A Chicago Love Story, by Adrian Slonaker

Her family was Polish. His was Irish. They met on the El somewhere between O’Hare’s tarmacs and the gorgeous views on L.S.D. (Lake Shore Drive, natch). Together they braved heat waves, flipped off snowdrifts and marked their winter parking spots with chairs from their front room. They raised children who loved Portillo’s Italian beef and the Cubs and were spooked by tales of Resurrection Mary. Eventually, the couple’s relationship became as snarled as rush hour traffic on the Eisenhower, and the two went their separate ways, concluding that ‘staying together through thick and thin’ refers exclusively to Edwardo’s pizza crust.

Birthing Tales, by Christine Emmert

I was ready for birth. No one told me. I just knew. When the pecking began on the outside of my shell I smiled and sang. Then the beak pierced the egg. The fluids ran red. Could I be discarded?
The Great Eye looked in on me.
“Are you there? Are you ready?”
I felt the wings of me start to unfurl.
“Can I fly already?” I asked.
“Fly,” I was ordered.
I asked “Where?” but there was no answer.
So I just took off. Out of the nest of broken eggs.

Ode to Jimmy Page, by Robert Bermudez

I can still remember it was a summer evening and the sky all orange and pink. I could hear kids playing and the ballgame through open windows and lawnmowers. I could smell the grass and hear the ice cream truck and my folks talking on the backyard patio.

I should have been just another lonely lost dreamer, wondering where the answer was, but for the swirling, transcendent sound of Led Zeppelin blasting from my stereo. It was Timeless and as long as it was there, so was I. In fact, Everything was.

And the world was perfect.

Double Vision, by Russell Conover

John’s eyes were spinning after staring at his work computer for so long. He panicked when saw the data he’d been verifying, even after he looked away.

“I need a computer game to clear the head,” John thought. Before he could load one, though, a multicolored vortex took over his vision. He blinked, shaking his head rapidly, but the reds, blues, and greens were still there. “What in the world?” he thought, his eyes widening.

His boss entered. “Jeez, John. Take a break. Your eyes glazed over.” John started, looking at his vortex computer background.

“I need a vacation. NOW.”

A Business Concern, by Fliss Zakaszewska

The Head of Sales read the letter aloud. “ … I am eggs-pressing eggs-treme eggs-asperation at the delays in eggs-ercising the full eggs-tent of my order whilst appreciating that the eggs-igent demands of the previous month’s orders must eggs-acerbate the situation for you. However, I eggs-hort you to eggs-alt your efforts. February is eggs-tremely close, and my order must be fully eggs-pedited by 14th February to ensure eggs-actment of the goods in eggs-cellent time for March … ”

She sighed and turned to her secretary. “It’s early this year and he’s panicking. Take a letter, James. Subject: ‘Chocolate, Bulk Order. Dear Easter Bunny … ’

New Year Diet, by Gordon Lawrie

Dedicated to all readers who have signed up for some sort of eating or drinking purgatory this month.

New Year brought a new diet. 2018’s fad – Dorothy’s Dynamite Diet – required her to eat only whatever brassica took her fancy. Each day she consumed brussels sprouts, cavolo nero, spring greens, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, turnip, kohl rabi, or pak choi, all seasoned with mustard seeds. Washed down with a litre of cabbage water.

Alcohol? You must be joking.

By January 19th she’d lost over two stones; by the 26th she was in Accident & Emergency. But she emerged in time to look at herself in the mirror five days later and say, “job done”.

Eleanor’s Eating Examination awaited in 2019.

Ghost in the Mirror, by Guy Fletcher

Harry awoke with all his bones aching, particularly his knees. It was an unfamiliar bed he stumbled out of.

He switched on the bathroom light and saw a ghost in the mirror: an old man with pot belly and greasy grey hair, not the youth Harry thought he was. The expression on the ghost’s face was one of shock.

“I’m going back to bed. This is all a nightmare.”

​There was a loud buzzing by his bed; a small machine was vibrating as he hid under the covers. Hours later he awoke … but the mirror still showed an old man.

Tha Anti-Capitalist, by Ian Fletcher

His Facebook avatar is a picture of Che Guevara.

He rants there as he does now against the evils of capitalism.

“We’re brainwashed to consume,” he says, quaffing his pint of Heineken in our local Wetherspoon pub.

“Right,” I concur.

He receives a call on his iPhone.

“Pizza Hut? I’ll be right over,” he says.

He’s off to celebrate with his girlfriend who’s just got her 2:1 in Business Studies.

He calls an Uber taxi, ties a loose shoelace on his Nike trainers, and puts on his North Face jacket.

And thus this ultimate product of capitalism takes his leave.

The Bohemian and the Terrapin, by Adrian Slonaker

She discovered him handling microfilm at the community library, obsessed with newspaper advertisements and local tidbits from 1959. In contrast to his charcoal sweater and black jeans, she was clad in flowing tangerine, olive, and turquoise cottons, like a mismatched hippie fashion show. She smiled affably, revealing several crooked teeth. He nodded stiffly, hiding deeper feelings and retreating within a terrapin’s shell blackened with bruises, scraped by scratches, and hardened by time. He tried to fortify his misanthropic mistrust, but, to his chagrin, he wasn’t crafted from muscovite. He responded to warmth. When she coaxed him, he crawled forth.