The Best of ATM, 2015: Fiction

As 2015 comes to its close, Across the Margin takes a look back at some of its most treasured moments in Fiction…

It’s been another exciting year at Across the Margin, and we would be remiss if we didn’t rend the air with thanks for all those who spent time within our pages. We have been humbled by the response to our efforts to furnish our readers with a dynamic and eclectic mix of stories, articles, and poetry that explore the current state of the world around us, and the depths of our human nature. So to commemorate a year brimming with activity we have compiled a few lists of our “favorites.” Throughout the week we will be sharing our Editor’s picks for the “Best of Across the Margin, 2015” and that begins right here with the choices for our finest Fiction stories, along with a corresponding excerpt from each to wet your whistle!

Hocus by Matthew Heiti

It’s strange how things fall apart. One piece at a time so you almost don’t notice…

“He doesn’t say anything. She knows he’ll just stay out here. She could bring him into the bedroom. Lay him down beside her. But it would be ridiculous, if anyone ever saw. A woman lying next to a mannequin in bed. One arm over his chest and her head tucked up under his chin. In the morning she might say the words. Hocus Pocus. Maybe she’d say them and nothing would happen, like nothing always does. Or maybe he’d come to life.”

Finding Nevine by Laura Vroom

An edifying tale, where desires of the heart are communal, and heartache abounds…

“When I saw Nevine, something stirred in me. Our first night together we played like children under the stars and lay in the cool grass. I realized she awoke what remained of my pure joy. She brought it out from the deep recesses of my chest, coaxed it out from beneath the layers of defense we build up after each disappointment, rejection, bullying or heartbreak. Every moment together with Nevine was like breathing for the first time.”

Perla by Chris Thompson

People live, people love, people go…

“Van Burgess packed up Perla and a few possessions he still considered dear, and on a rainy Sunday morning in mid-November, began his journey down to Washington. Behind the wheel of his aging 4×4, it took Van and Perla a month to make it down to Spokane, what with the Department of Transportation no longer maintaining the interstate system. But they finally made it, Van twisting his mud-streaked Land Cruiser up my washed-out gravel driveway, the V8 choking on its final drops of overpriced diesel. I met him on the doorstep, arms open wide, a broad grin plastered across my eager, wrinkled face.”

The Flaming Menorah by Richard Fulco

Sometimes you have to take matters into your own hands…

“Billy’s suicide brought my parents closer together. At first. They went to dinner every Saturday night, sometimes even caught a movie, took walks in the park, played canasta with the Ryans, but once the tragedy really sunk in my mother became more withdrawn, while my father began working long-ass hours and traveling a lot more. I hardly saw the old man. Actually, I’ve been kind of avoiding him these past eight years.”

The V_C_ Trilogy by Frederick Foote

A trio of tales existing at the fringes of the heart but fully entrenched in the fact that you can’t lie your way to a normal life…

“I’m a diver coming up from a great depth. The ocean pressure that keeps me awake in fear at night, that leaves me drenched in my own sweat and piss on too many nights, the twitch I get in my left eye when he gets too close, my stomach’s twisting pain when I can’t protect her, has all been abated, retreated and lessened. In this oasis, I can breathe freely and think and plan and hope.”

Read more of Frederick Foote’s ventures Across the Margin here.

A Bouquet of Daisies by Robert Levin

A story that considers true love’s enduring ache, while begging the question: What’s the point of pain if you don’t live through it?

“The problem, his gut was telling him, was that he wasn’t loving her enough. But what did that mean? How much more could he love her than he already did? He didn’t know. He did know that she wasn’t happy, not even with the arrangement. Not really. He’d begun to think of her – the perception bruised his heart – as some kind of pain junkie, and he viewed the boys she went out with as her dealers. They wanted a sexual score and she was, certainly now and then, trading her body for the hurt they promised. If they delivered she’d get high for awhile and then all raggedy and strung out when she got cut off. ‘It’s just sports and games anyway,’ she’d said to him on one of her low days and after an especially vivid recurrence of that bad dream. ‘Most of the time it’s no better than a scary movie. No souvenir afterwards to prove the point. You know what I’m saying?’”

The Fish are Biting on the River Styx by Kathryn Ross

Nothing is as it seems on the tempestuous waterways that cut through the Underworld…

“But as he cried out the boy became transfigured. His teeth grew long and sharp, dripping blood. His skin turned to black scales and his eyes burned with hellfire. He smiled and began to laugh at his father, loud and maniacal until Dane burst into tears and fell, a weeping huddle, to the bottom of the boat. The boy’s laughter changed and Dane could hear Adolfoles cackling somewhere ahead of him. He could not look; he only whispered, ‘You’re cruel. You’re sick and you’re cruel.’”

Our Lady of Perpetual Mold by Deborah M. Prum

Hope manifests itself in the most curious of ways…

“Mattie drew back the ragged yellow curtain from the claw-foot tub. She’d shoot herself while sitting in the tub – less of a mess for Mike. She was about to step in, when she heard Mike peeing downstairs in the bathroom below hers. Great fountains of pee. It seemed like he’d never stop. She listened for the flush. The fourth beer hit her bladder, so she sat on the toilet and looked down into its rust-colored cavern. The plumbing was old. She waited until she heard that Mike’s tank had refilled then she flushed. As Mattie walked past the bathroom mirror, she took one last look: wild black hair, tangled curls.  Her whole family had hair like that. But her eyes were different, pale green with dark flecks, you could almost see through them. No one had those eyes, except maybe her father. Mattie struck the mirror with the butt of the gun. It cracked in all directions.”

Before the Fog by Christopher Thompson

Is it better to remember something as it was before, or to be born into the change, and never know the difference?

“As she scanned the faces of the children before her, she searched out that spark in their eyes that she had given up at too young an age. Finding it everywhere, she was transported back to her memories as a child when the first Parting occurred. The memory was tucked in a safe place she kept reserved for fond thoughts of her parents, of her imaginary friend Otto, and the warm summer days before the Fog arrived. She cleared her throat before she spoke, the staccato sound reverberating off the walls of the unadorned classroom.”

Shadow’s Dream by Myron McGhee

In the throes of pain and loss, an unexpected love exposes itself…

“My father stood there in the shadowy light of the doorway, his shirt hanging out of his pants, his socks mismatched, and his eyes the color of a sunburn. Had he been sleeping these past few days? His face was pale as spilled milk. He pulled his lips to the corner of his mouth, as if he were trying to smile but had forgotten how, or was simply too tired to.”

To Read more Fiction at Across the Margin, head here!

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