Dear Grandfather Gerard,
I hope you don’t mind me calling you that, but it’s how we referred to you all these years. We assumed you were dead; lost in the war with so many others. Your letter was full of news, and we hunger for more. Especially about your “whole new family”. There is much news here of course, and I promise to share more in my next letter, but business first. I must decline your offer to pass our family’s legendary sword on to me. Being out of touch for so long you wouldn’t know, but I have been an ordained priest in the Church of the Everlasting for a number of years. As a man of the cloth I cannot accept an ancient sword that draws unholy powers from shall we say “the dark side”. A 600 year old broadsword carrying a blood curse would be truly unacceptable. My sister Geraldine is first officer on a merchant spacecraft that travels a circuitous route
through the outer mining colonies and alien worlds. She and her partner Zinnia find themselves from time to time in difficult situations. Be it a misunderstanding or an imagined slight, the potential for violence is real enough and a huge sword with glowing runes that as you describe as “an eater of souls” could turn the tide as they say.
I spoke to Gerri and Zinni and they are just thrilled by the idea and will gladly assume the stewardship and responsibilities that come with the sword. Their address is listed below.
Till next time, In faith and prayer,
Fr. Charles Metronome
The kittens lay in soft blankets, one for each universe.
I don't like how these experiments play with their lives, with weird contraptions to tie them to some quantum events. But who am I to complain? The opportunity to work here is enough to keep my mouth shut.
At times I wonder if I am the same in all the other universes. Helping set the lab and record the outcome. But I am told that the observer is important, and I again keep my mouth shut.
Time for the next test.
I pick one kitten and place it gently in a box.
Dr. Meghashri Dalvi consults in Technical Communication, when she is not writing science fiction or teaching Management. Her stories have appeared in Aphelion, Anotherealm, Quantummuse, Spillwords, 101Words, and Flash Fiction Press among others. Her stories are included in the Written Tales and The Writer's Notebook anthologies.
Fathers and Sons
The text said my 95-year-old father, who lived far from me, in a facility in Ohio, had stopped shaving, showering, and changing his clothes. He just slept most of the day. My reaction was stupid: I wondered what he dreamed. Alexandre Dumas, at the end of his life, dreamed he stood on the peak of a mountain made up of all the books he had written – The Three Musketeers, The Count of Monte Cristo, etc. Little by little, the mountain shifted, slithered, gave way beneath his feet, and he found himself standing on a pile of ash. The dream left him in tears. His son quietly held him after the one time he ever recounted it.
Howie Good's most recent poetry collection is Gunmetal Sky, available from Thirty West Publishing.
Layer by Layer
His bedroom is the third floor attic, so he can safely leave his window open to air out the room after his housemates complained, not in person, but in notes taped to his door. He isn’t so worried about the complaints—he cares about the tape damaging the fresh coat of paint.
It started with a summer job picking litter for the city. Good pay. Housemates clapping him on the back and asking him to put in a word. In his second summer, he was assigned to a push-lawnmower. Then, during the third, he was promoted to the riding mower.
One night he found his girlfriend sleeping in the wrong bed. He, now a cuckold like his father before him, said nothing as she left, then drank until he passed out. The next morning, he fell asleep while cutting grass along a sidewalk and almost mowed down a middle-aged lady walking a pug. She never complained to the city, but it threw him and he started declining party invitations—stuck to painting in his room—only able to drag himself away to use the bathroom, grab food from the fridge, or go to work.
The city offered full-time employment when he graduated and, though it had nothing to do with art history, it did involve painting—driving a machine up and down streets painting traffic lines. He thought of the roommates, all working two or three low-paying jobs to get by, so he took it.
Now, after every bit of wall is painted, he starts on the ceiling. When the ceiling is done he starts on the floor. And then, before the paint fully dries, he starts over again. The room shrinks, so he has to get rid of furniture. He leaves a lamp at the bottom of the stairs, then a table, and finally his only chair. While he clears the dresser drawers he discovers a letter from his ex, which he crumples and throws out the window. He lugs the dresser downstairs, runs back up, and paints away the spot where it once sat. Even the plastic bag that holds his clothes takes up too much space, so he installs a hook to hang it outside his open window. One more coat and he’ll have to remove the mattress from the paint-smothered room.
One night, his supervisor confronts him with the security video that shows him smuggling cans of yellow paint to his car. When he gets home, after being fired, he tugs open his attic door. Bathed in the yellow glow, he loosens the mattress from the sticky floor and drags it out.
His fingers tremble as he pries open the last can of paint and breathes deep. He drops to his knees, flattens himself, and wiggles backwards into his room. As he sinks into the tacky layers, he dips a cupped hand into the can, then smears the paint along the bottom of the doorway. Two coats should seal it.
Louella Lester is a writer and amateur photographer in Winnipeg, Canada. Her writing appears in journals such as: Shorts Magazine, Grey Sparrow Journal, Six Sentences, New Flash Fiction, Spelk, Reflex Fiction and some anthologies. Her Flash-CNF book, Glass Bricks (At Bay Press) has just been published. https://louellalester.blog
Near Collision on Main Street
The second wife nearly collided with her husband’s ex-wife on Main Street. The new wife was carrying a small bag of avocados, and her husband’s ex held a clear plastic bag with a blue dress. They looked at each for a long moment before the second wife said “Excuse me” politely and started to walk past, but the ex stopped her by holding up her hand and flicking her long thin fingers up and down. “Since we always seem to be in the same place at the same time, we may as well get along,” she said. “I agree with that,” the second wife said, “But why did you move back to Wedgewood?” “I grew up here,” she said, “And I love the parmesan cheese.” The second wife noted how rosy her cheeks were and the fleshiness of her lips. She squinted her eyes to block out the bright sun. “My husband says you’re still obsessed with him.” The ex chuckled and motioned for the second wife to follow her across the street, leading her to her own house, which was made of parmesan cheese. She pointed to the places where chunks had been bitten off. And now the second wife understood why her husband always had bits of parmesan in his beard. She also couldn’t help noticing that the ex-wife had a perfect ass. With all the cheese she probably eats too, the second wife thought, must be genetic.
Meg Pokrass and Jeff Friedman’s collaboration was born in February 2021. Since then, they have written more than a hundred pieces together. Their stories have been published or are forthcoming in American Journal of Poetry, Plume, New World Writing, Vox Populi, Unbroken, 50-Word Story, and many other literary magazines. Their fabulist microfiction collection, The Fallen Jews of Motown, will be published Pelekinesis Press in March 2022.