Glen Binger: The Voicemail

Raechel was a 5th-grade teacher when she was found out her mom had lung cancer. It took everything out of her. The breath, the business, the beauty. Every sunrise was another layer of hot tinfoil wrapped around her heart. After the estate was settled, she quit teaching and became a social media consultant. Made more money too. But really, it was working from the solitude of home that brought the interim solace she needed.

Over coffee every morning—for seven months—she thought about dying. By her own means, leaving her meat wagon to rot in the dirt. She thought about many other things too, of course. Her salary, her mom's wedding dress, her high school boyfriend, Jacob, and their first kiss in the changing room of Hot Topic. His Coheed and Cambria sweatshirt was still stashed away as padding in one of the basement boxes. Sometimes memories burn new holes.

The message appeared on a Wednesday in October. Right there in her taskbar as if Mom called on Tuesday. Next to the two Instagram tags for work. And, as if that wasn’t enough, it was raining. Again.

“Hi sweetie,” the voicemail went, “just wanted to see if you're ok. Haven't heard from you in a few days and I know it's the chaos of September. Have you had back to school night yet? One more year. Anyway. Love you. Call me.”

You could hear her mom’s smile. It was a message from Raechel’s 3rd year teaching. Just before getting tenure. Raechel knew she had called back that same weekend. She could remember the rain then too, watching the droplets skitter down her kitchen windows while Mom talked about Dad and his snoring. It was getting worse.

But for some reason, four years later, this message reappeared again. Glitching reality as if someone was trying to tell her something, as if the universe wanted to remind her that she'd be ok. That night, she flushed her stash of Valiums and most of the Adderall. And then the following night she went into the basement after some wine and some weed and proceeded to unpack the old family albums.

Among the stash, was a framed photo from 1999, wrapped in Jacob’s hoodie from 2003. It was Raechel and her mom, standing next to Dad’s reading chair. Their smiles were exuberant, but you wouldn't be able to tell as it wasn't your memory. The picture was too grainy. Dad was the worst photographer and he was terrible with tech. Jacob helped set up the family computer that same day. And later that same night, Dad was killed by a drunk driver coming home with the pizza.

She put the hoodie back and took the picture upstairs, placing it on her bedroom nightstand. A kernel panic and then nothing. Raechel thought she knew what it meant to suffer.

We all do until it happens again.


Glen Binger is an educator, interviewer, and the author of Things You Don't Know, a poetry collection that explores the lines between consciousness and the quantum realm. He blogs at glenbinger.blogspot.com.

Jenna Faccenda: Her Last Plea

TW: Domestic Abuse

My knees shook as I stared into the looming eyes of the Judge.

“Was there physical abuse?”

The words came off her tongue with such an uninterested disdain.

“No, your honor.”

“Did he threaten to kill you or harm you in any way?”

“No,” I said.

I wiped my sweaty palms against my pants.

“Your honor.”

She flicked through the file before releasing a deep breath.

“Honestly, I don’t see any present danger here. I am going to have to deny your file for protection.”

With something as simple as a stamp on a page, my PFA was denied and I was being escorted out of the courtroom.

“I am so sorry ma’am,” the officer said, putting a reassuring hand on my shoulder. “I hope things work out for you.”

I nodded my head as the color started to return to my face. I didn’t turn my phone back on until I reached the car. As soon as it came back to life, the screen was flooded with text messages.

Mom: How’d it go, dear?

April & Stephanie: How was it? We are here for you! :) You’re a queen


Past those, however, was another chain that I was hesitant to open. I didn’t think much of it, knowing that he’s been quiet these days, but not this time.

Bryan: Fuck u slut
Bryan: I hope u get hit by a car and die
Bryan: U r nothing but a piece of shit and Im gonna make ur son know.


Tears plummeted from my face as I stuffed my phone in my back pocket leaving them all on read. I knew I shouldn’t have looked at it. I knew better. I just wanted my bed. Within my car, it continued to vibrate. I turned up the radio trying to drown it out. Normally, the ride to and from the courthouse was quick and uninterrupted, but today, it was full of unpleasant thoughts. By the time I made it home, the sun was in twilight leaving nothing but the cool summer breeze. I shuffled through the contents of my purse in search for my keys.

“Fuck.”

I stared at the corner window where the light shined through the curtains. Trying to reach my roommate, four missed calls and ten new messages from him covered my phone screen. I tried not to look but my eyes caught the previews of the texts. I was stuck.

Bryan: Ur crazy if u think hell say goodnight to you
Bryan: Grow up learn 2 communicate
Bryan: Maybe if u answered me I would leave u alone
Bryan: Ur a selfish cunt.

The words left me breathless. The letters started to blend together one after another, the time was meaningless. My hand couldn’t pull up the phone. It wasn’t until the sound of a car horn made me jump. I only had to turn around to make my heart thump for the last time. 

“Why aren’t you answering my calls, bitch?”

His voice was a siren. He got out of the vehicle with purpose. More sirens. A streetlight caught the glisten of my son’s pupils in the back seat.

“I told you I am just going to find you if you ignore me.”

By the time I came to, his breath was on my skin, burning like all the times before.


Jenna Faccenda is a Philadelphia-native who enjoys writing twisted tales while cuddled up on the couch with her black cat and 4-year-old son. Determined to read books for a living, Jenna is the Co-Founder of Writely Me and the Publicity Manager for Running Wild Press. Her works have been featured in The Literary Hatchet and her debut chapbook, The Phoenix From the Ashes (2018). Follow her on Twitter @faccenda_jenna.

Joseph Sigurdson: 1 Poem

In Meditation

Sometimes I stare at existence as deadpan as an infant who isn't crying. Then I lie in a long field, pick one green strand, and know I am and will forever be the only human to give this particular piece of grass any thought. Then it fades, and I care about little save food and reproduction. Death finds it way in, later. How can I not see blackness even if my eyes are no more? I imagine death will be quite similar to January 8th 1256, which I wasn't present for. And that day wasn't so bad, was it?


Joseph Sigurdson is a poet who likes his orange juice with *some* pulp.

Edythe Rodriguez: 1 Poem

bombs over osage

a boarded window:

a soul’s eye so obscured we forget to call it a neighborhood.

silence drowned noise into the background.

a schoolteacher came home from work

a cute boy waved to me and Big Millie

while she spoke to Lil Millie through her screen door,

and all I see is trash. Tastykake and peanut

M&M wrappers, all I see is ruin and aftermath,

devastation where lives are.

“Are you trying to say it’s dirty?”

I’m not saying—

I’m trying—

dirty is a relative term and— yes.

I ain’t seen trash like this in a minute

I see a landfill so excuse

my dumping all this bourgeois baggage

ghostwhite bars call through pastel panels.

Who painted you? Who built houses on Ground Zero?

Who can walk here and not see a bomb,

a fire, not wear black, not hold this

wake, not trace an old scar on

this new body.

I’m not blind. I see the fence they

built you. The sleek windows

and straight-rowed shingles.

I see they got y’all looking

like a hood Ikea.

I see the eye rolls when I say John Africa,

I see you Big Millie,

I see a scar

on this place that I won’t forget

to call a neighborhood.


Edythe Rodriguez studies poetry and Africology at Temple University. She is a a Philly-based creative raised in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania poeticizing whiteness, racism, and the Black woman experience.

Leigh Fisher: 3 Poems

CONDUCT

Visited home today

to hear of all the latest deaths

Neighbors and old friends

flickering out like the light

swaying up and down

on a buoy out at sea

The connection giving life

fading out as the wires

Disconnect

DO NOT SPEAK 

It’s a place of silence
all but the mechanical whir
Words don’t form
while the tracks wear down
Lights shine bright
like they would upon actors
performing on a stage
But no soliloquies
are uttered here

It’s an unspoken law
to only talk to the person
sitting right beside you,
mere inches away,
if you walked together
as you embarked onboard

But while you’re side by side
on two seats adjacent
close as lovers sleeping
in their shared bed at night
Neither of you say a word
since that’s the silent law
The opportunity lost
on a train with no seats open 

GOOD FOR YOU

 “It'll be good for you,”

they say it like a promise

She simply nods her head and agrees,

since that’s all that they expect of her

She has no reason to fight or say no

and she won’t have to deliver bread

ever again

 

“He’s gotten a good job, he can take care of you,”

As they say these things,

she’s sure it’s true

but it doesn’t change

that she still feels nothing

 

“All he wants are a few children in return.”

she knows she should be like her mother

think pragmatically

perhaps the callouses on her hands will soften

 

“At least I’ve met him before,”

she murmurs as she climbs the stairs

 

“I know he’s a kind man,”

she thinks, with five loaves on her shoulder

as she walks faster up the hill

 

“He’s quiet, he doesn’t speak much…”

she continues to think

she starts walking a little faster,

darting around the cracks in the old pavement

 

But thought makes her afraid

thinking of going to live with this man

what she must do for this man

when they’re alone

 

“I’ll manage somehow,” she whispers aloud

They’ll pass time in a quiet, little house

where all they share

is the language they speak

and the country they came from

 

“I’ll manage somehow,” she repeats,

as she reaches the top of the hill

it’s tiring to tackle the upward incline

but going down also has its challenges 

maintaining balance

while plummeting downward 

like a skydiver jumping into fate

 

“I may never care for him, but it’s like they say; it’ll be good for me.”


Leigh Fisher is from Neptune. No, not the eighth-farthest planet from the sun, but from the city in New Jersey. She is a historical fiction enthusiast, with an avid interest in Chinese history. She has been published in Five 2 One Magazine, The Missing Slate, Rising Phoenix Press, and others. She can be found as @SleeplessAuthoress on Instagram and @SleeplessAuthor on Twitter.

J. Bradley: Remembering the USS Flagg

The sailor’s shell-shocked. I tell Jim to triage him where we’ve got all the other survivors waiting for medical attention.

What’s triage, he asks. Jim picks his nose and then eats his discovery.

Something I heard on that hospital show mom likes to watch. Just get him over there.

Jim picks up the sailor like he’s god. I grab Jim’s wrist. Not like that. Jim lets go as I steady the sailor. I take a packet of ketchup I stole from the sauce drawer out of my pocket, tear away one of the corners with my teeth, and pour it on the sailor. I take my index finger and smear the ketchup on the sailor’s face, chest, the parts of his arms not covered by his uniform skin. I show Jim how the wounded should move for a step or two before letting him take over.

I watch the sailor stagger for a few steps under Jim’s supervision before getting up and heading over to my closet.

What are you doing, Jim asks.

Add some moans. Jim moans in the sailor’s voice: help, my god, mom, help, uhhhhh, why.

I grab the yellow stethoscope from the closet floor and talk into it to make sure it’s still working. I look for my bathrobe I use like a lab coat but it’s not there; it must still be soaked in blood from the last time I had to tend the wounded.


J. Bradley is the author of the flash fiction collection Neil & Other Stories (Whiskey Tit Books, 2018). He lives at jbradleywrites.com.

C.M. Crockford: 1 Poem

Mark The Place

I'll take you in the sharp and hollowed wood,

Moving like the world was stripped away.

Tearing into steaming teeth.

A rabid dog meets another.

Give me a drink of

What's-between,

Salting heavy tongue

In such bloody fires.

I'll take you to the baited breath,

Where the riders meet,

Whispering to their horses

Against a red desert sky.

Mark the place on scarlet brown skin.

That's where my lips belong.


C.M. Crockford is a writer on the autistic spectrum living in Philadelphia, PA. His work has been published in Ethos Literary Journal, Paradise In Limbo Magazine, and Oddball Magazine among others. He also a columnist in No Recess Magazine.