Category Archives: Fiction

“Picnic” – Fiction by A.E. Weisgerber

Home Movies – Rosalyn Drexler, 1963

“Picnic” is A.E. Weisgerber‘s potent & evocative flash fiction from our killer & cinematic Spring 2017 issue. (Fun fact: “Picnic” was also selected by Michael Ray at Zoetrope: All-Story for inclusion in the super-cool Cafe Zoetrope Short Story Dispenser!)

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IT WAS DRIZZLY AND FRIDAY AND THEY WERE POOR, so Yves and his new wife Della decided to dig out the 8mm. The projector—Bell & Howell, heavy and gray with a square-handled top—was passed down from the coat closet, followed by the Thom McCan shoe box, holding its small library of little films, each in a yellow and black cardboard box marked with catchall names like Cabin 1960, Aunt Belle, St. Anne, and such.

“Don’t forget to get that pen,” Yves said. “You can mark the one with your cousin in it.”

Della’s cousin, Pat Farelly, was back in the newspapers as his verdict was due shortly.

“Oh. Gosh right. What if they let him go?” Della brought the box into the living room.

“I don’t think he’s got a chance. Did you see the newspaper? those shackles?” Yves set down the bulky projector, unhasped its pebbly gray clamshell, shucked it. “With his limp on top of that?” The threading wasn’t so tricky, but once that lamp kicked on, it had to keep running or acrid smoke would announce holes burning through the celluloid.

With a china crayon, Della added ‘killer’ to the little carton’s subject line, and set it aside. “Remember how he locked all the doors?”  Della always selected the same films, and it wouldn’t be an official movie night without watching Honeymoon, the time the old Falcon got stuck in the snow.

Continue reading “Picnic” – Fiction by A.E. Weisgerber

“Torture Game” – Fiction by Ryan Bradford

Clouds on Screen at a Drive-In Movie – Diane Arbus, 1960

The following SNEAK PREVIEW of our Spring 2017 issue, FLAPPERHOUSE #13, contains MOVIE MAGIC, SEXUAL SITUATIONS, and EXTREME HORROR, and is NOT INTENDED FOR IMMATURE OR UNCOOL AUDIENCES.

Now that y’all been warned, we present “Torture Game,” Ryan Bradford‘s fiendish fiction about a dark date-night at the drive-in.

(If you like what you read, you can pre-order a digital (PDF) copy of FLAPPERHOUSE #13 for $3US via PayPal and see it fly into your emailbox by the Vernal Equinox. Print copies will be available on Amazon & CreateSpace real soon…)

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THEY WERE IN EACH OTHER’S PANTS WHEN THE FIRST TWIST OCCURRED: the man wasn’t a protagonist. He was in cahoots with the killer. He, himself, was a killer. Perhaps worse than a killer, because he used likeability and charm to earn trust.

“Oh shit,” Lou said. “Oh shit oh shit.” He shivered as Nancy finished him. His fingers, crushed numb by her waistband, had stopped working. They breathed hard in the stale cab, listening to the film’s muted sound through Lou’s shitty speakers. Their arms crisscrossed into each other’s undone clothing.

Lou rested his head against the seat and let the blood return to his extremities. “Damn, girl,” he said. He hooked his finger, still inside her pants, and Nancy jumped. “Want me to finish you?”

“Nah,” she said.

They pulled away from each other. Nancy rolled down the window, put her arm out, and flicked his mess off her fingers. Pacific wind filled the car. The air felt electrified somehow—simultaneously comforting and buzzing.

Lou sniffed his fingers, still wet with Nancy. She laughed and slapped his hand away from his nostrils.

“Don’t be gross,” she said.

He wiped his hand across his jeans and then reached for the back of her head. They kissed again—sweetly, this time. The passion had run its course. He watched the movie out of the corner of his eye. On the screen, the killer slit a woman’s neck and she screamed, watery.

Nancy moved away from Lou’s lips and rested her chin on his shoulder. She had never liked horror movies, so she stared out the back window.

“You notice that car before?”

Lou turned and looked. The drive-in on the weeknights was their thing because it was usually dead. They could drink, smoke, fool around in the backseat, and not worry about the kids that usually dominated the lot on the weekends. Nothing killed a good buzz like the screams of wild children running between the cars. Tonight had been less populated than usual. The news had predicted rain. There were three other cars in the lot when they arrived. This old, brown Cadillac parked behind their car had not been one of them.

“No,” Lou said.

“I don’t like it.”

“How come?”

“I don’t know.” She paused. “It looks like it’s pretending to sleep.”

Continue reading “Torture Game” – Fiction by Ryan Bradford

“Seven Ate Nine” – Fiction by Hannah Lackoff

Death With Girl In Her Lap – Kathe Kollwitz, circa 1934

The grand finale of our Winter 2017 issue is “Seven Ate Nine,” Hannah Lackoff‘s deeply moving story of growing up, letting go, and moving on.  

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DEAR NINE,
WHAT’S IT LIKE IN THE AFTERWORLD? Ha ha.  Mr. Banks is making me write this.  I don’t know why I bother.  It’s not like you’re going to read it.  Mr. Banks is though, probably, so Hi Mr. Banks!  This Assignment is Very Important and not at all Futile.
Love, Me

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
i miss u

 

Dear Nine,
Apparently last week I did not follow the assignment.  Mr. Banks was Not Terribly Impressed (his words), and he knows I Can Do Better If I Try (ditto).

So today’s assignment is to write about the last time I saw you.  The last time I saw you you were bone gray ash.  We took you to the field behind the Marshalls and we let you go.  Cage said in some cultures people mixed the ashes into a soup and ate them.  Meggie said that was bullshit.  Your mom told everyone to shut the crap up and then we all laughed so hard, and it was really inappropriate and the man from your aunt’s church turned red and told us we were being disrespectful but we weren’t really, because I don’t think you would have minded.  Then the priest guy said a few words that were all churchy and serious and your aunt cried but only her.  The rest of us were cried out, I guess.

Better Mr. Banks?
-Seals

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
u always said u would come back and haunt us
r u there?

 

Dear Nine,
Today I’m writing in cursive because it takes longer.  I don’t like this class but I like math class even less, so I’m going to draw this out for as long as I can.  Did you know there is such a thing as imaginary numbers?  I mean what the fuck?  Like regular numbers weren’t confusing enough already?  Look at the loops in my Ls.  Lllll.  I haven’t used cursive since like 4th grade.  Only when I have to sign my name on birthday checks.

School is boring without you.  It’s more than boring.  It’s horrible.  In Home Ec we’re not allowed to cook for a while because someone turned the oven on to “clean” instead of “bake” when we were making the apple cobbler and it just sort of melted and smoked all over the inside of the stove.  Now we have to take a written safety test before we are allowed to use any equipment.  They moved all the seats around so there’s no gap where you used to sit.  Same in English.
-Seals

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
what was it like?

 

Dear Nine!
Mr. Banks said since I chose not to do last week’s assignment (again) and instead use foul language and procrastinating mechanisms I have to do two this week.  I told him these were my private words and he shouldn’t be reading them but he said that’s not what this class is about and I can do that on my own time.

This week we are all writing a letter about a happy memory.  Remember when Cage and Meggie and you and me went to the lake and Meggie pushed Cage off the dock before he was ready and he sort of lost his swimsuit and we all saw his butt?  Mr. Banks is not going to like this memory.  I don’t think Mr. Banks wants to hear about butts.

But after the butt incident we went to Shirley’s and we had ice cream.  You picked the bubble gum out of yours and put it on a napkin like an eight year old and we were all grossed out but afterwards you had a big wad of gum to chew and what did the rest of us have?

Last week we were supposed to be writing a letter to your family.  I didn’t really want to do it, so I guess that’s why I used those “procrastination mechanisms.”  My mom sent your mom a card with a really beautiful painting of a little cabin on the front, next to the water.  It’s really peaceful looking and it reminds me of the lake.  Of our lake.  I think she’s really going to like it.  My mom wrote something inside that I wasn’t allowed to read.  Grown Up Talk Only.

This letter is getting long because I am really nervous to write to your mom, but I guess it’s time to bite the big one and get started.
-Seals

 

Dear Mrs. Bishop: Nine was/is my best friend and I miss her so much.  You were/are like my second mom.  I’m supposed to share a memory of you and Nine so here goes:

When we were little and we had sleepovers Nine used to have bad nightmares.  She said your house was haunted.  One time I woke up and she wasn’t there and I heard this weird rumbling noise.  I went out into the kitchen and she was at the counter drinking hot chocolate and you were waving a vacuum around, sucking up the ghosts.  It was really nice.
-Celeste Ingalls

 

To: 9Bishop
From: 7Seals
i heard a noise
are u there?

Continue reading “Seven Ate Nine” – Fiction by Hannah Lackoff

“Unfurring” – Fiction by Rebecca Ann Jordan

illustration by Rebecca Ann Jordan

“Unfurring” is Rebecca Ann Jordan‘s sensual and tender, yet animalistic and violent short fiction from our Winter 2017 issue.

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AND WE’RE RUNNING RACING RUNNING the powder-man behind us but our tails flick too fast for his eye. Game, this is a game but terror spikes up my spine-like-snapped-liquid and I’m laughing little squeaks and ragged wheezes, my fellow fox. How up we’ve been stitched in this place of fur and ears and whiskers, how forgotten our selves have been, as if it’s really our bodies this dead canine’s using.

But who were you really, in the before? Before this game of borrowed skin? I forget everything; all slips from my mind as this fox-body slips from the wavering line of light drawn neatly as war on the ground. I can still taste you on my tiny-spiked tongue. I can still feel your calluses furring me all over. You I can still remember turning my knees backwards and my skin to graying red. Game. This is a game and you’re behind me, teasing my eyes around, letting me feel competitive.

The hunter draws behind him the cloak of dark.

You can run yourself gone past where the hard line of shadow chases us, but me I’ll turn, I’ll end him and win, I’ll hide behind the tree no shadow can cross, and when the man smelling like powder comes—I leap upon him, all his plaid and metal and I’m not game for this game anymore. Him I remember. He comes flashing back like a gun, he who tore you from me in that before, his ripping of your life away, all his subtle yanking of the years out from under us, some of which we ran together, most of them we didn’t or did, jaggedly.

And him I’m sinking my teeth into now, tasting the mettle of his blood and feeling the way he bucks beneath. I’ll stop him forever so you can keep on running, my love, the wind combing back your ancient gray into the red of my memory.

Continue reading “Unfurring” – Fiction by Rebecca Ann Jordan

“I Feel the Same Way About You” – Flash Fiction by Jan Stinchcomb

 

Dante & Virgil Enter the Forest - William Blake, 1824
Dante & Virgil Enter the Wood – William Blake, 1824

Three friends suddenly find themselves in a strange realm in “I Feel the Same Way About You,” one of two diabolically surreal flash fictions by Jan Stinchcomb in our Winter 2017 issue.

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THE GIRLS ARE STUCK IN THEIR FUTURE.

It’s Emma’s fault since she was driving, but Cait and Lex know it’s not cool to say this out loud. They’re stumbling around in some rich person’s kitchen. At first they’re hesitant to touch anything but then they can’t help themselves. There is a bowl filled with tiny silver spoons and a set of crystal goblets. A dark forest is visible through the enormous picture window.

Cait picks up a leather-bound planner and flips through the pages. “Guys. Look at this. It’s mine.”

Lex’s hatred is swift and certain. Something about Cait always sets her off.

“See. My name is here, on the first page. This is my house. I’m married. I’ve got twins.” Cait squeals like a little girl. “I knew I would have twins! Lots of the women in my family do.” She looks around. “And I’m rich.”

There is a woman gathering firewood outside in the forest. She wears an ugly, tattered poncho and a sad face. Lex peers at her and startles into the realization that she is looking at herself. She tries to act as though she hasn’t noticed anything but Cait makes the connection and laughs. “Is that you out there, Lex? Don’t tell me you’re one of the forest people.”

“It’s not my fault,” is all Lex can say. She wants to wave to her future self but is afraid this might make her complicit.

Emma doesn’t say a word.

“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Lex.” Cait has never been happier. “You always have to be the rebel, don’t you? Well, there you are. Outside.”

“I’m not staying in this kitchen,” Lex says but she’s terrified of going outdoors. She dreads brushing up against her older self. That woman is haggard. Starving. Lex tries to think of what she did to deserve such a fate. She knows Cait is not a nice person, but still. How did they go from carpooling in the morning to living in these separate worlds?

Emma’s eyes are black and bottomless. Her hands are ice. The girl Lex knew is gone, but she puts one arm around Emma and leads her to what must be a sunroom. It is all glass, beautiful, something she will never have.

Emma doesn’t seem to weigh much anymore. She glides alongside Lex to a wicker couch, where they both sit down.

Soon Cait appears, exultant, with coffee on a golden tray. “I have an espresso machine! So I thought, why not?”

Lex refuses to drink. She knows if Cait drinks, she will seal some horrible deal. At first, out of spite, she says nothing, but then she screams at Cait to put the cup down. Continue reading “I Feel the Same Way About You” – Flash Fiction by Jan Stinchcomb

“Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship” – Fiction by Maria Pinto

The Seven Deadly Sins, Lust - Erte
The Seven Deadly Sins, Lust – Erte

Dive into the mind of an infatuated freshman with “Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship”Maria Pinto‘s frisky flash fiction from our Winter 2017 issue.

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SOMETHING ABOUT SEEING TEACHER ON THE BUS, under the yellow light, the ridges of his brown corduroys flaccid, the finger upon which she’d always assumed she would find a gold band if she bothered to look, how the finger tapped at his bony knee, something about the way the finger had a gold band-shaped stripe on it, the stripe pale, a little indented, the way the knuckle hairs had a practiced wither there, how the stripe rendered him vulnerable as a midair-poised ass, hot, pink from slapping, something about all these things taken together made her want to push the moment, to fuck him. She did not interrogate why. She was a freshman; there was only the urgent press of do, do, do.

When he’d boarded the bus at the foot of Crippling Debt Hill, she felt him see her reading from the anthology for his class. He took the seat across from her, but she didn’t feel him look at her again. Her cheeks burned. She wanted to get up and lean over, to dot his face with damp kisses. Instead, she pretended to keep reading till the lines on the page went blurry.

What was he doing on the bus? She’d never seen him on this route. Shouldn’t an older professor at an elite university drive a reliable Prius, at least? Here was proof of the bleak state of education in this country.

The bus made a sudden stop to let a yelling passenger off and everyone lurched forward or to the side but him. She sighed.

In class today, he had said something ridiculous about a poem and she’d felt those words rumbling in her chest all afternoon. These lines know they can never know a woman. Words can never know a woman. The interior of a woman is ineffable, which earned him a laugh from the others. She knew he was not joking, so she didn’t laugh. She felt him watch her mouth as it didn’t slip open to show her teeth. Maybe he was a cad.

On the first day of the semester, his brown-black eyes had lingered on her at the end of every sentence. She’d heard somewhere that everyone thinks a good public speaker is looking at them most of all, but that didn’t stop her from playing with her lip, watching him watch her do it. All the watching felt involuntary.

Continue reading “Love Song of a Femme Fatale on Scholarship” – Fiction by Maria Pinto

“The Unfed” – Fiction by Nancy Au

gwashingtonsteethlocFalse teeth, depleted mountaintops, and mysterious fruit tarts are just a few of the key ingredients in “The Unfed,” Nancy Au‘s fantastic short story from our Winter 2017 issue.

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BEA OGILBY POPS HER NEW DENTURES into her dress pocket for safe-keeping, runs her fingers along the empty grooves & bumps of her mouth’s spongy pink mountain range. She glances at her reflection in the mirror before heading out. White hair twisted in a bun. Her smile, all gums, no more chomp and chew.

Outside, blinded by the bright September sunlight, Bea nearly stumbles over a fruit tart left on her doorstep. The mountaintop, which once protected her home from the afternoon glare, had been stolen by Ye Old Mining Company; millions of pounds of rock and dirt, acres of trees and shrubs ripped from the mountain in order to extract coal. The village’s sacred mountain could no longer be called The Great Peak because all that remained was a grizzled, flattened stump. No trees to glue the remaining boulders in place, to keep mud from surging down the steep slope and destroying the village during the next monsoon. No guide posts pointing tourists up the path, nor signs to indicate the diminished mountain ever even had a name.

Across the narrow dirt road, her neighbor, Teddy Nun, waves. “Hello there!” Teddy is working in his meager vegetable garden. Misshapen carrots and wilted kale poke out of the sandy soil. Bea bends down to pick up the tart, observes the glistening strawberries and buttery crust. She eagerly dips her finger in the sugary dew, and tastes a lick.

“Hello there!” repeats Teddy.

Bea points to the tart, “Did you see who?”

Teddy shrugs, Bea nods. His useless I don’t know shrugging responses are legendary in town. But Bea appreciates this in a neighbor, with stories and gossip flowing in only one direction across the narrow road. Like, when the last of her teeth were pulled, gums red, swollen, tender—a finger without the nail—she’d asked the incurious retiree: How does the Tooth Fairy for the elderly work? Where do your teeth go when the Tooth Fairy dies? Teddy’s response that time was a handful of ice carefully wrapped in a red dishtowel, a cold compress for Bea’s sore mouth.

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The first to perish while rebuilding the mountaintop was an aging horse with a three-year-old mentality, named Wilson. This equine senior dragged boulders and planks of knotted pine, in metal carts with leather straps, up the steep rocky trail using just his chompers. Every tooth of this odd-toed ungulate were bloody and broken by the time he reached the top. Bea had nightmares for weeks after this first death, awakening at dawn, soft mouthing the horse’s name over and over, as if in prayer.

Continue reading “The Unfed” – Fiction by Nancy Au