LOOKING FOR: ASSISTANT EDITOR (2018 edition)

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 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. 

Looking forward, looking forward!

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END OVER END — JAMES FIGY

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.


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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 www.nilesreddick.com

FLY — DANIEL W. THOMPSON

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?
             Yes.
             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.

TAXED ON AFFECTION — SARAH ESTIME

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.

PEACE TALKS — JOE HALSTEAD

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.

FRAGMENTS OF EVOLUTION — CAVIN BRYCE

Oxudercinae

A lot of creatures look like they’re right in-between step one and step two of the evolutionary process; like apes compared to man. The neatest example is the mudskipper. It's a lard of a creature with bulbous eyes plopped right on the top of its head. Imagine a fish transforming into a lizard; right before it sprouts legs, after it’s developed lungs, that’s the form of a mudskipper. I wonder for how many thousands of years those dingus fish flew out of the water and suffocated on the shores of an unknown world before the first of them possessed functioning lungs. How many millions of them died without ever knowing why they wanted to get onto land?

Crocodylians

There are swarms of alligators in Florida—banks of rivers piled with writhing monsters. Images don’t do them justice. You have got to see them in person, in the wild, with their yellow eyes glaring at your limbs. In the space between your gaze and theirs exists only a carnivorous lust and a knowing, on their behalf, that you are nothing more than food. I wonder, when did the subconscious groupmind of their ancestors realize that they were indestructible? Camen. Crocodiles. Alligators. They’ve gone unchanged, for millions of years, without ever being choked out of the ecosystem.

Homo Sapien

Evolution is strange because we see billion-year long timelines that track the growth of legs and what not but sometimes it will occur instantaneously. One day you're a fish and the next you’re a lizard. That’s how it happened with my best friend. He was a kid. Then he was a man. It took no time at all. Like that—a synapse snapped in half and his curious playful tendencies evaporated and were replaced with the drive to sustain himself as best possible. He stopped skipping stones and started picking up shifts. One fertilized egg later and he evolved even further. It took 5 years for the entire metamorphosis to take place. Others refuse to evolve. Similar to lemmings, and their infatuation with plummeting off the side of cliffs, these beings were dedicated to extinction. While Darwin’s finches were cracking the shells of nuts and hunting for insects these pitiful bastards were failing to carve out a niche in the modern food chain. They didn’t breathe or suffocate, hunt or be hunted, they just fossilized behind gas stations and inside of cubicles.


Cavin Bryce is an emerging writer from the University of Central Florida. He eats his steak rare and drinks exclusively from the middle shelf. When he isn’t scribbling words you can find him on his back porch, sitting on a stoop, or behind a gas station. 

IT'S SHAPED LIKE A GRIN, THEY SAY — K.C. MEAD-BREWER

There’s a crooked bridge where all the kiddies go to jump. It isn’t about death or the moon or the pines that keep crowding in and crowding in, their black night robes making them look like pointed witches’ hats. It isn’t about the parents who’ve said their prayers and drunk their drinks and hit or kissed or both their kids. It’s about that crooked bridge and the hard-eyed water beneath it. Sweet Uncle Steve said it’s where we all go down to drink. It’s where we drag back our collective inspiration, our ghosts our dreams our boogeymen, The Dark Man, The Shadow Man, The Man in the Hat Standing at the Foot of Your Bed. You look down into that big glassy face, The Water, and you see the rabbits going tharn, scarecrows shambling off their crosses, lagoon monsters waving webbed hands and fluttering slimy gills, all the monsters flashing past you, headlights on a highway. And who can say no to that? Even if it spooks you. Your hands are already sweaty on the bars, the support beam, that last inch of rope. You’re all alone when you’re on the crooked bridge, even if a party drove you to it. Your girlfriend, your boyfriend, they just got their license, their new car, and oh, it smells good, don’t it? Squeaking leather, cold windows, knuckles flexing on the wheel. Even if you all come together, holding hands, a sacred promise, your fingers cut and bleeding into each other, maybe you did it sitting around a campfire, maybe the smoke’s still pinkening your eyes. But the crooked bridge knows you, it gets you alone. It has corners, the crooked bridge, and dips. You won’t leave without looking away lost into that water, the kind that stretches down deeper and deeper as if the bottom were a slingshot pulling back and pulling back and you can’t look away because when it finally snaps forward to hit you– Oh, that big black eye. The Water. The water that opens up its arms to you, grabbing, drawing, a hug, a hand around your ankle, and says, Come on home, baby. Come on home.


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K.C. Mead-Brewer lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her writing appears in Carve Magazine, Hobart, Fiction Southeast, and elsewhere. As a reader, she loves everything weird—surrealism, sci-fi, horror, all the good stuff that shows change is not only possible, but inevitable. For more information, visit kcmeadbrewer.com or follow her @meadwriter