March 10, 2013 § Leave a comment
“Mama, we have anything to eat?” “Sure, Punkin, here.” Mama’s arm shot back, the sound of her fingers crackling cellophane as she passed the Krispy Kremes from the front seat to the back. Before my stomach growled, I had been trying to guess license plates, pretending to have a contest with Daddy like we did before he left us. Mama said she talked to him until she was blue in the face trying to make him stay but he didn’t pay her no mind. Not after that manicurist got his attention. But if you ask me, I don’t think Mama’s heart was in it. Otherwise, she could of talked him into staying, even if it was only for a little while.
“Now don’t you be sulking back there young lady.” My mama always said she had eyes in the back of her head and I believed her. “Your sister okay?”
Mary Virginia was up in the rear view window, looking at the stars, tapping her fingernails on the glass, her eyes not an inch away. She moved this way and that, making little huff and puff sounds trying to keep from falling into the back seat. She had grown a foot, Mama said, since our car trip last summer. Still looked little to me. At least little enough to squeeze herself up there in the back window. Before I got too big for it we had to draw straws for who got to sleep there. But not when Daddy was with us.
Before he left us we all – including Mama who was mostly always happy then – jumped out of the car to watch Daddy in the moonlight. He would dig down deep into his pockets, jingle his change and finally bring out the coin that felt just right I guess. He would turn this way and that, making sure we all saw the coin he chose, and then he would toss the coin high in the sky while we held our breaths. The coin caught the flash of moonbeams as it flipped over and over before daddy scooped it out of the sky like it was no more than a firefly. Then with a slap he moved it from his right palm to the back of his left hand. With his big grin he would lean down, his warm face next to ours, and say “What’ll it be for you girls tonight? Heads or tails?” Only then could we take another breath.
After receiving her PhD in 1997, Katherine Horrigan taught as an adjunct English Professor for the University of Houston. Both print and online journals including The Birmingham Arts Journal, The Rusty Nail, and The Prose Poem Project have published her poetry, plays, and short stories. Her poetry has also been published in the 2013 Texas Poetry Calendar and she recently completed Drought, a novel set in South Texas. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Ginkgo Biloba, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
February 4, 2013 § Leave a comment
I’ve been slipped parking tickets under my bones like I wasn’t supposed to be where I was. I don’t drive around town too often. My parents think I’ll crash, think I haven’t had enough experience, think my hands don’t have enough bent corners, rough creases, wrinkles like the Vermont State maps stuffed into your glove compartment. Before we drove over the bridge, you asked me to read them for you, but I am useless when it comes to reading interstates or highways or badges with numbers; I am just stupid when it comes to my finger following the lines. If we stayed in this town, if we didn’t take a road trip, I could drive us places. I don’t need a map here— I know the short cuts, and the long way just in case you have a tank full of gas and it’s a Friday afternoon and Monday is a national holiday. Or, if you’re in a hurry, I know the one way streets you can get away driving a palindrome. I know the crooked spots over the hills, the spots where cops don’t bother looking, the spots where you can see stars putting their cigarettes out on the arms of clouds. And I know where we can park for a whole night, like a secret in the clutter of this city, underneath its own seat. We can be a couple of crumpled receipts, or a dirty penny and a movie stub, or a gum wrapper and a CD that will skip like our last conversation, wedged in my head: “The french-french-french toast was good. It was nice to see-see-see—” You, have always been a ‘been there’ disguised as a Lego magazine I receive monthly at my parent’s house; I haven’t read one since I was 12 years old, but the Lego company doesn’t fuck around with their subscriptions. And neither do you.
Benjamin Bouvet-Boisclair is currently a SUNY Cortland undergrad student working towards a Professional Writing degree. When not writing he is playing board games with enemies, shooting hoops, or doing magic tricks for invisible crowds. This is his second submission to Slice of Life.
Image: Lighting, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
January 16, 2013 § 3 Comments
Staircase at Tallulah Gorge
Kathleen Brewin Lewis
Hiking at Tallulah Falls one hot, humid August day with my son. We come across a man slumped and silent on the steep steps that lead hundreds of feet up from the floor of the gorge, his frightened face the color of the red clay trail. He is already being attended to by other hikers; the paramedics are preparing to carry him up the last third of the stairs to the ambulance. As I pass by him, as he leans into the throes of heart attack or heat stroke, he looks me in the eye and I can see that he is not much older than I am, hell, he may be the same age. Now I understand: I am not middle-aged anymore, I am two-thirds of the way up the staircase myself.
My son turns and looks at me questioningly. Just keep moving, I say in a low voice, they’re taking care of him. Just keep moving.
Kathleen Brewin Lewis is an Atlanta writer whose prose, poetry, and prose poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Weave, Boston Literary Magazine, The Prose-Poem Project, Town Creek Poetry, Deep South Magazine, Constellations, and Slice of Life. She is also an editor for the online literary journal, Flycatcher: A Journal of Native Imagination.
Image: Eucalyptus, by Stephen Martin
December 26, 2012 § Leave a comment
Last Flag Of The River
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.
Tom Sheehan served with the 31st Infantry Regiment, Korea, 1951. Books include Epic Cures: Brief, Cases, 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 Wire, Magazine, and print issues Rosebud (4) and Ocean Magazine (8) among others. Poetry collections, include This Rare Earth and Other Flights; Ah, Devon Unbowed; The 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
December 7, 2012 § Leave a comment
The Viewing Room
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”
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
November 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
Poppin’ Wheelies In The Middle Of The Night
I turned sixteen and lived with my grandparents in a trailer. My mother sent me on a bus out West where they lived after I hit my father back and won our last fight. In the Chicago bus station some crumb bum stole my suitcase, and in St. Paul a muscle-bound creep with a balding hairline told me I looked tired, that he had a place to sleep. I wasn’t stupid sixteen.
I settled in at the back of the trailer, ate popcorn, read Siddhartha, talked when I dreamed. The next morning I registered at the huge high school that resembled a prison. I had never seen a prison. Classes easier than at home, I made friends with Randy, the son of a colonel, and hung out at their house. I liked his older brother Earl more than him, but not as much as his mother. The four of us went to the drive-in one night and the woman and I discussed philosophy and football, meerkats and muffins— you name it. The two brothers left irritated at us. Nothing came of the mother and me.
Instead, in the middle of the night Earl and I began to ride bicycles in the small city. We coasted down hills and popped wheelies, peeked into store windows, pilfered cigarettes and portable radios from unlocked trucks. When thirst overcame us we raided upright drink machines, opened oranges and root beers with pliers and sipped sweet liquid with borrowed straws. We laughed our asses off until dawn, when I rode back to the trailer and slipped into bed before my grandparents woke up.
David Spicer is the author of one collection of poems, Everybody Has a Story (St. Luke’s Press) and four chapbooks. His poems have appeared in The American Poetry Review, Ploughshares, Alcatraz, Thunder Sandwich, Mad Rush, Hinchas de Poesia, Crack the Spine, New Verse News, Fur-Lined Ghettos, and elsewhere.
Image: Bokeh, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
September 23, 2012 § 1 Comment
This Will Not Return
The girl next door is dying. I cannot pronounce her disease, but I know that far away look in her eyes, as if to say Someday. Someday. For better or for worse, it will be over. She smiles heroically, those hazel eyes of opaque need, sends me away, claims that today there is no room for two. Live your life is what I read in her eyes.
It will be 1966 forever.
I spend my days painting barns a deeper shade of red, counting hens’ eggs with a crooked sense of hope. After a rain, a Kansas wind, I cling to the insulation of the attic. There is a darkness there I do not recognize. I’m never comfortable with my loneliness. Homework, as usual, drags. My sonnets for Mrs. Hershey’s class are ruined. The meter is off. My mind drifts again. The girl next door will say she’s sorry but prefers to bleed solo. She will not want me to touch her/does not realize that my love is too serious, too simple.
My mother still makes me peanut butter & jelly sandwiches for school, even though I’m a high school freshman. She collects glass jars, says she fills them with trapped air, the cloud of a man’s shallow breath. On the days that my father doesn’t call from Germany, she lives on black coffee and crumb cake. The girl next door still loves macaroni and cheese. She can name each cat by her back lot dumpster and confesses to feeding them scraps of morning breakfast. When her folks are out, we make out to some old reruns of American Bandstand. If the pain becomes too much for her, she digs her fingernails into my flesh. I tell her I don’t mind. I hope the imprints of her nails in my forearms stay forever.
Walking back home, I look up. The sky cries foul play. The sky cries It’s never fair. I’ll hike over to Murray’s Field, bat & glove, will pitch a ball to no one. It will be me against loneliness. The score is always 0-1.
Kyle Hemmings is the author of several chapbooks of poetry and prose: Avenue C, Cat People, and Anime Junkie (Scars Publications). His latest e-books are You Never Die in Wholes from Good Story Press and The Truth about Onions from Good Samaritan. This is his second publication on Slice of Life. He lives and writes in New Jersey.
Image: Rust, By Leigh-Anne Fraser