Monica Dagwood always stopped to tie her shoe in front of 301 Seneca Ave during her evening jog. Even if her shoelace wasn’t untied and flapping around—aglets whipping at her ankles—she would stop at the tree stump across the street from the 301 Seneca Ave house and retie them. This stopping place was at the top of a hill and by the time she arrived here, her breaths were gasping from the ascent, and the warmth in various parts of her body began to feel uncomfortably humid. After this break, the tightened shoe stimulated the energy in her feet and she imagined flames shooting from her pink Nike’s as she continued her jog, now in the home stretch back towards her house.
Monica always stopped to tie her shoe in front of 301 Seneca Ave, but it wasn’t just because she needed the shoe-tying boost to power through the rest of her run; no, it actually had more (or everything) to do with the 301 Seneca Ave house itself: Monica was in love with it. She never spoke about it, though—Monica kept her obsession quiet and strictly within the scape of her fantasies. It seemed silly to her that she idolized a stranger’s house so religiously, but yet, it was the kind of house that demanded to be idolized.
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So you want to hear a scary story, do you? One that thrills your anxious nerves and excites the depths of your imagination? A mysterious tale set in the ambiguous climate of autumn? Coincidentally, this fine rainy evening has put me much in the mood for telling such a story, and I happen to know a very haunting tale of a skeleton named Ned Theodore Ed and the time whence he visited the Seven Levels of Hell, one unsettling October eve.
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Ritter was staring out her kitchen window when, in the distance, she saw a body fly into the air.
The sudden movement in her line of sight broke her trance and caused her vision to re-focus on the wooden fences, tool sheds, and tree trunks outside. The body fell—the movement only visible through a slight crevice between trees in her neighbors’ backyards—and then arms were flailing upwards yet again. She sighed, realizing it was a child on a trampoline a few houses up. The Saturday morning sunshine filtered through cider-tinged leaves and twining branches, peppering her face with bursts of brightness.
“Oh to be a child again, and experience the existential bliss of bouncing into the air,” mused her left earring.
Her right earring scoffed. “Yeah, right! Do you know how many kids break their arms on trampolines each year?”
Both earrings dangled in quite the same manner, each a silver wire-wrapped spider clutching a gem, her left earring encasing a light blue opalite crystal, her right, a black obsidian rock; however, their commentary almost always contradicted the other, which was even more confusing because independently, Ritter often agreed with them both.
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A short fiction story by Slanted Spines
First, there was the skull.
I was young and in a rut, so I felt most at home among the dirt. When my hands were in the soil, I felt meaningful. I was worms; as significant as the spider crawling over my cell phone in the grass. The existential dread did not bother me while my knees pressed into the ground, my skin softening around rocks’ hard ridges. My sweat was sweetened with the mint leaves, and if the squash were growing, I must be, too, right?
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A slanted story by Brittany Cole
Most days, Rodney never thinks about the baseball hat hickory tree. When Rodney does remember that tree and that period of his boyhood, during which the hickory thrived and blossomed dozens of baseball caps overnight, he still feels somewhat bewildered by its undeniable yet utterly miraculous existence. It seems so long ago now, that he questions his memory—was it all a dream? Something he has misremembered and imagined over the years?
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Note: This book review contains plot spoilers, but I will denote **SPOILERS** for any section containing secret plot info!
For the month of May, the Slanted Spines Book List reading is The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich, which is about a handful of characters who live within a Native American reservation in North Dakota in the early 1950’s. In this story, Thomas, one of the main characters, receives word of a new bill that would terminate their reservation and effectively ruin an entire Chippewa community’s lives. Many of the residents are poor as it is, but the government—and one senator in particular—is determined to seize their land. While also working a job as a night watchman, Thomas goes to work writing letters and organizing the community in hopes that they can put a stop to this bill.
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If I’m thankful for one thing, it’s that I had the sense to believe everything my grandma ever told me when I was a young girl.
Continue reading “The Man with a Thousand Voices: A Short Story” →