“The Cypress Altar”

by Mark Poe

The cold air of the pre-dawn November morning burned the throat as the hum of the outboard motor was lulling me back into any outdoorsman’s dreamland. The boat ride down Maddox Bay to the dropping-off spot of the deer hunters of the Poe family was cold but quick. The morning discussion covered where everyone would be hunting today and concluded with the choice of either quick-and-cold or slow-and-moderate for the 10-minute or so boat ride, depending on the vote. Quick and cold won out. We had all survived, as assured by roll call rounded as the boat slid to a stop on the sandbar. From here, we would begin our stalking of any legal whitetail to be found in the North Unit of the White River Refuge in southeast Arkansas. We had copied this exact scenario countless times in my 25 years of hunting with this family. No thought in heart or mind could foretell the future relevance of this over-played song of the deer hunter. Unbeknownst to any of us, today would change the lives and the future of the clan.

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“A Piankashaw Lunch”

by Mat McCarter

The sky looked like it might snow but just didn’t give a shit.  Everything seemed eternally dreary and dismal – damned, even. The weather was insolent and bitchy, like it was on its winter rag.  The streets were bare and nothing stirred on this cold winter afternoon, except for the frigid wind whipping around the old buildings on the square. I walked past the old cannons parked out in front of the equally old courthouse by the war memorial. Every time I passed the memorial, I was always amazed that folks from Piankashaw have been fighting in wars since the Civil War. You’d have thought that after looking at the plaque in front of the courthouse with all of those names on it, that we’d just quit fightin’ any wars.  You’d think that we’d have learned our lesson the first time. I imagined that there would be more names on that plaque before it was all said and done. The country couldn’t stop creating wars any more than young men from Piankashaw couldn’t stop fighting them. The government never walked away from a fight and neither did the kids we send to fight them.

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“The Pharm” – Part Two

by Mark Poe

The next morning, the addiction tree had grown to almost six feet tall and the buds were already beginning to show signs of opening. I took the chainsaw and broke the morning silence with the grinding of the chain. Two cuts and I had a two-foot section of the trunk that Cherokee had requested.

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“The Pharm” – Part One

by Mark Poe

My hands cradled my head as I stared at the black starlit night, searching for answers to questions I was terrified to ask. I had escaped the guilty barrage of vulgar insults into the rural quietness of my yard. The small towns were pinpointed by the lights   within glow distance of my country home in Poplar Ridge, AR. My community was a center blip in three triangular points of nowhere. These concentrated lights meant that the local Little League teams were playing night games against other small Northeastern Arkansas towns. There were dads coaching, grandpas and uncles umping the bases and moms doing their best to scream their small sons and daughters into greatness. The only sounds around me were tree frogs and the incessant buzzing of mosquitoes in my ear, rivaled only by the numbing hum with lost scenes of my childhood of when I was an active participant in those rituals replaying in my head. My whole inner being was in a constant turmoil with the stress of my everyday life. The addiction had hit hard. My sweet wife, Laci Lee, the absolute love of my life, was caught in the downward swirl of the pills. They had consumed her to the point that fantasy had won the battle with reality, in her mind. I knew of two paths that had to be traveled to get the result I needed for my kids and me and neither was comforting. It was the witching hour and it was time. I knew she had taken her hourly allotment and would be asleep.

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“The Room” – Part One

by Markus Moore

“What the hell?!” That observation was followed almost immediately by a blinding flash of pain that made me see stars, as I raised myself to a sitting position. As the pain subsided, I felt all over my head, searching for some kind of bump or gash. Oddly – and much to my relief – there weren’t any discernible wounds. “Must be drugs,” I remember thinking to myself.

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“The Struggle” – Part Eight

by Mark Essem

JACK’S ROOM – NIGHT

(Jack is lying on the bed, reading the book about setting goals and positive thinking. He gets a piece of paper and starts making a list of goals.)

“1 – stop and stay off drugs and alcohol; 2 – Math and English; 3 – job; 4 – Own place; 5 – driving licence.”

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“The Struggle” – Part Seven

by Mark Essem

AT LIBRARY – DAY

(Jack goes into the library and becomes a member, then goes and looks at some books. He picks up a book about alcohol addiction, 12 steps and drug addiction. He then goes and sits down in the corner, away from everyone, and starts reading.)

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“The Struggle” – Part Six

by Mark Essem

AT THE LIBRARY – DAY

(Jack goes into the library and becomes a member then goes and looks at some books he picks up a alcohol addiction 12 steps and drug addiction he then goes and sits down in the corner away from everyone and starts reading.)

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“Infirmary” – Part Two

by Steven Anthony George

450 lbs.

Why did God make the insects change themselves from one form to another? Why do they begin as a worm, crawling and eating and crawling and eating, and after, it goes to sleep for a little while and wakes up as something different ─ sometimes something beautiful, like when the caterpillar turns into the butterfly? It’s for reproduction, I think. As the worm, it doesn’t do more than eat and store up energy; then, as a fly, it travels far and wide to find a mate. That’s why one part is crawling and the other part is flying. It can’t fly to find a mate and to find food at the same time; it would die from exhaustion or maybe never find another, because it’s too far away, but instead it does one and then the other, which is a perfect plan.

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