Thursday, March 15, 2018

#260: "Ant Farm" by Laura Oliver

 ~Selected by Kenneth Fleming, Assistant Editor for Fiction

--This story was first published in Glimmer Train Stories (1999).

       After Brian moved out I bought our daughter Erica an ant farm. I thought it would distract her. A flat plastic skyline sat on a slice of sand wedged between two clear plastic panes to form an underground window. Toys R Us couldn’t stock live insects however, so after buying the kit, we sent the enclosed coupon to Uncle Willy’s Ants and waited for our tenants to arrive in the mail. We were not to be alarmed if they arrived “sleepy” the literature stated, which meant, barely thawed.
       We set up the display in preparation of their arrival and read the instructions. “ANTS DON’T LIKE LANDSLIDES!” That meant don’t shake the farm. “ANTS DON’T LIKE LEFTOVERS!” A piece of fruit the size of an asterisk can feed a whole colony for a week, we discovered.
        I think of that now as ants scurry in erratic patterns to nowhere across the family room floor--but these are garden-variety ants that have somehow found a way into the house. Uncle Willy’s ants must have been derailed somewhere, because it has been three weeks and they have not arrived.
       “Don’t step on them Mom,” Erica says. “We can put them in the farm.”
       I am not actually stepping on them. I have bought a few ant traps and am encouraging one to venture inside with the toe of my shoe. He veers off again and again. Finally I pick him up and drop him on it. He scrambles away.
       Things have been like this since Brian left. The house painter I hired turned out to be an evangelist. My son Adam, a freshman at St. Luke’s, announced to Sister Francesca that he’s a practicing Hindu, pierced his ear and got a tattoo.
       “At least it’s not a skull and cross bones,” my son points out. “At least it doesn’t spell anything.”
       “It could have said, ‘Mom,’” I say.

Monday, March 5, 2018

#259: "No thanks, I'm just looking" by Welton B. Marsland

~This poem was previously published Cargo (1988).

~Selected by Clara Jane Hallar, assistant editor, poetry

"No thanks, I'm just looking"

I stand and peer in through the window.
I want him.
Everyone else thinks I'm admiring the clothes
  placed so strategically casual in the display
  but it's him that I want wrapped up to take with me.
Every night, on my walk home from work, I stop
  and fuck him through the cold glass.
Does he think I only like the clothes, too, or
  is he aware of me outside his shop,
  the red neon light illuminating the lust in my stare?
I don't think I want to speak to him.
He's simply another item in the shop,
  to be admired, perused, pinched, considered, bought and used.

And so I watch him -
  he woos customers, wrestles coat-hangers,
  stands strangely on one foot 'cos those new shoes are hurting again,
  placates complainers, runs long sensual fingers through jet black hair,
  and looks relieved to see the last of them go at half-five.
He glances at the window and my eyes dart back to the display,
  that cream jumper is cheaper than last week... how interesting...

Then I walk away towards the train station,
  leaving a foggy patch on his window to remind him I was there,
  and I go home empty handed.