Opossum

Opossum


by Zach Murphy


Pete and Richard’s orange safety vests glowed a blinding light under the scorching sun, and their sweat dripped onto the pavement as they stood in the middle of the right lane on Highway 61, staring at an opossum lying stiffly on its side.

Richard handed Pete a dirty shovel. “Scoop it up,” he said.

Everything made Pete queasy. He once fainted at the sight of a moldy loaf of bread. Even so, he decided to take on a thankless summer job as a roadkill cleaner. At least he didn’t have to deal with many people.

Richard nudged Pete. “What are you waiting for?” he asked.

Pete squinted at the creature. “It’s not dead,” he said. “It’s just sleeping.”

“Are you sure?” Richard asked as he scratched his beard. He had one of those beards that looked like it would give a chainsaw a difficult time.

“Yes,” Pete said. “I just saw it twitch.”

Richard walked back toward the shoulder of the road and popped open the driver’s side door of a rusty pickup truck. “Alright, let’s go.”

Pete shook his head. “We can’t just leave it here.”

“It’s not our problem,” Richard said. “They tell us to do with the dead ones, but not the ones that are still alive.”

Pete crouched down and took a closer look. “We need to get it to safety,” he said.

Richard sighed and walked back toward the opossum. “What if it wakes up and attacks us?” he asked. “That thing could have rabies.”

“I don’t think anything could wake it up right now,” Pete said.

Richard belched, “It’s an ugly son of a gun, isn’t it?”

“I think it’s so ugly that it’s cute,” Pete said.

“No one ever says that about me,” Richard said with a chuckle. “I guess I just haven’t crossed into that territory.”

Just then, a car sped by and swerved over into the next lane. Pete and Richard dashed out of the way.

“People drive like animals!” Richard said. “We’d better get going.”

Pete took a deep breath, slipped his gloves on, gently picked up the opossum, and carried it into the woods.

“What are you doing?” Richard asked. “Are you crazy?”

After nestling the possum into a bush, Pete smelled the scent of burning wood. He gazed out into the clearing and noticed a plume of black smoke billowing into the sky. The sparrows scattered away, and the trees stood with their limbs spread, as if they were about to be crucified.

“Jesus Christ,” Pete whispered under his breath.

Pete picked up the opossum and turned back around.


Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories appear in Reed Magazine, The Coachella Review, Maudlin House, Still Point Arts Quarterly, B O D Y, Ruminate, Wilderness House Literary Review, and Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine. His chapbook Tiny Universes (Selcouth Station Press) is available in paperback and ebook. He lives with his wonderful wife, Kelly, in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Firmly Planted by Streams of Water

Milo Gorgevska lives in the dreary suburbs outside of Toronto, Ontario. Nonbinary and queer, they identify as a menace to society’s traditions. As a jack-of-all-trades, they are an author, director, poet & screenwriter. Previously, their writing under the pen name ‘Kara Petrovic’ has been published in Philadelphia Stories, Train: A Poetry Journal & others. TheirContinue reading “Firmly Planted by Streams of Water”

Meshwork

Meshwork by Soramimi Hanarejima In the cozy diner, breakfast with you is its customary languid affair of savory omelets and occasional quiet conversation—until coffee has coaxed me into greater wakefulness. Then I notice a lavender filament extending from you towards the tech district—a direction none of your strands has ever gone in. I know theContinue reading “Meshwork”

Echoes

Savannah Cooper (she/her) is a Pushcart Prize-nominated poet and Missouri native who now calls Maryland home. Her work has previously appeared in Ligeia Magazine, Capsule Stories, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere.


Opossum

by Zach Murphy Pete and Richard’s orange safety vests glowed a blinding light under the scorching sun, and their sweat dripped onto the pavement as they stood in the middle of the right lane on Highway 61, staring at an opossum lying stiffly on its side. Richard handed Pete a dirty shovel. “Scoop it up,”Continue reading “Opossum”

Houseplants

Houseplants By Jan Ball The houseplants thanked mein their particular green way,for your unexpected aspirationson the climbing philodendronin the guest room where you sleptlast night and for your fragrant exhalationsof carbon dioxide on the spiderwortpotted in the living roomwhen we companionably watchedThe Kominsky Method with Alan Aldaand Michael Douglas, laughing togetherat Douglas’ frequent visits toContinue reading “Houseplants”

fuel injected fury


Adrenaline was running high, like a kite without a string. His sisters laughed at his hammering, his vivid drawings of aliens but the batteries were humming, electricity sizzling and gas tanks shuddering as his creation cranked into gear and took shape beneath his slippery fingers and sweaty behind. Fumes bit the air anxiously, dogs on a leash while his ears rang with the roar of pent up fusion about to pop and bubble. He grabbed the ham sandwich and stuffed it into his mouth with greasy fingers. He didn’t know when he would have time to eat again, or who would be out there to feed him. He pulled his father’s helmet over his neck. It was a tight fit and stuck on his ears before he squeezed them flat and stuffed them inside. It smelt of hard plastic and his mother’s cleaning fluid. The visor fogged with his breath. He wiped it with a soggy cloth before slipping his hands into their protective casings.  He flexed his muscles and backed his hips into the hard, plastic bucket.  He took a final glance around his belongings, caught his eldest sister flickering across the window as she raced off to call the family together for lunch. He smiled. He’d show them how to make a barbecue. He coughed, dry and rasping. It echoed in the chamber like a fish gulping blindly as it searched for release. His gloved fists fumbled for ignition. He squinted out the window and into the trees, the brittle blue sky that would suddenly be looming before him, then disappearing behind as he reached orbit and showed the world what a superhero looked like. The gas bottles juggled, jerked to life, stuttered, choked and spluttered to an eerie silence. He pressed the button again, wheezing with fumes, whispering, begging it to fire into life. With a blood curdling flash, flames suddenly broke out under his seat, their reflection streaming across his visor, speckling his black wetsuit with a sheen of fiery promise. He sensed a plunger in his stomach, his limbs glue themselves to his body while his ribs jammed into his spine as g-forces wretched his muscles into painful spasms as the whole machine blew sky high. He caught a glimpse of their home in flames as he ran down the street. He watched the garage roof collapse like a flying saucer. It was all so simple on the internet. He’d followed the instructions to the letter, and knew as he dived into the river and felt it hissing and spluttering, that the burning house was nothing but fake news and he was still a rocket man with no need for a parachute.


E. F. S. Byrne (he/him) works in education and writes when his teenage kids allow it. He blogs a regular micro flash story. Links to this and over fifty published pieces can be found at efsbyrne.wordpress.com or follow him on Twitter @efsbyrne

Unlatched

Written by Lucy Wallis Illustrated by Lucy McDonald I held your diary in my hand but I didn’t read it.  I imagine stored there within tiny fragments of your days, a kaleidoscope of being. Daily weather reports, and bird sightings, jumbled up with the minutiae of thought that flickers along the inside of your eyesContinue reading “Unlatched”

You are HERE

by Bridie Donaghy The gun has been fired. The gates open and me and the other hounds are set free. But I don’t feel much like running, not in a race – which this is. Forward…or backward… I can’t remember which, but a race away from this point, this moment…from here. Whenever I look atContinue reading “You are HERE”

Magic Carpet

Joseph Turrent (he/him) is a London-based poet. His book The Moth Apocalypse (HVTN Books) reprocesses the language of Twitter to imagine various cataclysmic scenarios as they might appear on social media. Recentwork has appeared in Firmament magazine, and The Mouth of a Lion, an anthology of visual poems published by Steel Incisors.

Goodbye, Frenetikov

by Robert Scott
Illustrated by Mali Read

I should feel happier. The days of rain have ended. There is sunlight.

There is also the wonderful aroma of freshly brewed sulawesi toraja coffee. Beetroot-coloured, butterfly-like triangularis leaves flutter about my ears. Piped trip-hop evokes idyllic beach scenes with the promise of wild parties later on. The conceptual artwork is indescribable, as it should be. Best of all, I can twirl in my perfectly padded, deluxe ergonomic chair as much as I want. And no one can stop me.

Mid-morning, and my co-workers – youngish, attractive, plugged-in – are hard at it. Co-workers, but I never met them before today. Plus, they’re working and I’m not. I’m just looking at them, and for a job.

It feels like I’m in a kinda-cookie cinema ad; ukulele playing, everyone on a natural high. After a series of jump-cuts through zeitgeitsy scenes, the camera lands on me – Problem Guy.

I am Problem Guy because, as my last real-life co-worker, Sandy, advised,
‘A PhD doesn’t get you a job; you do.’

The past five weeks have proved Professor Sandra McDonald correct. Hence, here I am with my ‘new way of working’, costing £22 a day, free coffee included.

The others are getting their money’s worth.

They get it. To my left, a twirling multi-coloured hologram cube. To my right, Matrix-like streams of digits. Over in the corner, what looks like a beat poet’s scatter-gunned chunks-of-magic.

My Word docx. worth of CV is dullness personified.

But, hey, at least I have my wee pal. He’s sitting in his usual spot, loyally urging me on.

Frenetikov’s enormous eyes stare up at me, his big teeth clamped atop his shield. The real Uig-Lewis chessman warder sits in the local museum. My one’s from the shop.

For the past three years, brothers-in-arms, we fought battles: deadly submissions, brutal revisions, terrifying vivas against formidable opponents. Finally, we shared the glory of (my) graduation and (my) doctoral-ness. It was only Frenetikov’s companionship and Viking berserker intensity that got me through.

He was my new way of working once. But I sense the magic has gone. The mission of jobhunting heralds a new kind of warfare. Time to find a new ally.

I refill my reusable cup.

Goodbye, Frenetikov.

Robert Scott lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. He has short fiction in East of the Web, EllipsisZine, Nymphs Publications, Bandit Fiction and in Popshot Magazine.

Mali Read is a graphic designer located in Manchester. Her work has been featured on the Drum, Design Week and Creative Review and she has been awarded a German Design Award.

In Rotation

In Rotation

By Zach Murphy

Aria caught the city bus as the sky donned a pinkish glow before the day’s final gasp. Her daughter Millie sat on her lap, gripping her wrinkled hospital scrubs — the ones with the cat patterns on them. Millie had entered that age where she often asked all the difficult questions of the universe. Are the sun and the moon friends or enemies? Do aliens go to the bathroom? Why do other kids have a dad, but I don’t?

Ding!

“Here’s our stop,” Aria said.

After dropping Millie off at grandma’s house, Aria
hopped back on the bus and waited for it to bring
her to work. She gazed out the window and sighed.

The city was winding down while she was just beginning her 12-hour shift. The bags under her eyes carried enough stories to tell to the stars. Sleep was just an elusive dream at that point.

Ding!

As Aria exited the bus, she dashed past a group of
five nurses who were relishing a smoke break. Aria always wondered why her fellow healthcare workers would pollute their pink lungs, but she wasn’t hellbent on judging. Stress is a pervasive beast. Paranoia is a sneaky shadow that never leaves you alone. Uncertainty makes your mind spin in circles.

The moment Aria strapped on her mask and
walked through the hospital’s sliding doors, all
she could think about was how she couldn’t wait
to pick up Millie in the morning, then go home
and change. In fact, she had a feeling that a lot of
things were about to change. And that’s when she
had to ask herself her own difficult question: Will tonight be the night?

Zach Murphy is a Hawaii-born writer with a background in cinema. His stories have appeared in Adelaide Literary Magazine, Mystery Tribune, Ghost City Review, Emerge Literary Journal, Spelk Fiction, Door Is A Jar, Levitate,
Yellow Medicine Review, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Crêpe & Penn, WINK, Drunk Monkeys, Ellipsis Zine, and Wilderness House Literary Review. He lives with his wonderful wife Kelly in St. Paul, Minnesota

Trajectory

Trajectory

It must be fulfilling knowing whom to love, that
one’s calling in life is to guard and growl. John
Wayne had a dog named Dog. A clever thing able
to translate Dog! meaning Attack! from Dog!
meaning Get your ass over here, I’m leaving. What
does it mean to name that which obeys their loved
ones? They seduced a dog with food, washed the
streets of Moscow out of its fur. They praised and
encouraged her: Off to college you go. Sit! Be a
mother AND have a career. I like to imagine, they
patted her head for good luck, scratched behind
her ear–which she had learned to lean into. I
like to imagine that when Laika had crossed that
orbital finish line as the first dog in outer space,
she remained ignorant of the words hyperthermia,
betrayal, dispensable. That the evening lights and
the fading metal clicks were neighbourhood doors
swinging open. Each threshold offering a handful
of food, a gentle pat on her head. Good girl. You’re
such a good dog.

by Shareen K. Murayama

Illustrated by Luke Richmond

Shareen K. Murayama is a Japanese-Okinawan American poet and educator who lives in Honolulu, Hawai`i. She spends her afternoons surfing and her evenings with her dog named Squid. She’s a reader for The Adroit Journal, and her art is forthcoming in Juked, Bamboo Ridge, The Margins, Riot Act, Cobra Milk Mag, and Near Window. You can find her on IG & Twitter @ambusypoeming

Luke Richmond is a primary school teacher from London. When he’s not marking books and planning lessons he tries to find time to draw because his therapist said it’s good for him. You can find him @expletivesdeleted and his art @expletivesdrawleted.