The Monsters That Broke Me

by Linda M. Crate

i think i left
bits and pieces
of myself
behind
so i could restring
myself together
with new burning stars
of the galaxy,
stars that don’t know the sting
of your name or the limitations
you would put upon me;
which is for the better because my
temper is like a wild fire
burning down forests and out of control
once a grudge is felt
so consider yourself lucky
i promised myself never to become
the monsters that broke me.


Linda M. Crate’s poetry, short stories, articles, and reviews have been published in a myriad of magazines both online and in print. She has five published chapbooks A Mermaid Crashing Into Dawn (Fowlpox Press – June 2013), Less Than A Man (The Camel Saloon – January 2014), If Tomorrow Never Comes (Scars Publications, August 2016), My Wings Were Made to Fly (Flutter Press, September 2017), and splintered with terror (Scars Publications, January 2018), and one micro-chapbook Heaven Instead (Origami Poems Project, May 2018). She is also the author of the novel Phoenix Tears (Czykmate Books, June 2018).

The Last Unexplored Frontier

by John M. Carlson

Dad sometimes joked about how messy our garage was. “Our garage is the last unexplored frontier! We’ll have to explore it someday!”

Meanwhile, Mom thought that exploring was nice, but cleaning the hopeless chaos would be much better.

Dad died of cancer the spring I was 19. I knew that Mom would decide to clean the garage sooner or later. Most of the mess was Dad’s, and there was no need to keep it now that he was gone. So I was hardly surprised one July morning when Mom told me we’d start cleaning the garage that day.

After breakfast, we headed out to the detached garage, and started studying Dad’s last unexplored frontier.

Dad was a thrifty pack rat. He collected all sorts of things “that might be useful someday!” All those things had pretty much taken the garage over. There was barely—barely—enough space left to park the car.

Mom and I stood, looking at all the odds and ends that Dad had saved. There was a china cabinet, which he’d planned to fix up for Mom, who’d wanted a china cabinet to hold her good dishes. There was a pile of parts for his old truck. (He really should have let the guy who’d bought the truck have the parts. The truck was so unreliable it would be needing those parts sooner rather than later.) There was a mountain of parts for the family car. There was a big pile of scrap lumber. There was an old wood stove that Dad could install in the house if heating oil prices became totally unaffordable. There was a big shelf full of various chemical concoctions, like furniture stripper.

Almost all of this stuff was junk as far as Mom and I were concerned. It would take a natural tinkerer like Dad to make use of most of this stuff.

I thought of all the work it would take to clean up this overwhelming mess. We’d spend endless hours in this hot, stuffy garage. We’d make countless dump runs to get rid of stuff. We’d probably spend weeks trying to find people to take the more usable stuff, like car parts. All in all, this project would be a nightmare.

I briefly fantasized about cleaning up this mess using a gallon of gas and a lit match.

Finally, Mom sighed. “I really want this garage clean. I’m so tired of fighting to cram the car in. But I can’t face doing this! Especially with all the other stuff we need to get done this summer.”

And with that, we escaped from the garage.

The last unexplored frontier would remain unexplored. It could remain unexplored forever, at least as far as I was concerned.


John M. Carlson is a writer living in the Seattle area. You can find more of his work on his website.

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

Wax

by Robert Beveridge

The heat of the melted wax
draws the splinters from your hands.
You had been holding the shaft
of the hammer when it slid.
The little knives went deep,
broke off. I dripped
gloves of wax
over your hands
and the splinters rose.

It was what you needed,
you said, and the wax on me
sank in, nestled itself
around my heart, drew out
the thorns.


Robert “Goat” Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in The Nixes Mate Review, Violet Rising, and The Road Less Travelled, among others.

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