“How Karma Works,” Slippery Elm Literary Journal, print issue, 2020
Jason almost fell asleep in the truck, soothed by the rumble of tires on pavement. He was glad to be going to the mountains without his mother, whose showy doting had begun to annoy him. Perhaps he and Ray might enjoy each other in her absence. He liked thinking they might team up against her, beat her at something, although he didn’t know exactly what. It puzzled him, this wanting to be on Ray’s side and not his mother’s, because he loved her—adored her, even—and thought Ray was kind of a dick.
This was it: He wanted to teach her a lesson.
“Women In Groups,” Litbreak Magazine, May 5, 2020
Eugene and I had no children. After thirty years, there didn’t seem to be much that held us together. I often wondered how being divorced would have been different if there’d been children involved. They would be adults now. They would call me a couple times a week to ask how I was doing. Take me out for brunch on Sundays. Gently encourage me to date.
“Chance Encounter,” Crack the Spine, January 13, 2020, Issue no 258
Janice sat on the examination table, squinting to see a flyer about domestic abuse pinned to a bulletin board above the sink. “Have you ever been hit? Choked? Slapped? Pushed? Bitten? Burned? Grabbed? she read. She wondered how many women sitting exactly where she was at this moment had confessed something similar to Doctor O’Malley, whose resolute cheerfulness in the face of fibrocystic breasts and inconclusive PAP smears Janice had always appreciated.
“Consequences,” BoomerLitMag, Fall 2019
Dad asked, “What’s this I hear about you being rude to Mariah?” And when I tried to explain, all he said was, “You know better than that, Daisy. That’s not how we raised you,” like the two of them were my parents all by themselves. I stuffed my hands in my jacket pockets and flipped him off. I thought, I was standing up for you! And then I hope that stupid palm-tree shirt is rotting in some landfill somewhere.
“A Dangerous Place,” White Wall Review, September 9, 2019
The first time he took her to bed, they touched and kissed. No more. It was enough. He thought that sometimes, when you were without joy for a long time, you had to be careful letting it back in. Just a little at a time. All at once, it was too much.
Also, he was a gentleman.
“Gaming,” COG Magazine, Issue 14, 2019
We got into some good battles. Preytor jumped and flew with unnatural delicacy and regurgitated parasitic lifeforms, but I was stronger and better at punching. Also, my sonic roar was deadly.
“You have really good blade strikes,” I said when Preytor lay flattened and squashed on the sidewalk.
She kissed me softly. My lips felt the pillowy pressure of hers. I tasted salt and cornmeal.
This was not what I expected.
“Whatever Makes You Happy,” Mad River Review, Volume 4/Issue 1, 2019
Finally, exhausted, she hailed a cab and returned to the hotel. She showered and lay between the cool sheets. It wasn’t even five o’clock, but she fell into a blissful sleep, knowing, if only for a day, what it felt like to be completely disengaged, in a place where she was a stranger.
“What Olive Knows,” Five on the Fifth, Volume 3/Issue 10, 2018
Benji takes a step toward him. I am glad, because I am starting to feel sorry for Santa, the way he wants so much he can’t have. I realize Santa has a hole too. I think that is what Christmas is—everyone knowing about the holes and Santa trying to fill them with stuffed raccoons.
“Sequins,” Streetlight Magazine, Issue 26, Summer 2018
Lorraine was a great believer in intuition. “God’s whispering,” she would say. “Just listen.” But Risa heard nothing. She was always flying blind, without benefit of divine assistance. She still believed—all that Catholic schooling—but it didn’t feel like belief. It felt like longing.
“The Tree House,” Bluestem Magazine, May 2018
Right then she knew they would always need her to be the one to spot what was almost invisible—tiny cracks, splinters where it was supposed to be smooth, shards of shattered glass: all the brokenness—and prop up what sagged, all the neglected, tumbledown parts.
“Why Girls Believe Them,” The Summerset Review, Spring 2018
And there they were–Jack and the woman in the Vega at Jack-in-the-Box, who was most definitely not a sister named Jeanette, judging by the way they were kissing on the driveway, she in bell bottoms and Frye boots, he barefoot in pajama bottoms, wrapping a blanket around them both. “Holy shit!” Terry breathed, and Eliza nodded, unable to look away, because it was romance she was seeing, or something that looked a lot like it, anyway, and she was in the habit of studying romance whenever she came upon it.
“World, Backwards,” Origins Journal, December 2017
I can’t wait until I get the check: six million dollars, the letters said. I’ve already decided I’m going to give some of it to Everett, and some of it to Ian. My grandson Ian. He is adorable. Darling. And so handsome, if he would just get rid of that chazerai on his face.
“Getting to Know the Boss of the Blues,” The South Carolina Review, Volume 33/Number 1, Fall 2000
I froze sitting down. That was a good thing, a blessing. I could have been standing up, like some of them. Rigid like planks of wood. I’d have had to lean up against the wall, like a broom, to sleep.
Not them. Us. Eighteen of us. In all the world.
“Skins,” Pleiades, Volume 20/Number 2, 2000
I pinched my gum between my thumb and finger and stretched it out, then pinched it back together. I really wanted to smoke. I might have, too, except for what DeeDee said about it fucking up my skin. I have kinda bad skin. Really bad. I’m fifteen.
“Accident,” Whetstone, Volume 16, 1999 (Winner, The John Patrick McGrath Memorial Award)
For some reason I think of my mother. What would she have done if I had been deaf? The idea of going through life without hearing my mother’s voice is unimaginable. She would have found a way to make herself heard, though. Wasn’t it Helen Keller who said she could hear music through the soles of her feet?
I could be deaf, blind, wrapped in duct tape, and stuffed in the trunk of a Lincoln Town Car. My mother would find a way to communicate.
“Team Sports,” Berkeley Fiction Review, Issue 18, 1998
The air pulses with his fury. For a stunning instant, all of the boys come to a halt, their eyes wide. You know what they’re thinking: Please make it not my dad. Somewhere else–the neighboring field, where older boys are playing–another whistle sounds. The older man drinking beer twists around in his low chair, looking up. “Hey, buddy, settle down,” he says.
© Gina Willner-Pardo