Still Life by Caleb N. Miller

With precarious balance, outstretched from the peak of Mount Storm, I reached for the treasure of Gold Beach. Below, echoed the Serpent Sea, a chorus of tangled undulation and snapping jaws. Before me, the Sand Queen pondered her kingdom, unaware of my presence, oblivious of my approaching victory.

But the mountain shifted beneath my weight, and I lost my balance. I was five years old, playing in the living room while my mother prepared lunch in the kitchen and my father was at work. As I fell from the top of the armchair, my world of magic and adventure was shattered by adrenal panic. My fingers clawed for Gold Beach, now, an ordinary painting depicting a solitary woman with black hair and a striped, red swimsuit. Her back to the painter, she sat watching the crashing waves.

I landed hard, but what had been the Serpent Sea—the pink shag carpet of our living room—helped cushion my fall. I tried to cry out, but a slushy mix of saltwater and sand rushed over my face, filled my mouth, choked my scream. The room silenced by escaping seas, my little hands clutched the spilling painting. 

Bless my poor mother. She kicked the painting away and pulled me, dripping, into her arms. The painting landed face-up; the deluging coast, again, captured in frame. Coughing water and sand onto her floral blouse, I gasped salty air. She held me while I cried into her flour dusted neck and told me I was safe. 

Comforted and uninjured, I blinked away tears and inspected the wreckage caused by my impromptu quest for imagined treasure. Darkened sand fanned out from my crash site and the carpet, thoroughly soaked, squished beneath my mother’s feet as she rocked me in her arms. 

She lowered me to the floor with a resigned sigh. The cool water on my feet and wet carpet between my toes lifted my spirits. Mother looked so tired, but she smiled at my mischievous grin and laughed when I plopped down and began splashing.

Her laughter stopped. “What’s wrong squirt?” 

The moment fell dark; water-logged serpents writhed between my fingers. The Sand Queen, expelled from her kingdom, lay beneath the coffee table, her face buried in the twisted snakes. With disturbing effort, she pushed onto hands and knees. The red stripes of her swimsuit appeared to ripple as a violent shudder rattled unheard through her chest, arching her body in pain. Her soaked black hair fell away and I saw her face.

If only she had smiled for her portrait. If only she had turned away from the waves and let the painter capture her face, let the painter give her a way to breathe.

Formless…unpainted, unseen, unseeing…lifeless yet alive…dying… her body heaved with one final convulsion, a final doomed struggle for air. I watched her die.


That evening, father was angry at dinner.  “I don’t give a damn that you cleaned the carpet if I don’t come home to a decent meal!” he said, pushing away his plate of half-eaten hotdogs and untouched beans.

“Please, not in front of Burt.” Mother looked so tired. I wanted to explain, confess that it was all my fault, but I was too afraid. 

While mother washed dishes, father noticed the painting. Mother had repaired Gold Beach as best she could and carefully repositioned the Sand Queen as if she still watched over her kingdom. He inspected it, as if trying to understand why it seemed different, why it felt so lifeless, unaware of the pink serpents biting his toes and injecting their deadly venom. 

Caleb N. Miller is an adjunct professor of anthropology who lives in the Texas Hill Country with his partner and three dogs.

Your Own Personal Jesus by Zeke Jarvis

The emerging digital technologies have created a feeling of uneasiness in some people. They see a crisis. Others see an opportunity. Still others see a combination, what has been referred to as “a crisitunity”. But we go one step further. We see “a Christitunity”. Now that the NFT trend has started to wind down, the Church of Perpetual Innovation will be leaving the profit making aspect of it behind to capitalize on the individual converting potential of it.

For those who are curious about Jesus, you will have the opportunity to work with our digital artisans to craft your own, totally unique, completely nonfungible Jesus icon. Want to see a pixilated representation of Jesus suffering with a crown of thorns? We can do that for you. To be more precise, we can do that for exactly one of you. After that, that one of you will own it in perpetuity, and the rest of you will need to come up with your own unique design. Maybe you’d prefer Jesus feeding the masses with loaves and fishes. There’s plenty of loaves and fishes for the masses, but you’ll have the only image of loave-and-fish style that you and your matched artisan produce.

You might be wondering what we get out of all this. The answer:  your soul. Of course, we won’t keep your soul; we’re transferring it immediately to God. So, really, you’re getting eternal salvation and a completely unique digital image to boot! Whether you want to see Jesus riding a flaming motorcycle, juggling chainsaws, or quietly brewing tea, it’s a Win-win situation for you (note:  sexual and/or bathroom situations will not be illustrated). We can’t wait to bring you into the digital fold. 

Zeke Jarvis (he/him/his) is a Professor of English at Eureka College. His work has appeared in Moon City Review, Posit, and KNOCK, among other places. His books include, So Anyway…, In A Family Way, The Three of Them, and Antisocial Norms. His website is