An Unwanted Night

“Am I broken?”

That was the question Mary Biron asked herself as she looked herself over in the mirror. She was, by all means, an attractive lady in waiting. Short, light hair with a fair complexion and warm eyes. Or so, that is what her handmaids told her every morning as they readied her garments for the day.  Every day, they told her that, and every day, she wondered if they were lying.

Mary didn’t believe that she was ugly, or, at least, unattractive. But the maids were more than likely simply saying that to avoid offending their master’s daughter. Mary could not fault them for that kind of thinking. But, were the maids pretty? She had no idea. Some, Mary imagined, had lustful eyes upon them, but, for the life of her, Mary could not understand why. Was it their hair? Their bodies?

Forcing her eyes away for the mirror, and from her thoughts, Mary looked down at the letter that rested on her desk. It was full of the usual pomp and pious wording she’d had come to expect from an invitation to a ball, Dear Ms. Biron of the Biron estate, upon this day, October 22, I cordially invite you to–

“Ms. Biron?” A maid, Elizabeth, came into the room. ”Are you prepared, miss?”

“Always, Miss Saddler.”  Mary answered, keeping her gaze fixated away from her.

Elizabeth nodded, but the flicker of doubt she showed was enough for Mary to know that she didn’t believe her. “If you are prepared, then the steward awaits you.”

“I see. Thank you.”  Mary held back a heavy sigh. “I will be going then.”  Elizabeth nodded, and Mary moved to walk past her, but stopped. “Mis…Elizabeth.”  Mary paused for a moment to allow Elizabeth to acknowledge the use of her first name. “May I ask you something…prudish?”

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked.

“N-no.” Mary shook her head. “Never mind.” She walked away from Elizabeth, her thoughts scattered as she spied the steward, Bartholomew, waiting for her.

“Your ladyship.”  Bartholomew greeted with a wave of his arm and a bow. He was a tall older man, with features that Mary had overheard many of the maids describe as “handsome.”  For the life of her though, Mary could not see nor understand their reasoning. Bartholomew had a solid face, with a strong jaw and broad shoulders, but were these the traits of an attractive man?

“Are you well, Mr. Bartholomew?” Mary asked in return.

“As well as ever.”  He replied. “Your father has just finished getting the carriage ready, I trust you are prepared?”

“I am.”  Mary nodded. “You are not helping him?”

“The lord tasked me to wait for you as he prepares.”  Bartholomew replied evenly.

“Only that?” Mary asked.

“And to accompany you throughout the ball.”  Bartholomew continued. “To ward away any

unwanted suitors.”  A lie, but one by her father. To watch and not waiver.

“I see.”  Mary replied finally, then added. “Thank you for your service.”  

“I live to serve, your ladyship.”  Bartholomew replied.

Mary looked at Bartholomew for a few moments as his attention was driven away, but she found herself speaking. “May I ask you a question?”

Bartholomew glanced at her once. “Of course.”

“When you look at a woman, where do your eyes wander?” Mary said, then added. “Answer  as honestly as you can. Vulgar or otherwise.”

Bartholomew gave her a raised eyebrow in response, but after a moment, he spoke again. “The breasts, of course.”  He answered plainly, as if speaking of the weather. “Is there a reason why you asked?”

Mary turned her eyes away. “…I think I’m broken, steward.”  Her shoulders sagged. “I feel that I shall remain unmarried, because I do not feel…anything when I look upon a man or woman.”  Mary took two steps forward, and turned her head so Bartholomew would not be able to see her face. “I feel…empty.”

Bartholomew made a sound Mary wasn’t able to identify. “Forgive me your ladyship, but didn’t you steal those dreadful penny novels in the past? The ones with the explicit scenes?”

“And even then; nothing.”  Mary rubbed her face, and found tears stinging at the corner of her eyes.

Bartholomew spoke softly. “Give it time, and you will.”

Mary felt as if she had been kicked in the gut by a mule, and she must have shown it too. Bartholomew seemed to realize that he had misspoken, but before he could speak further, the doors to the lobby opened.

Entering was Lord Biron, her father, and despite his advanced age, he struck an air of authority that Mary couldn’t even hope to emulate.

“There you are.”  He looked to Mary. “Are you…” He paused, taking in Mary’s expression for a moment, then glanced at Bartholomew. “What happened?” He demanded with steel in his voice.

Bartholomew answered coolly. “The ladyship is simply nervous about today’s events.”

Lord Biron looked at Mary, who wiped her eyes with her arm. “I see.”  He said, then crossed his arms. “Load the bags onto the carriage then, steward.”

“Yes my lord.”  Bartholomew nodded, and left. Leaving father and daughter alone in the room.

“…Mary.”  Lord Biron said as softly as he could. “I know you’re…” He searched for the right word. “Uncomfortable with this situation, but it’s what’s best.”

“I know, father.”  Mary replied quietly.

Lord Biron continued. “You’ll find a good husband, in time.”  

“I know, father.”

Lord Biron pursed his lips. “In any case, please get into the carriage. Miss Saddler and Bartholomew will be joining us shortly.”

“Yes, father.”  

Walking, or, perhaps, slumping past her father and towards the carriage, Mary set herself onto the cushion, and waited for her latest hell to start.

*

The ride to the Kerbeny Estate was both agonizing and boring, a combination that Mary rather dreaded experiencing. The three passengers, Mary, Elizabeth, and Lord Biron made conversation as best they were able. Or, rather, Elizabeth and Lord Biron were able to make small talk, and Mary was only able to catch piecemeals of their conversation.

Mary couldn’t help but roll her eyes as she listened. Elizabeth probably would have made a better daughter then she did, with her cheery demeanor and ease at which Elizabeth held herself in the affairs of nobles. What was Mary, in comparison? Melodramatic to the core, at war with her own lack of desires, and continually striding the line between pathetic and pitiful?

It was a bitter drink to taste, and Mary had taken it more than once. How quaint it was, that the maid and butlers of the estate were more capable than the nobleman’s daughter. Her education was stagnant, her teachers were books and the lessons were long hours in a solitary room. Compared to the trials of the world outside, how did Mary compare? Lacking and largethic, no doubt.

With her cheek resting on her hand as Mary gazed out the window, she tried to drown out both her intrusive thoughts, and the chattering of her father and friend. Soon enough though, Mary spied their destination.

When Mary found herself stepping out of the carriage and standing in front of the vast entrance. It was like something out of an old fairy tale, Mary realized. A hedge maze to the side, a large fountain with running water, and all the decor she thought only existed in storybooks. The main building was made out of fine stonework and bore more than a passing resemblance to a gothic castle. Gargoyles loomed over her, and with their wicked faces, Mary felt as if they could see through all that she could build between them. Taking a shaking breath to focus herself, Mary found Bartholomew at her side once more.

“Are you well?” He asked.

“…No.”  Mary could only shake her head, and trudged forward. “Not really.”  

“Madam–”  

She could only give him a strained smile as they headed inside.

Behind her, Mary heard her father greet some associate of his, and Mary took the chance to slip away towards the offered food. Some women needed to watch what they ate, but Mary did not. Her one apparent blessing from God.

When she made her way to the table, Mary quickly snatched up some small, easily chewable pieces of food and started to eat. She needed to make sure she ate something, after all.

“Miss Biron.”  Bartholomew began softly. “Your father just wants to make sure that—”

“Thank you, but I’d rather not.”  Mary cursed her choice of words. He was loyal and did not deserve this rudeness. “Do you know when the ball ends?” She asked.

“We’ve only just arrived miss.”  Bartholomew returned. “I imagine it will go on till well after dusk.”

“Of course. I merely–”

Mary found her words cut off as a noblewoman, who was entirely more well fed then the rest of the ball goers combined, approached Bartholomew. “You, servant!” She said with a grubby finger pointing at him. Bartholomew, within an instant, assumed a stoic face and regarded the noblewoman coolly.

“Yes, ma’am?” He said in such a tone that would make stones feel soft.

“My dog, find it!” The noblewoman demanded.

Bartholomew shook his head. “I apologize your ladyship, but—”

“Be quiet, peasant!” The noblewoman snapped. “Do as I say!”

Mary raised her hand and opened her mouth to speak. “Miss, I do not wish to appear as rude, but perhaps–”

“Oh, be quiet sow.”  The noblewoman spoke, and at this point, they were drawing eyes. “I do not remember asking you.”

“And I don’t remember how you managed to get through the doors with your girth, but here we are.”  Mary returned, her mouth moving faster than even she expected. The noblewoman’s face twisted in a mix of scorn, hate, and offense at Mary’s words. The noblewoman reached out, grabbed Mary’s ear and twisted sharply. Mary hissed in pain as the woman pulled her closer, the woman’s rancid breath against Mary’s cheek.

“I know you who are, you broken little thing.”  The noblewoman hissed, and Mary gritted her teeth, her hand curling into a fist. The noblewoman continued with her far too foul words against Mary. “I know what your father says about you, a disappointment like you doesn’t–”

“Back–!” Mary moved one foot backward, twisted her waist, and brought her clenched fist upward. “Off!” She felt the force of her blow ripple through the noblewoman’s cheek, causing the noblewoman to stumble backwards and trip over her own two feet, sending both her and a tray of food to splatter to the ground. As Mary took in heaving breaths, the rush of power from her anger waning, she realized Bartholomew was staring at her in abject horror, and that many of the other ball goers had now fully turned to see the commotion.

Mary looked around at their stunned faces, and at the noblewoman, bleeding on the ground and being attended to by who was presumably her son and daughter. From their panicked cries and the tears in their eyes, Mary feared that she had done more than simply ring the bells of the noblewoman. 

“I….”  Mary tried to find her words. “I didn’t…” She looked to Bartholomew. “I was just…”

“Miss Biron…”  Bartholomew said softly, and that was worse than if he had spoken harshly. “I would have–”

She had made a mistake, Mary realized. With speed that surprised even her, Mary found herself running out of the ballroom and into the outer courtyard.

There, she found a stone bench away from others, and let her walls fall. She cursed and cried, snap and scorn, but, after a period, she felt something rub against her leg. Glancing down, she spied a small dog, a poodle, looking up at her. Reaching down, Mary picked the dog up, and placed onto the bench, where it rested on Mary’s lap. “So, are you lost?” She asked the poodle. “For it feels that I certainly am.”  

The poodle looked up at Mary with it’s wide eyes, clearly oblivious to her plight.

Mary rubbed it’s neck. “I mean, I feel as if…no matter what I do. I’m just broken. I just struck a noblewoman after all. It will be a wonder if I can ever show my face outside my home ever again.”  

The poodle sneezed, and Mary gave a weak laugh. It responded by gently licking Mary’s arm. With a strained, but soft smile, Mary kept her gaze to the stars. After what felt like an hour, but was more than likely merely a few minutes, Mary felt the poodle stand up, happily bark once, and jump off the bench. Running in a circle, the poodle barked twice more, before dashing away, as quick as a mouse. She stood, as if in a daze, and followed. Turning the corner to the front entrance, Mary saw her father and friends huddled in a circle. The poodle, gone.

They were speaking in hushed whispers, no doubt about what a terrible mistake she was, and had committed. Elizabeth, perhaps by a wayward glance or because she had been searching, saw Mary’s approach first.

Elizabeth’s eyes went wide. “Miss Biron!” She shouted as she ran to Mary, running in-between Lord Biron and Bartholomew as she did.

“Hello Elizabeth.”  Mary smiled weakly, Elizabeth could only let out a gasp of confusion and concern as she looked Mary over, clearly caught between feeling a mix of relief and repulsion.

“That is…My lady, where were you?” Elizabeth asked. “I saw you run away, I feared that you ran into the woods and were eaten by a bear!” Before Mary could dissuade the notion, her father spoke up.

“Before anything else.”  He spoke with a bear’s growl. “Are you hurt?”

“…No, father.”  Mary braced herself for the inevitable blow. However, instead of the ringing of her skull, she felt nothing but a gentle hand on her head.

“Good. Let’s go home.”  Lord Biron glanced at Bartholomew. “Steward, gather our luggage, and when we get back, brew some coffee. We need to prepare to draft an apology for the lord of the house for our early leave.”

“Not the injured madam?” Bartholomew asked.

“No.”  Lord Biron shook his head. “She laid a hand on my daughter, as far as I’m concerned, she deserved what she got.”

Mary couldn’t stop herself from speaking. “But, father, won’t this result in a scandal?”

“It will.”  Lord Biron replied, and Mary felt her heart sink. “But scandals are rather common. I imagine this will be yesterday’s news sometime next week.” Lord Biron spared one last glance at the ball, then turned his back to it. “Let us be off.”  The two servants nodded, and followed in step behind him.

“….Father.” Mary spoke, even as the familiar vice in her throat came again.  “I’m sorry, for being broken.”

Lord Biron could only tilt his head in confusion, but, for reasons unknown to Mary, Elizabeth smiled sadly.

Photo by Drigo Diniz from Pexels

Damon Day is a graduate of WSU-Vancouver from the extremely stressful year of 2020. He is an aspiring author who has the seemingly impossible goal of breaking into traditional publishing. The road is long and thorny, but every step is progress. You can find him here: Twitter Website

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

Laughing Africa

We know that Africa is not a camera and the continent cannot steal someone’s soul but we know that words, superstitions, and traditions can signify an alternate reality to those who believe.


The fighter remained on the second rung of the ladder about twenty seconds longer than necessary approaching with bated breath.

“Go, go remember Red Hook,” shouted the Anglican right hand side.

“V’amos, v’amos from the left hand side.               

’10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1′ and the roar shoots through the crowd like an elephant raising its trunk.

A jock in the front row licking his lips greedily.

“Hey, Morris,” he screams, “you got another one on the docket like this one?”

‘Naw,’ I say ‘he is one of a kind,’ and I shoot the breeze for awhile enjoying the sound of my big promises hitting the warm wind of the night. Let me introduce myself: I am Morris, alias is Georgio Giacalone aka promoter.

Morris loved his job in the New York ringside of Madison Square Garden. He was always reminded of his idol and nemesis, Norman Mailer….benefactor of the writer and overseer of the infamous book “In the Belly of the Beast.” Morris squinted and looked around with steely determination breathing deeply, he swung his shoulders back, ‘Today, we won,’ he gloated loudly.  ’His mama…may she rest in peace, would have said….’to each his own.’ She had long given up on figuring out what made her boy run. Nana only knew that this one attracted trouble like a rat running in a circular maze never pausing to analyze or change direction. One day, she recounted to her best friend her philosophy of Morris’s movements, “Lena, I raised him to know right from wrong after his father left.

His dad, Silvestre,was gone to the wind.         

Boxing had been the light at the end of the human file cabinet for Morris. After boxing, he became tired of someone using him as a punching bag and was only too happy to trade the gloves for the deal of making money off the bet. Morris was complicated with the raw hungry emotions that often propelled him toward making crazy decisions. Like his Nana, he was superstitious. The night before the fight, he prayed, just like his momma, with her rosary beads.

Morris had learned the art of the deal from Satchmo, a candy store proprietor, albeit a bookie.. Morris used to saunter in while he was on the phone, as Satchmo dipped his challah bread in honey…. munching and running his finger lovingly down the list of horses placing his odds. 

His mama prayed to the good lord that Morris would remain a good boy while Morris prayed that “Satchmo” would teach him everything about the art of the deal. Morris earned a good living and some minor write ups in the Post. Breslin stated in his column “He lives for the game.”  Morris was a character with his high steppin’ arched walk, a hat jauntily slung on his head, a leather jacket slung over his shoulder espousing the curly brown hair peeking out around his face.   

The promised land was an occasional trip to Europe, a nice car, and a better home. Like an agile dancer thrown into the Hudson, he learned to navigate and fare well with his trade.

During one trip to Paris with Nana, she told him:  “Morris, Have I met the woman for you?” She espoused, “I met her at the Quaker Meetings in the 7th arrondisement.         

“Yes, mum,” he mumbled under his breath. He thought aloud quickly, “Tell you what Nana, I will meet her one time for coffee and if you are right,we’ll make a bet. Even down. 10 to 1, if I find her perfect and ask her on a second date, you win the bet.”

Nana laughed thinking of Genevieve. She thought of the long red wavy flowing hair, the long lean slender body which seemed to dance along the street, and the subtle yet careful way she had of voicing her thoughts.  “Deal is on,” and she shook her son’s hand gloating at her victory.“Where does she work, mum?” “She is with the South African Embassy as a secretary for the Diplomat to Paris.”Morris smiled to himself visualizing a stout woman with a poker face and a British accent. “Sure, mum,” he muttered, “whatever you say.”

As Morris was nursing his coffee at the agreed rendez-vous, he noticed a long lean female slinking along like a cat noticing before she plunked herself down a flash of her red hair and a high pitched laugh that made him sit up straighter.“Well, hello,” she blinked her eyes twice, “Are you Morris?”

“Yes, I am.” Dang his mom, she knew his style. He felt lucky, blessed as if she could help grant him every wish he desired. Dollar signs, Vegas, the roulette table, and every gambler’s superstition flitted through his mind as the conversation continued with talk of work, Paris, South Africa, New York. However, Genevieve was not especially interested in him. She later told her best friend “I just wish that I could meet a man I think I could settle down with.” Morris was intuitive as a bookie and since he made his living reading people sensed Genevieve’s disinterest.   

She has other contenders,” he told his mother and paid up his losing bet. 

It was during this time that Morris wandering around the left side of the bank in Paris happened upon a book “Laughing Africa.” He picked it up and idly glanced through the stories until motivated to throw down a couple of dollars for it. The author wrote about the strange and mystical superstitions of Africa. Under one photograph, he read this quote, “Woe to the photographer who tries to capture the soul of the African. Doom and gloom will come to him…..one cannot capture the soul. The soul is the keeper of the man. Without this keeper, one cannot be released. Bad luck and misfortune will follow the one who messes with this. “I get that,” Morris mumbled to himself. One should never duet with the devil. It was around this time that Morris started to have a run of bad luck. Most of his bets fell short; his best protégé trained with him and then left; Jimmy Breslin stopped writing about him; and he moved back in with his mother to save money. He thought to himself ‘I need a good luck charm.’ So he began thinking and he remembered Genevieve.

‘Damm the feeling,’ he said aloud. ‘I felt so good with her beside me.’ And with that thought, he fixated on her.

‘What’s that,’ his mom dozing near his chair inquired. He sighed heavily glanced sideways at his mom, “Nothing, Nana“, he felt as if she was the answer to his long run of bad luck. “And from that moment, I knew I would return to Paris”, he later confided to a friend. Meanwhile, Morris followed Genevieve’s career….through social media, he quietly stalked her.

Morris took a sabbatical to Paris when his mom passed away a few months later. On her death bed, she told him “Morris, I just wish you would settle down.” With this in mind, he returned to Paris. Scouting her neighborhood near the embassy, he was riding an open double decker bus when he spotted that marvelous walk, and the red hair swaying as if to its own catwalk beat. It was Genevieve…in a long wedding dress surrounded by onlookers.

“Stop, stop. Arretez, arretez”, he commanded the bus driver.

Morris lunged off the bus and snatched the camera from the photographer as he was snapping pictures. He tore down the street too embarrassed to stop and then he kept going until he delivered the camera to a store. At least, he reasoned that he would have photographs of Genevieve to cherish. Maybe her visual presence would bring him some much needed luck. As he continued to his hotel, he remembered that strange African fable…when you take a photograph of someone, you steal the soul and so some tribes of Africa do not like to be photographed.

“Is everything alright sir?” questioned the bellhop

“Yes, yes,” Morris yelped, “I will be departing tomorrow at 6 p.m. for the states.”

“Very good,” replied the bellhop moving quickly on. Later, when reporting to the head bellhop, he complained about the strange moods of some foreigners.

Morris pondered all night about stealing the purity of Genevieve’s soul but really he was enraged that she had married someone else. His dreams were very weird full of black creatures disappearing into white fog and then reappearing with a box that resembled a soul. Nervously, he returned for the film. As he stood up at the stand up bar drowning a small cup of very dark espresso, Morris fidgeted impatiently.  it was pouring heavy drenching rain like a Korean monsoon in Paris….cautiously, heart beating, he dashed back the espresso in one shot, banged some money down on the counter, and ran out the door much to the surprise of the proprietor who later told his wife he couldn’t imagine what it must be like to live in the United States. “These people expect everything immediately. They have no patience.”

He ran in the store and paid for the photos opening them with trembling hands. “What happened?” he demanded of the clerk.

The clerk shrugged and moved on to the next customer.

Black, black, all black…there were no images.   

Morris gulped and searched his memory remembering the photographer clicking away; suddenly Morris was unsure of the past, present and the future. It was a signed death warrant….thunder crashed around him and the lightening rolled in…as if his mamma, may she rest in peace, was crying upon his shoulder.  Morris broke out in a cold sweat and left Paris immediately deciding to have no further contact with anyone he knew. Upon arrival in Manhattan, he joined the Concrete Church and became a pall bearer for funerals. He had the opportunity to listen to all sermons on the power of positive thinking. He quit his night job at the Garden and bought a small ice cream business. Slowly and steadily, he became a fixture in the neighborhood. About three years later, he married a pretty high school French teacher, Ava. For their honeymoon, three months later, she begged him for a trip to Paris. With some trepidation, he agreed.

The second day they were walking near the Eiffel Tower when he spotted a woman with gorgeous red hair, and a quick two step pulling a little carriage. Morris realized it was Genevieve.  They stared at one another with surprise: or rather one with delight and the other with despair.

His wife inquired rather suspiciously, “Who is this?”

“Hi, Genevieve,” he stammered.

His palms began to sweat and he had trouble breathing.  Superstitiously, he crossed himself…twice for good luck.  His palms began to sweat…

Congratulations on your marriage,” he heard himself saying as if from a great distance. Genevieve continued talking.  Genevieve and Ava did most of the talking and after awhile, his wife fell silent and looked at him with an accusatory stare.

She was beginning to get suspicious, “who was this lady and what did she mean to him?”                   

Genevieve told his wife,  You may have heard of my marriage to the South African diplomat. We got married in Paris three years ago. I looked your husband up while we were in New York on our honeymoon but there was no record of him.  It was as if he dropped out of sight.  I tried the Garden…” As it was, Ava had no knowledge of his life prior to meeting her, stared suspiciously and quizzically at Morris. 

Morris jumped into the conversation, “Ava and I are newlyweds.  This is our honeymoon.”

Genevieve mentioned that she hoped they had some good photographs of the wedding to remind them of the special occasion. She said with vengeance, “We did have a professional photographer at our wedding but it didn’t work out.”

Belatedly, Morris queried “Why?”                 

Someone ran off with the camera just as the film was put in the cartridge.  The photographer never had a chance to take any photos.  We were mugged on our wedding day by some stranger wearing a cap pulled down to hide his face.”    

Morris asked aloud, “Do you have any idea who could have done such a thing?” Then, an image of his life for the past three years since that fateful day passed before him.  He saw himself lighting a candle at the Concrete Church, the tithing of 20% of his income to the church and to the doctrine of the power of positive thinking. His wife who knew Morris as a successful small business owner quizzically asked him about what Genevieve was referring to when she mentioned “the Garden?

Morris watched as Genevieve said “Chow” and sauntered casually down the boulevard.                          

“Arêtes, arêtes, stop, “he cried in anguish and rushed to the nearest bar.

It only took his wife, the newlywed, Ava, seven days with the help of the American Embassy to locate Morris.  Morris was found reciting his prayers, standing up in a coffee bar outside the Moulin Rouge, drinking black coffee with sides of cognac.

The scenario was later reported by a French writer who happened to be in the bar at the time and wrote an article about the strange behavior of foreigners in Paris…

He concluded this segment by stating “Paris has a strange effect on people, n’est-ce que pas?”

The reporter was very grateful to get the quote from Ava. “He never drinks, never. He does enjoy his banana splits though.” One of his old boxing buddies happened to read the article written by a French journalist reporting on “Foreigners visiting Paris Bastille Day” and laughed uproariously, “That sounds like the Morris I knew,” “People change,” he thought, “but life continues.” He mused, “We are what we are.” He leaned back in his seat wondering what his old friend was doing and what had led to his behavior that day.Then he raised his mug to the television and simultaneously dialed the phone number of his bookie. “Hey, I have a good feeling about this one.”

This one’s for you, Morris. And he winked at the pretty young redhead on the barstool down the way.

Photo by Dariusz Sankowski on Unsplash

Born in New York City and raised in a small town  in the Catskill Mountains, Mrs. Eve Dobbin’s  favorite quote for inspiration is “Everyone has two eyes but no one has the same view” (Harakeh). Her DNA blueprint defines  her “a likely suspect for baking or travelling in time, or by train, boat or plane.”

Sandhill Review, BellaOnline Literary Review, Down in the Dirt Magazine, The Horror Zine, The Stray Branch, Mused Literary Review, The Literary Yard, Vita Brevis, Anapest, Page & Spine feature her  literary talents. One recent honor was being designated “Poet of the Month” by the Zine.

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

A Fair Amount of Ghosts

He plays the trumpet brilliantly on the corner of Grand and Victoria. He doesn’t look like he’s from this era. He’s impeccably dressed, from his crisply fitting suit to his smooth fedora hat. There aren’t many folks that can pull that off. He’s cooler than the freezer aisle on a sweltering summer day. He performs the type of yearning melodies that give you the goosebumps. I’ve never seen anyone put any money into his basket.

There’s a formidable stone house that sits atop Fairmount Hill. It’s been for sale for as long as I can remember. The crooked post sinks deeper into the soil with each passing year. It isn’t a place to live in. It’s a place to dwell in. There’s a dusty rocking chair on the front porch. It’s always rocking. Always rocking. I’m not sure if the chair is occupied by an old soul or if it’s just the wind. Maybe it’s both. I guess the wind is an old soul.

This town is full of posters for Missing Cats. There’s one for a sweet, fluffy Maine Coon named “Bear.” He’s been gone for a while now. I’ve searched through every alleyway, under every porch, and inside of every bush for him. Sometimes I think I see him out of the corner of my eye. But then he’s not there. The rain has pretty much washed away the tattered posters. If he ever turns up, I worry that the posters will be missing.

I met the love of my life in Irvine Park, near the gloriously spouting water fountain, beneath the serene umbrella of oak trees. We spent a small piece of eternity there together. We talked about whether or not the world was coming to an end soon, and if all of our memories will be diminished along with it. After we said our goodbyes and she walked off into the distance, I never saw her again. So I left my heart in Irvine Park.

Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories have appeared in Peculiars Magazine, Ellipsis Zine, Emerge Literary Journal, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Ghost City Review, Lotus-eater, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Drunk Monkeys, and Fat Cat Magazine. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota

Looking to submit to us? We’re accepting Poetry, Fiction, Articles and Art! Please get in touch.

My BFF Taught Me How To Drink

My BFF Taught Me How To Drink- By Kym Smith

The summer I finally got my picture ID (since I didn’t have a driver’s license yet) my best friend Kaye decided she would take me out on the town. Never mind that the last words out of my mom’s mouth were, “NO Drinking!” We were out to prove a point, by God we were going through with this thing. The plan had been in the works for quite some time, Kaye’s brother worked at a honky-tonk bar in south Ft Worth, she considered herself the authority on drinking. What I couldn’t have known and should have learned that night was this night would go down in history as the worst yet funniest drunk story in my long history of drinking; I should have learned something about mixing my alcohols, however, that lesson did not stick. I like every other teenager on the planet, considered it a rite of passage to go out drinking once I became the legal age. At that time in Texas, legal was eighteen. I had never had a drink in my life unless you consider sneaking sips from the glasses of Tom Collins I would occasionally make for my dad. My parents were champion drinkers; my mom had one of those nifty little beer coolers where the keg goes inside, and the tap is part of the bar top that makes up the cooler. She literally went into the city every week or two to the Miller Brewing Company and had her keg refilled. Or bought a new one, I was a little kid, how do I know how these things work? All I know is we accompanied her, marveling at the giant brewery and all the cool neon beer lights on display. Once we got home, she would roll the keg inside somehow and hook it up to the tap. Dad kept his liquor and bar tools on the tiny bar next to the tap. At some point, she became the proud owner of a neon beer sign, probably a gift from the management for all those years of weekly purchases. I could not even stand the smell of beer, Mom’s beers didn’t interest me, so of course, it makes total sense that the first thing I did after procuring my ID was to go purchase a six-pack of beer. Not only that, they didn’t even card me! I was incensed! Regardless, I headed back to Kaye’s car, popped the top off the first bad boy and chugged it like I knew what I was doing. It was gross, so I had another thinking it must need to “grow” on me or something. Nope, not so much. Well, of course that was not the end. Kaye had much bigger plans in store for this lucky girl. I should have been smart enough to sense the doom looming in my future, but no, I was so happy with my newfound freedom I didn’t think about what could possibly be next. The next stop was her brother’s bar, The Daily Double. I had never been to a bar before, even with my parents, in fact, I don’t remember them drinking at a restaurant or anything. They were the at-home or at a friend’s house kind of drinkers. Kaye decided it would be a good idea for me to order something called a “Wild-ass Indian,” which was a mixed drink served in a mason jar that consisted of a shot of everything behind the bar yet tasted like Kool-Aid. I was in trouble then. Walking around the bar like I was cool or something, it never dawned on me that mixing beer with liquor was going to have serious consequences. Kaye was on a mission I tell ya because the next thing I know, I’m puking in the bar’s parking lot and she offers me a cigarette, telling me it would make me feel better. This was my best friend, can I remind yall of that fact right now? I vaguely remember her brother Kent lurking around in the parking lot, possibly checking on us, and Kaye trying to hide from him. She must not have wanted him to know she was trying to corrupt me. What I did not know at the time and didn’t find out until years later was that I am also severely allergic to gin. That must have been one of the ten or so shots that went into the drink. It’s a miracle I ever touched liquor again. After the cigarette, as if I wasn’t dizzy enough already, the world

spun out of control, but I was not giving in. I refused to pussy out on what was supposed to be an epic night, so when Kaye spied the Opry House-an historic movie house at the time, I was not going to refuse the chance to see the latest hit…The Deer Hunter. Unfortunately for me, the only seats left were on the front row, so we literally had to slink as far down in our seats as we could go while staring up at the overly large screen. All that action moving in front of my eyes was evidently more than I could take, I puked again right there on the front row. Laughing at me now, Kaye escorts me to the bathroom, hanging over the stall next to me as I puked some more and asks me if I’m having a good time yet. I was too naïve to know she was messing with me, having a grand ole time at my expense, and so I said yes and that I still wanted to try and watch the movie. We found a seat further back this time, but the motion was still more than I could take, we ended up leaving before the intermission. Had I known it was going to be such a depressing flick, I would have asked for my money back. Back we went to the car which had the beer growing hot in the back seat, so Kaye could drive me home. I dreaded trying to sneak into the house, remembering the warning Mom had left us with. Somehow, I managed to play it cool, kept my head down and walked right past her to my room. She never said a thing, knowing full well I was drunk but never letting on. The next day I had a hangover from hell, she left me alone to sleep it off, never mentioning it again until days later in passing. Of course, I lied about it, I didn’t want further escapades with Kaye cut off forever. Let’s just say though for the record that I never trusted her again to order my cocktails.

Kim Smyth is a freelance blogger, a writer from the DFW Metroplex who lives at home with her hubby Dave and their three furbabies. She runs two blogs, contributes to different publications on Medium and has been published in Therapeutic Thymes and VitaBella magazines. 

Find her at https://kimmy1563.com

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