Smell of Rain by Ray Collins

Scattered stains decorated dry grass that bordered the path leading down from a bungalow.

An elderly man sat rocking on the front porch, studying somber clouds across the valley. A tic under his right eye kept time with the motion of the chair. Tufts of white hair stuck out around a battered Tennessee Smokies baseball cap. Faded bib overalls stopped an inch above the tops of work shoes.

“Gonna rain 'fore nightfall - I can smell it," he muttered to the hound napping on the floor. He readjusted the tobacco cud in his left cheek with his tongue, leaned forward and let loose a chocolate-colored stream that just cleared the porch railing.

He rocked back, looked down at the dog, rubbed its head. “Tell you what, Chaser, I’m in the record book and that means I’m still alive. Yessir, batting champion, Southern League, 1974: Hank Jenkins - .369. And that’s who I’ll be until some college kid outdoes me. Some kid who’s squeezin' zits in a bathroom mirror today."

Two small planes droned overhead and banked toward the Mississippi River.

Henry glanced at the crumpled paper on the table beside an open packet of Brown Mule Chewing Tobacco. He rubbed his jaw, frowned, tipped forward and squirted another defiant rivulet over the rail. “By gawd, I’m here 'til something moves me out."


Chaser looked up, yawned, then put his head down on his front paws.


Henry launched a weary sigh. "Wonder what will catch up with me first; that kid or cancer?"



###

Summer evening on the porch
Konstantin Korovin

Wheelchair Waits by Bill West

Spokes flash orange under street lights. Tires rumble across pavement cracks. Andrew bats his wheelchair wheels. The tires suck a dry track, picking up chip wrappers and leaves to scatter them in his wake. He doesn’t care that the dogs bark and snap or that children jeer as he passes. He’s headed for the fair.

Music thumps in his chest; red, yellow and blue lights chase across his upturned face. He peers at waltzers, carousels and bumper cars. He licks his lips at the smell of hot-dogs and the sight of pink candy-floss on sticks.

He weaves amongst the crowd, his eyes fixed on the Ferris wheel with its red and yellow spokes reared up on a giant A and decked out with lights. Gondolas grunt as they are hoisted into the crisp, cold sky.

The man with slicked back hair and tattooed arms takes his money and lifts him into the gondola.

And then he rises. Each gondola fills with giggling girls and joking boys. The wheel moves again inching him into the sky.

He’s at the top. From here he can see the town, beyond the docks, across the river’s estuary. Below his empty wheelchair waits.

Stars rain pin-prick light on his face. The man in the moon swims out from a cloud and winks. That solitary cloud, green and ragged like floating seaweed, sweeps inland, bringing the tang of ocean- spray. Closer, it looks like a fishing boat with nets spilling fish and mermaids singing in its wake.
And on the boat will be Andrew's daddy coming home from the sea.

And tonight there will be boiled sweets and angel rides, fish and chips and games by the hearth. Mum will lock the door in the faces of 'uncles’ smelling of beer and Andrew will laugh as he rides on daddy’s shoulders again, arms out-flung, spinning round and round, higher than everyone.

###


Carousel by Vilmos Aba-Novak

Diet-Tribe by Lauran Strait

"You aren't really going to wear that, are you?" Annabelle, my sixteen-year-old, feigned a retch.

“Stop being so theatrical," I said, admiring the orange sweater adorned with a forest of red-leaved trees. “Be happy I'm not wearing the one with the battery-operated appliqué." I smoothed a row of knitted trees across my stomach. “Maybe I should switch to the one with the grumpy gremlins, purple pumpkins, and scowling skulls? What do you think?"

“I think I'm gonna spew." Nose and eyes squeezed into a sneer, Annabelle flounced on my bed.

“No spewing in here. Hurl in your own room if you must."

Annabelle smirked. “It's not funny. What if one of my friends sees you wearing that hideous thing? Trust me, Mom. It's not a pretty picture. You look like a ginormous pumpkin on a stick."

“Well, of course I do. So what? By wearing a tacky garment like this, I'm telling the world that I love Halloween so much I don't mind looking like I've spent the year consuming nothing but pecan pies and pumpkin lattes laced with rum."

“Since when have you loved Autumn that much?

“Since never. But that’s beside the point. I just want to look like I do."

“That doesn’t make sense."

“Sure it does. Imagine how surprised my friends will be come January when I've shed these fall sweaters and the December holiday sweaters and no longer resemble a Christmas dumpling. They'll wonder how I managed to lose all the weight over the holidays. I'll be the envy of them all."

“Yeah, riiiiiight." Annabelle rolled her eyes.

“I am right. And you too can be the envy of your friends, regaling them with your own dieting prowess in January, if you wear nothing but stuff like this for the next ninety days."

“You're wacko. You know that, right?"

“I prefer crazy smart, thank you very much."

Annabelle sighed. “So about your ornamental ugly-sweaters. . . do you really think I should wear them?"

“Sure." Static electricity crackled as I pulled the woolen forest over my head and tossed it her way. “A word of advice, though, don’t look in a mirror while you’re wearing any of these fashion nightmares. Might make you spew. Talk about embarrassing."

Can't anyone untie us? by Francisco Goya

Cut Loose by Digby Beaumont

It’s impossible for my dad to move: overnight he’s turned into a kite.
He lies motionless on his bed, a checkerboard of garish red and yellow panels, such a contrast to the sober greys of his old three-piece business suits.
“First Mum, now this," I say. “What were you thinking?"
“Check me out," he says. “High-performance ripstop nylon sail, graphite spars and an eight-foot wingspan fully extended."
“So what was wrong with your old life?" I ask.
“What, reaching for a hand that’s no longer there? Sitting hollow-eyed in front of the TV night after night? Lying awake alone?"
“You didn't consider my feelings?" I say. “You're the only family I have left."
“Listen," he says. “I'm counting on you."

It’s a fresh October morning. He’s chosen a nearby beach. “Keep your back to the wind," he says, “and hold me up till the current catches my sail."
I do as he says and hurl him upwards. He hovers momentarily before swooping to the ground.
“No use," I say. “Not enough wind. Let's go home, try again another day." But I feel his gaze, so full of lightness and hope.
This time I lay him on the sand and step backwards, feeding out his line from its winder. Fifteen feet away, I wait. The wind gusts and I pull.
He takes off and soars skywards, his long tail streaming.
Not long after, another kite appears. Then another. Soon a dozen or so dot the skyline. One of the fliers approaches and we nod to each other.
By now Dad has climbed as high as his line will take him. He tugs, hoisting me onto my toes. I wave back before letting go, and the sun hurts my eyes as he continues his ascent.

###


Costume design for the Opera "Legend of the Invisible City of Kitezh and Maiden Fevronia" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov by Ivan Bilibin

Shout Out for Ray Collins

"The Crafts" issue is dedicated to Ray Collins, who died last year. Ray helped establish the magazine, and he was "The Linnet's Wings" Micro Fiction editor from 2007 to 2012, a full obit can be found at the following link.

R.I.P. Ramon

Dietary Life Rules by Utagawa Kunisada, Style: Ukiyo-e

Quisling by Lauren Strait



There, there, poor babies." Elizabeth pats the side of the red Playmate cooler as she stares inside. "Such little ones this time." She fishes out the last of the doves from their bed of dry ice. "What's the world coming to? Broken wings and plucked feathers. Have they no decency?

Sighing, Elizabeth places the bird on a strip of aluminum foil. She slides the shiny paper around the countertop until it’s in a beam of light.

“Time for your sunbath, little one. You look so pale without your feather coat. My, my. They didn’t have to strip you. Such barbarians."

Elizabeth turns away from the tanning dove and frowns at the remaining flock. Nine birds rest on foil strips, laid out in three rows of three-a mini cemetery-atop the granite countertop.

“I know, babies. You never saw this coming. Who would? They plucked you! Can you believe it? I’ll make this quick, preserving what I can. It’s the least that should be done."

Sunlight through the window limns the wrinkles of Elizabeth’s knuckles as she carefully and solemnly folds the foil over each dead dove; she re-adjusts and fusses over the birds until she’s satisfied that the recently departed are secured in airtight shrouds.


“Nighty night, sweet ones." Elizabeth coos baby talk babble while she entombs the birds in her freezer, alongside packages of boneless, skinless chicken breasts she found on sale for $1 .75-a pound. As she swings the door closed, the light inside the frozen crypt winks out.


“Only two more hours," Elizabeth says to the thawing bird lying in the sunbeam. “Should I serve you with rice or potatoes?"

###


The Language of Frost by Bill West

He drifts
across frozen fields to the house beside the tarn watches her from
the garden as she sits motionless at a Christmas table set for two, her plate untouched.

He strokes the
window with phantom fingers and in the fractal language of frost he writes “love" on every pane.


###




Garden Under Snow by Paul Gaughin

Don Diego Takes The Miracle Cure at Ojo Caliente

by Ann Walters


What remains after pain is an uncertain quiet, an uneasy ease. He no longer knows how to fill the void that is left. It’s hard walking the path down to the hot springs without the pressure of swollen joints to temper each step. There is too much freedom. He feels like a calf on the wrong side of the fence. When no one is looking, Don Diego lets his arms swing wide and skips like a schoolchild. This will not do. Old cattlemen do not skip. The absurdity of an 'old’ cattleman makes him laugh gruffly, like a lost steer coughing in a pine thicket.

He tries to find his swagger before he gets to the pool, tries to bend his knees as if hugging a saddle. There’s nothing he can do about the silence except whistle a little to cover the absence of creaks and pops. Don Diego tries to blow melancholy, but it’s not easy on warm red rock under a bright blue sky. When the girl with the towels starts humming along he gives up altogether.

In the night, he pulls a lariat from the bottom of his suitcase and twirls it in small circles again and again to warm up his wrist. Then he lassoes the bedpost fifty, a hundred, two hundred times in rapid succession until he feels his shoulder stiffen, his back begin to seize. He works the rope enough to get a small, welcome buzz of pain. Satisfied, Don Diego falls asleep to a litany of nerve and muscle complaints, the restless twitching of fingers tracing seventy years of work and ache. Tomorrow, he’ll test the waters again.

###

The Miracles of San Bernardino. The Healing of the blind and deaf Riccardo Micuzio by Pietro Perugin

Grace by Susan Isla Tepper

Set in 19th Century Russia during a time of war

You instruct me to go to the church. Defy the innocents. Rub holy water on my breasts. Put my lips to the lips of God. I stand before you staring at your mouth. Unable to speak. This journey, dear Petrov, will not be my saving grace. Salvation coming from the rocks and streams. The white birch forest. The mountain always in view. Protective. Its great shadow veils the house and what I most fear. Over top the guns fire. I try enduring that sound. Will I outlive the guns and cannon fire. soldier you have no answer. A soldier coated in the stench of war. Though I brushed your coat and scrubbed your boots 'til my hands ached. My sink a font. I bow to what my sink must endure. The birds come back each spring with a troubling regularity. They have the freedom to choose while I do not. I have few freedoms. Which hat to wear. Whether to darn my cloak or go ragged. The saints went ragged I say. Causing you to laugh considerably. Loud and bellowing. Crashing. Knocking your whisky over. I cover my ears and move toward the kitchen.Looking out its one smudged window. Singing a soft prayer: O black birds of Russia I know it isn’t true, the rage still burns bright in you.

###





Profile of a girl. Preparatory work for a decorative stain in red and green by Koloman Moser

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The Linnet's Wings is an Irish Bases Literature and Art Magazine