• The Itchy Sweater

    Microfiction by Emily Ness

    He knew he should not have come to the Fun Cupid speed-dating event. The steam heater overcompensates for the damp chill that clings to the cold metal of the streetlamps and decaying piles of leaves outside. The building smells like stale cigarette smoke despite the wood-paneled bar being smoke free for more than six years years. The torrid air engulfs his neck where his red sweater meets it. He begins scratching there, grasping his sweater due to the irritation, and looking around anxiously, as though to escape from the trap he has willfully ensnared himself in. 

    He will receive a card from the potential dates at the conclusion if they are interested.  The bell clangs and his first match-up settles across from his station. She has gray, baggy tights and her vacant eyes flit nervously. She loves crafting and says, “No way” for every thing she cannot comprehend.

    He falls in love with the next one. Her brunette hair is trimmed in a clever bob and her slim fingers, topped with a cranberry-colored polish, dance along the hem of her skirt forever seeking, perfecting, smoothing. He imagines them polishing the silverware and urgently unbuttoning his shirt after the work day and efficiently securing the diaper of their baby. 

    Read more

  • Holiday Hangover

    a haiku

    Garish winter sun,
    Tattered holiday decor;
    Resolute nothings

  • New Beginnings

    a haiku

    Cold December rain,
    Wet windows blur wistful gaze;
    Cat stretches and sighs

  • I am the captain of a ship of souls

    I am the captain of a ship of souls.  It is wearying to keep these souls safe on a stormy sea.  The boat is built to handle the worst of conditions.  The lifeboats should be there if they need them. They should use their own common sense to determine if unsafe conditions are on the horizon.  And sometimes they do.  I know they rely on me though.  It doesn’t matter that I am smaller.  It doesn’t matter that exhaustion occasionally turns my head in to a dark puddle of inky consciousness, as bottomless and murky as the deep waters this boat crosses.

    I am always awake and always take the night shift, as the souls that inhabit my boat shift restlessly in their beds.  Every now and again, one of them can’t sleep or has a nightmare and comes to me unbidden in the dark of the night.  I say unbidden, but perhaps the softness in my eyes invited them.  Perhaps the way my lips turn up as I grimace in to the salty wind was mistaken for a welcoming smile.  Maybe they know that because I am a captain, I have probably heard it all.  They know listening has weathered my soul.  Somehow, that obliges me to deem their bidding.

    When the sea is uncertain, and the only ground beneath you is watery and rolling, the spirit drifts about in one’s body.  They find the hidden corners where all the soul’s doubts are held.  In these corners rest their flaws and weaknesses along with their most latent desires and shocking failures.  Every now and again, the skin can’t contain this restless spirit and one of them wanders up to me on the deck.

    Read more

  • Summer Dreams

    My maternal grandmother, Grams, died four years ago today.  Her spunky attitude was infective, her humor was a delight, and her warmth was vast. I wrote this haiku at her funeral in Fargo, ND:

    Fall turns to winter,
    Hot tears turn to icicles.
    Empty sky, full heart.

  • Coconut Water Vampires

    Microfiction by Emily Ness

    Once upon a time, when the dark ages ceased to be so as a result of electricity and democracy and political correctness, all of humankind evolved.  Each of them traded in their armor and swords and lanterns for bicycle helmets and streetlamps that were paid for by a handsome cut taken right out of their corporate salaries.  These funds were hardly missed, as all transactions had become electronic, no gold or silver or trades backing their value.  Even after these cuts, there was enough left over for the drones to stuff their maws with an abundant source of fake food sold in brightly colored crinkly packages.  As these changes took places, a desperate change began to take place in those that relied upon the people as a food source as well – the vampires.  The blood source was tainted and no longer pure.  What’s more, the vampires began to have no cover of darkness due to the nights being constantly lit by crackling electricity.

    It is in this climate that we find two remarkable characters fighting to defend what the latest evolutionary paths seem to have destined for their kind.  So begins the story of the vampires who began to have to depend upon the only reliable source of an isotonic beverage- coconut water.  This coconut water was in abundant supply at natural and organic grocery suburban grocery store chains across the nation.

    Over the years, the strongest survived and the vampires adopted a very peculiar evolutionary mutation.  Due to the extraneous lights that found its way into every dark corner, the vampires that moved amongst the daylight began to thrive.  And they began to prey.  And they began to lurk among these brightly lit residential shops where their life-sustaining material waited, displayed tantalizingly, such easy access.  And the vampires were so thirsty, so very thirsty.  Their thirst had not been quenched for some time.

    “I’m going in,” declared Rainbow Flash, his large hand crossed determinedly across his heart that was leaping with pride under his orange jumpsuit.  He smiled encouragingly at Peacock Fangs.  “It’s not only because I’m thirsty as hell, but it’s for the good of our people.”  He blithely pulled his whip out of its holster and threw it underhand, the tip of its tongue finding the midpoint of the streetlamp between him and the balcony over the soccer practice rush hour below.  He launched and flipped and landed without hesitation on the coconut water truck heading into the loading dock area.

    “Right ON.  Right ON,” yelled Peacock Fangs.  He bit his yellow Lycra gloves and looked skyward, his heart swelling with pride at the success of his vampire clan and his special friendship with Rainbow Flash.  His unit sputtered to life.

    “Peacock Fangs.  We have a potential unattended victim.  Do you read me?”

    Peacock Fangs unharnessed his unit and brought it to his lips.

    “Rainbow Flash. You must redirect the palette or life-sustaining nectar to headquarters by any means necessary.  If you detect any purity in the driver’s blood, detain him, as he may be necessary to completing the mission to deliver the product to the clan.”

    Peacock Fangs felt a surge of arousal as he imagined the gray uniformed driver and his muscles, trembling as a result of being overworked by pumping weights at the gym and surging with nutritional blood, rich with a diet of dairy and meat and whey protein and wheatgrass.

    His reverie was shattered by static on his unit and the threads of his imagination shattered like glass.

    “The coconut water driver interrupted me trying to drive away with his load of nourishment!” cried Rainbow Flash.  “I did the only thing I could do, Peacock Fangs.  I’m so sorry.”

    The coconut water truck driver lay quietly in the street, the back of his thick brown hair sticky with blood, his large arms splayed and two small holes at his jugular.  A Golden Retriever that had escaped its fenced yard was lopping his way toward him with a vacant look.

    “He could have done it the easy way or the hard way, Rainbow Flash.  You did what you needed to do for the people.  Pick me up in the coconut water truck in the designated meeting spot and we’ll take you home where we’ll make you a peppermint bath and float some candles in it. Good job, Rainbow Flash.  Our people will live.”

    He smiled adoringly.

  • Spirited Solstice

    ~a tanka by Emily Ness

    Morning kiss of rain;
    Silk drops caress weary soul.
    Stirring thunder groan,
    White hot love sears like lightning;
    Cloud duvet his downy grasp.