Sunday Jul 14

JonathanCardew 2016a Welcome to the July 2019 Issue—our final before hiatus. To say I will miss editing for Connotation Press is an understatement. In the last two-and-a-half years, I have had the privilege to read, recruit, and revel in the many brilliant writers that have graced the page at Connotation Press. To the writers, I would like to say a massive THANK YOU!

Huge gratitude goes to Ken Robidoux and our team of editors, as well. A ten-year streak is no mean feat, and I am sure Connotation Press will come back even brighter and better. Thanks, Ken! You deserve a rest!

This month, we have some old faces and some new faces joining us at Connotation Press. Len Kuntz, Claire Polders, and Andrew Stancek return with more brilliant flash prose—and we welcome the incredible Jacqueline Doyle to the fold.

When I started to think about this last issue for fiction, I couldn’t help but go back to the notion of beginnings and endings. What is a beginning? What is an ending? I don’t really know, so I threw the prompt our writers’ way.

Thanks, as ever, for reading.

Len Kuntz

There’s a ghost inside these sheets that wants me dead, all bourbon breath and barbed-wire kisses like a cheese-grater across every stitch of my skin.  I suppose you would call this retribution or the making of the mirage I’ve been tangled in since you left, but I’m the one lying here, cold as a tomb, and I call it by the only name I know—the end of everything.

Your kiss, like new snow, lands wet with tears on my lips.  We both tremble in wide wonder as you hand over the loaf swaddled tight as a dream that must come true and say, “Here she is, our girl.  All we’ve ever wanted.  Every riddle solved.”

Jacqueline Doyle

Sainthood always begins with a story. Often a grisly story. Most of them were martyrs, after all. Saint Lucy gouged out her eyes to preserve her chastity. In pictures she carries her eyeballs in what looks like a martini glass. Saint Agatha cut off her breasts, which she carries in front of her like two fresh loaves of bread on a plate. Over 120 saints, known as cephalophores, are depicted in paintings and statues holding their decapitated heads, sometimes tucked under their arms, sometimes cradled in front of their chests. Though Saint Dymphna was beheaded, she’s not a cephalophore.

Dymphna’s story didn’t end well. Not unless you think a posthumous miracle or two and canonization outweighs a beheading. Or, since she’s the patron saint of the mentally ill, and Catholics pray to her for comfort and miracles, maybe her story hasn’t actually ended. Did you know that a prayer doesn’t reach its destination unless it ends with “Amen”? It’s like a heavenly postage stamp. Messages remain undeliverable without it.

Claire Polders

The voice arrives in boxes that are never delivered all at once. She pulls off the tape, unwraps the boxes, and removes the cushioning from the inside. On a shelf above her bed, she collects what is sent, until she has enough voice to tell a story. But there is no story yet to tell, not even a dream. So she uses plotless words instead and meanders, waiting for the voice to grow a body, then another. The story only comes when the bodies develop a conscious and forget she exists.

The characters have fought their battles and have nothing left to do. They walk off the page, out of her room, and take their story with them. She’s glad to see them leave—they’ve overstayed their welcome—yet as soon as the door slams shut and she finds herself alone in the silence left behind, she races to the window and calls them back. But it’s too late. The characters have already turned the corner and are gone.

Andrew Stancek

The doc hands me a trial pack of sleeping pills, to take the edge off, to learn to adjust.
I run my finger over the blades of her kitchen knives, all dull.
Not healthy to keep it in, you must cry.
They weren’t green, didn’t need a UFO: she embraced the journey.

No scars show.
“He kindly stopped for me,” Emily says. I appreciate the kindness.
Live by the sword, die by the sword.
‘Night, my beauties.