The Junk Drawer

“I don’t think I can,” Juniper said, her voice wavering.
“Well then it is a good I know you can. Now buck up, buttercup,” Rowena said. “Focus.”
The witches locked fingers. The round walnut table where their hands linked trembled. Overhead the kitchen light swayed. Juniper squeezed her eyelids closed. A whiff of ozone snapped and writhed.
“Breathe, honey. It’s very hard to tap into your powers when you’re passed out. Trust me, I’ve tried,” Rowena said.
Beads of sweat broke out on the younger witch’s forehead. A slight humming rose and grew louder and louder. Juniper gasped. There was a crack.
“Excellent and now pull,” Rowena said above the humming roar.
A carmine tendril sprouted. The table floated up and shuddered. Juniper reached out and pulled hard. Majestic magenta power sprang out. The table bumped on the floor.
“Did we make it?” Juniper asked.
“Yes, this it the realm of the lost, the forgotten, and the inexplicable. Behold rolling hills of tape, mountains of duck sauce packets. Behold the Junk Drawer. The power of potential is tremendous. And you, you have pulled us in, hon.”
Juniper sighed with relief. A pale landscape of old receipts and closed restaurant menus crunched underfoot. Shrubs of bone dry markers crowded their steps. The two witches scramble up and over slippery hills of plastic twist ties. They trudged towards the treeline of paperclips.
“Now let’s hurry for that key on the endless chain of keys of indeterminate uses. The Contorters will be here soon.”

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on

Don’t Laugh

“Promise you will not laugh,” Juniper said.
“Open this door. I’m freezing my tutti frutti out here,” Rowena answered.
“Promise not to laugh first.”
“Girl I ain’t playing. It’s cold and my feet are pinching in these new curled toed boots. I don’t know what I was thinking. They cute though.” Rowena did a little tap dance and joy sprinkled into budding crocuses in the frost tipped ground in front of Juniper’s door.
Silence. Then a faint sniffle.
“JuJu honey what’s wrong? I promise not to laugh.”
“Promise you’ll turn into a bullfrog if you so much as giggle,” Juniper said.
“I pinkie promise.”
The round ornate door opened slowly on its own. Rowena stepped into her mentee’s underground lair. Carved into a gentle slope hillside, Juniper’s lair was typically pin neat. Today everything was higgledy-piggy. Framed prints askew, spider plant broken on the floor, and her Doris Day vinyls splashed across Juniper’s hi-fi.
“Hell’s bells JuJu. Where are you, Honey? It looks like a herd of squirrels through a rave in here.” Rowena surveyed the disarray.
An adorable tan squirrel in a bridal gown complete with lace veil and train crept out from beneath the sofa. “Scurry a group of unrelated squirrels is called a scurry. But you never have a group of unrelated squirrels since squirrels are fiercely territorial. A family of squirrels is a dray,” the flocked rodent said with Juniper’s voice.
Shimmering Day Glow green, Rowena collapsed into laughter. The bushy tailed creature leapt around in an endearing circle of fury.
“Went, Went. You promised!”
Rowena wiped the tears from her eyes. She croaked and then snapped her fingers thrice. “Sorry but you could have warned a witch. Tell me what spell you used this time to try and please someone because you don’t think you’re enough.”
“Basic glamour 3A Elphaepha,” Juniper said. “I wanted to be the cutest thing ever but not this.” Her fluffy tail twitched.
Goosebumps raised up and down Rowena’s arms. She sniffed the air. “And?”
“With a spritz of Love Potion No. 5 behind the ears.” The squirrel hung her head in her darling tiny claws.
A heavy swirled wand appeared in the master witch’s fingers. Rowena made a figure eight with her wand. Limb by limb, Juniper transformed back into herself. The twenty-something apprentice sat in crumpled heap of a white wedding dress. Juniper bursted into tears in Rowena’s arms.
“Enough of that. When is your date due to arrive?”
Juniper popped up and looked at the messy room. “I really did a number of this place. He’ll be here in fifteen.”
“All right, I get the room tickety-boo and make myself scarce. Tomorrow we will go over mixing earth spells with selkie enchantments, okay honey. I can tell you you are perfect the way you are but I can’t believe it for you but I will say wearing a wedding dress isn’t the best way to snag a warlock.” Juniper ran to her bedroom, ran back to give her friend a quick hug, and ran back to her bedroom to get dressed.
Hand on her hip, Rowena watched her scurry away. With a decisive clap the room became cleaning itself. Rowena took off her curled toed boots and walked home barefooted remembering being young and being young and excited. Pink and scarlet, a folly of geraniums sprouted in every step.

The Forever Kind

Dear Vaugh,

I know you’ve missed my letters and cards. I admit I was angry. Forgive me baby. I had been so looking forward to Moonlight Boulevard. I wasn’t like those vicious critics always mocking and making nasty little jokes. I believe in your talent. I knew you would break out of the cutesy kid actor phase and catapult into game. I believe in you boo.
We would be going places after your first movie role. We could finally announce our love to the world. It’s been six years of waiting.
Then I saw it. I was first in line at the Coral Glen AMC theater. You kissed that girl that painted hussy. You told me I was special on your show’s ‘Gram. You told me you loved me with that sweet wink you give each week at the end of Haunted Junior High. When I received your autographed photo we both knew our love was the forever kind.

We are partners, Vaugh. We are married in eyes of God and you go and kiss that creature. You’ve stained our pure love for fame. Why baby why? I can’t tell you how I ached. I went over all the fan page texts, the magazine interviews, and the red carpet waves. How can you throw it all away? You wouldn’t. You couldn’t.

Oh Vaugh, that is when I knew it was just a test? This was your signal that it was time to come to you. I’m so glad I triangulated your bungalow’s address based on neighbor photos from TMZ and People. How sweet to use your mom’s birthday for your alarm code! I love you so much. Walking through your house making myself at home. It all felt so right. Those years of watching you helped me read all those secret messages to be just the girl you need. I’m waiting for you now.

Key Phone Purse Sanity

Losing my keys and my sanity
Morning ticks away
as I plunder my purse
my work bag, my craft bag, my lunch bag

Falling behind and into a shame spiral
Promises drench my blazer
as I check under the mail
the laundry, clean and dirty, the cat

Racing thoughts and up the stairs again
Car keys smirking on bedroom floor
so I tear into lateness with my lunch bag
craft bag work bag and phone

Sliding out of my parking space and into regret
Self incrimination heavy as the commute traffic
heavier than all the bags I carry
on my spirit—wait where is my purse

The Trial Groom

Shards of daylight slitted across the regal bedroom. Crisp white linens and crushed velvet pillows littered the bed. Blade lifted her head to scrowl at the morning. The air was fresh and smelt of brisk wind, sea foam, and weirdly a touch of fish. Blade grimaced. She had argued with her grandmother, the Dowager Queen Evander, against the trial marriage. The idea of ceremonial temporary marriage between individuals from prominent families in warring countries made senses for policiticans, but not for the warrior caste. Blade had been ready to die for Crest but never to marry to stop a war.
Grandmother had had to order Blade to comply. She remembered seething the entire trip from her mountain clan home to the valley of Lanx. She remembered fighting her own BlackCoat soldiers to rend the ceremonial bridal mask. With shame she remembered crying herself to sleep in the ridiculous royal bed.
In a sudden fury, Blade lashed out at one of the velvet pillows. She kicked and tossed. A flurry of goose feathers showered the once sumptuous bedding. An unexpected sound made Blade whip around in surprise. A slim feature on a blush pink brocade chaise lounge was clapping. Blade reached for her waist knife and then realized the elders had disarmed her before her trip to meet her husband. Fluidly Blade took a barehanded fighting stance. The lanky young man laying on the small sofa smiled.
“Explain or die,” Blade hissed.
The man chuckled.
“Die it is.”
“Stop your highness.” The stranger sat upright, hiding his laughing mouth.
Blade leapt from the canopy bed, whipped a sharpen hairpin from her curly head, and seized the stranger by the throat. His eyes grew large with surprise and then he burst into laughter. Blade considered how difficult it was to stab someone who was laughing. She tighten her grip.
“I’m Zex, I mean Crown Prince Isaax from the royal house of LeVanell, your highness,” Zex squeaked. “Welcome you to Maryna.”
Blade continuing squeezing as his words seeped in. Zex pushed with all his might against the shapely warrior to no avail.
“Wait are you my husband?” Blade released him.
“What! you wish. You’re hideous,” Zex said coughing. “You’re bethored to my unfortunate lunkhead big brother. I’m your etiquette tutor.”
Blade lunged for him and Zex skittered out of reach. She gave chase and soon they were running around the canopy bed. She made a grab for him and Zex smacked her with a gold colored bolster pillow.
“Why am I in Maryna? I don’t need a damned teacher!”
“Of course not, you’re the model of congeniality. You’re too genteel for the intellectuals and highborns of Lanx so the elders of your country and mine thought they would ship you out to the summer home of the royal house of Maryna to make you more coarse and savage,” Zex shouted waving his pillow in his left hand and picking up a chamberpot with the right. They were both huffing and out of breath. Blade lowered her hairpin and cocked her head to the side. Fencing, hand to hand combat, advanced poisoning, Blade had trained her entire young life in fighting and war strategy. Her realm had gotten strong invading and cherry picking the riches of its neighbors but Lanx had risen to prominence by forming powerful alliances with all of the free lands. Blade could lead a battalion like the queens before her but she needed to learn diplomacy and how to use a salad fork. Blade narrowed her eyes.
“Who did you piss off to get the wonderful job of making me a lady?” Blade said and flung her hairpin to jab the Prince in the arm.
Lightning fast, Zex deflected the hairpin with the chamberpot. “Pretty much everyone, Queenie.”

Brighton Trunk Case, Unsolved

I’ve been everywhere

Once I was lithe
Strong limbs that leapt and pirouetted
Look at my dancer’s feet

I wanted to go everywhere

Detoured by reckless love
Only got in trouble for my troubles
Look I was beginning to show

I was known everywhere

Above the fold bold headlines
To a footnote in a plywood trunk
Look what’s become of me

Carry me where you go

Only travelled as far as Brighton Station
Unclaimed never named
But look at my feet they danced.

5 Golden Rings

It started with a partridge in a pear tree. Not a real breathing bird of course but a ceramic one in blue and gold. Cindy found the package on the way to work after Clare had left for school. She drove the package kelly green paper with a satin red ribbon to work and opened it on her desk.
“Cute, hon, where’s did you get it?” PollyAnn the dental hygienist said leaning over Cindy’s desk.
Cindy explained how she found it on her doorstep. PollyAnn gave her a weird look. Suddenly embarrassed Cindy reorganized her desk.
The next morning the package arrived earlier. This time the gift was striped red and white. Cindy’s mom brought the package into Cindy’s house when she came to take Clare to school. Cindy’s heart gave a little flutter when she saw the gift on her small kitchen table.
“Don’t get excited. Fat single moms don’t have secret admirers. It’s a mistake. Or maybe an advertising stunt,” Terry said. Cindy hugged her present, two wooden turtle doves salt and pepper shakers, to her chest and then stowed them in her pantry.
Cindy didn’t get the third gift until the evening. Her back hurt, Clare was talking a mile a minute, and dinner was waiting to be made. On autopilot, Cindy headed for the kitchen. Clare placed the wrapped package in silver snowflake paper on the counter and started dancing in front of the sink. Cindy grabbed Clare’s tiny hands and joined in the dance. Clare and Cindy ate pancakes with lots of syrup with a trio of brass French hens.
The four calling birds came on a Friday. Traffic was a nightmare. Her mom called twice. And she had to text Gary that she was running behind for the pickup. Cindy hurried to her mom’s house to retrieve Clare and then raced home to pack her daughter up for the weekend with her dad. Cindy was packing Clare’s pink My Little Pony suitcase when her ex banged on the door.
“Daddy, daddy.” Arms raised Clare ran for the door.
Gary was standing there with a small wrapped box, a jewelry box in gold dotted paper.
“Hey princess. I found this outside for Mommy?” Gary was talking to his daughter but watching Cindy. “Secret admirer or another boyfriend?”
Cindy ignored him and gave Clare a big hug, a little hug, and three kisses. Cindy avoided Gary’s eyes when she took the package but she could feel the heat of his smirk. Later that night with a generous glass of Chardonnay Cindy opened her gift. The four calling birds were a pendant on a gold chain. Cindy gasped in delight. Cindy wore the necklace to bed and dreamt of the Nutcracker.
The next morning Cindy was wrestling two duffel bags of dirty laundry out the front door. She had slept poorly. Nights without Clare were always harder and last night was half forgotten nightmares. The gift was waiting for her. A larger shoebox sized box in powder blue paper with angels. Cindy loved Christmas angels. She reached and then stopped. Who knew her so well? A strange sensation sizzled up her arm. A small voice niggled deep in her mind. Listening, Cindy backed away and locked the door.


“He’s a hot dog water salesman,” Luna said in a conspiracial whisper.
“Look again mariposa that’s his cover. He travels the country collecting data on nuclear secrets,” Cyrus whispered back. They stole looks at the sleeping man resting near the front. Cyrus’ young handsome face was dead serious. Luna hid her smile behind her hands.
“No you’re wrong. He’s a double agent working for…” Luna’s eyes skittered around the bus’s advertising for something outrageous. “Nabisco.”
Cyrus looked at his love with mock horror. Then the couple burst into laughter. The father with the toddler son in the seat ahead of them turned to glare. Two rows behind an elderly lady gave a light laugh.
Cyrus worked days driving for Amazon and Luna pulled overnights stocking shelves at Walmart. Saving every penny, they pulled as many extra shifts as possible. But today, this rare day, was special. Their shifts aligned. They had a whole day and night together. First they were tempted to sleep in, cradled in the warmth of each other’s arms in a corona of pillows and sheets. Instead they were drawn to the sea.
Burying a sliver of her face into her lover’s arm, Luna snorted. “I hope I don’t look too big in my swimsuit.”
Cyrus rested his hand on her curved belly. He pulled her into himself. “ No worries my little dumpling I brought a Beware of Whale sign so no one—“
Luna caught Cyrus by the hair. She grabbed happy handfuls of him. They covered one another for a moment before remembering the world. The 33 bus slowed, stopped, and began again. Tomorrow Cyrus would be sticky hot carrying endless packages. Tomorrow Luna in the blue cool of the storeroom would empty boxes. Turning a gentle curve, number 33 to Sky Blue Beach picked up speed. The pair looked ahead towards their day together.
“Don’t look but the older lady by the exit.”
Luna whispered, “You mean the ex-drill sergeant turned rodeo clown. Yes?”

Do Right

“Uncle Mikey, explain it to me again. Explain it to me like I was five,” Bridget said. She got up from the rocking chair and began pacing around her old bedroom.
Michael scrubbed his face and sat on the pink and purple polka dotted bedspread. “Listen, honey, you made an investment in a special kind of insurance and it’s not quite working out like it should.”
Bridget pounded the wall, ripping her R.E.M. poster. “You promised my settlement would be safe as houses, safe as mother’s milk. But insurance is a safe investment, right?”
“Usually, but these policies are viaticals. That’s when a really really sick person, like terminal about to die sick, sells his life insurance policy for a lump sum of cash to a viatical investment company. And that brokerage firm sells that policy to an unrelated third party like you. When The sick guy dies you collect, see. That’s how it is supposed to work.”
“Wait I’m making money off dead people,” Bridget said. She grabbed Amelia Renee, her beloved Cabbage Patch doll, and muffled her scream in its squishy yarn covered head. “What have I done. What did you do! Is this even legal, Uncle Mikey?”
“Of course sweetheart. It’s all perfectly legit, see. These are AIDS patients and they get money to help their last days. It’s a good thing really. But it is not quite as regulated as I thought. Doctors are supposed to determine prognosis and everything.”
“Where’s my money? Where’s all my money?” Bridget was squeezing Amelia Renee’s narrow neck.
“Well that’s the funny thing. Not funny but okay have you heard of protease inhibitors? Me neither ! But these miracle AIDS drugs are saving lives, extending lifetimes, honey,” Michael said. He looked everywhere but at his niece.
Bridget’s door opened. “The turkey’s on the table. We have to say Grace before Danny and Denny started fighting again,” Christina said. Reading the tension, she looked between her brother and her daughter. “What’s the conspiracy? Do I have to get my bat and crack heads.”
Nervously Michael chuckled. “No worries here Big Sis. Everything’s copacetic.”
“Yeah no worries Mom. I was just talking to Uncle Mikey about a special Christmas gift I wanted to get for a certain person. Unc always knows the best deals. He’s just promised to do right by me?” Bridget playfully tossed her dolly to her uncle. She headed towards her bedroom door. “Right, Uncle Mikey?”
Michael noticed the doll’s head was almost torn off its floppy body.
Arms folded and eyes steeled, Christina and Bridget both waited for his response.
“Of course honey. I will do right by you.”


Kimmy ran from the elevator and down the hotel’s hallways. Her mind raced for answers. Just a few hours ago Kimmy and Angela eating eight dollar mini bar Twizzlers and bored af. Angela found something cool on YouTube.
Subdued abstract paintings zipped past as Kimmy stumble ran to room 931. Why did I do this stupid creepy pasta Bloody Mary shit? Kimmy thought. Maybe Angela is waiting with Dad in their room. Her heart pounded as she pounded the door.
“Daddy it’s me. I’m sorry you have to believe me. This isn’t like the last time. Angela and I did that elevator game. I know you said no. Dad!”
The door cracked opened.
“I’ve called security again,” the middle aged man said.
“Daddy please I’m scared. You got to help me. I can’t find Angela. We followed the directions to enter another realm. It worked. We saw the black grey sky and the burning cross. I got video. But when we traveled back to our realm on this floor, it was just me. Alone on the elevator.” She peppered the door with knocks as she talked.
Now other hotel doors cracked opened. Faces, confused or angry dotted the hallway. A pair of security officers rounded the corner. In a spurt of fear, Kimmy pushed open Room 931. Her not dad shoved her back hard. Somewhere a woman screamed. Kimmy slammed against corridor walls and slid down the wallpaper. Her phone smashed and skittered across the hall.
“Mom? Is that Mom?”
“Stop! Why are you doing this? we have no children.”
Helping her to her feet, a guard held Kimmy’s elbow.
Between the two massive uniformed men, Kimmy was frog marched towards the elevator. The elevator’s doors were closing. Between the slabs of metal, Kimmy caught a glimpse of her sister’s back. The girl wrenched free and dove through the closing doors. Kimmy was alone in the elevator car. Wildly Kimmy spun trying to make sense of it all. Pressing the nine button, Kimmy tried to call her sister but no bars. With a slight shake the machine came to life. Why did I do this stupid creepy pasta Bloody Mary shit? Kimmy thought. Maybe Angela is waiting with Dad in their room.