Cherry-dipped by Lara Abbey

I painted them red,
(read: Clownish)
Cherry-dipped and ripe
For your taking.

I hoped that you’d find them,
A beacon amongst black. And
Worm your way into them –
Warm, wet, writhing.

But I think I was too green, too naive,
So stunted that if you squeezed me –
With heavy hands – I would burst.

Lara Abbey is a soon-to-be English and Film student from the UK. 

Park Place by Thomas Piekarski

Is something wrong upstairs or do I dream?
Can it be no one’s home any time I call?
The phone rings and rings but no answer.

Were I to take my shoes off before entering
a home only ghosts would rightly occupy
maybe I’d have luck reaching someone,
soul to harvest, voice from the past, sylph.

I thought I could get by probing inner light,
which is said will always shed new truths.
But like Jed who was robbed by a stripper
and vowed never to go back to Big Al’s,
held up forlorn in his studio apartment,
spoke to no one because he was spooked,
soaked his feet in apple cider vinegar,
trolled political activists on the web
admitting he never felt quite whole,
lamented he gained no tangible reward
despite praising a benevolent God,
I walk solemnly in the cold winter park.

Thomas Piekarski is a former editor of the California State Poetry Quarterly. His poetry has appeared in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad, including Taj Mahal Review, Poetry Quarterly, Literature Today, Poetry Salzburg, and South African Literary Journal. He has published three books of poetry, Ballad of Billy the Kid, Monterey Bay Adventures, and Mercurial World.

Illustrations by Jeremy Szuder

Jeremy Szuder lives in a tiny apartment with his wife, two children and two cats. He works in the evenings in a very busy restaurant, standing behind a stove, a grill, fryers and heating lamps, happily listening to hours of hand selected music and conjuring ideas for new art and poetry in his head. When his working day ends and he enters his home in the wee hours, he likes to sit down with a glass of wine and record all the various words and images that bear fruit within his mind. Jeremy Szuder only sets the cage doors free when the work begins to pile up too high. In this life, Szuder makes no illusions of being a professional artist in any way, shape, or form.

While Cinderella Dances at the Ball by Linda Lowe

The rat and the lizards, handsome and charming in their spiffy uniforms, sprint to the back door of the palace, where the comely food server sends them off with delicacies and bottles of champagne. Wow, they say, drinking. They like this human business. They think about running off, but find a deck of cards, and with their clever minds they play games while they wait, drink too much, cheat like men, lose track of time. They will curse the clock as it begins its striking toward midnight, one toll after another, until once again they’re left wordless, scrambling to hide.

Linda Lowe’s stories and poems have appeared in Outlook Springs, Defenestration Magazine, Gone Lawn, Eunoia Review, Crack the Spine, Misfit Magazine, and others.

Without a Moon to Guide Us by Delun Attwooll

It was a cool summer night in July when it first happened. Summer rains had laid waste to the day and covered the evidence with sheets of humidity in their wake, but the night was oddly cool. My brother Kiran and I had adventured through the forests east of our farm and become lost, as we always did, but tonight felt different; darker. Dusk devolved itself into night with more haste than ever before. Finding our way through the thick terrain felt an impossible task. As I strained my eyes looking forward, trying feebly to find our path, Kiran looked to the sky.

“There’s no moon.” He spoke softly.

I paused and joined him in studying the blank sky. He was correct, neither the moon nor the stars were anywhere to be found above; Sheer darkness shrouded all before us. Our home lay lost somewhere in the abyss. Eventually, we somehow made it back after hours of stumbling and tripping through the dark, into the path of our enraged mother. We were both banned from all further ventures through the east woods; a punishment unfit for a meager crime of unpunctuality. But Mother did not want to hear of excuses involving empty skies. As usual, after the sun had set, she did not pay mind to anything we had to say.

When the news the next day supported our claim, everything was changed. Through the cracked screen of our living room television, the short surly anchor for channel nine (or was it the gangly man on channel six? I could never remember which one my mother favored for morning news) reported the moon had never presented itself the previous night, supposedly hidden away somewhere in the shadows of the sky. Oddly, they never once mentioned the stars.

The following night, the moon made no appearances yet again. People began to worry. Others grew distrustful. The blame and suspicions bubbled and boiled like milk left on a hot stove. No one could believe our moon would abandon us, a confused world demanded accountability for what they did not understand. The Russians blamed the Americans, and the Americans blamed everyone else. It was somewhere between night six and nine that mother told us war first broke out. We sat in the dark, huddled around the small kitchen radio as it buzzed out static and news of the destruction of our world. Unlike Mother, Kiran refused to accept this new order. They argued more than ever. One heated debate, after glass three, she cast the radio against the floor, and silence claimed the dark kitchen once more. It was night fifteen when he enlisted. Defend America from the Moon-Thieving Chinese the headline of the morning newspaper read that day. Kiran had already packed and left by the time Mother woke. The next day, the paper blamed the British.

Mother grew even more reclusive and spiteful after Kiran left. At night, after a few glasses of pale gin, she would curse the skies, as if her life had purpose before the incident. Perhaps she had forgotten we had always been the same; lost.

It was night twenty-five when we received the call. Kiran had been killed in action, gunned down by friendly fire in the pitch-black night. I imagined everyone appears the same in the darkness. I often thought of the night he left, and how I had done nothing. Always when they fought, they appeared as such gargantuan forces that I would remove myself from the middle rather than be crushed between them. Maybe Kiran had made his choice to leave long before the moon.

Mother was inconsolable. On the kitchen floor, she wept harder than ever before; more than the day Father had taken the truck to fix the headlights and never returned. He had written to us but never her. The bullet the night before had not only taken my brother, but Mother as well. That evening, she did not ask me to fix her the usual drink. She simply stared at the stained empty glass on the table before her, her sullen reflection the only company she kept.

For five days she remained in this statuesque state. I tried my best to keep her fed and bathed while attending to the farm. Kiran had always been a skilled hand at raising the crops. They wasted and died under my care, turning blacker and more brittle each passing day. I was lost and alone in a land of decay.

Then, it was a hot summer night when it happened. A bright light bared itself through my window, piercing the curtains with arm-like rays. I opened the curtains to the embrace of bright beacon. The moon filled the empty sky once more.

The next day we learned the wars were ended; a culprit never revealed. After thirty nights of darkness, the jubilant anchor of channel six disclosed that the moon had been returned to its post. He never once mentioned the stars.

The following day, Mother was not frozen to her usual seat in the kitchen. The glass sat in the sink, cleaned, and shining in the sunlight from the window. Mother was outside loading the car.

“We are moving!” She sang cheerfully, her joyful pitch reminded me of the time soon after father had left and she announced that she had bought a farm, “We could use a fresh start.”

“Are you sure?” I tried not to sound worried, “are you…. OK now?”

She glowered, looking out to the forest where Kiran and I had first been lost that long month ago, before she returned her gaze to me. Her smile restored, both sincere and empty, as many times before, but now, with only I left to stand witness. “It’s different now,” she said shutting the car door. Her shadow danced upon the withering cornfields, “Whatever were we supposed to do, without a moon to guide us?”

Delun Attwooll was born in Atlanta, Georgia. He went on to graduate with a degree in English from Georgia State University. After graduation, he set off to see the world and spent the last five years living in Japan and Korea, with the majority of the time spent living and working in Tokyo. He recently returned to Atlanta when countries closed due to the unfortunate state of the world in 2020. He hopes to get back out to adventuring somewhere new soon.

Declaration from Deep Inside by Marcelo Medone

The Headless Man was moving along slowly down the sidewalk, with his white cane for blind people. It is that, indeed, he had no eyes to orient himself as he walked the crowded urban environment.

As I was always a charitable soul towards the handicapped, I approached him to give a hand. I took him gently but firmly by the arm, unequivocally indicating my intention to guide him through the human jungle. I did not say anything to him, because I figured that without ears my efforts to offer him spoken words would be in vain.

In response to my initiative, I heard a pleased growl from his guts, which mixed up with the deafening noise of a motorcycle passing us on the street.

We walked a few yards down the sidewalk and I do not hesitate to assert that an intimate climate of communication created between the Headless Man and me.

Now that I remember that winter afternoon, I blush and my skin bristles with excitement. It is that I was an innocent, jubilant and idealistic girl, always looking for the unseen benefit in the harshness of the world and eternally trying to improve it even more.

I must admit that the Headless Man was handsome despite I had no access to his facial features due to his headless condition. Nevertheless, he had a good bearing and an elegant gait, dressed in a sober dark suit, worthy of an Englishman.

Walking next to that more than blind man, joined by my grip on his arm, I imagined that he was the British Sting in his character from the song Englishman in New York, walking with his cane among the people on the streets of New York, while the sax of Branford Marsalis enchanted us.

After four or five blocks, when we reached a park, my Headless Man detected a bench with his cane and sat down, resolutely. He was probably tired. I did not know how long he had been wandering around the city when I found him.

I stood next to him, close enough to let him feel the warmth of my presence. He accepted me gently.

Trying not to reveal my maneuvers, I reached out to look over his mutilated body. I found no severed vessels, spinal cord oozing neural tissue through a tube or chipped pieces of vertebral bone. Just a clean, skin-covered cervical stump with no surgical scars. His beheading was evidently congenital.

When I was finishing inspecting his stump, he roughly grabbed my hand. Surely, my soft breath blowing over his exposed skin had given me away. He growled a reprimanding speech at me in his guts.

Therefore, I sat next to him and hugged him tenderly; comforting him and making him understand my solidarity and even my affection for my ventriloquist partner.

We talked for endless minutes, I told him through the caresses of my fingers on the back of his hands about my life as a lonely teenager and he narrated to me from the depths of his gut his daily miseries and his unimaginable loneliness.

I was able to realize that there is thought, sensitivity and the capacity to have empathy and even to love without the presence of that highly overrated organ that is inside the skull that we call the brain. Definitely, my headless man was able to show me his innermost feelings independently of it.

Minutes passed and turned into hours. I soon forgot that I was with an incomplete man. We were like lifelong friends, as if we had known each other forever.

I took him home, without hesitation or apprehension. We snuggled happily on the rug in front of the fireplace. His guts laughed with joy and his body trembled with happiness. In the background, the delicious melodies of Charles Mingus, John Coltrane and Branford Marsalis himself sounded. I was in heaven.

Needless to say, that night we made love in every possible way we could find. Our hearts, our hands, and our sexes complemented each other wonderfully. We rewrote the Kama Sutra, adapting it to his lack of head, but it was quite an experience, which we repeated countless times thereafter.

I unashamedly reveal all this, sitting in front of my computer keyboard, immensely happy to have found the man of my life, in my new condition of Headless Woman. We have sworn eternal love to each other through our respective guts.

Marcelo Medone (Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a fiction writer, poet and screenwriter. His works have received awards and have been published in magazines and books in more than 30 countries all over the world, including 101 Short Stories, The Dribble Drabble Review, Potato Soup Journal, The Chamber Magazine, Rio Grande Review, (mac)ro(mic), The Cafe Irreal and Otherwise Engaged Journal in the US.


A thunderstorm brewed over the city skyline. I stood among trees in a park by the lake — wearing a little red jacket and some kind of striped leggings — a fair distance from the city core, but the winds had picked and I needed to find shelter before the rain came down.

A woman sat on a park bench with her legs bared as though she were bronzing them in the sun. Indeed the sun lay buried in a whorl of crackling black clouds. She read from a thick white tome. Her blonde hair struck me as the oddest thing about her, tied up in little knots that lacked any order or style and did not flatter her appearance.

As I walked by her, I couldn’t help but notice her bleeding from the mouth.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” she said, her tone odd, somewhat garbled.

I touched my own mouth to mirror the area of concern; she touched her mouth, looked at her bloody fingers, and looked at me.

“This is silly,” she said. “I bit my tongue eating a hot dog at lunch and the damn thing is bleeding. I feel like an idiot.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself.”

“Ever bite your tongue?”

“Well, can’t think of an occasion, top of my head, but I’m sure I have. Hasn’t everyone at some point in their life bitten their tongue? Seems like that would be true.”

“What’s your story, anyway?”

Thick blue paste as if applied by spatula coloured her eyes. An odd choice, but I had no context to object to it. Indeed, I lacked context altogether.

“I think I came out for a walk and maybe got a little lost.”

“Sounds peculiar.”

My brain throbbed; I gripped my forehead and squeezed it.

“Did you hit your head or something?” she asked.

“You know, maybe I did. I feel messed up.”

“Do you belong to one of those ethnic dance troupes?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Your clothes, they’re — I don’t know. A bit strange.”

I glanced at my outfit. She wasn’t wrong. I could not recall wearing leggings before.

An emaciated monumental figure of a man, with a pitted face and textured black clothes, walked by, scarcely acknowledging us. He moved as though his skeleton were made of metal. A thunderclap startled the woman and intensified my escalating head pain. I had never suffered migraines, but I thought this might be the first one. The pain buckled my legs.

“We better move before we get caught in a downpour,” she said.

“I’ll duck under a tree.”

“That’s the worst thing you can do.”

“I don’t where else to go,” I said, with complete sincerity. The light bulb in my skull flickered weakly.

“Follow me,” she said, bending.

Rain suddenly fell in white, waving sheets. We scurried to a vacant kiosk and stood under its green tin eaves. My jacket was soaked dark at the shoulders. The woman’s fingers holding the book dripped and her blonde knots dripped. Somehow the silvery garment she wore had gone unmolested by the rain.

“We might be here for a while,” she said.

“Yeah, looks like. Hey, if you don’t mind me asking, what’s it made of, that thing you’re wearing? Looks like it repelled the rain pretty good.”

“Let me ask you something . . .”

But she had to stop talking because her mouth started bleeding profusely. She tried to stop it with her hand, but it just kept coming.

“How can I help you?” I asked.

She rolled her eyes and glanced at me as if to say nothing could help her. Her complexion went from pale to pale blue. Now blood dripped from her hands and from the book she still carried. But somehow her garment went unscathed. It was remarkable.

I suddenly felt very emotional, on the verge of tears. “Is there anything I can do?”

She shook her head.

Lightning streaked the sky and after a few seconds thunder clapped and shook the kiosk.

“We have to get you to a hospital,” I said, my voice muffled by the whooshing rain.

She shook her head. Blood streamed from her mouth, but somehow the garment continued to look pristine. I had to know.

“Please, I understand you’re going through a bad thing here, but tell me what it’s made of, that thing you’re wearing. Not only that, what is it?”

She shook her head again but this time turned and bolted away from the kiosk, her shoes slapping the wet ground.

“Wait!” I cried. “Wait!”

But she was gone.

Moments later, the rain stopped. I stood there under the eaves with my head full of questions. Rather than bring communion, the rain had brought confusion and despair. Was that woman okay? She would bleed out in no time at that rate. The people you run into in this life. Where I was going next, I had no idea. Maybe I needed to get to a hospital. My head was fucked up. It must have been one of those things that happen now and then. People forget shit, they forget where they live; they forget who they are. The strange, emaciated man we saw earlier lurched by the kiosk, water dripping off his crooked elbows.

“Hey,” I said, “did you see a lady with a bleeding mouth and a book?”

His head turned to me without his shoulders moving and his mouth opened before any sound emerged. It took a beat, but finally he said, “No.”

I moved my jaws in a slow rotary motion and sighed.

As the man moved on, a shiny green garter snake eased its way along the sopping ground at my feet. I froze. I watched the snake squiggle its way into a dripping bush and disappear. This made me so sad I burst into tears.

Sal Difalco’s short prose has appeared in print and online.