Max Cleans Up

Max Cleans Up by Jesse Barben The man blended in perfectly. He had been carefully fitting in now for millennia and had perfected his human look so well that no one ever suspected him or even came close to guessing what he really was. He leaned against the half wall that surrounded the children’s play place and looked in at the children playing there. It was a weeknight, and the mall was not particularly busy. A handful of shoppers bustled right past the play place, but inside a small number…

The Paperboy

Somewhere in England. 1984 As he hoisted the orange bag full of newspapers onto his shoulder, twelve-year-old Jake felt an enormous sense of pride as he was about to start his first proper job. It was an opportunity to earn money that wouldn’t be coming from the pocket of his parents for second-rate efforts at washing up and keeping his room tidy. He lifted his bike up from the driveway and looked back to the house to see his Mum waving at him through the bay window, smiling from ear…

One Morning, At Breakfast…

The kitchen was already alive with the sticky sweet scent of jam and eggs when Phil came down the stairs and saw Laura at the stove, spatula in one hand, firm grip on a skillet with the other. “Morning, honey,” she cheerfully called out. Phil smiled, still fussing with his tie. “Good morning, my sweet cupcake.” From underneath the table, Phil’s bull terrier Ramsey lazily swaggered over to him, eager for an approaching breakfast handout; Phil playfully scratched behind the dog’s ear before sitting down. Carefully arranged around him at…

Insects

Sheena laughed inwardly as she imagined how she looked, caught in the swarm of shoppers whose individual silences and sounds came together in a low buzz. Their sharp beetle elbows poked into her drab-coloured winter bulk until she reached one side of the aisle and started moving to the back of the store, against the traffic. Spilt grain and breakfast cereal cracked beneath her soles. She winced at the sound. A picnic table blocked the next aisle. She stepped onto the bench and looked from side to side, as if…

Ointment

OINTMENT Anthony Ferguson Cody Wyatt sat on a park bench overlooking the river, watching her breath condense in front of her face. She tried to convince herself it was too cold to be out. It was a bad idea. She should just walk away now. She belched and the hint of ethanol on her breath told her otherwise. Rubbed her bleary eyes, half raw from drink, the other half her angry tears. She knew she was in for the long hall. Too late to turn back. Try as she might…

baby carrots

baby carrots CLAY MCLEOD CHAPMAN Emma brought home a bad batch of baby carrots. You could tell just by looking in the bag. Gnarled things, really. Like fat fingers, their pudgy knuckles pressing against the clear plastic. I had volunteered to help her unpack the groceries, as a peace offering, finding them nestled in between the OJ and eggs. Over a dozen whittled digits pointed up at me—J’accuse! I grabbed the bag and tossed it in the air, feeling those baby carrots slap and settle into my palm. Think these…

As is My Custom

AS IS MY CUSTOM Susan Snyder Last night, as I lay in bed, tucked in much too tightly as is my mother’s custom, I heard the trap snap shut, the unoiled hinge of the door, it waits for me. Heating the thermometer on the bulb in my little lamp, and I am allowed to stay in bed. She’s leaving for work. Now I’ll have some time. I listen as the front door snaps shut, the unoiled hinge of the door, and I bounce up. It was waiting for me, wide-eyed,…

Amabie’s Pond

Amabie’s Pond Gary Buller It had been a day of sandcastles, donkey rides and candy floss. A day to mend broken hearts. We took the scenic route, following the sat-nav down a coastal road to my parent’s house. Molly was asleep in the back and our springer spaniel, Scout, snored from his crate. The passenger seat, once occupied, was empty. Looking in the rear-view mirror, it surprised me how much Molly resembled her father. Those rounded cheeks, long eyelashes and chestnut hair. She had my lips though, thank goodness, now…

The Red Boy

He comes into the kitchen where I’m cooking dinner. “Mommy,” he says. “What?” I answer, distracted. “There’s a red boy walking in my room.” I glance at him. “A red boy?” He nods. “He walks like this.” He presses his chubby arms tightly against his small body and cocks his head to the side. He takes a few jerky, shuffling steps. _____________________ He carries an armload of plastic dinosaurs into the living room and dumps them on the floor. “Why aren’t you playing in your room?” I ask. I’m folding…

I’m Not Matthew

I’m Not Matthew Kev Harrison All the kids at school knew about the weird house. Some even said they’d been in the garden to collect the ball when they’d kicked it over. Others still said they’d seen the old witch-like woman that lived there in the flesh, walking around outside, but no-one believed that. She never went outside. Sam threw his keeper’s gloves on to the ground. “I’m not getting it. It was your bollocks shooting that sent it over.” The other two boys looked at Craig. He rubbed the…