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Cover
Table of Contents
Editor's Notes
Donations
Submission Guidelines
Website

Stories & Essays
Balance
_
By Alison Baumy
Contemporary Cultural Differences...
_ By Ninni Siurua
Eclipsed Yesterdays
_ By Clyde Windjammer
Healthy Guy
_ By David J. LeMaster
Immortalis Letum
_ By Sophie Davis
Last Call For Salvation
_ By Angela P. Markham
My Fault
_ By Ro Thorton
Pacific Northwest
_ By Aaron Hellem
Q-Q Ca Choo
_ By Billy Pilgrim
The Best Laid Plans
_ By John A. Ward
The Ecstasy of Cooking
_ By Sam Nolting
The Girl With the Green Umbrella
_ By J.R. Earlebeck
The Gods of Houston
_ By Rebekah Frumkin

Poetry
Athena's Owl
_ By Amberly Mason
But I Have Never Known This
_ By Kaleen Love
Clouds On Your Floor
_ By Savannah Bobo
Crowded Lobby
_ By M. Blair Spiva
Ever After
_ By Bennie Johnson
Important Questions
_ By P.T. Bell
Migration
_ By Sarah Wassberg
Moon Goddess
_ By Kristina Diane Smith
Oldest Profession
_ By Ashley Polker
On Visiting Hay-on-Wye
_ By M. Blair Spiva
Sodom and Gomorrah
_ By Jessica Fannin
Wal-Mart
_ By P.T. Bell

Art & Photography
Jeremy Harker
_ Paintings
Douglas C. Knight
_ Photography
Jed Knox
_ Paintings and Drawings
May Ann Licudine
_ Paintings
Danny Malboeuf
_ Paintings
Alex Stanbury
_ Photography

The Girl With the Green Umbrella
By J.R. Earlebeck


They cheer.

***

The heart pounds, the lungs flex, the veins tug and strain to escape the fencing flesh, the tether of reality, the boundary of skin. There is the smell of sweat, the taste of blood, the sound of skin colliding with skin in hopes of jarring free.

This is what "life" means.

The crowd will scream, ripping at the thick air with teeth stolen from sharks. Sharks, in their lifetime, go through hundreds of sets of teeth. Did you know? They lose so many to fights and food and fickle pleasures forced upon them by destiny. Cruel nature ensures facilitation of necessity for rows upon row of razor sharp incisors.

The crowd will caw and clamor in the hedonistic pursuit of carrion. They want a cadaver today. Vultures have evolved in a peculiar fashion, the way evolution is like and fond to do. Their necks and heads are sheared of feathers, minds clear in the consumption of flesh. Gore saturation is just-too-messy to clean away, to preen and to hide and to tuck the bloody business out of sight.

The crowd will hiss for milk.

Babies have no voice with which to ask, all they do is bleat.

***

They smell blood.

***

It reads across the board:

Vipers: 140
Coyotes: 100

***

They scream.

***

Electric lights burn and blaze like artificial fire. The scoreboard hums and buzzes, contented fly. No act can change the score tonight. No single yell can ring above the shrieks, the hum, the light reflecting and glaring harsh and electric and blinding against the smog, the cloud of frozen breath hovering over the crowd tonight.

The night is cold, but she sweats. The air is poisoned, but she pants. She gasps and flounders in the atmosphere (slippery fish) where people don't naturally belong.

***

Lilah punched deep into the wall of the coliseum, leaving a welt, which unsatisfactorily healed itself. The walls were built with her kind of people in mind, and as soon as they were touched, absorbed the shock, bulged inward, and slowly filled up again to a flawless, full perfection. Just once, Lilah wished, just once she would like to leave a mark; the wall, ignorant of the irony employed, only functioned dictated by design.

The referee went ambling by. Lilah bashed its head with her hands, crushing it though she herself felt no pain. The ref crumpled to the ground, ruined face sparkling unfairly, electronic brains smearing all over the plastic green carpet that crunched beneath it.

Her teammates snickered, howled, hooted, and slapped her on the back. They retreated from the Roman field, the cursing, losing team contrasted to the cursing, winning team by a void of forty arbitrarily attributed units.

In the mates' common room, later, the girl came. She was metal inside, titanium stainless, no blood fueling her nervous impulses. They all knew. They whistled, cheered, jeered, some leering, and she completely disregarded them as she always, always did.

The girl wore a simple dress of white, a color that could never survive even a brush of contact with actual air, the kind in the sky, outside of the buildings. Around her waist and neck, green ribbons fluttered and fawned every step her sensible, green sock-stuffed shoes took. She smiled with her perfect teeth, plain brown hair neatly tucked into an old-fashioned hat.

In her dainty, gloved hands she held a green umbrella.

She stepped up to Lilah, a Goliath, undaunted. The girl’s mouth opened. She said:

"Lilah, Lilah Coyote, Ran wanted it said, and sent me to say it; the repairs on the android referee are being taken out of your balance. Unless you win the game next week, that's a quarter's pay." Her smiling expression never faltered in all its artificial perfection.

"What?" Lilah demanded.

The girl repeated herself, slowly.

Lilah slapped her hard on the cheek, enough to bruise, maybe even enough to break a human being. The girl reeled under the blow, and she hit the floor in make-believe pain, or a good imitation of it. Her hair and hat fell. She put a gloved hand to her face, cringing. "I'm sorry."

"You tell Ran—" Lilah began.

The umbrella rolled into Lilah's foot plaintively, appealing her to kindness. Embarrassed, Lilah picked it up, took the android's delicate, gloved hand, and picked the girl up, too. She shoved the umbrella at its owner. "Never mind, Dori. Go home."

Expression solemn, Dori said, "Thank you." She clutched the umbrella to herself, a baby made of cloth, looking positively ridiculous about it, like a small child herself.

***

And in a burst of ribbons, the girl with the green umbrella flutters away.

She forgot to take her hat.

(Turn the page)