"Fiction is the microscope of truth."
(Links to these published stories are available here when copyrights are returned to me.)
Working from Home
Free State Review (2020 publication date to be announced)
We live in a four-room first floor condo, perfect for a couple who doesn’t spend much time at home. There’s a window in the kitchen that best catches the morning light as it rises over a golf course. The window in the dining room fronts on the gray brick wall of the adjacent condo. What little light finds its way to this window looks unhealthy, a muddy residue. I set up shop on the small oak gate leg table that came from my grandmother which sits now in front of that window. Jenn normally keeps a handful of houseplants on that table: a spider, a jade and something that looks like a lily. I replace the plants with my laptop and phone and pull up a folding chair.
A Summer of Love
Vessel (May 2020)
She cried softly, the way that worn black and white photo always made her cry. She kept it hidden from her family. She took the photo into the bathroom and tried to recreate her twenty-two-year-old smile. She thought about the birth of her twins and when, last year, her granddaughter was born. She looked from the photo to the mirror and back. The smiles were different. As happy and content as she was now, she knew she would never again be that carefree, lithesome young woman standing in the Haight at the height of the Summer of Love.
Sail Along Silverman
Great Ape Journal - "A literary journal of absurdist humour" (March, 2020)
Marlene Blumberg, who was always late to Saturday morning services, happened to enter the sanctuary just as the gun went off. She reached out to catch Marvin as he fell, more by reflex than anything else, but Marvin was heavy and she found herself underneath him, his blood dripping onto her face and newly highlighted hair.
Apeiron Review (2020 publication date to be announced)
Some months later, he complained again to Lyle about his inability to meet the right woman. Lyle suggested JDate, and Kessler signed up. One of the women he met for tea turned out to be a man. It was a pleasant evening; they had much in common. And except for the transsexual-heterosexual divide, he wouldn’t have minded seeing him again. The two others were decent, attractive ladies for whom Kessler felt nothing. “It’s not working,” he said.
The Yo-Yo Man
Drunk Monkeys (2020 publication date to be announced)
This story was selected as one of the ten Fiction Finalists in the 2019 Tiferet Writing Contest and has been accepted for publication in Drunk Monkeys.
Solemn faced, they line up to shake Freddie’s hand. They’re sorry, they say. May her memory be for a blessing. Women hug him, leaving behind on his cheek powders with gray metallic scents. He is ten. Sitting in the chapel next to his father in front of the pine casket containing his mother, he is unsure how to behave. Should he thank them? Nod? Should he be crying? He’s done a lot of that over the last few days. He decides now simply to sit, hold tight to the black yo-yo his mother had given him and think about what his life will be without her.
Oddville Press (Fall 2019)
Life at Fort Leonard Wood picks up for Kessler where it left off. The summer heat makes the training more difficult, but the difficulty has a way of focusing his mind. And with the likelihood of imminent deployment, Kessler and his fellow soldiers are imbued with a seriousness of purpose, an urgency not present earlier. Three days pass before he calls Dorothy. “It’s good to hear your voice,” she says over the phone, but Kessler senses a difference. The distance he hears could be in her voice or in his mind. When he asks when he can see her, there is silence.
r.kv.r.y quarterly (Winter 2019)
2005 Metroversity Writing Contest - First Place in Graduate Division
Leon’s run to Indianapolis was, for the most part, along Route 31. Through Sellersburg, Memphis, Henryville, and Underwood. Past the deep cornfields of Vienna, Austin, Crothersville, and Uniontown. Up past Reddington, Azalia, and on to Columbus. Mile seventy. He had just completed a repetition of The Esterlink and felt confident. It was The Runner that gave it a name and made Leon wealthy. His technique, it was claimed, enabled a runner to get past the wall, to continue running much farther than would otherwise be possible. It looked bizarre even to Leon. “Who’s crazy enough to do this shit in public?” he thought. “You’d look like a fool.”
Rumble Fish Quarterly (Spring 2019 Edition)
The restaurant faces Central Park and we choose to sit outside in the warm fall evening. Potted banana trees are placed to afford each table an illusion of privacy. Joan is laughing at something I said when the shooting starts. It is a sincere laugh, one that makes me smile. One of the bullets, the fourth or tenth—I can’t remember—enters her head and she is dead before her wine glass shatters on the concrete floor. There are many deaths at the three locations the terrorists hit that night.
The Coracoid Process
Likely Red Press
Each question was like a punch to Benny’s right shoulder. He seemed to feel the quivering of his coracoid process. The pain was real. He answered with a studied politeness, smiling through the pain. After a while, the questions ceased and in a strange way, Benny missed them. He missed the way other people linked him to baseball. But one minute he was the guy who pitched against Tom Seaver, the next he was just another dock jock.
A Christmas Tree for Cogan
“Cogan, there is only one message: Rejection. We don’t want their Christmas trees. Period.” The rabbi’s sharp tone startled Cogan. The clergyman had a round, pleasant face with thick brown eyebrows and curly dark hair. Still in his forties, he had the curved back and gait of a much older man. His voice was low and calming—so much so that there were times his sermons put Cogan to sleep. But this response, like a clap of thunder, got Cogan’s attention. “In the meantime,” the rabbi continued, “I’m going to talk with Father Gordon.”
Ginger was given to Lenore’s grandmother in 1924 by an Indian prince who bought it on an island in the Seychelles. The giant tortoise rarely moved, and was still enough these days that Lenore often used him as a coffee table. Why would an Indian prince give a giant tortoise to Lenore’s grandmother who lived in a rent-controlled apartment in New York City? Lenore was never told the whole story, but she knew her grandmother was a long-legged hoofer who made a name for herself in some classic Hollywood song-and-dance movies of the Twenties and Thirties and she, Lenore, could put two and two together as well as anyone.
Good Works Review
Years later on one of my visits to Chicago—we must have been in our late thirties by then and I was engaged to Betty—I called Herb. Linda answered. Herb was out of town on an audit but why didn’t I come by for dinner? She sounded cheerful and I accepted. I was anxious to see how she looked after all those years, and brief fantasies blossomed in my brain about being alone with my old girl friend. I supposed every guy thought about the one that got away, the old flame. If she came on to me, how should I respond? What if she said she married the wrong man? I wanted to think that through. How I would react. Is it likely we could carry on an affair without Herb finding out?
A Geometry of Life
Chicago Quarterly Review
It was a mistake, of course, that first time. An accident. His hand brushed her breast as he was reaching for the hot sauce. Ginger pretended not to notice. She was looking down at her plate of green papaya salad with smoked tofu, but there was a sly smile, a smirk, he might have said, on her lips and Cogan knew what she was thinking.
The Louisville Review
Nominated for a Pushcart Prize
2004 Metroversity Writing Contest - First Place in Graduate Division
“At this point,” Apperson says, “I’m not sure what I actually saw and what I’ve simply seen in movies or read about. It’s like looking at old vacation photos—they don’t just remind you of the trip. Over time they tend to become the trip. Yes? I remember having Jewish friends, boys and girls. And I remember, except for one, they were no longer around after the war.”
Literary LEO (2013)
In the days following, she found herself thinking about the Indian tailor. She often found herself thinking about men, and made no attempt to drive away those thoughts. On the contrary, she told herself it wasn’t a crime to fantasize. It could add some excitement to her life. What’s the harm in that? Last year, it was a young workman who had come to check on a faulty gas range. Earlier this year, it was the new doorman.
Apple, Watch, Penny
On this particular late winter afternoon, he stands on that deck, naked save for his black socks, wondering where the world’s color has gone. The gray sky and the sprinkling of snow seem to render as monochrome the trees, the neighboring houses and the distant view of the taller buildings downtown. Whether this drabness soaked into his skin or emanated from it, he isn’t sure.
Gutman Goes Free
The Oddville Press
The guard turns his back to light a cigarette and William “Dutch” Gutman, seizing the opportunity, squeezes through the gate and is gone. He was a long-distance runner in high school and still has some steam left in those skinny legs of his to make it over the bridge and into Manhattan. Cars to his left, the Hudson on his right, with each step he feels freer. The air is fresh; the sun is shining; the few hundred bucks his mother had smuggled into the joint is stuffed in his underwear.
Blue Lake Review
This Shabbat morning, under the heavy, low clouds of an early Chicago spring, Cogan is sitting in the synagogue and, as he looks up from his prayer book, he notices a young woman—someone he’s not seen before—standing on the bema with the rabbi. He finds himself staring at her during most of the service. He allows himself to daydream.
Marvin Kessler's Shoes
Mobius: The Journal of Social Change
Marvin Kessler’s belief in God set him apart from his family and most of his friends. Life was serious stuff to him and needed an organizing force. In the spring of 1953, his search for meaning led him to ask for guidance from Rabbi Hyman Plotkin, as learned a man as there was in Albany Park—perhaps in all of Chicago. Rabbi Plotkin, fat, balding and a lover of cheap cigars, responded with an instructional on shoes. “First you put on your left shoe, then the right. Then you tie your right shoe and then the left.”
Blue Lake Review
It was a crazy life with no future. Business was bad and getting worse. I had to be at Malloy’s at five in the evening and couldn’t leave until four, four-thirty the next morning. Six days a week. The only women I knew were hookers and strippers. I worked all night and slept most of the day.
Rothstein Before the Fall
Front Porch Review
"Over here, Charlie." There it was again, that voice. He walked to the sculpted woman and stood facing her. It was Rodin's Eve After the Fall. The woman looked ashamed of herself, her arms shielding her breasts, one hand held as if imploring God not to strike her down. "Put your hand on my ass," it told Rothstein. He looked around. There were other people in the gallery, but they seemed not to hear what he was hearing.
Word Riot (2016)
“Wishing ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. Shall we begin?” He takes my measurements. “I’ll be back in a week. In the mean time, go see this barber.” He hands me a business card: ‘Colin Briskin, Tonsor. Hairdresser to the Stars.’
Somewhere in the Heart of Rome
The summer sun overwhelms the off-white walls of his hotel room, making them sparkle when what he craves, in his exhaustion, is darkness. From his vantage point at the window of this third floor room, with his hand on the drape cord, he sees, lying on her back, at the edge of the hotel pool below, a young woman wearing only the bottom half of her bikini. Cogan never thought of himself as a voyeur, but maybe, he realizes now, that was because the opportunity hadn't presented itself. He stands there, dog-tired and totally transfixed.
The Delmarva Review
A week in England, part of a sales award from the insurance company he represented. It was there he met Laura Cunningham, an agent from Madison, Wisconsin. One evening they walked the Dungeness nature reserve on the coast of Kent. Laura picked a flower and held it under Cogan's nose. "It's called a catchfly," she said. "Blooms at night. Smells like heaven. In Victorian times flowers had secret meaning and the rad catchfly, like this one, meant youthful love" They kissed and held each other and made promises that night that did not survive the flight back.
The Casket in Cogan's Cellar
“I don’t know where she is or who she is. I’m just assuming, hoping, she’s fine. I know this: She went to a good home. Your grandfather assured me of that. No paperwork. It wasn’t a strictly legal thing. They just took the baby. That’s the way things were done. Papa handled all the details. We did what we had to do. Get me a kleenex, sweetheart.”
A Mistake in the Parking Lot of the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport
12th Place in 2010 Writer's Digest Short Short Story Competition
“I’ve had to fight guys like you all my life. So superior. So righteous. Think your shit doesn’t smell, Al? Who you fucking, Al? Your secretary? Your maid? And how about Annie? Who’s she fucking while you’re here? Huh, Al? Who’s she fucking? Born again cocksucker.”
Carlton on the Verge
Is it just physical? Or does she really like him? Time will tell. He rings the doorbell and she answers in a white terrycloth bathrobe. Time has told. Boom, they’re in the sack again. He performs well, or so he thinks, what with all the screaming and scratching. They order out Chinese and argue over the last moo shu.
Blue Room With Woman
The Writing Disorder
(finalist in the Glimmer Train November 2009 Short Story Award for New Writers)
The deceased was a peddler who for forty years drove a horse-drawn wagon through the alleys of Albany Park, Budlong Woods and up through Chicago’s Golden Ghetto. I had never heard of him. Standing next to the casket, I was wrapped in a finespun sadness that left me feeling both peaceful and virtuous; I became a regular. I’d listen as the rabbi recited the Twenty-third Psalm, followed by some gracious comments on the exemplary life of the deceased: A family man, honest, hard working. I’d pay my respects to the family, drive to the cemetery and watch the burial. Sometimes I’d attend the meal of consolation.
Jacobs, the Jew
Cecil Jacobs was at Monza with McLaren the day his team set the Formula One record. At the victory party, the racing champion introduced him to a rambunctious young woman with hair the color of honey, telling her with a straight face that he couldn’t have done it without Jacobs. It was their little joke, since Jacobs was McLaren’s certified public accountant—not exactly part of his pit crew.
The History Lesson
Northern Liberties Review
“Forty years,” Kahlman says to the casket, taking a sip of bourbon from his flask. “Waiting for you to die, Max. Hoping I would live long enough to see this day. I thank God. And I didn’t have to kill you. You took care of that yourself. The news of your heart attack—Is that really what it was?—spread through the university like the clap. Our old secretary called me with the news barely a half an hour after they found your body."Grief counseling will not be necessary," she said.
Black Heart Magazine
The flight attendant was explaining to the handful of us in the first class cabin how to use the seat cushion as a floatation device, when the burning engine exploded, tearing off half the wing.
Nickel, Dime, Anything
Diverse Voices Quarterly
It was the violent storm with ark-building rain. Wind had whipped around his neighborhood, breaking off the tree limbs, splicing power lines, and darkening large swaths of the city. A bolt of lightning and an almost-instant clap of thunder shattered the bay window in the front of Pipkin’s ranch-style home, fracturing the large maple in his yard. The creaking noise that followed warned Pipkin the tree was about to fall.
All stories are copyright Robert H. Sachs, 2009-2020. All rights reserved.