online magazine for short, good writing

Category: Genre-Bender


by a contributor

Marci Vogel

Occasionally it rings, and so we answer without identifying the caller because we are of the few remaining who don’t have caller ID, and anyway it’s probably either my dear one’s mother or mine, or maybe the lady from Helping Hands for the Blind. She never says what she wants exactly, just announces: Helping Hands for the Blind, voice trailing off in expectation.

Lately it’s just as likely to be Alan from the Census Bureau. We’re on a first-name basis–mine’s Jane, as in Doe. My dear one accepted a $25.00 gift card in exchange for participating in a special survey, and now Alan calls monthly to find out what happened to money we no longer have.

We once spoke for an hour, and I told Alan how I spent the former president’s tax-rebate on artwork, a painting called Little Deaths which remains unhung on our wall, and how I spent my dear one’s, too, on a Japanese maple he planted over the loyal body of our red chow, who died in the spring. “Alan,” I asked, “how exactly do you check-off this information? Are there boxes on your spreadsheet for beauty, for sadness?”

“Don’t you worry, Janie,” he said, “I’ve got my tricks.”

My dear one refuses to speak with Alan anymore. At least the devil waits until you’re dead before he collects, he said after the third month. I tried in good faith to speak for all the Does in the house, but last time Alan called, I told him I couldn’t answer any more questions, not until summer, when the days were longer, and it felt as if I had more time. “I’m hanging up on you, Alan,” I said. “I’m sorry,” and I was.

The Helping Hands for the Blind lady, now that’s a different story. We’ve never cut her off, not once. Maybe it’s because she has no tricks, only leaves enough space between words. Helping Hands for the Blind, she says, and we respond: Nothing, sorry. But once in a while––when the leaves on the maple are scarlet, for example––we answer: Yes, we do have something to offer, and her familiar voice on the line lights up: Fine! Pickup Wednesday. I’ll call back to remind you, and she does.

Marci Vogel is a native of Los Angeles, where she attends USC’s PhD Program in Literature and Creative Writing as a Provost Fellow. Her poetry has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the AWP Intro Journals Award. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in FIELD, Puerto del Sol, ZYZZYVA, Anti-, and the Seneca, Colorado, and Atlas reviews. Her first chapbook, Valiant, is available from Finishing Line Press.

See Marci’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

On Holiday

by a contributor

David Galef

Have you been to the banana-squashing festival in Minanga?

Velida marks the last day of the year you can legally eat ice cream on the island of Nectos.

The origins of Chopstick War Day are obscure.

No one has ever succeeded in photographing the Witches’ Sabbath Parade.

All the citizens dress up like cockroaches and copulate with whomever they can.

The idea is to commemorate the historic crossing of the Redback River with three inner tubes, a pot of oatmeal, and a sack of goose feathers balanced on one’s head.

The triangular fans from the Feast of Hangover depict the three transcendent states: drunk, unconscious, and dead.

On this one afternoon, the dogs rule the household.

One line of celebrants wears funny hats; the other side carries fedoras.

The Dance of the Arthritic Cripple started as an add-on to the Catholic mass at the Yellow Church on St. Tropisme.

The medieval Festival of Farts is thought to stem from a post-Lenten celebration of a cabbage surplus.

First the Master of Pajamas stretches, then the Night-Capped Trio yawns, and then the gaily bedecked cots are wheeled out, the first evening of Somnos.


The holiday ends when the participants run out of eggs.

The floats for the Prettiness Pageant become the kindling for next day’s Perfect Pyre Parade.

Unfortunately, the Feast of Hrofar, begun to take the peasants’ mind off the famine of 1470, supplies only one pancake for 800 revelers.

The Substitute Holiday can take the place of any other holiday in the calendar with just a day’s notice. Also, the Substitute Holiday Elders are ingenious in recycling objects from other holidays, such as turning decorated walking sticks into percussion instruments.

The orgies of the Bucharin Bacchanalia have been discontinued until several paternity suits are resolved.

The supposed effigy in the Punters’ Procession is a real woman imprisoned in papier mâché.

The city commission frequently has to double- or even triple-decker holidays, artfully juxtaposing Amputee Pride Parade with Skateboards in Procession and Nurse Appreciation Day.

Everyone at the Birth/Rebirth Gala knows what the six-foot candle stands for.

In a strategic move, the Glendale Chamber of Commerce is staging its Feast of the Tourist the week before Centerville’s Sightseeing Spectacular.

Questionnaires to be filled out by spectators after the Flaming Cocktail Throw will help make next year’s event even better.

David Galef has published over a dozen books and shows no sign of stopping. His latest are the short story collection My Date with Neanderthal Woman (Dzanc Books) and Japanese Proverbs: Wit and Wisdom (Tuttle). He is a professor of English and director of the creative writing program at Montclair State University.

See David’s 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

Here, the Invisible Man…: Notes on a Letter Written in Invisible Ink

by a contributor

Justin Lawrence Daugherty





1  Here, the Invisible Man rants of clothing, of vision. Here, he asks for forgiveness. Here, the Invisible man lies awake, here his eyelids fluttering, an awakened REM, here he fails to dream. And, here the dreamy streets at night.
2  Here, the Invisible Man asks why.
3  Here, her rose-colored hair, her shape-forming dress, her hips like Siren calls, her hair a road to everywhere, and, here, still, the Invisible Man aches, here he follows, hand outstretched for just one strand of that hair, for a touch of skin, of heat.
4  Here, the Invisible Man followed by slathering dogs, jaws hung wide, following, their snouts shivering with the intake of scent. Here, the roving strays.


5  Here, the Invisible Man shoos the dogs, here he kicks at their snapping mouths, their reeking bodies, and here the woman turns, her eyes wide with fear of these mad beasts and of slick-wet cobblestones and darkness and the dim, untrustworthy light of street lamps, and here she turns to run and how the dogs followed her and their barks and howling and their bands of terrible numbers, and here the Invisible Man follows, running after this woman, after this crimson hair, after something he wants more than anything: the breath on skin raising hairs, the slope of her breasts, the whisper of words spoken into his ear, the sweetness of voice and tone, the dragging of nails, the taste of her sweat from the small of her back and saliva on her tongue, the embrace, the tangling, the welding of bodies, the fire.


6  Here, the Invisible Man throws dogs off the fallen woman, here her hair caught in snarling teeth, here he feels the rake of their teeth, the drawing of blood, here he withdraws for fear of being seen, the blood visible, here he covers his arm, his bleeding stomach, and here some of the dogs continue their assault, their tearing of flesh, and here the woman escapes and runs. Here, the Invisible Man wishes he could call to the woman, here he wishes a sound could erupt other than screams, here he wishes she could hear his voice, his sound. Here, he wishes she would echo the noise.

Winner of the 2012 Gigantic Sequins Flash Fiction Contest, Justin Lawrence Daugherty manages Sundog Lit from a basement in Omaha, Nebraska. His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Normal School, NANO Fiction, Barrelhouse, Monkeybicycle, NAP, Housefire, Bluestem, and elsewhere. He writes some on this blog and says strange things on twitter @jdaugherty1081. He is at work on a novel and is slowly working on a novella.

See Justin’s 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

The Glowstar Sequence

by a contributor

Yve Miller

The height of you across my bed, waiting when I come from the closet is brunette and it is unachievable by me. I see you and you are covered and always will be and I remember trying to kiss you on the mouth and I realized your wet terror wasn’t a system of checks. A lack of nod can allow all things to pass. This too. I am writing in complete sentences. I am lifting my face from the blue flames of the comforter and staring into your piano-bench eyes.

I am writing in complete sentences and I am eleven. Elisabeth is under the lilac sheets and we have a Kit Kat bar and her father is drunk and the shut door shudders with his vocal chords. Our fingers smell like chocolate and we lick and think about AOL and grass blades and the way our bikes talk trash and take us across town to the train-park where we make up games with our own rules like jumping from the swings and running to the blacktop fast means a Sprite from Morningside and later, when the floodlights clasp the dark cornfield in their shut notebooks, we can write rules with our fingers and check the wattage of beating flies in the sides of our necks against the glowstars on the ceiling.

I am writing in complete Elisabeth. Under the lilacs we have kits for dull hunger in our eyes. Keebler Elves and AOL and our bikes whinny outside on the groved driveway and we think of ways to sneak out. I am writing under rules. Our floodlights find towns inside our chests, miniature convenient stores full of racks of chips and razors. The cornfield swallows us shut, checks the wattage of our vocal chords against its expanse of covered ears. Our fathers are drunk down hallways and our fingers smell like us. We lick the night in shifts.

I am writing in complete shudders and I am nineteen. The cornfield strains for us and finds a silence in the bark of nameless hounds. The groved driveway is flat and restless; a woman at Morningside stares at the glazed black window, her self inside. Our fathers are drunk down hallways, our fingers smell like rules and towns, our chests are full of swallows, dull hunger in our lungs, Keebler Elves asleep in tins of homes with glowstars on ceilings, ours glowing over blank bedspreads, charged for the carpet.

I am writing in complete, I am open and twenty five and I am lifting my face from Elisabeth, I am staring at your rich stone eyes I am a cornfield and you are Audrey, you are Annabelle, you are Amy and Everett and Elvis and I am twelve, I am twenty, I am married and my fingers smell like my restless, flat grove driveway and I am charged, I am blank as bedspread waiting for the mating of two beating-fly hearts, two drunk fathers, two black-water canoes hung low in a shed where rules, like towns, dull in hunger and lost ceilings. Your floodlights blind my miniature glass of blank speech. I am the lilac sheets drenched by silver ringed hands, I am drunk Annabelle, I am a Mountain Dew glow. Our aisle rows through black water in canoes sharp as forceps. Our bodies countered by harvesting drunk fathers, their fingers smell and our Beemans cheeks swell like chests full of charged cards and blood-covered registers, shattered black glass windows full of budding-fly larvae like Skittles raining down, ears clutched in floodlights Arielle, Aurelie, Ashton, Eloise. After blank speech, a hush and a wedding.

I am writing in complete sentences. I am in love with the breasts of a lifetime of windows, I am drawn like blackwater in tin canoes. I am glass, fractured flies beating to the rhythm of Amy. Bodies. Mopping. I am revealed inside my blue pocket of new rules, I am twenty five. I am a drunk father and a swelling chaste. I am sunken under Starburst rocks and Iraq vets, home and dead in their pill-breath sheets. I am sunk in paper bags, floodlight hounds, washing mother Annabelle ears. I am a mopped floor, a roved drive. I am a cash register ringing full of glowstars, sheets wet with Amy, Elisabeth, Everett, sheets warm with fingers and I am a Kit-Kat wrapped in time, printed in a past hush of egg light.

I am a blooming chocolate time-bomb, I am in love on a lilac bedspread, fractured in a glass window full of Sprite and fingers, and my tongue is inside I am writing in complete sentences. I am the stringed move, the room, the rules, I am the warm launch of July, the bass glow of cello, I am twenty five, I am sky, I am waving hello to Amy, Elisabeth, Annabelle, and I am Darma. I am charged blood and why. The cello move of the sun sheds down like an egg spread on our suburb bedroom, across the carpet which hides the crushed shine of our closed lips.

I am inside a glass of blankets and your long body is spread before me, Audrey, and I am married, Elisabeth, and you are a driveway, Annabelle, and I am twenty-five, Amy, I am two drunk fathers in a canoe on dark water, two beating flies, Everett, two bedspreads waiting with charged ripples of stars, the sealed lips of corn. I am the Morningside widow, our reflection Sprites across the mopped floor, our gummy bear skid of Adidas and your wet mouth glows in the bloom of Diet Mountain Dew, the aisle a row of rules and towns of racked candy, straight lines of Starbursts, Elisabeth, elf, this is my body on the counter by the cash register; these are my zippers flying, my stolen Beemans gum, this is my pocket full of rules and Elisabeth, this is the harvest up through our pores, our ears, I kiss you in b-flat, our bike paths glow like stars.


Yve Miller has worked with horses, boat engines, and barbecue. She is a reviewer of books and teaches students how to form counterarguments and write from their heartbeat. She is going to night school to become somebody. Her first manuscript is in the works.

See Yve’s 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series, and her past pieces, Molting and When I Was a Train Passenger.

Out-of-Office Reply

by a contributor

Thomas Mundt

You have reached the desk of Cort Plumlee. It is with great regret that I inform you that I have no desk, just a smartphone permanently affixed to my hip, sheathed in a stylish pleather holster. I have my concerns about the child labor undoubtedly employed in the manufacturing of said accoutrement, but that is neither here nor there.

What is here and there, however, is that I am here, which is to say I have gone black for the day. I do plan to go back, though, despite suggestions to the contrary. If this reference to a popular sexual aphorism has made you uncomfortable, my sincerest apologies. Please be advised that I am blessed to have had several strong African-American influences in my life, including but not limited to my high school guidance counselor, a Mr. T. Allen Diggs, and a former lover, Cheryl. I am certain that, upon request, they would attest to the fact that this is the species of joke we made around one another all the time, given the post-racial ease with which we interacted.

But I digress. It is not my intention to keep you or any other interested party in the dark about my whereabouts, so please allow me to cut to the chase: I am currently in South Bend, Indiana, watching my eldest, Tracy, participate in a field hockey tournament. I am here under protest, mind you, and at the insistence of Tracy’s mother, who is currently hospitalized with acute appendicitis. Lest you question the level of my parental involvement, however, please know that the hesitancy with which I sit in the bleachers, ensconced in polar fleece and quarter-drunk on Speedway-brand Irish coffee, has nothing to do with my desire, or lack thereof, to participate in my pre-teen daughter’s life. It derives from my knowing abso-fucking-lutely nothing about the subject sport, the rules, regulations, and strategies that make it tick.

Additionally, the presence of several unaccompanied middle-aged men with binoculars, intently focused upon the billowing of tartan skirts and the revelation of athletic bloomers underneath, is a cause for concern.

Now, I realize that you did not issue me electronic mail in the hope that you would receive a status update concerning my travels to Midwestern college towns and the various comings-and-goings of the precocious young women therein. No, you queried me because you want, nay, need something. There is a corrupted Excel sheet you need debugged, a thrice-downloaded Adobe Acrobat update that refuses to take. You want to know if I found your key card, which you believe you may have dropped near the plaza-level vending machines.

I am writing to inform you that, today, as I watch a tiny orange ball get lobbed back and forth across the torn-up sod of a second-tier junior college green, the November chill threatening to freeze my mucus and seal my nasal passages like sarcophagi, I unequivocally and unabashedly do not give a shit.

Before you scroll through the remainder of my response in search of contact information for Rudy, my backup, please allow me to explain.

You see, I have catered to the whims of the tenants of the Crowne Center office park (hereinafter collectively referred to as “You People”) for upwards of thirteen years now and, during my tenure as Chief Technology Consultant, very little has changed for me, both professionally and personally. Granted, my income has seen steady, industry-consistent increases of three-percent annually during that timeframe, and I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge my good fortune for the same in this era of continued economic decline. The holiday parties and their related cold cuts-and-cheese buffets should not go unrecognized, either. It is just that, when a man invests in expensive, terrain-appropriate footwear such that he can scale a rock formation, lean out over its precipice, and take in the bounty below, the faces, places, and traces of dreams conjured and realized, he wants to see his mark. He wishes to point to a pear tree planted, a regional frozen foods distribution warehouse leased and utilized, and say I did that. That was me there, in the smock. Metaphorically-speaking, of course.

It is the days when You People call me Curt, or Kirk, or Mort, and after spending forty-five minutes cleaning ill-advised Limewire frolics off of your hard drives, that remind me that I have fallen well short of any mark-making goals I may have set in my youth. Thus, I will spend the remainder of my Friday in the company of Tiger Moms, indulging in my maudlin fantasies and, if I get hungry, oversized hot pretzels with extra salt and honey mustard dipping sauce.

Rest assured that I will return on Monday, ready to address any technology-related conundrums you may have encountered and/or caused during my absence. I will accept your right hand for a shake upon the completion of my Service Ticket, knowing full well that this is the best I can hope for under the circumstances, and from here on out.

Very truly yours,

Cort R. Plumlee
Chief Technology Consultant
Cotillion, A Certo Company

Thomas Mundt is the author of one short story collection, You Have Until Noon to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe (Lady Lazarus Press, 2011), and the father of one human boy, Henry (2011). Teambuilding opportunities and risk management advice can be found at

See Thomas’ list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.

Feed or Flush

by a contributor

Beth Bates

Shout obscenities at the goldfish shitting up the Tupperware on your mantel and refuse them food and oxygen.

Feel like crying, but don’t.

Slash the tires of the person who fracked your plans.

Or not.

Tell yourself, “It’ll work out.”

Write a treatise exposing the low standard of business practices among Christian business people, so-called; publicize it to your blog and Facebook. Name names.

Call the girlfriends and rag on the woman whose incompetence derailed your counseling career re-launch. Rip apart her character; criticize her lack of professionalism; make it all about her.

Call your husband and bask in his righteous anger.

But, no. Leave him out of it.

Make it all about you. Personalize her flakiness as rejection. Internalize the rejection.

Feel like a failure.

Tell yourself that hanging a shingle again is ridiculous. Divorced therapists are a joke.

Write a novel about a therapist who thinks she’s good but isn’t.

Retreat to bed in the middle of the day. Spread your legs for Depression.

Consider suicide.

Decide suicide is boring.

Stop showering.

Ignore the dust building up on your furniture. Ignore the phone.

Brighten when the kids come home from school. Prepare tacos.

Apologize to your husband for being shortsighted enough to exchange steady income to free up time for kids and writing.

Stop writing.

Stop eating.

No really, stop eating; you’ll feel better in your skinny pants.

Think about cleaning the house to compensate for feelings of inadequacy.

Force yourself to take a walk.

Get hungry.

Scrub toilets and mop floors to show appreciation to the mister for his toil and provision.

Sit on the couch and watch the fish.

Watch them until their pitiful mawing breaks you and you haul the “tank” into the kitchen for the tenth time in fourteen days since your daughter won them at a church carnival, and cup by cup empty the plastic food storage bin she found to house the creatures. Refresh their filthy medium with chlorinated, fluoridated tap water.


Jettison guilt over pursuing grad school (again, at your age).

Pursue your second master’s. Hard. It’s just for a season, and seasons are finite.

Finish a book, reading or writing one.

Write daily.

Write about this struggle. Fold it into a paper boat with all the soundness of design and seaworthy construction required to keep it afloat, and launch it.

Sail it into the past. Resist sending a search party to retrieve it into your present.


Brainstorm action steps. Make a new plan.

Execute your plan by taking three steps each day.

Wait. Pray.

Watch the fish.

Flush the fish.

Feed ’em.

Beth Bates lives in the Indianapolis area, where she stays busy writing and editing. She is the Prose Editor for Booth, the Story Editor for Curly Red Stories, and a Butler University MFA Candidate.

See Beth’s 5 P Words You Should Know tomorrow in our ongoing contributors’ series.

A Modest Guide to Truculence/Survival: Girls

by a contributor

Leesa Cross-Smith

HEY, FIRST OFF: Ignore everything. But if you hear only one bird, listen. It could mean something. Wait. I take that back. Ignore everything but the one bird and the pulsing, cracked-white sky. And don’t keep love letters. You can keep some letters, but don’t keep any letters. Never under any circumstances keep a letter unless you want to keep a letter but even then, never do it. Burn letters and ignore everything. Remember what I said about the sky.

RE: BOYS: If you find someone else and you like him enough, let him take your hand and don’t cry.

IMPORTANT! Be super-pretty. Hold that down for the rest of us.

ALSO: You’re not scared of animals, are you?

1. Don’t have a heart attack. 2. When you hear fireworks, look up.

WHO I AM: Me? I’m different. Not bothered with all of that. I’m a loner, Dottie. A rebel.

ON BEING BOTHERED: Learn to sleep with the windows open, even when there are loud lawnmowers. Even when there are sirens and sirens and sirens and phones ringing and incessant incessants. And goodness gracious learn to make your feet comfortable inside any number of shoes.

PERSONALIZATION: I wouldn’t tell you this stuff if it wasn’t important. You have to trust me on this. I know how you are. You used to put the bus window half-down instead of all the way because you didn’t want the wind to mess up your hair and when someone told you to shut up, you listened.

TRUST ME: I ignored the pulsing, cracked-white sky. I got rained on (didn’t care) and I kept the letters (BIG MISTAKE). Also, I heard fireworks and didn’t look up. I missed them and that’s a bummer because I bet they were beautiful. Lights are always beautiful.

FURTHER EXPLANATION: If I had my druthers I’d live in the forest and eat fire. I’d find a dripping, black-green forest. Some orange-blue fire.

REVIEW: Are you getting this?

Leesa Cross-Smith lives and writes in Kentucky. She loves baseball, slushies and cowboy boots. Her short story, “Whiskey & Ribbons,” won Editor’s Choice in the 2011 Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. Her work is forthcoming or has appeared in Word Riot, matchbook, DOGZPLOT, NAP, Little Fiction, Storychord, The Rumpus, Bluestem Magazine and Carve Magazine. She can be found online at or

See Leesa’s list of 5 Things You Should Read in our ongoing contributors’ series.