Mother's Secret

by Laura Bennett

The blue recycle bin swallowed the glass, shattering it into a million small pieces that mingled into anonymity with the rest of the neighborhood’s castoffs. The boys playing basketball nearby did not even look up as she unloaded another case from the back of the silver minivan, then pulled yet another from under the camouflage of baby blankets between the car seats. Trying hard not to rumple the newly pressed navy blue suit, she took great pleasure in the crashing; the wine bottles’ empty chattering together silenced at last. Yesterday, the littlest one had called the liquor store clerk by name... the day before the middle child was found in the garage lining up the pretty glass bottles from big to small, having found them hiding under the green tarp. The oldest took a big sip from the drink parading as juice in a flowered Sigg bottle nested into the minivan’s cup holder. Tomorrow is the New Year, a day for resolutions she thought as she climbed in the minivan and searched for a mint.

6S

Laura Bennett's blog is here.

New Year's Eve

by Ian Rochford

Curiously, I don’t hate New Year’s Eve, despite everything, even though every year it’s the same. My son Christopher will ring shortly after midnight because he’s been drinking, he’s alone and he just wants to talk about how his life has taken a downturn and how he has no one to share his misery and his desperation. He’ll tell me how he can’t face University anymore, how he’s failing because some girl he loved has dumped him... all those things that seem to happen simultaneously when you’re at your lowest. At first my wife used to talk to him because she wanted so much to comfort him, to let him know he was loved and not alone, but after a couple of years she would let me take the call; then she would go to bed early to avoid it; then she just left, forever. The phone rings, just after midnight, when all the horns and shouts are fading away and I answer it as usual and I listen as Christopher talks. I don’t talk back, just listen as he talks, and I listen as his words fade into broken sobs, listening to him for hours, crying softly on the phone as I gaze at the urn containing his ashes and wonder if it’s time to join him on the other end of the line.

6S

Ian Rochford, author of Minibar Blues, is an unemployed Australian screenwriter (ostensibly of comedy) who recently rediscovered the pleasures of writing short stories. He is now plundering his fading memory for all the good ideas that came and went unrecorded, which probably accounts for the maddening inconsistency of his output.

The Innocent Ones

by Spiritwolf

In our society there are innocent ones that are either being abused or being killed. These innocents need our help and they can't wait much longer. Our society needs to think about how they view and treat these innocents. There are millions of these innocents out there right now needing your help, but the best way to help is to spay and neuter your pets. The main innocents that need help are the stray cats and dogs that are running our streets, and I don't mean killing them either. We need to find them homes, because most are abandoned or lost pets.

6S

Spiritwolf is a 38 year old woman from Oregon.

The Day My Best Friend Died

by Oceana Setaysha

I never even heard the mobile phone sound with the SMS that would crush me into a million pieces. I was downstairs watching a meaningless comedy program on the idiot box which has forever embedded itself on the walls of my skull like a primitive novel carved by the cavemen of times long ago. That SMS that would change my life in so few words, that said my best friend, my little baby, was being put to sleep because he was misunderstood and I wasn't there to understand him. The SMS that told me in its unfeeling, digital words containing meaningless apologies that screamed at me from the happy glowing screen I would grow to hate. It said the needle would be injected at 12 o'clock, but when I looked at my watch I found it was already too late for me to stop it. What hurt the most is I never got to say goodbye.

6S

Oceana Setaysha is a 16 year old girl living with her family at the top of Australia. She considers herself a writer, a poet, an artist, and a musician. (People keep telling her to be more realistic.) Her website is here.

Why

by Robert Prinsloo

"But! She! Was! My! Best! Friend!"

6S

Robert Prinsloo has had stories in Dogmatika, and Soyfriends (for the Carbon Copy Commodity Exhibition at Bell Roberts Cube Gallery in Cape Town in September, 2007). He is also trying to conjure lightning out of clear skies here.

Beyond Sunday Blues

by caccy46

The heaviness of Sundays always weighted down my spirit, like the last day of a vacation, when reality was just a night's sleep away. A dark, sinking feeling in my gut - a faraway sadness, never identified, burdened my soul. It left me paralyzed on a sofa with a television blasting to drown out my thoughts. Background noise, lots of food, sleep and a feeling of dread knowing I had to ready myself for the mask I wore to get me through the week. Often the strain was too much, and I'd call in sick and hide some more. No one ever thought to guess I had secrets imprisoned behind my smiles.

6S

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

Jackpot

by Robert Aquino Dollesin

Doreen fed the slot machine another nickel, and then she pulled the handle and watched the wheels spin. She clapped as one, two, three genies lined up, all in a row. While the coins cascaded into the tray, Doreen's husband returned. He leaned forward with his mouth against her ear, revealing how much he'd lost at the poker tables. For a moment Doreen sat open-mouthed, unbelieving, and then she scrambled off her stool, fanned her flush face with her fingers and screamed. The woman sitting beside Doreen elbowed her companion, whispering, Seven lousy bucks and that woman's peeing her pants?

6S

Robert Aquino Dollesin, author of Bagged, currently resides in Sacramento, California. He delves into fiction as both a reader and writer.

Life: A Short Story

by Zietoad

My mother used to sing me this song. Life is short. Life is shit. And soon it will be over. It will be true. This time tomorrow.

6S

Zietoad is unemployed, but finds enough money to drink full time.

Why Me?

by Darrick Scruggs

I'm probably not the only one that asks that question from time to time. The reason I used to ask that question was that I was sick and unhappy all the time. The first question I would always ask, maybe it was more of a request: Lord why do you make me so irritable all the time, please let me stop scratching. Lord why me, I have enough problems, I am short with little to no self confidence, why would you make my hair fall out, Lord why me, have I not had enough problems, why would you make me lose vision in my right, Lord why me? Lord why me, I have had problem after problem, now you have given a more potent dose to my daughter, she has a more severe form of atopic dermatitis and it has cause her to be put on steroids at an early age and her growth was stunted due to the extended use of steroids, why me? Now as an adult with a beautiful wife, a beautiful family and a great business as a motivational speaker and small business coach, I ask the Lord why not me.

6S

Darrick Scruggs offers information on how to overcome adversity and obstacles here.

Tactical Advantage

by Robert Clay

He is a magnificent fellow, this samurai, as he stands before me. He might be tall, hard to tell in those plain robes and that classic warrior’s crouch. His legs are angled, feet apart, arms held high as they grip the sword hilt casually but firmly, the long sliver of steel arching high above his head. His unblinking eyes are fixed on me, calculating precisely the moment when that sword slices through the air, making a sound not unlike the whisper of death. There is a millennia of history in his stance, generations of training and a lifetime of dedication to an honorable code. I admire him greatly, but I’m still going to pull the trigger.

6S

Robert Clay, author of A Question of Physics, is a Seafarer now stranded on land. He lives in Cornwall in the UK.

Cucumber Envy

by Rod Drake

Shopping in the produce section of the local’s Ralph’s one autumn day, I ran into the most beautiful girl that I had ever seen or could possibly imagine. Luxurious long hair cascaded down, crystal blue eyes transfixed you, a dazzling, warm smile could light the darkest mood, a breath-taking face that a Renaissance artist had created out of fantasy and a body that knew just where to be round, flat, curvy, sensual and earthy. She had only one flaw, something you didn’t notice away, her immaculate beauty being so overpowering - her left hand was vegetable. Her fingers were string beans, her thumb a short carrot and her palm a firm leaf of lettuce. But then no one is perfect; everyone has at least one flaw. And that includes me - my penis is a radish (God, how I wish it were a cucumber now).

6S

Rod Drake, whose full catalog is here, is waiting for that radioactive accident that will give him superpowers. Check out his longer stories in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, Flash Flooding, Flash Forward, MicroHorror, and AcmeShorts.

A Quiet Place to Sit

by Gregory Pleshaw

A quiet place to sit. That's what New York City seems to lack in abundance. Even L.A. and S.F. have quiet cafes and quiet laid-back bars where you can sit with an open notebook and feel alone. Anonymity is NYC's stock-in-trade, but aloneness is hard to find. Everything here is a frenzy, a crush of humanity and noise, a place where everything, including an introduction, is a kind of sale. There are so many places to feel lost here, but almost nowhere to be by yourself.

6S

Gregory Pleshaw blogs at New Mexico Art News.

A Modern Fable

by Joseph Grant

Once upon a now, there was an emperor who dressed himself in many fine, multicolored, multilayered truths and waged a War on Error, as he chose to believe the flawed information spoon-fed to him by his courtiers but once slowly digested, it fit in with his own starving agenda, however ideologically mutated and evolved, but he did not believe in such things anyway, so he mindlessly went along with it, sort of like FDR invading, say, South America for the attack on Pearl Harbor. No matter what some people said or did, the war continued and if they spoke out against the Emperor’s war, they were branded “bad people” or what was called, say it with me, children, “un-pa-tri-o-tic” and had their taxes audited and conversations listened to and we all know it’s bad to listen to other people’s conversations, don’t we, children... and the laws of the land were redacted to fit the Emperor’s forever ebbing and surging contingency plans. There was an Evil Dragon that the Emperor kept extremely well-fed and highly prized and this Dragon was bathed in Oil daily to keep its scales shiny and new-looking just like the Emperor’s coat of many convenient truths and he was told that this Dragon was his magical friend and would keep all other enemies at bay while he fought his irrelevant war. Though the infrastructure of this once enchanted land was crumbling, bridges collapsing, damned dams breaking and flooding cities of this kingdom, currency at an almost all-time low and the serfs of the kingdom sometimes having to work all day and night without benefits and none for their children too, who were left behind anyway, the war machines were kept alive to keep the Dragon of Oil well-fed so the War on Error could continue in a place where the real patriotic young men and women were sent to fight and sometimes never return. Over time, the fancy truths in which the Emperor had clothed himself had all worn away threadbare and to this day still, he stands naked to the fact that to his subjects he no longer wears such elaborately woven golden threads in his Kingdom of Idiocy. Good night, children, sleep soundly if you can.

6S

Joseph Grant, whose full catalog is here, has been published in over 55 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst.

Wishing

by peggy

"Careful what you wish for." Every wish that comes true hurts. Inhale. It hurts. Exhale. Smile, and say "thank you."

6S

peggy is waiting to add credits to this bio.

The Moebius Stripper

by Guy Anthony DeMarco

I saw the travelling Moebius Stripper show in New York. The crowd throbbed with apprehension as the very attractive stripper appeared on the stage, clad in a clingy outfit with a big zipper down the front, continuing between her thighs all the way around up her back. She teased the audience with her undulations and mysterious ways, and then started to unzip herself while the crowd chanted and moved closer, expectant and thrilled, entranced by the zipper moving a little bit at a time, prolonging the pregnant air of sweaty anticipation. Groans and sharp inhalations punctuated the click-click of the zipper as it slowly unlocked its teeth, exposing what was sure to be a delightful vision, to be treasured with eyes closed during future lovemaking with wives and girlfriends. As the zipper passed between her thighs and over her pubic bone, she reached back with her other hand, grasping the tab and pulling slightly faster; the click-click becoming a solid drone as she accelerated while the crowd pushed further towards the stage, their collective breath held for one infinite moment. The Moebius Stripper was still clothed at the end of her unzipping, and although she was twice as tall as before, the crowd exhaled, then hooted and cheered for her curving figure and her manager's twisted mind.

6S

Guy Anthony DeMarco resides on a ranch surrounded by zombies and cattle. His kids enjoy burning voodoo dolls, and his wife puts up with the zombies because the view is wonderful off the back porch. Guy attempts to maintain a website, but the ghosts keep messing things up for fun.

Memory

by Adonia

I only have a few memories from when I was young and this is one of them. My sister and I rolling in the leaves on the cold concrete in the brisk fall and red and yellow and brown, and my big purple coat and her small maroon one, and she is the Queen of Sheba and I am the Prince, and we are the rulers of lands we have never seen or known and never will, lands made mythical by Bibles we have never read and never will read, on our trashbag kingdom in Cambridge, Ohio, and we are big smiles and cool cheeks and my hair is thin and orange and angles my face, which is (and still is) very white, and you can see some of the veins. It's all soft and my eyes are clear and her head is very round, and we sometimes toss leaves at each other in little, harmless handfuls and always we laugh - not roars like the ones that come from your father's deep belly and excite hairs on your neck, like when he's the monster and you're hiding from him, beneath the big chair in the living room, breathing but hardly breathing so he can't hear and you can only hear your heart - but light clicks that are more like whispers or music box chimes, and my mom is very thin and her blonde hair is very thin; it thinned after she gave birth to us and added weight to her life. I don't know if these are true memories, or just memories of memories, because they say you often confuse your memories with the past you see in pictures or on videotape, and you say, "Oh, I remember," but you really don't, because your mind tricks you that way. And we sent this one to my father (Christmas 1990) when he was away for a year doing whatever the Army still does in Korea, but mostly he was eating noodles with locals and cooking big vats of noodles for his men - he was the platoon chef - while my mom pushed out my brother from her insides. And I have seen that tape, so I don't know if I really remember the leaves and the smiles and the red, but they are all I have.

6S

Adonia is a senior journalism student at the University of Maryland, a reporter for American Journalism Review, a blogger, and an aspiring novelist.

I Am the Man Who Was Driving the Car

by Bob Jacobs

I am the man who was driving the car that distracted Henri Paul and sent Princess Diana to her death in the Pont de l'Alma underpass in 1997, plunging Britain into mourning. The following day I sprayed my Fiat Uno black, shaved off my beard, and drove down to Portugal where I disposed of the car and rented an isolated villa in the country so that I could come to terms with what I'd done. There I met and fell in love with a plain-looking girl from a nearby village who tended goats on her father's farm, and took her as my wife six months later in a traditional ceremony in a quaint rural church. On our wedding night, drunk on love and having feasted on her body and satisfied my physical desires, I laid my head on her firm young breasts and sobbed as I confessed my part in the tragedy. She told me, in broken English, that I shouldn't feel so bad, that the Fiat Uno is a shit car made in a shit country by filthy peasants, that France is the arsehole of the world, that the British royal family is descended from the inbred rejects of 19th century German aristocracy, that I could use her father's tractor any time I wanted to, and that as long as I promised never to have anal sex with her again she really couldn't give a shit about Princess Diana. Money can't buy a love like that.

6S

Bob Jacobs, whose full catalog is here, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

the day

by Tommy Hall

today i woke up a little early and was feeling a little sad. even though i know i am blessed with a good job, wonderful wife, cool car, and a sweet dog. yet those things didn't matter. i am a selfsih person and i want things my way and no other way. so i sit at my office complaining about my day. the only reason it is bad is because things seem to never go MY way.

6S

Tommy Hall - 29, a deputy circuit clerk, and a youth pastor at two churches - lives in Beattyville, Kentucky. He is not an uptight Christian.

Viva Las Vegas

by Sarah Flick

I lived in Vegas for a year, but my only memorable experience with local entertainment was a bachelorette party at a “classy” strip club. In a tipsy haze, I mistakenly entered the employee bathroom and found two g-stringed hotties vigorously enjoying each other on the floor. This being Vegas, they merely glanced up at me – clearly annoyed – and moved into the (only) stall. While I stood open-mouthed, a third, naked woman entered, listened to the slurping noises, and straddled the garbage can in the corner, pulling aside her g-string before urinating. She scowled: “What the fuck are you looking at - haven’t you ever seen a woman piss in a garbage can before?” Well, no.

6S

Sarah Flick calls 'em as she sees 'em.

Mother Misunderstanding

by Tara Lazar

My daughter married a particular kind of man — wealthy, but bourgeois; he owns his business and works with his hands, toils in dirt, sweats. He speaks without thinking first, he spews insults he finds amusing, yet you are the distasteful one should you disapprove of his humor. He buys $15,000 Jet Skis without consulting her, then crashes them in Atlantic City weekends of blackjack and binge drinking while she is left home to care for his four children. She cooks their meals, wipes their messes, soothes their tears and collapses, as fragile as a house of cards. I refuse to help; the sooner she learns what kind of man she married and leaves him, the better. I sit and wait for her call.

6S

Tara Lazar, author of A Chance Encounter, will soon have short fiction published in Boston Literary Magazine.

April

by Elizabeth Joyner

The air was thick with the smell of mold, and the heat left our temples drenched. My shirt clenched to the lowest portions of my back, and when I leaned in closer to you it felt like someone was ripping tape off my spine. We sat on the back porch, above the bog. You played the harmonica for me, the music ceasing only when you took a sip from your thirty ounce Budweiser. I wore my straw cowboy hat, sitting across from you. The southern girl in me thought it the perfect foreplay to a relationship's end.

6S

Elizabeth Joyner, author of The Shower State, is an English major. She lives in Orlando.

Suburban Solitude

by Wendy Pinkston Cebula

The dog next door is barking again, bored and lonely for human company while the busy couple are at work. A valiant effort, but no one is coming. It's just you and me out here, so rage all you want. Maybe I will, too. The cigarette smoke curls into my nostrils, negating the scent of honeysuckle vines creeping over the fence, alive with bees. If not for those bees, my first childish instinct would be to pick a blossom, and, pinching the end with my fingernail, remove the pistil to lick the drop of delicate nectar inside.

6S

Wendy Pinkston Cebula is hard at work on her first novel. She lives in New York City.

Defiance

by Rob Winters

The night is young when we go round the building with a faint bleak flicker of desire distilled in our eyes. In the dark alley we waste no further time and all of us strap the black leather belts we were wearing a moment ago around our milky white arms. The HIV infected needle is passed around and re-used, over and over again, until all of us lean back against the wall with hysterical mad smiles of starving depravity and utter satisfaction. After a while a loaded silence creeps into the alley, the possibility of disease and agonizing time consuming death struggles, while your body is slowly decomposing, has started to hit home now. The doubt is slowly spreading through our ranks, the deed is done, this is no hypothesis, the theory might be proven right or might be proven wrong and suddenly your mind goes a blank, shuts down at a horrible realization: we’re atheists. If God doesn’t exist, there’s not way to beat him.

6S

Rob Winters is an undergraduate English Literature and Creative Writing student at the University of Westminster.

What Christmas is All About

An Opinion by Linus Van Pelt



6S

Linus Van Pelt is a cartoon character created by the late great Charles Schulz. With some creative punctuation (wink), his speech from 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas" is exactly six sentences. Merry Christmas Everyone!

For Peter

by Louise Yeiser

California fires continue to rage, the headlines howled, while the rest of us continue to age. We press against the walls and watch from the last row, unable to embrace this game of hot potato, of our lives burning away, any more than we can snag the wind that swishes by the trees outside, gliding across our backyards littered with leaves that flamed to fall. Smoke and ash stuck their tongues through Peter's windows, aimed for the soul of his mountain perch that craned its neck over the ocean, and left their pieces of wet polyurethane gravel glued to its walls and ceilings, paint and poison, a finish of melted charcoal filled with sharp eggshells that pulls life into itself and, wrapping it in suffocation, feeds off it. Sawdust syrup soiled the air in Peter's den, in his bedroom, in his living room, squeezing his breath to a pale sliver before slicing it with lava flake deposits that drifted into his pool like hot fudge grit with no whipped cream, no red cherry, and no sparsely sprinkled, crunchy nuts. He dove in and swam to a safe shore with solid earth and palm-tree piers, and stood, dripping exhausted and hopeful, limp-wrapped in a spongy, moss blanket that someone threw over his shoulders, and held a steaming cup of hot coffee or maybe a swirling glass of velvet brandy that would burn his mouth before spreading cool sighs down his throat. Soothed dry, sweeping his opera glasses back and forth across the bitter-cloud stage, he would stand for ages, wanting to know when he would be able to return.

6S

Louise Yeiser, whose full catalog is here, is a creative non-fiction student at the University of Pittsburgh. Her friend Peter has returned home in time for the holidays.

Getting Younger

by Beverly Kurtin

An old saying was that life began at forty. Now the number has shrunk to sixty. Using the concept of diminishing numbers, eventually life will begin at one hundred or more. The more years I have lived, the younger I have become in spirit, in the outright thrill of being alive and the ability to no longer care what others may think of me. As the ticking of billions of clocks around the world tick-tock the passing of time - whatever time is - I find that while I no longer care about what others think of me, I find myself caring more about others without judging them and loving them more. Perhaps we are all on that one-sided, chiral band called mobius in and on where there is no beginning and no end, just an endless ribbon from which there is no entrance, no escape and nothing to do but enjoy each breath that shows we are still ALIVE!

6S

Beverly Kurtin, from Hurst, Texas, is pushing 67, but feels younger than she did when she was 27.

Sex w/a Side of No Strings Attached

by Jax

I walked out of his house that night and I told myself I would never go back - not because I didn't want to, because I needed to. Summer had ended and this no strings attached sex was starting to become slightly more involved. Rather than let him know how I felt I decided never to call and never to inquire about him amongst our mutual friends. Meetings would be purely coincidental and hopefully sparse. It was time for me to focus on the more tangible things in life, like a man who was emotionally unobtainable. We haven't crossed paths or spoken since that night... I guess the feeling was mutual.

6S

Jax is a Content Editor in the "we needed that yesterday" Urban Jungle of New York. Struggling to find a lucrative spot in the world of writing, Jax continues to use her words to protect her from the mundane, to laugh at absurdity, and to remember to always feel blessed that grammar comes to her naturally. Her blog in progress is here.

Monday Evening, 11:37pm

by Sophia Macris

Regardless, I was infatuated. Even if, inside, you were still the class president, you still walked a block from your house before lighting a cigarette, you still wanted your father to tell you your writing was good, I liked what you were trying to be. And I knew you wouldn’t stay. You left a girl to be with me, left her, bruised and battered at the age of nineteen, to a life of eating disorders and neuroses and self-doubt that no smart, pretty girl should ever have to face. Christ, she hated me so much; she’d glare at me across the dining hall, an unbecoming, childish scowl. And you went back to her three months later, just before Christmas.

6S

Sophia Macris, author of Field Trip to Symi, likes Giorgio DeChirico, M.F.K. Fisher, and the smell of coffee wafting up from the kitchen on Christmas morning.

Katherine

by C. J. Serling

The web, translucent and invisible from any but just the right angle, hung tautly across the alley between two buildings and crept up the walls nearly a storey. “How do you manage to keep anyone from finding you?” he asked, his legs dangling in the air. “If anyone knew they’d tear down your web for sure.” People hardly ever come back here, Katherine said. “I did,” he said. The ones who do don’t leave, she said.

6S

C. J. Serling, whose work has appeared in Flash Flooding, is a student of law and the classics. He is the author of The Drunkard and the Dervish, and lives in sunny Miami.

Somewhere They’ll Love You

by Tovli Simiryan

Alfred’s sadness emptied into my fists. “She won’t wake up; your mother needs you.” I opened my hands as though a child’s fingers could be wings, suggesting, “Open a window. She’ll fly away like a song.” Alfred faded against the wall while Father hid prescription bottles and blamed us both. At her funeral, no one cried, but I imagined Mother praying for feathers, a clear day; she had probably studied piano as a little girl.

6S

Tovli Simiryan is the author of "The Breaking of the Glass" and "Fixing the Broken Glass." This piece is dedicated to Al Rosso.

The Deed

by Mona Lisa Safai

I dash out of the Palace Hotel on New Montgomery. The San Francisco fog chills through my thin faded jean jacket. I’m lost in a sea of faces, but I can’t escape her desperate pleas in the hotel. In a panic, I forget my way and turn left. After a few more turns, I reach my destination. Finally back at the hotel, I deliver ice cream and pickled onions to her.

6S

Mona Lisa Safai is a writer, poet, and book reviewer in San Francisco. Published pieces include “The Unknown Rose," “The Unquiet Funeral," “Restless Senses," and poems in the Poets11 anthology. Several book reviews can be found in The Midwest Book Review, Northeast Book Review Books, TCM Reviews, and Diverse Books. She is also a contributing writer at the online journal Suite101.com.

Is This Real?

by Nicole Antoinette

I woke up halfway through the dream. My sweat was thick and clumps of hair were plastered to the back of my neck. It felt like I had slept for three days and yet hadn't fallen asleep at all; the dreams were so real. You were there; there were lots of us actually, at times, and at other times, just us. The sequence of events in the dreams are blotchy to me now, scattered behind my eyelids, continually rearranging themselves like the memories of a too-much-vodka night. All I know is that when you touched me, it was like being covered in electric sunflowers and I was unstoppable in my desire for you.

6S

Nicole Antoinette blogs at More is Better. She knows she's too old to wear her hair in pigtails, but she does it anyway. She likes cheesecake, world travel, and people who don't assume.

Cold Season

by Randeep Dhiman

No matter how many times Jill swallowed, she could not soothe the scratchiness that sat like a burr caught in the back of her throat. She could feel her left eye twitch each time her attempt to breathe clearly was met with these barbs of resistance, and could feel a fever rising, too, creating tiny beads of sweat on her nose and a dizzying chill as she sat wedged between the commuters on the bus. No doubt they were all watching her, she thought. She reached into her sweater to retrieve one of the tissues that lurked, pre-wadded, in all of her pockets, and tried to dab inconspicuously at the accumulating shine. The man to her left coughed and shifted. Best to get off at the next stop and walk the rest of the way.

6S

Randeep Dhiman thinks she's coming down with something.

Three Legs at Evening

by The Old Guy Up Front

First, the kid at the movie, without asking, sold me a senior ticket for Fried Green Tomatoes. Or was it The Silence of the Lambs? You'd think I'd remember 1991. More stuff happened later. Today, having seen No Country for Old Men with my mother-in-law, who repeatedly covered her remaining eye and said "Oh!," I ordered black coffee and the pork plate at Billy Bob's Bar-B-Q. The menu said "Children and Seniors;" however, except for the meat, my portions were no smaller than the young guy's at the next table, who is still, I'm sure, really fat and sweating a lot.

6S

The Old Guy Up Front is retired, still writing, mostly poetry. An appalled Southern Liberal Democrat, he blogs occasionally here.

The Sentinel

by caccy46

Sara sat close enough to her mother to wriggle her little hand under her mother's thigh and let it rest reassuringly - pressing her body against her mother felt safe; it allowed Sara to monitor every breath her mother took, thinking this was the way to guage her Mom's unreadable silence - long, even breaths were good; but Sara would look up anxiously if she felt her mother's body quiver or inhale unevenly when a mourner would pass, hold her hands and whisper words of condolence in her mother's ear. Sara was furious if a person made a tear roll down her Mother's cheek, and she'd stare hatefully at anyone who reminded her Mother of her sadness. Sara appointed herself the one to keep her Mother unharmed. She dutifully watched her mother's still face and dry eyes fixed on a memory that Sara never learned to read. In this way, she cared for her remaining parent for forty years, desperately anticipating a tragedy, a constant barometer of impending doom. When it was time for her Mother to die, Sara gladly relinquished her self-imposed burden to the earth, leaving her only with angry memories of a Mother who never demanded a thing.

6S

caccy46, author of A Child's Words of Wisdom, is 60 years old, a mother of two, and has been married for 32 years.

Details of an Author’s Divorce

by Adrian S. Potter

Their marriage starts out cutesy, like most do: a kiss for every red stoplight, lingerie tossed to the floor like logic, two people feeding each other love with an eager spoon. But after the honeymoon phase, they get lost in the silence between thought and touch, where anger forms a hole so endless it echoes. She has an affair with a supervisor from her office, so the couple argue for days. He wants to move beyond the wreckage in order to save their marriage, so he pretends that nothing ever happened. One day she asks him sweetly to write a story with a happy ending, but he can’t do it – he just stares at a blank sheet of paper. The empty page becomes the white flag of their surrender.

6S

Adrian S. Potter is a writer/poet with a desk drawer full of rejection slips, which does nothing but motivate him. His work has been published worldwide in different literary journals, magazines, and websites. His fiction chapbook, Survival Notes, is forthcoming through Cervená Barva Press. He is not related to Harry Potter, but would pretend to be his cousin for a lucrative book deal. Additional propaganda can be found here.

A Ghostly Encounter

by James Boyt

I was 31 years old the first time I saw a ghost. I remember it well as I was sat on the bog having a shit at the time, and it just popped up, bold as you like, from the plughole in the sink. Looked like something straight out of Scooby Doo it did, a white sheet with two black holes for eyes. It was moaning and groaning and wooooooooing, and then, and I swear it had the voice of Officer Dibble in Top Cat all those years ago, it started saying things like "You are in grave danger" and "Before the sun rises three times..." Lucky for me, though, I'd been cleaning when I got caught short, and the vacuum cleaner was still in the bathroom, so I did what anyone would have done in the same situation: I switched on and sucked that bugger right up. Well, I couldn't wash my hands with all that racket going on, could I?

6S

James Boyt, author of Dreaming of You, is a 31 year old IT worker from the Southeast of England, who firmly believes that, despite lack of ideas and motivation (not to mention talent), that bestselling novel is living inside him somewhere, if he can just find someone to write it for him.

Corrida

by Joseph Grant

As the boisterous roar of the arena dissolved into an reverent silence, the matador having just performed a flawless veronica with a swirl of his red cape, now held the crowd and his sword firmly in his grasp, the sun glinting off the sharp tip of the blade, dressed in his elegant and colorful traje de luces, he pointed the rapier towards his enraged adversary, a massive bull weighing in at 575 kilograms and for all present, the moment of truth had finally arrived. In anticipation of the kill, the torero shifted his weight from one leg to the other and tried to shrug off the bad omen of the poor performance of the novillero before him who had missed his mark, much to the contempt of the crowd and he hoped that he could strike the bull cleanly and not leave the gritty terracotta littered with blood from one wailing animal and debris and seat cushions from the other; the disapproving crowd. Oven-like heat wavered off of the sand under the sweltering noon-day sun as a single, cool rivulet of perspiration trickled down his cheek, while the only movement to be observed above the sunburst painted wall that ran the length of the entire stadium was that of the vendors incessantly on the run, hocking clinking bottles of Corona for 2 pesos apiece to a crowd already on the collective edge of their seat. The matador stood stone-still like one of the weather-beaten statues in the ancient cobblestoned plaza, waiting for the right moment to finish this macabre dance and noted the brilliant crimson froth at the bull’s nose and mouth, the dark wet matting of the fur on the animal’s neck and back where it had been lanced by the banderilleros and picadors and he listened in wonder as the only sound to be heard was the almost locomotive and mechanical breathing of the frightful black specter in from of him. He thought of how the ancient people of the region believed the bull to be the devil incarnate and empathized with them as it glowered back at him with fiery red eyes, sputum oozing from its gaping maw, possessed horns that could readily gore a man and how the town sent only its bravest to face death in this primeval gladiatorial tradition borne out of fear, praised by victory and marred by tragedy. As the two lives came together in the finality of the inevitable moment, the somberness of the age-old ritual was torn asunder, not by the bull suddenly charging or the matador losing his nerve but by the lone voice of an American woman shouting at him from the stands: “If you kill that bull, you’re an asshole!”

6S

Joseph Grant, whose full catalog is here, has been published in over 55 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst.

My Six Sentences

by Neelofar Hafiz

Hell within our own soul that only consumes the money lovers. I take but don't give is the motto of this world and it is spreading like the disease we are. Timeless ticking of our biological clock, waiting to really burst and kill us with our consumer heart. Skinny animals are like those faces we see on the news, of real people. Taken down to the ground in our hidden social class of the world. As we sit listening or even reading the whispers of the outspoken in our cosy little homes.

6S

Neelofar Hafiz is just a 19-year-old girl (and proud Muslim) from outer London wishing to spread her words wherever and whenever.

Love Seen Through a Window

by Bob Jacobs

One day after school, when I was six years old, my mother sat me on the sofa and told me, while staring at her fingernails, that my father had been killed that morning while driving to work. Within weeks his clothes and tools and books had all gone from the house, every reminder except for a photograph of him smiling, which my mother kept by her bedside for the next thirty years. The photo was the window through which I remembered him from that day on as he was erased from conversation and memory, cleansed from the world except for that single black and white smile in a cardboard frame. I resented my mother's silence, her refusal to discuss the man I never grew to know, a resentment that gnawed at me until her dying breath when she took all her knowledge of him with her. More than a year passed before I lifted the photo from the frame and discovered the envelope on which was written my mother's name in my father's hand, and inside the brief note that exposed every one of her lies. And with them her love for me.

6S

Bob Jacobs, whose full catalog is here, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

Minibar Blues

by Ian Rochford

The whore leaves, unhappy that he had to pay her in small notes and coins, but he can’t sleep so he tosses down the last shot of bourbon from the minbar and turns off the flickering static of the television. The silent desert night invades the room, broken now and then by 18-wheelers and in the bleak comfort of loneliness he remembers back when he was the king of cons, the grifter supreme who slept in the best hotels, in beds of damask and Egyptian cotton, sipping Cristal with lithe beauties. He, who never paid for anything and always left by the front door, “Come again” ringing in his ears, now carries old teabags so he can top up the minibar bottles and pays aging prostitutes with coupons and change. Soon, he will slip stealthily out of the room, carrying his shoes to his long overdue rental car and coast silently out to the highway before starting the engine, before the sun has risen. Before he has to see this room in daylight, the scuffed paint, shabby carpet and the stained tiles. Before his last lie falls apart and the morning manager, more alert than his nocturnal counterpart and flanked by two unsmiling cops, knocks on the door to ask why he was given this room on a card belonging to a dead man.

6S

Ian Rochford, author of Scrubber, is an unemployed Australian screenwriter (ostensibly of comedy) who recently rediscovered the pleasures of writing short stories. He is now plundering his fading memory for all the good ideas that came and went unrecorded, which probably accounts for the maddening inconsistency of his output.

Deception

by Stephanie Burton

Why do we hurt the ones we love? To make a point, to show our strength, to prove we are the conquerors? I piled BandAids on the wounds he left, but they bled through. I wrapped my head in gauze, took drugs to numb the pain, but I could still feel the sting. At night when I laid in the bed I could smell the rotting flesh. The stench of heartache is unforgettable.

6S

Stephanie Burton, author of Angel Lust, 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.

Please Don't Knock

by Anna Vera Williams

Footsteps outside my doorway. Please don't knock. Sometimes they pass, down the hallway. Sometimes they knock. Am I hiding... am I wanting to be left alone? Or is it reminiscence of Russia?

6S

Anna Vera Williams is a poet. She has been writing poetry since the age of four. Her poems can be found here.

Less is More

by Warren Miller

Russell put his pen to the paper. Russell Stratton was a kind, loving, and caring husband, father, and friend. Finding fault in his previous written statement, Russell scribbled out the sentence in favor of something more honest. Russell Stratton was a selfish man who was cruel to his wife, ignored his children, and took his friends for granted. Russell decided that perhaps honesty was not appropriate for the occasion and settled on something more ambiguous. Writing one's own obituary is a complicated thing.

6S

Warren Miller is a decent human being. (Unlike Russell Stratton.)

The Mexican Skirt

by Teresa Tumminello Brader

I asked to wear the skirt, a souvenir of a long-ago trip to Mexico, every time I visited Grandma. We tied its wraparound strings tightly around my immature waist, fastening the excess material with a big safety pin. I lifted the heavy fabric up from the floor and spun around. Grandma clapped her hands together as she sang, “Frankie and Johnny were lovers.” Her voice wavered when she hit the high notes. I twirled around the den, imagining myself older.

6S

Teresa Tumminello Brader, author of Lucky, was born in New Orleans and lives in the area still. Her stories have appeared most recently in Brink, Hobart, and Clapboard House, and are forthcoming in Route 66 and The Ranfurly Review.

Burn Marks

by Liz Cody

"At the age of 18, I cared for my father as he died of lung cancer." Each time I run the phrase through my mind, across my tongue, I don't feel the cold drown of grief but something sharp that burns hot, like guilty lies. The facts are true on paper at least, little white papers like the sales receipts for cartons of Marlboros - one of my earliest memories - to be kept in the freezer until the the ritual of his fiery consummation was complete, and papers like tax forms and birth certificates and divorce settlements, ritual papers, evidencing the fiery consummation of my mother, and the burn marks he left on her body, one of which grew up to be me. I lived 18 years barely knowing the "flames from whence I'd sprung" until that last hour, when all the fires he'd ever lit were finally consuming him, and his body was placed in my care, aglow with pain, the doctors shooting light into his bones and flesh to show him his wounds, trading metaphors of darkness for light, and light for death, death in his lungs, death in his gut, his thighs, his bones, his brain - his body strung throughout with the burn marks of a million Marlboros burned onto black plastic by x-ray and back-lit by a white fluorescent tube. It was only through that confusion of light and dark, that shadowed cleft between life and relief that we snuck in - to a place so sparse and uninhabited and directionless that only the inevitable flow of time could judge how I pushed and dragged his pain-eaten body towards death. There was no cruel sense of justice, no satisfaction in seeing him suffer; I administered his death rites without anger, without love, without regret, without feeling, in that numb shadowland where the distinctions of accusation and compassion, perpetrator and victim, denial and duty could not confuse the task at hand, and it is only now, when my greyness is pierced by the illuminating pity of your eyes that would glow at my sorrow and fasten to my past such images of shining angelic devotion and tearful broken-hearted longing and loss, that my own dry eyes begin to burn.

6S

Liz Cody is young and has plenty left to say.

Spider's Web

by austere seeker

From cream-silk covered walls at the hotel, sepia portraits of kings and chieftains, gem-encrusted swords and assorted daggers in hand, look down upon at the world at large. Disdain, whimsy and a fine temper. Intricate pen etchings, with the names of the rulers in a sycophantic flourish. His Excellency so-and-so. Foreigners in Brooks Brothers black rush past, panting as they chase yesterday's yen with a Blackberry. Kings, Englishmen, and the mad march of time.

6S

austere seeker, author of Red, lives, works, and writes in Mumbai.

Not In Its Original Colour

by Bob Jacobs

So you pick up the phone at ten to five and call your wife from the office, and when you tell her that you'll be working late there's a quiver in your voice that makes you sound insincere, and you know by the pause that follows that she heard it. When she asks how come you're working late again, because until recently you'd never worked late in all those years, her voice quivers too, and you know - you absolutely know - that she's wondering whether you're having an affair. Afterwards, when you put the phone down, you lean back in the chair and clasp your hands at the back of your head - the only part of your scalp that still has hair, and not in its original colour - and your belly strains against your shirt while you grin at the ceiling looking like your own father. A few minutes later the office empties as people filter home, like Chrissie the new PA who never looks you in the eye, and Marlene who's screwing the guy from accounts who drives a Porsche, and Karen the office slut who, tight-lipped, turned her cheek towards your attempted kiss at the Christmas party despite having had a skin full, most of which you'd paid for, before going home with some young guy whose face you can't remember. You grin because none of these women even knows you exist, because none of them ever wants anything more than a signature from you, because actually there is no work for you to do at the office this evening so you'll be shuffling paperwork for a couple of hours, but you know - you absolutely know - that when you go home tonight it's to a woman who still thinks you're attractive enough to worry about when you call and say you're working late. Hell, yeah.

6S

Bob Jacobs, whose full catalog is here, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

Thirst

by Alejandra Ramos

On an impulse, she bought a bottle of Orange-Orange Vitamin Water at the 7-Eleven last night and drank it. She felt closer to him for a moment while she swallowed, making up for those times she'd refused for reasons that never really existed. "Water sans vitamins," she'd said while she stretched out on his moonlit bed waiting for him to come back from the kitchen cool-skinned with clinking glass in hand. She grips the bottle and gulps quickly now, attempting to fill the gaps with the only piece of him currently within reach, but as she nears the plastic bottom she understands: two dollars and fifty cents of citrus-flavored water on a convenience store shelf just won't cut it. This, she notes, is one of those times when the sum of the parts will never, ever equal the whole. She misses the whole.

6S

Alejandra Ramos lives in New York City, where she is a magazine editor, writer, and consummate daydreamer. She occasionally remembers to update her blog, Sent from My Dell Desktop.

Silently Watching

by Beth Doughty

"Miserable old man, even he deserves a prayer." The dirt flew from her frail hand and crashed across his casket. We all looked down silently at the hole in the ground while quietly contemplating my grandmother’s stoic grief. Decades before, she’d been taken by this budding opera singer, this con man - a handsome tenor with his dark hair and clear green eyes; the pride of Tuscaloosa. He abandoned the family, leaving her to raise five kids on her meager salary, to pursue new dreams, new women, new cons only to return at 86. He called my father, “son, it’s time I come home,” and here he lay, and here we all stood silently... watching my grandmother.

6S

Beth Doughty is a Systems Analyst who dabbles at being a humorist on her website The Big Blue Mess. (She doesn't let reality stand in her way, and she's okay with being funny only in her own mind.) When she grows up, she’d like to be able to say she's a writer.

North

by Andy Zebrowitz

Grit and oil had accumulated beneath his fingernails, covered his knuckles, worked its way up his forearms, and he wiped it off half-heartedly with an old towel as the hood slammed back down with a reverberating thud that echoed across the highway. It was not a well-done job, but it would have to do, and he placed an old screwdriver and wrench back into the toolbox in the trunk. This car, he knew, was not long for this world, and that was okay, for his destination held promises of something better. Just one more day was all he needed - boiling radiator, cranky fanbelts - and he'd be where he knew he should. After that, he imagined his future sketched out in front of him with the open-ended purity reflected in these miles of asphalt from here to horizon. Just one more day was all he needed.

6S

Andy Zebrowitz lives in Atlanta but suspects more interesting things await him elsewhere, and hopes that someone will help him find his destiny.

One Little Christmas Tree

by Rosie Adams

The one we've chosen is a four foot Norwegian that claims to possess excellent needle retention, good branching, and a scent far superior to that of its fellow trees. When we get it home and take it out of the netting we see that it leans precariously to the left and is missing numerous branches. There isn't enough tinsel in the world. We sigh and it just wobbles apologetically. We sigh again, louder. I know you feel I've let you down, it says, but trust me, you could never feel as let down with me as I do with myself.

6S

Rosie Adams is a nineteen-year-old student from London, England. She likes writing very short stories and singing very loudly.

What Happens When the Charm Runs Out

by Victor S. Smith

There was something about the way that the door closed, a muffled whump versus a tell-tale, I'm not done yet slam, that told me she was done and wouldn't be back. The air hung heavy and I waited. Usually if I counted to ten she would be back with her finger pointing at me, in the face, thumping my chest and she would continue to scream, the spit and vitriol of her anger filling the empty spaces in the room. But this time, she didn't say anything; she stood there, rigid, unwavering with her arms folded across her chest. She just looked at me and shook her head - and that was another thing, there wasn't a tear anywhere on her face, no waterworks, not even the red of the eyelids that said she had been crying, nothing; she was a Mojave Desert of emotion - grabbed her bag that was at her feet and walked out past me into the hallway. I could hear her shoes clicking down the parquet floors: one, two, three, four... but there was nothing: and then she was gone.

6S

Victor S. Smith, who asked What's On Your Mind?, is undertaking a frightening new endeavor. He is trying to dedicate three hours every day to writing. Follow along at Marlowe's Sketch Pad.

Only the Good Die Young

by Sean

"I'm too old for this shit" the NCO thought to himself, shaking his head to try to clear the ringing from his ears and the tunnel vision from his eyes. The I.E.D. had detonated close to the humvee, lifting it and spinning it around. Ptang-tang-tang he heard, as small caliber rounds impacted with the armor plating on his vehicle. "SKI, Light'em up!" he roared, smacking the thigh of his turret gunner, which was just inches away from his head. Hearing no response, no "Got it Sarge," feeling no rocking vibrations from the huge M-2 .50cal firing, he leaned over to look up at his gunner. Seeing the lifeless body, the helmet and part of the top his head blown away by the explosion he screamed in his head, the rage building: "FUCK, SKI, NO, NOT SKI, HE'S JUST A FUCKING KID!"

6S

Sean is just a Regular Joe.

The Aphrodisiac

by Peter Wild

"All men," Martin, her boss, told her, "feel, in their innermost innermosts, that they are put-upon and undervalued and neglected by their nearest and dearest. What’s more, this feeling only intensifies as the years go by." Louise squirmed in her seat. The last thing she wanted was to be having a conversation about her personal life with her odious boss, a man who smelled of cigarettes and coffee and who, furthermore, had about him the dispiriting air of a man on the cusp of some dramatic and showy display of failure. "Take it from me," he said, perching on the edge of her desk thereby assuming the role of confidante, "if you were to go home this evening and say to your other half something along the lines of I’m horrible to you sometimes, aren’t I?, I guarantee: you will make his day." Martin drew closer (Louise could feel her shoulders bunching the closer his mouth drew to her ear) and whispered, "I guarantee it will be the best aphrodisiac your hubby has ever known;" in response, Louise involuntarily shuddered, the thought of sex and her boss conjoined nauseously in her mind with the notion of many men toiling, bare-chested and sweaty, amid a phalanx of subterranean machinery.

6S

Peter Wild, whose full catalog is here, is the editor of The Flash & Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall. You can read more here.

Depression

by Bob Jacobs

Christie doesn't appear in photos. There's background where Christie should be. I lie awake nights thinking about this while Christie slumbers beside me in the dark. She'll slip out of bed at daybreak. I'll turn over. And I'll wonder why there's no depression on her pillow.

6S

Bob Jacobs, whose full catalog is here, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

Purely Decorative

by Michael Mira

She left a note on the dining room table that's only ever used for Thanksgiving dinner. It was the table's only purpose in its mundane existence, and what an amazing coincidence that she placed the letter on top of it. You never had an impact in my life, the note said. Ever since the day I found that little note, I began eating my breakfast on the dining room table. It lost its gloss and in exchange found a purpose for its existence. Maybe it wasn't a coincidence after all.

6S

Michael Mira is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Houston, Texas. His witticisms can be found here.

Midnight Snack

by Peggy McFarland

The toddler’s eyes grew wide at the large green dragon with purple spots looming over the side of her crib, cooking french fries. He exhaled a low flame to crisp the potato wedge before he offered it to the child. She reached for the fry, grasped it in her chubby fist and... nothing. After the fifth attempt, she howled. “Shh, you’re having a bad dream,” mom soothed after running to the child’s room. No, not bad, frustrating, the child wanted to say, but she didn’t have the words, plus mom rubbed her forehead - the memory of fries and the dragon erased.

6S

Peggy McFarland, author of Cheated, was thrilled to learn she was a finalist for the Word Smitten 1010 contest. It truly was great to be considered. When frustrated, she no longer rubs her forehead.

Blankets

by Steve Himmer

The sticky heat and muffled sound remind Martin of lying in bed when he was eight years old and living in one of many cramped apartments he shared with his mother. He listened to the adult voices growing louder in the next room as she fought with the man they were living with then - the one he remembers as only a walrus mustache - and Martin knew that in the morning they would move somewhere else the way they always did after that kind of fight. Despite the dead, city heat in his room, he pulled the bedclothes up over his head until the voices were almost drowned out. Soon he was dripping with sweat so he peeled off his sweaty pajamas and pushed them out of the bed, then pulled the rattling box fan from the window into the tent of his blankets and sheets. Naked and clammy in that mechanical breeze, he sang to himself through the blades of the fan and pretended he was a musical robot instead of a boy beneath a pile of blankets. Eventually he fell asleep, and when he woke up the fan was back in the window and his mother had already packed his few things.

6S

Steve Himmer's stories have appeared most recently at Pequin, Night Train, and 21 Stars Review. "Blankets" is excerpted from a novel called SCRATCH, which he will probably let you read if you ask. He is the author of Precis, and keeps a dull blog.

The End of Family

by Todd Abrams

Gone now is the child's laughter like a chime in the gentle spring. The memory of her bore a hole so deep into the mother's soul it could only be filled by pills and coffee cups full of vodka - one night too much of both. Left was the father whose heart soon lost its will to beat. Before the final flash of nothing he saw his little girl, a tiny light floating down the stream of his grief. He stretched to hear her crystal voice. Don't worry, daddy, there will always be sadness and the moon.

6S

Todd Abrams writes in Ferndale, Michigan.

Ideal Girlfriend

by Violet Hansen

Her tiny frame barely cast a shadow as the light from the open fridge flooded the room where she paused for a moment to survey its contents and enjoy the cool air on her bare skin. Her great shock of jet black hair tickled where it lay down the middle of her back and she was amazed that she could still feel so subtle a sensation. His instructions had been clear and she repeated them in her mind as she reached for the ham but drew back her slender hand almost in one, complete motion. He would know the mistake had been deliberate and his rebuke was always the same: "There will be no reward for topping from the bottom." She reached for the yellow mustard, a slight smile curling her mouth as she considered the consequences. "Cheech, your sandwich is ready," she called to him lightly, knowing that later she would fuck with the laundry.

6S

Violet Hansen is a pseudonym. She is the author of Our Parents and is currently working on numerous projects (and not finishing any of them). She lives in Washington.

Dear Liza, a Hole

by Jessica Hulett

Liza Jacobs didn't mean to bludgeon her husband Henry with a golf club; rather, her intention was to simply make him stop asking her what to do about the hole in the bucket. Like every other task assigned to him in their 30-plus-years marriage -- not officially assigned, of course, it was just understood -- Henry Jacobs required so much direction that in the end, it felt as if Liza had completed the task herself. She suggested fixing the hole with straw as a joke, for God's sake; she hadn't thought he'd actually try it. After he did just that and failed, the conversation just wouldn't end; the axe was too dull, the stone was too dry... you get the idea. When she hit him in the mouth with the golf club, she just wanted the questions to end, to have a moment when she wasn't required to provide her Dear Henry with information he could have easily found on Google. Hours later, she realized that the plastic cork from her bottle of Yellowtail Shiraz was a perfect fit.

6S

Jessica Hulett wants to be a rock star when she grows up.

Morning Walks

by Stephanie Wright

She almost kicked the tombstone she was so angry, but then she was always angry at the five a.m. slog through grey slush that had once been pristine snow and now only reminded her of her own soiled humanity. It was a matter of honour for her, honour and pride, to beat Apollo's chariot to the cemetery and be sitting there, arse freezing to ice cubes on the hunk of pink marble, when the sun finally rounded the tops of the elms ringing the old place. She'd be halfway through her flask of English Breakfast by then and in sore need of a loo, but this was what he'd wanted - this place with its silence and its bucolic charm. Most days, she'd have at least one one-sided conversation where she threatened to dig him right up and turn him into dust, something practical and portable that she could put into a beautiful cloisonne jar or hand-carved box made of the bleeding elms he loved so much, anything at all to keep him close to her always and stop this infernal trekking back and forth through the bog and brambles. Hell, just the day before she'd nearly run into the new vicar coming out the back of the chapel for his morning walk with the dead, and some encounter that would have been with her already worked into a state over the sub-freezing temperatures! Part of her was absolutely positive the burial was his last act of power over her, making sure she took this daily communion with him after his own fashion, although she conceded in her more generous moments it was possible he just liked the quiet.

6S

Stephanie Wright is a social psychologist on faculty at Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina. She is the author of The Witch War Histories, an urban fantasy series currently at four novels and counting with books five and six in progress. Triplex Coniunctio, the first in the series, was first published in 2004. A self-admitted flake and indecisive adolescent playing at being a grown up, both she and her writing can be found here.

Wolf at the Door

by John Parke Davis

Just the other night I heard a knock at the front door, which was odd because we don't get too many visitors. On the other side stood a lazy-looking wolf, a smile cocked awkwardly across his face. A battered old fedora looked out of place on his head, and half his fur had been lost to mange, or worse. "Can I help you?" I asked. "What say, chum," he said, "got a room I can hole up in for the night?" I knew I shouldn't, but the damn thing was just so pathetic I couldn't say no.

6S

John Parke Davis, by day, fights/defends crime/law and order (but not necessarily in that order) as an attorney. By night, he sleeps and dreams odd dreams. He and his brother give away fresh, hot stories at their website and they would love for you to visit. (They also have a blog.) John is the author of A Visitation.

One Last Dance

by Joseph Grant

At the Shady Oaks Hospice, most of the nursing personnel had gone home for the holidays and the convalescent center was unusually light-staffed tonight, Estelle Harrington murmured to herself with a despondent sigh; after all, it was Christmas Eve and those who didn’t have to be here were long-gone and here she was again, alone as always, her family having grown as cold and as heartless as the winter outside her forgotten window. Mrs. Harrington could not bear the notion of being in the home another worthless year just wasting away as she considered it; although to the friendly staff she was a local celebrity, interviewed by the press every birthday as she was after all, their oldest patient at 110 years old and to this end, she often remarked to the orderlies: “I fear that God has forgotten me.” Day by day and one by one, Mrs. Harrington collected the mild sedatives the nurses gave her for sleep, pretending to swallow them but instead craftily hiding them up against her gum on the side of her cheek until she had amassed roughly thirty or so pills in a hole in her pillowcase; that should do the trick, she thought with a sly smile, if the Lord has forgotten me, I will just have to gently remind Him I was still here. When Mrs. Harrington had been tucked away in bed for the evening and the few nurses and orderlies left had snuck off to exchange gifts in the lounge, she carefully slipped the pills into the glass of water beside her bed and watched them dissolve in a fizzle as Christmas lights twinkled off the door and onto the glass giving the ritual an ethereal but bizarrely festive glow and a smile crept across her face as the lights blinked upon the photo of her husband, Walter, dead 61 years last May, dressed as a young man in his striking doughboy outfit during the Great War. She missed and often lamented for the one true love of her life and was terribly lonely without him all of these years and she determined it was time she see him again as she raised the glass to her lips with a trembling hand and nearly dropped the tumbler, startled at the inconceivable sight of her doughboy Walter; handsome and young again, standing at the foot of the bed. Without hesitation, she found herself getting out of the bed and taking his hand in hers and as he sang the song he had sung this very day, their wedding day in 1920; (“May I have this one last dance, Marie, just like we did that night in Paree?”), they danced around the room in the moonlight and she caught sight of herself smiling in the mirror, no longer an elderly, withered woman but transformed into the ravishing, young beauty she had once been, her prayers having been answered, she was finally ready to pass on to the next realm, saved by her one true love and to be by his side, for all eternity.

6S

Joseph Grant, whose full catalog is here, has been published in over 55 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst.

Angel Lust

by Stephanie Burton

There's never enough time or the right time or belief in time. There's too many demons, not enough exorcists, no hope, no trust, no chance... and yet sometimes on very rare nights, we find ourselves smoothing down the fear for a few hours, whispering to each other, "Let's just enjoy this." I'm looking at him, and suddenly his mouth is on mine. I'm hungry, starving, asking permission, running my mouth over the sweetness that melts across the plains of his rising chest. I've got his hands pinned above his head and he's gulping at my neck, my breasts, gasping, pleading with me. We wrestle, tangled limbs and blankets, desire and fear until I'm curled on top, breathing with him as one and whispering in the dark, "Please, please let me give you what you deserve."

6S

Stephanie Burton, author of Finding Truth in Reflection, 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.

A Chance Encounter

by Tara Lazar

He approaches you with a thick wad of computer print-outs, a hundred pages of nothing but random 0s and 1s. You are taking AP Calculus your junior year in high school, a subject forced upon you for the benefit of college applications, yet no one realizes you understand nil, having been absent the day the teacher defined e. He spreads the papers onto the floor and circles groups of 0s in red - if you get one 0, a second 0 is more likely than a 1, according to his odd rules and imprecise scenarios. He tries to convince you that he can crack the roulette wheel at Harrah's, there is a recurring pattern, don't you see? You nod to placate him, the sharp smell of gasoline and grease still on his skin. "It was lucky I met your mother," he says, patting you on the back, believing you'll help him locate structure in chaos, the three bets in the middle of infinity that will change his life.

6S

Tara Lazar, author of Ice Dancing, has never won anything at the roulette wheel (although she's pretty good at picking the ponies).

Pretty Smile

by Mike Stewart

A pretty girl smiled, catching his attention through the dappled blue light, warming the atmosphere around him in almost imperceptible degrees, spawning a provocative, mellow feeling. The musician, an aging, portly negro shuffled over the stage, picked up his guitar and began to play the Blues, the poor man’s opera. Relentless, lamenting, so recognizable, the music to remind us of moments so hard to endure, but sweet to recall: of love, aching, passionate love. Blues, Jack Daniels, pretty girls with enchanting smiles, and a heart full of the sweetest pain. All he ever needed at that moment in one dingy Saigon bar. He leaned back and stretched his legs, tilting his chair slightly, pushed his hand through his hair, and all thoughts of home out of his mind.

6S

Mike Stewart was born in Scotland, but has lived in Amsterdam for over 30 years. He has previously had some of his work published online.

Swing

by Daniel Bailey

The universe expanded once more. At the time, I was lifting a forkful of noodles to my mouth, listening to pop country through my neighbor's wall. My body took no notice of the expansion, just kept ticking, but I knew it happened. I tried to put it aside, let it become one of those things that you just let go of, like a rope swinging over the edge of a lake. But the mind does things that cannot be explained. It's like I swung back from the edge of the water and collided with the tree.

6S

Daniel Bailey lives in Muncie, Indiana. His work has or will appear in Word Riot, NOÖ Journal, SmokeLong, and other places. He blogs at Metaphysical Dick Touching.

The Note

by Mrs. White

From as far back as I can remember poor spelling has always been my Achilles heel, and thanks to Catholic schools filled with nuns who'd rather hold spelling bees than prepare an actual lesson, I got the opportunity to flaunt my flaw with humiliating frequency. Though an avid reader, a strong writer and overall quite intelligent, I was always the worst speller in my class. Whenever we had class spelling bees (which my memory insists was constantly), I had to brace myself for the same inevitable, unavoidable conclusion: I'd be certain to miss the first - or, if I was lucky, the second - word and would have to spend the remainder of the afternoon burning with shame while listening to my classmates spell, spell on. In a class of only seventeen it became my unfortunate claim to fame, for it was common knowledge that Matt was the best at math, Jenny was the prettiest, Faith the nicest, Kendra the scariest, Stephen had the worst cold sores, and Maggie couldn't spell. Although it didn't occur to me at the time, I'm sure this is why Sr. Marie immediately had me pegged as the author of THE NOTE, a single sentence found abandoned on the floor of my 8th grade classroom so vile, evil and reprehensible that my teacher dedicated four hours of class time to sniffing out the culprit, obtaining a confession, and then leading a class prayer service for the author. And since I was the only person in the class who would spell the word "whore" that way, three of those four hours were dedicated to me.

6S

Mrs. White writes when she should be doing most everything else. She "anonymously" blogs at pretty to think so and continues to wait in quiet desperation for her own robotic servant.

Gathering Data

by Abigail Levin Tatake

If you really want to know a person's character, just open your nostrils and take them in. Start with the top of their head, work in a clockwise O; inhale the scalp, deep into the follicles, Brillo Cream bedhead. Whiff long, whiff strong: wonders will be revealed! Slink and sniff over the forehead (hands behind back), eye sockets, lashes, cheekbones, nose to nose, ear canal; move over the lips, the tongue, into the throat (with care), around the sweaty neck, over the lymph nodes, collarbone, chest (right to left); musky dusky pit glands, shoulder blades, back, spinal column, down down DOWN; whirl around, over the ribcage, swirl the stomach, inspire the belly button, in in IN, birthing center/derriere (no need to linger here: get your data and zoom ahead). Down the leg -- breath -- ing! -- and circulate the knees, to end at the base, the fusty foot, the mighty proletariat of the body. Now stand, exhale, and announce whether or not you would like to take the job.

6S

Abigail Levin Tatake is a Seattle Teacher/Writer/Merrymaker who has turned down too many jobs to count.

The Last Mars Bar

by Bob Jacobs

This morning I wrestled a pregnant woman in Morrisons. We both reached for the last Mars bar at the same time. I tried to reason with her. She was eating for two and there was only one Mars bar. I almost had her fingers prised open, loosening her grip on the bar of chocolate, when I got dragged off by a bunch of interfering do-gooders who felt that she should get it. It's the kid I feel sorry for, saddled for life with such a selfish bitch for a mother.

6S

Bob Jacobs, whose full catalog is here, lives in the south-east of England with his wife and kids and Sony Vaio. In his spare time he likes to lie motionless on his back, whistling and staring at clouds.

Self Help

by Lilytodd

Uncle John bought a rope and walked into a derelict building in the east of the city. It was that simple, no morality police, no guardian angels arrested him. He had showered, dressed in a suit and begged his doctor for help. Addiction was destroying him and he was bleeding dignity. The professionals later admitted being fooled by his fine attire, this was not a man on the brink. Children found him two days later, the rope had served its purpose well.

6S

Lilytodd is an English teacher, mother, and aspiring freelance writer.

Peak Time Delay

by Rachel Green

As I hurry through the parking lot intent upon reaching the ticket office, and therefore the train, before the departure time an unexpected compliment stops me in my tracks. "You are as beautiful as the autumn rain and I will possess you for eternity.” I turn and look for the speaker, the heel of my shoe protesting against the cobbled surface that leads to the building. It was a soft voice, rich with the lilt of Arabia like a soft breeze against the stubborn dunes of my self-awareness but its origin eludes me. Only a thrush notes my puzzlement, tilting its head against the breeze rocking the pumpkin coloured leaves from the overhanging chestnut. I shake my head, purchase my ticket and hurry down the stairs to the platform where my heels twists off in an act of final rebellion, pitching me off the platform in front of the 18:24 to Paddington and the feet of my new master, the djellebah-clad Azrael, angel of death.

6S

Rachel Green is an English woman who spends far too much time writing about demons.

Stranger in a Strange Land

by Sophie Allerdings

I left my house as the sun was setting, driving out of a sunset and into the reddish dusk that turned into gloaming, windows down, sneaking glances at the brilliant sunset illuminating the hills to my west, now visible as a chain of ragged teeth against a darkening sky. Smallish, older houses huddle up next to the road as if for protection from being completely forgotten; not much happens here. This is Route-66 territory, though that forgotten road runs far south of here; this is Colorado before money moved in, resolutely holding out against prairie palaces and golf courses. Silos dot the landscapes reminiscent of the area's past and dwindling present as a farming community. Cattle feedlots and fields, tractors and "home," bygones of the world following the Goldrush and the Cattle Kings as tenacious remnants of another era; it feels as if I'm Steinbeck out to discover the country in which I was born and know little about. Glitzy strip malls and truck stops the size of small towns tempt the weary, like Homer's Sirens, or at least Kafka's - for these are silent - into stopping for lukewarm coffee and the dismal but somehow comforting ubiquitous fried food: I resist their call and drive on, for I have miles to go before I sleep, miles to go before I sleep.

6S

Sophie Allerdings is four steps from somewhere. She was born in the wrong country, likes train stations, airplanes, and any sort of adventure involving a foreign language. She lives in Colorado and Germany. You may visit her here.

Couples Karma

by Aimee Cirucci

We met up, him on crutches after a wreck that totaled his gumball blue Miata. He drove the car to revive his mojo after losing his job in the valley. Now he was back in New Jersey re-evaluating life. "I am so sorry," I said. "Nah," he replied, "just some karmic payback." Then I remembered how he left her so abruptly when the job appeared; and I couldn't help but smile and feel just the slightest sense of justice, as I helped him to his feet.

6S

Aimee Cirucci, whose website is here, is a Philadelphia area writer who firmly believes in dating karma along with the proven benefits of Italian food, warm weather, blue toenail polish, modern art, and sleeping in.

Pig Masks & Air Horns

by Peter Wild

She held up her hands like some sort of diminutive air traffic controller and said, "Excuse me?" He blushed and looked at his chubby sausage fingers, interlaced in his sweaty lap. "You did ask," he murmured guiltily. "I know I asked," she replied. "I know I asked. It's just, of all the things you could've said, you're telling me that that's your biggest fantasy?"

6S

Peter Wild, whose full catalog is here, is the editor of The Flash & Perverted by Language: Fiction inspired by The Fall. You can read more here.

The Last Revelation

by Bryce Carlson

It wasn't until I felt the burning sword of revelation in my subconscious that I thought something may be wrong. As if the constant intellectual masturbation wasn't enough, this sharp edge was the one thing that could bring me to insanity, bring me to a state of peace, or utterly destroy me without any consequence whatsoever. The worst part is that I have no control - powerless. If I could control these thoughts and impeding revelations, my neck wouldn't be suffering rope burn from the proverbial noose. Unfortunately, I am powerless and have no idea how to accept this sad truth so I write these last words as oxygen fails to fill my lungs and as I make a statement to show that I do have some control. I apologize for the messy writing but you have no idea how hard it is to transcribe your thoughts coherently as your body convulses and your dying thigh serves as a desk but I shouldn't digress and waste my last words making excuses for why I can't properly express myself.

6S

Bryce Carlson recently graduated from Chapman University and now lives as an aspiring screenwriter in Southern California who also writes film reviews for Real Movie News.

A Child's Words of Wisdom

by caccy46

My favorite four year old in the world is my neice, Anna, who lives in Beijing. She moved there when she was almost two, along with her parents and two brothers, to return in three or four years (and breaking my heart - Anna and I were attached at the hips). She called me last night, having just awakened at 7:30am Beijing time to tell me in her surprisingly deep, scratchy voice that her teacher went to a country where people live in houses made of leaves that leak water when it rains; where children don't sleep in cozy beds and have floors made of dirt. She explained that her teacher, along with a team of other people, helped build a house for a family, making the analogy of the Three Little Pigs; that now they would have a house built of bricks to keep them warm and dry. "Maybe you and I can do that when I visit you next time." I had to remind myself that Anna is 4 years old, a baby herself. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I hung up the phone with a renewed sense of hope that our world can be a kinder, wiser place some day.

6S

caccy46, author of No, is 60 years old, a mother of two, and has been married for 32 years.

On Being Fat

by Miz Yin

The woman leaned carefully over the toilet; she didn't quite understand why she was doing it anymore; she'd lost all that weight; she should stop; she knew that it wasn't healthy, but she couldn't stop. She couldn't stop her finger from sliding into her mouth, down her throat; she retched into the bowl. I could have gone anorexic, she thought; she retched again, I didn't need to start puking. The acid burned her throat, but she kept puking; it will never be good enough; I'll never be skinny enough to stop; I know this is a disorder, I know it, but I can't stop any more than I could stop eating altogether. The tears slid down her face as she tried to stop puking, but it seemed impossible. Finally, the retching stopped, and she gripped the bowl until her knuckles turned white, I need to get some help.

6S

Miz Yin, author of Too Shy, is a 19 year old college student hoping to one day become a freelance translator with some noveling on the side.

A Portrait in the Gallery

by Joseph Grant

As a student of still life photographs, Stuart Westly would wander the New York Museum of Photography during his lunch hour and during the weekends whenever there was a new exhibit to such an extent, the admissions lady would usually wave him through the turnstile and the guards would recognize him and nod, occasionally letting him stay long after closing. While he loved the stark reality of the black and whites, he was always drawn to “Exhibit 582: Digichromatographic color print from a glass plate;" otherwise known as “Unidentified Girl, New York, 1907," photographed by Randolph Morton Phillips, a renowned Gilded-Age portrait artist and protégée of legendary Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii, but what always lured him to the print was the fact that it was a full length, life-size photo of a stunning, young dark-haired Gibson Girl-type, head playfully cocked, caught in half-smile, her beautiful brown doe-like eyes looking out from beneath a large flowery hat spoke to him across the ages in a way women his age did not and could not. Even though he had researched extensively online and among the dusty shelves at the New York Public Library, he knew too little about her and yearned to know more; what she was like, if she had a happy life, what was her world like, had she been a lover of the photographer as some had surmised, what happened as soon as the shutter clicked and possibly, most importantly, why that taunting smile upon her blossoming lips? He would linger in front of the portrait for such extended periods that visitors to the museum would cautiously walk around him and the guards even once brought him a chair, which he never used, believing it would demonstrate impassivity. Feeling as if he somehow knew her all of his life and aware that he had fallen hopelessly in love with her, it did not disconcert him the one rainy afternoon when the museum was virtually empty that her hand somehow reached out to him, imploring his in return. Instinctively, he took her hand and was gently guided into her Victorian world, forever leaving his world behind, all of his questions soon to be answered; the true nature of the smile being revealed as having grown from a young lady who too was looking at a museum painting of a man she felt she had known all of her life, but had never met, until now.

6S

Joseph Grant, whose full catalog is here, has been published in over 55 literary reviews and e-zines, such as Byline, New Authors Journal, Howling Moon Press, Hack Writers, New Online Review, Indite Circle and Cerebral Catalyst.