An Intriguing Gate

February 10th, 2019

The young man slightly smiles at me as he passes by, and I smile slightly back.

With each step, his left heel circles outside his hip, while his left toe points inward at 45 degrees.  That foot then lands parallel to the direction of his travel.

His left hand curls inward with those lefthand steps, then also relaxes as the foot falls.

His right side, as it steps, remains rigidly parallel to the direction of his travel.

He wears a puffy, black coat with two brown, leather patches from shoulder to upper abdomen.  Without metaphor, the coat’s hood is heavy over his head.

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ATLAS: Vienna, AT– Wiener Linien, 72 Hour Vienna Ticket

January 27th, 2019

Pink!— dull pink.

Please validate

— in three languages:

German, English, then French.

An arrow pointing in the direction

one inserts in the machine.

E 17.10

Inkl. 10% USt

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Winners of the 2019 FLASH SUITE Contest

January 21st, 2019

Wowie, what a contest.

Let’s cut straight to the chase:

FAN Winners:
with 87.27% of the vote– “Tiger in a Suit” by Chantelle Tibbs
and with 30.91% of the vote– “Underwater” by Dina Toyoda

(recall that each vote selected 2 winners, so there was a total of 200%)

and, drumroll please…

The Grand Prize winner is
“Echoes” by Tracy Davidson

while the Runner-up is:
“Canis Latrans” by Levi Andrew Noe

Truly jawdropping, as promised, we received

2,333 pageviews from 437 unique IPs.

So thank you, lovers of literature,

and remember us next time, on

view how the judges voted

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Cafe Central, est. 1876

January 20th, 2019

Let’s start with the ceiling: off white, almost yellow, with maroon and purple stripes vaulting across small, uneven domes.  Turquoise stripes split with pink rise up then down to the heads of marble columns.

The windows arch to the top of the columns, bordered by paisley curtains

The room, large, greets the enterer with a pastry counter and a statue of Peter Attenberg, a former patron.

Now for dessert.  The milchrahmstrudel has a damp and flakey crust, while the cheese curd, exactly the same color as the vanilla sauce, bounces beneath my utensil.  The strawberry is out of season, but the whipped cream is homemade.

Waiters are friendly and attentive, for once in this town.

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Final Days of Fan Voting

January 17th, 2019

The time has almost come.

Welcome to the final days of
FAN VOTING for the
2019 FLASH SUITE Contest

Read the suites

More Dynamic Content


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ATLAS: Vienna, AT– Some Most Excellent Graffiti

January 13th, 2019


by Paul-Newell Reaves


Along the Danube Canal, some most excellent graffiti painted.  The composition appears against a black background.  What seem like letters, though in no recognizable alphabet, are written in silver, bordered with lines of topaz and white.  Perhaps these are not letters, but long, intricate arrows.  Across the canvas zig-and-zag streaks of orange and red, broadening at the center till they dominate the work.  Dead middle, a sole patch of yellow.


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ATLAS: Vienna, AT– Where the Danube River Meets the Danube Canal

January 9th, 2019

by Paul-Newell Reaves


Outside the main city— some three kilometers North— the canal rejoins the river.

The Danube is mighty, flowing North West at Vienna, wind rocking waves.  Yet this is only half the waterway.  Otherside of a grassy, densely tree-populated island, the New Danube was built.  Less wide, and it is straighter.

A thin peninsula reaches into the old river, dividing the canal.  A green, iron bridge spans the channel: atop it, two lion statues, both the same, green, and on the peninsula side a white house, with thin lines of the same green color.

A tugboat docks above the canal, rusting but brightly painted, green and red stripes above and below a white cabin.

Two stone staircases descend into the canal.  On the peninsula— a thinner case— a young girl talks on her cell phone, hand tucked to her ear beneath a furry hood.  The mainland side steps are four times wider, but a sixth the height.

An older woman in a slim black coat resembles her tiny dog, who scrambles down the steps to drink from the canal.

The canal meanders towards the city center.  Much more direct is the D train.



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January 8th, 2019

for 2019 FLASH SUITE Contest







And, here is our upcoming

2019 Spring Publication Schedule:



“ATLAS: Vienna, AT”

by Paul-Newell Reaves

– January 9th- March 3rd

“Taking the Money Out of One Pocket and Putting it in the Other”

by Jeff Nazzaro

– March 10th

“Gonzo Days”

by Terry Smith

– March 17th- 31st

“Just Maddy”

by Martha Hubbard

– April 7th- May 19th



so keep surfing through,

lovers of literature,



!What’s New!

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Of Candles, Salt and Owls: Athena

January 7th, 2019

by W.F. Lantry

read it in the correct order


In Persia, owls were not like ours. There was no Athena, no concept of wisdom. They had other birds for that. It was bad luck if an owl perched on the roof of your home, and even worse if it were near the threshold. They were visitors from the underworld, the afterlife, and since they flew when no other birds were in the air, they knew only the darkest secrets. They knew where the rings were hidden, the rings the lost soldiers wore into battle, where the coins of the fallen lay, only revealed in moonlight. They knew where the lover fell, when her beloved failed to meet her in the forest. They knew where her jewels had lodged between tree roots.

And on the most difficult nights, filled with open eyed languishing and lament, when the half moonlight danced through your window and onto the wall of your chamber, you may have seen the shadow of the owl perched outside. You had to confess everything to the form, your worst secrets: how you wandered through the silent alleys of the town in the heat of the day, and every thing you learned there, how you looked across the river and saw a woman washing clothes on the bank, how you longed for her, desired her, and how you dared not swim across the stream, fearing nothing worse than drowning, fearing the owl would come for you in the daylight, to escort you back to his home of shadows, where he kept all the gold he’d gathered from the fields of ancient battles.

I never made those confessions. Owls are different to me. When I looked out my window on those nights, I could sometimes catch their silent wings descending between the dark trees of my garden, falling on mice and small rabbits, carrying off snakes in their talons. They are able to do all the things I cannot, they see what I miss, and sometimes they perch on the various limbs, calling out, reminding me.

Somehow I make it to the dawn, and the garden has been emptied of snakes. No rabbits have broken delphinium stems, and mice have not carried away the seeds. Small records of struggles can only be seen by the most careful eyes: a tuft of fur on a rose thorn, a whiptailed stalk. Gardens are more savage than we know.

I was sitting on my back porch with my coffee, overlooking the night’s events, when I heard the front door open at her hand. Celeste swept through the rooms and to me. “And whither,” I said, “are you rolling, little apple?” “To the countryside,” she said. “Wear sturdy shoes!”

We went outside the Beltway, and started rolling through Maryland, heading North. “I was up all night,” she said, “just thinking. I need to clear my mind. Things have gotten so complicated, and I’m used to clarity. I feel uncentered.” I didn’t ask why she thought the countryside would make her feel more centered. The hills were just a jumbled course of rocks and stones and trees.

“I know just the place,” I said, “Lily Pons.” “That’s not a place, that’s a Soprano!” she said. “It’s named after her,” I said. “It’s best at midsummer, there are more flowers, but it’ll be quiet, and we can wander around for a while.”

I’d only been in July, when the lotus held their tremendous pink blossoms well above the leaves, and the water snowflakes crawled out along the banks, escaping the riot of tropical blooms. We got out of the car, and it looked like a different place. The valley was covered with ponds and small lakes. Here and there a bridge guided us across a marsh. Where the paths disappeared, the earth nearly swallowed my steps. The flat soles of her boots were her only concession to nature, and being lighter, she didn’t sink as far into the mud. We saw the last migrating herons stopping for a quick meal. The Canada geese were arrows above our heads, and redwings turned above the trees. Nothing else was moving. It was exactly the quiet she desired.

When something turns, there’s always a point in the middle like this one. A still place, unmoving, as everything else spins. Her clothes were the only colors around, jewel tones of green and gold. I watched her watching the surfaces, waiting for a moment I’d pictured for weeks.

But not there, on that curved bridge in November, with the world gray around her and the geese moving off. She was moving with them, and I followed her back to the car. “There’s a mountain I’ve heard of,” she said.

There are no mountains in Maryland. I’m used to the Sierras, granite knives far above timberline, alpine meadows and snow. You don’t climb there without thinking, you don’t climb in a jewel tone dress. I knew she just meant a hill. The locals call it Sugarloaf.

There’s a parking lot halfway up. We reached it at mid-afternoon. It’s only a few hundred feet to the summit. Trees blocked the view to the east, but we could see the river far in the west. This seemed a much better place.

In 1862, a few Union soldiers saw the Confederates coming, exactly from this spot. They tried to run, but they were caught in the forest. Only the owls know exactly where. I thought it best not to mention the incident. There we were, a small wind blowing her hair, the late sun brightening jewel tones, a few tardy hawks riding the mountain’s lift south. “Now,” I thought to myself. “Certainly now.”

But not then. The earth, the wilderness, had turned her around. She was persuaded the way back was south. I knew the car was northeast. Once, my life had depended on knowing topography, but I let her lead and wander. It was turning to evening when we found the car. I could hear the owls, calling already through the dark.

# # #




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Of Candles, Salt and Owls: Cowrie Shells

January 6th, 2019

by W.F. Lantry

read it in the correct order


Pomba Gira came walking through the village one day, wearing a long, flowing dress. The cloth on her left side was scarlet red, the cloth on her right was emerald green. Her hair was jet black that day, black as any night, so the cowrie shells woven into her braids looked like a sky full of stars.

At first, no-one noticed the color of her dress, because the hem was slit nearly up to her thighs, and the neckline plunged almost to her waist. It was only after she’d passed that people started arguing. One faction held her dress was all red, red as the orchids blooming just then in the forest, red as the wings of birds, red as blood just beginning to flow. The other side argued strongly for green, the color of crops and of leaves, the tail feathers of parrots, fresh harvested coffee beans. Both sides were so sure of themselves they nearly came to blows. “We know what we saw,” they all said.

That’s when Pomba Gira came walking back the other way, softly singing to herself, her bare steps light on the earth. The crowd was arguing in the middle of the road, and now they blocked her way. She told them how foolish they’d been, being so certain they knew what they saw. “You were all so busy arguing, you barely noticed the cowrie shells in my hair!”

And it’s true those shells were brilliant in the sun, translucent as porcelain, they looked like an object of love in themselves. Every man thought of love as he gazed at her, and even some of the women. And why not? Shells come from water, they are born of the ocean. They remind us of the moon, drawing the tides. So women wear shells when they want to draw something towards them. They’re woven into skirts and blouses, worn in necklaces against the skin. Mothers present them to their daughters, without saying a word of their meaning.

They’ve been used as money for four thousand years: it’s hard to counterfeit a shell. Most of them came from the Maldives. The locals would tie palm fronds into pairs, and anchor them in the sea. After a few weeks, they’d brave the sharks to retrieve them, shake all the shells into sand pits, and bury them for a month. When they opened the pits, the shells were perfectly clean and still polished, ready to be strung together. The further they got from the Maldives, the more those shell strings were worth.

In Yoruba, twelve strings were almost worth a brideprice. Every man owed the king one string in taxes each year. They were used in palace ceremonies, for conjuring and divination. They could reveal the truth and predict the future. But mostly now they’re used as a charm, and men have no idea of their worth. They can help draw whatever a woman desires.

Miranda and I were strolling through town. The evening’s performance had left her energized and thirsty, she was looking for a place to wind down. We were walking along 18th Street in Northwest, DC, where the cars park diagonally. We noticed a four story mural, a topless woman with red hair. There was writing all over her ten foot breasts. “Madam’s Organ restaurant and bar,” the right one read. “The Heart of Adams Morgan,” the other one said.

There were wagon wheels on the balcony beneath her. We went inside for a drink. I always get a Rusty Nail, she likes a Sex on the Beach, but can never bring herself to say its name. I had to tell the waitress what she desired. The music was almost too loud to speak over, so we drank them almost in silence. It was awkward to move from Fauré into bluegrass. We decided to move down the block.

There are people from every nationality on those streets, the less-wealthy embassies aren’t far away. And for every inclination there’s a store: a Burmese food market, Peruvian clothes. Rugs from the Uzbek, Brazilian spices. Sex shops and strip bars, used bookstores and basement fortunetellers. One of these last caught Miranda’s eye.

“Why would you want to go in there?”

“I’m just curious,” she said. “Why, are you worried she’ll tell me all of your secrets?”

“I already told you all my secrets? Besides, it says on the window half an hour would cost twenty bucks.”

“I’m worth it!” Miranda said, and down the stairs we went. It wasn’t at all what you would imagine. A bell rang us in to a small quiet room. Yes, there was incense, but no skulls or crystals. Hand-patterned Batik was draped on the walls. We sat down at a small table and waited in silence.

When the woman came in, I was even more surprised. She was cedar slender and looked Balinese. Her English was perfect: a Somerset accent. She asked for something small from each of us. I thought she meant money, and placed a twenty on the table beside her. She just smiled gracefully. Miranda knew better: she looked through her purse. In the bottom, she found a small loose shell. Maybe it had been a button that had come unthreaded, or maybe part of a sweater pin. She held it in her hand until it was warm, then placed it on the table in front of her. The Balinese woman touched it and looked up.

“Someone suspects you of something,” she said to Miranda. “Something you didn’t do. The unforeseen end of all this will astound you. There is a man who doesn’t wish you well. But another man, this man sitting right here, the uncivilized one: he loves you. You can always trust a man who loves a troublesome dog.”

I was too embarrassed to speak. I wondered how she knew about Brisi? I bet right at that moment, Brisi was chewing on something she shouldn’t. I picked up the white cowrie shell.




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