Premenstrual Terror

“When you walk about, and you’ve got one in, do you get a little thrill?”

I look at him, handsome, cheeky, wife at home so not really of concern to him or me.

“No, you don’t feel it.  Certainly not if you’ve put it in right.”

“Oh.”  He seems a little disappointed.  I decide to flirt a little, what the hell.

“Would be pretty cool if it did.”

He squints up at me from the desk by the window, the one with the half decent view.  The one we all want, but this new guy, a month in the door, somehow has.

“We’ll see.”


The month passes and he’s there with a grin, noticing spots poxing my chin as if a gremlin’s sprayed me with a tiny AK47 from the chocolate bar I’m lifting to my mouth.

“I’ve been looking in the shops.”


“That shit’s expensive!”

I nod, grumpy and wishing it wasn’t so obvious that the curse was upon me once again.  Fucking moon, fucking menstruation.  Fucking men.

“Your point?”

He smiles, sly, eyes glinting with mischief.

“I think I can help you out with that…”

I snort.

“What, sponsor a sanitary pad?  Treat me to a tampon?  Piss off.”

He leans closer, and despite myself I want to pull his perfect earlobe into my mouth and never let it go.

“Better.  I can get you something so you never have to pay for protection again.  Period.”

He sniggers at his little joke, and I’m intrigued.

“I’m not fiddling about with one of them moon cups, I’m clumsy, I’d spill it, trust me.”

“No, trust me.  I can sort this out.  My brother’s good with this kinda thing.”

“What kinda thing?”

He taps his nose, and I notice his nails are clean but just slightly too long.

“You’ll see…”


I thought his brother worked in the quarantine section of the zoo.  Maybe he did, maybe he was just an inventor on the side.  I never thought to ask.  Not till later.  I wasn’t thinking about the cons when he brought me the pro.

“Stick this baby in?  Sliiiide it in like it was your favourite…” he looked at me and I blushed “…toy.  And you’ll never need another of them fiddly paper bullets.”

“Really?  How?”

He folded my fingers round the small metal sheath lying heavy in my hand.

“It’s kinda like a washing machine.  You just need to know it works, not how it does it.”


Again with the nose tap, and I’m hypnotised by the creamy crescent of nail like a child’s tooth on his fingertip.

“Trust me.”

“Don’t I need to take it out and replace it?  Wash it or something?”

“Nah.  Just let it do its thing while you do yours.  But you’re gonna have to let it settle in.  And no sex.”

“No sex?!”

He smiles and I can hear him breathe, feel its heat on my skin.

“You won’t want to with this.”

I raise an eyebrow.  He opens his mouth and I pre-empt him, “I know, I know, ‘trust me’”.


In the ladies, I look it over like I wanted to at my desk but couldn’t.  Similar to a blunt steel syringe, quite like an applicator tampon, but there’s no string dangling like a dead rat’s tail, and it has an unusual weight to it.

I can feel the surge of the crimson flood, and I hate the pads, the tampons, the care I have to take in getting the angle right for insertion, the fear of a leak, the pain when I yank the string for removal and catch a pube too.  Fuck it.

I stick it in, as far as it will go, push the plunger and feel a warmth spread through me as if I’m drunk and vibing it up, as high as the speed setting will go.  Ohhh, it’s good.  I walk out the cubicle as if half asleep, wash my hands with plenty of soap, stick the empty steel in the bin under plenty of paper, then wink at myself in the mirror.  Looking good, kid, and feeling fine.  Pretty damn fine.


I don’t question it, would you if you were always coming, and never going?  Would you?  Course not.

Not till I have cause to months later.

It’s after the office party, well after.  The pretty girls are done photocopying their bottoms, the boss has gone home with a hard-on to his long suffering wife, and me and a few of the guys are off to the pub for a follow up.

Then I’m in the beer garden, lighting a fag, still in that good good mood of great, effortless continuous sex.  And he gets me from behind.

Nobody knows I’m here.

They’ll think I’m in the ladies, or on the dance floor, or at the bar.  His hand splits my lip on my teeth with the strength of sick silence, his other one tugs my skirt up and his zip down.  Since the silver syringe, I’ve done away with knickers, never wear them.  Never need to.  I wish I had that flimsy barrier now.  I struggle and squirm, hating him, terrified, that BASTARD, and he prods me with his thing, stabs it in-

and shrieks with pain.  Tries to pull away.  Now he’s the one twisting and squirming, battling to be free.  There’s a horrible, hideous tearing sound and he falls to the ground with a squealing scream.  It reminds me of the pigs my daddy used to butcher on the farm, before mum left and I chose to go.

I clamp my hand to my groin and feel wet warmth there, where I haven’t for months.  Then as I whimper, and he groans far away on the floor, flopping in the pooling blood, I feel it pulling away.


What the fuck?

What the fuck was it and where the fuck’s it going?

Someone throws the door open and light falls over my attacker.  He’s twitching with shock now, pale, anonymous; I’ve never seen him before in my life.  But I’m sure he used to have a penis.

There’s just a horrible meaty mess amongst the hair now, and the bouncers rush to help him, taking care not to stand in the wet red surrounding him, ignoring me in the shadows by the wall.

I stick my fingers in, glad I kept my nails short.  They feel the stub of him, feel the warm strength of my vaginal vault, then… holy shit.

No way.

I pull my fingers out, quick, hold them up to my face.

The bouncers are calling for an ambulance now, looking about for his penis.

I step into the light, and all I see are my fingertips.

And the teeny, tiny bite marks my pet made, nibbling me within.

Before it knew it was just me, just mummy.

And carried on with its welcome feast.

By Gill Hoffs

Hey Shitbag, What’s My Destiny?

You hit a nerve, made my hands shake when you grazed those painted nails across my arm. The way you shook your ass at me and that peek-a-boo on the sly when you bent over and let me get a good look at ya cunt from behind.

You made me make a sacrifice,

For you,

Not me.

I hated the thought of your smile and your fake pouty lips, but I loved the commune of your flesh, shared and tattered. You gave it a bad rap. Your life, you said. It was just porno and tap water, malted milk balls and restless cocks. You called yourself Destiny, and I wondered why someone like you would work in a chicken house like this. Maybe you was mad at your daddy. Hope I didn’t look like him, so I sat at the back of the bar, in the dark, contemplating your full lips and how they would look severed from your face and mounted on my throbbing cock. You said you could see the future in that little deck of cards you carried around in your purse, said it with a “Hey Mister,” when you asked me if I wanted to know mine. “Ten bucks,” you said, and I replied, “Divine.”

You thought I was talking about you, but I wasn’t. I asked what you did for a living while I flipped the tassel on your boob, and you said you liked to fuck. “With a crystal ball?” I asked, and you laughed at me. You didn’t want to know what I did, what my passion was. You said it was all in the cards, and that death with his rusted out scythe and his emerald green eyes was just a beginning. I nodded and fingered the razor in my pocket, cause I supposed it was true. Well, you believed it, along with the moon and the stars and the voodoo priestess who told you “you” had a gift. You didn’t want to know about all the naughty things little girls like you shouldn’t know about. You didn’t want to know about my fascination with skin.

I am a sculptor.

What’s inside you is weak,

And I can fix it —

With plaster.

I want to fuck you with a chisel. Scrape the ligaments from your bones. What I do is a labor of love. I bring things back to life, but you didn’t even really want to know me beyond the free drinks and the bits of coin I dropped in your tip jar. You thought you were a hipster, a girl gone wild, but you’re really just a fucking parsley smokin’ bigot, getting back at her rich drunk daddy. Your bust will look nice mounted next to the saw palmetto by the shed. I’ll use pencil erasers to keep your nipples hard, yet supple. That’s what I was thinking while you giggled and practiced your “witchcraft” as you liked to call it. You went on and on about sinkholes and bedbugs and why it’s so important to wash the fucking sheets. What if I default on my lottery payment? Will I get sued for all those vile accusations I made about the frigid bitch of a mayor? or Was I letting failure bloom when I spread my seed to the hookers on the next street corner? “Fuck no,” I replied. “This is a small town, honey, and there ain’t no jobs in a dust-storm famine funeral parlor. I got clients. Not a lot of huntin’ to do around here,you see, so I might be easy money, but this strip ain’t the only game in town.” You smiled again, said I was hokey and quaint. Wanted to know whether I wanted to smoke a joint and get a lap dance or not. Now, I don’t know nothin’ bout your big city ways with your tattoos and pierced clits and all that greasy black eye makeup. I just skin em and stuff em; well, you don’t really stuff em, not like a scarecrow with sawdust and hay.

I do like your sky blue innocent eyes, though.

I think I’ll keep them for myself.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner

WARNING: May Cause Serious Harm, Deafness, and Decapitation

Nobody tells you the real reason you shouldn’t poke around in your ears; I bet they don’t even know.  Actually, I know they don’t.  Now.

It was an ear infection that did it.  I blame the swimming pool.  Whenever I venture into its stinking blue heat, I find myself diverted from lane swimming and smooth strokes of front crawl into avoiding the peachy plasters, succulent scabs, pubic hair and skin flakes texturing the water with infection.

Whatever the reason, I bought a box of cotton buds, tiny white dumbbells of deafness, from the chemist next to the takeaway down the road.  ‘Warning: do not insert into ear canal – may cause serious harm or deafness’.  My Uncle Jim always said the only thing you should put in your ear was your elbow.  Yoga, stretching, even the near dislocation of my shoulders never helped me attain that impossible goal.  Salt water, that’s what he’d recommend.  Cures anything.  Broken heart?  Have a cry.  Sore throat?  Gargle with it.  Sunburn?  Bathe in it.  But water in my ears got me into this mess, no chance I’m adding to the worrying wetness, none.

Now, with the itching threatening to scour my sanity and pale liquid trickling like piss from my ears, reminding me of my one dalliance with alternative sex and Golden Showers, I was doing something I’d promised my mother I’d never do.

I was going to clean my ears out.

Oh, the relief.

The twirling of bud after bud, turned soggy and yellow, piling like little paper bones in a heap on the bathroom floor.

Just one more.  Just this one.

But I had to go deeper; I couldn’t not.

Chunks of brown and red, stiff and rank, almost hairy round the edges.  Could I make candles?  Should I?  No…

This must be another old deposit, I held the fuzzy end in frantic fingers and pushed, trying to hook it free, shove it out, clear the infection.  I should have stopped.  I know that now.

I heard a ‘click’, felt the obstruction shift, and suddenly my head was full of noise.  Pulling the cotton bud out, nothing came with it.  But the voices, oh, the voices stayed.

Did you know there was a switch in your head?

That if you work hard enough, dig deep, push and pull and itch and squirm, you can flick it, too?

I don’t recommend it.  People sometimes wish they had the ability to read the minds of others, in a nice, clean, pick-and-choose way.  It’s nothing like that, nothing at all.  The films about it?  They bear as much resemblance to the reality as celebrity sex tapes do to Friday night fingers in the shower.  My flatmate was considering which of her teachers she’d most like to fuck and how; I had no idea her breath stank from eating Mr Overbaum’s shit.  Stan at the shop below was wondering if his mum would mind him using her microwave to explode wasps on the lowest setting.  It made them last longer before they blew.  And that nice old lady, the one from down the road who waved at passersby and gave babies shiny new pennies – she was the worst of the lot.  Helping Hitler, looking out for non-blonds.  I’d dash the coins from her evil old hands next time I saw her.  She wiped them in her knickers first.

It was all too much.  I tried it for an hour, and it was just overwhelming.  Nothing useful, nothing sexy, nothing I wanted or needed to know.  Just a constant torrent of other people’s nasty little ramblings and wonderings, inane shopping lists and to do files, whining and whining and scuzzing through my head. 

No point running to the doctors for help, they’d have me on happy pills in the time it takes to swaddle a near adult in a straitjacket.  Who believes in telepathy?  Not even me.  Perhaps if I flicked the switch back… yeah, that should do it.  Then stick the rest of the packet in the bin.  Done, never to fuck up with again.

It was hard work moving it the first time, but my mum’s due over any minute and there’s no way I’m hearing what she gets up to with my dad.  No way.  In, dig, move, move…

Oh shit – too far – it’s gone over the other way – normality must be the middle setting.  I’m surprised at how much it hurts when my face hits the floor, how cool the summer air feels on the wet base of my neck.  My lip’s split on my teeth, but it hardly matters now.  A tear seeps onto my cheek.

As the oxygen fades I can hear them at my door; just footsteps, no voices.  My body crumples over to the side, hitting the sink with its empty hands, and someone in the hallway asks if I’m alright.  But there’s nothing the chemist can do for me now.

Re-label the boxes, you bastards.

They should read ‘Warning: do not insert into ear canal, may cause serious harm, deafness, or decapitation’.

But seriously, who knew?

By Gill Hoffs

Trois by Peter Marra

Gris-gris Double Friction

a mexican guitarist plays in the subway car
gets out at the next stop
falls to the track
in the shadows of his illness.

moth in subway car
lands on man’s bandana.
early morning: large
blood clot on a deserted platform.
wings flutter slightly.
red rivulets reach out to speak

down a street night
neon flesh sliced in half
going to bed / tonguing with leaves of glass
walking out into sound

hillbillies and wives shot down / shot up

sacred texts to watch out for
walk away walk away walk away

a silence for the swamp girls with their
lustful minutes and a boneless

corpse from madness in her backyard

eyes bleed
retinas spin
cornea explodes
watched the face
transplanted to the clouds
looking down now
at the grey snow
burning holes
in the windows
slick mice
time is out
time is off
the wall twists frequently and
a trap
we walk quickly to the heartbreak dance
so we can dance slowly then lie down
against the wall

her heart cries slowly
comes to rest
on the concrete


Watching the mommy
breastfeeding her child
as the last gospel
explodes from her heart

Watching the light
from the boulevard
cascade and ricochet
through the window onto the table

Watching the atomic faces
swoop down slowly alight on her spine
take root and cringe

Watching the body
fall to the floor
tremble then stop
waiting for the chalk line

Watching the night come
rising of the moon
laughing behind doors
as the plaster crumbles red



Sweat and blood coursing

The ganglion tightens around the bed,

Sleeping shadow.

The glow of the glass gas tubes and

White noise massaging
the folds of the skull

Iron sheets and
Iron cages

And the cracked window.

Touch the leather glass

The nightingale frightens.

Iron sheets.


clutch at the figure

and remainders.

The ganglion tightens around the house,

Sleeping shadow.

Mom and dad

Sperm dancing
the dark light
comes to rest.


She bends
down and
cries and

By Peter Marra

Paper or Plastic?

Cycling down, compressing, Ronald watches as the arms and legs hanging outside the machine snap off like muted branches.  Thick and bleeding, they fall to the concrete floor, no longer a part of what once made them whole.  Occasionally—perhaps one in five—these appendages roll towards him, but most times they do not.  Inert, they remain still about his feet, pooling, each piece preceded only by the dull thud its weight creates against the floor.  It is Sunday, pre-church, and before the morning rush.

Does he care that they make fun of him?  Yes.  More than they could know.  Does Ronald show it?  Never—not once.  He is good at this; at holding things in.   He lets them stew, boil.   That is how he cooks; how the man inside him rolls.  In the mirror, naked, he repeats:  I am rage. 

At sixteen he is hit by a car.  It hurts, but he survives.   Scars come, many, and every day he limps because of it.   So what, he thinks.  It beats the hell out of being dead.  Dead can’t bring closure.  Dead could not extract revenge.  His right hand turns inward as well, up and towards his chest.  It resembles a claw, but one which has lost the will to live.  Chicks never look at it, not if it can be helped. 

At least I survived.

He says this whenever an associate asks.  And he says it with a smile on his face each and every time.  He believes it keeps them humble, the ones he secretly despised.  They think he never hears their whispers; that he could ever possibly know.  Each of them is wrong; all of them his rage.

Mr. Gray keeps him on at Mister Food even though Corporate doesn’t want him to.  Ronald gives the man credit for that.  He really, truly does.  Mr. Gray—tall, bald, bad breath—shouldn’t have done what he did though, and only because of what it would produce.  He should have given Ronald severance; just ensure he went away.  He did not however, and soon enough Ronald finds out that Mr. Gray is no better than the rest of the people behind his back.  He never yells at Ronald, nothing as vulgar as that.  But he whispers along with the rest of them, and at times Ronald would see him laugh.

The final straw involves the baler, and the day Mr. Gray takes him aside.  Mr. Gray says it is only meant to house cardboard and plastic—that only a bale of each could be made at a time.  Ronald says he understands; that it hadn’t been he who mixed the two.  It was then Mr. Gray chooses to call him a liar, and his voice, had it been raised?  Ronald can’t remember, only that his fellow employees have stopped in their tracks to stare.  One of them had been Cara, a girl Ronald wished he could call his own.  She would never fuck him though, and he was happy he held no delusions concerning that.

  “And Ronald, really, you need to be washing your uniform more than once a week.”  Ronald nods, takes what has been given, and then watches Mr. Gray walk away.  From the side he sees him roll his eyes as he passes Patrick, Bill and Mark.  They smile in return, the secret shared and understood.  The rage comes forward then, leaping, but Ronald smiles instead, his big grin containing what will no longer be contained.  Later, while masturbating, the staff meeting at the end of the month enters Ronald’s mind.  They are always held out back, where Mister Food keeps all its excess stock.  Mr. Gray purchases folding chairs and everyone gets a seat.  Beside these seats looms the baler, metal and brown, stickered and wide.  Plastic and cardboard Mr. Gray had said, saying it as though Ronald were new; that he hadn’t been an active member of the Mister Food Team for the past twelve years.   The baler produced rectangle kids after you fed its mouth and the plunger pushed down until it no longer could.  After that came the twine, six lengths of rope you tied off in order to hold the child you created in place.  Ronald was far from wondering about cardboard and plastic as he spasmed into his hand.  He was thinking about bodies; about stacking them high.  Could it be done, he thought, and realized he had been talking out loud.

“Mr. Gray?”

“What is it now Ronald?”

“At the staff meeting—could I be in charge of the refreshments?”  Pausing, Mr. Gray finally swivels in his chair.  “Of course you can,” he says.  Ronald notices that Mr. Gray is more than enthused that he has offered to do this.  Good for me, Ronald thinks—everyone needs a little happiness in their lives.

The dosage is enough, more than, and all but Florence had taken a glass.  It doesn’t take much to persuade her however, not once Ronald puts the full force of his limp on display.  She takes the glass, sips—comments on how peachy it tastes.  Thirty minutes later all thirty-seven employees lay prone before him.  Where to begin, he thinks, and suddenly he notices how hard his breath has become; how hard his heart is now knocking against his chest.  “I am Rage,”  he says and looks around, taking each of them in at a time.  I will be stacking you, he thinks, and then goes on towards Mr. Gray.  In time—stupid fucking hand—he gets the big man up, rolling him up and over the baler’s bottom lip.  Easier, he takes the cashiers next, each of them half the weight of Mr. Gray.  Eleven of them inside, Ronald closes the safety gate and then pushes the big green button on the side of the machine.  With a start and then a screech, the plunger descends, crushing breath and bone alike.  They never wake, not one of them.  They only bleed, forming a lake like syrup to which Ronald sees no end.

  The buggie boys come next, followed by the Stationary Department.  Of them all, Sheila the office girl proves the most difficult.  Over three hundred pounds, she is more than he can lift.  Using empty milk crates, Ronald creates the leverage he believes he will need.  In, she sinks half way down, her face coming to rest beside George from Frozen Food.  Amanda is beside them, her brain exposed and grey.  Done, he looks around at the empty chairs, at the skids full of overstock beyond.  He takes in the blood that continues to seep from the bottom of the baler and arms and legs that rest within.  Should I leave them, he thinks, but knows a job is not complete until you have cleaned up after yourself.

He makes a bale using twine that will never again be white.  It does not turn out as he had hoped, not as rectangular, nor as solidly built.

From skin that runs in flaps to muscle that hangs and drips, Ronald stands in front of the baler’s open door, squints into the chamber for all the faces he can still make out.  There is Stacy and Beth, both of them covered in Shawn.  Below them he sees Richard, the man finally inside Peggy-Sue.   And there at the bottom lay Mr. Gray, his bright eyes now dull, his nose below his mouth.  They would not be laughing anymore, nor would their whispers continue to come.

Washing up, Ronald changes into his extra uniform.  He then goes out and fills the milk.  He rotates the product as he’s been taught, finds that the person before him has not.  He sighs when he finds this; dejected to see that someone had not been doing their job as they were supposed to.  Finished, he takes his empty crates out back and piles them away.  He stacks the chairs as well, the ones Mr. Gray had rented for the day.  Making his way up front, he realizes he has lost track of time; that the customers have been waiting longer than they should, many of them now tapping their keys against the glass.  Opening the doors, they look at him weird, like they have never experienced rage before.  Have I missed some blood, he asks himself, and then he looks to his one good hand.  Seeing nothing, he welcomes them in; informs them that the cashiers will be up front shortly.  The customers smile in response to this, but Ronald feels that something is off.  He doesn’t know what, only that it is there.   The customers do not whisper however, nor do they laugh.

By Beau Johnson

The Lodge

Part one:

 A highway bends over the horizon.
 A walk through the entrance.

Judges sit at a long table
that vibrates from the music.

Fitful playthings touch you ever so gently
closing the windows

drawing the moldy curtains
they’re still accusing outdoors.

A rusty iron odor engages the viewers
Inside the cabin.

They performed surgery outside and
she enjoyed the feeling.

Given a new life
She breathes death into her followers


Next door the crave engine convulsed
with a female.

Part two:

A doll smiled.

A round room
semicircle window
silhouettes reflected


Part three:

slinky women scream
while dancing
wrapped in
shadows’ times
wood paneled fears / time to break out
rancid cats dancing
on her forehead

watch with delight
while the hangman’s card
quietly placed in
Persephone’s mouth is split
bodies here and there watch her sit
while she counts her fingers
a teaserama for the toy box
time to talk to the red women

outside is a red black sky

The final tornadoes touch down.

By Peter Marra

Cost and Effect

“How much for those?” she asked, ogling my breasts.

I leaned back in my chair and stretched, buttons straining to be free, adding to the allure of the package.

“What do you think they’re worth?”

Her hands restless in her lap, baby rats squirming for their mother’s teat, I knew what she wanted.

“They feel great, too.  Certainly not fake, but better than real.  With a pair of these, the industry’s yours for the taking.”

Or faking.

“How much?”

I tapped a fountain pen against my lower lip, as if lost in thought.  Assessing her.

“What would you give for such a tempting rack?”

Her shoulders hunched up and down.

“My eye teeth.”

A hand fumbled for her bag, delivered her wallet onto my desk.

“Done.  You can pay me after.”


 She was drowsy after the procedure, the herbs took them that way sometimes.  The right address, a lab coat white as a Hollywood smile, and they didn’t ask too many questions.  Not till after.

“Can I touch them yet?”

I smiled, reassuring her.  It made it … tasty.

“Touch what you like, with our procedures there are no scars, no infections, no healing times.  Just… satisfaction.”


Her hands squeezed 32Ds, plump and warm, and she sighed with happiness.

“Can I get you a drink?”

She nodded, tried to look around the room properly.

“My face feels weird.”

I nodded.

“It will for a while, but you’ll soon get used to it.”

Taking the glass of water in her hand, she tried to focus, and I trembled with glee.

“Shall I settle the bill now?  I love what you’ve done, I’m so happy.”

I couldn’t help a giggle leaking out like a spoonful of pee with a fright.

“You’ve already paid.”

She cocked her head to one side, frowned a little.

“But we never agreed a final figure.”

“Oh, we did.”

Her other hand found her face, tried to rub her eyes as she concentrated on what I’d said, then flitted from side to side as if in semaphore of terror.

Priceless.  The tapes were rolling.  My customers, my real customers would be very pleased.

“What’s this?  What’s on – my eye, what’s wrong with my eye?”

“I just did as you said.”


I leaned in close, so close she could smell the sulphur on my breath.

“When we agreed prices.  You said.”


Nearly a whisper, but the sound guys were good.  They’d have caught it.

“To give your eye teeth.”

And as she cried, as she wailed, I watched the tears creep past the thick white lashes of bone round her eye.

Now mascara; that might be a problem.

By Gill Hoffs

The Haunted Housewife

They called her the Haunted Housewife. She wore June Cleaver dresses from the 50’s. They were moth-eaten and dyed black to match the circles underneath her eyes. Her skin was doll’s porcelain, powdered into transparency. Some say she didn’t exist at all, that she was only a ghost who showed herself in the windows of the sinking Georgian manor on Pine Street. Holding a martini for a husband who would never come home and cooking dinner for children that could not digest anymore.

They called her the Haunted Housewife and her black hair was streaked white. Empty bottles of chemicals were found in the trash bin on the mornings after her sightings. Whole gallon jugs of Windex, tile cleanser, bleach and lye. The women would all whisper, what was she doing in there? Did she still clean that house? Did she polish the silver? Did she buff the floor? When did she emerge? Neighborhood children made a game of knock knock knock on her door. They ran away and hid behind the trash can and flaking picket fence.

She used to have a family the older women would say. She wasn’t always alone. One day no one was there, except the haunted housewife. Left to make empty beds, and iron unworn shirts. the police came. Everyone talked, but there was nothing said. Except that the husband and her two boys were never seen again.

Then, the children started disappearing in the woods off of Pine Street. Little boys with chubby cheeks, and a penchant for marble games, shooting things with BB guns. Winchester model. Hollering after a felled squirrel, compatriots would watch them fade into the forest fog. No one saw them after that. Now and then a boy’s sneaker would show up, smeared with mud with the faint odor of cleaning products.

Peering out she smiled, in the dark when they all slept. She was their joke but she had them all wrapped around her bony white finger, little did they know. Mounting the stairs she descended to the basement family room. It was set up just as they left it: trains, tv, molding floral print couch and reclining lounge chair. Underneath the big red wool rug, she pulled pieces of floor, exposing a locked door. Fitting the key carefully into the heavy lock the Haunted Housewife adjusted her heels, and opened up her real home. Down she twisted into the lighted hole where her family had multiplied like bunnies. Her husband sat at his work bench reading the paper, her boys were on the shag carpet with their Erector set, and the others . . well the others had come to live with them forever. Once her husband had said she should take up a hobby, now she was quite proud of her work. Taxidermy was a very considerate art after all.

By Emily Smith-Miller

A Bloodied Ear of Corn

“When maidens find red ears of corn,

They shall be paired before the dawn”

This golden field slopes like her chest; the fence posts mirror my own.  But it’s not just breasts I lack.  She has the hair, in near pubic curls, dimples like pock marks, boring blue eyes… everything the village boys could want or need.  I can ride a horse so fast you’d swear I was centaur, slice a sickle through wheat as if twirling in dance, and twist a lamb in its mother so the feet slide out first and there’s profit for morning. 

But to my folks, to those boys with their awkward walks and sliding eyes, stiff trousers and fiddling pockets, I’m the runt of the litter.  Except when I try and talk to them about her, about the realities of living with my sister, her sniffs and whining, delicacies and deceit, they call me that but substitute with a ‘c’.

I need a mate, I need escape.  My own farm to run, and a cart for the market.  A bed to lie in, roll on, and share.  No more making do.

So I’m making don’t, won’t and can’t.

We’re out in the field, and I’m cutting the corn.  She bends to sniff a poppy then scarlet blossoms further than petals, wetter than tears, stickier than mud.

Who they going to marry now?

By Gill Hoffs

The Shadow Factory

She never needed to reload.
It had only been a week, and you said the word “bed” with the wide innocent eyes of a child as in “Are we going to?” and she really didn’t know what to say to you. She could see your expectant smile shining in the darkness, could feel your heartbeat thrumming the dead air of silence around her, but there were no words. Not for you.
She knew what you wanted, could feel it under your skin when you fucked her on the lino in the kitchen and against the dumpster in the parking lot and on the roof of your wife’s car. Yes, she could feel it, and she wanted to cut it out, wanted to find you in the morning, a distant dream, a sigh that barely brushed up against the linen. Too soon, it was just too soon. She’d made the same mistakes before…
Mathew 7:16. He wouldn’t kiss her on the mouth after she’d sucked the fuck out of him. “Selfish,” she thought, every single time he came. His blood was slow and thick and tasted of tequila and mothballs.
Sometimes the dead speak to her. She would strip the sheets from the mattress and lie amongst them naked, listening to their complaints in the dark, the streetlights through the blinds marking the room off like the scene of a homicide. Sweat, and piss, and shit, and vomit. She could smell them all, taste them all, on the soft folds beneath her body.
Jake 5:22 would never look at her when he came. Called her by his mother’s first name when he fucked her, and then he’d call her a whore. “Too needy,” she thought every single time he refused to look at her cunt. His blood was slick and gritty and tasted of grease.
Simon 3:18 would only ever fuck her in the ass. Said it looked like a nice tight schoolboy’s ass. There was no blood in his veins.
You were different though, 1 week 3 days and you couldn’t help but say the words, even if you didn’t mean it. But you’d have to mean it before you could join her here, in this private space between hope and pain.
You’d have to make her believe it,

Before she could ever accept your stain.

By Cheryl Anne Gardner