Stories and images from corners of the world both odd and familiar are represented in this unique anthology, all inspired by an exotic handful of words from Jack Micheline’s magnificent poem Tale on a Slow Moving Freight (1988). Iran, Brooklyn, Germany, Italy, New York, France, England, Africa, Ohio, California and St. Petersburg come together in this e-book that defies description, offering 121 pages that spin a luminous web across our fractured, compartmentalized world.
The stories and images thrive independently, each defining “in the night count the stars” in their own way. In addition to well-crafted short stories and a stunning photo essay of rural Russia, there is a portentous restaurant receipt; a love letter; a mantra; a redacted document; a judicial order; a crime scene photograph. Many of the contributors hail from surprising origins – a court clerk, an oral surgeon, an expat, an assisted living worker and an Italian forest worker alongside well-established authors and artists, all juxtaposed with a celebration of their rough edges. Their differences deliver rare insights, often a revelation.
A word that originates from ancient Greece, anthology literally means “flower gathering.” That may well describe what our editors have to offer curious readers – a sincere bouquet of irresistible wildflowers - something a cantankerous beat poet like Micheline would passionately approve of.
“The sheer range and diversity of contributors and works in this collection infuse it with a certain freshness and unique flavor that is difficult to recapture. Kudos to the editor, Marco North, for the smooth transition between the various pieces.”
— Janani Hariharan of Bookish reviews
from the golden macaroni
Beyond the fallen rocks and the tall grass, in a green hollow that stretches away from the road, sits a tiny white house. An overturned patio chair rests upside-down, the once white set littered with cherry blossoms and wet leaves. Two spiders crisscross a web along some firewood left in a mildewy pile beside the front porch.
A farmer passes slowly on his tractor, its tire chains jangling against the asphalt and then breaking into the soft shoulder of the road. The weeping willow tree that marks the edge of the front lawn moves in a breeze. A row of lilies of the valley bend low beneath the dew collected on them, as a handful of yellow jackets circle the garbage cans.
Trish turned once, then again under the twisted sheets and comforter, pulling her feet into their concentrated warmth. Two angry blue jays that circled below her window woke her.
Wiping the sand from her eyes, she felt her throat and sat up. Feeling underneath the pillows, Trish found the thin gold chain and the tiny cross that hung against the broken clasp. Pulling the covers up to her chin, she rested back into bed and turned sideways, wedging a pillow between her knees.
She thought of the kitchen sink full of plates crusted with egg yolk, and the empty tins of cat food on the counter. Trish imagined a tiny square of light making its way through the kitchen to the toaster, growing brighter as it traveled across the avocado-colored linoleum floor.
She went back to sleep.
Charlie’s soft, translucent hands brushed a fly from his face. He sneezed once into his fingers and rubbed them against the blanket. He stared at the ceiling for a short time, then at his fingertips as he turned them over. Charlie rolled his face into the pillow and blew his nose, muffling his giggles as he blew again.
He went to the kitchen, tiptoeing through the piles of dirty laundry and old newspapers. Pulling a fresh rectangle of cream cheese from the refrigerator, he sliced himself a piece and ate it. Clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth, he went back to bed.
The fly was still in his room.
Trish pulled a bathrobe around her long white nightgown. She twirled once and then again in front of the tall mirror that hung from the back of her bedroom door. Running a finger along her eyebrows, she coughed and went to the kitchen.
The room was full of light that drew itself in hard triangles and complex shapes as the sun pressed between the backs of chairs and around the appliances.
Trish pulled two paper plates and a pair of plastic forks from a closet. Digging into the back of the freezer, she pulled out a store-bought ice cream cake and rested it on an open space of the counter. At the back of the silverware drawer she found a tiny box of candles. She placed three together, and then five together. Trish lit them as quickly as she could with the lighter from her purse.
“Charlie!” She shouted.
Trish shuffled towards his bedroom and knocked twice with her knee against the door.
“What?” He said, quietly.
“I’m coming in.” She said. “So, please be decent.”
Charlie flipped his pillow over, smoothing out the clean side.
“Happy birthday to you.” She sang as she came in. “Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear Charlie. Happy birthday to you.”
Charlie laughed and clapped his hands. He blew out the candles quickly.
“Did you make a wish?” She asked him, already pulling the candles out and laying them in a pile on the nightstand.
“Yeah.” He said.
“I forgot the knife.” She mumbled, and went to the kitchen.
Charlie stared at the cake, then pressed his thumb into the frosting. He tasted it.
“Chocolate.” He said, with a sense of satisfaction. He counted the candles to himself once, and then again. She returned with a bread knife and started to cut the cake.
“Wow!” She announced in a booming voice. “This is one solid cake.”
“Maybe we should put it in the sun.” He said.
Trish smiled and rested her hand on his chin.
“How old am I this year?” He asked her.
She cleared her throat.
“Thirty-five, sweetheart.” She replied, collecting the paper plates and the cake and taking them to the kitchen.
The cat emerged from one of his hiding places and met Trish at the sink. She cleared a space on the kitchen table and found a half-empty can of cat food on the top shelf of the refrigerator.
“Charlie!” She called out. “You know, while you’re eating cream cheese in the middle of the night – maybe you could feed Ralph too.”
She turned the can upside down in a fresh dessert plate and rested it on the floor.
Ralph sniffed it twice and began to eat.
Trish found her cigarettes in her purse and lit one, leaning against the counter and staring at the dirty dishes.
“How about a soda, Honey?” She called to him.
“OK.” He said from his room.
Trish filled two tumblers with ice and topped them off with Dr. Pepper, taking hers outside.
Stepping onto the front lawn she shivered once as her bare feet adjusted to the cold, wet grass between her toes. She made her way to the overturned patio set.
“Charlie!” She shouted. “Bring some newspapers!”
She heard a thud from inside.
“I’m OK.” He said, after a moment.
Trish smelled the smoke curling away from her cigarette as it mixed with the scent of wet earth and rotting flowers.
They ate outside in their pajamas, sitting on a layer of newspapers, breaking the cake into pieces and eating it with their fingers. Ralph came outside and sat on the table, watching them with a lazy expression on his face. Trish tickled Charlie’s elbows, asking him what he wanted for his birthday dinner.
Trish and Charlie wiped their hands on the grass to clean them and rested their heads back as they tried to see the sun through their eyelids.
“I want to go fishing all by myself.” Charlie announced, after they had gotten dressed.
Trish said nothing.
“Behind the house.” He added.
“Charlie, you’ve never caught a fish in your life.” She said.
Charlie sat down in the darkness of the living room and rested his hands on his knees.
“I didn’t say I want to catch a fish.” He explained. “I want to go fishing.”
Trish let out a short breath.
“Just behind the house?” She asked.
Charlie nodded yes.
“OK.” She said. “But you’re going to call me at the store every half hour, so I know you’re OK.”
“And don’t tell Ralph or he’ll never eat his Friskies again!” She shouted as she smiled.
Charlie pushed his hair from his forehead.
“Alright.” He said. “ I won’t tell Ralph anything.”
Trish found the kitchen timer and placed it on the coffee table. She turned the dial to thirty minutes and showed it to Charlie.
“I know how.” He whispered.
copyright © Marco North
site design : Bittersweet Group