Anne Lawrence Bradshaw • Soren James •
Ron Gibson, Jr. • Steve Spalding •
L.L. Madrid • Ruchira Mandal •
James A. Miller • Allison Epstein
plus Azia DuPont
Paul A. Hamilton
Copyright © 2016 ironSoap.com. All writing and photography is the property of their respective
Cover photographs by Paul A. Hamilton.
200 CCs is an anthology of microfiction, collected monthly. Inquire online for submission guidelines.
Follow on Twitter @ironsoap.
To help show your support for 200 CCs, visit http://ironsoap.com/200-ccs/support/
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
by James A. Miller
My time as Head Baker aboard Station Imperion has been enjoyable, so it is with heavy heart, I
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
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…
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://
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
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
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.
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.
“Fuck you,” he says.
The angel doesn’t reply.
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
“Rest in peace, you sonofabitch,” she says,
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
“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
“You’re not filming one of
those spoof comedy
“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
“Is there a level of meaning I’m not getting
“That T-shirt you’re wearing—what does it
“Exactly what it says: ‘An ironic crisis is
worthless; a crisis in irony is
ignorable.’ It’s self explanatory, isn’t
“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/.
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
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
empty and confused sometimes onto her
And the cycle continues.
And the search for fulfillment
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.
For weekly updates and more, visit: