William Doreski – 3 micro fiction stories

The Beheaded

The beheaded agree that it’s painless and to their benefit. No more fussing over foolish little sentiments. Most of their worries about debt and disease have faded away, leaving only the faintest shimmer in the air. No need to solve the conundrum of body and mind, since the mind has withdrawn to a private lodging. The body goes about its daily chores with dumb persistence. Digging holes, writing briefs, teaching classes, tending the sick and elderly. The head, deprived of a blood supply, quickly fossilizes. Its new stony outlook applies itself to the political necessities of our brave new world. It succeeds by ignoring all human concerns. The seas part, the earth opens. The beheaded neither notice nor care. Their pain no longer applies to themselves but to others. To us, who sit in the long, long waiting room hoping that when our turn comes the blade will still be sharp enough to part our hair without stirring the faintest breeze.





Going Bump in the Night

We’re writhing on a blanket spread on the grave of Edward MacDowell. He approves of our midnight exercise. His music often took that form. The sickly August dark thickens with algae blooms. Planets fester in slowly decaying orbits. Meteors flash and die. You reach a moment of truth, your skin too pale to reflect the dark but your mind brimming like an inland sea. Such grist for each other’s mill. I’ve stalled like that famous elephant, the mood draining out of me. The routine dulled me long ago, but we agreed to mutual delving for the sake of our future memoirs. Yet it’s pointless. We should give up as abruptly as we began, fold the blanket neatly, and leave the gravesite grinning with wordless gossip. But no, we have to complete ourselves, the dumpling stars bumping through a silence excited by their brilliance. We gnash and grind and manage to topple each other into darkness much darker than the night itself, or any of the graves it inspires.





Ghost to Ghost

The house we’ve tired of haunting has gone on the market. We’ll have to leave, dragging our chains and informing our linen service. The owner is moving to Paris, where her grandchild is a perfect little confection. Being ghosts, we can read the future, and it doesn’t look so good. Drugs, unwanted pregnancies, and a sneer that will strip the paint from the walls. But we can’t pierce the membrane between life and death to warn our host that she’s on a fool’s errand. Let’s step outside into the sunlight where no one can see us. I love this transparency, don’t you? Having doffed our sheets, we’re as naked as sandstone, but no one can see us. We can wriggle right up to a courting couple and insinuate ourselves. We can creep into church for the noontime organ concert and slip right through the pipes, smoking into musical shapes only we can appreciate. But let’s wander down to the harbor and waft ourselves out to the islands. Don’t you enjoy the sea air? Although we lack lungs, it both fills and becomes us, and we become it. A huge cloud of ghost now looms over the harbor, over the city, over the dimpled little islands. No one sees or feels it, no one believes in it. But we too believed in nothing, and look at us now.





William Doreski


Rob Yates – fiction

Out in the land



in the desert they ________ craving; in the wasteland they put _________ to the test

Her parents called her Grace. When she was eleven someone tried to explain to her what it meant and, although she did not fully understand, she felt the weight of the word. When she was thirty-one she knew it was a cliché she couldn’t do justice to. She had struggled to live beneath it. On her fifty-first birthday she went alone to see Handel’s Messiah in a church that was charmingly too small to contain it, and a man even older than herself leaned over to whisper in her ear – ‘Here comes the Final Trumpet’ – and she knew he had been looking forward to it since the beginning. She could never weep at music like others said they could, but there on the hard oak of a parish bench, as the trumpeter stood to give his clarion call, sounding nothing like Heaven, she felt a note move within her, like eels in the scud.

She left the house in order to punish her mother and to frighten herself. She wanted to test limits in the way that the evening tested the rank edges of the woods as the days went down. She knew the fields and the forest intimately when she walked alongside someone else, but travelling alone they had to be mapped all over again.

Two decades later she would associate being exposed to the elements with being exposed to sin. Such associations seemed crass to her but she could not escape them. She revelled in them when there was no one else to turn to.

Back then, in the fields, the broadening Suffolk sky, dire and stretched, made her aware only of her youth and a nasty, burgeoning maturity.

The moment she knew she could isolate herself by choice was the first moment of her life, she would tell a boyfriend many years later. She doubted this as soon as she said it.

In the Sinai desert, Grace wondered if anyone in the history of man had trod the exact same path as her, crossing the same dunes at the same angles, the dunes looking like they would bury civilizations with the help of the hot air, mountains of sand that moved with the months, creating new journeys for people.

She asked her guide if he was thinking the same thing and he said that they always took ‘guests’ this way – ‘Many have walked the path already.’ He thought she was afraid of the unknown or the uncharted and was trying to put her mind at ease.

She would recognise later that her journey through Sinai was part of her second breakdown – there were two more to come – but at the time she chose to ignore the symptoms, or to think of them as part of a fizzing need to experience more things more quickly.

In the fields, approaching the gloom at the woodland’s edge, Grace imagined herself as one of the nameless, faceless wild animals she was afraid of, imagined herself leading a pack of hungry dogs that would protect her as they would a king, and she knew that she wanted people of the world to follow in her footsteps even though she hated it when other children in her class stared at her, and when her parents looked at her for too long it made her want to break them apart until they were as small as she.

As a child, Grace thought of trees in terms of their height. She gave no thought to their roots. Climbing was a way of seeing more of the world and of touching boundaries.

In Sinai, Grace climbed the tallest dune she could find whilst her Bedouin porters waited for her at the bottom, confused and growing bored with her mania. From the top she thought she could see cities on the horizon being built from the pink rays of sunset. She didn’t think mirages worked that way.

When they shouted at her to come down off the edge Grace jumped to test the angels. Waking in the Royal Free Hospital four days later, one of the first things she thought was – ‘Three storeys up and I didn’t even focus on the sights around me. I bet the view was something to behold.’ A nurse said she was going to be moved to a secure unit once she’d recovered but, by the time the fractures were healed, sufficient months had passed for her to be certified sane, and she wasn’t going to be jumping out of another building for some time because she couldn’t climb stairs, wouldn’t manage them comfortably for years. They sent her home with boxes of risperidone and a walking frame, as if she were too old and too mad to be a danger any more.

‘The wilderness was in me from the start’ – something she told another boyfriend at some point, and she had less trouble believing this to be true.

But even with her pack of imaginary hounds she found it difficult to get close to the woods. She tried to position herself as the hunter rather than the hunted, a technique she adopted for much of her life, with varying success. There was always that fear of things being behind her. When she was young, physical things with bodies and eyes; when she was old, things that had come to pass and couldn’t be changed.

Grace loved and feared the desert. Beneath a sky of true nothing in a land of true sand, she felt abandoned by God and in the centre of his glory. The sun out there was capable of feeding and of stripping life away like foam.

She hated being subject to her parent’s control. That is why she chose the outdoors and the fear that went with it.

When Grace walked home after hearing Messiah, she wanted only to submit to the will of someone else.

Grace stared at the edge of the woods, willing them to part or to become luminescent or to vanish entirely, leaving her with eternal fields. Instead, the tree line remained stubborn, black as oil underground, and Grace thought she saw a hooded figure on the edge of the copse, sinister and wiry, but still with the night sky.

There were always dark figures on Grace’s peripheries. Many years later, she would struggle remembering whether the man on the edge of the woods had actually been there or whether her child’s mind had conjured him with such ferocity that he remained lodged in the memory. Imagined or not, she knew she had refused to approach him.

Her favourite question had always been – ‘How long until people come looking for me?’ In later life this became – ‘Will people look for me?’ She would wonder this intermittently until her death, often when taking solitary walks which lasted too long, or when living in shared houses with no one that she knew, which could feel like wild spaces in their own way until someone finally knocked on her bedroom door to introduce themselves.

On the wood’s edge she thought of all her family vanishing, then her town, then all the people in the world, and that was the first time she questioned whether she could be counted as lost if she was the only one left. A volley of birds tore from the canopy and for a second it looked like the woods were collapsing. If she could remember that moment clearly she would probably have said it was her first taste of adulthood.

She returned to this walk many years later, when her mother had fallen sick but refused to give up either the ghost or the house. Grace and the living room were stiff with the remnants of a burnt Sunday roast and too much tawny port, so she retraced her eleven-year-old steps, trying to remember what wanting to runaway had felt like back then. The borders still carried the taint of the old, devilish figure that she could never be sure was real. Someone had put up fence panels in the intervening years, so that children brave enough to cross the edge had to be good climbers too.

The suffering of her youth came to her like a second-hand memory, like a family holiday she’d been told about enough times for her to feel like she could taste the sea and the ice cream and the unfamiliarity of a place and the fun they’d perhaps had together. She knew there had been unhappiness. She could remember it, but not the shape it took. A doomed procession of years had to have its genesis somewhere, somewhere on the line between the trees and the open field where she had wandered, lonely in childish rebellion, picking up seeds that would give rise to all the rest.

Walking that border now, with a dying mother in the house and the mid-afternoon more isolating than the evening, she could not piece together her girlhood. She thought that memory might be more trouble than it was worth. What had she been running away from when she left home and what had she been running towards?

She had wanted to hear some sort of voice calling to her and to her alone, but with age the dream of this voice diminished. Hearing voices was not the same when you were old. She wondered if the call would be there at the close. What would it look like? A trio of pigeons dropped sleepily from an oak tree and vanished further in. She turned back towards her childhood home. Middle-age looked like a broad yawn between two fraught trumpets, the blessing of the beginning and the end.

In hospital she received letters from people she had forgotten existed. They constituted some of the most touching moments of her life. She wept for days, silently, in the ward. A nurse would come every two hours to replenish her tissues. On the second weekend they wheeled some of the patients out into the garden to feel air on their bodies. One man’s heart gave out in the noonday sun and Grace, with her broken lower torso, felt helpless and guilty. She did not know if the staff managed to save him and if death was a wonderful thing then why would anyone want saving? Her medication had not yet kicked in and she still found herself thinking out loud. Before they slept that night, she turned to a young man in the bed next to her and said – ‘What is more worrying than the fear that things have not been done right?’

On the seventh day a lone cloud followed them like spent breath trying to save something, offering thin cover from the sun, and Grace wanted it to disappear so she could be abandoned in the desert again, and sometimes she wanted the Bedouins to vanish as well, would sometimes walk far enough ahead or far enough behind for her to trick herself into thinking she had found her own way.

White haze settled on the Sinai’s dangerous horizon. Sun spots and white flashes would spring up like mirrors or twisting spirits. Occasionally, in the distance, her guide would point out wrecked attempts at farming or settlement, skeletal roads or empty irrigation ditches forming their own, weird galaxies. Grace was growing upset and dehydrated. She refused to ride a camel and told the people around her that you could only know a landscape if you felt it with your feet.

They filed out into the hushed cold when the concert finished. Grace didn’t hear the question the man put to her. She was still thinking of the trumpet, sounding slightly flat in that pinched church, more a weak, hopeful start than a strident finish.

When she came home, frozen and hungry, having only been gone for an hour which felt like months, her mother had not left her room, did not even realise her daughter had vanished.

Grace woke in the morning with a new sun coming through. Her guide led her outside their camp, to a small ridge overlooking a stretch of sandstone pinnacles and threaded dunes. Everything was growing bright, nearly vanishing. The man handed her a metal beaker of steam and tea. He said – ‘It is the time of day, in my land, when you must decide whether to live or to die.’




Rob Yates is a young writer frequently based in London. He has released a small collection of poetry entitled ‘The Distance Between Things’. He has also had work appear via Agenda, Envoi, Bodega, and other literary magazines. More recently, he has started trying to record words and music. Some of his writing and recordings can be found through



Glen Sorestad – 2 poems

Blood Test, 7:00 a.m.



Rising from the warmth of a duvet to face a blood test,

before morning’s first coffee can pass your lips,


or the least morsel of food can boost your world,

before the show-off sun shakes up the eastern sky,


is not recommended for rational mortals. But here I am,

early morning, queued up outside the still-locked clinic,


with a motley of coffee-deprived grumps outside the door,

waiting for the lock to unbolt, opening the dam to a flood


of fasters, whose only non-violent thoughts are to get

inside, quick-bleed the demanded vials, then bolt back


home to an aromatic welcome of fresh-brewed coffee,

earthy toast, a favored cup, waiting with the daily paper.




Halo in the Casino



The Vegas slot machine generously generated

a fifty-dollar return on my twenty-dollar investment

in the ongoing welfare of the state of Nevada,


not to mention the unseen owners of this smoke-infested

emporium of electronic din. I pushed CASH, figuring

I’d recoup my original twenty, then play a bit longer,


courtesy of the casino’s largesse. When the machine

dutifully dealt my cash voucher, I tucked it away

for safe-keeping into my shirt pocket to redeem later.


I continued playing. A short time later, my wife

inquired from the adjacent machine, “Did you notice

that drunk young guy? The one who staggered against


our chairs?” But I hadn’t seen the guy at all – rapt

in the distracting cacophony and ceaseless movement

of the human zoo surrounding us. Hordes of them,


moving, sitting, standing wherever they could.

I would have gone right back to spinning reels,

except that’s the precise moment I noticed


my empty shirt pocket. I stared. I looked down

at my feet, scoured the floor around our machines.

I ‘d had a flashing neon bozo-halo over my head,


a red arrow pointing to my shirt pocket. Picked

and plucked. By a drunk who wasn’t.  Feel free,

dear reader, to write and add your own moral here.






Glen Sorestad is a much published and translated Canadian poet who lives in Saskatoon. His poems travel more widely and more often than he does.


Rachel Landrum Crumble – 1 poem

Depression: 3 a.m.



William Stafford: “Your exact errors make a music

that nobody hears.”


Except God…

Hearing the dark, I spy no

future, only the indelible smudge

of History.


By now, unheard symphonies

percolate out of wakeful sleep.

Nightly interrogations continue.


Flying too near the sun, dreams are ash

by morning. In God’s wake

I ride the slipstream, bruised by

surreptitious river rock.


Hemlock is often mistaken

for wild carrot, or Queen Ann’s Lace,

but the tongue, like the heart,

knows bitterness as a coroner knows

an embolism.


On a far continent,

Hope is a bronze dancer

in a white robe, spinning

under the sun.






Rachel Landrum Crumble 


Sheri Gabbert – 2 poems

What I did last summer


I watch the old woman next door,

her sheets flying kites

tethered to a wire clothes line.


She leans against a rusty pole,

single clothespin in her mouth,

pauses to consider linens hung to dry

on summer afternoons.


Dripping air in dry skies, sweat,

iced watermelon, banjo and fiddles

on a front porch, old men in overalls,

kids with no shoes, the growl of a lawn mower.


I never hang sheets out to dry

they smell like dirt

dirt smells

like a fresh-dug grave.





Pedestrian Dirge


Naked inside cocoon clothing,

she believes the layers impregnable

and strides into traffic, zig, zag,

bounces from one near accident

to another until exhausted

she stops

in the middle of the highway

just to watch

red Mustangs and white

Suburbans and Cadillac limousines —

taffy stretched over turning wheels —

blackened windows holding grief —

boxes of bones, naked beneath handfuls

of dust to dust, ash to ash.

She remains in the middle of the highway

not seeing danger.





Sheri Gabbert