The Backhand Stories New Stories

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The Night Bus by Erin Lawless

He normally got the N155 to Elephant back home, but on that night his feet were hurting more than usual, the drizzle lying hoary on his hair, turning him to grey. The N333 is sat in the bay as he approaches, indicators flashing and doors closing as it goes to pull away. Rory hammers with the side of his fist on the damp red flank of the bus and, luckily, the driver pauses to let him on. It is the older style of bus; the fabric on the seats is orange, shot through with geometrical shapes in a mustard yellow. The paint on the hold bar flecks off in his palm as he grabs the pole to steady himself as ...continue »

Rite of Passage by Avis Hickman

I’d got the call at about six-thirty the previous evening; Sunday – during “Songs of Praise”. Not that I was watching it. “How quickly can you get down to London tonight?” “Tonight? I can’t get there tonight; the last train has gone.” “Ok, tomorrow, then?” “Err… maybe just after lunchtime?” “Ok, the job’s yours. Get there as soon as you can.” And that was it. My first job out of Uni. Mum ran around like a maniac that evening: washing, drying, ironing, packing. A blizzard of activity, looking after her chick. Early next morning, Dad took me to the train station and put me and my case onto the London train, and then I hustled him off, afraid he’d get ...continue »

The Visitor by James A Ford

“My home,” she said, indicating the contents of the plywood shack with a delicate sweep of her hand. “It’s nice,” I lied, knowing she knew it wasn’t but not wanting to give offense. “Sit,” she said, pointing to an ancient sofa with springs poking through the dirty brown fabric. I sat avoiding the sharp metal springs and the worst of the dirt. I acted as if I were sitting in a mansion, my smile as ever disarming. “How long?”I asked. She flashed a smile and corrected an errant strand of dark brown hair. “Not long enough,” She answered, ” I’m sure you’ve heard that before.” “Many times,” I agreed. We sat for a moment in silence. Then she looked up ...continue »

Useless Drama by Kristine Guadagno

I hit end on my phone and think of what I should to do next. On the one hand, I should feel devastated and begin pour my eyes out. I should collapse on my bed and not move for the rest of the night. That would be nice, but it doesn’t sound right for me. I should calmly walk back to the room and announce that he won’t be able to come, despite his best efforts, and I probably won’t go anymore. I can already hear what they would all say. “Sweetie, you already paid for the ticket. You should go, it’ll be fun.” “Come on, you have to go.” I don’t know how much fun it’ll actually be though ...continue »

What She Gave Up by Jake Wickenhofer

He takes his pencil and sketches a few rough lines on the paper. The swift motion of his hand makes black streaks across the white. He brushes the hair from his eyes and bites his lower lip. From over his shoulder, I watch this master at work. My brother is an artist. With a pencil and paper, he can portray the most beautiful of God’s creation. Sometimes I will come home from school to find him painting a landscape of beautiful mountains underneath a purple sky. On other nights, I will find a canvas with his composition of a powerful hurricane passing over the innocent mother earth. Today, the etchings on his paper begin to come together in the shape ...continue »

Build a Memory. Build a Bear. by Bryan Currie

There’s a copper-toned Queen in New York Harbor who, until recently, happily greeted visitors to the shores of our promised land. She now sits on Ellis Island politely checking green cards and work visas, reminding the huddled masses to wipe their feet on the way in, worried they might stay too long. One of my roommates, Eimear, arrived in America three weeks ago from Ireland. She didn’t arrive by boat and has yet to visit Lady Liberty. In fact, Eimear isn’t even planning to say long, but would like to work while she’s here. In order to work in the United Sates, however, non-citizens need three things: 1. Valid identification 2. Work visa 3. United States social security number Even ...continue »

The I of the Storm by Randy Kohl

The blizzard commenced in earnest sometime between the appetizer and desert. My wife and I emerged into a snow-globe world where the flakes came down in clots as large as rabbit tails. The fresh snow erased the imperfections in a still-transforming area of the south Loop, painting the cracked sidewalks and vacant lots with a coat of temporary innocence. We leaned together in a human teepee for support, Jill because she was wearing high-heel boots and was five months pregnant and me because of the bottle of wine. Jill had wet her lips with the Zinfandel to toast our anniversary and I had felt compelled to finish the remaining four and a half glasses before the check. The result was ...continue »

Fort Collins by Scott Jensen

Waiting at a bus stop on a redbrick pedestrian walkway, flanked by street lamps, surrounding a bubbling fountain that a flock of geese call their playground, where early morning risers throw away their pennies in exchange for loathly dreams, where a little girl is asking her grandmother what “cobblestones” are, a group of students and businessmen are boarding the mid-day bus system that operates several routes throughout the city of Fort Collins, Colorado. Others, who search for more viable means of transportation, are riding their bikes through downtown, across the Foothills trail, by an out-door venue where a band playing Bill Evan’s Autumn Leaves is tinting everyone’s moods with the saccharine modesty of a mid-Summer’s day, beneath a 19th century ...continue »

The Blizzard by Karl Thomas Smith

She sipped at her coffee. Black. No sugar. Sour. Lipstick mark: Red; Number 58 – Dark Wine. The taste barely registered. A creak in the floorboards: her husbands’ feet. Size nine shoes. Black. Heavily polished. Tightly laced. “How long have you been up?” She stared through the blinds. The scent of her perfume filled his nostrils: Nina by Nina Ricci. Light. Two sprays. “You can’t leave” He straightened his tie: Two tone. Black on silver. Soft sheen; Next Department store. “There’s too much snow. They’ve closed the roads” He untied the knot – perfect Windsor – and laid the tie down on the kitchen table. He put his hand to his face. Clean-shaven. Fresh. Aftershave: Calvin Klein. Three Sprays. He ...continue »

Goodnight Robin by Jake Wickenhofer

The wind drafted through the old house perched at the hill’s summit. Surrounding trees lost leaves to the harsh gusts; all forms of life scattered for shelter. The sky was ready to cry, filled with gray clouds that engulfed all of Twyla Forrest. The hills that once basked in sunlight looked as if they could now touch the low skyline. James sat by Robin’s beside. Every few minutes he entered a state of unconsciousness, awoken by his young daughter’s violent shrieks. Robin had been tormented with unbearable fits of pain for six months, and despite her father’s best efforts, he could not obtain the remedy. A cry of anguish rang out, bringing him to full attention. He held her hand ...continue »

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