Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

The Princess and the Gorilla
Laura Beasley

The princess had eaten all of the bricks in the fireplace, so she was forced to wash dishes as if she were a common kitchen scullion. Even the magical gorilla could not save her from this chore. As she was dipping the dishes in the hot water, the beast nodded his furry head and shook his paws. She wondered if the gorilla was trying to tell her something. The princess found the witch’s purple gloves under the sink counter. The gloves would prevent her hands from being scalded. But the princess realized these were not ordinary gloves. The magical gloves allowed the princess to feel more capable and competent than ever before. She would use these gloves to help her escape with her brother. After she put away the dishes, she folded the gloves and put them in her apron pocket. She shook hands with the gorilla to thank him before checking on her brother who was captive in a birdcage.

“Can I have some of the chocolate bricks, sister?” said her brother.

“No, I have picked some apples for you to eat. You need to get thinner so that you can squeeze between the bars of the birdcage unless I can find the key. The witch is trying to fatten you up so that she can eat you. No candy for you!” said the princess.

“But we’re living in a candy house, it’s impossible to not eat candy when we’re surrounded by the sight of candy and the smell of candy,” said the prince.

“You don’t have to worry about the chocolate brick fireplace any more because I have eaten all of that! Think thin thoughts! I am planning our escape,” said the princess.

`“I can’t think thin thoughts when I have to look at this mosaic tile made of jelly beans. It’s making me crazy!” said her brother.

“I will eat that as well, but I better eat quickly because if she catches me I will be punished again,” said the princess.

She fell to the floor and started scraping up the tiles and eating the jelly beans. She had finished the last of them when the witch returned home.

“How dare you eat my floor, princess!” said the witch “Now you will have to wash all of my laundry by hand including my sheets, my nightclothes and my bloody underwear!”

It was a windy day and the princess was working outside. Her hair was blowing in her face and she couldn’t see what she was doing. The gorilla stood near as she bent over the tub scrubbing the witch’s nightcap. The gorilla brushed his paw over his forehead. The repetitive gesture convinced the princess that he was trying to help her. She found a brass hair comb in the nightcap. The princess used this comb to keep her hair up so that she could work more efficiently. She recognized it was a second magical object because wearing the comb allowed her to feel more brilliant and creative than ever before. She would use this hair comb to plan her escape. After hanging the laundry on the line, she secured it her apron pocket and gave the gorilla a friendly hug before checking on her brother once more.

“You don’t seem any thinner, what have you been eating?” she said.

“I think it’s the smell of the candy that’s making me fatter,” he said.

“I think the witch is giving you candy to eat because she wants to eat you. Don’t you want to escape?”

“It’s hard to refuse candy. Especially when she has those cotton candy pillows on the sofa,” he said.

“Well I suppose I could eat those. It’s not as if I’m gaining any weight eating this candy. The stress of the situation is burning so many calories, and during each task the magical gorilla helps me find magical objects. I am going to use them to get us out of here,” said the princess.

The princess sat cross-legged on the couch and tore the pillows into bite-sized chunks she shoved quickly into her mouth. She almost finished before the witch came home.

“Again with the skinny bitch eating my candy! You are making me sick! You will have to make me chicken soup, go kill the chickens now!” said the witch.

The princess wrung the necks of the chickens, plucked their feathers and tried to use her bare hands to pull the meat off their bones. The gorilla made slashing gestures at his neck and the princess realized she should search for a sharp knife. The witch’s knife made the work easier. The magical knife allowed the princess to understand what needed to be kept as well as what should be eliminated. After setting the pot of soup to simmer on the stove, she wiped the blade clean and tucked the brass knife with the amethyst handle into her apron pocket.

She needed to thank the gorilla. She hoped this third act of gratitude would create a magical transformation. After all she was a princess who had heard dozens of tales told by the Old Weaver. Their passionate kiss was animalistic but he remained a gorilla and she remained a princess.

Her brother was unchanged. He was too fat to squeeze through the bars of the birdcage. The princess begged the gorilla to help her find the key. The princess used her three magical objects in her search: the hair comb, the purple gloves and the sharp knife. As she searched the gorilla pointed to his chest. The princess realized what she needed to do next.

Feeling capable and competent, brilliant and creative and knowing what should be kept as well as eliminated, she stabbed the gorilla with her knife. Opening the chest, she found a tiny brass key resting on his beating heart. She removed the key and hung it around her neck and carefully sutured her friend. After she finished the final stitch, he spoke,

“You didn’t need to stab me so that I could speak. I was always able to speak. You needed to do these things so that you would be willing to listen. But first you must try to use this key. The key you think you need,” said the gorilla.

“Let me rescue my brother and we’ll escape together,” said the princess.

The key opened the birdcage but she could not rescue her brother.

“I’ve decided to stay with the witch because there is more candy to eat,” said the fat prince.

“She’s going to fatten you up and consume you, can’t you see that? I can take you with me.” said the princess

“I don’t want to go with you. Everyone dies whether from cancer or suicide or from being eaten or manipulated by a witch or a wife. You will die as well my Sister Princess. You are not any better than me,” said the boy.

“I will die after a long and healthy life with my gorilla,” said the princess. “We will live happily ever after.”

And that’s just what they did.

Laura Beasley, the Mother who Tells Stories, has lost 190 pounds and lives beyond cancer. After raising three children in California, she and her husband live with their whippet in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Ever After
B. A. Varghese

They finally saw their father’s house. Hansel and Gretel ran inside and threw their arms around their father. The woodcutter hugged them tightly, wishing he had never left them alone in the woods. He told them of their stepmother’s death and the children jumped with excitement for they had good news too. Gretel ran around shaking her apron making pearls and precious stones fall to the floor. Plump Hansel threw handfuls from his pockets. Now all their cares were at an end.

The next morning, the father and the children went to the market. They brought back all sorts of delicacies. The father spent all day preparing a feast and when it was time for supper, Hansel could not bring himself to eat what was on his plate. The father did not understand why, for the meal smelled scrumptious. Hansel believed it was from all the excitement of being home. Gretel advised not to push him to eat and the father did not mind since Hansel was much larger than the last time he saw him. The father and Gretel continued with their meal and afterwards they all went to sleep.

The next day, it was the same. The father prepared savory meals and only Gretel ate them. Hansel felt no hunger and spent most of his day outside playing with pebbles.

After a week, Hansel had lost weight and the father was worried. No matter what food was brought before him, Hansel did not eat it. Even Gretel was getting worried.

A day later, the father brought the local doctor and after examining Hansel, said that all was well. Some weight loss was to be expected especially after what Hansel had been through. The father and Gretel were relieved and hoped that Hansel would get better.

Weeks passed and Hansel grew thinner and thinner. His skin was tight around his bones and his face looked skeletal as if all life was sucked out of it. He spent his days outside gathering pebbles into his jacket and walking around the yard. He only stopped to look back at the house, dropping a pebble onto an invisible path.

The father had brought the doctor again, then another one from another town, and then yet another from a remote region. They all found nothing and said that Hansel should be eating any day now.

The next morning, the father woke up to the smell of cooking. He rushed in to see a table full with milk, pancakes with sugar, apples, and nuts. There were bricks made of old bread, moldy cake roofing, and broken windowpanes of sugar. He looked at Gretel who wore a burnt dress and had ashes on her face, making her look old like a witch.

Gretel comforted her father and said, “Don’t cry, Father. It was the only way.”

The father looked down at the black scratches along the floor that led to a corner where a skeleton of a boy sat devouring bread behind a cage.

B. A. Varghese graduated from Polytechnic University (New York) in 1993 and has been working in the Information Technology field ever since. Inspired to explore his artistic side, he is currently working toward a degree in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida. His work is forthcoming in Apalachee Review. (

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

The Knight
Jennifer Carson

“This is ridiculous!” Sarah yelled as Mrs. Haney pulled the corset strings tight. “Nothing exciting ever happens to good girls with good parents.”

“You can’t hang around waiting for prince charming,” Mrs. Haney said. “You ain’t a princess in a castle miss, but a servin’ wench in a tavern. You gotta make your own luck.” She patted Sarah’s shoulder consolingly.

“Gee, thanks for the sympathy,” Sarah retorted.

Mrs. Haney shrugged her shoulders. “This ain’t a fairy tale, just a renaissance festival. And I ain’t no fairy godmother.”

Sarah adjusted her skirts and laced her shoes. She turned to Mrs. Haney. “Well? Everything in the right place?”

Mrs. Haney’s eyes traveled up her green skirts and over her red corset. Sarah had left her hair down today—her waist-long butterscotch-colored hair was her best feature. Mrs. Haney smiled. “A right proper serving wench you be! Now, get out there and serve those ales.”

Sarah stuck her tongue out playfully at Mrs. Haney and stepped through the dressing room door and into the raucous tavern. It was only noon and yet the faire patrons were already wild in their cups. Some of them got so wrapped up in the pretend-ness of it all that they actually believed they were in the sixteenth century. She was constantly fighting off grabbing hands and suggestive words. But the tips were worth it.

It was dim and warm in the tavern, with a small fire built up in the hearth to ward off the autumn chill. She was filling the cups of a bunch of rowdy college boys when she noticed the knight enter.

He filled the doorway with his broad, armored shoulders and paused, assessing the crowd. Then he pushed back his hood. The daylight framing him shone off his chestnut brown hair, which flowed in waves over his shoulders. His surcoat was a brilliant blue with a large crescent moon over his heart. The sleeves of his hauberk shone like polished silver. Sarah was struck dumb. He looked authentic. She wondered where he got his suit of mail—surely work that good didn’t come from Donny and Phil and their “Mailboys” booth.

Sarah felt a push from behind. “Go on,” Mrs. Haney whispered. “There’s something exciting.”

Stumbling forward, Sarah made her way through the crowd toward the knight. She giggled. It struck her as funny calling him a knight. She wondered what he really was—a carpenter, an engineer, a grocery bagger. He could be anything in real life and sometimes it was shocking to hear what faire patrons really did during the week. “You seem a bit lost, sir knight. May I help you find a seat? A cup of ale perhaps?”

The knight bowed his head. “You are most gracious, Milady.” He reached for her hand and placed his soft lips above her knuckles. Sarah caught her breath and the knight looked up. His green eyes searched her face.

“I’m not a lady,” Sarah stuttered. “Just a serving wench.” She laughed nervously and pulled away.

“You are too beautiful to just be a serving wench,” the knight said. “What else are you?”

“Flabbergasted.” Sarah sighed.

“That is your surname? Flabbergasted?” The knight’s eyebrows knit together.

Sarah laughed again. “Oh, no. My surname is Hampton.”

“A royal line for sure.” The knight looked over her shoulder.

Sarah turned and scanned the room. “Are looking for someone? Your comrades in arms or your girl friend, perhaps?”

“Girl friend?” The knight had a puzzled look on his face.

Sarah rolled her eyes. “Your lady, I meant. Are you looking for your lady?”

“I seem to be in the wrong place.” The knight shook his head. “I don’t really remember how I came to be here.”

Sarah put her arm through his and led him to an empty booth. “Maybe you were hit a little hard when you were jousting. You sit right here. I’ll walkie the medics.”

“You speak strangely. What is a walkie?”

Sarah rolled her eyes again. People working the faire were always so uppity about keeping it real. “I beg your pardon, knight. I shall keep my tongue in check and speak the language of the King.”

He nodded. “May I have an ale? Perhaps it will help clear my head.”

“Sit tight.” Sarah pushed her way to the dressing room and grabbed the walkie-talkie. It crackled as she pushed the button. “This is Sarah from the Man O’War Tavern. We need a medic. I think we have a knight who’s knocked himself silly. He can’t remember how he got here.”

“You sure you didn’t get him drunk?” Gary, the medic on duty cackled into the radio.

Sarah pushed the button in with a sigh. “I haven’t even served him yet.”

Hooting laughter came through the radio. “Sure! I know how you tavern wenches are!”

“Are you coming or not, Gary?”

“I’ll be there in two shakes of a wench’s tail,” Gary answered.

Sarah slammed the radio into its charger. It didn’t matter if they were shit muckers or doctors—men were all the same. She took a deep breath and walked back into the tavern. Pulling a ceramic mug from a hook she filled it with ale from the tap and carried it over to the knight. “You never told me your name.”

The knight pushed his hair from his face and smiled. “Brannock.”

“Is that your first name or your surname?”

“Michael, is what my mother called me.”

“Great.” Sarah flung her tresses over her shoulder. “Well, Michael, the medic is coming to take a look at you. We’ll see if you have a concussion from the joust.”

“But I wasn’t jousting.” He shook his head, a dreamy look clouding his face.

“What were you doing then, before you came in the tavern?” Sarah slid into the other side of the booth, facing the knight. She would just sit here until Gary showed up.

“I was riding on a path through the forest outside the castle, patrolling the borders. I had just passed the crumbling section of a stone wall when I heard a cry. So I dismounted and stepped through the open section of the wall and followed the cry into the forest.”

“And then?” Sarah prompted. She’d been watching his face as he spoke, wracking her brain for the signs of a concussion—weren’t his pupils supposed to be really small? Really big? She couldn’t remember. What was taking Gary so long?

“And then I came out into a clearing and found myself in front of the tavern.” Michael drained the ale and set the mug down on the table. He ran his thumb over the smooth pottery. “This is fantastic workmanship. Do you have your own potter?”

“No, they just come from some catalog.” Sarah waved her hand in dismissal.

“Catalog?” The knight raised his brows in askance.

“Yeah, you know. Like the Museum Replica catalog or something.”

The knight shook his head. “I must have traveled to the land of the fae. And now I’m stuck because I drank the ale. Tell me, are you a nymph? Will you change from your beautiful form and make me your slave now that you have me trapped?”

“That isn’t a bad idea,” Sarah said, “but alas, I have no magical powers.”

His gaze was intense, as if he found her fascinating. He must have knocked himself loony. That was the only answer for his behavior.

What year is it?” Sarah blurted out.

“It is the reign of Edward III, about 1348 in the year of our Lord.”

She stood abruptly and knocked her hipbone on the table. “Shit!” Her hands went to her hip and pressed the spot. She was going to have a nice bruise.

Michael stood and caught her arms. “Are you alright, Milady?”

“I’ll be fine. Man! That hurt.”

The tavern door swung open and Gary strolled in, whistling.

“Finally!” Sarah yelled.

Gary grinned as he pushed his way through the crowd, his black leather bag swaying in his hand. “Couldn’t wait to see me, eh?”

Michael straightened his shoulders and squared up to the medic. “You should take a look at Milady first. She took a great hit from the table.”

Gary raised his eyebrows and turned to Sarah. “Oh? A rough one already?”

“Shut up, Gary. I just hit my hip on the table corner.” She pointed to the knight. “This is Michael. He says he wasn’t jousting but he doesn’t know how he got here.” Sarah paused. She wasn’t sure if she should tell him the rest. It might be important though. She decided to leave the fairies out of it. “And he thinks the year is 1348.”

“Does it look like 1348 to you?” Gary asked Michael.

“I admit, there are some strange things in this village.”

Gary put his hand on the knight’s shoulder and guided him back into the booth. He set his bag on the table and unzipped it. After rummaging around a bit he pulled out an ophthalmoscope and shined the light in the knight’s eyes.

Michael pulled back and flung his arms up over his face. “What kind of devilry is this?”

Gary laughed. “You can put away the rennie antics. It’s just a light so I can see how your pupils react.”

“My what?”

Michael looked as if he was about to jump over the table and flee for his life. Sarah sat on the tabletop and reached for his hand. His face turned to her, searching for understanding.

“The light is a tool that doctors use to see how your eyes react to the light. Have you never been to an optometrist?”

Michael shook his head.

“Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt.” She sat up straight. “Gary, do it to me first, so he can see what will happen.”

“You’re joking right?” Gary smirked.

Sarah pinched her lips together. “No, I’m not joking! Do it!”

She sat still as Gary flashed the light in her face, his cinnamon breath gently touching her cheeks as he peered into her eyes.

“See?” Sarah said to Michael. “Not a big deal. Will you let Gary look at yours now?”

The knight shifted uncomfortably in the booth. “You won’t be putting any spells on me, sorcerer?”

Gary and Sarah exchanged a grin. “No spells, you have my word,” Gary said.

Michael pulled himself forward in the booth. Gary bent and peered into his eyes. “Hmm . . . interesting.”

“What?” asked Sarah.

“No sign of a concussion.”

“Were you expecting one?”

Gary stood up and dropped his light in his bag. “You weren’t?”

Sarah shrugged her shoulders. She didn’t really believe in magic or time travel or any of that fantasy stuff, although it was fun to pretend. Something about Michael though didn’t strike her as pretending.

“I’ll need you to take off some of that mail. Do you need help removing it?” Gary asked the knight.

Michael stood and pulled off his surcoat. Sarah reached for it. The material was heavy. She scrutinized the stitching of the moon. Finely spaced stitches were worked with gold thread. Who ever made this surcoat, knew what they were doing. The knight’s hauberk dropped with a rasping clang to the wooden floor. Michael wore a dark blue jupon underneath. It looked as if it had seen better days. The tight fitting sleeveless shirt was frayed at the shoulders and stained heavily. He looked at Sarah with an apologetic look. “My newer jupon was with the laundress.”

“And your mantle? Was that with the laundress as well?” Gary teased him.

“I threw it over my horse before when I dismounted. I didn’t want it to get tangled in the forest briars.”

“Didn’t you read the signs that said to stay on the path?” Gary asked.

“There was no path in the forest I was in,” Michael said, an indignant tone entering his voice. “Anyway, a knight of the Garter wanders where he pleases.”

“A knight of the Garter?” Gary smirked. “Well, we are aiming high aren’t we? Lift your arms.”

Michael lifted his arms and rolled his head back in exasperation. “There is nothing wrong with me. I feel perfectly healthy.”

Sarah’s gaze traveled to Michael’s legs. Encircling his left knee was a blue belt made of silk. She knelt and ran her fingers over its gilt buckles and admired the finely worked gold embroidery. Michael had the greatest costumer ever. Even the tiniest details were true to history. The hair on the back of her nape rose. What if he wasn’t pretending? What if he truly was a companion of the Black Prince Edward?

“Well, I agree,” Gary said.

Sarah stood abruptly and suddenly felt a bit woozy. Was Gary reading her mind?

“You are the picture of perfect health,” the medic continued. “And a superb actor.”

Sarah slumped into the booth her head in her hands. This couldn’t be happening. Mrs. Haney’s words rang in her ears. This isn’t a fairy tale.

Gary zipped his bag and slung it over his shoulder. He turned and the crowd parted for him. “Nice to meet you, Michael, of the Order of the Garter. Carry on!”

Michael pulled his coat of mail over his head and settled it onto his shoulders. “Is something the matter, Milady?” He crouched in front of her and when Sarah lifted her head his brow was creased with worry.

“You really aren’t from here are you?”

“I was born in St. Albans, just north of London. But now I live near the castle at Windsor on a small estate granted to me by Prince Edward.”

“Could you retrace your steps through the forest? I’d like to see where you turned off.” Sarah stood and held out Michael’s surcoat. He smiled and let her guide it over his head and mailed arms.

“I’d be delighted to take a turn with you.” He held out his hand and Sarah placed her hand in his. She could feel the rough callouses on his palms and the strength in his fingers as he led her across the tavern.

“Hey! Sarah!” Mrs. Haney yelled across the room. “Yer shift ain’t over till 7!”

Sarah waved and smiled. “Just taking a walk, Mrs. Haney. I’ll be back in a bit!”

The wind raced through the shop facades and trees scattered about the faire grounds. A wedding party was just coming out of the chapel and the courtyard stage was full of guests enjoying the juggling troupe. The faire really was a magical place.

“Is it always so busy here in this village?” Michael asked.

Sarah grinned. “Yes, unless it is pouring rain. Then everything turns to mud and the patrons stay at home and we don’t make any money.”

“I don’t think I’d like to live in such a busy place, but I can see the charm for a tavern mistress. Crowds do mean profits.”

“Yes, but you are right. I do dream of a quiet home on a rolling pasture. I’m not like most of the girls who dream of marrying a prince. I’d rather have the fire-hardened blacksmith or the wind-blown sailor.”

“Not a knight?” Michael asked.

Sarah lowered her eyes. A blush ran up her neck to settle in her cheeks. “A knight would do too.”

Michael smiled and drew her onto the path that led to the patron parking lots. “This is where I came through to your village.” The knight pointed up the path a bit to a tree that was decorated with many bits and baubles of shining glass. “There. At the witch’s tree. That’s where I came out of the forest.”

Michael led her to the witch’s tree and pointed to the trampled brush. “See, you can see my path.”

She grasped the knight’s arm tighter. Would she allow herself to believe in fairy tales? “Can you take me to see the castle?”

“Of course.” He led her through the forest, following his brushy trail. Sarah heard a whicker and the blowing breath of a horse and when the forest opened up into a small sunlit meadow a white horse grazed at the long grass. A blue mantle was hanging across his back.

“This can’t be real,” Sarah murmured. She stroked the velvet nose of the horse. It was warm and damp. It felt real.

“Shall we, Milady?” Michael was holding the mantle open, expecting to wrap her in its folds. His face had a genuine expression of kindness.

Sarah let him clasp the heavy mantle around her shoulders. She bit her lip in disbelief as he easily lifted her up into the saddle. Climbing up behind her, she nestled into the knight’s warm chest. His clicked his tongue and the horse walked to the edge of the meadow and over a crumbled stone wall.

She had been wrong. Exciting things did happen to good girls with good parents.

Jennifer Carson is an award-winning fantasy artist and author. Her publishing credits include two children’s novels, To Find A Wonder (2009) and Hapenny Magick (2011), and a short story in Timeless: An Anthology of Young Adult Romance (2012). To Find A Wonder was also scripted and produced as a musical in 2010. Jennifer is currently working on a sequel to Hapenny Magick titled Tangled Magick. She holds a Bachelors in Creative Writing.

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Sludge-Man Gets to the Point
Rosalie Morales Kearns

She dreams of an oil slick that clogs the mountain stream. The black oil, reflecting starlight, is oddly beautiful, but the stream chokes and coughs. It is being suffocated. Then the moon breaks through the clouds and lights up the oil slick’s rainbow colors.

She wakes up.

She is in their tent in the forest, alone in the dark. Her boyfriend, she assumes, is out there somewhere relieving himself.

Or he can’t sleep.

Or he’s just gone.

Not boyfriend. Fiance.

From the open tent flap she sees the stream, clear and cold and oil-free. The moonlight dappling its surface is supposed to be romantic. She’s supposed to feel romantic. She’s in love, after all.

You should be happy. The message comes at her from all directions. Commercials for diamond rings. Sappy movies where love conquers all.

The stream is no longer rushing along. It seems to hiccup and sputter.

She crawls out of the tent, tries to see what’s out there.

The water turns dark, just like in her dream. But this time the oily sludge swirls around one spot, solidifies into the shape of a man.

He stands up, chest-high in the water, then knee-high. He wades toward her. She knows she should be afraid, but she isn’t.

He stands in front of her, enormous and naked and oily-black, wheezing slightly, perhaps not used to being solid, standing in one place, having lungs.

Love,” he says scornfully, and his voice is deep and metallic-sounding, not like a computer but like the earth’s iron core.

“Love,” he says. “What is that?”

Rosalie Morales Kearns is a writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch descent, with a short story collection, Virgins and Tricksters, just published from Aqueous Books. One of the stories in the collection received a Special Mention in the 2013 Pushcart Prize collection. Her poems and short stories have appeared most recently in Prime Number, Witness, and The Nervous Breakdown, and she has essays and reviews published or forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, Her Kind, and Fiction Writers Review. She earned an MFA from the University of Illinois, and has taught creative writing at Illinois and SUNY-Albany.

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Come Hither
Rosalie Morales Kearns

Her long dark hair coils into snakes that reach out to me, hissing. Their lemon-yellow tongues flicker over my body. I shiver with pleasure but clench my teeth.

“You can’t have him,” I say.

“I already did,” she says, and the snake tongues shudder against my skin, laughing.

Her green eyes are ringed with mascara that drifts off her face and forms a mist around me, purple-gray flecks that choke my breathing.

The snakes are on the ground now, slithering toward a land of nonstop singing and dancing.

“You can follow,” she says. “You know the price.”

I start dancing. The snakes beneath my feet form themselves into a trampoline and I am dancing in huge, awkward hops, higher and higher until the earth and the trampoline and the black snaky hair and kohl-rimmed green eyes disappear.

Her voice sounds next to me, a sultry alto whisper.

“Is he that good?” she says. “Is he worth it?”

Rosalie Morales Kearns is a writer of Puerto Rican and Pennsylvania Dutch descent, with a short story collection, Virgins and Tricksters, just published from Aqueous Books. One of the stories in the collection received a Special Mention in the 2013 Pushcart Prize collection. Her poems and short stories have appeared most recently in Prime Number, Witness, and The Nervous Breakdown, and she has essays and reviews published or forthcoming in Necessary Fiction, Her Kind, and Fiction Writers Review. She earned an MFA from the University of Illinois, and has taught creative writing at Illinois and SUNY-Albany.

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Sandalwood Moon
Sharanya Manivannan

For hours we followed the river shaking in coins of sun until it led at last to a place of stillness. The night swept its wing low over the southern heartland and let the sun slip from its beak. We settled down on the stairs of the old seraglio and looked across at the dovecote, a terracotta lamp on its every sill, and did not question the origin of its splendor. It appeared, simply, to have been lit from within.

And because we were hours from any coast, and because the moon exists only where it is sought to be seen, it would not emerge from the sea that night, an orange smolder waning to smudged ivory. Instead, midway between the earth and the nearest star, a rondure of sandalwood: a color I could slough off as balsamic for my skin.

There is mystery to how war enters a person, and how it can be coaxed to exit without wounds. There is no mystery to the trajectory of heart, its arrivals and departures. Amidst the shadows of senescent buildings, flickering lamps, the wind an ineloquent thrashing in the coconut fronds, you said, “How grand the world is. And yet” – you kissed one of my small hands, calyxed within yours – “how easily encompassed.” I did not respond then. But I knew that after the storm, by the light of day, I would take you to a pond caparisoned by blossoms and try to show you how elongated sadness becomes as delicate as a lily stem and as strong. I would watch you from a farther shore. And if I could not teach you how to love, I would teach myself how to live alone.

This is the weight of love: just because you can touch water doesn’t mean that the oceans are yours. This is the weight of grief: buoyant beyond disbelief. I have learnt how to look for both before they come into view: diaphanous, a low-rising ring, light midwifed by light.

Sharanya Manivannan is the author of a book of poems, Witchcraft. Her fiction, poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Drunken Boat, Hobart, Wasafiri, Cerise Press, Killing The Buddha, Monkeybicycle, The Nervous Breakdown and elsewhere. She can be found online at

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Running Out of Wax
Troy Blackford

Saturday, December 15th, 2012

Dear Diary, Dear Sweet Diary,

I’ve got to keep a running log of this, my life’s greatest moment. I believe the culmination of everything I’ve worked so hard for through all these years is fast approaching. I can feel it. I can’t put my finger on precisely why or how, but it’s like a charge in the air. I think it came with last night’s snowfall.

I need to start writing down the events as they happen. Before they start happening, if that makes any sense. Got to go get some wax: I’ll be right back.

Seven fifteen a.m., Saturday. Ran out of wax again. This is starting to become an exercise in humility.

Eight thirty-two a.m., Saturday. Picked up some more wax on one of my little walks. While I was out, I found a candelabra sticking partway out of the snow. It looked ruined. I bought some silver polish for it. Fingers crossed.

One forty-six p.m., Saturday. Candelabra is solid silver. The gas station polish worked like a charm – no blemishes. In my excitement, I’m already starting to run out of wax again. It can’t be helped.

Nine thirteen p.m., Saturday. Paced the confines of my living room for four hours before making a decision. Pacing is a big help to my thought process. Kept on pacing, walked right over to Grammie’s: but nobody home. Where is he? Does he go on walks too? Walks I don’t know about? Apparently, I’ll have to start keeping an eye on everybody, even Grammie.

They call that kind of attention to detail ‘planfulness’ down at the shop, and it’s one of the company’s core values. Right on the poster.

So, with Grammie gone, this next phase of the operation will have to wait for tomorrow. Meanwhile, I managed to scrape just enough wax off my axe in the garage to last through the night. Not optimal, but it’ll do. Tomorrow is a big day.

Sunday, December 16th, 2012

Two seventeen a.m., Sunday. I can’t do this, can’t live like this. I opened up the wall near the fridge and found enough wax to go on, but I’m honestly starting to worry. Why couldn’t Grammie just have been home? Trying to sleep but the pills they gave me for that dry the wax out even faster. I’m running out of options.

They say a man with no options is no better than an animal. I looked through the snow by my house for as long as I could, but I found nothing.

How is that even possible? There has to be something out there.

Seven oh-six a.m., Sunday. Wish me luck. Just got back from an errand, and I’m heading back over to Grammie’s. It snowed about six more inches last night. If I hadn’t run out of wax when I did, I wouldn’t have ever seen that candelabra. And that’s what’s going to make this whole thing work.

See, I’m trying to accentuate the positive.

Twelve twenty-two p.m., Sunday. It happened, it happened! I got it! Grammie took me over and the silver people gave me fair price. I debated keeping two of the branches of the candelabra at first but I realized I could get the silver I needed with the money from it. I can get two pallets full of the wax with what I got for that candelabra and still have enough to get two ounces of pure silver. That should be enough, Grammie says.

But get this – the silver people say just one candelabra is called a candelabrum. That sounds candelab-dumb to me. That joke doesn’t look any funnier on paper, but I’m writing in pen and crossing it out would look even stupider.

Still, not as stupid as saying ‘candelabrum.’

Ten forty-four p.m., Sunday. This is total B.S. Grammie’s car crapped out on him while he was on the way over. He says. I realize I’ve taken him awfully deep into my confidences lately. I don’t know how wise that was.

My greatest fault is probably my heart.

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Three ten a.m., Monday. Grammie’s car wasn’t broken. I know that now for sure. I found him out. Planfulness, remember?

Grammie’s here now. He says he is sorry for the lie but why-oh-why would he even do it? Funny how he starts lying to me right after I find the silver. He says he is sorry, and you know: he sort of sounds sorry, doesn’t he?

The way a person sounds can be a mask.

Six eleven a.m., Monday. I had to hide Grammie’s car because nobody is supposed to know about him now. I put it on the other side of town and walked back. Grammie is forgetting how to talk, like a bug in a web forgetting how to fly.

I have plenty of wax left but the delivery person isn’t going to be here for another hour.

Eight on the dot a.m., Monday. I didn’t think I could get the delivery guy to leave! I didn’t know they brought it all the way into your house. The guy even tried to set it up! He said that was standard operating procedure. I didn’t know any of this. I slacked on my planfulness.

It was fine though because Grammie finally stopped talking like the minute before the guy showed up. It’s all still in the box. I talked the guy out of setting things up but I still had to pay him for it because that was part of the agreement.

I guess.

He couldn’t understand that I was fine with paying him for it at first. He thought I was trying to haggle.

I just wanted him to leave.

Four fifteen p.m., Monday. While I went to get the little bit of silver I’ll need to finish up, Grammie got out. He only got out part of the way, but it was a big mess. Luckily, his hands were ripped up pretty bad before he did too much clawing, and so only a little of that fiberglass insulation stuff got ruined. Not that I’ll need it for much longer.

He’s lucky he died; he was probably coughing pretty bad there for a while. Bad Grammie! Cleanup for the rest of day. Pushing the schedule back a bit.

I’ll be minting after midnight, after all.

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

Two fifty-six a.m., Tuesday. The melting was easy. The fire is gone and the burning won’t be coming back. I’ve waited and waited and it just won’t. So now I know I am done.

The finished part looks cold now but I won’t touch, won’t touch at all. Not until I’ve given it time. I have just enough of the wax to last at least that long.

I used up so much of it during the smelting.

Eleven twelve a.m., Wednesday. It’s been almost too long. Grammie is seeping into that pink insulation and it’s starting to grow bugs. I know I have to leave soon, and to do that I have to take the piece.

I can’t touch it though. I feel like it wants to burn me. It knows I’m afraid to touch it. I know now what I have to do with all the remaining wax. It’s hard for me to say that. It’s hard for me to know it.

I have to go on a walk and think about this.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Four fifty-one p.m., Wednesday. This is not what I expected. I found something else in the snow, something that changes everything. It was in parts and so I had to repair it. I had some of the parts but not the tools.

I remembered that Grammie had that kind of stuff in his car, but I had moved it. It was very risky, but I have to go to his car to get the tools I need. Things are getting riskier. I give myself twenty-six hours to leave this house. I have to work quickly.

That’s only one hour for every letter.

Nine seventeen p.m., Wednesday. The car had a note on it. I didn’t want to get close, but it had to be from someone who Grammie knew. I didn’t want to get involved. He was missing, and I didn’t want to be connected to it. Having to answer questions would be bad just now.

I got the butane thing and the ratchet thing at the hardware store instead. I didn’t know exactly what I was looking for at first – that sort of thing was always Grammie’s department. I think I finally found what I needed.

The guy at the desk seemed very nervous though and I am revising my time downward. I will be out of here by eleven in the morning tomorrow if I can help it.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Three thirty-seven a.m., Thursday. Grammie’s gone. I must have taken him out myself because there would be more serious things happening to me if I hadn’t. I guess I just took him and put him somewhere safe. I should have done that after the insulation started growing bugs, honestly. I guess it took me a while for my planfulness to seep into the situation. I have to focus on finishing my work so I can get out of here on time.

The bugs didn’t leave with him – they are distracting. I wish I knew where I put him but stuff like that is just going to keep throwing me off from here on out.

Three forty-five a.m., Thursday. That has to be the worst bit of timing. Doorbell started ringing. It’s so early here that I assumed it was someone that knew about Grammie – maybe it was Grammie. It sure looked like him at first. But then I couldn’t see anything.

I looked out the side window and saw him. I’m not in trouble, it wasn’t them. Whoever he was, he was drunk. He didn’t seem to know where he was. Him showing up was just some coincidence.

But I am revising my timeline downwards again. Seven a.m. is time zero.

Four fifty-two a.m., Thursday. The bugs aren’t distracting me anymore. They have started making more and more sense to me, to the point where now I welcome their input.

I’m getting closer to the absolute solution. There is tinkering still, but of a purely mathematical kind now. The physical tools are formed, safely enwrapped in wax.

I have to make a quick trip to the lake to find what I buried there for safekeeping. I have trusted to that – now, in the final hours, I begin to see how much faith I had put in that lake.

Yet not all faith is an ill wind, let’s hope.

Six twenty a.m., Thursday. We aren’t sunk – what I had submerged in the lake was still there, in its little waterproof box weighed down with rocks. The whole thing was hard to find, and I definitely needed the hammer I had brought with me in order to break through the ice.

The box contents had not frozen solid, though. I spent some time in the water like a frog. A big frog with a hammer turning over freezing rocks and cracking ice.

It was too cold for bugs – I enjoyed the break from them.

Six fifty-five a.m., Thursday. So we did it! I’m about to head out there now. Lucky find, that candelabra. That sped the whole operation up by months.

When a gift like that presents itself to you, you intrinsically understand that life wants you to pay for the opportunity. Usually with interest. So I had gone to work.

But when I found the second thing, after the seven ounces of silver and the two pallets of wax, well – that’s when I knew my fortunes had been, in some intrinsic way, tied to those of this week. For good or ill, I have aligned with the world, and it with me.

For that reason, I hope you don’t find me too terribly self-centered in this memoir. I have been recording only my own part of the world, as I see it – and it will take the work of many others to make sense of what is here found.

Seven a.m., Thursday – Time Zero. I’m leaving.

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

Eleven twenty-six a.m., Saturday. It worked out better than I could ever have hoped! I’m back! I got put in the lineup, but she didn’t pick me! She was the only one who saw, and obviously she didn’t see much. I was so thrilled.

Everything since then has been back to (somewhat) normal. I have to keep an eye out for a while. But tonight I’m going to run down to the gas station and have myself a look at the newspaper.

I’m pretty sure there’s something in it I’d be interested in reading.

Twelve forty p.m., Saturday. Nobody knew what I meant. Everybody acted like they didn’t know what a newspaper was. They said things like ‘Son, calm down,’ and ‘Are you hurt? What happened?’ What happened? I don’t understand.

They were either serious or pretending – but either way, I never got to see that newspaper.

One oh six p.m., Saturday. Doorbell started ringing two minutes ago and hasn’t stopped since.

Go away!

One oh seven p.m., Saturday. Oh no, it’s Grammie! It’s Grammie!

One oh seven p.m. and thirteen seconds, Saturday. The door is cracking!

One oh seven p.m. and twenty seconds, Saturday. All the windows are making the sound of cracking ice. Doorknob is going runny and I don’t know where to go!

One oh seven p.m. and thirty-four seconds, Saturday. The windows are just water and the knob is crawling towards me!

One oh seven p.m. and forty-seven seconds, Saturday. The dust from the doors and walls is sticking to all the window water! I should never have given away all my wax!

One oh seven p.m. and fifty-nine seconds, Saturday. Why did I give away all my wax when I knew about the water?

One oh eight p.m. and three seconds, Saturday. This is Grammie. This matter has been resolved and the thread is now locked.

Troy Blackford, a 28-year old office worker with eight published short stories – ‘Birds on Glass’ in the September 2010 issue of Black Oak Presents, ‘The Days of a Driveling Instruction are Departing’ in the April/May/June 2012 issue of The Storyteller, ‘Now for the Sunbeams’ in the Spring 2012 issue of the Avalon Literary Review,,’Seeing the World for Pennies a Day’ in the October 2012 issue of Epiphany Magazine, ‘Whalesong’ in the October 2012 issue of Inkspill Magazine, ‘A View of the Park’ in the October 2012 issue of Roadside Fiction, ‘Object’ appearing in an upcoming issue of Garbled Transmissions Magazine, and ‘Hearing Voices’ appearing in an upcoming issue of Bewildering Stories, lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and two cats.

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Green Twigs in Snow, Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz
Green Twigs in Snow
Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz

Trick of the Golden Light
Mandy Taggart

Come here to me, son, and I’ll tell you a story.

It’s about Jimmy McCloskey, who lives down in the village – Jimmy with the wild eyes and his mouth hanging open, and I know what he shouted at you yesterday when you met him in the road. You were a good boy to run home to your Mammy like that.

Now, if you were ever to take Mick the labourer into Mary Pat’s and buy him a drink or two – you’d have to be grown up first – Mick would tell you a tale of how Jimmy got to be that way. This is how he told it to me.


Mick was always one for telling tall stories down at Mary Pat’s, and even before his misfortune Jimmy was the sort to believe everything that was told to him. And one evening they’re both sitting there with the drinks in front of them.

“My grandfather had a bottle full of golden light,” says Mick. “And it never went out, no matter where he was, until the day he died. He carried it around in his pocket, and it got him out of dark situations many a time.”

Well, Jimmy is all full of interest at this. He never was a man for the dark. And Mick sees that he’s pulling him in, and the tale gets bigger.

“So of course,” says Mick, “everybody used to ask him how he came by this bottle of light. And he would say that he just found it, lying in the lane one night. But before he died, he passed the secret on to me.”

And Mick stops, and takes a swallow of whiskey, and wanders his eyes around the room, and acts like he’s forgotten all about the story.

“Well, go on,” says Jimmy, when he’s had enough of this. “I’ve never seen you with a bottle of light.”

“That’s because I never was a brave enough man to go and get one,” says Mick. “Granda said that you have to wait until the cuckoo storm, the one that comes in September when the days and the nights are the same length. But it has to be a storm where there’s lightning. And on that night, when the lightning and thunder are raging round your head, you go up and stand on the fairy mound, up at the highest point of the lanes.”

Mick looks over sideways at Jimmy, wondering how far he can go. And he sees that Jimmy is hanging off the story, the whiskey forgotten in front of him.

“But you can’t just go empty handed,” Mick says. You have to bring a bottle with a good strong stopper, full of sweet milk. And as much shiny metal as you can get hold of, all attached onto yourself in some way. That’s to reflect the lightning, so that the fairies will see you. Granda said he put a bucket over his head, but I’m sure anything would do.”

And Mick thinks that he’s definitely gone too far this time, and looks round at Jimmy for the big laugh. But there’s Jimmy still sitting, looking at him with his eyes like saucers.

Now, this is the part where it starts getting harder to get sense out of Mick, when he’s telling you the story. He’ll swear on his Mammy’s grave that the watery blue of Jimmy’s eyes had turned a shade darker. He’ll say that he looked for a minute, and opened his mouth to say something, but then just gave himself a shake and called it a trick of the light. Took another knock of his whiskey before going on.

“Well,” says Mick, going back to his tale. “So you stand yourself on the mound, and take the stopper out of the bottle, and pour the sweet milk down onto the ground. And then you hold out the bottle and you scream at the top of your lungs: ‘Light! Light! Light!’. Three times, just like that.”

“And what happens next?” says Jimmy.

But Mick’s mind has turned unsettled now, and he’s lost all the pleasure of the tale, because Jimmy’s eyes are a shade darker again. Mick shakes his head and says the first thing he can think of to get the story over with.

“Ah, now, that’s the part that I was never told,” he says. Granda wouldn’t say what happens after that, except for one thing. ‘After that,’ he said, ‘you have to fight for it. Make sure that you never let your bottle break.’ And no matter what I did, Granda would never tell me any more than that.”

Well, the talk in Mary Pat’s turns to other things, but Mick notices that every now and again Jimmy goes quiet, and sort of squares his shoulders to himself. And he knows that Jimmy is taken in, but he can’t give a laugh about it in his usual way. He makes up his mind to go easy on the whiskey for a while, because every time he looks at Jimmy he sees another change in his eyes.

If you ask Mick now, he’ll say that he couldn’t tell if it was the light going out or the darkness going in, and he didn’t like that at all. He kept quiet at the time, for fear of being laughed out of the place. He just made himself forget about it, because he had only made up the story after all. The next day Jimmy’s eyes were back to normal and everything looked the way it should.


So that was that, until a year later, when the cuckoo storm was roaring with thunder and lightning like the sky was coming down. Mick wasn’t married yet, but he was courting Cassie by then, and he used to walk down every evening to Greers’ farm where she was working.

He’d stayed later than usual, waiting for the storm to go off, but it had set in for the night. So he had given up waiting, and was trudging away home up the lane with an overcoat held over his head: when above the noise of the storm he heard a load of yelling and squealing and clanking coming from the top field. And you never know what you’re going to see up there, so Mick covered his face all up with the black coat so that only his eyes were looking out, and went and stood by the gate, as quiet as a corpse.

And in a big flash of lightning he sees Jimmy McCloskey standing on the fairy mound, with all his Mammy’s pots and pans tied on a rope round his waist, and a bottle held out in his hand with the arm all stiff. And he’s twisting and jerking and flailing around like the dance of a madman beside the standing stone.

Well, Mick never claimed to be a brave man, so he ran back down the hill and got old man McCloskey out of his bed. By the time they got back up to Jimmy he was lying like a dead man in the middle of the fairy mound, with broken glass all over the place. Not a mark on him except two big long cuts in the shape of a cross over the palm of his right hand, where the bottle had smashed. He carries the scar to this day. Mick always says that must have beenthe thing that saved him. Or saved part of him, anyway.


We call him God’s creature like the rest of us, son, but it’s best that you stay away from Jimmy McCloskey. His eyes are as blue as ever they were, and people just laughed at Mick when he told his story. But I’ve known Mick all my life, and I believe him, son. I wish that I didn’t. When I look at Jimmy now, I can’t help remembering what Mick said: that there was no way of telling whether it was the light going out, or the darkness going in.

So it frightens me when he shouts those things, about blinding a child. He may not mean them at all. But there’s no way of telling, until he gets hold of one.

So you remember what I’ve told you. I know that the old Jimmy would tell you the same thing, if he could. Don’t let it be you that he catches, son, and don’t ever let your bottle break. Keep your own golden light held tightly inside you.

Mandy Taggart lives on the North Coast of Ireland, and is inspired by the folklore, ancient and modern, of her local area. Her story, “Ways Of The North,” was the winner of the 2012 Michael McLaverty Short Story Award, and her short fiction has been published widely in print, audio and online. She is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Gwendolyn Joyce Mintz is a writer and aspiring photographer. Her work has appeared in various journals, online and print, as well as several anthologies. She blogs about the creative life at

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

(Spill-O’s Horror Film)
Colin Dodds

It was a time of true blackout,
when love had departed the city.
The train rolled out on its meat-cutting wheels,
the shadows grew spines,
the sun drooled spit and blood on our heads,
the shrubs colluded sexually,
and sounds came up from the toilet.

A child led Spill-O back
to when a tree held peril and bottomless fear.
Passing through parking-lot darkness, by-the-dumpster darkness,
a Cadillac rolled past
without a driver or passenger, its top down.

“You are about to see where the nightmares come from,”
his father said, flinching and weeping,
fat and old among the sheets, blankets and comforters.
There was no sanctuary, even in the suburban promise
of safety wherever one front yard faces another.

The night was rough, long as a lifetime
Spill-O stopped caring whether or not the world was good
—only that it was good to him. He bought a gun.
He opened the door to the hell
for those who conduct their investigations
under flawed auspices.

Colin Dodds grew up in Massachusetts and completed his education at The New School in New York City. Norman Mailer wrote that Dodds’ novel The Last Bad Job showed “something that very few writers have; a species of inner talent that owes very little to other people.” Dodds’ novels What Smiled at Him and Another Broken Wizard have been widely acclaimed by critics and readers alike. His screenplay, Refreshment – A Tragedy, was named a semi-finalist in 2010 American Zoetrope Contest. Two books of Dodds’ poetry—The Last Man on the Moon and The Blue Blueprint—are available from Medium Rare Publishing. Dodds’ writing has also appeared in a number of periodicals, including The Wall Street Journal Online, Folio, Explosion-Proof, Block Magazine, The Architect’s Newspaper, The Main Street Rag, The Reno News & Review and Lungfull! Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife Samantha.

Issue No. 3, Winter 2012

Snow White Dreams
Jeannine Hall Gailey

I fell asleep one night after cheerleading practice.
After that, I didn’t wake up.

In my dreams I am trapped inside a television,
watched by a man with no face.

Sometimes I sing to animals who can talk.
I try to open the door of a woodland cottage, full of shadows.

If I scream, no one can hear me. I am an illusion
everyone wants to be part of.

My mother wished me to be beautiful, then hated me for it.
I think she put drugs in my soup.

Men come to look at me, even asleep; they take photographs.
They murmur over red lips, white skin, ebony hair. A teen dream.

Being the pretty one can be so tiring.
I got bored of making small talk.

I suspect I snack in my sleep. My tongue is covered with crumbs.
All the clocks have been set wrong. They’re ticking inside my head.

I swear there are cameras on me. I have become invisible.
The white walls covered in posters and get-well-soon cards

grow dusty, like a tomb. Still, a vacuum
like my cavernous heart; eat it with salt.

Poison me with apples, with ribbons, with combs.
I need someone to breathe new life into this body.

Jeannine Hall Gailey is the Poet Laureate of Redmond, Washington, and the author of Becoming the Villainess (Steel Toe Books, 2006) and She Returns to the Floating World (Kitsune Books, 2011). Her work has been featured on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac, Verse Daily, and in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror. Her poems have appeared in journals such as The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, and Prairie Schooner. She volunteers as an editorial consultant for Crab Creek Review and currently teaches part-time at the MFA program at National University. Her web site is