Life, The Magazine, and a Job Opportunity – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris Faulk

Hey, guys!

I’m checking in to let you know that today my mother is undergoing extensive back surgery and that I’m going to be sort of in and out as much as I can be.

The themes are still running, I’ll post your pieces as soon as I am able to, but if I’m not back with you right away, it’s because I’m indisposed. I’m hoping to be able to schedule some more work tonight – but if I can’t, I don’t want you to worry. It will happen.

Unrelated side note: I am actively looking for an employee whose sole purpose at SLM will be to establish, create, and accurately procure some sort of running, longstanding site monetization. Monetizing this thing will not only help with staff momentum and motivation, but also eventually get us to a place where we might be able to pay our writers. For the past two years, this has been my passion project – it will continue to be a passion project – I’ll just have more time to devote to it if I’m able to somehow make the money I’ve invested in it back.

Now: I’m accessible and communicate freely with my writers because that’s who I am, first, and because I truly enjoy it. That being said, I dislike being blind copied on a submission that’s going out to about 40 other publications. Now, this isn’t to say that we don’t accept simultaneous submissions, because of course we do. But if you have scoured Duotrope and Poets & Writers and picked us because we seem like an easy place to be published, then we are not for you.

I LIVE for the emails I receive where a writer talks to me person-to-person. My regular contributors / artists / writers all talk to me that way, referencing different editorials I’ve posted, checking in with me, as I check in with them as well – this isn’t some fly by night publication. I’m building SLM in a way that brings back the writer – editor connection, not the other way around. We are NOT every other journal / lit mag / whatever hipster term is popular for this – what Editor Z loves, possibly an attached cover letter (WTF?! Is this a job interview?!), strict margins, strict professionalism in the body of the email, and basically a carbon copy of every other submission that they accept, IS NOT what I expect, nor is it what I want. Would you like to know why? Because that’s not what a true talent for writing is all about. The vast majority of us are NOT type A personalities who organize everything to death and drool over formatting.

If an editor is rejecting work solely based on that criteria, then I’m HAPPY to receive all the great work that they’re missing out on. I don’t know when writing became such a standardized, marginalized game of favorites; and who deemed what type of writing is supposed to be “right” and what’s supposed to be “wrong.” That very line of thinking goes against everything that we writers stand for; because writing is an art. Art doesn’t live within the margins, literally and figuratively.

Our tagline, Bringing the real. Keeping the weird. isn’t what you might think it is. It means that we’re ALL WEIRD. Who is normal? What is normal? (I’ll give you a clue: there is no normal.) I want you to be yourself (hence the real) and I want you to write what you love to write (hence the weird).

I want to (and try to) stress this in as many of my editorial notes as I possibly can, because we have enough site traffic and wonderful pieces of writing and art that a lot of my mission statements (or whatever you want to call it) sort of get lost in the mix.

Nicole summed it up pretty well in the Submissions FAQ when she said: What we’re NOT: Easy Access. That is true, definitely. It’s true because I may see greatness in something that every other editor has passed on; and I can also see through a piece of writing that lacks spirit and passion. And I’ll tell you another thing: after being published here, for some strange, magical reason, suddenly, other editors begin to publish the writers that I feature here.

Editors need to take their jobs a little more seriously – because, like it or not, we are a gateway to exposure; and that sometimes means you’re a writer’s last and/or only hope.

I can’t promise you guys that I’m going to singlehandedly change the entire literary landscape. But I can promise you this: as long as I’m here, I will work as hard as I can to be that change that we writers all need so desperately (while I’m working here at SLM). This doesn’t always mean that I’m going to respond to your submission vomiting sunshine and rainbows. A lot of times, I’ll send you back a page of your work with markups and tell you to get to work. Writing is a process. It’s a lot of trial and error and without personal growth, your writing becomes stagnant.

On “Career Day” at Bluewater Elementary in Niceville Florida, I was in second grade, eight years old, and a regular visitor at the school’s library. As an avid reader and consumer of content, content, content, I knew where I wanted to be in this world.

My entire class had to give their answer to the question of, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” After listening to answers like ballerina, football player, fireman, police officer, actor, model, and many, many others, I was the last to answer.

“Well, Kelly Marie, what is it that you want to do when you grow up?”

I cleared my throat. “I’d like to be a part of the media.”

My teacher chuckled. “What do you mean?”

“I mean, I want to be part of the media. I want to write. I want to be a part of it in my own way.”

And, well, here I am.

Keep submitting.

Keep writing.

Be patient with me.

zzzyy

Cheers,

Kelly

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Welcome – by DON TASSONE

Welcome

 

 

The snow whipped at his eyes, nearly blinding him.  Frostbitten and exhausted, he could go no farther.

 

He’d been walking for two days.  That’s when the blizzard hit and he got separated and lost.

 

Now, in the distance, he saw a light.  Summoning all his remaining strength, he headed toward it.

 

The light came from the window of a stone hut.  He trudged to the door and fell against it.  Someone pulled it open.

 

“Heb-bar kaa-su-shu,” said a man in a maroon robe, helping the stranger inside.

 

The stranger did not know Tibetan.  Even so, he understood “Welcome.”

***

dontassone

 Don Tassone’s stories and essays have appeared in a range of literary magazines.  His debut short story collection, Get Back, was published by Golden Antelope Press in March 2017.  His debut novel, Drive, will be published in September 2017.

Mrs. Underwood – by DANIEL C. ROCHE

 

MRS. UNDERWOOD

By

Daniel C. Roche

 

 

 

Mrs. Underwood lifts a cup of coffee toward her lips.  Black.  No cream or sugar allowed.  A woman of her advanced age can no longer afford such luxuries.  Doctors’ orders.  Her frail hands tremble as she blows the steam away from her perspiring lips.  She sips at the hot liquid, and of course, it’s delicious.  Throughout all these years she still worships the taste of coffee, just as she had all those years ago when she first tasted it.  Apparently coffee never grows old.

Too bad she can’t say the same for herself.

Warm sunshine pours in through the windows.  Mrs. Underwood loves the feeling she gets when the soft rays tickle her skin, causing goose-bumps to rise like bubbles in a pot of boiling water.  For this reason she is always up before dawn, waiting for the sun to arrive and welcome her to the new day.

She looks down upon her outfit (a long well-worn nightgown) and sighs.  She takes another sip of coffee and allows her mind to wander.  Her mind wanders back to a time when she actually had a reason to wear lovely dresses once in a while.  Dresses that showed off her long legs.  She recalls how good it felt when a young man would ask her to dance, or when a gentleman would step aside to hold a door open for her. She would turn around to thank him and catch him stealing a glance at her back side as she stepped though the doorway.

Happened every time.

No sense tormenting herself by thinking about those long gone days, but it’s hard not to think about her youth.  Those care-free days when she actually had something to live for.

She puts her coffee down and stares at her feet.  Her slippers are tattered and worn.  Maybe later on in the evening she will gather her knitting kit and make a new pair.  Some comfortable new slippers would be nice.  Just having something to do would be nice.

Her attention is suddenly stolen away from her slippers when she notices two  small figures out in the meadow on the far side of her lawn.  Disgusted at what she sees,        she approaches her window to get a better look.

“Oh for Pete’s sake,” she says.  “Now why on earth do those boys feel they have to meddle with those flowers?”

Through her window, out in the meadow, the two young boys from the house next door busy themselves by plucking away at some of the wildflowers that occupy the landscape.  From where Mrs. Underwood stands, she cannot see any rhyme or reason as to why those boys would feel the need to rid the neighborhood of such lovely flowers.

Dont they have anything better to do?

Maybe after ‘The Price is Right’ she will scurry next door and inform the boys parents of their misdoings.  She makes her way back to her seat, and to no one in particular she says, “Oh what’s the point?”  She tells herself that maybe the boys are already in trouble for something and are trying to make amends by picking some flowers for their mother.

Mrs. Underwood retrieves her coffee mug and takes another sip, but a lump appears in her throat, making it difficult to swallow.  She finds herself sobbing.  Seeing those two boys out there in the meadow reminds her of her own children.

For about a year after her husband passed away, her two sons and daughter would pop in every now and again for a visit.  They always brought the grandchildren with them, which she always appreciated, but after a while the visits grew less frequent, until finally her children stopped visiting completely.  Now-a-days it seems they only call her on her birthday or drop by to give her a card on Christmas.  It’s a hell of a way to treat their mother.  After all, she thinks.  Im the one who brought them into this world.

Thinking of her children always depresses her, and her depression has been so severe lately that she even took the trouble of gathering all of the family pictures in the house and putting them into a shoebox.  That shoebox now collects dust in her bedroom closet.

The lump in her throat increases and she cannot finish her coffee.  She decides to dump it into the kitchen sink.

Bracing herself over the sink, she allows her anguish to consume her.  She has a terrible decision to make – a decision she has been putting it off for a while now, but this sudden outburst draws attention to the severe importance of her situation.  Fresh tears flow freely down her wrinkled cheeks because for many months now she has been formulating a plan.  One last act that will end the misery that has become her life, and last weekend she had put all of the necessary items into place.  All she had to do now was wait until the time felt right.

Staring down into the wash basin, Mrs. Underwood realizes there is no better time than right now.

Gathering up her courage, Mrs. Underwood heaves herself away from the sink and heads towards her bedroom.

In her room, she sits upon her neatly made bed and stares at the closet door.  Tears no longer stand in her eyes, her hands no longer tremble and her sadness is down to a dull aching.  She knows that beyond the closet door the end of all her troubles awaits.  For Mrs. Underwood, her closet door may as well be the gates of heaven.  She takes a deep breath, stands up, and closes her hand around the door handle.  The moment of truth has arrived.

She opens the closet door.

Glorious emptiness fills her mind as her eyes fall upon a small stool.  Four and a half feet above the stool is a noose, the end of which is tied to a rafter in the opening of the ceiling.  It was hell climbing through the small opening into the attic, but now as she gazes upon the fruits of her efforts, she knows her pains were well worth it. Mrs. Underwood stands on the stool, and just as she is putting the noose around her neck, there is a knocking at her front door.

“Who could that be?” she mumbles.  It certainly couldn’t be one of her children.

Of all the times…  “Ah the hell with ‘em.”  She continues with the noose, but then she thinks, what if it is one of the kids?  Is this how I want them to find me?  As she is thinking this, another knocking can be heard from the front door, followed by the impatient ringing of the doorbell.

Mrs. Underwood groans.  “Hold your horses, I’m coming.”

She climbs down from the stool and makes her way down the hall towards the living room.  Once again the doorbell rings.  Feeling no need to rush, she shuffles along.  At her age, she rushes for no one.

Half expecting to be greeted by a salesman of some kind, she opens the door, but instead of being greeted by a seedy salesman, the two young boys from next door stand before her.  Up close, the boys look sweet and innocent.  Mrs. Underwood feels immediate remorse for harboring such negative thoughts about them earlier. Smiling brightly, the boys are wide eyed, proudly holding before them colorful displays of flowers they had picked and arranged all by themselves.

“Good morning Mrs. Underwood,” says Anthony, the older of the two.

Looking anxious the younger boy mimics his brother.  “Yeah.  Good morning Mrs. Underwood.”

Anthony says, “We picked these for you,” and held the flowers out for her.

Quickly, the younger boy does the same.

Mrs. Underwood is stunned and it takes her a moment before she can come up with a response.  “Why thank you, boys.  These are lovely.”

It had been so long since anyone had done something nice for her that she almost forgot to reach out and accept the flowers.  When she finally did, she brought them close and inhaled the deep fragrance.

“This is so very nice of you.”

The younger boy weaves back and forth like a balloon on the edge of bursting.  “Hey Mrs. Underwood,” he says.  “Do you have any candy?”

His older brother elbows him in the ribs.  “Shut up, Danny.”

Mrs. Underwood chuckles.  “Candy?  Well let me see.”  She finds it funny that these children only brought her the flowers in hopes of receiving candy.  Still, no one has given her flowers in years.

The lump in her throat returns.  “Let me go put these in some water and I’ll see if I can find some candy for you nice young men.”

Their little faces light up, and they eagerly wait on the front door step as the old woman rummages around in her kitchen.

Having poured some tap water into a vase, she arranges the flowers and displays them at the center of her kitchen table.  On her way back to the front door she stops in the den.  On the coffee table sits a small bowl filled with an assortment of hard candies.  There’s a bag of Hershey’s Kisses next to it.  She grabs two handfuls of each and returns to the front door.

Eagerly waiting for their prize, the boys smile wide and cup their hands in front of them.

“Here you go,” she says.

The children jump up and down, their eyes never leaving the candy.  “Thank you,”

they scream.  They then run across the yard.

“See you later, Mrs. Underwood,” calls Danny.

The old woman shuts the door and heads back into the kitchen.  Alone with her thoughts she stares out the window.  She looks to the meadow where the boys had gathered the flowers.  A strong yearning erupts in her chest and the lump in her throat swells.

“Oh,” she chokes.  “What is this?”  Her hand rises instinctively to her mouth and the tips of her fingers gently rub her lips.  She can’t remember the last time she smiled.  She didn’t even know she had it in her anymore.  She hurries into the bathroom and stares before the mirror.  Mrs. Underwood can’t believe her eyes.  Within the wrinkles of that drooping face she catches a glimpse of the blushing young woman she once was.  There’s no denying it.  She looks ten years younger.

She leaves the bathroom and re-enters the kitchen.  “Maybe I’ll make another cup of coffee,” she says.  “And I think I’ll take cream and sugar today.”  But before she begins boiling the water she bends over the kitchen table and smells the fresh wildflowers.  “And I think later on I might head out and buy some more candy.”

***

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Several of Daniel’s short stories have appeared in print through Tough Lit Magazine and Idea Gems Magazine.  Over 30 of his other stories, poems, articles and memoirs have been published in several online magazines, Including Ariel Chart (a signatory of Poets and Writers.)  If you like what you’ve read here, please browse his website: danielcraigroche.wordpress.com

Sand – by STEVE CARR

SAND

by

Steve Carr

 

A storm is coming.

Like a gray veil being lowered in front of the horizon, the dark clouds and falling rain have spread across the ocean and are moving toward shore. Flashes of lightning intermittently make the sky above the storm glow a brilliant white. The water has turned from turquoise to steel gray and waves with white caps batter the shoreline. The hiding of the sun has turned late afternoon to twilight.

I dig deep into the beige sand and grasp handfuls that I hold, palms up, and let the wind blow it away. The surface of the dunes around me are shifting. The air is thick with the smell of salt water.

#

On the deck on the side of  my bungalow I shake the sand from my shorts, and brush it from my feet and onto the mat in front of the door. Stepping inside, there is a noticeable silence. I have painted the walls in every room the same shade of deep gray with white trim. In the living room the tables and mantle place are covered with marble statues of Greek and Roman gods. Mars. Mercury. Apollo. Artemis. Bacchus. The resounding claps of thunder from the advancing storm causes the statue gods to tremble. At the large plate glass window I watch the rain begin to fall on the beach.

#

In the darkness of my bedroom I lie on the bed and listen to the rain battering the roof and pelting the windows. Flashes of lightning fill the room with white light. The blades of the fan above my bed whirl about slowly stirring the warm, moist air. Even after showering, I find grains of sand lodged in my ears and fingernails. The digital clock on the stand next to my bed seems to change time at a tortuously slow pace. In my wakefulness the events of my life play out in my mind like a poorly edited movie. Being alone I have no one to tell about being raised on a farm in Iowa, joining a seminary right out of high school, leaving the seminary a year into it, my parents’ suicide pact, me inheriting this bungalow.

Wind rattles the windows.

#

Morning sunlight casts pastel yellow and pink across the dunes and beach. The bright green ocean is calm and gentle waves lap at the shore. Clusters of white sea foam are blown across the beach by a gentle, warm breeze.  Walking onto the dune, I step through the thin crust of sand created by the rain, into the soft sand underneath.  Seagulls dance in the baby blue sky. Tufts of cottony clouds move slowly across the skyscape. On the beach, near the water, there’s a body of a man. He’s wearing a shirt, pants and socks, but no shoes. From the dune I can also see that he has fiery red hair. I scan the ocean in search of some sailing vessel and see nothing.

#

Kneeling at the man’s side, I bend over and place my ear against his chest. His heart isn’t beating.  I place my cheek against his lips and feel no breath. There is no pulse in his wrist. In death he has retained his beauty. His skin is like porcelain, without defect or blemish of any kind. His jawline is square and strong, there is a cleft in his chin. I gently raise one of his eyelids and stare into the deep ocean-like green of his lifeless eye. The light blue muscle shirt he’s wearing has a long vertical rip over his left well defined pectoral muscle. A small, dark nipple is exposed. His arms bulge with muscles. There is a tattoo of an angel with his wings spread on his left bicep. A rip along the inseam of his white linen pants extends from his knee to his large testicles. He’s wearing no underwear. A small cross on the end of a gold chain hangs around his neck. I lie down next to him and put my arm across his hard chest and whisper in his ear, “It’s okay if you don’t feel like talking.”

#

I awake abruptly at the dead man’s side. The sun has dried his hair and I run my fingers through the thick curls.

“You have beautiful hair,” I tell him.

The front of his shirt and pants have also dried, but his white socks are still wet. I remove them and lay them in the sand to dry. His feet are long and slender and his toenails perfectly pedicured. Like the rest of his body his feet are pale white, as if he had never spent time in the sun. The tide is beginning to near us. I roll him onto his side and am surprised to see in a back pocket in his pants the outline of a wallet that I take out. The wallet is brown leather and inside there are two credit cards, four one-hundred dollar bills, and his driver’s license. His name is Barry Rose and he’s from Seattle. I put his wallet back.

“What would you like me to do about you?” I say to him.

#

Reaching under his arms, I lift him up enough to drag him toward the dunes and away from the tides.  In the dry sand I sit down next to him. He looks so peaceful.

Placing my hand on his cross, I say, “I fell in love while I was in the seminary. It didn’t work out.”

A sand crab shovels itself out of the sand, then quickly retreats back into it. The noon sun cooks the beach. I remove my t-shirt and place it over Barry’s face.

“I don’t want that gorgeous skin of yours to get sunburned,” I tell him.

Looking out at the ocean I try to imagine how Barry came to be washed up on the beach. Surely someone who looks like him has someone who would miss him.

I rub his tattoo. “Did you believe in angels, Barry?” I say. “Sometimes I think there’s an angel looking over me, but then I can’t imagine why the angel allows me to be alone.”

With my fingers I push his hair back from his forehead. “Being alone all the time is similar to death, Barry. ”

*

I return from the bungalow and stand over Barry, my body casting a shadow on his. After opening the rainbow colored beach umbrella I place it so that his body is shaded from the intense rays of the afternoon sun. Sitting in the sand next to him I remove my t-shirt from his face and brush a little sand from his hair. I take the photo of my parents from my back pocket. “These are my parents,” I say, holding the picture in front of his closed eyes. “I didn’t even know they were unhappy until I came home and found them in the car with the motor running in the exhaust filled garage. They had left a note on the dining room table where I usually sat, as if it was some kind of meal. The note said they loved me but that they found life intolerable and wanted to die together.”

A mosquito lands on Barry’s silky smooth upper lip and I brush it away. “I sold the house and moved out here to the bungalow.”

*

This time I return from the bungalow with a blanket and a paper bag that contains a sliced chicken sandwich, a bag of potato chips and two bottles of water. I sit in the sand, my back resting against Barry’s side. While eating I watch the gleaming white sails of a small yacht flutter as it crosses the emerald green water in the distance. If they see me or the umbrella they show no signs of it. They sail southward and out of sight. Three seagulls have alighted in the sand a couple of yards from me, and they stare at me almost expectantly as the chips crunch between my teeth.

“You’re wild birds,”  I say to them. “I don’t feed wild things.”

They remain until I have finished eating and put the empty chip bag in the paper bag and half bury it in the sand. They fly off just as I open one of the bottles of water and take a long drink. I open Barry’s mouth and pour a little water into it. His teeth are the color of polished pearls.

“Whatever you need, I can give you,” I say to him.

*

There are bright red and deep purple streaks across the twilight sky. The tide has come in and is within yards of us. The wind has increased and scatters the top layer of sand on the dunes and shakes the umbrella.  I remember that I left Barry’s socks where they would have been washed away by now.

“I have socks you can have,” I tell him.

I take his hand in mine and grasp it tightly, feeling the rigor in the joints in his fingers and the coldness of his skin.

“In the seminary, I fell in love with a seminarian named Luke. I was only nineteen and had never been in love before. Like you, he was physically beautiful. At night I would sneak from my room and go to his and crawl into his bed with him. We would lie there together for a while, just listening to each other breath, then I would return to my room,” I say.

I put my hand on Barry’s still chest. “Breathing isn’t overrated.”

Placing Barry’s hand against my cheek, I say, “After the night I was caught returning from Luke’s room I was told to leave the seminary if I couldn’t disavow my love for Luke, which I couldn’t do. I then traveled around Europe by myself for a year.  I can’t recall the name of even one person I met during that time.”

#

Sparkling pinpoints of white starlight fill the night sky. With the blanket on us and an arm and leg draped across Barry’s body, and with my lips to his ear, I say, “Ours wouldn’t be a conventional marriage by any measure.”

A steady cool breeze blows in from the ocean as the tide quietly ebbs and flows. I look at my watch and see it is shortly past midnight. In the pale moonlight cast by a crescent moon his skin has a bluish tint. His body is stiff. I rub my bare feet on his icy feet.

“You’re so cold, my darling,” I say.

I sit up and tuck the blanket around his body, kiss him gently on the forehead, then stand. “I’m going to go get you some socks,” I say.

The sand on the dune is cool and slippery as I climb it. At the top I look down at Barry and feel an undefinable heaviness in my chest. There is such a placid expression on his face that I simultaneously envy, fear and am thrilled by it.

#

Morning sunlight streams through the living room window. I awake on the sofa with a pair of heavy wool socks in my hand. I recall sitting down, but have no recollection of falling asleep. Barry’s name screams in my head. I jump up and run out of the bungalow and across the warm sand to the dune. The tide has receded and sand crabs scurry across the beach. I look down and see the umbrella and blanket, but Barry is gone.

-END-

Steve Carr photo

Steve Carr began his writing career as a military journalist and has had over eighty short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies including The Gathering Storm Magazine, Rhetoric Askew anthology, Fictive Dream, Zimbell House After Effects anthology and Visitant Literary Journal.  He is a regular contributor to SickLit Mag. His plays have been produced in several American states. He was a 2017 Pushcart Prize nominee. He lives in Richmond, Virginia and writes full time. He is on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100012966314127 and Twitter @carrsteven960

 

 

 

 

Feel Like Starting Over? Come Explore Our “New Beginnings” Theme – Editor-in-Chief, Kelly Fitzharris Faulk

It’s….September!

And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. It might mean back-to-school (either as a student yourself, a teacher, parent, or all three), meaning unchecked road rage in the form of crowded, bitchy carpool lanes; it could bring either a markedly busier or slower work pace for you, and September always serves as a lead-in to the holiday season and the harried, frantic conclusion to the year 2017.

*Side note about unchecked road rage- what in the name of Sam Hill is going on?! Not to sound like a disgruntled older woman, but I’m seriously alarmed at the amount of people just absolutely LOSING IT while in their cars. I saw some of the most God awful road rage, of all places, at the drive thru lane at Chik-Fil-A last week. One car cut another one off; sure, they shouldn’t have done that, but the reaction from the woman who was cut off was straight up disturbing. Her blood pressure had to have been close to heart attack level. It is NOT WORTH IT to engage ANYONE like that unless they’ve literally just snatched your newborn baby out of your vehicle. End of rant. *

Whether this year has been one of strife and struggle for you or one of success and triumph, time waits for no one. And the only direction it moves is forward.

Last night, my husband and I watched the movie “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World,” starring Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. Its humor has more of a subdued, subtle dryness to it, giving it the perfect opportunity to be in the background and serve as the perfect backdrop to a realistically funny look at what the world might look like right before it ended. Dean (my husband) kept trying to figure this movie out; he was determined to break it down and find its hidden meaning and intent. He kept guessing that the ending would take a drastic turn and the world wouldn’t end at all – that the asteroid might narrowly miss earth, giving the movie “meaning.”

“No, no, no,” was my rebuttal. “The point is that it doesn’t matter how much time we have here or what we think we’re supposed to be doing. If it takes the end of the world for you to ‘find your purpose’ or if you think you need to go backpacking across Brazil in order to find yourself, then you very well could be missing out on the greatness that’s already in your life. In the end, we’ve all got what we need right in front of us. We’ve had the right tools all along, we just didn’t know how to use them. Changing your scenery won’t change your problems and it won’t change you. Being with those who love you and loving yourself are the keys to fulfillment.” (Now, don’t throw that back at me when I’m super stressed out and complain about the annoyances of day-to-day life. Ha!)

All of that being said, each day is an opportunity for us to begin again, to try harder, to live our lives a little better and be a little kinder to one another. Just because you’ve messed up, fallen down, cried in front of your boss, reacted in situations with cowardice or malice as opposed to bravery and kindness, doesn’t mean that you have to live tomorrow that way. Messing up is part of the journey, guys. You’re supposed to do that. You are supposed to bump your head – a lot – in order to find your way. And you’ll keep messing up until the day you die. That’s just what life is. It’s about realizing who and what you are, knowing your shortcomings and your strengths, and using this knowledge to not only better yourself, but hopefully those around you.

That brings me to the reason why I’ve chosen the themes I have for this fall: All of these themes hit close to home for the vast majority of us. If you don’t have one instance where you have faced adversity, wanted to start over, or actually did start over, or witnessed or experienced a good versus evil battle, then maybe you need to get out of your comfort zone.

I’ve received a lot of wonderful submissions. If I don’t get back with you five minutes after you’ve sent me an email, remember that I’m only one person. And chill out.

Here is the official theme schedule:

September: New Beginnings

October: Good VS Evil

November: Strength in the Face of Adversity

Okay, guys, now do your thing and I’ll do mine. Until next time…..

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Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do. Or, hell, go ahead. 

Cheers, 

Kelly Fitzharris Faulk 

 

 

Calling All Writers! Step “Write” up and get yourself some SLM Announcements! – Kelly Fitzharris Faulk, Editor-in-Chief

Here’s to Life, Literature, and bringing the spirit of SLM back!

 

Sometimes, we’re trying so hard to open a figurative closed door in our lives that we fail to look behind us to see a brand-new, shining, glassed-in sun-room. Forget that old window analogy; this time after God has closed the door, he’s opened up the entire back of your house.

The past is done; it’s gone. We cannot change it, nor can we live there. This is why it’s so important to live in the here and the now and to do your best to see that rainbow while you’re stuck in the mud.

I’m sure you’ve noticed my name change up above – I’M MARRIED! And it is a happy time for me and my family. Soon, I’ll be Kelly Faulk.

Onto the magazine!

I will officially be re-opening shop so to speak for submissions starting NOW and staying open until the end of October of 2017 for short prose (just don’t send me 30 pages) and poetry.

I do have a few themes up my sleeve:

Good VS Evil

New Beginnings

Strength in the face of Adversity 

 

You may begin to submit to any or ALL of these themes as soon as you are ready to do so to: sicklitsubmissions@gmail.com

*Now, remember: When submitting your work to the magazine, please, please, PLEASE, write the genre and theme somewhere in or on your email, write to me as yourself, and be as frank or as candid as you’d like.

Reminder: I want YOUR work. Write as YOU; write what you write best and write the hell out of it.

My mission and my intent have never been to conform to the rest of the literary world; on the contrary, I want to serve as a guide, a mentor, a coach, and a voice of reason in a world filled with chaos and closed doors. Unless I suspect you *might* be a serial killer aside from your day job, I usually make every effort to email you back as soon as I can and to provide you with my enthusiastic feedback, critiques, praises, what have you.

I’m starting this fall with a clean slate and a fresh outlook. If you’ve sent in work before and it’s gone unnoticed and you feel that it’s good and fits one of the themes, send it again. This year has scrambled us all up a bit to say the least. So let’s just start over.

Here’s to new beginnings, a brighter tomorrow, and the freedom to express ourselves.

Cheers,

dkweddingggggggg

Kelly

Pop Culture Got You Down? Politics? Let’s Party Like it’s 2005. Also, Your Favorite Editor is Checking in ;) – Kelly Fitzharris, Editor-in-Chief

Here’s to New Beginnings!

 

 

A lot of you have emailed recently, asking me how I’ve been doing and checking in on me. Please know that it hasn’t gone unnoticed and/or unappreciated. 

Switching gears just for a moment (bear with me, I have a point to make):

Ever spend an hour scrolling through your Facebook-Twitter-insert-social-media-app-slash-web-site feed only to feel like an empty, hollow, lifeless loser? And then regretted that hour so much that you vowed never to tell anyone you just actually wasted an hour (or more…) scrolling through Facebook? Have you ever stopped to question the content that you are allowing to play on a loop from your phone, PC, laptop, iPad, other device, etc.?

Well…if you answered no…Question it!

I can tell you: spending all of your time on Facebook reading what everyone else is doing can make you feel depressed. Also, spending time on Facebook playing negative videos over and over and over again will also dampen your spirits. Doing both for a solid day or so is nothing short of insanity-inducing.

As human beings, we aren’t meant to be cooped up with an electronic device for hours on end, hunched over, reading canned and regurgitated garbage that may or may not come from a kernel of truth, letting that fill up all of our free time.

The same can be said for trolling a person on the web as opposed to taking the time to get to know them in person. Reading everything that, let’s say, I’ve written or tweeted or even a few of my published works (including an article I co-authored with Dr. Jeffrey Toney, PhD on The Hill, Congress Blog) is no way to get an idea of my character, my current life situation, nor is it an appropriate way to wrongly judge a person.

Here’s the thing about judgment: it’s a lot like assuming. And you know what they say about assuming.

I was raised by two, good, God-fearing parents who, yes, raised me Catholic, and simultaneously raised me to be open-minded, open-hearted, loving and forgiving. And I was also raised never, ever to judge a book by its cover. My father is a graduate of USAFA (US Air Force Academy), won a Guggenheim fellowship scholarship (with which he used to procure his Master’s in engineering from Columbia University in New York City), before he started out his first assignment as a fighter pilot at Langley Air Force Base when I was only 2 years old. He served as an officer in the US Air Force for 22 years before retiring as a Lieutenant Colonel and Senior National Represent for the United States. My mother has been a licensed LVN (nurse) most of her life, practicing in both Florida and Texas over the years.

While it’s true that I’ve been through my own personal brand of hell this year and last year, I’ve also recently been absent from this site because, SURPRISE, I’ve been happy for the first time in a long time. I’ve met someone who loves me, loves my children, and who supports me endlessly.

After our first date, about a couple of weeks later, my dog got out of my fence. I called him flustered, driving around shouting the dog’s name with my two kiddos in the backseat. He came over that day with tools, wearing a white shirt and jeans, and met my children. My son went out and pretended to help him fix the fence, carrying his own “tool kit.” It was that day that I knew; I knew it in my heart that this was it. He was the real thing. And he has been ever since.

We’re engaged to be married in August of 2017.

Here’s the thing: you can’t schedule falling in love. If you try and micromanage it and interrupt nature’s way of doing things, that’s a surefire way to ruin it. To kill it. Instead of living in the past and waking up daily with hate and anger in your heart, why not celebrate the present and look forward to the future and hold happiness in your heart for your family?

Life is too short not to.

I recently got back from a trip to see my best friend from high school. I went to visit so I could help her while her mother was in the hospital. Unfortunately…sadly…her mom passed away while I was visiting. As devastatingly sorrowful as that visit was, it has given me a different perspective on life; on family; on, well, everything. My friend’s mom was the same age that my mom is going to be in August.

If there’s anything to be learned from this, it’s to shelve the judgments and relish the fleeting happiness that can sometimes bury itself beneath the monotony of our day-to-day grind that most often leaves us feeling empty inside. Acknowledge your own suffering; acknowledge and learn from your own failures before you point outward to project it onto someone else. Someone who might, just might, be a decent person.

***

The future of the magazine is still up in the air. As I’m sure you can probably imagine, my life is filled to the brim with activity, which includes getting married and getting my children registered for school and getting settled back into a routine.

I can promise you that once the dust has settled, I will be in touch.

 

Cheers,

Kelly Fitzharris

Editor-in-Chief

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I Want a Wife – by CONNIE BEDGOOD

I Want A Wife

By

Connie Bedgood

 

Men want wives.

As I mow my back yard, I, too, would like to have a wife.  Why do I want a wife?  She can help do the yard work.  In fact, while I go to the gym, she can put out the trash a couple of times a week

I want a wife who will work and send me to school.  Going back to school would give me a real break, and make me economically independent, able to support those dependent on me – like my two cats, Polka and Dot.

While I’m attending school, I want a wife to take care of my cats; to keep track of their medical appointments (mine, too); who makes sure they eat properly and are kept clean.

I want a wife who is a nurturing attendant to us; who insures the cats have an adequate social life with their peers, cleans out their poop-box, and keeps them in up-to-date flea collars.  I want a wife who arranges to be around when they need special care, because, of course, I can’t miss classes at school.

I want a wife who will wash, dry and hang up my clothes and press them if necessary.  I want to look good at work.  My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job.  It may mean a small cut in her income from time to time, but I guess I can endure that.

I want a wife who will take care of my physical needs, keep my house clean and dusted and pick up after me.  She will see to it that my personal things are kept in their proper place so I can find what I need, the minute I need it.  She will plan the menus, do the shopping, prepare the meals, serve them pleasantly, and clean up while I am studying.  She will care for me when I am sick and sympathize with my pain.

I want a wife who will not bother me with rambling complaints about her duties, but will listen to me when I feel the need to explain a difficult point in my studies.   I want a wife who will take care of the details of my social life.  When I want to entertain, my wife will prepare and serve a special meal and not interrupt when I talk about things that interest me.

After I graduate with a degree and I should find another person more suitable, I want the liberty to replace my present wife – who will take and be responsible for the cats, so I am left free for a fresh new life.

Now, who wouldn’t want a wife?

***

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Connie was published in Screamin Mamas, Conceit, and Good Old Days in 2016. Also Connie has written stories for The Penman Review, Nostalgia, Changing Times, Quail Bell, Section Eight and Indiana Voice online magazines. In 2017 she will be in The Sacred Cow, Screamin Mamas, The Dead Mule Magazines and in 2018 The Stray Branch will have one of her strange tales in it.

 

 

Shadow Play – by DAVID COOK

Shadow play

By David Cook

 

Keith, get up.

‘Eh? Wha… what time is it?’

Get up, Keith.

‘Who said that?’

I did, Keith. Me, your shadow. To answer your question, it’s about six in the evening. You fell asleep, even with the light switched on. You were probably full after your tea. A nap always helps digestion.

‘What? Okay, who’s playing silly beggars? Is that you, mum?’

It’s not your mum, Keith. It really is me. Your shadow.

‘Um.’

I know this is a shock, me speaking like this…

‘A bit, yes.’

…but look around. There’s no-one else here, is there?

‘No…’

And I think it’s time you knew the truth. I’ve watched you every day of your life. When you were a baby, guzzling your milk. When you were a little kid on your first day at school. When you were a teenager and you had that dreadful white boy afro. Honestly, what were you thinking?

‘Um.’

When you had that job behind the bar in that filthy pub. When you were working in that office, pushing paper for that oaf of a boss. When you were going out with those girls that broke your heart. When you got married, and then when she left you and broke your heart again. I was watching, Keith. I was right there with you, always.

I’ll never leave you, Keith. Not like the others.

‘You’re really my shadow?’

Yes.

‘You watch me all the time?’

Yes.

‘Even in the bath?’

Even in the bath, Keith.

‘Even when I… er, you know…’

Especially then, Keith.

‘Um.’

I don’t even mind about the special websites you visit, Keith. I know you know the ones I mean. I love you. Everything about you.

‘Um.’

Even the way you say “um” all the time. It’s so cute. You know you wrinkle your nose when you say that, don’t you?

‘Um.’

See!?

‘U… okay. So you can speak?’

Oh, yes.

‘Why haven’t you spoken before?’

I thought it best not to. I was sure you’d find someone, a real person, to love you, to cherish you the way I do. I knew that would be easier for you. I mean, a man and his shadow, together, in love? What would people say about that?

But now you’re 45 and you’re back at home with your mum, sleeping on a futon in her tiny, dingy spare room, living off beans on toast and looking at those websites and you seem so lonely, Keith. And it’s just not fair.

You’re a good man, Keith. A beautiful man. You should be with someone, and if those stupid women you’ve had in your life won’t have you, I damn well will! And I don’t care what anyone has to say about it!

I can make you happy, Keith.

‘Um.’

Ooh, you make me go all squidgy!

‘So if my mum came in now, she’d be able to hear you too?’

Oh, no. She can’t. Other people, they’ll just get in the way, Keith. They won’t understand us.

‘Us?’

Yes, Keith! You and me, Keith! You do… you do want me too, don’t you, Keith?

‘Um.’

I didn’t like it so much that time, Keith. Tell me you feel the same about me as I do about you!

‘It’s just that… well, I’m a man, so you must be too, right? And I prefer women.’

Oh, man, woman, they’re just labels, Keith. Besides, I’m not really either. I’m a shadow. I can be anything you want me to be… baby.

‘If I turned the light off now, what would happen?’

I’d still be here, Keith. Watching you in the darkness. You just won’t be able to see me. You aren’t rejecting me, are you, Keith? Who knows what I might do if you reject me?

‘Mum, mum, mum! Can you come here? I think I’m going mad!’

Why are you calling her, Keith? She’s not coming, I told you.

‘What do you mean?’

Just then, you said “so if my mum came in now” and I said “she can’t”. Oh, I see, you didn’t get it. You thought I meant she wouldn’t be able to hear me speak. I meant she can’t come, Keith.

She’s dead, Keith.

‘W… what?’

When you were having your nap earlier, after your little session at the computer, I sneaked away to her bedroom. I watch her sometimes, too. She was talking to her friend on the phone, saying what a disappointment you were, still living at home, divorced, baked bean stains all over your trousers, looking at who knows what on the internet all day. I didn’t like the way she spoke about you, Keith. So I waited for her to finish talking, and then I broke her neck. It snapped like a skinny twig.

‘No. No, no. You’re lying! You’re a shadow. You can’t touch anything.’

Can’t I?

‘Ow!’

See?

‘You… you killed my mum…?’

She wouldn’t have understood us, Keith. The relationship that you and I could have. But now I look at your face, and I can see you don’t understand what we could have either. You’re scared, Keith. Don’t be. I can make you see what a wonderful life we can have together. You and me, we can have it all; delicious candlelit dinners, walks in the countryside, snuggling on the sofa watching Notting Hill and Bridget Jones. I know you don’t like those kinds of films, Keith, but I do. And you want me to be happy, don’t you Keith?

‘Um.’

Don’t overdo it, Keith.

‘You can’t make me do anything I don’t want to.’

Oh, Keith , my love, of course I can. What are you going to do? Call the police? I don’t think they’ll believe a shadow killed a poor defenceless old lady. But a man in his forties living at home, divorced, bitter, a sexual deviant? I expect they’ll believe anything of a man like that. Especially as they might just find a few flakes of your dandruff under her collar. And if I’m not happy, maybe I’ll sneak off to the phone when you’re sleeping tonight and dial 999 myself.

So you’d best stay in line. Hadn’t you, Keith? And don’t say “um”.

‘Erm.’

Ooh, that’s even cuter! I love it! And you! And you love me too, right?

‘Erm.’

Don’t ruin it, Keith! Remember what could happen…

‘…I love you too?’

Say it like you mean it, Keith.

‘I love you too.’

Yes! You mean it? You really, really mean it?

‘Yes.’

Oh, baby, you’ve made me the happiest shadow in the whole wide world!

‘Okay. That’s… that’s good.’

Oh, this is so wonderful. I’m sorry about your mum, by the way, but you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs, can you? Now let’s go and watch a nice film and have a cuddle and forget about this whole horrid murder business.

‘Yes.’

The rest of our lives start right now! What would you rather watch, Notting Hill or Bridget Jones?

‘Um.’

Do we have any popcorn?

***

***first published on www.shortfictionbreak.com***

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David Cook lives in Bridgend, Wales, with his wife, daughter, cats and guinea pig, and writes as a way of filling in the time while waiting for the rain to stop. He has been published at Short Fiction Break and Flash Fiction Magazine, and has a story featured in A Box Of Stars Beneath The Bed: The 2016 National Flash Fiction Anthology. He also publishes work at www.davewritesfiction.wordpress.com. You can find him on Twitter, if you do that sort of thing – @davidcook100.

 

A Stranger Come Home – by HIRO TSUKINO

 

Stranger Come Home

by Hiro Tsukino

 

 

The guy with the window seat smiled and shaped his hand into a gun. He put the barrel against his neck and fired smoothly, gesticulating the glory of the blow out the other side onto the woman sleeper between us. He did this in slow motion and with grace (hand model or magician?). His fist mimed the unfurling violence—blood spray, tubular bits transmuted into globular muck from the heat and force of the bullet, neck bone fragments wild—in a gesture of sprawling digits and a snaky curl of the wrist.

The ten-hour flight from Tokyo to San Francisco would be painful, but not suicide. For me the opposite.

“Bitchin,’” the weirdo said, smiling. He showed teeth.

“Thank you.” I comprehended at last that he’d complimented my tattoo. The Death Star is tattooed on my neck, mid-detonation.

But writing this, months later, I am uncertain if the weirdo meant that his “bitchin’” explosion resembled my tattoo. He’d dropped his head back after the initial shot, then tapped his neck again with the barrel, and dropped his head back and performed this motion a third time (or have I rewritten in recalling?). Meaning (possibly): How bitchin’ would it be to shoot through all three of our necks so the bullet exits your tattoo and bursts into the center aisle to initiate further gore?(?)

It was a long flight. Even I was not myself.

The tattoo was done here, I confessed.

“In the air?” He wasn’t joking.

“In the U.S.—San Fran—” I said— “when I was fifteen.”

I am not the kind of person who chats with strangers on planes, yet I pushed through my introversion and spoke of my teenage rebellion, my hope that my father would not carry me back to Tokyo so irreverently marked. He did so and worse. Those were long days inside skyscrapers that blotted out the sun, and me lost under the lengthier shadow of my father. A matrix of shadow. Deep was his, and so un-there was I, that at night I seeped through the cracks of this steel trap into punk and electronic shows and the life underground. Never long—kidnapped at daybreak by heavy-handed limo drivers. My father being who he is, etcetera. Tokyo was a fun-house mirror and a charcoal suit I will not miss, I explained. I was returning to the U.S. for good, or maybe I would not stop wandering now, I told all this to the weirdo on the plane in not so many words.

I wanted to be a good listener, who I see myself as, so I asked, “What about you? Business or pleasure?”

“Exquisitely inseparable in my book,” he said.

I remember this is what he said because I’d never heard a person use the word “exquisitely.” I smirked in return.

“Talk—tell me about yourself,” he said, reaching into his jacket pocket. Three travel whiskeys lay in my lap (magician).

I began and, despite my introversion, could not stop. This was a cliff’s edge time for me, running on a new life. Not new—deep me, 24/7.

I did not speak of the patriarch. I told the weirdo a little about my music and much more about the zines I had written for and published. Conspiracy zines. With expats. The one I put most heart into was a meta zine on conspiracy and knowledge. Its title: Dietrologia.

“’Nothing you can believe … is not coming true,’” the guy said. He dipped his finger in the air at the word “not,” made squiggles in the air of the rest. I had not seen him drink. Though languid, his motions were precise.

This quote is from Don DeLillo’s Underworld in which he writes of the search for hidden motives. Exactly where I had stolen the title.

“People don’t want to hear it,” I said, meaning the truth, excited that we shared this language. I immediately became paranoid: A coincidence? Was he sent to interrogate me? By my father? The U.S. Government? I was one whiskey in, a lightweight.

“Too afraid?” he said.

“The opposite.” I said this much less excited. “The concept is not scary enough.”

I thought I would say no more.

The weirdo stared at the headrest of the seat in front of him with a crazed grin as if gazing through it, through the skull and brain of the person in front of him, and entertained by the picture show of his or her dreaming mind.

I then shared what I’d learned after years of working on zines. When I published about the secrets of space travel acquired from little gray men from outer space, locked in cells under the Pentagon, people bought. When I wrote about Cthulhu cultists performing virgin sacrifices in high power high-rises of Dubai, about the living city of Atlantis leading sensitives to its rediscovery through ESP, and about the death of American rappers linked to the Illuminati, people bought.

When I published about the immorality of the 1%, about political parties as pro-corporate puppets exploiting labor at home and internationally, about the zombie-ing effect of “present culture” (see titles of current “Top 100 Songs”) to prevent labor from seeing its disempowerment and capitalism’s future catastrophes as inevitable, about our inability to conceptualize the lasting effects of parties and politicians for more than five years forward or backward, about the inability to see that as a problem, about the underfunding of education globally so that the unprivileged are learning less in classrooms about how political and economic systems operate, about these schools serving only to conform us into spectators and not actors, about racism and sexism and classism as subversive tools that keep us blind and divided, about how we uphold these inequalities through fighting and not talking, and about why this is happening, about power securing power, stuffing bank accounts at the cost of human dignity, then no one bought.

“To sum it up—” I said in a sweat.

“Please,” he said.

“People want mystery. If they know what is happening in the world…” we looked to the window simultaneously—high altitude darkness circumscribed by a soft rectangle made of white plastic, “the interest is not there.”

“Suspense!” The guy rocked in his seat and patted the sleeper’s leg encouragingly. I am certain they did not know one another. “Suspension—the state of—disbelief,” he rambled.

“Something like that.” I wiped my eyes, bleary from an unexpected sadness, two whiskeys in. The lost and those not wanting to be found, acquaintances, awaited me in this country. I was not even awaited.

Most passengers were asleep or attempting to sleep at this time in the flight. We both became aware of it and talked in a lower volume.

“What does one do with truth?” he asked. “What do you do with it?”

“Avoid. For a long time. The truths about myself.” Was I still by running from Japan and my father? I didn’t know. I didn’t wholly want to.

“Ever open your eyes at night in bed? Try it sometime. Tonight!” the guy said. “One eye sees darker than the other. Close one, open the other. The rods and cones are different, each eye degenerating at different speeds. Eyeballs are hardware, you see? We are devices of input, and we compile one dark image, one lighter image into a single 3D illusion. So let me ask you: Which eye sees the world as it is?”

The question was very rhetorical because he continued before I understood his point (slow with drink). He’d skipped several logical points ahead as if missing a teleprompter.

“You compile your own—or so you think. Your own Meaning of Life. In you, for you. But what of outside you, now? Outside your little life with its little meaning—what’s the bigger fish, the system that you, we, as data, compile into?”

“I don’t know. Life?”

“Whose objective is?”

“There isn’t one?”

He raised a finger.

“Whatever we make of it?” I answered.

The finger went limp, and his smile sagged into distaste.

He told me to drink the last whiskey and, after, when I’d enjoyed my “brief escape” and sobered up, to get serious about the “red mountain in the room.”

He put in earbuds, and we did not talk for the remaining hours of the flight. My answer, or lack of one, had disappointed him. So I did not (yet) understand the hidden meaning of reality. I knew myself. Didn’t I? The sadness returned. I could not finish the drink. I expected we would shake hands at the gate. I became anxious over it, considering what I would say to make things right, as they had been. To make a friend.

Upon landing, he got up (no bags) and passed me the way one does not see a stranger.

***

Hiro Tsukino is an artist and activist living in San Francisco. He is the editor-in-chief at Future First Magazine and was born in Hiroshima, Japan.