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The Defenestration of James T. Everett
Keith Frady

At noon on Tuesdays James T. Everett usually eats lunch at the sandwich shop around the corner instead of being thrown out of windows. Yet here he hangs, surrounded by shards of glass, facing the cloudless sky.

I’ll miss lunch, James thinks. How inconvenient.

The sandwich artisan will be worried. James is his best customer; orders, like a hungry clock, the same turkey-on-wheat sandwich at the same time every week. The artisan is a nice fellow, he and James exchange pleasant small talk and they have developed a slightly-greater-than-acquaintance camaraderie.

It is a shame, James thinks, that I won’t have one more turkey sandwich before my death. I’d have enjoyed the last one more, if I had known.

Actually, if he had known of his coming demise, James isn’t quite sure he’d have gotten the same turkey sandwich. Maybe he’d have tried it with mayonnaise instead of mustard. Peppers instead of tomatoes, crazy as that sounds. And what was this obsession with wheat? Plummeting to certain death, James can’t help feeling that white bread might not have been such a major decision after all. Since he was on the subject, he might have tried something besides turkey. It was a little bland, if he’s being honest with himself. Ham now seems like ambrosia. He has disregarded so many flavors, so many sandwich combinations.

Tuesdays were actually a little inconvenient, James thinks. Wednesdays might have been better.

James realizes he’s only eaten sandwiches at lunchtime. Certainly nothing had prevented him from eating a sandwich for dinner. He did have to rush to grab a sandwich at lunch so that he could return to work on time. But if he waited until he left the office, grabbed an order on his way home, he’d have had all the time in the world to eat! James’ stomach lurches with the weightlessness of the fall.

When was the last time James got a sandwich somewhere besides that corner store? When had he last tried making his own sandwich? The ingredients weren’t esoteric or expensive. Maybe he was a better sandwich artisan than that fool running the store. Maybe James missed his calling in life because he never once thought to make his own sandwich. He could have been a renowned sandwich chef!

Paris! James thinks. I should have gone to Paris to become the greatest sandwich chef in the world!

First he’d tour Paris, sampling every sandwich shop in the city. He’d study with the masters, and then travel all over Europe, learning the minutia of local breads and cheeses and meats and trying combinations never before dreamed by man! Europe? No, the world! He would have no borders, no physical or creative limits. Poets would write sonnets to his sandwiches, pundits would declare a new Everett sandwich too conservative or liberal, artists would weep and women would throw themselves at him. Everett, the world would chant. Everett, Everett, Everett.

If only, James thinks, I weren’t about to die. I’d have started living.

The instant before he hits the ground, James remembers he was thrown out of a first-floor window. He lands, quite safely, in a bundle of lilies, which receive significantly more damage than James. James stands up, brushes himself off, and checks his watch. The entire ordeal had lasted no more than a few seconds.

He walks a little faster than normal and arrives at the sandwich shop around the corner on time to order his turkey-on-wheat.


Solidarity Forever
Stephen Baily

“Who belongs to the Jaguar?”

The five of us watching the game glanced around from our drinks. Jack was standing in the doorway and he didn’t look happy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to see anybody unhappy who’s six-five, two-fifty or sixty.

“Something wrong?” Mike said from behind the bar.

The neon sign in the window didn’t make Jack any prettier by staining his face purple. “I can’t find a space for my truck.”

“So?”

“So who parked that Jaguar out front?”

“Come on—a Jaguar.”

“You don’t believe me, see for yourself.”

Under the arc lamps in the lot, we were left in no doubt by the silver-plated cat itching to leap from the hood at our throats. I couldn’t help feeling in my pocket as I circled the stall, but then I said to myself, no, let Jack do it if he wants.

At that hour most of the stores in the strip mall were closed, but the lot was still full, because the restaurants were busy. We could forget the pizza joint and the Chinese pig-out buffet—nobody with money would eat in them. Which narrowed it down to the place that drew all the rabbit-food freaks from the campus across the way.

“I’ve warned them before about taking our spots. You want, I’ll call over there and see if I can flush him out.”

“There’s no rush.”

And Jack left his truck double-parked behind the Jaguar and came back inside with us.

The overpaid pansies had just blown a four-run lead in the ninth when it opened the door and stopped, like it thought it needed an invitation.

“Excuse me, I hate to bother you, but does anybody here own an old Dodge pickup?”

Its glasses had wire frames and there were leather patches on the elbows of its jacket. What it had on its lip was more like an eyebrow than a mustache.

“Our car’s blocked, we can’t get out.”

Nobody answered. We just sat there watching it fidget till Jack, without a word, turned back to the TV.

“Sorry—didn’t mean to disturb you.”

Say that for its mommy—she’d taught it manners.

After it retreated, Jack took his time finishing his beer, then wiped his mouth on his wrist and headed outside. We followed. He hadn’t bothered to lock up, so it hadn’t had any trouble getting at the brake, and now it was risking a hernia straining to push the truck clear.

“The hell?”

It jumped a foot in the air. “Oh, is this yours? I apologize, I didn’t know what else to do.”

“You believe this? First he takes my space, then he breaks into my truck.”

“Honestly, I didn’t mean any harm, I just moved it a little.”

Jack was about to charge when the door of the Jaguar flew open. The blonde who climbed out from behind the wheel wasn’t bad, if you like yours with no tits.

“You’ve got some nerve.”

“So do you, parking here.”

“I told her not to. Didn’t I tell you not to, Claire?”

She shot it a look as it edged around to the other side of the car. She had a neck made for wringing—that’s how long it was.

“I’ll park anywhere I want.”

“Not over here you won’t. Maybe we’re just working stiffs, but that doesn’t give you the right to walk on us.”

“Amen to that.”

Jack spun toward it. “What?”

“I mean I couldn’t agree with you more. I sympathize with you completely. I stand with the workers.”

It said this with so much feeling I wondered what it was high on.

“You hear that?” Jack grinned at us. “We’ve got a friend here—a friend who rides around in a Jaguar.”

“It’s her car, not mine—a present from her parents.”

“That’s nice,” Mike said, “because we’ve got a present for you too.”

He held the carton out to Jack, who helped himself to one. “This is for being our friend.”

It was so surprised it just stood there with its mouth open while the yolk and the white seeped down into its long hair.

“You idiot, get in!”

As it dove for the seat and she started the engine, Jack broke another one on the windshield and we all joined the party. Too bad we couldn’t hear what she was screaming at it, but we could imagine, and that was some omelet we made, let me tell you.


Bounty Ground
Chase Eversole

Miss Sandy is the kind of equestrian who requests the counsel of her gelding, Saul, on matters she involves herself in. “Saul,” she asks in a tiny voice that is compelled by the standing on her tippy toes. “Saul my darling boy, what should I say to the diggers?” She told him they’d been there this past afternoon, that they’d cupped their hands over their foreheads and looked out past fenced pastures and the stock dog pen, and said that they’d be back with instruments and warmer coats. “They said the purpose was to relieve any assumed debt and it’s wrong of them to assume anything.” She put her hand through the gate, resting her palm on his nose. “What do I do?” The horse ruffed his ears, bent down, sniffed the fertile ground, and thought of rain.


This Ends Toward You
Gus Moreno

Let the dog sleep with him, she says, after the night light turns out to do nothing, after we pulled the X-Men decal from over his bed, which peeled paint off the drywall, like I said it would. Still, each night again with the nightmares. Ice Man keeps coming to Ben in his sleep. She blames the new house. And me wanting him to call me dad. She says he’s a sensitive boy. The stress is causing his bad dreams. Cue a trip to the no-kill shelter, Ben laughing as the lab pup licks his cheeks. Darkness settles and everyone’s tucked for bed, and now the puppy cries. Only, when I creep towards Ben’s room, I hear Duke’s whimpering on the first floor. I switch on the lights next to the banister in case he fell down the steps, but no dog. I’m flipping switches on and off through the house. The living room illuminates but there’s no puppy. Lights off. From somewhere in the house, the rabies tag on his collar makes a frantic bell sound, like he’s being thrashed around. I flip the kitchen switch and flip it back off. I check the broom closet. Lights on. The bathroom. Lights off. Here Dukey Dukey. I’m wiping sleep from my eyes and checking the dining room, the coat closet. Lights on, lights off. I open the basement door. The exposed cement walls echo his whimpers below. The wooden steps creak while I’m reaching into black space for the chain to the bulb. It isn’t till I touch the landing that Ben calls me dad from above.

“Yeah?”

“You woke me up,” he says.

“Don’t you hear Duke? Don’t you hear him crying?”

Ben laps his lips together. He uses the sleeve of his dinosaur pajamas to wipe his eyes. “Duke’s in my bed.”

What do kids know? The man in the basement looks nothing like Ice Man. The chain’s in my hand when he puts his finger to his lips, shhh, and something bigger than a puppy growls at the tendons in my heels.


It Ain't Love
Jack Fancher

He masturbates to the letter every morning before work. He carefully extracts the envelope from his desk drawer, slips his finger in, and sets the single sheet of notebook paper out onto the desk in front of him. Sometimes he holds the envelope up to his nose before he removes the letter and inhales, certain he can still detect her scent. This is usually enough to give him an erection, though sometimes he doesn’t get hard until he sees his name written out in her ornate ballpoint lettering. He imagines her sitting at her own desk, pen gripped tightly in white knuckles, scratching the letters of his name across the top of the page. The power she holds amazes him. She creates him with her pen at the top of the page just as easily as she destroys him with it at the end. Nothing could be sexier.

The way he reads the letter changes slightly each day, depending on his mood, how much sleep he’s had, and how much time he has before he has to leave for the office. But there’s always a pattern to it. In fact, the untrained eye might even mistake the ritual for mindless, or repetitive, or obsessive. Only he can understand the nuance. If he has a girl over, he has to make an excuse to get her to leave, or else sneak the letter into the bathroom with him. It can be awkward, but he never misses a day. He can’t. Even the thought of it makes his heart race with panic, his stomach clench.

Once he gets to the main body of the letter, he doesn’t picture her writing anymore. The words themselves are enough. The hurried placement of every line, every dot, every whorl. She poured herself onto this page, translating her thoughts one tiny sound at a time, just for him. He runs his hand across the paper like a blind man, feeling the texture of the ink. At first he couldn’t feel anything, but now he’s certain that he could read the entire letter like this: eyes closed, tracing the path of her pen with one hand, the movement of his other hand getting steadily more rapid.

About halfway down the page, her pen ran out of ink. It’s almost too much for him to bear, seeing the letters slowly fade, becoming nothing more than tiny unfilled capillaries stretching out to nowhere. He notices the scratch marks in the margins where she must have tried in vain to force out one last squiggle of ink, perhaps after giving the pen a good shake or (he hopes!) licking its tip. But then she switched—a black for a blue. The sharp straight line of a capital F, faint because the ink in the new pen hasn’t quite started to freely flow. But as the sentence goes on, the pen’s resolve strengthens. The letters get thicker and bolder, marching across the ruled lines of the page.

Mostly, he tries not to read the words she wrote. He just wants their feeling, not the words themselves. The words carry meaning, and meaning will only depress him. But even so, there’s one word that he always lingers on. It jumps into his view without fail every time: love. He reads that word a few times, occasionally pronouncing it under his breath. He almost comes when he does this, but forces himself to hold back.

The letter is rapidly drawing to a close. He dreads it, but at the same time he wants nothing more. His breathing quickens, his fingers scramble across the page, and as he reads the flowery cursive script that spells out her name, he comes. Every day, her name makes him come.

He’s always careful to wash his hands thoroughly before returning to his desk to put the letter away. He re-folds it with almost surgical precision, his breathing once again slow and measured, and slides it back into the envelope with an air of what might appear to be contentment. He puts it back into his drawer and leaves for work, often turning for one last glance as he steps out the door.


 
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