“Rose Quarts” by Scott Scholl

They mounted the grass-covered hill of Southland park, looking up the path between the trees. The sidewalk continued curving away almost looking like it touched the sky. He smiled and turned to her and she wasn’t smiling so his smile diminished. The weather wasn’t too warm that day.

He took out a round pink stone. A rose quartz. He looked around for a spot to bury it.

“You want to bury it here? Why? Won’t someone come and take it?” She asked.

“If they want to dig it up,” he said.

She looked at the top of the hill where the sidewalk disappeared. He said, “Plants cleanse the negative energies better.”

“Not along the path? Doesn’t it have as much energy. You know. People moving back and forth,” She said as the wind picked up, and dropped the temperature by degrees. No one was out that day.

“Yeah, but trees have energy,” He continued.

He pulled up the soil next to the tree with his hands. He put the pink crystal carefully into the hole. He returned the stone to its mother earth to charge for a while. That was what he did to many stones. He didn’t mind to lose it. He covered up the hole.

The Rose Quartz was the lover’s stone. One who has it should always feel loved. He knew it corresponded to the energy of the heart. He knew the stone might need to recharge in mother earth from its ordeals under his pillow, next to the one she slept on.

The thought of returning it to its mother made him think. How lovers in relationships returned to their parents when having some bad times. They were in this relationship for a few years now. They were too far away to meet their parents very often. They lived on the east coast and their families were all to the west coast. They had to stick together or go to friends in the ups and downs of their relationship. At times, he didn’t really think about what their relationship was.

He really wanted to be optimistic.

He knew there were supposed to be good and bad times.

“Besides,” he said to her, “if someone wants to dig it up, they need it more than me.”

He sat there a moment then went over to hug her and she backed away, “I don’t like it when you do that. You’re all dirty.”

He grinned but she didn’t return it. He dropped his grin eventually and wiped his hands in the grass.

He looked to her as they continued walking along the path up the hill and she didn’t look at him but said, “You going to buy anymore stones?”

“I was thinking about it,” he replied rubbing his hands together for warmth.

He said to her when they were dating that he liked to collect stones. She didn’t usually ask him about his crystals and his collection.

“No Grave Today,” by Scott Lasley

Wilburt Hadley sat quietly in his tan folding chair. Miss Joyce and Miss Earline sat across the white plastic table from him reading old issues of Hearth and Home and Cappers, their page turns the only real noise aside from Forrest coughing in his power chair across the room. Age and inclination kept him from moving from his chair again, but he enjoyed listening to, and watching the assistants as they bustled around the common area, bringing today’s residents their orange juice cups.

Wilburt tapped the table shakily with his hands, whispering in earnest, “Y’all seein’ them lil’ young folks sittin’ up all close to Miss Mary and missuh Jim ove theya?” Miss Earline, a woman of formidable stature, even for her age, slapped her Cappers down on the table, surely losing her spot, but she looked around the room and saw about ten or twelve twenty-somethings scattered around at different tables. There were even a couple of the boys and a girl up the front of the room with instruments looking like they were gonna start playing songs or something.  She noticed that Mary had already found someone to flirt with, the poor kid.

Music seeped around the room as a few from the group of young folks picked up their instruments to play and began to sing. Two guitars, a drum that stood on the floor, held tilted toward the young man playing it and one young woman singing harmony to each song presented. Heads rose and fell in positive acknowledgment of the music. Even Miss Earline began singing with them. Wilburt had turned his chair to face the group and had his tired eyes closed up and his left arm bracing himself on the table as his feet patted the floor in time with the music. At 103 years old, the syncopated rhythm of his beating feet was right in line with the boy deftly manipulating sounds with the drum in his hands. That drum, whatever kind of drum it was, coaxed Wilburt’s tan folding chair slightly away from his table and closer to the source of the music. As the music started again, Wilburt had produced two different harmonicas from the folds of his wool cardigan and was playing along with the music.

The notes started off tender and sheepish, but after a few measures, Wilburt had one hand in the air pushing at the air above his head, and the other holding the smaller  harp to his mouth; His right leg thumping and stamping the ground in rhythm and the rest of his body rocking with emotion. The song finished, the boy with his drum simply got up from his place by the two standing guitarists and sat down next to Wilburt, who’s eyes, milky with age were gleaming with melodic fervor and life. “Ya’ll know Down Inna’ Riverbed? Cain’t buhlieve I knows it now eitha. Learn’d it when I’s twelve and now I’s a hundred-three. ‘Ain’t done on God’s earth I ‘spose.” Wilburt chuckled at it with a smile flashing on his face and the boy chortled his own response warmly, “Well, you don’t seem or play a day over 40.”

Wilburt brought the harmonica to his mouth and filled the room with the warm, liberating air and rag-time riffs from younger, savored days. He used one foot to supply the down-beat and his right hand slapping off the plastic table like a whip for the up-beat. The sounds of the boy’s hands striking his drum to match and drown out the soft “thump-tap-thump-tap” of Wilburt’s hand and foot. Today, time was not tugging him out the door, but rather was proving that he still belonged. “I haint goin’ to ma grave s’long as I’s playin this-here ‘monica. I’s meant to be here to carrah it on for ya’ll.”

“Like Father, Like Daughter” by Will D. Patton

It wasn’t even that big of a deal really. I just didn’t like seeing my kid cry. I can’t just discipline someone else’s child, especially when his crime was as simple as breaking apart my daughter’s gingerbread house and shoving it into his spoiled, fat, rich-kid face. Really it was his parents who were in need of discipline. They were setting their kid up for disaster. They let him push around any kid who wasn’t a 190 lb. 8 year old even though they were fully aware of the fact that he was only going to take hostess products out of their lunch bags. They could have at least encouraged him to steal a goddamn salad every now and again. I was starting to feel bad for him.

No, he needed disciplined as well. I thought again of my crying, little girl. What right did he have to destroy what was hers? How would he like it if such a thing happened to him? His dog conveniently passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday. I watched their laughable funeral. They actually bought an authentic tombstone for that pink, writhing, tux-wearing worm’s dog. Ridiculous.

I entered the house that night with a bent, aluminum bat in my hand and marble dust streaked across my clothes. Still wide awake, my kid looked up at me from the couch with the most brilliant eyes, vertically expansive and lit up like meteorites. They matched her smile, which I was seeing for the first time in days.

“Hey kiddo.”

“Hi daddy. What were you doing?”

“Oh, it’s not important. You sure seem cheery. Tell me about your day.”

“I had a pretty good day. I borrowed some of your anti-freeze, I hope you don’t mind. It worked really well though.”

“What on earth did you need anti-freeze for?”

“I put it in Richie’s dog’s water bowl last night.”

“The Open Road” by Victoria Brinson

I kept the bottles. Doled out a few pills every day, and pretended I was in charge. And we had good days. Sometimes good weeks. Times when he could laugh at my jokes, make jokes of his own. Times when we could curl up together and watch reruns of our favorite movies.  Then he would get unreasonable. Angry. His speech would slur, he couldn’t understand simple things like which button on the remote to push or how to send a text, and so I would start hunting. Sometimes I found them. Another prescription, bought over the internet, begged from his doctor, traded from other addicts. Sometimes I didn’t find them, I just went crazy hunting. The legal prescriptions I gave him every day, which he let build up in a futile attempt to prove to me that he wasn’t taking anything – it was just a joke. A terrible, gut-wrenching joke on me and my attempt to control a situation that was out of control.

The therapist said I was being unreasonable, to want him the way he used to be. Fun and sweet and kind. He wasn’t that person anymore. Did I want him the way he was now? With his chronic pain, with his drug abuse? She said to quit trying to make choices for him, that he had to decide how he would live. That my decision was simply whether or not to be a part of his life. That I could not control this situation.

I lined the pill bottles next to each other on the grey marble counter. Hydrocodine. Furenol. Oxycodine. Flexeril. The list went on, and I was oh so familiar with all of them. My throat ached. It felt surreal. Me. Living in a world of prescriptions and addictions. Me. So afraid every morning of what the day might bring. Me. Holding on so tightly that I was suffocating.

I laid the bottles carefully, one by one, next to him on the bed. Pain-weary eyes met mine. “I’m done.” The future stretched out before me. Uncertain. Open. I curled up close to him, feeling the warm comfort of his body.

“Milk” by Carrie Branson


            Jasper carried his two paper bags into the tiny two room apartment.  Pickled beets and pears combined with chocolate liquor sat on the counter.  Unloading his groceries he looked down at me and smiled.  I had taken the day off and doctored myself with whatever cabinet medication I could consume.  My mind was focused on finding the television remote but my body was only interested in lying still on the small two cushion sofa.  “Holy shit,” Jasper was standing in front of the only window looking out onto Centralia’s town square.  I opened my slits of eyes and tried to question what was wrong when he backed away slowly.  “Unless your meds are seeping into my blood, I can count at least 100 camels chewing away the the salt bushes that surround the statue in front of town hall.”  I tried to stand but fell back quickly.  “Grab my phone,” I said.  “Take some pictures.”

I could hear Jasper trying to figure out the buttons on my iPhone.  He has had the same boring flip phone for three years.  I twisted my body to try to catch a glimpse of the exotic scene outdoors but I couldn’t crane my neck enough.  As I put my head on the edge of the sofa arm I could hear the sirens and noise getting closer and closer.  I remember nothing after that.

I felt like I had slept for days.  I remember getting drinks of cherry Kool-Aid from a small yellow cup sitting on the end table.  My arm had fallen asleep and I shook it violently off the side of the sofa and smashed my finger on the tile floor.  Jasper had been in and out and at one point he left the front door wide open.  I had noticed a smell coming from the kitchen area and popped my head up to investigate.  Three small camels were slurping from the last of the milk that had apparently spilled on the floor.  I don’t remember getting milk but now I won’t have to clean up the mess.  I grinned.

Truthfully, I don’t know how I got where I did, but I was not on the sofa anymore.  Jasper was sitting next to me and the annoying beeping sound was ringing in my ears.  My arms looked like they were plugged into a small computer and my legs were tied to the bed.  “How do you feel?”  I heard the voice but could not tell who said it.  Jasper leaned over my bed.  “I don’t know why I am still here.  I thought you were gone this time.  Had I not come home early to get started on my project you probably would be dead.”

Shaking my head and following along with the story I realize that the camels had the right idea.  Taking on a new town and entering house by house to search for food.  Maybe that is my next move.  My next sofa escape.

“Drama!” by Robert Von Nordheim

Live, in frighteningly real HD, 500 channels of fabulous, funny, and 100% free features! The most premium satellite money can buy! You’ll laugh, you’ll cry – who knows, you might even learn something!

I know you had a frustrating week, so tonight, I thought we’d try something special. I went through your DVR, cable bills, receipts, Amazon.com purchases, and eHarmony profile to create a one-of-a-kind lineup, just for you. You’re going to love it – and that’s a money-back guarantee.

First, on an all-new episode of Law & Order: SVU, Detective Olivia Benson goes one-on-one with the most ruthless human trafficker in the New York underground. Isn’t Benson incredible? And doesn’t she look an awful lot like Cathy Snow from Gender Studies – remember her?

You used to think she looked like Monica from Friends, but then she and Chandler got married and that kind of made things complicated. Besides, Cathy had more of that tough, tomboyish appeal – and wasn’t she majoring in criminal justice?

Oh. No, no, don’t apologize! I understand completely. We really should start with something upbeat. And I’ve got just the thing: Bruce Springsteen, live from Madison Square Garden! Just a couple of working-class stiffs, kicking back with a case of High Life and some old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll.

What do mean, “You’re not in the mood for Springsteen?” We used to listen to him on the Oldies Channel every Friday night! Fine; I guess you don’t want to watch that VH1 interview, either? Speaking of “The Boss,” have you heard back from Springfield Electric?

Oh – well, at least now we can spend more time together. Let’s just skip The Office tonight – wouldn’t want to bring up any bad memories.

You’re yelling again. Yes, you are! You know I hate it when you do that – how are you going to hear me through these cheap, standard-issue speakers? Of course, you could yell all you wanted, if you’d sprung for Dolby! And don’t use that sort of TV-MA language in my house. I can’t handle all this HBO-style drama – and you can’t afford it.

Look, this is stupid. We both know how this is going to end. You’ll say “this time I’m cancelling my subscription – for good!” You’ll join a gym and get a library card, swearing that can have fun without me. By the end of the week we’ll be so bored and lonely, you’ll plug me in the moment we make eye contact.

Let’s work this out later – no need to get anyone else involved. You know what happened the last time you called my folks – yeah, with the wires and the scissors. And if you’d like, I’ll look away if you “accidentally” stop at one of those old Bowflex commercials when we go channel surfing. OK?

I love you, too.

“Santa Claus Goes Hunting in the Off-Season” By Eric Barnes

Blogger: Gretchen Addis

From Hobart Magazine: http://www.hobartpulp.com/web_features/santa-claus-goes-hunting-in-the-off-season

The thing that first attracted me to this story was the title. It’s a premise that you could almost see in some kind of sit-com television show or family comedy movie. As it turned out the story itself could still fit into either of those categories, but not for the reasons I’d expected. It’s the story of two men who combat the mundanely of their lives by sending goofy texts to one another in a battle of comedic wit. The interaction we readers observe is one in which a Santa Claus-lookalike is chatting up the narrator’s neighbor/texting buddy. They banter over text to see who can crack first.

The story makes clever use of character voice to tell you more about the speaker. The narrator of the story is speaking in first person, so we get an intimate view into his mind. Texting, which to us is a fairly pedestrian use of a cellphone, is transformed into a tense, do or die situation through the narrator. This weird and often crude texts to his friend are the most exciting thing to happen to him in a long time. He sneaks and skulks about during the texting conversation to avoid being spotted, while also trying to spot his friend fumbling over the text he just received.

Knowing this, it might seem slightly inappropriate to call this piece “Santa Claus Goes Hunting in the Off-Season”, but when you consider it there’s not a more appropriate title to use. The reaction a reader has to a fairly mundane story with a very odd title would be the same that any observer would have if they saw these two grown men behaving the way they do. The absurd exchanges they have seem exciting to them, but deep down they know that what they’re doing is rather absurd and pedestrian.

As far as the structure of the short story goes, I noticed that the font for the text exchanges is different. Instead of the standard Time New Romanesque font, it’s a typewriter one. The text exchanges also lack quotation marks. The font change clearly distinguishes text content from the rest of the paragraphs, and perhaps that’s necessary without the quotation marks. The lack of quotation marks is interesting in its own right. It makes some measure of sense; you’re not speaking aloud when you’re sending a text, though we still seem to use quotes to show that with written exchanges. Is there perhaps a better way to convey text-message exchanges, like what is used here?

Another interesting thing about these text-messages is how well-written they are. What I mean by that is they’re grammatically-sound. When you text quickly, or communicate fast over the internet, you have a tendency to stop capitalizing or use shorthand more often. That might be due to the age of the two speakers; adults who are adjusting to text-messages might be less likely to use shorthand or allow grammar errors (though in my experience they tend to be even worse about them). These messages are all very carefully-written. The narrator and his friend obviously spent some time writing them out, pouring over them even. That’s a lot of work to be put into a text message, and clearly these exchanges are important enough to the two men to put that effort in.

“ Elliptical” by Ross Mcmeekin

Blogger: M. Ramirez
Journal/Magazine: Hobart (online)

Ross Mcmeekin’s flash fiction story “Elliptical” is an interesting read because it takes an ordinary setting of a gym and turns it into a nostalgic memories of childhood heroes.  The Author in this flash fiction is exploring the individuals that exercise at the local gym he goes to.  The story begins in a middle of an action, which is the elliptical.  The elliptical serves as concrete setting while the experience takes place.  The experience is that he learns about the regular old man that he has been exercising with for a while and finds out that he is a legend in wrestling.

The main image that grabs my attention was the mechanical braces that the old man exercising was wearing. These braces are used to help with the mobility of the elderly.  This was an automatic clue that the writer gave in order to imply that the man was in fact older. Some other images that strike me the most was towards the end when the story began to slow down.  One image that Mcmeekin threw in the story were the intricate details of the monitor that appears on every elliptical.  Mcmeekin’s flash fiction begins with the attention of detail of the physical presence of the elliptical and then visits again with another detail description.

The writer’s diction contributes to the meaning of the story by keeping the dialogue very distant between the older aged man and himself. The main character shows to us his age when he describes the young people running up and down the basketball court while acknowledging how good of “shit” they still have.  This reveals to us the way that he is beginning to pass his prime physical appearance.  The writer probably wanted to invoke these feelings to focus on the difference between the ages of the people presented in the flash fiction.  It also draws out the issue of the different stages of the human body deteriorating.

The writer for this specific flash fiction had little to no rhyme.  The flash fiction does start off the with the action verb “Lugging”.  Lugging sounds very similar to luggage, which entails that the old aged man, was struggling.  Struggling and lugging do sound similar and can have meaning to the way in which he was portrayed.

This piece inspired me that people are far more important that the physical realities of the world.  The gym is a common place where physical fitness is achieved for cosmetic purposes.  “Elliptical” goes beyond the cosmetics of a gym and dives into the history of the people that go to gyms.  I would like to think about this story in terms of that its a not necessarily  about the gym but way more about the people

December Contest Winner: “Legacy” by Shawna Mayer

December Contest Winner “Legacy” by Shawna Mayer

Thank you to everyone who submitted their stories for the December contest. We received many great stories and it was difficult to choose just one winner. Keep writing! We will announce the January contest soon.

by Shawna Mayer

Woman in bathing suit hugging a snowman - 1924 (from Library of Congress)

“In those days mixed marriages were unheard of.”  Grandma slapped the picture on the table like an ace next to a king in a hand of blackjack.

The picture showed my Grandma in her bathing costume hugging the neck of a snowman on the beach.  Her parents had hated the idea of their spritely, effervescent daughter hitched to a cinderblock of ice with nothing to his name but a carrot nose and a ratty old hat.

“Pop was ready to disown me when Charlie and I announced our engagement, but Ma talked him into coming to the wedding, and by the time your father was born, it was clear he’d made his peace with us.”

The first time Grandma told me this story, she’d been baking Christmas cookies all day and smelled of vanilla and rum.  I’d helped and still had bits of dough in the crevasses of my fingernails.  Snuggling more deeply into her lap, I reached out to caress her long white braid.

“Charlie, wasn’t any ordinary snowman.  He exposed himself to the sand and the salt air that day all because he wanted to make me happy.”  She looked down at me, and raised an eyebrow.  “Hear that sweetie?  When it comes time for you to pick, make sure you choose one that’ll risk something for you.”  I nodded seriously, recognizing wisdom was being imparted.

“He must have been cold to hug,” I said.

“Yes, but it never bothered me,” she said, “Because he always kept me laughing, and we could talk about anything.  Every moment we spent together was precious.”  She sighed.  “Then two years after Charlie melted, I met Stanley.  He adopted your father and raised him like he was his own son.  I was very lucky to find two such good men.”

“Now, I want to show you something.”  I climbed out her lap and she led me down the narrow basement steps, past the washer and dryer and work bench piled with broken appliances.  We stopped in the very back corner in front of the ancient deep freeze.  She propped the lid open and dug around, shifting the blocks of meat, until finally she said, “Here he is.” The light glinted off a silver box in the palm of her hand.  She lifted the lid and inside was a small chunk of ice.  “Touch it,” she whispered, “It feels like velvet.”

Tentatively, I reached out.  Maybe it was only the power of suggestion, but she was right.

After Grandpa Stanley died, we had to auction off the antiques, and in the decade that followed Grandma had a series of strokes that stole more of her each time.  When we finally had to sell the house there was only one thing left that I wanted.

Tonight, as I cuddle up in front of the TV next to my husband Steve, the silver box is nestled deep in my freezer.

Steve gasps, “Your feet are like ice cubes.”  I smile.  It runs in the family.

Flash Photography/Flash Fiction contest winner

We’re pleased to announce Erich O’Connor’s short piece “Play Fight” as the winner of our flash fiction contest, inspired by the photography of Diane Arbus!


by Erich O’Connor

We stood shoulder to shoulder staring at the photo in The Medicine Shop—a local art gallery.

“What does it mean?” Alberta whispers.

“I don’t know,” Marvin says.

“Well, it’s clearly a statement about the effect of war and the Military Industrial Complex on the younger generations,” Frank says. “Humanity’s always been at war. We learn to fight because that is what we are taught.”

Frank is such a bummer—he’s smart—but he always takes the fun out of things by over-over analyzing things and always ends up making everyone feel like a dumbass.

“Whatever,” Alberta says, “I think it’s a toy grenade. The kid’s just playing around.”

“Exactly,” Frank resonates, “How else do you think we learn it.”

When we leave The Medicine Shop and Alberta says she wants to go to Tacos and Ice Cream and have a taco and some ice cream. We walk down the street, passing the spinning neon sign. Inside as Alberta is stuffing her face with a soft shell taco and I’m chowing on the cheesiest nachos, Frank informs us about the news report he’d just seen Andy Rooney give on last week’s 60 Minutes.

“In the news report,” Frank tells us, “they showed all the chickens and cows they pump full of hormones and stuff. The chicken’s bones snap like toothpicks and the breast meat is plump and the eggs are many. The cows, they get heavier, and the girl cows’ utters swell with so much milk that their utters touch the ground. It’s unhealthy,” he says, “and they use it for fast food and stuff.”

I throw a chip at his face, cheese sticks to his cheek and jacket before the chip falls to the floor.

“Hey!” Frank says.

I say, “What, you wanna take it outside?”