Steve Schlozman

Pressed Hybrid

MaryBeth smiled at her reflection in the review mirror as she examined the red-yellow rose that hung awkwardly and at an angle from the top of her strapless prom dress. That flower’s gonna get me in trouble, she thought, as Tommy’s old pick-up made its way down the road towards the Day’s Inn where her friends at that moment were gathering for their senior prom. It was mid-May, and they’d had to postpone the prom twice already. The first time, back in April, there had still been snow on the ground, and since they were sharing the prom with Cedarville this year, and because Cedarville was a good two hours past the river, both towns had decided that it made more sense to wait until all that snow melted. The second time they’d postponed because a little boy at the elementary school had died of lymphoma on the morning of the dance, and it just didn’t feel right to go celebrating after something as awful as that, even though most folks knew that he was going to die anyway.

But now it was mid-May, and the flower on MaryBeth’s dress seemed brighter than the pink evening sky.

“It smells like a bag of cherry Twizzlers,” she said, taking care as she spoke to keep both of her hands folded neatly in her lap. Tommy kept his eyes on the road and told Marybeth that he’d asked for the best damn rose in the whole damn store and that then he’d taken it home himself and fashioned the clip and the pin with the same tools that he used to string up barbwire.

Then he turned and looked at MaryBeth, taking in her green eyes and the shine of her lip gloss, and he shook his head and he whistled.

“How’d a guy like me end up with a girl like you,” he asked, and MaryBeth didn’t answer because it didn’t seem like a question, and instead she just kept on staring out the window as the trees and eventually the river passed her on by.

That rose, what she learned later to call a hybrid, was hanging above the mirror in her dorm when her daddy called to tell her that Tommy was coming home from Iraq in a flag-draped box.

Now, black with age and decay, pressed flat through the weight of both the Old and New Testaments, the once yellow-red rose hung fastened by a nail just over her finest china. It wasn’t yellow anymore and it wasn’t red anymore, but then it had never really been either of those colors to start with. When MaryBeth was alone, when her husband was at work and when her kids were at school, she could just barely picture the day she’d first seen that flower. And if she tried, really tried, she could still conjure the smell of the sweet cherry Twizzler that hung awkwardly, at an angle, as she walked, with Tommy, into the springtime lobby of the sparkling Days Inn.

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Steve Schlozman is a physician and author who has written two novels, one of which, The Zombie Autopsies, has been optioned for film by George A Romero. Steve’s second novel was published in October 2015, and he has also published short fiction and essays for numerous magazine and journals.

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Nick Thornburg

Drifting Away

 

Ever touched a star, the weathered old man asked, ever felt its breath against your cheek or the brush of its fiery tendrils against your eyelids? I have and if you come aboard you will too. You ain’t lived til you’ve felt what I’ve felt.

#

Come along dear, he’s delusional, said the man in a low voice, and he took up his wife’s hand and led her across the bay where they could stand in the shade of a boarding freighter and observe the methodical coming and going of giant ships. Dozens of couples meandered round the bay, taking the afternoon to enjoy the precision display and revel in the efficiency of machinery they had toiled so long to create and maintain. In a consolidated motion, the man and his wife raised their eyes to watch the contrails left by a pair of security pods as they swept past the circular rim of the highrise port as part of a routine patrol.

#

It’s sort of beautiful, isn’t it, asked the wife as she watched the twisting lines of smoke unfurl and dissipate. In the way that natural phenomenon can sometimes be, she added. I much prefer the patterning of one of the old masters with their broad symmetrical strokes though, I find randomness simply too much to bear oftentimes. Yes I know, said the husband as he discreetly straightened a wrinkle on the face of his uniform, Randomness is like sludge isn’t it? It is, agreed the wife, I can’t stand it… but I can’t say I’ve ever seen sludge, actual sludge, that is.

#

But remember when your uncle– Yes, of course I remember, the man interrupted, Must we talk about it? I was only going to say, his wife continued, in a voice that took on a stern edge, That he was so proud of that ugly painting and having kept it hidden for so long. Shush you, said the husband. But we’ve nothing to fear, said the wife, Because you and I didn’t enjoy looking at it. It wasn’t our fault that he refused to have it incinerated as it should have been, and really, we should feel proud of ourselves for having been so appalled at the sight of it. Yes, we’re among the finest citizens, I should think, the husband said proudly. He leaned against his wife’s shoulder warmly and she shivered in pleasure at his breach in protocol.

#

Can you believe people actually thought paint on canvas was an acceptable art form at one point, she whispered, Think of the mess. No, I’d rather not, the husband said sharply as he cast a wary eye over the crowd milling about the bay, You’d best put the subject to rest before someone overhears us. Of course, of course, the wife said, surprised at the tone of his voice after he had just shown her such affection. The husband watched one of the great freighters lift from its pad and he nodded in approval at its timely departure, but the wife seemed distracted.

#

I wonder what happened to him, said the wife after a few moments. Who, asked the husband. Your uncle. Oh, I reported him the very night he brought out the painting, the husband said, The rest I left to the authorities. Oh, replied the wife, A pity, I had thought him an outstanding example for the community until he surprised us by revealing that painting. Yes, it was a terrible blow, the man agreed, And to think he threw it all away because of that horrible piece of A-R-T. But enough now, let’s forget this subject entirely. Yes, of course, said the wife. She lifted her eyes again towards the expanse of sky overhead.

#

The contrails of the security pods had disappeared by that point, their cirruslike wisps erased from the clear blue of the earth’s dome by the passing drafts of freighters arriving and departing. I suppose that’s the thing the ancients never realized, the wife said, The temporariness of their so-called achievements, that is. How did you come to think of that exactly, asked the husband. It all just drifted into obscurity, she replied, Just like the contrails left by those security pods. Everything simply washed away, she added, It’d be sad if it wasn’t so wasteful. All that effort wasted. Terrible. Not like today, thank goodness, she said and tried to smile.

#

But what about the painting? What about it? It didn’t simply crumble to dust or disappear, did it, pointed out the husband, surprising himself by broaching the subject he had earlier sought to suppress. No it didn’t, said the wife, Well that’s an interesting turn. I suppose it’s like that man who spoke to us earlier. What man, asked the husband. The delusional man at the other end of the bay, she replied. What does he have to do with anything? Well, said the wife, People like him shouldn’t by any rights exist in this modern age, his type should have been culled from the population long ago, but here he is speaking to strangers about touching stars and the like. He’s an anomaly just like that old painting. I should say you’re right, said the husband, I never would have thought of it that way, but really, someone ought to report him to the authorities. He’s clearly causing a disturbance.

#

They sat for several long minutes in silence watching the other couples wander round the bay as they observed the loading and unloading of the giant freighters and the occasional sweeping passes of the security pods. They could see the weathered old man at the opposite side of the bay and, finally, the wife said, What do you think it’s like to touch a star? Hm, the husband said, I really wouldn’t know. How odd would it be, do you think? Best not think about it, replied the husband. Yes, said the wife, you’re probably right. Best to forget about it. Best to let that thought go, let it crumble to dust and drift into nothingness. Hm, yes, that would be best.

#

But did you hear him say he was taking passengers?

 

——

Nick is a graduate of the University of Iowa with Bachelor of Arts degrees in Theater Arts and Cinema & Comparative Literature. He currently resides in Southeast Iowa.

——

Shani Abramowitz

Orange

Back there in the deep orange valley
you threw your arms up and waved
a metered hello-goodbye to each 
and every color you could see.

They could not be counted on hands or feet,
fingers or toes, 
in sunspots 
or in veins. 
But the married colors called.
They look happy, you said.
They taste like candy, you said.

You guzzled the candied-apple sky
and mocked the spotty minefields
that tortured you 
and held you
dangling 
in opalescent suspense. 
You rummaged for the spectrum, 
but stumbled singularly upon 
orange. 

Take off your makeup.
Strip the color-blasted walls and paint them eggshell blue.
A safe shade. 
Forget the din that this iridescence makes.
Colorblindness might be good for a change.


——

Shani Abramowitz is a Chicagoan-turned-Bostonian-turned New Yorker. Shani is the founder and EIC of {Prong & Posy}, a new online lit mag. Shani is currently working on a forthcoming collection of poetry, ‘Letters to Unborn Daughters.’ Shani also knits, sings loudly in the shower, and won’t throw away her old notebooks.

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Kitty Oberly

Spider

Perpetual Motion Machine

Fade Away Dogs

Echo Butterfly

Creatures Swimmin

——

Kitty Oberly is a current student at Pennsylvania College of Art and Design, majoring in Illustration. She enjoys creating art, stories and music, learning about the world, wishing she could make a million graphic novels, and talking to animals. Her art can be seen anywhere from schools, art galleries, and other planets (and at facebook.com/inkstoryrebel).

 

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