by K.D. Senior
Percy tied his apron in the back and took a deep breath. He knew it was going to be a long day. He grabbed the broom by its handle and began to sweep the floor; he knew Mr. Hopkins would complain if he didn’t at least see him sweep. This is what life after war was like. At least it was not the trenches, he thought to himself. During the course of his day, he reminisced about what his life was like before the one year war. Percy didn’t have to wonder what it was like after; he lived that day by day. He figured that this was the best it was going to get for a negro veteran in 1922. Still, he was grateful to Mr. Hopkins for taking him in, ’cause work was scarce after the war. While stacking cans, sometimes out of the corner of his eye he would see grenades. Some of those times when cans dropped, a slight gasp would escape his lips, followed by a sigh of relief when he realized he was not in the trench but a grocery store in Harlem, where he now, in contrast to his former glory, grudgingly swept the floor and stacked cans.
He tried to remember the smell of his mother’s cooking, but like many things before the war, the memories seemed to evade him. He remembered how that memory carried him through hours of kitchen detail. He wished it would somehow carry him through this. One thing the Army taught Percy to do well was how to hate menial tasks, such as the one he was currently engaged in. Mr. Hopkins sauntered in from the back with a morning paper wrapped in his chubby fist. “Mornin’ Percy, I see you’re sweeping, and I ain’t even have to tell you!” said Mr. Hopkins as he took his seat at the counter, unlocking the register. “We got four cases of canned peaches that need stacking, so after you’re done with the store, take a break and then get to it.” Percy paused for a moment and recalled a portly master sergeant named Wilkins. He talked rot sometimes, but he was still good people.“Yessir.” Percy grinned to himself and popped to attention. “Don’t you start with that army bullshit.” Hopkins said. “No, sir, wouldn’t dream of it.” Percy went back to sweeping. He laughed to himself.
Continue reading FRIDAY FICTION: Demon of the One Year War
by G.G. Silverman
The man who blows up your house will do so disarmingly. Your appointment with him was for other, more innocuous reasons, the small drip from a pipe you fear will become a flood. When the doorbell rings, you run your hands over your unkempt appearance, a slap-dash attempt at looking less bedraggled. You hurry to the door, demanding “shhh” from the various children behind you — four, to be exact — who stop throwing toys long enough to allow you to cross without a flesh wound. You tune them out, forcing your best smile as you open the door.
The man on your stoop is attractive. Easy on the eyes. His are blue. And you have a type, a preference for cerulean peepers. Lord have mercy.
A pointed mustache adorns his lips, and a short neat beard announces his chin with a subtle but dashing entry. A fitted black vest hugs his toned physique over a white-collared shirt, and a black fedora rests atop his head.
“Hello, ma’am,” he beams, doffing his hat to take a short bow. “What am I here for today?”
Continue reading Friday Fiction: The Detonators
by Jennifer Fliss
(content warning: contains strong language)
The charred remains told Sarah it might be too late. The campfire smell should evoke memories of sweet burnt marshmallows and ghost stories and Sarah thought that yes, what she was seeing were definitely ghost stories.
Her nostrils flared. There were no bird calls, just the distant thwomp of helicopters. Down the block, the sign for The Stonefruit Diner was lit, its neon a beacon beyond the tract of burned houses.
The fire was five percent contained. Flames licked the hillside. It was noon but looked like evening. The texts came and the warnings pinged. Sarah shut off the volume. The helicopters flew off and now there was just a thick pillowy silence. The hulking remains of five-year-old McMansions smoldered on either side of her. One mailbox was completely untouched. It was in the style of a tiny red barn and she wondered if the HOA had approved of it. She assumed no and applauded this small token of protest.
Continue reading Friday Fiction: Contained / Not Contained
In her favorite dancing grounds, beneath the wisteria tree so purple in the moonlight, a hole opened up in the earth. Out of it, a hand reached. One she recognized as easily as her own, for she once had held this hand in hers every day. Studying its lines, its rises and falls, its peaks and valleys, its shadows and swirls, the way this hand sumptuously softened in the light, how its veins ached verdantly as its pulse quickened beneath her gaze.
Now, her ex-lover was before her, yellow haired and milky skinned, skirts and boots textured with dirt, cheeks aglow with need, teeth bared, tongue discolored purple with wine.
“Come home with me,” Orcus said, in her grit-lined, silky sinister way.
Continue reading Friday Fiction: Crocus
by Alvin L.A. Horn
Butchie Sugar Baby ran into the kitchen.
“Slow down, Sugar Baby,” His grandmother said.
He poured a glass of Strawberry Kool-Aid and reached into the cookie jar and filled his hands, and then he stuffed his mouth with her homemade treats.
Continue reading Friday Fiction: Sugar Isn’t Always Sweet Until There is No More
by Troy Landrum Jr.
Maroon walls surround me as the cold air presses against me. The temperature is set to 63 degrees Fahrenheit. Twin sisters greet me as I walk toward the receptionist desk. “Welcome,” they say simultaneously. Their smiles are as warm as their greeting. As I stand at the desk, one of the twins tells me the deposit I need to pay. If you’re as anxious about money as I am, you may understand the feelings I had when I heard the amount, equal to a monthly student loan payment.
The other twin directs me toward a man engulfed in the preparation of the ancient ritual he is to perform. He tells me to take off my jacket. He takes a look at my arm admiring the work that was previously done on my skin.
“This is very detailed,” he says as he touches my forearm. He rubs it and lifts it up to the light, like a banker might inspect a hundred-dollar bill, checking its authenticity.
Continue reading Friday Fiction: The New Life
by Kathya Alexander
The summer I turned eight years old, my Mama put me in swimming lessons. Well, actually it wasn’t my Mama. It was my next door neighbor, Cud’n Stell.
Continue reading Friday Fiction: Cud’n Stell
by Donna Miscolta
Adela adjusted the brightness on her TV screen, dimming the picture until the whites turned to gray and the blues ran to black. Then she turned her head sideways, as if to provide the couple some privacy — a needless but civil concession. Still, Adela looked, stealing glances at their faces, their flared nostrils and wild eyebrows, their mouths pulled back like stretched rubber bands releasing again and again a noisy rush of complaints. Infidelity. Hopelessness. Abandonment. Psoriasis, hair loss, bunions. Adela shook her head, clucked softly in commiseration. Soon though, the shouts and insults, which grew in decibel but not variety, began to bore even Adela, who monitored the TV talk shows out of a sense of obligation, believing that the beam from her antenna that registered her channel choice with the Nielsen ratings somehow offered support to the aggrieved, the distraught, the fearful, the angry, the clandestinely lonely who aired their troubles to smooth-toned, large-gesturing talk show hosts and their audiences of ordinary people.
Continue reading Friday Fiction: Adela Reflected
by Lola E. Peters
The drunk walked away unscathed. My father died instantly. My mother, true to form, clung to life. For seven days I sat by her hospital bed vacillating between “you’ve had a good life, mom, it’s OK to go” and “no, not yet, we’re not done.” On the last day, with the doctor standing over her, she suddenly opened her eyes, looked straight at me and said, “I’m so sorry Diana. My perfect girl. We’re so sorry. If only we’d known.” Then she closed her eyes, exhaled, and died. Now it was sure: there would never be a conversation between us that ended in certainty.
Continue reading FRIDAY Fiction: The Perfect Girl
by Sebrina Somers
I had tapped into the network and cloned my ID tracker to run the Great Wall Marathon. The point wasn’t to just get the fastest time, any hacker could do that. My goal was to run a race convincing enough to win the cash prize and add the gold medal to the trophy collection in my bedroom. That meant fooling the judges into believing I was actually there. No easy feat when I was sitting on my front porch on the other side of the planet.
I heard a tap on the screen door a few feet away and ignored it. The race was about to begin, and I still needed to tie up a few loose ends. I had uploaded my travel itinerary a week ago and coded my avatar to wander the streets of Beijing for the last two days. Now, I just needed to situate my tracker in the middle of the race pack at the Yin and Yang Square start line, sync it to the timing chips assigned to my race bibs, and run my biometric avoidance program so that I didn’t occupy the same geo-space as any of the physical runners, or other illicit virtual runners for that matter.
There was another tap on the door, a little louder this time. They could wait. The first wave of runners had just set off and I needed to be ready to start with the second wave.
“I…can…see…you…” A quiet voice stammered through the screen door.
Continue reading FRIDAY FICTION: Pickney