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A Meditation

by Toni de Bonneval

When I was six, I gave up on the God stuff. My sister and I sat, knees clutched. We looked out from the stoop of Dad’s summer cabin, through the clearing to the far side of the valley, to a crouch of blue hills. “Faith can move mountains,” the priest said in the drafty church in the valley. In the kitchen, Dad made scrambled eggs. We sat on the stoop.

“Move.” We were polite, a request. They didn’t. “Move,” this time not so polite. We waited, but the hills didn’t get up, didn’t galumph in all their blueness up the cleared swale from their place to ours.

“Breakfast, girls.” We stood. A final shout, a challenge, “Move.”

After breakfast we went out back to work on our hole to China. We didn’t really believe that. If China was just below us on the other side of the world then people were either standing on their heads or they’d be dropping off.

The still air encloses. The trees are motionless. I’m frightened when that happens. The nothingness. A young plant stirs, tosses its leaves in childish glee. The aspen giggles, while the white birch bows. The old oak doffs its topmost branch. The hemlock shrugs its dolor and observes. I close my eyes and hear the shush of tiptoes in the uncut grass.

Give thanks.


Toni de Bonneval earns a living writing institutional histories and enjoys living writing fiction and short non-fiction.

Here and There

by Helen Chambers

Here, rain splatters on the windows and seeps cold around my ankles. The dark is spreading and the light is departing. People slump in front of screens and turn their backs away from the weather.

There, we walked with a spring in our step and our hearts on our sleeves, and opened our faces and minds to the sun, watching each other in its golden glow. Channeling its energy, we lived summer outdoors like the elements.

Here, life trudges alone with a chill and a shiver, winds whip me round corners, desiccated leaves scrape my face. I cannot bear to stay indoors, but the cold drives me in.

There, we slept out under a light show of stars and meteors, watched sunsets, smelt honeysuckle and tasted salt spray.

Here, damp leaf-mould muffles my steps, and your words turn to dust.
I want to turn the clock back.


Helen Chambers gets creative inspiration when out walking (usually with her head in the clouds) and from her involvement in local writing groups and an Open-Air Shakespeare acting company. Since leaving teaching, she has been awarded an MA in Creative Writing by the University of Essex (2016), has won the Fish Short Story Prize (2018), the Felixstowe Short Story Prize (2016) and the Hysteria Flash Fiction Prize (2014). When she can remember her password, she blogs at helenchamberswriter.wordpress.com

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

Friend

by F.C. Malby

You used to listen to my questions, your mind racing faster than life itself. Your thoughts were sharp and fast. You asked questions: Thoughts about life, and God, and justice. You cared and you worked to help others. I used to look into your green eyes and wonder how we became friends; I, almost three years your junior, and far less cool and together; you, slim, sophisticated and ‘on point’ when it came to fashion. It was the eighties, then. I remember talking to you about school buses and timetables at the Girls’ Grammar. You wore a pale pink shirt pulled out over a slim belt, and a white, flowing skirt. Your lips were glossed and you sparkled. You were beautiful.

The years created a certain kind of cynicism in your mind. We talked about boys and future children, about passions and God. You became worn down with questions and I know you now have the answers. I go to pick up the phone when I want to talk to you or tell you something, a big event or a new child. I replace it and think back to what you might have said to me. I try to feel grateful for the time that we had, but life is cruel.

Then it came, the phone call – the first to tell me you had ten years. Those ten years were long. The second was unexpected. It was exactly ten years later but it was a surprise. They told me you were gone. I didn’t believe them, not when they called, not when I went to pick up the phone to call you, not when I stood and gave your eulogy in front of hundreds of people to tell then who you really were. I believed them, finally, as I walked up the hill towards your open grave. It was brutal, the shock, the tears, the feeling in my body that made my legs want to give way. I felt an arm around my neck and a voice telling me, “Take your time, it’s ok.” I broke at that point and hung back so as not to cause a scene. Emotions can do that, cause a scene that no one wants to witness.

I made it to the edge of the grave, sprinkled earth over your coffin, looked down and wondered when we would meet again. Life is cruel, it can be short, it can be a struggle. Yours was lived with grace, you handled pain and uncertainty with ease. You fought, but you also knew when it was time let go. I’m not sure that I ever have… let go, my friend. You are hard to replace.


F.C. Malby is a contributor to Unthology 8 and Hearing Voices: The Litro Anthology of New Fiction. Her debut short story collection, My Brother Was a Kangaroo includes award-winning stories, and her debut novel, Take Me to the Castle, won The People’s Book Awards. Her short fiction has been longlisted in The New Writer Magazine Annual Prose and Poetry Prizes by David Gaffney, and won the Litro Magazine Environmental Disaster fiction competition.
Find out more on her website and follow her on Twitter @fcmalby

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