Apr/May 2021

e c l e c t i c a
f i c t i o n


(These are excerpts—click on the title to view the whole piece!)

The Road Past the Sea
(Spotlight Runner-Up!)

The Salton Sea was an accident, at first a happy one, a flood in the desert when a dam burst and rerouted the Colorado River out a hundred miles past where it was meant to be. For awhile, it became a vacation spot, like an off-brand Palm Springs. People bought up property and went swimming and fishing and boating. But they didn't think. They didn't know much about seas, or rivers, or how bodies of water without a way to let go, turn into wastelands of death and salt. So the tourists fled. The luxury hotels boarded up. The fish died screaming. And yet the Sea itself is still around, drying up slowly, glinting silver in the cold light of the midwinter sun.

H. Roth-Brown


They would do whatever you told them, she sensed. If she went down and told the Bischoffs' yard guy to put down his shears and come upstairs, to rearrange the furniture in her attic apartment while she watched and then grill her a steak with mushrooms and then shower himself and put on some John Lee Hooker, he would just immediately do it, no questions asked, not even surprised, really. And then when she made herself available to him, he would fall right to work on that, too, enjoying her body like a kid with a bucket of Halloween candy, like he was relieved for the both of them that she'd had such a good idea.

John Brandon

False Garden

Kurt, a landscaping manager around Mummer's age, was never a welcome addition. A self-righteous Christian, he wore a smelly green church camp sweatshirt even in hot weather and had a default attitude charitably describable as annoyed. Uncharitably, as constipated. Ruth hissed at Kurt, her religious opposite. Kurt's crush on Mummer was a prime gossip topic around the conservatory. Once he had even asked her out, to a bingo night at a community center, a supremely lame invitation Mummer had nevertheless treated respectfully. She replied that her divorce, bitter as roach poison, had put her off romance forever, but she would be thrilled to have coffee with him as friends sometime. This story enraged me. Who did Kurt think he was, asking out a zany goddess like Mummer?

Mark Benedict


Within a few weeks, I'd fully segue from grammar to grammatology. Hell, it was only six letters. Dangling participles to Derrida—it's all écriture. I figured if I could make it make sense—make it make nonsense—to a bunch of ninth graders, then freshmen at Ivy League colleges could probably use D for MDs on their own. It'd be a self-teaching guide to the dissolution of their Cartesian ego. Their polymorphous perversities could text message their way out of the standard introductory Interpretive Strategems course, where attendance was entirely optional.

Gilbert Allen

Ghost Babies in the Night

When the first one showed up, villagers paid no notice. He was attached to the end of the alms procession in the morning, and though he was young, there was nothing special about him. The next two who came along in the back of a new, expensive-looking pick-up truck handling three big dogs chained to the floor caused more speculation. It wasn't the season for new monks, and what kind of monks managed vicious-looking dogs?

John McMahon

The Spider

It was a bit of a shock, the first time I saw her naked after menopause had set in. I'd noticed a loss of weight, but she didn't look all that different in clothes or a bathrobe, and her body felt much the same under the covers. So I was unprepared for the woman I saw the first time I helped her into the tub. If she were an inflatable doll, I'd say someone had taken half the air out of her. Her once nicely rounded breasts and plump bottom were half-empty pouches. Her other parts looked much the same: tiny waist, long legs, swan neck, dainty hands and feet. But the stuffing was gone from the fleshier parts, sucked out.

Thomas J. Hubschman