Category Archives: Fiction

Question of Survival

by Kim Steutermann Rogers

The sun sets over an endless sea, flashing a mysterious green, while a purple squall stomps on the horizon. I stand in the middle of a sandy island the size of a graveyard, and just as flat. This is exactly what I want after the last ten months—time alone on a deserted island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It’s what I hope will right my world that’s canted 27 degrees to the left, one degree for each year of marriage. Is what I hope will rid me of the ghost of a perfect husband, a perfect marriage, a perfect life. Continue reading

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Alpha and Omega

by Nora Bonner

My latest lover has twisted a bruise on my left breast, in the chunk of skin below the nipple. He’d insisted this act was for my pleasure. I’ve no recollection of the pain it took to make this brown and green mark surrounding the purple dash where he’d pinched the hardest. It certainly was not something I requested. No one had taken such aggression on my body before. When I’d told him to stop, he insisted that he knew more about pleasure. He insisted that I liked pain. This exchange occurred only seconds after he had slipped his fingers inside the still-wet me and insisted he was an alpha.

And I—this is how I responded—I am an omega.

He asked, What do you mean? and I told him: I am the last to know about these things.

No, he said. No, that’s not what I mean by alpha. With his free hand he combed his fingers through my limp strands to the base of my neck, then gently tugged.

I’m an omega, I insisted, brushing his hand away. I felt nothing dear as he continued to grab at my hair and to get him to stop, I tugged off his t-shirt I’d been wearing since our most recent round of sex, which had happened a mere eight hours beforehand, when we were still in bed and throbbing for coffee. Neither of us had left the apartment yet on that Sunday afternoon, though I was starting to consider leaving when he referred to himself with a term reserved for aggressive dogs.

And then he brushed his lips between my breasts and I thought, if this lover is going to deny what I have to say, I’d prefer him to deny me like this. My prior experiences have taught me that when a lover covers my skin with this sort of gentleness, I’m left ripe with longing. This particular experience proved that when a lover grips the skin above my breast, tugs and twists, as this lover did in the next moment, I am left pale with shock.

You like pain, he insisted as he pinched.

I’m done, I said.

He gripped my arm in the way of alphas from old timey old movies and television shows, and as he did so I figured: He thinks he is Captain Kirk. He thinks I am his Janice to yank across the Enterprise. Enough, I said, slapping his clutch away like a mosquito. And with that, he promptly dropped my arm.

*

I packed my things and drove home, wondering how it was that this lover who, in the Saturday night beforehand, had cooked me a three course meal consisting of roasted chicken doused in lemon and the specks of black pepper he cranked from a pepper jar, a bed of arugula sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil he dripped from a mason jar, and a baguette he insisted he baked himself that smelled faintly of butter and rosemary–how could a man capable of such sensuality suddenly appear so senseless?

The stress of this.

I hadn’t smoked in three and a half years, but once I hit the highway, I stopped at the corner store for a pack of mellows, then lit one with the glowing lighter beneath the tape deck and sucked nicotine twice before remembering to roll down my window. All the while his words echoed within me: you like pain, you like pain.

I sure as fuck do not, I told the memory of his voice, no longer regarding him as a lover, but as a danger who crossed a strange line I hadn’t known existed. Or maybe I had. Perhaps it’s the same line crossed by strangers groping us on crowded subways. Do those strangers also think they are alphas? Before that afternoon, I had never before heard a man insist he was one.

What I want more than anything is to remember this lover for his meal, not his bruise. To remember how, the night before, his clumsy ballroom dance steps made me laugh on his balcony loud enough to wake the neighbors so I insisted we go inside. I’ll even take the memory of his sloppy ejaculation on my naked stomach, before he wiped me off with tissue from his nightstand, then balled it up and missed the trash can near his dresser. I joked: I’m not picking you for my team.

I’m not picking you for my team.

You like this.

I can’t remember what it felt like when he twisted my skin, so how could I have liked it?

*

I encountered the bruise for the first time in front of the bathroom mirror, with a steaming shower spraying behind me, beyond a curtain plastic curtain that would hide me from the world. Once hidden, the hot spray scalded as I scrubbed with delicate scents—peony foam in every place this self-proclaimed alpha brushed me with his lips. When I climbed out of the shower, I wiped away enough fog from the mirror so that I could see this bruise again, now fainted against my chest and reddened by hot water. And that’s when I felt it, this pain he insisted I liked. I had not planned to step into such a hot stream of violence, but this is the sort of experience I tend long for when I see this bruise.

I am therefore certain I am what I said. I am an omega. I am the last. I am always the last to know whether I am in pain.

 

Nora Bonner is a fiction writer and writing instructor from Detroit, Michigan. Her stories have appeared in a variety of journals and anthologies, including Shenandoah, Quarterly West, Juked, The Indiana Review, The North American Review, Hobart, and The Best American Non-Required Reading. She recently earned a PhD in Creative Writing from Georgia State University.

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Dead Ends

by James Stewart III

Taking a pale blue laundry basket from the closet, Jim has the boys follow him outside. He isn’t sure how he hadn’t thought about this before.

They walk out of the building and turn left past the dead-end sign and into the cornfield. Jim doesn’t know shit about corn. Chicagoland doesn’t have all that much in common with the rest of the Midwest outside of an amorphous politeness, which manifests itself in looking people in the eye when walking down the street and exchanging a “hey,” or a familiar head nod.
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Comfort

by Bruce Petronio

Before they start the game, she asks him to get the kitchen timer. She’s sitting upright in the Barcalounger, in a flannel nightgown and a Buff head scarf, the Scrabble Deluxe board on a TV table between them. He gives her a look; they never use a timer, only the Merriam-Webster Collegiate she’s had since grad school a quarter century ago. Continue reading

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Just Another Family

by Susan Robison

Sharon is done training monkeys for the day. She just taught a nine-inch capuchin how to flip pages for a woman in her seventies with Lou Gehrig’s disease. The monkey, Delores, advanced in years herself with fingers no longer as nimble as they used to be, found it hard to turn each page and often clumped several together. Delores squealed with frustration and finally got down on all fours and looked around the table as if to find an escape route. Sharon had to figure out something not only for the old woman, but for Delores. After trying several strategies including well-timed offerings of pumpkin seeds, she lit on having Delores lick her thumb before turning a page and ta da!—success. Delores’s thrilled vocalizations were so high-pitched she was singing as she licked and flipped. Task complete, she stood and stroked Sharon’s cheek. Continue reading

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