Chris Milam

Chris MilamChris is the winner of Vol 2 – 50, Vol 3-5, Vol 3-19, Vol 3-27 and Vol 3 – 36. Follow him on Twitter and at his blog. He says: I currently reside in Hamilton, Ohio. I’m a voracious reader, with an affinity for the prose of Donald Ray Pollock, Cormac McCarthy and Khaled Hosseini. When I’m not watching my beloved Washington Nationals, I spend my time either writing flash fiction or running story ideas through my mind. Or listening to music. I’m the father of two wonderful children, a son and a daughter. I’ve recently been published in Maudlin House. I also have stories forthcoming in the Yellow Chair Review and WhiskeyPaper.

Read his Sixty Seconds interviews here: Nov 26, Jan 14, April 23, June 18. Read the Flash Points layer-peeling analysis of his story “Penelope Callaghan” here.

***

Vol 3 – 36: Penelope Callaghan

The man was prowling the docks for a juice joint when he saw her. Hair as red as a freshly gutted tuna. A face that could’ve launched the ship she arrived on, the Mauretania.

“Jimmy Banks. You’re a choice bit of calico. You gotta name?”

“Penelope.”

“A pleasure. You need a gig? I can get you work making dresses. Yes?”

“No. I didn’t come here to be a seamstress.”

“I dabble in muck sometimes. You game?”

“Why not. Show me your dark America.”

He schooled her. “Take advantage of your looks. Get close. Flirt with your mouth. Pop some buttons on your blouse. When he’s hooked, ram steel into his heart. Don’t hesitate. Know your onions. Make some cash.”

Years and dozens of punctured ventricles later, Penelope would think of Jimmy Banks. The rum-fisted uppercuts. The savage bouquet of cheap cologne. The way his chest opened up, like a filleted sturgeon.

***

Vol 3-27: House Arrest

He slid the CD, a meal of memories, into the mouth of the plastic device. It accepted his offering with a grinding, mechanical thank you, a sound that became his friend over time, his partner in torment.

Images leaked from the television, coating the walls and his face with the chaotic light of evacuation. He was a human tree on the couch, rooted in the fabric, sedentary, except for his eyes. They shimmied in their sockets, pulsating blue, as they drank the beauty on the screen and devoured the colorful silhouettes that crawled through the darkness like radiant serpents.

Over time, he had moved his bed into the basement. And the refrigerator. The microwave. He turned a storage closet into a matchbox bathroom. This theater of solitude became a damp penitentiary of the past. Daily, he slammed the mental bars, turned his key of regret, and did his time.

Newspapers piled up on the porch like black and white firewood. His lawn grew into a suburban savannah. The mailbox gained weight.

Richard couldn’t differentiate between dusk or dawn, snow or sunshine. The outside world was as foreign to him as happiness.

He snatched another CD, stabbed Play. Caged bones and iced soda, their trip to the zoo last summer.

***

Vol 3-19: Sanctuary

There was love in the way she poured milk on my cereal. The plastic jug tilted by a fragile hand, filling the bowl halfway. Just how I liked it. A motherly wink when she prodded me to eat the banana slices sitting atop the sugary concoction like fibrous wafers of a solidified disease. I ate them for her.

The first of the month was our food jamboree. The bologna and tuna casserole were replaced by fresh ground beef, homemade tacos with a dollop of sour cream, and an unhealthy dose of raspberry sherbet. Food stamp nirvana, she called it, before vanishing for the graveyard shift. When she cooked, she seemed happy, like she was making up for lost time. Our kitchen was her aromatic church.

When dad was released from prison, mom changed. The kitchen changed. Pop would smolder at the table, chain-smoking unfiltered cigarettes, while accusing her of cheating when he was gone. The neighbor, a coworker, anyone with testosterone. Eventually, she retreated to the bedroom, forcing us to survive on cheese and uncooked hot dogs.

She dissolved after that. My father’s insecurities turned her into a human stew of anxiety. But, decades later, I can still picture her in our kitchen, her luminous smile a bursting peppermint star.

***

Vol 3-5: Wireless Echoes

We were birthed from machines. Armed with digital missives and vacant bones, we found one another behind a blinking cursor and gigabytes of ache. No skin. No voice. We yearned and soothed with prose typed from plastic keys.

Faith wasn’t only her name. She believed in soul mates and the fairy tale of true romance. She worshipped at the altar of sonnets and serendipity. Men had derailed those notions repeatedly.

Her poetry spoke of loss. Of fading heartbeats, like a wisp of crimson smoke dissolving in the night air. Her messages, her electrified ink, told stories of fractured encounters.

She lounged on my synthetic lap. I asked for her sorrow and a purging of the loneliness. Her analog heart spilled throbbing blood across my screen. I cleansed it with a sympathetic text.

I was the therapist. She was the savior. Her melancholy ruminations suffocated my own pain. Faith reached through the machine like a replicated angel and healed me.

*

Vol 2-50: The Abyss

The jukebox desires coins bathed in anguish. My pocket is bulging with those. I feed the nostalgic gal then crawl to the bar.

Intoxicated bones with masks of sorrow lounge on decaying stools, a whimpering pack of discarded puppies pining for their master. Glasses are being fractured by aching hands. Marinated eyes plunge for deserted images floating in amber liquid. We drink memories at The Abyss. We splash our guts with the distilled echo of things that don’t come back.

Words are extinct here. Our mouths are preoccupied with swallowing fraudulent remedies. Our ears tuned solely to the paralyzing songs that tell our story with a folksy twang.

A kid in a pink Oxford is peeling the label off his beer with wounded talons. His first heartbreak, perhaps. I buy his next round. He nods. I want to tell him to stay afloat, but my coins have bartered a deal: A melody that tilts the bottle. Lyrics that consume shadows.

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