The Fox by MJ Duggan

On evenings I prepare the fox’s supper
on a round plastic amber dish
I spotted him on one balmy summer
large orange head peering through dewy mist.
I leave the remains of rosemary and chicken
layered with strawberry jam on bread,

waiting for the rustle of grass and snapping tin,
those night eyes painted in leering red.
Every night I left remains for my stranger
until one evening I didn’t hear his screeching cough,
I heard no passive entrance from our midnight wailer
no sighting of my neighbourly fox.

Just the fat tom cat from number forty-two
helping himself to the fox’s chicken stash,

floating in pickled rain half chewed
scared off by the sirens and the curfew flash.

When the evening tired and slept
the fox returned to the stillness of the night,

leaving a damp feather at my doorstep
among the mossy snail cases in yellow and white.


MJ Duggan hosts AN EVENING OF SPOKEN INDULGENCE every month at the Hydra Bookshop in Bristol, UK, and his first collection of poems, Making Adjustments for Life Expectancy, was published this year. His poems have also been published by Sarasvati, Roundyhouse, Decanto, The Delinquent, Seventh  Quarry, Turbulence and many more. You can follow MJ Duggan on Twitter.

A Guide to Finding Your Former Hit Album in the 50-Cent Bin at a Used Record Store by Alex Sobel

Boredom: These are the reasons you enter the store in the first place, to look, browse, hoping to find something you weren’t looking for, because deciding you want something and then going to get it wouldn’t feel right, would break the spontaneity that you cherish as an absolute, even though one could argue that the concepts don’t mix.

First impressions: You’ll notice the incense, meant to cover the smell of old record sleeves disintegrating, VHS tapes that have probably melted inside from a decade in an attic that can reach 120 degrees in the summer, the employees’ boy odor. Hey, the guy at the counter says. You nod, mean to say something, but no words come out. You’ll barely be able to look him in the eyes. Don’t even attempt to.

New Vinyl: What’s by the door. You’ll go through it, thinking that the term “new vinyl” might be an oxymoron. New here, but old everywhere else. So still old here, too. You find a Christine McVie album that you’ve never heard of, $10. Too much, you think, but you can already see this play out, the regret for passing on something you may never see again, letting an opportunity slip away when you have the power to prevent it. You’ll slide the record under your arm.

Order: Expect none from the cheap CDs. But you like that, prefer it, perhaps. If there was an order, then those who knew what they were looking for could just find the right letter, the corresponding artist, grab what they come for, or cut their losses and leave. But with the lack of order, things are missed. Only those not looking for anything can find something.

Pain: (or something similar) What you’ll feel when you find it, the cover scratched, the 50 cent sticker falling off. You push the flap back to the plastic, but the adhesive is gone, you continue to push it back anyway. You look at the back cover, the track listing, the date, 12 years ago, try to put the time into some kind of relative context.

Purchase: But why? You feel like you need to. You have copies at home, you could even play them yourself, live. Your voice is still the same, you’ll think. You could be mistaken for the recording. You could do that. You think you might. You won’t.

Recognition: Expect none, even though your face is on the cover. Years have since been painted on, sure, but it was all cut from the same rock, so to speak. And do you even want that? Do you want someone to know you’re buying your own album? You don’t.

Regret: You’ll feel a lot of it, but don’t let that make you put the CD back. Besides, you have the vinyl under your arm, a distraction. It’s like buying a stick of gum to go with the box of condoms or the tampons you used to pick up for Julie before she left you, strung out, because you deserved it. This is where you’ll feel a second bout of regret. Ignore this. Remember: Your mind will begin to wander to the past tours, the blurred moments like holes that fill in with a kind of chest-collapsing nostalgia that constricts your breathing. Avoid wondering how it all disappeared, or how you let the success go to your head, or where all the money went. Thinking about it won’t bring anything back.

Small Talk: The clerk will make discussion with you, though it’s unlikely he’ll make small talk about your album. Instead he’ll mention the decoy. Last week, we got a Chicken Shack album in, he’ll say. You’ll turn your head, point to the record. A band she was in, he’ll say, pointing to Christine McVie. Oh right, I misheard, you’ll say, though you won’t know what he’s talking about. Refuse a plastic bag on the way out.

Tomorrow: A concept you’ll definitely be thinking about as you put the album into your car’s CD player, listening to it in the parking lot. Some of the songs skip, the disc scratched. You like to think that whoever owned it didn’t give it up on purpose, that the scratches mean it was listened to, that it was loved. When it’s over: Then you’ll leave the parking lot. There’s an especially stubborn skip in the 2nd to last song. You might press next on the player, skip over the problem song, but that feels like cheating, so you’ll decide to wait it out. For a little while, anyway. You think it’ll pass eventually. If you just give it a little time.

Alex Sobel lives in Toledo, OH, where he is a freelance journalist and contributor to The Press, a newspaper out of Oregon, OH. His work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post Online; Foundling Review; Ink, Sweat, and Tears; and theNewerYork. You can follow Alex on Twitter.

Old People by John Garmon

Old people playing hooky
From rest homes came
Offering to sell me secrets
In brown envelopes
Stashed for years
I told them I was broke
They said I could pay later
One said she knew me
Or someone she forgot
Who once danced with her
And told her she was
One of the prettiest girls
Back in high school
When cheerleaders jumped
Over goal posts
And fullbacks fell down
Clutching footballs
In elusive end zones
I ordered her secrets
And promised to pay
She looked at me
Harshly and said
She wasn’t sure
I was a good risk


John Garmon is a writing assistant at the College of Southern Nevada, Las Vegas, and he once was president of Berkeley City College in California. His poems and stories have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Ploughshares, Clackamas Literary Review, The Oregonian and many more.

Last Night in Little Rock by Hunter Wright

And don’t you know that the whole city gets hotter when the lights turn on, and all the shit in the world won’t make a stink as big as one fart from God, and when you chew a little tobacco and spit it out that’s excrement of soul, and the blackest black you ever sawwas one you couldn’t see?

That’s what he said when the lights turned out, and I swear, I swear he was staring right at me, hovering, hand cradling cheekbone and held steady by elbow, chest naked and calm and my own heart heaving – don’t you?

Hunter Wright was born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California. She is now pursuing a degree in creative writing at the University of Miami in Florida, where she hosts a literary talk-show on the radio and dreams of mountains. You can follow Hunter on Facebook.

Nine Facts from the Kuiper Belt by Nolan Liebert

The janitor of Pluto once slipped off the sparkling orb of ice-dust and into the empty embrace of its lonely orbit. This is how he met his wife, Charon, in his younger days.

The janitor of Pluto believes monarchy to be the one true form of government. He imagines being ruled by butterflies on a distant crystal ball.

The janitor of Pluto does not know his home is not a planet. He claims he built Nix and Styx and the rest so Charon wouldn’t be lonely. He tried to make them look like butterflies.

The janitor of Pluto went to Mercury once. Sweeping the flatlands of Pluto can’t compare to the dizzying thrill of racing down the terminator line, hands in the air, fingers inches from solar flares, heat softening his lover’s frozen flesh.

The janitor of Pluto carries colored clouds from vacations to the methane ocean of Jupiter and the sky-mines of Neptune. At night they wrap around his head. He cannot dream without them.

The janitor of Pluto has a recurring dream where he rides a comet in the shape of a ’64 Mustang convertible. He could never afford one. His favorite color is ambient white, like the glow of a million distant stars.

The janitor of Pluto wants a prison tattoo, but he is his world’s only yardbird. His favorite work song is “Sixteen Tons”. He has never seen coal, but owns one secret diamond.

The janitor of Pluto has scars covering his body. His ex-wife, Charon, thought they made him look like the moon. She took everything but his body and broom. She also gave him a crater.

The janitor of Pluto tripped over a caterpillar on the dark side of his property. He is nursing it back to health. He will be sad when it grows up into a butterfly with a million colors, not ambient white, to rule a crystal ball. But it is worth it for this journey, he thinks.

Nolan Liebert is a web and graphic designer from the Black Hills of South Dakota. When not busy with code and logos, he enjoys bicycling, playing piano, and cooking. He makes a wicked ratatouille. Nolan lives with his wife and kids in a house that is not a covered wagon and has indoor plumbing. His pets are named after brutally murdered historical figures. Sometimes he writes. You can follow Nolan on WordPress and Twitter.

The Collector by Jeffrey Zable

I was lying completely nude face down on a block of ice
in the market with my arse sticking up in the air. A woman
walked up to the seller, pointed at me and said, “How much?”
“Oh, that slab is very expensive!” he said with a smile.
“How much?” the woman asked again.
“For you $3,550, including shipping!”
“I’ll take it!” the woman said, and handed him a credit card.
When I got to my new home, the children were very excited.
“Can I have a piece of it now?” asked her son.
“Can I put an apple in its mouth?” asked her daughter.
But the woman had me deposited onto the living room table,
over a nice clean cloth.
“Aren’t we going to eat it?” asked her husband when he
returned home.
“No we are not!” the wife said emphatically. “This is a valuable
piece of art. I want him to stay right where he is and give some
life to the living room!”
But as time passed, and I began to rot and stink up the room,
the only one who would go in there was the wife, who never
seemed phased by what was happening to me.
And when I was finally nothing but bones, she hung me
in her closet along with her furs of hedgehogs and wolverines,
she’d collected over the years.

Jeffrey Zable is a teacher and conga drummer who plays Afro-Cuban folkloric music for dance classes and Rumbas around the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s published five chapbooks including Zable’s Fables, which has an introduction by the late Beat poet Harold Norse. Jeffrey has been published or is forthcoming in Toad Suck Review, Thirteen Myna Birds, The Alarmist, Skidrow Penthouse, Snow Monkey, Kentucky Review, Uppagus, One Trick Pony, Clarion, Lullwater Review, Dum Dum, Edge and many others.

Attempting Bamboozlement by Jonathan Persinger

At 8 p.m. or so on Feburary 13th, I flagged down a Stop & Shop stock boy with a bad haircut and asked, “What do you buy on Valentine’s Day for someone who doesn’t love you anymore?”

The hipster-haired young man identified by his name-tacky-tag as Hayden looked at me with sunken-ship eyes, incredulous yet uninterested. “Um,” he said, “that’s a trick question?”

I said, holding a cardboard heart full of truffles in one hand and a terrifying teddy in the other, “Why would I trick you?”

Hayden told me, “I don’t know,” and I believed him in the most implicit way.

“You don’t know what?” I pressed, stepping closer to the grocery boy, catching the questioning eye of a passing-by mid-forties mess and the babbling brook of children radiating around the cart she probably called a buggy. “You don’t know why I would trick you, or you don’t know what I should buy?”

“Neither,” he said, and he beamed, so glad to have gotten something right.

“Why not?” I held up the heart of chocolates, waving the damn thing in Hayden’s direction, attempting bamboozlement. “You’ve got a girlfriend, Hayden? You’ve got someone? You buy them a heart with little chocolates inside and there aren’t enough chocolates inside and she keeps biting into them and not liking the flavor, so you’ve got to eat all of those chocolates, and then you’ve gotta log all those calories, and the next day it snows too much in mid-February and they close the gym? Is that the story, Hayden?”

Hayden said, “Um.”

Beyond Hayden, in the vague store-space where I stared to avoid looking at his vacant-of-emerging-intelligence mouth, a familiar face with unfamiliar hair passed by our shared seasonal aisle and distracted me all over the place. I shoved the bear, Bronson, into Hayden’s chest. With two clumsy hands he clutched the creature to his person. Abandoning my cart, I escaped in warm pursuit of a big-banged platinum blonde from another part of my life.

She crept her way out of Aisle 9 Pet Food, Pet Toys, Pet Supplies, and Laundry Detergent just as I arrived, ever avoiding me, like in the old days, before grocery store visits at 8 p.m. in the snow. No big mess, she moved slow, weighed down by the cart she probably called a cart and perhaps some dog food, though I couldn’t picture her with a dog.

“Hey!” I yelled in the bread aisle. She moved faster.

“Yo!” I shouted in the aisle where they keep the paper products, towels and plates and toilet.

“Gloria!” I bellowed among the frozen food, between the breakfast section and the vegetarian options.

Gloria stopped, turned, didn’t smile, full lips hanging open, that one tooth still somewhat questionable. She wore thick eyeshadow and lipstick and a long, brown coat with big rustic buttons and I couldn’t see the contents of her cart but pictured them to be a divine window into her soul and the three years which intervened between my college graduation and the February 13th during which I screamed wild at a confused youth named Hayden.

“Gloria!” I said at a more civilized volume, crossing the physical gap between us and wishing I hadn’t thrown aside that box of chocolates. “You’re at Stop & Shop! You’re stopping, you’re shopping.”

She nodded, face still less than enthused. “Cyril,” she said with a distinct lack of an exclamation point, “you’re at Stop & Shop. After all these years, the world continues to astound.”

I could’ve kissed the girl, but settled for guessing the flavor of her lipstick. My mind went wondering if lipstick came in flavors at all, and I resolved to ask Anna about it later that night, or during our Valentine’s date.

“There it is,” I told her, pointing upward with my enthusiastic pointer, unsure what the gesture meant or conveyed. “That wit I missed. Gloria, Gloria, viva la Gloria. How’s tricks? How’s life? How are the dogs?”

She relaxed somewhat, but kept a noticeable amount of tension lodged in her hunching shoulders. “Tricks are for children and magicians,” she said, swinging her cart around to put the jangling contraption between us, then leaning on the handlebar. “Life is a theoretical concept, and the dogs are, surely, not owned by me, who owns no dogs.”

“Cat, then,” I said, and leaned on the opposite end of cart with my elbows, hoping she considered this an invasion of personal space. “You have a cat, two cats, three cats, you never really returned my calls and it made me feel bad about the way I am.”

Gloria’s shape, too, took the form of a lean-forward over the cart, and more and more the two of us became the kind of people all shoppers and retail workers and humans hate, those who take up half an aisle for the purposes of an unmoving, banal conversation. “A teacher’s assistant is not required to return personal calls, only those related to academic matters, and, even then, only during the semester. And perhaps, Cyril, you should feel bad about the way you are, though I doubt you do, considering.”

“Considering?” I said, narrowing my eyes for no reason, scrunching up my face. “Considering my shirt? My shoes? My lack of cologne or my audacity to call you out, I’m pretty sure we could’ve been in love, Gloria, or my haircut, because I think that looks pretty much okay?”

She picked at one fingernail with another, an old habit. “As I’ve told you in multiple Christmas cards, I do not think we were ever, nor will we ever be, in love.” She crossed one leg behind another, legs to die or kill or do extra credit for, and I regretted wearing a jacket, because grocery stores can never maintain a reasonable temperature for a place so entrenched in the business of walking around.

“Yeah,” I said, and tried my best to be chalant but with the common prefix, “well, I threw those cards away, and then I took out the garbage and I think they ended up at a dump somewhere, so, hey, when did you dye your hair, I liked it black, and talk to you next Christmas.”

“My boyfriend likes blondes,” she said, and grinned in a manner most imperfect. “He’s seven feet tall, teaches martial arts, rescues stray cats and repairs elevators for a living.”

“Good,” I said, wondering what Hansel—no, Hayden—was up to, “great, grand, wonderful. Are you giving him a Nobel Peace Prize for Valentine’s Day? Because, clearly, he’s very deserving of one.”

Gloria leaned closer still. “Cyril, seriously, all jokes aside,” she said, but let the sentence hang.

“Like I said,” I told her, “never mistake my refuge in audacity for mere jest.” I couldn’t quite remember if I had said any such thing.

“Are you doing alright?” Gloria asked, and put a hand on one of mine, and looked like a teacher. “Is there some I should call? What do they have you on these days?”

“Ah, Gloria,” I said, jerking my hand back, full of regret and hunger and a loneliness deep. “I’m sorry. I have to go. I’ve got to buy flowers for the girl who’s going to break up with me, but maybe, after all that, we can go out to dinner.”

“Whatever you say,” Gloria told me, turning to look at the TV dinners, and I doubt I ever saw the woman again.

The bear and chocolates together cost less than twenty dollars, so I used my debit card and forgot the PIN number on purpose a few times and clogged up the cash register real good and embarrassed the hell out of Jayden, my cashier, and his nice haircut. In the parking lot, I presented the unbeating organ full of chocolates to a pretty young thing walking to her car. Her boyfriend, after some provocation, dislodged one of my teeth. At home, I gave the bear to Anna and forgot its name. She said, “Oh, thanks,” and I fell asleep watching Netflix, my evening of audacity, as always, exhausting.

Jonathan Persinger is the editor of Remarkable Doorways (@RemarkDoorways). His work has appeared in Cracked, The Avalon Literary Review, Twilight Times, Quail Bell Magazine, and Wild Violet.

Tasting Notes by Tracey S. Rosenberg

Trauma on the Ward
Cask no. 257.13

The nose transported us to a back-alley dental surgery where we found extracting forceps, bone curettes, retractors and orthodontic pliers. Then a cabal of unlicensed medical professionals approached – some transplanting grey-market kidneys, some railing against ethics committees, others forging prescriptions for Vicodin and mocking malnourished ward sisters. The unreduced palate brought cramps to our fingers, forcing us to curse and impotently scrape at windows.

We added lemon juice (painstakingly) to find the nose now had torture devices with leather straps, cat o’nine tails, imperial executions and nipple clamps – very drawn-out and seductive. The reduced palate had dry heaves, emesis (causing gastro-esophageal laceration syndrome), and bleeding out.

The distillery was licensed in Ceausescu-era Romania by an alcoholic abortionist.

Drinking tip: With a codeine chaser

Colour: Pale urine
Cask: Refill ex-bourbon barrel
Age: 8 years
Date distilled: October 2003
Alcohol: 70%
Outturn: 17 bottles


Tracey S. Rosenberg is the author of a historical novel and two poetry pamphlets, and recently won the Brontë Society Creative Competition’s short story category, judged by Dame Margaret Drabble. Active in the spoken word and literary festival scene, she’s a member of Edinburgh spoken word groups Inky Fingers and Shore Poets, and in March 2014 she attended the Spoken Word Workshop at the Banff Centre.You can follow Tracey on Twitter, and on her personal blog.

The Forest At Night by S. Kay

Dark Forest
Mist floats through the forest while flashlights bob in the distance, tiny alien craft, jiggling stars, until they extinguish, not at camp.

A pile of shivering skinny angles hides under a wet tarp in the bramble, fearing forest predators less than the men in the city.

Sounds from the trees, with a whiff of salty wind. Insomniac birds. Disturbed burrowers. The crack of branches, rhythmically breaking.

Leaves and feathers fall from fog. Icy rain coats her, while she expects the last crimson pounce will fall from heavy steps.

S. Kay’s book of sci-fi microfiction is forthcoming from theNewerYork Press in 2015. You can follow her work on Twitter or Tumblr.

24 mistakes every college student makes (Buzzfeed Erasure #1) by Justin Jacoby Smith

proudly wearing
a youngster
meeting possible
on Fridays.
“jungle juice”
in the front row on the first day of class

8. Thinking

everyone you meet
taking advantage of your
sloppy house parties

And this is why we don’t go to frat parties anymore.
in your twin-size bed.

22. Feeling Guilty
Wearing dirty clothes
It’s called Febreze.


Justin Jacoby Smith is a Texan. He was the Grand Slam Champion for San Antonio in 2004. He has finally concluded his victory lap. His chapbook is Theoretical BBQ, from Small Child Press. He writes in Washington, DC and on Twitter.