by AC Rogers
Natalya created a distortion in the airflow of a place when she entered it. Those in it found their faces sucked mouth-first towards her. And their eyes blinked twice. I witnessed it on the first day: she walked up to my desk while I checked through proofs with Bob, the layout gofer. His stupefied face swiveled his body around to blink at her. She extended one hand with burgundy-painted talons and anointed me with a soft, wet-tissue handshake. Bob kissed her other hand. Our editor-in-chief salivated from his glass fronted office, watching her progress around the room, eyes occasionally flicking back to me to gauge my reaction. I gave him none, though I couldn’t stop my own double-blink.
As I travelled with her on various assignments, I came to expect the effect and not remark on it. Like breathing out. Or stepping on ants. And she was effective in her job: a perfume-masked velociraptor. She identified her quarry and wouldn’t let go. Even while antagonized by her persistence, they were inwardly blinking and signing on the dotted line. The first time, and every time thereafter. Our publisher was a shrewd businessman. The money rolled in. And Natalya came on more exotic trips with me.
Together, we drew fascinated glances from people. Her sheet of perfect raven hair close to my mousy blonde, her tactile ways. Particularly when she wanted a favor. An arm on mine, her head dropped so she could peep at me from under her very long mascara-d lashes, the promise of my wildest dreams, and smile. I always gave in, but only after she had worked at it for a while. It was our little game. I’m sure she played little games with others, but only I knew about the airflow distortion, could keep her out of my skin.
Even after our last, infamous, argument, when my hand raised her heavy brass award for salesperson of the year, used every ounce of friendly gravity and crashed it onto her surprised skull, I saw her involuntary double-blink before she faded. I was the only one who noticed the sucking in of air around her, into her as if through a gateway to another time. The tidal pull that dragged policemen, passers-by and jail cells to where I stood over her inert body. A pull that gradually faded as her blood dried and her body cooled. At last their eyes could escape her gravity, turn to me and minds once again clicked from cause to effect. The colleague, in the hotel room, with the award plaque. Exhibit Two, Your Honor. In flagrante. I could have pardoned her anyone but him. Had pardoned her everyone but him. And she knew it. She was asking for it, and had been since the day we met.
2017 by AC Rogers
Dorothy on the Road
by Maya Kanwal
“The yellow line ain’t the yellow brick road, Miss Dorothy,” JT drawls. He reclines the passenger seat.
“Very funny.” Dorothy swerves back into her lane. The mountain road has been rising, falling and swerving in rhythm to her ’80’s new wave music for the last hour. “You wanna take the wheel, kid?”
“I would, if I could.”
“You can’t drink either, but you just did,” she says.
Such things have remained unspoken between them so far, a mutual nondisclosure agreement sealed with the knowledge of their shared transgressions.
“And you’re drinking and driving,” he says. “Miss. Do. Ro. Theee.” He sings the last three syllables like a do-re-me, and leans back, pleased with himself.
He’s mixing up the metaphors in his teasing. That’s even more annoying than the teasing itself. She wants to tell him this. But he wouldn’t get it. She pictures herself in a movie scene, where she turns to her indifferent passenger and quarrels with him as the hillside flies by.
She’s aware that she’s watching herself like a fly on the wall, judging herself. She grabs the local beer, aptly named after a local swamp, and swigs the rest of it down.
Now her vision is as sharp as a knife’s edge. She squints and maneuvers the road as if she’s been training for a Formula One race. Trucks, no problem. Local speeders, no problem. She tailgates a rusty van and cuts past it despite the solid yellow line. No problem.
“That was a no-passing line,” JT says, calm as an old cat. “You don’t want me dead, do you?” When she doesn’t respond, he adds, “Yet?”
She swings the car onto a dirt patch by a vista point and screeches to a perfect stop. She’s not a video game player, but she feels like she managed to hit pause just before losing a life.
“Yet,” she says.
He smiles that old darling smile of his. “What do you mean, Dorothy? Last night you said I should be me forever.”
“You should,” she tells him. She runs her fingers through his hair, down his face, down his neck, and along his shoulder. Then she nudges him toward the door.
“Out of the car. Please.”
“Wait, what will—how will I— what’s your problem?”
She leans over him, opens the door, and unbuckles his seat belt.
“I like this drive,” she tells him. “You’re ruining it.”
She pushes him out. Not too hard, of course.
JT executes an exaggerated roll out of the car and sits down in the dirt, hugging his knees. He makes those eyes at her that she used to find adorable. “You gonna leave me here, Miss Do. Ro. Thee?”
She doesn’t feel like responding. She squints, checks her rear view mirror, pulls back onto the road and maneuvers the next hairpin turn as if it were her own little cul-de-sac.
2017 by Maya Kanwal
I Guess I Shouldn’t Have Asked Dad to Send Me That Postcard From The Ocean, Or Whatever
by Katie Cross
Two weeks after the mailman hopped into our pool halfway through his midday route, he was dead. It was the kind of spring day where the sun was hot on your shoulders but cold in the air. Mom and I were chopping fresh cucumbers in the kitchen when the mail slot on our front door squeaked open and a man’s voice called, “Hey, Mom, I’m going in!”
We looked at each other and shrugged. My brother had done weirder things. It was not until Ashton came bounding down the stairs for lunch that we realized something was quite wrong.
“I thought you were in the pool,” said Mom blankly.
“No way,” he said, mouth already full of cucumber. “Water’s, like, fifty. You’d have to be nuts to go in there.”
Mom and I locked eyes again and rushed out to the back—and there he was. Herman Runn, our longtime mailman, had stripped from his uniform down to his boxer shorts, stuffed his fat arms into two neon pink water wings, and was doing a perfect backstroke through the icy water.
Mom didn’t know what to do.
“Do I call the police?” she said to me, one hand on her hip and the other pressed to her forehead. “Do I call the post office?”
“Hey, Mrs. H!” he hollered, suddenly catching sight of us. He lifted his arm in a wave as broad as his grin. “Care to join me? Water’s fine!”
In the end, she called his wife. Within twenty minutes, the woman was beside the pool, collecting the mailbag and patiently persuading her purpling husband to leave with her—and that was that. Two weeks later, we had a new mailman. We assumed that old Herman had been fired until we got talking to the new guy.
“Herman Runn? Oh, no! Crazy sonnuvagun, but they didn’t sack ’im—bloke died! Strangest damn thing, actually. Only in his fifties. Say, are you folks going to renew your subscription to Golfer’s Digest?”
And that would have been it, if my mother hadn’t decided we were somehow obligated to attend the funeral. The church had many people and little air. Mom, Ashton, and I sat in back near the lobby, and odd phrases (“Get it? He went postal!”) floated past.
I was certain the eulogizer would begin with “And it was her postcard that broke him!” and attention would turn to me, flattered but uneasy. Instead, he philosophized on nature taking its course as I eyed the tray of shriveled cucumbers in the lobby.
“…but Herman is at peace now,” he continued. “He went a little batty near the end, but I encourage you to remember him as he would want to be remembered: as a man of kindness and unparalleled postal efficiency.”
The crowd murmured agreement, and I wondered if they’d seen him actually at peace. I thought he’d prefer to be remembered in his water wings, smiling wide and swimming free.
2017 by Katie Cross
by Denise Fletcher
I have to admit, she wasn’t what I had imagined. But meeting Aoide that warm spring day was the last thing I ever expected. I was strolling down the path making a turn towards the lake, when with slightly a whisper I heard the muse of song singing a sweet tune in my ear. It was faint at first, but as I stopped in my tracks to listen, Aoide materialized in front of my eyes dancing and singing a sweet melody. Along came her sister, Melete and Mneme, following after her shining bright as the sun. They were making music together with the call of the songbirds and asked me to sing along. I started humming at first and soon after, I was singing the catchy jingle. I continued walking the trails with the sisters of muse until I memorized the happy tune and then slowly one by one they disappeared into the ether. Finding my voice had never come easily for me, but the day I met Aoide was a day that will ring in my ear forever. I still hear Aoide occasionally on my walks through the woods when the call of the wild bird beckons me to a sing-along.
2017 by Denise Fletcher
About the Authors
Currently a resident of Houston, Texas; she was published in Houston Writer’s Guild’s ‘Waves of Suspense’ anthology in December 2015, and is a supporter of Inprint Houston and Writespace.
Maya Kanwal’s prose appears in journals such as Juxtapose, Quarterly West and The Nervous Breakdown. Her creative nonfiction essay, “Pruned Branches” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize in 2016. Find out more about Maya’s writing on http://mayakanwal.com.
Katie Cross did not major in English, in spite of the misinformation of friends and colleagues. She is a trained writing tutor, former Editor-in-Chief of the University of Rochester’s LOGOS Art and Literature Journal, and has interned at Afterimage and Open Letter Books. She holds a MSEd in Learning Design and Technology from Purdue University and wrote exclusively in violet ink throughout her entire high school experience, Scantron sheets be damned.
Denise Fletcher is a freelance writer. She received a B.S. in Recreational Therapy from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Her creative work has appeared in the The BeZine, the OCH Literary Society, Drabble Quarterly, Kaleidoscope Magazine, Open Minds Quarterly and other various publications in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. She is the author of the chapbook, “A Thread of Hope.” She currently resides in the Tampa area.
I was not sure what to expect delving into this project, but I soon realized I absolutely love reading all the original pieces of prose. So many of the works made me think, many others made me feel, and some even left me with questions. I decided on the pieces I did because of their uniqueness and their ability to help me visualize and experience the characters. It is always difficult writing with a word count requirement and the pieces I chose left me wanting more of the story. What tied this collection together was the element of surprise, each having their bolt from the blue moment. I hope you enjoy the selections as presented by the submitting authors.
About the Editor
Heather Snyder resides in a suburb of Dallas, Texas where she works by day as a proposal writer at a local non-profit. Heather doesn’t have a lot of writing credits to her name other than the millions of dollars raised through grant proposals. Heather has starting to explore creative writing more through her blog Life Three Quartered and other outlets. In her spare time, Heather volunteers with the school system, is a Girl Scout leader, and active in her church.