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ART WORK Lennon Wall / Neil Su / Cover Art Rebel Cat / P. Kline-Capaldo / pg. 4 Nasty Women / A. Kocher / pg. 6 I Am Not Your Girl / K. Comber / pg. 10 Delighted Laughter / K.N. Adams / pg. 12 Mesmerized By A World They Only Knew / T. Bielecki / pg. 14 Woman Taking Selfie / E. Carvalho / pg. 16 Tracked / Laura Keen Photography / pg. 18 I See The Light, But I'll Never Get There / T. Bielecki / pg. 34 Say A Prayer When It’s All Over / T. Bielecki / pg. 39 Tell Me Now, Where This Truly All Went Wrong / T. Bielecki / pg. 53

Short Story/ Flash Fiction Isaiah. / I. W. Sauer / pg. 37-8 LOVE & WAR / S. Land / pg. 40-41 Break Free / S. Hajj / pg. 42-44 Dragons Love Tacos / S. Mamber / pg. 45 White Paper / S.L. Morrison / pg. 46 L-Word / Jeanette Perosa / pg. 47 Excalibur 111 / J. Duffy / pg. 48-52 A Minor Rebellion / R. Tabbutt / pg. 54-59

POETRY Make me a Martyr / J.L. Delaney / pg. 5 Thousands of rare, venomous insects are missing from the Philadelphia Insectarium / C.Stone / pg. 7 Nashville Man Accused of Assault with Biscuit / C. Stone / pg. 8-9 All I Want to Say / K. Comber / Pg. 11 Delighted Laughter / K.N. Adams / pg. 13 Angelus Novus / F.W. Feldman / pg. 15 SEE HER / P. Kline-Capaldo / pg. 17 Not My Poem / F. Paulsen / pg. 19 A Conversation With Anger / K. Kidd / pg. 20 Surprise Guests In the Late Night of the Heart / K. Kidd / pg. 21 Lies / S. Chodak / pg. 22 Cookie / S. Chodak / pg. 23 Native Spirit / K. Izzi / pg. 24 Rebel Revolution / deep blue river / pg. 25-7 The 6:15 / k. blanchard / pg. 28-9 Space / B. Moulton / pg. 30-1
 Take Two / JD Stahl / pg. 32-3 I Am / JD Stahl / pg. 35 A Passing Contemplation / D. Erdman / pg. 36

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Rebel Cat Patty Kline-Capaldo 


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——— Make me a Martyr——— Make me a martyr Paint me with your hate  Persecute me for all I am I am All that came before me I am the soul of the Shepard left under a Colorado skyan army of angels  that rose against the night. When your weapon was a bullet I became the Pulse  the beating of this heart still refuses to stop I wear the triangle  On the chambers, you had made When you raised your fist  Each voice, I am, is raised Your justice stormed the inn to take our first born  I became that stone wall, foundation bruised yet hardly worn I’d rather eat forbidden fruit Than starve on a lie Cut from the rib of your creator Tell me  who will seek forgiveness who will be baptized the day we pull the curtain, see the wizard  for the first time  -J.L. Delaney


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Nasty Women Pen & Ink Anna Kocher

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Thousands of rare, venomous insects are missing from the Philadelphia Insectarium and on days like today, it’s hard for me to remember that I’m not still a train ride away, or a long drive along the Schuylkill, that even my curls have straightened out, my “you guys” morphed into a gender-inclusive y’all. Most days I can’t handle the snowy streets or spring pollens. The Iowa honey is made from prairie bees and they are the ones that now buzz by my windows. But how appropriate, that today, national jumping spider day, there would be a six-eyed sand spider pretending the Philly sidewalk has desert heat. And we argue about whether it is an “inside job” or not. I think about all the missing, how they’ve gone, how little we know until Mollie Tibbetts’ body turns up in a pile of corn stalks, and even then there are blank spaces. The man “blacked out” and woke up next to her bloody body. Now the post offices in Texas won’t give passports to Hispanic people. The graffiti on Iowa highways say “DEPORT ILLEGALS.” The police in Philadelphia are looking for $40,000 worth of refugee insects, not the people that killed more than 20 Mississippi inmates this week, not the border children who still haven’t been reunited with their families, not the firefighters who died of suicide after the fires stopped blazing. There’s so much we lose, so much we never find below the headlines. And who tipped them off? How’d the knowledge spread? And where will it all take us? Running only with friends, walking only with shoes, staying inland to avoid the dry heat of burning trees, or the venom of insects never before introduced to this climate, this sunshine, free, making Center City Philadelphia their new home? -Crystal Stone


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Nashville Man Accused of Assault with Biscuit But this week, the kids in the Sunday School nursery are talking about presidents, the kindness they pretend, the meanness they are my silent tongue is a battery of questions one boy builds a hot dog cart with a machine gun from small legos, pretends to blow the table, the girls are playing old maid the girls are thinking about making little people from clothespins a boy explains it’s easier to blow things up than to create and his explosion is a castle the pencil the crowning master hand skeletons are groovy another boy dances like church is a disco like he lives in the 70’s and his brother tells us he has a present, puts foam people on our shoulders, tells us what feels like nothing atom bombs and the others are playing cops and robbers there’s always a bad guy, policing never the problem in their game the cop hides the dead body of a cicada killer in a seed pod, throws the seeds out, asks, “can his stinger still poison even after he dies?” and I don’t know how we live on after we pass or if we ever pass, if we deserve to move beyond the messes we make out of legos the boys’ tongues still endorse the rankings of army men, the plastic poised still with helmets and guns, the dolls with heads fallen off, tangled hair strangled floor

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the girls are outside in their dresses they blow bubbles out of curly red wands there is no magic, no modesty of power just boys with rocks and words popping soapy rings -Crystal Stone 

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I Am Not Your Girl Katy Comber Self Portrait 


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All I want to say is nothing at all— I don’t want to have to say it. I just want you to know, I am not your girl. I am not your voice. I am not your hands. I am not yours to edit. I am not yours to present. Years of honey catches more flies politeness, while my mind screams for safety, “Just go with it.” “Be easy.” “Smile.” But. My heart rebels “I am not your girl.” -Katy Comber 


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Delighted Laughter Krystle N. Adams Self-Portrait 


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Delighted Laughter I laugh. I laugh.  Wholeheartedly I laugh.  I laugh wild.  I laugh free.  I laugh wholeheartedly. Without apology.  You thought  You caught me As did I. Watch me fly  from your traps of entrapment  And charm. Oh darn,  You’re  good.  That’s why I laugh.  When you thought  you should.  Hours give me the gift of laughter  Freedom from your chains  Though heavy footed  Light of heart  Marching through your terrain.  Goodbye my dear, To love or fear  And fear to love again.  I laugh.  I laugh.  Thanks to you  I laugh for hours on end. -Krystle N. Adams


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Mesmerized By A World They Only Knew Taylor Bielecki Oil & Enamel on Canvas, 36 by 48 in

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Angelus Novus We saw a great light on the horizon: the angel of history, the windswept sage. With his sword at his side, the dawn at his back, and his face toward our rubble-strewn age, he unsheathed his sword—its virgin filth— and looked at us with watery eyes, clear like a child’s in their ever-young lilt; he offered his sword to us. The angel of history chose us. The angel arrived at the fullness of time; the old angels’ wings into sand had crumbled in years before we graced the dirt. Now their naked backs are bent and hunched, revealed as the devils that caused our hurt, they laughed at our pain in their hearts. They deride and they mock us, but now they mock at the cutting edge of the divide where history rends sinew from sinew. The angel of history sees the rupture. He gave us his sword, and we know this for sure. Angels are from heaven and devils are from hell, and you do no wrong if your hearts are pure. Our future blossoms like beans on a trellis that our evil brothers would steal for themselves. Angelus Novus, he showed us this. He brings us Iphigenia, the news. The wind blows and he is borne anew. -Frederick W. Feldman


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Woman Taking Selfie Edu Carvalho

Canon EOS 6D


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SEE HER She sits amid the crowd soft light glints in silver hair See Her Serene Proud Assured Green eyes reflect joy See Her. See Her watch Others Cluster in tight camaraderie Look closely in those gray-green eyes See Her, Still stringy-haired teenaged Country bumpkin, Cringe Fret Question Am I smart enough? Funny Stylish Talented Enough? See Her. Ever knowing, never will she ever Be enough -Patty Kline Capaldo

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Tracked Self Portrait Laura Keen Photography 


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Not My Poem Just where do you think you’re going dressed like that? Who do you think you are behaving like a spoiled brat whining about traffic, weather, love, itchy collars? Dropping bombs f- and otherwise, arrogant, irresponsible, making a fool of me? No poem of mine will ever be seen in public committing adverbs, perpetrating vagaries, shoplifting metaphors, drunkenly, mindlessly littering the landscape with outrageous punctuation, smoky patchouli and loneliness. Over my dead body. Your cleavage (between hopes and abilities) is showing. Go upstairs young lady. Cover those inadequacies. Put on something decent. Then and only then I will drive you to the dance. -Faith Paulsen (Previously published in Mused BellaOnline 2015) 

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A Conversation With Anger Anger, Like a germ That festers into the flu. I have no idea From where it came. Was it a drink I shared with my friend That laid me out contagious? Was it the cold, hard surface I touched? I speak anger to my anger. “Fuck you Anger! Things are fucking great! So shut the fuck up And sit the fuck down!” I begin to list my case in point Every good thing. Then I remember that tomorrow is her birthday. And we are not speaking. I look compassionately on my anger “Listen. You can come along. It’s okay that you’re here. I understand. I forgot. I’m sorry. But you can’t just take over like that. You can’t just run the show Call all the shots.” Anger nods silently. Anger smiles, At ease That I am no longer fighting. I am listening. -Kristen Kidd
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Surprise Guests In the Late Night of the Heart Love Shows up Unannounced and clamoring about At all hours Like a drunk. Banging on the pots and pans of the heart, Making crazy rhythms You never heard before Unpredictable and startling One’s never quite sure what to do with it. Next thing you know Love’s running around The whole damn town. The cops will get called. Let them get called. It was worth it. -Kristen Kidd


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Lies I've got it all figured out the moment i'm littered on my carpet, my figure getting bigger, i've just got to finger in my head and see what it's all about. there's no need to overthink, just blink and everything shrinks I'm on the brink. falling, falling but I drink the sap leaking from the sun, and then I've begun to shun the gun it's one and done. I've completed my home run I won't feel the carpet anymore, only sunflowers and tulips in my garden, and God dammit I'm an artist but not a vegetable in the market hah. you're sold to the mold, all told it's ok to be controlled, but no no no, not me my thoughts are in 3d An action packed movie i get to watch for free And i’m the superhero, fighting off time I fly through the sky, everything is mine Go ahead, spy Tell me what you see Of course, a woman with happiness that could fill the sea And yes, she sits in it by herself, but don’t marvel It’s not an empty cell to not need someone else -Sara Chodak 


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Cookie She sits on love, though it’s a choice She can stand on her own, a force even without a voice A brave soul, ready to fight and turn the corners But deep in the candlelight, you can hear her soft murmur Parades through the darkness, loves the sky even if it’s starless Swallows the sun, but lets you have a taste as you come undone It doesn’t get too much, stares back and lets you misjudge Because in the center of it all, she’s the one that will soothe your soul -Sara Chodak 


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Rebel Revolution Rebel Revolution I'll be a rebel for a cause I might not shave all my hair off Well I almost did I might not walk down the street with signs And banners Actually, I've done that I might go silent on certain subjects Quiet as a mouse The kind of protest that lets you know I care enough To not make a fuss To not let your pandering and fear mongering get to me That's making a stand differently By withdrawing my vote By not showing up for your vitriol fueled parties By not attending the failed war On my CBD oil For remembering good is And good is Going to win In the End I might start a revolution of actual change Inside myself In my mind, in my heart, in my veins And I might challenge you To try it I might clean up my food, clean up my plate Keep my machine clean Page 25 of 64


For changes In states of matter To occur I don't care who sees me being peaceful But I will be a rebel master at the game of peace, humility and kindness Someone once told me that " Humble and Kind" was one of the best songs ever written ( yes, I was listening ) And I would have to agree There is something delicious about the sound of water over rocks, So I might protest the unraveling world by finding a local stream to read a book by Let the ego-centric loop Snap like a rubber band Cause it will It doesn't need me to oversee its undoing Oh! I am aware of the obstacle course We're running The maze we are trying to find our way out of But I know the only way forward is through Some of the roughest terrain Those mud masters will tell you How quick sand feels As the body Sinks down So am I a rebel A revolutionary for change Do I want to see better days Oh! Yes But something I realized is there can be better days right now It starts with heart And that new fuzzy feeling Gets in your head Where you are better equipped to spring into action

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Let your no mean no and your yes mean yes and actually stand for something Walk away from the people who spread fear and lies Set your body down by the ocean Protest the dark by turning on the light I am seeing so many people do it Because there is a better way And I feel us running to it Gazing down-ward, the moon upon your skin is saying sweet child of mine It's saying violence was Never the answer Won't you take my hand To reap a new harvest Write a new chapter A New Testament A New covenant with the Earth A new song to be sung I am a hard line rebel in complete revolutionary change. I've started a movement. It moves like the stars in the sky and the hub of the wheel at night it's a little bear and her Mother. It's a hard left @ Sirius and onward into the 7th Heaven Quiet is good. God is in the silences and in the rest. Be unafraid to have a revolutionary life, you rebels. -deep blue river musings, Debbie Carrier 

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The 6:15 by kitty blanchard He defends clients he’s known to do it well He wins cases, makes money. He didn’t want to be a lawyer never wanted to be a lawyer ‘Join your father in the firm’ his parents urged, demanded. He stares down onto asphalt streets. Watches Manhattanites scurrying. Observes raindrops hit hot pavement, evaporate into steam His dreams of being an artist, his raindrops, evaporated long ago. Tomorrow’s plans. Take out his suitable fiancé. They will stroll an art gallery. He will comment on an oil. She will respond politely, quick to view the next. No time to pause, to savor. He peers at his gold watch. Minutes to make the next train. He clears his desk, Gathers his papers. Bids his secretary a good evening. Races for an elevator. 


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He paces the platform. From a distance a low rumble quickens, grows louder. He rushes forward. Thrusts his briefcase, his gold watch, In front of The 6:15.

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Space I take up some space in this world, being wide-hipped and big-mouthed and having hair very short and very red. These aren’t some big secrets— you can tell just by looking. But my voice is too loud, you said, my hips too big you said, my hair, well, it’s very short and you prefer long, you said. And it really is quite red, yes, quite red, you said. You whispered at dinner that maybe we shouldn’t get dessert, then shushed me when I laughed. You suggested that my purple boots might not be the best thing to wear, or the flowing gypsy skirt, the one that makes me twirl, like a sunflower, following the sun. You said you think you could love me more, if only I was smaller, quieter, and not quite so bright. As if my taking up space was somehow shameful and a terrible burden for you. But I think the problem is you, too small and pinched too tight, you, who want to shrink me to your size or probably smaller, until I become pale, then translucent, then invisible.

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No. That’s not going to happen. I’m putting on those boots and that skirt and maybe some glittery stuff in my hair, and I’ll wear my new lipstick called “Let Freedom Ring Red.” Then I’ll elbow you aside as I sashay passed, swinging my wide hips on my way out the door. Take a good look at me walking away, taking up just the right amount of space. -Beth Moulton 


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Take Two I'm the multi-headed male. I'm the snake eating its tail. Statistical alien equations: Pertinent information that I gave you. The all-seeing eye—well, it comes and goes. Caging of the sun and changing my clothes. Trapped inside the walls, chained to the stalls. Auto-Egyptian mummies are watching it all. How should I feel when my happiness depends on you? To tell you the truth would cease it to be true. Flash your blue eyes for an honorable mention. The things I like least about myself are what I use for attention. Unmatched punished intentions handed down from Masons. Judgment from legacies and blacklisted from nations. Stuck inside the fishbowl. Casting out lines. Writing outlines of clever lines with clever rhymes. Outright lies, our white lines, I'm the outlier. I'm your white knight, dark horse, late night. Dreaming before 3am turned black from white. Screaming soul cries. I'm from louder times. I'm the exception. I'm the outlier. Statistical soul fire. I'm the outlier. Boomerang, bring it back, mouth smacked. Soldier without a waking war. In my sleep I hear you more. From the rock, I've drawn the sword.

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Masterpiece, written by our masters, pieced together words from distant worlds. The greatness within, pours out under my skin. Open or closed, my eyes still see. Winging birds and family trees, pray to God on my knees. Words are falling, world on the brink. Collapsing sentences. Vomit in the sink. Two eyes, double mind, second dreaming. Every single thing I do has a double meaning. I'm the exception. I'm the outlier. Statistical soul fire. I'm the outlier. -JD Stahl

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I See The Light, But I'll Never Get There Taylor Bielecki Oil on canvas, 36 by 60 in


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I Am. Ahh...to be able to encapsulate my being in a single explanation to others, for the sake of introducing myself in a way that is understood. Making marks within my personality to display the full range of my universal understanding, dipping my mind into every sub-category color and mixture that I have ever been introduced. A social palette, ever-expanding and bleeding into the abstract. Never settling and only ever fighting against static definition. To resign to a label is to die. My image, my name, inappropriately tethered to me. Everyone I have ever met knows a different version of me, many of which I have shed completely. Yet their obsolete judgments and memories still remain, like ghosts in an old house. Your sarcasm and disbelief are the proof of my magic. I am not a type. I am not a sub-culture. I am molded by every day, forever malleable by the transient love I encounter from one soul to the next. I don't participate in exclusion and I am nobody you have ever met before; I am everyone you have ever met before. I am art, poetry, and spirit. I am the physical manifestation of immortal emotion that you call "history." I am the power and the passion behind the words that move you and the music that saves you in your best memory. I am your truest love. I am your strangest secret. I am your most trustworthy friend and your boldest fantasy. I am your shape-shifting dream and your easiest target. I was brought here to be your equal. Your treatment of me is how you feel about yourself. You may look at me as if you know me--as you know the clouds in the sky. I only have this face so that you can see me. I only have this body so I can carry my message--a lesson wrapped inside an example, behind a mirror, in my eyes, inside your mind. I am. -JD Stahl

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A Passing Contemplation Doctor, can you give me some pills to thwart off ambition? I have been much too busy lately and I would like to slow down. Can you give me something to dumb me down before I take on another project? I am ready to sit under that willow tree and let mind and body obey only the law of gravity, except for the lifting of a cup of wine to my mouth. And when family or friends pass by and ask me what I’m going to do today, I will just tell them that I’m doing it. -Dan Erdman 


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Isaiah. by Isaac Westerling Sauer Quietly, little Isaiah Coffey fidgeted in his family’s pew. The pastor solemnly commanded the congregation, “bow your heads.” His family, and all the church family, lowered their faces as a series of detached words began to slowly fall from the pulpit. But Isaiah stared passively about the hall: into the speckled ceiling tiles, and the twisted wood pews, and the colored glass along of the windows. He sat next to Shawn, his cousin, who also looked unmoved by the man in the pulpit’s dull droning. Shawn had asked to stay home, but his mother said no. “I’m going to be gone all weekend, you can’t stay by yourself.” “But I don't like it at Aunt Liz and Uncle Dan’s. It's so boring there.” “Come on. There’s Isaiah.” And there Isaiah was, twisting stealthily in the pew, looking at all the others mutely sitting in the church. “...to build up your church, empower our hearts to spread your gospel truth.” He tottered, a strange quiver in his body, twisting to look at the quiet faces around them. And when satisfied none were watching, Isaiah faced forward again and pulled a small wand-like toy from his pocket. He flicked the toy in his hand, letting it spin in his palm. He pointed the wand at his feet. He pointed the wand at the unused Bibles. He made it dance down his thigh toward his knee. And all the while Shawn watched, almost jealous, as his cousin played. Both boys ignored the dull, seemingly unending words which slowly surround them. Playing with the treasure dissipated the minutes, where listening or not listening could only insulate. Isaiah eventually noticed Shawn’s gaze and pointed the toy at the other boy. Shawn stared back in an indescribable way, finally turning his head down to feign disinterest in the instrument. Isaiah poked him once in the shoulder and Shawn swatted away the prod with his hand. Isaiah poked him again in the side of the head. Shawn turned to Isaiah again, now with changed eyes. He moved his hand out and showed Isaiah his solitary middle finger in response. Then Shawn turned his face away again to the floor. Page 37 of 64


“Humble our hearts. Guide us to follow you, and in doing, lead.” Some intangible spear cut to Isaiah’s core. He looked slowly about for another witness, where all in the church had their heads down and eyes closed. A wave of heat moved over him, red and ugly. There, the sound of what everyone else was hearing, contorted and distant as though under water. His mind echoed the dull thud of his heartbeat at his temples. “Dad” he whispered, “he, Shawn-” “Be quiet, Isaiah.” The boy turned back, frightened by the stern voice of his father. Isaiah gripped the small toy tightly. But then, as if something internally snapped, he stopped and put it down on the pew beside him. It was almost visible as Isaiah also put his head down, waked with some intruding, inarticulate thought. The slow glimmer of reality began to take over the adolescent lens of joy. And with the unshakeable anger of knowledge, Isaiah put his hands over his eyes, pretending to pray as the rest in the church did, but silently the boy cried.

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Say A Prayer When It’s All Over Taylor Bielecki Oil on Canvas, 36 by 48 in

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LOVE & WAR by Sheyna Land Each of her withered hands curved like a small C around her cart's thick handle, her fingertips and thumbs just a hair apart. That had always frustrated her, that tiniest breach that she couldn't close. Stretching her bony fingers further around the bar only resulted in her thumbs slipping upward - they were, after all, attached. If one side pulled, the other did, too. A new enemy, arthritis, didn't allow her to fight this private war with herself for too long. Her thumbs and wrists throbbing with pain, she walked forward, swung her purse into the large lower basket, her shoes making muted scuffing noises against the rubber-matted entrance, the automatic door emitting its electronic hum. Bouquets of flowers and seasonal cakes immediately surrounded her upon entrance. She paused. She looked. If this shopping expedition had taken place any number of days or years ago, she would be hitting the ground running, a prisoner of war crash landing on enemy territory. Clutching her perfectly orchestrated list like marching orders, she'd wield her grocery cart like a tank holding necessary provisions. She'd storm the produce section like Normandy under fluorescent lights. She'd blitz across the frozen foods, calculating price difference in mere seconds with her eagle eye. Waiting at the deli counter interrupted her flow, but no matter, a little down time always served well for some reconnaissance - don't speak till you see the whites of their eyes, she'd tell herself. But here she stood. Still. Standing among the carnations, roses, and other flowers, thinking on all those years of errands. The redbrick bank, the endless lines at the pharmacy, the smell of pencil shavings at her children's schools, the concrete steps of the library, the muted coughs and murmurs in doctor office waiting rooms. The images clicked and flashed through her mind like photos on an old Kodak movie projector. All those times, running, running, running. Sometime between the wedding, honeymoon, and that first trip to the grocery store, all those years ago (she hadn't even known what to buy on that first trip), at sometime --- a clock was built in. Her very own egg timer. Anywhere she went, any errand she ran, she felt that clock's dull beat somewhere in her bowels, clicking like a metronome attached to a bomb couched in soft cotton. Hurry. Hurry. Hurry. Someone is waiting on you. But Henry was gone. The arrangements, complete. The services, concluded. Her daughters, grown, and now with their own wars to fight, reported quickly back to where they came from. Page 40 of 64


And all that remained were the flowers. No one to feed, no one to wash, no one to wait on or cook for - just silent, still bouquets sitting in still waters on clean counters, left behind by dutiful mourners. And her. With very few wars left to fight. Certainly no more ticking bombs or clocks. Crumbling her list like dead leaves, she closed her eyes, and for a moment, thought about how he'd smelled when she'd kissed him in the mornings, just below his hairline - like fresh powder. She opened her eyes, reached for a bouquet of white poppies, and strolled listlessly through the aisles.

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Break Free by Sharon Hajj A chain-link fence surrounded twelve houses in a perfect square. Within the jagged shadows of the fence, members of the community lived by a strict set of rules designed by Kree’s father. He being the oldest, had designated himself the leader and designed what he considered a perfect mini society. He chose the house next to the gate and main road to the next town over. Kree called him Dad and obeyed all his rules. Others called him by his surname, Clayton, to give the proper respect. Occasionally, a broken rule caused his pocked face and slender nose to twist when he dispensed his quiet vengeance. Kree liked to fade into the background. She had a few freckles on her cheeks and just enough padding on her body to not draw attention. She didn’t have anything memorable to make her worry about jealous girls or curious boys. At the age of fourteen, this concern stayed at the forefront of her mind. She knew it would be impossible to have a boy flirting with her without a wrath falling down on her within her own family. Inside their square house at dinner, Kree sat with her hands folded on the white napkin on her lap. Her younger sister by eight years, Pearl, swung her legs back and forth under the chair, while their mom brought dishes of food to the table. Their ginger cat, Lilly, curled up in the corner and ignored them all. “Pearl,” Mom said. “Quiet yourself. We eat in silence to give thanks for the food. It is a solemn event; not a time to flop your legs around. Your dad will be back from the neighbor’s any minute.” Pearl squeezed her eyes shut. Her legs swung a couple more times before they slowed and finally rested side by side. She was careful to press her knees together under her white pinafore. Dad walked into the room and Kree held her breath. He scanned the table. “Josephine,” he said, “you burned the potatoes. Throw them out!” Mom reached to take the plate back to the kitchen. “No, Mom!” Pearl said. “I like them crispy. I’ll eat them later!” “Pearl Elizabeth. How dare you talk back.” Pearl lowered her eyes and rubbed her hands together. Kree kept her eyes on her own plate, careful not to show emotion. “Go to your room,” Dad said with a growl. “Kree, you may eat now.” Kree lifted her fork and focused on the pile of peas glistening with butter. “Thank you.”

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After she heard her sister slip off the chair and walk up the stairs, the only things she heard were the sound of silverware clinking on the plates and her dad slurping water. The next morning, Kree swept the path to the row of mailboxes next to the main gate when she saw a woman on the outside of the chain link fence. The first thing she noticed was her heavy black boots with the laces dangling along the sides. Her red socks with skulls peeked above the rims which led to her smooth tan skin marked only with a small tattoo of a cat’s face on the outside of her right knee. Kree’s eyes followed her frame past her cutoff jeans, up to her shoulders, covered with a thin mint green Tshirt. Her neck’s veins pulsed. She stood with her hand gripped around a wrench. Kree turned to find out what she faced and jumped back when she saw a man outside the fence about five feet away from the woman and holding a cat carrier at his side. He scrunched up his face and bared his teeth as if he were the leader of a pack of wolves. “Dad!” Kree mumbled to herself. “What’s going on?” The broom dropped to the ground, and she stumbled backwards to avoid the conflict. The woman glanced over without loosening her grip on the wrench. “He’s a thief.” Her dad shook his head and bellowed out a roar of words. “This beast has killed a robin. Cats are not allowed outside. This is a criminal offense!” He put the carrier down next to him and squeezed his fists. “No,” Kree yelled, leaping away from her spot, the spot on the edge of conflict where she always stayed. The safe spot. The obedient spot. The spot all the teachers praised her for when she followed directions. She threw open the gate and ran through. The wrench caught the light as the woman swung it through the air. Her dad lunged when Kree was within reach. She jumped and aimed for his knees, hoping to knock him off balance. She gasped when the wrench smacked across his cheek. She wrapped her arms around his legs, only to be on the receiving end of his kicks. “You’ll pay for this!” he screamed. “Take the cat!” Kree yelled, while her arms were broken free from their grasp. “Save her!” The woman stumbled forward and reached for the handle. Kree grasped at her father’s legs until she saw the woman run free with the tuxedo cat. Her father, out of breath, didn’t run after her. Instead he turned to his daughter, her face in the dirt and hands covering her head. “Stand up!” Kree lifted her head to peek at the woman escaping. She stopped and turned back, her chest heaving under the mint green shirt dappled with sweat. She waved for Kree to follow. Her father kicked at the dirt. “Get up!”

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The rocks pressed into Kree’s body reminding her of the blows that left bruises. A few on her torso were still fading. A surge of strength came from nowhere and everywhere. It pulsed through her body. Without a thought, she sprang from her space and ran after the stranger, the stranger that showed her a way out. A stranger that broke her free.

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Dragons Love Tacos by Sandy Mamber Dragons love tacos because they mostly reside in the Southwest where the best drivethru fast food is Mexican or Tex-Mex. Dragons have to eat at drive-thrus because their wings and their tails don't fit inside regular restaurants. It's an issue, but they're adaptable. If they weren't, they would have disappeared long ago thanks to Saint George and his ilk. They're pretty bold, too. They go right through the drive thru and don't even bother to use their Apple Pay accounts. They are unlike unicorns. The unicorns are so timid they won't come near a fast food place. They hide in forests and nibble on grasses and leaves. They're pretty much anorexic which is hard to believe, given how strong their brand is. The dragons just ignore the unicorns and go into town to feast on the crispy tacos with extra guacamole (meal number three) at the drive-thru. Every so often (they don't mean to), but every so often there's an accident. And it goes around Facebook that there was a scorching of a window attendant who was slow with the extra sauce containers. It's not really a dragon’s fault. It's a little like road rage when they scorch. Afterwards, they can't even remember that they did it. Last week, a seedy little place in Albuquerque burned to the ground when the manager refused to honor coupons that had expired for a Double El Grande with extra sour cream. But those incidents are rare. 

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White Paper by S.L. Morrison Alex handed the folded paper over to his Dad’s open hand. His father’s eyes scanned the page and yelled, “Who the hell do you think you are? Some God-damned - rich bred - prissy son who can just waste his life away? Going to parties and sleeping God knows where with God knows whom? Just pretending to be in school, and letting me just pay the tab? Why should your sorry ass worry as long as I’m working those two jobs? And what’ve you got to show for it? Three C’s and two D’s? Christ, even I could do better and I’ve never set foot on that f-king campus.” And slowly Alex backed up. “It’s a good thing your mother’s dead…I’d hate for her to see what a f-k up you’ve turned out to be…You no good, God-damned, good-for-nothing…Hey, where the hell do you think you’re going? Don’t think your ass is going anywhere — not ever again.” And his father pulled his right arm back and swung with all of his might at the boy now standing small. And in that moment, as his father’s fist drew closer, Alex thought, “Who the f-k cares? Who the hell are you? And since when did you ever care where I was or who I was with? Did you ever notice anything besides yourself? …Christ…Did you even notice Mom? Did you even notice that she was dying? All you’ve ever cared about was that fking bottle.” But he said nothing. And for the first time in his life, he didn’t care…he didn’t care what happened to him… And his father saw it — that look…that look he’d seen every morning in the mirror — that look that says f-k it…f-k it…It doesn’t matter…I don’t matter… Nothing f-king matters. And he not only punched him again…but his father kept punching --muttering curses and anger and loathing. Until Alex’s eyes closed, and that familiar look was gone. And when he was done, he stood up and spat on his son, “Who the f-k do you think you are?” And he threw the crumpled up report on top of him and walked away.

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L-Word by Jeanette Perosa Your L-word reached out and startled me at first, lifting and swirling on a whisper that seemed to sneak out of your lips; like a child telling a secret. I turned to see your eyes shining in the fluorescent light of the moon. I could feel the tremor of your hands. I shifted, letting my gaze fall away your eyes. My lips curled into a smile and I reached up with my finger and traced it down the side of your face. Those three words still drifted around like bubbles floating in the air. I wanted to reach out and protect them, shield them from popping —but they were gliding out of my reach. Hearts are fickle things. My L-word was locked away and now I’m not sure where I put the key. I placed it there that day when the one before you had stood in front of me, holding my hands with sweaty palms. “I don’t love you. I thought I did, but I don’t.” His words were like bullets. I had hidden that L-word away after watching his tall frame disappear down the hallway and into the darkness, leaving me there with a hole in my heart. I locked that word up tight and tossed the key into a river of tears. You were supposed to be the diversion, revenge date, the smiling face latched onto my arm for social media photos. It was only to be a display for him, our first date when my heart was still black and blue, hidden behind my armored-plated chest. It might have been your laugh, the way it made me feel lighter, or maybe it was how tight you held my hand, that made me want to see you a second time and a third, fourth… Maybe, it was the heaviness that I felt when the sun took its last breath and tucked itself away for the night and my mind went back to that hallway. You were the antidote, the relief that breathed life into my lungs with your light. I thought you would fly away, like a balloon drifting towards the sun and I would watch you sail with my hand shielding my eyes. You would disappear and get tangled in someone else’s tree. But, you kept calling to me and I followed, trailing behind as you stretched and reached for me, grasping tight as together we crashed down wrapped around each other—breathless. Now, you needed me to find that key to keep your heart from being battered, because your L-word was not locked, there was no need yet for a key. The weight of my silence is crushing you. Your L-word is still shiny and raw as it sat in front of me. I could feel your body stiffen, cooling to my touch as my heart flipped and thrashed like waves in the ocean, causing me to feel sea-sick. “I know,” was all I could say as I felt my lock turn.


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Excalibur 111 by Julie Duffy The setting sun transforms the drowned downtown into a lake of rippling gold. I check the eastern horizon for signs of approaching bad weather and see none. All I see is the silver sword of the 111-story tower that slices skyward out of the bay. I sigh. It’s the perfect time for a spot of crime. People say the city looked different before the Risen Tide; but no one alive now remembers it. The tower was newly-finished when the waters came. The city fathers made it their line in the eroded sand. They sealed and pumped out the lower levels and now it stands, in the middle of the enlarged bay south of the city, a monument to hubris. A media wag called the tower Excalibur, and the name stuck. The casino on the top floor is a clubhouse for the city’s elite; captains of industry, growing fat on the sweat of the workers who, in turn, grow thin spending their meager credits at the company stores. The rich mingle, secure in their playground at the top of Excalibur Tower. After all, who would try to rob a casino on the 111th floor of a building with its own moat and only one working elevator? Who would mess with a casino owned by the most dangerous man on the east coast? This girl. I’ve spent the past two months working at the casino, getting to know its routines. The owner picks his extensive security team for their brawn, not their brains, and he has no spare generator-power for surveillance gadgets. I know, from past experience, I can outwit his army of thugs. Now, it’s just a matter of timing. My shift finished an hour ago. I took the foot-ferry with the other employees back to the half-submerged building I’m using as a base. It was the work of minutes to strip off my uniform, stuff it into a black-mold-infested cavity in the wall, and slip into the skintight all-in-one that’ll serve me for the rest of this evening’s adventure. I wrap a flouncy, floor-length, silk skirt, sarong-style, around my waist. I had the matching pink, five-inch heels custom-made by a sweet old man who skillfully hid a small hand-drill in one heel and a hacksaw blade into other, and never asked why. I let my hair down and dab on a bit of face paint. The shoes change my posture entirely. This, as much as the make-up, transforms me from a down-at-heel croupier on the unprofitable early shift into an entitled, high-roller with a life of privilege behind her. Each night this week I’ve made this transformation before taking the upscale Starlit Cruiser back to the sea-level entrance to the casino, to make my preparations. It hasn’t Page 48 of 64


been cheap, but The Resistance is paying for this job. For their small investment, I’ll deliver the funds they need to bring down the city’s corrupt oligarchy. I’m happy I’m getting paid, but honestly, I’d have done this job for free. I’ve a score to settle with the owner. Every time I look at his shining tower rising out of the bay, I have to fight the urge to touch the scar on my right cheek. Yeah, Timothy and I have history. I’m looking forward to hitting him in the only place he hurts. Back on the casino floor, it’s hard to believe that a plunging neckline, a slash of red lipstick, and a boatload of attitude is all it takes to hide from my co-workers. For one nasty moment I made eye contact with Sol, a waiter who makes me laugh—a dangerously intimate thing. I let my eyes slide past with the indifference of a true high-roller and hoped it was enough. His cold shoulder confirmed my acting skills. Now, I grab a drink from a different waiter’s tray and make my way to the ladies’ room. Old Rosie grins at me from beside her pile of hand towels. All week I’ve brought her rum cocktails and she’s been obligingly incurious as a result. Inside the far-left cubicle I unwrap my voluminous skirt and fold it into a small package, lining outward. Straps sewn into the underside turn it into a backpack. I step onto the toilet and push on a ceiling tile. Moments later I’m shimmying along the crawl space between Floor 111 and the roof of the building, air ducts to the left of me, plastic tubing to the right. My route takes me past the elevator shaft. Heights don’t bother me, but I linger only long enough to secure a small package to the wall. The watch pinned inside my neckline shows I have ten minutes until things kick off. A job like this is a curious mix of thrill and boredom: adrenaline rushing, and nothing to do but wait. I spend some of the time checking the adjustments I’ve made to Timothy’s pneumatic tube system. Here’s how it works: customers come in and exchange foil-like credit-strips for casino chips. Once an hour Antonio, the head cashier, empties the credit drawers, stacks and rolls the strips, then stuffs them into a transparent cylinder. At the top of the hour, he pushes the cylinder into a dispatch-box in a wall tube, closes the sluice valve, and—whoosh!—air pressure carries the package along a system of tubes to a vault six floors below. At sunrise, Antonio accompanies Timothy to the vault where the two men count the night’s take. At least, that’s how it’s supposed to work. I’ve spent the past six nights working my stacked-heel hacksaw and hand drill, making a small-but-significant alteration to the tube network. Boned bodices are back in fashion this year, which gave me a perfect, if uncomfortable, means of smuggling in the curved plastic components I needed to build my very own dispatch-box. Page 49 of 64


It’d have been simpler to drill a hole in the tube, attach a vacuum pump to the opening and suck the loose credit-strips from the vault, but even Timothy’s meatheaded doormen might have noticed a guest smuggling a generator into the building under her skirts. I resist the urge to check my watch again and instead spend the time congratulating myself on rigging the trigger. The pneumatic tube can only handle one cylinder at a time, so each cylinder trips a little mechanical trigger, pulling a wire, moving a lever, and telling Antonio when the tube’s clear. This job’s all about the timing. It took a lot of thinking, some cleverly twisted wires, and one very long, boring morning in my city-side hideaway testing my prototype. Finally, I came up with a replacement trigger that lets me extract the cylinder, empty its contents into a box stashed in the cramped ceiling cavity, replace the container, and still trigger the switch exactly when Antonio expected to see the lever flip. It’s a small detail, but that’s where the devil lives. There. Air whooshes in the tube and every nerve in my body pings awake. I have the cylinder emptied and back in the tube in under 10 seconds,. That leaves 59 minutes and 50 seconds to carefully feed the flexible credit-strips into the special pouches sewn into the lining of my poofy silk skirt, before the next cylinder arrives. It’s a good thing credit-strips are as light as the silk itself, or I’d be in trouble, later. Later. A shiver runs up my spine. I push aside my worries and get back to work. Seven hours, seven deliveries. The last cylinder is back in the tube and I stuff my skirt one last time. Each batch could fund The Resistance for six months, and the people upstairs are literally flushing it away on games. I ball up my skirt and slither back to the ladies’ room. My heart rate’s nowhere close to normal, but at this time of night there are plenty of flushed cheeks and wide eyes on the floor of the Excalibur Casino. I won’t stand out. In the bathroom, I give my skirt an experimental shake. All the credit-strips stay in their secret slots. A quick stop at the mirror to adjust my hair and I’m ready. I slide a 100-credit-strip under the towels next to the now-dozing Rosie. I feel good about that. I’ve just robbed the city’s biggest gangster of a whole night’s takings from his crooked casino and his corrupt friends. I feel pretty good about that too. Now all I have to do was get out of an 111 story building full of security guards, a single elevator, and no way back to the mainland except by company ferry, while carrying a small fortune in stolen credit-strips. This is where things get a little dicey.

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Sol’s walking towards me with another tray of cocktails. Eyes down, I keep him in my peripheral vision as I cut across the floor on the diagonal…and crash into a tall man I didn’t see approaching from the right. As we begin cross-talk-apologies I look up, straight into the face of the man I’m robbing. Simpering, I try to edge around Timothy, but he must have caught a full blast of my cleavage, because he isn’t letting me pass so easily. “Allow me to make it up to you,” the tall man oozes, placing two fingers under my chin, tilting my face towards his. I murmur something between barely parted lips, and pray the make-up still covers my scar. My skin crawls at the old memory of those same fingers rubbing ash into the cut he made on my young cheek, marking me as one of his own. I will never be one of his. Before I can move, Antonio appears at Timothy’s elbow. “Ah,” Timothy checks his wristwatch. “Another time perhaps. You’ll allow me to compensate you for my clumsiness, I hope?” He twirls a 1,000-credit chip expertly along his knuckles and drops it into the deep V of my top. I squirm and giggle, as if enjoying being bought. I know his eyes are on me as I walk away, so I can’t explain why I let my hand stray to my face, touching the hidden spot where Timothy branded me. Even amid the hubbub of the casino floor, over the noise of patrons between us, gathering up their chips, above the rumbling of the elevator rising up the shaft to collect him, I hear Timothy’s voice, soft and clear as a bell on a still summer’s night. “Zoey.” I don’t turn around. I don’t change my pace. But I do bite down on my lip until I taste blood. Steadying myself, I find my concealed watch and touch one of its three special buttons. There’s a satisfying, if muffled, whumph from the elevator shaft and the floor underfoot shudders. I know, without turning around, wisps of smoke are curling through the gaps in the elevator doors. Soon word will spread: fire in the elevator shaft. The herd-fear of fire in a tall building will send the crowd stampeding for the stairs, all 111 flights of them. The first shriek fractures the shell of terror that had encased me at Timothy’s touch. I move fast toward the stairwell, determined to get there first. Leaping up the stairs two at a time in 5-inch heels is surprisingly easy and my ruched skirt was specially designed to aid in a quick getaway. I burst through the door to the rooftop just as the first of the screaming hordes find the stairwell and begin their long, sobbing journey down to sea level. Timothy will assume I’m among them. I kick off my heels and run for the edge of the roof. Unwinding the skirt from my waist, I roll and stow it carefully, and wriggle into its harness again. Page 51 of 64


An unexpected crunch of footsteps catches me mid-buckle. I grind one foot painfully into the stones and spin to face Timothy, looming in the doorway of the rooftop stair access. He knew exactly where to find me. “A flash grenade?” He arches an eyebrow. “Bought me a minute or two.” I fake a casual shrug. “I’m not a monster.” He waves away the implication with a long thin hand. “I’m disappointed. I’d thought our next meeting would be…” He snaps his fingers. “Spectacular. This disruption is just petty.” He sighs. “You are so much better than this.” I’m glad of the sun rising fast behind me. It keeps my face in shadow. Timothy glides toward me. “Look at you,” he says. “You belong up here, with us, not living in whatever mold-darkened rathole you call home these days.” I hold up a hand and he stops. “ I could use your talents,” Timothy croons. “Give you your pick of the jobs. Zoey. It’s time. Join me.” Far below me, the sea glitters. The foot ferry is a dot, plying across the bay, laden with the day-shift. “I would, sincerely,” I say with a smile, “rather die.” “Don’t be a silly—” Timothy snaps, but I don’t hear the rest. I’m sprinting the short distance to the northeast corner of the building. I leap over the edge. The cold morning air flays my exposed skin as I fall towards the sparkling water. The sight’s hypnotic. So hypnotic I almost forget to count the seconds. Almost, but not quite. Fighting the wind, my hand finds the toggle on my harness and I pull. With a deeply satisfying rustle, my former-sarong unfolds and allows the air to rearrange it. My head snaps back as my beautiful, pink parasail hoists me out of my free-fall. I grapple for control and see that a couple of the lining pockets have ripped. A small line of credit-strips flutter behind me, winking in the morning sun. It’s well worth the loss of a few hundred credits to know that Timothy, watching from the rooftop, is seeing them too, and slowly putting together the real story of the evening. I angle my chute to carry me across the bay to the flat roofs of Broad St. Something shifts inside my bodice, cold against my skin. The 1,000-credit chip Timothy tossed at me. The wind dries my teeth as I smile, broadly. My first stop this morning will be to deliver the haul to people working to plunge cold steel into the heart of Timothy’s organization and rebuild this drowned city into something better. After that? Maybe I’ll trade in Timothy’s credit-chip for some time at a really nice hotel. One that doesn’t have a casino.
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Tell Me Now, Where This Truly All Went Wrong Taylor Bielecki Oil & Enamel on Canvas, 30 by 40 in


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A Minor Rebellion By Rebecca Tabbutt The Millard’s phone rarely rung other than at 7pm on Monday nights, when Richmond called in his usual weekly report of, “Just fine. Eating plenty. Work is fine. Betty says hello. Speak to you next week.” His mother only needed to hear that he was eating, and working, and always felt a buzz of irritation at continued mention of Betty, but at least her oldest boy was well. The purpose of a telephone beyond those necessary weekly calls eluded the older Millards, and the Millard children had quickly learned that allowing their friends to call their home would only elicit confusion from their father, and shrieks of fury from their mother. Calling out was a dangerous undertaking that involved proper timing, planning, and a look out, and ultimately just wasn’t worth it. Instead, weekend plans were always confirmed by the time school let out on Friday, including the plans of second oldest Len, who was now out of school. Len’s younger sister and brother carried his messages to the younger siblings of his friends, and by Friday, June, or Arthur would be bringing home a note to Len telling him when, and where to meet everyone. Len would sweep into the house at 5:30 after his shift had ended, and be gone again by 6, freshly bathed, the note tucked into his breast pocket. When the Millard phone rang at 6:30pm on a Wednesday, the entire family froze. June had been passing the potatoes to Len, and though the bowl felt impossibly heavy it seemed inconceivable that she’d be the first to react. She realized she was even holding her breath, the complete opposite of her mother, who’d begun to hyperventilate. Her father rose slowly to his feet and stood for a moment with his head tilted toward the dining room door, as though perhaps he’d misheard. On the third ring, he suddenly bolted, the door swinging back so quickly it slammed into the wall. “Hello?? Oh. Are you all right? Well, it’s Wednesday, and…oh. Oh, well, that’s nice. Well, sure. Thanks for calling. See you then.” Still, no one at the table moved. June was fairly certain that she was going to drop the potatoes in a minute, but Len wasn’t reaching out any further to take them. Her mother’s heavy breathing had slowed, but her hand was still pressed to her breasts as though she was holding her heart in her chest. Henry Millard re-entered the dining room with a bemused look on his face and said, “Well, Richmond is going to marry Betty. They’re coming to Sunday dinner.” Then he sat down and reached across Arthur to take the potatoes from June. As Henry spooned potatoes onto his plate, June, Len, and Arthur all turned to look at their mother. Her hand was still at her breast, but the color was returning to her face. Her children watched her ears turn pink, and had she not been wearing a cardigan buttoned to her chin, they knew her chest would be Page 54 of 64


mottled red, and covered in sweat. The vein in her forehead was beginning to pulse, and Arthur kicked his father under the table to make him look up. “Now, Bess, you’re getting yourself worked up, and I think this is very nice news. Betty is a good girl. You’re friends with her mother! And this can’t be a surprise. He’s been stepping out with Betty since high school.” Without a word, Bess rose from the table, and left the room. They heard the stairs creak, and then a door slam. Henry returned to his dinner, but the children stared at each other in awe. Richmond was going to get married. June knew that her future marriage was expected, even encouraged, but a Millard BOY marrying? Everyone knew that the Millard boys belonged to their mother, and no other woman would ever take her place. Quite a few mothers had warned their daughters off the Millards. “Marry a Millard boy, and you’ll get Bess Millard running your life forever” they’d say. Even Betty’s mother had been making increasingly nervous comments about Betty’s future as she inched ever closer to 30 without a proposal. Most of Betty’s friends were already married, a few had babies, and her mother thought it was a huge mistake to hitch her cart to a Millard, especially the eldest, the golden boy. June had heard Mrs. Connor lamenting these facts to Mrs. Donaldson after church one Sunday, and found herself nodding in whole-hearted agreement. Richmond would never marry Betty. He’d never marry anyone. Mother would never allow it. By church on Sunday, the whole congregation knew that Richmond Millard was engaged to Miss Betty Connor. Henry was clapped on the back, and offered loud congratulatory wishes, and pointed comments about his son “planting roots”. Bess was given sympathetic hugs and offered lace hankies as other mothers told her how hard it is to lose the first one, but that “happy events” make up for it. It took June until halfway through church before she realized that their friends and neighbors all assumed Betty was expecting. It made perfect sense. How else would a Millard boy ever step out from underneath Bess’ thumb long enough to marry? It had to be a situation in which there was no other honorable option. June had to admit that it had occurred to her, but unless Betty had suddenly surrendered her fiercely protected virginity, it was unlikely. Richmond and Len had never realized that June could hear everything they said in their room when she stood in her closet, and as recently as Christmas, Richmond was still lamenting that Betty wouldn’t allow more than over the clothes fondling. A baby would be nice, though. Anything to take their mother’s focus off her children. Well, off Richmond, Len, and Arthur. Bess never paid much attention to June unless it was to direct her in the household chores, or to express profound disappointment in her existence. And, frankly, June liked it that way. Every day in that house felt like she was just killing time until her real life began, and the less attention Page 55 of 64


her mother paid to her, the less likely she’d want a say in what June’s real life would be like. June hoped it would be with a handsome, kind husband in a house as far away from her mother as she could get, but it’s not like she was meeting the type of men who would take her far away. The boys she knew were the same boys she’d known since childhood, and their dreams wouldn’t take them beyond their family farm, or their father’s business, all of which were within an uncomfortably close radius to June’s family home. June was beginning to suspect that her real life would be disappointingly similar to her current life. Richmond and Betty arrived slightly late, which was a good thing as far as June was concerned, because she was behind on peeling the potatoes. So many people had stopped to offer congratulations after church that they had arrived home a full 45 minutes later than usual, and Bess was frantic that dinner wouldn’t be ready at the usual time, a horrifying thought when a guest was joining them. Henry had tried to calm her by saying, “Oh, we’ll just extend cocktail hour by a bit” which was exactly the wrong thing to say to a woman who only took alcohol medicinally, and who was irritated that Henry insisted on social drinking. After her explosion over his comment, Henry retreated to his garage, and let June bear the brunt of her mother’s distress. Accustomed to her mother’s harping, June let it wash over her in silence as she peeled potatoes into a bucket. Her mind was far away, anyway, picturing the hopefully daffodil colored bridesmaid’s dress she’d wear at Richmond’s wedding. It would have a ruffle over the bust, and a nipped in waist, and a long, gauzy skirt, and she’d look so beautiful she’d almost outshine the bride. She was mentally building her bouquet as she peeled the last potato, then heard the crunch of gravel on the driveway signaling the arrival of the newly affianced couple. She tossed the potato into the pot with the others, and ran out to greet them, ignoring her mother’s furious demand that she wait to greet them at the front door like a proper young lady. “Richmond!! You did it! Betty, you look so pretty! I missed you! Come inside, and let’s start planning the wedding. Can I wear a daffodil dress? Daffodil is THE color now, did you know? Anita Hickman told me, and you know her mother gets all the fashion magazines.” Richmond grinned at her fondly and planted a kiss on the top of her head, “Slow down, Junebug. At least let me get a whisky in me so I can face discussing anything in front of Mother.” He rolled his eyes at Betty, who smiled back serenely. There was something different about her that June couldn’t place. Something in her eyes that hinted at a steely resolve that June had certainly never noticed before. It made June feel both excited, and terrified. Betty had never been anything other than sweetly deferential toward Bess, even in the face of thinly veiled comments clearly meant to

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scare her off. Something about her today told June that Betty thought she now had the upper hand. And Bess would never stand for that. Henry emerged from the garage as they headed up the front walk toward the house and clapped his eldest son on the back. “You’ve done it now, boy. I’m thrilled for you, but don’t think for a moment that Mother is. Get ready.” Then he bent to kiss Betty, murmuring, “Don’t let her frighten you” and straightened just in time to see his wife in the doorframe, her face wearing what June was certain was the most insincere smile ever smiled. “Betty! How lovely you look! So nice to see that you carry a little extra weight so well. Not all women can, you know. Richmond, come and kiss me so I can get back to the kitchen to check the roast.” Richmond hugged, and kissed his mother, rolling his eyes at Betty again over her shoulder. Betty’s unflappable smile remained in place, and she came forward to kiss Bess without the slightest hesitation. “It’s lovely to see you as well, Mrs. Millard. I’m so looking forward to being part of your family.” June almost laughed aloud at the look on her mother’s face, stifling herself just as Bess’ eyes swept her way, and she rushed to comply with her mother’s demand that June return to the kitchen to check on the now boiling potatoes. She could hear Len and Arthur clattering down the stairs as Henry escorted Richmond and Betty into the parlor, and felt a stab of resentment that they were allowed to join cocktail hour. June slipped into the kitchen behind her furious mother and took up her post in front of the potatoes with a fervent prayer that dinner wouldn’t be as uncomfortable as she was anticipating. Bess was clearly so upset that she’d forgotten June was there (or, perhaps, that June existed) and was muttering to herself in a fashion that June found rather ominous. When she dished up the potatoes and asked her mother if she wanted them on the table yet, Bess jumped, then said, “Yes, I suppose we have to feed her.” June felt a thrill of fear as she went through the dining room door. Betty was in for it. Her shiny new diamond, and her firm new backbone weren’t going to save her. Bess would chase her off. June was suddenly certain of it. As everyone gathered at the dinner table, June realized that her mother had moved the place cards. Betty no longer sat next to Henry, across from Richmond, where June had placed her to keep her as far from the front lines as possible. Now she sat between Len, and Bess, as far from Richmond as Bess could get her without giving up her own seat. As she sat down, June realized that her hands had started to shake, and she quickly clasped them together in her lap. She glanced over at Betty, intending to give her a reassuring smile, but Betty looked serene. She wasn’t at the head of the table, but she might as well have been. She looked as though she owned the room, and they were all her guests. June could tell Bess saw it, too. Her ears were pink, and she sighed loudly every few minutes. While Henry said grace, June peeked up under her lashes to Page 57 of 64


see Bess glaring fiercely at Betty’s bowed head. So, she was surprised when Bess didn’t start in immediately. Instead, she suddenly smiled, and said, “Well, Richmond, I must say this is happy news. What are your plans?” Arthur nearly spit milk across the table, quickly clamping a hand over his mouth as Richmond answered in a rather shocked tone, “Well, now, Mother, that’s nice of you to say. We’re, ah, still working on our plans, aside from, well, I suppose, where we’ll live.” “Where you’ll live? Have you found a house already?” “Well, no, not exactly.” Richmond flushed. He looked pleadingly at Betty, who smiled sweetly at Bess and said, “We’re moving away. To Oregon, actually. I’ve accepted a teaching post at a newly built school, and Richmond is coming with me. We leave in a month, so we’ll be marrying at the courthouse two weeks from Tuesday. Of course, we hope you’ll all be there! Mother is quite sore to miss out on planning a wedding, but I think my father’s glad to avoid the expense.” And she picked up her knife and fork and began cutting into her meat. There was a moment of stunned silence, and then Bess exploded. Her wail was so loud that June clapped her hands over her ears. Henry reached out a hand as if to comfort her, though he was an entire table length away. Len cried out, “Ma, don’t!” and Arthur slid so low in his chair that he might as well have hidden under the table. Richmond’s face was so red he looked sunburned, but his jaw was set, and his fists clenched as if physically preventing himself from reacting. And Betty continued to eat her dinner. “You. You would do this, Richmond? You would abandon your home, your family? You would leave because SHE tells you to?” At this Betty looked up and said quietly, “I didn’t tell him to. I simply told him that I was going to take the job, and he could either come with me, or we could end things. He chose to come with me.” She looked pointedly at Bess, “I could never ask someone I love to do something they didn’t want to do.” Bess was shaking with rage, but her voice became dangerously quiet, “I just want to know who you think you are.” Betty smiled that strange, serene smile and said, “Mrs. Millard. I’m the woman your son loves. I’m who he chose. I used to wonder if he really loved me, if I was just wasting my time. But when he had to make a choice, he chose ME. So, now I know. And now YOU know.” And she held Bess’ gaze, her smile steady, but her eyes blazing. Bess didn’t speak. She simply stood up and walked out of the room. They heard her climb the stairs, and a moment later they heard her bedroom door close quietly. That surprised June. She’d expected to hear it slam. No one finished dinner. They all tried, but it was a half-hearted attempt, and after about 20 minutes, Richmond said he and Betty should probably go. Henry, Len, Arthur and June all walked them out to Richmond’s car, and stood awkwardly for a Page 58 of 64


moment, everyone trying to avoid looking up at Bess and Henry’s bedroom window. Henry suddenly pulled his son to him in a tight embrace, and said, “Don’t worry, boy. She’ll come around. I’ll get her to the wedding. And if I can’t, we’ll all be there.” Richmond sighed heavily, and said, “Pop, I’m sorry. I never meant it to be like this.” Henry shook his head, “It’s a minor rebellion son, nothing more. A minor rebellion. And a necessary one.” He looked pointedly at Len and Arthur. Richmond smiled, and he and Betty got into the car, and headed down the drive. As June turned to go back in the house, she glanced up at her mother’s window. Bess stood there, so rigid she almost looked like a doll. But then she lifted a hand, and rested it first on her cheek, and then on the window pane as she watched her eldest son drive away. June blinked, and looked again. Her mother looked…smaller. As though she’d somehow shrunk since the morning. She no longer had the fierce, intimidating aura about her that June had feared since childhood. She was diminished. June felt herself suddenly lighten. And she went inside to make a telephone call.

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Contributors ANNA KOCHER is an artist living and painting in the greater Philadelphia area. She works in a variety of media, including oil, watercolor and mixed media. Find her work on Etsy: https://www.etsy.com/shop/homingpigeonstudio?ref=hdr_shop_menu and Instagram: @annakocherart; www.annakocher.com. BETH MOULTON has an MFA in Creative Writing from Rosemont College, in Rosemont, PA. She has been published in Affinity CoLab; Bartleby Snopes; A Clean, Well-Lighted Place; scissors and spackle; Circa, A Literary Review and Fifty Women Over Fifty Anthology. She has earned several awards at the Philadelphia Writers’ Conference. She lives and works near Valley Forge, PA with her two cats, Lucy and Ethel. CRYSTAL STONE’s work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Poetry Daily, SWWIM, PHEMME, Better than Starbucks, peculiar, Sport Literate, Collective Unrest, Driftwood Press, New Verse News, Occulum, Anomaly, BONED, Eunoia Review, {isacoustic*}, Tuck Magazine, Writers Resist, Drunk Monkeys, Coldnoon, Poets Reading the News, Jet Fuel Review, Sigma Tau Delta Rectangle, North Central Review, Badlands Review, Green Blotter, Southword Journal Online and Dylan Days. Stone is an MFA candidate at Iowa State University, gave a TEDx talk the first week of April, and her first collection of poetry, Knock-off Monarch (Dawn Valley Press), was released on Amazon in December of 2018. DAN ERDMAN is currently working on publishing his first collection of poetry. He performs his poems at Steel City Coffeehouse in Phoenixville, PA and is a member of the Just Write Meet-Up. DEBORAH CARRIER is a Southern-born poet, who now resides in Malvern, PA. Northeastern PA has been her home for the past 10 years. She goes by the pen name 'Deep Blue River', and performs her spoken-word art at Steel City Coffee House in Phoenixville, PA in conjunction with Affinity CoLab open mic dates. She has previously been published in High School and College publications, and was recognized with a Third Place award, for a Short Story about her Grandmother, at The Dallas Women's Museum in Dallas, TX.
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FAITH PAULSEN Over the years Faith has held day jobs as a technical writer, travel writer, freelance writer and in the insurance industry to support her family and her expensive and selfish writing habit. Most recently her work has appeared in the 2018 QuillsEdge Anthology 50/50: Poems & Translations by Womxn over 50, edited by Ann Davenport, Mantis,  the upcoming Evansville Review and Terra Preta, as well as in a variety of venues ranging in alphabetical order from Apiary to Wild River Review. One poem was nominated for a Pushcart. Her chapbook A Color Called Harvest (Finishing Line Press) was published in 2016. FREDRICK W. FELDMAN lives in Pennsylvania. He has published short stories and poetry with Affinity CoLab on-and-off since its inception, and two of his poems have been set to music by composer Audrey Rake. Among other things, he currently works on the editorial staff at College Literature journal while completing his M.A. in English at West Chester University, and he has presented two conference papers on avantgarde pop music. His current scholarly interests include literary criticism and the philosophy of aesthetics. ISAAC WESTERLING SAUER is an emerging writer and poet currently working as a business analyst in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Eastern University in 2013 with studies in literature, politics, and philosophy. He has previously published in the Turk's Head Review and Belle Ombre. JEANETTE PEROSA lives in Limerick PA with her husband, four children, a pack of miniature schnauzers and a cat. She is a graduate of Arcadia University with an MFA in Creative Writing. She is an avid reader and writes women’s fiction and young adult fiction. She currently has been published in numerous literary journals, both nationally and internationally. When not writing, teaching, or running her business she loves to travel, drink good wine and spent quality time with her family. JD STAHL is from Boyertown, PA (Berks County) and is finalizing his first two books: Fragments of Time: Light and Fragments of Time: Darkness, which compile his work over the past 20 years. He can be contacted at jeffdstahl@gmail.com. 

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J.L.DELANEY is well known for being unknown. A poet from a small town in the Philadelphia suburbs, she spends her days behind corporate walls, yet lives her life through her art. Since beginning to share her work in 2014, she has taken stage at Affinity Colab’s monthly Slam Poetry events sharing the stage with elite local writers in spoken word. She was also chosen to be participate in the 2016 LGBT Equality Alliance of Chester County For the Love of Art event, a benefit for the LGBTQ community of Chester County. Dreaming of a world where equality, grace and love prevail, she is an advocate for Domestic Violence and Mental Health awareness. Painting struggles and triumphs of each in her work, as well as, weaving the words to depict the light that comes from the dark. JULIE DUFFY is the founder of StoryADay.org and an experienced public speaker on topics such as creativity, productivity for writers, self-publishing – with an emphasis on ebooks and print on-demand, and short stories. Her first ebook, 21st Century Publishing, grew out of her popular newsletter and website of the same name (a Writer’s Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers pick the early 2000s). She has been sharing tools and insights with authors ever since in publications such as Writer’s Digest and Writers‘ Journal. KAREN IZZI a Chester County, Pennsylvania native  and has been making art and cooking since she was about six years old. She believes in the power of love. She is an advocate for the equality of all people and animals. She has been seen hugging tress and getting up close and personal with birds, plants and flowers. This girl enjoys hiking, climbing mountains, and the sunshine. She is a poet and journalist. Karen founded Conscious Creations Art Studio in  2015, on a mission to support and promote other artists and writers within the community. She is a member of the American Art Therapy Association and realizes that the power of art therapy and writing changes everything. As a student of meditation and a teacher of Zentangle, her pen-to-paper meditation, she encourages everyone to live to their fullest potential, every single day. KATY COMBER is the co-founder of Creative Light Factory Writers' Room. Her work appears in Paragon Press, Lagom Journal; Meat for Tea Literary Review; Studio B's Wabi Sabi anthology; Affinity CoLab Presents...; and a self published collection of poems, 40 Portraits of a Family.

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KITTY BLANCHARD is a nurse by day, writer by night. Actually, the other way around. She enjoys writing poetry & fiction. Her short story, Time to Move On, was recently published in the Downington Doo-Writers, 2018 Anthology ‘Paint by Letter.’ Kitty shares a home with her 2 dogs, Ruby & Leela, and her cat, Pru. In addition to writing, she spends time art journaling and gardening. Currently, she is creating her first bullet journal, which combines her love of art with her love of list making. KRISTEN KIDD has been featured in Rangefinder Magazine and Offbeat Home for her series on grieving the loss of a pet, Offbeat Home for her series on body dysmorphia and women’s empowerment and the Lansdale Reporter for The Retrato/ Portrait Project, in which she travels to remote villages in Honduras to provide portraits to families that would not otherwise have a photographic foot print. Kristen calls Philadelphia home and enjoys traveling, hiking and camping with her husband and fur babies, Hudson & Nito when she isn’t capturing the precious lives of twolegged and four-legged families.” KRYSTLE N. ADAMS is an actress and writer, known for Wake Me When It's Over (2012), Blackout Cake and The Elevator (2018). LAURA KEEN, a Phoenixville photographer, has worked with a wide variety of clients ranging from Bradley Cooper to Urban Outfitters, recently released the book Chasing Light. PATTY KLINE-CAPALDO is President and Co-Founder of Creative Light Factory, a writers’ room and creativity center in Spring City, PA. Patty has been published in multiple anthologies and facilitates two Meetup groups, where writers and artists gather for instruction, mutual encouragement, and inspiration: Just Write (www.meetup.com/Just-Write-in-Spring-City-PA/) and Creative Light Circle (www.meetup.com/Creative-Light-Circle-in-Spring-City-PA/). REBECCA TABBUTT lives in West Grove, PA with her husband, and two children, and enjoys writing in her free time.  SANDY MAMBER is a first time contributor to Affinity CoLab Presents. Mamber’s piece, Dragons Love Tacos, is a whimsical take on this issue’s Rebel/Rebellion theme.

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SARA CHODAK is a 17 year old musician, poet, and all around creative student. Sara has a music project called Vassal. She's released the EP 'Matter' under that name, and plays many shows around the Philadelphia area. SHARON HAJJ lives and writes in Douglassville, PA and is currently working on a young adult novel. Her work has been published in two anthologies, and online by Literary Heist, Affinity CoLab, and Down in the Dirt. She is a member of the Women's National Book Association - Greater Philadelphia Chapter. SHEYNA LAND has been teaching middle school and high school English in Pennsylvania for just shy of a decade. For two and a half decades, she has been writing. She loves reading, getting outside, and spending time with her husband, daughter, and cat. Poetry and microfiction are her passion, as these forms give the audience small, vivid snapshots from other perspectives. She maintains a blog at http:// sheynaland.blogspot.com/.

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Profile for affinitycolab

Affinity CoLab Presents Rebel/Rebellion  

The Affinity CoLab Presents: Rebel/Rebellion issue is a call to action. Its purpose is to inspire readers to understand other perspectives a...

Affinity CoLab Presents Rebel/Rebellion  

The Affinity CoLab Presents: Rebel/Rebellion issue is a call to action. Its purpose is to inspire readers to understand other perspectives a...

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