Archives for posts with tag: Short Stories

Women painted as skeleton

Our Dead Come Home for Christmas
by Greta Bolger

What a surprise, the bony knock at the door just as we were sitting down to dinner, and then there they all were, wearing red sweaters, plaid pants, feathered hats and rhinestone brooches, witty costumes that, like them, had seen better days. Think Goodwill for ghouls. Sure, it was great to see them, their giant smiles and big eyes, though it was hard to tell them apart at first, but once they started talking, we knew who was who: Daddy Ralph and Roberta, Grandma T and Harry, Momma Sue and Red, young George and baby Ben. What a surprise, like I said, and Bob got out the video camera and interviewed them about the afterlife while the food got cold, and then we went into the living room to open presents and of course we didn’t have anything to give them because who knew? I tried to ignore the bone dust on the furniture and the incessant grinning, but I have to admit, I was glad when their time ran out and they trundled back down the front walk and back to wherever they came from. I know I sound selfish, but sheesh. That’s not what Christmas is all about, is it? And the videos were completely blank, not a trace they were ever here in the first place. The minute they left, I poured a double bourbon and lit myself a cigarette, my first one in eight and a half years.

PHOTO: “Day of the Dead Reindeer” by esp2k.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was originally published in Big Toe Review, a now-defunct online journal. Though perhaps it didn’t happen exactly this way, this poem captures the “spirit” of the holidays as they are experienced by this writer — awkward surprises and unwelcome encounters — that will, I’m guessing, feel familiar to many.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Greta Bolger writes, paints, and minds other people’s business (also an art form) from locations near Lake Michigan and Lake Atitlan. She has published poetry and prose in print and online journals, including The Chimaera, Juice Box, Mom Egg, Eclectica, Contemporary Haibun Online, Literary Bohemian, and others.

madame bovary.jpg
Ever imagine yourself as a character in a book, movie, or mythic tale (or would you like to do so)?  We want to hear all about your fictional musings in poetry or prose, where you appear as a character in an established work of fiction. (You would be, say, Oliver Twist or Emma Bovary, or you could create a new character that appears in the story.)  If available, please send a photo of yourself at any age to accompany your submission.

PROMPT: Tell us how you see yourself in an established work of fiction in a poem (any reasonable length) or prose piece (300 words or fewer).

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems or prose. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish on social media and in a potential print edition.

WHEN: We’ll feature the poems and prose in the Silver Birch Press ME, IN FICTION Series on our blog starting in late December 2015 or early January 2016 (actual dates to be determined, based on number of submissions). We’ll also feature the submissions on Twitter and Facebook.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email one poem or prose piece to as an MSWord attachment — and in the same file include your name, contact info (including email address), one-paragraph author’s bio (written in third person), and any notes about your creative process or thoughts about your piece. Please put all this information in one MSWord document and title the file with your last name (and only your last name). Write “Fiction” in subject line of email. If available, please send a photo of yourself — at any age — and provide a caption for the photo (when, where).


To help everyone understand our submission requirements, we’ve prepared the following checklist.

1. Send ONE MS Word document TITLED WITH YOUR LAST NAME (e.g. Twist.doc or Bovary.docx).

2. In the same MS Word document, include your contact information (name, mailing address, email address).

3. In the same MS Word document, include an author’s bio, written in the third person (e.g., Ignatius J. Reilly lives in New Orleans…”).

4. In the same MS Word document, include a note about your poem/prose or creative process (this is optional — but encouraged).

5. In the same MS Word document, include a caption for your photo (including where, when and/or date taken).

6. If available, send a photo of yourself at any age as a SEPARATE jpg attachment (not in the MS Word document). Title the photo with your last name (e.g., Eyre.jpg).

7. Email to — and put FICTION in the subject line.

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Friday, January 15, 2016

PHOTO: Mia Wasikowska as the title character in Madame Bovary (2014).

hotel cafe
On Sunday, November 22, 2015, Tongue & Groove — a monthly offering of short fiction, personal essays, poetry, spoken word + music produced by Conrad Romo — will feature Heather Chapman, April Dávila, Cheryl Montelle, Jeremy Radin, Maesa Pullman, and J. Ryan Stradal.


J. Ryan Stradal is a volunteer and advisory board member at 826LA and co­produces the literary/culinary event “Hot Dish.” He’s also worked in TV, most recently as the Supervising Producer on the A&E series Storage Wars: Texas. Some places where he has been published include Hobart, The Rattling Wall, Midwestern Gothic, The Rumpus, and McSweeney’s. His first novel Kitchens of the Great Midwest is a New York Times best seller. He likes wine, books, root beer, and peas. Visit him at


Jeremy Radin is a Jewish person/actor from Los Angeles. He also writes poems, which have appeared in numerous journals. His first book, Slow Dance with Sasquatch, is available from Write Bloody Publishing. You may have seen him on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or in a restaurant aggressively eating pancakes by himself. Check out his website at

cheryl montelle

Cheryl Montelle is a Los Angeles based writer whose stories have been published in various anthologies and magazines, and performed in Los Angeles, Joshua Tree, and New York City. She is the producer and host of “Desert Stories,”an annual fundraiser for the High Desert Playhouse in Joshua Tree, California. which she has also produced in New York City and Los Angeles. Cheryl has collaborated with The Laboratory, an international artist collective on two multi­faceted art magazines, and heads the veteran/community non­ profit Mil­Tree. Visit her at


April Dávila’s short stories have appeared in the Santa Clara Review, The Writing Disorder, and Dissections. Her non­fiction has appeared in Yes! Magazine, Earth Island Journal, and Our World 2.0 (a United Nation’s publication). Her writing on the topic of genetically modified foods garnered attention from Elle Magazine, NPR, the League of Women Voters and more. As a travel writer, she has published stories up and down the west coast. Her book Northern California is set to be published by Eye Muse Books in 2016. She is currently working on her debut novel. Learn more about her at


Heather Chapman writes a food blog at Her short stories “The Ghost” and “The Hand” have appeared in the zine Scraps to Scribes. Her play Thaw was performed at Theatre West’s WestFest. She lives in Los Angeles.


Maesa Pullman started playing piano and writing songs when she was seven. She grew up in an artistic family whose roots go back to her grandfather who also played piano and sang. Maesa’s music is haunting with reflective lyrics; a poetic combination of folk, rock and soul steeped in Americana roots. Buy her CD Whipporwill at

WHAT: Tongue & Groove Literary Event

WHEN: Sunday, November 22, 2015, 6-7:30 p.m.

WHERE: The Hotel Cafe, 1623 1/2 N. Cahuenga Blvd., Los Angeles, 90028


Come early! Seating is limited and the event starts on time! More information at Facebook.


To Rage
by Crystal Brinkerhoff

The smell of rain on pavement offered relief from the stale, fast-food odor of the car. The captain of the basketball team drove with the windows cracked, her sister in the front seat next to her, me in the back.

We’d lost our game. Again.

I was tired of losing. Tired of feeling inadequate. Tired of welcoming other teams onto our court only to lose in front of our home crowd. Tired of psyching myself up each week that this time would be different. This time we’d find our magic. Only to fail.


We were heading to a local pizza shop to commiserate our sorrows as a team. A postgame tradition. Lose on the court together. Eat our feelings together.

The song on the radio changed and, with it, the energy in the car. We sang, all three of us shrieking along with the music. A declaration of: I am woman, hear me roar.

Rock your body.
Rock your body right.

The volume pulsed through the car, filling every bit of me. It felt good, this attack to banish the feelings of embarrassment and disappointment. To rage.

Even if it was to the Backstreet Boys.


AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: Senior year of basketball, winter 1999. Playing in the gym of the only team in the league worse than us. Go Lady Irish!

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Writing brings me peace. It allows me to express myself in a way that’s sometimes difficult to do in the hustle and bustle of a large, busy family.


Crystal Brinkerhoff
is the reluctant wife of an outdoor enthusiast. She is a stay-at-home mom of five kids, one Chinese exchange student, and one dog. Writing keeps her grounded in her busy and demanding life. She is currently working on a YA fantasy, a memoir-style collection of stories, and blogging. Crystal has an active online presence, utilizing twitter (@crystalbrink6), linkedin, facebook, and a website at


Cool Blue
by Gillian Mellor

“Cool blue.” Track 4, side 1. The cassette sits, redundant in my palm; my ipod plays the song in my ears. I’m returning the cassette 25 years after you lent it to me. Social media helped to track you down.

I exit the train, hail a taxi and walk to the garden. I sing “Cool blue” softly to myself under my breath and wonder if you can hear. I have bluebells from home. I lay them with the cassette next to your name. Reality hits, tears appear. I’ve missed you.

SOURCE: Originally published in The Fankle (2014).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This piece of flash fiction is about “Cool Blue,” track four, side one of the Touch album by Eurythmics. It was released in 1984. It is just over 25 years since I left school, when the copying of cassettes took up more of our time than we’d now care to admit.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Gillian Mellor lives next to the West Coast Mainline just north of Beattock, Scotland. From here, she fits in writing in between everything else. Sometimes, she tidies the shelves in her local bookshop.

elton john

by Jen Maidenberg

It starts as a gleeful dance in the kitchen while you fry up turkey bacon and lip sync in an effort to swallow tears of turning 40, of your parents now old enough to be your grandparents, now dead instead of driving across the wrong bridge to Philadelphia or hollering at you to leave your brother alone.

Last time you heard it was on a yellow school bus sitting in the parking lot outside Beth El awaiting an 8 a.m. departure to New York City, a trip you remember only in pictures, in the primary colors of the puffy winter jackets you all wore then. You sat in vomit that day, which may have been a different day because the bus with the vomit was a chartered bus, but still.

In the kitchen, you sway with closed eyes, unable to dissolve the image of your brother swinging from a branch of the weeping willow tree in your grandparents’ backyard and
I guess that’s why they call it the blues.
The kids stare, but there’s no use explaining how if they’re lucky they’ll one day hear this song and recall the smell of turkey bacon…frying in a pan.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “I Guess That’s Why They Call It the Blues” is a song composed and performed by Elton John, with lyrics by Bernie Taupin and Davey Johnstone. It was released in 1983 and reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. The author remembers first hearing the song on 98FM Philadelphia through a portable radio, while playing with her brother in her grandparents’ backyard in Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

Jen Oct 3 2015 rev1

Jen Maidenberg
is a professional writer and editor living in Israel. She is a candidate (2015) for a Master of Arts from the Shaindy Rudoff Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Bar-Ilan University. Her creative nonfiction column, “My Time, Your Place” is published bimonthly in District Lit, an online journal of writing and art based in Washington, D.C.

bilyfury Wondrous Place
by Cath Bore

It is early morning and Liverpool is opening its eyes, ready to wake up, stretch, yawn, and welcome the day.

There’s a tune, a breathy bass riff. A voice, smooth and clear, high but not too much.

I found a place full of charms.

I hear the voice singing, and I know who it is. Billy Fury. I know the song too. Wondrous Place.

I know the singer and I know the song but what I don’t know is where it is coming from at ten to eight on a Tuesday morning in Liverpool city centre. So I follow the song. It takes me to a pub, the old boozer type, doors flung wide open. I near and hear singing, a voice on top of Billy’s. It is thin, slightly shrill, out of tune and time. I peer inside.

The pub’s cleaner in her apron is dancing with her mop, humming. Billy Fury sings to her from the jukebox. She’s seventy-odd with crab-apple skin, turned girlish. She’s smiling, eyes closed, slow dancing. It’s beautiful.

I wanna stay and never go away –

Wondrous place.

She dances with Billy Fury every morning, I think. I hope. Now, I do too.

Cath Bore June 2015
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cath Bore is a writer based in Liverpool, U.K., currently writing a novel and lots of flash fiction. Her website is


Aretha at the GAP
by Beth Cooley

And I slide back thirty years to a yellow house where Jeannie sets the needle in the track. First song on the album.

“Just listen to her, girl.” Barefoot, cutoffs, pink halter top, Jeannie shimmies, punches the air with her elbows. “What you need is right there on the record player.”

I coil the telephone wire around my fingers, drag the receiver from its cradle and across the table. He is one week and two days out of my bed. Banished for lying again. Jeannie taped an index card to the white princess phone: DO NOT CALL in red Sharpie.

“Step one. Admit you have a problem, yeah?” Her mother is in AA. Just a little bit, just a little bit. I say nothing, suffer chronic addiction, acute withdrawal. Crave his smell—bonfire and wet pine needles. Burlap voice brushing my ear. Blue eyes cutting like a broken bottle neck.

“Don’t even think about it.” She uncoils my fingers, takes the phone away from me. Spells R-E-S-P-E-C-T off key as she recradles the receiver. When the song ends she drops the needle again, lifts me to standing.

“Dance with me,” she says. “Let’s dance.”

PHOTO: The author in North Carolina (1977).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I think most women can relate to Aretha Franklin’s rendition of “Respect.” Especially young women who suffer from crushing, spellbinding, debilitating romance—like I did so many years ago. I love this song! And it still makes me want to dance!

beth c

Beth Cooley
grew up in North Carolina and now lives in the Inland Northwest. She has published poetry, fiction, essays and two YA novels. She teaches at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.

survive 45

Did You Think I’d Crumble?
by Steve Bogdaniec

My parents rented the upstairs of their two-flat to my dad’s youngest brother and his new wife. Dad worked nights, so Mom was often home alone with me. One night, Mom heard one of the most easily identifiable lines ever recorded coming from the floor above:

“At first I was afraid / I was petrified / kept thinking I could never live without you by my side.”

When the song was over, Mom heard those lines again. And then again, and again, over and over—for weeks. Mom says that she knew my uncle wouldn’t be married much longer. He wasn’t.

The best guess is that I was two or three at the time, but the way Mom tells the story, I feel like I remember it. I imagine my aunt playing her 45 of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, looking for strength and empathy, pissed at my uncle, hurt, crying, cursing, the song reaching the end, standing up and putting the needle of the record player back to the beginning, stinging, scared, but made resolute by the power of the song, playing it in full again, soothed and enflamed by its charisma, its beat, its call to action, again, reaching to her, propping her up, again, singing only to her, she thought, although that was wrong—Mom and I heard it too.

PHOTO: The author at around age three looking up the stairs.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Steve Bogdaniec is a writer and teacher, currently teaching at Wright College in Chicago. Steve has had poetry and short fiction published in numerous journals, most recently Eclectica Magazine, One Sentence Poems, and Blood Lotus.

folsom prison

Make Me a Pallet
(Down on Your Floor)
by Jason Tinney

A purple surgical glove half-full of melted ice covers my right eye. Coy, the lap steel player, is driving the van. We pull into the La Quinta. He’s a 6’ 2” stud. Smiles a lot. No problem with the ladies. I don’t even know his real name.

“You going to be okay?” he asks.


Tina, the fiddle player, misses my retina by an inch. She drives her bow into my eye socket during “Folsom Prison Blues.” Knocks the harmonica right out of my mouth as I’m about to break from the gate and solo on the caboose of: “I know I can’t be free, but those people keep a-movin’, and that’s what tortures me.”

A woman stands at the foot of the tiny stage at Kitty Hoynes holding a purple surgical glove filled with ice. Swoops in like an angel. The Clara Barton of the pub scene.

Must be a nurse. Shift over, thirsty for a late night drink. Glove had to have been in her purse.

I sit out the last song. Look pretty damn silly wandering around the bar with a purple surgical glove over my eye, looking for the woman just to thank her. She’s gone.

Wasn’t it God who made honky-tonk angels?

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “Make Me a Pallet (Down on Your Floor)” is the first of 10 short stories told in first person, present tense and weave between longer more traditional pieces told in third person, past tense. The “Pallet” pieces take song titles from traditional folk, blues, and country songs. For example, one is titled “Make Me a Pallet (St. James Infirmary).” The pieces follow a traveling harmonica player on tour in Upstate New York. The 20 stories make up the contents of my collection, Ripple Meets the Deep. I’ve been playing music on “the road” for more than 20 years. The performances are great, but what happens offstage is always where the real stories exist.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jason Tinney is the author of Ripple Meets the Deep, which Baltimore Magazine named Best Book of 2015. His previous books are Louise Paris and Other Waltzes (poetry/prose) and Bluebird (short stories/poems). Jason and artist Brian Slagle have collaborated on The Swinging Bridge, a traveling literary and visual arts project since 2004. He cofounded the award-winning music groups, Donegal X-Press (DXP) and The Wayfarers in the late 90s. As an actor, he has appeared in more then 30 stage productions. He has been a contributor to several publications, among them, Baltimore, Style, Gorilla, Her Mind, Urbanite, and Maryland Life, which won the International Regional Magazine Association’s Award of Merit in the category of Culture Feature for his article “The March,” a first-hand account of life on the front-lines with American Civil War re-enactors. Holly Morse-Ellington and Jason co-authored the play, Fifty Miles Away, winner of the Frostburg State University Center for Literary Arts’ One-Act Play Festival 2015. They write and perform music as Limestone Connection. Currently, Jason is writing the script, Girl with Diamonds in Her Eyes: A Cowgirl Musical for Pumpkin Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland. Holly and Jason are co-writing the music and lyrics.

PHOTO: The author, summer 2014, Monrovia, Maryland. Photo by Skye Sadowski-Malcom.