Nothing Left To Count

by Maddie White

1…2…3…4…5… I count the bills in my drawer until there’s nothing left to count.

It’s been a long Friday. One after another, customers lined up in front of me to deposit money and cash their checks. They scheduled me to leave early, but I volunteered to stay.

It was 10 minutes before we closed and a tall man with dark hair and piercing blue eyes walked in hurriedly.

“You got here just in time.” I called to the man in the lobby.

He gave me a friendly half smile and tried to sign.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know sign language.”

I handed the man a piece of paper and a pen to write the transaction he needed. The other teller took her drawer to the vault, leaving me alone with the man. I saw him slide the paper and pen back.

My heart filled with a cold rush of fear.

Don’t make a sound. Give me all the money in your drawer. I have a gun. Make it fast.

My hands trembled as I fumbled for my keys. He watched every move and I tried to remember what the protocol was for this situation. We were being robbed.

Just breathe. He will not hurt you as long as you do what he wants. I told myself.

My drawer flew open and I debated whether to give him bait money. I took a chance and pulled the trap. He laid a black plastic bag on the counter and I filled it with the money. The phone rang causing me to jump.

“Is everything okay, ma’am? We received an alert of a hold up.” The woman from the security company asked.

“I’m sorry, we close at 5. I’ve got a customer now, but we’ll be closing after his transaction is complete.”

“We’ll dispatch the police. Is anyone hurt?”

“Okay, thank you. Have a great evening.”

My coworker emerged from the vault, unaware of the imminent danger in front of her.

Wide eyed, I looked up at the robber as I stuffed the cash in his bag. He pulled his white tucked shirt out of his pants revealing a gun.

“What the hell?” my co-worker whispered from behind me.

The man pulled his gun and shoved it in my face.

“You call the cops, she dies.”

I spit the gun from my mouth.

“Let her go. I’ll stay here until you leave. Just let her go.”

Sirens blared in the distance, causing him to look away.

“I told you, no cops.” His voice was monotone and he raised the gun.

I ran to the exit. I heard the shot and felt a burning sensation in my side. I laid on the ground and felt warm blood running down my leg.

No. This can’t be it. Keep breathing. It will be okay. I told myself.

1…2…3…4…5 I counted again, but this time it’s not money. It’s seconds between each breath until there’s nothing left to count.


Maddie White is passionate about mental health. She has work featured in Flash Fiction Magazine, Pixel Heart Magazine, and Rhythm and Bones. You can find her on Twitter @MaddieMWhite17

I Would Die For You

by Maura Lee Bee

We drive the hill’s curve. My mother lead me through the earth’s crest, road shaped like the hollow of a clavicle. Our heels sink into the sand—before she remembers to take off her shoes—and arrives to the edge. My toes kiss the stones, jagged and jutting out of the sea. The waves peck the surface. We rise. Under the shadow of the lighthouse is a fence, leaning towards the ocean spray. I zip up my sweatshirt, Sharpied shoes bounding over the gaps. Each lap of the water is a tongue panting, Its recession an exhale. The air burns my lungs; my mother cringes each time I let go of the fence. After the sunken bunker, slowly spilling water back into the body, we see the bluffs—nature’s question mark, a dirt diver carved mid flip, a plain ascending then pausing before the sink.

Years after he walked away, she finds the ring secreted at the bottom of a box. She hands me the hole, carved from onyx, lined with silver. My blue iris reflects in it, a pooling wonder. It rests in my palm. We walk the same path as our mother, climb the rocks mid-winter, inch closer. Our arches shape over the boulders. She reaches into the past. I grab a strawberry from my pocket and we toss this love, from this earth, into the end of the world.

One day, I’ll bring you there. We will journey to the edge, park the car across the adirondack swing. You will wander to a stack of stones, laid by local children, and I’ll watch you from the bluff. The wind will caress my leg. The urge to bring Bergamot wax to my chapped lips will be assuaged. Instead, my skin will be soothed by nature’s salt scrub. My face will be held in the light, chin resting in the sun’s palm. It will be so warm there, begging to be caught in the rip tide, yearning to be swallowed whole.


Maura Lee Bee is a queer, LatinX writer based out of New York City. Her work has previously been featured in Huffington Post, Harpoon Review, and Bad Pony. Her first book, “Peter & the Concrete Jungle” was published in 2017. When she isn’t busy dismantling an otherwise oppressive system, she enjoys baking pies, laughing uncomfortably, and meeting new dogs. Follow her on Twitter @mauraleebee

Captive Of Circumstances

by Mileva Anastasiadou

He lost his job the day Athens became the world book capital. That was a sign. He spent that day wisely, filled it like the empty pages of a book he would one day write. He crossed the streets that led to the Lycabettus hill and then climbed as high as his feet and breath allowed him to climb, searching for a place to sit and rest. He opened the book to a page at random, choosing a random paragraph and started the repair, the difficult task of putting himself together.

He then looked up to the sky, choosing the pieces carefully. He started by grabbing a piece of the Attic sky, smoky with exhaust fumes or even tear gas, then caught some city buzz, a honk or even a bird tweet, a few voices or even screams, drops of philosophical discussions that echoed through centuries, and went on grasping pieces of a glorious past. He collected a few sips of ouzo or even of that bitter poison that Socrates once drank, took hold of a couple of contaminated particles of past and future ideologies floating like invisible islands in the air and mixed them with the smell of defeat from the present and a trace of hope from the future.

He mixed the ingredients, improvised, until he achieved what he longed for, until he formed yet another piece which would someday complete the puzzle of his fragmented self, of his broken life, of his lost sense of freedom. And he felt as if he stood firmly on the ground, yet he was flying, beyond the clouds, high in the sky, taking deep breaths, to fill his lungs with oxygen and the book he was still holding in his hands served as a balloon which took him to other places, brighter, less dark than his own gloomy reality. Once he watched the sun set, when it was getting dark, he took the scissors and used it to cut off all the yarns that had kept him high, trying to land as gently as possible.

Once again, he had mistaken lightness for freedom.

He then touched the ground and scattered all the pieces he had collected during the day back in the air, still as confused as before he had started collecting them, unable to find the perfect recipe for his salvation. He remained a captive of circumstances. He walked down the hill, storming into the open stores to consume, to buy all the liberty he could still afford, as long as he could afford it. It was air that he needed, hoping to fill the empty spaces of his lungs, or of the puzzle he hadn’t managed to complete. He went back home exhausted, holding the book tight, as if every hope to find the missing pieces was hidden inside its pages, in the book that had opened another window to the future.

He then closed it firmly and fell to sleep.


Mileva Anastasiadou is a neurologist, living and working in Athens, Greece. Her work can be found in many journals, such as the Molotov Cocktail, Maudlin house, Jellyfish Review, Asymmetry fiction, the Sunlight Press and others. She’s the founding editor of Storyland Literary Review. You can find out more about her and her work on Facebook

Mercy

by Frank Linn

We did it because we wanted to help her. That’s all there is to it, but it wasn’t that simple to the police.

As if it was yesterday, not two years ago, I remember it, and more recently, the very public trial that has followed. I was on the couch when it started, my stomach churned after each of the cop’s questions. My sister was next to me then, just as she is now, but now we’re not on my mom’s couch. In this courtroom, the defendant’s chair is hardwood, it feels the same as the cotton stuffed corduroy cushion felt.

Two days ago, the officer who questioned us about our mother’s death told the jury what we told him then. He wasn’t lying, we were, well at that time we were.

Four years ago our mother was diagnosed with cancer, stage one, nothing we were too concerned about, so we were told. Our mom’s oncologist said it was treatable. My sister, the nurse, told us it was treatable. Treatable cancer that just continued to come back, grow, and spread. Each time it crept back and hit our mom a little harder. She was a strong woman, but that was maybe our biggest weakness in this battle. Each time she bounced back only to get knocked down harder. Eventually, the bounce backs were slower, and the knocks down were harder until she couldn’t get back up.

We admitted to killing our mother, not for the reasons the tabloids, pundits, and b-list attorneys made it seem, and not for the charges against us. We weren’t guilty of murder because we wanted money. But when the State Attorney got wind of how much money my sister and I would get from our mother’s estate they ordered an autopsy.

The state traced the painkillers our mom overdose on to my sister’s job. The cruel word – overdose. That word was thrown around in the trial that it seemed coined for us, that we were killers or drug dealers profiting from the addiction of victims. “Forcing their mother to overdose,” the prosecutor said.

No, all we did was end our mother’s suffering. She begged us, for months she did, and finally, when I started suggesting it to my sister, just starting to, she finished my sentence. We were in sync but still too ashamed to say it to the other.

We admitted our story, we announced to everyone we didn’t want to see her suffer. That wasn’t enough for the prosecutor. He only had a few days left before he could put his name in to run for governor. I’m sure the campaign posters started coming off the presses as soon as the jury went into deliberation. We were his ticket to higher office. The only price was our agony of reliving the worst days of our lives. A win against us, any sort of victory, even a day’s sentence would validate him.

We stood for the judge, he had just received a sheet of paper from the jury. It was the moment two years had been building to. He placed the paperback on his desk and leaned forward to the microphone and spoke.

Our attorney tried to sympathize us so the jury could see us as merciful daughters ending the suffering of our mother. That we took care of her just as she took care of us.

All I heard, “Guilty.” The strategy didn’t work.

The next day we returned for sentencing. The jury that seemed to view us as monsters was dismissed. Only the judge would decide our fate. The prosecution had pushed for the maximum; more for my sister since she “trafficked the drugs to commit a homicide.”

We only got time served.

The printers of the campaign posters must have halted. The prosecutor’s face became red.

It took us a while to figure out what had happened. Later that day our attorney called me, I was back on the corduroy couch. It was comfortable again, not as comfortable as it was before killer, and much too far from how it felt when my mom was on it beside me.

As it turned out, our attorney told us, the same thing happened to the judge. His mother had cancer in her bones. He watched her suffer. He took it as long as he could before he gave in to her wishes, the same wishes our mother had, for her daughters to bring her peace.


Frank Linn is a short story writer living in Miami, a good place for great inspiration. Follow him on Twitter @AuthorFrankLinn

You Have The Things I Want

by Maria A. Arana

I could easily take them from you
change who I am
make you disappear
call you a liar when you see me in your car
sleeping with your husband
picking the kids up from school

You have the things I want

I could easily hide in your basement
file the blocks until they are thin as paper
tip my hat when you come down
wait until you tire of me
bury you with the things in your caskets
cover them with cloths

You have what I want
I could easily take them from you
I could easily hide in your basement
be free
you would thank me after the diagnosis
…if you last that long


Maria A. Arana is a teacher, writer, and poet. She has published poetry in various journals such as Spectrum, vox poetica, and Altadena Poetry Review. You can find her on her website and Twitter @m_a_Arana