Volume 2 Issue 8

For my seventh birthday, my uncle took me and my cousins to the circus. I was not particularly interested in circuses but according to the poster (this was back before the internet), they had the one thing in the world that my seven-year-old heart desired: a unicorn.

So we drove in the cranky Dodge Ram to the sports arena in the nearby city of Jacksonville and went in. Everything was gaudy and tawdry and absolutely fantastic. The roaming spotlights, the smell of elephant shit and cotton candy, the sequins and ruby red lipstick, it was so different from how I usually spent a school night. And then, the unicorn. I gripped my best cousin’s hand in anticipation. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls of all ages…

It was not a unicorn.

It was a goat.

I tried not to show my disappointment to my uncle and his wife (second wife so I did not call her my aunt). They had gone through so much trouble for a niece that they barely knew, despite the fact that I lived next door. It was before the scandals, the accusations. We were just family then.

And I did learn a valuable lesson that night, on the cusp of my seventh year: in this life, people will try and convince you that the mundane is sacred. Keep your eyes open for barnyard animals disguised as mythological creatures.


This issue, the last one for a while, features four excellent stories:

(2) The clown that was not by Sunil Sharma
(3) Elasto Man and the Siamese Sisters by Dawn DeBraal
(4) Round and Round by Lynn White
(5) Welcome To My Circus by Kelli J Gavin

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5

Volume 2 Issue 6

The first thing I noticed about…

In this issue, writers were asked to use this very leading phrase to launch their stories. The stories this issue are doubled in length, resulting in six juicy stories to satisfy your reading appetite. Enjoy!

(2) Sonya by Kelli J Gavin
(3) Daily Routine by Louis Kasatkin
(4) To Tell the Truth by Copper Rose
(5) Mismatched by Henry Bladon
(6) Reality Show, live! by Sunil Sharma
(7) Resurrecting Shelly by Dawn DeBraal


Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Volume 2 Issue 5: Sticks and Stones


The first time I heard this saying was in preschool. I do not remember the specific context, most likely it had something to do with my fiery best friend with the sharp comebacks, but I remember my confusion. Yes, getting physically hurt was undesirable but surely words were stronger than fists.

A bruise will fade, a cut will scab over, a broken bone will mend, but verbal attacks become permanent landmarks in our memories. The sting of a paddle is far less than a carefully crafted verbal lashing. A victim of spousal abuse will stay with the abuser as long as there is an apology afterward, a declaration of affection and remorse. Loving words can override vile behaviour, over and over again and just as easily work in the opposite direction: vile words can override loving behaviour.

Maybe the true phrase should be “sticks and stones may break my bones but names (or words, as I learned it) will break my heart, crush my soul, and trigger World War III”.

This week, we have six stories that explore this old English rhyme.

(2) Verbal darts do not hurt by Sunil Sharma
(3) Eye on Pete by Copper Rose
(4) Sticks and Stones by Louis Kasatkin
(5) Wishing for it by Kira
(6) Boxed Collection by Kelli J Gavin

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Volume 2 Issue 4: Red


My mother was born a brunette with raven black hair that glowed blue in the sunlight. Her complexion rivalled Snow White, making her an exception in a blue-eyed, flaxen-haired family. She had me later in life, back in the days when thirty-six is older than it is today. Her style had changed by the time I came along, becoming more comfortable and casual than when she had raised my older siblings. I was born at the very end of the seventies but a decade earlier, my mother had been very fashion conscious and made the most of her dramatic features. She never wore pastels or flower prints or anything soft and flowing. My mother kept her color palate minimal but bold, choosing to wrap herself in black, white, and red. Very few people can pull off red on a regular basis but it was my mother’s signature color at one point and deservedly so. Her nails would be bright cherry red as would her lips, matching everything in her wardrobe.

As an adult, I have tried to do the same but red makes my face look flushed and here in Japan, people only have red cheeks when they are inebriated. So I avoid the color for myself though I appreciate it on others. Red is not an easy color to pull off, but those who can do so with aplomb.

Which leads me to the stories for Issue Four. Eight stories showcasing red as a political statement, as a symbol of hatred, of passion, a memory, a dream. All the stories this week are rich with the color, the authors imbuing their prose with a boldness only red can provoke, and doing so with much aplomb.

(2) Old Reds by Lynn White
(3) The Red Beach by Sunil Sharma
(4) The Lover of Tulips by Kelli J Gavin
(5) Red Mantle with Baboob by Andriana Minou
(6) Broiled Flounder by Michael Natt
(7) Butterflies by J. Rohr
(8) Red Flags by Henry Bladon
(9) Vermellow by Debjani Mukherjee

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

Volume 1 Issue 36: Oh, the horror.

I have never liked horror stories. As an overly empathetic person, it is impossible for me to watch slasher films or read about the brusque removal of entrails. I have never understood the point of gratuitous violence, of being purposefully revolting, nor have I ever sought to understand. 

With Issue 36’s prompt though, I have begun to consider the appeal. With horror stories, death and gore are expected. The only happy ending is escape. Horror stories address, very boldly in most cases, the senselessness, the obscene viciousness of this life. In dramatic stories, death usually occurs to emphasise life while in horror stories, it is the opposite: life emphasises death. Horror stories give us a safe (albeit offensive) space to examine our human condition along with all its heinous possibilities while (not-so-gently) reminding us that death is part of life (and vice versa). 

My dearly departed friend Alan, the one to whom this issue is dedicated, died at the age of 33, just a week shy of his birthday. His death was horribly simple, shocking in how quickly and quietly his existence was snuffed out. There was no gore, no chainsaw or blade, no pool of blood to step around.
And this is the true horror story: it is incredibly easy to die. An absolute cruelty when you consider how very hard it can be to live. 

The fifteen stories in this week’s issue lead readers in an exploration of fear and fright, using every possible route.

(2) The Crawly Space by Dawn DeBraal
(3) The Auditorium by Kelli J Gavin
(4) Messy by Annalie Kleinloog
(5) Stick Figure Family by Sonora Taylor
(6) The House with Secrets by Sunil Sharma
(7) Madhukar’s Wife by Debjani Mukherjee
(8) Failed Attempt at Prompt #36 by Copper Rose
(9) Inside the Caravan at the Mexican-American Border (or Seasons Greetings) by Karen Petersen
(10) ISLAND by Lauretta Kaplan
(11) All Hail the Printing Press by Lesley Crigger
(12) Final Lot by Christy Kunin 
(13) Masked and Relentless by Kathy Sanford
(14) Don’t Look by Olivia Wagner

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Volume 1 Issue 35: P.S.A.

In Japan, there are PA poles everywhere. Since we are a country so prone to disaster, it is necessary to have them so every citizen can be warned, no matter how remote they might be. During the great Tohoku earthquake, among the heroes who were lost were those city employees- mayors, clerks, secretaries- who stayed to man the PA.

When I lived on the island, the PA was used a lot and not always for emergencies. Most of the time it was to tell the fishermen not to go out due to rough waves but there would also be the announcements about house-raisings or bake sales.

Here in Hiroshima though, I never hear the PA. So last summer when the flooding began and the crackle of the PA was constantly letting us know about landslides and overflowing rivers, about evacuation centers, well, it was to be taken seriously.

Unless, of course, you did not understand what they were saying. My coparent has a way of tuning out Japanese in a rather ignorance-is-bliss sort of way. After a day of the PA blasting warnings and him hearing the announcements as background static, the dangers got close enough to trigger the phone alert system, which were in English on his phone.

He texted me frantically, did you know about this?! Landslides! Flooding! What are we supposed to do, we are in an evacuation zone. Mandatory evacuation! Should we evacuate?

I had, of course, already told him what was going on but until he saw it in English, it was not real to him. They discussed this phenomenon on the news afterward, foreigners continuing about their days as if it was just a bit of rain, while Japanese people cleared the shelves of toilet paper and bottled water, headed for higher ground. 

Perhaps it is a bit like that tree in the forest parable: if there is an emergency warning but you don’t understand it, is it actually happening?

This week we have five stories of public service announcements that warn us, bring our attention to dangers that did not exist until we read about them.

(2) “Symphony No. 9 and terror” by Sunil Sharma
(3) “All about music” by Jose Varghese
(4) “Notice to All Adults (First-World Version)” by Kathy Sanford
(5) “PSA- Please Stop Asking!” by Kelli J Gavin
(6) “Lake Rumour” by Scott-Patrick Mitchell

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6

Volume 1 Issue 34: Dawn

I used to live on an island far out in the middle of a steely blue sea. During that time, I was in communication with a friend who meant more to me than I meant to him. The imbalance of our relationship was rooted in our very different situations that created very different perceptions of this world. I was off living in on the other side of the planet, teaching kindergartners; he was stuck back in our hometown, working long hours in the service industry without much hope of change.

Nothing captured our imbalance more accurately than a quick exchange of photos we shared, on a morning (my time, evening his time) when I got up before dawn to walk down to the harbor in time for sunrise. Sunrise and sunset were the only moments in the day when we shared the sun at the same time, a fact that felt rather significant then.

So I sent him pictures of the glorious sky, the pinks, purples, oranges, reds painting the heavens as the sun eased itself into another day.

In return, he sent me two pictures he had taken early that morning: one of a very dead possum, ghostly in the camera’s flash, and the other of what I thought was a bowl of flour, being weighed on a kitchen scale.
It turned out that it was not flour.

Two different dawns, two different worlds.
 
This week, we have seventeen different dawns, seventeen different worlds.

(2) “Static Dawn” by Christopher Roper
(3) “Dawn Awakening” by Rekha Vallippan
(4) “FLASHPOINT” by Louis Kasatkin
(5) “Who could arrest a creature capable of scaling the overhanging sides of Mont Saleve?” by Elaine Mead
(6) “Awakening” by Kira Writes
(7) “Once Upon A Time At Christmas” by Christy Kunin
(8)
(9) “The Avowal” by Debjani Mukherjee
(10) “May the Night Take Me” by Kelli J Gavin
(11) “Lauds” by Kathy Sanford
(12) “The Sun is Rising” by David Ritterskamp
(13) “A Misty Dawn” by Jose Varghese
(14) “First Light” by Sunil Sharma
(15) “The Scammer” by Julie Eger
(16) “Cowboys” by Kristin Ferragut
(17) “Goin’ to Dirt” by The Poet Darkling
(18) “Trapped” by Audra Russell

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18

Volume 1 Issue 33: Trees

Volume 1 Issue 33 

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I grew up in an area known commonly as ‘the sticks’. There were more trees than people, more trees than stores, more trees than cars and roads and stray dogs. My relatives were all within ‘yelling distance’, right through the woods. Behind my grandmother’s house, there was a small creek where brackish water rose and fell twice a day. On the other side, the woods stretched for square mile after square mile without a single human occupant.
I used to wait for the school bus under the awning of a sprawling live oak, draped with curly Spanish moss. Great trees like that served as landmarks then, before there were strip malls and traffic lights.
A few years ago, a hurricane toppled half of the trees on my parents’ property. The news of the loss was conveyed to me, on the other side of the planet, in much the same way that the news of a beloved grandparent’s death would be shared. And I mourned the felled trees as if they were family for the trees did raise me, shape my understanding of the world.

Immobile and yet always growing, silent and yet never in silence, trees are as persistent in our imaginations as they are on land.

This week, we have a collection of fourteen stories as diverse as a forest. Included in Issue 33 are:

(p.2) Drought by Annalie Kleinloog
(p. 3) Warriors by Louis Kasatkin
(p. 4) Beneath the Old Oak by Scott-Patrick Mitchell
(p. 5) Summer Fell Into Fall by Kelli J Gavin
(p. 6) The Secret Tree by Jenny Birch
(p. 7) The Kindness of Trees by Audra Russell
(p. 8) Words, Wind and Magic by Cindy Potts
(p. 9) Bending Trees by Ania Vesenny
(p. 10) The Curse by Sunil Sharma
(p. 11) Seasons by Christopher Roper
(p. 12) An Autumn Farewell by Kathy Sanford
(p. 13) The Woodpecker by Lesley Crigger
(p. 14) Why I Love by Tonika Reed
(p. 15) Home of the Weaver Birds by Jose Varghese 

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15

Volume 1 Issue 32

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The saints surely have come marchin’ in with this issue. We have thirteen different stories from around the world, defining the word ‘saint’ from a wide spectrum of meaning. We see “saints” who beg, who suffer, who give everything away (including their last scrap of clothing…). It is a beatific collection to read this week, following on the heels of All Saints Day. In this issue, you will read the following heavenly stories:

(p. 2) Amazing Pleasure Kelli J Gavin
(p. 3) Sunil Sharma
(p. 4) Thomas McDade

(p. 6) deb y felio
(p. 7) Louis Kasatkin
(p. 8) Riham Adly
(p. 9) Cary Crossen
(p. 10) Kathy Sanford
(p. 11) Karyn Powers
(p. 12) Debjani Mukherjee
(p. 13) Annie Bien
(p. 14) Karen Petersen 

Also, don’t forget that nominations for The Pushcart Prize are still being accepted until next week. Please know that the nominations are anonymous so if you happen to nominate yourself, that is between you and yourself. It is your opinion, after all.

The podcast for Issue 31 will be up later today and I will be contacting the selected authors for Issue 32’s podcast later very soon.

I am also working on the printed edition that will be released next month. It is coming together nicely and will include a Mercurial Stories tote bag. Very exciting (for those of us who collect tote bags)!

Also, I have an idea about putting together a bilingual/multilingual issue in the future. This is just a seed right now but if anyone is interested in discussing it with me, you know where to send your thoughts: mercurialstories@gmail.com


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