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

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

Lasting Impression

by Alexis Hunter

Her hand hovered over the door handle. She had saved this room until last. She was unsure if she could bring herself to cross the threshold. The thought occurred that she could leave this room and let the people who bought the house deal with it.

They wouldn’t be assaulted by the memories of sitting cross-legged on the handtied rag-rug, reading to Mamma as they were warmed by the sun streaming through the high windows. They wouldn’t hear an echo of Mamma’s voice or feel the drying clay on her hands as she clasped theirs with joy or consolation.

They also wouldn’t have the memory of opening the door and finding Mamma’s chair overturned. Of Mamma lying across the rug looking as though her colour had drained away into the vivid tufts.

Mamma’s voice gently rebuked her, “Don’t be daft girl, get in that room and do what needs to be done.” She ghosted a smile and opened the door.

The room was as it always had been, save for the unfinished pot on the table and the chair, now righted, sat against the far wall. The lump remained in her throat, she couldn’t deal with the pottery table right now. She chose to pack the rest of the room.

~*~

An hour passed, each piece of craftwork, materials and knick-knacks were now lovingly packed and stored in boxes for the movers to take to the storage facility. The misplaced chair was gone, the colourful rug had been rolled and stored. There was only the table remaining.

Mamma loved to make small pots, pinching and shaping the clay until it was transformed from a formless lump into something beautiful and with purpose. She smiled, Mamma had used the same technique on her, coaxing her into the best version of herself. Mamma said that the clay did most of the work and she only guided it to where it was supposed to be.

She touched the clay with some trepidation. It had dried out, moisture leaching away in the weeks that had passed since Mamma had died, setting the pot into this shape that it would retain forever. One side of the pot was buckled, almost pressed flat into the base. She could picture Mamma sitting here, molding and pushing the clay, and then the stroke had happened. She imagined Mamma being frightened, not sure why she felt so ill, not able to move part of her body. She imagined her fingers crushing this piece of ridiculous clay as she was trying to call out for help or stand.

She wanted to crumple the clay, crack it’s dried out edges so that it became dust. Her hand slipped into the crumpled part of the clay, and her breath was suddenly gone. Her hand fit perfectly into the four distinct grooves there, and it was as if Mamma was in the room with her. The warmth and brightness of the sun was her smile, the clay her gentle hands.

She knew what needed to be done.

With care, she unpacked the desktop kiln and turned it on. While it heated, she made calls to home and to delay the removal company, she needed a few more days here. She loaded the pot with caution into the kiln, ensuring she preserved the most important part, and prepared herself to wait the few days it would take for the pot to set and cool.

~*~

In the days that passed, she slept on the floor of the craft room and talked to the walls as though Mamma was still held within them. She talked about the things that had happened in the months since Mamma died. She spoke about Dad and his new home, how he missed Mamma so much that it was almost as if she had lost two parents. She confessed how she missed her, though they had seen each other less since she moved away. She even spoke about the incident with Aunty Pam sneezing in the pastor’s face at the wake. At the time it had seemed a strange and removed series of events, and now, in this room with the memory of Mamma’s laughter made possible, it became hilarious and caused tears of mirth which felt like a release.

When the pot was finally ready, she wrapped it with care and secreted it in her handbag, packed the remaining items away and then locked the house. She would never return here.

~*~

She drove the few hours to home, but before being able to kiss her husband and children, she had an important stop to make.

There was a raucous game of bingo in the communal hall as she arrived at the care home. She knew her father would not be with the crowd. He wasn’t ready to join in yet, but she was hopeful that he would make some friends to help him fill the lonely hours. Now that he was close by, she could be here often too.

When she opened the door to his suite, he was exactly where she expected him to be, in his favourite armchair, staring out of the window with his sad expression. There was no tv or radio to fill the silence in which he enveloped himself, only the deafening sorrow for his lost half.

“Hey, Dad,”

He turned, “Hi pet. You all finished?” She nodded.

“I brought you something.”

He withdrew a little, “I can’t…”

“Trust me.” She put her handbag on the chair and drew the package from within. She unwrapped the pot, coloured now the warm and faded orange of all terracotta. She had chosen not to glaze it so that the clay would have the perfect texture. She took his hand and slid his fingers into the four grooves where her mother’s fingers were forever imprinted.

Some of the torture slid from his face.


Alexis Hunter is a self-published author of a children’s picture book, Clara’s Search for Magic, from the North East of England. She loves exploring short stories or all genres and talks to her imaginary friends daily. They always reply. Follow her on Twitter: @casnarrative

The Story of The Creator

by Mackenzie Belcastro

Once upon a time there lived a boy named Jean-Paul. He was a rather short, squat boy. That is, compared to all the others he went to school with in his homeland of Alefia, otherwise known as the land of the fair. His parents never understood why he looked the way he did. And, out of love, they did their best to fix him.

His mother was an especially sweet woman, but she was also living proof that sweetness is not the be-all and end-all when it comes to proper child rearing. One day, she went to the best herbalists in the land and asked if they could please provide her with some potions that would rosy up Jean-Paul’s bleak cheeks, clear his spotted skin, and grow his slits-of-eyes so they could be round and lovely. The herbalists greatly respected Jean Paul’s mother, for she was one of the fairest of the Alefians—and also, notably, married to the most powerful Alefian of all.

She said her thanks and left, returning home to surprise her son. She was very excited, and so was Jean-Paul, at first. He took the potions from his mother and ran to his bathroom. The burbling red was most intriguing and so he opened it first, dabbing it delicately onto his cheeks. It would remain for a full twenty four hours, so said the crystal bottle it came in. The other two bottles promised the same. The peach coloured liquid cleared his skin, and the green one, which had to be applied with a dropper straight into his eyeballs, did, indeed, grow them to be round and lovely.

He looked in the mirror and said, “Now Jean-Paul, they will love you.”

Well, he went to school the next day, and they did not.

“You’re still fat. Even with that stupid makeup on your face,” one said.

“And you’re still short,” another said, looking down at him from great height.

So the next day, Jean-Paul’s mother returned to the herbalists and asked if she could please be provided with two more potions for her son. One that would make him lean, and another that would grow him to great heights, such that he could be even taller than the rest of the rude boys and girls in his grade. Once again, the herbalists obliged, for they wanted to impress the beautiful woman and her powerful husband.

The potions were black and red. The black was to make him lean when poured into a bath and bathed in. The red was to make him tall, when drunk straight from the bottle.

“Tend to these both,” his mother said, “And you still have your potions I gave you the day before, right?”

Jean-Paul nodded and she smiled, pleased.

“Good. Tend to all five.”

So, he went to his bathroom, took a bath in the black potion, drank the red potion, and repeated the process from the previous night with regards to the other three.

Once again, he looked in the mirror and said, “Now Jean-Paul, they will love you.” Only this time he added, “They didn’t today, because you forgot to tend to everything. But now you have. So you are fixed.”

Well, he went to school the next day and still they did not.

“You may be tall, thin, clear-skinned, rosy-cheeked, and doe-eyed now,” one said, “but you still dress like a short, fat boy.”

His clothes, it was true, did not fit him.

So he went home, resolved to get the right clothes to make them love him.

“Oh my, Jean-Paul,” his mother had said when he pointed out he would, indeed, need finely sewn garments in order to be lovable, “I can’t believe I forgot that! Of course. Let me get them for you.”

His sweet mother went to the finest tailors in the land with her son’s new measurements in hand and asked for them to please create him something extra special and luxurious, something that would wow the kids in his class and make them love him. The tailors, like the herbalists, obliged for she herself was so lovely. And they created them extra quickly, too. In a matter of minutes, in fact—so that she could bring them home to Jean-Paul and he may have them for tomorrow.

“Now you shall be perfect,” his mother said to him when she presented him with his new clothes. “But you must make sure you don’t forget: take all the potions and wear these clothes. That’s what you need to do.”

Jean-Paul was very tired now of taking all these potions, and so he told his mother he would do it all in the morning. She nodded, pleased, and kissed him goodnight.

Well, the next morning Jean-Paul was still very tired. He looked at all the potions lined up on his bathroom counter, and then he looked at the many outfits hanging up beautifully now in his armoire—each with at least four pieces to them. He pulled one outfit off the hanger and brought it to his bathroom and then looked at it all again, then back in the mirror.

He didn’t want to do any of it.

So, he yawned and went back to bed for an hour. When he woke up, just in time to go to school, he went to his bathroom quickly, looked in the mirror at his real self and said, “They will have to love me. For this is just how I am.”

Well, when he went to school, they did not.

And so he decided that instead of trying to impress his schoolmates he would move to a place where people accepted him. This he told to a fairy in the garden after school that day.

“That place,” she said, “doesn’t exist.”

“Well then,” he said, “I guess I will have to make it.”

And so began the planning for Adalira.


Mackenzie Belcastro is a writer from Toronto. Her work spans from short fairy tales, to fantasy fiction, to non-fiction memoirs and profiles on contemporary artists. She’s inspired profoundly by Lewis Carroll and Angela Carter. Presently, she’s working on her debut novel. Follow her on Twitter @mack_belcastro