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Issue 10 – Spring 2006

FICTION

A Walking of Crows by Tim Akers

Jeremy buried his father in the back yard, in the mud beneath the apple tree. The air above him was thick with crows, swirling black and loud. It was starting to rain.

He had been away for three days, visiting friends in Haversith. He came home to find the house shattered. The front door was hanging on its hinges like a broken jaw. Inside, the furniture was snapped and scattered. His father’s books littered the floor and his abacist had been torn from the wall. The steel springs of the machine’s engrams tumbled out of the ruptured box, their coils warped and unraveling.

There was blood. Flecks of it on the walls, a thick smear on the kitchen table, drips and pools and tacky dried splotches in the living room. It continued out the back door, into the empty field by the river that ran behind their house. Jeremy found his father’s body under a blanket of crows.

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The Way He Does It by Jeffrey Ford

You’ve got to see the way he does it. It’s pretty remarkable for a man his age. He does it with a cigarette jutting from the corner of his mouth and a look in his eye like there’s nothing finer in all creation than doing it that way. There’s a certain grace to his movements, a certain cosmic aplomb in his manner. Occasionally he’ll grunt, and some claim to have heard him call for his mother when he’s almost finished. His eyes get really wide, his lip curls back, and you can see the sweat form on his brow. He probably uses more muscle groups while doing it than he would if he were swimming the butterfly. On special occasions he will do it by candle light with soft music playing in the background, but it’s more expensive to see him do it that way.

There was a time when he didn’t charge for the sight of it, but that was back when he was perfecting his method. Then, when he’d do it, he’d become red in the face and would often wet himself with the exertion, but he seemed to do it more out of obsession than any sense of advancing his craftsmanship. A fellow by the name of Roger Brown, one of his old neighbors from that earlier time, has said, “When he would do it in those days, he wasn’t nearly as refined, but, my God, the energy with which he did it. You’d think he was going to go right through the back wall of the house.”

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Il Duca di Cesena by Alistair Rennie

August 4th, 1584

“I could not have known,” said Il Duca Malatesta, “how much it would have meant to me.”

He was referring to the fountain, to the renowned and the dreaded fountain, to the fountain upon which a hundred thousand eyes had rested, upon which a hundred thousand hearts had dwelt, until a hundred thousand open mouths sighed heavily in awe.

I have seen it myself. And it was as if those sighs as yet hung heavily around its contorted beauty. It was as if its young erosions were not the result of incursive Apennine winds–not of the winds that twirl around the palazzo towers and skirmish in the piazza below. Not the result of that, but of a hundred thousand sighs that softly drew a few immaculate granules of Tuscan marble, even as they elapsed so slightly. A human dispensation of unbelief clings about its cherubs and figureheads. Its gargoyles are blanched by the ardour of irresistible sorrow. Its reliefs are dressed not only in stone but in a pall of wonder. And there is something of the older terror which informs its irregular symmetries, something that was quite unknown to me but which I felt, as if I had stood (as in the aftermath of one of our Easter meditations) before the first and final acts of Creation itself.

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Jacket Jackson by Mark Rich & Richard Bowes

I close my eyes and draw in

blue distances of smoky air

the coiling strands

of a City of No Time

City of Castoff Futures

—Jacket Jackson

– 1 –

In a year of promise deep in the heart of the 20th century, Chris Brown hit the road. He was nineteen. His draft board had lost touch with him. His mother and step-father were just divorced, and he had flunked out of college back east. Driving a blue, beat-up 1954 Dodge Royale ragtop, Chris was as free as any American.

The man at the last gas stop on 66 had a boozed-up grin and see-nothing eyes.

No one sees anything, Chris thought. I walk in a dead land with an invisible city carried in the air over my head, and no one sees.

Chris wrote poetry.

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The Navel of the Universe by Andre Oosterman

After a thirty-three hour flight from San Francisco, I descended to the island of the Gods.

In spite of the long trip, I felt strangely vital, full of energy, and suggested we move on at once, without first spending a day of rest and relaxation. Donald had no problems with that. He had joined me in Singapore, a short hop from here.

Just outside the arrival hall, a hawker tugged at my sleeve, and started explaining the virtues of his merchandise. Fake designer watches, lots of them. I asked him in the local language how long they would last, not bothering to conceal my sarcasm.

“Lama, Pak.” A long time, sir.

I smiled involuntarily at his inevitable vagueness–a specialty in these parts–thinking how this would have irritated the hell out of my foster parents. In exchange for a few thousand Rupiahs, I became the proud owner of a fake Rolex, one of many the items on the shopping list of my nephew Ralph.

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Travels Along an Unfurling Circular Path by Robert Freeman Wexler

The man found himself at the entrance to a grotto so vast its envelope of darkness swallowed the glow of his flashlight. His muscles ached from the long, twisting cave-crawl which had led to this spot, far from sun or moon or leafy branch. Sweat soaked his shirt, and the exhaling cavern cast a chill. Veering from a pool of dark sludge, he crept forward. To his left a shape emerged, a pillar of white rock clothed in moisture droplets that sparkled where his light struck; he stopped before it, seeing in its folds of stone an altar to unimagined gods.

A sudden explosion of radiance blinded him.

He stopped, afraid to move. Floor-wall-pit . . . swallowed whole by mountain, by solid dark. Whose voice, this cry of anguish?

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