By Abram Valdez

I read somewhere that cardinals, the birds and not the clergy or the baseball team, are supposed to be reminders of loved ones passed—loved ones visiting you from some place outside of your current life (heaven, the afterlife, the other side, or some such place where they are without you)—but I’d just as soon the bird flu or bird COVID wipe them off the face of the Earth like dodos if it meant I could have breakfast with my dad again or make Omar laugh one more time until he peed himself: goddamned birds; go find a skyscraper to fly into, go eat birdshot, go choke on your crackers, Polly because I don’t need cardinal memorials, “on-this-day” notifications, or recollection alerts; I don’t want a reminder about who I’m missing, and they don’t have a word to describe a gathering of birds that represents forgetting a loss: they don’t have anything for that.

Abram Valdez, hailing from Denton County, Texas, is a lapsed poet, working by day as an instructional designer and full-time dad; however, he’s currently plying his trade in flash fiction 1,000 words at a time, but even that feels like too much to share, most times.

Art by Teagan & Talia Valdez, the author's daughters.

By Melissa Llanes Brownlee

You spin out the hydrogen and helium, forming an accretion disk to surf along Saturn’s icy rings as you flip through atomic numbers at the speed of an old dog trying to keep up with his leash puller, limping along to bubble gum, bubble gum in the dish, how many bubble gums do you wish, wishing that the table of elements was as periodic as the time you got blood on the bed and decided to leave it.

Melissa Llanes Brownlee is a native Hawaiian tweeting @lumchanmfa from Japan and getting published in lit mags like (mac)ro(mic), Bending Genres, and Milk Candy Review.

Art by Melissa Llanes Brownlee.

By Lisa Harries Schumann

“They say there's a banana shortage,” the grocery store clerk sweeping vegetal detritus off the floor of the local Aldi told Thomas, who had entered the store in search of bananas for his daily Fitness Smoothie—banana adding exotic sweet to counter the more virtuous greens—to find them gone, gone as if there'd never been bananas, gone as if in all those places far from Berlin where bananas grew there'd been a monstrous banana-smashing storm, or a blight of banana weevils, or as if some all-powerful government had once again turned off the banana faucet, or had halted bananas at the border as they tried to enter Berlin, had checked that they were eligible for legal entry and decided they weren't—and how could a banana have had enough Western currency to exchange for East German cash when it tried to enter back in the days when this part of Berlin, Thomas's Berlin, was still East Germany?—because back at that time bananas were like contraband, so precious that when the Wall fell Westerners came to East Berlin with bunches of bananas, whole truck-loads of bananas, armadas of bananas, and threw them to the East Germans lining the sides of roads as the Westerners drove by in their expensive cars, waving and cheering and beeping their horns and looking with pity at the banana-impoverished children, of which Thomas had then been one, and as he stood next to his equally banana-deprived grandmother on the street, a royal blue Mercedes drove past and a boy his age wearing an Adidas T-shirt tossed him a banana—“As if you were an ape at the zoo,” his grandmother muttered—that plummeted to the asphalt and burst, splitting at its seams, and, “You know,” Thomas said to the clerk, who was bending down to pick up a renegade red grape, “I don't really want bananas.”

Lisa Harries Schumann is a translator from German, a 2020 graduate of Boston's Grub Street “Short Story Incubator,” and is currently at work on a series of stories that stem from her obsession with narratives left ignored by histories and buried by families.

Art by Martin Harries.