When you are a junkie, people will want to ask, how do you live like this?
This question always surprises me because I assume the answer is obvious—do nothing and don’t die.
When your dog, curled up in the crescent of your body, pisses the bed at 2 in the morning, do not get up to change the sheets. Lean into the warmth. Fall back asleep before the dampness turns cold.
When you find the path of least resistance, give in. Do not resist.
When your phone bill comes, don’t pay it. When your phone gets shut off, decide to take a much needed break from technology. And people.
When you stop showing up for work, learn ways to make quick cash. Remember—there is always money in gold and guns.
When there is no more money, and nothing to pawn, think of all the things you could do that you will surely regret. Choose the one that will haunt you the least.
When you feel the familiar pull of shame dissolving the earth beneath your feet, go limp. Allow its riptide to carry you.
When there is no one and nowhere, when the nothingness humming in your chest finds a rhythm, the faint beating growing thunderous in its empty chamber, and you fear that if you listen long enough, the nothing will start to sound like something, take an Adderall. Or an Oxy. Or a Valium. Swallow it dry. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat. And repeat.
And don’t die.
Kathryn McLaughlin lives in South Florida with her dog Yeti.
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He carried me when I could no longer carry myself. Barely able to stand on his skeletal frame when Dusty first hauled him home, the old paint gelding was now fat and shiny from spring hay and grain.
Dusty, always to the rescue. I’d never have made my way out of the bottle if it wasn’t for him. God knows before him, I had no reason.
“We’ll call him Lucky,” Dusty said.
“Damn right,” I replied. And we both laughed.
There were days when he’d climb on Lucky with nothing but a rope draped around the horse’s neck and they’d be off in the hills for hours. I never asked where they went or what thoughts he shared with that old horse that he didn’t share with me.
On nights when Dusty would cry out, shake and soak the bed sheets with sweat and tears, I’d cradle him like a child, stroke the scar that stretched across his abdomen where enemy fire had ripped straight through.
We’d fought the night before they found his truck overturned in the flood basin. Who knows why he thought he could cross there. The early rains had left near 30 inches in three days and there was no letup in sight. No one right in the mind was out on those roads. That’s what I’d told him, too, but downstream the Carter home was being washed away and Dusty had served in Iraq with their father.
Lucky nuzzles my pockets for carrots as I toss the rope around his neck. Around my own a leather pouch holds Dusty near the cavity that once held my heart. I climb onto the old gelding’s back and let him lead the way into the hills.
The thing is, I already knew Dusty was dead before the sheriff showed up at our door. I’d seen him at the end of our bed before dawn, young, smiling, and standing tall in his dress uniform. He held out his arms and I went into his embrace.
“You feel so thin,” I said. And then he was gone.
Jayne Martin is a 2017 Pushcart nominee, 2016 winner of Vestal Review’s VERA award, and a 2018 Best Small Fictions nominee. Her work has appeared in Literary Orphans, Spelk, Crack the Spine, Midwestern Gothic, MoonPark Review, Blink-Ink, Blue Fifth Review, Hippocampus and Connotation Press, among others. She lives in California where she drinks copious amounts of fine wine and rides horses, though not at the same time. Find her on Twitter @Jayne_Martin.
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When they told me there was still no sign of your boat, that they regretted nothing more could be done but wait for the tides, their looming faces full of exhausted compassion, I turned without a word and walked down the pier, waves breaking against the pillars below, on through the fish market with its once reassuring smells, up the hill past the park where the acorns had begun to fall and the surface roots of a silver maple weaved through the black top soil like shoelaces in a fishmonger’s grimy boots, on to the top of the hill where our tiny house waited, the doors locked, last night’s dark sealed inside.
John Riley lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, where he works in educational publishing. His poetry and fiction have appeared in Metazen, Connotation Press, Smokelong Quarterly, Blue Five Notebook, Willows Wept Review, The Dead Mule, and many other places online and in print.
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Jim Hedgerow was the boss of Riverbank Cemetery’s burial crew, and this morning he was scratching to make sure he had enough help to “open up” a few places for “quick deposit.”
“Monday,” he said to his gang, “is a pain. You all know that. We’ve got two late shows to open up and I have heard whispers there’ll be a third. So we have our work cut out for us today.”
He looked casually at his number one man, Bill Blakeslee, and said, “Bill, take a peek in those trees down at the end of the river road. I’ve heard some rumbles about nighttime shenanigans going on down there. Fellows sleeping out there will be gone come the cold weather. I know they fold up and hide their few blankets and an old shelter half once in a while so we won’t find them. They’ve done that all summer. Hell, I know there’s a few old vets in that group, and I won’t chase them out on a bet, even if the Police Chief or the Board of Selectmen tell me to do so. We owe them.”
He sent off a slow salute to the far end of the cemetery. His crew understood the acknowledgement.
The following morning, Blakeslee said, “Jim, some of that ground near those first two we dug yesterday seems like something’s been in there. Maybe an animal. A big one. Dirt is scattered from under the green tarps we use to hide it during the final services, but I can’t figure it out.”
Hedgerow said, “Will the cement vaults fit down in there okay? That’s all I worry about after the hole is dug, of course.”
“Oh, yeah, that looks fine. I was just curious, that’s all.”
The burials went off that week as smooth as ever, and all “insertions” skidded like grease. Hedgerow was pleased at his crew and their dedicated efforts. He told them, at day’s end, “If you guys aren’t in a hurry to get home, I’ll treat everybody to a few pints down at Spud’s place. A quick stop. A quick thank you, so there’ll be no noise at home.
Six days later, all the sites were fitted with memorial stones containing appropriate inscriptions, grass seed put down on the exposed earth, and the initial watering completed.
In the morning, Blakeslee, at the completion of his morning stroll to make sure all things were okay and still in order, called Hedgerow to one of the new sites. He pointed to a newly inscribed stone that said, “Herbert Sendall 1932—2010” and on the next line, “Sarah Sendall 1936—“
On the stone was also inscribed, with a dull drill of some sort and inlaid with a black paint, the words, “Also Henry.”
“What the hell do you think that means, Jim?” Blakeslee said.
Hedgerow mused a bit, nodded, and said, “Probably kids. It’ll go away, unless the relatives make a stink about it. Might cost them for a clean-up. Let it rest.”
A few days later Hedgerow was in the diner down the street. One of the homeless vets he knew spent some of his nights in the trees by the cemetery, and worked as a dishwasher in the diner, was talking at the kitchen door to someone outside. “Yeh, a few nights ago, we had a service and had to put old Henry down. But he’s safe now. Out of all the hullabaloo.”
Hedgerow saw him toss off a quick salute.
In some cases, eternity may be twice as long as forever.
Tom Sheehan has published 22 books, has had multiple work in many publications: Literally Stories,Ocean Magazine, Rosebud, Linnet’s Wings, Serving House Journal, Copperfield Review, KYSO Flash, La Joie Magazine, Soundings East, Vermont Literary Review, Literary Orphans, Indiana Voices Journal, Frontier Tales, Deep South Magazine, Western Online Magazine, Provo Canyon Review,Vine Leaves Journal, Nazar Look, Eastlit, Rope & Wire Magazine, The Literary Yard, KYSO Journal, Green Silk Journal, Fiction on the Web, The Path, Faith-Hope and Fiction, The Cenacle, etc. He has 30 Pushcart nominations, and five Best of the Net nominations (and one winner) and short story awards from Nazar Look for 2012- 2015. Swan River Daisy, his first chapbook, is just released and The Cowboys, a collection of western short stories, is due shortly.
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