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  • Writer's pictureClay Literary

RAVEN- Issue Eleven (09/27/2020)

Image Source: Kevin Dooley/Flickr

Skin history

Written by Philip Berry

A keloid worm lies across his child fresh knee

Below the navel a ragged arc, punctate outriders

Still palpable ten years after the surgeon placed

her final stitch. Beside the spine an open wound

Crimson lips that cannot seal, heart still beneath.

Author Bio: Philip is a writer and poet with previous publications in on-line and print journals such as Lucent Dreaming, Poetry Birmingham, Black Bough, Consilience, and Briefly Write. He works as a doctor in the NHS, and lives in London.


Kelly Seeks to Know WhatsApp

Written by Linda McMullen

My phone buzzed against my right buttock and, in my haste to retrieve it, I snagged the elbow of a pleasant-looking man making the best of early-onset male-pattern baldness. He introduced himself as Jason; I guess I nodded. I had just absconded from a three-hour Saturday lecture at the Smithsonian (“Technology/Psychology: The Paradox of the Modern Age in America”). The attendees were a DC Potpourri Mini-Assortment: dispirited graduate students chasing an inflection point, misdirected tourists with pretentions to Deep State gentility, ambivalent retirees, and holdovers from the previous lecture (“Lincoln and American Barbizon: A Study in Light and Shadow”).

In my defense, I had agreed to take a second ticket. For my second attempt.

Jen: So sorry I had to bail. How was it?

Me: That depends. On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad are you feeling?

Jen: 14.

Me: Watching paint dry had nothing on that lecture. Should I bring you soup?

Jason and I had both edged toward the exhibit’s rear, faces turned respectfully front, gazes anywhere else. My chin jutted toward the egress. As we sidled out, Jason’s masterful brows eviscerated a woman broadcasting her teenage daughter’s invitation to Homecoming, drowning the docent’s chirrups. My friend Tessa would have offered a one-fingered salute.

Tessa: Did you???

Me: Did I what?

Tessa: 💩

We coasted through the priceless flotsam of The American Presidency, trading Simpsons-worthy burns about our statesmen. (Although: we lifted figurative glasses to Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, the Roosevelts.) We avoided discussion of leaders from Truman onward to keep the conversation appropriate for first contact, Star Trek-ian or otherwise.

Jen: I’m binge-watching The Office.

Imogen: Obviously.

Tessa: This is time number…?

Me: 14.

Jen: Be kind. I’m sick.

Gabrielle: :D

Me: That *was* kind. :D

Tessa: Guys, I think I’m about to get fired.

Jen: Do you want to come and watch the Pam and Jim machine at a safe distance?

Imogen: Gabrielle and I can’t, we already bought movie tickets for tonight. Next time? Also, um, sorry, Tessa. That sucks.

Me: I can be there in an hour. I’ll bring soup.

Me: Yes, Jen, won ton.

I excused myself after a mandatory souvenir circuit, and gave Jason my number because it seemed quicker than inventing excuses. I ordered the soup ahead online, and brought Jen a fragrant offering before Casino Night. We reassured Tessa that her boss’s signals indicated only demerit-level annoyance. Jen praised the soup. I said I’d bring it by any time. She beamed, tiredly.

Tessa stayed through the bachelor-party-Ben Franklin’s bar tricks, then made her excuses. I still couldn’t locate a sticking place for my courage but took my cue from Pam, ascendant, three episodes later.


She’d murmured ten minutes before, “Just wanted resting my eyes…” I tucked the covers up to her chin, showed myself out.

The next morning, my phone buzzed against my heel.

Jen: Sorry I flaked out on you.

Tessa: Yeah, Jen, we’ll never forgive you for getting mono.

Me: Yup. You’re a witch, may we burn you?

My phone buzzed again: an unfamiliar number.

Jason – following the classic, low-key, modern-male-feminist playbook – asked if I would like to meet for coffee sometime.

Jen: Whatever, bitches. I’m moving onto watermelons and a trampoline momentarily.

I love the heart-stopping moment where emerald rind and ruby pulp explode on Stanley’s car… Michael’s insouciant delinquency… Jen had turned to me aglow and shrieking with laughter, the first time we watched it.

I waited less than a heartbeat.

I texted Jason: Maybe later in the week?

Me: Be right there.

Jen: I’d hope so.

An irrational hatred for that ‘d’ surged.

Later Jason and I malingered at Cava and exchanged correct opinions on the weather, Washington’s oppressive traffic, and the successes of the various local sports teams (minus its NFL contingent). And so on.

I could let myself drop from the dangling hook and say that the words never came, on little cat feet or otherwise. I could argue that three remained always and forever a crowd, especially when Tessa dropped out temporarily while job-hunting, and Gabrielle and Imogen subbed in. Or that I feared devastating our gossamer quincunx with a misplaced question. But the fact remained that Jason – cheerful, dependable, inoffensive Jason – required no explanations.

Six months after our first meeting, Jason suggested that I could get on his health insurance. I closed my eyes, and pictured a late 90s vibe for the reception. Chicken, fish, a vegan option. A reciprocal, respectful bite-of-cake exchange.

Tessa: You know the rest of us will all be offended when you pick your maid of honor, right?

Me: Counting on it.

Gabrielle: Gotta be Jen.

Imogen: No strapless dresses, please? PLEASE.

Jen: … [then, nothing]

Afterward she draped a smile on her face: “Yes, if you insist.”

My phone launched itself off the Shake Shack table, buzzing gleefully.

“Anything new from the girls?” asked Jason, offering me a fry.

“Nah” – to both.

“What time are you meeting Jen?”


His eyes crinkled and I saw everything: The man-and-wife pronouncement. Jason cradling his firstborn. The staid vow renewal.

I looked back toward my phone.

“Have a good time,” he smiled.

Jen: I’m sorry, I can’t make it.

Me: Is everything OK?

Jen: … [then, nothing]

I couldn’t take Tessa’s crowing about her new job on Capitol Hill, though (obviously) delighted for her; Imogen and Gabrielle had immovable nail appointments. I went; I live-texted horror images and captions to the group:

Me: Me as a perpetual-spinster choir-mistress.

Me: Me as a mobile bedsheet.

Me: Me as an avenging angel.

Tessa: Kelly as a failed Instagram experiment. :D Love you hon.

I accidentally sent a picture to Jason. He called and announced that I looked beautiful, but it was bad luck.

One message, to just Jen.

Me: Maybe I’ll skip the dress and just wear jeans.

Jen: … [then, nothing]


But soft! the little blue signal-light on my phone…

Jen: Kelly, I… have something to tell you. Can we talk?

Author Bio: Linda McMullen is a wife, mother, diplomat, and homesick Wisconsinite. Her short stories have appeared or are forthcoming in over fifty literary magazines, including, most recently, Drunk Monkeys, Storgy, and Newfound.



Written by Darshini Poola

Ah! The scent of sandalwood; Drifted into my hostel room; Wickedly echoing tunes of days bygone, Of episodes, of memories; Of Home. Yes, I missed being home. The profound realm of my heart; Where I wore the crown of leaves; That shaped my resolute beliefs; Since the day I opened my eyes. Through the wistful eras when; To trust, not once did I think twice; Naivety was a blessing divine. There was once a time when; I promised myself; That I’d never leave this place. Never. But alas! The crown of leaves; Now, too small to reach my temples; Shrunk, shrivelled, slipped unnoticed. Untold to me, I’d shed a part of myself. The butterfly had finally detached itself; From its cocoon’s safe haven; Intoxicated by liberty. Indeed, I’d shed a part of myself. A blunder it was. A blunder, I say. It all began with the snap of a twig. Not long before the entire tree wildly shook. On the verge of being rooted out; Rotten weeds sinfully stifled my voice; Artless, I walked into the trap of deceit. I stood staring at the face of bitter truth. The world wasn’t the fantasy of my dreams. My heart raced; Raced in the hope of stumbling on solace. Ran till I grazed my sole (soul?) to fire. To the point of volatility; Like the scent of sandalwood; Stranded, I wept in anguish, “Please take me home!”

Author Bio: Darshini Poola is a writer and artist. They love composing poems that carry a simple yet profound message, as well as create digital images to accompany the posts. Check out their work on Instagram.

#DarshiniPoola #PhilipBerry #LindaMcMullen #RAVEN #ClayLiterary #shortstory #poetry

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