Sunday, February 26, 2012

Issue Nine, Volume Three

From the Desk of the Editor;
Welcome to Issue Nine, Volume Three of Larks Fiction Magazine! In this issue we are featuring works of prose that could or have or will happen in our world. This is realistic fiction week on Larks!
We are proud to announce our second edition of Larks Monthly online at! Check it out for all the great literature from Feburary’s issues all in one convenient e-magazine you can take anywhere you have a computer or e-reader!
 For more news about what we are up to at Larks HQ and in the literature world check out @LarksMedia, @Filozophy, and our Facebook page!
Daniel J. Pool
LFM Editor

The House Two Doors Down
Peter McMillan

Herman's house was being taken down. The giant orange crab claw rhythmically dug into the shrinking house and pulled out the twisted, broken, and pulverized remains and dumped them into large steel bins. From my front window, I couldn’t see anyone operating the destructive machine. Several thickset men, with only their white faces unprotected from the cold, stood off at a distance, talking more with their hands than their voices.
Two doors down, right where two streets came together in a T, I had a good view. The sound effects were pretty good, too, especially when the jerking hydraulic claw dropped its heavy bucket load of debris. The sound reverberated through the naked trees, occasionally rattling the windows. With just a little imagination, the machine looked like a sea monster from the early days of Japanese horror movies. This one's name was Hitachi. I don't recall the name of the one Godzilla fought in the 1960s, but Godzilla would have been no match for what I was watching from my window. This thing was enormous. Its powerful orange arm, even flexed, was taller than the two-storey houses on either side, and fully extended it could probably top the blue spruce next to what had been the garage.
The machine monster was relentless in its demolition but remarkably under control. If it were to go berserk, the houses on three sides would have been summarily gutted just like Herman's. The round white-faced men propped up against their F-150s seemed to have trained this beast well. Every once in a while, one them would point or wave his arms or yell a single syllable command, and the beast would pause and then take a new course of action. I wondered if these things ever disobeyed or misbehaved—in real life, I mean, not in fictional horror stories and movies.
Just after five, when the last bin was driven off, and the machine monster had been loaded and chained in place on the heavy equipment hauler, the first real snow of the season started falling. It was sticking and probably covering the scarred land where Herman's house had been. If this kept up, I'd still be able to see out my window all night long, though now there’d just be a hole between two houses.
It’s not as if I liked or disliked Herman. I don't even know if Herman was his name. We never spoke or waved or anything. He kept to himself, too. Years ago when I used to get out, I’d walk my dog past his house a couple of times a day, and he was always there at the window. That was it. Two doors down and that’s the extent of our lives crossing. Nevertheless, I felt kinda sorry to see his house get ripped apart like that and treated like garbage. Maybe it's because I can see someone looking out their window one day and watching mine get demolished. I know it WILL happen. Watching Herman's house come down, I FELT it.

About the Author;
Peter McMillan is a freelance writer and ESL instructor who lives with his wife and two flat-coated retrievers on the northwest shore of Lake Ontario.

Get Back Better
By Eleanor Leonne Bennett

Eleanor is a 15 year old photographer and artist who has won contests with National Geographic, The Woodland Trust, The World Photography Organization, Winston’s Wish, Papworth Trust, Mencap, and Dot Dot Dash She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.Only visual artist published in the Taj Mahal Review June 2011. Youngest artist to be displayed in Charnwood Art's Vision 09 Exhibition and New Mill's Artlounge Dark Colours Exhibition.

The Consequences of Smoke
By Charley Daveler

He watched the drip pooling at the end of his brush, unwavering in his stare.
A splat of red exploded against the concrete. Though his studio had no tarnish before, being only a week in since he moved in, he didn’t seem to mind that it had commenced its worn-in look.
Le Franc knitted his brow, flicking his eyes from the spot on the floor to his painting then back again. The internal debate raged within him.
The man groaned, throwing the brush onto his easel and stepping back a bit.
Ma Chat sat on his couch, blinking in the sun happily. Michael Le Franc stared at him before sighing and strolling over. Patting the cat between the ears, he leaned against the hard cushions, glancing over his shoulder though the large, sunlit window to the city. Ma Chat allowed the petting to go on a while as his master mused, almost on the bridge of showing his acceptance through purring.
“Decour, Ma Chat,” Le Franc said to his companion. “I must ask your opinion.”
The cat seemed very pleased with this, closing his eyes in consent.
“Look at this painting, my feline friend,” Le Franc continued, picking the black furred animal up to carry to his masterpiece. “Seems finished, doesn’t it?”
An image of a battle field expanded on the canvas. The gray and blue pallet sitting discreetly behind the great spatters of bright red blood granted the painting a solemn look. Men died and fought under a teary night sky, the surrealism of war brought out in exaggerations of expressions and death. The corpses opened their eyes in a way too large for their heads, the fighters held guns that appeared to heavy for a person to carry. The deserter cowering in the corner seemed small, while the generals on horseback held their cavalry from a distance, appearing like giants in the background. The battle had almost been won; blue coats and red coats, diminished by shadows and the dark, laid to their fate, a few of the British starting to turn back while the union shed tears in relief.
Three years had it been setting in all these details. Three years of actual labor. Unlike certain artists who claimed their lengthiest works were lines, he surrendered his life to this masterpiece. Every night for the past three years he spent hours on each of the soldiers, on the grains of lifeless dirt that sat under them, giving specific strokes to the skies, dotting in the dimming stars.
For once in his life he was proud of the result.
He admired the painting every time he studied it. There was not the typical flaw that haunted him every time he looked to it. Le Franc felt pure, immaculate confidence. A glimpse at this work led him to a smile.
Yet, now he sighed. Ma Chat knew this to be a bad sigh, turning his large yellow eyes towards the human with curiosity. He sniffed at his chin as though that would tell the answer. Le Franc petted the cat’s head as he stared at the painting.
“I had a vision for this one. From the beginning, I knew what I wanted it to look like.”
The cat had enough of it and started wiggling to free himself from the man’s arms. He set the animal on the floor.
“But now, I’m not so sure if I should finish it, or leave as is.”
 Ma Chat hadn’t meant to be done with him, however, rubbing his head against Le Franc’s ankles.
“See those cannons?” he asked, gesturing with two fingers towards the edge. “They have just gone off. When a cannon goes off, it leaves smoke, Ma Chat.”
The cat mewed to be lifted up again. Le Franc complied.
“And do you see that peak of light on the horizon? That one white line I drew? It means its morning. Not that you would know; you’ve never been up that early.”
Ma Chat merely informed him that he had not meant to be picked up, wiggling hatefully in his arms once again. He put him down.
“In the morning, I would think I would want a morning mist. That’s how I envisioned it. A morning mist that mixed with the cannons, demonstrating a chill… A wet chill.”
The black cat refused to listen, continuing to talk over his owner with an impatient stare.
“Plus, with mist and fog and smoke, I could easily show a bit of a wind.”
Ma Chat walked across his boots.
“However. What if I error?”
Le Franc’s companion grew irritated, finally sauntering away towards the door.
“I will have to paint a thin layer of white over the entire piece. If I make a wrong stroke, or simply do not like the way it turns out… Do you realize I could completely destroy this?”
The cat did not realize, and furthermore, did not care. He sat at the door.
Tilting his head to the side, Le Franc frowned. “If I do not like it, I’ll probably have to throw the whole thing out.”
Ma Chat continued to cry.
“Then where will I be? I will be painting-less and idea-less. However, if I leave it like this, I can sell as is. And no one will know the wiser.” He thought for a time, twisting up his mouth and studying the work intensely before going back to the cat with a, “What do you want?!”
Ma Chat stared at him, almost frowning.
The man sighed, strolling over to the door and opening it. The black tail flicked as the cat slipped out, strolling down the stairs into the apartment. Le Franc refrained from rolling his eyes in disgust as the smell of bacon surged upon him.
“Mon cherrie, are you cooking down there?” he called down the stairs.
“Yes, Michael,” the wispy voice of his wife replied. “Come to breakfast.”
“I can’t. I have an important decision to make.”
“Oh? And what did Ma Chat have to say about it?”
“He is being quite unhelpful.”
“You just don’t know how to read him right. He says, if you’re going to mope about it, stop painting.”
“That is the way for nothing to get done!”
“But you already said it was done.”
“I said it might be done.”
“What’s ‘might’ got to do with it?”
“I haven’t decided if it’s done or not.”
He heard the sound of a pan slapping back onto the stove. Footsteps echoed from below him. His wife strolled to the bottom and frowned up at him.
“Didn’t you tell me that indecisiveness is the one way to destroy art?”
“Yes, but only if it’s obvious indecisiveness.”
“And yours isn’t?”
“It looks fine as it is.”
“Then leave it!” she shouted, turning away.
  “But I don’t like it.”
She marched back, glaring up at him to his, “Then change it.”
“But if I take the wrong course, I won’t be able to stop thinking about it.”
“Then do it well,” she grunted, turning on her heels and disappearing from sight.
He paused for a moment before nodding. “Decour, mes amour. Merci. I will do just that.”
“Wait, not right no—”
He slammed the door shut with a smile on his face, strolling up to the painting with a new found confidence. Picking up a clean horse haired brush, he dabbed it in the white and started to mix a smoky gray. With a steady hand, he moved to the portrait with great concentration. Placing his palm on the canvas, he leaned in until his face sat an inch away. The paint dangled on the tip, almost reaching out to grab the surface. With hope, he took a breath and almost touched the painting when a scratching came at the door.
Ma Chat wanted to be let back in.

About the Author;
Charley Daveler is an American author whose short stories have been published in literary magazines including 365Tomorrows, Smashed Cat, and Pulp Metal Fiction. She enjoys long walks on the beach and criticizing literature she doesn't understand.

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1 comment:

  1. I liked this piece quite well. In fact I read it twice, sharing the moment of indecisiveness with Le Franc. As an author, I have been there (and you have been there, doubtless): to change that line which would necessitate editing a dozen other pages, but to leave it is to bow to imperfection and admit laziness.

    The only distraction for me was persistent misspelling of the French words he uttered. It would be a thing of little matter to look them up online and correct them, so I tried to accept them as intentional. Alas, unless you were doubling down on the message that to leave an unfinished thing is to perpetuate error and vice in the world -- and thus the typos are intentional -- I am afraid it but pestered me.

    Nevertheless, a worthy short story.