Charles S. Stover: The Slop Detail (micro-fiction) Nov. 2018

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I was born in West Virginia and grew up in West Virginia and Kentucky. I remember when I was a child in West Virginia, running through the fields in the summer, stirring up grasshoppers and bumble bees, and catching lightening bugs at night, putting them in a jar so I could read in bed after my mother made me turn off my light. It did not work very well.

The Slop Detail

“Floyd, go in the back room and get the mop and a bucket of water. Mary, fetch the broom and dustpan. First sweep, then mop. Floyd, that’s not the floor mop. Go get the right one. Schizo, dust the crumbs off the tables and wipe them clean.”

“Chucky, my name is Sammy. Never call me Schizo. Just because you’re in a wheelchair don’t give you the right to call us names.”

“You’re not only Schizo, you’re paranoid as well. Find an old rag and get that peanut butter and jelly off the floor before someone steps in it. Marsha, fold the tablecloths and put them in that box on the other side of the room. Schizo help Marsha clear the tables. Put all the teacups in a pail of water. Get another pail and pitch the silverware in it…”

Chucky had not always been so bossy. When he first came to the nursing home, he was docile, almost pleasant, but as time passed, he grew morose and irritable.

It was just a foolish accident. He tried to run up the stairs of his apartment building, tripped and injured his knee. It began to bleed profusely and he was afraid to move. A neighbor saw him lying on the steps and called an ambulance. They took him to the nearest hospital. The hospital kept him overnight. That overnight visit turned into three weeks, during which time, his legs weakened.

“I want to go home,” he demanded. “My knee stopped bleeding long ago.”

The nurse who was changing his bandages told him he had to stay in bed. When he asked about his clothing, she informed him they were in storage. He tried to get up, but each time he put his feet on the floor, a buzzer sounded and two attendants rushed into his room and made him get back in bed. They told him he could not go home, that his apartment had been closed and his case was tied up in the courts. They said it was because he could not manage his own affairs.

“You can’t do this to me,” Chucky cried angrily.

One day, they moved Chucky off his cot and strapped him to a stretcher. They put him in a van and drove him to a nursing home. The nursing home staff was waiting for him. Two aides rushed out, lifted him off the stretcher and seated him in a wheelchair.

“If this chair is too uncomfortable,” said one of the aides, “we can get you another.”

Chucky was too upset to answer. They pushed him inside the building and the automatic doors closed behind them. They wheeled him down the aisle to his new room.

“You’ve got to let me out of here,” Chucky retorted harshly. “I don’t belong here. I want to go back to my apartment.”

“This is your home now,” they told him.

It took Chucky a long time to adjust to his new surroundings. With nothing to do, the days were long and boring. Finally, rehab gave him a khaki uniform and settled him with a job as assistant supervisor of cleaning in the kitchen and dining room.

The days went faster with the new job. He started work at seven in the morning and usually finished at six in the evening. Still, he was confused as to why he had to stay there. More than anything, he wanted to go home. He considered breaking a window and just walking away, but he knew he was not physically capable.

One night after he finished work, he felt dizzy and disoriented. The others had already left and he was alone. He tried to roll backwards out of the kitchen and mistakenly rolled himself into the storeroom. The wheels of his chair hit the wooden doorstop, dislodged it, and the heavy door of the storeroom swung shut on him leaving him in total darkness.

He was surrounded on three sides by boxes of detergent and cleanser stacked to the ceiling. He wheeled his chair forward, slamming into the door. He tried to push it open, but it would not budge.

“Somebody, get me out of here,” he shouted.

He wanted to turn on the light, but he could not find the switch. He gripped the wheels of his chair and endeavored to jerk it around, but discovered the stacks of boxes were too close. He kicked aimlessly outward trying to create more space. Several boxes fell on him and knocked over his wheelchair. The edge of one of the boxes had struck him on the temple just above his eye. Blood trickled down his face and into the edge of his mouth.

“Please,” he yelled weakly, “somebody help me.”

Chucky lay motionless in his overturned wheelchair, his knees doubled under him. A pool of blood had formed beneath his head and spread across the concrete floor.

Morning sunlight streamed through the white shear curtains of the dining room windows. The chatter was starting to die down as the residents finished breakfast and went back to their rooms. The housekeeping supervisor told the cleanup crew to get to work.

“Mary, find a broom and start sweeping. Floyd, get the mop and a bucket of water. When Mary’s finished sweeping, run the mop over the floor. Sammy, get a rag and wipe off the tables. Don’t push the crumbs off on the floor. Ralph, get the buffer and buff the floor as soon as it’s dry. Has anyone seen Chucky?”

Sean Lyon: Momma’s Letter to Inmate (Fiction) Nov. 2018

Southern Legitimacy Statement: The house I lived in as a child had to be abandoned when my parents got divorced. It sat on 54 acres of land, every inch of which I walked as a young man, sometimes eating apples, other times smoking cigarettes while high on mescaline. That lovely old abandoned house became a place for bored high school kids to invade, and a group of them accidentally burned it to the ground in 2010. In the end, all that stood was a chimney, of course, rising high above piles of burned bricks.

Momma’s Letter to Inmate

MOMMA’S CAT LETTER TO INMATE,

BUSTER COLE STATE JAIL, 

BONHAM, TEXAS

Dear Son,

The last letter you wrote home only asked how the cats were . . .

Well, Pumpkin Seed won’t stop the tumbling grab ass with the older black cat who always chatters in the middle of the night, and Little Diamond has eye herpes or something that makes her right eye goop up all the time, she’s the cutest. I don’t have money to take her to the vet, or any of them. Big Diamond is slapping at my bobbing pen right now so excuse the slobbering ink. I haven’t drank yet it’s too early in case you were worried about my penmanship. Kitty-Lou’s been sleeping a lot in your room. She tried to hang herself with yarnstring on a doorknob but in a wild panic Chuckles slashed her down. What a thing to witness. It’s a mystery any of us get up most afternoons. Now I’m staring down the fat one with the spot on one cheek. She reminds me of your girl you was with forever ago who punched holes in my doors whenever you fought, it was you two brought the first slew of damn cats into our home one after the other like it was a cat city. I don’t even recollect that one’s name.

The house is falling to shambles, son, crumbling to shit clumps. Some of my nice things are really falling, picture frames and such, pawed from the kitchen counter by one of these awful critters. The cookie jar that could have been on antique roadshow wound up broke in half. If I knew which cat that was I’d skin the ears off its head. I have no other visions or dreams I am so preoccupied with this garbage. How did you trick me so bad?

Your cats how they followed your rule. Your precious Lemon, who empties herself in the corner of my bed… at one time she could be talked into the litter box. Not now. She’s too stubborn for it. I sleep on the couch in the attic now by the way. I got a TV up there and I get a lot of Jeopardy questions right. I drop the attic ladder and it’s like walking down from an alien spaceship into a land ruled by cats!

Oh the cats. How did you let this happen? They wouldn’t ruin my life if you were here, your cats, good gracious everloving shit your disgusting soft spots for troubled women and stupid animals. If you even are reading anymore it bears repeating that my house is a shambles. Our house smells so much like piss. I’m afraid the walls will melt like wet sand castle. Not that you ask.

Remember they would flock when you would meow with them, or cuddle them while stoned? That was you, so sweet. If you could of just kept your temper from flaring instead of being a violent fool stomping on that poor gal’s face I’ll never forget it. Now I get glared at sideways by glowing eyeballs through the window screens when I come home like I’m some stranger trying to kill them. Stamps and Late Night slash my magazines before I read them. I use the pages for filth pads. I’ll quit preaching.

I see you everywhere and in everything. I love you, you know it and you made me promise that I would see to these cats’ health and not deliver them to a pound or suffocate some of them. 

You bound me to that but I’m not perfect. Buddy Boy and Rogue run away together on the Fourth of July. I must of flung the door open wandering out for the neighbor’s fireworks. That’s my fault they’re gone you could say so if you had to. You’re fortunate they all didn’t escape.

Don’t look now but it’s happy hour. Tah-tah.

I’ll visit when I’m straight enough for the drive.

Love always up and down and side to side,

—Momma

J. Edwards: Royal Blood (fiction) Nov. 2018

Southern Legitimacy Statement: I am certified in using a picket fence, rubber flooring, and duct tape to seal a bedroom for a Florida CAT4 hurricane before running inside to drink. My blood is now mostly orange juice, BBQ sauce, and a form of ethanol from bourbon and grit residue.

Royal Blood

It was a sticky Tuesday, that day Travis insisted he was royalty. We had just finished a long day pushing old Earl’s rusty mowers through the tall grass where no one lived or yet cared to live. Earl never told us how much Southern Utilities paid him, but we knew we had a hundred dollars each heading our way for a single day’s work. It was good beer money for two sixteen year olds. 

Earl sat his fat ass on the tailgate, his boots comfortably swinging above the ground, waiting for us to fire up the mower. Travis smiled, asking me if I was ready. Before I could say no, he pulled the line laughing. I was not as anxious to see what happens when a water moccasin, rattlesnake, coral snake, alligator, python, or a wild boar faces a lawnmower head on. We knew things were there, beyond the solid wall of mosquitos dancing in the Florida summer sun. I quickly fired up the whacker to follow.

The nearest doctor was more than thirty minutes away down a dirt road, past all those signs that read “Coming Soon: Cypress Lakes Golf Community; a 50 and over gated community.” 

We knew the land well. Many of the trails and deeper cuts through the vegetation, between the tall pines, were our handy work using our ATVs. Not too long ago the cops busted us after years of ignoring us. They told us to go home, but officially threatened us with trespassing. Travis’ dad told us some Indian lawyers claimed the land was sacred. They won and immediately sold it to developers to build golf course retirement communities. 

Florida’s population was on the rise. Even the forgotten swamps west of Fort Lauderdale to Palm Beach became a huge commodity. Commercial growers sold their strawberry fields and their palm and orchid farms. Migrant workers from Haiti to Mexico to Guatemala had to traverse once again unless they were lucky enough to get a job at one of the new storefronts or the Casino. 

It was the new cycle of Florida life. Our part was to slay the cattails and plow through the swamp so the utility workers could make their rounds with a running chance against the waiting wildlife. Teenagers like us were stupid and expendable. We wore combat boots and jeans that made us invincible. Anything to make a buck in the summer. 

Travis plowed through while I did my best to keep up with the whacker. Things black, red, or green ran, darted, slithered, submerged, and scattered too quick to identify. Our t-shirts were too soaked to wear comfortably. We took them off, wrung them out, and wore them on our heads until the mosquitos became too much to bear. Every so often, Earl called us to the truck to drink water out of the old orange water jug he filled from a hose behind the Cracker Barrel. The water tasted funny and was hot, but we didn’t care. Earl was heartless, killing a cold Mickeys wide-mouths while “managing” us workers, smoking his Swisher Sweets, listening to country music. 

Creatures evaded our spinning blades with the exception of a small iguana. It never stood a chance. My plea to leave him was ignored. Travis claims he didn’t hear me, but he did. Earl was just glad the blade held up, told us next time to call him, he had a machete for those. In the winter, whenever there is a freeze, those things fall right out of the palm trees and you lob their heads off. If it were a game, Earl would be the score to beat. He likes to eat them, says they taste like chicken. I always ask him why he doesn’t just eat chicken, but he ignores me and goes back to his drinking. A fat, drunk, hillbilly with a machete makes an interesting boss.

The paths we plowed to the utility boxes were looking professional, like a five foot parting of a greenish brown sea of weeds. In some small way, we felt like we bravely contributed to the safety of some father or son who had to do whatever it is they do. We also knew our trails wouldn’t last long as the summer rains would soon intensify. Earl said he hoped to keep the contract for an extended period but had a feeling the development of the area was going to be overnight. “Soon enough, you fellas won’t recognize these parts,” he said. “Damn shame.”

   

As the day came to an end, Earl dropped us off at Travis’ place. He gave us our money through the truck’s back window. Travis snuck a Mickeys out of the cooler and into his pocket before carefully hopping over the tailgate. Earl drove off and we ran to the pool, stripping to our boxers as we did it. Travis moved a lot slower, having difficulty. He had to stop to try and pulling his sore left leg out of his jeans. I noticed the purple and black bruise on his calve muscle. You couldn’t miss it. Travis started to squirm at the sight of it, realizing the pain he plowed through was real and it looked like a mess. 

I dared him to touch it, but he didn’t laugh like I though he would. He lost interest in hitting the pool. I helped him to the old brown leather couch in his living room. He sat there in pain, arms folded, mad, staring at the ceiling fan, sweating. He eventually laid out on the couch and propped up his feet on the arm of the couch. He started to get sleepy. I called his Dad. He was stuck at work, told me to put some ice on it, so I did and kept him company waiting for his mamma to get home from the diner. 

I was worried, but like with anything else, Travis was not. He kept talking about his royal roots. I didn’t believe him earlier but then he pointed at the small red shield with the blue crest on it. It was the newest display along the wood paneled wall in the family room. It had a gold lion on it, a sword, and a book of some kind with the letter R written in a fancy blue font. I saw one just like it on television, in a commercial where you pay some company to research your lineage for two installments of $19.95. It seemed legit. They research your name and tell you something about you. 

Travis winced through the pain, telling me more about the letter certifying that they were Scottish, to their surprise. Their lineage was traced back to a member of a royal family. I asked him if the dude was like one of those guys we saw in Braveheart. Travis smiled, looked up to the talking bass on the wall, and said, “Yeah, those big fuckers… just like them.” I told him that was pretty cool and asked if he thinks that bite will be okay for us to work more land tomorrow. He closed his eyes. “Aye. It’s in my blood.” 

Jessica Simpkiss: Poor Men’s Currency (fiction) Nov 2018

Poor Men’s Currency

I sat at the kitchen table with my mother while we watched through the large bay window waiting for my father’s return. The fire sizzled and popped loudly from the other room. I listened as my mother’s fingers tapped nervously on the wooden tabletop, the callouses from the years of working the loom almost completely healed. Even the skin on my own hands had softened with the lack of work we’d been cursed with. My nails were clear and not muddied with dirt for once, but I missed the feeling of work on my hands.

After an hour had passed and my father had still not returned from his meeting with the Tweed man, I excused myself from my mother’s company. I found my way to the nearly empty pastures we still tended. In the distance I could see a handful of sheep grazing, their hot pink proprietorship stripes clashing angrily against the drab brown background of the hillside. The mothers were heavy with babies and promises in their bellies. Lambing was still at least ten days away. It wouldn’t be much work when they came, but amidst the nothingness, we found ourselves in the middle of, it was something.

The wind had picked up and the handful of sheep moved into the shadow of the hillside, hunkering down in the small crevasses after hours of grazing. The sun scrambled through the fast-moving clouds and glittered on the surface of the lake like fairy dust, begging to be swum in. As a child in the summer, I had braved the cool water, letting it sting my skin. Now that I was grown, I thought I wouldn’t have time for such frivolity. I kicked the dry dirt as I walked the pastures, leaving clumps of hay and filling the feed buckets as I did. What should have taken all day now took less than an hour. All I had was time and worry.

I tried to put memories of the past and fears for our future aside, but the two pulled me in opposite directions, leaving my insides in relentless turmoil. I’d walked all the way to the edge of the pasture, where the green-brown color of the ground disappeared into the blue of the sea stretching out to the horizon. I found a flat rock to lean against and duck out of the reach of the biting wind. I would have sat but the ground was still burnt in places. The smell of burning heather mixed with lamb’s wool spun in the air between the rocks and flooded my mind with painful memories of trying to save the animals that gave us life. Their deaths had been ours as well. Now, our lives had been placed in the hands of the Tweed man my father knew and his compassion for a family of sheep farmers living on the edge of extinction.

The wind died enough for me to hear the cry of the season’s first lamb. It wasn’t unheard of for mothers to lamb this early, but it made keeping the babies alive more difficult. Early lambs were weak and could freeze easily in the harshness of the winter that always lingered well into spring. His cries were shrill and desperate, but so were ours.

My father’s footsteps took the place of the lambs cries when he got close enough. The crunch of his boots over the dried and blackened grass grew louder the closer he came. When he perched on the rock next to me, he could hear the penetrating cry of the lamb as I had. His face was sullen and sad, gray like the storm clouds that hung over the horizon. We stood next to each other in silence, listening to the change we both knew the wind was bringing in.

“Will he still let me work the sheep?” I finally asked.

“He says he will, if that is your wish.” 

“It is,” I answered, knowing my place was in the field with the beasts and not behind the loom like other women.

“How many?” I asked, our eyes still unable to meet.

“Five hundred, and a hundred more each year for the first five years.”

I smiled. I would not cry like the lamb. I knew my place in this world and now I knew what my life was worth.

“Not bad,” I laughed, touching my father’s face to bring us eye to eye. “A thousand sheep will keep you the way an unmarried daughter never could.”

November Issue coming soon — OOOPS 17th

November will be online by the 15th, our new publishing date each month. Yup, you got us right, we’ll start publishing the 15th through the 14th, new issues on the 15th. Make sense? Does to us. We’ll have new and wonderful and splendid writing every 15th. Got it?

See you soon.

Valerie MacEwan

C. L. Bledsoe

and Mules.