Saturday, May 17, 2008

Celebrating Issue 2 - Editor's Note

A special thanks to all the contributors of Tragic Pens Issue 2! We are currently in the process of shifting everything to our own domain. However, submissions will be read and considered so feel free to take a look at our guidelines and submit work for our upcoming issue.

Farhana Uddin


Photograph taken by Tobias.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Issue 2 - Pending by Almondie Shampine


A man walks into a restroom, pulling on his son's hand. At places such as these, there are always people coming and going, merely a short stop on the way to their final destination. They leave their mark, a part of themselves, and then they're gone, like dust particles in the wind. It is a stop where all is left pending, based on reaching that destination.

“I don't know why you couldn't just hold it until we got there, Mike. I swear it seems you do these things on purpose. I'm hardly going to be able to get you settled at the house before I have to take off for a meeting.”

“Meeting? But . . . you said we were on a vacation and were going to do fun things together and spend time together. You promised.”

“I couldn't tell them no, Mike. We talked about this. You know how long I've been waiting for this opportunity.”

“But it's so far away, Dad. Now I'm never going to see you.”

“You're going to be staying with me now, buddy, just like we always planned. Isn't that great? . . . What now? Why are you crying? Stop your crying. We can talk about this later.”

“That's not fair, dad. What about mom? What about all my friends?”

“If you want to see me more, then you've got to make a choice. We've been planning this for years, don't you remember? We're almost there, Mike, we're almost there . . . after all these years.”

“No, dad, I want to go home.”

The man grew rigid and cold. “It's too late for that now, Mike. The arrangements have already been made. You're staying with me. Period. I'm going to get you some McDonalds. Meet me out there.” The dad was gone and the little boy remained.

A man left the bathroom stall. “He just doesn't get it, does he, Mike?”

“It doesn't matter. He'll never understand. I'm so stupid. I believed him.”

“Do you want me to take you back to you mom's? Your mom's probably going nuts right now, not knowing where you are. Your dad didn't tell her he was taking you. He just took you and he doesn't plan on letting you go back.”

“But . . . why? Why wouldn't he . . . “

“Because he doesn't get it, Mike. He just doesn't get it.”

Almondie Shampine lives in New York with her two children. She has had two books published, and currently freelances full-time for magazines and newspapers. Visit for more information.

Photograph taken by Gerny.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Issue 2 - Dust for Mickey by Rosie Claverton

Dust for Mickey

“Keep going, keep going…”

He saw Mickey shift on the blanket, which meant he hadn’t died yet, so Dai hadn’t failed and Ma wouldn’t cry when they went to meet her and the Baby Jesus and the Angels.

“Dai, wheresa milk?” Ruthy tugged on his arm but he shoved her away, scraping up the coal dust and throwing it into the fire.

“Not now, gotta keep going, going…”

Ruthy started to cry, rubbing the dust from the floor over her face, wasting it, taking it. Mickey needed that dust!

“Get away!” he shouted and she shuffled back towards the wall, bawling about the milk and Mickey and how she wanted Pa to come back. He didn’t want Pa to come back. Why couldn’t she see that Pa was bad? Ma loved him but Ma was soft and Ma was gone and the fire was there.

“Mickey’s sick and needs the milk,” Ruthy said but he couldn’t listen to her. They had no money for milk or coal or anything at all. It was winter and the Angels were coming. He didn’t want Ma to cry.

There was no more coal to shovel. The spade hung from his numb fingers and he shook it off before staggering back to Mickey and the blanket, drawing him up and into his lap, just like Ma had done when they were small. Ruthy came over then and he pulled her up against his side, as they watched the fire slowly dying and the black crawling in.
Rosie Claverton lives in Cardiff, where she regularly battles Daleksand Weevils. She is an aspiring novelist and master of obfuscation, but only on Mondays and alternate Wednesdays. You can find her at The World of Rosie Claverton.

Photograph taken by Khalid Al-Haqqan.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Issue 2 - Sacrifice by Almondie Shampine


I spoke with him tonight. I did not hang up on him as I’ve been, because since this morning he has known something that he will do. He told me there was evil in his blood that he could not control, and because he could not keep himself from hurting others, he had to be destroyed. He had to sacrifice himself so that he wouldn’t hurt anyone else.

I didn't talk him out of it. I didn't try to stop him.

“I’m like my father, Diane. I like hurting people. I like making them feel as I’d been made to feel. I never imagined I could be this way, but then I hurt the very person I love the most. God, Diane, I almost killed you. … I’m so sorry.”

“Do you have your ID on you?” I asked him.

“And your number in my pocket.”

“They will know that I’m your wife.”

“You will know before they call you. I will visit you. Please don’t be scared. I will give you a kiss.”

“I will miss you and remember you as I loved you.”

“Thank you for everything, Diane. You’ll get two grand from social security, but I don’t think the Union benefits will cover suicide.”

“Can I pray for you?”


“I will pray for him to let you come home. I wish you could bring Rayne when you come so that I can know that you have her before you go home.”

“I will see you in a couple years, Diane. The Koreans are shooting missiles at us. World War III. It’s going to be the end of us.”

“The Myans predicted the end of the world to be December 12th, 2012.”

“Okay, so I will see you then. I love you, Diane. I think you’re the only person in this world I have ever loved.”

Almondie Shampine lives in New York with her two children. She has had two books published, and currently freelances full-time for magazines and newspapers. Visit for more information.

Neville Sukhia is a photographer from Pune, India.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Issue 2 - Cell Phone by Ryan Nichole Jones

Cell Phone

"Samuel...Samuel, pick up the cell!" Rianna Wallace stood shivering in the phone booth. Her friends had ditched her after a party, and now she was stuck on Fleet Street alone. "Please, Samuel? Come on..."

Rianna truly hated Fleet Street. There had been a series of gang-related shootings along the road, which was how it gained the nickname "Filet Street," but the best parties were along its sidewalks and under its buildings. Her friends had dragged her to a rave in one of the alleyways, but when she refused to take an "energy pill," they had left her to find a cooler crowd. Now she was out of luck.

Unless Samuel would hurry up and answer his damn phone.

It was always around him. Sure, sometimes it would get lost in the couch cushions, or "ignored" when he had a woman over, but it was always around. He had to be hearing it. Right? Right?

"Hello. You've reached Samuel Wallace..."


"If you're a business representative waiting to give me a job, go ahead and leave me a message, and I'll get back to you. If it's Jennifer...I want to know how you got my new number. Thanks. Bye."

She let out a heavy sigh, hearing the squeal of rubber on road. Someone was probably taking a joy ride. "Samuel, it's Rianna. You know, your little sis? The one you're supposed to take care of when she needs your help? Look, I'm stuck on Fleet Street..."

The squealing became louder, and Rianna wished there was a door to the booth. "Come on, Samuel, you know this place creeps me out. I'm going to try again. Pick up." She hung up the phone, inserted more change, and tried again.

"Hello. You've reached..."

"Damn it, Samuel!" She watched a sporty little car peeled around the street. A little panicked now, Rianna waited for the message to end. "Samuel! God damn it, Samuel! Pick up the phone!"

The car raced down the road, and a window was rolled down. Rianna barely registered the hooded face as she dropped the phone.

Gun barrel, she thought. Run.

However, as soon as she took a step, the shot rang out. She felt it bury itself in her chest and let herself fall to her knees. "Samuel...? Call nine-one-one before you pick me up," she managed. The car was already gone. "I've just been shot."

The line cut out, and Rianna knew she was out of change. She curled into a corner of the booth and prayed for help that would never arrive.


Ryan Nichole Jones is currently a junior at Mossyrok High School. She aims to have her book published one day.

Photograph by Nemo

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Issue 2 - Homeless by Victoria Cho


Her flip-flops slap the pavement alongside me as she pushes the cart brimming with my recent purchases. I struggle alongside with bags and together we make our way towards my dented green Honda civic with the blue “Long Live Longhorns Long Life Longhorns” bumper sticker. I rummage in my purse for keys, and she looks across the parking lot. Other Park Slope co-op volunteers assist shoppers to their vehicles. The woman’s mandatory orange volunteer vest sparkles in the sunlight, and her legs grow out of her shorts like two malnourished stalks of wheat.

“Beautiful day,” she says. I nod, unlock my door, and consider my remaining chores. Moving will probably take a total of four days.

“Thanks for helping me with my groceries.”

“You’re welcome,” she says and her sharp blue eyes smile among her sandy skin. I open my trunk, and she sees a folded wool blanket, some shoes, a hairdryer, and a box of dishes shedding their newspaper wrapping, with one dish already broken.

“Oh my God,” she says, and those blue eyes grow wide, and she raises her hands, decked in tarnished silver, to her face. “Do you live in your car?”

I laugh, partially to relieve the embarrassment I feel over the mess.

“I’m moving right now. Still need to drop off a few things.”

She nods, fingers resting against her lip, and for a second, I think she might even cry, but then she unloads the cart and moves my possessions to make space for the new items. She steals looks at me as she touches the books and shoes, and manages to squeeze produce and milk in between them.

I admire her efficiency and check my watch. My new roommate would meet me soon to give me keys. I wave, and the volunteer begins to roll her cart away. Suddenly, she abandons it, and walks toward me. She clasps my hand.

“I just want to say that it’s okay if you live in your car, and that I hope you find some place soon.” Without giving me a chance to shout, “How could I live in my car? I have frozen goods! I bought items that are refrigerate only!” she leaves, and I close the door on my Honda. I look around and wonder if this in fact would make a better home than my new shoebox in Bed-Stuy.


Victoria Cho currently resides in Brooklyn, New York. She graduated in 2005 from Boston University with a Bachelor of Science in Film. She has attended writing workshops with NYU, Sackett Street Writers Workshops, and Gotham Writers Workshops.

Photograph taken by Dusdin

Issue 2 - A Square Meal for a Square Deal by Nick Brooks

A Square Meal for a Square Deal by Nick Brooks

She couldn't speak in a way that didn't pull silly mannerisms out of the locals. This being yet another dollop in the mountain of causes of my twitch, I gagged her when we left the house. She didn't seem to mind. I've avoided trying to discern why as I'm sure I wouldn't like the root cause of it. It might make me want to take it off and then the wave of twitching would begin again. Best to remain ignorant on that one.

We communicated using hand movements and eye contact. Not so much sign language, with its rules and committees and national holiday. Just sharp looks and pointing. Using it, I've gotten to know her faster then several years of blather and lies would have.

When properly prepared for our two-person parade through the garment district, we made a small meal of ketchup and feta cheese. Consuming it quickly was easy and a general delight. Upon exiting our current residence she told me of a sarcophagus she had created last Labor Day. She assured me the holiday had little significance to the creation. I'm not so sure, only time will tell. On the outside of the corpse box she carved a list of reasons why you are worthless. Specifically you, but general enough that they were applicable to anyone alive or alive at one time. Anyone who killed themselves after reading it was then burned and their ashes were stored in the box. I asked if that made it an urn. She shrugged, spat on the floor, then communicated that an urn was to small to write suicide inducing poetry on it.

"Poetry?" I asked.

"Sure, why not? I doubt you know the difference anyway." She was right but I didn't enjoy it.
Photograph taken by Tim Forbes.