200 CCs - June 2016

ironsoap

Volume 1 • Issue 5

Elizabeth Archer • Christina Dalcher •

Jeaninne Escallier Kato • Sandra Grills •

Adiba Jaigirdar • Rita Jansen • Casi Scheidt

• Pamela Hobart Carter • J. Bradley •

Soren James

plus George Wells

June 2016


Volume 1

Issue #5

Editor-in-Chief

Paul A. Hamilton

Consulting Editor

Nikki Hamilton

Guest Editor

George Wells

Copyright © 2016 ironSoap.com. All writing and photography is the property of their respective

authors.

Cover photographs by Paul A. Hamilton.

200 CCs is an anthology of microfiction, collected monthly. Inquire online for submission guidelines.

http://200ccs.ironsoap.com/

Follow on Twitter @ironsoap.

To help show your support for 200 CCs, visit http://ironsoap.com/200-ccs/support/


Contents

The Draw: The Constant Experiment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Camp Tramp Stamp . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

by Christina Dalcher

photo by Alexander Steinhof — http://web-done.de/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Opera Night . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

by Jeaninne Escallier Kato

photo by David Moran — https://www.flickr.com/people/53951307@N05/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Midnight Hugs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

by Sandra Grills

photo by Mark Probst — https://www.flickr.com/people/schani/ (CC BY-SA 2.0)

When You’re on Fire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

by Adiba Jaigirdar

photo by Andreas Levers — http://www.96dpi.de/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

A Present For The Future . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

by Rita Jansen

photo by Henning Mühlinghaus — https://www.flickr.com/people/muehlinghaus/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Grown-Up Answer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

by Casi Scheidt

photo by audi_insperation — https://www.flickr.com/people/audiinsperation/ (CC BY 2.0)

New Routine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

by Pamela Hobart Carter

photo by Scott Robinson — https://www.flickr.com/people/clearlyambiguous/ (CC BY 2.0)

Your Heart is Mine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

by Elizabeth Archer

photo by Elton Harding — http://eltonharding.co.za/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

First Responder . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

by J. Bradley

photo by Jennifer Luis — https://www.flickr.com/people/luisjennifer/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A Little Light Pruning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

by Soren James

photo by Christopher Melnychuk — https://www.flickr.com/people/cmelnychuk/ (CC BY-ND 2.0)

The Plunge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15

by George Wells

3


the draw

The Constant Experiment

If you’ve been following along with 200 CCs for

the past several months as we’ve gotten off the

ground, you’ll notice something different about

this issue: the size.

Five issues in and I decided to run an experiment

in doubling the number of stories featured,

running them twice a week on the site, moving

from an average of four per issue to an average of

eight.

At the same time, I started trying to be a bit more

coordinated about grouping the stories together,

making them into a more pointedly cohesive

collection rather than a random grouping of

similarly formed pieces. I have to tip my hat to

guest editors R.L. Black, Nolan Liebert, and

Joyce Chong for teasing common threads from

the stories in those previous entries. Granted, I’m

sure you can find some theme to discuss in any

group of stories, but I certainly didn’t make it

easy on them.

The experiment, on the surface, might seem a

bit odd. If I can pack twice as many stories

into each issue, why would I not? It turns out

the experiment was in whether or not I could

manage it from a workload perspective. And if

I made life difficult on my early guest editors,

I made my own life downright miserable as I

subjected my newbie editorial skillset to a

sharp uptick in work during the exact same

month I had to pack and organize a move.

The move is not far and my family and I are

no strangers to relocation. But it’s a sort of

experiment of its own. After nearly two

decades of apartment living, we’re moving

into a house.

This got me to thinking about experiments,

about change and major decisions. Rarely

is anything we do of any consequence cut and

dry. There are pros and cons of any endeavor,

and we tend to use a straight balance

equation to make the final call. More pros: go

for it. More cons: not a great idea. We do this

because objectively comparing criteria relative to

4

each other aspect is maddeningly difficult.

For example, a big factor in our upcoming move

is that I’ll go from a 20 minute commute with no

traffic to a minimum hour commute with heavy

traffic. I’ve considered this factor carefully and

from this side of experience I can say I’m more

inclined to live in the spacious house with the

garden and attached garage if it means I have to

put up with a commute. It’s numbers. Traffic (1)

versus Space, Outdoors, Work Area (3). Because

how can I possibly know if, in six months, I’ll be

so tired of losing that extra 100 minutes a day

that I never get to enjoy those three factors?

The experiment in doubling the size of 200 CCs

was based on wanting to make a better zine, and

to tell more stories. I anticipated there would be

more work, and that it would be tough, but I

didn’t expect that the work would increase in

difficulty—not just volume—whenever life

had the nerve of happening around me.

But this is why we try. The trick teachers

work so hard to get you to see for yourself

is that the scientific method is not just how

we perform lab experiments but how we

live life. We gather data. We learn. We

revise our assumptions. We try again. And

we repeat until success is achieved or

failure forces us to start over.

I’m proud of this issue. I love being able to

showcase more microfiction, to see them

gel into something beyond the individual

stories. And the experiment continues. I’ll

do whatever I can to tell as many tiny

stories as I am able. I’ve learned things

about myself and about the project.

And so I fully expect Issue #6 will be

roughly the size of this one as well. To

get there, I’ll probably have to try a few

things based on what I’ve learned. Because

so far what I know for sure is: don’t try

to run a magazine and move at the same time.

—Paul A. Hamilton


Camp Tramp Stamp

by Christina Dalcher

Gran’s tattoo might have been beautiful. On

her, it was a desperate grasp at youth, an

atrocity, an embarrassment. Ugly.

“You could have that

removed,” I said on a

Saturday after Gran

returned from wherever she

went on Saturday

mornings. “There’s a place

in town—”

Gran silenced me with a

wave of her stupidly

paisleyed left arm.

We’d attempted this

conversation before. It

always ended on the same

note, but now Gran

elaborated. “I got this after

leaving Budapest.” Her

eyes crinkled in a rare smile

as she nodded toward the

strip of curls on her

forearm. “From a man.”

“I don’t want to erase him.”

And I didn’t want to think about Gran having a

lover.

She died the following

Saturday, and two strange old

women came to bathe her

withered body. They saved

Gran’s left arm for last,

stroking it gently, muttering

foreign, guttural words.

I got one last look at the

ugliness of colored ink on

pale, papery skin before mum

dressed her, and I saw the

unspeakable, forgotten

ugliness hidden inside each

paisley teardrop: A-13968.

Beautiful, Gran, I thought

when we buried her.

“A man,” I repeated. I supposed even in 1940

men operated tattoo parlors. Or maybe she was

one of those ‘types,’ as mum might say.

Christina Dalcher is a linguist, novelist, and flash fiction addict from The Land of

Styron. She is currently matriculating at the Read Every Word Stephen King Wrote MFA

program, which she invented. Find her at ChristinaDalcher.com or @CVDalcher. Or

hiding in a cupboard above the stairs. Or read her short work in Zetetic, Pidgeonholes,

and Syntax & Salt, among other corners of the literary ether.

5


Opera Night

by Jeaninne Escallier Kato

“Moishe, darling, don’t forget your coat.” She has carefully placed his clothes on the bed, as she

does for every opera night.

“And you look breathtaking, Ruth, my love.” He stares at her through her vanity mirror as if

memorizing every feature on her face. “The black velvet suits you.” He swallows heavily, sweat

beading on his brow.

She grins in that special way that says she wants him desperately. Applying red lipstick, she says,

“The children are downstairs with your parents. I bundled them up in layers. It will be a cold night.”

She turns away when the tears blur her vision. She knows he is studying her closely.

He runs his fingers down her exposed spine until he touches the top of the zipper. She grabs his

hand and presses it to her powdered cheek. Her tears have left visible tracks through an otherwise

impeccable layer of make-up.

A door bangs open. He runs downstairs to the children, shielding them from the inevitable

intruders. She slowly slips into her mink coat. With trembling hands, she picks up the felted yellow

star that has fallen to the floor.

Jeaninne Escallier Kato is the author of the childrens’ book, “Manuel’s Murals.”

She has published short stories in various online journals, and her memoir essay

“Swimming Lessons” is published in the anthology book, “Gifts From Our

Grandmothers,” by Carol Dovi. Jeaninne is a retired, bi-lingual educator who is

inspired by the Mexican culture. Much of her written work revolves around the

people and traditions of Mexico. She resides in Northern California with her

husband, Glenn, two German Shepherd mix dogs, Brindey and Bobby McGhee;

and, one very fat Russian Blue cat named Mr. Big.

Visit her on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

6


Midnight Hugs

by Sandra Grills

“Mama, I need a hug” a small voice calls into the darkness. She believes, even at the age of eight, that

her little voice will be heard. She trusts that someone will be there. Not just any someone, her Mama,

ready to give her a hug.

With a sigh only perceptible in my sleep weary mind, I roll over and push myself out of bed. My eyes

open just a crack as I shuffle down the hall. She’s sleeping when I reach her room—a little cherub

running around in the land of nod—but experience warns against leaving. It would only result in a

louder, more urgent call. I reach down and do what many would consider an unthinkable sin. I wake a

sleeping child.

Delicate eyelids flutter open, and a smile cracks the flawless face with a look that says “I knew you’d

come.” Heavy arms reach up and claim their hug. The smile continues, even after the arms drift back

onto the bed, and the eyes slide closed.

I tiptoe past the creaks in the floor, careful to lay my feet on soft carpet, before I lay a weary head

back on my pillow. A little noise floats up the hallway. The contented sigh of a sleeping child who

feels safe.

Sandra has been a director, a business owner, a project manager, a bookbinder, and a mother.

Her current passion is reading and writing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she lives with her

husband, two amazing children, and a gecko named Captain Doug.

7


When You’re on Fire

by Adiba Jaigirdar

The matchsticks in the broken drawer

don’t tempt me now that you’re gone.

We sat on my bed and shared scorch

marks like stories of old boyfriends.

The one between your thumb and

forefinger? Two years ago. Darkened to

a deep shade of brown on your already

dark skin. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t

love it. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t

dream about it with my eyelids half

closed, imagining you beside me,

imagining me running my fingers along

that scorch mark.

I like the one on your right shoulder the best. It’s nothing but a giant brown blob. There’s a strange

beauty in it. Perhaps the most enticing thing about is the way you showed me, slowly rolling up the

sleeves of your overly-long, baggy t-shirt.

My scorch marks seem like nothing in comparison. Even now.

Fire has lost its delight too, since you left. Like I never understood the spark, the heat, until you

brushed your fingers along my collarbone.

Those two months, sharing stories on my bed, our limbs entangled in each other carelessly; those

were the days I was on fire.

The matches, the bedroom, the lick of fire against my skin? Nothing without you in it. No spark.

Adiba Jaigirdar is a twenty-two year old writer and poet. She is of Bangladeshi descent but

Irish by nationality. She has graduated from University College Dublin with a BA double

major in English and History, along with an MA in Postcolonial Studies from the University of

Kent. She has previously been published in literary magazines such as About Place Journal,

wordlegs and Outburst. You can find her on twitter at @adiba_j.

8


A Present for the Future

by Rita Jansen

“Better an empty house than a bad tenant,” Mum would

say, shovelling the weekly dose of castor oil into me.

“When the bowels are out of kilter, the brain turns to

mush!” Over the years, many of Mum’s aphorisms

made good sense, except for her take on my

sixteenth birthday present from my granddad.

“If you ask me, your granddad lost more than

his right arm in the war,” she said. “Who in

their right mind gives a gift like that to a

young girl?”

“Granddad’s not crazy,” I said

in his defence, although,

truthfully, it

wasn’t something

I would have

chosen

for

myself.

“He

knows

they’ll

all be

taken by the time I

need it, and I got to choose

the nicest one.”

Both have

passed on now.

Mother died

suddenly at the

age of fifty-two

and Granddad

didn’t make it to

my

seventeenth

birthday. His

gift has

remained untouched

although I’ve kept an eye

on it over the years.

However, it won’t be long now

until someone opens it on my

behalf and lays me to rest in the

best plot in Heaven’s Door Cemetery;

Granddad’s gift to me.

Rita was born in Drogheda, Ireland but left the Emerald Isle to work as a nursing sister

in South Africa. She’s been fortunate to live in many interesting places, including

Zimbabwe, finally settling down in a small fishing village on the South Coast of Natal.

Now retired, she has the time to pursue a life-long desire to write about the many

characters and situations encountered along life’s journey, which lie in wait, like hidden

treasure in her memory box.

9


The Grown-Up Answer

by Casi Scheidt

“I don’t know,” I said, my eyes stinging and

throat aching.

“Was it because she was sick?”

“That was part of it.”

“Why did my sissy die?” she asked, her blue

eyes dull, tone flat, looking older at four years

than she ever would again.

“Because it was her time, baby,” I said.

“I want the grown-up answer.”

“What do you mean?”

“I want the truth.”

“God decided to take her back.”

“No.”

“Baby, please.”

“No. Tell me why,” she said, glaring at me.

“I can’t.”

“You have to.”

“What’s the other part?”

For hours she followed me, demanding an

answer to the same question I’d been asking

myself since it happened.

“Tell me why. I won’t stop until you tell me

why.”

“Because she wasn’t like you,” I said, both my

voice and my will to shield her breaking.

She watched me, waiting, sensing there was

more.

“Because you came screaming into this world,

yelling so loudly the whole building could hear

you. Nothing could quiet you, nothing could

make you still. But not her. She came as if all

her demons had already defeated her. She gave

up. That’s why anybody dies, baby. Because

they have nothing left.”

Sandra has been a director, a business owner, a project manager, a bookbinder, and a mother.

Her current passion is reading and writing in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, where she lives with

her husband, two amazing children, and a gecko named Captain Doug.

10


New Routine

by Pamela Hobart Carter

One morning, it’s quiet.

One morning, he isn’t down first, brewing the

sputtering espresso, opening and banging doors

and drawers for newspapers and spoons.

One morning, you’re first.

You don’t understand until you check the clock

on the stove, the clock on the microwave, your

wristwatch, and add all the numbers for the same

result.

You draw your hand away, step backwards a

couple of paces, turn, and walk to the kitchen,

where you linger over buttered toast and a hardboiled

egg. The house has a lovely stillness. It

smells of singed crust and newsprint. The Times

is entirely your own. It is possible to savor your

coffee in this solitude.

One morning, you’re first, and too happy to

understand this is how death sounds.

Your heart hammers, your feet pound up the

stairs and race to his door—shut, and darkening

the hall. (Only half-awake, you missed this on

your way down, the too-dark hall. He likes to air

his room and let the day circulate.)

Hand-on-knob, you hesitate. He’s just sleeping

in.

For the first time ever?

He was tired last night.

Too tired.

The soft noises from the other side of his door

may be a sleeper’s long breaths or the curtains

luffing in the morning breeze.

Pamela Hobart Carter has worked as a geologist and teacher before becoming a writer. A

few of her short, short plays have been produced in Seattle where she lives. More about

Pam and her writing is at amazon.com and notalkingdogspress.com.

11


Your Heart is Mine

by Elizabeth Archer

We sit, waiting for the cardiologist to come in

with the results. Listening to shoes squeak on

the fake wood floor. Waiting for them to stop at

the door.

It’s been an hour, and there are 64 tiles in the

ceiling. A dead gnat sticks to

the window, in the

otherwise spotless

room.

When the door

opens, something

inside my chest

shifts. Opens too,

tries to squeeze past

him, run down the hall.

The doctor is thin and fit

and tan. He looks as if he

has been running all morning,

breathless and grinning with a

smile that reaches his cheek.

pictures of the insides of your arteries. “All

clear.”

I see images of holes. Pictures of your heart.

We breathe out then, both of

us, as if we had been

sucking a week’s worth

of oxygen inside.

Exhale fear, in the

form of CO 2 .

“All good. See you in

say, May?” he says.

I can hear your heart,

beating like a distant

drum, in the silence.

That’s what marriage is, after

twenty years.

I can’t hear my own heart at all.

“Everything’s okay,” Dr. Flynn says, white

back to us, his hand flipping through notes and

Elizabeth Archer writes flash, short stories and poetry. She lives in the Texas Hill country, and haunts Scribophile, a

site for serious writers.

12


First Responder

by J. Bradley

by J. Bradley

Helen stared at the smoke seeping

through the seams of the closed oven

door, the fire consuming last night’s

pizza box. I opened the front door. The

fire extinguisher case was bolted next to

the apartment door across the

h a l l . T h e l a n d l o r d s

thought ahead. I

f r e e d t h e f i r e

extinguisher, opened

the oven. The kitchen

didn’t give me enough

space to aim properly.

We stumbled through

the mist of smoke and

sodium bicarbonate, onto the

balcony.

Before my father “rescued” us from my mother, he listed all

the reasons why we were better off without her: listened to talk

radio, sucked her teeth at the dinner table, stole the blanket while

they slept, never voted in local elections, believed The Doors were better

than Pink Floyd. He said the list gave him the conviction he needed to walk

us out of her life.

I looked over at the refrigerator. The sonogram pinned to the freezer door looked

like a black and yellow blotch from here.

“My hero,” Helen wrapped her arm around my waist.

When Neil is old enough, I’ll show him my list. He’ll see on the first line: doesn’t look

in the oven first before turning it on.

J. Bradley is the author of the forthcoming story collection, The Adventures of Jesus Christ,

Boy Detective (Pelekinesis, 2016). He lives at iheartfailure.net.

13


A Little Light Pruning

by Soren James

The depression is getting to me. Of course, I

mean the depression in my leg from sitting on

this stone.

I don’t allow for the other type of depression—

it’s too expensive. From its weight alone I’m

guessing it must cost several thousand dollars. I

doubt I could afford more than half an ounce

of depression per week.

So how am I to survive? Roving happily

through life—a weightless drifter

through circumstance—no longer

standing out or drawing attention to

the depth of my existence. I guess

I’ll have to face a life of increasing

irrelevance to myself and others,

likely ending up forgotten—firstly

by myself, then the rest of the

world.

I move. That’s why I won’t move—the fear of

there being nothing there. A fear of my

disappearance from this planet.

Stay very still and keep a handle on this self of

yours. Keep a tight grip. Well done—you’re

maintaining yourself now. I can feel the weight

of me. I know who I am and where I am.

Two days later, a doctor arrived. The

lack of circulation had caused

gangrene in my leg and it would

have to be amputated.

Much like the depression in

my leg which will disappear if

Soren James is a writer and visual artist who recreates himself on a daily basis from the materials at his disposal,

continuing to do so in an upbeat manner until one day he will sumptuously throw his drained materials aside and

resume stillness without asking why. More of his work can be seen at sorenjames.moonfruit.com.

14


y George Wells

Father’s Day is this month and I have no

father to celebrate. He passed away suddenly

in 1999. His own father followed him not

suddenly later that year. Yes, I still hurt.

Yes, I’m fine with it, too.

I remember the man who kissed me in

congratulations for my eighth grade

clarinet recital—an underwhelming

m u s i c a l p e r f o r m a n c e , b u t a n

uncharacteristic act of bravery on my part

—and how that made me even braver. I

also remember the man who fell into my

doorway while stumbling down the hall

drunk—landing on my clarinet case—and

how that made me less brave. It’s taken

me a while to reconcile those two images.

Is it wrong for me to speak ill of the

dead? Is there not a statute of limitations?

Can I tell you about my paternal

grandfather’s racism? My maternal

grandmother’s many affairs (including

one with my paternal grandfather)? Can

we rise above hushed tones when talking

about alcoholism, depression, mental

illness, suicide? Would things have been

different if we had risen above those

hushed tones around the living?

(By the same token, maybe nobody needed to

know about great-grandma’s amateur beaver

shots.)

I’m far from home, and right at home. An

immigrant in a first world country is

expected; in a third world country, he is a

curiosity. In 15 years in Mexico, I have been

asked, “Do you have family here?” more

often than anything else.

But what to answer? I have no blood here, no

true marriage to bind me to the people, and

yet, I have to say, “Yes…kind of.” The yes is

for me; the kind of is for the natives.

Because what is family, really? Is it blood, is

the plunge

it a piece of paper? How far removed does

one have to be to no longer be family? (The

Spanish language elegantly calls your

spouse’s brother one thing and your

spouse’s sister’s husband another.

Believe me, that can be terribly

convenient.)

In these works, I find a lot of pain,

perhaps fictional, but most likely

fictionalized. Can you relate to that? If

you can, are you okay with that? These

writers have bravely dispensed with the

hushed tones. Can you? What will you

take from that? Do you think I’m being

too confrontational?

Don’t worry; I’m really asking myself.

I see here words of joy and of pain.

Family binds you, and bindings can

secure you and bindings can restrain

you. Have you not felt that security,

that restraint? Do these words seem

familiar to you? I know every one of

these people written into these stories.

They were my family, too.

If family is blood and marriage, then my

family is small. Aunts and uncles and

cousins have mostly fallen out of my

consideration and I’m left with a mother, a

brother, his wife, and their three sons.

There are a lot more people than that, but I

struggle to remember their names at this

point.

If family is more, if it’s the people we

decide to call family, then my family is big.

I have brother and sisters from grade school,

from high-school, from last year, I have

mothers and fathers and uncles and

godfamily.

I am an open book to them. I don’t want

them ever to speak of me in hushed tones.

15


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