Has anyone actually died of boredom playing trains with their toddler? Marty pushed Thomas around the track, followed by too many cars. He took a tight turn and the last five cars slipped from the grooves, flopping limply to the side. Being a master engineer, Marty was no stranger to this, and calmly filed the trains back where they belonged. Continue reading
Photo by Brian Michael Barbeito
The wooden dock’s planks groaned beneath the blazing Florida sun. Neal adjusted his sunglasses. He watched as a snowy egret took a step with one of its long twig-thin black legs. It paused, then stretched its swan-like neck and body with the precision of a ballet dancer. Neal tucked a pinch of tobacco between his lower lip and gum. As he folded his sun-freckled arms, the bird took a few quick steps, then lumbered skyward. Continue reading
Gordo, Alabama, USA.
October 31st, 1933.
Charlie Wannemaker and Eddie Brackett spent the afternoon making the exemplary scarecrow. First they’d dragged the ragged old scarecrow off its stake down on ol’ Henderson’s corn field. They folded its straw-filled limbs up nice and tight and toted him in a red wagon all the way to Charlie’s barn. Henderson’s scarecrow was okay, but it wouldn’t do for the great stunt they had in mind for the night. Not without a touch of restoration.
“If we’re gonna do it, we’re gonna do it right,” Charlie instructed. Continue reading
It occurred to me at some point during our second date that Mike might not exist in real time.
When we first met, he seemed friendly—cruelty-free, like a human-sized rabbit. We ate at Lenny’s Subs off I-35. On the way, he wheeled his big, white Texas truck backwards through the drive-thru of a shuttered restaurant. It seemed like the perfect accident—a ploy to make me accept his wonky habits.
Waiting in line at the shop, he cracked jokes that made me roll with laughter. I told him I used to work there—that I was once a struggling sandwich artist who was so busy fixing cold cuts and meatball marinara, I hardly had time to sit down and eat them. Continue reading
I stare at the corpse in the mirror. How desperately the dry, clay-colored skin clings to its skull. Rubbery. How narrow its tired eyes are, weighed down by the dark satchels hanging from them. How many broken vessels I could count beneath its sullen cheeks. A nebula of spider veins. A paint-splattered canvas. Children do not want to see this.
I am the owner of this dead reflection.
One time Lee actually screamed on an airplane. It had been one of those horrible situations with a seemingly endless delay on the runway and he had fallen asleep before the plane took off. He awoke to the unsettling bumps and skips of the plane lifting off in bad weather, shaking and dipping erratically. It had not been a conscious decision, the scream. He simply woke and screamed simultaneously, all at once, before he even knew what he was doing. He was 32 at the time. He had a middle seat. To his left on the aisle was an old lady who smiled sadly at him. Next to him on the window seat was his girlfriend of the past two years, Katherine. Continue reading
It’s 2018 and we’re garbage people now, management tells us at the morning meeting. “Not garbage men,” Larry stresses. He strokes his Pomeranian, which is wriggling in his arms. “Garbage people.”
I look from Duke on my left to John on my right, then raise my hand. “But we are garbage men,” I say.
“Shut up, Mick,” Larry snaps. The dog yaps. “You are a person, and what you think doesn’t matter.”
Photo Credit: Brian Michael Barbeito
Charles couldn’t believe he had slept through dinner again; he was going to have to beg Phil or one of the Korean kids for ramen, and why should they give him anything? If the ladder had been in its hiding spot under the patio of the on-campus daycare, he could have gotten onto the roof of the gym and across it to the admin building to see if he could find anything to eat in the small kitchen there, but without the ladder he couldn’t get onto the roof, unless he had Andrew to boost him up. Andrew must have moved it while Charles was suspended, or else it got confiscated. That’s okay, they’d fished it out of a dumpster anyway; they found good stuff in the dumpster by the maintenance building all the time, but he sure wasn’t going to find dinner there. Continue reading
We hit cruising altitude. The ground, out the window, is an expanse of blank salt flats, or Midwestern snow. Two dimensions of white, anyway, shot through with meandering streams or ruts or roads. They look like the veins on the back of an ill woman’s hand. My mother’s hands, say. Or they look like the smoke from Adrienne’s cigarette when we sat on the dock just two summers ago, the way it curled snakily in the windless air. Smoking, Adrienne unfolded her history for me like a map. In the twilight, her hands were luminous, and seemed to leave trails in the darkening air as they moved. Trick of light or memory? Continue reading
Review by Tess Tabak
A newly discovered short story by Sylvia Plath is cause for celebration. “Mary Ventura and the Ninth Kingdom” follows a young girl as she discovers her train is bound for a mysterious destination. The train ride starts as a seemingly normal but dreary metaphor for 1950s life – everyone onboard is crisp and proper, not talking to each other, and Mary feels isolated despite being surrounded by people. Though the cause for the train ride is never revealed, we can guess that she’s heading off to college.
However, as the piece goes on, it’s clear there’s something more sinister at play. We learn that the “Ninth Kingdom” will be the final stop, and once the train reaches its destination there will be no returning.
The piece is raw compared to the work Plath would go on to write (such as her classic, The Bell Jar), but a crude Plath story is still riveting. I read this piece in one sitting. “Mary Ventura” will be of special interest to Plath’s fans. You can see the source of her later writings in it – a girl watching in grim awareness as everyone else is numb to the world, offered a ray of hope at the end. She describes the world in lush detail, yet still manages to convey a sense of dread. “Mrs. Ventura touched a handkerchief to her painted red mouth, started to say something, stopped. There was, after all, nothing left to say.” Continue reading