Never Again

by John M. Carlson

I really can’t afford to be here! Rick thought, as he sat down at his favorite table in his favorite restaurant.

Indeed, he knew he’d be lucky if he could avoid having to go back onto his college ramen diet. At the same time, though, he wanted to have a nice lunch to celebrate the fact that his divorce was now final. Of course, there was the small matter of alimony (which was why he’d probably be eating a diet dominated by ramen soon). But the miserably unhappy marriage itself was ended, and he was free to move on.

He sat, thinking of the marriage that had just ended. Never again, he thought. I’m done with relationships!

Of course, he’d said “never again” when his last two relationships had ended. But this time he meant “never again” when he said “never again.”

Indeed, he thought, it might be best if no one had relationships. Based on what he saw with his family and friends, relationships more often than not seemed to end badly for all concerned. A bitter divorce if one got married. Or if one was only dating there would be a vitriolic breakup. But maybe he was just cynical.

He now remembered back to when he was 12. Back then, relationships seemed so crazy. Then, he became a teenager…and suddenly the most important thing imaginable was having a girlfriend. Relationships remained hugely important even to the present day, even though he’d learned from bitter experience that today’s relationship was tomorrow’s expensive trip to divorce court.

I understood something at twelve that I think I forgot: how crazy relationships are! he thought.

Oh, well. At least, his last relationship was finished, and he’d never, ever, ever have a relationship again.

***

After lunch, Rick headed back to his apartment. A woman was moving into an apartment down the hall from his. She was, Rick noted, very beautiful.

“Hi!” she said. “I’m Danielle!” She smiled a smile that absolutely glowed.

Rick introduced himself. They chatted a couple of minutes. Rick could sense she was interested in him. Very interested.

A few minutes later, Rick headed down to his apartment. All he could think about was Danielle.


John M. Carlson lives in the Seattle area. His stories have appeared in a variety of online publications. More of his work can be seen on his website.

Refuge

by Fabrice Poussin

It is hard to catch up with the character she plays
running from word to word, passing a period
down to another paragraph to the end of a chapter
so eager she is to reach the grand finale of her own story.

Always she wants to close the cover and find refuge
within the sheets of the unfinished romance
in a perilous cliff-hanger safe from the rest of us
alone in the dark corner of our unwanted thoughts.

Timid to the outsider she never looks from the page
dark spectacles give shelter to those disturbing gazes
hearing not a sound, she awaits the moment
when she too will commune with her dreams.

Peace is the only aim of this trembling soul
once trapped in the vise of a frenzied mob
life flows in her crimson rivers as in torrents
and all she wanted was an instant with her knight.


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.

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.

Enough

by Derek Hamilton

Lonely; whispers and echoes, and I’ll answer the
Call me; ask if I’m sleeping, I wonder if it’s lost its
Appealing; the jury’s decision, you’ll have it for once in your
Lifestyle; but after a while, it gets harder to know what you’re
Worthless; give it a rest – I’ll make you think I’m something I’m
Not here; I’m no Shakespeare – I’m the best that you’ll never get to
Have fun; when it’s all done – you’ll end up resorting to
Pleading; your case to the courts – something you’ve gotta see to
Believe me; we belong to the Keys – and I don’t need to ever get
Homesick; learn a new trick – a showcase to try to
Impress you; it’s the least I can do – but it seems like it’s never enough

It seems like it’s never enough.


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

Mugged

by Dustin Pellegrini

The night I got mugged was a Monday. I had only been up at school for about two weeks and I remember not realizing that until other people pointed it out and kept repeating it. Like it made a difference somehow. Like it mattered. I remember getting sympathy for it from people I didn’t even know. Feeling uncomfortable at their touch, the hugs they forced on me. Their knowing looks they tried to pass over to me. Like they understood. But they didn’t.

I remember feeling the bite of the gun barrel as it made solid contact with the back of my head, smashing down clean like a hammer driving a nail in one swing. I remember not telling people about that part after hearing my brother’s reaction to it. Dad translated it to me first. How Tyler was a hair’s length away from driving up here with every hunting rifle he had to take revenge for me. I remember thinking this was just something dad had said, but then believing every word of it when it was said in my brother’s heavy, panicked voice. How I had to calm him down, convince him not to want to kill on my behalf. How his voice came out in screams between buckets of breaths. How it sounded on the phone like he was driving with the window open and I was afraid he was already making good on his word.

And as I was talking him down, I remember thinking, ‘Let him do it.’ Part of me wished he would, but I let that sink back down into my guts. Now, I only wish I could have responded with his anger, his pure frustration at how unfair it was, instead of with my silence.

‘It’ll be okay,’ I told myself. ‘Turn it into writing. Make it something. Rise above it.’ But I couldn’t help but want to sink. It’s hard to hold it in and just try to float up, it would have been nice to just tread water at their level or just dive down further and hold my breath for a minute or two like Tyler could. I just wish I could give in and do something like him.


Dustin Pellegrini is a writer living in Chicago. He studied Creative Writing at Columbia College Chicago, has had his work read at Chicago’s Story Week Festival and currently works at a nonprofit. You can find more of his writing at dustinpellegrini.com