Micro Essay

The Dark, Unspoken Mystery of Mr. Belvedere – Micro Essay

by Andrew Fay

Recently, one of the digital over-the-airwaves stations in the Twin Cities has been showing reruns of Mr. Belvedere in the interim between the time my wife goes to bed and the time that I join her.  And for several nights in a row—out of equal parts boredom and nostalgia—I find myself watching a few episodes.

The show, which originally ran from 1985 to 1990, was about a displaced English housekeeper working for an upper-middle class Pittsburgh family.  Two facts become clear: Mr. Belvedere is formerly of the employ of the British Royal Family, and he arrives in Pittsburgh desperate for work.  The family is merely looking for help around the house—maybe a college student to help tidy up, prepare some meals, and tend to their youngest child, Wesley, after school.  But Mr. Belvedere shows up and practically begs for the job.  He complains about being underpaid, but in five years Mr. Belvedere doesn’t leave.  And it’s quite clear that Belvedere is a world-class servant.  If he must come to America, isn’t there an old family in Boston or Philadelphia that would be a better fit?   This all leads to the dark, unspoken mystery of Mr. Belvedere: what led him to dire straits?

I am preoccupied with Mr. Belvedere’s past.  How did Mr. Belvedere get to Pittsburgh without a decent recommendation from the Queen?  What did he do?  Lying awake at night, in the absence of facts, I am forced to speculate.  This leads me to the ultimate conclusion that whatever it was, it was bad.

The still photos shuffled in the opening titles only fuel the fire.  He is seen serving tea to Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin at Yalta.  He dines with Mahatma Gandhi, and meets with Sir Edmund Hillary.  Then suddenly he is holding a shabby cardboard sign, hitchhiking for Pittsburgh?  Why Pittsburgh?  The American pronunciation alone must be enough to infuriate Mr. Belvedere, who would want it to rhyme with Edinburgh or Yarburgh.

So it’s 3:00 AM, and I know that Pittsburgh is the last place Mr. Belvedere would want to go, and yet it’s the specific place he’d been trying to get to.  Then I wonder how Mr. Belvedere got to Pittsburgh, and how I got to Minneapolis, and how Tom T. Hall got to Memphis while I’m at it.  I look out the window over my still, slumbering city, just a few taxis idling on a downtown street in the time between the evening and the morning.  Because I watch Mr. Belvedere, I can’t sleep.  And because I can’t sleep, I watch Mr. Belvedere.

Andrew Fay lives in Minneapolis, and hold an MFA from Hamline University. His work has been published in Pithead Chapel.

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The Hedgehog – Micro Essay

by MaiLynn Stormon-Trinh

The hedgehog died in the gutter on the metal grating over the sewer.

His remains were first spotted in the early hours of a still, clear morning on one of the last days of a fine summer.

That he was male is only a conjecture. However, his impressive mass (the size of a fat domesticated cat) made this assumption reasonable, if not infallible. So, for the purposes of convenience, the hedgehog will hereafter be mentioned using the masculine pronoun.

The cause of death was unknown. The placement of his body along a suburban roadside suggested that a vehicle could have been the perpetrator. Yet as the hedgehog’s body was still plump in all his parts, his quills still neat and erect like a tremendous sea urchin, it appeared he simply had lived a long enough life and therefore could not, or would not, carry on any longer.

It was a humble, yet public place to die. Pedestrians sometimes stopped to stare down at him; others, startled, walked hurriedly by. Any regular passerby would expect that any day now, he would be disposed of by whomever or whatever is in charge of ridding family neighbourhoods of such an exposed display of mortality.

However, as days turned to weeks, the dead hedgehog remained.

One might find it most curious that despite the persistent presence of the hot summer sun, the spiked creature never gave off any odour associated with autolysis and putrefaction of decaying flesh. In fact, if one could smell anything at all, it would be only the aroma of the far off sea on days when the wind carried it so.

 Still, maggots chewed through him with a voracity only maggots can know.

As his tissues began to break down, he shrank and shrank and shrank. His face dissolved inward from the tip of his delicate, dark snout. The round of his body depressed slowly at first, and then quicker and quicker still until he appeared to be nothing but a piece of litter thrown out of a car window.

Then it happened that in the middle of the night, when no one was there to see it (or so it can be supposed), the last of the hedgehog’s flattened skeleton and leather-dry skin either slipped through the grating into the sewage below, or was carried off with the incoming Autumn wind.

And then nothing remained of him at all.

MaiLynn Stormon-Trinh is a freelance writer born in Nevada and now living in Wellington, New Zealand. She writes at www.tigerbombtales.com.

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The Misuse of Wings – Micro Essay

by J. Eric Thompson

On the pavement at the northeast corner of Grand Army Plaza and Central Park South, jutting from the sidewalk beneath the clip-clops and tourist chatter, there is a thick, tapering line of bird poop. Look up. Attracted, perhaps, by the proximity of horse feed, or the rounded footing of the cantilever cables, dozens of pigeons coo and jostle. Their intermittent splatters have formed a sort of excremental Jackson Pollock below, awkwardly skipped over by pedestrians lucky enough to glance down in time. But why this light pole?

There is no room for even a flutter, and their footing, ideal or not, is also encrusted, as is every inch and contour of the pole itself. Nearby, poop-free stanchions, however, remain mostly unoccupied, except for pigeons patiently awaiting a vacancy. But they have wings, you say to yourself. If not roaming coastal in Bird Paradise with godwits and plovers, it seems they’d prefer a tree limb, at least, to a filthy steel traffic light. Their provinciality, though, is a means of survival; adventure into the unknown requires unnecessary adaptation. The avian equivalent of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

We, though wingless, are free to live as opposed to survive. We are not ignorant of the breadth of this world, much less of our own fantasies and ambitions, nor are we paralyzed by instinct. Yet we mimic you too closely, pigeons. We tanagers and orioles and warblers and thrushes and shrikes and finches and pardalotes are easily grounded by the stress and hardships of migration. We too often find ourselves content with jockeying for a foothold on a shit-covered light pole. In our own sweet way, of course.

Fledglings: at some point you must jump. Stay moving and ahead of the crap that piles up when you allow yourself mere contentment for too long. No matter how prime or convenient or well-rounded the footing, seek a better place to alight. You may return, if you choose. But migrate first. Explore. Ignore the flashing DON’T WALK and fly.

J. Eric Thompson is a freelance writer transplanted from rural Virginia to New York City. He has a degree in English Literature from James Madison University, and is currently studying journalism at NYU while working on his first novel. You can find more of his work at www.jericthompson.com.

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Raw Material – Micro Essay

by William Pomeroy

I dreamt last night of a colossal farmhouse in decay, much like the abandoned plantations I have seen in Upstate villages.

It was faded white, almost transparent, with hunter green shutters, parallel to a rusted railroad long since discarded. Behind its sagging front porch and two-story apex ran a narrow corridor of one-story rooms almost fully collapsed like a broken wing hanging off a goose carcass.

Near the back corner of this battered strip with holes in the roof like a random succession of bombs had fallen, stood a makeshift, stone-tiled shower stall, white but yellowing as though generations of men had waited there, chain smoking.

Black mold splattered across its three walls. Near the open entrance laid a heap of flaking red chains.

It had been a cell.

I knew the men responsible.

On a bright afternoon, I stood before a table of elderly, dignified women sipping glasses of lemonade and hot tea in fine china adorned with roses.

White haired, their pale faces were speckled with tiny craters like moons.

Behind me, I suddenly glimpsed a young man, tall, thin, dark and well groomed, strikingly handsome.

“I know what you are!”

I laid into him.

Flailing beside him, I pressed his face down on hardwood floor and reached around his head to suffocate him with a rag soaked in bleach.

Everyone clapped and cheered.

Her dented face twisted in mirth, a woman reached over to hand me a machete, gleefully exclaiming: “Finish the job! When the brains are out, the man will die.” [1]

I hacked away at the back of his skull.

His blood was jet-black, flowing in clumps like sludge.

I awoke as a huge man I identified as his father paced furiously in the hallway of that rotten farmhouse where they had detained and violated a prisoner.

He tore up and down this crumbling pathway, thundering hatred for losing his son, and from a distance his taut skin and broad cheekbones resembled an octopus face.

This only happens when I have not written in several days.

Otherwise, I can usually avoid Lovecraftian monsters.

People define inspiration as pure, ethereal and optimistic.

Sometimes, it can be unrelenting.

I empathize with Keats:

And ever watchful with fatigued eye;
The last, whom I love more, the more of blame
Is heap’d upon her, maiden most unmeek,—
I knew to be my demon Poesy. [2]

[1] Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. New York: Signet Classic, 1963. 87. Print.
[2] Keats, John. “Ode on Indolence.” The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of Keats. Ed. Harold E. Briggs. New York: Random House, 1951. 297. Print.
William Pomeroy lives in Greenwich Village and teaches English in Harlem. He taught ethics and poetry in a medium security prison while completing his philosophy degree. His writing has appeared in Art Times, Foliate Oak, Embodied Effigies, R.P.D. Society and Maryland Hunting Quarterly. Please visit his website: http://www.willpomeroywords.com.

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I’m So American Sometimes – Micro Essay

by Azia DuPont

I’m so American sometimes.  White, 2.5 kids, Christian, and I feel free—until I think about my IUD and the Suffragists long before me and suddenly I’m in cages, tied down with thick ropes, gagged, unable to breathe or scream, blindfolded.  I’m so blind.  I think maybe the box my little life fits into isn’t made of a white picket fence, but barbed wired worries barricading my brain—small reminders to not get too comfortable, too satisfied because maybe I’m still second-class (maybe still a bit white trash.)  And it seems no one can remember a time when women had to keep their mouths shut.  It seems that there are people out there that want me to keep my mouth shut.  It seems some people choose a life of silence, holding in their words until they dissolve into their throats, into their blood and their bodies are made up of everything they’ve ever swallowed. Their daughters growing up to expect hollow hearts with swollen wombs, ovaries that belong to God & Nation, birthing little soldiers and package-makers who fight for Freedom! and 2.5 children households!  While the corporations wear crowns made of thorns and we worship our paychecks and we drink to our freedom and the bombs explode in the sky while our children light sparklers and we wear American flags on our t-shirts because where do we go from here?

Azia DuPont currently resides in Northern Iowa. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in The Screaming Sheep, Scapegoat Review and Haunted Waters Press and her essay, “I don’t love you like I don’t hate tomatoes” was featured in the Canadian magazine, Highbrau. She is the Co. Founder and Fiction Editor for the ePub Dirty Chai. You can find her online via Twitter @aziadupont.

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Tourmaline – Micro Essay

by Karen Eileen Sikola

The day you got married, the forecast predicted rain, a rain that never fell but seemed to remain still in the air. I took my dogs to the park, where the mist clung to their fur but never seeped in. I ate breakfast in a train car diner, where the coffee was weak and the Spartan Special sat uneasily in my stomach. I returned home and watched recorded TV dramas until the meal settled. I had sex in the shower. I finished an opened bottle of blended red that had been on the counter a day too long. I ate Rice-A-Roni, and roasted Brussels sprouts, and an ice cream sandwich. I went to bed.

The day after you got married, I ran six miles in new shoes that gave me shin splints. I showered too soon afterward and sweat through clean clothes as my body tried to recover. I watched my boyfriend and his friends brew a batch of stout so dark the runoff stained the patio, listened silently to their banter as I closed my eyes and soaked in the last few rays of sunlight before the cold turned permanent. I watched the dogs chase flies that flew into our rented townhouse every time the screen door opened. I drank cider in 4 oz. increments. I ate leftovers and watched the Saints overcome an 11-point deficit. I stayed up for the evening game only to go to bed at halftime.

The Monday after you got married, I woke up.

Karen Eileen Sikola received her M.F.A. in Creative Nonfiction from California State University, Fresno. She now lives in Boston, where she works in publishing and conducts the blog TrainWrite. Her nonfiction has appeared in several journals, includingMonkeybicycle, Specter Magazine, and Used Furniture Review. Her digital chapbook, “Riding the Green Line,” is available from Walleyed Press.

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London Fog – Micro Essay

by Diana Smith Bolton

When the rain rolls in, fat and warm like a purring wet cat, I smell the same scent: my mother’s Scotchgarded trench, heavy drops beading up on the sleeves, and the orange and brown plaid lining, blanket-thick, sopping up the moisture. She was brand-loyal; some things were just the best, like London Fog for humid Mississippi rain drenching an October day when you didn’t want to go to the store but had six mouths to feed.

Even now, that warm-breath muddy wetness brings her to me, years after our last word. I see her, pulling grocery sacks out of the car through the rain and into the garage, brown paper sagging to hold cans of condensed soup.

I smell and see my sisters, too, our skinny bodies enveloped in little London Fogs. Our mother picked them up at Goodwill or yard sales, like new, just then outgrown by other little girls. We are warm in these sturdy coats as we wait for the carpool. Some Januaries, southern-cold in the spongy yard, we run and flap our coat-wings, huffing our lung-warm air out into the chill like we are dragons, like Puff, like Figment, all pink and purple and navy, our plaid linings flapping like underbellies. As the sedan pulls up, we turn to the window, and see her frosted hair, one hand lifted to it, one hand lifting to us.

Diana Smith Bolton is the founding editor of District Lit. Her work has recently appeared in Lines + Stars, Jet Fuel Review, and elsewhere. She lives in northern Virginia and is active in the DC poetry scene.

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Unburied – Micro Essay

by Jamie Paradise

While cleaning my mother’s yard, preparing for the sale, we discovered a dog carcass. It had been pounded into the road by cars for weeks, then washed up to lie in the thick untended grass. It was so old, so dry and stiff, and flat, that for a while, my five brothers and I wondered if it was even a dog.

Mike, the painter, always looking for a subject, took a photo. His previous work consisted of twisted bodies, rotten fruit, and windowsill flies. Soon, this petrified canine would appear on a canvas, purchase price $500. Like other art openings, the family would attend in support. We’d bring an appetizer from the grocery store, drink the free wine, roam the gallery, and whisper, “Who would put a painting of a dead dog in their house? But I do like the flower painting.”

Eventually, leaves were raked, sidewalks swept, and the tall grass cut. We rewarded ourselves with barbecued pork from the stone pit and drank plenty of beer.

After eating, the night got dark, fireflies flashed, and the fire more mesmerizing.

Somewhere in our inspired, inebriated brains, was a remembrance of unburied bodies and the problems that befall an improper farewell. Elpenor, soldier of the Trojan War and companion to Odysseus, who fell off a roof, broke his neck, was unmourned, and tottered restlessly in the underworld. Polynices, lying unburied in a dusty field, nibbled on by dogs, eventually bringing Antigone and Creon to dramatic ruin.

The meat was off the grill but the fire remained. With enough beer in us, it seemed fitting and proper that this neglected dog receive a respectful funeral.

Using a plastic bag and pinching what was once a leg of the dog, we threw the corpse on the fire. The fire crackled along the fur like leaves, but even a sun dried dog is difficult to burn. We gathered sticks and logs and expanded our funeral pyre. Because of the strong wind, we all sampled the downwind pungency only once, then huddled in a semi-circle, upwind.

Most of the time we stared at the flames. It was peaceful, noble, and fitting. With time, and fuel, the dog rose in smoke to the night stars, its spirit contented we believed. From the silent contemplation of our drinking, someone crushed his beer can and said of the stiff stray, “Yeah, she was a good dog.”

Jamie Paradise teaches writing at the Forsyth School and is currently working on a collection of short essays that share the experience and lessons of growing up the youngest of fourteen siblings.

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Crown of Roses – Micro Essay

by Adriana Gonzalez

I met you when I fantasized about walking into the sea. I remember it was a time when I outgrew my funeral dress, a time when I collected rosaries out of anxiety and impulsion. I met you when I was falling into various cracks and disillusionment—attempting to sift through fog and glassy transpierces. And no one knew about my fascination with seaweed. No one knew that I slept all day after learning about rocks and wavelengths in my last semester of college. I didn’t tell anyone that sleeping was the only thing keeping me from tangling in the folding water. You have to understand why you creep in so soundlessly, how you made me aware of the crisscrossing cells that make up my skin, how you taught me about sage baths and how imperative it is that we love our mothers.

We were bred from a fire town, a dry splintered city tucked away in southern California and you taught me about watering dirt to reduce the heat that would soak in our soles.  You told me so often, you have to hold things in your hands and really feel their edges, cup their form and burn it in you because what we hold in this life is all we have.

When I found myself in front of you again, you asked me, how did we get here?

I don’t have an answer for you. I can’t tell you how my sister getting married brought me back, how I sat in my green dress and thought about your t -shirts and your picture frames and your porch.

Will you promise me things? Can we carve out ledges in the Montana terrain and swell with the soil? I’ll make us an herb garden. I’ll only use vinegar to rinse out the sinks so the cats won’t be poisoned.

Let me tell you how I imagine your dusty hands melting on me, how I want your palms on my thighs, an engraved permanent burn where my children will ask, whose hands are those? I will turn to you in your boots, and you will smile down at the floorboards, your palms full of iceberg roses you’ve just pruned.

I’ll keep rosaries and follow the beads if it leads us to our own ocean or lake or a dirty dust where we tangle in our golden limbs. We will shake ourselves into various foundations where we chart up maps and have a home with our daughter who we named Barcelona, and we will put her to sleep with diamond skies and a wooden house—maybe some brick pasted to the walkway so her toes won’t splinter. And if they do, you will pick her up, hold her to your chest while I take her tiny feet in my hands and pull out what does not belong.

Adriana is currently studying Creative Nonfiction at Columbia College Chicago, where she teaches first year writing, a Follet Fellow, and an assistant editor for Hotel Amerika. Her work appears in the August issue of Hippocampus.

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Stalking Horse – Micro Essay

by Ann Clark

There’s a glob of perethrin ointment two inches thick cupped in the fingers of my hand, and it is the most ridiculous day-glow pink and smells like liquorice and pine-trees. The mare is edging away no matter how slowly I ease up on her. The ointment won’t help her heal faster, but it will keep bugs away from the wound. Flies especially have to be kept out because that thing about maggots only eating dead flesh is a myth. You definitely don’t want to see them in a live animal—you just don’t.

This mare is the ugliest horse on our place. She’s physically ugly, with an old-fashioned boxy quarter-horse build and a ridiculous ox-head, and she’s bad-tempered with the other horses, taking sly nips out of them when she gets a chance and bullying mares and geldings lower in the social order. She’s barn-sour and herd-bound, too, so she gets stubborn if she’s ridden out on the trails, adopting a machine-gun trot that leaves even experienced riders sore for days.

We brought the horses into the barn for vaccinations, and a five inch flap of skin was hanging open on the mare’s throat, blood clots dried down her chest. “Any further up or over, and you’d be calling the mink man,” the vet said. She was talking about the guy who farms mink for fur coats and takes slaughtered animals for feed.

The vet’s best guess was the mare had caught herself on a thorn apple tree and panicked, pulled up hard, and ripped half her throat out; we don’t use barbed wire because it can cause just these kinds of injuries. But, God, as I’m looking at the raw flap that couldn’t be stitched up, it’s as if the horse’s head is going to fall right off even now, two days later, and I think of the horse in the movie guy’s bed in The Godfather. It looks that bad.

 But this isn’t a horse that would make me or my husband scream until the echoes chased around the farm buildings if we woke up at dawn and found her head in the bed. I mean, first, fat chance on sneaking into our house without getting your ass shot off. After that, this is the horse we could probably most spare. She’s the horse whose head we might leave in someone else’s bed, and I know I’m not the only one who is just a little bit admiring of that tactic in the movie.

I’m inching closer to the horse, who’s quivering and flinching at the flies landing on her. I do wonder if she could really have done that kind of damage to herself on a thorn bush because the tear seems very neat and straight, but then, we’re on the end of a dead-end road and nobody much knows about our place, and besides that, if I were the kind of person who wanted to hurt something beautiful, she really wouldn’t make the cut.

Ann Clark teaches English at SUNY Jefferson and is a student in the Ph.D. English (creative writing emphasis) program at Binghamton University. Her work has been published in Blueline, Ragazine, and Poetry Quarterly.

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Birth and Death in a Microcosm – Micro Essay

by Colleen Wells

Our screened-in porch is a cavernous space with a large wooden table and chairs. Lights are strung haphazardly around the perimeter. Candle holding fixtures and wind-chimes hang randomly on hooks left by the previous home-owner. In one corner sits a pile of wood for fires we rarely make. In another, a grill we only sometimes use. The bead-board ceiling is a burnt red. My hand painted birdhouses boast more whimsical colors like lime-green, teal, and lavender. Embellished with lost buttons, lids from bottles of Heineken, and beach glass, they sit on the ledge below the screen.

A small tree abuts the middle of the longest wall. Pressing against the screen, it holds an abandoned bird’s nest wedged in its branches. That Mama Cardinal who inhabited it recently, had taken such good care at feeding her three hungry chicks, then teaching them how to fly. My husband and I cheered her on, and yet one of the babies didn’t make it.

Birth and death occurring in a microcosm.

I take a sip of my now stale and cooling coffee, noting stuff piled and strewn on the slatted table in front of me. Mounds of books about writing, magazines, journals, notes from the kids’ schools and file folders filled with submission guidelines and looming deadlines surround my spot. My family is occupied, so I’m feeling both grateful and guilty about this alone time. While I sit, insects chatter.

Even though it’s humid, I can no longer smell the acrid, musky scent of dog urine. We put our incontinent blind and deaf Rat Terrier down last Monday. He had always been without sight, but when he lost his hearing he began circling. He’d circle fast, too, to the point I wondered if he was slowly going insane. The vet could not find a biological cause for his behavior. Rusty had always been a regal beast, holding his head high. But the circling was causing him to lose weight. Not having the ability to hear his unseen world proved too much, and yet he’d seem to go round and round with purpose, sometimes until he stumbled. As he declined and continued to circle, I wondered if it was his way of committing suicide.

A small table I am restoring sits at the opposite end of my workspace. It is only half-way painted. Like everything else, it begs for attention. I hear the sound of claws on glass, then the swooshing as Louie, our young, Rottweiler-Shepherd mix pushes the sliding doors open. He scampers over, nudging his nose into the crook of my arm.

At almost two he is still full of puppy. Because he is a large dog, it is unlikely he will live as long as Rusty did. Louie’s exuberance reminds me that life is fleeting, but full. As I pet him the swell of birds chirping to one another from the Oak and Sycamore trees fills the air.

Colleen Wells writes from Bloomington, IN, where she lives with her husband and three children, three dogs and three cats. Her favorite number is 333. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Spalding University, volunteers at a homeless shelter and state hospital, and loves to craft.

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Flowers and Music – Micro Essay

by John E. Simonds

A woman who cared about flowers and music died in pain near 90 in a place that boasts gentle endings as part of its pitch. Ambulance calls and morphine pumps made close family want to forget. From a distance we rallied a ceremonial time of good-bye. Our plans troubled those by her side at the end, a sibling too shaken by symptoms he saw and a father, 92, still stunned. From Hawai’i we sent flowers. From California people made plans. From New York we organized photos. In Connecticut we phoned the obit to papers in towns where she’d lived. Bereaved local family grumbled: Not a good time for all this…No problem,the Hawai’i side answered. We average a funeral a month. We chose the mortuary, phoned time and place to the widower’s list of her friends. The undertaker knew the drill, maybe too well. You’re planning to have a reception here? As in food and drinks? He shook his head. It’s against the law to serve food at a funeral…We told him we’d shipped flowers but would add some pink blooms from her yard. They aren’t laurels, are they? he asked. That’s the state flower, he said,against the law to pick…An organ’s available if we hire someone to play. We suggested light songs, but the regular player only did standards and wasn’t sure she could be there. The retired minister the old couple liked was a peripheral friend but would serve. I have a good voice, he added. I can lead the hymns without an organ …One box of flowers arrived from Hawai’i. Another was sent to an hour’s drive away. A third was an off-radar missile in twilight, anthuriums missing somewhere… Neighbors had questions on how the old man was doing. Fine, thanks. (if you’d only stop asking.)… Obits appeared. Friends saw them and drove… Morning of the service, the organist said she’d be there but church music only. Worried sibling agreed to escort father outside if the old man found it too much … Here in this urn was a shrewd, careful woman who led garden and music clubs, raised three sons, kept a good home, dabbled in school boards and party campaigns, sang, danced and smiled her way through shows, concerts, hospital drives and rummage sales in a small Hudson town of the ’40s and ’50s… Three grandchildren shared in readings. Minister thundered “A Mighty Fortress.”  Organist played softer hits from the hymnal. In a group of 80, the old man sat with eyes calmly open, not a tear or missed breath… Cousins distant for decades joined in food and drinks later at his place. This was a wonderful day,  he said, in his blazer, blue shirt, tie and gray slacks. Laurels still bloomed in his yard. Altar flowers all came from Hawai’i. Only we islanders noticed. Next day a  truck left the box of anthuriums—an encore bouquet for a player of roles, her curtain down and the audience gone.

John E. Simonds, 78, a retired Honolulu daily newspaper editor. has lived in Hawai’i for 38 years and previously was a reporter for newspapers from Washington, D.C., and other mainland cities. A Bowdoin College graduate, he has been writing verse since the 1970s, is the author of Waves from a Time-Zoned Brain (AuthorHouse 2009) and recently has had poems published in The Ledge, Bamboo Ridge Press, Hawai’i Pacific Review and New Millennium Writings.

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No Thing – Micro Essay

by Zoe Bossiere

No response: like the electrical impulses of a harvested organ, a heart that was only days ago beating now lying sallow and white on ice like oysters on the half-shell, which are alive when you eat them. Next time you swallow an oyster, know that it has a beating heart with three chambers, which circulates colorless blood through thin vessels. It has two functioning kidneys, a mouth, stomach, anus. It poops. The oyster is a lot like you. Can the oyster sense its own demise as its shell is shucked, scalped like the slain enemies of Scythia? Does the oyster feel the sting of lemon, the mignonette sauce, then the warm throat of its consumer as it slides into dark, gastric hell? The oyster doesn’t have a brain. No, an oyster responds to pain most like, as one animal ethics blogger strangely put it, “a disembodied finger.” That is, an oyster cannot feel and, without a brain, likely doesn’t experience any final thoughts or regrets as it is digested. An oyster cannot think, and therefore is not. Is no-thing. Of course the oyster knows nothing about rage or heartbreak, just as the disembodied heart freshly ripped from its cavity, now on ice, has forgotten its old electricities. Or, more like an oyster, more likely, the heart never knew and was innocently beating, present though not in-the-moment, just as an oyster is only present in body on the table, unaware of you holding a lemon wedge over its naked mantle, poised to squeeze.

Zoe Bossiere lives in Tucson, Arizona where she recently completed her BA in Creative Writing at the University of Arizona. She is currently working on a collection of essays chronicling her parents’ adventures in a Hungarian circus in the 1980’s.

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Ice – Micro Essay

by Bill Vernon

John and I were afraid our blades would hit bare spots and throw us so I pounded the ice with a brick and saw it was over half an inch thick. We took off confidently then, right down the middle of the street, uphill to the dead end, halfway back down, around a corner, then around the whole block. I felt like an eagle soaring above my usual life.

“Wow!” John yelled.

“Yeah! Wow!”

Sheer ice covered everything large and small, every blade of grass, the two or three clotheslines in every backyard, every twig of every tree. In the pale light, each bare lilac bush seemed to glow. Everything looked like it was made out of glass. It was like a miracle, really.

We stopped in front of our house the second time around. The sprinkling was over, but the air was colder, way below freezing. The thick gray clouds were black with night, and the ice-encased streetlamps gleamed weakly. No motors revved, no tires churned over pavement. There was silence, a hush only our panting broke.

John said, “Let’s get the other guys out here.”

“Yeah, a skating party.”

We swooped over sidewalks to every front door that had a child behind it. We rang bells, puffed our frozen breath at our friends, and a stream of kids on skates emerged behind us. I didn’t know so many people owned them. We circled the neighborhood again, and every kid we knew was out along with a few adults. There was no silence now. We skaters raced around shouting yahoos and yippees, and that seemed to empty all of the houses. Everybody wore the heavy wraps of winter, but we were no longer cooped up.

At the corner by the Carsons’ house, some mothers set up card tables and piled on food and drink: ham, meat loaf, bread, cookies, pies, cakes, steaming thermoses. Most of the men were absent, trapped at work. My father was downtown, only two miles away but unable to get home. Herbert the drunkard was there, two older retired men and Tony, who’d come home from painting the interior of a house across town before the rain started freezing. He and Herbert were sharing some wine.

My mother appeared, cutting through backyards, carrying something and laughing. I ran to help her. “This is so crazy,” she said. The ground wasn’t frozen underneath so it gave with our weight, but the grass crunched underfoot as if we were walking on crystals. My blades sank into the dirt like knives, then sliced a hole pulling out.

I gulped down two ham sandwiches with mustard and drank some hot chocolate. Then coasted off into the night, locked inside my coat, scarf, ski mask and gloves, warm and happy, moving on top of a world gone hard and smooth and entertaining like the big colored globe on our table at home, doing something I’d probably never do again.

Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine Corps, studied English literature, then taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folkdances. His poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and Five Star Mysteries published his novel OLD TOWN in 2005.

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Syrup Smokes the Same – Micro Essay

by Andrew Baker

We smoked pine needle cigarettes and coughed up syrup. Ronnie and I were ten and wanted to be grownups. I’d been sneaking half-smoked butts from the ashtray for a few months, but he couldn’t bring himself to taste nicotine. With kid logic, we figured that pine needles would smoke the same. We emptied out some of the butts and crushed the spines inside. The brown tips that jutted out were burned down so they looked like the real deal.

Lollipop pines lined the clearing where we’d play army. It was tucked away back on top of one of the knobs. Hidden from my parents, we searched for the brownest and crunchiest needles.  We found that the green ones took forever to light. We’d climb one of the hemlocks at the edge and take turns passing the knock-off Marlboros.

Each toke burned my lungs and made me think I was drowning in Pine-Sol. It rolled across my tongue like cough syrup and dripped from my mouth like molasses. Out of everything, pine needles cause the worst cough. It’s terrifying to open your hand and see that you’ve coughed up something resembling half-eaten pancakes. We didn’t know that dried needles still hold sap, or that we’d been filling our lungs with the stuff. It didn’t stop us. I figured it was better than the cigarettes I stole from mom. If she could do it, why couldn’t I?

Andrew R. Baker is a writer, photographer, self proclaimed video game aficionado, and a closet poet from the mountains of southeast Tennessee. He currently resides in Jiangyin, Jiangsu, China and teaches English at a local school..

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