The shirt that your Nan bought for you. You never see her for the holidays and she’s left the price tag on the garment. $9.95 from Target. That picture on your Aunty’s Instagram. Everyone smiling together. You, a little too left. Your dad’s birthday wishes, “Happy 28th.” You are 29. Misnamed ‘Catherine’ instead of Caitlin at school. It was too late to correct them. Even now, friends still misidentify you. You wonder how much it costs to legally change your name so that it is no longer a lie. Maybe you can ask your Nan to gift you that next Christmas.
“Anybody can be a wedding photographer,” Tony scoffed. “Everyone’s dressed up, eager to pose, do the chicken dance… Now, a divorce photographer… That would require talent.”
Becky had never thought about it like that. But she nodded like she had.
“I bet you’ve never thought about it like that, huh?”
“Sure I have,” Becky said. Then, “How many girls would you marry just to keep a steady clientele?”
Tony grinned. Becky tried not to smile. He fondled his camera. Or maybe she did.
“I bet you’d like to take my picture right now,” she dared him.
“Nah,” Tony said. “Not yet.”
— Robb Lanum
Officer Stinson dropped by. Again.
“I warned you. No bonfires.”
I was drunk. “Stinson,” I said, “you ain’t shit without that badge and that gun.”
Stinson put his badge and gun on the passenger seat, then locked the cruiser. He walked at me, greeted me with a gut-punch. I spat foamy puke, buckled. His rib-work left me airless in piss-soaked jeans.
I attempted, “I’ll put it out,” but only gurgled.
Stinson’s arms got tired. It was over. I sat up.
Then he started kicking me.
Later, badge and gun back on, Stinson arrested me.
Downtown, neither of us said a word.
I can only hope the phone-talking driver, in the larger than life vehicle, slurping down his coffee, notices that I am next to him, because priorities being what they are put me and my Harley at the bottom of his daily agenda. There is even the distinct possibility that my demise will go unnoticed until I am scraped off the highway by a first-year paramedic, who will soon come to realize the importance of pursuing a less stressful line of work. And as I make my premature journey to the heavens, it becomes crystal clear: we both should have ordered decaf.
— Fred Vogel
Giggling pierces the silence of my reading, drawing me away from my book. Yet no one is near me. Drowning out the nervousness I began to feel, I turn back toward my book and continue.
The feeling creeps back; however, the shuddering of a camera is what lures my attention behind me. A flash of light pulls me to my feet, sending shivers down my spine and throughout my body.
The pain and pounding in my chest engulfs my mind in uncontrollable paranoia. I stumble, gather my things, and leave the courtyard but knowing I’ll never leave someone’s line of sight.
— Lunith DeFire
Six months to prepare, doctors say. So, I strike flint, inhale sulfur, flicker sparks until copper flames lick the brittle paper, satin string, faded secrets. I burn through money, scribble checks to heat a stranger’s home, and buy Christmas for families I don’t know.
I give my only heir two antique wooden chairs and then with gnarled fingers pen three wishes. Play only violins, I write. Samuel Barber, Adagio for Strings. Recite two sonnets. Sing a wordless song. Simple, common creature comforts; peaceful pleasures once discovered.
Then, I eat corn on the cob, sizzling in butter and sparkling with sea salt.