Broke Down Cowboy

by Kevin Michaels

He pulls the Ford pickup to a slow stop near the row of pine trees along the edge of the blueberry fields, and after cutting the engine takes the bottle of Jack Daniels and his father’s old straight edge from beneath the seat. Once, back when life was spread out in front of him with hope and potential, he had brought the blonde from Cape May up here one quiet summer evening. They made love in the cool waters of the lake then lay naked in the dirt field, picking blueberries from their skin while staring up at a moonlit night and trading dreams. It was under those same stars that he proposed to her but she said no; soon after that he lost her to a future that didn’t include him, and time and distance hadn’t made that hurt disappear all these years later. Funny, he thinks now; he spent a lifetime searching every face he met for that same kind of promise but none had ever given him what he wanted – the emptiness he found instead was something that had never been filled. He takes a deep pull from the bottle, holds that thought longer than he should, then runs a finger along the edge of the blade before pressing it against his wrist.


Kevin Michaels, author of Please Read the Letter, is a lifelong resident of New Jersey and lives at the Jersey Shore (where there are very few cowboys).


by Sally Johnson

I was mesmerized by the challenge before me on the glowing screen: write something in six sentences. I dream of something powerful, profound. I sit and think, plan and revise, keep it all inside my head. Finally, I write. It's crap, complete and utter garbage. And so I offer this.


Sally Johnson has filled many notebooks with scribbles (but produced no writing).

Fairytale Endings

by Samantha Entwistle

She looked at the two women sitting opposite and looked away. Cinderella, primped and powdered within an inch of her life, Snow White’s once raven hair maintained by a bottle; bickering and snarling at each other under a thinly maintained veneer. She smoothed her own short gray hair and sighed, what would the mirror say now, they’d never know, it had been smashed when the first crow’s feet appeared. The competitiveness never stopped even though they now met infrequently now that the princes reigned no more and they were condemned to dowager status. She had hoped that the shared history would have been enough to encourage a little generosity, apparently not. She stood-up, they didn’t notice, too enraged by the achievements of their respective grandchildren, and walked to the cupboard under the stairs; she opened the door and gazed longingly at the spinning wheel.


Samantha Entwistle, author of Fashion Victim, does not live in a gingerbread house.


End of the Dog Days

by Kevin Paul Miller

I found a ransom note in my mailbox today. Some villains have snatched the neighbor's pooch. That's the dog that you hear barking all night. He frightens the kids and craps on our lawn. I sometimes see him returning from a manicure and massage, as I arrive home from my second job. "Honey, where's the shredder?"


Kevin Paul Miller edits the online poetry journal First Thought. He writes short fiction, verse, haiku and related forms.

Lady Jane

by Todd Abrams

Her headless father was wheeled past her own cell the morning before. Sticky blood red ran through cracks in the wooden cart where his body lay above a wheel that shrieked upon every revolution. Her own bells tolling and the smell of his bowels loosed after the heavy blade separated flesh from flesh, bone from bone, thought from action. Then the dignity of her sixteen years lost as she groped through a hood of black and found the place to lie finally. An ancient crow cried from the distance. In the quiet, hazy square her slaughtered neck pink as the sunset.


Todd Abrams, author of Trieste, writes in Ferndale, Michigan.

A Place of Peace and Solitude

by Rachel Green

I was married once before and lived in a house with a huge garden built on the side of the highest hill for miles around, from the top of which you could see as far as the Malvern Hills on the horizon. The slope of the garden was in excess of sixty degrees but climbing the high steps would reward you with a series of terraced areas winding up to the miniature orchard at the top. The greenhouse was suspended over the void of the rockery and lower terrace and was accessed by means of a rickety iron staircase from the soft fruit area; there was no access from below and my husband was unable or unwilling to commit his bulk to the flaking iron of the stairway, apprehensive of finding himself propelled though thirty panes of plate glass. That suited me just fine. I was free to grow what ever I liked and retained an area that was free of interference by me better half, as he used to call himself (though it was an oxymoron, in my opinion, for a misogynist to judge himself by reference to a woman). I made myself a seat up there from which I could look out over the landscape; a deckchair amidst the cannabis plants.


Rachel Green, author of Sixteen Sanguine Splashes, is the chronicler of the demon Jasfoup.

i make shapes

by Sam Pink

on my way to the mailbox today, i slipped on some ice and almost hit my eye on a tree branch. i regained my balance and continued on. the guy walking behind me laughed. he had every right to laugh because it was funny and he had no tie to the physical pain i could've experienced. if i had lost my eye, i would've walked up to him and held him down in the snow, letting the blood from my empty eyesocket spill into his laughing mouth. my mail was mostly crap about credit cards that i will never use.


Sam Pink blogs here.


Grandchildren of Respectable Men

by Slovenska

Something about Allentown is terribly edearing with the tough blacks and Latinos congregating on porches and no lonely girls. The poorest, the least moral maybe, we long to taste them, us, the skinny Caucasians pushing through narrow roadways to the movie theatre with the doors locked and the longing wide open, though we have decided that lifestyle is empty anyway, yet none of them ever seem to be lonely. So Mexico, we'll run off to Mexico and drink our way to happy in the authenticity of the people. We enter the Southside in our fancy car with the Baile funk smacking our senses around and waltz into a Mexican restaurant. It's too stark, too real; the waitress can't understand too much English and you can't understand why you can't get guacamole. No, as we return to Americana we abandon our adoration for Spain; we'll run away to Seville where it costs more money and the Europeans will get us and hate us and hopefully fuck us.


Slovenska is waiting for her hair to grow and graduation.

The Boy Who Hated Rainbows

by Josh Honn

When he turned three years old he sat on the moist grass staring at the sun in the backyard like only a three year old would and by the time his parents finally heard his cries and went to pick him up and tell him everything was all right he was blind. It turns out that he wasn't staring at the sun so much as he was staring at a rainbow which is what his parents used thematically to decorate his room before they found out, much to their surprise, that he was not a girl as the doctor told them during the only ultrasound they could afford. As he grew up he had many nannies and they would always, without fail, try to describe to him a rainbow they saw in the sky and he would always, without fail, curse them, screaming, "I hate rainbows!" He went through six nannies in just one year which was not surprising considering he had recently turned 16 and was becoming more and more impatient, angry, and disaffected with a life constantly being explained to him. But it was the seventh nanny that changed everything as one day in the park she started to describe a rainbow to him and he screamed at her and told her he was sick of people trying to see for him and that he wanted to feel and, of course, that he hated rainbows. She felt bad and she was young and probably no more than five or six years older than him and when she looked down in shame she saw what he meant by "feel" and so she started to touch him in the middle of the park, nervously at first, until he told her to close her eyes so that way they could both just feel and so nobody, not even themselves, would see.


Josh Honn is a graphic designer and a short story writer who lives and works in Chicago. You can find his published and unpublished works at his website, Killer Commas.

Begging the Question?

by Jack

Sometimes small things drive me crazy, so I'll blow off some steam in six sentences. To all you professional talking heads out there, "BEGS THE QUESTION" IS NOT THE SAME AS "RAISES THE QUESTION." They have entirely different meanings. If something "raises the question," it demands that the question be asked. An argument that "begs the question" is using circular logic (huh?). Go look it up!!!


Jack wants you to look it up.

Elsa Baumann

by Alun Williams

My grandson asked me for my views on passion, not in the sexual sense of course and I told him that the most impassioned person I ever met was Elsa Baumann. “Who?“ he asked, thinking I would mention Martin King whom I met in Washington just before his famous dream speech. “Elsa Baumann was a friend of mine and she never made a speech in her life,” I replied. “She was about eight years old and looked straight into the eyes of a Nazi soldier as he prepared to beat her mother. Only he knows what he saw in her pale blue eyes but he stopped, picked the mother up and put her on the train. The soldier cried as the train left for Bergen Belsen and I never saw her again.”


Alun Williams, ex-member of East of the Web and author of Lila Darling, lives in Wales. He now writes in Critters Bar and Zoetrope under "maxie slim" and "Maxwell Allen." Several shorts by Alun have been published in Write Side Up, Cambrensis and Secret Attic.



by Madam Z

After listening to me babble for an hour, Dr. Pressley looked at me calmly and pronounced me “bi-polar.” Now, I’m a lot of things - anxious, depressed, hypochondriacal and just generally nutty, but I don’t think I’m bi-polar. The Earth is bi-polar. I’m just one big equator. I don’t know why she thinks I’m bobbing up and down between the two extremes of mood. Hey, if you can’t laugh and make jokes about being dumped by your parents when you were five years old, and being put in a foster home with an old man who molested you, and being gang-raped by five guys when you were sixteen years old and being married to a man who demeaned and oppressed you for 20 years, then what can you joke about?


Madam Z, whose full catalog is here, blogs here.


by Kerrin Piche Serna

You look like a cabbage in that one. You pull it off and dump it back onto the plastic head, which looks at you with sneering, sex-painted eyes. You try the next one, number fifty-seven. A long blond thing with little braids down the sides and swooping bangs. It reminds you of the time your Aunt Bunny took you to the ocean and noticed your twelve-year-old breasts in your white bikini top, calling them "adorable." You guess you'll just have to go home and tell the truth.


Kerrin Piche Serna's short fiction has appeared in The Los Angeles Times and the Portland Review.

Fashion Victim

by Samantha Entwistle

I fell down the stairs today, the third time in ten years in this house, not a bad average but not one I’m looking to improve on with age. Fortunately, the banister broke my fall down all fourteen steps and averted a nasty pre-Christmas tragedy. Just so you know, it wasn’t the stairs or me at fault, it was vanity. I have new friends who assure me that trousers are the thing to wear and, not wishing to shame my children by appearing to be boho without the chic, I’ve succumbed; a foot caught in the new trouser leg proved to be my downfall. My old friends are mildly alarmed, they’ve known me for twenty years or more and have endured my out of kilter fashion sense and clumsiness long enough to know it’s probably safer to stick with a style that works. My view is that being able to see my feet so I can keep them firmly on the ground is probably the best option.


Samantha Entwistle, author of Exercising Cake Control, is a firm believer in the power of witch hazel.

My Humanity is My Own

by Christopher Kirk

I release you, crutch of the mind, fetter of the soul, now from my keep. I no longer tread the crude paths you once preached; I am no longer driven by your will. Lists, aggregates, truths: I required none of these to look with eyes of compassion, to restrain my bloodthirsty tongue, to treat strangers as my kin. I thus toss you now, to die among your kind - the tissues, the magazines, the papers - to be processed and remade into something of use, a journal, perhaps, for the recording of my own thoughts. After all these years of studying your words, I have learned but one lesson: I need no master to teach me humanity. My humanity is my own.


Christopher Kirk is an undergraduate majoring in journalism at Northwestern University.


The End of the Beginning

by Rob Marshall

On the day Britain drowned, the last surviving Monarch was holed up in a Los Angeles motel, snorting cocaine through the barrel of a $20 bill – BANG! BANG! – he thought of his family, guillotined, but he mainly thought of the girl he once saw on the Underground. Across oceans, the girl he had seen on the Jubilee Line all those years ago was clinging to a support tower of the Millennium Dome by her manicured fingernails; as a Double Decker Bus floated past, the girl accepted her fate, but how could she let go when she’d never let go of anything in her life? The last surviving Monarch didn’t see the assassin lurking on the grassy knoll outside his motel room – BANG! BANG! – the first shot crashed through the TV screen, but alas, the second slashed his jugular vein and he slumped to the floor; from under the floorboards he could hear growling and rumbling (he assumed it was the sound of death), as if soaring from the very centre of the earth. In icy waters, the girl drifted in and out of consciousness, she remembered all the men she had ever loved (not one good man between them) and she let go. “They think we’re extinct,” the leader snarled, his giant head lifted slowly and acknowledged the thousands of pairs of eyes; the cavern was filled with the rancid stench of Jurassic bodies. “Let’s go,” bellowed the leader; whilst above, Los Angeles shopped.


Rob Marshall is the 18th pale descendant of King Kong and sometimes dreams of mermaids.


by Bob Merckel

Last month, I spent most of my writing time working on a collaborative project. Participants had twenty-four hours to turn around a 300-word piece, based on a daily prompt. It was fascinating creative exercise, not to mention an an excellent discipline builder. I must admit my motive crept outside the boundaries of creativity for creativity's sake, as I hoped to be part of the thirty "most interesting and creative responses" - leading to publication in a small book, by a real-life publisher. Last night, I was very surprised, excited and grateful to learn that I made the cut. And as thrilled as I am, I can't help but wonder, "Why did they pick that one?"


Bob Merckel, author of Snow Drifter, lives in London, teaches English, and scribbles stories - the likes of which can be found in Tales of the Decongested, Shaggy Blog Stories (and on his blog).

My Excuse; What’s Yours?

by Robert Clay

Let me see if I've got this right. According to cosmologists and theoretical physicists, not only is the universe expanding, but that expansion is accelerating. If this acceleration continues, then, in time, the entire universe, right down to the last tiny atomic particle, will be ripped apart. Not the big bang, or the big crunch, but the big rip - utter obliteration in a blaze of glory, without the blaze (or the glory for that matter). Mmmmmmmm. I think I’m going down to the pub.


Robert Clay, author of Come the Iron Night, is a Seafarer now stranded on land. He lives in Cornwall in the UK.

Senior Year

by Virginia Lee

Three letters lay on the desk. Tapping her fingers in an unconscious tattoo, the incredulous young woman gazed at the trifecta of uncertainty. Harvard. Yale. Dartmouth. Waiting lists: a cursed penumbra.


Virginia Lee, who Ain't Dead Yet, is constantly amazed she's still alive after a five year battle with cancer. Previously published in Insolent Rudder, Dead Mule, Electric Acorn, and Outsider Ink, Lee is letting fly with her degree in Southern Studies and writing primarily regional fiction. Y'all come.


Sixteen Sanguine Splashes

by Rachel Green

They never did find Grandmother's body, though there was so much blood splashed liberally around the manor that she couldn't possibly still be alive. That's what the police inspector told my mother on the day they arrested Daddy on purely circumstantial evidence. The bloody knife, the argument over his inheritance and his gloves at the scene of the crime all had perfectly reasonable explanations but link them together with the brutal murder of an old lady in her own home and the jury had their own idea of what two plus two added up to. Inspector White of the Laverstone Constabulary was apologetic about the state of the house, for the day before we moved in Mother had to enlist the help of Mrs. Blesset and Mrs. Jarvis from number fourteen to help her clean. The site of all that blood wasn't suitable for a child to see, they said, even if I was nearly twelve so they gave me tuppence for ice cream and told me to go and play in the park. I sat at the top of the slide and watched them empty bucket after bucket of red water down the outside drain, knowing they'd miss the stain in the cellar where I killed her.


Rachel Green, author of Burned Out, is the chronicler of the demon Jasfoup.

Losing It

by Arris Leighton

The weight-loss surgery was successful and soon, over a hundred pounds melted away. My jutting bones are the headstones where my rolls and dimples used to live. My fat friends see me as the mirror that reflects their perceived flaws and have banished themselves from what they consider my judging eyes. My fat vanished, as did my husband, closely followed by our marriage. All that was left was the real me. When people ask how much I've lost, I reply, "Everything."


Arris Leighton lives in Southern California and spends her time staying under the radar.

Bug Juice

by Daniel S. Irwin

Lying in bed, sleeping on my belly, I awoke to ferocious, vicious growling directed toward the back of my head and thought, Gotta get off that bug juice the doc gave me for foot cramps... too many hallucinations... visual, and now audio. Without turning for a look, I laughed and drifted back off to slumber land. Eventually, my pal wandered into my small apartment, woke me up, and chewed my ass out for being so wasted the night before that I crashed on my bed leaving my door wide open. "Jesus, you better be more careful, man," he said. "Your manager's Rottweiler has been runnin' loose and chomped a big chunk outta some guy's leg down the hall." Now that's what we call a really vivid hallucination.


Daniel S. Irwin, author of The Red Man Feels No Pain, was abandoned by gypsies and raised in a capitalist commune.


by austere seeker

That year the monsoon was particularly rough, and as the heavens drummed furiously in a staccato of endless silver, they watched, prayed and fretted as the papers ran a rush of worried headlines about their distant home state: gushing angry rivers, marooned villages, submerged highways, collapsed bridges, a building here, a wall there, so many lost, and so on. If the lake flooded over and the meandering trickle-of-a-river that dissected the city into regal old and glass-frontage-new shook itself free and raged past its banks, its swirling muddy waters could rush into the house, not that much of what one would call value was left there in any event; that then, was the debate pared and argued into infinite slivers, quite pointless. The month after, when it finally began to dry out, when the roads were usable again and electricity restored in starts, when the main door could finally be pried open, she stepped warily on marble-tiled floors painted with muddy silt and exclaimed at the wild Picasso-like watermarks that slashed the faded walls. After the rubble and extra soggy everything was cleared, it was time to wrench open the old metal boxes that had been stored for five decades in the attic, but seepage had corroded the green paint and eaten away at the metal beneath, the rusted lock gave away at touch, revealing stacks of crumbling airmails written in a fine hand with mold shredded edges, a package of unused wedding invites with a peacock feather-flourish now completely soggy-musty, the letters red smudged, and beneath all this the photo album that had long disintegrated into a mass of mold, fragile daubed faces on ghost white. She long sat by with dry eyes, finally touching her nose with a gritty finger; this stubby nose and her flaring temper would be the only part of her heritage she'd ever know. So be it.


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


Love Letter to a Stranger

by Patrick Bryan

I've fallen in love with someone I barely know. We haven't seen each other in years. Next week, we will. If we consummate our assignation, it will irrevocably alter our lives and my marriage. Though I fear that I will end up alone at the denouement, I proceed unabated towards the abyss. My desire is the villain in the screenplay of my life.


Patrick Bryan is (a) frustrated (author).

My Main Problem with Britney Spears

by Andrew Mason

I think Britney Spears is an embarrassment. She's thoughtless and crude. She's a poor mother. She's intellectually unappealing. She represents all that's wrong with American culture. Yet, despite this overwhelming list of negativity, my main problem with Britney Spears is this: I'd still pay top dollar to have her sit on my face.


Andrew Mason lives in Buffalo, New York. His writing has appeared in Pindeldyboz and Word Riot.

Out of the Night

by Janna

She preens in front of an antique oval cheval mirror, barely glancing at the reflection of the dark window behind her. As the night peeks in, she begins to undress - the silk blouse whispering softly as it slithers to the floor, the skirt skimming the stockings before pooling at her feet, the high heeled shoes abandoned for a few hours' respite, the delicate lace of a bra, barely substantial enough to leave a trace as it slides down her arms. The night is still with barely a whisper of a wind when out of nowhere, a figure steps out of the shadows; a dark ghostlike outline behind her. A strong arm encircles her waist, imprisoning her within the confines of an unfamiliar body. A hand is at her throat, fingers tightening ever so slightly, a soft voice breaking through the blinding haze of fear. "You should have closed the blinds."


Janna blogs at Tempests in Teapots.

Experiments in Kissing

by Dawn Corrigan

We're sitting at the kitchen table having a conversation about kissing. Everyone is laughing at Vicky for kissing the air instead of planting one firmly on the face in a family kiss. Maryann theorizes it's impossible for both kissers to land on the face in a cheek-to-cheek kiss. One of them - let's call her the kissee - will always miss and wind up out in space. Testing procedures ensue and Maryann's theory is found to be correct. Then further refinements are added - an older sibling will always dominate a younger, for example, and get to the cheek first.


Dawn Corrigan's fiction and poetry have appeared recently or are forthcoming at The Smoking Poet, The Raging Face, Insolent Rudder, Steel City Review, and elsewhere. Her nonfiction appears regularly at The Nervous Breakdown.


Bravo, Dear Brother

by Eric Brach

For years, Billy refused to share his magic with me. He got better and his tricks became more complex and difficult to intuit, but he continued to forswear himself the short pleasure of revealing their secret workings. His knowledge - hard-won from dog-eared mail order pamphlets, or from tattered library books that he would check out, then destroy or hide - was his alone. The neighborhood kids loved him. He bathed in praise, and I hated him for it. It was not until I grew breasts and volunteered to become his assistant - twin sister to the genius - that he cracked a window open and let the light shine out even a little bit.


Eric Brach is a freelancer from Austin, Texas who writes for the Statesman, the Philadelphia Bulletin, and The Onion, among others. He's expanding into travel writing, so, if you've got paying work...

The Assignment

by Roger Daubach

He sat in his chair reading the assignment again and again. Tell your story in six sentences. No more. No less. He wrestled with himself as his mind jumped back and forth, unable to decide whether or not to artificially elongate his sentences with an arsenal of commas and semi-colons he'd never use in real life. In the end he followed his heart and kept it short because the alternative would've robbed him of his voice and identity.


Roger Daubach writes but he rarely submits. Submission, after all, is the first step to rejection. He lives in Brooklyn and shares his stories and poems online. For 6S, he is the author of Routine.


by Lissette Diaz

For once, I want it all out in the open; regardless of people judging me or me having to hear what anyone has to say. But I can't just do that because that would only remind me of that uneasiness that comes along with it. It'd bring to the surface that odd mixture of nostalgia and aggression that I try so hard to suppress. I hate that, that double dose of sentimentality that comes with being human. The emotional part, that part's just fine; I love emotions, the stronger they are the better. It's the soft, sweet mushy parts that I have a problem with.


Lissette Diaz is a native New Yorker, pet owner, art lover, and self-proclaimed solitude junkie.


by Bram E. Gieben

The consistency of the liquid trickling down his back was sticky and thick, and with shock he realized that it was warm too, like the slime trail from a sexually aroused mollusk. It was hard to grope at the object at this angle, twisting his arm back and around in a crooked ‘V’ shape, fingers scrabbling for purchase on the congealed liquid and slipping this way and that – but finally he managed to curl his recalcitrant digits around the shaft of the thing, and felt its sharp edge; its cold, hard surface. There was the obvious explanation, of course, but his mind resisted that particular line of thought - surely if the obvious were true, he would feel - ah, there it was – sliding through him, delayed after the fact like thunder preceding lightning, an inversion; pain. And lightning-like it was, electrifying every nerve ending and whitening the edges of his vision to unbearable intensity, penetrating his lung from behind with a rush of cold fire, making him cry out with infantile fury at the suddenness, the inevitability of it all. The delay in realization could be explained – a drug tipped point that poisoned his bloodstream and slowed his wits, before the physical feeling of the wound could manifest and be felt – but who could he blame, who was the deliverer of this fatal message? It doesn’t matter, his last thought whispered to itself in the dying light of his mind: nobody carves their name on the handle of a blade.


Bram E. Gieben's website is called Weaponizer.


Vegetable Soup

by Eva Romero

She collected rosemary, parsley, and some marjoram, but could find no thyme, or that other herb, so her soup would not quite turn out like the song. Instead, Jane decided the broth would be the sky. At heavens-length and many-layered, it would soon be full of all sorts of beans and leaves, mosses, and even branches. Her family would love it, of course, save for her husband who had left in a wave of coronary glory the month before, and her children, now away, who only left messages over the phone, and the puppy, snarling from a distance. Jane did not cry. She oiled the iron soup kettle, and wondered whether the earth ever missed its herbs.


Eva Romero is sure about some things, but others, not so much.

Snow Drifter

by Bob Merckel

He was a lot like snow in a big city. He tended to disappear as quickly as he came, and was never quite as enchanting once the the morning rush hour started. But, ah, those first few quiet hours before sunrise. He'd lie on top of me like a thick, white blanket, protecting me from everything that might have seemed real. He flew in from Jack London with his untamed insular warmth, a cold so heavy that it lulled you to sleep, just before you froze to death. And then, amidst foggy dreams of bearskin rugs and Eskimo kisses, he would vanish while I wasn't paying attention, leaving only a wet spot.


Bob Merckel, author of Quitting is Hard, lives in London, teaches English, and scribbles stories - the likes of which can be found in Tales of the Decongested, Shaggy Blog Stories (and on his blog).


by Andy Zebrowitz

I was eleven when they came for us, and she was a bit older, though I never knew how much; they rumbled through the streets with mechanical indifference, heavy treads ripping asphalt and shoving aside the burning debris left from their first salvos the day before, their searchlights playing across corners and alleyways as they looked for survivors to be gathered or slaughtered. Like a big sister, she'd been watching me, keeping me safe, teaching me how to keep moving, to hide, to hold on, to survive. We'd been lucky so far, but not this time; their electronic eyes pierced through the gloom and their trackers let out a low digital shriek as they advanced on our hiding place beneath an abandoned Datsun. "Run," she told me, "and keep running," and then rolled out from under the car, standing, letting them swivel their weapons towards her, and I did as I was told - scrambled out from hiding and ran, kept running, acrid smoke thick in the air and in my throat. I looked back only once, long enough to see their flechettes tear into her; it was difficult to see her clearly, but I am convinced even today that she did not cry. That girl died loving me, and I've never forgotten the lessons she taught about holding on, so it is for her that I shoulder this rifle and prepare to do my part to reclaim this city, to send them all back to Hell.


Andy Zebrowitz lives in Atlanta, a city that has yet to crumble into post-apocolyptic ruin. (He wants to leave anyway.) He is the author of North.

Displaced Persons

by Anonymous 2

When he first saw her, it was from the side - she was beautiful in profile, but he was still invisible to her. Everyone else behind the camp's barbed wire felt invisible, too, but at that moment he felt a curious pang, a special kind of invisibility because she was beautiful in profile and he wanted to see her whole face and be seen by her. She turned to look at him, and even though she was too startled to speak, she saw him staring at her and knowing what that stare meant made her happy and brave and scared at the same time, so she let him approach as they locked eyes. She smiled and he tried to smile, and they made awkward small talk about their childhood because they didn't want to have to relive the rest of the story again, and finally there was a pause and she put her hand on his, so he kissed her and thank goodness she kissed back. The kiss was passionate, even aggressive because it was the first time in so long, and when she moved her hand to his cheek he began to cry, sobbing while she continued to kiss him and stroke his head - already bald even though he was only 25 - and she cried and he petted her hair and they held each other; he held on almost too tightly, but she understood and was grateful. She had a child with her, even her whole family, brothers and sisters and parents, while he had nothing because everyone was taken from him; she was real and he held onto her as he tried to quiet himself embarrassedly and she kissed away his tears.


Anonymous 2 does not really write fiction and does not wish to specify.


Thank You All

by Alone on the Isle

I would like to take a moment to thank those that helped me get to where I am today. To my parents, you feigned interest, tuned me out and forgot about me; without your complete and utter lack of attentiveness to my life, I never would have proved that I could do it on my own. To the friends who bailed, thank you for calling me a sellout, a quitter and a showoff; had you not offered unwavering criticism, I may have returned to that godforsaken town to resume my pathetic and predictable life. To the girl who spurned me, if you had returned my blind love, the woman of my dreams would now be warming the bed of another. To my boss, if you hadn’t openly criticized me in front of my colleagues, stripped me of my dignity and worked me to the bone, I may have continued to mindlessly assist you, only to let my chance to live in paradise slip through my fingers. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you all for the small part you played in making me the man I am today.


Alone on the Isle, author of Parental Guidance, is a twenty-something male, making a go of it on an island while his friends and family move on without him.

The Miracle of Wark Forest

by Richard Rippon

We were feckless, hungry and hopelessly lost, the eight of us on mountain bikes, somewhere beyond the back end of beyond. We might have been about ten miles away from beer, lamb shanks and soft brushed cotton sheets, but nobody knew for sure. Suddenly, we noticed an impression had appeared on Mark’s t-shirt, of eyes, nose and mouth. It was like the shroud of Turin, or at the very least, Robert Powell (or was it Willem Dafoe?). Though it was merely sweat on his belly, chest and man-boobs, we took it as a sign. Soon after, the path became clear, our course set: we had been looking at the wrong part of the map.


Richard Rippon, author of In His Wake, lives in the North East of England. He has also appeared in Cautionary Tale and Mannequin Envy.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecy

by Donald Shore

I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't do it. I can't do it.


Donald Shore has confidence issues.

Burned Out

by Rachel Green

On the advice from her sister, Julie Turling applied for the position of funeral director with Parkes and Sons, ticking the box that said previous experience but not the one which detailed previous employers. When she attended the interview - dressed rather garishly, in Mr. Parkes Junior's opinion - in sky blue under the obligatory tailored black jacket, she explained that it was not so much experience in a parlour as with the dead themselves. Mr. Parkes Senior looked at Mr. Parkes Junior who leaned forward in his chair and asked her what she meant. Julie looked up at Mr. Parkes Senior, laughed, and said, "Did you ever wonder why your father insisted on a burial rather than the cremation he offered to all his clients? He says that he stuffed his coffee full of money before he died and that's why his account was overdrawn." Mr. Parkes Senior bowed his thanks, and left to enjoy whatever eternity offered him.


Rachel Green, author of Cleansing, is the chronicler of the demon Jasfoup.


One Stop Shopping

by Donna Ekart

It seems almost crazy that no one stopped him, that some sort of warning bell didn't go off, because you could have boxed up the items he was buying and sold them as a kit. Too perfect, too B-movie to be true, but it was. Bullets for the gun - check. Road maps for parts west - check. Duct tape for her hands and mouth - check. One "Crazed Ex-Fiance Special" in checkout lane 8.


Donna Ekart, author of Play Date, is a librarian who really likes the sensation of words falling out of her head. She lives in Kansas, which isn't as flat or dull as you might think.

The Back Issues

by Thom Scott

Connie put it all together when, as she scurried through the pile of magazines, using the one hand not busy applying pressure against her left eye, she found her husband's tiny name, and their address, printed in the corner of last month's Economist. A door opened. She didn't have to look up; Connie could already see her friend standing there in a white uniform, spinning her little flashlight used to diagnose a torn retina, chewing zero-calorie cinnamon gum, probably thinking of a thousand jokes to crack about how a splinter of chalk got caught in the eye of a third grade teacher; she could already see them going inside and bringing their faces close together in the dark, like they were freshman roommates again - only instead of having a laugh about that guy who made a fool of himself hitting on them, they would concentrate on correcting vision and preventing further damage. Her friend at the door called Connie's name, asked if everything was all right. Connie thought of why she had beat those blackboard erasers so hard in the first place - that smirk on her husband's face during that dinner, when he spouted on about Darfur, the trade deficit, the conflict in the Middle East, looking straight at her friend the whole time; when her friend, pouring another glass of wine, said they just had to come and see her new office downtown. Connie held up the magazine for the optometrist to see - her friend tried to say something but stopped, her voice dry as chalk as Connie peeled the address off - and with her one good eye, she left the office.


Thom Scott is currently pursuing a BA in English at Longwood University.

Dark Side Looking on the Bright Side

by The Old Guy Up Front

I don't think I'm on the dark side though my best friends do. They still love me but fear for me. I had a job once that I loved and believed I was born for. Then I was picked against my will to manage people in jobs like mine. I got the big picture and began to think outside the box and seek out positive rather than negative people and hire them and mentor them and lament the best friends I watched recede into the lines-upon-lines with scrims and scrims far away inside that gold-gilt frame, palimpsest like watery pox - poor pale Giotto, Poussin, and Perry alive! Yesterday, thinking about her sudden death at eighty-one, I stood up to face a starless December sky through my window, looked on the bright side from here and, like Neo the Third, felt my eyes, my sinuses, my really expensive shades, blow out in shards as if the bright had pressurized, volcanic, all that time.


The Old Guy Up Front is retired, still writing, mostly poetry. An appalled Southern Liberal Democrat, he blogs occasionally here. For 6S, he's the author of Three Legs at Evening.

Her Words

by Lissa

She spends her days writing short verses and stories to post on her blog that only a few would read. Each new post brings new words of encouragement and new ways to un-praise herself. She searches for answers but knowing she couldn't find any, keeps just a few spaces between her and the rest of the world. In her words, she speaks of her loneliness and doubts but leaves her heart open for interpretations. There are no messages too contrived, too wordy or too emotional for her not to deliver. Lost in the images and links of anonymous bloggers, she wanders but rarely pauses long enough to leave her words behind.


Lissa attempts to write fiction and all sorts of poetry (that aren't complete disasters). She takes photos too.


Stay Just As You Are

by Harry B. Sanderford

It was coming clear to God that his booze-fueled midnight resolution to quit smoking, drinking, lose weight, and keep a more watchful eye on his cholesterol and sodium may have exceeded his actual resolve. He knew he wasn't getting any younger but it was only 10:30am and already he was chomping two packs of Trident and calculating angles that might justify his taking a wee hair of the dog. It'd been a hell of a party and he was slowly piecing together certain cloudy events that might just require his passing out apologies when he bit down hard and finally, truly understood that verse in "Ole Dan Tucker" about Dan dying "with a toothache in his heel." Howling oaths unblessed, the normally benevolent deity spat out a filling along with the glob of sugarless gum and when he was finally finished taking his own name in vain, he smote four out of five dentists with nary a thought and upon a moment's reflection, smote that contrary fifth fucker just for good measure. Later he would reconsider this reaction and think it perhaps a bit severe but for now it felt like old times and it was good. Happy New Year, he thought to himself as he sparked a bluetip match to life with a thumbnail and set fire to his first cohiba of the new year.


Harry B. Sanderford, author of A Day at the Beach, is a Central Florida surfing cowboy who'd sooner spin yarns than mend fences.


by Keekah

There are days when her scent haunts me. There are days where I am consumed by what happened. Even worse are the days when I dwell on the fact that all my fears in our relationship were too close to the truth. Living with that knowledge is more painful than only thinking the fears were right. Yet, there is solace in the knowledge that it wasn't my imagination. Truth is better than any fantasy you let someone else build for you - even if it is painful to hear sometimes.


Keekah is a native of Colorado dabbling in writing at An Existential Keekah. She aspires to write a novel or two before she dies.


by Stephanie Wright

She stands on the front porch of her new house in her new town and peers down Main Street through the halogen glow of the street lamps spaced at perfect intervals. The snow is light, less than a foot deep, and the roads are still passable if one drives carefully. Bundled in a plaid wool throw - direct from Scotland in the ever popular Black Watch pattern - she doesn't fear frostbite or brain freeze, and the scent of cedar from the venerable guard just at the bottom of the steps tickles her nose in a way she's coming to associate with words like home and peace. Half an acre away, a co-ed breaks the spell of sanctuary, walking past with her baubles and bells of technology, iPod clasped in her left hand and cell pressed to the opposite ear. The young woman's laughter chips the silence like an icicle falling from the eaves, brittle and a bit too high as she disappears into the mist. The front door opens, casting warm light onto the porch at her feet, and she turns, no longer under the enchantment of timelessness but welcoming the present with a secret smile.


Stephanie Wright, author of Personal Demons, 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, although she makes no claims to the sanity of any of it.

A Lie

by Jon Catron

I stare out the slowing frosting window at the dimly lit street that stretched out into the night like a long line of bad choices. Truth is, choice is a lie, a fable written to ease guilty consciences as they gaze back at the missed opportunities of the past. Choice is an illusion created by the lightning forks of What If, the ragged branches of Could Have Been. The truth was that I never had a choice, that if different choices had been made, it wouldn't be me staring down that street wondering... What If. I cringe, a hot knife of need stabbing through my guts. I swallow hard, lick my lips and rub the soft flesh of the inside of my elbow, my veins pulsing up at me like lightning forks, like ragged branches of Could Have Been...


Jon Catron, author of Dust, sometimes likes to hum show tunes to himself.


Come the Iron Night

by Robert Clay

It tumbles through the void in a great meandering cartwheel, end over end, back and forth like the pendulum of hell. A cold, dark, iron lump, leftover from some long forgotten cataclysmic creation event. It follows a path carved into space-time by the laws of physics, never ending, indisputable. It has done so since the beginning of local time, or as local as you can be in the vastness of space. But it is going somewhere, no doubt about that, a small blue planet lies dead-ahead, or as dead-ahead as you can be on an elliptical destiny. It even has a name, Army, but don’t smile just yet: Army is short for Armageddon.


Robert Clay, author of Tactical Advantage, is a Seafarer now stranded on land. He lives in Cornwall in the UK.

Third Generation Fat

by Juliana Perry

I wish you could have met my Southern grandfather; he taught me my first waltz at 17 (drunk on margaritas in his farmhouse kitchen on my way to boarding school). To hear him speak was like tuning into Saturday morning cartoons and catching Foghorn Leghorn the rooster, sizing up the hens and "reachin' futha back into the coop for a cold bear." He was the epitome of the old south, not politically correct, he always salted his "bear;" something I thought needed to be done before you drank your Miller Genuine Draft for many years. The final trip I made at 25, to Maryland, he was teetering on the last debilitating legs of lung cancer. His four daughters gathered from as many corners of North America and drank to avoid reality and emotion, yet quietly vied for his attention. As I sat with him and loved him for his backwoods, old school, unacceptable ways, he sat up from his hospital bed in my aunt's billiards room, looked at me with a blue-eyed depth I've only seen since in my own son, placed his hand on my thigh, squeezed, and said clearly, "Aren't you getting kind of thick here?"


Juliana Perry is a single mom of three, a lover of all things wine, cheese and bread, a maintainer of all things house and home, a student of business and psychology, and a professional scheduler and multitasker. She is the author of We Take It For Granted.

Looking Back on 2007

by Clueless Cat

There was a rare night when I looked up and you were there, and I was happy and content. There were an even rarer few months when I let myself believe that we could be, and that I could let it happen. A week before you arrive, I'm not so sure anymore. I still miss you, all the time and a lot, like I told you. But I wish I hadn't. Sometimes, the dreams are better than the reality.


Clueless Cat, 23, has lived in England and on both coasts of the U.S. She currently resides in Hong Kong, works as a writer by day, and loves to curl up with her laptop at night (when she's not out drinking). She's currently hooked on blogging (at twentysomething and clueless), mostly about her quarterlife crisis.

Storm Overhead

by austere seeker

"Ring a ring a roses", I say, fumbling for words when you say your confessional bit, wishing I could fade away, or that the earth would slash open like it did for The Pure Sita and enfold me likewise in its anonymous depths, although no chance - too many crosses, too many slip-ups, ifs and buts; but why are you telling me all this? What is this all about, pray tell, who blinks first; or which of these petite handmaidens does the Emperor pick for the pleasure of his company, "this beggar maid shall be my Queen?" You know, satin sheets, a bubbling goblet of wine or two, lyrics wafting from a lute� "Oh is that so," I instead say, sounding like a pipsqueak; and "what is it that you intend to do?" I ask; feigning concern, (oh dear!), but take care, will you. So this is what the storm was all about, fidelity on the whimsy, deceit and tinny "me first!" games; not so much the northeaster that pounded the coast. Patterns shake-dissolve into a mystic blur, pictures rip across several frames of reference, all a "well, depends," and images kaleidoscope-like stab to instant clarity.


austere seeker, author of Spider's Web, lives, works, and writes in Mumbai.


A Theft, Contemplated

by Eric Buros

Theft. The world is a library, six labels, six sentences, an amorphous ether into which a terrified young student peeks. Never a writer, maybe a writer, maybe a thief, maybe that is the only way. Surrounded by unrecognizable paragons of talent, six beautiful sentences of indistinguishable names, page after page, the youth just wants to win, for once. By this art you may contemplate the variations of the 26 letters. From Borges, an idea, a theft.


Eric Buros was born in Bronxville, New York and is currently a senior in college. He has never before been published.


by Ed's Poofed Hair

Their hands locked into place again, like magnets on a refrigerator, and his mother pulled him out of the room. The hallway was short and ordinary, but Bobby saw something more, something greater. As they passed by the big mirrors again, he touched the cold glass and pretended that there was a hallway right next to theirs, a hallway where everything would be exactly the same for the rest of eternity, as if it were under a spell, even though his dad said that couldn't happen. If people were to touch the mirror, then, they would be able to touch their counterpart's fingers, feel their touch, their warmth, their soul. Except nobody ever really touched mirrors, and even if they did it didn't matter because they probably didn't think about it like he did. He wished he could talk to the other Bobby, but he knew that that Bobby was under a spell to just say everything he said, and that they were trapped to follow each other's movements like the magnets on the refrigerator.


Ed's Poofed Hair is not much these days.


by James O'Connor

Running down the mountain with fire in his hand, how his eyes blazed in the darkness. Oh, his laughter as he burned, flames growing up his arm with a thousand vicious Gods coming just behind. He was two legs and charcoal when he finally brought the gift to town. Now his name would live forever. Elders would build a temple and for generations choose the prettiest child to put upon the pyre. What though is sacrifice if it doesn't leave an immortal offering behind?


James O'Connor is a writer, actor and director living on the edge of New England. He blogs here.

The Manuscript

by Amanda the Panda

The only reason that I read the old and slightly yellowed manuscript was because I had to. The worn paper was coated with sepia color that flowed freely around, as if the letters were dancing off of the paper and triggering something utterly amazing in your brain. The manuscript itself was only a tiny thing, bound together with handmade marble paper and jute, giving it the quality of being more ancient than it acually was. The words had a monotonous sense that was somehow extremely interesting to me, but at the same time could seem as boring as a single red rose growing in the middle of winter, withering with every blustering wind. My mind fluttered between thoughts of actually liking this piece of ancient history and only reading it because I had to very rapidly and I felt trapped within the walls of the book. Somehow, the manuscript always managed to keep me entertained by its keen little title: The Manuscript.


Amanda the Panda is 14 years old. You can find her here, here, and here.


Baby-Sitting Musings

by E.Y. Kwee

I'm baby-sitting and I'm bored and it's the second time in this house. It's the second time that the two boys are in the bathroom, brushing their teeth and doing their business while I'm waiting outside for them to finish. While I wait, I examine the pictures on the wall. Last time, the older one explained them to me: "That's my grandma, that's my grandpa, that's my mom when she was young, that's my dad with his family." The grandma and her uninhibited giddy smile, the grandpa and the shorts that were too tight, too short, and showed off his knobby knees, the mom with her slightly mannish haircut, the dad with his smiling siblings and one unsmiling sister. I feel like I know these pictures like the back of my hand and even though the inhabitants of the house walk past them every day, I wonder if they know them like I do.


E.Y. Kwee is unfortunately college-bound, but would otherwise spend the rest of her life walking on the beach.


by Rachel Green

The center of the lake was the calmest place Melissa knew. The azure of the sky as she floated on her back during the heat of a summer day made it a haven of tranquility. She drifted with the slight current. It wasn't much of one for the lake was landlocked, sandwiched between the Freemont hills and the Tribune forest but it was enough to carry her closer to the shore. She didn't want to go there. That was where Terry's body lay, still torn and bloody where she'd attacked him with the log before slipping into the cleansing water.


Rachel Green is the chronicler of the demon Jasfoup.

Quitting is Hard

by Bob Merckel

Last time he came to visit, my favorite uncle would sneak a cigarette in our upstairs bathroom, while his wife sat with me in the kitchen, sharing a pot of tea and mapping out walking tours, bragging about how proud she was he'd finally given up a forty-year addiction. I couldn't figure out if she'd lost her sense of smell or just her sense. I mean how could she not realize - the ventilation in that loo was rubbish and he'd come downstairs freshly spritzed in eau de chimney. A few days into their holiday, he pulled me aside and slipped me a five-pound note and a piece of roughly torn card stock, which turned out to be the logo of his now-empty packet of smokes. During our strolls, I'd drop behind and pop into a news agent to procure gum and bottles of water, and when my aunt wasn't looking, I'd palm a pack of Rothschilds into nicotine-stained fingers with a nod and a wink, just like kids playing spy. A half-hour ago, our cousin rang to tell us my co-conspirator had lost his battle with lung cancer, and I can't help thinking that if I had said no, my aunt wouldn't be lying in a bed right now next to the love of her life, quietly sobbing, refusing to let go of his slowly stiffening hand.


Bob Merckel lives in London, teaches English, and scribbles stories - the likes of which can be found in Tales of the Decongested, Shaggy Blog Stories (and on his blog).

Personal Demons

by Stephanie Wright

Under a crescent moon, the house sleeps, and I hear you turn in bed, snort softly from the land of dreams and night-time demons that know no rest. The thought of delivering you passes through my mind, but I think they will leave soon enough. Dawn remains hours away, and I've a story to write whose words are irritatingly shrouded. My coffee cools, black and bitter at my elbow without cream to sweeten it, the carton having gone past the expiration date. Little wonder I'm semantically challenged. I sigh, rise, and make for our bed as I realize your demons are more easily battled than the ghosts of my blank pages.


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 and on LiveJournal.


Rainy Day Feeling

by Rod Drake

It was something about the rain; when it poured, pounding on the streets, making that slapping sound with the steam rising up like a ghost, Beatty got that old feeling, and he just had to kill someone. Anyone. It didn’t matter who – teenage girl sneaking a smoke, child walking home from school alone, preoccupied housewife running errands, ragged street person begging for change. It was all the same to Beatty and his old friend, Knifey. Knifey and he went way back, in fact, Knifey was Beatty’s only friend, his silvery, sharp friend. Beatty thought he could probably stop killing if he could just get away from the rain – but he really loved Seattle.


Rod Drake, whose full catalog is here, thinks it would be cool to be a superhero. Check out his longer stories in Flashes of Speculation, Fictional Musings, Flash Flooding, Flash Forward, MicroHorror, and AcmeShorts.


by Paul Condrey

she sits with me while i smoke my last cigarette down to the filter again. it is almost always like this towards the end of our nights together. bored again with conversation too mundane or maybe too regular for my liking and the night sky turning to a shade of blue-red that can only be witnessed during the earliest hours of he morning. she asks me once more if i've had a good time with her, would i like to go again? i only wish harder that this damn cigarette would burn a bit faster so i wouldn't have to sit here and answer meaningless questions anymore. i can only respond with a simple answer: nope.


Paul Condrey currently resides in Orlando, Florida. He attends Seminole Community College and is a creative writing major.

She Decides

by Michael Ward

Scholars of life have posited that extreme love and extreme hatred diverge so completely on the scale of human emotion as to be almost indistinguishable. I have loved so absolute and immeasurable that the line separating the two emotions is blurred. Circumstances dictate what I would call this singular emotion at any given time... love and hate competes for publicity but remain the same feeling. This thought is disturbing... that the chasm that divides love and hate is not as wide as we profess it to be... that we can be so enamored with someone that we easily sway from love to hate to love to hate... all in the same breath... the same moment in time. Both love and hate demand that they are given freely and totally and without reservation... it is when we give only so much of either that we fail. To that end, I did not fail... I love... and hate her... it is consequently her that decides which.


Michael Ward is a Chicago based writer by night and a corporate hack by day. His journals are secret like a 10 year old but he writes about baseball for a few diehard fans at Orioles Insider.

What's in Your Mirror?

by Darrick H. Scruggs

The mirror can be cruel if you let it. I will be honest when I am at my worst, all the areas are flawed, the mirror will not lie, but who says that the mirror is telling the truth. I know at times when I look in the mirror, I am almost afraid of what I see, so I take different angles to insure a different vision, but the mirror does not lie. Until recently I did not like pictures due to the fact it was a permanent mirror that did not lie, it showed all the things I thought I could hide: the blemishes, the discoloration of my skin, the lack of hair, the unusually large features I have... the mirror does not lie. In closing, look in your mirror, love what you see and it will love you back, the mirror does not lie, but it tells you only what you think you need to see. My mirror now is my friend, pictures are my accomplishments, it's all in what you think you see... the mirror does not lie.


Darrick H. Scruggs writes If I Can You Can.


A Kept Woman

by Peter Holm-Jensen

Though I moan beneath you and unfurl like a nightflower, you’ll never have me. Because you try to change me, I’ll change and change again before your eyes. I’ll unmask myself forever. Your mind is weak, your methods are wrong. Because you boast of possession, you’ll never own me. No matter what status you think you’ve achieved, I’ll always be a lie to you.


Peter Holm-Jensen waits and writes Notes from a Room until dawn touches his window.


by Pierce

"I might have time for one book a week, if I'm lucky, which makes fifty-odd a year. In fifty years I might get through a mere twenty-five hundred books, assuming I live that long. Just twenty-five hundred in an entire lifetime of reading! So tell me, exactly why do you think I should be wasting my time on this?" Gerald slams the hardback down on the table. "Gerald," sighs the author, "please stop coming to my book signings."


Pierce is Irish, lives in Dublin, and writes at Distorte. That's about it.

Another Adult Day

by Cherise Annette Gordon

I was awakened to the noise of children's voices, laughing, playing, and running around the house. I slowly sat up to begin waking up, thinking about how wonderful some hot coffee would feel streaming down my sore and swollen throat. There was a pounding in my head which I hoped was not going to last all day. I walked, dragging my slippers down the stairs into the living room where the children were excited at the thought of playing in the snow. It reminded me of when I was a child and would always make a snow angel when the first snow would come down for the year. It was a pleasant thought; a young age where there was no real worries except the one where mom was not going to let the kids out to play.


Cherise Annette Gordon was born in Burns, Oregon. She's currently a full-time student at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon.

Steps for Buying a Hooker

by Kevin Camp

Forget what you may have read in books. The era of the self-contained brothel run with startling efficiency by a crusty, but ultimately well-meaning Madam is strictly the domain of romantic fantasies buried inside romanticized tall tales of the Wild West. Vice squads created by politicians, who, true to form, are forever in search of the latest theatrical token gesture with which to satiate the roar of the disapproving masses have changed the entire character of the business. Most operate on the fringes of the legal, demanding complicit silence for the wares they peddle. Faceless anonymity now exists included in the price one pays for service, or "company" as the girls refer to it - the good customer merely the man with the familiar voice on the opposite end of the phone. The old-timers hook their thumbs into their jeans, lean back slightly, and wax nostalgically about the good old days when they were on a first name basis with Miss Ethel, Miss Sue, Miss Mae, or Miss Jean.


Kevin Camp, though a native of Alabama, declines to write about front porches, wicker brooms, dysfunctional Southern families with secret incidents of incest, or coon dogs with hearts of gold. When not writing, he splits his time between his imaginary homes on opposite ends of the country.


Explosive Book News!

a 6SV1 Update from Six Sentences

Okay, Gang – an official (yet partial) list of authors to be included in Six Sentences, Volume 1 has finally been made public! If your name is on the list, that means that every submission you sent has been accepted for publication in the book. Congratulations! If your name is not on the list, not to worry – you’ll be contacted separately via email on or before Sunday, January 20th. Those not on the list will be told which (if any) pieces were accepted, which were not, and how to resubmit new work if interested. And now, without further ado… the list.


Six Sentences just published the list.

On Optics and the Ocean

by Mike Hawco

It's easier than anyone could think to see across the ocean. Simply sit atop the highest cliff on Signal Hill in the morning hours and stare out with all your will concentrated to the horizon. Soon after, and quicker than you would imagine, you will see around the curving of the Earth and catch sight of land on the other side of the sea. If you are lucky and in good weather, you will notice, seated atop the highest cliff in Brittany, someone staring back across the ocean at you. Your new Breton friend will wave across at you from 2500 miles away, and if you are in good spirits, you will wave back. Descending Signal Hill in your frostbitten car, you will most likely question the nature of existence and God, or perhaps why on Earth people pay 25 cents to look into a telescope when all one must do is concentrate with all one's will to the horizon.


Mike Hawco is a university student who lives on the island of Newfoundland.

My Roommate

by Andrew Heath

My roommate is gay. He just came out of the closet a few months ago and he is a complete mess. When I say mess, I mean it quite literally; he is remarkably filthy. Every night he stays up late and talks to his friends (a myriad of ugly and loud girls) about how lonely he is. Every night I think about comforting him and telling him that his life will get better and that in the future his life will come into context and everything will be revealed. But I am lonely too.


Andrew Heath is a freshman in college. He thinks he's smarter than everyone else but he isn't. His favorite band is Pavement. He loves the way you hate.


by Ashlee Reynolds

The weather is cold, dreary as the bleak, grey skies spill heavy snow. People complain as kids wish for a snow day; they all groan as parents make their way to work, and their kids get ready for school. Everyone who loves winter is cheery and complacent; others hoping and wishing it would go away as they go through the day gloomily. The snow gets heavier; the roads gradually get slicker. All the kids cheer when schools close early; parents pick up their kids while the gripe and groan, because they had to leave work early. When they get home, the children run and laugh and play; they think of how great snow days are.


Ashlee Reynolds, author of Terrible Twos, currently resides in Pendleton, Oregon. She attends Blue Mountain Community College for Nursing. She is the proud mom of a little boy. She likes to spend her free time with her son, reading, and writing short stories and poetry.

Jadis’s Test and the Future

by Lisa Anne Reynolds

Jadis anxiously awaits for the evening to finally get here so she can take her test. While she goes through her day, all she can think about is taking those five tests; the ones that will lead her on the road to college. Finally the time has come and she can’t decide if she is more excited or nervous as she sits down to begin. She drowns herself into the tests, oblivious to everything else. Finally, hours later, she is done and sits in the chair bouncing her leg nervously as the teacher grades her answers. When the teacher finishes, she looks up at Jadis, and with a smile, says, “You passed!”


Lisa Anne Reynolds, author of The Little Boy, is a student at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon. In addition to writing poetry and short stories, Lisa enjoys volunteering in the community, reading, movies, and spending time with family and friends.


Afraid Not

by J.E. Tirey

Dad used to tell me jokes, most of them inappropriate for young girls. I only remember a few jokes he told me, like the one about a frayed knot rolling into a bar. Next to Crown Royal, I was Dad's best friend. Now he's in a jar in the earth beside his parents, consumed by fire and the drink. That was 13 years ago. The only things I inherited were his brown eyes and some old jokes that just aren't as funny without him.


J.E. Tirey is a frustrated fiction writer and sometime poet. Her poem, "Heat Index," is included in Maize magazine, former publication of the Writers Center of Indiana.

A Purveyor of Needless Things

by Joseph Grant

Mornings are spent in sputtering, confused silences, dishes clutter the sink and countertop, while newspapers pile down the stoop like the forgotten bills upon the table and chair, all of these clouded by rented memories she no longer owns. The nighttime news of the day is a darkening mystery to her, they must make up such horrible stories she will say to herself as she forgets another dinner, all the while she remembers exactly what she wore, the meals she passed on and how much she cried the days FDR and Kennedy died. It is an odd thing, she thinks, when a familiar stranger comes to visit but never stays, saying he must get back to her grandchildren. Some days she welcomes him, but most days he just confuses her with endless questions asking if she remembers names she has never heard, about places she has never been and of experiences she has had, well maybe she did have them, but not with him, she tells the man. What she does know is that the gardening must be tended to and away from the conversation she wanders through the door to the outside and as she prunes, the memories sift and fall away like the soil and leaves in her hand that tends the severed garden. In her way, she thinks of the stranger who is apparently frustrated and leaving, as being just like you and me as we watch her, a purveyor of needless things.


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.


by Michael Brooks

Miller hit the icy walkway with a sickening slap; his head rebounded from the concrete, leaving a deep crimson smear of arterial blood behind. The rocks glass landed nearby, sweet brown liquor carving a deranged inkblot into the fresh snow. Scooping the bourbon slush back into the glass, he struggled into a sitting position. "Maybe next year," he mumbled, putting the glass to lips once again. Miller battled his prematurely aged frame and lurched to a semi-standing form, feeling the still angry glare of his younger brother on the porch from whence he came. "Merry Christmas, Bobby," he called over his shoulder, then shuffled down the walk and into the glittering nightscape of snowflakes and headlights.


Michael Brooks lives in Durham, North Carolina, with his wife, dog, and two cats, and maintains the world's largest collection of handwritten poetry by Benito Mussolini. He also acknowledges the redundancy of the phrase "from whence," but thinks the hoi polloi won't catch it. (Or that.)

Just Like That

by Sumit Dey

There are times I want to lie down and stare at the ceiling, wishing that time would fly by just like that. There are times I want to relax and soak in the sun, wishing I had a little peace, just like that. There are times I want to sing and dance in the rain, wishing the world would ignore me and not judge... just like that! Utopian thoughts, but thoughts nevertheless. A myriad of images fly by just like that. Rest in peace, I'd surely hear one day: when they say death happens... just like that.


Sumit Dey is a 24-year-old software engineer currently working in Pune, India.


Because You Care

by Sherry Heyl

I know you care, when you tell me what I don't want to hear. I know you care when you make me face the things I fear. For you good has never been good enough, because you know that I can be great. Although my response has been to fight, flight, and to insist that I am right, you have stood your ground and not let the truth leave our sight. Because you care I have begun to care more about me. Because you care I have begun to listen to who you think I can be.


Sherry Heyl, author of Rejoice in Love, is an idealist in every sense of the word who truly believes in the power of authentic and entertaining writing.

Terrible Twos

by Ashlee Reynolds

The joys and excitement of the first year have come and gone; year number two is about to begin. It starts with him saying no, and wanting everything; then he brings out the tantrums and screaming when he doesn't get his way. Next he wants to start potty training, being as enthusiastic as can be; he doesn't want his diapers or pullups. He wants to be a big boy and not have those things; he fights and screams when he gets one put on. These are the terrible twos; he goes from angelic, needing mom, to being a little tyrant, completely independent. I wouldn't change him in any way, for he is wonderful as can be; he is my little boy.


Ashlee Reynolds, author of Playing in the Snow, currently resides in Pendleton, Oregon. She attends Blue Mountain Community College for Nursing. She is the proud mom of a little boy. She likes to spend her free time with her son, reading, and writing short stories and poetry.


by Elizabeth Rose Murray

His flat hand made contact with her cheek, like a storm driven wave slapping against the wood of a moored coracle. Her lips tightened into plumped up pods, and her jaw inched forward just slightly, making her moon face gently regal. His eyes groped the floor, wondering where the fuck that had come from and how he would be able to anchor her in his arms and make her understand how much she filled him. Her cocoa-colored lips split open for an instance, then closed firmly again, wrapped fat and full around the silence. He couldn't raise his eyes. The door's click resounded like his hand against her face as he shut it firmly behind him.


Elizabeth Rose Murray, author of In the Light of Marci, has a weekly haiku slot on Dogmatika, plus stories on Savage Manners and 3am, and poetry on The Beat. She writes about poker and casino for a living in the south of Spain. Her ultimate ambition is to swim with great white sharks and write a published novel.


by J.D. Plourde II

Although he had considered it many times in his scant twenty-four years, Karl refrained from using the word to describe the slovenly women gathered at Holliday's Ye Olde Authentic Saloon. It never crossed his mind that a man could be depicted in such a light, but when Harvey appeared, sitting in the shade of the lace curtains, grinding his soybean curd and tofu salad with all of the precision of a dentist who lived by the motto chew your food thoroughly, Karl reconsidered. The vacant, docile and hauntingly intelligent look residing in those oversized eyes drew him closer to the edge. Their position, almost so far away from each other that they appeared to be at his temples, invoked the illusion that the man's large nostrils had also grown disproportionately far away from each other and he could swear that Harvey's incessant humming was nothing less than a subconscious lowing. Karl could not help but stare as the monster gingerly inserted more of the salad into his gaping maw and patiently gnashed his teeth in a left to right motion instead of vertically as most of the diners in this fine establishment were want to do. "Yes," Karl finally surrendered, placing his napkin over the soup bowl before him, "that man there is most certainly bovine."


J.D. Plourde II's Picasa Web Albums are here, and his blog, Coming Into Focus, is here.


Life in Six

by caccy46

I came. I cried. I laughed. I learned. I cried. I died.


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


by Michael Ward

There comes a moment when we realize that as much as we seek it... clarity doesn’t serve us. We wear our illusions of who we are like an expensive suit. The acknowledgment of ourselves outside of our mind would render us... unfashionable. The demons of clarity have attacked me from all angles... signaling the beginning of an all-out assault on my sense of what is sane and what is surreal. What passed for sanity no longer applies. The surreal becomes the sane.


Michael Ward is a writer in Chicago masquerading as a tech geek by day. He started a journal in the 5th grade and hasn’t stopped since (although he is the only one who has ever seen it). He writes about baseball for a few diehard fans at Orioles Insider.

Human Love

by Dan Kaschel

Human love is a curious creature, shaped hourly by every action. It is tragically imperfect, doomed by inevitable disaster, harried by circumstance; but for all that, achingly beautiful. And, God willing, sustainable. Love changes moment by moment, dependent on those actions which are performed, both a function of perpetuity and dependent on the moment. Love is like a small child, needing its parents for nourishment hour by hour, shaped by every interaction. Perhaps, one day, love takes a few tentative steps, hinting at the day when it may support its creators.


Dan Kaschel is a poet, rock climber, and poker dealer. A blog of his poetry can be found here. He lives in Florida, seeking the joy of novel experience.


by Todd Abrams

I spent a few weeks in Trieste. Venice is two hours by train. I remember on a hill touring San Giusto and outside the gates an old lady that sat and fed a hundred cats. I had the best Chinese meal in Trieste. It was something with mushrooms. We must have drunk Terrano back then but I mostly remember the German beer and the cats.


Todd Abrams, author of The End of Family, writes in Ferndale, Michigan.


I Hate You, I Hate You, I Hate You

by Katie Schwartz

I hate you as venomously and purely and deeply as I possibly can; enveloped and sated by my hate for you. It ferments, rankles and brews in the cauldron of my womb. A moment sequestered from the depravity of its grip is a moment stolen that I will never let you have. Beg me to stop and you will see that I won’t, a conscientious choice because you deserve no less and so much more. Because I hate you that much; I need to hate you in that way. Ironically, I can live with that.


Katie Schwartz, author of Rescue Me, is a comedy writer and essayist. She's written for Ostrich Ink, Girlistic Magazine, Farmhouse Magazine, Tastes Like Chicken, and a host of other festive rags. She also has a blog, All the Way from Oy to Vey, filled with her OCD about the zealotinas of the world and rants about nothing in particular.

Six of the Many Things that Annoy Me

by Madam Z

People who try to tell jokes that they don’t remember very well. People who don’t appreciate my jokes, just because I don’t remember them very well. Dogs who insist on breathing on me. Dogs who insist on touching me with their noses. Women with naturally red hair, especially if they also have naturally flat stomachs. People who ask me, “How are you,” and then refuse to stick around for an extended, thorough, thoughtful answer.


Madam Z, whose full catalog is here, could go on and on with this list, if she were not restrained by that annoying “six” limitation. Fortunately, there are no such restraints in her blog.

A Rambling

by Mercury

I am not sure I could actually write anything meaningful in six sentences. I have a slight problem when it comes to rambling. More then a slight problem. It's actually a very large problem, a problem that causes every story I tell to be four hours long and makes my teachers beg me to please, please, don't elaborate. I have way too much to say and not half enough time to say it all, especially not when I am limited to six sentences. You might as well try to fit War and Peace into a matchbox, or teach a llama to dance ballet, or count the number of stars in the sky, or... well, it's not something that will ever happen, just take my word for it.


Mercury can't think of anything to write about herself that she hasn't said already. She'll get back to you.

Parental Guidance

by Alone on the Isle

I can see the joy that comes with childhood slipping away, replaced by a stoic demeanor well beyond his youth. Watching wonder and excitement fade is tragic. Yet, I am powerless to stop it - unable to muster the strength to confront his oppressor. I hate her for my powerlessness. Want her gone for her destructiveness. But love her because she bore me - the cycle will repeat... again.


Alone on the Isle is a twenty-something male, making a go of it on an island while his friends and family move on without him.


What She Knew Before Nothing

by Jeni Rall

"If out of the clear blue a man says he doesn’t deserve you, it means he strayed. Pack your bags and scat." This advice was given by my great aunt Beula over a slice of buttermilk pie (a taste she'd loathed but had now forgotten) in the summer steam of ’89 - her half empty head spilling epigrams like grain so the nothingness could nest. Twelve years later, stirring a pot of fat and bitter greens, I learned she spoke the truth. "He’s feeling bad," she divined, flicking her tongue across her spoon. "But not bad enough."


Jeni Rall, author of The Poem, lives and writes in the sausage capitol of Texas. You can read a lot of nonsense about her here.

Self-Esteem Issues

by Don Pizarro

Some party. Look at her. Here I am, third weekend in a row, watching her go through her sixth frat brother. She'll regret it tomorrow morning like she always says she does, and for good reason. One guy was missing eyeteeth, and the moron she's grinding on now is missing chromosomes. Which forces me to ask: how come she never throws herself at me?


Don Pizarro is the author of You Were a Champion in Her Eyes. His writing has also appeared online at McSweeney's, American Nerd, and Byzarium.

In the Night Garden

by Catherine J.S. Lee

From beyond the ghostly birches with foxgloves and lilies-of-the-valley nodding at their feet comes the crisp taffeta rustle of the incoming tide. Among the dark, mysterious foliage, white stars of night-blooming flowers glimmer in the cold light of the gibbous moon. The air is warm on bare skin, sweet with the fragrance of moonflowers and nicotiana, tangy with salt. How many times did I find you here, standing in the white gazebo, looking out to sea? But now you observe a different landscape, a barren sea of sand, and in that country not your own where you serve and wait, the dangers are no longer only the dangers of love. And in this garden we together built from barren soil, I, too, wait, knowing that here, all that fades and dies will return in spring, but that there in the desert where little blooms, there are no such guarantees.


Catherine J.S. Lee lives, teaches, gardens, and writes haiku and fiction on an island on the coast of Maine near Canada. She is currently seeking a publisher for her short-story collection, Gone Like Sea Smoke: Stories From the Gulf of Maine. Her fiction has appeared this year in juked, Cezanne's Carrot, Amarillo Bay, Shattercolors Literary Review, SNReview, Long Story Short, and The Rose & Thorn, and is forthcoming in The Binnacle, Slow Trains, and Poor Mojo's Almanac(k).