Carl Perrin – Fiction

The Diamond Bracelet

 

 

            Brenda poured herself a cup of coffee and asked, “How did you get that cheap son of a bitch to buy you a diamond bracelet for your anniversary?” She poured a generous dollop of cream and three spoonfuls of sugar into her coffee and stirred until her sister thought she would scrape the glaze off the inside of the coffee cup.

            Miriam smirked and said, “I made him feel guilty.”

            “He’s not having an affair, is he?”

“God, no. He’s too lazy to have an affair, but he has plenty to feel guilty about.”

“Like what?”

“Well, for one thing, he promised me to give up smoking three years ago.”

“He didn’t give it up?

“He gave up smoking at home, but I can smell the smoke on him when he comes in. He knows I can’t abide alcohol, but every once in a while he comes home smelling like a brewery.”

“So how did you use that to make him feel guilty enough to buy you a diamond bracelet?

Miriam poured herself another cup of coffee. “You know those new gizmoes they have to control things in your house?”

“Like turn the light on and play music and stuff?” Brenda ran her fingers through her hair, which was blonde this month.

“I bought one last month. I knew he would object to me spending the money, so I hid it under the bed.”

“Yes?”

“I learned that you could talk to it and have it say stuff back to you.”

            “So?”

            “He is such a creature of habit. He takes a nap every afternoon at 3:00.”

            “So what did you do?” Her voice was impatient to hear how her sister used the gadget.

            “I fixed the gizmo–it’s called an Echo–to come on at 3:15 every afternoon and say, lowering her voice to a creepy waver, ‘I am the voice of your conscience.’

            “He never mentioned hearing it, but I knew he did. I could tell that it shook him up,” Miriam laughed. “After about a week I told him I wanted a bracelet for our anniversary. Then I stopped ‘The Voice of his Conscience.’ A few days after that he came home with my anniversary present,” waving her wrist in front of Brenda again.

 🍃

            Two weeks later Miriam was at Brenda’s As Brenda poured the coffee, Miriam asked, “Where did you hide the macaroons?”

            “In the bottom cabinet, behind the big stew pot.” The sisters loved macaroons, as did Brenda’s husband, Harold, but Harold was supposed to watch his sugar intake, and if he found the macaroons, he would eat the whole package.

            “So, did you decide where you’re going on vacation next month?” Brenda asked,  taking a delicate nibble out of her macaroon.

            “We decided to go to North Carolina.”

            “North Carolina? Whatever are you going to do there?

            Miriam hesitated. “We’re going to watch the NASCAR races.”

            “NASCAR! NASCAR? I thought you hated NASCAR stuff.”

            “I do, but the reservations are all made. The money is spent. We can’t go anyplace else at this point.”

            “You let him turn the tables on you, didn’t you? You let him make you feel guilty because he spent so much money on that bracelet.”

            Miriam looked down. “Yes, I’m afraid I did.”

            “I still don’t understand it,” Brenda said. How could he afford it? That bracelet must have cost thousands of dollars.”

            Miriam shook her head. “That’s what I thought when I agreed to go to North Carolina with him. But yesterday the credit card bill came. The bracelet isn’t diamonds at all. It’s only rhinestone, and it cost $19.99.”

 

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 CARL PERRIN started writing when he was in high school. His short stories have appeared in The Mountain Laurel, Northern New England Review, Kennebec, Short-Story.Me, and CommuterLit among others. His book-length fiction includes Elmhurst Community Theatre, a novel, and RFD 1, Grangely, a collection of humorous short stories.  He is the author of several textbooks, including Successful Resumes,and Get Your Point Across, a business writing textThe memoir of his teaching career Touching Eternity, was a finalist in the 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Award. 

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Nan Wigington – Fiction

Second Chance

 

The ramshackle VW bus, its Westfalia pop top rattling and threatening to break loose, wallowed up my driveway like some battered freighter seeking harbor. It came to a stop and made a short, sharp knock, its engine unwilling. There was a lurch toward my garage door, the sound of a brake being engaged, then nothing. The windows of the bus were veiled in macrame. I thought I saw one of the veils move, hazel eyes peer out. I stood at the screen door wondering whether I should back away, close my front door, pretend I wasn’t home. Should I step out on to the porch?

 

The driver’s side door opened with a bang as if kicked. I wondered what my neighbors saw. My long lost brother, his bare foot breaching, followed by a left leg, clad only in cut off jeans. I imagined a ten-year beard tumbling down his chest, his dirty blond hair in matted ropes. The last time I’d seen him he’d only had a scruff of a beard and wore a muscle shirt and sandals along with his cut offs. Our mother was dying. I had scolded him for coming to the hospital looking like a tramp. When he stood up to go, I had stood in his way, thinking I could heal the rift between us, cover the thorns.

 

“Be responsible, for once,” I had said.

 

“I never liked the old bitch, anyway,” he had said, “Get out of the way.”

 

I wouldn’t move, so he punched me in the eye. The frames of my glasses had cut into my cheek. When I heard him leave, I thought I was crying, but I was bleeding. Our mother died without him, and, without him, I took care of the mess of her estate.

 

Now he came around the front of his van, clean shaven, in work boots, jeans, a blue denim shirt. He looked toward my screen door, then to the van. He slid the rusty skinned passenger door back to reveal a boy and a girl, the boy thin and sandy-haired, the girl fat and dark like me. The girl had some sort of bear. She squeezed it tight to her chest. It made a brief, plaintive mewl. I opened the screen door and stepped out onto the porch.

 

The trio formed at the sidewalk and approached across my grass. They stopped briefly and looked up.

 

My brother scanned my face for scars. He spoke –

 

“You gonna let us in, Ada?”

 

I looked at the girl. I looked at the boy. I nodded.

 

 

🍃

 

Nan Wigington’s recent work has been published in Pithead Chapel and Spelk.  

Niles Reddick – Fiction

​Closer Walk

for Beverly

 

It was unusual for a Baptist minister and his wife to get a divorce, but the divorce was after the deacons had asked him to resign and after his having preached well for fifteen years, saving souls and increasing membership in the church and adding a two-story brick addition to the small church and sanctuary. When the minister didn’t resign, almost half the church left and began meeting at the Masonic lodge, bringing in a retired preacher on an interim basis until they could decide their course.  Rumor was the preacher’s wife Jessie was worried about their family and wanted to move north closer to other family and get away from the gnats, snakes, and rednecks of the deep South. 

Jessie’s sense of despair increased when the break-away group returned after they’d garnered enough support for a majority vote to boot the minister and his family from the church and the nice brick pastorium, which had recently been purchased against some of the deacons’ support. It was a humiliating and degrading experience, a hard pill for a minister’s family to swallow, especially after friendships had flourished, care and concern had been shown to parishioners, and the growth of positive momentum of the church in the community. Jessie was stoic in the business meeting, save a tear or two welling in her eyes and zig-zagging down her cheek.

Stubborn and unwilling to listen to his wife, the preacher let Jessie go and live in a trailer in another rural community not far away, where she took a job as an elementary school teacher. Rumor was they would work it out, get back together, and move away, but dreams of the night fade with the sunrise and Jessie began counseling to help her make way through the life fog she felt engulfed her.

At the end of their first session, Hugh embraced her and she began to whimper. He whispered positive messages to her about how strong she was, how she would get through it, how she had her whole life ahead. Sessions left her feeling exhilarated and the embraces became more than comforting. The first kiss happened unexpectedly, and she felt it was innocent enough and didn’t think much of his wife or family. By the time he dropped a sack of peaches by Jessie’s trailer and they became entangled in passion all the way down the hallway into her bedroom, she had come to believe he was sensitive and caring about her, had fallen in love with her. She had fantasies about their home together, two middle-aged souls finding a renewed salvation in each other, but the meetings became more fraught with promises until he began to ask for some time and she made threats to go to his wife, to go to the counseling board.

By phone, Hugh and Jessie planned to get together and talk. She was reluctant, but he reassured he’d made some decisions. She told him she’d meet him after she finished some work on her classroom, a Thanksgiving decorating session with card board cut-outs: horn of plenty, pilgrims and natives, and turkey stapled on the bulletin board framed with orange accordion border.

She was putting the finishing touches on the bulletin board when Hugh creeped into her room. Startled, Jessie turned on her heels. “You about scared me to death. I thought we agreed to meet at the café to talk.”

“Change of plans.”  Hugh pulled the revolver and pointed. “I can’t let you destroy my life.”

“Hugh, I’m not trying to destroy your life. Put that gun away.”

He moved toward her and she backed into the corner, where students had stood remorseful of their behavior, and he fired a bullet into her side, and she fell to the floor. Blood began to soak that side of her seasonal plaid dress and he pulled her to the side door, through the Bahia grass to her car, where he pulled her body into the seat, sat her up, put the pistol in her hand, pushed her hand toward her head and pulled the trigger again, allowing blood and brain splatter to cover the driver’s side window. 

He wiped where he knew he’d touched with an alcohol wipe, walked back in the same path, turning his feet sideways and raking the grass back in an upright position, cleaned a puddle of blood on the linoleum floor. Her purse he left on the desk. The pistol had been his, but he’d paid cash for it at a gun show in Atlanta several years ago before registration was required.  In the days that followed, after being discovered dead by a custodian, local law enforcement ruled Jessie’s case a suicide and her family struggled and moved away to begin a new life. 

As Jessie was in her final moments, she noticed a glow coming through the school window across the desks, and she reached for a gentle hand that comforted and walked her peacefully toward that light in the window. She was appreciative of the warmth and closeness with which they walked.

 

🍃

 

Niles Reddick is author of a novelDrifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in many literary magazines including The Arkansas Review: a Journal of Delta StudiesSouthern ReaderLike the Dew,The Dead Mule School of Southern LiteratureThe Pomanok ReviewCorner Club PressSlice of LifeFaircloth Review, among others. His website iswww.nilesreddick.com 

Toti O’Brien – Fiction 

INCANTATION                                                                       


     She doesn’t remember when she first noticed it. Retrospectively, the last few months melt in a kind of blur. The weather might be responsible—summer temperatures unusually lasting, bleeding into fall, have dimmed her awareness of the passing season. The afternoon darkness seems incongruous, unreal.
     She has missed Halloween. That night she has worked late. Then she has played the piano and lost track of time, finally crumpling on the couch with a book. Meanwhile, unusual outside animation has peered through. There must be a very lively party near by—lots of guests arriving, departing. Quite surprising on a weekday, yet not a problem. She has barely registered.
     Only the morning after her brains have connected the dots. “It’s November already,” she has sighed. Right! So yesterday was Halloween! She has missed it for the first time in her life.
     *
     She must have spotted the thing around Halloween. Nothing strange—the house is full of spiders. They are harmless and she enjoys them. They are elegant, too. She loves the fluid motion of their nimble legs—fingers on a keyboard. In the shower she can leisurely watch a few, intent at their dance. She doesn’t bother removing them.
     But this one, perched high in a corner, looks huge. Weirdly shaped, segmented… isn’t it normal? She remembers something from her school days. Abdomen, cephalothorax—spiders’ bodies articulate in the center. Why didn’t she observe the phenomenon before? This specimen must be bigger. Much bigger.
     She has chanced upon a mega-spider, enormous. A vague sense of alarm trickles down her spine. “Should I worry? Is it poisonous?” Soon her apprehension dissolves. It must be innocuous, she is sure. Only, an extra-large size.
     *
     It is growing. Day by day, shower by shower. At least, sometimes it looks larger. Is her observation reliable? She can’t tell. Today she is quite certain, and the shiver resumes down her back. “Will it keep swelling?” Then, confusingly, it seems to have shrunken…
     There is another spider in view. She checks and compares. This new one is average. An oblong shape, indistinct—no waistline, no upper and lower body are discernable. This one perfectly represents the category. It is pale—a grey shade—while the giant is pitch black.
      Once or twice she has seen it capture its prey. Strange behaviors… she didn’t recall having studied them. First the prey (a little fly? a small bug, inconspicuous like a speckle of dust) is stilled in place, paralyzed among the spires of a quasi-invisible web. The big guy comes near and does something with its legs. Something frantic, or so it looks because of many limbs juggling—fingers racing on keys for a rapturous grand finale.
     The predator paws its prey, nimbly, skillfully… like a potter at the wheel, a cook expertly stuffing some bird, a very quick knitter. A magician playing a trick of cards under the audience’s hypnotized gaze. The whole scene has a trance-like quality, suspended as it is in space and time—both precipitous and infinitely slow. She is charmed. A bit scared as well. With no reason, truly.
     *
     Then she sees the prey has also grown bigger. Wrapped it in a tight cocoon, now it looks like a detached segment of the spider itself, which is coming closer. Will it gulp the morsel? Will it glue it to itself, then gradually absorb it?  She doesn’t see it happen. Not because she doesn’t want to but, please, she needs to get dressed and go. Learning about spiders’ feeding habits isn’t today’s plan. Or tomorrow’s. It is totally irrelevant. She is wasting her time.
     Later, though, she can’t avoid noticing the creature has swollen, like the snake gulping an elephant in one of her children books. Did it swallow its booty altogether? Without breaking it down? It must have.
     Then it is back to normal. Approximately. Back to normal, she thinks.
     She is witnessing the prey-catching, prey-petting more often. Maybe a kind of lent ended and a feasting season begun. She is dazzled by the motions: the creature seems to have more limbs than it should. Is she counting sixteen? Paired like for a double-stringed guitar. Are the spiders two? How comes she didn’t guess? Joined, attached. Perhaps making love. Wouldn’t it be something? She should get her glasses. A step stool.
    Hell, no. She needs to get dressed and hurry. She is late.
    *
     It is one spider only. It has shrunk to size once again. She can count the legs—they are eight. Their fast motion gives an illusion of quantity—an optical lure. When they fumble the unfortunate captive they have a dizzying effect on her nerves. There is a slight obscenity in what looks like erotic foreplay, preluding to the incumbent annexation. To the mysterious merging she has never managed to watch.
     But of course, the beast doesn’t know a curious eye daily violates its privacy. It safely inhabits its own universe, surrounded by the magic circle it has wrought—a small galaxy, satellites gravitating towards the center, following the unavoidable laws of attraction.
     She has noticed it frequently bends at the waistline, hanging loosely at the bottom of its master web. Doubled over, it draws a letter V in the air, coarsely traced in black. V for victory—its favorite pose. It looks ominous.
     *
     Not only is the spider too big (will the anomalous growth ever stop? should she worry?) There is also no reason why it should hang in her shower. True, she never cared for an insect-free bathroom—but proportions do matter. This thing is so conspicuous it becomes intrusive. Sharing quarters is now inconvenient. Embarrassing.
     Obviously she should dispose of the thing. What is she waiting for? She must kill the spider. This particular one, taking itself for the master of the place, uncaring of limits. Indecent, to say the word. “I will kill it”, she murmurs while she grabs her towel. Then another though tickles her: she should get a stool and her glasses. She should look at the monster, once, really close. How ridicolous. Get dressed. You are late.
          “I must kill it,” she repeats each morning. But she vaguely senses it isn’t time yet. Instead, she would like to… can’t she avow its ugliness enthralls her? Are all things bad so charming, you can’t help another good look before getting rid of them? Are monsters so attractive you cannot let them go? She must kill the spider. Today.
      A chill goes down her back when she draws the curtain, fumbles nervously with the faucet, gasps for the comfort of hot running water. Is the cold—isn’t it?—making her shiver. Winter has finally arrived. Cold, cold, cold! She mutters. Foam is lathering on her skin like a shawl of snow. Looking down at her goose-bumped limbs, she wraps herself in her own arms, oblivious of all.
     Cold has come at last—a long delayed spell, a sentence postponed.

 

🍃

 

Toti O’Brien’s work has most recently appeared in Masque & Spectacle, Feminine Inquiry, Indiana Voices, and Italian Americana.

Tiana Lavrova – Fiction

Rolflandian Ideonomisis   

“It is a sign of exceptional Thanatopsis to choose exceptional experimentation in sniffing and snuffing more or less implicit psy-Dolan Cantorian dogma… however, be aware, that you will be implicitly hereticized — and metronomically diagonalized in snuffing out by a terra firma diaphragmitis Lichten-apos.”

I.

“What is the universalizable — consider a Austro-Moldovian universalizable law, of the sum total of Maltesian “Functionality” — a biological, full-blooded, e.g., “Anglo-Saxon, and/or Germanic,” granted person — swiping-dry, any geo-political and/or botanical-pediatrism pre-packaged “mobiuses” within any n “personsified” conception? Independence, as more, antithetical — upper bound set(s) of what you might least value restrictively under the set V of “noetical diversion” objects?”

II.

“Flexing (or not) “artificial lines” on continua encoded “mark-offs” for mental disorders: transfinite innatist genuses ― cathartic, neo-Plutonian, embryonic-Nebuchadnezzar token-type states. Describe the former and latter state’s continua similarities per flexing Cambrian poca-oscillating line on calculating these rationale (then, compose liberetti ― give Kyrgyzstan-kryptonian nodal, Brentwood transactions) innatist, tachycardic genuses. Then, hand-paint their mercenary in frozen fish marmalade.” 

 

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Tiana Lavrova, better known as Timaeus Lavrov, is an avant-garde writer from British Columbia, Canada with an interest in digital parts-to-whole philosophical musical instruments; open-source philosophical treatments, and absolutist self-reliant living. Their interests also include unspeakable languages, ideonomical calculators, and Gaian thought-crime-free zones.