200 CCs - July 2016

ironsoap

Volume 1 • Issue 6

Anne Lawrence Bradshaw • Soren James •

Ron Gibson, Jr. • Steve Spalding •

L.L. Madrid • Ruchira Mandal •

James A. Miller • Allison Epstein

plus Azia DuPont

July 2016


Volume 1

Issue #6

Editor-in-Chief

Paul A. Hamilton

Consulting Editor

Nikki Hamilton

Guest Editor

Azia DuPont

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: Snake Eats Tail . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4

Mother’s Ruin . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

by Anne Lawrence Bradshaw

photo by ~Zoe~ — https://www.flickr.com/people/zcn/ (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Walk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

by Ruchira Mandal

photo by Stewart Black — https://slowanddirty.wordpress.com/ (CC BY 2.0)

The Resignation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

by James A. Miller

photo by Cynthia Bertelsen — https://www.flickr.com/people/cbertel/ (CC BY 2.0)

Blue Period . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

by Ron Gibson, Jr.

photo by Jan Kraus — http://www.jankraus.pl/ (CC BY 2.0)

Fourth Shift . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9

by Allison Epstein

photo by Ray Wewerka — https://www.flickr.com/photos/picfix/ (CC BY-NC 2.0)

The Wishing Shrine . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10

by L.L. Madrid

photo by Joe Le Merou — https://about.me/lemerou (CC BY 2.0)

Flash Fiction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11

by Steve Spalding

photo by Abdulla Al Muhairi — https://www.flickr.com/people/serdal/ (CC BY 2.0)

The Man in the Ironic Mask . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

by Soren James

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

The Plunge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13

by Azia DuPont

3


the draw

The Ouroboros: a snake devouring its own tail,

beginning and ending in the same place, infinite

in its recursion. The ancient symbol has a lot of

significance and multiple meanings (don’t all

symbols, though?) but among them is that of

cycle.

Cycles are a standard aspect of life: calendars,

seasons, election cycles, daily routines. What I’ve

been thinking about a lot as we put to bed the

final issue in our first volume and begin the

process of starting (in some senses) all over again

with Volume 2, is that strange nexus point where

a cycle resets. The point where something could

be a start or it could, just as easily, be an end. If

you didn’t know which direction the camera was

facing on this month’s cover image, would you be

able to tell if it were sunrise or sunset, for

instance? Would it change the perception of the

image: one of maybe hope and optimism

versus reflection and closure?

In the 90s, a pop song repeated, “every new

beginning comes from some other beginning’s

end.” At the time, I thought it was particularly

poignant and insightful. But what I love about

Ouroboros is that you can so easily look at the

flip side. Every ending leaves an opening for

another new beginning. Two ways of saying

the same thing, but which is the hopeful and

which is the melancholy? Both. And either.

Round and round we go.

Ending the first six months of 200 CCs is a

time for reflection. Thirty-seven stories in six

months from thirty-five different authors. It’s

also time to look ahead. We’ve got sixty more

stories in the works to bring over the next six

months.

But what then?

Because here’s the thing about cycles:

they’re not the same as repetitions. They are

frameworks for similar but not identical

events. Volume 2 will be much like Volume 1. It

will still be edited by me, it will still feature

roughly 200 word stories collected monthly; there

Snake Eats Tail

4

will be holiday stories and ezine issues and

editorials. But cycles build off each other, and

create context for the next iterations. Volume 2

will be almost twice as large as Volume 1,

because we learned last month that double the

stories makes for better monthlies. Guest Editors

will be more involved because I learned through

trial and error that their contributions are not just

a favor from a friend but an invaluable resource.

That’s why it’s hard to predict beyond the next

turn of the wheel. I can say many of the things

that will probably be true of Volume 2, because I

know the context in which it will begin. But

inevitably some things will change during the

coming half year and recontextualize everything.

What will Volume 3 look like? I honestly don’t

have a good answer for that, nor can I even say

if Volume 3 will exist.

I’m passionate about 200 CCs and enjoy my

role as an editor. I love bringing stories to

readers and paying authors for great stories.

But this was always intended to be a yearlong

experiment with the future beyond that

very much in flux. For all the positives of

this endeavor, there is one critical negative:

the time I spend on 200 CCs is time I used

to spend on my own writing.

And that’s the core beauty of a cycle, isn’t

it? One day may look pretty much like the

day before or it may turn into a grand

adventure you never expected. Maybe you

don’t even notice the turning of the wakesleep-wake

cycle is sliding toward

something new until you end one day and

begin anew only to realize that without you

even noticing, nothing is as it used to be.

So we keep taking it one day, one

season, one ending and the very next

beginning at at time and we figure it out as

we go along. This month’s stories explore

cycles as well, and I hope you’ll

continue to come along for the ride.

—Paul A. Hamilton


A Mother’s Ruin

by Anne Lawrence Bradshaw

In the evenings, the gin would have taken effect, and the

barbed words drawling from your tongue sounded smooth

from over-use. I was cursed for never being the shock of red

you’d wanted to see. I was a monster, something you’d

always longed to sluice away.

Your eyes would be glass when I tucked you under your

blanket, your bruised legs purple, so cold. A thin trickle of

saliva would dribble down your chin, marking your blouse. I

would wipe your mouth with a tissue, throw it in the bin.

But the heavy scent of juniper lingered. Sometimes I would

lift the near empty bottle, tipping the dregs into my mouth.

I’d wait a few seconds for the familiar bitterness to coalesce.

How it burnt, leaving nothing but the afterglow of a

perfumed sigh.

One night, as the other kids played in the dusk outside, I sat

in the half-light, felt myself change. It was a moment, a

sordid understanding that I was just grit between your teeth.

You would rather spit me out than make me into a pearl.

As the moon rose over the house, I felt myself drift, go with

it. One by one, the stars pricked the underbelly of night,

while I sat, listening to you breathe.

Anne Lawrence Bradshaw writes poems and short stories. She lives in a dilapidated cottage

near Hadrian’s Wall, drinks too much tea and walks a lot. Tweet her @shrewdbanana.

5


The Walk

by Ruchira Mandal

By the sides of a dead city’s dusty roads,

ragged dogs seek shade beneath burnt out memories of trees.

They will wake at night, prowling the pathways for lost souls. But

for now, they slumber.

The man stumbles, blindly gaping. Skeletal houses breathe in hot, scorching

gasps while his aching body dreams of beds and the darkness of sleep. He

yearns to sleep into oblivion, but the thought of emptiness keeps him going.

Outside, on the road, there is the mirage of a destination, the illusion of reaching

somewhere, the still beating hope of meeting someone like him. Someone weary of

the walk but clinging to the hope of a future.

At night, when the dogs wake, he will change places with them, both respecting the boundaries. At

sunrise he will walk again, and on. And he will walk as far as his heart carries him, and then walk

some more. For hope thrashes on, even when all breath is dead.

Then he will cross the lines to the watchful dogs, to their knowing, expectant eyes and open jaws,

promising sleep and the end of loneliness at last.

Ruchira Mandal has a day-job as an Assistant Professor of English Literature and tries

to write in between checking millions of answer scripts. She has sporadically published

travelogues in newspapers, fiction and poetry in a variety of medium and has also been

part of a few indie anthologies. You can follow her @RucchiraM on Twitter.

6


The Resignation

by James A. Miller

Commander Adams,

My time as Head Baker aboard Station Imperion has been enjoyable, so it is with heavy heart, I

resign.

These are good! Probably the best

Christmas cookies I’ve ever made.

December 21st, 2057 will be my final

day. I leave the kitchen in the capable

hands of Nicol Truefsky. His work as

apprentice over the past two years is

commendable.

Maybe just one more. So sweet and light,

must be the Glutovian flour–wherever did

Nicol find it?

While, in my option, Nicol lacks the

prerequisite education to be Head Baker, his experience will allow him to temporarily fill the

position until a suitable replacement is found.

I just can’t stop eating these. Down you go little gingerbread man. I can catch you, yes I can.

And your brother and your cousin…

Sincerely,

Edwin Dorchester

I finished them. Need more.


As Edwin rose from the chair, Glutovian microbes hidden in the cookies’ flour reached their

saturation point and instantly collapsed his ample body into a pile of fine white powder. Nicol entered

moments later, sweeping what was left of his boss into flour sacks.

He edited Edwin’s resignation—ever so slightly—before hitting “send.”

During the day, James A. Miller works as an Electrical Engineer in Madison WI. At night, he

spends time with his family and does his best to come up with fun and creative fiction. He is a

first reader for Allegory e-zine and member of the Codex writer’s group. He also has two cats

but will resist the urge to say anything cute or witty about them here. He blogs at https://

breakingintothecraft.wordpress.com/.

7


Blue Period

by Ron Gibson, Jr.

after Maggie Nelson

This cursor blinks its steady pulse: birth pangs of the universe.


Once we were a void. Once we were beautiful.

Where once a beautiful void, big rigs now knife down the interstate between frosted

hills, under a blue period, a finality I cannot dispute, redistributing the future without

you.

*

When we read books together, we would wear the author’s skin for a time. The fresh

scars, the humility, the beauty. Their story became our story.

For weeks after Maggie Nelson’s ‘Bluets,’ blue dealt blows to the senses, it intoxicated.

It made me question my relationhip with the world around me, and made you question

your relationship with the world within you.

*

Humans have difficulty understanding evolution, difficulty understanding what we do

not see. We do not see slowly moving changes to our world.

*

When I looked at you, through you, you became more haze than you. Each day you

became more blue. Each day the hue deepened, and soon you were a fossil to record, a

footprint to cast, only our words left tripping over snow-falling asterisks on blue

screen, lost.


This cursor still blinks steadily: product of an event beyond our control.

Ron Gibson, Jr. has previously appeared in Noble / Gas Quarterly, Pidgeonholes,

Maudlin House, The Vignette Review, Ghost City Review, Cease Cows, Spelk Fiction, Ink

in Thirds, Gravel Magazine, etc. And can be found on Twitter at @sirabsurd.

8


Fourth Shift

by Allison Epstein

It wasn’t a glamorous way to die, but he’d never

liked attention. Not like Scott McKenna, who

drove his Pontiac off the 496 overpass when

the Grand River plant closed. Scott had style

and an axe to grind, and everybody knew it. The

State Journal had a field day.

For him, no bangs, no whimpers. Just drink

expanding to fill the space available, doubles

doubled double-time, until his liver pink-slipped

the whole mortal coil.


He glares at the granite angel praying on his

headstone. Praying. He wonders what for. If he

had his say, a recliner, an IPA, and the Tigers on

real quiet in the background.

More likely, world peace. Angel stuff.

He kicks the headstone. It doesn’t connect.

Obviously.

“Fuck you,” he says.

The angel doesn’t reply.


He’d

been so long about dying. Rude, really.

He hopes some of him will catch her eye.

An elbow, or a scruff of beard. She could

tell him from a beard, sure. She’d always

hated that beard.

She stands a minute, not more. Then she

smiles, off-center.

“Rest in peace, you sonofabitch,” she says,

and turns.

The angel prays on, just to spite him.

When she comes, she’s wearing the peacoat he

bought her, the one she never wore. She’d skipped

the funeral, of course.

Allison Epstein is a twenty-something writer, editor, proofreader, marketer, feminist, and amateur Shakespearian

living in Chicago. Her writing has appeared or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, Adios Barbie, and Ugly

Sapling. Find her on her blog, https://thebodypacifist.wordpress.com/, on Twitter @AllisonEpstein2, or wherever

heated debates about em dashes are underway.

9


The Wishing Shrine

by L.L. Madrid

“Do you know how to get to El Tiradito?”

I nod; everyone in Barrio Viejo knows where to

find the wishing shrine.

“The sun will set soon. Go for your Mama.”

“Poppa said she’s going to be fine.”

“Pay attention, Lucia. You only get one

wish, don’t waste it.” Nana

hands me a paper and

pen. “Write it down,

neat as you can. Fold it

tight, but don’t lose it.”

As I write, she places a

candle—St. Jude—and

a matchbook into a bag.

“When you get to the

shrine light the wick and

say a prayer for the

sinners. Slip your wish

between the cracks of

bricks. Don’t put the candle on the altar. Place it

in the corner away from the wind, it has to stay

lit all night or the wish won’t come true. Do you

understand mi hija?”

I nod again and Nana kisses my forehead.

In the morning, Poppa is pale faced. Nana

crosses herself and whispers that the flame must

have gone out.

It hadn’t though. I knew when Poppa

handed me a box with the patent

leather shoes I’d wished for. He’d

bought them for me to wear with

my funeral dress.

L.L. Madrid (@LLMadridWriter) lives in Tucson where she can smell the rain before it

falls. She resides with her four-year-old daughter, an antisocial cat, and on occasion, a

scorpion or two. Her favorite word is glossolalia.

10


Flash Fiction

by Steve Spalding

This is a piece of flash fiction written in an

Indiana hotel room on 2 hours of sleep.

In it there’s a protagonist – probably male,

probably angry. Male because the author finds

cheap, male rage easy to tap into. Angry because

dramatic engines don’t grow on trees.

He’s in hate with someone he loves, and flits

between the axes with all the grace of a drunken

gymnast with inner ear disease. Melodrama

masquerades as conflict, every tear spilled in

service of word count.

The author holds back the target of our man’s

love addled ravings, both because he’s

convinced you’ll never see it coming, and

because if he didn’t, he’d have dangerously little

plot to pull a real ending out of.

suddenly as complex as we’ve always believed

we were. We pray that he can fix in 200 words

what our lives haven’t in twenty years.

It all ends with a lesson, something trite and

universal that makes us feel literate, while at the

same time giving lie to the fact that we’ve

absorbed, into our immortal souls, the spiritual

equivalent of a double cheeseburger.

And in case you were wondering, our man was

in love with a robot, and you never saw it

coming.

Not to worry, our hero says something edgy and

becomes an anti-hero in the span of a paragraph

– we love him even more now because he’s

Writer of words, lover of fiction, dabbler in data, builder of web things—Steve also helps

companies sell stuff. At the beginning of 2016, he promised himself to write one short story

every weekday for a year, we’ll see how that goes.

http://thecoldstorage.com/

https://twitter.com/sbspalding/

11


The Man in the Ironic Mask

or, The Inability to Communicate in an Ironic World

by Soren James

“I’m campaigning against irony.”

“I never know when you actors are being

serious.”

“That’s why I’m against irony. I want to be

taken at face value—be seen for what I am.”

“And this is not an ironic stance you’ve taken?”

“Are you winding me up?”

“I’m just being thorough—it’s my

job.”

“You’re not filming one of

those spoof comedy

programs?”

“No, I’m a serious journalist.

I’m genuinely interested.”

“In a satirical way?”

“In the normal, reportage way.”

“You’re not just playing the character

of a journalist?”

“Are you winding me up?”

“Was that sarcastic?”

“Are you out to trick me? To make a fool of

me?”

“Is there a level of meaning I’m not getting

here?”

“That T-shirt you’re wearing—what does it

mean?”

“Exactly what it says: ‘An ironic crisis is

worthless; a crisis in irony is

ignorable.’ It’s self explanatory, isn’t

it?”

“What do the two faces represent?”

“A communication paradox. But

we should get off the subject of

irony. I understand you have a new

film out—a satirical comedy. Was it

difficult playing a delusional actor

who has to feign artificialintelligence

in a virtual-reality

environment based on an imagined world

of an insane entertainer?”

“I feel empty and confused sometimes.”

“Are you winding me up?”

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 here: http://sorenjames.moonfruit.com/.

12


y Azia DuPont

Let’s start at the end, which in many ways

is also the beginning. Soren James, in

“The Man in the Ironic Mask,” writes I

feel empty and confused sometimes.

This simple, blunt sentiment is more

than a few shallow words, it is the

epitome of the cyclic human nature.

These six words are so powerful!

By recognizing that one feels “empty”,

a person is also recognizing that they

are a vessel in which one can be filled

and in this knowing, they begin the

quest of fulfillment. Consistently, it

seems that people throw themselves

into things outside themselves during

this journey: relationship, work,

hobbies, activism, and the list goes on

and on. And without a hitch, they

inevitably find themselves confused!

The girlfriend, career change, sixth gin

and tonic of the night, this thing that is

supposed to be filling them up is not

filling them up. There is still a nagging

desire for more so the journey begins

again.

And again.

And again.

We are perpetually moving through our

days, searching for another reason to stay

alive. Through this searching we find that

we can even push cycles onto others,

which brings us back to the beginning.

In “A Mother’s Ruin”, Anne Lawrence

Bradshaw exposes this universal truth: we

are all connected. The mother, in her

dysfunction, plants a seed of doubt and

dissatisfaction in her child. I sat in the

half-light, felt myself change. It was a

moment, a sordid understanding that I was

just grit between your teeth. The mother’s

weakness in her addiction becomes a

mirror, and here she is projecting I feel

the plunge

empty and confused sometimes onto her

child.

And the cycle continues.

And the search for fulfillment

continues.

But there is hope! We need to

just look towards ourselves. Even

in the confusion, and the emptiness,

we are not alone. This longing is a

universal feeling amongst all of us.

Which means, that even in your

darkest, most confusing hour, you

are not the first person to feel the

way you are feeling! You are not

experiencing a unique emotion. You

are experiencing life as a human

being on planet earth. I will say it

again: you are not alone! Not only

are you not alone, you are the maker

of your destiny. You choose the

route to take, the next stage of the

cycle. It is in this moment of clarity

that you do change: your entire life

changes. The lives of the people

around you change once you

recognize the power you have in

merely existing in a world full of people

who feel just like you.

It’s beautiful really.

I hope that as you read the pieces curated

in this issue, that you recognize the

human nature that is exposed throughout

each story, and how that very nature is

what pushes the cycle forward, the

vulnerabilities and scary human truths

that are exposed. I hope you can

recognize that even in some of the ugly

and messier parts, everyone is just empty

and confused, hoping to be more than the

grit in someone’s teeth.

You are more than that, too.

13


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