Best Of ATM 2018, Fiction

As 2018 comes to its close, Across the Margin takes a look back at some of its most treasured moments in Fiction…

Throughout this final week of 2018, Across the Margin will be seasoning the air with thanks for all those who have spent time within our pages while sharing our picks for the “Best of Across the Margin, 2018.” Our best-of compilations begins with a look at our choices for the finest Fiction stories of the year, and an excerpt from each to wet your whistle…

Raw Deluxe” by n k henry

Tank Girl, The Butcher and The Burnt Man take part in a series of events that would tax even the most tenacious of souls. A work of fiction so wicked and engrossing that it necessitates, and bequeathes, its very own mood-enhancing soundtrack

“The crunch of gravel pops under the tires as the butcher slows his green El Camino to a stop in front of a roadside diner. The brakes squeal in the quiet. He lets the engine idle while he puffs a cigar and watches the photographic stillness of the lot. Old broken concrete stretching to the highway. The overgrown grass of the badlands just beyond the road lapping in the breeze. No company there nor in the diner either. He kills the engine, kisses two fingers and holds that sentiment to a worn photograph held with an elastic band to the rear view mirror. He steps from his car, a baseball bat in hand, the slugger badly pocked and darkly stained.”

Binary” by Nicholas Farriella

“Lying there, staring at the glow of an orange light overhead, I had visions of internet-based heavens and hells with ultrasounds being the middle ground between the two.” A deeply introspective short story where the push and pull of affection forces one to ponder the deeper meaning of it all…

“We made ourselves comfortable and I laid back to light the joint. A strong gust of wind blew over the lake, putting out the flame of my lighter. After three flicks, hidden in the cove of my hands, the joint ignited and another breeze passed through us.

“Do you smell that?” Miranda asked. She was lying back with her book resting on her stomach.

Yes, I did smell that. It was the raunchy stench of dead fish, a smell that my senses associated with the Jersey Shore. Days spent on docks on the bay, reeling up hook lines of crabbing cages.

“It smells like catastrophe,” I said.

In The North” by Tom Baragwanath

An engaging, anxiety inducing work of fiction reminding us all that one must proceed with caution when out of their element…

“The police made it in surprisingly good time from Kaitaia, especially considering the time of year. Two constables came to inspect the truck and take our statements, an efficient younger woman and an older potbellied guy. They hardly batted an eyelid at our description of the impromptu taxi ride; I had the impression they had heard it all before. When they were done with us they went across the road. To our surprise, the guy in the fleece came right out of the house to meet them, walking across with them to the campground office.”

Caged” by Linda Juliano 

The emergence of an unexpected monster living inside a powerful and charismatic man. A short story that exhibits a mighty will, and a determined strength to persist amid pure wickedness…

“As always, the smooth, ivory skin of her face was unmarked. Wealthy and ostentatious William Bird, the city’s top and most beloved lawyer, would never compromise his public persona by advertising his violent tendencies. He carefully and deliberately kept his marital secrets from his adoring peers — a skill he’d learned from his father. William’s good looks, intelligence and uncanny talent for persuasion earned him the instant adoration of everyone he met, including Rachel. If anyone ever suspected a monster lived inside such a powerful and charismatic man, they looked the other way. Raised by an uncle who blamed her for the accident that took the lives of her parents and little sister, Rachel soaked up William’s love and adoration like a thirsty sponge.”

The Will Of Henry Frauer” by Christine Taylor

“Her father had always told Caroline that she reminded him of her mother, but she didn’t want to be that girl — the shadow of a ghost who haunted Henry Frauer’s drunken nights.”

“Caroline abruptly turned to leave and stumbled on a garden stone, dropping the box as she steadied herself. She knelt and let the sharp gravel bury into her knees. Knelt like her father had the day her mother had lain down for her eternal nap. Picking up the box, she dusted dirt from the velvet and opened its lid. Off the shiny platinum locket glinted a dying ray of the October sun. The surface of the locket was etched with daisies, and Caroline ran her fingertip over the delicate flowers. She carefully opened the locket, stared at its face for a moment, and then snapped it shut.”

Rosemary” by Derek Schneider

An adventure story, where loyalties are tested amid a journey that leads to uncharted sectors of the world…

“Across the deck and down in the cargo hold, Rosemary is still where I’d left her, bundled up and shivering in a pile of canvas sails. I touch a hand to her head and jerk it back at the blazing fever that burns there. Digging through my pack, I find the pills Balis gave me, pull the cork out of the bottle, and force one down her throat. Her fever breaks within minutes.

I allow myself to relax a little. The first part of my plan is over. Next came the hard part. Back on the deck, I sit with my back against the main mast of the ship and close my eyes. The cool breeze is a welcome friend. I’d sailed the skies before, but never like this. Never this far from home. Never on the run from the kingdom I’d served.”

Dominion” by Steve Passey

An engaging, gritty tale of fellowship and revenge, set amid the backdrop of a ungoverned frontier, that examines man’s overbearing authority over beast…

“He looked back out the front window and pointed to the sky and they looked up at the mighty Orion presenting its trophy before Big Mike fired up the truck. They drove home in the darkness along the surveyor’s trails, mining tracks, and logging roads. Big Mike drove slowly, so slow at times as to be idling. They didn’t arrive back in town until after midnight. They had brought no water with them and the dozen cokes were long gone. Chris fell asleep at some point. When he woke up they were under the streetlights and in the shadow and light he did not know where he was for a moment and was afraid, afraid in the way of child having night terrors is scared, knowing only that they have been scared and believing in the fear but not able to articulate of what it is, or why, even to themselves.”

The Last Meal Of Longbarrow” by Adam William Inglis

A story, framed by a love of food and cooking, about hope. One that offers stirring commentary on the morality of capital punishment…

“Unlike his brother-in-law — whose surly company Moore had to bear each Christmas like a scab itching to get picked — Roy’s colleague, a fellow politician named Silverman, fought hard petitioning the government to end capital punishment in Great Britain. The warden had read an interview with Mr. Silverman in The Times. He’d suggested that total abolishment of the death penalty could be mere days away. The Warden had witnessed the hanging of twelve men. All killers, but a life for a life wasn’t the answer.”

Skipping Stones” by Tyler Womack

“I’m putting you in the story only so you’ll feel the stakes the way I do. Because here’s the truth: This is how I’ve felt since I told you I love you.” A short story rife with heartache and yearning…

“The building’s back entrance is locked, so you run around it, wondering whether you can undo whatever destruction you’ve caused. You get to the front and you realize it’s a hospital. The building’s sign is a dead giveaway, which reads Children’s Cancer Clinic. Then you notice the children, who are being led outside by nurses and orderlies. You run toward the doors to help, but by then the firefighters have arrived, and they’re asking you to step aside. An elderly nurse is being assisted out of the smoky entrance by an orderly, and she collapses mere feet away from you. Up at the front door, gurneys come squealing out, each holding a small child. A young, blue-eyed girl in an oxygen mask points right at you, and you look around to see if anyone notices.”

Desperate Steps” by Paul Negri

“It is all in the service of the children, our most precious possessions.” A short story wherein a desperate mother fights for the only thing that matters to her, and a caseworker’s slippery behavior illuminates what he believes to be right…  

“She pauses. Her eyes, how they smolder. I feel a little spark in my heart. I finger the nitro in my pants pocket. A little-known fact about the beastly angina is that it has many triggers, not just stress or anxiety or walking up a flight of stairs. A bit of excitement, a sudden burst of joy, the shock of discovery, or a mere moment of arousal can, at least in my case (and I don’t flatter myself to think I am unique in this regard), set off a 4th of July spectacular in my chest, bombs bursting in air, the rocket’s red glare… yet all quite easily extinguished by slipping the tiny nitroglycerine tablet under my tongue, sublingual, if you will.”

Children, Untethered” by Bonnie Carlson

A story, told from dual perspectives, that explores life in U.S. detention centers for refugee children, and the new and distressing world children are being raised in…

“The wails pierced his heart. What should he do? The little boys cries prickled on his skin, making him think of his little brother, Carlos, back home. How hard he cried when Rogelio had left because he was too little to come. Rogelio bit his lip. The grownups had instructed them that very morning about how they needed to behave when the newspaper people came through.”

 

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