Archive for January, 2014

Redundancy by Bob Hudson

Jan 31 2014 Published by under Stories

“Explain to me again what’s wrong with making someone push a giant boulder up a hill and having it roll down at the last second,” Zeus said.

He was losing his patience with Melvin Sanders.

Melvin Sanders looked down at his watch. 3:00 p.m.

“Zeus you hired me to do two things. One was to trim the fat. The other was to modernize your brand. I can’t do either of those things without your cooperation,” said Melvin Sanders.

Zeus sat back in his chair, unsure if anyone even believed in this particular set of deities anymore. Everyone in the room knew they were on a sinking ship, but nobody wanted to say it out loud.

“Make them marry someone,” said Hera.

“Depends on the lover, doesn’t it?” said Melvin Sanders.

“Really, Melvin? We’re going there today? After all of the progress we made yesterday? They can have my husband. My ex-husband, Melvin,” said Hera.

She lit a cigarette.

Everyone in the room knew the goddess of marriage was going through a messy divorce, but nobody wanted to address it out loud.

Nobody was comfortable. None of them ever envisioned sitting in on a punishment-modernization seminar. Not even Melvin Sanders.

“How about a flight,” said Hermes. “Just a flight. But they never get there. They can have layovers, but they never reach their destination.”

“Yeah that’s true hell,” said Hades.

“I don’t know, I kind of like flying,” said Aphrodite.

“Oh please,” said Hades. “How about they have to listen to ‘She’s so High’ by Tal Bachman on repeat until they rip their own ears off.”

“You told me you thought it was catchy,” replied the goddess of love, pulling her cardigan overly-shut, trying not to give away to the rest of the room that she had spent a vulnerable weekend in the underworld.

Everyone already knew, they just didn’t want to address it out loud.

“Let’s try to refocus,” said Melvin Sanders.

Melvin Sanders knew coming into this meeting he was in for an uphill battle. He never wanted to be a consultant. Does anybody ever actually want to become a consultant?

These were his thoughts in that very moment. The very moment before he began to speak again.

“We’re rebranding,” said Melvin Sanders. “We’re not rewriting the book. Boulder rolls down the hill. Somebody just has to be stuck doing something. Nobody has had to push a boulder since the last time Poseidon got laid.”

This particular joke got a laugh, even from Poseidon.

No one was comforted, though, just distracted. Even to gods, a merman and mermaid’s reproductive biology remained a considerable mystery.

“A never-ending AA meeting,” said Dionysus, the god of wine.

“A permanent Atkins diet,” said Demeter, the goddess of grain.

“A weekend getaway with Hades,” said Aphrodite, who began to cry.

“Jesus,” said Hades.

“Who’s that?” said Zeus.

“Does it matter? You promiscuous swine,” replied Hades.

Hera had not stopped smoking since the meeting began.

“It’s all over anyways,” Hera said. “Can we just say that out loud? Can we just finally realize what’s going on here? We haven’t been gods since the last time Poseidon got laid, OK?”

Everyone laughed again, then sighed and then looked up at Poseidon.

“You know, to tell you the truth, I don’t even know if I have the tools for reproduction,” he said, bringing the mood in the room down. “I guess that’s what scared away my ex-wives. I just don’t think they envisioned adoption as a legitimate option.”

Nobody wanted to say anything. The memories of their reign together began to pour over them.

Melvin Sanders was getting to witness what no man since Hercules had gotten to witness. He was a man amongst gods, and they were revealing secrets unbeknownst to the Titans.

But his hour of allotted work time was almost up, and at no point was Melvin Sanders comfortable, as he was getting nowhere. He was on the clock. For the first time in his life, Melvin Sanders had lost control of a situation, and the uneasiness that came with this new sensation was palpable.

“Explain to me again what’s wrong with making someone push a giant boulder up a hill and having it roll down at the last second,” Zeus said.

“Excuse me?” said Melvin Sanders.

He looked down at his watch. 3:00 p.m.

Bob Hudson is a Browns fan. He writes to deal with the complications that come with being a Browns fan. He wishes John Cleese was his grandpa.

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The Patrol by William Lapham

Jan 18 2014 Published by under Stories

We walked in formation through a desert village. It smelled like an outhouse.  We broke down doors, cleared rooms, but found nothing warworthy, no cache of weapons or explosives, and nobody to shoot. I was in the mood to kill somebody for his country.

At the end of the street, we kept marching into the desert. We climbed a rise and took a break. Some of us smoked. The lieutenant looked back at the village with a pair of binoculars. “I’ll be a sonofabitch,” he said. “They’re back.” He handed the glasses to the sergeant.

“You’re right, sir,” the sergeant said as he fiddled with the focus knob. “You are a sonofabitch.”

“Leave my mother out of this, Sergeant.”

“What are your orders, sir?” the sergeant asked.

“We’re going back.”

“Yes, sir. Won’t they see us coming, sir, and bug out again?”

Most of us were not paying attention to them. Some guys had dozed off. Others were munching MRE’s. I lighted a second cigarette from the butt of the first. A cold beer would have tasted good, but we had no beer.

Nelson spoke in a high twang that originated somewhere south of Atlanta but north of Florida. Everybody liked to listen to him talk. He would make a great Southern orator someday.

“Why don’ we call in one ah dem fucken air strikes the Air Force do, suh?”

Crocker blew smoke and laughed. The laughter was contagious.

The lieutenant smiled. “Because, Private Nelson, an air strike would kill everybody in the village, including women and children. You wouldn’t want their innocent blood on your hands, would you?”

“No, suh.” Nelson said with a far off gaze. “Ah don’ reckon ah would.”

“Good, then. It’s settled. No air strike.”

“Yes, suh,” Nelson said. He had such a sad face.

“What about artillery, Lieutenant?” the sergeant said.

The Lieutenant kind of nodded and reached for the radio. He called for a fire mission he had apparently prearranged with the division artillery officer.

The explosion just happened. We didn’t hear the howitzer shoot, and we didn’t hear the incoming round whistle through the air like in the cartoons. We saw the shell’s effects before we heard their cause. War was surreal that way. Shit would happen and you wouldn’t know why right away. There were delays caused by distance, echoes caused by shadows.

When the dust settled, the lieutenant said he could see no movement in the village. When we walked back to the village and searched the rubble, we found nothing.

There was just an empty space where a house had been. The street looked like a dentist had extracted a rotten tooth: house, house, no house, house.

“Fucken arty is ack-rit, boy,” Nelson said.

Crocker laughed.

William Lapham lives in Michigan. He is a Navy veteran and a graduate of the Goddard College low-residency MFA program. He teaches Freshman Composition at Davenport University.

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Old Friend by Janet Clare

Jan 05 2014 Published by under Stories

The man isn’t dead as I’d thought, but the woman, the wife is. He’s in trouble though, besides a dead wife there’s something about a terrible injury he’s had, a foot. He’s younger than the last time I saw him and I’m not sure how that’s possible, but it’s the foot that’s the problem now. They, the doctors, want to take this foot off and there’s been a family meeting to discuss it. A meeting at a restaurant I just happened to walk by when we spot each other after so many years apart. We, the man and I, leave, get into a car. He’s driving, which he can do because it’s the left foot that’s affected. That’s a blessing which hadn’t occurred to me until now. He holds onto the wheel and hands me an article torn from a magazine about another man, a stranger, who, suffering from the same foot condition, jumped off the roof of his building. The doctors have advised him to do the same.

I tear up the article and crumble it to bits as we continue to drive, now through inexplicable gunfire, a bad-guy-cop situation in progress and out of the blue in this small village within our city. It used to be quiet here many years ago, when the man and I were together. But nothing’s quiet anymore. And now there’s this foot trouble. And the gunfire, although we make a fast left, he does, the driver, the man suffering with this foot and avoid the bullets. But still, there’s a decision to be made. My advice, because I don’t trust doctors who suggest a man remove a body part or jump off the roof, is to ignore them. I suggest we have a drink instead. Let’s go have a drink, I say. For old time’s sake even though we didn’t drink in old times. The man stops the car and we walk, he awkwardly, of course, with the offending foot in multiple layers of bandage. It’s in there somewhere, the foot, under all of that. It’s still a part of him, although it makes him hobble. I don’t think you should jump, I say. Life without a left foot is tolerable, I don’t say and only imagine although I can’t imagine. You can still drive, I say, and you’re a man and never have to wear a skirt and high heels. Which, I can’t help thinking no woman should ever have to wear, either. The man rests his left leg with the bandaged foot on a chair next to the table where we sit in the back of the dark bar. Bars are always dark or used to be or should be. It’s still light outside and our eyes adjust as we stare into our glasses. If color was an emotion, the liquid would be brooding. We are silent. After the foot talk and the dead wife talk we have nothing to say. I am helpless as this man with this sorry foot sits across the years from me and slowly starts to cry, saddened beyond repair.

Janet Clare is a writer living in Los Angeles and currently working on her third novel.

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