Stole everything but her heart by Robert Ragan

Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine, Robert Ragan

Leslie Madison had to let Terry Charles go. If not, she would have been stuck in the cycle of addiction forever, and she could never have a damn thing.

It was bad enough that he allowed her to support him plus feed his habits. But when she couldn’t, he took everything.

“Baby, I know I was wrong for selling the ring your grandmother gave you, but as far as that gold necklace with the heart-shaped charm, I don’t feel bad about that at all. Who was it from, by the way?”

“Doesn’t matter either way. You got to smoke the crack with me too, right?”

When Terry said that, Leslie’s mind took her back to the day her grandmother gave her this special gold ring. All the trees and flowers were in full bloom. They sat together outside on the swing and talked.

Leslie’s mother chose to go on the run with another outlaw. While her father served a life sentence for multiple armed robberies and attempted murder.

So basically, her grandma was her mother, and that ring meant the world to her. So damn right she smoked the crack with him. Her tears falling on the can weren’t strong enough to put out the sizzling melting rock.

Leslie had her mother’s piercing blue eyes. The same long dark hair. Unfortunately, she also had her addictive personality and poor taste in men too. The only difference was Leslie would work and take care of herself, while her mother wanted everything handed to her from a man.

Her father couldn’t keep her high and still give her all the other fancy things she wanted and look where it got him. Thinking of her dad, Leslie figured he would probably have ended up in prison, even if he had never met her mother.

Terry brought up her father after the time he borrowed her car and sold the stereo system, plus the rims off of it for crack.

Leslie said, “First of all, my father wasn’t such a pathetic thief that he had to steal women’s jewelry. From what I hear, he was a violent ruthless bastard and would have fucked you up for breaking my heart the way you do.”

Terry was close to being a skeleton, with sunk in raccoon eyes and horrible teeth that told him of his addiction. 

It was sickening to hear him say, “We’ll, ya daddy can’t save you, so just hope he doesn’t drop the soap, ok sweetheart.”

That day Leslie showed Terry she could save herself when she got up and left his sorry ass.

What a fucking bum; Terry wouldn’t work anywhere.

Hand jobs, blow jobs, and foot jobs. He once said those were the only kind of jobs he liked and damned if he wasn’t telling the truth. Always so quick to want to mess around, only it wasn’t very attractive the way he sat around and wouldn’t even clean the house while she worked all night at the diner.

By the way, plenty of men wanted her more than a late breakfast. It would have been nothing to leave Terry and move on.

Leslie stuck by him through everything, but when she decided to get sober, it became clear that she had to let him go. He lived in the trailer she rented, so she had to make him go.

Leslie broke the news to Terry on a rainy Saturday morning. She said she was leaving to spend the day with friends, and when she returned, she wanted everything he owned out of her place. 

That evening when Leslie got back home, she saw that Terry had not only removed his belongings but some of hers as well.

This loser stole her T.V., laptop, even her fucking couch! Leslie could understand the electronics, but who on earth would sell someone’s couch for crack cocaine?

Only Terry Charles could pull off such a thing. And this time, Leslie didn’t go out searching for her stuff in pawn shops and crack houses. She didn’t even file a police report.

Terry could have it all just as long as he left her the fuck alone.

Trench by Stuart Buck

Flash Fiction

how do i explain that it feels like silver? that when they shell us, it goes beyond sound. i can reach out and touch it. it coats my fingers with oil. i don’t know how to tell you. what would i even say. i saw our friend robbie the other day. he was coming back from a raid, three pairs of socks on his hands. you  have to take the socks, you see. when you crawl back from the opposition trench, you pass all the dead bodies, and you have to take the socks. lucky time you might find a double pair. the fucking rain is constant, the mud the worse. your feet get real wet real quick and if you cant find dry socks its done for you. can’t fucking believe i am waist deep in shit and piss fighting a war that no one asked for. its the mud what does it you see. you go to bed under your plastic sheet and when you wake you have no bloody idea where you are. i mean, some of it is because this fucking place sends you mad. all this horror. how do you even begin to process it. ivo said he shared a smoke with a guy who had left his girlfriend with a sprog in her tummy. he was beaming, kept going on about getting back to her, how the baby would be born without him but he’d make up for lost time. we buried what was left of him three days ago. shot to fucking pieces on a raid. pound and some other cunt dragged his limbs back. i asked them why. why didn’t they leave him like the others. they wanted his fucking socks. cunts. absolute bastards. what was i saying? the mud! the mud! the rats! it slips around at night. it sits on your chest and it slides inside you like a dripping cock. mud inside me. mud inside me. i want my mum. its the fucking smell, you know? you put twenty stinking cunts in a hole in the ground and ask them to bury the bodies where they shit and piss, what the fuck do you think is going to happen? the lads in the sap have it worst. shit and piss up to your elbows in there, and if you try and get a look at the sky they take your fucking head off. sap is every other night now, most of our lot are dead. mustard gas. could hear the weeping for days. i bet that cunt haig has never heard a young lad scream like i have. call for his mum. that’s what it always goes back to. you want your mum. i want my mum. you want her to make the pain go away. to get it out of your eyes. please mum. make it stop. and for what. so we can gain a good inch on the hun. so haig and his bent fuckers at home can move a little wooden block on a map. saps like this. you go up and listen out for the hun. for any noise really. it was up sap that ivo says he saw the kid. said he was glowing in the dark. thought for a minute it was gas affecting his eyes but this kid just walked calm as you like through the wire and down into the trench. ivo says he wanted to shoot at him but pound had told him not to. pound is a dry fucker though, wouldn’t shoot a nazi if it was fucking his sister. listen, none of us would. we are so tired. shelling don’t stop you see. it’s like being under the ocean, ‘cept the water is screaming at you. it wants you to die in the most terrible ways. but it isn’t the germans you see. its the officers. bloody lads like us just want to die or go home. our feet are leaking. i cant sit down for fear of ripping open my shitter. its no life this. i want my mum. rained last night and all the bodies came back up, like vomit. can’t bury these fuckers deep enough. when it rains here, it rains. the water pours into this death hole and turns the whole place into porridge. you forget you buried them and then you wake from your three hour sleep and you are soaking wet, lying next to the fella you looted for smokes a couple of days before. the guy who had his hand shot off by a sniper. wanted me to tell his mum he loved her. then the rats ate his liver. the rats! the rats! like a shimmerin’ carpet of obscenity. most of them are black here. every time i wake up i have these bastards on my face or in my uniform. more fool them, i cant even imagine what it smells like. if you ever want to know what rat piss tastes like, ask someone who has fought in a trench. rat piss and stale bread. the diet of a glorious soldier. ivo has taken to pissing on a rag and wrapping it round his mouth. says pound told him something in the piss will stop him getting gassed. fucking idiots. course, pound will say that. it lightens the mood, some cunt going around sniffing his own piss while we all get shot at. here is the layout of the trench, for whomever should need it. its 800 metres long. zig zag like, all up and down so that the bosch cant just look straight up us and fuck the whole lots of us with one burst. a bastard to dig out i expect, but we got off easy and just walked straight in. easy is subjective of course. nothing easy about watching rats and flies eat your pals face. anyway, the sap is a little round pit at the end of a thin little alleyway. you have to go single file and edge sideways to get to it, so the mud coats new parts of your clothes every time. we go there to spy on the germans and keep an eye out for shells and snipers. not that any of us can do anything about either of those things if they so choose to attack us. its hard enough to live in this place. hell is cold and full of mud, let me tell you. pound is the captain here. well, i say captain. no one really knows anymore. days are just spent staggering and shitting. sky goes black and some of us try to sleep. raid last night was biblical. crawled over twenty metres of jagged wire and dead bodies until the nazi stakes loomed over us like crucifix. the sky spat with bullets and pulsed red like a bloated corpse. it took three hours to get there and back and not one fucking german did we see. par for the course nowadays. if it wasnt for the metal flying through the air, i’d say we were the only fuckers left on this scorched earth. the dugout is a little mud room down a flight of mud steps they dug to keep us from dying from the shells. stupid really. the mud, such as it be, is drier down there at least. mud walls, mud floor, mud ceiling, once the shells start up—and really when do they stop? – the lads get down there and watch the ceiling sink and sag like distended skin until its time to go out and check on the corpses. a good life this one. real fucking good. we stuck sandbags along the bottom edges of the steps. absorb the near constant bloody rain. its difficult to describe the rain. its been here so long that by rights we should set it a place at the dinner table. least it washes the piss downstream, that’s something good about it. i dont even know if i am alive anymore. maybe i got shot and this is my penance. but what did i do? i just did as i was told. three days ago he came. just walked through the guns and the wire. naked as a fucking baby and not with no sense you or i have. they say he cant see or hear. but he made it somehow and half the men are already talking about how he is some sort of savior. the answer to all our prayers ivo said. a naked boy. a fucking ghost. the answer to our dreams. fucking hell. this trench is sending us all mad. what happens when you die? i am terrified, let me tell you. i dont think i believe in god anymore. or if i do, its an angry god. would he put me in this trench, watching my friends covered in lice and scabs, getting bombed or worse, day after day? what have i done to him. what did any of us do? i wish i was dead. new boots came. three sizes to big. i slicked them with whale oil. now they are three sizes too big and they fucking stink. we all sat in the dug out last night listening to the waves crash over us. i looked hard enough at the mud that it turned a deep blue., like the ocean. shells like a skipping record above us. blood beats in our ears. it goes tick tick tick tick tick tick tick then crash like cymbals and you check if you are dead or not. most times you are not. you have to take whatever happiness you can down here. ivo spent the night crying. his foot has gone bad. the boy says we will all be healed when we die. that the only path out of suffering is death. the boy sits in the dug out, shivering. but he ain’t cold. he’s fucking alive, full of thick blood and screamin’. ivo told me this. he said the boy showed him his childhood one night in a dream. said he was born in some fishing village in kyoto, which is a part of japan. anyway, this boy was neglected he said, by everyone except his gran, who he called sobo. but she stank of fish! fucking reeked of fish guts because she was always killing or cooking fish. she used to give him her thumb to suckle on when he was young and for the rest of his life everything tasted like blood.  ivo said that the boy had told him  one day, when he was on his own, he sunk a pencil as far as he could into his ear and that he enjoyed it. actually enjoyed the pain. so he is covered in blood now and he does it again, in the other ear. then both eyes. pops his eyeballs right there and then with the point of the pencil. shoves it so far into the socket he might have touched his brain if sobo hadnt run in and found him. he never made a sound the whole way to the hospital. had the whole bloody village screaming, pulling the family this way and that trying to get them to the hospital. they pumped him full of blood and kept him in for six months. his family had to give up fishing and look after him full time. i dont believe any of it, sure i dont. i’ve seen the boy and he’s got eyes and ears like every other bloody man. they just dont work. shelled all last night again. and this morning. i want my mum. the boy writes things down. over smokes last night in the sap, pound told me the boy has a following now. richards and flight. sit by him day and night. listening, pound says. but the boy, he never makes a noise. just sits there. ivo told pound he was fierce, shivering with anger. but ivo is ivo you know. foreign. the boy. he’s got something not right about him. like he don’t belong here. well, of course he don’t belong here. but not even of this earth. worse than that, why ain’t any of us bothered by this? how long have we been here now? seems like months on our own but we only run ten days up in the front. germans entered the trench last night. ivo and myself ran to the sap to hide like cunts. no heroes here my friend. just alive or dead. the gerry were throwing their potato mashers along the trench to flush everyone out. some of our lot ran to the dug out where the boy was. pound swears he saw the lad walk out in front of the germans. just staring at them. then he opened his eyes and they were black as the night sky. pound said the germans heads just exploded. blood everywhere. then the boy just walked back to the dug out and drew the tarp across the door. course, i dont believe what pound says. there was a guy in here a few days ago called jones. don’t know where he went. people seem to come and go. but always pound and ivo, alongside me and now, of course, the little boy. hate this place but can’t end it. sometimes i sit in the sap and hope the fucking germans will get a bead on me. he writes things down, does the boy. things you shouldnt read. i don’t understand things anymore. all i hear is the ringing in my ears. like i’m deep down in the world. like i have dug deep down with my bare hands, past the corpses and the seams of coal. past the gases and the fire. i’ve crawled all the way down to the centre of the earth and he is there. the boy. but he has too many arms. i can’t see. mum. help me. i can’t see.


Stuart Buck is a writer, artist and thinker who lives in a basement in upstate New York. When he isn’t creating himself, he runs the fictional online news portal The Bear Creek Gazette and can be found wasting his days on Twitter @stuartmbuck

Fredo by James Lilley

Flash Fiction, James Lilley

A single short sharp horn blast let Jerry know they’d arrive. They had parked a little down the street. He flicked his cigarette, took the stoop stairs two at a time, and headed in their direction in a walk that was not quite a jog. As he neared the beat-up Cadillac, he noticed, the driver’s seat was empty. Which meant he was driving. He opened the car door and climbed in.
“Hey Fredo.” Phil spoke from the passenger seat not looking at Jerry. Jerry buckled his belt and turned to look over his shoulder to see Rick sat in the seat behind him.
“Phil. Rick. Who’s Fredo?” he asked turning in his seat slightly. Phil was holding a little plastic bag filled with white powder.
“Sorry. Slip of the tongue. Let’s get going.” He reached into the bag, pinched a little powder and held it to one nostril. With an audible snort the powder disappeared. When Jerry hadn’t pulled off, he turned his blood shot eyes to the drivers chair.
“Drive.” He told Jerry with less humour than before.
“Sure.” Jerry put the car in drive and joined the steady trawl of traffic outside of his triple decker “Where to?”
“Docklands.”
“Thought we were laying low for a while?”
“Hey Rick, check out the fucking brains on Donnie Brasco here!”
Rick snorted a forced humourless chuckle from behind him. Jerry could tell something was up, Phil was acting erratically, he was high as well.
“You bring your piece?”
“No, you told me not to?”
“Good man. Never use the same piece twice. Especially with the heat. You watch many gangster movies?”
Jerry glanced quickly over at Phil again trying to work out what he was talking about.
“You not slept much right Phil?” Rick interrupted from the back.
“Fuck are you twos? My mother?” he reached into the bag again. “Get us down the docks.”

They drove in silence for a while, Phil reaching into the bag every so often, twitching and mumbling to himself. Jerry felt a dread creeping in, a worry knotting his stomach, something was up and it was apparent Phil wasn’t taking it well. They drove through the city, passing the bright lights and tall buildings until the hustle and bustle started to dissolve into the dilapidated outskirts near the docks, reaching a place where there were few street lights. A part of the city long forgotten, neglected even. There were less people down here, a few girls on street corners standing under the lights that were working, many sitting or lying on the street. The Cadillac passed through abandoned and crumbling warehouses covered under a night blanket of a starless night.
“In there.” Phil jabbed a white dusted finger at the window, pointing at a warehouse with no doors and roof sections missing. “Dim the lights.”
Jerry felt cold sweat trickling down his back. He didn’t like this. Not one bit. Phil was watching him now. Very closely. He clicked the headlights off and rolled into the darkness of the warehouse.
“Fuck, Phil, I can’t see a goddamn thing.” Jerry remarked straining himself over the steering wheel to try and make out what was ahead of him.
“You ain’t scared of the dark are you?” twisting around in his seat again. “Get a load of Henry Hill here. Scared of the dark. Kill the engine.”

Jerry killed the engine, putting the car in park, the dark was suffocating and all engulfing. He waited for his eyes to adjust trying to slow his breathing down.
Phil sparked a lighter, bringing it to his face to light a smoke clamped in his teeth, the orange glow burning Jerry’s eyes.
“What the fuck is going on Phil? Why you bring me down here and why the fuck are you calling me weird names?”
Jerry felt a movement, heard an audible click, he was sure Phil reaching into the glove compartment by his knees. Without asking, Jerry reached up and tapped the internal ceiling light. Phil had a revolver in one hand, resting on his lap.
“Those names I been calling you Jerry, are all fucking rats’.” Phil said calmly keeping his watering bloodshot eyes fixed on Jerry. “You a fucking rat?”
“Me? You kidding me?”
“Who else could it be? I think you sold us out to them Cobble Hill boys for a bigger cut.”
“Phil…”
Before he could continue, Phil cocked the hammer on the revolver, raised a finger to his lips in a shush gesture.
“I been thinking on it a few days. It had to be you. Who else could it be?” he raised the gun in Jerry’s direction. “I knew it was you…”
His head exploded in a mist of red, spraying Jerry in lumps of brain batter and bone fragments. Jerry raised his hands to shield his face out of instinct. When he lowered his hand, he saw Phil’s body slouched forward on the dash, a big hole in the back of his skull, the only remaining part of his head. The windscreen was covered in red gore pooling on the floor around the dead man’s feet. Pulling himself around he saw Rick calmly sat behind Phil. Holding his own silenced gun.
“Rick, what the fuck?” Jerry said voice wavering.
“Phil got all paranoid about that job going sideways. Was convinced one of us ratted him out. He got all twitchy, wouldn’t sleep, started snorting too much coke.”
Jerry wiped the blood from his face gagging when he saw the red streak it left on his shirt sleeve.
“Why the fuck did he blame me?” Jerry asked getting control of himself.
“Well, I told him it was you.” he replied as if this wasn’t a big deal.
“What the fuck? Why?”
Rick turned the gun in Jerrys, direction.
“Well, there was a rat, it wasn’t going to be me.”
Jerry didn’t hear the shot.

Wolftown by Isaac Menuza

Flash Fiction

Officer Hogsworth and Officer Hamlin on break, idle cruiser purring in an urbanscape of tenements and malnourished scrub.

Wolftown.  All the big baddies.  Plywood windows.   Furry figures clinging to shadow, gold-eying the pork-po.

“All’s I’m sayin, it’s a nasty habit,” says Hogsworth to his partner, snout going twitch twitch.

Hamlin ogles his sandwich, dribbles a dollop of mayo on his greasy trousers.  “Who don’t like bacon?”

“S’unnatural.  Makin’ me sick trapped in this car with y’ass.”

“Ain’t nobody doesn’t like bacon, jus’ see.”

Hamlin leans out the driver’s side window, flaps half a sandwich like a race track flag.  “Hey, howlers.  Come get some.  Free dinner.   That’s the type of dinner you all prefer, right?”

No takers, just some shuffling movement next to a broken concrete stoop.

Hamlin spies a wolf down the way, young one, dark gray snout lowered, striding all casual like “don’t notice me.”

The officer whistles, pulls his cap up.  “You!  Lil’ howler!  Come over ‘ere a minute.”

Young wolf does a double take, sort of half-steps as though he might still make an escape.  

Hamlin waves a hoof, real impatient.  “Fuckin’ kid’s actin’ real skittish,” he stage whispers to his partner, who, for his part, just sighs and pulls his cap low.  

To the wolf, Hamlin says, “You like bacon, don’t you, howler?  Juicy, streaky bacon.  That make you go Pavlov?”

Young Wolf looks like he’s just been asked the most difficult math problem, unsolvable arithmetic.

“Should I speak slower, howler?”

“Please don’t call me that, officer.”  Young wolf keeps his lips loose over his teeth, no threat.  It makes his words sound blunted.

“‘Please don’t’…you serious right now?  Hoggie, you hearin’ this?  Howler has opinions.”

“I don’t mean any disrespect, sir.”

Hamlin plops his wet sandwich on the dash, steps out of the car.

Officer Hogsworth straightens up, then follows.

“Paws on the car.”

“What did I—“

“Get the fuck against the car and spread those furry ass legs.”

Young Wolf obliges.  He ensures his tail stays curled down and his chest light.

Folks in the tenements take note.   Someone shouts “Fuck you, porkie!”   From a broken window arcs an empty bottle of Red Riding.  It smashes at Hamlin’s feet.  Wolves of black, white, and grey, of ages pup to bearded, slam out of swinging doors and slink from around corners.

The air is humid with danger.

Young Wolf must sense this, the path leading deeper into the wood: back-up gets called, billy clubs go thwack, blood courses in the gutters.  Young Wolf has the air to make it stop, a voice like a bellows.

He takes a deep breath, a shouting breath, a chest-of-thunder breath—

“He’s huffing!” Officer Hogsworth cries, panicked.

Pop, pop, pop.  The gun sizzles in Officer Hamlin’s hooves, three holes drilled in Young Wolf’s burgeoning breast.  

Under the silent stares of those assembled, there is but one sound:  a hiss of air, young wolf’s final puff, expiated helplessly from the crimson ground. 

 


ISAAC MENUZA is an author of speculative fiction and horror. He lives in Washington, D.C. with his wife, three children, and whatever slimy critters his son detains for temporary imprisonment.  Find him on Twitter @Imenuza and at isaacmenuza.com.

Bowl Haircut Beat by Eric Farrell

Flash Fiction

Her staccato heartbeat thumps on, dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun, synchronizing perfectly with the annoying kid downstairs who’s learning how to drum. She caught a glimpse of the kid’s dad bringing it in. Cool kit alright. But the four-on-the-floor rhythm the kid plays is a chore. He never lets up. He’s got this ironic bowl haircut. And he’s learned just that one rhythm. Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun

The bowl haircut beat. Her heart follows it, wherever it goes. 

     There’s also the buzzsaw roar of the helicopter route running over her apartment. Heavy traffic, on the daily, regardless of time. 

     They wink as they fly by.

     Up and down Redondo Avenue, the sawtooth drone waxes and wanes. It’s always there, in her bones.

She pilfers several mattresses from the back alley, and drags them up the stairs. She lines her tiny apartment’s walls. 

The kid’s bowl haircut beat drums on. 

The copters twinkle past her window.

An undulating flute sound notifies her of a new message on her phone. Perpetual anxiety, in her hand. Another sound contributing to the cacophony. It never stops. 

It tears her apart, the dreadful noise of it all.

She slams against the mattresses to meter out the pain, until the soreness forces her to stop. 

She stares at her reflection.  

Time has etched sharp edges on her face. 

The luster in her eyes has gone grey. The glow of her cheeks has gone away. 

A spark at her lips ignites like a firefly. Her phone pings, but she shrugs it off. 

The copters gutter away. 

And, for a moment, her heart skips the bowl haircut beat.


Eric is a beer vendor by day, and fiction author by night. Some of his flash and short fiction can be found on his website, Stygian Space (stygianspace.com)

The Karma Hospital by Sybil Rain

Flash Fiction

I tried and I tried to run from myself. But where could I go? Nowhere worth visiting. I could only retreat deeper and deeper into the parts of myself that hated my guts. That wanted me dead. Or at least so transfigured as to be unrecognizable. A person can learn to live in those places. But it won’t be pretty. All the girls on the Internet with their fake-ass smiles. How many of their stitched-together faces seem happy? Express anything other than the deadness inside them? Was it worth it to let that cut-rate fetishist peel the skin from your skull and jack his juices into the bloody mess below before sewing it shut again, centimeters tighter?

How many of them got what they wanted, do you think, instead of what they thought they needed to make the world adore them? I don’t begrudge anyone anything. It’s your fucking life. Do what you want. But joke’s on you if you think a new face will make the pain go away. Or even dampen it slightly. Happiness doesn’t come from other people’s approval. No one’s going to hand you your dignity. You think you’re this or that immutable thing. But honestly? You’re none of it.

I was attracted to death because death was the only thing that could take away my fear of dying. Or so I thought.

And now here I am. In this fucking hellhole.

From the pit of my belly

I puke up the demons

The ones who pursued me

When I was alive.

What decisions do you take responsibility for in life? It’s easier perhaps to abnegate free will entirely. Then nothing is anybody’s fault. How could I have done differently? you could say, in place of apology. My actions, like everyone’s, were all preordained. There is freedom in the wind-up toy conception of the universe. Your karma less of a personal matter that way. We all do what we have to survive. And we all must live or die with the consequences. But death is an illusion. I’m living proof. Want to spend eternity in a padded cell? Do as I did. Live fast. Die young. Give into temptation. Don’t just listen to the demons. Believe them. Become one. Enjoy it while it lasts.

I’ll be reformed someday, so they tell me. I have my doubts about this and many other claims my keepers make. But as long as I’m here, I may as well study. Don’t call it a prison. It’s a learning adventure. I may be stuck here for forever and a day. But the day after that? When I’m free? I’ll be ready. Oh, bitch. You better fucking believe I’ll be ready.


Sybil Rain is a writer from New York. She currently lives in Hell.

for a white rose drum by Monique Quintana

Flash Fiction

When Chula got to the flower shop, it was closed. The shopman told her that it closed at 6 o’clock, and she was there an hour early. She pressed her face to the window. It was already dark outside, and the glass met the fog from her mouth. She was wearing crochet gloves with the fingers frayed off, and she could feel the curls forming in her hair. Her flower sat in the refrigerator in its plastic box. She asked the pale-faced shopman for a white rose with painted black tips, and he made a face at this request but took her money anyway. She pulled the dirty bills from her jacket sleeve, and she thought she heard a little drum. He wrote her a receipt and handed it to her after crumbling it up in his fist. She folded the piece of paper in a triangle, and they made moth’s wings fur in her pocket, a little drum. The moth began to scream, the drum making steady. There was no one to take it back now, and the white rose began to wail a metallic shrill until all the other flowers in the shop did the same, and the moth thumped in her hand, growing, and Chula felt the fog freeze then warm in her throat. The pin that seethed the stem of her rose began to shine and to sing, knotting the drum synthetic and all the flowers started to stitch themselves together, then rip away. The tiny bones and tissue were now exposed, their insides brighter than the moth’s fur the bone chards cutting the flowers anthers out one by one.


Monique Quintana is from Fresno, CA, and the author of Cenote City (Clash Books, 2019). Her work has appeared in Pank, Wildness, Cheap Pop, Okay Donkey, and Luna Luna Magazine, where she is a contributing editor. Yaddo, The Mineral School, the Sundress Academy of the Arts, the Community of Writers, and the Open Mouth Poetry Retreat have also supported her writing. You can find her at @quintanagothic and moniquequintana.com

2 pieces of flash fiction by Robert Fromberg

Flash Fiction

Committed to Memory

Tie a string around your finger, and you may (or may not) be reminded of something you’d

prefer not to forget. Tie a string too tightly around your finger, and the tissue will be crushed and your finger will rot and then if you remove the string all kinds of bacteria and other bad things will flow into your bloodstream. Up to you: How committed are you to remembering that thing?


The Rich Man’s Left Eyeball

To the rich man who enjoys showing guests his home gym with its breathtakingly elegant,

dizzyingly expensive equipment that, the rich man enjoys telling his guests, he paid no money for because he told the manufacturers in his man-of-affairs-speaking-to-another-man-of-affairs tone that he was a distributor of such equipment to an exclusive clientele, a lie, and would like samples to test for their worthiness on behalf of his oh-so-particular clients, and when asked by the more courageous of his guests why he performed this sleight of hand, invariably tilts a shoulder and curls his lips in a way that might as well scream “dumb question” and responds, “Because I can”: Please be the real-life version of a character in a British mini-series thriller who, in the final scene of the final episode, is locked in a police van with the gangsters he cheated out of three billion pounds, and unlike such a TV show, let us be shown that the gangsters have smuggled into the van certain sharp instruments whose use you cannot fathom despite your oh-so-worldly life, and let the gangsters begin by filleting skin from various parts of your body, and just as one of the gangsters is about to pop out your left eyeball using a long, thin instrument with a tiny hook on the end, let you say, “Why are you doing this to me?” and let the lead gangster, the one poised above your eyeball, tilt a shoulder and curl his lips in a way that might as well scream “dumb question” and reply, “Because we can,” and let him look to his confreres for their support of his assertion, and let them purse their lips in consideration and nod in agreement, and let the gangster continue with the operation on your left eyeball.


Robert Fromberg’s memoir, How to Walk with Steve, is coming in September from Latah Books. He has other work in Anti-Heroin Chic, Bitchin’ Kitsch, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and elsewhere. Punk cred: living around the corner from CBGB 1976-77. Twitter: @robfromberg

59N, 18E by Naz Kaynakcioglu

Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

Hide with me behind the moonlit night, so we can count how many promises

you can

Break in one go. The cold here always cracks open the night,

Your breath lingers in the air, falls down as snowflakes on your shoes. 

I used to sit on the snow, light matches as they showed in me flashes

What it all could have been, what colour I painted the walls,

How we met in the middle of the night after you broke my window

With pebbles you picked up with your bare hands from the snow. 

Hide behind me so I can think of how this place would look in spring,

How we would hold onto dead tree barks to survive the flood season in March.

But you come down like an avalanche and bring down the home I made for

myself.

I left my heart in Continental Europe but something bigger pulses outside.

It is more than just the snow, or the floods, or the avalanche.

It is when I stand still in the middle of the street and guess what the next 

Turn will smell like. It is the string lights they hang from mid-October

To when the sun doesn’t set at night. The clouds move so fast,

The moon imitates the flame of the matches with a soft glow. 

But why is always you and never me who stands here to freeze?

I expected to change a little bit as my fingers turned blue

When you left me here all by myself but I never got to learn

The place enough to find you back. So I’ll watch you from the 

Place I will forget how to move as you take the next train to the airport

And maybe you will come back before I miss you too much.


Naz Kaynakcioglu is an England based poet who grew up in Izmir, Turkey. Her poetry focuses on her experiences growing up, her cultural upbringing and the people who have inspired her. She has been published on HEBE Poetry Magazine in 2019, Procrastination Paper in 2021 and has recently been commended in Tower Poetry Competition. Interested in obtaining a better understanding of people, Naz has a particular passion for psychology and literature and uses her poetry to foster this interest. You can find her on Instagram and Twitter as @lavendersnaz

The Heriot by Dale Stromberg

Flash Fiction, Punk Noir Magazine

Nighttime, at home, alone:

“Right now, I’m not hurting anyone”

—a terribly comforting illusion.

When they administer Brad Merle Gost’s execution by lethal injection, they will dab his needle wounds with cotton swabs. To prevent infection, presumably.

The last he saw of the world outside was a merciless winter morning years before. It had been the sort of mean, sharp-eyed weather that reminds you that the fix is in, that the ugly-natured racketeers always win, that the weeping innocent still suffer. He has forgotten what day of the week it was.

Brad sits in his cell, waiting for morning. Tapping his foot, without realizing it. Tapping out a slow waltz—the syllables of a name.

A convocation of prisoners crowds into his cell at midnight. Hundreds of them, packed in. Practitioners of automatic writing, inquiring about pardons and paroles in the hereafter. Seeking word from beyond. One of them must have snuck the writing table past the guards. A camera crew appears. A host in a bow tie laughs like a laugher who’d like to be laughing, wipes sweat with a handkerchief, tests his lapel mic. This is just a dry run, people. Cue laugh track. Brad wakes up short of breath. He didn’t know he’d fallen asleep.

He blew it big time. His whole life, he puled and schemed and fantasized and double-dealt. Cheating bits of happiness out of life like an unfair transaction fee. Perpetually baleful. Treating unverified hunches like facts from the encyclopedia. Alone everywhere, and everywhere alone.

He had this job as a kid, hauling pianos in a truck with his granddad. They once went out to this housing project, and, as they drove around trying to find the address to deliver to, his granddad had told him the story of the guy who’d owned that particular piano before, telling it like it was confidential information, in his low weathered voice. It was a sad story of a man with some dirty secret everybody knew about—that’s all Brad recalls of it now. They pulled out of the project and tried to circle back through a shopping arcade, and Brad turned his face up and saw a tall painting of an angel just above the truck window. It was the sign for a bakery.

Morning will come soon. There won’t be a pardon. He remembers a particular person. If he could talk to her now, he’d say something like, “I even felt grateful for the folds in your clothes, when you wore them.” Though he doesn’t really talk like that.

The heavy damp smell outside a bakery. The gradating shadow on a sleeping woman’s cheek. Sad, secret stories. Things he can only despair of recalling now. No chance to refresh his memories, nobody to ask. When they used to guillotine people, they’d pick up your head and show you to yourself. Where had he read that?

He’d always been clumsy: he’d never been able to conceal the painfulness of life. Instead he—he did—it. She’s dead. Because of his—choice. It’s—he still can’t face it. He can’t say her name. And now the comeuppance. The terror of it crumbles through his flesh, but, when he pays this debt, will it make him not so bad?

He waits for morning in his cell, a scared lost lonely little boy.


Dale Stromberg grew up not far from Sacramento before moving to Tokyo, where he had a brief music career. Now he lives near Kuala Lumpur and makes ends meet as an editor and translator. His work has been published here and there.