Jacqueline was born and raised in Corpus Christi and graduated from Incarnate Word Academy High School. She is a wife, mother, and lover of all academic disciplines, specifically those involving the English language and writing. Jacqueline works as a Freelance Writer and as an Instructional Consultant for the Stone Writing Center at Del Mar College. She is also a Contributing Writer for The Bend and Inspire Coastal Bend Magazines.
Everywhere I looked, there was red. Then again, red is the universal color of romance and love, and well, I was at a wedding. Ugh. The things I do for my sister. She looked so beautiful and happy in her wedding gown, as the groom spun her in circles, then dipped her back and kissed her on her cherry red lips. Gross. Why do couples have to be so mushy? I shifted my focus to the table where the gold vases held bouquets of flowers in vibrant shades of crimson and burgundy, and the way the color popped off of the black and white table linens was a bold reminder of the absence of love in my life. Thank God for alcohol. The blood-red liquid dancing in the tall crystal goblet that I had been nursing for the past few hours was the only companion I had. It was all I could focus on as I realized that this was probably the 5th wedding I’d been to this year, and I was still alone. I’d already made peace with it…I suppose.
As I looked around the room, people were leaving and the dance floor was dying down, with the exception of the bride and groom and a few other couples, so I took this as my cue to head out. I didn’t realize the degree of my inebriated state until I stood up to walk in my 4” Jimmy Choo’s; it was like watching a drunken horse trotting. I was trying my hardest to walk out without appearing like the train wreck that I was at the moment. I finally found the door and breathed a sigh of relief because I was free from the love in the air that was suffocating me.
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Sitting in the corner
while my world is going dim,
I’m thinking that I hear a voice-
My sanity is wearing thin.
Read the rest in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
Jason Bond is a Corpus Christi native and teaches fourth grade. He lives with his beautiful wife, Rose. When not taking care of his cat and dog, Jason loves to read and write. His hope and dream is that someone else enjoys his imagination.
Brian watched Timmy reach as far as he could under his bed. Imagining his chubby fingers tiptoeing like spider legs over dust-bunny covered Cheetos or long-lost Lego pieces or whatever else might be under there.
“Got it!” Timmy whispered and pulled the tattered shoebox out into the light of the flashlight he had resting on his lap.
The black and yellow box was covered in sunflowers. Although all of that was almost impossible to see through the layers of Scotch tape and endless yards of twine that Timmy had placed around it. Brian, unfortunately, had to help his mom wrap Christmas presents last year and knew all about how much tape to use and where to hold his finger so his mom could tie the bow. But Timmy’s box looked nothing like that.
“It’s in here. I had to wrap it up pretty tight. I didn’t want it getting out. I mean, what if it can get through the cracks somehow, or worse, pop itself open like a Jack-in-the-Box.” Timmy’s voice sounded excited and out of breath even though the two of them were just sitting there quietly on their sleeping bags.
Timmy clutched it tight. Little beads of sweat were making their way down the side of his cheeks. Brian wanted to reach out and grab it out of Timmy’s hands and rip it open to see its contents. Another part of him wanted to either hide under the folds of his sleeping bag and zip it up like a human pupa, or run out of the bedroom and not stop until he was safe across the street and back in his own bed. Finally, after sucking up as much courage as his seven-year-old body could contain, he reached out and asked to hold it.
“Hold on. Let me tell you about how I got it first, and if you still want to hold it, I will let you. But you have to promise me that if you do hold it, you will hold it like it’s a bomb or something like your life depends on it.” Timmy said seriously. His eyes stared at Brian, never blinking.
“Ok then. I was out behind my house, you know where they are putting in all those new apartments. And I was just looking around for stuff. You never know what you might find when they start digging things up. Well, I was hoping to find an arrowhead or maybe some like cool animal bones, when I hear a voice coming from one of the buildings. The walls were barely up, and you could see all of the wires and pipes like the intestines of a huge robot. My dad would tan my behind if he caught me snooping around there, and I was about to high-tail it back home, but there was something in that voice that I just couldn’t walk away from.”
Brian didn’t say a word. He was no longer looking at the box in Timmy’s hands but instead staring into the frightened look on his best friend’s face. The dim light of the flashlight teased the shadows and turned the cozy bedroom into an endless labyrinth of shadows. Brian could hear the air conditioning and the steady rhythmic squeak of the ceiling fan overhead, but other than that, the house was dead silent.
Timmy continued, “I had seen where the workers had been earlier in the day. The place was littered with cigarette butts and Styrofoam cups. That was when I heard the voice of a girl about our age. Sounded like she was playing by herself around the corner. Her voice changed the closer I got to it. Brian, I ain’t kidding. The closer I got to her, and the deeper I walked into the back end of that building, the older the little girl seemed to get. And another thing, it wasn’t getting louder. Before I knew it, I had walked beyond the middle of all that wood and nails and stuff, and still, instead of her voice getting louder and clearer, it was the same faint sound coming from just beyond wherever I was turning.”
Brian now wished that he had gone with his second option and just ran home when he had the chance. It was too late now. He was in deep. Timmy had been his best friend since kindergarten, and he had never seen him like this. The whole time he shared his story, Timmy’s voice was never above a whisper, but Brian didn’t think that it had anything to do with Timmy’s parents downstairs. The fact was that he had never seen his friend scared.
“The old lady, that’s what the voice sounded like at the end, wasn’t talking to me.” Timmy looked down at his box but still told his story to Brian, “It was talking about this. ‘Keep it safe. Keep it safe. Keep it hidden.’ It just repeated those words over and over again.”
Timmy held out the box to show Brian the patch-work taping job that he had done. In barely a whisper, he said, “There is another box inside this one.” He looked around the room cautiously as if someone or something might be trying to listen in to their conversation.
“Wh-wh-what d-d-oes it l-l-look like?” Brian stuttered. The shoebox seemed to shake in Timmy’s hands, and Brian couldn’t tell if it was it was because his friend was scared or whatever it was inside was trying to get out.
“When I turned the corner around a huge stack of lumber, I found the shoebox. The old lady’s voice was whispering about it until the very end, I mean right until the second I saw her. I ain’t kidding Brian. I think I saw her. She was just a mist. She was like the opposite of a shadow. For the life of me, I couldn’t breathe, and my legs wouldn’t move. I was paralyzed, and I could feel my heart beating. I could hear it too. That was when she moved.” His body had become a little ball. He had curled into himself, trying to be as small as he could.
It was Brian who was now paralyzed. His friend’s words hung in the air like a noose, and Brian was afraid that if he did manage to screw up enough courage to look to his left or his right and into the darkness, then whatever was hiding just beyond would reach out, and he would disappear forever.
“Then she turned to look at me. She looked right into my eyes. ‘Never open it. Keep it safe. Keep it hidden,’ she told me in her creepy old lady voice. Then, she just wasn’t there anymore. It was like the wind just blew her away. Not really away, more like apart.”
“So, what’s inside?” Brian asked.
“A smaller box, only it’s not made out of wood. I don’t know what it’s made out of. It’s like it’s made out of like some kind of white stone or rock or something. It was dirty, and it had like this wax seal over the opening. I didn’t know what to do. It was getting late, and I knew that my mom was going to be calling me in for dinner pretty soon, so I just grabbed it and started running. I didn’t stop running until I was inside and upstairs. Mom yelled something to me about running in the house and slamming the door, but I wasn’t listening. I just ran to my room and put the box on my bed.”
Timmy’s posture relaxed a bit, and he leaned back letting a few rays of the flashlight’s beams come between him and his friend.
Brian relaxed too. “So why did you wrap it up like this if it was already sealed up?”
“That’s the thing. The ivory, or bone, or whatever it is made from is cracked all over the place. I was staring at it on my bed, and all I could think about was what if it cracked, or I dropped it? So that is when I came up with this.” Timmy said and held up the box.
Brian didn’t know what was hidden in the white box that was held in the taped and mangled shoebox, and after Timmy’s story he was quite sure that he didn’t want to know, that was until it started to whisper to him in the dark. It had taken what Brian had thought were hours before he was able to fall asleep. He could hear Timmy’s slow and steady breathing from the sleeping bag not too far away and knew that his friend was sound asleep. This was Brian’s first sleepover, and he was so excited that his mom and dad had said yes. His mom thought that he was too young, but his dad had convinced her that he was getting old enough to sleep across the street without the world coming to an end. As Brian lay there sleepless in the dark, he was pretty sure that his mom may have been right.
“Please help me.” the mysterious voice pleaded. Brian sat up straight with the sleeping bag still zipped up tightly around him. To him, it sounded like a child. He couldn’t have been more than three or four. “Let me out.” the toddler’s voice pleaded. Timmy’s light snoring was unaffected by the tiny whisper of a voice coming from the deep corner under his bed. Brian, on the other hand, was wide awake now. The little boy’s voice continued to talk to him.
“Brian, your friend was so nice to bring me home. Please let me out. I’m so scared in here all alone.” His faint words floated like a cloud. No, like a mist.
Brian slowly unzipped his sleeping bag. He should have been more afraid. In fact, he should have shaken his best friend like a cup of Yahtzee dice so they could both have gotten the hell out of there, but instead, he crawled toward the sound. His knees made a shuffling sound across the dark blue nylon of his bag, and he stopped just short of the edge of Timmy’s bed.
“I just want to be free and go home. I miss my mommy and daddy so much. Please, Brian, let me out.” His voice sounded older now. Not louder or stronger, but now he sounded like a boy that could have sat next to him in Mrs. Nelson’s class.
Brian now understood why Timmy had been drawn to the voices that he had heard in the empty construction site. The curiosity drove him forward. No matter how logical it might have been to just run away or wake his friend, the only thing Brian wanted was to get to that box. Luckily, his arms were much longer than his friend’s, so he had no trouble reaching under the bedding and into darkness. Brian looped his index finger around the loose twine and pulled the shoebox to him.
“Timmy lied to you. He opened the box. He just didn’t tell you what was inside, because he didn’t want to share it. He wanted to scare you away from it, so you wouldn’t even try to open it.” The voice became the voice of a teenager. “It’s filled with gold coins. That’s right! It’s filled with gold coins that Billy the Kid himself stole off a stagecoach. It’s worth a fortune.”
Brian had no choice. He had to open the shoebox. He wanted to see what was inside for himself. He wanted his half of the treasure that his so-called best friend was hiding from him. He began to pull and tug on the string that was knotted and bent in around the sunken cardboard. Once he pulled so hard that his elbow hit the corner of the bedpost, and his funny bone screamed back in anger. Brian was afraid that the noise was going to wake Timmy, and his friend would angrily grab all of the coins for himself. When Brian had removed all of the string and had tossed it behind him, he started to work his way around the edges of the box to where Timmy had layered the tape. The tape bunched and tightened as he pulled, but before too long he could see the tiniest of slivers inside revealing the corner of the alabaster container.
This time it was the voice of a man, a voice that reminded Brian of his father. “That’s it, son. You are almost there. I am so very proud of you. You are so brave. Don’t stop now.”
The whispered sounds of the man filled the dead silent bedroom. Brian thought for sure that it would wake Timmy from his deep slumber, but his friend lay there corpse-like. If it wasn’t for the steady movement of his chest, Brian wouldn’t have been too sure. He tossed the mangled black and yellow shoebox on the bed triumphantly and held the cracked treasure in his hands. “What am I doing?” Brian whispered to himself. For the first time since he had been awakened by the eerie voice of a small boy tempting to help him, he realized what he was truly doing. He was just about to toss the box across the room having it shatter and splinter into thousands of minuscule pieces when the spirit spoke to him again.
“Not just gold, but a secret,” the elderly voice crackled. “That’s what this box contains. Don’t turn chicken on me now, boy. Just break the seal, and all will be yours and yours alone.”
Brian had never been good at keeping secrets, and more so, he hated to be called a chicken. He no longer cared about the misty figure that had shown his friend the box and the warning that it had whispered to him. He no longer cared about making too much noise and waking Timmy up as he slept soundly just two feet away. All Brian DID care about was getting to the golden treasure and the secret that he now held in his hands. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more upset he got knowing that Timmy was trying to keep it all to himself. So much for his so-called best friend.
When Brian broke the seal, immediately the ivory box began to glow, first a wonderful golden yellow, and then a bright white. “It’s the gold!” Brian thought. The once dark room filled with radiance. “It’s beautiful.” And then the box began to feel warm, not just warm, but hot. The wax seal began to melt and drip like a candle onto Brian’s sleeping bag. Finally, Brian couldn’t take the searing heat any longer and dropped the box at his knees. That was when he noticed the thin white mist that seemed to slowly swirl and circle. It originated from the bright white rectangle and like a ghostly tornado quickened and swirled clockwise to the ceiling.
“Yessssss! Freeeeee!” the entity hissed.
The objects on the shelf behind Brian began to shake slowly and then more rapidly and then after teetering back and forth, fall off the edge. T-ball trophies and books crashed to the floor. The lamp on Timmy’s desk rattled and then fell onto the carpet. The specter wailed and spun around the room. It seemed to float through certain objects and smash into others. The tail end would turn to a fine mist and pass through the bedding, while other parts would throw clothes and toys like projectiles toward the bedroom walls.
“What did you do?” screamed Timmy. Now wide awake, his eyes were transfixed on the ghost that filled the room. “What did you do?”
“I-I-I wanted the gold coins. You w-w-weren’t going to share.” Brian mumbled.
“What are you talking about? Brian, what did you do? I was supposed to keep it safe.” Timmy was yelling and tears streamed down his reddened cheeks.
The spirit seemed to solidify the more and more it flew around Timmy’s bedroom. The blue and white striped sheets on the bed were caught up in the swirl of mist. The room became a roaring echoing tornado of debris. There was a frantic pounding on the bedroom door as Timmy’s mother and father tried to get inside to protect their little boy, but it was too late. Their muffled screams coming from the hall seemed miles away. Timmy’s parents were helpless.
Brian picked up the open box at his knees and held it up to the sky as if the creature would have somehow changed its mind and returned to its prison. Although the sides of the box burned his hands and begged him to let go, Brian held fast and determined. At the same time, Timmy stood at the door in his pajamas turning and twisting the doorknob in every direction hoping against hope that it would open as tears blurred his vision.
“I’m sorry! I didn’t know!” Brian yelled to Timmy from across the bedroom.
Everything seemed to happen at once. The ghostly spirit shattered the window causing shards of glass to shoot around the room almost blinding Brian. He screamed at the entity and managed to cover his eyes with the sleeve of rocket ship pajamas. The bedroom door burst open as Timmy’s mother and father fell into the room almost crushing Timmy underneath them. Timmy thankfully had his soaking wet hands slip off the knob causing him to fall on his tailbone into the soft padding of his sleeping bag.
Then the room went silent. The cool night breeze from outside blew the curtains inward and chilled the sweat on Brian’s brow. Timmy’s father helped Timmy to his feet, and they all stood to stare at the broken window. His mother bent down to pick up the alabaster box with the broken wax seal.
“Keep it safe,” Timmy said, but his voice trembled, like he knew it was too late.
I was back at the same old Stripes Market trying to find something, anything with a label. Anything at all that I didn’t have to spend thirty minutes prying open just to find out that it was filled with mushy yams or even worse, cranberry sauce that looks like the inside of the can when you shake it out. They used to say to never eat from a dented can because somehow that makes all the dangerous lead or tin or whatever leak out into the food, but now that is all that is left. I didn’t make it through all these months just to die of lead poisoning or tetanus.
She was right outside the window. Sure, the window was filthy, but I could still make out her gentle child-like smile and the way she focused that smile at me before she disappeared. Her raven hair was matted, oily, and thick, but so beautiful in the way that it still managed to blow in her face.
Deep Breath. Everything is going to be okay. I AM NOT GOING CRAZY! I know she is real. She has to be.
After I saw her, I carefully placed the can of “mystery meat” back to the dust-covered shelf and as quickly as I could, made my way to the front entrance. I remember when they would magically open with a swish when you stepped on the mat as if you were a brave knight entering an ancient castle filled with mystery, but there is no more magic and all of the mystery leads you straight to horror. Now as the noon-time slipped quickly into the afternoon, I had to slide myself sideways through the cracks in the shards of long broken glass. I reminded myself that you can’t make too much noise. That’s the way they find you. That’s how you end up one of them. But all that silence was for nothing because she was nowhere to be found. Not even footprints in the dirt of the empty sidewalk. I could have sworn that she pressed her hand against the glass, but not even a fingerprint. How is that even possible?
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Javier Villarreal holds a BA and MA in Spanish from Pan American University, Edinburg, Texas, and a PhD in Hispanic Linguistics from The University of Texas at Austin, Texas. His major fields of interests are Languages in Contact (Spanish and English), Mexican American Folklore, and poetry. His works have been published by academic and literary journals. His first book of poetry Entre lluvia, canto y flor was published in 2008. He translated Versos para no dormir (Leticia Sandoval), edited Voz de Amor (Servando Cárdenas), and is currently working on his second book of poetry. After 30 years in the classroom, Dr. Villarreal retired and lives in Corpus Christi with his family.
cada remanso de luz que asoma
entre la densa niebla de tus ojos.
Cuando tus manos
perciben mi luz resplandece
una flor en tu rostro.
A veces, ilumino tus sombras,
hilvano tus sueños, silencio tus murmullos,
enjuago de tus ojos el polvo de la noche.
From its banks
the willows holding
the water with open
arms and sprawling...
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Jimmy Willden is an award-winning writer and filmmaker. He is also an American musician and composer. After beginning his career in music in 1998, Willden has since forayed into the world of filmmaking, winning several festival awards as director and screenwriter. He is also an accomplished journalist.
At some point, the alcohol in my bloodstream subsided long enough for me to become
slightly coherent. I found that I was in some small inn, somewhere in Colorado, sitting in a chair
by the window. The blinds were open, and I was just staring off at the open Colorado skies that
lay beyond Interstate 76.
I blinked, and rolled my head around, but my useless body couldn’t stand the weight of it;
it fell to rest against my shoulder, as I stared at my feet. On the floor next to my bare feet was an
empty liter of whiskey. I tried to breathe, but the rotten smell of dried vomit permeated my sense
of smell, and instead, I gagged.
JoAnn Sanderson was born in Iowa, received a Masters degree in English Education at Southern Illinois University, and taught many years in Illinois public schools. After she retired, she researched possible places to re-locate and made the wise decision to move to Corpus Christi, Texas. Recently she became interested in writing very short stories (flash fiction/micro-fiction).
George McDougal was seated on a brown leather chair talking to his friend, Sammy Lomax, seated on a comfortable recliner on his right. “Sammy,” George asked, “Have you ever noticed the wood panel above my fireplace? That’s Aesop’s adage, 'A man is known by the company he keeps' carved into the panel. My parents gave it to me thirty years ago when I was going through the typical rebellious, existential-angst stage during my teenage years. I’m sure my parents gave it to me to teach me a character building moral lesson.
"I admit that some of the members of my company are not worth the trouble they cause me. Maybe, I thought, it was time to make some cuts. I made a list of my companions’ behaviors, both those whom I consider beneficial to my general welfare and those whom I consider liabilities. I set out to evaluate whose companionship I should encourage and whose I should avoid. I put the company I keep in pairs to show the contrasting behaviors they exhibit. I call them my dueling duos.
"Take Juán, for instance. He recently bought a $225 pair of athletic shoes which he wears only to walk from the parking lot to and through Al’s Athletic Attire. Aaron, on the other hand, walks three miles a day in dilapidated sneakers held together with duct tape.
"Then there’s Sean. He eats small portions of nutritious food recommended in each category of the USDA’s food pyramid. But Abdullah heaps his plate at Pete’s Pyramid of Food Cafeteria and sneaks extra desserts in a voluminous tote bag he carries for these binges.
Bean-counting Isaac monitors his investment portfolio, bank accounts, and credit card balances daily. David wakes up on the morning of April 14th each year feeling the breath of his nemesis, the IRS, breathing down his neck.
"Suave Jeremy speaks articulately and listens respectfully to others. However, Pundit Patricia considers conversations as opportunities to deliver lengthy monologues about her pet chihuahuas, the state of the union, and the rudeness and lack of responsibility shown by children born after 1959.
"Let’s not forget Let’s-Go-Green Ralph. He extols the merits of conserving our natural resources and reducing consumer consumption while Celeste uses the recycle bin to store leftover kitchen tiles and old tee shirts shredded into rags.
"Add to the list, Eugene. He furnishes his home in the minimalist style of a Buddhist meditation retreat and cringes when he visits Diego who fills his home with fifty fishing rods, bookshelves stuffed with DOS operating manuals, and high school football trophies.
"These are a mere sampling of my companions and their behaviors. They whisper to, shout at, advise, compliment, and reprimand each other and sometimes, me! But, you know, Sammy, I realized all these comrades are endearing, and I don’t want to cut any of them out of my life. Of course, some of them need to be kept at bay at times. But cut them off completely? No!
"When I went to my weekly appointment with my shrink, I told him about my evaluations and my conclusion. I thought at first that he was impressed with my analysis. But all he said was, ‘George, I think we’re making some progress, but I’d like to increase the dosage of your meds for awhile.’
"Frankly, Sammy, I think my shrink needs one of his own. I’m onto his game. He wants me needy and lonely so he can add anti-depressants to my pharmaceutical arsenal.”
George looked toward the empty recliner on his right and asked, “So what do you think about my evaluations and conclusions, Sammy? Pretty spot on, don’t you think?”
Friends, relatives, and acquaintances thought Maria was a clever lady. She enjoyed devising techniques to keep the romance alive in her relationship. She told them, “A man likes fantasy and intrigue, so I find ways to keep him interested. Variety is the spice of life, they say.” She called one of the techniques she used, “the greeting.” Each time he arrived, she would use it...
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Hailing from humid ,sunny southern Florida, John's interest in the strange, melancholy, and macabre began when he chanced upon a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula at the local library at age 12. More books would soon follow starting with Edgar Allen Poe's works and the bizarre, dark realism of Kafka. It was H.P. Lovecraft that most gained Mr. Balfour's attention, however, upon leaving him quite unsettled after reading "The Call of Cthulhu". Later, he realized it was because of the bleak implications for humanity present in Lovecraft's work and the impressively oppressive mood he was able to create. John seeks to emulate the philosophy of cosmic horror in his own writing by creating characters whose horror comes just as much from the mundane world, as the metaphysical one. buy his work
Martin Gerber was a small man, always dressed in a white shirt, grey pants, and a rather ugly green tie with pictures of golf clubs covering it that his wife had gotten him. He did not like golf, or any sport for that matter, but it had been a birthday present, and he had little care for fashion, so he wore it exclusively in appreciation as much as apathy. Large black-framed glasses were the only thing that stood out on him, though they were not really large so much as they only seemed so on his face. His accounting job and routine schedule to and from it completed the picture of an uneventful life.
Now, small, unassuming men need not have small, unassuming minds. And an observer might believe Martin to have a fantastic intellect, or imagination despite his appearance. They might believe such a thing as they stared at Martin drinking a cup of tea on the bench in front of the bookstore where he spent his lunch hour, his line of vision fixing on nothing in particular for very long, inevitably ending up somewhat north of his dull brown shoes, and they would be completely wrong. There were no great gears turning under his thinning hair and no big ideas bursting out of his tightly-shut mouth. He had little to say on any subject outside his work, of which he was not that interested in discussing, and did not feel inferior because of this. Everything was as it should be in his eyes. One had to be economic not just in action but in thought, and if anything he said could be classed as a real opinion, it was that people wasted life on pointless thought. In this way, he largely ignored everything superfluous to his little corner of the world.
His most effective way of accomplishing this was a decision to never consider anything outside his home and office too closely, which, on this particular Tuesday, he went against. It was a normal day in all respects; he had finished with his numbers and was on his way to the bookstore, stopping first at the cafe next to it for his tea. What made him stop and examine the bench was the sign placed on it stating that it was wet with varnish. Wet. With. Varnish. For some reason he could not process the meaning of those words and stared at the bench uncomprehendingly, realizing after a minute that he had never actually looked at the bench he sat on every day, thinking of it as a thing with a name. It was just something hard he sat on. Now he could not stop looking.
Not only could he not comprehend the words, but the bench was something utterly alien as well. What was it? Tentatively, he reached out and gripped the backrest, then pulled away from its cool, sticky surface, wiping his hand absently on his white shirt, leaving a crimson stain. Martin did not notice the manager of the bookstore looking at him from the door, nor the woman behind him trying to decide if she should attempt to get by him or not. He did not notice anything but the bench with his handprint on it, and could not stop wondering why it existed. The only thing clear in the quickly forming fog invading his mind was that he would not be getting back to work.
John Meza writes poems -- and builds bridges. Most Sundays he helps feed the homeless people in Artesian Park in Corpus Christi. He believes in tacos, not bombs. A powerful speaker, he often reads his work at open mics and other events.
I asked her why
She was coloring
There was a
Picture of Jesus
I told her
The burnt sienna
No one ever uses
The burnt sienna
I walked across
Of colonial blood
From a land
With an American
Coup d etat
To a forgotten God
When I arrived
At the border
I pressed myself
Against the wall
Trying to knock it down
With the beating
Of my heart
By One Deep
copyright John Meza
I once wrote a poem
On a pillar
Beneath a bridge
In Bishop, Texas
By dipping my finger
In mud repeatedly
As a pen
It was about a star
On my tongue
Throat of comets
And how I danced
To save my soul
Erased it a week later
At the time
The poem and I
By One Deep
Copyright John Meza
John Meza adds, "This is a true story about a poem I wrote on a pillar beneath a bridge, with mud as ink. It happened in November of 2016 in Bishop Texas when I was building bridges there, on hwy 77. I never wrote the poem down, other than on the pillar that day, but remember it was an amazing feeling when I wrote it, knowing it would be washed away.
copyright John Meza
Jody Heymann is a fiction writer and has been living in Corpus Christi, Texas for most of her life. She is a retired Emeritus Professor from Del Mar College. Jody taught English Literature for over 42 years. Jody and her husband, Dr. Hans Heymann have contributed greatly to the community in which they lived. Dr. Heymann even brought the first blood bank to Corpus Christi. Jody’s books, Greystone’s Dilemma and The Lady Killers: A Thriller are entertaining reads.
When a popular Texas State Senator running for reelection hires an assassin to solve his problem with a demanding young lover, he gets more than he bargained for--a murderer who enjoys his work, a media eager to exploit the scandal, and two detectives hired by the coed's parents to find their daughter...
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Jon Gregory worked for The Fort Worth Star-Telegram for 18 years. His poems, short stories and essays have been published in The American Dissident, The Dallas Review, Contexas, The DFW Poetry Review, the Austin International Poetry Festival's annual anthology, in Map of Austin Poetry e-zine, and elsewhere. He has a B.A. from Texas Lutheran University, where he won two short-story prizes from the English department and was associate editor of the literary magazine; and an M.A. from Corpus Christi State University (now Texas A&M-CC).
As my cool, efficient car
Cut a metal swath
Through a brisk night
Of early spring,
I saw a muscled mastiff,
A strong, joyful machine,
Dart across the road
And narrowly out of peril.
Suddenly I saw his mate,
A virtual clone,
Eyes dazed and gleaming
With the pleasure of the chase.
I dared not stop
To see the living
Complete the race alone.
Joshua Espitia is an award-winning author of short fiction, playwright, journalist, and former managing editor of The Windward Review. You can find his political commentary, satire, and God-awful attempts at comedy in The Vent Daily on a semi-regular basis. His poetry can be found on the digital journals South Broadway Ghost Society and Spank the Carp, and in the upcoming issues of Voices Arts and Literature Journal and The Windward Review. Joshua resides in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he works as an educator with the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History.
Please insert or swipe your card.
Wait that breathless few seconds
for approval or denial, validation
of your financial well-being, your
fiscal responsibility, an adulthood
confirmed by your ability to buy
this fancy loaf of San Francisco
sourdough instead of plain, white
Wonder Bread for that sandwich
waiting to be built in the kitchen
of the efficiency you worked so
hard to afford-
The buck eighteen in loose change
jingling around in your jean pocket
will buy store-brand sandwich bread.
And the rent isn’t due until Tuesday.
Read more like this in Corpus Christi Writers 2019
One way or another, we all have to find what best fosters the flowering of our humanity in this contemporary life, and dedicate ourselves to that. ~Joseph Campbell
Today was a high gravity day -- very high gravity.
If I had to hazard a guess, I would say today's gravity was at least 19.394 m/s2 in most of my house, and a solid 21.0 m/s2 in the immediate vicinity of my couch.
There is only one thing to do with gravity on a high-gravity day: defy it.
So I trudged to the grocery store.
Really, I just wanted to go to the craft store that is in the same plaza as the grocery store. Walking to the craft store to buy a pair of pinking shears for a project that is impossible to start due to the Earth's current anomalously high gravitational pull seemed kind of silly, so after I bought the pinking shears I walked the additional 50 or hundred yards or whatever to the grocery store. I bought organic romaine lettuce, organic blueberries, a single conventionally grown radish (already scrubbed the crap outta that sucker), and an orange flavored Lacroix fizzie water.
Normally I just drink filtered tap water, but trudging over crusty snowbanks next to a highway chock full of speeding drivers too self-absorbed and self-important to slow down in order not to spray me with road grime made me a tiny bit thirsty and I'd forgotten to bring my water bottle and the snowflakes were tiny and falling much too fast for me to catch enough of them on my tongue to quench my multihazard-induced thirst.
I hate high gravity days, but there is no better day than a high gravity day to defy gravity.
It is never too soon to prepare oneself mentally for less than desirable circumstances, therefore I offer this bit of pedantry:
The word spring refers to a geocentric view of the astronomical seasons, specifically that instant when an imaginary plane dividing night and day is perpendicular to our Earth’s equator. That is all spring is; spring is not a deadline for the absence of snow.
The latin roots for equinox are aequi- and noct meaning equal and night. The latin roots for eviction are e- and vincere meaning out and conquer. In 15.3 days the celestial event vernal equinox will occur. There simply is no heavenly event called vernal eviction.
The lush greenery we northerners miss so very deeply will not necessarily, suddenly, recover its property from the snow — by legal action or by any other means.
I am not running late, I am simply following a calendar more astronomically-based than most people are aware they could be following.
According to JennyAstronomy (not a real thing), which of course features heavy doses of JennyMath (a potentially scary thing, although even less real than JennyAstronomy), New Year New You 2019 starts with the New Moon on January 5 at 8:28 pm.
If you feel like you've already ucked fup your resolution(s) fewer than 24 hours into 2019, fear NOT! The BEST time to begin any new endeavor is the time at which the Moon gets herself New.
I am not procrastinating my resolutions; I am simply patiently waiting for the most advantageous moment to begin.
There are only just a handful.
They are specific.
They are realistic.
Like last year's resolutions, this year's were chosen for their potential to help me to achieve My Ultimate Goal.
Jill Hand is an award-winning fantasy writer. Her novels include White Oaks, Rosina and the Travel Agency, and The Blue Horse. Follow her: https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B06Y4K5JWC?fbclid=IwAR0LkfrwNwKqlHAxuFF6WU6fLAifZrc3itMhE4AZ47nnzwMDt6CcHycqht8
One Thanksgiving my mother made a turkey out of Spam. I'm not sure why she did it; she could have gone to Hinck's and bought a freshly killed turkey the way she always did, but instead she chose to craft one out of multiple cans of Spam. She may have got the idea from one of the women's magazines that flourished at the time.They had all kinds of weird recipes back then, things involving aspic and fondue and marshmallows stuck together to form snowmen with chocolate chips for eyes and licorice whips for scarves. It was food as art rather than things intended to be eaten, and my mother was an amateur artist, the daughter of a portrait painter and a clothing designer. Art in the blood, as Sherlock Holmes noted, is liable to take the strangest form. In Mom's case it took the form of crafts, crocheted ponchos and macrame plant-holders and quilts and upholstery and once, notably, a Spam turkey. While it looked uncannily like a roast turkey, carved drumsticks and all, it tasted like Spam, which wasn't what the rest of us wanted for Thanksgiving dinner. There was an angry scene, with tears and recriminations and then we all went to a restaurant. It has since become one of my favorite Thanksgiving memories. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
Facebook thread started by Jill Hand, with comment from Mary Holland.
JILL HAND: While working on the new book I think about books that don't exist but I I wish that someone had written. Here are two:
-- Michael Makes a Friend (For ages 8 and up) Michael is lonely until he accidentally summons the demon Askanzel. Together they have many adventures as Michael mercilessly slays his enemies with Askanzel's help.
-- Christmas at Holly Berry Farm (Romance) Shy Jennifer Pollard leaves her job as a paralegal at a New York law firm to take over her Aunt Daisy's New Hampshire book store. She meets Sheriff David Clifford, a handsome widower, and together they embark on an exciting project: producing exceptionally pure methamphetamine for the grateful citizens of Cobbs Corners.
MARY HOLLAND:I’d like a book where the old grandmother turns out to be the Chosen One. She and the dragon run off together, open a coffee shop, and live happily ever after. No one saves the world but meh, who cares.
Chapter 1: The Road Rocket
Three days before the murder a lemon yellow Lamborghini Aventador SuperVeloce swung into the parking lot of Buzzy’s General Store in Cobbs, Georgia, at fifty miles per hour, trailed by a plume of blood-red dust. Crows perched in the loblolly pines cawed in panic and took wing, startled by the throaty shriek from the exhaust and intake at 4,000 rpms.
The car slewed sideways as the driver fought for control. For a moment it appeared it might keep on sliding until it smashed into the police cruiser parked in front. Sun glare on the windscreen made it impossible to see who was behind the wheel. Whoever it was drove like a madman. What sort of emergency could have occasioned such haste?
The Lamborghini lurched to a stop a scant three feet shy of T-boning the cruiser. A fan of gravel kicked up by the big Gallardo tires clattered against the side of the cruiser with a sound like shrapnel hitting a tin roof.
The store’s screen door flew open and smacked against the ice machine, which was situated too close to the front door when it was installed, back in 1983. Gordon Buzzy had considered moving it, but he died before he could get around to it. His son, Gordon Jr., inheritor of his father’s kingdom, which amounted to the decrepit general store and the living quarters behind it, likewise thought of moving it a little farther to the right.
It goes without saying, Gordon Buzzy, Jr., not exactly being a coiled spring of industriousness, that he too would die without moving the ice machine, as would his son and his son, and so on, until either Buzzy’s went out of business or the world came to an end, whichever came first.
Boyce County Sheriff’s Deputy Ewell Haskins emerged onto the wooden porch, primed for action. In his left hand was a partially consumed moon pie. With his right he unsnapped the leather guard over the Smith & Wesson M&P .40 in his service holster. The screen door thwacked shut behind him. Above it a hand-lettered sign warned anyone having the effrontery to take the Lord’s name in vain not to expect a warm welcome at Buzzy’s, where bait, tackle, beer and sundries could be purchased between the hours of 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. every day except Sundays and major holidays.
Haskins stood open-mouthed, staring at the yellow roadster.
It looked like something from a future century, at once sleek and angular. “Hot damn,” he whispered, spying the orange and black New York license plate. A Yankee! Driving recklessly! Perhaps the Yankee speed demon was under the influence of drugs. From what Haskins understood, a large percentage of the Yankee population customarily went around hopped up to the eyeballs. If such was the case he would soon be a very sorry Yankee indeed.
Haskins licked his lips like a dog smelling steak. The deputy still felt the sting of the conflict that a certain type of white Southerner refers to as the War of Northern Aggression. Arresting a rich Yankee who was endangering the citizens of Cobbs by ramming the roads in what amounted to a deluxe hot rod would soothe that sting considerably. It might also put Haskins in line to become the next sheriff, when the current sheriff either retired or dropped dead of the heart attack that must surely be coming to a man who weighed close to four hundred pounds and who stuffed his face with fried chicken like it was about to be banned by the FDA. Haskins rolled his eyes heavenward and offered a silent prayer to the almighty to please bring about a vacancy for the position of sheriff as swiftly as was convenient. Thank you and Amen.
Haskins squinted at the mysterious vehicle through a shimmer of heat. It was such a bright yellow it made his eyeballs throb. Who’d want a car that gaudy color? Cars should be black, white, gray, or blue, in that order. It was permissible for pickup trucks to be red; that signified a certain self-confident, assertive masculinity, but red sports cars were looking for trouble, their drivers just begging to be given a speeding ticket. A yellow road rocket like this one was utterly and flagrantly wrong, to Haskins’ way of thinking.
John Swinburn called Corpus Christi home from the time he was five years old until he graduated from Richard King High School in 1972. Corpus Christ was where he developed a framework for understanding the world. He earned his Bachelor of Art’s degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and eventually formed an association management company with his wife. Since his retirement, Swinburn has used his time to write, relax, and restructure his world view and perspective on life, a work in progress. He and Janine live in the Ouachitas in central Arkansas. Swinburn posts regularly on his blog at www.johnswinburn.com. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” he says of his blog. “One day I may use it as a journal, the next as a repository for my fiction or poetry, and the next an outlet for an odd mixture of left-leaning and libertarian political rants.”
Early that morning, at daybreak, a shallow, nearly opaque layer of water-hugging mist flowed in through the quiet marina. Faith watched it roll in, a slow-motion wave of dense wax sliding in from the open water. It was an odd fog bank, low and creamy, just a few feet above the surface. The masts and decks of boats in the marina were visible, but everything below deck remained hidden. That impenetrable layer of light grey concealed the boardwalk, too, leaving only an orderly cluster of boats rising from a dull, fictile grey cloud.
No one would be foolish enough to venture out in that fog, Faith reasoned, so she thought she could safely assume hers would be the only boat on the open water. She could see the lights of only one other boat. She slogged through the knee-high cloud along the wooden planks between the slips, blind to the boardwalk, so she judged her position by staying equidistant from the boats on either side, safely away from the dock’s edge.
On a clear day, the loud chatter of seagulls would have broken the stillness of the early morning air. Small flocks of pelicans would have glided a few feet above the surface of the water in search of breakfast. The air would have been heavy with the scent of salt water and seaweed. But on this foggy morning, the birds were waiting for better visibility. Silence enshrouded the boats and the marina and beyond, where open water slept beneath a heavy veil. The sweet aromas of salt and fish filled Faith’s nostrils, though the fog muted those scents of the sea.
Until she had moved to the island a decade earlier, Faith had never set foot on a sailboat. In ten years’ time, though, she had become an accomplished sailor, learning much of what she knew by watching other people sail, reading, and watching YouTube videos. Repetition of the sailor’s art, too, contributed to her skills and built her into a strong and powerful mariner. Open water represented liberty to Faith, freedom from the stifling regimens she associated with life back on the U.S. mainland, the boredom she had so loathed that she had abandoned it, at age forty-six, for the island life.
Her boat’s slip was at the far end of the marina, the very last one on the northwest side.
As she climbed aboard Norteña, her 28-foot Catalina, she heard a voice. “Miss! Miss! You goin’ out now? Too much fog, Miss! Better wait.”
She couldn’t see him, but she recognized the voice as Lucius Labade, the de facto manager of the marina who possessed neither the official title nor salary that would normally accompany the role.
“Hi, Lucius! Nobody else is going to be out in this fog. I’ll be careful!”
“Oh, Miss, you never know ‘bout that water. Better safe, Miss. Better safe. I think you wait until fog lifts, okay?” His voice was closer now, but she still couldn’t see him.
“I appreciate your concern, Lucius, I really do. But I’ll be fine. Don’t you worry.”
Suddenly, the little man appeared in front of her, his face directly in front of and level with her breasts.
“Miss, please listen; wait just awhile, okay?”
His hot breath, which she felt through the mesh fabric of her bikini top, startled her. He was just inches away, close enough that he had to raise his eyes and tilt his head to see her face.
“Lucius, you know I’m not going to wait, don’t you? I promise, I’ll be fine.”
“Oh, Miss, I know you one hard-headed woman. I wish you listen to Lucius this time. This fog not like normal. This too thick.”
“You’re a sweet old man, Lucius. I love you for worrying about me! I’m going to be just fine. I’ll see you in a few hours.”
Lucius, at sixty-four, was not much older than Faith. Sixty-four years of salt water and sun had stolen the youth from his skin, replacing it with ragged ancient leather and black dots, lesions of unknown but apparently benign origin.
Faith stood in stark contrast to the island native. Her toned body commanded hungry stares from men. Their undisguised lust was the only truly unpleasant aspect of island life. Though rarely did any of them continue making overtures once rebuffed, they did not hide their lechery. That open display reminded Faith of her ex-husband’s unrestrained carnal desire—for her in the early years of their marriage and for anyone else younger and firmer in its waning years.
Lucius acknowledged defeat. “Okay, Miss, but promise be careful. And when you back you tell me, okay?”
“Yes, Lucius, I’ll let you know when I get back. I’ve got my radio with me, too, so if I need help, you’ll hear me calling.”
Faith untied Norteña, coaxed the diesel motor to life, and maneuvered her out of the slip toward open water. Until she could catch a breath of wind, the diesel would be the Catalina’s only power.
Lucius stood, his eyes fixed on her boat, as Norteña slid almost silently away from the marina, the diesel barely growling as it thrust the boat forward. He continued watching until the vessel became a speck in the distance. As he turned his gaze away from the disappearing boat, Lucius noticed another craft slowly move out from the far end of the marina, the only other slip with a light. He squinted to see which boat it was, but it was too far away. He walked in the direction of the slip from which the boat had come. Finally, he determined that the light belonged to the empty slip for Abrázame, a boat owned by a relative newcomer to the island, Drake Pool.
Lucius had overheard Pool making a pass at Faith. Pool, who was in his sixties, thought of himself as a lady’s man. During the two months he had been on the island, he had been involved in several unfortunate incidents in which his “dates” had abruptly left his company after, according to their reports, Drake had groped them. Faith had been one of the women Pool attempted to seduce. Lucius remembered what happened.
“I have no interest in, nor patience for, men like you,” she had said to Pool after he suggested, during a party at the island mayor’s home, that they retire to an empty bedroom. Unwilling to accept her response at face value, Pool continued his pursuit.
“Listen, honey, you know and I know there’s a shortage of men like me on this island and you already know I find you attractive. Do us both a favor and dispense with the obligatory objections because, you know, I don’t take no for an answer.”
Faith’s eyes flashed and a brilliant red fireball ignited her cheeks. “Your conceit is astonishing, especially in light of the fact that neither your intellect nor your looks are doing you any favors. I am absolutely delighted there are no other men like you on this island, because we islanders loathe dealing with trash! Now, you will take no for an answer, Mr. Pool, and if I must give you that answer again, you will regret moving to this island! Do I make myself clear?”
Pool smirked. “Oh, yes ma’am. I know exactly what you’re saying. Enjoy the rest of the parry, uh, I mean party.”
Lucius hadn’t heard the entire exchange, but he had been at the party and heard enough of the words and the way they were exchanged to know of Faith’s displeasure with Pool. Lucius hadn’t liked Pool from the moment he met the man. Pool had always been mean to Lucius, talking down to him, belittling him. Lucius glanced back at the slip where Faith’s boat had been, then turned again toward Pool’s empty slip.
“Best see about this,” he muttered, his brow furrowing. He looked toward the slip that held his own boat. At first, his movements were measured and slow, but as he continued along the boardwalk, he picked up speed. By the time he reached the section of the docks where his boat was moored, his pace was as close to a run as his old body could do.
“Dammit, this not good, I just know is not good!” he said aloud. He unwound the ropes from the cleats on the port and starboard sides of his boat, both stern and bow, then pushed away from the dock with a long pole. His little boat, half the size of Faith’s, drifted a few feet into the pea soup fog; he started his electric trolling motor and steered the craft around the protective jetty and into open water, following the disrupted fog bank like a river.
Twenty minutes later, Lucius began to see signs that the fog was lifting, or perhaps simply melting into the surf. The morning sun was high enough to burn off the top of the bank. A light breeze, the sun’s gift every morning when air began to warm, blew away the remnants of the fog is short order.
Though he welcomed the breeze, Lucius wasn’t happy that the disrupted fog, which had left a bread-crumb trail to follow Pool, evaporated. The only way to follow him would be by sight. He pulled a pair of binoculars from a tray beneath the wheel and scanned the horizon in front of him. Initially, he could see nothing but sky and water, but after another scan he saw something that looked the size of a gnat, a mile or two in front of him. He steadied the binoculars against a wooden brace and looked intently at the gnat.
“Both of ‘em; they both way in front of me.”
Lucius hoisted a single sail and set out in the direction of the gnats on the horizon as fast as the sluggish breeze would take him. Though he knew it probably wouldn’t help, he kept the trolling motor going full blast, as well.
He was surprised that he caught up to the two boats as quickly as he did; in less than forty-five minutes, he was within shouting distance of both vessels, neither of which was under sail. As he neared the two boats, he saw Pool drop anchor. From Norteña, Faith, whose boat was already at anchor, also watched Pool.
When Lucius was just a few hundred feet from the two boats, Pool turned toward him and scowled at his approach.
“Hey, Lucie, what are you doing out here?”
Faith turned in Lucius’ direction, a quizzical look on her face.
“I came to make sure everybody okay; fog bank really bad and could come back. You go back in now, yes?”
“Lucius, don’t you worry about us, we’ll be fine. Mr. Pool seems to want to spend a little time out on the open water with me.” Faith’s smile suggested to Lucius that she was, indeed, fine.
Pool glared at Lucius. “Yeah, Lucie, you don’t need to worry. Go on back to the island. We’ll be fine. We just need a little privacy out here, you know?”
Lucius looked at Pool’s smirk, then at Faith. “You sure? Miss, better if you go back now, okay?”
Pool’s face turned red. “Listen, goddamn it! Get the hell out of here, Lucie! Got it? We want some privacy!”
Lucius looked at Faith again, a deep wrinkle in his brow and his head cocked in disbelief.
“Miss? You sure?”
“Lucius, you’re a sweetheart, but I’ll be fine! I really appreciate you coming all this way, but I’m just fine. I just want a little time with Mr. Pool, away from the prying eyes of the islanders, okay? And, please, let’s keep this between us, all right? No need to start the gossip mill.”
Pool sneered at Lucius. “Go on, Lucie! You heard the lady!”
Lucius started to open his mouth, but clinched his jaw, instead, and began to maneuver his boat away from the two at anchor. As he departed, he shouted back to Faith: “Miss, you tell me when you back, okay?”
“I will, sweetheart! Don’t worry.”
Lucius looked back again. When he saw Faith in the water, swimming toward Pool’s boat, he grimaced. Tears filled his eyes and rolled down his cheeks.
Three hours later, when he saw Norteña come around the jetty, Lucius hurried toward Faith’s boat slip. He waited as she approached the dock, waving at her as she coaxed the boat into the slip.
“I so glad you back, Miss!” he shouted. “I was afraid for you out there with Mr. Pool. You okay?”
“Of course, I’m fine, Lucius. You’re so precious to have worried.”
“I don’t see Mr. Pool boat; he on his way back?”
“Lucius, I asked you if we could keep this to ourselves, right? Can we keep it to ourselves that you saw Pool out there?”
“Yes, Miss, sure. But where is he?”
“You never know what to expect out on open water, especially when you can’t see what’s right in front of you. Lucius, I learned my lesson. I won’t do that again.” She paused and said, “He won’t either.”
Lucius was confused for a moment, but then he began to understand, and the edges of his mouth turned up. She nodded, almost imperceptibly and returned the smile.
“Thank you, Lucius, for looking after me. I’m sorry I sent you away, but I needed to deal with Pool.”
“You my good friend, Miss. Always look after you.”
“And I truly appreciate that, Lucius. Yes, you are my good friend.”
“Mr. Pool not gonna bother you no more.”
“No, Lucius, I don’t think he will,” Faith said, and wrapped her right arm around his shoulders with a squeeze.
copyright John Swinburn
Read more great writing in Corpus Christi Writers 2018: An Anthology