Author: Michael Tucker

Too Quiet By Daniel L. Link

Too Quiet By Daniel L. Link

“Don’t look directly at it,” she said. “They won’t do it if you’re looking.”

“Do what?” Harry had been staring at the mural for five minutes.

“They won’t move.” Violet used both hands to turn his head a few degrees to the left. “There. Try it now.”

He didn’t know what he was supposed to be seeing, but he liked the feel of her hands. Violet was twenty years younger than Harry, one of the youngest patients at the hospital. She was pretty, too. Harry wasn’t sure why she chose to spend all her free time with him, but he wasn’t complaining.

“You’ve got to use the sides of your vision.” She crossed in front of him, her nose turned up in disappointment. “Your peripherals. That’s the only way you’re going to see it.”

It wasn’t the kind of painting that belonged in a hospital. It reminded Harry of something he and Margaret had seen at Coit Tower in San Francisco. They’d brought Deb with them; he’d carried her in the little backpack with the holes her legs went through. Bobby hadn’t been born yet.

That painting had depicted migrant workers in a field. He remembered wondering at the time whose idea it had been to paint it on the inside of a tourist attraction where people would spend ten minutes waiting in line. Wouldn’t people rather see something beautiful while they waited, not some poor schmucks working their fingers to the bone?

The mural on the south wall of the hospital looked similar, only these workers were picking corn. He couldn’t remember what kind of fields they were working on in Coit Tower, but he was pretty sure it hadn’t been corn. He still thought it was strange to show people outside working to patients trapped inside a hospital, but his perspective had shifted. Now he’d do anything to toil his day away in the sunshine. He and the other patients were the schmucks.

“Harry, you’re not even trying.” Violet loomed so close to him they could almost rub noses. He could see his own reflection in her large pupils. She poked his belly. “Are you in there?”

“Sorry.” He tilted his head, then squinted while he took in the painting. He felt her hands reposition his head, and he smiled. “Now what am I supposed to see?”

“The men. If you wait long enough, they’ll start to move.”

“What will they do?”

“They’ll fucking move.” Her voice betrayed her frustration. “Wouldn’t you say that’s pretty damn spectacular? How many other moving paintings have you ever seen?”

“I haven’t seen this one yet,” he reminded her.

“That’s because you’re not doing it right. Now I’m going to go sit in the corner,      quiet as a mouse. Remember, don’t look straight at it. You’ve got to pretend like you’re not looking.”

“No.” Harry heard a tremor in his voice. “Don’t go.”

“I’ll be right over there.”

He sighed. “Okay. But don’t be quiet. I can’t stand the quiet.”

The doctors told him the voices he heard weren’t normal. They said it was good that the medication made them go away. Harry had relied on the voices. They were a part of him and he was lost without them.

The first few months in Belmont were torture. It wasn’t until Violet arrived that things became bearable for Harry. She was the only noise in his life, the thing that allowed him to forget for a second the absence of the voices. The doctors said that absence was good, that the quiet it brought him would allow him to sort out things in his head, but all it did was make him feel alone.

“Did you move?” Violet was off the couch and bounding across the room before he could answer. “This is never going to work if you keep moving.”

She checked the position of his head, fingertips light against his temples, then flitting away like butterflies. “There. Now try again.”

The men in the painting were dark, much darker than anything Harry saw inside Belmont. Aside from the mural, everything on their floor was white, from the walls, to the tile, to the patients. They were so pale, himself included, the place leeching the color from their skin.

He tried to imagine being in the painting, working out under the hot Indiana sun. The color would come back to him then, if he could leave this place. If he escaped this palace of bone, he might revitalize his body, and if he could get off the meds, he might be able to hear their voices again.

“Harry?” Violet sounded far away. He was in the painting, but her voice floated down to him there. “You okay, Harry?”

“I’m fine,” he said, trying to stay focused. “I still haven’t seen them move, though.”

“Maybe we should take a break.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re crying.”

His concentration shattered. He didn’t move his head, but he reached up a hand and touched his cheeks. They were wet. He reddened, then wiped the tears on his pants. The material felt scratchy on his finger and thumb, but his thigh felt nothing.

“You want to go back to the TV room?” Violet appeared in front of him again.

“No. I want to try again. I can do this.”

She squeezed his hand, which made him want to cry out with gratitude. It felt so good to be touched, made his heart desperate for more, but he kept his face neutral and waited for her to put his head back where she wanted it.

After a few moments staring in silence, he said, “Keep talking. It makes it easier.”

The white wall in front of Harry had a crack running from floor to ceiling, a tiny black line that started at the floor and wended its way upward and to the left until it terminated at the white foam insulated tiles that led to the attic. He concentrated on that, letting the edges of the mural blend into his periphery. Still no movement.

What it did was create a bright white backdrop for his memories to play out on, a cracked projector screen on which the pivotal moments of his life appeared before him. He saw Margaret in the hospital, a different kind of hospital, one where hopes and dreams came alive, not where they went to die.

She was in the bed, the sheets tucked under her armpits, her face soaked in a sheen of sweat. A nurse was handing her a bundle wrapped tight in a pink blanket. She looked at Harry, turning the package so he could see the tiny red face. “Meet Debbie.”

Harry gasped, more at the sound than the sight. He hadn’t heard their voices in months, and the sound of his wife’s voice mingled with his daughter’s cries was almost too much to take.

“Is it working?” Violet asked.

He hadn’t been paying attention to the mural, and there was no way he was taking his eyes off of that scene from fourteen years before. He didn’t even blink until the reel changed and he saw himself, standing next to a brown-haired boy of about six astride a bicycle with streamers hanging from the handlebars. Bobby.

The boy’s laughter cut deep, as did watching himself running alongside the bike. On the wall, his hand was on the bike’s seat, but there in the hospital it clutched the armrest of his wheelchair with white-knuckled intensity. He didn’t have to be told he was crying, his vision was so blurred by tears he only saw a fuzzy image of his son as he yelled, “Let go. You can let go Dad.”

But Harry couldn’t let go. He held on tight as the vision faded, and he was taken to that night, the night he’d lost their voices forever. The rain came down so fast it blinded him, though the wipers were on their fastest setting. The headlights bore down on them, like he knew they would. He felt Margaret’s hand on his arm, and he waited for the sound he knew he’d hear next, the twisting of metal and tearing apart of his reality.

Instead, he swerved, a deft maneuver that he could never have pulled off in life. The rear of the car slipped, gaining traction a moment before the truck flew past. They came to rest on the side of the highway, and he looked at their faces, each in turn. They shared a laugh, and as they pulled back onto the asphalt, the rainfall subsided.

“Harry?” Violet waved a hand in front of his face. “Did it work?”

He was back in the wheelchair, and the vision was gone, the wall once again a stark white slab bisected by that jagged line. But Harry could still hear the echoes of his wife and children, their laughter still present in his head as he wiped the tears from his eyes.

“Yes,” he said. “I think it did.”

 

Daniel Link lives in Northern California where he writes short stories, novels, and flash fiction. He is the assistant editor of the Gold Man Review, and since he started submitting stories in April 2017, he’s had ten published in various literary magazines. Most recent were the Eastern Iowa Review, HCE Review, New Reader Magazine, and ALM Magazine.
From the Heart By Matthew Longerbeam

From the Heart By Matthew Longerbeam

her parting kiss

fell soft upon my lips

and with no hesitation

although I knew the separation

to be of short and temporary nature

a frosting covered my heart

as though a spring blossom was suddenly

withered within a February chill

my soul cried and I………………

 

Nah…..

She kissed me goodbye

And that feeling

That certain lousy feeling

It hit me

Hard

And there’s no name for it

 

It is that feeling a western hero

would feel

Should he draw down upon

an evil foe

Only to find his holster filled

with emptiness

 

The sensation that would

befall an astronaut

lost

and with no remaining

means of  navigation

 

And I have yet to find a word

that truly fits it

 

But whatever one may call it

It is a lousy feeling

Making one aware that

a part,

perhaps,

the most important part

of you

is missing

and that’s

the way I feel

every time

she kisses me

goodbye


Matthew Longerbeam is a native of Maryland. He was a victim of violent crime in the 1990s and has spent most of his adult life in recovery. Matthew is currently working on a degree in Human Services at HCC and lives in Williamsport, Md with his wife Tabby and his cat Hobo.

 

Study By John Grey

Study By John Grey

Fourth coffee, seventh book,
apartment looking down on train-track,
knowledge’s cruelty frozen into wrinkles,
his friends tried to convince him
that ignorance is inviolate
but with a lot of cramming
he may yet know these things.

Clock strikes midnight.
Legend has it that,
math and literature
dissolve into dust motes
at such an hour –
but no, he’s the one who fades,
or is it Pip, dissolute, broke,
or planar right angles in spheres.

He whispers in Romeo’s ear –
“Stay with me.”

H begs Hipparchus
not to bail out on him
but it’s sleep that walks
his streets of London,
that incorporates complex numbers.

His head falls down
on a makeshift desk.
In the morning,
he awakens with a stiff neck,
tired, and feeling a fact or two shy
of total ignorance.
So he makes coffee.
Opens another book.
Luckily, today
there’s no math, no lit,
just a character test.
Pass this

and who says he won’t pass these others.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

 

Remember Your Birth By Fabrice Poussin

Remember Your Birth By Fabrice Poussin

Staring at the Milky Way in a dream of ecstasy
he thought only of the sweet nectar
of days long gone.

Mixing the oils once again on the firmament
she teased while the paint dripped
tiny drops into planets.

Orion floated her hair of stars and flames
burning the irises of a young heart
sparks shattered the silence.

Slender as a ray of infinite light he craned his neck
to reach the pregnant celestial bodies
for a single taste.

Blinded in desire, dissipating all senses into dust
swinging her magic wand like a mace
she saw him beg.

Softly her essence caressed those pitiful lips
he trembled in his shriveling shell
and sweetly he died.


Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 350 other publications.

Wistful By Phoebe Anthas

Wistful By Phoebe Anthas

Here, one of seven and a half billion,

hung nebulous and tiny in a sea of wild mysteries,

scattered broad through the purple ink

of ancient vastness, like bird seed flung wild,

I stand, and learn, as if it was something new,

how to walk free in my own skin.

How to balance on the tight rope of such uncertainty

as a gyrating rock round a fire ball

made mostly of hydrogen.

 

And I behold my apple size world,

With its yellow splash of happiness

gleaming through the frozen white rain.

 

How small can I get–   and yet, how large–

 

There is that within me,

not of bones and dirt,

that calls to the flaming vastness,

yearning for the stars

as one does for that which is most familiar

yet which they have lost.

I spread these hands wide,

hoping against reason and science

to hold it all close once more.

 

And the stars shall come, I suppose,

when I least expect them.

Come as a dream,

softy, then all at once.

My little hourglass broken,

sharp shards glinting rainbows.

And they and I shall fly together,

When the cage door is opened

and the dove of my heart escapes.

01 • 14 • 2018


Phoebe Anthas is a 22 years old, a dreamer, artist, poet, and a student of human nature in the classroom of the world.

Little Rose By Matthew Longerbeam

Little Rose By Matthew Longerbeam

it took my breath away

when I saw you today

little rose

such a welcome surprise

it brought tears to my eyes

to see just how lovely

you’ve grown

 

such sweet memories

rushed back into me

little rose

that through watery eyes

I just watched you walk by

wishing I had said hello

 

too many years have passed by

and now there’s no use in crying

this I know

I didn’t want things this way

but life swept you away

and I had to learn to let go

 

now I live for a chance

when I might ask you to dance

little rose

this is no perfect world

but you’re my little girl

and I want you always to know

 

they took you from my garden

and I missed watching you grow

I don’t know what they’ve told you

but in your heart I hope you’ll know

if a cold breeze should shake your leaves

or a storm is raging wild

you can come to me

and like an old oak tree

I will shelter you my child


Matthew Longerbeam is a native of Maryland. He was a victim of violent crime in the 1990s and has spent most of his adult life in recovery. Matthew is currently working on a degree in Human Services at HCC and lives in Williamsport, Md with his wife Tabby and his cat Hobo.

 

One More By John Grey

One More By John Grey

Eight months pregnant,
Anna thumbs through glossy photographs
of drought in the Horn of Africa,
one more evening
while her husband works the night-shift,
in a play-cop uniform,
patrolling the grounds of a factory.

The baby kicks.
She feels queasy
at the sight of children with
swollen bellies, emaciated limbs.

Are these the originals, she wonders,
the authentic by which all little ones are judged.
Working class, apartment of their own –
will she give birth to something plump and cute but fake?

The tears of a tiny girl
almost weep through the paper.
A postscript says she died at eight months.
Can anything from her womb make the slightest sense?

But she’ll have the blessed child.
Just like her husband will work his job
though bored and unfulfilled by it.

Tonight, she’s heavy and useless
and about to give birth.
So must the world feel always.


John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Examined Life Journal, Studio One and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly.

Klatsch By Brandon Marlon

Klatsch By Brandon Marlon

Forgive my gaucherie, but I must confess

to stifling more than a few yawns in salons

thronged with leg-crossing intellectuals

who flatulently posture as they hold forth,

flaunting how learned their minds are,

how considered their opinions,

decadent loungers eager to minish and derogate

inferior rivals, cretins by comparison,

savages only lately from the jungle.

 

In my defense, mind you, I always perk up

whenever platters of pâté make the rounds

while cerebral types in cravats and vests

drone on about grants and fellowships, of

bureaucratic impedimenta and petty grievances

festering into molten hatreds

manifested as strongly-worded letters

the contents of which would stun your nana.

 

The olives or kabobs are often to die for,

yet hardly worth the suffocating hot air

fogging up mirrors and windows and dazing

even the most obsequious sycophants

adulating ad nauseum their didactic idols,

pedants only too anxious to expound.

 

Well, thank God for exits clearly marked

and all those adjacent porches and patios

where more than once I’ve sought respite,

nursing liquor under moon and stars

lofty but not haughty, humble in their way,

precious though unimpelled to parade as much,

exemplars modeling the lost art of the refined,

that fine distinction between shine and flash.


Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his B.A. in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his M.A. in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 250+ publications in 28 countries. www.brandonmarlon.com.

Ho Bisogno di te By Valentina Cano

Ho Bisogno di te By Valentina Cano

The night it happened crystallized inside me.

A calcified corpse of a minute

that thuds inside me when I move,

that pulses with my heart,

so that I think I can move it, change it.

But you are silent.

The night, a stone of memory, I cannot birth.


Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. Her works have appeared in numerous publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. Her debut novel, The Rose Master, was published in 2014 and was called a “strong and satisfying effort” by Publishers Weekly.

 

The Cracked Door By Clara Jenkins

The Cracked Door By Clara Jenkins

 

There was no way he was going to call Rich of all people and ask to be unlocked from this room. He knew how that smugness would overtake his normally stiff, ill-favoured face, and he wouldn’t give him the satisfaction. It had been almost a month since he’d been down here last, and the thick scratchy air and vague smell of millipedes was still as unsettling as he remembered.

Stanley had accidentally locked himself in the grimy, neglected storage room while searching for a file. Fumbling through a cabinet of letters and waxy paper folders, he’d heard a sound: a soft shuffle and scratch from the hallway. Straightening up, he walked over and turned the door handle, intending to peer out and find the source. Nothing greeted him except the sharp click of metal on metal to inform him that he was locked in. As he pulled his phone from his back pocket, it sounded again, closer this time and loud. He paused, but dialed.

“Rich, I need you to bring your keys,” he said as soon as the phone picked up. “I’m locked in.” Through the taunting reply on the other end, a long, drawn-out scraping ran across the outside of the door.

It stopped a minute before Stanley heard the jingling of keys, and the door opened.

“Did you hear anything when you were coming down?” Stanley asked, trying to sound as nonchalant as possible.

“No,” Rich replied questioningly and glanced to his left, noting Stanley’s serious expression and quick pace. A wicked grin spread over his face. “Aw, did you get scared? Locked in the basement all alone . . .”

“Of course not,” he replied dismissively, disguising any anxiety in his voice with a natural annoyance. Although there was something about that basement that gave him chills, his feelings of foreboding soon vanished as mild embarrassment set in. It had been impossible to feel anything but disgruntled while listening to Rich’s mocking voice.

This time, there would be no need to call Rich.

I’ll Just find the files and leave. It’s no big deal, he thought to himself.  Just as he was about to step into the room, he heard a voice call after him.

“Oh yeah, apparently, that door will still lock on its own if you close it, so just prop it open while you’re in there,” Rich instructed with a lazy tone and an amused half smile, indicating the musty file room. Stanley just scoffed in response. Rich had probably known that door would lock last time. He always found enjoyment in messing with him, but Stanley wouldn’t take the bait. Rich jingled his keys and placed them on his belt before the conspicuous metallic whine of the elevator carried him back up to the first floor.

Stanley looked around for something to prop the door with. A small cardboard box did the trick, leaving a narrow window open to the hallway. He got to work and began to rummage through the scattered mess of soft, thick paper files. This was going to take a while, he noticed, precariously stacking piles of foxing brown paper and fervently trying to ignore the memories of what happened last time, that eerie scraping. He checked his phone. “Seven percent” he noted. He knew it probably wouldn’t last long, but he didn’t plan on using it.

At first it didn’t bother him, having his back to the door, but as the quiet settled in, the place began to get to him. A few minutes into his task, he noticed that he kept turning back to glance at that rectangular chink of light. The crack itself wasn’t a problem; that connection to the outside was almost comforting to Stanley when facing the door, but he wasn’t. His concentration had to be on the other side of the room, deep in the corner of a cabinet. He faced his files, resolved not to turn around again.

His anxiety began to spike, and he nearly jumped out of his skin when a file fell off its stack with a sudden stinging flap. Slowly and gently he replaced it, forcing a calm through his hands to prove his indifference to the sudden noise. He kept thinking of the persistent, creepy noises from last time. Maybe it had just been the elevator, or Rich trying to mess with him.

The minutes dragged. He could feel the stale basement air press against his back, but he forced himself not to look. The elevator whined at random intervals, interrupting his determined silence. It was nerve wracking, just out of sight, around the corner and down the hall. The worst was that he never knew what it meant. Was it a familiar human face coming down to him, or something else? Stanley didn’t know whether he should consider it threatening or comforting, but he knew it was beginning to unnerve him. He settled on threatening. The tension was mounting, twisting into something more dangerous. Every dull pulse of the air vents and smudge on the white washed walls seemed to seep that invisible echo of a horror that lurks in every deserted place.

Each creak or stir he made seemed to be coming from the door; a sickening jolt ran through him every time his own shoe squeaked louder than it should against the slick floor or his feathery shadow seemed to move faster than he had. It was as if something else was attempting to synchronize its movements with his. His rationality weakened and the thick air closed in when he heard a sound from beyond the door, a hurried scraping shuffle. That was definitely not the elevator, he thought as he whipped around to see the crack staring back at him, a six-inch gateway to an unknown terror. He called out once, nervously but loud. Maybe Rich had come back down? No one replied.

He watched the crack in the door unblinkingly, the silence after the rasping scrape deeper and more horrible than it had been yet. He crept closer, apprehensively allowing just one eye to gaze out. He thought he saw a shadow for a moment. It was only a brief flash, and then nothing. His thoughts went to his dying phone. Yes, he could call and put this to an end if he had to, but not if his phone died first. He tore his gaze away for a moment to check it. It was at three percent. The shuffle sounded again, closer. Far too close. This could be his last chance to call. If his phone died, he wouldn’t have a way out of here for hours.

The next sound was long and steady, a rasping, vibrating scratch, sure of its purpose, as it reached the edge of the wall. Panic asserted itself and his brain filled with an irrational adrenaline. With a frantic motion, he slammed the door, swiftly and gingerly, as if it might bite while hanging loose on its hinges. The crack was sealed. He’d locked out the noise. He faced the closed door, breathing audibly, and with head heavy and reeling. His phone was at one percent. He called Rich.

“Well, well Stanley, you locked yourself in that room again, huh?” He could hear the sneer, and was about to offer a reply when everything went silent. He looked down through the dimly lit room at a black screen. The phone was dead, but the panic was dying with it now. He was about to get out of here. He pocketed it with a sigh of relief and fingered the door handle. His hand stiffened with sudden terror as he heard a shuffle and slow scrape, this time from the cabinets behind him.


Clara Jenkins is a student at Hagerstown Community College and is the current art editor for the Hedge Apple.