Tuesday, May 31, 2016

#203: "The Other Side of the Line" by Mandy Campbell Moore

~This story was originally published in CALYX, A Journal of Art and Literature by Women (2006), under the name Mandy Farrington.

~Selected by Assistant Editor Kenneth A. Fleming

            My first morning on the job, I’m melting. The cafeteria floats in my tears. White-aproned reflections swim across the stainless surfaces—counters, sinks, cabinets, doors. Vegetables I’m fixing to slice sweat odors that seem a bit personal.
            The woman at the station next to mine—Frances—must be seven feet tall and four hundred pounds. A hair net clutches her skull. If it had leg openings, I could wear it as a tutu. She speaks with determination about killing her daughter. “I’ll slit her throat,” she says. “Wash her blood down that drain.” She tilts her massive head toward the hole beneath my heel. “Norbert can put out her carcass with the rest of the pigses.”
            Norbert, with his mane of white hair, looks like God dealing judgment. His pink eyes flicker at Frances, then refocus on the meat slicer.
            “Frances, you’ll do no such thing. All teenagers talk back.” That lady’s name is Elsie, at the station opposite mine. Her voice pipes up and down a scale.
            “I’m the one brought her into this world. I’ma be the one takes her out.” Frances peels boiled eggs with a single motion per shell. She’d peel her daughter’s limbs the same way. Where I come from, a crime is toilet papering somebody’s trees. Maybe I am overreacting. Sweat makes it hard to grip the knife. When I melt, they can rinse me down the drain as well.
            “Shhh,” Elsie hisses and lowers her eyes. Her skin is the color of weak chocolate milk, peppered with dark freckles. She smiled when I was introduced.
            “Pick up the pace,” I hear behind me. It’s Kitty, the manager and only white person here besides me. Perhaps she heard Frances and will call the police or something. Steadying my hand, I chop carrots.
            I have a scholarship. This job is for fun money. Ridiculous not only because the job is plain deadly, but also because I don’t have any friends here to have fun with. They all went to different schools.
            Breathe through the mouth so you won’t cry. You have made a serious mistake.

Monday, May 23, 2016

#202: "Lot's Wife" by Lois Marie Harrod

~This poem was first published in Slant (2000).

Lot's Wife

Even the woman
who was never beautiful
is grateful when

after chemotherapy
her hair returns,
spiky little flames.

For a month or two
she spins,
French waif

catching herself
in the sun’s eye,
who was she?

So why do we blame
the salt woman
who wanted to see

not where she had been
but what?

Everything lies
in the season
we do not understand.

These are the pictures
of what we were,
lovelier than we imagined.

Even our children are amazed.


Monday, May 9, 2016

#201: "Chamber Music" by Vic Sizemore

~This story was first published in Southern Humanities Review (2013).
~Selected by Assistant Editor Kenneth A. Fleming

            Courtney parks her Prius at the top of Matt’s driveway because Brandon’s blue Mongoose bicycle is sprawled across it. The blazing yellow forsythia at the edge of the drive runs down and is starting to swallow the corner of his house. It’s pretty, just out of control, needs a little tending. A lot of tending. The smell of cut grass wafts from the neighbor’s yard, where a fat man without a shirt on is riding a slow roaring mower.
She grabs her plastic tub of bruschetta—she made it with organic onions and heirloom tomatoes from the co-op, and her own fresh basil—and her grocery bag with baguette and knife and garlic from beside her on the seat and gets out. She closes the door with her hip and picks her way through scattered toys and sidewalk chalk in the carport. The kids’ bodies are traced on the drive in chalk, like victims’ outlines in crime shows. And there is Matt’s outline. Some child has filled him in, drawn him with big round green eyes and jagged blue monster teeth. Matt’s a gentle man, a gentle father. Almost passive. It makes things easy between him and Courtney. The ex-wife, not so much.
The wooden rail at the door is half stripped of its peeling white paint. One whole side is draped in beach towels, turquoise and blue with fish on one, one black with bright pink butterflies, another with blue and yellow flowers. At the back of the carport a blue tarp is balled up like a giant sheet of discarded paper. Beside it are three nylon camping chairs, and a faded bottle of OFF! Clean Feel bug spray. Beside the kitchen door leans a gray snow shovel. The sticker is still on the wooden handle. It says Ames: Our Tools Built America.
Matt gave Courtney a key to his place only yesterday, before leaving for his conference. So she could meet the kids after school. Also yesterday he asked her to consider marrying him. When she didn’t respond with immediate glee—things between the two of them are great, it’s not that; everything is just easy—he backed off a little. “Don’t answer now,” he said. “We’ll discuss it when I get home.”
The little black cylinder thing that should pull the screen door hissing back is broken and jabs out at her leg as the white aluminum door drifts and hangs open like a broken wing. It’s ridiculous to be nervous. Courtney has been a Shreveport Wideman semifinalist. She’s concertized, performed Stravinsky Petrushka, Shoenberg. Berg Sonata. She was with management, soloed with the Honolulu Orchestra right before it folded.  This is just three little kids.