Matty Byloos – Nailed Magazine https://nailedmagazine.com Fri, 11 May 2018 23:22:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 Usual Rules? by Simon Beasor https://nailedmagazine.com/fiction/usual-rules-simon-beasor/ Fri, 20 Oct 2017 13:09:15 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=fiction&p=16787 Fiction by Simon Beasor. + + + We often played poker together after dinner. In fact, Stan and Cathy were sad enough to watch the big poker tournaments on TV and even practice the game online to try to help them deprive me of my pennies. Of course, pennies were all that was ever at […]

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Fiction by Simon Beasor.

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We often played poker together after dinner. In fact, Stan and Cathy were sad enough to watch the big poker tournaments on TV and even practice the game online to try to help them deprive me of my pennies. Of course, pennies were all that was ever at stake. There were never any great losses. Even with the unkindest cards, it was unlikely anyone would be down more than a pound or two. It was the moral victory that we all played for. Little did we know that the victory that night was going to be anything but…

For all but the most skilled players, poker is just a game. At best, average players will learn a little skill in what cards to keep and how to bluff a bad hand, but at the end of the day, it is down to the cards – and Cathy’s cards were simply appalling. For six hands she failed to make so much as a pair, and when she finally did, we both blew her away with three of a kind. Hand after hand she lost, sometimes holding nothing at all, sometimes falling just one card short of a run or a flush, and the ribbing, while all meant in fun, was clearly starting to get to her a little. Another night, in another mood and she may well have given up and retired to bed, leaving us to our gloating and malt whisky. But the more we goaded her, the more we teased, the more she seemed determined to regain control and get us back. She wanted to teach us a lesson, but without the cards, her options were limited.

Finally she seemed to see a chink of light in the darkness, keeping three cards and swapping two, and looking delighted with what she got. This was comeback time and she looked knowingly at us, trying desperately to suppress her smile. Not that she needed to; we were both too lost in the fun of Cathy-baiting to be taking the game seriously, and neither of us noticed the change in her eyes that signaled the change in her hand. Cathy steadied her voice and declared “All In.”

It was a phrase she and Stan had learned from the TV. She loved the gulp of shock it always elicited from the table. She pushed forward her few remaining pennies, leaving her left with nothing. All In. No messing about. No bluffing. This was it. Sink or swim.

“You’re bluffing,” I teased, with rather less conviction than I’d hoped for. “The way your cards have run tonight, you can’t have much more than a pair of twos!” Stan and I shared a mutually reassuring laugh, trying to make ourselves feel better by undermining her daring assault. But we both knew Cathy better than that.

“I never bluff, Alex,” Cathy measured the wickedness in her grin to knee-trembling perfection. “You should know that by now.”

“There’s a first time for everything,” said Stan, pushing over her small pile of coins with dramatic disdain. “I’m sure we can afford to find out anyway. How much is here?”

“Seventeen cents.” Cathy sugared the words to sound like seventeen million. With all her poker pride at stake, it might just as well have been. She knew she had to play it up hard if she was going to draw us in. Folding would give her only a small profit, but if we saw her, the fifty-one penny pot would put her right back in the game.

I counted out my coins, making a point of it. I knew the significance of the moment and intended to make her suffer for as long as I could. If she were going to get my cash, she would have to earn it. Eventually I pushed my coins into the center of the table and flicked the odd penny on to the top.

We both turned to Stan, but his appetite for the kill seemed less sharp, and I knew why. Beating Cathy would be very satisfying, but it also meant that she would probably go off to bed soon after, leaving him sexless. After drinking so much wine with dinner, there was simply no way she could stay awake for him, even if she wanted to. I knew things were drifting a little in that department, and he counted on the alcohol of their occasional nights off to kickstart the action. Taking Cathy out of the game could mean no games of any kind for Stan for weeks.

“Are you scared of me, Stan?” Cathy was going for the kill. “Big brave policeman scared of a poor defenseless girlie? I’ve had no hands so far, what makes you think it’s changed now?”

Stan looked at his hand as he weighed up the possibilities, then, looking confident that he would lose, counted out his coins and pushed in the pile.

“OK. I’ll see you too. What have you got, defenseless girlie?”

Cathy was delighted with her catch. She had reeled us both in and was about to do the same with the cash.

“Two pair,” she announced with a huge grin. “A pair of nines…” Stan’s face dropped. “… and another pair of nines!”

Stan’s face bounced right back up again. Four nines was a real result for them both. Or so he thought. He was halfway out of his seat to kiss her as she reached out to rake in her spoils, when I rippled the back of my fist of cards. I felt bad for the man, knowing he was well overdue some nuptials, but poker was poker and I wasn’t about to fold a winning hand just so he could get his jollies.

“You really are having the worst night, Cathy,” I said, trying to control my smarmy tone, for Stan’s sake at least. “Four of a kind and you still can’t win.”

Slowly, deliberately, painfully, I laid down ten after ten after ten after ten.

“This, I believe,” I lifted Cathy’s hands slowly off the cash, “is all mine!”

I expected Stan’s unimpressed glare and tried to shrug it off with an apologetic smile, but I was surprised by Cathy’s reaction, which was chipper. For someone who was out of the game, and if previous nights were anything to go by, off to her bed, Cathy looked rather pleased with herself. She smiled demurely as she looked down at her non-existent cash pile.

“Usual rules?” she said nonchalantly, her expression never wavering for a moment.

A cold stone dropped through my insides and I swallowed it down hard, my stomach filling with feathers as it passed through, dropping right to the core of my groin. If Stan felt the same, he wasn’t showing it. He held his eyes firmly on the space on the table from where I had just claimed my coins.

Usual Rules improved his chances of naughtiness no end, with a smorgasbord of fun almost guaranteed. But with me there, too? That was… well it wasn’t anything Stan seemed able to process right there, in that moment.

I wasn’t in any hurry to meet their eyes either, and joined Stan in staring at Cathy’s vacant penny pile. I’d invented the phrase “Usual Rules” back when I used to date Cathy, long before she married Stan. Not that it took much to get her into a compromised position back then. If anything, the two of us had played cards to slow things down from our usual passionate pace. Usual Rules had given me the opportunity to spend many an evening admiring Cathy in ways I would have missed completely under normal circumstances. But with Stan there, too?

I’d often run scenarios in my mind when the three of us played poker together. It was usually memories of nights with Cathy, but the thought that it might happen between the three of us had crossed my mind. Of course I’d never taken those thoughts seriously though. I mean, I had fantasies about most of the women I met, from checkout girls to TV stars, and I never expected any of them to come true. But this one looked like it just might.

I knew that the call was definitely not mine to make, but I didn’t dare look up at Stan to guess what his call would be…

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Artwork image credit: Rebus; you can see more of his paintings here, on NAILED.

Simon BeasorSimon Beasor prefers to keep his details private. This piece has been excerpted from his novel By Word of Mouth.

 

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Deathwish 057: Danni https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/deathwish-057-danni/ Wed, 20 Sep 2017 09:00:11 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=16737   When I woke up in the hospital bed and found myself covered in vomit, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Vomiting had never really been my thing. I had always preferred to just not eat. My ticket into the hospital that evening was acute alcohol intoxication. Thankfully for me, they didn’t have to […]

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When I woke up in the hospital bed and found myself covered in vomit, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing. Vomiting had never really been my thing. I had always preferred to just not eat. My ticket into the hospital that evening was acute alcohol intoxication. Thankfully for me, they didn’t have to pump my stomach. I just threw up all over everything instead.

I hadn’t eaten in three days and wasn’t planning on eating for the next four. I was going to starve myself for an entire week. No food at all, instead of the usual 700 calories a day I had been allowing myself that summer. I felt my weight loss wasn’t occurring quickly enough for my liking.

How do you reply when someone tells you that you could have died? Do you apologize? No, that sounds like you are saying sorry for not dying, and that’s just morbid.

The nurse had short brown hair and she gave me two yellow pills for my potassium levels. I thought the potassium pills must be yellow to match bananas.

I wished I could go back to the time in my life when I didn’t know what it was like to feel like anyone other than myself. I wanted to go back to the time before I knew things could go so wrong.

It was a comfortable kind of pain that summer. I knew what was wrong with me, but did nothing to stop it. The ability to chose not to change, was more control than I had ever had before.

Laying in that hospital bed, I knew two things:

  1. I felt alive. I also knew the price I had to pay to feel that way was too high.
  2. I was fucking hungry.

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To read the previous installment, “Deathwish 056: Jake”, go here. To participate in Deathwish, find details here.

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Danni was born in Colonie, NY and currently lives in Colonie, NY.

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Dark Shadows 1970 by David Ciminello https://nailedmagazine.com/fiction/dark-shadows-1970-david-ciminello/ Wed, 06 Sep 2017 09:00:05 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=fiction&p=16707   Fiction by David Ciminello. + + + I first met Kevin Tappan on a hill up behind his house, in a muddy gully between two boulders tilting out of uneven ground. It was a place he liked to go to rifle through the mud and dirt with his Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels, scraping roads […]

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Fiction by David Ciminello.

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I first met Kevin Tappan on a hill up behind his house, in a muddy gully between two boulders tilting out of uneven ground. It was a place he liked to go to rifle through the mud and dirt with his Matchbox cars and Hot Wheels, scraping roads with hands and sticks, building car forts and mini mansions out of flat rocks and twigs. When he was bored with this little world he would flip through baseball cards until the dinner bell rang.

One windy autumn day, I decided to try a new shortcut home from the schoolyard through the wooded backyards of Wayne, New Jersey, kicking my way through dead leaves, examining tree trunks the size of Hercules. The neighborhood still smelled new back then. One could find an old arrowhead in the uncaked ground around where the blueprint of a fresh house was being nailed up, safe and sound. Rain-soaked stacks of maple-scented plywood cut into planks, pieces of plastic piping, truck tracks that looked as if they’d been pressed by army tanks. Lots of tree fort building materials. A 1970 suburban boy’s dream. One could get lost in the wood skeleton of a split-level ranch. The giant ribcage could become a haunted castle loaded with secret rooms. A place where a King could kiss his Queen or a place where a boy could dream about finding his prince, if he was so inclined. A land of make-believe, full of vagrant tough guys and innocence thieves.

“Hey, you’re trespassing on my property FAGGOT!” Kevin Tappan, number one son in a cold crew of towheaded bullies, hollered. I turned to see the face of an angel stamped onto the soul of a young Mephistopheles. Mean eyes a tender wash of turquoise. Pink lips snarled above a heart-shaped little chin. An uneven rash of Dutch freckles. Two missing teeth smack in the middle of a shit-eating jack-o-lantern grin.

“Hey FAGGOT, did you hear what I said?”

I didn’t really know what a faggot was – yet. It could have been my new plastic oval- shaped Matchbox car case or the rubber-banded stack of baseball cards in my other hand, but Kevin had me on the ground tasting dirt and sand, my right arm twisted up behind my back.

“Got you, faggot,” he hissed in my ear.

Kevin was older than me. Two years or so. And seemed twice as big. So, he didn’t expect it when I flipped him off my back, spun him around, slammed him onto the ground, and aggressively pressed my fire engine red Ked into the shelf of his collarbone. His tough little Hot Wheels belt buckle glinted in the afternoon sun.

“Who’s got who now?” I asked.

“Get off me!” he screamed. “Get the fuck off me!”

He screamed like he was screaming for his Mommy or his Daddy.

“Say you’ll be my friend!” I hollered into to his pink face steaming with rage and shame. “Say you’ll be my friend and that you’ll come home and watch TV with me and I’ll let you go and MAYBE I won’t do it again.”

“Okay! Okay!” he squealed.

I gave him one final kick before I let him up. “Let’s go,” I said.

“But it’s gonna be dinnertime soon,” Kevin whined.

“Tough.” There was no room for negotiation. “You can call your mother from my house. Pick up my cars and cards. You’re gonna carry ‘em.”

“Why we walkin’ so fast?” he asked.

“I have to make it home before Dark Shadows,” I said.

“What’s Dark Shadows?”

“Foolish mortal!” I laughed, exposing my new plastic glow-in-the-dark vampire fangs.

An hour later, after plowing our way through a fresh bag of Chips Ahoy and sharing a carton of whole milk while watching the episode where Doctor Hoffman unleashes a cure so Barnabas the vampire could live in daylight, Kevin was in. It wasn’t Star Trek, he said, but it sure was neat. He especially liked the beautiful blond witch, Angelique. Saucer- shaped emerald eyes and banana curls that bounced as she cursed her enemies.

“She’s so hot,” he said.

Of course, I had my favorite too. Tall Quentin Collins with his full head of lanky Heathcliff hair and eyes that were so damned blue, blue like the sky above Wayne, New Jersey in June. Almost the same blue as Kevin’s, even when the full moon bloomed and Quentin sprouted claws and werewolf fur.

“It’s especially neat you have a Quasar Color TV,” Kevin said over my mother’s famous meatballs and tomato gravy. “Hey, can we hang out again tomorrow?” he asked.

“Dark Shadows starts at 3:30. Don’t be any later than 3:15,” I commanded like Collinwood’s comely witch. “Ring the doorbell three times, so I know it’s you.”

David Ciminello Fiction Nailed MagazineKevin and I spent almost every weekday afternoon in front of the TV floating through the secret passageways of Collinwood, dodging parallel time bands, watching dismembered heads speak, avoiding dream curses, and traveling into past centuries with the mystical assistance of the I Ching. During commercial breaks (Arrid Extra Dry, Tab, Tame Shampoo, and the like) Kevin told me all about girls. He illuminated me on the facts of life. He told me girls had dicks.

“They’re little but they’re there. I have sisters. I know,” he said.

He told me my favorite actress Vivien Leigh had to fuck to have a baby. I thought all she had to do was kiss. Kevin laughed and drew me a detailed diagram of exactly what she had to do. “Screw,” he called it. “She had to screw.”

I imagined my father working on my mother with his Phillips super cool six-pointed star-shaped head.

“She had to screw,” Kevin repeated, as he artfully drew.

I stupidly left Kevin’s drawings on the rust colored carpet of the rec room for my mother to find. This suspended our Dark Shadows dates for a couple of weeks. My mother made my father sit me down and explain everything to me. He couched it as something completely carnal. “What the dogs do like crazy every spring.”

My mother screamed it was only done after the marriage vows were exchanged. It was only done for love. “God,” she yelled, “meant it be lovely!”

To me it all sounded positively disgusting. That is to say, until I started imagining what it might be like to kiss and screw a man. I had no control over these thoughts. They manifested at the oddest of times. While I was in school, sitting behind my desk listening to ridiculous algebra rhymes, I imagined what it might be like for Kevin to screw me. Or what it might be like to screw Kevin.

During lunch one day (rancid chicken chop suey), after Kevin bragged about one of his girlfriends, he asked, “Hey, when are we gonna watch Dark Shadows again?”

That afternoon we were back on the rec room rug in front of the color TV, both of us belly down watching the werewolf transform when I suddenly felt Kevin’s leg press against mine. As Quentin Collins sprouted his fur and claws Kevin turned to me, all milk and cookie breath. “Wanna kiss?” he said. “Or I can just bite your neck like Barnabas Collins. Or you can bite mine.”

A crooked little shiver played up and down my spine. Then I shook like a dog after a cold bath. Who’s the faggot now? I wanted to ask. The werewolf on TV howled and I howled too. This scared Kevin, but he was undeterred.

“Come on,” he said, hopping on top of me. “Let’s wrestle again.”

For a few minutes everything was a swirl of corduroy, t-shirts, orange rug wool, and sweaty pieces of boy, some soft, some hard as knotty pine (the naughty parts, both his and mine). This time Kevin had me pinned down, knees straddling my hips, his Hot Wheels belt buckle nipping at my stomach, until I yelled, “I knew you were a faggot! You’re the faggot!” I cried.

He immediately stopped dry-humping and hyperventilated over my face. I could see the brown cookie crumbs caked between his teeth, the chocolate packed into the crowns of his molars. I could see up his crusty nostrils. I could see he was fighting to breathe. For a moment his turquoise eyes locked onto mine. I wanted to yell like a soap opera actress on fire, Sex without love is a crime! Then I wanted him to ravish me the way Quentin ravished Angelique. Instead, I pushed Kevin’s slack body off me, rolled away and stood on my Keds. I told him to go home. I told him I never wanted to see him again. Then I howled one more time for good measure. I howled like a werewolf as I watched him scramble out of our Dark Shadows den.

For weeks I didn’t answer the phone. I let the doorbell ring and ring at 3:15. I avoided him in the lunchroom. I walked home from school a different way every day.

Eventually Kevin folded himself into a new set of friends. A merry band of fire- starting, fort-building, farting little roughnecks. I held fast for as long as I could. Then, sitting in Earth Science one day, I started to wonder if they were dry-humping, if maybe they were kissing and screwing and biting each other’s necks. It all got the better of me. I finally passed Kevin a note on a stormy Thursday:

Wanna watch Dark Shadows with me later today?

Fuck you, you little faggot! his note back said.

After remedial reading the next day, I followed him into the boys’ room. I cornered him against the moldy tiles in a damaged stall, bared my plastic fangs, and demanded to know why he wouldn’t watch Dark Shadows with me anymore. He tried to back away. When I told him I loved him and wanted to have his baby the look of fear and disgust on his face slayed me. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he yelled. In my own shock and grief at what I had said, I let him spit in my face. “Go ahead!” I screamed as he tore out of the bathroom. “Just try and stop loving me!” I sat on the shit-stained toilet for over an hour, chewing on my fangs, nursing my wounded dignity. I thought about possibly murdering Kevin by using a voodoo doll or by casting a wicked spell and sending him to another century. Perhaps I could feign amnesia and forget the whole Goddamned thing. Nothing I could think of seemed to mollify me. Even though I still had my future husband Quentin Collins and my freaky friends in Collinwood for comfort, without the curse of tow-headed Kevin Tappan, I knew deep in my creepy little heart, watching Dark Shadows would never be the same.

That afternoon, after the wailing Theremin kicked in and the spooky opening theme swooned over the swelling ocean waves, something snapped inside me and I slammed off the TV. I sat on the rust-colored rug and stared at the dark screen, seething. I couldn’t howl. I wanted to scream. I sure as hell wouldn’t cry. Instead, I spit out my fake fangs, choked back hot tears, raised my fist, and vowed, “As God is my witness, I will never EVER watch Dark Shadows again!”

Then the doorbell rang three times.

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Header image courtesy of Constantinos Chaidalis. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

David Ciminello Fiction Nailed MagazineDavid Ciminello’s fiction has appeared in the Lambda Literary Award winning anthology Portland Queer: Tales of The Rose City, Underwater New York, Lumina, and on Broadcaster. His poetry has appeared in Poetry Northwest. He is a 2011 Lambda Literary Fellow in Fiction and a proud recipient of a 2013 Table 4 Writers Foundation grant. His original screenplay Bruno (a finalist in the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting) appears on DVD as The Dress Code. David currently lives in Portland, Oregon where he works as a writer and educator.

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Plastic Bodies by Kelly Moehlman Bene https://nailedmagazine.com/fiction/plastic-bodies-kelly-moehlman-bene/ Wed, 16 Aug 2017 09:00:48 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=fiction&p=16608   Fiction by Kelly Moehlman Bene. + + + She feels the beginning, the skin of plastic. A hard comfort in her hand, the control of this thing in her hand, a body. The body of a Barbie in the heat of her hand. The sweat of her hand dripping plastic paths down a body of […]

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Fiction by Kelly Moehlman Bene.

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She feels the beginning, the skin of plastic. A hard comfort in her hand, the control of this thing in her hand, a body. The body of a Barbie in the heat of her hand. The sweat of her hand dripping plastic paths down a body of hard. She holds the Barbie in her right, the dominant one, the hand of control. She holds this plastic body of perfection, of human body perfection, in her hand, the right, the dominant.

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And look there don’t you see the Ken doll? The Ken doll, see there. He lays on the ground. He’s naked! Can’t you see he’s naked? Oh no! Put some clothes on him quick! No but see, that’s not the game. The game, this is a game called Naked. We put Ken here like this. [She laid the plastic body on carpeted ground]. His body stays up this way, you see that? He faces up, to look up to see the girl one right? He sees her there on top of him. No no, it’s not about looking at each other. He has this thing right? He has this thing attached to him just there. Yes yes, I know it’s funny. This thing it hangs down there and when he gets excited the thing stretches out, or up really. Yeah I know, it’s not so funny once you get used to it. And then the girl one lays on top see? Stiff as a body. She’s plastic so she doesn’t flop around. And she’s cold and hard so it’s not gross. No sounds or nothin’. What do you mean, and then what? Well, then they do it. Sex. I know. Don’t repeat that we’ll get in trouble. Yeah don’t say that out loud we’ll be in trouble and I’ll be in more cause I told you. But yeah, that’s the end. Well, not the end but I don’t really wanna’ go into it. ‘Cause, it’s embarrassing ok? I don’t want to talk about it. It’s embarrassing. Well. Maybe I can tell you. But not out loud for Chrissakes. I’ll send it through our minds ok? Yeah! I can do that! Whaddya’ think? Ok ok settle down. Sit there like that, yeah cross-legged. I’ll just show you so sit there like that. You can’t move ok? You gotta’ keep real still cause that’s how the game works. It’ll end if you move ok? So don’t move.

[In a whisper so small she’s not sure she heard anything at all.  Perhaps she imagined it].

“This is what the Barbies do.”

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The Barbies they start out all cold. Or no. Not both just the one. The smaller one. The one who’s smallest. Well, right here the smallest is the girl so she’ll be the one to lay out still. So still she gets cold. Real cold. Plastic gets colder than skin. So it’s good. It shows you well. You’re real cold laying there but you know you have to lay real still. If not the game won’t work. Keep still. And after a while you’re so still and you feel kinda’ numb you start to sleep, just a bit just a bit. On the edge see? The edge of sleep. And then suddenly like, the warmest warm is pressed all over you. And it feels so good. Warm warm warm streaking all over you. Your body flipped looking at the ceiling and the hand travels down your belly and it tickles a bit and you laugh a little, just a little, not too much cause you’re supposed to be quiet and still remember? Really quiet and still so you stay still when the hand kinda’ tickles you cause it feels good too. And then the hand does something funny but you don’t laugh. This time it feels good so you don’t laugh. Really good. I mean, I feel funny telling you now. It’s kind of embarrassing actually but oh well. And so that hand does these circles, really slow on that spot down there. Yeah down there above where you go to the bathroom. I know. I thought it was funny too just at first but really that’s really the spot. And there’s these slow circles there and it feels so good the shivers come. Like you get when the bath is too hot? When your momma forgets to turn on the cold until it’s too late? And you’re in there and it’s so warm you’re not sure you can sit in it but you do. Well, cause you know, you’re mom wants you to take the bath so you get in and it kinda burns. But then you get used to it and it feels so good right? It feels really good. And that’s how it feels at first. With the hand circling and petting and putting the hand down like this. It feels so good.

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That hand.  I wait for that hand at night. Years later I wait for it. In the dark. The dark carries memory, imagination. Drawn back, back to days of young.

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When his hand comes up my hip, grazing assthigh, over my lower body the fat hanging off a belly of a woman, him not caring. And that heat. The heat penetrates my cold, my body of cold, the cold encasing me completely but that heat. That heat I remember the kind that brings a hot bath shrieking skin. Delight. That hand is on wet moving but slow in motion circles and weighted. A hand with tips of tiny movement and slow and full and just right there.

And he wants more he does I know and his thing filling mine I want more too he wants I want and it’s what I want I know it must be what he wants and it’s going he’s going it’s going the repetition and I think it’s what I want he wants he wants more in and out the repetition and he wants harder I think I want he wants harder banging my tailbone ow no he needs I think I might want banging on the bones banging my breath is that my breath it’s leaving ow no banging the repetition he wants he needs I don’t I’m not sure ugh no he wants he needs he thrusts he thrusts he thrusts repeat and I don’t want no I don’t want stop and stop please stop I can’t say it I should say it I can’t he thrusts and thrusts and goes deeper harder angry he’s angry and I’m screaming but silent no I don’t I don’t want no please he goes hard angry grunts his face I can’t see his face its rage it’s rage look the rage I can’t I can’t I need out please stop please stop don’t please.

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I go up and up he’s coming down. I think he is he’s here.

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Almost. Silence. The breath I think I hear it. I can’t recall the breath at this height the ceiling but now we’re here the breath so quiet he might be sleeping I think he’s sleeping. I’m numb maybe. That body is mine I think. There is cold in the room I think. Move. Move that leg pick it up just above and move it over his just now but shh be careful. Those legs are mine I think.

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She’s walking now her skin looks blue not bruised. The moonlight slanting through glass so dirty, a window of college boy grime. She’s walking toward the bathroom just five steps three hundred they seem. Why does it take her so long? The door opens maybe it’s automatic. No. It’s moved by the plastic hand right there do you see it? The girl steps in. No lights they are too bright keep the dark. Hold onto the dark. The dark can wrap her this way nobody else can wrap her. The toes brought her here they rest on dirt of a rug never washed the body of boys, gross college boys, fills the threads. Toes scrunch to feel. Feel something. She can feel these threads so light, the stroke under her toes. Feeling. She’s feeling. She can feel. The thought sticks in her ribs and a jolt of pressure rears up out her chest into her throat exploding past two lips sounding into the night air a quick sharp pain cry, a shout of pain releasing freedom. She shouts. Quick. Short. She stops it short. Canalled by logic and control. But the trembling can’t be controlled, the cry still inside moves her body, heaves her chest with shakes unmanaged. She allows it. The restrained cry she allows it. Nobody will hear her. Nobody will see her. She’ll allow this passage of pain through silent cries. This is ok. This she can manage. In the repetition of this way, this way of sex, she learns she can handle this routine. It is her way of sex. She accepts it as true.

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Header image courtesy of Alison Antario. Visit her online, here.

 

Kelly Moehlman Bene Fiction Nailed MagazineKelly Moehlman Bene is a human who tries to write some truths.  She came from the Midwest, where she earned a degree in music education from Michigan State University.  She recently wrote true and strange things with National Bestselling author, Lidia Yuknavitch, as a member of the Corporeal Writing Workshop.  Kelly currently lives in the Hudson Valley with the mountains, green trees and her husband the musician.

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Deathwish 055: Laura https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/deathwish-055-laura/ Mon, 17 Jul 2017 09:00:40 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=16534   Snakes. The worst and I’m sure of it, slithering toward me. I’m sure because why else would I be scared of snakes, scared beyond any other fear? Fear is often explained through cavemen: some deep, faraway, mostly fictional ancestor needing this fear. It used to be useful so we have these useless remnants rattling […]

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Snakes. The worst and I’m sure of it, slithering toward me. I’m sure because why else would I be scared of snakes, scared beyond any other fear?

Fear is often explained through cavemen: some deep, faraway, mostly fictional ancestor needing this fear. It used to be useful so we have these useless remnants rattling around in each of us now, sending a jolt through us every time a spider reaches its spindly legs up between the mattress and the wall. But I want it to still be useful, for it to have been useful all along, my jump at anything slithering, even hair down the drain. I want the roundness of the story, the phobia , to have good reason, an omen. I want my fear to be wisdom or a magic bigger than me.

My grandma had it too; snake-fear. So does my mom. Maternal line, something dumb about Eve, something about women, something about family.

In the hospital, my grandma, on painkillers, got wide-eyed, got so scared, saw little men, little people, saw creatures moving around the room. She looked at me and said, “Don’t move, he’s right next to you.” My mom there, looking between us, her daughter, her mother, all of us scared together, in different directions.

When I imagine it, it’s a pit of them like in Indiana Jones, and I’m falling in. I’m at the zoo’s reptile house and there’s an incident, a cage left unlocked. It’s a pet on the loose and I’ve gone down to the basement, am leaning to lift laundry out of the dryer, a fatal uncoiling from the beams or pipes above me. It’s the worst and I want it. Partly because it would make my lifelong fear make sense. Also, I’m afraid to slip unremarkably into it. Just gone, against a backdrop of white, sheets smoothed out, no horror to imagine besides the regular one that hits all of us.

My grandma died after a lot of hospital stays. No snakes. Just the white, clean room. Machines beeping, nurses’ soft-sneakered treads.

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To read the previous installment, “Deathwish 054: Katie”, go here. To participate in Deathwish, find details here.

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Laura was born in Bellevue, Kentucky and currently lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

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The Avalanche Effect by Howie Good https://nailedmagazine.com/fiction/avalanche-effect-howie-good/ Mon, 03 Jul 2017 09:00:42 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=fiction&p=16497   A short story by Howie Good. + + + I’m in the middle of history now. They call us animals, say we’re going to die there. The place definitely resembles the kind of graffiti you would see in a bathroom stall. Different people come in and take turns beating us. Sometimes they’re trying to get […]

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A short story by Howie Good.

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I’m in the middle of history now. They call us animals, say we’re going to die there. The place definitely resembles the kind of graffiti you would see in a bathroom stall. Different people come in and take turns beating us. Sometimes they’re trying to get information from me; other times they’re just amusing themselves.

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I don’t know what has happened to the others. It was very strange to find only the claws. I haven’t the slightest doubt that my own relatives planned to kill me. I see your brother. Why you beating him like that? He’s lucky he’s got any teeth left.

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Everyone’s phones are monitored. Amnesia is a constant sea. We swim in it all the time. People choose to simply contemplate the water itself as an activity.

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They woke us up at 5 a.m. It was an invitation to an execution. We didn’t know if something more would happen. Children have been killed, blinded, crippled. Those were gunshots. The tailor was dead, but business would be carried on as usual by the son.

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Header image courtesy of Phlegm. To view his Artist Feature, go here.

Author’s Note: “The Avalanche Effect” remixes direct quotations collected from a wide variety of journalistic sources. It is part of a series of assemblages explore the possibility of liberating through the technique of collage the received meanings of conventional story forms.

Howie Good Fiction Nailed MagazineHowie Good is the author of The Loser’s Guide to Street Fighting, winner of the 2017 Lorien Prize from ThoughtCrime Press, and Dangerous Acts Starring Unstable Elements, winner of the 2015 Press Americana Prize for Poetry. He co-edits White Knuckle Press with Dale Wisely.

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Albania, 1985 by Heather Bourbeau https://nailedmagazine.com/fiction/albania-1985-heather-bourbeau/ Wed, 14 Jun 2017 09:00:17 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=fiction&p=16454     Fiction by Heather Bourbeau. + + + She held her rifle close to her chest, feeling the cold metal on her sweat. She had trained for this moment, she knew it might come, but still she could not raise the gun to her shoulder, she could not catch sight of the traitor in her […]

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Fiction by Heather Bourbeau.

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She held her rifle close to her chest, feeling the cold metal on her sweat. She had trained for this moment, she knew it might come, but still she could not raise the gun to her shoulder, she could not catch sight of the traitor in her glass, she could not aim at the only person who had taught her how to dream and dance and laugh. She knew her comrade would soon catch sight of him. She knew if she yelled a warning to either her brother or her comrade, she would be sentencing herself or him to death. She knew it was her duty to defend her country from the enemy from outside and the enemy from within. And she knew, with each step he took across the rocky border, he was this enemy.

Her mind flashed back ten years to a thin trail of ants in their parents’ kitchen, leading from the front door to the emaciated breadbox. She remembered how easily her brother had bent down and rolled the ants between his fingers one-by-one to ensure their death and protect the meager food in the house. Even then, he laughed quietly and said, “We are not much better, Ardita,” looking at her with a sadness she did not yet understand. Now, with Yugoslavia before her, she felt her breath quicken, her fingers rap the safety, her mind calculate her options. She hoped to feign sun blindness, she hoped she could wake from this nightmare, she hoped for the first time that she could join him in this journey desperate, hopeful, and final.

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Heather Bourbeau Fiction Nailed MagazineHeather Bourbeau wrote the poetry collection Daily Palm Castings, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, and worked for the UN peacekeeping mission in Liberia and UNICEF Somalia. She appreciates brevity.

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You Will by Claire Greising https://nailedmagazine.com/fiction/you-will-claire-greising/ Wed, 24 May 2017 09:00:17 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=fiction&p=16353 Fiction by Claire Greising. + + + Your room is small. The white sheets that aren’t yours also aren’t warm. The door opens from both sides. Your roommate is small and twelve and hides behind living room curtain bangs. Waking up here is like falling into a lucid dream. You shuffle from room to room, but […]

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Fiction by Claire Greising.

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Your room is small. The white sheets that aren’t yours also aren’t warm. The door opens from both sides. Your roommate is small and twelve and hides behind living room curtain bangs. Waking up here is like falling into a lucid dream. You shuffle from room to room, but you don’t lift your feet, don’t speak, you hardly listen, mostly read.

Your assigned therapist is old and a man, so he understands little. He prescribes you pills that give you headaches, make your hands shake, cough up blood, sleep for fifteen hours straight. He asks you questions that range from “How long have you felt this way?” to “Have you ever been intimate with your boyfriend,” range from easily answered to impossible to elucidate. He doesn’t smile and doesn’t have smile lines. He scares you. Though you aren’t actively sad – not in the traditional sense, not anymore – you cry fat, wet tears every time you speak with him.

The other patients are regulars. They know the nurses by name, are well-versed in what food to order on what day, and easily choke down the white Dixie cups of medication that punctuate each morning. Their moods are shifty and uneven like the floor in your grandmother’s old house. Their wrists are gnarled tree branches, the scratched side of a wrecked car, carvings left behind on a picnic table. You are not like them. You are smart and young and rich. Your parents love you and you aren’t addicted to cigarettes. You’ve never tried to stab anybody in the lunch line, you’ve never hit your head against a wall so many times you developed marks on your forehead – hell, you’ve never even been grounded. You have always felt like an outsider and now, you don’t even have membership here. You are an outcast among outcasts.

You will spend a week cocooned in group therapy sessions and drawing pictures of your feelings, lukewarm cups of weak tea and calling your parents on a pay phone every night at 9:15, wearing socks with sandals and losing weight like losing change through a hole in your pocket. You will be discharged, feeling more like a skeleton than when you entered. You tell the friends who noticed that you spent the week with the mumps, with mono, with a bad case of the I-Don’t-Want-to-Be-Alive-Anymores.

That semester, you will get the best grades of your high school career. You will get fives on all of your Advanced Placement tests. You will win $600 in a short story contest. Your piece is about two kids who hang out in a cemetery. You will date a girl who is squarely out of your league – pretty, and perfect, and impossible.

You will get yelled at by your soccer coach for “not being a fighter.” Your boss will dock your pay for having an anxiety attack instead of going to work. Your sister will tiptoe around you like a landmine. Her drunk boyfriend will tell you that your feelings are completely normal, unoriginal even. His friend was like this, his brother was like this, he was like this. Your misery is not unique. Your depression is boring.

In the course of two weeks, you will lose twenty pounds.

“How’d you lose the weight?” Your doctor will ask behind squinted eyes and a plastic clipboard. “How’d you lose the weight?” A girl in your gym class will say as you switch into the orange shirt-turned-dress before playing kickball. “How’d you lose the weight?” Your best friend will question before taking lazy shots of an alcohol your medication will no longer allow you to digest. Spend a week in the psychiatric ward, you think to yourself. Test out new prescriptions like others try on shades of lipstick, you want to answer. Try to kill yourself. Really takes away the appetite.

“Exercise,” is what you actually say. “Exercise, and I don’t snack between meals.”

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One of the boys you meet in the psychiatric ward will friend you on Facebook. You won’t accept, but you won’t reject either. The red notification will stay on your dashboard for two years. On an unseasonably sweltering October day, he will kill himself by jumping off the roof of his college library. Posthumously, you will accept his request.

You click on his tagged photos. You tap through pictures of him with arms around smiling friends, climbing a tree at a sleepaway camp, squinting into the sun at a baseball game.

You remember a late-night conversation you had on the couches of the hospital. While you talked about your plans for the future, he twisted his hospital bracelet around and around his wrist, around and around his wrist. He told you he wanted to move to Prague when he turned twenty-five.

You look at his statuses from 2014. You thumb through his posts dated 2015. You stare at his last update: “Bored. Anyone want to talk?”

In group therapy, he would laugh extra hard at your jokes – his eyes would close, his shoulders would shake, he would be so overcome with laughter that he couldn’t make a single noise. Now, you wonder if he was laughing at all, if his shaking shoulders were part of a carefully curated front for happiness, if the charade was more for you than for him.

You look at his relationship status, work history, and places visited. His last check-in was three days before at a Culver’s twenty minutes from your house.

He ordered Jell-O at every meal. The kitchen would never give it to him, but he ordered it anyway.

You scroll through the memorandums tacked to his wall from friends and family. “We miss you,” they say. They varying posts use different words, but contain the same meaning. “Rest in peace,” someone writes. From the outside, death is vaguely uninteresting. “Gone too soon,” another laments. You realize that grief renders all sympathy cliché. “If only we’d known, we could’ve helped.” You knew. You could have helped.

You will like his profile picture.

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Claire Greising Essay Nailed MagazineClaire Greising is a sophomore at New York University. She enjoys blue slurpees, bad reality television, and the poetry of Eileen Myles. You can find more of her work in Moonsick Magazine, Potluck Mag, and elsewhere.

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Deathwish 53: Melchor https://nailedmagazine.com/editors-choice/16302-2/ Thu, 11 May 2017 21:15:35 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=ec&p=16302   I dreamt about crashing my car–   Seatbelt fastened, hands punctually placed, ….I bypassed brakes; I let pedal meet railing and ………….wondered who would feed my cats   In the seconds before sailing off the shoulder, I thought to grab my phone; ………….considered who I’d try to reach, if I’d even be able to– […]

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I dreamt about crashing my car–

 

Seatbelt fastened, hands punctually placed,

….I bypassed brakes; I let pedal meet railing and

………….wondered who would feed my cats

 

In the seconds before sailing off the shoulder, I thought to grab my phone;

………….considered who I’d try to reach, if I’d even be able to–

 

I caller ID’ed the embankment with a few curse words;

……mumbled dream speak, tumbled dream speed

 

I spoke clearly through shattering windshield;

………..painted poems on dashboard;

……I made it to rest at the bottom of a ditch,

……….whispered through a broken stereo–

……..said, “Don’t wake me, I plan on sleeping in”

 

I let myself relax, I cruise controlled into a coma

………for just a couple extra last moments;

I apologized to my mother for all the nights I didn’t come home,

………..her brother and father both accident victims,

……………my dad always driving away from us,

………I realized how I’d left her alone; parked and waiting

 

I could smell the engine oil leaking, the gasoline burning,

……but I knew, no matter how many miles it haunted,

……….that it wasn’t real, this recurring nightmare–

 

So I shook it off and turned on my blinker–

 

I’d reached my exit

 

I got off the freeway

…..drove home

………..and

……fell asleep

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To read the previous installment, “Deathwish 052: Colin”, go here. To participate in Deathwish, find details here.

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Melchor was born in Stockton, California, and currently lives in Stockton, CA.

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Another Spin With Corinne by Jacob Aiello https://nailedmagazine.com/fiction/another-spin-corinne-jacob-aiello/ Thu, 04 May 2017 09:00:51 +0000 https://nailedmagazine.com/?post_type=fiction&p=16286 She called late yesterday afternoon, Corinne did, asking when should she pick me up from the airport and how happy she was to see me after so long. It wasn’t the words she was saying that were baffling even though I haven’t seen or spoken to or very rarely even thought of her in three […]

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She called late yesterday afternoon, Corinne did, asking when should she pick me up from the airport and how happy she was to see me after so long. It wasn’t the words she was saying that were baffling even though I haven’t seen or spoken to or very rarely even thought of her in three years, but the tone of her voice, the curvature of her syllables, as if she very frequently thought of me with affection that nearly broke my heart. Those three years had been short on kindness. Did she know how much I’d changed? That I’d gained ten pounds? That I’d failed to vote even once?

“Hey,” she said. “It’s me. I can’t wait to see you,” she said to me on the phone. “Did you bring me back something? You better have brought me back something amazing!”

I tried to steel myself to the reality of the situation. Three years. Ten pounds. I said, “Corinne? Corinne,” I said, “this is me. Do you know who you’re calling? It’s me,” I said.

“Don’t tell me,” she said. “Don’t tell me what it is. I want it to be a surprise.”

I tried to explain to her the timeline. I explained that Iceland is really a misnomer to discourage would-be travelers. “I’m not going to be at the airport today because I’m home,” I said, “and I’m not going anywhere and I haven’t been and Corinne, what are you talking about?”

She didn’t say anything immediately, and after a while I thought maybe she’d hung up. “Corinne?”  I said, and then again, a little louder, “Corinne? Are you still there?”

“So then you don’t need me to pick you up from the airport?”

That was late in the afternoon, and since then I’ve been trying to call her back to say I’m sorry, though it’s an apology that’s come too late to matter. It must just be some kind of misunderstanding, I think, a brief and unfortunate case of mistaken time and place, like waking up from a nap. Is it dusk? Is it tomorrow morning? Have I been asleep for an hour or a day or three years, by which I mean has she? That can be a frightening experience and it’s this I want to apologize for, without any onus on myself, like when someone says they don’t feel well or they’re having a bad day and you say you’re sorry, or their spouse, parent, child or relative has died and you say you’re sorry, and you are sorry but not for anything you’ve done. Sorry for it happening to them instead of you or that it has to happen at all, I guess, like that. That’s why I want to say I’m sorry.

I call all night and get the busy signal, which only reinforces the idea that she’s existing in an alternate timeline since who doesn’t have voicemail by now? I’d like nothing more than to step into her timeline, when voicemail wasn’t so prevalent. I have never missed a call that was better served by voicemail than a busy signal. I listen to it for minutes on end and feel, when I hang up, like I’ve lost time. I fall asleep and don’t dream of anything, or if I do it’s nothing I remember, and it’s not until the next morning while I’m getting ready for work that the telephone rings. It’s Corinne again.

“Okay,” she says. “If you want to come over and do it you can do it if it’ll make you happy, but I’m not going to like it,” she says, what she said months and months before, three years before, the day before I left for the airport. “If you want to do it you can do it, but I’m not going to like it,” she said, then pulled down her pants and bent over and read a book on the floor while I did it, Player Piano by Vonnegut if I remember right. I remember wondering how she could focus on the words, if she was that invested in the plot or the characters or if she was really so bored or if she wasn’t reading at all but just pretending to read to teach me a lesson, to tell the truth that she really wouldn’t enjoy it, enjoyed it so little that she decided her time would be better spent also trying to read a book despite how difficult it was bobbing up and down on the words like that.

She was angry at me and she had reason to be, but also not. I had some things to work out back then. Ten pounds worth. In less than 24 hours she was going to drive me to the airport and say goodbye, and this was my fault. We’d just returned from breakfast. I’d always said going out to breakfast was a waste of money, that the ingredients are so cheap and it takes forever to get a table and anyway I love cooking breakfast, that it provides me opportunity to crack the eggs one-handed on the edge of the bowl which I love doing and have wasted more cartons of eggs practicing on than is dignified. But she said it was worth it not to dirty the dishes and already I was leaving so I agreed, yes, breakfast.

Corinne was standing under the archway between the kitchen and the living room where I was sitting on the couch, digesting, and she was staring at me like she was trying to work out some kind of problem. Like she wasn’t actually looking at me but like the space I was occupying just happened to be in the line of sight necessary to solve her problem. “Okay,” she said then. “You can do it if you really want to do it, if it’s going to make you happy, but I’ll tell you right now I’m not going to like it.” She pulled down her pants and bent over with the book.

I’d like to say that I didn’t like it, that it didn’t make me happy like she’d said, her bent over like that with her pants down around her ankles, Kurt Vonnegut on the floor. That more than sex it had become some kind of exorcism, a thing we both just had to do even if neither of us especially wanted to, saying goodbye with our bodies, a keepsake to remember the other by but certainly nothing we wanted to do, not like that. But the truth is I enjoyed it tremendously. Weeks of coital abstention had me seeing only soft skin and right angles, circles and triangles and parallelograms, which is to say if she was hoping to induce guilt I saw only geometry. She didn’t say another word until we were both done and zipped back up and then, whatever she said, like the punchline to a joke.

“Okay,” she says now. “If you want to come over and do it you can do it if it’ll make you happy. But I’m not going to like it,” she says, and then hangs up again without even waiting for me to answer as to whether or not I’m actually coming over. How presumptuous, I think, that she thinks we can just start over from where we left off, from before where we left off, presumptuous even if she’s right, I’m coming. I pick up the phone again and call my job and tell them I won’t be in today, which they accept without explanation because I’m usually otherwise very responsible and if I’m calling in now, they think, it really must be some kind of emergency.

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Header image courtesy of Zak Smith. To view a gallery of his work, go here.

Jacob Aiello Fiction Nailed MagazineJacob Aiello lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, dog and three cats. In the past ten years he has amassed a collection of short fiction and creative nonfiction. Some of these stories have been published or are forthcoming in decemberBig LucksSpryKnee-JerkSmokeLong Quarterly,  Drunk Monkeys, and The Portland Review, among others. More of his work can be found here.

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