Jack, Years After the Beanstalk Episode by Linda Lowe

Thanks to the goose that lay golden eggs, Jack was a rich man, but bored with running a restaurant. There was no adventure in linen tablecloths and napkins folded just so. He was annoyed with young knights who bragged and a wife who nagged, and children who were probably his, but what a pain. Jack imagined that the giant was still out there, ready to come for him. Each night he stormed around his mansion, slamming doors and opening windows. “I’m an old man now,” he shouted. “Sorry I stole your goose!” And the night said, “Fee, fi, foe, fum.”

Linda Lowe’s stories and poems have appeared in The New Verse News, Tiny Molecules, A Story in 100 Words, Star 82 Review, and others.

Just a Dog by Tim Frank

The dog was named Potato and she resented being a pet. She was well aware of her intellectual superiority to her owner, Pank, an overweight twelve-year-old schoolboy who played Top Trumps for dead spiders, liked mint Crispy Cremes and enjoyed stamping on puddles.

Potato was drawn to her fair share of mundane interests too: chasing raccoons through the brambles at the far end of the garden, and playing fetch with her sticky neon ball, which she found endlessly fascinating – though the repetition often reminded her of the Myth of Sisyphus.

Her life was comfortable but she wanted more – to be an intellectual decoding French symbolist poetry or studying propaganda in modern day Russia. So, in order to elevate her mind, Potato would drag Pank’s science homework into the musty boiler room and leaf through it with her moist nose, page by page. After her studies she would treat herself to a kebab using the takeout app on Pank’s phone.

One morning, while Potato was meditating on the nature of absolute zero, she was interrupted by Pank who scolded her for drinking out of the toilet bowl once again. Potato was pretty down on herself about her conduct and wondered what compelled her to act in such an uncouth manner. Wasn’t she above such antics? Wasn’t she too cerebral for this type of behaviour? She tried to explain herself to Pank and in the process hoped to find answers for herself.

“Master,” she began, “we’ve known each other for some time now and I want to apologise for my behaviour. And yet I can’t help but feel I’m not the only one to blame. Both you and I know you’ve been holding me back – you know I need more mental stimulation than is currently offered. So, I think we’re at a crossroads. I have demands: more freedom and more education. Also, it may be wise for you to throw in a trainer to help me overcome my baser instincts.”

Pank ruffled the hair under Potato’s neck. Before she knew it, she was lying on her back begging for her belly to be rubbed.

“You really are a good dog,” said Pank.

“You’re not listening to me as usual,” said Potato, suddenly feeling warm and fuzzy inside.

“I have a gift for you,” said Pank, and he unwrapped a glitter-speckled frisbee. Potato sighed, feeling misunderstood. But when Pank flung the toy along the hall Potato quickly scampered after it, nails scraping against the tiled floor, barking mischievously. In that moment nothing else in her life seemed to matter. She was a dog pure and simple.

Tim Frank’s short stories have been published in Bourbon Penn, Menacing Hedge, Eunoia Review, Maudlin House and elsewhere. He is the associate fiction editor for Able Muse Literary Journal. 

Mac The Pirate by Matthew McGuirk

I first met Mac the pirate on a day where white animals crawled out of the sky in crowds. It was a day where you couldn’t help but look up at the elephants with large ears, lions with rolling manes and lizards with long tongues. The sea threw hot black waves and the air smelled like menthols. Mac leaned against a moored ship on a dock. It looked like it might hold water with holes along the hull and the sails were a tattered off white, but it was tied to a glittering grey anchor. He held a colorful parrot in his arms whose squawks sounded like purrs and meows. The day’s sun boiled the sea and Mac stood with his curly red beard that hung in front of his ruffled white shirt.

Of course, I didn’t know him as Mac back then. He was just a pirate on those black seas. “You have a red beard, so you must be Red Beard.” I remember the words escaping my mouth, immediately regretting them and how he cocked his head and the purring parrot followed his lead.

“Red Beard’s been done, call me Mac, Mac the pirate.” The ocean crashed with blaring horns and yelling people and the waves shimmered in the sunlight, a sparkle of black diamonds. “Well, I need a set of hands and you look like a first mate to me. My last one ran off.” I had nothing else going on that day and he waved his hand, rope burned and peeling from the sun, and I went aboard his vessel. He gripped the wood wheel and pinwheeled it to the left. I lost my balance and fell among a clattering pile of cannonballs. The colorful bird nudged against the wheel and watched me, a tottering mess on a ship for the first time in years. Mac’s whiskers curled in brambles and his eyes squinted against the bright sun. The black waves pulled us from anchor and into the sea. I wasn’t much of a sailor before meeting Mac, but the waves cresting and slapping against the ship’s bow gives anyone sea legs.

The sky picked guitar solos and steady grey statues watched with a thousand eyes as we passed. “That’s our first target.” I remember Mac’s voice, a rasp against those axe picking clouds. I saw we’d caught a ship starboard and we were closing fast. “Man the cannon,” he screamed and his eyes widened as he leaned over the wheel. I located the cannon, grabbed the first cannonball and loaded it. I had no hesitation as the flare in his voice prodded me on and I lit the fuse. “Fire!” The smell of whiskey canvassed the air as the blazing ball left the cannon and smashed the side of their ship with a spray of glass across the black sea. “That’s a hit, load it again!” He pumped his right fist along with the words and I listened, wondering what kind of treasure they had. Another spray of whiskey on the air and another direct hit as I watched the cannonball smash into the left shoulder of the captain at their wheel and send him into the first mate; the ship pulled right when he fell and crashed into one of the grey statues sending fiery tendrils reaching skyward.

My eyes glazed for a moment and I sat dumbfounded. I saw the sky twist from the blue canvas with white animals to a scrubbed black with snarling purple snakes that snapped at me.

“No time for watching the sky, we’ve got work to do. Let’s board!” His voice split the trance and pulled my heart from my throat back to my chest. We moored in front of them and boarded their ship. We saw the mangled captain slumped into the first mate’s spot. I looked for the other sailor feeling that darkness descend again, but the mate was nowhere to be seen. The wreckage was riddled with broken glass and twisted metal.

A crashing scream came from behind us and turned our attention from the mess to the newly surfaced first mate. Mac put an arm out, pushed me backwards and pulled a dagger from his belt. “Back off! Now, where’s your loot?” Mac lurched forward, dagger in hand. His twisted face and that small, but pointy dagger shifted the gaze of the second mate, his eyelids peeling back in fear and he dove into the black waves. “Arrr, what a pale fish that one is.” The smell of whiskey was overwhelming in the captain’s quarters of the ship and one of the sprays of glass from the broken cannonball had landed there. It didn’t bother Mac and he sent his hand through a panel digging out the gold he was looking for. He stuffed it into his pockets and exited the ship back to ours. “Matey, you are a good one, you are.” He threw out his hand and shook mine with a conviction I hadn’t felt in many others. We hit two other ships that day and came away with gold to last us until the next marauding.

Mac and I see each other in passing, but I jingle the coins in my pockets when he’s not around and my eyes light up when I see someone that resembles him on the horizon. Mac is gone right now, but I know he’ll return again soon with that bruised hull and those wind beaten sails to carry me onto our next adventure. Mac and I are pirates on those black rolling seas with animals crawling out of the sky, riffs of metal playing on invisible guitars, a parrot that purrs like a cat and cannonballs that smell like whiskey.

Matt McGuirk teaches and laughs at his puns by day and scribbles somewhat coherent words nightly. He lives with his family in New Hampshire. Words in The Daily Drunk Magazine, Goat’s Milk, Idle Ink, Literally Stories, New World Writing, Purple Wall Stories and Versification. Twitter handle: @McguirkMatthew and Instagram @mcguirk_matthew.

On the River by Steve Gergley

On the first day of spring, the child emerges from a warm cave on a boat. The river cuts past the frozen cedar faces of his family, and in this way, he stays safe from the cold churn of the water. Inside the boat, the child sits atop a mat of green grass and fresh berries. The colors are beautiful: bright red, shiny black, marbled blue. He reaches for the most exciting berry of them all, the red. It feels soft and spongy between his fingers. He closes his small hand and squeezes. Sticky red juice runs down his arm. He mashes the mangled flesh into his mouth and licks his fingers clean.


At the end of the summer, the river narrows to a thin creek choked with sharp rocks. Gripping the tiller firmly, the back of his hand baked red by the sun, the boy steers his boat carefully down the creek. Soon he sees a young woman picking wildflowers on the shore up ahead. Thin white robes cling to the curves of her body; a cool summer breeze ruffles her ebony hair. She’s the most beautiful thing the boy has ever seen, so he waves his free hand above his head and calls out to her. She glances at the boy for a moment and then turns her attention back to the flowers. His face burns with blood and he tries to look away, but he can’t. His body doesn’t let him. The young woman’s beauty is an elemental force as powerful as gravity’s pull. The boy’s boat slips down the creek. He loosens his grasp on the tiller. A black crag scrapes across the bow, gouging away the curves of his father’s mouth, the pits of his mother’s eyes.


By autumn, the man sees many more women on the shore. One sits in the grass and offers breadcrumbs to the starlings and the cardinals and the sparrows and the crows. Another strums an acoustic guitar and sings a beautiful song in a language the man doesn’t understand. Yet another writes in a small book and watches a gold leaf spiral to the ground. Stranded in his boat on the creek, the man falls in love with all of the women on the shore. To win their affection, he offers them the freshest, most delicious berries in his boat. He compliments their songs, their beauty, their creativity, their kindness. But the man’s efforts are clumsy and transparent. Some of the women glance at him for a moment and look away, but most don’t acknowledge his existence. After weeks of failure, the man lays in his boat and stares at the gray slab of the sky. Soon his boat slams into a rock. Then another. And a third. Instead of patching the hull, the man crosses his arms and listens to the splintering crunch of the bow. He draws a deep breath. The prickly smell of snow hangs in the chilly air.


On the coldest day of the winter, the old man’s boat gets stuck in a lake of ice. There are no strawberries left, so he no longer has a choice of what to eat. Bitter and angry, the old man sucks on a frozen blueberry and curses everything and everyone in the entire wretched world. By the next morning, the old man can no longer feel the cold. Soon the young woman he saw at the end of the summer appears beside his boat. She’s more beautiful than he remembers. Her ebony hair hangs to her waist; her white robes glow with a soft pink light; a pair of skin-sheathed wings lay folded on her back. The young woman smiles at the old man and offers her hand, but the old man’s poisonous resentment takes hold of him, and he severs her arm with a blade of splintered wood. Pink light explodes from the stump of the young woman’s shoulder; she disappears without a sound. When she reappears the next day, her body made whole again, the old man is as cold and stiff as the keel of his trapped boat.

Steve Gergley is a writer and runner from Warwick, New York. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Atticus Review, Cleaver Magazine, Hobart, Pithead Chapel, Maudlin House, and others. In addition to writing fiction, he has composed and recorded five albums of original music. He tweets @GergleySteve. His fiction can be found at: https://stevegergleyauthor.wordpress.com/

Brains On the Mind by Jeremy Scott

I collect brains like some men collect stamps. They’re all lined up in jars on the shelves of my library, arranged by size, species, condition. I get them fresh and preserve them myself, in a proprietary blend of preservatives that I wouldn’t dare share with the world. When I receive a new specimen, I first grade it, from damaged to near mint. I eat the damaged ones. I’m always trying new recipes out. Some of my favorites so far are Brains Creole, cranium cakes, and curried cerebrum. That is unless of course they are from a human, which would be dangerous to my health. Besides, I ate a man’s brain once. I shared his dreams for a month of the worst sleep I ever had. He was a miner from China. I had several nightmares about cave-ins and being crushed to death. People would say to me, “Susie, you don’t look well,” and I would say in return, “I just have a lot on my mind, weighing me down.” It took a lot of melatonin pills and a lobotomy for me to get right again. Worst mistake of my life.

Jeremy Scott (he/him) is from Albany, Georgia, USA. His work has been or will be featured by Beyond Words Magazine, Tempered Runes Press, Surreal Poetics, and others.