“East Idioms Reinterpreted” by Yuan Changming

1/ The Daoist Alchemist

Instead of turning brass into gold or sand into diamonds, the alchemist refines soil, air and sunlight into an immortality syrup. While gulping down the newly made elixir in a hurry, he accidentally spills a few drops of the holy dew onto the ground, which his dogs, cats and chickens struggle hard to lip at the first sight. As the alchemist launches himself for a higher life in heaven, all the animals in his humble house thus begin to rise, certainly underneath him.

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2/ The Guizhou Donkey

The first of its kind that had ever appeared in the mountains of Guizhou, the donkey gave a deep impression to all local animals at the beginning. Terror-stricken, even the tiger came to pay his respect and offer his kingship to the newcomer, since he had such an imposing statue as well as such a high-pitched voice. Later, the tiger found the donkey capable of doing nothing other than kicking to defend himself or offend his enemy. With this happy realization, the tiger tore the new king into pieces and ate him up the third time he passed by.

 

 

 

Yuan Changming edits Poetry Pacific with Allen Yuan and hosts Happy Yangsheng in Vancouver; credits include ten Pushcart & three Best of the Net nominations,  Best of the Best Canadian Poetry, BestNewPoemsOnline, Threepenny Review and 1,409 others across 41 countries.

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“Electric Chef” by Fabrice Poussin

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Rest at last
I have been spinning for hours
at the touch of a fingertip

I believe it is a fever coming
perhaps a touch of the flu
please let me sleep a moment

The dings have become tiresome
they echo so loudly in my chambers
with the light so bright.

So much for my pause
no union fights my war
here come my regulars.

Sisters in crime, souls in learning
their eyes stare, wonder, ponder
will it be two, three, four, or more?

I have had enough of teas, coffees and corn
I want something else on my menu
what have they brought today?

Spaghetti? Lasagna? Oh No! ramen it is
how can they, how dare they?
don’t they know I was born in Michigan?!

They laugh, they giggle and chit-chat with the master
sitting on his throne like the tyrant of ages
a thumb comes, so close, too close, and…

There I go spinning again, humming my old tune
under the strobes my headache is back
if only I could reach the waves of the sea.

Fabrice Poussin teaches French and English at Shorter University. Author of novels and poetry, his work has appeared in Kestrel, Symposium, The Chimes, and dozens of other magazines. His photography has been published in The Front Porch Review, the San Pedro River Review and more than 350 other publications.

“Cheddar” by Justin Eells

tucker-good-520740-unsplash.jpgAfter college, Yvonne and her best friend Dave had different ideas about their relationship, and it ended badly. Dave turned red, his eyes bugged out, all the fluid seemed to drain from his whole body, and he disintegrated into a fine sand, right before Yvonne’s eyes, in her living room. The least she could do was take in his cat.
Now Cheddar, the cat, buries his orange face in Yvonne’s lime-green slipper and slinks through the sand on the hardwood floor. A crime drama plays on TV. Yvonne sets her plate on the couch, and doughy steam rises from microwave raviolis as Cheddar rubs his plush neck against her calf.
“I know,” Yvonne says. “I haven’t forgotten you.” Even though she did, sort of.
She tip-toes through the sand to the kitchen and scoops Kitty Kibble into a porcelain bowl. Cheddar crouches before the bowl, glares at the kibbles and mews: “This isn’t what I’m hungry for. Please, something else?”
Yvonne sighs. She often wishes Cheddar could find a new home, but she tries not to dwell on it, or on anything. She goes to the cupboard and opens a can of albacore, puts a spoonful atop the kibbles.
“More please,” the cat mews.
She puts one more and goes back to the living room where the pant-suited detective on TV says she could understand choosing death over marriage to this scuzzy suspect, but she’s still not convinced it was suicide. Yvonne does a half-spin into her slippers and sits. Her dinner is basically cold. She could reheat the raviolis, but instead she puts one foot over the other and lets them hang off the ottoman to keep sand off them. A psychiatric consultant on TV tells the detective that the victim’s previous 911 calls point to a pattern of manipulation and psychological abuse in the suspect.
Cheddar walks in front of the TV and makes a screechy little sound, lifts a paw and bats one of the slippers off Yvonne’s foot.
“Hey,” she says, but doesn’t look away from the TV, where the suspect, a dull-eyed potato in a button-down, walks into an interrogation room. Lady Detective tells him to take his seat.
The slipper flies into the air. Cheddar leaps up, pounces on it, and runs back into the kitchen, where he emits a succession of crackly, high-pitched roars.
“I know,” Yvonne says, “It’s hard being a cat, isn’t it.”
“Don’t patronize me,” Cheddar says. “I need water. Even just a spoonful would be something, pretty please.”
The detective asks the suspect about his marriage and his wife’s friends. He says he loved her. Yvonne believes him, but she isn’t sure if he killed her. Cheddar mews.
“I’m sorry,” Yvonne says, and tiptoes across the gritty floor. “Sorry I forgot the water. You can have as much as you want.”
“And,” Cheddar says, lifting a paw, “a Seafloor Medley chew.”
“What? You just had–”
“A Seafloor Medley, please. I could have died.”
She sets a water-filled mug on the floor and reaches into the skinny cabinet by the stove where she stores some ancient gravy packets and two boxes of the fancy vacuum-packed Seafloor Medley cat chews, which are the only kind Cheddar will eat anymore. When Cheddar first moved in with Yvonne, he did nothing but wallow and cry on the floor, clearing little cat shapes in the sand, and one night he looked up at Yvonne and said, “I can’t see this as a permanent thing. I really don’t like living with you.” That’s when she went out and bought the boutique cat chews. She hands one to Cheddar, who takes it to his spot under the kitchen table.
On TV, tears are welling in the suspect’s eyes, and they seem sincere. Yvonne feels bad for him as a visible chill comes over the interrogation room. Yvonne tries to imagine what it must be like for him, and wonders if he really did it. She decides that even if he did, she’ll still root for him.
The raviolis have congealed into a single glutinous glob. It’s been mostly frozen meals since Cheddar moved in. Frozen ravioli, frozen lasagna, frozen pizza, ice cream sandwiches. She considers skipping to an ice cream sandwich now. She considers two. Instead, she keeps her feet on the ottoman.
Reporters and photographers surround the defendant’s grizzled attorney as he climbs the steps to the courthouse on trial day, but Yvonne’s eyelids sink and the drama becomes an indistinct cloud of cuffs and gavels and voices, then it all blows away like a dune, leaving Yvonne alone in a large room she identifies as Parke Town Lanes, where she and Dave worked in college. It’s after hours, and she’s closing, but she has lost her phone. Her ringtone seems to be coming from everywhere and nowhere, and she knows it’s Dave trying to reach her, because who else would it be, and she looks in the ball caddies and under inexplicable piles of team parkas and caps that cover the chairs. The floor ripples, Yvonne tumbles, the dream shifts and Dave is stroking her ankles with his fingers, with a feather duster, with a piece of fur. Her ankles, her calf–and Yvonne jerks her leg, Cheddar’s paws land on her belly, and the plate falls to the floor. She squints at Cheddar’s aerodynamic face, the wide eyes looking from Yvonne to the overturned plate and back. A sitcom couple on TV are arguing about hair in the sink. The raviolis will have to be picked up, the floor will have to be cleaned, but for now Yvonne reaches out hoping Cheddar will rub his face against her hand. Instead, he leaps off the couch and darts into the kitchen, leaving sand clouds in the air, stinging her eyes and nostrils.

 

 

 

 

Justin Eells lives in Minneapolis, where he works at a print shop making lit mags. Usually after a shower, he prefers to squeegee off with the back of a comb before even touching a towel. He is currently at work on a novel, and he tweets @jt_eells

“The Dream No One Imagined” by Josh Dale

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Let me begin by saying that within the interlude of REM sleep and upon awakening—those pivotal few seconds before my vision relapsed into the realm of the conscious—a bright chill encompassed my prostrate corpse, which further aided in my awakening. I produced a dream deep within the early hours of the morning, one so queer that it dwelled within the uncanny, despite my existence reigning in a later century in which this peculiar dream took place.
The Salem witches spread cross-country, seeking refuge in the colonies and unforeseen territories—that would be later acquired (with aid of treaty or by the brutality of force) by the United States—their devilish, heathen influence to the corners of the continent. Yet, wherever the witches fled, the mobs pursued. It was a movement so grand, so revolutionary, that the hundreds of millions that stomped across the forest, the plains, the swaps, the mountains, the deserts, made it their vindictive plight to corner the witches within the cells of animosity.
Once found—scrapped from the vile pits in which they bred and flourished—the revelers of such a passionate mob would have their ways with them via fist and knife and bullet (or whichever tool of destruction was readily available to them at the time) until the blood poured freely upon the table of Christ’s apostles. The biblical manuscripts of old were turned freely, leaf by leaf, until the justification was revealed by the self-proclaimed anarchists. They shook their head at the laws of Moses, vying to find a loophole within the doctrine that would absolve them of any archaic creed that bound them to their glorious ascent to the heavens above.
Meanwhile, the children now had their glee—their joyous ransacking of the witches’ robes. The currency was collected deep from within, and some would spit into the blinded eyes of the cadaver, hardly clinging to the threads of the ether—their mortified bodies striking penance inward, while the temptations of karmic sin writhed at the edge of sanity. Once the children’s innocence was depleted, and they were tucked away into the shanties built upon these horrid times, the anarchists rose—hunched backs posthumously arisen erect after toiling like Leonardo da Vinci within his hermetic cavern to take a righteous stand, towering above the witches’ pit like the former city upon the hill—a breath of crisp air now filtered through volcanic charcoal, leaving behind he strayed remnants of radioactive atoms, halving into infinity.
Their rationale was distinct, their motives researched and concise. The highest order, down to the lowliest laborer partook in a democracy of Socrates, and soon after the epitomic vote was cast (125-3, for the three, were but either related, enveloped in marital wedlock, or estranged to the mob’s distinct, collective mentality). A smirk of confidence rose and shone upon the anarchists’ faces—a Cheshire Cat arose from the depths of Hell—pounced upon the bodies of the now meager witches (more like bones if you ask me). They gathered the contents of their pockets and constructed a monolithic funeral pyre of millions upon millions of denominations of banknotes, intermixed with the posters of propaganda that promoted the artifice. Their fallacy was strewn around the lands and the glory was soon burned, tracing Thoreauvian veins upon Her recovering husk—the land of the free slowly recuperating from the rape of the natural love that was mutually exclusive once upon a fairer time.
The pyres burned for decades as they reproduced across the continent. The screams and pleads of the witches knew no filter, no cessation, and the stench of artificial cotton—that which became unavailable was mass produced with alien material crafted by such devious of humans—filled the nostrils of all that was purified within the trade winds. Upon the final incineration of the last remaining witch, and when the acidic rain at last washed clean the remnants of the cataclysm, the anarchists arose, rejuvenated and inspired from the nourishing nectar of Her womb. Again, they walked the land, now transformed completely from the campaign’s initiation, and returned to their respective habitats—their numbers now multiplied exponentially mind you—and built upon the charred pyres their own monuments of the individuality that perspired from every pore, from the general to the layman. The gallows planks were unscathed from the abandoned traditions of old. The iron maidens and quartering tables rusted into the oxygen in which they breathed, and the sun, the almighty sun, also could breathe fully again.
The dream ceased, and I immediately wrote it down in due haste and hid it deep within the foundations of my shanty, for I knew quite well, that if the witches indeed uncovered the gem—the manifesto of anarchy—that I was to be swiftly put to death in the most abhorrent method possible. I believed that the forbidden creativity would not require a trial of such pace as that in my dream—it would be a majority that wouldn’t think twice about my existence. I would be burnt until the ash was even crisp to the touch, and the memory of my neurotic being would be swept by the trade winds to foreign lands.

 

 

 

 

Josh Dale holds a BA in English from Temple University and has been previously published in 48th Street Press, April Gloaming Publishing, Black Elephant Literary Magazine, Huffington Post, The Scarlet Leaf Review, Your One Phone Call, and others. If he’s not petting his rescue Bengal, Daisy, he is perfecting his stir-fry recipe, hunched over in the dark like an alchemist. He is the founder and current editor-in-chief of Thirty West Publishing House and Tilde: A Literary Journal.

“Yap” by Jack Somers

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The Succulent Fig
$$ Contemporary American Cuisine with a Japanese Twist

Amber M.        Rating: 2/5 stars          9/12/2015

My husband and I heard good things about this place, so we gave it a whirl. What a debacle! I asked our server, this blonde who looked about sixteen, if any entrees on the menu were vegan. She pointed out the almond-crusted tofu with ponzu sauce. I asked her if the ponzu had katsuobushi flakes in it. She gave me this vacant stare, like I’d just spoken ancient Hebrew. She clearly had no idea what I was talking about. She was probably new. I almost felt bad for her, but not quite. Being new and young is no excuse for not knowing anything about the food you’re serving. I decided to spare her further embarrassment by telling her to just hold the ponzu, but of course, when the dish came out, it was drowned in ponzu. The girl claimed she had told the cook to hold the ponzu, but I’m sure she just forgot.  I won’t be coming back here any time soon.

Ian S.               Rating: 3/5 stars          11/15/2015

Stopped in with two buddies after work. I ordered a bottle of Christmas Ale and a quarter-pound teriyaki burger with sweet potato fries. When my beer came out, it was warm. Why the hell would the waitress bring me warm beer? Nobody drinks warm beer. I gave the beer back to her and told her to bring me a cold one. She came back a minute later and said that none of the Christmas Ales were cold—they’d just put them in the refrigerator. I asked her what was cold, and she said the Oktoberfest and the Sapporo were.  I hate Oktoberfest, and I’ve never heard of Sapporo, so I just told her to bring me some ice water.
When my burger came out, it was underdone. I asked for medium-rare, but the burger she brought me was practically mooing.  Either she didn’t get the order right, or the cook didn’t know what medium-rare looked like.  I suspect it was the former.  Miss Warm Beer also forgot to bring me ketchup, and I expressly asked for ketchup when I ordered.  This joint needs to stop hiring waitresses just because they’re good-looking young blondes. I’ll take an ugly waitress with a brain any day over a dumb knockout. I’m only giving the “Sucky Fig” three stars because the sweet potato fries were delicious.

Sandra G.        Rating: 1/5 stars          12/21/2015

Brought my 2-year-old son here for lunch because they have a great kids menu. My son only drinks milk, and he only drinks it if it’s warm. I relayed this information to our server. She said she had a boy who was about my son’s age, and he liked his milk warm, too. About three minutes later, this smelly, sweaty guy in a stained apron brought out the milk. I touched the cup, and I could tell immediately that the milk was too hot.
When our server returned, I handed her the cup and asked her if she’d let her son drink milk that hot. She said she wouldn’t and apologized.  She brought us another milk that was the right temperature, and she didn’t charge us for either one, but I was still pissed.  You’d think the mother of a 2-year-old who liked warm milk would be conscientious enough to check the temperature of the warm milk she was serving to other 2-year-olds. She’s lucky my son didn’t drink it.  If he had, he would have burned his tongue, and I would have sued.

Kristen H.       Rating: 4/5 stars          1/18/2016

My girlfriends and I ate here last night. The food was okay. My salmon was too salty, but the ginger risotto was unbelievable, and the fried sesame balls were heavenly.
The meal was a little awkward because our server was this girl we all went to high school with. She dropped out our junior year for some reason. I know she knew who we were, but she didn’t say “hi” or show any sign of recognition. If anything, I thought she was a little cold. I don’t know what she has against us. It’s not our fault that she didn’t graduate and ended up waiting tables instead of going to college.

Rob Q.            Rating: 3/5 stars          2/9/2016

Dropped in for a drink last night. I had a White Russian and some sushi.  The White Russian was good—a tad heavy on the vodka, but I like them like that.  The sushi was disappointing.  The rolls were too small and tasted stale and cold—like they’d been sitting in a refrigerator for a couple weeks. Also, this weird thing happened. There was this one blonde waitress working the room, and about ten minutes after I arrived, a toddler came rushing out of the kitchen, grabbed her leg, and yelled “Mommy!” I got nothing against kids, but don’t bring them to work.  This is a restaurant, not a nursery.

Nancy P.         Rating: 2/5 stars          4/5/2016

Normally this place is great, but yesterday, they were really off their game. My scallops were rubbery and bland, and there were only three of them. The Sauvignon Blanc was sour to the point that it made me wince, and the vegetable dumplings we ordered for the table were mushy and oily. Worst of all, our server seemed distracted the whole time, constantly looking at the door. Mid-way through our lunch, this older woman comes in, hands our server an envelope, and says, “You got in.” Our server takes off her apron, drops it in a booth, and walks out the front door with this lady. If you get accepted to some school or program that you want to get into, good for you, but don’t quit your job in the middle of your shift. You’ll never get anywhere with a work ethic like that.  I’ll probably see that girl back in Cleveland working at some other restaurant in a year.

 

 

 

 

Jack’s work has appeared in WhiskeyPaperLiterary OrphansMidwestern GothicThe Molotov CocktailJellyfish Review, and a number of other publications. He lives in Cleveland with his wife and their three children. You can find him on Twitter @jsomers530 or visit him at www.jacksomerswriter.com.

“Calling the Shots” by C.B. Auder

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“You’re getting dusty as a muzzle-loader!” the whole world boomed into my face. “When are you finally gonna bag yourself a dude?”
Well, I’m exactly like every other madam-zelle on this progressively-parched planet: I’d never been popped. And I wanted that first grenade pin to send me to heaven.
What if the guy was too lip-lubed? Sheriff Snoozical? Stanky ass-chaps. Nitwit City! What were my odds of randomly hunting down a Mister Right? Could I love the wrong one? Could anybody with half a brain?
What I needed was managed target practice with a whopping mess of men.

The Scattershot Dates gal smiled real big. Yuge! She flicked through my file. “Your hobbies and interests are … unusual.”
“Darn tootin’!” I whooped. Call me excited, but I’d paid a saddlebag of money for a pasture’s worth of love.
She didn’t know how to mirror. She spoke in suspiciously even tones. She said, “Maybe we should remember there’s a first time for everything.”
I thought on that. Doughnut teeth, octo-boobs, a well-oiled legislature, reverse-gravity hair…. “No,” I replied after a time. “Your claim doesn’t fly– Hang on. Don’t tell me some of my Scattershot matches are fillies?”
She eyed me funny. As so many do. Weren’t raised right, I expect.
“Yes,” she said. “And no.”
“Whoa. Are you saying I’m a transvesti-presti-digi-tater?”
That started her blinking. Some kind of Morse code.
“Do you have a minder, missy?” I scratched my trigger finger. “Just who’s driving this rodeo?”
“Look, you matched only one applicant in our database,” she bleated, “and we set the search to Fuzzy!”
Well, you could’ve blown my face off. But maybe that’s true of anyone.
“LISTEN HERE NOW,” I hollered in an effort to be peaceable. “I paid good money for the Lock-Stock-and-Barrel deal. Your Hollow-Points Ad clearly stated–”
“I am so sorry, ma’am.”
“Ix-nay on the sweet talk, toots. How’m I gonna find a lifelong smoocher if there’s only one bag of shot to test-squeeze?”
She drummed her fingers in apology. “Please. We need to stay focused on the positives.”
Her squint held promise. I slid my Derringer back between my ample bazooms.
“We’ve done a background check.” She took a deep breath. “Your match couldn’t be more convenient. It’s probably safe. And they’ll always be there for you.”
“That seems excessively unlikely.”
“My hand to God.”
I wasn’t on speaking terms with her Almighty, but I took her printout. Gave it a grudging once-over. “You’re saying that out of a gigamaree’s worth of full-grown homunculi, the only person I’m compatible with is ME?”
Her face flushed with awe. “A near-perfect bulls-eye.”
That didn’t sound like me at all.
She emphasized the reputation-back guarantee. “We could pressure you to sign a contract if you like. This month’s special is no slut-shaming.”

I started slow. Took myself to a couple of matinees. Taste-tested some spaghetti westerns I’d always wanted to try, and I kinda-sorta liked them. One weekend I ate two jars of salsa? Couldn’t tell whether or not I reeked. After a time, I almost trusted myself to not bogart the last buffalo wing during a nap.
So life was going about as gooey as a pie-eating contest. I was itching to explore more intimate of pleasures. You know. Lemme tell you, they weren’t half bad. No shoot-outs whenever the showerhead got left on Torpedo Zone. And not to get too hard-core, but me and I had some bueno fart fests.
Let me be clear. The days weren’t all leather holsters and unborn babies. Given as how often I found Google nudges for celebrity nudes, I half-suspected an online affair.
Of course I denied the charge to my complete satisfaction. And yet…. I couldn’t pop the Big Q. Would the relationship survive a true-blue showdown?

One afternoon, blam out of nowhere, I caught a look of scorn out of the corner of my good eye. “You know you don’t need to curl your bangs for me,” I said, too quietly. “And shaving your legs? That’s nothing but Hopalong Cassidy’s handiwork.”
There came one of those well-regulated pauses. I grabbed more ammo. “Don’t you know you’re pretty as a sunrise without a pig’s-lick of makeup?” I said, snatching up the T.V. remote as a hostage. I hadn’t really thought that last part through.
Everybody froze. Me and myself girded our lady loins for high noon.
And then if the damnedest thing didn’t happen. I flat-out agreed with my pronouncements.
“Put ‘er there, pardner.” We shook on it! Can you imagine? Had the whole world’s thoughts and prayers been answered?
Maybe…. Or maybe it just wasn’t the hill to die on.

Time passed as it is wont to do, and one morning I found myself in a terrible state. Red-faced and splayed out on the patio. Hair like a haystack, rigid as roadkill.
“What the hell do I think is going on here?” I demanded. Did I forget to set the safety on Maggie .45? A bead of horror crept towards my thoracic vertebrae.
I put a finger to my lips. Motioned myself over with a smile.
Turns out I was watching two ants work against each other to pull a double-wide caterpillar down a single-barrel hole. Took ’em between ten and ninety-four minutes, but hog-tie me to a talking Cheeto if those six-legged gals didn’t get ‘er done! I’d have been knocked over with an air gun if I hadn’t already been prone.
After the little wriggler descended to its final resting place and the shock wore off, both of me cried and cheered. We pumped our fists like the two Sarah Connors reloading.
I know what you’re thinking. Weren’t our arms pitted from that concrete? Hadn’t our legs gone numb?
They were. They had. But the Universe had spoken, and its message rang clear as a factory-conditioned miracle: we’d finally found The One. The only one that mattered. All hands to God.

 

 

 

C.B. Auder’s writing and art have most recently appeared in Cotton Xenomorph, OCCULUM, Moonchild, Unbroken, and Red Queen Literary Magazine. Find Aud on Twitter @cb_auder

“The Need to Be Out of Place” by Marvin Shackelford

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Tolson arrives from the future to find his mother younger than he is and downtown with a man he thinks may grow up to be his high school gym coach. He can’t tell without the mustache and ball cap, the screaming. He’s in shorts and a t-shirt, looks somewhere between lighting a cigarette and breaking into a sprint. They hold hands and cross against a stoplight, happy. Smiles and giggles. Something a little more. A secret. Around her neck dangles a thick silver chain run through a mysterious gold ring, male and unknown to Tolson. It’s huge and never would fit her fingers.
Across town his father will wait in the basement of his parents’ church, Catholic, and recite prayers to absolve him of uncommitted crimes. He’ll steal a crowbar from the rectory’s garage and cease all locks. He is a holy terror. He is alone. He will meet Tolson’s mother in the dark of a house that should have been empty, and when he stops to talk, explains the need to be out of place but carries nothing away from her home, Tolson falls into place. His father stands at the foot of the stairs and forever climbs. His mother descends. It’s several years before they meet at a landing where their lives turn and they pass, just keep going. She crashes to the ground. He becomes the sky, a storm. Raging. Tolson too far behind, come too late to catch up and help. Until now.
There on the street he readies himself to chase her down, catch her when her boyfriend has stepped away. They dip into stores, exit again. They weave, sober and happy. Tolson never knew this woman, his mother not his mother. He wants to sidle close, rest a hand on her elbow, tell her not to go home. Not to be a fool. He understands what it would mean for him, knows the ramifications at least in part. He thinks it’s worth it. There’s only so much time, so many mistakes to be made. You cannot believe, he’ll tell her. You cannot trust every honest voice in your dark home.

 

 

Marvin Shackelford is author of Endless Building (poems, Urban Farmhouse) and Tall Tales from the Ladies’ Auxiliary (stories, forthcoming from Alternating Current). His work has, or soon will have, appeared in Kenyon Review, Hobart, Wigleaf, and elsewhere. He resides in Middle Tennessee, earning a living in agriculture. Tweets @WorderFarmer.