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“Phantom,” by Danielle Susi

doodle spiked football shoe

My brother played baseball. He’d had his nose broken. Arms fractured. Skin ripped open by sliding metal cleats. His brown hair was always buzzed short to the scalp during the summer. His shoulders were broad and his arms were strong.

When he came home from a game or practice he’d peel off the sweaty layers. Each cleat popped off his foot left clouds of dust in the air. Bits of hard clay and dirt on the kitchen tile. Thick, high socks left those ridges in the skin on his shins. Back of his neck tanned shade of brown my skin will never be.

Dad had always coached a team. It didn’t matter whether it was my brother’s, but he’d always been very involved in our town’s league. Mom pretended to know exactly what was going on in every game on television or at the field. We were a baseball family, as I imagine many families to be. All the talk about the game didn’t end at the park. It traveled home in our cars. Made its way into our living room. Sat next to me at the dinner table.

His elite team won the district tournament when my brother was in the summer between his junior and senior years of high school. Won the state tournament too. And made it to the final day of the New England Regionals.

He was at that age where he began thinking seriously about college. Maybe he knew that he might not get the chance to play baseball anymore after high school. I watched him as he suited up that last time. Flame in his eyes. That was what I remembered of him.

I sometimes remember the blur of my parents. My brother laying in the dirt. Someone grabbing my arm from behind pulling me away from the fence. Ohmygods. A coach from the other team calling 9-1-1. I remember not being able to breathe. The haunt of ambulances and people sitting silent. My mother screaming screaming screaming.

It was a sort of freak accident—baseball to the chest that stopped his heart. I’d spend my whole life missing him. Bickering and the arguments. Walks to the corner store for candy and slushies. Bike-riding to the dead end and back up to the stop sign. I missed the summer I wanted to collect baseball cards so he wouldn’t have something that I didn’t. I kept the dozen cards my dad bought me in an old cookie tin. RBI, ERA, IP: Codes I couldn’t decipher.

I longed the summer before it happened. When his team made it to the final game of a tournament. I wore one of his old jerseys that didn’t fit him anymore. Our last name stitched on long ago by our mother, letter by letter. When they lost and he saw the jersey after the game. Told me I was an idiot for wearing it. When he and his teammates went to Hooters after and he wasn’t nine anymore.

Everything that happened after that was regarded in “he-would-be’s.” He would be graduating this year. He would be going to college this month. He would be eighteen today.

Extra stacks of prayer cards sat in a plastic grocery bag on a chair in the dining room. His name at the top, laminated. Should we tuck them into binders with those plastic sleeves like he used to with his baseball cards? The ones of Nomar Garciaparra with his bat cocked. Of Jason Varitek crouched behind the plate. Gloved hand extended.

I couldn’t test my memory with him anymore. Couldn’t ask, “Did that really happen when we were young? Or am I imagining it to be that way?”

When we went on family vacation every July by the lake, we stayed in a small cabin with wood paneled ceilings. At night, from twin beds on opposite sides of the room, we would quiz each other. Used moonlight sneaking through the blinds to find an owl’s face. A skull. A sailing ship. Four panels up from the door. Two feet to the left of the holes left from an overhead light since removed. Our navigation.

We laughed so hard our parents knocked on the wall from their bedroom. We lowered our voices. Quiet, so quiet, until one of us stopped responding.

About the Author:

Danielle Susi is the author of the chapbook The Month in Which We Are Born (dancing girl press, 2015). Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in Knee-Jerk Magazine, Hobart, and The Rumpus, among many others. Recently, Newcity named her among the Top 5 Emerging Chicago Poets. Find her online at daniellesusi.com.

Image Credit: © dule964 / Dollar Photo Club

Congrats to Our Best Small Fictions 2016 Nominees

Best Small Fictions coverLast week, we mailed off our nominees for the Queen’s Ferry Press anthology, Best Small Fiction 2016. We’re proud to officially announce our selections. There were so many good stories to choose from. Congratulations to the five nominees:

About the Nominees:

Caitlin Scarano is a poet in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee PhD creative writing program. She was a finalist for the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology and the winner of the 2015 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, judged by Eduardo Corral. She has two poetry chapbooks. This winter, she will be an artist in residence at the Hinge Arts Residency program in Fergus Falls and the Artsmith’s 2016 Artist Residency on Orcas Island.

Tamara K. Walker dreams of irrealities among typewriter ribbons, stuffed animals and duct tape flower barrettes. She resides near Boulder, Colorado with her wife/life partner and blogs irregularly about writing and literature at http://tamarakwalker.wordpress.com. She may also be found online at http://about.me/tamara.kwalker. Her writing has previously appeared or is forthcoming in The Cafe Irreal, A cappella Zoo, Melusine, Apocrypha and Abstractions, Gay Flash Fiction, Identity Theory, a handful of poetry zines, and several themed print anthologies published by Kind of a Hurricane Press.

Ingrid Jendrzejewski studied creative writing and English literature at the University of Evansville before going on to study physics at the University of Cambridge. She has soft spots for go, cryptic crosswords, and the python programming language, but these days spends most of her time trying to keep up with a delightfully energetic toddler. Once in a very great while, she adds a tiny something to www.ingridj.com and tweets at @LunchOnTuesday.

Sarah Mitchell-Jackson is a novelist and a short story writer. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in The Critical Pass Review and Really System. Her debut novel, Ashes, will be out this year published by Blue Moon Publishers. You can read more of her work at www.smitchjack.wordpress.com.

John Englehardt’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Sycamore Review, The Stranger, Monkeybicycle, The Monarch Review, and Furlough Magazine. He won the 2014 Wabash Prize in Fiction, as well as The Stranger‘s A&P fiction contest. He’s a recent graduate of University of Arkansas’ MFA program, and now lives and works in Seattle.


The 2015 Flash Fiction Contest Winner is Caitlin Scarano!

Caitlin Scarano‘s piece, “Pitcher of Cream,” is the winner of The Conium Review‘s 2015 Flash Fiction Contest, judged by Laura Ellen Joyce! This year’s finalists were Ashley HutsonGary Joshua GarrisonEmily KiernanAri LaurelMarsha McSpadden, and Jan Stinchcomb. An honorable mention goes to Kitsune Hirano.

Laura said that Caitlin’s story “was haunting and beautiful and every word was chosen with care.” She went on to say “The story felt complete: a whole world in a few hundred words. The chilling ambiguity of the missing children and the unreliability of the narrator made this a perfect flash fiction.”

Caitlin Scarano

Caitlin Scarano

Caitlin Scarano is a poet in the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee PhD creative writing program. She was a finalist for the 2014 Best of the Net Anthology and the winner of the 2015 Indiana Review Poetry Prize, judged by Eduardo Corral. She has two poetry chapbooks. This winter, she will be an artist in residence at the Hinge Arts Residency program in Fergus Falls and the Artsmith’s 2016 Artist Residency on Orcas Island.

Caitlin will receive a $300 honorarium for her winning piece and a copy of the judge’s latest book, The Luminol Reels. You’ll get to read Caitlin’s winning flash fiction piece on Saturday, December 19th when it goes “live” on The Conium Review Online Compendium. The story will also be made into a broadside or micro-chapbook for distribution at the 2016 AWP Conference in Los Angeles. Caitlin will be on-site to sign copies for AWP attendees.

2016 Seersucker Writers Workshop

The 2016 Seersucker Writers Workshop is now accepting applications. Our recent contest judge, Amelia Gray, is one of the visiting faculty. Zach Powers, a recent contributor to The Conium Review, is also one of this year’s special guests! The other faculty and guest writers include Arna Hemenway, Patricia Lockwood, Chad Faries, Sjohnna McCray, Alexis Orgera, and Gale Marie Thompson.
The Seersucker Writers Workshop is a program of Seersucker Liver, a literary nonprofit in Savannah, Georgia designed to promote the local literary community through reading performances and workshops, featuring national, regional, and local writers. The workshop runs from February 3rd to February 7th, 2016 in downtown Savannah. More details and registration info are available on the Seersucker Live website.