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Short Piece
Charlie Keys Bohem

His childhood precociousness was not but that malformed barrier of lengthy, misused words, erected ahead of the comprehension of its components,

His friends the ADHD cases too abrasive for the word "disorder" to produce any excess pity,

Surrounded in his teens by a sea of the stably platonic without a single pursuit requited to stave off frustration,

And taking a pleasure in the construction of elaborate, proper sentences, and their implementation in conversations, which he drove, nose first, into the open hardness of the ground,

His only respite from the ensuing silence in the images of stick molecules flashing always through his head,

Bound to find his own place, in his own far off time,

The place from which he can no longer see the lights of the world he never knew.


I Threw it Away
Paula Ray James

The small and homeless, the nameless proof that love had nothing to do with it--the it of coITis, commITment, quIT, vomIT, and idoIT. 




The storefront window of the thrift shop is coated with algae. I scrape a heart onto the glass with my thumbnail and ignore the odor of raw sewage seeping from a grate in the sidewalk two feet away. I squint at this heart amidst slime, as artistic as an electric chair upholstered in chintz and as ludicrous as a chocolate covered cyanide pill. Coming to my senses, I wipe the heart away with a soggy newspaper. The wedding announcements disintegrate as easily as the obituaries. A patch of clear replaces the heart, and I gaze beyond the surface of the pane. The shop holds abandoned memories all too relatable. In a terrarium, a baby’s skeleton rests on a bed of potpourri made from discarded petals. The remains of a wedding bouquet, perhaps? Something as blue as loss in a jar, no preservatives added. 




Borrowed DNA that had to be returned, never to belong to me, never to play nicely with mine or braid with my strands to form an unbreakable bond.

 A noose disguised as a wedding ring, fake, used, for sale, cheap—its glass eye peers out of its tiny black velvet coffin. It triggers a memory: tiny coffin, too little to hold death, no larger than a box of long stemmed roses. 
I scoured the catalog of tombstones, but they were all too heavy, too big. In the end, I chose to carve her name into my own stone heart, and I buried it without telling anyone.


By my feet, I find a broken brick that has come loose from the foundation. I pick it up and write her name on it with a mixture of my blood and the sidewalk sludge. I throw the brick through the shop window and wait for the alarm to sound, for someone to come, for the cops to arrest me, or for the ransom to be paid.


Tats
Richard Baldasty

Davita with shark tattoo on her forehead. Pretty Davita. For it takes an uncommonly attractive person to offset the initial surprise, to some discomfiting, of a great white front and center. Good for Davita, more power to her, alluring enough to make it work.

Reggie with the words Bad Boy nicely traced in cursive across his shaved head. Letters looping like exhalations of stunt airplanes. Edgy Reggie. For it takes a contrarian personality to handle the double-take and back-away such a tattoo tends to elicit, especially in a public park early morning or as dusk arrives with lonely mysteries.

Percival with a cross, a Star of David, a crescent moon, a yin/yang symbol, a Tibetan mandala, and thirty other religious ID indicators on arms, neck, back, and chest. Free-form minister, from and to all faiths and pieties, Ample Percival. Because it takes a lot of skin—hence always shirtless, rain or shine, Rev. Ample Percival—to display even a sampling of humanity’s multitudinous icons of credence.

“We are here today,” says Percival in his deep baritone (pleasing, thinks Davita’s mother, grateful for distraction), “to join Pretty Davita and Edgy Reggie in wedlock. Bride and groom ask that you rise and lift hands skyward in joyful affirmation of their love.”

Mostly they do, but not Reggie’s son by a previous relationship. Still at crawling stage, just in diapers. Little Berto ring bearer—those gold circlets that have been tucked into the front flap of his pair of Huggies® with Pooh bear image. As Berto scoots along—encouraged forward by his burly uncle (hooded cobra, left bicep) and anorexic aunt (to thine own self be true, bracelet style, around right wrist)—the wedding guests marvel at his bright pink-white baby skin. Blank slate, empty canvas.

O, lambent possibility!

The DJ, much experienced (long sleeves keeping once youthful inks in protective custody), sees it’s time to reel everyone back: the silky warmth of a Kasper Bjørke remix of the Stones’ “Heaven.”

Senses be praised, senses be praised. Nothing will stop you, nothing will harm you, nothing will stand in your way

Origin, 1981, from an album only Davita’s mom can name, though minutes must wait before she’s ready to say. During the reception, her third drink. Then, “Tattoo You, classic collection, great songs, played the vinyl to get Davita to sleep, sang along myself, the ‘nothing will harm you’ line, ideal lullaby.”

Kissing her, Rev. Percival marvels, “Your memory, antediluvian lady, indelible!”


Your Name on a Dinosaur Bone
Kasra Omid-Zohoor

The curly haired girl peeks at me from across the bar like a parakeet looking out an open cage door. Her friend twirls her finger around the cherry in her glass while Tower leans on my arm and smiles. “Game on?”

“Game over,” declares some guy who points to Tower, or at least to his jersey, and then to the TV with the final score. I’m worried because last month Tower pushed a guy and we got kicked out then he ripped the Christmas lights from the sidewalk tree and yelled "Goddam San Francisco!” to the passing cabs.

Now Tower just puffs up and the guy reunites with his buddies by the door. “Oh you’re cool!”

“Forget it man,” I say. The girl with the cherry drink is staring so I tell her don’t worry.

“Who's worried?"

“Nevermind.”

A pause and then, “Football fans?”

“Oh yeah,” Tower says. “Well me more than this guy.”

“Hey me neither,” says the curly haired one.

“Never played sports?” says Tower.

“Oh I ran cross country in high school but I hate running now.”

“That’s not true, you do races,” says her friend.

“The only fun part is passing people.”

We all laugh and they tell us they’re at a digital marketing startup nearby. Like do you know who really buys soy protein bars? Guys who play video games in blue states. Dina’s the one with curls and she's from the Midwest but didn't wear Victoria's Secret sweatpants in high school. She’s been hoping to feel an earthquake and I tell her I haven’t felt one yet either. Tower proposes we all do shots.

“In college there was this girl who always wanted to leave when we did shots,” says Dina.

“Leave where?”

“Like a frat party where some girl gets raped in the end like on Lifetime.”

I break out laughing.

“Seriously, she wouldn’t quit crying until we got pizza.”

“Oh pizza sounds awesome right now,” says Tower.

“Hey we have some in our office!” says Dina’s friend.

When the elevator door opens there’s just a dinosaur skeleton greeting us in the hall.

“It’s real,” says Dina’s friend. “Our donation saved this museum in Sacramento so they let us pick. Velociraptor.”

Dina gets the pizza while her friend points to a claw bone. “That’s mine. We all sign one when we join the company. Writing your name on a dinosaur bone makes you feel like you’re part of something really valuable, you know.”

We hear a scream and see Dina hovering by the window, a red light flashing on her face.

“Don’t do it, don’t do it…”

Down below we make out cop cars and then the outline of a man on a roof ledge. Every few steps he stops to swing his arms as if bargaining with the fog.

“Oh isn’t it just awful?”

I place my hand on her shoulder and feel her shaking body and wonder if this is what an earthquake must feel like.


A Friend of the Family
Jane O'Keeffe

It’s 1975 and you’re three months into the abyss that is fifteen. Every morning you take stock of yourself in the bathroom mirror. On the minus side, sitting atop your nose is a rectangular pair of black plastic glasses. There is also a dearth of makeup, something your parents banned you from applying until your sixteenth birthday. On the plus side, there are your boobs. Those puppies grew magnificently last year, the envy of your gym class. You wear tight-fitting tops to make sure the boys at school don’t miss this development. They don’t.

It’s Friday night and your best friend is grounded. Your second best friend is mad at you and the rest of the gang is siding with her. You are home and restless. In the basement, your parents are entertaining. Just like every Friday night.

The four fossilized couples gather at your house. They have cocktails, lots of them. If someone is able to drive, eventually they head to the Elks for dinner and you whip down to the basement to finish the drinks left behind. If they get too polluted, they call for takeout, and in homage to your freshly acquired learner’s permit, your dad lets you drive him to pick up the chicken, the pizza, or the Chinese food. You like these outings, Dad doesn’t try to be your teacher, he sits fuzzily in the passenger seat, giving you his take on Watergate and Vietnam, and you get to drive.

Roars of laughter and the clinking of ice in cocktail glasses come wafting up the basement stairs. After an aimless inspection of today’s mail and the contents of your parent’s dresser, you plop down in the TV room and flip through the channels. Mobile One, Sanford and Son, Big Eddie – you wait for MASH. Heavy footsteps approach from the basement. This must be your dad, coming to get you to drive him to Big Bear Pizza or Wong’s. You rush to the kitchen, the car keys are on the hook by the refrigerator.

It’s not Dad. It’s Dan, of Dan and Jean. Dan and your Dad work together at the insurance agency. Jean is your Mom’s best friend. Dan looks at you and grins.

“Hey Lisa,” he says.

“Hello Mr. Jacobs.” You busy yourself emptying the dishwasher, something you were told to do hours ago.

“What’re you now? Seventeen?”

“I’m fifteen, Mr. Jacobs.”

“Oh, yeah, sure.” He steps close to you. You step back, there’s nowhere to go except against the kitchen counter.

“You have a boyfriend?”

“No sir.”

“Sure you do. A pretty girl like you.” Quick as a cat, he grabs your hands and pins you against the counter. You want to scream, but you can’t sync your thoughts and your mouth.

“What do you and that boyfriend do?” He asks. His breath smells like scotch and cigarettes. He leans towards you and whispers in your ear. “In the car, you know, when you go parking?”

“Parking?” you ask. You try to wriggle from his grasp. He plants a kiss on your lips and grinds his pelvis into yours. You feel something hard pushing up between your legs through his trousers.

A boner, you think. Dan has a boner. You’re terrified, yet you stifle a giggle. Dan takes your suppressed smile as encouragement. He kisses you harder, then he loosens one hand and puts it over your shirt, caressing your left boob. He moans and circles your nipple with his thumb.

“DAN!” The voice comes from behind him. It’s Jean. She must have crept up the stairs. Dan steps quickly away from you.

“Lisa needed help unloading the dishwasher,” he tells her.

“Really?” asks Jean. She turns to you. You’re blushing, embarrassed. You wonder what she saw. You wonder why you feel like you did something wrong.

“Lisa, would you mind going to the other room?” she asks. You scurry away. You pick up the TV Guide and pretend intense concentration.

“What the fuck were you thinking?” Jean hisses from the kitchen.

“Jean,” Dan says. You hear a slap.

“Go downstairs. Tell Mary and George I have a headache.” Dan retreats to the basement.

Jean enters the TV room. “Lisa, you’re fine. Dan had too much to drink. That’s all. We don’t need to tell your parents. Right?”

You nod dumbly.

“All right then.” She leaves and you stare at the blank television screen. She said fuck, you think.

Ten years later, the phone rings. It’s your parents, their Sunday night check in, a tradition since you moved to Seattle.

No doubt, Dad’s in the den. You hear the sound of ice cubes rattling in his scotch glass, 60 Minutes on the Television, the volume low. Mom must be on the cordless, in the bedroom.

“Bad news,” says Dad. “Dan Jacobs died. Massive heart attack, he keeled over at his desk. I gave him mouth-to-mouth but he was gone. Helluva shame.”

“I certainly hope it was painful,” you say.

“Jesus,” says Dad. You hear a click.

Mom sighs, “Lisa, Dan was a year younger than your father. He’s taking it hard.”

“Mom…”

“But yes, I believe it was painful.” You swear you hear a smile over the phone.


 
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