Creature Feature #2

Eating popcorn in front

of a black-and-white television,

my fingers drenched in

melted butter and iodized salt. 

The Bride of Dracula 

has made her fatal mistake, 

while Frankenstein’s monster

only wants acceptance

from a crowd intent

on his eradication. 

Next week, the Mummy 

will lumber across my screen, 

mindless as a drugged cow,

and I can stay up as late as I want,

at least until the test pattern

emerges. I watch everything,

the late-late news, the grand finale:

a rendition of the Lord’s Prayer

in sign language. Turning off

the television feels like saying goodbye

to an old friend I’m not sure

I will ever see again–or if I do,

one of us may have changed

into a creature no one can recognize.

I am already different: 

my bathroom mirror shows a face 

that has lived through 

multiple bouts of terror,

and I haven’t even begun.

The Other Side of the Bridge

When both of my husbands

were alive, we spent

Thanksgiving together,

our feast culminating with 

an extended walk across

the Tacoma Narrows bridge.

The two of them paused

beside an iron railing

so I could take photos: 

a sort of black-and-white 

study in contrasts, but

captured in technicolor.

My ex had yellow teeth 

and cheeks that hung

like a gaunt bulldog’s.

He smoked a cigarette 

every fifteen minutes—

frail shoulders 

slumped in the rain,

frantic mouth devouring 

smoke, like it was candy.  

My husband perched beside him, 

happy for sailboats

that passed beneath our feet,

and a sunbreak that seemed

to come out of nowhere. 

No one knew both men

were marked—my ex-husband 

would be dead 

in less than a year, 

my current one in three.

And I, the photographer, 

doomed to continue the trek

across the span, alone.

I’m glad no one can predict

the future, or there would 

be no point in going on:

still, I trudge ahead 

anyway, half-believing

I know what awaits me 

on the other side of the bridge.

Weird Kid

The bartender in 

my grandmother’s basement

mixed a mean martini.

He stood in the darkness

of her rec room bar, 

pudgy face frozen 

in a grimace, metal

shaker in one hand,

glass stem in the other.

When you flipped 

his “on” switch,

the bartender came to life—

calmly pouring a jigger

of invisible booze into

his glass, then sampling it

for quality. Instantly, his 

face turned crimson. 

His white, worm-like mustache

curled and wrinkled

as he spat into midair, then

repeated the same process

over and over and over.

I stared at his puckered lips,

transfixed. Something about

the spectacle thrilled me 

despite myself. I prayed my

grandmother wouldn’t catch me,

and she never did. 

It would have been

hard for me to explain that

I had a crush on an alcoholic toy.

professional gastropod

the slug won 

the half-marathon

by a hair’s breadth. 

his muscles pumped

like pistons, as

he escaped each

hoe and boot heel.

nearing the finish line

amidst a cacophony

of cheering, he slid

the final mile on a 

trail of his own slime,

finally landing

on a large, fully ripe

tomato. everyone

loves a winner, but

the slug is smart enough

to remain modest.

and the best part

is that he gets 

to do it all again, 


Dream of an Ex-Friend

Your face beneath my eyelids,

contorted. I try to remember

your words: sideways mouth,

rage erupting in whirlpools.

In the morning, all that remains

are your eyes and an empty coffeepot.

Familiar sizzle: hiss of water,

steady drip towards wakefulness.

I wonder where you are now,

two time zones ahead, stirring

in your own small bed. That photo

of you and your lover, hands

protecting your shoulders. The book

of poems you sent me. My final

glimpse of you, face half-covered

in a surgical mask, pushing it aside

between sips of beer. Why have we

allowed forty years to be trampled

underfoot? It wasn’t me, 

or even you. Though I tried to listen,

my dreams offer nothing,

and consciousness only brings spite.

Leah Mueller is the author of ten prose and poetry books. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Rattle, NonBinary Review, Glint, Midway Journal, Citron Review, The Spectacle, Miracle Monocle, Outlook Springs, Atticus Review, Your Impossible Voice, etc. It has also been featured in trees, shop windows in Scotland, poetry subscription boxes, and literary dispensers throughout the world. Her flash piece, “Land of Eternal Thirst” will appear in the 2022 edition of Sonder Press’ “Best Small Fictions” anthology. Visit her website at

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