Three Lines by John Paul Welsh


By Paul John Welsh

In a blood puddle where the dragonfly larva swim,
licking each other’s wounds with burning tongues,
we got there in an end to end all ends.


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Tom was neither handsome nor ugly, a work-related accident as a young man had left him with a slight limp, but he was steady on his feet. He had lived a quiet life in a noisy city; he didn’t understand all the rushing around and was disconnected from the tension of it all. Since retiring from the store he hadn’t bothered setting a morning alarm, but after so many years his eyes were always wide at 06:00.

That morning he had allowed himself a lie in, an extra hour in bed. He lay there watching a spider on the ceiling. The spider didn’t seem to have many aspirations beyond circling the light bulb a few times. The sun rose behind a thick layer of cloud.

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Stand by Me

I’m hungover and, yeah, maybe I ripped my bowl a few times in the car on my way to the office this morning. It’s Sunday morning or Sunday afternoon or whatever. I’m doing what needs to be done to set my mind straight.

There was a decent amount of dialogue with my clients on the way to the first property. Both parties seemed to laugh at times, which was a good sign, but expected, because I’m hilarious and topical and my pop-culture references only go over people’s heads at about a 70% clip, so whatever. There was only one distinct awkward silence that I can distinguish in my mind now, after the fact. So that’s pretty good, right?

They didn’t like the first two places. Fuckers. You always get that feeling in the pit of your stomach when the first two places suck. All the credibility you established in that opening email, fostered in that initial phone call, gone. Another lost plume of smoke, into the etheric contamination.

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Total Eclipse

The full moon seemed to weave between the layers of clouds as they rolled across a slate-blue sky; paying neither heed to perspective nor density of its earthbound cloak. An eternity passed. The moon hovered until the wakeful one blinked: iced breath brazenly billowing from the open window into the pre-dawn atmosphere; only to be engulfed by its ponderous chill like a jungle swallowing a heedless safari.

Finbar closed the window and listened to the night sounds, the creaks of a home too bashful to make noise in the daytime. The term “house-farts” sprang to mind. He smiled at the analogy.

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Jane’s Place

It’s not yet six thirty, but Gerry’s Café is already open. Gerry, newly divorced, dressed in blue jeans and a striped tee-shirt, is busy cleaning. Dark circles show beneath his eyes.

There’s really nothing much to clean. A spot here, a stain there. A splash of coffee on the scrubbed brick floor of this former boat shed, built into the foot of a cliff, and jutting out onto the narrow but popular path skirting the bay.

Hardly anybody lives at Seacliff now, but the fishermen’s cottages have become holiday homes and the schoolyard a camping ground. On the hill behind the village is the remaining wing, now a backpacker lodge, of a once imposing Gothic style lunatic asylum, where ninety-seven inmates died in the fire of 1952.

They say the sound of screaming is heard out there at the full moon.

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The Hopes We Foster

Instinct was a prison.

Instinct was like a prison—

She didn’t care anymore, epiphany’s luster abated.

Dim, incandescent light reflected glossily off the orange-painted walls of her bedroom, outgrown. She crushed and railed another line, hoping her hands and mind would follow suit, but there was nothing to write anymore. The scent of soggy Autumn leaves melted through a single cracked window. What did it all mean? Would she sleep tonight?

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You’re Like Red

Sitting in a hospital room beside his brother, they watch The Shawshank Redemption on the miniature television in the corner. After Andy Dufresne tells Red that hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, he releases his brother’s hand, takes four steps, and shuts the television off. He sits back down. He tries to take his brother’s hand again, but he’s thinking too much now about the way it felt—cool, flappy, like some fish.

He stares at the television. “Crock of shit,” he says.

His wife sighs on the other side of the bed. “You’re unreasonable,” she says, her thumb caressing his brother’s forehead. “It comforts him,” she says, even though the doctor said there has been no brainwave recognition for three straight days.

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The Dynamic of Coincidence

Why am I here?

Because I have to be somewhere.

It’s all about coincidence. Everything in this great world exists because of the accidental pulling of a cosmic trigger.

Science believes the universe is in a constant state of flux, which is a scientific way of expressing change. And we are no less a part of the vast open space of bonded particles than is Jupiter or Mars, and we exist in the very same state of flux. When we run into an obstacle to this state of change, like the man standing in front of me holding a gun, it impedes our progress and we end up like a miniature Big Bang. We turn dark from being compressed and explode. Although, my potential Little Bang right now would more likely occur from a bullet and not compression of my ability to stay in flux.

“Give me your wallet,” he said.

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A Little Quiet

“I don’t know how you can stand all that bickerin’.”

Nora Casper looked up from her book and turned in the direction of the mumbled comment. She was sitting on a sidewalk bench reading while her two children Anna, age 5, and William, age 4, were behind her on the park lawn fighting over a stuffed animal. The man who made the comment was a scruffy older fellow who looked like he may have been homeless, alcoholic, or both. She didn’t bother to reply and went back to her book.

Now that he had brought the squabbling to her attention, she did find it annoying, but didn’t say anything to Anna or William because she didn’t want to encourage more dialog with the man who was on the bench just a few feet from hers.

“Me, I’d tell ‘em if they didn’t knock it off and play nice, I’d leave ‘em here,” he said a little louder this time.

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