SEXY STRANGER #4 (out of print)

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The Flavour of Aluminium

ALAN C. BAIRD

Hitchhiking to Canterbury, July 15:

The weather is here, wish you were wonderful.

Actually, this climate sucks and I desperately need a break from the weird Limeys. It seems that a large number of hatless, shoe-wearing drivers are way too concerned about their bonnets and boots. Some of these guys discuss a constant craving for fags, even when I try to steer the conversation back to tits and ass.

Later, in a bar, I innocently ask one chick for a ride, but she slaps me silly. Then I discover from her friends that “shut your bloody hole” doesn’t express concern about an existing open wound, although it is a fairly reliable predictor of the serious injuries to follow.

I may return with fewer teeth, but there’s one good thing — everybody calls me “brilliant.”

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Goodbye, Kiki

PATRICIA DUCEY

I didn't know cats could fly. But there is Kiki, crazy akimbo, arcing across a cloudless summer sky. My eyes locking against the sun. My ladder crashing to the ground and Kiki not flying. A soft thud, then cool. Muffled shouts and sirens come and go like waves. Visions flutter across my eyelids like file paths scrolling by on a hard drive. And now Kiki speaks to me, but it feels real, not like one of our games my daughter and I play. She tells me stories about him. “I think Kiki is an Egyptian god, don’t you, Mommy?” she might say, and I would trace the lilt of her chin with my finger as she laughs. Now Kiki says everything will be all right and I follow him, far into an ancient forever.

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Bokchoy Me, Baby

AVITAL GAD-CYKMAN

Bokchoy me now, baby, bokchoy me little ass, me leggy, leggy legs, I love it when you bokchoy me, you granite godly god, you bokchoy lover baby. Hate those pheromone-sneezing unmanly men. Love your natural way, man. Bokchoy my mayflower, no sneeze allowed, yes? I’ll bokchoy you all, totally, completely, lover bokchoy-baby.

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Papa's Friend

LISA McMANN

In a small town there lived a genteel Papa who once was a farmer with ponies; little ones, brown with white speckles. Papa was tired and he sold the farm for thirteen ponies, bought a green house in the village for twelve, lived there with Grammy nearly forty years, and alone, ten.

When papa was ninety and dying, he told the grandchildren about his special neighbor, the cross-dresser.

Papa said how interesting it was one moonlit night when this neighbor shoveled Papa’s driveway, wearing a paisley dress with buttons running down, an auburn wig and snowmobile boots.  Papa said how kind he was when they sat together at the table afterward drinking tea; Papa in his chair and the neighbor in Grammy’s, smoothing wrinkles over his knee, patting melted snowflakes from his wig, noticing a run in his hose.

So Papa fetched nail polish and poured another cup, while the neighbor fixed his lipstick and asked Papa about life on the farm, and the names of the ponies.

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Making Dead Children Smile

PATRICK SEXTON

The big sound comes and your shirt moves with it. The force of it arrives, presses against and moves around you. You watch a fruit cart lift up. You don’t know you are off the ground until you crash back down. Dust is everywhere and the wall with a mural isn’t there anymore. You look around, nothing is the same. Giorgia is picking herself up, looking at you and pointing. You count the kids and try to get them to where Giorgia was pointing. The next sound hits. The kids are screaming, you can’t hear them, your ears are done. You feel the thuds and Giorgia has the kids holding hands again. You grab the last kid’s hand and make it across the square to the basement of a building. You rest against the wall and light a cigarette. The kids are looking at you. You make a funny face and they start laughing. You watch Giorgia. This is our job. We make kids smile, Giorgia, don’t we? Look at them, if the war doesn’t get them the landmines will, or the winter. You put out your cigarette, walk like Charlie Chaplin and make dead children smile.

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Breath

DANIEL FLORES GUADIANA

Dark of night surrounds me, wraps around my neck. It’s hard to breathe. Yellow fireflies dance around my head. I watch them whirligig, flying in a figure-eight and then a circle followed by a quick veer to the right. One looks at me as if it wants to speak. What could it want to say?

My breath is leaving me quickly. I gag. My face turns blue. The glass I hold in my left hand falls to the floor and shatters. I fall to the floor, cut my hand. I recognize the grasp, the touch. It’s yours. Your long, sharp fingernails slice my flesh as you tighten your grasp. I close my eyes, prepare to let go. Darkness invades me, fills me as I pass. Emptiness consumes me as I breathe my last breath.

It does not end. There is silence, no light, but I can still feel, I can still see. I feel the cold, chill of your breath. You stand above me, laughing — victorious. I watch as the tiny shards of glass collect, magnetically attracted, and form, again, a glass. It floats back into my cold hand. It’s filled, once more, with rum and cola. You take it from my hand, sip and walk away.

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Little Things Mean a Lot

CATHERINE TALLEY

Jonathan Marshall has eaten oatmeal for breakfast 2,217 days in a row. Seven days a week for nearly seven years he has awakened, put a kettle of water on, and cooked his oatmeal in while his pot of Twining’s English Breakfast tea steeped.

He has sat alone at his kitchen table while eating. He used to wish for an unread newspaper; he leaves for work before the paper arrives. Now he just buys it from a street vendor named Carlton on the way to work.

Last Tuesday at breakfast Jonathan Marshall spent his oatmeal-eating time gazing at the stainless steel salt and pepper shakers on the table before him. On a rare impulse, he shook a little pepper into his oatmeal. He thought it tasted quite nice, adding a little bite, a different flavor. He felt energized, more alive, all day.

He peppered his oatmeal on Wednesday, savoring the bite on his tongue. Thursday he dusted his oatmeal with cinnamon. It made him smile. Yesterday he ran into that attractive widow in the Xerox room and asked her out to lunch. Today he helped her on with her coat before they left the office for a drink. He was humming.

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A Cold Friday

DENIS TAILLEFER

I was fishing in the toilet when the phone rang. They say there are all kinds of beasts in the sewers. Giant sewer rats, poisonous snakes, and alligators, too. Takes me back to when Dad and I used to go ice fishing. We’d stare into the augured hole for hours. He’d sip his rye to keep warm, and I’d smoke my pot to stay awake.

I picked up the cell phone.

“Hello.”

“It’s me. Coming over, or what?"

“I’m having a father and son moment.”

I turned off the cell phone, wiggled my line, and stared into the toilet bowl.

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Claim

GWENDOLYN JOYCE MINTZ

The school bus picks us up first so we claim the back seats. Make the white kids sit up front.