All The Trees Were Dying

All the trees in the neighborhood were dying. It was autumn, and the leaves of all the deciduous trees  faded from greens to yellows to deep oranges to browns. They rustled in the wind fluttered to the earth, gathering in piles that the wind swept from yard to yard, across sidewalks and driveways and all down our cul-de-sac.

Lots of people thought the trees were just preparing for winter, but they were dying. Some wouldn’t be convinced until the spring – my neighborhood can be stubborn like that. But their trunks and appendages were gray, sickly and brittle, and their little twig fingers cracked and crumbled, rotted through and dried out. I could see this all very plainly.

My neighbor, Ed Holland, came out to ask me what I was doing. Ed was a good neighbor, most of the time. He had a poorly maintained swimming pool in his backyard , which  he allowed my kids to use whenever they wanted. I never bothered him about it, but he would let at least three or four issues of the Huntington Tribune pile up in his yard before he retrieved them. Once, he ran over a whole stack of them with his riding lawnmower, but only once.

Anyways, I told Ed that all the trees had to come down, on account of them being dead, and that I’d be happy to help him with his yard when mine was clear. He told me it was just fall.

He stopped by again later that week, to make sure none of my trees fell toward his property when I cut them down.

Cutting down trees isn’t an easy job, especially big ones. First, you make a partial cut through the trunk, parallel to the ground. This is tough, especially if you have a relatively small chainsaw. Next you need to make an angled cut that connects with the first cut, to make a wedge. It’s critical that you make these cuts on the side in which you want the tree NOT to fall. The tree begins to groan and snap over the buzz of the chainsaw as the two cuts meet. Large trees are very top heavy, and they fall to the ground deliberately, like a man with a bullet in his shin.

The tree trunks are colossal and immovable. When standing upright, they take up very little space, but when laid out across the yard, they are tremendous, like the carcass of a giant squid, washed up from the beach.

Ed stopped by the house one night and asked my wife how I was doing. She mentioned that I was struggling, and I was, to an extent. But, as it’s important to put up a brave face, I said the tree removal was difficult, but going about as smoothly as could be expected. I would be done by the end of the month.

Once each tree was felled – there were sixteen scattered about my two-acre lot – I revisited each one and trimmed off the branches. With a fair amount of effort, I chopped them into manageable portions and moved them out to the backyard, where I burned them in massive piles, with their leaves.

Likewise, I was able to eliminate the stumps. To remove a stump, you drive the chainsaw as deep into its heart as possible, to create a pattern of grooves across it. This puts your body in an awkward position, thrusting the saw downward, and the machine wants to jump out of your hands when it catches on tougher parts of the stump. I nearly lost several fingers/legs as I performed this step, but emerged relatively unscathed.

Next, you saturate that network of grooves with gasoline. This step is easy. I had sawed all the grooves at once, and likewise lit each of the sixteen stumps at the same time. It’s best to toss the match toward the stump and run. Once they start burning, they smolder for between one and three days, and produce and enormous amount of smoke if the wood isn’t completely dry. And the stumps were not dry at all.

On the first day the stumps burned, three people from the area called the fire department to my neighborhood. As you can image, sixteen damp tree stumps, burning furiously on gasoline-fed fires, produce an equivalent amount of smoke to that of a small factory or apartment building when consumed in flames. The third time, the fire department only called my house, and I had a long talk with the fire chief. He’s very nice. His daughter is in the same ballet class as mine.

The second day the stumps burned, my wife grew very angry, and compared our lot to the pit of an active volcano. I disagreed, and offered that it was more like a lot of large, silent tea kettles steaming at once, which was a pleasant thought to me. She left to go shopping, and I considered for a period the prospect of sixteen giant cups of tea.

On the third day the stumps burned, Ed Holland came over. He stated his reasonableness and willingness to help me, as a good neighbor. He explained neighborly responsibilities, and the subdivision’s charter, and brought up several times the number of years which he had known me. I was surprised to find it had been six years, which really had gone by quite quickly, and I noted that to him. Quite unreasonably, he suggested that my collection of smoldering stumps should be extinguished, perhaps by pouring water on them, or capping them with garbage cans.

He explained that the garbage cans would suffocate the fires and put them out.

I explained that the stump burning process was almost complete, and it’s better to put up with a few days of smoke then end up with a bunch of dead trees in the spring.

Ed Holland didn’t see it that way. He was still clinging the strange notion that the trees were just hibernating for the winter, that the leaves would grow back in the spring, even though they were clearly dead. It made me sad, and I said so (that I was sad), and Ed Holland left and walked back to his house, which was mostly obscured by the smoke.

I looked forward to the spring.

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Jon Mau lives in a house, in the Chicago suburb of Des Plaines, IL, with a family he is currently in the process of cultivating. To what end? No one knows. For the meantime, he is perfectly happy (and suited, what’s more) to write for Untoward Magazine thanklessly; remember his once popular metal blog,Jon’s World of Delusion and continue serving out his “dour, tedious sentence,” i.e. tiny gray cog of the workaday world.

The Beverly Fictions

I. Overture

She has a yard long grocery list for him but he’s had a facial transplant so she’ll never recognize him. She buys him Chanukah presents that sit in the trunk of her car. She has flies living on her face and pretends they are him. At Amazing Entertainment she sees an amputee porn they once discussed and purchases the DVD to give him.?

Her depression is flawless and her condo is as barren as a woman with a shovelful of ovaries. There is fascism in her chewy center. Nothing else matters but this, neither talking nor stuff nor who might be giving him a blumpkin nor but. There are animals to be sacrificed and hookers to be strangled.?

She weighs sixty-two pounds. She throws up and shoots heroin five times a day for this man. What she does in the desert sun isn’t for fun but for extra credit. If he could see her now, this little act of hers. She’s eating fancy food and vomiting it out her third story window.?

She is a mother of a pickled punk that she rescued from the circus. It sits in a jar on her coffee table. She named it Julie and it writes for a sitcom on CBS. In the rumpus room hangs a Velvet Elvis but the rest of the wall space is covered with blood and fecal matter.?

She pokes her eyes out with a plastic fork. The shadows scare the bejesus out of her. She thinks it’s her neighbor making creepy rabbit and bear puppets with his hands but she can’t be sure. The Mello Yello can is neither mellow, nor very yellow. The cactus point at her and laugh.?

Today she is eaten by javelinas, Four mile jog, half mile run for her life. But they catch her, a whole family of them. Two college students – one wearing a Barack Obama T-shirt, the other with six pairs of sunglasses on his head – walk past, a sock puppet cavalry, swaying like shredded cheese, towing a bucket full of humus and a large medieval sword shish kebabbed with pita bread. Her pearl necklace makes a noose. Her broken skin smells gamey from javelina saliva. In her delicious core is one thought: these punks are going to rape me. I’m dying and chewed up and they’re going to have their way with my eaten body. And wherever that man is, she remembers him. He’s somewhere back east getting a vasectomy. She is still beautiful to these boys. Nothing is over yet.

II. Date Night at the Happy Dragon

“This isn’t right,” said my mistress after she kicked me in the testicles from under the table and grabbed my fortune. We were across the way from CVS, Papa Gino’s, and Middlesex Savings Bank at the Chinese take-out place. She said, “It should say, I jerked off in your Egg Foo Young.”

III. Sling Blade (1996)

It’s no small task to kill a man. Not like the absolute blading Doyle Hargraves took – a fine How do you do? They didn’t sling blade my uncle; they dressed him is clown clothes, tied cement blocks to his legs and threw him in the river. When I was twenty-two, I asked that he call me Frank Wheatley. A name better than Brian; he called me Frank for seven minutes straight before pulling an Oh Henry from his pants and saying “Queers don’t eat chocolate.” I did the ole, “I’m Brian,” bit like at the end of the Monty Python film. Now he’s a purple chicken like Hargraves and sits on the toilet at midnight. He reads High Society upside down. “The vages look better this way.” Dudes in my family always yank on the bowl.

IV. Temporary Stay

There were days when bacon was bacon, until it was bananas. Years later it died and became cheese, silhouettes of hatred like a kaleidoscope of baby fetuses. What remains is what is there. That is, what you see. What is visible, if you will. Won’t you?

It was not unlike Rufus T. Firefly. Does Gloria Teasdale? You bet she does. But maybe not. How do it know? Does the moon know & do the nightingales and coyotes sing of said knowing? But you knew. Oh, yes, you did. You knew. You, you, you. Not unlike you when you knew. You sat on the couch and it broke and you knew it would break. Well, your wife knew anyway. Did Pinky and Chicolini know? We’ll never knew.

You knew as soon as the poet’s half-brother with Down syndrome changed that lightbulb, screwing it into the accordionesque vagina of his uncle’s paramour. Oh, we all knew then. And we took turns at her, the dirty whore.

V. Pineapple

Sadie sits on the beanbag chair knitting her suicide note while I’m trying to watch a very hilarious program.

“What the fuck is this?” she says.

“It’s Big Bang Theory,” I say. “Isn’t it ripe with wonderful humor?”

“This show blows. Change the channel.”

“No. You’re only listening to the words, man. Watch how cleverly they move. I used to be in comedy. I know this stuff.”

“What are you, seven? This show is an abortion. Put on I Survived. It’s way funnier than this horseshit.”

Then she shoots me in the head.

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Michael Frissore has a chapbook called Poetry is Dead (Coatlism, 2009) and a blog called michaelfrissore.blogspot.com. His writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Dzanc Books’ “Best of the Web” anthology. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in over 70 publications in six countries, including most recently in Bartleby Snopes, Pyrta, Pulp Metal Magazine, Jersey Devil Press, and Houston Literary Review. Mike grew up in Massachusetts and lives in Oro Valley, Arizona with his wife and son.

Hitting The Roof

The morning Uncle Wally arrived for a weekend visit, he went up on our roof and wouldn’t come down.

“What’s up, Walls, besides you?” Mom stood in the driveway squinting up at her brother, a bag of organic groceries in her arms. He just sat on the lawn chair he must have dragged up from our back yard, stared out at the sky, and didn’t say anything. Mom looked over at me. “Wouldn’t talk to me, either,” I said. We both shrugged. He was on the flat roof over the front porch, not in much danger of falling. “Dinner’ll be ready in an hour,” she hollered, and went into the house.

I went back to dribbling my basketball on the sidewalk. Having given up on conversation, I’d been trying to figure out what he was doing by watching him, sneaking looks until I realized I could look all I wanted, he wasn’t paying any attention to me. Eric from next door came up and snatched the ball away from me. “What’s the deal with him?” he said, hooking his elbow at the roof.

“Beats me.” Sunbathing was out, since Uncle Wally was wearing jeans and a T-shirt, unless his goal was to get a tan on his forearms and bald spot. And he wasn’t doing a one-man protest against world poverty, as far as I could tell. I didn’t have a clue.

“So who is he, Yosemite Sam?”

Now that he mentioned it, Uncle Wally did look a lot like old Sam, with his droopy red mustache and beard—Sam minus the cowboy hat—but for some reason I didn’t laugh, maybe because I’ve got red hair too. “He’s my uncle,” I said. “He hardly ever comes to see us, and, um, he’s never hung out on our roof before.”

Leaning in, Eric said, “Maybe he’s a jumper. That’d be cool.” He slammed the ball on the concrete. “Splat.”

* * *

Dinner was Dad saying he didn’t appreciate coming home from work to find a brother-in-law on his roof, especially a brother-in-law who couldn’t be troubled to say hello, Mom telling him not to worry, whatever Walls was doing, he craved comfort way too much to stay up there for long, and me wolfing down two slices of homemade vegetarian pizza.

I was still chewing my last bite when I bolted from the table and went back outside. Our front yard looked like a party—a bunch of neighborhood kids, Mrs. Zenith with her dachshund, and Mr. Taylor from across the street, all of them standing or sitting or, in Daisy Smith’s case, lying on the grass and looking up at Uncle Wally, who was still in the lawn chair, staring out at some fixed point in the sky.

Eric brought me up to date. “He hasn’t made a move, man, ‘cept to scratch his ear. And not a word out of him, not even when Mr. Taylor offered to bring him a beer. Daisy thinks he’s meditating.”

Daisy rolled onto her back and looked up at us. I could tell she thought she looked sexy, but in fact she only looked like dumb daydreamy Daisy. “He’s got the high forehead of an intellectual,” she said, touching her own low one. “He’s probably contemplating something heavy, like world peace.”

“Yeah, or he’s stoned out of his effing mind,” Eric said, snickering.

Mr. Taylor whacked him on the head. “Language, boy.” To the rest of us, “Let’s move along now, kids, leave a man to his thoughts.” He started to walk away but stopped short at the sound of metal rattling. All eyes flew up to Uncle Wally, who was getting out of his chair for the first time in five and a half hours, by my count. Inching over to the far edge of the roof, he put his back to us and fiddled with the front of his jeans.

“Lord have mercy!” Mrs. Zenith cried as liquid splashed into the eaves trough. I cracked up along with the other boys. Daisy covered her eyes, but she was smiling.

Just then Mom appeared in my open bedroom window over the porch roof, holding a plate of pizza. Seeing an empty chair, she yelled, “Where’d he–” but Mrs. Zenith cut her off.

“This is too much, Marilyn,” she said, taking a cell phone out of her purse. “I’ve got to call the police. I am sorry, but the children.”

Looking confused, Mom craned her neck and saw Uncle Wally. “Walls!” she screamed, dropping the plate. “Stop that right now!”

But he was already zipping up his pants. “Aw, nobody seen nothing,” he said, taking the chair again.

Uncle Wally had finally spoken. Daisy scrunched her forehead, maybe sifting his words for some deeper meaning. Mr. Taylor headed toward his house, muttering. Mrs. Zenith was punching the first 1 in 911 when my mother crashed through the front door and ran up to her.

“Please don’t,” Mom said, sucking in breaths. “It won’t happen again, I promise.”

Mrs. Zenith hesitated. “I don’t know that you have any control, dear. He seems to have what you call antisocial tendencies.”

“No, no, he’s just…I don’t know what,” Mom said, then shook her fist at her younger brother so furiously the skin on her face jiggled. “Get down here, Walls, I mean it!”

But Uncle Wally ignored her, ignored everybody, like we weren’t even there. He was looking at the sky again, where red and purple lights were switching off, leaving us all in the dark.

* * *

I woke up around 3 a.m., rolled out of bed and moved to the window. Uncle Wally was still in the chair, with his back to me and his long hair rippling in the wind. I looked past him into the dark sky, and suddenly it hit me that maybe we’d all gotten it wrong. Maybe he wasn’t suicidal or stoned or meditating or antisocial. Maybe he was waiting...for an alien spaceship. A far-out idea, I knew, but I’d read a lot of books that said extra-terrestrials are more likely real than not. On the other hand, how would a guy like my uncle, a deliveryman for a potato chip company, know when and where the ship would arrive? He wasn’t really the type to be in the interplanetary loop. But what if he wasn’t aware of what was happening? What if, unbeknownst to him, the aliens had programmed his mind to wait on our roof until they could come and beam him up into their ship? If he was under their control, it would explain a lot of things, such as why he kept staring dumbly at the sky, and why he wouldn’t talk to us, or eat, or come down.

These thoughts got pushed away by a cluster of images: of my boring neighborhood, where a man sitting on a roof was like the biggest thing ever, of my parents hissing at each other, and of my middle school, where fun went to die. I thought about Pandora, the faraway world of perfect beauty in Avatar.

I raised the window. “Take me with you,” I said, my voice small and thready. He didn’t react.

An engine rumbled. I looked up, terrified but all the same hoping like mad that I’d see a giant metal disk with green lights, like in The Sims 2 video game, whirling toward Earth. But there was nothing out there, nothing but the lonely moon. Hearing the rumble again, I held my breath so I could listen better.

It was Uncle Wally, snoring.

* * *

“I’m gonna throw his ass off that roof, see if I don’t,” my dad said, slapping a folded newspaper against the kitchen table.

“Exert yourself on a Saturday morning? You’d give us both a heart attack. Just hold off, I’m going to make some calls, find out what’s going on.” Mom’s voice had a labored bounce, like a basketball filled with cooking oil. She handed me a fork and a plate of scrambled eggs with cubes of steak mixed in. “Your uncle won’t be able to resist, it’s his favorite.”

My dad yanked on the sleeve of his robe, looked at his watch. “Two hours, Marilyn, and he’s coming down, one way or the other.”

I carried the plate upstairs, set it on the dresser in my bedroom, and hoisted myself out the window. Then I reached back for the food and took it to Uncle Wally, who looked exactly like a guy who’d just spent the night on a roof. To my surprise, he accepted it and dug right in, though he didn’t say thanks or anything.

I stooped to pick up the broken pieces of last night’s dinner plate off the roof, along with three untouched slices of pizza with pebbles stuck to them. I began mulling the best way to raise the subject of UFOs when a female voice clanged from below.

“Your uncle’s stamina is amazing.” I turned my head, and it was dopy Daisy, lounging on a blanket she’d spread out on our front lawn like she was at an outdoor rock concert. The morning was cool and cloudy, and she was wearing a red sweatshirt and corduroys. She smiled at me, in what I’m sure she thought was a fetching manner. I tried not to puke.

“Hello, Daisy,” I said. Good grief, I thought, Uncle Wally has a groupie.

And a lynch mob, from the looks of it. A pack of angry-looking old men were making their way across the street from the Taylors’ house. I recognized a couple of them as neighbors, but four or five were strangers to me. Uncle Wally chose that moment to get up and go through my bedroom window, though he seemed oblivious to the approaching men. Maybe his vigil, whatever its purpose, was over.

“Can you believe that coward?” Mr. Taylor said to his posse, and shook his head. Stepping on the lawn to Daisy’s left, he addressed me. “Son, I’m a tolerant man. Somebody wants to sit on a roof, I don’t pass judgment. But last night when the missus was getting ready for bed, she happened to look out and there was your uncle, getting an eyeful. I have to draw the line at Peeping Toms.”

Now, Mrs. Taylor was a sweet enough lady, but she remembered the Great Depression and outweighed a Volvo. “I really don’t think he was peeping,” I said, hoping I sounded respectful, and wishing I could offer an explanation that didn’t involve space alien mind control. “But I’ll get my mom.” As I leaned in the window to holler for her, a big whoosh came from the second-floor bathroom.

About the same time Mom hit the front yard, a cell phone at her ear, Uncle Wally came back through the window and reclaimed his chair. “Come down here and face me like a man!” Mr. Taylor growled, his fists punching the air, with his peeps standing behind him, saying, “That’s right,Vin, you tell him.”

Mom gave a quick goodbye to whoever was on the line. “Gentlemen, gentlemen. I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m sure we can work this out. Mr. Taylor?”

“Nothing against you, Marilyn, but your brother here’s a pervert,” he said.

“What? Walls, what is my good neighbor talking about?”

Uncle Wally’s eyebrows shot up, but his mouth stayed closed. At that, Mom exploded. “I can’t take this!” Yowling like a puma in heat, she stomped around in a circle, then flung the phone on the grass. “I’m beyond my limit, Walls. What am I supposed to tell these people? How can I defend you when you won’t talk to me, even give me a hint what’s wrong?”

All at once the sky cracked and as fast as you could say “pervert” a sprinkle gave way to a heavy downpour. Everybody ran in different directions for cover—first Mom, then me, slipping into my bedroom, then the old men, and finally Daisy—everybody except Uncle Wally, who stayed in his chair like it was bolted to the roof and he was stuck there by waterproof glue.

* * *

Dad’s two-hour deadline came and went, the rain excusing him from rigid enforcement, I guessed. He was watching TV in the den, some special on World War II battles, but I could see he was anxious from the way he kept scratching his unshaven face and heaving sighs. I was dividing my time between the den and my bedroom window, where I watched Uncle Wally brave the rain, his posture as straight as one of the soldiers on Dad’s show, wringing out his beard every few minutes like it was a wash cloth. Ever since the confrontation with Mr. Taylor, Mom had been holed up in the laundry room talking on the phone, which she’d retrieved from the lawn just before it drowned.

She came out around lunchtime, looking drained. My dad whipped around in his easy chair to face her. “Well, what’d you find out?”

She let out a long breath. “Not much. No trouble at work, according to his boss. And his friends said he was in a good mood the last time they saw him. They told me to check with his girlfriend, which I didn’t even know he had. She didn’t answer her phone, so I left a message.” Mom sunk into a chair at the kitchen table.

“Think he’s gone nuts?” my Dad asked.

“I wouldn’t have said so yesterday, but after all this, I honestly don’t know,” she said, tracing a finger along the abstract pattern on the tablecloth. “What am I going to do? He’ll catch his death if he stays out there in the rain.”

“A dead man on our roof,” Dad said. “That’s great, Marilyn, just great.”

After lunch, I grabbed my basketball and went outside. The rain had quit, upstaged by a gaudy sun. As I dribbled down the driveway, I saw that Uncle Wally, his wet hair slicked against his head and his beard in a ropy twist, was still on the roof he’d scaled thirty-two hours and seventeen minutes ago, still slumming with us terrestrials. Mrs. Zenith was across the street, walking her dog. She shot Uncle Wally a flash of disgust and, if I wasn’t mistaken, pointedly ignored me. A neighbor’s car swished by, pausing to gape at Uncle Wally and then moving along without so much as a friendly honk. None of the kids were around, not even Daisy the Supergroupie. Maybe I was overly sensitive, but I felt like I’d gone from being my own person with my own life to an unpopular extra in Uncle Wally’s movie, which kept playing over and over, even though everyone was tired of watching.

To be fair, my uncle hadn’t sought out our attention. Maybe what he was doing was weird, but was it any weirder than the Elvis Presley statue in the Taylors’ back yard, or the knit sweaters Mrs. Zenith made her dachsund wear in the winter, or Dad’s back scratcher collection, or just about anything Daisy said or did? When did our neighborhood shrink to the point where it no longer had room for all of us and our quirks? Whatever Uncle Wally was doing, whether he was waiting for an alien spaceship or vying for a prize in some bizarro radio contest, he wasn’t hurting anybody. He had a right to be left in peace. But if that’s how I felt, then why did the sight of him up there annoy me so much?

I heard a sharp ping. I looked up and Uncle Wally was checking the legs on his chair, as if he thought they were snapping under his weight. Then suddenly he yelled, “Ouch!” and his hand jerked up to his head. The moment I heard smothered laughter rise up from a large prickly bush next to Eric’s house, I knew what was happening. I raced across the grass and dove into it. A couple of boys wriggled away, but I had Eric trapped underneath my body. “You’re uncle’s a freak,” he spat, “and so are you.” Something inside me just ripped loose. I pulled my arm back and socked him in the mouth. One of his front teeth broke off, and blood gushed from his mouth. It felt good. Finally, after all the waiting and accusing and name-calling, this was real; blood was real. It felt so good, I hit him again. And again.

Then someone from behind was peeling me off Eric. I turned, ready to punch out whoever it was, but it was my Dad. “Michael,” he said. “Stop. You have to stop.”

I stood up, panting hard. Eric’s mother appeared and wrapped her arms around him, which made him start to cry, the big baby. I looked over and saw Uncle Wally watching us intently from the roof. If he’d been within punching distance, he would have gotten a taste of blood, too. I looked around, and the whole gang was there, apparently drawn by the ruckus: Mom, Daisy, Mrs. Zenith, Mr. Taylor, and some others. They were all staring at me, like they expected me to apologize to Eric, but there was no way I was going to do that.

Then every head swiveled. A black Mustang was pulling into our driveway. Out stepped a blonde woman in a black leather jacket and black jeans. She was striking-looking, very shapely, but you could see three inches of dark roots where her hair parted, and creases around her eyes. Putting her hands on her hips, she looked at Uncle Wally, then at the rest of us, then again at Uncle Wally, who was looking at her.

“You look like hell, Wallace,” she said.

“Why wouldn’t I?” he said. “Been on this roof, not talking to anybody, for the past thirty-three hours.” So he’d been keeping track, too.

“Why’d you do that?”

Uncle Wally sputtered, like the reason should have been self-evident. “What did I ask you last time I saw you?”

“To marry you.”

“Right. And what did you say?”

“I wasn’t sure you loved me enough.”

Uncle Wally held up his arms. “You need any more proof?”

She shifted her weight. “I don’t get it.”

His mouth pulled into a tight line, like a teacher whose patience was being tried. “What are our favorite songs?”

“Huh? Now you’re really confusing me.”

“Just say them.”

“All right, there’s that oldie by the Drifters, what’s it called? ‘Up on the Roof.’ ”

“And the other one?”

“ ‘The Sounds of Silence.’ Oh.” She looked at the ground, then looked up and smiled. “You are one crazy bastard, Wallace.”

For the first time since he’d arrived at our house, Uncle Wally laughed. “So, what do you say, Linda Lou?”

“Yes,” she said, her eyes shining. “I say yes.”

With that, my uncle got out of his chair and sat down on the edge of the roof, pushed himself off, and dropped to the lawn. He went straight over to Linda Lou, picked her up, and twirled her around.

“What if I hadn’t shown up?” she asked him.

“I would have stayed up there until you did.”

Daisy, who was standing next to me, put her hand over her heart. “Isn’t this the most romantic thing ever?” No one answered. Dad groaned.

The two lovebirds fell into the Mustang. Uncle Wally stuck his head out the passenger window and called, “Sorry, sis,” as they sizzled down the road.

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Sally York lives in Michigan with the spirit of her beloved cat.  Her stories appear in The Molotov Cocktail, Foliate Oak, Every Day Fiction, Skive Magazine, Pulp Metal Magazine, and MicroHorror, among others.  She is working on a collection of stories, even though she knows the chances of getting it published are as good as said cat coming back to life.

T-Bone Stinkerz ®

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Jamie Ferguson is an American folk hero, notable for having raced against a steam powered hammer and won, only to die in victory with his hammer in his hand. He has been the subject of numerous songs, stories, plays, and novels. He has a 20 pound hammer that he thinks is light. He is 6 feet tall, and weighs about 200 pounds. Read more randomness of his on his Twitter account, THE_REAL_JAMIE.

Flash Fiction With Instructions

The protagonist’s story goes like this:

1.) You are young. You’ll get over it.

2.) Uncertainty is a verb with a past, present, and future tense.

3.) Life is frequently the punishment of Tantalus.

The plot like so:

1.) Naked truth needs a tailor.

2.) There’s nothing like killing and eating one of your enemies.

Exposition and crisis:

1.) Floss is your teeth’s best friend. Dim Sum chicken feet can be a special treat for your canine companion.

2.) Even Jesus sometimes picked his nose. Parked once in a handicap space, by accident. He was made in our image.

3.) If libido were faith we’d all be saints.

Complicating actions:

1.) Never trust a sleeping T-Rex.

2.) There are few things wrong with people that trying to correct them won’t aggravate.

3.) On the freeway of anguish, we are road-kill possum being eaten by a turkey vulture. It is summer. Sun glares off the asphalt.

4.) The Timber Doddle is a bird with its brain upside down. Counter-intuitive to behavioral observation, the human brain is not.

5.) A trickster sheep in wolf’s clothing will likely scare the shit out of other sheep.

The denouement:

1.) The lies of fiction are Truth.

2.) Prayer: do not expect too much from this product despite extravagant claims to the contrary.

3.) He/She becomes a philosopher on the difference between winter and spring. They could marry. Have kids. Live happily everyafter. Maybe not.

4.) In a mirror the image is always bass-ackwards. A lot of life’s like that.

5.) Even mystery is a mystery.

6.) I sneak up on myself, therefore I am.

7.) The male platypus has a venom-delivering spur on each hind limb. While not lethal to humans severe pain can make one less fond of this cute animal. A useful parable.

Endings:

1.) Ambiguity, irony, and paradox. They are all we have afterall.

2.) It is easier to read a good story than write one.

3.) Never explain the unknown by means of  amazement at the unknown. Almost never.

4.) Making sense of it all would be less difficult if God were a scientist rather than a fiction writer and poet.

5.) Of death’s final bouquet resist the least hint of eternity’s delicate fragrance.

6.) Listen at the edge of silence, make all your senses gulls or white-flecked breakers pounding the sand.

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Ed Higgins poems and short fiction have appeared in Commonweal, Monkeybicycle, Otoliths, Duck & Herring Co.’s Pocket Field Guide, Pindeldyboz, and Bellowing Ark, as well as the online journals CrossConnect, Word Riot, The Hiss Quarterly, Blue Print Review, Tattoo Highway, and The Centrifugal Eye, among others. He and his wife live on a small farm in Yamhill with a menagerie of animals including an emu named To & Fro and a barn cat named Velcro. Ed teaches creative writing and literature at George Fox University, south of Portland, OR.