Grandpa’s Ditties

October 25, 2012 § Leave a comment

Grandpa’s Ditties
Kevin Heaton

Grandpa was born in 1896, and could play
just about anything with strings attached.
What pulled most at his heart, was an old fiddle
that he kept on top of a china cabinet
in the corner near his rocking chair; where
he fell asleep every night listening to Kansas
City Athletic’s games on a Philco dial radio.

He worked part-time for the highway department;
setting out kerosene warning flares that looked
like bowling balls without holes.

During the 20’s, and throughout Depression Era
days, he set great store in playing that fiddle
at barn raisings, and harvest dances; where neighbors
could find brief but welcome respite from hardship
in simple food and fellowship. Civil war ditties
frequented the menu; passed down to him
by the same fingers that first plucked his fiddle.

When his lame shoulder wasn’t throbbing,
and I asked him just right, he’d take her down
off the china cabinet, rosin up the bow, and with
a work boot conducting: take us down dusty,
forgotten pikes lined with blue, and gray soldiers;
marking cadence on the road to their awakening:

Ride a Scotch horse
to Danbury cross,
see an old woman
upon a white horse.
Rings on her fingers,
and bells on her toes—
she shall have music
wherever she goes, and goes…..


Grandpa’s Ditties was previously published in Tidal Basin Review

Pushcart Prize nominee Kevin Heaton writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Raleigh Review, Mason’s Road, Foundling Review, The Honey Land Review, and elimae. His fourth chapbook of poetry, Chronicles, has just been released by Finishing Line Press. He is a 2011 Best of the Net nominee.

Image: Halifax Harbour, By Leigh-Anne Fraser


Is Anyone Else Coming By

October 11, 2012 § Leave a comment

Is Anyone Else Coming By
Natalie Parker-Lawrence

the man asked into the phone in the milk-dudded hall of the theatre where I left Julia and our husbands with the violence on the screen, so graphic that I could not look up at someone hurting a baby on an ironing board over a drug deal begun by hoodlums and justified by the police in the underbelly of NYC (wherever that is) since most people do not know what is going on but just cry when their brother gets shot or their baby is sent to foster care or they put their cousin in the ground after he bleeds out from a bullet wound to the head for betraying a badge or a skewed dream in October when the color commentators of the World Series ask people to stand up during the seventh-inning stretch when fans sing loudly and breathe beerily then sit down again to scream at Blue for the number of outs, fouls, and strikes in crowded stadiums that have no other function on a Friday night than to fill up when little girls want to go to the pajama party after the movie in theatre number 2 but can’t because their dad is sober at this and only this point and not at another so he has to leave now to take them not straight, but homeward and not later as he slips his snockered hands around the clammy wheel, depending on which cop you asked and depending on the gin-tossed seconds of dusk or night, dawn or morning, tomorrow or eclipse.


Natalie Parker-Lawrence, a writer since 1994, earned her MFA in Creative Writing (creative nonfiction and playwriting) at the University of New Orleans in 2010. Natalie Parker-Lawrence’s new full-length play, a collection of nine true-story monologues about insomnia, I Bet They’re Asleep All Over America, won a spot in the first Women’s Theatre Festival of Memphis in August 2012, and is the season opener for Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe at Theatreworks, September/October 2012. The Just Passing By Theatre Company in association with The Morris Theatre Guild (outside Chicago) produced Bob War in 2011. Adelphi University (New York) produced Earlybirds in 2009. The Women’s Playwright’s Initiative staged a regional reading in Orlando, Florida of Upright Position in October 2008. Her other plays have been produced in Memphis theatres. Her essays have been published in The Barefoot Review, Wildflower Magazine, The Literary Bohemian, Stone Highway Review, Tata Nacho, Knee-Jerk Magazine, Edible Memphis, The Commercial Appeal, World History Bulletin, and The Pinch. She is the religion/spirituality columnist for Wildflower Magazine.

Image: Street Art, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

This Will Not Return

September 23, 2012 § 1 Comment

This Will Not Return
Kyle Hemmings

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


September 10, 2012 § Leave a comment

John Hansen

He waited until his son went to bed and took his prescribed pill. Other than a general feeling of slowing down, he didn’t feel particularly different. He fell asleep and dreamed he was with his son, in a life raft floating in the waters of a marsh. He navigated their way through the bulrushes but they never found shore.

Earlier that day, he waited in the neurologist’s office. The doctor left, her  medical student in tow, to confer with her colleague. Her office overlooked the site of the new “super hospital” and, if he leaned to the right, he could see nine cranes busily completing its construction.

The medical centre was adjacent to a tony neighbourhood of high end boutiques, fair trade coffee, smug self-satisfaction, and nowhere to park. He chose a spot where parking was permitted for one hour, and hoped it would be enough.

He came because his family doctor referred his case when he saw him about a stutter he had recently developed right around his fortieth birthday. He never had one before and wondered if this was the beginning of the end of his mental facilities.

He found himself stuttering at work, in meetings when he was pressured for an answer, or when his toddler refused to get in the bath, or get out of the bath, or his wife would ask him a question and suddenly, all he could say was “p-p-p-p-pork chops.” This caused him to be more reticent than usual. He earned a reputation as someone who rarely spoke.

The neurologist administered an exam to determine if there were any issues and asked him several questions about his overall mental state.

As he answered, he remembered his father who, in the span of seven years, sired four children. That meant, at one point, they were all at once teenagers. He remembered him at the dinner table, trying to maintain control over his unruly, defiant brood. The words would catch on his lips, or at the back of his throat while his children would have a good giggle at their father’s troubles.

After she left, he noticed a small bust of a bearded man. He wondered if it was Sigmund Freud. He picked it up and saw that it was Hippocrates.

Right, he thought. Of course.

When the doctor returned, she was accompanied by her colleague, an older man with dark curly hair. He held a position of authority over her because his medical students numbered six to her one. The ratios clearly increased with tenure.

“We don’t think there is anything wrong with you, neurologically,” the doctor told him. “We think your stutter is anxiety related. I’m going to recommend a subscription to Rivotril. Try it at home first as it may cause drowsiness but it should help with what may be a generalized anxiety disorder.”

“Should I take it with scotch?” he asked the doctor.


When he left, attached to his car, was a parking ticket.


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: Stick in Sand, By Leigh-Anne Fraser

Pick-up-Charlie to Astronaut

September 2, 2012 § Leave a comment

Pick-up-Charlie to Astronaut
Tom Sheehan

This star reconnaissance began on the fourth of July, quick morning soft as a fresh bun, as warm, air floating up stairs and coming across my bed in the smell of burnt cork or punk as smoky as a compost pile rising upwards from lawn debris night had collected, spent rockets askew in gutters throughout the town, clutter of half-burnt paper and tail sticks themselves once afire in the night sky, signals that gave darkness a new dimension of light and sound and the explosion of circular flares too bright to look at, as if the sun had delayed departure for the heart of our celebration, as if stars had loosed their final demise amid the spatial junk they might encounter in outer reaches, friction of them in the measure as silent as Indians in the past on these fields and paths at flint and rock, even as children younger than I was went secretly about the ways and quiet roads and padded lawns collecting expended shafts of excitement, rolling them into fisted quivers of their hands, tightly against their noses smelling the residue of them, dross and dregs of sky-reaching powder that short fires had implanted on their thin shanks as black as the night was, so that when amassed in one child’s hand a match was re-applied in secret and the gut blaze of the celebration began anew for those without money to buy their own pyrotechnics, the blue-red and orange-green flames loosed by this competition excelling much I might have seen on the holiday eve, these young scavengers, that young army of excitement seekers like a fresh wind adrift on the dawn, younger brother Charlie one of the aimless searchers of ignited celebration goods; marked all the way across a vast lawn, where the flag was left hanging out all night, by his red hair and fiery eyes, even before the false dawn flashes, nimble legs in drive gear and nimble fingers at the bundle sticks awaiting new flame; young Charlie, long ago appointed to the same bedroom as I, who would decorate the walls with Neil Armstrong’s little dance down the ladder of time and across tempest tide of skies and blur of our black and white television set, this younger brother of mine who dreamed and reached the stilted aerodynamics of lads, who exaggerated his heart and his mind for the unseen, the unknown, that far pit of darkness the skies offer to imaginations leaping for the wonder of endless contact, sweet abrasions of the universe and all its parts, the coming global wanderer, aeronaut and astronaut and star traveler now out of the tight innards of the small bedroom Neil Armstrong carried on his back, the fiery-eyed, dreamy, celestial kid brother now in endless orbit and sending me these late signals from a far turn of the once-dark universe whose reception began in simple ignition beneath fisted hand like a wondrous booster for his tell-tale heart, who now makes no sudden moves.


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.

Image: Full Moon, By Leigh-Anne Fraser


August 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

Kevin Heaton

Before daddy left, he gave mama
a brand-new feed sack dress, and planted
one last crop; I was her, ‘God’s Perfect
Number,’ the seventh heavenly stair step
to kick at her backbone, breeched, then
brought by a poor white trash midwife.
That year, our windmill huffed the horse
trough full of mule dust, and the persimmon
cheeks hollowed in early September.
A field of bluebells captured an awol rebel
sun shower, then flanked a hackberry column
on the north fence line, and drank the rest
of the water. The old southern gentry had long
since vanished, but only rich white folks could
book space on the ‘Glory Train.’ Martin wasn’t
born yet, so the saints weren’t marchin’ in.
Daddy left us south of the Mason-Dixon Line
in a cottonwood sharecropper shanty, squat
over the scratch dirt where an overseer’s
pointer pup itched his worms. He’d hung
a Rainbow Bread sign on our screen door
to set it apart from the trees. I grew up along
the Yazoo, where roly polys pushed each
other across farmed out river bottom flatland,
and ebony ivories still harped on ‘Delta Blues.’


Yazoo was previously published in Tidal Basin Review

Pushcart Prize nominee Kevin Heaton writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Raleigh Review, Mason’s Road, Foundling Review, The Honey Land Review, and elimae. His fourth chapbook of poetry, Chronicles, has just been released by Finishing Line Press. He is a 2011 Best of the Net nominee.

Image: Mood of the Meadow, By Stephen Martin

Guy With The Aviator Glasses

August 7, 2012 § 1 Comment

Guy With The Aviator Glasses
Clara Brown

I heard him before I saw him, when he was checking in at the desk.  He had a booming voice. I knew he would be my patient.  He was disheveled wearing a Hampton beach baseball cap. His white hair was wispy and in need of a cut. He wore large metal aviator sun glasses. I never did see his eyes.

He was a large man, in a light blue t-shirt, neon royal blue polyester shorts and yellow socks. Sneakers on his feet.

There was something not quite right about him. He spoke slowly and deliberately with a drawl. He was having trouble hearing.

When I looked in his ears I saw something with ridges on the left. I thought it might be a piece of tubing of some sort. I grabbed it with a forceps. As I removed it, I realized it had legs.  A roach I suspected. It was stuck in some wax.


This is Clara Brown’s second publication on Slice of Life.

Image: Bolt, By Leigh-Anne Fraser