Hello You

by Simon Stratton

"Hi," she said in the same way a biscuit crumbles. But what did the "Hi" mean - why use "Hi" and not "Hey," "Hello" or "Howdy?" In these modern times there are so many greetings - like the variety of foreign fruit in the supermarket - but why would anyone want so many, almost a different fruit for each day of the week? What's wrong with having a banana in your pocket when you've kissed your family goodbye and headed off to the sewage works... but then "Hi" is not the ripe banana of greetings, no, if I was going to classify it, I would say it was more "green apple" - the Granny Smith. "I'm the reincarnation of your long lost daughter," she said, whipping her hair off her forehead like a postman delivering letters. "That's nice," I said, but then I thought: doesn't "Hi" sound a bit like "He," which could mean she's trying to tell me she wishes to become a man, a He-man?

6S

Simon Stratton, author of Hug Goodbye, lost his MA in Creative Writing in a curry fight.

The Drifter

Part 5 of 6 by Joseph Ridgwell

To the east the dunes stretched infinitely onwards, like a voluptuous yellow snake slithering sexily into the fuzzy horizons of the future, while in the west the sun shot out arrogant rays of perfect precision. I gazed straight into our nearest star, becoming blind and disoriented. I fell over and tumbled down the bank of the dune like rolling dice. When I stood up the left side of my face was covered in sand grains and I brushed them off and squinted at the trembling ocean. For some inexplicable reason the roar of the surf sounded terrifying and an intense feeling of panic washed over me like an ocean wave. Then an acute moment of clarity revealed that we are all born to die, the phrase repeating itself over and over in my head, born to die, born to die, born to die!

6S

Joseph Ridgwell lives and writes in London. Look for the conclusion of The Drifter on Sunday, June 3rd.

Why Can't I Live in a Pair of Brooks

by Victor S. Smith

The pavement passed under her feet with a thud, thud, thud and she thought about how remarkable the human body is; she had been running for twenty minutes, and the pain that always started to radiate from the shins up into her knees, then to her hips that would then take up residence in her lower back at about mile two was starting to dissipate, as it always did at about mile four. She wondered if the pain was truly dissipating, or if her brain had just shut down those nerve endings that told her to stop, after her pace quickened and the message from her soul and heart was clearly sent: today I need this, and no pain is going to stop me. Pain was a catharsis for her, the aches and pains that accompanied a grueling run were the things that cleansed her spirit, that left her feeling pure again; water was the symbol in movies that she always associated with ritual purification and the perspiration pouring down her face, into her eyes and on her lips as the miles ticked away had to be a 90% water she thought. She marveled again at her bodies ability to compensate for obstacles as she, without realizing it, changed her gait by a fraction of an inch to allow her passage over the street curb at the corner of Traverse and Wickendon, her speed not broken, and then readjusted it again once she was on the flat concrete of the sidewalk. She asked herself as she charged up the hilly streets, that were lined with cherry trees and forsythia: why can't I do this when I am living my life, why is it so difficult to navigate the tiny obstacles? The answer she came to was remarkably simple: running is easy, you just put one foot in front of the other, over and over and over again, until you reach your destination; life, however, is not a run, it is a slam dance to a cacophonous, discordant tune, and there is no more a straight line than there is a destination.

6S

Victor S. Smith, author of A Route Forty-Four Chainsaw Massacre, is a recovering economist who caught a writing bug penicillin isn't clearing up. His two blogs are Like Pollution and Marlowe's Sketch Pad.

The Porthole

by Heather Leet

The Ship landed without a glitch. As she looked out the porthole at the red land stretching out for miles she was once again stunned by the beauty of it all. This was her fourth trip to the settlement and yet it felt like the first time. She watched as her ship was anchored to the landing pad and the crew began to unload the supplies they had brought with them. As she gathered up her bags and prepared to disembark, she felt the slight jolt as the first explosion went off and she ran back toward the porthole. As the ship slowly ascended back into space she watched as the Martians set off another explosion and the landing crew tried to fight them off.

6S

Heather Leet, author of The Hitchhiker, is a modern day Robin Hood, but instead of stealing from the rich she cajoles them into giving her money to help fund programs that will hopefully one day make the world a better place. She spends not enough time writing on her blog, and hopes to one day publish her collection of Love Poems to Dictators.

Bachelor #2

by Stephanie Bee

Last night it happened again. His hands around my neck while I knock over the framed photo of my boyfriend. What do I say about it? I do it because I'm angry. I do it because I want to be held. I do it because he's a perfect stranger and for some reason I still don't feel afraid.

6S

Stephanie Bee, trained as an investigative reporter, has lived all over the world, including London and Australia. She currently resides in New York City with two fabulous roommates who politely deal with her assortment of male suitors. You can read more about the sagas of Stephanie's love life (and other adventures) at Spread Eagle in NYC.

Flowers Define Me

by caccy46

Mother's Day holds traditions in our family; my husband's gift to me is always a joyful shopping trip to my favorite greenhouse for annual flowers and herbs to adorn my pots and enhance my summertime cooking, and, most treasured of all, to fill in my beloved perrennial garden for my old friends who did not survive the winter. It is a day filled with mixed emotions: first a trip to the cemetary to leave flowers at my mother's and father's graves (actually snipping fragrant lilacs from the cemetary, always in bloom this time of year); and then a celebration of my motherhood to two grown but still young children; one with severe mental illness and the other on the brink of beginninng life in the real world with hopes and dreams in front of her. The first bouquet of flowers, wrapped in supermarket cellophane, small and sad with mums and baby's breath, stuck in a glass pitcher by my husband, the transporter of the gift from my son, sits on the kitchen counter; a precious reminder of his sweet thoughtfulness admidst his daily suffering of isolation and keeping his demons at bay. The second bouquet, much larger and filled with all sorts of lovely blooms, arrives that morning with my daughter and her boyfriend, who join us for brunch before driving back to college. Kisses, thanks - warm wishes are swapped - as I carefully unwrap the flowers, cut them and clean off the greens before placing them in a vase suitable and large enough to display their beauty and bulk. Hours later, before going to bed, I see the murkey water in the small, glass pitcher, looking pitiful next to the other grand show of blooms; and carefully, lovingly, I remove the cellophane, clean each stem, snip and arrange them with fresh, clear water and carry them to my bedroom for their place of honor - a daily reminder for the next week that they were carefully and lovingly selected for me, probably paid for by sacrificing a pack of cigarettes; I am mindful to change the water daily and give them each a snip of hope to hang on for as long as they possibly can.

6S

caccy46, author of Remembering Youth, is not afraid to get her hands really dirty.

Swine Actor's Guild

by Harry B. Sanderford

Like so many child actors, Arnold Ziffle struggled after the cancelation of his hit series Green Acres. Once considered heir apparent to the Porky Pig theatrical throne, Arnold bombed on broadway with his self indulgent production of The Three Little Pigs in which he insisted on playing not only all three pigs but the wolf as well. He followed that debacle with leading roles in a succession of low-budget Star Wars and Top Gun type knock-offs which also failed miserably as Americans still just stubbornly resist the coupling of pigs and flight. No longer a piglet and really beginning to pack on weight the plum roles began passing him by, soon the only scripts being offered were from Jimmy Dean or Oscar Mayer. Offended, he considered such roles demeaning and vowed to end his career before accepting one. Arnold would work blue but he refused to work browned.

6S

Harry B. Sanderford, author of Cup or Cone?, is a Central Florida surfing cowboy who'd sooner spin yarns than mend fences. (P.S. Don't worry about Arnold. True to his word, he gave up acting and entered politics, unseating six term incumbent Ned Beatty as President of the Swine Actor's Guild.)

Hug Goodbye

by Simon Stratton

I walked off to the changing room thinking about the hug goodbye. I did the "squeeze release" with her (where you give a final squeeze and let go) rather than the "pat and out" (where you give them a pat on the back and that signals the letting go). And straight afterwards it was all awkward, as though a line had been crossed. I know a few of her male friends have been telling her that they are in love with her at the moment, and so she is understandably suspicious of men, but still. Is the squeeze release wrong to use with friends? Maybe nudists should never hug, I thought as I pulled my trousers back on.

6S

Simon Stratton, author of Career History, lost his MA in Creative Writing in a curry fight.

A Route Forty-Four Chainsaw Massacre

by Victor S. Smith

What kind of asshole would do that in the middle of the morning, people rushing hither and thither going to work, or school, or an AA Meeting and this asshole is outside with a fucking chainsaw. Normally, I don't give a rat's ass what a man does with his chainsaw, but it is spring and this damnable two stroke motor is drowning out everything; the birds, the sound of the breeze rolling in from the bay, the sound of the water lapping up on the rocks of the tidal pools, even, the sound of spring itself, the buds of the trees slowly opening with the tell-tale pop that is usually only heard by faeries and sprites. It wouldn't bother me so much if he had just waited. Two more days is all it would have taken, the petals would have fallen and the newly green leaves would have all come out and they would have been... well they would have been just trees. But they weren't, they were giant bouquets, nature's way of rewarding everyone — but me specifically — for putting up with the snow that comes up to my hips from October to mid-March. Now, they are all slowly toppling, the canopies shaking and then settling on their sides, as the inconsiderate man walks from tree to tree and slowly methodically wrecks my day.

6S

Victor S. Smith, author of The Prologue to My Life's Flashback, is a recovering economist who caught a writing bug penicillin isn't clearing up. His two blogs are Like Pollution and Marlowe's Sketch Pad.

The Drifter

Part 4 of 6 by Joseph Ridgwell

As I stood on top of that sand dune with the wind blasting my face I racked my brains to remember any changes in Elly’s behaviour, but there had been none. Her behaviour remained constant. Just the same old Elly, good old Elly, the women who had helped me out of a very dark hole, for no other reason other than that she was lonely, and loneliness isn’t a crime. Then I racked my brains again for any other clues or signs, no matter how small, but there had been nothing, not a hint! I had been completely oblivious to events going on right under my nose. How insensitive!

6S

Joseph Ridgwell lives and writes in London. Look for Part 5 of The Drifter on Thursday, May 31st.

Hocus Pocus

by Rod Drake

A phenomenal stage magician and illusionist, the Mystifying Munroe performed magic that was simply astounding, always leaving his audience thoroughly entertained and completely dumbfounded. Two months ago he recruited a new assistant, whom he named the Dazzling Denise, a young woman who was dazzlingly beautiful in face and figure, a handy distraction for his audience as he conjured his various magical tricks. One thing led to another, and soon the two were sleeping together, a rapturous time for a couple of weeks, until Denise started making demands; a bigger role in the act, a cut of the money not just a meager salary, better dressing room, less revealing and tight costume, and on and on endlessly. It was a big headache for Munroe, who suffered in silence, hoping the situation would get better, but when it began to affect the act, he knew the Difficult Denise, his secret name for her, would simply have to go. One night, instead of using an audience member, Munroe switched the routine and asked Denise to step inside the Disappearing Box. Smiling and blowing kisses to the audience while she scowled angrily to Munroe, Denise was dramatically shut inside the box, which was opened seconds later to reveal nothing but empty space; where Denise vanished to that evening remained Munroe’s mystical secret, but she never bothered him or his act again.

6S

Rod Drake, author of An Eye for an Eye, is thinking about giving up writing and becoming lead singer for Satan’s Cell Phone. Then again, he writes better than he sings, so maybe he should stick to what he does best. Check out Rod's longer stories in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, Flash Flooding, Flash Forward and MicroHorror.

Shiver

by Naomi Rochelle Garnice

A photograph is a picture of something someone has seen; a painting is a blueprint of something they've felt. His paintings hang on the walls and make the rooms go on for miles. The brush strokes smolder and arch into gaunt expressions that ache under screens of shade and oil. He turns the lights off and the candles burn and move the figures out of the darkness and when they fade and the shadows fall across the face on the wall and make it something real. Those paintings are contentions of hope and desperation that he's made into something beautiful and bound to those walls. It's the only way to see him up close and that makes it harder to look away.

6S

Naomi Rochelle Garnice is the author of many other stories only slightly longer than this.

Headroom

Part 6 of 6 by Madam Z

Good grief, you don’t have to be so rude about it! I know you have patients with much worse problems; though I didn’t realize you specialized in Auschwitz survivors and people who have been forced to hear the name of their favorite rock band mispronounced over and over and over. I admit that my having A LARGE PULSATING BLOB IN MY HEAD can’t compare to their problems, but I still feel that I deserve some therapy, or at least some compassion. Now wait a minute... what are you doing with that hammer? No, I don’t want you to “knock some sense into [me],” even if it could release the “evil spirits,” which isn’t even what I... ay, yi, yi, ow, ow! Omigod, what’s that coming out of my head... it’s some kind of yellow stuff... it looks like fat... chicken fat, and yes, yes I do feel better now!

6S

Madam Z, author of Headroom, Part 5, finds her padded cell quite comfortable, thank you.

The Six Laws of Suburban Children

by Victor Lembrey

Clean your plate. Finders keepers losers weepers. The dog ate it. Batman smells. Last one in is a rotten egg. Whoever smelt it dealt it.

6S

Victor Lembrey, author of The Necessary Ingredient, is all mixed up.

What Use Are Pregnancy Hormones?

by Rebecca Jane

Re-deployed troops, the expecting woman cries for you. Warmonger politicians, the woman carrying the unborn child weeps every time you cast a vote. CO2 emissions, the woman with the ballooning womb snivels wherever you leak. Trash strewn on the stairs of the subway entrance at 34th Street and 7th Avenue, you make a pregnant woman howl with grief. And when Mommy-to-be overheard the national public radio broadcasting its Spring Membership Drive in her right ear while the man on the street shouted "help feed the homeless" in her left ear, she whimpered then sobbed then wailed. If this knocked-up feme covert had a dollar for every tear she dropped, this pregnant woman would be able to fund the next winning president's campaign, the next Hollywood blockbuster film, and the next military occupations of all hot-blooded and undemocratic planets in the universe!

6S

Rebecca Jane, author of Spoken Like an Ancient, writes fiction to stay out of trouble. She always grins. She sometimes fails. She never squeals.

Career History

by Simon Stratton

In the end I decided to launch myself as an antiques dealer. This involved the purchase of vast amounts of "stock" - small articles of furniture, Chinese ceramics and metal ware, were all enthusiastically purchased at auction. The quality fell rather short of the "fine art" that I had visualized, but then so did the cost. I attended numerous antiques fairs and rented space at antiques centres. It was hard, stressful, physically-demanding work. Unfortunately, my stock did not appeal to either "the punters" or other dealers, and it was after one particularly grueling two-day fair on the third storey of a grim building, when I achieved a £20 profit and a bad back that I decided to end my association with the antiques trade and take up the job of ridding the streets from the human detritus that collected there under the eyes the damn narcoleptic government, which is how I earned the name... The Vigilante.

6S

Simon Stratton, author of True Story, lost his MA in Creative Writing in a curry fight.

Newton’s Law

by Chris Conroy

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That’s what our man Pete - Pete with the rubber planet earth hanging from his rearview mirror of his 1987 Firebird - was thinking after he got punched in the face. A crisp jab from the tall woman with the crooked eyes and large nostrils; the same woman who earlier that night he had thought of - after handing her a napkin when the caviar slipped off her cracker and stained her white blouse black like old English ink - as a potential friend not lover; they had talked about Darfur and agreed that our country, the USA, should and could do more to help these people but then the conversation swayed to American Idol: how they, Simon and Ryan and Randy and Paula, with the help of many others, were raising like boat-loads of cash for the sick and dying children in Africa. Pete disagreed with her opinion of Sanjaya and that’s when she tagged him hard on the nose. His nose started to bleed and he put his hand to it and she said she was sorry, that she didn’t know what had gotten into her, that it was really her niece, her six-year-old niece with childhood diabetes who really loved Sanjaya, and then held out a napkin for him to take. He took it and laughed with tears in his eyes knowing he would do whatever it took to make this crooked eyed, large nostriled, hard-hitting woman... his wife.

6S

Chris Conroy, author of Trunks, writes after breakfast and before lunch.

The Drifter

Part 3 of 6 by Joseph Ridgwell

Protecting the beach was a series of giant sand dunes. I marched to the top of a dune and gazed at the endless blue Pacific Ocean. The beach was deserted and another long Australian summer was finally fading away, and suddenly it felt like my time in Australia was coming to an end because everything has to end somewhere. High up on the ridge the wind whipped sand into a frenzy and my thoughts kept returning to the contents of the letter. I pulled the document from my pocket and read it again, studying every word and detail a thousand times. The words described the death of an unborn child, the termination of a life, but there was no sadness in the words, no, they were just words, technical words, and sometimes words are not enough.

6S

Joseph Ridgwell lives and writes in London. Look for Part 4 of The Drifter on Sunday, May 27th.

Clockwatchers (Read: Why I Like Him)

by Kimi Goodrich

I don’t really like people; especially a lot of them inebriated in one place that smells like beer, sweat and anticipation (read: crowded bars), and if I happen to get caught talking to one person, the clock on the wall becomes my savior, my way out of conversation that fails to ignite. It’s not that I want to be rude, but the time keeps track of a million other things I could be doing in that moment while I am not doing any of them (read: wasting my time). Meeting his mind in that hot, packed bar, circumstances that normally make me clockwatch, I wasn’t aware of anything at all (read: enjoying myself). Truth be told I haven’t had that much fun in ages, though I can’t remember the exact details of why it was so much fun - only that I while I was talking to him I never checked the time, and when I went to sleep I had a smile on my face, still full of our banter (read: he was fantastic company). The next day when I told him I didn’t check the time, a great feat for a perpetual clockwatcher, he said that spending time with me was great, and he too had an obvious habit of checking the time, but while we were talking he didn’t check either, which I took as a compliment to our conversational skills (read: we were both digging it). See, this is why I like him so much (read: I have a serious crush)!

6S

Kimi Goodrich, author of Priscilla Rides the Subway, is an anomaly. Someone once told her anomalous women were more interesting.

Remembering Youth

by caccy46

She stroked my arm as we sat round the table; slowly and gently, just one stroke, from my elbow to my fingers. "Young skin," she slowly exhaled and let the thought hang nostalgically as the others continued playing their game. "It's been such a long time since I felt young skin." I did not move my arm from the table but felt a flush of sadness as I looked at this woman, younger by far than her fellow companions. I saw the beauty she must have been 40 years ago when she was my age. And now I stroke my daughter's arm and understand what she was saying.

6S

caccy46, author of Disappearing, is 60 years old, a mother of two, and has been married for 32 years.

Headroom

Part 5 of 6 by Madam Z

I guess it’s the fact that the thing is in my head that it bothers me so much. A person’s head and brain is where the self is… that’s me in there, and I don’t want some stranger camping in there with me. Yes, I am considering the possibility that I may have some mental problems; that’s why I decided to see a psychiatrist, so I could find out for sure whether it’s ”all in my head,” or if it is in my head! I chose you, Dr. Emily Brown, because you’re a woman, and I figured a woman might be more understanding and willing to listen to all the details of my story. And you have been quite attentive, I must say. So what do you think, am I nuts or what?

6S

Madam Z finds her padded cell quite comfortable, thank you. (Look for the conclusion of Headroom on Friday, May 25th.)

Greed

by Gordon Gekko

The point is, ladies and gentlemen, that greed – for lack of a better word – is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms – greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge – has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed – you mark my words – will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.

6S

Gordon Gekko was a fictional millionaire portrayed by Michael Douglas in the 1987 film Wall Street. Douglas won the Oscar for Best Actor.

True Story

by Simon Stratton

So everyday I pass in and out of the entrance and exit of the hospital lobby as a shortcut to get to the bus stop for my job as chief fryer in KFC, always saying Hi to the security guard on the desk while I pass. One day the guard Steve stops me and says We're upgrading the security systems here - I need to issue you with an ID. He says so what's your full name, uh huh, uh huh, and what department do you work in? I say cardiology and he says I look like a cardiologist. And I say I know. And I receive my ID card and I carry on to the bus stop and now I am receiving calls throughout the night and having to perform open heart surgery on pensioners and company executives.

6S

Simon Stratton lost his MA in Creative Writing in a curry fight.

Panties

by Mark Sutz

The thing I missed most about you wasn't the way you left me in the morning every day - though the woman I am going to marry now, in two weeks, would never dream of waking me up with her mouth as anything but a microphone to make sure I locked the door when I leave for work, later than her, thankfully, so I can have some time alone. I knew you were going to leave me the next morning. Your sister told me the night before, came over and told me, and swore me to secrecy. She said I deserved to not be abandoned with no explanation. I knew I would miss your panties, those yellow cotton ones, the ones that smelled of you in the hamper longer than any of those frilly things you said you bought for me but seemed to wear only on nights you went out dancing with your girlfriends, and the way they peeled off of your ass with a sound, a sound for christ's sake. That's why I kept them, sealed them away in a sandwich baggie and told myself I would never look for that bag and open it and see if I could still smell you until the day I'd get married to someone else, a day when I must have reached a point of getting over you because I'd have said forever, again, to someone else.

6S

Mark Sutz lives in Arizona. He appreciates his alley apartment and the quiet it affords him to write and listen to the rumble of the train.

Antiques Roadshow: Marriage c. 1967

by Pamela Johnson Parker

Everywhere now, people are saving them — quilts, I mean. Americana, they say, the perfect history of a life, a woman’s life; but they’re wrong, as a quilt’s wrong, too carefully done, stored pristine among tissue paper layers, scented faintly with lavender, all appliquéd or pieced carefully up with the best scraps, dresses showy enough to take a sleeve and save it. A quilt says hope chest, says come make the bed, warm us up, says dowry, says wedding ring, says the halves shall be one… What’s right? Well, you won’t find them as part of anyone’s trousseau — rag rugs, that is; you find them in sheds, in boxes in barns, at the bottom of consignment bins, muddy, stiff with salt, with jagged peaks of mud poking up like meringue, underneath snarling like hair, an awful mess. But a rag rug’s right, nothing neat about it, an awful mass, made from a marl of stuff worn out, jackets and jerkins and pants; yes a rag rug’s right, it says twist twist and poke, says always underfoot, says eke out, make do, says wipe your feet carefully and enter with caution…

6S

Pamela Johnson Parker is an MFA student and adjunct creative writing instructor at Murray State University in Kentucky. She blogs at Pamela's Musings.

The Drifter

Part 2 of 6 by Joseph Ridgwell

After five hours of non-stop driving I suddenly began questioning my motives: Think about it Jude, you haven’t even called Elly to let her know you’re coming and you don’t know if she even wants you there. I fingered the letter from the clinic in my pocket and wondered if I was doing the right thing, but how could I be doing the right thing? If Elly wanted me to know she would have told me, wouldn’t she? Suddenly I was consumed with doubts, each new doubt demolishing the old doubt, bamboozling my thought processes and encouraging me to take an exit off the highway. I found myself cruising along an empty coastal road, banana plantation to the left, sparkling Pacific Ocean to the right. I stopped the car.

6S

Joseph Ridgwell lives and writes in London. Look for Part 3 of The Drifter on Wednesday, May 23rd.

On Singing

by Dawn Corrigan

They could not sing. Specifically, the women couldn't sing at all; some of the men could rumble along pleasantly enough. However, properly speaking, not a single one of that clan of Capuanos and Hogans, not even if we include their cousins the Barries and McDougals, the Montagues and Marianos, or even the more distantly-related Sturzeneggers, could carry a tune. It was their collective tragedy, then, that there was nothing any of them loved more than song. If you are a believer in Lamarckian evolution, as so many of us still seem to be despite the fact that biologists completely discredited that theory decades ago, then you might assume the family’s collective love of song stemmed from its roots in Italy and Ireland, lands where the privilege of song is not restricted to the few and where many of the peasants, from whom our heroes were surely derived, imagine their whole existences through the medium of song. If you do not believe in Lamarckian biology then you'll just have to think of an explanation yourself.

6S

Dawn Corrigan's fiction has appeared recently or is forthcoming at VerbSap, Pindeldyboz, Monkeybicycle, The Dream People, Rumble, 55 Words, Defenestration, and 3711 Atlantic. Her nonfiction appears regularly at The Nervous Breakdown.

The Significance of Six

by Ari

Six. How do I know thee? Let me count the ways. On the sixth day, God created Man, and not too long afterwards, the number 6 became known as the atomic number of carbon, based on some part I am sure by the numeral's octahedral and hexagonal properties, not to mention its divisibility by 1, 2, and 3. Over time, through fluke or fact, mankind grew riddled with six points on a Star of David, six guitar strings (for six Tchaikovsky symphonies, six Brandenburg concertos, and six Bartok string quartets, no less), six points for football touchdowns, six balls to a cricket over, six packs of soda and beer, six-legged insects, six sides of a die, Six Flags' roller coasters, six inhabited continents, the sixth sense, and six degrees of Kevin Bacon. There are many other significances of the number six, such as people born with sexfactyly, coffins buried six feet underground, and three sixes being the sign of the Devil, but perhaps the highest magnitude is to Six Sentences.

6S

Ari is on a journey of simple pleasures and roadside adventures. If you'd like to join him, check out According to Ari.

Trampoline

by Margery Daw

My window looks out onto the backyard of a neighbor who has installed a large trampoline for his children's use. Usually there are two boys, ages about 12(?) and 7(?); sometimes just one of them, with one or two friends. I like it; it's like looking out onto a backyard birdfeeder, or a zoo. Today, five or six kids were out there, including one facing away from me wearing a hot-pink shirt, with long hair. When she turned around, I saw she had small breasts that didn't bounce very much. Still, I wonder if this means everything has changed.

6S

Margery Daw is a pseudonym and part of a nursery rhyme.

Trunks

by Chris Conroy

There are people driving around right now — God knows how many — with a body, or bodies, in their trunk. Odds are most of these bodies are probably dead bodies and if they’re not dead bodies, then they’re probably kidnapped bodies which, most likely, will soon be dead bodies. But there’s also a percentage — there has to be — of strong healthy bodies that willingly put themselves into a dark trunk for a gag on a buddy, who, when told to open the trunk by the in-on-it-buddy who drove the car to the field where they planned to drive golf balls deep into the woods, would be shocked when he pops the trunk and the buddy who he thought was sick or out of town and couldn’t make it lunges up and out at him. If we can somehow, as a nation, find a way to reduce the number of dead and or kidnapped bodies in trunks and increase the number of strong healthy bodies in trunks, then we would — how could you argue? — be moving, as a nation, in the right direction. Murder and kidnapping rates would plummet. However, the heart attack rate may rise.

6S

Chris Conroy, author of Busy Doing Nothing, wrote Trunks after breakfast and before lunch.

The Drifter

Part 1 of 6 by Joseph Ridgwell

I woke early and walked to Thrifty car hire on William Street. I put down a six hundred dollar cash deposit and a further four hundred and fifty dollars as payment for a seven-day hire of a green Mitsubishi Colt. Then I set off on a road trip to Queensland in search of answers. When I left Sydney there were blue skies all around, the sun was shining in full magnitude, and it was a beautiful Australian day. I glanced at a little map of Australia spread out on the dashboard; Queensland didn’t look far away on the map, but I had no idea of scale or distance. After driving across the city and over the Harbour Bridge I headed onto the Pacific Highway.

6S

Joseph Ridgwell, author of The Last Days of the Cross, lives and writes in London. Look for Part 2 of The Drifter on Saturday, May 19th.

Grocery Shopping

by Brian Whitton

I went to the store with a list and a wad of cash. Everything in the store was sold out except for organic gluten-free rice cakes: my girlfriend's favorite snack, so I bought a dozen packages. The cashier wouldn't break a hundred, so I told her I would break her face - the security guard didn't see the humor in it. Hungry, but wealthy, I bought some farmland in Allentown, Pennsylvania that I was told could grow food year-round, because of crop rotation. Within a year, I had so much food - truly a cornucopia - that I could hold a magnificent Thanksgiving feast for me, my girlfriend, both our families, and the surrounding neighborhoods, but my girlfriend had found a new boyfriend 11 months prior; when she couldn't get in touch with me, she moved on. I left Pennsylvania broken-hearted, poor, yet still hungry, so I went home and, finally, ate a sandwich.

6S

Brian Whitton is an amateur, studying to be a hack writer one day (hopefully). He enjoys sarcasm, dramatic stories and grammar; he's kind of a nerd. Brian is very excited to be a part of short-attention-span culture.

Soul Mate Lost

by Dirty Blonde

You never sang to me, though you danced with me through our early to mid twenties. As long as there was music, we danced at any and all celebrations, as photographers and videographers immortalized our steps and as everyone else looked on in anticipation of the day that they'd see us dancing together at our wedding. But your patience ran as deeply as my impetuosity and eagerness, and after four years of waiting, I allowed myself to move on, because a decade could pass before you would actually take the next step. So, as we approach our thirties, you watched me this last time, me with my husband, as I watched you with your girlfriend, and I was grateful for the lack of music at this party. We parted ways as we always have, with a smile, a kiss on the cheek and a sarcastic comment about seeing each other again. And still, despite being married, I wait for you, to dance with you again and, at last, have you come back to sing to me.

6S

Dirty Blonde doesn't need you to know her true identity, but swears that she's a real writer and a real blonde.

Headroom

Part 4 of 6 by Madam Z

I’m telling you, maybe it’s because I’m focusing on it right now, but that thing is really driving me nuts. It feels like it’s wiggling around, and I can feel something like a pulse. It’s going “phlump, phlump, phlump.” Hey, maybe it’s a cranial pregnancy! Some wandering ovum could have found its way up there, and the last time I blew my husband one little sperm managed to wriggle up my throat and into my skull somehow. Yeah, Dr. Dimwad would love that story; he’d probably up my dose of Prozac and close his office early.

6S

Madam Z finds her padded cell quite comfortable, thank you. (Look for Part 5 of Headroom on Monday, May 21st.)

Connected?

by hippieange83

I write letters to people on my blog because I don’t have the courage to talk to them when I have the chance. I read Postsecret every week because I don’t have the desire to go to therapy. I "window" shop online because I can’t afford to buy anything at the store. I interact with my friends through Myspace because we really don’t care about each other anymore. I take web courses because I’m too lazy to go to class. If not for the internet, I may have had to live.

6S

hippieange83 isn't really a hippie, she just likes huge jeans and wants everyone to recycle. She loves English and spends way too much time online. She blogs here.

Sinister in a State of Hope

by Peter Wild

Her mother didn't approve. She said, He's a zombie in that tone of voice she reserved for pronouncements on milk (The milk is off) or the health of flowers (The flowers are dead). She tried to explain, tried to tell her mother what it was all about; but, typically, her opening gambit was denial (He is not a zombie) which didn't get her very far because, after all, he was a zombie. Not that her mother went overboard. She merely said Darling (Dah-ling), stretching the word out as if it was chewing gum or an accordion. As far as her mother was concerned, this said it all and would allow her, at some point future-hence, to preen, peacock-like, comfortable in the glow of howevermany I told you so's.

6S

Peter Wild, author of Deerhoof, makes his online home at peterwild.com. He has most recently edited The Flash, a book of flash fiction featuring contributions from the likes of Jonathan Lethem, Rick Moody and 98 other writers, and it's available from Social Disease, priced £6.99 (with all proceeds going to Amnesty International).

Dick and Pain

by Madam Z

Whenever Sadie felt she had been wronged in some way, by some bad person (usually a man), she found great comfort – delight even – in devising a make-believe revenge that was so gruesome it more than made up for whatever the original infraction was. Her most satisfying fantasy concerned Dick, the fuckwad who had dumped her, unceremoniously and without warning, and then showed up at the club the following weekend escorting Dodo, a much younger, long-haired, long-legged blond who clung to him like he was a god, instead of the asswipe he really was. When Sadie had first seen them together, she felt like a knife had been plunged into her heart, but she did not let her distress show; indeed, she forced a smile and, behind her glazed eyes, she began devising her plan. When the happy couple left the club and got into Dick’s car, Sadie would follow them, at a discrete distance, of course, in her Stealthmobile, until they reached Dick’s apartment and then she would park across the street and watch the bedroom window until she was sure the dumb duo were doing their disgusting deeds. Then she would grab her Uzi and sneak up to the house and let herself in (she still had her key), tiptoe up the stairs to the bedroom and burst in, screaming and brandishing her gun, forcing the terrified twosome to get out of the bed and sit back-to-back in two convenient wooden, straight-backed chairs while she bound them, hand and foot, with prickly hemp rope and then gagged them by stuffing dirty socks in their mouths. Then (and this was the really cool part), she would pull a pair of scissors from her pocket, cut off Dodo’s mane of golden hair, nimbly twist it into a silken cord and tie it around the base of Dick’s dick, pulling it oh, so tight, until his eyes bulged with pain, and she would just waltz away, turning out the light behind her, and drive away, making a mental note to be sure to call 911 for them after just enough time had elapsed to guarantee that his DICK WOULD HAVE FESTERED AND FALLEN OFF, but they would still be alive, and, not to worry, nothing would happen to Sadie, because she would be down in Mexico, living La Vida Loca!

6S

Madam Z, author of Headroom, finds her padded cell quite comfortable, thank you.

Losing / And... Scene

by Rachel Van Thyn

It’s like the teen life issues event from improv class. You don’t want to be dealing with that today, but here you are, late for work, and nothing seems to fit today. But it’s not really about that. You know that. It’s just a lot easier to worry about your pants not buttoning than what’s really on your mind. And your shoes don’t match either.

6S

Rachel Van Thyn currently lives in Brooklyn but spends her days working for a non-profit in Manhattan. Her work has appeared in In The Fray. She likes to study ballet and walk goats at harvest festivals.

Untitled

by L. S. Neuberg

Age eight, I knelt at the edge of the photographs my Dad used to take of the team at Championships. Age fifteen, I started shooting photographs with a camera my Grandma bought in New York, America; mostly at the sewage works near the village, which annoyed the workmen I think. Age twenty-three, I started work at a photography store, where I would print pictures for customers, amongst other things, and discovered the very real stink of dark room chemicals. Age forty-five, I started collecting photographs, black and whites mainly; I got a real kick out of that, for a while. Age sixty, I had an MRI at St Joseph's and died shortly afterward. Pull no punches; throw yourself at everything.

6S

L. S. Neuberg is not a published author. He lives an ordinary sort of life with his life-long companion: a saddle-backed tortoise his great-great-grandfather stole from the Seychelles sometime around 1860, which is on its last legs.

The Simplicity of My World

by NyKeva Sledge

I have the world at my feet and a pen in my hand. But I only have six sentences to express how I feel. The world stands still to give me time to think. The silence is priceless and golden. I let my pen touch down and scribble something gently and when I’m done I look at it slowly. Looking back up at me from my formerly blank page: “Hi Keva, How is it going?”

6S

NyKeva Sledge is a graduate of Radford University (Class of '05) and an aspiring playwrite. She was born in Nassawadox and raised in a town called Withams - both are located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Headroom

Part 3 of 6 by Madam Z

So now I have this thing in my head and I don’t know what it is. I’ve even thought about the possibility of it being an undeveloped twin stuck in there. I’ve read about that. Someone will have horrible headaches, and a brain surgeon will find tiny fragments of teeth, bone and hair somewhere in the person’s skull or base of the spine. That causes pain, though, and I don’t have pain. And Dr. Doofus insists that it would have shown on the X-rays, in the highly unlikely event that someone was in there.

6S

Madam Z finds her padded cell quite comfortable, thank you. (Look for her latest Six this Sunday, and Part 4 of Headroom on Tuesday, May 15th.)

Disappearing

by caccy46

The slam of the steel door, the sound of the lock engaging was my reminder that I was now on the other side. I turned and put my face closer to the small square window of double glass panes encasing chicken wire and looked into his vacant, lifeless black eyes. Searching for a hint of a reaction, I knew he wasn't really seeing me. I watched him slowly turn towards the endless corridor. His shoulders, fallen forward, as if the weight of them were too much for his 6'2" body to bear. Stooped like this, I watched my 18 year old son, my first born, beautiful child shuffle away, showing barely enough strength to lift one foot in front of the other.

6S

caccy46 is 60 years old, a mother of two, and has been married for 32 years. "Disappearing" is nonfiction.

An Eye for an Eye

by Rod Drake

The Great Dictator’s imperial helicopter lowered itself to the battlefield, now empty of life and littered, that was the only word to accurately describe it, with pieces of human bodies. Heads without noses or ears, crushed, bashed in, hands and arms, feet and limbs together and separate, mutilated torsos, a ghastly and limitless field of these bloody remains. The Great Dictator, hands proudly on his hips, stood defiantly surveying the human carnage, his latest massacre for ethnic cleansing or some such invented, insane belief. He laughed loudly, enjoying his triumph over these helpless, pitiful people, now no longer whole or a threat to his iron hand rule. A hand near the Great Dictator’s feet suddenly twitched to life and grabbed the dictator’s pants hem; then a foot and leg hurled itself up at the dictator’s back, knocking him off-balance as two different arms took hold of his legs and pulled him down to the ground where heads waited with mouths open and teeth ready to bite. As countless heads, hands, arms, feet, legs and torsos piled on the struggling, screaming Great Dictator, gouging, clawing and chewing savagely away at him, the helicopter lifted up into the sky and flew away.

6S

Rod Drake, author of Debt Repaid, thinks about a lot of different things, and some of those thoughts get turned into stories. You just read one. Check out Rod's longer stories in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, Flash Flooding, Flash Forward and MicroHorror.

Yesterday Morning's Adventure

by David Emerson

I awoke yesterday morning to the sound of a 1988 Chevrolet Beretta which was badly in need of a muffler, though this didn't seem to stop its owner from letting it sit running on the side of the road. Cursing myself for once again leaving the window open the night before a morning I wanted to sleep in, I swung my legs over the side of the bed and stood up. I cut a path through the clutter on the floor and walked to the window, meaning to slam it closed and block out the invading noise. Fate, however, had other plans in mind, and it sent my overeager and faithful dog bounding into my legs, tripping me. After a few awkward spins of the arms (and a quick thought, "I knew I should have replaced that screen"), I fell through the open window. Six stories isn't wasn't high enough to think much else before I died.

6S

David Emerson, author of I, is concerned about Steorn and their claim of "free energy." If they're creating energy, where's it all going to go?

Honeymoon

by Christian Smith

My first wife Keri had always dreamed of seeing Paris, but the unfortunate combination of her severe allergy to bee stings and her taste for very fresh honey left this and many other dreams unfulfilled. After a decent interval, I married Zoe, who didn’t even like honey and had no desire to mess with bees, but who shared with my first wife a love of the City of Lights. We honeymooned at the Hotel De L’exposition, in a room with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. Jet-lagged on my wedding night, I emerged from the bathroom to find my champagne-giddy bride spread across the hotel bed wearing the sauciest lingerie the city had to offer. Beside Zoe, unseen by her, was the ghastly specter of Keri; bee-stung and lumpy, amber honey dripping from her lolling tongue, one swollen finger wagging at me in jealous admonition, unwilling to concede her man or her city to any living rival. I knew we should have just gone to freakin’ Hawaii.

6S

Christian Smith, author of Six Questions, is a stay-at-home Dad in the Arizona high country, currently embroiled in the agonizingly slow process of editing his first novel.

Cup Or Cone?

by Harry B. Sanderford

After repeated dissapointments with his experiments into the field of Expeditious Nutrition (including one nearly catastrophic incident with the Ham-O-Pult), Dr. Fullerfaster, as so often is the case, inadvertantly invents the ice cream bong. Ever on the lookout for new ways to indulge an old sweet-tooth, test subject Eugene eagerly shotguns a bucket of butter brickle, gravity urging the frosty treat south with no calorie surrendered revolving a cone. Eugene delights in the sinful sensuality of the creamy cool sweet so effortlessly ingested. True love he speculates surely holds no deeper satisfaction than does this speedy delivery of sugary butterfat. Eugene is of course mistaken and not for the first time. His musings routinely fall somewhere short of insightful but then, Eugene afterall, is an imbecile.

6S

Harry B. Sanderford, author of Rebel Ravel, is a Central Florida surfing cowboy who'd sooner spin yarns than mend fences.

Email to a Cat

by Chris Killen

I have tried to communicate something to you by crawling around on the floor and biting your kneecap. I have made the sound of a grand piano falling down a flight of stairs and crushing a stunt man. I have smoked myself to death on a Friday afternoon next to a closed window. I have written you a long email. I have, on occasion, asked you to marry me. Your eyes are like the colourful windows of a church I don't go to.

6S

Chris Killen was born in 1981 and is currently living in Manchester. His short stories have recently appeared in Parameter Magazine, Pulp Net and 3am Magazine.

Summer in the City

by John Alberich

Two floors below the rats crackle through left-overs whilst we lie, folded into one another, drowsy after love, whispering our Caribbean promises. We sleep in our own stink and wander among palm trees and macaws. The blanket moans with our sweat but stars float on the lagoon - we laugh and dip our toes. Whatever scratches beneath the bed dissolves in the rush of oars that push us on to where a drum beats at the shore - and we dance. We dance knowing dawn will scatter night's potions before waking us without love - we love expecting a return to life and live knowing our dreams for what they are. But we still dream and the city is happier for their touch.

6S

John Alberich, having idled away the years tracking down dreams to bottle and label, is currently seeking willing windows in which to display his curiosities.

I

by David Emerson

I wake. I stand. I walk. I trip. I fall. I die.

6S

David Emerson is not Canada's Minister of Labor, but does enjoy their whisky.

Forget Mars and Venus

by Jason Kranzusch

Bob addressed the ancient one and said, "Oh, wise Seer, tell me about women." The Seer replied, "The intelligence of a woman is determined by her proximity to three things: cats, chocolate and 'that time of the month.'" Bob inquired further saying, "What about men?" The Seer replied, "The intelligence of a man is determined by his proximity to one thing: a woman." Bob asked, "So, in effect, the fate of the world depends on cats, chocolate and menstruation?" The Seer replied, "Pretty much."

6S

Jason Kranzusch, author of My, It's Crowded in Here, likes buffalo wings, blues music and basketball. He blogs at axegrinder and occasionally writes short stories at Poboy Muse.

Busy Doing Nothing

by Chris Conroy

There was a knock at the door. I waited. Again, knocks. My doorbell was broken. I figured the person outside my house, the one staring at my white paint-chipped door with the 2231 spray painted on it — each number a different color (2: black, 2: red, 3: green, 1: yellow) — was probably pressing that too, the doorbell, probably with their thumb, maybe a knuckle, the middle finger knuckle, but probably their thumb, that’s what I would use, my thumb, listening for a clang or a buzz, perhaps even a little medley they expected to hear — you know some people have those fancy doorbells that play like the theme song from Superman or Fantasy Island; these are the same people who have like Roger Moore or Bill Clinton on their answering machine; you call up and it’s like: “Bond, James Bond… leave a message after the explosion,” OR: “Hello, fellow Americans… in these troubled times… we need a message of hope to be left after the beep, thank you,” — coming from inside the house. But all they would hear would be the sound of their hand knock, knock, knocking… and then eventually, they would leave.

6S

Chris Conroy, author of the novel Between the Lines, is the youngest of six and is going gray. Check out an excerpt from his novel in the 21st issue of zingmagazine.

At Night

by Nathan Tyree

It isn't physical contact that she longs for. It isn't sex either. She doesn't have a word for what it is that she needs, but sex is how she gets it. Every time, in some bar choking on smoke she lets herself be chosen by a man; any man. When it's over she allows him to brush her off and force her to the door. Walking home she tells herself that there is something cosmopolitan about this.

6S

Nathan Tyree's work has appeared (or is forthcoming) in Flesh and Blood, Doorknobs and Body Paint, The Flash, Bare Bone, Dogmatika, Wretched and Violent, and The Empty Page: Stories Inspired by the Songs of Sonic Youth. He's also the author of Mr. Agitprop, and helps edit Magazine of the Dead.

Headroom

Part 2 of 6 by Madam Z

Sometimes I wonder if it could be my soul; the size would be about right. And if you’re wondering how I could know how big a soul would be, it’s from when I was a little kid, about seven or eight years old, and I went to a neighborhood church for a while, where they were always talking about “souls” and how the church could save our souls. I couldn’t figure out where or what my soul was, but saving it seemed like a good idea, since it must be pretty important or the preacher wouldn’t be talking about it all the time. Then one day when Mom was cleaning out a chicken, I saw her remove the gizzard, and I thought, Yeah, that must be what a soul looks like. So I was satisfied then, because I had a picture of my soul in my mind - it looked like a chicken gizzard and it resided right behind my bellybutton, in my abdomen. I continued to believe that for a few years and felt kind of sad when an anatomy class cast doubt on my theory.

6S

Madam Z finds her padded cell quite comfortable, thank you. (Look for Part 3 of Headroom on Friday, May 11th.)

The Hitchhiker

by Heather Leet

He stood to the side of the road with his thumb lifted waiting for someone to show some mercy and stop and offer him a ride. He had been waiting for days although to him it had seemed like months. This place, this world was so sad and he could not bear it any longer, so he had packed a bag and was heading home. He was hopeless and this was the only answer he had found. It was drastic he knew but he wanted it worse then he had ever wanted anything, even worse then he had wanted world domination and the end of the human race. He wanted all of his circuits removed and he wanted to be melted down, robot suicide they called it.

6S

Heather Leet, author of The Secret Past of Mrs. Komp, is a modern day Robin Hood, but instead of stealing from the rich she cajoles them into giving her money to help fund programs that will hopefully one day make the world a better place. She spends not enough time writing on her blog, and hopes to one day publish her collection of Love Poems to Dictators.

Karen

by Andrea Lehner

I met Karen six years ago when she walked across the street with a beautiful arrangement of fresh cut flowers from her garden to welcome us to the neighborhood. I remember feeling shabby and dirty from moving so many boxes all morning, but she was bright, and clean, and charmingly friendly. She rattled on with a well-rehearsed introduction of our quaint little block then summarized it all with a wave toward her own house: it was the one with the homeowner association’s “Yard of the Year” sign peeking nonchalantly from the petunia-lined footpath. Sipping my morning coffee, I watched as the moving truck pulled up across the street and a young couple excitedly ran up to the door to unlock it for the first time. Karen’s house had sat empty for nearly eight months now, and it would be a relief to have neighbors living there again. The young pair looked incredibly happy as they began carrying boxes into their new home; I wondered if anyone had told them yet that the previous owner had parked her car on the interstate, called her ex-lover’s answering machine, and then walked in front of an oncoming semi.

6S

Andrea Lehner is a writing student at UC Denver.

Rebel Ravel

by Harry B. Sanderford

Jericho eyed the tiny cockroach marching boldly down the tiles behind the filthy urinal he pissed waveringly over, no attendant brushing imaginary lint from his shoulders fishing for tips in this joint. It was Bike Week in Daytona and he was a rebel running free, screw those corporate stiffs. Not the first second thoughts regarding hastily made and perhaps poorly reasoned decisions chewed the edges of what remained of Eliott Bernard Gerard's better judgement. He knew real rebels rarely kept up payments on fourty thousand dollar motorcycles or riverside condos and he knew it would be him passing out apologies and excuses to superiors in the morning, for now though deadline and duty were only pestering gnats the Cuervo spared his swatting. Tonight Jericho was calling the shots and right now he had a pool game to lose, another round to buy and his eye on a skinny little tatooed lady with a foul mouth, fake tits and dirty feet. He zipped up, spat in the direction of the bug missing by tiles and kicked the flush handle with a Ferragamo heel.

6S

Harry B. Sanderford, author of Vinny the Vegetarian Vulture, is a Central Florida surfing cowboy who'd sooner spin yarns than mend fences.

Priscilla Rides the Subway

by Kimi Goodrich

Priscilla was a bit of a buttoned up girl, nothing about her life shouted excitement (or whispered it for that matter), she never thought twice about everyone still calling her Prissy at the age of 34, in fact, she didn’t even realize the irony of the name befitting her to a tee. She had a stable job working in the office of a prestigious private school in NYC, where her days bled into each other, her routine carved in a stone she etched out for herself when she was 21, however on this particular day, she was given the task of riding the subway uptown in the middle of the afternoon to meet with a young teacher her school was interested in hiring. She walked through the station, waited patiently for her train to come, preparing in her head for the interview ahead while she walked through the doors of the subway car, found a seat, smoothed down her skirt before she sat, crossed her legs at her ankles and placed her briefcase neatly in her lap. It was in this moment when she came to the realization that she was the only one in the subway car, she glanced up and down the car, noting that no one was holding onto the pole in the middle, when an idea which elicited an illicit thought popped into her head. Sliding her briefcase into the seat next to her, she took a deep breath, took off the blazer of her plain muted toned suit and placed it on top of her briefcase while glancing both ways to ensure that she really was alone before standing up and walking over to the pole. With a spark in her eyes that she could only feel, she hiked up her skirt just a bit before vaulting onto the pole and swinging fiercely around it like she imagined a go go dancer in a strip club would, she worked that pole like it was going to pay her rent, swinging around with her head hanging back, she felt unlike herself, liberated and slightly risqué for those brief seconds before she dismounted, smoothed down her skirt before she sat, put her blazer back on, crossed her legs at her ankles and placed her briefcase neatly back in her lap.

6S

Kimi Goodrich, author of My Closet, is an anomaly. Someone once told her anomalous women were more interesting.

Confession

by Erin McKnight

They hold hands as they walk. Their fingers are interlaced, but not simply because she might slip on the icy sidewalk. The day’s indulgences dictate how many neighborhood houses they’ll watch light up; this evening’s penance is at least twenty, because they had cheeseburgers for lunch. Every step is a word, every street a sentence she hasn’t spoken. She’s waiting for a sign -- a cramping calf, an untied shoelace -- to force her to divulge her sin. Some night they’ll fall out of step and she’ll tell him about the other man, but tonight their stride is even, and she’s absolved.

6S

Erin McKnight, author of Needlework, currently lives in Virginia, where she is at work on her MFA.

Mom at Zero G

by Ann Gelder

What is self? For me it's the river of words rushing through my head: chastisements, day-old conversations, and songs (just like the white-winged dove sings a song sounds like, etc.). This is my lifeline. For Mom, it turned out, it was gravity, the feeling of Earth always pulling her toward its heart. Look, she said in her last transmission from the capsule, they have these brackets on the wall where you can slip your feet in and pretend to be standing. At first I thought there was something wrong with the audio, the way her voice popped and hiccupped.

6S

Ann Gelder is working on a novel about Bigfoot. Her blog (mostly not about Bigfoot) is located here.

At Sevens

by Amy Guth

He walked out of the hotel lobby into the pre-dawn night and thought about another woman, a pretty Spanish woman, not the woman he'd just kissed in a hotel, and a night he'd spent with her in Portugal, wanting each other desperately, each aching and needing to be a haphazard nothing-love for the moment. That night in Portugal, they brushed hands, and studied each others' eyelashes and pressed into one another and intertwined and nothing about it was underhanded like some one-night stands were, no, it was genuine, just temporary. He'd no intention of loving her for more than that night, but in that night he'd loved her entirely and she, the pretty Spanish woman with girlish freckles and ideas, saw only the deliberate love before losing herself in him that night, never seeing an end to it, never seeing the temporaryness of him and he thought of her and her pretty skin in the half-darkness and how her kiss was too forced and her hands held him with desperation. He thought about the woman at the hotel again and how only minutes before he'd pressed his hands steadily but openly against her, then thought again of how he'd pressed his hands so unsteadily against the Spanish woman, pushing her hips away from him in order to pull her near to him and the stark differences between the women settled upon him. He thought a while about this and how his hands inadvertantly spoke for him and said all the things he wasn't sure he could or should and wondered if the woman back in the hotel thought anything of his hands, firmly against the small of her back yet open, not tethering her, not pleading, just presenting things openly and plainly. Almost approaching on equal footing, almost posing a question of what to do next, almost leaving the moment to follow entirely untouched, only sure she herself understood moments like the one in Portugal without judgement and he liked that about her, the woman in the hotel.

6S

Amy Guth, author of The Women of Fists and Bottles, has written about blaxploitation, Judaism, feminism, media literacy, bandwagonism, art, cult films, racism, hate crime and social irritants for all sorts of places like The Believer, Monkeybicycle, blah blah blah. She's toodling around at the moment promoting her novel Three Fallen Women and having a very nice time, thanks. She blogs Bigmouth Indeed Strikes Again. Come say hi.

Recital

by Eric Feezell

Elaine floated in a haze to center stage where stood the piano, and in her peripheral the ocean of onlookers glowed surreally. Sitting, adjusting the bench, and placing her music upon the stand, she took deep, deliberate breaths to ready herself. The auditorium waited in silence. Pushing softly into the ivory keyboard, her feet gently compressing the pedals below, Elaine began to repeat the perfectly placed movements she had consummated countless times before. For a moment she went on this way, errorless and masterful. It was then, in the second minute of the concerto, that, for whatever reason, Elaine recalled Aloysius Snuffleupagus, in all his mammoth Muppet sublimity, and her performance took a turn for the worse.

6S

Eric Feezell makes his online home here.

Love, Sorta... Kinda... Not Really

by Azama

Today, on the bus, I saw an overweight girl completely rearrange her friends and herself, so that a boy she obviously liked would sit next to her. He did, but only because the bus was full. As soon as it cleared up, like a magnet, he moved to hit on her thinner, more socially acceptable friend. I saw her face fall as her heart ripped in two. I wanted to reach out to the sad, fat girl, and hug her, and tell her that everything will be all right one day, somewhere out there there's a man who will love you and respect you for who you are, no matter how you are, and who knows, he might even be the guy sitting next to you on the bus. But... uh, not me.

6S

Azama is just your average mass transit zombie. 'Nuff said.