June 3, 2020

“The Outing,” A Short Story by Lee Marc Stein

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“The Outing,” A Short Story by Lee Marc Stein

They found his body at 5:00 am at the bottom of the stairs leading down from the sports deck to the pool. Claire Warner hears the announcement at 8:00 in her stateroom as she is curling her hair. “Ladies and gentlemen, this is your Captain. As some of you may already know, the body of our distinguished guest lecturer, Francesco Carlucci, was found this morning by our First Officer Paul Cornelius. We are guessing that Professor Carlucci missed a step, fell down the flight and hit his head. When we reach port in 30 minutes, an official Medical Examiner will come onboard to determine the actual cause of death. We promise to keep you informed.” Her husband was doing laps around the sports deck now. With the iPod blasting in his ear, he probably didn’t…

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June 1, 2020

Ben Gencarelle: Art’s Irrepressible Strangeness

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Ben Gencarelle: Art’s Irrepressible Strangeness

Artist’s Statement: “We are all strangers in a strange land, longing for home, but not quite knowing what or where home is. We glimpse it sometimes in our dreams, or as we turn a corner, and suddenly there is a strange, sweet familiarity that vanishes almost as soon as it comes.”― Madeleine L’Engle In the wrong place, in the wrong time, in the wrong job. Maybe misunderstood, maybe deluded, maybe both. Afraid. Too raw, too ugly, too real. Too much. Maybe you’re an immigrant. Maybe you’re neurodiverse. Maybe you’re both. Whatever you are or are not, the message is clear: you don’t belong here. So it starts. Masking. Crumpling up corners and sanding off edges. Tearing off the “extra” and pasting the scraps over the transparent places. Sometimes it helps. Sometimes you can fool them,…

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May 28, 2020

“Mutt and Jeff,” A Short Story by Robert Pope

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“Mutt and Jeff,” A Short Story by Robert Pope

Friends who knew us back in the day called us Mutt and Jeff. We had buddy tattoos on our biceps, cartoon characters: Jeff tall in an orange striped suit and fedora, with a mustache like mine, Mutt short, with mutton chops, dark suit and top hat. I never told Tina, my second wife, why I had the tattoo because I got into bad habits with Mick a year into my first marriage. I wanted him nowhere near me and Tina, until the bad times hit.   We had funny hours, Tina and I. She sold real estate, I worked from home, free-lancing web sites, buying and selling, investing. We made decent money, unpredictable, sure, but we talked about having a kid. That dropped off when things cooled in the bedroom. One Saturday, I drove by an open house to say hello when I saw her on the porch, talking with a younger guy in dark slacks, blue shirt. He had dark hair, styled, real regular white teeth.     I put it out of my mind overnight. We had a nice dinner, and off she went…

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May 26, 2020

“Bleeding Hearts,” A Short Story by Mary Daurio

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“Bleeding Hearts,” A Short Story by Mary Daurio

Sarah left early, taking her stepson Jacob to see his mother for perhaps the last time. * Upon awakening, John found his wife and son already gone, too late to rescind his permission from the night before. He was upset, not at her, but at himself. John knew how exaggerated his reaction to casual contact with Anne was, yet he remained afraid of his ex-wife’s illness. He prepared for work, swearing as he cut himself shaving in haste. The front door slammed behind him and the windows vibrated, but there was no one to witness his wrath, save the blackbirds flying off in raucous chorus. John wanted to scream but felt afraid he wouldn’t stop. He turned the corner to the newsstand. Force of habit. A byline about Liz Taylor’s celebrity fundraiser for AIDS caught…

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May 20, 2020

“Lester and the Mysteries of Wax and Wane,” by Derrick Lafayette

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“Lester and the Mysteries of Wax and Wane,” by Derrick Lafayette

Lester, for all intents and purposes, was walking his dog down a familiar trail at 8:21 pm. The first block was uneventful. The dog peed where he’d always peed millions of times before. Shat where he’d always shat before. Lester readied his green, eco-friendly poop bag, bent down with ease, and collected his pet’s droppings. At 8:35pm, Lester and his dog about-faced and were heading home when a giant flash of light enveloped the sky. He saw nothing but white, and his dog was an inverted shadow, blurring in his vision. When Lester was able to see again, all of the familiar surroundings took an interesting turn. A man whose feet never touched the ground, shrouded in orange garb with mandala designs, appeared before him. The man stretched his arm, opened his hand, and inside…

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May 19, 2020

Charles Baudelaire – An Art Criticism by Amanda Grafe

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Charles Baudelaire – An Art Criticism by Amanda Grafe

Editor’s Note: This work was borne from a conversation about art criticism between Amanda, an artist and Fictional Café’s fine arts barista, and myself over lunch in a Chinese restaurant last winter in Providence, Rhode Island. (The restaurant shall remain nameless, as the conversation was much better than the food.) We tended to agree that contemporary art criticism, as well as literary criticism, had both lost much of their moorings as expressions of Aristotelian criticism.  We resolved to study this anachronism further.   We decided to read and write about the art criticism of the French poet, essayist and libertine Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867). Our source was the book Charles Baudelaire: Selected Writings on Art and Literature (New York: Penguin Classics, 2006). Baudelaire is best remembered for his highly controversial poetry collection, Les Fleurs du Mal, and for translating Edgar Allen Poe into French, yet while alive he was also highly regarded for his incisive writing about art. He favored Romanticism in the arts and attended many annual art exhibits in Paris known as Salons. “The Salon of 1846” was the second…

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May 17, 2020

“The Kaiser of the Immaterial Kingdom,” by Ewa Mazierska

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“The Kaiser of the Immaterial Kingdom,” by Ewa Mazierska

It was late afternoon in late January. I was sitting on my own in a compartment of a Berlin–Warsaw train. There was only two or three minutes until its departure, and I assumed that I would have the compartment to myself when this guy came in. He didn’t say hello or ask if the remaining seats were free, as it was customary on the Polish trains, just took his seat near the door and put his small rucksack and two shopping bags on a shelf above him. Although his behaviour was verging on being rude, I felt instant sympathy for him, in part because behind his actions I sensed a desire to be invisible rather than rudeness and in part on the account of his similarity to my old friend from university, with whom the…

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May 14, 2020

“Process,” An Essay and Poetry by Mbizo Chirasha

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“Process,” An Essay and Poetry by Mbizo Chirasha

Editor’s Note: Featured here is work from The Fictional Café’s 2020 Poet in Residence, Mbizo Chirasha. We begin with the first of two images (above) from his collection entitled “Locked Paddocks,” followed by “Process,” an essay about Mbizo’s search for identity and becoming a “born again human.” Next, we have the second image from “Locked Paddocks” and finally a poem, simply titled “2.” We hope you enjoy the creative work of Mbizo. “Process,” an Essay  Immersed in the cauldron of swirling floods, I flap my weighted wings with a singular drive carrying my dreams in a perforated duffle bag. My feet seek the sun at midnight in the land processing its abortion of tomorrow under the sniper’s telescope so no truth escapes unpunished. I am a child of the South thrown further South where oceans crash with…

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May 11, 2020

“The Party,” A Short Story by William Torphy

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“The Party,” A Short Story by William Torphy

Image: “He Said, She Said” (c) Katheryn Holt, www.kholt.com The Party It was the architect and the gun moll who captured my attention. The party was a casual industry event held in the Hollywood Hills at the home of a producer, one in fact who had bankrolled a film I’d worked on once, though all my ideas for it were rejected in favor of chase scenes and revenge murders. I was a screenwriter who had yet to see any credits on screen. I hadn’t worked for over a year and needed to hustle a project, any project, very soon.    I was out of sorts when I arrived since my wife Jen announced at the last minute that she needed some quiet ‘me-time’ that evening. She did, however, take time to dress me for the affair. Tight black jeans that were squeezing my balls. A fifty-dollar T-shirt a size too small that cut into my underarms. A tailored green cashmere sport coat that made me look like a string bean.   I’d been invited through a friend of a friend of a colleague, someone I’d never met but hoped…

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May 7, 2020

“My Girlfriend, the Narcissist,” Poet Natascha Graham

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“My Girlfriend, the Narcissist,” Poet Natascha Graham

My Girlfriend, the Narcissist   She’s called Gillian. She’s got brown hair, and eyes the colour of a bleached winter sky.  She’s about 5’5″, but she’s tough.  My girlfriend was a narcissist. She didn’t like me having friends, or seeing family.  So, I didn’t really.  Gillian stuck around, though.  In fact, that’s when I first met her.  A few months in.  I met her on the school run.  She was standing in a driveway nudging gravel with the toe of her Converse.  I asked her if she’d lost something.  Her wedding ring, she said. Not that it mattered.  He was a cheating bastard.  We walked to school together, her black wax jacket similar to mine, though I envied its collar, and the zip doesn’t work on mine. It broke on Melton playing field when I bent…

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