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News & Features » October 2013 » “Church Goers” by Margaret Barbour Gilbert

“Church Goers” by Margaret Barbour Gilbert

Thursdaze (because the weekend won’t come fast enough) features original flash fiction modeled after our Drug Chronicles Series. Each story is an original one, and each encapsulates the author’s fictional experience with drugs. Our print series has anthologized authors writing about marijuanacocainespeed, and heroin, but contributors to the web series can focus on any drug, real or imagined, controlled or prescribed, illegal or soon-to-be legalized. Submissions to Thursdaze will be judged on an author’s ability to stylistically emulate his or her substance of choice. Submissions are also limited to 750 words, so try to focus. (They have a pill for that.)

This week, Margaret Barbour Gilbert presents us with a tale of alcoholism and Burger King.Margaret Barbour Gilbert

Church Goers
(excerpted from Sugaring Off)
by Margaret Barbour Gilbert

Mrs. O’Connor liked Burger King because it was cheap. When I arrived the next day, she was putting on makeup and drinking Coca-Cola from a large glass. “I’m almost ready,” she said. “That’s good,” I answered, “because I hate going into Mass late.” “I always love to go places late,” she said. “I hate to be on time.” Mrs. O’Connor took a long drink from her glass. “That’s one of the many differences between you and me,” she said, and narrowed her eyes. “But Mrs. O’Connor,” I said, “we can’t be late for Mass. We really should leave now.” She nodded, but she continued to sit. Then she slowly got up and put on her coat. She was wearing heavy makeup and a sultry red lipstick. She had drawn on thick black eyebrows and put on a leopard-skin turban that matched her coat. She reeked of Chanel No. 5. When we got to the front door, I realized she was a bit unsteady. I hoped no one would notice the tremble in Mrs. O’Connor’s hand. We reached the corner and turned it, moving toward the church, but things were getting worse. Mrs. O’Connor had begun to hold on to the walls of the bank as we passed the building, and then, as we crossed the street, she suddenly fell down in the road, and traffic stopped. I tried to lift her, but I couldn’t. She was too heavy. She just lay in the road and panted, with her whiskey breath, while taxis and cars blew their horns at us. I kept trying to pull her up; finally she struggled to her feet, and we crossed. She wanted to go into the Mass, but I refused. I wondered what would happen if she passed out in church in her leopard coat and hat, and I persuaded her to return home. All the way, she leaned on me and clutched at the sides of the buildings that we passed. When we got to her house, she begged me to stay. “I would feel better if I had something to eat,” she said. I opened the refrigerator. There was lettuce and tomatoes and a package of cold cuts and a carton of potato salad alongside two beers. “We can order a value meal from Burger King,” she said. “But you can’t stand up, Mrs. O’Connor,” I finally said. “How can we have dinner?” “We can order in,” she said. “I have some pop in the kitchen.” She stood up dizzily. “How about it? Wouldn’t that taste good now, after all that walking? A drink will help me,” Mrs. O’Connor said, and moved toward the kitchen. Then she took out a juice glass, filled half of it with vodka, and drained it in one gulp. She leaned against the refrigerator and swallowed an aspirin. “Now I feel better,” she said, and she stared dreamily for a moment.


MARGARET BARBOUR GILBERT is the Third Place Winner of the 1999 Mudfish Poetry Prize selected by C.K. Williams for excerpts from her novella in stanzas, Sugaring Off, about an affair with Rudolf Bing, Metropolitan Opera impresario, who collected Grandma Moses paintings. She holds an M.F.A. in Poetry from City College of New York and a Master’s Degree in English Literature from Rutgers. In 2011, she was a Cooper scholar with an original paper on the literary relationship between James Fenimore Cooper and Emily Dickinson at the 25th International James Fenimore Cooper Conference at SUNY/ Oneonta. Finishing Line Press is publishing a chapbook, My Grandmother’s Engagement Room. “Eating Oatmeal” from this collection is included in the Everyman Library Pocket Poets anthology Conversation Pieces: Poems that Talk to Other Poems (Alfred Knopf, 2007). Sugaring Off, from which “Church Goers” is an excerpt, was recently among the top 20 manuscripts for the 2012 New American Fiction Prize.


Do you have a story you’d like us to consider for online publication in the Thursdaze flash fiction series? Here are the submission terms and guidelines:

—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your submission should never have been published elsewhere.
—Your story should feature a drug, any drug, and your character’s experience with it. We’ll consider everything from caffeine to opium, and look forward to stories ranging from casual use to addiction to recovery. Stylistically, we’ll respond most favorable to stories that capture the mood and rhythm of your drug of choice.
—Include your drug of choice next to your byline.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—E-mail your submission to info@akashicbooks.com, and include THURSDAZE in the subject line. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.


About the Drug Chronicles Series: Inspired by the ongoing international success of the city-based Akashic Noir Series,Akashic created the Drug Chronicles Series. The anthologies in the series feature original short stories from acclaimed authors, each of whom focuses on their fictional experience with the title drug. Current releases in the series include The Speed Chronicles (Sherman Alexie, William T. Vollmann, Megan Abbott, James Franco, Beth Lisick, Tao Lin, etc.), The Cocaine Chronicles (Lee Child, Laura Lippman, etc.), The Heroin Chronicles (Eric Bogosian, Jerry StahlLydia Lunch, etc.), and The Marijuana Chronicles (Joyce Carol Oates, Lee Child, Linda Yablonsky, etc.).

Posted: Oct 24, 2013

Category: Original Fiction, Thursdaze | Tags: , , , , ,