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Issue 8

Winter 2016/17


Issue 8 Winter 2016/17

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

Š Atlas and Alice, All Rights Reserved


LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

On the first genuinely warm spring day here in Connecticut, I write the greeting for our winter issue, which compiles all of the work we published over the past few months. I think this is a stellar group of stories, poems, and essays. Within these virtual pages, both the Devil and Hell appear, characters find their calling, and writers search for themselves. There isn’t anything necessarily seasonal about these pieces, yet they all address the emotions we face during long stretches of cold and shortened days. As always, thanks for reading. I wish you well. BW

Editorial Board

Founder: Brendan Todt • Editor in Chief: Benjamin Woodard Poetry Editors: Liz Ann Young & Summar West Fiction Editors: Donald Quist & Whitney Groves Creative Nonfiction Editor: Emily Arnason Casey


TABLE OF CONTENTS Lisa Folkmire †

Suburbia

6

Kristen M. Ploetz ≈

Pilgrimage

8

Rebecca Macijeski †

Death’s First Lesson

12

Death’s Mother Shows Her How to Eat Clams

13

Eva Schlesinger ƒ

The Cha Sisters

14

Sarah Lynn Knowles ƒ

The Hotel Window

16

Christine No ƒ

Chrysalis

26

Nicole Miyashiro †

Yes/No to Neurosurgery for My Son

34

Kara Dennison ƒ

Solada and the Deep Dark

36

A.E. Weisgerber ƒ

Then he spiraled and lifted in the clouds

46

Marla Lepore ≈

At the Corner of West Wilderness Way

48

Lauren Suchenski †

And glory glory to the word

50

Bezalel Stern ƒ

The Golem of Brooklyn

51

Deya Mukherjee †

Cough

56

Chance Dibben ƒ

Rounding Up

58

Something Else

59

The Wrong Guy

59

Alice

60

Dennis Barone † Call for Submissions

64

Contributor Notes

65

Fiction – ƒ

CNF – ≈

Poetry – †


LISA FOLKMIRE

Suburbia The neighbor boy has hot boxed in his duct-taped Chevy again. The smell seeps through the window screen just as the whirrs of the highway envelop our home. Tires speeding past unfilled potholes, broken glass bottles, hidden cop cars. Across the street, four wheels stalled in the drive. Windows cracking now, they’re coming up for air. A finger draped over the top of the opened glass. It’s the only time we’ve communicated.

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KRISTEN M. PLOETZ

Pilgrimage “The number one thing that’s most similar among the different pilgrims on these different journeys in these different faiths is they’re all searching. It’s that they no longer want to just passively accept the religion, they want to be active in deciding what they believe.” –Nicola Menzie, The Christian Post Jerusalem. Mecca. Char Dham. Lumbini. Billions have descended upon these ancient holy sites for more than a thousand years. Profoundly meaningful, they remain destinations for the legion faithful generation after generation. Devout travelers come by their journeys honestly and with good intentions—they wish to seek, confirm, and see. It might be the promise of validation that beckons, or a catalyst for renewing latent or damaged belief. It is a distant call, no longer to be ignored. But I’m not a believer. These pilgrimages are not mine to claim. They are arbitrary and insufficient to me. They would not ratify the reason and innate empathy that have long guided me along the planes of morality and mortality. It doesn’t mean I do not wish for some place similar. A place to affirm my own convictions. A place to gather with others who share them. And yet what migration exists with commensurate significance and lure? What set of coordinates threads its way through the ages, a place invisibly binding us nonbelievers together with parallel camaraderie and appreciation for our very existence? Where does an atheist go to find some center of explanation about all that was and is?

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I am in my daughter’s bedroom. She extends her open palm toward me. A cracked geode wobbles on the pale skin of my budding collector. A relic from a souvenir shop three summers ago, memories of that mountain trip now faded to sepia tones in my mind. Perhaps I do not have to go far to fulfill my journey after all. Right before me, stark truth reveals itself in the juxtaposition of old rock and young flesh: crystalline beauty borne from mere minerals and water that once seeped into clandestine pockets of earth touches the tender girl who once grew inside me in similar fashion. Their existence is simultaneously mysterious and enlightening. Something from nothing. Everything from something. I could just as easily set off on my pilgrimage within the brittle yellow pages of a dusty botany book. Tracing my fingers over the branches of taxonomy trees, I double back from Anthophyta to Coniferophyta to Ginkgophyta and the remaining phyla linking back to the origin of life. My own yard bears witness to these wondrous, uneven steps back in time. The tulips planted in the front lawn. An errant spruce cone blown in from the neighbor’s tree. The dwarf Gingko and elegant maidenhair ferns mingling along the granite foundation of our humble Cape. Velvety, verdant moss that hides on the damp, northern corners of my cedar planting beds. Evolution’s end game all played out in plants on my tiny urban lot. Or I might amble one city block before I’m at the birthplace of the dandelion sprouting to life from a crack in the sidewalk, a slight stem forcing its way through a break in the cement. The bright yellow flower draws sustenance from the duff of pulverized leaves and city dust tightly settled in between the slabs. Raindrops touch down between rushed feet and open umbrellas, pelting the jagged green leaves spread wide in a circle around the tiny fringed sun. Its presence is against all odds, and yet it endures. Just like us. Soon it will wither to feathery wisps, ready to begin another rotation along the circle of life. Just like us. I fear I have not gone far enough. A journey of some distance feels essential for the kind of quest I want to fulfill. I could head due east until I reach the cold, rocky shore of the Atlantic, a fitting place to reflect upon the miracle that is life itself. The salty shrine churns at my feet, broken bits of scallop and razor clam tumble against my toes. Silica and stone sparkle, worn down to the tiniest of grains after millennia of water, wind, and tide. Shallow waves glitter and foam in the midday sun. A limp strand of rockweed undulates in the current alongside me. So much more takes place unseen below the shimmering surface. I think about the masses who have walked along this line of low tide, finding similar solace as they look out toward the horizon. To the tide’s lunar accomplice, invisible

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and almighty, I offer boundless gratitude and awe. Perhaps I should follow the migration of the Ruby-throated hummingbird. Year after year these featherweight wonders return to lesser latitudes, an epic journey once imprinted during the Pleistocene yet ensures survival today. When called by some enigmatic force, they go. Tiny wings beat for thousands of miles powered only by luck and might. Weary upon arrival, they are soon replenished with all that they need, with all they seek in these welcoming climes. Only after some unseen prompt will they return home, restored and recharged to live their fast little lives. There are myriad destinations to consider. Faraway sunsets of uninhabited islands where circadian rhythms and the advent of solstices remain pure and endure unfettered by modern life. Or the plumose maps charted within the complex pattern of the Great Potoo’s feathers silently still and camouflaged upon the bark of Neotropical trees. The poles might offer some great clues with their wandering magnetic fields, or a long gaze at the brilliance offered by their glowing, evanescent aurora. If I embark on a quest for trilobite fossils my fingers could glide over the ancient relief of long ago while I contemplate how it all connects to right now. Is the answer found in the cycles of the everyday, of water, seed, and life itself? I’ve considered the cosmos, but how might one get there other than through the lens of a cheap telescope trying to elbow its way past the light pollution that drowns out whatever great messages might exist. Total, unattainable darkness might reveal a deeper truth and provide more answers instead. Perhaps I’ve already been where I need to go. I recall the vast span of time piled under my rubber soles as I walked the shore of Lake Champlain, littered with 500 million year old stones of Iberville shale threaded with white quartz. It is why I return year after year. It is a calling of sorts. I recall the sulfur stench of Costa Rican fumaroles, reminding me of the liquid core far below my feet, one that trembles and reshapes life as it sees fit. I have not been back, but it has stayed with me forever. For me, each of these end points has the proven capacity for tears and a quickened heartbeat, for knees dropped down with lips pressed against traces of our ancient past. I revere in measure equal to those who reflect at sacred sites of birth and prayer. And yet they are not enough. I can go far beyond my own front door, but closer to what, exactly? Is it the end or the beginning? It is both, of course. It is an ever-widening circle of life and mystery, ineffable odds born of big bangs and bone and breath. Of course, other people who have arrived with similar intentions are missing from these places. These are not sites made from men and women, both then or now. Humanity is the glaring omission and the failed itinerary on these makeshift journeys I conjure in my mind. I need others to fill the deep gap of feeling alone and in the quiet minority of a different point of view, one that has so many inputs but none of which

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are divined. I long for the presence of others in close and contemporaneous proximity while I stand there among them and look out and within. But there is to be no shared veneration en masse. It renders me envious—perhaps the only time—of my faithful friends and family, those who have a well worn path to follow with others if they choose. For now at least, I must try to find satisfaction in my solo journeys and worship alone at the altar of our natural world, the one built from the cosmos and chaos. I must embrace this solitude and accept the meager answers offered by beauty and chance. I must trust that I am not alone.

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REBECCA MACIJESKI

Death’s First Lesson Death’s small feet hang over the edge of the couch. Her grandmother teaches her to knit, feeding yarn between the needles, always working and passing. Death watches the loops of color slide along the machine of her grandmother’s hands. Soon a pattern generates, astonishing as a tumor or a shroud, and death’s own hands begin to fill with stitches. After so many repetitions and sips of hot chocolate her grandmother comes to the end of her strand, ties it off, pulls it tight in the crook of the girl’s scissors. Death braces her feet against the edge, holds the bright yarn steady, takes a breath, and cuts.

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Death’s Mother Shows Her How to Eat Clams Open their strange clattering. Coax the pink muscles from calcified ears. Gather them into a cool ceramic bowl, their soft saltiness seeping out. Heat quarts of cream. Do this on a cold day, preferably a damp one, in New England, in a kitchen where you can see the sea, and gulls flicker in and out of your window startled by their buoyancy in the thick coastal air. Peel dozens of little potatoes. Swipe away their surfaces, reveal the white earths inside. Feel your knife work through them, toss them in the pot, their starch blooming into warm roil. Add handfuls of bright parsley. Bend low over the steam— the heat and clams and cream lilting primordial up and out of the simmering world and into this kitchen where clams have finished opening into soup. Neighbors will come. The salt of the earth will settle in spoons, settle in us, clamor home again through laughter, through broth, through our bodies, through each passing down from generation to generation as you fill hulled loaves of bread with ladles from the pot, with the promise clams make when they’re pulled from sand, jagged shells flashing in the fog.

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EVA SCHLESINGER

The Cha Sisters The Cha Sisters’ hair shone like caramelized brown sugar. Their skin looked like they hung out under sun lamps, when, in fact, they ate five pounds of carrots every week. They drank chai tea, had a chinchilla and a Chow Chow, and liked to ride the choo choo train. They lived downstairs in the rooming house. There were three of them, and Maria Rodriquez lived in #14, she said. I forgot our building had 13 units. I moved the 13th day in the year ’13. I moved to the third floor, or was it the second? Butterflies fluttered in my head. My eyebrows were pale dust. I lugged my typewriter in its metal case, in case I needed it, in case the computer had a power failure. It was perimenopausal. We were in sync that way. The kitchen sink was a porcelain basin with faucets for cold and hot. I could squat in the basin and wash my hair. The bathtub had not claw feet, but paw feet, like a Sharpei paw. Black and white tiled linoleum, a giant chessboard. The Cha sisters were talking and laughing. They looked like triplets with their shoulder-length shiny hair, navy pea coats, and stockings. I wanted to join them. I peered over the banister at them. Maria wanted to know if I wanted to move to the apartment that was available, #3 below. Which surprised me because last I heard the gentleman had it rigged with an alarm system. I felt alarmed hearing he moved out. But maybe he hadn’t. Maybe Maria made a mistake. Her hair was the color of black oak.

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SARAH LYNN KNOWLES

The Hotel Window The morning after The Pageants play their show in Philly, we’re all swearing off drinking, and none of us wants much talking either. Back to the van I march after gathering my things, nursing a hangover headache after barely sleeping, after skipping another shower, feeling embarrassed to be awake and alive. Strategically, I sit next to bassist Joe in the van, knowing he isn’t, as a rule, much for small talk. I flip through photographs I took of last night’s show while my drummer boyfriend, Wes, makes his way through A Confederacy of Dunces and keeps forgetting my request to not say much about it. Again I remind him from across the van that I want to read it fresh when he is done. Ten days into The Pageants’ first real-deal East Coast tour, we’re all growing used to the snores we hear, the smells we smell—like lead singer Jacob’s rank bacteria socks when he kicks off his sneakers, or the meat stench Drew belches after eating a yet another salami sandwich, his favorite. On day one, these several-hour trips from one state to the next seemed an exciting prospect, the six of us (four band boys plus Cyn, Jacob’s girlfriend and sometimes-backup singer, and me, tagalong girlfriend and glorified merch girl) confined together without much distraction. But now, two out of six weeks in, I sense little seeds of melodrama sprouting. All there is to think about is our small world inside the van. We can’t help but know everything, and all of the time. For instance, I can easily rank the boys in order of time spent on the phone with their mothers, the most frequent being Jacob, who bickers daily with his bored single mom. Second is meek guitarist Drew, who regularly speaks in indecipherable syllables to his first-generation Polish parents; then Wes, whose mother checks in every few days, cheerfully and proud, usually wishing me well by 16


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extension. Last of the four is Joe, who I’ve spied grumbling on the phone to his father only once so far, outside last night’s venue before the show. Halfway to D.C., we pull into a rest stop. My stomach gurgles interest in something healthy—a fruit or vegetable fresher than the brown-edged iceberg in a packaged salad or the spongy orange tomato slices pressed between an alreadyassembled deli sandwich. Maybe four times, tops, have I ever cooked a balanced meal from scratch, yet suddenly that’s what I yearn most to do when we return home. At the counter, I add a glossy food magazine to my ginger ale and pre-made turkey sandwich. As Jacob swerves back onto the highway, I rattle off recipes for no-fuss side dishes and desserts, promising to cook for the boys when we get back if they’ll only allow me control of the stereo for the following hour. “Later,” says Jacob, meeting my eyes in the rear view mirror. “In a half hour,” I persist. He shakes his head no, and I sulk. Across the aisle from him, Cyn silently draws with charcoal pencils in a sketchbook, holding it at a strategic angle so that no one else can see. Crossword puzzles and Sudoku books get passed over seat backs and graffitied with crude margin scrawling. Jacob says we are making good time for the boys’ magazine interview scheduled for that afternoon. In preparation, he and Wes pose questions to the others in loud reporter voices, imitating writers they’ve encountered thus far—well-meaning bloggers who over-analyze lyrics, for instance, or who pose cliché “getting to know you” questions like which five objects you’d choose if you were stranded on a desert island. From across the van, the boys respond with warped imitations of each others’ voices, mocking gestures and inflection with hilarious precision. Poor Drew, as usual, is the most frequent target. In this instance, they spotlight his signature shrug whenever he unexpectedly reaches the end of a story he’s telling. “So,” Jacob says, raising his shoulders and pushing his lips to a pout, “I guess that’s it, then.” It’s so spot-on that even Drew himself can’t stifle laughter as the rest of us get going. Despite their boisterous nonchalance, though, I do sense a little underlying anxiety. Although the boys have been interviewed a half-dozen times this summer, this is the first time it’ll be in person instead of through email or by phone, and with a photographer forewarned to be present, too. I itch to be there, to observe the camera guy straightening slouching postures and instructing facial expressions to relax. While it’s true all four Pageant boys are such clowning hams in private—they’ve got no qualms posing for my camera or channeling raw energy into an onstage performance— deep down, they’re all varying levels of shy. After their last over-the-phone interview— for a “One to Watch” bit in SPIN magazine—Wes confided that Jacob’s anxiousness had morphed him into a loudly arrogant caricature. That call had been between one reporter, Jacob, and Wes, and after the interview, neither boy could recall a single

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answer they’d given. Wes said that, for him at least, hanging up the phone felt like coming down from an out-of-body experience. I gaze at a two-page portrait of strawberry shortcake with homemade biscuits and cream as the boys discuss how they’d want to be styled for a photo shoot, or wouldn’t. “Would you go naked, if they asked?” Wes says, to which Joe flatly answers no, and Jacob shouts yes. Drew hesitates, puzzling over the question. “I’m not sure,” he finally says. “I guess it would depend on the circumstance.” “The circumstances are it’s today, and the photographer says, ‘Drew, take off your clothes so we can take some nudes for our magazine,'” Wes laughs. “I know, but like—it would depend how we were posed.” “Okay,” Jacob jumps in. “The photographer wants to lay your bare body across a white horse galloping into the sunset. Would that work for you?” “I mean…” Drew scrunches up his face. “I guess I’m just thinking of people like my Mom. You know?” “Of course,” Jacob snickers. “I think of your mother when I’m naked, too.” We all laugh, but no one as hard as Jacob. Breathlessly he cackles, straining to keep his eyes on the road, holding his belly like it hurts. “Alright,” Drew says. “Very funny. Okay.” D.C. is one of very few cities on the East Coast tour where the band’s manager has arranged for us stay in a hotel. Shithole or not, we’re thrilled. Our spines especially are giddy for mattresses after so many days on sagging couch cushions and thin carpets covering concrete floors. A week ago, being half of a couple meant that Wes and I, or Jacob and Cyn, might get dibs on the most comfortable option offered, but after two weeks of drunk, shallow sleep, girlfriend status now entitled me a seat at the merch table and not a whole lot else. After checking in, the boys toss their luggage into the first of two adjoining rooms on the 14th floor. They take turns freshening up in the two bathrooms and then head back down to the lobby where they’re scheduled to meet the magazine reporter. Cyn heads out, too, for a cigarette and to wander while I hang back, eager to refresh myself with a shower. My skin still feels coated with grime from the night before. I unwrap the oval hotel soap, lather it onto the bleach-white washcloth, and slough off what feels like layers of filth with the water temperature turned up as hot as it will go. I emerge reborn, it feels like. I wrap my torso in a fresh white towel and open the door to let steam rush out. The dresser mirror shows my skin is flushed rosy. I flip on the TV to the Weather Channel, and as with all hotel televisions, the volume is set boomingly loud by default. I leave it that way, so used to noise now, and begin rummaging through my backpack. I separate clean clothes from dirty and pile the latter into mounds across the carpet, thinking maybe I can get a bit of laundry done while we’re in the hotel.

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The TV meteorologist is a pink-faced blonde man with a fuchsia-patterned tie to match. He forecasts another week of summertime temps and chancy thunderstorms. Then a commercial break starts, and I notice Cyn’s small sketchbook, unattended and beckoning on the dresser. Do I? I think. No, come on. Of course not. Snooping would be rude and wrong, and Cyn has a huge enough chip on her shoulder when it comes to me already. A few weeks before tour, Jacob had revealed her as the band’s new backup vocalist as well as his new girlfriend. As the lone two ladies on this trip, the benefits of friendship seemed obvious to me. But Cyn continually returned my enthusiasm with coldness, as if singing a couple of verses from a stage’s back corner elevated her high above the tagalong girlfriend status we undeniably shared. So, when I ask myself, If I really want to see her illustrations, can’t I ask her? it’s easy to answer. Sure I can, I think. And she’ll say no. I swipe the sketchbook fast and perch on the edge of the bed, hunching over my lap like a wild creature protecting its loot. The pages flip open easily at the book’s middle, where a realistic sketch of a Pageants performance spans across facing pages. Here, Cyn’s outlines are thick and dark from a hard-pressed pencil. Jacob stands front and center with a mouth stretched so wide his whole face seems strained. Wes’s overdrum slouch is so exaggerated he looks like a gangly gorilla. The two of them are bookended by angelic-looking Drew and stoic Joe, both of which are drawn so accurately I feel readied for their limbs to animate. She’s good, I think. And though I’m not exactly surprised, I am a little perturbed at the confirmation. I flip again to see a still life rendition of the Pageants’ van, gear piled up outside of it, each amp and instrument case drawn with grungy crisscross shadowing and tattered texture. My eyes linger on every pencil scratch and smudge before flipping the page again. When I do, I’m met with Cyn’s own self portrait—her angular body perched on a curb with a cigarette arrowing from her pursed lips. The illustration is as darkly-drawn as the previous ones—making her bob haircut seem extra severe, and her eyebrows’ slant appear extra unimpressed—but behind all of it is a sadness I’m surprised by. Cyn looks lonely in this drawing, I realize. Is it possible that softer sensitivities hide behind her rough exterior? Suddenly the door slams. I jump, knocking the book from my hands to the floor. “Um,” Cyn’s flat voice states. “Oh, hey,” I say, retucking my towel around my chest. I reach towards the book, but she snatches it first. “I meant no disrespect,” I say. “Mine,” Cyn says, shoving it into her purse. But it’s too large to fit and juts awkward from the opening. “Your sketches are really good, Cyn.”

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“They’re also none of your business.” “I know. I’m sorry. But since I saw, can I just say—“ “You fucking ask first,” she scolds. “You don’t see me fiddling with your camera or whatever. And why’s the TV turned up loud enough for a deaf person? Next time you snoop through someone else’s shit, maybe have the sense to do it covertly.” I feel my face redden. Cyn grabs her suitcase by its handle from the floor and stomps through the open doorway adjoining our two rooms. I hear another, fartheraway door shut, then water running. It crosses my mind how funny it would be if I snuck in to swipe her sketchbook again while she showers. But I don’t, of course. Instead I reach for the remote to lower the TV’s volume and end up switching off the set completely. I get dressed, climbing into cut-off jean shorts and a v-neck tee. I wonder what the boys are doing, if their interview came first or the photo shoot. Or is it possible the two parts would happen concurrently? I return to sorting laundry and then go through Wes’s duffel bag to add to my piles. As I toss one of his tube socks across the room, I imagine what kind of answers he might be giving, whether it’s more likely the boys are managing to be witty or if they’re stuttering through dull, painful responses. I consider, also, what it’d be like to be interviewed myself. Would I glide through, seeming clever, or would my answers leave the reporter dumbfounded at the assignment’s purpose? Suddenly I hear a voice. Cyn, I think, but then realize the sound came from a different direction. I don’t move. I wait. Then, “Up there,” I hear—a man’s voice, straining from the ground outside. I go to the window and push aside two layers of drapes. I peer the fourteen stories down and see cars screeching to stop around a small crowd forming. Outstretched arms point fingers at the building I’m in—to my window, it looks like, but not quite, not exactly. A faraway siren wails, growing louder as it nears. In the next room, I hear the water shut off. “Cyn,” I say. And then louder, “Hey, Cyn.” “Are you calling me?” “Something’s happening.” “What.” “Seriously, you gotta come over here. Quick.” Cyn’s small feet thud across the carpet until she stands alongside me, wrapped in a terry-cloth robe and smelling of soap. She peers through the window, too. “Whoa,” she says. “What’re they all looking at? I mean, geez, The Pageants aren’t the Beatles.” “What if the building’s on fire?” “There’d be an alarm. Right?” “Should we call the front desk?” “I don’t smell smoke. But yeah, call,” she says, stepping closer to the window. “Whatever’s going on has got to be right nearby. Everybody’s looking in our direction,

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or like right above us, maybe.” I lean across the bed to reach the phone. The woman at the front desk finally picks up after five or six rings. “Hi, is there a fire?” I ask. In response, she babbles fast about an isolated incident, assures me we are safe, and hangs up. “Oh, dude,” Cyn says. “Whoa.” “What?” “It’s not a fire, right?” “No. Well, she didn’t say, but—” “I think I know what it is.” “What?” “Girl, I bet we’ve either got a hostage situation or a jumper happening right above us.” “Wait. What?” “Look at that cop holding a bullhorn. He’s totally about to talk down some guy right above us,” Cyn says. “I’m opening the window more.” She kneels down in her robe to shove the frame higher. “Oh my god,” I say. “I know, right? Brace yourself for a body to come diving past this window any second.” I nibble at my bottom lip. “That’s not something I want to see,” I say, stepping backwards. “Damn. More cops,” says Cyn, leaning closer towards the sill until her forehead rests against the glass. “Do you think there’ll be a parachute to catch him? Like on TV?” “You don’t know that it’s a him,” I say. “Sure I do. It’s always a him. Only men require this much attention to die.” I retrieve a comb from my backpack’s front pocket and ease onto the bed furthest from the window. “Where did you get that robe?” I say. “In the closet.” “I didn’t see one.” “That’s because you were too busy snooping through my shit,” says Cyn. “Oh, yup. Here we go.” “What?” “Firemen opening a parachute thing, just like on TV. I told you,” she says. “Except not,” I say, watching red and blue lights land and sweep along the buildings. My stomach gurgles discomfort. “That’s somebody’s real life, Cyn.” “Whatever happens is going to happen whether or not we look, you know.” “It wouldn’t mess with you to witness someone’s death?” I sit up straighter towards the end of the mattress and press the TV remote’s power button. “Hello, volume?” yells Cyn.

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“I am. I know. That’s how it comes on.” My thumb presses against the mute button and begins flipping through news channels as my eyes scan for coverage of the scene outside. “I wish I could hear what they’re saying. Do the bullhorn thing again,” she chants. “Do it. Bullhorn. Come on.” Some minutes pass. The 5:00 news anchors return as 5:30 news anchors. Still I catch no glimpse of our hotel’s exterior as I flip between networks on mute. “Do you think the boys will be able to get into the building OK?” “Shit. I have to get dressed still.” “Go then.” “Wait.” “What.” “Sssh.” Cyn urges, raising a finger to her lips. Our eyes meet and stay transfixed as muffled syllables echo. “I can’t hear what—” I start. “Sssh,” Cyn repeats. She looks away from me and back through the window. “If you can’t hear, just come—” She is interrupted then by a second wave of trumpeted speech. I do stand up and move closer, slowly—hesitant but decidedly intrigued. I approach the window and kneel down onto the empty spot of carpet beside her. I peer through the glass and finally spot the cop with the bullhorn held against his mouth. He stands beside an open squad car door, where he is flanked by two more uniformed officers with crossed arms peering upwards, too. Squad cars are parked on diagonals on both ends of the block, I can see from here, preventing any traffic from entering. This leaves the street to be taken over by a growing crowd of open-mouthed pedestrians whose necks all crane at an identical angle. I push my half of the drape further aside and press my ear to the window screen. The air outside feels heavy with humidity. I hear the last bit of the policeman’s speech: “They’re coming in. Okay?” he says. I crane my neck crookedly to try and hear a voice from above, but nothing. I look towards Cyn, and she’s my mirrored image—her body angled strange, balancing on one hip and elbow towards the screen. “What did he say before?” I ask. “Something about staying calm because professionals are on their way.” A sound startles us then—one loud, dull thump from above. I gasp, glance up and am met, of course, with the sight of our blank white ceiling. When I look back at Cyn she is rubbing her forehead with her palm. “Ow,” she says. “Stupid window.” We sit quietly and wait for sound. There’s muffled mumbling and some quiet thumps but nothing too discernable. When our eyes meet again, Cyn’s are very wide, and I’m sure mine look the same. Then finally, a word—one word—from the man on

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the ledge above us: “No.” It comes out a groan, tired and shaky, strained and basic. More an animal’s sound than a human being’s. My mind draws it out, slowing its pronouncement, so that I’m not quite sure how long the moment realistically lasted. “See? A dude. I told you,” Cyn whispers. I look out the window again at our own little ledge. The cement lip extends mere inches—just barely enough space to post one’s feet. I picture the man’s flattened hands pressing back against the glass to steady himself, his knuckles blanching with stress. A series of beeps knocks me out of my trance. “Shit. My phone. Keep watch,” Cyn says as she races into the adjoining room. Her bathrobe’s belt swings and trails behind her as she leaps over the doorjamb. Outside, the lead cop holds the bullhorn near his hip. The crowd is an Impressionist cloud of dots, from which several arms extend to point like branches. I wonder what the man above us is wearing, if the humid air weighs damp and heavy on his skin. The sharp angle down from where I sit makes it so only a small sliver of the circular tarp is visible, but I can see that it’s pulled taut and ready. It hits me then, what I am watching and waiting for. My initial discomfort comes churning back, whirlpooling acid in my abdomen. “Cyn,” my small voice croaks. I place my palms down on the carpet, pressing against them and preparing to stand. The lead cop raises his bullhorn. He holds it idly away from his face, but close to it, ready. “Cyn? You coming back?” I say, turning my head now to peer through the between-room doorway, impatient for her to appear. “I think the cop is about to say some—“ A soundless shadow passes then. The blob of dark sweeps past my face and the floor and then is gone, leaving light again. I feel my shoulders hunch stiff near my chin. But I do not move; I do not turn. Noise erupts. A car alarm, a woman yelling. The policeman chants, “Get back, get back.” Cyn rushes into the doorway, gasping. A fire truck’s red lights float and swirl. Sour bile gathers at the base of my throat. “It happened?” she whispers. “Did you see it?” “No,” I say, swallowing acid. The window burns its presence into my side. With my palms still pressed against the carpet, I push myself up slowly, carefully, like a creaky-boned old woman would. My eyeballs twitch in their sockets but do not waver from Cyn’s matching gaze. I’m so afraid I’ll turn and see it. My head feels hot with the idea of an image. Cyn’s fingertip flicks its opposing thumbnail. “Did he land on it?” “I don’t know.”

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She shuffles to the window’s middle. “Huh,” she says. I think about my hands, how they just hang at my sides. Like children’s mittens, married between coat arms by a string. “I can’t really see a body or anything, but—” Cyn pauses. “I don’t know.” “What?” “Well, the ambulance guys are just standing there. Like, not doing anything. So.” “Oh,” I say, considering. “Yeah.” One side at a time, Cyn pulls the heavy curtains shut. “Let’s just watch TV until the guys get back,” she says. I nod, then slump towards the bed I’m nearest. Cyn leaves the room and in a moment returns with her sketchbook and a couple of charcoal pencils. I lift the TV remote from the bedside table. I ready my finger to turn the volume down before I even switch it on.

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CHRISTINE NO

Chrysalis What’s the good in being good, when you’re bound to be bad again? Mona has been crying for half an hour now because she meant to bake a cake for her husband’s birthday. Instead, she blended 30 pills, all different colors, with orange juice and drank the rainbow. They are sitting in a circle on the floor. Some with pillows, some holding stuffed animals – bunny, one eyed bear, elephant, all lifers here – in blue pajamas, just like yours. You show up late because your session with your Pdoc goes long. Pdoc looks like Santa and wears cowboy boots under his brown suit. There is a giant poster of a human brain on the wall behind Pdoc’s balding skull: The Autonomic Nervous System. On one side of the poster: “Feed-and-Breed” On the other side: “Fight-or-Flight” You like the sound of both. More words: Par-a-sym-pa-the-tic, Sym-pa_the-tic, Au-to-nom-ic – the staccato, the musicality that makes your head bob from side to side – Then, PDoc’s first question: how do you feel today? 26


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Fine, you think. How did you sleep? Fine. You have recurring dreams of an unfurnished apartment with carpeted floors where your mother lays naked, crying and staring. She doesn’t see you, standing above her. She doesn’t cover herself and you can see all of her nakedness: her pale folds, her body bigger than yours. You feel red hot with embarrassment and shame for thinking she’s ugly, then, there, like that. Any difficult thoughts or feelings when you woke up? Nope. She crawls in circles like a blind animal. She pulls out clumps of her hair and offers you the fistfuls, kneeling at your feet. You peer at the brain: Lim-bic, Lim-BIC, LIM-bic. You like the way your lips “pop” when you say “limbic”. Everyone here asks you how you feel all the time – voices soft, cooing – how do you feel today? Instead of “Good Morning”, instead of “Yes” or “No” or “Have you taken your meds today?” Doctors, nurses, janitors, the lunch lady, everyone – because between now and the next time they ask, who knows? Pdoc re-ups your prescription – A-BIL-i-fy, Well-BU-trin, Al–PRAZ-O-lam. He hands you the ‘script. He’s drawn a smiley face on the signature line. You feel fine. § You take a seat next to Mona, still crying; ugly crying: face contorted, snot coming out of her nose, mouth opening and closing and drooling mouth-tears. You kneel down next to her and scan the circle; they’re rapt. They love this. You’re not like them. You weren’t trying to kill yourself. You were trying to remedy a personal situation. You were eating yourself from the inside out; and you had to work your way backwards – outside, in – to dig up the rot, to clean up the mess.

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But, if someone were to ask how do you feel today? You would tell them that you feel like a fraud. § You lean back onto the tops of your bare feet. In kindergarten they called this sitting “Chinese Style”; and the cross-legged position “Indian Style”. You, neither being Chinese nor Indian, sit on your feet because the floor beneath your me-ta-tar-sals, the old tiles digging in, feel good. The word penitent comes to mind. You think about religious die-hards and monk types crawling miles on hands and knees, unzipping the skin of their backs to prove their faith. Before she died, your grandmother changed her mind about God. You watched her, in a different life, chase the ghosts and statues from her kitchen, throw out their altars and replace them with pictures of Jesus. Before she died, she cut a deep red slit in her palm and painted the places where her altars once stood – apologizing for letting go, sorry for what she lost. § They gave you socks but you left them in your room because the sun-warmed tile was flat and white this morning and smelled like bleach and lemons. You wanted to feel it with your real feet before the floor got grimy with traffic and the inevitable splash of vomit, somewhere. But now it’s dark and cold and you’re annoyed with yourself for being too good for socks. And you can’t leave until everyone has had a turn. Fine. You settle in for the long haul. You wiggle your cold toes and wonder if one simply runs out of tears, eventually. You feel tired. You feel tired of being a fraud.

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You bite your wrist like you did as a kid: a watch face of teeth, your incisors at hours three and nine. You bite down again – the circle of spit and the jagged imprint growing pink. When you were three you met your infant brother. While everyone oohed and aahed over his tiny nose, his little pink lips, you took his small hand, even smaller than yours, and put it in your mouth. You bit down on the soft, boneless palm and it immediately snapped shut into a tiny fist while he let out a desperate animal wail. The blood he clutched overflowed through his fingers and down his chubby arm. The window shattering screams from such a small creature – screams of someone who didn’t have the words to fight back – woke you. You started screaming, too. One more time and you taste blood. The sharp canine on thin skin, the wet taste of iron – Your brother shrieking now in anger, in pain, in fear – of the red blackness of blood, of his painful body, of the knowledge that these things exist now because of you. It’s hard to explain. You give your body the impetus and your brain follows suit: Takes you here or away, here or away. Feel it or don’t. You’re hoping away this time. Away from Mona’s crying, which has started to sound like the low moan of a cat in heat, unbefitting of her current state, away from your unreliable body that feels nothing on its own. Both of you wailing until your mother smacked you, repeatedly, until you stopped. No, you’re right here. Still here. And you can’t get away from Mona, or the cat noise, or the sobbing, or your singleminded curiosity over what 30 pills in orange juice must taste like. § Since your arrival, everything has been thoughts and feelings, thoughts and feelings. Thoughts trigger feelings. So, they say, try not to think too much. Try to remain in your body. You weren’t thinking that time you punched Billy M. in the ear for taking your spot on the swing. When he fell down, you kicked him.

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You have feelings that you can’t access in a “healthy and appropriate” manner, according to your Pdoc. You didn’t listen when they told you not to roughhouse with the older boys next door. You came home wet and filthy: hands and knees scraped down to white, and a bruise on your left cheek where it hit the patio stairs. You threw away your soiled jean shorts and underwear in the big garbage can out back. You scrubbed your hands and knees with soap until they peeled and bled some more. You bite down on your dry lip. You nibble on bits of skin with your front teeth. § You go to bed exhausted and you wake up angry every morning. Your mom came to visit yesterday and all she did was cry and apologize. She looked tired and far away and had trouble saying anything else. She wants to know how she could have stopped this, fixed this, fix it now. You’ve asked her to stop so many times now; but she can’t. Later you stood by in horror as your father campaigned against your brother’s lefthandedness. He carried a yardstick and smacked his youngest son’s knuckles whenever he used his left hand: to eat, to do homework, to reach for – whap! “No such thing as a left handed gun” Dad declares – whap! Your poor mother. You consider sleep. The muddy fog, the liquid, heavy quiet would be nice for a change. Just go lay down and pop your pills and sleep and sleep – until you wake up angry, take more pills, grind your teeth until you can feel them working, and sleep and sleep some more. Like that time your dad had to drown the feral kittens in a trash bag in the pool. He told you not to touch them when you found them in the garage. But you didn’t listen and later found them abandoned by their mother, mewling and half chewed, under the house. You close your eyes and imagine a no.2 pencil in your fist. You push down until it snaps and its insides crack open.

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Whap! § Under your cast your left hand is pulp. Your fingers, the visible ones, fat purple globules jutting obscenely out from beneath alabaster – Something itches but you’re not sure where. You heard somewhere once that a caterpillar’s body will completely dissolve before it reshapes itself into a Monarch butterfly; that inside their cocoons, before wings, a chrysalis, complete mush. Unless they die in there. Your knees hurt. The tops of your feet crunch and bend under the weight of your body – like the cartilage you find when you cut the white meat off a roast chicken. You can do it with your hands, too. Wring them hard and feel the knuckles overlap with that same satisfying roll, snap and pop. Snap and Pop, the sound of your left palm down, under the lightning crash of your dad’s hockey skate in your right hand. And again. Again. The group leader asks who would like to go next. How calm your parents were, especially your father: calm for you. How you wanted to be sorry, but couldn’t. How you didn’t wince when the skate came down, but did when you saw your parents at the door. Your mother was stoic; her hands caked in your blood, holding the jellied mass wrapped in towels. You couldn’t remember the last time you held hands; probably when you were little. You laid your head in her lap and watched the red lights of the cars ahead bloom on and off, stop and go – your dad’s car rocking back and forth in time. Your left hand, the jellied mass – “Like butterflies” you whispered.

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“Honey, what?” your mother asked, her voice a crescendo straining at its leash; her whole body shaking to withhold the guttural wail trapped inside her stomach. A mother can feel where her child is broken. You didn’t answer. You felt greedy. But you felt better.

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NICOLE MIYASHIRO

Yes/No to Neurosurgery for My Son Hell is not a hideous thing. It washes its face and puts on deodorant. It peers over at the clock, which ticks on as usual, and it slides a fresh shirt over its shampooed head. Hell pours flakes and raisins into a cereal bowl without spilling, pours 2% milk without a stray drip, takes spoon to mouth with nothing to slurp. Hell is on time – punctual and patient – not willy-nilly, fireball chaos. Hell looks at that same morning sun I do from its warm and cozy space within and says, “Look at that beautiful sky. Look at those clouds, round and knitted close 34


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like the spongy curves of your little boy’s brain.” Hell is matter-of-fact, measured, generous in its distribution among the day’s quiet times.

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KARA DENNISON

Solada and the Deep Dark Solada woke in a cold sweat, panting and gasping for breath. Beside her, her goat stirred, let out an annoyed bleat like to a child’s yell, and got up to go for a midnight trot. “Stop asking,” she muttered to people no longer present, pressing a hand to her face, waiting for the images of her dream to fade. “Stop asking, stop asking, I can’t help you…” She looked up through the open back door; the goat was gnawing thoughtfully at a patch of grass, the reflection from its slotted eyes glinting through the dark. It paused briefly to yell and have a look around, then wandered off to another patch. Solada’s stockinged feet hit the floor as she shuffled over to turn on the gas lamp on the far wall, dragging her tasseled blanket after her. She’d fallen asleep on the tattered couch in the front room, apparently, but she couldn’t remember how she’d managed to get there. What had she been doing before? Maybe that was why she’d had the awful dream again—exhaustion. That could do it, right? Though when it was the only sort of dream she could ever remember having, she wasn’t sure she could classify it as “bad.” She had nothing else to compare to. The goat yelled a few more times, and Solada got up to have a word with it… then stopped short as she saw what it was yelling at. The Dark. It was here. “Get away!” she shouted, running to throw her arms around the goat and narrowly missing the patch on the ground as she did. The two of them tumbled backwards, the goat pawing at her with sharp hooves. “Stop it,” she hissed. “Stop, I’m trying to help you!” Solada looked over her shoulder at the blackened patch on the ground. A field 36


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mouse sniffed at it, darted around the perimeter curiously, and set a paw inside it. All the color vanished from the little creature’s fur, and it went rigid in the space of a heartbeat, flopping over lifeless onto the ground. “You see?” she snapped at the goat. “He barely touched it, and look. I’m not having that happen to you.” The goat gave a small, weak shout in response, wrestling itself free of her grasp and trotting well around the blackened spot on the ground to return to the house. The Deep Dark was nothing new, but it had never manifested this close to home. She knew it had infected areas of the land far distant from her—a few patches at first, but spreading day by day, killing everything in its path. What it was, how it started, how to stop it… she had no idea. She had no idea who else had been affected or where it was safe to go. For all she knew, she was alone. Just her and her goat, watching the Deep Dark paint them into a corner. She looked at the patch on the ground. The grass didn’t look “dead,” really—just absent of life. Monochrome, dark, and somehow almost two-dimensional. As if everything that made it alive had been drawn out of it. The little mouse, too. It didn’t have the loose, bag-of-bones look that dead animals tended to have. It was simply as though it had frozen in place and stopped being alive. The worst part was Solada couldn’t actually get close enough to examine the grass or the mouse. If she touched the Deep Dark, even a hair, even a shred of something attached to her, she’d more than likely end up just the same—she’d never ventured close enough to figure out, but she didn’t care to risk it. That was the only thing she could observe about it, was the effect it had on other things—and unfortunately, that kept her from observing anything else about it. “You all right, Goat?” Solada walked back into the house, retrieving her blanket from where she’d dropped it on the floor. “Bleh.” The goat snorted. “All right, then.” She sat down again, patting her knee. The goat trotted up and propped its chin on her knee, and she scratched gently behind its horns. Between the nightmares and the Deep Dark literally ending up in her back garden, Solada was starting to feel very small and very threatened. And very alone. Her hand stilled on the goat’s head; it nibbled at her skirts until she started petting again. “A smart person,” she said to the goat, “might start to assume that the nightmares and the Deep Dark are related. They’ve both started invading at around the same time.” She lowered her head. “But that would depend on whether or not anyone else was having nightmares, you know? And I don’t know where anyone else is.” “Blaaph.” Solada nodded. “It’s almost like we’re alone out here. I wonder how many people the Deep Dark has taken.” She laughed. “Or there’s the other possibility: I’m

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the only one having the dreams.” She turned it over in her head for a moment. “Tell me, Goat, have you been having nightmares?” The goat snuffed and leaned forward to headbutt her gently. Doesn’t matter, silly girl, just keep the scratchies coming. “Right. Listen to me. We should go back to sleep, shouldn’t we? Things will seem better in the morning, I’m sure.” But as she lay back down on the couch, she found she couldn’t close her eyes. Any sleepiness she’d felt earlier was gone now. She was wide awake. Scared. Worried. What if the nightmares came back? What if the Deep Dark swallowed her in her sleep? She sat back up, wrapping her blanket around her. “Goat. Have you heard of the Listener?” The goat made no response. “Legend has it she’s a wise woman who lives at the foot of South Hill. People have gone to her for years and years in times when they’re being tested, and she helps them. Maybe she knows what’s going on. If she’s a wise woman, she probably does, right?” “Meh.” “Shows what you know.” Solada ran for the front door, where her one pair of boots was propped, waiting for feet. She tugged them on over her stockings, then ran back into her kitchen to pack some food. She couldn’t remember what was still there, but fortunately it seemed as though everything she’d been wanting was still in supply: bread, cheese, some fruit, some dried meat, and a few cloth napkins. All of these went into a small shoulder bag. “We’ll go and we’ll ask her,” Solada yelled over her shoulder to the goat, which was standing in the middle breezeway of the old house, looking generally baffled by its master’s behavior. Solada swept off to the bedroom next, packing a few necessities around the food in her shoulder bag. “We’ll go ask her, and even if she doesn’t have an answer, we’ll be far away from the Deep Dark, won’t we?” Though, when she said that aloud, she wasn’t even sure. Maybe it would follow her. Maybe it was already everywhere. Maybe—she shuddered—maybe she was all that was left. Maybe there was no point. The goat yelled and stomped around the breezeway a bit before hopping to Solada’s side. She sighed. Sure there was a point. As long as she was still alive and able to act, there was a point. Surely there were others out there. And if she could find out how to stop the Deep Dark, or at least how to avoid it, then she could stop being afraid. And if the nightmares were connected? She could put an end to those, too.

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“I don’t know how far it is, I’m afraid. It could be a lot of walking. Are you ready?” “Mah!” “That’s good enough for me.” She didn’t lock the door behind her, or take a key, or give the house a final check at all. Why? Who was there to steal from her? Besides, no lock would keep out the one thing she was actually worried about. With the Deep Dark in her own back garden, she might come home to a house she couldn’t even touch. Somehow, though, the thought didn’t terrify her as much as it probably should have. If I’m that detached from my fate, she thought solemnly, kicking a rock up the path ahead of her, so be it. The moon told her the time, and the stars told her which way was south—and the path from her door led conveniently north and south. Girl and goat took to the path, and walked. Night wore on—or, at least, it felt as though it did. Solada’s feet ached. The goat grew increasingly bored, insisting on more and more stops by the path to eat or relieve itself or yell. After what seemed to be several hours, Solada stopped to sit on a nearby log, slipping her boots off to rub her aching feet. She squinted at the sky, munching on some bread and cheese she’d retrieved from her bag. The moon remained fixed in the same spot it had been when she set out. No… that couldn’t be right. “Goat. When did we leave home?” The goat was too busy staring down a small toad crouched by the roadside to respond. “Maybe it just seems like longer because we’re alone.” Solada looked back over her shoulder, but her house was no longer in view. And ahead to the south… still nothing yet. No hills, certainly, just flat plains with a few scattered trees. Her feet ached; her back felt as though she’d been stood straight-spined against a wall for ages. She stretched herself out on the log, trying to relieve the tension in her back, as the goat trotted off after its new friend. Briefly, very briefly, she closed her eyes. And her breath was crushed out of her. Solada opened her eyes in a flash, but doing so afforded her nothing: everything was still black. She attempted to raise her arms, but nothing would move. It was as though she was crushed between two hard walls, the air forced out of her lungs. She struggled, wiggling against her invisible prison, fighting for air as she tried to free herself. She felt her forehead knock against something hard, then her knee, then her legs. She kicked and pushed with what little room—perhaps an inch at best—she had, feeling herself grow faint from lack of air.

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Was this it? Had the Deep Dark found her? Was this what it felt like to touch it? She felt tears spring to her eyes. This wasn’t how it was meant to end. This wasn’t how it was supposed to go. She had to make it to South Hill, had to find out what was causing all this. She had to… Whatever was in front of her echoed whenever she hit it. Beyond it were muffled voices—the voices from her dream. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but it was them. They were back. She didn’t have enough breath in her lungs to shout them away, so she just kept bashing at the wall in front of her with what little strength she had left. Finally, something gave. There was a crashing, tinkling sound. She felt herself falling… And woke up with a start, still stretched out on the log. She gulped in a lungful of air, then another, sitting up and clutching at her throat. Her heart hammered in her chest. Slowly, her pulse evened out, and she became aware of her surroundings again. The moon still hung in the same spot in the sky. The stars still refused to turn. And a few feet away, the goat had begun bleating frantically. Solada looked at the ground around the log. Save for a small circle just around it, the grass had gone flat and monochrome. Within reach was the toad the goat had been chasing earlier, rigid and lifeless. The Deep Dark hadn’t touched her—but it was close. Carefully, Solada stood on the log, putting her arms out for balance. The Dark was wide, but not necessarily too wide for her to leap to safety. She walked carefully to one end of the log, where she gauged the distance to safe ground was shortest. A breath, a small prayer, and a leap… And she hit the ground shoulder-first, wincing as she rolled across the grass. When she finally stopped, she lay still, her face buried in (living, thankfully) grass and undergrowth. For long moments, she lay where she was. Her left shoulder—the one that had hit first—throbbed and ached. But her goat eventually trotted up and nudged her gently with its nose, letting out small bleats of concern. “I’m all right,” Solada muttered, pushing herself up to her knees. She kneaded her left shoulder with her right hand, as though trying to squeeze the pain out of it. On the bright side, this new pain distracted her from the pain in her feet and back. Her feet… Solada looked back at the log. Her boots were on the other side of the Deep Dark—and so, rather irritatingly, was her bag of food and necessities. With a sigh, she tugged off her stockings. Better to go barefoot than risk getting her stockings snagged

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and unraveled along the way. “Come along, Goat. No more resting for us, I think.” Fortunately, the path remained relatively smooth as they walked—dusty and a bit warm, but free of rocks or jagged bits. The night wore on, long into what should have been dawn, but the moon and stars remained stationary. “I do wonder,” Solada said aloud, grazing a hand over the goat’s head as they walked, “if maybe I’m at home and dreaming.” “Meh.” “Or perhaps I’m still on the log. Do you think you dream in the Deep Dark?” She looked around her. The Dark was becoming more evident as they progressed: trees stood lifeless and frozen alongside the path, some with branches bent as though they’d been infected in the middle of a strong breeze. Patches extended past the edge of the path, and soon Solada had gathered her heavy skirts up in both hands, watching her bare feet carefully as she trod around the encroaching blight. The goat fell in line behind her when the usable path became too narrow to accommodate them side by side. Then, suddenly, everything stopped. Literally. The path, the scenery, everything cut off along the straight line of what looked to be a glossy wall of midnight blue. Except the “wall” didn’t appear to be solid so much as just… the end? There was no sky, no land, no nothing beyond it—and when she looked left and right, the same was true for as far as she could see. Was this more of the Deep Dark? “Goat. What do you think?” The goat took a few steps back, and Solada nearly did the same. But she knew that what she wanted was here… somehow. But wasn’t the Listener meant to be at South Hill? They hadn’t encountered any hills, and it seemed there was no way to go farther south than this. Perhaps everything farther south had already been absorbed by the Dark. Perhaps this was the end of things, after all. Perhaps her journey truly had been futile. But then she heard something past the wall of nothing. Footsteps, shuffling, what sounded like a door opening and closing. And then, a man’s voice. “So,” the voice said, as though from a room away, “you’re here to see the Listener.” Solada’s heart jumped into her throat. “Yes!” she cried out, but her voice seemed to echo off the void back at her. “Well,” said the voice again, “take a look for yourself.” Suddenly, the wall of darkness turned a blinding white. Solada squinted against it, shielding her eyes with an arm. When she looked again, though, there was no

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woman standing in front of her. Instead, she seemed to be looking through a giant window into a cluttered study, where a well-dressed man and a severe-looking woman wrapped in a shawl stood looking at her—but not at her. Almost through her. “There she is,” said the man. “Technically it’s called Girl and Goat, but the students nicknamed her the Listener. The expression on her face, I suppose. It was donated about ten years ago by the artist’s daughter—probably our most famous alum. Usually it hangs in the lobby of the South Hill dorm. Mostly juniors and seniors there.” The woman regarded Solada, or something in her general direction, thoughtfully. “I’m not familiar with the artist. It’s… a bit amateur, isn’t it? And odd shading. I know it’s meant to be a night scene, but…” The man shrugged. “He painted it while he was here, apparently. As you’ll note if you examine his later work, he improved vastly going forward. But it’s an important piece to the school in a lot of ways.” He turned away from Solada, facing the woman again, and laughed. “You know the tradition around it, right?” “I’m afraid I don’t.” “Ah. No idea how it started, but at some point it became good luck to, er, vent to the Listener during exams. She’ll listen to your other problems so you can focus on your schoolwork.” The woman nodded thoughtfully. “Typical student stuff, then.” Solada looked down at her hands, then at the two people, who seemed almost projected on the void in front of her. “What are you talking about?” she whispered. “Who are…” Her voice trailed off as she scrutinized her right hand. There was a blemish on it. A grayish mark, just on the pad of her thumb. “The problem,” the man’s voice went on, “is that it also became tradition to touch the painting. This is unvarnished acrylic and… well… you can see what’s happening. It’s even gotten onto the girl.” The Deep Dark. Solada’s breath stuck in her throat as she stared at her hand. When had it happened? How had she not noticed? And why? Why hadn’t it taken her over yet? How long did she have? “Funny thing…” The man went on. Solada wanted to scream at him to be quiet, or at least to address her personally, or maybe (best of all) start making some sense, but words failed her as she stared straight ahead. “We would never have noticed, except the painting started just randomly dropping off the wall at night. Students usually came down and re-hung it, but someone finally noticed the damage being done.” The woman made a few quiet, thoughtful sounds. “Put it under glass?” “We tried. It came crashing down again. Glass everywhere.” A long pause. “A couple of the students claim the way the glass was spread around makes it look as though it broke from the inside… take that how you will.”

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The woman’s mouth barely twitched into what could potentially be a smile. “Maybe she couldn’t breathe.” Solada flinched. “Look,” she shouted at the figures, “I don’t know what you’re talking about, but please… please, fix this!” She held her hand up; their gazes didn’t seem to alter, though they remained interested. “Is the family all right with me doing some touch-ups?” the woman asked. “They’ve given me license to choose. And really, you’re the only one I trust not to… embellish, I suppose?” “Of course. Just fix the damage and give her a bit of varnish, and then you can put her back where she belongs.” The man nodded quickly. “I’ll leave you to it, then.” He walked out a door in the back of whatever room they were in. The woman pulled up a chair and sat down opposite Solada, reaching for a nearby suitcase. “Well,” she said, and her severe face softened into a smile. “It sounds as though you very much want to be saved.” Solada bit her lip. The dream. The voices telling her things she couldn’t understand or help with. The only dream she remembered having… She couldn’t even remember how or when she’d fallen asleep on her couch. No. It was worse than that. She couldn’t remember anything before that. There was nothing before the moment she woke up and came looking for help. She was just there—knowing about the Deep Dark, knowing about South Hill and the Listener and needing to save herself and her home. And somehow, she’d gotten their attention. “Now, let’s see. Who made you?” The woman looked down and to the left. “Roderigo Solada. All right, then, Solada. Let’s do something about this mess.” The scene before her faded. Solada looked back down at her hand. The gray blemish was beginning to fade back into her normal flesh tone. She ran the fingers of her other hand over it experimentally. “It’s all right… I’m all right.” She looked down at the ground around her feet. Slowly—visibly, but slowly— the Deep Dark was receding. The goat, who had been sitting quietly for the whole exchange, began investigating the newly rejuvenated ground. The air itself seemed to lighten somehow, as did Solada’s nerves. Instinctively, she turned her back to the wall of darkness and began racing down the path toward her point of origin, the goat galloping after her. As she ran, she saw the patches of Dark fading back into life, brush stroke by brush stroke. And as she ran home under the light of the motionless moon, she remembered. My sister and I went to our grandparents’ house in the country one summer. There were

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goats everywhere. She said she wanted one as a pet, even though we all warned her that keeping a goat isn’t necessarily like keeping a dog or a cat. That’s the house in the background—our grandparents’ house. The girl… well, I wasn’t very good at likenesses yet. So I suppose she’s her own person: a girl sitting in the moonlight, with a goat as faithful as a dog. The walk out took hours, perhaps days, under an unchanging sky—but the run home seemed to happen in the blink of an eye. And when she burst through the door of her house, the lamps were lit, a fire was burning in the fireplace, and the couch was made up with brand-new fluffy pillows and a quilt she could lose herself in. Solada bedded down on the couch and closed her eyes, the goat taking up its station next to the couch on the floor. And the Listener slept once more, her ears still open to those who needed her.

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A.E. WEISGERBER

Then he spiraled and lifted in the clouds When Isaac Pundfald was eleven, he had this dream. He stood near a snow-covered, frozen pond, then began plowing it with a scrap of plywood. When it was cleared, he waved himself over. He had on skates, but did not glide. The blades were shaped like contour intervals and Karp reductions. He stood on these cast-iron-ampersands, and pondered voids below calculations, a system below the ice. He arrived two weeks early to his doctoral challenge. He’d never met his Cambridge adviser—only exchanged theories and proofs or passed along forms for course proposals, inoculations, and grants. Pundfald altered his waking and sleeping schedules so that, on arrival, he’d be razor-ready to defend his dissertation against them. The pond became a spring of wine; he dammed off a little area and came back to it often, knelt on board scraps and drank his fill of sweet light. Once, he unbuttoned his shirt and removed his pants and there was no penis. He thought perhaps there was a gun in his hands, and he could not believe it, so he put on glasses and only then realized he held a black feather. He could think and transform it into a black marble— or a plaited lock of hair. He brought it to his lips and smelled Ivory soap. Sometimes, instead of a marble, it became a tree frog with big black eyes. The pouch, that sac under the frog’s neck, would bubble out, and that’s when he woke. He anticipated the chair would zero in on closed loop equations, as Pundfald’s approach through Ergodics was terra nova, yet this fresh angle provided conditions that cracked Navier-Stokes, and guaranteed Pundfald and his handlers the next Fields Prize. His answers, concise and steady under turbulent interrogation, smoothed theories and locked calculations from any vector, forward or backward, through all eight 46


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dimensions. In his dream, he would walk home from school and detour through the fields at the end point of the development. All the drainage swales pointed water to it. He recalled being late for exams because he was dousing for the paths of water below the surface. He was paralyzed. One by one did Cambridge, Stanford, Yale push back from their desks. One by one they nodded their heads, and gripped his hand. He was going to be nominated for the Fields. He itched to return home to his own bed. Sometimes he wore his best suit, the navy blue one, with a skinny paisley tie and a crisp white shirt, when he stood there. He held something in his hand, but refused to open his palm and lose it. Other times, he wore play-clothes. On these warm, redolent mornings where his clothes were always clean, his fingernails were smooth and shiny as sea pebbles. He stared at his palm, where a glossy little salamander fascinated him. His hand became a milkweed pod, and the chain of wishers danced away from his fingertips in a strong, steady reel of mathematics.

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MARLA LEPORE

At the Corner of West Wilderness Way As the rental car slows at the four-way stop, you see the chewed up lawn, the fading olive shutters, brick that seems worn by the Louisiana sun, even as untended trees extend their sloppy canopy across the corner lot. But do you see that circular shadow, the tattoo of the rose bed my father planted and groomed year after year? My mother used to preserve its bounty in small vases on the kitchen table. I can hear the bees searching for those colorful old buds, their thick stems and thorns always ready to punk you. Over there, where it seems hushed and vacant to you, I hear my shoes crunching over the fallen cones of two invisible loblollies. The twin pines guarded the side yard and protected my brother’s bedroom, most famously on that hot afternoon when some kid from across the tracks got drunk and took a gamble behind the wheel of his punched-up Dodge. He whipped around the corner of West Wilderness Way, passed the roses and went straight up into the lawn, stopped only by those faithful trees. Neighbors from up and down the block came out to see what the cracking and screeching was all about, to shake their heads at this kid, who stumbled out with only minor injuries. The Dodge was done, but the trees survived longer than you might think. Years after the tire tracks had faded into the lush Bermuda, the scars in their bark remained, like burnt skin, a stubborn reminder of their sacrifice. Do you hear the faint springy squawk of the screen door as it opens? I am a whiff away from the kitchen, where Dad’s Sunday loaves of country wheat have been resting. I hear the bread drawer roll open, and the nails of Caesar, our basset hound, my childhood best friend, scrambling across the wood-grained vinyl floor of the den, hoping to get him there in time to snag a lucky piece. I hear the warm hum of the 48


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kitchen fridge—Caesar’s mother when he was a puppy—lulling him to sleep. You see a closed-in garage with a window-unit AC hanging off the door, suggesting some sort of homemade home addition. I see the garage back when it was a garage, utilitarian and busy, rumbling from the diesel engine of a silvery blue Volvo. Just ahead of its bumper sat a spare fridge, stowing leftover chicken and my graduation bottle of champagne. I hear my ex-boyfriend sliding off the foil and wrestling with the cork, the squeak and pop as he finally gets it open and the foam bubbles over onto the grease-stained concrete. We were through and he was dating my best friend’s little sister, but we drank it down and went ahead and did it anyway, a last rite before heading off to college. I ease my foot off the brake and hit the turn signal, its blinkering click ticking softly in the background. As I take one last look over my shoulder, I hear it all, the metronome of a tennis ball thumping against the wooden fence, the rustling of toiletpapered trees, ghosts playing kick the can. In the universe of this four-way stop, it must seem so quiet to you.

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LAURA SUCHENSKI

And glory glory to the word and glory glory to the word named grass to the long opalescent tracks of sunset that streak across your ribs, your bones and all the grazing places where your soul must hide glory glory to the star called sun and all its devastating bliss that wants to ignite the space no longer stuck in time the world has wings and the world has aching breaking backbones the world echoes on and the world collapses in I sit at the center and watch my center swirl inwards and my innards curve outwards and upwards through the mild architecture of my form – final, resolute and resplendent. glory glory to the gore and gutter of your core to the rage and sputter of your lungs that keep forcing syllables into words and sentences into stories and something involving sense into the great mass of momentous matter you call man.

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BEZALEL STERN

The Golem of Brooklyn The Golem of Brooklyn was formed and brought to life on a late spring evening in the Year of our Lord 2007. The Golem was created in the basement of a Famous American Writer, in Park Slope. The Famous American Writer had recently published a novel to great acclaim, and had even more recently published a second novel, which also garnered mostly positive reviews. Together with his wife—a Slightly Less Famous American Writer—the Famous American Writer had purchased a townhouse in Brooklyn. This is where the Golem was created. The Golem of Brooklyn was brought to life through fire, and not through clay. The Famous American Writer—on hiatus from writing due to the terror of publishing (of writing, even) a third Great American Novel, had decided to spend the bulk of his time in the Brooklyn Public Library, where, under the guise of working on the third Great American Novel, the Famous American Writer studied mimeographs of ancient tomes dedicated to the formation of the Golem. According to records established in the seventeenth century, the Golem of Prague—created in the attic of the Old-New Synagogue by a Frightened, Illustrious Rabbi to protect the Ancient, Threatened Jewish Populace—had been made of nothing but clay and water. The Frightened, Illustrious Rabbi had brought the clay (really little more than dirty sand) and the water together, forming a crude semblance of a human (learned as he was, the Frightened, Illustrious Rabbi was no Picasso). For reasons that have been debated for centuries but are, as any honest historian will tell you, ultimately unknown, the Frightened, Illustrious Rabbi gave the Golem of Prague a devious, upturned smile. Then, writing the aleph, the mem, and the taph on His forehead, the Frightened, Illustrious Rabbi woke the Golem of Prague from his eternal slumber.

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The life of the Golem of Brooklyn did not quite work out this way. (Neither did the Golem of Brooklyn’s destruction mirror the ultimate undoing of the Golem of Prague, but we will get to that later.) The Famous American Writer tried the mud and the water, but he just ended up creating a mess in his Park Slope basement, which was slated to be the bedroom for the Future Child of the Famous American Writer and his Slightly Less Famous wife. This made the Slightly Less Famous American Writer mad, as she was already almost three months pregnant at the time (although she was not yet showing, the Famous American Literati did not yet know). So, the Famous American Writer decided to do something completely different. Following a manuscript he had found in the Research Section of the Main Branch of the New York Public Library (he had trekked all the way into Manhattan for this; it was that important) the Famous American Writer found a translated essay, said to be from the Cairo Geniza, which spoke of a Golem of Alexandria. This Golem, like the ancient phoenix, arose through the flash of a blessed, miraculous fire. This gave the Famous American Writer an idea. He called up his friend, a Famous Russian-American Writer, and his friend was intrigued. The next day, they met, on the steps of the Main Branch of the New York Public Library. The Famous American Writer brought the Famous Russian-American Writer into the research room, showed him the text he had found. The Famous Russian-American Writer agreed it was worth a try. The next night, the Famous American Writer and the Famous RussianAmerican Writer met in the basement of the Famous American Writer’s Park Slope Townhouse. They had brought the sticks and the flame to make the fire. They had brought the dirt that was necessary, according to the essay they had read, to form the substance of their Golem. They had been boning up on their Hebrew, and were ready to recite the blessing. This was to be the final time the Famous American Writer tried to create his Golem. But that is simply because this, second time, was successful. Like many things in the Famous American Writer’s life, the creation of the Golem of Brooklyn came easy. The Famous American Writer and the Famous Russian-American Writer placed the dirt on the floor in the rough approximation of a man. They placed the sticks on the dirt. They used a Bic lighter to light the sticks. Then, the Famous American Writer and the Famous Russian-American Writer chanted the blessing, together. What happened next was quite anti-climactic. The Golem coughed. It sneezed, a flame the size of a thin snake twirled up from its nose. It sat up. The letters of the Famous American Writer’s initials were tattooed to its chest, a living flame. “I’m awake,” it said. The Golem of Brooklyn lived.

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§ The next few months were easy, for the Famous American Writer. Or, to be honest, they were easier than the months before (which had also been pretty easy) had been. The Famous American Writer watched while the Golem went outside to search for mischief on the streets of Park Slope. Although the Golem of Brooklyn would have been the first to tell you that he was the Golem of Brooklyn, and not just of Park Slope, he preferred to stay within a few blocks of the Park Slope Townhouse where he was first created. The Golem of Brooklyn claimed that this was because he felt tied to the spot of his formation, but the Famous American Writer’s wife thought the true reason the Golem of Brooklyn stayed so close to home was because he was a little racist. The wife of the Famous American Writer and the Golem of Brooklyn did not get along. The Golem of Brooklyn would roam the streets of Park Slope, searching for mischief. He felt at home in the candy stores and bookshops of Seventh Avenue. If the Famous American Writer was ever looking for the Golem of Brooklyn, if he ever needed him to run an errand, to write a novel (more on that later), to feed the baby (who had, by now, been born), the Famous American Writer knew where he could, more likely than not, be found. Sitting on a stool outside the liquor store, reminiscing about old times with the Russian lady from down the block. There, the Golem of Brooklyn felt happier than he had ever felt, in the few hours of his existence before coming across the Old Russian Lady. Together, the two of them, the Old Russian Lady and the Golem of Brooklyn, would reminisce about the Old Country, about the lives they knew they could have led, if they had lived in another place, another time. Over dinner, one night, the Famous American Writer asked the Golem of Brooklyn what he and the Old Russian Lady spoke about all day. It was around this time that the Slightly Less Famous American Writer left the table, to tend to the baby, which was, at this time, only a few months old. The Golem of Brooklyn made a face at the Famous American Writer. The Famous American Writer—careful that his wife didn’t catch him—cautiously nodded. “Anyway,” the Golem of Brooklyn said, to the Famous American Writer, “before I was so rudely interrupted, you were asking me about what the Old Russian Lady and I speak about.” “Yes,” the Famous American Writer said. “Yes.” “We speak of the Old Country,” the Golem of Brooklyn said. “We commiserate over the way things used to be.” “That sounds pleasant,” the Famous American Writer said. The Famous American Writer had a secret. It was a secret that nobody knew, except, perhaps the Golem of Brooklyn. That secret was this: The Famous American Writer knew nothing of the Old Country. He hid that lack of knowledge in a cute Magical Realism, which

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made his books so Popular and Easy to Digest. The Golem of Brooklyn, savior of the Jewish Soul, saw through this, though. “If you like,” the Golem of Brooklyn said, “I can write about this for you.” “About…” the Famous American Writer began, afraid to finish, for fear he would lose the Great Gift he was about to be given. “Yes,” the Golem of Brooklyn said. “The Old Country. It would be my pleasure.”

The next year, the Famous American Writer came out with his New Novel, which promised (according to the reviews in the New York Times and Other Prestigious Publications) to be both Popular and Easy to Digest. In other words, A Modern Masterpiece. The New Novel was about life in the Old Country. It was told from the perspective of a field mouse, who represented, the Famous American Writer said, in the many talks he gave to Packed, Enthralled Audiences and on National Television Shows, the Ancient Jewish People, the Ancient Jewish Soul. In truth, the Famous American Writer had no clue what the field mouse represented. He thought it was maybe his best book yet, though. He even wrote the final chapter himself. That had been a fight. The Golem of Brooklyn had taken to writing. He had stopped conversing with the Old Russian Lady. He had stopped roaming the streets of Park Slope. In fact, he had stopped roaming anywhere at all. Instead, he sat, in the Attic of the Park Slope Townhouse, and poured out his Ancient Jewish Soul. He wrote of love; he wrote of loss; he wrote of the Ancient Past That No One Truly Remembers. It made him weep. Pale, dusty tears. When the Famous American Writer finally got up the courage to ask the Golem of Brooklyn for the manuscript, the Golem of Brooklyn refused to part with his words. Finally, after much cajoling from the Famous American Writer, the Golem of Brooklyn agreed to let his Creator see the dusty pages. The Famous American Writer, when he finished the manuscript, could not believe his luck. Just when he had run out of ideas for the Next Novel, the Next Novel literally fell into his lap. “You do realize,” the Famous American Writer said, to the Golem of Brooklyn, “that this is my Intellectual Property. Because I created you, you see, and you drafted this. So this, then, is mine.” “You did not create me,” the Golem of Brooklyn said. “I was already there. I am the Ancient Jewish Soul.” The Famous American Writer fumed. He was the Greatest Writer in the House; he was the Greatest Writer in Park Slope; hell, he was the Greatest Writer in all of

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Brooklyn. And now, he was being upstaged by his own creation? This would not do. The Famous American Writer took the manuscript with him to the Brooklyn Public Library. In order to make it his own, he added a chapter, to the end of the New Novel, in which the field mouse, who had been left alone in a pasture to die, his family ransacked by the poverty and malnourishment of the Pale of Settlement, is Rescued by a Beautiful Woman, whose Great-Granddaughter becomes a Somewhat Famous Mouse-American Writer, who, the reader discovers, was narrating her GreatGrandfather’s story. This is not the way the Golem of Brooklyn wanted the story to end. When the Famous American Writer brought the Newly Completed Manuscript to the Golem of Brooklyn, the Golem of Brooklyn was astonished. The Golem of Brooklyn was outraged. “This is not the way it was Supposed to End,” the Golem of Brooklyn exclaimed. “It is Supposed to be Real, and True, and Horrible.” “This will sell more copies,” said the Famous American Writer. “Besides, now the story is mine. Now I have Left My Mark.” “I cannot let you do this,” said the Golem of Brooklyn. “I cannot abide by this.” “I agree with you,” the Famous American Writer said. “You cannot stand. You have done enough. There will be only one Famous American Writer under this roof.” The Golem of Brooklyn realized Enough Was Enough. “I will leave,” the Golem of Brooklyn said. He took his muddy finger to his forehead, and crossed out the initials of the Famous American Writer. Before the Famous American Writer knew it, the Golem of Brooklyn was nothing more than a pile of sticky smelling muck on the ground. The Famous American Writer didn’t even have to do the job himself.

The Famous American Writer sold the New Novel to a Major American Publisher for a Nice Seven Figure Deal. The Movie Rights are Currently Being Optioned.

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DEYA MUKHERJEE

Cough She coughed a lot in a green coat. That green on most the frightened throb of alcopops, on her an itchy kind of hallucination. Hair fat with the lusty nausea of leaves and petrol, lips the colour of a child’s shoes.

The child’s shoes dig the dirt when asked her age. “I’m trying to think what’s after 4.” “5?” “Yes, 5. I’m the king of my ship.” She coughed a lot more now.

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CHANCE DIBBEN

Rounding Up Older, I realize that I may have exaggerated or invented some of my pain. Did I really break my wrist when I was eleven, or did I just say I did so many times I can’t remember the truth? I know for sure I’ve dislocated my shoulders multiple times, I just can’t keep straight how and how many. Most recently it was slipping on ice, but I can tell you the story clearly because it happened not long ago and involved me screaming swearwords in backyard. Did my mother really drunkenly beat me with a stick or was this a way to explain the boringness of alcoholism? Did I simply connect the stick that was used to keep the sliding door locked to the fight we had in the den? A rounding up, spare change tossed to charity at the checkout? I believed it with certainty for a while, but now I’m not so sure. Perhaps, like a sitcom character conked on the head with a coconut, I believed firmly in the reality presented before me, thinking I am a soldier or a chicken or the first thing I see upon waking up from my blackout. When she got sober I asked my mother about the stick. “I don’t remember that,” she said. “But if you say that’s what happened, then that’s what happened.”

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Something Else The spiders were polite, if a little too direct. “We need your june bugs, don’t be afraid.” But I was not afraid, because I was no longer a june bug. I was something else. “Let us in, please. We won’t make a mess and we’ll keep the slathering of our fangs to a minimum. We know the noise this sometimes makes in your ear, when you are trying to nap or ahem, pleasure your partner.” I can’t, I told them through stammered searching. “Why not?” the spiders asked in unison. Because I am now a bird that feasts on your type of spiders, I told them. “We would rather live inside the warmth of your body, to be useful still, than die in the bitter winter.” I can’t, I said. I was trying to be polite too. “We can be whole together.” Although my children have hatched, I explained to the spiders, I am no longer a bird that feasts on your type. I am something else again.

The Wrong Guy A man remembers being a boy looking at a Victoria’s Secret catalog and thinking when I get older I’m going to have so much sex. The man does. The boy, now a teenager breaks his leg terribly and consoles himself by thinking about when it won’t hurt anymore, when he’ll be able to jump again. The man can jump and dance, even though his leg is held to his foot by pins and screws. His lovers always trace the horrible scar. The teenager remembers being the boy, wondering what the clouds meant, what was this magic humming out of them? The teenager imagines his life after college, promising himself he will be rich with a beautiful wife, saying he will be better than his parents, better than the mediocre Midwest city he lives in. The man, having taken some zags along the way, wonders what happened and why his okay life ended up just okay. The man asks the teenager how come you lied to me? The teenager says hey buddy, you’re asking the wrong guy.

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DENNIS BARONE

Alice Travel dislodges her from the city. In a house, another young struggle For a country, a better life. Into a house, this great economic Wealth: in rural communities Newcomers liked to talk with Alice, Fretted over woodland, cars. She Asked them to be assertive, to Be self-reliant; in a few weeks, Mobile. In a world where a wife’s Artistic interests did not bruise Long periods of time, it is not Hard to see the complexity of Experience, this mathematical Satisfaction, tense and anxious. Ambushed, worried, beginning to Have pains – the usual picture; The old, stable church, the anger Of other women. A rough, competitive World, the day’s battle, traditions: These mobile parents have not deliberately 60


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Tormented Alice’s weekend. They felt She had her keys in the ignition Lock. Her children’s self-confidence and Muscle often start on the road. In Trouble, others join new clubs, keen To keep up. Alice was beginning to Depend on strong-minded neighbors. They were all patient, producing Anything for the trapped. Builders Everywhere! Alice in the mornings Walked out to take the wheel Feeling of success, building the beginnings Of recognition. She was powerfully Multiple in the boom-and-bust. She Aroused her new home. In a local Restaurant, something she said, Something she had begun to think Waned and companionship troubled her No longer. Machines handled error, This fear of a neighbor’s waiting at Home. There is another difference: Alice got them grape juice and some Little League teams and Cub Scout Dens. And then Alice moved to this World of travail and strife, this Average parkway character. The Prosperous people had concrete curbs And sidewalks, woods lined a large Open field. Sometimes everything Came to bricks and debris. Alice Answered her friend, but at the front Door a blond mother of two children Prevented the normal turnover seen Coast-to-coast. It’s ridiculous! And The doors were open to all on Sunday

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Mornings. It was apparent that An extremely important conference With the cast would have issued Brochures for political rallies across Town. Disappointed, Alice produced Six alternatives. She was told not to go Back. One woman expected a moment’s Prevention: the exchanges were never Judged. A small section of homes Found a resident to adopt, to plan, To turn carefully. If all the people Were asked for another sponsored Night, their status might put a burden On relations more vitriolic than One of the scars in this community. Lead the way, many urged. But Alice Shrugged off the coffee and wrote A four-page letter to show respect for Other members. Hidden money added An episode that forced everyone Present to find an idea in their private Struggles. The highest percentage, some Thought, mix well in the house next-door.

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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 ______________________________________________ Dennis Barone’s latest book is Beyond Memory: Italian Protestants in Italy and America (SUNY 2016). Quale Press published his prose collections Sound/Hammer, Field Report, North Arrow, and Precise Machine. Recently he edited two poetry collections: Garnet Poems: An Anthology of Connecticut Poetry Since 1776 (Wesleyan UP) and New Hungers for Old: One-Hundred Years of Italian-American Poetry (Star Cloud P). Kara Dennison is a writer, illustrator, and presenter from Newport News, VA. Working out of a converted NASA lab, she has turned out everything from new Sherlock Holmes mysteries (Associates of Sherlock Holmes, Titan Books) to paranormal romance (the Owl’s Flower series). She is also a regular contributor to Crunchyroll news and has written localizations for a variety of anime and video games. She tweets @rubycosmos and blogs at karadennison.com. Chance Dibben is a writer and performer living in Lawrence, KS. His writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Split Lip, Reality Beach, Horsethief, Squawkback, Kiosk, as well as others. Lisa Folkmire is a poet from Warren, Michigan. She is an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in See Spot Run and Heron Tree literary journals, Yellow Chair Review‘s Rock the Chair challenge, Rat’s Ass Review, and VerseWrights. Sarah Lynn Knowles is the founding editor of art/fiction/music journal Storychord.com. Her short fiction has been featured in publications such as Joyland Magazine, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Sundog Lit, Perigee Publication for the Arts, and Slice Magazine. She recently relocated from Brooklyn, NY, back to her western Massachusetts roots, where she dabbles in jewelry making, ceramic pottery, block printing, and photography. For more, follow her on Twitter (@sarahspy) and visit her pop culture blog Sarahspy.com. Marla Lepore is a writer, editor, and marketing communications consultant based in Nashville, TN. Her work has appeared in Hippocampus Magazine, Complex, The Higgs Weldon, and elsewhere. You can find her online at marlaink.com and follow her on Twitter @marlaink. Rebecca Macijeski received her MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in 2011 and is currently a Doctoral Candidate at the University of Nebraska where she serves as an Assistant Editor in Poetry for Hunger Mountain and Prairie Schooner. She has attended artist residencies with The Ragdale Foundation and Art Farm Nebraska, and participated in Tupelo Press’s 30/30 Project in October of 2014. Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Gargoyle, Painted Bride Quarterly, Nimrod, Sycamore Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Fourteen Hills, and many others. Read more at www.rebeccamacijeski.com. Nicole Miyashiro’s latest work appears in The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, Clever Girl Magazine, HEArt Online, and Persephone’s Daughters. She is also working on an ekphrastic project called ‘Words of Art.’ http://www.nicolemiyashiro.com

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Atlas & Alice | Issue 8, Winter 2016/17 Deya Mukherjee is a British Indian poet based in London. Her focus is on liminal spaces, and diaspora culture in particular. She is currently working on a novel. Her poetry has been published in Verse Kraken and Tears in the Fence. Christine No is a writer and filmmaker. She was born and bred in Los Angeles, CA. but has added Santa Fe, Brooklyn and now Oakland to her growing definition of “Home”. She holds her BA in creative writing from the College of Santa Fe and her MFA in Film from the American Film Institute. Her work has appeared at the Sundance Film Festival, sPARKLE+bLINK, Tayo, Columbia Journal and Story Magazine. She is a Pushcart Nominee and lives in Oakland with her dog, Brandeh. Kristen M. Ploetz is a writer and former land use attorney living in Massachusetts. Her work has been published (or is forthcoming) with Hypertext Magazine, Swarm Literary Journal, The Hopper, Gravel, Cognoscenti, Washington Post, The Healing Muse, NYT Motherlode, The Humanist, and elsewhere. She is currently working on a collection of short stories. You can find her on the web (Error! Hyperlink reference not valid. and Twitter (@KristenPloetz). Eva Schlesinger has been a Grand Slam contender on The Moth Stage, where she made the audience of 1,400 laugh nonstop. She is the author of three poetry chapbooks and a contributor to Changing Harm To Harmony: Bullies & Bystanders Project (Marin Poetry Center Press, 2015) and Cooking with The Muse (Tupelo Press, 2016). Eva has received the Literal Latte Food Verse Award, and her blog (notesfromthecupcakerescueleague.wordpress.com) has been nominated for a Liebster Award. Bezalel Stern has been published in McSweeney’s, The Literary Review, MonkeyBicycle, Another Chicago Magazine, Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, Contrary Magazine, Revolution House, kill author, and other places. In 2014, he was an Emerging Writer Fellow at the Center for Fiction in New York. He lives in Washington, D.C. Lauren Suchenski is a fragment sentence-dependent, ellipsis-loving writer and lives somewhere where the trees change color. Her poetry has been published in over 40 magazines and her first collection of poetry “Full of Ears and Eyes Am I” is due out this year from Finishing Line Press. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee and she loves to swim inside syllables. You can find her on Instagram (@_laurel_hill), Twitter (@laurensuchenski) and at laurensuchenski.com. A.E. Weisgerber is a Best of the Net-, Best Small Fictions-, and Pushcart Prize-nominated author whose work will/does appear in places like SmokeLong Quarterly, Structo Magazine, The Collapsar, DIAGRAM, and Gravel. Recent non-fiction in The Alaska Star, Alternating Current, The Review Review, and Change Seven. She reads for Pithead Chapel, and is working on a novel about money, booze, and artists and an illustrated storybook called “Lives of the Saints.” Follow her on Twitter @aeweisgerber, or visit her website http://anneweisgerber.com.

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Atlas & Alice | Issue 8, Winter 2016/17

Note: All images within this issue courtesy of Unsplash. Visit atlasandalice.com for links.

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Atlas & Alice | Issue 8, Winter 2016/17

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