My Ticking Clock

by Salma A. Razak

It ticks, then talks. Reaps then sow.
Breathes when borrowed. And lives at the batteries he offers.
Counts the twelve hours as twenty four.
Allows him to see it glow. Wonders when it will grow.
But then again, it’s just a clock.
Always doing its tricks and then talks.
Living in batteries and hopes.
Waiting for the touch from his soul. And I fix it when it stops.
Watch it leak when it develops a hole.
It may be old but it’s strong.
It must be worn out but it’s proud to survive this long.
He gave me suggestions though. When he saw it in its cracked form.
Ideas that makes it whole.
Encouraging me to create for it a voice.
“Trick then talk,” whispers this old worn clock.
“Give me a voice, to speak to this boy. Make this hope grow and allow me to glow. For I want to roar even when my voice is small. Allow me to talk. Allow him to know.”

Tick and tock. That is the sound it spoke once the boy saw it in its new form.
It clicked and then spoke, when he focused on its voice. My eyes fixed on his, waiting for his respond. Knowing that my clock has chosen him to be its eternal hope.


Salma A. Razak is a day job customer service agent and an owl writer during her free time. A book reviewer and a writer of romance genre that enjoys combing other genres along her stories. She enjoys reading books, Manga and listening to musics that has meaning to it. Although she’s the shy type, she loves to communicate.

Master of Time

by J. Lee Strickland

Steven mastered time travel. He mastered the brutal simplicity of it. There is only one reason to travel into the past, and that is to change it. There is only one reason to travel into the future, and that is to determine it. He started with the past, with his first wife.
He eliminated her.

He didn’t kill her. He simply erased their marriage. To be certain of the effect, he went so far as to remove certain preconditions to that matrimony, like their attendance at the same high school, the senior prom and those embarrassing photos. Sure, there might still be some someone in the world with a past like hers, even a name like hers, but the tangle of their lives together was gone as surely as if it never occurred. It was a much more satisfying separation than divorce had ever been. The residue that had infected his relationships, his life after that divorce, the recursive torment of what might have been, all that was gone.

His second wife was a more delicate operation. He found that there are limits to what one can change when one travels into the past. One cannot recover what fate has erased. Fate had erased his second wife.

He cured her of the horrible blood disease that had debilitated her, that had robbed her of her beautiful smile, that had wasted her voluptuous body, that had finally killed her. He arranged instead for her to die in a shocking, freak accident at the exact day and hour that fate had ordained. At least she didn’t suffer. He could remember her healthy, robust and happy, loving and being loved, until the last instant.

He was tempted to branch out, to correct the difficulties of a few others, but the past is a delicate fabric, and he had already changed much.

He moved his focus to the future, at first a much more simplistic, almost cartoonish landscape populated with vague stick figures who only gained flesh once one gave them close attention. He found a small cottage in a country setting where he would spend his advanced old age. He contrived that he would be fit and engaged. His mind would be sharp and his fingers still nimble. He lined up some neighbors, not too close, who would be helpful, but respectful. He negotiated with Fate to be kind.

He surveyed his work from the wooden chair in the kitchen of his third-floor apartment and felt pleased.

The phone rang.

“Steven, it’s Betty.”
“Betty who?”
“Don’t be an asshole, Steven. Why do you always have to be an asshole? We’re not married anymore, so just cut the shit.”
“You must have the wrong number,” he said.

He replaced the phone in its cradle. As an afterthought, he pulled the wire from the back of the phone. He gazed out the kitchen window, past the rusted fire escape, across the brick-strewn, vacant lot, at a line of stunted vegetation on the far edge. He thought about his cottage, his diffident neighbors.


J. Lee Strickland is a freelance writer living in upstate New York. In addition to fiction, he has written on the subjects of rural living, modern homesteading and voluntary simplicity. He is a member of the Hudson Valley Writers Guild and served as a judge for the 2015 and 2016 storySouth Million Writers Awards. He recently learned that he is short-listed for the Anne LaBastille Memorial Writers Residency, and now spends his time waiting for the other shoe to drop. His sorely neglected website, including a blog and links to some online works, can be found at: https://jleestrickland.wordpress.com/

Wanted

by Don Noel

Jill hadn’t imagined so many choices. In the chalky light, the buses kept coming and going: to Waterbury, New Britain, Boston, New York, Providence, Philadelphia. She wished she had a map.

The backless metal benches were uncomfortable. Probably to discourage homeless people from sleeping here. Never mind; she kept getting up to watch buses load or unload, wondering if someone like her would be noticeable. Not stand out by age: She was fifteen, but was sure she looked eighteen. No, scared: She didn’t want to look scared.

Most arrivals had someone waiting: Stepping down to the pavement, hugging awkwardly, they hurried to waiting cars. Others moved confidently toward the taxi stand or the local bus stop at the end of the platform. No one seemed uncertain. Except her.

Departing buses gave her time to study the passengers. Most, traveling with friends, chatted as they waited in line, shuffling up to where the driver took their tickets. Some had suitcases to be stowed in the holds, which made them seem purposeful. Those alone stared into smartphones, or smiled, rocking to rhythms in their earbuds. None looked indecisive.

It was chilly. It had been warm at the cemetery, an autumn afternoon whose beauty mocked their purpose, but the day’s heat was long gone. Taking off her backpack, she took out her hoodie and pulled it on, trying to avoid mussing her hair. It warmed her, but made her more conspicuous, she thought: People resolutely going somewhere wore real coats. Without the hoodie her bag was almost empty; she should have packed more. She set it at her feet.

Remembering the cemetery brought tears; she dabbed with an already-damp handkerchief. She had not known until this day that Dad was not her real father.

The scene at graveside replayed in her head. “Jill, I don’t know why you’re crying,” Carol whispered acidly. “You’re adopted. I’m his real daughter.”

Eight years older, her sister had always seemed distant; suddenly she had turned cruel. And apparently wasn’t a sister anyway. Good riddance.

On the other hand, Carol would go back to college soon, halfway across the country to get a degree in cybernetics, whatever that was. At that point, if she changed her mind, Jill would be an only child again — adopted or not. It had been special this year, with Carol away: Mom taught her to sew, and helped her make a Father’s Day shirt for Dad.

She made herself concentrate. A girl got off a bus from Albany, looking lost. In the ghostly fluorescence her blonde hair looked frosted. She stood with her little roll-on, people eddying around her. The Travelers Aid booth seemed to catch her eye. It was dark, though, closed at this hour.

Were there Travelers Aid booths in other cities? And what would she ask? “Excuse me, I’m running away. Where can I safely get some sleep?” Not likely.

The blonde girl was being met after all: A couple came up, quick hugs. Parents? No, maybe uncle-aunt hugs. Whatever; she was wanted. The man took her roll-on, leading away.

Maybe she should ask people about the cities they’d left. “Excuse me, how big is Philadelphia?” Or “Excuse me, is Providence a friendly city?” No, that was absurd.

She’d been wrong not to say goodbye. But Mom was already grieving, and unlikely to have time for a spare-wheel daughter. Was Jill her real name, or one given at adoption? And how old had she been? Would Mom know who her real mother was? Or tell her? Must phone or write when she got settled in wherever she was going.

She’d taken a city bus downtown. Local buses must stop running soon. She wandered a half-block to the bus stop, peering at the sign with the schedule for her route. The last bus for the night had already gone.

That settled it: Time to get serious about deciding, buying a ticket. She went inside the terminal to the huge electronic timetable of arrivals and departures. Within the hour buses would leave for New York, Pittsburgh, Albany, Boston, Toronto. Did one need a passport for Toronto? Irresolute, she walked back to where buses came and went.

A man in a uniform cap, with a taxi-driver’s badge on his tunic, startled her. Thick grey hair, bushy moustache. Nice-looking, old enough to be a grandfather. “Excuse me. Aren’t you Jillian Bassett?”

He didn’t seem the kind of predator you read about, but she was wary. “Why does that matter to you?”

“Your mother thought you might be here.”
“Oh, sure.”
“Your sister told her you’d had a fight.”
“That’s not what I’d call it.”
“Your mother wants me to take you home.”
“How do I know you’re for real?”
“I understand. But I’m a licensed taxi man.” He pointed to his badge. “And I saw you at the service.”
“You were there?”
“Couldn’t have kept me away. We went through high school together.”
“You really knew him?”
“We got together over a beer now and then. He was so proud of you!”
“He was?”
“Loved you. And you must have loved him.”
It was more than she could absorb. “Yes, but I’m not his real daughter.”
The taxi man’s eyes widened. “What do you mean?”
“I’m adopted.”
“Why do you say that? He never mentioned it. Your mother didn’t, either.”
“That’s what Carol said today.”
“Oh, that’s what’s going on. Listen, your mother is going crazy worrying.” He stooped to pick up her knapsack.
She snatched it, cradled it in her arms, a defensive barrier. “I don’t know.”
“Running away won’t solve any problems.”

The headlights of an incoming bus raked across them, then blinked off. She turned. It was bound for New York.

“Your mother has enough grief tonight. You shouldn’t add to it.”
People were beginning to board the New York bus.
“Your mother needs you,” the taxi man insisted. “Wants you.”
“What?”
The magic words again. “She wants you.”
“Thank you,” she said. “Let’s go.”


Retired after four decades’ prizewinning print and broadcast journalism in Hartford CT, Don received his MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University in 2013. Don has published more than four dozen short stories and non-fiction pieces, but has two novellas and a novel still looking for publishers.

Roosters of Hawaii

by Hardarshan Singh Valia

Wild roosters
Crowing
On beaches
Around hotels
In parking lots
Amidst lush forests
Majestic mountains
Deep valleys
And plain fields.

Could it be
Cry of the displaced beings
Longing for the lost homes
Or songs of freedom
On finding new homes?

Poet, within tourist,
Trying to discern
Mood and attitude
Of a displaced rooster
While packing bags
For a return flight
To the distant homeland.


Hardarshan Singh Valia is an Earth Scientist. His poems, stories, and essays have appeared in journals such as River babble, Poetic Medicine, Sage-ing, Bitterroot, Urthona, Hub and in books entitled Undeniably Indiana (Indiana University Press), Diamonds-75 Years of Indiana Poetry –An ISFPC Anthology, A Magic Hour Family Christmas, and Hoosier Horizon.

Before

by Sarah Bigham

Before
he was mine
sunshine boy
and running free
he lived
in surf
and sand
and pools
on skis
and boards
and towers
that glow

Before
he was mine
he burned their
eyes in Adonis
glory and ached
their throats
from laughing
and twitched
their lips in
effortless beaming
at the magic
he wrought

Before
he was mine
he was someone
else’s others’
centers and
the friends’
friend a blaze
for moths and
butterflies dowsed
out on a train
on the tarmac
on the ground

Now
he is mine
among the
stars and
clouds and
birds flying
across drenched
sheets on reddened
lazy mornings
as he lies
softly next
to me


Sarah Bigham writes from Maryland where she lives with her kind chemist wife, three independent cats, an unwieldy herb garden, several chronic pain conditions, and near-constant outrage at the general state of the world tempered with love for those doing their best to make a difference. A Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, Sarah’s poetry, fiction, and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of great places for readers, writers, and listeners. Find her at www.sgbigham.com