Christopher Locke


                Kristie’s parents had already left for their yoga retreat in Vermont; they hoped the weekend would be “transformative”. Kristie ate a bowl of Apple Jacks at the counter and reread her mom’s cheerful note several times, turning it over and back again while slurping the last of the milk. She then got up and locked every window in the house, bolted the front door. Kristie looked through the peephole and wished to see something extraordinary. Instead, all she saw was one beautiful lawn after another.

Kristie pulled a box of Meow Mix from the cupboard and shook it; TippeeToes came running and curled around her bare ankles. She fed her cat and then carried her to the back porch, leaving her purring on top of the comforter. Kristie turned and left and slid the glass door closed, locking it. She hoped her parents would keep feeding Tippee those little piles of Parmesan cheese she loved so much, even if her father said it was unhygienic to have the cat eating on top of the dinner table.

Kristie put her iPhone in the kitchen sink and filled the sink with water. She then unplugged the family computer in the den and cut the cord in half with a box cutter. For once, the computer looked harmless: mute and laughably beige. Kristie could see her face reflecting in the monitor. She liked how her hair looked and touched one of her long brown curls.

                After she went through the medicine cabinet and counted out the pills, Kristie went to her desk, opened her pink spiral notebook, and began writing: she made a list of all the words that were uttered about her the most, typed about her the most, scrawled on desks and left for her to find the most, tweeted about her the most, yelled at her the most, said under their breath in the cafeteria the most, written on her locker the most, laughed in her face the most, threatened her with the most, written inside napkins and passed around class the most, said near her on the bus the most, bellowed in crowded hallways as she tried not to cry the most, heard in her head the most.

                Breathless, she stopped and considered what she’d collected, the words’ varied shapes and intentions, the vowels sharp enough to cut; Kristie amassed a rigid multitude straight up and down two pieces of lined paper. But she knew there were more, so she kept writing her way towards them.

After a short while, her fingers started to cramp. Kristie put down her pencil and shook her hand out, just like her English teacher told her not to do when the class was engaged in one of their free writes.

                “Don’t stop,” he’d say. “Just keep writing. Don’t edit. Don’t pause. Push through it. There should be, like, a wide-open superhighway between your brain and the page. Keep going. Be fearless.”

                The last time they did this, Kristie stopped to shake her hand out, grimacing. Her English teacher looked at her from where he was standing and raised an eyebrow. All around her, Kristie heard the seismography of many furious pencils. She looked at her English teacher and mouthed the word “Sorry”. He showed his pretend angry face and shook his finger at her. That made her smile, so she picked her pencil back up and continued, the pain nearly bearable.





Christopher Locke has fiction in such magazines as SmokeLong Quarterly, Jellyfish Review, Barrelhouse, Flash Fiction Magazine, New Flash Fiction Review, Maudlin House, Noir Nation, The Literary Hatchet, and elsewhere. He won the Black River Chapbook Award for his collection of short stories 25 Trumbulls Road. His latest poetry collection, Music For Ghosts, (NYQ Books) and a memoir-in-essays, Without Saints, (Black Lawrence Press) have both been recently released. He has been nominated for Best of the Net and The Pushcart Prize many times. Chris lives in the Adirondacks where he teaches English at North Country Community College and SUNY Plattsburgh. Find him on Instagram as @Onebroth and on Twitter as @Onebroth.