Podcast: Beth Kanter

Beth Kanter fills in JL about how to balance humour with truth, writing through difficult times and why JL should fear the menopause. Beth reminisces about her journey from journalism to teaching and all the things she’s learnt along the way.

Beth also reads her flash fiction piece, Lone Bird.

Listen to the episode here.

Bargain Spell by Jaime deBlanc-Knowles

In a small hamlet on the outskirts of the kingdom, there lived a boy without a voice. He could hear it inside of himself, echoing in his mind, but when he opened his mouth, all that came out were ice crystals. In his presence, people felt an awful chill and drew away. And so the boy lived in a circle of solitude, surrounded by others but always at a distance.

One day, the boy worked up the courage to go see the witch who lived on the edge of the village. He’d seen her from afar, riding her bicycle with its wide handlebars, but she never seemed to him quite what a witch should be. She wore pointy-edged glasses with green rims and favored gold earrings that brushed the tops of her shoulders.

Optic Nerves by Catherine Yeates

I used to think that the crawling sensation on my back was a symptom. It began as an occasional twinge and grew into an ache, passing from the base of my neck down to my lower back in waves. Perhaps it was some manifestation of anxiety or dread; it certainly occurred alongside those things. The unease in my gut. My clenched jaw. The tightness in my chest.

Those sensations hit me in turn as I suffered through my first Medical Neuroscience exam in graduate school. Dread overtook me when I reached the sixth question and realized I was woefully underprepared. I already had been subjected to multiple anatomy courses in undergrad, not to mention that my earlier courses as a graduate student had already covered much of basic neuroanatomy. Yet, I had not prepared for the specificity or style of questions on this exam and my skin crawled with anxiety. By the time I reached the section on brain development, my mind had gone blank. Sweat gathered on my brow as I contemplated the possibility that perhaps my own brain had failed to develop at all.

Paint by Sammi Leigh Melville

You used to say that the difference between falling in love and loving was paint. If you fall into a giant tub of paint, you’re covered in it — everything you touch will get an imprint of that color. But love is also an action: it is more akin to painting someone’s skin. If you’ve fallen into the tub of paint, any time you reach out to that person and touch them, you’ll be loving them. It’s inevitable. But if you’re outside of the tub, it becomes more of a conscious decision. You have to reach back into the tub to paint.

What an Answer’s Worth by Tyler Plofker

I found the note, transcribed below, stuck in a yellowing copy of Jacques the Fatalist, borrowed from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library a few months ago. I submitted it to the online magazine you’re now reading because it seems to be what the author would have wanted—to make sure the contents continue on.

The note wasn’t dated or signed, but it looked fairly old (semi-brown, stained in parts, and wrinkly, but not falling apart).

Half Past Regret by Rasmenia Massoud

Rhonda downed the convenience store espresso and tossed the can in the backseat as the dashboard clock blinked over to 6:03pm. It clanged and rattled when it joined the others piled on the floor. She popped open the glove box, snatched a handful of yellow Wendy’s napkins and wiped the windshield, which was now covered with a thick nicotine film. The haze might be considered dangerous to most people. To Rhonda, it was an inconvenience. A chore. Another thing she had to do to maintain and upkeep.

Cleaning. Showering. Keeping toenails trimmed. Being alive was a lot of work and it never let up.

One Last Sour Apple Split in the Lancashire Holiday Park by Lucy Goldring

The Leisure Plaza is full of cool shit. Fruit machines, American pool (hey guys, you’re welcome), tenpin bowling and interactive squash – but it’s all off-limits to lesser mortals like me. There’s a big red ‘X’ slashed through it on the map in the orientation room. I stared at that X so freakin’ hard, I’m surprised it didn’t burst into flames.

Dinner is Served by Elliot J. Harper

With a flourish, the waiter unleashed their steaks. Dan was hit by the smell first and his mouth watered accordingly. He braced himself for consumption, but rather than hand them their bounty, the waiter curiously knelt by the trolley and rummaged underneath, before popping back up again with something gripped firmly in his hand. Dan had no idea what was taking place and a peek at his wife, Susan, revealed that she was as bewildered by the whole process as he.