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Attic Door Press Issue No. 3

Fall 2018


Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

Masthead Publisher/Editor-in-Chief: Editor, Fiction: Editor, Fiction:

Michael Guendelsberger Julie Hill Matthew Riffle

Art & Photography: Editor, Poetry: Editor, Poetry:

Cover Art: Billy Simms

Joe Devine Erin Guendelsberger Zackary Hill


Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

Table of Contents Black Box ...................................................................................................................................................... 2 Margaret Luongo Study in Waterdrops (I) .............................................................................................................................. 11 Mike Reynolds Southern Comfort ...................................................................................................................................... 12 Meagan Lucas Study in Waterdrops (II)............................................................................................................................. 15 Mike Reynolds Back Swing .................................................................................................................................................. 16 Joe Baumann a poem......................................................................................................................................................... 23 Joseph Robertson Reflections .................................................................................................................................................. 24 David and Marie Savord Study in Waterdrops (III) ........................................................................................................................... 28 Mike Reynolds So Zoo Me ................................................................................................................................................... 29 Donna Bassin So Zoo Me ................................................................................................................................................... 30 Mark Blickley Study in Waterdrops (IV) ........................................................................................................................... 32 Mike Reynolds Contributors: .............................................................................................................................................. 33

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Fall 2018 after the Texas trip, I shut off the radio, rolled down the windows, and enjoyed the quiet. I pulled in to the Publix by our house. Darlene preferred Ward’s, a smaller grocery with odd hours and an odd smell—like blood-stained cardboard—the boxes the meat came in, I guess. I have never told Darlene that it’s the blood smell that’s such a turn-off. I’ve let her believe that I don’t go because the store is so small I feel uncomfortable in it, which is not untrue; I’m not a small man, though I’m not very tall. Stocky, I’d guess you’d say, and I’m always feeling in the way of some little old lady and her collards or peanuts. The Publix is clean, very clean—no smells—and bright. I glanced around to the bank of registers, hoping I wouldn’t see the usual cashier in 10 Items or Fewer. Sure enough, there she was. She was in my art fundamentals class at the community college. I have to take a certain number of credits every year to keep my certification. I can take whatever I want, and on a whim this year I signed up for art. It fit into my schedule. On the first day of class, I had rushed in from a fire—I still wore my work clothes. I’d had enough time to wash my face and comb my hair before I flew out in my truck to the other side of town. I don’t get stopped for speeding when I'm in my truck, even if I don't have the lights going. I slid into a seat next to her, my heart hammering because when I rush I’m headed to a fire. The instructor kept talking and slid a syllabus onto our table for me. That’s when this girl, Molly, leaned over and said, “You smell like fire.” At the end of class I explained. Since then, she’s never stopped asking me about what I do or what I think about certain things. Did I think the Publix was safe? Yes, Publix follows code religiously. What did I think about the movie Backdraft? Very realistic. Had I ever seen a bad accident? I had. Had I ever seen someone burned to death? Yes. It must be awful. It is. It must make you a really fearful person. When she said this last, we were at the Publix and I was replacing certain items from my kit: Neosporin, Icy Hot, Vaseline, an Ace bandage, nasal spray and so on. The comment surprised me and I couldn’t help but look at her, something I tried to avoid. Her eyes were so light and gray they didn’t seem like eyes at all. Not something to see out of, but a kind of beacon. Everything else about her was plain, though she made the most of what she had. She was always smiling and flipping her short curly hair out of her face. That drives me crazy. If your hair is always in your face, why not use

Black Box Margaret Luongo

We found the black box nestled in what passes for plant life in this part of Texas. The sky was so blue it hurt my eyes to look. When we saw it there, half embedded in the earth from its long fall through the sky, I looked up. Maybe I thought something would crash down on us. Maybe I thought I could trace the path it took as it burned through the atmosphere. But the sky was just blue, pretty and painfully bright. A hot wind came up and I called on the radio. The moment was that quick—two seconds, tops, and I was thinking of Darlene, how she would be sitting on the porch, adding to her list: Fix the torn screen on the porch; Pull the sucker vines from the magnolia; Replace the rotten fascia on the north side of the house. I never looked at the list, but I knew what was on it. I did things here and there without Darlene ever having to ask. She did things too. I’d come home from a fire and we’d have new curtains in the bedroom. I’d get up late on a Saturday and the old dishes would be in boxes by the front door, Darlene in the kitchen stacking the new plates in the cabinets. Every six months it was like walking into someone else’s house. Just as soon as I’d get used to one set up, Darlene would start the change over to something else, and in a few months I wouldn’t recognize the place. I was wanting to get home then. I’d been with my crew in Texas for five days, and I didn't know what I'd find when I walked through the door. I used to think the drive from Jacksonville to Gainesville was boring but now that I’ve been all over the States, I knew that every region had its monotonous stretch of highway: Route 10 from Tallahassee through Mississippi and on to New Orleans; Route 70 through the flat countryside of Ohio; just about any stretch of road in Texas. Sometimes I’m so tired coming in from Jacksonville that I don’t recognize parts of the road, even though I’ve driven it too many times to count. Many of the spots along 301 have burnt to black ash and then sprung up new and green not six months later. I’ve put out many a fire along this corridor and have helped start and manage many a burn. In this climate the plant life grows lush, and fire loves undergrowth. Driving home

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a barrette or a clip or something? You don’t know enough to keep the hair out of your face? “It must make you a really fearful person,” she said. “Your job.” I’d never thought about it that way. I knew what to do—I’d been trained and I’d done it for twenty years. I was good at it. “I’m shaking in my shoes now,” I said, and I wasn’t entirely kidding. “I’m a very scary person.” I was prepared to laugh at her joke. The girl weighs maybe ninety pounds. I could run down the stairs of a seven-story building with her over my shoulder and not get winded. But when I looked at her I could see she wasn’t joking. For once, she wasn’t wearing any make-up, and she looked pale, indefinite. I imagined her scrubbing her face before bed, looking at herself in her bathroom mirror. Why had I gone there? She wasn’t wearing her usual jewelry, either—no rings, necklaces or earrings. Just her uniform—the baggy green vest with the nametag, only on that day, she wore a blank nametag; she had probably forgotten hers. Probably wasn’t even her vest. I grabbed my stuff. I didn’t want to know what was wrong. That had been our last conversation. I got the things on my list: Entenmann’s crumb cake, the vanilla creamer Darlene likes, Gold Bond, coffee, shoe polish and laces. Hers was the only line open. She didn’t say hello. “I left an egg burning on my stove for three hours. Where were you?” “You’d burn your place down for a date with me? I’m flattered, I think.” I told her where I’d been. “That’s something,” she said. “So now we’ll find out what happened to those people.” “Maybe.” Those people probably had no warning of what was going to happen to them: One second strapped into their seats, marveling about their trip into space and their place in history, thinking about getting home to their families; the next second, the pressure of explosion—then nothing. Molly finished ringing up my groceries. I bagged while she scanned. “I was here the whole time, checking groceries.” She told me about coming home from the college to find her door had been pried open. “There were boot marks all over my wood floors,” she said. I nodded. People always complained about the mess we made, even if we did save their lives or their homes.

They feel less like they’ve almost died and lost everything if they can complain about something. “The place smelled awful. Have you ever smelled burned egg?” I said I didn’t know. “It’s pretty gross, but I guess you’ve smelled worse.” She was trying to get me to tell her things. It’s no fun to talk about that stuff. It’s somebody’s gruesome end—and what if a relative happened to be nearby? It’s a small town, and I was always looking over my shoulder. “Anyway,” she said, when I didn't respond, "I thought they would break the door down.” I shook my head. “That’s not how it’s done, except in movies. It’s incredibly inefficient, how it’s done in the movies.” “Well,” she said, her arms folded across her chest, “it was all kind of anticlimactic. I missed the whole thing, then I come home and my place stinks and the door looks like it’s been chewed by an animal.” “Would you like me to come break down your door?” “Would you? I could use some excitement.” I took this as a joke and an exit line. I laughed and wished her good night. I stole a look over my shoulder, pretending to look at something else. She was leaning against her register, watching me leave. Her attention bothered me for a couple of reasons but mostly for this: I’m not a good-looking guy. I’m not hideous or even ugly; it’s just there’s nothing special about my looks. I’m short and wide, truth be told. So I didn’t know what to make of her attention. I don’t use my line of work to attract women, the way some guys do, playing the hero card. Plus Darlene and I have been married almost as long as I’ve been riding fire trucks. We’ve been happy, and I don’t cheat. When I got home I wanted to tell Darlene what had happened in Texas, that we’d found the black box, our little crew from North Florida, out of all those crews looking for it. I don’t make a big deal of what I do, but this was different. We were close to something important, though most people would never know. I wanted Darlene to know, and I imagined sitting at the kitchen table with her, her asking questions, the two of us drinking coffee. The house was dark when I pulled into the driveway. Darlene had a classroom of preschoolers who were not on track for optimistic futures. No one knew what was wrong them; it was too

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soon to tell. They weren't hitting the mile-markers, and the only thing certain was bad times coming. Her days were long, and she went to bed early. I was disappointed but wanted to be a good sport about it.

collapsed on the bed Darlene had made for him out of her old nightgown. “Well,” I said. “Glad I could help.” Then I sat at the table again, said what the fuck, and dialed Darlene. I knew her phone would be off and I could leave a message. I tried to sound casual—I met your new friend, ha, ha, but I didn’t like the sound of my voice—like I was already apologizing for something. And I hadn’t even gotten mad yet.

In the morning, I padded around the house in my bare feet, sipping coffee, enjoying the quiet, nothing ahead but the art class in the afternoon. No message from Darlene, and I’d slept right through her leaving for work. That bothered me. At one time in our lives, if Darlene had so much as stirred in bed I would have taken it as a sign and an invitation. She’d cut into the coffee cake and left crumbs on the counter. Uh-uh, I said as I wiped up the counter. Sloppy, sloppy. Everything was more or less as I had left it—no major changes over my five-day absence. I don’t know how long I had been sitting at the kitchen table before it sank in that the mewing I was hearing was coming from the laundry room. Why was there a cat—a very small one, by the sound of it—in our laundry room? The mewing sounded desperate, and I was already worrying about finding some poor animal trapped in the lint vent or nailed to the door, or mangled by a dog and dragging its back half behind it. Then I worried about having to dispose of it before Darlene came home. Then I worried about having to keep it from her, because it would upset her too much to know. I opened the door to the laundry room and a sassy looking gray tabby kitten with a big belly swaggered out on its short little legs. It stared up at me, the fuzzball, switched its tail, and mewed and yawned simultaneously. It staggered past me to the kitchen. When I failed to follow, it mewed and trotted back to the laundry room. Once again, it tried to lure me to the kitchen by heading in that direction and looking over its shoulder. “I get it,” I said. “You’re hungry. But who are you?” Darlene had set up a litter pan and there were two bowls—one for food and one for water—in the pantry. I fed the cat some special kitty milk that came in tiny drink-box type containers. Then it insisted that it was still hungry, so I fed it some canned food that looked like baby food. “Lamb and rice,” I said to the cat, who stared at me with those blue eyes. “Ummy. Eat it up.” I watched that little rat eat until it could barely stand. He had a jaunty little walk. When he was through, he stiff-legged it back to the laundry room and

We painted—in watercolor—oranges in class that afternoon. Ugly Florida oranges, which taste delicious but are thin-skinned and often as brown and green as they are orange. I sat next to Molly—she always arranged for us to sit together, and I didn't fight it; in fact, when I slid into the seat beside hers, my heart beat a little faster every time. I am always nervous at the start of any class, school not being my thing, and our routine of sitting beside each other gave me a sense of security. I thought about asking her what it meant that Darlene had gotten a cat without asking me first. Not that she had to get my permission, but you’d think she would have clued me in that she was thinking about it or that she wanted it. Molly was working pretty intently on her oranges. I thought maybe after class I’d ask. I didn’t want to interrupt when she was on a roll. I went at the oranges as best I could, and I chose a shade that reminded me of the giant Japanese koi that we’d seen at the botanical gardens: pleasant, peaceful. About half way through the class, our instructor cut the oranges in half and told us to paint the insides. “How come you don’t cut open our other models?” one of the kids asked. I barely looked at the oranges. I grew up in Florida. I know what the inside of an orange looks like. When our critique came, our instructor praised Molly’s oranges most of all. She’d painted the exterior faithfully, from the splotches of green, to the shine of the thin skin and the brown scars that wound among the pores. “By contrast,” she said, pausing at my attempts. She turned to me and raised her eyebrows. “Did you even look at them?” “Not really,” I admitted. I stole a glance at Molly’s again. One of the seeds in her drawing had been sliced cleanly by the knife, leaving behind a surface shaved smooth by a very sharp blade. Little flecks of mini-seeds clung to the pith. The pith itself was lush white—plump and soft. A pale drop

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of juice had slid down to the peel's edge and hung there, clear, sweet, and wholesome. My mouth remembered sweetness, looking at her pictures. The instructor had moved on. Molly turned on her stool to face me. “There are these things,” she said. I thought she was giving me advice about drawing, recommending some tool I was missing. “Yes?” I said. “—about half way down your face. They’re called eyes. You should use them.” “Don’t think you’re all big now.” I picked up an orange wedge and sucked the juice. “Delicious.” Molly did the same. I still liked my oranges. They were pretty, though I knew that was wrong. I decided to ask her about the kitten and Darlene. As I told her the details, she kept eating and chewing, showing no reaction. “So,” I said. “How do I take that?” “She’s definitely sending a message,” she said. “Well, I figured. What, though? And why won’t she just tell me?” She swallowed and sucked the tips of her fingers in a completely nonsexual way, then wiped her hands on her jeans. “Ask her that.” When I got home from class that night, Darlene was on the porch with the kitten curled in her lap. She was smoking her after-dinner cigarette, and the smoke that greeted me stirred something in my gut. I left my bag at the door and walked through the living room to the porch. I leaned in the doorway. The sun was just starting to set in earnest, and the sky had a washed-out look, with the faintest tinge of pink. I wouldn’t know how to begin to paint a sky like that. “I’ve been thinking,” Darlene said. “About how hot it gets in Miami.” “It’s hot here, too, you know.” “Mm,” she said, which could have meant anything. “Where’d you get the cat?” She still hadn’t looked at me, or asked anything about how things had gone in Texas. Then again, I hadn’t asked her about her work, either. She rounded the tip of her cigarette in a dented aluminum ashtray; she thought if she kept only terriblelooking and smelling ashtrays, she would be less inclined to smoke. “One of the students. Her family had a cat that littered. Just a baby herself. They never take care of their animals.”

“What happened to the rest?” “The mother’s boyfriend drowned them,” she said. “In a pan of water.” “The student told you?” “Yes." I wanted to say, “Why didn’t you take them all?” but I knew she felt terrible. “He’s a real sweet cat,” I said. She smiled a little, and ruffed the little beast behind its ears. The kitten stretched its stubby legs and wedged itself deeper into the crease of Darlene’s legs. “Can you get one of those stickers for the window?” I knew what she meant—to alert fire fighters to the presence of a pet. “Sure thing.” I made a pot of decaf, and we sat on the porch until bedtime, listening to the cat purr. When we got up the next day, the expression on Darlene’s face hadn’t changed. She looked tired, but more than that, she looked pained, as if she walked on shards of broken glass all day—and in her dreams, too. She used to have a few groggy moments of blissed-out oblivion when she woke. Not anymore. Sleep never seemed to refresh her. She was already a sad teacher when I met her. She had just divorced her first husband, and she was older than me. She’d come up to Gainesville from Miami to get a change of scene, to get away from her exhusband’s family, a not-so-nice group of people, some of whom called even after we were married to borrow money from her. She used to send them some, too, small checks to tide them over until the next short burst of employment. I don’t know why she felt she owed them. I could tell when one of them had her on the phone. She wouldn’t say anything. I started taking the phone from her. I’d listen to their pleas—more like demands—“You gotta send us something, Darlene,” and I’d say, “Don’t call here,” and hang up. I got a new number—unlisted—and that stopped things. Otherwise they’d still be calling. They weren’t embarrassed at all to ask for her money. I thought once she got her distance she’d be able to relax, and she did for a while. I didn’t know where the new tiredness came from. Maybe it was the same as the old. She didn’t seem to know what the problem was either—or if she did, she wasn't saying. I grabbed her arm as she rolled out of bed. “Call in sick,” I said. Neither of us ever did that.

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She smiled faintly and tried to tug away from me. I held on. “Seriously. Call in. Tell them your husband isn’t feeling well, and you have to take care of him.” “Are you sick?” Yes, I wanted to say, very much so. I pressed her hand into the mattress. “We’ll take the day for ourselves, make it a long weekend.” I kept her hand pinned to the bed. I could see her thinking about it—calling the front office to find a sub, calculating how unruly the kids would be on a Friday, if her aides could handle it, if the sub could. “We could go somewhere, take a day trip. Go to the springs. Or we could just stay home.” I tried to cover all the bases, give her nothing to object to. “A mental health day,” I said. “I could use one,” she said. I didn't agree or disagree. In the end, Darlene did call in sick, but she wouldn't leave the house, for fear people would catch her playing hooky. “Hon, everyone’s at work,” I said, but the school was only a mile from our house, and teachers and aides were known to sneak off-grounds for lunch, nail appointments, haircuts and so on. So we stayed in. I made pancakes for breakfast. We played with the kitten and watched it sleep. The house was filled with sun, and by early afternoon, Darlene had thawed a little, and she puttered around the house straightening. We sat on the porch and looked at catalogues, drank coffee, and stared into the backyard. Darlene mentioned an old plan to install a pond with fish and a fountain. “That’ll be fun for the cat,” I said. She frowned at me, with mock seriousness. “The cat stays in.” If the cat went out, there would be no peace; Darlene would worry too much. If the cat stayed in, there would be no peace; the cat would want out, like they always do. “Ok,” I said. For now, I thought. I couldn’t help thinking ahead just a little bit. I hoped the cat was smart and lucky, for all our sakes. I made it my mission to take care of her that day. I offered to make her dinner—paella, the only thing aside from pancakes that I can make. She brightened at this. She was on the chaise on the porch when I made my announcement, and she sat up straighter, wiggled her toes, and smiled at me. This was exactly what I’d hoped for. “What’s the occasion?” she said. “No occasion. I’m just happy to be home with you.”

I went to the fish market and bought the shrimp and also scallops because Darlene likes those. I would not tell her where I bought the fish, though she would guess. She hated this particular market because of the bags of skinned raccoons in the freezer cases. They looked like teddy bears from some teddy bear-slasher movie. She could be awfully soft about some things, considering all the rotten things her students’ families did to their kids and each other. Sometimes they came to school Monday wearing the clothes they’d worn Friday, smelling like they hadn’t had a bath in a week. They showed up with black eyes and bruises, ring worm and head lice, and noses crusty with snot. Over weekends they learned new words, words that would make your hair curl. They’d stomp around the playground, shouting their new words with senseless glee. They repeated stories of arrests they’d witnessed, and they’d mimic their elders who said bad things about the police. I’d always wondered about her toughness, because she seemed so soft. She was, too. I don’t know how she kept going. When I was finishing up at the market, my cell phone rang; I didn’t recognize the number. It was Molly. I hadn’t given her my number. “Put out any fires lately?” she said. No, I thought, but you’re about to start one. “Molly,” I said. “Yup,” she said. “I was just wondering what happened with the cat.” While I explained, I wondered why she was really calling and how she got my number. I remembered filling out an information card the first day of class. Maybe she peeked and memorized it then. Or maybe she went through the teacher’s things, which was harder to imagine. People on TV do things like that, but most of the rest of us don’t. I was standing there outside the market, sweating unnaturally, the kind of sweat that stinks, as people banged in and out of the screened door. “She’s a rescuer, your wife,” Molly said. For a minute I didn’t understand. I imagined Darlene clinging to a branch, white water swirling all around her. Molly took my confused silence for exactly what it was. “She likes to rescue things—people, critters." I thought about the kids in Darlene’s classroom, her ex-husband’s financially impaired family, the kitten. “Where do I fit in?” I asked.

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“You?” Molly sighed. “You’re hopeless. I’m only going to ask you a couple dozen more times. Won’t you come break down my door?” I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to run over to her place. I knew the apartments where she lived. She was calling me to her, and all of my cells responded affirmatively. I could go, just to see. I wanted to see. I wanted to understand why I was so interested. So I went, because it’s not in my nature to avoid wrecks. She answered the door wearing shorts and what looked like a child's t-shirt. “I didn’t think you’d come,” she said. She looked bigger in her own place, more solid. Maybe it was the too-small shirt. I inspected her door. They’d done a pretty standard job. I wouldn’t have done any different. “I can’t stay too long,” I said. “I have fish in the truck.” She worried about that, and she made me bring it up and put it in her fridge. That felt strange. “Whatcha making?” I told her as she sniffed the bag, and I wondered if she was thinking about meals I might make for her someday. I hoped she wasn’t thinking that, but I was pretty sure she was. She offered me sweet tea or beer, and I took a beer, then felt guilty for being there when today was supposed to be my day with Darlene. I kept telling myself I would be in and out, which made it difficult to relax. I leaned forward and put the bottle down a little too forcefully on the coffee table. She propped her feet on the other end of the table, and rocked back gently on the hind legs of her chair. Sitting there, she came into focus a bit more; a few dark splotches of paint or varnish marked her hands, and what looked like the shiny pink of burned skin. "You burned yourself," I said. She gestured with her head to the corner behind me, where a table was set up: some metal structure she was assembling, a soldering iron. "For a class," she said. I admit, the soldering impressed me, even if she did burn herself doing it. The room came into focus too, once I settled down enough to notice: books on built-in shelves—lots of big art books; old photographs, framed, of people—her people—posed around new cars, wearing military uniforms, holding dogs on leashes. She was older than I'd realized; how could I not have noticed the veins and tendons standing out in her hands and arms, the drawn look of her face? The bottle I held slipped

from my hand and landed on the wood floor with a thunk. Beer foamed over the top. “You’re a wreck, aren’t you?” she said. “Only around you." “Why do I scare you?” She wasn’t surprised that she scared me; I got the feeling she would add my answer to the long list of answers she had collected over the years. “You’ll make me sorry,” I said. “I’m already sorry.” She laughed. “You haven’t done anything." She seemed determined to put me at ease then, so she showed me her drawings: some portraits and nudes from classes, as well as quick sketches of her brothers working on the family grove in Frostproof. "It isn't, you know," she said. "Frost-proof, I mean." She was going back home after her degree, to design marketing materials for the family business. "Is that what you want?" I asked. "Gotta do something," she said and drank from her beer. I studied the sketches of her brothers; they were lean, like her, but harder from their labor in the grove. She had made some of the sketches on heavy black paper, and I asked about that. "So much goes on at night," she said. "You'd think you could let the fruit alone, but some seasons it needs you twenty-four/seven." "When do they sleep?" "When the last orange ships to Tropicana, or whoever's buying." She told me about coming home from school and walking from room to room, finding one brother laid out on the sofa in the TV room, unconscious; her father napping upright in his chair in the florida room, the day's mail resting unopened in his lap; the other brother sprawled, fully clothed and face-down across his bed. "They'd just fall," she said. "I don't think any of them have slept with their boots off in their adult lives." "What about your mom?" I imagined an equally patient and devoted woman, cooking meals, doing laundry, tending to the men who tended to the family business. "Gone," she said. "Oranges weren't her thing." One set of images showed the brothers tending barrels of fire, all along a row of trees. She'd used red and orange chalks for these. "Men after my heart," I said. "Can't let those babies freeze."

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Fall 2018

"How about these?" I gestured to a series on the same black paper, but these were drawn in white and grays, icicles hanging from the fruit, and the tree limbs dragging low from the extra weight. "Sometimes they spray the trees with water, let it freeze." "Insulation," I said. "Exactly." I did feel safer then, as if knowing more about her put a new kind of distance between us—a respectful distance. I was grateful and relieved, so I thanked her for the beer and left, vowing never to go to her apartment again, unless I had some professional business there. Our day off did do Darlene some good. By dinnertime, she was relaxed and smiling, whereas I felt distracted. The calm I'd felt leaving Molly's apartment was fleeting, and only the jitters carried over. I’d forgotten the fish, and instead of going back to her place to get it, I went back to the market and duplicated my purchase. The paella came out fine. We drank a lot of wine, and while Darlene grew more relaxed and silly, I became more uptight. I couldn’t focus. A couple of times I looked over at Darlene and wondered. If she really was a rescuer, and plenty of evidence existed to support this, what was she doing with me? Hadn’t I rescued her? What exactly were we doing with each other? Was she bored or disappointed that I didn’t need more help? The evening was not turning out as I’d hoped, and probably wouldn’t turn out how Darlene expected it to. I was in no frame of mind to come to the natural conclusion of a nice romantic dinner. I glanced at Darlene on the chaise next to mine. She was talking about her plans for the backyard again. She was almost finished with her glass of wine, and the bottle held another glass for each of us. Then, the reckoning. I thought of the first time we met, right around the time she had moved here. She had come to the county fair with some girlfriends who were visiting from Miami. They stopped by the fire department’s trailer, which has a simulator that generates water vapor and heat and is supposed to allow people to practice escaping. You’re supposed to crawl along the floor, escape out a window, and climb down the rope ladder. We were giving the ladders away. Darlene and her friends thought it would be fun to try, though it’s really meant for kids. They were all wearing high-heels with their jeans and all of us crossed our arms and waited. I listened to their shrieking inside the trailer and every

shriek sent a chill down my spine. I was wanting to go in there—my cells again, urging me on. That was my instinct. Well, most of the girls made it out. Darlene got stuck in the window. Not really stuck, but she was straddling the ledge with one leg in and one leg out, and she couldn’t figure out how to get her other leg out the window. “That’s it,” one of my coworkers said. “She’s a goner. You better go in and get her.” Darlene was bent over, filling up the whole window, somewhere between laughing and crying. I ran—actually ran, though there was no danger—to the trailer. I pretended that I was pretending to hustle. I wanted to snatch her from the window, which is what I did. I slung her over my shoulder, which wasn’t easy to do, because the trailer is small. Darlene was beside herself with laughter. Before I reached the door I set her on her feet. The vapor was already dissipating. I took her face in my hands, as if I were inspecting her for injuries. “Look at me,” I said. She did, and she stopped laughing. Her pupils were not dilated, so I kissed her, as if I had every right to. That had been fifteen years ago. I set my wine glass down and knelt beside her chaise. I told her to do whatever she wanted with the backyard. I kissed her the way I’d kissed her in the rescue trailer, and she kissed me back. I could not remember the last time her lips had felt so firm and utterly convincing. I felt satisfied the next morning, in a very mean way. I kissed Darlene roughly again, and she liked it. Fine. We had more of the same kind of sex we’d had the night before—physical, loud, a little rough—and then I wished like anything that I had to go to work, but I didn’t, unless a call came in, which would not be unusual on a weekend. Molly called my cell twice that day, the first time to tell me she’d eaten the fish I'd left, the second to tell me she was taking a bath and had lit candles all over the apartment. “I’m in the tub as we speak,” she said. “And you want what from me?” I said. I was still feeling mean, a strange kind of mean, as if I were capable of going to Molly’s apartment and treating her as roughly as I had treated Darlene. “I have an assignment for you,” she said. Darlene was in the yard, trying to get the old pump working so that we could re-fill our pond. She wore long thick gloves, because of the snakes that might live back there. I

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Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

didn't know what to say, so I didn't say anything, in fact, didn't take a breath. “It’s a drawing assignment.” Water splashed in the background. "Well, a visualization assignment, involving drawing." “I don’t have time for assignments,” I said, still staring out the back window. “You don’t have time, or you’re not interested?” More splashing. “I’m not interested,” I said, the least honest thing I'd said all day. “You should get interested,” she said and hung up. I felt oxygen deprived, needing to breathe but unable. Two calls in one day, and I thought the message was “get over here, I need you,” so I told Darlene I was going to Lowe’s to look at some lumber to replace the fascia and I headed over to Molly’s. I felt what we would do there was inevitable. It had to happen sooner or later and I wasn’t one for putting things off. I tried to remember at what point the balance had tipped; when did Molly become my fate? I didn’t care, and couldn’t really think straight even if I wanted to. About half way there, a call came in, and instead of scooping Molly out of her bath, I led spooked horses from their stable, right before wildfire swept through and scorched the entire ranch. Much of the rest of the weekend was consumed by that fire. I was relieved and dirty by the time I came home in the middle of the day Monday. Darlene had left me a note, thanking me for our nice day off together. I felt smoothed out, as if I’d been melted, spread between two sheets of wax paper and cooled. I was lucky to have been diverted from Molly’s. The way I felt now, I couldn’t imagine doing what I’d planned to do. I knew the feeling would come back. I was pretty sure it would. Which made me wonder about Darlene and our most recent kisses; I’d missed that kind of kissing. Had she? What would it take to make that happen every time we got together? Paella? Days off? A lot of wine? Maybe I could ask her: Say, what made you kiss me like that on Friday night? Maybe I didn’t want to know. Darlene had parent conferences in the evening. I made sure I was showered and in bed asleep by the time she came home. The next day, I called Molly, and I met her for her lunch break. She was standing outside the Publix waiting for me when I pulled up. She let herself in and said, “I’m not really hungry.”

“You should eat,” I said, but I was glad she wasn’t hungry. Her face was more pale than usual, and she gazed at the dash. “I don’t want you wasting my time,” she said. “I’m too old to have my time wasted.” “I wasn’t planning to,” I said. “Anyway you’re the one who’s been calling me.” She covered her face with her hands, and when she looked up I saw that the last bit of color had drained from her face. “You’re shivering,” I said. She’d wedged herself up against the passenger’s door as if she couldn’t get far enough away from me. I drove to her apartment and parked in the gravel lot behind the building. A small brood of orange tabbies prowled around the garbage bins, looking alert and hungry. She didn’t move, so I walked around and opened her door. Her breathing was shallow. I knelt beside her and turned her face to mine. “Take a deep breath,” I said. I worked my thumb between her lips and pried them open. “A really deep breath.” She tried. I carried her up the stairs to her apartment and set her on her feet at the door. She didn’t make a move to get her key. I tried the knob. “Door’s locked,” I said, and waited. Nothing. Then I noticed she didn’t have her purse. “You left your purse at the store? Molly, Molly,” I said. It had gone past the point of inevitability—for me at least. I was thinking through where we could go next, when Molly said something softly that I didn’t catch. I asked her to repeat herself. “Break it down,” she said. I closed my eyes. I was a chump. “You’re serious.” “If you want me, break it down.” I noticed then that she wore the blank name tag again, and the too-large vest. I wanted on the other side of her door; she had led me here, and momentum being what it was, I could not walk away. Professionally, I understood that I was doing a very foolish thing, and that people would hear me doing it. I imagined the guys laughing at me when I told them my story, after all the inevitable ruckus had settled down. They would laugh, but I would see relief in their eyes—that their foolishness wouldn't be the subject of jokes for months, as well as the fear that someday it might be. It was hot as hell in that hallway, and sand fleas pricked at my legs. Behind the door, I thought I heard a cat mew. I thought of Molly's brothers and father, their honest, worthwhile exhaustion. I remember thinking, get it over with, right

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Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

before I drew back and threw my shoulder and all my weight forward. The door felt like it might be starting to give—like it might give more easily than a door should, and that that would be a sign. We'd joke about it in the future, tell our kids, Can you believe it? Yes, Dad was crazy, but it all worked out in the end! I kept thinking, one more time, and each time I failed I coiled myself tighter and hurled myself harder. My shoulder had passed beyond throbbing, into some ethereal zone of numbness, where the pain was happening, but remotely; my jaw and teeth seemed to rattle in my head. Molly did not try to stop me; I was aware of her only vaguely, off to the side, her hands covering her eyes. w

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Issue No. 2

Fall 2018

Study in Waterdrops (I) Mike Reynolds

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Issue No. 2

Fall 2018 She leaned over to cut Mama’s pork chop into even smaller bites. “Here,” Daddy said, letting the book thump on to the table. The cover felt hot in her hands. “Thank you,” she stood to take the book to her room, and hopefully steal a moment to search for a message. “Sit down,” he said, mouth full of food that she made. They ate in silence punctuated by Mama’s grunts and murmurs. June’s skin itched. Eventually he left the table, grabbed his wallet and keys, and let the screen door smack shut behind him. Only then did June clean up, move Mama to the porch to rock, and slip to her room with the book pressed tightly to her. She closed the door and leaned against it. She searched the pages for a message that wasn’t there. She searched again. Her heart felt too heavy for the veins and arteries that held it in her chest. Tears burned her eyelids. The unfairness of life had been a slow burn in the fifteen years since Mama’s accident, but June was now fully aflame. If she didn’t do something soon she’d be ashes. She threw the book. The little slip of paper glued to the inside cover that listed the due date skittered across the floor. June regretted it instantly. Charles had worked so hard to help her. She picked up the slip. The numbers caught her eye. She ran to the calendar in the kitchen where she kept track of Mama’s doctor appointments. The book was due back tomorrow. June’s hands shook with anticipation. While Daddy was at work she took stock of her things and cleaned the house. While Daddy slept, she bathed Mama extra carefully, and changed her too into her second best dress. She didn’t want Daddy to notice and wonder, but she wanted Mama to look beautiful for her sister. It had been coming on two years since they’d seen Abigail’s face. Her last words to June had been “next time.” June held those words in her fist. Now she just had to wait for Daddy to leave for work again. He was taking his sweet time after dinner. It wasn’t like him to dawdle. It made June nervous. She stood behind Mama’s chair on the porch and brushed out the glory that grew from her mother’s head. The nurse at the doctor’s office advised her to cut it. “She don’t need it, and she don’t care. You’re only making it harder on yourself,” she’d said. June’s fingers grazed the tender divot above her Mama’s right temple. Her fingertips traced the smooth trails of scar tissue. They were still pink after all these years. June didn’t remember any other version of her mother, although she knew it existed. She could see it in

Southern Comfort Meagan Lucas

Strands of her mother’s copper hair slid between June’s fingers like the satin negligee she’d found as a child buried in her parents’ dresser. She’d stolen the slip of emerald fabric and hidden it in her pillow case. In the dark, when the boom of her father’s boots wearing a path in the floor boards between the fridge and his chair kept her awake, she’d reach inside and rub the silky fabric between her fingers and plot her escape. This wasn’t the life she was meant to lead. The negligee was proof. She’d never been able to reconcile the woman who would wear such a garment which was barely the size of a tea towel, glowing green and almost sheer, with the woman whose hair she was now brushing. The red haired ghost who’d followed June through childhood like a shadow, as silent and as near. June gently pulled the hank free from the brush and laid it over her mother’s shoulder. The evening breeze carried the sugary scent of the wisteria growing up the side of the house across the porch. She breathed deeply; drawing the scent of home deep within to save for later. It wasn’t all bad here. Later tonight, when she was gone, she’d miss the wisteria, and Mama. Aunt Abigail was coming, she’d sent word. Charles the town librarian, who was still sweet enough on Abigail after all these years to risk the wrath of Benjamin Wyatt hadn’t known enough to wait until after Daddy was at the bar having a pre-third-shift drink to come. Yesterday, Charles knocked at six-fifteen sharp and caught them mid supper. When June stood, Daddy put his paw on her shoulder and squeezed. She would have marks. He cleared his throat as he pushed back the chair from the table. “Good, good, good evening Mr. Wyatt,” she heard the librarian stutter. “I have a book, book, here. T-Thomas W-Wolfe. Good book. For your daughter. She had it on hold and I thought I’d drop it by when it came in.” Benjamin still had not spoken. “If y-you wouldn’t mind g-giving it to her.” June could hear her blood rushing through her veins. She’d place no such hold. Her heart raced. The door slammed. Benjamin walked slowly back to the kitchen, flipping through the pages of the book. She prayed to God that there wasn’t a note for Daddy to find.

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Fall 2018

the green nightie, in the Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn in the record collection, in the sassy smirk on her Mama’s face in her wedding portrait. She often wondered what her life would be like if she’d had that mother instead. She imagined the version of Mama in the wedding photo would understand her need; it was the only way she could justify this. The sun was gone. She was so close to freedom. She could feel it in the looseness of her shoulders, in the lightness of her feet. The screen door opened and Daddy came out. The porch creaked under his weight. He paused and jingled his keys in his hand. June held her breath. He reached over and stroked a length of his wife’s hair. June kept brushing Mama’s hair even though her fingers shook. Finally, when June thought he was changing his mind about leaving, he descended the steps. “Bye, Daddy,” she said. “Have a good shift.” He turned and looked at her, his eyes narrowing. She wondered if he could see her heart beating. He eventually turned, the gravel crunching beneath his boots. When she could no longer hear the rumble of his truck’s engine she stopped brushing and sank into the chair next to Mama. She held her mother’s hand and started to hum. When her mother heard the old Patsy Cline melody she smiled. “I go walkin’ after midnight,” June’s rich alto floated out. “Out in the moonlight,” her mother started keeping time with her fingers on the armrest of the rocker, “just like we used to do…” “You sound just like her, you know?” Abigail said from the side of the porch. Her dangling earrings glittered. “Patsy? I don’t think so,” June said, embarrassed to have been caught, but tickled to be compared to Patsy Cline. “Your mother.” “I didn’t know.” Abigail climbed the stairs and leaned against the railing. “No, of course,” she put her palm to her forehead. “It’s so good to see you.” June had been waiting for this moment and now that it was here she couldn’t make her body move. All she wanted to do was run down the road as fast as she could, gravel kicking up behind her and dust sticking to her sweaty legs, but her limbs were too heavy to lift and walk across the porch to embrace her aunt. Abigail’s lips were bright red and her pants were tight. June’s legs longed to be hugged in pants like that. She pictured herself walking into the grocery store to buy a coke and the look on the clerk’s face as she slid her

index finger and her thumb into her pocket, rocking on her toes to shimmy the money out. “She had a beautiful voice,” Abigail continued, perching on the railing, “much better than mine. But then pretty much everything she did was better than me.” “Not leaving.” “That’s true, she never was too good that that. But it wasn’t for a lack of trying.” “What’s that?” “Of course, he wouldn’t tell you.” Abigail sighed and looked out into the night. “She looks good. Will she be okay alone tonight? Are you ready?” “Tonight, she’ll be fine. I’ve been trying not to think about after that…What do you mean a lack of trying? She tried to leave?” June looked at the docile smile on her mother’s face and the softness that had grown beneath her chin. “She was going to come sing back up with me. She was a natural. But then she got pregnant.” “Oh,”June said. Her head felt full of bees. “Things were okay for awhile, but then-” June knew the answer to this. “Right, she fell. The accident.” “The accident? What accident? No, no accident. Then he started drinking again. And she threatened to leave, and he…” “He was drinking?” June rubbed her eyebrows with her fingers. “What do you mean no accident? How do you think she got like this?” “It sure as hell wasn’t an accident.” The swarm in June’s head was screaming. He’d said it was her silence that sent him drinkin’. He said it was knowing that she’d always be like this that put the bottle in his hand. June’s entire life came flying out from beneath her feet, “I don’t understand.” “He was drinking. They were fighting. She hated it. She decided to leave. She told me she was going to wait until he’d drunk himself into oblivion one night. Said it wouldn’t take long, oblivion was a regular thing. She was going to put you in the truck and drive to me. I waited. Then one night, I got a call from the hospital. A neighbor had found her laying in the driveway. You were asleep in the passenger seat. They assumed she’d been drinking because she reeked of alcohol. I knew better. I knew it was him. She didn’t fall in the driveway or land on a bottle of booze. He hit her. I bet my life he hit her in the temple with a fifth of SoCo. I’ve seen him angry.” The floor became a merri-go-round beneath her. “And you left her?” “I stayed in the hospital with her for weeks. As long as I could.”

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The world felt wobbly. “You left her with him? After what he did? You left me with him?” “Nothing was official, I only had suspicions. It was best.” “Best for who?” “Best for her, best for you! I couldn’t take care of her. I couldn’t take care of you! He never would have let me take you.” “But I was just a kid.” “He could support you. I couldn’t. It was the only way she could survive. I had a job and a life in Nashville and he wouldn’t let you leave. What else could I have done?” The escape plan she’d so carefully knit unraveled. “You could have stayed,” she whispered. The women sat in silence on the porch, a heavy hush occasionally broken by a giggle or grunt from Mama. There would be no driving off into the night. No city lights. No making meals for one. June’s throat felt too small to swallow her spit, but she knew what she needed to do. “Thank you for coming,” she said, crossing the porch with her hand extended. “We love seeing you.” Abigail’s mouth was open. June helped her mother stand and guided her into the house leaving Abigail on the porch, alone. “Come on now, Mama. Let’s get you to bed.” That night, in her bed, June reached into her pillow and rubbed the smooth fabric of the negligee between her fingers and planned. With the other hand she gripped the neck of a fifth of Southern Comfort as she waited in the dark for him to come home.w

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Issue No. 2

Fall 2018

Study in Waterdrops (II) Mike Reynolds

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Issue No. 2

Fall 2018 developments where apartment complexes, a Toyota dealership, even a Home Depot and a sprawling subdivision filled with identical Spanish villas had sprung up in the last dozen years. Fifteen acres spilled back in golden waves, used for grazing cattle (“We already have the milking operation half-running!” their father said, slapping his hand on the dining room table). They would be able to live where they worked, so no commute, no fighting traffic, no exorbitant gas expenditures at the QT down the road. So the kids said fine, fine. Troy looked at his sisters. What else could they do but wrinkle their lips in hopeless surrender while their father went on about what color golf balls he would order? “Now,” he said. “What do you all think of a magicthemed course?”

Back Swing Joe Baumann When their father Paul announced he was going to spend his inheritance building a miniature golf course on the family land, Troy Buckingham and his sisters had a collective premonition of disaster. Troy saw his college fund smoking in a barren, heaping pile, smelling of dung and rancid milk. He pictured himself working at a gas station and living in his basement bedroom until he was forty. He would never lose his virginity, not with Heather Beilman or Saul Fleischman, who took turns inhabiting his dreams, each one leaving him drymouthed and achy. His sisters groaned over their father’s blandishments about the windmill, the gopher mound at the fourteenth hole, the on-site creamery where a cadre of cows would produce milk they would churn into ice cream and sell by the cone. Elodie, the eldest daughter, lamented the end of her expensive private cello lessons; Middle Maggie, the evaporation of her dreams of owning a pony; Caroline, who wanted to be an artist ever since her singular trip to the St. Louis Art Museum, knew she would never have her own easels and expensive paints. “We’ll call the place Hole-y Cow,” their father said. Elodie groaned. Maggie and Caroline laughed. Troy bit into his black bean burger. He could feel his father’s eyes on him, pulsing him with a pleading look. Troy’s father reguarly burdened him with these heavy glances, as if the fact that they were the only two with Y chromosomes in the house meant they had to forge some kind of alliance. But Troy thought the idea of a miniature golf course and ice cream shoppe (his father insisted the old-style spelling would increase the charm of the place and thus foot traffic) was as stupid as stupid could get, like the woman he’d seen on television who had liquidated her 401K so she could buy a bunch of Beanie Babies. He was pretty sure she was working at a McDonalds or something now, maybe Target or, if she was lucky, a Costco or Starbucks. Their house sat on a huge swatch of land that neither their father or their father’s father or his father had been willing to sell, even when commercial developers salivated over it, offering well over market value, located as it was off interstate 70 so close to other land

Ÿ It took a year to construct the golf course. His father filed permits, bought a mattress system, a feeding fence and buckets of stall cleaner. Paul let Elodie design the ice cream shoppe, choose the dipper wells, the commercial freezers, the melamine pans and scoopers. Troy watched her click through various online stores, talking to herself about whether they should make their own waffle cones or buy them pre-shaped. Troy marveled at his sister’s savvy, how, at the prospect of becoming a store manager, her otherwise artsy-fartsy musical side melted away like so much ice. Her cello sat forgotten. Maggie and Caroline exhorted their father to fill the course with castles, castles, castles! And as many vibrant colors of ice cream as possible! They didn’t care about pasteurizers or cheese vats, chart recorders or milk pumps. They dreamt of hitting vibrant pink and purple golf balls through the mouths of burpy toads, the craggy legs of ogres, around marshy moats surrounding fairy book towers. They offered up their own hole designs, complete with monstrous waterfalls, greens that spiraled three stories high, dragons that shot out real flames if you sunk a hole in one. Their father compromised by purchasing a plastic monstrosity with wings the size of a small sedan. Its eyes showered the seventh hole with infernal red light after dusk. At first, they served only the basics: chocolate and vanilla ice cream. Then their father caught some creativity bug and started branching out: cherry and pineapple, caramel, cookies ‘n’ cream. Then wilder flavors. People adored the pistachio, which Troy

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Fall 2018

scooped it out in green mound after green mound. There was a charcoal concoction that the hipsters swooned over, and when they unveiled the newest mystery flavor, people crowed over the champagne ice cream, available only to adults over twenty-one. Some of the kids home from college for summer vacations gawked when Troy carded them. He would shrug and offer a sheepish smile, and when he could tell an ID was fake, he sold the ice cream anyway. He was pretty sure no one was going to get drunk off his father’s spumantetinged treats, and since when did Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms plot sting operations on miniature golf courses? His classmates came in foursomes; some of the jocks were drunk or stoned or both, but Troy’s father didn’t have a substance-free policy, so he handed over the rubber-and-steel putters without a word. College kids wearing too-big glasses and too many scarves showed up, the girls giggling about their terrible aim, the boys feigning disinterest in getting the lowest score but pumping their fists when they shot under par. Customers’ tan arms and legs slicked with sweat even in late evening. They ignored the sweet and sour loam smell of cow dung, calling it part of the experience, all for the sake of down home, local ice cream. Rich, buttered, creamy, organic and light and supporting a local business. The strawberry, with real, chunky fruit swirled in, was to die for. Troy watched his classmates laugh their way through eighteen holes then plop down together on metal tables strewn near the concession stand. Patio umbrellas sponsored by Michelob Ultra fluttered in the windy nights while kids crammed themselves onto the circular bench seats, boys slipping their palms against girls’ thighs exposed by jean shorts. Girlfriends leaned into boyfriends, whispering sweet nothings into perking ears. Cheeks were pecked, lips were locked. Troy’s heart broke when Heather Beilman and Saul Fleischman showed up on a date, hands slipping into one another’s back pockets as they left. Three little league baseball teams came one night, and Troy’s arms were sore in the morning from moving around tins of ice cream when Elodie needed help restocking. But his father was raking in the dough. No worries about Troy’s college fund. Elodie could keep her lessons, though now she wanted to go into restaurant management and interior design, erstwhile dreams of Julliard and a place in the Boston Symphony Orchestra

abandoned. Maggie still didn’t have a pony, but Caroline had started smearing paints on her first easel. All was well in the Buckingham household until the day the first cow died.

Ÿ Troy and his sisters didn’t interact with the livestock except for when they got in trouble, such as after the night Troy snuck out with his best friend Clay Ridgemore and got drunk off a bottle of Johnny Walker and came home so hungover the next morning that he vomited in the bathroom near the ninth hole three times. His father made him spend the next day sweeping out the milking barn just because; there was no reason to swish away the clods of dirt, cow turd, and mulchy grass, because every time the cattle were corralled for a milking the concrete floor was stained again. After the one time Elodie had been put through it for her own elopement one night to a mall and then a party where, she claimed, she very much did not drink the spiked punch, staying out until well after her curfew, she raised such hell, screaming that she would call child services and the health department and the Better Business Bureau if she was made to do that ever again, their father promised never to make her go near the cows again. So it was Tim, the farmhand they’d hired, a stringyhaired kid from Nebraska with a deep voice and a wicked farmer’s tan who was looking to forge out on his own rather than spend his whole life in corn fields forty minutes outside of Omaha, who came huffing up to the course the morning everything went to hell. Sometimes Troy had to stop from staring at the columns of wiry muscle in his back when he worked shirtless. “Something’s wrong with Moo,” he said to Troy, huffing. Tim was lithe and lean, but apparently his cardiovascular system could use an overhaul. “Where’s your dad?” Troy pointed toward the office in the back of the concession stand where his father kept a computer on which he worked spreadsheets to track business expenditures and intakes. The room, small and crowded with candy bar wrappers and crinkly, empty bags of chips, smelled of the air freshener pumping out the artificial aroma of apples and cinnamon. Troy listened from the cashier window while Tim whispered. Troy’s father shot out of his squeaky desk chair like a missile and charged out of the concession stand, Tim in fast pursuit. Blinking, Troy made an executive decision, pulling the displayed putters and golf balls from the

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Fall 2018

counter and yanking down the corrugated metal window guard. He followed his father. Paul Buckingham had thought he’d been doing a nice thing in letting each of his kids name one of the milking cows. Troy had still been dumpy and disbelieving, so when his father pointed to the large bovine body that his eldest son would christen, Troy, arms folded over his chest and a dead-eyed look on his face, declared that his cow would be named Moo. And by the time Troy, his father, and Tim reached the barn, Moo was mooing no more.

And then the other three cows pitched over Sunday morning. Tim delivered the news, his brow glistening with nerves. Troy was sure he’d been crying, which made him want to wrap his arms around Tim’s wiry frame. With a good scrub, and maybe a haircut, Tim would be dashing, with his shelf of cheekbones and steelblue eyes that were, at the moment, shot with blood. The dead cows were splayed on their sides in the meadow near the barn, open mouths seeping halfchewed cud. Their bodies were already bloated, the noxious smell of methane farting into the sky, the barn concentrated with it. Elodie looked around, shifty-eyed, when customers asked why the ice cream supplies were so low. They kept serving what they had already churned; the vet didn’t say to stop, their father argued. So let’s make every scoop count. Who knows when we’ll have more. So they scraped the bottom of the frozen serving tins, pulling every bit of ice cream they could. Before the cows started dying they’d skimmed and pasteurized several gallons yet to be churned, so there was still something. The vanilla and chocolate ice cream ran out first. Customers gawked and wondered how an ice cream shoppe—a shoppe—ran out of vanilla. “It’s like a Taco Bell not having beef.” “Or chicken.” “Or tortillas.” “Um,” Troy said, holding an empty cone in its white sleeve. Their father stayed in the office well after the golf course was closed, the pathway lights blinkered off. Troy tried to think of things to say as he tidied up, slotting the putters in their cubbies and letting the balls clatter on their drying racks, sparkling and smooth after a wash in a bucket of hot tap water and dish soap. His jaw hinged open and shut as he wiped down the counter and then scrubbed at the sneeze guard over the ice cream, but nothing came out of his mouth. He felt like a balloon with a slow leak. They bought two new milking cows after paying to have the entire barn sanitized from rafters to floor, the walls scrubbed clean with an antibacterial spray so strong none of them could enter for two days afterward. Tim found those cows a week later, flies buzzing against their open, unblinking eyelids. His sisters whispered about the cows, Caroline crying herself to sleep over the death of Snarfle. She announced at breakfast on Tuesday that she had prayed

Ÿ Paul Buckingham called a vet, who couldn’t figure it out. No signs of anaplasmosis or blue green algae toxicity. No prussic acid. There was no evidence of perilla mint on the grounds. The vet, a barrel-shaped man with a beard beaded with sweat and streaked gray, plucked off his latex gloves with a puff of talcum powder, wiped his hands on his jeans, and then shrugged at Troy’s father. He couldn’t explain Moo’s death, advising only that they needed to call a licensed disposer to remove the body. “It could infect the rest of them. The decomposing flesh, and whatever caused the death,” he said. Paul Buckingham made the call. A truck came out that afternoon. Men in space-age jumpsuits that glimmered white against the grass snapped on elbowlength gloves and hauled the cow away. But even so, the others followed quickly, like dominos falling in a line. Cashmere (named by Elodie), Cuckoo (Maggie), Snarfle (Caroline). All dead, all fast. “Mad cow?” their father said on the phone. Not mad cow. None of the cattle suffered incoordination, trouble rising or walking. They’d all been their same complacent, lowing selves, tails swishing. Udders dangling, heavy sacs. And then—thunk—they were dead. They’d have seen the signs of bovine spongiform encephalopathy well before Moo or Snarfle or any of the other cows croaked. The remaining milking cows—five—seemed fine for a few days, but then two of them dropped on a Saturday morning. Troy watched his father slumped in the office making frantic phone calls. He would slam the door shut, shaking the walls of the concession stand. His voice burbled like he was under water. Troy imagined him thrashing, thumping his fist on the rickety desk.

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to God to bring the cows back to life, that she would never eat another scoop of ice cream her entire life if they would just be okay. “You don’t have to do that,” Elodie said. Troy shrugged. He was tired, ragged from a toobright and real dream of Tim, who appeared suddenly in his bedroom, stripped of his shirt, muscles pulsing with size like he’d spent the last thirty minutes flexing. They had started kissing, Tim’s hands raking through Troy’s hair, fingers webbing around his ears and throat, pressing against his back and hips. He’d been awakened by the bubbling noises of his sisters talking, Maggie shrieking something about a stolen hair brush, their voices vibrating along the shabby walls of the farmhouse’s damp second floor. He worked his jaw, which felt gummed up like a poorly-oiled piston. “Tell her,” Elodie said. Troy sighed. “You don’t need to pray over the cows.” “Yes I do!” Caroline said, nearly wailing. “How else will we get Snarfle back?” Troy arched an eyebrow at Elodie. Their younger sisters had been strangely calm when their mother got sick three years ago, her cords of auburn hair replaced by vibrant bandanas, makeup sluiced off where pouches of exhaustion knitted beneath her eyes. Her cheeks went hollow instead of rouged. At her funeral, the girls cried, burbling out baby noises, but they never asked where their mother had gone or if she’d be back. The next morning, Troy and Elodie had found Maggie scrambling eggs, just like their mother had done for her the entirety of Maggie’s nine-year-old life. Caroline was trying to pour orange juice, her little hands slipping against the carton. Troy had plucked it from her right before disaster struck. Seeing the fragile look on her face, he exhorted her to let him help, insisting she was the one guiding the orange fountain of juice down into each of the five glasses she’d managed to pluck from their position in a cabinet. They had approached death, Troy thought, with an unsettling aplomb, far less tormented than he was. Troy had been branded by tortuous nightmares of his mother, trapped inside a coffin and helplessly banging on the box’s sides until her oxygen ran out or, somehow more frightfully, she managed to claw her way through particle board and fabric and wormy earth to break the surface, only to be smacked to death by an eighteen-wheeler as she trudged her way back home, unsteady and

dehydrated, ankles twisting and spraining in the high heels she’d never worn in life but which had been slipped on her feet in death. He’d woken up, sweatstreaked and chest heaving many times in the days after her passing. Their father, looking like he’d been pummeled with a bag of fruit, arrived at the table. His eyes were scoopy and hollow, his skin the ashy color of an anemic pork chop. He rubbed at his face with the pads of his palms and yawned, shaking his head. Troy passed him a plate. He ate three bites of toast, tiny chipmunk-teeth gouges in the bread that Maggie had managed not to burn, then tossed it back onto the plate, scattering crumbs across the porcelain before he stood and marched out of the house. Troy was the only one who followed. The walk from the farmhouse to the golf course took five minutes; the morning was already sweating, dew clustered on the high grass, heat waving off the asphalt of the frontage road and the interstate beyond. The noise of cars zooming along the highway and the heavy breeze whistling through his ears gave Troy an excuse not to speak. As usual, his father unlocked the concession stand and marched into the office, shutting the door behind him. Troy got to work wiping down all the putters with sanitizing tissues, polishing their heads to glinting, placing the balls he’d left on the drying rack last night back into their slots in the metal dispenser so children could choose their favorite of six iridescent colors. He rummaged through the walk-in freezer for leftover ice cream, yanking the scoopers from the drying racks, restocking the waffle cones. They were on their last batch of churned ice cream, barely an inch left in the ten gallon tub. Tim had no new milk to process and wheel over on the small ATV he used to haul gallons from the creamery over to the stand. There were no cows, no milk, hardly a shoppe. Troy stood in the stand listening. The sound came up, as it had for several days straight now, in a sad, cresting wave: the blunted noise of his father’s sobs, soft as the whoosh of the dishwasher at first, then rising as he lost control. Troy’s stomach twisted. He closed his eyes and felt himself bobbing on his father’s sorrow.

Ÿ A school bus pulled into the lot minutes after Troy unhooked the chain draped over the entryway; he was hardly back in the stand before he heard the patter of dozens of kiddie footsteps.

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His father leaned out of the office, groaning. “Oh god,” he said. “I forgot about the campers. Do we have anything in stock?” Troy peered into the deep cooler where ice cream had once collected but was now empty aside from the coagulated condensation that had formed wavering ridges of porous ice. Troy nudged a finger at it and crumbles peeled off, scattering in the bottom. He looked back and shook his head at his father. “Fuck. Okay.” He disappeared back into the office, then emerged with a handful of bills. “Look, they paid a big group rate for twenty kids and five adults to do a round of eighteen each, followed by an ice cream party. I’m going to go buy some gallons from the Stop-n-Shop. I’ll be back before they’re done.” He watched his father dart past the first portion of the child horde. The kids ignored him, zooming and darting like field mice around the metal tables, some of them bouncing up and down, shouting with excitement toward the display of golf balls. Others shrieked about ice cream, banging their tiny splayed hands against the sneeze guard like it was a bass drum. They were dressed in identical yellow shirts with the name Camp Oswego! in bright blue Comic Sans; their counselors’ shirts were the exact opposite, the neon yellow letters blurbing out from cotton stained the color of the Indian Ocean. One of them walked up to the window where Troy was slumped and staring at the kids. It was Saul Fleishman. He was tan, his brown hair bleached to wheat by his days in the sun. The swirls of hair on his arms were golden flecks, and the t-shirt strained against his shoulders. “Hey man.” “Hey,” Troy said, standing up straight. “My dad explained.” “Golf and ice cream for the kids,” Saul said. “Well, they can each pick a club and a ball.” Saul let out a rip-roaring whistle that somehow had the power to stop all of the children at once, as if he’d cast a spell calcifying their joints into rock. He yelled some kind of camp chant and the kids fell into a pair of messy lines. Saul sauntered back to the window and, without a word, started pulling balls from the dispenser, a random arrangement, hauling a fistful of the small plastic kid-sized clubs. Troy watched. Saul moved with a languid assurance, as if he was made of water that dripped and slung however it wanted. When he handed out the clubs and

balls, two of the kids tried to swap, but Saul told them, voice stiff and hard as a two by four, to use the ones he’d given them. One of the children, a squeaky girl with wispy hair, said that her favorite color was pink, and that the boy she was trying to exchange with didn’t want pink as much as he wanted her green. Saul shook his head. Troy’s father squelched into the concession stand twenty minutes later while the first group of kids was rounding the sixth hole. He dragged two tubs of ice cream, one in each hand, and gestured for Troy to help him. “Scoop it out into the tins.” “Why?” “So it looks like ours.” “But it looks nothing like ours.” They stared at one another for a long moment, the only noise the raucous screaming of children as they thwacked at their golf balls. “Let it melt a little,” his father said, dropping the tubs with a snorty thump onto the concrete floor. He waved his hand and dashed into the office, slamming the door behind him. Troy looked out through the cashier window and watched the children laughing and stomping across the greens, dragging their plastic putters like rigid tails. The counselors kept score on printed grids the size of index cards, propping them on their thighs and scribbling with the stubby eraserless pencils Troy kept stocked in a mesh cup next to the balls. Besides Saul, who was hawkishly barking for the kids in his group to maintain an orderly fashion, the counselors were letting the kids muck around however they liked, taking second and third whacks with their clubs before their balls had stopped rolling. One kid slid his along the ninth hole like a hockey puck, dribbling it all the way to the hole. Another he heard thump her ball so hard it flew into the murky pond tinged purplish green like an oil stain. Troy sighed and waited, holding out another ball before the counselor appeared, a sobbing seven-year-old following in her wake. The first group of campers curled back around fortyfive minutes later, bouncing with dizzy energy as they approached the eighteenth hole. Elodie stomped in then, stopping in the middle of the stand and planting her hands on her hips. She gestured toward the sweating tubs of ice cream. “What are these?”

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“A back-up plan,” Troy said, raising an eyebrow toward the shuttered office. Elodie sputtered her lips and charged over to the office door and began banging on it. Troy trudged to the ice cream and hauled it onto the low counter behind the freezer and pried open the vanilla, which had turned into a dense soup, loose enough that he could simply drive a spatula into one side and slide the entire mucky heap into one of the steel pans. He repeated the process with the chocolate while Elodie kept banging on the door, her right hand in a tight fist. “Dad,” she called out. “Open the door.” The kids at the eighteenth green shrieked and chirped as they putted. The hole was shaped like a long Skee-ball chute, the upswerved area where the hole lay covered by a slanted metal grille. In order to win a free game, golfers had to shoot straight and true halfway up the incline; any shorter and the ball would get chunked into a low trough that fed into a box hidden beneath a trap door in the grass; too hard or off to the side and the same fate awaited. A ball plunked into the cup would set off an electronic bell that would whir from the side of the concession stand and light up a police siren atop the hole’s cage. One after another the kids’ balls zoomed up the ramp, clattering past the hole and banging around before settling into one of the chutes. Elodie tapped Troy on the shoulder. “He won’t come out. He won’t even say anything.” Her eyes were wide, pupils dilated like she’d snorted cocaine. “Something’s wrong.” Troy sighed. “I’m sure he’s fine.” She stared. Troy huffed and marched to the office door, rapping with his knuckles. “Dad, come out. You’re freaking out Elodie.” Troy heard nothing, no shuffling of papers, no squeak of the office chair. Usually their father played AM radio on a small hand-held he kept on a shelf, the talk show hosts’ voices barely audible over the static that clogged the speakers, but even that was absent. Troy felt a little trampoline of nausea rise in his belly. “He’s probably sleeping,” Troy said. “You know he doesn’t sleep at night, right?” “Yeah, I hear the refrigerator door all the time.” “So he’s napping.” “He snores. There’s no snoring.” “I’m sure he’s fine.” A cacophony of children’s hands beating against the sneeze guard snapped Elodie and Troy to attention.

Saul was standing behind the kids, arms folded over his bloat of a chest, smirking and watching, saying nothing as the children screeched and moaned for their ice cream like a gang of rowdy football fans. Troy and Elodie began scooping, Troy managing the vanilla and Elodie the chocolate. The kids seemed to multiply like rabbits, clotting the space before the ice cream stand, many of them speeding through the final hole to take up their place in the queue.. When all the children were distracted by their ice cream cones, the counselors stepped up to the stand for their own. Saul was last, the same bullish smirk on his face. He pulled off his reflective sunglasses and perched them on his head. Standing in front of Elodie, he leaned over the guard and said, “I know that’s store-bought. But don’t worry. I won’t say anything.” “Okay,” she said. “Sorry about the cows.” “How’d you know?” Troy said. “Everybody knows.” “But how?” “Just one of those things. It gets around.” He took his cone and winked at Elodie. “Thanks.” Some of the ice cream dribbled down his knuckles. Saul smeared it on the sneeze guard. “Douchebag,” Elodie murmured. Troy watched Saul walk away, calves flexing like a beating heart. As the bus pulled away, its air brakes farting noise into the air, Troy and Elodie turned back to their father’s office. Troy, trying to forget Saul’s leery gaze at Elodie, started pounding. She joined in, and they slammed at the door in tandem, non-stop, bashing their fists against the flimsy plywood until something, anything happened. They got into a steady, lengthy rhythm. Troy thought of Saul Fleishman. He thought of the cows. The dripping, grainy store-bought ice cream. The smell of cud. The wick-wack of golf clubs and balls. Then, out of nowhere, the siren above the eighteenth hole went off, the bell letting out a whooping whine. They whirled around to look out at the siren, spinning and flaring its red glare into the spangle of the afternoon. At that same moment, the office door yawned open. Frozen in his chair, Paul Buckingham’s shoulders were stiff, as if caught on a hanger. He was staring

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toward the open doorway. Nothing was wrong with him, nothing noticeable aside from the utter stillness of his chest, the lifelessness of his eyes. Elodie shrieked, but all Troy could do was stare the cavernous shape of his father’s mouth, rounded into an O as if trapped in the midst of letting out a low, vibrating moo. w

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a poem Joseph Robertson there is a hidden red wine stain in the gray-brown carpet underneath my convertible sofa. your laughter knocked over the glass. i didn’t bother to cover it up at first. i relished the memory of that night: your arm shaking the red liquid see-sawing out making you, me, us, that night a permanent part of that one bedroom apartment. i wanted to remember. it was the stain of something else I hid: you stopped coming. i needed a change and rearranged the furniture. it is only now years later as I move out and on, lifting the sofa that I see the stain again and know I can’t scrub it out.

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Fall 2018 What else do I have here? Investment binders? Nobody uses those anymore. It’s all on computers. Trophies? Nah. Clock? Yes! First anniversary. Genuine cut glass. God, that was already nine years ago. Ah, my new nameplate. Let’s put that right here on the corner of the desk, angle it just a bit so all my fellow executives walking through that door can see who’s the corporate buck now. Yes, sir, dear mirror, that would be me, Mr. Adam Carlisle Edwards, currently modeling a Ralph Lauren suit and tie that we shall straighten just a bit here. There now, that’s better. I present to you the alpha dog who shall soon be running this brokerage firm. Not so fast, Adam. One step at a time. You’re still wearing Macy’s suits and ties. Well, anyhows, back to business. So IT got these new-fangled computers up and running. All three of ‘em. Whew, impressive. Take up the whole damn desk. Let’s just check out the set-up here. See if everything’s kosher. Yep, got my market movers, watch list. There’s my primary time frame. And mustn’t neglect the account value chart. And here’s my 15minute chart. Son-of-a-bitch, I could read these numbers on the wall. Wouldn’t think 24” screens could look so HUGE. And then there are my special satellite hard drives that we will lock up in this bottom drawer. For my eyes only. Key shall remain with me. That about does it. Not much to unpack when you move from a closet to this. Kind of strange having an office to myself. Almost too quiet but a heck of lot more private. Oh, spoke too soon, my fame has already leaked to the greater public. They’re knocking down my door as I speak. What’s that you say, you want to do an interview? With me? And you’re from - where was that again? The Chicago Tribune? Well, alright, I suppose I can grant you a few moments of my time. Will you be taking pictures? Let me just do a little straightening up here. There now that ought to do it. Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the greatest of them all? So where shall we begin. I guess with Mr. Marcum, that’s Jeffrey Marcum the investment CEO of our firm. He pretty much just plucked me from the bull pen. Said I’m a ‘one of a kind’ kind of guy and he needed me for a special assignment.

Reflections David and Marie Savord

Mirrors never lie. This mirror is showing, Ace, you are now one of ‘them’. Yes sir, you are moving on up. Wait till you tell Chelsea. This promotion is going to blow her away. No more second rate stuff for us. Heck, we might just have to buy a bigger house. Might want to get through your probation period before you start the big spending. Your skills have finally paid off, dude. Office to yourself, humongous desk, room with a view, two views. Look at this. Which one do you like better – the wall of windows in front of the desk looking at the Great Lake or the wall of mirrors behind it looking at – the Great Me! Holy crap, check - out - this - mirror. Big enough for a ballet studio. You are one killer good looking guy, Mr. Edwards. Not a hair out of place, irresistible smile, great physique, too bad you’re a married man. Hound Dog, look at those Elvis hips go. And look at that middle-age bulge. Nah, it’s just the old shirt puffing out from all the dancing. Ha. Comfy chair. And it swivels! Whoa, not so fast, you’ll mess up the hair. Better just quietly recline with feet on desk. That’s more like it. Nice side view in the mirror. Huh, where’s a cigar when you need one. Guess my pen will have to do. Puff the cheeks just so, blow through the lips gently. There, a trail of four smoke rings for each floor up to success. When did you get a double chin? Oh, that’s just a shadow, all the bright light from the windows. Okay, so where were we? First order of business. Unpack boxes. I’m going to need something for all this space. What a difference from the cramped ‘wannabe offices’ downstairs. No more of that small time individual brokerage account crap. We’re with the big boys now. Trust funds. Maybe Chelsea can frame a few pictures. Wedding. Chad. Geez, the kid’s eight years old, probably should get an updated family picture. She’d like working on something like that.

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Fall 2018 Oh well, I’m Still Better Than My Has-Been CoWorkers. That’s all there is to it. Mr. Marcum, Jeffrey to me, saw my potential. He knows I’m going somewhere. I stood out from the rest. He can see it. I can see it. One look in any mirror shows a success story kind of guy. So screw the passenger mirror. Driver and rearview mirrors say I’m a winner. What’s the deal, Adam? Why are you suddenly questioning your self-worth? Are things really not always as they appear? There’s got to be a reason for the conflicting messages from the mirrors. Not all mirrors are alike! Flat mirrors tell the truth. Curved mirrors lie. Not so sure why that is, scientifically speaking, but it does explain the contradiction. Everyone knows those curved funhouse mirrors lie. Oh yes, I remember those from when I was a kid. God we used to laugh. Some of them made you look real fat and others made you skinny. I really liked the ones that completely distorted everything. Skinny head, large chest, stumpy legs. And the best part about it was you knew it was nothing but an illusion. Look how fat and squashed you look. Now that’s a mirror not telling the truth. So yeah the passenger mirror is curved to, what, give wider vision, something like that. So who cares if it’s lying. We just won’t look in that one. Because anyone looking at you sees one suave, sophisticated guy. Ain’t that right, rearview mirror? And the Gucci sunglasses give you the finishing touch. Just need some blonde chick to pull up next to me. So much has happened today. First the big cheese calls me upstairs. Out of the clear blue I receive a major promotion. Don’t forget I now have a key to the executive washroom. Mmm, that beautiful new office. God I love that new office! Oh, and then Jeff Marcum takes me into his confidence and introduces me to that SEC guy. What’s his name… Oh yea, Lou Howlett. Too bad I can’t do lunch with Lou. I had no idea Jeff knew I have a background in computer programming. Lou and I could have swapped some stories. With his SEC position I’ll bet he’s full of some doozies. Well, they picked the right guy to help them figure this market manipulation debacle. We could be in serious trouble if it ends up being the Russians or Chinese. I still think it’s the programmers from India. They have a mind for that kind of stuff.

No, no just me. Nobody else. Well, Lou Howlett but he’s not one of us. No, he’s a Chief Investigator for the SEC. According to Jeff and Lou, some little shyster is infiltrating our system. Messing with our numbers. Upsetting the stock market values. Now who would be savvy enough to do that? Russians? Chinese? Naw, my personal opinion is probably Indians, from India of course. Not the natives. Has to be someone techy enough to use the programs but also knowledgeable in the stock market. How are they manipulating the numbers? Tricky little bastards. That’s where I come in but then, whoops, I’ve probably said too much. This is supposed to be top secret. Guess we’ll have to wrap up this interview. Thank you gentlemen, now I have work to do. Please see yourselves to the door. Ha, take a bow Mr. Smooth. That face will be all over town by tomorrow. Not bad, Ace, maybe some day you’ll actually get a real interview.

Ÿ Objects in the mirror are closer than they appear. Now why did I have to notice that? Here I am trying to make a decision on whether to do my normal lunch or act like an executive and have a sit-down with cocktails. And now, my passenger side rearview mirror is telling me that it lies. A lying mirror? Is that possible? Liar, liar, pants on fire. Passenger rearview mirrors LIE. You should be able to look in a mirror, any mirror, and believe what it tells you. My executive office mirror tells me I’m the greatest. And it’s telling the truth. All passenger side rearview mirrors since sometime in the 1970’s have that inscription. They all lie! Are they just doing that to shake my confidence? Put me in my place? My boss didn’t give me a company car, gas account, and key card to the swankiest yacht club for nothing. It’s because I’m better than others. That’s it; I’m doing the executive lunch. Can’t wait to try the seafood buffet. And I get an hour lunch now. Good thing this coupe has a GPS or I’d probably never find the place. I’m a little surprised Jeff and the others didn’t invite me to eat with them.

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It’s no shirt off my back who’s doing it. I’m just good at spotting irregularities and taking advantage of them. That’s why I get the big P and my fellow peons stay hunched in their own stagnant mediocrity. Well, here we are. Think I’ll get an outdoor seat and get familiar with the boats and maybe their owners. That’s probably next, invitations to all the yacht parties. Chelsea’s going to need some new clothes. That’s it! An executive decision has been made. A two martini lunch coming up. Yeah, just stick to the flat mirrors, Adam. Look at that winning smile. No lies there.

Oh and that SEC guy Jeff introduced me to. I’ll bet he thinks I’ll be of some assistance in cracking the Chinese/Russian/Indian market manipulation thing. That would make the firm look pretty good. Maybe I’ll find the time to look into it. Well, Ace, one more swipe of the comb and then it’s back to your new playground. Enough of these crazyass deceitful mirrors. The granddaddy of all mirrors awaits your return. That’s where you’ll see the one and only true you. The guy being set up for vice president of this firm. Huh, maybe I’ll get a new hair style. Something more GQ.

Ÿ

Ÿ

Yes, I’m sure the mirror doesn’t lie. Nice perk to have the key to the executive washroom. Check this out. Floor to ceiling mirror on one wall with mirrors over the sinks on the opposite wall. Kind of cool. I can see many, many, many me’s. One Great Me is wonderful but many Great Me’s is even better. Finish combing this hair then back to the office. Except. . . Mirrors shouldn’t lie. Maybe they’re trying to tell me that I’m just a small fish in a sea full of fish. Boy, talk about draining the pond. First, I find that curved mirrors are deceitful and now I find even flat mirrors can’t always be trusted. Maybe I’d better rethink this whole image thing. Maybe I’m not as impressive as I thought. Someone has to build me up. Besides Jeffrey, my coworkers couldn’t see outside their own myopic circle. At least these mirrors recognize the value of duplicating a genius like me. Watch out or you’ll go the Narcissus route. So much for my flat mirror, curved mirror theory though. Not all flat mirrors tell the truth either. Obviously, there’s only one Genius looking in the mirror but so many are reflected back. So what’s your clever explanation for this one, bucko? Aw, who cares? I got promoted. Not the others. It wasn’t just good looks. Although I’ve got plenty of those. It was definitely my performance. I know I’m good. My trades are stellar. I had no business staying in the lower echelon. Retail trading was too easy. Managing trusts and corporate accounts will give me a new challenge. Maybe I’ll take on hedge funds, too.

Yeah, this mirror doesn’t lie. Elvis is back! Move them hips, man. Another quick run of the comb through the hair. Puff on the cigar. I really need to get some genuine Havana’s. These air cigars are kind of tacky. Wait a minute. What’s with the hair thing? When someone’s talking to me, my part is on the right but if they look at me in the mirror it’s on the left. So which is it? What does a person believe? You’re crazy, man. All this promotion stuff is messing with your head. Too much thinking. This looking at your reflection in this big, hulking mirror is Creeping You Out. Told you you’ll end up like Narcissus. Nah, you’ll be fine. Take some deep breaths. Get focused here. Just have to get used to this new pressure. Not even sure what the expectations are. Come on, Ace, you can do this. Couple of deep breaths, some knuckle cracking and Ready, Set, Go. Time to outdo yourself. If they think you’ve got it, then show them your stuff. Prove your worth. Get my magic key here, unlock the forbidden drawer, pull out the secret hard drive and time to make some money.

Ÿ “Come on in, Jeff. I thought you’d like to see this.” “What ya got there, Lou?” “Check out what’s going on through the mirror.” “Oh my god, what a jackass. Does he think he’s Elvis or something?”

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Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

“Tad bit full of himself, wouldn’t you say? If he runs that comb through his hair one more time he’ll pull his scalp off.” “Geez, Lou, glad he doesn’t have a real cigar. He’d suffocate in his own smoke. Hello, what’s going on?” “Okay, Jeff, this is where it gets interesting. Watch what he does after he hooks up the hard drive. He did it this morning. I expect he’ll do it this afternoon.” “I’m not sure what I’m looking at. So he’s got the current stock exchange up, he’s clicking on a stock symbol, and then, you’ve got to be kidding me, look at him buy, buy, buy.” “Now, watch this.” “What? He’s just typing.” “Keep watching and now…totally amazing, isn’t it?” “That stock’s value has quadrupled in just seconds. It’s like it’s on steroids!” “And so is our Main Man. Look at him sell, sell, sell.” “And a repeat of this morning, he’s now back at the center screen miraculously changing the stock to its original value.” “Holy shit, Lou. Looks like you nailed this one.” “Bingo. We did our homework but needed absolute proof. Your letting us use this room gave us all the evidence we needed to make our bust. I just texted our agent to move in.” “That was fast. Not wasting any time.” “No, the quicker we nab ‘em the less chance they have to get wind that something’s up. We’ve now seen him do it more than once and it’s all on video.” “Impressive.” “I’m a bit curious Jeff, were you serious when you said you set up this office just to spy on suspicious employees?” “Yep, caught about a half dozen over the years. Pretty impressive, huh? What gets me is not a single one of them suspected that they were being watched. I guess they were so impressed with the promotion that it never occurred to them they were in trouble.” “That’s funny because it’s so easy to tell when you’re looking in a two-way mirror.” “How’s that, Lou?” “Well, on a regular mirror the reflective surface is on the back. If you touch it with your finger there’s a

small gap between the fingertips. Conversely, the two way mirror’s reflective surface is on the front of the glass so the fingertips touch.” “How come I never knew that?” “I guess that’s something they don’t teach in business school, Jeff.” “Hey, look, Lou, your guy is taking my man away right now.” “One thing about a two-way mirror - It never lies.” The mirror never lies. w

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Issue No. 2

Fall 2018

Study in Waterdrops (III) Mike Reynolds

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Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

So Zoo Me Donna Bassin

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Issue No. 3

Fall 2018 5E. But I forgive you because I know she was lonely and you always had a jones for large breasts. I figured it was some kind of distorted Mommy thing, so you’re more to be pitied than ostracized. Nobody’s perfect, Joey. And that includes me. A few years after your death I was convinced by my friend Sonia—whom I know you never liked—to try dating. I didn’t want to go out with another man because it felt like I would be cheating on you even though I know it’s crazy to think that way. Sonia was keen to introduce me to her cousin, Ricardo. Before my first date with him she asked me if I shaved. I told her I always removed my armpit hair. Sonia laughed and said men these days prefer that a woman shave her private area. I thought that was disgusting. I asked if her cousin was a pedophile because I would only go out with a man interested in meeting a real woman and not some knock off little girl. I did meet Ricardo and we went out dancing. I found him very sweet and attractive. After five dates with him I realized how much I missed physical intimacy. Before my next date with him I bought a Lady Remington razor and shaved down there hoping to make myself more appealing to him. When I looked at myself in the mirror before taking a shower I felt nauseous and totally exposed in such an unnatural way. It reminded me of what you told me when you were a boy taking judo lessons and how you felt after you took your first after class communal shower. Everyone else seemed circumcised, so you believed that you were the unnatural freak. I refused to see Ricardo again until after my pubic hair grew back but by that time he had found another woman and I decided I was too old to date at age 44. What upset me so much about shaving was I remember how much you loved and admired what you called my “luxurious bush.” You always teased me about how much fun it was exploring my lush forest in order to discover its hidden treasure. So now you live in an artificial bush enclosure, Joey. Are you enjoying it? Have you wondered why I switched my beautiful engagement ring to my right hand before reaching out to you today? When I noticed you would sometimes move your wedding band to your right hand, I asked why you did that. You said it was because you’re left-handed and it was more comfortable when you wrote up all your claims examiner reports. But there’s a thing called the internet now, Joey, and when I looked up on the

So Zoo Me Mark Blickley

I didn’t want to go on this Bronx Zoo outing. I’ve lived nearly 67 years without ever visiting. Never had any interest watching poor trapped souls ache for the freedom of their visitors. When the Seniors Housing Commission organized this trip for my building I ignored it, as I have every year. Why I jumped on the chartered bus right before it took off this morning was a mystery to me. But now the mystery is solved. Thank you, Joey, for guiding me to that bus seat. God forgive me. I know the church says it’s blasphemous to believe in a soul’s rebirth into another body, but I’m seeing and feeling reincarnation. The moment I stepped into this Gorilla House our eyes locked and I knew it was you, Joey. You haven’t turned your gaze from me for a single second. Figures you’d come back as a silverback gorilla--it’s the silver anniversary of your departure—25 years ago you left me so suddenly. Father Donnelly said you were called home, but I told him he was a liar. Your home was with me. God forgive me. A day hasn’t passed since then without my missing your touch. I loved teasing you about your hairy back. I’ve noticed at the Seniors swimming pool that most bald men have hairy backs. You would act so offended when I called you my Big Ape because of your back hair, but I know you loved it. Here’s a secret, Joey. I always called you my Big Ape whenever I desired intimacy with you and you always responded. Just like today! Each morning I’ve awoken since you left I never minded getting a day older because I knew it meant I was getting a day closer to the time when I could return to you. I’ve been so impatient. Despite it being a mortal sin, I tried joining you dozens of years ago. I once stuck my head in the oven and began sniffing gas, but I turned it off when I realized I couldn’t be certain that you would be in Hell waiting for me. You did enough good during your life to have made it to Heaven, so I decided not to take the chance of being routed to Hell, being separated from you for eternity. Is adultery a mortal sin, Joey? After you died, I found out you were banging Millie Brandenberger from apartment

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Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

computer why people switch wedding ring hands it said it was a code that meant although the ring wearer was married, it signaled to others that he or she was open to cheating on their partner. The sign on your cage says Silverbacks live with a harem—one male and multiple females. I changed ring hands because I want those monkey sluts in there with you to know I’m available if you still want me. I know it’s stupid to feel jealous right now. Was Millie the only one? Did you feel caged with me, Joey? I heard a woman whisper to her friend that silverbacks have the smallest genitals of all the apes and are extremely jealous. That sounded so much like my Joey. I adored your jealousy because it proved how much you love me. I think the reason I’ve missed you so much these past 25 years is that you were always such a mystery to me. I’m scared to leave this monkey house, Joey, and afraid to come back. When I leave will your eyes follow me to the exit? What happens if I decide to return? What if I come back to visit you and you completely ignore me? Would that mean that everything I’m feeling and know to be true right now is a lie? Should I take that chance, Joey? Is this the work of a loving God who understands my sorrow or Satan teasing my lonely desperation? Do I risk losing this joy by being selfish and demand you pay this same attention to me a second time, or should I just be content with this loving encounter? Farewell and thank you so much, Joey. This has been such an exhilarating experience for me. When I leave your gorilla exhibit and push open the door, for the first and only time in my life I’m going to walk out in public feeling like an Alpha Female! w

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Issue No. 2

Fall 2018

Study in Waterdrops (IV) Mike Reynolds

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Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

Contributors: Donna Bassin is a New York based fine art photographer, filmmaker, author, and clinical psychologist. Her award-winning documentary, Leave No Soldier, was screened at various film festivals in the Tri-State area. Her latest film, The Mourning After, was winner of a 20017 Gradiva award. Joe Baumann possess a Ph.D. in English from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, where he served as the editor-in-chief of Rougarou: an Online Literary Journal and the Southwestern Review. He is the author of Ivory Children: Flash Fictions, and his work has appeared in Eleven Eleven, Zone 3, ellipsis…, and many others. He teaches composition, literature, and creative writing at St. Charles Community College in St. Charles, Missouri, and has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. He is the founding editor and editor-in-chief of The Gateway Review: A Journal of Magical Realism. Mark Blickley is a proud member of the Dramatists Guild and PEN American Center as well as the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Scholarship Award for Drama. He is the author of Sacred Misfits(Red Hen Press), Weathered Reports: Trump Surrogate Quotes from the Underground (Moira Books) and the forthcoming text based art chapbook, Dream Streams (Clare Songbirds Publishing). His video Speaking in Bootongue was selected to the London Experimental Film Festival. He is a 2018 Audie Award Finalist for his contribution to the original audio book, Nevertheless We Persisted. Meagan Lucas writes fiction and teaches composition to undergraduates. She lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her husband and their two small children. Her work can be found in a variety of literary journals including: Four Ties Lit Review, The Santa Fe Writers Project, The Penmen Review and The New Southern Fugitives. Her story “Kittens” is the 2017 Winner of the Scythe Prize for Fiction. You can read more at www.meaganlucas.com or find her on twitter @mgnlcs. Margaret Luongo is the author of two story collections--If the Heart is Lean and History of Art, both published by LSU Press. Her stories have appeared in Tin House, The Cincinnati Review, Granta.com, the Pushcart Prize anthology, and other publications. Recipient of the Walter E. Dakin Fellowship and an Ohio Arts Council grant, she teaches creative writing and contemporary fiction at Miami University in Ohio. Mike Reynolds is a former textbook editor and project manager who has always had a strong interest in photography. In addition to his work behind the camera, Mike enjoys cycling and drinking wine. He resides in New Jersey. Joseph Robertson writes poetry and fiction. His work has appeared in The Hayward Press, Empty Whispers, The Pinder Papers, and Cellar. He teaches Creative Writing and English Composition at Walker University in southern Michigan. David and Marie Savord reside in Northern Ohio on the shores of Lake Erie. Their first stories were pounded out on mechanical Remington typewriters. Billy Simms is an artist and educator. He lives in Hamilton, Ohio with his wife and four cats.

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Issue No. 3

Fall 2018

Attic Door Press Issue No. 3 Fall 2018

www.atticdoorpress.com

Cincinnati, Ohio

34

Attic Door Press (Issue 3)  

The Fall issue of Attic Door Press, an online magazine of fiction, poetry, art, and photography.

Attic Door Press (Issue 3)  

The Fall issue of Attic Door Press, an online magazine of fiction, poetry, art, and photography.

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