Stephen Cicirelli

Mindy “Baybee” Byrne

She’s born in Bernardsville, New Jersey and dies somewhere near Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. In between, she swallows a half-dollar and has to go to the ER; in second grade she asks her grandfather how long he plans to live, whether he brushes his teeth; she learns “Rhiannon” on the piano; she gives her father the Heimlich maneuver during breakfast, auditions for a metal band; for April Fool’s Day she rubs fiberglass on the cheerleaders’ rah-rahs; she loses her virginity on AstroTurf, eyes open, hair blue; she goes Christmas shopping with her mother’s boyfriend; she has a recurring nightmare in which the sky is a board game and she a thimble; she meets Ringo Starr in the metaphysics section of a bookstore; she dresses her father for a blind date, puts in his contacts; at night she has online discussions about pubic hair with a local boy called PunkieLite1989; she gives up pork roll and discovers the Quran; in the yearbook she wins “Most Likely to Live on Park Avenue”; she asks to face the ocean while the man in the gardening gloves pulls the trigger.


Previously published in Quick Fiction 18




I took the second draft of my suicide note to our university’s 24-hour writing laboratory, for revisions. Dr. Sprell, the only usage authority on call from 2 AM to 5, told me the note needed serious work. We sat next to each other in one of the study cubicles, and with a red fountain pen, she went through my ten-page handwritten note, sentence by sentence, underlining and crossing out and scribbling sad faces in the margins. A few times she winced and shrieked as if someone were sticking her ribs with sewing needles. When she was finished, she asked if I was the first person in my family to go to college. I told her both of my parents were doctors.

On her Dry Erase tablet, she drew a pronoun chart that looked like a pentagram. She said, “Adverbs are like kisses. Used sparingly they can jump-start your prose, maybe add some pizzazz. But when you rely too much on them, like kisses, they become a bad habit, marks of deficiency.”

Dr. Sprell then asked me to read one of the sentences she’d underlined. It was at the bottom of page four, in the paragraph in which I blamed my family for some of the issues I’d been having. After I read the sentence, Dr. Sprell said, “Now, remember what I told you about auxiliary verbs. Wouldn’t this sentence be much crisper if we said, ‘My world has so completely unraveled’?” She had a point.

After our session, I took the note back to my freshman suite, and I locked myself in a bathroom stall with a fresh legal pad. I made all the necessary revisions.

The morning I planned to hang myself, I went to the writing laboratory with the final draft of my note. It was now twenty-five handwritten pages. Dr. Sprell read it. She was impressed, as were my composition and philosophy professors. I was pleased. There in the study cubicle, Dr. Sprell said, “I really want to publish this.”

She showed the note to the laboratory’s hyphen expert, who was on call from 3 AM to 7, and he said, “I know a guy at The New Yorker.”  

This time, with her fountain pen, Dr. Sprell underlined only one sentence, the very last one. I knew she would. In my suite, I’d struggled with it for hours. “It’s really a matter of style,” she said. “Ultimately, it’s up to you. You’re the author.”

I went back to my suite, with the note. I couldn’t decide how to end it. On my computer, alone, I typed the twenty-five handwritten pages. They were only eight in my word processor. I printed them.

I had thirteen different endings, and because I couldn’t decide which to use, I printed all of them. I attached them to the note with a paperclip, in the order in which I hoped they’d be read. I saved my favorite ending for last.


Previously published in Cardinal Sins 35.1



Washington "The First Shall be First" Franey

He’s born in De Soto, Georgia and dies in De Soto, Georgia. In between, he’s told there’s no Tooth Fairy and no God; at a sleepover, he kisses Perdy Fuller’s breasts; for Halloween he dresses as a warm thermometer; one morning he finds an older brother hanging dead from their basketball hoop, tow rope around his neck; he eats barbecued scorpion off a skewer; he sees his father’s penis in a public shower; he divorces a magician’s assistant, marries a total stranger from the lumber mart; he paints a watercolor of his daughter in her wedding gown; he skydives over the Everglades, does MDMA, and stops going to church; he kills two men for sawing through his fence, tattoos a scarecrow on his palm; he prays during his son-in-law’s kidney surgery; he regrets going to his mother’s funeral; during one of his evening meals he calls his hospice nurse an “upside-down nigger”; he learns that the only women worth having are the ones who can’t cook and have hyphens in their names; his last words: “As long as you’re happy.”


Previously published in Quick Fiction 18