza looked at Paul, her face showing the growing despair of her biggest fear. “Anna! Wait …” she shouted as her daughter took off running towards the apartment. Paul ran after her as Maritza walked with Millie to the end of River Street. As they got closer, their fears were quickly confirmed. They could see that several blocks, north to south had lost all their homes. The apartment where they had lived was gone except for the foundation and oddly, the rear entrance foyer with the door flapping in the breeze. Now, a doorway to nowhere. A moment later they were all standing at what once was the entrance to their apartment. Maritza could see the river was filled with the remains of the homes including a large piece of gabled roofline rocking and swaying in the river currents. After looking at the ravaged landscape they instinctively started reaching for each other.

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“Where is it … where is it?” Anna asked in disbelief. Paul kept looking out into the river as if searching for any sign of what was once their home. Millie’s head leaned into Maritza as they all hugged together. “I don’t know, baby,” Maritza said softly to Anna. “I don’t know …” Tears started down Millie’s face and Anna started crying softly. Maritza turned to Paul as she tried to hold her own tears from flowing. “What do we do now?” she asked Paul. Paul paused a second searching for an answer. He had none and flatly intoned, “I don’t know. Start over I guess.” At that moment, the grey overcast sky opened up enough for the sun to shine through the clouds. As Maritza looked up and let the light warm her face, she thought to herself that as fragile as hope is, it never dies. And for this moment, hope is all they had.

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The End of the Night Music by Vicki Carroll Fiction They come in dream-like visions and flashes now, those memories of my first five years of life with my mother. Over the years I added layers of mental filters to protect me against those sharp and deep cutting moments of unwanted recall. Though dulled by time, they still come unbidden and invade my thoughts, and I flinch as if in physical pain. I have forgotten much over time; whether I have blocked those memories on purpose or if time has just done its work, I don’t know. Though sometimes early in the morning hours before I am fully awake, I still hear her piano. On the day before my mother’s music stopped forever, I came home from school to find her waiting for me on the porch steps. This was not unusual. She managed to have something for me every day after school, even if it was just a cookie or a flower. She didn’t work and my dad had her on a budget, but she somehow managed to find fun things for us to do. We would act out the stories in the storybooks, put on plays, and dress up like angels, and fairy queens. My mother had been given a baby grand piano for her birthday when she was 16. Her father had sold some land to buy it for her. She left it with her father when she married my dad, but he saved it for her and when her father died my dad made arrangements to get it for her. She never talked about how she learned to play so well, but she could bring a grown man to tears with her music. But along with her charm and her talent, my mother had the curse, as my grandmother used to call it. My mother’s mind didn’t work the way that other peoples’ minds worked, she would tell me. It was true my mother’s moods would range from blue to manic without much warning, but I was seldom her victim as she went on her wild rides other than by her neglect when she forgot I was alive. This day, as I turned the corner and saw her sitting on the porch steps, elbows on her knees, her face covered by her long auburn hair, my five year old mind could note her sadness but since her moods were volatile I was not alarmed. I had seen it all before so I took a deep breath and my mind did cartwheels as it struggled to make up a story for her to make her smile. But this time I didn’t guess what was coming. My dad had worked his magic and had gotten me into first grade before I was six. There was no structured kindergarten program in my school district. My father was a hard man to deny so no one was surprised that he had gotten what he wanted. His good looks and police uniform always made an impression in our small town. I loved school and didn’t mind being the youngest one in class. My dad had spent hours teaching me to print, add, and memorize state capitals, even at five. He had been preparing me for this. I didn’t know his plan to get me into school early was his way of limiting my time with my mother. School was a place where I felt safe and normal for a little while but I could never have said that to anyone because I didn’t understand it myself. The school was just around the corner from my house but it felt like another world. At school things were predictable and there were rules, and there was a lunch time. It was so different from my world at

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home where there were few rules, little structure, and no day was every the same. I could count on nothing at home. I didn’t know my parents were separated because my dad’s schedule had always been erratic, and he still came to see me every day. I didn’t notice the changes in my mother or the silent rage that must have been building. I didn’t notice if there were tears after dad left. Even if my mother would forget to feed me, wash my clothes, or help me with my bath and hair, she would remember to tell me a story, or read me a story most nights. Those nights when she disappeared into her room and closed the door, I learned to make up my own stories. At five, I had learned to take care of myself. My younger brother, not yet two, had been taken over by my grandmother on the day he came home from the hospital. My mother refused to claim him since she had no memory of his birth. I found out later this was due to the shock treatments they had given her not too long after his birth. My grandmother or one of dad’s three sisters would stop by to visit me every day. I loved the visits, but they made my mother anxious and irritable. I wouldn’t understand until much later that they were checking on me and monitoring my mother’s disintegrating sanity. My mother was many things. She was smart, creative, musically talented, attractive, and kind; and everyone was always saying, “too bad about her problem.” I think she tried very hard to be what everyone wanted her to be, but she couldn’t. She turned to prayer and religion, faith-healers and doctors, and nothing helped her for very long. She fought it, the ugly, creeping, dark curse of mental illness, but in the end, it won. I watched her disintegrate from my loving, kind, and fun mother to what she became and I didn’t know what I was watching. Her moods became darker and changed almost hourly and then one day she was not my mother anymore. The last night with my mother was a bad night and one full of the memories that I wish I could forget. My dad and mother talked in whispers in the living room while I did my homework in the kitchen. Dad brought me dinner that my grandmother had made for us, and though I was very hungry I waited for my mother. Dad told me goodnight and I waited for my mother to come into the kitchen but she never came. When my hunger became too much I went into her bedroom to hurry her along. I stood in the door and watched her as she cried into her pillow; the sound was like a wounded animal caught in a trap. I called her name and she stood and wiped her eyes with her hands. Her face was red and blotchy and her eyes looked unfocused. She walked past me without a word and went into the kitchen. She picked up the covered dishes of food from my grandmother and threw them out the back door. I heard the plates shatter on the concrete driveway. She looked down at me and her lips moved as if she wanted to say something but no words came. Her eyes were now dry and her expression was dark and grim. She went back into her bedroom and closed the door. There was no other food in the house that I could make for my dinner, so after I drank chocolate syrup, the only food source I could reach in our kitchen, I went to the living room and practiced my

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reading and writing. When I got sleepy I went up to my own bedroom. My mother would often go to bed after my dad left and retreat from everything. She forgot me, but I had already learned survival skills. The sound of me throwing up my chocolate syrup dinner later didn’t rouse her this night. Sometimes I just failed to exist for her. Whispers from downstairs; words that I couldn’t quite hear. I tossed and turned, feeling sick but too terrified to close my eyes. I knew something bad was coming in the way only a child can know. But finally, exhausted and sick, I slept. I don’t know how long I slept, but the music pushed into my brain and I was afraid. Maybe if I don’t open my eyes it will be a dream – it will stay in the dark. But no, there it goes again. I was still as death and I waited for it. The music, louder now, floated up the stairs, the notes snake under my bedroom door and wrap around my bed, and they encircled me, and the sounds danced through my head. I was awake in my own nightmare. I forced myself to get up and I crept down the stairs because I must. The music called me down the stairs; it was haunting, and it touched a longing in me that I couldn’t name. She sat naked at her piano, her bright green eyes stared ahead at nothing – that I could see. White hands and fingers flew across the keys as if she ran for her life. I looked at her and I know in my limited five-year-old way why people call her beautiful – the long auburn hair in contrast to the cool white skin, those eyes – those burning green eyes. Ah, but they don’t know what I know and they can’t see what I see, and I can’t tell them. I crept forward and touched her bare shoulder and her fingers stopped at once as if I had flipped a switch; her right hand was held in mid-air. She turned to me with those wild green eyes, and for a moment she is accusing me, but of what I don’t understand. “Mommy,” I say, “it’s me, let’s go up to bed now.” Slow recognition. She touched the piano keys one last time; the deep notes vibrated for a long time inside the quiet room. She turned toward me and rose from the piano bench like a queen from her throne. I hold out my hand to her. Her eyes of fire soften then and they focused on me for a moment, like a soft kiss, but I saw the madness in them, and it was a living thing. I watched as it receded behind the eyes of green … for a while. She pushed my hand away and ran her hands over her body as if trying to recognize her own flesh. She stretched then and gave her hair a toss and her mouth made a slow crooked little smile and she blew a kiss toward the piano. She walked like a lazy cat toward the stairs. She never looked back; she had forgotten me already.

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It was early Saturday morning and I started downstairs but stopped when I heard my mother talking. She was leaving my dad a message at the police station. She tells the person on the phone she is going to kill me, either drown me in the bathtub or tie me to the railroad tracks. I heard her giggle as she hung up the telephone. I heard, but I didn’t understand and she was laughing, so I exhaled a little as I entered the room. She watched me in silence for a minute and then smiled at me. She tells me we must get ready for an adventure. My hands shook a little; living with my mother was already an adventure. But she sounded like the mother I knew, the one who loved me and would never hurt me. She was excited; her eyes were bright and her smile looked different, but I don’t recognize the danger there. She seemed happy as she rushed me around and pulled a brush through my hair, but there is no time for breakfast she tells me. I am ashamed of the dirty skirt she puts on me and I turned it around and around trying to put the cleanest side in the front. I heard a car horn and she rushed me out the door and we get into a taxi. I recognized the address and I am relieved because we were going to her sister’s house in Chattanooga, 30 miles away. It was a place with a normal family, normal food, and another place where I felt safe. I stayed outside playing with my two cousins for most of the visit which was fun but short. They called us in for lunch and I wolfed down the food like it was my last meal. That is my most vivid memory of the visit – feeding that hunger, the hunger for something I could not name. We returned home to find the front door of our house broken and off the hinges. My father had taken the earlier drowning threat seriously. I was confused and afraid, but not sure why. My mother seemed very calm and she smiled at me. I sat down with my crayons and my new coloring book because I didn’t know what else to do, and I felt sick from eating all the food combined with the car ride home. As I colored in the rabbit’s ears with a pale pink crayon, three police cars screeched to a stop in front of our house. My dad was first in the door. I saw the look on my dad’s face as his eyes met my mother’s. His face was red with fury and his blue eyes looked almost black. My mother was laughing at him and he clinched his fists at his side. Then he looked at me and came over, picked me up and asked me questions about what I had been doing. I tried to answer his questions as fast as I could, my eyes never leaving his as I tried hard to figure out what was happening. Dad took me into the kitchen and I sat down at the table. He brought me a glass of water and told me I needed to get some clothes together because I was going to stay with my grandmother for a while. I jumped out of my chair and ran to tell my mother, but my mother was gone. I ran to the door but my dad caught my arm before I could get outside. I tried to escape his arms and I screamed but he held me tight. I watched as my mother’s petite 110 pound body struggled against two police officers as they tried to put her in the car. My dad tried to distract me, but I listened against my will as she cursed them all, using words I had never heard. I watched as she tried to rip off her clothes and as she tears at the clothes of the officers. Suddenly she stopped screaming and started laughing, and that was when I wanted to hide my face, close my ears, and slip into another world, and fall into some other little girl’s story.

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I saw my grandmother, who seemed to have appeared out of nowhere, and my dad yelled at me to stop screaming and told me to go with her. I didn’t know I was screaming. My grandmother grabbed my arms and held tight to keep me from running to my mother who is now sitting still and quiet in the back of one of the police cars. My dad gave them a hand signal and the car started off down the street. My grandmother pulled me along up the street in the opposite direction. I can still hear her say, “don’t look back” but I did, and I kept looking back even after the police cars drove around the corner. I didn’t know that I would be 16 before I would see my mother again, and that nothing would ever be the same for me. It was the end of our stories, the end of our crazy adventures – the end of the night music, and the end of my childhood.

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The Painted Narcissus by Deborah Nagy Fiction Tears streamed down Elizabeth’s cheek; she walked up the Passaig de Gràcia battling the humidity that clung against her skin like spider webs. Elizabeth came to Barcelona a year ago, tired of clouded skies and English insincerity. As an artist, she searched for inspiration in Sorrolla’s light and Dali’s colors, only to waste away in the pleasures of Catalán bohemianism. Intoxicated on Gaudí and Miró, she tried to catch their creativity like an infectious disease. Elizabeth possessed talent, but she couldn’t remain solely promising forever. She searched for her muse behind every modernist façade, from each surrealist shadow to the local faces in the street. Nothing could inspire her, not even the golden light reflected off the scaled roof of Casa Batlló. She only found it in him. She knew “Narcissó” by sight, his beauty gave off a whiff of arrogance where neither the sea wind nor the humidity affected him; she wondered if he ever needed to check a mirror. She was desperate to paint him, the rest wouldn’t matter; she only wanted to preserve his image. He said yes to her half-drunk request when they talked in a basement bar in the Raval – Narcissó needed the money. She took him back to her apartment as if he were a lover. Elizabeth lived in a bedsit nearby filled with antique mirrors and dusty cloths concealing the moth eaten furniture. Her place would have been depressing were it not for the paintings that hung round the flat, stacked virtually on top of one another bursting with surrealist colors glimmering in the light. The rims ranged from baroque, golden, green, wooden, but they all shared the same property – Elizabeth painted on mirrors. “Did you paint this?” Narcissó said pointing to a framed painting of Parc Güell. She nodded as she put her bag down on the dusty antique sofa, “Yes, it’s one of my studies I made, the first one I used this technique on.” He leaned into the painting; she saw his eye reflected back in the unpainted gap in the frame. “It’s a mirror!” he exclaimed. Elizabeth laughed, “Yes, I like to paint on mirrors; I find they give an interesting effect to the paint.” She walked up to him and pointed to the segment. She caught a sense of his smell then and she looked at the way his brown hair glinted with gold flecks, which tumbled over his brow against his skin. She felt dizzy. She wanted to consume him with her body and in her art. He was beautiful and blank, with wide grey eyes that changed with the light.

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“Take your clothes off,” she said, biting her lip conscious of her imperative tone. But Narcissó unbuttoned his shirt without question, fixing his eyes on her while doing so, she felt something pass between them and wondered if she misunderstood him. “Do you want to paint me now?” he said. “Well, I need to make some sketches first, I’ll then need to buy a mirror from the flea market, and it has to be perfect.” Elizabeth walked back to the sofa and threw a piece of dark red velvet over it. She stroked it down with the tender caress of a lover. “Lie down here,” she said. He walked over naked and reclined against the velvet; his fair skin was perfect against the wine colored backdrop. She began to make the first lines, and she wondered if he preferred boys as she sketched him nude on her divan in the crumpled living room. Elizabeth trembled when she adjusted his alabaster arm to feel his skin crawl with mortal warmth. Narcissó seldom spoke, and his only words were superficial, never daring to color them with an opinion. Elizabeth tried to pry into his passions and interests only to find the doors closed. She found the perfect mirror from the flea market: it was oval with bronzed leaves round the outer rim ready to capture him. “I bought a mirror,” she said when he arrived at her house, “Do you want to see it?” she walked behind the sofa and picked up the oval object covered with an old paint stained cloth. “No,” Narcissó exclaimed, “I don’t like mirrors,” he said. “Why?” said Elizabeth, she couldn’t understand. He exhaled and unbuttoned his shirt; she could tell from his gestures he was uncomfortable. “It’s just one of those things, I’ve been told I’m beautiful since I was a child, I’m scared of becoming vain.” Elizabeth realized the irony of his given name, still she didn’t understand why he was uncomfortable at being stared at or pursued by both sexes. He lay down on the couch and looked at her. She saw the tenderness in his chameleon grey eyes and her heart palpitated; her lips quivered from the sadness carried behind those full perfect lips. Narcissó’s sexuality remained undefined and she needed to know. She set the mirror on the stand and mixed the paint. “Can I ask you a question?” she said, he blinked his eyes and nodded, “Do you prefer men?” “Why do you want to know?” he said, his eyes narrowed with suspicion.

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“Curiosity,” she said, brushing the hair from her face turning away to conceal her flushed cheeks and her lustful gaze. “It’s complicated, I’d rather not talk about it,” he said. “When I’m ready I’ll tell you, but now I can’t.” She mixed her paint on the pallet, injecting life into an ability her talent only hinted at before; it was then she decided to channel her desire for him into the pigments of paint. Seducing him with each brushstroke. He relaxed when she began to paint him. The color against the mirrored glass mocked her reflection. She studied every contour of muscle and bone which rippled beneath his skin, visualizing what it might feel like to run her hands across his torso and to run her fingers through his hair. There was an intimacy there; her gaze would linger on parts of his body before raising her eyes to meet his. She made love to the mirror with paint, while he spoke of things he loved and asked her to share too. Their connection was being made, yet she promised herself to maintain a professional distance while she painted him, and only when the picture was finished could she enjoy its subject. The rumors then began to circulate that they were lovers, cruel lies mocking Elizabeth’s desires. Her frustration began to drive her mad. One afternoon Narcissó rose off the divan and took an apple from the fruit bowl; he pressed his lips to it as if planting a kiss. He stood there with the poise of a statue of warm flesh. Elizabeth trembled; she collapsed into the chair. She didn’t know how long she could contain her lust. She wished she were a man that moment, alas she was conditioned by society to be passive and wait for him. “Are you alright?” Narcissó said, he rushed to the chair and knelt down before her. “I’m fine,” she lied, “just a dizzy spell.” Narcissó raised his hand to her cheek and stroked it. He looked into her eyes and she saw something in them – it may have even been love. “You’ve not been looking after yourself, have you?” he said. “I haven’t seen you eat for a while, only drink endless cups of coffee.” He smiled trying to relax her but it drove her crazy. “I think I need to lie down.” She got up from the chair and moved towards the bedroom, and collapsed onto the bed. She hoped for her sake he’d just put his clothes back on and just go, to leave her to her perversions, and act out her fantasies with her hands as a temporary relief. But he followed her, and lay down on the bed unclothed.

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She turned her back to him. He touched her bare shoulder; Narcissó didn’t react when she trembled upon skin contact. She turned over and gazed at him, his fingers ran through her hair. He looked into her eyes, but she avoided them. “I love you,” he said. Elizabeth struggled to articulate words, “love you,” she only echoed; she took his hand and brushed her lips against it. “A lot of people don’t understand me, I frighten them. They look at me and want to use me, but they can’t nor want to understand me.” “I want to understand,” she said. She leaned forward and gave him a kiss on his lips. His mouth remained closed but he pressed back. He rolled onto his front with is line of sight directed towards the Miró poster on the other side of her room. His mouth curved up into a smile, and besides the fading Mediterranean light, she found his portrait perfect; she wanted to sketch him to capture the image forever. She moved her hand across his skin, trembling inside, scared to make the move but bold enough to cease caring. She traced his spine down to curve of his buttocks; she stroked her hand up again, moving to caress his face. His terrified expression resembled a lamb. He clasped her wrist aggressively, almost dominant in his defense. “There’s something you need to know,” he said. “You know, a lot of people ask about my sexuality,” he said flicking his eyes down, “people assume I’m gay because they never see me with women, and now they see me with you they’re asking questions again.” She jerked her wrist back, she felt stupid for thinking she could seduce him, “I admit I’ve asked myself the same question,” Elizabeth said. “I’m neither,” he said. His pupils dilated like ink in the water as the black ran to the edges obscuring the grey. He seemed more beautiful to her, now he was so close yet still out of reach. She sat up, wanting to maintain her composure. “You’re bisexual?” “No,” he exhaled and looked forward, “this is hard to say,” he paused, “I’m asexual.” “Asexual?” her voice raised at the inflexion. “I’m not interested in other people for sex; I can love others, romantically but not sexually.”

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“You have no sex drive?” “Oh I do,” said Narcissó, “I can pleasure myself, but not with others.” Elizabeth felt a lump rise in her throat. She blinked back the tears; she didn’t want him to see. “What’s wrong Elizabeth,” he said sitting up. He placed his hand to the small of her back and she shook him off. His words were confusing, shocking and even disgusted her sexuality. “Don’t...” The tears started down her face, “please don’t touch me.” The smile dissipated from his lips. “Is that all I am to you?” he said. He sat up and shifted to the side of the bed, he rubbed his face with the palms of his hands. “You wanted to use me as everyone else does?” Narcissó walked off into the living room, grabbing his scattered clothes from the floor. “No, you don’t understand.” Elizabeth called after him. She searched for reasons, some sort of justification. Nothing. She thought she was different, good enough for him. She wasn’t. She looked at him in the living room, he turned his face to look at her, their eyes met and she felt the connection there, so strong it made her cry. She loved him, and he loved her, but they couldn’t communicate in each other’s language. She felt the saline tears wash upon her cheek; she brushed them off with a finger. Shame came upon her: her lewd sexuality polluted his perfect love. Elizabeth said nothing and walked out the door. Her feet echoed through the street; she wondered the serpentine streets of the Raval until she hit the wall of tourists in the Rambla. Her tears were anonymous here. The shrieks of caged birds tormented her, and the noise of vendors speaking bad English reminded Elizabeth of a world she left behind. Narcissó had not rejected her; he was simply honest. She personalized his asexuality. Would she have cared if he were homosexual? Or was it the torture of declared but unfulfilled love? She made love to him through each brushstroke against the painted glass: she explored his body with each pigment until an explosion of color came to life. The nights she spent alone imagining him in the bed besides her, running his fingers over her breasts and feeling him inside while she pleasured herself in simulation. All the fantasies she encouraged were destroyed by those words he uttered from those lips she was desperate to taste. He still looked upon her with adoration. Was that not enough? The sounds of the parrots in the trees irritated her. The tourists thinned beyond Diagonal and the art nouveau streets were lined with magnolia trees climbing uphill. The humidity caused her hair stick to her forehead. Her mind flashed back to the day in Figueres, and she remembered her conversation with Narcissó about Dali and Gala.

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“He paints her the same way,” Elizabeth had said, “she’s almost like a saint, a Madonna idealized on canvas.” “He really loved her,” Narcissó said when they looked at Galatea broken into many spheres, “they were different natures, but they made it work. She was a nymphomaniac and he was terrified of penetration, yet were together till she died and after that he never painted again.” “Dali was scared of sex?” Elizabeth asked as they wondered round the surrealist theatre, the light from the courtyard streamed into the semi-circular room. She looked at his paintings with their morbid and sterile sexuality. “They never had sex, or at least, that’s what they say,” Narcissó brushed his brown hair from his face; his classical beauty was out of place between the surrealist freak shows, “but he loved her ardently. Sex is not love, but everyone forgets that.” The echo in his voice haunted her; the way he flicked down his oval eyes to the ground - his secret confined in those words, he wanted to trust her then. She remembered the way he looked at her, when he grabbed her hand beneath the frescoed ceiling as an affectionate lover, and when kissed her forehead under the glass dome. She recalled his eyes upon her as she studied his naked body, and the intimacy that passed between them. She felt then he loved her in his own way. She was a sexual being though - like Gala, Dali’s wife. She pondered whether she could love him without that. It would be different; she would no longer be discarded by men who used her as a playground, leaving behind the unreturned calls and forgotten names scooped from the back of crowded bars. That was not love. She ran against the wind, down the hill and back towards the sea. She called Narcissó and he didn’t answer. Her heart thumped and felt as if her lungs would implode; tears lined her face afraid of a love gone sour. She turned the keys in the door, finding him in front of her unmasked painting. The mirror was entirely painted, no flecks of reflective glass shone naked without paint, his perfection was to be conveyed without reality’s perversion. She had painted him more beautiful than he really was, but it was the way she saw him, her soul, and her love became expressed in his portrait. His fingers caressed the brushstrokes of his face. He stared at his reflection in the painting. He didn’t turn to her when she came in the door. “I’m sorry,” she panted, “forgive me.” Narcissó tilted his face slightly towards her without turning his head. He didn’t reply, maybe he was angry? She looked at the painting. Painted eyes mocked her; suddenly his stare seemed cold and heartless peering from the glass. She called again, “What is it?” Her stomach sunk as she

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watched him and her painting; something had changed. She walked round; his eyes were still fixed upon himself. He gazed at the painting with the tender look of a lover. “I understand,” he said without looking at her. “Did you mean it?” she said, “About loving me?” He remained transfixed by the portrait, and said nothing. He glanced over with an indifference she never saw in him before, his flush of tenderness only returned when he saw his painted self again. She realized she had lost him. He had looked at himself in her painting, only to see his own face staring back to meet him; it was love. She knew he had loved her for the reflection he saw in her eyes. He had the painting now. He didn’t need her anymore. Narcissus had found his pool.

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Black Friday by Albert Ruggiero Fiction Early one August morning, when I was ten and my sister was three, my mother jostled my bed and shook Maris’s crib. “Come on kids get up. Get up now,” she said. Loral, my mother was already wearing her one piece swimsuit. She picked me up and slipped on my swim trunks right over my underwear. My nightshirt hung over my trunks. “What’s going on, mom?” I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. Outside my rattling window, across the street, I saw large maple trees shake from the blustery weather. The rain beat hard on the roof of the house and filled up the gutters so they overflowed. “We’re going to go for a little swim.” She was picking up Maris now, who woke up crying. “Yeah but, it’s nighttime, isn’t it?” “No Brandon, its early morning.” She ran fast to the dresser and pulled out a little swim suit and a small green, Hello Kitty Froggy raincoat. The dresser drawer squeaked as she quickly closed it shut. “Bring what you want for our trip. Take something small and easy to carry.” “Where are we going?” “We’re going to a place that’s high and dry so the water can’t reach us.” By this time, she had dressed Maris in her swimsuit. And over that, she had put on her hooded rubber raincoat and slipped on her black patent leather shoes. “There’s a hurricane coming. It’s a real whopper. Here, wear this.” She slipped a Saint Christopher medal over my head, and put one over Maris’ head too. “What’s this for?” I pulled at the chain and looked at the silvery round medal. “It’s the patron saint of travelers. It’ll protect you.” Next, I grabbed my Davey Crocket coonskin hat. It was my most prized possession. Then, puzzled and still drowsy, I followed my mom out of the apartment and down the stairs. While standing on the porch, I could see that the road had become a swollen stream, because of the heavy rain. The streetlights flickered and then went out. However, the morning glow came through the rain clouds, which showed a stop sign and a roof tile flying through the air. The sky looked puffy and full.

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“Hey mom, are we going swimming?” “This is serious honey,” she said. After putting Maris on the wicker chair, she stared at the chocolate colored river. “Yep, that’s right. We’re goin’ for a little swim.” She said sarcastically. As we both looked at the water down below, way in the distance, we saw a locomotive and three box cars floating down the river. Nearer to us, at the edge of the swollen river, a fire engine had its ladder extended over the swirling flood. A fireman crawled out to the end of the ladder. It leaned precariously toward a blue, threefamily house. A woman sat on the roof in her sopping wet pink bathrobe, cradling her infant child in her arms. The ladder bobbed up and down suspended in midair. It twisted in the wind as the fireman made his way to the house. When he got to the end, he guided them onto the ladder. It bent down closer to the water as the weight of all the people strained its ability to support them. Finally under the entire load, the ladder twisted and dropped everybody into the furious river. When we saw what had happened, I turned to mom and asked, “Where did everybody go? They were just there a minute ago.” “The river took them. Can’t you see with your own eyes what just happened? They’re gone, they’re gone.” She grabbed hard onto the railing and leaned forward staring at the stretch of river where the women and the fireman had last been seen. I went over to Maris, glad that she did not see what mom and I had just seen. I had her sit on my lap. Her head settled into my shoulder, I heard her slurping at her pacifier as she rapidly sucked at it for comfort. We huddled together for protection against the wind. It felt good to hold her, to protect her, so small, so trusting. As we sat there, I watched mom pace to the end of the porch. Suddenly she turned and came back up towards the chair. She kneeled down in front of Maris and me. In her brown eyes was a terror that I had never seen before. When she started to talk her voice became hoarse, but she cleared her throat a few times before she started to talk again. “I have to tell you kids something.” She shook as she held the arms of the wicker chair. Her upper lip trembled. “I’m afraid of the water and…” She paused and hung her head. Then she picked it up and looked into our eyes. “When I was a baby no older than Maris, I almost drown. We were on a dock. And I fell into the water and sunk to the bottom like a stone. I could see my mother through the water, but they couldn’t see me. I heard running feet on the dock. I heard screaming voices. And after what seemed like forever, a hand reached through the water and pulled me out.”

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Why was she putting all this on my shoulders? My mind seemed to ache, trying to decide what she wanted me to do. I pulled down my hat over my eyes and buried my chin into my chest. I knew we would be safe on the porch. And I knew that this morning would be no different than any other morning if we only stayed put. All at once, a clap of thunder echoed down the valley. Startled, we all jumped, and Maris began to cry. “No, don‘t cry it’s all right.” Mom hugged us hard, and as she did, Maris stopped crying and smiled around her pacifier. She stood up strait and glanced towards the river. Then she looked back up stairs. “Wait here, I’ll be right back.” She ran up to the apartment. This was the opportunity that I was looking for. With Maris still in my arms, I ran frantically down the stairs, down the driveway, all the while being pelted in the face by the rain, and ended up at the back of the house. Somehow I had to find a place to hide. Mom scared me. I spied the red cellar door at the back of the house, opened it, went down the stairs, and shut the steel door behind us. We sat there listening to the rain pinging off the steel, looking into the darkness of the door above us. “Maris, Brandon where are you,” I could hear the sloshing of my mother’s feet as she walked through the rain soaked grass. “Shush Maris we can’t let mom find us,” I whispered. Just as I finished telling my sister to be quiet, the cellar door squeaked open. Mom stood in the rain, hair soaked, eyes bloodshot, waving Maris’ pacifier in the air commanding us to get out of the cellar. “Did you forget something?” “No. We’re not going,” I said as I pulled the door back over us. With a quick yank on the door she swung it open, almost making it come off the hinges. “There’s no room for discussion. Just do what I tell you to do. Now get up here.” She had a length of yellow nylon rope in her hand. “Brandon, lift your sister onto my back and I’ll tie her on.” “But mom…” I wondered why we were in such a hurry. “Don’t worry. Just tie it around her rear end and under her arms and hand me the rest of the rope.”

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“Let me carry her, she’s not that heavy,” I said. Reluctantly, I lifted my little sister onto her back, tied her up, and flipped the ropes over my mom’s shoulders. She felt so light, no heavier than a little puppy. I watched her cross the rope over her chest and knot it several times. She bit on her lip nervously, as she bounced up and down making sure Maris was secure, I had the weird urge to untie the ropes. I could just grab her, tuck her under my arm, and run. “But mom,” I said. “All we have to do is wait here and the water will go down.” “Oh no, it won’t go down. It’ll just get higher and we’ll drown.” “We won’t drown.” She shivered, and then snatched my hand and pulled me along, as we fought against the wind. It pushed us back as we leaned into it. “Over there is where we’ll cross.” We stood at the top of the hill, and she pointed at the riverbank on this side of the river. “I see a better place down the river where we can go,” I said. I pulled at her arm with both hands. I saw a stone railroad trestle. “Please, mom, let’s go this way!” I shouted in her ear, but she ignored me. Instead, her attention focused on the river as she dragged me behind her. The raindrops stung, as the wind drove the rain into my face. We crossed the street and jumped over fast moving streams that ran down the gutters. We passed dark houses and wind swept trees. Moreover, the rain never stopped. In time, we reached the edge of the woods that faced the river. The water swirled and heaved in front of us. Every chance I got I pulled at the ropes to see that they were tight, always making sure that Maris wouldn’t slip out. “Now What?” I asked. As I looked at the raging torrent in front of me, I saw gulls swoop down and glide with ease to the other side of the river. Possibly if we were birds, we could fly to the other shore. I wanted to run away, but the sight of Maris hanging off my mother’s back, sucking her pacifier, so afraid and fragile made me stay. Maris began to cry and the pacifier slipped out of her mouth. Mom reached back and patted her behind. “It’s okay honey, mommy is here.” Then she began to sing, “hush, little baby, don’t say a word, mama’s going to buy you a mockingbird. If that mockingbird won’t sing, mama’s going to buy you a diamond ring.” “Please mom. This doesn‘t make any sense.”

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“It’s all right, Brandon. You just have to trust me.” She pulled me close to her. “Oh, all right!” I hugged her and felt Maris hanging off her back. My mother pulled my head up by my chin and looked into my eyes. “It’s okay, Brandon. You’re my little man. Together, there isn’t anything we can’t do.” “Why?” “I can’t tell you exactly why. But I just know in my gut that this is the best way to go.” We continued to walk up the river. But as we went by the stone trestle I broke her grip and started to climb up it. I looked back and held out my hand to her. “This way mom, we’ll be safe if we cross over here.” “No honey. It’s my way or no way. Come on down.” “I can’t. I’m afraid. How do you know where to go? Did Saint Christopher whisper in your ear and tell which way to go?” I said. With that, I turned and climbed farther up the bridge. All at once I felt her hand on my ankle. She grabbed me and dragged me off of it. “Don’t ever do that again. Just stay with me. Do you understand?” She took hold of my shoulders and shook me until I could not see straight. “Okay. Okay mom.” In a way I was lucky that it was raining so hard, because I knew that she would not see my tears mingling with the rain. We walked to a wooden boxcar that was upside down. On top of it was a black and white Lattice crane. The crane extended over the river and rested on the opposite shore. “I’m tired; I’m going to rest for a little while. It can only be for a little while.” She looked at the river, and then said, “The River is rising fast. We have to hurry.” She sat on a river boulder and untied Maris. Maris stood still, looking around as she sucked on her thumb. “Do you want me to carry her a little while?’ “No, she’s too heavy for you.”

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At that moment, I saw an opening. I grabbed Maris and cradled her close to my chest. Her raincoat crackled as we ran. A wet rubbery smell came from the inside of her coat. I ran along the shore planning to go back up to the house. But mom was close behind me. “Brandon, where are you going?” As I looked back, I saw the rope, still tied to her waist, trailing behind her. I heard her flip-flops as she ran after me. She was gaining on me. So, when we reached the stone trestle I lifted Maris onto it. Her black patent leather shoes slid on the slippery stones. Then she sat down. “Are you all right?” I shouted. I looked up and saw Maris with her arms wrapped around her knees. She looked down at me. “I want mommy.” She shouted back. “What do you think you’re doing? We don’t have time for this nonsense,” mom hollered. Without warning, I felt mom’s hand around my arm. My heart beat hard against my ribs, and my mouth was dry. “I don’t want us to die.” I backed up to the bridge and felt the roughness of the stones on my back. “You’re crazy if you think we can cross that river.” I tried to pull my arm away, but her grip was like a vise. “Can’t we just go back home?” “No we can’t.” All of a sudden, she let go of my arm. “Enough is enough, the water is getting higher, come on now.” “No, I won’t go. I’m staying right here.” I folded my arms in front of me. But as I looked at the river, the water began to slosh up against my sneakers. “Suit yourself.” She motioned to Maris to get down from the bridge. “Honey, sit on mommy’s shoulders.” Mom walked back up the river, and Maris looked behind. “Brandon,” she cried. I heard her sob as they walked away. “Oh, all right I’m coming,” I said, as I ran to catch up with them. I picked up the rope trailing behind mom. “Here, you’ll need this.” “I’m glad to see you changed your mind.” She coiled up the rope and then we retied Maris to her back. We walked a few more yards until we reached the freight car. “Here we are. You climb up first. I’ll be right behind you.”

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I paused on top of the ladder, and saw rubber tires, cars, lumber and trees tumbling down the river. They dipped and surfaced in the water. I grabbed the crane. The metal felt slimy. Mom hovered just above me. She matched every movement I made. I imagine we looked like some strange insect with eight legs and a large hump on its back. Underneath us, the river began to rise higher and higher until it scraped along the bottom of the crane. “We have to crawl faster, Brandon. Get going,” mom said. I scooted along even quicker. My hands gripped the metal and my knees slid along as fast as I could crawl. The scaffold swayed and bounced as we edged our way towards the shore. To my surprise, a tire lodged under the crane. It startled me so that I backed up into mom, which made Maris fall off her back. They both screamed at the same time as Maris fell into the river. An instant later, I looked down expecting to see my sister but she was gone. Please, God, I prayed, please let her be down here. Mom and I swept our arms frantically through the water. In the frenzy, my Davey Crocket hat fell off my head. It didn’t seem important anymore. So I only gave it an uncaring glance, as I continued to search for Maris. “We’ve got to find her before she’s swept down the river,” mom said. I dipped my arms into the rushing water up to my chest. All the while I whipped my hands under the water for some sign of her. I pulled up an aluminum lounge chair. Not significant, except for one thing. Maris’s Saint Christopher medal was wrapped around the arm of the chair. My heart sank. “Oh God, oh God!” mom said, as she splashed her arms through the water. She looked over at me. “Did you find anything?” “No, nothing.” I couldn’t bring myself to tell her what I really had found. I hooked my feet under the derrick and submerged myself up to my waist. The current pushed hard against my back. I blindly grabbed at anything I could find. An object squished in my hands. I pulled myself up with one hand, while holding on to the thing with my other hand. “I’ve got something!” I shouted. It felt soft and rubbery. It was Maris’s raincoat. I pulled it up. Maris was choking, spitting up water and hanging limp in her raincoat as I pulled her to the surface. Then she started to cry. I laughed with joy as I hugged her. I handed her to mom. “Oh, thank you Brandon for saving your sister.” She kissed me on the cheek. “We’ve got to go now. You go first; I’ll follow right behind you.” She held Maris close to her body and pushed me along

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from behind. The crane seemed even more unsteady as we rushed to the shore. “Quick, quick,” she ordered. “I can see the other side.” A minute later, I slid off the end of the crane and into the mud. My mother and Maris followed close behind. We stood there and looked at the river rise. In the next couple of minutes the flood covered the crane. We heard the high squeal of metal against metal. We saw the flood pull the crane under the water. Our bridge to safety rode along with the current until we couldn’t see it anymore. “Well, we made it,” mom said. “Yep, we did.” It was then, that I realized that Mom was right. This was the right place to cross.

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Bios Cover Art: Lisa Allen Lambert holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from Southern New Hampshire University and enjoys creating stories with silver linings and happy endings. Follow the photos and narrative of her arty lifestyle at


Vicki Carroll is a published non-fiction writer from the Atlanta, GA area. She recently published a short story and has now turned her full attention to fiction. She has embraced it, multiple edits and all. She is the final editing stages of a novella hopeful for Wild Rose Press and has another fiction book in the final stages. Vicki works at a major university in Atlanta. Caleb Gannon was born in Western Massachusetts and now resides in Yarmouth, Maine, with his fiancé and Newfoundland. He enjoys writing, fishing, and home brewing. Caleb earns his living as an attorney in Portland. Robert Goodman is a poet and short story writer who lives along the Jersey Shore. Much of his writing work revolves around the human condition with influences from history, myth, faith and observation of the inner journey. He has been published in The Mindful Word, Boston Literary Magazine, Literary Brushstrokes, and in the anthology, Spiritual Awakenings. Additionally, his short story “The Felix Redemption” was signed to an anthology publication in the summer of 2012. A.J. Huffman is a poet and freelance writer in Daytona Beach, Florida. She has previously published six collections of poetry all available on Her work has also been published in numerous national and international literary journals. Most recently, she has accepted the position as editor for four online poetry journals for Kind of a Hurricane Press. Deborah Nagy was born to Hungarian and English parents and grew up between Sussex and Budapest. She currently lives in Spain, and after a sordid past involving a PhD in Nuclear Physics, she’s thrown caution to the wind and now works as a freelance writer.

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Richard King Perkins II is a state-sponsored advocate for residents in long-term care facilities. He resides in Illinois with his wife Vickie and his daughter Sage. His work has appeared in hundreds of publications including Prime Mincer, Sheepshead Review, Sierra Nevada Review, Fox Cry, Prairie Winds and The Red Cedar Review. Albert Ruggiero was published in the premier issue of Literary Brushstrokes under the pen-name Albert Anthoni. He has also been published in the online magazine River Babble and he writes three articles a month for a new magazine, Writing Tomorrow, with a short story in their premier issue. He is in the process of writing a novel.

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Literary Brushstrokes Submissions to:

ŠJanuary 2013

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