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Dick and Jane, Together Again-Fiction by Marcy Dilworth
Lay Down Sally-Fiction by Jack Coey
Cleaning Up After the Narc-Fiction by Walter Giersbach
Faith-Fiction by Don Stoll
Cigarettes-Fiction by Gary Lovisi
Blood Will Bloom Like a Watercolor Flower-Fiction by Hillary Lyon
Toast, Jell-o, Tea-Fiction by Cindy Rosmus
The PLacebo Effect-Fiction by Paul Smith
Aftermath-Fiction by Kenneth James Crist
Just Like Fish-Fiction by Paul Lubaczewski
Waterworks-Fiction by Sue Cmileski
Saith Me-Fiction by Robert Ragan
The Return of the Ladykiller-Fiction by Michael D. Davis
Fire Man-Fiction by Terry Butler
Lost in Greenwich Village-Fiction by Dr. Mel Waldman
Never, Ever Bring This Up Again-Flash Fiction by Ralph Benton
Hip-Hop Baby-Flash Fiction byJ. Brooke
Idylls of the Queen-Flash Fiction by Dini Armstrong
Looking Cold-Flash Fiction by Stanton McCaffrey
Camera_Flash Fiction by Leyla Guirand
Ashes and Dust-Flash Fiction by Janet Hartwell
Family Man-Poem by Ann Marie Rhiel
Heads-Poem by John Grey
The Architect-Poem by Marc Carver
economy class-Poem by Meg Baird
She Knows-Poem by Bradford Middleton
Rain-Poem by Maddisyn Condora
Counter-Intuitive-Poem by Henry Bladon
An Eerie Journey Down the Invisible Staircase-Poem by Dr. Mel Waldman
A Sonnet for Elvira-Poem by Juan Perez
Unforeseen Endings-Poem by Michael Keshigian
When Her Kisses-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
In Your White Cadillac-Poem by Richard M. Prazych
Love in the Time of Wolves-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
I Do-Poem by Jennifer Lemming
a bite better-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
hot afternoon-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
registry-Poem by Ayaz Daryl Nielsen
Dirty Pink Lipstick-Poem by Ian Mullins
Wrestlin' Gal-Poem by Ian Mullins
Between Takes-Poem by Ian Mullins
Banjo Bob and Cassy-Poem by David Spicer
Neurotic-Poem by David Spicer
I Imagine It's Goodbye-Poem by David Spicer
A Date with Destiny-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Under Moonlight-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
2020 (The Heart and the Thorn)-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
She Loves You-Poem by Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal
Cartoons by Cartwright
Hail, Tiger!
Angel of Manslaughter
The Gazing Ball
Strange Gardens
Gutter Balls
Calpurnia's Window
No Place Like Home
Dark Tales from Gent's Pens

Art by Henry Stanton 2020

The Placebo Effect


By Paul Smith


Bill put the gun inside his vest and went downstairs. She was still there. Anna said she was going out for some pain pills, but it had started raining. That was as good an excuse as any to keep her from going out. She had these migraine attacks once in a while. They often started when it rained. Then again, when the sun came out that could trigger a migraine attack. Bill was getting tired of it. She was semi-slumped on the sofa. She had one of those black daytime sleeping masks over her eyes, making her sort of look like the Lone Ranger. She couldn’t see anything he was doing right now as the rain fell. He could take the gun out of his vest and wave it right in her face. She wouldn’t see a thing. Somewhere the dog slept.

“Want me to get that Tylenol?” he asked.

“Why else would you be going out?”

“Get some fresh air.”

“In this rain? You call it getting some air? I can’t go out. Enjoy yourself, then. I might as well just sit here on this sofa and die.”

She might as well just die. Life wasn’t fun anymore. But then the migraines passed and she would be sunny and cheerful for a while. This was part of their cohabitative lifestyle, Bill guessed. He thought it would be different.

What exactly happens when a bullet enters the brain? As the bullet travels from the cranium and through the brain tissues, it causes laceration to the brain parenchyma and also produces multiple high energy fragmentation, resulting in shattered skull bone and bullet's pieces, which leads to more injury. Not only does it damage the brain parenchyma, it also ruptures the blood vessels leading to formation of intracranial hematoma. So there is blood everywhere. This is usually followed by cerebral edema, and raised intracranial pressure. Victim usually dies from profuse intracranial bleeding or direct injury to the deep structures such as brainstem. Plus, there is a lot of yelling and screaming.

Bill liked the sofa. They bought it at Grace’s Furniture near Logan Square. Grace’s was still there, after all these years. All these years she’d had these migraines. All these years he’d gotten used to his helpless reaction to her disabilities. Anna and Bill and Grace had aged together. They’d aged gracefully, he thought! That was a good one. He nearly laughed. Their roof went drip drip drip. It would be hard getting blood out of that sofa.

“Not saying much, are you? I do appreciate it, though, you going out. Those pills will help. They haven’t so far, but you know what?”

He was expected to say something. “What?”

Anna removed the sleep mask and stood up. “I believe in the law of averages. I think that if you take Tylenol twenty-nine times, then maybe fourteen and a half times it will help you.”

“The placebo effect,” he said.

“No,” she said. “That’s psychological. That’s when your mind is just programmed to believe something good will happen. This is different. This has to do with the chemical makeup of a Tylenol pill and how it affects your system. It’s either in the pill that Johnson and Johnson made or something in your bloodstream. I don’t know. I think too much. I’ve been reading Nausea by Sartre. It gave me a splitting headache.”

Anna thought too much. Bill didn’t like that. He avoided the Great Books because in his estimation it only led to depression and suicide.

A bullet can destroy the shoulder joint rendering that arm permanently crippled. It could sever nerves in the shoulder or arm partially or completely paralyzing it. Or it could shatter the humerus bone meaning extensive surgery and bone grafts would have to be done to repair it. It could do lots of damage, but wouldn’t necessarily result in death, just pain and disfigurement. Or you could develop a blood infection from the wound and suffer organ failure or die. There was always that chance. Plus yelling, of course.

Bill looked at his vest to see if there was a bulge. Nothing. Then he checked the front of his pants. No bulge there either. Hadn’t been one there in quite a while. But the gun had not made a bulge, none that she could see.

“When you go out, can you take Bowser for a walk? He needs to get out too.”

Bowser was her dog, not his. She sweet-talked him into getting her a dog several years ago. Now the apartment smelled bad, there was dog hair everywhere inside, dog poo outside. He had to carry a pooper-scooper whenever they went out. Plus he had to buy dog food. Bowser was a pit bull, which meant he better not lay a hand on Anna, or else. Bowser made him feel emasculated.

“Sure,” he said. “Why not?”

Anna got up as the rain continued to pound their second story flat. The gray Chicago afternoon had settled in like a lodger that refused to budge, that refused to take a hint to pack its bags and go somewhere else. She came up to him, threw her arms around him and kissed him right on his mouth, pressing her body against his. “You are so good,” she said. “Sometimes these headaches are so awful I can’t control what I say or do. You understand, don’t you, Bill?”

He didn’t understand a fucking thing about her. “Sure.”

“And when you come back, I’ll give you a nice dessert,” she smiled.

“A nice dessert,” he repeated. “With chocolate sauce?”

“With chocolate sauce, whipped cream and,” she put her forefinger to her lips for emphasis, “A big red cherry.”

“A big red cherry,” he repeated. “Come on, Bowser,” he said. “We’re going for a walk.” They slid out the door together.

“Wait,” she said, as the door slammed behind them. “You forgot the pooper scooper!”

He smiled. There was no need for a pooper-scooper. Bill had heard that the safest place to get shot was the buttocks. That was the body's largest muscle. Muscle tissue, when torn or damaged, can take a long time to heal, and the pain can be immense. So there were pluses and minuses to it. He opened the car door, and Bowser scampered in. Bill had also heard that once you take down a gun you can’t put it back without shooting it. It was some kind of universal law. Anna would know where it came from. She would say it was probably a law that some old Russian dreamed up as he was about to go into a duel.  Then there was the law of averages. The law of averages stated that sometimes things happen, sometimes they don’t. Maybe sometimes you take a gun down with the intention of looking your target square in the eye and then pulling the trigger, blowing them to smithereens.

And then, maybe nothing happens.

Bill stopped the car in the rain near an empty field on the way to the pharmacy. “Get out, Bowser.” The dog got out and patiently stood there in the rain as Bill undid his vest and pulled out his Sig Sauer.

“Now turn around, Bowser, so I can look you in your buttocks.” Bowser did not understand a word. Maybe Bowser had migraines like his mistress. Maybe he was just plain stupid. Maybe he knew he had it coming—guilt by association. In any case, Bowser was not budging in this damn rain. So Bill went and stood behind him, looked him square in the buttocks and pulled the trigger. The nice thing about Bowser was that he wouldn’t yell.

Click. Nothing.  He must have forgotten to load the fucking thing. Damn.

“Well, Bowser,” he said aloud. “Your number’s not up, I guess.  Let’s see, the law about taking down a gun and firing it has been followed to the letter. And the law of averages has been followed, too. Some of the time you pull the trigger and a bullet comes out. Sometimes there is no bullet. Check. And the placebo effect law has been followed too. By unsuccessfully trying to teach you a lesson I settled something down in my craw that’s been bugging me a long time. She has been bugging me a long time with her hypochondria and sniveling and crying and her damn sleep mask. And you, Bowser,” he added. “You bug me too.”

Bill’s eyes met Bowser’s. “Now I’m going to get a treat,” he told the dog. “Not a doggie treat. A grownup treat. With a big red cherry.”

He bought the Tylenol as Bowser waited in the car. The thought of that cherry waiting for him, or maybe just him pronouncing the word ‘cherry’ caused a bulge in the front of his pants. Bill tried to remember if they had Maraschino cherries back in the apartment. He wasn’t sure so he stopped again on the way home and bought some. No sense in testing the law of averages twice in one day. The sun came out and they went home.

Paul Smith writes poetry & fiction. He lives in Skokie, Illinois with his wife Flavia. Sometimes he performs poetry at an open mic in Chicago. He believes that brevity is the soul of something he read about once, and whatever that something is or was, it should be cut in half immediately.

Henry Stanton's fiction, poetry and paintings appear in 2River, The A3 Review, Avatar, The Baltimore City Paper, The Baltimore Sun Magazine, High Shelf Press, Kestrel, North of Oxford, Outlaw Poetry, PCC Inscape, Pindeldyboz, Rusty Truck, Salt & Syntax, SmokeLong Quarterly, The William and Mary Review, Word Riot, The Write Launch, and Yellow Mama, among other publications. 

His poetry was selected for the A3 Review Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Eyewear 9th Fortnight Prize for Poetry.  His fiction received an Honorable Mention acceptance for the Salt & Syntax Fiction Contest and was selected as a finalist for the Pen 2 Paper Annual Writing Contest.

A selection of Henry Stanton's paintings are currently on show at Atwater's Catonsville and can be viewed at the following website www.brightportfal.com.  A selection of Henry Stanton’s published fiction and poetry can be located for reading in the library at www.brightportfal.com.

Henry Stanton is the Founding & Managing Editor of The Raw Art Reviewwww.therawartreview.com.

In Association with Black Petals & Fossil Publications 2020