Maddy Stella Fletcher
There are Monsters
Bite Down, Hard
Daniel W. Davis
The Girl Down Front
Buying a Half Basement
Box of Sky
The Small Town Storyteller
The White Lady
Wade J. McMahan
Vengeance of the Wolves
by Rebecca Huggins
It was not long after the flood that Padre became sick. His sickness had begun as a simple aversion to some of the meals that my mother prepared, but slowly progressed into what the people of Iguitos, Peru have referred to as the Great Sickness. When the medicinal woman, Isidora Ortega told us that there was little she could do for my father in his progressed stage of illness, our family mourned him as if his life had already been lost. Madre spent the days in sorrowful contemplation, while AbuelaAdela held her silent vigil over her bead working. My younger brother, Hernan, was too small to truly understand the sudden dark cloud that had been placed over our lives, and Tia Consuela was the only one who managed to keep a cheery, though artificial disposition during that time. Without resent, she cooked, cleaned, and maintained the household singlehandedly, allowing Madre the opportunity to mourn the loss of her husband in peace.
On the Sunday following, I was helping Tia make manjar blanco to help brighten the otherwise somber mood of the home. Hernan was busy playing in the sugar and licking his fingers happily, while I stirred the large pot of milk. Tia was bustling about, giving us orders, and sticking a chubby finger into the concoction to test it occasionally. When I was certain that Hernan was not listening, I asked Tia a question that had been bothering me as of late.
“Tia, why are we mourning Padre? He is not dead yet, and still, we act as if his spirit has passed.”
Tia Consuela made a sorrowful face and wrapped one of her strong arms around me. “No tears, Carmen. Your father was a great man, but has lived his life. Sometimes things happen we can’t control.”
We ate our manjar blanco and laughed for the first time since my father had contracted the Great Sickness.
“Kale, I want you to write these lines out a hundred times before you leave your desk. I know, seeing as you practically are deaf and dumb, you won’t read the lines before we start, so I will do so for you. It says: ‘I will not sit with my head in the clouds when Mr. Jenkins is kindly trying to explain the wonders of geography.” Mr. Jenkins stopped and looked at the board, almost sprinted back to it. “And, comma, ‘especially on his last day.’”
He walked back over to the boy and stood over his desk. Such a meek child. Pasty faced, always hunched over his notebook, like a prisoner squatting over his food. Like somebody permanently about to be beaten. Oh well, best not disappoint, and he firmly cuffed the boy round the ear. He waited. He waited for the delicious sound of whimpering, or the truly magical sight of a boy’s fresh tear. But again, like everything else with the wretched thing, nothing.
“Yes, Kale, today is my last day at this useless lump of a school. Onwards and upwards. You should see it, my own work room, lush fields, food you can eat rather than the filth you find here. And between you and me,” he leaned in close to the boy’s tiny, perfect ear, “The boys want to learn. Really! And if boys want to learn, Kale, well, I’ve got so much to teach.” He stayed by the boy’s ear, breathing, then quick as a flash, he licked the boy’s inner lobe, then rose up to his original spot. Nothing. The boy was astonishing in his aloofness. Jenkins thought for a long second what he could do to garner a response from the thing. But he shook himself out of it. Too close to freedom to get involved in any more silly business, he thought.
Fairy Tales are more than true; not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.
She was eight, but that didn't mean that she was stupid, and Gilda had discovered that many adults believed the two were interchangeable. Gilda had mastered tying her laces years ago, could ride her bike without the training wheels, make peanut butter and banana sandwiches entirely unsupervised without spilling anything and even knew how to operate the DVD player in order to watch Dora explore something. She knew that four quarters could get her exactly twenty pixie sticks from the convenience store down the block. She was also somewhat informed of where babies came from: at least she was certain that there were no birds involved. Gilda also knew three swear words, including the really bad one her father had accidentally said in front of her that time when he had run over one of her roller skates while moving the lawn and had made her promise never to repeat in front of her mother.
It didn't take long for Gilda to realize that there was, indeed, a monster living in her closet. Lying her pale yellow bedroom, the glow-in-the-dark plastic stars staring down at her from the ceiling, Gilda would be tucked in by her parents and told to sleep tight. Gilda was always smiled as her father kissed her forehead, and made a show of closing her eyes and burrowing deeper into her pillow. She had tried, once, to tell her parents of the creature that lived amongst her jackets and sweaters, that hid amid her hung up dresses and skirts during the day, only to emerge, hulking and snarling at night, but she had only been chided and told that there was nothing to fear. Gilda thought to herself that, really, there was quite a lot of fear, but that, for her parents' sake, she would take care of it.
You meet your parents at a restaurant one night for dinner. They've driven up to your college on their way to your aunt's, a christening or something, a baptism. You don't remember. It's late, 8:30 already, and you're starving. You merely smell the alcohol and you're drunk. You're so fucking lightweight it's sickening.
Your father looks darling. He wears his hair bald in the middle now, or for the past forty years. You sometimes forget important details like this. You remember when he had the mustache, or when he didn't have the mustache. You forget, even, this detail sometimes, it's so natural to you it's like whether or not he has two eyes. But you look tonight to make sure—and yes, it's there, simple as math. Black and straight and ordinary as those two little equal sign lines.
Your mother gets more beautiful each time you see her. Older too, and somehow she still manages to pull this off. You feel ugly next to her and you're the twenty-one year old, you're the one with the tight thighs, while she is in her mid-fifties. But she is all sorts of other beauty you won't credit yourself with, can't credit yourself with, like bossing around tons of people who still love you or being able to replace parts of yourself with the lives of your children. But still, she wears her earrings, she is beautiful.
I served a line of very ordinary customers, who all looked as though they’re in a rush to get somewhere else. The time they spend in a grocery store is irrelevant to them, they just want to get in, buy their food, and get out. But when death wandered in, carrying his scythe, then you know there’s trouble.
“Have a good day!” I said cheerfully, waving another regular away. An elderly woman moved up next, she’s smiling and tottering, her hands shaking fiercely. “How are you?”
Death moved into my line of sight, joining the queue of customers. He had his shopping trolley at the ready. Why did he choose now, of all times? My heart pounded in my throat, announcing that something wasn’t right here. I served one last customer, when Death finally banged his goods on the counter. They ranged from a frying pan to bleach. What surprised me though wasn’t either of these items. It was the fact that he had a skeleton mask from our Halloween range.
“I said I’d meet you after work,” I said, glaring at him. My eyes swivelled over to the mask. I gripped it and swiped it through, before he could change his mind. What was he, insane? Anger flooded through me. Please tell me it wasn’t more of this blending in crap. Death nodded meekly, his bony fingers reaching for the EFTpos machine. “You take credit cards?”
I sighed. Of course we took credit cards. How could we not take credit cards, the large establishment that we were? But Death couldn’t be expected to know that, and in all honesty, I didn’t know why I gave him the time of day.