Big And Horned by Josh Sippie

I heard her feet scuffling outside the fitting room door. She was uncomfortable the moment I asked to try on these shirts. Slacks? No problem. I got legs like the next guy. But shirts? Different ballgame. Horned bullheads don’t fit so well into the head hole of t-shirts and button-ups can barely clasp this bulging chest behind its cheap plastic buttons. Not my fault. Born this way. I have to wear something and they don’t exactly have a “horned” section at the local TJ Maxx.

They’re whispering now. I think I heard something about “break it, you buy it,” but I know the policy, I called corporate. Any incidental damage to clothing items is not the responsibility of the customer. And I was exactly a customer. More than that though, I just wanted a damn courtesy. I didn’t gore everyone who turned their back on me, someone throw me a fucking bone.

“Everything okay in there?” She says it with enough distance that she could feasibly deny that she had been talking to me. Even though I knew she had. Big, brave fitting room attendant, checking in on the minotaur.

I snorted, shook my jowls. I tried not to be the stereotypical minotaur, y’know, anger and aggression issues, but my eyes were shading red as I stared at the empty hanger on the back of the changing room door. This lobster print shirt showcased my musculature so well and this ladies out here questioning if I’m doing okay—what, why, because I have the head of a bull? I’m doing just fine, thank you very much. But I didn’t say that, I just snorted again, flexed in the mirror. Damn, this is a win. I’ve never fit into a human extra-large before.

It’s a rare victory for a minotaur to find such a perfect shirt in the domain of man.

“Cash or credit, sir?” the cashier asks me. $7.99, what a bargain. I mean, in a world where 75% of the shirts don’t fit over your horns, to get the perfect shirt for the incredibly low price of $7.99? It’s ludicrous.

“Do you take Apple Pay?” Anything that can be burned isn’t a valid form of currency in my book. Plus, I’m prone to accidental arson. I emphasize the word accidental.

“No, I’m sorry, we accept cash and major credit cards.”

I can see fear in her puny eyes. I can smell it in the sour body odor of the customer next to me, buying caramel popcorn from the kitchen section so she can go home and binge-watch Grey’s Anatomy and wonder why she never did more with herself.

“You know what?” The cashier hands me the shirt. “Consider it a gift on the house.”

The rage lifts.

“You don’t have to do that,” I say. There’s guilt now, like I’ve used my disposition for nefarious means. It’s a snap reaction, really. Y’know how when someone cuts you off on the highway, you impulsively cuss and then thirty seconds later you’re over it? Same deal.

“I know,” she says. She smiles at me. Actually means it too, not just out of fear. “But I’d still like to. Have a nice day, thank you for shopping at TJ Max.”

Josh Sippie lives in New York City, where he is the Director of Publishing Guidance at Gotham Writers and an Associate Editor of Uncharted Mag. When not writing, he can be found wondering why he isn’t writing. More at or Twitter @sippenator101.

The Subterranean Star by Vincent Barry

She straddles the stool in the darkened room and leans in, peering into pupils, testing extraocular motility and alignment, intraocular pressure. We could be, if they’d permit me, in that coveted bar, in Del Mar, ’cept for that BIO lodestar,—y’know, a binocular indirect ophthalmoscope? She’s a blur for the numbing drops she’s dropped to block nerves and light. But I can hear all right an’ she’s whis’prin’— sultrily, as if at the Star, somethin’ or other that leaves me ajar with—heavy lids, shall we say? Then she allows huskily, “Cosmetic surgery’s upstairs,” and adds quick and sharp as an editor’s pointy red pencil, of a sentential, “not that you…,” of the aforesaid unessential, but I know I do, bugaboo, must look into, to get into the Subterranean Star.

After retiring from a career teaching philosophy, Vincent Barry returned to his first love, fiction. His stories have appeared in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad, including: The Saint Ann’s ReviewThe Bitchin’ KitschThe Broken City, Abstract: Contemporary Expressions, Kairos, Terror House, Caveat Lector, The Fem, BlogNostics, The Writing Disorder, whimperbang, The Disappointed Housewife, The Collidescope, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Beakful. Barry lives in Santa Barbara, California.

The Bull by Maureen Sherbondy

One day Lydia’s husband returned from work as a bull. She didn’t like this version of him. The house shook when he moved about the split-level house; dishes fell and shattered. Dirt also trailed behind wherever he walked. Lydia grew tired of cleaning up after him.

He told his wife it was a dog-eat-dog world out there. That he’d had to change to compete with the other animals at the office.

“Couldn’t you have become a dog? A pit bull or German shepherd?”

He delivered a dismissive snort.

When the bed broke on the second night, Lydia shook her head back and forth.

The following evening when her husband returned from work, a pen stared back at him in the front yard. This didn’t really surprise the bull-husband. Lydia had always been a problem solver. Early in their marriage, he had liked this quality. But then the animal side of him took over. When his wife walked outside to retrieve the mail, he roared at the red dish towel twirling before him.

Lydia swished the red towel away and watched as her husband’s horns crashed into the brick house.

Maureen Sherbondy’s work has appeared in Wigleaf, Prelude, Fiction Southeast, and other journals. She lives in Durham, NC.

Darkness on the Edge of Town by Cassandra Rittenhause

My boss was the catch at work, with his robin’s egg eyes, and big, beautiful nose, his classic tawny hair in a ponytail. Russell ran our whole place in Princeton, like the WASP that he was, only on occasion checking out the pretty girls.

Gail, the blonde from Howell, was his favorite. Sandra was the second one: a black haired, Olive Oyl skinny girl, heading into her 30’s, and we all wondered if she was toying with him. He gave her books on Indian religion.

Princeton was a catch all for rich kids. And a lot of Asians. On the crisp unfolding of autumn, I strolled the park and stared at the cocoon of college students in Abercrombie sweaters. They were just teens, on the cusp of greatness. I was a ripe 25 now, a big girl, an NYU grad, but it all seemed like something I had finally left behind.

Russell barely looked at me. I was nothing to him. When I gave him the reports for the day, he would look up at me, as if not sure I had even worked with him. Our relationship was cloaked in mystery, like two strangers forced together, rather insidiously.

I remember Sandra offering me a ride home to Point Pleasant at 6 pm. She leaned over my cubicle, smelling of patchouli. Her short hair was damped by sweat. She wore a tank top, unprofessionally, but she was the bad girl of the office, dating whoever she wanted.

She was a big fan of Bruce Springsteen. She had seen him play, and she even had a tape, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” which she played over and over obsessively in her Volvo- especially his haunting “Something in the Night.” She had the photo of young gorgeous Bruce and his leather jacket on a poster in her cubicle.

“I love rock stars. Once you date one you never go vanilla. I do what I want,” she said, and I gazed at her profile as we drove the Parkway. Her skin was like porcelain, the blackness of her hair. I was astonished that Sandra had no idea how beautiful she was.

Cassandra Rittenhause has been in over 20 journals, among them Eunioa Review, and White Ash Review.

F-Bomb Dreams by Yash Seyedbagheri

My wife and I watch Netflix, the cheapest option, but dream of HBO, things beyond incestuous feuding on The Crown or atrophying Adam Sandler. The Sopranos. Curb Your Enthusiasm. Succession.

We love the preponderance of fucks HBO offers. Fuck, a word with naked cheer, rage, bewilderment. Sometimes, we repeat it over and over while we sink into bills and sagging sofas. Then we retreat back into Netflix. If only Prince Phillip cursed more.

Yash Seyedbagheri is a graduate of Colorado State University’s MFA program in fiction. His stories, “Soon,”  “How To Be A Good Episcopalian,” and “Tales From A Communion Line,” were nominated for Pushcarts. Yash’s work  has been published or is forthcoming in The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts,  SmokeLong Quarterly, Write City Magazine, and Ariel Chart, among others.