34 lede

Dad on Ice by Clay Conger

I couldn't believe a faster way to shovel snow hadn't been invented; surely something electronic, or at least with a motor. We have 3D films, daisy cutters, and Joan Rivers: why hasn't technology advanced household chores? I slid the shovel under a chunk of snow and chucked it back into the yard, watching half of it blow back to me with a sudden breeze.
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[Three Letters to Val Kilmer]

Dear Mr. Kilmer,

I dreamt recently that I was signed up for this birthday thing where a celebrity calls you on your birthday. I should mention that I qualified for this birthday thing because I had cancer in the dream—it was sort of like make-a-wish foundation. Anyways, my birthday comes and goes, and no call from you. So I call the people that put this thing together. I assumed that they had my phone number wrong or something. Apparently the problem, they said, was that you had been dropping the ball, as in not making your calls. This was happening for all of your cancer birthday people. So they gave me your phone number and said I should give you a call myself.

Only Friend by Joseph Chevalier

When she opened the front door of the townhouse Mark smiled and then leaned over to give her a peck on the cheek, stealing a glance at her eyes as he did. They were clear today, not red rimmed or glassy. That was a good sign.

“Hey good lookin’. How’re you feeling today?”

“Oh, I’m hanging in there. How was your night, dear?” She smiled back at him, the dentures that lined the top of her mouth many shades whiter than the yellowed teeth on the bottom.

If Seal Is Broken by Sparrow Crain

A tear rolls down a pale, emaciated cheek. Eyes that seem out of focus gaze into your soul, making you feel frozen. He stands up, naturally making you feel Lilliputian in comparison. For the first time, you realize that you have no idea where you are. He reaches out, and hoists you onto his shoulder. You find yourself comfortable on his bony shoulder there, high above where you normally stand. The fierce wind blows through his hair, just long enough to blow into your face as well. For some strange reason, it smells like your sister's carrot cake. Exactly like it. The road is all pebbles now, it's harder to sit comfortably here. You grasp onto his coat which is made of material you’ve never felt before. It appears soft like cotton, but feels tough like leather! You’ve got good grip on it, and good thing you do; he starts to run as if pursued. You turn your head to peer behind you, but there’s nothing on the pebble road. He runs for what seems like an eternity, the carrot cake giving way to the normal smell of sweat. You close your eyes and try to imagine yourself someplace else away from here. You feel him stop, then hoist you down to a hard landing. You take a deep breath, and open your eyes to find him staring at you. Were his eyes this exact color of blue before? He smiles then, revealing a mouth of shiny white teeth. Normally you’d see square teeth in this state, but his were spindly and gangly. It was as if there were a dozen ivory daggers hanging from his gums. He sits Indian-style on the pebbles, his smile a little more subdued. He opens his mouth, but the next part still isn’t clear. It’s as if everything coming out of his mouth envelopes you in a warm pocket of air. No sounds, just the feeling of home. The feeling of last year, and the year before. No sense of time or the fear that comes with it. I come to, and open my eyes. He’s still there, mouth open as if singing. I am floating, above the pebble road. His thin lips close, and I start to slowly sink. As I fall, he takes off his coat and lays it where I will land. He wears no undershirt, just bare skin. His cadaverous frame is still pale, but covered in blue scars. They are long and thin themselves, as if not from casual blows. These scars are from long amounts of torture or self-mutilation. But eyes like his, eyes so pure could not be capable of harm. I landed on the tough fabric, and scramble to standing. I wonder how anyone could stand this much torture as I walk over behind him and touch the largest scar on his spine. He does not shiver, does not move one inch. But as I rest my entire arm on it, I begin to fall asleep again. But this time, I feel different. I open my eyes to confirm my suspicion, to find myself floating in front of myself. I look down, and recognize the blue scars on my arms. A cold feeling seeps into my pores, where I once felt intense heat. As my mind settles into this new place, I find myself standing up. I find myself looking back to where I started. I find myself running towards the opposite direction, abandoning the old self. He lived within me now, and I was him entire. I breathed deep, pacing myself, ready to run until I could run no more.