Author: Alaina Conaway

Sunday by Holly Day

Sunday by Holly Day

It’s Sunday morning and the mice are going to church.

I can hear them rushing through the rafters over my head

to meet at some undisclosed central spot in my house. 

Because I don’t try to find and destroy their church, 

and I let them worship in peace

I hope their religion isn’t based on getting rid of me. 

It’s Sunday afternoon and the mice are coming home from church,

and their pace overhead seems slower, more thoughtful, this time

as though they have weighty thoughts to reflect on

or perhaps gratitude is guiding their steps now, 

and they’re enjoying coming back with their families

perhaps thinking of the future, making some great plans

that hopefully won’t affect me. 

Author Bio: Holly Day (hollylday.blogspot.com) has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review, and her newest full-length poetry collections are Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), and Book of Beasts (Weasel Press).

The Long Haul by Holly Day

The Long Haul by Holly Day

I don’t look like I did when we met, I know I don’t.

I don’t even pretend that person can be brought back to the surface

through the use of hair products and makeup and starvation diets 

and magical potions, that person is gone

that person only exists in the photographs I found tucked into your wallet

I’m so glad you still have them. 

Please let me love you even though I’m old now.

We’re both old, but I feel so much older, let me

curl up against you while you sleep, let me listen to you breathe

while you sleep, I don’t know why you look the same to me.

I know I don’t look the same to you. 

Please let me stay here and pretend I’m still young, and small.

Let me believe every once in a while that you still remember

I was the girl in those photographs I see you looking at every once in a while

I have no regrets. I have no regrets. 

Author Bio: Holly Day (hollylday.blogspot.com) has been a writing instructor at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis since 2000. Her poetry has recently appeared in Asimov’s Science Fiction, Grain, and Harvard Review, and her newest full-length poetry collections are Into the Cracks (Golden Antelope Press), Cross Referencing a Book of Summer (Silver Bow Publishing), The Tooth is the Largest Organ in the Human Body (Anaphora Literary Press), and Book of Beasts (Weasel Press).

Hot as a Log by DS Maolalai

Hot as a Log by DS Maolalai

cold as logs

in water, a wet

and winter 

evening. a rain

which cracks 

the windows,

sounds like logs

in burning 

hearths, and you 

here on the sofa, curling

with me around tea. 

you are hot as a log,

as solid and beautiful

as a pile of dried firewood

stacked carefully next 

to a fire. outside, the grass

is wet and quite

miserable, taking weight

with the softness 

of age-wilted salad.

even the dog’s 

feeling anxious this evening

and rubbing the carpet

with her head. 

Author Bio: DS Maolalai has been nominated eight times for Best of the Net and five times for the Pushcart Prize. His poetry has been released in two collections, “Love is Breaking Plates in the Garden” (Encircle Press, 2016) and “Sad Havoc Among the Birds” (Turas Press, 2019).

Paying the Rent Christine Heuner

Paying the Rent Christine Heuner

The first guy I meet on the app calls himself Stuart. He picks me up at the apartment I share with two other girls, one of them Ellie who told me about the app. 

“Guys over forty buy you anything,” she said, showing me her new Coach bag, pink with gold accents. Five hundred dollars. If I got a bag like that, I’d return it, but Ellie holds it close like a pet. 

Stuart drives a black Mercedes as sleek as his slicked-back hair. He wears a lavender collared shirt tucked into belted tan slacks. Loafers. Corporate casual. 

In the spotless car, he asks, “So, Pammy, what do you do?”

I go by Pam, but Ellie said Pammy sounds more innocent. Cute. 

At first I think he’s asking about sex. How far will I go?

I must look confused because he adds, “For work. What do you do for work?”

“I work at a law firm on asbestos cases. Mostly filing and depo indexes.” 

“Asbestos cases? I thought that was a mid-nineties thing.” 

I shrug. “It pays the rent.” 

Actually, I’m proud of my job. I’m twenty-two; it’s my first big-girl job. Everyone, even Steve, a partner with a corner office overlooking Biscayne Bay from floor thirty-one at Biscayne Tower, greets me each morning: “Hello, Pamela,” he says, his voice professorial, exacting.

At The Outback, Stuart orders a Bloomin’ Onion, a surprise given it’s greasy and he seems too fit to truck with junk food. He eats slowly, wiping his fingers on the napkin, not licking them like Roger, my ex would do. I follow Stuart’s lead. I don’t double-dip.

Just as I think of Roger, who did not mind my double-dipping, I get a text from him: How are you? Missing you. 

Though we’ve been apart for months, he checks up on me at least once a week. I imagine he can see me here with Stuart. He’d ask what the fuck I’m doing. 

I put my phone back in my purse. 

While we wait for dinner (I order filet mignon), I lean my elbows on the table and clasp my hands. 

Stuart touches my hand, unwraps it with his fingers and clasps it, leans forward as if he’s going to kiss my knuckles. 

“Pammy,” he says as if he’s trying to soothe me. “You have beautiful hands.” 

My scalp prickles, and I suddenly feel hot beneath my armpits, as if he’s told me I have great tits and ass. 

He holds my hand until the food arrives. I eat like I mean business (I skipped lunch); he’s impressed. 

In his car, he puts his hand on my leg, leans toward me. We kiss. His tongue slides in my mouth. I can smell his woodsy aftershave or body spray. I put my hand on his smooth cheek, so much softer than Roger’s stubble, and let him move his hand under my skirt. I should have worn jeans, but Ellie insisted upon the skirt. 

You could say I knew what would happen to me here. Ellie told me at the kitchen table, where we sat across from each other, that you have to put out for these men. 

“It’s part of the deal,” she said. “But it’s not so bad. Last night, I had lobster.” 

It’s important to add: We barely make rent each month. Meat is a luxury. We box-dye our hair, give each other manicures, eat peanut butter from the jar. 

Stuart’s hand goes into my underwear. His fingers are warm. I flinch. 

“You okay?” he asks. “Too fast?”

I shake my head, knowing I owe him for the meal, for this escape from the fear I might be homeless someday, like those people crouched like fixtures along the buildings in downtown Miami. I see them during lunch when I take a walk and eat my peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich. I avoid the staff cafeteria so no one will see me eat. 

Stuart moves my hand on his crotch. 

“Let’s go somewhere,” I say, surprising myself. “Not here.” 

We wind up at a Sheraton downtown, only blocks from where I work. 

The room is on the third floor. For some reason, he wants to take the stairs. He holds my hand as if I’m a child who will trip and fall. 

In the room that smells as sterile as a hospital, he unbuckles his belt, comes toward me, calling me “girl,” and I realize I think of myself this way: young, as innocent as Ellie told me to be. 

“I’m not a whore,” I tell him as he pulls down my skirt. 

His brow wrinkles. “Of course you’re not,” he says. “You’re special.” 

I should think of Roger, who was always gentle with me—so gentle—for those two years in college. Instead, I think of my mother, who still begs me to move back home (Ohio), where we have a cleaning lady every other week and get take-out three times a week. My second-floor bedroom overlooks our pool with a slide and a deep end. 

I won’t tell her that I can’t bear to face my friends, the college grads. I dropped out after two years. Dad expected all A’s and B’s, and I was tired of proving myself.

I feel like I’m proving myself here to this man who could be my father. I’m not a whore, but a lady. Not a child, yet my skin crawls with shame as it did when I stole my mother’s tennis bracelet.  

We’re in bed when my phone dings. No doubt it’s Roger, checking on me, missing me, or my mother, urging me back home.

Author Bio- Christine Heuner has been teaching high school English in New Jersey for over two decades. Her work has appeared in Narrative, Flash Fiction Magazine, Philadelphia Stories, and others. It is available to read on her website at christineheuner.com.