Monthly Archives: May 2014

Baby And Me by Lori Schafer

Our best friends were having a baby. Inwardly, I groaned.

“You know what this means, Frank?” I complained to my boyfriend. “They won’t be going out with us anymore.” One by one our friends had succumbed to the bothersome burdens of boring adulthood: first marriage, now children. Soon only Frank and I would be left gloriously unencumbered.

“Sure they will,” he reassured me. “It’ll just be earlier. And, um, noisier.”

He should know. His sister had a kid, a rambunctious pre-school aged brat with no redeeming qualities that I had ever observed. Frank volunteered to baby-sit every so often. I called this my quarterly booster of birth control. Each time his nephew arrived I wanted children even less.

Frank, I suspected, was a bit soft on the kid thing. He seemed to like children an awful lot for someone who claimed not to want any. Once he had even told me that if I changed my mind about having one, he might be on board with it. I said that was just his biological clock ticking.

The pregnancy seemed to last forever, and I wasn’t the one carrying the bowling ball around in my belly. Every week when we visited our friends – who had already begun the mystifying transformation from regular adults into the strange creatures known as Mom and Dad – we had to suffer through the latest revelations. The tests, the pictures, the ultrasounds, the boy-girl debate and its resolution, the design and decoration of the nursery, how soon they wanted the next kid to come along. I feigned interest. Graciously, I hoped. I was happy for them — really I was — but only in a generic sort of way. I mean, I’m glad, too, when the local team makes it to the World Series, but I still don’t watch the games.

And then finally it happened: the kid was born; healthy, rosy cheeks, ten fingers and toes, and everyone was happy, all except for me. I still complained.

“Now we’re going to have to go and see the baby,” I whined, fully aware that this was spoiled and selfish and not caring in the slightest.

“So?” Frank replied, puzzled, his warm, dreamy eyes already misting over in anticipation of witnessing the wondrous miracle of magnificent new life.

“Never mind,” I answered. It would have taken too long to explain.

For our friends’ sake, I did try. I pretended to be impressed by the wee magical creature sleeping so adorably in the pink bassinet. I expounded with delight on how she had her mother’s ears and her father’s eyes, or maybe it was the other way around. I chuckled when Dad played peek-a-boo and made kitchy-coo noises at her. I was very convincing.

Too convincing.

“Do you want to hold her?” Mom inquired in a hushed tone, as if it were a great honor bestowed only upon the most worthy of visitors to the baby’s shrine.

“That’s okay,” I said, summoning all of the firm politeness I could muster.

“It’s all right; you can hold her,” she assured me.

“No, thank you,” I replied, less politely and more firmly, well aware from past experience that even the least doting of new parents would refuse to believe that there could be a woman on Earth who didn’t really want to hold the baby.

“Aw, come on, you know you want to!” she urged, prompting me to wonder whether she and the kid were part of a grand conspiracy to make a mom out of me whether I wanted it or not. “Here, just take her for a minute,” she repeated, dumping the kid in my lap as if it were a grocery bag I was supposed to bring out to the car. “I’ll be right back.”

So then I had to sit there with my arms out holding the kid’s head up like you’re supposed to, and wondering when this enforced bonding time was going to be over, and how many more years I would have to put up with this annoying little creature and the brothers and sisters that would soon follow it, and then she reached out with her tiny pink fist to grab hold of my index finger in the sweetest, most endearing gesture you have ever seen.

“Forget it, kid,” I said scornfully. “That’s the oldest trick in the book. You’re not winning me over with that.”

A sentimental sigh ruffled the air behind my back and I whipped my head around to find Frank peering covertly at the tender scene from the edge of the doorway. “Oh, how cute!” he proclaimed, springing ecstatically into the nursery, evidently unabashed at being so red-handedly caught spying. “You look so natural sitting there with a baby on your lap!”

“Forget it, bub,” I answered, glaring up at him. “You’re not winning me over with that old trick. You like it so much, you take it!”

He opened his arms to grab hold of the wee darling, and laid her across his chest, prompting her punctually to spit up all over it. And then another, more powerful stench filled the room, causing the dreamy mist to fall abruptly from Frank’s eyes like an old-time theater curtain over a completed movie fantasy. Staring horrified at the hand that had been supporting the baby’s bottom as if it were contaminated, he set her ruefully down in the crib and yelled for Mom and Dad to come and fix her.

“Whew!” he exclaimed, plainly disgusted, struggling to remove the spit-up from his shirt with a baby-wipe while the baby’s piercing cries rang throughout the bunny-lined nursery. “That’s why I’m glad we are never going to have children.”

I looked with new respect and appreciation at the screaming, stinking little bugger and wondered whether she and I had more in common than I’d thought. And with that I reached down into the crib, grasped the baby gently by that pint-sized fist and whispered, “Thanks, kid. You might not be so bad after all.”

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This story originally appeared in Every Day Fiction.

Lori Schafer’s flash fiction, short stories, and essays have appeared in numerous print and online publications. Her first two novels, My Life with Michael: A Story of Sex and Beer for the Middle-Aged and Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged, will be released in 2015. You can find out more about Lori and her forthcoming projects by visiting her website at http://lorilschafer.com/.

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Free Prisoner by April Salzano

Prison sounds like a vacation: time

to read, write, think. A sentence

for uninterrupted sleep and limitless

exercise. Three squares a day, far more

than I get on the outside.

Solitary confinement is a welcome

threat, a term that rings like

Nirvana. I can think of several crimes

I could use to pay the fare

for such an ideal getaway.

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Recently nominated for two Pushcart prizes, April Salzano teaches college writing in Pennsylvania where she lives with her husband and two sons. She is currently working on a memoir on raising a child with autism and several collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in journals such as Convergence, Ascent Aspirations, The Camel Saloon, Centrifugal Eye, Deadsnakes, Visceral Uterus, Salome, Poetry Quarterly, Writing Tomorrow and Rattle. The author also serves as co-editor at Kind of a Hurricane Press (www.kindofahurricanepress.com).

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Disobedience by Craig Towsley

“Good catch. Good boy! Okay, now bring it here. No, here. Come on. I said bring it here. I’m not chasing you. Get over here. Leave those people alone. They don’t care about your Frisbee. Stay. Stay. Stay! You want to get tied up? Get over here. Stay. Stay. That’s it. We’re going home. Finally. Now drop it. Drop it. Drop. IT! I’m not playing the pulling game. No. Drop it. Just drop it already. I’m not playing this game. Give me that Frisbee. Give it to me. Jesus.

Okay, good boy, good boy. Are you ready for another throw?”

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Craig Towsley writes flash fiction, but earns money by writing for video games. He lives in Montreal, QC, with his wife and dog. This story originally appeared on his website.

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We all have a purpose by Dave Williams

We all have a purpose

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Dave Williams is a freelance graphic designer. His blog, Zooky World, can be found here.

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The Lights Flickered and Went Out by Allen Kopp

The room was very quiet. Miss Adele’s teeth made little clicking sounds as she chewed. Miss Florence grunted as she tried to cut her meat and couldn’t. The knife slipped out of her hand and clattered to the floor. Mr. Benny looked around to see what the sound was but lost interest before he figured it out. Mr. Wilhelm was hearing nothing; he was asleep, his head hanging over his plate. Like the points on a compass, the four of them sat at a circular table.

“Don’t you think you should wake him up so he can finish his dinner?” Miss Florence said.

“Huh?” Mr. Benny said.

“Why don’t you wake him up before he falls out of his chair?”

“Let him fall,” Mr. Benny said. He was trying to soak up the gravy on his plate with a piece of bread but his hands were shaking so much he couldn’t manage it.

“My, but this is delicious,” Miss Adele said.

“What is?” Miss Florence asked.

“I don’t know what it is. There’s a little bit of tomato in it, I think, but I don’t recognize anything else.”

“You’re better off not knowing,” Mr. Benny said.

“What time is it?” Mr. Wilhelm asked, suddenly coming awake.

“Why should you care?” Mr. Benny said. “You’re not going anywhere.”

“It was six o’clock about an hour ago,” Miss Florence said.

“It’s anybody’s guess,” Miss Adele said.

“A funny thing about time,” Mr. Benny said but he began coughing and didn’t finish the thought.

“What month is it?” Miss Adele asked.

“It’s April,” Mr. Benny said.

“Is it still the same year?”

“Yes, it’s still the same year.”

“This year is going along rather slowly, isn’t it?”

“Like a great big turtle in a race with death. See who comes out ahead.”

“Just ask your body what month it is,” Miss Florence said.

“What do you mean?” Miss Adele asked.

“When your toes are freezing off, it’s probably December or January.”

“When you see Christmas decorations everywhere, you know it’s probably December.”

“Good thinking,” Mr. Benny said. “You ought to go to work for the FBI.”

“Oh, they wouldn’t want me!”

“I don’t seem to be able to stay awake long enough to eat dinner,” Mr. Wilhelm said, picking up his knife and fork and going at his food again.

“Don’t you sleep well at night?” Miss Florence asked.

“I sleep all right, I guess.”

“Sleep comes in large doses or really small ones,” Miss Adele said, but nobody knew what she meant.

“After dinner let’s play some cards the way we used to,” Miss Florence said. “That ought to be fun.”

“What do you mean ‘the way we used to’?” Mr. Benny said. “I’ve never played cards with you in my life!”

“When we were children, we used to play Old Maid,” Miss Adele said.

“I’m happy to say I’m not one of those,” Miss Florence said. “I’m a widow.”

“And how many times were you married, dear?” Miss Adele asked.

“It really isn’t any of your business, but if you must know I was married three times.”

“I’ll bet all three of your husbands tried to kill you, didn’t they?” Mr. Benny said.

“Why would they do that?” Miss Adele asked.

“Well, just look at her.”

“They did not try to kill me,” Miss Florence said. “They worshipped me.”

“Well, what happened to them, then?”

“Two died, and the other one, well, it’s best if we don’t speak of him.”

“I never got married,” Mr. Wilhelm said. “I didn’t have time. I ran a company that employed five thousand people. I worked night and day. I was married to the business.”

“Oh, brother!” Mr. Benny said.

“Didn’t you get lonely?” Miss Adele asked.

“I did not!”

“I bet you had plenty of lady friends, though, didn’t you?” Miss Florence said. “A handsome fellow like you.”

“I did not. There was someone once, though. We lived together for about ten years.”

“What was her name?”

“It wasn’t a ‘her.’ It was a ‘him.’”

“Oh, dear!” Miss Adele said.

“His name was Zachary. What he and I had together was very rare.”

“I never took you for one of those,” Miss Florence said.

“I knew there was something about him!” Mr. Benny said.

“Have you ever had the good fortune to meet another person in your life with whom you have a spiritual connection? It doesn’t happen more than once. It was that way with Zachary and me.”

“Now I’ve heard everything!” Mr. Benny said. “It’s like finding out that General Eisenhower liked boys.”

“I’m ashamed of nothing,” Mr. Wilhelm said.

“What happened to Zachary?” Miss Florence asked.

“He died.”

“Oh, that’s a crying shame!”

“He’s buried in his home town in Tennessee. When it’s my time to go, I’m going to be placed in the grave next to him.”

Mr. Benny rolled his eyes. “On that note,” he said, “I think I’ll leave you good people and go back to my room, if I can remember how to get there.”

A sudden flash of lightning and rumble of thunder made them all turn toward the window. Miss Adele screamed and turned over her water glass.

“It’s been too warm all day,” Miss Florence said. “I knew a storm was coming.”

“Storms scare me,” Miss Adele said. “I can feel the electricity in the air. It makes my skin prickle.”

“Your skin was already pickled,” Mr. Benny said.

“I’d rather die in a storm than some other ways I can think of,” Miss Florence said.

“Do you notice how we always get around to the subject of death?” Mr. Benny asked.

“Well, what’s wrong with that?” Miss Florence asked. “There’s nothing wrong with death. It’s part of life. I, for one, believe that death is not the end.”

“What is the end?” Mr. Benny asked.

“How should I know?”

“Heaven? Angels and fluffy white clouds?”

“I think that heaven is what you want it to be.”

“So, you’re saying that heaven exists only in the mind.”

“I’m not saying that at all.”

“You don’t know anything.”

“You don’t need to be rude,” Miss Florence said. “I can still get up from this chair and slap you silly if I want to. I’ve smacked old men around before and I don’t mind doing it again.”

With the next flash of lightning, the lights flickered and went out. Miss Adele squealed and put her hands to her throat. “What do we do now?” she said desperately.

“They’ll be back on in just a minute,” Miss Florence said. “No need to panic.”

“Hey, I like it better like this!” Mr. Benny said. “You all look much better in the dark.”

“The only way you would look good to me,” Miss Florence said, “would be if you disappeared.”

“Now who’s being rude?”

Somebody brought in a kerosene lamp, set it in the middle of the table and went away again without a word.

“Oh, how nice!” Miss Adele said. “Just like olden times before there was such a thing as electricity.”

Mr. Benny raised his wine glass. “Here’s to storms,” he said. “May they always be on the outside.”

“I hear music,” Miss Florence said.

“How lovely!” Miss Adele said. “Somebody’s playing the piano.”

Miss Florence in her spectator pumps and Miss Adele in her mules stood up and began shuffling their feet together in an approximation of dancing. Mr. Benny lit his one cigar of the day and blew out a cloud of smoke that looked, in the distorting lamplight, like ectoplasm at a séance. Mr. Wilhelm fanned his hand in front of his face and sighed as Miss Florence and Miss Adele danced away into the darkness on the far side of the room. And outside, the thunder and lightning raged as rain pounded against the glass and the storm gathered nearer.

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Allen Kopp lives in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. He loves his two cats and has had over a hundred short stories appearing in such diverse publications as The Penmen Review, Belle Reve Literary Journal, A Twist of Noir, Burial Day Books, Dew on the Kudzu: A Journal of Southern Writing, Short Story America, Offbeat Christmas Story Anthology, Skive Magazine, Midwestern Gothic Literary Journal, Creaky Door Magazine, Gothic City Press: Gas Lamp, Churn Thy Butter, Wordhaus, and many others. His Internet home is: http://www.literaryfictions.com

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