It Was Not Easy to Relax
by Ammi Keller
It was July. Covid-19 had been with them since March. So Sarah and her partner trudged across Rodeo Beach in face masks to where the crowd thinned. They’d rearranged their work schedules to be there on a Monday and still the parking lot had been full. The covid times were silent, people in their homes until we went to nature in a sad human attempt to be animal again, skins sallow from lack of sun, coolers and sun hats and tough Northern California camping umbrellas that cartwheeled away in the wind. A few polar bear types wore bikinis but the marine layer was headed towards us over the water. Most people wore fleece.
by John Paul Carillo
(with apologies to Richard Sandomir, and love to Steve)
Phenste Noxid, whose hyper-realistic novels and short stories reflected his fascination with death, died on Wednesday. He was 183.
His daughter Ophia Noxid Fry said the cause was death.
Mr. Noxid produced fiction at a daunting clip. Working on a portable typewriter with wheels and a handle, he published 108 novels and about 6000 stories. His final story — about a man who was 183, like him, and who had a cat like his cat’s cat — was published in Sir Real Review like six minutes ago.
by Jack Barker-Clark
We toiled under all the same manias. We worshipped mountains and trenches and volcanoes. Though we knew our gendarme from our arête, our abseil from our rappel, we were no explorers, and on weekends we dragged ourselves up into the woods behind our houses, pioneers, and took the gentle assent to the hilltop as though we were backpacking in the Carpathians, as though we were traversing the Transylvanian plateau.
You Can’t Do That to Gladys Bentley!
by Joe Okonkwo
Gladys’s fingers hopscotched across the piano keys, smashing out notes dunked in blues and dripping rhythm. It was her first song in her first set of the night. Her eyes hadn’t yet adjusted to the dark club, the stage lights’ blinding glare. She couldn’t see a thing outside the stage, but her explosive smile blazed as she winked and waved and nodded at folks in the crowd like she could see every face. They were too drunk to know any better. Eight years into this craze called Prohibition and folks still acted like Saturday Night was a bountiful Christmas with the ever-flowing, over-flowing gift of bootleg liquor. Especially at clubs like The Clam House where Gladys Bentley reigned, enthroned at the piano, moaning raunchy, sophisticated bluesy jazz and jazzy blues from 10pm till dawn. Her clothes were as sophisticated as her music. No gowns or feathers or horse hair wigs for her. No, sir. Gladys manned it up—all 250 pounds of her—in sparkling white tux and tails, white shoes, and white shirt and bow tie, all of it crowned with a tall, cock-angled white top hat. Elegant white dressing elegant brown. She was dapper. Dashing. Debonair. At heart, Gladys Alberta Bentley was a gentleman.
by Marcelle Thiébaux
After Hans Christian Andersen, “The Snow Queen” (Denmark, 1844)
Orinda and Tarzky grew up next door to each other in a tall gray house on Lake Street in Chemical City. As children they crawled through their kitchen windows to play on the fire escape. They planted roses in pots, and they were in love. At twenty-one they got married, and had an adorable baby named Jolie Rose, who was just eleven months and starting to walk and talk.
A Man Like That
by Jennifer Wortman
I was at the bar, gazing lovingly at my phone to hide my hope and fear that someone would approach me, when The Fox jabbed my shoulder and said he’d fix me. To be precise, he said, “I’ll fix you good.” Then he sauntered away, disappearing into the crowd of consorting bar patrons, none of whom had to feign romance with their phones. Some of these people, I imagined, had been fixed by The Fox. If you asked someone what happened when The Fox fixed them, they’d just flash you a coy grin and avert their eyes. I hated the people The Fox had fixed, mostly because I was so broken I wanted to break myself. I woke up each morning with a massive urge to fling myself at the nearest wall until I’d crack open and the part of me that wanted to do such things would ooze free. I was pretty sure this wasn’t how a person was supposed to be, and yet, this was the person I was, which just intensified my desire to fling myself against walls. I had suffered some losses, some turmoil, a sexual assault or two, but what woman hadn’t? Why could I neither consort with the bar patrons nor stay home and languish in privacy?
by Meagan Cass
My exes are all in love with the same mermaid singer-songwriter. They want it known: their love predates Pull Out the Hooks, the latest wildly popular release. In suburban teenage bedrooms, while less evolved boys postered their walls with Cyndi Crawford and Pamela Anderson, cranked up Blink 182 and Sum 41, they created their dark, complicated alters. A Doc Martin shoe box with a black candle and silver tissue paper inside. A cedar desk drawer filled with sketch books. A special shelf where sports trophies were supposed to go. In these sacred places they preserved Undertow, If the Prawn…(yes they have memorized the full hundred word title), and a host of bootleg concert recordings.
The Tao of Sharkey
by Eric Williams
Among the staff, Sharkey was somewhat of a folk hero. He was the only person that seemed to be able to do it right, work at the restaurant without any side effects, without needing to abuse something or someone, without, it seemed, a care in the world. He was a talented street photographer and would ride his bike around all day taking photos on his medium-format film camera, and at night, he tended bar.