The Lakehouse

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Deep below the lake’s surface, there sits—intact—a house. A two-story structure of Carpenter Gothic details like elaborate wooden trim bloated to bursting. Its front yard: purple loosestrife. Its inhabitants: alligator gar, bull trout, and pupfish. All glide past languidly—out of window sashes and back inside door frames. It is serene, and it is foreboding. Curtains of algae float gossamer to and fro. Family pictures rest clustered atop credenzas. A chandelier is lit, intermittently, by freshwater electric eels. And near a Victrola, white to the bone, a man and a woman waltz in a floating embrace.

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Keith Hoerner lives, teaches, and pushes words around in Southern Illinois. 

Dutch

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Most of the soldiers would head into town off base, as soon as they washed off the motor pool grease. Spaniard didn’t speak much about his time in the army, but this tale was clearly his favorite. He noticed how easy his fellow soldiers were parted with their money with hardly any female companionship. Some of them had clearly met up with Old Mickey Finn. A fool and his money, the Germans loved that American honey. There was great hashish, black Afghan, green Lebanese, black tar Pakistan, choking red Lebanese. You could buy speed and downers in any pharmacy. To say nothing of the great strong beers and exceptional wines. The German taverns had beautiful ladies of the evening just waiting for dollars, black market cigarettes, coffee, whiskey, stereo equipment. They wanted your blood and to relinquish as little as possible. If you wanted to be one hundred percent positive you got laid, you went to a large city and rented a woman at a legal whorehouse. The prostitutes were inspected weekly and condoms were supplied and required.

            Spaniard took a six-week intensive German course. He’d always been good at learning languages and studying people. He got a job hustling parts in the motor pool for all the trucks and self-propelled artillery howitzers, when they weren’t out in the field practicing to kill the enemy. Officers and non-commissioned officers in Spaniard’s battalion discovered how fast he was on the 155 MM gunner’s sight, making his cannon ready to fire. There were eighteen cannons in a battalion and eleven soldiers on each artillery piece. With their gun being able to fire first, this brought much prestige. Spaniard was made a teacher of all the gunners. He’d worked with a bricklayer’s level making the bubble line up perfectly since he was a child, the sight was the same principal. Spaniard got a promotion to the rank of Specialist Fourth Class, which made him a working boss.

He had a few nefarious profitable schemes on the black market. Spaniard remained troubled by seeing his fellow soldiers robbed blindly nightly and especially after every payday. They all said they still had three hots and a cot through the army, but three hot meals, usually meant you end up you borrowing dough from a loan shark at one hundred percent interest until payday. Spaniard charged thirty percent, so he had lots of customers, he hired a clerk for five percent. On all of his business, he put people between him and trouble. The people that worked for him knew he had their backs, but if something went wrong, they took the pinch.

            A new guy came to the unit, he was assigned to Alpha battery, Spaniard’s unit and cannon. He was about ten years older than any other recruits, everyone thought he was an undercover informant. He was quiet, but his eyes never quit moving and studying. He said he was from Pennsylvania and to call him, Dutch. Spaniard gave Dutch a wide birth, he let some amigos try to get a handle on him, before approaching him himself. Spaniard heard Dutch was a

genius with an engine. He worked on trucks, jeeps, and cannons. Spaniard was really impressed when he worked on a helicopter and a motorcycle. It seemed like Dutch knew who the mover and shaker was. Meanwhile Spaniard had Dutch’s army records checked out and his criminal record in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Dutch used to run a gang of car thieves, until they got too greedy. Another jailhouse warrior is born every day.

            “You’re pretty handy with that wrench, how would you like to help me buy a good car?” Spaniard asked.

            “I was wondering when you were going to break the ice,” Dutch said.

            From that moment on they hit it off like Butch and Sundance. A few months later Spaniard asked Dutch, “How was it living in Bethlehem?”

            Dutch smiled and said, “Probably the same as Espanola, New Mexico,” Spaniard’s mouth dropped open, Dutch knew his hometown.

            Spaniard was living just off base with a chick from Castelo Branco, Portugal. He was smitten, but she seemed a bit too friendly. Dutch could see it right away, but he didn’t have the heart to tell his friend. They bought a 1966 Mercedes-Benz 250 made for England with the steering wheel on the right side. It didn’t run at all and had never run well, the owner sold it for a song and was glad to be rid of it. Dutch told Spaniard what parts were needed and they soon had a fine set of wheels. It was black and chrome, they kept it at Spaniard and Bonita’s apartment. She wanted to drive it, but had never learned how.

Dutch knew their love relationship was headed for the drink. He was having lunch, while Spaniard was in the motor pool. He saw Bonita hunching this soldier’s leg, laughing then she did the same to two of his pals. Spaniard and Dutch had body guards and enforcers to help with their expanding empire. Rumba, a small wiry Puerto Rican guy from Spanish Harlem was their go to guy. He’d trained with Bruce Lee, Dutch told him about the situation and what he wanted done. Rumba got his nickname because he loved rum and rumbling. Dutch got Spaniard in the car with Rumba in the backseat, he told him they were going to check out a new business opportunity. They looked out the window and saw Bonita acting like a whore, Rumba was out of the car, fists and feet flying. Three black guys were on the ground bleeding from several orifices. Rumba accidently elbowed Bonita’s face breaking her nose and blackening both eyes. She watched horrified as they drove away.

Dutch talked Spaniard into moving back in the barracks and he taught him how to never be used by women. After work, they would shower, go to bed, and sleep for six hours. Then get up refreshed while all other soldiers were drunk, high, broke, or most likely all three. The women were like picking cherries.

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Catfish McDaris is a 30-year small press and 3-year Army artillery veteran, from Albuquerque and Milwaukee. He works in a wig store in a dangerous neighborhood. Second day on the job, a lady dropped her purse and a loaded 357 rolled out on the floor, pointed at him. He was nominated for a 2021 Pulitzer but didn’t make the final cut.

Childhood Friendship

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Chipmunk, fat cheeks huffin' 'n puffin', ran into the yard telling Mikey and me that the ape-man had escaped from the circus in the mall, that it was last seen headin' towards Elijah creek in the woods behind Dr. Grover's horse farm, that it was an ape from the chest up but a naked man from there down, said we didn't have a brain when we laughed, that as heaven was his witness, he'd seen it and if we'd come with him, he'd show us and us having heard there were all sorts of creatures inside that circus tent but not having enough age or money to see for ourselves, we decided we'd nothing to lose and a story to gain, so we went with Chipmunk to the woods where we did hear some noises and crawled to the ridge of the ravine, me elbowing Mikey for panting too loud, where we really did see a creature, hairy on top and naked on the bottom, splashing about in the creek while a rabbit and raccoon looked on from the bank and, as we took a seat next to them, we swore that we'd not tell anyone else about it.

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Mark Russo, born in Queens, NYC; graduated from the University of Cincinnati and the University of Maine School of Law; practiced Immigration Law for 18 years and has published with Flash Fiction Magazine, New Reader Magazine, 34th Parallel Magazine, Literally Stories, Potato Soup Journal, Spillwords Press, Knot Magazine, MacQueen's Quinterly, South Florida Poetry Journal, Grey Sparrow Journal and Squawk Back.

Shore Leave

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Gabriel’s right hand wrist ached, and itched. It was a dull pain that sets in once the healing process has begun. He was not allowed to scratch at it, and this was more upsetting than anything else. He slapped the bandage repeatedly, as if trying to stamp out a fire. His bunkmate’s alarm rang beside them and she rolled off the cot hanging above his head. Neither one of them had been asleep. She changed her own bandage in the sink, washed off the skin of her wrist, and applied a moisturizer.

 

Gabe swung his legs over the side, and cracked his head on the cot beam above him. His bunkmate winced. Gabe sat motionless, and held the spot under his curly hair. He kept his eyes shut a moment before checking his wrist watch. It was late in the evening. Gabe washed his face, took his union issue wool coat from the hook, and smoothed his dark hair under a wool cap.

 

When he got to the deck there were a pair of beach chairs waiting. Two groggy sailors stood up to greet him. One handed over a clipboard, while the other meticulously smoothed the crease out of his slacks. The clipboard sailor looked at the bandage on Gabe’s wrist. “First watch?”

 

Gabe nodded. They gave him a run down of the checklist, pointed to the different spots on the deck, and told him to check everything around midnight. “You’ll have more to do next time, but for now just make sure nothing vanishes.” The clipboard sailor adjusted a pair of glasses on the end of his nose.

 

They went to step away, but the clipboard sailor turned on his heel. “One more thing. Neil’s gonna be on watch with you. He’s a nice guy really, we wouldn’t expect any trouble from him.” The sailors looked at each other sideways. “But if anything were to happen, he’s not allowed off the boat onto shore. You just call up to the office, and they’ll sort him out.” They left him in the chair, and went off to bed.

 

Five minutes late to the shift, the old man came over. Neil had a potbelly, with a scruffy beard that started in his nose. He nipped at a bottle of whiskey he kept in his coat pocket. He took one look at Gabe and smelled the shoreline off him. The old man sat down and leaned back into the beach chair.

 

He held the bottle over to Gabe. The tattoos on his wrist and arm had long healed, and were unbandaged. He had three white seabirds, two had alternating white and black feathers. Ship names were written with them. The last one matched the hull they sat on. That bird had its feet scratched out, as if with a knife, and all of its feathers were black.

 

The old man’s voice gurgled. “Welcome to the crew.”

Liam Nicholas Pezzano is adjusting back to urban life in Hoboken, NJ. He has been published for short fiction (Blink Ink, Infinite Science Fiction One), poetry (Odd Magazine, Step Away Magazine, Black Hole Review, Circumference), and his website is liamnicholaspezzano.wordpress.com

House of India #95

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The flowers collapse. What is left shelters toads, gets carried off for nests. The birds collapse into plates of tandoori chicken, one of which falls to the floor. The House is set up as a free zone, a respite from all this collapse, but the door is loose on its hinges.

 

There is an ad for the House of India in a newspaper that has not yet dissolved in the tide. My heart is flotsam. My routine gets documented in a serif for beyond serif fonts. The words curl and roll away to reinvent themselves on distant shores.

 

The door collapses, and the notion of a waitress falls into the notion of a woman surfing. She falls into the ocean. The notion of surfing collapses into the notion of youth culture. Dancing and electric guitar keep the world suspended in midair momentarily.

 

Oceans connect the here and there. The orthopedic shoe to the bare foot. The headphone to the earlobe. I stand on the dock and face the unreal like the dull animal I am.

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Glen Armstrong (he/him) holds an MFA in English from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and edits a poetry journal called Cruel Garters. He has three current books of poems: Invisible Histories, The New Vaudeville, and Midsummer. His work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, Conduit, and The Cream City Review.

Blackmail

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My stove is right near the door to my apartment, and when I went to boil water for tea this morning I saw that a nine-by-twelve Manila envelope had been slipped under the door. There was no writing on the envelope, not even my name. Maybe it’s a communication from the co-op board, I thought.

            I picked up the envelope and opened it. In it were a bunch of small black and white photographs that looked like old Polaroids; one even had those rust-colored streaks at one edge. I was in all the photos, pretty much the contemporary me, mostly bald with gray at the sides, but in what looked like 1960s styles. I was even wearing love beads in one of them.

            What was going on? Did I have a look-alike about 50 years my senior? If so, he’d surely be long dead by now.

            The photos were pretty innocuous. I was leaning on a lamppost in one of them, in another I was engaged in discussion with two women with lacquered hairstyles, and in one I was handing a scruffy-looking guy a fifty-dollar bill. So maybe the last one wasn’t so innocuous. Maybe it gave the appearance of some unsavory business. But what, and why now?

            Then the phone rang. The screen said “Restricted.” Usually that means it’s my old friend Dennis, who blocks his home number. So I picked it up. “Yes,” I said.

            “Did you receive the photos, Ducky?” the voice asked, sounding like the caller was trying to disguise his or her voice. I say his or her because it was like the voice of Marlene Dietrich as the Cockney woman in Billy Wilder’s “Witness for the Prosecution,” only a bit lower in timbre, so I couldn’t be sure. I don’t think it was Dennis, though.

            “Yes,” I answered.

            “Well, Ducky,” the caller said, “there’s nothing to worry about. I think we can make the whole thing go away for, oh let’s say just a small sum, maybe two hundred and fifty dollars? And don’t try any funny stuff—I’ve got the negatives.”

            I knew it was a bluff. These were Polaroids. There weren’t any negatives! So I called his or her bluff and hung up the phone. By then my teapot was whistling, and I made myself a nice malty mug of East Frisian breakfast blend, the official start to my day.

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Peter Cherches' most recent book is Masks: Stories from a Pandemic. Called “one of the innovators of the short short story” by Publishers Weekly, he’s also a jazz singer and lyricist. He’s a native of Brooklyn, New York.

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Canadian made with a touch of maple syrup and fueled by bacon Lizy J Campbell aka Lizzywhothefunkc, aims to capture the young minds of tomorrow with her children’s books and inspire others to live the dream of doing what makes them happy with her art. She's a DJ to her own life song of being creative in her own unique and odd way.