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Story Excerpts

Art by Jason C. Eckhardt

Kiss of Life 

by Doug Allyn

What could be sweeter than a day at the beach? Lounging with my ladylove on a king-size terry towel in the Vale Dunes, mid July, mid eighties, midsummer breeze riffling the whitecaps on Lake Michigan. And just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better—

“Maybe I should go topless,” Marcy said.

Which captured my attention for a split second—but then reality set in. We’ve been dating a year, and Marcy is a walking contradiction, a CPA who got through college on a gymnastics scholarship, cute as a bug, tough as a combat boot, with wiry swimmer’s muscles on a squared-off frame. A tight cap of brown curls, and grey eyes that constantly glitter with mischief . . .

Which meant . . . Damn. Her offer was too good to be true.

“I’d second the motion,” I offered, “but this isn’t a nude beach, babe. You’d get busted (pun intended) and hauled off to jail. As your lawyer, I’d happily bail you out, but . . . Where’s this coming from?”

“A hundred young hot-bodies are scampering around the beach, practically starkers, and you’re paying no attention to any of them, or to me. You keep staring off down the shore.”

“Guilty,” I admitted. “There’s a woman down there, maybe a hundred and fifty yards? The tall brunette, just beyond the park on one of the private beaches.”

“The one wading out into the surf in the see-through bikini?”

“That’s her, “ I said. “She’s been sitting on a sand dune in street clothes for some time, staring out over the water, and—something seems off about her.”

“Off how?”

“I don’t know. It’s a beautiful day, but she seems to be under her own personal dark cloud. She was staring out at nothing for a long time, then suddenly stood up and started shucking her duds, down to what she’s wearing now. Then she waded out into the surf.”

“It’s called swimming, Ray—”

A kid screamed, snapping our attention back to our beach. A kid, four or five years old, was being dunked by his older sister.

“Hey, you little twerp!” Marcy yelled at the girl, shaking her finger at them. “Knock it off!” And when I glanced back down the shore, the dark-haired woman was gone. Underwater, I guessed. Had to be. She was too far out to have made it back to shore, so I watched, idly waiting for her to surface . . . Only she didn’t freaking surface. And she’d already been underwater for too long and—holy crap!

“Call nine-one-one!” I yelled at Marcy.

I was already up and sprinting down the beach, trying to keep my eyes fixed on the area where the woman vanished. And as I ran, the detail that bothered me in the first place suddenly registered. Her suit definitely wasn’t one. I grew up in Valhalla, on Michigan’s north shore, and spent every summer day of my childhood on this beach. I’ve seen a million suits, from grandma prim to teenybopper outrageous, but her bra and bottom looked odd, because they weren’t a suit at all. READ MORE



excerpt2_FlamingoFlamenco_EliBischofArt by Eli Bischof

Flamingo Flamenco

by Melissa Yi

It’s a rite of passage, right? Pass your exams, party in Vegas.

Only as an impoverished Asian-Canadian university sophomore, that meant Vegas with my mom, dad, and grandmother. Which meant they were paying for it, and I Must Be Grateful.

And I was. Serious gratitude as I shouldered my backpack and wheeled both Grandma’s suitcase and my own into the Ibis Hotel, besieged by bright-screened, tootling slot machines that I was too young to play.

We navigated past a few card and roulette tables whose dealers were, I was surprised to note, mostly middle-aged Asian women like my mom, although I spotted a Black man. I hadn’t realized Vegas would be multicultural and also house a considerable number of senior citizens.

The entrance smelled like cigarets, even though Grandma had specifically asked for a smoke-free hotel. She winced and glanced at the football game broadcast with sound on the wide-screen TV mounted to our right. It switched to a commercial with a toddler, and I felt a pang for my two-year-old brother, Kevin, who was staying with our other grandparents, “like a big boy,” missing the Sze family vacation in Vegas.

“Hope, I think we took the wrong entrance,” Dad told me. He wheeled a full-sized suitcase in each hand, over the black-and-white carpet decorated with long-legged, long-beaked birds that looked like flamingos without their famous pink feathers. Dad glanced up at the signs overhead. The HOTEL LOBBY one kept pointing us north, through the carnage.

“Who cares!” said Mom, who wore a backpack and fanny pack and had wandered in front of all of us. She’d kept her sunglasses and visor on indoors, and had put on a few pounds after Kevin, all of which made her look like a total tourist. “It’s Vegas!”

“Um, Mom, you’re not going to gamble everything, right?” I had to yell over the fake sound of coins clinking and the mechanical music from the nearest slot machine, where a delighted young woman clapped her hands. Grandma flinched.

“No, if we join the Players Club, we each get five or ten dollars free! Well, the grown-ups. Not you. You’re not even twenty-one!”

“Great.” A headache tapped my temples. Grandma lagged behind me. A security guard and three fortyish women wearing red-white-and-blue-sequined dresses clogged up the aisle. This place was built for maximum gambling per square inch, not group walking.

Dad turned right to try the next aisle.

“Watch it, Grandpa,” said a tall, white frat-boy type with black hair, heavy eyebrows, a blank expression, and a green WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS T-shirt.

He shoved past my dad, who was trying to tuck the second suitcase behind him before two matching frat dudes, sporting the same dumb T-shirt, mowed it down.

The last frat guy, the one with a square brown hairline that reminded me of Frankenstein, knocked into one of my suitcases. He stank of body spray.

“Hey!” I righted the suitcase before I spun around to defend Grandma.

Luckily, she was more narrow and nimble than our luggage. READ MORE


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