Alice in Voreland by Lauren Friedlander

To eat my love the way she always dreamt, either she had to get smaller or I bigger. Porn she liked was big broads, fifty-footers sort of big, queen kongs, skyscraper-legged and black-hole-mouthed to hoover up lovers the size of mites. Porn I liked was—no matter.

Decided was we drew straws. The straw decided: I, Alice, Bigger.

I could not dwell. I swallowed quickly pride, and pills, overnighted from a site (Amazons) that specialized in such sexual bents.

My love said Trust me. What choice had I?

These strange effects took no sweet time. I bigged all right, hundredfold. Broke the house on through! Right arm filled the master bath, left leg wrecked the drive. Skull met with reclaimed beams where the sun beat in, plaster like confetti down my hair the mile long. I stood, and thus standing, darkened the town. 

At spurt’s end—was it end? Would it ever be?—my love marveled me up and down and fairly. I was a thing to marvel. Straddling my pinky nail, her chirp demanded from a great distance: GO! and IN!

I swallowed her, most specialest pill, as she begged of me in dreams. Her final act: the happy shriek of eatenness, the last of her. She tasted of, well, nothing. Not teatree shampoo, not chicken. Within the day I’d passed her. She exited the other side in a cocoon of waste, dead of course but smiles all over, as ever, ever on this rictus in the muck. Her fantasy so quickly wrung, most happiest death. Wasn’t it? What she asked of me? Didn’t I?

I remain. Here. My days of largesse pass like velvet curtains ever-parting from a play without end, and I unaudienced. And there she, joy voided in the earth’s commode—happy? Oh, dear, what choice had I. With bloated fingers thick as blimps I mark her little spot to ward off urinating dogs and reckless kids, though already all steer clear of the lone giantess of the plains. Clumsily—but hopefully!—as I now maneuver all my days—I plant this pack of seeds. I water, tend, and hope; so as not to galumph, defile, or barge. Come spring, with any luck at all, my hyacinth girl.

 

Lauren Friedlander is a writer from Kansas living in Brooklyn. She was a recipient of the 2018 PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers and has fiction published or forthcoming in Catapult, Washington Square Review, The Rumpus, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on a novel. www.laurenfriedlander.net.

 

When he asks me to try doggie style, I think by Madeleine Corley

of the pigeon in the courtyard last week. How what I first thought was confetti thrown in celebration were feathers ripped from a body. How the seagull cornered her. How he made it seem quick. How the stalking started miles before the meet. How my colleagues call it natural selection. How girls of fourteen are forced brides in North Carolina. How biology states I am of animal that cooks offspring in a womb. How fellow mammals count my eggs and debate them over breakfast. How scrambled still makes a good dinner. How the crane fly was beguiled by my kitchen light. How it flailed in an effort to escape my stale apartment. How it snuck back in through the cracked door and flew directly onto the stovetop. How blue the gas burned. How its wings singed up like paper. How another grave could’ve been the cocoon of a spider. How the spider asphyxiates and curdles the organs of its prey. How sticky and trapping his hand pets my thigh. How there are seemingly endless species. How, of all breeds, Carolina Dogs are his favorite. How this touch binds me and burns me to wingless.

 

Madeleine Corley (she/her) is a poet by internal monologue and loves the color of nostalgia. She currently serves as the Poetry Editor for Barren Magazine. Some of her work has appeared in The Hellebore, Twist In Time Lit, Moonchild Magazine, DARK MARROW, as well as others. You can find her on Twitter @madelinksi, on Instagram @wrotemadeleine, or on her website www.wrotemadeleine.com.

Me, Irene, and the Radio King of Albuquerque by Ian Anderson

In the Kitchen Department at Macys, the sales associate, Debbie, shows me the KitchenAid stand mixers. They’re lined up on a display table in three lines of six—each row a step higher—so that, together, they resemble a chorus line of robots. They come in colors like Empire Red, or Aqua Sky, or Majestic Yellow, or White.

Debbie is excited to tell me about the features and attachments available, but all I see is the price tag. I think someone accidentally added a zero at the end, I tell her.

She pushes on her spongy, yellow hair. What you have to understand, she says, it that a mixer is an investment in a better life. A stand mixer announces that this is a house that gives, that this is a house that loves. You can’t put a price on that. I say: Okay, but you have put a price on it, and I can’t afford that price. I’m an adjunct professor. STEM? she asks. English, I tell her. You poor thing, she says. There is another option, she says. We walk to the back of the store. I think, Debbie says, that this might be better for someone…in your situation.

On the wall, there are three rows of six hats. The hats come in colors like Empire Red, or Aqua Sky, or Majestic Yellow, or White. Below the hats are silver spoons, whisks, hooks, and bowls laying loose in a cardboard box. While not what I had in mind, I have to admit, this option is more in my price range. Did you have a color in mind? Debbie asks. Pistachio, I tell her. Excellent, she says, should I wrap it up, or will you wear it out?

* * * *

I sit cross-legged on the kitchen counter and wait for Irene to come home. A high-walled bowl sits in my lap. In my right hand, I hold a whisk. The pistachio-colored cap fits snuggly on my head. This isn’t where I thought I would be in my mid-thirties. I thought I would, at least, be tenure track by now, but colleges aren’t hiring; and if they are, they aren’t hiring me. Irene’s father, The Radio King of Albuquerque, told me more than once that I could work for him, selling airtime to advertisers. He says I’m smart. You have to be smart to sell someone air. Irene would never let me take the job, though. She says The Radio King of Albuquerque just wants me to make more money because The Radio King of Albuquerque hates that his daughter has to work. But she likes her job. She likes working. She likes that I teach, and that I still read books. She says if I quit teaching she’d probably divorce me. My back is stiff. I feel like a semicolon.

The front door opens. Irene unloads her bag and coat and comes into the kitchen. She’s going to the refrigerator when she sees me sitting on the counter. She approaches and reads the note I taped to my forehead. It reads: Happy Five Years. Thanks for keeping me in the mix.

She smiles. She looks at my wisk. She pulls flour from a cupboard, eggs from the refrigerator. She measures the flour and dumps it in my lap. She cracks eggs. She pours olive oil. She adds salt. She’s making scratch pasta dough.

It is my favorite.

Irene replaces the whisk in my hand with a flat paddle and lowers my hand into the bowl. She tugs my ear, and I start mixing. The first minute is fine, but as the ingredients come together, my arm begins to ache. I keep going. This dough will be perfect. I mix and mix and mix. My forearm starts to cramp. My elbow is on fire. I don’t think I’ve given stand mixers enough credit. Their price starts to make more sense. Irene tugs my ear again, and I gratefully come to a rest. She replaces the paddle in my hand with a hook. Sonofabitch, I think. But when Irene tugs my ear, I start again with automatic loyalty. I mix until my arm is numb, until sweat drips down my neck.

* * * *

While the dough rests in the refrigerator, Irene sets the table for two, lights candles, and puts a record on the turntable. The Ronettes hum softly to life. Irene sways her hips to the music as she walks back into the kitchen. She pours wine. After years of marriage, I thought I knew everything about her, but I never knew this: what she’s like when she’s alone. She possesses a quiet tenderness. A confidence. It’s sexy in a way that I didn’t know could be sexy.

Irene takes the pasta dough out and cuts it into slices like you would a cheese log. She sets up the pasta maker—a gift from the The Radio King of Albuquerque. He would buy her anything she wants with all his air money, but Irene never told The Radio King of Albuquerque about the stand mixer. There are secret desires that only a spouse can know. It is intimacy, and it is good.

Irene rolls the dough out and cuts it into linguini with the pasta maker. She makes a simple tomato sauce and boils the noodles to al dente. She sends a text. She’s asking where I am, but I turned my phone off hours ago so it wouldn’t give me away. I’m smart enough to sell air if she wanted me to.

Irene ladles the sauce over the noodles. She sets the plates on the dining room table. From my place on the counter, I can see her sitting at the table through the doorway. She is beautiful. The pasta smells delicious. She sends another text. She waits. There are things that I can give my wife, and there things that I cannot. Not at the same time anyway. That’s just how it is. Dinner is getting cold. I wish she would just start eating.

 

Ian Anderson is a writer and designer living in Baltimore, MD, with his wife and daughter. He is the founder and Editor-in-Chief at Mason Jar Press, and his work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Wigleaf, X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Five:2:One Magazine, Baltimore Fishbowl, and elsewhere. When not writing, designing, running a press, being a husband or father, he is listening to The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds. He tweets about that and other things from @ianandersonetc.

All giant deer kings hail from Limerick by Meg Mulcahy

Beast and bone tower in dead zoos
without fail, each time a skull that housed a heritage, antlers angel wingspan
fractured lines fermented shifting permeance
presiding over dark and crumbled earth, beetle-shelled glint, rotted rain
melted you away in every stride, chocolate carcass left us hollowed eyes of someone who
saw wars and cherry wine flow bitter from the mouths of flies
bolted down through yellowing joints, strung up in a new world and I,
the furthest from magnificence, can only gaze upwards in imagined genuflect,
and in our visits the displaced may comfort the dead.

 

Meg Mulcahy is a poet and writer based in Dublin, Ireland. She runs on cold brew and hope. Her work has featured in several publications including Kissing Dynamite Poetry, Crêpe & Penn, and Silk + Smoke, winning the Halloween Flash Fiction Competition 2019. You can find her on Twitter always @TheGoldenMej.

Ladybird, Ladybird by DeMisty Bellinger

Birdlike. Flitting? Bouncy? Do I float? “It’s that you’re light. You peck at your food. Hollow bones.”

“My bones aren’t hollow.”

“No,” he shakes his head. “No, I know they’re not. But it is like they’re hollow. You know. Like a bird.”

“Avian.”

He shrugs. “Sure.”

I imagine him dying.

I imaging taking one of my chopsticks and turning it away from the deep-fried tofu and towards him. I see myself forcing its dull tip into his chest, breaking beyond errant bones and stringent skin, plunging through to his heart. Maybe both chopsticks? I am diving in and sawing at his heart, using the sticks as knives, picking up juicy bits of his heart.

“Your voice, too” he says.

“My voice?”

“Sing-songy. See, you just asked a question there.”

“Well, I didn’t know.”

“But your voice goes up and down. Like a melody that doesn’t mean anything.”

I put my chopsticks down. Suddenly, I don’t feel like Chinese food. I don’t feel like food. I want to keep eating because I’m afraid that he’d continue the metaphor, but I can’t eat. His heart blood is all over the eggplant and tofu, the steamed brown rice, the noodles, it’s on everything. I can’t tell what’s red pepper and what’s him. I cannot eat this. I say: “You remember that chant? About the bird? ‘Fly away home. Your house is on fire. Your children are alone’.”

He asks: “Do you want children?”

I think about the term ‘fall out of love with.’ I had always called bullshit. I never believed that people can fall out of love like people could fall in love.

But here I am. Falling as if my wings are clipped.

 

DeMisty D. Bellinger lives and teaches in Massachusetts. Her chapbook, Rubbing Elbows, is available at Finishing Line Press. She has a husband and twin daughters, but wants a cat, too. Her website is http://demistybellinger.com.

Master of My Domain by Marissa Glover

I do what I want. I’m an American—
no asking if he’s happy, not caring
if she’s satisfied. I make my own way
in the world: Kick off the bed covers
or hide under sheets; stay silent or
scream. Maybe all of this. Maybe none.
In America, we’re taught finishing first
is all that matters. Here, selfishness is
not a crime. You can’t depend on anyone
to make you feel good—this is a fact
you learned early, when your parents split,
when Marc Bowman’s ambition
got him caught in a kickball double-play
to end the inning. So you learned to please
yourself—now both explorer and native
land. Discover what you love most
about creation. It is good. It is good. It is—
Say your own name instead of God’s
as you finish.

 

Marissa Glover teaches and writes in Florida, where she is co-editor of Orange Blossom Review and a senior editor at The Lascaux Review. Marissa’s work recently appeared in Mothers Always Write, Whale Road Review, Fresh Air Poetry, The Cabinet of Heed, and Sweet. Her debut poetry collection, Let Go of the Hands You Hold, is forthcoming from Mercer University Press in 2021. Follow Marissa on Twitter @_MarissaGlover_.

Emily, Don’t by Kelsey Ipsen

Imagine if I licked your entire body. I said.

Emily, don’t. Said Steve. I’m working.

I did not want to lick his body, I wanted to be in love. I thought about the different parts of his body and what they would be like to lick. I thought about my tongue in his armpit or on his big toe with its 5 coarse, black hairs standing out against the pale of his foot skin that never sees the sun because exposed toe shoes are for children, Emily. I decided these areas of him repulsed me. I wondered if it was normal for me to be repulsed by them. Maybe licking someone’s armpit and not being grossed out meant that you really loved them. Steve was typing which meant I could watch his hands move, which I liked. His hands were large and soft from an expensive cream he used which I sometimes also used without asking or explicitly not asking. This is all to say that he was very well groomed, it’s not like I would be licking an unwashed armpit, for instance.

Would you lick my armpit? I asked, even though I knew he got annoyed when I talked while he was working.

Could you not? That’s not even a sensible question.

I sort of wanted to leave, then, even though I mostly agreed that the question wasn’t sensible. Instead I scrolled through my phone while actually looking around the room to think about all the things I hated in it, until Steve clicked his laptop shut. Right, another day done. He said. He sounded even older than he was when he said things like that.

What would you like for dinner?

We could order something, it’s pretty late. I imagined the grease from a burger glistening. I imagined salt from fries glittering across my fingers.

No, no, I’m sure I can find something.

I’m pretty sure Steve frowned upon ordering out. He’s never exactly told me this but I have noticed that he never gets takeaway. Sometimes I feel an urge to get something delivered and act like I’ve cooked it, slaved away at it for hours, especially for him. I will never actually do this, though I enjoy thinking about it.

* * * *

We made carbonara. While the water boiled I watched his reflection in the darkness of the window and admired his beauty. I was jealous of his eyelashes, his cheekbones, his skin that was prone to neither oiliness nor dryness. He touched my back and it thrilled me. I leaned in to him. We had plated the food. We left it on the bench steaming. We fucked on the couch. How do you want it? His voice sounded like it was coming from a much deeper space within him. I felt his hands light upon my body and wished I felt them more, I was sick of feeling like I was disappearing. Put your hands around my neck. I said. Really? He asked. Just do it. His hands felt hotter and heavier the longer they were on me. I imagined him squeezing tighter. I looked into his eyes then changed my mind and focused my eyes on his cheeks. Die, I thought as I came. When he shuddered above me I noticed the outline of the couch button, red on his thigh.

* * * *

The carbonara was cold and felt like glue. Steve groaned with pleasure at it. I thought I’m 22, what am I doing here. I had had this thought so much it was no longer a question, just a mantra of sorts. I imagined my best friend telling me that just because something looks like what you want, it doesn’t mean it is what you want. I did not have a best friend. I sat at the table until Steve was finished.

We can watch that movie you’ve been going on about.

I’ve got to go home. I told him.

You know I don’t like sleeping alone, Em.

I shrugged. I picked up my things and also slipped Steve’s hand cream into my bag. The jar was the perfect weight, it was so beautiful it made everything else in my bag look beautiful too.

* * * *

When I arrived at my apartment it felt small and like I didn’t hate anything in it. I needed to vacuum but I kept putting it off for one more day, every day. A few months ago I had downloaded a dating app just to see if anyone would match with me. For my description I wrote that I liked takeaway and movies. It took me 30 minutes to come up with that. There was one girl on there that I had been messaging. I told her right away that I didn’t actually like girls like that, I was just lonely. She was funny. Her name was Laura and she lived within 1km of me. She had curly hair like I’d always wanted. I brushed some old crumbs off my couch/bed and sent her a message.

I tried to do something different with my boyfriend, like you said.

Good girl, did it work?

Not really.

😦

Do you want to come over and watch a movie?

* * * *

I picked at some fluff on my cardigan and hoped Laura wasn’t actually an old, pervy man. When my doorbell rang I wondered if I needed to puke. I hadn’t ever had a friend over, all my friends were not actually my friends but Steve’s friends. They made jokes about me being still in university as if it were comparable to kindergarten and I pretended they were witty like ha ha yeah silly me being my age instead of yours. Laura’s hair looked even better in real life. Laura had bought a gigantic pack of popcorn with her. You’re fucking cute. She said. I felt happy and not weird. I have wine. I offered. The movie wasn’t that great. It took itself too seriously but that meant we got to giggle over it which made it enjoyable anyway. We quoted the worst bits of it back to each other, adjusted the lines slightly. I couldn’t possibly live without a man, said Laura. As I laughed I spilled some wine on the carpet, I rubbed it in with my big toe. I love you. Said the man on screen. I felt a dumb tear roll down my face so I lifted my hand to it like I was itching my cheek. I needed something to say to distract me from whatever was happening to me. Have you ever licked anyone? I asked Laura.

Sure I have, it’s basically all I do. Hey are you crying?

Sorry. I said. I felt sure she would go home and I wouldn’t have any friends again.

Laura paused the movie.

You can leave if you want.

Laura leaned forward and licked up the trail of my gross tears starting from my jaw right up to under my eye.

I don’t need to leave.

I touched my face where she had licked me. Laura unpaused the movie and let her knee bump against mine like a drumbeat, like we were in a marching band that was going to walk all over the world. I thought about all the times I had imagined hanging out with some one cool who actually gave a shit about me.

When she left I gave her Steve’s hand cream.

 

Kelsey Ipsen lives in France with her husband and half-wild cat. She can be found working on her first novel or at www.cargocollective.com/kelseyipsen. She has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best Small fictions and some of her other stories have been published, or are forthcoming, in wigleaf, PANK, Hobart, and jmww.

playing twenty questions with past lifetimes by Quinn Lui

20 Questions

Quinn Lui is a Chinese-Canadian student who has a tendency to collect too many mugs, then dry too many flowers, and then run out of mugs to store them in. Their work has appeared in Occulum, Synaesthesia Magazine, Augur Magazine, and elsewhere, and they are the author of the micro-chapbook teething season for new skin (L’Éphémère Review, 2018). You can find them @flowercryptid on Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram, or wherever the moon is brightest.