EVOLUTION — J. BRADLEY

I didn’t tell Seth that I knew what the shadows were beneath the waves. I didn’t think we were good enough friends for him to follow me under. I was wrong until I got caught in a strong current; Seth got smaller and smaller. I was more worried about the turbine waiting for me at the other side of the pipe, if it would chop me up as it churned me around and around. I had about 30 minutes of air left. I hoped it would be enough time.

When the nuclear power plant worker found me sitting on the side of the reservoir, he asked how I got here. “By accident,” I said. I stared into the distance, implied trauma so he wouldn’t ask any more questions. I couldn’t wait until the next morning to check my neck for gills, if my skin could stop a knife, or whether I could finally catch a bullet between my teeth. 


J. Bradley is the author of the linked short story collection The Adventures of Jesus Christ, Boy Detective (Pelekinesis, 2016) and lives at jbradleywrites.com.

LOOKING FOR: ASSISTANT EDITOR

Yup—CHEAP POP is looking to expand our roster with an additional Assistant Editor! We're thrilled with how much we've grown in the past few years...but we need help. 

What are we looking for? Ideally, someone with experience working on a lit journal/magazine (or in publishing of any kind)—although, we're not opposed to a newbie with little experience but the passion of a thousand burning suns. Social media experience is not required, but please let us know if you're familiar (it would be a bonus). 

**Please note: We are going to vet every single person who emails us, but preference is going to be given to women, people of color, queer or trans or otherwise marginalized peoples. Diversity is hugely important to us—getting a chance to give folks a place in publishing to have their voices heard and to make a difference is something we're all in on.**

Send us a cover letter/resume to cheappoplit@gmail.com. Tell us why you'd like to work here, why we'd like working with you, why you like flash fiction...all that good stuff. 

THE BACKYARD GARDEN — MATTHEW SMART

His wife tells everyone that he’s doing fine and that he just loves to garden and maybe he does. He owns a number of shovels. At least five. Lately he has carved a good-sized garden out of the backyard since the diagnosis. He has a lot of time on his hands.

He owns a number of shovels but really he prefers to use his hands to dig new garden space. He sections out chunks of sod and shakes the heavy clods free of all their dirt like he is wringing out a sponge. The dirt falls away like dirt. Dark soil falls off into the hole where the yard used to be until it’s like the grass never existed the hole gets so full. He digs his fingertips into it and strangles out the rich soil until it falls away. He’s left with a clump of brown root and dead grass in his hands with a bit of green on one side. Like a snarl he holds it in his blackened fingers and then tries to throw it against the back fence but it’s so light without all the dirt it usually falls way short of the mark he’s aiming at.

He tries to provide for them. The kids don’t miss the yard. They never play anymore, hardly leave the house unless going somewhere. He plants tomatoes and beans and red peppers and peas and cucumbers and they all grow sort of. They grow but not like he expected. He imagined a jungle of tall lush plants but instead he gets slightly larger specimens of what he planted. They live but do not thrive. They grow, but crooked and unsteady.

Only the weeds do well in his garden. He tears healthy weeds from around his struggling vegetable plants with guilty fervor. If only weeds created some edible fruit or some beautiful bloom. But then they probably would be too hard to grow. Some of the weeds are really just grass of the same grass he painstakingly cleared in the first place. Weed is a subjective term he thinks.

He feels like the hot sun shines only on him. As he turns and turns the dirt he imagines the individual rays of light born millions of miles away in the nuclear furnace of the sun seeking out his poor back, embedding themselves deep in his skin. They dig right into him, these chosen light beams. They sink their roots into his soil and they prosper within his dark dirt-like self. He can feel the wild growth inside him. He is a solar garden of their most beautiful buddings.


Matthew Smart lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where he works as an information technology analyst. His writing has appeared in Vestal Review, Dead King Magazine, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Unbroken Journal, Smokelong Quarterly and elsewhere.

WELCOME TO OUR HOVEROFFICE — JON METHVEN

A few rules before we get started with the tour: No sudden movements, no sneezing, no wobbling the Hoveroffice back and forth. This building can, and nearly has, toppled over, all eleven stories. Hence the Nerf ball architecture.

Welcome to the world’s first state-of-the-art, self-balancing Hoveroffice. We consist of exactly 128 professionals, all atop their own hoverboards, working in synergistic harmony in a building attached to a massive, gyroscopic wheel. If one of us calls in sick, someone else has to work from home. If someone uses the restroom, someone else has to hover to the coffee pot to make up for the balance disproportion. It probably seems impossible to you folks, who still depend on feet for locomotion, but when you hover for twelve hours a day, five days a week, you become a phantom appendage of your colleagues’ rhythms.

No pictures please. Group photos shift the equilibrium too suddenly, and the sales team on nine has to scramble into a conference room to steady the ship.

The beauty of the Hoveroffice is that we pay no rent since we’re mobile. We have no bosses as they throw off the symmetry. We arrive and depart together. We can happen upon any street, plug in to an electrical socket, and begin our day’s work. We can pilot the Hoveroffice to the beach and swim on our lunch break if we feel like it.

Folks say we’re showing off, that a motorized, balanced office is ostentatious. But they’ve never experienced the cohesiveness of Greg instinctively shifting his weight to the back of his chair to correct the imbalance Tricia creates when she slouches to play Solitaire. Or how when Ray returns from vacation overweight, the interns each pack on an extra pound to offset his torque.

Unfortunately, most people, when they see our building hover by during the morning commute, develop the urge to physically harm us. The mere sight of our lithium-ion powered edifice sends them into a rage, causing them to exit vehicles and hurl their breakfast at our sleek Hoveroffice. They shake the Hoveroffice. That’s why we set up here, in the parking lot of this abandoned shopping mall, and run power cords to the gas station.  See, Hoveroffices are the future, a holistic approach to the corporate workplace. People who still walk to work at traditional, stationary offices can never comprehend our communal philosophy – our hoverniquess, if you will.

Can you feel that? We’re listing slightly. It’s undetectable to you bipedal hominoids, but the Hoveroffice never lies. It’s subtle, but eight floors down, one of the interns is trying to loosen a Snickers bar in the vending machine. Colleagues are performing jumping jacks to atone for the candy tantrum, but the exercise cannot counteract the intern’s thumping which is growing hungrier, angrier, ever heartier as the vending machine refuses to relinquish the snack. Think of it—the majesty of all this technology, the existence of each of us, hovering on the slightness of a chocolate stick.


Jon Methven is the author of the novels Strange Boat (2016) and This Is Your Captain Speaking (2012). His work has been published in The New York Times, The Atlantic, McSweeney’s, Buzzfeed and The Awl. He lives in New York with his wife and sons. www.jonmethven.com

IN CASE OF EMERGENCY — LINDA NIEHOFF

1. I finally stopped at the smallest motel I could find and fed quarters into the Coke machine. Now I’m watching the electric blue light rippling from the pool. There aren’t any trees out here so you can see to the end of things. Lightning flashes, still far off. It’s pink and jagged, the kind you see in photographs on bank calendars - that nighttime shot with a distant farm along the edge and that one lone jag of lightning reaching all the way down. I’ve always wondered where that farm is. It’s here out along I-70 just stepping out of room 217 that costs $55 a night and the carpet is sticky.

2. I didn’t recognize the names on the weather map inside on TV. I don’t know if those warnings are for me. I hold the sweating Coke can and watch the sky. Shadows of sunflowers cut themselves out of the horizon. I can’t tell if I should take shelter immediately. The signs in the lobby showed a symbol of a narrowing coil - a twister. I didn’t stop to read the numbered directions below that would’ve told me what to do. Now I just stand and stare, count the seconds in between.

3. And I notice how the reflections bouncing off the pool are like its own lightning. How they ripple. How they move. How it looks like I'm under the water and not over it. Under the water you could be anywhere. Under the water looks the same in any state off any highway. Under the water you’re not the guy who’s lost everything.

4. It’s closer now, the lightning. If I recognized those counties on TV, I’m sure I’d be taking cover in the lobby with the boxed up cereal and empty coffee pot and red vacancy sign that’s curled up humming.

5. But I don’t want shelter.

6. I want to get kissed by lightning. I want it to jolt my bones, electrify my heart.

7. Maybe I’ll jump in the pool fully clothed, wave my arms, yell, “Here I am!” I don’t know what stops me.

8. The woman in 212.

9. Her curtain keeps moving, and she glances out like I’m a madman, not some guy holding a Coke can watching the storm move in.

10. Maybe tonight I am.


Linda Niehoff's short fiction has appeared in TriQuarterly, Necessary Fiction, New South, and elsewhere. She's a part time photographer and a full time homeschooling mom. She tweets @lindaniehoff and blogs occasionally: www.thewrittenpicture.typepad.com.

CASTAWAY — RACHEL ATTIAS

That summer I took you to the wrong island. You were a good sport about it, holding the packed glass pipe above your head while we swam. The right island was only a couple hundred meters up the river, but I’d gotten mixed up. I shrieked for the duration of the three-minute-long swim to the wrong island, flailing my way through the murky, clingy, old-great-uncle’s-hand-on-your-thigh seaweed.
             When we got there I realized it was the wrong island, and it was worse in every way than the one I remembered swimming at years ago, the one I’d wanted to take you to. This island was moist and spongy where it wasn’t sharp and rocky. The trees hadn’t grown leaves for whatever reason, and the ground was covered in bird shit and dead fish. We went for a dip anyway, just to show ourselves that it wasn’t all in vain.
             After, we sat on the rocks in the sun and talked about kissing each other, deciding not to in the end. We passed the pipe back and forth, after which all talking ceased for a while. The only sound the dark water lapping against the streaked rocks. The occasional buzz of an insect. The sun made your eyes ten different colors at once, and I thought about picking up a dried fish carcass from within arm’s reach and teasing you with it just to break the mood, but I thought better of it.
             I was learning how not to do things when I wasn’t sure they would be good for anyone.


Rachel Attias has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from Skidmore College. Her work can be found elsewhere at Nailed Magazine and in Skidmore's Folio and Bare.

EGGS — LEN KUNTZ

Galveston was supposed to save them but she knew before they arrived that she’d hate the place.
             He’d grown up there, a high school football star with shiny good looks.  He had hair then and was somebody.
             His aunt met them at the front door, frail, stooped like a praying mantis.  She smiled wide and hugged freely.  It felt strange, all this eager touching, like being in a commune where everyone had sex with everyone else.
             At dinner the aunt eyed the wife with an upturned fork.             
             “I know you’re not from here,” she said, “but in Galveston we close our eyes during mealtime prayer.”
             That night he desperately wanted to have sex.
             “I grew up in this house,” he said.  “I slept in this mattress for thirteen years.”
             His parents had been killed when a train hit their car while crossing railroad tracks.  He was seven then.
             She said, “But your aunt might hear.”
             “She’s nearly deaf.”
             “She’s not.  She’s sharp.”
             He laughed at that, tugging her breast.
             “We can make a baby here if we try,” he said.
             She wanted a divorce not a child, still she let him do what he wanted, surprised by her reaction, her body alive for once, a scream rising in her throat that her husband squelched by putting a  palm over her mouth.
             In the morning at breakfast she dutifully closed her eyes during prayers.
             The eggs were runny, like plasma trying to grow or escape.  She ate them anyway, in a hurry. 


Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of the story collection The Dark Sunshine.  His latest story collection, I'm Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither Are You is forthcoming from Unknown Press in March of 2016.  You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

MIDNIGHT, OAXACA DE JUÁREZ, MEXICO — A. SCOTT BRITTON

1.
Mexican grapefruit is sweet, as if the bitter has been bred from it. Farmers, in search of a honeyed relief from the southern sun, must have spit the good seeds to the ground they plowed. The peel is so thick that you can chew it, like a dull lemon gum. Fingernails dig through an inch of pith before nicks in the undersurface begin to yield juice beads.

2.
Some neighborhoods employ a kind of communal sound system, bullhorn-style speakers arranged atop a telephone pole, a strange flower blooming with tinny trumpet music. Night comes on at full volume; the controller eventually tapers it down, or the ear becomes accustomed to the noise. Maybe there’s comfort in knowing that everyone in the immediate vicinity is falling asleep to the same tones.

3.
PHOTOGRAPH: A quorum of village elders—farmers first—convenes in a thatched roof building. Light leaks in like a sieve; thin strips of sun and shadow alternate across their faces. The council table is lined with glass soda bottles instead of nameplates, all in various stages of consumption. Everyone has a favorite flavor, determined by the atoms of their thought and flesh. With three drinkers, orange seems to be the most popular, two men favor pineapple, and two more drink lemon lime. One man likes apple.

4. 
At midnight warm breez
es carry hints of wood fire, hyacinth, and the last of the day’s cooking. Then, six, maybe seven or eight streets over, a series of sickening yelps.

 


A. Scott Britton is a writer, translator, and linguist. His writing has appeared in numerous international literary journals. Britton is the translator of The Experimental Poetry of José Juan Tablada: Un día, Li-Po y otros poemas, and El jarro de flores, recently published by McFarland Books. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and can be found on Twitter at @AScottBritton and his website www.ascottbritton.com