Soot Covered – By Jenn Blair
Short Stories Of The Week / January 30, 2011

That blue house in Somerset has twenty five rooms. I counted them once. When I was young, I spent many afternoons playing with the little girl my age that lived there. Sometimes, we would go to the attic where her mother kept a trunk full of clothes. We’d put old dresses and shawls on, and parade about in hats with ostrich feathers.  I also loved how her mother kept lemon drops in a glass jar shaped like an egg. I don’t remember ever seeing my friend’s father. But his absence hung like a breath all over that house—on tabletops and overstuffed pillows, and on rugs, and in the portraits in the hall. Many of them were old sepia pictures of men in suits with collars that covered their necks—men wearing cold ambitious eyes, all the whiskey they drank condensed into cold stones of fierce amber rings wrung around their fingers. Childhood is a haze interrupted by nothing, save a few punctures of startling clarity. The first tear came when my father cut the grass for the first time one spring. As I walked on the lawn, I noticed the pieces lay like fallen soldiers all over the ground. So rich…

Passing – By Guy Cranswick
Short Stories Of The Week / January 9, 2011

The day Evan Miller stopped smoking, he wept. For several years he had promised himself he would, but he never gave an exact date: there was no reason to, not yet, he told himself. When he reached a certain age, which he also never articulated, he would stop. It would be a time around the next corner when he would throw the last packet away. It had been a bargain Evan had made with himself and hoped he would not have to fulfill, though in his deepest thoughts he knew it would happen, eventually. To continue smoking would have been stupid, and though Evan knew it was bad, and increasingly expensive, he had persisted because he had enjoyed it; perhaps it was what it represented: a carefree pleasure, which was not his normal habit. When the day came and he tacitly accepted that he must stop, his tears were quiet and manly. His tears were for some unknown object: perhaps it might be called the passing of time and his own measure of life. He had smoked since college, it was a part of him; it was part of who he was, as he thought of himself as a person….

The Train of Thought Problem – By Luigi A. Juarez
Short Stories Of The Week / December 10, 2010

That coffee, that damn coffee! If he spills a DROP of that on me, I swear… I have a big presentation to give to the faculty this morning, I’m squished between everyone else in the middle of this train, and with my luck this punk kid is going to spill hot coffee all over me. I just bought this blouse, too. 3.1 Phillip Lim collection. I shoot the dirtiest look at him but what’s the use? He’s in his own world and completely oblivious to the rest of us, bopping his head to some god-awful vocoder-hop (I only know this because he and his Molotov Java are basically on TOP of my lap). But, I agree with Heisenberg on this one. I can’t keep analyzing the position of that coffee because then I’ll forget the other factors at work here. For all I know that head-bopping IS the thing, the ballast that’s keeping the coffee IN-HIS-HAND through all these twists, turns, and stops (which, by the way, are giving me a friggin’ migraine). Maybe all the coffee in the world is secretly plotting to spill on me because I switched to tea. I’m a skeptic with things like that. I…

Vanity – By J.J. Daniels

They were filthy, every single one of them. He could barely stand to look at them as they wandered down the grocery store aisles in their sweatpants, cut-up jeans, t-shirts and tank tops, carrying with them the unshaven, foul-smelling stench of poverty. Not a single ounce of self-respect remained among the lot of them; because of that, they had lost all respect from the rest of the world. Joe Dublin slid the iced-over glass door to the dairy case shut while he checked the expiration date on the milk carton. He glanced up, but tried not to stare at the miserably average men and women who walked the store like the futureless wrecks he knew them to be. He could not help but watch them as he walked up the aisle to the checkout, cringing every time one of them glared back at him. He knew they were jealous of his leather gloves and shoes, which had cost enough to feed their families for a month, or his suit, which was worth more than most of their run-down cars. Joe smiled in spite of himself; they must hate to see him so successful, especially given he was just half their…

The Brave, the Bold, the Battered – By Daniel W. Davis
Short Stories Of The Week / April 13, 2010

He wasn’t surprised that it still stood. There was no reason the building shouldn’t have been condemned and destroyed—all the windows were busted, the brick walls were crumbling, the doors were dented or knocked off their hinges. The floors inside were probably full of holes. Any wood remaining had to be rotted through by now. The building had stood empty for twenty years and looked it. Yet he’d known it would still be there. He had seen it in his dream just last month, not as it stood now but as it had stood in his childhood, regal and bustling with life. Brown’s Shoe Company, the heart of Coles County, the single largest employer in all of Central Illinois. There had been three separate factories in the area, but this one had been the backbone of it all. And Keating’s grandfather had started the whole thing. Pride. He’d felt it then and he felt it now. He hadn’t in the time between, those twenty years he spent out in the world making a name for himself in one business after another. This town had been a crutch, an anchor weighing him down. He’d fled to Chicago to escape it, then…