HCE received a lot of high-quality submissions for the Toys & Games Issue sadly, too many to fit inside the magazine! So we offered some of our shortlisted contributors the chance to be published on our website. Below are just a few of the pieces we loved. Keep an eye on our website for more great writing like this, in the run up to the release date of Toys & Games…


Charles Joseph Albert

Katie’s party
at Build-A-Bear
allowed each guest
choice of sequins,
ribbons, bows…
Sam gaily picked
a purple dress,
as only
can do:
with rainbow stripes
in lamé glitter.
The other moms
began to twitter.
“Why not wait
to see the shirts
we have for boys
before you choose,”
the helper said.
Sam knew who they
were laughing at.
He watched
the other boys,
and picked a soccer
just like them:
plain blue and white.
“I hate this bear,”
was all Sam said
when we got home.
It went in the
donation bag.

Charles Joseph Albert is a theoretical physicist, owner of a machine shop and father of three boys, living in San Jose, CA. His poetry has appeared in the Literary Hatchet, the Rockhurst Review, the New Verse News, and Words on a Wire.

The Train

Margarita Tellez Espana

The red wooden train my father gave me has begun to chip. After all these years, the carefully painted wagon reveals its wooden origins. The once rich red has turned orange with time and the tiny black wheels have lost their roundness. I place the wagon back on my dresser, beside a picture of my son. In the framed photograph, Jorge stands under a banana tree in our summer home. The sun is blaring behind him, causing him to glow. In his small hands he holds the wooden train.
   I exit my bedroom, taking the train with me. The hallway is dimly lit. The squared window at the end of the hall makes shadows on the walls. I descend the stairs slowly, afraid of what awaits below.
   “Are you ready?”
   Ronald seems to have aged five years in the last few days. His face is wary and his eyes are tired; despite this, his suit is impeccable. He is ready.
   I can’t say the same.
   “Yes,” I answer.
   He holds the door for me as I shrug my coat on. “Let’s go.”
   Afterwards, only four of us remain. Carla sobs uncontrollably. I yearn to hold her hand, to comfort her. But the wicked part of me wants to yell. It wants to tell her to shut up, that tears won’t solve anything; so I remain silent.
   Roger, somber as ever, places a white rose on the freshly-cut grass beside the shining stone. He nods at us and leaves, taking Carla with him. They were always inseparable.
   The weight of the train begins to feel like a burden. I feel as if I am holding my heart and memories in my hands.
   “Are you gonna stay?” Roger asks me.
   “A little longer.”
   He nods, but remains at my side. “The reception will start soon.”
   “I know.”
   “Is Jorge there?”
   “Yes.” The train burns my skin. “He is with his father.”
   He nods again. “Okay.”
   He was always a man of few words, never the comforter. With one last look at the sun, he walks away.
   I stand in front of the stone until the train scorches my skin. I drop it on the ground.
   As children, Carla, Roger, Ronald and I would spend hours playing in the grounds of this cemetery. In our youth, the lush green grounds held nothing but beauty, and we would hide behind the graves and trees. We would pick the weeds growing around the stones and clean the graves. Standing here now, I only feel dread.
   The train lies on its side, buried between the rich green. I am afraid to look at it, to pick it up, to say goodbye. My beautiful train, made by my father’s youthful hands; made with love, care, and talent. The train that would ride this hills and get lost in the grass. The wooden figure that would create dreams, with the rest of my father’s creations that my siblings held.
   One last time, I clean the stone, cut the grass, arrange the white rose and place the toy truck, letting it go.  

Margarita Tellez Espana is from La Paz, Bolivia but currently resides in Vancouver, Canada. “I immigrated to Canada eight years ago along with my parents and brother. Through learning English I discovered that I loved storytelling, and after mastering the language and reading one too many books, I decided to tell my own stories.”

My Imaginary Friend

Margaret Koger

“One came the way that I came
And wore my past year’s gown.”
(Emily Dickinson, ‘One Sister Have I in the House’)
Dressed like Emily’s ghost, my mind
She’s been stepping out on me.
Her carriage horses skip their traces
Thunder past low swelling places
Ascend beyond my time, rhyme.
Lyric phrases I once knew so well
Vanished! My métier past tense.
Once in a while, she revisits me
Trunks and valises packed with pages
Luxuriant accounts of earlier ages.
I strain to hear her plangent words—
Of corniced roofs and gossamer gowns
Tippets, tulles, and reticules.
Intoxicant images, resonate sounds
Now inducing me to wonder how
My mind, my imaginary friend
Alights and rules inviolable.
We salt away my earthy verses
Sweep up a column of syllable dust
High into a slanted stream of light.
But not for long because my mind
She keeps stepping out on me.
Too soon I am un-worded, dying
Just to hear her stumbling buzz.

Margaret Koger is a school media specialist with a writing habit. She lives and teaches in Boise, Idaho and spends a yearly time out lounging on a sandy beach bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Writing allows her to speak her mind and to encourage others to do the same. Her stories and poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Avocet, Mused, WestWard Quarterly, Montucky, Blast Furnace, Eternal Haunted Summer, Mediterranean Poetry, Poetry Breakfast, and BLYNKT.