Our cane’s thick, like almost Supernatural. The soil plays big into it. At least, that’s what my Old Man said. He said, ‘Part clay, part blood.’ Said our family’s in the cane field.
             Which, I don’t doubt we have more than a few bodies back there, graves unmarked. I’m old enough to understand that we’re all just feed– the sugar-stalks two, three persons high. Life’s just a game of Indian-giving. I’m old enough to understand that.
             But my Old Man, when he said what he said, he meant ‘blood’ like ‘lineage.’ I’d always thought ‘blood’ like ‘shed’.
             ‘Cause my Old Man and his Old Man and the Old Men that came before them, they were all heavy-handed. To say the least. More precisely, they were heinous kiddy-beaters. Mine had a horsewhip dedicated to acts of discipline. Didn't even ride. He was the most fattest, drunkest, fake-jockey terror-farmer I’d ever seen in my life.
             So that night. The last time I’d seen him.
             You’re asking, but you’re not gonna believe.
             It was Mom’s anniversary, the consequence being he got especially boozy. He started chasing me through the crop like a wild pig.
             We both had our parts. Me, animal-boy—wailing, squealing—and him, camp-butcher. Wanting to stick me. What a game. Maybe after, he’d roast me on the campfire, chew me down to my flame-cracked bones. Like out of one of those tired, horrific fairy tales. That’s how I’d always imagined it going down when I was a kid. How I imagine it now, too.
             So like a thousand times, I pounded my feet and heart through the sugar. Runaway. He screamed after me, drunk-howling—‘BEHAVE BOY, GIVE IT UP, I’M FAMISHED’—again and again. Like a beagle-hound after fox. Tearing through plants, hollering loud all hunt long, all scent long, direct, calamitous, bullet—
             And our farm was alone by miles. Backcountry. Silent. You know what could happen back there. I did. That cane was thick. You couldn’t see up at the stars, and even in the parts you could they just looked bare and false on you. Cold infernos. Like Supernatural.
             In all that dark, I crashed into a clearing in the middle of the sugarcane. A perfect circle, carved from nowhere, nothing. But I didn’t hesitate. My Old Man ripped in through the crop behind me.
             He grabbed me, started going to work. Put my ass onto the clay, hard. Laid into me with the horsewhip, the hessian boots, the gloved knuckles into my head. I saw nothing. Just hot blood on my face. Then my eyes got violent.
             He had his gun with him. Cold Ruger in my back.
             And that’s when. Supernatural.
             There was this sound—BANG. And the black sky stopped being so black. The horsewhip stopped coming so down. Then this beam.
             Thank god, or whoever.
             ‘Cause when that light waned, my Old Man was gone. Away from the sugar. Away from the farm.
             Indian-giving. That’s the way it went. No other way.

Evan Nicholls attends James Madison University (‘20) and is from Fauquier County, Virginia. He is involved in JMU’s literary magazine, Gardy Loo, and has work appearing in CHEAP POP, Penny, and formercactus, as well as forthcoming in The Jellyfish Review and Lost Balloon. Follow him on Twitter @nicholls_evan.


On the first trip down Lombard Street, the dad said, We’re gonna crash. We’re gonna crash. Over the cheering, the mom said dumbfoundedly, Would you look at all those colorful flowers in front of those beautiful houses? After the sixth trip winding down Lombard Street, the roller coaster effect waned and even the dad let out a yawn as he took a sharp curve, only his thumbs pressed at the bottom of the steering wheel. So it was off to Fisherman’s Wharf, grabbing handfuls of chocolate samples and barking back at the sea lions sunbathing on the tiny piers. The dad said, Too bad we don’t have our BB guns. Over the clapping, the mom said restlessly, Precariously perched on petite piers. From a brown paper bag came liter bottles of warm soda and sour dough bread and gobs of butter, all laid out across the wide hood of the station wagon like a holiday dinner. It was getting late. Out on the bay, the bridge’s soft lights were fuzzy fireflies. At the airport parking lot, the dad said, We’re having a secret rendezvous with someone. He wouldn’t say who, but maybe Aunt Jen and the cousins Heather, Henry, and Augustine. No, maybe it’s Bud and his seeing-eye dog, Buddy, Jr. No! It’s Marv and Shelly from Indiana. Over more guessing, the mom said tiredly, Maybe I’m being dropped off to fly to Bermuda. At one of the gates, the dad and mom stretched out on a row of chairs. An all night gift shop’s clerk peeked around the corners of magazine racks, her humongous red Afro giving advance warning every time. The drinking fountain water tasted mossy. The enormous bathrooms echoed back yelps and singing and bangs of stall doors like mortar rounds. When the dad was woken up to find out how soon Aunt Jen and Heather, Henry, Augustine, Bud and Buddy Jr., and Marv and Shelly would finally arrive on the plane, he whispered, Go sit in front of the gate so we don't miss them. Over the whining, the mom said longingly, I was having such a nice dream about laying in flowerbeds. By morning, no one arrived. The dad said, They flew over the Bermuda Triangle, and poof! Over all the screaming, the mom said irritably, I want to get back into that station wagon like I want to jump into the freezing bay.

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Dan Crawley's stories have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including Wigleaf, Jellyfish Review, New World Writing, The Airgonaut, matchbook, and North American Review. He is a recipient of an Arizona Commission on the Arts creative writing fellowship and has taught fiction workshops at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and other colleges. He is a fiction reader for Little Patuxent Review. Find him at


Some exciting news: CHEAP POP is seeking a volunteer Assistant Editor! 

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 at all 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). 

What does the job entail? Assistant editors will help us read and vote on submissions (your voice will 100% matter!), reach out to authors and schedule accepted pieces to be published on the website. 

Send us a cover letter/resume to 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. 

Looking forward, looking forward!

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Erskine had been caught before, but never with a jumbotron showing him and a blonde and the word “CHEATER,” and not with an entire stadium’s booming laughter and boos, so he tells Kari they should leave, to which she says her name is Shari, and someone shouts, “Nice job, big boy,” either for his philandering with the beautiful woman or for his prolonged struggle to rise from the too-small seat, so he bumbles alone down the row, smashing others in blue and white uniform, and because his hands hiding his face also hide the vendor in the aisle, down go the men and the beer, cans bursting golden foam, ice bouncing off concrete steps, spinning end over end like Erskine toward the glass railing that earlier, while noting the precipitous drop, Kari/Shari had leaned her weight on, and he’d joked, “If I did that, I’d bust right through”; stairs hammering his back, Erskine tumbles past the rival wearing yellow and black who when Kari/Shari passed before first pitch had hollered, “Hot damn,” the rival whose amazed face when Erskine cussed and threatened resembled his father’s upon discovering the bastard anagram nicknames (Erik and Rex and Kin) his son used in middle school—“You were named after a legend,” dad scolded—before he grew tall as a forward and husky as a linebacker, for nothing since his father demanded the son play America’s pastime, just as he demanded the son reconcile with Patricia (whom Erskine two-timed after she left for college) because he was “in her league,” which proved false, she being smart enough to discover the chatrooms he used to attract attractive, semi-damaged women (“Sending pictures of yourself from high school… it’s sick,” Patricia shouted, knocking trophies from their home office’s paneled walls, breaking the fit golden men on top that Erskine believed to be him), and smart enough to tally a dozen dates since opening day and to retaliate if he continued, and cruel enough to ask why, why he would do this to her, and when Erskine didn’t answer, she’d shouted, pained tones that Erskine thinks he hears again as he rolls, though maybe it’s Kari/Shari or the crowd, watching the jumbotron and yelling for him like some foolhardy player stealing home to stop—so his hands reach for railings, for seatbacks, anything to grab at, to stop his speedy somersaults down stairs he’d strained to climb many times to seats he’d supposedly bought to reconnect with his father over bats cracking and hotdog scents wafting sweetly, not burnt like at the family cookout when Patricia asked her father-in-law about the games, and the elder warned Erskine, privately, about playing with fire, to which the son replied, “Big deal,” since he’d been caught before without cost or consequence, which he now regrets as he rolls faster toward the ledge—yes, regrets even the times he was not caught—because, he realizes, nearing that thin glass partition, there is no one there to catch him.


James Figy is a writer from Indianapolis and MFA candidate at Minnesota State University, Mankato. Find his creative work in Hobart, Midwestern Gothic, Punchnel’s, and the anthology Bad Jobs & Bullshit. Follow him (@jafigy) and check out the Fail Better interview series he runs for Fear No Lit.

Increments of Time — Niles Reddick

for Jennifer

Richard Bach once wrote in his best seller Illusions that the creature, tired of clinging, let go, and went with the current of the water while those creatures downstream still clinging believed he was a messiah come for them, and this flashed when I got word an old friend from childhood had taken her own life in her tub. 

I imagined there was no current in the tub, where her elderly mother and emergency medical technicians found her lifeless body already blue and wrinkled from soaking in the tub--the bottle of vodka sat upright on the rug from Target, an empty plastic bottle of prescription Valium from Walgreens lay on its side, and the water was stained crimson from blood leaking from sliced wrists. The tub water looked like the Nile River in an Old Testament Egyptian plague. As the EMT pulled the stopper, the blood-stained water formed a miniature tornado and spiraled down the drain into the pipes and mixed with all the other citizens’ sewage until it was purified and recycled for them to drink later, though they’d never know. 

Facebook stalkers sent private messages back and forth about Lisa’s death, concerned for her soul since she’d killed herself, but on the news feed, they wrote about her infectious laugh, her bubbly personality, and how sweet she’d been. They only knew her for a time, like we all know each other, and even then, it was increments of time. It was like I heard one aunt say about my uncle after he’d had a stroke: “I don’t even know him. It’s like I’ve been sleeping next to a stranger for the past fifty years.” They didn’t know her any more than they knew Ken who’d fought cancer, asked for prayers and donations for treatment, and posted about it the past two years before he finally let go and joined a current of air in the Hospice House, where he’d screamed, sweated, and prayed for weeks. It had been thirty years, after all, and no one from our high school class had heard from either of them, just like the others who had died in between graduation and the thirty years that had passed: one shot by police for stealing a car, one from A.I.D.S., one from melanoma, one from a drunk driving crash, and one from a heart attack.

No, Lisa had suffered with depression and alcoholism the past thirty years and had tried to get rid of the disease more than once. Everyone knew it at parties, when she kept downing rum punch until she couldn’t walk and her friends would get her home and to bed to sleep it off, but all of those increments of time added up to the sum total of a scene best played in a B movie showed in an old theatre in a university town and supported by existential philosophy students eager to offer conjectures of free will.

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Niles Reddick is author of the novel Drifting too far from the Shore, a collection Road Kill Art and Other Oddities, and a novella Lead Me Home. His work has been featured in over a hundred literary magazines all over the world including Drunk Monkeys, Spelk, The Arkansas Review: a Journal of Delta StudiesThe Dead Mule School of Southern LiteratureSlice of LifeFaircloth Review, among many others. His website is


I don’t usually do this. Actually, I’ve never done this. Dance, yes, but not this close, not this electrically. I tend to stay the customary distance back. That way I can slip into the shadows when I know rejection is eminent. But not tonight. No, good lord, you came to me. Like a ghost walking out of a wall, you appeared. Green eyes, freckles, and the words, dance with me. Lucky I didn’t faint or pee myself. Lucky I remembered how to walk but you grabbed my hand. A flash, the rest of our lives. Date for six months. Meet my mother. Meet your parents wherever home is. I dreamed of proposing on water. I’ll take sailing lessons. 
             Then, the lights turn on and my dark dream washes away. Can we go to your place, you ask. Yes, I say. Holy fuck, together, we leave. But about the car seat, you say. It’s for your niece.
             In my living room you pull out a joint. You tell me stories but since this is my first time smoking I can’t identify reality. There’s a Stephen, technically you’re married to him. There was a fight tonight or maybe yesterday. Actually, lots of fights. The scar on your forearm, from a beer bottle smashed against the wall. Like an accident but maybe not. Madeline, not your niece. 
             We enter a bedroom but is it mine? Because for once I’m not alone. Two bodies maneuver. It’ll be okay, you say. 
             I wake up to the sound of water hitting the wall against my bed. It’s the shower. I peek into the bathroom and see a red line running along your shoulder blade, a pink zipper. Did I feel that? Did I feel anything?
             Wrapped in my towel you pull out a another joint. You tell me I’m nice, which makes you want to cry. Oh, no, please don’t cry, I say. And I go to use your name but there’s nothing there. Did I never know it?
             You look down for a long time. Your freckles darken against the redness in your cheeks. When you finally look up, you say, I’m so sorry. What, I ask. Please, don’t be sorry.
             It’s Stephen.
             Your technical husband?
             When the banging at the door begins I think back to the dance floor. Oh god, you actually asked me to dance. Now I wish I asked you to marry me. But I hadn’t taken sailing lessons yet. I would have shot Stephen if I owned a gun. Right in the shoulder to give him his own red zipper. I would have taken Madeline out for ice cream, everyday. What is her favorite flavor? What is your favorite flavor?
             After, alone in my apartment, I stare at the ashes on my table. I stare at the still wet towel on my sofa. The twisted blue sheets on my bed. Your tear drops wherever they land. And your name, wherever you fly.  

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Daniel W. Thompson’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in publications like decomP, WhiskeyPaper, Third Point Press, and Jellyfish Review. He works as a city planner and lives in downtown Richmond, Virginia, with his wife and children.


Experience disgust so intense that you are deprived and thirsty yet feel undeserving for affection or for love or anything. Experience anger so emotional that there are no lyrics to relate; there is no one to pick you up; there's no time that could mitigate it. Experience resentment so full you declare it wasn't love at all because a lover wouldn't deny you and provoke you to deny him back, reasoning that it was probably meant to be; that it was probably just lust. The silly things are vivid in hindsight. Regretful begrudging is valid. Dilute it and reduce it so you don't feel so inane.

Experience the fear that David J. Rosen wrote about on pages five and six. Experience the guilt of making love under the crucifix. Experience the thrill. Experience the bliss blocked off. Experience never getting a chance to be fully exposed, agreeing that you revealed yourself enough. No. That was mere juvenility. And there was always a peremptory hand craning and guiding and controlling, and you were stupid for believing you would prove your womanhood. You belong back at home, sheltered beneath the authoritarian shaking heads of mom and dad. You belong back home where you thought it wasn't home at all because the ground was made of ice and the ceiling dripped of resentment. You were born into tension and will probably die that way, too.

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Sarah Estime is an Aircraft Mechanic in the Air Force. When she is not working her day job, she is composing works related to literary fiction. She has been published by Cardinal Sins, O-Dark-Thirty, and The Charles Carter.


My wife is making smoothies in the NutriBullet.
             “I need you to give me a list of groceries you want,” she says.
             I start listing the things we usually eat for dinner. My wife hasn’t been eating—something’s going on—so she shakes her head and sighs and tells me to forget it. I stand up slowly and ominously, and I say, “Next time don’t ask me.” I start to add something else about the amount of money she spent on groceries the last time she went to the store, no doubt some petty, childish expression of fiscal responsibility that I will regret.
             She says: “Well, I’ve been cooking every day for the past three months, and I make these smoothies every morning, so I must buy something useful.” A pause when I want it stopped. “You know I’m on a diet. You know I can’t eat that stuff.”
             “You have to control everything lately,” I say.
             It’s all I can manage. It’s a long pause. So long that you might not know the meaning of “control everything,” as though I spoke the words into oblivion and am observing their effect in another dimension, because in this dimension, they mean nothing.
             My wife’s face twitches on the brink of something, of crying. “OK,” she says. “Whatever.” She runs upstairs, and I hear her start crying, her breath shaky and shallow.
             I put in my earbuds and turn the volume up to the max and start listening to Fleetwood Mac. I think about a woman from work, and this image leaps into my mind: 
             We’re dancing in a club somewhere, the woman and I. It might be Cuba, or somewhere tropical. Her body is hard in all the right places and we’re sweating. She laughs and stumbles—because she’s a sitcom character. Our passion knows no midnight, and by the time we finish our dance my shirt is unbuttoned and her spaghetti straps have fallen. We look at each other and we laugh because we’re both answered for. And then we dress each other. She buttons my shirt. I fix her spaghetti straps. I have to become him so hard that I’m suddenly all gone, because that one doesn’t believe I exist, even in his very imagination. It’s just him and the woman from work. Now I’m either dead or dreaming and I can’t tell you which. But I’m tired of dreaming.
             My wife comes back downstairs. She’s crying. She gives me a hug and then says she’s sorry and waits for my apology. When it doesn’t come, she looks at me. Steadily, I begin to understand. I begin to understand that I am just one of many terrible lives I have lived. I sometimes believe so, imagining myself dancing somewhere tropical, at my dining room table, writing stories in the rain. 

Joe Halstead is the author of West Virginia, a novel available from Unnamed Press.