Online Exclusive

Three Stories
She Had No Costume

Outside, skeletons were knocking. She’d flown early, noticing the time change. Her girl slept in the crib, and this country wasn’t home yet. Each base a hotel, and the uniform hadn’t made her fearless. The gun on her hip wasn’t on her hip and now everyone walked in the rain. 
      Soldiers at the door now, though soldiers really weren’t soldiers. Once there was a pumpkin, but there is no autumn. Ghosts and witches and some dressed in corruption. 
      She put on her fatigue hat, and her chevrons were sanctioned. She felt lucky, on this side of the ocean, her youth still an option. Her girl crawled, dreaming into daytime, a childhood of circuses and people. And here now: boom, a tribe of Halloween voices.

We Were There to Clean Up 

This was not about that ghost thing, lying in my bed sheets whilst the wind came from the outside. It wasn’t supposed to be autumn, and this night I opted for my own place and away from that old building where my friends lived. It was just across the street and all the homes were old and we all lived in England to clean up from the hospital that had been opened for the war thing—though we had our nights off, and we started getting out the board and calling out the spirits, drinking spirits of our own, and we’d watch that big old game piece talk to us through the movement on the game board. It was supposed to be fun. Now it was the wind and me alone and with my twin babies and the leaves were getting crispy and I was the only one with babies. One of my babies cried and the other went on laughing at my fingers. Girl, I said, and Boy, and it was what my friends had said the night before at those other friends’ house when the spirits were telling us their history, and my one friend even went to look for other sources, said it was truth. Then another spirit, who said he was a lad, and I wouldn’t touch the game board, and he told my friends he knew, and he was coming for me. This is it, I said, I’m not coming back as long as you have that thing here, and I pointed to the game board. I would take it to the dumpster. I hollered and my babies cried and I said that I would burn it. Everyone gasped. C’mon, they said. They turned back to the board, and I ran home with my babies. I put them to bed and looked through my old boxes. I didn’t know what to believe. I stayed in one place and heard myself breathe.

He Has Juice

It is a routine now: first the man will pour his coffee. She will drink her water before anything, and they will hear the other couples, however politely. Mostly everyone is not English. 
      They’ll put on snowshoes. 
      And now their usual stuff is waiting: the bread and cheese, the boiled egg, sliced portions of a turkey. Ham, and creamer. Jam by his plate and she has butter. They’ll take whatever bread and put it in their pockets: not for hunger, but if anything is left, the lady will bring less. This concerns them. The lady comes to deliver. The lady has no English, but the lady’s son has come to them, all smiles and his hands in, with a nodded welcome. 
      They’ll climb. Higher and look down, in, the wind slapping. They might sit. Their jackets are thick, like they are, and she will lean there, with his stick up. He might clutch his chest with neither of them laughing, and he would blame nothing.
      He has not mentioned his condition. She never pressed. She’d been a medic. 
      They’d met in California, talking at the cafe. It seemed silly, then. 
      But he says now, what’s to lose? Is anything really anything? 
      They will go again, and they will cross the ocean. 
      They will. 
      But won’t they? 
      For now, they sit quietly, watching the woman outside, her shovel so seemingly heavy. The wind chimes chime, and it smells like cinnamon toast.

Kim Chinquee’s sixth fiction collection, Wetsuit, was released in March 2019 with Ravenna Press. She is Senior Editor of New World Writing and Chief Editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal).