From the Desk of the Editor;
Hello and welcome to another issue of Larks Fiction Magazine. In this issue we are expanding what it means to be human in life, death, and dating. Join us on a quest to learn what it means to exist through these talented wordsmiths!
As an update on the big move--our offices will move this weekend.The bank hasn't cleared our money yet for the new place so we will be homeless for just a little bit. If you do not hear from us do not fear--we will return everyone's email (we will just be a little tardy).
Thank you for your patience--now on with the good stuff!
Daniel J. Pool
This Morning I Died
By Charles Bernard
Alone I fought pain
Till I gave up
At last free from reason
Time and season
I turned for a last look
At the world I left behind
Family and friends
Never would we meet again
There was no regret
In my thoughts
Of things I won’t do again
Pleasures I won’t enjoy
In the earth my flesh rotten
My bones like though
They had never been strong
My memories blown away
I am powerless against time
It has written my fate
Life is just a passing phase
This morning I crossed over.
Dina, a Warrior
By Lynne C. Handy
My brother Finn has a tumor with tentacles that is choking his brain. Death waits in a dark corner of his room. People speak in low voices; they walk softly, their bodies sagging with grief. I am Dina, Finn’s eight-year-old sister. I sit in an alcove trying to read, but can’t concentrate because my mind is frantic. Throwing down my book, I stomp from the house making loud growling noises, wanting Death to hear and to fear me. I run past the garden filled with dazzling poppies: purple, orange, crimson, peach, and white. It’s the white ones whose egg-shaped pods contain the milk that helps Finn sleep. Sometimes he hurts so much that he breaks spindles on the headboard.
When the poppy leaves wither, Mommy slits the pods, collects the sap and boils it in water and lime. It smells musky, like dirty socks. Scum settles on the top and she lifts it with a spoon to dry. Then she puts the powder in Finn’s apple juice and gives it to him. Only Daddy and I know what Mommy does with the white poppies.
The tractor is parked in the barn lot, still hitched to the harrow. Daddy was in the east field when Mommy sent Uncle Herb to fetch him.
I run past the machinery and when I reach the meadow, I fling out my arms and shout, “Death, I won’t let you have my brother!”
To defeat Death, I need a sword. Near the creek, I find a stick suitable for jousting. I also need armor to cover my chest and head. Pouncing on waves of frazzle-headed dandelions, I yank the stems from their taproots and weave a breastplate, lift it over my head and pat it into place. Then I rip part of the purple-blossomed clematis from the weathered fence and drape it over my head. I feel invincible.
Where’s my army? A phalanx of cattails grows alongside the creek. They’ll do. “Forward, men!” I cry.
Marching to the house, I stand outside Finn’s window and yell, “Death, you’re a coward to hide beside a sick boy’s bed! Come out!”
Grandma comes to the window. “Shh, Dina,” she says, “You must be quiet when you play outside Finny’s window.”
“I am a great warrior!”
“That’s nice, dear,” says Grandma. “Just play quietly.”
I fling myself on the ground behind the tiger lilies and part the sleek leaves to spy on the window. Death must’ve heard me. Will it show its ghastly face? My troops are restless; they’ve grown bored lying in the grass and I tell them to hush. Then as I wait, a slithering sound comes from the tall grass beneath the window. Something is tunneling toward the lane surrounding the house.
A blossom falls in front of my eye and I swat it away. Leaping to my feet, I shout to the army, “Follow me!” We run past the swing set, the forsythia bushes and are about to dash into the lane when Death detours through the poppies. The blooms sway wildly and I leap into the poppy patch and beat the Orientals until they’re all down; then I beat the Shirleys, the Reds, the Celadines and the Plumes. Finally the poppies are all destroyed, even the white ones; and their once gorgeous heads bleed all over the ground.
“Dina!” yells Grandma, from the back porch. “Look what you did to your mother’s flowers!”
Leaving my army, I run along the fencerow that parallels the asphalt road. I become aware that a pickup truck is following me. Grandpa and Uncle Herb are inside.
“Dina,” calls out Grandpa, “get in. It’s time to say goodbye to Finny.”
I run. Grandpa stops the truck and Uncle Herb gets out and runs after me. In the middle of the meadow, he grabs me around the waist. I kick, I punch; I yell as loud as I can. He tries to be gentle, even when I knock off his glasses. He picks them up and carries me to the truck.
Grandpa says, “Dina, why do you want to hit Uncle Herb? He’s only trying to get you so you can say goodbye to Finny.”
“I won’t!” I say.
“Now is that being a nice girl?” he asks. “Poor Finny. He’ll want to carry your words to heaven.”
Uncle Herb holds me firmly on his lap.
I burst into tears. “I won’t tell Finn goodbye.”
“Tell him whatever is in your heart,” says Uncle Herb.
“That’s right,” says Grandpa. “Just say what you feel, honey.”
By the time we reach the house, I’ve settled down. The preacher’s gray Chevy is parked in the driveway. I’m sorry I punched and kicked Uncle Herb. I look guiltily at his glasses which set crookedly on his nose. There’s a ten dollar bill in my piggy bank and I’ll give it to him.
Grandma shakes her head. “Look at you. Dead flowers hanging from your hair.”
She starts to remove them, but Uncle Herb says, “She’s fine, Ma. Leave the flowers alone.”
Mommy and Daddy are in Finn’s room. The preacher sits beside the bed. He gets up and offers the chair to me. I sit down and look at my brother’s face. Mommy must have given him some of her medicine because he lies with closed eyes, unmoving. I find his icy hand and rub it to give him warmth. I am swollen with feelings of love, anger, loneliness, sorrow, and don’t know what to say. Then his chest inflates; he exhales and I arch over him to catch his breath in my mouth. Closing my lips, I hold it there, feel it seep into my lungs and spread through my body.
“He’s gone,” says the preacher.
He begins saying the Twenty-Third Psalm. Mommy cries. My grandparents and uncle run into the room. I go to the alcove and sit for several minutes feeling Finn’s breath settle in my bones. Finny’s not gone.
About the Author;
For the past two years, Lynne C. Handy has read her short stories and poems in coffeehouses. This is her first attempt at publishing.
Four bad dates
Rachel L. Greene
Sitting one winter afternoon on my couch, my best friend on the phone broached the subject of my lack of a romantic relationship. For the umpteenth time I explained that it wasn’t like the old days, I don’t go out, I don’t party. I don’t drink therefore I don’t go to clubs and certainly not bars. So where did he expect me to meet someone. Sighing and taking the tone of this is just common knowledge he told me to go online to one of the million dating websites and create a profile. I laughed and said I was going to hang up now and go back to my movie.
An hour later my movie over, I was overcome with boredom. I decided to do what he had suggested. For one thing, he would ask me every time we talked if I had done it, and at least if I did I could throw it in his face how much of a bad idea this whole online dating thing was. I was not overly astonished at all the sites that did offer this, I decided to filter out the ones that seemed strictly for “hooking up” and the ones that required a payment.
I chuckled and thought about how this could be construed as a form of prostitution. The questions posed to new applicants were simple enough, they asked some intuitive questions about what kind of viewpoints you have, what your personality is like and what you are looking for and not looking for in a relationship. Finally I chose a picture that wasn’t horrific of myself and linked it to my profile.
I had been brutally honest with my answers to the questions mainly to see what kind of a response I would get. I browsed around the website checking out the type of guys that were on but didn’t initiate any contact. Bored I logged of and found another movie.
About a half hour later I received an email someone had sent me a message on the site. I logged on and saw there were actually ten messages. I read each one and chose to respond to the ones that didn’t seem like potential serial killers. Over the next couple of weeks I was in contact with the initial people on an almost continuous basis.
Nick. Nick and I had decided to meet at Starbucks; I figured this was a safe zone, enough people around in case I needed to scream for help but not enough people around to be a distraction. Also I wouldn’t be obligated or trapped into spending several hours with this person if he was creepy.
Nick’s profile, and in our correspondence he had described himself as outgoing and ambitious. Ok I can respect and relate to ambition. I arrived on time to Starbucks and grabbed myself a seat near a window. I pulled out a book so that no one would randomly come up and try to strike up a conversation with me. Thankfully for Nick I became engrossed in my book and didn’t realize that twenty minutes had gone by and there was no Nick.
Annoyed I put my book back in my bag and prepared to get up from my seat when in walks Nick. Tall and way more tanned than he was in any of his photos. It was that awkward kind of tan that is so deep that you are not sure if it is real or sprayed on. He still turned a couple of heads as he spotted me and walked over. He introduced himself and said he’d grab us some coffee. As he retreated back to the counter to order I noted two things. One he hadn’t apologized or even acknowledged his tardiness. And two he didn’t ask me what I wanted. I decided to check my annoyance and see if he said anything about his lateness when he got back and let the ordering for me go for now.
He came back and sat down all smiles, a big bright even white smile that made me wonder if his teeth were capped. Or was it the tan that made his teeth seem to almost glow. I smiled and thanked him for the coffee which once I took a sip instantly wished I hadn’t thanked him. Geesh he ordered the sweetest drink on their menu and then had them dump sugar in it. I put the cup down and looked at him. Only then did I realize that he had been having a full fledge conversation the whole time I was thinking about that god awful coffee. He seemed oblivious to the fact that I hadn’t noticed he had been talking which made me kind of look around and see if he was talking to someone else. Nope he was talking to me. I smiled and tried to figure out what he was talking about. Oh his watch, I looked down and nodded yes it was a very nice watch but why was he telling me how much it cost.
Abruptly he changed topic and started talking about his car and what kind of car do I drive. I opened my mouth to tell him but before the first syllable of my car’s name could reach my lips he was off and running at the mouth about his car. Oh it was 2010 the 2011 model wasn’t released yet but he…. My eyes glazed over. All of a sudden in mid verbal vomit he leaned back in his chair and smiled at me. With his mouth closed he looked very attractive. He just smiled though so I figured that this was my opening to say something about myself. I mean this was a date right? So I said “so you’re in finance? Do you like it?” His eyes shone with glee as he proceeded to tell me about the prestigious firm that he worked for out of New York and how he was the senior honcho and… I felt my eyes glaze over again.
After about ten minutes of him singing his own praises he asked me another question about myself. My mouth flung open at the question though. “So you’re a tiny one huh” wait did he just call me tiny? I mean yeah I am but… he was of and talking again. “That’s good I like a tiny women” I didn’t hear the rest because I was still staring at him with astonishment. Finally I said “excuse me I need to use the restroom” naturally he didn’t hear me over his own voice so I stood up, he actually acknowledged that, so I repeated myself and tried not trot in the direction of the bathroom.
I stared at myself in the mirror and contemplated how long it would be before I could politely extract myself from this situation. Slowly I walked back to the table; he stared at me as I sat down and said “Damn you are attractive; that’s good I was slightly worried that you wouldn’t actually look like your picture, I’ve gone out with some girls that have said that they were petite or had a muscular build and turned out to be some real heifers.” I stared at him there was no way I was going to act like this fool had just complimented me when in reality I felt insulted; and did he really just say heifer in reference to other women?
The way he was oggiling me made my skin itch. Again he was oblivious to my reaction and started a whole new conversation on how he takes good care of himself, and how why should he settle for a girl that can’t even keep her weight down or actually put some makeup on. That’s it I’m out of here screw politeness this guys is an arrogant pompous… I ground my teeth thinking of how much of a tool bag this guy was. I grabbed my coat of the back of my chair and my bag and just walked away. He stood up sputtering, I turned and said “thanks for that god awful coffee and conversation but I need to go home and take a very long shower and try to wash the memory of you away.” Then I made a fast retreat to the door, my car, and ultimately the sanctuary of my home.
Okay so that was horrible, but I decided that if I went back and used one bad date as an excuse against my best friend’s suggestion, I would get an ear full. Date number two was with Todd.
Starbucks seemed to work for a reliable place to be able to make a quick exit from so I decided that as the destination of our date. Todd was on time so that was a small point in his favor. He politely asked what I would like to drink which again was a point for him. I relaxed a bit in my chair thinking okay we are off to a much better start than the last one. I studied him as he stood at the counter. He was dressed nice in the preppy style, as he walked over I noticed that a small tag, one of those little size stickers they randomly stick on clothing at the stores. Those stickers always annoy me. You know they stuck one on the clothing, but you have to actually hunt for it, since they never place it on the same spot as other clothing they sell. It becomes a very agitating game of find the sticker. Which you inevitably find when you least expect it. Like when you have worn it twice already, put it through the wash yet you look down one day and see it sticking randomly on your sleeve.
He sat down and crossed his legs, which to be honest, I always found this to be a tad bit effeminate in males; as I looked down at his loafers I noticed that they were really shiny. Which considering it is winter, there is salt and that dirt that they fling all over the sidewalks in front of stores to stave off potential lawsuits, seemed quite inconceivable, that they could remain that clean. He seemed jittery; jiggling his shiny loafer. He asked me if my coffee was okay, and I replied that it was fine, and thank you. He nodded and rubbed his thumb over part of his shiny loafer. Well if this is a habit then that may explain how his shoes are so shiny.
He asked me if I liked his shirt. I nodded and told him yes it was a good color on him, something told me not to mention the tag. The conversation was spotty, and I felt awkward with the long gaps of silence. His smile, which seemed plastered on his face, made me think he was slightly constipated. When he asked me again if my coffee was okay I realized this guy was nervous as hell. I tried to ask him questions about himself, he told me that he went to Brown and said it’s a really good school. But the tone that he said it seemed like he wasn’t so sure. The more we talked, the more his tone sounded more like he was posing questions rather than statements. This guy reeked of self doubt and insecurity.
As his eyes darted from here to there, and he tugged nervously at his pant leg, I decided that I may not be able to abruptly leave. This guy seemed fragile, and if I just cut the date short, he would definitely be the type to call me repeatedly to find out what went wrong. No I would have to suffer through the awkward-ness, and possibly change my number tomorrow.
Two painful hours later one of the barista’s made the announcement that they would be closing in ten minutes. I put my nicest smile on and told Todd that this has been memorable but it seemed like we had to leave.
Rick, back to Starbucks, the baristas were starting to give me funny looks. Shrugging it of I gave them my coffee order, and then took up my usual post and pulled out my book. The door opened and in walked Rick. He had seemed a bit hesitant about meeting at Starbucks. He walked right over and sat down. His hair was jet black and spiked up in a kind of sotto Mohawk. He looked me up and down and smiled.
I had to admit that conversation with him came easy as we talked; that is until we started talking about music. As he started firing questions of about who was the original drummer of this band? And what year was Rancid’s out comes the wolves cd released I realized that I knew this guy. Well not him for say, but his type. He is the ultimate elitist punk. He is the guy that has built his entire personality around music and knowing every miniscule detail of bands, and only respects those that have done the same. This is guy that all the other punks and rude boy’s want to beat to a pulp in the circle pit. He bombarded me with question after question and I felt my temper rising.
As I fiddled with my cup, I watched as his eyes fell on my left hand. He reached out and took hold of my hand. He flipped it over and looked at the tattoo on my middle finger. “Anarchy huh?” I nodded and said “yea transgressions from a wasted youth.” I knew that I shouldn’t have said that, for it would just spur another tirade on some movement or other. His eyes lit up and he started in on what I am sure was a practiced speech in front of a mirror. The hate crimes committed by the fascist politicians, blah blah blah.
Now I am more than fully aware of the things done by our government, some justifiable, and others not as justifiable, but for a purpose. I don’t have to agree with their actions, but I also don’t have to jump up on my soap box and draw attention to myself. The more he talked the more I started to remember why in all my years in the punk and ska scenes I had chosen to date outside of them. I leaned back in my chair and started to massage the base of my neck, I was developing a tension headache. I needed to get out of here before it turned into a migraine.
His voice was rising, and though I didn’t care who noticed, it was starting to grate on my already extremely frazzled nerves. Finally I smiled at him and said look, this has been great but I really have to get going. I didn’t wait for his reply and beat a hasty retreat.
Sunday night I found myself back at Starbucks sitting across from Alex. Alex had tried to insist at meeting at a bar. I had explained to him that I don’t drink, so that really isn’t my kind of environment.
Alex brought to the table a whole new meaning of the word slob. His pants were ripped and tattered, his boots splattered with mud. His hair hung in greasy unkempt locks around his ears. My nose twitched as I tried to not breathe in deeply. There was a definite funk surrounding this guy.
His flannel shirt didn’t cover the slightly tattered Metallica t-shirt he wore underneath, nor did his t-shirt fully cover the beer belly, that he seemed oblivious was hanging slightly out. I tried not to look mortified as he scratched his belly. I couldn’t help but to be offended that he had very obviously used a picture from about ten years and a million beers ago. He talked extensively on his truck, the one parked outside with the KC lights, and splattered with mud, obviously he had been “mudding” recently. The mud was a badge of honor.
His cell phone rang, and he had a quick conversation with whoever called. He hung up and said “hey let’s get out of here there’s a kegger at my boy’s house.” I looked at him and said “I don’t drink remember.” He gave me the look I had become accustomed to, the one that said he just realized I had two heads. “Ah come on what’s a beer or two?” Trying to hide my irritation with a smile, I told him that a beer or two constituted of drinking, which as I said I don’t do. He opened his mouth to speak, but before he was able to, I picked up my bag and said why don’t you go, it sounds like fun. I have a paper to write for one of my classes anyway. And with that I walked out.
The second I got home, I kicked of my shoes and shed my coat, tossing it on the recliner. I pulled out my cell phone and called my best friend. I plunked down on the couch just as I heard him say “what’s up Ray?” I laughed “what’s up? What’s up is that I am never taking your dating advice again.” He roared with laughter as I proceeded to tell him all about my four extremely bad dates.