Six Hens
Issue 17

Contents

Issue 17, Story 1

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Issue 17, Story 2

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Issue 17, Story 3

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Issue 17, Story 4

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Issue 17, Story 5

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Issue 17, Story 6

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Issue 16

Contents

Issue 16, Story 1

<Intro paragraph>

Issue 16, Story 2

<Intro paragraph>

Issue 16, Story 3

<Intro paragraph>

Issue 16, Story 4

<Intro paragraph>

Issue 16, Story 5

<Intro paragraph>

Issue 16, Story 6

<Intro paragraph>

Issue 15

From the Editor

Two planes

Our feet hovered above water as they dangled from the decrepit pier bruised by a hurricane from nature’s last season of wrath. I wouldn’t feel the sun’s angry impression on my skin for hours, but its intensity would keep me awake for several nights, eventually removing a layer of my epidermis, leaving my skin patterned like a doily.

Before the burn, there was this moment of beauty on the pier’s edge, my husband’s body at my side, his leg pressing into mine, my hand in his. Morning had been spent skimming...

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Contents

Unfit Mother's Choice

When I was 16 years old, I didn’t want to hold my newborn baby. Instead of grabbing Kervin when the nurse...

Understanding Moonseed

This was truly my mother’s last journey. It started in the morning with her urn placed deep into my backpack. On top...

Green Pudding

The spider jolted up and down like a yo-yo, industriously filling in a gap in the bush by the steps. Two large pine trees...

Atfal

I tapped my foot nervously on the pavement, feeling the weight of the soccer ball against my instep. It was the only...

Behind the Fiction

I type my name underneath his, then backspace it all. I stare at the blinking cursor, at the 421-page manuscript, at the...

Caught

"Mom, can we write a letter to Santa?" Finn, my eight-year-old, asked on Tuesday night, walking over to me at the kitchen...

Issue 14

From the Editor

Last chance

Sneakers squeaking on polished hardwood mixed with animated announcers’ voices nearly 2,500 miles east were barely audible from my TV speakers over the exuberance of the eight boys in my living room. The Warriors were less than a minute from sweeping the Cavaliers in the 2018 NBA Finals. I increased the volume on the remote, snapped a picture of the young spectators, then sent the image to their parents via a group text with the words, “The picture doesn’t really do the volume in my house justice.”

Dollops of salsa and dip dotted the coffee table. The cutting board had been cleared of its third pizza, but the air...

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Contents

Shooting Bobcats

It would not be true to say that when my husband shot the bobcat it ended our marriage. It was, at the time, something...

Finding Ground

For weeks my mother was perched on her wooden chair, chain smoking. Even when tempted by a movie, museum or trip to...

Barton Springs, Texas

It shouldn’t have surprised me in the end, what happened with Catherine. I could tell from the day I met her there was something...

Being Still

I sat in a low-lying lawn chair, my feet resting on the bottom rail of an iron fence that guarded the hotel’s swimming pool from the...

Whistling Pigs

As I enter the garden through the gate in the white picket fence, I anticipate the beans hanging heavy with promise. This year...

Vancouver’s American Suburb

“You’ll have to go inside for inspection,” he said, handing me the dreaded scrap of orange paper. One of the friendlier border guards...

Issue 13

From the Editor

Greenhouse Effect

The minivan rolls into the disabled parking spot at the middle school. It is Open House, and families are invited to admire their children’s schoolwork. With my mom settled in her wheelchair, I pull evening air into my uncooperative lungs, wish I’d taken an Ativan, then cautiously push her towards the buildings. My son scampers around us. It is quiet until we go through the gate and turn toward the courtyard. Dad voices and mom voices and toddler squeals mixed with children’s laughter and a ringing school bell swarm my eardrums like a cacophony of angry bees...

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Contents

Just Protocol

On that sunny morning at Terminal D, on the second floor of George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, the security...

It’s Tender There

When a book called <em>Where There Is No Doctor</em> tells you to find a doctor based on your symptoms, you’re in trouble. Sitting...

Refuge and Prospect

A stranger drained a beer on my couch in Santa Monica while I led a Buddhist meditation group in northeast L.A. Apropos of the New Year...

On a Normal Day

I liked her right away. She was qualified of course, and smart, with her beautiful portfolio filled with campaigns she’d successfully...

August

I could tell everyone wanted it to be over and done with. Mom sat next to me, her nose running as she wept. Dad, on the other...

Dining With My Father’s Ashes

“Here’s Dad,” my sister announced, placing my father’s ashes on the kitchen table. I opened the velvet bag to see the urn, made...

Issue 12

From the Editor

Lost in Reflection

A fleck of light stung my eye, begged for attention as I walked past the mirror attached to the second-hand dresser in my bedroom. Sunlight had reached through the window and ignited the brilliance of the stone hanging from my ring finger. I paused the search for my earrings, focusing instead on my left hand’s reflection. As I watched the mirror-hand move, I admired the weighty diamond bound to platinum alongside its matching wedding band.

I’d lost track of time as I puttered around my rental, sorting piles of little boy laundry, changing the sheet on the queen mattress they shared. There were still...

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Contents

Cosi, Cambodia

I still remember everything about the night I met Cosi. I remember the smell of the hostel even: someone was chopping...

The Cherry Red Motorcycle

Sam brought home the cherry red Yamaha one Friday night, the summer everyone was dying. He was straddling the motorcycle...

Unraveled

“How was the concert?” he asked, in a tone that I did not recognize. The sheer energy of his anger was enough to pin me against...

The Teacher

I was everyone’s least favorite person in the village. To be a teacher was frowned on. To be a female teacher was greatly frowned...

Aloft

I’m standing a little inside the doorway of my son’s room. It’s our first night in the new house, and I’ve just walked in to say...

The Heart of Winter

We wake to the cold of a winter morning when all is still and dark, when the ancients whisper in our ears, “Stay in the cave.” But...

Issue 11

From the Editor

Taking control

It wasn’t a special occasion. Or maybe it was, because anytime we are together it’s special: an investment in our relationship, our therapist says. My carnivorous husband had made dinner reservations for a fancy vegetarian restaurant because he knows it’s one of my favorites. I was ready to cancel our plans, though, because it was a long drive. A big effort for a meal. And I was tired. It had been a long day of cleaning the gutters, sweeping leaves, and vacuuming followed by a hike. We could save money and stay in and drink Taylor Fladgate and play Settlers of Catan. But he convinced me we should go.

So I got dressed up. Or did I? I had leggings on. The kind normally paired...

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Contents

The New Positive

I thought I knew what I was doing, or at least what I was asking for, when I registered for the genetic test. Six weeks ago I had...

Ole' Blue Eyes

I’m at Camas, a Scottish youth camp, only a scone’s throw from the chilly Atlantic Ocean. Gotten quite intimate with my new pals...

Bring Him Up

“Did you hear Mason died?” Paul asks from the background. Our parents have me on speakerphone for our Sunday call; they’re...

Heat

I got out of the car, pausing to acclimate myself to the heat after the cool of air-conditioning, and walked towards the house, my...

Dancing Through the Storms

I watched from the window as my daughter and my mom laughed and laughed, romping in the tiny pools formed from the recent...

The Ring

A cold spring rain beats against my bedroom’s window panes. The cemetery walkways will be a slurry of ice and gravel. Nothing like...

Issue 10

From the Editor

Sage Advice

Scattered orange and white feathers clung to the Mexican sage, its branches like outstretched arms holding the detached plumage. Under nearby roses and lavender, they were strewn over dry earth like petals discarded by a flower girl. There were mature tail feathers; there were tiny, downy ones. I detangled each one and regarded its beauty before dropping it into a paper bag. I didn’t want there to be any left to entice the murderous dog back to that spot.

It was only an hour earlier when I found the bird’s mutilated body, still alive, and hidden in the bush along the retention wall in my backyard...

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The Bird Messenger

The yellow moon hung low over the Gulf of Mexico on the western horizon; its shimmering rays glinted off the deep turquoise waters...

The Gift

Her arms extended to balance on the steep terrain, Maria Auxiliadora resembles an old-fashioned scale, the kind used to weigh...

What didn't happen in the kitchen

When I think of him, I think of the kitchen in the home where I lived from the time I was born until I left for college...

Good Enough

I’m sitting in the overstuffed chair at my marriage counselor’s office. It’s 1988, I’m 28, and my husband and I, despite only being...

Games

Our block was distinguished by its sameness. The eight two-story apartment buildings – four on one side of the street, four on...

Ba

I wrap my confident, motherly arms around Baby Joshua, his sweet baby face just inches from mine, my hand resting on his chest...

Issue 9

From the Editor

Garment Bag

Pressed quietly between infrequently worn jeans and the wall of my bedroom closet was a garment bag. It had been there for exactly two years, seven months, and 12 days, but who’s counting? I extracted it from the closet and pulled the plastic up around the hanger and looked at the dress. It was familiar, yet foreign in the same way that the freckles on my back are foreign.

Sliding it from the hanger, fabric splashed onto my bed in a puddle. Bits of material folded erratically like white caps blowing across the bay on a windy afternoon. Which seemed appropriate. The dress is a storm...

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Contents

On Being Cherry

After being stood up on my first real date, I didn’t think much about boys until Terry, the fast girl in our clique, announced her brother...

Act One

There is a mystical association, dating back at least to the Dark Ages of the 1950s, with a girl’s sixteenth birthday. It is the gateway...

Like a Hawk

I am reading on my front porch, relaxing when I get her text: “You broke my chair.” Instantly, my stomach knots, my hands quiver...

Loose Change

I woke up thirsty. My tongue felt like someone had wrapped it with a sock. I stretched off the candy apple red pull-out sofa with only...

Nineteen

It’s a random Tuesday, and I’m working swing shift at the county jail. My radio squawks. I tilt my head to my shoulder to hear the traffic...

Audition

My only companion was a large, ancient furnace resembling a grotesque, sooty snowman. Each day when it was time to...

Issue 8

From the Editor

Other Kids

Streets were quiet when we left, but when we turned at the end of our block ten minutes later, a parade of parents and kids with shiny backpacks and fresh haircuts lined the sidewalk. As they bunched at our heels, their enthusiastic chatter at our backs, Riley stopped and moved to the sidewalk’s edge to let them pass. This happened over and over. If he made any comparisons about their speed versus his, he never said a thing. Still, we arrived before first bell on the first day of school.

The kindergarten classes were up a slight hill and through a gate on the right, and his classroom was the last one. Why does it have to be the...

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Contents

Leaving Mr. Bielski

Mr. Bielski was ninety-six years old when they discovered the cancer in his bones. It was summer, and I had just seen him at...

Seven And A Day

It’s the day after my seventh birthday. I stand with my new bicycle on our front lawn. It’s shiny and red with wide handlebars and a...

Ladies Who BART

It must have been around Powell Street when I heard a strange voice, like a lost child chattering, quietly calling out. The car had...

Everything Seemed Intact </br>

The guy’s sitting on the end of the bed. I hear my boyfriend’s voice in the room across the hall. He’s drunk. Or high. His voice too...

Only Daughter

“How’s your mother doing?” my dad asked, glancing down at his plate and stabbing a piece of beef onto his fork. I crossed my...

The Knife

“Mama, wake up, wake up Mama!” The bright September sun cuts through the room from the skylights above the bed. “Okay...

Issue 7

From the Editor

Back and Forth

He was asleep. Arms resting at his sides, legs stretched toward the slats at the end of the crib. Blades of light cut through the blinds reddening tufts of blond as they danced over his head like twinkling embers. His wispy baby hair had grown into a miniature mullet, the ends swooping upward as if styled with a curling iron, the hair at his temples dampened by exhaustion.

There was a Riley shaped patch of sweat on the white sheet below him. As mothers do, I had watched him sleep more times than I could count. Only he wasn’t actually asleep. My eyes stayed fixed on his hair because it was the only part of his body that let me believe he was sleeping...

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Contents

Raising Rocks

Even half asleep, my husband was quicker than me. He was out of bed and out the door before I’d put on my glasses, pulled a...

The Orchard

My mother and I confer about fruit. It’s an August morning midway through my visit home to Port Angeles on Washington’s...

Linger

I always avoided venturing too far into the main floor of the house if I could help it, especially in the mornings. My musty...

Grilled Cheese and Furniture

Stepping out of the car and looking upwards at my Great Grandmother’s front door, I am prepared for discomfort. I am prepared for...

Two Halves

“Find your place,” the loudspeaker rang out as thousands of people swarmed onto the Washington Mall. “What do we want?” the..

Teacher

When Momma and Daddy eloped in 1938, The Great Depression still lingered throughout the coal fields and mill towns throughout...

Issue 6

From the Editor

Rewind

It’s not about me; it’s not about me; it’s not about me, I kept telling myself as my boots clomped against the white linoleum in the basement of Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital. Round the corner, past the model train set stretched a long, lighted and mostly empty hallway. My skin sizzled as I launched myself into its wide, glowing mouth. Scanning the numbers on office doors as I passed, I searched for G83.

With my fingers mentally crossed, my heart thudded against my ribcage in competition with the beat of my boots on the hard floor. Certainly the pre-op room for children having their appendix out could not possibly be the same pre-op room for children having complex open-heart surgery...

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Contents

Voice

I lived in a state of constant panic. From the moment I stepped through the doors of Saint Andrew’s Catholic School, my stomach hurt...

The Rebel Boy

I don’t even remember driving here. The trip from Athens to Atlanta is a blur of faded memories and second guesses. I step out of...

The Decision

The elevator comes and goes, comes and goes. I stand in a stupor, oblivious to the whooshing of doors opening and closing. Mundane...

Mother's Day

I walked my son Desi to the corner where we met his school bus as I did every morning. Even though he was nine years old, I accompanied...

Giving Away Our Daughters

I flew at night. It was storming. Blustery winds tipped the plane’s wings up and down as the pilot asked us to tighten our belts and...

2 Free Flow

I was hurrying past the Victorian Arts Centre on my way home from yet another day of dancing, anatomy lessons and rehearsals...

Issue 5

From the Editor

An unconscious weight

Carefully extracting myself from under the weight of an unconscious 19-year-old, I rolled to my side and pushed myself from the heap of dirty laundry on the bathroom floor. I wanted to pee, but I couldn’t with him there.

I wondered how long I’d been gone, not knowing if it was minutes or hours. No one had knocked to use the bathroom. If they had, I didn’t hear it. I wondered if I’d blacked out. My head was cloudy from second-hand cigarette smoke and bottles of Bartles & Jaymes. I adjusted my damp underwear which had been stretched to the side, smoothed my skirt, and wondered what to do. He didn’t hurt me, I’m okay, I told myself...

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Contents

Blood Promise

I’m eight years old, and my wallet is pregnant with purpose. I’ve acquired twenty-seven one dollar bills, most of them given to me...

Liar

Gloria Miller was a liar. That’s one reason I remember her, from way back in 1958 when she joined our ninth grade class at Peekskill..

Gypsy's Moon

I’d loved horses my entire life, but it was my husband who gave me my first. He sold his motorcycle to buy me a beautiful black...

Swedish Fish

When I was nine, I spent most of my summer days exploring our farm. I played in the old apple orchard on the hill, splashed around...

Dead Sea Rising

I am on my way to Julis. I unclench and wipe sweaty palms on my thighs, drawing identical paths of dark blue onto the fabric...

Let Those With Ears

I will make her lasagna. It’s her favorite, what she asked for almost every birthday. I bustle around the kitchen, gather Italian sausage...

Issue 4

From the Editor

The Power Inside

Heavy blankets layered over my body; it is hard to move. So I don’t move much. Still, motionless on my mattress for hours except when bursts of heaving redden my face, dampen my shirt. Minutes after each episode, in the wake of wild emotion, I am cold. And tired from effort.

Stomach tightens from curling into itself, arms weak from squeezing, from holding legs for fear of what would happen if I didn’t hold grief in. I wonder what the untethered blazing power that rumbles through would look like if I didn’t try to tame it. Sometimes I wish I could unleash it, let recklessness drive for a bit. But the responsibility of another son, stepchildren, and a husband keeps it in the passenger’s seat, home. Safe. I stumble toward...

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Crossing

Two headlights in my left periphery. No time to react. An almost instantaneous blow, vehicle against vehicle. And then it all goes black...

Inner Canyons

We make our way down into the canyon, alone on the trail, the air hushed, almost eerie. Faint sounds—a human voice, the shuffle of hooves...

Untied

I changed hurriedly into my running shorts and faded sweatshirt. On the way home from Milwaukee, I’d been seized by an urge to run...

Patterns

In the six months before I had cancer, I fell down three times. First, on a barely frozen Saturday morning, a silvering of ice on every...

The Way Forward

As I stepped into the side entrance to the naval hospital pharmacy in Jacksonville, Florida, Petty Officer Ganaga approached me...

Boundaries

With the peak of its A-frame pointing skyward toward our heavenly goal, the First Methodist Church marked the entrance to our...

Issue 3

From the Editor

A Leap of Faith

A nurse tapped on the door before turning the handle. “I thought you’d want these,” she said as she approached me. She offered two Polaroid pictures of my newborn. Curiosity or instinct elevated my hand to receive them. “He’s beautiful. Do you have a name?” I shook my head then parted my lips to thank her. My words were reflex rather than gratitude.

She switched to nurse mode, asking when I’d last urinated or if I’d passed any clots larger than my fist and whether I wanted to breastfeed. When I said yes to that last question, she said she’d arrange for a lactation nurse to explain the basics. I didn’t protest, although I couldn’t understand how I could learn to breastfeed without a baby...

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Contents

Round Trip

It’s 1976. I am thirteen, a Jew, and by that I mean a traitor of the Motherland. We are ejected from our home; the Iron Curtain...

The Duck

It is a pretty summer night. My six-year-old son Christian and I are on our way home from his swimming lesson, and the sun is setting...

Tiger

I remember the way the flame of the candle on the bedside table flickered against the air. It beat against it, and then it stilled and rose...

Water and Earth

Our second child, Loretta, came into this world on a dry August day in 1978, about three months after my husband and I arrived in...

Christmas 1988

Solid brick buildings surrounded orderly quads, old books smelled like wood, and smooth dips were worn into two-hundred-year-old...

Clogged Creek

The beginning of the alphabet brought us together. It was the first day of first grade. Smiling, curly-haired Mrs. B assigns seats by...

Issue 2

From the Editor

Quiet, Powerful Moments

Like glossy carpet, photographs lie all over my son’s bedroom floor. They’re spread out, poured from tipped over boxes. They’re stacked in piles. They stand in a line at the back of his desk. It’s the same boy over and over again.

There he is posed in his Astros uniform. There he is holding hands with a friend outside the Exploratorium. There he is, face pressed against his brother’s as they concentrate on something just outside the frame. There he is perched proudly in front of the 1000-piece puzzle he completed the summer before starting second grade. There we are, tongues out, eyes wide...

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Contents

Coming Home

The temperature and relative humidity hovered in the mid-90s, normal readings for August in New Orleans. But that’s...

Cafe au lait

“That’s it, I’ve had enough of you. Get the hell outta my bar.” I look at her and her eyes are directed towards me. Surely she’s...

Driveway

I stood in my favorite dress with pools of deep blue swirls and sleeves that hung off my shoulders...

The Deer

The Land Rover Defender bounces over another uneven patch of road, and my stomach jostles with it...

The Black Lagoon

Whenever I stumble across “The Creature from the Black Lagoon” on a random cable channel, I think of my father...

My Life in Hair

She’s sporting a cobalt streak and a barbed wire tattoo around her neck. My widened, menopausal hips spill over...

Issue 1

From the Editor

Moments that Define

If my muscles grew every time someone told me I was strong, I’d be able to lift 200-pound surgeons up over my head by now. But my arms don’t lift much more than grocery bags or laundry baskets. Some days they don’t lift much more than a cup of tea or a dog’s leash. Grief can make the world feel rather small. And make life’s minutia feel rather hefty.

I’ve learned over the years, though, that what people mean when they tell me how strong I am is “Better you than me.” I started hearing that in the days after my son was born in 2003. It’s not meant in a hurtful way, of course. But understandably they’re relieved that it was my son...

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Contents

Betrayal and the Bully

The year was 1953; we lived in the South Bronx. Even then it was not exactly the best place to...

Bear Bait

It was lonely and a little unsettling, the low putter of the Super Cub droning out of earshot, the airplane’s faded yellow fabric...

The Apartment

I cried the first time I saw the apartment that would become our home for the next five years. It was October of 1999 and...

Signet Rings

“Come into the workshop. I want to talk to you, Sarah,” Daddy says after breakfast one morning, and my heart drops like...

Taking the Punches

I don’t remember what his face looked like, but I remember the feeling of his gloved fists snapping my head back and rattling my...

Fallen Pillars

Mother. To me, it is a word defining someone who is strong and stubborn. It is a word describing someone who raises...