Best of Across The Margin 2019, Fiction

As 2019 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 2019, 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, 2019.” 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…

 

The Swim” by Chris Cooper

Is there anything more depressing than knowing you’re worth more dead than alive?”A short story where everything is falling apart and all seems lost, until a sudden change in perspective brings clarity and the realization that somehow, everything is going to be okay…

“I powered forward in frustration, venturing on through the lagoon currents until my lungs began to burn and my limbs started to sting. As I poked my head up from the water, I realized I was way beyond the lagoon water and had made my way out into the ocean. The dismal lights of the other shore houses stared back at me in the distance. I was far out, and I could feel myself begin to panic. I was exhausted and my heart began to palpitate. Each beat was a thunderous strike in my chest against the cold, unwelcoming ocean water. “Fuck,” I shouted as I dove back under the water to commence my swim back.” Read more!

 

Anaphylaxis” by Erin Burns

A work of satirical fiction that explores the isolation of the body in a culture of victim blaming, and the urgent hunger that comes with a desire for control…

“I was forced to carry that kiss in my mouth for the rest of my adolescence. His mouth tasted like an insult. It was dry and grainy, much like sucking on a towel but without the pleasure of engaging with something inanimate, or free of intentions. I would often chew on a towel when I stepped out of the shower, because I liked the way the tiny bits of fabric felt in my teeth. I liked the pull and the bits of blood that would bead between my gums if the strings became stuck. After that kiss, never again would I have such a simple pleasure to engage with. I would have to continue all my life submitting to men taking things from my mouth, and putting things in it as well. He asked me almost every day after that if I was doing okay. I think he was afraid I would break our pact and tell someone. I never did.” Read more!

 

The Monstrous Season” by Robert Levin

“You’re forgetting the benefits. If you don’t stick out too much, don’t achieve too much, the gods might just forget about you.” A short story rife with slacker ideology which finds a tortured soul living through a monstrous season of very bad days in the summer of 1994…

“Imagine that suddenly, with no expectation of the impending event, you void your bowels on a stalled and packed rush hour subway. Imagine that the ventilating system has shut down and that the lights have remained on at full wattage. Also imagine that, stuck in a tunnel and still a half-dozen stations from your destination, your best choice will be to stay on the train when it starts to move and make normal stops again. Now think of being trapped in such a nightmare circumstance not for twenty minutes or an hour but for nearly two months.” Read more!

 

A Foregone Conclusion” by Jeff Schneekloth

A bewitching, ominous pastoral comedy that draws you into the orbit of a cursed, embattled family…

“Night was also when the vampires visited, as vampires tend to do. The animals in the barn didn’t make a sound, not even the two guard dogs whose duty it was to patrol the grounds, nor the tabby cat who caught mice, moles, and the occasional bird. The vampires never harmed the animals, as one might suspect. They left no footprints in the dewy grass and dirt paths. Grandpa knew that vampires could hover six to eight inches off the ground, with the ability to rise to a bedroom window like an arborist’s crane. They preferred young blood. So Grandma was safe, and otherwise occupied. Read more!

 

Wisdom From The Trash Heap” by Tina Schroeder

A short story which reminds readers that sometimes the most valuable of insights can be found in the most mundane of places…

The rainfall was a record that New Year’s weekend. It turned the dirt heaps of the dump yard into landslides. The workers had off for the holiday. They were home, dry. The piled up filth of the world was no longer their concern. Rats slipped about the brown streams, unconcerned of the overseers of the world, for they knew the cat was away. In the cab of one of the garbage trucks, there was a sign of movement. Out of a row of thirty trucks, two men had found a dry respite inside an unlocked truck. Trust a tramp to find the open doors and broken locks of this world. On the seventh attempt, boots squelching mud, they found the one handle that turned. One man blessed luck, the other rightly accused man’s forgetfulness. The day before had been a hot and trying one for the driver; he didn’t understand why owners would go to the trouble of putting a “beware of dog” sign up but not bother to put the dog in question on a leash. His wife of little over a year now would be home, trying to make his grandmother’s New Year’s cookies, although she would probably burn them. As he climbed out of the truck for the evening he had smiled at the prospect of Chinese takeout and her vexed expression that’d made him fall for her in the first place. Can you blame the man for failing to remember he hadn’t locked the door behind him?” Read more!

 

Ripples” by Martin Toman

“So you want to know the darkest place in my heart? That’s how this works right?” A penetrating work of fiction that explores the distressing realities associated with childhood trauma…

“The boy was like so many others that Robert had worked with. They were described in various ways, but in the end they were all the same. Young men, with problems: mental illness, sexual abuse, substance abuse, histories of criminal activity, suicide attempts. Every few weeks another individual would arrive, and another, and so on. The camp by the lake was privately run and expensive. There was a waiting list. The young men could leave whenever they wanted, but the camp sold the belief that things could change.” Read more!

 

That Day” by Christopher Johnson

“There are silences that define one’s life.” A short story that reflects upon the fact that one day in a person’s life, one moment event, can change everything…

“My father sat across from me on an old sofa that my parents had owned for years. The springs had long since lost their tensile strength, and my father’s weight pushed him far down into the sofa. He sat looking at me with a faraway stare, the kind that becomes common when you’re eighty-seven. He closed his eyes and took a two-second cat nap and then awakened with a start. His eyes were limpid blue, and he had carefully combed each of the remaining strands of hair — strands that had become so rare you could practically count them one by one.” Read more!

 

A Real Doll” by Karen Schauber

An offering of Flash Fiction where a traveler indulges in the fancies of his hypocrisy…

“Candy red lipstick stains his starched white collar from left to right. It is clearly visible from meters away, but he bears no shame. The plump Russian belle who deposited the swak, ekes out a high-pitched laugh as he pulls her toward him for a repeat performance. Whacking her behind, he announces brazenly, “My Prize,” and slips his stubby fingers deep into her cleavage to retrieve the shiny coin. Laughing that god-awful sound, she grabs it from him, and drops it in the slot setting the dials a-spinning. Her finger, fast to her lips, shushes everyone to listen for the Double Diamond payout. But there is no ding.” Read more!

 

Pack Animals” by Kristina Tate

A short story that explores the complexity of one woman’s independence, of wanting to be free of a man, but wanting to be part of the pack…

Kate sat in a quiet cove, gazing at the blue-green water like she’d done every morning for two months. In Kuta, unlike in Texas where she grew up, or even in L.A. where she went to art school, it was easy for Kate to be alone. She’d just been for a swim and was watching the surfers in the distance. She liked the way their bodies whipped through the waves, gliding up, down, over and across, as though floating, before they were swallowed by the sea again. They had a kind of control maneuvering nature that Kate had always lacked. When the waves lifted them, instead of being knocked off balance, they were standing tall, riding the current.” Read more!

 

Fairytales: Five Dreams (Murayama Kaita Translations)” by: Murayama Kaita (Translated by: Marissa Skeels)

The absurdist, nonsensical, yet vivid and sensual work of Murayama Kaita, unearthed, translated from Japanese, and presented in all its idiosyncratic glory…

“I strolled beneath a beautiful, bright blue sky, once. Looking straight up, it looked odd somehow. Usually, I walk through fields, but this was the bottom of a valley. A well jutted before me.

I was struck with the urge to piss and wandered to and fro, wary of being seen. My bladder swelled up like a bouncy ball, light and taut. My stomach followed.

“Oh, come on, I need to go!” I cried, leaping five thousand feet into the air, high in the sky. My bladder released at once, as did tears of joy at the sight of urine streaming from between my thighs while I soared. The stream trickled in a twinkling jet, falling to Earth as a long, straight, golden staff which turned blood-red.” Read more!

 

Two Flashes: The Woman On The Train & Coffee” by Nik Perring

I did not see her coming though I should have. If I close my eyes now, and hold my breath, I’d see her drift along the train’s aisle like a slow tide, like a swan at dusk, her footsteps as gentle as a ghost’s.

But I did not see her move along the train. I did not see her approach. I was too busy watching other things. Those moments must instead live in my mind.” Read more!

 

Running Out Of Time” by Frederick Foote

A lethal goddess, a savage beast, and a band of unsuspecting passerby converge, to chilling results…

“I grew up in the South, in the countryside where I’d run barefoot on dirt roads and paths throughout the summer. When I became older, I moved West and channeled my love of running towards tracks and cross-country courses in high school and college. Today at thirty-eight, I greet the sun as I run along the river and through parks six days a week while wearing high-tech running shoes and reflective neon running gear. I record my mileage and route on my phone and end most of my eight to ten mile runs with a hundred-yard closing sprint.

This morning I’m running west over the Old Town Road Bridge as the sun chases away the last of the night. I’m in the groove, feeling the bridge, tasting the humid breeze, and building strength with each stride — a powerful start to the day. I don’t see the ninety-pound Pit Bull charging my way until the beast is about a hundred feet away.

“Shit!”” Read more!

 

Stay Tuned for unceasing offerings of eclectic and engaging Fiction from Across The Margin in 2020…

 

2 Comments

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  • Hell yes, “The Swim,” literally still lingers in the back of my mind. I don’t have a shore house, wife, nor kids, but I definitely have felt like sinking so many times in my life.

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