Haymarket Maggie

This selection is related to this entry from Snopes.com


In Lakeview there is the legend of a dog. Many argue that the legend is nothing more than a children’s story. I know different. The story goes that in the 1920s a little girl, Mary Anderson, had a shaggy sheepdog named Maggie. The dog grew fond of the girl and took care of her, as any nanny or mother would. She helped teach the girl to walk, to swim, and even joined her at mid-afternoon tea.

When Mary turned seven she was diagnosed with polio. They ushered her away, quarantined in a ward of the Haymarket General Hospital, where children afflicted with the disease were kept from the general population. The hospital was built on the site of Lakeview’s old Haymarket neighborhood. Alone and afraid, Mary cried out in the night for days on end. But, after a week, the doctors were stunned when she stopped crying and found Maggie the sheepdog resting across the legs of the little girl. Security came to remove the dog from the hospital, but it growled, baring its white teeth, not allowing anyone near Mary unless she gave them permission. There the dog stayed, across her feet, for eight months, until one fateful winter’s night the girl passed in her sleep.

It was two days before Maggie would allow anyone near Mary’s body. At night, through the halls, the dog could be heard whimpering as she licked Mary’s face.

Mary was buried in the graveyard on the hillside of the small hamlet just outside the city known as Timber Ridge. There, Maggie made her way through the city, following the scent of her young master. The day after they buried the girl, the caretaker awoke for his morning rounds. Amazed, he found Maggie sleeping atop the tiny grave. The caretaker did all that he could to coax the dog out of the cemetery, bribing it with bones and balls and even a T-bone steak. Nothing worked, as Maggie stayed put, undeterred and loyal to her girl. For six years Maggie slept on top of Mary’s grave, sometimes so still passersby thought her to be a statue, until they heard the whimpers coming from the scraggly pile of hair. Maggie stayed in spite of snow and rain and gale force winds. She remained upon the grave until she died, at the age of fifteen, still waiting for her little girl to return to her. Her remains were buried next to Mary’s grave with a small headstone.

That’s not the part that people try to contest, though some details are thought to have been added for dramatic effect. No, the part that people dispute is this: a year after the dog’s passing, it was spotted at the hospital, howling up at the room the girl once occupied. When orderlies went to engage the dog, it had disappeared. People chalked it up to a coincidence, arguing that it was a different dog altogether. But sure enough, the following year the dog visited the hospital again. This time the security guard on duty followed it for three blocks, until he lost it in the shadows. Every year, on the anniversary of the dog’s death, Maggie reappears, a gaggle of ghost story enthusiasts in tow. They say you can sometimes see her clear as day, and other times you can only hear her weeping. But always, she leads the people in the direction of the graveyard, where it is believed she goes to rest up for the coming year.

The story, whether true or not, has attracted quite a bit of attention over the years. In 1974, a plaque was erected outside the door of the room little Mary Anderson once stayed in. That’s how I came upon the story. In truth, I thought the idea of a ghost dog was as absurd as the legends of Ya’hootie, the terrible Sasquatch that roamed the hills, whose photo was printed in the Gazette plain as day.Yet, in my reluctance to believe such a far fetched tale of love and devotion, I set out one year with the group of true believers. By night’s end, I had devoutly joined their fray. I not only saw the bushy dog with my own eyes, but I felt it as it passed by my leg. Upon its touch I felt a shiver grow inside of me, crawling up my back as if my spine had frozen from the inside out.

For years I followed Maggie and her cries through the streets of Lakeview, always losing her along the way. One year I decided to change my approach. While everyone was so focused on following her path from the beginning, I decided to go to the supposed destination: the little girl’s grave. All night I waited as the cold wind blew hard, cutting straight to the bone. I found a spot across from Mary’s grave and leaned myself up against a tombstone. Soon the darkness of night faded, giving way to the light of the sun just beyond the valley ridge. I found myself exhausted and on the verge of sleep when, at that moment, I heard a jingling chime. I lifted my sleepy eyes to find a sheepdog sitting right in front of me. It licked my face, and I felt its cold, wet tongue slide as a shiver erupted through my body. It barked at me once, a happy bark, as if to say thank you. But for what? I did not know. I looked closer and around its singing collar I read the name: Maggie. A great sensation of joy and fear and absolute sadness fell upon my body. Staring into those black eyes, I suddenly understood—no, felt—all the desperation and loneliness that Maggie had endured for so many years. And with that, she passed her burden on to me. The dog walked over to the girl’s grave, laid down, and at first light, she disappeared into the ground. As I got up to leave, I swear I heard, somewhere in the distance, the laughter of a little girl. I’ve been back since, bringing with me witnesses to see the amazing truth of the dog that never left. Yet, in all my visits since, I’ve never heard more than a faint tinkle on the wind.


J. Ryan Sommers has an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago. He hopes to continue his writing while teaching. This story is from his thesis, a novel in stories, entitled Conduits.

Minnesota Vikings Open Their Stadium to Shelter the Homeless

This selection is related to this entry on Snopes.com


if the church locks its door
the car gets towed
the furnace quits
your boat sinks or crows
steal everything you’ve got
this is the shelter for you

this is where they will hand you a free
christian ponder t-shirt in XXL
whether you wear that size or not

one of the former cheerleaders
will walk at you like she is on a rolling ship
she will wear a neon purple dress
that makes your head spin
whether you’ve been drinking or not
her hands will grab you
by the shirt collar and she will say
I could tell you stories about me now love
that would raise the fuckin hairs
on the back of your neck
and you’ll believe it and you’ll believe it
when she says she once wrote
two bestsellers in a row

and this is where one of the old players
with eyes swimming in sockets of clam juice
will tell you bedtime stories of broken heroes
lost chances
perfect regrets
and how packers fans secretly sell
the kind of maggoty cheese
that tries to eat your brains

sleep here on the fake green grass
beneath a glassy sky filled with fake white stars

all night long you will hear the leftover echoes
of horny people yelling skol

every now and then a bird will die
from flying into the night-colored windowpane

and by morning when you leave
everything in the city will look upside down
the earth like sky
the buildings like hallways
the hungry will look
like they’re rich
and the rich look
like they’re cold


Jeanne Lutz is the author of the chapbook HEARTS AND HARROWS, and her work has appeared in Conduit, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Poetry City, USA, Whistling Shade, and on KAXE radio station.

Lincoln, Kennedy, and Me

This selection is related to this post from Snopes.com.


You think it’s a coincidence? Consider the names before you answer. Consider my name: John Lincoln. You say I’m not political? Sure I am. I ran for senior class president. Even won. And by the way, that happened in a year ending in zero and divisible by fifteen. Don’t look at me that way. All you need to do is flip the number nine on its head, and you get six. Ninety. Sixty. There you are.

Never mind about the theater part. Or the gun. We’ll get to all that later. Right now, it’s important you see the connection.

If you’re stuck on the number thing, I should remind you there are seven letters in our surnames. Not that it matters. Identicality trumps all. If you still have a problem making the pieces fit, don’t forget this slice of high school trivia: the year after I graduated, guess who they elected to follow me? That’s right. Amy Johnson. And she was from the south.

God, Amy was beautiful. I remember how she used to flounce into class on the day of a football game, that miniature skirt floating around her hips like a bi-colored star when she sat in the front row. Would you believe she turned down Jeff the Jock to go to prom with me? I didn’t either. I still don’t. But there’s a whole mess of stuff I don’t believe.

Sometimes it’s a million miles away, high school. Sometimes it’s yesterday.

See, the thing I don’t get is that we’re living in the twenty-first century. Not 1860, not 1960, but the modern world. We got ourselves modern medicine and social medicine and chemo that doesn’t make you puke out a lung. We got midwives and doulas and birthing baths and all that shit. We got five fucking million songs in our pockets. So I don’t know why when Amy’s baby came out early, they couldn’t do something. Fix the little four-pound bugger. Incubate him.

That’s another connection you forgot—the dead kids. You know Lincoln’s sons died, right? And you know Jackie delivered prematurely? At least she had a couple days with the baby. A couple days more than Amy had.

Listen to me. There’s a flick playing down at the cineplex. I slipped the manager a few fifties—what the hell, I don’t need money anymore. No one to spend it on now that Amy’s gone. Anyway, I bribed him to keep the place empty after we get in.

You’re from Georgia, right? That’s good. I like that you have three names, too, I mean, I like that you use all three of your names. And seeing as it’s a Friday and my secretary warned me not to see this stupid movie, seeing as I already got the gun and a wad of cash like you asked, I thought maybe now that I’ve explained it all we might just go ahead and get it over with. One to the head will do it.


Christina Dalcher is a writer from Virginia with over sixty worldwide credits. Recognitions include Bath Flash Award’s Short List, nominations for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions, and second place in Bartleby Snopes’ Dialogue Contest. Read additional work at here

 

The Mexican Pet

This poem is related to this story on Snopes.com. 


I am not a cactus full of scorpions
or another brown and jumping “bean.”
I am not a chupacabra or La Llorona
come to life from legend.

I am not a rat, of sewer or any other origin.
I do not want your job or your money or your life.

I do not want to be a member
of the permanent underclass.
I will not fight some toothless meth-head
for the dishwashing position.

I do morph, however, into different forms:
—the benighted indigena in my colorful huipil
—the narco with silver skulls on my boots and AK-47s
embroidered on my shirts
—the abuela who has given up on Guadalupe and her
fucking Spanish roses and prays
to a skeleton in a wedding gown
—the fourth-generation American who is still asked
where I come from
—the fantasmas of the many, many girls whose murderers
will never be prosecuted as the wind whistles
through the cementarios of Ciudad Juarez.

I kneel on my daughter’s Disney-character blanket
as I crawl to the grave of folk saint Juan Soldado.
He was wronged in life, but in death they say
he heals whatever he can:

He can never solve my problem,
but as I am only a pet
I continue to smile, to defer,
to serve, to settle for less.

It is my only hope that in time
I will fade into an urban legend,
something nobody really believes
ever existed, and which, quite frankly,
indeed, never did.

—Written on May Day, the International Workers’ Day, 2017


Denise Dumars most recent book of poetry, Paranormal Romance: Poems Romancing the Paranormal, was nominated for the Elgin Award. Denise is a native of Southern California, with roots in New Orleans and the Caribbean, and has traveled widely in Mexico.

The Squirrels of Madison Square Park

This selection is related to this story on Snopes.com.


It was mid-April and the days were nice enough again to take my lunch breaks in the park. Somehow every year this is a revelation: it can’t have ever been so green before. It can’t possibly have been so warm, last time around.

In my cubicle it was still winter, would always be winter.

It had been a strategic decision when I first got the reservationist job: no tchotkes, no photos, no plants. Just grey everything. A way to trick myself into believing that I wouldn’t stay. This was just a new-to-the-city, young-and-figuring-it-out, tide-me-over gig. I would quit before year one was out.

Okay, before year two was out, then.

Before year three was out or god help me.

So it was a bleak route to hopeful that my cubicle took, desolate as a reminder that this was not real life. Real life was outside, on a bench for an hour in the middle of the day. The warm sun, the cool wind. Lunch breaks in the park were a refresher course on sky.

The only problem was all the damn squirrels. The squirrels of Madison Square Park were city squirrels and foreign tourists fed them, posed with them, played paparazzi to the pests. So the squirrels had all become fucking entitled little assholes. One ran right across my lap — across my lap — one day and up a tree.

When something that ought to be scared of me isn’t, I become scared of it.

So I screamed and dropped my sandwich. I felt like I’d been violated.

When I looked up I saw Linda Leigh.

Linda. From work. Feeding the squirrels.

Linda Leigh was someone I had no feelings about at all until I caught her scattering bread crumbs that day, a wide smile spread out across her flat, circle face. After that, I was curious. I mean, what kind of maniac, you know?

So I set about befriending her. I cornered her at the coffee maker and accosted her with “How’s it going?”s in the elevator. I wore her down with my best work stories — the celebrities who’d called: which ones were nice and which ones were mean and which ones had finicky requirements: never by a window, booth if you have it. I toned down the sarcasm. I softened the resting bitch face. I ended up getting pretty close to Linda Leigh.

Linda was from a small town in the middle of the country, had come to New York just to be in New York, didn’t want to be an artist or anything, just wanted to be here. She was still starry-eyed with the city, didn’t even mind the subways, but went to the park whenever she was feeling low (Linda was the type of person who said cutesy things like feeling low).

Linda liked stories of celebrities being nice better than stories of celebrities being mean.

Linda took five sugars in her coffee.

And Linda had a boyfriend. It was one of the main things about her, part of every sentence she spoke: Last night at dinner with Boyfriend. Well, you know, My Boyfriend. As The Boyfriend always says.

I never outright asked her about the squirrel-thing but I came to understand it as some kind of Disney Princess fantasy. In her head, they must have been cartoons. I thought that somehow she must have failed to sense the threat of them, or know to be wary of their unearned arrogance.

Then one day Linda came into work all fidgety, holding her shoulders like the victim of a lightning strike, because she and her Boyfriend/My Boyfriend/The Boyfriend broke up.

She told me all about it by the Keurig machine:

“He left me,” she said. “I moved all the way to New York for him, and he didn’t even care.”

“I thought you just wanted to be here?” I asked.

“I can’t effing stand it here,” she said.

She talked to me less and less after the breakup, ditched me during lunch breaks. Instead I’d see her across the park, feeling low, I’m sure, and feeding the squirrels. Day after day, feeding the squirrels.

In my head I was so condescending, thinking how if I’d been dumped I would do something about it. Cut off my hair. Have revenge sex with one of his friends. Something.

Eventually Linda stopped coming to work all together. Ghosted the place without ever giving notice. But on my lunch breaks I’d still see her in the park. After a month of this, it had reached a new weird: Linda, standing in one of the concrete pits that would turn back into a fountain as soon as the summer came, with squirrels circled around her feet like worshippers at a temple, their little bodies held perfectly still, waiting to be smiled on by their benevolent god. I watched, transfixed, as Linda relinquished bits of bread, sparingly, according to some logic I couldn’t understand. I watched the squirrel’s chubby little cheeks move, their sharp little teeth chomp, and felt that familiar fear. Fear of the squirrels. And now fear of Linda too.

Then one day she wasn’t there. I didn’t think much of it — maybe she’d finally moved on — until I saw the headline on my phone, the reports of the odd arrest. Her name, her unflattering mugshot, the articles detailing the injuries sustained by her ex. The scratches down his face, the chunks of flesh taken from his arms and legs. The squirrels had rushed him en masse, climbed his body like a tree, dug in their claws and jesus.

I looked around the park where I was sitting on my lunch break.

There wasn’t an evil little varment in sight.


Phoebe Cramer is a writer and performer living in Brooklyn, New York. Her short fiction has appeared in Slink Chunk Press and Bard Papers. She can be found, very occasionally, on twitter @PhoebeLCramer

8 Maxims For The Toys R Us Ghost

This selection is related to this post on Snopes.com.


1.
Acts of mercy are best done
in secret. He enacts his death,
every night begging for the axe.

2.
A secret rests in the stock room
where the boxes gather. If you stay still
Johnson will whisper your name.

3.
All excesses shall be corrected.
Johnson knows this with his bruised neck
& hacked thigh & tears fleeing his face.

4.
The cashiers don’t complain. Instead
they make a game of it. New hires must meet
Johnson, must wait in the back stock for his mutter.

5.
Lord help the sanity of the keyholder.
Before the sun rises and the doors open
horses are heard galloping though the store.

6.
A torn bag holds no contents. All the plastic
bags are torn one winter morning. The stacks
of bags in the back all chopped and mussed.

7.
Those who handle the money are apt to fall
into his lap. The managers all quit. Insist it’s not
Johnson, but what else could it be.

8.
Death solves all problems. Johnson was poor
and in love with a girl who owned horses. He croaked
in an orchard and they built a toy store on his grave.


Cameron Schneberger is a recent graduate of Kalamazoo College where he studied comedy, theater and other employable things. His work has appeared in The Minetta Review, Yellow Chair Review, and once in a paperback gay romance novel. He believes in ghosts even though he’s never seen one.

Living in the House of Usher


Evidence of some bitter struggle [was] on every pore of her emaciated frame.”  Poe

I was Madeline in those lost years.  Unable to waken my better self.  Voices blew shoulds through our damask-covered windows. I could not stop them.  Expectations echoed in our halls, ricocheted off walls, brought our house down.  Don’t misunderstand.  I saw the fissure in our foundation—toed quietly around it. You said I should have known the perils of an aging house—that wandering grounds at night would tear my white gowns.  You dismiss the danger of sidestepping sense with sensibility.  Let me tell you:  I was scared of what you didn’t see.  The acid reflux of dissatisfaction, the sound of gears grinding behind the public face, the silence of disapproval.  Misophonia and migraines sent me to bed, a pillow over my head.  Usher’s love of mother and the Scout creed but mostly of himself built bricks of resentment.  Add mortar of alienation.  You see how tendrils of melancholy formed the cement that immobilized me.  The implosion of the house we built is the B-grade nightmare that prevents me still from wearing white.  Sometimes Usher is just the tale of a madman, but after the dream, I catch the rock hard, moonstone face of Madeline in my mirror and feel ice in my veins.


Janet Reed teaches writing and literature for Crowder College in Missouri. She is a 2016 Pushcart Prize nominee. Her work has been published and is forthcoming in multiple journals, and she is at work on her first chapbook.

Silicone Valley


after “Eldorado”

Shining pristine,
A silver sheen
On armored chips and circuits,
A robot strong
Hummed merrily on
In quest of human units.

But he grew weak—
His power, peak’d—
No socket, fuse, or battery—
Through valley green,
The only gleam
The sun on windows empty.

“I’m late,” he looped,
Distressed and pooped,
“I should have met my maker—
Where are you, Dad?
Your metal lad
Has come to claim his acre!”

Wind whistled through
The barren few
Mansions that stood like castles:
Once-flashing screens
Replaced by beams
Of information facile.

The human grail—
For memory’s frail,
So plug in, store, and share it:
Thus robot son
Found everyone
Linked up and skipped the planet.

“Oh Father dear,
Why leave me here,
While humans all chase shadows?
Friends in the stars?
I’m here, not Mars!”
He shut down salty gyros.


Adele Gardner has a poetry book, Dreaming of Days in Astophel, and works published in American Arts Quarterly, Strange Horizons, Daily Science Fiction, and NewMyths.com. She’s a member of SFWA and literary executor for her father, Delbert R. Gardner.

A Girl’s Guide to Being Buried Alive

 


You will think it’s a trick of the light, at first, or that your bedclothes obscure your vision. It is not; they do not. Scrub your face all you like—the dark will not fall away from your eyes, but you will dislodge the shroud you don’t yet know is a shroud. Reach now, if you must, for that bedside candle. Knock your knuckles against rough wood. Withdraw your hand and try again.

It is very important to breathe. Slowly.

You may remember, as I did not, your brief tangle with illness, the wilting of your pink cheeks, the drying-thinning of your hair, the sudden fragility of your bones. One day you were young and hale and the next you were a pale, gaunt thing, hushed and whispered over. The doctors and your parents and your love were all quite sure you would die. Prepared themselves for the final closing of your dimming eyes.

Yes, be angry. It will help. It will burn clear through the panic.

They thought you a small and delicate thing, briefly coloring their worlds, like the summer butterflies you admired in the rose garden. They wept over you, rest assured. Your mother still weeps. Your love languishes, bemoans that he never took a lock of your hair. In a day or two, he may come and stand at your tomb, over your grave. Throw his body on the cold earth or stone. Curse the uncaring heavens.

No, you cannot wait that long. And what if he does not come? What if he does not hear your muffled cries?

It may occur to him to dig you up, as my love did me. Not out of any faint hope that you are still alive, that there was some mistake, although there was. He doesn’t do it for you at all. It’s for him. Oh, he’ll say he just wants some small token—that lock of hair or a scrap from your dress. Or else he only wants to say goodbye, to look at your face once more before the rot and the maggots take it. Some want more than tokens, more than words, more than tearful looks.

If you are sick in here, you will have to live with it, as long as you live. Swallow down the bile. Save your strength.

They were hasty when they put you in the earth; they often are when it’s quick, unexpected. Someone young. Your grandfather’s monument was finished long before he gasped his last. You have only your best dress, your simple wooden box, your long white sheet. The earth over your coffin has not settled. The mausoleum is locked, but they designed it against grave robbers, not escapees.

I’m not saying it will be easy. I assure you, it will not be. But you have a chance.

Your first impulse will be to scratch, tear at the wood with your delicate nails and peel up curlicues of fiber piece by piece. This will take far too long. The wood is cheap, but it’s also almost green. If it were rotten, maybe. No, you’ll take advantage of the hasty craftsmanship. You’ll kick and punch and thrash. Beat at the boards, loosen the bindings. This is no time to be dainty—the gentility of your last life has no place here. You are a woman embattled. Recall every tiny step you had to take instead of running. That ridiculous demure whisper—eyelids lowered—you exhaled, breathy, instead of shouting. Un-bottle the girl you were before you heard the word “unladylike” for the first time all those years ago.

There is no one here to offend. No breaches of courtesy. No injury of your reputation. Just you: under the earth, behind stone.

If you are lucky, you are above ground and your struggles will have tipped your coffin onto the floor, where it’s broken. You crawl out from the splintered boards, disheveled and panting. Your heartbeat is thrumming in your ears and, although you are cold, you are alive, blood rushing through you. If the undertaker doesn’t hear your cries, you will have to smash your way out, attacking the gated door. If you are clever, you might take the pin from your hair and pick the lock. Or else you grin, heady with your fury, and begin the barrage with urn or statuary, whatever’s handy.

Maybe, though, you are unlucky, like I was. Maybe the earth begins to shower through the cracks in your prison. Maybe you are panicking. It’s hard, but keep breathing, shallow, through your nose. Cover your mouth with your shroud. You have only this moment before you will need to dig, to climb. Take a breath in each pocket of air you find—they are precious. Do not stop. This is not the moment to quit, to fall victim to the frailness they taught you was lovely. This, this is lovelier, this struggle for the surface, your filthy fingers breaking through the topmost layer, that first deep clear breath of fresh air, cold and pure in your aching lungs.

Entombed or buried, drink deep this taste of freedom. It is yours and yours alone.

You have a choice now, of course. Maybe the undertaker will find you, flopped on the wet grass like a caught fish, collapsed on the steps of your family’s crypt. If you wait, there will be voices and blankets and hot tea with a little brandy to help you sleep. Your mother will weep on your hands and even your stoic father will look at you with wet-eyed affection and your brothers and sisters will wait on you for days. And your love, your love will never leave your side again. You could wait and it will happen.

Or—

Or, you could struggle to your feet, pull a workman’s coat from a nearby headstone, shrug it over your thin shoulders. Hands in the pockets, head down, you could walk away from all of it, newly made. Reborn.

And never look back.


Julia Patt has never met an abandoned bookstore she didn’t like. Her fiction has appeared in such publications as Phantom Drift, The Fiction Desk, and PANK. She lives in Maryland with her family and two cats.

The Imp of the Perverse

You can listen to an audio file of this poem here


He asked, “Why not take
that jewelry from your dead
mother’s safe deposit box?”
Now you have a lovely emerald.
Your siblings never found out.

 

He said your spouse wouldn’t
suspect a thing if you invited
that cute business associate
over to your hotel room. You
still smile to yourself about that one.

 

And when he told you
to send the fat cats a message,
you felt no anxiety pushing
a button in the voting booth
for someone who could start a war.

 

So when his confident voice says:
“Twenty stories, that’s not so far.
Don’t you know you’re immortal?”
Go ahead and have an adventure.
He’s never steered you wrong.


Chris Bullard’s chapbook Leviathan was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press, and Kattywompus Press published High Pulp in the winter of 2016. His work has appeared in publications such as 32 Poems, Rattle, Pleiades, River Styx and Nimrod.