Rowan Johnson – Fiction 


When the pilgrim sets off, the calm ocean glows in the burning early morning. The Mediterranean does not look far, but the Byzantine paths from the village of Kalkanli to Caretta Beach veer around smallholdings, ravines, through orange tree farms and vast olive groves.

In one of the groves he meets a beaming shepherd and his dog, beatific in the Biblical land. The pilgrim shares a few crusts of dry bread and some olives from his knapsack with the shepherd, because is it not true that out of the ground they were taken; they are but dust, and to dust they shall both return?

Further along, the road to the beach tapers, and soon the air is filled with the stench of a smoldering pile of burning plastic. Far in the distance, farmers throw plastic bottles on the pile, laughing manically, while a pack of stray dogs, hungry for human flesh, grow rabid with the increasing heat of the fire.

The pilgrim turns back toward the village, broodingly cursing the farmers and the dogs. But soon enough, a flock of a hundred marauding sheep appears in front of him, blocking the way and beetling down the dusty path towards him. He ducks down a narrow side road to avoid being trampled, and soon gets lost in a labyrinth of dense orange trees. Eventually, the trees start clearing, but then he notices a crumbling ruin and a soldier patrolling in full uniform, brandishing his rifle. The pilgrim ducks behind a large cactus to avoid being seen. All around him, fields of harsh brush and thorny nettles are scattered like landmines.

Far off his original course but just a few fields away, the spire of the Agios Nicolaos church in Yayla shines blindingly white here in God’s country. Which way to turn? Not through the burning trash and the dogs. Not through the flock of marauding sheep. Not risking being shot. Mutilation by thorns seems the only option. He bows his head, prays softly and crawls over the first cactus toward the church. Already, deep red gashes form along his arms.

In the brilliant distance, the calm waters of Caretta Beach still beckon. Maybe the turtles there are resting in the cool water by now. But the pilgrim will not know anything about it. He will not reach that place today. Perhaps he will never reach that place.


Rowan Johnson holds a doctorate from the University of Tennessee as well as an MA from the University of Nottingham, England. His work has been published in Two Thirds North, 4ink7, Passing Through Journal, Wordriver Literary Review, GFT Press, and the Writers’ Abroad Foreign Encounters Anthology. He has also written numerous travel articles for SEOUL Magazine.


Ken Seide – Fiction 


My girlfriend was brushing her reddish hair, more strikingly red than usual, brushing it in the mirror when I came to say goodbye to her father.

                “Lee,” I said not wanting to startle her. She didn’t hear me.

                I know her hair is red but I think of it as gold, the color I perceived when I first saw it ten weeks before, running past her to a coffee shop, not wanting to be late for our first meeting. I had yanked on the locked coffee shop door, turned around, and beheld her.

                I watched her brush her hair in her father’s home, mesmerized. “Lee,” I said. I was almost pleased that she didn’t hear me. I got to watch my beloved caress and care for herself, like David gazing at Batsheva.

                I didn’t think I was going to see her father again. Only inner family members had been lately let into the room where he would die, and I wasn’t in the family yet.

                I stepped into view of the bathroom mirrors reflecting each other so she could see me behind her. But she didn’t. “Lee,” I called again, this time starting to get frightened.

                I had seen him four days ago. And a week before that, when he was still standing frailly and conversing softly and taking short walks in his home but also knowing that his life was coming to a close, I sat at his dining room table on his sixty-first anniversary and asked for his permission and blessing to marry his daughter.

                The fear hit me, because when do two lovers not hear or see each other?

                When one of them has left this world. Which one of us had died?

When else can one lover not hear or see the other?

                When one lover is only a vision, a projection of desire and fulfillment before one’s wishful eyes.

                She finished brushing her long hair and splashed water on her face, framed by reddish  spirals. She turned and finally saw me, startled.

                “I was cleaning up for you,” she said. “So I wouldn’t look haggard.”

                She stepped forward and kissed me deeply and I knew then as certainly as I know anything in this often painful world that we were joyously alive and real and corporeal.

                She took my hand and led me into her father’s room, her careful step over the oxygen line, and then mine, another advance in our sudden but not surprising journey.


Ken Seide


Paul Beckman – Fiction


I got slapped down today for saying, “Yes, Ma’am” to a diner I was waiting on. She was dressed to the nines and sitting with three other “Ma’am’s and I had no idea what she wanted to be called so I asked her what her preference would be. “I’m sorry. How would you prefer I address you?” I asked and she said anything but Ma’am. So I was fucked, good and fucked.

She was probably in her sixties and I’m twenty five, well groomed, no piercings, tats, and not even a mullet. My posture is good, breath refreshed constantly, I’m attentive to my tables and pleasant at all times.

One of the women from her table went to the ladies and spoke to me on the way back. “You didn’t do anything wrong,” she said. “I’m Ethel; Mary Jane has a problem with Ma’am and would prefer to be called “old biddy” which was a term of endearment used by her late husband. Try it,” she said. “It’ll reflect in your tip also.”

I went back to the table with a water pitcher and asked, “Is everything alright with you ladies and all but “old biddy” nodded their assent so I said, “And how about you, Old Biddy, everything fine here.” The other three broke out in laughter and each dug in their purse and handed Ethel a twenty which she placed under her plate. “Old Biddy” fumed.


Paul Beckman was one of the winners in the Queen’s Ferry 2016 Best of the Small Fictions. His 200+ stories are widely published in print and online in the following magazines amongst others: Connecticut Review, Raleigh Review, Litro, Playboy, Pank, Blue Fifth Review, Flash Frontier, Matter Press, Metazen, Boston Literary Magazine, Thrice Fiction and Literary Orphans. His latest collection, “Peek”, weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages. His website



Caitlin Woolley – Fiction


Don’t say no when they tell you to follow. Don’t say no when they invite Dan, the new boy with the lazy eye and the sour smell. Encourage him when he seems doubtful because his family might be rich. Threaten him if you have to. Tell him not to go home right after school, even if he promised his mother, even if you promised yours. Don’t laugh when Dan trips over the hole in the wire fence behind the school. Grin from ear to ear when Marcus claps you on the back and then Dan as if either of you played football. The clap makes you feel hollow inside like your bones are brittle as a baby’s, but the thickening treeline tells you it is time to let the silence fall. Don’t make a noise when the fence cuts you. Let the blood soak into a fold in your jeans because you know that if they smell it you will be the lamb. Keep quiet until you’re past the road. Watch Sandy’s ass as you follow her into the woods, but don’t get so distracted you snap twigs. When it is darker and the air is heavier, take the cue from the others and titter at Dan’s nervous joke, laugh differently when Sandy says she doesn’t know which eye to look at when he’s talking. Pretend his “I know, right” is truthful. Listen for the hissing of the creek now, listen for the density of birds’ wings. Listen for the snap of a sandal as Jenny trips over the ground. Look to Marcus when he grabs her by the arm and tells her to be careful. You know that you will always look to Marcus; you know that he knows it too. He is big brawn and blonde and in these woods you feel so thin. Your favorite part of coming here is the silence: immense, crushing, you can’t believe that it doesn’t swallow you. When Sandy lights the pipe and offers it to you, accept it. Feel electric when your fingers touch. Then when everything is stars, gaze up at the graying light and beg it to bleed into you, seep into everything beating and vital. You still have a splinter in your ear from the last time you came here and a loose tooth from the time before. Let your tongue roll over the slick slide of tooth to pay its rightful homage. By the time you reach the deepest part of the woods you will see the creek, a scar in the land, and you will feel like bursting. You’re the only one who has stayed so far. Joe fled the trees last time with a black eye and Alex a broken thumb. But this is your fifth time: be proud of that. You are invited as long as you survive. Sandy and Jenny lean against a tree and pass the pipe back and forth between them. When Marcus strips away his shirt, strip yours. Try to do it in time with him. Then, stare Dan down until he wriggles out of his long sleeves. Veiled threats are what you do now. It makes you useful. Feel contempt for Dan’s thin body and try not to think of it as your own, soft and narrow and so white in the darkness of the forest. Try to comfort Dan when he panics, but not too much. He knows why he is here and why you were the one to invite him. Now, look to Marcus because you both know that is what you do, too; look to him as he swings a broad fist into the air in front of him. The sound of it clapping against Dan’s cheek is thrilling, his yelp a frail sound that dies in the air. Let his weak punch at Marcus delight you. Rock back and forth on your toes. Marcus tosses his fist again and hits Dan squarely in the face, and then a few more times, taking more than his turn. Dan is bloodied and wonderful and Marcus, radiant, with barely a mark. If he moves to hit you, you will let him, you will be ready, you will be leaning in, you will be braced, you will feel something. But then you will see in the ripple of his skin that he isn’t coming for you. Imagine it happening just before it does, to experience it fully, the sound of Sandy’s soft voice in your ears: Marcus’ hulk exploding into Dan, the thud of the two of them as they skid across the earth, red dirt kicking up like voices. Putting up a solid block is how you got to stay and you know it will be the same for Dan. Only it isn’t. What you don’t imagine is the crack of skull as Dan hits the great alder behind him, the soft searching in his eyes before he crumples and his body rolls down into the creek. When the wet sounds stop he will be face down in the water, a red and white stripe in the dark. Marcus stands over the side of the creek, blank-faced, his fist still clenched in red momentum not yet gone. Dan will not get up and the creek flowing around his crown, stained. Marcus and the girls spare only a moment before they bolt from the woods, breaking all the branches. In seconds you are alone there, the only one who would see the boy in the creek move. But you say to yourself that there will be nothing to see because you are always the one who survives. Turn. Look away. If you leave the woods now it will be with your truth discolored. Maybe you are being swallowed after all.


Caitlin Woolley recently earned her MFA in fiction at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. She now lives and works in Seattle.


Padma Prasad – Fiction


          The frozen laundry had hung in the snow for three days. When Martha finally went to get Fidel’s shirts, his pants, his underwear, it was already late evening, on the fourth. They were so stiff, those clothes.

           “I can’t take this no more,” Martha said to the large black cat that swirled to the garden door, with an anxious purr. The clothes on Martha’s arm crackled, her warmth renewed their emptiness. If the cat could talk, it would have agreed with Martha. It would have said, It’s not fair that Fidel leaves you out on this lonely lake front, that each time you rescue him, it’s worse than before.

           The first time Fidel left home, he was only thirteen. He was just recovering from typhoid. From where could he have got such a disease – it mystified Martha. She spent many hours and days honing in on one possible suspect after another, from colored people, to white people to travelers to water bottles and even to her own finger nails. Of course it was a meant to be thing. The high fever probably killed some portions of his mind. Otherwise how would his brain have gotten crazy.

           Fidel was just recovering when his father had slapped him stinging hard for breaking the apple tree, just ready to bloom with its first bloom. Fidel took off that evening. He turned up two years later, a fifteen year old man, lean and strong, his bones meant business.

           Martha opened the kitchen cupboard and looked in the bottom shelf. Her old gun was still there, still loaded. There were patches of grease and dirt on it. She carried it to the kitchen and took out a bottle of turpentine from under the sink. It must be what, fifteen, no, at least eighteen years ago that Wendell had bought it for her. To shoot the deer that were just everywhere. She had learned to use it very well, as if her hand and eye keyed into some pre-existing knowledge in her brain about how to be supremely accurate.

           The lid of the turpentine bottle came off in her hand and some of the turp spilled onto the counter top. Irritated with all this, Martha found a rag and wiped the counter top and started on the gun. She began to cough as if she would never stop.

           On some form he had to fill up, maybe it was the census form, Wendell had written they did not have any children.  She had coughed then at the unfairness of such a statement, at the unfairness of not letting her decide such matters. She went over one side of the gun meticulously, getting the grease out till it was spotless. Then she turned it over, stood back and surveyed it. She had always been hurt that her only contribution to the unfairness was silence. Some women might nag and argue, some may walk away, she listened to loneliness, as it gradually coated her husband’s brain until he died. Only because she was such a good listener she had never felt lonely herself.

           Martha went back to cleaning the gun. When she finished, she held it up against the kitchen window light to see if there was any place she had left out.  Until the babies stopped coming, she had shot two, sometimes three deer during the season. Even Wendell did not have such a wonderful record. One summer, when there was a mild hope that they had a future after all because Fidel was around the house, a normal Fidel who ate and slept and listened to music, she taught him to shoot as well. Martha smiled at how quickly Fidel picked up as if it was long ago born in him to shoot straight.

           That was before she had to bail him out two successive years for drugs and larceny.

           The gun felt reassuring in her hand. Especially now when Fidel had left with the money she had kept carefully over the years, about twenty three thousand dollars of it. Still, if they asked her to fill the census form now, she would not have written, no children.

           She carried the gun carefully to the back of the house. The backyard fence was badly broken. Once she had seen a fox wandering in. The oak looked naked, the snow made it even more gigantic than usual. The clothesline stretched from one of its branches all the way across to the elm. When she had brought in the clothes, she had left the pegs almost perfectly equidistant from each other. She stood for a long time in the cold, thinking that they were old pegs and maybe tomorrow, she would buy new ones.  Then, she took aim and shot every one of those wooden clothes pegs.

           The snow started to fall again when she went to check how she had done. Except for the last one, all the wooden pegs had been shattered. Still, she had nicked the last one. She shrugged, maybe a snow flake had got in the way. The gun was empty. Martha put it back in the cupboard and poured out some milk for the cat.

Padma Prasad is a writer, painter and graphic artist. Her fiction has appeared in Eclectica, The Looseleaf Tea, Reading Hour, ETA Journal, and The Boiler Journal. She blogs her poem drawings at Her art is mostly figurative and can be viewed at In her writing, she tries to capture stillness; in her painting, she tries to paint narratives. She lives in Northern Virginia.