By Anthony Ward

“What are you trying to do?” She inquired of him.
Him who had his arms around his own throat, mimicking the very act he was doing.
“I’m trying to strangle myself!” He replied as if she had wanted him to state the obvious.
“Why are you strangling yourself?” She asked.
“Because I want to.”
“Why? Don’t you realise it’s impossible? You couldn’t even if you wanted to.”
“That’s the trouble isn’t it? I’m incapable of doing anything I want to do.”
“Perhaps because you don’t really want to do it?”
“But I do want to.”
“No you don’t. Besides why would you want to?”
“Because I’m incapable of doing anything else.”
“Well you’re certainly incapable of doing this.”
“Am I?”
“Because you don’t really want to do it. You have to really want to do something in order to be able to do it effectively. Anything that’s difficult anyway.”
“There’s so many things I’ve wanted to do that I’ve been incapable of.”
“But did you really want to do them?”
“Then why did you stop?”
He shrugged his shoulders, his hands still fastened around his neck.
“Maybe you didn’t really want to do them in the first place.”
“Then why did I think I wanted to do them. Answer me that?”
“Because you didn’t know what else to do?” She said with upturned palms, shrugging her shoulders, her eyes darting from side to side, as if searching for any objections.
“So you’re suggesting that I’m mimicking the act of strangulation because I actually feel as I’m suffocating?”
“Are you?”
“Feels like it.”
“Especially when you’ve got your hands round your throat.”
“Maybe I’m trying to take control of something I can’t control.”
“But it’s all in vain. You can’t strangle yourself.”
“Maybe I’d be the first.”
“And what good would that be if you were dead?”
“At least I’d be remembered for something.”
“As the man who strangled himself?” She said lifting her shoulders again. “Ok, let’s just imagine that you did manage to strange yourself, what if by proving it could be done, you convinced other people they could do it too?”
“Why would they want to try if I’ve already proved it can be done?”
“Because people generally won’t try to attempt anything they think is impossible, but if you prove to them that it is possible, then it may encourage them to try it as well.”
“I wouldn’t want anyone else to do it.”
“Of course you wouldn’t. They might do it better.”
“I dunno, quicker maybe.”
“You’re saying I’m not doing it fast enough?”
“Well, you’ve taken your time about it; you’ve been talking too much. Someone else would do it quicker, I reckon, if they weren’t talking about it.”
“I wouldn’t be talking about it if you hadn’t come into the room.”
“Let’s just suppose that I hadn’t come into the room, you’d be lying dead and no-one would believe that you strangled yourself, they’d think someone else had done it.”
“Then you’d have to be my witness.”
“Then they’d think I did it.”
He looked down at his feet, knowing once again his endeavours had amounted to nothing.
“This isn’t going to work is it?”
“Perhaps you make things too hard by not taking it easy. Maybe you should relax, breathe a little—just let go.”
And so he let go of his throat and allowed his arms to fall limply by his side.

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Anthony Ward has been writing in his spare time for a number of years. He derives most of his inspiration from listening to mainly Classical Music and Jazz- since it is often the mood which invokes him to set his thoughts to rest. He has been published in a number of literary magazines including South, Word Gumbo, Perspectives, Message in a Bottle, and Blinking Cursor amongst others.


Yellow Dress
By Andrew F. Sullivan

The man left without paying. He left the swirling rainbow in his cup and a note for the waitress at the diner. The coffee tasted like industrial soap. The sky was closing up as he climbed into his car. The radio flicked out lottery numbers to litter the airwaves between crests of static.

The man rolled down his windshield to spit out the window. The spittle splattered back onto his face in the wind. The man did not wipe it off his cheek. He kept driving.

His eyes were on the ditches.

He found his brother’s car outside a Motel Six near Norwood. His tire iron popped the trunk. The man found a scrap of yellow cotton stuck to the latch. The clerk at the desk took the two bills the man offered without any questions and handed him a room key. Room 23B.

The man found his brother sitting on the end of one twin bed with a cigarette in his hand. The smoke alarm was unplugged and dangled above his head. On the television, they were spinning balls around in a basket. His brother’s eyes followed them in circles.

“You know how you flip the pillow over to enjoy the cool side after the first side gets to hot? I’m the same way about beds. Sometimes the first one gets too hot. So I got a spare.”

The man sat down beside his brother. The brother continued.

“You know it wasn’t even that much money.”

The man did not reply. The brother turned up the volume.

“She shouldn’t have gone around telling everyone. That was the problem. I mean, that’s just asking for it, you know? Alice shoulda just kept her numbers to herself. Kept it quiet.”

Static burst from television and then the brother was on the man’s back. Sharp, dirty fingers probed for purchase in the man’s face. The man stumbled away and then backward into a dresser, cracking his brother’s head against the varnished wood. The brother moaned and collapsed onto the thin orange carpet. A trail of blood snaked from his ear to the comforter.

The man stood up heaving. He fished a hand into his brother’s pocket and pulled out the crumpled ticket. It was stamped. His ex-wife’s name was signed across the bottom.

The man placed his foot over his brother’s throat and waited.

The man did not watch the sky open up as he drove back down the salt starched highway. His mouth still tasted like dish soap and black coffee. The lottery ticket sat on the dusty dashboard. Jackpot read ten thousand. It had been cashed. All gone now—all salt into water.

The man did not watch the road. He did not watch the sun begin to melt the snow. He did not see the birds sitting high up in the telephone wires. The man had his eyes on the ditches.

He was looking for a yellow dress.

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Andrew F. Sullivan was born in Peterborough, Ontario. His fiction has recently been published on Joyland: a hub for short fiction and Dragnet Magazine. Sullivan's work will also appear in Riddle Fence and The Other Room later this year.


Millennium Locks
By David Macpherson

I was still drunk when the locksmith got to my apartment door. I said, “Thank God you’re here. Can’t get into my place. Key’s not working.”

The locksmith sniffed out the issue and said, “You sure you go the right key?”

“Fuck you,” I said all polite. “I’m lit, but check it, I got only one key on the chain. Can’t screw that up. I’m a one key guy, for just such an emergency. But today, no dice.”

The locksmith shrugged so high the tools in his box rattled. “Let me take a look.” He grabbed my key without asking and turned on his mag light to check out the lock. He stared for a bit and then whistled. “Well sir,” he said acting proper and contract correct, “this ain’t a problem I can fix. Actually this ain’t even a problem. This is a product doing what it’s supposed to do. You got yourself a Millennium Lock in there.”

“What does that mean?” I asked.

The locksmith looked confused, “Sir. You got a Millennium Lock. You don’t get that product by mistake. You pay extra for it; its something you know about.”

“I wasn’t the first tenant. I kept the apartment after my girlfriend went to Portland to follow this bassist. It was her apartment, then it was ours, now it’s mine.”

“Not anymore, sir. It’s not anyone’s anymore. You have a Millennium Lock. Don’t you know them?” I just gazed at him. He waited, shrugged and went on. “They sell a specific product. It’s a hell of a lock, works perfectly, tight system, strong tumblers. Works like a dream for a thousand times. After a thousand times of locking and unlocking, it freezes up for good.”

“Freezes up for good? Is that a malfunction?”

The locksmith said, “No. It’s designed that way. It’s marketed that way. After a thousand times, you won’t get into your apartment. Nothing is going to open it. People who get this installed know this. After a thousand lockings and unlockings, you got to move.”

“Wait. I’m not getting in? That’s crazy. Can’t you do something?”

“No,” the locksmith said. “It’s done. You got to move.”

“What about my stuff? How can I get my stuff?”

The locksmith paused for a bit and then said, “From what I hear, it’s gone. In a week, the lock will be missing and the door open. Go into the place then and its empty.”

“Empty? Where’s the stuff? Where’d it go?”

“I don’t know, sir. It’s just gone. The place will be empty and pristine clean, like part of your stuff was your dirt and stains. Landlords don’t have to paint for the new tenant, its so clean, they love it.”

I said, “I need my stuff.”

“You just think you do. I’ve seen this before. You get to leave here with nothing. Start over. Do something new. Do the same shit again. Whatever. No matter what, you ain’t getting in here.” The locksmith straightened up to his full height. He pulled his jacket straight and gave me a bill for a hundred dollars.

“For what?” I said. “You did nothing here.”

“That’s right. And for that honor, you owe me a hundred bucks.”

I paid him and left the building before he did. I was still walking soft from the booze and I couldn’t think of anyone who could help me. Who could stretch out a hand to me? I was homeless and drunk.

I finished the night riding the subway, not sleeping it off. I thought of the new place I now needed. I thought of the things I would fill it with. I also allowed myself to think of the front door of the new place I didn’t have yet. The one thing I was sure of was the brand of lock I would insist for the door. That, at least, was something I could be certain of.

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darkened side
By Jessica Sanfilippo

i would like to listen to pink floyd’s “wish you were here” with you in your mercury mystique with the golf clubs in the trunk and my The Help in the backseat and the cigarette butts stuck in the cigarette butt cup and my stray hairs in the carpet and your sweaty hair under the same hat you have worn for the past two and a half years. i would like to grab onto the curls near your neck and taste your mouth that always tastes like salt. i would like to see you healthy with your sharp red washington and jefferson lanyard hanging around your knees. i would like to see the shoes you have worn spring, summer, fall, winter. i would like to see the clothes drying in your basement, your beautiful slobbering dog. i would like to see your room just that one last time. the sheets still crumpled and the pillows strewn. you did everything right but you could never learn how to sleep.

you can still beat this. you are a family member. you are my lover, you will always be the 'you' reference in everything i say. i will think about your mother reserving bowls of raw onion during dinner. i will think about how you helped me pack for school by separating the metal and plastic clothes hangers. i will think about the day we swam until i had to go to work and i will think about the bad things too. i will think about going through your phone and how sure i seemed that everything was terrible but you kept to your word and promised not to speak to the only girl i cannot talk about with anyone anymore.

it takes me years and years to fully understand that these people have hurt me and it is better to stay away and for them to no longer exist in my social, emotional life. sometimes i feel like that all i have left are these new people that will never quite measure up to the old ones. i was brave enough to tell my mother that i don't make you wear condoms. i never really made you. and after a thousand days of paranoid pregnancy scares, i realized that if you and i made a new life, i would kill it and it would be our secret and we would still be okay. all of the things we have gone through have been much much worse.

i have never witnessed any of your suicide attempts but i always watched the way your arm scars crinkled when you flexed. i remember when you got home from rehab and we kissed and kissed and i felt like i met you for the first time. three months will be nothing compared to six months, to nine months, to a full year. you will look nothing like the boy i used to fuck. i will look nothing like the 18 year old from high school. the grass will forever grow in our graveyard spot. i will never visit your neighborhood in fear of my heart exploding right out of my body. i will never know how it is to love someone, to make love with someone, besides you. i know your last priority is to find a new girl to share your problems with. for split seconds, i do think that you have gotten sick of me. but you are just sick in general. you are sick in the head when you see the sick, scary things that no one should ever see. you are sick when your brain tells you that it's okay to steal and use. your parents want to give you electric shock therapy but i don't think you will ever smile again. i don't think you'll recognize me or any of the things we have ever done. i cannot handle another dying old man in my life forgetting my face and name and place in his heart.

my mother prays for you. if i prayed, which sometimes i tend to do when bad things like this happen, i'd pray for you too.

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My name is Jessica Sanfilippo and I am currently going to college in PA. I keep a secret blog that I write in daily.

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