MATT STANCEL AND HIS WORKS

TRANSCONTINENTAL

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The pilot announced engine failure a few minutes ago.

Passengers wail and shout and pray all over the cabin. The flight attendant with red hair and blue horn-rimmed glasses is strapped into her rear-facing chair. She is texting and crying. A group wearing orange t-shirts from the First Christian Assembly Tabernacle sings “Amazing Grace” for the second time, and a man in a navy blue suit shouts for them to shut up. He makes a red-faced argument for God’s nonexistence, then makes a lewd gesture to the ceiling, intended for the God he just labeled imaginary.

A couple sit on the last row. The man’s boarding pass is still sticking out of his shirt pocket. They are on their way home from London, where their son has lived for seven years. He rubs his wife’s hand, which she always rests on his right knee. He plays with her wedding ring. Neither has spoken since the announcement.

The wife watches the ocean out the window. It is close enough for her to make out curvy lines. Soon those curvy lines will be identifiable as waves. She gasps, squeezes her husband’s knee as tight as her arthritic hand can manage, and turns her head to face him. There is a tear forming in her eye.

“I’m supposed to eat lunch with Luanne tomorrow. She’s going to think I forgot.”

“Yep.”

“She’ll be so angry. You know how she gets.”

“Uh huh. Can’t say I’ll miss her.”


LANDSCAPE OF GAINESVILLE, GA.

There’s a ditch behind the building-

a concrete trench separating shopping centers.

There’s a liquor store nearby-

with small plastic bottles of cheap booze.

There are men who sleep in the ditch-

kept warm with dirty clothes, cardboard,

wine and spirits.

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There’s a church down the street-

it has modern architecture and large glass panels.

There’s a car idling near the entrance-

waiting to drive the reverend to his jet.

There are men who live in the pews-

kept warm with parables, commandments,

and holy spirits.

There are plants here too-

where chickens are transformed into nuggets.

There are neighborhoods-

filled with determined Latin laborers.

There are men who toil their hardest-

fueled by the chance of a better future

for their children.


THEFT BY DECEPTION

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By lamplight she writes;

Her deliberate strokes

With shaky hand

Generate a smile.

The pen has the words

First Community Bank

Inscribed in green;

So does the check.

On the television

A man puts his hands

On the face of a boy

In a red wheelchair.

Suddenly the chair sits alone

As the boy dances on stage.

At the bottom of the screen

There is an address.

An envelope is stuffed

With trembling fingers

Then sealed by

Ancient tongue.

A walker is pulled closer

To the green recliner

And a small oxygen tank

Gathered for the trip

to the mailbox.


3111 ETHERIDGE CIRCLE

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Six years old

I stand in the soft earth-

a large tilled field

Of dry gray dirt.

An old man

Admires my footprints-

Tracks like the moon landing

Made by deliberate stomps.

An old woman

With red bouffant

And black lab escort

Joins us in the dusty garden.

The dog’s name

Is, of course, Blacky.

He brings a long stick,

Probably hoping to play.

The red haired woman

Stays out for just a few minutes.

The treatments drain her strength

And her smile.

Blacky follows her inside

But leaves the stick with us.

My grandfather mentions

He won’t have time to plant.

He meanders to the house,

Shoulders slumped

Like the straps from his overalls

Are pulling him to the ground.

An hour later

They both come back out.

I run to meet them and show

The garden of sticks in bloom.


Unknown

MOWING

I’ve noticed my neighbors are great at cutting lawns.

Straight lines shaved into the grass look so neat, and some are perfect diagonals.

I struggle to cut with any sort of pattern or real direction.

My lawn ends up with terrible ovals, rectangles, rhombuses, trapezoids, and whatever shape Nevada is.

I begin with the best intentions, traveling along the driveway and street with precision.

By my third lap, I’m thinking about something like the relevance of religion or T.S. Eliot or the shape of the universe.

Soon after, I’m questioning my choice of career, the job that keeps me from my family, writing, and lawn care responsibilities.

Now I’m mowing in cursive.

The back yard is reserved for sentences that will probably never be written and characters who will never be born.

Settings are imagined and forgotten.

There are massacres—fire ant mounds maliciously destroyed by machine and being

they cannot comprehend.

To them, I am the god of the Old Testament.


Matt StancelMatt StanceI writes flash fiction, the occasional poem, and stories both long and short. He has a novel currently available on Amazon. He tells us that the proceeds from the novelare being given to a friend with huge medical bills, so you should buy two copies.

http://www.amazon.com/Burn-This-Novel-Matt-Stancel/dp/1492792217/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405823757&sr=8-1&keywords=burn+this+novel

– See more at: https://scriggler.com/Profile/matt_stancel#sthash.hpcsdUxx.dpuf

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THE HEAVIEST THING

by Matt Stancel ©2014

 

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I stepped out of the camper, its metal stairs squealed underneath size nine boots. My dad followed, and we got into his red pick-up. We traveled down a bumpy trail that stretched along the side of a clearing and then penetrated the woods. The rustic road led to a clear-cut spot where a timber company was pillaging the forest during the week. On weekends, however, the landowner allowed my father and some friends to hunt.

We exited the truck, each grabbing a backpack, rifle, and orange vest to ensure that other hunters who might be in the woods didn’t get deer fever and shoot us due to some hallucination.

Since I was eleven, and despite my father’s warning, I felt the need to walk along each downed tree like it was a balance beam all the way through the forest’s bald spot. Then I followed him into the thick brush, and we hiked about a half mile through heavy woods to a stream, into which we relieved ourselves. We crossed the water on another log, and I asked my dad if we could rest a moment before we climbed the steep hill that led to his deer blind.

Though his expression revealed he was disappointed to wait, he muttered, “Okay, just for a minute.”

maxresdefaultI leaned against a large rock protruding from the ground. It was at least eight feet tall, and being still a child, I imagined myself endowed with superhuman strength. I pressed against it, trying to feel a budge, even an inch, to no avail.

“You know most of that rock’s probably underground,” my father stated. Attempts to move the impossible stone made him smile for a moment, but he decided we’d wasted enough time and told me to get moving up the ridge.

My thigh muscles burned and throbbed by the time we got to the blind. It was basically a four-foot tall fence-like structure my dad had made of limbs, bushes, and leaves. Two folding chairs were positioned against a tree behind the camouflage wall, and they allowed us to sit in relative comfort while we waited for our prey.

I rested the rifle across my lap and surveyed the woods around me. This was to be my main pastime until dusk.

Occasionally squirrels would entertain us by chasing each other through the trees, and we watched three turkeys trample within about fifty feet of the blind. They eventually stomped away, and I spent a few minutes contemplating how forest animals could be so noisy but I had to sit freezing in silence.

My father nudged me and slowly pointed to our left. About a hundred yards away, a brown shape stepped cautiously between trees. It was the first time I’d ever actually seen a deer in the woods. I rested my rifle on a branch and looked through the scope. Pulling my gun off of the makeshift rail, I whispered, “Doe.”

She was joined by another female and a fawn. They moved quickly and quietly. The three were nearly out of sight when I noticed another deer trailing behind. I put my scope on it and counted eight points on a set of antlers.

“Buck?” my dad asked.

“Yep.”

“Remember where to aim. Wait for a clearing.”

image-06-700x393I was shaking with excitement, and I struggled to breathe. Feeling a hand on my shoulder, I heard “Steady” over the pounding pulse inside my ears. I took a deep breath, held it in, and pulled the trigger.

The deer’s hind legs flew into the air, and its hooves pointed momentarily at the sky, then fell limply to the ground. It tried to take a step with a front leg, then collapsed.

We stood and I immediately got a pat on the back and a handshake. My father had a bigger smile than I’d ever seen on his face, and we quickly walked toward the fallen deer. Dad pulled out his revolver in case it was still alive.

“You shot it right in the middle of the spine, there’s almost no blood,” he said.

“Uh,” I replied, staring into the glassy, black, vacant eye of the brown animal. Faced with the result of my action,I wanted to cry or run away, but my legs felt like they were rooted deep in the earth. All of my nervous energy wore off immediately, and I did my best to nod responses to my father’s questions.

Steam rose from the broken animal, aboy-nownd I dreaded the future. Pictures would be taken, the experience would be recounted, I would have to smile when speaking of the act, but what truly concerned me at that moment was the grim fact that I would have to drag this terrible trophy, this heavy thing, out of the woods.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Hi, I’m Matt. I write flash fiction, the occasional poem, and stories both long and short. I have a novel currently available on Amazon, the proceeds from which are being given to a friend with huge medical bills. You should buy two copies. http://www.amazon.com/Burn-This-Novel-Matt-Stancel/dp/1492792217/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1405823757&sr=8-1&keywords=burn+this+novel

 

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– See more at: https://scriggler.com/Profile/matt_stancel#sthash.5VSGihYx.dpuf

The Malevolence of Everyday Things

 

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The Malevolence of Everyday Things

by J Hardy Carroll ©2014

 

It starts when you drop your keys square on your foot
kick out and send them rattle-clang smack
down the staircase
your arms full of groceries, you lose it

as the bottom of the sack
packed by that lazy pit-faced troglodyte
at the Shop-n-Sav gives way
when the freezer spinach plastic
slick with condensation soaks the corners soggy

lurches from your arms, heavy black bean cans
he stupidly set  atop the bags of frozen stuff
tumble and roll goddamn it and you
went to all the trouble to sort that shit

on the conveyor belt to save time
and every fucking red light in the world
and the AC doesn’t get cold until
you pull up in front of your building and fucking great

the goddamned fucking box of spaghetti
you almost didn’t buy since gluten
goddamn spills out fuck fuck fuck
joins the cans and the keys on a nice trip downstairs
God must fucking hate you fuck fuck fuck

the eggs, of course
are fine. Some kind of lesson, God.
Thanks for that. The flour. on the other hand
drifts in powdered mockery, whiteface
bags of chips, blood, shit, drop your guts like a slit hog right
there in the fucking stairwell

sending you a goddamned message

burn down this joke of a life, it says
one thing and another
all roads lead to Rome

because the God damned Romans built the roads

Follow the keys and the cans and goddamn