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/

Falling

by Fabrice Poussin

I broke a soul once
Upon a fall from grace.

Pieces of a spirit scattered all about the pond
Frantically seeking their kin from the tone of
Their skin.

I broke my soul once
And felt no pain.

I thought I saw a body hover above a shadow
A jigsaw inform of wavy shapes in two dimensions
Lost in space.

I broke that soul once
As if a diamond upon a rock.

It was a dream, hoping to rid the self of a mirror
Too faithful an image of what others could read
In an open tome.

I dropped a soul again
Not sure it was mine on the fire.

It lay there in a puddle of crimson tears pleading
For an overdue reconciliation with another
Below the tree.

She found her soul at last
While looking for a fruit to life.

And she met his gaze as she stood for the catch
Shining with the glow of eternity in the infinite sky
She closed her eyes.


Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and many other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review as well as other publications.

Something Else

by Derek Hamilton

I remember his smile. I remember making him laugh. I remember how he gently held my hand. I remember chilly nights spent looking at the stars. I remember long drives to nowhere in particular. I remember how the summer air smelled when he walked me to my car.

I remember when he said goodbye.

It doesn’t get any easier. We’ve all been told that time heals all wounds, but that’s a crude simplification of the healing process. You can always ask why. You can torture yourself trying to figure out where everything went wrong.

That’s how I’ve been spending my time lately.

I go to work. I think about him. I remind myself not to think about him. I think about him. I try to distract myself. I think about him.

Growing up, I was always told “If you want something bad enough, you have to earn it. Nothing is worth having that isn’t worth fighting for.” Looking back on it – there’s a strange disconnect.

What if I’m fighting for him and he doesn’t reciprocate? What if he doesn’t want me? Why is my happiness so dependent on this other person being in my life?

I guess it’s love, but it doesn’t seem right to call it that. It’s something else. It’s like the shadow that love casts. The negative energy that balances out all its positives.

Someone asks me how I’m doing. I think about him. The pit in my stomach turns as I wrestle for sleep. I think about him.

This is my life now. I think about him.

This is all I have to look forward to. I think about him.

This is the summary of my entire existence. I think about him.


Derek Hamilton is a writer, musician, voiceover talent, and self-proclaimed nerd from Northeast Ohio. He’s a Columbia College Chicago alumni, a published poet, and currently works as a streaming media producer. You can find more of his work at derekhamiltonedits.com

Wade’s Apology

by Lori Cramer

Wade said he was sorry for not showing up at my friend Shayna’s birthday party. He swore he’d planned on meeting me there. In fact, he’d even plugged Shayna’s address into his GPS so that he’d know exactly what time he’d have to leave Finnegan’s Pub.

At Finnegan’s, everyone’s eyes were glued to the game on the big screen. The Twins were down 5-3 in the ninth when Wade got up to make his exit, but then Mauer smacked a two-run bomb to tie the game.

“You can’t leave now,” Bruno yelled at Wade from behind the bar. But Wade informed old Bruno that he’d made a promise to his girlfriend–and that he was a man of his word.

Then Angie walked in.

Angie. The one who’d left Wade three years earlier without so much as a Post-it note. The one who’d refused to take any of his calls and eventually even changed her number. The one who’d pretended not to recognize him last fall at the gas station on Route 33.

Imagine his astonishment when she asked him to have a drink with her for old times’ sake! How could he refuse?

So while I was at Shayna’s house, incessantly checking my phone, my so-called boyfriend was having a heart-to-heart chat with his ex-girlfriend about their completely-dysfunctional-and-now-defunct relationship.

To Wade’s surprise, Angie told him that the reason she’d left him wasn’t because she hadn’t loved him enough (as he’d always believed) but because she’d loved him too much (whatever that means). A few beers later, she admitted that leaving him had been the biggest mistake of her life.

And then she kissed him.

(Not that Wade fessed up to the part about the kiss. But how else would that pink lipstick smudge on the corner of his mouth have gotten there? Hard to believe that he hadn’t had enough sense to check a mirror before trying to feed me his half-baked half-truths about The One Who Got Away.)

What Wade did admit was that Angie had invited him to her place. “I didn’t go, of course,” he clarified in a self-righteous tone. Instead, he told Angie about how I was making a better man of him and how he’d never thought he’d be able to trust another woman after what she’d put him through.

When he finally reached the end of his tale, his blue eyes shone with virtue, and I honestly think he was expecting me to tell him how pleased I was that he’d chosen me over The Great Angie.

What he wasn’t expecting, judging by his countenance, was for me to say that, coincidentally, I’d run into my ex as well–so I didn’t have any more time to listen to him drone on about Angie because I was on my way out for some last-minute dinner plans.


Lori Cramer’s short prose has appeared in more than two dozen publications, including Fictive Dream, Riggwelter, Train, Unbroken Journal, and Whale Road Review. Links to her work can be found on her website. Follow her on Twitter: @LCramer29

Kaleidoscope Girl

by Fabrice Poussin

Once more she stands in the face of another soul
the smooth surface of century old looking glass
squinting at fragments of a self once whole.

The pulses in her breast beat inside the thin vessels
hovering timidly in the burning light of summer’s heat
she grasps only shards of her former thoughts.
when, little girl she pondered no such queries.

She may be that forgotten Renaissance girl in the attic
put to canvas by a hopeful lover from a distance
her fair complexion torn by the craquelure
at the jigsaw she has become to suspect so well.

Where does she begin, where are the boundaries
of so many parts in motion as she sits in fearful awe
sharp edges of the giggling teen she once was
cut deep at the dreams of a future she once fathomed.

Even the sorrow of a tear venturing down her lip
seems to break apart thus devoid of source or intent
her pain excruciating must remain hidden in her chest.

She is the kaleidoscope of her many dawns
a universe hoping to come together in a grand home
made of walls seamless of like a marble giant
idea of the child building days of carefree wisdom.


Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 350 other publications.