BY PAUL SMITH
Sunoco by Chris / Flickr
The two men drove the rented car on the Expressway up from the airport. They were looking for Anderson Road. Once they found Anderson Road, they would look for the Sunoco station on the corner of it and Linebaugh, and then for the Puerto Rican that ran it.
It was not a long drive. Under different circumstances, it could have been pleasant even, so the men talked. They talked softly, without raising their voices, but steadily, as if something was about to happen and they would be part of it.
“So this guy’s a manic-depressive?” Stanley asked.
“A manic-depressive, which according to Jung, or Adler, I forget which, is most susceptible.”
“One of the four basic personality types. Wait a minute. Shouldn’t he be choleric or something? You know – hot-tempered.”
BY SARAH BARKER
Waiting for the Bus by Michael Labrecque-Jessen / Flickr
A spot of firm, grey snow next to a bus stop stands as an exhibit of a modern Midwestern woman’s daily pilgrimage to her cubicle.
Oh, that rise from the dark, warm of bed now happens with the regularity of the sunrise. Bitter coffee, no sugar because this belly isn’t getting any firmer. A slap of cold water on the face. Toothpaste stinging the back of her throat. Flannel pajamas eschewed for a crisp suit.
These banalities and the woman is out of the house, on the curb. No one else uses her stop. It’s like the bus sign was erected with her in mind, like it was crucial to the state of the world for her to reach the office by nine.
Her husband used to drive her, but he died about three years ago. She was twenty-three at the time and had never bothered to get her license because she so enjoyed him driving her to work: his rough palm pressing against her thigh, husky voice crooning along with the radio.
Portrait of a Kingdom
BY WARREN J. COX
Pink Castle Piñata in the Gutter by Drew Leavy / Flickr
The phone alarm sings its melody at six thirty, and I begin my slow rolling on the carpeted floor. My typical exile. There are ill-defined darkly aches in my legs beneath my woolly checkered jammy-pants, and there are acidic grumblings in my astro-gastro-gut. I know it’s a long way to standing up, but I have to get there.
By six fifty I’m outside holding the trumpet case awaiting the child-king who is still being processed, confined strictly to the bathroom until the final moment, by the matriarch. I am staring up at the slightly more than half moon, which I more and more believe is like a big blown-up bug eye, perhaps that of a Robber fly or blue damselfly. It could be a frog eye, too, I reflect, but I decide it belongs to a blue damselfly because then it’s easier to imagine (I’m aware I’m forcing the pareidolia) that there is a gigantic one of those up there staring at or past me; its body, obviously, is camouflaged perfectly in that shade of way-too-early sky blue.
The other eye, meanwhile, is looking off toward Eurasia, North Africa.
Chess / Utah Agave
BY KYLE HEMMINGS
Chess by Nick Stenning / Flickr
In the park, where voices are low and gathering in numbers, and the gaps of silence mean someone is straining to hear, Munch plays chess with a war veteran who helped take a desert city and wipe out any late afternoon mirages.
"Death was so hard on the eyes," he says, "and the accidental casualties we had to deny."
I'm sitting on a bench across from the two, taking small bites out of a Bavarian ham and cheese sandwich from the family-owned deli around the corner. Munch, his forehead creased with deep lines of concentration, his pockmarked skin around his cheeks oozing sweat, moves his bishop to take the old veteran's knight. In turn, Munch loses his bishop to the old veteran's queen. The old man looks up at Munch, shakes his head.
"The world will end in approximately fifteen days, no more than thirty. I read it in the stars."