Atlas and Alice - Issue 17

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 17


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Letter from the Editor Time is a funny beast during a pandemic. Though we finished posting the pieces for this issue over a month ago on the A+A website, I am now just wrapping up the magazine version in mid-December. Part of this delay is due to life: everything seems to take twice as long when you’re working from home, doesn’t it? But another part of this is due to some behind-the-scenes changes here at the magazine. This is the final issue featuring the excellent editing skills of Kristen and Mike, who ran the creative nonfiction department for quite a while now. They are off to do some amazing work, but their departures meant we had to look for some new fantastic writers to fill their shoes. Thankfully, I’m pleased to announce we have three new additions to the CNF masthead: head editor Lindsey Danis and assistant editors Arielle McManus and Alton Melvar M. Dapanas. We’re also welcoming Maggie Fulmer (who has a poem in this issue!) as an editorial assistant. As 2020 ends, I hope you enjoy the 23 pieces tucked between these digital covers. From a lush description of Israeli hillsides to a world where raindrops are sold via catalog, there’s magic on every page. XO, BW

Editorial Board Founder: Brendan Todt • Editor in Chief: Benjamin Woodard Poetry Editors: Liz Ann Young & Summar West Fiction Editors: Whitney Bryant & Cathy Ulrich Creative Nonfiction Editor: Kristen M. Ploetz Assistant Editor: Mike Nagel

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Table of Contents Kim Magowan ƒ

Cancel Culture


Soramimi Hanarejima ƒ

Safe Keeping


Jad Josey ƒ

It Finally Happened


Maggie Fulmer †

Out of Order


Cliff Saunders †

On Both Knees


Satya Dash †



Julie Zuckerman ≈

Snapshot of the Southern Hills


Jessica Sadler ƒ

Baltimore Speak


KB Baltz †

Bower Birds


Nicole Scott †

The Mob Goes Wild


grace (ge) gilbert ≈

I realize I am a serial monogamist.


Liam Strong †

non-suicide poem


Hannah Grieco ƒ

The Three Witches


Richard Weaver †

Take a word


Hema Nataraju ƒ



Angela Ramos †

Silt Mounds


Sabrina Hicks ƒ

Buying Raindrops


Beth Bilderback ≈

Disaster Lover (June, 2020)


Katherine Anderson Howell †

The Millionaire of American Sadness


Pat Daneman †

The Garden


Tom England †

Aqua Dulce


Carol Stewart †

The World Is Full of Those Who

Dennis Barone ƒ

Bear Its Weight




Call for Submissions


Contributor Notes


Fiction – ƒ

CNF – ≈

Poetry – †


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Issue 17, Summer/Fall 2020 Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine Sioux City, Iowa

Š Atlas and Alice, All Rights Reserved

Kim Magowan

Cancel Culture It’s widely known that I never said, “Let them eat cake.” What I said was brioche, and everyone knows this means bread. But because I was foreign, because I was young and rich and pretty, because my husband didn’t love me, because my husband was a fool, this story caught and spread: proof of how out of touch I was, how arrogant and clueless, playing shepherdess in my gathered dresses and curved crook. You have to villainize people to justify killing them; I didn’t take it personally. In my green kidskin gloves, I understood. Sure, it was me, hissing in Macbeth’s ear, exhorting him to kill Duncan, “Screw your courage to the sticking place,” then me gone soft-headed and remorseful, hallucinating blood on my palms, pitching myself out of windows. What no one gets is we were a great couple. I was his partner in everything—after twenty years we still did it three nights a week. I wasn’t afraid to teach him how to touch me. Every Friday we played chess. It was the withdrawal of his confidence that made me—not myself. Cringing, wretched. He wanted me to push him; that was our thing. Women are only popular when our ambitions are checked. Back in 2016, you loved me. I was your quip and your excuse. “I’d vote for a woman, just not her. I’d vote for Liz.” Well then! When I finally run, out slither the snake emoji, the accusations of being disloyal, conniving, a liar, a schoolmarm. Do you realize how predictable you are? How hackneyed your insults? Men who shout are avuncular, women who do are scolds, “unlikeable.” None of it surprises me, yet… how disheartening, to get ensnared in such sticky, boring stories. “You asked for it”: nope, you did. She’s an idiot, she’s a fool, she’s a terrible role model: I hear it all. Terrible in the Hans Christian Andersen version where I trade my fishtail for legs and every step is like 6

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 “walking on sharp knives”; terrible in the Disney version, where I comb my hair with a fork like a moron. I’m a meme, a stand-in for pliant, pathetic girls who give up their voices and transform their bodies to win some dude. My trade for legs is some metaphor for eating disorders or plastic surgery, my legs make me fuckable. Why is this narrative easier to believe than that I wanted to breathe air, gill-free? It wasn’t the prince compelling me, it was the sun, slashed but visible through the water’s surface.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Soramimi Hanarejima

Safe Keeping After we switch reflections to see what that’s like, you leave the bathroom. I follow you into the kitchen where you fix us a snack. I guess you’re hungry and assume we’ll switch back later in the afternoon. We don’t. But that’s fine. I’m not particularly attached to my reflection and having yours instead is a refreshing change. A week later, it still is. And makes for a nice surprise this afternoon when I see your reflection in the café window to my left, sitting in front an identical ceramic cup and little table—seemingly outside in the afternoon sun, which gives her the air of a habitual sidewalk coffee drinker. This is the best case scenario, her as a subtle and unobtrusive presence. With little risk of attracting unwanted attention. Much better than the odds in places that put mirrors and multiple people in close proximity. Wary of such spaces, I try to use out-of-the-way or single-occupancy restrooms (one of the draws of this café) and avoid restaurants with mirror-paneled walls. As she and I now lift coffee cups to our own lips, it’s like I’m seeing into another world where you’re living my life, these two worlds connected wherever a reflective surface allows light to move between them. This makes me want to tell your reflection that she doesn’t have to copy all my movements; that she can just go about her day in the other world. But I worry that she’ll be out of practice and won’t imitate you properly when we switch back—whenever that will be; or that she’ll disappear into the other world, go someplace within it that bathroom mirrors won’t show me, leaving me to go around this world with a mirror in search of her. I take a gulp of coffee, then put the cup down and think maybe it’s you who will vanish, whisked away by wizards to fight a war in a magical kingdom you’ve always secretly been heir to—leaving me with your reflection, to bear distant witness to how the years change your appearance; to show your adoptive parents what you look like in that faraway land, the three of us peering into your reflection’s eyes, searching for a glint of happiness, their shoulders pressed to mine as we learn toward the bathroom mirror— 8

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 as you hoped we would when you planned the reflection swap; knowing that you would one day take up the responsibilities required by your ancestral homeland, you made this trade to leave part of yourself in this world—maybe a disturbing part for me as your reflection remains young while I age, because time passes differently where you are, sticking me with a constant reminder of our youth (except during the couple weeks I see a fox in the mirror when you must keep yourself disguised deep within enchanted woods). Only years later will I suspect that you took my reflection as a keepsake of what you had in this world: acceptance, belonging, understanding, compassion—connection. Everything that has existed between us. What everyone searches for but we somehow found and you must hold on to the memory of. And what if you don’t vanish, but still we don’t—can’t switch back? Will there be days when I don’t want to look in the mirror and avert my gaze from anything remotely reflective? Maybe after some argument or a major decision I/you don’t agree with. My heart wincing when I unwittingly catch a glimpse of her on the window of a passing car. The connection between us yanking at my heartstrings with a painful force previously unknown to me. Evidence of our bond’s strength, of how the image of you on silvered glass has the power to comfort and hurt like nothing else—a revelation that the fundamental nature of our relationship has long since been determined, and there is now only how it plays out. Here, that means simply sharing these idle minutes with your reflection, the latest of many tethers to you—wherever you are.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Jad Josey

It Finally Happened The sun dissolved into the sea today. It finally happened this time—it was not a metaphor for your fading love or a simile about your joy winking out like a light. The sun touched down, an inverted avalanche of steam cascading skyward as our best star tipped into the ocean. I was listening to the same mockingbird we used to hear on our evening walks: he was mid-fourth call of the thirteen he sings, halfway through his trilling crescendo, when the sun extinguished for eternity. I listened to him finish in the first true darkness of my life, pulling the scarf you crocheted tight around my neck and face, yarn haunted by the ghost of your fingers. Then I leaned up against the rough bark of the mockingbird’s tree and tried to remember thirteen songs I knew before the cold swallowed us both.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Maggie Fulmer

Out of Order I insert the dollar four times before I notice the sign. My mom isn’t around, but I can hear her – If you roll your eyes again, they’ll get stuck like that. The kids on the corner pretend the stone wall is a balance beam – gymnasts with cherry Icee tongues and cold fingers. I can’t remember the last time I skipped, I think but I keep walking anyway.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Cliff Saunders

On Both Knees I want to make light bulbs flicker in every corner of a venerable house. I want a moth greener than a grocery store to hold moral high ground. I want to fix the confusion about salt and the unknown. I’m not going to blow this, and neither are caterpillars that pack painful stings. I’m ready to watch bats catch fire, triggers fall, and emotions swirl like a dance. I’m ready for the storm to plunge, as wicked clocks tick out of tune. Playing the harmonica on both knees, I’m filling it with love and darkness. I’m too busy to play enchanting coda to shades of gray. I’m nibbling away at two years of torment, night by night.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Satya Dash

Photosynthesis The closest I got to myself was when I tried slitting my wrist with the blade of a shaking leaf unfurling like a long finger’s curse only to find a wreck of the world’s errata at the entrance sat Orpheus singing only poetry makes sense of all this in poems I wrote after I gasped through stanzas corrugating the plastered past skies heaping borderless doom how I quivered hot in happenstance’s tub why amidst the mad laughter life didn’t feel pro life poems morph into stony forecasts rain gathers claying pebbles in the good farmer’s well baby tomatoes turn to mirth and even songs rise from dots of earth like decadent worms good things taking more time than usual now a consequence of diminishing attention span see even love gets hoary in winters nature of the beast’s tongue it sustains until told to sustain I became words I wrote and the sounds I didn’t so ferocious was my valence towards you it strapped a stole to my throat your gait raised on my toe’s benediction tell me how do I disembark recently I coughed up blood on my palm I thought it was mine to drink swallowed it back to realize transaction’s aftermath when thigh veins gleamed neon green the musk of you in melancholic glow a phenomenon understood


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 by animals that kept moving photons riding a pony’s strut this is how light is sluiced by one writhing body from another .


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Julie Zuckerman

Snapshot of the Southern Hills What I saw on my ride this morning: Rocky terraces and verdant rolling hills, greens so abundant and fresh my words cannot adequately express their hues and saturation. Against this backdrop, fields of white mustard with tall, delicate petals sway in the wind; despite its name, a feast of yellow for the eyes. Smatterings of red anemones with pearl necklaces. Delicate lavender flowers popping up intermittently among the mustard. Tiny white buds that remind me of baby’s breath and Persian cyclamen sprouting from rocky areas, their pink and white heads bowed at daybreak. Dozens more whose names I do not know. I feel a sense of wonder to coexist in a world with these colors, grateful for the temperate weather that graces central Israel in late February. I am alone and we are together. Once a week, for eight years, I ride with the same women and our male bike guide, beginning in the pre-dawn of 5:30 am. I am the sole native English speaker; after 24 years in the country, my Hebrew is adequate, but I am quiet in groups, the limits of my vocabulary constrain my full self. Echoes of conversation and easy laughter filter through the breeze and reach me at the back of the group. Their biking skills are far better than mine, but I prefer this rear position, appreciative of the time and space to reflect and observe and be, knowing they are just up ahead. When we veer onto a new path, someone waits to point me in the right direction. On the southern hills behind Modi’in, there’s a gradual but steady incline, a path I’ve never managed to complete without dismounting. When my endurance gives out, I hop off to walk for a few seconds. My gaze is focused on the ground and where I need to step; when I look up, I am face-to-face with a giant brown cow, five feet away, grazing with a few friends. We stare into each other’s eyes. She is of uniform color and her hair is trim, reminding me of suede. I would like to take off my biking glove and reach out and pet her, but I don’t. At the top of the hill, we exit the area through a narrow green foot bridge designed to keep the cows enclosed but allow humans to pass. Just after I attempt a sunrise selfie with the group, we hear high-pitched calls in the distance. 16

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 Jackals, our instructor says. It sounds like there are at least three or four, but we do not see them. We cycle on. Behind the trees, the sky is streaked with the pastel hues of sunrise and clouds illuminated by bright rays. Flocks of birds zigzag overhead. There are over 550 species that use the celestial highway known as the Red Sea Flyway, the path for birds as they move between their winter homes in Africa to the breeding grounds of Europe and Asia. I’ve attended a few birding classes and have the guides at home, but my skills are amateur; I can’t yet identify them by wingspan or flight pattern or birdsong. To my left and right, all along the route: tall grass, still-green stalks of wheat, great quantities of milk thistle with white veins spread like spider webs across prickly leaves, sow thistle, and wild asparagus. I recognize them from a foraging workshop I took last year; for weeks after, on every run and ride and walk I could not stop my eyes from roaming, searching out the wild asparagus, though its taste was bitter. Should calamity befall, I could find food to sustain us for a while. Dirt paths and puddles, dried mud and hard-packed, firm trails, days-old cow dung, boulders cut into the side of hills and smaller rocks along our route. The contours change by week as rain or tractors or fellow cyclists mold the soft earth, just as my proximity to the others shortens or lengthens depending on the difficulty of the terrain or extent of my daydreams. Ten minutes can go by without me seeing anyone at all. But now I spot a few others up ahead, and then: a sudden bobbing of a helmet, a blip, and one of my bikemates is down. When I reach her, she is rubbing her knee with vigor, puzzled as to how she fell. She winces in pain, muttering hakol beseder. Everything is fine, I’ll be all right. And indeed, this is a minor fall, she remounts within a few minutes. One of the ongoing mantras in my head when I ride is “do not fall,” though it’s happened to all of us. A fractured wrist. Red, angry scrapes. In my case, a scarred leg, from the time I slipped, four summers ago. The bike crashed down on me, the teeth of its gears puncturing my calf like vampire bites. Vineyards arranged in rows with bare branches, purposely left fallow for the season. A small orchard with tiny saplings, so diminutive the only thing visible are the sticks tied to the shoots and their protective plastic covers. A sign reads Please do not tread on the young plants. The almond trees are in full bloom, with white flowers blanketing the branches, live, tangible expressions of the Tu B’shevat songs I learned as a child in America and my own children sang here in nursery school to celebrate the birthday of the trees. Later, I see a multitude of trees—apple, cedar and pine, and others I cannot name. There are fuzzy ones that look shaved on top, like something out of The Lorax. Last year, visiting Prague, my favorite spot was the garden of Queen Anne’s summer palace. I took pictures of the exotic trees, thinking they might serve as a prompt for my writing: a Pfitzer’s hybrid juniper, a horse-chestnut, a black locust, and a dogwood. But what I understand


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 today on my ride is that I do not need to travel to faraway places. I have all my trees and wildflowers and animals right here, 20 minutes away. We pass a memorial plaque for a fallen soldier. We’ve traversed this path on countless rides, but this is the first time I’ve noticed it. The Israeli flag by its side flaps in the wind and looks new; perhaps this is what captures my attention now. The plaque is old and caked with dirt and the group is already ahead, so I do not stop to make out the words, but the insignia of the Medical Corps is clearly visible, a reminder of those who have sacrificed so that we can be here. As we head back into town, crows pick at trash in a picnic area. We pass a climbing structure resembling an atom. There’s broken glass on the bike path that I nearly ride over because I’m looking up and around and not down. Purple-black lupines grow on a rocky patch of a hill that borders the main road, a new neighborhood under construction just beyond. One of us has recently returned to biking after a six-month hiatus due to a health scare. We take turns riding slowly, waiting for her as she regains her strength. We chat about riding and kids and jobs and travels and I join the conversations. We point out rare wildflowers. I would like, one time, to bring my flower book and my two bird guides and a tree dictionary and go pedal by pedal, ever slowly, to label each item. Like Abraham, commanded to rise and wander the length and breadth of the land, I was not born on this soil and I take these words to heart. I have no demands to possess at the exclusion of others, but I do walk and ride these paths to claim for myself this land, these trails, these trees and flowers.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Jessica Sadler

Baltimore Speak To describe this accent on paper is impossible except through seemingly unrelated comparisons: it sounds like a hand gliding up my thigh, starting at the knee and slowly gaining pressure midway at the meat of muscle and fat, then drawing a semi-circle with the thumb at the base of my pelvic bone, and doing it all over, again and again, until it’s all I can think of. It sounds like reassurance during hard times, a crutch in a crisis; it sounds like a good, empty fuck which, when everything boils down, is all one needs anyway. It sounds like snowball stands and scorching summers and Keno and mom-andpop sub shops and piss beer and all shades of sea creatures and sweaty neck tattoos and cigarettes under starless skies and bottled passion and home.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

KB Baltz

Bower Birds After the fire grandma’s house with its glass eggs cat knick-knacks and ancient china was pushed into the sea by a yellow bulldozer with no sympathy for memory or the smell of mothballs and hand rolled cigarettes. After the fire grandma’s house was pushed into the sea and red headed girls ran on the beach below the new blue home to pick pretty patterns from the sand with no sympathy for memory or creosote cracks in ancient china.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 Red headed girls ran on the beach leaving ancient china and broken glass eggs piled on the porch like bower bird nests and grandma sweeps the memory from a house that smells like mothballs back into the sea.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Nicole Scott

The Mob Goes Wild The couch crowed about its rips for each girl who lost her virginity on its paisley olive cushions. The afghan had a hole for each jet-black stiletto stabbed through, rough housing with the rich neighbor boy. Ladies didn’t care who were ladies or if their crackers got crumbs in the carpet; it gave purpose to homeless, flourishing ants. The wine had a nice red robe, and the cheese was cut in choice cubes. The glasses didn’t even break if they were knocked over. Teeth stained from caffeine and delirium. Luscious legs were crossed, and cocktail dresses were cocktails. Toenails were painted burgundy with the notion of lotioned foot massages. Devils die to put pressure on those bruises. Tongues were electric blue and drenched in heat lightning, embellished with diamond encrusted taste buds. Babes bumped into walls, knocking over the Dali. My neck was your dinner. Regret is as real as my sex life. None of the rips in the couch were mine.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

grace (ge) gilbert

I realize I am a serial monogamist. * Sautéing yellow onions in my mother’s home, a moment breaks open in the way moments do—senselessly. Do I actually want to be married? The voice seemingly crawls out of some pit or another, perhaps coaxed into the foremeats of my brain by the familiar smell of onions cooking, a smell that has served as the olfactory foyer of this home that I’ve settled into and away from and into again in this weird fog they call early adulthood, where home is neither here nor there but wherever the reusable grocery bag containing my favorite jeans, not enough underwear, and antidepressant medication happens to be that particular night. * Here are some facts: 1. I always burn the onions, but my mother does not. This may serve as a symbol if you care for that sort of thing. 2. My mother hates when people chew gum because my father chewed gum. 3. My mother doesn’t hate my father, just the likeness of his habits. 4. I may or may not chew (among other things) like my father. 5. I am unsure if my father tends to burn onions or not. 6. My mother tends to under-season, which bothers me, and I compensate with hot sauce. 7. I tend to over-season, which bothers my mother, and she compensates by telling me.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 8. Waltzing around the kitchen, there is a near-purposeful masochism to having my forearms flanked in hot, angry oil. 9. Ah, facts are like this. 10. Our limbs collect them like stains. * I dated a man a few years ago who made a living chopping and frying various foodstuffs, including onions, at the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Clifton Park, New York. He had remarkably veiny forearms that I would trace with my pointer finger while we talked on the buckled-in sofa before bed (though we always slept in separate rooms— physical closeness freaks me out, he explained once, and after that I just never brought it up again). One day I noticed little raw-looking blips that wound up and around his wrists, a constellation of kidney-shaped wounds. From the beans, he said casually. * My mother did not like this man. I say man because Chipotle boyfriend was nearly thirty and I was barely eighteen. I say ‘did not like’ because she knew he couldn’t keep a job, and he wasn’t a ‘warm person,’ which she evaluated with her somewhat mystical and ever-accurate Man Radar. Regardless of her warnings, I was entirely enamored. I loved the way he wore his Chipotle t-shirt even when he wasn’t working, the videos and recordings he sent me of his didgeridoo jingles or the tiny rubber hands he attached to varying inanimate objects, the way he freaked out my family and friends so much that I felt unusually perceptive for truly seeing him. I loved his art even when it wasn’t art, even when he didn’t believe in mine (or even bother to read it). I loved his dead brother.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 The fact that his mother lived in a dusty rectory, the way he adjusted his glasses, the way his old van smelled after it rained. I loved giving him space just to prove that I could. I loved listening without saying a word. * There is such a strange woundedness in reticence—the tendency to empty oneself for another. * I don’t know why you believe in me so much, he said. I didn’t know either, but I did, and, for an entire year of my life, I planned nothing for my future or myself aside from my hypothetical marriage to this man. * This was my plan: 1. We wouldn’t have a television. 2. We would make up our own recipes, record eclectic music together, & have a bay window that nestles into the woods and looks more like an enchanted screensaver than a real backyard. 3. We would get a cat named Taco and have two children, likely not named Taco, though one of us would jokingly suggest it from time to time. 4. We would go swing dancing and attend church and he would change my oil and tell me to stop drinking so much coffee and I would champion his dreams of animation and support us both on a lowly teacher’s salary and at night we would retire to our separate beds on either end of the house and dream lovely dreams of one another only to 5. meet again over waffles and cheese the next morning. * Ah, pathetic, isn’t it, to love so much that love takes on an entire unlived reason. * I know the diamond ring by name, by serial number. Imogen, fourteen karat rose gold. Ethically sourced. A large oval center gem, with three diamonds on either side, set in the kind of gold that looks pink. I have it bookmarked.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

It’s noted to be “subtle and eye-catching.” * My mother is allergic to metals. She cannot wear a wedding ring, or any jewelry for that matter. When I was eleven, three years after my parents’ separation, I dug through the ornate jewelry box she kept atop her dresser, which is part of the bedroom set she purchased with her first ever paycheck at twenty-two. I found a pair of white diamond earrings kept in a little tortoiseshell box labeled WEDDING. I wore them to school, the day we had to run the mile in gym class, the diamonds gleaming in contrast with my lime green gym shorts and knobby, unshaved, ambiguously bruised knees. * Lately, I’ve realized my whole life has been kept this way, preserved in an unassuming box. Lying in wait, running the miles of daily life with the hope of love balanced delicately on my earlobes. * My maternal grandparents met in the sixties at Kent State, at a Columbus branch NASA party where my grandfather worked as the projects manager after receiving his PhD in Physics. My grandmother, a tried and true Midwestern girl, majored in English and dreamt of publishing short stories and plays. They fell in love so quickly that my grandmother never had an asset of her own—never a credit score or bank account—in fact, she couldn’t purchase something on her own even if she wanted to. She was whimsical, shy, and creative, and he was brilliant, sincere, and logical. She never published or had a job after they married. She raised four children and they raised children and now we all sit around and contemplate the ethics of raising our own, and when my grandfather died she looked so empty the hollowness surrounded her, and there is nothing more terrifying or compelling than the thought of a life lived completely in the orbit of somebody else, which is a thought of its own, the Marriage Thought, something so grand, to say that yes, I am truly the only person I will know my whole life, and yet I will choose to live in


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 broken conjunction with another human, to the point that the inevitable separation undoes me just so, and I will somehow continue, or perhaps I will not, and every day millions of people will choose this again and again and again. * Recently, at the smoke-laden bar, across the booth from a friend of mine, I find myself, somehow, three whiskeys in and speaking without much forethought. “I am literally always in love,” I spit out, the cherry stem peeking from between my incisors, and the cloud of cigar smoke swallows my words before I have a chance to consider them too deeply. * The latest one was supposed to be a glittering example of generational balance, of maturity. We did the right things. We built a friendship over years, held hands at the proper times, shared food at restaurants. He was supportive, logical, and careful, with an incredibly flat affect. Seeking a professional degree in physics. He told me from the beginning that our differences scared him—I am too spontaneous, maybe a bit too wrapped up in my desire for meaning and passion, a few too many yards past wild. He was concerned that I would find some artist or writer and run away with them, realizing I had been held back. I knew I wasn’t **in love** in the purely emotional, primal sense, but I also tried to convince myself that being “in love” is too all-consuming to be healthy, so a deep sense of safety, care, and comfort can work just as well, with the added benefit of some remnant of hope for healing if things go south. Despite all the hesitation, I was convinced I had to have it right this time. I brought him to meet my family. While I danced around the living room he tried to fix my grandmother’s refrigerator. When I cried he held me and told me that, scientifically, I won’t be feeling this way for too long. When I loved, he loved back with a certain steadiness that I assured myself was inherited. * My mother never dated again after her divorce.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

After I was broken up with in the park where my father remarried long ago, the park where my bean-scarred Chipotle boyfriend and I laid out in the summer years ago looking at the stars, I cuddled up next to my mother, like I always do when I find myself alone and terrified, with my tears staining her shirt in bright, embarrassing splotches. “You can do this alone, baby muffin,” she said, and she meant it, her fingers running through my hair, the hair that is thin like hers, next to the eyes that are shaped like hers, with the kind of austerity and poise that I find myself ever-scrambling to possess. * Right now, the reusable grocery bag (still not enough underwear) is in my sister’s tiny apartment in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where I am sleeping on the floor while I attempt to grieve and get myself back together again. Yesterday, we put together a kitchen table and ate fried chicken sandwiches from a local restaurant. I used her sulfate-free shampoo, which makes my hair look really greasy. Today we went for a walk. We sit, writing, in separate rooms. I am trying to do this. I am trying so hard that it’s uninteresting. Pathetic, perhaps. My mind is sore from absorbing millions of iotas of information. There are layers of personal, national, and global crises that form the fucking ridiculously moldy fucking Onion of human existence. Everyone is hurting right now. Yesterday I longed to drive directly into a tree just to avoid my fear of the future, but what stopped me was thinking about the cost of car insurance. * But beneath the layers, there are facts to cling to, and there is, as some may say, hope. 1. My sister is dating someone she loves, whom she met in a random bar during a random happy hour. 2. My sister has been heartbroken before. She is fine. 3. My mother has been heartbroken before. She is fine. 4. My grandmother has been heartbroken before, perhaps in the biggest way. She, too, is fine. 5. Talking to my sister, she reminds me that to have loved well means to hurt well. That to hurt well does not necessarily mean something was bad or all wrong— just not entirely right. 6. You will find a balance between completely strange and unavailable (Chiptole boyfriend) and too serious and logical (physics boyfriend), she tells me, but you will need yourself first and foremost.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 7. Perhaps the Onion Moment means something, maybe that I didn’t want to marry my last boyfriend specifically, or that I don’t want to at all, or I want it more than anything and I am projecting my fears of loss and abandonment onto an allium. 8. Regardless, things continue in the way that they do. 9. There is a possibility of being in love without being consumed by it. 10. Life goes the fuck on, and I will keep writing. Sometimes it will be good and sometimes it will be shitty. 11. I’m cute and fun and caring (during normal times; this will be my grace period). 11.5. It is going to be okay, but not for a while. 12. I probably shouldn’t drive my car into a tree


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Liam Strong

non-suicide poem before your mouth was as wide as a shovel you loosened the collar of your boots like dinner plates waiting to be washed when i was ten we held our shoes upsidedown like pistols aimed at our own undoing i’m too used to tying my sneakers indefinitely so that when i come home i’m already prepared to leave


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Hannah Grieco

The Three Witches There once was a witch, but nobody ever saw her. She lived deep in the forest and no one knew her story, about the woman who flew from her home, from her forced marriage and motherhood. From her children who clawed their way out of her body as she scrubbed dishes and mended her silent husband’s shirts. Children who squawked for sweets and never swept the hearth. One day her husband left as he always did, at dawn without a word, his bowl from breakfast on the table, dried mud from his shoes in clumps around his chair. Her children woke up demanding jam and syrup, anything sweet. They played as she toasted their bread over the fire, threw her knitting from room to room, unraveling the stitches as they sang call-and-response: A girl gave me a kiss one day. I gave that kiss right back to her.

And I, of course, was miffed. You see, I don’t take gifts.

She knelt, gathered the yarn, and they ran across the kitchen, jumped over her back, shoving down on her neck and head as she wept. They pushed past each other out the front door, toast with honey in hand, leaving dust clouds in the front yard. “No,” the woman said to the empty room. She stood up. “No,” she said again and shrugged off her ragged dress. She went to her husband’s trunk and found an old shirt, a worn-out pair of trousers. She slipped them both on, folded over the wide waistband until it sat close on her hips, tied the shirt tightly about her waist, then wandered barefoot out of the house. “Hansel,” she heard her daughter call in the distance. “Let’s snatch a pie from the baker’s window!” 32

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 “I’ll race you!” her son laughed and they were gone. She turned and walked the other way, down the path towards the woods. Into the darkness, past the path’s end, through the trees, their trunks closer and closer together. Sunlight barely filtered through the branches above now, eventually dimming into a perpetual night. She stopped, closed her eyes and breathed in the moss and damp soil. Yes. She wandered until she found a clearing. Years later, rumors whispered in the leaves of two sobbing children approaching. The witch paused at her gumdrop doorway and listened.

There once was a witch, but not the scary type, she never bothered anyone. Not even her new neighbors, who drank and shouted on their back deck and threw their cigarette butts into her garden. They were so different than the old man who lived there before and kept to himself, occasionally helping her fix her leaky roof or a broken post in her fence. This couple was different, especially the beautiful woman with her long, golden hair. She sunned herself on a bench every morning, brushing her hair that seemed to grow longer each day, eating boxes of sweets her husband brought back from the bakery in the town center, wrappers dropping from her fingers. The wind blew the little wrinkled plastics in through the witch’s kitchen window sometimes, where they lay on the floor until swept up. One day the witch was gathering herbs in her garden, the sun hot as the morning lengthened toward noon. She pulled the hood of her cloak up high to shield her eyes, catching a flash of red before she bent back over. The woman stood at the railing in a short, red silk nightgown, the matching robe hanging open, draping delicately about her newly-rounded stomach. The witch raised her hand to wave, to offer congratulations, but the woman sneered and turned away, then walked back inside. That night the woman’s voice carried in through the witch’s open window. “Have you seen the old crone next door? Like a pig wallowing in shit, grubbing around for beans and cabbages.” Her husband muttered something, and the woman laughed, an abrasive, nasal trill so at odds with her beauty. It echoed through the witch’s small one-room cottage. No matter, thought the witch. She stirred the thick brown liquid in the pot, added a sprinkle of dried rose, some crushed willow bark. Ester from down the road had arthritis, was getting worse, her hands pulling into frozen fists. The witch wanted to offer some small bit of relief. Ester’s daughter had begged for something, anything. The witch wished for a daughter of her own.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 “But I don’t want rabbit! I don’t want apples!” The woman next door screeched, surprising the witch into knocking over the pot, spilling the brew. “No,” the witch said to the empty room. “I don’t care. Steal it then!” The witch tried not to listen. She knelt to soak up the mess with her skirt. Now she’d have to start over, all those hours of work for nothing. “I want cabbage. I need cabbage,” the woman whined and whatever her husband answered enraged her, her voice rising and immediately cutting him down. “BRING ME CABBAGE OR DON’T COME HOME!” The witch considered her own garden, full of big, ripe heads of cabbage the woman had noticed her grubbing around for. She planned to pick them the next morning. Surely she could part with one? “No,” she said. “No, no, no.” “Our child better not be a sniveling weakling like you. I’ll toss the little shit in the well and go back home to my parents.” A door slammed. Through the window the witch saw the man, barely a shadow in the darkness, creeping toward her yard. But maybe. Yes.

Once there was a witch, but really she was a sorceress. Nobody knew, though. They simply thought her a whore. Nobody said the word “whore,” but it was implied. When the maids brought her tea and slammed down the cup and saucer, burning her outstretched hand. When the guards stood still as she passed, then their laughter followed her around the corner. When her drunk father visited, demanding money, and her husband, the king, refused to allow him entrance to the castle. Late at night, the king made her slither like a snake at his feet. “Take off the gown and you’re as dirty as the day I found you,” he said, then smashed her face-down on the cold wood slats to rut. “My first queen was pure as snow.” Only Snow White, the dead queen’s daughter, treated her with care and deference. They’d walk together around the castle gardens, stitched together in the great hall. She had no memory of her mother, had lost her with her first breath, and longed for the affection her father would never give. The two of them grew a strong bond, both yearning for unnamable things. The king wanted only an heir. “You’ll keep yourself beautiful and give me a son—or it’s back to the slums with you, slut,” he whispered every night in her ear.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 But the years passed and no son was conceived. The king grew more and more rough in bed, bruising her arms and legs, pulling her hair until the ends cracked and split. One morning she awoke to a grayish-white streak down the center of her scalp, the hair old before its time, shining silver in its rejection of youth. She rushed to cover it with a silk headscarf before the king could see. “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Is there anyone uglier, more pathetic than I?” she whispered in her bath chamber, tears pouring down her face, the previous day’s powder crumbling and turning to paste on her cheeks. The mirror clouded over, then cleared, showing her as an old lady in rags, crouched down in the street. A passerby spit on her without missing a step. “No,” she said to the empty room. The mirror fogged again, clearing up to show her dancing slowly at a feast, her skin smooth, unblemished, her hair black as night, her stomach round and full. The king’s hand raised with hers as they turned and danced in the opposite direction. He smiled at her and touched her cheek, touched the curve of their unborn child. “Yes.” But her voice sounded thin, fell dead to the tiled floor. The mirror fogged once more, then cleared to show her step-daughter, now sixteen and achingly lovely to behold, wearing the dress she wore just yesterday as her father paused to watch her sew. Snow White didn’t notice his lecherous look, was too busy knotting a delicate thread, but everyone else had seen. Her heart sank, remembering. “But what has that do with me?” she asked the mirror. The mirror turned black, then reflected back her own exhausted face. Lines around her eyes deepening. The whites of her eyes veined and yellow. Soon she would be cast aside and they both would be lost. “Yes.”


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Richard Weaver

Take a word Any word. Please. Divide it by the square root of a gravid bulldog bat. Invert the hypotenuse then shanghai your neighbor’s Shetland pony. Divest yourself of any stock containing vowels. Go to the nearest Catholic church and confess to everything especially if you are not now or have never been Catholic. Take hold. Grab your vestigial tail and pull counterclockwise as if you were a toilet flushing in Australia. When the water clears accept more than your share of the collective blame for all unsolved crimes of any date as far back as 1044. When the head wounds heal and the scars merge to form new land masses, make a collect call


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 to your mother’s mother’s nanny. Be prepared to wait.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Hema Nataraju

Tonight One of two things can happen tomorrow: either the parents will accept their newborn the way he is, despite the beard that touches the tips of his toes, wrap him in a thick blanket to hide his luminous face—which will glow brighter in the inky darkness of the night as they whisk him home through the hospital back door and then contemplate moving far, far away; to a place where nobody can follow and make a lab rat or a messiah of their sweet child. Or the mother will cry soft sobs saying over and over again that this is for the best. While the father, holding a dam of tears behind his icy exterior, abandons the baby by the dumpster behind the hospital, the mother will get on her knees, swallow the pain of fresh taut stitches tugging at her belly and pray that the world doesn’t make a lab rat or a messiah of her sweet child. But tonight, the baby is nestled between the soft pillows of his mother’s arms. She kisses his forehead and strokes his beard, while his father wipes away an errant happy tear. Outside, hospital security guards struggle to keep the crowd trying to catch a glimpse of the miraculous, freakish baby under control. Nurses sift through offerings that desperate people leave at the hospital door; keep the good stuff for themselves. One has her hand in her pocket, her fist guarding a lock of the baby’s beard which she cut off while bathing him and tonight, she is sure her husband’s cancer will be cured.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 Tonight, the baby’s velvety beard glows golden and fiery, like a flashlight during a powercut as he feeds at his mother’s breast. He smells like her childhood, like effervescent giggles with her friends, like guava slices with salt and chili, her safe, obedient childhood in which she never cheated in hopscotch games, never stole tamarind pods from the neighbor’s tree like her friends did and little secrets that she never spilled and held close to her heart because she had pinky-promised. Tonight, cocooned in the tight space between his mother’s arms, the bearded infant dreams of a sky studded with baby diamonds, growing slowly and hardening, hardening like his mother’s resolve.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Angela Ramos

Silt Mounds like this – now put pressure on the wound. the swollen Palina cigar box filled with memories and movements of me: my grandfather’s poker chips, clicking and scraping, red white and blue against one another; an iridescent turkey feather from the woods out back; that note from Violet, “you are my sunshine, my only sunshine…” the pressed petals from an oriental poppy, like ruby tissue paper, still warm with summer years old, caught between diary pages, snatches of bad verse; the key that opens nothing; the buffalo tooth strung on a slender thong of indigo leather; the thick lock of hair, bleached and bubble gum pink, sheared from my son’s clever skull, not yet born, not yet broke free from me; the bloated dead that were scraps of letters – all disintegrated now, broken into their most 40

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 meaningless pieces by the flood. you know The Flood. so many bodies buried in the water there. but really, how long is a cigar box built to last?


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Sabrina Hicks

Buying Raindrops I call a number that gets me a person on the line whose voice will ask me questions and quiet the house around me. I’ll have product 29485, I say, looking at the raindrops midair, smile wrapped around a girl’s face held up to a sun only she can see. She is hugging something, a prop to this happiness, and the woman on the line tells me I’ve made a great choice and I think I’m a person making a great choice and I keep her on the line with: How durable is it? How do I take care of it? Does it come with a warranty? She is patient and kind, says, those are great questions, and I think, I’m a person asking great questions. The empty house moans, tries to remind me of what I am not, but I’m only hearing my great questions. I pull out my credit card and read the number over the phone, misreading two digits, asking if she can hold on, and I think someone is waiting for me, I am a person worth waiting for. That minute stretches and I hear frustration in her breath so I apologize because I’ve let it get too far, I’m losing that feeling I’m paying for and I wonder if I should hang up, but I can’t because she might turn to someone next to her and say quietly she was speaking with a real weirdo, someone who wasn’t worth her time. I start to forget what I’m buying until I see the raindrops midair and the smile on that beautiful little girl’s face and I think, oh yes, and I get the numbers correct this time. I read them aloud and when she repeats them back to me I say yes, yes, very good because maybe she needs something positive too. Maybe she’s having a terrible day and this makes her think she’s done something very good by reading the numbers back to me correctly. Sometimes all we can ask for is this small miracle of a well-received performance. And I give her my address and the house moans so I put my hand over the receiver and say, Hush up you! and she asks if I have kids and then says, Of course you do, because of product 29485, which is generous of her when I know she wanted to say grandkids but then thought better of it, which means she’s very polite and I want to tell her she was raised well, not by parents who have no time to parent, the kind found on planes, in the aisles of stores, ones who can’t bother with phone calls or visits. So, I say, I do. I say, They’re beautiful just loud. The 42

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 kind of beauty that doesn’t last though or forgive, and I allow myself a look at the framed photos of people I remember from long ago who mail me packages twice a year, Christmas and June 3, adding to the unopened boxes in the garage, piling higher and higher, suffocating the space where my car used to be, spilling into each spare room until they are claimed. She says she understands but I hear something shift in her voice the way I do every evening with Peter, the delivery man, who used to be Mike and before him a large woman named Jeannie who smelled like peppermint and Dial soap, so I tell her she has a lovey voice because she does. It slips into each syllable like silk, like maybe she is somewhere South and before I can ask where she is from because I want to imagine I’m with her on a front porch sipping lemonade, smelling jasmine, gossiping about neighbors, she ends with it was so nice to talk to me and my order should be 5-7 business days and I should have a wonderful evening. And I have. I’ve had a wonderful evening tasting those raindrops.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Beth Bilderback

Disaster Lover (June, 2020) A match lights a spark, the final straw, and blows up centuries of rage. One section of the Sunday New York Times reads simply, “The World is Broken.” My son wanders out into the city late one night and experiences tear gas for the first time, sees the flash of rubber bullets. At the gym entrance and the door of my doctor’s office, I’m scanned like a grocery item, an instant read thermometer aimed at the center of my forehead. A wren gets into the house. I take it as a sign of my panicked psyche appearing in tiny bird form, an unsettling explosion of feathers streaking across the kitchen. The wren disappears down the hall. When I call the lover who’s drifted back into my life, he offers to come over, suggests closing off rooms and opening the back and front doors. It’s been eighteen years since we were last together. His touch still makes me shiver, hands in my hair, warm lips on my neck. Two small boys ring the doorbell asking to retrieve a ball from my backyard, sweaty and breathless from playing hard. I see the neighbor children all the time now, hear the grinding of scooters in front of my house, see small Alice crouching by the curb trying to lure the white stray cat who sleeps under our cars and mews on our porches. The lover calls this The Time of Pestilence and yet the house renovation across the street continues its constant sound of hammers, drills, power staplers. Even after the workers have gone, including the competitive belcher on the crew, their noise is replaced by the violent rippling of lawnmowers, leaf blowers, chain saws. When I’m not staring at the Scrabble app, I stare at my pots of flowers and the hydrangea bush sprouting obscenely beautiful blossoms, a lady giant’s corsage of lavender mixed with pink. By evening my vision has blurred from all the staring. I think of smooth hands caressing my back, a familiar tongue flickering in my mouth. Because the last time spanned the months after 9/11, I call him my Disaster Lover.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 A garbage truck lurches down my narrow street. I bake a pie. I fall down the basement steps and sit dazed on the concrete floor. My mother calls to tell me a family friend has died. My next door neighbor says she’s moving across the country. My son tells me he’s “experimenting.” At sunrise, I pace the neighborhood, only feeling normal when I’m outside, where it’s easier to believe there will be an end to this limbo. The days grow hotter, brighter. I spot a single blood colored rose on the withered stalk of a backyard bush I’d thought long dead. At night, I imagine my Disaster Lover slipping my dress over my head, tossing it gently into the air to float, sigh, land. His solid arms hold me close, keep me from disappearing, pinning me to earth.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Katherine Anderson Howell

The Millionaire of American Sadness American cheese and white bread and Bugles on fingers like dragon claws And the high school defensive end who grew up to go to Harvard and take my Zoloft so he wouldn’t run out of his own. And that’s in my American medical record now because I called early to ask for a refill and had to explain how all the sadness’s errors are cleared up by someone else in America. And isn’t that what made you: marriage built on one spouse’s secret, the memory of a drunk father, a child who cannot eat peanuts. A pile of blue pills 46

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 promising waters in which no one drowns but no one swims either

*title comes from Ocean Vuong’s On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Pat Daneman

The Garden She is made out of rain now. We can put our hands right through her. She is wailing and sleeplessness and unwashed hair. Some days she rises to take an orange from the table, and we hope she will let us lead her into air, return her a limb at a time to breath and bone. She swallows without eating, answers without words. Never has she had to live among so many flowers, so much whispering among roots.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Tom England

Aqua Dulce These sad thoughts that follow you round like Leaves. Once, once only, you see your son In the garden, at the glass house, pressing seeds Into cold dark soil. A radio buzzes somewhere. It is stranger than a dream. You try and throw it off Like old shoes, or a bad cold from standing Too long in the rain. He lifts the tray and replaces it On the shelf, and closes the panel silently. You wonder, How long will he stay? But already he has gone, Leaving only, on the flags, a shadow, black dust. You try and tell yourself that it matters, Or means something.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Carol Stewart

The World Is Full of Those Who Bear Its Weight Now and then, I tell him my dreams like when he turned into a giant Lego brick, playing catch me if you can up and down the stairs or when he unleashed an antlered pig into the guest room; how could he be so dirty to think I’d welcome such a pet? A flinch of a needle-line smile, micro-spark in the eye, brow momentarily raised above the verbose volume contained in a tattered cover, jiggered spine, and he’s back to gathering facts picked at and pecked like a worm in the finicky beak of a ravenous blackbird. He ought to be on The Chase, not trailing 50

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 hunched on his way to the graveyard shift packing haggis, bringing it home, keeping it wrapped in a separate fridge, friends from overseas convinced that this is how all Scotsmen chill, the chieftain o’ the puddin’ race confused with the sleekit, tim’rous beastie. A red brick, did you say? I close the door on his purples, his airless, draped maroons, and breeze into my bright, if somewhat icy, open plan.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Dennis Barone

Quartet Gianni walked down the street to see if his car had been sold. To his chagrin, there it sat, apparently unmoved as well as unsold, the large banner price still affixed to the front windshield. He had tried to convince the owner of the lot to affix not a price but a name— his—Gianni—in the belief that association with the realm of stardom would assure a quick sale. But the salesman recognized neither the name nor its namesake’s face. He told Gianni he would have a large sum for him if he waited until he sold it otherwise he would have to settle for a sum remarkably lower than its worth if he opted for immediate cash. He walked up the street, packed his bags, and left for the airport. He observed that several long gray hairs curled out of the opening in his V-neck sweater. He would have to pull them before boarding the plane. In New York he’d want to look nineteen again. On the plane the man next to him listened to a familiar song. Gianni could make out the melody when his neighbor took a plug from an ear to request some water as a flight attendant passed. Gianni recognized it so quickly for it was one of his, one he had recorded—was it that long ago? He turned to his neighbor, smiled, and said, “Good song.” And his neighbor for the coast to coast flight said, “I’ve heard better ones.” “Well,” Gianni started to reply but the other fellow inserted the earpiece, turned toward the window, and closed his eyes. In New York he went through security and no eyebrow raised either thinking Gianni a threat to national security or recalling those songs of yesteryear. When he stepped outside Fred and Alice were there to greet him. They wore shoulder pads and football helmets and held high a large sign that said GO Gianni GO. “Oh, Gianni,” Fred said, “we’re so glad to see you.” “What’s with the sporting attire?” he asked. 52

Atlas and Alice, Issue 17


“Oh, Gianni,” Alice said. “We wanted to be sure you recognized us. It’s been so

“Good thing you left your chin strap unbuttoned. Otherwise I may not have recognized your distinguished chin,” Gianni joked. And Fred and Alice both exclaimed, “Oh, Gianni.” “Hey, how do you get a cab around here?” he asked. “We have an Uber waiting for us over there,” and Fred pointed across the access road to a red Buick Enclave. Once seated in their ride Alice asked Gianni what he would like to do first and rattled off a rapid-fire list of possibilities. Gianni said, “Gee, guys. I think I’d like to check in and then go for a walk by myself to get acclimated, to get readjusted. It’s been so long.” On his walk he saw the Brill Building where so many years before he had watched several rough-cut screenings of his films. In those days he kept his home close to his origins and had not made the move west, had not made that near permanent move. He had returned to New York to perform in a non-musical production of Turandot. This drama would feature a new ending something neither Puccini, Alfano, nor Berio had ever imagined, something new and different and startling from the mind of Broadway’s newest genius: Max Stern. No “Nessun Dorma” in this version, no soccer match music for Max. No music. The lights faded. A moment later the title receded from the screen, he saw his name spread across it: Gianni Onderdonck, even before the director’s. He saw the young Swanson couple board the bus. He knew that he would be found seated by the aisle near the front when they entered. Gianni did not care for the Mrs. Swanson as a person though as a character the script-writers did intend for some attraction between them. As a person he recalled that he found the husband much more interesting, though as a character he had been constructed very much as a dunce and a minor character, though one with a college letterman’s appeal. He saw that the bride made eye contact as she walked past. An exterior showed the bus climbing a hill on a winding road and then descending. The weather had turned frightful. Off to the side some rocks broke free and tumbled down. The bus driver slammed the brakes, but it was no good. The bus rolled once and then again. It stopped as steam rose from it. The driver’s wide-eyes indicated death. But the Swansons and their companion stranger miraculously survived. They crawled out of the bus. They stood and wiped themselves free of debris. Gianni heard himself say (as he knew he would), “Come. I know somewhere nearby. We may rest there. Come. I know.”


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 The Swansons exchanged doubtful glances, but what alternatives did the newlyweds have on that wretched night of cold mist and fog? “Well, alright,” the young husband replied. “I suppose it’s a plan at any rate. Best to keep moving,” he said. The Mrs. shook once and then twice and turned from one man to the other. They started to walk. Then Gianni saw them walking away. Then he saw a large house, a dark house. Then they walked. Then they had arrived at the door. Gianni heard the chimes. After a pause that allowed the three to offer their skill at quizzical expression, the latches came undone and the door opened. There stood Gianni’s co-star. The sallow faced man offered his greetings and apologized. He noted that his servant had the evening off. When he ushered the three impromptu guests into his house he looked deeply into Gianni’s eyes and nodded at him and Gianni returned the gesture, but added the words, “And so I have returned my dear Elgar.” At this point the music became more pronounced. It carried a certain familiarity but also a sentimentality that for fans of the two—and yes they were legion—would bring on tears and an accelerated heartbeat. Elgar said in a pronounced slow monotone, “Please, enter. I will show you to your rooms. This is a horrid night. One of misfortune, I presume?” At the word “horrid” the camera caught Gianni in a distressed expression, exaggerated for an extra beat to be sure the expression and all it expressed could not be missed. Ken found the box in the back of the old Gloria Hill Studio. Clean out day, he supposed, and he made out like gold. He took it home and there ran a few of the reels through an old Moviola. He recognized the performer: a young Gianni Onderdonck wearing a kilt and a t-shirt with a palm tree on it and hamming-up for the camera. Ken knew right away what he would do. He would edit this material in ways that might surprise Sergei Eisenstein. He would add a contemporary heavy metal soundtrack and Gianni himself would record a voiceover narration. Crane shots and crane shots of crane shots. Tracking shots and tracking shots of tracking shots. Gianni yells something and then the man exits the subway again. The other man crosses the street. We see the gun. Then one man falls while the other drops the gun and keeps walking. Gianni says, “Okay. That’s better.” He sleeps and dreams and there on the screen are the images he dreams. There is a warehouse full of a life’s possessions. There is a curl of smoke stretching skyward. He wakes and dresses for his meeting with the insurance representative.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 —§— We see Gianni curled tight into a ball as Max Stern describes the project. Fred and Alice get more and more excited. Fred begins to jump up and down in joy. Gianni winds himself into a tighter ball. Fred stumbles, grabs his ankle, sits down, and moans. Max senses Gianni’s doubt. He comes over to Gianni and pulls him from the sofa. “Look, Gianni,” he says. “This is now and no longer then. This is the bell that will ring and the light that will shine and your hand will be the hand to flip the switch into the on position. The on position, Gianni. Now, now let us begin!” Alice came over to where they stood. She looked at Gianni and said, “Oh, isn’t he wonderful” and then she turned to Max and repeated, “Isn’t he wonderful?” She embraced them and then Fred cried out, “Now come on you guys. That’s my wife!” The Swanson girl looked frightened when she caught Elgar staring at her. Elgar turned toward Gianni. Then the Swanson girl shivered as if she had seen a ghost. Elgar reminded his guests to make themselves at home. He reached for Gianni’s elbow and gently led him to the side of the room, far from its fire and deep in the shadows where they could not be overheard. “So, Olaf. We meet again,” Elgar said. Gianni glanced toward the Swansons. They looked into each other’s eyes, held hands, and seemed oblivious to their host and their fellow guest. Gianni turned back to Elgar as he spoke again. He had become noticeably agitated, anxious. “I see you are interested in the girl,” Elgar said. “Not in that way,” Gianni replied. The music had started again as Elgar shook his head. “Oh, Olaf. There can be no escape. We will always have Tisbury.” “No, no,” Gianni replied, uncertain. “Always, yes,” Elgar continued. “Not only the living, but also the dead.” Lightning struck outside the windows. It was not distant. The music became more pronounced. A shadow figure could be seen in the hall. Ken found out how to contact Gianni. By luck, they connected on the first try. “Hello. Gianni Onderdonck?” “Yes.” “This is Ken Matthews.” “Yes.” “Is this a good time?” “Well, I honestly don’t know. Is it? You tell me.”


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 “Can we talk for a few minutes?” “It seems we are talking. Aren’t we?” “Look, Gianni. I appreciate this. I appreciate you taking the time out of your day…” “Take it. Please, take it. Save me from Max Stern. Save me from the New York stage.” “Well, I just might be able to help. I am a filmmaker.” “I haven’t worked in years.” “I know. I mean that’s a shame, an injustice, our loss.” “Perhaps.” “Look, I got this footage of you.” “So.” “I found it at the dump. I went to drop off old stereo equipment and out of a box I could see some strands. I bent down and pulled and there were a couple of reels. Are you still there?” “I’m listening.” “I took it home. Looked at it. It’s you, all of you—hamming it up.” “Ah, the Follies.” “What’s that?” “The Follies. Something we did for fun back then. Something to loosen up before the serious work that’d follow.” “Can I use it?” “Be my guest.” “What I want to do is to record you, a voice-over. To begin it as an interview. Then let the questions fade out as you start to sing.” Fred and Alice as Ping and Pong. The ever so wonderful, so versatile Fred and Alice. Imagine! Exactly, Gianni worried. “But …” he began. Max would have none of it and waved-off Gianni’s concern with an extended hand and the rapid counter fire of “Tut. Tut. Tut.” “Tut. Tut. Tut.” Max took a lamp and held it under his chin and growled, “Vincero!” “A voice-over.” “No script?” “No script. You ad-lib.”


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 “Mama mia! What are you, nuts?� As per November 1, 1939 addendum: No approval shall be given to the use of words and phrases in motion pictures including but not limited to, the following:


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

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


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Contributor Notes ______________________________________________ Katherine Anderson Howell writes and parents in Washington, D.C. She is a licensed esthetician, an activist, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and the editor of Fandom as Classroom Practice: A Teaching Guide (University of Iowa Press, 2018). Her poetry can be found in Misfit Magazine, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, and The Account, among others. KB Baltz was born in a Cosmic Hamlet by the Sea, a month early and sideways. She has been doing things backward ever since. When she isn’t writing, KB can be found screaming into the void while finishing up a BS in Fisheries. You can find some of her other work at Inquietudes, Gnashing Teeth, and Rouge Agent. Dennis Barone’s most recent writings include Frame Narrative, a book of poetry from Blaze Vox (2018), and “Praying Toward Acceptance: Aspects of African, Anglo, and Italian American Cooperation,” an essay published in Italian Americana (2019). Beth Bilderback’s personal essays have been published in the Lascaux Review, Rappahannock Review, KYSO Flash, Cleaver and Blink Ink Print. She lives in Virginia. Pat Daneman’s recent poetry appears in The Atlanta Review, Freshwater, Bryant Literary Review, and Typehouse. Her collection, After All (FutureCycle Press 2018), was first runner-up for the 2019 Thorpe-Menn Award and finalist for the Hefner Heitz Kansas Book Award. She is author of a chapbook, Where the World Begins. For more, visit Satya Dash’s poems have been published or are forthcoming in Passages North, Cosmonauts Avenue, The Florida Review, Pidgeonholes, Glass Poetry, and Prelude, amongst others. Apart from having a degree in electronics from BITS Pilani-Goa, he has been a cricket commentator too. His work has been twice nominated for the Orison Anthology. He spent his early years in Odisha, India and now lives in Bangalore. He tweets at: @satya043. Tom England lives and teaches in Cheshire, England, and has had poems and stories published in Confingo, Smeuse, and The Mystery Tribune.


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 Maggie Fulmer is an emerging writer from Kentucky and recently received her MA in English from Northern Kentucky University. She received her BA in journalism from NKU in May of 2017 and currently works as a copywriter. She has been published in the independent literary magazine, The Coil, and the journal, Dime Show Review. When she is not doing reading and writing things, she can be found doing music things – this includes playing guitar, spending too much money on concert tickets, and singing along obnoxiously to showtunes in the car. grace (ge) gilbert‘s recent poetics & lyric essays can/will be found in the Adroit Journal, Ninth Letter, the minnesota review, Gargoyle Magazine, the Penn Review, Anomaly Literary Journal, Pretty Owl Poetry, Maudlin House & Twyckenham Notes among others. She is an emerging poet laureate of Allegheny County, PA, and a finalist in the 2019 Adroit Prizes. She is an MFA candidate at the University of Pittsburgh where she consumes unholy amounts of cheese and dumplings. Hannah Grieco is a writer and advocate in Arlington, VA. She is the cnf editor at JMWW, the fiction editor at Porcupine Literary, and the founder and organizer of the monthly reading series “Readings on the Pike.” Find her online at and on Twitter at @writesloud. Soramimi Hanarejima is the author of Visits to the Confabulatorium, a fanciful story collection that Jack Cheng said, “captures moonlight in Ziploc bags.” Soramimi’s recent work can be found in [PANK], Every Day Fiction, Fiction Kitchen Berlin and Tahoma Literary Review. Sabrina Hicks lives in Arizona. Her work has appeared in Wigleaf Top 50, Split Lip Magazine, Lost Balloon, Bending Genres, Barren, Matchbook, Ellipsis Zine, and other publications. More of her work can be found at Jad Josey lives on the central coast of California. When he isn’t writing, he tries to spend as much time in the ocean as possible. His work has appeared in Glimmer Train, CutBank, Passages North, Reed Magazine, Pithead Chapel, and elsewhere. You can find his stories at or reach out on Twitter @jadjosey. Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing (2018) won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her novel The Light Source (2019) was published by 7.13 Books. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her stories


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 have been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf‘s Top 50. She is the Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. Hema Nataraju is an Indian-American writer based in Singapore. Her work has appeared or will be coming soon in Ellipsis Zine, Moria Online, Spelk Fiction, Sunlight Press, Paragraph Planet, and in print anthologies including Bath Flash Fiction, Best Microfiction 2020, and National Flash Fiction Day 2020. She tweets about her writing and parenting adventures as @m_ixedbag. Angela Ramos is the proud matriarch of a supremely modern family based in Madison, WI. She currently works in the mental health field after earning a degree in Psychology and English Literature as a returning adult student. Angela penned her first story, “Wally the Worm,” at age four and has been smitten with words ever since. Her work has appeared in The Main Street Rag, Paper Darts, Fearsome Critters, and Sheila-Na-Gig. Jessica Sadler is a Baltimore-based fiction writer and charcoal artist. She lived abroad for several years in Amsterdam, Bangkok, and the greater Tokyo metropolitan area as a Fulbright Grant recipient and Global Teaching Fellow. Her stories have been published in Drunk Monkeys, Bartleby, and Enizagam, and she won her alma mater’s Malcolm C. Braly Fiction Award. At international conferences, she presented education and literature research. Her hobbies include meditation, yoga, and exploring the multitude of ways to prepare oatmeal. Cliff Saunders has an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His poems have appeared recently in The Wayne Literary Review, Pedestal Magazine, Wilderness House Literary Review, Pinyon, San Pedro River Review, Eratio Poetry Journal, and RipRap Literary Journal. He lives in Myrtle Beach, where he serves as cocoordinator of The Litchfield Tea & Poetry Series. Nicole Scott is a West Virginia native and graduate of Marshall University with B.A’s in Creative Writing and Classical Studies. She also has an M.F.A in Creative Writing from Lindenwood University. She works as a freelancer and spends a copious amount of time debating on whether or not she needs another cup of coffee. Her blog, poetry, and other published work can be found on her website Carol Stewart is a mother and grandmother living in the Scottish Borders. A former freelance editor, her poems have recently been published (or are forthcoming) in a number of journals including Abstract Contemporary Expressions, That (Literary


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17 Review), Gravitas, Panoply, Coffin Bell, Change Seven, Book Smuggler’s Den and The Beautiful Cadaver Project. Liam Strong is a Pushcart Prize nominated queer writer and studies English at University of Wisconsin-Superior. They are the former editor of NMC Magazine. You can find their works in Impossible Archetype, Dunes Review, Clementine Unbound, Monday Night, IDK Magazine, The Maynard, Panoply, Rusty Scythe, and The 3288 Review. Richard Weaver volunteers with the Maryland Book Bank, CityLit, the Baltimore Book Festival, and is the writer-in-residence at the James Joyce Pub. Recent pubs: FRIGG, Mad Swirl, Spank the carp, Adelaide, Dead Mule, and Magnolia Review. He’s the author of The Stars Undone (Duende Press), and, on occasion, admits to being one of the founders of the Black Warrior Review, and once upon a time its PE. His first ever publication was in the April 1975 issue of Poetry. Julie Zuckerman‘s debut novel-in-stories, The Book of Jeremiah, was the runner up for the 2018 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction and was published in May 2019. Her writing has appeared in CRAFT, Jewish Women’s Archive, Crab Orchard Review, Salt Hill, The SFWP Quarterly, and Sixfold, among others. A native of Connecticut, she now lives in Israel with her husband and four children. She works full time at a high-tech company. When she’s not writing or working, she can be found reading, running, biking, birdwatching, baking, or trying to grow things in her garden. For more information, please visit


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17

Cover Photo: Benjamin Woodard. Interior Photos: Clay Banks and Deleece Cook


Atlas and Alice, Issue 17


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