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El Gato

By Kate Niles 

            The starving cat comes at me this morning, and my first thought is to wonder what is going on with the two men on our street whom I assume take care of it. Male, a light grey and white tabby, he roams our block as if homeless and used to pick fights with our cat until the latter grew too old and resorted only to hissing at him in our driveway from under my car. The tabby lived for a long time with a bachelor two house down from us, a guy whose person and car – a rust-colored Honda Element – are neat and tidy. He wears a natty striped bathrobe when drinking his morning coffee and making street runs to the Honda in prep for the work day. This is usually between 7 and 8 a.m., when I walk my decrepit dog around the block; he will say hi if the opportunity arises and in this state I have no qualms. But his house hasn’t been painted in years; sloppy yellowed curtains shroud his windows, and a gutted Scamp trailer sits perpetually in his driveway. His cat fits with this sagging lack of maintenance.

            However, at some point, the cat changed hands, if such a thing can be said about such a cat. The second man in the cat’s life is named Channing and until recently he functioned as our informal block mayor, holding court with neighbors as he hosed down his lawn with his shirt off. He is not a man who necessarily should have his shirt off, as he is retired, heavy set, and very white. He used to sell some kind of insurance for a living and for the first seven years or so that we lived in our house on this block he was apparently married. I rarely saw his wife, however, and last year the neighbor between us, a widow named Pam, told me they were divorcing...

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By Stephanie Mark

            He was handsome, for men on the website at least: tanned, ash-blond, late forties. He shared my interests in French cuisine, urban fantasy literature, and Steven Soderbergh films. We quibbled about what wine to pair with salade niçoise, whether the book or show of The Magicians was superior, and the quality of the Ocean’s Eleven sequels.

            He lavished praise on my photos. He complimented my ass, which I prize, my collarbones, which I ignore, and my face, which I loathe. He said nothing about the size of my aquiline nose and only positive things about my smile, whose slightly crooked teeth I thought pronounced in even my best picture.

            I hesitated before responding to this praise. I worried why a man of this caliber would message me instead of the prettier girls. Men who have been on the site know that women with bigger tits, smaller noses, and straighter teeth will get drinks with them and still charge a price they can afford...

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By Rich Glinnen

            The meeting was delayed due to a fallen ice cream cone on the corner of Deville and Hampton— vanilla at first glance. The boys quickly discovered it was actually vanilla swiss almond and collectively destroyed any evidence of its existence.

            They trotted to the Jelinek factory; Blue, Smokey, and Butch joking about burning off the toppled dessert, how they didn’t need the extra calories, how they saw Butch voraciously lap up gravel by accident. Chap was silent.

            The factory at which the dogs assembled was empty lately. The frigid temperatures and shortened daylight hours would eventually clue the strays that the absence of factory workers was due to the arrival of the holidays. They recently no longer had to slink out into the cold at the end of every meeting and find a warm place to bear the night; nor did they need to brave the glimmering day, exposed to myriad predators.

            The foursome arrived and took their seats. Being that it was his first meeting, Chap went first.

            “Hello gentlemen; much gratitude for your invitation,” Chap began, emotion already wetting his eyes.

            Smokey leaned and animatedly whispered to his neighbor, “Hot dog, Blue, where’d you get this one?”

            Stoic Blue, never relinquishing attention from Chap, hushed him from the side of his mouth like wind whipping off a mountain.

            Chap was ignorant of the chatter, “It was an ordinary morning. Felt optimistic, not a solitary worry in the world.”

            “I know that feeling,” Blue related.

            “Love that feeling,” Smokey indulged.

            “I’m feeling like that right now,” Butch lied.

            “And my best friend, Johnny, was still sleeping, much later than he usually does. But I suppose that makes sense, as he returned home close to dawn, zigzagging all about the abode, reeking of an odor altogether unfavorable and alien. Eventually, he staggered to his bedroom and, after doggedly futzing with his slacks, collapsed onto the mattress.” The others nodded during Chap’s pauses to feign comprehension; in actuality, they were lost...

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By Trina Kurilla

            It started with lasagna.

            I was reading the newspaper when the second chime of the doorbell rang out. Then there was a pot of soup followed by a roast chicken. When I was working on eleven down and thirty across on the last page, the corned beef arrived. A few times I didn’t make it to the door in time and a dish would be left on the porch with a note. I was on the phone with the attorney when the pies came, each from a different person, fifteen minutes apart, one apple and one cherry. Both pastry deliverers excused themselves, not wanting to further interrupt my call. Pierogies, stew, and more appeared at the door, always with a sympathetic face and a loss for words, but they all ended up saying the same thing as everyone else.

            Death did that to people.

It brought out the chefs in all of them. Comfort food in all forms continued to arrive, savory to sweet. But each meal came without company, just wanting to stop by before work, wanting to let me know I was in their thoughts, and not to worry about returning the Tupperware. By the second day, there was so much food I had trouble closing the fridge door all the way...

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The Croatian Getaway 

By Leah Rogin

            My therapist wanted to put me on Zoloft.  He said I was suffering from depression after the movie theater massacre. I was one of the lucky ones, the ones who got down in time, who listened to the shots echoing and the screams in that ninety seconds that felt like infinity, but walked away.  Lucky, everyone reminded me.

            But after Newtown, Dr. Harris gave up.  It became so clear that the country was the crazy one, not me, that even he said maybe I should get out for a while.  

            My husband wanted to come, but he also wanted to stay with the young girl he didn’t think I knew about, the cheerful blonde who waited tables, who probably never woke up screaming.  

            I came to Croatia, mostly because I’d never been there before.  No one I knew had ever been there before. I needed something fresh.  I found the spot where the Adriatic met the Mediterranean and felt peaceful inside.  I discovered a sweet little town with no other Americans. The tourist agency recommended a one-bedroom apartment I could rent by the week.  Mondays were the day for the market. I lived off of fresh figs, local olive oil, surreally delicious tomatoes.

            I met Davo in the market with his niece and nephew.  He was selling the famous Istrian truffles. I bought the smallest bag I could, just a few slivers.  

            “How should I cook it?”  I asked Davo.

            “It is good in eggs,” he told me.  “That is how my niece likes to eat it.”  The girl looked up from the smooth stones she and her brother were using to play some complex game and I felt deep pangs of jealousy.  I had never before felt jealous of someone just for growing up in a culture so different from my own, where children played games without guns or batteries and ate truffles...  

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