It Claimed It Didn’t Exist by Russ Bickerstaff

It appeared there out of nowhere insisting that it did not exist. I couldn’t get anything else out of it. I’d tried asking it a whole bunch of questions, but it seemed insistent that it was incapable of answering them due to the fact that it didn’t actually exist. It was difficult to tell whether it really legitimately thought it didn’t exist or maybe it simply wanted me to believe that. Wither way it wasn’t making a terribly compelling case to me as it quite clearly did exist otherwise it wouldn’t have tanked the job interview for me the way that it had.

Naturally, the recruiter had assumed that the sudden appearance of the thing had been something that I was responsible for in some way. It only made sense. I was there it was there. Neither of us had ever been there before. The recruiter had been there countless times before. Naturally when something appears out of nowhere and winds up in my lap, it’s a guest of mine. Naturally it’s a sign that I’m unstable what with things suddenly appearing in my lap out of nowhere and naturally it’s going to freak the recruiter out enough to basically destroy any chances that I might have had of actually getting what would have been a rather nice job with a rather decent paycheck.

So naturally I was a bit upset. I would have been furious if I hadn’t been so charmingly fascinated with this little thing that I was allowed to leave the interview room holding. (Really, what else were they going to do? They could only assume that it was mine.) So I walked out of the place and carried the thing back to my car. I put a seat belt around it in the passenger side and drove back home. It was more or less there in my car that I started trying to engage it in conversation.

“I forgive you,” I said opening a dialogue with the thing.

“No need to,” it said. “I don’t exist.”

“Oh,” I said in a tone that seemed to convey that what it said meant something more than nothing at all. “Sounds fascinating.”

“I wouldn’t know,” it said. “I don’t exist.” I nodded, took a deep breath and felt myself begin to acknowledge somewhere in the back of my mind that this was going to be a very, very long drive home. I tried my best to keep a healthy perspective on things. Yes, I lost the job, but I’d gained a mystery. Even if it disappeared on the way back home the way it had appeared while at the interview I still had the story, so I guess I could be happy about that much at the very least.

I got the thing home and considered letting it follow me to my apartment. Of course, it wasn’t moving. I asked if it wanted to follow me, but it insisted that it could not as it didn’t exist. So I elected to carry it all the way back to my apartment. I got a few strange looks from one of my neighbors on the way in. She was doing laundry and I was carrying this…thing into my apartment. Kind of an awkward couple of seconds in the elevator.

“What’s that you’re holding?” She asked.

“I don’t exist,” it replied. I smiled and chuckled lamely. The seventh floor couldn’t come fast enough. I rushed to my front door, fumbled with the keys. It was such a relief to get the thing pushed through the door and into the apartment. I slammed and locked the door behind me with a sigh. It was one thing to be inadvertently assaulted by the unknown. It was another matter altogether to have to explain it to your neighbors.

I set the little thing down on the floor as I got off my coat and boots. It wobbled around a little bit, apathetically curving around the floor in different directions. Occasionally it would bump into a wall and simply stare into it until it was turned around. Then it would slowly slouch forward in a long curve until it ran walked into another wall. After the first five or six times of turning it around, it occurred to me that it might be a bit more content simply sitting down.

The little thing was a bit goggled and dizzy sitting there on my couch. I had gotten a glass of water for it. I don’t think it knew what to do with it. I asked if it knew what the glass of water was and it gave me the same answer it gave to every question.

“I wouldn’t know,” it said. “I don’t exist.”

It was the same response I got when I asked what it was or what it wasn’t or where it came from or how it knew it didn’t exist. Always the same answer to any question: “I wouldn’t know. I don’t exist.” Right. I wasn’t frustrated. I was challenged. I felt like I was its parent and it was my job to pry it out of its listlessness. Not sure exactly where that came from but I would like to think that it was more than just the fact that it was roughly the size of a vague toddler-type of a thing.

I turned on the TV. Couldn’t tell if it was watching it or simply gazing off into space with the eyes it claimed did not exist. We shared a couple of sitcoms and a one hour drama as I ate and it ignored the food on the plate in front of it. I got ready for bed. I carried it into the bathroom and brushed what appeared to be its teeth. I put it in an old t-shirt and set it up on the couch with a little pillow and some blankets. It didn’t seem too terribly annoyed by what I was doing, but it was scarcely affectionate about the whole situation.

I settled into bed that night. I was confident that I would find work. I was confident that I would figure out what the hell the thing on my couch was. All would work out. I didn’t know why but at that moment it didn’t really matter to me. Everything seemed to be in the right place at that moment even though so much was unknown.

Russ Bickerstaff is a professional theatre critic and aspiring author living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters. Last year his short fictions have appeared in over 30 different publications including Hypertext Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, Sein und Werden, and Beyond Imagination. His Internarrational Where Port can be found at: http://ru3935.wix.com/russ-bickerstaff.

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Living With a Boyfriend who Suffers from Depression/ Excerpts from a Self Help Novel Written by my Four Ex-Girlfriends by Steven J. Rogers

Excerpt from Chapter 1. Written by Michelle.

In college, when we first started dating, he made me mix tapes. You remember cassettes? He’d make collages out of pictures he cut out from art magazines and cover the cassette case with them. I still have some. I think they’re in my parents attic.

Even though he had the best taste in music, the tapes would veer down these bizarre esoteric paths. “Sicilienne” by Bach would be followed by “Girl from the North Country.”Midwestern indie hip-hop would follow Cuban Trova. It made listening to the tapes as cathartic as it was jarring. In retrospect, I should have known he would have trouble functioning in the world. There’s a defined order to things that I don’t think he ever understood.

After we graduated, we moved in together to save money on rent. Back then rent wasn’t as crazy as it is now, but we still had trouble paying it. I think he expected something good to happen. Like if he graduated, worked hard on his art, he could get a job with a BA in Fine Arts. I didn’t have such lofty expectations. I waitressed with my BA, but he could never hold down a job.

Once, in the middle of the day, I came home and found him asleep in the living room with the lights turned off. I assumed he lost his job at the shipyard. I woke him up and said some mean things — things I regret. At first, he didn’t respond, just sat there with a blank expression on his face. Then, out of nowhere, he punched the wall.

I cowered and put my hands over my face. I wasn’t afraid, it was just intense. It was so rare that he showed any emotion. He walked out of the apartment. He seemed as surprised as I was. The next day his stuff was gone, his key sat in the middle of the kitchen table with a bouquet of tulips, and note that read, “sorry.”

We saw each other once in a while after that. It was unavoidable, there were mutual friend’s parties, the coffee shop on the corner of eighteenth street, but we never talked. There was never any kind of finality in the break-up. I resented that. I wanted the end to mean something

I don’t know if I think he was depressed. A couple years after we split I saw an episode of The Sopranos, where the main guy is talking to his psychiatrist. She tells him that depression is just anger turned inward. Maybe that’s true, or maybe human emotion is slightly more nuanced.

Excerpt from Chapter 2. Written by Sarah.

You can’t control the way anyone else feels, but you can control your own emotions. The only thing you can do to make yourself truly happy is to live for others. Live for your community, your family, the people you love.

I know it’s silly, but I also think windows are important for happiness, or, at least, the right approach to windows. It’s more important to have a window that faces east than faces west. In the morning, when you wake, open that window up. Let in the sun. The life of the world is in the sun.

I read what I just wrote, and I don’t like it, but I don’t know what else to write. Who am I to tell people how they can deal with someone who is sad? No one can be happy all the time.

Most of the time, when I try to be happy, I feel like a selfish narcissist. I lived with a boyfriend who was depressed all the time, and after a few years together, I glommed onto that sadness. In a way, it felt natural to be sad. Comfortable.

The more I think about it, the more I think my earlier advice is garbage. If you try to make a difference in your community, go to a city council meeting or something, all people do is yell at each other.

What does it even mean to live for your loved ones?

I think I’ve read too many self-help books.

Excerpt from Chapter 3. Written by Jane.

I have a dog, he’s what they call a rez mutt, mixed with so many different breeds it’s impossible to tell exactly what kind of dog he is. He’s brown, about thirty-five pounds, and the sweetest animal in the world. I found Puggy on the outskirts of the Pine Ridge Sioux Reservation during a road trip when I was eighteen. There isn’t another thing in the world I love as much as this dog.

He’s seventeen now. I’ve had him by my side longer than I lived with my parents, longer than I was in school, longer than I’ll ever hold down a job. It’s hard to imagine a day when he’s gone, but that day is going to come sooner than later.

Puggy’s hips are displaced, some days they hurt so bad he can’t get out of bed. I take him to physical therapy, but it doesn’t seem to help anymore. There’s hard little balls that grow on his neck, and chest. I worry they’re cancer. He had cancer when he was eleven, but I got it treated. It cost nearly twenty thousand dollars. I’d spend that much every year if he could be healthy again, but that’s not the way mortality works.

By all accounts, Puggy should be dead. Fifteen, twenty years ago, before treatments for animals with cancer, he would have been. A hundred years before that, he probably wouldn’t have made it to five. I love him, but I really need to let him go. That’s the way it is with love, you just have to let it go.

Humans suffer a similar indignity through science. When we first crawled out of the primordial soup we’d be lucky to live for fourteen years before some wild beast had us for lunch, or the common cold killed us. People aren’t dogs, they aren’t easy to get along with. To expect people to be able to tolerate each other for long periods of time, when we weren’t even built to live much past puberty, is simply unnatural.

Appreciate your time with others, but don’t push yourself to unnatural levels of familiarity. If you have a boyfriend who has a great, creative career, a zest for life on good days, and an incredibly dark view of the world on bad days, learn to appreciate your time with him. If your dog loves him, that’s even better. Realize that it wasn’t meant to last, and when things get dark, it’s time to move on.

Excerpt from Chapter 4. Written by Sarah (a different Sarah).

Sadness makes people funny. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

He was funny. Cynicism permeated every word that dripped out of his mouth. We’d watch the Republican debates, the local news, awards shows, and he would have me rolling with dark quips about the general decay of humanity. There was a point where the cynicism was too much to be around. Every joke a little bite at the core of my soul.

I don’t think about the bad times, though. Once someone is gone —

Time is the essence from which life is made. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

Maybe I’m not making the right point here. Memory is fickle, the older I get, the more time I spend with misplaced nostalgia. Nostalgia can be as crippling as depression.

Maybe dwelling in nostalgia is better than waiting around to die. Somebody said that once. I think. Or did I just make that up?

Steven J. Rogers is an avid canoesman and beardsman from Northern Wisconsin. Alas, he currently lives in Los Angeles, California. Steven is not an absolutist, so he is willing to accept the idea that there might be a hell. If there is, he’s pretty sure that it would involve writing bios. He has a BA and MFA which he’d happily trade for some beer money. To learn more about him, and his upcoming publications please visit http://www.stevenjrogers.ink.

Barn Again Book Trailer by Alan Good

I got called into my publisher’s office, which felt about like getting called into the principal’s office. They told me they wanted to do a book trailer for my memoir.

“What is that? Like a food truck for books?”

“A book trailer,” the intern’s assistant’s intern said. “It’s like a movie trailer but for books. You know, ‘In a world . . . where blah blah blah.’”

“That sounds horrible. I’m not doing that.”

“It’s in the contract. This is your chance to have some input. Otherwise I’ll have my indentured servant write the script.”

So I went home and knocked out a script for the book trailer:

FADE IN

EXT. INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION – SPACE

A shot of space. Now the Earth. We HEAR ominous piano MUSIC.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

In a world.

Zoom in to the United States.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Where serious authors.

Zoom in to New York.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Have to make movie trailers for their books.

Zoom in to a Barnes & Noble and a poster for Barn Again: A Memoir on the window. A gorgeous woman, tastefully but revealingly dressed, and a sickeningly handsome man are staring at it in awe and nodding their heads. They hold hands and skip into the bookstore.

DISSOLVE TO:

Green MPAA rating screen that appears before movie trailers. It looks just like the normal screen but announces that the book advertised has been rated V for VOCABULARY.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

And satire is impossible because everything is already a parody of itself.

EXT. DESERT – DAY

A gruff-looking man stands in the desert. This is JOHNNY BARNARD. He is disheveled with a scraggly beard. He wears a brown corduroy jacket and holds a bazooka.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

One man.

He aims the bazooka at the camera. We HEAR screechy high notes from the piano MUSIC. We see a succession of the BARNARD’s mug shots.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Will find a way.

Crashing dramatic MUSIC.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

To sell books.

INT. BOOKSTORE – DAY

The man with the bazooka, without the bazooka now, signs books for a horde of hungry readers.

EXT. ANYWHERE – DAY

An explosion.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Action!

EXT. CLIFF – DAY

A random person hangs from a cliff.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Adventure!

A bald eagle flies past SCREECHING. We follow it through the sky.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Alliteration!

The bird defecates and we follow its excretion down, down, down, to:

EXT. STADIUM – DAY

A deaf person SINGS the national anthem over a

MONTAGE

– A raging wildfire.

– An F-5 tornado destroying a town.

– A great white shark coughing up a shin.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

From America’s second-most dangerous writer. Comes the third-most anticipated memoir. Of the millennium.

– A sea star with its guts out digesting a crab.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Barn Again-gain-gain-gain. A Memoir-oir-oir-oir.

– An island of plastic in the ocean. Extremely dissonant MUSIC.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

  By Jonathan.

– A giant fish kill.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Barnard.

– Snow-capped mountains.

NARRATOR (V.O.)

Junior.

FADE TO BLACK INSIDE A DOG’S WINKING ASSHOLE

I don’t think they ever did anything with it.

Alan Good’s writing has appeared in Timothy McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Bookslut, The Legendary, Atticus Review, and Word Riot. This piece is an excerpt from his novel Barn Again: A Memoir, a historical fantasy set in a parallel section of the multiverse in which agents still represent, publishers still publish, and readers still read literary fiction. You can follow Alan on Twitter, or check out his website.

Swans by Alice Walsh

When you slept I opened your chest, the sides of your rib cage creaked open to the wardrobe of you. I wove that thin silk through your beating. Threaded you to me – to mine. Then closed you. Kissed you shut. With warm oil I made the sign of the cross on your eye lids, throat, heart. When you woke you pulled me to you and said you had the strangest dream.

We two were. Together we twirled, entwined. I didn’t end, you didn’t begin. The rhythm in you played me. I tied you, untied you. Thumb twisted gentle at the notch of your neck. We searched each other. White cloths fell from us. Fire warmed the sweat on our skin, breasts, ribs. We feasted on flesh by flickering light – licking, sucking, suckling, salts, tears. We drunk the universe from the shallow pools of our bodies.

They stood still and silent looking at us with lust and disgust. We didn’t stop, couldn’t stop, writhed, contorted, grimaces demonic – flushed with ecstasy a two-headed Siamese banshee wailing. They chained us, hunted us from the underworld through the trapdoor, our feet never touched the ground. We soared majestically up and up and up into the ether milk sprinkle of stars. We didn’t look back. For the first time I saw your great wings open and swallow the sky. The chain hung down between us. You showed me the constellation of Cygnus, while the sun followed behind us

*

Too many things have broken for this not to happen, for this not to be what it is. The scenes and sequences needed to occur have crashed across our path with such ferocity that it seems impossible to refute this gorgeous truth. I am falling, falling into the feathered white breast of you. The ice the ice – it does not crack here, there are so many things I do not know about you. There are so many things.

I want to know all that you are, that you have been, I want to meet your every mistake walking backwards. Your treasured lost loves hidden in drawers, your small stacked heartbreaks placed between books. Will you go with me into that good night? Us two, dressed like bombs – we will go out like sparklers, the fabulous colours of our souls exploding across the navy of the night.

I have fallen into you, I have fallen further than I ever knew. I know now what I can become.

*

You became unchained from me, saying it wasn’t what you wanted. I kicked the shackle against rocks and stones, it would not break. I did.

Blood burned fabulous against the white of me. You couldn’t bare the sight. I watched you walk on water. I watched your vast wings open and close, open and close until you turned from a white star to nothing out there in the wind.

Then I wondered did we still see the same moon? Were my stars your stars? Your land was so different to mine.

Hope, suddenly a diminishing thing.

*

Even if you came back you would not be you. You undid me, still do. You are so much more than feather and bone. You are of the earth, water and air. Return me to my fire of hurt – unravel the stitching, peck out each suture with great care, untether your feathers from this. You were never mine to begin with.

Close your eyes now you cannot see me, this abstract fallen undone thing. Cover your ears now you cannot hear me sing sorrowful from across the stream. Kiss me for the last time, let that great swan song soar – you are not mine, you never really were.

*

You danced around yourself, so afraid to stand still and stop pretending to be so unafraid. Did you ever stop pretending?

The curves of your sadness were familiar to me. The day tattooed on the skin of your soul. I felt near to you when the needle kicked black blue on my arm. A song played, no one knew where I was – least of all me.

I could see the gather and unravel in you. You could see it in me too. We were both reaching. We were each other’s pins and buttons. We needed something small to stop us from falling apart.

In my Polaroid memories you click your jaw, smoke rings jump from your asshole mouth and drift through the air – the ghosts of kisses, all kohl and coolness. Your hair hangs down, strands caught in the brush of your eyelash flicker when you blink, two turquoise irises disappear behind thin veils of skin. I stop breathing until I see them again.

I am lost somewhere on the continent of your cheekbone invisible words come from your mouth the speech bubble bursts.

I bite my bottom lip and don’t hear a word.

*

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

Your eyes are in my eyes.

You say I saw these swans once, two of them – flying across the blue. I heard them before I saw them. They were such a force, how they owned the sky. They made the most magnificent scene.

What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

Your eyes are in my eyes.

 

Alice Walsh lives and works in Dublin, Ireland. You can read more of her musings at alicewalshblog.com or follow her on twitter @al_icewalsh

The Space between the Stars by Joshua Sczykutowicz

A tree is beginning to grow from her mouth, branches and vines twisting and sprawling from between shining teeth and atop her pink tongue writhing. Small flowers, yellows and whites, pinks and blues erupt from reaching branches longing to touch a sky too far above to ever reach. They are unknowing, believing that if they could only sprawl an inch further — if they could just long for that black and purple sky, set atop sand-storm dunes and orange canyons of stone unending — then they could finally find their place in the midnight lands alone.

Roots are bleeding out of her now, feet crossed like a modern Christ in feminine form as her arms outstretch like branches of their own. Her eyes, shut serenely bear long lashes pointed down, lids facing upward to that same destination as branches desire. In space, she thinks, I will not need to see; blackness unending is all there will ever be.

She has not seen the stars in so long, despite their photographic glow reaching here now, candles amongst the flame that is the low-hanging moon above this desert nightmare that she will never want to leave. Light has failed to reach those eyes long enough for her to believe it will never return again. Steeped in darkness she no longer dreams of stars and marbled galaxies. Her branches will sprout and brightly colored blossoms will wisp away in winds she was never meant to grow within. As they fall, I will collect them, hands reaching into burning sands beneath to grasp paper-thin flower petals already drying, moist tissue between delicate fingers and caressing hands.

I hold her now, and hear her branches groan towards me, feel her roots try to wrap around and pull me in, not knowing a gardener can never truly connect to its growth. But I have not planted her, and to call myself a gardener is to elevate my position here, to lower hers to mere greenery and mindless life.
No, she set her feet in these sands; she waited for the fast and falling rains that pass for moments overhead, nurturing suggestions of life dissipating just as they are recognized. I am just an onlooker, a man who walks within a forest and stands before a tree he knows is more than him, something that was and will be long before and after he was either of these things.

If she could see into this forest of which she is the first to grow, she would not see her gently crossed legs like carefully drawn charcoal shadows, suggestions of shape, nor would her eyes fall upon the pale, pained arms holding the air above. She would only see the spaces surrounding, only know that there is so much emptiness, so much space unfilled.

It is her point of view I must defy, I know. I must cause revelation through action. If I water her planted appendages enough, if I brush her languid hair and wash her weathering skin as dust and sand turn to mud, trickling down her ankles entwined, then maybe the sun may shine through the moon strong enough to reach those shut eyes still. And she will know her blossoming branches, and she will know this beauty I admire.

I used to wish the sun could rise in these wastes. I used to look up at the sky and stare at the swirling stars and glowing ripples in the fabric lain atop this earth, and imagine that aching moon turning round once more and these rising canyons ahead casting their obsidian shadow over illuminated sands, and now I know it will never happen. I have learned the love of midnight; I have found the beauty in these spaces. I step backward and stare at her form before me, and start to see the space between the stars above. I know that amidst this black there exists so much light, if only her eyes could adjust to see.

Josh Sczykutowicz is a young author from central Florida. His work can be described as experimental, visual, alternative, dark and literary fiction His writing fixates on tone, mood, atmosphere and imagery filtered through specific points of view presented by layered, complicated and complex characters. His work has appeared in The Fable Online. He can be contacted at joshsczykutowicz@gmail.com

we think we know what love is but we don’t think it’s enough by Joseph Parker Okay

that was the night we were drunk and had sex and were still drunk afterward. let me narrow that down — it was the night you used the bathroom then came back and caught me looking at myself in the mirror. you made an irritated noise and said, “you’re always doing that.”
“i know — i’m sorry,” i said, “it’s just an insecurity.”
“well yeah, i know.” we decided to get back into bed and shortly after turning the light off you finished your thought with, “i just didn’t know you knew.”

there was that night we got drunk and somehow legitimately argued over a song from the black parade — you left so i went to bed. in the morning i woke up remembering fragments of the night before and tweeted an apology @you.

there were those other nights we were drunk and argued over other small things and sooner or later i would take a deep breath and ask, “are we doing okay?” you’d make an irritated noise, you’d say, “yes we’re fine — why do you always ask me that when we drink?”

i waited for you to connect the dots but the picture didn’t seem to come together until the night we saw kevin devine open for brand new at that outdoor festival — it could have been the fourth of july but then again it could have been any other milwaukee summer night.

afterwards we were drunk and arguing again but sobering up and burning out. it was obvious we’d been wavering atop some very high up and far away precipice for an unknown-but-drawn-out amount of time — i still remember how my stomach lurched the moment i realized we’d finally plunged over its edge. you might have said something passive-aggressive or you might have not said anything at all. i disappeared into the crowd and left you standing there.

Joseph Parker Okay lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He’s been worrying a lot about the sunrise lately. You can follow Joseph on twitter, or check out his site.

Sermon from the Church of Slashed Prices by L. Soviero

The great doors open with some of the other mothers in their Sunday best filing in dragging their children behind them. My little one, Lucy, skips ahead as I squeeze past a woman I’ve never seen before wearing one of those day at the race bonnets Queen So and So wears. Her husband, who I believe is on the board at my son’s high school, shouts from the parking lot to go ahead. He’s gotta talk to Jim about quick dry caulk. Now that I think of it, I’m pretty sure he’s having an affair with that woman from my hair salon.

I shuffle past the check out, where the counter boys are setting up the registers for collections. Some of them pour the blessed bottled water into plastic buckets. A man in a gray suit dips two fingers in and anoints his forehead with the sign of the dollar. The intercom crackles.

My brothers and sisters,
there were times when you fretted over your next meal,
and in that hour of need,
we were there cutting down the prices!
Can I get a rollback?

I grab my cart from the train and push it by women’s fashion, not before I stop to grab an adorable little scarf that’s only $12.99. It’ll look great with the black sweater I got last Sunday.

And when you questioned the possibility of buying everything:
electronics, groceries, diapers, pet supplies, hunting gear and home furnishings
all in one house,
we eased your troubled mind by opening our doors to each and every one of your pitiful souls!
CAN I GET A ROLLBACK?

Over in frozen foods my neighbor is holding a bag of peas, and forgive me for saying, it would do her waistline some good to get more greens in her. Her daughter is behind her on her phone. I think they call them emus or something, but I swear I have never seen that child smile. She should not be alone behind locked doors.

And when others said nay to two Hellman’s Mayonnaise for the price of one,
We said down with your tyrants and demigods!
CAN I GET A ROLLBACK?

Lucy has made a little boyfriend. They’re playing peekaboo around the shopping cart. I have to pull her away to turn down aisle seven where we stop in front of the statue of St. Colgate. I kiss his feet. There are some skinny candle thingamajiggers in a glass holder near his statue that I use to light one of the votives. Lucy and I kneel with our heads bowed.

And when you walked the aisles
turning back to see only one set of footsteps smudged in the just mopped floor,
you asked, Why have you abandoned me?

I pray.

And we responded,
Child I never abandoned you.
When you saw just one set of footsteps it was because we were carrying you through the aisles all along.
Can I get a rollback?

I pray for my family and friends.

For all those, including my Momma and Daddy, who’ve gone to the great Mart in the sky.

For people all over the world who don’t have chicken this Sunday.

For those without an entertainment system to watch the football when their bellies are full.

But most of all I pray for the protection of our great country and the freedom it gives us, especially from those who would like to take it away.

Kaching.

L. Soviero was born in Queens, New York but now resides in Melbourne. She has never been and never intends to be affiliated with the Church of Slashed Prices. Read more of her stuff at Apocrypha and Abstractions, Hobo Pancakes and Postcard Shorts.