Atlas and Alice - Issue 18

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Letter from the Editor It’s like waking from a long, frightening nap. I type this letter in June of 2021, as the world around me reopens and tries to convince me that everything is back to normal. The last year has been nothing short of horrific, and I feel like we’re all relearning how to face the everyday. There’s a little bit of that emotion in this issue, which unrolled from February to May on our website. If there’s one goal I had for A+A during the pandemic, it was for us to give our readers a place to get lost in words for a few minutes each week. I think we met that mark, and in compiling this digital issue, I was quite taken by the 27 unique voices we showcased during this unprecedented time. As always, the editors knocked it out of the park, and our new CNF team of Lindsey, Alton, and Arielle hit the ground running to bring four superb pieces of nonfiction to our readers. We have some returning authors in this issue, which is always lovely to see, as well as some incredibly long titles! Anyway, I’m babbling, which means I’m keeping you from exploring the wonderful words within these digital pages. As such, I’ll sign off. Stay safe. Be well. See you soon. 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: Lindsey Danis Assistant CNF Editors: Alton Melvar M. Dapanas & Arielle McManus Editorial Assistant: Maggie Fulmer


Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Table of Contents Jane Snyder ƒ

Little Red Schoolhouse

6

Denise Tolan ƒ

Sell You, Sell Me

12

Derek Fisher ƒ

Rash

20

Darren Higgins †

Eating Songbirds

24

Babo Kamel †

The Message on the Tissue

25

Karly Jacklin †

IN WHICH WE DON’T HUNT DOVES

26

BUT INSTEAD AIM OUR SHOTGUNS AT THE SKY Carl Boon †

The Other America

28

Lori Brack ≈

The Ground, Remembering

30

Marvin Shackelford ƒ

A Tragic Misstep in Evolution

33

Rachel Laverdiere ≈

For the Love of (Dis)Order

34

Betsy Cornwell †

Rich

39

Bronwen Griffiths ƒ

The Sky Between Us

40

Scrambled

41

Jessica June Rowe ƒ

Underage.

42

Hanah Cajandig-Taylor ≈

Retelling

44

J.I. Kleinberg †

Hannah

46

the way

47

Despy Boutris ≈

Two Friends Confront Mortality

48

Megan Driscoll ƒ

Modes of Reproduction

49

Tessa Ekstrom †

Trash Castle

56

Mandira Pattnaik ƒ

When It Freezes, You Realize the

58

Sugar Maple Tree Holds Its Snow Kim Magowan ƒ

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense (So

59

They Say) Yvonne Amey †

Ricky Parks & the Coal Minors

62

Megan Huffman †

Family Activities

63

Eric Roller †

Late Night Semantics

65

Yaz Lancaster †

Canto

67

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Jade Driscoll †

To My Psychiatrist: A Non-Exhaustive

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List of My Recurring Nightmares Shalya Powell ƒ

The Other Shore

70

Hailey Spencer †

What to Write in Your Journal to

80

Move on Call for Submissions

82

Contributor Notes

83

Fiction – ƒ

CNF – ≈

Poetry – †

Issue 18, Winter/Spring 2021 Atlas and Alice Literary Magazine Sioux City, Iowa www.atlasandalice.com

© Atlas and Alice, All Rights Reserved


Jane Snyder

Little Red Schoolhouse My mother and father were in a good mood the day they put us on the train, full of fun. It was Saturday and they stayed upstairs for a long time. When they came down they sat on the couch with us, watching Underdog, said nothing about it being time to do our chores. After the cartoons they played the Christmas record we loved, purchased during the first year of their marriage before they had us, and danced to “Rudolph, the Rednosed Reindeer Mambo,” my father swooping and dipping my mother, then tangoing sharply from the bookcase to the TV, from the TV to the Christmas tree, and back. When they fell, panting, back onto the couch, Finn, our Irish Setter, jumped in the middle, pushed them apart, ground his hind quarters into the couch cushion, licked my father’s face. “That’s the same tongue he licks his butt with,” my mother said primly, folding her hands in her lap. “And other things. I don’t want to say what.” “Aw, sweetheart,” my father said, “can I help it if he finds me attractive?” We laughed and laughed. Lunch, Campbell’s Chicken Gumbo Soup, wasn’t on a level with the rest of the morning, but we ate the dull-colored bits of vegetable at the bottom of the bowl without complaining. When we were done Suzie asked if there was dessert. My mother said we didn’t need it; there would be refreshments on the Santa Train. Oh, yes, they said, when we didn’t know what that was. A surprise for you. After lunch, we were going to the train station so Suzie and I could go for a ride on a train, a special train just for children. Santa was the only grownup allowed. I was nine, didn’t care about Santa.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 We’d ride the train out of the station for an hour or so, my mother said, then the train would turn around. When it came steaming back into the station they’d be there, waving at us. My father smiled at me. “You’ll like that, won’t you, Cathy?” I didn’t answer. Suzie wasn’t sure what to think of a train that didn’t go anywhere. My mother said it was a party train, where we could celebrate Christmas with other children. “Look at that sunshine,” my father said on the way to the car. “You girls have a great day for an adventure.” It had snowed during the night, a fine dry snow that sparkled like granulated sugar atop the dirty piles of old snow. My father told us to be sure to be looking out the window when the train turned around. The engine would drive onto what was called a railroad turntable, a wheelhouse, to change tracks, and this would be interesting for us to see. Inside the station we heard a PA announcement about a train just in from the North Pole. “That’s us,” Suzie said, grabbing my hand. She pointed to the signboard. “See? Platform A. That’s where we go.” “Platform A is the only platform,” my father told her. Suzie let go of my hand, looked confused. My mother frowned. My father said it was good she’d listened to the announcement because someday she might be in a bigger station and then she’d need to know which platform to go to. My father was wrong about Santa being the only adult. A woman in a white dress like a nurse’s uniform, but limper, was standing beside the steps up to the train, yelling. “No pushing! You won’t get on the Santa train no faster if you push.” “Whoa, Trigger,” my father said. Another father turned and grinned at him. My mother told us the woman was called a matron. She’d help us if we needed something. We were the last on because Suzie had hung back, and we were on the wrong side of the train for waving goodbye. The inside of the train resembled a school bus. Bench seats covered in peeling brown leatherette, no springs to facilitate bouncing. Two older girls across the aisle from us were sliding back and forth, good-naturedly trying to shove each other onto the floor. The matron grabbed the girl closest to me by the back of her windbreaker, yanked her down into her seat. I wanted to go from compartment to compartment, check out the bathroom, walk onto the outdoor platform at the rear of the car and look down at the tracks, but Suzie fell asleep as soon as the train began to move and slumped against my shoulder.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 The matron came through, thrust Frosty the Snowman coloring books at us, told us to color something nice for Santa. “We can’t color without crayons,” the girl she’d yanked observed. “Am I going to have more trouble with you?” “Sure.” The matron wasn’t prepared for this, told the girl to watch it, just watch it, before she stalked away. “Bitch,” the girl said to her departing back. She was clearly not a nice girl, nobody I’d be allowed to play with. She and her sister wore jeans, torn at the knees. My mother had us put on the dark green jumpers and lace trimmed blouses she’d made us for early Christmas presents, in case there were pictures with Santa. The bitch girl asked me my name, said it was stupid when I told her. I agreed, thought her name, Janet, was better. Her sister’s name was Beverly and I liked that too. Janet said my hair was pretty, like a Breck girl’s. Her own hair, and Beverly’s, was cut short, almost as short as a boy’s. Mine doesn’t usually look this nice, I told her. My mother had washed it yesterday morning for the Christmas party at school, put lemon juice in the cream rinse to make it shine. Usually I wore it in a single thick braid so that, my father said, I resembled George Washington. Wouldn’t it be fun to have it extra pretty for the school party, my mother had asked on Friday morning after my father had gone to work and Suzie to school. I said I wasn’t going to the party. If I started crying I wouldn’t be able to stop. “You like parties. I think you should go.” My mother had been sympathetic up to this point, letting me sleep in, now she seemed to think I was taking things too far. “I can put a nice soft curl in your hair.” She drove me to school after lunch, saying my hair might still be a little damp and she wouldn’t want me to catch cold. During the night my father had pushed me into a wall. I’d hit the right side of my face, hurting my ear. I lifted a strand of hair to show Janet and Beverly. Yesterday the outside of my ear had been bright red. Today it was dusky, the color of a turkey’s wattle. I’d gotten up in the night, convinced it was morning and I was late for something important. I don’t believe I could have made much noise, just standing in front of the mirror brushing my hair. Suzie, in her bed under the window, didn’t stir, but my father was a light sleeper.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

him.

I didn’t hear him till he was standing behind me. He was angry because I woke

He took the hairbrush from me, hit me with it. What did I think I was doing, he asked, waking the whole house? Maybe I was still dreaming because I couldn’t figure out what was happening, was confused, not frightened. Being hit didn’t hurt. Whack. Whack. What. What. I told him I was getting ready, fixing my hair. He laid down the brush, grabbed me by the shoulders, shook me. I may have been wobbly from what was, in fact, a real beating. It was an accident, he told my mother when she came in, wanting to know what was going on. I slipped, he said, fell sideways into the wall, knocking off the mirror. He’d caught the mirror on its downward slide. It would have been bad if it broke, he said. I got back in bed, pulled the blankets over my head. I can’t remember if I cried but he did, big rusty sobs. Suzie lay still, playing possum. The side of my face hurt. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry,” my father said to my mother. “I’d finally gotten to sleep and she was making all that racket.” I’d done it before, she said, woke up in the night, thinking it was time for school. “You knew that, knew all you needed to do was put her back in bed.” “I’m so tired,” he said in his hoarse crying voice. He told my mother it was unlikely, but possible, I’d get a cauliflower ear. What they had to watch out for, he told my mother, was a sac of fluid forming on my external ear during the next 48 hours. If one did, he’d drain it, to stop the cauliflower ear from forming. A special needle was required, he said, something larger than what my mother used for sewing, but you could get them at the drugstore. No need to go to the doctor. I told Janet and Beverly about my father shoving me but not about the hairbrush. I didn’t want them to know I was still being spanked. They asked to touch my ear. I could see they were bad girls, liable to do anything. Today was the first time I’d ever heard anyone say bitch out loud. Starts with a b and rhymes with witch was as far as anyone went at school. What if, for the pure joy of hearing me scream, they pinched my ear, dug their dirty fingernails in deep, left a sac of fluid where none had been before? “Okay.” They had to come to me, because of Suzie. Both of them looked down at her sleeping head, smiled. Janet said she was sweet.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Beverly said she looked like Caroline Kennedy. “She does, but Cathy is prettier.” Janet said, running her fingertip down my outer ear. “Feel that,” she said to her sister. “It’s still hot.” I turned a little, so they could examine the back of my ear, looked out the window on Suzie’s side. Nothing to see but snow. Beverly couldn’t get over the sight of my ear. “You shouldn’t let him get away with it.” Janet asked me if I was on the rag yet. I didn’t know what she meant. “Auntie Flo,” she said. “The Red Badge of Courage. Your period.” “Oh.” My breasts had started developing when I was eight. My mother, thinking this might mean I’d have the menarche early, had given me a box of pads and told me about periods. It seemed so farfetched, so disgusting, I hoped it wasn’t true. “No.” They hadn’t started theirs either, they said, but they knew about periods. Their big sister’s were awful, hurt as bad as having a baby. But the good thing was, once you started having periods no one could lay a hand on you. The school, your dad, nobody. And not just when you were having your actual period. Any time. No one could touch you. Even when we were on the train I thought what they were telling me was one of those things that should be true but probably wasn’t. “Say,” Janet said, “here’s one I’ll bet you haven’t heard. ‘Why is the little schoolhouse red?’” “I don’t know.” “You’d be red too, if you had six periods a day.” I enjoyed this joke, wished I knew someone I could tell it to. Janet and Beverly had more. A party, as my mother had promised. I didn’t notice when the train turned around. Suzie woke as we were approaching Fargo, said she was thirsty. We were too, we told her. We could use a pop, we all agreed, and where were the treats we were supposed to get? The matron was mean. We hated the Santa train. And we didn’t really go any place, Suzie said. The matron came through the train then, telling us to take everything with us, anything you leave on the train you aren’t getting back, line up by your seat, get off as soon as the train stops. “You could be on TV,” I told Janet as we stood in the aisle. “You’re pretty and you’re funny, funnier than anybody I know, and you’re nice and you know what to say and you’re not shy and you look so cute with your pixie cut. You could be like that lady on Party Line, Verna.” “Verna Newell,” she said softly, smiling.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Santa was standing beside the steps when we got off the train, with nothing for us but the little candy canes they gave out everywhere in December, at the Piggly Wiggly, the bank, the S&H Green Stamp Redemption Center. Janet waved hers away. “Keep it, Fat Boy. You need it more than I do.” When my mother saw us she swooped Suzie up, felt her forehead. “She’s sick as can be, poor baby. Francis, we shouldn’t have let them go.” I lost sight of Janet and Beverly. My father laid his cold hand across my forehead. “You could fry an egg.” Usually my father stuck his hands under my arms to lift me which hurt. Today he bent down, pulling me to him, before he stood with me in his arms. He was sorry, he said again. He should have asked me if I wanted to be carried, I thought. My ear had looked fine this morning, he said, nothing to drain, but he was sorry, he really was. He’d make me a Coke float when we got home. Wouldn’t that be nice? Something cold because I was hot. “I’m sorry, Cathy.” I reached under my curtain of hair, ran my finger over my ear. “It’s all right.”

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Denise Tolan

Sell You, Sell Me The Commercial: The commercial ran in the early eighties, in the evenings when sitcoms came on. So many sitcoms came on. The shot began with a black screen, then quickly opened to a wide shot of fireworks over a lake; the concept seemingly a meta-firework itself. As if the audience themselves narrowed the lens of a telescope, a group of people came into focus. They were sitting around a picnic table while children ran about stabbing sparklers furiously at the night. The camera zoomed in closer until it rested on a young woman. Her eyes were luminous, bright, alive. She lit a sparkler of her own, waved the fiery stick in the air, eventually drew a gauzy heart around a young man’s handsome face. When the camera caught his unguarded eyes, they were wet with love for the young woman. She was lovely, people said. Not thin enough to be a movie star, but certainly cute enough to carry a commercial. He became an instant star. Puppy dog eyes, the magazines cried. Lela, the young woman, knew even then they were drinking it in too quickly. At her young age it was still difficult to believe in commercial nights and mid-summer breezes that sweetly blew firework smoke away from lakeside tables. People often stopped her in the street, but never asked about what the commercial was selling. Those eyes, they always said. His eyes. Are they all that? How did it feel to have all that? The Commercial Aftermath:

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Lela wished she could find a TV channel to play a cool breeze so she could drown out the mid-September rerun of the Texas heatwave they were living through. Puppy dogeyed Will, the young man who’d looked at Lela from inside a fiery commercial heart, had taken a phone call behind closed doors. Lela cranked up the volume on Three’s Company so she wasn’t tempted to eavesdrop. She competed with the laugh track to drown out Will’s closed-door performance. He was working an audience in the other room she knew nothing about. Right at the commercial, like a perfectly timed performer, Will stood in front of the TV and turned it off. He had an offer. With the TV off, the room was dark and silent, like the shocking second after a light bulb burns out. Will was trying to be cool, trying not to sparkle. The less she talked, the more he said. After a time, Lela coughed and waved her hand, to stop the smoke from blowing in her face. The offer meant Will would have to move. Lela would join him. Eventually. That was the extent of the very loose plan. He packed. He preened. She fussed. She fought. His eyes, unguarded, remained guarded. No one intended to be cruel, but they both were anyway. Her friends threw Will a goodbye party, but he left town a day early. No one knew what to say, so they ate hamburgers by the lake and pretended this was reason enough to get together in the first place. When Lela’s eyes grew wet, she blamed it on the wind. The sparklers stayed packed in someone’s trunk. Her friends would light them on New Year’s Eve. She would have new friends by then. There were promises made over the phone. Lela would visit Will in December. He would be back by March. But there was never enough money for flights or drives or dreams. Soon, the phone calls stopped because it became too hard to remember the kind of desperation that led to so many promises. Then, just like that, it was thirty years later. So much time gone by, like the blink of an ad. The Sitcom: Thirty years later, a director has a vision for a sitcom. It picks up where Will and Lela’s commercial left off. The back-story will reveal itself through the theme song. There will be a montage of coffee shop scenes, where Lela meets up with friends who tell her stories of how Will

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 has settled in a city a thousand miles north of the one he left behind. With each sip, she gathers facts about Will: he did not marry, had a wonderful career, no children. Although the theme song won’t reveal this, Will has heard the same about Lela. The Pilot: The director is committed to using Freytag’s pyramid to lay out the show. In the pilot, Lela, still not-so-thin and now middle-aged, gardens in her front yard. Her eyes are as bright as ever and she has a certain everywoman quality that resonates on camera. She is likeable and the director is proud he has gone with Lela over Will to welcome in the series. A part of him also believes this will build interest in the show. Everyone will want to see if Will still has those puppy dog eyes. The director uses Lela’s small southern suburban house in Austin, Texas to film. The inside of her home is surprisingly hip, full of 1950’s coffee shop memorabilia. The camera takes us on a tour of her home office where it pans her bookcases, slowing over the journals where Lela has published many pieces of fiction. The pilot is all exposition. After the first commercial, the audience rides a Vespa with Lela to a university where she is a professor of writing. At the university, a cast of characters, who are unsurprising and cast to type, are introduced: a fifty-something-yearold department secretary who is hunting for a husband; an older literature professor who carries around an eight-hundred-page historical novel in a violin case, hoping to entice a reader; the young female poet who is new to the campus, but walks into walls, sighs, then grabs a pen and paper to write about the experience. In spite of this cast of clichés, the exposition goes well, and the director is right. #whereiswill trends on Twitter. Episode 1: The action rises slowly, like dough. Back in Lela’s office, the audience listens as a colleague reads a review of Lela’s recently published nonfiction piece. “Ready?” the young poet begins. “The move to nonfiction by Lela Gorisch results in a breathtaking memoir. One of the more surprising sections of this already honest work is when Gorisch reveals how she suffered abuse at the hands of her former commercial costar, Will Norther.” Lela blanches. Though the words in her work are careful and measured, she is an inexperienced baker of that kind of bread and it pains her that the first cut into her slice of life reveals too quickly the incident where Will was abusive. It was just the one time, she is careful to add in her piece, but still, that changed the flavor of everything. The episode ends with this one piece of nonfiction running into the spotlight to receive applause like an aging movie star making a comeback.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 That night, Twitter is ablaze with #WTFwill and #speakwillspeak. Episode 2: The camera seems to find Lela, as if by accident, sitting in her office at the University. The calendar on her desk reveals an ordinary Wednesday in mid-October. Lela hears a noise outside her door and tilts her head. There is a distinct sound of shoes shuffling. “Lela,” says a man’s voice from behind the door. The audience knows. It’s Will. “Yes,” Lela says. A shock of silver hair appears like light when an outside door is opened, then quickly shut. “You had to know I would come,” Will says, standing tall in the doorway. His eyes are as blue as everyone remembers, even cooler beneath the newly silver hair, like an ice cube thrown into the snow. “No,” Lela says, calmly, looking better than Will in her smart black slacks and sweater. “I never imagined you here.” The director exhales surprised at his emotional reaction. No one but the director knows, but this is the first time Lela and Will have seen each other in thirty years. Lela appraises Will, as if he’d been sent for her to put a price on. Then, in spite of the years, and the newly released story, and the lingering hurt, Lela stands and enters his open arms. #NOLELANO and #nohugforwill explode. Will pulls back, takes Lela by the shoulders, moves her like she is a crooked picture frame. “We’ve aged well,” he says. And though it is true, it is also true they have both gained weight. Still, they move together like thin people, as if their mirrors at home play only reruns of the commercial they starred in thirty years ago. “I read your story,” Will says. Lela deftly ducks and moves away from the hands still holding her shoulders. The episode ends with the action rising. Twitter strikes. #PuppyDogEyes and #IsLelaStillWILLing trend. Episode 3: There is an odd opening this night where Lela is seen as a young girl, watching the commercial with her friends. On Reddit, the sitcom director is accused of trying too hard to be artsy. Back in Lela’s office, she is standing by her desk. “I read your story,” we hear again. Almost like an echo.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 “The story I wrote was an exploration of my relationship with my mother,” Lela says. Will looks at Lela like he knows a secret she has long tried to keep. “This story isn’t about you, Will.” “Listen,” Will says, sitting in the chair next to her desk. “I accept that the story is not about me, but it also very much is. And I’m sad, because to be honest, over the years, whenever I’ve thought about us, it’s a happy memory. I never once imagined I made your life worse.” Lela will certainly win an award for this role. You can see the pain spread all over her face, like clay drying in the heat. Did Will make her life worse? Will’s eyes are moist. That plays well with the audience. The director smartly leaves a space in the dialogue like Will is holding out a chair for Lela to sit in. Lela says nothing. It is a truly uncomfortable moment. Reddit forgives the director for the opening montage. This is art. The screen slowly turns to black with a small click, like in the old days when a television was pushed off with a button. Words from young women are whispered in the dark. “You shut yourself down for thirty years because of Will, Lela. Because he hurt you. He did hurt you. Remember?” The lights come up so fast, everyone is startled. “Remember that necklace you wore?” Will circles his neck, as if Lela might have forgotten where she wore her own necklace. “The one your grandmother gave you? Dio te Protega, it said. I loved how it felt when it touched my bare chest, knowing the other side had been on your bare chest. It felt like a powerful amulet binding us together.” “I lost it,” Lela tells Will. “Years ago. I’ve looked for one like it ever since.” “I didn’t know,” he says. His eyes wet. Is he acting? #IsWillActing “I didn’t know I caused so much damage to you.” “I know you didn’t.” The episode will end there. The director is astonished because the dialogue was not scripted. #TeamLela and #TeamWill dominate the next few days. The action is almost risen. It’s been 3 days. Episode 4: The director wants tonight to be the start of the climax, but climaxes are not as easy to predict as you’d think. “Do you really know?” Will begins the show, as if no time has passed since last week. Since thirty years ago. “I remember pushing you hard against the wall outside the restroom. My hands felt so big across your shoulders. Once I had my hands on you, I

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 wanted to smash you into the brick like you were a bug. I wanted you to feel me. I wanted you to say you were sorry for not being happy about my new job. I was angry that you made it hard for me to leave.” Lela looks at the ground. She is trying not to breathe any louder than she already is, but all you can hear is her breath. It makes the audience stop to take in air. “It was dark outside,” Will says, like he is talking to someone who has already walked away. “I never saw there was a nail there.” Will looks at Lela with his cool blue eyes. “You never told me I cut your back.” It seems like he is accusing Lela of something. “How do you know about my back?” The director allows Will time to try to read Lela. The audience has to decide if Will’s eyes are icing up or melting down. “I hope it didn’t leave a scar.” “You were mad at me that night because after you told all our friends your news, you’d seen my hand on Javi’s knee,” Lela says. You can see the truth hit Will like a closing door. “Javi. How did I forget that part?” Will stands, using the edge of Lela’s desk for help. The acting choice shows he is rattled. “Now that you said the name Javi I remember it all. All these years I just focused on how frustrated I was with you. I did hate the thought of leaving you, but I was mad that you weren’t happy for me. All that is true, Lela.” “I was sad for us, Will. Sad we were over.” “I thought you would sleep with Javi the minute I was gone.” “You were right.” The Gasp Heard Round the World, Reddit claims. Lela stands, not rattled, not holding the side of her desk. “Have you come for some sort of absolution?” Will’s face flushes. His shoulders drop. Something like truth colors his eyes. “I don’t know why I came. I just knew I had to.” “I’m not mad at you,” Lela says. “You were a good boyfriend in so many ways. We both grew up with violence. It was bound to play out that way with us.” This is not part of the dialogue, and the director is surprised, but it plays so he lets it slide. A breeze from the open window slams Lela’s office door shut. Will’s body language shows he feels it like a clap from the hand of God. “I saw the blood on the sheets the next morning,” Will says, too loudly, like a criminal on those detective shows when they finally break. The director and the rest of the crew are riveted. “I saw the scrapes on your back while you were sleeping. I left early because I knew I’d hurt you. I left early so I could get away.” “That’s why you missed the party.”

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 “I’ve never been one to face my failures. I guess that’s why I’m here. There’s still time to be a better man.” Lela looks at him like he is a clock that has stopped working. Is there anything here to save? Will sways, as if he’d been placed on a tightrope. Lela has a decision to make: Is it time for Will to pay? There are many articles in the coming months renaming the sitcom format the thirtyminute realdramcom. The director has smartly chosen to take a break from the show, run the pilot and the first four episodes over and over until the world cries uncle for new shows. Twitter tweets. Reddit ponders. Lela and Will meet alone, to watch a rerun of the commercial. Lela sees how impossible it all was. Will thinks Lela is beautiful. They both agree to film a new commercial for much more money than they imagined possible. In the end, they both grow old without once purchasing the product they’d given so much to sell.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Derek Fisher

Rash Purple sky in morning. Endless promise of warming. Purple sky at night. We all turn out the light. I decided to do a thing. Every hour on the hour I’d tell a stranger they’re beautiful. The decision came to me while writing poems in the Greenhouse Cafe. It hasn’t gone well so far. The first person was a woman, old and white. Mid-seventies, ish. She screamed at me and hit me with her purse until I ran away. Even chased after me for a hot second. No accusation of wrongdoing, no How dare you!, just screaming. Her blotches weren’t even that bad. Purple gashing along the eyes and much of the left side of her face, but it wasn’t terribly saturated. From a distance, you could hardly tell. The second person, a man in his thirties, well dressed and professional, race unclear, headphones in, said Fuck you. Then he took out his headphones and said Wait? What did you say? I said I said you’re beautiful. He nodded and repeated Fuck you, and kept walking. He was clearly wearing an older version of NeoSkin. His skin was super flaky and you could see the purple through it. The third person was a young Black woman. She said thanks but she shook her head after she passed by. She was badly affected. I wanted to say to her I mean it! I’m not messing around! You are beautiful! but she was gone before I got the chance. Maybe it would defeat the purpose to scream at people in the streets when I was trying to make them happy. I walked by a fresh site of a recent immolation demonstration and I was struck by the way the black scorching tattooed the concrete. It was a fairly small chunk of city street, maybe a quarter of a block’s worth. This had been The Fashion School’s second immolation protest. Thirty models set themselves on fire. Cynthia Lloyd was one of them! Crazy to think about. I remember jerking off to her in Chatelaine way back. On

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 the wall of the building in front of the blackened road, someone had spray painted NO MORE T42R!! OUR SKIN IS ON FIRE SO THE WORLD WON’T CHAR?? But then something nice happened. The fourth person I said it to, a woman, maybe 30, race unclear, smiled and said Thank you. It was a real smile. Her blotches were particularly bad, some of the worst I’d seen. Even worse than mine. You’re welcome, I said. We stood there, not speaking, just smiling, for like a minute. Do you mean it? Of course I do. Well, you’re beautiful too. It made me smile. I hadn’t expected it. She walked on and I watched her go. On my way home I passed another protest. A slim man, maybe 20, tall, jet black hair, olive skin where he didn’t have blotches, was pouring gasoline on himself. He had about 200 people behind him, cheering him on. I could see that he was absolutely, otherworldly handsome, even from a distance, wearing clothing only a runway model could wear. I turned my head and ran for my life, just before he lit the match. I heard the roar of the crowd, and then, echoing, the chant. Our Skin Is Not Your War! Our Skin Is Not Your War! I ran all the way home. Back in the apartment, I followed the routine, first adjusting the humidifiers, then applying the creams. I sat still, letting them absorb, thinking about anything I could that didn’t remind of me of stinging, burning, anguish, pain, face, skin. I pretended they might work, like everyone else. Random factoids floated around in my head. A Trivial Pursuit question I’d once read: What did Queen Elizabeth I order removed from the palace when she became old? Mirrors. I imagined those Medieval makeups that contained arsenic and white lead, that burnt parts of people’s faces off and killed others. Those people never worried about global warming. I thought about bleeding—draining your blood to look paler. I showered. I checked the mail. A letter from the government about another deployment of T42R, two weeks from now. The letter said that this batch would be slightly less concentrated than the previous ones. It was written to suggest that this was a good thing, but it wouldn’t change anything. The chemical had a cumulative effect. At least that’s what we had been told in the past. Nobody knew what was true. I woke up in the morning with dried blood on my pillow, as per usual. I looked outside at the deep violet sky. I still hadn’t gotten used to it. I checked my apartment door—they had actually delivered the newspaper today. The headlines were positive, about how we were already seeing a slight drop in global temperatures because of T42R, because of what it was doing to the world’s atmosphere, because, because, because. It was the same story, repurposed, every day. The odd story here and there about protests were hidden at the back. Usually they weren’t published at all. None in today’s paper.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 There was an ad featuring Gwyneth Paltrow with a blotchy face. The quote above her head said This affects us all – Speak out. Protest. Resist. Global Warming is not the only issue that matters. I looked at her; she was still pristine. Beautiful, I guess, in the Hollywood sense. I thought about what that word meant. If I saw her on the street, I would tell her she was beautiful. I wondered what she would say to me. I wondered why the newspaper ran the ad. I guess if you have money, anything goes. I applied my creams, waited, showered, applied my outside ointments, got dressed, and went to the Greenhouse Cafe to write poetry. I had been there for an hour when someone caught my eye. It was the girl from yesterday, the one that told me I was beautiful back. I waved at her. I never did stuff like that, waving at people, but then again, I never used to tell strangers they were beautiful either. Maybe I wasn’t in control of my own body. She saw me and smiled so wide my heart skipped a beat. Then she came over and sat with me. We made small talk. I told her my name, she told me hers. She said she was a painter, but during the day she worked in human resources for an insurance company. I told her I liked that she led with the painter detail, instead of what she did for a living, and she asked why wouldn’t she? She told me I seemed anxious, and I told her that all people seemed anxious. She was genuinely perplexed. She did not agree. She said I should be careful about telling strangers things about how they look, that I might get hurt, or worse. I said I thought she liked it. She did, but she’s not everyone. She asked me what I thought of T42R. I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I guessed. I said I wasn’t sure. In the grand scheme, of course it seemed like a good thing. According to the news, it was actually working to slow down global temperature rise, and frankly I liked what it did to the atmosphere, the new colors in our sky. But, well, I didn’t like looking like this. No one did. She said she understood. She didn’t quite bring herself to say that she also didn’t like what it did to her face. I had the impression that she didn’t care much. Interesting thing, a painter who doesn’t care about the aesthetic. I heard myself think that, and it was a dumb thought. She said the recent rash of suicide protests were very scary. I said I agreed. We sat in silence for a while; I wrote my poems while she sketched in her notebook. I looked down and saw that she was sketching me. She recreated my blotches accurately, but, somehow, I looked really pretty in the sketch. I don’t know how she did it, but she made my face beautiful. I told her that. She looked at me and said It wasn’t hard. That night, I stared at the purple sky from my bed as the crazy red sun was setting. I held the sketch of me in my hand. She had written her phone number on it. I told her I would call her, but after I looked in the mirror for a while, I ripped the sketch into a bunch of pieces and threw it in my little trash bin. I slept until 3 in the morning and woke from troubled breathing. That had been happening the last few weeks. Some people said it was T42R. Since I couldn’t sleep, I stared at the trash bin, at the crumpled paper,

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 and wondered if I could piece it back together. I wrote poems from my bed. I wrote until the purple sun started to come out. I stared at my trash bin. Through the crumpled, ripped paper I could see my own face.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Darren Higgins

Eating Songbirds Smoke nests in the fire pit

The stones hiss

Oil-swabbed bodies butter browned on spits Thyme, pith

sharp hollow bones—

Cut off the beak

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Babo Kamel

The Message on the Tissue Today I answered the oven, but no one was there. It could have been a crank call. I told it to hang on. I couldn’t remember what name I was using. Someone keeps asking if I know who the president is. I tell them that I have no president because I can’t stand the smell in the room. Yesterday was pedal panic in the car. On the way to the bank I tried to hide all my monopoly money. Manic on his horn the man behind me kept yelling that a lettuce waited for him. Everyone knows there is no lettuce in a sky filled with corn. Besides I am looking for the lost cat that lives in my veins. It meows at night because it hates to swim in blood. Somewhere in the future I have a daughter. When I get there I will tell her. I will unpack all my socks. I don’t see why I must put shoes on after so many years. My soul is bare. My feet are just trying to catch up. You know we should have tea sometime. My teapot is cracked but I will send it to school so it can learn something new. Did I tell you that already? The advice is piling up on my doorstep. They have the wrong place. I do water them though. I am the tissue holding device. They don’t pay me enough, so I steal one or two, just in case. I write messages on them. Like this one. They escape into a poem. If you find me, can you tell me how and when will I ever get home? Oh anyway once I sneaked into the lab and talked to all the rats. I turned over all the signs that said sensory deprivation and just talked to them. Who would do that to rats? Put them in a cage without their mamas?

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Karly Jacklin

IN WHICH WE DON’T HUNT DOVES BUT INSTEAD AIM OUR SHOTGUNS AT THE SKY I wake up alone in it: It, the heirloom gleam of misery. Inherited, like this feeling was something locked in my grandmother’s chest until January. Until “mother meet ground.” Mother me, ground. And I don’t ask for this sequence—nobody ever does—but every day, it follows suit. Either new life is spilled out of a womb, or at last, a rotten body sucks in its final swarming breath, Oh God, we were given such a shitty story. But here, I’m telling you this: I can pick out the good parts. Or change them entirely, because in the end, we grow out of the things we thought we would have forever: allergies, baby curls, each other. And before I tell you that our love, if that is the name we give this, has found its place to die, or worse, that it’s near it, I would tell you that I’ve never seen you looking so beautiful (all loose tits and blurred edge, I could have eaten all of you). But that would be a lie because I have seen you like this: You leaving. You returning. Every toothless gap between the two. I have always seen you like this: The woman is made snake or salt or gold, the woman is always made, face and shape and figure repeating.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 And even then I’d give anything to feel like you. To look in the mirror to see you, to be you, to part your lips like bloody linen and climb inside your throat, I’d pick each capillary like I was a locksmith. But this is my body. What a shame. I’m in my body. I’m sorry. I can stop myself now. I’ll leave this part out like I meant to, and you and I can unzip the sun. Bleach our skeletons, breathe fire. We could burn to death.

.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Carl Boon

The Other America When I was tender in the breasts and still fourteen, I started sticking pins in the numb flesh of my elbows. And because it didn’t hurt the way I needed, I set fires in my bedroom, small ones at first, hymn book pages, Barbie hair, Popsicle sticks. I didn’t want to die, but I wanted to know how death might feel, the stagnant knees, the shouts from the farthest room fading. On my fifteenth birthday I blackmailed the druggist for a bottle of Secanol and listened to President Johnson on TV until his voice became banjos in Arkansas, slow and holy sex with the boy on Summit who didn’t know my name. Instead of being there, I dreamed Vietnam, green consumed by blue and purple flowers,

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 women on rice-swamps slowly turning against themselves. The colonel who came to the front stoop carried a flag and called my brother a hero, so I drank six water-glasses full of whiskey and lay on the stale green couch and the pastor put his bland hand on my knee. I am here for you, my father said, his mouth a horrible grimace, his eyelids dastardly. I am here for you, but he smelled like model airplane glue and his mistress’s perfume. The weed transformed the demons into gods, made guitars flesh and flesh guitars, and I lingered in the cellar, watching things: bicycles gone to rust, tomatoes in jars, my dead aunt’s Electric Galaxy dishwasher. It sat there like an icon, spraying imaginary plates with imaginary water. A calendar from 1955, a cello—they’d all absorbed some ghosts forced to come back out again. I sat on the steps and twisted my hair. I wept for my brother and America, the land my teachers said I loved.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Lori Brack

The Ground, Remembering Between birth and the Siamese kitten I begged for when I was five, there were ants: an unending caravan of them plying the beveled crack in the concrete patio where I knelt, sun baking my dark hair soft. At intervals, an ant would cling to the bevel, hang over the row of insects, and use a front leg to brush the others along. This way, this way. No stalling. Don’t turn back. Transfixed for what I felt were hours, I watched ants behave as I had observed lined-up children outside the school, guarded and chivvied by their teachers from playground to school door. No. Nothing about schoolchildren. Try again. I want to be the only person watching the heron at the pond’s edge. I want to be alone when I discover the wild rose or hear spring frogs tune up. I want to recreate the moment I was born, crouched on concrete, watching a trail of ants. When I looked into that patio crack, the universe looked back, and the matter of my brain took the shape of a mind. Ants kept arriving from my right to my left. My first animals were not pets, but a lineage of insects. When I was closer to the ground—which assumes I am eyes in a head bobbing up here five feet from my feet—I lived in a ground world. Bugs seemed bigger. All the outdoor stunners were close. When I knelt on the patio, my knees picked up the pattern of concrete and shards of sand blown in from the sandpit across the street. My knees remember how I rolled my legs to feel the sharp bite of each grain. When I stood, I brushed sand out of my skin, picked stubborn particles free with my fingernail. I had a body and wanted to know what it could feel. I’m recalling a measly kind of self-harm that remains a secret of sensation, hardly pain as much as curious sharpness, malleable flesh around little bits of translucent rock that the wind blew in. Gone astray. Once more:

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Was I like the ant in the crack, or the ant hanging from the side, or the rare ant going the other way? Or not an ant at all, but an anteater, my up-close eyeballs snuffling a long snout sucking up each black syllable, each pierce of punctuation. Ants looked like letters when I found them in a line, when I learned the purposefulness of ants, the system that requires each to carry out its mission. I fell into scrutiny, entirely alone and without desire to share, down the narrow hole to a new world. This is childhood, its brink: that we are each going to have one single moment our shallow experience has not foretold, and so we are new to the planet as it presents itself outside the narrow spectrum of domestic control. And thus we, one by one, are born. My wide-open eye could not get enough. Time slowed, my body evaporated but for my sun-melting hair. I have been trying to say this ever since. With the book of the ground at my feet, each step discovered pages. First, I’m anyone, the crack, the nothing. Kneeling deep, the I gathers at intervals. I become the syntax of ants, the edge. Does every child imagine her birthday this way, a single afternoon when the world falls away and she is invented by these wayfarers

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 plying the depth of one un fold ing revelation?

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Marvin Shackelford

A Tragic Misstep in Evolution One day they’ll dig me from the limestone and ash so long settled around my frame and wonder what to do with me. The scene should be instructive: primitive homo-whatever we’re called by then, -sapient long since come and gone and forgotten, simply laid down and died circa late-Holocene mass-extinction event. Perfectly preserved but totally useless. As he no doubt was in life, someone will joke. They laugh. Their laughter is a reedy, piping wind. Birdlike, slender and noncommittal and all I hate to think of being. They peck and scratch at the earth with diamond and light for what they were, grow disappointed and quickly learn to hide it. Look how wide! The brow a cavernous overhang, proboscis practically nonexistent. How did they call to the face of God? How did they rise into the heavens, bring forth the sun, reach into the waves of the universe’s nectar or even just settle gently against their mates at night? They won’t appreciate, will lack a dating or DNA test to determine, how often I asked all that myself. I ask it driving to the gas station for breakfast in the morning, no seatbelt on, think about it crossing the four-lane and back again with all the world bearing down heavy and hurried on me: Our God of endless wings and bloody skies doesn’t even need a car wreck, a drunk rolling over the center line or an ambushing bridge abutment. He could take me sitting at the stop sign, choking on my food, later in my sleep. A heart attack while exercising. A tiny metal manmade meteorite dropped from orbit at just the right angle and moment. Something larger and undiscriminating, less aim but greater mass, enough to lower the clouds and leave only the lightest and longestnecked alive. There’s no escape, no sneaking by we’d recognize. I’m thirsty. The sea leaves me high and dry. I keep a foot in the end of this human line, but up ahead I catch a glimpse of endless scrawny children breathing in the worst of me. They pick deep in the bones and stretch the treasure out carefully. There’s nothing to do for it. That’s all they have left to learn.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Rachel Laverdiere

For the Love of Dis(Order) “We adore chaos because we love to produce order.” – M.C. Escher I sandwich the pillows that were yours between the bed and the wall, inhale the scent of freshly laundered sheets and wait for sleep to descend. Eventually, I stare out the window. Attempt to decipher patterns amongst the stars, but all I see is the possibility of something more. The promise of glittering gems. In my dream, two-dimensional faces blur into geometric shapes. Oval faces contain round eyes, triangular noses, rectangular mouths. I stifle a yawn and continue my review of basic geometric terms. “Madaa-aame, why do we have to learn this?” Though I can’t see him, I recognize the voice of an unruly kid from a decade ago. His spirit was much like my son’s. Rather than admit I’m as bewildered by the question as he is, I respond, “Geometry is important. Pay attention and you’ll see shapes everywhere!” My false enthusiasm makes me cringe. Poof! A map appears on the dusty chalkboard. “Notice that Saskatchewan is in the shape of a trapezoid. Repeat: tra-pa-zoid.” The students obey robotically. “We live in a geometric shape. Pretty cool, hey?” Circular arcs form beneath scalene triangles. I wonder if they see a crescent moon smile above my cylindrical neck. If they understand that I’m incongruent with the geometric principles I spew. On the walls beyond the students, art projects hang askew. Rows of desks bend into theatrical arches. The only lines that are straight and sharp in my beloved Saskatchewan are those created by cartographers. Yet I hold my tongue. I don’t rebel. Don’t throw the Mathématiques 7 text out the window or declare that the angle of the clock’s hands indicates it’s time for Phys. Ed. Instead, my mind transitions to

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 the coulees and valleys of my youth. To the rolling hills and towering rock piles that lay toward the northern boundary of my childhood pasture. I wake drenched in sweat, the anvil of regret crushing my chest. I quit teaching Grade 7 years ago. Maybe these dreams are penance for not protecting my students while I could. I should have warned them to trust based on actions rather than words. In my dream, I was trapped in a classroom in which I no longer belong, teaching concepts I no longer hold valid. Like the airless cage of my marriage. Perhaps I impose order to make up for my tendency toward chaos. I was as unruly as the prairie wind before teaching and marriage shackled me.

“What I give form to in daylight is only one per cent of what I have seen in darkness.” – M.C. Escher The projector drenches my students in an icy LED glow. I click through aerial photographs of the pristine native terrain of northern and central Saskatchewan. As I shuffle toward the lower third of our province, where human manipulation grows more evident, my heart pangs. I yearn to tell the kids, “From a bird’s eye view, it’s shocking to see how humans have transformed the more ‘desirable’ sections of Saskatchewan into a grid. Like the pioneers before us, we continue to impose straight lines on nature, on our cities. Our rectangular yards are sprawling into the countryside.” Instead, I clear my throat and say, “If a prairie falcon were to pass over southern Saskatchewan, its shadow would cut across a patchwork of perpendiculars that divide our rolling grasslands into tidy parcels. But the falcon ignores the right angles the cartographers etched into the landscape. It finds its way home by scanning the coulees and sloughs.” As the classroom’s theatrical rows transform into parallel lines, I jerk awake. Outside my open bedroom window, a family of magpies chatters. A trapezoid of sunlight splays across my quilt. If I could re-enter the past, I’d tell those kids that nature ignores perpendiculars. I’d teach them the importance of following their hearts rather than their minds. Logic doesn’t always lead to happiness. Just because a man is your father doesn’t mean he has good intentions. The same goes for husbands who, after you sign the dotted line, spread their clutter around your tidy home and life. Another person’s dysfunction is not your responsibility. I learned best from the lessons I taught.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 “My work is a game, a very serious game.” – M.C. Escher I’m teaching in my sleep again. This time, I dream up a game that uncloaks the predicament Saskatchewan’s native flora and fauna face. In large block letters, I scrawl the names of endangered species on photocopy paper. Fauna on pale green sheets, flora on yellow. Eventually, even those I leave out will perish, but I struggle to choose which to sacrifice for the sake of this game. Flora: Small White Lady’s Slipper (locally extinct), Silver Buffaloberry, Canada Thistle, Sand Verbena, Western Spiderwort, Tiny Cryptantha, Hairy Prairie-

Clover, Slender MouseEar Cress, Paper Birch, Needle-and-Thread Grass, Western Red Lily, Jack Pine, Trembling Aspen, Marsh Cinquefoil, Crowberry

Fauna: Barren-ground Caribou, Western Moose, Arctic Fox, Snowshoe Hare, Red-backed Vole, White-tailed Deer, Silverhaired Bat, Northern Flying Squirrel, Short-tailed

Shrew, Northern Pocket Gopher, American Badger, Black-tailed Prairie Dog, American White Pelican, Northern Pike, Lake Sturgeon

I randomly pin labels to the backs of students’ shirts. Otherwise, the boys will fight over the mightiest beasts, and the girls will bicker over the most delicate flowers. I pin the already locally extinct “Small White Lady’s Slipper” to a boy whose acne rages across his angular features. Tapping his shoulder, I whisper, “You’re ‘it’!” Then I flee. The remaining label—mine—reads “White-tailed Deer.” Caught in the cartographer’s gridlines, I freeze. The playground transforms, and I’m tangled in the fuzzy blue blanket of my childhood bedroom, trapped in a nightmare I can’t bear to relive. My heart pummels my ribs until I wake safe. Clusters of stars wink at me through my window—and I’m relieved they still refuse to form patterns. I extract myself from my snarl of sheets. I’ve punished myself long enough. Poking my feet into my slippers, I descend to the kitchen. With a flourish, I sign the divorce papers. Then I wander out the backdoor and consider the vastness of the universe. I twirl beneath the moonlight until the stars spin around me like disco lights.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

“Science and art sometimes can touch one another, like two pieces of the jigsaw puzzle which is our human life, and that contact may be made across the borderline between the two respective domains.” – M.C. Escher Before I crawl into bed, I read about the glaciers that smoothed the prairies during the Quaternary period. I learn that six noteworthy meteorites and comets pummeled and shaped our terrain. My dream begins in the hallway outside Room 7L where a few students are transforming butcher paper into an almost-perfect trapezoid. The remainder of my crew removes artwork from our colourful bulletin boards. I shoulder tap the most mature and send them to the corner store for balloons. I send the least unruly to fetch supplies from the art room—popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners, crepe paper, tissue paper, paint, plasticine, chalk pastels and magazines—from which we’ll create a collage replica of Saskatchewan’s geological features. Afterward, I re-parcel the class into six sub-sections, hand each a balloon and say, “Fill these with something that could rearrange our map. There’s going to be a meteor shower!” Poof! A large sheet of poly shields the floor as the athletes slam-dunk their red balloon into the northern forests. Sand flies everywhere. The nature lovers hurl their blue balloon and it bursts, dousing the north with water that carves rivulets into the sand. Two groups of geniuses count to three before they toss their balloons. The yellow balloon lands left of centre and oozes goopy white glue as the green balloon rains glass beads over the southern grasslands. The pacifists have filled their balloon with air, so it drifts and finally adheres to the Manitoba border at Flin Flon. Finally, the emo kids slouch forward, dyed black hair hanging over kohllined eyes. They drop their black balloon smack-dab in the middle of Saskatchewan. Glitter and silver pins glisten over everything. “See kids?” I say, my heart catching. “Natural disasters lead to beautiful things. Like potash and diamond mines. Like basins and lakes, valleys and gravel pits.” I wake to sunlight playing peek-a-boo with my curtain. My heart soars. Buried beneath the rubble of my past, there are gemstones.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Betsy Cornwell

Rich A heavy sugar bowl. Fresh fruit, the kind my child likes. Not counting money at the grocery store. Two months’ rent paid at once, and knowing I will go to sleep tonight with only my own silence in my heart.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Bronwen Griffiths

The Sky Between Us She is shouting to her child at the entrance to the supermarket and she is still shouting as I trail around the aisles searching for whatever it is I am supposed to buy and she is shouting as I come out through the automatic doors even though the sun is bouncing off the metal trolleys and the sky is cloudless and as beautiful as anything we might see this year. But who am I to judge? Did I not shout at my own child and did not my mother shout at me and her mother before? I remember the afternoon when my world was cracking and I dragged you along the street and I kept yelling at you for no good reason not even caring who looked at me. That was also a day of startling sun and fearsome heat but I cannot remember the colour of the sky. What I do remember is how I was saved—how we were saved-by the path up through the small oak wood. It was so forgiving and sheltering in there. You have survived the anger of mothers just as I have. The anger of mothers at the smallness of their lives when lockdown was every day because of the impossibility of going there or here or anywhere. The only choice a walk along the street, the need for a pushchair if the child tired, perhaps a stroll to the park with its pond and dull ducks. That day in the oak wood I remember the softness of the ground under my feet after the hard asphalt. As I calmed. As we calmed. As we caught the sky between us.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Scrambled She’s forgetting, no that’s not true because she remembers Derek and the garden and the spade digging into the cold, dark earth; the bones they found. The police were called. A girl it was. Murdered. Thirty years ago. Was it a girl? No, it was that prostitute, the one who used to walk up and down the High Street Friday and Saturday nights in high heels. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. All the same it was terrible, she and Derek finding bones in their own garden. The police sent in the forensics. Although was it their garden or the one next door? She and Derek buried their dog under the sumac tree. What a scramble her mind is nowadays. The dog’s name was Charlotte. Or was that the girl’s name? Names aren’t important. She can recall her own, and Derek’s. She won’t forget Derek. He’s buried at St. Peter’s. No sumac for him. But it was sad about that girl.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Jessica June Rowe

Underage. I watch my grandmother age backward. Black finds its way into her brittle grey ends and seeps upward, her hair growing fuller, hiding the speckled patches of her scalp. Her skin smooths and thickens; no more bruises and purple-pinched veins. She leaves indents in the armrests when she pushes out of her wheelchair. When the window won’t open she breaks the glass with her IV stand. It’s a four-story fall to the ground, but she pilots her hospital gown like a wingsuit, gliding down in slow, shrinking circles. She lands in a roll that turns into a crawl. It feels like it all happens in a blink; her hair is short again, dark wisps on her young head, and her hands and knees must be so soft, must be burning on the hot sidewalk. A woman walking out of the fertility clinic spots my grandmother, all alone in the hospital courtyard, and rushes over. She picks my grandmother up, wrapping her in the hospital gown turned wingsuit turned swaddling blanket. The woman looks around in confusion, left, right, then up. I pull away from the window. When no one appears, the woman holds her tighter and sniffs, inhaling the scent of her newborn skin, fighting off her own tears. It must tickle; my grandmother laughs. I’m still hidden out of sight, but through the broken glass I can still see her: a thousand fractal versions of her, the courtyard, the blanket, the hospital room, the woman, myself. I see the woman’s confusion turn to wonder to determination and, after a moment of hesitation, she sprints toward the parking garage. I lean out back out the window to watch her run. From over the woman’s shoulder, my grandmother takes her thumb out of her mouth to wave goodbye.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Hannah Cajandig-Taylor

Retelling Dawn My knuckle scrapes dry bark. I am searching for wolves where I know there are no wolves. This skin pales, my eyes bloodshot as targets, the gangly forest stretching up & up, its needled arms stories off the ground. From the underbrush riddled with sharp teeth & knifelike jaws. I see a god in the trees. In a bouquet of Bigtooth Aspens nestled deep in the woods. This is the one where my neck always aches but at least the sky looks roomy. Where my husband goes pillow shopping & brings home a cloudblue one for side sleepers. That’s the honest, technical term for it: creatures that lie with stomach & spine exposed, one ear pressed against the earth. Did you know the pillow was meant for me. Did I give that away too early. Is it obvious how I’ve been reading Adrienne Rich in the tub of my rental apartment, curtains half-way shut, soaking in oatmeal to quiet the itch flanking my shoulder blades. A part of my body I cannot reach. The length of me that aligns with the wall when measuring height, like when I was small but not that small & our inches & ages were penciled inside my grandparent’s walk-in pantry until the day they got facelifts & lied about it & changed out the sacred space for alabaster cabinets, promising to save the physical mythography of our growth & not lying about that.

Twilight The wall still exists. Maybe. I’ve never seen it.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Dusk This is the tale of the firefly girl adorned in ripped denim waltzing barefoot across the floorboards. No gilded pages. Just an echo of my hands on a bed of razor blades. The one where things get messy. An abundance list for the girls who never rest, who are little & red & dream their towers into crumbling.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

J.I. Kleinberg

Hannah

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

the way

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Despy Boutris

Two Friends Confront Mortality We’re treading in the middle of the lake, the water deep enough to drown us. My eyes fix to some point in the distance, beyond the eucalyptus and pines making outlines against the night sky. He lifts his hands to the surface and splashes my face with water and scum. I toss my hair over my shoulder, glare like a territorial bear. He chokes on his laugh, head falling under water. What are you thinking about? he asks. I turn to float on my back, feel the cool water around my ankles. My face to the sky, the woman in the moon eyes me, and our toes touch as he sidestrokes beside me. Ears underwater, I listen to the quiet ripples. Death, I say. He laughs. Say more. I search the stars, make out what few constellations I know: Big Dipper, Little Dipper, Orion’s Belt. I say, I’m thinking about how even if we got A-bombed right now and our flesh cooked right off our bones, completely incinerated or vaporized, we still wouldn’t be killed more times than we’re going to die anyway. He turns toward me. It’s the last night of summer, and that’s what you’re thinking about? I smile. It’s comforting. I float in the lake’s chill, thinking about how these callused, summer-worn hands and feet won’t feel anything one day. And then I feel skin graze my foot, feel myself yanked beneath the water. I fight for air, lakewater in my airways. I come up and demand, What was that for? He shrugs. Just a reminder that we’re alive. He grabs my loose locks of hair, pulls like a water nymph. Come on. Let’s swim. And we swim.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Megan Driscoll

Modes of Reproduction Pacific Salmon are this funny thing called semelparous. It was a word Ellie taught me, years before she left. She’d sounded it out by the syllable: sem-el-par-ous. Sem like seminary, where she swore Brian Silver was bound to end up, el like Ellie, what she’d called herself since deciding the name Eleanor was too geriatric, and par like pear the fruit, what we snuck from the top shelf of the cupboard where Mama hid everything that cost more than ten cents a piece. Ous was like us. Like Ellie and me. Semelparous meant you had a baby and then you just died. That was how Ellie put it. One miraculously underwhelming reproductive event before your heart went kaput. No pulse. Total flatline. You spent all your years growing big and getting strong only to have a fetus suck the life right out of you. The science books called it a tradeoff. Ellie called it a waste. And after the baby, your legs went all skinny and and your toes bent all weird and the rest of your body shriveled right along, just like a raisin. You were born into it, the same as your mother and her mother before her. You had no say in the matter. It was kind of like living in Holden. “Suzanne Wiley,” Ellie said, jutting her thumb out the window as Suzanne sashayed down the street, leaving the grasses of the meadow swaying in her wake, “is semelparous.” Suzanne Wiley was like all the other Holden girls. She was pretty in a prudish kind of way. That was Ellie’s word for it. Every girl who held their mother’s hand on the way to church was a prude. Uptight. Rigid. Any word she could find she would tack onto the list. Stiff. Boring. Basically lifeless. They fluffed their hair and fattened their lips only to squirm at the lightest touch of a boy’s hand above their knee. She spelled it out for me again. Sem-el-par-ous. Like Pacific Salmon. They were just like fish. Ellie liked to tell me how Suzanne would end up just like her mother, who had ended up just like ours. She laid it out for me. Rural life went like this: when she turned 49


Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 eighteen, Suzanne would get a job at a diner; Rosie’s was the only one in town. The Holden boys would go to school or enlist, but Suzanne would be here to date them when they returned. In a few years, she’d be shimmied into her mother’s old wedding dress and heaved down the aisle of St. Joseph’s to meet whichever boy was still unmatched. Twenty-three was the deadline for marriage. Mama had been married at twenty-one. And after marriage came the babies. The deadline for that was twenty-four. And after babies, you just died. Not in the funeral sense; your blood was still red and pumping. But after the babies your brain withered and your heart failed and your soul drowned in a sea of diapers and baby shit, so you may as well have been buried on the spot. Suzanne Wiley was semelparous. And Ellie Reed was not. Each day of the Indiana summer felt like the hottest I’d ever lived. Maybe it was too soon to say that; it was hardly halfway through June. But if July came to be even hotter, I thought I’d melt into the floorboards. They needed a good waxing anyway. Any effort Ellie had put into feathering her hair like Farrah Fawcett was in vain. The heat plastered her vanilla baby hairs to the sweat on her cheeks, her forehead glistening with a grotesque brilliance that failed time and again to be dulled by the cotton of her t-shirt. She lay spread eagle on top of my comforter, facing up towards the ceiling, her arms and legs stretched as far away from each other as she could reach them, and her fingers and toes wiggling over the edges of the mattress. I thought she looked funny laying out like that, just like a starfish. I told her so. “Shut up,” she said, reaching over to draw the window fan closer to her face. That was in vain, too. All the fans did was blow the hot air around into plumes of more hot air. We all knew it. But each fan in the house was turned on anyway, less for the heat than for Mama’s attempt to drown out the static of Daddy’s radio. This week’s chosen loop: Janis Joplin’s “Piece of My Heart”. Its hum had echoed through the house since last Saturday. A tribute, Daddy said, even though she’d been gone a while now. “It’s depressing,” I said. “Huh?” Ellie asked. “Nothing.” She didn’t question it. She hardly ever did. But I knew if I’d said it a little louder, she’d ask if I wanted to know what was really depressing and she’d list it out for me, regardless of my answer. She’d say the meadow was depressing, and the way tissues turned shit-brown when we blew our noses was even more so. The cornfields: depressing. The one cinema on Main Street: depressing. The perpetual heat and the endless sky and the lingering smell of tractor exhaust were all so depressing. And Suzanne Wiley being semelparous. That was depressing, too.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 I’d asked too many times before. This time I bit my tongue. Like she could sense him coming, Ellie shot up from the mattress. She turned to me, mouth taut and her eyes wide. “Johnny Harris is coming,” she said. We scrambled towards the window, leaving piles of dirty socks and crumpled tshirts in our wake to see who could hit the sill faster, a challenge nearly always forgotten by the time we got there. Johnny Harris was indeed coming, jogging steadily down the road along the edge of the meadow. He, too, left the grasses swaying in his tailwind, almost as elegantly as Suzanne Wiley did before him. He was small for he and Ellie’s age, with slight thighs and knobby knees. He ran every day nonetheless. Daddy liked to say he was running from the imminence of his papa’s beer belly. Ellie didn’t care either way; she thought she’d be gone long before we found out. “Mama would have my neck if my shorts were that short,” I said, but she didn’t bother to hear me. Ellie did have shorts that short, but they were kept in the back of my underwear drawer; Mama never searched my room the way she searched hers. Ellie would slip the shorts into the bottoms of her bags to change into once she was out of Mama’s sight. She told me all the girls did it. Not the semelparous ones, but the rest of them. I wondered how many that really was. Ellie watched Johnny Harris his whole way past the house. We both did, in some way, but her eyes were dark and her face was tight the whole time. She watched him to see the muscles of his legs carry the weight above him. I watched him to see what she was so entranced by. “He’s going around with Suzanne Wiley now,” I told her. I’d heard it straight from the mouth of Suzanne’s sister, who was in the grade below me. She’d even let him touch her above the knee already, but that was as much as we could get out before her lips sealed shut. “Suzanne Wiley has nothing on me,” Ellie said. And then, once Johnny Harris had hit the corner and disappeared behind the height of the meadow, she turned on me. “Wanna know why?” She didn’t give me time to answer. She untucked her t-shirt from the waist of her shorts and hiked the hem up past her rib cage. There, printed in a single black line, was the silhouette of a flying bird. I could have melted into the floorboards, with no help from the heat. “Mama’ll kill you,” I told her. “Not if she don’t know,” she said, letting her shirt fall back down and crossing her arms firmly across her chest. She glared down, daring me to say otherwise. She knew I wouldn’t tell. Not only because I didn’t care to see Ellie skinned, but because she’d tell Mama about the Hustler magazine if I did. Tommy O’Dare had slipped a copy into my lunchbox during recess a week back and I’d kept it out of curiosity; I’d only seen that much skin on Ellie before she’d told me I was weird for staring. Really

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 there was nothing to stare at. We were both flat as boards. Her threat was empty, anyway; Mama would search my room only to find Ellie’s other contraband. Along with her own copy of Ms. magazine was a near life-sized print-out of Gloria Steinhem, a twelve pack of Heineken that had hardly been touched, and her hand-Sharpied cardboard sign reading End The War Before It Ends You among other radical things. That was the word Mama used for it, when we saw the protesters out in the cities on TV, screaming about rights and Vietnam. It was all radical. “Hurt like hell,” Ellie said, kneading the bird through her shirt. “But they all have them on the coast.” I didn’t know enough to tell her otherwise. Mama always said that Ellie would never make it to the coast; those schools didn’t accept girls like us, with more mud on our transcripts than letter grades. They fought about it. Mama told Ellie she was only worth the farm and Ellie told Mama she’d walk to the ocean if she had to. Afterwards, they’d both be crying. Mama was scared of Ellie leaving her. Ellie was scared that Mama was right; she’d never get past the meadow. From under my bed, Ellie dug out the most radical thing of all, what she’d hidden in my room from the start and what I wouldn’t have told Mama for the world: her college application. She held it against her stomach, the way she always did when she needed the assurance that it was still certain, that Mama hadn’t snuck in and found it. She held to it tight. It was almost half filled out now. Something about seeing Johnny Harris every day made Ellie restless. She told me later it was the routine of it, that Johnny Harris running the same route every day was the epitome of the mundane. And when Johnny Harris was sick of his route, she said, he would try another to stick with for a couple of years. Once he was sick of that one, he’d try another and then another, but with each new route, the time it would take him to get sick of it would shorten until he was changing his mind every day. He’d run the same routes over and again without knowing it, wondering why that rusted old grain silo in that field over there looked so damn familiar. Eventually he would realize he wasn’t changing his route at all. It was all the same, whichever path he took. They all lead to the same dead end. She would tell me she felt just like Johnny Harris, which was why she had to leave. Ellie was almost eighteen now. She thought her time was running out. The night Ellie left was the loudest the house had ever been, but it started out like any other. Ellie had gone to the cinema and I sat reading at the dinner table. The kitchen was quiet. Mama was at the stove, poking fork holes in raw potatoes, when she finally solved the puzzle. The contraband she’d pulled from Ellie’s room couldn’t have miraculously disappeared. Magazines didn’t shred themselves. Cut off t-shirts didn’t regrow their hems. Mama had raised the both of us. It only followed that she knew our tricks.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 I had been awfully quiet, Mama said. What was in my room? She sat me on the kitchen floor, rolled up her sleeves, and told me if I moved an inch I’d be scrubbing next week’s potatoes with my own toothbrush. I did as I was told. I always did, even knowing Ellie would have my skin for not fighting the way she did. But I wasn’t Ellie. I just lay back against the kitchen tiles, waiting for whatever came next. Either Ellie came through the front door or Mama got down on her knees, stuck her nose under the edge of my comforter, and fished out just what she was searching for. When Ellie came in an hour later, her contraband was waiting for her, piled high on the kitchen table. I was still glued to the floor where Mama had left me. Mama sat at the kitchen table, hands folded neatly on the table but feet fidgeting under her seat. The first moment was like all the ones that came before it: silent. I risked a glance at Ellie. She glanced back. And then, knowing the danger we were both in, she dared to smile. That was when the kitchen exploded. I thought it was funny, the way Mama and Ellie sounded so much like each other and didn’t even know it. They couldn’t have known; one cut overlapped with the next, which overlapped with the one that came after. Whole sentences were melted down into one big pool of rancor. Nothing they said was new. It was all different ways of shouting things that had already been shouted before. I only heard the tail end of it. “—good girl like your sister—” “I’ll pack her up and bring her with me.” “Jaime is at least grateful—” Ellie snorted. “She hates you too, ask her, we both do—” Then came the sound of tearing paper and a quiet sliced between them. I knew right away what Mama had done. Sure enough, when I pulled myself off the kitchen floor to see, she was holding two halves of Ellie’s once whole college application, a piece in both hands. It had almost been finished. Ellie had shown me the week before, beaming. Mama’s mouth was open, eyes wide like even she didn’t believe what she’d done. If Ellie was a flame, Mama had spat on her own fingers and pinched them over the burning wick. She’d left Ellie to simmer. And simmer Ellie did. She left the Heineken and her flyers and posters and Gloria Steinhem piled on the table and stalked to her room, slamming the door behind her. The silence was worse than the screaming and for the rest of the night, it was all we heard. Only once did I dare to pass Ellie’s room. I heard a hiccup and knew she was in there, crying. Ellie slipped into my room sometime in the night. I didn’t hear her coming; I woke only to the added weight compressing the other side of my mattress. She leaned over me, her breath pluming heat into my neck, and put her mouth next to my ear.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 “Suzanne Wiley is semelparous,” she whispered. “And you, Jaime Reed—” her finger dug firmly between my shoulder blades “—are not.” After that, she vanished. Her words disappeared. Her weight lifted all at once from my mattress and she seemed to float back to the door, her toes barely scuffing the floorboards, not even her breath making a sound. I didn’t hear the door shut, but somehow I knew that it had. In the morning, I woke to the sound of Mama crying and I knew that Ellie was gone. Suzanne Wiley was indeed semelparous. It was as if she wanted to break the record of all the other Pacific Salmon in Indiana. The day she graduated high school, a whole three weeks before her eighteenth birthday, she put on an apron for Rosie’s diner and began collecting her coffee tips in a mason jar. Two weeks after that she wore a ring on her finger from none other than Johnny Harris. Her sister said she was already talking babies. How many she wanted, what their names would be. I wondered if they would end up being semelparous, just like her. I thought maybe they had a chance. Mama had been semelparous and Ellie, wherever she ended up, had not. I didn’t know about me yet. Now when Johnny Harris ran along the meadow, I didn’t watch. Instead, when I heard him coming every afternoon, I only thought of Ellie. I wondered if the wind sounded the same across her ocean as it did across our meadow. If her gulls sounded just like our finches. I wondered what it smelled like, if it really went on forever the way she swore it did. Johnny Harris hadn’t forgotten Ellie, though. One day he ran up to me at the mailbox. “Hey Jaime,” he said. “Hi Johnny.” “How’s your sister?” I didn’t know what to tell him. Ellie wrote every few weeks. She was in school, but wouldn’t tell me where so Mama couldn’t pack up the car to drive out and bring her home. She wrote to Mama too, sometimes. I didn’t read those letters. All I knew was that when they came, Mama hugged them to her chest like they were Ellie herself. She didn’t cry as much anymore. Maybe Ellie had promised to come back someday the way she’d promised me in her first letter. What she didn’t promise was that, when she did come back, she’d take me out to the coast with her. She didn’t promise to keep me away from all the Johnny Harrises or any of the other boys who wanted to turn me into a fish. She didn’t promise anything anymore. Suzanne No-Longer-Wiley came over a half year later to deliver a casserole. Mama had been sick for a whole week by then and our refrigerator was already bursting at the

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 seams. I was writing my letter when she walked in. Ellie had given the address of someone who would forward my messages along. Maybe it was in vain; by the time it got to the coast, Mama may have been well again. But I wanted Ellie to come back as much as Mama did. And I wanted her to take me back to the coast with her, just to see what it looked like and what it smelled like. Just to know what the wind on the waves sounded like. After that, I’d come back home. “Writing to Ellie?” Suzanne asked, kneeling neatly on the other side of the coffee table. I nodded. “She’s quite radical, isn’t she.” Radical. The word Mama used to call her. Not anymore, though. Now she only called her by her name. “She is,” I agreed. “And you’re semelparous.” Suzanne paused, head tilted and brow drawn in confusion. “Pardon?” “Sem-el-par-ous,” I sounded out for her, the way Ellie used to for me. “Like Pacific Salmon. You’re just like a fish.” Her time in my living room thereafter was short lived. Suzanne lifted herself delicately from the floor of the living room, smoothing the pleats of her skirt down with her palms. She wished my mother well and told me to give her regards to Ellie, which I did. And not eleven months later, after Mama was long buried, Suzanne Wiley gave birth to a baby girl.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Tessa Ekstrom

Trash Castle I am a creature of the Heat and your Galaxy is made of Sawdust you burned Down an entire forest To make room for Our home, but look, There’s nothing To build it with. I am a creature of the Silence and you sprinkle Glass shards in our shoes, We tap dance blood Patterns on the pavement And you ask your mother To call it art but really, This hall is a crime Scene where girls

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Like me come to Watch you slaughter The sheep that Help us sleep. This wasn’t closure I am made of closure I am a creature of the Closure look at how Closed off I am but Actually, my body Is as open as the Ocean and my hips Are the river our Boat was built To sink on. I am a creature of Death by distance And this was the Year I wrote letters Instead of poems Because I ran Out of new Ways to say He Will

Never Love

Me.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Mandira Pattnaik

When It Freezes, You Realize the Sugar Maple Tree Holds Its Snow In your crazy fairytale, your husband is an elf, your home a postcard, the time Christmas, with holiday roasts and popular jokes. The Sugar Maple tree, soaring to the azure, colonizing the void above your backyard, is heavy with milky snow, like a nursing mother, its roots in the nursery of a soft blanket of white. Your stale imagination is meandering to your little girl across the fence, hungry and cold, meeting an ursine trio, choosing the middle one of the dialectical three, just the right, getting hurt nonetheless. You wander off, shovel in hand, beyond the fence, deep into the woods. You dig the snow to free her, until it’s a heap, high as the Alps. Tonight, you’ll delete the braggadocio of that day, New Year’s Eve, year 2009. Reboot with one where you three never went to Val-d’l-sere. Or skiing in the blizzard. Your husband never egged the seven-year-old on to put on her ski boots, clip on the skis, never mocked you for being a nag. New one will be a holiday at home here in London, sitting around a fire, a warm dinner, she in your lap, singing, clapping, laughing.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Kim Magowan

The Best Defense Is a Good Offense (So They Say) The wife has a husband who cannot trust her. “This is why I cannot trust you,” he says, shaking his head dolefully. He has just overheard her telling her sister that he did not get the promotion at work. But her sister asked! The wife wants to tell him, to defend herself. Her sister asked, because the wife had told her sister, last week, proudly, that her husband was sure to get a promotion at work. The sister had been with her when the wife bought a bottle of expensive Armagnac, to celebrate. The wife had hidden this bottle in her closet behind her shoes, planning to produce it, with a flourish, when her husband got the promotion. He had not cautioned her that the promotion was in any way in doubt. “What happened?” the wife said to him, when he came upstairs, put his arms around her, leaned his forehead onto her shoulder, and said, “I didn’t get the promotion.” What happened was this: someone had complained about him. HR wouldn’t tell him who, he said, simply there had been a complaint. “But,” her husband said, his mouth in that familiar, grim line in which he appears to have eaten his own lips, “of course I know that it’s Ophelia. It’s not the first time.” But it was the first time the wife had heard about any complaints. “Why didn’t you tell me before?” she asked. “Because,” the husband said, looking at her, and this time his anger seemed purely directed at her, rather than Ophelia, “I can’t trust you. You tell your sister everything.” Then the next day, after he overhears her on the phone tell her sister No, he did not after all get the promotion, “See?” Vindicated, again, in his distrust of all women: “See? I can’t trust you.” That night he sleeps on the couch. The wife sleeps alone in their bed, staring at the ceiling, ruminating upon all the reasons Ophelia might complain about her husband, and upon her own personal reasons for hating Ophelia (which have nothing to do with 59


Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Ophelia’s terrible name); reflecting on the great irony of being married to a man who claims that she is the one who cannot be trusted.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Yvonne Amey

Ricky Parks & the Coal Minors is not a band but a family of bones. is a family of maples flicking their August manes into a yellow-leafed hollow. am I a singer. are Grandpa & the miners resting. am I thin & windswept. am I a thousand of hours from autumn. am I dove tailing the past to make my corners snug. am I one quarter queen/three fourths scared to live. after all those years all we wanted was to grow up move away and never die why does the sun fracture what remains of the aqua-frost on its bed of grass.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Megan Huffman

Family Activities it’s God’s Day when we have to turn in bottles. Baby Brother stays home when Dad can’t look at him anymore. but i’m Favorite and rewarded with leading the cloud of stale, hole punched walls away from the car. Dad taught Favorite the skill of feeding the machine as fast as possible; gain money without losing time. Favorite stops for a moment to swirl chewing tobacco left in grim liquid. sweet vanilla rotted teeth mixes with resentment to be forgotten. other kids with Baby Brothers that were allowed to follow along respectfully feed machines and Favorite wonders what they do on Friday nights. sleep at friends or stay behind locked doors? but they brought bags of coke cans. Favorite completes her share when her hands smell like Mom’s a bitch and only a thin layer of

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 piss colored pissed filled beds remain in the bin. this time being dragged by the hair cost $7.85.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Eric Roller

Late Night Semantics Imagine this, I say to your back, as you fall asleep tonight: Everything in this world struggles. Borneo elephants and cutthroat eels, black bean aphids and carpenter ants, sand oak trees and spear thistle; prokaryotes and Aristotle once upon a time. This marriage, I say under pillow Your reply dies there in the space between us: Doesn’t the house need painting? 65


Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 after I thought sleep had taken you.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Yaz Lancaster

Canto Many words were invented by sisters dusted in candlelight and brilliance. Gallivant. Fervent. Survival. One of them probably said “I know not of war but its violence. It’s slick in that way.” Ceremonial. Jurisdiction. I think I want to experience religion, just one really good time. Apathy. The moon belongs so much in poems because she is so beautiful in the dark, like many other complications. Sieve. Stone. At night it’s hard to believe that headlights are no less blinding than sand. Sieve. Stone. Stone. Stone.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Jade Driscoll

To My Psychiatrist: A Non-Exhaustive List of My Recurring Nightmares I. I am visiting the grandmother who wishes I wasn’t her granddaughter. I’m in the blue Cutlass Sierra that Mom had when I was a kid. At the crest of a hill I must descend to reach dear old grandma’s house, someone stops me. The hill has disappeared, they say. But this makes no sense, and the blue Cutlass Sierra edges down the hillside and drops into a pit of nothingness. I’ve never seen myself emerge from the pit. I think my grandmother is happy. II. I have a pet fish. He looks like Lucky, the neon-yellow fish I had in high school, except this fish jumps out of the tank when I open the lid to feed him. I watch him flop on the carpet before I spur into action, trying to save the fish that’s trying to die. He slips through my fingers dozens of times before I succeed. Instead of sliding him back in the tank, I drop him in my mouth. I force myself to wake up when I realize I am hurting him once again. I always cry.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 III. I am being yelled at for something I didn’t do. No matter how much I try to defend myself, no matter how much I try to tell dream-me to get stronger or to change the dream to give me a voice, I remain hoarse. My throat shreds itself raw as I beg to be heard. I am conscious enough to know that I shouldn’t have to beg. IV. I am reunited with the boy I loved when I was fifteen. Every time he opens his mouth—to say he loved me back, to say he’s been waiting— we are separated. Someone interrupts us. The building catches fire. Aliens attack. We are physically harmed until we leave each other’s sides. I am beginning to forget what his voice sounds like.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18

Shalya Powell

The Other Shore Lulma has a sealskin and Kayla has a drowning dress. The garments are both, for a time, lost. That is, until today. Lulma is looking through Kayla’s closet for clothes to borrow, pulling woolen flannel after woolen flannel off cheap plastic hangers until she comes across the dress. There is a brief moment of unreality. The dress is gossamer thin and it leaps out of Kayla’s closet like some vengeful spirit. Kayla allows herself to think cruel thoughts. Oh, the irony. In the three months Lulma has spent beached in Paloma, she has become something of a magpie, a sharpeyed scavenger. She stumbles across missing things the way other people trip over pennies. How ironic that Lulma has discovered the one thing Kayla hoped was lost to time, all the while Lulma’s own precious sealskin sits, somewhere in her husband’s house, waiting to be found and worn once again. “Is this yours?” Kayla nods. “Doesn’t look like mine, does it?” The dress is something a young girl might dream up, idyllic, green rolling pastures, rough hewn fence posts, a meadow of wildflowers and a single black-and-white cow. It is a pale gown of silk floss and whispery tulle that falls right past the knees. Its neck is a modest one. Soft buttons lead from the collar to the waist, trim without being confining. From there, the eyes are drawn to the sleeves. They are, Kayla concedes, excessive. They billow and trail on the floor, each sleeve enough material to be its own dress. On the bust and hems are tiny, embroidered whirlpools. “It doesn’t,” Lulma says and Kayla wishes she never pulled it out the closet. “What is it?” She considers lying. It’s a family heirloom. A crafts project. “It’s my drowning dress. One day, I’ll put it on and walk into the Pacific. That was the plan anyway.” “Then what?” 70


Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 “God willing, I’ll stay there. Do you want it or not?” Lulma blinks her big, black eyes and looks over the dress again. She handles it with a lot more care than she did the flannels. What does her drowning dress mean to someone for whom clothes are an uncomfortable reminder of the dreadful state she has found herself in? Lulma owns no clothes. She wears her husband’s clothes now and once wore the clothes of his late wife. Kayla can’t stand the sight of it. She knows Lulma would prefer to be bare like all wild animals do. She would prefer her sealskin and the cool riptide of the ocean around her. “You won’t need it?” Lulma asks and the dress is already hers. She shimmies out of her husband’s brown slacks and tears off his shirt. Buttons pop off the expensive linen and ricochet across the bedroom. She flows into the dress, a modicum of her former grace restored. She twists and twirls for Kayla, something a little girl might do, something a seal might do beneath the waves. The sleeves fan out and give Lulma wings. Her cool, dark legs poke out from the dress like the legs of some spindly insect. A creature of the earth, sea, and sky, her Lulma. “It hasn’t really been working for me lately.” I’m still here, aren’t I, she thinks. “It’s yours. You look pretty, Lulma.” Lulma grins. Her teeth are pearly and blunt. For a time, Kayla imagines they are just this: two woman-shaped beings sharing wine and swapping clothes in a dimly lit bedroom. Her bed is unmade and only a few feet away. They might retire to it, soon. Lulma might lay her head down and smell Kayla in the sheets. If Lulma ever lies in her bed, Kayla is certain she will never let her up again. It is a cruel thought, but Kayla allows it, for a time. The Three Sisters Diner where Kayla works lives in the gutted-out belly of an old commercial fishing trawler. Despite its location in the Pacific coastal town of Paloma and its overwhelming nautical theme, Three Sisters only boasts the most typical diner fare— hotcakes and warm syrup, greasy bacon and eggs however you like them, beef burgers and thick-cut fries. There isn’t any fish on the menu, no Catch of the Day, no fish and chips, no salmon over a bed of plain rice with plain vegetables. There are no fish in the markets either. There’s something not quite right about Paloma’s waters. Kayla has been rejected by them enough times to know for sure. The drowning dress’ banishment to the depths of Kayla’s closet is only a testament to her mounting frustration with the ocean’s intractable stubbornness. The ocean will give up nothing that belongs to her. She accepts no strangers, invites no foreigners, and Kayla is both, despite all her attempts to push the contrary. The drowning dress might be a work of art, if Kayla let herself see it that way. For now, the dress is only a tool. She studied the habits of seafoam and designed the dress

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 to imitate them, hoping an excess of white, of fluff and flow might trick the ocean into thinking she was not just another filthy thing here to sully her waters. I’m yours, she said once, fourteen years old in her drowning dress, before an ocean churning and boiling under a thunderous sky. Take me. Keep me. Three Sisters sits right at the beachfront. Kayla can see the lapping motion of the waves when she walks through the front of the house to take orders, but it isn’t Paloma’s ill, fickle waters that capture her attention today. “She’s gonna get caught in the rip if she keeps messing around out there,” the customer whose order Kayla’s supposed to be taking says. He’s followed her gaze out the window and onto the beach. Lulma stands thigh-deep in the water in Kayla’s drowning dress, as still and moored as a wavebreaker. From here, the water looks calm, but Kayla knows it must be moving incredibly fast. She’s seen bigger men than Lulma swept out to the open ocean in a rip current, but Lulma doesn’t even seem to shake. “She’s fine,” Kayla says and gestures for the man to continue giving his order. The rest of her shift goes by smoothly. Afterwards, she jogs across the beach, a brown paper bag tucked under her arm, and calls out to Lulma. Kayla thinks, for a time, that the rip has snatched up the sound of her voice and casted it way out to sea, because Lulma doesn’t turn to acknowledge her. Then, Lulma turns, smiles, and begins to wade her way back to shore, against the pummeling action of the rip. When she arrives on shore, seaweed clings sticky to her calves and seafoam swishes about her ankles. The dress is nearly translucent on her. “Lunch?” she asks, hopeful. “Lunch,” Kayla confirms. They walk a few yards up the shore and settle into a spot in the sand. Kayla passes Lulma the paper bag and, as always, Lulma studies the illustration on the bag—two, long-haired women dangling from a ship’s bow and stern, while a third woman waves from the water—closely before opening it. Kayla hopes, a little meanly, that Lulma does as Kayla once did and imagines herself as the woman in the ocean. Lulma balances the takeout container on her knees and eats the white cheese omelette with a knife and fork. She cuts a square out of the omelette and uses the flat of her knife to smear sour cream and feta cheese on the morsel before bringing it to her mouth. It’s a far cry from how she looked the first time Kayla fed her—whipcord thin, shivering in the booth from an ill-advised plunge into the icy waters of the ocean, eyes black with bruises. Eating Kayla’s honey cinnamon oatmeal with her fingers. She was back in front of Three Sisters the very next morning, the scrappy, starving stray who knew to linger where she’d be fed. But a thousand times fed is hardly a stray anymore. Lulma is strong now, hardy and full of vigor. The wiry muscles in Lulma’s arms make Kayla’s face warm but she is

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 still envious of the other woman’s strength; Lulma looks as if she could rip into the ocean bare-handed. They stand as one and climb into Kayla’s car. Lulma draws her legs close to her chest, her toes hanging off the edge of the seat. She gazes at the ocean as Kayla pulls out the parking lot and zigzags down the streets leading to Paloma’s residential area. “Hey,” she says to get Lulma’s mind off the ocean. “Are you sure he’s not gonna be there?” “He has class Tuesday mornings and office hours right after. He won’t be back until later.” The man—Lulma’s husband—is a professor at the college, tenured, if Kayla remembers correctly. “Good. You didn’t start without me, right?” “I did.” Lulma never feels the need to lie. “I started in the living room. He forgot something and came back to the house. He caught me looking.” Kayla’s fingers tighten on the steering wheel. “Did he do anything? I already told you to come stay with me.” “He’s my husband. I have to live with him.” Lulma closes her eyes and Kayla glances at her, admiring the dark of her eyelids, like smooth onyx. “And he didn’t do anything. He just stood there. Watching me. He looked tired.” “Tired?” She opens her eyes and nods. “Like no one’s ever shown him how to get a good night’s sleep. Exhausted.” “Who cares about him? You need to find your skin, Lulma.” “I know.” This, she says with a furrow in her brow. Determination firms up the softness of her cheeks and jaw. In the husband’s foyer, Kayla offers up the possibility that the sealskin might not be in the house. “It’s always in the house,” Lulma insists. “It has to be. If not the house, then maybe in the yard, somewhere on the property. I’ll dig up the ground if I have to. If I can’t find my skin, I can’t go home.” “I know.” But Kayla knows what kind of man Lulma’s husband is. She’s seen his type before, recognizing a sad story in the way his bedroom closets are organized—loose linens and slacks, loafers and Panama hats, common for middle-aged men in Paloma in one, and kaleidoscope-patterned sundresses and blouses in the other. The clothes in the second closet don’t fit Lulma. When Kayla touched the clothes, dust and schmutz stuck to her fingers, half-memory, half-ghost on velvet hangers. “Let’s check the rooms we didn’t get to last time. If we’re quick about it, we can check out that yard. Maybe he’s got a shed or something.” Kayla has no hopes for the shed. Lulma’s husband is an office man, which makes his desk his sanctuary. The last time Kayla was here the door to the office was locked.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Today, the door swings open before her and bares Lulma’s husband in all his depravity, his utter disgrace. You are despicable, Kayla snarls at his image on picture frames pinned to the walls. How dare you steal Lulma’s skin, how dare you trap her here, she spits and knocks battered novels and coffee-stained printer paper off the desk. You are so lonely it embarrasses me. When her crusade is done, the business card is among the detritus scattered on the floor, knocked free from its hiding spot in the frame of the computer monitor. A business card for a local storage company. On the back, in a man’s stocky handwriting, is a unit number and a combination code of letters and numbers. When Kayla goes back upstairs, she doesn’t tell Lulma what she’s found. She tells herself she doesn’t want to get the woman’s hopes up unnecessarily. She tells herself it is a kindness and doesn’t tell Lulma where she’s going when she leaves for the night. The storage unit place is self-service. Kayla drives toward it, windows rolled down to borrow some of Paloma’s quiet, unhurried atmosphere for herself—the mountain air, crisp pines, and salt ocean. It settles her as she searches up and down the rows of storage units until she finds the one written on the back of the business card. The absurdity of it all makes Kayla want to laugh. She wonders if Lulma might have been able to find her sealskin herself, had she not been so wedded to the idea that her skin is somewhere in the house, too reliant on the stories of the ones from the other shore who were clever enough to escape the hateful world of man and return to the ocean. She wonders the lengths a man will go to keep a wife, the things he will hide and the secrets he will keep so he will not be alone. And then Kayla wonders: why hide the sealskin at all? Does it only exist to be hidden? Is it not a tool? A power to be harnessed? Can it not be worn? Can it not be used? The inside of the unit is not all that interesting. There are boxes, dressers made of real wood from back when they built furniture to last. There’s a mannequin in the corner in a wedding dress. Kayla trips over a hope chest, a thick, solid thing of cedar. She kneels down and opens it. Inside, there are old sheets, worn curtains, an ugly flokati rug. All the way at the bottom, flat against the smooth wood, is Lulma’s sealskin. It’s lighter than Kayla expects. It doesn’t feel very warm. She slides her hand over and under the skin, the short, stiff hairs riding against her palm. It is, once Kayla looks at it under the courtesy lights of her car, a shade of brown only slightly richer than Lulma’s skin. Lulma’s husband will be home soon. There’s no point in bringing the skin to Lulma now, Kayla reasons. She’ll give it to her tomorrow morning at Three Sisters. She’ll feed Lulma one last time and slide the sealskin across the table as if it were nothing more than another shirt for Lulma to borrow. Then she’ll watch Lulma do what Kayla has never been able to.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Lulma will walk into the ocean and never resurface. Kayla’s drowning dress was never meant to see the light of day, only the black of the ocean or the unforgiving rocks at the bottom of the cape. The plan always was that, after the salt of the ocean scrubbed Kayla clean of all her cruelties, the drowning dress would be all that was left of her. To see that dress now, on Lulma’s body, under the semi-flush lights of the diner, is far more unsettling than Kayla previously imagined. Lulma sits, tucked into a booth, the long sleeves of the dress piled in her lap as to not drag on the dirty linoleum floor. When customers compliment her on the dress, Lulma smiles prettily and ducks her head in a way Kayla knows she doesn’t realize is charming. In the breakroom, the image of Lulma in her drowning dress comes again. How lovely Lulma looks in it, how the ocean would not dare refuse her if she came to the water as she is now, sealskin or no. And Lulma is bare beneath the dress, Kayla knows. She hasn’t worn anything else since she pulled the dress from Kayla’s closet. Kayla strokes the skin, imagining how it might feel against her bare chest or naked thighs. She wonders if it might work for her. A twister of ocean water, the euphoria of transformation. Could she slip beneath the waves like Lulma? A seal, sleek, powerful, bastion of the ocean, commander of the waves. Could Kayla be like that? Would the ocean welcome her home? Home with Lulma too? Kayla thinks, rather suddenly, about the small inlet of ocean behind her house. The beach is shielded from view by her house. No one would see her. There, she could try on the sealskin. There, she could borrow Lulma’s power. There, she could see if she is worthy of the ocean’s embrace. The thought is gone, as quickly as it came, but Kayla has no shortage of cruelties for herself; rarely has she shown her body or her mind any mercy. Kayla summons the thought and stands in it and all its awfulness, even as it makes her eyes wet and her heart pang. Could she do that? Could she do such a thing to Lulma without knowing the outcome? Lose her sea-rough laugh and her charming calm, all on a whim, over the most selfish of desires? The sealskin gives off its own heat, as if attached, through invisible tissues and muscles, to a living, breathing body. Kayla sinks her fingers deeper into the soft, smoothgrain skin over her shoulder. It smells like brine, the musk of some mammal from an ocean shore far, far from here. Kayla takes a deep breath, holding the smell there in her nostrils. Only when her lungs are empty of all air does she wrap the sealskin around her shoulders. There is a door in the breakroom that lets out into the parking lot. The wind outside is cold and sharp through the sealskin. Kayla clutches it closer and heads home, imagining already the water at her ankles and, perhaps, even above her head, filling her eyes, her nose. Her mouth.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 —§— The next day, Lulma comes to Three Sisters, a wildness in her eyes and a set to her teeth that Kayla hasn’t seen since the very first days after Lulma’s arrival in Paloma. Kayla makes some excuse to leave work and the two head down to one of Paloma’s abandoned beaches, where the waves lap at the shore in unnatural ways. Thigh-deep in the shallows, Lulma tells her a story of life coming into being in waters so far and so deep from here that it is another shore altogether. Lulma tells her about her family. “They live in warmer, sweeter waters than these. Sisters, aunts, cousins, and grandmothers. We are family but we are different. They do not lose their skins. They are hunters. They lure prey with song and smile to the darkest parts of the shallow and then they drag them down. They do not fear men. Men cannot harm them, capture them, or make them theirs. They have a freedom I cannot fathom.” All this Lulma says with a measure of exhaustion, the weary hull of a ship encountering yet another unwelcoming shoal. Kayla feels that weariness as if it were her own. It drapes over her even heavier than the sealskin did the night before where she could not bring herself to go down into the ocean. Kayla thought the sealskin might free them both. That all seems so foolish now. “I envy them,” she says. “I wish I was like them. I wish I was like you too.” Lulma lifts her eyes from the bright stirring inhabitants of the shallows and laughs, as if Kayla has made a particularly unfunny joke. “What’s to be envious of? I’ve lost my skin. I’m never going home.” The admission is more than Kayla can take. A sense of trying to soften a blow that has already been dealt submerges Kayla. “Oh, Lulma,” she says and reaches for the woman. “Oh god, Lulma, I’m sorry—” “You don’t have to apologize,” Lulma interrupts. There is a wildness in her eyes, steadily gaining purchase. “I’ve made my peace with this. And knowing you—you’re all the good the land has to offer. Even now, the ocean calls to me but I know I cannot go to her.” The wildness gives way to tears, fat glistening ones that carve paths down her cheeks and drip off the rounded edge of her chin. “She will drown me. Dash me across her rocks, waste me against these shores! She has no more love for me. Kayla, how am I going to live a life like this?” Her lips turn angry and cruel as she spits out, “Halfmeasures from the ocean, when I used to be one of her beloved!” “Lulma,” Kayla says again because it is all she can bear to say, because it is easier than saying she hoped Lulma’s sorrow would be indecipherable to her, the long whale singing at a frequency no one can understand. She wanted to close her heart to it. Lulma’s suffering is all too familiar. The dewy-eyes, the angry, downturned mouth, and the drowning dress slicked with saltwater. The only thing separating Kayla and Lulma now is the fact that Lulma belongs to the ocean, has always belonged to the

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 ocean and has never needed to fashion a drowning dress out of floss, tulle, and impossible dreams. “Stay here,” Kayla whispers to Lulma and sprints up to where her car is parked on a flat strip of sand. She opens the trunk and grabs her bag from where it is hidden under a damp beach towel. By the time Kayla returns to Lulma in the shallows, the sealskin is cradled in her arms, the hairs taking on the reddish glow from the setting sun. “I do want to be like you,” she rambles, pushing the sealskin into Lulma’s limp hands. “I want to feel what you feel. I’ve wanted to feel it for so long but not at the expense of you. Never you. God, Lulma, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry.” Lulma says nothing. Something as unfathomable and tremendous swells in her eyes. Her jowls shake with it and Kayla closes her eyes, readying to accept any punishment Lulma is willing to dish out. Kayla hasn’t let go of the sealskin. Lulma hasn’t made her yet so they hold it together, fingers clenched in the sable fur. “What do you want to feel?” Lulma asks, after a gulf of silence, and Kayla all but leaps at the opportunity. She tells Lulma about a childhood spent in awe of the ocean, the preternatural yearning to go down beneath the waves, the first drowning dress she made for herself, a repurposed summer dress with a long, white skirt. She tells Lulma about every drowning dress and every attempt, even the one that ended with her staying overnight in the hospital, residual saltwater sloshing in her lungs. “I haven’t gone back since,” Kayla says, “not until you.” At the end of it all, the moon high above their heads, Lulma calls her an idiot. “You fool,” she says and it is impossibly fond. “You fool. Don’t you see why I love your dress so much? There’s so much ocean in it, Kayla. It feels like my own skin. Here, here, you feel.” Lulma gives Kayla her sealskin. She strips out of the drowning dress, her breasts dark in the moonlight. She gives Kayla the drowning dress, a bundle of sopping wet material, and motions for Kayla to undress. Kayla has never gotten naked in front of anyone before but she does so now. She puts on the drowning dress for the first time in years and it is cold, but not clammy. The sleeves, logged with water, envelop her hands and make them look like flippers. Beneath the salt, Kayla can smell Lulma’s musk. “See?” Lulma dons her sealskin over her shoulders and head and takes Kayla’s hand. Kayla can feel the webbing growing between Lulma’s fingers, the blunt tips of her claws. “Do you feel it?” She begins slow, tugging Kayla away from the shore. The ocean rises from Kayla’s thighs to her hips to her neck. Her braids take on water and start to weigh her down. “It’s alright, you are with me,” Lulma says and her voice sounds like a song, echoing eerily on the empty ocean. “You’ll come with me. I’ll take you to the other shore. We will never part. Is that what you want, Kayla?”

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Kayla cannot speak, cannot move her head to nod. She squeezes Lulma’s paw as hard as she can. Lulma barks in glee, pushing her whiskery snout against Kayla’s temple. Her nose is cold and wet. And with that, Lulma draws Kayla underwater.

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Hailey Spencer

What to Write in Your Journal to Move on 1. A description of what happened. To transmogrify biography to story, certain details must be omitted for the sake of time. Do I drown out my lover’s unbrushed hair, the day I picked blackberries when all he wanted to do was kiss? The intimacy of an almost-remembered coffee order? What do I disclose and what do I obscure? Is description definition? 2. How it left you feeling. The last time we kissed was in the hallway before I took a sledgehammer to the walls. Half of my bedroom was paneled in mirrors and I watched his long thick hair as I prayed to the goddess of lies. 3. Who was there and what they said and did. He said, “I’m moving to New York.” He said, “There’s nothing for me here.” He said, “I’m sorry, I’m so fucking sorry.” I said, “I love you.” I said, “I love you.” I said, “I’ll go.” He went. I didn’t.

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 4. What you wish had happened instead. We live together in a tiny apartment above a pizza shop, and we fight and we fuck and make art and sleeping in his arms has never felt better and I am deliriously happy. We live together in a tiny apartment that is too hot in summer and too cold in winter, and we fight and we fight and the art I make is small and I can’t sleep with his arms this tight around me. 5. Steps you could take to start moving on. [ answer left blank due to time ]

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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 ______________________________________________ Yvonne Amey received her MFA from the University of Central Florida. Her poems have appeared in Tin House, Rattle, Hobart and elsewhere. Carl Boon is the author of the full-length collection Places & Names: Poems (The Nasiona Press, 2019). His poems have appeared in many journals and magazines, including Prairie Schooner, Posit, and The Maine Review. He received his Ph.D. in Twentieth-Century American Literature from Ohio University in 2007, and currently lives in Izmir, Turkey, where he teaches courses in American culture and literature at Dokuz Eylül University. Despy Boutris’s writing has been published in Copper Nickel, American Poetry Review, The Gettysburg Review, Colorado Review, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. Currently, she teaches at the University of Houston and serves as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast, Guest Editor for Palette Poetry and Frontier, and Editor-in-Chief of The West Review. Lori Brack’s chapbook A Case for the Dead Letter Detective will be published by Kelsay Books in spring 2021. A Museum Made of Breath was published in 2018 by Spartan Books Kansas City. Her essays and poems have appeared in Another Chicago Magazine, North American Review, The Fourth River, Entropy Magazine, MidAmerican Review and other journals and anthologies. She lives in the prairie two blocks from the Garden of Eden and 14 miles from the geodetic center of North America. Hannah Cajandig-Taylor is a poet and flash writer residing in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where she reads for Passages North and Fractured Lit. Her proudest accomplishment is completing almost every Nancy Drew PC game in existence. She is the author of ROMANTIC PORTRAIT OF A NATURAL DISASTER (Finishing Line Press, 2020). Find her on Twitter @hannahcajandigt. Betsy Cornwell is the story editor and digital editor at Parabola Magazine, a New York Times bestselling YA fantasy author, and a teacher at the National University of Ireland Galway. She is currently renovating an old knitting factory in Connemara into a childcare-inclusive arts residency for single mothers. www.betsycornwell.com

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Jade Driscoll is a recent graduate of Central Michigan University with a master’s in creative writing. When she’s not writing, Jade enjoys reading, listening to music, and walking in local parks. Her work has previously appeared in Collision Literary Magazine, Plainsongs, Remington Review, and others. You can find her online @thepoetjade. Megan Driscoll is a writer based in Eastern Massachusetts. She currently studies Marine Science at the University of Maine and enjoys writing fiction in her spare time. Tessa Ekstrom is a chaotic human doing her best to survive a global pandemic living in Portland, Oregon. Her work has found a home in a handful of literary journals, and she was the featured poet for Volume 2 Issue 1 of Sunspot Literary Journal. She can be found on Instagram @bpdtrashcondo. Derek Fisher is a writer from Toronto, where he also teaches English at Seneca College, and bartends. Look for his recent publications in The Write Launch, HASH Journal, and Shudder’s blog The Bite. Bronwen Griffiths is the author of two novels and two collections of flash fiction. Her flash fiction has been published in a number of online journals and print anthologies. She lives in East Sussex, UK and likes travelling to deserts, but this is not possible right now so the beach shingle has to suffice instead. Darren Higgins is a writer and artist living in Waterbury Center, Vermont. His poems and stories have appeared in The Iowa Review, Quick Fiction, RAZED, Cosmonauts Avenue, Treehouse, Tupelo Quarterly, Bloodroot, The Rupture, and elsewhere. Megan Huffman has been previously published in “Havik,” “Dovecote,” “YONEWYORK” and other collections. She lives in Queens, New York with a high maintenance pomeranian named Vincent and a crybaby six-toed cat named Pablo as roommates. Karly Jacklin is a poet and Ohioan currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in both creative writing and education at the University of Maine at Farmington. Her work has appeared in the Pacific Review, the River, Ripple Zine, and elsewhere. Jessica June Rowe is an author, playwright, editor, and perpetual daydreamer. She is on the Editorial Board of Exposition Review and has served as both Editor-in-Chief and

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Fiction Editor. A Best of the Net nominee, her own fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in Gigantic Sequins, Pidgeonholes, Timber Journal, and Noble/Gas Qtrly, while her short plays have been featured on multiple stages in Los Angeles. One of her poems is stamped into a sidewalk in Valencia, CA. She also really loves chai lattes. Find her on Twitter @willwrite4chai. Babo Kamel’s work is published in reviews such as Greensboro Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, CV2, Poet Lore, and Best Canadian Poetry 2020. She is a Best of Net nominee, and a six-time Pushcart nominee, Her chapbook, After, is published with Finishing Line Press. She divides her time between Montreal and Florida. Find her at: babokamel.com Twice nominated for Pushcart and Best of the Net awards, J.I. Kleinberg is an artist, poet, and freelance writer. Her visual poems have been published in print and online journals worldwide. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, USA, where she tears words out of magazines and posts occasionally on Instagram @jikleinberg. Yaz Lancaster (they/them) is an interdisciplinary artist interested in fragments & relational aesthetics. Yaz plays violin, thinks about politics of liberation, and sometimes writes poetry; and their work has been called “warm” & “crunchy.” They have other poems in mags like Afternoon Visitor & Peach Mag (where they are the visual arts editor). They hold degrees in music & writing from New York University. Yaz loves horror movies, chess & bubble tea. Rachel Laverdiere writes, pots and teaches in Saskatoon. She is CNF co-editor at Barren Magazine and the creator of Hone & Polish Your Writing. Find Rachel’s essays in journals such as Lunch Ticket, The Common, CutBank and Pithead Chapel. In 2020, her CNF was shortlisted for CutBank‘s Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest, made The Wigleaf Top 50 and was nominated for Best of the Net. For more, visit www.rachellaverdiere.com. 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 Booth, Craft Literary, The Gettysburg Review, SmokeLong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com

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Atlas and Alice, Issue 18 Mandira Pattnaik’s fiction has appeared in Watershed Review, Passages North, EllipsisZine, Bending Genres, Splonk, Citron Review and Amsterdam Quarterly, among other places. She is happy to have received nominations for Pushcart Prize ’21, BOTN ’20 and Best Microfiction ’21. Prime Number Magazine, New Flash Fiction Review, FlashBack Fiction, Trampset and West Trestle will feature her work in upcoming Issues. She lives in India. Shalya Powell is an undergrad student pursuing an English degree in western Massachusetts. This is their first published story. Eric Roller is an educator who lives in DeLand, FL. His other poems can be read in The Chestnut Review and The South Dakota Review. Marvin Shackelford’s story collection, Tall Tales from the Ladies’ Auxiliary, is coming soon from Alternating Current Press. Jane Snyder’s stories have appeared in Umbrella Factory, Broadkill Review, and Bull. She lives in Spokane. Hailey Spencer is a Seattle-based poet with a BA in English from Seattle University. She is the creator of three webseries with the independent production company Arsenic Martini Productions. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies. She loves fairy tales and has a tattoo of Baba Yaga’s house on her calf. Denise Tolan’s work has been included in places such as The Best Small Fictions 2018, The Best Short Stories from The Saturday Evening Post, Hobart, Lunch Ticket, and was a finalist for both the 2019 and 2018 International Literary Awards: Penelope Niven Prize in Nonfiction.

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Cover Photo: Ben Woodard Interior Photos: Aleks Dorohovich/Thimo Pedersen/Rod Long/Chuttersnap/Matt Hardy

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