Category Archives: Original Fiction

Joel, Paul, Bob, Lou, and Timothy

Louise Wareham Leonard


Joel is from Queens and a graphic designer. He has a loft apartment in Soho. In this apartment is a swing. You can swing from the light of the windows on the east side toward the darkness on the west. Joel makes me cards: homemade carefully wrought works-of-art cards. Joel gives me a photograph of two trees leaning toward each other. He writes on a card: You are the light at the end of the tunnel. Not long after this, he changes his mind. “You are angry at me,” he says, “You are frequently angry and I do not know why.” For my thirty-second birthday, he gives me a bicycle, a red Villager cruiser. We go biking in the afternoon through the streets of New York. We bike to the Lower East Side and across the Brooklyn Bridge. He is happy with me. This happiness, however, does not last. Joel decides he no longer wants to see me. “You are too angry,” he says. “You are angry for some reason I don’t know. I don’t cause your anger. Something does, but it is not me and I can’t heal it.”


Paul is a waiter and also an actor. He takes me home and hands me a lance. He is a jouster. He jousts with me. “I want to joust with you,” he tells me, “so you always remember.”


I meet Bob at a dinner party on Gansevoort Street. I have come late to the party so as to miss dinner. I can’t afford dinner, so come for coffee. Bob notices this. Bob comments on it. Bob is impressed, he says. He is a lawyer, Insurance Coverage and Litigation. He lives on 35th Street. He has a house in Rhinebeck. He drives me there and it is spring. It is April but not summer. We lie back on his sun warmed bed. It is blue, and also quiet. He hardly touches me. This is how seriously he takes me. He tells me he is serious and he acts serious. He takes me to his parents’ house in Greenwich, Connecticut. They are in their early eighties, full of plenitude. We walk by their ocean and “you have the body of a nineteen-year-old,” he says, “I love that; I want to marry that.” “That?” I repeat. “Yes,” he smiles, “That.” Something in my chest starts to rise. Something catches my lungs so they stop moving. “What if I don’t always have the body of a nineteen-year-old?” I ask. “But you plan to,” he says. “Don’t you?” I weary, sometimes, of how easy men are—both to please and to lose. “Oh, for God’s sake,” I say. “Oh,” Bob says, pulling back from me, groping for his car keys. I have an urge to slap him. I do not slap him, but my body wants to. As much as he is afraid of me, as much as that and more, I despise him for his fear.


Lou is in a hot tub, alone me with me at the Chelsea Piers, the most expensive club I belong to. It has windows on the Hudson. It has velvet light. He stands up to let the water flow over him, and I see his package. I am embarrassed by this. I know his package has been the subject of attention. He sees me looking, but I look away. Always it is this way, with the famous. Pretending not to know them when “Sad Song” fashioned all my dreams. “Oh,” I say to him finally, so he squints at me, hoping I haven’t spoken. “You know my brother.” His eyes are the color and depth of wall painted black. “Who is your brother?” he asks.

His voice is very deep. It is the deep of the mad, of the man I always try to make love me, the one who does finally love me, until I realize his love is not worth as much as I’d thought. “Ben Galogly,” I say. “Ben.” His eyes light up with a fascinated horror, the way they always do for Ben, though not so much for me. “Congratulations,” he says.


Timothy is a favorite. He lives on Prince Street and rides a Moto Guzzi motorbike and helps the poor in Bushwick. In his wallet, he keeps a poem of mine, about Jesus, and rage, but mostly rage. We go to the Odeon, and Pravda. His favorite bird is the sparrow. When I leave town, to work upstate, he gives me the Audubon Field Guild to Northeastern Trees.

We meet at the Candlelight, between towns, in Massachusetts. They have electric candles along the window sills. He buys me hiking boots. He washes my car and fits it for emergencies. We hike the Appalachian Trail. We sleep on mountains. We follow creeks and mushrooms. He is broad shouldered and tall. He wears shorts and thermal tops. He wears red hiking socks and a Tilley hat. I am thirty-six and would like a baby. “A baby,” he repeats, in his apartment, as if this is a dirty word.

I never go back, except to pick up my things. I find a list of pros and cons about me. Pro: Great sex. A good person. Con: Needy, both emotionally and financially. In six months, he impregnates a soap actress. They marry and have two children.

52 Men

Louise Wareham Leonard writes with such rare intensity, rage, sadness and ferocious love, she lights up a world where expectancies and experiences of desire, sexuality and authenticity are redefined and exploded. Both devastating and, often, laugh-out-loud funny, her work has a savage purity—forgiving both all and nothing—demanding truth, wresting us from darkness to the ethereal, offering both solace and change. Born in New Zealand, she moved to Manhattan at age twelve, attended Columbia College and has received, amongst other awards, the James Jones Literary Society First Novel Award. She lives in upstate New York.

Copyright © 2015 by Louise Wareham Leonard from 52 Men. Reprinted by permission of Red Hen Press.

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Drinking Martinis in Jelly Jars

Grant Faulkner

John Cheever’s Dinner Guest

Francine was the sort of woman who spoke in clichés, asked the price of everything. “What a charming setting,” she said of the dining room. “That highboy was a nice purchase.” When the conversation tipped to the topic of travel, she seized the moment to talk about her two weeks in Paris as an 18-year-old exchange student. “There’s nothing like Paris,” she sighed. We joked that she deserved to be stranded with a broken down car, get chased by a dog, marry a man with Tourette syndrome, something. She waved to everyone, though, unlike us. We couldn’t begrudge her that.

Letters from the Crypt

Gerard put all the items in a nondescript box: the letters, the journal Celeste had given him, the post-it notes with secret missives. He wrapped her collage in wax paper like an art curator would. The red swath of fingernail polish, images of a blindfolded woman. He’d written her a long letter interpreting the work, but he’d been beguiled by the woman, dainty yet waiting for a firing squad. Odd to archive torrents of emotions. Packing tape like a lock on an old mortuary. One never opens a crypt, yet the body is always primped and dressed for a ball. Continue reading

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Killing Milk

Killing Milk

This parody of Bill O’Reilly’s best-selling history books (Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy, Killing Jesus, etc.) is “by Bill O’Reilly” via Courtney Bowman and Nicholas Bowman, from their new book Killing O’Reilly.

WARNING: In order to keep readers turning pages, I have written this chapter as a noir. But don’t let the style fool you. What you are about to read is unsanitized and uncompromising. The murder of Harvey Milk, America’s first gay[i] politician, was brutal, but the full story hasn’t been told. Until now.

It had all started at a club on Castro two years earlier.

Harvey Milk is leaning on the bar, nursing the butt of a Camel. His jaw juts out of his face like a cliffside, his chin looks like his face is making a fist, and his dimples are deadly sharp.

It’s the summer of 1976, the gayest year in San Francisco history, but Milk thinks it could be gayer. Milk used to be on the Board of Permit Appeals. Appealing straight permits and letting gay permits fly, Milk was the most powerful gay man in the world. But he wanted more. That’s why he quit and ran for office. A race he just lost. He drops the Joe in a dirty glass. Milk makes to pay his tab when a man walks up.

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I Am a Natural Wonder

Old Golds

I grew a mustache way too early and happily combed its delicate length every morning before school. The other children looked on in admiration, their lunch trays heavy with stiff Salisbury steaks and the bloated deliciousness of Hostess cherry fruit pies.

Samantha never seemed to notice. It was Samantha I wished to impress.

I once cricked my neck admiring her. Well worth it, well worth it! Had to stay home for a day. My nose bled as usual so I fed it to the cat, which lapped the blood up greedily from my lips. In the shower I cried, but from elation you understand! For breakfast I microwaved a croissant and jacked it open with a finger until the hole was big enough to wiggle my tongue into.

My mother spent the afternoon guzzling pork-slap and slathering mayo on warm white bread. My father drove through town looking desperately for lumber. I sat swaddled in a blue sheet watching The Price is Right, twisting the corners of my mustache, and thinking of Samantha.

After a while the crick wore off and I walked to the Piggly Wiggly to troll the aisles for a snack.

Outside, a black-fisted giant poked a long finger into the open mouth of a gumball machine. Something was lodged in the way. His daughter straddled a stationary galloping horse with fire painted in its eyes.

Inside I bought a jar of pearl onions from a cashier who stared directly down into the trellis of my mustache.

At home my big brother smoked Old Golds wearing his thick-skinned deer gloves. He was always reading some book called Desert Tooth. His mustache was twice as long as mine, but he was twice as old. He had a date with a Chinese girl. I asked him again what he was reading and he reached deep into his mouth with his fingers and threw gum at me.

The phone rang out and I stumbled into the kitchen. It was Samantha. Could I go swimming in Old Blue with balloons in our underwear to keep us afloat?

Certainly, I said.

The Observable Characteristics of Organisms

Ryan MacDonald is a lecturer at the University of Massachusetts Amherst where he received an MFA in English and an MFA in studio art. His solo and collaborative work has been exhibited or performed at Foundain Studios, New York Live Arts, The Continental Review, Flying Object, and St. Mark’s Church, and elsewhere.

Copyright © 2014 by Ryan MacDonald from The Observable Characteristics of Organisms. Reprinted by permission of The University of Alabama Press.

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How I Proposed to Her

How I Proposed to Her

1. She wouldn’t shut up about it. She got me in a headlock. Her lawyer served me with a crate full of paperwork outlining the case for matrimony in 10-point Arial, plus an audio recording of every single page in case I claimed to be legally blind. She flexed her biceps and I started to pass out.

2. We both ate too many Corn Nuts, and Corn Nuts have this unintended chemical side effect that makes you want to spend the rest of your life with someone. Read the bag. There’s a warning.

3. Long story short, I thought we were about to die.

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The Ancient Art of Falconry

Can we talk about something other than books for a second?

Four years ago I moved into my parents’ house for a couple of months, went slightly batshit crazy, and recorded a song — part a cappella, part rap — about falcons. Last week I shot some video on an iPhone to go along with it. And this came out.

You’re right. I’ll stick to books from now on.

– Brian Hurley

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STORY: High Five

Safety Pin Review is a new magazine that publishes very short stories. But nothing is ever printed on paper. Instead the stories are painted on a piece of fabric, the fabric is affixed to the back of a black studded leather jacket, and the jacket is worn around in public. I feel like I’m not even cool enough to KNOW about this, let alone describe it.

And yet their new issue is a story I wrote, called “High Five.”

Check it out here.

What I love about this magazine is that it’s every bit as functional as posting a chunk of text online – you can still click to view the whole story. But you also know that the story exists physically in the world. It’s moving around in ways you can’t control, coming into contact with strange people.

Simon Jacobs, editor of Safety Pin Review, paid me $4 million for the rights to this story. It’s the most I’ve ever earned for anything. And I, in turn, made a $4 million donation to Safety Pin Review.

Brian Hurley



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The Wrong Idea

Don’t get the wrong idea about me. The last person who got the wrong idea about me, I had to bash his nose apart with my fists. Which is not the kind of person I am. I’m not a nose basher. So I had to drive this person to hospital, pay his medical bills, and stay with him during his recovery, so he wouldn’t get the wrong idea about me. We watched a lot of Seinfeld. He taught me pinochle. I had a long talk with his stepdaughter in the hospital corridor about how to show affection for a parental figure who’s been largely absent from your life. But that’s not the kind of person I am, either. I don’t go around paying for people’s medical bills and fixing their relationships with their stepdaughters, so don’t get the wrong idea about me.

– Brian Hurley

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