Ice – Micro Essay

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by Bill Vernon

John and I were afraid our blades would hit bare spots and throw us so I pounded the ice with a brick and saw it was over half an inch thick. We took off confidently then, right down the middle of the street, uphill to the dead end, halfway back down, around a corner, then around the whole block. I felt like an eagle soaring above my usual life.

“Wow!” John yelled.

“Yeah! Wow!”

Sheer ice covered everything large and small, every blade of grass, the two or three clotheslines in every backyard, every twig of every tree. In the pale light, each bare lilac bush seemed to glow. Everything looked like it was made out of glass. It was like a miracle, really.

We stopped in front of our house the second time around. The sprinkling was over, but the air was colder, way below freezing. The thick gray clouds were black with night, and the ice-encased streetlamps gleamed weakly. No motors revved, no tires churned over pavement. There was silence, a hush only our panting broke.

John said, “Let’s get the other guys out here.”

“Yeah, a skating party.”

We swooped over sidewalks to every front door that had a child behind it. We rang bells, puffed our frozen breath at our friends, and a stream of kids on skates emerged behind us. I didn’t know so many people owned them. We circled the neighborhood again, and every kid we knew was out along with a few adults. There was no silence now. We skaters raced around shouting yahoos and yippees, and that seemed to empty all of the houses. Everybody wore the heavy wraps of winter, but we were no longer cooped up.

At the corner by the Carsons’ house, some mothers set up card tables and piled on food and drink: ham, meat loaf, bread, cookies, pies, cakes, steaming thermoses. Most of the men were absent, trapped at work. My father was downtown, only two miles away but unable to get home. Herbert the drunkard was there, two older retired men and Tony, who’d come home from painting the interior of a house across town before the rain started freezing. He and Herbert were sharing some wine.

My mother appeared, cutting through backyards, carrying something and laughing. I ran to help her. “This is so crazy,” she said. The ground wasn’t frozen underneath so it gave with our weight, but the grass crunched underfoot as if we were walking on crystals. My blades sank into the dirt like knives, then sliced a hole pulling out.

I gulped down two ham sandwiches with mustard and drank some hot chocolate. Then coasted off into the night, locked inside my coat, scarf, ski mask and gloves, warm and happy, moving on top of a world gone hard and smooth and entertaining like the big colored globe on our table at home, doing something I’d probably never do again.

Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine Corps, studied English literature, then taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folkdances. His poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and Five Star Mysteries published his novel OLD TOWN in 2005.

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Syrup Smokes the Same – Micro Essay

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by Andrew Baker

We smoked pine needle cigarettes and coughed up syrup. Ronnie and I were ten and wanted to be grownups. I’d been sneaking half-smoked butts from the ashtray for a few months, but he couldn’t bring himself to taste nicotine. With kid logic, we figured that pine needles would smoke the same. We emptied out some of the butts and crushed the spines inside. The brown tips that jutted out were burned down so they looked like the real deal.

Lollipop pines lined the clearing where we’d play army. It was tucked away back on top of one of the knobs. Hidden from my parents, we searched for the brownest and crunchiest needles.  We found that the green ones took forever to light. We’d climb one of the hemlocks at the edge and take turns passing the knock-off Marlboros.

Each toke burned my lungs and made me think I was drowning in Pine-Sol. It rolled across my tongue like cough syrup and dripped from my mouth like molasses. Out of everything, pine needles cause the worst cough. It’s terrifying to open your hand and see that you’ve coughed up something resembling half-eaten pancakes. We didn’t know that dried needles still hold sap, or that we’d been filling our lungs with the stuff. It didn’t stop us. I figured it was better than the cigarettes I stole from mom. If she could do it, why couldn’t I?

Andrew R. Baker is a writer, photographer, self proclaimed video game aficionado, and a closet poet from the mountains of southeast Tennessee. He currently resides in Jiangyin, Jiangsu, China and teaches English at a local school..

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 7

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 7 is now available. Huge thanks to Victoria Smith, February’s guest editor. Great job. Enjoy the reading folks!

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Moon, River, Snow: A Dervish Essay – Micro Essay

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by Robert Vivian

Cold wind touching my face at night close to the woods as if to say goodbye and I dream grandfather by the banks of the river, I dream fish under skein of ice waiting for nymphs to emerge, I dream the chance to wade again in April and I dream listening woods waiting for winter dawn and winter light empty as a windswept and barren room with all the windows open and moon, river, snow, one word in three becoming me and wanting to shine and one word in the clean hush you bring to the birth and death of every star and every clean becoming and how dear you are to me, so near and far away and intimate as breathing and simple prayer that whispers clean, clean, let go, let go, that whispers already leaving, already spendthrift and gone and cold clear water that wears away pebble and stone to give them glow and each of you a reverie all your threadbare own and almost full moon above whiter than dove tugging at river and blood do you stare because of chasm, do you stare because endless drifting stream of universal dust is all you know in star struck motes holding everything and how river is drawn to you, how it moves to gather your spirit like a lover who wants to please and snow are you glad to be here, are you truly bride worshiping in the temple of hush and snow what is it like to cover things, rake, fence, hoe, and apple cart, and moon tell me what to do with this yearning, and river tell me why I think of you as dear someone who died long ago come back in the shape of winding water flowing to the north, flowing evenly with the whole earth to cover, of gravity and remembering and new dawns breaking yolk of sun and the subtle sighing of leaves that whisper every season and withered stalk of corn, and moon, river, snow and all the elements, fire, ice, wind, and wave, lead me beyond every false and fleeting thing to that place I keep forgetting and wanting to get back to, open mouth under the stars and empty hands in the woods listening and watching for you, moon, river, snow in the hush that is winter and winter listening, winter waiting and breath made of briefest steam that shows how quick I am to pass into cloud and this breathing the writ and proof of it and unrolling scroll so soon to disappear, this breathing reaching out to you, moon, river, snow so that I may become a part of you again, ancient fathers and mothers in the ageless work of staring, carrying, and falling without a sound as you blanket the rose bushes and the watering can and the overturned wheelbarrow like someone who is on his knees after a great bout of sadness or because he has stumbled and can’t get up again.

Robert Vivian has published four novels and two books of meditative essays.

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 6

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 6 is now available. Huge thanks to Trevor Tingle, January’s guest editor. Got the year started right. Enjoy the reading folks!

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 5

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 5 is now available. Much thanks to Denise Long, December’s guest editor. Enjoy the reading folks!

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“Borderline” – Micro Essay

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by Kristine Mahler

Heading for the Missouri border, an early summer morning blurring down south-Nebraskan roads, crossing the great divide on a rickety old one-way bridge we paid a dollar fifty to cross, the bridge spanning some strange chasm, a split in the earth where Nebraska and Missouri actually fissured, snaking past Rusty’s Bar and Café (and we set up my stuffed red panda, Rusty, beaming on the dashboard for a quick picture that weekday morning, but a part of me wanted to stop our smooth Saturn from gliding through that town too quickly, wanted to get caught, tripped up, and go in, have a fifty cent cup of coffee with the workadays in lower Nebraska, a café I’ll remember as the life I could have had—running a card shop on the Town Square, friends and neighbors coming in once a month to pick up birthday cards, the radio station my only companion among the dusty card pyramids, starting up shop at nine-thirty in the morning after I’ve had my cup of coffee at Rusty’s), but we burn down Nebraska, cross the bridge, stop at the border of Missouri and I leap out, kick my leg up and pose against the sign, a couple of girls stopped in a car right in front of us and I wonder if they’re Nebraska girls; it’s August, they could be high school graduates, stopped at that fatal border, and they just had to stop and think a minute, call home on the cell and get Mom out of her recliner to ask, “Am I doing the right thing? Momma, you’ve got to tell me I’m doing the right thing” as her best friend waits impatiently, knowing she can only push her so far; or maybe they just stopped and dreamed, stopped and looked at the border they knew they’d never cross, stopped and looked at the lives they’d never have, maybe they just sat and watched as we rambled down to Missouri; they turned around and headed into the sunrise of another morning in Nebraska.

Kristine Langley Mahler crammed countless CNF writing courses into her degree from the University of Iowa. She is currently completing a collection of essays about her teenage crushes, and some of her recent work can be found in Embodied Effigies. In the meantime, she blogs about life on the suburban prairie, where she lives it and loves it.

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“Because I Love You” – Micro Essay

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by Bill Vernon

Mom’s friend Betty entered our house one afternoon as if blown inside by the wind. The door banged against the wall, and from the kitchen Mom was there in an instant. Betty leaned against the door as if exhausted. “Ruth, you won’t believe what that fool did this time.”

Tony appeared in the doorway behind her. “Now, Betty, stop….”

Betty glanced at him. “No, everyone should hear what I have to endure, living with you.”

Tony shook his head, squeezed past her, and collapsed on the couch. “It was just a joke.”

Betty sneered, “A joke!”

Tony’s face became a rubber mask featuring a smirk and downcast, guilty eyes.

She’d come home from Sherwood’s Market with a bag of groceries in each arm, and found “the moron” sprawled on the floor. A lamp was on, she supposed to light up the pool of red on the floor, the big red splotch on his shirt, and the handle of the butcher knife. “It seemed to be sticking up out of him. Well I screamed, of course, and dropped the sacks. There’s a dozen eggs, a big jar of dill pickles, and God knows what else broken on the living room floor.”

Tony said, “I’ll clean it up.”

“Damn right you will.” Betty turned around to face him. “You’ll also go back to the store and replace whatever is ruined.”

Tony nodded.

Mom said, “Tony was stabbed?”

Betty turned back to Mom. “No, that was just my first impression. Then I noticed the knife was sticking up between his arm and his chest.” She put a hand flat in her armpit to demonstrate. “I also noticed the half empty ketchup bottle on the desk.”

My mother shook her head. “Tony, what were you thinking?”

Betty said, “He was trying to frighten the life out of me.”

“It was a joke,” Tony said.

Betty twisted around and yelled. “You think that’s funny?”

My mother turned away, but I saw the smile she was hiding. “No wonder you dropped the bags.”

“I grabbed the dust mop from the closet and beat him over the head until the idiot had enough sense to get up and run.”

“Ah, Betty, it wasn’t that bad.”

She glared at him. “It could very well have killed me right on the spot.”

“I pull jokes on you because I love you.”

We all stared at him. After a minute Betty said, “How can I be so lucky. Ruth, do you have any coffee perked?”

“Good idea,” Tony said. “A cup of coffee will settle us down.”

“Not you,” Betty said. “You go home and clean up the mess.”

Mom led Betty to the kitchen while Tony stood in the doorway watching. When they disappeared, Tony left. He walked hunched over as if carrying a heavy burden. He might have felt bad, but his trick seemed neat enough for me to try on my brother.

Bill Vernon served in the United States Marine Corps, studied English literature, then taught it. Writing is his therapy, along with exercising outdoors and doing international folkdances. His poems, stories and nonfiction have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies, and Five Star Mysteries published his novel OLD TOWN in 2005.

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 4

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 4 is now available. A big, big thank you to Jessica Sherwood, November’s guest editor. Enjoy the reading folks!

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 3

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Dead Flowers Vol. 2 No. 3 is now available. A huge thanks to Sydney James, October’s guest editor. Enjoy the strong read folks!

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