The Boy Who Plays With Knives

By Angel Zapata

His sister tells me he’s been rushed to the emergency room about a dozen times. No one can get it to stop.

“Why do you like knives so much?” I take a seat across from the boy.

He skirts the question, eyeballs my office from left to right. “Pick something you’re tired of looking at in here,” he says.

I point at the dusty drapes.

He flicks his wrist and a short dagger flies, pins the curtain panel back to the window frame. Slivers of afternoon light pierce the shaded walls.

“Impressive,” I say. “What else can you do?”

Metallic squeaks amid a swirl of hand motions produce an open butterfly knife. I lean forward in my chair. Scabs on his fingers and palm are visible though the molded holes of the polished handle.

“Watch this.” The bandages on his face crinkle as he grins and performs a series of spinning blade tricks. “You like?”

“You’re a very talented young man.” I hesitate for a moment. “You’re bleeding.”

“Am I?”

He latches the handle of his knife and sets it down on my desk.

Blood seeps from the blue stitches near his elbow.

“Do you know why you’re here, Jason?” I ask.

He takes his time responding. “Because you like to play with knives too.”

I chuckle. “Never thought of it like that. But I guess you have a point.”

“You know what made me get my first knife?”

I shake my head.

“There was this hiker guy somewhere out west like five years ago,” Jason says. “A tree fell down on him, trapped him by the leg out in the forest in the middle of nowhere. He couldn’t get loose. He called out for help until he had no voice. There was no doubt in his mind he was going to die out there alone. So he made the only decision he could make. He took out this small pocket knife and sawed off his own leg. It took hours, but he survived.”

“I can’t imagine what he went through,” I say.

“I can,” Jason says, “it just takes practice.”

I stand, walk around the table. The hospital gown barely conceals the multiple scars above Jason’s left knee.

“It should be me doing this, not you.” Jason pounds his thigh and cries. “It’s my body.”

Sunlight amputates the inkblot shadows, illuminates the breach where Jason’s other leg should be.


Angel Zapata calls Augusta, Georgia his home. Born and raised in New York City, his award-winning fiction and poetry is a conglomeration of street smarts and Southern charm. Recent work has appeared at The 5-2: Crime Poetry Weekly, The Gyroscope Review, and Melancholy Hyperbole. You can find more of his work on Amazon.

Hooked

By Kerry White

Not far from the small town of Stiles, yet clearly beyond the indication of civilization it offered, was the Bend. Set back from the road and down a steep, rock-filled embankment, lay the river with its dark swirls, muddy fluidity and brooding trees. The Crow River, which flowed through town and often flooded in the spring, turned here creating lumped sandbars and pockets of stillness in all the rush and power of its flow.

Scooter, all of eight years old and enthusiastic, had rushed ahead of Lem to the fishing spot. Giving Scooter the privilege of being there first was an easy father’s gift. Besides, maneuvering down the embankment wasn’t as easy on Lem’s old knees as it was on his son’s. As soon as he reached bottom, Lem knew something was wrong.

Scooter stood silent and still by the bank, head down. The fine new fishing pole drooped, the line slack out in the water where it disappeared below the surface, hooked.

“Scooter….”

Almost inaudible Lem heard, “It’s Ridley, Pa.”

Ridley? Ridley’s dead, lost in last week’s flood. Scooter’s best friend. Lem scanned the water and realized something bobbed just below the surface. A piece of checked shirt drifted up and down with the water’s current. He knew that shirt well.

“We need to bring him in, Scooter.” Eyes filled with tears, so large and deep brown, looked up at him.

“I … I can’t, Pa.”

Lem kneeled down and took his son’s shoulders into hands, rough and scarred from years of working at the sawmill. “Scooter, his folks will want to mourn and bury him. They need to be able to say goodbye. If your mom and I …” his voice faltered, “If we had lost you, son, that’s what we’d want, too.”

Scooter turned to look out on the water. “He’s gotta be cold, wet and cold, Pa, and the fish …”

Lem gripped his son’s shoulders tighter, which made Scooter face him again. “He may not be the same as we remember him, but he’s still Ridley. Can you hold the pole while I work the reel?”

Finally, Scooter nodded. Scooter brushed the tears away and gripped the pole so hard his knuckles turned white. Lem slowly turned the reel and drew the body toward the shore. Once it reached the shallows he stopped.

“Scooter, I need you to do something important now. Hand me the reel, ok? I want you to go to the post office and tell Mrs. Stern what we found and to call the sheriff. I’ll wait here with Ridley. Can you do that?”

“Yes, Pa.”

“You can stay at the post office.”

Scooter shook his head, “Pa, I want to come back.” He looked towards the river bank. “I want Ridley to see I’m still his buddy.”

He brushed his son’s tawny hair just before Scooter started to climb. It would be a long walk back for him but Lem knew his son had just grown long legs.


Once upon a time in a small village there was born a male child of unusual strength, vitality, incredible handsomeness and intelligence. He lived down the street from where Kerry was born. This required Kerry to become a thinker and writer of …thoughts. He constantly strives to find the uncommon, unusual or nothing at all; gazing off into some far away distance before the dinner bell rings. Other days, he is a pirate, for pirates have no bounds and can do anything they want, when they want to and however they want to. Kerry has been published in FewerThan500, Flash Fiction Magazine, “FoxTales 2, 3, 4” and most currently in “Phantasm’s Door.”

Author Profile: D. L. Shirey

DL_Shirey

How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

Of all the family stories my mother used to tell, there was one about me watching TV. It wasn’t so much the programs that fascinated me, she said, as did the commercials in-between. I was hooked on advertising and thought Darren Stevens, the husband character on Bewitched, had the greatest job, working for an advertising agency. And when I found out it was possible to make a living at it, I became a copywriter. I also found out that it can be a tenuous profession; the loss of a big client can also mean loss of employment. When I went to the corporate side of marketing, managing agencies instead of doing the actual creative work, I still needed to flex my writer’s muscle. I spent many years writing and publishing poetry, then moved into flash fiction and short stories. Continue reading

Spat

By D. L. Shirey

Every day, the same thing for breakfast: cold, tasteless ridicule from a woman who owned everything but happiness, served to the husband she surely blamed for it. She couldn’t start her day without cupping her displeasure in venomous words. It didn’t matter if the man , or the cat, or the kitchen wallpaper sat before her, the room received invectives. Most days, more than he cared to count, the husband was there to receive them. Continue reading

Author Profile: Len Kuntz

Kuntz

How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

I was actually nine years old. We had writing assignments in fourth grade where you were supposed to choose between four or five different prompts, pick one and write a story. I’d always write stories on every prompt. At the end of the year, my teacher pulled me aside and said I should think about becoming a writer when I grew up. Continue reading

Burial

By Len Kuntz

My car’s air conditioner is broken.  The steering wheel and dashboard are both sticky, as if the heat is melting them.  Even my seat feels tacky.  It’s worse to roll down the window, the air outside a cauldron.  Ahead the road looks like an oil slick, shimmering ebony, the white stripes milky against the pressing black sea, trees along the highway wilted, nothing more than leafless spires.

My wife fans herself with a magazine.  She hasn’t spoken in over an hour.

When I watch her, she says, “What’s your problem,” without looking at me.

Fixing my eyes back on the road, I see a tumbleweed moving a few feet up.  It takes a millisecond more to register it’s not a tumbleweed, but an animal.

By the time I slam on the brakes it’s too late, the creature thuds against the car’s undercarriage.

The rank tang of burnt rubber fills the car’s interior.  My wife’s bumped her forehead and a jagged bolt of blood leaks down the center of it.

She looks like she wants to murder me.

“What…the…hell? she says.

“Are you okay?”

When I reach for her, she swats my hand away, so I set the car’s flashers, get out and walk back to inspect what I’ve done.

It was someone’s dog, a long leash around its neck, splattered with blood, blood everywhere, intestines and splotches of fur stuck to the highway like strange beasts growing up from inside the ground, having pushed through the pavement.

A minute later, my wife is behind me.  She makes a short shriek and gags, but does not puke.

Cars slow as traffic starts to pile up around us.  It’s blazing hot.  My shirt is soaked through, my eyes stinging from the sweat.

I remember I have a snow shovel in the trunk.

“What the hell are you doing?” my wife asks.

I take off my shirt to use as a tarp for the animal’s remains.  I start shoveling.

“Uh uh,” my wife says.  “No way, that’s sick.”

It’s the same thing she’d called me—sick—after finding out about Jen, her sister, and I.  The affair had been intense, but lasted only a month.  Jen’s guilt wouldn’t let her keep the secret and a week ago my marriage imploded.

A few car horns blare as drivers shout profanities.

“I can’t do this,” my wife says.

I can’t either, I think, and toss her the car keys.

“I’m not bluffing,” she says, heat flushing her face, enhancing her hatred for me.

When I go back to what I’m doing, she gets in the car, revs the engine, and squeals off.  I don’t look, just keep busy scooping chunks, saving the biggest piece for last.

I tie the ends of my shirt together and balance it against my chest, shovel over my shoulder.  I walk across lanes without checking for oncoming traffic, my eyes searching instead beyond the roadside, looking for the best place to bury what I carry.


Len Kuntz is a writer from Snohomish, Washington, an editor at the online magazine Literary Orphans, and the author of I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE AND NEITHER ARE YOU out now from Unknown Press.  You can also find him at lenkuntz.blogspot.com.

Author Profile: Frank C. Modica

FrankModica

How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

In fifth grade Sister Marie asked our class to write stories for a new school newspaper. I wrote a story and had it “published” – printed on those old smelly blue mimeograph sheets. I was hooked. Maybe it was the smell of the copier fluid. When we moved to the suburbs an English teacher in seventh and eighth grade, Mrs. Hull, encouraged me to write poems and stories. I’ve always carried a notebook around with me because of her inspiration. And I still have my original notebooks from 1966. Continue reading