My Girl and Little Princess

Marcy Dilworth

“Go get ‘em, Little Princess,” yells the helmet-haired woman from her monogrammed camp chair on the soccer field sideline, and go Little Princess does, dribbling downfield around My Girl’s teammates, weaving through them like a slalom skier until she attacks My Girl, my solid fullback, and Little Princess jukes left and My Girl falls for it; Little Princess swings her heavy blond braid thwack into My Girl’s eye socket then elbows her right in the ribs as she completes her sortie and thumps the ball into the net and punches her fist in the air and sticks out her tongue at the goalie, but the tongue disappears in a flash and by the time she turns around she’s morphed into her junior beauty queen simper and girly squeal and like a My Little Goddamned Pony with her plaited horse’s mane and equine prance she permits her teammates to cheer and high five her as long as they step back so Mommy Helmet-Hair can snap photos of Little Princess, victorious, again.

The whistle blows. Little Princess’s kickoff bounces straight at My Girl who passes it forward, a perfect arc, but Little Princess steals the prize and steamrolls along the sideline, taunts My Girl’s teammates as they flail and fail to reclaim it. My red-faced, tight-fisted Girl runs, a calculating assassin, driving in for the kill, carrying her team on her back, flying fueled by the fury of her nine years on this planet, she runs at Little Princess – only at Little Princess – and digs her toe in the dirt, pretends she’s tripping, but My Girl’s aiming the missile that is her sturdy body and levels Mommy Helmet-Hair’s Little Princess, belly flopping, chest thudding, an earthy thump resounding when her dense braid bounces off the pebble-littered turf. The world stops for a collective inhale. Then coaches and players and parents flood the field, step over My Girl to examine and pat and fuss over Little Princess; My Girl pushes herself up, covered in dust and dirt, scuffed from cleat to cow-licked brown bob, and trots off the field sporting a serene smile and plops herself down for a breather until the drama subsides and My Girl and Little Princess meet on the field once more.

Marcy Dilworth is a recovering finance professional pursuing her love of writing. Her stories have appeared in FlashFlood, Writer’s Resist, and Literary Mama. She lives in Virginia with her husband where they serve their precocious rescue pup, Kirby. Oh, and she has a couple wonderful kids. Find her on Twitter (@MCDHoo41).

Pray with Dirty Fingers

Leah Sackett

He’s got his self-righteous fingers in your pocket, just now. He brokers the towering, stony-faced edifice of concrete and stone spirituality. He is steadfast with a hand out at the threshold of faith. This man strokes his masculine show of a robust goatee, a little too Saturday night. In his other hand he is charging fees to climb the stairway to heaven. With the slight-of-hand of a sweaty palm he opens the coffers of token-based religiosity; he delivers dogma bent on cleaving you into the fold with the absolution of your mind.

There is another way to spend your money. The spirituality that hangs out in incensed-burning storefronts selling smells and crystals. A “natural” way to include capitalism in the skein of meditation bowls and tarot cards. You exchange community and a weekly congregation for the “shaman salesmen,” leaning against the Mystic Shoppe wall. He looks familiar to you as he overcharges for the paraphernalia he sells. You dig in your pocket feeling for bill and coin. Your rummaging rains down a feeling of cardboard faith in exchange for the spending of self-respect.

Leah Sackett is a short story writer. Her debut book, Swimming Middle River, was published with REaD Lips Press in 2020. Her short story, The Family Blend, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize with Crack the Spine. Her work has won various awards such as the Gold Award in Art Ascent, Two Sisters Publishing Contest the Institute for Women and Gender Studies’ Creative Writing Award. Over 50 of her stories have appeared in literary journals. In addition, she is an adjunct lecturer in the English department and the Communication & Media department at the University of Missouri, St. Louis, where she earned her MFA. Her short stories explore journeys toward autonomy and the boundaries placed on the individual by society, family, and self. Learn more about Leah’s published fiction here.

The First Snowman of the Season

MM MacLeod

You kneel in the small front yard, scooping snow together with red-wool-mittened hands. Two inches fell, and the patches you clear show grass which no longer grows but, in its greenness, does not quite appear dead.

The first almost-spherical shape uses up half of the white blanket, so you make the second ball smaller than it should be. Once the third and smallest piece is formed it is placed on top. You pull adornments from your coat pocket: a small and crooked carrot for the nose, two black four-hole plastic buttons for eyes, and a cardboard party hat – because you could find no other headgear – for your snow being to wear. You will need to find more; a snow being needs arms and a mouth, at the very least. You find a thin fallen branch at the base of the lone tree in this yard and push it into the right side of the middle snowball. An arm. You are peckish and will have to continue later.

You are looking out the picture window at the yard. The neighbourhood dogs have visited. There is a yellow, drizzled line halfway around the bottom of your snowman, and a splotch – the size of a grapefruit – on the back of the middle ball. That was one tall dog.

Did the night pass? It is morning. You had breakfast… maybe. You go outside. There is newly fallen snow. It covers the canine artwork made the day before. The fresh snow makes the snowman new again – and blind. You wipe at where the buttons should be. Someone has removed the buttons and replaced them with pennies.

You know the nose is wrong – it doesn’t protrude the way the crooked carrot would. You wipe away the snow and see a plastic nose there – the kind from those plastic-nose-with-black-glasses disguise gags. But no glasses, just the nose.

There is red showing through the snowy chest, where a heart would be. Maybe colour seeped out of your wet mittens yesterday, and you didn’t notice. You are afraid to wipe the snow away to see what is beneath. You look around the yard – no tell-tale red drops or splotches, but you don’t touch the snowman, except to wipe away the snow from that one arm.

That isn’t a branch. It looks like… like a bone. The kind of straight pale bone with double-knob ends you would see in a cartoon. The kind a cartoon dog would have in its mouth, but it is pretty long, like lower-arm length. You pull it out of the snow, because it can’t be real; has to be plastic, a toy. But it is heavy and there is red on the end that emerges from the snow body. You drop it and run – well try to run, but it is a shuffle – into the house. You remove your mittens, and one brown-spotted and gnarled hand reaches for the telephone as you try to remember who to call for help. And you try to remember why that butcher knife is laying on the hallway telephone table. Were you carving something for dinner? Was that today? Or was it yesterday?

MM MacLeod writes fiction and poetry in Hamilton, ON, Canada. She also edits and publishes Frost Zone Zine.

Mom Wasn’t Wearing A Lampshade

David Henson

When I brought Mom back from Dad’s cremation, she walked to a corner of the living room and stood. To give her some space, I went into the kitchen and had a cup of coffee. 

When I returned, Mom appeared to have a lampshade on her head. That was surprising because Mom was never the life-of-the-party type, not to mention now was no time to be having a party. Then I realized she wasn’t wearing a lampshade – her head had become a lampshade. 

I didn’t know whether to call a doctor or an electrician so I did neither. There was no reason to be hasty because I didn’t have to get back home for a couple days.

By next morning, Mom’s transformation had progressed to where she was a floor lamp. I knew it was Mom because the base of the lamp bore a strong resemblance to her pumps. 

I was concerned that, even though it was a sunny day, Mom was on. (My folks had taught me to not waste energy.) I attempted to switch Mom off, but electricity arced from the harp and zapped me. It hurt like a son of a gun (I’ve always shocked easily), and a cartoon image of my hair standing on end and my skeleton flashing flared in my mind. 

I thought about unplugging Mom, but was afraid if I did, she might starve. How was I to know? No one in our family had ever become a lamp before. I decided that when I left town the next day, I’d leave her on. It wasn’t as if a lamp was going to meter up the utility bill washing clothes or dishes. Besides, I’d watched enough medical shows to know how important it is to first do no harm. 

I spent the day running errands, reading and talking to Mom (a strictly one-way conversation) until bedtime. 

Next morning I awoke to the sound of dishes clattering and found Mom making a big breakfast like she always did when I was home. When I told her what had transpired, she sighed and said it was ironic I would dream about her becoming a floor lamp because Dad always said she was the light of his life. 

Mom almost convinced me the whole thing had been in my mind. But when it came time for me to go, I leaned in for a hug and noticed the pupils of her eyes were shaped like tiny light bulbs.

Mom admitted she’d changed into a lamp. I reminded her how she used to warn me when I frowned that my face might freeze that way. What if something similar happened to her when she was a lamp? She said she couldn’t promise it wouldn’t happen again if her emotions got the better of her. 

What could I say? Everyone has to deal with grief in their own way. Some people transform into floor lamps. Others write a silly little story. 

David Henson and his wife have lived in Brussels and Hong Kong and now reside in Peoria, Illinois. His work has appeared various journals including Briefly Zine, Moonpark Review, Literally Stories, Riggwelter and Pithead Chapel. See more of Dave’s work on his website and follow him on Twitter (@annalou8).

Blind in Whip Wind

Adam Day

Sleeping on Meserole
out in the rain. Ground
talks. Different time
experience. Shake
the gutter and pull
a dollar out. Kids watching,
torching boredom.

Adam Day is the author of Left-Handed Wolf (LSU Press, 2020) and Model of a City in Civil War (Sarabande Books). He was received a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for Badger, Apocrypha, and a PEN Award. He is the editor of the forthcoming anthology, Divine Orphans of the Poetic Project (1913 Press), and his work has appeared in the APR, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, Volt, Kenyon Review, Iowa Review, and elsewhere. He is the publisher of Action, Spectacle.


Michael McGill

Monika says

it succinctly:
“You end 
up lonely

or trapped.”

Michael McGill is a poet from Edinburgh, Scotland who has recently been published in Lunate, 433, Dream Journal, Lucky Pierre, Stone of Madness Press, Dreams Walking, Milly Magazine, Versification, The Daily Drunk, Rejection Letters, FEED, 24 Unread Messages, The Cabinet of Heed and detritus. His overheard comments and photopoems also regularly appear on Twitter (@MMcGill09) and Instagram (@michael7209).


Philip Berry

Philip Berry‘s poems have appeared in Black Bough Poetry, Lucent Dreaming, Poetry Birmingham and Lunate Fiction. He is a hospital doctor working in London. You can see more of his work on his website or on Twitter (@philaberry).

Broken Pieces of the Truth

Yuu Ikeda

The truth was burnt,
became ashes,
and they were scattered in the wind.

Nobody knows where the ashes go.

broken pieces of the truth will rot on the ground.

Although the sky is clear and blue, and there are no shadows of clouds,
ashes of the truth that cloud the ground
are wandering slowly and secretly.

Yuu Ikeda is Japanese. Her poem ‘Sinful Silhouette’ was published in the online journal Rigorous. Read more of her poetry on her website.

A toast

DS Maolalai

fallon sends a message;
he can’t make it 
out tonight. 
he’s somehow  
snagged an interview;  
must keep his head  
on tight. I tell him 
that’s ok,  
and that we’ll raise one 
in his honour. drink a toast 
with bats 
to fruiting trees 
of opportunity.

DS Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and four times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019).

Two Poems

Kim Michalak

Dead Upon Arrival

I awoke from visions of birthing
            two virile green snakes from my chest
            just beneath the right collarbone,
            the third left decaying inside me
Triplets of time: past, present, &
            future dead upon arrival

What the Flowers Know

The scent of lilies followed us
home from the hospital in a swollen
blue vase deemed appropriate
to welcome our little boy.
Dead center of the dining table,
they filled our modest rental
with a memorial smell,
lingering whisper of death.
Four times a night I closed my eyes
to flashes of my baby asphyxiating —
(SIDS a looming reaper)
& each time I awoke to hungry cries
their scent reminded me
I have no idea how to keep my boy alive.

Kim Michalak is a Florida-based poet, mother, and optical stylist. She received an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University and serves as an associate poetry editor for The Fourth River. Her works can be found in Brushing, Rose Red Review, and Snapdragon: A Journal of Art & Healing