October 2014

Welcome to the October issue of the Dragonfly Press Ezine! This month, we have:

“Chances” by Blanche Abrams (Short Story)
“Jared’s Shadow” by Parthenia M. Hicks (Flash Fiction)
“Dallying with Dodecapus” by Lita Kurth (Flash Fiction)


It’s early and this stretch of the freeway is deserted. It will take three hours to reach Sacramento for a meeting that will last only forty minutes and then I’ll drive three hours back. I’m tired just thinking about it. My thoughts wander in the contemplation chamber of my Jeep Cherokee. Nothing makes sense lately. God has been calling the numbers of my relatives. There is nothing I can do but accept they are gone. Their time had expired, but my thirty-four year old brother’s death due to addiction, torments me. Why was he born to a mentally ill mother and an alcoholic father? What were his chances? At twelve he turned to drugs for solace and never turned back. I was called to identify his body which was so emaciated I could only do so by finding his birthmark. I had not seen him for years and now I see him every night on the gurney in that thick plastic bag. And I question the reason for his life. And mine as well. What is my purpose? Am I just a random number to be called by God?

My weary eyes span the endless pavement as I try to shift gears in my thinking. A few hundred feet ahead is a bag in the center of my lane. It appears to be an unusually shaped green trash bag. Even though I wonder what’s inside, I pass it by as my life has been passing me by. I remember my friend Charlie who pulls over whenever he sees objects on the road. He’s found everything from crates of oranges to cases of kitchen cleanser. Never once have I stopped. I can’t remember when it was that I quit taking chances. Do I feel that old? Checking my rear view mirror and decreasing my speed, I enter the far right hand lane and pull over to the side of the road. After making certain no other vehicles are around, I back up on the freeway until I’m across from the bag. Walking up to it, I grab hold. A sudden movement startles me. Did I jostle the bag? No something is moving. Oh, my God, it must be an animal. Someone has thrown away a dog. What if it bites me when I open the bag?

Frantically, my eyes plead for help. No roadside call box, no cars in sight, no cell phone. Why didn’t I charge my phone last night?

Whatever it is, it might be suffocating. I’m untying the yellow, plastic knot. Urine. The unmistakable smell of urine. The yellow circle widens. Matted , braided hair, is visible. A human. A human. I can’t do this. My heart is hammering erratically as the horror of what I’m unwrapping unfolds. No, no. This can’t be happening. As the bag is pulled further down, eyes rise above the ridge. Whose are more frightened? Hers or mine?

“Don’t be afraid. I won’t hurt you,” I hear myself say.

Tape. Her mouth is taped shut. “Sorry, this will sting a little.”

We wince together as the tape is pried away from her cheeks and lips. Gasping for air, her small chest heaves and I feel her body, clammy from clinging plastic. Arms? Where are her arms? There are none. Vacant sleeves dangle from scarecrow shoulders. Someone taped her mouth shut and stowed her in a garbage bag and she has no arms!

“Are you alright? Please say something.”
Silence. Only her eyes are screaming.

The police need to be notified. She must be taken to a hospital. How did she fit in this bag? Where is the rest of her? Tugging the bag away, I find her body ends at the knees. Her jeans are folded there and pinned up behind her and I remember when I used to bend my Raggedy Ann’s legs.

“My God, my God.” I’m tasting tears and rocking harder on the gravel beneath us. Stones have torn through my slacks and are embedded in my knees. I check her pockets for ID. None. I’ve got to get up. My limbs feel heavier than she is.

I open the car door. Struggling, I get her into the front seat and fasten her seat belt. Water. I have water and a bagel. When the bottle is placed to her lips she chokes from gulping. Patting her on the back, calming her, I reach for the bagel. Her movement is so swift and close, she just misses biting me. The food is gone and her mouth motions and her eyes beg for more.

“That’s all I have. You can eat again soon. Please rest now.” As I smooth her hair and partially recline her seat, she succumbs to my care. Closing the door and walking around to my side, I remember I am in unfamiliar territory. A car. Here comes a car. I run into the middle of a lane and furiously wave my arms. The driver has to see me.

“Please, lady, stop! Take a chance!” She passes by glancing at me from over her shoulder with eyes that don’t want to see.

Back in the car, flooring the accelerator, I exceed the speed limit hoping to be detected by radar. A call box. There’s a call box. “I’ll only be gone a minute. I’m calling for help.” I say to her glassy eyes. She’s shivering and I wrap my sweater around her.

Please, please, pick up the phone. It’s ringing, ringing. Why isn’t anyone answering? Finally a gravely voice. “State Highway Patrol.”

My hand is trembling and my stomach hurts. “Operator, I need your help. I found a young woman in a garbage bag on the freeway. I’m not sure exactly where I am.”

“We’ll track you by the call box number. Are you headed north or south?


“What kind of car are you driving?”

“White Jeep Cherokee.”

“Your name, please.”

“Barbara Saunders.”

“Barbara, is the victim dead or alive?”

“Alive and in my car. I think she’s in shock. She’s shaking, her eyes are glazed, she can’t speak and she has no arms or legs.”

“Please stay with her,” says the boxed voice. “Help is on the way.”

I hang up. Want to faint. Back in my car, my arm glides around her. She shudders and nestles against me and I find myself clinging to her.

Sirens. Black and whites pull up. Rotating beacons signal help. Heavy footsteps. Arms reaching in. I’m out. She’s lifted on to a stretcher. Paramedics probe her. White van with a red cross swallows her up. Wails away. She’s gone.

Police asking questions. They’re making marks on tired clipboards as my eyes follow the red tail lights of the disappearing ambulance. Questions, questions, questions. “I don’t’ know her name. I don’t’ know where she’s from. I don’t know how she got there or how long she was there. I didn’t see anyone around. Me? Why did I pull over to inspect a garbage bag? I can’t explain it. I just took a chance. Can you please tell me where they took her?”

“To the county hospital, ma’am. It’s off the next exit.”

My shoulders are locked into place. As I rotate my head I can hear my neck grinding. That headache is starting. The one that begins an inch above my right eyebrow and feels like a small knife is being inserted and twisted in a circle. At last the inquisition is over. I’ve lost track of time. They are leaving without any answers but they know who I am, where I live and they have my number, as does God.

Taking the chance that I may be able to see her again, I find my way to the county hospital and question a man in green. “A young woman was admitted earlier. I don’t’ know her name but she couldn’t speak and has no arms or legs.”

The scrub suit replies, “I remember her. She was here but she’s been discharged.”

“Discharged? How could she have been discharged?”

“Someone signed her out.”

“Who signed her out?”

“I can’t release that information unless you’re a family member.”

“ I’m not a family member, but a family member could have stashed her in a garbage bag and tossed her out on the freeway, where I found her. I called the police. She had no ID. How did anyone know she was admitted? How could she be signed out?”

The green cloth answers, “Lady, I don’t know. All I know is she’s gone and I have a room full of patients to tend to.”

This morning I needed to know my life was more than just a random number called by God. That life is worth taking chances for. That even my brother’s life was worth something. That I have a viable reason for being on this planet. And I found mine and now she’s gone.

I pace up and down the corridor of white washed cinder blocks. I run my hands over the refreshing cold wall exterior. Don’t know how long I’ve been here but someone is trying to pry me away. I don’t have to let go if I don’t want to. I just stare and smile, my blood red fingernails clinging in the cement grooves.

Blanche Abrams’ short stories are published in numerous literary anthologies. She has been active in the literary community for over thirty years organizing writing events and establishing Poet Laureate programs in two cities. Her memberships include the Sonora Writers Group, WOW (Women on Writing) and being Chair for The Tuolumne Writers Retreat. (http://www.sonorawriters.org) Her current projects are completing a novel covering forty years in the aviation industry and a collection of short stories.

Jared’s Shadow

They used weights on the boy’s wrists and ankles to keep him still while they waited for him to heal, had to purposely ignore his cries.

As the weeks passed, the look in his eyes shifted from surprise and hurt to dismay and finally settled permanently into the hard pebbles of hatred. His medical imprisonment had honed his skills of observation and fired his imagination into images of brutality that he hoped to one day play out on those who had tormented him and left him so helplessly splayed on the bed while the nurses and doctors had their way with needles, spinal taps and blood draws.

When his mother, whom he had loved so dearly and freely up until now, visited with her wide smile and cooling voice, he imagined a nest of spiders in her throat, all the babies releasing from the cocoon at once, all there behind her teeth and the look in her eyes when she realized it. He wouldn’t help her at all.

Although this kind of game gave him nightmares at first, he practiced imagining frightening images in his mind until his fear left him. After that, when he saw the “Thing” again, he wasn’t as afraid. He wasn’t sure what it was so he just called it the Thing. His Dad told him it was just a dream and he hated him for that. His parents and the doctors and nurses had no idea about the man with the hole in his throat who sat on the edge of his hospital bed and reached a skinny hand out to comb his hair every night, over and over and over, running his thin cold fingers through Jared’s hair while Jared was tied down on the bed. He hated them all and he would get them back.

Then he started on his Dad.

At first it was funny. Imagining things pushing out of his father’s belly like the sci-fi movies he had seen. Or imagining his Dad pregnant. But after that, he began to see the shadow following his father. He was glad. It was dark like black blood and he could see it breathing fumes on his Dad’s neck. He laughed when his Dad rubbed his neck and had to take an aspirin. He could see the shadow slowly melting into his Dad’s skin, taking him over and he knew then that the shadow would make his father do murderous things that would put him in jail for the rest of his life. This satisfied him so much that after they untied his hands and his Dad brought him a Game Boy, he played with it for hours.

Parthenia M. Hicks is the Poet Laureate Emerita of Los Gatos, CA, the recipient of the Arts Council Silicon Valley Fellowship for Short Story, the Robinson Jeffers Tor House Poetry Prize and the Villa Montalvo Poetry Prize and has received several Pushcart nominations. She is the poetry editor of Enlightenment Journal and holds a Masters of Divinity in Kriya Yoga. Her recent work can be found in Chest, the Red Wheelbarrow, and Local Habitations, an anthology featuring the poetry of five Bay Area Poets Laureate.

Dallying with Dodecapus

The café was about to close.

“I’ll bet you the cost of my lunch you can’t,” he said, not even looking at her.

“You’re on.”

He wore a hateful gray suit as if he didn’t know what gray meant around here and glanced out the glass doors. “Really?” His voice, too, was gray. Why had she even fed him?

“Watch.” She folded and unfolded ten of her arms, demonstrating that she could indeed pick up twenty-five bowls using the suction cups on the inside of her elbows.

He frowned.

“What’s the matter?” All four of her eyebrows furled in a menacing way.

He flicked a crumb from his sleeve. “Using suction cups is cheating.”

“So I cheat.” She reached over and suctioned his eyeballs out of his head.

Lita Kurth (MFA Rainier Writers Workshop, Pacific Lutheran University) has had work accepted or published in FjordsReview, Redux, Raven Chronicles, Main Street Rag, Tikkun, NewVerseNews, Blast Furnace, ellipses…literature and art, Compose, Tattoo Highway, Composite Arts, Verbatim Poetry, the Santa Clara Review, Vermont Literary Review, and others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her CNF “This is the Way We Wash the Clothes,” presented at the Working Class Studies conference, 2012, won the 2014 Diana Woods Memorial Award (summer-fall 2014) and appeared in Lunchticket 2014.

She contributes to Tikkun.org/tikkundaily, TheReviewReview.net, and classism.org. In 2013, she co-founded the Flash Fiction Forum.