Long Division by Allen Seward

It was about nine-


one night, I was working at 

a gas station, I 

don’t think I was twenty 


and someone came in to tell us all 

about something that had just 


a teenage boy stepped out 

in front of a tractor-trailer

right out in front of a church 

along the highway. 

they said he went to a nearby school 

for troubled boys, 

that it wasn’t an accident 

but rather 

he had stepped out into the 

highway, in front of that tractor-

trailer, as a suicide. 

what a selfish boy, someone said. 

he had taken it upon 

a driver to do the deed. 

that poor man’s probably destroyed, 

someone said, 

he’ll never forget this. 

we found out that the driver saw 

a pink mist. 

what about the boy’s 

poor mother? someone else 


that poor woman. 

they never think about these 

sorts of things 

before they do it. 

and this went on. 

they talked about the driver, about 

the boy’s family, about 

the people he left behind, 

about what they might think, 

how they might feel, 

but no one really talked about the boy. 

this was not about him. 

I wondered if I had seen him before. 

some of the students 

at this nearby school for 

troubled boys 

were regular customers. 

they would come in with their counselors

if they behaved well. 

I wondered how much he had thought 

about it, and if he held his breath 

when he stepped out. 

I wondered if he was as bad at 

long division as I was. 

I wondered how many times 

in the next five minutes 

the phone would ring, 

people ordering pizzas and sandwiches, 

asking about cigarette and gas prices. 

we weren’t supposed to give 

the prices out 

over the phone. 

I wondered how the past Tuesday was, 

if he felt it was just another Tuesday. 

I wondered about Wednesday, too. 

it was sad how quickly he was removed from 

his own equation. 

what a selfish thing to do, someone said. 

never thinking about anyone else. 

that poor driver, 

they said.

he saw a pink mist.

Allen Seward is a poet from the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. His work has appeared in Scapegoat Review, DEDpoetry, JAKE, Streetcake Magazine, and more. His chapbook ‘sway condor’ is available on Amazon thanks to Alien Buddha Press. He currently resides in WV with his partner and four cats. 

@AllenSeward1 on Twitter, @allenseward0 on Instagram

Me Vs. The Yankees by Gina Manchego

It was always Me Vs. The Yankees…

During baseball season,

then eventually, every season.

I’d try to coax my husband into a double header, final score 69.

Instead, he would ask me to bring him a sandwich and a drink.

“Hold the mustard, Gina.”

I’d ‘accidentally’ put a mound of mustard on boring white bread. The only thing I was holding was my tongue.

It was always Me Vs. The Yankees…

I secretly wished he’d pay attention to me like he did that team.

Once during a game, I straddled him, naked on the couch.

Kissed him passionately on his neck and beard. Took a bite of his bottom lip, like I was enjoying stadium cotton candy. I let the tip of my tongue dissolve the sweetness of his earlobe.

He looked right through me at the television, even when I moved my hips into the middle of his cargo shorts.

He pushed me off and said,

“Gina, please! There’s nothing more important than this game.”

That’s what he said about every game.

It was always Me Vs. The Yankees…

He replaced date night with Fantasy Baseball league.

He’d meet his boys to talk stats, coming home smelling of stale beer and cigarettes.

I’d bury my head under the sheets, trying to take him into my mouth.

He’d yawn and turn on ESPN highlights.

It was then I knew, there must be something wrong with…


Vs. the Yankees.

I couldn’t compete.

1, 2, 3 strikes you’re out, never again will he steal home plate…

or my heart.

The game has been cancelled due to rain-or maybe those are tears. He’s got the season slump blues since I benched him.

I always liked basketball better anyways.

I still wonder though, how his new teammate likes it?

Coming in second place,

to The Yankees.

Gina Manchego is a writer and multi-medium artist. Her space on the internet is ginamanchegoauthor.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @GiUknit

Dancing to Rasputin by Swetha Amit

I waited for the traffic light to turn green. 101 was swarmed with cars, typical of the Bay Area evening traffic. An accident brought the highway to a standstill. I tuned in to my radio station. The Weekend’s Blinding lights streamed from my speakers. I stared at the streaks of orange in the sky, merged with pink. It would soon turn black, and the sky would twinkle with the night gems. Just then, I heard a familiar tune. I sat up straight as the remix of Rasputin streamed in. I felt a throbbing pain in my heart. The traffic became a blur, and the headlights faded away into the realm of my tear-filled eyes. What a rage this song in the discos back in the 70s.

James requested the song because I asked for it. Because we could both shake our heads, tap our feet, and forget our woes in Boney M’s Rasputin. It wasn’t so hard to surrender to the beats. My hand gradually released the glass of swirling cocktail, beaming with the reflections of the shiny disco lights. Red, purple, blue. Red, purple, blue. Like the bruises on my back a few days when my father hit me. For daring to date a man outside of my religion. The stench of whiskey oozed from his breath while he cussed. So blasphemous, he’d say. The wagging tongues of the neighbors caused him to hang his head in shame. This is what becomes of a motherless twenty-year-old girl with no siblings to keep her company. What’s she doing roaming around with that good-for-nothing orphaned aspiring musician? They’d pass snide remarks about my dark mascara or red lipstick. All because a Hindu girl was dating a Christian boy.

James dismissed off as malice gossip. Unhappy souls, he’d shrug his broad shoulders. The same broad shoulders that enveloped me in a passionate embrace when we danced for the first time. The same broad shoulders where the guitar rested. The same broad shoulders I longed to caress and feel that skin beneath that tight-fitting T-shirt. The first time James asked me to dance at a friend’s party, I was standing in a corner, brooding over my mother’s death. Beneath the flashy lights, he held my hand while I sobbed. Later we walked by the beach, where the sand tickled our feet. I submerged myself in his arms the second time he asked me to dance. For several months, we spent time at the discos, swaying our heads to Rasputin and drumming our feet on the floor until they turned sore.

Not as sore as the insults when my father mocked James’s musical aspirations. Not as sore as the time when my face turned red after receiving several stinging slaps. Yet those red marks did not stop me from pressing my lips against James’ under the star-lit sky on a deserted beach, a night after the disco. It did not stop me from sliding my fingers beneath that shirt and running my hands over his smooth, unruffled skin. He initially resisted but succumbed to my surging passion while the waves crashed on the shore. The sand caressed us while our bodies moved in a harmonious rhythm.

It was the last night I saw James. He didn’t show up when I waited for him on the dance floor the following weekend. The lights flashed, the beats reverberated across the dance floor, and couples were lost in each other. I stood on the side, hoping to see his chiseled face, brown eyes, and his mop of black hair amidst the flurry of lights. I stood there, inhaling the musk scent of perfumes and smoke. He never showed up. I went home and waited for the phone to ring. Hoping he’d call and shower with apologies. He never called. A week later, the letter arrived. It wouldn’t work out, he’d written. An aspiring musician like him couldn’t battle against the barriers of religion or my father’s wrath manifesting in sending goons to his house. He was beaten black and blue. Black, blue. Black, blue, he reiterated. It is for the best he left the city. And just like that, he was gone.

I never went back to the discos. I never listened to Rasputin again. I eventually married the man my father chose for me. A gentle computer engineer who listened to me patiently when I confessed about James over a bottle of wine. A man who never judged me but wrapped me in a comforting embrace. He did not have broad shoulders or a chiseled face. He had a kind heart and a thick mustache. He took me to the other side of the world, where I worked in a research lab and raised two children and their children. Even as social media surged, I never dared to search for James. Did he marry? Did he live his musical dream? Did I really want to know after these forty years?

The light turned green. The cars slowly began to move. I stared at the sun disappearing behind the clouds. It would be daylight in some other part of the world. My phone buzzed. My husband called to check every time I was delayed from my errands. As I drove along the highway, I watched vehicles overtaking one another and loud remix numbers emanating from some. The world was in a hurry to rush some to someplace. My phone buzzed again as I stopped at another signal. This time it was my daughter asking if I could babysit her five-year-old daughter. While she and her husband attended a concert. My phone buzzed again with a photo of a poster. I squinted and peered closely. A gasp escaped my lips. Those broad tattooed shoulders cradled a guitar. Long sporting hair. Not so chiseled face with a goatee. He went by the name ‘The Mad Monk’ now.

Swetha is an Indian author based in California and a recent MFA graduate at University of San Francisco. She has published works across genres in Atticus Review, Oranges Journal, Toasted Cheese, and others (https://swethaamit.com). She is a reader for The Masters Review, and a staff writer for Fauxmoir lit mag. Her two stories have been nominated for Pushcart Prize 2022 She is an alumni of Tin House Winter Workshop and the Kenyon Review Writers’ workshop 2022. Find her on Twitter @whirlwindtots

Acid Mount Fuji by Tiffany Shaw-Diaz

my room is dark, save for the glow

of my computer screen

& i’m moving to music

moving with music as if

i were no longer human

but a verdant leaf or hydrangea

or a pile of dried earth that lifts & twists

from a burst of hot wind

i touch

the air behind the air & finally 

remember the space

between my lengthy dreams 

& you weren’t there

as you had previously always been

& perhaps

this was simply a chance 

to be the person i was



Heavy Hitter by Paige Johnson

Despite my red lips and white skirt,

you think I only bat for the other team,

tease me about the Braves throwing peaches

’cause I wear the colors and

come from tomahawk country.

But I’m a Florida girl at heart: batshit beach-bum

with wind-hurt hair and a salty tongue.

Would invite you over to feed my baby gator,

but Li’l Tator gets jealous of company,

and when you toss that baseball

straight up and down like a snipped yo-yo,

it’s too easy to mistake for an ibis. 

Hanging your student gov. button-up

on an office hook in Campus Life,

stripped down to a beige wife-beater,

you ask, “What happened to your girl Brittany?”

“Still breathing,” I promise. “She’s pom-poming for the blue-caps

right now.” I don’t ask why you’re not with the boys already,

’cause I know you saw me come back in for a spritz of perfume.

“She’s plannin’ to ‘accidentally’ kick a girl at the bottom

of the pyramid since she stole her shoes one night.

Tip-toed home to me, barefoot.”

You say, “Guess a sidewalk’s better than a bus.

But you two room? Where were you?”

Roaming the pretty campus carpets,

tying bows for other cheerleaders,

clinking pink lemonades with

blerds and school counselors,

but I can’t say that. So,

I excuse, “Practice.”

“Softball?” you bait, but

badminton’s tickly birdies

and musty black racket bags

don’t seem much less lezbo.

“Would you rather I slug like you?”

I pivot like hitting an invisible homer,

wishing I could slide under the bleachers

with you, tell “my girl” to leg it back to Atlanta.

“Slug me?” You laugh. “Naw, not into it.

Like a tough grrl, though.

A tomboy would look good

tugging at my sleeve.”

You saw me in yearbooks,

brandishing Wiffle ball bats,

striking out with gum-chewing,

pinstriped bubble butts on the team.

Because I liked their braids so much,

and they respected my “lifestyle” so little,

you even helped me Nair a few of their helmets.

But now I’m more passable, presentable, and you never

ran game on me then, all hippie-jeaned and jaded.

“It’s your loss,” I say, headed outside to spectate.

I can barely recall the name of our college team,

but know their batting average ain’t anything to brag about.

No, I’m here to slurp Powerade,

shit-talk study buddies,

and admire physiques.

Polyester makes even Pillsbury Boys pettable.

Brittany eyes me on the sidelines,

busy enough that I don’t have to feign interested,

as I scan the roster for my favorite player.

Said you’re on the team but I’d never caught an inning.

So now, I just spend nine of ’em day-dreaming:

Your caramel fingers plopping a Cracker Jack

sticker on my face, deeming me your prize.

Us cutting class and daisies beside the outfield,

asking the petals if we’ll still pass intro to chemistry.

Us loading squirt guns with lime-green Gatorade

to nail the blue-shirt ballers even though that’s more

of a pigskin tradition. But what constitutes more

“un-sportsman-like conduct” or goes against superstition

is our impersonation of the coach’s bravado. Our coupling

in general, the knotting of our limbs in the sand lot until—

Referee whistles sound and stands disperse.

Another non-win but players pat each other anyway.

Presumably, Brittany’s enemy is bruise-eyed by now,

and I guess you never found your uniform,

or maybe were reduced to water boy.

Hard to tell in the swishing throng.

I stick around the side-entrance fence,

appearing coy as I play on my phone,

content to scour for fallen souvenirs

once the crowd empties out.

Dark now, I collect felt flags,

unopened energy drinks,

and, purest of all,

a plush mascot:

Roary the Panther.

Pressing it into my pit as I bend down

for a few fallen bills left by an attendee,

I flinch when my name is called.

My head swivels.

Hardly anyone is within earshot,

seemingly no one watching me,

the male voice muffled to begin with.

Squinting, I sneak the cash into my high-tops,

pretending to tie my shoe.

Louder comes my name near the dugout.

Cautiously approaching, I suppose

a classmate recognizes me,

wants to swap homework

for something a little better

than what I found in the seats.

At the rail, I wave,

looking for a reciprocator.

I find the best one, still shouting me out.

The big man himself, Roary in all his furry glory!

Perking up at the silly sight of the mascot,

thinking he wants his baby back,

the cub clinging to my chest,

I wind my way down the steps.

I get to the batters’ basement,

camera-phone-ready, extending

my stuffed buddy for a high-five.

But the big cat shimmies to the left,

removing his bulbous head like a hat.

I gasp, not because I think panthers

talk and walk in navy shorts, but because it’s

your flattened pompadour and cranberry cheeks

that emerge, mask off.

“Don’t tell anybody,”

you say way too seriously

for me not to bust a gut,

laughing at the whiskered head

at your normally chino-clad hip.

I kid, “What’s it worth to you?”

Catching your breath, you joke,

“Hose me down. Literally.

I’m the merch mogul,

the sultan of swag.”

You cough, paws to knee,

then toss me a silver chain.

“Least that’s what Coach said.”

Backpacking my smartphone,

I inspect the branded jewelry.

It’s actually a charm bracelet

with a couple pieces dangling:

a circle with the uni’s insignia

and a cartoony Roary with claws drawn,

brows cinched in combat mode,

but face oh-so cuddly.

“Aw, you rock. This would cost the arm it goes on

if priced at the bookstore. Thanks a bunch.”

I slip it on and scamper over to the watercooler

to dump paper cones over your pre-soaked face.

I nod toward your severed head, say, “I thought

they put fans in those things like at Disney.”

“Cross-campus shuttles aren’t free.

You think the state’s springing for mascot A/C?”

“Poor baby,” I commiserate. On tiptoe,

I unplaster Cuban curls from your forehead,

bending them back into your black mane.

“Thanks,” you whisper

without any sarcasm,

staring too intently

at the runoff that drips

down my arm and onto

my cropped jersey.

“Shiny, isn’t it?”

I give you an out,

jingling the bracelet

that glints off the

stadium lights.

“Am I keeping you from Brit

or are you free?” you ignore.

I roll my eyes, bite my tongue

to suppress a smile. “You know,

I don’t only like girls,

and roommates least of all.”

“Ha,” you say with no sincerity.

My smirk ushers in more authenticity.

“Well then,

maybe we can

avoid her together?

I can be your alibi.”

Forgetting the ballgame

and foul curveballs

of our arms-length past,

I let “Take Me Out” lyrics

light up my mind.

“Sure. But, uh, are you

gonna stay in your fursona?”

I pinch your cheek

but you’re already cheesing,

heading for the showers.

I wait outside the locker room,

texting Brit not to wait up,

more focused on your gleaming gift

than her dull replies.

You return in your average attire,

looking like a tropical political portrait.

I watch your beautiful shoes slink over the tile,

tan leather cap-toes pointing me out like a line-up.

Your face & hair refreshed, tea-tree & mint wafting off.

“Where’s the suit?” I tease,

making my animal pal dance

for reference, emphasis.

You pat li’l Roary’s head, say, “Classified,”

as though I don’t presume students take turns

with the costume to spread out the sweaty job,

and Roary gets caged to a communal space

like a proper beast. A South Florida stalker.

You take another surprise from your pocket.

A neon baseball. “Up for a game of catch?”

Not what I had in mind,

but the moon and sky

look as gold and blue

as they should over this

spirited field—Plus, it’s

uncharacteristically cool

and you look too hot,

starlit, to tell no to.

We lob the ball back-and-forth, no scores,

speaking of electives and conspiracy theories,

legislative ambitions and awkward breakups,

gradually shortening our gap over the green.

You comment that my scarlet fishnets match

the stitching on the cowhide we toss to and fro.

Before I can deflect or return any compliment,

the sprinklers sprout like mini moles.

We shriek and giggle,

dog-waggle, but don’t

make any real move

to escape the


water park.

Too much fun in bob-and-weaving

the streams, twisting to make passes.

No ground balls allowed,

the diamond made lava.

Slipping in the clay,

you’re re-dirtied but accepting.

Cuter grass-speckled than costumed.

We play until the sprinklers hibernate,

our hair made long and heavy, breath

flitting between lilting and labored.

Some of the flood lights shut off,

leaving a few glittering dewdrops

to spy as we decide what to do.

You offer your letterman so I can kneel

next to you as you score our resting period

with Foo Fighters from your keychain speaker 

’cause Wasting Light’s our American pastime.

Almost midnight when we’re laid out on our sides,

contemplating futures, sharing home plate like a pillow.

It’s half-hard like a newsie cap or bike cushion.

The cantaloupe smell of fresh-cut grass surrounds us

as clouds smatter the stratosphere, roused by wind.

Your eyes caress the red

netting of my legs again,

my mouth if I seem turned

away enough not to call you out.

I bury my ear into the pentagon “pillow,”

making myself small

so you can rise for the kill,

easy like the golden apex predator

you parodied on the pitcher’s mound,

showing its softer side with jigs and gifts.

You lean over, fidgety but brave,

fingering the bauble on my wrist,

whispering “beautiful” regardless

of its rust or temporary debris.

Half- joking, the way we started,

you murmur, “Don’t tell anybody,”

then taste the craving, the waiting,

on my lips since our game began.

Paige Johnson is EIC of Outcast Press and author of Percocet Summer: Poetry for Distancing Dates and Doses, which cover everything from FL sweat to GA peach sweetness, gas station syringes and cotton candy softness. The next installment in the seasonal series will be Citrus Springs, coming out soon.  Find her on twitter @OutcastPress1

Ron Gant by J. B. Stevens

In 1987 Ron Gant was stronger than Hercules—

In 1987 my father was the strongest man in the world. You may think your father was more powerful—you’d be wrong.

My father was the strongest man.

In the world.

And in 1987 Ron Grant was called up to the bigs.

But in 2003 he fizzled out and left the league a husk of the player he once was, and he got a job on the radio.

And now my father has leukemia, spending his days hooked to a bag.

Last year I met Ron Gant—he is not a large man.

Go Braves!

J.B. Stevens lives in the Southeastern United States with his wife and daughter. His comedic poem, “Sangre Real” was nominated for the Pushcart. He has published poetry and fiction in many places. He is a veteran of the Iraq War, where he earned a Bronze Star. He was also an undefeated mixed martial arts fighter.  J.B graduated from the Citadel.

Find him on Twitter @iamjbstevens or his site JB-stevens.com

The Rover by Voima Oy

The Rover

The Rover

Did not know

Fear or grief or love

Battery Low

That was its last message

to Earth

Under the blue sunset of Mars

The writings of Voima Oy can be found at Paragraph Planet,

101 Fiction,  #SciFanSat, #TankaThursday and #vss365.   

You can also follow her on Twitter @voimaoy.

A Storm Called Cupid by Samantha Terrell


From arrows

Pointed purposefully

At hearts, sometimes, get blocked.

The music

Of history gets in the way.

Its chaotic notes become temporarily jumbled.

A song in the air sounds off tune,

Stirring up a storm for the ages.

Yet the arrow flies,

Despite gathering clouds –

They, too, were

Meant for the sky.

Now, the storm and its aim

Both become stuck

In a bottle, set to sea,

Found by a lover, met by me.

Samantha Terrell is an internationally published poet with a background in Sociology. Her writing emphasizes self-awareness as a means to social awareness. Terrell’s collections have earned five-star reviews. She and her family reside in Upstate New York.

6 A.M., MIA(mi) by Paige Johnson

The bamboo blinds can only blot out so much.

Every night on Bay Harbor Islands sounds

like Tornado Alley, Santa Ana sanctified by salt.

The Gulf Stream street-sweeps away panhandlers,

side-steps shell palaces that plateaued in the ’80s,

yellowed like plantain chips or cigarette TarBars

scattered between the palms of Overhaul Park.

Sandcastle walls are better fortified than these.

Barriers of barnacles protect boats the color of bees,

but there’s not much for ears already overloaded by

multilingual hysteria, club bluster, and crotch rockets.

There’s a milky haze to the midnight street,

silenced like a mortuary, magnetized teeth,

between tropical breaths of the troposphere.

No more unmedicated crying, unmitigated craze

characterized by the bikini-strapped 305 or sun-

bleached Miracle Mile. Seems something lurks in

the serrated-sharp hedges: maybe a mouse you’ll

offer cheese at the bus stop—even if you won’t part

with more than a passing glance at the passengers:

gray SoundClouders, overenthusiastic Ethereuminers,

Marlboro bummers, flip-flop frauds, stage-named cruisers,

part-time pastors, then cell-swearing call girls in dirty sweats.  

Before you board the sonic jungle,

Bratz doll shadow stretching sexy

off the stop sign, you see another

sleek creature skirt between the

construction cones. A cagey stray

out to steal what took your scraps.

Paige Johnson is EIC of Outcast Press and author of Percocet Summer: Poetry for Distancing Dates and Doses, which cover everything from FL sweat to GA peach sweetness, gas station syringes and cotton candy softness. The next installment in the series will be called Cracked Leaves & Autumn Lines, about ketamine therapy and gritty love. Find her on Twitter   @OutcastPress1