As I stood there over the bathroom sink studying the unfamiliar, sunken-eyed reflection in the mirror, I took metal stock of my meager supplies: a thermos filled with $.38 worth of premium gasoline sitting on the edge of the bathtub, pages torn from the hotel phone-book sticking over the top, already soaked in the aromatic liquid, and a matchstick pinched between my thumb and fore-finger. I leaned over, kissed my reflection good-bye and picked up the makeshift Molotov cocktail. Laying on the bed, I lit the match on the end table and touched it to the droopy, yellow sheets.The aluminum thermos won’t last long with this intense heat. If you gotta go, you might as well go with a bang.
Jason’s Winning Lottery Ticket
by Zach Bjorge
Jason handed the cashier his last $.38.
“Look, I know it isn’t the full $.50, but I have to go and unless you want to use $2.50 worth of supplies to clean up the mess I am about to make, I suggest you hand me that damn bathroom key, brother.”
With a defeated look, the cashier handed over the key that hung neatly under the ‘Customers Only – Otherwise: 50 Cents’ sign near the fuel pump intercoms.
Once inside, Jason took quick stock of the facility: Damaged “mirror” made of highly polished metal as to prevent vandalism, yet provide a semi-reflective surface in case a working girl needs a face paint touch-up. Burnt leavings that could only be the remnants of roughly a dozen wooden matches used to heat any number of possible narcotics.
Heading into the stall, his head began to perspire with the sweat that one can only secrete after 19 straight hours of driving with nothing in the stomach save a thermos full of bad truck stop coffee. He unbuckled and sat.
“Only 4 more hours. Just a bit longer.” His voice echoed coldly in the concrete room.
Jason began to ponder what he was going to do with all of his money once he got to Boise and turned in that ticket. What was going to be first? A new car? This piece of junk Cobalt he took after disposing of the owner got great gas mileage, but it was an ugly color.
“I’m gonna burn it.”
His mind began to wander from the money and the car. The cashier. Did the cashier know? Did the cashier see the red coming from Jason’s eyes? Because sometimes it spills out and he can’t help that. He didn’t ask for this. A noise –
“Hello?!” He sounded panicked, as if someone had heard the questions his brain was asking. “hello?” He whispered this time attempting to downplay how loud his initial reaction had been. Silence. He closed his eyes and dozed.
He awoke to find himself slipping off the toilet seat and into an unidentifiable pile of who-knows-what. He quickly righted himself and looked around. Due to his initial cursory inventory of the bathroom, he was disappointed to find that he had overlooked the empty toilet paper roll. Jason had always prided himself on his ability to make do in sticky situations. He recalled passing by the filthy, tattered remains of the phone book hanging limply below what used to be a payphone merely 7 feet before he entered the bathroom. He figured he could pantslessly slip out and back into the bathroom in a matter of seconds without being seen. Opening the door a mere two inches to look outside, he immediately noticed the red and blue lights of the local authorities. He must have dozed for too long, prompting that idiot cashier to call them. Jason replaced his pants and strode boldly outside, left hand grabbing for the grenade he kept in his jacket pocket.
by Sable Grey
Tearing pages from last year’s phone book, Kelly stuffed the paper into the cushions of the sofa, finding thirty eight cents in the process before emptying the thermos of gasoline onto the rose print of the fabric. It had taken her nearly an hour to lug the large piece of furniture out the backdoor of her house and safely away from her home. But she’d done it, and with no assistance from her teenage son that watched her from the window of his bedroom.
He most likely thought her crazy. Hell, she felt insane herself a few times over the last six months, since she kicked Walter out of their house. It had been rough for her and her son but they’d survived.
Taking out her compact, she flipped it open and eyed herself in the mirror. She wasn’t bad for a forty something mom. A few wrinkles around her eyes but they still had life in them. She wasn’t dead yet. But her love for Walter finally was.
She put the compact away and retrieved the box of wooden matches she’d picked up at the motel she’d followed her husband to. She’d suspected he was cheating for months. Then she followed him and knew once and for all. She’d not said anything until he’d brought home the sofa she’d been wanting since last Christmas. It was her breaking point.
She struck the match and then tossed it onto that expensive piece of furniture, the gift that he’d given only to make himself feel less guilty. “Good bye, Walter, and good riddance,” she whispered as the flames burned higher. It was over.
New Year’s Resolution
by Haelee Wood
The hunger in his gut was getting worse as he looked at the computer screen. It was like a mirror in the dark showing him, on the one hand his bank account containing only $0.38, and on the other hand his lifetime of failed accomplishments. He stumbled to the kitchen to refill his thermos with liquor. He hadn’t bothered to do his dishes, opting instead to throw them away. He’d been bitten three days ago, and he knew what was coming. However, because his life had already been a masquerade of failure, he was going to have these last few days finishing his painting. He was a man with nothing left. His life, love, and contentment stripped away. The hunger for live human things was growing worse. It was always growing. The painting was unremarkable in every way, and he knew that, but to him it symbolized his whole life. For the first time since art school he took his time, didn’t cut corners. It took another two days to make every detail perfect, and on that day he sat on his couch as he lit his last cigar with his last wooden match. As he smoked his celebratory cigar he realized through the fog of the hunger that it was New Year’s Eve. He finished his cigar slowly and as the clock struck midnight he blew his own head off. It was only the second time in his life he finished something that he had started.
About a girl
by LJ Johnson
I pulled a wooden match out of the box to light her smoke, that’s how we met. Not very exciting is it? I can tell you though, best $ .38 cents I ever spent. After a whirlwind courtship she moved in with me. Now don’t get the idea that this is a story of how we fell in love and spent the rest of our lives together happily ever after. This is a story about the parts that the Disney movies forget to tell you. Happily ever after takes work.
We’ve been together for 10 years now. Wow, weird to see it written down. Now that’s a success story right? Well sure it is but what makes us last? What is it that makes us click? It’s not like you get together and look up in the phonebook how to make two completely separate people meld together like soup in a thermos. Here’s the secret: see her every day as the embodiment of all the good things that look at you from the other side of the mirror. She’s the best parts of you personified. Those are the things that you want to keep with you always, protect them, nurture them, and try as hard as you can to never forget that they are there.
Man, that’s the hard part. That person (she’s sitting right there!), that person is the best parts of your life! It’s so easy to forget when the bills are due, rent is late, oh god another collection agency is calling, what do you mean it’s finals already?! Life gets in the way. Here’s what I’m trying to tell you, look at her (or him). Just look. See? That’s what it is to last. To see her as that one thing you’d give anything to make happy. Make her smile, laugh, enjoy life, all that things you want in life are sitting right there.
10 years later I’m still trying to remember those simple steps. This little short is more of a confession than a tutorial. Here I am laying it all out. As I sit here writing she’s sitting right behind me, and I realize that it’s been at least an hour since I told her that I love her, so this is the end of my musings. I’m going to post, turn around and tell her without letting my voice waver that I love her. You that are reading should do that same.
As I sat at the table I wondered when I would see him again. My heart fluttered as I thought of his smile and the way his eyes would light up when he talked. He didn’t know it yet , but I was completely and utterly in love with him. I smiled as I scooted the chair back and stood. Just then a glimmer of light caught my attention and I turned to see that the light from the sun had caught the beads of my bracelet and was now bouncing it off of the mirror behind me. The colorful array bounced off the ceiling and then sprayed onto the floor. I reached down and grabbed my purse and put it over my shoulder and headed for the door. Suddenly my phone rang. I jumped and dug through my purse to find my cell. I looked at the caller ID and it was my friend Katinia. “Kat?” I said as I answered. “Kena? Thank god you are ok! Have you seen the news?” Her voice sounded strained. “No I haven’t. Why what’s going on?” I said as I quickly walked into the living room and started searching for the remote. “Kena, have you heard from Tyler?” She said as I finally found the remote. “No, he is supposed to be at work.” I said as I turned on the t.v. and sat down on the couch as I turned it to the local news station. “Kena, the building where he works was leveled by some sort of blast! They don’t know what caused it.” She said as I almost dropped the phone. The news was verifying what she was saying. The whole building was leveled. Tyler worked for Chemtron, a corporation that made products and tested them for the military, he worked on the third floor. “Kat. I will call you back.” I managed to force my lips to work. I closed the phone and immediately tried to call Tyler. The phone kept ringing and ringing. I could feel my heart racing and my throat started to tighten. This couldn’t be happening! I reached into my pocket to search for Tyler’s number. Maybe I was dialing it wrong. I threw about thirty eight cents and a match onto the coffee table, but no number. Suddenly my phone rang again and I snapped it up and answered. “Hello?!” I coughed. “Kena?” I heard a mans voice say. “Tyler?! Oh my god! Where are you?” I shouted as I sat back down heavily on the couch. “I am fine! I got a call just before the building blew up. I don’t know who it was, but they told me that there was a bomb on the bottom floor.” He sounded edgy.
“Alright where are you? I will come pick you up!” I said as I then stood up and started to head for the door once more. “I am about two blocks from Chemtron in the alleyway.” He said as his voice cracked. “Have you fed Tyler?” I asked as I slammed the door behind me and ran to my car. “No, I haven’t. I didn’t get the chance. Its in my thermos buried under all the ruble now.” He laughed. “Tyler this isn’t funny! You cant be in the sunlight long without feeding you know that!” I chastised him. “I know that Kena, just hurry!” He shouted. “Alright I will be there just stay out of the sun!” I then closed the phone and threw it into the passenger seat and floored my Sonata in reverse throwing everything off the dash including my phone book.
by Len Shields
As I adjust my mirror in the van to see behind me, my son looks out the window and talks of his day at school. I ask him if he is enjoying his new friends. We had recently moved to the area for my job and wanted to know that he was getting along here. He tells that he’d made some new friends. He’s enjoying his lunches now. I made a deal that if he helped me with the move he could have a new lunch box and matching thermos. I make his meals from scratch. Oh didn’t I tell you, I’m a chef for the restaurant “ET”. It’s new and the owner is from Turkey. I am just dropping my son off at the sitters, then it’s of to the copy place. $.38 a copy for the fliers I need to get for the newspaper advertisement. Another 50$ for the add I’m taking out in the phone book. As I strike a wooden match to light the stove. I know my son and I are off to a great start here.
The afternoon sunshine was almost too warm against the bare skin of my shoulders, as I sat on the blanket staring at his beautiful body. His face tipped up, his eyes closed, leaning his weight back on his elbows as the sun caressed his bare chest with an even deeper tan. The gentle breeze played with his hair. He was perfect. The image of very woman’s fantasy and now he was completely devoted to me.
I could hardly believe my own luck. I began to reflect on the day we met, back in the city.
Luckily I had been thirty eight cents short of subway fare and had been forced to stand in the weather for the bus that day. If I had taken the subway instead of the bus, if I had left my apartment just five minutes later, if I hadn’t located the address in the phonebook. If I had done just about anything different that morning, I wondered would have still met? Would his steamy brown eyes have looked into mine and penetrated me clear to my heart, making me a helpless slave to his charms or his instant love for me?
I had stepped off the bus and before I could brace myself against the gust the wind that pulled my coat open forcing my purse off my shoulder to land under the bus. He appeared out of nowhere and without hesitation reached under the moving vehicle to rescue my bag just as the tires would have smashed everything inside. He steadied me in his arms and rushed me into the coffee shop next to the stop. Safely inside, I pushed my wind mangled hair out of my eyes to look straight into his amazing face. The oxygen suddenly left the room and I found I couldn’t breathe. He asked if I was ok, but I was completely stricken with his magnanimous features as he looked at me. For some reason my mind suddenly couldn’t focus on anything besides his eyes and the feel of his hard chest against me as he held me tightly. In that moment I knew I would never be free of needing him.
Even overheated from the summer sun I could feel my face blush from my sudden thoughts of desire for him, and once again I focused on the feel of his body. He must have felt my gaze because he turned and faced me and I was immediately propelled back to this amazing day. He poured us more deep red wine from the thermos into our paper cups and handed me mine. The look in his eyes didn’t escape me. The raw magnetism of his desire for me instantly lit a delicious fire deep inside me. He drank from his deeply cup and put the wooden match back between his teeth. I slyly popped open the compact in my bag. I checked my reflection in the tiny mirror and winked at myself. I still couldn’t believe my luck.
First storm of winter
It was 11:30 PM on Sunday, December 11, 1966, when I left McConnellsburg, where I had attended a meeting of the Fulton County Historical Society. As I walked out of the building toward my car, I saw that it was snowing lightly and the ground was already covered. As I turned right on to Route 522 north, the snow began falling more heavily.
As I passed Interchange 13 on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Fort Littleton, the snow was coming down quite hard. I had to be in Lewistown by 2 AM to pick up my cousin, Peggy, and take her to Newark Airport in New Jersey to catch an early morning flight to London, then I was going on to New York City on business. Passing the Turnpike reminded me that I needed change for tolls. I checked the cup in which I kept loose change. Just a quarter, a dime, and three pennies–38 cents. I would have to pick up more change when I got to my home which was also in Lewistown.
When I got to Burnt Cabins, I had to leave Route 522; it was closed for construction. Traffic was detoured through Neelyton. The wind had picked up and it was really storming. I had to open the window and brush the snow off the side view mirror and snow blew into the car. I took a drink of coffee from my thermos to keep warm and awake.
In Neelyton, I came to a T-intersection. I did not know which way to go; coming down, I had stops in Rockhill and Hustontown and had taken a different route. There was a sign that probably had the directions, but it was covered with snow. I stopped the car, and looked for a rag to wipe off the sign. I could not find one, but under the seat I saw a telephone directory that had been left over from when I had delivered directories in October. I tore out a few pages, and went out to wipe off the sign. The snow and the angle of the car was such that the headlights did not illuminate the sign sufficiently. I had a box of wooden matches in my pocket. I struck a match and held it up to the sign. It said that Shade Gap was two miles to the left.
As I made the turn, I saw that the snow was starting to let up a little.
Ten minutes later, I reached Route 522. It had already been plowed once and the snow had reduced from heavy to moderate. I knew I would get to Lewistown on time.
It was a long, cold lonely night as she drove on the mostly deserted highway. It was pitch black outside, no moon or stars in sight. The cold rain was beating a rhythmic drum on her car, as the windshield wipers strained to keep up with the rivers of rain that just kept pouring down. If only she had wipers for her eyes, to stop the tears that kept pouring down her face, but she was left with just her bare hand to wipe them away. As the rain continued to pour, she realized she must have been driving for hours, as she looked at the gas gauge that was now at a quarter of a tank. She reached her shaky hands out for her thermos, only to discover it was now empty as well. Thankfully she had seen a sign that said the next station was coming up in ten miles. She turned the radio on, only to hear, Don’t Cry Out Loud…the lyrics searing through her tortured mind….”Just keep it inside, and learn how to hide your feelings”, but instead of it stopping her tears, she just cried out even more. She saw the turn off for the station coming up, turned on her turn signal and pulled in. She pulled under the covered area next to the pump. She pulled the visor down, looking in the mirror and began to talk to herself…..”Bree Kathleen Smith…..”Stop it this minute, your a grown woman…just breathe….breathe.” Then she wiped her tears on her sleeve that was already soaked, hoping the attendant would just think it was from the rain. She grabbed her wallet, the thermos and headed inside the station. She refilled the thermos, purchased a box of kleenex, a sandwich and put $20.00 worth of gas in her tank. Her change a measly $.38. Although $.38 wasn’t much, it would be enough to purchase a box of matches. She ran back to her car, putting her purchases inside, along with the phonebook she had hidden under her shirt, before she started pumping the gas. As she got back in her car, she opened the glove box, reaching inside for the hidden box of cigarettes. How long had it been she wondered to herself as she pulled one out, sticking it in her mouth. She pulled out a match, striking it and lit the cigarette after a few attempts. She was so glad it was a wooden match, since her hands were shaking so bad, she probably would have burned herself otherwise. She started her car and headed back down the highway, the cold rain still beating across the windshield as her tears continued to fall. She would continue driving, until she ran out of gas….then maybe she would pull out that phonebook and call him.
The Phone Book ……
She opened up the phone book, writing down the names and numbers of her friends. She had tried calling the numbers, but each time as she entered the last digit, a few seconds would pass and a recording would come on saying “I’m sorry the number you dialed has been disconnected.” She was confused, what was happening and why….oh she needed to talk to someone she knew, the panic was starting to rise to a level that was scaring her. She was trying to remember how the day had started and things were a little bit hazy. She remembered getting dressed for the day and heading to Quik Trip to get her thermos filled with the coffee of the day. Then she had went to the YMCA to get her workout of the day in, and somehow managed to misplace her thermos, although she had found it on the table where she had set it down to record her rep’s. Then she headed home for the day. She had sat down at her computer to get on facebook, while enjoying the last of her coffee…… the next thing she remembered was waking up and feeling a little woozy. She also had woken up to a dark house, the light switch wouldn’t turn on at all. She found a a candle on her mantel with a box of wooden matches, of which she used one wooden match to light it. Then realizing she had to go to the bathroom, she had went in…. and the thought of what happened next is what scared her the most…..she looked in the mirror as she always did, only the face she saw staring back at her…wasn’t her face! Her blond hair was gone to be replaced with mousy brown hair, and her face….Omg….it wasn’t her….then she had tried making those calls to her friend, no reply…..the panic was continuing to rise…How did she escape this nightmare….she couldn’t find her purse, or her car keys, although she had a faint memory of putting the change from her coffee purchase in her pocket earlier. Maybe she could call a taxi to take her to her mother’s house…mom would know what to do. She put her hand in her pocket and pulled out the contents, one tube of chapstick and $.38….where was the twenty dollar bill….how could this be happening to her….what’s happening to me…someone please…please tell me what’s happening…..
I could hardly believe what I was hearing, yet somehow I knew it was no lie. They’d taken the city, horrible monsters, and they’d killed thousands already. I switched off the beaten old radio and leaned back against the one bare wall in my lonely hovel I called home. Pulling out a wooden match I struck it against the floor and lit the cigarette hanging loosely from my mouth. I inhaled deeply and exhaled with a sigh, trying to expel the tense feelings inside of me with that breath.
I pushed myself up and weaved around the room till I reached a mirror, an ornate thing leaning up against some boxes. I glanced at myself and the ragged scar running from my jaw, across my throat and over my shoulder and sighed. Looking then deeply into the mirror’s depths I started to hum, a strange, unearthly tune. In response the mirror’s surface began to mist over, then swirl in rhythm to my voice. A smile crept over my face as an image began to form within the swirling mists, an image to make anyone cry. The demon smiled back at me as it took its natural shape, all teeth and filled with malice.
“What do you wish of me mistressss?” it hissed at me in a whisper and bowed as if in submission. I knew not to believe in its act, one demon is like another and they are all out to serve themselves through us. I reached behind me and grabbed an old phonebook off a paper-scattered desk and began flipping through the pages. I found what I was looking for quickly enough and held the tattered thing up for the demon to see. Its eyes narrowed as it glanced at what was on the page, then switched its narrowed gaze to my face and nodded in understanding. I put the book down and picked up a thermos and shook it, the $.38 inside jingling dully. I shook out, in morse code, my instructions for how I wanted the job to be done. I dreamed of the day when I would have all of my voice back and not just the ability to hum the creature’s summoning call.
“It will be done assss you wissssh,” it hissed as the code ended. The mirror went dark and the room brightened. I weaved my way back to the empty wall and slid down it, already dozing as screams began in the distance.