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 email@example.com.
Image: Ginkgo Biloba, By Leigh-Anne Fraser
October 11, 2012 § Leave a comment
Is Anyone Else Coming By
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
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
September 2, 2012 § Leave a comment
Pick-up-Charlie to Astronaut
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
May 31, 2012 § 1 Comment
She found the unsent letters, browned, worn. They were entries from a time she only knew from textbooks. Broken script described years in quarantined barracks, now evacuated and immortalized in museums. She tried to trace the numbers, the ones etched in his notebooks, in his papers, on his skin; she tried to trace them back to where they came from. Nothing prepared her for the ghosts behind the gates, for the deafening silent cries of children only visible by the abandoned shoes left in the dirt. Standing where the letters were written, right where lovers and family were torn from each other, she cried. From the ruins she found gravestones. The numbers tattooed on their arms, that had become their identity, she realized, were nowhere found on their epitaphs.
Robyn Macy, a Professional Writing Major at SUNY Cortland, is currently working at Time Out New York. She co-writes her school’s newly founded satire magazine, The Potato (http://cortlandpotato.tumblr.com/) and runs the Cortland’s radio station. She hopes you enjoy her very first (out of school) published piece.
Image: What Dreams May Come, By Stephen Martin
April 20, 2012 § 1 Comment
The granite-tasting fine mountain dust rose around us as we rode through the forest on our red Hodaka motorcycles – mom ahead, me strapped to my dad, facing backwards in a metal-framed backpack. The rushing air smelled of pine sap, gasoline, stale cigarette smoke, and adrenalin.
Suddenly, my parents slowed and stopped, our bikes sputtering, coughing, rattling. I heard a screech of oiled metal on wood and jerked my head to look over at the edge of the clearing, where men were using a large dirty yellow machine to rip branches off a felled pine, its majestic corpse stretched along the edge of the forest.
Maybe it was the painful sound, or the dead tree. Or maybe the faint realization that no matter how much my parents seemed at the center of the universe, there were machines much larger and more dangerous than their little trail bikes. Things, even, beyond their control.
I started crying, softly at first, so my dad couldn’t hear me over the motorcycle’s engine. Then louder, until he called out, impatiently, “What’s wrong back there?”
“I’m scared, daddy,” I wailed, each sob drawing in a fresh breath of dust and exhaust.
He laughed. “It’s OK,” he yelled back. “Just loggers.”
I watched tearfully as the men sawed through the tree’s branches, one by one. A few minutes later, we roared out of the clearing, our bikes straining to climb the hill, me watching the loggers grow smaller, my dad focused on the rough trail ahead.
Vivian Wagner teaches journalism at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her essays have appeared in The Kenyon Review Online, The Pinch, Willows Wept Review, and other journals, and she is the author of Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington, 2010). For more information about her, visit her website at www.vivianwagner.net.
Image: Birch bark, by Sandra Jensen
March 27, 2012 § 5 Comments
You pat the bench next to you and I come and sit. Reverently, you lift your hands and push back the wooden lip covering the keys, yellowed like old people’s teeth. My fiveyear-old hands can’t span an octave, but you demonstrate an arpeggio in C major and I do my best to duplicate it. Sunlight slips in through the ground-level window to ignite the dust motes. Evening is coming fast and soon Mother will call down the stairs. Grandma will have cookies and milk laid out for us but there won’t be time before dinner. You will have to eat them without me. For now, though, the notes and the slight gasoline smell from the garage combine to cement you in my memory. Two years from now it will be all I have.
Jody Strimling-Muchow is a writer, actor, and knitter who masquerades as a legal secretary by day. She lives with her husband, two dogs and one cat in a lovely little house in Dutchess County, NY.
Image: Fishing, By Stephen Martin