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 Issue 9: Heaven and Hell
Articles 16
Last published article Print Version, Cover, and Editor's Note

Published by ZsaZsaWong on 2009/8/1 (3172 reads)
Heaven is a handful of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos.

I eat them until my tongue is a bloody stub burned back against bottom of my mouth. The only thing that can stand up to the hellfire is my six gold teeth. Gold really stands the test of time.

“Amy, bring me a beer!”

She’s watching church on TV. I like to hear the choir singing, but I’ve got myself an emergency. So if she doesn’t notice me quick, I’ll pry my seared lips apart and let the smoke pour out in her direction until she looks up. She always looks up.

Published by Vincent Louis Carrella [serpentbox] on 2009/8/1 (3140 reads)
When he last saw Leroy Boskew he was flat on his back the way he is now, but he was drunk then and not truly dying. It seemed like he’d go on for another fifty years or more despite the life he chose for himself; keeping all those women and driving all those trucks to cities and towns all over God’s creation just to maintain the illusion that he had only had the one wife. The one life. But there was a time when he truly was like a father to him so of course he came when he heard the news. He promised he’d come if ever old Boskew asked him and he did, he passed a letter, one trucker to another, written in his own hand.

There something I need to say to you before I die, it said.

Published by Colored Chalk [admin] on 2009/8/1 (2767 reads)
Nathan slipped the photograph out of the envelope, holding it carefully by the edges. Cupping it in his hands, he set it on the desk.

It was stupid, he thought. Stupid to be so reverent towards a piece of paper. But there it was. Nothing else mattered on his desk – the bills, the checks, the random bits of flotsam that now made up his life.

Centering the photo in the middle of his desk with his fingertips, Nathan leaned in.

It was as if he could reach out and touch them. His memories were so strong of that day at the beach, Marie laughing at Dylan, who was holding up a wriggling crab with his two little fingers.

Published by CraigWallwork on 2009/8/1 (3365 reads)
I make no bones about it. The queue found me, and not the other way around.

From the sparrow snared by bunting; the flies feeding on a bloodied vagrant; a child screaming; the sickening stench of hot asphalt – the world that morning cleaved to my every part, turning my stomach and heart. I lowered my eyes. Another corner, another road. Then I found skin, pallid and wrinkled, dredged from a riverbed. Fine hair glistened above a scraggy nape. Liver spots festooned a weathered crown. I staggered my steps, catching his heel in the last. The old man turned. Eyes the color of onyx, pitiless and cadaverous. What’s all this about, he cried. I offered my apologies, a hand. But the old man turned his back. I rose on tiptoes. In front of him, a thousand people stood facing the head of the person in front. I tapped his shoulder and asked, What are we queuing for?

Published by Kabrown on 2009/8/1 (3636 reads)
I am in the dinghy, rowing away from you. I have my cigarettes and my lighter. It is night, and I am swallowed up in it. I feel the force of the sea and its swelling under me, the water sloshing in the boat about my bare feet. My arms pull, fueled by fury. I watch the palm shadows wave at me from the moonless shore. Tonight, we drank rum with the couple from The Sharon. They were from England and as drunk as we were. You were quiet, sifting the sand through your hands. I could not ask you, What? I was too afraid to hear it.

We are on Tobago, in the Lesser Antilles. Your boat, The Pearl is anchored off of Charlotteville, and we have been here for two days. I know very little about sailing, so in bad weather I was told to stay under, a nuisance. We met in a bar in New Haven, and I had a look, you said, that made you weak. That was all you would say when I asked why you wanted me. Oh Darling, you said. Let’s not worry. We stopped and stayed in anchorages you know, Castara Bay and Parlatuvier, bought food from Miss Esmé in the little shack—crab and dumplings, Bake and Fish. Her arms were round and black, her palms soft as she took my hand to say hello, smiling at me, her brown eyes keen. You dove most days with your friends. I stayed on the beach, or on The Pearl, reading, thinking about you returning.

Published by Colored Chalk [admin] on 2009/8/1 (2697 reads)
Instead of finding the baby sleeping peacefully in the crib, Aimee found mounds of winter bedding—flannel sheets and comforters she was putting away for the summer. Panicked, she ran to the plastic storage tote still in the living room. Not a sound came from it. How much oxygen could it hold? Instinct prompted her to do two things simultaneously—rip off the lid and prepare herself. She had read somewhere that a dead baby feels like a sack of flour. She unsnapped the lid. She scooped up little Adeline who didn’t move. She was light as a feather. Plastic, like the tote. Her blue glass eyes popped open when Aimee held her upright, closed when she tilted her down. She had impossibly long Maybelline lashes. How would she explain to Tim when he came home from work? She climbed into the tote. It was 45 gallons, big enough for a king-sized comforter or a small woman on her back, knees pressed into her chest. It was dark, and she would try not to panic as the oxygen ran out. She had her dolly with her.

Published by CJDwyer on 2009/8/1 (3150 reads)
Lips and eyelids quiver in a blinding mess of broken light. I’m knee deep in static and three brooding inches of frost exit my mouth like nuclear smoke. My vision careens into focus, the right side
of my body burning with a trail of blood and dust. It’s only when my heart speeds up that I can see her. Love’s light blue dropped in the middle of two ovals of snow, a pale face with a momentary smile and
a slash of black bangs drooping down like dying shadows.

She holds out her hand and the very tips of white fingernail polish glisten in the hazy edges of green sunlight. Three or four words escape her lips but the sound is sliced into a dozen blurry fireflies. Her flesh meets mine and I’m grounded, the soul beneath the skin awake and aware. Fifteen seconds until our hands are locked together and I’m staring into Jenni’s eyes.

Published by MKL on 2009/8/1 (2619 reads)
It’s not that I even place bets on Charlie’s steeplechases or anything, but when the Sun’s rays stroke Mai’s hair, unnoticed by anyone but me, there’s no need for a paradise anymore. Even the Sun refrains from touching the divine locks openly and only caresses them when She’s convinced no one’s paying any attention. The auburn angel doesn’t need the light—let’s be honest, it’s the other way around. It’s only too obvious who’s worshipping whom here.

And She, or the rest of them, will never tell anyone.

I will: Sweet, tiny Mai, a little mortal who launched a thousand longships and scorched tall Yggdrasil’s top-leaves before she even opened her eyes; something, as they called her, more beautiful than us, needs to be banished. One way ticket and no way back. Farvel!

Published by Colored Chalk [admin] on 2009/8/1 (2515 reads)
“Clearly, there’s been some mix-up. For starters, my name isn’t Patricia,” said Keith.

“Patrick?” said the Clerk.

“Not that either.”

Keith struggled to get heard above a vast shuffling noise. The office was filled with dozens of assistants in brown coats scuttling beneath great stacks of paper. As they went by they kicked up little tepid gusts of fluff - some of which lodged in Keith’s nostrils. Sitting behind a massive desk, the Clerk continued to stamp, pile and sort while Keith peered up at him.

“What I’m saying is, I believe you may have the wrong file,” said Keith.

Published by Monkeywright on 2009/8/1 (1672 reads)
Broken glass drives through my right cheek scraping and chipping at my teeth. Swallowing blood, my shoulder is gone, just a wet useless mess. 10,000 feet and losing altitude.

This is how I’ll get to Heaven, one piece at a time.

The ocean pitches in front of me at an impossible angle, white
caps foaming, the peaceful view split by my stalled propeller and the screaming engine.

My left hand still works, not strong enough to keep me airborne, but enough to reach a pocket, enough to find you. Hear this, please hear this.

Published by Valgeary on 2009/8/1 (3075 reads)
Two crows, muted black like the pupils of my dead son’s eyes, wait on the fence. From the window I watch them watch me. Their only movements: a quick ruffle of wings, a short snap of a beak. We wait together.

“Evan?” My wife.

The crows make no indication they see her approaching. I, too, stand unmoving.


Then she is behind me, hot breath smelling of stale-sweet vomit and mint-flavored tobacco.

“How are you holding up?” She tries to put her arm around me, but I flinch and she pulls away. “I don’t want to be here anymore than you do, but it’ll be easier if we do this together.”

Published by Kara Kilgore [Kara] on 2009/8/1 (2726 reads)
This morning, sounds start coming together in ways in which they shouldn’t. The traffic, like strings to the solid beat of a jackhammer ten flights below. I usually meet my wife’s perky comments with cold reserve, but this morning I actually smile at the bitch. Lynn doesn’t notice, and I don’t care. I’m too busy listening to the hum of a dishwasher fuse with the frequency of florescent lights in my kitchen. The sound harmonizes briefly before it scurries away.

As I’m leaving for work, I catch Lynn smiling in the hallway mirror. I straighten my tie and see her smiling at nothing. I know that smile but have never seen it on my wife. It’s an edited smile, a socially acceptable one. It flutters and threatens to leave her lips, spilling some secret happiness. That mirror should reflect dark circles under her eyes, but I don’t care to second-guess a reflection. I close the front door and hear its single drum beat mix with the cymbals of wind chimes.

Published by Colored Chalk [admin] on 2009/8/1 (1218 reads)
We’re all going to sing now; are you joining us today, John?

I would rather sit in a corner plucking every hair out of my body with a pair of tweezers.

They smile, blinking bright black eyes, showing teeth shiny with spit and big as dimes. Their hair—teased, wadded nests for their halos glowing distant behind their heads, not always centered and not always following them.

It’s the same every fucking week. And I use the word week here like it means something when really I don’t know how time breaks up anymore. The record keeps skipping.

Published by Gavin Pate [GavinPate] on 2009/8/1 (2726 reads)
It was not long before they argued. He realized, like all first things, they knew not what it was, had yet to name it, but the effect was unmistakable. The argument became the inevitability stalking them day and night. Against it they kept walking. She clenched hope in her hand, squeezing so it oozed between her fingers, a yellow and green thing that smelled of fruit when the wind blew one way, brimstone when the other. She knew there would be an opening soon, a gate with no locks and golden hinges and birds circling overhead. He told her he dreamed of towers marking the beginning and end. She flinched, said it could not go on forever. But they found no door, no windows or ledges, just smooth polished brick, the color not unlike that of an elephant tusk, without place for hand or foot to scale its height. It seemed to stretch into the clouds, bend both ways to the horizon. It had been many days. It had been no time at all. The wall gave no reprieve.

Published by Nikronomican on 2009/8/1 (1565 reads)
…and everything comes into focus, the sunspot flare fading to fingers of yellow. I’m lying on a beach, warmth on all sides of me. I try to look around but can’t move. Water rushes towards me, the tiny hip of a wave crumbling and spreading like Madeline’s flaxen hair over the sun-bleached sheets we bought when we first married. Pausing, listening, her voice wavers in the breeze, the ghost of an echo more felt than heard. I try to cup my ear but my arms won’t move. They must be broken. But they’re not throbbing, not bleeding, not pulsing. They’re just, well, not. Madeline’s voice reverberates through. It’s a dolphin mapping my soul using echolocation and the timbre of her voice is angular and I believe I’m a grain of sand.

She laid a book by Kafka on my nightstand once, trying to get me to read it. I get the distinct feeling that I should have.

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