by Leanne Sparks
The Quiet One
by Babette Becker
by Joe Kilgore
Incident On A Windswept Hill
by L.D. Stolzfus
after 3 a.m.
I sat on the porch, socks in the snow, with a bottle of tequila, without my best friend, wondering how I'd ever stop thinking.
Cathy curled up on the flimsy bottom bunk, in her sorrow, with a damp pillow, without hope, dreaming the phone call over and over.
Brad perched inside the front door, in his woven blue hat, with his bottle of warm beer, without his faith, thinking about her parents.
Erin laid inside the morgue, still as that icy road, with her cross around her neck, without her breath, daring the sun to rise again.
As the sun rose the next morning, I tucked the blanket under my chin, curled up tighter on the couch, and decided to never stop thinking.
Since I never wanted to forget.
L.D. Stoltzfus is a writer, teacher, and lifelong student. L.D. spends most of her "writing" time working on her thesis, blogging about the inner workings of
her brain, and developing a memoir chronicling and honoring life after loss.
There are twelve rifles. Eleven contain a live round. A blank cartridge is in one. You have no way of knowing which resides in the weapon you are given.
No one volunteers. You are chosen at random from members of your company.
You receive no explanation of what the condemned has done. You are summarily informed that he has been justly tried and found guilty.
You cajole. You protest. You implore. Your entreaties are denied.
You are instructed that aiming anywhere other than the heart is a punishable offense. You are informed that failure to discharge your weapon is a
punishable offence. You are reminded that nonperformance of your duty in any way is a punishable offence.
You fall in with the rest of the detail. You march single file to the top of the hill. A post anchored there is the most frightening inanimate object you have
Sweat begins to form beneath the band of your helmet. Your legs feel leaden. Your knees weak. Saliva in your throat sours. Your stomach tightens.
He is led to the appointed spot and bound with his back to the post. He wears the same boots and fatigue trousers as you, but not the same tunic. A
white T-shirt covers his torso. On the front, a large square has been inked on the left side of his chest.
You stare at his face. It is younger than yours. His mouth is line thin. His chin specked with stubble. His nose runs. You wish someone had the decency
to wipe it.
He is offered a hood. Please take it, you beg silently. His head turns rapidly from side to side. Attendants take it with them as they move away.
A momentary silence ensues. You know what is coming. And so does he.
His gaze seems fixed on you. Why won’t he look away? Does he think you can help? Does he sense a weak link? A kindred spirit? A ridiculous glimmer of
hope? Your lips move slowly into the hint of a smile. An insanely inadequate gesture of apology. It is misconstrued. His eyes widen. His mouth trembles.
He thinks you are looking forward to it.
A voice shatters the stillness. You jerk involuntarily. The detail officer asks if the condemned wishes to say anything before the sentence is carried out.
Please speak. Please say you deserve this. Say you accept your punishment and you forgive us.
The officer speaks again.
You snap up straight. But you can’t look away. His entire body begins to shake.
You pray you will not faint.
React. Comply. Blot all else out, you tell yourself. You see a stain darken his trousers.
You lift your rifle. It feels as if a huge weight is sitting on your arms. A weight almost as heavy as the one on your soul.
You site your weapon in the center of the square that rises and falls with the heaving of his chest. Life is in there. Life.
You squeeze the trigger, feel the recoil, hear the deafening retort. But you see nothing through eyes clinched shut.
The officer’s command calls you back to attention. You shoulder your weapon and stare straight ahead. For a moment, there is only stillness. Brilliant blue
sky. Soft white clouds. A breeze sweeps across your cheek with a promise of absolution, until it brings with it the smell of cordite.
The following day your company receives word that hostilities have ended. You will be going home without ever having engaged the enemy. Joy eludes
Later, much later, when innocent youth full of anticipated adventure, dreams of glory, and of course ignorance, ask if you were ever in combat, your
answer is always the same.
Yes. I was. But I prefer not to talk about it.
Joe Kilgore’s fiction has appeared in magazines, creative journals, anthologies and online literary publications. Joe lives in Austin, Texas with his wife, dog,
and cats. Read more about him at his website: <http://joekilgore.com/> Illustration for Joe's story by Mike Young.
The cherry blossoms blanketed the street, falling from their brief spring homes among the high limbs that arched overhead. The car moved
slowly in an effort to avoid disturbing their final resting place. Becka pulled into the driveway of her mother’s 1950’s rambler style house, turned off
the engine, and just sat for a moment. She had grown up here. Her eyes fell on the large oak in the front yard, as laughter from a simpler time rang in
her ears. Teaching her little brother, James, to climb the majestic tree had been one of Becka’s crowning achievements, and she longed for the days
when they would make sack lunches, clamber up the heavy branches, and gaze at their sliver of the world from a bird’s point of view.
Becka took a deep breath, opened the car door, and exhaled loudly and completely. She dreaded the tear-stained face that awaited her; and
the endless bellows from her mother of why and how. “Why did he have to die?” and “how would she live without her precious son?” It had been a
week, and Becka doubted there was an end in sight, at least not in the foreseeable future. There were arrangements to be made, people to be
notified, a casket to be selected, an appropriate eulogy to be given. Her brother’s death had gained him notoriety in the most heinous way
imaginable, leaving his family to deal with the fall-out.
Exactly one week earlier, in the dead of the night, her simple life became complicated. The phone had been ringing in her dream, annoying her,
interrupting visions that Becka could not now recall. Her mother’s absurd voice, squawking at her to “go identify the body.” The haze of sleep
morphed into a haze of uncertainty that was quickly replaced by a haze of disbelief. She had nodded when they pulled back the white sheet, but they had
insisted on a verbal confirmation. Becka could not place the small voice that murmured, “yes, that’s my brother.”
The small room with no windows, only a large mirror. The small table with two chairs and one bottle of water. The questions she had no
answers for; the allegations against a boy she did not recognize. The first line of a repetitive poem of why and how. “Why would he kill?” and “how
long had he been off his medication?”
The escort through the bright fluorescent hallways of the police station. The lonely walk through the underground parking garage to her car.
The flashes from cameras as she pulled out onto the street unsure of where to go first. The fists and microphones against the windows of the vehicle as it
slowly made its way through the mob of media and hatred. She grappled with what she could have done differently, that may have prevented this from
ever happening. The why’s and how’s bounced against the sides of her skull, pinging loudly, causing bursts of bright lights behind her eyes. “Why hadn’t
she seen the signs?” and “how would she ever make sense of this tragedy?”
Opening the side door, Becka stepped into the exact kitchen of her childhood. Nothing had changed - except everything had changed. The
TV news report was going through the endless update of no new information regarding the brutal deaths of two young lovers in their apartment, and
the subsequent suicide of the alleged murderer - their roommate. The perfectly coiffed reporter, in her bright pink jacket, stood outside James’ brown
apartment building, complete with peeling paint and yellow crime scene tape. A neighbor Becka had never seen on the handful of visits to her brother was
“It’s always the quiet ones, you know?”
For some reason, that statement, out of all the statements Becka had heard over the past week, seemed to sum up James perfectly. The oddity
was that it had come from a complete stranger. Quiet James; the boy with his nose in a book, who rarely spoke unless spoken to first, had grabbed a
knife, screamed some obscenities, and stabbed his two best friends to death before cutting his own wrists and bleeding out.
Leanne Sparks recently returned to writing after a hiatus in law school, working, and raising a family. She has found a passion writing
suspense/crime/mysteries. She lives in rural Maryland with her husband, five children, and very spoiled German shepherd.
This world was divided between summer people and townies and I chose townies because at sixteen I was tired of feeling fat, stupid,
thirteen and ugly around my artists parents and all their hoity-toity artist friends who wouldn’t listen to anyone who couldn’t dissect a poem or
argue about the meaning of green in a Mark Rothko so I got a job at Turner’s Candy Store where Turner’s two sons and I pelted each other with
rock candy and swept it back in the bin to sell and where all my clothes stuck together from making cotton candy, and I mooned over Dave, the
eldest, Sugar, to his friends, and watched him shoot imaginary baskets and flick his blond hair out of his face and was absolutely gleeful when he
chased me around the counters saying admiringly, “Hey, you’re not so easy like those townie girls are you,” and we went to the movies and for
walks and he’d try to kiss me and talked about how he knew the way it was and I was definitely right in feeling the way I did and wasn’t I the
cutest ever and I thought about him all winter and the next summer when he worked construction and I worked in the store with his freckled-
face cute little brother, but no Sugar, so when I turned eighteen and had learned a few things too, I found him again and I let him take me to
the back of his old station wagon on a checkered horse blanket, but afterwards he let me get myself dressed sighing something about girls being
all the same, and I smiled because I couldn’t let him keep his old illusion, it was too large a price to pay.
Babette Becker raised three daughters in New York City where she lives and works as a psychotherapist. She has written professional articles
and finished a memoir. Dance and yoga are fundamental to her creative life. Recently she fell in love with flash-fiction.
by C. Rochelle Weidner
“Infinity of dreams” - normlessness, floating free of the life belt of rules and regulations.
Her death was a mystery. Her life, not so much. Splayed across the tabloids, and the subject of talk shows and commentators, everyone knew who
she was. Or, at least they thought they knew. Too much drink, too many men. Her voice out of key, stumbling off the stage, more than once, and falling
into the unforgiving lenses of paparazzi who trolled after her like lemmings.
She floated free of all of that. Her mirror reflected a face she wanted to see, hip, carefree with her hair buzzed and carefully selected tats that
suggested a deeper spiritual being than she really was. It was a grasp on an image that failed her. This is who I am, the image said, but not who she really
“Why am I unhappy?” She asked me once. She was truly puzzled. All these trappings, the cars, the booze, the latest in designer drugs, clothes,
fans, hits and misses weren’t doing it for her.
“I can’t answer that.” I replied. I loved her then, and remembered who she was, before the fame, before the hungry hoards came. I knew the shy girl
with the voice that could knock you out of your chair, when her life was plagued by simple woes, a small zit, or clothes she couldn’t afford. But it wasn’t
enough. My love. Others convinced her she would climb to the top of the charts, but they didn’t tell her which charts. I was regulated to the status of an
“old boyfriend”. Still, I stayed. Waiting.
Am I the last one to love you? I thought about the times we’d waited, and the times we’d missed. Opportunity, such a fleeting, disastrous dance,
like a deal with the devil himself. I reached out. She floated away.
“Just one more gig.” She promised. “I’ll quit at thirty.”
“Sure.” I’d say. And the limos would slip-slid into the night, and I’d be left with the exhaust fumes, and a night that held nothing but an empty bed. I
would wake to find disappointed reporters banging at my door. Or squealing fans that figured out the code to our apartment.
“You are nobody.” An exasperated fan one told me. I agreed with her.
I was nobody. The only soul who stayed beside her. Already knowing her fate, I couldn’t leave. We didn’t even make love anymore. She was too
tired. I was too afraid. So I would slip between the sheets and hold her hand, as tenderly as one would hold a newborn, watching her breath, and the
makeup smear down her cheeks, and tears would spring unbidden to slip down my cheeks and make my pillow wet.
“Goodbye, my love.” I would whisper. “Goodbye.”
C. Rochelle Weidner’s works have appeared in Coe Review, The Alembic, and other publications. Her story “The New Daughter” appears in The Griffin this
fall. She resides with her husband in Oahu.
He flies into a sitting position. There is a bright orange leaf stuck in his hair. “Who are you going with?”
You. The answer bubbles behind my teeth. A few leaves skitter across the top of the grass. I grab one, pale yellow. It tears like old paper. “Not sure.”
Gavin grows quiet. He picks helicopter seeds of the back of his coat sleeve and sends them spiraling into the air.
“You know Jess, right?”
“Everyone knows Jess.”
“Well.” He sighs, and a long hand shoots to his left ear and begins to pinch the lobe; his nervous tick. What he says next comes out quickly, like a
staccato punch to my ribcage. “Iaskedher.”
My blood freezes. “Oh.”
He looks at me, and our eyes meet. I wonder faintly if he can, at last, see in my gaze what has kept me up at night for years.
“I didn’t,” I start, and have to stop. My throat is too full. “I didn’t know you guys were friends.”
He shrugs twice, rapidly. “We aren’t. But I want to be. We have Euro together, and we both love the class. She is the only person besides me to
answers anything. She loves the Russian Revolution. We paired up, for this midterm project, and - I just think she’s nice. She mentioned she didn’t have a
date, and it just felt like - will you please say something, Rosie?”
I duck my head and allow a curtain of dull brown hair to fall between us. “Sorry.”
The back door squeaks open. I expect to hear Gavin’s mother, maybe saying something about apple cider or staying for dinner. Or his father, reminding
him to mow the lawn. I would accept his grandmother, asking if he had any clothes that fit him properly. Instead, I hear Jess.
Ice shoots through my bloodstream and leaves an angry heat behind. “You invited her over?”
“Look at me, Rosie.”
Gavin towers above me, a silhouette in a dark peacoat. The nip of cold fall has turned his cheeks red. His eyes brim, full with something, some energy
and some need that I don’t understand because Jess is right there. I don’t know what he wants from me.
“Will you give her a chance?” he asks.
For a moment, I want to say no. I cannot stand the thought of Jess - Jess who has always been effortlessly incredible, who volunteers and smiles at
everyone - sitting in this yard. I am close to yelling when I glance at her. She stands on his porch with her backpack and a bag of poster supplies - midterm
project - and looks at him with a brightness I can’t replicate.
I look back to him, and back to her, and think perhaps the world is shrinking.
“I should go,” I say as I stand. Gavin’s expression is unreadable. “I need to be home for dinner.”
“Maybe I’ll talk to Saul on Monday,” I continue. The corner of his mouth twitches down. He knows I’m lying.
I back away towards the side gate before he can say anything else. Turning my back to him feels like a surrender. I try to think of it instead as an
offering; a release of something too great for me to deserve. I smile at Jess as I pass her, and she smiles back, a bit bewildered. I faintly hear her ask Gavin
something. I don’t hear his reply.
When I reach the gate, I look back once. Gavin stands. He looks straight at me. For an instantly my stomach seizes and I think he is going to say
something. Then the wind sweeps across the yard, tearing at the top of the oak tree and sending a flurry of orange and red leaves whipping through the air
between us. He backs up as though the color and the fury has stunned him.
I turn away, pulling my jacket closer to my skin. Summer has ended. It is growing colder now.
Born in southern Indiana, Rebecca Austin grew up a storyteller. She spends her time penning epic drama, writing poetry, playing video games, and taking
pictures of anything that doesn't move. Currently, Rebecca is a senior at Ball State University, studying theatre.