Last Flag Of The River

December 26, 2012 § Leave a comment

duskatthepond

Last Flag Of The River
Tom Sheehan

Dangers are everywhere about the river: the porous bog whose underworld has softened for centuries, the jungles of cat-o-nine tails leap up into. Once, six new houses ago, one new street along the banking, two boys went to sea on a block of ice. They are sailing yet, their last flag a jacket shook out in dusk still hiding in Decembers every year. An old man has strawberries in his backyard. They run rampant part of the year. He planted them the year his sons caught the last lobster the last day of their last storm. Summers, strawberries and salt mix on the high air. A truck driver, dumping snow another December, backed out too far and went too deep. His son stutters when the snow falls. His wife hung a wreath at the town garage. At the all-night diner a waitress remembers how many times she put dark liquid in his coffee. When she hears a Mack or a Reo or a huge cumbersome White big as those old Walters used to be, she tastes the hard sense of late whiskeys. He had an honest hunger and an honest thirst, and thick eyebrows, she remembers, thick, thick eyebrows.

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Tom Sheehan served with the 31st Infantry Regiment, Korea, 1951. Books include Epic Cures: BriefCases,  Short Spans; A Collection of Friends; and From the Quickening. He has 18 Pushcart nominations, and included in Dzanc Best of the Web Anthology for 2009. He has 280 short stories on Rope and WireMagazine,  and print issues Rosebud (4) and Ocean Magazine (8) among others. Poetry collections, include This Rare Earth and Other FlightsAh, Devon UnbowedThe Saugus Book; and Reflections from Vinegar Hill. This is his second publication with Slice Of Life.

Image: Dusk at the Pond, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

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The Viewing Room

December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

twin-breath

The Viewing Room
MK Miller

The room itself wasn’t much. Pushed against the right-hand, goldenrod wall: a ’70s RCA console TV and a push-button VCR without a remote. Boxes of storage and two broken wooden desks piled in front of a two-by-three window, facing out onto the commuter parking lot and the L curve of the building, the science stacks. As resident Humanities majors, you never visited either.

Still, this room was your hideaway on campus—your roommate from Little Rhody, who worked the front desk on Tuesdays and Thursdays, told you about it, but Bryan became the sole reason for going.

You first watched West Side Story and several Rockys and Platoon and Forrest Gump when it was a new release. You cried through Terms of Endearment and A Room with a View with Bryan on the ratty dorm-refuse sofa beside you, then nearer to on top of you. On Tuesdays without a night class or a Saturday with nothing else to think-up but get drunk, count quarters for laundry, or read the assigned Camus, you’d rendezvous at the Beinke Viewing Room.

Here, your freshman year, you traced the roof of Bryan G.’s mouth with your tongue and he tasted like garlic and sweet cloves and his fingers ran the dank length of you until you shivered, emboldened because you couldn’t see yourselves in that room without mirrors. Sometimes, his class ring bruised your right breast but it was worth it, to be curled-close with the lights off, crushed into him while your faces glowed blue-orange-red with reflections of whatever tape from the library’s stash you were only half watching.

You’ve wondered these fifteen years after Bryan’s transfer to State: did he become a history teacher or did his dad guilt him into the family business? Has he maybe Googled you? There were three possible guys with his family name on Facebook, but all are bald and slumpy, with trying-too-hard smiles and kids, so you resisted sending a friend request. Not one of them is the Bryan you knew, your assigned presentation partner for the European Empire seminar who swiftly became more, the one you shared the dumpy couch and countless explorations, cinematic and otherwise. You’ve gained twenty pounds and never married, so surely you’re not who you thought you’d be by now, either. Life itself never a movie, but many scenes that seldom add up to an arc.

Despite the Dylan Walsh sideburns and the overcoat he brought back from Christmas break and called dope, you had something. In his hands– the first to snake your thigh. In the dialogue– that could never be called canned when it happened to you: “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”*

Sure, maybe you weren’t Taylor and Burton, nor Bogey and Bacall, but in that room you had something.

* From “When Harry met Sally”

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MK Miller has two degrees and limitless curiosity. She has written about a wide array of topics, including the cultural significance of go-go boots and authentic communications tips. Her writing has appeared most recently in Revolution House, Verdad Magazine, Tawdry Bawdry, and Tiny Buddha.

Image: Twin Breath, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

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