“I Dream, You Dream” by Chelsea Ealey

Tess sat up in bed, waking from a deep slumber to what she thought was music. The kind of music from a jewelry box. No, an ice cream truck. She wasn’t normally one to sleep in, but given it was Saturday, she didn’t completely discard the option. Looking at her phone, she had to close her eyes and look again, attempting to cleanse the sleep from her sight. The clock read 3:02 AM.

It couldn’t be. Why would there be an ice cream truck this early in the morning? She sat up, looking around the room. She thought maybe the TV was on, but that wasn’t the case. Tess got out of bed slowly, checking the living room next. She had a four-year-old daughter who hadn’t really grasped that there were certain times of day for specific activities. Maybe this was one of the times. She wandered in, expecting to see Addison on the couch watching television. There was nothing, yet the sound persisted.

Tess heard a loud thump from the other room. It made her jump, and the first place she thought to check was her daughter’s room. She opened the door to Addison’s room slowly, as to be sure not to wake her if the sound hadn’t already. As she peaked through the door, she noticed that there was no blonde-headed girl in the bed where she normally lay.

She opened the door further, looking around the room carefully, trying to spot her daughter. That’s when she noticed the curtain blowing in the early morning air. Through the window, Tess finally found where the sound was coming from. An ice cream truck, parked outside her house, playing the song that reminded her of her very own childhood. As she got closer, she watched as Addison walked towards the truck. She realized now that the loud sound she’d heard must have been the sound of the screen slamming down as Addison crawled out.

Tess ran to the door, throwing it open to see the door slide open from the truck. There was nothing to be seen but a pair of glowing green eyes. As she stepped out on to the porch, her daughter turned around to wave her mother goodbye. With that, long, black fingers reached out and grabbed Addison’s curls, pulling her into the van.

*                *                *                *                *

Sitting up in bed, to what she thought was her daughter’s scream, Tess ran to Addison’s room. She was nowhere to be found. In the distance, she heard the faint sound of music. The kind that comes from a jewelry box. No, an ice cream truck. She looked at the time. It read 3:03 AM.

Chelsea Ealey is a student at Hagerstown Community College.

“Eggs” by Katherine Grahl


Katherine Grahl is a Visual Art major at HCC. She enjoys making art of all kinds, but her most favorite media are painting, sewing, and filmmaking. She plans to transfer to Messiah College to study Digital Media with a focus in Art & Design.

“I still feel some crumbs sliding down” by Lynn Michael Martin

I still feel some crumbs sliding down.
I probably shouldn’t have, you know,
but it got me—this thing
that makes some of us fat and most of us
forget to exercise.
It’s part of the human condition,
why, I don’t know, because
it has no evolutionary value,
and we should really have been selected
for hardworkingness.

Or perhaps there is some obscure upside
to not wanting to go to bed at the proper time,
and eating a cookie instead,
just because you were reminded of eating
by your cousin’s olive-puckered mouth.

Like you needed reminding.
Because, after all, evolutionary conditioning
has bred it into your very bones.
Unless, by some strange twist of fate,
it forgot to do that too.

When I think thoughts like this,
I need to be chewing on something,
and I remember that
there was another one at the bottom of the jar.

Lynn Michael Martin lives in Hagerstown, MD, where he helps to edit the Hedge Apple Magazine. He studies British literature and writes poetry and occasionally tries to make music in various ways. His poetry has appeared or is appearing in the Author’s Journal of Inventive Literature, and the Society of Classical Poets Journal.

“Spring Feast” by Eileen M. Cunniffe

If you live in a place that experiences cold, blustery winters, you know what it’s like on that first warm day when you open a door or roll down a car window just for the pleasure of gulping at the spring air—a heady mix of sweet and musty smells, so thick you almost taste it as it splashes in your face.

I always know winter has run its course on the day I pry open the heavy, glass-paned doors that lead from the living room onto my screened-in porch, dust a thick green film of pollen off the table and chairs, and claim my rightful place in the sun. That day finally arrived this week; I was giddy with the sight of daffodils bursting in the garden, dark red buds feathering on the maple in front of my house, and the magnolia tree next door teetering on the brink of its annual, fleeting glory. Never mind the days to come of playing pick-up-sticks to clean up after winter storms, then weeks of planting annuals and spreading mulch around the garden beds; on this day, my favorite al fresco dining room was ready to be opened for the season, and a celebration was in order.

As a foodie, I am inclined to mark the arrival of each new season with appropriate fare, some of it ritualized. Summer isn’t really summer until I slice into a fat Jersey tomato. The first crisp fall day inevitably produces a hankering for an apple-cheddar quiche, dusted with enough nutmeg to perfume every corner of the house. A winter snowstorm leads me to dig out the chicken chili recipe; after weeping over heaps of onions and garlic, I am rewarded with the pleasure of unwrapping a single square of unsweetened dark chocolate and watching it disappear into the unsuspecting stew.

And spring just hasn’t sprung until I have somehow celebrated the wonderfulness of fresh asparagus—even if I cheat a little with a California-grown crop, rather than waiting for the local harvest later in the season.

So on the first warm spring day of this year, as happy as I am just sipping a cup of tea and solving a crossword puzzle on my newly re-opened porch, I know what must be done. I’ve been saving a recipe I discovered over the winter for just this occasion. As quickly as I can slip into sneakers, I am off, on foot, to the local produce shop. Two words form a mantra in my head as I walk: Asparagus, arugula. Asparagus, arugula. Asparagus, arugula. Blessedly, the produce shop has both—the bright thin stalks and the dark green leaves. The woman at the register nods her approval at the canvas tote I brought along for my vegetables. Ten minutes later, I’m home, happily cluttering up the kitchen counter with everything I need for my impromptu spring feast.

The recipe I’ve been holding onto is for an asparagus-arugula frittata, topped with Gruyere cheese. Fortunately, I’ve got a hunk of Gruyere in the fridge, although I will have to substitute 2% milk for the half-and-half the recipe calls for. Not to worry, because there will be no substituting for the butter, which is already beginning to foam in an oven-proof skillet, begging to be introduced to the asparagus stalks I have carved into small pieces. Once the asparagus begins to soften, I toss in a heap of arugula I’ve rinsed and patted dry. Within moments it wilts to a fraction of its original volume. I drown the vegetables in a frothy egg-milk mixture; when the eggs start to set, I top off the custardy blend with a generous sprinkling of grated Gruyere and bread crumbs.

Garlic frites (straight from the freezer, I must confess, by way of Trader Joe’s) crisp in the oven as I place the frittata-to-be under the broiler. I pour a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc and carry it with me to the porch, where I dress the table with a colorful cloth and set out a napkin and silverware. Within minutes, I am savoring my first real taste of spring, watching the world jog and stroll and wheel by in the balmy early evening. The crisp asparagus, the bitter arugula, the pungent Gruyere and the cool wine dance across my palate; they mimic the alchemy taking place in the muddy garden outside my porch, where a reliable old row of azaleas is conspiring with the sunshine to serve up a confectionery of blooms—although I’ll have to wait a few more weeks to feast my eyes on that treat.

Tomorrow, the temperature will drop twenty degrees (hopefully without scaring the blooms off the magnolia tree) and I’ll have to remember that spring arrives slowly, not all at once. It will be another month or more until I can start taking most of my weekend meals out on the porch, in the leafy shadow of the maple tree. But for this one April evening, warmth has triumphed, asparagus has been celebrated, and winter has once again been banished from my front porch.

Eileen Cunniffe has been writing nonfiction for more than 35 years—the first 25 without the benefit of a byline, as a medical writer, corporate communications manager and executive speechwriter. Her work has appeared in journals such as Referential Magazine, Hippocampus Magazine, Superstition Review, Emrys Journal, The RavensPerch and Bluestem Magazine, as well as in anthologies. Read more at www.eileencunniffe.com.

“Ode to Zucchini” by Marne Wilson

The zucchini is the shmoo of the vegetable world.
Shapeless and non-descript,
it reproduces abundantly, seemingly overnight.
Yesterday’s small orange blossom
is today’s twenty-pound fruit.
Zucchinis can be cooked by any method known to man.
Fried zucchini, steamed zucchini, roasted zucchini,
boiled zucchini, grilled zucchini, broasted zucchini.
Zucchini bread, zucchini butter, zucchini jam.
I’m sure that someone somewhere makes green zucchini and ham.

Need some filler in almost any recipe?
Add a cup of puréed zucchini.  No one will ever notice!
And if they do, I’m sure they’ll love you that much better.
After all, who can ever get enough zucchini?
Just ask your neighbors and they’ll tell you.
Better yet, don’t ask.
Just leave the bag on their doorstep and run away!

Marne Wilson lives in Parkersburg, West Virginia.  Her poems have appeared in such places as Poetry East, Atlanta Review, and Cold Mountain Review.  She is the author of a chapbook, The Bovine Daycare Center (Finishing Line, 2015).

“Dysphagia” by Jane Blanchard

At half-past seven it is time to take
our seats. Dinner is ready, and good food
should never go to waste. We try to make
light conversation to improve my mood
but find the effort awkward. You consume
the salmon, squash, and baked potato much
more quickly than I do. Throughout the room
long shadows dance in firelight as I clutch
a paper napkin, soon committed to
the trash along with remnants of our meal.
Tonight we fail to bicker over who
does not clean up. False strife has no appeal.
“The fish was really good,” you kindly note.
I still can feel a bone within my throat.

Jane Blanchard lives and writes in Georgia. Her poetry has been published around the world as well as posted online. Her first collection, Unloosed, and her second, Tides & Currents, are both available from Kelsay Books.

“I stirred the pot” by Jennifer Courtney

knowing the fickleness of toddlers
and that the food might sit untouched
hoping to hear an elusive, “Thank you.”
I mixed, sprinkled, sowed hope
with the seasonings
but the dish cooled untouched
inedible as the seconds passed
it reminded me again
when we get what we ask for
once it’s become fact and
placed fragrant at the table
it’s rarely wanted

Jennifer Courtney (jl courtney) is the aging mom of three young children and the fiction editor for Postcard Poems & Prose. She has been published at Page & Spine, Black Heart Magazine, Feathertale, and others. Some people like her cooking.


“Spilled Pepper” by Katherine Grahl

Katherine Grahl is a Visual Art major at HCC. She enjoys making art of all kinds, but her most favorite media are painting, sewing, and filmmaking. She plans to transfer to Messiah College to study Digital Media with a focus in Art & Design.

“Breakfast with the Innkeeper” by Kathleen Latham

The innkeeper starts to cry at breakfast.

He’s telling me the story of his incarcerated brother over plates of French toast and fruit diced so small the cantaloupe is the same size as the blueberries.

The two of us sit alone at a long pine table beautifully set. Thick linen placemats. A vase of hand-picked impatiens. Bone china edged with a terra cotta scroll long faded to pink.

His brother is a convicted murderer.

This happens to me a lot when I dine with strangers. Stories get told.

I am the only guest at the bed and breakfast. Outside, horses graze, and sunlight beckons. New Hampshire in July.

I had arrived the evening before, after dropping my daughter at sleep-away camp, and my plan was to spend a leisurely day exploring the area before heading back home to Boston. I had hoped to eat quickly so I could get going, but then the innkeeper joined me at the table with apologetic shyness and a reluctance, he admitted, to eat alone.

He pours coffee, fresh-brewed and pungent. Offers heavy cream, a tiny bowl of sugar cubes. A miniature pitcher of warm maple syrup. The French toast is perfect: crusty on the outside, milky inside, flecked golden brown and dusted with powdered sugar. It is a beautiful, thoughtful meal, and I am thankful for it.

We start—as most strangers who dine together do—with small talk. The weather. How I slept. How long he’s owned the inn. Looking back, I think it’s this last question that leads us down the rabbit hole, his finances and dependence on the inn being inextricably tied to his brother’s fate. Before I know it, he is telling me the strange and complicated tale of his brother’s conviction eight years before.

I feel a brief, initial trill of alarm when he begins. I’ve watched too many crime shows to not be aware I’m alone in a strange house with a man speaking intimately of murder. But then his obvious love for his brother reassures me, and I focus on the details, all of them thrilling in a distant kind of way. High stakes Kentucky horse breeding, adultery, someone else’s inheritance—they sound like pieces to a puzzle I might hear on NPR, the scope of it far removed from where I sit piercing blueberries with my fork and nibbling perfectly-cooked bacon.

The innkeeper dabs his mouth with a cloth napkin—its delicate floral pattern a jarring juxtaposition to his sturdy hands—and tells me about his brother’s bad luck. The jailhouse informant. The incompetent lawyers. He uses words like failure of the system and final appeal as he passes me freshly squeezed orange juice. He seems compelled to share his story, as if he’s been waiting all along for me to arrive on his doorstep, suitcase in hand, ready to listen.

He’s used his life savings on investigators, he confesses. They’ve uncovered inconsistencies in procedure. Hope, I can tell, hinges on technicalities.

For a moment, I fantasize I might solve the case. There are other suspects to consider: The victim’s husband. Her son. A long line of shady business partners. But then I use the wrong spoon to stir my coffee and realize I am being foolish.

This is real, I remind myself. This happened.

Still, when he starts to cry, I am taken by surprise.

He’s describing the reading of the verdict. The horrible silence just before. The frowning judge. Twelve sets of eyes, averted. The foreman wore glasses, he tells me, as if this might be significant.

The way he describes it, I can see his brother standing there in his Sunday suit, flanked by lawyers, shoulders hunched, back to the gallery. I can imagine the innkeeper seated in the sea of spectators behind him, holding his breath, heart hammering.

“I watched him when they said the word guilty,” he says. “I watched him the entire time. The gavel fell. The bailiff stepped forward. And do you know what my brother did?”

I wait, the fork in my hand an embarrassment.

“Nothing,” he says, shaking his head in disbelief. “He said nothing. Did nothing. Just turned and emptied his pockets, expressionless, then held out his hands to be cuffed.” The innkeeper makes a pathetic gesture over the remains of our meal. Two pale wrists upturned.

His face, when he looks at me, is etched in anguish. “Wouldn’t you have fought? If you were innocent? Wouldn’t you have forced them to drag you out screaming?”

This is where he starts to cry, his face crumpling in on itself. “It’s the only time I ever doubted him. The only time I wasn’t sure…” His chin trembles as if his brother’s surrender is the only unforgiveable part of the story, a capitulation that will haunt him forever.

He can’t fathom giving up, this man who has spent everything, who even now, eight years on, continues to fight. I’ve just met him, and I already know this.

I look down at my plate which is stained with the palette of our meal—brown syrup, opaque grease, the blood stain of berries. I don’t know what to say.

Somewhere, in the brief ensuing silence, the innkeeper realizes he’s shared too much. “I’m sorry,” he says quickly, wiping his nose with his napkin. “So sorry,” he repeats.

The conversation ends abruptly after that. I make a belated attempt to comfort him, but he waves it away and jumps up to clear my plate. With forced good-humor, he mentions antique stores I might want to visit, directions to a nearby lake. He calls out suggestions while he carries our dishes to the kitchen. There’s a clatter of plates, and I picture him standing in the next room, hands shaking.

There are no guidelines for moments like this. No etiquette books which teach how to proceed. I imagine the suggested responses would be as varied as the listeners. For my part, I am awash in reactions I can’t categorize. I want to tell him that what is true for him may not be true for his brother, that character is not interchangeable, that innocence and guilt shouldn’t hinge upon the emptying of pockets, but at that moment, these concepts are mere feelings—nebulous and unarticulated. So, instead, I bashfully thank him for the breakfast, for the considerately chopped fruit, and I walk outside to the inn’s pastures and the sunlight of an unfamiliar place.

Shame follows me. And I don’t know why.

It is one thing to share breakfast with a man. It is another to hear his story and know that when the next guest comes, the words will not have changed. Strangers, while sometimes audiences for confession, rarely give us what we truly want.



I can offer him neither.

*           *           *           *           *

I have thought of that meal again and again over the years. It comes back to me every time I share a table with a stranger. It is not just the innkeeper’s pain I remember, but the juxtaposition of that beautiful breakfast, so painstakingly prepared, and the sense that I was involved in some kind of transaction, that partaking of that food meant hearing his story, whether or not I was capable of providing the comfort he so clearly sought.

Standing outside that bed and breakfast, flush with the awkwardness that follows an unsolicited confession, I had no way of knowing how many meals with strangers were in my future or how many times I would reexperience the temporary intimacy such dining can evoke—intimacy inexorably tied to the food that accompanies it.

There will be a lunch of Beef Wellington with truffle mash and marrow sauce eaten alongside a Kenyan diamond trader in Dubai who openly distrusts the color of my skin yet finishes our lunch with a hug. A boisterous dinner of fried chicken, browned butter noodles, and pepper cabbage at a communal table in Lancaster, PA where my family bonds with a heavily pierced teenager over a shared taste in music. A simple breakfast of toast and jam, sliced meats and cheese shared with a nervous tour guide in a hotel dining room in St. Petersburg, waiters standing by like guards while she carefully chooses her words in English.

Opportunities, again and again, to listen. To hear.

If the innkeeper taught me anything, it was how easily confidences come when we share food with people we will never see again and how heightened that experience can be.

Perhaps it is the food itself—our experience of eating so grounded in sensation that the vocabulary we use to describe it is redolent with double meaning. Raw. Tender. Suck. Swallow. Or perhaps it’s some kind of evolutionary throwback to a time when food was scarce, and our wisest ancestors only dined with those they trusted, a hard-wired faith in others that’s evoked when we share a meal, engendering feelings of communal brotherhood.

Either way, food and the company we share it with nurtures us.

And still, I come back to the innkeeper. Here is a man destined to cook for, and dine with, new faces every day. Is it a wonder that the lines of intimacy have been blurred for him? We, as humans, are social creatures, often desperate to be heard, for our pain to be recognized, and there he is, in his remote, red clapboard home, solitary in his grief, looking for connection, burdened by a story too horrible to carry alone.

*           *           *           *           *

I googled his brother’s story. Made note of the names and dates and checked on it from time to time.
Recently, on a cold, winter day with snow eddying around the trees in my front yard, I read that his brother lost his final appeal and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

I picture the innkeeper in his kitchen, chopping fruit, dropping slices of French bread into batter, crying.

I fight the urge to jump into my car. To find him all these years later and attempt to reenact that meal.

I heard you, I want to say. I remember.

We are still connected.

Kathleen Latham is an award-winning short story writer and poet whose work has most recently appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine, The London Reader, Clockwise Cat, and Picaroon Poetry. She currently lives outside of Boston and can be found at KathleenLatham.com. This is her first creative nonfiction piece.