Archives for posts with tag: Short Stories

Italian Masks
By Terrence Sykes

After numerous trips to Italy it was determined I should buy a Carnival mask . . . the calli in Venice are laden with storefronts galore to buy marbled paper & masks . . . one even if you never have any intention of attending Carnevale before the Lenten season . . . after visiting the ones noted in our travel guide & making my selection & purchase . . . carrying that shopping bag with the large nose protruding . . . left me unmasked as a tourist

Most times in Italy I am maskless when I fool people into believing I am someone I’m not . . . researching & growing heirloom vegetables is a hobby of mine and I stop at every place that sells seeds . . . on this occasion we were in the middle of nowhere in Emilia-Romagna in this little store and as we paid for the seeds . . . the clerk reminded us it was time to plant them . . . my husband told him we weren’t from here . . . Oh you must be from the Veneto! Must have been that mask I bought in Venice

Another time we were visiting the Architectural Biennale in Venice . . . its grounds are in the Arsenale . . . a part of the city tourists only frequent to attend the Biennales . . . after seeing the exhibits for the day . . . we slowly meandered though empty narrow side streets and decided to stop for an afternoon espresso . . . two pale-skinned Americans entered a dark empty bar . . . my husband ordered our drinks with Italian precision . . . as she sat our drinks before us she was puzzled and softly spoke . . . Oh you ARE Italian . . . you must be from the Trentino

I wore that Pulcinella mask every New Year’s Eve dinner party for years . . . then one night around midnight an errant water pitcher transmuted it back to papier-mâché . . . leaving me maskless once again

PHOTO: “Window of a mask shop in Venice, Italy” by Sheila Sund (2006).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: My initial concept was the time I went to a gay Halloween party . . . maskless . . . as an intellectual straight man . . . but thought this angle would be more interesting . . . I adore Italy and especially Venice . . . a tourist destination since they stole the bones of St Mark all those centuries ago.

sykes 2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Although Terrence Sykes is a far better gardener-forager-cook . . . his poetry — photography — flash fiction have been published in Bangladesh, Canada, Ireland, India,  Mauritius, Pakistan, Scotland, Spain, and the USA . . . he was born and raised in the rural coal mining area of Virginia and this  isolation brings the theme of remembrance to his creations — whether real or imagined.

In and Out
by Maria Nestorides

I’ve lived behind many front doors in my lifetime. Some of them welcomed me in, held me in a warm embrace. Others felt restrictive and repressive, and I, like a caged tiger, took any opportunity to escape through them.

My first front door was in London. When I was born, my dad held it open and pushed my pram through it as I slept on like a princess.

The second door was in Oman and it kept the howling desert storms at bay while I played happily within.

One door saw my teenage angst flare and feelings of not belonging grow into monsters.

Yet another door saw me finally finding my place in life, finally belonging.

In my adult life, our front door has opened to let us in and out. It has opened to an endless stream of friends and watched us leave to go meet with them, to go to a restaurant, to have a good time.

In and out.

Today, though, my door is hermetically sealed. No out allowed. It stands closed as a safeguard from the deadly virus around us.

These days, it is closed for the in. Closed to everyone who previously graced its entrance.

Everything is now done within the threshold of my front door: working, exercising, cooking.


My hope is that, soon, my front door will re-open and our friends will spill through once again and we, like bears waking from our winter hibernation, will reconnect with them. We will hug and kiss, talk and laugh with each other.

But for now, we stay behind our front doors, waiting for the day when this dystopian reality will cease and we will walk back into the sunlight and fresh air, without masks, without gloves, without antiseptic.


To live again.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Maria Nestorides lives in sunny Cyprus with her husband. She has two adult children. She received an MA in Creative Writing from Lancaster University in 2011. Her short stories “Red Letter Day” and “Voodoo Heads” were published online by Five Stop Story, and she contributed a six-word memoir to the book Six-Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak: by Writers Famous and Obscure by Larry Smith and Rachel Fershleiser (Jan. 6, 2009). You can also find her stories Whispers of Love, Sand in my Shoes, Need you Now, and Under Cover on The Story Shack. Find her on Facebook and Twitter.


Silver Birch Press is pleased to announce the November 2016 release of Stanton, California: Stories by Sam Silvas.

“Stanton, California is the best collection of short stories I’ve read in a very long time. Sam Silvas writes with enormous skill, deep empathy, and a ferocious commitment to the truth.” LOU BERNEY, Edgar Award winning author of The Long and Faraway Gone.

“Stanton, California, Sam Silvas’ short story collection about working-class families in the Sacramento area, evokes the feel of Hemingway’s short stories in that they are poetic and vital in their representation of hope and brutality.”
JERVEY TERVALON, best-selling author of Dead Above Ground and Monster’s Chef.

In this inspired debut 174-page collection, Sam Silvas examines the claustrophobia that comes from growing up in a small town and the enigmatic search for happiness inside and outside of it. Whether a man settles for life in Stanton or attempts to escape it, the choice is fraught with unforeseen consequences as the outside world butts up against the ways of his hometown.

In “Buck Stew,” a raffle prize of a Glock handgun suddenly offers heartbroken, long-time Stanton resident Jack Dixon new means to solve old problems. In “The Pottery,” the town’s clay pipe and tile plant physically towers over the town and looms large emotionally for the main character Danny Padilla, who has come to believe his significance can be measured in inches, be it a bullet from his beloved Weatherby .270 or the placement of a tile. In “Eat the Worm,” Todd Randle has been gone from Stanton for ten years when he returns home with his outsider bride. Within days of moving back, Todd finds his past glories may very well threaten his future happiness. He sets out to find answers in a sad and bizarrely touching encounter with his father over a Monday Night Football game. The signature piece of the collection is the novella, The Unluckiest Man in the World. Set near Stanton on the Sacramento Delta, it is inhabited by a family of glaziers, as fragile as the glass they install. The unnamed narrator has aspirations to move beyond the history that every male in his family appears destined to repeat. When he meets and falls in love with Katie McPherson, a fellow denizen of the Delta, all his bad luck seems to be behind him, but the past is as dangerous and powerful as the current of the river that he lives on, threatening to pull him under.

The town of Stanton is a character in all these stories, one that proves to be both a sanctuary and a prison to its inhabitants. This distinctive collection rightfully takes its place among great regional fiction.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sam Silvas received his MFA from St. Mary’s College, and lives in Claremont, California, with his family. In life and in writing, he strives to be deceptively honest. This is his first book.

Find Stanton, California: Stories by Sam Silvas at

Woman Photographing Fish Underwater

Sunset Snorkel
by Teresa Zemaitis

She stood on the back of the boat staring into the crystal blue water. Everyone was eager to jump in. Not her. The Caribbean sun beat down the last of its rays on her face. She turned back to the guide and asked one last time, “You have no life vests?”

“No, ma’am. No life jackets here. Why would you take a snorkeling tour if you can’t swim?”

“I wanted to—and I thought there would be life jackets.”

Holding the small inner tube around her neck, she stepped off the edge of the boat. Instantly, water entered her mask. Her husband put his arm around her waist. She leaned on him so she could drain the water, took a deep breath to calm herself, and began to swim.

She was awkward trying to maneuver. The current fought her when she tried to look around. She saw a large rock covered with sea urchins. They looked like they were right at her feet, the ones at the end of her legs that were impossible to keep horizontal. She popped up, gasping for air. “You’re not supposed to touch those. They’re poisonous!”

“They’re nowhere near you,” her husband said pulling her forward. “I promise.”

The water was amazing—the perfect temperature and sparkling shade of turquoise. Fish of every color looked at her; she looked back at them. But it was hard to enjoy. I’m the weak one separated from the group, the one the shark will go after.

Letting herself bob back up, she waved for the boat that was following them. They’d been swimming for over a half hour. The current was exhausting. She told her husband to go explore with the group. She would ride back in enjoying the sights through the safety of the glass.

PHOTO: Photo of woman snorkeling from

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  This experience resembles many other similar moments in my life, times when I really wanted to do something, but was afraid. I never let fear stop me. You have to just jump in! While I didn’t love the experience, I can say I snorkeled in the Caribbean. I only wish I had more than 300 words. 🙂

Zemaitis head shot

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Teresa Zemaitis is a dog loving, creative writing teaching, tattoo sporting, ex-journalist, and ex-politician who is finally following her dream. Three credits away from completing her MFA, she finally decided to put herself out there and start submitting.  She was born and raised in New York and currently resides in St. Petersburg, Florida, with her husband and dog. Her work has been published in Foliate Oak Literary Journal, The Poeming Pigeon, and New Barker magazine.


Beach Party
by Clive Collins

I grew up hearing Americans sing about summer: beach parties, girls in tiny two-piece swimsuits and fun in Acapulco. One song I remember was called “It Might As Well Rain Until September.” In the English seaside town where my family spent two weeks every August, it probably did.

Our summer place was Skegness, “Skeggy” to the unfortunates who regularly went there. Each spring in our East Midland’s city the advertising hoardings of the railway stations and bus depots, the travel agencies’ windows, broke out in a rash of posters for holiday destinations all around England’s coastline, a paper paradise of fun, sun, sand and pretty girls, but my father’s meagre wage meant we were for Skeggy. Its advertisements featured “The Jolly Fisherman,”a cartoon fat man in a black sou’wester hat, red scarf, blue jumper and tight white trousers tucked into thigh-high sea boots skipping along the shoreline above a caption that read “Skegness is so bracing.” It was. Bitter winds blowing in from the sea usually are. Looking back, across the years, I cannot recall ever seeing anyone in Skegness who was inappropriately dressed for December.

As a seaside town Skeggy was more town than sea. As a beach resort it was more beach than resort, the sea just some distant rumour. In the 1950s, when my family members were regular visitors there, two ex-army DUKWs were used to carry fare-paying passengers down to the water and back again. We sat glumly at the top end of the sands trying to keep warm. When the time came that my parents could no longer tolerate the resort’s bracing effect, we retreated to a café for hot coffees. My sisters dropped sixpence into the jukebox and danced to warm themselves up: “Here Comes Summer.” I listened to the music and dreamed.

CAPTION: The author and his family bracing themselves on the sands at Skegness, England (August 1958).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Revisiting L.P. Hartley’s “foreign country,”where they do things differently.

Clive Collins

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Born in Leicester, England, Clive Collins has spent the greater part of his life working as a teacher in Ireland, Sierra Leone, and Japan. He is the author of two novels, The Foreign Husband (Marion Boyars) and Sachiko’s Wedding (Marion Boyars/Penguin Books). Misunderstandings, a collection of short stories, was joint-winner of the Macmillan Silver PEN Award in 1994. More recently his work has appeared in online journals such as Penny, Cecile’s Writers, and The Story Shack. He was a short-listed finalist in the 2009 Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction.


Christmas Tradition
by Jarod Schneider

Christmas has always been a common point of unity in my family. Every year, my parents, siblings, and I meet with my grandparents and go to Christmas Eve church services before heading home for turkey and opening one –- maybe more than one -– present. I admit that my family has never really had any substantial financial issues concerning Christmas gifts, and thus they are a big part of the holiday for us. Although this does not exactly make for a heartwarming story of how one year Mom and Dad managed to scrape together enough to buy us one or two gifts, I still feel that we have a wonderful family tradition that, admittedly, is rooted in the materialism of the holiday. Nevertheless, my siblings and I are eternally grateful for all of our gifts; we always make sure to let our parents know just how thankful we are for what they do for us. On a related note, another major part of our Christmas tradition is abundant outdoor decorations. Every year, my father and I take turns heading downstairs to reset breaker after breaker blown from someone firing up a vacuum on the same circuit as 700 or so lights and a few inflatables; this is a comical scenario each year. On the morning of December 25, my siblings, in accordance with tradition, rush out of bed at dawn –- or a few hours before dawn -– to run out to the living room to greet our gifts and stockings, waiting for us to open them. In all, our Christmas is not unique, but it is still important to us in its own ways. The holiday will always hold a special place in our hearts as a time of unity and thankfulness.

schneider family
AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: I am on the far right of the photo next to my father. We had just returned from church services on Christmas Eve 2014 in the photo, except my younger brother (far left) had already changed. We are standing in front of our Christmas tree in our dining room.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jarod Schneider is a student in the 11th grade at George Walton Academy in Monroe, Georgia. He has a large interest in computers, games, and technology. Jarod is currently taking AP Language and Composition, which assists him greatly with his writing. His family is heavily into Christmas celebrations every year.

Christmas Memories
by Linda McKenney

It’s the first Christmas since my divorce. I have very little money to spend. Wait, I have no money to spend! I can’t afford to purchase a tree, so my teenage son sneaks up into the woods at the end of our street and cuts one down. I know it’s illegal, but I accept his attempt to make things as normal as possible.

My children leave on Christmas Eve to spend it with their father. While they are gone, I carefully wrap their gifts. Underwear and socks are the main staple, as practicality reigns. When they return, my youngest daughter has a ten-speed bike. Before the divorce, her father and I had agreed that she was too young for this large bike. Now I imagine his gloat on having the ability to give her such an extravagant gift.

She is all excited. I burst into tears. I convince her that it’s because I’m happy for her. I’ve vowed to never disparage their father to them.

On Christmas morning, when they all open their underwear, they act as happy as if it were a ten-speed bike. Sometimes pretending is the kindest, most generous gift we can give.

PHOTO: The boy who stole a Christmas tree from a Christmas before he ever knew he would need to do such a thing.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenney has been writing for most of her 68 years, most recently experimenting with creative nonfiction. She’s a Life Coach and Speaker, and on a never-ending journey of self-discovery. She has over 100 Santa Claus figures and decorations.   Because she believes.


A Reason to Lie
by Venetia Peterson

The escalators seemed to terrify my mother into hesitation as a line of shoppers passed us. I pulled her hand to move forward. I understood the rhythm: ka-clunk, step on and ride to the next floor. Mom pulled me back.

She said, “Believe…believe,” and then we were off with her trembling hand in mine.

After the fourth escalator we arrived at Santa’s Wonderland. Mom negotiated the aisles of fancy boxes up to the sign pointing to the North Pole and Santa’s gleaming throne.

She took off my coat saying, “He’ll ask you what you want for Christmas. And don’t forget to smile.”

Nudged forward, I understood the game. I knew what I dreamed of receiving wouldn’t be possible. I planned a lie. This was my first lie. My visit was a blur. I must have answered “dolly” because I did get a blond doll from Santa.

Years later, after my mom’s first stroke, we reminisced with the family photo album. Her memories were vivid about the past; it was the present that frustrated her.

She fingered my captured form on Santa’s lap.

“I love this photo of you,” she said.

“Do you remember the escalator and how long we stood there? “ I asked

She closed the album. “You were sitting on dad’s lap in that photo.”


“I was afraid you’d recognize him. Dad was laid off that September. We were so worried about the bills. He insisted that we’d pull through and when he got that job at the store, the employee discount allowed you all a small toy that Christmas. Dad was a believer. Did you get what you wanted?”

I nodded, looking at the lying girl on Santa’s lap. My wish was to see my father more often.

PHOTO: A four year old Venetia with Santa at  the Eaton’s department store in Toronto, Canada.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When we are children we are self-absorbed in our worlds of wants, wonders, and willfulness. If we are lucky, the troubles in our community and family pass us by and only when we are adults and begin to care for our own families do we realize that those innocent years are very precious and fleeting.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Protecting a gang of sparrows from the neighbors yellow cat can be exhausting. In between, Venetia manages to write poetry and short stories in Toronto, Canada.

cat tree

Lights, Hearts and Sleeping Cats
by Chella Courington

To save the cats from evergreen toxins, Adele and Tom had bought an artificial Christmas tree. Red-blue-yellow-green lights flashed day and night, bewitching them by New Year’s Eve. February she purchased red construction paper and cut out hearts. Two-inch diameters suspended limb to limb with ribbon. The gray and calico slept beneath.

Over a bottle of Syrah they sat before the tree. “Should we take it down?” he asked.

“It would be cruel to dismantle in April,” she said. “Imagine bunnies and eggs.”

“I can’t,” he said. “I’m still on hearts.”

They watched the lights the hearts the sleeping cats, knowing spring would come and they could be sitting there, watching the lights the hearts the sleeping cats.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: One Christmas our cats were so enamored by our tree, sleeping beneath it every night, that we did not take it down until May. Of course, it was artificial.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Chella Courington is a writer and teacher. She’s the author of three flash fiction chapbooks along with three chapbooks of poetry. Her stories and poetry have appeared in numerous anthologies and journals including SmokeLong, The Los Angeles Review, Nano Fiction, and The Collagist. Her novella, The Somewhat Sad Tale of the Pitcher and the Crow (Pink.Girl.Ink.Press), is available at Amazon. Born and raised in the Appalachian South, she now lives in Santa Barbara, CA, with another writer and two cats. She teaches writing and literature at Santa Barbara City College.


The Flying Maserati
by Joseph Johnston

Even before the pie was sliced that Thanksgiving she was done. She removed her driver’s license from the wallet in her purse and set it atop the coffee maker and dumped her nephew’s satchel of Matchbox cars onto the laminate kitchen floor. Cheap metal with plastic wheels radiated outward and if you closed your eyes it sounded like a bowling tournament. Silence, deliberate friction, definite collision.

She walked among the die-cast autos tenderly and chose the silver simulacrum of a two-door Maserati and said goodbye under her breath and climbed inside. Her right blue Chuck Taylor coaxed the Italian engine into top gear and she tooled around the kitchen floor, hauling ass around the claw feet of the table and betwixt the feet of her aunts who were talking about potatoes and sighing and lamenting the lack of participation from the younger generation.

She roared down the hall into the football cavern of the living room. An ungodly huge screen of badly pixelated carnage illuminated the bad breath of the giant dudes nestled into mismatched recliners in there. It was all sweaty and disgusting so she maneuvered the Cabrio out onto the back patio where crazy uncles thickened the November air with cigar smoke and the politics of identifying the other on which to lay blame and hate. She peeled out a defiant brody to which no one paid any mind and decided to end it all like Thelma and Louise down the hard basement stairs and onto the laundry room floor.

As she floored it over the top step, she remembered a rule from the playground: Matchbox cars with doors that open can fly. She opened the car doors and lifted off, far away from the unhappy Thanksgiving playing out on her mother’s TV tables and braided rugs.

PHOTO: Red Maserati Cabrio.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Sometimes it can be difficult to return home for the holidays. If you’ve been away it can be hard to find a space where you fit. It can be hard to remember what a family is. There’s an uncomfortable alienation for a lot of people during the holidays, which I’ve attempted to encapsulate here.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo is me and my brothers and sisters in matching Snoopy sweaters from our Christmas card, 1981. I’m third from the left.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Writer and filmmaker Joseph Johnston made his first movie at the age of 11, an industrial espionage thriller that continues to play to excited crowds in his parent’s living room every Christmas. His prose, poetry, and video literature have appeared in Old Northwest Review, Arcadia, and the Iron Horse Literary Review. He currently resides in Michigan, where is working on a documentary and book about the history of boxing in Detroit.