The Plunge

February 29, 2012 § 8 Comments

The Plunge
Tracy Sweeney

I never liked the water—from the long leap off the pier to the moment my toes touched the surface. I hated the muted sounds as I plunged into murky depths below and the anxious climb back to the air above. Maybe it was about control—something I have so little of these days. Now, I find myself rowing to the center of the lake, determined. This time when I jump, I’ll take in the air and enjoy the fall. This time when I’m pulled under, I’ll welcome the silence. This time when I rise above, I’ll have peace.


Tracy Sweeney lives north of Boston, Massachusetts with her two young boys. When she’s not letting her six-year old beat her in Angry Birds, she’s working on her first novel.
Twitter: @pink_flask

Image: Mist, By Pirjo Zeylon


Pavel-Ahram’s Roundelay

February 24, 2012 § 4 Comments

Pavel-Ahram’s Roundelay
Valery V. Petrovskiy

I first heard and memorized a tune in my early childhood when an old Chuvash woman was mumbling a song as she limped her way home. She was singing an age-old monotonous song. There were only three words: Hey-ara, hey-ara, hey-ara.

Then it rang like a travelling song, moving from door to door. But I also heard the tune at the table, and then it was a drinking song. The charm of it is that the words can be easily learned: Hey-ara, hey-ara, hey-ara. Nevertheless it is rather difficult to discern the melody, there is none. The tune changes during travel: when driving by the woods the tune fades and slows down. The melody unfolds itself again when a man sings it as he goes into the fields, there it spreads out widely and overflows the horizon. When riding down a ravine the song stumbles along together with the horse as syllable and stride are shortened.

How could I keep the song in my memory? One has to be born with it. Or you have to drive in a sledge in a winter night, a child wrapped up in a sheepskin coat, your father next to you. In spite of the dark your father is not frightened. He is singing the primeval roundelay: Hey-ara, hey-ara, hey-ara… And you are not scared beside him though you cannot see anything but a solitary star overhead.

Driven not by a horse obedient to your father holding the reins but by the drawling tune of the song, you are hauled after the prolonged note, monotonous as a snowbound country road, as dreary as the evening with the blind moon howling down: hey-ara, hey-ara, hey-ara…

Maybe your father is afraid, but he fears neither beast nor man, is only afraid to be all alone in the wintry fields. And then he is howling the mantra, filling it with deep-throated consonants coming from the very depths of his lungs. It makes his soul vibrate, then makes it expand and swirl with his horse, then with the road, and now with a distant forest, and then the tune covers the entire snow field, endless as life itself.

So whenever I hear the everlasting Hey-ara tune, it makes me startle and then recall all that had never happened to me.

The name of the old Chuvash woman was Pavel-Ahram after her husband Pavel, who did not come back from the battle fields of World War II. And yet she was so alive and bright.


Mr. Valery V. Petrovskiy is a freelance journalist and short story writer from Russia. He is a Chuvash University, Cheboksary graduate in English, then graduated VKSch Higher School, Moscow in journalism, and had a degree at Kazan State Technological University in psychology. He has two dozen of his prose works published in the U.S.A.: in The Legendary, DANSE MACABRE, The Other Room, among others; and a few pieces released in Australian journals Going Down Swinging, The Fringe Magazine and Skive. A set of his prose work is forthcoming in Canada at RYGA journal.

Valery lives in Russia at a remote village by the Volga River.

Image: Grass and Light, by Stephen Martin

Pieces of Me

February 19, 2012 § 4 Comments

Pieces of Me
Leigh-Anne Fraser

The printer whirrs and spits out the last of the photographs. I spread them out across the kitchen table. The overhead light creates a glare on the glossy paper. I turn the dimmer switch down and look at them again. Nine pictures of me: walking in the woods, driving home to Ottawa, sitting at the top of a Ferris wheel in Carp, walking along the Mississippi River. I pull out a chair and stand on it. I hit my head on the chandelier. It spins around on the brassy black chain the light hangs from. Two bulbs have burned out. For a moment I feel guilty for the dead bulbs and the layer of dust everywhere. It passes. I look down at the table. Faces stare back at me. My chest aches. I touch and press the soft fleshy place where they cut you if you stop breathing so they can stick a tube in to do a tracheal intubation. I gulp for air. The chair wobbles.

In two photos I am smiling. Brave smile, looking up at the camera at the moment I caught her looking at me through her lens. In the others I am not paying attention to her. I am focused on something else, camera dangling from one hand, distracted, bent over, drawn to examine it more closely. My daughter took them all, when I wasn’t looking. Except for one. I shift my feet. The seat belches and cracks. I left the chairs out in the rain one afternoon in the summer. The plastic veneer puckered and the chair dried brittle. I step down before I break it completely. The me in the photos watches. Even if I look at the photos sideways, I can’t avoid the eyes. Dark and sad even though the me is smiling; lines of worry parading on her face; pale shade of defeat, loss. My chest feels heavy again. The cat comes in and jumps on the table, sending the photos sliding across as he does. I rescue them before they fall. The few photographs I have of myself were taken by someone else and most of them stared up at me from the tabletop.

A thought trips through my brain, making me take a step back. I bump into the counter. These pictures are how she sees me. Not what I see. She told me this morning, when she found her camera in her bed room that her personal goal is to capture me any time we are out. I won’t know when. The me eyes stare back. I am not sure how I feel about it. I scratch at my neck.


Leigh-Anne grew up in the Ottawa Valley, and still considers Kinburn, Ontario to be home. When she isn’t writing or working at her day job as the Fundraising and Special Events Coordinator for the Boys & Girls Club of London, Leigh-Anne can often be found stomping around in the woods around St. Thomas, ON with her daughters, camera in hand.

Image: Walking in the Morning, by Leigh-Anne Fraser


February 15, 2012 § 4 Comments

John Hansen

It was hard to maintain the solemnity of the dead man’s wake when his mouth wouldn’t stay shut in full view of the mourners. When he died at the age of 85, the distance was too far and the expense too great to hold his wake at the nearest funeral home. So, it was his daughter-in-law, who lived on the farm with him and her husband, who took charge of preparing his body.

But death was viewed with the same seriousness as the temperance pledge in their family bible which remained unsigned. Temperance was a virtue, true, but so was hospitality and it was important to ensure there was enough dandelion wine to go around. Death was not a thing to take lightly but would always mean that while yet another person we love is gone, we are still here.

But that mix of sadness and relief, which often threads its way through funerals, was not enough to stop some mourners from becoming visibly upset at the sight of a dead man suddenly feigning surprise. His daughter-in-law therefore added to her list of chores the task of smearing sealing wax over his lips to keep them from popping open. As the wax was not strong enough to hold for very long. she would repeat this chore until the mourners had left.


John Hansen lives with his wife and child in the suburbs of Montreal, Canada where he works spends his days looking at spreadsheets and evenings writing and obsessing over Coronation Street.

Image: Blue Morpho, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

Aimless Day

February 11, 2012 § 2 Comments

Aimless Day
Pirjo Zeylon

My mind spreads its spikes at dawn like a hedgehog preparing for a fox attack.

This morning’s hangover has nothing to do with alcohol. The poison is my mind wanting me to be something that I am not.

I stare at him and wonder what he is thinking. I want to melt right through his skin, invade every pore, and eat his thoughts for breakfast.

When I take off my glasses he says I look lost, vulnerable.

A world lies embedded between my computer keys made of bread crumbs, a micro world unaware of me.

The Arabic pizza baker raises his eyebrows and tells me I’m getting smaller.

The annoying fragility of this plastic life shows when the hungry ATM eats my credit card.

I sit on a fence at the top of the hill catching my breath. When a police officer asks me what my story is, I stare at him.

My ninety-seven year old neighbor is cleaning her house and running errands. She is moving to Thailand tomorrow to start a new life. I wish I were her.


Pirjo Zeylon is a writer and artist who lives and writes in southern Sweden. She is fluent in Swedish, Finnish and English. Pirjo is currently working on a novel that she hopes will be published before she reaches 50.  When she is not writing Pirjo works in the field of logistics.


Image: Aimless Day, By Pirjo Zeylon


February 7, 2012 § 4 Comments

Michelle Bidwell

You’re sitting on a stained white couch, the cushions so soft you worry you won’t be able to stand back up with any kind of grace. You want to grab one of the throw pillows and hug it to yourself for comfort but wonder if that would make you look needy or neurotic or whatever it is your body language will say. So you sit up as straight as you can on the squishy sofa and refuse to let your arms cross in self defense.

The therapist might be a little older than you. It’s hard to say. High desert climate isn’t kind to skin. You’re glad you haven’t lived here all your life and feel desperate to leave before your own skin turns to leather. You like her jeans, her shoes, and her trendy glasses. And then she tells the two of you that your daughter is exhibiting signs of BPD. Borderline Personality Disorder. You reach for your husband’s hand. Your fingers entwine with familiar ease. It’s not that you didn’t already know.

When she tells you that your daughter is terrified of being just like her biological mother you squirm. Your husband says, If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck. You stare at the floor to hide your Picasso face, one eye filled with amusement, the other with outrage. If you had three eyes, the third would be a fresco of sadness.

The therapist isn’t big on labeling. You aren’t in love with it either, but if it walks like a duck. Your feathered daughter is a master at projection and manipulating the truth. She lives in a black and white world, is impulsive, violent, self-destructive, histrionic and narcissistic.

You leave the counseling session and drive straight to the bookstore. You love the bookstore and you find yourself relaxing, wandering around, even after you find the book you are looking for. You buy your daughter a present, a henna tattoo kit. It looks fun. Maybe she can draw on herself rather than cut herself.

It takes only five of the nine behaviors for a BPD diagnosis. She somehow exhibits all nine daily. You read on and begin to wonder if your ex-husband was a BPD. That would explain a lot.


Michelle Bidwell lives in rural Idaho and works as a Field Interviewer for Research Triangle Institute. She is a longstanding member of the Diving Deeper Writing Workshop. She loves to read, write, garden, and hang out with her dogs. Michelle is a mother of five and very proud grandmother of three.

Image: Reflections and Light, By Stephen Martin

Ear, Nose and Throat

February 3, 2012 § 5 Comments


Ear, Nose and Throat
Jennifer Sulkow

You come into the room and sit in the chair, sometimes the chair you are supposed to sit on, sometimes my chair and I have to ask you to move. You have your purse on your lap. Why do you have it on your lap? Why don’t you put it over there on the chair? I ask you a question. You answer a different question that I did not ask. I ask how long and you say a long time. Yes, but how long exactly? You keep talking and I cannot get a word in edgewise. I sigh and listen and try to take control of the situation. I give up and get up and start to look you over. I try to look in your ear. You pull away. You cringe and tense up. I sit down. I am just going to look in your nose now. No, don’t lean back. Just keep your head still. I hold your head with my hand. You scrunch up your face. No, relax your face. That is it. You are doing fine. I feel your neck. You are okay with that.  Open your mouth. Put your tongue back in. Relax your tongue. Breathe through your mouth like a puppy.  Say ahh. Oh, you have something in your mouth.  Could you spit that out? Thank you.


Jennifer Sulkow is a Physician Assistant in upstate New York. She is a member of the Diving Deeper Writing Workshop.

Image: Anna, Harbin Hot Springs, By Sandra Jensen

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