The Farmer and The Dog by Christine Brandel

On the way home today, I passed a farmer, walking back to the house after collecting his mail, trying to coerce his dog into carrying the envelopes in her mouth. An old dog, a new trick.

It is safe to assume this man was twice my age.

I wondered had he ever clasped his head in his hands, wailing “My God, what have I done?” Had he ever fallen to the floor, spilling photographs, pleading to be given another chance? Had he made a life changing decision that in his heart he knew was wrong?

Although less safe to assume, I decided no.

(He should have taught her when she was just a pup.)

Christine Brandel is a writer and photographer. In 2013, she published her first collection, Tell This To Girls: The Panic Annie Poems, which the IndieReader described as a “well-crafted, heartbreakingly vivid set of poems, well worth a read by anyone whose heart can bear it.” To balance that, she also writes a column on comedy for PopMatters and rights the world’s wrongs via her character Agatha Whitt-Wellington (Miss) at Everyone Needs An Algonquin. More of her work can be found at clbwrites.com. You can also follow Christine on Twitter.

He’s Going To Kill You by Sara Dobie Bauer

She: He’s going to kill you, of course.
He: Only if I finish writing this sentence.
She: You’ve been at it for hours. Years.
He: But which is it? Hours or years?
She: Does it matter, if he’s going to kill you?
He: I wonder if “dissuade” is the right word. Do you think “dissuade” is the right word?
She: Would “deter” be easier?
He: Easier, perhaps, but is it right?
She: Why does a man kill, I wonder?
He: Does a man need a reason?
She: He waits for the sentence to be written.
He: Which is perhaps the reason I cannot choose the proper word. “Discourage.” That is a good word.
She: It is.
He: But is it the right word?
She: How can a word be right or wrong? It’s a word. What makes one better than the other?
He: The sound. The sibilance.
She: He’s outside. He’s been waiting for months.
He: Why doesn’t he just kill someone else?
She: Because no one else can finish writing the sentence.
He: Fine. Not “discourage.” Perhaps “dissuade” is the right word.
She: If you say it enough, the word loses meaning. Say it.
He: Dissuade.
She: What does it mean?
He: I’ve forgotten.
She: Read the sentence.
He: “Intellect does not dissuade nightmares.”
She: The sentence is wrong. It will never be right.
He: So the killer will wait?
She: You would have to ask him.
He: You said he’s outside?
She: Has been for days.
He: Have we been here so long?
She: Perhaps years.
He: So he will wait.
She: Because the sentence is wrong.
He: What makes it wrong? How can you be sure?
She: How can you be sure it’s right?
He: I can’t, which is why I write more. Maybe someday it will be right. Maybe I will find the right word.
She: Or never.
He: Then, I will never die.

Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer and prison volunteer in Phoenix, Arizona, with an honor’s degree in creative writing from Ohio University. She is a book nerd and sex-pert at SheKnows.com, and her short fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Stoneslide Corrective, Blank Fiction, and Solarcide. Her short story, “Don’t Ball the Boss,” was nominated for the 2015 Pushcart Prize. You can read more about Sara HERE or follow her on Twitter.

Going Bowling with Mohammed – I Wanted To Write A Short Story About by Ron Riekki

Going Bowling with Mohammed—I Wanted to Write a Short Story about
Mohammed, but I live in France and Charlie Hebdo happened recently, so I thought I’d keep it safe and just go bowling with Mohammed, so I called him up and he didn’t answer, so I started wondering if he was pissed off at me, but he was just working and then had to pick up his nephew, but after that he called me back and we went to this bowling alley in Ishpeming where my dad likes to go and nobody recognized him, which surprised the shit out of me, except it’s true that you don’t see a lot of depictions of Mohammed so it sort of made sense, like the time I drove Arthur Miller to a hotel in Boston and everybody at the front desk just walked by him like he was a nobody and I asked Arthur Miller why nobody recognized him and he said that’s the beautiful thing about being a writer is that you can be famous on the page and unknown in the face, which is basically how Mohammed is—real laid back and nice, so nobody needs to get worked up about how I’m portraying him; I’m just saying that Mohammed is a pretty nice guy, I mean, we got in a fight when I was in twelfth grade and he kicked my ass pretty bad in the back of my grandma’s car, but besides that we’ve pretty much been kinda cool with the exception that I never saw him again and he didn’t come to my wedding because it was completely Christian, because my girlfriend is French, I mean wife now and her dad is all French Catholic, which means he goes to church when he’s hungry and Mohammed bowled a 93, mostly because he doesn’t bowl, because he’s way too busy being this like massive iconic figure, sort of like Sean Penn, but with a lot less scripts to read and on the way home I asked Mohammed about the terrorists and he basically said that the word homosexual doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the Bible and look how fired up the evangelicals are, so imagine a text as thick as the Qur’an and imagine how badly that can turn into a landslide and he said that the more peaceful someone is, the more they’re being Islamic and I tried to trick him with a bunch of Hitler counterargument stuff, but he just stayed all calm as a rose in a field with absolutely no wind and it was then that I realized it wasn’t Mohammed who kicked my ass, but my cousin Todd who has a bit of a temper from his cerebral palsy and that Mohammed pretty much never did anything wrong, just like Jesus, and I wish I could be like that; I wish I could be like Mohammad and Jesus, but I’m a writer and it’s only people who don’t write who are really peaceful, because writing turns you into a beach in a hurricane.

Ron Riekki’s books include:
U.P.: a novel,
The Way North: Collected Upper Peninsula New Works (a 2014 Michigan Notable Book)
Here: Women Writing on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula
His play “Carol” was included in The Best Ten-Minute Plays 2012 and his short story “The Family Jewel” was selected for The Best Small Fictions 2015. 

You can follow Ron Riekki on Twitter.

They Couldn’t Breathe by Gregg Williard

Many children were just falling asleep in their new iron lungs when the polio vaccine arrived. The children had trained eagerly. In the happy embrace of their Jules Verne homes they gasped with pressures of disbelief. Haggard Mothers cried, “Don’t take them out! They belong to the tubes! To Jules Verne, not Jonas Salk! Don’t bring them back to the bellow and shank-stropping public tenementaries of orphaned wastrel concubines! To the coal tar pits for child labor exclusion laws! To the martini beatings in Levittown! Let them go and live in the undersea amusement centers for boys and girls without lungs!”

The iron lungs hissed defiance to this Jonas Salk. A modern-day pure oxygen mix of curses to all that doubt, and girls were made of then—part chamber of panting steel, part promise of a tempting blazing combustion like some around every boy and girl that ever had the loss of negative pressure, the flaccid breath, this Jonas Salk, this modern day Whale-swallowed Nemo one! What boys shiny hygienic chamber of panting steel, part promise of a dancing polio of world had we made for them to breath within, a gasping, hissing dream of tube or tank to fill endless days with the fluid of dreams and machines on the go, submersion, conversion, gill girl mutant debutant balls held in radium baths, the hatchery bath of adjusted pressures, as the Cold War Bible sayeth, “on the line with The Iron Lung risking his own life! He injected the silver submarine into and vials denied all miniaturization and grace by the technology. An Iron lack of the press of life that later would mimic the plastic scuba men propelled through bathtubs by a leaden club foot of expanding baking powder!

Death to the boys and girls outside, life to those crewing submarines of negative pressure within the fleet of atom powered subs within! The Sulking Jonah, Jonas Salk, put the hemostats modern day whale! Watch out! The iron lung is hissing its pure oxygen mix of curses to all that doubt, and girls were made of then—He injected the silver submarine into the belly of the white whale, and when it was time to inject a polio-free subject, Jonas did not balk. He injected himself, his wife and his three sons with the silver vaccine! What massive, iron, tonka twonkiepart chamber of panting steel, part promise of a dancing polio of world had we made for them to breath within, a gasping, hissing dream of tube or tank to fill endless days with the fluid of dreams and machines on the go, submersion, conversion, gill girl mutant debutant balls held in radium baths, the hatchery bath of adjusted pressures, as the Cold War Bible sayeth, “on the line with The Iron Lung risking his own life! He injected the silver submarine into the belly of the white whale, and when it was time to inject a polio-free subject, Jonas did not balk. He injected himself, his wife and his three sons with the silver vaccine! What massive, iron, tonka twonkie Lionel erector chemistry sets of tanks and chambers, modern day whale! Watch out! The iron lung test tubes and vials denied all miniaturization and grace by the technology an Iron Lung shall be wrapped in an the belly of the white whale, and when it was time to inject a polio-free subject, Jonas did not balk. He injected himself, his wife and his three sons with the silver vaccine! What massive, iron, tonka twonkie Lionel erector chemistry sets of tanks and chambers, test tubes iron curtain of breath!”

Gregg Williard creates fiction, non-fiction and visual art. His work has appeared in Diagram, decpmP, Anemone Sidecar, Wisconsin Art and Ideas and Artocratic, among others.

The Word Seller by Soren James

“You wanna buy some words?” He said gruffly, encircled in a diverse fog of body odours.

“Yes“, I whispered

“You’ll have to speak louder” he said, “there’s cum in my ears.”

“What’s in your ears?” I said.

“Cum!” he shouted indignantly.

“I don’t know that word“, I said

“Have it, it’s a free sample.”

“How would I know what to do with it” I said

“You could do anything with it, it’s a handsome word, and you, sir, are in a special position to take advantage of it, as you don’t know what it means.” he enthused with a peddlers unctuousness.

“My not knowing what it means, means I won’t know where to put it.”

“You don’t know where to put cum?”, he said dryly.

“I’m reasonably skilled with words,” I said, “and yet I can’t know how to handle every one I come across.”

“Come on“, he said, “you really don’t know how to use cum?”

“No“, I said shyly

“I’ll show you”, he said, and leaned forward seeming to encourage intimacy. “Say, just for example, you had some pornographic material, the edges of which are a bit sticky, and together with this they are heavily fingered; then, you might say that the material was in a sticky-cum-fingered condition. That‘s how one might use cum, sir.”

“It seems like an extravagant word, I’m not sure I’ll come to use it.” I said

“I don’t wish to come over all enthusiastic about it,” he said, “ but I do feel the word will . . Er . . come into its own one day.”

“Come into it’s own what?” I asked.

“Come into it’s own context?”, he suggested.

“That would be a neat place for a word to come to.” I said, “But I have no need of words that I don’t know what they mean – you can keep your ‘come‘. I happen to be looking for a bigger word, one with more space in it.”

“Ah,” he said, “am I to take it that you are a connoisseur?”

“I enjoy the odd word,” I said, modestly.

“Very good, sir.” He said, “Then try this word for size, it’s just in, and I feel, as a discerning gentleman, you’re gonna like it. Are you ready for this one?”

“I’m ready.” I said.

Pausing briefly for effect, he said. . . “Comedogenic.”

“That sounds nice, I’ll take one.” I said.

“Excellent choice, sir.” He said, with a sycophantic drool.

“Have you got a meaning to go with that?” I enquired.

“Of course. Do you take me for a swindler?”

“I do”, I said.

“I shouldn’t have asked,” he said, “in my line of work people often mistrust me.” He shook his head feigning a gesture of remorse and continued, “Comedogenic – tending to cause blackheads by blocking the pores of the skin”

“That’s not quite the meaning I envisaged”, I said. “I thought it may have meant, ‘to emerge out of comedy,‘ or some such.”

He adopted a superior tone and began: “For something to emerge out of comedy, dear sir, would require . . . . “ He stopped for a second, then continued: “I’ve always sought to finish that sentence pithily, and yet, to date, I have failed every time. Anyhow, yes, the meaning does debase the word a little. But then, doesn’t meaning cheapen everything. . . But ignore me, I’m waxing philosophical.”

“Yes“, I said, “So . . Would you have a different meaning I could use with the word?”

He leant forward, turning a white glutinous-covered right ear toward me, whilst keeping his eyes upon mine, “Are you insinuating that I deal in false meanings of words?”

“Yes. I was told you were a peddler of aberrant words. Why, do you not?”

“I do, sir.” He admitted simply. “I merely enjoy showing indignance – it keeps me thin,” then grinned his set of brown teeth at me and continued, “I have a spare meaning for the word ‘connotation’ laying around. If you convince me to turn my back for a second, you could have that.”

“How much?” I whispered.

“Sorry, I didn’t hear that, could you . . . . “, his words faded into an indistinct mumble.

“Come again?”, I said.

“Yes.” He said, “ I’ll have to clean out my ears.”

Soren James is a writer and visual artist who recreates himself on a daily basis from the materials at his disposal, continuing to do so in upbeat manner until one day he will sumptuously throw his drained materials aside and resume stillness without asking why. More of his work can be seen here:http://sorenjames.moonfruit.com/home/4580917876

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.

Nine Facts from the Kuiper Belt by Nolan Liebert

1.
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.

2.
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.

3.
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.

4.
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.

5.
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.

6.
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.

7.
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.

8.
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.

9.
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.