One of the definitions of feast according to Webster’s New World Dictionary is “anything that gives pleasure because of its abundance or richness.” It’s a fitting description for the pieces in this issue of Atticus Review, so take a break from the seasonal celebrations and relish a different sort of sustenance.

In her essay “My Wife Sam,” Tabitha Blankenbiller conjures up an imaginary wife when her husband extols a garbage ziti she assembled from leftovers: “’I want a wife around to appreciate when I make something good,’ I told my friend Christian over the phone after I’d plastic-wrapped the scant remaining ziti. I wanted a permanent resident with the same attitude as my girlfriends, the ones who fawn over my blog posts and pictures, who would not choose chili burritos over cassoulet. ‘Your alternate universe wife,’ said Christian, opening up the game. The first question: where did you meet?”

In his short story “Feasts of the Heart,” Gary Powell takes us into the lives of three of the people preparing the sumptuous meals in the kitchen of an upscale restaurant: “Angel is a man who has gnawed corn stolen from a farmer’s field, swallowed grubs plucked from the underside of a dead log, and consumed half-eaten hamburgers lifted from a dumpster. He has felt the emptiness of hunger and fears that hunger will find him again. He enjoys staff meals because they are the most wonderful meals he’s ever eaten and also because Francesca has a hand in them. He is also wary of them because they weaken with their lush flavors and multi-layered textures, and weakness is a luxury Angel cannot afford.”

Clio Velentza’s flash fiction “The Animals” offers a haunting vision of winter that reminds us that we too are animals: “Some wild things may be a little less hungry tonight. It is a frost. The young are dying in their sleep, in nests, in holes, on the ground. The young are beginning to rot with sorrowful cracking of fur and skin. This young went with its beak open. That young went with its cries muffled and lips pale blue. It has soft blond hair with purple butterfly clips and a coat with hearts for pockets.”

In his poem “A Wedding,” Ryan Mattern transports us to nature too: “The afternoon had longed at the inlet,/ oysters raw and grilled, green and white,/ pulled from the same water lapping/ at our feet, the feel between our toes/ the same as on our tongues.”

In Katie Cortese’s flash fiction “Royal Treatment,” a group of women long for something more than their ordinary lives: “Mid-lunch on The Fig Leaf’s patio, a week before a real live prince will wed the ordinary daughter of two former flight attendants, of all things, each of us are two G&Ts in, except Martha, who went with daiquiris and smiles blearily with strawberry breath, too buzzed to kick Joanie under the table at her crack about calories, and how it’s a good thing it won’t be Martha on the arm of a prince any time soon.”

In his flash fiction “in a holiday humour,” Timston Johnston tells the tale of a relationship that begins and ends with flights into space: “Two years in, he gives a hundred dollars to a homeless man. I wanted a ring, but I carry leftovers instead: rib-eye, asparagus, knotted bread, and wrapped saltine crackers from every emptied table we’d passed. The man says he’ll do anything for us, and Stanmore says, Build me a rocket ship.”

In Tori Bond’s flash fiction “Date Night,” a couple tries to reinvent their marriage: “He fingered the drink menu. ‘Illusion 1 or 2?’ Was he talking about happiness or another drink? She knew better than to ask such a probing question. They’d end up in an argument. ‘If I drink a Zombie, will I be transformed? Oh wait, I’m already a zombie wife.’ ‘I’m trying here. I want this to work,’ George said. ‘Mission Impossible,’ he said and pounded his finger on the sticky menu.”

In Sherrie Flick’s flash fiction “Ball and Chain,” a mother and daughter have brunch at the café they used to go to after shopping together, but this time the speaker’s father is absent for a different reason: “Dad seemed proud when we carted home those handled shopping bags. He smiled like: “This is America, and I’m part of the dream. I work so you can buy these things with tags you never wear. This is my destiny.” Unlike other dads, he never made fun of our shopping, never made fun when mom changed out the holiday tablecloth each year going from harvest leaves to snowmen to Easter eggs. He gathered all the pride in. Now, though, pride is not on his mind. Breathing is a big preoccupation.”

McKendy Fils-Aime’s poems “The summer mom said I put you in this world, I can take you out” and “Whale Fall Triptych” ruminate on hunger: “to dwell on the dead/ does not always mean a descent/ into darkness. It is sometimes a feast./ sleeper sharks spend months taking/ their fill of a whale’s corpse./ you can call them scavengers,/ but scavenge is an ugly synonym/ for re-purpose, for nourish, for take/ me into your mouth, if it means i will stay/ here a while longer./ hunger is how we remember what is gone.”

In Hannah van Didden’s flash fiction “Mother’s Milk,” a young girl has an unwholesome appetite: “It took minutes for her to drink in the whole of her mother from neck to toe, bones and all, until the only part left of her was the head—externally intact, though ever so slightly dehydrated. The brain had been devoured, the skull sucked clean from within.”

From her essay “Hoo Cooks for You,” Ilene Dube remembers her mother through stories of food: “Maybe because it was green, but she always said I used too much olive oil. My mother didn’t like green cuisine. Whatever I cooked, she asked if there was zucchini in it. When I’d give her the tour of my garden, she’d point to plants with big leaves and say, ‘Is that zucchini?’ I’m not sure what frightened her about zucchini. It was only after her death that I began spiralizing it into spaghetti.”


Photo by Dean Pasch