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Issue 11

Winter 2018


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR Collected between these digital covers are the words of 12 very different, very talented writers, and I’m thrilled the editors at A+A selected their writing for this issue, which compiles all publications from the first quarter of 2018. The cold months are clearly visible in some of these pieces, like in Nicholas Gore’s poetry, while in others, like Danny Powell’s fantastic “Gunshine State,” the horrors of contemporary America find a home in sharp prose. There are a variety of voices in Issue 11, yet one familiar question seems to haunt each page: where do we all belong? I hope you enjoy this issue, but before I go, I wanted to take a moment to mention the passing of a terrific writer and friend, Zach Doss, who left us in March. His words were nothing short of magical, and he was a lovely, kind person. His words never appeared at A+A, but I urge you to read his work around the web. See you in the summer. As always, we love you. BW

Editorial Board

Founder: Brendan Todt • Editor in Chief: Benjamin Woodard Poetry Editors: Liz Ann Young & Summar West Fiction Editors: Whitney Groves & Cathy Ulrich Creative Nonfiction Editor: Emily Arnason Casey Assistant Editor: Breana Steele


TABLE OF CONTENTS J. Bradley ƒ

From Teenage Wasteland: An American Love Story

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The Ribcage’s Current Lover Uses A Wall Of Televisions At A Soon-To-Be Defunct Electronic Store To Deliver A Breakup Message

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Danny Powell ƒ

Gunshine State

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Nicholas Gore †

What Fools May Dream

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Kristen Wheatley †

The Dandelion

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Richard Fox †

You Followed the Moon on Its Wane or Wax

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Kristine Langley Mahler ≈

The Rules

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Yoon-Chan Kim ≈

To Call This Home

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C.B. Auder ƒ

Chipper

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Amy Lee Lillard ƒ

Pretty Girls Make Graves

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Lee Hamblin ƒ

In-Locked-Out

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Suzanne Samples ƒ

Water Signs

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Jonathan Gleason ≈

Annotations

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Call for Submissions

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Contributor Notes

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Fiction – ƒ

CNF – ≈

Poetry – †


Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine Sioux City, Iowa www.atlasandalice.com atlasandalice@gmail.com

Š Atlas and Alice, All Rights Reserved


J. BRADLEY

From Teenage Wasteland: An American Love Story When you (or your tumors make you) drift off to sleep during class, you see another classroom, with the Math teacher on TV talking about how to calculate a body count during a war where American lives are lost, how the bodies with the non-preferred skin color aren’t factored in. The Math teacher says this is how we can show the American god how much we are winning by how much we aren’t losing. You watch hands that aren’t yours write on paper that isn’t yours take note of this American arithmetic. You watch a hand that isn’t yours raise and hear a voice that isn’t yours ask how do we know what skin color the American god doesn’t prefer and the guard with his gleaming, oiled AK-47 answers the bodies where bullets make nests and give birth to more bullets. The voice that isn’t yours asks so if the bullet passes through the body, then the American god favors that skin color and the guard shrugs and says ask your Math teacher when you mail your homework and he’ll tell you. You watch hands that aren’t yours make note of the guard’s response. You listen to thoughts that aren’t yours wander off into his schedule protecting the class president, the boy who oozes, how he wishes the president wasn’t so aggressive about building a wall to protect heaven from boys and girls with the wrong mutations, the wrong skin color. You watch through eyes that aren’t yours the classroom and the TV change into monochromatic hues. —§—

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You inspect the ash ringing around your eyes, kiss tissue after tissue to make sure your mouth is a lure to shed clothing in dark, damp places. You cannot remember the last time you wore a face that would cause men to jump in the ocean to kiss you, how you would race them to the bottom and promise them your lips if they kept up though none of them ever could. You’re not looking to negotiate with the class president, the boy who oozes, about the safety of the school and the wellbeing of his constituents, the eleventh grade class. You want him to obey your command, crook your finger like a leash to bring the class president to heel, to save all of the school from the menace growing from the boy who coughs up oil’s body. You look at yourself in the mirror and say to yourself over and over again that you are doing the right thing by putting the safety and wellbeing of the school before your happiness. You don’t have the stomach or the will to kill the boy who coughs up oil. The full moon of your hormones makes you want to do the opposite, find dark and damp places for you and the boy who coughs up oil to touch each other. You look at yourself in the mirror, the mermaid you have become for this moment, count the hearts you’ll have to break before this battle is through. You drown the tyranny of your desire with a sip of your mother’s wine before you head off to class.

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The Ribcage’s Current Lover Uses A Wall Of Televisions At A SoonTo-Be Defunct Electronic Store To Deliver A Breakup Message The armies of his mouth march through you, leave you splintered. The salesperson asks: how can I help you? You want to throw your shards at the screen, blind this now ex-lover, choke him with your residue. The salesperson grabs one of your tips, gets you upright. You stare one more moment at this wounding wall, skitter off towards a sun hanging so low, you would puncture it if you could.

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DANNY POWELL

Gunshine State Roger went to a gun show. He went to a gun show and bought a gun. He went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself. He went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself and his family. He went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself and his family from something. He went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself and his family from something, he just wasn’t quite sure what. He went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself and his family from something, he just wasn’t quite sure what, but he knew it was something scary. He went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself and his family from something, he just wasn’t quite sure what, but he knew it was something scary, something like the boogeyman. He went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself and his family from something, he just wasn’t quite sure what, but he knew it was something scary, something like the boogeyman, that faceless brown creature. He went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself and his family from something, he just wasn’t quite sure what, but he knew it was something scary, something like the boogeyman, that faceless brown creature bent on destroying him. Roger went to a gun show and bought a gun to protect himself and his family from something, he just wasn’t quite sure what, but he knew it was something scary, something like the boogeyman, that faceless brown creature bent on destroying him, and when he got home he loaded his bullets and waited.

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NICHOLAS GORE

What Fools May Dream I’ve followed this trail of footprints and retraced my steps through the snow. A recurring dream that has fallen as I slept each night before. I may be as much of a fool as anyone who dares trust the night remain outside, though it often lifts open my unlatched windows and slips past the wispy curtains, silently rolling over the sills and into my bedroom. In my dreams, the ocean speaks a language only I can understand. Our conversations always lead to an argument about which continent feels more like home. I walk up and down the shores looking for glass bottles which contain the messages from stranded survivors who’ve learned how to weaponize nature.

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They believe forests are actually rifles and rockets aimed at clouds. Their angled shadows reaching for noon. The leaves ready to launch and burst like laughter between old friends, slowly floating down like ash, coating the sidewalks, driveways, and roofs. This is how the fool will always find his way home.

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KRISTEN WHEATLEY

The Dandelion Assimilate into the green pastures Expand your yellow bloom sprouted from the freed seed growth is your doom. To open up and show your beauty, but the world calls you a weed so, you confine yourself only to then grow 170 wings.

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RICHARD FOX

You Followed the Moon on Its Wane or Wax You followed the moon on its wane or wax; stood on the wall of the canyon & waited for your echo to come back. When it did no such thing, you crawled with such care along the ledge. You tended the sheep while the dog wandered, & weather formed above your head & made itself dimensional. It started with whatever befell the snow; it started with whatever peopled you forward, if peopleness was what was before you: it started with a large body of water, one that let out into the sea, where sailors were called explorers, & the sea was called the drink; where the kitchen

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was called the galley, & food was called the mess; where the helmsman guided the boat & the astrolabe read the sky: this was where you would have to be in order to imagine the brink.

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KRISTINE LANGLEY MAHLER

The Rules (an erasure essay) From The Seventeen Book of Etiquette and Entertaining (1963) Good, safe, polite: you know, you remember. You come close. It’s unexpected, it’s dangerous. You want a collision. Hugging is just annoying, failing, blind. Others roar ahead, changed; slower reactions and dawdling is bad, but a last-minute flash of a directional brake (refusing to enter) is pure selfishness. Hardly worth it. Sometimes, while you wait to emerge, you block access to a friend. You can’t help it when he wants to leave before you do. You probably get too close. You know you get thoughtless, leaving a trail of debris he can easily collect, but won’t. You come across as nothing less than the remnants of someone else. You inconvenience, you hang back in the rearview, a clown-car-at-the-circus so full of ends that you can hardly maneuver. It’s not necessary. Boys are worse offenders than girls, deafening and hard to handle when getting too affectionate. You’re more sedate, but you hear the siren call of need, a blemish.

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You require constant care; they haven’t the foggiest notion. You dart between cars, walk facing the traffic. You can’t avoid an accident. Girls can be reckless for the sake of hands on skin. You can’t stop, you demand complete attention, you climb from front seat to back seat while the car is moving. You disturb no one. Behave. You’ll remain a child, cranky and restless, played out. You’re madly in love but shrewd. You never, never advise a boy on how to change. That way lies spinsterhood. This is one of those agonizing customs. You accept the obstacles of tight skirt, high heels, low-slung manners. You wait. You fill the endless interval by pretending to rummage about; you stare, and then you hop out by yourself; return, wait a second to see if he wants you. You want to make him feel like Jack the Ripper. There are two girls you’d rather be; you let one girl get in, then the second girl, a grownup. You reach for a maturity you haven’t shown. You do your arithmetic before he starts the division. You can’t be stopped. You can’t be discreet. He belongs to you and you are covetous about your need, inconsiderate in your requests. You make sacrifices for the sake of harmony. You are understanding and accommodating, you’re consistently thoughtful, you lick out the ashtrays, sweep out the sand. You’re underage, you’re awkward, you’re a teen and you don’t want to be. You want the house, the college parties, the roses in the cheeks, a boy you like offering a future, the dizzy heights of ownership, a status symbol. A covert, constant repair will become your condition. You doubt, you test, you risk, you never learn. No one will instruct a girl who wants to learn about a trap.

Source: Haupt, Enid A. “Chapter 13: Car Talk: The Rules of the Road.” The Seventeen Book of Etiquette and Entertaining, David McKay Company, 1963.

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YOON-CHAN KIM

To Call This Home Dad never calls Virginia home. Even when I sneak in questions to learn more about his childhood he prefers to leave that past for places more darling, like the galleries Mom leads him through or the gardens she shows him. If I asked Dad where home is today, he would probably say, “wherever your mother is.” Mom, though, would say something else. Dad grew up in the states, but Mom lived in Korea until she met him. She still visits Korea from time to time, switching between Korean and English and stumbling on peculiar differences between two very different worlds. In Korean, for example, there is no linguistic difference between a “house” and a “home.” Both constructs are represented by a single word. One could reconceive the same question about home, then, and feel lost, or puzzled. Understanding both cultures, Mom would probably first pause, reimagine “home” in whatever linguistic framework suits her answer, then start in with a few stories. I live in northern Virginia now, just a few miles from where Dad grew up and minutes from where he and Mom first bought a house. Having learned to wed geography to identity, I have come to adopt this place as a part of my own. Still, I wouldn’t call Virginia home. I’m not sure I have an easy answer, but I know the idea of home never felt so simple. It always felt heavier, and much more involved, loaded with a weight better felt than articulated. Every couple of months, I fly out of Dulles International Airport to meet students from around the country and visit the schools they attend and the places they call home. I remember, on a long drive through rural Kentucky, the road curled around

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a grove until the neighborhood broke the horizon. The pocket of houses seemed sewn together by the children chasing each other outside. I squeezed into a driveway next to a battered pick-up truck and approached a door I will never forget: brown and unadorned, it looked worn and weathered, like it was tired of waiting for someone it could belong to. I knocked and two warm smiles welcomed me. The student and his mother showed me to the living room and invited me to sit on a bulky couch. I noticed the walls behind them, barren and empty, almost clinically white. Maybe they kept their pictures in boxes. They moved to the “home of the brave” to start anew and chose Kentucky for its housing prices. The student told me that the town was okay, though definitely far from perfect: people here don’t know what to make of the color of his skin, so they rely on racial epithets instead.

They hoped to move soon, maybe to a bigger city. I said I

understood, remembering my grandfather’s immigrant narrative and wondering what a family needs to make this country feel like home. A few weeks later, I visited California to see another student. She lived in Los Angeles, just west of my alma mater, so I decided to visit a former professor whose kindness I had always admired. When I surprised him in his office, he seemed genuinely happy and invited me to lunch. We walked through town and talked about family before slowing down to turn to someone on a bench. Most of us would call the man “homeless,” but my professor knew him by name. He asked the man how he had been. The man, delighted less from the question than my professor’s sincerity, began to share. I watched as my professor listened, attending to the man as if he had been a lifelong friend and nothing else mattered. Before leaving, my professor confessed that he had no material things to give the man. The man simply smiled and gestured the notion away. My professor waved a friendly goodbye, and as his attention returned to me, I felt a sense of failure knowing my hands were in my pockets searching for change. I thought a homeless man wanted things his hands could hold. A week later, I returned to northern Virginia where the real estate market was alive and well. Stories about houses and homes echoed along the office hallways, so I listened and learned from those who knew more: someone’s offer on a house was accepted; my boss stressed over negotiations with her agent; a young associate became a homeowner, inviting congratulations tinged with both admiration and jealousy.

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As the stories unfolded, though, I continued to hear the raconteurs switch between the words “house” and “home” with grace and aplomb. Listeners remained unfazed and stayed attuned to unsaid differences between two very different words: assess the “housing market” and “sell the house,” but embrace “homeownership” and enjoy “going back home.” Everyone seemed to know that a house is not a home. Conversations about other houses and homes seemed to reveal as much. Whenever we walked into the office kitchen and turned to headlines on the newspapers strewn about the counter, the silence seemed to sit for longer stretches: Hurricane Harvey and Maria devastate thousands of homes; millions of Syrians remain displaced; foreclosures increase as urban centers continue to tear down shelters for new developments. We sighed, and shook our heads without a sound, respecting lengthy pauses as if we were repenting. We saw images of rubble and broken windows and felt our hearts buckle under the weight of all they stood for. The act of possessing and losing mattered, but I still walked away amazed that a single word could command so much hope in one sentence, then devastation in the next. When I think of “home,” or “going back home,” I do more than visualize the brick and mortar from which a “house” is built. I remember details and little moments that words fail to describe, like the expression Dad made when I surprised him at the door, or the soft sounds Mom murmured when I made her cry. I think of postcards and pictures that adorn the walls, and how we point to them to launch into the stories we really want to share. I see blankets and comfort pillows laying on the couch and recall less their contours than the laughter and tears we left there. Even when I think of my grandfather, I think of someone who plumbed his pockets so his loved ones could learn to appreciate something more than things their hands could hold. I try to remember, then, that when one speaks of home, there is always more at stake than material fullness or devastation: the man most of us would call “homeless” belongs to stories that come alive when I choose to listen; a mother and her child looking to make this country feel like home may choose to forget about the house they lived in because they would rather not remember all that it stood for; and countless others will start in with a few stories with real ruin in their hands. So when years ago Dad said he wanted to sell the house, I know he had only the best in mind. He wanted to save the business so he could protect us, and had arrived at the idea after exhausting every other measure. Giving us the best was all he had ever known.

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I just don’t think he remembered that in Korean the words for house and home are the same. Mom cried a lot that day. To her, selling the house meant more than selling the home. In fact, it may have felt worse than losing it. To Mom, selling the house meant trading away the stories that make us feel alive, just so we could hold a few more things in our hands. —§— The last time I was in California, I was sitting on the couch reading a book while Mom sat beside me in the morning calm. She gazed out the window, listening to the birds sing and watching the crab apple tree sway. She seemed comfortable and at peace, like those portraits by Vermeer she always so enjoys. But I also noticed a heaviness to her air, a gravity I could not describe. She held onto a faraway look, like she was reconciling herself to some inevitable thing. Without turning her gaze, attending to the scene as if it were some masterful painting, Mom spoke in soft tones when she told me that for many years now, she had imagined how wonderful it would be to call this home her final resting place. My heart buckled. The world paused. I didn’t know what to say, so I turned to look out the window with her. I’m not sure how he did it, but Dad worked some of his best fatherly magic then and kept the house. The crab apple tree that was once only a bud is the same one Mom rests her eyes on today. As a child, I always thought that the tree in our backyard was a cherry blossom tree. After all, the name was pretty, and the tree was pretty too. Mom would always gently remind me that what we have is a crab apple tree. Now whenever I see cherry blossoms here in northern Virginia, I remember a quiet morning when Mom shared a few stories while watching the crab apple tree sway and birds sing sacred songs.

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C.B. AUDER

Chipper If I could fly away. Or never need sleep. Because it’s in my dreams that I murder my mother, get dive-bombed by my brother. Crash into glass walls, race the rails of stiltlegged stairs, stalk the bamboo-caged gloom of snake-filled snares and taxonomy halls. I thrill to hug my pets, then dream-remember I turned them to ash. But sometimes my father and I, we just eat. Dad’s himself, except actually alive. Polite, distracted. Oblivious to the baffling decor of the rococo trattoria he picked. Our grub hasn’t arrived before he’s eyeing his watch. Eager to return to his girlfriend’s roost after a quick hug and peck and See ya. See ya. See ya later. We’re eggshell experts. I beam across the fine linen landscape. Munch a repulsive quinoa salad as though existence is by nature oddly nutty and why-nottish. The good egg’s first rule: Do not crack. If Dad senses there’s a Suzuki Swift lurching through a future light, he won’t even be wishboned in peace. I wake hollow as a freshly-cleaned duck. Drained by feigned cheer. Like I’ve kept one night-eye open to wrap Tweets around all the world’s broken wings. I want only to sleep. To sleep, for fuck’s sake. To pick and rip at the flattened remains of grief, rather than brave and soar above the simple grating cluck-and-rev of my neighbor’s rusting Chevy truck. This wish for REM relief is a twisted beak–some dew-clawed need to exchange gifts of broken love through half-feathered dreams. Let’s ankle-tag them properly: lies.

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And still the answers hover too high. Above and beyond, ceiling-hard. A safe night’s flight always one trigger out of reach. Too soon, school buses screech and grumble past. The cardinal returns. Redfaced and tilt-headed. Like he still can’t fathom the plucked-nightjar nightmare of a human brain. He claims his perch on the sill. Cheeps his cocksucking little koan through my no-see-um screens: You want? You want? Then chew. Chew, chew, chew.

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AMY LEE LILLARD

Pretty Girls Make Graves HER “Rosie.” In a message of static, the name was clear. “Rosie.” Forty nine seconds, the message ran. From an unknown number with a distant area code. When I first played it, on the way to the small cabin off Route 84, I was only half-listening. “Rosie.” By the third listen, I knew the speaker was male. He used a name I’d abandoned. He repeated the name five times. “Rosie.” By the tenth listen, I still hadn’t placed the static, the caller, the reason. But there were things to do for a new home. So I forgot about the message for awhile. That first day I picked up food and gas and duct tape from the small bait-andtackle shop down the mountain. I weeded and pruned the wild thicket of grass and bush that bordered the front path, cut back the vines that hid the front door, filled the bird feeders. I swept the bare wood floors, dusted the cobwebbed ceiling and woodpaneled walls, wiped down the kitchen sink and tub. I oiled my rifle, stripped and reassembled it, then did it again. I cleaned myself with a damp towel, under my armpits, between my legs, behind my knees, where the sweat had pooled and become salt. I poured cold water over my

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hair, then cut it off, close to the scalp, in big black chunks that fell to the floor like fur. Then I sank deep into the cracked leather recliner, a cloud of dust rising as I fell, and put a hand on my belly. I wanted a girl. That seemed selfish, knowing what we faced. Knowing it’d be easier to be a boy. But all the same, I pictured a little girl with knobby knees, braids, missing front teeth. We’d plant a garden for flowers and vegetables, get some sheep and goats, live by our own work and in our own world. My daughter would need a name. I still had a few months to decide. But of all the things that were frightening to me about those months of preparation, and the act of pushing her out safely, and the months after, doing all I could to keep her alive, naming was terrifying. Naming a thing confers power; giving her a name could give her strength, or take it away. Holding her, in the quiet cabin and the decaying chair, I thought of the message again. “Rosie.” He sounded lost, lonely. A garbled distress signal, to a woman long turned ghost. I pitied him. HIM Her voice asked him to leave a message. The sound of her nearly drew blood. It sliced, a garrote to the gut. When it was his turn to speak, he lost all language. All the words, all the names for things, disappeared. Except hers. He said that name, again and again, and by saying it, he said he was coming. He told her to hang on. HER I dug trenches. Around the perimeter, where the wild grass gave way to trees and gravel, I dug steep drops. I went slow and easy, slipping the shovel into the dirt wet from the previous night’s thunderstorm, letting her move within me, giving her room to breathe as I did. I talked to her as we worked. “A good trench is a lost art,” I told her. “We don’t create lines like we used to.”

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When I’d talked to the cabin owner on the phone, an old woman who’d advertised on Craigslist and asked for pennies, she’d said the cabin was pre-war. I asked which war. She laughed. “At least in the First World War,” I told my daughter as we dug, “you knew which side was which. Even if they were only separated by a few yards. West trenches, the good guys. East trenches, the bad. In the middle, no-man’s land.” I thought of maps, systems of deep lines rutting across a continent. Like arteries, veins, things that bled deep red and smelled of rust. A few feet down, I jumped in the hole. “A little bit more,” I told her. “Enough to crouch and give line of sight, while still protecting. Since it’s just us, it doesn’t have to be much wider than this.” My hands shook, and an angry red line of welts and blisters budded on my palm. Behind us, a football field away, the sun was setting behind the cabin. Down the mountain, I heard the sound of a motor. We went to my knees in the trench, counting the seconds. One hundred and fifty one passed before a crap Hyundai with a wheezing exhaust pipe cleared. Another eighty-six before the motor faded down the other side. “It’s tight,” I told her. “But it’s good notice.” HIM Everyone he talked to said she liked cities. She’d mentioned St. Louis, Chicago, San Diego, they said. Places full of people and far from their town, which was twenty minutes from Akron. But he remembered that night, how she’d stared at the Ansel Adams on his living room wall, the one with snowy peaks, a river shaped like a snake, storm clouds above all. He’d asked if she’d been to Wyoming, and she’d shaken her head like it was heavy, like it hurt. He’d asked questions. He wanted her to feel his attention, his effort. See that he was worth her own. But she’d brushed them aside. Taken off her shirt, pants, bra, underwear, before he could swallow his swig of Stella. She stood naked, her brown skin straining over thin bones, her long black hair a veil, and stared at those mountains. Even when he’d kissed her, tasted her, slid himself inside her, called her baby, she looked away, into that black and white world.

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HER At night, I took to sitting on the grass beyond the front door. No lights in the cabin, or outside. Ants crawled on my legs. Lightning bugs brushed my cheek. Owls and bats flew and screeched in the night wind. The light of other worlds beyond this one shone above. “This is peace,” I told her. She’d started moving more within, and I thought of alien movies, the creature lurking under skin, ready to burst in a shower of blood. I thought of shrapnel, alien bodies slicing from the other side to get in. “We can’t help it,” I said as I spread my hands in the grass behind me. “Being around other people. We can’t help fighting for what’s ours.” I pictured the girl with her gun, the skin over her liver and pancreas a useless flap of red, her right cheek gone, gums and bloody teeth shown to the world, her left foot hanging by a shred of tissue that looked like the chicken drumsticks they fed us. And my pathetic kit: IVs, needles, cloth, tubes, shears, clear liquids. Tonics and potions. My own gun at the ready, so I could cut through darker skin and bone. My girl kicked. “What’s your name?” I wondered if there was a name that would give protection, as well as power. Could I brand her, so all could see she was not to be touched? What language would it be? When I first got back, I did what I was supposed to. I got a job at the pizza place in the main square. I took a couple classes at the community college in the next town. I wanted to forget what I was supposed to forget, and wanted to remember how to be a human. One of my teachers talked about dialects and languages, how English and Arabic and Spanish and all the other languages of the world derived from the same language. Over time, people moved away from their roots, developed new words, created wholly different languages to separate us from each other. I wondered, looking at our cabin, at the dark, at my trenches, if all those different languages came from mothers, searching for the right sounds that would mark their children as safe.

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HIM For months, he tried to figure it out. Why run? Why couldn’t she stay, when he had love to give? He thought of her naked beneath him. There hadn’t been many women. No one like her. He wondered sometimes if she was even real, if he hadn’t dreamt her. It was only one night, after all. But he wouldn’t have dreamt the ragged skin on her back, melted and folded, the texture of putty. He wouldn’t have dreamt her vacancy, how she looked somewhere else, away from his townhouse and his own naked body and him. He wouldn’t have dreamt how little she told him, that he would need to seek her to love her. She was wounded. She needed him. He’d been waiting for someone to need him. HER “Code used to be something much different,” I told my daughter as we drove down the mountain, towards the river. The road wound itself into Zs, back and forth across the hill. “Now it’s all computers. You’ll probably learn it by the time you’re a toddler. But back then, it was life or death.” I pictured Alan Turing and his mathematicians and spies, British code breakers all, that cracked the German command. They let Allied ships and German Jews die to preserve their secret and win the war. Then the Brits jailed and castrated Turing for loving men. Every decision Turing made was life and death. After an hour of slowing and accelerating, curving and straightaways, without seeing another car, we reached an empty bank at a thin stretch of the river. I patted myself, checking gun on my hip, knife in my bag, baby in my belly. Outside the water rushed past and the air felt thicker, heavier. I played the message again. It was a code to break. “Rosie,” the voice said. Surprise and excitement. The static could have been harmless background noise, the chatter of a shopping mall, the echo of an interstate, the tumult of zoo animals. It could have been a connection over frayed wires and an aging landline. Or it could have been a message, its emptiness full of meaning.

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“Rosie.” Confused. “Rosie.” Anger. “Rosie.” A call for shame, guilt. “Rosie.” Resolve. I listened to it again, the volume on this phone, the third since leaving, as high up as it would go. The speaker didn’t sound like family. The static didn’t sound like this, like the mountains and wilderness. Before, looking at blood that refused to stay in the boys and girls’ bodies, looking at their camouflage, their helmets, their artillery, their will, all the things that had failed to protect them. Every decision I made caused death or saved life. Things made sense. In the bathroom of the pizza place, when I took my test and it came back positive, things made sense again, for the first time since I’d come home. I knew what to do. I threw the phone into the water, underhand, so it skipped the surface once before sinking in. “That’s not my name,” I told my daughter. “I don’t think it ever was.” HIM He talked to regretful people every day. Inspected their cars for damage, drank coffee in their kitchens, watched their cigarettes shake as they described near-fatal side-swipes and roll-overs. They questioned their decisions, those they made consciously and those their body made by rote. For awhile they would feel unsafe, jumpy, unable to make decisions. He filed his reports back in his cubicle, and they received their insurance payout, and they would feel better, and he would feel fulfilled. After meeting her, he wished he talked to more liars. That was the domain of the freelance private investigators working for his firm. They sought out fake addresses, sorted through pain pills, interviewed exes and conspirators. They hunted for the truth in fishy claims, and learned to find it by tics, deduction, stakeouts. He knew a PI, a stocky Swede who he’d dealt with on a past claim. He asked the investigator for a few reports, a bit of legwork, suggested it was a current case. Not fully a lie, not fully the truth. From the PI, he found her numbers, and the area of Wyoming she was in. Specific roads to roam. He also learned where she’d been. He learned who she’d been. The investigator said it wasn’t a surprise, her leaving. Vets, especially combat medics,

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have all their decisions made for them over there, their meals, their clothes, their schedule. Their only decisions are how to save themselves and others in the midst of war. Returning to normal life, choosing a fabric softener, a sandwich, a jacket for the cold, becomes incomprehensible. He leaned on that pain. That trauma. That’s why she ran away. Without her wounds, she would have seen him fully, seen what he offered the first time. Maybe they could laugh about it later, how full of regret they could have been at never getting together. Their near-miss. That’s what kept him going, through the months of unpaid leave that threatened to turn into unemployment, through the false stops and starts of his inexperienced investigation, through the long hours in the ailing Hyundai that wheezed and coughed its way through the Wyoming mountains. HER “Rosie.” I heard his voice in my head long after I threw the phone out. Laying in the musty twin bed with daffodil sheets, the mums comforter thrown back. My daughter was taking up more space, making her presence known, and it made me hot and cranky. “Rosie.” Not family. No trace of Mexico in the vowels, the R. I was the first and only one born here. My mother used to shake her head at my American accent, the blasphemy of contracting syllables, letters that only sounded like themselves, all in the nasally twang of rural Ohio. Friends, lovers. Their faces and names merging into a painting, the ones with all the melting and leering. I’d left them all behind, in the desert and in the farmland. They didn’t understand life and death. With one hand I felt for the shotgun, laid out next to me like a pig-nosed scarecrow. The other I curled over her. Her name. It had to be shield, but it also had to be password. “They tell you you can be anything,” I said to her. My hand moved across the expanse like a vacuum. “There’s so much potential, and the only thing holding you

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back is you. It’s a lie. You’ll be a woman, you’ll be brown. Poor. So they’ll try to send you off to a war, to help you reach that potential.” I think of my mother. She named me after a pretty, delicate piece of nature. It didn’t protect me. She had believed the lie. She half expected my report cards filled with As and Bs to also come with stacks of cash. She shrank two inches when the reports, my good behavior, my clean ears and vagina didn’t come with scholarships and the keys to all the cities. Her hair started falling out in clumps when I told her I enlisted. While I was gone she got lost at grocery stores, found herself driving with no memory of where. When I got back, and she found my bed empty again and again, found me harder, absent, unfamiliar. She asked me, in tears: If you aren’t better than me, what was it for? Did she survive my leaving? “I’ll try not to live through you,” I said to my stomach. “I can’t promise I won’t live for you.” Out here, maybe the rules would be different. Maybe we could truly be who we were meant to be. HIM He drove the same roads, the same Zs, up and down. He waited for the laws of attraction to guide him, or a mystical sign, or something unknown. He was losing his hold on what he used to believe, in facts and figures, reality and truisms. On a cloudy morning with the chill of fall descending, on a steep grade, his motor chugging and something else ticking, he saw a flash of white as it fell into and under the ground. He pumped the brakes and eased onto a gravel path he’d missed before. He scanned the grounds, saw a tiny cabin tucked far back from the road, and a deep line of ditch between them. HER It took me longer than it should have to recognize the sound of the motor. I held my daughter and my rifle as I raced across the field and jumped into my trench.

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Too late, though. The motor cut. The car door creaked. The boots crunched. No one knew I was here, except the landlady. She said she’d never visit, leaving me to my business. There were still variables. Maybe she changed her mind; maybe it was a nobody with a flat tire; maybe it was something else I hadn’t accounted for. “No trespassing.” My head still below the dirt line. The crunch of gravel stopped for a moment, then started again. “I have live ammo.” “Rosie?” I stood, my torso above the trench, and aimed the shotgun. HIM She had an impossibly long gun. Her hair was chopped, leaving uneven patches of white scalp. Her breasts hung loose and low under a white t-shirt. He’d imagined what it would feel like when she finally saw him, when her attention was on him, not a photograph or something unseen and far away. He’d imagined it, here in the wild, as the secret relief of being found, a smile that would slowly win out over shock or fear. She saw him now. Really saw him. And being seen was terrifying. HER “Who are you?” “Rosie,” he said. The man was early 30s, white, with ash-blonde hair. He had the advantage of height, six feet to my five-and-a-half, but beyond that he was thin and lanky. Not much to him. “Who are you?” I said it a little louder this time. “Rosie,” he said. “It’s me.” He pointed to himself, in the direction of his chest. Like his whole self was tied up in his heart. He should have pointed to his throat, his voice, the one from the message. “Who are you?” “Rosie please, it’s me.” The gravel announced his next step. “Stop,” I said.

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His face seemed to seize, his lips and jaw and eyes working through too many emotions to settle on one. “Don’t you remember? It’s Paul. From that night?” A liar gives too many details, confidently. He was vague, rattled. “Whoever you’re looking for, she’s not here.” “You look different,” he said, gesturing to my hair. “But I’d know you anywhere, Rosie.” “That’s not my name.” “It’s the name you gave me.” I looked him over again. Flattened nose, thin lips. Long earlobes. Rough patches on his arms near the wrist, maybe psoriasis. A vague memory of his shape, moving between me and a black and white image of mountains. There’d been so many, in those first months home. My fingers, instead of tying off veins, inserting IVs, handling weapons, were arranging cheese and ham slices on pizza crusts. My feet, instead of sprinting across hard-packed dirt and aged stone, sat still under a school desk. My back, instead of carrying half my weight in gear, guns, supplies, spasmed at night from the weight of nothing. My body was purposeless, foreign. I thought someone else could make me feel it again. I went to bars, let strangers touch me, fill me. None of them had the power to make me feel anything. I left each of them before the sun came up and they could try again. I’d left all of that behind, all of them, when I learned about my daughter. She could be from any of them, all of them. But she belonged to no one but me. The man looked so hopeful. He’d found me, when I’d worked hard not to be found. Under that white skin with angry red patches, the smile he was working hard to keep, the blonde hair that stood on end in the wind, revealing a bald patch, something desperate thrummed. “If we had a night,” I said. “That was it. Go home.” My voice was not gentle. I had my gun. HIM It was all going wrong. “No,” he said, shaking his head. Throat closing around tears. “Not without you! I came to help you. Bring you back. Or go somewhere else. Together.”

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She wasn’t putting the gun down. She wasn’t melting in relief. She wasn’t telling the truth. If he could just hold her hand, look into her eyes. She was looking at him now, really looking. She would see the two of them, as he did. Gravel squeaked as his boots left the path for the grass. “Stop,” she said again. He was close enough now to see more of the ditch in which she stood. It was freshly dug, without grass cover. “What are you doing, Rosie?” “I’m telling you to leave, and never come back.” “But,” he said. He could see more of her now too. Her slashed hair, chunks of scalp, her pert ears, her long neck. Her feet were bare in the dirt. Her white t-shirt, wet under her arms and long, past her knees. Her shape, under the shirt. All the reasons he’d considered for why she ran, all of them had been about hurt and fear. All of them fixable. His love would be her salvation. He hadn’t considered this. And as he worked through the math, added up her belly, her flight, their night together, did the sums and multiplied by new layers of shame, trauma, a mother’s ferocity… He smiled. Laughed. It was wonderful, this new discovery. Full of promise. Potential. “Rosie,” he said. He held his arms out wide. When the blast hit his chest, he thought his heart had exploded from joy. HER The shot sent birds flying and rabbits running. All the creatures that had welcomed us, let us pretend to be wild, one of them, were now wary. I held the gun up for another five minutes, watching the body, counting off the seconds. When he didn’t move, I leaned back against my trench wall. I patted myself down, patted her. “We’ll move on,” I said. “Lots of wilderness out here.”

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The rest of the afternoon and night I’d bury him in the trench, and backfill the rest. Drive his car down the mountain and set it on fire. Pick up our things from the cabin and lock it tight. It felt good to make a real decision again.

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LEE HAMBLIN

In-Locked-Out Asleep Soft fingers brush across my forehead like whispers of love. A voice. A man’s voice, yes, tranquil, yes, but only on the surface. I know you can hear me, he says. Footsteps approach. The hand pulls away sharply. The same voice, though now turned elsewhere and unmasked. They ran a red light and smashed into her before I’d a chance to… We were walking together, her hand in mine… The voice ripples, distorts with fury. Why her, not me? Another voice, this one a woman’s, icy, and impassive. I’m so sorry for your loss, sir. She’s still here with me, the man says, I know she is. Awake It’s a sunny autumn day. We’re driving up the High Road in Dad’s pear-green shinychromed Ford Consul. Mum’s talking to my brother. She’s not shut the back door properly. I’m playing roly-roly across the seat. I’m giggling and spluttering baby sounds. I roly-roly too far too quickly, the door teases open, I fall out, landing with a smack in a golden-leafed gutter where a time-bent Chinese lady screams like a cat being strangled. She picks me up and wraps me in the silk gown she’s wearing. She calls out to the pear-green car that hasn’t yet stopped. She looks at me, and I’m pulled into the black pools of her eyes. I touch the soft silk, and smile.

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Dream Someone’s crying. A man’s cry, guttural and boisterous, extricated from some deep pit. He struggles with words in the spaces between wails. It’s the same voice from before. Please come back to me. I love you, he repeats, over and over, again and again.

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SUZANNE SAMPLES

Water Signs No one ever talks about him, you say. When the pastor listed him at Dad’s funeral, I couldn’t figure out who he was. At least ten years younger than the rest of us, you do not remember. You do not remember the shoebox casket, the shivering January shoulders, the crunch of frozen mud. You do not remember how we waited anxiously two days for him to die, how your mother rocked Bibles instead of babies after he passed, how my mother instructed all of us to never ask questions or speak his name at family gatherings. You were the red sky at night, the living albatross, the final hope. The rest of us remember. The rest of us remember how your mother sat on Saturday nights with a dying baby in her whale belly, your mother choosing the name Jonah James because she knew God had a plan and this baby had a servant’s message of healing to bring to the sinners, the doubters, the unbelievers. We remember your mother cradling the phone with one hand and with the other, too much fluid, malformations, and lost dreams of two girls and two boys, an even set. The rest of us remember how every church within the state prayed for him, begged for miracles, anointed your mother’s womb with the holiest waters anyone in West Virginia could find. Of course you do not remember. We stopped talking about him when you made your debut on the ultrasound, your cheeks already contoured like a Kardashian and your wit as sharp as the scalpel that tried to relieve the pressure, the fluid, the flood on his brain.

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We stopped talking about him when we discovered you were a Pisces, an earlyspring baby, a wish blown on a dandelion that no one expected to come true. You do not remember the rest of us being afraid to tell our parents, our family, that we didn’t read the Bible or believe in angels, but astrology and alcohol and poetry and tattoos were all pretty cool. You do not remember how the rest of us pretended to pray, hid our cigarettes in carved-out teen devotionals, made paper boats with the unread pages and watched them float down the foaming, hungry rapids in our grandmother’s backyard. We stopped talking about him when you sang the alphabet backward to the wrong tune, when you insisted on being the first girl in your class to wear fake eyelashes and use self-tanning lotion, when you quit college to sit with your dad as cancer molded his lungs and made his breath rattle rattle rattle anemically like a tired baby’s toy. You do not remember if your dad saw him in those final moments on land before he drifted off to the dead sea, the black waters, the bottomless void. You were the red sky at night, the living albatross, the final hope. Of course you do not remember. The most beautiful mermaids never do.

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JONATHAN GLEASON

Annotations 1. “I’m sending you a copy of our family tree,” my mother wrote to me one spring, after a series of deaths in our family had convinced her of the importance of heritage. Her cousin was the last person to die before she finished—collapsed on a hiking trail while out for one of her daily, ten-mile runs. The paramedics weren’t able to reach her before activity in her brain had stopped. She lay in the hospital for several weeks before her body followed her brain out of this world. Her funeral was attended by her living son and twin daughters. She was buried next to her other children. My mother inherited our family tree from her aunt—a woman who had traced our lineage back two hundred years in a fruitless attempt to be inducted into the Daughters of the American Revolution. During the brutal Midwestern winter that followed her cousin’s death, while wind whistled through loose panes, and snow piled up in dirty, ice-glazed drifts along the main roads, my mother installed herself in front of a computer, purchased a subscription to an online heritage database and began making calls to relatives, determined to finish the work her aunt had started. When I left for college, my father gifted me his copy of the American Heritage dictionary. It was bound in red leather with delicate ink illustrations in the margins. There is no illustration for the word family, but one of the entries reads: Lineage; especially, upper-class lineage. “Young men of family,” is offered as an example, as in he comes from an old Virginia family, as in he is well familied.

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Long before my mother began working on our family tree, I suspected that our obsession with heritage was not exclusive to our time. I knew then that English-men in the 17th century were paying their way into written collections of the most noble family names in England. But what I discovered was that, by the 1840s, the first genealogical societies had already begun to appear in America—organizations that allowed members to claim lineage to English lords and exploited the desire for status through faked genealogies. Although upper class lineage has largely gone out of use as a definition for family, it lingers on in our obsession over ancestry. The hobby that my mother diligently practiced leans on an idea far less innocent than we sometimes allow ourselves to believe. And it does not require extreme views to indulge in racially inaccurate thoughts about heritage. Before genetic testing was commercialized or ancestry databases made available online, white nationalists were waiting for the first fully sequenced human genome, ready to misuse the findings to argue for their agenda. But simply reading about DNA ancestry tests can increase a person’s belief in the inherent differences between races. It seems that though America likes to imagine itself through metaphors like melting pot and bread basket, we are far less likely to embrace these ideas when it comes to our own family. If one of the unspoken promises of heritage is to live forever through one’s family, then the other is the promise that we are part of the elect, essentially different from those who aren’t. I received our family tree several months after my mother’s message. It came in the mail as a stack of binder-clipped pages that smelled of fresh paper and ink toner. It traced our history through seven centuries, to villages in the German and Italian countryside, and it included a Virginian from Highland County who had participated in the revolutionary war, just as my mother had hoped. But I didn’t share her enthusiasm for any single name, what struck me as I poured over the document was the sheer volume of names. Names which sounded foreign and familiar in turns, but which were all in some way our own. Until that time it had not occurred to me that one family could contain so many, although I already suspected that the history we claim as our own is largely a product of who we want to be, not all the things that we are.

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2. The doctor’s name was Bernard Sachs. He was the son of a Bavarian school teacher, a Jewish immigrant who had eloped first to Hungary and later the United States. Bernard was born in Baltimore in 1858. He attended Harvard and later studied medicine in Venice. While his brother Samuel co-founded the investment banking company Goldman-Sachs, Bernard was becoming one of the country’s leading clinical neurologists. In 1926, he published the book The Normal Child, a child-rearing manual intended for the general public, which, unlike popular opinion of the day, concerned with Freudian fixations and psychological realism, encouraged parents to trust their instincts when raising children. In a single generation, the Sachs became intertwined with so much of what we think of as American: financial services and telling others how to raise their children. In 1887, after examining three cases of an unknown neurological disorder in the same family, Sachs became one of the first doctors to describe the red spot and milk white halo on the retina of children plagued by what he would term amaurotic familial idiocy. This disease was marked by progressive degeneration in neurological faculties and death usually before the age of four, which is a medically euphemized way of saying these families watched their children suffer as they struggled first to stand, then to eat, then to breath. It was a curious disease, the first Jewish Encyclopedia said, cropping up now and again mainly in the ghettos of newly immigrated Jewish families. And while Bernard may not have known it, naming in this case became a cultural and political act, affecting, forever, the way we would come to view this illness. “That Sachs would choose to include ‘familial’ in this disease name is significant,” the sociologist Shelly Z. Reuter writes, “because it set the stage for the medicalization of family and kinship.” —§— Though some dictionaries place their entries in chronological order, the standard practice is to put the most frequently used definition first. Under the word family, one’s spouse and children is the first entry to appear in many of the dictionaries I consulted, but a family is more amorphous than a dictionary can capture in a single entry.

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My mother’s cousin and her husband had four children then separated. Their first-born child, a girl my age, never learned to walk or talk. She died before turning three and exists for me now only on the fringes of memories: stretched out, swollen and motionless, on the faded upholstery of a rocker where her mother would sit patiently by her side with a bottle and a square of stained washcloth, dampening her forehead. Their next children were a pair of healthy twins—blessings in a season of grief and my companions through the reeds and cattails of lakeshores during family vacations. Their last child, however, was a son who was born as frail as a mouse, with skin like rice paper. He died before his second birthday. I learned early on that funerals for children are distinctly different affairs. There are too few pictures to string along twine or tack up to corkboards, there are no happy anecdotes to recount, no comfort in the idea of a “full life.” Just a piercing sense of tragedy. Driving home from one of the funerals I asked my mother what was wrong with my cousins, why had they died, but she never understood the science well enough to provide a satisfactory clinical answer. She would only insist they had a terrible disease. Without an answer to my first question, I asked my mother instead why some people died so young. She did not have an answer for this either. Instead, she said I wouldn’t have to worry about it, because all children who die go to heaven. And when I asked her when I would stop being a child, she became frustrated and snapped “thirteen.” What I remember most clearly about my cousins’ funerals are the miniature caskets, built for a child’s body, and the small room full of plush toys and plastic dishware where we were sent to play while our parents mourned. And I remember how, for the longest time, I hoped that I would die before thirteen to avoid the pain of uncertainty. 3. The disease Bernard helped discover eventually came to bear his name. Tay-Sachs disease replaced Amaurotic Family Idiocy, but it did not undo the disease’s long standing stigma or its association with Jewish families. From the 1880s through the 1920s, as a wave of Jewish immigrants flooded New York, tension surrounding this group began to rise. Stemming the spread of TaySachs disease was one of the arguments used to justify the systematic isolation of Jews

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in New York. But unlike some other diseases, Tay-Sachs does not respond to normal methods of containment. It arises from isolated populations, and it cannot be eliminated simply by maintaining a strict quarantine. So, the best way to prevent TaySachs is through education and genetic testing before a couple decides to conceive. But even if early 20th century New Yorkers didn’t understand this, their attempts to limit the spread of Tay-Sachs through isolation were only an easily available excuse for the hatred that already existed. A hatred that recalled old fears about Jews as well poisoners. As Susan Sontag reminds us, “Epidemic diseases usually elicit a call to ban foreigners, immigrants. And xenophobic propaganda has always depicted immigrants as bearers of disease.” And in this instance, the disease these foreigners bore was used to cultivate fear about a particularly white concern with purity and corruption. While fear of diseases such as Typhus, Tuberculosis and Cholera posed a threat of foreign infections in America, Tay-Sachs, with its roots in the still nebulous realm of inherited disorders, reified fictions about Jewish blood, while also presenting a far more metaphorical threat to the purity of an imagined American gene pool. —§— From a distant part of my memory, I can still recall the lake house in the Ohio countryside where we would vacation when I was a child. The house boasted a small pond, a gravel beach, and a swan shaped paddleboat that lingered forever on the shore. Of the few snapshots I retain of this place, one is the vivid image of my mother leaned against a banister, talking to her sister, her Capris rolled up to expose white calves to the first rays of summer sun. In the memory, I am standing behind them, listening for a moment, unseen in the backdrop. Their heads are tilted together in sisterly confidence. “I can’t believe Lori is pregnant again,” my mother says, “she got lucky with the twins, but who knows if this new child will have it to.” “It should be illegal,” adds her sister. They both nod and stare down at the lake for a few moments, where my aunt is kicking around with her healthy twin daughters. Then, I creep across the boards of the porch and into the cottage, understanding, even in that moment, that I had intruded on some private judgment.

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Tay-Sachs is a rare disorder. The illness requires two parental carriers, it can lie dormant for a lifetime in those with only one of two necessary genes, and it can pass through generations without being detected, appearing as if from nowhere like an act of God. Neither my aunt nor my uncle considered themselves among the groups susceptible to the disease, so they were not quick to accept the diagnoses their children received. Our family, the implication went, has been Protestant for over two hundred years. We can trace our history back to the founding fathers. We couldn’t possibly have a Jewish disease. 4. Between 1912 and 1932, three international Eugenics Congresses took place in London and New York City. The logo of the second international congress was a thick tree with a banner reading “EUGENICS” along its boughs, and the caption “like a tree eugenics draws its materials from many sources and organizes them into a harmonious entity.” The language of these congresses was often cluttered with metaphors of cultivation— “only the healthy seeds must be sown,” reads the title of a poster from the Eugenics Society archives, as a fit young man walks over tilled land under a yellow sun, tossing handfuls of seeds over his shoulder—but they were more often venues of sterilization. The United States was the first country to undertake programs of compulsory sterilization. And, like most dubious public health measures, the burden of these policies was born out by the already impoverished, disabled and disenfranchised. Between 1897 and 1981, sterilizations were carried out on the intellectually disabled, the physically deformed, the blind, the deaf and those suffering from epilepsy. Sterilizations extended to ethnic minorities such as African and Native Americans as well as anyone subject to a correctional facility. In the early 20th century, at the peak of the movement, some 62,000 people, most of them women, were sterilized in the name of Eugenics. It was the 1942 Supreme Court decision Skinner vs. Oklahoma, which stated that sterilization practices in criminal populations could not exclude white-collar criminals, that thoroughly complicated the notion of sterilization in the minds of many Americans. It would not be until the end of World War II, when the policies of Nazi Germany came to light, that Eugenics and sterilization fell out of favor in the United States. Still, a significant number of sterilizations continued until the 1970s, and, as recently as 2010, women in

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a California prison were coerced into illegal procedures that produced permanent sterilization. A group of like things, reads another definition of family. Despite its pleasant coating of science and objectivity, this is the definition I have come to mistrust the most. Of course, we should also be willing to ask ourselves when it is morally permissible to make the choice to conceive. In her book The Risk of a Lifetime, the philosopher Rivka Weinberg addresses the ethical minefield of reproducing. Is it, for example, permissible to bring a child into the world if there is a good chance they will be born with a debilitating disability or live in abject poverty, she asks. What if the disability is not life threatening? What if the poverty is not abject? Weinberg lands squarely on the conclusion that it is unethical to reproduce if two partners are carriers for Tay-Sachs disease, but she also acknowledges that she is here to raise philosophical questions, not make practical prescriptions. A quiet acknowledgement, I suspect, of how fraught a task it is to tell people they should or should not reproduce. One afternoon, in the cottage at the lake, in a sitting room lined with paneled wood and shag carpet, I stood before a crib decorated with IV bags, churning machines, and dripping tubes. Alone in that room, I stared down at my cousin, two years old, nothing but bone and baby’s breath, translucent cheekbones making a sharp line beneath the skin, waiting for him to show some sign of life. I must have stood at the crib long past when I should, long enough for my twin cousins to grow tired of the water and my aunt Lori to slip in from the porch to wash the sand from her feet, because, when I turned to leave, we came face to face. She was swollen from the early stages of pregnancy, frozen in the doorway, watching me watch her son. “I’m…” I began stammering something like an apology, though I didn’t quite understand what I was apologizing for, so we stood for a moment, caught in our small cocoon of silence. Then, more to herself than to me, she said, “If you’ve ever been too certain, have a child.”

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5. There is, of course, no such thing as a Jewish disease. Our genes are at once more complicated and less unique than we often believe. Genetic diversity in humans accounts for less than one percent of our genome, and “race,” as the anthropologists Alan Goodman writes, “fails to explain the vast majority of human genetic diversity.” Individual differences within any given population are greater than any difference between those populations, and there is no meaningful grouping of traits in any of the categories that we have historically described as race. Tay-Sachs itself is known as a single-gene trait. It does not correspond to our social constructions of race, and relates to no trait beyond its own manifestation. No one is sure where Tay-Sachs comes from, or more accurately, where and when any of the genetic mutations first emerged, but several theories exist. Reading through a list of theoretical genetic models, I can only guess at terms like hybrid-vigor and purifying balance, but I find one theory most compelling. In his book The Missing Moment: How the Unconscious Shapes Modern Science, the biologist Robert Pollack suggests that particularly brutal 15th century raids on Jewish settlements left only a few thousand surviving families who rebuilt a community from decimated lives, from a diminished pool of genes. My understanding is only as complete as to say that within a small population traits are amplified, allowing mutations to emerge and take hold as the population grows the way a tiny mark made on a deflated balloon with expand into a large, pale circle of ink when inflated. Pollack’s theory has its ugliness. If it’s true, then so called Jewish diseases are evidence not of threats or polluting forces, but of an ancestry fraught with massacres. This is the tautology of our prejudices: our hatred and violence spawns the traits we will later use to justify our hatred and violence. But the theory also has its beauty. There is a final definition of family in my dictionary. An elegant definition, that is powerful in its brevity. Family, the entry reads, all the descendants of a common ancestor. If our attempts to categorize ourselves by name or trait are doomed from the start, if a rare disease can appear like an act of God, unexplainable, untraceable, in the most unlikely place, then perhaps we can all be read as family to one another.

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS ______________________________________________ We’re always looking for writing that spans genres, that demands to be read, that might be considered the black sheep of a family. Art and science thrill us, but so does the simple image of a man standing at a crossroads. Surprise us. Thrill us. Make us laugh and cry and cringe. Tell us your thoughts. We can’t wait to hear from you! For submission guidelines, please visit http://atlasandalice.com/submit/

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CONTRIBUTOR NOTES ______________________________________________ C.B. Auder‘s writing and art have recently appeared in The Disappointed Housewife, Cotton Xenomorph, Moonchild, OCCULUM, and Unbroken. Find Aud on Twitter @cb_auder. J. Bradley is the author of the forthcoming flash fiction collection Neil & Other Stories (Whiskey Tit Books, 2018). He lives at jbradleywrites.com. Richard Fox has contributed work to many literary journals. “Swagger & Remorse,” his first book of poetry, was published in December, 2007. He released “Hula,” a recording of spoken word, in 2014. He received a full fellowship for poetry from the Illinois Arts Council. He holds a BFA in Photography from Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, and lives in Chicago. Jonathan Gleason is a recent graduate from Northwestern University. He loves work that pushes formal boundaries and makes good use of research. His essays have appeared in Pithead Chapel and Weirderary Magazine. Nicholas Gore is a writer and 11-year U.S. Navy veteran living in Bowie, Maryland. His poetry has previously been published in the Applause Literary Journal. Lee Hamblin is from the UK. He lives in Greece and teaches yoga. He’s had stories published in FlashBack Fiction, MoonPark Review, formercactus, Reflex, Blue Fifth Review, Ellipsis, Fictive Dream, Spelk, and at other places. He tweets @kali_thea and puts links to his stories and other words here: https://hamblin1.wordpress.com Yoon-Chan Kim has previously been published for his creative nonfiction pieces in Infusion magazine. He graduated from Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and is an avid patron of the performing, literary, and fine arts. He currently lives in northern Virginia and works at a national scholarship organization. Amy Lee Lillard holds an MA in literature from Northwestern University, and will complete her MFA in fiction writing from the Pan-European Program at Cedar Crest College in 2018. Her fiction was recently named to the 2017 Berlin Writing Prize Short List. She has been a

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Atlas & Alice | Issue 11, Winter 2018

professional writer for 18 years in advertising, communications, journalism, and medicine, and teaches writing and composition to college students. Kristine Langley Mahler‘s work received the Rafael Torch Award for Literary Nonfiction from Crab Orchard Review and has appeared/is forthcoming in New Delta Review, The Rumpus, Quarter After Eight, Barrelhouse, CHEAP POP, Sweet, and elsewhere. She is currently completing an erasure book on Seventeen‘s advice to teenage girls, a grant-funded project about immigration/inhabitation on native land and the privilege of home, and a graduate degree in creative nonfiction. Danny Powell is a writer of fiction and a director of motion pictures. He has been awarded writing fellowships and residencies from Hawthornden Castle, the Edward F. Albee Foundation, Tofte Lake Center, and Art & History Museums–Maitland. His work has appeared in Blunderbuss Magazine, Fantastic Floridas, York Literary Review, The Adirondack Review, Pea River Journal, and elsewhere. More at danny-powell.com. Suzanne Samples lives in Boone, North Carolina, where she teaches English at Appalachian State University. She received a Ph.D. in Victorian Literature from Auburn University. In her spare time, Suzanne plays roller derby as 9lb Hammer for the Appalachian Rollergirls. She has been published in Firewords, Cardinal Sins, Fiction Weekly, The Alarmist, Jersey Devil Press, and Dime Show Review. Kristen Wheatley resides in Frankfort, KY with her family and many farm animals. She was the literary editor of The Kentucky River 2017 edition and is currently majoring in English: Creative Writing at Kentucky State University. Her writing aspires from the elements surrounding her in which she finds great symbolism in the average subject.

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Atlas & Alice | Issue 11, Winter 2018

Image Credits: Cover photo: Benjamin Woodard. Page 13: Henry Be, via Unsplash. Pages 40-41: Stefano Zocca, via Unsplash. Visit atlasandalice.com for links

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Atlas & Alice | Issue 11, Winter 2018

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Atlas and Alice - Issue 11  
Atlas and Alice - Issue 11  
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