Fiction January 2012

William J Fedigan


Crazies on Ward B hear Captain screaming, screaming all day, night. Crazies not surprised. Crazies know Captain. Captain’s frequent flyer on Ward B, visits 10-12 times/yr, like his home away from.

Crazies used to Captain screaming, screaming at his thumb, screaming: Fat Mike you motherfucker motherfucker motherfucker.

Fat Mike is what Captain calls his thumb, right thumb, split nail, dirty, nasty fucking thumb.

Crazies know Captain. Crazies know: Stay the fuck away from Captain. He got sharp teeth.

What happens when Captain stops screaming, he bites his thumb, bites deep, bites til it bleeds. Next thing, Captain screaming again, waving thumb, calling it Fat Mike, blood flying round. Orderlies, big as coup deville, grab Captain, tie him down & into rubber room. Nurse puts bandage on thumb, doc gives shot in ass, Captain’s out, sleeping like he’s in coffin. Crazies smile.

Next a.m. Captain’s unleashed, doing thorazine shuffle, walking like he drank too much wine, needs to sit down, take it easy before he falls down. Captain sits next to Jimmy. Jimmy thinking: Shit.

Captain raises thumb in air like sword. Jimmy thinking: Shit. Captain hisses at thumb like rattlesnake. Jimmy thinking: Shit. Captain says real low: fat mike, you motherfucker motherfucker motherfucker. Jimmy thinking: Man talkin to thumb hissin like rattlesnake should be in rubber room, permanent guest.

Captain’s tired now, chin drops to chest, nods off. Thumb falls thru the air like rock into Jimmy’s lap. Jimmy jumps, Captain jumps, thumb twitches. Captain says: fat mike fat mike fat mike. Captains says it real low, nobody hears cept Jimmy. Jimmy’s gotta ask: What the fuck you sayin?

-FAT MIKE! Captain screams. Crazies run, doors slam, orderlies looking over.
-Take it easy for chrissakes, You wanna say somethin, say it low, Jimmy says, sorry he asked in first place.
-Fat Mike. You remember Fat Mike? Captain saying it low.
-Yeah. I remember Fat Mike. He’s dead. Heart attack, stroke, some shit. He’s dead.
-NO! WAS MY THUMB! THIS FUCKIN THUMB! Captain screams, raising thumb in air like sword. Jimmy thinking: Shit!

Orderlies moving fast like coup deville, saying : Fuck Shit Son Bitch!
Jimmy says to orderlies: Everything’s ok. Don’t worry bout it.
Orderlies stay awhile, then leave, but watching close.

-Take it easy for chrissakes. What the fuck you talkin bout? Jimmy asking Captain. Jimmy gotta know.

Captain whispering now: I stuck my thumb thru Fat Mike’s eye alla way to his brains. Captain saying it like it’s nothing at all, sticking his thumb thru the man’s eye alla way to his brains.
-You’re sayin you killed Fat Mike? Jimmy says.
-Fat Mike, he called me a crazy retard motherfucker. Fat Mike got mean eyes when he says it so I pick one eye and stick my thumb thru alla way to his brains.
-What? Jimmy says, looking at Captain’s thumb, right thumb, split nail, dirty, nasty fucking thumb.
-His brains felt funny. Like jello, but harder. When I pulled my thumb out, looked like cherry jello. Do you like cherry jello, Jimmy?
-What the fuck you talkin bout? Fat Mike died of a heart attack, stroke, some shit…
-Maybe we’ll get cherry jello for dessert tonite. I like cherry jello. How bout you, Jimmy? Captain says, not hearing Jimmy, thinking about cherry jello, how nice it looks, how good it tastes…
-Listen to me. You didn’t kill Fat Mike. He died from a heart attack, stroke…

Captain jumps up, screaming at Jimmy: CHERRY JELLO! Captain rips bandage off thumb, bites thumb, thumb bleeds. LIKE THIS! RED LIKE CHERRY JELLO! CHERRY JELLO! CHERRY JELLO…

Orderlies coming fast. Captain raises thumb in air like sword, stabs at orderlies, at Jimmy, stick em in the eye if he can. Jimmy tries to jump out the way, but too late, gets thumb in eye. Jimmy saying: Fuck Shit Son Bitch! Orderlies grab Captain, rubber room again, shot in ass again, sleeps like corpse six feet down.

Crazies watch, look at Jimmy, eye turning purple but brains ok. War over. Quiet time. Crazies smile.

Wk later, Jimmy’s out, discharged. Captain leaves AMA. Back in 24, his home away from.

Jimmy and Flower walking in park, nice day, sun hurts Jimmy’s eye.
-I hear Captain’s back on Ward B, Flower says to Jimmy.
-His home away from, Jimmy says. Eye hurts, black-blue swollen fucking eye.
-Wanna know what he did this time? Flower says.
-What he do, thumb-fuck somebody? Jimmy says.
-Captain thumb-fucked himself.
-What you talking bout?
-Crazy retard motherfucker stuck his own thumb thru his own eye. All the time he’s screamin something bout how Fat Mike did it, not him, it was Fat Mike did it. Crazy retard motherfucker.

Jimmy’s gotta ask: Do you remember Fat Mike?
-Yeah. Died last year. I went to his wake. Whadda fuckin wake. Never forget it.
-Never saw a one-eye corpse before. They putta patch over one a Fat Mike’s eyes even though both eyes’re closed. One-eye corpse for chissakes. I took one look and got the fuck outta there.
-Shit, Jimmy says, blinking his eye, making sure it’s still there, still in his head.

Flower and Jimmy smoking now. Smoke hurts Jimmy’s eye. Jimmy thinking: Shit.

Jimmy blinks eye two times to make sure. He blinks two more thinking: Shit.


William J Fedigan writes about who he is, what he knows, where he’s been.

January 2012


Letter from the Editor


THREE POEMS by Anthony Cappo

TWO POEMS by Mira Martin-Parker
TWO POEMS by Aditi Rao
TWO POEMS by Francis Raven


THUMB JELLO by William J Fedigan



Winners of our 500 Word Challenge 

First Place:


Second Place:


January 2012 Poetry

Freesia Mckee


voice wet with shame, you birthed yourself
through your throat in a closet of lemons

sixteen thin muscles stretched close: see
girls gulping peach air laden with lemons

in a clean-clothed drowning from wrong-
thirsted rejection, we drink the sugared juice of lemons

even underwater, the eyelid stays focused, counting
each of its own like a child with lemons

thank you again for second times
steadily; i’m peeling softly the stories of lemons


Freesia Mckee is a feminist from the Midwest who has worked as a gardener, a writing tutor, and a teacher. She will soon graduate from Warren Wilson College.



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December 2011 Fiction

Justine Haus


My mother poisoned me on the day of my first period. We spent the morning hiking through the woods behind our house to a field near our church where there was, each spring, a fragrant and abundant rash of daffodils. We collected dozens of them in a lacquered straw basket that was usually kept on top of the bureau in the guest room. On occasion, when I was very nervous or home alone sick from school, I would go quietly and take the basket down and lick the handle for a few minutes. It tasted sweet and pickled. I held the basket while my mother snipped the flowers off at the bottoms of their stalks and dropped them in. First, she would turn the blooms of the daffodils up toward the sun and say “What sweet faces they have. Don’t let their heads get crushed.” We had about thirty flowers by the time my blood started showing. My mother noticed it before I did. I was walking ahead of her and the sun glared with so much heat and whiteness I couldn’t see. She snatched the basket from my hands and instructed me to be still. She moved her fingers tersely, like a doctor, over the back of my thigh. “We have to go back to the house now.” She said. Mother carried the basket of daffodils tight against her chest as we walked through the woods, and blood pooled in the heel of my sandal.

She filled a plastic tub with bleach and water and dropped my shorts in. They looked like an organ suspended in milk, vague and dark red. I sat on the floor with my back against the bath, the bumps of my spine kept knocking against the porcelain and getting sore but I didn’t want to stand up and encourage my bleeding. Mother stood by the window chewing on her nails in an animal way.

“Do you understand what’s happening to you?”
“I already know about it all.” I told her
“What, all?”
“You know,” I lowered my voice “sex things.”

Mother’s eyes were small, dark pebbles set far back in her head. “This is not a sex thing.” She hissed, and she scowled at me with her cold imperial mouth drawn into a thin line.

Later on that night Mother brought a glass of milk and two blue pills up to my room. I took them while she sat in a chair next to the bed watching me. Once all of the milk was gone she rinsed the glass and filled it with water and daffodils and placed it on my nightstand. “Your period can make you feel very sick,” she said “Sometimes you can’t even get out of bed.”

“I know.”

She began speaking in an aloof, wounded voice. “I didn’t realize you were an expert on the subject.”
“I’m not. I just know things.”
“I didn’t get mine until I was seventeen.” She said “I didn’t know what was happening. I thought I was dying. Unlike you, I didn’t have a mother kind enough to teach me about these things.”

Then, quite suddenly, I began to vomit. There was no warning, no wavering of my stomach or saliva flooding my mouth. It came in a sudden and vile rush. It splashed, still cold and milky, across my floral bedspread and onto the carpet. My mother lifted me up with a gentle firmness that I had seen only once before when she walked our dog into the vet to be put down. She carried me back to the bathroom and I heaved violently into the toilet. Mother smoothed my hair and rubbed my back, sometimes gouging me with her nails, as she said, “See, I told you it might be like this.” She pinched my cheeks a little and lifted my face up to look at her. My eyes, I’m sure, were red and swollen from the vomiting. My face must have been slick and bulging, my hair stuck around my mouth. Mother said, “What a sweet little face you have.”


Justine Haus’s work has appeared in PIF Magazine and The Reader. She lives in New York City

December 2011 NonFiction

Jean Kim


We were dancing in a dim lit bar somewhere in Allston. It’s 1994.
His hair was greasy as if he had been playing mechanic all day with cars.
Somewhere outside the window an arc of sunlight scatters along the snow piled up against the window melting.
Tinged with icicles that will break.
Again, i am twirling on the beer soaked floor where jello shots parade.
Its one for the money, two for the show. The jukebox sings to no one in the room.
somewhere the same song plays


Almost a mess of blood on thin flannel sheets. Patriots poster watching. Lace bra on linoleum floor.
Stacks of papers in corners. Volume of poetry. His record player spins nothing but static. Sweat collects near my temples.
My hands affixed in a cross above my head.
                   no no no
is this real?


More than he needs.


My lipstick smears against his white t-shirt. The force of hands. Stop.
It will be romantic, not under the weight of him. It will not be another PSA on TV, with a broken antenna, a dog watching.
It will fade out almost entirely, a blip of grey, set against black. The last shot in kaleidoscope filtered lens was a girl running back to her dorm room.

In the corner now, or in a trash bag cradled by a couch, a few glossy fashion magazines, a pack of half smoked cigarettes, one broken. There is always one broken

Pipes filled to the brim with the West Coast’s finest, he says this. Pulls off the sheets
I like to watch you smoke. It gets me off. He says and exhales the smoke in my mouth
in his bed. The radiator sings to the traffic outside the noise grows louder filtering.

All summer long I’ve dreamed
of waters rushing together rising in foaming peaks


tug tug on my underwear.
His dog Malcom, watching. He gets away with things in this city called Boston.
He thinks he’s famous, even better, i think he is famous.


Another toke this time it’s not a pipe but a joint.
Rolled special for me for you. He whispers, not listening to the door bell ring.


Keeps talking. Weed is pure, for cancer patients dying, prescribed by doctors. But neither one of us is dying, at least not today. From the corner of the room the walls melt together, his voice echoes in my ear .
The door bell rings


He wraps a towel around his waist. Wanders down the hallway.
Chatter. People chatter.
I play with a lighter. Think of setting the house on fire. burn baby burn.
Hold it close to my skin. The heat promises nothing.


It’s my friend, he tells me. Grin. They will kill you. I start laughing . His face under the fluorescent track lights. Flicker Flicker.


He whispers again, My friends will kill you if you tell of the young boy in the grip of a priest who touched him.
He cannot say , molestation.


He raises his fist. Slams it against the wall. Fat dog talks in dog language. Woof Woof.


Somewhere between this city is this stranger’s bed in the rhythm of the music that still plays I have been dying. He is still watching, spinning and spinning under flashes of dark.


Jean Kim’s work has been published in First Inkling, LUMINA, and The Philadelphia Weekly. She was the recipient of the 2011 Walker Award, a scholarship prize, to study at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and she won the 2011 Nonfiction Award in LUMINA.

December 2011 Poetry

Sophia G. Starmack


He’d barred all the windows. The doors were locked,
the old books put away, yet every night:
the knocking. He turned and turned in his sleep.
Tenderly, someone was setting the table.
Covering his head with the quilt, he heard them
speaking in maddening verse, spilling the wine;
their stubborn, old-fashioned lamps describing
spells of light on the floor. In the morning
he never found the unleavened breadcrumbs,
no dark crush of oil on the cloth. Only
the intractable rhythm of an old prayer,
the fierce vibration, the bell not rung.


Not because they remembered to dress nice but not too nice for the party.
Not because they kept their make-up natural,
or because not one of them outshone the bride.
Not because of the fork-and-knife lessons,
or the nightgowned waltzes late in the dining room.
They were somewhat bruised from studying.
At least one had gone all the way.
Not because their flasks were so chastely filled, their wicks respectably trimmed,
not even because they slept so slightly the whitest sigh would wake them.
It was because they kept their oil to themselves.

They’d given so much already, the gesture hollow like a lamp.


Sophia G Starmack lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she keeps busy as a homeschool tutor and writing teacher. She is currently translating a novel from the French.

December 2011 Poetry

Jessica Ankeny


It must be boiled. The alternative
is burying outside or in a terrarium
with beetles but the possibility
of damage is higher therefore
boiling is recommended. Regardless,
don’t merely clean or the marrow
may rot and cause
an unpleasant odor. Pieces
of flesh and nasal cavity
will rise to the surface while
boiling, this is normal. After two
hours remove from water and use
needle-nose pliers to pull extra
muscle and brain out.
Soak in Hydrogen Peroxide.
After the bleaching is complete
mount to wood and hang on wall.


She’s pulling off her skin again
and hanging the strips
on the clothes line. She starts

at the armpit and tears
past the hip protruding
like a stone. Years ago I asked

why, she said I‘m opening
the doors to smell and find it.

What? I said. He told me

something was rotting in here.
I caught her re-smelling
the thigh pieces; they were cut

into little stars.
I don’t invite her over anymore.
The muscles push one another

and drip blood on the carpet
like racing stripes. You’d think
that tissue on her legs would dry

out; it’s been exposed so long.
It takes forever to clean.
I don’t have the time.


Jessica Ankeny is drawn to the insides of things, like liver and puppet joints. She lives with her cat, Joni Mitchell, in Brooklyn.

December 2011 Poetry

Adam G Chambers


I was commanded in the dream to construct a face out of lips.
I could use lips from famous actors only

so that Johnny Depp’s with their taut lines became the cheekbones
and Michelle Pfeiffer’s with their fullness

served as the fatty parts of cheeks.
Eyes were formed by the firm, proud lips of Anthony Hopkins

and the nose with Denzel Washington’s.
The forehead was made up of the flattened,

hard-working lips of John Turturro, which bent
to the task as oxen to the plow. And the mouth—

the mouth itself was a singular construction.
Where the face was made of lips,

the mouth was made of an entire face,
and the face was that of my childhood

molester. A gaping hole formed a small sea
in the middle of that face

and next to the sea was an object,
either penis or pistol,

lying heartbroken upon its shore.


Adam G. Chambers received the Thomas Lux Prize for Poetry in 2010. His work has appeared in The Dirty Napkin, The Cortland Review, Bluestem, Eclectica, 2River View, Foliate Oak, Alba, The Fiddleback and The Antigonish Review, and was the recipient of an International Merit Award from The Atlanta Review in 2010. Adam was also nominated for the anthology Best New Poets in both 2010 and 2011. He lives with his family in Connecticut.

December 2011 Poetry

Kevin Pilkington


I bought an old piano from the guy
in the apartment above mine
after I got him to throw the black keys
in for free. Too bad the dog lying
underneath it like a cashew wasn’t
for sale. I tried playing it by ear
but kept hurting the side of my head.
I’m thinking of taking lessons.

There’s a playground with a skating
rink on Seventh. It reminded me
when I was a kid in first grade
how I fell on the one near my home
and the way Francine Peron skated
around me giggling as I crawled off.
My face was red as the skirt around
her waist that flared out like an umbrella.
After that there was no way I could
ask her to marry me the next day
in recess like I planned. Years later
another girl laughed at me but I made sure
I wasn’t on all fours or anywhere near
thin ice.

Ever since I heard a friend of mine
jumped from a bridge near Spokane
so he wouldn’t have to show up for work
on Monday, I won’t fly west and only
take part –time jobs. Except for all
the noise: clouds rubbing against sky,
cats walking, the war taking place inside
the novel on my desk, cold beers losing
their heads in the bar on the corner,
I like it here. And I don’t let things
get to me the way they once did.
When my ex wrote to say the weeping
willow in back of the place we shared
stopped crying as soon as I left
and has never looked better, I admit
it bothered me for a few minutes.
Only a few.


Kevin Pilkington is the author of six collections: his collection Spare Change was the La Jolla Poets Press National Book Award winner and his chapbook won the Ledge Poetry Prize. His poems and reviews have appeared in numerous magazines including: Poetry, Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Boston Review, Yankee, Hayden’s Ferry, Columbia, Greensboro Review, North American Review, Gulf Coast, and Valparaiso Review. His latest collection The Unemployed Man Who Became a Tree is available from Black Lawrence Press.