MIREILLE ENOS OWNS GRACIAS MADRE — FORTUNATO SALAZAR

Her PA wore a red hoodie that was stained with red: blood. Blood was her PA’s favorite candy. At times she breathed flames that only looked like flames to anyone ignorant of her cuisine. Her PA lived in a sphere filled with nectar that only looked like nectar.

Yuck. Her PA arm-wrestled with her crevice hand. Her grip flaunted the recent proximity to its crevice—clueless insolence. Luckily Mireille Enos was a killing machine from the elbows down. Her grip, a shovel that had already buried its opponent when it greeted its opponent.

A shovel, still evolving—a sexy shovel with a brutal dislike of any colors in the neighborhood of cherry—growing in strength without training—ate colors in the neighborhood of cherry for lunch—a healthy regimen that made it strong and fueled its appetite for duels—attached to an amazing arm, the arm attached in turn to…headquarters.

The defeated opponent would slink off in humiliation to its crevice, groveling and slinking, demolished, in need of consolation. Yes! Another in a litany of ridiculous excuses. Mireille Enos cherished her PA’s excuses, transparent schemes to be alone so she could offer solace to herself. Mireille Enos looked forward to her PA excusing herself after her hand had been…swept.

Heinous to the marrow, that was her PA. She had drowned and been revived and now she honored the lifeguard by never laundering the red hoodie. The server brought her another irrelevant utensil and stood by with a stained napkin to await the foregone conclusion.

*

Best of seven? Her PA didn’t lack pluck. If only she weren’t so…parasitic.

Mireille Enos had humored her and all of a sudden they were knuckle buddies. She would need to be taught forcibly about boundaries, who was calling the shots and who was supposed to be launching an onslaught against the evil toil that she was buried under. So much for humoring swimmers who had been…this close…to death.

While feigning a stoic tolerance for her PA, Mireille Enos would need to teach her PA to use her other hand. She would make an example of her PA, no wait, she would make a timid broken person of her PA, broken and at the same time in possession of improved dexterity in the hand that, until the intervention of Mireille Enos, the compassionate intervention, just barely did a reasonable facsimile of weakly clinging.

Her PA would slink off and cocoon inside the sphere—one hand basically a hoof—the other newly alert, an inspired descendant of its own lesser self—no longer the subordinate/outsider—once merely a receptacle for soap—just imagine soaping up—and other new horizons/contours.

Mireille Enos beamed with happiness as she envisioned how the shimmering extremity given a new lease on life would be tasked with penning her an effusive note of gratitude on soft and absorbent stationery—soft and absorbent, a win-win—and would begin the next chapter in its new life by delegating the signature to the other puppet…whoops, hoof.


Fortunato Salazar lives in Los Angeles and is an occasional visitor to Gracias Madre.

HOW TO SPEND YOUR TIME BEFORE THE RENEGADE PLANET MAKES IT ALL GO DARK — JUSTIN LAWRENCE DAUGHERTY

Cover your tulips for the freeze. Tell your lover, this is not the end. Ask for a raise at your mid-level job. Count the stars, as many as you can, for the first time. Sip, slowly, good bourbon. Your lover will not want to go home, but there is too little time to love. Take your lover’s hand and say, let’s not forget to neglect each other. Face the inevitable, but not the bulb in the sky. Your lover will stand outside your door, window, apartment. Erase all unspoken messages. Take a walk as far as you can, turn around. Don’t answer the phone; your lover will want to tell you futures. Forget what miracles or heroes movies tell you will emerge from ruin. Go away from home and enter strangers’ front doors. Miss a flight and forget it. In the sky, the planet will seem an augury. Lose your keys. Set your home on fire with everything inside but you. Pay no attention to the media’s panic. Leave your lover with a motive to find you. Ask if life in space can see yours ending. Get lost. Commit a minor crime. Ask your lover to send you a postcard. It doesn’t matter that it will never arrive. What matters is: what is written is meant only for you. What matters is: you’ll never know what endings you missed.


Justin Lawrence Daugherty lives in Atlanta, where is the Co-Publisher of Jellyfish Highway Press. He manages and founded Sundog Lit, co-pilots Cartridge Lit, and is the Fiction Editor at New South

ON TUESDAY THEY BOWL — ANGELA PALM

Marna tucks the back of Steve’s shirt in before they leave. He’s missed a belt loop in the back, but she doesn’t say. His hair smells dirty, but she doesn’t say. Her daughter threatens to take her keys, but Marna shrugs and drives anyway. “It’s light out,” she snaps back. Her daughter thinks she’s as slow inside as she is outside, but Marna is quick.
             Steve’s left hearing aid needs a new battery so Marna doesn’t bother speaking to him. They bring their own shoes. They use the same bowling balls from their couples’ league in the 80s. Steve polishes them on Sundays. They’re older than their hips. Their hips are brand new.
             Marna watches Steve shuffle toward the foul line. The momentum unsteadies his body, and he nearly falls but doesn’t.
             He curses himself when he misses the spare.
            “You’ll break your new hip,” Marna barks, but he doesn’t hear.
            They play on two lanes, non-competitively. The machines keep score for them. They’ll play until Steve’s legs give and her arthritic fingers start to ache. She’ll argue with the attendant to prorate the day’s last game.
            Everyone says she’s lucky. Lucky she’s in good health. Lucky she still has her husband.
            Statistically, she should have had two decades to herself by now. Steve never exercised a lick. Smoker all his life. The nerve of that man.
            Next lane over, a woman holds her baby on her knee as her boy lobs a ball in the air like a baseball. The ball smacks the lane hard and the baby cries out. Marna smiles at the chubby little girl, but only to keep her from crying. Babies don’t belong in bowling alleys.
            “Son of a bitch!” Marna yells.
            The mother in the next lane gives her a look.
            See? she thinks.


Angela Palm is the author of Riverine: A Memoir from Anywhere but Here and winner of the 2014 Graywolf Press Nonfiction Prize. She edited the anthology, Please Do Not Remove, a collection of prose and poetry that celebrates libraries and Vermont writers. Palm’s writing has appeared in EcotoneBrevity, DIAGRAM, Essay Daily, Paper Darts, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere. She lives in Vermont. 

FISHING IN VAIN HEMOPHILIACS — MATTHEW GAVIN FRANK

Today, I searched for the giant squid in Petticoat Lake with a badminton net and a badminton racket, and a yellow wrist band, and a pink knee sock, and a dead green zebra tomato stalk I freshly weeded from my garden, and a sun-blistered cassette tape of spring birdsong, and a triangular scrap of barely pink and thereby sexualized underskirt, and not a single bird. The frogs belched their wet manifestos and the ants whispered their secrets to each other in voices that, to them, were deafening. This morning, as I was packing my thermos of yerba mate infused with four peach pits (I waste nothing), the cat said something blasphemous about the American flag. On the banks of the Petticoat, I repeated this, but in my mouth, it sounded like any old meow. The end of a fantasy. I cast my net and a one-eyed blue gill named Doña María de la Luz Padilla y Gómez de Cervantes leapt toward the sun, her scales shining like a lehenga.  I thought about the things we use to protect our bodies from other things—whether cloth or spray; about whether the blood is the silk slip to the skin. I wanted to catch the giant squid quickly, because I had pancakes waiting for me at home—yet another fluffy thing named for the vessel that cooks it. Yet another thing wet with butter. I swear it: the lake sighed into the net as if some hemophiliac making love to her handkerchief, and no squid came. For some reason, my body can float on no water. For another reason, I considered windowsills and wires, the skinniest solid things that, if push came to shove, would support me.  


Matthew Gavin Frank is the author of the nonfiction books, The Mad Feast: An Ecstatic Tour Through America’s Food, Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer, Pot Farm, and Barolo; the poetry books, The Morrow Plots, Warranty in Zulu, and Sagittarius Agitprop, and 2 chapbooks. He teaches at Northern Michigan University, where he is the Nonfiction/Hybrids Editor of Passages North. He persevered through this past winter via the occasional one-handed cartwheel in his mind.

THIS WHOLE MAJESTIC THING — ANNA LEA JANCEWICZ

We scaled the chain link fences and swam in the hotel pools in the middle of the night. We had sex on the deserted mini golf course and pretended it was post-apocalypse. Stole beers, swallowed little heaps of tiny white ephedrine, smoked Camel Wides laying on our backs in the sand. All the dumb kid stuff. I didn’t know that Kevin was going to die at the end of the summer, so I wasn’t trying to make it special. We weren’t in love.

We were, but not with each other. Kevin was in love with a girl named Ginnie who had a shaved head and worked days at the wax museum on the Strip. She had a big fat boyfriend, Marcus. I was in love with this guy Del. Del with the chain wallet and purple Mohawk and Fists of Fire! He juggled flaming bowling pins on the boardwalk. He was gay, and that broke my heart.

Kevin and I were losers together. He was really fun though. The first time we fucked, when we were done he slapped me on the ass and said Good game! He was not a sports guy or anything, it was just ironic and hilarious. We were on the end of the fishing pier and it was right before a thunderstorm. There was lightning and waves, this whole majestic thing, and it could have gotten all romantic and weird, but Kevin kept it real.

If I would’ve known though, maybe I would’ve done something like wrote him a poem or held hands with him. The kind of shit girls do, things that never happened for him. At least that summer. I mean, I don’t know what it was like for him with any girls before. I just know there weren’t any after.

There was this one time he called me baby by mistake. The word just cannonballed off his tongue like it was totally natural. It was in front of a bunch of our friends too, and there was this held breath, this moment of splash. He just kind of shrugged. Went on talking, there was nothing to explain. Not the droids they were looking for. He was pretty drunk, and I never mentioned it.

 But there was something geological that happened to me when he said it. Some kind of fault line shifting, or mountains humping up against one another in my stomach. I’m not exactly sure how the Earth works, there was just something big and sudden that felt very holy. It was just that once. I guess I just liked the way it sounded, like I was a girl in a pop song.

 Then Kevin got hit by a truck and his skull split open. It was a sunny afternoon, high of 90.

Not a cloud in the sky. No moral to the story.

I got this tattoo, of a lightning bolt. People always think it’s some kind of Harry Potter shit.

But it’s not.


Anna Lea Jancewicz lives in Norfolk, Virginia, where she homeschools her children and haunts the public libraries. She is an editor for Cease, Cows and her writing has appeared or is forthcoming at Lockjaw, Necessary Fiction, Split Lip, and many other venues. Her flash fiction "Marriage" was chosen for The Best Small Fictions 2015. Yes, you CAN say Jancewicz: Yahnt-SEV-ich. More at: http://annajancewicz.wordpress.com/

TIGER — KIERON WALQUIST

You tear away your human suit. To free the animal. So it will breathe. And breed.                         

On all fours, you leave your mother. For the wilderness, a thick cloud of emerald. You unravel from her grizzly-bear-hug; she squeezes your velvet paws, tousles the fiery fur upon your crown, kisses your tickling whiskers and looks with drowning eyes deep into yours—beautified to green-gold slits. Your mother begs you to stay. You hiss and bare your yellowing teeth.         

She doesn’t cower—your mother has always adored you. When you were a boy (Beau). When you were a girl (Beatrice). And even now, as a cat (Beast). She promises she’ll take you to the park more often. That she’ll buy you a scratching post and a bigger litterbox. That she’ll feed you tuna or chicken or dairy—whatever you want.                                                                           

But tigers don’t live with their mothers. They run wild. Free. Alone.                                 

Your mother can only watch, and worry, as you race into the arms of timber like a flame races in the wind. You burn and bloom bright at first, then flash and flare orange.


Kieron Walquist lives in Mid-Missouri—mostly in the woods, where he tries to catch his shadow. His short fiction has appeared in Electric Cereal, Flash Fiction Magazine, FRXTL, Gone Lawn, The Molotov Cocktail and Unreality House, among others.  

WHERE ANGELS TROD — AUDRA KERR BROWN

You were tired of rust and ash, of flake and gray. “Look at me,” you said. “Spotted as a bull snake, wrinkled as a sow’s ass. I want to see something young and shiny.” So I drove you to the new bridge, helped you stand at its base. You arched your arthritic neck, swayed like a drunk in your orthopedic shoes and whistled—high and long—the way you used to whistle at Mom when she dressed for church. Then you clapped your hat against your chest to keep it from blowing away or maybe out of reverence or incredulity, for it was both holy and blasphemous, this otherworldly structure rising from the humble Midwestern landscape like twin Nephilim drawing up nets taut with fish. “Let’s dare to tread where angels trod,” you said, pointing your cane, and I pushed your wheelchair forward.

Half way up I set your brakes to catch my breath. You stood, began shuffling toward the setting sun, the tap-tap-tap of your cane echoing the slow beat of your weakened heart. I came after you, but you waved me away, eyes fixed on the horizon. At that instant you were Moses on Mt.Sinai, and I made a visor with my hands, watched your doddering form disappear into the sun: the clouds above, the water below rushing toward the future. And when you returned—just minutes later—your white hair danced on end like a halo of live wires, your cheeks, your smiling cheeks, flushed and shining as if you had seen the very face of God.


Audra Kerr Brown lives betwixt the corn and soybean fields of southeast Iowa. Her fiction can be found at Fjords Review (online), People Holding, Maudlin House, Pithead Chapel, and 100 Word Story, among others. She tweets under the clever handle of @audrakerrbrown.

SUMMER BREAK 2016 / SUBMISSIONS CLOSE MAY 31

As is becoming a tradition, we’ve decided to give ourselves a break this summer—don’t judge us...we’re human beings!—so we can re-tool, rest, re-calibrate, re-up, re...everything! 

So: We won’t be posting stories throughout June and July, and we’ll be returning with a new story on Tuesday, August 2. Starting then, new stories new stories new stories (until our mandated winter break, that is).

To that end, as well, we’ll be closing subs on MAY 31. So get your pieces in WHILE YOU CAN, y’all.

FAQs? We got your FAQs!

Will we still be posting stories in May?
Yup! We have pieces set for the rest of the month (and they are gooooood).

What if I submit before the break/submissions close / what if I submitted already?
We’ll evaluate all submissions currently in our inbox, and anything coming in by May 31. We’ll be accepting pieces over our summer break, and slotting in pieces for August onward.

What if I submit after May 31?
Well, you shouldn’t. Submissions will be closed. So…just don’t.

Thanks, all, for supporting us. So much good stuff coming. Hang tight.

Best,
Rob + Elizabeth + Hannah