The Conium Review: Vol. 6 is now available for pre-order. We expect to ship in mid-December.
This volume of The Conium Review features nine new stories from Tamara K. Walker, Jay Vera Summer, Matt Kirkpatrick, Rebekah Bergman, Kevin Finucane, Stephanie Wang, Simone Person, Rachel Lyon, and J. L. Montavon. Readers will experience ghost detector apps, a sentient chalkboard, trippy art museum visits, and more. Throughout this volume, inventive prose, dark satire, and compelling characters abound.
We’re still processing final copy edits and completing the layout, so page count is still up in the air, but it’ll be a similar length to other recent issues (around 100-ish). As usual, we have a wrap-around cover with just a hint of the main image peaking out. On back, there is a large tree stump gracing the volume.
The day her youngest left for college, she came home with two cats. A boy and a girl, just like her children. Everyone understood. The nest was empty. It’s that thing. It’s only natural.
“You’re such a little peanut,” she said to one of the cats. “My little Peanut. Peanut Butter. Peanut Butt.”
“Biscuit,” she said to the other. “Bisquick. Little Bisque. Bisque-Kitten. Biscuit-Tin. Lobster Bisque. My little Lobster, sweet Lobster Claw.”
She bought them beds and toys and treats. She let them scratch her couch. She scooped their poop twice a day. She liked the crunching sounds they made when they ate their dry food with their precise little teeth. The metal tinkling of the tags on their collars, like tiny bells, joyful sounds that let her know they were close.
It wasn’t enough. While her husband was at work, she went to the pet store and bought some rabbits. The rabbits proceeded to do it like rabbits. More rabbits. Her husband helped her build hutches around the house. She fed them each their own head of lettuce. She stuck her fingers through the wire cages. They were soft, impossibly soft, so soft, eight, sixteen, twenty-four soft little feet, lucky feet.
Too many rabbits, her husband said. The nest was too full. He made her put an ad in the local paper: bunnies for sale. But then he had a heart attack, and when the house was dark and her children had left again and all the flowers had wilted and she put the cards away and there weren’t any more casseroles in the freezer, she was grateful she still had the rabbits, and it seemed to her, in fact, that she did not have enough rabbits.
Maybe it wasn’t rabbits, precisely. Maybe it was something else she needed. Hamsters. Hamsters were small. They could fit in your pocket. That could be her new thing. Now that she was not all the things she used to be, she could be the lady who did that, who went around town with a hamster in her pocket.
The hamster did not like her pocket. It did not mind its cage: the wood chips, the brightly colored tubes, sucking from the metal tip of the water bottle. The sound of its nails against the plastic, its feet scrambling through the loops, comforted her. “Silly hamster,” she said. “Hamster-Ham. You are my smoky little Ham.”
When she got the hamsters she also got two goldfish. Impulse buy at the checkout line. The same way she would sometimes buy a candy bar, or a trashy magazine. Two fish, a tank, a filter, fish flakes, pink pebbles, seaweed plants, a castle, a plastic diving man, a Jacques Costeau. She wondered what they would do if she stroked their glittering scales with the pads of her fingers.
Weeks later she was out running errands. She was buying food for herself and for the cats and the fish and the hamster and the rabbits. When she got to the dairy section, she thought, how silly. How silly to spend money when there are creatures that will give these things to you for free.
She bought a full-grown chicken and a couple of chicks. She named the chicken Pokey. “Little Poke,” she said. “Hey there, Pokey-Partner.”
She put the chicken in a coop in the yard and the chicks under heat lamps in the living room. Their yellow feathers glowed under the hot red lights. She cupped a chick in her hands and said, “What a lovely fluff. Fluffy baby.”
Then, of course: a cow for the milk. A couple horses, because, why not?
To the horses, she said: “Beautiful. Perfect,” and she ran her palm over their wet velvet noses, kissed the wide hard plane of their foreheads.
Birds: lovebirds, parrot, parakeets. She gave them their own room. “This is for the birds!” she punned. Soon, she joked to no one in particular, she would need an ark. But, she laughed, there were sometimes more and sometimes less than two of every kind.
But when she fell asleep at night, she thought: this is not what I want. How have I strayed so far from what I want?
What she really wanted was to lock herself inside a cage. For someone to feed her, bathe her, pet her, brush her. She wanted someone to make up nicknames for her, call her sweet diminutives, to hold her, tightly, so tightly she could not breathe, and tell her that she was beautiful, perfect, perfect; that she was the best thing in the whole world, the only thing, and she wanted to go limp in that warm embrace, to know nothing except the sound of a soft voice singing her praises, unintelligible words of comfort, murmurs of endless, boundless love.
About the Author:
Jillian Jackson is a graduate of the MFA program in Fiction at Boston University, where she received the Florence Engel Randall Graduate Fiction Award. She’s also the recipient of a St. Botolph Club Foundation’s Emerging Artist Grant. Her work appears in Smokelong Quarterly and Misadventures Magazine.
This story was a finalist in The Conium Review‘s 2016 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Leesa Cross-Smith.
Image Credit: © Vadim Gnidash – stock.adobe.com
Emily Koon’s “The People Who Live in the Sears” is the ninth and final item contained inside The Conium Review: Vol. 4 Collector’s Edition. Tomorrow, we’ll show off the book-shaped box that contains these beautiful handmade chapbooks and broadsides. The box is similar to last year’s, but it’s bigger (don’t worry, it still fits on most bookshelves). The entire box set will be available for purchase tomorrow (November 30th). A limited number of these boxes ship right away on the 30th, though most orders will ship closer to December 15th.
Emily’s story was the 2015 Innovative Short Fiction Contest Winner. The contest judge, Amelia Gray, noted that “The People Who Live in the Sears” is ” . . . a little George Saunders, a little Don Barthelme, but best of all a lot of its own thing, the neon Jazzercize glory of the 80s going up like the asbestos-fueled fire it features.”
This 12-page, 4.5″ x 6″ chapbook is printed on 67-lb. vellum paper with a 24-lb. ivory colored inner leaf and 24-lb. white linen pages.
From “Police Blotter:”
The Bear Family in the Nearby Wood area reported a home break-in yesterday at 3:22 p.m. While away from their house, an intruder committed petty theft (bowl of porridge) and vandalism (rocking chair) before being discovered in the bedroom. The intruder, described as a human child, then fled the scene. She is approximately six years old with blonde hair and no other distinguishing characteristics. Possibly armed.
From “Griselda’s Helpful Hints:”
Q: One of the best things about the beanstalk in my husband’s garden is that we find the occasional human. My husband always wants me to grind the bones for bread, but I want to try something new. Any suggestions?
A: While we acknowledge that bone bread is a staple of any giant’s diet, you’re missing out on some interesting exotic flavors. Use a microplane to shave the bones over a salad or pasta for an umami kick. Or, if you have the time, smoke the humans and add them to the pot when you cook those beans from the stalk. It will add a fatty richness, especially if you happen to get an American.
From “Ask an Evil Stepmother:”
Q: I already have trouble sleeping, but now I have back problems. My prospective mother-in-law put a pea under my mattress and I still ache two weeks later. How can I marry into this family when they are capable of such abuse?
A: Oh, do blue bloods like to whine. Look, I realize in-breeding has made you royals as delicate as china dolls, but I’m going to give it to you straight: toughen up, princess. You may think it’s a happily ever after now, but what are you going to do in twenty years? Can you feed the new hot chick a poisoned apple? Will you get your new husband’s kids “lost” in the woods near the cannibal witch’s gingerbread house so the adults can get some alone time? How about giving the all the chores to that left-behind little ragamuffin so your kids can get the good stuff? Can you do that? Not with that attitude, missy.
About the Author:
Charlie Brown is a writer and filmmaker from New Orleans. He currently lives in Los Angeles, where he recently received his Masters in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California and also runs Lucky Mojo Press and Mojotooth Productions. He has made two feature films: Angels Die Slowly and Never A Dull Moment: 20 Years of the Rebirth Brass Band. His fiction has appeared in The Writing Disorder, Jersey Devil Press, The Menacing Hedge, Aethlon, and what?? Magazine and the forthcoming anthology The Portal In My Kitchen. He currently teaches journalism and composition at various community colleges.
This story was longlisted for the Wigleaf Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions.
Image Credit: ©
/ Dollar Photo Club