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Channel Surfing Spoon River

Fiction, Frank Diamond

Interrupt. Interrupt. Interception coming up. Class dismissed in mourning mist. Tune in next life. The message gets through, but missing plot in some cemetery lots. Dial it in. Dial it down. Dialing throughout the whole damn town. What’s apt? What’s app? Tuning in. Tuning round. Tearing, wearing, staring at sound. Just listen. Listen. Dusk settles on padded feet and whisperings seep from out the ground. Feeling remote with the remote. Seeing nothing that can be found. Eyes closed, ear to the found. Listen. Just listen.


Wendell Lessiter

Sped to those battles with shades and holograms. Those yester-rages remodeled by this stumbledrun grunt. Forever scoring points through which poison leaks. And a wealth of elfies exposed a darkened view. “People are holy,” she prayed, dusting grace upon my rage. She convenes with oxygen now as offenses merely imagined grow slights obsessively enhanced. How did I become so toxic? Choice, or folly, or chance?


Maggie Edwards

As I dragged our trash to the edge of our drive, orange streaked our dawn in our fortunate sky. Two gamey deer just happened to turn quizzically my way. Then on they bounded just like — Snap! What DID we talk about when we DIDN’T talk about love? Our bickering sometimes took a break. We tapped water into the kettle, never mentioning The Ache. But in that pause, each clutched the hope: “Please let me die fore this old dope.” And I did.


Louise Dove

Dizzy, Ziggy, Porter, and Fink. Donna, Linda, Trifecta, and Slink. Stickball and tagging summer’s fit. Schoolyard dents found, “You’re it!” O Lady of the Concrete. O Lady of the Asphalt. Mother of Morrows. Affliction so becomes you. Grant me peace, grant me peace. Give me an everlasting treat. O Lady of Disclaimer. O Lady of Delusion. O Mother of Obfuscation. Seven years of famine trolled, and then I took a vacation (or so I was told, when old).


Credence Waterman

One night in Doggerel Tavern I kissed a pretty woman. A nice, friendly girl I’d been working with for years. Mouth-to-soul resuscitation seasoning bloodless sleep. That kiss — alone, apart, about. A prelude to nothing. Except the entirety of life. A kiss. That’s it. Interceding like prayer to caulk my brokenness. Did I ever tell that girl what that kiss delivered? I couldn’t even recall her name, just drops of smiling eyes. Sometimes I can still taste that kiss, though. Even here.


Lenore Masters-Waterman

His damn wife, that’s who the hell I am. Married 40 years and then five years more, but I don’t count that last half-decade because that’s when decline deigned to visit him. Alzheimer’s made two-timers. Neither of them remembered their spouses. Me, his wife. Him, her husband. And they fell in love and her husband, broken like me, took my hand one time. But I pulled it away. Leaving no doubt. “In sickness and in wealth.” “For better or for curse.” Until death do we part, and I got here first.    


Kristy Donato

Mommy and Daddy, I love you so much. Can you hear me? In dreams sometimes you trust. It’s not your fault that I failed to clutch the results of my actions. I can’t explain how the mellow lifted me so far and dazzlingly high. But I did try. Rehab. Rehab. Rehab. Then rehab for the last time. Small comfort ruled an accidental death shortly after last breath. Did I? Deadeye? But I did kill myself. I needed to escape the state. I know you know. Twenty-three years old I was. Stare down the caves of my smiling eyes in photos kept on the mantle. I don’t know where I am now. But more days than not you’re in hell, Mom and Dad. I can’t think about this anymore.


PFC Alfredo Camaro

I didn’t get to choose the war fate had in store. My number came up and I went. Hardship showered in sudden monsoons there, but once we found an apple orchard and me and the other grunts had the greatest apple fight the world has never seen. Boys again. Forever Troy again. Three days before I felt the burst that never ended the thirst for what I could have seen, or been, or done, or dreamed, or won. Hand it to that hand grenade that plopped down behind me near the village of Hiep An, 18 miles southeast of Quang Ngai City, in Quang Ngai Province, Republic of Vietnam. In 1970. I was 20 years old. I hear the murmurings nearby of those who suicide. Fools! What I wouldn’t give for any problems the living face! I wanted my life to be art for art’s sake!


Paul James McCartney

Named after my father and his father, too. Long before he recorded a note to quote. I’d heard all the remarks and just shrugged, never once thinking of changing my name. Screw him. He’s got his life and I had mine. Superintendent of Spoon River Regional School District. Honors bestowed. Honors bequeathed. Met Frank Sinatra at a conference once. No, not THE Frank Sinatra. But another superintendent, pudgy and nondescript. He stood his ground and yet I found the obit saying Francis Peter Sinatra. Beatles Paul is James Paul McCartney. There’s that. But one thing, one thing, one thing, one thing. A secret kept beyond my end. It’s this: I could sing! I could sing! But nobody — not even my wife and children — ever heard, for I kept that to myself. Songs that fall in shower stalls make no sound at all.


Eleanor Samantha Rigby

You get to high school and pee yourself. Pee yourself. That’s what I did when they came to the states and listened to Shea with all the frenzied others. You know that all around you many of them peed themselves too. I fell in love with John. So smart and witty and that bad-boy edge. But Paul puts my name on a song, and not just any song, and I decide to not be Eleanor Rigby anymore. Soon as I go to college I change my name, banishing Eleanor from my charts. I don’t know how in hell my grandkids dug it up and why it sits above me on that rock. Family found out. Friends found out. You spend all your life trying not to avoid a pun and spend the afterlife regretting the unsung clue.


Donald Russell

Remembering a slate-gray afternoon when snow trained into the one-on-one never done by Al Camaro and me. Before he G.I. Joed his great beyond. That sway-day needs to stay. Snow blurring all edges of the dingy project’s angles except our need to win. Inch-an-hour flakes like a thousand defenders’ hands stab the net, the backboard, the background, and that scuffed ball. “You’re too small, that’s all!” “Go ahead! Keep talking!” Displaying layups, jump shots, juke dribbles gone by on ice, making each bounce coyer as precious air compresses until we’re bent like kindergartners coloring within the lines. I never had so much fun again, even with any of the pleasure adulthood presents. Even when I played in the NBA. 


Allison Roberts

We doted on two beautiful daughters. We were so enthralled by them. Let’s sacrifice happiness now, we said. Our happiness is not the point, we said. And we set table by the dark abyss of stony days and brokered nights. Miracles often take us the long way. One transformed the emptiness to something that carried through the mess. Know this: Punching bags won’t punch back. And then he stroked, and something broke until we loved again toward the end. We did. We did, I tell you. And that’s the last damn thing I’m going to say about it. 


Pastor Emmet Allen

Walked in October woods while leaves descended in tongues of fire. Or by the Atlantic on a summer’s eve. Felt eternity in the soles of my feet. I stood awestruck in kiss-ling snow. Or listened to rain romancing the streets. Looked up at the star-quilt from a country road. And praised all who had hallowed my journey. For vast legions of humanity dead and alive aren’t so blest. And it’s not fair! It’s not fair!


Frank Diamond’s poem, “Labor Day,” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize Award. His short stories have appeared in RavensPerch, Examined Life Journal, Nzuri Journal of Coastline College, and the Fredericksburg Literary & Art Review, among many other publications. He has had poetry published widely. He lives in Langhorne, Pa.


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