Author: Idle Ink

Viral by Tim Hanson

“It’s so wonderful you’re helping me, Michael,” Mrs. Brewster said, offering the boy a smile he had no intentions of returning. “I want you to know how much I appreciate it.”

Like I had a choice, you old bitch.

Michael’s mother had forced him to come, so he could help their elderly neighbor dispose of her recently-departed husband’s belongings. It was penance, she said, for receiving yet another suspension at Jefferson Middle School. “It’s either that or your phone,” she’d threatened. He knew she probably wouldn’t take that away—as far back as he could remember, his phone had offered her innumerable respites from her son’s sour behavior—but he also knew everyone had a breaking point. It was best not to push his luck and just pay the piper now when the bill wasn’t too stiff.

Speaking English with an Accent by Gauri Sirur

Four days after I moved with my family from Mumbai, India, to Cleveland, Ohio, I picked up the phone to order pizza. I had eaten pizza twice before in Mumbai–at a small eatery that served a spicy-sweet sauce and cheese on a six-inch pizza base. (This happened over twenty years ago. In 2021 pizza is widely available in India.) But now in Cleveland, I couldn’t wait to try the exotic version I’d seen in American TV shows and comic books.

I dialed a number from a flyer that had come in the mail. “Hello, I would like to order pizza.”

“Sure,” said a young male voice at the other end. “You have Q-pins?”

The Public Library Love Letter by Rebecca Stonehill

1

Age seven or eight, I receive my first public library card of
hard, green plastic with black letters emblazoned across it and
I look at no other words apart from these precious two:
Book Token.

I wobble up and down the streets between my house
and the mobile library, perched like a mirage
between roaring cars and the curly slide I stand atop for hours,
unsure if I am brave enough to hurl myself down.

These clouds here taste like by Charley Barnes

I have started to research clouds and how they might taste in different cities. Grandad tells me the clouds are bostin’ around here though: “Full of flavour, wench.” He tells me how he’d scrage his knees terrible to reach the top of the Wrekin, racing his mates to taste the sulphur on the peak. The whisp of the factories they’d come to work in. But Nan says: “He’s yampy, bab.

No Caller ID by Lindsey Goodrow

The other night I got a call at 4:45 AM. I half-squinted at “No Caller ID” flashing on the screen of my phone. This wasn’t the first time that I had received a call like this. My heart rate immediately accelerated and I fumbled to turn my phone on mute. I flipped it over so that the screen was facing downward and focused on controlling my breathing – big belly inhales through my nose. I tried not to wonder if I should have just turned it off, in case the calls continued to come in. Minutes passed in silence, my breath steadied, and I drifted back to sleep.

Using a loophole to call your ex is a bold and pathetic move. To call at 4:45 AM implies drug and alcohol indulgence. To know, the next morning, that “No Caller ID” was most certainly dying from regret and a bad hangover was admittedly satisfying to me for a short period of time. But the unbearable pain deep in my chest and stomach that came with that call and lingered for months after was affirmation that I needed to continue blocking “No Caller ID” from my life.

The Unit by Joe Hakim

There’s no sudden realisation, no great epiphany. It’s just the slow creep of comprehension, like waking up from a long sleep, that brief moment when you’re not sure if you’re awake or still dreaming.

It’s like an archaeologist placing a sheet of tracing paper on an engraving, and then rubbing it with charcoal. Slowly, with a bit of effort, a picture begins to emerge.