Tuesday, November 10, 2015


This is a really fine contest for emerging and established writers alike. The promotion of the winner is such that their piece will be published at not one but two new on-line literary magazines. The work will be paired with an artist of high calibre. The selected short story and nine runner ups will be published in a one-time print publication, with the winner being awarded $100.00 USD. Please let your contacts, writing groups, students, colleagues, family and friends know about this great opportunity! Send us your best. Submit today!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Fake With Your Left - By Donal Mahoney

Far away and long ago stuff happened in Gramps’ life that he’d like to forget but he can’t, even though he can’t always remember what he had for breakfast, lunch or dinner. 

But anything that happened 40, 50, 60 years ago he remembers clearly. His grandson, Patrick, is in grammar school and has to write an essay about an event that shaped Gramps' life when he was a kid. Patrick keeps asking Gramps to tell him about it. In two weeks he has to hand in his essay. 

“Tell me something good," Patrick keeps saying. "I have to get an A."

Gramps remembers many childhood events that might make a good essay but the one that stands out is not something he should tell Patrick about. His parents would disapprove. 

It happened during WWII, when Gramps was Patrick’s age, and although it had nothing to do with the war, it created commotion in the family home. Gramps was in grammar school himself back then. 

Young Gramps was a good student, earning straight A’s in his first three years of school. His behavior at times was a problem but the nuns usually gave him a pass because he was good in his studies and did well on tests, something unusual among the boys in his class. 

The girls always did well but they studied. Young Gramps studied too because he couldn’t go out to play until his homework was done. He would be quizzed in the kitchen by his mother while his father sat in the living room listening to his answers. His father would yell when he could go out. 

Then young Gramps’ handwriting became a problem. In the transition from printing to cursive, his penmanship was so poor he brought home a grade lower than an A in penmanship and that disturbed his father who despite little formal education in Ireland had a signature that would rival a calligrapher’s art. 

What’s worse, young Gramps' father could sign his name with both hands at the same time. One of the signatures would be written backwards and when held up to the mirror it looked exactly the same as his regular signature. He had been a prisoner of war, a guest of the English, after the Easter 1916 rebellion in Ireland and had plenty of time to practice signing his name backwards with his left hand. This was during his two-year confinement on Spike Island, off the coast of Ireland, where the British housed Irish prisoners. 

Young Gramps’ father had been 16 when imprisoned for running guns for the Irish rebels and 18 when the British freed him as long as he left Ireland. He chose to come to the United States.  

Unlike his father, young Gramps had trouble writing legibly with just one hand. It was a big enough problem that he was made to sit at the dining room table after supper and practice his writing.

But a nun then discovered Gramps couldn’t read the blackboard from the third seat in the middle row. Speculation began that perhaps poor eyesight was affecting his handwriting. 

A visit to Dr. Max Erman, an optometrist and the only medical professional in the neighborhood, determined that Gramps was nearsighted and would have to wear spectacles the rest of his life. This news turned out to be a greater tragedy for his father than the news about young Gramps' bad handwriting. 

“God help us, Mary,” Gramps remembers his father saying to his mother. “The boy will be in all kinds of fights at school. Glasses aren’t something boys should have to wear. That’s how the other boys will think.” 

His father was right in some respects. Spectacles on boys in the Forties were not common in grammar school, at least not at his school. Girls wore glasses and had no problems. Boys didn’t pick on girls unless they wanted to stay after school for the rest of their lives, as the nuns were quick to tell them. 

When Dr. Erman put the new glasses on young Gramps, he had to admit he saw stuff he didn’t hadn’t seen before. His little sister, he discovered, had freckles. He was happy about being able to see better but in light of his father’s attitude about a son wearing glasses, young Gramps kept quiet about this new advantage. 

When they got home, however, his father decided young Gramps needed to be ready for any teasing that might take place at school. Despite protests from his mother, he took the boy down to the basement and told him to take his glasses off. Then he showed him how to put up his fists. And, as young Gramps remembers well, his father got down on his knees and put up his own fists and proceeded to teach Gramps how to defend himself.

Young Gramps quickly learned how to fake with his left and cross with his right, a standard maneuver his father had used to advantage as a boxer after emigrating to the United States from Ireland. It seemed to be a nice trick, but young Gramps didn’t think he’d have to use it. The nuns patrolled the schoolyard during recess.

But during the lunch hour on the first day young Gramps wore his glasses, Larry Moore came out of nowhere looking to have a fight. Fights back then were always fair. No kicking or anything like that. Only fists were used. The fight would go on till one boy quit or the nuns broke it up and levied their punishments—something just shy of staying after school for the remainder of life. 

Young Gramps beat Larry Moore that day. The fight didn’t last long and no nun saw it. Young Gramps faked with his left and crossed with his right and Larry Moore got a bloody nose. And young Gramps beat Billy Gallagher the next day using the same combination. 

But the following day Fred Ham, a boy big for his age, came looking to have a fight as well. He didn’t know young Gramps but he knew that he beaten Larry Moore and Billy Gallagher, both reputed to be pretty tough, although Fred had won fights with both of them. 

Against the much bigger Fred, young Gramps faked with his left, crossed with his right, and hit Fred in the eye. There was no blood but Fred got a black eye that brought an end to other boys looking to have a fight with young Gramps. 

Much to his surprise he caught no flak from his father who took the phone call from the nun who had called to report the fights young Gramps had been in. In fact, his father, while verbally deploring such behavior over the phone, seemed rather pleased to discover his tutelage had worked out so well. His mother, however, was obviously disgusted.

“This isn’t Ireland, Tommy,” she said to his father. “We can’t have a boy going around beating up other boys just because he has to wear glasses.” 

Those memories were all clear in Gramps’ mind but at the moment he didn’t know how to explain to his grandson how this event—having to wear spectacles and learning to fight at an early age—had been a seminal event in his grammar school life. 

His grandson was alive now in a new day and age at a time when mothers wanted sons to play soccer out of fear they might get hurt playing football. And schoolyard fights in the suburb where his grandson lived were probably unknown. At least Gramps had never heard of one. 

The only real competition his grandson faced at his age was largely in the classroom where boys and girls tried to get the best grades possible. The hope was that one day they would win a scholarship to college. 

As a result, Gramps finally told his grandson he’d have to think about what to tell him for his essay because his mind wasn’t as sharp it used to be. 

"If all goes well, Patrick,” Gramps said, "I should have a good story when you come home from school tomorrow.”

But probably not as good as the one that had just run through his mind after more than 60 years. 

Gramps knew it was the best he could offer. 

But not to young Patrick.

Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and  Commonweal.  Some of his online work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=

Friday, November 6, 2015

The Plow, the Dump Rake, and the Mower - by Audra Kerr Brown

Rotted beasts along sagging
fence lines, backbones
of circular blades rusted
in the tangled vine. Drowned
beneath geometric
shadows of skeletal barns, rakes
like bare ribs poke
toward the looming
sky. How they yearn to belch
blackened smoke, to clear
their throats—a great gnashing
of gears, shafts, spokes, chains—
a collective, mechanical roar,
to once again carve the ground, slash
the hillsides, brand the dirt with a flash
of blinding steel, to ravage the land as
hungry kings on heaving wheels of iron stained
with the blood of the earth.                                                                               

 Audra Kerr Brown lives in southeast Iowa with her husband, daughter, and two cats. Her writing has been published in fine literary magazines such as Popshot, People Holding, Maudlin House, Pithead Chapel, and 3Elements Review. She loves the quiet life and buys every copy of Gone with the Wind that crosses her path.

- The Plow, the Dump Rake, and the Mower first appeared at the publication Psychotic Education  

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

god, love, money and other snares - by Darren Francis

wreckage of earth. finite resources. all territories described then denied. 

i move out from zero point. america my lovesong. this colony we squander and call a kingdom. i need to find me some pleasure. london was made for me. i count biosurvival tokens. love is everywhere and alcohol is good. in a coffee bar men hold napkins to their mouths. align cups to saucers. starbucked. i reach for my beer, feel city blossom in my veins. 

i walk london's chartered pavements. on sunny goodge street i fold myself in. don't need my wings tonight. pass restaurants chromed and domed where a month of my salary is an evening's fodder and water. i like these streets. everything is for sale. all things turned into portents. what do you want? how many can i get you? how much can you afford? streets of cheer where the naked sell skin for clothes, the dumb sell brain for magazine, where the starving sell throat for food. i can't get songs out from my head. star wars has crashed my sex life. 

addictions. i need more addictions. 

i watch tv and listen to the elder of the tribe. the president appears before his subjects to announce a season of revelries. give them bread and circuses. wrestling and coca cola. they want to launch to mars in tin cans. next outpost of the empire. planet of war nomenclature has declared mars silent sixth in the axis of evil; its nascent life being bacterial has deemed it a chemical weapon. 

every square foot of earth is billboard space.  

you patent my cells, my proteins, my genes, my code, my information. you patent me. you kill my air, my trees, my water, my animals, to grant you swifter transit from point to point. you pension off galaxies, flog starlight, privatise deserts, steal my grass and steal my breath. stamp copyright on what is mine by birth in order to sell it back to me. 

you have soiled all in your scramble for the gold of the gods. my path lies with the beasts. 

you expect me to weep for you? 

these they are your children, coming at you with knives.


Darren Francis writes, makes art, and makes music. He is the author of Spell, Skin, and - in collaboration with Simon Lewis - Jack Palmer & The Unspeakable Thing. He was a member of the legendary industrial band Cubanate in the mid-1990s and has recorded the spoken word albums God Thing and Future Ghosts, and five albums with the band Logos - Gehenna Now, Ascending A Line In The Sky To Sothis, Shamania, Santa Susana Blues, and Everything Under The Sky. For more information please visit www.darrenfrancis.co.uk

In the Pipeline - by Kyle Heger

For all the warmth she exuded, the
young woman with long lashes
could just as easily have been selling
fruit smoothies or cell phones as
burial services while we discussed
what to do with your remains, sitting
in an office that reminded me far too
much of the one where I had been
suckered into making my first and last
time-share condominium purchase
after a three-margarita sales pitch.

But at least she represented something
individually human: a voice, a pair of
eyes, a customized name tag. So, when,
on the day on which the interment had
been scheduled, I discovered that she
was not on the premises, that she had
broken her commitment to accompany
me through the process, that she had,
instead, without telling me, foisted me
off on a salesman I’d never met, I was
dismayed. Behind their counter, staff
members broke away from a spirited
conversation about football long enough
to greet with equal parts surprise, contempt
and amusement my request that your ashes
be treated a bit more gingerly than a sack
of dirty laundry. Was I one of those party-
pooper consumer activists they’d been
warned against? Did I need Sherlene to
hold my hand during what was, after all,
a pretty cut-and-dried process? Who was
I to blow the whistle on somebody who
always brings such great cheesecakes to
company potlucks? When they passed me
off on the manager, he was careful not to
admit that any wrongdoing had occurred,
in case I had a lawsuit up my sleeve, but,
wanting to keep on the good side of the
Better Business Bureau, he grudgingly set
another date and gave me the cold comfort
of an assurance that he himself would be
there to assist me.

But as I stand here now, watching a little
concrete box lowered into the open earth
on a hillside overlooking the San Francisco
Bay, I realize that it would be easier for a
disgruntled funeral-home employee to
desecrate your ashes than it would be for
an unhappy fast-food worker to spit in the
milk shake, and I can’t help wondering what
is really being covered up with soil (maybe
just a bundle of unopened junk mail) while
your remains are swirling toward the bay
in the sewers. 


 Kyle Heger, former managing editor of “Communication World” magazine, lives in Albany, CA. His writing has appeared in “The Binnacle,” “eFiction,” “Five Poetry,” “Foliate Oak,” “Milk Sugar,” “Miller’s Pond,” “Nerve Cowboy,” “Poem,” “The Santa Clara Review,” “Third Wednesday,” “The Thorny Locust” and other publications.

The Window - by M.J. Cleghorn

It was an undistinguished brown wooden house, not unlike others of its kind.
Square and squat it sat at the edge of a forest. A dead forest bare twisted with trees grasping bony fingered branches at the open sky in cold, tiny hoar frosted breaths.
Some remembered it as ugly, if they remembered it at all.
Like a strange birthmark, the house boasted one unique feature.
A huge octagonal window erected by forgotten tenants. They had scavenged the crystal monolith from the wreck of a lighthouse. A pale and ghostly lighthouse that once towered over the town’s port.
The window cast its eye out upon the world searchingly. In certain light, said some the light under morning or evening star or said others when cloaked in whips of sea mists the window took the shape of a giant fish eye. It shone like the eyes of doomed captains and the eyes of their lost crews.  The great prisms of fiery light burning through the window could blind the curious.  Beams of foggy cold light were spied at odd hours. Day or night, the unbroken rays came in waves. Waves washed in on the gales of autumn waves washed out with the tides of winter. 
The time came to lay the house to rest. 
"Blight,” said the living.  Let the Dead bury the dead.
The creak of hard steel echoed for miles and miles as the wrecking crew with wrecking balls and sticks of dynamite surrounded the house. 
The wrecking men came and went whispering through the empty rooms and passageways whispering as if they feared waking the dead. 
Each in his turn agreed it was a terrible waste to raze the old house
A pity such a pity; and not even the old fish-eyed window could be saved. Gone forever the monolith with its searing light, light that fished sailors from the sea gave ships full of silver and men safe harbor.
The saved and unsaved, all the same.   They would stand watch as the great beacon fell, falling shattering into hundreds- thousands of shards of nothingness. 
The noble lookout would be no more. 
The day of the demolition dawned stormy. The sky Serpentine.  The wrecking crew arrived with the morning.  They went about their grim tasks in silence, speaking to one another only by simple hand signals while occasionally gazing up mournfully at the crumbling mausoleum.  A sense of impending execution settled in. They had been chosen for the firing squad. 
Silence settled over the site as the last wire was attached- a wire running across the grounds down the path to the front pouch door where the first explosion would blow. Huddled, half hidden by the shadows cast from the over grown wild roses treaded against the far house gate near the edge of the kitchen garden; the men caught sight of a lone figure.
It was the figure of a man. He was dressed in torn wool trousers and he wore a shabby pea coat with shiny brass buttons. On his head sat a fine white cap.  The men turned and tipped their hats to the man. 
They watched as he slowly turned toward them pulling the pipe from his mouth
Exhaling a cloud of smoke. 
The strange man resumed his position standing erect beneath the ancient beacon. Stoic. Unblinking.
The captain of the wrecking crew held up his hand.  He began counting down using his ten fingers.
A hard gale came up as the last finger came down. 
A giant grey wave washed over them.   Drowned. They were drowned to the last man, their bodies crashing, splintered against the ruins of the old house.
A white light beamed cutting a path through the black waters. The house tossed on its side.  Another wave hit.  The house righted itself.
The sea receded.  The storm passed.  Ropes of seaweed wrapped themselves round the wrecking balls and trees.  Stranded jellyfish scared the lawn. 
Even today, some say, a smell of the sea, a taste of salt on the tongue comes and goes on the street where an undistinguished  house brown and wooden once sat square and squat on the edge of a forgotten forest.  It had but one unique mark, a great octagonal window round with light, a fiery light, a light that once proved the salvation of many a lost Captain and crew. Ships they say, ships full of men and silver. All to safe harbor. Saved and unsaved. 

M.J. Cleghorn was born in Anchorage Alaska. Her Athabaskan and Eyak heritage gave her a love of poetry. She now lives and writes near the banks of the Matunuska River in the Palmer Butte. Alaska where the moose, wild dogs, roses and  salmon berries provide unending joy and inspiration.