Berkeley Fiction Review, Volume 28

Page 1

Berkeley Fiction Review 28

212_BFR_cvr.job 07/08/2008 19:55:05


BERKELEY F I C T I O N R E V I E W

BERKELEY F I C T I O N R E V I E W


28 BERKELEY F I C T I O N R E V I E W UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA


28

28

BERKELEY F I C T I O N R E V I E W

BERKELEY F I C T I O N R E V I E W

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA


BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW Managing Editors

Rachel Brumit Bryce Kobrin Rhoda Piland

Associate Editors

Jillian Ardrey Ezra Carlsen Taylor Chen Malia Javier Stephanie Ludwig Alex Reider Linda Xiao

Cover art: Geometric Enemies by Madiha Siraj,

Marlo Bagsik Jay Kim Steven Ma Cover art: Geometric Enemies by Madiha Siraj, Caroline Wang Beebe Xia

Copyright 2008 by Berkeley Fiction Review

Copyright 2008 by Berkeley Fiction Review

The Berkeley Fiction Review is not an official publication of the Associated Students of the University of California. These stories are works of fiction and do not necessarily reflect the views of the ASUC or the University of California, Berkeley. The Berkeley Fiction Review is a non-profit publication. ASUC sponsored.

The Berkeley Fiction Review is not an official publication of the Associated Students Rhoda Pilandof fiction and do not of the University of California. These stories are works necessarily reflect the views of the ASUC or the University of California, Berkeley. The Berkeley Fiction Review is a non-profit publication. ASUC sponsored.

www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~bfr Inquiries, correspondence, and submissions should be sent to: Berkeley Fiction Review, 10B Eshleman Hall, Univ. of California, Berkeley CA 94720. The Berkeley Fiction Review is not responsible for unsolicited material.

Joan Roa www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~bfr Zoe Langer Alison Amberg Sarah Donner Inquiries, correspondence, and submissions Berkeley Fiction Kevin Dupzyk Sackett Danashould Lau be sent to:Kate Brett Avery Review,Bulatov 10B Eshleman Hall,Emami Univ. of California, CA 94720. Berkeley Gazelle KatieThe Schuh DanicaBerkeley Li Dasha Fiction responsible material. Natalie Glatzelfor unsolicited Joey Serbeniuk Rico Marcelli Stacey Review Cataylois not

Assistant Editors

Member of CLMP Distributed by Ubiquity, Brooklyn, New York Printed by Alonzo Printing, Hayward California ISSN 1087-7053

Layout and Production Gazelle Emami Bryce Kobrin

Staff

Christianne Go Erika Mark Alice Chen Member of CLMP Tavi Haberman Cara McGraw Vicky Chen Inna Inker Rebecca DistributedChoi by Ubiquity, Brooklyn, NewNatalie York Montano Anna Jaffe Melissa Nathan Conroy Printed by Alonzo Printing, Hayward California Nasiruddin Morgan Cotton Adrienne Johnson Talia Platz Rachel Kuhn Jessica Quick Will Davis ISSN 1087-7053 Ashley Kuhre Nathan Reese Matt Detert

Pamela Simon Elisabeth Smith Anne Thornton Elizabeth Ward Joshua Wei Elisa Yoshiara Shirley Yuen


BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

BERKELEY FICTION REVIEW

Managing Editors

Rachel Brumit Bryce Kobrin Rhoda Piland

Managing Editors

Rachel Brumit Bryce Kobrin Rhoda Piland

Associate Editors

Jillian Ardrey Ezra Carlsen Taylor Chen Malia Javier Stephanie Ludwig Alex Reider Linda Xiao

Associate Editors

Jillian Ardrey Ezra Carlsen Taylor Chen Malia Javier Stephanie Ludwig Alex Reider Linda Xiao

Marlo Bagsik Jay Kim Steven Ma Cover art: Geometric Enemies by Madiha Siraj, Caroline Wang Beebe Xia

Assistant Editors

Marlo Bagsik Jay Kim Steven Ma Caroline Wang Beebe Xia

Copyright 2008 by Berkeley Fiction Review

Layout and Production Gazelle Emami

Assistant Editors

Layout and Production Gazelle Emami

Bryce Kobrin The Berkeley Fiction Review is not an official publication of the Associated Students Rhoda Pilandof fiction and do not of the University of California. These stories are works necessarily reflect the views of the ASUC or the University of California, Berkeley. The Berkeley Fiction Review is a non-profit publication. ASUC sponsored.

Bryce Kobrin Rhoda Piland

Staff

Staff

Joan Roa www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~bfr Zoe Langer Alison Amberg Sarah Donner Inquiries, correspondence, and submissions Berkeley Fiction Kevin Dupzyk Sackett Danashould Lau be sent to:Kate Brett Avery Review, 10B Eshleman Hall,Emami Univ. of California, CA 94720. Berkeley Gazelle KatieThe Schuh DanicaBerkeley Li Dasha Bulatov Fiction responsible material. Natalie Glatzelfor unsolicited Joey Serbeniuk Rico Marcelli Stacey Review Cataylois not Christianne Go Pamela Simon Erika Mark Alice Chen Member of CLMP Tavi Haberman Elisabeth Smith Cara McGraw Vicky Chen Inna Inker Anne Thornton Rebecca DistributedChoi by Ubiquity, Brooklyn, NewNatalie York Montano Jaffe Melissa Nasiruddin Elizabeth Ward Nathan Conroy Printed by Alonzo Anna Printing, Hayward California Joshua Wei Morgan Cotton Adrienne Johnson Talia Platz Rachel Kuhn Elisa Yoshiara Jessica Quick Will Davis Shirley Yuen ISSN 1087-7053 Ashley Kuhre Nathan Reese Matt Detert

Alison Amberg Brett Avery Dasha Bulatov Stacey Cataylo Alice Chen Vicky Chen Rebecca Choi Nathan Conroy Morgan Cotton Will Davis Matt Detert

Sarah Donner Kevin Dupzyk Gazelle Emami Natalie Glatzel Christianne Go Tavi Haberman Inna Inker Anna Jaffe Adrienne Johnson Rachel Kuhn Ashley Kuhre

Zoe Langer Dana Lau Danica Li Rico Marcelli Erika Mark Cara McGraw Natalie Montano Melissa Nasiruddin Talia Platz Jessica Quick Nathan Reese

Joan Roa Kate Sackett Katie Schuh Joey Serbeniuk Pamela Simon Elisabeth Smith Anne Thornton Elizabeth Ward Joshua Wei Elisa Yoshiara Shirley Yuen


ADVISORS

DVISORS FAOREWORD

Faculty

This is Berkeley Fiction Review: Issue 28...we should be good at this by now, right?

Donna Jones Celeste Langan

Publications Ann Marie Molosky

Faculty

Donna Jones

Well…you see, we’re a student-run publication; our staff is constantly changing, Celeste Langan so building a consistent foundation to work from has been a challenge since the publication began. This year we focused on revitalizing many aspects of the publication that are easy to put aside as we get swept away by whimsical and daunting stories. Story selection is the easiest task to focus on, as that is what you, our readers, care about and the publication would be nothing without the innovative and provocative works on these pages. Through reorganizing our staff and reaching out to our local and literary communities, we hope we have laid the groundwork Ann Marie Molosky for future distribution and marketing endeavors.

Publications

One of our biggest projects was getting our community more involved in the Sudden Fiction and art contests. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Sudden Fiction Contest, and thanks to the work of our diligent editors we received a record number of submissions. This year’s winner received near-unanimous yes votes. (The lone dissenter historically challenged the common opinion…so don’t take it personally). The art featured in this issue was selected from a much more diverse pool than in years past, and we thank all of those who submitted their work for consideration. You will find a similar diversity in the stories that our staff selected this year. Each semester the staff surprises us with a unique personality that is clearly evident in the stories they favor. Many pieces in this issue focus on social issues, from domestic to international, from satirical to dramatic. After reading many stories focused on relationships, death and eating disorders, the staff developed an affinity for humorous pieces, which we have found to be the most difficult to affectively execute. Perhaps satire is overrepresented in this issue, but we believe they are all polished stories with poignant commentary on today’s society. We hope that the following pages grab your attention and work your minds the way they did ours over the last year! Thank you to all of those who subjected themselves to our scrutiny by submitting and congratulations to those authors and artists whose work was selected! Happy reading, Rachel Brumit, Bryce Kobrin, Rhoda Piland


DVISORS FAOREWORD

FOREWORD

This is Berkeley Fiction Review: Issue 28...we should be good at this by now, right?

This is Berkeley Fiction Review: Issue 28...we should be good at this by now, right?

Faculty

Donna Jones

Well…you see, we’re a student-run publication; our staff is constantly changing, Celeste Langan so building a consistent foundation to work from has been a challenge since the publication began. This year we focused on revitalizing many aspects of the publication that are easy to put aside as we get swept away by whimsical and daunting stories. Story selection is the easiest task to focus on, as that is what you, our readers, care about and the publication would be nothing without the innovative and provocative works on these pages. Through reorganizing our staff and reaching out to our local and literary communities, we hope we have laid the groundwork Ann Marie Molosky for future distribution and marketing endeavors.

Well…you see, we’re a student-run publication; our staff is constantly changing, so building a consistent foundation to work from has been a challenge since the publication began. This year we focused on revitalizing many aspects of the publication that are easy to put aside as we get swept away by whimsical and daunting stories. Story selection is the easiest task to focus on, as that is what you, our readers, care about and the publication would be nothing without the innovative and provocative works on these pages. Through reorganizing our staff and reaching out to our local and literary communities, we hope we have laid the groundwork for future distribution and marketing endeavors.

One of our biggest projects was getting our community more involved in the Sudden Fiction and art contests. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Sudden Fiction Contest, and thanks to the work of our diligent editors we received a record number of submissions. This year’s winner received near-unanimous yes votes. (The lone dissenter historically challenged the common opinion…so don’t take it personally). The art featured in this issue was selected from a much more diverse pool than in years past, and we thank all of those who submitted their work for consideration.

One of our biggest projects was getting our community more involved in the Sudden Fiction and art contests. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Sudden Fiction Contest, and thanks to the work of our diligent editors we received a record number of submissions. This year’s winner received near-unanimous yes votes. (The lone dissenter historically challenged the common opinion…so don’t take it personally). The art featured in this issue was selected from a much more diverse pool than in years past, and we thank all of those who submitted their work for consideration.

You will find a similar diversity in the stories that our staff selected this year. Each semester the staff surprises us with a unique personality that is clearly evident in the stories they favor. Many pieces in this issue focus on social issues, from domestic to international, from satirical to dramatic. After reading many stories focused on relationships, death and eating disorders, the staff developed an affinity for humorous pieces, which we have found to be the most difficult to affectively execute. Perhaps satire is overrepresented in this issue, but we believe they are all polished stories with poignant commentary on today’s society.

You will find a similar diversity in the stories that our staff selected this year. Each semester the staff surprises us with a unique personality that is clearly evident in the stories they favor. Many pieces in this issue focus on social issues, from domestic to international, from satirical to dramatic. After reading many stories focused on relationships, death and eating disorders, the staff developed an affinity for humorous pieces, which we have found to be the most difficult to affectively execute. Perhaps satire is overrepresented in this issue, but we believe they are all polished stories with poignant commentary on today’s society.

We hope that the following pages grab your attention and work your minds the way they did ours over the last year! Thank you to all of those who subjected themselves to our scrutiny by submitting and congratulations to those authors and artists whose work was selected!

We hope that the following pages grab your attention and work your minds the way they did ours over the last year! Thank you to all of those who subjected themselves to our scrutiny by submitting and congratulations to those authors and artists whose work was selected!

Happy reading,

Happy reading,

Rachel Brumit, Bryce Kobrin, Rhoda Piland

Rachel Brumit, Bryce Kobrin, Rhoda Piland

Publications


CONTENTS

CONTENTS Contents of a Dead Man’s Pocket Lauren Lippeatt Atropos and Lachesis Fairytale Rachel Iverson Courtney McDermott Third MoneyPlace TreeSudden Fiction Winner

139

Atropos and Lachesis Rachel Iverson

13

13

Money Tree Marc Rose

17

Samma Sankappa on the Thai-Burma Border David Yost

27

The Brief, (Nearly) Exemplary Career of a Madman Matt Leibel First Place Sudden Fiction Winner

45

Late Season Matthew Pietz

49

Nips Brad Wetherell

68

Darwin in Medical School Roger Turnau

88

Darwin in Medical School Roger Turnau

88

The Famous Detective and the Missing Filing Cabinet Sean Adams Second Place Sudden Fiction Winner

100

The Famous Detective and the Missing Filing Cabinet Sean Adams Second Place Sudden Fiction Winner

100

Call Me Will Adam

102

Call Me Will Adam

102

Blue Bottles Rebecca Koffman

110

Blue Bottles Rebecca Koffman

110

Fat Man James Pate

123

Fat Man James Pate

123

17

Marc Rose Samma Sankappa on the Thai-Burma Border David Yost Interior Art The Brief, (Nearly) Exemplary Career of a Madman B.J. Burton Matt Leibel Michael Greenstein First Sudden Fiction Winner JamesPlace Hannibal Nickolas Kristol-Harper Matthew Shartsis Late Season Matthew Pietz Cover Art Madiha Nips Siraj

27 45

49

68

Brad Wetherell

151


CONTENTS Contents of a Dead Man’s Pocket Lauren Lippeatt Atropos and Lachesis Fairytale Rachel Iverson Courtney McDermott Third MoneyPlace TreeSudden Fiction Winner

13 17

139

Contents of a Dead Man’s Pocket Lauren Lippeatt

139

151

Fairytale Courtney McDermott Third Place Sudden Fiction Winner

151

Marc Rose Samma Sankappa on the Thai-Burma Border David Yost Interior Art The Brief, (Nearly) Exemplary Career of a Madman B.J. Burton Matt Leibel Michael Greenstein First Place Sudden Fiction Winner James Hannibal Nickolas Kristol-Harper Matthew Shartsis Late Season Matthew Pietz Cover Art Madiha Nips Siraj

27

49

Interior Art B.J. Burton Michael Greenstein James Hannibal Nickolas Kristol-Harper Matthew Shartsis

68

Cover Art Madiha Siraj

45

Brad Wetherell Darwin in Medical School Roger Turnau

88

The Famous Detective and the Missing Filing Cabinet Sean Adams Second Place Sudden Fiction Winner

100

Call Me Will Adam

102

Blue Bottles Rebecca Koffman

110

Fat Man James Pate

123


SUDDEN FICTION

SUDDEN FICTION

Tenth Annual Sudden Fiction Contest Winners

Tenth Annual Sudden Fiction Contest Winners

First Place “The Brief, (Nearly) Exemplary Career of a Madman” Matt Leibel

First Place “The Brief, (Nearly) Exemplary Career of a Madman” Matt Leibel

Second Place “The Famous Detective and the Missing Filing Cabinet” Sean Adams

Second Place “The Famous Detective and the Missing Filing Cabinet” Sean Adams

Third Place “Fairytale” Courtney McDermott

Third Place “Fairytale” Courtney McDermott


SUDDEN FICTION Tenth Annual Sudden Fiction Contest Winners First Place “The Brief, (Nearly) Exemplary Career of a Madman” Matt Leibel Second Place “The Famous Detective and the Missing Filing Cabinet” Sean Adams Third Place “Fairytale” Courtney McDermott


Rachel Iverson

ATROPOS AND LACHESIS #65: She stole the string cheese from my Muppets Take Manhattan lunch box. I’m supposed to be over it. I know that much, but I’m not. Even in my dreams, I see her long, blond hair swinging behind her, smooth and straight, not a hair clinging to her green V-neck school uniform.

Madiha Siraj

#1097: She had long, black eyelashes and thought it was funny when people had to wear mascara. I bought the lime-green blank book at half price. It has 250 eightMadiha Siraj and-a-half-by- eleven pages inside. I thought the reasons, the events, the images that bubble into my head could be contained inside this lime-green book. I promised that I would write all of it down. All of it. When the lime-green book was filled, that would be it. The end. I vowed to drive to the shores of Lake Wappogasset and burn the lime-green book in the fire pit at the edge of camp. I vowed not to get another book. #22: On our first night at Camp Wappo, she told the girls in my cabin that I still wet the bed. Yesterday I filled the last page. I thought I’d be ready to burn it and move on, but I made the vow when the book seemed big and my 13


Rachel Iverson

Rachel Iverson

ATROPOS AND LACHESIS

ATROPOS AND LACHESIS

#65: She stole the string cheese from my Muppets Take Manhattan lunch box. I’m supposed to be over it. I know that much, but I’m not. Even in my dreams, I see her long, blond hair swinging behind her, smooth and straight, not a hair clinging to her green V-neck school uniform.

#65: She stole the string cheese from my Muppets Take Manhattan lunch box. I’m supposed to be over it. I know that much, but I’m not. Even in my dreams, I see her long, blond hair swinging behind her, smooth and straight, not a hair clinging to her green V-neck school uniform.

#1097: She had long, black eyelashes and thought it was funny when people had to wear mascara. I bought the lime-green blank book at half price. It has 250 eightMadiha Siraj and-a-half-by- eleven pages inside. I thought the reasons, the events, the images that bubble into my head could be contained inside this lime-green book. I promised that I would write all of it down. All of it. When the lime-green book was filled, that would be it. The end. I vowed to drive to the shores of Lake Wappogasset and burn the lime-green book in the fire pit at the edge of camp. I vowed not to get another book.

#1097: She had long, black eyelashes and thought it was funny when people had to wear mascara. I bought the lime-green blank book at half price. It has 250 eightand-a-half-by- eleven pages inside. I thought the reasons, the events, the images that bubble into my head could be contained inside this lime-green book. I promised that I would write all of it down. All of it. When the lime-green book was filled, that would be it. The end. I vowed to drive to the shores of Lake Wappogasset and burn the lime-green book in the fire pit at the edge of camp. I vowed not to get another book.

#22: On our first night at Camp Wappo, she told the girls in my cabin that I still wet the bed. Yesterday I filled the last page. I thought I’d be ready to burn it and move on, but I made the vow when the book seemed big and my

#22: On our first night at Camp Wappo, she told the girls in my cabin that I still wet the bed. Yesterday I filled the last page. I thought I’d be ready to burn it and move on, but I made the vow when the book seemed big and my

13

13


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

handwriting seemed small.

handwriting seemed small. now? I just don’t understand.”

#661: She scraped her bike against Dad’s brand new Pinto. She told Mom and Dad that I did it. They believed her. This morning I started writing on the inside covers of the book. The back inside cover is dark green. It has printing in the lower right-hand corner. Made in Taiwan. If I write on a slant, I can use the space underneath to fit one more thing.

#19: Mom said she showed promise in art; she said I was too practical for that sort of thing. “Aunt Frannie said you quit your job, but I didn’t believe it. I did not believe it. I told her you’re too practical for that sort of thing, but here you are at ten-thirty on a Wednesday morning. Why? Why would you quit? What in the world are you going to do with yourself

#661: Sheslapped scrapedmy herface bike after against Dad’s brandwhen new Pinto. She #40: She Dad’s funeral my crying told Momlike anda Dad that I did it. They believed her. sounded series of uninterrupted hiccoughs. This I started writing inside her covers of the book. Mommorning stands with her back to on thethe window, fingers digging The inside cover loosely is dark green. It thin, has printing the lower into back the flesh hanging from her crossed inarms. Even right-hand Made in Taiwan. If with I write on aShe slant, I can use well-tendedcorner. skin gets softer and looser time. stares at me, the to fit one more thing.She is trying to outdo me her space mouthunderneath tight from clenching her teeth. with silence. She fights not to say a word. Her lips smack together. #977: Mom decided ourroom longexcept hair was hard maintain and I look at everything in the hertoo face: mytobooks in a pile gave Dorothy Shannon saw how with my hair on theusfloor. The Hamill bowl ofhaircuts. Cheerios When left over from yesterday, the looked, she cried until Mom letand herdark keepbrown, her long hair. The next day, once-soggy Os now hardened clinging to the side of Erik Peterson I had turned into apolish boy. on my right big toe. the bowl. Theasked chip inif the purple toenail A knock sounds at the door. I look out the window. Someone must#28: have told Iher. black Mercedes is parked on the When was Mom’s a juniornew in high school, I heard Aunt Frannie street, twelvenever inches tooanyone far away the curb. as magnetic telling about Mom she’d met withfrom a personality as Shannon’s. #161: mebreaks pink wasn’t my color.“You are not Shannon, Mom She sighstold and the silence. I wear a Ipair bright sweatpants with the word “pink” sweetheart. loveofyou, but blue you’re just not Shannon.” She shakes printed greenher lettering on the butt. hates with her head,incloses eyes, and leans backMom against my sweatpants desk. The desk, things butt. “Why would prance around pushedprinted againston thethe window, is narrow andsomeone piled with sections of with advertising their rear Why? I justpiles don’t newspaper, bumperonstickers I pickend? up atWhy? street fairs, slanting of understand.” bills, mailers and coupons fanned out covering every inch of space. My lime-green book sits on top. Mom’s narrow hips press against #283:pushing When Ithe came downstairs to greet prom at the front the pile, lime-green book to themy edge. It date teeters, looking door, she glanced myhang flabbyonstomach, shook her of head, and smiled for a second like itatwill to its place on top the papers, but with in her eyes.It wavers, skiing to the edge of the pile of papers, then itpity starts to slide. brush cake off my sweatshirt I open theapart door.as and Ifinally, falls crumbs into space. Dust hanging before in the air rushes the book falls. Mom will see it. Everything will change. Mom can #19:the Mom saidShe shecan showed promise in art; she saidmake I was too change book. change my thoughts. She’ll it my practical sort of thing. fault. I’mfor notthat ready. I have more things to write. Shannon ripped “Aunt Frannie quitbrought your job, I didn’t believe a hole in the sockssaid ouryou nanny us but from Mexico. She it. hadI did not believe it. I told you’re too practical for that sortheadgear of thing, straight, white teeth andher never needed braces, while I had but here you are at braces ten-thirty on a Wednesday Why?I Why for six months and for three years. I needmorning. a bigger book. need would quit? What the world do with yourself to keepyou writing. I haveinmore thingsaretoyou say.going My to first-grade teacher

14

14

#977: Mom decided our long hair was too hard to maintain and gave us Dorothy Hamill haircuts. When Shannon saw how my hair looked, she cried until Mom let her keep her long hair. The next day, Erik Peterson asked if I had turned into a boy. A knock sounds at the door. I look out the window. Someone must have told her. Mom’s new black Mercedes is parked on the street, about twelve inches too far away from the curb. #161: She told me pink wasn’t my color. I wear a pair of bright blue sweatpants with the word “pink” printed in green lettering on the butt. Mom hates sweatpants with things printed on the butt. “Why would someone prance around with advertising on their rear end? Why? Why? I just don’t understand.” #283: When I came downstairs to greet my prom date at the front door, she glanced at my flabby stomach, shook her head, and smiled with pity in her eyes. I brush cake crumbs off my sweatshirt before I open the door.

Rachel Iverson

15


Berkeley Fiction Review

Rachel Iverson

Rachel Iverson

handwriting seemed small. now? I just don’t understand.”

now? I just don’t understand.”

#661:She Sheslapped scrapedmy herface bike after against Dad’s brandwhen new Pinto. She #40: Dad’s funeral my crying told Momlike anda Dad that I did it. They believed her. sounded series of uninterrupted hiccoughs. This morning I started writing inside her covers of the book. Mom stands with her back to on thethe window, fingers digging The back inside cover loosely is dark green. It thin, has printing the lower into the flesh hanging from her crossed inarms. Even right-hand corner. Made in Taiwan. If with I write on aShe slant, I can use well-tended skin gets softer and looser time. stares at me, the space to fit one more thing.She is trying to outdo me her mouthunderneath tight from clenching her teeth. with silence. She fights not to say a word. Her lips smack together. #977: Mom decided ourroom longexcept hair was hard maintain and I look at everything in the hertoo face: mytobooks in a pile gave Dorothy Shannon saw how with my hair on theusfloor. The Hamill bowl ofhaircuts. Cheerios When left over from yesterday, the looked, she cried until Mom letand herdark keepbrown, her long hair. The next day, once-soggy Os now hardened clinging to the side of Erikbowl. Peterson I had turned into apolish boy. on my right big toe. the Theasked chip inif the purple toenail A knock sounds at the door. I look out the window. Someone must#28: have told Iher. black Mercedes is parked on the When was Mom’s a juniornew in high school, I heard Aunt Frannie street, about twelvenever inches tooanyone far away the curb. as magnetic telling Mom she’d met withfrom a personality as Shannon’s. #161: She mebreaks pink wasn’t my color.“You are not Shannon, Mom sighstold and the silence. I wear a Ipair bright sweatpants with the word “pink” sweetheart. loveofyou, but blue you’re just not Shannon.” She shakes printed greenher lettering on the butt. hates with her head,incloses eyes, and leans backMom against my sweatpants desk. The desk, things printed butt. “Why would prance around pushed againston thethe window, is narrow andsomeone piled with sections of with advertising their rear Why? I justpiles don’t newspaper, bumperonstickers I pickend? up atWhy? street fairs, slanting of understand.” bills, mailers and coupons fanned out covering every inch of space. My lime-green book sits on top. Mom’s narrow hips press against #283:pushing When Ithe came downstairs to greet prom at the front the pile, lime-green book to themy edge. It date teeters, looking door, she glanced myhang flabbyonstomach, shook her of head, and smiled for a second like itatwill to its place on top the papers, but with itpity in her eyes.It wavers, skiing to the edge of the pile of papers, then starts to slide. brush cake off my sweatshirt I open theapart door.as and Ifinally, falls crumbs into space. Dust hanging before in the air rushes the book falls. Mom will see it. Everything will change. Mom can #19:the Mom saidShe shecan showed promise in art; she saidmake I was too change book. change my thoughts. She’ll it my practical sort of thing. fault. I’mfor notthat ready. I have more things to write. Shannon ripped “Aunt Frannie quitbrought your job, I didn’t believe a hole in the sockssaid ouryou nanny us but from Mexico. She it. hadI did not believe it. I told you’re too practical for that sortheadgear of thing, straight, white teeth andher never needed braces, while I had but six here you are at braces ten-thirty on a Wednesday Why?I Why for months and for three years. I needmorning. a bigger book. need would quit? What the world do with yourself to keepyou writing. I haveinmore thingsaretoyou say.going My to first-grade teacher

#40: She slapped my face after Dad’s funeral when my crying sounded like a series of uninterrupted hiccoughs. Mom stands with her back to the window, her fingers digging into the flesh hanging loosely from her thin, crossed arms. Even well-tended skin gets softer and looser with time. She stares at me, her mouth tight from clenching her teeth. She is trying to outdo me with silence. She fights not to say a word. Her lips smack together. I look at everything in the room except her face: my books in a pile on the floor. The bowl of Cheerios left over from yesterday, with the once-soggy Os now hardened and dark brown, clinging to the side of the bowl. The chip in the purple toenail polish on my right big toe.

14

15

#28: When I was a junior in high school, I heard Aunt Frannie telling Mom she’d never met anyone with a personality as magnetic as Shannon’s. Mom sighs and breaks the silence. “You are not Shannon, sweetheart. I love you, but you’re just not Shannon.” She shakes her head, closes her eyes, and leans back against my desk. The desk, pushed against the window, is narrow and piled with sections of newspaper, bumper stickers I pick up at street fairs, slanting piles of bills, mailers and coupons fanned out covering every inch of space. My lime-green book sits on top. Mom’s narrow hips press against the pile, pushing the lime-green book to the edge. It teeters, looking for a second like it will hang on to its place on top of the papers, but then it starts to slide. It wavers, skiing to the edge of the pile of papers, and finally, falls into space. Dust hanging in the air rushes apart as the book falls. Mom will see it. Everything will change. Mom can change the book. She can change my thoughts. She’ll make it my fault. I’m not ready. I have more things to write. Shannon ripped a hole in the socks our nanny brought us from Mexico. She had straight, white teeth and never needed braces, while I had headgear for six months and braces for three years. I need a bigger book. I need to keep writing. I have more things to say. My first-grade teacher 15


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

always called me by her name. The book lands on the hardwood floor, spine first.

always called me by her name. The book lands on the hardwood floor, spine first.

#1: She tap-danced like a pixie princess; I played soccer like an underdeveloped boy. The cover slaps to the floor and bursts open to the second-to-last page.

#1: She tap-danced like a pixie princess; I played soccer like an underdeveloped boy. The cover slaps to the floor and bursts open to the second-to-last page.

#1022: When she flipped Dad’s Pontiac onto the side of the highway, neither of us was allowed to drive for the rest of the school year. I can read my own handwriting from across the room.

#1022: When she flipped Dad’s Pontiac onto the side of the highway, neither of us was allowed to drive for the rest of the school year. I can read my own handwriting from across the room.

#916: She scored ten points higher than I did on the SAT. Mom’s gaze turns to the fallen book. Then she looks back at me with thin dark eyebrows raised. She bends over to pick up the book.

#916: She scored ten points higher than I did on the SAT. Money grow trees,book. they say. they? Mom’s gazedoesn’t turns to theon fallen ThenWho she are looks backOh, at Ime don’t know, pretty much everyone, I guess: your husband, with thin dark eyebrows raised. She bends over to pick upyour the wife, book. your parents, your local church and your local school. Scientists, too, who could tell you in a really scientific way, if they actually#53: tookShe yougot seriously or if you really pressed so IMom hate to be a fairy for Halloween two them. years inAnd a row; to betwo the fairies bearer of bad family news towould you, and your wife or husband, your said in one be too much. church and school, and to the scientists, too. I hate toback break it to you, Mom uses her index finger to flip to the inside cover. Her but you are all wrong. The truth is, money does grow on trees. hand, fingers curved, smoothes the last page. She turns the book It was and really myher wife who money, sideways tilts head to got readme thestarted back growing inside cover. Justthough under she seems to resent any involvement now. It all began several years Made in Taiwan. back when I was up on the roof installing a satellite dish, which I was#2452: hookingShannon up to mydidn’t new sixty-inch rear projection television. My die soon enough. wife came into the backyard, huffing and puffing. “What the hell are you doing?” she yelled. “What is this monstrosity in the living room? What are you doing on the roof? Is that a satellite? Jesus Christ. How much did all this stuff cost, Bill? What do you think, William, that money grows on trees?” She stood glaring at me, arms crossed, waiting for a response. I remained still, crouched on the rooftop, stunned by the rapid-fire barrage of questions. “Dear,” I said in a calming voice. And then, to ease the tension, I took a drink of my beer, which I had balanced

Marc Rose

#53: She got to be a fairy for Halloween two years in a row; Mom said two fairies in one family would be too much. Mom uses her index finger to flip to the inside back cover. Her hand, fingers curved, smoothes the last page. She turns the book sideways and tilts her head to read the back inside cover. Just under Made in Taiwan. #2452: Shannon didn’t die soon enough.

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MONEY TREE

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always called me by her name. The book lands on the hardwood floor, spine first. #1: She tap-danced like a pixie princess; I played soccer like an underdeveloped boy. The cover slaps to the floor and bursts open to the second-to-last page. #1022: When she flipped Dad’s Pontiac onto the side of the highway, neither of us was allowed to drive for the rest of the school year. I can read my own handwriting from across the room.

MONEY TREE

MONEY TREE

#916: She scored ten points higher than I did on the SAT. Money grow trees,book. they say. they? Mom’s gazedoesn’t turns to theon fallen ThenWho she are looks backOh, at Ime don’t know, pretty much everyone, I guess: your husband, with thin dark eyebrows raised. She bends over to pick upyour the wife, book. your parents, your local church and your local school. Scientists, too, who could tell you in a really scientific way, if they actually#53: tookShe yougot seriously or if you really pressed so IMom hate to be a fairy for Halloween two them. years inAnd a row; to betwo the fairies bearer of bad family news towould you, and your wife or husband, your said in one be too much. church and school, and to the scientists, too. I hate toback break it to you, Mom uses her index finger to flip to the inside cover. Her but you are all wrong. The truth is, money does grow on trees. hand, fingers curved, smoothes the last page. She turns the book It was and really myher wife who money, sideways tilts head to got readme thestarted back growing inside cover. Justthough under she seems to resent any involvement now. It all began several years Made in Taiwan. back when I was up on the roof installing a satellite dish, which I was#2452: hookingShannon up to mydidn’t new sixty-inch rear projection television. My die soon enough. wife came into the backyard, huffing and puffing. “What the hell are you doing?” she yelled. “What is this monstrosity in the living room? What are you doing on the roof? Is that a satellite? Jesus Christ. How much did all this stuff cost, Bill? What do you think, William, that money grows on trees?” She stood glaring at me, arms crossed, waiting for a response. I remained still, crouched on the rooftop, stunned by the rapid-fire barrage of questions. “Dear,” I said in a calming voice. And then, to ease the tension, I took a drink of my beer, which I had balanced

Money doesn’t grow on trees, they say. Who are they? Oh, I don’t know, pretty much everyone, I guess: your husband, your wife, your parents, your local church and your local school. Scientists, too, who could tell you in a really scientific way, if they actually took you seriously or if you really pressed them. And so I hate to be the bearer of bad news to you, and your wife or husband, your church and school, and to the scientists, too. I hate to break it to you, but you are all wrong. The truth is, money does grow on trees. It was really my wife who got me started growing money, though she seems to resent any involvement now. It all began several years back when I was up on the roof installing a satellite dish, which I was hooking up to my new sixty-inch rear projection television. My wife came into the backyard, huffing and puffing. “What the hell are you doing?” she yelled. “What is this monstrosity in the living room? What are you doing on the roof? Is that a satellite? Jesus Christ. How much did all this stuff cost, Bill? What do you think, William, that money grows on trees?” She stood glaring at me, arms crossed, waiting for a response. I remained still, crouched on the rooftop, stunned by the rapid-fire barrage of questions. “Dear,” I said in a calming voice. And then, to ease the tension, I took a drink of my beer, which I had balanced

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against the chimney. “You have beer up there?” She screamed wildly as if she was in the midst of receiving electro-shock therapy. Her voice broke and her body shook. She huffed and puffed some more and then stormed inside. But her words were not lost on me. They echoed in my head as I finished my beer up there on the roof. “What do you think, William, that money grows on trees?” I didn’t waste much time before attempting to debunk that old myth once and for all. Especially after that cliché was delivered to me in such a malicious way, as if I was somehow irresponsible financially. I quit my job first off, and then poured our savings into a basement greenhouse. It took me six months to prove every scientist in the world wrong. I did some propagating, breeding, some DNA reorganization, and that produced the first dollar tree in history. It wasn’t worth much, because they were only dollar bills, but I cloned it, and planted the seeds in the back yard. It was a turning point in history, as I tossed those seeds about the property like a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, yet there was my wife again with her arms crossed and her eyes hurling daggers. If she were anywhere to be found now, I would remind her of that. (Dear, if you’re reading this, I wish you would come home. Don’t forget how much you cooed over those wee dollar-bill blossoms. I’m sorry you didn’t approve of picking them, but they were money). It didn’t take long for those little seeds to sprout, but they just weren’t getting enough light under the shade of those two hundred year old oaks. So I cut the oaks down with a chainsaw, and that wasn’t easy at all. I have a new appreciation for loggers. Such a risky business, with the possibility of getting crushed and all, and of course now everywhere a logger turns there’s someone chained to a tree. I didn’t have to worry about protesters there in my backyard, but I did nearly crush myself several times while felling those twelve great oaks. And the squirrels and birds seemed to be going crazy with their peeps and whistles, chirps and songs, as their old homes came tumbling down. I felt bad about that, but it is my yard after

against all, and the hadchimney. those animals any understanding of the levity involved with“You whathave I wasbeer doing, up the there?” fight She for my screamed own very wildly survival, as if I’m she sure was they in thewouldn’t midst ofhave receiving made such electro-shock a commotion. therapy. Pity the Hersmall-brained voice broke and clueless her bodylower shook. species. She huffed and puffed some more and then stormed Well,inside. my wife But left her words after what were she not lost called on me. the “clear-cutting,” They echoed in (That’s my headnot as really I finished the proper my beerterm up there dear. on Wetheinroof. the agricultural “What do you engineering think, William, field prefer that money the term grows “thinning”). on trees?” She said a lot of angry things I didn’t that I’m waste certain muchshe time regrets before now attempting and claimed to debunk concerns that about old thingsonce myth she knew and for nothing all. Especially about, aboutafter being that concerned cliché was for delivered the environment, to me in such the “vital a malicious canopy,”way, indigenous as if I was species, somehow etc. irresponsible financially. The treesI came quit my along jobwell, first off, mainly andbecause then poured I limited our their savings natural into aenemies basement such greenhouse. as other trees and pests like birds and squirrels. At harvest It took time meI six drove months in totodowntown prove every Tacoma, scientistand in the hired world a group wrong. of Iimmigrant did some laborers. propagating, I told breeding, them I would some DNA pay farreorganization, better wages than and whatproduced that they could thegetfirst from dollar harvesting tree in apples. history. “No It wasn’t apples?” worth theymuch, said, puzzled that because theyIwere wasn’t only growing dollar the bills, traditional but I cloned Washington it, and planted fruit. the seeds I walked in the back through yard.theItorchard was a turning while the point men in worked. history, asThey I tossed had their ladders those seeds about up against the property the trees, likeand a modern-day they were talking Johnnya Appleseed, lot, singing songs, yet there butwas I didn’t my see wife a lot again of progress with herbeing armsmade. crossed At about and her eleven, eyes I pulled daggers. hurling Paulo aside. If she were anywhere to be found now, I would remind “How hermuch of that. have (Dear, you ifgot you’re so far, reading Paulo?” this,I Isaid. wish He you sort would of laughed, come home. but it Don’t was a sheepish forget how laugh. much you cooed over those wee dollar-bill “Uh, Amigo, blossoms. it’s not I’m so sorry much, younot didn’t so good,” approve and ofhe picking showed them, me the bucket but they were I had money). given him. At the bottom were four pathetic dollar bills,It not didn’t really takeeven longfully for those ripe. little “Amigo,” seeds Paulo to sprout, continued. but they“The just birds,” he weren’t getting said, and enough flapped lighthis under armsthe to illustrate. shade of those “Thetwo birds hundred taking all theold year fruit.” oaks.I stared So I cut at Paulo the oaks for adown moment, withwithheld a chainsaw, my rage, and that and attempted wasn’t easytoatintimidate all. I have him a new by staring appreciation straightforinto loggers. his eyes. SuchHea seemed risky business, unfazed, with andthe in possibility a moment of a crow getting flew crushed right behind and all,Paulo’s and of head, nearly course now everywhere striking him.a logger I turnedturns to watch there’s thesomeone bird’s ascent. chained There, to a in thatI bastard tree. didn’t have creature’s to worry mouth, aboutitprotesters was true, there was ainwad my of backyard, bills. I lunged but I didfor nearly the bird, crushmissed. myself several The crows, timessmall-brained while felling those as they twelve are, use their great oaks.instincts And the quite squirrels well. and I stepped birds seemed back, looked to be going around crazy the orchard. with theirBirds peepseverywhere. and whistles,Cardinals, chirps andblue songs, jays,asducks, their old youhomes name it. A naturalist’s came tumbling down. dream Icome felt bad true,about just an that, array butofit colors, is my yard red, blue, after

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all, and the against hadchimney. those animals any understanding of the levity involved with“You whathave I wasbeer doing, up the there?” fight She for my screamed own very wildly survival, as if I’m she sure was in thewouldn’t they midst ofhave receiving made such electro-shock a commotion. therapy. Pity the Hersmall-brained voice broke and clueless her bodylower shook. species. She huffed and puffed some more and then stormed Well,inside. my wife But left her words after what were she not lost called on me. the “clear-cutting,” They echoed in my headnot (That’s as really I finished the proper my beerterm up there dear. on Wetheinroof. the agricultural “What do you enthink, William, gineering field prefer that money the term grows “thinning”). on trees?” She said a lot of angry things I didn’t that I’m waste certain muchshe time regrets before now attempting and claimed to debunk concerns that about old myth once things she knew and for nothing all. Especially about, aboutafter being that concerned cliché was for delivered the envito me in such ronment, the “vital a malicious canopy,”way, indigenous as if I was species, somehow etc. irresponsible financially. The treesI came quit my along jobwell, first off, mainly andbecause then poured I limited our their savings natural into a basement enemies such greenhouse. as other trees and pests like birds and squirrels. At harvest It took time meI six drove months in totodowntown prove every Tacoma, scientistand in the hired world a group wrong. of I did some laborers. immigrant propagating, I told breeding, them I would some DNA pay farreorganization, better wages than and that produced what they could thegetfirst from dollar harvesting tree in apples. history. “No It wasn’t apples?” worth theymuch, said, because that puzzled theyIwere wasn’t only growing dollar the bills, traditional but I cloned Washington it, and planted fruit. the seeds I walked in the back through yard.theItorchard was a turning while the point men in worked. history, asThey I tossed had thoseladders their seeds about up against the property the trees, likeand a modern-day they were talking Johnnya Appleseed, lot, singing yet there songs, butwas I didn’t my see wife a lot again of progress with herbeing armsmade. crossed At about and her eleven, eyes Ihurling pulled daggers. Paulo aside. If she were anywhere to be found now, I would remind “How hermuch of that. have (Dear, you ifgot you’re so far, reading Paulo?” this,I Isaid. wish He you sort would of come home. laughed, but it Don’t was a sheepish forget how laugh. much you cooed over those wee dollar-bill “Uh, Amigo, blossoms. it’s not I’m so sorry much, younot didn’t so good,” approve and ofhe picking showed them, me but bucket the they were I had money). given him. At the bottom were four pathetic dollar bills,It not didn’t really takeeven longfully for those ripe. little “Amigo,” seeds Paulo to sprout, continued. but they“The just weren’the birds,” getting said, and enough flapped lighthis under armsthe to illustrate. shade of those “Thetwo birds hundred taking yeartheold all fruit.” oaks.I stared So I cut at Paulo the oaks for adown moment, withwithheld a chainsaw, my rage, and that and wasn’t easytoatintimidate attempted all. I have him a new by staring appreciation straightforinto loggers. his eyes. SuchHea risky business, seemed unfazed, with andthe in possibility a moment of a crow getting flew crushed right behind and all,Paulo’s and of coursenearly head, now everywhere striking him.a logger I turnedturns to watch there’s thesomeone bird’s ascent. chained There, to a tree. in thatI bastard didn’t have creature’s to worry mouth, aboutitprotesters was true, there was ainwad my of backyard, bills. I but I didfor lunged nearly the bird, crushmissed. myself several The crows, timessmall-brained while felling those as they twelve are, greattheir use oaks.instincts And the quite squirrels well. and I stepped birds seemed back, looked to be going around crazy the with theirBirds orchard. peepseverywhere. and whistles,Cardinals, chirps andblue songs, jays,asducks, their old youhomes name came it. A naturalist’s tumbling down. dream Icome felt bad true,about just an that, array butofit colors, is my yard red, blue, after

all, and had those animals any understanding of the levity involved with what I was doing, the fight for my own very survival, I’m sure they wouldn’t have made such a commotion. Pity the small-brained and clueless lower species. Well, my wife left after what she called the “clear-cutting,” (That’s not really the proper term dear. We in the agricultural engineering field prefer the term “thinning”). She said a lot of angry things that I’m certain she regrets now and claimed concerns about things she knew nothing about, about being concerned for the environment, the “vital canopy,” indigenous species, etc. The trees came along well, mainly because I limited their natural enemies such as other trees and pests like birds and squirrels. At harvest time I drove in to downtown Tacoma, and hired a group of immigrant laborers. I told them I would pay far better wages than what they could get from harvesting apples. “No apples?” they said, puzzled that I wasn’t growing the traditional Washington fruit. I walked through the orchard while the men worked. They had their ladders up against the trees, and they were talking a lot, singing songs, but I didn’t see a lot of progress being made. At about eleven, I pulled Paulo aside. “How much have you got so far, Paulo?” I said. He sort of laughed, but it was a sheepish laugh. “Uh, Amigo, it’s not so much, not so good,” and he showed me the bucket I had given him. At the bottom were four pathetic dollar bills, not really even fully ripe. “Amigo,” Paulo continued. “The birds,” he said, and flapped his arms to illustrate. “The birds taking all the fruit.” I stared at Paulo for a moment, withheld my rage, and attempted to intimidate him by staring straight into his eyes. He seemed unfazed, and in a moment a crow flew right behind Paulo’s head, nearly striking him. I turned to watch the bird’s ascent. There, in that bastard creature’s mouth, it was true, was a wad of bills. I lunged for the bird, missed. The crows, small-brained as they are, use their instincts quite well. I stepped back, looked around the orchard. Birds everywhere. Cardinals, blue jays, ducks, you name it. A naturalist’s dream come true, just an array of colors, red, blue,

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green, black, and all the squawking going on, the acrobatics of those flying beasts. I ran to my house and got my shotgun. I called to Paulo and the other men while I ran. “Get your guns, get your guns.” When I emerged from the house, the workers were all just standing there, taking in the spectacle of those birds pillaging my hardearned dollars. “What the hell are you doing?” I yelled as ran toward the orchard, firing the automatic pistol I had in my right hand, and carrying the rifle in my other. The men dove to the ground. I tossed Paulo my handgun and dove to the ground to better steady the shotgun. I fired ten rounds off quickly, but had to pause to reload the clip. “Paulo, shoot the fucking birds,” I yelled. “Shoot the fucking birds.” Paulo looked bewildered. It almost seemed as though he had never held a gun before, the way he just stared at, turned it over in his hands. “Fire, goddamit,” I said. “Fire!” “No, no, sir,” said Paulo shaking his head. “No shoot gun, no shoot gun.” I couldn’t believe it. “They’re stealing all my money,” I yelled. “Dinero. Comprende?” “Beautiful birds,” said Paulo. “Bien, bien,” and his friends agreed. “Bien, bien,” they said, too. I disregarded the useless help I had hired. I fired and reloaded. Fired and reloaded. Again and again. Those laborers just knelt on the ground, shaking their heads, muttering in Spanish. I must have hit fifty birds, but still the birds were everywhere, like a scene from the movie. I figured they might attack me soon, rifle through my wallet. I ran out of bullets, finally, and Paulo seemed relieved about that. “We go,” he said, and they all ran to the pickup. I ran to my truck, too, and drove down to the Moose Lodge bar. “Men, get your guns,” I yelled as I ran in. “What is it?” said Big Sid, who was sitting at the bar. “What is it, Professor? Coyote, bear?” “No, no, birds everywhere,” I gasped. “Birds, stealing all my money. From my trees.” “Stealing apples, boss?” said Sid. “I didn’t know you had apples out there.”

green, “Christ,” black, and I said. all the “Not squawking apples. Money. going on, From the acrobatics my moneyoftrees.” those flying “Money beasts.trees?” I ran tosaid my Sid house finally, and got when mythen shotgun. laughter I called diedtodown. Pau“Christ, lo and theProfessor, other menI think while you’ve I ran. “Get damn your near guns, lost get it. your Sit down guns.”and haveWhen a coldI emerged one. Youfrom lookthe likehouse, hell.”the workers were all just standing “Ahh, there, God,” takingIin cried. the spectacle I was in agony. of those “Please,” birds pillaging I begged.my “Please, hardplease, dollars. earned help me kill “What thosethe damn hell birds.” are you doing?” I yelled as ran towardSid theput orchard, his facefiring in histhe hands. automatic “Boys,pistol I’ll be I had back. in my Gotta’ right help hand, the professor and carrying kill the the rifle money-stealing in my other.birds.” The men Everyone dove to laughed the ground. again. I must have tossed Paulo been my going handgun sixty and down dovethe to the dirtground road, and to better Sid was steady behind the me in hisIpickup. shotgun. fired ten Irounds drove off straight quickly, toward but had the toorchard, pause toupreload into my the side yard, clip. “Paulo, got shoot my truck the fucking stuck in birds,” some mud, I yelled. and jumped “Shoot the out.fucking birds.” “Sid,Paulo Sid,” looked I yelledbewildered. as he stepped It out almost of his seemed truck as lethargically, though he pulled had never his held rifle afrom gun its before, rack the in the waytruck’s he justrear stared window. at, turned “Sid, it over kill thehis in birds. hands. There “Fire, they goddamit,” are,” I yelled, I said. and“Fire!” pointed in the direction of two“No, brightno, redsir,” Cardinals. said Paulo shaking his head. “No shoot gun, no shoot “I gun.” can’t shoot a fucking Cardinal,” said Sid dryly. I“Yes, couldn’t you can,” believe I said, it. “They’re urging him stealing on. “Yes, all myyou money,” can.” I yelled. “Dinero. Sid evened Comprende?” his rifle, looked down the barrel stoically for no more than“Beautiful a second, birds,” and fired said twoPaulo. successive “Bien, shots. bien,” Theand twohis Cardinals friends dropped.“Bien, agreed. “There’s bien,” another,” they said, I yelled, too. but Sid had to stop to reload. “What, I disregarded you don’tthe even useless have help a semi-automatic?” I had hired. I fired I said. andFinally reloaded. he fired again Fired and reloaded. and took two Again more; andthey again. fluttered Thosetolaborers the ground justuselessly. knelt on “Good the ground, shooting, shaking Sid,” their I yelled heads,and muttering looked around in Spanish. for more I must thieving have birds. hit fiftyThere birds,were but still none. theThey birds were were all everywhere, gone. Made likeoff a scene with every from last movie. the bill, probably. I figured they might attack me soon, rifle through my wallet. I ran to the dead Cardinals. I could take back what was in their greedy, I ranlittle out ofbeaks, bullets, at finally, least. But and Paulo there was seemed nothing. relieved Not about a single that. dollargo,” “We bill.heThey said, probably and they swallowed all ran to the them, pickup. the fools. I ran toI my ran truck, about the orchard, too, and drove looking down to forthe money, MooseonLodge the ground, bar. “Men, on the gettrees. your guns,” It was Iallyelled gone.asThey I ran in. had“What stolen is every it?” said last dollar. Big Sid,I who walked wasback sitting sullenly at the to where bar. “What Sidiswas it, Professor? standing byCoyote, his truck. bear?” “Well,no, “No, Professor, birds everywhere,” I got to be going,” I gasped. he said, “Birds, looking stealing down. all my He didn’t seem money. From to my want trees.” to look at me. “Those areapples, “Stealing moneyboss?” trees, I said swear,” Sid.I said. “I didn’t Sid just know turned you without had apspeaking, ples out there.” got in his truck.

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Marc Rose

green, “Christ,” black, and I said. all the “Not squawking apples. Money. going on, From the acrobatics my moneyoftrees.” those flying “Money beasts.trees?” I ran tosaid my Sid house finally, and got when mythen shotgun. laughter I called diedtodown. Paulo and theProfessor, “Christ, other menI think while you’ve I ran. “Get damn your near guns, lost get it. your Sit down guns.”and haveWhen a coldI emerged one. Youfrom lookthe likehouse, hell.”the workers were all just standing “Ahh, there, God,” takingIin cried. the spectacle I was in agony. of those “Please,” birds pillaging I begged.my “Please, hardearned dollars. please, help me kill “What thosethe damn hell birds.” are you doing?” I yelled as ran towardSid theput orchard, his facefiring in histhe hands. automatic “Boys,pistol I’ll be I had back. in my Gotta’ right help hand, the and carrying professor kill the the rifle money-stealing in my other.birds.” The men Everyone dove to laughed the ground. again. I tossedhave must Paulo been my going handgun sixty and down dovethe to the dirtground road, and to better Sid was steady behind the shotgun. me in hisIpickup. fired ten Irounds drove off straight quickly, toward but had the toorchard, pause toupreload into my the clip. yard, side “Paulo, got shoot my truck the fucking stuck in birds,” some mud, I yelled. and jumped “Shoot the out.fucking birds.” “Sid,Paulo Sid,” looked I yelledbewildered. as he stepped It out almost of his seemed truck as lethargically, though he had never pulled his held rifle afrom gun its before, rack the in the waytruck’s he justrear stared window. at, turned “Sid, it over kill in his the birds. hands. There “Fire, they goddamit,” are,” I yelled, I said. and“Fire!” pointed in the direction of two“No, brightno, redsir,” Cardinals. said Paulo shaking his head. “No shoot gun, no shoot “I gun.” can’t shoot a fucking Cardinal,” said Sid dryly. I couldn’t “Yes, you can,” believe I said, it. “They’re urging him stealing on. “Yes, all myyou money,” can.” I yelled. “Dinero. Sid evened Comprende?” his rifle, looked down the barrel stoically for no more than“Beautiful a second, birds,” and fired said twoPaulo. successive “Bien, shots. bien,” Theand twohis Cardinals friends agreed. “Bien, dropped. “There’s bien,” another,” they said, I yelled, too. but Sid had to stop to reload. “What, I disregarded you don’tthe even useless have help a semi-automatic?” I had hired. I fired I said. andFinally reloaded. he Firedagain fired and reloaded. and took two Again more; andthey again. fluttered Thosetolaborers the ground justuselessly. knelt on the ground, “Good shooting, shaking Sid,” their I yelled heads,and muttering looked around in Spanish. for more I must thieving have hit fiftyThere birds. birds,were but still none. theThey birds were were all everywhere, gone. Made likeoff a scene with every from the movie. last bill, probably. I figured they might attack me soon, rifle through my wallet. I ran to the dead Cardinals. I could take back what was in their greedy, I ranlittle out ofbeaks, bullets, at finally, least. But and Paulo there was seemed nothing. relieved Not about a single that. “We go,” dollar bill.heThey said, probably and they swallowed all ran to the them, pickup. the fools. I ran toI my ran truck, about too,orchard, the and drove looking down to forthe money, MooseonLodge the ground, bar. “Men, on the gettrees. your guns,” It was I yelled all gone.asThey I ran in. had“What stolen is every it?” said last dollar. Big Sid,I who walked wasback sitting sullenly at the bar.where to “What Sidiswas it, Professor? standing byCoyote, his truck. bear?” “No, no, “Well, Professor, birds everywhere,” I got to be going,” I gasped. he said, “Birds, looking stealing down. all my He money.seem didn’t From to my want trees.” to look at me. “Stealing “Those areapples, moneyboss?” trees, I said swear,” Sid.I said. “I didn’t Sid just know turned you without had apples out there.” speaking, got in his truck.

“Christ,” I said. “Not apples. Money. From my money trees.” “Money trees?” said Sid finally, when then laughter died down. “Christ, Professor, I think you’ve damn near lost it. Sit down and have a cold one. You look like hell.” “Ahh, God,” I cried. I was in agony. “Please,” I begged. “Please, please, help me kill those damn birds.” Sid put his face in his hands. “Boys, I’ll be back. Gotta’ help the professor kill the money-stealing birds.” Everyone laughed again. I must have been going sixty down the dirt road, and Sid was behind me in his pickup. I drove straight toward the orchard, up into my side yard, got my truck stuck in some mud, and jumped out. “Sid, Sid,” I yelled as he stepped out of his truck lethargically, pulled his rifle from its rack in the truck’s rear window. “Sid, kill the birds. There they are,” I yelled, and pointed in the direction of two bright red Cardinals. “I can’t shoot a fucking Cardinal,” said Sid dryly. “Yes, you can,” I said, urging him on. “Yes, you can.” Sid evened his rifle, looked down the barrel stoically for no more than a second, and fired two successive shots. The two Cardinals dropped. “There’s another,” I yelled, but Sid had to stop to reload. “What, you don’t even have a semi-automatic?” I said. Finally he fired again and took two more; they fluttered to the ground uselessly. “Good shooting, Sid,” I yelled and looked around for more thieving birds. There were none. They were all gone. Made off with every last bill, probably. I ran to the dead Cardinals. I could take back what was in their greedy, little beaks, at least. But there was nothing. Not a single dollar bill. They probably swallowed them, the fools. I ran about the orchard, looking for money, on the ground, on the trees. It was all gone. They had stolen every last dollar. I walked back sullenly to where Sid was standing by his truck. “Well, Professor, I got to be going,” he said, looking down. He didn’t seem to want to look at me. “Those are money trees, I swear,” I said. Sid just turned without speaking, got in his truck.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

I walked in the direction of the woods, hoping to find some of my money, maybe dropped by the birds. Nothing. I was depressed and tired, so I sat down against the narrow trunk of a birch tree, its brilliant, white skin somewhat comforting, like light. I woke to the sound of birds chirping, and bright light trying to pry its way in to my eyes. I couldn’t make out much for a moment through my fogged lenses, just some white and green, some slight movement. My first thought was one of panic, that I had overslept something important, like harvesting my money, but then I had a comforting thought. It was all just a dream. My broken marriage, the impending foreclosure on my property, those conniving and thieving animals that I let live on my property. I sat up suddenly, opened my eyes fully, acquiesced to the morning sun. “Damn,” I said as I banged my stretching arm on a tree trunk and looked out over my glistening property, the dew on the grass glistening like diamonds in the sun. Birds chirped above me, and I was almost glad to hear their annoying little voices, and I made a mental note to put out some birdseed later. I started toward the house, to put on a pot of coffee maybe, tell my wife Barbara that I wanted to start spending more time with her, take her to the movies someday. Thank God for dreams, I thought, that they can be so real and make you feel so much, and then you can learn so much, about what not to do. I stumbled as I walked, and put my hand down to catch myself. Damned dead cardinal, I thought when I nearly landed on top of it. But there was another one, and another. I looked across the orchard again, shades of washed out green and yellow, still glistening, but with little dark voids. I focused here and there, squinted to block out the sun, and make out the details. Squirrels, cardinals, crows, blue jays, even a couple of foxes littering the landscape. Damnation. I looked at my orchard, those sad, empty, moneyless trees, losing their leaves, turning brown and for all practical purposes, dying, at least for the winter. Birds chirped again, not far from me, and the images came back, those scavengers diving and swooping, with perfect grace and accuracy, but without conscience as they stripped my years of studied, backbreaking work to nothing. If only they

could I walked speak, ifinonly the direction they had just of the the woods, simplesthoping capacity to for findlanguage, some of I would my money, givemaybe them adropped firm tongue-lashing, by the birds. aNothing. piece of my I was mind, depressed a little crashtired, and course so on I sat ethics. down against the narrow trunk of a birch tree, its brilliant, A cardinal whitefluttered skin somewhat by me, and comforting, I followedlike its light. arrogant flight, back to the I woke birchtotree theunder soundwhich of birds I had chirping, awoken. andThrough bright light the trying thinning to leaves pry its Iway could in to somewhat my eyes.make I couldn’t out a nest, makehigh out much in thefor tree. a moment Maybe my money through myisfogged up there, lenses, I thought, just some finallywhite coming andtogreen, my senses some again, slight back to reality, movement. Myfree firstofthought the delusion was one thatofIpanic, had only thatdreamt I had overslept of being robbed of everything something important, Ilike had.harvesting I tried to climb my money, the tree, butbut then I couldn’t I had a reach any branches, comforting thought. and It was only allslid justdown a dream. whenMy I tried broken to straddle marriage, it and climb the impending it likeforeclosure a rope. I tried on kicking my property, the tree;those it being conniving only a birch and and not all thieving animals that big, that I figured I let live I might on my beproperty. able to shake I satthe upnest suddenly, down. But thatmy opened didn’t eyeswork fully,either. acquiesced Apparently to the morning those birds sun.had“Damn,” inheritedI enough said as Iinstinct bangedtomy build stretching a fairlyarm solidonnest. a treeAtrunk solid and nest looked of money, out that is. over myI glistening ran towardproperty, my house, thejumping dew on and the dodging grass glistening over animal like carcasses on diamonds in the mysun. way.Birds chirped above me, and I was almost glad to hear I was their getting annoying in mylittle car, which voices,was andin I made my yard a mental to the note side to of put the house, out some when birdseed a manlater. cameI started around toward the corner the house, from the to put front onofa pot the house. of coffee maybe, tell my wife Barbara that I wanted to start spending “Dr. moreFrank,” time with he called. her, take “Dr.her Frank.” to the movies someday. Thank God“Yes, for dreams, what is it? I thought, I’m quite that busy, theyif can yoube please. so real Whatever and make you’re you selling, feel so much, I don’t and wantthen it.” you can learn so much, about what not to do. “Sir, I stumbled please,as this I walked, is very important. and put myI’m hand just down hereto to catch let you myself. know that-“ dead cardinal, I thought when I nearly landed on top of it. Damned But “Here, there was helpanother me push one, this and damn another. car.” IIlooked got in the across car the andorchard started it. “Push again, shades now,” of Iwashed yelled. out “Push.” green He andwas yellow, in back stillpushing, glistening, though but he didn’t with littleseem dark voids. to be trying I focused very here hard.and Finally, there, the squinted tires gripped, to block and out the car sun,pulled and make out ofout thethe mud details. pit, and Squirrels, on to some cardinals, grassy crows, ground.blue jays,“Now evenwhat a couple is it?”ofI foxes asked,littering stickingthe my landscape. head out of the Damnation. window Iand looked looking at my backorchard, at that man thoseinsad, his suit. empty, He moneyless was holdingtrees, a briefcase losing and was their leaves, in mud turning up to brown his shins. and for all practical purposes, dying, at least “You’ve for the gotwinter. five days Birds to make chirped a payment again, not on far your from property, me, and or the bank’s imagestaking came back, it.” those scavengers diving and swooping, with perfect “Judas grace Priest,” and accuracy, I said. “Tell but without your bank conscience I’m growing as they money, stripped and that years my I’m just of studied, harvesting backbreaking this week. work Tell them to nothing. that when If only my trees they

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Marc Rose

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Marc Rose

could I walked speak, ifinonly the direction they had just of the the woods, simplesthoping capacity to for findlanguage, some of Imy would money, givemaybe them adropped firm tongue-lashing, by the birds. aNothing. piece of my I was mind, depressed a little and tired, crash course so on I sat ethics. down against the narrow trunk of a birch tree, its brilliant, A cardinal whitefluttered skin somewhat by me, and comforting, I followedlike its light. arrogant flight, back to the I woke birchtotree theunder soundwhich of birds I had chirping, awoken. andThrough bright light the trying thinning to pry its Iway leaves could in to somewhat my eyes.make I couldn’t out a nest, makehigh out much in thefor tree. a moment Maybe through my money myisfogged up there, lenses, I thought, just some finallywhite coming andtogreen, my senses some again, slight movement. back to reality, Myfree firstofthought the delusion was one thatofIpanic, had only thatdreamt I had overslept of being something robbed of everything important, Ilike had.harvesting I tried to climb my money, the tree, butbut then I couldn’t I had a comforting reach any branches, thought. and It was only allslid justdown a dream. whenMy I tried broken to straddle marriage, it the climb and impending it likeforeclosure a rope. I tried on kicking my property, the tree;those it being conniving only a birch and thieving and not all animals that big, that I figured I let live I might on my beproperty. able to shake I satthe upnest suddenly, down. opened But thatmy didn’t eyeswork fully,either. acquiesced Apparently to the morning those birds sun.had“Damn,” inheritedI said as Iinstinct enough bangedtomy build stretching a fairlyarm solidonnest. a treeAtrunk solid and nest looked of money, out over is. that myI glistening ran towardproperty, my house, thejumping dew on and the dodging grass glistening over animal like diamonds on carcasses in the mysun. way.Birds chirped above me, and I was almost glad to hear I was their getting annoying in mylittle car, which voices,was andin I made my yard a mental to the note side to of put the out some house, when birdseed a manlater. cameI started around toward the corner the house, from the to put front onofa pot the of coffee maybe, tell my wife Barbara that I wanted to start spendhouse. ing “Dr. moreFrank,” time with he called. her, take “Dr.her Frank.” to the movies someday. Thank God“Yes, for dreams, what is it? I thought, I’m quite that busy, theyif can yoube please. so real Whatever and make you’re you feel so much, selling, I don’t and wantthen it.” you can learn so much, about what not to do. “Sir, I stumbled please,as this I walked, is very important. and put myI’m hand just down hereto to catch let you myself. know Damned dead cardinal, I thought when I nearly landed on top of it. that-“ But “Here, there was helpanother me push one, this and damn another. car.” IIlooked got in the across car the andorchard started again, it. “Push shades now,” of Iwashed yelled. out “Push.” green He andwas yellow, in back stillpushing, glistening, though but with he didn’t littleseem dark voids. to be trying I focused very here hard.and Finally, there, the squinted tires gripped, to block and out the car sun,pulled and make out ofout thethe mud details. pit, and Squirrels, on to some cardinals, grassy crows, ground.blue jays,“Now evenwhat a couple is it?”ofI foxes asked,littering stickingthe my landscape. head out of the Damnation. window I looked and looking at my backorchard, at that man thoseinsad, his suit. empty, He moneyless was holdingtrees, a briefcase losing theirwas and leaves, in mud turning up to brown his shins. and for all practical purposes, dying, at least “You’ve for the gotwinter. five days Birds to make chirped a payment again, not on far your from property, me, and or the bank’s imagestaking came back, it.” those scavengers diving and swooping, with perfect “Judas grace Priest,” and accuracy, I said. “Tell but without your bank conscience I’m growing as they money, stripped and my years that I’m just of studied, harvesting backbreaking this week. work Tell them to nothing. that when If only my trees they 22

23

Marc Rose

could speak, if only they had just the simplest capacity for language, I would give them a firm tongue-lashing, a piece of my mind, a little crash course on ethics. A cardinal fluttered by me, and I followed its arrogant flight, back to the birch tree under which I had awoken. Through the thinning leaves I could somewhat make out a nest, high in the tree. Maybe my money is up there, I thought, finally coming to my senses again, back to reality, free of the delusion that I had only dreamt of being robbed of everything I had. I tried to climb the tree, but I couldn’t reach any branches, and only slid down when I tried to straddle it and climb it like a rope. I tried kicking the tree; it being only a birch and not all that big, I figured I might be able to shake the nest down. But that didn’t work either. Apparently those birds had inherited enough instinct to build a fairly solid nest. A solid nest of money, that is. I ran toward my house, jumping and dodging over animal carcasses on my way. I was getting in my car, which was in my yard to the side of the house, when a man came around the corner from the front of the house. “Dr. Frank,” he called. “Dr. Frank.” “Yes, what is it? I’m quite busy, if you please. Whatever you’re selling, I don’t want it.” “Sir, please, this is very important. I’m just here to let you know that-“ “Here, help me push this damn car.” I got in the car and started it. “Push now,” I yelled. “Push.” He was in back pushing, though he didn’t seem to be trying very hard. Finally, the tires gripped, and the car pulled out of the mud pit, and on to some grassy ground. “Now what is it?” I asked, sticking my head out of the window and looking back at that man in his suit. He was holding a briefcase and was in mud up to his shins. “You’ve got five days to make a payment on your property, or the bank’s taking it.” “Judas Priest,” I said. “Tell your bank I’m growing money, and that I’m just harvesting this week. Tell them that when my trees 23


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

mature, I’ll be able to buy that bank myself. But I need some more time than that.” “Sir,” said the scoundrel, as he tried to work his way out of mud. Fortunately, he seemed to lose one of his shoes. “Sir, we’ve sent many letters, posted notes on your door. We’ve done everything possible. You’re mortgage is five months late.” I took my foot off the break, no time to quarrel now. I floored it and drove straight for the birch tree a hundred yards off, across the orchard. The car snapped the trunk like a toothpick, and there was just a fast, loud crack that sounded like a lightning strike. Down went the birch, and the cardinals in their nest. I jumped out of my car, and it didn’t take me long to find what I was looking for. Two cracked eggs next to a still-intact nest. “God help me,” I yelled out at the sight, and started pulling that nest apart. One hundred, two hundred, three hundred, and they kept coming. That nest was nothing but tree-grown dollar bills. Not a single twig or leaf or piece of grass; just banknote upon banknote, rolled up or slightly folded, wrinkled, and weaved ingeniously. Of course I admired the resourcefulness of the birds, and even wondered for a moment if I hadn’t been mistaken as to their utter lack of intelligence, until I reminded myself of the obvious, the thing which stamped them so incredibly stupid. Those birds simply had no idea as to the value of their own nest. I stuffed the money into my pockets, over a thousand dollars in all, and backed my car up. There were some major injuries to the hood and bumper, and it even appeared that the radiator might be leaking, but the birch tree hadn’t been strong enough to cause debilitating damage, so I positioned my vehicle and jumped on the accelerator. Another echoing crack, another felled tree, another thousand dollar nest. It only then occurred to me that this wasn’t such a bad harvesting system after all. The birds were doing the majority of the work. I scouted another twenty trees, marked them with spray paint, and then rammed them successively. Cardinals, blue jays, robins and finches, they all came flying out of the trees as they fell. And

Imature, did all I’ll of those be able birds to buy a favor, that bank too, because myself. IBut realize I need that some this more relationship time thanbetween that.” man and nature, this give and take, it’s a two-way street; “Sir,” so after said Ithe collected scoundrel, all the as he nests, triedI moved to workthe hisfallen, way out screaming of mud. chicks to onehe Fortunately, area seemed wheretothey losecould one be of collected his shoes.by“Sir, theirwe’ve parents. sent many I went letters, to the posted banknotes the next on your day. door. A sweet, We’ve young doneteller everything named Cynthia took possible. You’re the mortgage cash. Theisbank five months managerlate.” would be very relieved, she Isaid, tookbecause my foot there off thewas break, a rumor no time thattoIquarrel had gone now. insane, I floored that itI was drove and destroying straight all of formy theproperty birch tree byakilling hundred all yards the animals off, across and cutthe ting downThe orchard. all the car trees. snapped the trunk like a toothpick, and there was just “No, a fast, no,” loud I assured crack that her. sounded “Of course likenot. a lightning In fact, strike. a few animals Down did perish,” went the birch, I said andsolemnly. the cardinals “But in it’s theirallnest. part Iofjumped the cycle out of namy ture,and car, really, it didn’t part of take theme earth long giving to find to what the humans, I was looking and thefor. humans Two sharing the cracked eggs proceeds, next to and a still-intact just everyone nest.working “God help together me,”inI perfect yelled symmetry out at the sight, to produce and started fruit and pulling oxygen, that that nest sort apart. of thing. One hundred, It’s all covered two hundred, in anythree basichundred, ecology and classthey thatkept you might coming. takeThat at your nestlocal was community nothing but college. tree-grown Anddollar of course, bills.I encourage Not a single youtwig to doorthat. leaf or piece “And of grass; I’m going just banknote to replaceupon those banknote, animals rolled by theupby,orCynthia. slightly I’ve developed folded, wrinkled, a wonderful and weaved plan, ingeniously. and I’m going Of course to provide I admired food the for all birds in the winter resourcefulness of thesobirds, that they and don’t even wondered have to go for somewhere a moment else if Iand hadn’t struggle beenthrough mistaken their as lives. to their The utter whole lackproperty of intelligence, will be auntil bit ofI a sanctuary, reminded myself with nets of the and obvious, everything.” the thing which stamped them so incredibly “Nets?”stupid. said the Those lovely, birds young simply girl.had no idea as to the value of their“To own keep nest. predators out, of course.” I“Oh, stuffed that’s thewonderful,” money intosaid my the pockets, girl. over a thousand dollars in all, “It’s and backed nothing,” myI car said.up.“It’s There the least wereI some can do.” major injuries to the hood and bumper, and it even appeared that the radiator might be leaking, but the birch tree hadn’t been strong enough to cause debilitating damage, so I positioned my vehicle and jumped on the accelerator. Another echoing crack, another felled tree, another thousand dollar nest. It only then occurred to me that this wasn’t such a bad harvesting system after all. The birds were doing the majority of the work. I scouted another twenty trees, marked them with spray paint, and then rammed them successively. Cardinals, blue jays, robins and finches, they all came flying out of the trees as they fell. And

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Marc Rose

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Marc Rose

I did all I’ll mature, of those be able birds to buy a favor, that bank too, because myself. IBut realize I need that some this more relatime thanbetween tionship that.” man and nature, this give and take, it’s a two-way street; “Sir,” so after said Ithe collected scoundrel, all the as he nests, triedI moved to workthe hisfallen, way out screaming of mud. Fortunately, chicks to onehe area seemed wheretothey losecould one be of collected his shoes.by“Sir, theirwe’ve parents. sent many I went letters, to the posted banknotes the next on your day. door. A sweet, We’ve young doneteller everything named possible.took Cynthia You’re the mortgage cash. Theisbank five months managerlate.” would be very relieved, she Isaid, tookbecause my foot there off thewas break, a rumor no time thattoIquarrel had gone now. insane, I floored that itI and drove was destroying straight all of formy theproperty birch tree byakilling hundred all yards the animals off, across and cutthe orchard. ting downThe all the car trees. snapped the trunk like a toothpick, and there was just “No, a fast, no,” loud I assured crack that her. sounded “Of course likenot. a lightning In fact, strike. a few animals Down wentperish,” did the birch, I said andsolemnly. the cardinals “But in it’s theirallnest. part Iofjumped the cycle out of namy car, and ture, really, it didn’t part of take theme earth long giving to find to what the humans, I was looking and thefor. humans Two cracked the sharing eggs proceeds, next to and a still-intact just everyone nest.working “God help together me,”inI perfect yelled out at the sight, symmetry to produce and started fruit and pulling oxygen, that that nest sort apart. of thing. One hundred, It’s all two hundred, covered in anythree basichundred, ecology and classthey thatkept you might coming. takeThat at your nestlocal was nothing but college. community tree-grown Anddollar of course, bills.I encourage Not a single youtwig to doorthat. leaf or piece “And of grass; I’m going just banknote to replaceupon those banknote, animals rolled by theupby,orCynthia. slightly folded, I’ve developed wrinkled, a wonderful and weaved plan, ingeniously. and I’m going Of course to provide I admired food the for resourcefulness all birds in the winter of thesobirds, that they and don’t even wondered have to go for somewhere a moment else if I hadn’t and struggle beenthrough mistaken their as lives. to their The utter whole lackproperty of intelligence, will be auntil bit ofI areminded sanctuary, myself with nets of the and obvious, everything.” the thing which stamped them so incredibly “Nets?”stupid. said the Those lovely, birds young simply girl.had no idea as to the value of their“To own keep nest. predators out, of course.” I stuffed “Oh, that’s thewonderful,” money intosaid my the pockets, girl. over a thousand dollars in all, “It’s and backed nothing,” myI car said.up.“It’s There the least wereI some can do.” major injuries to the hood and bumper, and it even appeared that the radiator might be leaking, but the birch tree hadn’t been strong enough to cause debilitating damage, so I positioned my vehicle and jumped on the accelerator. Another echoing crack, another felled tree, another thousand dollar nest. It only then occurred to me that this wasn’t such a bad harvesting system after all. The birds were doing the majority of the work. I scouted another twenty trees, marked them with spray paint, and then rammed them successively. Cardinals, blue jays, robins and finches, they all came flying out of the trees as they fell. And 24

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I did all of those birds a favor, too, because I realize that this relationship between man and nature, this give and take, it’s a two-way street; so after I collected all the nests, I moved the fallen, screaming chicks to one area where they could be collected by their parents. I went to the bank the next day. A sweet, young teller named Cynthia took the cash. The bank manager would be very relieved, she said, because there was a rumor that I had gone insane, that I was destroying all of my property by killing all the animals and cutting down all the trees. “No, no,” I assured her. “Of course not. In fact, a few animals did perish,” I said solemnly. “But it’s all part of the cycle of nature, really, part of the earth giving to the humans, and the humans sharing the proceeds, and just everyone working together in perfect symmetry to produce fruit and oxygen, that sort of thing. It’s all covered in any basic ecology class that you might take at your local community college. And of course, I encourage you to do that. “And I’m going to replace those animals by the by, Cynthia. I’ve developed a wonderful plan, and I’m going to provide food for all birds in the winter so that they don’t have to go somewhere else and struggle through their lives. The whole property will be a bit of a sanctuary, with nets and everything.” “Nets?” said the lovely, young girl. “To keep predators out, of course.” “Oh, that’s wonderful,” said the girl. “It’s nothing,” I said. “It’s the least I can do.”

25


David Yost

SAMMA SANKAPPA ON THE

THAI-BURMA BORDER

Matthew Shartsis

Lee hasn’t slept a lot and never takes roll anyway—just more paperwork for Thai Military Intelligence to find—so she’s already hit all the key vitamins and minerals when the class can’t tell her what “pregnant” means in the sentence “pregnant women need more iron.” She looks, as she always does in these moments, to Nar Lu, and finds her gone. “Where’s Nar Lu?” she asks. Fifteen Karen faces stare back. Even after three months they’re still slow at switching gears, too used to the recitation and rote of Burmese education. “Nar Lu,” Lee says, smiling and pointing at the empty blue chair. Matthew Shartsis “Where is she? Myint Aung? Do you know?” This ought to be an easy question but Myint Aung just gapes back through lenses like ashtrays. “Myint Aung? Where is Nar Lu?” Lee points again to the empty chair. Myint Aung looks at her finger and then at the sentences on the crumbling whiteboard. “No,” Lee says. “Don’t read. Do not read. Listen. Where is Nar Lu?” Myint Aung smiles and nods and opens his notebook and leafs backward. “Teacher,” Win Maung says beside him, “Now Nar Lu has UNHCR, so, I think now, Nar Lu is very happy. I think maybe, Nar Lu 27


David Yost

SAMMA SANKAPPA ON THE

David Yost

SAMMA SANKAPPA ON THE

THAI-BURMA BORDER

THAI-BURMA BORDER

Lee hasn’t slept a lot and never takes roll anyway—just more paperwork for Thai Military Intelligence to find—so she’s already hit all the key vitamins and minerals when the class can’t tell her what “pregnant” means in the sentence “pregnant women need more iron.” She looks, as she always does in these moments, to Nar Lu, and finds her gone. “Where’s Nar Lu?” she asks. Fifteen Karen faces stare back. Even after three months they’re still slow at switching gears, too used to the recitation and rote of Burmese education. “Nar Lu,” Lee says, smiling and pointing at the empty blue chair. Matthew Shartsis “Where is she? Myint Aung? Do you know?” This ought to be an easy question but Myint Aung just gapes back through lenses like ashtrays. “Myint Aung? Where is Nar Lu?” Lee points again to the empty chair. Myint Aung looks at her finger and then at the sentences on the crumbling whiteboard. “No,” Lee says. “Don’t read. Do not read. Listen. Where is Nar Lu?” Myint Aung smiles and nods and opens his notebook and leafs backward. “Teacher,” Win Maung says beside him, “Now Nar Lu has UNHCR, so, I think now, Nar Lu is very happy. I think maybe, Nar Lu

Lee hasn’t slept a lot and never takes roll anyway—just more paperwork for Thai Military Intelligence to find—so she’s already hit all the key vitamins and minerals when the class can’t tell her what “pregnant” means in the sentence “pregnant women need more iron.” She looks, as she always does in these moments, to Nar Lu, and finds her gone. “Where’s Nar Lu?” she asks. Fifteen Karen faces stare back. Even after three months they’re still slow at switching gears, too used to the recitation and rote of Burmese education. “Nar Lu,” Lee says, smiling and pointing at the empty blue chair. “Where is she? Myint Aung? Do you know?” This ought to be an easy question but Myint Aung just gapes back through lenses like ashtrays. “Myint Aung? Where is Nar Lu?” Lee points again to the empty chair. Myint Aung looks at her finger and then at the sentences on the crumbling whiteboard. “No,” Lee says. “Don’t read. Do not read. Listen. Where is Nar Lu?” Myint Aung smiles and nods and opens his notebook and leafs backward. “Teacher,” Win Maung says beside him, “Now Nar Lu has UNHCR, so, I think now, Nar Lu is very happy. I think maybe, Nar Lu

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

went to bar last night. Maybe, this morning Nar Lu does not feel well.” Everyone laughs. It’s ridiculous, quiet Nar Lu downtown drinking warm Singha and requesting Chris DeBurgh on the jukebox. “She should celebrate,” Lee says. “She should be happy! Maybe now she can go to United States, or to Sweden.” She gestures broadly enough to encompass both continents and gets some smiles and some nods. They love Sweden, she’s found, every refugee a budding Socialist, though there are still several who can’t find Europe on the map. “Soon, maybe we can get everyone UNHCR status.” “And then,” says Win Maung, “you go to bar with us, Teacher?” No, I’m hungover enough already, Lee wants to say, but as a woman she knows she has to smile and glare to keep their respect, just as she dyed her hair back to brown and wears long shorts and capris instead of her skirts. “Now, Win Maung,” she says, “we learn the negative future tense.” A week ago Lee would have seen the empty chair and assumed the worst: a chance arrest, a midnight deportation across the Friendship Bridge, a handover to SPDC soldiers for a punishment fitting their mood. Today, though, Nar Lu is more legal than any of them, even outside the quasi-protection of the clinic grounds, still a citizen of nowhere but now under the aegis of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, while Lee still breaks her tourist visa every time she steps in front of the classroom. Even as Nar Lu went to pick up the papers, Lee stayed behind at the clinic printing out applications for Swedish political asylum, and as she stacked them atop the others she felt her sadness draining from her like dishwater. Still, not only is Nar Lu not the drinking type, she’s hardly one to miss class either, so Lee explains a few more nutrition terms from Aaron’s Where There Is No Doctor, finally getting some use out of her half-degree in Dietetics, then lets class out early and steps into the sun of the dirt courtyard. She looks across to the awning between the other buildings, through the ragged line of patients at reception and

went the children to bar climbing last night.theMaybe, jackfruitthis trees morning to the girls Nar gossiping Lu does not in their feel T-shirts and longyis. Nar Lu is not among them. Soe Myint sees her well.” fromEveryone the far end laughs. of the It’sclinic ridiculous, and waves, quiet Nar but Lu Leedowntown needs to find drinking Nar Lu before warm Singha she can and deal requesting with anChris amputee DeBurgh today. on She’s the across jukebox. the “She yard and intocelebrate,” should ObstetricsLee before says.he’s “She even should up onbehis happy! crutches. Maybe now she can “Is go to Nar United Lu here States, today?” or to she Sweden.” asks theShe nurse. gestures Thebroadly girl smiles enough and nods; to encompass Lee hasboth come continents to recognize and gets thissome as complete smiles and incomprehensome nods. sion. love Sweden, she’s found, every refugee a budding Socialist, They though “Narthere Lu?”are shestill repeats, several slower, who can’t pointing findatEurope the calendar. on the map. “Today?” maybe we can get everyone UNHCR status.” “Soon, The girl “And then,” looks saysworried. Win Maung, “Yes,“you today,” go toshe bar says, with us, pointing Teacher?” to a pieceI’m No, ofhungover curving Burmese enough already, script that Lee Lee wants can to barely say, but identify as a woman as Nar Lu’sknows she name. she “Here, has no.” to smile Lee and looks glare around to keep the small their room respect, as ifjust she’s as going she dyed to see herahair message back taped to brown to one andofwears the walls: long Teacher—went shorts and capris to market. ofBack instead her skirts. five minutes. Just last week the ice cream cart made a rare “Now, appearance Win Maung,” at the clinic, she says, and as“we its twenty-second learn the negative tune cycled future endlessly in the yard Nar Lu and Lee hid here in the air conditioning tense.” to make their scoops last as long as possible. “So A week what agodo Lee you would wanthave to study seen the at empty uni?” chair Lee asked and assumed her. The the refugees worst: a chance picked arrest, their slang a midnight up fromdeportation British volunteers across the and Friendship now Lee was picking Bridge, a handover it up offtoofSPDC them. soldiers Something for auseful punishment for Revolution, fitting their she guessed,Today, mood. lettingthough, a blob of Narvanilla Lu is ooze morearound legal than her any tongue. of them, even outside “I dothe notquasi-protection know,” Nar Lu said, of the small clinic facegrounds, compressing still aincitizen thought. of “I want tobut nowhere study nowsomething under theuseful aegis of forUnited Revolution.” NationsLike Highmost Commisof the refugees sioner forhere, Refugees, Nar Luwhile has seen Leeher stillvillage breaksburned, her tourist brothers visa every beatentime and neighbors she steps inshot. frontOn ofLee’s the classroom. first week here, Evenshe as Nar had to Lucut went short to apick lesson up on family the papers,trees Lee because stayed behind no oneatcould the clinic finishprinting withoutout a casualty. applications For NarSwedish for Lu, it was political an uncle asylum, in theand KNU as she whostacked died bythem a DKBA atop the machete. others Though she felt her her sadness studentsdraining never explain from her these like acronyms, dishwater. Lee has come to understand Still, notthat only onisthe Nar border, Lu not they thealways drinking mean type, death. she’s hardly one to miss “Butclass I do not either, know,” so Lee Narexplains Lu continued, a few more smiling nutrition and taking terms another from bite of ice Aaron’s Where cream. There “I like Is No babies Doctor, veryfinally much.”getting some use out of her half-degree Lee goes back in Dietetics, into the yard thenand letssees class Soe outMyint early swinging and steps eagerly into the toward sun of the her,dirt a deck courtyard. of cardsShe gripped looksagainst acrosshis to the right awning crutch.between Soe Myint the joinedbuildings, other ABSDF when through his village the ragged ran out lineofoffood patients and his at reception second week and

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Berkeley Fiction Review

David Yost

David Yost

the children went to bar climbing last night.theMaybe, jackfruitthis trees morning to the girls Nar gossiping Lu does not in their feel well.” and longyis. Nar Lu is not among them. Soe Myint sees her T-shirts fromEveryone the far end laughs. of the It’sclinic ridiculous, and waves, quiet Nar but Lu Leedowntown needs to find drinking Nar warm Lu before Singha she can and deal requesting with anChris amputee DeBurgh today. on She’s the across jukebox. the “She yard should and intocelebrate,” ObstetricsLee before says.he’s “She even should up onbehis happy! crutches. Maybe now she can “Is go to Nar United Lu here States, today?” or to she Sweden.” asks theShe nurse. gestures Thebroadly girl smiles enough and to encompass nods; Lee hasboth come continents to recognize and gets thissome as complete smiles and incomprehensome nods. They love Sweden, she’s found, every refugee a budding Socialist, sion. though “Narthere Lu?”are shestill repeats, several slower, who can’t pointing findatEurope the calendar. on the map. “To“Soon, maybe we can get everyone UNHCR status.” day?” “Andgirl The then,” looks saysworried. Win Maung, “Yes,“you today,” go toshe bar says, with us, pointing Teacher?” to a No, I’m piece ofhungover curving Burmese enough already, script that Lee Lee wants can to barely say, but identify as a woman as Nar she knows Lu’s name. she “Here, has no.” to smile Lee and looks glare around to keep the small their room respect, as ifjust she’s as she dyed going to see herahair message back taped to brown to one andofwears the walls: long Teacher—went shorts and capris to instead ofBack market. her skirts. five minutes. Just last week the ice cream cart made a rare “Now, appearance Win Maung,” at the clinic, she says, and as“we its twenty-second learn the negative tune cycled future tense.” in the yard Nar Lu and Lee hid here in the air conditioning endlessly to make their scoops last as long as possible. A week “So what agodo Lee you would wanthave to study seen the at empty uni?” chair Lee asked and assumed her. The the worst: a chance refugees picked arrest, their slang a midnight up fromdeportation British volunteers across the and Friendship now Lee Bridge, was picking a handover it up offtoofSPDC them. soldiers Something for auseful punishment for Revolution, fitting their she mood. Today, guessed, lettingthough, a blob of Narvanilla Lu is ooze morearound legal than her any tongue. of them, even outside “I dothe notquasi-protection know,” Nar Lu said, of the small clinic facegrounds, compressing still aincitizen thought. of nowhere “I want tobut study nowsomething under theuseful aegis of forUnited Revolution.” NationsLike Highmost Commisof the sioner forhere, refugees Refugees, Nar Luwhile has seen Leeher stillvillage breaksburned, her tourist brothers visa every beatentime and she steps inshot. neighbors frontOn ofLee’s the classroom. first week here, Evenshe as Nar had to Lucut went short to apick lesson up the family on papers,trees Lee because stayed behind no oneatcould the clinic finishprinting withoutout a casualty. applications For for Swedish Nar Lu, it was political an uncle asylum, in theand KNU as she whostacked died bythem a DKBA atop the machete. others she felt her Though her sadness studentsdraining never explain from her these like acronyms, dishwater. Lee has come to understand Still, notthat only onisthe Nar border, Lu not they thealways drinking mean type, death. she’s hardly one to miss “Butclass I do not either, know,” so Lee Narexplains Lu continued, a few more smiling nutrition and taking terms another from Aaron’s bite of ice Where cream. There “I like Is No babies Doctor, veryfinally much.”getting some use out of her half-degree Lee goes back in Dietetics, into the yard thenand letssees class Soe outMyint early swinging and steps eagerly into the sun of the toward her,dirt a deck courtyard. of cardsShe gripped looksagainst acrosshis to the right awning crutch.between Soe Myint the other buildings, joined ABSDF when through his village the ragged ran out lineofoffood patients and his at reception second week and

the children climbing the jackfruit trees to the girls gossiping in their T-shirts and longyis. Nar Lu is not among them. Soe Myint sees her from the far end of the clinic and waves, but Lee needs to find Nar Lu before she can deal with an amputee today. She’s across the yard and into Obstetrics before he’s even up on his crutches. “Is Nar Lu here today?” she asks the nurse. The girl smiles and nods; Lee has come to recognize this as complete incomprehension. “Nar Lu?” she repeats, slower, pointing at the calendar. “Today?” The girl looks worried. “Yes, today,” she says, pointing to a piece of curving Burmese script that Lee can barely identify as Nar Lu’s name. “Here, no.” Lee looks around the small room as if she’s going to see a message taped to one of the walls: Teacher—went to market. Back five minutes. Just last week the ice cream cart made a rare appearance at the clinic, and as its twenty-second tune cycled endlessly in the yard Nar Lu and Lee hid here in the air conditioning to make their scoops last as long as possible. “So what do you want to study at uni?” Lee asked her. The refugees picked their slang up from British volunteers and now Lee was picking it up off of them. Something useful for Revolution, she guessed, letting a blob of vanilla ooze around her tongue. “I do not know,” Nar Lu said, small face compressing in thought. “I want to study something useful for Revolution.” Like most of the refugees here, Nar Lu has seen her village burned, brothers beaten and neighbors shot. On Lee’s first week here, she had to cut short a lesson on family trees because no one could finish without a casualty. For Nar Lu, it was an uncle in the KNU who died by a DKBA machete. Though her students never explain these acronyms, Lee has come to understand that on the border, they always mean death. “But I do not know,” Nar Lu continued, smiling and taking another bite of ice cream. “I like babies very much.” Lee goes back into the yard and sees Soe Myint swinging eagerly toward her, a deck of cards gripped against his right crutch. Soe Myint joined ABSDF when his village ran out of food and his second week

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Berkeley Fiction Review

in the jungle he stepped on a landmine, losing his left leg below the knee. Lee’s written more than a dozen letters trying to get funding for a prosthesis, but all she’s accomplished so far is to teach him a wordless form of blackjack. He proffers the deck hopefully and says something in Burmese. “No,” Lee says, though she knows he can’t understand. “Not today, Soe Myint. I don’t have time. Busy, busy.” She checks Pediatrics, Radiology, the women’s living quarters and the motortaxi stand on the road to town. She threads through the dengue, malaria, dysentery, and beriberi of the Emergency ward. No Nar Lu. She thinks about calling Aaron, the only other volunteer in town, but then she thinks about how he tried to kiss her after too many Sang-Som-and-Cokes the night before and decides that for now she’s better off looking alone. Instead Lee steps into the air conditioning of the computer room and sees Win Maung stretched behind the desk, jotting on a clipboard. She’s never quite sure what his role is here at the clinic—at twentyeight, he’s the only student older than she, and he’s the only one not learning any medicine—but she sees him centrifuging blood samples one day and handing out plates of rice and fish paste the next. More and more she finds herself trusting his way of being everywhere. On more than one night lately Lee has lain in the dark of her guesthouse room and imagined Win Maung’s hands sliding up her thighs, but the complication seems unwise enough that even her fantasies end with a trans-Pacific flight home. “Hey, Win Maung,” she says and he glances up, eyes widening with exaggerated optimism. “Teacher!” “Student!” He laughs but she knows no matter how many times she does this they will never use her name; even the old woman who serves Lee her lunchtime pad thai passes her the plate with a “Here, Teacher.” “You want to go to bar, Teacher?” Win Maung asks, cocking a thumb toward town. “We go right now!” “Have you seen Nar Lu yet?”

“No,” he he says, smile on gone. “Maybe losing you gohis look in the jungle stepped a landmine, leftObstetric?” leg below the “Not there.” knee. Lee’s written more than a dozen letters trying to get funding “Women building?” for a prosthesis, but all she’s accomplished so far is to teach him a “Not there.” wordless form of blackjack. He proffers the deck hopefully and says Win Maung frowns, rapping his fingers on the back of the clipsomething in Burmese. board. “I Lee thinksays, Nar though Lu has she cell knows phone,”hehecan’t says.understand. “To call mother “No,” “Not and brother in refugee camp.” He thumbs the edges of a stack of today, Soe Myint. I don’t have time. Busy, busy.” paper, pulls the sheet he needs and pushes it across the desk.quarters “This She checks Pediatrics, Radiology, the women’s living number,” he says, pointing outroad in the long listShe of threads Burmesethrough script. and the motortaxi stand on itthe to town. “You have cell phone?” the dengue, malaria, dysentery, and beriberi of the Emergency ward. Lee Lu. nods,She takes her about phonecalling from her pocket No Nar thinks Aaron, the and onlydials. other volunteer “Hello?” a man answers from habit she starts to her answer in town, but then she thinks and about how he tried to kiss afterback too but then the possibilities wash across her and take her breath and even many Sang-Som-and-Cokes the night before and decides that for now as shebetter struggles to parsealone. them she’s astonished at the slowness of her she’s off looking mind, at the realization that she understand in time to respond. Instead Lee steps into the airwon’t conditioning of the computer room “Hello?” the Maung man asks again behind and then asksjotting something in Thai. and sees Win stretched thehe desk, on a clipboard. before; it twentydoesn’t She’s heard never Thai quite men sure answer what hisphones role iswith here“hello” at the clinic—at mean they know it’s her. She closes the phone and lays it down on eight, he’s the only student older than she, and he’s the only one not the desk.any Shemedicine—but looks at Win Maung that he heard. learning she seesand himsees centrifuging blood samples “Maybe she was in an accident,” Lee says. “Maybe should call one day and handing out plates of rice and fish paste theI next. More back.” and more she finds herself trusting his way of being everywhere. On Win is already shaking his in head, “I do think. For more thanMaung one night lately Lee has lain the dark of not her guesthouse accident, they bring Nar Lu to clinic.” room and imagined Win Maung’s hands sliding up her thighs, but the “Police, then.” complication seems unwise enough that even her fantasies end with The phone rings on the desk between them and they both jump. a trans-Pacific flight home. Lee“Hey, reaches forMaung,” it, stops, she thensays reaches forglances it again.up, Win Maung puts Win and he eyes widening his hand very gently over hers. with exaggerated optimism. “Teacher,” he says. “You speak English on phone, maybe they “Teacher!” look“Student!” for you too.” He reaches down and no thumbs thehow phone to times off. He laughs but she knows matter many “I will tell the doctors,” he says. she does this they will never use her name; even the old woman who serves Lee her lunchtime pad thai passes her the plate with a “Here, Lee has the advantage on Win Maung because she knows his story Teacher.” but “You he doesn’t know hers. yearsWin agoMaung Win Maung’s brothera want to go to bar, Three Teacher?” asks, cocking joined the KNUtown. and a “We month thumb toward golater rightSPDC now!”soldiers raided their village. They burnt down Win Maung’s home “Have you seen Nar Lu yet?” and took him into a durian grove

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David Yost

“No,” he he says, smile on gone. “Maybe losing you gohis look in the jungle stepped a landmine, leftObstetric?” leg below the “Not there.” knee. Lee’s written more than a dozen letters trying to get funding “Women building?” for a prosthesis, but all she’s accomplished so far is to teach him a “Not there.” wordless form of blackjack. He proffers the deck hopefully and says Win Maung frowns, rapping his fingers on the back of the clipsomething in Burmese. board. “I Lee thinksays, Nar though Lu has she cell knows phone,”hehecan’t says.understand. “To call mother “No,” “Not and brother in refugee camp.” He thumbs the edges of a stack of today, Soe Myint. I don’t have time. Busy, busy.” paper, pulls the sheet he needs and pushes it across the desk.quarters “This She checks Pediatrics, Radiology, the women’s living number,” he says, pointing outroad in the long listShe of threads Burmesethrough script. and the motortaxi stand on itthe to town. “You have cell phone?” the dengue, malaria, dysentery, and beriberi of the Emergency ward. Lee Lu. nods,She takes her about phonecalling from her pocket No Nar thinks Aaron, the and onlydials. other volunteer “Hello?” a man answers from habit she starts to her answer in town, but then she thinks and about how he tried to kiss afterback too but then the possibilities wash across her and take her breath and even many Sang-Som-and-Cokes the night before and decides that for now as shebetter struggles to parsealone. them she’s astonished at the slowness of her she’s off looking mind, at the realization that she understand in time to respond. Instead Lee steps into the airwon’t conditioning of the computer room “Hello?” the Maung man asks again behind and then asksjotting something in Thai. and sees Win stretched thehe desk, on a clipboard. She’s heard before; it twentydoesn’t never Thai quite men sure answer what hisphones role iswith here“hello” at the clinic—at mean they know it’s her. She closes the phone and lays it down on eight, he’s the only student older than she, and he’s the only one not the desk.any Shemedicine—but looks at Win Maung that he heard. learning she seesand himsees centrifuging blood samples “Maybe she was in an accident,” Lee says. “Maybe should call one day and handing out plates of rice and fish paste theI next. More back.” and more she finds herself trusting his way of being everywhere. On Win is already shaking his in head, “I do think. For more thanMaung one night lately Lee has lain the dark of not her guesthouse accident, they bring Nar Lu to clinic.” room and imagined Win Maung’s hands sliding up her thighs, but the “Police, then.” complication seems unwise enough that even her fantasies end with The phone rings on the desk between them and they both jump. a trans-Pacific flight home. Lee“Hey, reaches forMaung,” it, stops, she thensays reaches forglances it again.up, Win Maung puts Win and he eyes widening his very gently over hers. withhand exaggerated optimism. “Teacher,” he says. “You speak English on phone, maybe they “Teacher!” look“Student!” for you too.” He reaches down and no thumbs thehow phone to times off. He laughs but she knows matter many “I will tell the doctors,” he says. she does this they will never use her name; even the old woman who serves Lee her lunchtime pad thai passes her the plate with a “Here, Lee has the advantage on Win Maung because she knows his story Teacher.” but “You he doesn’t know hers. yearsWin agoMaung Win Maung’s brothera want to go to bar, Three Teacher?” asks, cocking joined KNUtown. and a “We month thumb the toward golater rightSPDC now!”soldiers raided their village. They burnt down Win Maung’s home “Have you seen Nar Lu yet?” and took him into a durian grove

“No,” he says, smile gone. “Maybe you go look Obstetric?” “Not there.” “Women building?” “Not there.” Win Maung frowns, rapping his fingers on the back of the clipboard. “I think Nar Lu has cell phone,” he says. “To call mother and brother in refugee camp.” He thumbs the edges of a stack of paper, pulls the sheet he needs and pushes it across the desk. “This number,” he says, pointing it out in the long list of Burmese script. “You have cell phone?” Lee nods, takes her phone from her pocket and dials. “Hello?” a man answers and from habit she starts to answer back but then the possibilities wash across her and take her breath and even as she struggles to parse them she’s astonished at the slowness of her mind, at the realization that she won’t understand in time to respond. “Hello?” the man asks again and then he asks something in Thai. She’s heard Thai men answer phones with “hello” before; it doesn’t mean they know it’s her. She closes the phone and lays it down on the desk. She looks at Win Maung and sees that he heard. “Maybe she was in an accident,” Lee says. “Maybe I should call back.” Win Maung is already shaking his head, “I do not think. For accident, they bring Nar Lu to clinic.” “Police, then.” The phone rings on the desk between them and they both jump. Lee reaches for it, stops, then reaches for it again. Win Maung puts his hand very gently over hers. “Teacher,” he says. “You speak English on phone, maybe they look for you too.” He reaches down and thumbs the phone to off. “I will tell the doctors,” he says.

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Lee has the advantage on Win Maung because she knows his story but he doesn’t know hers. Three years ago Win Maung’s brother joined the KNU and a month later SPDC soldiers raided their village. They burnt down Win Maung’s home and took him into a durian grove 31


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

with his mother and his little sister. Tell me where your son is, the captain said, kicking Win Maung’s mother in the ribs. Win Maung thought his sister and mother would be raped and prepared himself to die fighting, but they only kicked his mother, again and again, in the stomach and in the head. We don’t know anything, Win Maung said, and this was true. They beat Win Maung and his sister and his mother and let them go. When we find your brother, they told Win Maung, we will kill him. And if we see you again, they said, we will kill you. Win Maung crept back into the village to find his neighbors gone and half the village aflame. From a neighbor’s house he stole a pot and a kilo of rice and when he found a chicken the soldiers had shot he took that too. He filled four stolen waterskins and set out with his mother and sister to the Thai border. His mother walked clutching her side and when she fell he carried her on his back like a child. They walked for a night and a day and then another night. They forded the river before dawn and walked to the clinic and his mother died in the emergency ward. Win Maung fixed the clinic’s computers and began English and accounting lessons. A year later, Lee arrived and assigned them an essay and this was the story he wrote her, as flat as the price of a malaria pill. “I’m sorry to hear about your mother,” Lee told him after class. “Very sorry.” Though she wanted to touch his arm or his thin shoulder as she spoke, she wasn’t sure it was allowed. Her hands hung at her sides, awkward as mittens. Win Maung’s face was cramped and pained as he watched a gecko scurry across the wall and behind a poster. BAN LANDMINES, the poster said. “Well,” Win Maung said. “It is border, Teacher.” Lee’s mother died in bed with Lee beside her holding onto fingers as dry as kindling. The home hospice booklet outlined the expected symptoms from five months before to the last hour before, so they both had a good idea of when this was going to happen. Three weeks before her mother’s death Lee dyed her hair bright blue, which she

withalways had his mother wanted andtohis dolittle and which sister. also Tellmade me where her feel your tougher. son is,Her the mother was captain said,the kicking one who Winpointed Maung’s thismother out. in the ribs. Win Maung thought “It makes his sister you look and mother tougher,” would she said, be raped though and talking prepared was difficult himself fordie to herfighting, by then,but thethey heaviness only kicked of her his limbs mother, and joints againcreeping and again, even in intostomach the her jaw. and “Like in the a punk. head. I We likedon’t it.” know anything, Win Maung said,“That’s and this just was thetrue. drugs They talking, beat Mom,” Win Maung Lee said and his andsister changed and her his mother’sand mother diaper let them and gave go. When her thewe hospice find your formula brother, to eat. they told Win Maung, A month we will afterkill thehim. funeral AndLee if we feltsee theyou same again, heaviness they said, settling we into her will kill own you. shoulders and hips, and when she understood it wasn’t cancer Winbut Maung hopelessness crept back sheinto tossed theout village her Returning to find hisStudent neighbors applicagone tion half and and went the village onlineaflame. to find aFrom new adirection. neighbor’s She house soldhe herstole mother’s a pot condo and a kilo andoftwo ricemonths and when laterheshe found wasaon chicken a night thebus soldiers heading hadnorth shot from he took Bangkok. that too. He filled four stolen waterskins and set out with his mother and sister to the Thai border. His mother walked clutching her sideWhile and when Lee waits, she fellshe he finds carried Soeher Myint on hisand back they like sitasweating child. They at a chippedfor walked stone a night tableand in the a day shade andofthen a longan another tree. night. Lee They shuffles forded and deals the river to him before and dawn a Karen andman walked she doesn’t to the clinic know and and his before mother longdied Soe Myint’s in the emergency up nine bottlecaps ward. Winand Maung she’sfixed downthe seventeen. clinic’s computers and began Win English Maungand comes accounting to the table lessons. and A sits, year greeting later, Lee Soearrived Myint and the other them assigned man in anKaren. essay and He this carries waswith the story him ahe blue wrote pitcher her, as of flat water as andprice the he pours of a amalaria glass for pill. her, apologizing to the others for not bringing “I’m more.sorry to hear about your mother,” Lee told him after class. “Very “Itsorry.” is important Though toshe drink wanted now,”tohe touch says. his“Maybe, arm or hisitthin willshoulder be long night.” as she spoke, she wasn’t sure it was allowed. Her hands hung at her sides, Asawkward it turns out as mittens. someone asked around in the market and the seniorWin clinic Maung’s staff already face was knows. cramped Thai and Military pained Intelligence as he watchedand a gecko local police stopped scurry across the Nar wall Luand at 7:30 behind thisamorning. poster. BAN She LANDMINES, showed her papers the and they poster said. took her anyway. “So this Win “Well,” can’tMaung be legal,” said.Lee “Itsays. is border, Teacher.” “I think, Teacher, we must be calm. I think, maybe this is only localLee’s police mother looking diedfor in bribe.” bed with Lee beside her holding onto fingers as dry “I can as kindling. go to theThe police home station,” hospice she booklet says. Impatient, outlined theSoe expected Myint takes the cards symptoms fromand fivedeals months a hand before for himself to the last andhour the other before, man, sochatthey teringhad both to him a good in Karen. idea of when “They’ll thissee wasI’m going white to happen. and they’ll Three think weeks I’m a reporter before heror mother’s a humandeath rightsLee worker. dyed her Andhair I have bright money.” blue, which she

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David Yost

David Yost

had always with his mother wanted andtohis dolittle and which sister. also Tellmade me where her feel your tougher. son is,Her the captain was mother said,the kicking one who Winpointed Maung’s thismother out. in the ribs. Win Maung thought “It makes his sister you look and mother tougher,” would she said, be raped though and talking prepared was difficult himself to die for herfighting, by then,but thethey heaviness only kicked of her his limbs mother, and joints againcreeping and again, even in the stomach into her jaw. and “Like in the a punk. head. I We likedon’t it.” know anything, Win Maung said,“That’s and this just was thetrue. drugs They talking, beat Mom,” Win Maung Lee said and his andsister changed and her his mother and mother’s diaper let them and gave go. When her thewe hospice find your formula brother, to eat. they told Win Maung, A month we will afterkill thehim. funeral AndLee if we feltsee theyou same again, heaviness they said, settling we will her into kill own you. shoulders and hips, and when she understood it wasn’t cancer Winbut Maung hopelessness crept back sheinto tossed theout village her Returning to find hisStudent neighbors applicagone and half tion and went the village onlineaflame. to find aFrom new adirection. neighbor’s She house soldhe herstole mother’s a pot and a kilo condo andoftwo ricemonths and when laterheshe found wasaon chicken a night thebus soldiers heading hadnorth shot he took from Bangkok. that too. He filled four stolen waterskins and set out with his mother and sister to the Thai border. His mother walked clutching her sideWhile and when Lee waits, she fellshe he finds carried Soeher Myint on hisand back they like sitasweating child. They at a walked for chipped stone a night tableand in the a day shade andofthen a longan another tree. night. Lee They shuffles forded and the river deals to him before and dawn a Karen andman walked she doesn’t to the clinic know and and his before mother longdied Soe in the emergency Myint’s up nine bottlecaps ward. Winand Maung she’sfixed downthe seventeen. clinic’s computers and began Win English Maungand comes accounting to the table lessons. and A sits, year greeting later, Lee Soearrived Myint and assigned the other them man in anKaren. essay and He this carries waswith the story him ahe blue wrote pitcher her, as of flat water as the price and he pours of a amalaria glass for pill. her, apologizing to the others for not bringing “I’m more.sorry to hear about your mother,” Lee told him after class. “Very “Itsorry.” is important Though toshe drink wanted now,”tohe touch says. his“Maybe, arm or hisitthin willshoulder be long as she spoke, she wasn’t sure it was allowed. Her hands hung at her night.” sides, Asawkward it turns out as mittens. someone asked around in the market and the seniorWin clinic Maung’s staff already face was knows. cramped Thai and Military pained Intelligence as he watchedand a gecko local scurry stopped police across the Nar wall Luand at 7:30 behind thisamorning. poster. BAN She LANDMINES, showed her papers the poster and they said. took her anyway. “Well,” “So this Win can’tMaung be legal,” said.Lee “Itsays. is border, Teacher.” “I think, Teacher, we must be calm. I think, maybe this is only localLee’s police mother looking diedfor in bribe.” bed with Lee beside her holding onto fingers as dry “I can as kindling. go to theThe police home station,” hospice she booklet says. Impatient, outlined theSoe expected Myint symptoms takes the cards fromand fivedeals months a hand before for himself to the last andhour the other before, man, sochatthey both had tering to him a good in Karen. idea of when “They’ll thissee wasI’m going white to happen. and they’ll Three think weeks I’m abefore reporter heror mother’s a humandeath rightsLee worker. dyed her Andhair I have bright money.” blue, which she

had always wanted to do and which also made her feel tougher. Her mother was the one who pointed this out. “It makes you look tougher,” she said, though talking was difficult for her by then, the heaviness of her limbs and joints creeping even into her jaw. “Like a punk. I like it.” “That’s just the drugs talking, Mom,” Lee said and changed her mother’s diaper and gave her the hospice formula to eat. A month after the funeral Lee felt the same heaviness settling into her own shoulders and hips, and when she understood it wasn’t cancer but hopelessness she tossed out her Returning Student application and went online to find a new direction. She sold her mother’s condo and two months later she was on a night bus heading north from Bangkok.

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While Lee waits, she finds Soe Myint and they sit sweating at a chipped stone table in the shade of a longan tree. Lee shuffles and deals to him and a Karen man she doesn’t know and before long Soe Myint’s up nine bottlecaps and she’s down seventeen. Win Maung comes to the table and sits, greeting Soe Myint and the other man in Karen. He carries with him a blue pitcher of water and he pours a glass for her, apologizing to the others for not bringing more. “It is important to drink now,” he says. “Maybe, it will be long night.” As it turns out someone asked around in the market and the senior clinic staff already knows. Thai Military Intelligence and local police stopped Nar Lu at 7:30 this morning. She showed her papers and they took her anyway. “So this can’t be legal,” Lee says. “I think, Teacher, we must be calm. I think, maybe this is only local police looking for bribe.” “I can go to the police station,” she says. Impatient, Soe Myint takes the cards and deals a hand for himself and the other man, chattering to him in Karen. “They’ll see I’m white and they’ll think I’m a reporter or a human rights worker. And I have money.” 33


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

“They will look your visa,” Win Maung says, “and they will deport you.” Right now Lee’s not sure if that would be a punishment or a gift. “That’s fine, if it gets her out.” “Teacher, I think, this is not good. This is dangerous.” “So what do we do?” “I do not know. Maybe something; maybe nothing. We will ask and we will wait.” He runs a hand through his puff of black hair and smiles tiredly. “I know you are very sad for Nar Lu. You help her with papers, very much. But now, maybe we help.” He stands and to her surprise, he leans in and quickly squeezes her arm. His breath smells of chilies and coriander. “You are very good woman, Teacher.” No, a good woman would actually do something, she thinks, but what she says is, “Thank you, Win Maung.” Grieving has taught Lee the dangers of inaction but here she can hardly seem to help it. She flips cards until Soe Myint and his friend have all of her bottlecaps and then she leaves them the cards and walks out to the empty caneball court, slapping away mosquitoes, to watch the sun go down over the tessellated rice paddies. Ever since she got here Lee’s been reading Amnesty reports with titles like “Uncounted: Political Prisoners in Burma’s Ethnic Areas” and “The Changing Faces of Forced Labor” and “A Gun As Tall As Me: Child Soldiers in Burma” and “Systematic Military Rape in Shan State” but now she sees them all again with Nar Lu’s face: the seven poun-zan positions for prisoner inspection, the shackles, the cheroot filters that the prisoners use to pass messages or new English-language words like elephant, increase, or junta. She sees the rusty nails for scratching chess games into plastic bags, the pots they shit in, the thin bamboo canes of the guards, the bloodied faces of the missing. Lee wonders if this is how it will be for her: five years without a word, and then one day seeing Nar Lu’s face in black-and-white, ruptured and swollen.

“They Lee waits willuntil look dark your andvisa,” takes her Winridiculous Maung says, little girl’s “and bike theyfrom will the shedyou.” deport and goes the long way around the lights of the clinic and up to the Right motortaxi now Lee’s stand.notShe surebikes if that three would milesbeofamoonlit punishment highway, or a past the comforting Western glow of the 7-11 and into town. As she gift. weaves “That’s through fine, the if itempty gets her stalls out.” of the vegetable market she hears a hoarse “Teacher, bark and I think, then another this is not andgood. in a moment This is adangerous.” pack of scabid dogs lopes “So beside what her, do we snapping do?” at her ankles. She keeps pedaling and reaches “I dofor notthe know. rocksMaybe in hersomething; basket, butmaybe the dogs nothing. know We this will gesture ask and we scramble will wait.” awayHe through runs athe hand mango through peels hisand pufftorn of black plastichair bags. and smiles A block tiredly. from “Ithe know police youstation are very shesad stops foratNar a temple Lu. You to gather help her thoughts. with papers, She very stopped much.here Butonce now,before maybetoweenjoy help.” theHe gold stands statuary and andher to thesurprise, green and he leans open in space and and quickly the kind squeezes smiles herofarm. the monks. His breath To her surprise smells of chilies the temple’s and coriander. monkey recognizes her, running his chain happily “Youback are very and forth goodalong woman, theTeacher.” length of his pole. “Sorry, No, a good monkey,” woman she would says.actually “No lychees do something, today.” She shetakes thinks, off but her sandals what sheand says walks is, “Thank out on you, the tile, WinupMaung.” to the square base of the stupa. She wais and kneels and touches her forehead to the smooth tile. Three months Grieving has taught ago itLee allthe seemed dangers soofstraightforward: inaction but hereget sheon cana plane and hardly seem help to help someone it. Sheout. flipsShe cards had until expected Soe Myint the culture and his friend shock and language have all of her barrier. bottlecaps She had andexpected then shetoleaves miss air them conditioning the cards and Lebanese walks out to food theand empty salsa caneball dancing. court, Sheslapping had expected away mosquitoes, the worries of to working watch theillegally. sun go down But what overshe thehadn’t tessellated expected rice was paddies. to still be on the sidelines, Ever since seeing sheher gotstudents here Lee’s disappear been reading into the Amnesty jungle,reports seeingwith Soe Myintlike titles on “Uncounted: his crutches, seeing Political mothers Prisoners wasting in Burma’s from AIDS Ethnicand Areas” kids dying and “The of diseases Changing that Faces a handful of Forced of vitamins Labor” and could “Ahave Gun As prevented, Tall As and herself Me: Child Soldiers walkinginsafe Burma” and healthy and “Systematic among them Military with her Rape white in Shan skin wrapped State” butaround now she her sees likethem a force all again field.with That, Narshe Lu’s somehow face: thehadn’t seven expected at poun-zan positions all. for prisoner inspection, the shackles, the cheroot filters “Buddha,” that the prisoners she says.use “I to don’t passknow messages if thisorisnew really English-language your thing, but I’d be very words like elephant, grateful for increase, any help oryou junta. might Shehave seestothe offer.” rusty nails for scratching chess games into plastic bags, the pots they shit in, the thin bamboo Lee walks canes into of the theguards, police station the bloodied and a dozen faces of conversations the missing. stop. Lee As she walks wonders if this up is to how the counter, it will be rehearsing for her: her fivesingle yearssentence without of a word, Thai, her eyes and then pass one day overseeing the uniforms Nar Lu’sand facetoinher black-and-white, surprise she recognizes ruptured themswollen. and all: local police, Bangkok police, Thai Military Intelligence.

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David Yost

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Berkeley Fiction Review

David Yost

David Yost

Lee waits “They willuntil look dark your andvisa,” takes her Winridiculous Maung says, little girl’s “and bike theyfrom will deport the shedyou.” and goes the long way around the lights of the clinic and up to the Right motortaxi now Lee’s stand.notShe surebikes if that three would milesbeofamoonlit punishment highway, or a gift. the comforting Western glow of the 7-11 and into town. As she past weaves “That’s through fine, the if itempty gets her stalls out.” of the vegetable market she hears a hoarse “Teacher, bark and I think, then another this is not andgood. in a moment This is adangerous.” pack of scabid dogs lopes “So beside what her, do we snapping do?” at her ankles. She keeps pedaling and reaches “I dofor notthe know. rocksMaybe in hersomething; basket, butmaybe the dogs nothing. know We this will gesture ask and we scramble will wait.” awayHe through runs athe hand mango through peels hisand pufftorn of black plastichair bags. and smiles A block tiredly. from “Ithe know police youstation are very shesad stops foratNar a temple Lu. You to gather help her with papers, thoughts. She very stopped much.here Butonce now,before maybetoweenjoy help.” theHe gold stands statuary and to her and thesurprise, green and he leans open in space and and quickly the kind squeezes smiles herofarm. the monks. His breath To smells her surprise of chilies the temple’s and coriander. monkey recognizes her, running his chain happily “Youback are very and forth goodalong woman, theTeacher.” length of his pole. No, a good “Sorry, monkey,” woman she would says.actually “No lychees do something, today.” She shetakes thinks, off but her what sheand sandals says walks is, “Thank out on you, the tile, WinupMaung.” to the square base of the stupa. She wais and kneels and touches her forehead to the smooth tile. Grieving Three months has taught ago itLee allthe seemed dangers soofstraightforward: inaction but hereget sheon cana hardlyand plane seem help to help someone it. Sheout. flipsShe cards had until expected Soe Myint the culture and his friend shock havelanguage and all of her barrier. bottlecaps She had andexpected then shetoleaves miss air them conditioning the cards and walks out to Lebanese food theand empty salsa caneball dancing. court, Sheslapping had expected away mosquitoes, the worries of to watch theillegally. working sun go down But what overshe thehadn’t tessellated expected rice was paddies. to still be on the sidelines, Ever since seeing sheher gotstudents here Lee’s disappear been reading into the Amnesty jungle,reports seeingwith Soe titles like Myint on “Uncounted: his crutches, seeing Political mothers Prisoners wasting in Burma’s from AIDS Ethnicand Areas” kids and “The dying of diseases Changing that Faces a handful of Forced of vitamins Labor” and could “Ahave Gun As prevented, Tall As Me:herself and Child Soldiers walkinginsafe Burma” and healthy and “Systematic among them Military with her Rape white in Shan skin State” butaround wrapped now she her sees likethem a force all again field.with That, Narshe Lu’s somehow face: thehadn’t seven poun-zan at expected positions all. for prisoner inspection, the shackles, the cheroot filters “Buddha,” that the prisoners she says.use “I to don’t passknow messages if thisorisnew really English-language your thing, but words I’d be very like elephant, grateful for increase, any help oryou junta. might Shehave seestothe offer.” rusty nails for scratching chess games into plastic bags, the pots they shit in, the thin bamboo Lee walks canes into of the theguards, police station the bloodied and a dozen faces of conversations the missing. stop. Lee wonders As she walks if this up is to how the counter, it will be rehearsing for her: her fivesingle years sentence without of a word, Thai, and eyes her then pass one day overseeing the uniforms Nar Lu’sand facetoinher black-and-white, surprise she recognizes ruptured and swollen. them all: local police, Bangkok police, Thai Military Intelligence.

Lee waits until dark and takes her ridiculous little girl’s bike from the shed and goes the long way around the lights of the clinic and up to the motortaxi stand. She bikes three miles of moonlit highway, past the comforting Western glow of the 7-11 and into town. As she weaves through the empty stalls of the vegetable market she hears a hoarse bark and then another and in a moment a pack of scabid dogs lopes beside her, snapping at her ankles. She keeps pedaling and reaches for the rocks in her basket, but the dogs know this gesture and scramble away through the mango peels and torn plastic bags. A block from the police station she stops at a temple to gather her thoughts. She stopped here once before to enjoy the gold statuary and the green and open space and the kind smiles of the monks. To her surprise the temple’s monkey recognizes her, running his chain happily back and forth along the length of his pole. “Sorry, monkey,” she says. “No lychees today.” She takes off her sandals and walks out on the tile, up to the square base of the stupa. She wais and kneels and touches her forehead to the smooth tile. Three months ago it all seemed so straightforward: get on a plane and help someone out. She had expected the culture shock and language barrier. She had expected to miss air conditioning and Lebanese food and salsa dancing. She had expected the worries of working illegally. But what she hadn’t expected was to still be on the sidelines, seeing her students disappear into the jungle, seeing Soe Myint on his crutches, seeing mothers wasting from AIDS and kids dying of diseases that a handful of vitamins could have prevented, and herself walking safe and healthy among them with her white skin wrapped around her like a force field. That, she somehow hadn’t expected at all. “Buddha,” she says. “I don’t know if this is really your thing, but I’d be very grateful for any help you might have to offer.”

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Lee walks into the police station and a dozen conversations stop. As she walks up to the counter, rehearsing her single sentence of Thai, her eyes pass over the uniforms and to her surprise she recognizes them all: local police, Bangkok police, Thai Military Intelligence. 35


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

“Sa wat dii kha,” she tells the man behind the desk “Tee nee mee krai poot pah-sah angrit dai bahng?” He smiles nervously, shaking his head, and turns to ask the others something in Thai. “I speak small English,” a Bangkok officer says, patting a lopsided paunch. He steps around the desk to stand beside her. “What do you need?” She flicks her eyes back and forth. “Maybe, we talk alone?” she says. He smiles and shows her to a windowless side room that reeks of sweat and excrement. “Sorry for,” he says, and waves his hand in front of his nose. Then, pointing at the corner chair: “Sit.” This is where they beat people, Lee thinks, and then she thinks, maybe Nar Lu, too, and then she sits. “What is problem?” the Bangkok officer asks. “Some person steal you? Steal money?” Outside, she hears a burst of Thai, and then laughter. “I need to find a friend,” she says. The Bangkok officer settles back in a chair of his own, narrows his eyes. “American friend?” he asks. She shakes her head. “Karen friend. With United Nations. Nar Lu. Very short”—she pantomimes—”very long hair. Eighteen years old.” She shows him a picture from her wallet, pointing: Nar Lu, Lee, and three other students. The Bangkok officer glances at the closed door, then back at her. “Passport?” he says. “It’s at my guest house.” “You are, United Nation?” “No.” “You are, human rights?” “No.” “You are, BBC?” “No.” He smiles and leans back in the chair. With his left hand he scratches his thigh. With his right hand he casually unsnaps, snaps,

and “Sa unsnaps again theshe strap pistolthe in desk its holster. wat dii kha,” tellskeeping the manhis behind “Tee nee mee he asks. krai“Nar poot Lu?” pah-sah angrit dai bahng?” “Yes.” He smiles nervously, shaking his head, and turns to ask the others “No,” he something in says. Thai. “I do not know. Very sorry.” Lee’s wallet is still on heraknee. She officer takes out an patting American ten “I speak small English,” Bangkok says, a lopdollarpaunch. bill that shows them boththe thedesk trembling of beside her hand then sided He steps around to stand her.and “What sheyou takes out another and then another, until there are ten in a stack. do need?” His She eyesflicks follow herevery eyes one. back and forth. “Maybe, we talk alone?” she carry too think. you, very easy.” says.“You He smiles andmuch, showsI her to aSteal windowless side room that reeks “I know,” she says. “Maybe you keep it for me?” of sweat and excrement. He looks again at the closed and back at her. “Sorry for,” he says, and wavesdoor his hand in front of his nose. Then, “Yes,” can keep. youthey need. Very safe.” pointing at he thesays. corner“Ichair: “Sit.” For Thiswhen is where beat people, Lee “I think, though, I still need to find thinks, and then she thinks, maybe Nar my Lu, friend.” too, and then she sits. The Bangkok officer is his officer head. asks. “Some person “What is problem?” theshaking Bangkok says.money?” “You notOutside, find your looks at herand for steal“No,” you?heSteal shefriend.” hears a He burst of Thai, a long minute, waiting for her to ask what he means, but she can’t. then laughter. “Tonight,” finally says. “Across In Burmaofficer now. settles With “I need he to find a friend,” she says.river. The Bangkok SPDCinsoldier.” back a chair of his own, narrows his eyes. “But she hadfriend?” papers,”he Lee says.She Hershakes hands are “American asks. hershaking head. even harder and “Karen she presses themWith tightUnited againstNations. the sides of her thighs. worked friend. Nar Lu. Very“She short”—she for a year to get thoselong papers.” The Bangkok shrugs. pantomimes—”very hair. Eighteen yearsofficer old.” She shows him “Papers,” says. a picture fromheher wallet, pointing: Nar Lu, Lee, and three other students. She doesn’t go far before she sees of another bicycle The Bangkok officer glances at the thesilhouette closed door, then back at among the headlamps of the motorbikes and when she slows down her. Win“Passport?” Maung pedals up beside her, breathing hard, his blue T-shirt he says. flapping dark against his chest. She keeps riding. “You “It’s at mywith guestsweat house.” turn“You off your phone, Teacher,” he says. He is unsteady on the are, cell United Nation?” bicycle, “No.”more used to motorbikes, and as he pedals his front wheel weaves and then the other. She slides further into the gutter “Youone are,way human rights?” to give him room. “No.” “Are you right?” he asks. “You are, all BBC?” “Sure.” “No.” in and behind her,back follows herchair. past the temple and hand through He falls smiles leans in the With his left he the quiet downtown streets. they he pass through the vegetable scratches his thigh. With his When right hand casually unsnaps, snaps,

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Berkeley Fiction Review

David Yost

David Yost

and “Sa unsnaps again theshe strap pistolthe in desk its holster. wat dii kha,” tellskeeping the manhis behind “Tee nee mee he asks. krai“Nar poot Lu?” pah-sah angrit dai bahng?” “Yes.” He smiles nervously, shaking his head, and turns to ask the others “No,” he something in says. Thai. “I do not know. Very sorry.” Lee’s wallet is still on heraknee. She officer takes out an patting American ten “I speak small English,” Bangkok says, a lopdollar bill that shows them boththe thedesk trembling of beside her hand then sided paunch. He steps around to stand her.and “What she takes out another and then another, until there are ten in a stack. do you need?” His She eyesflicks follow herevery eyes one. back and forth. “Maybe, we talk alone?” she carry too think. you, very easy.” says.“You He smiles andmuch, showsI her to aSteal windowless side room that reeks “I know,” she says. “Maybe you keep it for me?” of sweat and excrement. He looks again at the closed and back at her. “Sorry for,” he says, and wavesdoor his hand in front of his nose. Then, “Yes,” can keep. youthey need. Very safe.” pointing at he thesays. corner“Ichair: “Sit.” For Thiswhen is where beat people, Lee “I think, though, I still need to find thinks, and then she thinks, maybe Nar my Lu, friend.” too, and then she sits. The Bangkok officer is his officer head. asks. “Some person “What is problem?” theshaking Bangkok says.money?” “You notOutside, find your looks at herand for steal“No,” you?heSteal shefriend.” hears a He burst of Thai, athen long minute, waiting for her to ask what he means, but she can’t. laughter. “Tonight,” finally says. “Across In Burmaofficer now. settles With “I need he to find a friend,” she says.river. The Bangkok SPDC back insoldier.” a chair of his own, narrows his eyes. “But she hadfriend?” papers,”he Lee says.She Hershakes hands are “American asks. hershaking head. even harder and “Karen she presses themWith tightUnited againstNations. the sides of her thighs. worked friend. Nar Lu. Very“She short”—she for a year to get thoselong papers.” The Bangkok shrugs. pantomimes—”very hair. Eighteen yearsofficer old.” She shows him “Papers,” says. a picture fromheher wallet, pointing: Nar Lu, Lee, and three other students. She go far before she sees of another bicycle The doesn’t Bangkok officer glances at the thesilhouette closed door, then back at among the headlamps of the motorbikes and when she slows down her. Win“Passport?” Maung pedals up beside her, breathing hard, his blue T-shirt he says. flapping dark against his chest. She keeps riding. “You “It’s at mywith guestsweat house.” turn“You off your phone, Teacher,” he says. He is unsteady on the are, cell United Nation?” bicycle, “No.”more used to motorbikes, and as he pedals his front wheel weaves and then the other. She slides further into the gutter “Youone are,way human rights?” to give him room. “No.” “Are right?” he asks. “You you are, all BBC?” “Sure.” “No.” He falls in and behind her,back follows herchair. past the temple and hand through smiles leans in the With his left he the quiet downtown streets. they he pass through the vegetable scratches his thigh. With his When right hand casually unsnaps, snaps,

and unsnaps again the strap keeping his pistol in its holster. “Nar Lu?” he asks. “Yes.” “No,” he says. “I do not know. Very sorry.” Lee’s wallet is still on her knee. She takes out an American ten dollar bill that shows them both the trembling of her hand and then she takes out another and then another, until there are ten in a stack. His eyes follow every one. “You carry too much, I think. Steal you, very easy.” “I know,” she says. “Maybe you keep it for me?” He looks again at the closed door and back at her. “Yes,” he says. “I can keep. For when you need. Very safe.” “I think, though, I still need to find my friend.” The Bangkok officer is shaking his head. “No,” he says. “You not find your friend.” He looks at her for a long minute, waiting for her to ask what he means, but she can’t. “Tonight,” he finally says. “Across river. In Burma now. With SPDC soldier.” “But she had papers,” Lee says. Her hands are shaking even harder and she presses them tight against the sides of her thighs. “She worked for a year to get those papers.” The Bangkok officer shrugs. “Papers,” he says.

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She doesn’t go far before she sees the silhouette of another bicycle among the headlamps of the motorbikes and when she slows down Win Maung pedals up beside her, breathing hard, his blue T-shirt flapping dark with sweat against his chest. She keeps riding. “You turn off your cell phone, Teacher,” he says. He is unsteady on the bicycle, more used to motorbikes, and as he pedals his front wheel weaves one way and then the other. She slides further into the gutter to give him room. “Are you all right?” he asks. “Sure.” He falls in behind her, follows her past the temple and through the quiet downtown streets. When they pass through the vegetable


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

market Lee has a rock ready in her hand. A pale dog barks at her and she wings the rock hard, striking its flank and sending it yelping back into the darkness as they stop their bikes to stare after. “Come have a drink with me,” she says. “At least until I stop shaking.” She sees him ready to make a joke, but instead he looks after the dog and nods. She leads him down one alley and then another until they reach her guesthouse. She chains their bikes inside the fence and slides and locks the gate shut behind them. As he follows her around to her room, she hears a backfire from the road and a woman shouting in Thai and then they step inside and the throb of her air conditioner rolls over the city’s noise. Her sweat turns cool against her body as they settle in without speaking, Win Maung in the single plastic chair, Lee at the foot of the bed, elbows on her knees, hands folded under her chin. The silence brings to mind breakups, funeral receptions. “Teacher,” Win Maung finally says, tight-voiced. “I am very sorry for Nar Lu. But Teacher, I think what you do is not very smart. Now, maybe you cannot work at clinic. Maybe police watch for you.” “There’s Sang Som in that bag,” Lee says, pointing without looking up. “And two cups.” Win Maung takes them out. He unscrews the cap and pours. “I don’t have any Coke.” “Tonight, we drink it, no Coke,” he says, smiling a little bit. “Tonight, I think, you are Karen.” They clink glasses. “Cheers, Teacher.” She drinks. Aaron told her once that Sang Som is only industrial ethanol dyed brown, and while she doesn’t know if this is true, that is certainly how it tastes. She takes another drink and tells Win Maung about the police station. “We’ll file with the human rights groups in the morning,” she says. “UNHCR, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch.” Win Maung nods, but it is a nod that means, yes, these are motions we will also have to go through. Lee looks around her room, at her clothes stacked at the foot of the bed, at the flimsy wooden table where Win Maung sits beside her

marketplans, lesson Lee has at aher rock pink ready framepack in her hand. against A pale the dog barebarks concrete at herwall. and Three she wings months the rock of living hard, striking in this room its flank andand shesending could have it yelping moved back in yesterday. into the darkness She stands as they andstop lookstheir out bikes at the guesthouse to stare after. fence and takes another “Come drink. have a drink with me,” she says. “At least until I stop shaking.” Only a She briefsees window him ready remains to make for hera joke, to act,but sheinstead knows.heIflooks Nar Lu went after the across dog and thenods. river She in theleads afternoon, him down she was one alley probably and detained then anfor theuntil other night they in one reach of her the guesthouse. small towns along She chains the highway. their bikes Leeinside only speaks the fence fifty andwords slidesofand Burmese, locks thebut gate sheshut hasbehind white them. skin and AsAmerihe folcan dollars lows her around and atocamera. her room, She shecan hears cross a backfire the border from andthe slip road farther and ainland, woman and shouting if she can in Thai document and then that they Narstep Luinside is there, andthen the throb she can of get UNHCR her air conditioner involved rolls immediately, over the city’s before noise. the SPDC Her sweat moves turns hercool any further. her against At body the same as they timesettle she knows in without thatspeaking, this is howWin even Maung Americans in the disappear. single plastic chair, Lee at the foot of the bed, elbows on her knees, hands Shefolded imagines understepping her chin.offThe a plane silenceinbrings O’Hare to mind and ordering breakups,a glass ofreceptions. funeral white wine at the airport bar. She imagines seeing Nar Lu’s name “Teacher,” ten yearsWin from Maung now in finally a listsays, of the tight-voiced. missing, and “I am notvery knowing sorry sheNar for hadLu. done But everything Teacher, Ishe think could. what you Shedo imagines is not very rationalizing smart. Now, to well-nourished maybe you cannot dietitians work atover clinic. grilled Maybe salmon police and watch garlic forbok you.” choy. Then “There’s she imagines Sang Som herself, in that suburban bag,” Lee Lee, says, slipping pointing past without soldiers lookin the brush ing up. “And withtwo her cups.” ten-dollar WinWal-Mart Maung takes camera them andout. thisHe is when unscrews she understands the cap and pours. that it is over and that Nar Lu is gone and that there is nothing “I don’t thathave Lee can any do Coke.” to help her. She drinks. How stupid, she thinks, “Tonight, to pretend we that drink there it, was. no Coke,” She hears he says, her mother’s smilingwhispers a little bit. for diamorphine “Tonight, I think, and smells you are theKaren.” tang of her They mother’s clink glasses. piss. She“Cheers, watches Win Maung’s reflection watching her, his hands idly straightening Teacher.” her She lesson drinks. plans.Aaron told her once that Sang Som is only industrial ethanol “Nodyed one’sbrown, learnedand a thing whileinshe there,” doesn’t sheknow says.if this is true, that is certainly “Teacher?” how it tastes. She takes another drink and tells Win Maung about “Inthe thepolice class.station. No one is making progress. No one is learning English.” “We’ll file with the human rights groups in the morning,” she says.“No, “UNHCR, Teacher,” Amnesty Win Maung International, says andHuman thoughRights he keeps Watch.” his voice Win soft andnods, Maung level but she itknows is a nod she’s that upset means, him.yes, “People theselearn are motions very much we progress. will also have You to work go through. very hard. You are very good woman to come Thailand.” Lee looks around her room, at her clothes stacked at the foot of the bed, “I just at had the flimsy nothing wooden to lose,” table Leewhere says.Win Maung sits beside her

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Berkeley Fiction Review

David Yost

David Yost

lesson plans, market Lee has at aher rock pink ready framepack in her hand. against A pale the dog barebarks concrete at herwall. and she wings Three months the rock of living hard, striking in this room its flank andand shesending could have it yelping moved back in into the darkness yesterday. She stands as they andstop lookstheir out bikes at the guesthouse to stare after. fence and takes another “Come drink. have a drink with me,” she says. “At least until I stop shaking.” Only a She briefsees window him ready remains to make for hera joke, to act,but sheinstead knows.heIflooks Nar after Lu went the across dog and thenods. river She in theleads afternoon, him down she was one alley probably and detained then another for theuntil night they in one reach of her the guesthouse. small towns along She chains the highway. their bikes Leeinside only the fence speaks fifty andwords slidesofand Burmese, locks thebut gate sheshut hasbehind white them. skin and AsAmerihe followsdollars can her around and atocamera. her room, She shecan hears cross a backfire the border from andthe slip road farther and a woman inland, and shouting if she can in Thai document and then that they Narstep Luinside is there, andthen the throb she can of her UNHCR get air conditioner involved rolls immediately, over the city’s before noise. the SPDC Her sweat moves turns hercool any against her further. At body the same as they timesettle she knows in without thatspeaking, this is howWin even Maung Americans in the single plastic chair, Lee at the foot of the bed, elbows on her knees, disappear. hands Shefolded imagines understepping her chin.offThe a plane silenceinbrings O’Hare to mind and ordering breakups,a funeral glass ofreceptions. white wine at the airport bar. She imagines seeing Nar Lu’s name “Teacher,” ten yearsWin from Maung now in finally a listsays, of the tight-voiced. missing, and “I am notvery knowing sorry for Nar she hadLu. done But everything Teacher, Ishe think could. what you Shedo imagines is not very rationalizing smart. Now, to maybe you cannot well-nourished dietitians work atover clinic. grilled Maybe salmon police and watch garlic forbok you.” choy. Then “There’s she imagines Sang Som herself, in that suburban bag,” Lee Lee, says, slipping pointing past without soldiers lookin ing brush the up. “And withtwo her cups.” ten-dollar WinWal-Mart Maung takes camera them andout. thisHe is when unscrews she the cap and pours. understands that it is over and that Nar Lu is gone and that there is nothing “I don’t thathave Lee can any do Coke.” to help her. She drinks. How stupid, she thinks, “Tonight, to pretend we that drink there it, was. no Coke,” She hears he says, her mother’s smilingwhispers a little bit. for “Tonight, I think, diamorphine and smells you are theKaren.” tang of her They mother’s clink glasses. piss. She“Cheers, watches Teacher.” Win Maung’s reflection watching her, his hands idly straightening her She lesson drinks. plans.Aaron told her once that Sang Som is only industrial ethanol “Nodyed one’sbrown, learnedand a thing whileinshe there,” doesn’t sheknow says.if this is true, that is certainly “Teacher?” how it tastes. She takes another drink and tells Win Maung about “Inthe thepolice class.station. No one is making progress. No one is learning English.” “We’ll file with the human rights groups in the morning,” she says.“No, “UNHCR, Teacher,” Amnesty Win Maung International, says andHuman thoughRights he keeps Watch.” his voice Win Maung soft andnods, level but she itknows is a nod she’s that upset means, him.yes, “People theselearn are motions very much we will also have progress. You to work go through. very hard. You are very good woman to come Thailand.” Lee looks around her room, at her clothes stacked at the foot of the bed, “I just at had the flimsy nothing wooden to lose,” table Leewhere says.Win Maung sits beside her

lesson plans, at her pink framepack against the bare concrete wall. Three months of living in this room and she could have moved in yesterday. She stands and looks out at the guesthouse fence and takes another drink. Only a brief window remains for her to act, she knows. If Nar Lu went across the river in the afternoon, she was probably detained for the night in one of the small towns along the highway. Lee only speaks fifty words of Burmese, but she has white skin and American dollars and a camera. She can cross the border and slip farther inland, and if she can document that Nar Lu is there, then she can get UNHCR involved immediately, before the SPDC moves her any further. At the same time she knows that this is how even Americans disappear. She imagines stepping off a plane in O’Hare and ordering a glass of white wine at the airport bar. She imagines seeing Nar Lu’s name ten years from now in a list of the missing, and not knowing she had done everything she could. She imagines rationalizing to well-nourished dietitians over grilled salmon and garlic bok choy. Then she imagines herself, suburban Lee, slipping past soldiers in the brush with her ten-dollar Wal-Mart camera and this is when she understands that it is over and that Nar Lu is gone and that there is nothing that Lee can do to help her. She drinks. How stupid, she thinks, to pretend that there was. She hears her mother’s whispers for diamorphine and smells the tang of her mother’s piss. She watches Win Maung’s reflection watching her, his hands idly straightening her lesson plans. “No one’s learned a thing in there,” she says. “Teacher?” “In the class. No one is making progress. No one is learning English.” “No, Teacher,” Win Maung says and though he keeps his voice soft and level she knows she’s upset him. “People learn very much progress. You work very hard. You are very good woman to come Thailand.” “I just had nothing to lose,” Lee says.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

She watches Win Maung’s reflection as he considers the idiom and then puts down his drink and moves to stand beside her. “Lee,” he says. “I am sorry, but you do not understand this I say. Sometimes student learn English very much, sometimes student learn English very little. This is not important. Sometimes you help papers, but no one can control papers. This is not important.” For Nar Lu it is, she tries to say, but he rushes on before she can. “Please, listen me. Here is important. You live, half around world in rich country. You not live in Burma. You not know refugee. But you watch on telly, you read on Internet, Burma have trouble and you take airplane over ocean and you leave your friends and your family and your United States and now you come here and live with refugee, because you want to help.” As Win Maung speaks, he takes the glass from her hand and sets it on the windowsill and then he squeezes her cool palm. “Nar Lu do not care you nothing lose. She care you try.” Lee opens her mouth and then decides to close it again. She watches her eyes for tears in the window until she’s sure there won’t be any and then she just watches the dark, her hand in Win Maung’s. “First thing tomorrow,” she says. “UNHCR, then AI.” “I will help,” Win Maung says. She realizes that she already assumed he would. He lets go of her hand and raises his own to check a camouflage-banded G.I. Joe watch. From the road Lee can hear the barks and howls of a dogfight, but through the air conditioner the noise is distant, unreal. “It is very late,” Win Maung says. “Listen,” Lee says. “I don’t know if it’s OK for a woman to ask this in your culture, but I would really like to kiss you right now.” “Yes,” he says. “Is OK.” Nar Lu almost slips away when she sees the police officers but then she remembers the UN papers in her handbag and so she stays by the aubergine stand, bargaining the woman down two more baht. Even when she steps away to realize that the police are nearly atop her, she does not begin to run, because why would they stop only her

among Shethe watches dozensWin of illegal Maung’s workers reflection in theasmarket? he considers Only the when idiom she feelsthen and the officer’s puts down hand his close drink over and moves her shoulder to stand does beside she her. understand what“Lee,” is happening. he says. “I am sorry, but you do not understand this I say. Sometimes “I’m a refugee,” student learn she English tells them very inmuch, Thai, reaching sometimes forstudent the papers. learn “I have UNHCR English very little.papers.” This is not important. Sometimes you help papers, but A noyoung one can officer control behind papers. the one This holding is nother important.” shoulder smiles kindly. “WeFor onlyNar need Lutoit talk is, she to you triesfortoasay, minute, but he miss,” rushes he says on before and takes she the plastic bag of aubergines from Nar Lu’s hand and gives them back can. to the “Please, vegetable listenwoman. me. Here is important. You live, half around world in rich At the country. policeYou station notthey liveput in Burma. her in a small You not room know withrefugee. no furniture But and awatch you large on Karen telly,man youand read they on lock Internet, the door. Burma Nar have Lu trouble steps to and the opposite you take corner airplaneofover the room oceanand andsits. you leave The man yourwatches friends her andmove your throughand family swollen, your United blackened Stateseyes. and now She you can come see Chinese here andcharacters live with tattooed on refugee, because his left you bicep wantbut to does help.”not understand what they say. A smuggler, As Winshe Maung thinks. speaks, She pulls he takes her the knees glass upfrom to herher chest handand andholds sets heroncrucifix it the windowsill and prays andopen-eyed, then he squeezes to Jesusherand cool thepalm. Father and the Holy“Nar Ghost. Lu do not care you nothing lose. She care you try.” The man Lee opensfinally her mouth smiles.and“I then can barely decideseven to close move,it little again. sister,” She he says in watches herKaren. eyes for“Itears willin not thehurt window you.”until she’s sure there won’t be any “Why and then areshe we just here?” watches the dark, her hand in Win Maung’s. He shrugs. “First thing The tomorrow,” cell fillsshe up says. through “UNHCR, the morning then and AI.”afternoon until“Iforty will people help,” sit Win thigh-to-thigh, Maung says. some She realizes that Narthat Lu knows she already like Aye asLwin and sumed he would. Bo Gyi and He lets others go of that hershe hand hasand never raises seen, hisbut own allto ofcheck them apoliticals camouflage-banded or smugglersG.I. andJoe none watch. of them From migrant the road workers. Lee can At least hear a dozen the barksofand them howls have ofpapers, a dogfight, too. but through the air conditioner the noise “Orders is distant, fromunreal. Bangkok,” “It is Aye veryLwin late,”suggests. Win Maung “Break says.the resistance. “Listen,” Appease Lee thesays. junta.“I Do don’t some know more if it’s oil business.” OK for a woman Nar Lutodoes ask not respond this in your culture, but continues but I would to pray. really like to kiss you right now.” After dark “Yes,” he says. the police “Is OK.” put them onto trucks and she is separated from Aye Lwin and Bo Gyi and taken not to the Friendship Bridge but to the Nar riverbank Lu almost downstream slips awaywhere whenashe launch sees isthe waiting policetoofficers take them but across. then sheNone remembers of the prisoners the UN papers speakinbut herthey handbag move and moresocheerfully she stays now, by thecooperative; aubergine stand, they’ve bargaining all heardthe stories woman of police down two arresting more baht. refugees only Even whentoshe meet steps quotas away and to then realize releasing that thethem police in Burma are nearly without atop contacting her, she does thenot authorities begin to run, there, because and they whyknow would that they all stop that only remains her

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among Shethe watches dozensWin of illegal Maung’s workers reflection in theasmarket? he considers Only the when idiom she and then feels the officer’s puts down hand his close drink over and moves her shoulder to stand does beside she her. understand what“Lee,” is happening. he says. “I am sorry, but you do not understand this I say. Sometimes “I’m a refugee,” student learn she English tells them very inmuch, Thai, reaching sometimes forstudent the papers. learn English “I have UNHCR very little.papers.” This is not important. Sometimes you help papers, but A noyoung one can officer control behind papers. the one This holding is nother important.” shoulder smiles kindly. “WeFor onlyNar need Lutoit talk is, she to you triesfortoasay, minute, but he miss,” rushes he says on before and takes she can.plastic bag of aubergines from Nar Lu’s hand and gives them back the to the “Please, vegetable listenwoman. me. Here is important. You live, half around world in rich At the country. policeYou station notthey liveput in Burma. her in a small You not room know withrefugee. no furniture But you awatch and large on Karen telly,man youand read they on lock Internet, the door. Burma Nar have Lu trouble steps to and the you take corner opposite airplaneofover the room oceanand andsits. you leave The man yourwatches friends her andmove your family and through swollen, your United blackened Stateseyes. and now She you can come see Chinese here andcharacters live with refugee, on tattooed because his left you bicep wantbut to does help.”not understand what they say. A smuggler, As Winshe Maung thinks. speaks, She pulls he takes her the knees glass upfrom to herher chest handand andholds sets it oncrucifix her the windowsill and prays andopen-eyed, then he squeezes to Jesusherand cool thepalm. Father and the Holy“Nar Ghost. Lu do not care you nothing lose. She care you try.” Lee man The opensfinally her mouth smiles.and“I then can barely decideseven to close move,it little again. sister,” She watches he says in herKaren. eyes for“Itears willin not thehurt window you.”until she’s sure there won’t be any “Why and then areshe we just here?” watches the dark, her hand in Win Maung’s. “First He shrugs. thing The tomorrow,” cell fillsshe up says. through “UNHCR, the morning then and AI.”afternoon until“Iforty will people help,” sit Win thigh-to-thigh, Maung says. some She realizes that Narthat Lu knows she already like Aye assumedand Lwin he would. Bo Gyi and He lets others go of that hershe hand hasand never raises seen, hisbut own allto ofcheck them a camouflage-banded politicals or smugglersG.I. andJoe none watch. of them From migrant the road workers. Lee can At least hear athe dozen barksofand them howls have ofpapers, a dogfight, too. but through the air conditioner the noise “Orders is distant, fromunreal. Bangkok,” “It is Aye veryLwin late,”suggests. Win Maung “Break says.the resistance. “Listen,” Appease Lee thesays. junta.“I Do don’t some know more if it’s oil business.” OK for a woman Nar Lutodoes ask this respond not in your culture, but continues but I would to pray. really like to kiss you right now.” “Yes,”dark After he says. the police “Is OK.” put them onto trucks and she is separated from Aye Lwin and Bo Gyi and taken not to the Friendship Bridge but to the Nar riverbank Lu almost downstream slips awaywhere whenashe launch sees isthe waiting policetoofficers take them but then sheNone across. remembers of the prisoners the UN papers speakinbut herthey handbag move and moresocheerfully she stays by thecooperative; now, aubergine stand, they’ve bargaining all heardthe stories woman of police down two arresting more baht. refuEvenonly gees whentoshe meet steps quotas away and to then realize releasing that thethem police in Burma are nearly without atop her, she does contacting thenot authorities begin to run, there, because and they whyknow would that they all stop that only remains her

among the dozens of illegal workers in the market? Only when she feels the officer’s hand close over her shoulder does she understand what is happening. “I’m a refugee,” she tells them in Thai, reaching for the papers. “I have UNHCR papers.” A young officer behind the one holding her shoulder smiles kindly. “We only need to talk to you for a minute, miss,” he says and takes the plastic bag of aubergines from Nar Lu’s hand and gives them back to the vegetable woman. At the police station they put her in a small room with no furniture and a large Karen man and they lock the door. Nar Lu steps to the opposite corner of the room and sits. The man watches her move through swollen, blackened eyes. She can see Chinese characters tattooed on his left bicep but does not understand what they say. A smuggler, she thinks. She pulls her knees up to her chest and holds her crucifix and prays open-eyed, to Jesus and the Father and the Holy Ghost. The man finally smiles. “I can barely even move, little sister,” he says in Karen. “I will not hurt you.” “Why are we here?” He shrugs. The cell fills up through the morning and afternoon until forty people sit thigh-to-thigh, some that Nar Lu knows like Aye Lwin and Bo Gyi and others that she has never seen, but all of them politicals or smugglers and none of them migrant workers. At least a dozen of them have papers, too. “Orders from Bangkok,” Aye Lwin suggests. “Break the resistance. Appease the junta. Do some more oil business.” Nar Lu does not respond but continues to pray. After dark the police put them onto trucks and she is separated from Aye Lwin and Bo Gyi and taken not to the Friendship Bridge but to the riverbank downstream where a launch is waiting to take them across. None of the prisoners speak but they move more cheerfully now, cooperative; they’ve all heard stories of police arresting refugees only to meet quotas and then releasing them in Burma without contacting the authorities there, and they know that all that remains

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Berkeley Fiction Review

now is to swim back across. As she gets off the truck Nar Lu shows her papers to the youngest of the policemen. “Please,” she says. “There is a mistake.” He takes the paper from her hands, looks at its English writing and then the Thai on the reverse side. He folds it and then folds it twice more and then puts the square of paper into her hand and turns away. Because she stopped to talk Nar Lu is the last one in the boat and the sides are already full so she nestles into the belly of the boat beside the smuggler. A Thai Military Intelligence officer perches on the bow and two more in the stern, automatic weapons held carefully just beyond the prisoners’ reach. The motor roars and the boat plows out across the flat, dark water. “You will be home soon, little sister,” the smuggler whispers beneath the motor noise. “Do not be afraid.” But she can see his eyes, big and white in the dark. Across the river a flashlight blinks on and off and now they can see figures moving among the trees. “SPDC,” someone whispers and someone else whispers “DKBA” and Nar Lu realizes that this person must be correct and that she is probably going to die, because the DKBA kill Christians and KNU and anyone who tries to leave Burma and she is all three. The officer at the stern turns the rudder and the boat moves toward the dark group on shore. Nar Lu understands she must destroy her papers and because she cannot reach the side and does not dare pass them to a stranger, she tears off a strip from the top and eats it. The paper is tougher than she expects and she takes it wet from her mouth and tears it into smaller pieces and these she can swallow. The smuggler sees what she is doing and shifts his body between her and the officers in the stern as she eats through her ticket from the country strip by strip. “The cross, too,” he whispers when she is done. She still has it pressed in her left hand and when she opens her hand to look at it the man snatches it away and tosses it low over the side. “Jesus does not want you to die today,” he says. Beside her she can see that a man is getting ready to jump but then he looks again at the rifles and

now is back settles to swim against backthe across. side of the boat, face glassy with sweat and moonlight. As she gets off the truck Nar Lu shows her papers to the youngest of the Thepolicemen. DKBA soldiers “Please,” wadeshe intosays. the river “There to help is a pull mistake.” up the launch and He theytakes orderthe thepaper prisoners fromout heronto hands, thelooks shore.atAs itsthe English refugees writing line up, the and then soldiers the Thai lifton twothe green reverse suitcases side. into He the folds launch it andand then then folds push it it out again twice more in and thethen river. puts Nar theLu square can hear of paper the motor into her longhand afterand theturns boat itself disappears until the Thais reach the other side and then even away. thatBecause noise disappears. she stopped to talk Nar Lu is the last one in the boat and Later the sides the are soldiers already take fullthe so refugees she nestles aside intoone the belly by one of to theinterboat rogate them. beside the smuggler. When they A Thai search Military Nar Lu Intelligence it is the first officer timeperches a man has on everbow the touched and two her more breasts. in the Shestern, doesautomatic not speakweapons but only stares held carefully straight ahead just beyond and inthe a minute prisoners’ it isreach. over. The motor roars and the boat plows out “Why?” across theone flat,ofdark themwater. asks her. He looks Nar Lu’s age but acts much “You older, will handling be home hissoon, rifle with littlea sister,” contemptuous the smuggler ease. whispers beneath “To visit the motor my sisters noise. in the “Do Mae notSariang be afraid.” refugee Butcamp.” she canThe seemen his smile big eyes, at each and other, white hands in the on dark. their rifles. She knows it is a dangerous answer, Across because the river theyamay flashlight kill herblinks even for on this, and off but and without nowsome they sort can of story see figures she is moving certainamong they will theshoot trees. her.“SPDC,” “I went for someone three days whispers only.” A soldier and someone to her else side whispers spits and“DKBA” scuffs the and ground Nar Lu with realizes his boot. that this person “Are must yoube forcorrect DKBA and or that KNU?” she is probably going to die, because the “DKBA.” DKBA kill Christians and KNU and anyone who tries to leave Burma “Areand youshe Buddhist is all three. or Christian?” The officer at the stern turns the rudder and “Buddhist,” the boat moves she toward says, and thetodark her group surprise on and shore. guilt she does not evenNar hesitate Lu understands but she thinks shethat mustthe destroy smuggler her was papers right andand because that Jesus she does notreach cannot wantthe herside to die and today. does She not dare can see pass thethem young to asoldier stranger, staring she at heroff tears buta in strip thefrom darkthe histop eyes andmean eats it. nothing. The paper is tougher than she expects “Go,” and heshe says, takes and itthey wetpull from theher next mouth person and from tears theit line. into smaller Nar Lu walks down pieces and these the bank she and can when swallow. she isThe far enough smuggler away seesshe what sits she down is under aand doing tallshifts betelhis palm body andbetween waits. She herdoes and the notofficers know how in the many stern they as let go she eats and through how many her ticket they take frombut thesoon country she hears strip by thestrip. group moving away “The intocross, the jungle too,”and hemuch whispers laterwhen she hears she shots is done. but she Shetells stillherself has it that on the pressed in border her leftthis hand could andmean whenanything. she opensWhen her hand she guesses to lookthere at it is anman the hour snatches left before it away dawn and shetosses wades it low into over the river the side. and unwraps “Jesus does her longyi not want andyou swims to die outtoday,” into thehecurrentless says. Beside water herand sheacross. can seeOn thatthea otherisshore man getting sheready dresses to jump and walks but then upstream he looks and again when at the she rifles finds and the

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David Yost

David Yost

settles now is back to swim against backthe across. side of the boat, face glassy with sweat and moonlight. As she gets off the truck Nar Lu shows her papers to the youngest of the Thepolicemen. DKBA soldiers “Please,” wadeshe intosays. the river “There to help is a pull mistake.” up the launch and He theytakes orderthe thepaper prisoners fromout heronto hands, thelooks shore.atAs itsthe English refugees writing line andthe up, then soldiers the Thai lifton twothe green reverse suitcases side. into He the folds launch it andand then then folds push it twice it out again more in and thethen river. puts Nar theLu square can hear of paper the motor into her longhand afterand theturns boat away.disappears until the Thais reach the other side and then even itself thatBecause noise disappears. she stopped to talk Nar Lu is the last one in the boat and Later the sides the are soldiers already take fullthe so refugees she nestles aside intoone the belly by one of to theinterboat beside them. rogate the smuggler. When they A Thai search Military Nar Lu Intelligence it is the first officer timeperches a man has on the bow ever touched and two her more breasts. in the Shestern, doesautomatic not speakweapons but only stares held carefully straight just beyond ahead and inthe a minute prisoners’ it isreach. over. The motor roars and the boat plows out “Why?” across theone flat,ofdark themwater. asks her. He looks Nar Lu’s age but acts much “You older, will handling be home hissoon, rifle with littlea sister,” contemptuous the smuggler ease. whispers beneath “To visit the motor my sisters noise. in the “Do Mae notSariang be afraid.” refugee Butcamp.” she canThe seemen his eyes, big smile at each and other, white hands in the on dark. their rifles. She knows it is a dangerous answer, Across because the river theyamay flashlight kill herblinks even for on this, and off but and without nowsome they sort can seestory of figures she is moving certainamong they will theshoot trees. her.“SPDC,” “I went for someone three days whispers only.” and A soldier someone to her else side whispers spits and“DKBA” scuffs the and ground Nar Lu with realizes his boot. that this person “Are must yoube forcorrect DKBA and or that KNU?” she is probably going to die, because the “DKBA.” DKBA kill Christians and KNU and anyone who tries to leave Burma “Areand youshe Buddhist is all three. or Christian?” The officer at the stern turns the rudder and “Buddhist,” the boat moves she toward says, and thetodark her group surprise on and shore. guilt she does not evenNar hesitate Lu understands but she thinks shethat mustthe destroy smuggler her was papers right andand because that Jesus she cannot does notreach wantthe herside to die and today. does She not dare can see pass thethem young to asoldier stranger, staring she tears at heroff buta in strip thefrom darkthe histop eyes andmean eats it. nothing. The paper is tougher than she expects “Go,” and heshe says, takes and itthey wetpull from theher next mouth person and from tears theit line. into smaller Nar Lu pieces down walks and these the bank she and can when swallow. she isThe far enough smuggler away seesshe what sits she down is doing aand under tallshifts betelhis palm body andbetween waits. She herdoes and the notofficers know how in the many stern they as shego let eats and through how many her ticket they take frombut thesoon country she hears strip by thestrip. group moving away “The intocross, the jungle too,”and hemuch whispers laterwhen she hears she shots is done. but she Shetells stillherself has it pressed that on the in border her leftthis hand could andmean whenanything. she opensWhen her hand she guesses to lookthere at it theanman is hour snatches left before it away dawn and shetosses wades it low into over the river the side. and unwraps “Jesus does her not want longyi andyou swims to die outtoday,” into thehecurrentless says. Beside water herand sheacross. can seeOn thatthea man isshore other getting sheready dresses to jump and walks but then upstream he looks and again when at the she rifles finds and the

settles back against the side of the boat, face glassy with sweat and moonlight. The DKBA soldiers wade into the river to help pull up the launch and they order the prisoners out onto the shore. As the refugees line up, the soldiers lift two green suitcases into the launch and then push it out again in the river. Nar Lu can hear the motor long after the boat itself disappears until the Thais reach the other side and then even that noise disappears. Later the soldiers take the refugees aside one by one to interrogate them. When they search Nar Lu it is the first time a man has ever touched her breasts. She does not speak but only stares straight ahead and in a minute it is over. “Why?” one of them asks her. He looks Nar Lu’s age but acts much older, handling his rifle with a contemptuous ease. “To visit my sisters in the Mae Sariang refugee camp.” The men smile at each other, hands on their rifles. She knows it is a dangerous answer, because they may kill her even for this, but without some sort of story she is certain they will shoot her. “I went for three days only.” A soldier to her side spits and scuffs the ground with his boot. “Are you for DKBA or KNU?” “DKBA.” “Are you Buddhist or Christian?” “Buddhist,” she says, and to her surprise and guilt she does not even hesitate but she thinks that the smuggler was right and that Jesus does not want her to die today. She can see the young soldier staring at her but in the dark his eyes mean nothing. “Go,” he says, and they pull the next person from the line. Nar Lu walks down the bank and when she is far enough away she sits down under a tall betel palm and waits. She does not know how many they let go and how many they take but soon she hears the group moving away into the jungle and much later she hears shots but she tells herself that on the border this could mean anything. When she guesses there is an hour left before dawn she wades into the river and unwraps her longyi and swims out into the currentless water and across. On the other shore she dresses and walks upstream and when she finds the

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

highway she follows it five miles out to the clinic, staying well off the road and along the walkways of the rice paddies until she walks in across the caneball court and through the line of people waiting in reception. Because she doesn’t know if people even noticed she was gone she walks into her English class first. After they surround her and give her water and tea and clean clothes, this is the story she tells them, first in Karen, and then in English, for Lee.

highway she follows it five miles out to the clinic, staying well off the road and along the walkways of the rice paddies until she walks First Place Sudden Fiction Winner in across the caneball court and through the line of people waiting in reception. Because she doesn’t know if people even noticed she was gone she walks into her English class first. After they surround her and give her water and tea and clean clothes, this is the story she tells them, first in Karen, and then in English, for Lee.

That night after they make love Win Maung lies beside her and plays with a piece of her hair. “It’s very short,” she says, thinking of Nar Lu’s body-length braid. Win Maung shakes his head, smiling, his narrow face an inch from hers. “I like. Very much.” “ I don’t understand anything today.” “You do not have to,” Win Maung says, still stroking her hair. “This is border.” After a minute, he asks, “Do you want, I go away tonight?” “No.” She rolls into him and presses her face into his ribs and kisses them one by one and then smiles as his arms wrap her up again. “Stay.”

That night after they make love Win Maung lies beside her and plays withBaRIEF piece of her hair.) EXEMPLARY THE , (N EARLY “It’s very short,” she says, thinking of Nar Lu’s body-length braid. Win Maung shakes his head, smiling, his narrow face an inch from hers. “I like. Very much.” I wasunderstand tired of my job, fumbling “ I don’t anything today.” about for something new, when I decided to become a Madman. experience necessary, the “You do not have to,” Win MaungNo says, still stroking her hair. ad in the paper said, willa train rightheperson. There a steep “This is border.” After minute, asks, “Do youwas want, I go learnaway ing curve, but I was a quick study, and within a month I’d settled tonight?” into“No.” the rhythms of the at theher mouth, baring She rolls intojob: himfoaming and presses face into hismy ribsteeth and and leering at strangers on the subway platform, willfully eschewkisses them one by one and then smiles as his arms wrap her up ing any“Stay.” kind of regular bathing schedule. I spent countless hours again. deep into the night researching crop circles, the Illuminati, and the fashion subtleties of mismatched, tattered clothing. I taught myself about the alien overlords waiting to ambush us with lasers from their home base on the planet Zorbatron, and the computer chip the Government had implanted inside my head in a brazen attempt to reduce me to blind loyalty. I learned to laugh with rollicking, spastic abandon, like some kind of drugged hyena, like the Devil wigged out on helium. My bosses were so impressed by my performances that they offered me a raise. I also gained a promotion: I moved from Junior Madman to Madman Associate. (We had new business cards printed up. I ate them.) Even my social life improved: I think it was my utter fearlessness that appealed to a certain segment of the female population. It must have been something—what with the atrocious table manners, the foul-mouthed tirades, and the pungent odor (not

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Matt Leibel

CAREER OF A MADMAN

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Matt Leibel highway she follows it five miles out to the clinic, staying well off the road and along the walkways of the rice paddies until she walks First Place Sudden Fiction Winner in across the caneball court and through the line of people waiting in reception. Because she doesn’t know if people even noticed she was gone she walks into her English class first. After they surround her and give her water and tea and clean clothes, this is the story she tells them, first in Karen, and then in English, for Lee. That night after they make love Win Maung lies beside her and plays withBaRIEF piece of her hair.) EXEMPLARY THE , (N EARLY “It’s very short,” she says, thinking of Nar Lu’s body-length braid. Win Maung shakes his head, smiling, his narrow face an inch from hers. “I like. Very much.” I wasunderstand tired of my job, fumbling “ I don’t anything today.” about for something new, when I decided to become a Madman. experience necessary, the “You do not have to,” Win MaungNo says, still stroking her hair. ad in the paper said, willa train rightheperson. There a steep “This is border.” After minute, asks, “Do youwas want, I go learnaway ing curve, but I was a quick study, and within a month I’d settled tonight?” into“No.” the rhythms of the at theher mouth, baring She rolls intojob: himfoaming and presses face into hismy ribsteeth and and leering at strangers on the subway platform, willfully eschewkisses them one by one and then smiles as his arms wrap her up ing any“Stay.” kind of regular bathing schedule. I spent countless hours again. deep into the night researching crop circles, the Illuminati, and the fashion subtleties of mismatched, tattered clothing. I taught myself about the alien overlords waiting to ambush us with lasers from their home base on the planet Zorbatron, and the computer chip the Government had implanted inside my head in a brazen attempt to reduce me to blind loyalty. I learned to laugh with rollicking, spastic abandon, like some kind of drugged hyena, like the Devil wigged out on helium. My bosses were so impressed by my performances that they offered me a raise. I also gained a promotion: I moved from Junior Madman to Madman Associate. (We had new business cards printed up. I ate them.) Even my social life improved: I think it was my utter fearlessness that appealed to a certain segment of the female population. It must have been something—what with the atrocious table manners, the foul-mouthed tirades, and the pungent odor (not

CAREER OF A MADMAN

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Matt Leibel First Place Sudden Fiction Winner

THE BRIEF, (NEARLY) EXEMPLARY

CAREER OF A MADMAN

I was tired of my job, fumbling about for something new, when I decided to become a Madman. No experience necessary, the ad in the paper said, will train right person. There was a steep learning curve, but I was a quick study, and within a month I’d settled into the rhythms of the job: foaming at the mouth, baring my teeth and leering at strangers on the subway platform, willfully eschewing any kind of regular bathing schedule. I spent countless hours deep into the night researching crop circles, the Illuminati, and the fashion subtleties of mismatched, tattered clothing. I taught myself about the alien overlords waiting to ambush us with lasers from their home base on the planet Zorbatron, and the computer chip the Government had implanted inside my head in a brazen attempt to reduce me to blind loyalty. I learned to laugh with rollicking, spastic abandon, like some kind of drugged hyena, like the Devil wigged out on helium. My bosses were so impressed by my performances that they offered me a raise. I also gained a promotion: I moved from Junior Madman to Madman Associate. (We had new business cards printed up. I ate them.) Even my social life improved: I think it was my utter fearlessness that appealed to a certain segment of the female population. It must have been something—what with the atrocious table manners, the foul-mouthed tirades, and the pungent odor (not 45


Matt Leibel

Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

that I’ve ever actually barbequed a possum, but I must have smelled a bit like that), there was a good deal I had to overcome. My life was a glorious paradox. I was a raving lunatic who spent half the day rummaging through steaming piles of fly-infested garbage, yet I was happier than I’d ever been. Becoming a Madman was quite possibly the best thing that had ever happened to me. And then I got my biggest assignment yet. I was often hired on to use my madness to cause disruptions in preplanned events: parties, conferences, romantic rendezvous. Two CEOs were having a power lunch on the Upper East Side. They were discussing a big merger, which an unnamed Third Party (our client) had a powerful interest in preventing. These were the only instructions I was given. Except this: to be mad. Gleefully, exorbitantly mad. End-of-the-worldand-I’m-here-to-party mad. Ballistically bonkers, thermonucularly tweaked. I’m your madman, I told my employer in my best “team player” voice, then shook his hand and kicked him hard in the shin, just to show him how utterly stark raving insane I could be, when properly motivated. But here’s the thing: when the time came to put up or shut up, I choked so badly I needed the Heimlich maneuver. Literally. In a last minute desperation move (my normal deranged antics having made little dent in the executives’ conversation) I grabbed a half-eaten pork chop from one of the CEO’s plates and stuffed it whole-hog into my mouth. Part of one’s preparation for becoming mad involves severing the innate ties in the brain between Action and Consequence. In this case, I’d done that all too well, almost at the price of my own life. As fate would have it, the other CEO was able to save me, though unfortunately a sous-chef at the restaurant was briefly knocked unconscious by the projectile pork chop bone expelled at tennis-serve speed from the pit of my throat. Once I was cleared medically, I was promptly booted from the restaurant, only to read later about the completed merger (along with my own strange role in the proceedings) in the late edition of that day’s paper. The next morning, just as expected, I was promptly fired from my Madman gig. Firstly, all the media coverage had apparently

that I’ve blown myever cover. actually Secondly, barbequed according a possum, to mybut employer, I must have I’d been smelled the awrong bit like kind that), of there mad.was No amatter good deal how Iinsane had to you overcome. get, you’ve My life gotwas to akeep glorious your wits paradox. aboutIyou, was he a raving reminded lunatic me. My whoemployer spent halfwas themore day than fair andthrough rummaging generous steaming in offering pilesme of fly-infested a severancegarbage, package.yet And I was he told me than happier to look I’d at ever thebeen. brightBecoming side: I was a Madman going to be wasreturning quite possibly to the “real” the bestworld, thing the that world had ever of pure, happened unadulterated to me. sanity. (Really, that should Andhave thenstruck I got my mebiggest as an obvious assignment bright yet. side, I was butoften for the hired facton that to I’d become—dare use my madness toI cause say it—a disruptions bit in Love in preplanned with Madness.) events: parties, conferences, When theromantic money started rendezvous. runningTwo lowCEOs again were a fewhaving monthsa later, powerI was inon lunch a quandary. the UpperI knew East Side. I didn’t They want were to go discussing back to my a big old merger, job, but there wasn’t which an unnamed a lot else Third on the Party horizon—to (our client) be honest, had a powerful nothing seemed interest particularly in preventing. compelling These were anymore. the only Myinstructions parents made I was the strong given. sugExgestion cept this:that to be I move mad. back Gleefully, homeexorbitantly for a while and mad.work End-of-the-worldfor my father. I’d done it for a while mad. and-I’m-here-to-party in high Ballistically school, andbonkers, it wasn’tthermonucularly ideal, but there weren’t a I’m tweaked. lot ofyour good madman, alternatives, I toldsomy I went employer ahead in andmy took best the“team sane gig. I’vevoice, player” been here then about shookfour his hand yearsand now. kicked The time him kind hard of in just the shin, rolls by. The just to show job isn’t him fantastic, how utterly certainly, stark raving but it (and insane myI could new, incredibly be, when groundedmotivated. properly wife) keeps me just barely on the right side of sanity. ExceptBut for here’s the times—usually the thing: when down the times, time came aftertolunch, put uplate or on shutFriday up, I afternoons—when choked so badly I needed I feel the theneed Heimlich to briefly maneuver. revert to Literally. my old, In slightly a last deranged minute desperation ways. At move those (my times, normal I’ll get deranged a littleantics loud, having a little made rambunctious little dent around in the executives’ the office, and conversation) when it becomes I grabbed tooadistracting, half-eaten my father pork chop will fromcome one of by the andCEO’s in his plates boss voice and stuffed (which itiswhole-hog becoming moremy into and mouth. more Part indistinguishable of one’s preparation from his for “father” becoming voice) mad involves will say somethingthe severing along innate the lines ties in of,the at least braintrybetween to look busy. Action Which and Consealways strikes me quence. In this as kind case,ofI’dfunny—because done that all tooitwell, was almost precisely at the thatprice steady of day own my afterlife. dayAs diet fateofwould looking have busy it, the which otherhad CEO driven was me ableinto to save the waiting me, though armsunfortunately of Madness ina the sous-chef first place. at the restaurant was briefly knocked unconscious by the projectile pork chop bone expelled at tennis-serve speed from the pit of my throat. Once I was cleared medically, I was promptly booted from the restaurant, only to read later about the completed merger (along with my own strange role in the proceedings) in the late edition of that day’s paper. The next morning, just as expected, I was promptly fired from my Madman gig. Firstly, all the media coverage had apparently

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Matt Leibel

Matt Leibel

blown that I’ve myever cover. actually Secondly, barbequed according a possum, to mybut employer, I must have I’d been smelled the a bit like wrong kind that), of there mad.was No amatter good deal how Iinsane had to you overcome. get, you’ve My life gotwas to a glorious keep your wits paradox. aboutIyou, was he a raving reminded lunatic me. My whoemployer spent halfwas themore day rummaging than fair andthrough generous steaming in offering pilesme of fly-infested a severancegarbage, package.yet And I was he happier told me than to look I’d at ever thebeen. brightBecoming side: I was a Madman going to be wasreturning quite possibly to the the bestworld, “real” thing the that world had ever of pure, happened unadulterated to me. sanity. (Really, that should Andhave thenstruck I got my mebiggest as an obvious assignment bright yet. side, I was butoften for the hired facton that to use become—dare I’d my madness toI cause say it—a disruptions bit in Love in preplanned with Madness.) events: parties, conferences, When theromantic money started rendezvous. runningTwo lowCEOs again were a fewhaving monthsa later, powerI lunchinon was a quandary. the UpperI knew East Side. I didn’t They want were to go discussing back to my a big old merger, job, but whichwasn’t there an unnamed a lot else Third on the Party horizon—to (our client) be honest, had a powerful nothing seemed interest in preventing. particularly compelling These were anymore. the only Myinstructions parents made I was the strong given. sugExcept this:that gestion to be I move mad. back Gleefully, homeexorbitantly for a while and mad.work End-of-the-worldfor my father. and-I’m-here-to-party I’d done it for a while mad. in high Ballistically school, andbonkers, it wasn’tthermonucularly ideal, but there tweaked.a I’m weren’t lot ofyour good madman, alternatives, I toldsomy I went employer ahead in andmy took best the“team sane player” gig. I’vevoice, been here then about shookfour his hand yearsand now. kicked The time him kind hard of in just the shin, rolls justThe by. to show job isn’t him fantastic, how utterly certainly, stark raving but it (and insane myI could new, incredibly be, when properly motivated. grounded wife) keeps me just barely on the right side of sanity. ExceptBut for here’s the times—usually the thing: when down the times, time came aftertolunch, put uplate or on shutFriday up, I choked so badly I needed afternoons—when I feel the theneed Heimlich to briefly maneuver. revert to Literally. my old, In slightly a last minute desperation deranged ways. At move those (my times, normal I’ll get deranged a littleantics loud, having a little made ramlittle dent around bunctious in the executives’ the office, and conversation) when it becomes I grabbed tooadistracting, half-eaten porkfather my chop will fromcome one of by the andCEO’s in his plates boss voice and stuffed (which itiswhole-hog becoming into my more and mouth. more Part indistinguishable of one’s preparation from his for “father” becoming voice) mad involves will say severing the something along innate the lines ties in of,the at least braintrybetween to look busy. Action Which and Consealways quence.me strikes In this as kind case,ofI’dfunny—because done that all tooitwell, was almost precisely at the thatprice steady of my own day afterlife. dayAs diet fateofwould looking have busy it, the which otherhad CEO driven was me ableinto to save the me, though waiting armsunfortunately of Madness ina the sous-chef first place. at the restaurant was briefly knocked unconscious by the projectile pork chop bone expelled at tennis-serve speed from the pit of my throat. Once I was cleared medically, I was promptly booted from the restaurant, only to read later about the completed merger (along with my own strange role in the proceedings) in the late edition of that day’s paper. The next morning, just as expected, I was promptly fired from my Madman gig. Firstly, all the media coverage had apparently

blown my cover. Secondly, according to my employer, I’d been the wrong kind of mad. No matter how insane you get, you’ve got to keep your wits about you, he reminded me. My employer was more than fair and generous in offering me a severance package. And he told me to look at the bright side: I was going to be returning to the “real” world, the world of pure, unadulterated sanity. (Really, that should have struck me as an obvious bright side, but for the fact that I’d become—dare I say it—a bit in Love with Madness.) When the money started running low again a few months later, I was in a quandary. I knew I didn’t want to go back to my old job, but there wasn’t a lot else on the horizon—to be honest, nothing seemed particularly compelling anymore. My parents made the strong suggestion that I move back home for a while and work for my father. I’d done it for a while in high school, and it wasn’t ideal, but there weren’t a lot of good alternatives, so I went ahead and took the sane gig. I’ve been here about four years now. The time kind of just rolls by. The job isn’t fantastic, certainly, but it (and my new, incredibly grounded wife) keeps me just barely on the right side of sanity. Except for the times—usually down times, after lunch, late on Friday afternoons—when I feel the need to briefly revert to my old, slightly deranged ways. At those times, I’ll get a little loud, a little rambunctious around the office, and when it becomes too distracting, my father will come by and in his boss voice (which is becoming more and more indistinguishable from his “father” voice) will say something along the lines of, at least try to look busy. Which always strikes me as kind of funny—because it was precisely that steady day after day diet of looking busy which had driven me into the waiting arms of Madness in the first place.

Berkeley Fiction Review

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Matthew Pietz

LATE SEASON

James Hannibal

Barry heard a low boom, and he hoped they weren’t killing his dog. He could easily imagine the animal rustling through a thick tangle of brush, startling some trigger-happy novice who’d had a beer with breakfast, and that would be it—Barry’s son, who only got to play with Wilkes once a month as it was, would never see the dog again. Wilkes had been born a runt and never really got over it. His gun awareness was dismal, and twice in the last year he barked too soon and flushed a covey of quail before Barry even had the shotgun up. This morning he had taken off into the woods as soon as they were out of the truck, cracking up a trio of men as James they zipped into Hannibal orange jackets and slipped knives into their belts. Now Barry searched the forest for an hour, sweating from his forehead and tugging absentmindedly at his trigger as he lamented that the autumn leaves had already peaked, that a certain luster was missing in the woods. Walking briskly over the red and gold carpet, he whistled for the dog but did not shout. Late season quail were especially jittery, having lost friends and relatives to showers of buckshot over the weeks. He didn’t want to preemptively flush a plump covey by hollering for the mutt. It wasn’t that Barry liked to kill things, though he didn’t mind it. And he wasn’t into hunting for the crisp air in his nose, or for the 49


Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

LATE SEASON

LATE SEASON

Barry heard a low boom, and he hoped they weren’t killing his dog. He could easily imagine the animal rustling through a thick tangle of brush, startling some trigger-happy novice who’d had a beer with breakfast, and that would be it—Barry’s son, who only got to play with Wilkes once a month as it was, would never see the dog again. Wilkes had been born a runt and never really got over it. His gun awareness was dismal, and twice in the last year he barked too soon and flushed a covey of quail before Barry even had the shotgun up. This morning he had taken off into the woods as soon as they were out of the truck, cracking up a trio of men as James they zipped into Hannibal orange jackets and slipped knives into their belts. Now Barry searched the forest for an hour, sweating from his forehead and tugging absentmindedly at his trigger as he lamented that the autumn leaves had already peaked, that a certain luster was missing in the woods. Walking briskly over the red and gold carpet, he whistled for the dog but did not shout. Late season quail were especially jittery, having lost friends and relatives to showers of buckshot over the weeks. He didn’t want to preemptively flush a plump covey by hollering for the mutt. It wasn’t that Barry liked to kill things, though he didn’t mind it. And he wasn’t into hunting for the crisp air in his nose, or for the

Barry heard a low boom, and he hoped they weren’t killing his dog. He could easily imagine the animal rustling through a thick tangle of brush, startling some trigger-happy novice who’d had a beer with breakfast, and that would be it—Barry’s son, who only got to play with Wilkes once a month as it was, would never see the dog again. Wilkes had been born a runt and never really got over it. His gun awareness was dismal, and twice in the last year he barked too soon and flushed a covey of quail before Barry even had the shotgun up. This morning he had taken off into the woods as soon as they were out of the truck, cracking up a trio of men as they zipped into orange jackets and slipped knives into their belts. Now Barry searched the forest for an hour, sweating from his forehead and tugging absentmindedly at his trigger as he lamented that the autumn leaves had already peaked, that a certain luster was missing in the woods. Walking briskly over the red and gold carpet, he whistled for the dog but did not shout. Late season quail were especially jittery, having lost friends and relatives to showers of buckshot over the weeks. He didn’t want to preemptively flush a plump covey by hollering for the mutt. It wasn’t that Barry liked to kill things, though he didn’t mind it. And he wasn’t into hunting for the crisp air in his nose, or for the

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

thrill of bringing in food the way men used to before civilization made their hands soft, which is what John Ray, given to be nostalgic about anything that happened more than two weeks before, liked to say. Barry hunted because there was total control for a man in the woods with a gun; there was the power to make things move and stop moving, not like a god, but like an element. To take an animal in the wild is to own it completely. It is the most private kind of ownership, the complete subsuming of an object that once moved away from you, but now sits, forever, in front of you. His father, who had talked a lot about control, told Barry that. They hunted together in the days when pheasant and quail were as thick in the Maryland woods as mosquitoes over a hot pond. Though the old man used to chatter the whole time, about work and about control, pulling cigarettes from his snug and improbably clean camouflage jacket, he always came home with a string of the birds hanging from his belt by their bound and gnarled feet. Barry knew it was not only a love of the woods that drove his father here, but also a hatred of the town: shopkeepers never made eye contact; a barber once nicked the old man’s chin on purpose. Only the black family from Bowdin was treated worse. Barry never quite got why. Now, there was a tenth of the quail Barry had known as a kid, and this—combined with the fact that his own son hated to hunt (“Only Canon Darrel’ll ever shoot’ll have a telephoto lens,” John Ray liked to say)—made him want to kill the birds more than ever. The rarer the animal, the more exhilarating it is to own; that would be obvious to anyone. And late-season quail were the rarest of all. Suddenly he spotted the dog, frozen in a point at the top of a nearby ridge. Barry crept carefully up the slope, bent over, gun halfraised, but when he reached Wilkes at the foot of a birch, he couldn’t see any cover for quail, and realized the runt was probably pointing at a squirrel, or nothing. He patted the dog’s head. “You mutt.” Barry’s back was no good for stooping anymore. As he stretched, popping a vertebrate, his eye caught a heavy shape in the top of the tree. With a small gasp he swung the gun into firing position, his

thrill ofheld tongue bringing gingerly in food and the expectantly way menbetween used to his before teeth. civilization He tried to flicktheir made off hands the safety soft, and which realized is whatitJohn was Ray, already given off,tohad be nostalgic been for hours.anything about The bird that was happened no quail, but more it might than two be something weeks before, worth liked plugto ging.Barry say. He squinted hunted along because thethere barrel. was total control for a man in the woods There with was a gun; no mistaking there wasthe thedark, power massive to make body things andmove the ivory and head:moving, stop it was anot bald likeeagle. a god,Barry’s but likebelly an element. felt light Toand takeheanexhaled animal deeply. in the wild It was is like to own meeting it completely. a man whose It islikeness the mostyou’ve privateonly kind ever of seen on stamps, ownership, the complete and backlit subsuming by the sun of an theobject bird almost that once seemed moved to radiate. away from Thisyou, symbol but now tattooed sits, on forever, bicepsinallfront overofthe you. country, the Halloween His father, costumewho he’d had planned talked for a lotyears about ascontrol, a boy but toldnever Barrypulled that. off, was They hunted righttogether over hisinhead. the days He thought when pheasant for a moment and quail of the were grim as double-headed thick in the Maryland eagle on woods the plaque as mosquitoes he’d seen, overonly a hot once, pond. onThough his father’s the olddesk. man used to chatter the whole time, about work and about control, Morepulling than anything, cigarettesthough—the from his snug way and heimprobably used to sit inclean St. Bart’s camand imagine ouflage jacket, how he it always wouldcame feel to home put with a barea string fist through of the the birds stainedhangglassfrom ing window—Barry his belt by their wondered bound and what gnarled it would feet.beBarry like to knew shoot it was the bird.only not No sane a love patriot of thecould woods do such that drove a thing. hisBarry father loved here,his but country. also a But if itofwere hatred the town: legal, shopkeepers if only it were never legal, made it would eye contact; make a magnifia barber cent centerpiece once nicked the to oldhisman’s den, presiding chin on purpose. over thatOnly spot above the black the mantle family now weakly from Bowdinheld wasby treated a six-point worse.buck. BarryVernon never quite the trembling got why.taxidermistNow, would there spread wasthe a tenth wingsofout theand quail tweak Barry the had talons known and beak as a into kid, a fearsome and this—combined attack position. with the Barry’s fact that finger hiscaressed own sonthehated trigger to hunt with extremeCanon (“Only delicacy. Darrel’ll The chamber ever shoot’ll of hishave 20 gauge a telephoto held an lens,” ounce John of lead liked Ray pelletstothat say)—made would flood himthat want dark tosack kill the of meat birdsinmore a split than second. ever. Howrarer The thickthe hadanimal, the feathers the more grown exhilarating at this point it is into theown; season? that Would would enough be obvious pellets to anyone. pass through And late-season its coat to bring quail itwere down? the Barry rarest blinked of all. hard: Suddenly he wasn’t hegoing spotted to kill the an dog, emblem. frozenAnd in a his point armatmuscles the top were of a startingridge. nearby to tireBarry of pointing crept carefully straight up. up the slope, bent over, gun halfraised, Wilkes but when growled, he reached jerkingWilkes the bird at out the foot of itsofspell. a birch, As he thecouldn’t eagle’s wings see anyunfurled, cover forBarry quail, took and realized a sharp the breath, runt and was the probably gun went pointing off. The at a squirrel, undersides or of nothing. the tree’s He branches patted thecrackled dog’s head. with shot. Arcing uncertainly, “You mutt.” the black mass stayed aloft on a borrowed moment, then hurtled Barry’s toward backthe was earth no good and threw for stooping up a cloud anymore. of torn Asleaf he stretched, pieces on impact. Barry popping a vertebrate, droppedhishiseye gun caught and ran a heavy over shape to the in bird, thenot topknowof the ing whether tree. With a he small wasgasp morehehorrified swung the thatgun he had intoshot firing it or position, that it still his

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

tongueofheld thrill bringing gingerly in food and the expectantly way menbetween used to his before teeth. civilization He tried made to flicktheir off hands the safety soft, and which realized is whatitJohn was Ray, already given off,tohad be nostalgic been for about anything hours. The bird that was happened no quail, but more it might than two be something weeks before, worth liked plugto say. Barry ging. He squinted hunted along because thethere barrel. was total control for a man in the woods There with was a gun; no mistaking there wasthe thedark, power massive to make body things andmove the ivory and stop moving, head: it was anot bald likeeagle. a god,Barry’s but likebelly an element. felt light Toand takeheanexhaled animal in the wild deeply. It was is like to own meeting it completely. a man whose It islikeness the mostyou’ve privateonly kind ever of ownership, seen on stamps, the complete and backlit subsuming by the sun of an theobject bird almost that once seemed moved to away from radiate. Thisyou, symbol but now tattooed sits, on forever, bicepsinallfront overofthe you. country, the Halloween His father, costumewho he’d had planned talked for a lotyears about ascontrol, a boy but toldnever Barrypulled that. Theywas off, hunted righttogether over hisinhead. the days He thought when pheasant for a moment and quail of the were grim as thick in the Maryland double-headed eagle on woods the plaque as mosquitoes he’d seen, overonly a hot once, pond. onThough his fathe olddesk. ther’s man used to chatter the whole time, about work and about control, Morepulling than anything, cigarettesthough—the from his snug way and heimprobably used to sit inclean St. Bart’s camouflage and imagine jacket, how he it always wouldcame feel to home put with a barea string fist through of the the birds stainedhanging from glass window—Barry his belt by their wondered bound and what gnarled it would feet.beBarry like to knew shoot it was the not only bird. No sane a love patriot of thecould woods do such that drove a thing. hisBarry father loved here,his but country. also a hatred But if itofwere the town: legal, shopkeepers if only it were never legal, made it would eye contact; make a magnifia barber oncecenterpiece cent nicked the to oldhisman’s den, presiding chin on purpose. over thatOnly spot above the black the mantle family fromweakly now Bowdinheld wasby treated a six-point worse.buck. BarryVernon never quite the trembling got why.taxidermistNow, would there spread wasthe a tenth wingsofout theand quail tweak Barry the had talons known and beak as a into kid, aand fearsome this—combined attack position. with the Barry’s fact that finger hiscaressed own sonthehated trigger to with hunt (“Only Canon extreme delicacy. Darrel’ll The chamber ever shoot’ll of hishave 20 gauge a telephoto held an lens,” ounce John of Ray liked lead pelletstothat say)—made would flood himthat want dark tosack kill the of meat birdsinmore a split than second. ever. The rarer How thickthe hadanimal, the feathers the more grown exhilarating at this point it is into theown; season? that Would would be obvious enough pellets to anyone. pass through And late-season its coat to bring quail itwere down? the Barry rarest blinked of all. hard: Suddenly he wasn’t hegoing spotted to kill the an dog, emblem. frozenAnd in a his point armatmuscles the top were of a nearby ridge. starting to tireBarry of pointing crept carefully straight up. up the slope, bent over, gun halfraised, Wilkes but when growled, he reached jerkingWilkes the bird at out the foot of itsofspell. a birch, As he thecouldn’t eagle’s see anyunfurled, wings cover forBarry quail, took and realized a sharp the breath, runt and was the probably gun went pointing off. at a squirrel, The undersides or of nothing. the tree’s He branches patted thecrackled dog’s head. with shot. Arcing uncertainly, “You mutt.” the black mass stayed aloft on a borrowed moment, then hurtled Barry’s toward backthe was earth no good and threw for stooping up a cloud anymore. of torn Asleaf he stretched, pieces on poppingBarry impact. a vertebrate, droppedhishiseye gun caught and ran a heavy over shape to the in bird, thenot topknowof the tree.whether ing With a he small wasgasp morehehorrified swung the thatgun he had intoshot firing it or position, that it still his

tongue held gingerly and expectantly between his teeth. He tried to flick off the safety and realized it was already off, had been for hours. The bird was no quail, but it might be something worth plugging. He squinted along the barrel. There was no mistaking the dark, massive body and the ivory head: it was a bald eagle. Barry’s belly felt light and he exhaled deeply. It was like meeting a man whose likeness you’ve only ever seen on stamps, and backlit by the sun the bird almost seemed to radiate. This symbol tattooed on biceps all over the country, the Halloween costume he’d planned for years as a boy but never pulled off, was right over his head. He thought for a moment of the grim double-headed eagle on the plaque he’d seen, only once, on his father’s desk. More than anything, though—the way he used to sit in St. Bart’s and imagine how it would feel to put a bare fist through the stainedglass window—Barry wondered what it would be like to shoot the bird. No sane patriot could do such a thing. Barry loved his country. But if it were legal, if only it were legal, it would make a magnificent centerpiece to his den, presiding over that spot above the mantle now weakly held by a six-point buck. Vernon the trembling taxidermist would spread the wings out and tweak the talons and beak into a fearsome attack position. Barry’s finger caressed the trigger with extreme delicacy. The chamber of his 20 gauge held an ounce of lead pellets that would flood that dark sack of meat in a split second. How thick had the feathers grown at this point in the season? Would enough pellets pass through its coat to bring it down? Barry blinked hard: he wasn’t going to kill an emblem. And his arm muscles were starting to tire of pointing straight up. Wilkes growled, jerking the bird out of its spell. As the eagle’s wings unfurled, Barry took a sharp breath, and the gun went off. The undersides of the tree’s branches crackled with shot. Arcing uncertainly, the black mass stayed aloft on a borrowed moment, then hurtled toward the earth and threw up a cloud of torn leaf pieces on impact. Barry dropped his gun and ran over to the bird, not knowing whether he was more horrified that he had shot it or that it still

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Berkeley Fiction Review

seemed to be breathing. The animal flapped angrily. Its mouth was open and it tried to flip over, to somehow scamper away, but its body was broken. He had a brief mental image of his father, alive again and sipping beer, trying to explain this to Darrel. Wilkes leaped and yelped as Barry tried to examine the animal’s wounds, for the first time coming to terms with its immensity. It would stand taller than a fire hydrant, tall enough to reach a doorknob. The eagle’s talons drew blood through his thistle-proof pants. Grimacing, Barry looked around. He couldn’t leave a bald eagle writhing on the forest floor, full of buckshot. If it were discovered, the three hunters that had laughed at Wilkes this morning would report having seen him. He couldn’t take it into the truck alive. Blasting it again seemed macabre. Wilkes’s barking grew more frantic. Though the sun was setting, somehow it seemed to be getting warmer. Barry wiped his forehead. It took a long time, but eventually he made up his mind to close his hands around the bird’s throat. Badly shaven, Barry stood with one hand on his hip, biting the first finger of the other hand. Frozen dinners and boxes of popsicles lay on the newspaper that draped the kitchen table, and steam leaked out of the open freezer. He needed to find a way to jam the bird in there. For the past month he’d kept it next to the woodpile out back, pushed against the fence and wrapped in a canvas tarp, but a warm spell had crept over the region and the body, stiff as a crowbar, had to come inside. Barry found himself wishing it were at least alive on the ground again, if only because wishing it back in the tree and unshot seemed greedy. He had not been sleeping well, visited by the recurring dream of a day in his early boyhood when his mother reached between buttons of his father’s shirt and pulled out a clump of chest hair. Barry bathed his face in the steam from the freezer, certain that he had no idea what he was doing, and the hurt that had taken root in his chest moved into his throat. That day in the woods, the most perfect fall day he could remember, was gone. Lifting the body again, Barry held it at an angle diagonal to the freezer and shoved. It barely fit.

seemed He shoved to be again. breathing. The animal flapped angrily. Its mouth was openThe anddoorbell it tried torang. flip over, to somehow scamper away, but its body was“Christ,” broken. He saidhad Barry, a brief looking mentalatimage the angel of hisclock father,onalive the again wall. “You’re and sipping an hour beer,early!” trying to The explain doorbell thisrang to Darrel. again, and he stuffed as many Wilkes of theleaped popsicle and boxes yelpedasashe Barry could tried intotothe examine spacesthe around animal’s the body before wounds, for slamming the first time the coming freezer shut. to terms In his with mind its he immensity. heard John It Ray andstand would Edgar taller chiding thanhim a fire forhydrant, not having tallthe enough dedication to reach to the a doorsport to buyThe knob. a meat eagle’s freezer. talons drew blood through his thistle-proof pants. Grimacing, When heBarry opened looked the front around. door of Hehis couldn’t house and leave sawa his bald ex-wife eagle and son on writhing onthe thestep, forest hefloor, took full a step of backward buckshot. and If it closed were discovered, his mouth. Finally, the threehehunters said, that had laughed at Wilkes this morning would report“Ihaving thought seen youhim. were HeVernon.” couldn’t take it into the truck alive. Blasting “You it again remember seemed your macabre. son?”Wilkes’s said Joanne. barking Her looks grew weren’t more frantic. completely spoiled Though the sunby was thesetting, face she somehow was making it seemed at him. toShe be getting wore awarmwatch he didn’t er. Barry wiped recognize. his forehead. It took a long time, but eventually he made “Yeah, up hisbut mind nexttoweek closeishis myhands week.” around the bird’s throat. “I don’t like bringing him here any more than you do—” “I didn’t Badly shaven, say I don’t Barrylike stood it. Don’t with one sayhand that in onfront his hip, of him.” biting the first“—but finger of Irene the called other hand. and Beth Frozen Martin dinners is sick. and So boxes it’s of justpopsicles her and BethonLowenstein, lay the newspaper andthat I’mdraped just onthe mykitchen way over table, there. and Can steamheleaked sleep here?” out of the open freezer. He needed to find a way to jam the bird in there. Barry For the nodded, past month opening he’dthe kept door, it next andto Darrel the woodpile stepped outin.back, He hugged against pushed his father’s the fence waist,and his cheek wrapped against in a canvas the worn tarp, flannel but anowarm longer than spell hadhe crept thought over Barry the region would and like, theand body, entered stiff as thea house. crowbar, had to come Joanne’s inside. eyes were fixed on his chin, and Barry was suddenly self-conscious Barry foundabout himself his wishing sloppy shave. it were at least alive on the ground again, “The if only otherbecause thing is,” wishing she said, it back “I’minfinally the tree having and unshot the insulation seemed replacedHe greedy. inhad the not attic, been so sleeping I’m cleaning well, itvisited out and by the there recurring are stilldream those boxes of a day ofinyour his old earlypapers.” boyhood when his mother reached between buttons“Dad,” of his father’s Darrel called shirt and frompulled the kitchen, out a clump “you of leftchest all the hair. TVBarry dinners out.” bathed his face in the steam from the freezer, certain that he had no ideaEyes whatwide, he was Barry doing, stuttered and theahurt promise that had to pick taken theroot papers in hisupchest and threw the moved intodoor his throat. shut. He That bounded day in to thethe woods, kitchen theand most found perfect Darrel fall poking day he at could the bulky remember, canvas was package gone. in Lifting the freezer. the body In one again, hand Barry the boy held held it at thawing an anglefish diagonal sticks,tohis thefingers freezerwet andfrom shoved. the sweat It barely on the fit.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

He shoved seemed to be again. breathing. The animal flapped angrily. Its mouth was openThe anddoorbell it tried torang. flip over, to somehow scamper away, but its body was“Christ,” broken. He saidhad Barry, a brief looking mentalatimage the angel of hisclock father,onalive the again wall. and sipping “You’re an hour beer,early!” trying to The explain doorbell thisrang to Darrel. again, and he stuffed as many Wilkes of theleaped popsicle and boxes yelpedasashe Barry could tried intotothe examine spacesthe around animal’s the wounds, body before for slamming the first time the coming freezer shut. to terms In his with mind its he immensity. heard John It would Ray andstand Edgar taller chiding thanhim a fire forhydrant, not having tallthe enough dedication to reach to the a doorsport knob. to buyThe a meat eagle’s freezer. talons drew blood through his thistle-proof pants. Grimacing, When heBarry opened looked the front around. door of Hehis couldn’t house and leave sawa his bald ex-wife eagle writhing and son on onthe thestep, forest hefloor, took full a step of backward buckshot. and If it closed were discovered, his mouth. the threehehunters Finally, said, that had laughed at Wilkes this morning would report“Ihaving thought seen youhim. were HeVernon.” couldn’t take it into the truck alive. Blasting “You it again remember seemed your macabre. son?”Wilkes’s said Joanne. barking Her looks grew weren’t more frantic. comThoughspoiled pletely the sunby was thesetting, face she somehow was making it seemed at him. toShe be getting wore awarmwatch er. didn’t he Barry wiped recognize. his forehead. It took a long time, but eventually he made “Yeah, up hisbut mind nexttoweek closeishis myhands week.” around the bird’s throat. “I don’t like bringing him here any more than you do—” Badly “I didn’t shaven, say I don’t Barrylike stood it. Don’t with one sayhand that in onfront his hip, of him.” biting the first“—but finger of Irene the called other hand. and Beth Frozen Martin dinners is sick. and So boxes it’s of justpopsicles her and lay onLowenstein, Beth the newspaper andthat I’mdraped just onthe mykitchen way over table, there. and Can steamheleaked sleep out of the open freezer. He needed to find a way to jam the bird in here?” there. Barry For the nodded, past month opening he’dthe kept door, it next andto Darrel the woodpile stepped outin.back, He pushed against hugged his father’s the fence waist,and his cheek wrapped against in a canvas the worn tarp, flannel but anowarm lonspellthan ger hadhe crept thought over Barry the region would and like, theand body, entered stiff as thea house. crowbar, had to come Joanne’s inside. eyes were fixed on his chin, and Barry was suddenly self-conscious Barry foundabout himself his wishing sloppy shave. it were at least alive on the ground again, “The if only otherbecause thing is,” wishing she said, it back “I’minfinally the tree having and unshot the insulation seemed greedy. He replaced inhad the not attic, been so sleeping I’m cleaning well, itvisited out and by the there recurring are stilldream those of a day boxes ofinyour his old earlypapers.” boyhood when his mother reached between buttons“Dad,” of his father’s Darrel called shirt and frompulled the kitchen, out a clump “you of leftchest all the hair. TVBarry dinbathed ners out.” his face in the steam from the freezer, certain that he had no ideaEyes whatwide, he was Barry doing, stuttered and theahurt promise that had to pick taken theroot papers in hisupchest and movedthe threw intodoor his throat. shut. He That bounded day in to thethe woods, kitchen theand most found perfect Darrel fall day he at poking could the bulky remember, canvas was package gone. in Lifting the freezer. the body In one again, hand Barry the held held boy it at thawing an anglefish diagonal sticks,tohis thefingers freezerwet andfrom shoved. the sweat It barely on the fit.

He shoved again. The doorbell rang. “Christ,” said Barry, looking at the angel clock on the wall. “You’re an hour early!” The doorbell rang again, and he stuffed as many of the popsicle boxes as he could into the spaces around the body before slamming the freezer shut. In his mind he heard John Ray and Edgar chiding him for not having the dedication to the sport to buy a meat freezer. When he opened the front door of his house and saw his ex-wife and son on the step, he took a step backward and closed his mouth. Finally, he said, “I thought you were Vernon.” “You remember your son?” said Joanne. Her looks weren’t completely spoiled by the face she was making at him. She wore a watch he didn’t recognize. “Yeah, but next week is my week.” “I don’t like bringing him here any more than you do—” “I didn’t say I don’t like it. Don’t say that in front of him.” “—but Irene called and Beth Martin is sick. So it’s just her and Beth Lowenstein, and I’m just on my way over there. Can he sleep here?” Barry nodded, opening the door, and Darrel stepped in. He hugged his father’s waist, his cheek against the worn flannel no longer than he thought Barry would like, and entered the house. Joanne’s eyes were fixed on his chin, and Barry was suddenly self-conscious about his sloppy shave. “The other thing is,” she said, “I’m finally having the insulation replaced in the attic, so I’m cleaning it out and there are still those boxes of your old papers.” “Dad,” Darrel called from the kitchen, “you left all the TV dinners out.” Eyes wide, Barry stuttered a promise to pick the papers up and threw the door shut. He bounded to the kitchen and found Darrel poking at the bulky canvas package in the freezer. In one hand the boy held thawing fish sticks, his fingers wet from the sweat on the

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Berkeley Fiction Review

box. “What’s this?” he said, touching the canvas. “Those are no good,” said Barry, taking the box from the boy and throwing it into the garbage under the sink. “Expiration musta been a month ago.” He closed the freezer door hard and a magnet from their visit to Sea World cracked on the linoleum. “What was that big bag?” “That is a surprise for a friend of mine. It’s nasty, don’t look inside.” At eleven, Darrel was a pale kid, with glasses and brown hair carefully combed by his mother; he promised to be good-looking, someday, Barry was sure, but he was skinny and completely averse to sports. It seemed to Barry the boy had shown a lot of potential for baseball when he was younger. Hadn’t Barry’s father given the boy a whiffle bat? Was there a picture of them playing somewhere? “Can I have one of those popsicles?” “After dinner.” Barry looped his thumb in a belt loop and asked Darrel to sit, after which he called the taxidermist to reschedule their meeting. Then he put away the newspapers, cleaned up a couple beer bottles and rubbed at the round kitchen table with a fraying cloth. They sat with diet colas, a brand Darrel hadn’t heard of. He said he couldn’t wait for Christmas break. “You been playing in any games?” The boy perked up, “Test Drive II came out for the Amiga. It is so amazing.” “No, I mean real games. Outdoors.” “We have gym. But Dad, Test Drive II is really incredible. I was on a BBS, even though we only have like 1200 baud I’m going on there all the time, and it seemed like nobody else has even played it but me.” As Darrel kept talking, perhaps in Cantonese, Barry curled his toes inside his shoes and toyed with the tab on the soda can. One summer he’d taken the boy to the woods four weekends in a row, certain that he would get to like shooting once he got used to the gunsmoke in his nose. It was miserable for them both, though Darrel had been briefly happy when Barry sneezed while aiming the .22

box.shot the side of his truck. Now the boy would probably grow and right“What’s into thethis?” homehecomputer said, touching Joanne’s the boyfriend canvas. had bought him, his “Those hands dropping are no good,” roots into said the Barry, keyboard, taking his the legs box from withering the boy off completely. and throwing it into the garbage under the sink. “Expiration musta beenLater, a month afterago.” they He watched closedDarrel’s the freezer show, door another hard and showa and magnet the news,their from Barry visit tucked to Sea theWorld boy into cracked the couch on thebed linoleum. and went to his own room. “What He was was in that thebig middle bag?”of a dream about a procession of eyeless,“That tar-black is a opossums surprise for crawling a friendinto of mine. the back It’sofnasty, his truck, don’twhen look a crash jarred his sleep. He leaped out of bed and blinked until his inside.” thoughts At eleven, startedDarrel to more wasora less pale make kid, with sense; glasses then and he grabbed brown hair the shotgun from carefully combed the closet by hisand mother; movedhetoward promised the kitchen. to be good-looking, someday, In theBarry blue darkness was sure,Barry but he could was hear skinny a soft andthumping completely andaverse what sounded to sports.like It seemed whispers. to Barry Raising thethe boygun hadtoshown firing aposition, lot of potential he clicked for the safetywhen baseball off and he was stepped younger. into Hadn’t the room, Barry’s aiming father at the given movement the boy anear whiffle the sink. bat? Was there a picture of them playing somewhere? “Freeze!” “Can I have one of those popsicles?” “After He heard dinner.” a high-pitched Barry looped scream. his thumb He turned in a on belttheloop light and andasked saw Darrel to hopping sit, after onwhich one foot he called and holding the taxidermist the other, to the reschedule freezer their door open and Then meeting. hemorrhaging he put away steam, theand newspapers, the bald eagle cleaned on the upfloor, a couple half rolledbottles beer out of its andcanvas rubbed vestments. at the round It stared kitchen at thetable ceiling, withbeak a fraying open. SeeingThey cloth. the bird sat with for the dietfirst colas, timea now brandthat Darrel the light hadn’t was heard on, of. Darrel He screamed said he couldn’t again. wait Barryfor laid Christmas the gun against break. the wall. “Jesus,been “You Darrel, playing okay. inCalm any games?” down now. Are you okay?” The “Youboy said perked I could up, have a popsicle after dinner but then we didn’t eat “Test them Drive and I II kept came waking out for upthe onAmiga. the couch It is and so amazing.” I just thought I could “No, have I mean one. real I kept games. waking Outdoors.” up. Oh, this kills.” He wasn’t quite crying. “We have gym. But Dad, Test Drive II is really incredible. I was on aBarry BBS,spoke even though slowly we andonly sat the haveboy likedown 1200for baud an I’m examination, going on finding there allno thebroken time, and bones. it seemed After wrapping like nobody the foot else has in a even strip played of gauze it and me.” but plopping As Darrel a baggie keptoftalking, ice onperhaps it, the two in Cantonese, sat at the kitchen Barry curled table andtoes his ate popsicles. inside his shoes Faint and ringstoyed fromwith the cans the tab of on dietthe soda soda they can.drank One earlier marked summer he’d taken the table. the boy Darrel to thehad woods the four darting weekends eyes and in ginger a row, movements certain that of he awould victimget of shellshock. to like shooting once he got used to the gunsmoke “I’m sorry in his allnose. that’sItleft wasismiserable grape,” Barry for them said.both, “I always though eatDarthe cherry rel had and beenthe briefly greenhappy ones first.” when Barry sneezed while aiming the .22

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Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

and shot the side of his truck. Now the boy would probably grow box. right“What’s into thethis?” homehecomputer said, touching Joanne’s the boyfriend canvas. had bought him, his “Those hands dropping are no good,” roots into said the Barry, keyboard, taking his the legs box from withering the boy off and throwing it into the garbage under the sink. “Expiration musta completely. beenLater, a month afterago.” they He watched closedDarrel’s the freezer show, door another hard and showa and magnet the from their news, Barry visit tucked to Sea theWorld boy into cracked the couch on thebed linoleum. and went to his own room. “What He was was in that thebig middle bag?”of a dream about a procession of eyeless,“That tar-black is a opossums surprise for crawling a friendinto of mine. the back It’sofnasty, his truck, don’twhen look ainside.” crash jarred his sleep. He leaped out of bed and blinked until his thoughts At eleven, startedDarrel to more wasora less pale make kid, with sense; glasses then and he grabbed brown hair the carefullyfrom shotgun combed the closet by hisand mother; movedhetoward promised the kitchen. to be good-looking, someday, In theBarry blue darkness was sure,Barry but he could was hear skinny a soft andthumping completely andaverse what to sports.like sounded It seemed whispers. to Barry Raising thethe boygun hadtoshown firing aposition, lot of potential he clicked for baseball the safetywhen off and he was stepped younger. into Hadn’t the room, Barry’s aiming father at the given movement the boy a whiffle near the sink. bat? Was there a picture of them playing somewhere? “Freeze!” “Can I have one of those popsicles?” “After He heard dinner.” a high-pitched Barry looped scream. his thumb He turned in a on belttheloop light and andasked saw Darrel to hopping sit, after onwhich one foot he called and holding the taxidermist the other, to the reschedule freezer their door meeting. open and Then hemorrhaging he put away steam, theand newspapers, the bald eagle cleaned on the upfloor, a couple half beer bottles rolled out of its andcanvas rubbed vestments. at the round It stared kitchen at thetable ceiling, withbeak a fraying open. cloth. They Seeing the bird sat with for the dietfirst colas, timea now brandthat Darrel the light hadn’t was heard on, of. Darrel He said he couldn’t screamed again. wait Barryfor laid Christmas the gun against break. the wall. “You been “Jesus, Darrel, playing okay. inCalm any games?” down now. Are you okay?” The “Youboy said perked I could up, have a popsicle after dinner but then we didn’t eat “Test them Drive and I II kept came waking out for upthe onAmiga. the couch It is and so amazing.” I just thought I could “No, have I mean one. real I kept games. waking Outdoors.” up. Oh, this kills.” He wasn’t quite crying. “We have gym. But Dad, Test Drive II is really incredible. I was on aBarry BBS,spoke even though slowly we andonly sat the haveboy likedown 1200for baud an I’m examination, going on there allno finding thebroken time, and bones. it seemed After wrapping like nobody the foot else has in a even strip played of gauze it but me.” and plopping As Darrel a baggie keptoftalking, ice onperhaps it, the two in Cantonese, sat at the kitchen Barry curled table his toes and ate popsicles. inside his shoes Faint and ringstoyed fromwith the cans the tab of on dietthe soda soda they can.drank One summermarked earlier he’d taken the table. the boy Darrel to thehad woods the four darting weekends eyes and in ginger a row, certain that of movements he awould victimget of shellshock. to like shooting once he got used to the gunsmoke “I’m sorry in his allnose. that’sItleft wasismiserable grape,” Barry for them said.both, “I always though eatDarthe rel had and cherry beenthe briefly greenhappy ones first.” when Barry sneezed while aiming the .22

and shot the side of his truck. Now the boy would probably grow right into the home computer Joanne’s boyfriend had bought him, his hands dropping roots into the keyboard, his legs withering off completely. Later, after they watched Darrel’s show, another show and the news, Barry tucked the boy into the couch bed and went to his own room. He was in the middle of a dream about a procession of eyeless, tar-black opossums crawling into the back of his truck, when a crash jarred his sleep. He leaped out of bed and blinked until his thoughts started to more or less make sense; then he grabbed the shotgun from the closet and moved toward the kitchen. In the blue darkness Barry could hear a soft thumping and what sounded like whispers. Raising the gun to firing position, he clicked the safety off and stepped into the room, aiming at the movement near the sink. “Freeze!” He heard a high-pitched scream. He turned on the light and saw Darrel hopping on one foot and holding the other, the freezer door open and hemorrhaging steam, and the bald eagle on the floor, half rolled out of its canvas vestments. It stared at the ceiling, beak open. Seeing the bird for the first time now that the light was on, Darrel screamed again. Barry laid the gun against the wall. “Jesus, Darrel, okay. Calm down now. Are you okay?” “You said I could have a popsicle after dinner but then we didn’t eat them and I kept waking up on the couch and I just thought I could have one. I kept waking up. Oh, this kills.” He wasn’t quite crying. Barry spoke slowly and sat the boy down for an examination, finding no broken bones. After wrapping the foot in a strip of gauze and plopping a baggie of ice on it, the two sat at the kitchen table and ate popsicles. Faint rings from the cans of diet soda they drank earlier marked the table. Darrel had the darting eyes and ginger movements of a victim of shellshock. “I’m sorry all that’s left is grape,” Barry said. “I always eat the cherry and the green ones first.”

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

“That was a bald eagle.” Barry nodded. “I didn’t know they were so big.” “Me neither.” “It’s taller than Wilkes. You bought it as a birthday present for someone?” Barry raised his eyebrows and held them there. He sensed that this was an important moment in his parenting career. Nodding noncommittally, he took a second to wonder what his own father would have done. The old man could be evasive when he wanted to. Barry remembered him as slow to speak and adept at turning questions into other questions. It was funny: when he thought of recent years, Barry remembered his dad wearing a red sweater under a jacket emblazoned with the steelworker’s logo; he was silver-haired, handsome and stern. But when he remembered him from boyhood, in the 1950s, he found he pictured the man in black and white, and in softer focus. Would Darrel remember Barry in the grainy color of Dallas? “For Mr. Koepcke?” the boy persisted. There was a way out of this. Darrel was certainly impressionable enough that if things were put in the right light he could be driven to not only forgive what Barry had done, but to admire him even more. Barry could wear camouflage as well as his old man. But when Wilkes padded into the room, his head slung close to the kitchen tile, and started to sniff at the shotgun, Barry scratched his chin. This particular thing might be too important, he thought, the soreness expanding in his throat. All things considered, admiration was not what he deserved. “No, I shot it.” Darrel’s eyes went even wider. He whispered, “I don’t think you can shoot those.” “Nope, you surely can’t. I don’t know what happened.” The boy let the hand holding the popsicle go slack. Its wet end lingered dangerously close to the surface of the table. He clearly could not understand being taken into his father’s confidence like this.

“Thatyou wasgoing a baldtoeagle.” “Are prison?” he asked in a small voice. Barry “I don’tnodded. want to. Your grandpa did a couple months inside when I “I didn’t theyand were big.”like it a bit, I’ll tell you that.” was younger know than you, heso didn’t “Me neither.” “Inside?” “Inside prison. Worst they’d probably do is fine me “It’s taller Wilkes. as either.” a birthday a few hundred than bucks, but I You don’tbought want it that Thepresent inside for of someone?” Barry’s throat felt like the broken end of a toothpick. “What do you raised do?” his eyebrows and held them there. He sensed that thinkBarry we should this“We?” was anThe important moment his purple, parenting Nodding nonboy’s lower lipinwas andcareer. without his glasses committally, took a second to wonder what his would he was given he to squint. “How should I know?” He own took father a moment to have done. The old man could be evasive when he wanted to. Barry think. “What are our choices?” remembered him as slow adept questions “Well, it doesn’t seemtotospeak want and to stay in attheturning freezer,” Barry into other It was funny: when he thought of recent joked, but questions. this seemed to have a chilling effect on Darrel. “I years, know Barry remembered his dad wearing a red sweater under a jacket ema guy who stuffs game birds, I was gonna ask him. But he probably blazoned with thenosteelworker’s he was silver-haired, won’t do it. He’s friend of thelogo; government, but he’s got a handgood some and stern. But when he remembered him from boyhood, in buddy who’s a game warden. It’s too risky.” the “Yeah,” 1950s, he found he pictured the man in black and white, and in said Darrel. “Too risky.” softer focus. rememberofBarry grainy color of “Then, of Would course,Darrel we could—sort throwinit the away.” Dallas? For the first time since Barry had pointed the gun at him, Darrel “For Mr. Koepcke?” the boy persisted. There waschair. a way out of collected his complete composure, sitting back in his this.“Dad, Darrelyou was certainly impressionable enough that if things were cannot throw a bald eagle away.” put “Okay, in the right lightsaid he Barry. could be driven only forgive what I know,” “What elsetoisnot there?” Barry had answered done, butastothough admireit him more. Barry could wear Darrel wereeven obvious. camouflage as well as his old man. But when Wilkes padded into the “I guess you’re going to have to stuff it yourself.” room, his Ihead to the kitchen tile, and started to sniff at “Me? don’tslung knowclose how.” the “I shotgun, Barry scratched his chin. This particular thing might be can help you.” too “And important, thewith soreness expanding his front throat.winAll what he amthought, I gonna do it stuffed, put it in the things considered, admiration was not what he deserved. dow?” “No, I not? shot Nobody it.” “Why has to know you shot it.” Darrel’sstomach eyes went evena wider. He whispered, don’t think you Barry’s grew little warm. The boy“Iwas perhaps too can shoot those.” clever. “Nope, you surely“We can’t. I don’t know what ithappened.” “Okay,” he said. can say we bought at that weird flea Theinboy let the hand There holding theapopsicle slack. Its wet end market Haydersville.” was sound ofgo tree branches clawlingered dangerously close to the surface of the table. He clearly ing at the window. “Son, you know it was not good for me to kill that could Your not understand being taken thing. grandpa wouldn’t have into donehis it.”father’s confidence like this.“I don’t remember grandpa hunting at all.” Barry scratched the

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Matthew Pietz

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

“Thatyou wasgoing a baldtoeagle.” “Are prison?” he asked in a small voice. Barry “I don’tnodded. want to. Your grandpa did a couple months inside when I “I didn’t theyand were big.”like it a bit, I’ll tell you that.” was younger know than you, heso didn’t “Me neither.” “Inside?” “Inside prison. Worst they’d probably do is fine me “It’s taller Wilkes. as either.” a birthday a few hundred than bucks, but I You don’tbought want it that Thepresent inside for of someone?” Barry’s throat felt like the broken end of a toothpick. “What do you raised do?” his eyebrows and held them there. He sensed that thinkBarry we should this“We?” was anThe important moment his purple, parenting Nodding nonboy’s lower lipinwas andcareer. without his glasses committally, took a second to wonder what his would he was given he to squint. “How should I know?” He own took father a moment to have done. The old man could be evasive when he wanted to. Barry think. “What are our choices?” remembered him as slow adept questions “Well, it doesn’t seemtotospeak want and to stay in attheturning freezer,” Barry into other It was funny: when he thought of recent joked, but questions. this seemed to have a chilling effect on Darrel. “I years, know Barry remembered his dad wearing a red sweater under a jacket ema guy who stuffs game birds, I was gonna ask him. But he probably blazoned with thenosteelworker’s he was silver-haired, won’t do it. He’s friend of thelogo; government, but he’s got a handgood some and stern. But when he remembered him from boyhood, in buddy who’s a game warden. It’s too risky.” the “Yeah,” 1950s, he found he pictured the man in black and white, and in said Darrel. “Too risky.” softer focus. rememberofBarry grainy color of “Then, of Would course,Darrel we could—sort throwinit the away.” Dallas? For the first time since Barry had pointed the gun at him, Darrel “For Mr. Koepcke?” the boy persisted. There waschair. a way out of collected his complete composure, sitting back in his this.“Dad, Darrelyou was certainly impressionable enough that if things were cannot throw a bald eagle away.” put “Okay, in the right lightsaid he Barry. could be driven only forgive what I know,” “What elsetoisnot there?” Barry had answered done, butastothough admireit him more. Barry could wear Darrel wereeven obvious. camouflage as well as his old man. But when Wilkes padded into the “I guess you’re going to have to stuff it yourself.” room, his Ihead to the kitchen tile, and started to sniff at “Me? don’tslung knowclose how.” the “I shotgun, Barry scratched his chin. This particular thing might be can help you.” too “And important, thewith soreness expanding his front throat.winAll what he amthought, I gonna do it stuffed, put it in the things considered, admiration was not what he deserved. dow?” “No, I not? shot Nobody it.” “Why has to know you shot it.” Darrel’sstomach eyes went evena wider. He whispered, don’t think you Barry’s grew little warm. The boy“Iwas perhaps too can shoot those.” clever. “Nope, you surely“We can’t. I don’t know what ithappened.” “Okay,” he said. can say we bought at that weird flea Theinboy let the hand There holding theapopsicle slack. Its wet end market Haydersville.” was sound ofgo tree branches clawlingered dangerously close to the surface of the table. He clearly ing at the window. “Son, you know it was not good for me to kill that could Your not understand being taken thing. grandpa wouldn’t have into donehis it.”father’s confidence like this.“I don’t remember grandpa hunting at all.” Barry scratched the

“Are you going to prison?” he asked in a small voice. “I don’t want to. Your grandpa did a couple months inside when I was younger than you, and he didn’t like it a bit, I’ll tell you that.” “Inside?” “Inside prison. Worst they’d probably do is fine me a few hundred bucks, but I don’t want that either.” The inside of Barry’s throat felt like the broken end of a toothpick. “What do you think we should do?” “We?” The boy’s lower lip was purple, and without his glasses he was given to squint. “How should I know?” He took a moment to think. “What are our choices?” “Well, it doesn’t seem to want to stay in the freezer,” Barry joked, but this seemed to have a chilling effect on Darrel. “I know a guy who stuffs game birds, I was gonna ask him. But he probably won’t do it. He’s no friend of the government, but he’s got a good buddy who’s a game warden. It’s too risky.” “Yeah,” said Darrel. “Too risky.” “Then, of course, we could—sort of throw it away.” For the first time since Barry had pointed the gun at him, Darrel collected his complete composure, sitting back in his chair. “Dad, you cannot throw a bald eagle away.” “Okay, I know,” said Barry. “What else is there?” Darrel answered as though it were obvious. “I guess you’re going to have to stuff it yourself.” “Me? I don’t know how.” “I can help you.” “And what am I gonna do with it stuffed, put it in the front window?” “Why not? Nobody has to know you shot it.” Barry’s stomach grew a little warm. The boy was perhaps too clever. “Okay,” he said. “We can say we bought it at that weird flea market in Haydersville.” There was a sound of tree branches clawing at the window. “Son, you know it was not good for me to kill that thing. Your grandpa wouldn’t have done it.” “I don’t remember grandpa hunting at all.” Barry scratched the

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

back of his head. It did seem the old man had given it up after Barry’s mother died. No one to cook the birds, most likely. “Well, I just—I just made a mistake. So what we’re talking about doing here, it isn’t normal. It’s a special situation.” “I know.” “And taxidermy means cutting that bird open and pulling out its guts. You want to be around for that?” The boy looked down, his face grave. “Sure.” “Well, we’ll see,” said Barry. The refrigerator started to hum, startling Darrel anew. Barry wondered what sort of memory he would be responsible for this night. He was determined that this work out for the boy. “You know, Ben Franklin wanted the national symbol to be the turkey.” “I know,” said Darrel solemnly. “And we could have just eaten a turkey.” A phone call to Vernon the taxidermist went badly. Even sideways questions about his experience stuffing more “exotic” animals raised the old man’s hackles, and he was spitting venom through the phone when Barry hung up. He ordered a home taxidermy kit from an ad in a hunting magazine, but he had to wait four weeks for it to come. During that time, the rumpled package in his freezer seemed to grow denser, like an object in space beginning to collapse upon itself. Barry found himself passing through the kitchen more often than he had to. The fluorescent light in the room flickered less often; the telephone rang quieter; the counters collected no crumbs. Energy and matter drifted toward the cold canvas boulder. The day the taxidermy kit arrived, he set the eagle out to thaw in his garage and watched the instructional videotape, enthralled, orange snacks crackling as he chewed. The next day he didn’t have to work, and cleared off the workbench in the garage, spreading the canvas in front of him. The animal was in a grotesque state, yes, its wings wrenched in odd angles and its head thrown back as

back of howling, though his head. but It did heseem was surprised the old man how had well given theiteyes up after had Barkept theirmother ry’s hard glare. died.The No feathers one to cook werethe swept birds, in most clashing likely. patches; “Well, theI single white just—I just made stripea mistake. that cut low So what across we’re the talking inside of about the doing wingshere, was a jagged it isn’t normal. line rather It’s a than special thesituation.” straight ribbon it should have been. It made “I him know.” shudder that the huge body underneath the feathers was once“And againtaxidermy soft and pliable. means cutting that bird open and pulling out its guts.He’d You scraped want to be together aroundsome for that?” of the tools and ordered the others, The nowboy laidlooked in neatdown, rows on hishis faceright: grave. a surgical knife, tweezers, a syringe, “Sure.” a power drill, pliers, Q-tips, scissors, a small spoon, a few coat“Well, hangers, we’ll linen see,” thread, saidupholstery Barry. Thepins, refrigerator a small dish started of water to hum, and a hair dryer. startling Darrel He anew. also had Barry threewondered small bottles—varnish, what sort of memory embalming he fluid and would be aresponsible flesh-removing for this chemical—as night. He was well determined as a cardboard that conthis tainer out work of afor salt thecalled boy. “You borax.know, Still in Ben theFranklin boxes they wanted came theinnational were a smooth to symbol foam be the hunk turkey.” that would replace the bulk of the eagle’s body (he “I hadknow,” ordered said Canada DarrelGoose solemnly. since“And no one we carried could have birdsjust of prey) eaten aand turkey.” two glass eyes whose color the catalog listed as Harvest Moon. Barry snapped on a pair of disposable rubber gloves and picked up the scalpel, A phonefoolishly call to Vernon tested its thesharpness taxidermist withwent his thumb. badly. Even sideways The questions first stepabout was to hisslice experience the cheststuffing open. The more phone “exotic” rang.animals Joanne had made raised the old himman’s installhackles, it next to andthe heworkbench was spittingafter venom a wet through Saturday the when her phone when carBarry brokehung down up.in central Baltimore as she was coming back He from ordered the orthopedist; a home taxidermy he hadn’t kitheard from the an ad ringing in a hunting in the kitchmagen, leftbut azine, her he there hadtiltoafter waitthe four street weeks lamps forcame it to on. come. Barry During fearedthat he might the time, not rumpled have the package stomach in to his return freezer to this seemed work to if he grow broke denser, momentum, like an object so heinkept spacethe beginning tools in to hiscollapse hand and upon hit itself. the speakerphone Barry found with his passing himself elbow. Itthrough was her. the kitchen more often than he had to. The fluorescent “Christ,light am Iin onthe speakerphone?” room flickered less often; the telephone rang quieter; “Gotthe a bit counters of a project collected going no on crumbs. here, Energy Jo.” Heand wetted matter thedrifted feathers in a the toward linecold down canvas the bird’s boulder. breast and parted them with his fingers. Probing The day withthe histaxidermy fingertips,kithearrived, found the he set breastbone the eagleand out held to thaw the scalpel in his garage againstand it. watched the instructional videotape, enthralled, orange “Okay. snacks Butcrackling maybe you as he canchewed. just takeThe a minute next day forhe what didn’t I’vehave got to tell work, you.” and cleared off the workbench in the garage, spreading the Itcanvas was now in front the moment of him. for TheBarry animal to stick was in a blade a grotesque into thestate, bald eagleitshewings yes, had strangled: wrenchedhe in thought odd angles thatand perhaps its head a bitthrown of distraction back as

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Matthew Pietz

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

though back of howling, his head. but It did heseem was surprised the old man how had well given theiteyes up after had Barkept ry’s mother their hard glare. died.The No feathers one to cook werethe swept birds, in most clashing likely. patches; “Well, theI just—Iwhite single just made stripea mistake. that cut low So what across we’re the talking inside of about the doing wingshere, was ait jagged isn’t normal. line rather It’s a than special thesituation.” straight ribbon it should have been. It made “I him know.” shudder that the huge body underneath the feathers was once“And againtaxidermy soft and pliable. means cutting that bird open and pulling out its guts.He’d You scraped want to be together aroundsome for that?” of the tools and ordered the others, The nowboy laidlooked in neatdown, rows on hishis faceright: grave. a surgical knife, tweezers, a syringe, “Sure.” a power drill, pliers, Q-tips, scissors, a small spoon, a few coat“Well, hangers, we’ll linen see,” thread, saidupholstery Barry. Thepins, refrigerator a small dish started of water to hum, and astartling hair dryer. Darrel He anew. also had Barry threewondered small bottles—varnish, what sort of memory embalming he wouldand fluid be aresponsible flesh-removing for this chemical—as night. He was well determined as a cardboard that conthis work out tainer of afor salt thecalled boy. “You borax.know, Still in Ben theFranklin boxes they wanted came theinnational were a symbol to smooth foam be the hunk turkey.” that would replace the bulk of the eagle’s body (he “I hadknow,” ordered said Canada DarrelGoose solemnly. since“And no one we carried could have birdsjust of prey) eaten a turkey.” and two glass eyes whose color the catalog listed as Harvest Moon. Barry snapped on a pair of disposable rubber gloves and picked up the scalpel, A phonefoolishly call to Vernon tested its thesharpness taxidermist withwent his thumb. badly. Even sideways The questions first stepabout was to hisslice experience the cheststuffing open. The more phone “exotic” rang.animals Joanne raised had made the old himman’s installhackles, it next to andthe heworkbench was spittingafter venom a wet through Saturday the phone her when when carBarry brokehung down up.in central Baltimore as she was coming back He from ordered the orthopedist; a home taxidermy he hadn’t kitheard from the an ad ringing in a hunting in the kitchmagazine, en, leftbut her he there hadtiltoafter waitthe four street weeks lamps forcame it to on. come. Barry During fearedthat he time, the might not rumpled have the package stomach in to his return freezer to this seemed work to if he grow broke denser, molike an object mentum, so heinkept spacethe beginning tools in to hiscollapse hand and upon hit itself. the speakerphone Barry found himself with his passing elbow. Itthrough was her. the kitchen more often than he had to. The fluorescent “Christ,light am Iin onthe speakerphone?” room flickered less often; the telephone rang quieter; “Gotthe a bit counters of a project collected going no on crumbs. here, Energy Jo.” Heand wetted matter thedrifted feathtoward ers in a the linecold down canvas the bird’s boulder. breast and parted them with his fingers. Probing The day withthe histaxidermy fingertips,kithearrived, found the he set breastbone the eagleand out held to thaw the in his garage scalpel againstand it. watched the instructional videotape, enthralled, orange “Okay. snacks Butcrackling maybe you as he canchewed. just takeThe a minute next day forhe what didn’t I’vehave got to tell work, you.” and cleared off the workbench in the garage, spreading the Itcanvas was now in front the moment of him. for TheBarry animal to stick was in a blade a grotesque into thestate, bald yes, itshewings eagle had strangled: wrenchedhe in thought odd angles thatand perhaps its head a bitthrown of distraction back as

though howling, but he was surprised how well the eyes had kept their hard glare. The feathers were swept in clashing patches; the single white stripe that cut low across the inside of the wings was a jagged line rather than the straight ribbon it should have been. It made him shudder that the huge body underneath the feathers was once again soft and pliable. He’d scraped together some of the tools and ordered the others, now laid in neat rows on his right: a surgical knife, tweezers, a syringe, a power drill, pliers, Q-tips, scissors, a small spoon, a few coat hangers, linen thread, upholstery pins, a small dish of water and a hair dryer. He also had three small bottles—varnish, embalming fluid and a flesh-removing chemical—as well as a cardboard container of a salt called borax. Still in the boxes they came in were a smooth foam hunk that would replace the bulk of the eagle’s body (he had ordered Canada Goose since no one carried birds of prey) and two glass eyes whose color the catalog listed as Harvest Moon. Barry snapped on a pair of disposable rubber gloves and picked up the scalpel, foolishly tested its sharpness with his thumb. The first step was to slice the chest open. The phone rang. Joanne had made him install it next to the workbench after a wet Saturday when her car broke down in central Baltimore as she was coming back from the orthopedist; he hadn’t heard the ringing in the kitchen, left her there til after the street lamps came on. Barry feared he might not have the stomach to return to this work if he broke momentum, so he kept the tools in his hand and hit the speakerphone with his elbow. It was her. “Christ, am I on speakerphone?” “Got a bit of a project going on here, Jo.” He wetted the feathers in a line down the bird’s breast and parted them with his fingers. Probing with his fingertips, he found the breastbone and held the scalpel against it. “Okay. But maybe you can just take a minute for what I’ve got to tell you.” It was now the moment for Barry to stick a blade into the bald eagle he had strangled: he thought that perhaps a bit of distraction

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

was what he needed. “Shoot.” “So, two things. First, Darrel has a ‘secret message’ for you. Let me see his note here. Okay. ‘Be careful. It’s $500,000 and a year inside.’ He says you would know what that means. I don’t like the sound of it.” Barry’s eyes unfocused. “Okay,” he tried to say evenly. His forehead throbbed and he suddenly felt the garage was full of things he didn’t need. “What’s the other thing?” “Um. So the other thing is, I was going through those boxes of yours in the attic. And in with your parents’ old tax records I found this black folder, like an accordion folder. All bound up. Seems it belonged to your dad.” She took a hesitating breath. He made the cut and immediately knew he couldn’t keep the thing in his house. He drew the scalpel as straight as he could down the center of its breast, all the way to the spot down between its legs that the instructor on the videotape called the “vent.” Barry’s face was full of heat and he felt the floor tilt. He knew what she was going to say. He could remember his parents’ arguments about clandestine meetings in a bar near the hockey rink, the strange friends his mom and the neighbors all hated, the rocks thrown at their car after the Fourth of July parade the first summer Eisenhower was president. His father was gay. It explained the cloud of shame the man had tried to escape in the woods on weekends with his son. It even explained his preoccupation with having a clean and well-fitting camouflage coat. Barry had held his suspicion inside for years, had maybe even tried to force Darrel to be manly to avoid the same fate, had always made sure to laugh from the belly when Edgar told the story about the car salesman who wore eye shadow. “I don’t know quite how you’re going to take this. I think it seems kind of funny.” Barry poured borax on his hands to keep his red fingers from slipping on the scalpel as he pulled the hide back along the body toward the wings, slicing the fat membrane away from the skin. Red

was what spilling he needed. onto the feathers as well, and he was glad they were dark“Shoot.” in color. He was getting ready to forgive even as he was getting ready “So, to hate, two things. thoughFirst, he couldn’t Darrel determine has a ‘secret whether message’ he’dfor beyou. making Let up with me see his the note man here. in softOkay. black‘Be andcareful. white orIt’s the$500,000 man in the andcrimson a year sweater.He says you would know what that means. I don’t like the inside.’ sound “Charles of it.” was apparently part of a club called the Montgomery County Barry’s Union eyes forunfocused. Solidarity in Brotherhood.” Barry raised “Okay,” he tried his head to say toward evenly. theHis phone. forehead In onethrobbed hand he and heldhea foot of thefelt suddenly eagle, the garage in the other was full the trembling of things he scalpel didn’tready need.to“What’s clean it out.other the “So what? thing?” You know he was in the unions his whole career. He was “Um. even an Soofficer.” the other thing is, I was going through those boxes of yours “I know, in the attic. but, looking And in atwith the your meeting parents’ minutes, old tax and records the letterheads, I found it seems this blackthat folder, this particular like an accordion union was folder. less All whatbound you’dup. callSeems a labor it union andtoa bit belonged your more dad.” like She a—group took a hesitating of—communists.” breath. The He made scalpeltheslashed cut anda immediately hole in the skin knewofhethe couldn’t bird’s keep foot. the He pausedintohisbreathe. thing house. “What?” He drew the he said scalpel in aas high, straight loudas voice. he could down the center “I know. of Charles its breast, was allathe member way toofthe thisspot group, down which between it looks its legs like became that the like instructor a localon branch the videotape of the Communist called theParty, “vent.” for,Barry’s like, years. face There’s was full correspondence of heat and he felt from the floor at least tilt.1939 He knew to thewhat 1960s.” she was going to say. “Okay. He could Can remember you hold on hisaparents’ second?” arguments Barry’s about toes were clandestine tightly clenched inside meetings in a bar hisnear shoes. the He hockey couldrink, not stop the strange slicing.friends He cut his the mom meat out of and theone neighbors foot justalldown hated,tothe therocks ankle,thrown repeated at their the process car afterwith the the other Fourth of one, July and parade started the first the delicate summer tail Eisenhower section while was president. he let silence His father fill the wasphone gay. Itline. explained If what theJo cloud wasofsaying shamewas the man true,had andtried she wouldn’t to escape have in thebrought woods on it up weekends if she weren’t with his certain, son. Itthen even hisexplained dad was in a preoccupation his league with thewith bad having guys in amost clean of and the radio well-fitting dramas,camouflage television showsBarry coat. and action had held movies his suspicion Barry had inside seenfor as boy—hell, years, had maybe as an adult. even The man tried to force whoDarrel taughtto him be to manly battertofry avoid perch thewas same one fate, of Them. had always That god damn made sure red to laugh sweater. from It the wasbelly the meltdown when Edgar of the toldfigure the story he carried about withcar the him salesman to represent who his wore father, eye shadow. and it made him tired to think how long“Ihedon’t was going know to quite havehow to beyou’re angry.going to take this. I think it seems And kind at the of funny.” same time, almost immediately, he felt he had a realistic Barry sense poured of just borax howon much his hands time that to keep wouldhistake. red At fingers this stage from of his life, slipping onwith the scalpel huntingas scars, he pulled a sudden the divorce, hide back and along deadthe parents, body Barry was toward the familiar wings, slicing with the theimpact fat membrane of surprise awayblows. from the He skin. reflected, Red

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Matthew Pietz

was what spilling he needed. onto the feathers as well, and he was glad they were dark“Shoot.” in color. He was getting ready to forgive even as he was getting ready “So, to hate, two things. thoughFirst, he couldn’t Darrel determine has a ‘secret whether message’ he’dfor beyou. making Let me with up see his the note man here. in softOkay. black‘Be andcareful. white orIt’s the$500,000 man in the andcrimson a year inside.’ He says you would know what that means. I don’t like the sweater. sound “Charles of it.” was apparently part of a club called the Montgomery County Barry’s Union eyes forunfocused. Solidarity in Brotherhood.” “Okay,” Barry raised he tried his head to say toward evenly. theHis phone. forehead In onethrobbed hand he and heldhea suddenly foot of thefelt eagle, the garage in the other was full the trembling of things he scalpel didn’tready need.to“What’s clean it the other out. “So what? thing?” You know he was in the unions his whole career. He was “Um. even an Soofficer.” the other thing is, I was going through those boxes of yours “I know, in the attic. but, looking And in atwith the your meeting parents’ minutes, old tax and records the letterheads, I found this it seems blackthat folder, this particular like an accordion union was folder. less All whatbound you’dup. callSeems a labor it belonged union andtoa bit your more dad.” like She a—group took a hesitating of—communists.” breath. The He made scalpeltheslashed cut anda immediately hole in the skin knewofhethe couldn’t bird’s keep foot. the He thing intohisbreathe. paused house. “What?” He drew the he said scalpel in aas high, straight loudas voice. he could down the center “I know. of Charles its breast, was allathe member way toofthe thisspot group, down which between it looks its legs like that the like became instructor a localon branch the videotape of the Communist called theParty, “vent.” for,Barry’s like, years. face was full correspondence There’s of heat and he felt from the floor at least tilt.1939 He knew to thewhat 1960s.” she was going to say. “Okay. He could Can remember you hold on hisaparents’ second?” arguments Barry’s about toes were clandestine tightly meetings inside clenched in a bar hisnear shoes. the He hockey couldrink, not stop the strange slicing.friends He cut his the mom meat and of out theone neighbors foot justalldown hated,tothe therocks ankle,thrown repeated at their the process car afterwith the Fourth the other of one, July and parade started the first the delicate summer tail Eisenhower section while was president. he let siHis father lence fill the wasphone gay. Itline. explained If what theJo cloud wasofsaying shamewas the man true,had andtried she to escape have wouldn’t in thebrought woods on it up weekends if she weren’t with his certain, son. Itthen even hisexplained dad was hisa preoccupation in league with thewith bad having guys in amost clean of and the radio well-fitting dramas,camouflage television coat. Barry shows and action had held movies his suspicion Barry had inside seenfor as boy—hell, years, had maybe as an adult. even triedman The to force whoDarrel taughtto him be to manly battertofry avoid perch thewas same one fate, of Them. had always That madedamn god sure red to laugh sweater. from It the wasbelly the meltdown when Edgar of the toldfigure the story he carried about the car with him salesman to represent who his wore father, eye shadow. and it made him tired to think how long“Ihedon’t was going know to quite havehow to beyou’re angry.going to take this. I think it seems And kind at the of funny.” same time, almost immediately, he felt he had a realistic Barry sense poured of just borax howon much his hands time that to keep wouldhistake. red At fingers this stage from slipping of his life, onwith the scalpel huntingas scars, he pulled a sudden the divorce, hide back and along deadthe parents, body towardwas Barry the familiar wings, slicing with the theimpact fat membrane of surprise awayblows. from the He skin. reflected, Red

was spilling onto the feathers as well, and he was glad they were dark in color. He was getting ready to forgive even as he was getting ready to hate, though he couldn’t determine whether he’d be making up with the man in soft black and white or the man in the crimson sweater. “Charles was apparently part of a club called the Montgomery County Union for Solidarity in Brotherhood.” Barry raised his head toward the phone. In one hand he held a foot of the eagle, in the other the trembling scalpel ready to clean it out. “So what? You know he was in the unions his whole career. He was even an officer.” “I know, but, looking at the meeting minutes, and the letterheads, it seems that this particular union was less what you’d call a labor union and a bit more like a—group of—communists.” The scalpel slashed a hole in the skin of the bird’s foot. He paused to breathe. “What?” he said in a high, loud voice. “I know. Charles was a member of this group, which it looks like became like a local branch of the Communist Party, for, like, years. There’s correspondence from at least 1939 to the 1960s.” “Okay. Can you hold on a second?” Barry’s toes were tightly clenched inside his shoes. He could not stop slicing. He cut the meat out of one foot just down to the ankle, repeated the process with the other one, and started the delicate tail section while he let silence fill the phone line. If what Jo was saying was true, and she wouldn’t have brought it up if she weren’t certain, then his dad was in a league with the bad guys in most of the radio dramas, television shows and action movies Barry had seen as boy—hell, as an adult. The man who taught him to batter fry perch was one of Them. That god damn red sweater. It was the meltdown of the figure he carried with him to represent his father, and it made him tired to think how long he was going to have to be angry. And at the same time, almost immediately, he felt he had a realistic sense of just how much time that would take. At this stage of his life, with hunting scars, a sudden divorce, and dead parents, Barry was familiar with the impact of surprise blows. He reflected,

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Berkeley Fiction Review

rubbing borax under a stained fingernail, that he could see down the road he would take while coming to terms with it. He could imagine himself calling up old memories for new clues; glowering at his father’s picture in the den, when a little drunk, to curse about childish theories; cringing every time he heard mention of Cuba. Jo started talking again. She described an award for meritorious service to the party, and quoted part of a letter the old man had received from a comrade in jail in 1954. She was fascinated, not malicious, which was nice of her, considering how every friend and relative they had would react if they knew: angry laughter and angry pity. His corner of rural Maryland had never been keen on Reds, more fervently despising them when he was younger but still militant even now, even with the Soviet Union apparently on its last legs. While trying to slice under the tail skin, Barry absentmindedly clipped a few of the stately tail feathers at their base, and they fluttered to the grease-spotted floor. His mother—Jesus, his mother must have felt absolutely swindled. Screwed. She used to write letters to Senator McCarthy, had forbidden them from hanging anything red on the Christmas tree one year, but still, she had never said the word at his father, about his father, at least in the house. It must have been her life’s work to keep Barry from knowing, and his father had played along. Though they did have those chats in the woods on weekends, about work and about control. After Joanne hung up Barry slowly but clumsily cut through the sinew that held the skin to the bird’s back. His job was complicated by the fact that the raptor’s anatomy was so different from the ducks and pheasants on the videotape. It was strange how the grave didn’t stop people from changing, the way hair and nails grow for a while after death; strange and blatantly unfair. The last words said at the funeral should be the last words said. Well past dinnertime he had the body hanging on hooks, upside down, with the skin now attached only at the neck and dangling underneath the body. Like a sweater pulled over the head, an inverted and empty memory of the eagle. It was a bizarre sight, but mostly he was embarrassed at how tiny the body now looked.

rubbing Barryborax did hate under commies, a stainedbut fingernail, still andthat all,he at could the end seeofdown the day, the that was road he would politics; takewhat while hecoming could not to terms graspwith was it. why HeCharles could imagine hadn’t burned the himself calling blackupfolder. old memories There is for thatnew moment clues;that glowering comes sometime at his fain the picture ther’s very lastindays the den, of high when school, a littlewhen drunk, a boy to curse seesabout that the childish community has theories; cringing a slot ready every for timehim, he heard a gapmention to fill after of Cuba. he graduates, no longer Jo started as a kidtalking but asagain. a regular She man described and it an occurs award to for himmeritorithat his father’s ous service place to is thenot party, so different, and quoted in type, part of from a letter the one the he’s old man abouthad to step into. from received The thought a comrade that they in jail could in 1954. occupy She similar was fascinated, stations makes not him viscerally malicious, which aware, wasfor nice the of firsther, time, considering that his father howisevery also afriend regular man. and relative It’s they enough hadofwould a shock: reactit if should they knew: be the angry last time laughter the father and changes angry pity. so dramatically. His corner ofNext ruralBarry Maryland was supposed had nevertobeen cut the keen head on off justmore Reds, below fervently the eyes,despising leaving the them beak when andhe most wasofyounger the skullbut bones still intact and militant even inside now,the even skin. with Then the he Soviet would Union haveapparently to cut the on eyes its out. last He wasn’t legs. Whilelooking trying forward to slice to under it. the tail skin, Barry absentmindedly clipped a few of the stately tail feathers at their base, and they fluttered Barrytohonked the grease-spotted for a third time, floor. hoping His mother—Jesus, the noise at this hour his mother would annoyhave must Joanne’s felt absolutely boyfriend.swindled. He peered Screwed. at the low Shebushes used toinwrite frontletof the house, ters to Senator thoseMcCarthy, plants it had hadbeen forbidden his dutythem to maintain from hanging for so long, anyas his red thing pickup’s on theasthmatic Christmas motor treetrilled one year, the steering but still,wheel she had under never his hands. said theRestlessly word at his poking father,the about scanhis button father, onathis least radio, in the he house. checked It the rearview must have been mirror her to life’s make work suretothe keep large Barry cardboard from knowing, box had and not moved his father from hadits played bungee along. cordThough moorings theyindid thehave flatbed. those Wilkes’s chats inears the were visible woods on weekends, sticking up about nextwork to the and box. about control. DarrelJoanne After came out hung ofup theBarry house, slowly forgetting but clumsily to closecut thethrough front door the and kicking sinew that held his the heels skin outtotothethe bird’s sidesback. as heHis ranjob to was the truck, complicated an uncoordinated, by the fact that sloppy the raptor’s gait. Barry anatomy smiled. wasHe so different leaned over from and thepushed ducks openpheasants and the passenger on thedoor. videotape. It was strange how the grave didn’t stop“You’re people from overdressed. changing, Gonna the way be warm hair and today.” nails grow for a while after“Hi. death; Happy strange new and year.” blatantly unfair. The last words said at the funeral “Happy should newbeyear.” the last words said. Well past dinnertime he had the Darrel body hanging looked up onathooks, the gun upside rack installed down, with in the theroof skinofnow the cab atas they only tached droveatpast the spilled neck and garbage dangling cansunderneath and slushy piles the body. of leaves. Like a sweater “How pulled comeover there’s the head, no .22? an inverted How come and empty it’s only memory your gun?” of the “You’re eagle. It was not agonna bizarre besight, doingbutthat mostly kindheofwas shooting,” embarrassed Barryat said, how reaching tiny the body behind now thelooked. seats and handing the boy a small blocky pack-

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Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

rubbing Barryborax did hate under commies, a stainedbut fingernail, still andthat all,he at could the end seeofdown the day, the roadwas that he would politics; takewhat while hecoming could not to terms graspwith was it. why HeCharles could imagine hadn’t himself the burned calling blackupfolder. old memories There is for thatnew moment clues;that glowering comes sometime at his father’s in the picture very lastindays the den, of high when school, a littlewhen drunk, a boy to curse seesabout that the childish comtheories;has munity cringing a slot ready every for timehim, he heard a gapmention to fill after of Cuba. he graduates, no longer Jo started as a kidtalking but asagain. a regular She man described and it an occurs award to for himmeritorithat his ous service father’s place to is thenot party, so different, and quoted in type, part of from a letter the one the he’s old man abouthad to received step into. from The thought a comrade that they in jail could in 1954. occupy She similar was fascinated, stations makes not malicious, him viscerally which aware, wasfor nice the of firsther, time, considering that his father howisevery also afriend reguandman. lar relative It’s they enough hadofwould a shock: reactit if should they knew: be the angry last time laughter the father and angry pity. changes so dramatically. His corner ofNext ruralBarry Maryland was supposed had nevertobeen cut the keen head on Reds, off justmore below fervently the eyes,despising leaving the them beak when andhe most wasofyounger the skullbut bones still militant intact and even inside now,the even skin. with Then the he Soviet would Union haveapparently to cut the on eyes its out. last legs.wasn’t He Whilelooking trying forward to slice to under it. the tail skin, Barry absentmindedly clipped a few of the stately tail feathers at their base, and they fluttered Barrytohonked the grease-spotted for a third time, floor. hoping His mother—Jesus, the noise at this hour his mother would must have annoy Joanne’s felt absolutely boyfriend.swindled. He peered Screwed. at the low Shebushes used toinwrite frontletof ters house, the to Senator thoseMcCarthy, plants it had hadbeen forbidden his dutythem to maintain from hanging for so long, anything as his red pickup’s on theasthmatic Christmas motor treetrilled one year, the steering but still,wheel she had under never his said theRestlessly hands. word at his poking father,the about scanhis button father, onathis least radio, in the he house. checked It mustrearview the have been mirror her to life’s make work suretothe keep large Barry cardboard from knowing, box had and not his father moved from hadits played bungee along. cordThough moorings theyindid thehave flatbed. those Wilkes’s chats inears the woodsvisible were on weekends, sticking up about nextwork to the and box. about control. After Joanne Darrel came out hung ofup theBarry house, slowly forgetting but clumsily to closecut thethrough front door the sinew and kicking that held his the heels skin outtotothethe bird’s sidesback. as heHis ranjob to was the truck, complicated an unby the fact that coordinated, sloppy the raptor’s gait. Barry anatomy smiled. wasHe so different leaned over from and thepushed ducks and pheasants open the passenger on thedoor. videotape. It was strange how the grave didn’t stop“You’re people from overdressed. changing, Gonna the way be warm hair and today.” nails grow for a while after“Hi. death; Happy strange new and year.” blatantly unfair. The last words said at the funeral “Happy should newbeyear.” the last words said. Well past dinnertime he had the Darrel body hanging looked up onathooks, the gun upside rack installed down, with in the theroof skinofnow the cab attached as they only droveatpast the spilled neck and garbage dangling cansunderneath and slushy piles the body. of leaves. Like a sweater “How pulled comeover there’s the head, no .22? an inverted How come and empty it’s only memory your gun?” of the eagle. It was “You’re not agonna bizarre besight, doingbutthat mostly kindheofwas shooting,” embarrassed Barryat said, how tiny the body reaching behind now thelooked. seats and handing the boy a small blocky pack-

Barry did hate commies, but still and all, at the end of the day, that was politics; what he could not grasp was why Charles hadn’t burned the black folder. There is that moment that comes sometime in the very last days of high school, when a boy sees that the community has a slot ready for him, a gap to fill after he graduates, no longer as a kid but as a regular man and it occurs to him that his father’s place is not so different, in type, from the one he’s about to step into. The thought that they could occupy similar stations makes him viscerally aware, for the first time, that his father is also a regular man. It’s enough of a shock: it should be the last time the father changes so dramatically. Next Barry was supposed to cut the head off just below the eyes, leaving the beak and most of the skull bones intact and inside the skin. Then he would have to cut the eyes out. He wasn’t looking forward to it.

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Barry honked for a third time, hoping the noise at this hour would annoy Joanne’s boyfriend. He peered at the low bushes in front of the house, those plants it had been his duty to maintain for so long, as his pickup’s asthmatic motor trilled the steering wheel under his hands. Restlessly poking the scan button on his radio, he checked the rearview mirror to make sure the large cardboard box had not moved from its bungee cord moorings in the flatbed. Wilkes’s ears were visible sticking up next to the box. Darrel came out of the house, forgetting to close the front door and kicking his heels out to the sides as he ran to the truck, an uncoordinated, sloppy gait. Barry smiled. He leaned over and pushed open the passenger door. “You’re overdressed. Gonna be warm today.” “Hi. Happy new year.” “Happy new year.” Darrel looked up at the gun rack installed in the roof of the cab as they drove past spilled garbage cans and slushy piles of leaves. “How come there’s no .22? How come it’s only your gun?” “You’re not gonna be doing that kind of shooting,” Barry said, reaching behind the seats and handing the boy a small blocky pack63


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

age wrapped in the Sunday comics. “One more tiny Christmas gift. I know you didn’t like that history of basketball.” Darrel was happy that it wasn’t the kind of wrapping paper you had to go slow on. Inside was a blue and white box with a picture camera and a detachable lens. He was fairly giggling with happiness, almost girlishly, but Barry didn’t mind. The boy thanked him. “John Ray always said the only Canon you’d ever shoot would have a telephoto lens,” said Barry, turning toward the highway at a corner where a melting snowman held up his arms in surrender. It was the most expensive thing he’d bought since Jo’s engagement ring. “You know how to load it up? “ The boy’s face was shining with the relief of not being asked to kill anything, and he snapped open slots and clicked black and silver levers. He slid the two batteries into their bed. “Me and Wilkes are gonna bring down a beautiful quail for you to get some shots of, even though it’s real late season now,” said Barry. “Look at it in years, and it’ll still be a beautiful winter day with your dad smiling in the prime of his middle age, and Wilkes still alive, a couple quail at his feet.” “Maybe some pictures of just Wilkes too?” “You’re the cameraman. You’re the boss.” Darrel had inserted the lens and was peering through the viewfinder at a billboard of a woman in a fur coat, holding a bottle of vodka between her thighs. Barry looked away. Reminders were everywhere. “This is a really nice camera,” said the boy. He looked again out his window, then out Barry’s window, his eyebrows up. “What woods are we going to? This isn’t the way.” “Um, we just need to drop by that flea market in Haydersville a minute.” Darrel sat upright. He climbed up in his seat and peered through the back window into the flatbed. “Is it in that box?” he almost whispered. Barry nodded. He looked straight ahead. The bird had not turned out well. After hand-washing the pelt

age wrapped he’d used the in blow the dryer, Sunday just comics. like the “One videotape more tiny said,Christmas but the hotgift. air Icooked know you a spot didn’t of skin likeover thatthe history breast. of He basketball.” pushed the foam body into the pelt, Darrel putwas wires happy through that itthe wasn’t legs and the kind plugged of wrapping them deep paper intoyou the foamtosogothey had slow would on. Inside stay inwas place. a blue But and it was white onlybox after with he’d a picture sewn it all up and camera and pinned a detachable the wingslens. to the Hesides wasthat fairly he saw giggling how the withtailhappihung awkwardly ness, almostand girlishly, loose. but AndBarry whendidn’t he stood mind. theThe whole boy thing thanked upright, him. it fell forward “John Ray always on its said open thebeak. only Canon He realized you’dthe ever legs shoot werewould set too have far aback, telephoto but it lens,” was too said late. Barry, He wired turning it toward to a piece theof highway driftwood at aand corner the bird stood where a melting at a steep snowman forward heldslant, up his like arms the in impassive surrender. captain It wasof thea steamer most expensive sinking thing nose-first. he’d bought since Jo’s engagement ring. “You know Buthow what to load bothered it up?Barry “ most was the feathers. The coat was ruffled, The especially boy’s face over was shining the cooked withskin the of relief the of breast, not being as though askedthe to birdanything, kill were being andelectrified. he snappedInopen the end, slotsonly and clicked the Harvest blackMoon and silver eyes looked He levers. good. slidStanding the two batteries in the garage, into their hungry bed.and with flecks of salt coating “Mehis andforearms, Wilkes are Barry gonna wanted bring so down badly a beautiful for it to quail look like for you the eagle to gethe’d someseen shots in the of, tree eventhat though day that it’s real he found late season himselfnow,” squinting. said Even a“Look Barry. remoteatresemblance it in years, and to his it’llmemory still be would a beautiful have winter been comday forting; with your butdad thesmiling power toinpreserve the prime theofanimal, his middle it turned age, out, and was Wilkes not his. alive, a couple quail at his feet.” still “Maybe The Haydersville some pictures flea market of just Wilkes was nested too?”between three interstates “You’re and a the Civil cameraman. War battlefield. You’reYears the boss.” ago it had been the site of a drive-in Darrel movie had inserted theater,thea lens sprawl andofwas parking peering lots. through Now mostly the viewreclaimedat by finder a billboard grass, they of awere woman crammed in a fur with coat, tables holding displaying a bottlepotof tery, mounds vodka between of her children’s thighs. clothing, Barry looked copper away. jewelry, Reminders portable were radios, evhand-painted greeting cards, Harley-Davidson ashtrays and dozens erywhere. of boxes “This of is avideo reallycassettes. nice camera,” There said was also the boy. fruit.HeThe looked number again of farmers out his window, and craftsmen then outwas Barry’s evenly window, balanced his with eyebrows the desperately up. “What poor trying woods are we to going monetize to? the Thisdetritus isn’t the ofway.” their garages and basements. A tall “Um, signpost we just with need a marquee to drop byonthat topflea remained market from in Haydersville the drive-in a days, displaying the words “SUNDAY MARKET” as if happy to minute.” stillDarrel have work sat upright. after allHe these climbed years.upBirds in hisnested seat and on peered its crown. through the back Barrywindow drove through into the the flatbed. parking areas for ten minutes, on the lookout “Is itfor in the thatgreen box?”Chevrolet he almostEl whispered. Camino belonging to an Eastern European Barry nodded. immigrant Hewho looked ran straight the Army-Navy ahead. store in Haydersville. He usually The birdsethad up not hereturned early on outSunday well. After mornings. hand-washing the pelt

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Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

he’dwrapped age used the in blow the dryer, Sunday just comics. like the “One videotape more tiny said,Christmas but the hotgift. air I know you cooked a spot didn’t of skin likeover thatthe history breast. of He basketball.” pushed the foam body into the pelt, Darrel putwas wires happy through that itthe wasn’t legs and the kind plugged of wrapping them deep paper intoyou the had tosogothey foam slow would on. Inside stay inwas place. a blue But and it was white onlybox after with he’da picture sewn it camera all up and and pinned a detachable the wingslens. to the Hesides wasthat fairly he saw giggling how the withtailhappihung ness, almostand awkwardly girlishly, loose. but AndBarry whendidn’t he stood mind. theThe whole boy thing thanked upright, him. “John it fell forward Ray always on its said open thebeak. only Canon He realized you’dthe ever legs shoot werewould set too have far a telephoto back, but it lens,” was too said late. Barry, He wired turning it toward to a piece theof highway driftwood at aand corner the where bird stood a melting at a steep snowman forward heldslant, up his like arms the in impassive surrender. captain It wasof thea most expensive steamer sinking thing nose-first. he’d bought since Jo’s engagement ring. “You know Buthow what to load bothered it up?Barry “ most was the feathers. The coat was ruffled, The especially boy’s face over was shining the cooked withskin the of relief the of breast, not being as though askedthe to kill anything, bird were being andelectrified. he snappedInopen the end, slotsonly and clicked the Harvest blackMoon and silver eyes levers. He looked good. slidStanding the two batteries in the garage, into their hungry bed.and with flecks of salt coating “Mehis andforearms, Wilkes are Barry gonna wanted bring so down badly a beautiful for it to quail look like for you the to gethe’d eagle someseen shots in the of, tree eventhat though day that it’s real he found late season himselfnow,” squinting. said Barry.a“Look Even remoteatresemblance it in years, and to his it’llmemory still be would a beautiful have winter been comday with your forting; butdad thesmiling power toinpreserve the prime theofanimal, his middle it turned age, out, and was Wilkes not still alive, a couple quail at his feet.” his. “Maybe The Haydersville some pictures flea market of just Wilkes was nested too?”between three interstates “You’re and a the Civil cameraman. War battlefield. You’reYears the boss.” ago it had been the site of a drive-in Darrel movie had inserted theater,thea lens sprawl andofwas parking peering lots. through Now mostly the viewrefinder at by claimed a billboard grass, they of awere woman crammed in a fur with coat, tables holding displaying a bottlepotof vodkamounds tery, between of her children’s thighs. clothing, Barry looked copper away. jewelry, Reminders portable were radios, everywhere. hand-painted greeting cards, Harley-Davidson ashtrays and dozens of boxes “This of is avideo reallycassettes. nice camera,” There said was also the boy. fruit.HeThe looked number again of out his window, farmers and craftsmen then outwas Barry’s evenly window, balanced his with eyebrows the desperately up. “What woods poor trying are we to going monetize to? the Thisdetritus isn’t the ofway.” their garages and basements. A tall “Um, signpost we just with need a marquee to drop byonthat topflea remained market from in Haydersville the drive-in a minute.” days, displaying the words “SUNDAY MARKET” as if happy to stillDarrel have work sat upright. after allHe these climbed years.upBirds in hisnested seat and on peered its crown. through the back Barrywindow drove through into the the flatbed. parking areas for ten minutes, on the lookout “Is itfor in the thatgreen box?”Chevrolet he almostEl whispered. Camino belonging to an Eastern European Barry nodded. immigrant Hewho looked ran straight the Army-Navy ahead. store in Haydersville. He usually The birdsethad up not hereturned early on outSunday well. After mornings. hand-washing the pelt

he’d used the blow dryer, just like the videotape said, but the hot air cooked a spot of skin over the breast. He pushed the foam body into the pelt, put wires through the legs and plugged them deep into the foam so they would stay in place. But it was only after he’d sewn it all up and pinned the wings to the sides that he saw how the tail hung awkwardly and loose. And when he stood the whole thing upright, it fell forward on its open beak. He realized the legs were set too far back, but it was too late. He wired it to a piece of driftwood and the bird stood at a steep forward slant, like the impassive captain of a steamer sinking nose-first. But what bothered Barry most was the feathers. The coat was ruffled, especially over the cooked skin of the breast, as though the bird were being electrified. In the end, only the Harvest Moon eyes looked good. Standing in the garage, hungry and with flecks of salt coating his forearms, Barry wanted so badly for it to look like the eagle he’d seen in the tree that day that he found himself squinting. Even a remote resemblance to his memory would have been comforting; but the power to preserve the animal, it turned out, was not his. The Haydersville flea market was nested between three interstates and a Civil War battlefield. Years ago it had been the site of a drive-in movie theater, a sprawl of parking lots. Now mostly reclaimed by grass, they were crammed with tables displaying pottery, mounds of children’s clothing, copper jewelry, portable radios, hand-painted greeting cards, Harley-Davidson ashtrays and dozens of boxes of video cassettes. There was also fruit. The number of farmers and craftsmen was evenly balanced with the desperately poor trying to monetize the detritus of their garages and basements. A tall signpost with a marquee on top remained from the drive-in days, displaying the words “SUNDAY MARKET” as if happy to still have work after all these years. Birds nested on its crown. Barry drove through the parking areas for ten minutes, on the lookout for the green Chevrolet El Camino belonging to an Eastern European immigrant who ran the Army-Navy store in Haydersville. He usually set up here early on Sunday mornings.

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“I saw a space back there,” Darrel said quietly. He could tell his father was anxious. Barry smiled when he found the green car, relaxing into his seat a little, and he parked right behind it. The proprietor of the ArmyNavy store had a table in front of the El Camino and stood with his back to Barry and Darrel, chatting to the woman at the next booth, who sold coloring books, instruction manuals for power tools, and stereo equipment. On the man’s table Darrel could see flashlights, belts, tins of shoe polish, and a stuffed menagerie—a couple raccoons, a badger, two doves wired to a single sandy branch. Darrel was going to remark on their lifelike poses when he realized his dad was sneaking out of the truck. Barry crept back to the flatbed and whispered to Wilkes, who was yelping with the excitement. His heart began to pound and he heard his own breathing, gusts past his teeth, as he opened the box and pulled the body out. He waited, hunched, at the back of his truck as the Army-Navy proprietor walked behind the woman’s table, his coffee and cigarette in the same gesturing hand. Barry dashed quietly to the front corner of the El Camino and paused again, holding the body awkwardly in front of him as he crouched, conscious of the exposure of his face. When he heard the woman with the coloring books laugh, he ran to the table, put the eagle under the corner where the other animals stood and fled back to the truck, throwing it into reverse almost before the engine rumbled to life. He did not look back to see the bird tilt forward, plunging its beak into the dewy grass. When he had time to be aware of his surroundings again, skimming back onto the highway, Barry noticed his son also had a flushed face and seemed almost to be panting. “I guess that’s that,” Barry said. “Didn’t have to throw it away after all.” He smiled and turned up the radio. “Yeah.” Darrel was an adventurous kid, thought Barry, and loyal, and smart. The stuffing had been his idea. It was exciting to watch him grow more capable as he grew older.

“I “Igot sawaagreat spaceshot back ofthere,” it,” saidDarrel the boy, saidgrinning. quietly. He could tell his father Barry wasturned anxious. down the radio. “You what?” Barry smiled when he found the green car, relaxing into his seat a little, “Of and you he andparked the bald right eagle. behind I took it. aThe fewproprietor to be sure.ofBut thethis Armyhas auto-focus, Navy store had and aittable makes in front it pretty of the easy. El This Camino is aand really stood good with camhis era.” to Barry and Darrel, chatting to the woman at the next booth, back whoRubbing sold coloring his eyebrow books, with instruction the heel manuals of his hand, for power Barrytools, changed and lanes. equipment. stereo “You—youOn can’t theshow man’s those table to Darrel anybody.” could Hesee swerved flashlights, again into antins belts, empty of shoe lane and polish, slowed and down. a stuffed Themenagerie—a sensation in his couple neck racwas a quiet athrob. coons, badger, “You twoknow, dovesI wired was thinking to a single you’d sandy use branch. it to getDarrel some nice going was shots of to quail. remarkMaybe on their setlifelike the timer, poses onewhen of allhethree realized of us.” his dad was“Don’t sneaking worry. out ofThere’s the truck. like thirty-one pictures left. I’m telling you,Barry it’s a great crept shot.” back to Darrel the flatbed smiled,and and whispered turned to gaze to Wilkes, out the winwho dow.yelping was From the with highway the excitement. they could His see into heartthe began backyards to pound of people’s and he houses,hispools heard ownbedded breathing, down gusts under pastblue his tarps teeth,for as the he opened winter. the box and The pulled glare the off body theout. highway He waited, madehunched, Barry pull at the down back theofsun his visor. truck Hethe as couldn’t Army-Navy see down proprietor the road.walked The loose behind bungee the woman’s cords rattled table, in the his flatbed.and cigarette in the same gesturing hand. Barry dashed quicoffee etly“Yeah, to the front okay,” corner he said. of the Maybe El Camino one picture and paused wouldn’t again, kill anyone. holding “You’re the bodythe awkwardly boss.” in front of him as he crouched, conscious of the exposure of his face. When he heard the woman with the coloring books laugh, he ran to the table, put the eagle under the corner where the other animals stood and fled back to the truck, throwing it into reverse almost before the engine rumbled to life. He did not look back to see the bird tilt forward, plunging its beak into the dewy grass. When he had time to be aware of his surroundings again, skimming back onto the highway, Barry noticed his son also had a flushed face and seemed almost to be panting. “I guess that’s that,” Barry said. “Didn’t have to throw it away after all.” He smiled and turned up the radio. “Yeah.” Darrel was an adventurous kid, thought Barry, and loyal, and smart. The stuffing had been his idea. It was exciting to watch him grow more capable as he grew older.

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Matthew Pietz

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Matthew Pietz

Matthew Pietz

“I “Igot sawaagreat spaceshot back ofthere,” it,” saidDarrel the boy, saidgrinning. quietly. He could tell his father Barry wasturned anxious. down the radio. Barry what?” “You smiled when he found the green car, relaxing into his seat a little, “Of and you he andparked the bald right eagle. behind I took it. aThe fewproprietor to be sure.ofBut thethis Armyhas Navy store had auto-focus, and aittable makes in front it pretty of the easy. El This Camino is aand really stood good with camhis back to Barry and Darrel, chatting to the woman at the next booth, era.” whoRubbing sold coloring his eyebrow books, with instruction the heel manuals of his hand, for power Barrytools, changed and stereo equipment. lanes. “You—youOn can’t theshow man’s those table to Darrel anybody.” could Hesee swerved flashlights, again belts,antins into empty of shoe lane and polish, slowed and down. a stuffed Themenagerie—a sensation in his couple neck racwas acoons, quiet athrob. badger, “You twoknow, dovesI wired was thinking to a single you’d sandy use branch. it to getDarrel some was going nice shots of to quail. remarkMaybe on their setlifelike the timer, poses onewhen of allhethree realized of us.” his dad was“Don’t sneaking worry. out ofThere’s the truck. like thirty-one pictures left. I’m telling you,Barry it’s a great crept shot.” back to Darrel the flatbed smiled,and and whispered turned to gaze to Wilkes, out the winwho was yelping dow. From the with highway the excitement. they could His see into heartthe began backyards to pound of people’s and he heard hispools houses, ownbedded breathing, down gusts under pastblue his tarps teeth,for as the he opened winter. the box and The pulled glare the off body theout. highway He waited, madehunched, Barry pull at the down back theofsun his visor. truck as the He couldn’t Army-Navy see down proprietor the road.walked The loose behind bungee the woman’s cords rattled table, in the his coffee and cigarette in the same gesturing hand. Barry dashed quiflatbed. etly“Yeah, to the front okay,” corner he said. of the Maybe El Camino one picture and paused wouldn’t again, kill anyone. holding the bodythe “You’re awkwardly boss.” in front of him as he crouched, conscious of the exposure of his face. When he heard the woman with the coloring books laugh, he ran to the table, put the eagle under the corner where the other animals stood and fled back to the truck, throwing it into reverse almost before the engine rumbled to life. He did not look back to see the bird tilt forward, plunging its beak into the dewy grass. When he had time to be aware of his surroundings again, skimming back onto the highway, Barry noticed his son also had a flushed face and seemed almost to be panting. “I guess that’s that,” Barry said. “Didn’t have to throw it away after all.” He smiled and turned up the radio. “Yeah.” Darrel was an adventurous kid, thought Barry, and loyal, and smart. The stuffing had been his idea. It was exciting to watch him grow more capable as he grew older.

“I got a great shot of it,” said the boy, grinning. Barry turned down the radio. “You what?” “Of you and the bald eagle. I took a few to be sure. But this has auto-focus, and it makes it pretty easy. This is a really good camera.” Rubbing his eyebrow with the heel of his hand, Barry changed lanes. “You—you can’t show those to anybody.” He swerved again into an empty lane and slowed down. The sensation in his neck was a quiet throb. “You know, I was thinking you’d use it to get some nice shots of quail. Maybe set the timer, one of all three of us.” “Don’t worry. There’s like thirty-one pictures left. I’m telling you, it’s a great shot.” Darrel smiled, and turned to gaze out the window. From the highway they could see into the backyards of people’s houses, pools bedded down under blue tarps for the winter. The glare off the highway made Barry pull down the sun visor. He couldn’t see down the road. The loose bungee cords rattled in the flatbed. “Yeah, okay,” he said. Maybe one picture wouldn’t kill anyone. “You’re the boss.”

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Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell

When I reach to undo my seatbelt, my arm comes unstuck from my side and the sweaty little sprouts of hair in my pit cling to my underarm. My Uncle Charlie has barely used the air conditioning the whole ride upstate, and the seatbelt’s been resting right between my tits – as everyone at school loves to call them. So, when I take it off there’s a dark sweat stain on my t-shirt, running right down my goddamn cleavage. “Home, sweet home,” Uncle Charlie says, pulling to a stop in his gravel driveway, the tiny stones crackling under the Escort’s tires. He turns the key and kills the engine. “Take a look around, Billy,” he says to me. “It just feels calmer than your Yorktown.” Uncle Charlie is fat too, and getting out of the car isn’t easy for him. I watch him draw in his breath with a lean backward and then reach forward for the top of the open door, something to pull himself up by. I get out and grab my duffle bag from the backseat. It has three days worth of clothes in it. Exactly three pairs of khakis, t-shirts of assorted colors, boxer shorts and socks. My mom packed the bag. She promised they won’t stay longer than planned. Uncle Charlie puts his meaty arm around me as we walk toward the front door of their ranch house.

“I did it with a stapler,” my cousin Jack says, pushing his studded earlobe forward for me to see in the fading daylight. “It got infected the first time,” he says, “and I had to let it close up and heal. But this time it came out good.” Jack is a year older than me – after this summer he’ll be a junior – and we’re sitting on the roof just outside his bedroom window. He’s got on cargo shorts and hiking boots with fat round laces. He’s wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, and I can see tendons When I reach undo my seatbelt, my as armhecomes unstuck twitching beneath the to muscles in his forearms leans forward from myhis sidehand and in thefront sweaty little sprouts of hairhis in lighter my pit until cling he to cupping of his mouth, flicking my underarm. Myflame UncletoCharlie has barely used the air conditioning brings an orange his cigarette. the whole ride upstate, and the seatbelt’s beenheresting between “I could do it for you too, if you want,” says, right exhaling blue my tits – as everyone at school loves to call them. So, when I take it smoke. “Your brother had an earring, right?” off there’s a dark sweat stain on my t-shirt, running right down my “Has,” I snap at him. “He still has it.” goddamn cleavage. The sun is beginning to set behind us. Sinewy streaks of or“Home, sweet says,drag pulling a stop his ange stretch acrosshome,” the sky.Uncle Jack Charlie takes a long andtowe bothinlook gravel driveway, the tiny stones crackling under the Escort’s tires. off into the distance, over the fields with their tall grasses, past the He turns the keytelephone and kills poles the engine. “Take look around, he lonely looking that line the anarrow streets,Billy,” and onto says to me. “It just feels calmer than your Yorktown.” the neighboring rooftops that peak through the trees. Uncle is fat too,Jack and says. getting out of the car isn’t easy for “What Charlie about football?” him.“What I watch himit?” draw in his breath with a lean backward and then about reach forward for the of the open door,“You something to pull himself “Why don’t youtop play?” he says. could. You’re big up by. enough.” IJack get out and grab duffle bag from thetrying backseat. It has is doing whatmy everyone does. He’s to turn methree into days worth of clothes in it. Exactly three pairs of khakis, t-shirts of my brother. My brother is the only one who doesn’t do this. He’s the assorted boxer and socks. My mom packed the bag. only one colors, who likes me shorts how I am. She“Coach promised they won’t stay longer planned. Uncle Calhoun wants me to play,”than I tell him. “But he’sCharlie an asputs his meaty arm around me as we walk toward the front door of shole. I hate him. So I don’t.” theirJack ranch house. lies back on the shingles, one hand behind his buzzed head,

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“You’ve got a lot going on, Billy,” he says. “It’ll be good for you to be out here and relax a little. Get away from it all.” I don’t know how much my parents have told him, but I do know that there’s no getting away from it - the not knowing. You can’t just leave that at home.

NIPS

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Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell

“You’ve got a lot going on, Billy,” he says. “It’ll be good for you to be out here and relax a little. Get away from it all.” I don’t know how much my parents have told him, but I do know that there’s no getting away from it - the not knowing. You can’t just leave that at home.

“You’ve got a lot going on, Billy,” he says. “It’ll be good for you to be out here and relax a little. Get away from it all.” I don’t know how much my parents have told him, but I do know that there’s no getting away from it - the not knowing. You can’t just leave that at home.

“I did it with a stapler,” my cousin Jack says, pushing his studded earlobe forward for me to see in the fading daylight. “It got infected the first time,” he says, “and I had to let it close up and heal. But this time it came out good.” Jack is a year older than me – after this summer he’ll be a junior – and we’re sitting on the roof just outside his bedroom window. He’s got on cargo shorts and hiking boots with fat round laces. He’s wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, and I can see tendons When I reach undo my seatbelt, my as armhecomes unstuck twitching beneath the to muscles in his forearms leans forward from myhis sidehand and in thefront sweaty little sprouts of hairhis in lighter my pit until cling he to cupping of his mouth, flicking my underarm. Myflame UncletoCharlie has barely used the air conditioning brings an orange his cigarette. the whole ride upstate, and the seatbelt’s beenheresting between “I could do it for you too, if you want,” says, right exhaling blue my tits – as everyone at school loves to call them. So, when I take it smoke. “Your brother had an earring, right?” off there’s a dark sweat stain on my t-shirt, running right down my “Has,” I snap at him. “He still has it.” goddamn cleavage. The sun is beginning to set behind us. Sinewy streaks of or“Home, sweet says,drag pulling a stop his ange stretch acrosshome,” the sky.Uncle Jack Charlie takes a long andtowe bothinlook gravel driveway, the tiny stones crackling under the Escort’s tires. off into the distance, over the fields with their tall grasses, past the He turns the keytelephone and kills poles the engine. “Take look around, he lonely looking that line the anarrow streets,Billy,” and onto says to me. “It just feels calmer than your Yorktown.” the neighboring rooftops that peak through the trees. Uncle is fat too,Jack and says. getting out of the car isn’t easy for “What Charlie about football?” him.“What I watch himit?” draw in his breath with a lean backward and then about reach forward for the of the open door,“You something to pull himself “Why don’t youtop play?” he says. could. You’re big up by. enough.” IJack get out and grab duffle bag from thetrying backseat. It has is doing whatmy everyone does. He’s to turn methree into days worth of clothes in it. Exactly three pairs of khakis, t-shirts of my brother. My brother is the only one who doesn’t do this. He’s the assorted boxer and socks. My mom packed the bag. only one colors, who likes me shorts how I am. She“Coach promised they won’t stay longer planned. Uncle Calhoun wants me to play,”than I tell him. “But he’sCharlie an asputs his meaty arm around me as we walk toward the front door of shole. I hate him. So I don’t.” theirJack ranch house. lies back on the shingles, one hand behind his buzzed head,

“I did it with a stapler,” my cousin Jack says, pushing his studded earlobe forward for me to see in the fading daylight. “It got infected the first time,” he says, “and I had to let it close up and heal. But this time it came out good.” Jack is a year older than me – after this summer he’ll be a junior – and we’re sitting on the roof just outside his bedroom window. He’s got on cargo shorts and hiking boots with fat round laces. He’s wearing a t-shirt with the sleeves cut off, and I can see tendons twitching beneath the muscles in his forearms as he leans forward cupping his hand in front of his mouth, flicking his lighter until he brings an orange flame to his cigarette. “I could do it for you too, if you want,” he says, exhaling blue smoke. “Your brother had an earring, right?” “Has,” I snap at him. “He still has it.” The sun is beginning to set behind us. Sinewy streaks of orange stretch across the sky. Jack takes a long drag and we both look off into the distance, over the fields with their tall grasses, past the lonely looking telephone poles that line the narrow streets, and onto the neighboring rooftops that peak through the trees. “What about football?” Jack says. “What about it?” “Why don’t you play?” he says. “You could. You’re big enough.” Jack is doing what everyone does. He’s trying to turn me into my brother. My brother is the only one who doesn’t do this. He’s the only one who likes me how I am. “Coach Calhoun wants me to play,” I tell him. “But he’s an asshole. I hate him. So I don’t.” Jack lies back on the shingles, one hand behind his buzzed head,

Brad Wetherell

NIPS

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

the other resting on his stomach, holding the smoking cigarette with the glowing tip, and he laughs quietly. I guess because I don’t usually talk like that. He must think it’s funny to see me angry. “I was just thinking an earring might make you look tougher,” he says. “I don’t want an earring,” I tell him. “And I don’t need to look tougher. Why did you say I need to look tougher?” “No reason,” he says. “Forget it. Come on, let’s go inside.” And Jack sits up, taking one more drag before he flicks the cigarette off the roof. I watch it topple end of over cherry-tipped end, and I think how it would look totally different if you were on the ground and that thing was coming at you.

the other Jack’sresting bedroom on his hasstomach, a posterholding of a dirt thebiker smoking and cigarette another with of a snowboarder the glowing tip, showing and hehis laughs badly quietly. bruised I guess ass, with because the Iword don’t“EXusuTREME!” ally talk like across that. the He top. mustAbove think it’s his funny dressertoissee oneme more angry. poster, this one “I ofwas a blond just thinking haired girl aninearring high heels mightand make a silver you look bathing tougher,” suit. I eyesays. he her, and though I can’t quit looking, it’s easy for me to imagine what“Ishe’d don’tsay want if she an earring,” could speak, I tellher him. voice “And a combination I don’t needoftoevery look girls’ in my tougher. Why school, did you “Keep say Idreaming, need to look Nips.” tougher?” I’m still “No reason,” staring he says. at the“Forget poster when it. Come Jack on,tosses let’s go meinside.” a rolledAnd up sleeping Jack sits bag, up, taking so it hits oneme more in the drag chest. before He says he flicks it’s comfortable; the cigarettethat off he uses the roof.it when he goes camping and it could keep me warm in up to twenty I watchbelow. it topple end of over cherry-tipped end, and I think how it would “Tomorrow,” look totally Jackdifferent says, “We’ll if you do were some on cool theshit. ground I’ll show and that you aroundwas thing on coming the quad.” at you. “Cool,” I say, and I unroll the sleeping bag on the floor alongside Jack’s At bed dinner, andUncle then lay Charlie downeats on top twoof plates it. full of meatloaf and has to dab “Check his napkin this out,” against he says his brow fromtoupwipe on his away bed. theThen sweat. a magazine The telerains down, vision is on in pages the other fluttering, room and but Ilands can’ton tellmy what’s chest. playing “It’s from because my old man’s Uncle Charlie stash.” won’t stop talking. Hustler.kind “What I flipof through nut actually the pages thinks, slowly, ‘Hey, turning you itknow the long what, wayI for the spreads, should be the President until I notice of theJack United watching States’,” me he from says. his “‘Me, bed. I I’m can tell perfect the he’s waiting guy for forthe mejob.’ to say Ten something. year olds But say that what? and “Oh I want yeah,tolook call at that.stupid. them I’d stick That’s it towhy her?” weSo getI such hand fucking him back morons the magazine, running this and I don’t know why, maybe because I don’t know what else to say, country.” maybe Jackbecause laughs I’ve withgot a mouth the makings full andofpounds a hard-on the table bobbing witharound a closed in my boxers, fist. Aunt Karen or maybe shootsI want UncletoCharlie impressa him, look.but I tell him about the time“Excuse at the Lock-In my language, last year hon, when but it’s Sherry the truth. O’Shea And told now methis to meet idiot her in the wants to run auditorium for another at midnight term. That’s andwhy I almost whatfelt your her folks up. are doing is so“Almost?” important,he Billy.” says. “Well, yeah. “Billy,” AuntYou Karen know. chimes I hadin, mygiving hand there, my uncle at her another waist, glare. and I was going “Do you want to.” some more loaf?” I“Did lookyou at Uncle make Charlie. out withHe her?” is breathing heavy and loosening the collar “Almost,” of his flannel I say again, shirt. He my has voice two quieter chinsthis andtime. sits back from the table“So to make you’veroom never forhooked his stomach. up with a girl?” He opens the Hustler up again “No thanks,” and says,I say. “You’ve “I think never I’mseen full.” this in real life?” He hasn’t seen that in real life either, but I don’t point that out.

At dinner, Uncle Charlie eats two plates full of meatloaf and has to dab his napkin against his brow to wipe away the sweat. The television is on in the other room but I can’t tell what’s playing because Uncle Charlie won’t stop talking. “What kind of nut actually thinks, ‘Hey, you know what, I should be the President of the United States’,” he says. “‘Me, I’m the perfect guy for the job.’ Ten year olds say that and I want to call them stupid. That’s why we get such fucking morons running this country.” Jack laughs with a mouth full and pounds the table with a closed fist. Aunt Karen shoots Uncle Charlie a look. “Excuse my language, hon, but it’s the truth. And now this idiot wants to run for another term. That’s why what your folks are doing is so important, Billy.” “Billy,” Aunt Karen chimes in, giving my uncle another glare. “Do you want some more loaf?” I look at Uncle Charlie. He is breathing heavy and loosening the collar of his flannel shirt. He has two chins and sits back from the table to make room for his stomach. “No thanks,” I say. “I think I’m full.”

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Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell

the other Jack’sresting bedroom on his hasstomach, a posterholding of a dirt thebiker smoking and cigarette another with of a the glowing tip, snowboarder showing and hehis laughs badly quietly. bruised I guess ass, with because the Iword don’t“EXusually talk like TREME!” across that. the He top. mustAbove think it’s his funny dressertoissee oneme more angry. poster, this one “I ofwas a blond just thinking haired girl aninearring high heels mightand make a silver you look bathing tougher,” suit. I he says. eye her, and though I can’t quit looking, it’s easy for me to imagine what“Ishe’d don’tsay want if she an earring,” could speak, I tellher him. voice “And a combination I don’t needoftoevery look tougher. girls’ in my Why school, did you “Keep say Idreaming, need to look Nips.” tougher?” “No still I’m reason,” staring he says. at the“Forget poster when it. Come Jack on,tosses let’s go meinside.” a rolledAnd up Jack sits bag, sleeping up, taking so it hits oneme more in the drag chest. before He says he flicks it’s comfortable; the cigarettethat off theuses he roof.it when he goes camping and it could keep me warm in up to twenty I watchbelow. it topple end of over cherry-tipped end, and I think how it would “Tomorrow,” look totally Jackdifferent says, “We’ll if you do were some on cool theshit. ground I’ll show and that you thing was around on coming the quad.” at you. “Cool,” I say, and I unroll the sleeping bag on the floor alongside Jack’s At bed dinner, andUncle then lay Charlie downeats on top twoof plates it. full of meatloaf and has to dab “Check his napkin this out,” against he says his brow fromtoupwipe on his away bed. theThen sweat. a magazine The televisiondown, rains is on in pages the other fluttering, room and but Ilands can’ton tellmy what’s chest. playing “It’s from because my Uncle old man’s Charlie stash.” won’t stop talking. “What kind Hustler. I flipof through nut actually the pages thinks, slowly, ‘Hey, turning you itknow the long what, wayI should for the spreads, be the President until I notice of theJack United watching States’,” me he from says. his “‘Me, bed. I I’m can the perfect tell he’s waiting guy for forthe mejob.’ to say Ten something. year olds But say that what? and “Oh I want yeah,tolook call them at that.stupid. I’d stick That’s it towhy her?” weSo getI such hand fucking him back morons the magazine, running this and Icountry.” don’t know why, maybe because I don’t know what else to say, maybe Jackbecause laughs I’ve withgot a mouth the makings full andofpounds a hard-on the table bobbing witharound a closed in fist. boxers, my Aunt Karen or maybe shootsI want UncletoCharlie impressa him, look.but I tell him about the time“Excuse at the Lock-In my language, last year hon, when but it’s Sherry the truth. O’Shea And told now methis to meet idiot wants her in the to run auditorium for another at midnight term. That’s andwhy I almost whatfelt your her folks up. are doing is so“Almost?” important,he Billy.” says. “Billy,”yeah. “Well, AuntYou Karen know. chimes I hadin, mygiving hand there, my uncle at her another waist, glare. and I “Do going was you want to.” some more loaf?” I lookyou “Did at Uncle make Charlie. out withHe her?” is breathing heavy and loosening the collar “Almost,” of his flannel I say again, shirt. He my has voice two quieter chinsthis andtime. sits back from the table“So to make you’veroom never forhooked his stomach. up with a girl?” He opens the Hustler up again “No thanks,” and says,I say. “You’ve “I think never I’mseen full.” this in real life?” He hasn’t seen that in real life either, but I don’t point that out.

Jack’s bedroom has a poster of a dirt biker and another of a snowboarder showing his badly bruised ass, with the word “EXTREME!” across the top. Above his dresser is one more poster, this one of a blond haired girl in high heels and a silver bathing suit. I eye her, and though I can’t quit looking, it’s easy for me to imagine what she’d say if she could speak, her voice a combination of every girls’ in my school, “Keep dreaming, Nips.” I’m still staring at the poster when Jack tosses me a rolled up sleeping bag, so it hits me in the chest. He says it’s comfortable; that he uses it when he goes camping and it could keep me warm in up to twenty below. “Tomorrow,” Jack says, “We’ll do some cool shit. I’ll show you around on the quad.” “Cool,” I say, and I unroll the sleeping bag on the floor alongside Jack’s bed and then lay down on top of it. “Check this out,” he says from up on his bed. Then a magazine rains down, pages fluttering, and lands on my chest. “It’s from my old man’s stash.” Hustler. I flip through the pages slowly, turning it the long way for the spreads, until I notice Jack watching me from his bed. I can tell he’s waiting for me to say something. But what? “Oh yeah, look at that. I’d stick it to her?” So I hand him back the magazine, and I don’t know why, maybe because I don’t know what else to say, maybe because I’ve got the makings of a hard-on bobbing around in my boxers, or maybe I want to impress him, but I tell him about the time at the Lock-In last year when Sherry O’Shea told me to meet her in the auditorium at midnight and I almost felt her up. “Almost?” he says. “Well, yeah. You know. I had my hand there, at her waist, and I was going to.” “Did you make out with her?” “Almost,” I say again, my voice quieter this time. “So you’ve never hooked up with a girl?” He opens the Hustler up again and says, “You’ve never seen this in real life?” He hasn’t seen that in real life either, but I don’t point that out.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

“Forget it, okay. Listen,” I say, “do you guys have the internet?” “No,” he says, holding the magazine out to me again. “But this is just as good as anything you’ll find online.” “I didn’t mean that,” I say. “Never mind, I’m just gonna go to bed.” And I climb inside my sleeping bag. “Alright, man. Me too,” Jack says. And he turns off the light on his bed stand. The room goes dark. And it’s got to be a sign. Above me, sprawling out along the ceiling, are magnificent glowing stars. They are bright and scattered - some big with five points and others just specks of light offering perspective. I lie on my back and begin counting them all. I won’t stop till I’ve got every one. I’m still staring at the ceiling, the wild night’s sky, long after Jack starts snoring. 246. 247. 248…There’s no way this isn’t a sign.

The next day, we tear across the front lawn and drop off the curb onto the quiet, rural street. I sit behind Jack, my arms wrapped around his chest. He steers and shifts and intentionally runs over a thick branch lying on the edge of the road. The quad’s vibrations make my stomach and tits jiggle and send my heart jumping through my chest, but somehow the rush of it all feels good. Jack turns his head around and shouts over his shoulder as loud as he can.

“Forget “Don’t it, okay. lean back,” Listen,” heIsays. say, “do I can you barely guyshear havehim the over internet?” the roaring “No,” motor.he “You’re says, holding bigger than the magazine me,” he says. out to “You’ll me again. pull me “But off.” this is just Heas gasses good itasand anything turns sharply. you’ll find Weonline.” fishtail and run off-road into an un-mowed “I didn’t mean field.that,” The tall I say. grass “Never whipsmind, our legs I’mand justI gonna can feel gothe to sting through bed.” And I climb my khaki insidepants. my sleeping A translucent bag. mist of pollen, dust and exhaust “Alright, floatsman. in ourMe wake. too,”And Jack mysays. faceAnd feelshelike turns its being off thestretched light on by the his bedwind. stand.Or maybe just from smiling. The room goes dark. And it’s got to be a sign. Above me, sprawling We out skid along to athe stop. ceiling, As I climb are magnificent off the quad,glowing a head pops stars.upThey through are the river’s bright and scattered shimmering - some surface. big with It’sfive a girl. points I wipe andmy others watering just specks eyes andlight of lookoffering again. perspective. I lie on my back and begin counting themStill all.aIgirl. won’t stop till I’ve got every one. I’m still staring at the ceiling, Eventhe from wildhere night’s I cansky, telllong that she’s after Jack pretty. starts She’s snoring. pulling246. her 247. wet, butterscotch blond 248…There’s no way hair this back isn’tfrom a sign. her face, bringing her arms up and showing the whole world her flat belly and her teardrop tits, like twoIn tanned my dream, water my balloons brother cradled comesinhome. the thin He fabric walks of upher ouryellow drivebikini. way in uniform, with medals pinned to his chest, and finds me tied to aShe treewaves in our to front Jack, yard. but I’m Jackthrilled doesn’ttowave see him, back.but He insanely just pullsemoff his shirt, then does a little hop dance as he peels off his shoes one barrassed. at a “What time. are you doing, Bill?” he says. I“Come tell him on,” Sullivan he saysdid to it. me. “You just gonna stand there?” I followSullivan? “Kevin him downJoey’s to thelittle river’s brother?” bank, fully he asks. dressed. And I can see Iher justbetter nod and from stand here. there She’s with gotmy a head belly hung button as ring he walks that catches around the tree sunlight. and unties Her wet, the rope. glistening cheeks look used to laughing, and that“Don’t could be worry, goodokay or bad, bro? depending I’ll take on care what of this,” she’s he laughing says. A at. And n d I wantalltoI know that’s need to why hear. Jack didn’t tell me about this. How come he never mentioned a girl? He runs The next into day,the we water, tear across kicking theafront splash lawn at the andgirl. dropShe off just the laughs, curb onto like theshe’s quiet, been rural wading street. there I sit behind all dayJack, for him my to arms do just wrapped that. And when around his Jack chest.reaches He steers her and side shifts she kisses and intentionally him on the cheek. runs over a thick“Come branchon,lying man,” onJack the edge says to ofme. the “What’re road. Theyou quad’s doing?” vibrations make I shrug my stomach my shoulders. and tits Ijiggle wasn’t and expecting send my this. heart jumping through my “Come chest, but in,”somehow the girl says. the rush of it all feels good. “If you Jack turns come his in head she’ll around makeand outshouts with you,” over Jack his shoulder says. as loud as he She can. slaps Jack on the arm and tells him to shut up.

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In my dream, my brother comes home. He walks up our driveway in uniform, with medals pinned to his chest, and finds me tied to a tree in our front yard. I’m thrilled to see him, but insanely embarrassed. “What are you doing, Bill?” he says. I tell him Sullivan did it. “Kevin Sullivan? Joey’s little brother?” he asks. I just nod and stand there with my head hung as he walks around the tree and unties the rope. “Don’t worry, okay bro? I’ll take care of this,” he says. A n d that’s all I need to hear.

Brad Wetherell

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell

“Forget “Don’t it, okay. lean back,” Listen,” heIsays. say, “do I can you barely guyshear havehim the over internet?” the roaring “No,” motor. he “You’re says, holding bigger than the magazine me,” he says. out to “You’ll me again. pull me “But off.” this is just Heas gasses good itasand anything turns sharply. you’ll find Weonline.” fishtail and run off-road into an un-mowed “I didn’t mean field.that,” The tall I say. grass “Never whipsmind, our legs I’mand justI gonna can feel gothe to bed.” through sting And I climb my khaki insidepants. my sleeping A translucent bag. mist of pollen, dust and exhaust “Alright, floatsman. in ourMe wake. too,”And Jack mysays. faceAnd feelshelike turns its being off thestretched light on his the by bedwind. stand.Or maybe just from smiling. The room goes dark. And it’s got to be a sign. Above me, sprawling We out skid along to athe stop. ceiling, As I climb are magnificent off the quad,glowing a head pops stars.upThey through are bright the river’s and scattered shimmering - some surface. big with It’sfive a girl. points I wipe andmy others watering just specks eyes of light and lookoffering again. perspective. I lie on my back and begin counting themStill all.aIgirl. won’t stop till I’ve got every one. I’m still staring at the ceiling, Eventhe from wildhere night’s I cansky, telllong that she’s after Jack pretty. starts She’s snoring. pulling246. her 247. wet, 248…There’sblond butterscotch no way hair this back isn’tfrom a sign. her face, bringing her arms up and showing the whole world her flat belly and her teardrop tits, like twoIn tanned my dream, water my balloons brother cradled comesinhome. the thin He fabric walks of upher ouryellow driveway in uniform, with medals pinned to his chest, and finds me tied bikini. to aShe treewaves in our to front Jack, yard. but I’m Jackthrilled doesn’ttowave see him, back.but He insanely just pullsemoff barrassed. his shirt, then does a little hop dance as he peels off his shoes one at a “What time. are you doing, Bill?” he says. I tell him “Come on,” Sullivan he saysdid to it. me. “You just gonna stand there?” I“Kevin followSullivan? him downJoey’s to thelittle river’s brother?” bank, fully he asks. dressed. And I can see Iher justbetter nod and from stand here. there She’s with gotmy a head belly hung button as ring he walks that catches around the tree sunlight. and unties Her wet, the rope. glistening cheeks look used to laughing, and that“Don’t could be worry, goodokay or bad, bro? depending I’ll take on care what of this,” she’s he laughing says. A at. And n d Ithat’s wantalltoI know need to why hear. Jack didn’t tell me about this. How come he never mentioned a girl? Theruns He next into day,the we water, tear across kicking theafront splash lawn at the andgirl. dropShe off just the curb onto laughs, like theshe’s quiet, been rural wading street. there I sit behind all dayJack, for him my to arms do just wrapped that. around And when his Jack chest.reaches He steers her and side shifts she kisses and intentionally him on the cheek. runs over a thick“Come branchon,lying man,” onJack the edge says to ofme. the “What’re road. Theyou quad’s doing?” vibrations make I shrug my stomach my shoulders. and tits Ijiggle wasn’t and expecting send my this. heart jumping through my “Come chest, but in,”somehow the girl says. the rush of it all feels good. Jackyou “If turns come his in head she’ll around makeand outshouts with you,” over Jack his shoulder says. as loud as he She can. slaps Jack on the arm and tells him to shut up.

“Don’t lean back,” he says. I can barely hear him over the roaring motor. “You’re bigger than me,” he says. “You’ll pull me off.” He gasses it and turns sharply. We fishtail and run off-road into an un-mowed field. The tall grass whips our legs and I can feel the sting through my khaki pants. A translucent mist of pollen, dust and exhaust floats in our wake. And my face feels like its being stretched by the wind. Or maybe just from smiling.

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We skid to a stop. As I climb off the quad, a head pops up through the river’s shimmering surface. It’s a girl. I wipe my watering eyes and look again. Still a girl. Even from here I can tell that she’s pretty. She’s pulling her wet, butterscotch blond hair back from her face, bringing her arms up and showing the whole world her flat belly and her teardrop tits, like two tanned water balloons cradled in the thin fabric of her yellow bikini. She waves to Jack, but Jack doesn’t wave back. He just pulls off his shirt, then does a little hop dance as he peels off his shoes one at a time. “Come on,” he says to me. “You just gonna stand there?” I follow him down to the river’s bank, fully dressed. And I can see her better from here. She’s got a belly button ring that catches the sunlight. Her wet, glistening cheeks look used to laughing, and that could be good or bad, depending on what she’s laughing at. And I want to know why Jack didn’t tell me about this. How come he never mentioned a girl? He runs into the water, kicking a splash at the girl. She just laughs, like she’s been wading there all day for him to do just that. And when Jack reaches her side she kisses him on the cheek. “Come on, man,” Jack says to me. “What’re you doing?” I shrug my shoulders. I wasn’t expecting this. “Come in,” the girl says. “If you come in she’ll make out with you,” Jack says. She slaps Jack on the arm and tells him to shut up. 73


Brad Wetherell

Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

I want to say I don’t even know her name. She’s not going to make out with me. Don’t tell me she’s going to make out with me. Instead, I find myself bending over to pull off one sneaker, then another. Maybe it was the quad ride, but I feel alive. Next go the socks. They’re watching me as I take off my khakis and fold them before placing them on a rock next to the girl’s tiny, frayed, scissorcut jean shorts. Wearing my boxers and my t-shirt, I tip-toe through the wet sand and my feet are in the water already and I’m actually excited when Jack says, “No way, Billy. First timers have to use the rope.” I look to the girl to confirm that he’s joking, but she just nods and says, “It’s the rule.” I walk to the tree at the river’s edge and look up at its crooked trunk. Somebody has nailed wooden boards into the tree’s side and a thick rope hangs over the water from a branch above. Part of me expects to hear, “Do you think the tree will hold him?” Or, “He’s going to look like a wrecking ball swinging from that thing.” But I’m not in Yorktown anymore, and Jack and the girl just wade in the river, watching as I climb one hesitant board at a time until I reach the top. Jack swings me the rope. “It’s easy,” he yells up to me. “Just grab the knot and let go at the top of your swing.” “Are you going to keep your t-shirt on?” the girl asks. Jack gives her a nudge with his elbow, but she’s not being mean. I know mean. With a deep breath, I grab the rope and let my toes slip from the boards. For a second, the rope carries me outward and there’s a rush of energy and it’s just me and the sky and the water waiting below. But then there’s the girls face contorting, Jack looking away, and the feeling of the skin on my palms being torn as I slide down the rope, unable to hold my weight. My toes skim the river and if I can just hold on one more second – but I can’t. I flop into the water with a slap. When I emerge my tits sting. I look down and my t-shirt is now see-through. My nipples look purple.

I want clapping. Jack’s to say I don’t “Bravo,” evenheknow shouts. her name. She’s not going to make “Encore,” out withthe me.girl Don’t follows. tell me “That she’s was going great,” to make she says. outShe withcomes me. overInstead, and gives I find me myself a hug, just bending like that. overHer to pull wet off body onepresses sneaker, against then mine. Then another. Maybe she peels it washerself the quad off ride, me and but turns I feeltoalive. face Next Jack.go I half the expect They’re socks. her to ask, watching “So, whose me asareI take bigger?” off my khakis and fold them before Butplacing she doesn’t, them on nota rock at all.next Once to the shegirl’s has tiny, Jack’sfrayed, attention scissorshe turns cut jean back shorts. to me,Wearing puts hermy hand boxers over and my mouth my t-shirt, and plants I tip-toe a fake through kiss on me the wetsosand hardand thatmy wefeet bothare fallinover. the water already and I’m actually excited I open when myJack eyessays, under“No water. way,The Billy. wayFirst the timers sun shines havedown to useonto the the river, the water seems almost orange, and beyond the flecks of rope.” floating I lookparticles, to the girlI to see confirm the girl thatthere. he’s joking, Her hair butisshe floating just nods wildly and around says, “It’s her,theand rule.” her eyes are open too. We look at each other and bothI start walklaughing, to the treebubbles at the river’s rising from edgeour andmouths look uptoatthe itssurface. crooked trunk. Somebody has nailed wooden boards into the tree’s side and a thick Therope newswoman hangs over says, the“In water Washington from a branch today the above. protests reached newPart heights” of me– and expects then to Uncle hear,Charlie “Do you changes thinkthe thechannel. tree will hold him?” “GoOr, back,” “He’sI say. going to look like a wrecking ball swinging from thatHe thing.” looksBut at me I’mand not his in Yorktown face says,anymore, Are you sure? and Jack and the girl just “Please wade ingothe back.” river, watching as I climb one hesitant board at a timeThe untilnewswoman I reach the top. is still talking. A shot of people marching by the Washington Jack swingsMonument me the rope. plays “It’s on easy,” the screen. he yells People up are to me. just “Just dots, but I the grab try knot to pick andout letthe go two at thedots topthat of your are my swing.” parents. The film cuts to police “Are holding you going shields to keep and wearing your t-shirt masks. on?” Thethe newswoman girl asks. says, Jack “Withher gives tomorrow a nudgebeing with his theelbow, last day butofshe’s the summit, not beingdemonstrations mean. I know have escalated.” And the TV shows two cops throwing a man with mean. No More With aWar deep painted breath,onI grab his bare the rope chestand to the let pavement. my toes slip from the boards. Uncle ForCharlie a second, changes the rope the carries channelme to outward Wheel ofand Fortune. there’s a rush of energy and it’s just me and the sky and the water waiting below. But “Is thenKatie there’s your the girlfriend?” girls face contorting, I ask Jack, Jack lying looking atopaway, my sleeping and the bag. of the skin on my palms being torn as I slide down the rope, feeling unable “Girlfriend? to hold my Noweight. way, man. My toes She skim wishes. theShe’d river and do anything if I can just for me, but hold on one she’smore one second of my –best but friends. I can’t. I flop don’tinto liketheher water like with that.”a There’s a pause and I can hear Jack turning pages up on his bed. He slap. rollsWhen onto his I emerge side and myleans tits sting. over the I look edge. down “Look andatmy these,” t-shirtheissays. now He’s holding My see-through. the nipples Hustler look openpurple. to a page where a brunette is squeez-

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Brad Wetherell

IJack’s want clapping. to say I don’t “Bravo,” evenheknow shouts. her name. She’s not going to make “Encore,” out withthe me.girl Don’t follows. tell me “That she’s was going great,” to make she says. outShe withcomes me. overInstead, and gives I find me myself a hug, just bending like that. overHer to pull wet off body onepresses sneaker, against then another. mine. Then Maybe she peels it washerself the quad off ride, me and but turns I feeltoalive. face Next Jack.go I half the socks. They’re expect her to ask, watching “So, whose me asareI take bigger?” off my khakis and fold them before Butplacing she doesn’t, them on nota rock at all.next Once to the shegirl’s has tiny, Jack’sfrayed, attention scissorshe cut jean turns back shorts. to me,Wearing puts hermy hand boxers over and my mouth my t-shirt, and plants I tip-toe a fake through kiss theme on wetsosand hardand thatmy wefeet bothare fallinover. the water already and I’m actually excited I open when myJack eyessays, under“No water. way,The Billy. wayFirst the timers sun shines havedown to useonto the rope.” the river, the water seems almost orange, and beyond the flecks of floating I lookparticles, to the girlI to see confirm the girl thatthere. he’s joking, Her hair butisshe floating just nods wildly and says, “It’s around her,theand rule.” her eyes are open too. We look at each other and bothI start walklaughing, to the treebubbles at the river’s rising from edgeour andmouths look uptoatthe itssurface. crooked trunk. Somebody has nailed wooden boards into the tree’s side and a thick Therope newswoman hangs over says, the“In water Washington from a branch today the above. protests reached newPart heights” of me– and expects then to Uncle hear,Charlie “Do you changes thinkthe thechannel. tree will hold him?” “GoOr, back,” “He’sI say. going to look like a wrecking ball swinging from thatHe thing.” looksBut at me I’mand not his in Yorktown face says,anymore, Are you sure? and Jack and the girl just “Please wade ingothe back.” river, watching as I climb one hesitant board at a timeThe untilnewswoman I reach the top. is still talking. A shot of people marching by the Washington Jack swingsMonument me the rope. plays “It’s on easy,” the screen. he yells People up are to me. just “Just dots, grabI the but try knot to pick andout letthe go two at thedots topthat of your are my swing.” parents. The film cuts to police “Are holding you going shields to keep and wearing your t-shirt masks. on?” Thethe newswoman girl asks. says, Jack gives her “With tomorrow a nudgebeing with his theelbow, last day butofshe’s the summit, not beingdemonstrations mean. I know mean.escalated.” And the TV shows two cops throwing a man with have No More With aWar deep painted breath,onI grab his bare the rope chestand to the let pavement. my toes slip from the boards. Uncle ForCharlie a second, changes the rope the carries channelme to outward Wheel ofand Fortune. there’s a rush of energy and it’s just me and the sky and the water waiting below. But “Is thenKatie there’s your the girlfriend?” girls face contorting, I ask Jack, Jack lying looking atopaway, my sleeping and the feeling of the skin on my palms being torn as I slide down the rope, bag. unable “Girlfriend? to hold my Noweight. way, man. My toes She skim wishes. theShe’d river and do anything if I can just for hold but me, on one she’smore one second of my –best but friends. I can’t. I flop don’tinto liketheher water like with that.”a slap. a pause and I can hear Jack turning pages up on his bed. He There’s rollsWhen onto his I emerge side and myleans tits sting. over the I look edge. down “Look andatmy these,” t-shirtheissays. now see-through. He’s holding My the nipples Hustler look openpurple. to a page where a brunette is squeez-

Jack’s clapping. “Bravo,” he shouts. “Encore,” the girl follows. “That was great,” she says. She comes over and gives me a hug, just like that. Her wet body presses against mine. Then she peels herself off me and turns to face Jack. I half expect her to ask, “So, whose are bigger?” But she doesn’t, not at all. Once she has Jack’s attention she turns back to me, puts her hand over my mouth and plants a fake kiss on me so hard that we both fall over. I open my eyes under water. The way the sun shines down onto the river, the water seems almost orange, and beyond the flecks of floating particles, I see the girl there. Her hair is floating wildly around her, and her eyes are open too. We look at each other and both start laughing, bubbles rising from our mouths to the surface.

Berkeley Fiction Review

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The newswoman says, “In Washington today the protests reached new heights” – and then Uncle Charlie changes the channel. “Go back,” I say. He looks at me and his face says, Are you sure? “Please go back.” The newswoman is still talking. A shot of people marching by the Washington Monument plays on the screen. People are just dots, but I try to pick out the two dots that are my parents. The film cuts to police holding shields and wearing masks. The newswoman says, “With tomorrow being the last day of the summit, demonstrations have escalated.” And the TV shows two cops throwing a man with No More War painted on his bare chest to the pavement. Uncle Charlie changes the channel to Wheel of Fortune. “Is Katie your girlfriend?” I ask Jack, lying atop my sleeping bag. “Girlfriend? No way, man. She wishes. She’d do anything for me, but she’s one of my best friends. I don’t like her like that.” There’s a pause and I can hear Jack turning pages up on his bed. He rolls onto his side and leans over the edge. “Look at these,” he says. He’s holding the Hustler open to a page where a brunette is squeez75


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

ing her breasts with her fingers splayed, so you can see her nipples. “Have you ever seen cans like those before?” I take a quick glance, but my mind is on a different girl. “What’s going on with you?” he says, closing the magazine. “Wait, why’d you ask?” “No reason,” I say, playing with the zipper to the sleeping bag. He reaches down and smacks my shoulder with the rolled up Hustler. “You like her?” I look up at him and he’s smiling like a fool. “She’s alright, I guess.”

Uncle Charlie and I have been driving to houses for a couple hours now, this time in his work truck – a better fit for him – a pickup with a cherry picker in the back. “It wasn’t always this door to door permission stuff,” he tells me. “I used to be the guy shimmying up the trees and trimming the branches back from the power lines. But let’s face it” – he pats his belly with his non-steering hand – “my climbing days are over.” I don’t laugh or say huh, like I’m amused, because I’m not. I don’t want to talk today. I don’t even want to listen. I can’t shake this feeling. We pull in another driveway, another ranch, one story and long. We get out of the truck and walk to the front door. Uncle Charlie gives a little rap on the door with his knuckles and a woman with green curlers in her hair answers. “Charlie, you big oaf,” she says, with a playful slap to his shoulder. “How are you?” “Good, Jean. Real good,” he says. Then he pushes me forward. “This is my nephew, Billy.”

ing “Not-uh,” her breastsshe with says, her smiling fingers splayed, at me. “You’re so youAllison’s can see her boy?” nipples. “Have We’ve you gone ever seen through cansthis likeatthose almost before?” every house. I know my role by now. I takeSoa quick I extend glance, my hand but my to greet mindher, is onbut a different this woman girl.pulls me in for “What’s an awkward going hug. on with you?” he says, closing the magazine. “Wait, “How why’d is your youmother?” ask?” she asks. Evenreason,” “No if I wanted I say, to playing tell her the withtruth the zipper and say, toScared, the sleeping I couldn’t, bag. because He reaches she’s already downlaunching and smacks intomy a story. shoulder with the rolled up Hustler. “Your “You mother likeand her?” I were the best of friends when we were kids,” the woman I look up says. at him “Sheand would he’sbesmiling over here like almost a fool. every “She’s day.alright, She wasI a tomboy, though. Did you know that? I’d want to break into my guess.” mom’s closet or put on her makeup, and your mother was always sneaking I wakeoffupwith with this a big bad ape” feeling. – sheSomething’s slaps Unclenot Charlie’s right. The shoulder first again I–see thing “and is the my ceiling, older brother and the to stars go inare thenothing woods more and play thanwar stickor something ers. Cheap,silly stupid likestickers. that.” They’re neon yellow and childish and it is eight “Mythirty brother’s in theinmorning. the war and I already he might know be that dead,” I’mI say. a fool And formayever be I shouldn’t believing in them. have. Maybe it’s not the type of thing you just say like that. But I don’t care anymore. My brother’s in the war and I haven’t heard Uncle fromCharlie him in and threeI weeks have been and Idriving miss him to and houses I wouldn’t for a couple even be here, hours now, hiding thisout time in Plattsburgh, in his work New truckYork, – a better if he was fit for stillhim around –a to protect pickup with me. a cherry picker in the back. “I’mwasn’t “It sorry,”always the woman this door says.to She’s doorwrings permission her hands stuff,” together he tells in discomfort me. “I usedand to be then thelooks guy shimmying to Uncle Charlie. up the trees and trimming the branches “Jean,” back Uncle from Charlie the power steps lines. in, “IfBut I can let’s justface get it” you– to hesign patsthis his here, we’ll...” belly with his non-steering hand – “my climbing days are over.” IBut don’t I’velaugh turnedoraround say huh, andlike started I’mwalking amused,back because to theI’m truck not. andI I can’twant don’t heartothem talk anymore. today. I don’t I get even in thewant trucktoand listen. waitI can’t a fewshake minutes feeling. this before Uncle Charlie swings his door open and climbs in the driver’s We pull seat.in“Well,” anotherhedriveway, says. another ranch, one story and long. We “Uncle get out Charlie,” of the truck I say, and “I walk reallytoneed the to front use door. the internet. Uncle Is Charlie there some place gives a littlewe rapcould on the go door that has with it?” his knuckles and a woman with green “I curlers don’t know,” in her hair he says. answers. But he didn’t even stop to think. He’s still“Charlie, bothered you about bigwhat oaf,”I she saidsays, to thewith woman. a playful I canslap telltobyhisthe shoulway he’s “How der. not looking are you?” at me. He finally “Good, Jean. starts Real thegood,” trucks he andsays. says,Then “Thishemust pushes be pretty me forward. boring for you, “This is Billy. my nephew, What do Billy.” you say I drop you off back home so you can

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I wake up with a bad feeling. Something’s not right. The first thing I see is the ceiling, and the stars are nothing more than stickers. Cheap, stupid stickers. They’re neon yellow and childish and it is eight thirty in the morning. I already know that I’m a fool for ever believing in them.

Brad Wetherell

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Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell

ing “Not-uh,” her breastsshe with says, her smiling fingers splayed, at me. “You’re so youAllison’s can see her boy?” nipples. “Have We’ve you gone ever seen through cansthis likeatthose almost before?” every house. I know my role by now. I takeSoa quick I extend glance, my hand but my to greet mindher, is onbut a different this woman girl.pulls me in for “What’s an awkward going hug. on with you?” he says, closing the magazine. “Wait, “How why’d is your youmother?” ask?” she asks. “No reason,” Even if I wanted I say, to playing tell her the withtruth the zipper and say, toScared, the sleeping I couldn’t, bag. because He reaches she’s already downlaunching and smacks intomy a story. shoulder with the rolled up Hustler. “Your “You mother likeand her?” I were the best of friends when we were kids,” the woman I look up says. at him “Sheand would he’sbesmiling over here like almost a fool. every “She’s day.alright, She wasI aguess.” tomboy, though. Did you know that? I’d want to break into my mom’s closet or put on her makeup, and your mother was always sneaking I wakeoffupwith with this a big bad ape” feeling. – sheSomething’s slaps Unclenot Charlie’s right. The shoulder first thing I–see again “and is the my ceiling, older brother and the to stars go inare thenothing woods more and play thanwar stickor ers. Cheap,silly something stupid likestickers. that.” They’re neon yellow and childish and it is eight “Mythirty brother’s in theinmorning. the war and I already he might know be that dead,” I’mI say. a fool And formayever believing be I shouldn’t in them. have. Maybe it’s not the type of thing you just say like that. But I don’t care anymore. My brother’s in the war and I haven’t heard Uncle fromCharlie him in and threeI weeks have been and Idriving miss him to and houses I wouldn’t for a couple even hours be here, now, hiding thisout time in Plattsburgh, in his work New truckYork, – a better if he was fit for stillhim around –a pickup to protect with me. a cherry picker in the back. “It wasn’t “I’m sorry,”always the woman this door says.to She’s doorwrings permission her hands stuff,” together he tells in me. “I usedand discomfort to be then thelooks guy shimmying to Uncle Charlie. up the trees and trimming the branches “Jean,” back Uncle from Charlie the power steps lines. in, “IfBut I can let’s justface get it” you– to hesign patsthis his belly we’ll...” here, with his non-steering hand – “my climbing days are over.” I don’t But I’velaugh turnedoraround say huh, andlike started I’mwalking amused,back because to theI’m truck not. andI Idon’t can’twant heartothem talk anymore. today. I don’t I get even in thewant trucktoand listen. waitI can’t a fewshake minthis feeling. utes before Uncle Charlie swings his door open and climbs in the driver’s We pull seat.in“Well,” anotherhedriveway, says. another ranch, one story and long. We “Uncle get out Charlie,” of the truck I say, and “I walk reallytoneed the to front use door. the internet. Uncle Is Charlie there gives place some a littlewe rapcould on the go door that has with it?” his knuckles and a woman with green “I curlers don’t know,” in her hair he says. answers. But he didn’t even stop to think. He’s still“Charlie, bothered you about bigwhat oaf,”I she saidsays, to thewith woman. a playful I canslap telltobyhisthe shoulway der. “How he’s not looking are you?” at me. “Good, He finally Jean. starts Real thegood,” trucks he andsays. says,Then “Thishemust pushes be pretty me forward. boring “This for you, is Billy. my nephew, What do Billy.” you say I drop you off back home so you can

“Not-uh,” she says, smiling at me. “You’re Allison’s boy?” We’ve gone through this at almost every house. I know my role by now. So I extend my hand to greet her, but this woman pulls me in for an awkward hug. “How is your mother?” she asks. Even if I wanted to tell her the truth and say, Scared, I couldn’t, because she’s already launching into a story. “Your mother and I were the best of friends when we were kids,” the woman says. “She would be over here almost every day. She was a tomboy, though. Did you know that? I’d want to break into my mom’s closet or put on her makeup, and your mother was always sneaking off with this big ape” – she slaps Uncle Charlie’s shoulder again – “and my older brother to go in the woods and play war or something silly like that.” “My brother’s in the war and he might be dead,” I say. And maybe I shouldn’t have. Maybe it’s not the type of thing you just say like that. But I don’t care anymore. My brother’s in the war and I haven’t heard from him in three weeks and I miss him and I wouldn’t even be here, hiding out in Plattsburgh, New York, if he was still around to protect me. “I’m sorry,” the woman says. She’s wrings her hands together in discomfort and then looks to Uncle Charlie. “Jean,” Uncle Charlie steps in, “If I can just get you to sign this here, we’ll...” But I’ve turned around and started walking back to the truck and I can’t hear them anymore. I get in the truck and wait a few minutes before Uncle Charlie swings his door open and climbs in the driver’s seat. “Well,” he says. “Uncle Charlie,” I say, “I really need to use the internet. Is there some place we could go that has it?” “I don’t know,” he says. But he didn’t even stop to think. He’s still bothered about what I said to the woman. I can tell by the way he’s not looking at me. He finally starts the trucks and says, “This must be pretty boring for you, Billy. What do you say I drop you off back home so you can

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Berkeley Fiction Review

grab some lunch?”

I’m holding his cigarette, and I’ve never held one before. I don’t know the right way to do it. Dangling between two fingers, pinched between three, like a pencil? I don’t know. Bang. The soda can Jack had propped on a stump goes flying. Jack takes his cigarette back and says, “It’s as easy as that.” Then he gives me the BB rifle. I’ve never held a gun before either. I imitate Jack and bring the butt of the rifle tightly against my right shoulder. “I just pull the trigger?” I ask Jack. “Just pull the trigger,” he says. My left eye is closed and I’ve got my sights on another soda can. “Go ahead,” Jack says. I pull the trigger and the rifle kicks a little and I feel a pulse run through my body. My shot nicks the can and it wobbles like a bowling pin before falling on its side. “Not bad,” Jack says. He reaches out for the gun, but my blood is still pumping from the rush. I hold it away from him. I don’t want to give it up. I say, “Let me go again. I want to try again.” He steps back. “Go ahead,” he says, and takes a puff of his cigarette. I line the gun up, holding it snug between my shoulder and the side of my tit. My heart is thumping and the summer wind whispers in my ear as I aim. It says, “How can you hold that thing with those sloppy tits in your way, Nips?” And then it laughs the laugh of fifteen people standing around my locker as I open the door to find a huge, grandma’s bra hanging from one of the hooks. “Fuck you, Sullivan,” I say. “Fucking fuck you.” And I pull the trigger. The can jumps off the stump with an echoing ping. Only now do I realize that I’m starting to tear. My cheek twitches

agrab little, some trying lunch?” to hold it in. I’m sick of holding everything in. Jack reaches for the gun and pulls it from my hand. I sniffle Jack’s gota his little finger and on wipe the my trigger, eye his with eyemy leveled t-shirt. over “That the barfelt good,” I say. rel. He nods I’m holding andhis says, cigarette, “Sullivan’s and I’ve the kid never who held tiedone you before. to a tree?” I don’t know “What?” the right I say, wayarms to docrossed. it. Dangling “I don’t between knowtwo whatfingers, you’repinched talking about.” three, like a pencil? I don’t know. between He looks Bang. Theme soda in the caneyes. Jack“Your had propped mom told onmy a stump mom,”goes he says. flying. Jack“Oh.” takes his cigarette back and says, “It’s as easy as that.” Then he gives me the BB rifle. It’s my I’ve never lastheld nightahere gun and before before either. we Igoimitate to sleep, Jack Jack andsays, bring “You the really butt ofhate the rifle that tightly Sullivan against kid, don’t my right you?” shoulder. “I just pull the trigger?” The I ask lights Jack. in his room are still on. I turn away so he can’t see me when “Just I tell pull him thehow trigger,” yeah, he it was says.an almost with Sherry in the auditorium, My because left eye we is closed were supposed and I’vetogot be my alone, sights but when on another I leaned soda in to kiss her Sullivan and all his stupid football friends came busting can. out “Go fromahead,” behind Jack the stage says. curtain cracking up and she said, “God, I thought I pull the youtrigger were going and thetorifle waitkicks till he a little put his and tongue I feel a down pulse run my throat.” my body. My shot nicks the can and it wobbles like a bowlthrough ing Ipin take before a deep falling breathonand its tell side.him how Sullivan and I were friends until“Not we got bad,” to high Jack school says. and I wasn’t cool enough anymore. That our He older reaches brothers outare forbest the friends, gun, butthat mythey blood played is still football pumping together from and rush. the that stupid I hold fucking it away from coachhim. Calhoun I don’t gotwant them to to give enlist it up. andI say, our parents “Let meagreed go again. because I wantthey to trycould again.” go to college for free with the Army, He that stepsthey’re back. “Go together ahead,” at this he very says,moment and takessomewhere a puff of his outside cigaFalluja. But now Sullivan has everyone at school calling me Nips rette. and Ithat linehe thewould gun up, never holding dare do it snug any between of this if my my shoulder brother was andstill the around. side of my tit. My heart is thumping and the summer wind whispers in my “You ear need as I aim. to start It says, sticking “How upcan foryou yourself,” hold that Jack thing says. with Hethose gets up off the sloppy titsbed in your and steps way, Nips?” over meAnd on the thenway it laughs to his the closet. laugh Heofrumfifmages teen people through standing the boots around andmydirty locker laundry as I open that the litterdoor the tofloor findina there. Eventually, huge, grandma’s bra he pulls hanging out afrom shoeone box.ofHe thelifts hooks. the top “Fuck and takes you, out something Sullivan,” I say.small “Fucking wrapped fuckinyou.” tissueAnd paper. I pull When the trigger. he sits down The can on the edge jumps offofthe thestump bed, he with says, an echoing “Here,” and ping.gives it to me. “Whatnow Only is this,” do I realize I say, unwrapping that I’m starting it. And to tear. when MyI cheek see it,twitches the size

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Jack’s got his finger on the trigger, his eye leveled over the barrel.

Brad Wetherell

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell

agrab little, some trying lunch?” to hold it in. I’m sick of holding everything in. Jack reaches for the gun and pulls it from my hand. IJack’s sniffle gota his little finger and on wipe the my trigger, eye his with eyemy leveled t-shirt. over “That the barfelt rel. good,” I say. I’mnods He holding andhis says, cigarette, “Sullivan’s and I’ve the kid never who held tiedone you before. to a tree?” I don’t know “What?” the right I say, wayarms to docrossed. it. Dangling “I don’t between knowtwo whatfingers, you’repinched talking between three, like a pencil? I don’t know. about.” Bang. He looks Theme soda in the caneyes. Jack“Your had propped mom told onmy a stump mom,”goes he says. flying. Jack“Oh.” takes his cigarette back and says, “It’s as easy as that.” Then he gives me the BB rifle. I’vemy It’s never lastheld nightahere gun and before before either. we Igoimitate to sleep, Jack Jack andsays, bring “You the butt ofhate really the rifle that tightly Sullivan against kid, don’t my right you?” shoulder. “I just pull the trigger?” The I ask lights Jack. in his room are still on. I turn away so he can’t see me when “Just I tell pull him thehow trigger,” yeah, he it was says.an almost with Sherry in the auditorium, My because left eye we is closed were supposed and I’vetogot be my alone, sights but when on another I leaned soda in can. to kiss her Sullivan and all his stupid football friends came busting out “Go fromahead,” behind Jack the stage says. curtain cracking up and she said, “God, I thought I pull the youtrigger were going and thetorifle waitkicks till he a little put his and tongue I feel a down pulse run my through my body. My shot nicks the can and it wobbles like a bowlthroat.” ing Ipin take before a deep falling breathonand its tell side.him how Sullivan and I were friends until“Not we got bad,” to high Jack school says. and I wasn’t cool enough anymore. That our He older reaches brothers outare forbest the friends, gun, butthat mythey blood played is still football pumping together from the rush. and that stupid I hold fucking it away from coachhim. Calhoun I don’t gotwant them to to give enlist it up. andI say, our “Let meagreed parents go again. because I wantthey to trycould again.” go to college for free with the Army, He that stepsthey’re back. “Go together ahead,” at this he very says,moment and takessomewhere a puff of his outside cigarette. But now Sullivan has everyone at school calling me Nips Falluja. and Ithat linehe thewould gun up, never holding dare do it snug any between of this if my my shoulder brother was andstill the side of my tit. My heart is thumping and the summer wind whispers around. in my “You ear need as I aim. to start It says, sticking “How upcan foryou yourself,” hold that Jack thing says. with Hethose gets sloppy up off the titsbed in your and steps way, Nips?” over meAnd on the thenway it laughs to his the closet. laugh Heofrumfifteen people mages through standing the boots around andmydirty locker laundry as I open that the litterdoor the tofloor findina huge, Eventually, there. grandma’s bra he pulls hanging out afrom shoeone box.ofHe thelifts hooks. the top “Fuck and takes you, Sullivan,” out something I say.small “Fucking wrapped fuckinyou.” tissueAnd paper. I pull When the trigger. he sits down The can on jumps the edge offofthe thestump bed, he with says, an echoing “Here,” and ping.gives it to me. Only now “What is this,” do I realize I say, unwrapping that I’m starting it. And to tear. when MyI cheek see it,twitches the size

a little, trying to hold it in. I’m sick of holding everything in. Jack reaches for the gun and pulls it from my hand. I sniffle a little and wipe my eye with my t-shirt. “That felt good,” I say. He nods and says, “Sullivan’s the kid who tied you to a tree?” “What?” I say, arms crossed. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He looks me in the eyes. “Your mom told my mom,” he says. “Oh.”

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It’s my last night here and before we go to sleep, Jack says, “You really hate that Sullivan kid, don’t you?” The lights in his room are still on. I turn away so he can’t see me when I tell him how yeah, it was an almost with Sherry in the auditorium, because we were supposed to be alone, but when I leaned in to kiss her Sullivan and all his stupid football friends came busting out from behind the stage curtain cracking up and she said, “God, I thought you were going to wait till he put his tongue down my throat.” I take a deep breath and tell him how Sullivan and I were friends until we got to high school and I wasn’t cool enough anymore. That our older brothers are best friends, that they played football together and that stupid fucking coach Calhoun got them to enlist and our parents agreed because they could go to college for free with the Army, that they’re together at this very moment somewhere outside Falluja. But now Sullivan has everyone at school calling me Nips and that he would never dare do any of this if my brother was still around. “You need to start sticking up for yourself,” Jack says. He gets up off the bed and steps over me on the way to his closet. He rummages through the boots and dirty laundry that litter the floor in there. Eventually, he pulls out a shoe box. He lifts the top and takes out something small wrapped in tissue paper. When he sits down on the edge of the bed, he says, “Here,” and gives it to me. “What is this,” I say, unwrapping it. And when I see it, the size 79


Brad Wetherell

Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

of my thumb and red, with a thin white fuse, I ask him again, “What is this?” “An M-80,” he says. “I know you’re not going to stand up to this kid and fight him. But you can at least use this.” “Use this,” I say, looking at it, still not understanding what he’s getting at. “Use it how?” “It’s easy. You just put it in his mailbox, light it, and run.” “And then?” I say. He puts his hands together, one fisted cupped inside the other. “And then,” he says. “Boom.” I smile as I watch his hands explode apart.

I follow Jack across the gravel driveway, feeling behind my neck for the tag of my t-shirt, sure that I put it on backward or inside out when Jack woke me up and rushed me through the dark halls out of the house. “What’re we doing?” I whisper to him. He just turns and presses his finger to his lips. “Shhhh.” Behind him, the moon sits up there like an eye watching us. And as Jack climbs in the driver’s side of Uncle Charlie’s truck, I wonder what the moon thinks about grand theft auto. Jack reaches across and unlocks the passenger door for me. I get in and he starts the engine. It’s not too loud, but still I’m watching Uncle Charlie and Aunt Karen’s window, waiting to see a round silhouette appear. Jack leaves the headlights off as he backs up, turns around and pulls out the driveway. “You know how to drive?” I ask him.

of my Hethumb looks and at me red,inwith a way a thin thatwhite says,fuse, Obviously. I ask him And again, I feel “What stupidthis?” is for a second. Then he explains, though. “Sometimes,” he says, “when “Anmy M-80,” dad’shehung says.over “I know or something, you’re nothe going paystome stand to up drive to this his routes kid andfor fight himhim. andBut keepyou himcan company.” at least use this.” We are “Use this,” on the I say, road looking and once at it,we stillcan’t not understanding see the house what anymore, he’s Jack hitsat.the getting “Use headlights it how?” and gives it a little gas. He turns on the radio. It’s tuned “It’s to easy. one of You Uncle just put Charlie’s it in his country mailbox, stations, light it, but and it doesn’t run.” matter what’s “And then?” playingI as say. long as it’s loud. We put the windows down and He Jackputs picks hisuphands the speed. together, I’veone never fisted donecupped anything inside this crazy the other. and suddenly “And then,” I’mhewondering says. “Boom.” why. IAsmile few minutes as I watch later, his we hands takeexplode a left onto apart.a small road and Jack turns down the radio. “We’re almost there,” he says. He puts the windows Threeup hundred and kills andthe forty-eight. headlights. That’s how many stars I’ve counted on “We’re Jack’salmost ceiling. where?” I’ve counted I ask him. them “Why every arenight we stopping?” and I counted themJack again parks tonight the truck and I’d across countthe them street again from tomorrow, a white if house. I was“It’s still your going here. And maybe away present,” I don’t believe he says. in the “Hop stars outanymore, and climbmaybe in theIcherry know picker.” it’s silly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to believe in them. It doesn’t “Themean cherry I’mpicker? going Why to stop thehoping. hell –” “Trust me, okay. Just trust me on this. Go,” he says, and he pushes me I follow towardJack theacross door. the gravel driveway, feeling behind my neck for the I hop tagout ofof my thet-shirt, truck and sureshut thatthe I put door it on quietly. backward Thenor I run inside around out to the Jack when back,woke climb meupupinto andthe rushed bed,me andthrough step into thethe dark bucket halls of outthe of cherry the house. picker. My gut – my stupid fucking gut – tells me that this isn’t“What’re a good idea. we doing?” I whisper to him. I feel He just it turns in myand knees presses first. his They finger buckle to his a bit lips. as “Shhhh.” the cherryBehind picker starts the him, to rise. moonThen sits Iupfeel there it my likestomach, an eye watching that weightless us. Andsensation as Jack you getin climbs when the driver’s an elevator sidelifts of Uncle – a feeling Charlie’s I wish truck, I could I wonder capturewhat and takemoon the with thinks me everywhere. about grand And theft soon auto. I’m ten, fifteen feet above the truck. Jack reaches across and unlocks the passenger door for me. I get in and It stops he starts withthe a jolt. engine. The headlights It’s not tooflash loud,once. but still What’s I’mgoing watching on? Uncle A room Charlie lights andupAunt on the Karen’s secondwindow, floor of the waiting house.toWe’re see abusted, round I think. I’mappear. silhouette going to jail. I think of the jokes I’ll hear: With tits like those Jack you’ll leaves be the the most headlights popular offguy as he in prison. backs up, turns around and pullsThen out the there driveway. she is. Katie. She’s standing in the lit window, pulling the curtains “You know open how wide. to drive?” She’s inI ask panties him.and a tank top. She smiles.

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Three hundred and forty-eight. That’s how many stars I’ve counted on Jack’s ceiling. I’ve counted them every night and I counted them again tonight and I’d count them again tomorrow, if I was still here. And maybe I don’t believe in the stars anymore, maybe I know it’s silly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to believe in them. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop hoping.

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Brad Wetherell

Brad Wetherell

of my Hethumb looks and at me red,inwith a way a thin thatwhite says,fuse, Obviously. I ask him And again, I feel “What stuis this?” pid for a second. Then he explains, though. “Sometimes,” he says, “when “Anmy M-80,” dad’shehung says.over “I know or something, you’re nothe going paystome stand to up drive to this his kid andfor routes fight himhim. andBut keepyou himcan company.” at least use this.” “Useare We this,” on the I say, road looking and once at it,we stillcan’t not understanding see the house what anymore, he’s getting Jack hitsat.the “Use headlights it how?” and gives it a little gas. He turns on the radio. It’s tuned “It’s to easy. one of You Uncle just put Charlie’s it in his country mailbox, stations, light it, but and it doesn’t run.” matter what’s “And then?” playingI as say. long as it’s loud. We put the windows down and He Jackputs picks hisuphands the speed. together, I’veone never fisted donecupped anything inside this crazy the other. and “And then,” suddenly I’mhewondering says. “Boom.” why. I smile A few minutes as I watch later, his we hands takeexplode a left onto apart.a small road and Jack turns down the radio. “We’re almost there,” he says. He puts the windows Threeup hundred and kills andthe forty-eight. headlights. That’s how many stars I’ve counted on “We’re Jack’salmost ceiling. where?” I’ve counted I ask him. them “Why every arenight we stopping?” and I counted themJack again parks tonight the truck and I’d across countthe them street again from tomorrow, a white if house. I was“It’s still here. going your And maybe away present,” I don’t believe he says. in the “Hop stars outanymore, and climbmaybe in theIcherry know it’s silly, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to believe in them. It picker.” doesn’t “Themean cherry I’mpicker? going Why to stop thehoping. hell –” “Trust me, okay. Just trust me on this. Go,” he says, and he pushes me I follow towardJack theacross door. the gravel driveway, feeling behind my neck for the I hop tagout ofof my thet-shirt, truck and sureshut thatthe I put door it on quietly. backward Thenor I run inside around out when to the Jack back,woke climb meupupinto andthe rushed bed,me andthrough step into thethe dark bucket halls of outthe of the house. cherry picker. My gut – my stupid fucking gut – tells me that this isn’t“What’re a good idea. we doing?” I whisper to him. IHe feel just it turns in myand knees presses first. his They finger buckle to his a bit lips. as “Shhhh.” the cherryBehind picker him, the starts to rise. moonThen sits Iupfeel there it my likestomach, an eye watching that weightless us. Andsensation as Jack climbs you getin when the driver’s an elevator sidelifts of Uncle – a feeling Charlie’s I wish truck, I could I wonder capturewhat and the moon take with thinks me everywhere. about grand And theft soon auto. I’m ten, fifteen feet above the truck. Jack reaches across and unlocks the passenger door for me. I get in and It stops he starts withthe a jolt. engine. The headlights It’s not tooflash loud,once. but still What’s I’mgoing watching on? Uncle A room Charlie lights andupAunt on the Karen’s secondwindow, floor of the waiting house.toWe’re see abusted, round Isilhouette think. I’mappear. going to jail. I think of the jokes I’ll hear: With tits like those Jack you’ll leaves be the the most headlights popular offguy as he in prison. backs up, turns around and pullsThen out the there driveway. she is. Katie. She’s standing in the lit window, pulling the curtains “You know open how wide. to drive?” She’s inI ask panties him.and a tank top. She smiles.

He looks at me in a way that says, Obviously. And I feel stupid for a second. Then he explains, though. “Sometimes,” he says, “when my dad’s hung over or something, he pays me to drive his routes for him and keep him company.” We are on the road and once we can’t see the house anymore, Jack hits the headlights and gives it a little gas. He turns on the radio. It’s tuned to one of Uncle Charlie’s country stations, but it doesn’t matter what’s playing as long as it’s loud. We put the windows down and Jack picks up the speed. I’ve never done anything this crazy and suddenly I’m wondering why. A few minutes later, we take a left onto a small road and Jack turns down the radio. “We’re almost there,” he says. He puts the windows up and kills the headlights. “We’re almost where?” I ask him. “Why are we stopping?” Jack parks the truck across the street from a white house. “It’s your going away present,” he says. “Hop out and climb in the cherry picker.” “The cherry picker? Why the hell –” “Trust me, okay. Just trust me on this. Go,” he says, and he pushes me toward the door. I hop out of the truck and shut the door quietly. Then I run around to the back, climb up into the bed, and step into the bucket of the cherry picker. My gut – my stupid fucking gut – tells me that this isn’t a good idea. I feel it in my knees first. They buckle a bit as the cherry picker starts to rise. Then I feel it my stomach, that weightless sensation you get when an elevator lifts – a feeling I wish I could capture and take with me everywhere. And soon I’m ten, fifteen feet above the truck. It stops with a jolt. The headlights flash once. What’s going on? A room lights up on the second floor of the house. We’re busted, I think. I’m going to jail. I think of the jokes I’ll hear: With tits like those you’ll be the most popular guy in prison. Then there she is. Katie. She’s standing in the lit window, pulling the curtains open wide. She’s in panties and a tank top. She smiles.

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

She waves. She does a little wiggle and pulls off her top. Her tits are round and perky and milky white as they hang there, two handfuls of heaven surrounded by an even tan. She squeezes them together, leans forward, and presses them beautifully against the glass for me to see.

At dinner my dad says, “Billy, we need to tell you something.” And when my mom reaches across the table and takes his hand I

She waves. know that it’s She going doesto a little be serious. wiggle and pulls off her top. Her tits are round “I don’t and perky want and to hear milky it,”white I say. as “He’s theyfine. hangHe’s there, justtwo away handfuls somewhere of heaven and surrounded can’t write. by He’s anfine. evenI tan. knowShe he’s squeezes fine.” them together, leans “Billy,” forward, myand mom presses says.them “Calm beautifully down. Your against brother’s the glass okay. forJust me letsee. to Dad speak.” “He did write, Billy, while we were away. He wrote Mom and I anMy email.” parents Mydrive dad with takesthe a deep radiobreath. off. It only “Billy, makes Joeythings Sullivan more is dead.” uncomfortable. I notice every time my mom shifts in her seat or my dad And lets out what a big, I feelfrustrated is relief. It’s breath. Joey,I can I think. hearMy himdad wince keeps whenever talking, saying he takessomething one handabout from athe carwheel bomb.and Buttouches I’m still histhinking, swollen,It’s blacknot my brother. ened eye. It’s Joey. And I know I should be upset anyway, but I’m relieved. I don’t ask about the protests or tell them I saw the news, I just sit in “How’d the backseat he sign with it?”myI say, bag at interrupting my side and myplan dad.my“The attack. email, I’ll how’da he steal match signfrom it?” the box my dad keeps by the fireplace, and I’ll wait“Counting in my room my till lucky my stars,” parentsmy aremom asleep. says, Then smiling, I’ll put because on myI told her black sweatpants once and she and knows my brother’s that’s our oldcode black forMetallica he’s really t-shirt, okay, and not just sneak I’ll sayingout it, the but sliding really, truly glassokay. door into the back yard. I’ll stand by the tree “After near dinner,” the road myand dadcheck says,to “we’re see if going anyone over is around. to their Then houseI’ll to offeracross run our condolences. the street andAnd hideyou’re by thecoming bush next with to us.” their mailbox while I take out the M-80 and strike the match and light the fuse. Kevin I’m excited Sullivan’s just thinking bedroom about doorit.isMy open. onlyHe’s regret sitting is that onI’ll hishave bed with to run. hisI head won’thung be able and his to stand back to there me, and staring watch at his Sullivan’s brother’sstupid football jersey fucking mailbox – number explode. 16 – spread out on his lap. I’m standing in his doorway, but he doesn’t see me yet. I nervously Finally, fiddleI can withuse thethe M-80 internet. in my The pocket firstand thing look I do at him, at home realizing is go mymy in brother dad’shas office a jersey and boot just like up the that. computer. While I wait for it to load,“Hi, I play Kevin,” with Ithe say. M-80 in my khaki’s pocket, where I know my mom Hewon’t looksfind over it. his shoulder and sees me. His eyes are red. The wayThe his computer hair is, without is ready itsand usual I open gelled myspikes, email. IEnlarge can tellYour he’sPenis been pulling 3x Bigger. at it.Lonely I can’tRussian imagineSingles that’s helped Want You. any. Today is your lucky day.“What’re you doing here, Nips?” he says. And he turns more, shifting There’s on the nothing bed so from he can my see brother. me better. His golden chain with the cross hangs on the outside of his YorktownAtPolice dinnerAthletic my dadLeague says, “Billy, t-shirt.we “Your needmom to tell sent youme something.” up,” I say. “My when And parentsmy aremom downstairs.” reaches across the table and takes his hand I

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My parents drive with the radio off. It only makes things more uncomfortable. I notice every time my mom shifts in her seat or my dad lets out a big, frustrated breath. I can hear him wince whenever he takes one hand from the wheel and touches his swollen, blackened eye. I don’t ask about the protests or tell them I saw the news, I just sit in the backseat with my bag at my side and plan my attack. I’ll steal a match from the box my dad keeps by the fireplace, and I’ll wait in my room till my parents are asleep. Then I’ll put on my black sweatpants and my brother’s old black Metallica t-shirt, and I’ll sneak out the sliding glass door into the back yard. I’ll stand by the tree near the road and check to see if anyone is around. Then I’ll run across the street and hide by the bush next to their mailbox while I take out the M-80 and strike the match and light the fuse. I’m excited just thinking about it. My only regret is that I’ll have to run. I won’t be able to stand there and watch Sullivan’s stupid fucking mailbox explode. Finally, I can use the internet. The first thing I do at home is go in my dad’s office and boot up the computer. While I wait for it to load, I play with the M-80 in my khaki’s pocket, where I know my mom won’t find it. The computer is ready and I open my email. Enlarge Your Penis 3x Bigger. Lonely Russian Singles Want You. Today is your lucky day. There’s nothing from my brother.

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Brad Wetherell

knowwaves. She that it’s She going doesto a little be serious. wiggle and pulls off her top. Her tits are round “I don’t and perky want and to hear milky it,”white I say. as “He’s theyfine. hangHe’s there, justtwo away handfuls someof heaven where and surrounded can’t write. by He’s anfine. evenI tan. knowShe he’s squeezes fine.” them together, leans “Billy,” forward, myand mom presses says.them “Calm beautifully down. Your against brother’s the glass okay. forJust me to see. let Dad speak.” “He did write, Billy, while we were away. He wrote Mom and I anMy email.” parents Mydrive dad with takesthe a deep radiobreath. off. It only “Billy, makes Joeythings Sullivan more is uncomfortable. I notice every time my mom shifts in her seat or my dead.” dad And lets out what a big, I feelfrustrated is relief. It’s breath. Joey,I can I think. hearMy himdad wince keeps whenever talking, he takessomething saying one handabout from athe carwheel bomb.and Buttouches I’m still histhinking, swollen,It’s blacknot enedbrother. my eye. It’s Joey. And I know I should be upset anyway, but I’m relieved. I don’t ask about the protests or tell them I saw the news, I just sit in “How’d the backseat he sign with it?”myI say, bag at interrupting my side and myplan dad.my“The attack. email, I’ll steal a he how’d match signfrom it?” the box my dad keeps by the fireplace, and I’ll wait“Counting in my room my till lucky mystars,” parentsmy aremom asleep. says, Then smiling, I’ll put because on myI blackher told sweatpants once and she and knows my brother’s that’s our oldcode black forMetallica he’s really t-shirt, okay, and not I’ll sneak just sayingout it, the but sliding really, truly glassokay. door into the back yard. I’ll stand by the tree “After near dinner,” the road myand dadcheck says,to “we’re see if going anyone over is around. to their Then houseI’ll to run across offer our condolences. the street andAnd hideyou’re by thecoming bush next with to us.” their mailbox while I take out the M-80 and strike the match and light the fuse. I’m excited Kevin Sullivan’s just thinking bedroom about doorit.isMy open. onlyHe’s regret sitting is that onI’ll hishave bed to run. with hisI head won’thung be able and his to stand back to there me, and staring watch at his Sullivan’s brother’sstupid footfucking ball jersey mailbox – number explode. 16 – spread out on his lap. I’m standing in his doorway, but he doesn’t see me yet. I nervously Finally, fiddleI can withuse thethe M-80 internet. in my The pocket firstand thing look I do at him, at home realizing is go in my my brother dad’shas office a jersey and boot just like up the that. computer. While I wait for it to load,“Hi, I play Kevin,” with Ithe say. M-80 in my khaki’s pocket, where I know my mom Hewon’t looksfind over it. his shoulder and sees me. His eyes are red. The wayThe his computer hair is, without is ready itsand usual I open gelled myspikes, email. IEnlarge can tellYour he’sPenis been 3x Bigger. pulling at it.Lonely I can’tRussian imagineSingles that’s helped Want You. any. Today is your lucky day.“What’re you doing here, Nips?” he says. And he turns more, shifting There’s on the nothing bed so from he can my see brother. me better. His golden chain with the cross hangs on the outside of his YorktownAtPolice dinnerAthletic my dadLeague says, “Billy, t-shirt.we “Your needmom to tell sent youme something.” up,” I say. And when “My parentsmy aremom downstairs.” reaches across the table and takes his hand I

know that it’s going to be serious. “I don’t want to hear it,” I say. “He’s fine. He’s just away somewhere and can’t write. He’s fine. I know he’s fine.” “Billy,” my mom says. “Calm down. Your brother’s okay. Just let Dad speak.” “He did write, Billy, while we were away. He wrote Mom and I an email.” My dad takes a deep breath. “Billy, Joey Sullivan is dead.” And what I feel is relief. It’s Joey, I think. My dad keeps talking, saying something about a car bomb. But I’m still thinking, It’s not my brother. It’s Joey. And I know I should be upset anyway, but I’m relieved. “How’d he sign it?” I say, interrupting my dad. “The email, how’d he sign it?” “Counting my lucky stars,” my mom says, smiling, because I told her once and she knows that’s our code for he’s really okay, not just saying it, but really, truly okay. “After dinner,” my dad says, “we’re going over to their house to offer our condolences. And you’re coming with us.”

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Kevin Sullivan’s bedroom door is open. He’s sitting on his bed with his head hung and his back to me, staring at his brother’s football jersey – number 16 – spread out on his lap. I’m standing in his doorway, but he doesn’t see me yet. I nervously fiddle with the M-80 in my pocket and look at him, realizing my brother has a jersey just like that. “Hi, Kevin,” I say. He looks over his shoulder and sees me. His eyes are red. The way his hair is, without its usual gelled spikes, I can tell he’s been pulling at it. I can’t imagine that’s helped any. “What’re you doing here, Nips?” he says. And he turns more, shifting on the bed so he can see me better. His golden chain with the cross hangs on the outside of his Yorktown Police Athletic League t-shirt. “Your mom sent me up,” I say. “My parents are downstairs.” 83


Brad Wetherell

Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

He doesn’t say anything, and I don’t know what to else to do so I look around the room: it’s different than I remembered, but he still has his home run ball from our little league team in a plastic case on a shelf. Next to it is the wooden boomerang his dad brought home from Australia and we spent weeks throwing and chasing before we gave up on it, never able to make it come back to us even once. “I’m sorry about Joey,” I say. And I never thought I’d be the one apologizing to him, but right now I’m so glad that it’s not the other way around. “Fuck you,” Kevin says. He stands up and you can tell he’s a football player. He’s as wide as I am, but without the fat. I can see that he wants to cry but he doesn’t want to do it in front of me. He walks over and says, “Get the fuck out of my house.” And he pushes me. Two hands firm against my chest. But he’s sapped. There’s nothing behind it. I don’t even lose my balance. I don’t usually need to be told twice to get the fuck out, but this is different. “Really, I’m sorry,” I say. “It’s not fair.” “Fuck you,” he says. “Your brother could still come home. You don’t know shit about fair.” And he tries pushing me again, but I catch his arms and hold them at the wrists. They’re dead weight. He puts on a show though, struggles some, like he’s got to protect his honor or something. A car pulls in the driveway. We both hear it at the same time. He stops writhing and I let go of his arms. I follow him over to the window to see who it is, and the floor creaks under one of my steps. Any other time, Sullivan would make a joke. Standing behind him at the window, we watch as Coach Calhoun steps out of his old station wagon with a bouquet of flowers. The asshole has the brass to wear his old Army uniform, like it’s some kind of tribute. “Fucking coach,” Sullivan says, letting his forehead fall against the glass. A fog appears on the window and then fades away with every breath he takes. I put my hand on his shoulder. “You’re fighting the wrong guy,” I say.

He turns doesn’t to say lookanything, at me. I can’t and Itell don’t if he know wants what to cry to else or scream. to do so I look “I’m around sorrythe about room: Joey,” it’s Idifferent tell him.than “Really, I remembered, I am. But I’ve but he gotstill an idea.” has his home run ball from our little league team in a plastic case on a shelf. Next to it is the wooden boomerang his dad brought home fromI Australia watch from andthe webushes, spent weeks woodthrowing chips jabbing and chasing me through before my we khakisupaton gave theit,knees. never able to make it come back to us even once. Sullivan “I’m sorryisabout standing Joey,” in I the say.shadows And I never by thought the garage, I’d beprobably the one thinking about apologizing to him, what but comes rightnext. nowWe I’mwent so glad overthat it twice. it’s not And theitother was sad, really, way around.how easy it was getting him to go along with my idea. He’s“Fuck not the you,” big,Kevin mean,says. meathead He stands football up and player youright can tell now;he’s he’sa broken and football player. looking He’s for as wide glue. as HeI would am, buthave without donethe anything fat. I can I told see him he that to. wants to cry but he doesn’t want to do it in front of me. He walks Theover Sullivans, and says, my“Get parents the fuck and out Coach of my Calhoun house.”were And sitting he pushin theme. es den,Two a white handscarpeted firm against roommySullivan’s chest. Butmom he’s wouldn’t sapped. There’s let us walk through nothing behindwhen it. I don’t we were even kids, lose my when balance. we snuck out the backdoor. I don’t There’s usually a window need to inbe thetold den. twice Theytocould get thesee fuck thisout, happen, but this if they is different. weren’t“Really, so busy I’m staring sorry,” at their I say. shoes “It’sand notavoiding fair.” each other’s eyes. “Fuck you,” he says. “Your brother could still come home. You don’t I part know theshit prickly aboutbranches fair.” And of he thetries evergreen pushingshrub me again, obstructing but I my view. catch his arms And and seeing hold Sullivan them atstep the wrists. out of the They’re shadows deadand weight. into the He driveway, puts on a show walking though, slowly struggles but intently, some, all like180 he’sdrained got to protect pounds his of him, I or honor somehow something. know he’s not going to bail, and it makes me nervous, A the car idea pullsofinhim theactually driveway. going We through both hear with it at it. the same time. He stops He doesn’t writhing look andnervous, I let go of though. his arms. He Ilooks follownumb, him over as iftohe’s the sleepwalking. window to see He whokneels it is, and down the behind floor creaks Coach’s undercar. oneHe of stays my steps. like that for Any other a second, time, Sullivan just kneeling. would make And aI joke. wonder what he’s thinking and Standing who he’s behind thinkinghim it to. at the window, we watch as Coach CalhounThe steps nextout part of happens his old station fast: he wagon pulls with the M-80 a bouquet from his of flowers. pocket, strikes The asshole a match has that the brass casts atoghoulish wear hisglow old Army on hisuniform, face, like like when it’s we used some kind to of hold tribute. flashlights below our chins and tell ghost stories. It makes “Fucking him look coach,” young, Sullivan too young says,toletting be worried his forehead about revenge, fall against to be stuffing the glass. Aanfog eighth appears stickon of the dynamite window upand the tailpipe then fades of his away football with coach’s every breath car. But he takes. that’s exactly what he’s done. IHe putruns my toward hand onme, his his shoulder. hands “You’re coveringfighting his ears,the and wrong jumps guy,” the Irow say.of bushes like it’s a blocker. He’s pressed right up next to me,

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Brad Wetherell

He turns doesn’t to say lookanything, at me. I can’t and Itell don’t if he know wants what to cry to else or scream. to do so I look “I’m around sorrythe about room: Joey,” it’s Idifferent tell him.than “Really, I remembered, I am. But I’ve but he gotstill an has his home run ball from our little league team in a plastic case on idea.” a shelf. Next to it is the wooden boomerang his dad brought home fromI Australia watch from andthe webushes, spent weeks woodthrowing chips jabbing and chasing me through before my we gave upaton khakis theit,knees. never able to make it come back to us even once. “I’m sorryisabout Sullivan standing Joey,” in I the say.shadows And I never by thought the garage, I’d beprobably the one apologizing thinking about to him, what but comes rightnext. nowWe I’mwent so glad overthat it twice. it’s not And theitother was way really, sad, around.how easy it was getting him to go along with my idea. He’s“Fuck not the you,” big,Kevin mean,says. meathead He stands football up and player youright can tell now;he’s he’sa footballand broken player. looking He’s for as wide glue. as HeI would am, buthave without donethe anything fat. I can I told see that he him to. wants to cry but he doesn’t want to do it in front of me. He walks Theover Sullivans, and says, my“Get parents the fuck and out Coach of my Calhoun house.”were And sitting he pushin es me. the den,Two a white handscarpeted firm against roommySullivan’s chest. Butmom he’s wouldn’t sapped. There’s let us nothing walk through behindwhen it. I don’t we were even kids, lose my when balance. we snuck out the backdoor. I don’t There’s usually a window need to inbe thetold den. twice Theytocould get thesee fuck thisout, happen, but this if is different. they weren’t“Really, so busy I’m staring sorry,” at their I say. shoes “It’sand notavoiding fair.” each other’s eyes. “Fuck you,” he says. “Your brother could still come home. You don’t I part know theshit prickly aboutbranches fair.” And of he thetries evergreen pushingshrub me again, obstructing but I catch my view. his arms And and seeing hold Sullivan them atstep the wrists. out of the They’re shadows deadand weight. into the He puts on a show driveway, walking though, slowly struggles but intently, some, all like180 he’sdrained got to protect pounds his of honorI or him, somehow something. know he’s not going to bail, and it makes me nervous, A the car idea pullsofinhim theactually driveway. going We through both hear with it at it. the same time. He stops He doesn’t writhing look andnervous, I let go of though. his arms. He Ilooks follownumb, him over as iftohe’s the window to see He sleepwalking. whokneels it is, and down the behind floor creaks Coach’s undercar. oneHe of stays my steps. like Any for that other a second, time, Sullivan just kneeling. would make And aI joke. wonder what he’s thinking and Standing who he’s behind thinkinghim it to. at the window, we watch as Coach CalhounThe steps nextout part of happens his old station fast: he wagon pulls with the M-80 a bouquet from his of flowers. pocket, The asshole strikes a match has that the brass casts atoghoulish wear hisglow old Army on hisuniform, face, like like when it’s some we used kind to of hold tribute. flashlights below our chins and tell ghost stories. It makes “Fucking him look coach,” young, Sullivan too young says,toletting be worried his forehead about revenge, fall against to thestuffing be glass. Aanfog eighth appears stickon of the dynamite window upand the tailpipe then fades of his away football with every breath coach’s car. But he takes. that’s exactly what he’s done. I putruns He my toward hand onme, his his shoulder. hands “You’re coveringfighting his ears,the and wrong jumps guy,” the I say.of bushes like it’s a blocker. He’s pressed right up next to me, row

He turns to look at me. I can’t tell if he wants to cry or scream. “I’m sorry about Joey,” I tell him. “Really, I am. But I’ve got an idea.”

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I watch from the bushes, wood chips jabbing me through my khakis at the knees. Sullivan is standing in the shadows by the garage, probably thinking about what comes next. We went over it twice. And it was sad, really, how easy it was getting him to go along with my idea. He’s not the big, mean, meathead football player right now; he’s broken and looking for glue. He would have done anything I told him to. The Sullivans, my parents and Coach Calhoun were sitting in the den, a white carpeted room Sullivan’s mom wouldn’t let us walk through when we were kids, when we snuck out the backdoor. There’s a window in the den. They could see this happen, if they weren’t so busy staring at their shoes and avoiding each other’s eyes. I part the prickly branches of the evergreen shrub obstructing my view. And seeing Sullivan step out of the shadows and into the driveway, walking slowly but intently, all 180 drained pounds of him, I somehow know he’s not going to bail, and it makes me nervous, the idea of him actually going through with it. He doesn’t look nervous, though. He looks numb, as if he’s sleepwalking. He kneels down behind Coach’s car. He stays like that for a second, just kneeling. And I wonder what he’s thinking and who he’s thinking it to. The next part happens fast: he pulls the M-80 from his pocket, strikes a match that casts a ghoulish glow on his face, like when we used to hold flashlights below our chins and tell ghost stories. It makes him look young, too young to be worried about revenge, to be stuffing an eighth stick of dynamite up the tailpipe of his football coach’s car. But that’s exactly what he’s done. He runs toward me, his hands covering his ears, and jumps the row of bushes like it’s a blocker. He’s pressed right up next to me, 85


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

parting the bush in a spot so we can see it happen. He’s awake now. And he’s crying. We have maybe thirty seconds, and there’s no taking it back now. But he’s crying like he wants to. He’s crying because he of all people knows that things can’t be undone. He lets go of the branches and they snap back, blocking our view of Coach’s station wagon. In another couple seconds there will be a Boom, just like Jack said, and our parents will run out here and turn their heads side to side looking for someone, something. It won’t take them long to figure things out, to wonder where we are, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s already done and now there’s just the waiting. But Sullivan won’t even see the muffler explode, the bottom of the car fall out. He isn’t even watching. He’s doubled over and bawling, with his head buried in my tits. I can feel a wet spot forming on my t-shirt. I can feel the warmth of his breath through the fabric. I can feel my cleavage growing damp with his grief.

parting the bush in a spot so we can see it happen. He’s awake now. And he’s crying. We have maybe thirty seconds, and there’s no taking it back now. But he’s crying like he wants to. He’s crying because he of all people knows that things can’t be undone. He lets go of the branches and they snap back, blocking our view of Coach’s station wagon. In another couple seconds there will be a Boom, just like Jack said, and our parents will run out here and turn their heads side to side looking for someone, something. It won’t take them long to figure things out, to wonder where we are, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s already done and now there’s just the waiting. But Sullivan won’t even see the muffler explode, the bottom of the car fall out. He isn’t even watching. He’s doubled over and bawling, with his head buried in my tits. I can feel a wet spot forming on my t-shirt. I can feel the warmth of his breath through the fabric. I can feel my cleavage growing damp with his grief.

Nickolas Kristol-Harper

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parting the bush in a spot so we can see it happen. He’s awake now. And he’s crying. We have maybe thirty seconds, and there’s no taking it back now. But he’s crying like he wants to. He’s crying because he of all people knows that things can’t be undone. He lets go of the branches and they snap back, blocking our view of Coach’s station wagon. In another couple seconds there will be a Boom, just like Jack said, and our parents will run out here and turn their heads side to side looking for someone, something. It won’t take them long to figure things out, to wonder where we are, but that doesn’t matter, because it’s already done and now there’s just the waiting. But Sullivan won’t even see the muffler explode, the bottom of the car fall out. He isn’t even watching. He’s doubled over and bawling, with his head buried in my tits. I can feel a wet spot forming on my t-shirt. I can feel the warmth of his breath through the fabric. I can feel my cleavage growing damp with his grief.

Nickolas Kristol-Harper

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Nickolas Kristol-Harper


Roger Tunau

Roger Tunau

Roger Tunau

A sharp, foul odor hit Charles as he approached the operating theater. The theater itself consisted of a whitewashed semicircular pit, at the bottom of which stood the wooden operating table and Gabby, the demonstration skeleton, who hung on his hook and oversaw every operation with what always seemed to Charles a ghoulish leer. Above the operating pit rose five concentric rows, none of which had chairs, so students were obliged to lean on the waist-high bars in front of them for support. Charles looked in, and saw the theater was already half full. He hesitated. His temples throbbed with a perpetual headache, and his eyeballs, reddened and sore from too much reading, ached. Why, exactly, was he here? What did he want? He had come to Edinburgh to please his father, to justify his Christian and middle

names, the two generations of doctors encoded into Charles Robert. He had been raised for this. His brother Eras had too, but Eras had brains. Eras could do the work. If Charles had any sense he would go back home, face his father and tell him that they were both fooling themselves, that he lacked the talent and the skills to amount to anything, that he could never be other than what he was: the simple son of a squire, the dullard who inherits his fortune and spends the rest of his days throwing dinners for the neighbors, traipsing with his dogs through the nearby forests, checking horses’ teeth and exclaiming loudly on their value to anyone within earshot. He would ride upright D in ARWIN his saddle, IN marry a sweet woman (picked, of course, by his father), and she would visit the local farmers, the poor, the indigent, taking baskets of bread and jam wherever she went. And he would live out the rest of his life on the interest from his estate, accruing at a steady and sustainable three percent, and that wouldn’t As Iwould was doing be so bad, it? no good in school, my father wisely took me away at afather rathermight earlier age thanhim. usual, sent me to Except that his disinherit Heand took a breath (OctoberHe 1825) Edinburgh University.... steady himself. wastostill young—barely sixteen years old. He could do this. He stepped through the door, and winced as the odor — Theto Autobiography of Charles Darwin became sharper. He prepared take his customary place at the back, so he could slip out unnoticed, but he saw two of his friends, Whitlow and Coldstream, in the second row. Whitlow caught sight of A sharp, foul odorand hit he Charles approached the operating Charles immediately, wastedasnohetime waving Charles down theater. The theater itself consisted of a whitewashed semicircular to join them. pit, “Gas, at thecome bottom of Good whichtostood theold wooden operatinghad table and here! see you, boy.” Whitlow known Gabby, the demonstration skeleton, who hung on his hook and overCharles since the fourth form at Shrewsbury, and he took particular saw every operation with old what always seemedattoevery Charles a ghouldelight in using Darwin’s school nickname opportunity. ish leer. Above the operating rose five rows, examinnone of He wore a confident smile andpit leaned backconcentric on the banister, which had chairs, so students were obliged to lean on the waist-high ing everyone who walked in. John Coldstream, two years older and bars frontinches of them for than support. Charles looked in, and saw the aboutinthree taller Charles, faced forward. He shut his theater was already half full. eyes and clasped his hands in front of him. It was his habit before Hesurgery, hesitated. His temples with perpetual every Charles knew, tothrobbed pray both forathe patient’sheadache, survival and reddened too much reading,Charles ached. and his for eyeballs, the will to endure and whatsore he from was about to witness. Why, exactly, was he here? What did he want? He had come to squeezed past him and shook Whitlow’s hand. Edinburgh please his father, his Christian and middle “Hullo, to Whitlow. What’s on to thejustify menu today?”

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As I was doing no good in school, my father wisely took me away at a rather earlier age than usual, and sent me (October 1825) to Edinburgh University.... — The Autobiography of Charles Darwin

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Roger Tunau

names, the two generations of doctors encoded into Charles Robert. He had been raised for this. His brother Eras had too, but Eras had brains. Eras could do the work. If Charles had any sense he would go back home, face his father and tell him that they were both fooling themselves, that he lacked the talent and the skills to amount to anything, that he could never be other than what he was: the simple son of a squire, the dullard who inherits his fortune and spends the rest of his days throwing dinners for the neighbors, traipsing with his dogs through the nearby forests, checking horses’ teeth and exclaiming loudly on their value to anyone within earshot. He would ride upright D in ARWIN his saddle, IN marry a sweet woman (picked, of course, by his father), and she would visit the local farmers, the poor, the indigent, taking baskets of bread and jam wherever she went. And he would live out the rest of his life on the interest from his estate, accruing at a steady and sustainable three percent, and that wouldn’t As Iwould was doing be so bad, it? no good in school, my father wisely took me away at afather rathermight earlier age thanhim. usual, sent me to Except that his disinherit Heand took a breath (OctoberHe 1825) Edinburgh University.... steady himself. wastostill young—barely sixteen years old. He could do this. He stepped through the door, and winced as the odor — Theto Autobiography of Charles Darwin became sharper. He prepared take his customary place at the back, so he could slip out unnoticed, but he saw two of his friends, Whitlow and Coldstream, in the second row. Whitlow caught sight of A sharp, foul odorand hit he Charles approached the operating Charles immediately, wastedasnohetime waving Charles down theater. The theater itself consisted of a whitewashed semicircular to join them. pit, “Gas, at thecome bottom of Good whichtostood theold wooden operatinghad table and here! see you, boy.” Whitlow known Gabby, the demonstration skeleton, who hung on his hook and overCharles since the fourth form at Shrewsbury, and he took particular saw every operation with old what always seemedattoevery Charles a ghouldelight in using Darwin’s school nickname opportunity. ish wore leer. Above the operating rose five rows, examinnone of He a confident smile andpit leaned backconcentric on the banister, which had chairs, so students were obliged to lean on the waist-high ing everyone who walked in. John Coldstream, two years older and bars inthree frontinches of them for than support. Charles looked in, and saw the about taller Charles, faced forward. He shut his theater was already half full. eyes and clasped his hands in front of him. It was his habit before Hesurgery, hesitated. His temples with perpetual every Charles knew, tothrobbed pray both forathe patient’sheadache, survival and his reddened too much reading,Charles ached. and for eyeballs, the will to endure and whatsore he from was about to witness. Why, exactly, was he here? What did he want? He had come to squeezed past him and shook Whitlow’s hand. Edinburgh please his father, his Christian and middle “Hullo, to Whitlow. What’s on to thejustify menu today?”

names, the two generations of doctors encoded into Charles Robert. He had been raised for this. His brother Eras had too, but Eras had brains. Eras could do the work. If Charles had any sense he would go back home, face his father and tell him that they were both fooling themselves, that he lacked the talent and the skills to amount to anything, that he could never be other than what he was: the simple son of a squire, the dullard who inherits his fortune and spends the rest of his days throwing dinners for the neighbors, traipsing with his dogs through the nearby forests, checking horses’ teeth and exclaiming loudly on their value to anyone within earshot. He would ride upright in his saddle, marry a sweet woman (picked, of course, by his father), and she would visit the local farmers, the poor, the indigent, taking baskets of bread and jam wherever she went. And he would live out the rest of his life on the interest from his estate, accruing at a steady and sustainable three percent, and that wouldn’t be so bad, would it? Except that his father might disinherit him. He took a breath to steady himself. He was still young—barely sixteen years old. He could do this. He stepped through the door, and winced as the odor became sharper. He prepared to take his customary place at the back, so he could slip out unnoticed, but he saw two of his friends, Whitlow and Coldstream, in the second row. Whitlow caught sight of Charles immediately, and he wasted no time waving Charles down to join them. “Gas, come here! Good to see you, old boy.” Whitlow had known Charles since the fourth form at Shrewsbury, and he took particular delight in using Darwin’s old school nickname at every opportunity. He wore a confident smile and leaned back on the banister, examining everyone who walked in. John Coldstream, two years older and about three inches taller than Charles, faced forward. He shut his eyes and clasped his hands in front of him. It was his habit before every surgery, Charles knew, to pray both for the patient’s survival and for the will to endure what he was about to witness. Charles squeezed past him and shook Whitlow’s hand. “Hullo, Whitlow. What’s on the menu today?”

Roger Tunau

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Berkeley Fiction Review

“A young man, I believe. His leg or something. Think you can make it through this one?” “I don’t know. Maybe I should be closest to the row.” “Not a problem. Oy, Coldy, give over. Charles wants the aisle.” Coldstream mouthed an “amen” and then backed away from the railing to let Charles through. As the two slid past each other, John gave a faint, kind smile and bowed his head. “Hullo, Charles.” “Coldy.” The floor of the operating theater had been stained red with blood, and the entire room smelled like a slaughterhouse. Flies buzzed about, and in the corner, just past where Gabby kept watch, there sat a bench lined with rusty saws, knives, clamps, and tourniquets, every single implement smeared with fat, skin, and gristle. Four orderlies, each carrying a burlap sack, entered from the wings. Reaching into their bags, they took out sawdust to spread around the floor. “So Coldy,” said Whitlow, “remind me why this is a gentleman’s profession.” “Because there is nothing more honorable than the saving of life.” “Right.” Whitlow looked around the room, then at Charles. “It’s not for the money then, is it?” “Whitlow!” said Coldstream. “That’s vulgar.” “I just need a reason to remind myself why I’m here.” One of the orderlies picked up the bench of saws and brought it to the lower left end of the operating table. “Because otherwise I would never put myself through this,” said Whitlow. Coldstream looked at Whitlow mildly, smiled, and nodded. He put a hand on Whitlow’s shoulder. “I know, my friend. I know.” Charles tapped his finger on the banister, and wiggled his toes inside his shoe. He could have skipped today. He could have avoided all this. He remained almost certain that the medical profession was out of his reach, and yet he retained a faint sliver of hope. It still

could “Ahappen young for man, him. I believe. He couldHis steel leghimself. or something. He could Think workyou harder. can He could make it through return to this hisone?” father with a degree in hand, and for once not feel“I ashamed. don’t know. But he Maybe had yet I should to get be past closest this room. to theHere’s row.” where his hopes “Not died. a problem. Here he Oy, had Coldy, seen tumors give over. removed, Charles he wants had seen the buboes aisle.” lanced, Coldstream he had watched mouthedasan surgeons “amen”used and then belts backed and pulleys awaytofrom wrench the dislocated railing to letbones Charles back through. into their As the sockets. two slid He past had each watched other,strong John men scream gave a faint, in kind agony, smilewatched and bowed a gray-haired his head. “Hullo, gentleman Charles.” nearly bite his tongue “Coldy.” in two from the pain. As he nervously tapped the banister withThe his floor little finger, of the Charles operating began theater to send had up been a prayer stained of red his own. with Please let blood, andmethe outentire of here. room Please smelled don’t like makeame slaughterhouse. watch this. Flies buzzed He debated about, and giving in the hiscorner, excuses just topast Whitlow whereand Gabby Coldstream kept watch, and making there sathis a bench escape, lined but with the door rustytosaws, the operating knives, clamps, stage swung and tourniopen and shut quets, every withsingle a metallic implement clank, and smeared in walked with Dr. fat, Syme, skin, and the profesgristle. sor oforderlies, Four surgery, all each bushy carrying eyebrows a burlap and sack, tuftedentered hair. Hefrom worethe hiswings. work clothes: frock Reaching into coat, their bags, a white they shirt, tookand outa sawdust cravat, each to spread of which around bore thea patina from surgeries past. The murmuring in the theater died into floor. silence “So as Coldy,” Symesaid crossed Whitlow, his arms “remind in front me of why him, thisand is alooked gentleman’s up at the students with an icy glare. When Syme began to speak, Charles profession.” felt “Because his stomach there grow is nauseated, nothing more as ifhonorable on cue. than the saving of life.” “Gentlemen, good morning.” A rumbleWhitlow “Right.” of good looked mornings around answered the room, him back. then at Charles. “It’s not “Well.” for the money Syme then, pacedisthe it?”floor, arms crossed, chest puffed out. Syme’s “Whitlow!” voice was saidthat Coldstream. of the cultivated “That’s vulgar.” Scotsman. His Rs rolled hypnotically, “I just need like a reason the purring to remind of a cat. myself “We why are now I’m halfway here.” through Michaelmas One of theterm, orderlies and you picked menuphave the bench seen aoflot. saws More and than brought most it men. to theMore lowerthan left end some ofcan the bear. operating It is not table. easy work, being a doctor. It is“Because not”—he otherwise raised a finger I would andnever paused put significantly—“for myself through this,” the soft. said The healing of disease is a messy affair. It requires nerves, strength, Whitlow. dexterity, Coldstream and compassion. looked at Whitlow Yes, compassion. mildly, smiled, Don’t and be surprised nodded. He by the term, put a handgentlemen. on Whitlow’s We are shoulder. compassionate. I don’t mean the gentle, feminine “I know, compassion my friend.ofI know.” your novels and your plays. I mean real compassion, Charles tapped the kind histhat finger putsonevery the banister, fiber of your and wiggled being in his the toes service ofhis inside your shoe. patient. He could Thehave kindskipped that does today. not He shrink couldfrom havecausing avoidpain, ed allifthis. thatHe is the remained means by almost which certain your patient that themay medical live. It profession does not hesitate was out of when his reach, the work andisyet difficult. he retained It does a faint not heed slivercries of hope. for mercy. It still

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could “Ahappen young for man, him. I believe. He couldHis steel leghimself. or something. He could Think workyou harder. can make He could it through return to this hisone?” father with a degree in hand, and for once not feel“I ashamed. don’t know. But he Maybe had yet I should to get be past closest this room. to theHere’s row.” where his hopes “Not died. a problem. Here he Oy, had Coldy, seen tumors give over. removed, Charles he wants had seen the buboes aisle.” lanced, Coldstream he had watched mouthedasan surgeons “amen”used and then belts backed and pulleys awaytofrom wrench the railing to letbones dislocated Charles back through. into their As the sockets. two slid He past had each watched other,strong John gave scream men a faint, in kind agony, smilewatched and bowed a gray-haired his head. “Hullo, gentleman Charles.” nearly bite his tongue “Coldy.” in two from the pain. As he nervously tapped the banister withThe his floor little finger, of the Charles operating began theater to send had up been a prayer stained of red his own. with blood, let Please andmethe outentire of here. room Please smelled don’t like makeame slaughterhouse. watch this. Flies buzzed He debated about, and giving in the hiscorner, excuses just topast Whitlow whereand Gabby Coldstream kept watch, and there sathis making a bench escape, lined but with the door rustytosaws, the operating knives, clamps, stage swung and tourniopen quets, and shut every withsingle a metallic implement clank, and smeared in walked with Dr. fat, Syme, skin, and the profesgristle. Fouroforderlies, sor surgery, all each bushy carrying eyebrows a burlap and sack, tuftedentered hair. Hefrom worethe hiswings. work Reachingfrock clothes: into coat, their bags, a white they shirt, tookand outa sawdust cravat, each to spread of which around bore thea floor. from surgeries past. The murmuring in the theater died into patina silence “So as Coldy,” Symesaid crossed Whitlow, his arms “remind in front me of why him, thisand is alooked gentleman’s up at profession.” the students with an icy glare. When Syme began to speak, Charles felt “Because his stomach there grow is nauseated, nothing more as ifhonorable on cue. than the saving of life.” “Gentlemen, good morning.” “Right.” A rumbleWhitlow of good looked mornings around answered the room, him back. then at Charles. “It’s not “Well.” for the money Syme then, pacedisthe it?”floor, arms crossed, chest puffed out. Syme’s “Whitlow!” voice was saidthat Coldstream. of the cultivated “That’s vulgar.” Scotsman. His Rs rolled hypnotically, “I just need like a reason the purring to remind of a cat. myself “We why are now I’m halfway here.” through Michaelmas One of theterm, orderlies and you picked menuphave the bench seen aoflot. saws More and than brought most it to theMore men. lowerthan left end some ofcan the bear. operating It is not table. easy work, being a doctor. It is“Because not”—he otherwise raised a finger I would andnever paused put significantly—“for myself through this,” the soft. said Whitlow. The healing of disease is a messy affair. It requires nerves, strength, dexterity, Coldstream and compassion. looked at Whitlow Yes, compassion. mildly, smiled, Don’t and be surprised nodded. He by put term, the a handgentlemen. on Whitlow’s We are shoulder. compassionate. I don’t mean the gentle, feminine “I know, compassion my friend.ofI know.” your novels and your plays. I mean real compassion, Charles tapped the kind histhat finger putsonevery the banister, fiber of your and wiggled being in his the toes serinsideofhis vice your shoe. patient. He could Thehave kindskipped that does today. not He shrink couldfrom havecausing avoided allifthis. pain, thatHe is the remained means by almost which certain your patient that themay medical live. It profession does not was out of hesitate when his reach, the work andisyet difficult. he retained It does a faint not heed slivercries of hope. for mercy. It still

could happen for him. He could steel himself. He could work harder. He could return to his father with a degree in hand, and for once not feel ashamed. But he had yet to get past this room. Here’s where his hopes died. Here he had seen tumors removed, he had seen buboes lanced, he had watched as surgeons used belts and pulleys to wrench dislocated bones back into their sockets. He had watched strong men scream in agony, watched a gray-haired gentleman nearly bite his tongue in two from the pain. As he nervously tapped the banister with his little finger, Charles began to send up a prayer of his own. Please let me out of here. Please don’t make me watch this. He debated giving his excuses to Whitlow and Coldstream and making his escape, but the door to the operating stage swung open and shut with a metallic clank, and in walked Dr. Syme, the professor of surgery, all bushy eyebrows and tufted hair. He wore his work clothes: frock coat, a white shirt, and a cravat, each of which bore a patina from surgeries past. The murmuring in the theater died into silence as Syme crossed his arms in front of him, and looked up at the students with an icy glare. When Syme began to speak, Charles felt his stomach grow nauseated, as if on cue. “Gentlemen, good morning.” A rumble of good mornings answered him back. “Well.” Syme paced the floor, arms crossed, chest puffed out. Syme’s voice was that of the cultivated Scotsman. His Rs rolled hypnotically, like the purring of a cat. “We are now halfway through Michaelmas term, and you men have seen a lot. More than most men. More than some can bear. It is not easy work, being a doctor. It is not”—he raised a finger and paused significantly—“for the soft. The healing of disease is a messy affair. It requires nerves, strength, dexterity, and compassion. Yes, compassion. Don’t be surprised by the term, gentlemen. We are compassionate. I don’t mean the gentle, feminine compassion of your novels and your plays. I mean real compassion, the kind that puts every fiber of your being in the service of your patient. The kind that does not shrink from causing pain, if that is the means by which your patient may live. It does not hesitate when the work is difficult. It does not heed cries for mercy.

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It simply Does. Its. Duty. That is the compassion to cultivate. Leave the other kind for the poets.” He let the lesson sink in, then continued. “Now, can one of you please tell me, from your readings, what is the worst, most dreadful procedure known to us? Yes, Stimson?” He pointed to the wing, at a seventeen year-old. “Amputation, sir?” “Good. And what makes it so awful, Stimson?” “There’s a very good chance the patient will not survive.” “Good again. What is the rate of survival? Someone else this time. You, Coldstream.” “Roughly half, sir.” “Half of what?” “Half survive the operation.” Syme stroked his whiskers, chewed the inside of his mouth, and pretended to think this over. Charles glanced around the room. From his vantage point, he saw the color drain out of several students’ faces. He saw their eyes go blank and their lips draw tight. Syme continued slowly. “And after the operation, Coldstream? How many of these fortunate souls will go forth from the operating table to live and work and enjoy the gift of old age?” Charles saw Coldstream’s lips purse as he struggled to remember the pages he had crammed only the night before. But he came up short, and replied: “Bell doesn’t say, sir.” Syme pulled himself up to full height. “Are you sure? Do you mean to tell me that the late Dr. Benjamin Bell, member of this fine college and author of seven full volumes on the subject of surgery, does not see fit to mention even once the likelihood of long term survival?” “N-No sir.” Syme smiled. “You may relax, Coldstream. It was a trick question, and you passed admirably. He never mentions it, for reasons I will address after we are done here.” He turned to an orderly. “You may wheel in the patient.”

It simply The man Does. stepped Its. Duty. out, the That door is the clanked, compassion and Charles to cultivate. heard wheels Leave squeaking the other kind in the foroutside the poets.” hall. The orderly reappeared, pushing an old wheelchair, He let the onlesson whichsink wasin, seated then acontinued. young boy, “Now, aboutcan nine oneyears of you of age, with please tellauburn me, from hair,your freckles, readings, a dirty what smock is theout worst, frommost which dreadful poked two skinnyknown procedure legs, the to us? left Yes, one bandaged. Stimson?” The He pointed child’s eyes, to thewide wing,and at astaring, seventeen looked year-old. out at the medical students, and his cheeks twitched. Charles “Amputation, covered his sir?” mouth with his hand. “Gentlemen, “Good. And what meetmakes youngit so Tim awful, McDougal, Stimson?” of Selkirk. Many weeks “There’s ago, while a very milking, good chance the young the patient master will was not kicked survive.” by the family cow. “Good Heagain. experienced What isswelling the rateinofhissurvival? leg, which Someone he foolishly else this ignored.You, time. LeftColdstream.” unchecked, the swelling became an abscess, which he also,“Roughly sadly, ignored.” half, sir.” He gave a sidelong glance at the patient. “As so many “Halfdo, of what?” he hoped it would go away. Made some crude crutches and “Half hopedsurvive for the the best.” operation.” He shook his head in disgust. “I didn’t Syme stroked wanthis to whiskers, lose me leg,” chewed the the child inside muttered. of his mouth, His words and were quiet,to almost pretended think this whispered, over. Charles but glanced hissed out around in athe thick room. country From brogue his vantage that echoed point, he to the sawtop-most the colorrow. drain out of several students’ faces. “I’m Hesure sawI their don’teyes needgotoblank tell you andgentlemen their lips what draw the tight. outcome Syme was.” Syme continued slowly. nodded to an orderly. “Remove his bandages, if you would “And please, afterAngus.” the operation, Coldstream? How many of these fortunate Before soulsthe will bandage go forth was from off, the Charles operating knewtable by thetopungent, live and gassy work odorenjoy and that filled the gift theof theater old age?” what the diagnosis would be. The wound, which Charles had ruptured saw Coldstream’s just above lips the child’s purse as ankle, he struggled was surrounded to rememby a creeping ber the pages patch he had of blackness. crammed only Gangrene the night hadbefore. set in. But he came up short, “His anddesperate replied: “Bell father, doesn’t whensay, it became sir.” quite clear that hope wasn’t Syme enough, pulledput himself the boy upintoa full cart height. and brought “Are him you to sure? us. I’m Do sure you you gentlemen mean to tell me remember that the late theDr. causes Benjamin that render Bell, member amputation of this necesfine sary. Can college and someone author of name seven them?” full volumes on the subject of surgery, does“Compound not see fit fracture,” to mentionsaid even a boy oncein the back. likelihood of long term survival?” “Yes. Someone else?” “N-No “Extensive sir.” lacerations and contusions.” yelled a second. “Good.smiled. Syme Another?” “You may relax, Coldstream. It was a trick question,“Portions and you passed of the limb admirably. removed Heby never cannonball.” mentions it, for reasons I will“Yes.” address after we are done here.” He turned to an orderly. “You may“Necrosis.” wheel in the patient.”

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Roger Tunau

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It simply The man Does. stepped Its. Duty. out, the That door is the clanked, compassion and Charles to cultivate. heard wheels Leave the other kind squeaking in the foroutside the poets.” hall. The orderly reappeared, pushing an old wheelchair, He let the onlesson whichsink wasin, seated then acontinued. young boy, “Now, aboutcan nine oneyears of you of please age, with tellauburn me, from hair,your freckles, readings, a dirty what smock is theout worst, frommost which dreadful poked procedure two skinnyknown legs, the to us? left Yes, one bandaged. Stimson?” The He pointed child’s eyes, to thewide wing,and at a seventeen staring, looked year-old. out at the medical students, and his cheeks twitched. Charles “Amputation, covered his sir?” mouth with his hand. “Good. And what “Gentlemen, meetmakes youngit so Tim awful, McDougal, Stimson?” of Selkirk. Many weeks “There’s ago, while a very milking, good chance the young the patient master will was not kicked survive.” by the family cow. “Good Heagain. experienced What isswelling the rateinofhissurvival? leg, which Someone he foolishly else this igtime. You, nored. LeftColdstream.” unchecked, the swelling became an abscess, which he also,“Roughly sadly, ignored.” half, sir.” He gave a sidelong glance at the patient. “As so many “Halfdo, of what?” he hoped it would go away. Made some crude crutches and “Half hopedsurvive for the the best.” operation.” He shook his head in disgust. Syme “I didn’t stroked wanthis to whiskers, lose me leg,” chewed the the child inside muttered. of his mouth, His words and pretended were quiet,to almost think this whispered, over. Charles but glanced hissed out around in athe thick room. country From his vantage brogue that echoed point, he to the sawtop-most the colorrow. drain out of several students’ faces. “I’m Hesure sawI their don’teyes needgotoblank tell you andgentlemen their lips what draw the tight. outcome Syme continued was.” Syme slowly. nodded to an orderly. “Remove his bandages, if you would “And please, afterAngus.” the operation, Coldstream? How many of these fortunate Before soulsthe will bandage go forth was from off, the Charles operating knewtable by thetopungent, live and gassy work and enjoy odor that filled the gift theof theater old age?” what the diagnosis would be. The wound, which Charles had ruptured saw Coldstream’s just above lips the child’s purse as ankle, he struggled was surrounded to rememby aber creeping the pages patch he had of blackness. crammed only Gangrene the night hadbefore. set in. But he came up short, “His anddesperate replied: “Bell father, doesn’t whensay, it became sir.” quite clear that hope wasn’t Syme enough, pulledput himself the boy upintoa full cart height. and brought “Are him you to sure? us. I’m Do sure you meangentlemen you to tell me remember that the late theDr. causes Benjamin that render Bell, member amputation of this necesfine college sary. Can and someone author of name seven them?” full volumes on the subject of surgery, does“Compound not see fit fracture,” to mentionsaid even a boy oncein the back. likelihood of long term survival?” “Yes. Someone else?” “N-No “Extensive sir.” lacerations and contusions.” yelled a second. Syme smiled. “Good. Another?” “You may relax, Coldstream. It was a trick question,“Portions and you passed of the limb admirably. removed Heby never cannonball.” mentions it, for reasons I will“Yes.” address after we are done here.” He turned to an orderly. “You may“Necrosis.” wheel in the patient.”

The man stepped out, the door clanked, and Charles heard wheels squeaking in the outside hall. The orderly reappeared, pushing an old wheelchair, on which was seated a young boy, about nine years of age, with auburn hair, freckles, a dirty smock out from which poked two skinny legs, the left one bandaged. The child’s eyes, wide and staring, looked out at the medical students, and his cheeks twitched. Charles covered his mouth with his hand. “Gentlemen, meet young Tim McDougal, of Selkirk. Many weeks ago, while milking, the young master was kicked by the family cow. He experienced swelling in his leg, which he foolishly ignored. Left unchecked, the swelling became an abscess, which he also, sadly, ignored.” He gave a sidelong glance at the patient. “As so many do, he hoped it would go away. Made some crude crutches and hoped for the best.” He shook his head in disgust. “I didn’t want to lose me leg,” the child muttered. His words were quiet, almost whispered, but hissed out in a thick country brogue that echoed to the top-most row. “I’m sure I don’t need to tell you gentlemen what the outcome was.” Syme nodded to an orderly. “Remove his bandages, if you would please, Angus.” Before the bandage was off, Charles knew by the pungent, gassy odor that filled the theater what the diagnosis would be. The wound, which had ruptured just above the child’s ankle, was surrounded by a creeping patch of blackness. Gangrene had set in. “His desperate father, when it became quite clear that hope wasn’t enough, put the boy in a cart and brought him to us. I’m sure you gentlemen remember the causes that render amputation necessary. Can someone name them?” “Compound fracture,” said a boy in back. “Yes. Someone else?” “Extensive lacerations and contusions.” yelled a second. “Good. Another?” “Portions of the limb removed by cannonball.” “Yes.” “Necrosis.”

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Berkeley Fiction Review

“Yes, yes. And tumors, white swellings of the joints, caries. One or two more that escape me at the moment. Very good. Thank you. These are the grounds for amputation. Now, it seems, we have a particularly ugly case of necrosis on our hands. Notice the extreme mortification about the leg, the rotting-apple smell, the blackened flesh. This is what comes of hope, gentlemen. Our young man’s family hoped for the best, and all of a sudden, a wound which might have easily been treated by suppuration, bloodletting, and mercury, must now submit to complete and swift amputation. We have no time to lose. Prepare the patient, please.” The orderlies lifted young MacDougal from his chair. The boy squirmed and fought and protested that he wanted to keep his leg. He screamed and tried to kick, but the orderlies held him tight as they pinned him to the table. Sweat dripped off his forehead and he thrashed around hopelessly. Four orderlies lifted the boy’s smock, and moved him down so his bare legs hung off the table. The fifth grabbed a stool from the wing of the stage and placed it under young MacDougal’s leg. Then he sat down on it and supported the gangrenous leg on his shoulder while another, standing, held tight to the good leg. “Now, there are three things that are of utmost importance in amputation. First, we must restrict the flow of blood. For that, this tourniquet should serve.” Syme took a tourniquet from the bench and handed it to the seated orderly, who moved it to just below the knee. Syme twisted the tourniquet to what seemed impossible tightness, and the young boy started begging tearfully to be let go. Charles’ jaw started to quiver, and he bit his finger. “Next, we manage the patient’s pain. We could use morphine, but the quantity it would take to successfully quell the pain would cause most patients to vomit, unless they have already built up a tolerance for the stuff through frequent use. So morphine is out. Instead, we must compress the nerves. The small ones can be managed by the tourniquet, but we must also manage the large ones. This wonderful invention will compress the sciatic nerve, and help ease

the “Yes, suffering yes.of And Master tumors, McDougal white swellings here.” He of the tookjoints, a large caries. C-clamp One from or twothe more bench, thatthe escape sort that me atcarpenters the moment. use to Very joingood. pieces Thank of wood, you. and heare These placed the grounds it at the for top amputation. of the youngNow, boy’sit thigh. seems,This we he have alsoa turned until ugly particularly the screw case of end necrosis sank deep on our intohands. the leg, Notice and at theeach extreme turn of the handle,about mortification youngthe Master leg, the MacDougal rotting-apple expressed smell,his thegratitude blackened by issuingThis flesh. a wail is of what unspeakable comes of torment. hope, gentlemen. Our young man’s family Several hopedstudents for the best, in theand room all ofwere a sudden, already a wound crying.which Some,might like Charles have easily andbeen Whitlow, treated held by their suppuration, fingers over bloodletting, their mouths and and mercury, tried not to now must look submit as Symetotook complete a large and hacksaw swiftfrom amputation. the benchWe andhave linedno it up below time to lose. the Prepare boy’s knee. the patient, One student please.” in the back had already fainted and The was orderlies being dragged lifted from youngthe MacDougal theater by from two volunteers, his chair. The bothboy of whom were squirmed andonly fought too and eager protested to quit the thatscene. he wanted But several to keepstudents his leg. worescreamed He expressions and of tried passivity to kick, and butinterest, the orderlies like expert held gamblers him tightsitas ting down they pinnedtohim a game to theoftable. cards.Sweat Coldstream drippedlooked off his on forehead the operation and he with a serene thrashed around expression. hopelessly. HisFour prayer orderlies worked. lifted It gave the boy’s him strength smock, where and moved Charles himhad down none, so his andbare as the legsroom hungfilled off the with table. the sound The fifth of saw cutting grabbed a stool through frombone, the wing Charles of thealmost stage and hated placed him for it under it. young MacDougal’s But however leg.hard Thenithe was, sat none downof onthem it andhad supported it as bad theasgangreyoung MacDougal. nous leg on his As shoulder soon as the while doctor’s another, sawstanding, bit into his heldflesh, tighthetosent the up a howl good leg. that seemed to defy the capacity of his tiny lungs. He screamed, “Now, and thereevery are three vibration things went thatthrough are of Charles utmost importance like a sledgein hammer. ThisFirst, amputation. is what we must fatherrestrict does, thought the flowCharles. of blood. This Foristhat, whatthis he does every should tourniquet day. Noserve.” better than a common butcher. He covered his eyes. Syme When took he worked a tourniquet up the from bravery the bench to look and up, handed he immediately it to the seatregretted ed orderly, it. Syme who moved was at the it topatient’s just below left the side,knee. sawing Syme furiously twistedwith the his left hand, tourniquet to when what seemed suddenlyimpossible blood poured tightness, out of and the half-sawed-off the young boy leg. Thebegging started tourniquet tearfully had come to beloose. let go. Charles’ jaw started to quiver, and “Get he bitit!his Get finger. it! Stop the blood! Goddammit, we’ll lose him!” The orderly “Next, we manage behind the Syme patient’s fumbled pain. with Wethe could tourniquet, use morphine, but to do so but thehequantity had to let it would go of the takeboy’s to successfully arm, whichquell immediately the pain started would trashing cause most about. patients Angus, to who vomit, stood unless at the they boy’s have right already side, caught built upthea arm and held tolerance for the it, stuff but precious through seconds frequent had use. been So morphine lost. Syme is out. leaned Inback on stead, wethe must legcompress and sped the up his nerves. work. The The small sawdust, ones can which be managed had been sprinkled by the tourniquet, beneath the buttable we must to catch alsothe manage excessthe blood, largebecame ones. This sodden and slippery wonderful invention under will Syme’s compress feet. the Hissciatic curses nerve, grew louder. and help Sweatease

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the “Yes, suffering yes.of And Master tumors, McDougal white swellings here.” He of the tookjoints, a large caries. C-clamp One or twothe from more bench, thatthe escape sort that me atcarpenters the moment. use to Very joingood. pieces Thank of wood, you. These and heare placed the grounds it at the for top amputation. of the youngNow, boy’sit thigh. seems,This we he have alsoa particularly turned until ugly the screw case of end necrosis sank deep on our intohands. the leg, Notice and at theeach extreme turn mortification of the handle,about youngthe Master leg, the MacDougal rotting-apple expressed smell,his thegratitude blackened by flesh. This issuing a wail is of what unspeakable comes of torment. hope, gentlemen. Our young man’s family Several hopedstudents for the best, in theand room all ofwere a sudden, already a wound crying.which Some,might like have easily Charles andbeen Whitlow, treated held by their suppuration, fingers over bloodletting, their mouths and and mercury, tried mustto now not look submit as Symetotook complete a large and hacksaw swiftfrom amputation. the benchWe andhave linedno it time up below to lose. the Prepare boy’s knee. the patient, One student please.” in the back had already fainted and The was orderlies being dragged lifted from youngthe MacDougal theater by from two volunteers, his chair. The bothboy of squirmed whom were andonly fought too and eager protested to quit the thatscene. he wanted But several to keepstudents his leg. He screamed wore expressions and of tried passivity to kick, and butinterest, the orderlies like expert held gamblers him tightsitas they down ting pinnedtohim a game to theoftable. cards.Sweat Coldstream drippedlooked off his on forehead the operation and he thrashed with a serene around expression. hopelessly. HisFour prayer orderlies worked. lifted It gave the boy’s him strength smock, and moved where Charles himhad down none, so his andbare as the legsroom hungfilled off the with table. the sound The fifth of grabbed saw cutting a stool through frombone, the wing Charles of thealmost stage and hated placed him for it under it. young MacDougal’s But however leg.hard Thenithe was, sat none downof onthem it andhad supported it as bad theasgangreyoung nous leg on his MacDougal. As shoulder soon as the while doctor’s another, sawstanding, bit into his heldflesh, tighthetosent the good up a howl leg. that seemed to defy the capacity of his tiny lungs. He screamed, “Now, and thereevery are three vibration things went thatthrough are of Charles utmost importance like a sledgein amputation. hammer. ThisFirst, is what we must fatherrestrict does, thought the flowCharles. of blood. This Foristhat, whatthis he tourniquet does every should day. Noserve.” better than a common butcher. He covered his eyes. Syme When took he worked a tourniquet up the from bravery the bench to look and up, handed he immediately it to the seatreed orderly, gretted it. Syme who moved was at the it topatient’s just below left the side,knee. sawing Syme furiously twistedwith the tourniquet his left hand, to when what seemed suddenlyimpossible blood poured tightness, out of and the half-sawed-off the young boy started leg. Thebegging tourniquet tearfully had come to beloose. let go. Charles’ jaw started to quiver, and “Get he bitit!his Get finger. it! Stop the blood! Goddammit, we’ll lose him!” “Next, The orderly we manage behind the Syme patient’s fumbled pain. with Wethe could tourniquet, use morphine, but to butso do thehequantity had to let it would go of the takeboy’s to successfully arm, whichquell immediately the pain started would cause most trashing about. patients Angus, to who vomit, stood unless at the they boy’s have right already side, caught built upthea tolerance arm and held for the it, stuff but precious through seconds frequent had use. been So morphine lost. Syme is out. leaned Instead,on back wethe must legcompress and sped the up his nerves. work. The The small sawdust, ones can which be managed had been by the tourniquet, sprinkled beneath the buttable we must to catch alsothe manage excessthe blood, largebecame ones. This sodwonderful den and slippery invention under will Syme’s compress feet. the Hissciatic curses nerve, grew louder. and help Sweatease

the suffering of Master McDougal here.” He took a large C-clamp from the bench, the sort that carpenters use to join pieces of wood, and he placed it at the top of the young boy’s thigh. This he also turned until the screw end sank deep into the leg, and at each turn of the handle, young Master MacDougal expressed his gratitude by issuing a wail of unspeakable torment. Several students in the room were already crying. Some, like Charles and Whitlow, held their fingers over their mouths and tried not to look as Syme took a large hacksaw from the bench and lined it up below the boy’s knee. One student in the back had already fainted and was being dragged from the theater by two volunteers, both of whom were only too eager to quit the scene. But several students wore expressions of passivity and interest, like expert gamblers sitting down to a game of cards. Coldstream looked on the operation with a serene expression. His prayer worked. It gave him strength where Charles had none, and as the room filled with the sound of saw cutting through bone, Charles almost hated him for it. But however hard it was, none of them had it as bad as young MacDougal. As soon as the doctor’s saw bit into his flesh, he sent up a howl that seemed to defy the capacity of his tiny lungs. He screamed, and every vibration went through Charles like a sledgehammer. This is what father does, thought Charles. This is what he does every day. No better than a common butcher. He covered his eyes. When he worked up the bravery to look up, he immediately regretted it. Syme was at the patient’s left side, sawing furiously with his left hand, when suddenly blood poured out of the half-sawed-off leg. The tourniquet had come loose. “Get it! Get it! Stop the blood! Goddammit, we’ll lose him!” The orderly behind Syme fumbled with the tourniquet, but to do so he had to let go of the boy’s arm, which immediately started trashing about. Angus, who stood at the boy’s right side, caught the arm and held it, but precious seconds had been lost. Syme leaned back on the leg and sped up his work. The sawdust, which had been sprinkled beneath the table to catch the excess blood, became sodden and slippery under Syme’s feet. His curses grew louder. Sweat-

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ing and furious, he looked up at the students. Charles felt the world swim around him, felt his legs nearly give way. He caught the banister and somehow managed to keep himself from fainting to the floor. “Look, damn you! Look!” Syme yelled. “Are ye men or frightened women? Ye are doctors, therefore look!” But fully half the room hid or averted their eyes, even when young MacDougal’s screams began to die down to furious panting, and finally sink away altogether as he slipped out of consciousness. Charles could tell by the sound of sawing that the bone was cut through, and flesh was all that remained. This was the one saving grace of operating: it was always over quickly. Each operation was a race. Take too long and the patient would certainly die. Of course, they usually died anyway. MacDougal seemed headed in that direction. “Sir,” said Angus. “He’s stopped breathing.” With one last, furious cut, the leg came off. The seated orderly cradled it in his hands. Syme stood still for a moment, panting with exertion. The edges of his cravat and the white collar of his shirt were stained crimson. He reached out and took MacDougal’s wrist, felt for a pulse and, finding none, he released it with a disappointed shake of his head. “He’s gone.” The entire room, which just a moment before had been a tumult of noise—of screaming, sawing, and swearing—now descended into eerie silence, punctuated here and there by the open sobbing of several students. Charles felt the collar of his shirt choke him. He felt as if a large stone were flattening his lungs. He had never felt more useless, hopeless, or stupid. Syme walked quietly to the front of the room and looked up at the students. Those who didn’t look down at the floor, or cry into their hands, looked at the professor with cold, hard eyes. All except for Coldstream. He looked on the verge of tears, but he managed to keep his composure. Syme took a deep breath, and spoke. “Had the patient lived, I would have demonstrated how to cov-

ingthe er andwound. furious,Tohedo looked this, you up atmake the students. a medallion Charles of flesh felt the from world the severed swim around limb, him, taking feltgreat his legs care,nearly of course, give way. to avoid He caught the gangrenous the banspots.and ister Butsomehow it isn’t necessary, managed not to keep now.”himself He looked fromatfainting the orderlies. to the “You may remove the body.” floor. Angus damn “Look, pickedyou! MacDougal Look!” Syme up off yelled. the table “Are ye andmen carried or frighthim through ened women? the door Yewhich are doctors, another therefore orderly look!” held open for him. The seated orderly But fully followed, half thecarrying room hid theorleg. averted Symetheir quietly eyes, watched even when them go, andMacDougal’s young as the door shut screams with abegan great to metallic die down clank, to furious he looked panting, up at the students. and finally sink After away several altogether moments as he heslipped spoke again, out ofhis consciousness. voice somewhat subdued. Charles could tell by the sound of sawing that the bone was cut through, “Doesand anyone fleshhave was any all that questions?” remained. This was the one saving grace Someone of operating: in the itback waslet always out an over audible quickly. gasp, Each but operation otherwisewas the aroom race.maintained Take too long its stony and the silence. patientSyme wouldtook certainly a handkerchief die. Of course, from his pocket they usually and died wiped anyway. the blood MacDougal from his seemed face. headed in that direction.“You all no doubt feel pity for the young man. You imagine me his killer. “Sir,” said All very Angus. natural, “He’svery stopped wrong, breathing.” and completely unproductive.With If you onewish last,tofurious be a doctor, cut, the you legmust cameridoff. yourself The seated of these orderly soft emotions. cradled it inIf his youhands. cannot, Syme thenstood ask still yourself for a this, moment, gentlemen: panting what with would happen exertion. The edges to young of his MacDougal cravat andwithout the white ourcollar intervention? of his shirt He wouldstained were surely crimson. have diedHe a slow, reached horrible, out andlingering took MacDougal’s death. We took wrist,a chance, felt for aapulse daring, and, risky finding chance none, thathehis released life might it with have a disappointed been saved. It did not shake of his work head. out as we might have hoped. I erred in misjudging the tightness “He’s gone.” of the tourniquet. But imagine if it had worked. Young Master TheMacDougal entire room,would whichlive just on. a moment He would before tendhad to his been farm, a tumult care for noise—of of his motherscreaming, and father, sawing, perhaps marry and swearing—now and have children. descended Is that not worth into eerie silence, the risk?punctuated We are nothere murderers, and there gentlemen, by the open butsobbing whenever of you operate, several students. you Charles gamble.felt Youthedecide collar that of his theshirt liveschoke you save him. are He worth felt as the if alives largeyou stone lose. were Andflattening you will his loselungs. many.He At had the beginning never felt it willuseless, more tear at your hopeless, heart.orTheir stupid. faces Syme willwalked haunt you, quietly their tocries the front will ringthe of in room your ears, and looked but withuptime at the andstudents. practice Those your heart whowill didn’t harden, look and then down at you the floor, will truly or cry be ainto doctor. theirIf hands, this proves looked unpalatable, at the professor gentlemen, cold, with or if you hardare eyes. notAll manexcept enough fortoColdstream. conquer your Heown looked misguided on the sense of pity, verge tears,then but he I recommend managed toanother keep his line composure. of work.” Syme took a deepHe breath, walked and from spoke. one end of the stage to the other, and back again. His “Had footsteps the patient echoedlived, loudlyI in would the silence, have demonstrated and he looked how from to covstu-

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er the ing andwound. furious,Tohedo looked this, you up atmake the students. a medallion Charles of flesh felt the from world the swim around severed limb, him, taking feltgreat his legs care,nearly of course, give way. to avoid He caught the gangrenous the banister and spots. Butsomehow it isn’t necessary, managed not to keep now.”himself He looked fromatfainting the orderlies. to the floor. may remove the body.” “You “Look, damn Angus pickedyou! MacDougal Look!” Syme up off yelled. the table “Are ye andmen carried or frighthim ened women? through the door Yewhich are doctors, another therefore orderly look!” held open for him. The seated orderly But fully followed, half thecarrying room hid theorleg. averted Symetheir quietly eyes, watched even when them young go, andMacDougal’s as the door shut screams with abegan great to metallic die down clank, to furious he looked panting, up at andstudents. the finally sink After away several altogether moments as he heslipped spoke again, out ofhis consciousness. voice someCharles what subdued. could tell by the sound of sawing that the bone was cut through, “Doesand anyone fleshhave was any all that questions?” remained. This was the one saving grace Someone of operating: in the itback waslet always out an over audible quickly. gasp, Each but operation otherwisewas the a race.maintained room Take too long its stony and the silence. patientSyme wouldtook certainly a handkerchief die. Of course, from theypocket his usually and died wiped anyway. the blood MacDougal from his seemed face. headed in that direction.“You all no doubt feel pity for the young man. You imagine me his killer. “Sir,” said All very Angus. natural, “He’svery stopped wrong, breathing.” and completely unproductive.With If you onewish last,tofurious be a doctor, cut, the you legmust cameridoff. yourself The seated of these orderly soft cradled it inIf his emotions. youhands. cannot, Syme thenstood ask still yourself for a this, moment, gentlemen: panting what with exertion. would happen The edges to young of his MacDougal cravat andwithout the white ourcollar intervention? of his shirt He were stained would surely crimson. have diedHe a slow, reached horrible, out andlingering took MacDougal’s death. We took wrist,a felt for aapulse chance, daring, and, risky finding chance none, thathehis released life might it with have a disappointed been saved. shake It did not of his work head. out as we might have hoped. I erred in misjudging the tightness “He’s gone.” of the tourniquet. But imagine if it had worked. Young Master TheMacDougal entire room,would whichlive just on. a moment He would before tendhad to his been farm, a tumult care of noise—of for his motherscreaming, and father, sawing, perhaps marry and swearing—now and have children. descended Is that intoworth not eerie silence, the risk?punctuated We are nothere murderers, and there gentlemen, by the open butsobbing whenever of several you operate, students. you Charles gamble.felt Youthedecide collar that of his theshirt liveschoke you save him. are He felt as the worth if alives largeyou stone lose. were Andflattening you will his loselungs. many.He At had the beginning never felt more it willuseless, tear at your hopeless, heart.orTheir stupid. faces Syme willwalked haunt you, quietly their tocries the front will of the ring in room your ears, and looked but withuptime at the andstudents. practice Those your heart whowill didn’t harden, look down and then at you the floor, will truly or cry be ainto doctor. theirIf hands, this proves looked unpalatable, at the professor gentlewith cold, men, or if you hardare eyes. notAll manexcept enough fortoColdstream. conquer your Heown looked misguided on the verge of pity, sense tears,then but he I recommend managed toanother keep his line composure. of work.” Syme took a deepHe breath, walked and from spoke. one end of the stage to the other, and back again. His “Had footsteps the patient echoedlived, loudlyI in would the silence, have demonstrated and he looked how from to covstu-

er the wound. To do this, you make a medallion of flesh from the severed limb, taking great care, of course, to avoid the gangrenous spots. But it isn’t necessary, not now.” He looked at the orderlies. “You may remove the body.” Angus picked MacDougal up off the table and carried him through the door which another orderly held open for him. The seated orderly followed, carrying the leg. Syme quietly watched them go, and as the door shut with a great metallic clank, he looked up at the students. After several moments he spoke again, his voice somewhat subdued. “Does anyone have any questions?” Someone in the back let out an audible gasp, but otherwise the room maintained its stony silence. Syme took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped the blood from his face. “You all no doubt feel pity for the young man. You imagine me his killer. All very natural, very wrong, and completely unproductive. If you wish to be a doctor, you must rid yourself of these soft emotions. If you cannot, then ask yourself this, gentlemen: what would happen to young MacDougal without our intervention? He would surely have died a slow, horrible, lingering death. We took a chance, a daring, risky chance that his life might have been saved. It did not work out as we might have hoped. I erred in misjudging the tightness of the tourniquet. But imagine if it had worked. Young Master MacDougal would live on. He would tend to his farm, care for his mother and father, perhaps marry and have children. Is that not worth the risk? We are not murderers, gentlemen, but whenever you operate, you gamble. You decide that the lives you save are worth the lives you lose. And you will lose many. At the beginning it will tear at your heart. Their faces will haunt you, their cries will ring in your ears, but with time and practice your heart will harden, and then you will truly be a doctor. If this proves unpalatable, gentlemen, or if you are not man enough to conquer your own misguided sense of pity, then I recommend another line of work.” He walked from one end of the stage to the other, and back again. His footsteps echoed loudly in the silence, and he looked from stu-

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Berkeley Fiction Review

dent to student with an impassive expression. “Sir?” Coldstream had his hand raised. “Yes, Coldstream.” “You said you’d talk about long-term survival. Could you?” A smile broke out on Syme’s face. “Yes,” he said. “Thank you for reminding me. That is perhaps the bitterest irony of all. Bell does not mention this—indeed, Bell is unwarrantedly optimistic on this point—but of the patients who survive the operation, many of them, perhaps a full third, will die before the week is out. Septicemia, gentlemen. Infection of the blood. It is our biggest enemy. Our most implacable foe. We have no idea what causes it, nor how to treat it. So there it is. When we operate, many will die, few will live. If we did nothing, all would die. So is it worth it? I leave that to you. I have made my own choice, and my conscience rests easy. I will always choose to save what lives I can. If you feel the same, then I will see you here next week. Thank you, gentlemen, and good day.” Syme walked out the door, swinging it shut behind him. For what seemed like a long time, none of the students moved. Then, slowly, they began to look around. The boys—for they were boys, really, most of them no older than seventeen—made their first, furtive glances into each other’s eyes. Many faces were tear-stained. Many lips quivered. They looked at each other as if none of them had ever seen a face before. Charles stood clutching the banister, his knuckles white, and he looked straight down at his feet. Coldstream touched him on the shoulder and spoke quietly into his ear. “Charles, are you all right?” “No. No I’m not.” Charles continued to look down. He breathed steadily and slowly. Medical school was over. He could not do this. He would not. “Let me know if you need anything,” said Coldstream. “Thank you, John. I’ll be fine.” Coldstream moved past Charles into the aisle, and walked slowly to the door. A few moments later Whitlow, nervously biting a cuticle, stepped past Charles and took a brisk jog up the stairs. Students left one by one in silence, their jaws clenched, their faces

dent to student cloudy. Charleswith stayed an in impassive his placeexpression. until the hall was almost empty, and “Sir?” when Coldstream he left he heard had his thehand sound raised. of a broom behind him. An orderly “Yes,had Coldstream.” returned, and was sweeping the blood-soaked sawdust into“You a pile.said you’d talk about long-term survival. Could you?” A smile broke out on Syme’s face. “Yes,” he said. “Thank you for reminding me. That is perhaps the bitterest irony of all. Bell does not mention this—indeed, Bell is unwarrantedly optimistic on this point—but of the patients who survive the operation, many of them, perhaps a full third, will die before the week is out. Septicemia, gentlemen. Infection of the blood. It is our biggest enemy. Our most implacable foe. We have no idea what causes it, nor how to treat it. So there it is. When we operate, many will die, few will live. If we did nothing, all would die. So is it worth it? I leave that to you. I have made my own choice, and my conscience rests easy. I will always choose to save what lives I can. If you feel the same, then I will see you here next week. Thank you, gentlemen, and good day.” Syme walked out the door, swinging it shut behind him. For what seemed like a long time, none of the students moved. Then, slowly, they began to look around. The boys—for they were boys, really, most of them no older than seventeen—made their first, furtive glances into each other’s eyes. Many faces were tear-stained. Many lips quivered. They looked at each other as if none of them had ever seen a face before. Charles stood clutching the banister, his knuckles white, and he looked straight down at his feet. Coldstream touched him on the shoulder and spoke quietly into his ear. “Charles, are you all right?” “No. No I’m not.” Charles continued to look down. He breathed steadily and slowly. Medical school was over. He could not do this. He would not. “Let me know if you need anything,” said Coldstream. “Thank you, John. I’ll be fine.” Coldstream moved past Charles into the aisle, and walked slowly to the door. A few moments later Whitlow, nervously biting a cuticle, stepped past Charles and took a brisk jog up the stairs. Students left one by one in silence, their jaws clenched, their faces

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Roger Tunau

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Roger Tunau

Roger Tunau

cloudy. dent to student Charleswith stayed an in impassive his placeexpression. until the hall was almost empty, and “Sir?” when Coldstream he left he heard had his thehand sound raised. of a broom behind him. An orderly “Yes,had Coldstream.” returned, and was sweeping the blood-soaked sawdust into“You a pile.said you’d talk about long-term survival. Could you?” A smile broke out on Syme’s face. “Yes,” he said. “Thank you for reminding me. That is perhaps the bitterest irony of all. Bell does not mention this—indeed, Bell is unwarrantedly optimistic on this point—but of the patients who survive the operation, many of them, perhaps a full third, will die before the week is out. Septicemia, gentlemen. Infection of the blood. It is our biggest enemy. Our most implacable foe. We have no idea what causes it, nor how to treat it. So there it is. When we operate, many will die, few will live. If we did nothing, all would die. So is it worth it? I leave that to you. I have made my own choice, and my conscience rests easy. I will always choose to save what lives I can. If you feel the same, then I will see you here next week. Thank you, gentlemen, and good day.” Syme walked out the door, swinging it shut behind him. For what seemed like a long time, none of the students moved. Then, slowly, they began to look around. The boys—for they were boys, really, most of them no older than seventeen—made their first, furtive glances into each other’s eyes. Many faces were tear-stained. Many lips quivered. They looked at each other as if none of them had ever seen a face before. Charles stood clutching the banister, his knuckles white, and he looked straight down at his feet. Coldstream touched him on the shoulder and spoke quietly into his ear. “Charles, are you all right?” “No. No I’m not.” Charles continued to look down. He breathed steadily and slowly. Medical school was over. He could not do this. He would not. “Let me know if you need anything,” said Coldstream. “Thank you, John. I’ll be fine.” Coldstream moved past Charles into the aisle, and walked slowly to the door. A few moments later Whitlow, nervously biting a cuticle, stepped past Charles and took a brisk jog up the stairs. Students left one by one in silence, their jaws clenched, their faces

cloudy. Charles stayed in his place until the hall was almost empty, and when he left he heard the sound of a broom behind him. An orderly had returned, and was sweeping the blood-soaked sawdust into a pile.

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Sean Adams

Sean Adams

Sean Adams

I, the Famous Detective, have a new case: locating my filing cabinet. This case takes priority over all of the other cases because the files for all of the other cases are in my filing cabinet. Before wasting my whole day on the case, I phone the furniture store to make sure they don’t just have another filing cabinet filled with important unsolved case files lying around. “I’m sorry sir,” says the furniture store manager, “but we’re all out of those. We do, however, have several empty filing cabinets, two new sofas and an ancient armoire we believe to be haunted.” Clients often tell me that my office lacks character. A possibly haunted armoire may just be the office-character-builder I need, so I order it to be delivered before noon. Then I set out downtown to stir up some clues. I sweet-talk a young lady. I bribe a street tough. I eavesdrop on conversations while pretending to be reading a newspaper. I trail several nervous men wearing dark sunglasses. I speak with a priest. From all of this, I deduce that a giant man with a moustache was seen leaving my office late last night with a filing cabinet strapped to his back. He proceeded down Main Street to a warehouse on the river. He disappeared inside sometime in the early hours of the

morning and has not been seen since, so it can be assumed that he and my filing cabinet are still inside. But before I can go and retrieve it, Second my watchPlace beeps three times,Fiction indicatingWinner that it is already Sudden twelve-thirty – time for my lunch break. I go to a local deli, pick up a chicken salad sandwich and bring it back to my office. The possibly haunted armoire has been delivered. It flies around the office letting out high-pitched, bloodcurdling screams and occasionally opening one of its drawers from which rises the ghostly image of a bloodstained blouse or a torn pair of khakis. THE FAMOUS DETECTIVE AND THE Luckily, I am not only a Famous Detective but also a Moderately Well-Known Exorcist. I place my sandwich on my desk, put on some gloves, and begin chanting at the armoire. After some time a spirit is ejected, letting the armoire crash to the floor. Exorcised, it I, the Famous Detective, a newitcase: myof filing looks very nice, although I thinkhave I’ll move from locating the middle the cabinet. This case takes priority over all of the other cases because room. The spirit meanwhile has possessed my sandwich and is now the files fortoallmake of the other cases are cabinet. Before attempting a long-distance callinonmy myfiling phone. Just then my wasting my whole day on the case, I phone the furniture store to watch beeps four times. Lunch break is over. Time to get back to make work. sure they don’t just have another filing cabinet filled with important unsolved case files lying around. I race to the warehouse on the river and burst through the door. “I’m sorry sir,” says the furniture store manager, “but Iwe’re all It is empty except for a giant man and a filing cabinet. am not out of those.byWe however, have stature, several as, empty filing cabinets, intimidated the do, giant man’s giant before becoming a two new sofas and an ancient armoire we believe to be haunted.” Famous Detective, I traveled the world disguised as a man of imposoften tell me that my office lacks character. A possibly ing Clients build, winning giant-men-only fighting tournaments. haunted armoire may just be thesays office-character-builder need, so I “Hello Famous Detective,” the giant man. “HowI can I help order it to be delivered before noon. Then I set out downtown to stir you?” up some I sweet-talk lady. I bribe street tough. “I’m clues. working on the casea young of the missing filingacabinet,” I say,I eavesdrop on conversations while pretending to be reading a news“and considering you were seen leaving my office with a filing cabipaper. trail you’re severalstanding nervous men wearing sunglasses. I speak net andInow all alone in andark empty warehouse with with a priest. that filing cabinet – which, I might add, looks exactly like the missof this, I deduce that athat giantyou manare with moustache wasI ing From one –all I am forced to assume theathief and that seen leaving my office late last night with a filing cabinet strapped should bring you to justice.” to his back. He proceeded down Main to a man, warehouse “But hold on, Famous Detective,” saysStreet the giant “if thison is the river. He disappeared inside sometime in the early hours of the a case you are working on, could I please see the file?”

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THE FAMOUS DETECTIVE AND THE

MISSING FILING CABINET

MISSING FILING CABINET

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Sean Adams

Sean Adams

morning and has not been seen since, so it can be assumed that he and my filing cabinet are still inside. But before I can go and retrieve it, Second my watchPlace beeps three times,Fiction indicatingWinner that it is already Sudden twelve-thirty – time for my lunch break. I go to a local deli, pick up a chicken salad sandwich and bring it back to my office. The possibly haunted armoire has been delivered. It flies around the office letting out high-pitched, bloodcurdling screams and occasionally opening one of its drawers from which rises the ghostly image of a bloodstained blouse or a torn pair of khakis. THE FAMOUS DETECTIVE AND THE Luckily, I am not only a Famous Detective but also a Moderately Well-Known Exorcist. I place my sandwich on my desk, put on some gloves, and begin chanting at the armoire. After some time a spirit is ejected, letting the armoire crash to the floor. Exorcised, it I, the Famous Detective, a newitcase: myof filing looks very nice, although I thinkhave I’ll move from locating the middle the cabinet. This case takes priority over all of the other cases because room. The spirit meanwhile has possessed my sandwich and is now the files fortoallmake of the other cases are cabinet. Before attempting a long-distance callinonmy myfiling phone. Just then my wasting my whole day on the case, I phone the furniture store to watch beeps four times. Lunch break is over. Time to get back to make work. sure they don’t just have another filing cabinet filled with important unsolved case files lying around. I race to the warehouse on the river and burst through the door. “I’m sorry sir,” says the furniture store manager, “but Iwe’re all It is empty except for a giant man and a filing cabinet. am not out of those.byWe however, have stature, several as, empty filing cabinets, intimidated the do, giant man’s giant before becoming a two new sofas and an ancient armoire we believe to be haunted.” Famous Detective, I traveled the world disguised as a man of imposoften tell me that my office lacks character. A possibly ing Clients build, winning giant-men-only fighting tournaments. haunted armoire may just be thesays office-character-builder need, so I “Hello Famous Detective,” the giant man. “HowI can I help order it to be delivered before noon. Then I set out downtown to stir you?” up some I sweet-talk lady. I bribe street tough. “I’m clues. working on the casea young of the missing filingacabinet,” I say,I eavesdrop on conversations while pretending to be reading a news“and considering you were seen leaving my office with a filing cabipaper. trail you’re severalstanding nervous men wearing sunglasses. I speak net andInow all alone in andark empty warehouse with withfiling a priest. that cabinet – which, I might add, looks exactly like the missof this, I deduce that athat giantyou manare with moustache wasI ing From one –all I am forced to assume theathief and that seen leaving my office late last night with a filing cabinet strapped should bring you to justice.” to his back. He proceeded down Main to a man, warehouse “But hold on, Famous Detective,” saysStreet the giant “if thison is the river. He disappeared inside sometime in the early hours of the a case you are working on, could I please see the file?”

MISSING FILING CABINET

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morning and has not been seen since, so it can be assumed that he and my filing cabinet are still inside. But before I can go and retrieve it, my watch beeps three times, indicating that it is already twelve-thirty – time for my lunch break. I go to a local deli, pick up a chicken salad sandwich and bring it back to my office. The possibly haunted armoire has been delivered. It flies around the office letting out high-pitched, bloodcurdling screams and occasionally opening one of its drawers from which rises the ghostly image of a bloodstained blouse or a torn pair of khakis. Luckily, I am not only a Famous Detective but also a Moderately Well-Known Exorcist. I place my sandwich on my desk, put on some gloves, and begin chanting at the armoire. After some time a spirit is ejected, letting the armoire crash to the floor. Exorcised, it looks very nice, although I think I’ll move it from the middle of the room. The spirit meanwhile has possessed my sandwich and is now attempting to make a long-distance call on my phone. Just then my watch beeps four times. Lunch break is over. Time to get back to work. I race to the warehouse on the river and burst through the door. It is empty except for a giant man and a filing cabinet. I am not intimidated by the giant man’s giant stature, as, before becoming a Famous Detective, I traveled the world disguised as a man of imposing build, winning giant-men-only fighting tournaments. “Hello Famous Detective,” says the giant man. “How can I help you?” “I’m working on the case of the missing filing cabinet,” I say, “and considering you were seen leaving my office with a filing cabinet and now you’re standing all alone in an empty warehouse with that filing cabinet – which, I might add, looks exactly like the missing one – I am forced to assume that you are the thief and that I should bring you to justice.” “But hold on, Famous Detective,” says the giant man, “if this is a case you are working on, could I please see the file?”

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Will Adam

Will Adam

Will Adam

The advertising poster above the urinal has my picture on it. There’s one in almost every bar and restaurant bathroom in Orlando. It’s an ad for the SunTrust Bank of Florida. The picture of its loan officer is supposed to make the person urinating feel like I’m an affable, gullible guy with a loose grip on the bank’s purse strings. I think it looks like the adult version of my high school senior photo. A posed, awkward, nebbish shot of me mid-smile with my cowlick, licked by an anonymous hand moments before the camera clicked. Some vandal scratched a thought bubble into the Plexiglas above my head. He has me saying, “God gives good head.” I’m not sure what that says about me. Am I supposed to know God gives good head because my picture looks gay? Or is my profession so despicable to society that God himself needs to nestle in my lap to get that new addition he wants for heaven? And why not Jesus? That’s easier to imagine. Wind could be God going down on me for all I know. These “Captured Audience” ads, as they’re known to those in the know, have made me a local celebrity. It’s similar to having a wanted picture released to the public. But instead of getting a reward if they spot me, they get a laugh. I’m their urinal jester. Our marketing people at the bank (Rebecca, also our IT person and Credit Specialist) reworked an old ad capitalizing on this strange phenomenon. The

new ad says, below my picture, “We’ll flush that bad credit away.” I never said that, and I’ve asked them to stop running it altogether. When I threatened to quit over it, they gave me a ten thousand dollar raise, made me sign something, and then kept running the ad. When people see me, there are three reactions I can expect. The first is the double take; usually while walking. The pedestrian will glance my way, look away, then turn back, over feigning recognition. I’ll walk by and in the excitement of the moment they’ll have to say something, scream something. Yesterday a guy shouted, “I piss on your face,” and the day before that a woman yelled, “I love it when you watch me pee.” I didn’t even know they put them in the women’s rooms. I asked Rebecca why and she told me it was a new idea (she called it a marketing opportunity) of hers. The second way they respond is by tapping a friend or just some advertising poster the urinal mycoffee pictureshops, on it. randomThe person nearby to shareabove the laugh with.has Bars, There’s one in almost every bar and restaurant bathroom in Orlando. movie theatres, restaurants, anywhere there are people. They laugh It’s an ad for the SunTrust Bank of Florida. The picture of its loan and whisper, steal a glance, whisper and giggle some more and look officer is supposed to make the person urinating feel like I’m hurt when I finally stare back. They apologize with a smile andana affable, gullible with aover looseand gripshake on the strings. weak little waveguy or come mybank’s hand purse or stare at meI think it looks like the adult version of my high school senior photo. until I leave the concession stand. A posed, awkward, nebbish of coming me mid-smile my cowlick, The last way they noticeshot is by up andwith talking to me. I licked by an anonymous hand moments before the camera prefer this. I’m a shy thirty-five-year old in Orlando, a townclicked. whose Some thought theinPlexiglas optionsvandal narrowscratched to a lonea chute forbubble single into people their 30s.above I’ve my head. He has me saying, “God gives good head.” I’m not sure had sex with eleven women in my lifetime, nine of those since the what that says abouta year me. Am to guy know God gives good ads started running and Ia supposed half ago. A once insisted upon head because my picture looks gay? Or is my profession so despime having a threesome with his wife and him. I waited around until cable to society that then God politely himself needs to nestle lap to “I getam,” that she showed up and declined. I saidinI my couldn’t. new addition he wants for heaven? And why not Jesus? That’s easier I told them, “ a personality of the bank and my behavior reflects the to imagine. Wind could be God down on me for all I know. bank’s reputation.” To iron the going confused wrinkles I added, “They These “Captured Audience” ads, as they’re known to thoselooked in the make me sign something; it’s stupid, sorry.” The husband know, made me It’s similar havinghe’d a wanted angry have for leaving hima local with celebrity. a self-esteem issue. to Tonight have picture released to the public. But instead of getting a reward if they to make love to her tenderly instead of just feeding it to her from spot me, they get a laugh. I’m their urinal jester. Our marketing peobehind as she entered that groggy state just before sleep. ple There’s at the bank (Rebecca, also our ITI attract. person The and once CredithotSpecialist) a certain type of woman divorced reworked an old ad capitalizing on this strange phenomenon. The mom. Freshly divorced. The kind who doesn’t like men right now

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CALL ME

CALL ME

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Will Adam

Will Adam

new ad says, below my picture, “We’ll flush that bad credit away.” I never said that, and I’ve asked them to stop running it altogether. When I threatened to quit over it, they gave me a ten thousand dollar raise, made me sign something, and then kept running the ad. When people see me, there are three reactions I can expect. The first is the double take; usually while walking. The pedestrian will glance my way, look away, then turn back, over feigning recognition. I’ll walk by and in the excitement of the moment they’ll have to say something, scream something. Yesterday a guy shouted, “I piss on your face,” and the day before that a woman yelled, “I love it when you watch me pee.” I didn’t even know they put them in the women’s rooms. I asked Rebecca why and she told me it was a new idea (she called it a marketing opportunity) of hers. The second way they respond is by tapping a friend or just some advertising poster the urinal mycoffee pictureshops, on it. randomThe person nearby to shareabove the laugh with.has Bars, There’s one in almost every bar and restaurant bathroom in Orlando. movie theatres, restaurants, anywhere there are people. They laugh It’s an ad for the SunTrust Bank of Florida. The picture of its loan and whisper, steal a glance, whisper and giggle some more and look officer is supposed to make the person urinating feel like I’m hurt when I finally stare back. They apologize with a smile andana affable, gullible with aover looseand gripshake on the strings. weak little waveguy or come mybank’s hand purse or stare at meI think it looks like the adult version of my high school senior photo. until I leave the concession stand. A posed, awkward, nebbish of coming me mid-smile my cowlick, The last way they noticeshot is by up andwith talking to me. I licked by an anonymous hand moments before the camera prefer this. I’m a shy thirty-five-year old in Orlando, a townclicked. whose Some thought theinPlexiglas optionsvandal narrowscratched to a lonea chute forbubble single into people their 30s.above I’ve my head. He has me saying, “God gives good head.” I’m not sure had sex with eleven women in my lifetime, nine of those since the what that says abouta year me. Am to guy know God gives good ads started running and Ia supposed half ago. A once insisted upon head because my picture looks gay? Or is my profession so despime having a threesome with his wife and him. I waited around until cable to society that then God politely himself needs to nestle lap to “I getam,” that she showed up and declined. I saidinI my couldn’t. new addition he wants for heaven? And why not Jesus? That’s easier I told them, “ a personality of the bank and my behavior reflects the to imagine. Wind could be God down on me for all I know. bank’s reputation.” To iron the going confused wrinkles I added, “They These “Captured Audience” ads, as they’re known to thoselooked in the make me sign something; it’s stupid, sorry.” The husband know, made me It’s similar havinghe’d a wanted angry have for leaving hima local with celebrity. a self-esteem issue. to Tonight have picture released to the public. But instead of getting a reward if they to make love to her tenderly instead of just feeding it to her from spot me, they get a laugh. I’m their urinal jester. Our marketing peobehind as she entered that groggy state just before sleep. ple There’s at the bank (Rebecca, also our ITI attract. person The and once CredithotSpecialist) a certain type of woman divorced reworked an old ad capitalizing on this strange phenomenon. The mom. Freshly divorced. The kind who doesn’t like men right now

new ad says, below my picture, “We’ll flush that bad credit away.” I never said that, and I’ve asked them to stop running it altogether. When I threatened to quit over it, they gave me a ten thousand dollar raise, made me sign something, and then kept running the ad. When people see me, there are three reactions I can expect. The first is the double take; usually while walking. The pedestrian will glance my way, look away, then turn back, over feigning recognition. I’ll walk by and in the excitement of the moment they’ll have to say something, scream something. Yesterday a guy shouted, “I piss on your face,” and the day before that a woman yelled, “I love it when you watch me pee.” I didn’t even know they put them in the women’s rooms. I asked Rebecca why and she told me it was a new idea (she called it a marketing opportunity) of hers. The second way they respond is by tapping a friend or just some random person nearby to share the laugh with. Bars, coffee shops, movie theatres, restaurants, anywhere there are people. They laugh and whisper, steal a glance, whisper and giggle some more and look hurt when I finally stare back. They apologize with a smile and a weak little wave or come over and shake my hand or stare at me until I leave the concession stand. The last way they notice is by coming up and talking to me. I prefer this. I’m a shy thirty-five-year old in Orlando, a town whose options narrow to a lone chute for single people in their 30s. I’ve had sex with eleven women in my lifetime, nine of those since the ads started running a year and a half ago. A guy once insisted upon me having a threesome with his wife and him. I waited around until she showed up and then politely declined. I said I couldn’t. “I am,” I told them, “ a personality of the bank and my behavior reflects the bank’s reputation.” To iron the confused wrinkles I added, “They make me sign something; it’s stupid, sorry.” The husband looked angry for leaving him with a self-esteem issue. Tonight he’d have to make love to her tenderly instead of just feeding it to her from behind as she entered that groggy state just before sleep. There’s a certain type of woman I attract. The once hot divorced mom. Freshly divorced. The kind who doesn’t like men right now

Will Adam

CALL ME

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

and wants mildly to degrade one. She’s amused by them and wants to manipulate one, make him beg for what she’s still got. This is the kind of woman coming over to me now. She isn’t hot though. A little plump, but cute. Bubbling cleavage speckled with glitter lotion. She has a good haircut. There’s nothing worse than a slick, parted, cropped haircut sitting at the top of a pair of sweatpants and an oversized Orlando Magic T-shirt. “You’re that guy,” she says, unsure. “I’m that guy.” “You’re that guy who…” “Drinks too much, smokes, loves just a little too hard.” This isn’t how I normally talk. I’ve developed a persona. Anyone would if they were given the chance to relive the same encounter three hundred times. “That guy who sells me things when I’m half naked.” “For a small fee, I do make personal appearances.” “I don’t know why I feel so giddy right now.” “It’s okay. You should see what happens when I visit Japan. Pure mayhem, riots, tear gas, mass panic.” “I’ll bet.” “Want to have a drink with me?” “Do you mind?” “Not at all.” My persona works for me. It affords me a self-deprecating aw shucks personality, albeit at a detached distance, while retaining a functionality I can live in. There’s something disarming about me to begin with, probably the bland boyishness of my looks contrasted with my old man mannerisms. And then you throw in a faint shared piece of local pop culture, and you have a recipe for a onenight stand. They don’t want anything more than a story to tell their friends and I don’t want anything more than to make up for all the times I think I could’ve, or I guess maybe should’ve, gotten laid. We’re at Slingapours, a downtown bar that tries as hard as an Orlando bar can at being Asian. Downtown there are bars and strip clubs. I used to go to the strip clubs, when I’d given up on rejection.

and wants Now I go out mildly five nights to degrade a week, one.alone, She’sorder amused a Corona, by them noand lime, wants and wait to manipulate for peopleone, to recognize make himme. beg I never for what go out she’s on still Friday got.orThis Saturis day kind the nights. of Too woman manycoming kids getting over to toome drunk now.and Shetoo isn’t belligerent hot though. and graphic A little plump, about the but things cute. Bubbling they do in cleavage the bathroom speckled while withI glitter “watch.” loI toldShe tion. Rebecca has amy good quote haircut. should There’s say, “Inothing can seeworse you need thanaabigger slick, loan.” She parted, cropped laughed haircut and asked sittingifatI the hadtop a quote of a pair for the of sweatpants women’s room and too.oversized an I said, “IOrlando can see Magic you need T-shirt. to trim your interest rate,” as if I’d just “You’re thought that of it.guy,” I’m good she says, at that: unsure. making it seem like I’m coming up with “I’msomething that guy.” spontaneously when I’ve thought of it and then orchestrated “You’re that the guy routewho…” the conversation needed to travel for me to utter“Drinks it. too much, smokes, loves just a little too hard.” This isn’t how“What I normally are you talk. having?” I’ve developed a persona. Anyone would if they“Cosmo,” were given shethe says. chance to relive the same encounter three hundredI times. order and the bartender gives me a wink. “Thanks “That guyTom,” who sells I sayme and,things whenwhen he gets I’mout half of naked.” earshot, add, “his name “For is Tom a small Collins.” fee, I do make personal appearances.” “Get “I don’t out.” know why I feel so giddy right now.” “Dead “It’s okay. serious.” You should see what happens when I visit Japan. Pure mayhem, “Whatriots, happens tear when gas, mass someone panic.” orders his name?” “I’mbet.” “I’ll not sure. I’ve never ordered one.” Her curiosity ends here. “So doto “Want you have getarecognized drink with ame?” lot?” “Yeah, “Do youa mind?” fair amount. You go up to people you see on ads a lot?”“Not at all.” “No,” My persona she says works and playfully for me. Itswats affords myme arm,a letting self-deprecating her fingertips aw linger on shucks personality, my suit sleeve. albeit at a detached distance, while retaining a functionality “So what is I can it that liveyou in.do There’s in Orlando?” something disarming about me to begin “I’m with, the concierge probablyatthe thebland airport boyishness Hyatt.” of my looks contrasted with “Themy oneold right man in the mannerisms. terminal?” And then you throw in a faint shared “That’s piecethe ofone.” local pop culture, and you have a recipe for a onenight “So stand. when They people don’t askwant you anything what there more is tothan do ina Orlando story to tell what their do you tell and friends them?” I don’t want anything more than to make up for all the times “Depends I think I on could’ve, who they or are.” I guess maybe should’ve, gotten laid. “Middle We’re at aged Slingapours, couple, with a downtown two teenage bar kids that from tries Chicago.” as hard as an Orlando “Too bar old can for Disney, at beingalthough Asian. Downtown they’d probably there are reluctantly bars andenjoy strip it. But,I you clubs. usedknow, to go Itothink the strip I’d tell clubs, them when to goI’dtogiven Celebration, up on rejection. the Dis-

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Will Adam

Will Adam

Nowwants and I go out mildly five nights to degrade a week, one.alone, She’sorder amused a Corona, by them noand lime, wants and to manipulate wait for peopleone, to recognize make himme. beg I never for what go out she’s on still Friday got.orThis Saturis the kind day nights. of Too woman manycoming kids getting over to toome drunk now.and Shetoo isn’t belligerent hot though. and A little plump, graphic about the but things cute. Bubbling they do in cleavage the bathroom speckled while withI glitter “watch.” loItion. toldShe Rebecca has amy good quote haircut. should There’s say, “Inothing can seeworse you need thanaabigger slick, parted,She loan.” cropped laughed haircut and asked sittingifatI the hadtop a quote of a pair for the of sweatpants women’s room and an oversized too. I said, “IOrlando can see Magic you need T-shirt. to trim your interest rate,” as if I’d just “You’re thought that of it.guy,” I’m good she says, at that: unsure. making it seem like I’m coming up with “I’msomething that guy.” spontaneously when I’ve thought of it and then orchestrated “You’re that the guy routewho…” the conversation needed to travel for me to utter“Drinks it. too much, smokes, loves just a little too hard.” This isn’t how“What I normally are you talk. having?” I’ve developed a persona. Anyone would if they“Cosmo,” were given shethe says. chance to relive the same encounter three hundredI times. order and the bartender gives me a wink. “That guyTom,” “Thanks who sells I sayme and,things whenwhen he gets I’mout half of naked.” earshot, add, “his name “For is Tom a small Collins.” fee, I do make personal appearances.” “I don’t “Get out.” know why I feel so giddy right now.” “It’s okay. “Dead serious.” You should see what happens when I visit Japan. Pure mayhem, “Whatriots, happens tear when gas, mass someone panic.” orders his name?” “I’ll bet.” “I’m not sure. I’ve never ordered one.” Her curiosity ends here. “Want “So doto you have getarecognized drink with ame?” lot?” “Do youa mind?” “Yeah, fair amount. You go up to people you see on ads a lot?”“Not at all.” My persona “No,” she says works and playfully for me. Itswats affords myme arm,a letting self-deprecating her fingertips aw shuckson linger personality, my suit sleeve. albeit at a detached distance, while retaining a functionality “So what is I can it that liveyou in.do There’s in Orlando?” something disarming about me to begin “I’m with, the concierge probablyatthe thebland airport boyishness Hyatt.” of my looks contrasted with “Themy oneold right man in the mannerisms. terminal?” And then you throw in a faint shared “That’s piecethe ofone.” local pop culture, and you have a recipe for a onenight “So stand. when They people don’t askwant you anything what there more is tothan do ina Orlando story to tell what their do friends you tell and them?” I don’t want anything more than to make up for all the times “Depends I think I on could’ve, who they or are.” I guess maybe should’ve, gotten laid. We’re at aged “Middle Slingapours, couple, with a downtown two teenage bar kids that from tries Chicago.” as hard as an Orlando “Too bar old can for Disney, at beingalthough Asian. Downtown they’d probably there are reluctantly bars andenjoy strip clubs. it. But,I you usedknow, to go Itothink the strip I’d tell clubs, them when to goI’dtogiven Celebration, up on rejection. the Dis-

Now I go out five nights a week, alone, order a Corona, no lime, and wait for people to recognize me. I never go out on Friday or Saturday nights. Too many kids getting too drunk and too belligerent and graphic about the things they do in the bathroom while I “watch.” I told Rebecca my quote should say, “I can see you need a bigger loan.” She laughed and asked if I had a quote for the women’s room too. I said, “I can see you need to trim your interest rate,” as if I’d just thought of it. I’m good at that: making it seem like I’m coming up with something spontaneously when I’ve thought of it and then orchestrated the route the conversation needed to travel for me to utter it. “What are you having?” “Cosmo,” she says. I order and the bartender gives me a wink. “Thanks Tom,” I say and, when he gets out of earshot, add, “his name is Tom Collins.” “Get out.” “Dead serious.” “What happens when someone orders his name?” “I’m not sure. I’ve never ordered one.” Her curiosity ends here. “So do you get recognized a lot?” “Yeah, a fair amount. You go up to people you see on ads a lot?” “No,” she says and playfully swats my arm, letting her fingertips linger on my suit sleeve. “So what is it that you do in Orlando?” “I’m the concierge at the airport Hyatt.” “The one right in the terminal?” “That’s the one.” “So when people ask you what there is to do in Orlando what do you tell them?” “Depends on who they are.” “Middle aged couple, with two teenage kids from Chicago.” “Too old for Disney, although they’d probably reluctantly enjoy it. But, you know, I think I’d tell them to go to Celebration, the Dis-

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ney-run city or township or whatever. It’s pretty cool. Either there or Sea World.” “Sea World? Really? What about newlyweds?” “Newlyweds, if they’re over the age of fifteen, don’t come to Orlando for their honeymoon.” “Just suppose.” “There really isn’t anything to do here that isn’t Disney related you know?” “Downtown.” “Yeah, bars and strip clubs. Drug addicts and drunks.” “Maybe you shouldn’t be the concierge at the Orlando Hyatt.” “It’s hard to tell people where to go here. This town sucks.” “So move.” “Can’t. Working, got two kids, separated, can’t save up enough to rent a U-Haul and not receive a paycheck in a new town while I look for work. Plus, the kids are in school. They don’t want to go no where new.” “I wouldn’t even know where else I’d go if I felt like leaving. Haven’t been anywhere really. Probably couldn’t get a job any different than the one I got now. It’s funny though, humans are the only ones who will willingly stay in an environment that isn’t working out for them.” “Yeah, a beaver wouldn’t stay in its hut or whatever if the river got dammed.” “So why do you think we stay?” “Fear? Or we don’t need reasons to stay, we just need reasons not to go,” she says. “Well, I’m not doing it anymore. Let’s get out of here.” “Of Orlando?” “Let’s start with Slingapours. We’ll see how far we get.” I wave to Tom and he waves back, then bows to me when her back is turned. I don’t know her name yet but she’ll suggest going to a great little place she knows about and then say, “Ooorrrr we can go back to my place.” “Let’s do your place. See how the other half lives.”

ney-run In the city car, or she’s township rubbing or whatever. my knee It’s andpretty I place cool. a hand Eitheronthere her breast, or Sea World.” squeeze it. There’s no surprise when I touch her. A smile curves “Seaitself World? on her Really? eyes What as theyabout narrow. newlyweds?” She parts her lips and lets out “Newlyweds, a throaty sigh. if Wethey’re kiss at over a stoplight. the ageIt’s ofhard, fifteen, all over don’tthe come place, to wet. Never Orlando forkiss theirgently honeymoon.” on a one-night stand. I read that somewhere, probably “Just suppose.” a men’s magazine. I pull her breast out and she rubs her hands “There on her really thighs, isn’t pulls anything up her to skirt do ahere fewthat inches isn’t above Disney her related knees. She know?” you puts her back to the door and props a leg up on the seat. “Take a right on Church.” “Downtown.” She spreads “Yeah, bars and her legs strip slowly, clubs. Drug looking addicts at meand with drunks.” her head down, eyes“Maybe up, lips you pouting. shouldn’t I glance be the overconcierge as often as at the I canOrlando withoutHyatt.” looking too “It’s eagerhard or driving to tell people too recklessly. where to go here. This town sucks.” “Leftmove.” “So on Summerlin.” I’m impressed with the way she can turn me “Can’t. on and give Working, precise gotdriving two kids, directions separated, at the can’t same save time. up enough I unzip myrent to fly aand U-Haul take itand out. notShe receive jets up a paycheck and restsinfora new a moment town while on herI handsfor look and work. knees, Plus, facing the kids me. are “We’re in school. almost They there.” don’t want to go no where Shenew.” licks my neck while I drive and without even looking at the “I road wouldn’t whispers, even “Take know your where nextelse left,” I’dingomyif ear. I feltThen like she leaving. goes down onbeen Haven’t me for anywhere ten seconds, really.comes Probably up and couldn’t says, get “We’re a jobhere, any pull difin there.” ferent than the one I got now. It’s funny though, humans are the only onesI cut whothe will headlights, willingly put staythe in car an environment in park and slide that us isn’t over working to her side.forWe out them.” kiss like we’re sharing a scuba diving regulator. First a burst“Yeah, from ame, beaver then wouldn’t her, back stay and forth in its while hut or Iwhatever take her other if the boob river out dammed.” got and she strokes me. I hear “So why something do you think outside weand stay?” think of one word she said earlier: “Separated.” “Fear? Or we don’t need reasons to stay, we just need reasons not Itolook go,” up she and, says.in the orange glow of my parking lights, her twelve-year “Well, I’m oldnot daughter doing itisanymore. standing in Let’s front getofout myof hood, here.” arms folded in“Of front Orlando?” of her. “Oh shit,” “Let’s startshe with says Slingapours. and puts her We’ll tits see backhow in her far blouse. we get.” I“What’s wave toshe Tom going andtohedo?” waves back, then bows to me when her back“Nothing.” is turned. I don’t know her name yet but she’ll suggest going to a The greatkid little stomps placeover she to knows the passenger about anddoor thenand say,yanks “Ooorrrr on it.we Nothcan ing.back go My to doors my place.” lock automatically when I put it in gear. I press the unlock “Let’s button do your just as place. the kid Seelifts howup theonother the handle half lives.” again. Nothing. I

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Will Adam

Will Adam

ney-run In the city car, or she’s township rubbing or whatever. my knee It’s andpretty I place cool. a hand Eitheronthere her or Sea World.” breast, squeeze it. There’s no surprise when I touch her. A smile curves “Seaitself World? on her Really? eyes What as theyabout narrow. newlyweds?” She parts her lips and lets out a“Newlyweds, throaty sigh. if Wethey’re kiss at over a stoplight. the ageIt’s ofhard, fifteen, all over don’tthe come place, to Orlando wet. Never forkiss theirgently honeymoon.” on a one-night stand. I read that somewhere, probably “Just suppose.” a men’s magazine. I pull her breast out and she rubs her hands “There on her really thighs, isn’t pulls anything up her to skirt do ahere fewthat inches isn’t above Disney her related knees. you puts She know?” her back to the door and props a leg up on the seat. “Downtown.” “Take a right on Church.” “Yeah, She spreads bars and her legs strip slowly, clubs. Drug looking addicts at meand with drunks.” her head down, eyes“Maybe up, lips you pouting. shouldn’t I glance be the overconcierge as often as at the I canOrlando withoutHyatt.” looking too “It’s eagerhard or driving to tell people too recklessly. where to go here. This town sucks.” “So move.” “Left on Summerlin.” I’m impressed with the way she can turn me “Can’t. on and give Working, precise gotdriving two kids, directions separated, at the can’t same save time. up enough I unzip to rent my fly aand U-Haul take itand out. notShe receive jets up a paycheck and restsinfora new a moment town while on herI look for hands and work. knees, Plus, facing the kids me. are “We’re in school. almost They there.” don’t want to go no where Shenew.” licks my neck while I drive and without even looking at the “I road wouldn’t whispers, even “Take know your where nextelse left,” I’dingomyif ear. I feltThen like she leaving. goes Haven’t down onbeen me for anywhere ten seconds, really.comes Probably up and couldn’t says, get “We’re a jobhere, any pull different in there.” than the one I got now. It’s funny though, humans are the only onesI cut whothe will headlights, willingly put staythe in car an environment in park and slide that us isn’t over working to her out forWe side. them.” kiss like we’re sharing a scuba diving regulator. First a burst“Yeah, from ame, beaver then wouldn’t her, back stay and forth in its while hut or Iwhatever take her other if the boob river got and out dammed.” she strokes me. I“So hear why something do you think outside weand stay?” think of one word she said earlier: “Separated.” “Fear? Or we don’t need reasons to stay, we just need reasons not Itolook go,” up she and, says.in the orange glow of my parking lights, her twelve-year “Well, I’m oldnot daughter doing itisanymore. standing in Let’s front getofout myof hood, here.” arms folded in“Of front Orlando?” of her. “Let’s “Oh shit,” startshe with says Slingapours. and puts her We’ll tits see backhow in her far blouse. we get.” I wave toshe “What’s Tom going andtohedo?” waves back, then bows to me when her back“Nothing.” is turned. I don’t know her name yet but she’ll suggest going to a The greatkid little stomps placeover she to knows the passenger about anddoor thenand say,yanks “Ooorrrr on it.we Nothcan go back ing. My to doors my place.” lock automatically when I put it in gear. I press the unlock “Let’s button do your just as place. the kid Seelifts howup theonother the handle half lives.” again. Nothing. I

In the car, she’s rubbing my knee and I place a hand on her breast, squeeze it. There’s no surprise when I touch her. A smile curves itself on her eyes as they narrow. She parts her lips and lets out a throaty sigh. We kiss at a stoplight. It’s hard, all over the place, wet. Never kiss gently on a one-night stand. I read that somewhere, probably a men’s magazine. I pull her breast out and she rubs her hands on her thighs, pulls up her skirt a few inches above her knees. She puts her back to the door and props a leg up on the seat. “Take a right on Church.” She spreads her legs slowly, looking at me with her head down, eyes up, lips pouting. I glance over as often as I can without looking too eager or driving too recklessly. “Left on Summerlin.” I’m impressed with the way she can turn me on and give precise driving directions at the same time. I unzip my fly and take it out. She jets up and rests for a moment on her hands and knees, facing me. “We’re almost there.” She licks my neck while I drive and without even looking at the road whispers, “Take your next left,” in my ear. Then she goes down on me for ten seconds, comes up and says, “We’re here, pull in there.” I cut the headlights, put the car in park and slide us over to her side. We kiss like we’re sharing a scuba diving regulator. First a burst from me, then her, back and forth while I take her other boob out and she strokes me. I hear something outside and think of one word she said earlier: “Separated.” I look up and, in the orange glow of my parking lights, her twelve-year old daughter is standing in front of my hood, arms folded in front of her. “Oh shit,” she says and puts her tits back in her blouse. “What’s she going to do?” “Nothing.” The kid stomps over to the passenger door and yanks on it. Nothing. My doors lock automatically when I put it in gear. I press the unlock button just as the kid lifts up on the handle again. Nothing. I

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lock and unlock it again as she slaps at the window with the palm of her hand. She tries again and pulls the door so hard it comes hurling back into her body. The preteen grabs her mom’s wrist and pulls her out of the car. As the door is slamming shut I hear her say, faintly, “Call me.” The daughter looks back at me with hate and hurt in her stare. I’m now a Polaroid snapshot of this girl’s miserable childhood. Hopefully it’s a composite picture, a blend of every guy she’s caught her mom with. Maybe she’ll put my nose and chin in her recollection collage. She turns away for just a moment, then, does a double take.

lock and unlock it again as she slaps at the window with the palm of her hand. She tries again and pulls the door so hard it comes hurling back into her body. The preteen grabs her mom’s wrist and pulls her out of the car. As the door is slamming shut I hear her say, faintly, “Call me.” The daughter looks back at me with hate and hurt in her stare. I’m now a Polaroid snapshot of this girl’s miserable childhood. Hopefully it’s a composite picture, a blend of every guy she’s caught her mom with. Maybe she’ll put my nose and chin in her recollection collage. She turns away for just a moment, then, does a double take.

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lock and unlock it again as she slaps at the window with the palm of her hand. She tries again and pulls the door so hard it comes hurling back into her body. The preteen grabs her mom’s wrist and pulls her out of the car. As the door is slamming shut I hear her say, faintly, “Call me.” The daughter looks back at me with hate and hurt in her stare. I’m now a Polaroid snapshot of this girl’s miserable childhood. Hopefully it’s a composite picture, a blend of every guy she’s caught her mom with. Maybe she’ll put my nose and chin in her recollection collage. She turns away for just a moment, then, does a double take.

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James Hannibal


Rebecca Koffman

Rebecca Kof fman

Rebecca Kof fman

Durban, South Africa 1985 She was nineteen when she saw him across the room and knew she must have him. Something about the way he moved his wrists, sure and delicate, as he jiggled the aerial on the small black and white TV. His name was Julian she learned. He was in town for six months to catch up on some geology classes and was looking for a place to stay. And here he was at Angel City – Durban’s semi-famous radical student commune - or so its residents liked to think of it. P.W. Botha’s speech was due to begin at eight. Someone had pulled out the old TV from the storage room and turned down the blaring stereo. Bob Marley segueing weirdly into the portentous notes of the national anthem on the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Tonight the Prime Minister would be declaring a state of emergency, or so the newspapers predicted. By the time the premier’s bulging eyes had blinked into perfect focus on the screen, and the students had responded to his finger-wagging with the requisite jeers and slow hand claps, Miranda had forgotten how to breathe— this Julian was stretched out on the rug at her feet. She wanted to measure her length against his, wanted to taste his beautiful mouth, test his golden skin for warmth. When at last he turned and looked at her, a long look, she rose

unsteadily from the faded sofa. He held out both his hands to her and she pulled him up. They went out into the garden, and followed the heavy scent of the frangipanis down to the far end of the grass. One week later, they moved into a tired wooden flat in The Warwick Triangle behind the black train station and opposite the Indian market. “Durban’s notorious Gray Area,” was how the newspapers referred to their blighted, ragtag neighborhood. Early every morning she and Julian would be awoken in their narrow single bed by the shuffling of hundreds of feet in the street outside, and by the brassy blare of township jazz coming from gleaming minibuses stationed directly below their window. This street, it turned out, was an unofficial taxi rank. Each day, thousands of people poured out of the slow trains from Guguletu and Empangeni and Umkomaas, then made their way, jostling and shouting, to the Durban,inSouth Africa 1985 wave She was nineteen when she saw taxis. Rocked this tumultuous of Zulu sound, Julian and him across the room and knew she must have him. Something about Miranda, half- dreaming, would make a leisurely feast of each other, the he moved hisadding wrists,tosure and delicate, as dawn. he jiggled the theirway moans of delight the shrillness of the aerial on the small black and white TV. His name was The second time they woke, hours later, the street Julian would she be learned. He was in town for six months to catch up on some geolempty, the taxis having dispersed the people throughout the city— ogy classes and to was looking a place stay. And here was at security guards every storeforand bank,todishwashers and he floorpolAngel City – Durban’s semi-famous radical student commune - or ishers and bathroom attendants to the grand hotels at the beachfront, so residentstoliked think ofsites it. and workers whose exact funcdayitslabourers the to building P.W. Botha’s speech was due to beginthe at eight. had tions she could not imagine to the cannery, tannery,Someone the brewery, pulled out the from the storage room and turned down the the refinery andold theTV sugar terminal. blaring segueing intomoved the portentous Andstereo. then oneBob darkMarley morning a monthweirdly after they in, a difnotes of the national anthem on the South African Broadcasting ferent sound woke them: a huge reverberating boom. They lay toCorporation. Minister would be declaring state gether, quite Tonight still, as the the Prime steel bars on their window rattledain its of emergency, or so the newspapers predicted. By the time the preaftermath. mier’s blinked into focus on the screen, and “A bulging bomb,”eyes saidhad Miranda. She perfect had never heard one so close the students had responded to his finger-wagging with the requisite before. jeers“At andthe slow hand claps, had forgotten breathe— station.” repliedMiranda Julian. “I’m going to how see.”toHe was out this Julian was stretched out on the rug at her feet. She wanted to of the door before she’d pulled on her dress. measure her length against his, wanted to taste his beautiful mouth, When she got outside the smell of ripe decay from the deserted test his golden skinhung for warmth. vegetable market in the moist air. Underfoot, hundreds and Whenofatcast-off last he flying-ant turned andwings lookedglistened at her, ain long she rose hundreds thelook, acid beam of

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Rebecca Koffman

unsteadily from the faded sofa. He held out both his hands to her and she pulled him up. They went out into the garden, and followed the heavy scent of the frangipanis down to the far end of the grass. One week later, they moved into a tired wooden flat in The Warwick Triangle behind the black train station and opposite the Indian market. “Durban’s notorious Gray Area,” was how the newspapers referred to their blighted, ragtag neighborhood. Early every morning she and Julian would be awoken in their narrow single bed by the shuffling of hundreds of feet in the street outside, and by the brassy blare of township jazz coming from gleaming minibuses stationed directly below their window. This street, it turned out, was an unofficial taxi rank. Each day, thousands of people poured out of the slow trains from Guguletu and Empangeni and Umkomaas, then made their way, jostling and shouting, to the Durban,inSouth Africa 1985 wave She was nineteen when she saw taxis. Rocked this tumultuous of Zulu sound, Julian and him across the room and knew she must have him. Something about Miranda, half- dreaming, would make a leisurely feast of each other, the he moved hisadding wrists,tosure and delicate, as dawn. he jiggled the theirway moans of delight the shrillness of the aerial on the small black and white TV. His name was The second time they woke, hours later, the street Julian would she be learned. He was in town for six months to catch up on some geolempty, the taxis having dispersed the people throughout the city— ogy classes and to was looking a place stay. And here was at security guards every storeforand bank,todishwashers and he floorpolAngel City – Durban’s semi-famous radical student commune - or ishers and bathroom attendants to the grand hotels at the beachfront, so residentstoliked think ofsites it. and workers whose exact funcdayitslabourers the to building P.W. Botha’s speech was due to beginthe at eight. had tions she could not imagine to the cannery, tannery,Someone the brewery, pulled out the from the storage room and turned down the the refinery andold theTV sugar terminal. blaring segueing intomoved the portentous Andstereo. then oneBob darkMarley morning a monthweirdly after they in, a difnotes of the national anthem on the South African Broadcasting ferent sound woke them: a huge reverberating boom. They lay toCorporation. Minister would be declaring state gether, quite Tonight still, as the the Prime steel bars on their window rattledain its of emergency, or so the newspapers predicted. By the time the preaftermath. mier’s blinked into focus on the screen, and “A bulging bomb,”eyes saidhad Miranda. She perfect had never heard one so close the students had responded to his finger-wagging with the requisite before. jeers“At andthe slow hand claps, had forgotten breathe— station.” repliedMiranda Julian. “I’m going to how see.”toHe was out this Julian was stretched out on the rug at her feet. She wanted to of the door before she’d pulled on her dress. measure her length against his, wanted to taste his beautiful mouth, When she got outside the smell of ripe decay from the deserted test his golden skinhung for warmth. vegetable market in the moist air. Underfoot, hundreds and Whenofatcast-off last he flying-ant turned andwings lookedglistened at her, ain long she rose hundreds thelook, acid beam of

unsteadily from the faded sofa. He held out both his hands to her and she pulled him up. They went out into the garden, and followed the heavy scent of the frangipanis down to the far end of the grass. One week later, they moved into a tired wooden flat in The Warwick Triangle behind the black train station and opposite the Indian market. “Durban’s notorious Gray Area,” was how the newspapers referred to their blighted, ragtag neighborhood. Early every morning she and Julian would be awoken in their narrow single bed by the shuffling of hundreds of feet in the street outside, and by the brassy blare of township jazz coming from gleaming minibuses stationed directly below their window. This street, it turned out, was an unofficial taxi rank. Each day, thousands of people poured out of the slow trains from Guguletu and Empangeni and Umkomaas, then made their way, jostling and shouting, to the taxis. Rocked in this tumultuous wave of Zulu sound, Julian and Miranda, half- dreaming, would make a leisurely feast of each other, their moans of delight adding to the shrillness of the dawn. The second time they woke, hours later, the street would be empty, the taxis having dispersed the people throughout the city— security guards to every store and bank, dishwashers and floorpolishers and bathroom attendants to the grand hotels at the beachfront, day labourers to the building sites and workers whose exact functions she could not imagine to the cannery, the tannery, the brewery, the refinery and the sugar terminal. And then one dark morning a month after they moved in, a different sound woke them: a huge reverberating boom. They lay together, quite still, as the steel bars on their window rattled in its aftermath. “A bomb,” said Miranda. She had never heard one so close before. “At the station.” replied Julian. “I’m going to see.” He was out of the door before she’d pulled on her dress. When she got outside the smell of ripe decay from the deserted vegetable market hung in the moist air. Underfoot, hundreds and hundreds of cast-off flying-ant wings glistened in the acid beam of

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the lone streetlamp. Julian was nowhere in sight. One of the wingless grubs crawled onto her foot and she shook her sandal furiously. She turned to go back inside and came face to face with Sipho Ntuli. “My God,” he said. “Pretty Miranda, what are you doing on this side of town?” Miranda was surprised and flattered that Sipho had remembered her name. She knew his, of course, everybody in the movement did. For the last few months he had been appearing late at night in the offices of the student newspaper printing broadsheets in Zulu till the small hours. He was tall and thin, with a long scar down his left cheek. Those in Angel City, in the inner circles muttered knowingly, reverently, about his doing time on the island, and even, she had heard whispers, military training for MK. It had been some time before she realized that MK was oh-so-casual slang for Umkhonto we Sizwe, the Spear of the Nation, armed wing of the A.N.C. “Sipho! I live here. Was that a bomb? Do you live in this building?” “Ja, it’s no use going down there, they’ll have it cordoned off by now. Fourth one in six months. They’re trying to kill us all off. But welcome to the neighborhood.” He shook his head, clicked his tongue in resignation. They both gazed toward the station end of the road. Looking at him under the streetlight’s harsh glare she realized he was older than she had thought. Perhaps even in his forties. And she understood suddenly that Sipho Ntuli was not his real name. He nudged her arm. “Here they come.” Round the corner, slow and somber, came the first of the crowd from the station and with them was Julian. Her heart rose at the sight of him, bringing the dawn with him. He was talking earnestly to a hugely fat woman in a maid’s uniform carrying a box of granadillas. As they got closer Miranda realized he wasn’t speaking English. “Wow, I didn’t know he could speak Zulu.” “Ah, so you’re not living here alone,” said Sipho watching Julian. Then, sharply, “That’s not Zulu though. Who is he, this boy of

the lone Where yours? streetlamp. did heJulian pick was up such nowhere efficient in sight. Fanagalo?” One of His the wingvoice was grubs less low, eyes crawled hard.onto her foot and she shook her sandal furiously. “I She don’t turned know to go what back youinside mean.” and came face to face with Sipho Ntuli. “I mean, where did he learn to speak this pidgin, this racist Mine Zulu? “My God,” he said. “Pretty Miranda, what are you doing on this side“Iofknow town?” what Fanagalo is,” she said tightly. “A pity you Miranda wasconfuse surprised it with and flattered Zulu then. thatWhat Sipho did had they remembered teach you at your her name. School She knew for Young his, ofLadies?” course, everybody in the movement did. For “You the last don’t fewknow months anything he hadabout been me,” appearing said Miranda, late at night furious in the at the sudden offices of the stinging student behind newspaper her eyes. printing broadsheets in Zulu till the small “Oh, little hours. Miranda, He wasI’m tall sorry.” and thin, Hewith struck a long his scar forehead downwith his left the heel of Those cheek. his hand in Angel and burst City, out inlaughing. the inner circles “It wasmuttered French, wasn’t knowingly, it? I bet you a hundred reverently, about his Rand doing theytime taught onyou the French.” island, and even, she had heard Remembering whispers, military Madame training Giraudet for MK. and her It had strenuous been some attempts time to explain before she the realized subjunctive, that MKher wassilver oh-so-casual chignon slang bobbing for vigorously, Umkhonto Miranda we Sizwe,began the Spear to laugh. of the Nation, armed wing of the A.N.C. “But seriously, “Sipho! I live here. Miranda, Was speak that a bomb? to your Do boy,you check livehim in this outbuildcarefully. You must watch out.” ing?” Siphoit’sslipped “Ja, no useaway goingtodown a taxithere, before they’ll Julianhave reached it cordoned them. He off hadn’t by now.gotFourth as farone as the in six station. months.Lots They’re of people tryinghad to kill been us hurt, all off. it seemed. But welcome He was to thewithdrawn, neighborhood.” distant. He Miranda, shook hisvaguely head, clicked ashamed his of herself tongue in for resignation. caring more They about both hisgazed mysterious towardknowledge the stationofend Fanaof galoroad. the than the horror at the station, suggested that they take her car and Looking drive outatofhim town. under Shethe wasstreetlight’s desperate to harsh speak glare to him, she realized find out hiswas he story. older That, thanatshe least, hadI thought. can do something Perhaps even about, inshe his told forties. herself, And shutting she understood out images suddenly of blood that and Sipho flesh Ntuli on the wasrippled not his concrete real name. of the He station floor. nudged her arm. “Here they come.” She suggested Round the corner, theyslow skipand classes somber, and came go to the the first beach. of the Shecrowd took the narrow from the station North and Coast withRoad; them was thickJulian. coastal Her bush, heartglossy rose atand thegreen sight andhim, of fat bringing with sap,the squeezed dawn with the him. car from He was bothtalking sides. earnestly The steering to a wheel was hugely fat woman so hot she in a had maid’s to turn uniform it with carrying her fingertips. a box of granadillas. Both windows As they were got wide closeropen Miranda and the realized shriekheofwasn’t thousands speaking of insects English. filled her “Wow, head. What I didn’thad know Sipho he could meant?speak Surely Zulu.” what he was implying was“Ah, impossible. so you’re not living here alone,” said Sipho watching Julian.She Then, drove sharply, past Umhlanga “That’s notand Zulu Saltthough. Rock and Who Umdloti is he, this where boythe of

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Rebecca Koffman

Rebecca Koffman

yours? the lone Where streetlamp. did heJulian pick was up such nowhere efficient in sight. Fanagalo?” One of His the wingvoice less grubs was low, eyes crawled hard.onto her foot and she shook her sandal furiously. “I She don’t turned know to go what back youinside mean.” and came face to face with Sipho Ntuli. “I mean, where did he learn to speak this pidgin, this racist Mine Zulu? “My God,” he said. “Pretty Miranda, what are you doing on this side“Iofknow town?” what Fanagalo is,” she said tightly. Miranda “A pity you wasconfuse surprised it with and flattered Zulu then. thatWhat Sipho did had they remembered teach you heryour at name. School She knew for Young his, ofLadies?” course, everybody in the movement did. For “You the last don’t fewknow months anything he hadabout been me,” appearing said Miranda, late at night furious in the at offices the sudden of the stinging student behind newspaper her eyes. printing broadsheets in Zulu till the small “Oh, little hours. Miranda, He wasI’m tall sorry.” and thin, Hewith struck a long his scar forehead downwith his left the cheek. heel of Those his hand in Angel and burst City, out inlaughing. the inner circles “It wasmuttered French, wasn’t knowingly, it? I reverently, bet you a hundred about his Rand doing theytime taught onyou the French.” island, and even, she had heard Remembering whispers, military Madame training Giraudet for MK. and her It had strenuous been some attempts time before to explain she the realized subjunctive, that MKher wassilver oh-so-casual chignon slang bobbing for vigorously, Umkhonto we Sizwe,began Miranda the Spear to laugh. of the Nation, armed wing of the A.N.C. “Sipho! “But seriously, I live here. Miranda, Was speak that a bomb? to your Do boy,you check livehim in this outbuildcareing?” You must watch out.” fully. “Ja, it’sslipped Sipho no useaway goingtodown a taxithere, before they’ll Julianhave reached it cordoned them. He off by now.gotFourth hadn’t as farone as the in six station. months.Lots They’re of people tryinghad to kill been us hurt, all off. it But welcome seemed. He was to thewithdrawn, neighborhood.” distant. He Miranda, shook hisvaguely head, clicked ashamed his tongue of herself in for resignation. caring more They about both hisgazed mysterious towardknowledge the stationofend Fanaof the road. galo than the horror at the station, suggested that they take her car and Looking drive outatofhim town. under Shethe wasstreetlight’s desperate to harsh speak glare to him, she realized find out he was his story. older That, thanatshe least, hadI thought. can do something Perhaps even about, inshe his told forties. herself, And she understood shutting out images suddenly of blood that and Sipho flesh Ntuli on the wasrippled not his concrete real name. of the He nudgedfloor. station her arm. “Here they come.” Round She suggested the corner, theyslow skipand classes somber, and came go to the the first beach. of the Shecrowd took fromnarrow the the station North and Coast withRoad; them was thickJulian. coastal Her bush, heartglossy rose atand thegreen sight of him, and fat bringing with sap,the squeezed dawn with the him. car from He was bothtalking sides. earnestly The steering to a hugelywas wheel fat woman so hot she in a had maid’s to turn uniform it with carrying her fingertips. a box of granadillas. Both winAs they dows were got wide closeropen Miranda and the realized shriekheofwasn’t thousands speaking of insects English. filled her “Wow, head. What I didn’thad know Sipho he could meant?speak Surely Zulu.” what he was implying was“Ah, impossible. so you’re not living here alone,” said Sipho watching Julian.She Then, drove sharply, past Umhlanga “That’s notand Zulu Saltthough. Rock and Who Umdloti is he, this where boythe of

yours? Where did he pick up such efficient Fanagalo?” His voice was low, eyes hard. “I don’t know what you mean.” “I mean, where did he learn to speak this pidgin, this racist Mine Zulu? “I know what Fanagalo is,” she said tightly. “A pity you confuse it with Zulu then. What did they teach you at your School for Young Ladies?” “You don’t know anything about me,” said Miranda, furious at the sudden stinging behind her eyes. “Oh, little Miranda, I’m sorry.” He struck his forehead with the heel of his hand and burst out laughing. “It was French, wasn’t it? I bet you a hundred Rand they taught you French.” Remembering Madame Giraudet and her strenuous attempts to explain the subjunctive, her silver chignon bobbing vigorously, Miranda began to laugh. “But seriously, Miranda, speak to your boy, check him out carefully. You must watch out.” Sipho slipped away to a taxi before Julian reached them. He hadn’t got as far as the station. Lots of people had been hurt, it seemed. He was withdrawn, distant. Miranda, vaguely ashamed of herself for caring more about his mysterious knowledge of Fanagalo than the horror at the station, suggested that they take her car and drive out of town. She was desperate to speak to him, find out his story. That, at least, I can do something about, she told herself, shutting out images of blood and flesh on the rippled concrete of the station floor. She suggested they skip classes and go to the beach. She took the narrow North Coast Road; thick coastal bush, glossy and green and fat with sap, squeezed the car from both sides. The steering wheel was so hot she had to turn it with her fingertips. Both windows were wide open and the shriek of thousands of insects filled her head. What had Sipho meant? Surely what he was implying was impossible. She drove past Umhlanga and Salt Rock and Umdloti where the

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hotels ended. The beach they chose was empty, too far out of town even for the Indian fishermen. A large sign at the end of the footpath warned that it was unprotected: no lifeguard, no shark nets. “Where did you learn to speak Fanagalo?” she asked as she arranged her towel on the sand. She would sort this out and then abandon herself to the sun. “Look, I just wanted to talk with those people. Find out what had happened.” “I know, and you did. But where did you learn it?” “Where do you think? On the East Rand, in the Mines. I’m a geologist for Christ’s sake. What do you think geologists do?” “I’m not sure. Research? Wander around the desert with tiny hammers, tapping on ancient rocks. I thought you were still studying. How much time have you spent on the mines? And why? What for?” “God, Miranda. Money. Goldfields Ltd paid for me to go to university. I worked for them every holiday and full-time for the last two years since I finished my degree.” “Goldfields!” Miranda couldn’t keep the horror out of her voice. A couple of months earlier she had helped organize a demonstration against the company. The phrases “murderous working conditions” and “brutal union-busting” lingered. “Look, it was them or the army. They were my ticket to university. Not all of us have rich daddies.” He rolled away from her and patted down his towel. “The army,” she swallowed. “If you’re not a full-time student, how have you managed not to be called up? You’ve been out of university two years – there’s no way they wouldn’t be on to you.” “It’s weird. They seem to have forgotten about me.” She shivered under the noonday sun. This could not be true. The army forgot no white male between the ages of 18 and 35. “I don’t believe you,” she told him staring at his rigid back. “I can’t help that.” “My brother gets a letter every three months, checking that he’s still a student. The university has to sign it. My Dad has to send

hotelsstats them ended. on all Thehis beach malethey employees chose was twice empty, a year.” too farShe outsaw of town that she’dfor even bitten the her Indian nailfishermen. so deep she’d A large made sign her at finger the endbleed. of the footpath warned “Look thatMiranda. it was unprotected: I can hardly nobelieve lifeguard, it myself. no sharkI nets. was sick the day “Where we all had did to you register learn to in speak High School. Fanagalo?” Later, shethey asked gave as me she the arform to her ranged taketowel home on but the nobody sand.ever She asked would for it sort back. thisI out keepand waiting then for the axherself abandon to fall to butthe sosun. far I’ve been lucky.” She didn’t “Look, I just know wanted whatto to talk say. with She those had never people. heardFind suchout a story. what had “For happened.” fuck’s sake, Miranda. Why not come right out and accuse me “I of know, working andfor youthe did. Security But where Police?” did you When learnshe it?”said nothing, he went “Where on: do “Don’t you think? you think On they’d the East give Rand, me ainbetter the Mines. story? I’m Anda why the fuck geologist for Christ’s would they sake. be What interested do you in you? think geologists A sweet little do?” campfollower “I’m playing not sure.at being Research? an activist!” Wander around the desert with tiny hammers, She rantapping away from on ancient him. Up rocks. off the I thought towel and you down were still to the studysea. Her blood ing. Howpounded much time in her have earsyou as she spent ran,on thethe soles mines? of her feet Andburned why? on thefor?” What hot sand. She could cry once she was safe in the ocean. She turned “God, Miranda. her back Money. to the Goldfields first wave, Ltd squatted paid for to brace me toherself go to against it andI let university. worked it crash foraround them her every shoulders. holiday She andwould full-time divefor under the the next last two years few breakers since I finished until shemy could degree.” float in the swells beyond. In the silence “Goldfields!” betweenMiranda waves she couldn’t was surprised keep theby horror the sound out ofof her her voice. own gasping A couplesobs. of months The third earlier wave shebrought had helped bluebottles. organizeShe a demonstration saw them just as she inhaled against the company. to dive The under phrases its curl. “murderous She hesitated, working missed conditions” the moment“brutal and and the union-busting” wave caught her lingered. and tumbled her to shore. When she stood “Look, up two it was long,them blue,orstinging the army. threads Theyhad wereencircled my tickether to midriff, univerapparently sity. Not allseparated of us have from richthe daddies.” jellyfishHe to rolled whichaway they from had recently her and been attached. patted down hisShe towel. pulled wildly at them, feeling the threads stinging “The her fingers. army,”They she swallowed. clung to her“If palms you’re andnot Miranda, a full-time slightly student, hysterical, how have began youflapping managed hernot hands to bedesperate called up? to shake You’ve off been the burning out of tendrils. Another university two years thread – there’s searednothe way length theyofwouldn’t her backbeand onintoayou.” panic she “It’s scrabbled weird.blindly They for seem this tonew havesting. forgotten And about then Julian me.” was there, pulling She ashivered long blue under strand thefrom noonday her back, sun. This letting could the not water befloat true.itThe off his fingers, army forgotmaking no whiteher male duck between so the water the ages carried of 18away and 35. the remaining “I poisonous don’t believe skeins, you,” leading she told her out himofstaring the ocean at hisand rigid assuring back. her fervently “I can’t that help thethat.” pain would last only a few minutes. He made “My brother her gets sit down a letter on every the hard three sand months, near the checking water, encircled that he’s her, murmured still a student. to The her. university “I’m sorry,” has toshe sign feltit.him Mywhisper Dad hasover to send and

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Rebecca Koffman

them stats hotels ended. on all Thehis beach malethey employees chose was twice empty, a year.” too farShe outsaw of town that even for she’d bitten the her Indian nailfishermen. so deep she’d A large made sign her at finger the endbleed. of the footpath warned “Look thatMiranda. it was unprotected: I can hardly nobelieve lifeguard, it myself. no sharkI nets. was sick the day “Where we all had did to you register learn to in speak High School. Fanagalo?” Later, shethey asked gave as me she the arranged form to her taketowel home on but the nobody sand.ever She asked would for it sort back. thisI out keepand waiting then abandon for the axherself to fall to butthe sosun. far I’ve been lucky.” “Look, She didn’t I just know wanted whatto to talk say. with She those had never people. heardFind suchout a story. what had “For happened.” fuck’s sake, Miranda. Why not come right out and accuse me “I of know, working andfor youthe did. Security But where Police?” did you When learnshe it?”said nothing, he went “Where on: do “Don’t you think? you think On they’d the East give Rand, me ainbetter the Mines. story? I’m Anda geologist why the fuck for Christ’s would they sake. be What interested do you in you? think geologists A sweet little do?” campfollower “I’m playing not sure.at being Research? an activist!” Wander around the desert with tiny hammers, She rantapping away from on ancient him. Up rocks. off the I thought towel and you down were still to the studysea. ing. blood Her Howpounded much time in her have earsyou as she spent ran,on thethe soles mines? of her feet Andburned why? What on thefor?” hot sand. She could cry once she was safe in the ocean. “God, She turned Miranda. her back Money. to the Goldfields first wave, Ltd squatted paid for to brace me toherself go to university. against it andI let worked it crash foraround them her every shoulders. holiday She andwould full-time divefor under the last next the two years few breakers since I finished until shemy could degree.” float in the swells beyond. In the silence “Goldfields!” betweenMiranda waves she couldn’t was surprised keep theby horror the sound out ofof her her voice. own A couplesobs. gasping of months The third earlier wave shebrought had helped bluebottles. organizeShe a demonstration saw them just against as she inhaled the company. to dive The under phrases its curl. “murderous She hesitated, working missed conditions” the moand “brutal ment and the union-busting” wave caught her lingered. and tumbled her to shore. When she stood “Look, up two it was long,them blue,orstinging the army. threads Theyhad wereencircled my tickether to midriff, university. Not allseparated apparently of us have from richthe daddies.” jellyfishHe to rolled whichaway they from had recently her and pattedattached. been down hisShe towel. pulled wildly at them, feeling the threads stinging “The her fingers. army,”They she swallowed. clung to her“If palms you’re andnot Miranda, a full-time slightly student, hyshow have terical, began youflapping managed hernot hands to bedesperate called up? to shake You’ve off been the burning out of universityAnother tendrils. two years thread – there’s searednothe way length theyofwouldn’t her backbeand onintoayou.” panic she “It’s scrabbled weird.blindly They for seem this tonew havesting. forgotten And about then Julian me.” was there, pulling She ashivered long blue under strand thefrom noonday her back, sun. This letting could the not water befloat true.itThe off army his fingers, forgotmaking no whiteher male duck between so the water the ages carried of 18away and 35. the remaining “I poisonous don’t believe skeins, you,” leading she told her out himofstaring the ocean at hisand rigid assuring back. her fervently “I can’t that help thethat.” pain would last only a few minutes. “Mymade He brother her gets sit down a letter on every the hard three sand months, near the checking water, encircled that he’s still murmured her, a student. to The her. university “I’m sorry,” has toshe sign feltit.him Mywhisper Dad hasover to send and

them stats on all his male employees twice a year.” She saw that she’d bitten her nail so deep she’d made her finger bleed. “Look Miranda. I can hardly believe it myself. I was sick the day we all had to register in High School. Later, they gave me the form to take home but nobody ever asked for it back. I keep waiting for the ax to fall but so far I’ve been lucky.” She didn’t know what to say. She had never heard such a story. “For fuck’s sake, Miranda. Why not come right out and accuse me of working for the Security Police?” When she said nothing, he went on: “Don’t you think they’d give me a better story? And why the fuck would they be interested in you? A sweet little campfollower playing at being an activist!” She ran away from him. Up off the towel and down to the sea. Her blood pounded in her ears as she ran, the soles of her feet burned on the hot sand. She could cry once she was safe in the ocean. She turned her back to the first wave, squatted to brace herself against it and let it crash around her shoulders. She would dive under the next few breakers until she could float in the swells beyond. In the silence between waves she was surprised by the sound of her own gasping sobs. The third wave brought bluebottles. She saw them just as she inhaled to dive under its curl. She hesitated, missed the moment and the wave caught her and tumbled her to shore. When she stood up two long, blue, stinging threads had encircled her midriff, apparently separated from the jellyfish to which they had recently been attached. She pulled wildly at them, feeling the threads stinging her fingers. They clung to her palms and Miranda, slightly hysterical, began flapping her hands desperate to shake off the burning tendrils. Another thread seared the length of her back and in a panic she scrabbled blindly for this new sting. And then Julian was there, pulling a long blue strand from her back, letting the water float it off his fingers, making her duck so the water carried away the remaining poisonous skeins, leading her out of the ocean and assuring her fervently that the pain would last only a few minutes. He made her sit down on the hard sand near the water, encircled her, murmured to her. “I’m sorry,” she felt him whisper over and

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over against her cheek. He traced the livid red lines across her belly with gentle fingers. He lay her down, stretched out her arms and legs till she felt the cool, firm sand against her burning back. “It looks like a string of beads, terrible beads,” said Julian and he bent down to kiss the strand below her navel. She closed her eyes, shuddered at the light touch of his tongue, her skin prickling in delicious alarm under the dangerous sun. When at last she met his gaze, she saw that his eyes too were wet, though with tears or from the glare of the sun, she could not tell. Miranda forgot to check the evening paper for news on the bomb at the station but when she ran into Sipho he said there had been a small mention “far away on the inside pages, ‘twenty-seven fatalities,’ no names of course.” The government was blaming “ANC terrorists” for the blast, but Sipho thought that the bomb had been planted by the government itself, this so-called ‘third force’ that everyone had started to talk about in an attempt to besmirch the ANC and turn the people of the townships against the organization. A few days later Miranda popped into the offices of the student newspaper. She had promised to proofread that month’s issue. “Hello stranger,” said Bert, the editor. “Long time no see.” “She’s got better things to do these days than correct your lousy spelling,” said Steve, leering broadly. “But you should watch out who you’re doing it with Miranda. I’m serious.” “And you guys should start a new section for the paper, “Get to know your friendly Campus Security Spies”. You could profile a different person every month. Ruin their lives on the basis of paranoid gossip.” They were both staring at her. “I suppose you’ve been talking to Sipho Ntuli,” she said, a little hurt that he’d been so quick to share his suspicions. “Nope.” “Then who?” she asked. “Well,” said Bert clearing his throat, “I can’t really say. Sorry. But Julian’s been seen at Smuggies a couple of lunch times with Van

over against Vuuren and his her boys. cheek.Smugglers He traced Inn the livid was ared strip lines club across on the herwharf belly popular with gentle withfingers. visiting He sailors. lay her Johann down,Van stretched Vuurenout washer head arms of and the Durban legs till she Special felt the Branch. cool, Miranda firm sandfelt against dizzy.herShe burning left without back. doing any “It proofreading. looks like a string of beads, terrible beads,” said Julian and he bentThe down empty to kiss flatthe wasstrand intolerable. below her Shenavel. could She settleclosed to nothing her eyes, but wandered from shuddered at theroom light touch to room of his looking tongue, forher something skin prickling to do. inThere deliwas wax cious alarm all under down the thedangerous sides of the sun. bathtub Whenfrom at lastthe shecandlelit met his baths gaze, that saw she they that tookhis most eyes nights. too were She uprooted wet, though all the with cheap tearswhite or from candles the and flung glare of the them sun,inshe thecould bin, picked not tell.at the hardened wax with her fingernails, detaching large scabs of it. Julian had been monitoring the formation Miranda forgot of these to check waxythe “glaciers,” evening paper pointing for out news new on ripples the bomb to herthe at as station he soaped but her when back, shecleaning ran into carefully Sipho he around said there them hadwhen beenhea washedmention small out the tub. “far away It tookonlonger the inside than she pages, expected ‘twenty-seven to get rid faof them completely. talities,’ no names of course.” The government was blaming “ANC terrorists” Outsidefor thethe mynah blast,birds but Sipho had begun thought their thatevening the bomb chorus, had soon been she would planted by the have government to close itself, the windows this so-called against ‘third their force’ squawking. that evWhere was eryone had started he? She to turned talk about the hot in anwater attempt tap on to besmirch full and knelt the ANC into the steam and turn the to people scrub the of the bath. townships And then, against in a rush the organization. of cold air, Julian wasAinfew thedays room later too,Miranda beaming, popped leaning intodown the offices to kissofher, the student turning off the water,She newspaper. pulling had promised her out into to proofread the hall, whirling that month’s her on issue. into the kitchen, “Hello babbling stranger,” delightedly. said Bert, the editor. “Long time no see.” Apparently “She’s got better a letter things had come to do these from days Goldfields. than correct He pulled your alousy torn blue envelope spelling,” saidfrom Steve, hisleering pocket,broadly. hands shaking. “But you He did should not have watchtoout go back you’re who to the East doingRand, it with toMiranda. the terrible I’m gold serious.” mines. Instead he had a two-year “And posting you guystoshould Black start Mountain, a new asection copper-mining for the paper, town“Get in Nato maqualand. know your friendly He had Campus spent a short Security timeSpies”. there once Youbefore. could profile It was a marvelousperson different desert,every the stars month. sharp Ruin in the theirsky lives every on the night, basis hardly of paraany people. noid gossip.” His job would be to wander around taking core samples in remote Theyparts wereofboth the staring region. atHe her.would be a geologist just like she imagined. “I suppose They you’ve wanted been himtalking there in tosix Sipho weeks. Ntuli,” she said, a little hurt“Six that he’d weeks?” beenMiranda so quickmanaged to share his to ask. suspicions. “You’ll be leaving in six weeks?” “Nope.” She stretched her hands back to steady herself, felt the cold“Then steel who?” of the sink she asked. at her back. “But you’re supposed to be in Durban “Well,” for another said Bert few clearing months. hisWhat throat, about “I can’t yourreally classes?” say. Sorry. But How Julian’s could been heseen leave? at Smuggies Dread uncoiled a couple in her of lunch gut attimes the thought with Van of

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Rebecca Koffman

Rebecca Koffman

Vuuren over against and his her boys. cheek.Smugglers He traced Inn the livid was ared strip lines club across on the herwharf belly with gentle popular withfingers. visiting He sailors. lay her Johann down,Van stretched Vuurenout washer head arms of and the legs till she Durban Special felt the Branch. cool, Miranda firm sandfelt against dizzy.herShe burning left without back. doing any “It proofreading. looks like a string of beads, terrible beads,” said Julian and he bentThe down empty to kiss flatthe wasstrand intolerable. below her Shenavel. could She settleclosed to nothing her eyes, but shuddered from wandered at theroom light touch to room of his looking tongue, forher something skin prickling to do. inThere deliciouswax was alarm all under down the thedangerous sides of the sun. bathtub Whenfrom at lastthe shecandlelit met his baths gaze, she saw that they that tookhis most eyes nights. too were She uprooted wet, though all the with cheap tearswhite or from candles the glareflung and of the them sun,inshe thecould bin, picked not tell.at the hardened wax with her fingernails, detaching large scabs of it. Julian had been monitoring the formation Miranda forgot of these to check waxythe “glaciers,” evening paper pointing for out news new on ripples the bomb to at the her as station he soaped but her when back, shecleaning ran into carefully Sipho he around said there them hadwhen beenhea small mention washed out the tub. “far away It tookonlonger the inside than she pages, expected ‘twenty-seven to get rid faof talities,’ them completely. no names of course.” The government was blaming “ANC terrorists” Outsidefor thethe mynah blast,birds but Sipho had begun thought their thatevening the bomb chorus, had soon been planted she would by the have government to close itself, the windows this so-called against ‘third their force’ squawking. that everyone was Where had started he? She to turned talk about the hot in anwater attempt tap on to besmirch full and knelt the ANC into and steam the turn the to people scrub the of the bath. townships And then, against in a rush the organization. of cold air, Julian wasAinfew thedays room later too,Miranda beaming, popped leaning intodown the offices to kissofher, the turning student newspaper. off the water,She pulling had promised her out into to proofread the hall, whirling that month’s her on issue. into the kitchen, “Hello babbling stranger,” delightedly. said Bert, the editor. “Long time no see.” “She’s got better Apparently a letter things had come to do these from days Goldfields. than correct He pulled your alousy torn spelling,” blue envelope saidfrom Steve, hisleering pocket,broadly. hands shaking. “But you He did should not have watchtoout go who you’re back to the East doingRand, it with toMiranda. the terrible I’m gold serious.” mines. Instead he had a two-year “And posting you guystoshould Black start Mountain, a new asection copper-mining for the paper, town“Get in Nato know your friendly maqualand. He had Campus spent a short Security timeSpies”. there once Youbefore. could profile It was a different person marvelous desert,every the stars month. sharp Ruin in the theirsky lives every on the night, basis hardly of paraany noid gossip.” people. His job would be to wander around taking core samples in remote Theyparts wereofboth the staring region. atHe her.would be a geologist just like she imagined. “I suppose They you’ve wanted been himtalking there in tosix Sipho weeks. Ntuli,” she said, a little hurt“Six that he’d weeks?” beenMiranda so quickmanaged to share his to ask. suspicions. “You’ll be leaving in six weeks?” “Nope.” She stretched her hands back to steady herself, felt the cold“Then steel of who?” the sink she asked. at her back. “But you’re supposed to be in Durban “Well,” for another said Bert few clearing months. hisWhat throat, about “I can’t yourreally classes?” say. Sorry. But How Julian’s could been heseen leave? at Smuggies Dread uncoiled a couple in her of lunch gut attimes the thought with Van of

Vuuren and his boys. Smugglers Inn was a strip club on the wharf popular with visiting sailors. Johann Van Vuuren was head of the Durban Special Branch. Miranda felt dizzy. She left without doing any proofreading. The empty flat was intolerable. She could settle to nothing but wandered from room to room looking for something to do. There was wax all down the sides of the bathtub from the candlelit baths that they took most nights. She uprooted all the cheap white candles and flung them in the bin, picked at the hardened wax with her fingernails, detaching large scabs of it. Julian had been monitoring the formation of these waxy “glaciers,” pointing out new ripples to her as he soaped her back, cleaning carefully around them when he washed out the tub. It took longer than she expected to get rid of them completely. Outside the mynah birds had begun their evening chorus, soon she would have to close the windows against their squawking. Where was he? She turned the hot water tap on full and knelt into the steam to scrub the bath. And then, in a rush of cold air, Julian was in the room too, beaming, leaning down to kiss her, turning off the water, pulling her out into the hall, whirling her on into the kitchen, babbling delightedly. Apparently a letter had come from Goldfields. He pulled a torn blue envelope from his pocket, hands shaking. He did not have to go back to the East Rand, to the terrible gold mines. Instead he had a two-year posting to Black Mountain, a copper-mining town in Namaqualand. He had spent a short time there once before. It was a marvelous desert, the stars sharp in the sky every night, hardly any people. His job would be to wander around taking core samples in remote parts of the region. He would be a geologist just like she imagined. They wanted him there in six weeks. “Six weeks?” Miranda managed to ask. “You’ll be leaving in six weeks?” She stretched her hands back to steady herself, felt the cold steel of the sink at her back. “But you’re supposed to be in Durban for another few months. What about your classes?” How could he leave? Dread uncoiled in her gut at the thought of

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Berkeley Fiction Review

her life without him. She turned away from him, humiliated by the hot tears flooding her eyes. “Oh, my darling, don’t do that. We still have six weeks. Come.” He was saying all the wrong things. “Come.” He pulled her towards him but she shook him off. What about me? She wanted to ask. What about us? How can you be happy at the thought of leaving so soon? “Of course you’ll come and see me there, or I’ll visit you. We’ll make a plan. It’s not so tragic. It’s not the end of us. Come here, come to me.” There. He had said it. It was not the end. When he reached for her again she returned his embrace. He was pulling her towards the bedroom when she remembered Johan Van Vuuren. But Julian was easy, amused, teased her about trusting her paranoid friends more than him. Apparently Van Vuuren was an old family friend, he and his wife had been enormously kind to Julian’s Mom when his Dad had died so suddenly. Of course Van Vuuren’s politics were evil, his job morally objectionable, but what could he Julian do, he owed it to his Mom to sit through the occasional tacky lunch at Smuggler’s Inn. “Besides,” he reminded her, undoing her top button, nudging her backwards till she fell onto the bed, “only last week you were complaining about your Mom playing bridge with whatshername - the Defence Minister’s wife.” When she woke up, it was pitch dark in the flat and very quiet outside. Julian’s arm was tight around her, his heartbeat steady in her ear. She remembered suddenly that Bert had said Julian had been seen with Van Vuuren and his boys. She must ask Julian tomorrow about “the boys.” Also, she would go to the library and find a book on Namaqualand. She wanted to see pictures of where she was going. Even Sipho seemed to have put his suspicions about Julian aside. He came down to their flat later that week and the two of them sat at the kitchen table, talking and laughing easily. Miranda fetched

her lifecooked beers, withoutdinner him. She for them turnedall, away enjoying from him, the feel humiliated of theirbyeyes the on her hot tearsasflooding she benther over eyes. to pull potatoes from under the table and reached “Oh,up mytodarling, the top don’t of thedo fridge that.for Wethe still bunch haveofsixchilies. weeks.Her Come.” skin tingled He was under sayingher all skimpy the wrong dress. things. She“Come.” sighed inHe exultation, pulled herthis towards joy a revelation him but shetoshook her. him off. On nights What aboutwhen me? She Julian wanted stayed to ask. late What at theabout university us? How library, can Miranda, you be happy bored at and the thought restless of byleaving herselfso insoon? the ramshackle flat took to hanging “Of course out you’ll on thecome floor and above seeatme Sipho’s. there, orThey I’ll visit would you. listen We’ll to DollaraBrand make plan. or It’sCharlie not so Parker, tragic. It’s smoke not athe joint endand of us. chatCome lazily here, until Miranda come to me.” heard the double doors in the foyer bang and Julian’s light, rapid There. footsteps He had on the saidstairs. it. It was not the end. When he reached for her She againloved she returned these evenings, his embrace. loved the image of herself in Sipho’s flat,He sprawled was pulling acrossher one towards of the the old bedroom armchairs, when laughing she remembered knowingly at one Van Johan of his Vuuren. jokes—here But Julian she was, wasaeasy, woman amused, of theteased world her sharing abouta joint with trusting hera paranoid notoriousfriends freedom more fighter, than him. learning Apparently about jazz, Van waiting Vuuren for her was an lover old family to return. friend, Her helover, and his herwife lover, hadher been lover. enormously kind to Julian’s Mom when his Dad had died so suddenly. Of course Van Vuuren’s Three politics weeks before were evil, Julian hiswas job due morally to go,objectionable, Sipho knocked butonwhat her door just could he Julian as she was do, he about owed to it eat. to his Mom to sit through the occasional “Hello, tackywhat lunchgood at Smuggler’s timing,” she Inn. said, absurdly pleased to see him.“Besides,” “Come inheand reminded eat some her, lentil undoing curryher with topme.” button, nudging her backwards “Pity it’stillnot she a nice, fell onto bloody the steak, bed, “only otherwise last week I might youhave werestayed. comBut listen, plaining about Miranda, your IMom haveplaying a favor bridge to ask. with I need whatshername you to hang on - the to this. Look Defence Minister’s after it for wife.” me hey?” It was she When a dusty wokepot up,plant, it wasa pitch cigarette dark butt in the in flat the and dry very soil at quiet its base. outside. Julian’s arm was tight around her, his heartbeat steady in her “Okay,” ear. Sheshe remembered said, “but why? suddenly Are you that off Bertsomewhere?” had said Julian had been“That seen would with Van be Vuuren telling,”and he his saidboys. and winked. She must His ask Julian knuckles, tothough, as morrow about he gripped “the boys.” her front Also,door, she would were white. go to the library and find a book “Oh.onSipho,” Namaqualand. she said, “be Shecareful.” wanted toShe seeput pictures the plant of where down and she hugged was going. him. “Now listen, this is just between you and me, okay? Not a word to anyone. Even Sipho I should seemed be back to have forput it in hisa suspicions few days.”about Julian aside. He came “Sipho, down are to you their okay? flat later Has something that week happened?” and the two of She them leaned sat forward at the kitchen and took table, histalking hand. “Tell and laughing me what easily. I can doMiranda to help?”fetched

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Rebecca Koffman

Rebecca Koffman

beers, her lifecooked withoutdinner him. She for them turnedall, away enjoying from him, the feel humiliated of theirbyeyes the hot her on tearsasflooding she benther over eyes. to pull potatoes from under the table and reached “Oh,up mytodarling, the top don’t of thedo fridge that.for Wethe still bunch haveofsixchilies. weeks.Her Come.” skin He was under tingled sayingher all skimpy the wrong dress. things. She“Come.” sighed inHe exultation, pulled herthis towards joy a him but shetoshook revelation her. him off. Whatnights On aboutwhen me? She Julian wanted stayed to ask. late What at theabout university us? How library, can you be happy Miranda, bored at and the thought restless of byleaving herselfso insoon? the ramshackle flat took to hanging “Of course out you’ll on thecome floor and above seeatme Sipho’s. there, orThey I’ll visit would you. listen We’ll to make aBrand Dollar plan. or It’sCharlie not so Parker, tragic. It’s smoke not athe joint endand of us. chatCome lazily here, until come to me.” Miranda heard the double doors in the foyer bang and Julian’s light, rapid There. footsteps He had on the saidstairs. it. It was not the end. When he reached for her She againloved she returned these evenings, his embrace. loved the image of herself in Sipho’s flat,He sprawled was pulling acrossher one towards of the the old bedroom armchairs, when laughing she remembered knowingly Johan at one Van of his Vuuren. jokes—here But Julian she was, wasaeasy, woman amused, of theteased world her sharing abouta trusting joint with hera paranoid notoriousfriends freedom more fighter, than him. learning Apparently about jazz, Van waiting Vuuren washer for an lover old family to return. friend, Her helover, and his her wife lover, hadher been lover. enormously kind to Julian’s Mom when his Dad had died so suddenly. Of course Van Vuuren’s Three politics weeks before were evil, Julian hiswas job due morally to go,objectionable, Sipho knocked butonwhat her couldjust door he Julian as she was do, he about owed to it eat. to his Mom to sit through the occasional “Hello, tackywhat lunchgood at Smuggler’s timing,” she Inn. said, absurdly pleased to see him.“Besides,” “Come inheand reminded eat some her, lentil undoing curryher with topme.” button, nudging her backwards “Pity it’stillnot she a nice, fell onto bloody the steak, bed, “only otherwise last week I might youhave werestayed. complaining But listen, about Miranda, your IMom haveplaying a favor bridge to ask. with I need whatshername you to hang on - the to Defence this. Look Minister’s after it for wife.” me hey?” When It was she a dusty wokepot up,plant, it wasa pitch cigarette dark butt in the in flat the and dry very soil at quiet its outside. Julian’s arm was tight around her, his heartbeat steady in base. her “Okay,” ear. Sheshe remembered said, “but why? suddenly Are you that off Bertsomewhere?” had said Julian had been“That seen would with Van be Vuuren telling,”and he his saidboys. and winked. She must His ask Julian knuckles, tomorrow as though, about he gripped “the boys.” her front Also,door, she would were white. go to the library and find a book “Oh.onSipho,” Namaqualand. she said, “be Shecareful.” wanted toShe seeput pictures the plant of where down and she was going. hugged him. “Now listen, this is just between you and me, okay? Not a word to anyone. Even Sipho I should seemed be back to have forput it in hisa suspicions few days.”about Julian aside. He came “Sipho, down are to you their okay? flat later Has something that week happened?” and the two of She them leaned sat at the kitchen forward and took table, histalking hand. “Tell and laughing me what easily. I can doMiranda to help?”fetched

beers, cooked dinner for them all, enjoying the feel of their eyes on her as she bent over to pull potatoes from under the table and reached up to the top of the fridge for the bunch of chilies. Her skin tingled under her skimpy dress. She sighed in exultation, this joy a revelation to her. On nights when Julian stayed late at the university library, Miranda, bored and restless by herself in the ramshackle flat took to hanging out on the floor above at Sipho’s. They would listen to Dollar Brand or Charlie Parker, smoke a joint and chat lazily until Miranda heard the double doors in the foyer bang and Julian’s light, rapid footsteps on the stairs. She loved these evenings, loved the image of herself in Sipho’s flat, sprawled across one of the old armchairs, laughing knowingly at one of his jokes—here she was, a woman of the world sharing a joint with a notorious freedom fighter, learning about jazz, waiting for her lover to return. Her lover, her lover, her lover.

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Three weeks before Julian was due to go, Sipho knocked on her door just as she was about to eat. “Hello, what good timing,” she said, absurdly pleased to see him. “Come in and eat some lentil curry with me.” “Pity it’s not a nice, bloody steak, otherwise I might have stayed. But listen, Miranda, I have a favor to ask. I need you to hang on to this. Look after it for me hey?” It was a dusty pot plant, a cigarette butt in the dry soil at its base. “Okay,” she said, “but why? Are you off somewhere?” “That would be telling,” he said and winked. His knuckles, though, as he gripped her front door, were white. “Oh. Sipho,” she said, “be careful.” She put the plant down and hugged him. “Now listen, this is just between you and me, okay? Not a word to anyone. I should be back for it in a few days.” “Sipho, are you okay? Has something happened?” She leaned forward and took his hand. “Tell me what I can do to help?” 119


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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

“You know what, Miranda?” He was gripping her hand in both of his now, looking at her, eyes bright, “if you ever decide to stop dabbling, stop playing at all this, then you go see Govan Patel out at the Phoenix Centre for Peace and Democracy and you tell him that I sent you.” He kissed her on both cheeks and left. She put the plant on the windowsill and went back to her lonely dinner. Julian was at the library again, trying to squeeze in some extra study before he left. She wondered where Sipho was going. The townships were very bad just lately, unsafe for everyone. Miranda shuttered as she remembered her last abortive foray into KwaMashu with a group of university students going to teach Saturday classes at the gutted high school. They had only got as far as section-B when they were stopped at a makeshift barricade of rusting oil drums by a band of youths casually brandishing AK47’s. Since then she hadn’t volunteered to teach any more English lessons. And now, with the State of Emergency in effect, the army was back in the townships and there were tanks and troops everywhere. In Namaqualand it was flower season, the empty desert all abloom, the light wonderful on the red sand in between the purple and orange and yellow glow of the wild daisies. Every night before they went to sleep Julian described it to her. She gazed at the pictures in the book, willing herself into the frame. She would visit him as soon as she could. He came home a little while later, carrying a paper bag. “I want you to come with me when I go,” he said. “Register for long-distance study or something. I want you to be there waiting for me when I get home every night. It would make everything perfect.” He handed her the bag. Inside it was a topographical map of the Black Mountain region. Such odd names these places had: Nababeep, Komaggas, Koiingnaas. It would be like going to a foreign country. She started to laugh, then to cry. They made love for a long time. Afterwards, they lay entangled, and he told her about a dry river bed where they could sleep on hot nights, the sand was like silk, he said. She wouldn’t know real peace until she had woken up there, far away from the noise of the city.

“You know “That reminds what, me,” Miranda?” she said, tracing He washis gripping nipple her withhand her fingers, in both “Sipho of his now, is going looking awayattoo. her,He eyes dropped bright,off “ifa plant you ever for me decide to take to stop care of. All very dabbling, stop hush-hush.” playing at all this, then you go see Govan Patel out at the Phoenix He disentangled Centre for himself Peacefrom and Democracy her and turned andonto you his tell side, him that but Idid sent notyou.” respond. He kissed Sweat hercooled on both oncheeks her exposed and left. skin and made her shiver. She put the plant on the windowsill and went back to her lonely dinner. “I think Julian I know was atwhere the library he’s again, going,”trying she said to squeeze into the in darkness. some ex“But tra study for heaven’s before hesake left. keep She wondered it to yourself.” where She Sipho waited was going. but stillThe he said nothing. townships were Sovery she went bad just on. lately, unsafe for everyone. Miranda shuttered “He was as she whistling remembered a Bob her Marley last abortive tune as he foray leftinto andKwaMashu he winked at me.a group with I bet he’s of university going to stay students in thegoing servant’s to teach quarters Saturday at Angel classes City. at Pretend the gutted to high be the school. gardener Theyforhad a while. only got Someone as far asmust section-B be looking when for him.” they were stopped at a makeshift barricade of rusting oil drums by a bandAfter of youths a while casually she asked brandishing him if heAK47’s. was asleep Sincebut then he she didn’t hadn’t answer. It took to volunteered herteach a long anytime more to English drift off.lessons. And now, with the State of Emergency in effect, the army was back in the townships and She therewoke weretotanks loudand banging troopsoneverywhere. the door. She turned to wake JulianIn butNamaqualand he was gone. itItwas was flower the security season, police. the empty They were desertvery all polite. Sergeant abloom, the lightVan wonderful Niekerkon and theSergeant red sandDunham, in between with thea search purple warrant. and orange and yellow glow of the wild daisies. Every night before they“What went to dosleep you know Julianabout described SiphoitNtuli?” to her. they Sheasked gazedher. at the “What picare hisincurrent tures the book, whereabouts? willing herself into the frame. She would visit him as soon “I know as shenothing,” could. she told them truthfully, her voice, she was interested He came to hear, homewas a little quite while calm. later, carrying a paper bag. “You “I want willyou have to to come accompany with meuswhen to headquarters, I go,” he said. Ma’am. “Register Perhapslong-distance for you would like study to or putsomething. on some street I wantclothes.” you to be In there the yellow waitglareforofme ing thewhen bathroom’s I get home light,every she cast night. offIther would gown make and everything scrambled into jeansHe perfect.” andhanded a longher sleeved the bag. shirt. Inside It was it was humid a topographical outside butmap she wanted of the Black to be fully Mountain covered. region. Such odd names these places had: Nababeep, When she Komaggas, went back Koiingnaas. into the living It would room, be they like going had tipped to a forthe potted eign country. plant up She andstarted dry soil to laugh, covered then theto window cry. ledge. “Where They made is Julian?” love for she a long asked time. them Afterwards, in the police theycar. lay entangled, and “Julian?” he told her said about the ababy-faced dry river bed Sergeant whereDunham. they could sleep on hot nights, They thedid sand notwas keep likeher silk, long. he said. WhyShe hadwouldn’t she thought knowSipho real peace Ntuli wouldshe until behad at Angel wokenCity, up there, they asked far away over from andthe over. noise She of had the city. no an-

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Rebecca Koffman

“That know “You reminds what, me,” Miranda?” she said, tracing He washis gripping nipple her withhand her fingers, in both of his now, “Sipho is going looking awayattoo. her,He eyes dropped bright,off “ifa plant you ever for me decide to take to stop care dabbling, of. All very stop hush-hush.” playing at all this, then you go see Govan Patel out at the Phoenix He disentangled Centre for himself Peacefrom and Democracy her and turned andonto you his tell side, him that but I sent did notyou.” respond. He kissed Sweat hercooled on both oncheeks her exposed and left. skin and made her shiver. She put the plant on the windowsill and went back to her lonely dinner. “I think Julian I know was atwhere the library he’s again, going,”trying she said to squeeze into the in darkness. some extra study “But for heaven’s before hesake left. keep She wondered it to yourself.” where She Sipho waited was going. but stillThe he townships said nothing. were Sovery she went bad just on. lately, unsafe for everyone. Miranda shuttered “He was as she whistling remembered a Bob her Marley last abortive tune as he foray leftinto andKwaMashu he winked with at me.a group I bet he’s of university going to stay students in thegoing servant’s to teach quarters Saturday at Angel classes City. at the gutted Pretend to high be the school. gardener Theyforhad a while. only got Someone as far asmust section-B be looking when theyhim.” for were stopped at a makeshift barricade of rusting oil drums by a bandAfter of youths a while casually she asked brandishing him if heAK47’s. was asleep Sincebut then he she didn’t hadn’t anvolunteered swer. It took to herteach a long anytime more to English drift off.lessons. And now, with the State of Emergency in effect, the army was back in the townships and She therewoke weretotanks loudand banging troopsoneverywhere. the door. She turned to wake JulianIn butNamaqualand he was gone. itItwas was flower the security season, police. the empty They were desertvery all abloom,Sergeant polite. the lightVan wonderful Niekerkon and theSergeant red sandDunham, in between with thea search purple and orange and yellow glow of the wild daisies. Every night before warrant. they“What went to dosleep you know Julianabout described SiphoitNtuli?” to her. they Sheasked gazedher. at the “What pictureshisincurrent are the book, whereabouts? willing herself into the frame. She would visit him as soon “I know as shenothing,” could. she told them truthfully, her voice, she was interested He came to hear, homewas a little quite while calm. later, carrying a paper bag. “You “I want willyou have to to come accompany with meuswhen to headquarters, I go,” he said. Ma’am. “Register Perfor long-distance haps you would like study to or putsomething. on some street I wantclothes.” you to be In there the yellow waiting forofme glare thewhen bathroom’s I get home light,every she cast night. offIther would gown make and everything scrambled perfect.” into jeansHe andhanded a longher sleeved the bag. shirt. Inside It was it was humid a topographical outside butmap she of the Black wanted to be fully Mountain covered. region. Such odd names these places had: Nababeep, When she Komaggas, went back Koiingnaas. into the living It would room, be they like going had tipped to a forthe eign country. potted plant up She andstarted dry soil to laugh, covered then theto window cry. ledge. They made “Where is Julian?” love for she a long asked time. them Afterwards, in the police theycar. lay entangled, and “Julian?” he told her said about the ababy-faced dry river bed Sergeant whereDunham. they could sleep on hot nights, They thedid sand notwas keep likeher silk, long. he said. WhyShe hadwouldn’t she thought knowSipho real peace Ntuli until she would behad at Angel wokenCity, up there, they asked far away over from andthe over. noise She of had the city. no an-

“That reminds me,” she said, tracing his nipple with her fingers, “Sipho is going away too. He dropped off a plant for me to take care of. All very hush-hush.” He disentangled himself from her and turned onto his side, but did not respond. Sweat cooled on her exposed skin and made her shiver. “I think I know where he’s going,” she said into the darkness. “But for heaven’s sake keep it to yourself.” She waited but still he said nothing. So she went on. “He was whistling a Bob Marley tune as he left and he winked at me. I bet he’s going to stay in the servant’s quarters at Angel City. Pretend to be the gardener for a while. Someone must be looking for him.” After a while she asked him if he was asleep but he didn’t answer. It took her a long time to drift off.

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She woke to loud banging on the door. She turned to wake Julian but he was gone. It was the security police. They were very polite. Sergeant Van Niekerk and Sergeant Dunham, with a search warrant. “What do you know about Sipho Ntuli?” they asked her. “What are his current whereabouts? “I know nothing,” she told them truthfully, her voice, she was interested to hear, was quite calm. “You will have to accompany us to headquarters, Ma’am. Perhaps you would like to put on some street clothes.” In the yellow glare of the bathroom’s light, she cast off her gown and scrambled into jeans and a long sleeved shirt. It was humid outside but she wanted to be fully covered. When she went back into the living room, they had tipped the potted plant up and dry soil covered the window ledge. “Where is Julian?” she asked them in the police car. “Julian?” said the baby-faced Sergeant Dunham. They did not keep her long. Why had she thought Sipho Ntuli would be at Angel City, they asked over and over. She had no an121


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

swer for them. When she emerged from the police station the city was dark. Insurgents had blown up the substation in the small hours, and power would not be restored for three days. In the next day’s paper there was a picture of Sipho. He was implicated in the bombings. Armed and dangerous. There was a R100.000 reward for anyone furnishing information leading to his arrest.

swer for them. When she emerged from the police station the city was dark. Insurgents had blown up the substation in the small hours, and power would not be restored for three days. In the next day’s paper there was a picture of Sipho. He was implicated in the bombings. Armed and dangerous. There was a R100.000 reward for anyone furnishing information leading to his arrest.

She woke every morning from fitful sleep and rolled into Julian’s cold space in the bed, hating herself, hating him, longing for him. She could not bear to think about the sweetness, the tenderness between them. She could think of nothing else. Her head ached. After a few weeks she threw away the map of Black Mountain. One morning she got in her car and drove out of the city. Up the hill past the deep, green cool of the Botanical Gardens, past her family’s home in it’s neighborhood of large red-roofed houses whose walls gleamed pale against cascades of bougainvillea. Soon, glowing lawns, gently hissing sprinklers and barred windows were replaced by the freeway’s concrete underpasses. Today’s slogans, in wavering red paint, said VIVA ANC and SHAYA AMABHUNA - KILL THE BOERS. She sped onwards to the city’s southern exit, out onto the freeway, passing fields of bananas and sugar cane. She took the turnoff for the Phoenix Centre and followed the signs, wondering about Govan Patel and what she would say to him. After a while the tarmac ended and the road dwindled to a rutted sandy track. She wasn’t sure she could get through without bogging down. She pulled over to the side of the road; noticed the violent trembling of her leg as she eased her pressure on the accelerator. The car stopped. After a while she put her head down on the steering wheel and wept. She could go no further. As she drove back into Durban, crews of black laborers were painting over the morning’s graffiti. That afternoon she placed a classified ad in the newspaper. With the money from the sale of her car she bought a plane ticket to London and early in December she made the long flight from summer to winter.

She woke every morning from fitful sleep and rolled into Julian’s cold space in the bed, hating herself, hating him, longing for him. She could not bear to think about the sweetness, the tenderness between them. She could think of nothing else. Her head ached. After a few weeks she threw away the map of Black Mountain. One morning she got in her car and drove out of the city. Up the hill past the deep, green cool of the Botanical Gardens, past her family’s I was young my fatherred-roofed had a friend who was very fat. home inWhen it’s neighborhood of large houses whose walls He was at least five hundred pounds maybe more. My dad and gleamed pale against cascades of bougainvillea. Soon, glowingI used try to hissing guess, sprinklers though of and course we windows could never askreplaced Lenny lawns,togently barred were directly, and he never told us. By the timeToday’s I got toslogans, know him, Lenny by the freeway’s concrete underpasses. in waverhad trouble walking, but before he had trouble walking he’d been ing red paint, said VIVA ANC and SHAYA AMABHUNA - KILL the manager a pizzeria on Summer not far from THE BOERS.of She sped onwards to theAvenue city’s southern exit,The out Amonto sterdam Theater, which showed porno films on a large screen all day the freeway, passing fields of bananas and sugar cane. and She all night. I knew him for vaguely as a younger I didn’t the retook the turnoff the Phoenix Centrekid, andbut followed ally getwondering to know him until I wasPatel a teenager, when became obsessed signs, about Govan and what sheIwould say to him. with chess and started riding my bike to his house after school to After a while the tarmac ended and the road dwindled to a rutted play a track. few games. Before thatshe though when I waswithout younger, when sandy She wasn’t sure could -get through bogging Idown. didn’t She evenpulled know over how to thethe various chess pieces moved across the side of the road; noticed the violent board - Lenny wasleg very friends my father, he would trembling of her as close she eased herwith pressure on theand accelerator. comecarbystopped. our house on aSaturday anddown him on andthe mysteerdad The After while sheafternoons put her head would play cards on the rickety metal table in the sunporch. Only ing wheel and wept. She could go no further. years I look back onDurban, those afternoons wonder whywere they Aslater shedid drove back into crews ofand black laborers never played chess (though there is no one to ask now: my dad painting over the morning’s graffiti. That afternoon she placed isa no longer ad around, Lenny had a the decade classified in the and newspaper. Withdied the more moneythan from sale before of her he did). It would have made considering how car she bought a plane ticketsense, to London and early in attracted, Decembereven she magnetized, Lenny was toward the game. Back when he could still made the long flight from summer to winter. easily get around his evenings were consumed by it. He followed a

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swer for them. When she emerged from the police station the city was dark. Insurgents had blown up the substation in the small hours, and power would not be restored for three days. In the next day’s paper there was a picture of Sipho. He was implicated in the bombings. Armed and dangerous. There was a R100.000 reward for anyone furnishing information leading to his arrest. She woke every morning from fitful sleep and rolled into Julian’s cold space in the bed, hating herself, hating him, longing for him. She could not bear to think about the sweetness, the tenderness between them. She could think of nothing else. Her head ached. After a few weeks she threw away the map of Black Mountain. One morning she got in her car and drove out of the city. Up the hill past the deep, green cool of the Botanical Gardens, past her family’s I was young my fatherred-roofed had a friend who was very fat. home inWhen it’s neighborhood of large houses whose walls He was at least five hundred pounds maybe more. My dad and gleamed pale against cascades of bougainvillea. Soon, glowingI used try to hissing guess, sprinklers though of and course we windows could never askreplaced Lenny lawns,togently barred were directly, and he never told us. By the timeToday’s I got toslogans, know him, Lenny by the freeway’s concrete underpasses. in waverhad trouble walking, but before he had trouble walking he’d been ing red paint, said VIVA ANC and SHAYA AMABHUNA - KILL the a pizzeria on Summer not far from THEmanager BOERS.of She sped onwards to theAvenue city’s southern exit,The out Amonto sterdam Theater, which showed porno films on a large screen all day the freeway, passing fields of bananas and sugar cane. and She all night. I knew him for vaguely as a younger I didn’t the retook the turnoff the Phoenix Centrekid, andbut followed ally getwondering to know him until I wasPatel a teenager, when became obsessed signs, about Govan and what sheIwould say to him. with chess and started riding my bike to his house after school to After a while the tarmac ended and the road dwindled to a rutted play few games. Before thatshe though when I waswithout younger, when sandya track. She wasn’t sure could -get through bogging Idown. didn’t She evenpulled know over how to thethe various chess pieces moved across the side of the road; noticed the violent board - Lenny wasleg very friends my father, he would trembling of her as close she eased herwith pressure on theand accelerator. come our house on aSaturday anddown him on andthe mysteerdad The carbystopped. After while sheafternoons put her head would play cards on the rickety metal table in the sunporch. Only ing wheel and wept. She could go no further. years I look back onDurban, those afternoons wonder whywere they Aslater shedid drove back into crews ofand black laborers never played chess (though there is no one to ask now: my dad painting over the morning’s graffiti. That afternoon she placed isa no longer ad around, Lenny had a the decade classified in the and newspaper. Withdied the more moneythan from sale before of her he It would have made considering how cardid). she bought a plane ticketsense, to London and early in attracted, Decembereven she magnetized, Lenny was toward the game. Back when he could still made the long flight from summer to winter. easily get around his evenings were consumed by it. He followed a

FAT MAN

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FAT MAN When I was young my father had a friend who was very fat. He was at least five hundred pounds - maybe more. My dad and I used to try to guess, though of course we could never ask Lenny directly, and he never told us. By the time I got to know him, Lenny had trouble walking, but before he had trouble walking he’d been the manager of a pizzeria on Summer Avenue not far from The Amsterdam Theater, which showed porno films on a large screen all day and all night. I knew him vaguely as a younger kid, but I didn’t really get to know him until I was a teenager, when I became obsessed with chess and started riding my bike to his house after school to play a few games. Before that though - when I was younger, when I didn’t even know how the various chess pieces moved across the board - Lenny was very close friends with my father, and he would come by our house on Saturday afternoons and him and my dad would play cards on the rickety metal table in the sunporch. Only years later did I look back on those afternoons and wonder why they never played chess (though there is no one to ask now: my dad is no longer around, and Lenny had died more than a decade before he did). It would have made sense, considering how attracted, even magnetized, Lenny was toward the game. Back when he could still easily get around his evenings were consumed by it. He followed a 123


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precise schedule of playing with various people in different parts of the city. On Mondays, he played with the elderly Russian woman who lived in a black neighborhood on the west side of the city, near the river. On Tuesdays, he visited Father Andrews, at the rectory on Yale Avenue - the priest everyone suspected was a secret alcoholic. On Wednesdays, he saw a black man who lived with an extremely expensive parrot in a house with pink-painted walls. And so on for the rest of the week. Of course this was before I was playing with him; I was only a kid then. By the time I started going over to Lenny’s place to play chess he was only able to play with his old friends over the phone. He did this by arranging a chessboard in front of himself. He’d place all the pieces on their initial squares. Then he would call the person, or they would phone him, and they would play by stating each new move to the other person. Lenny enjoyed playing that way, and he got to where he could see the game lucidly in his mind. Eventually, he no longer even needed the chess board and the pieces in front of him in order to remember what piece was on which square. The game was in his mind’s eye alone - a floating Platonic chessboard, he would tell me, made of the most ideal pieces ever. The white ones were like little sculptures of ivory; the black ones felt like cool lead in his thoughts; the board itself was composed of breathy air, with each square being tinted either scarlet or cream-white. It was probably how chess was really meant to be played, he’d say. My father had complicated feelings about his friend. He usually enjoyed his company, and they had a lot in common. Both were devout Catholics, with my dad going to Mass every Sunday, and sometimes even on Friday morning, the day he didn’t teach any classes at the community college where he worked, and Lenny receiving communion once a week from one of the older women at church who went around the city giving the Eucharist to the sick and the house-bound. And both were fascinated by history. My father taught early American history at the college, and Lenny - an autodidact: he’d never taken a single college class - read history books written for a general audience. I remember he was an especially fond of

precise schedule Shelby Foote’s trilogy of playing on the with Civil various War. people Lenny in and different my dadparts would of debate the city.forOn hours Mondays, about what he played would’ve withhappened the elderly if Booth Russian hadwoman missed his target who livedthat in a night blackatneighborhood the theater, allowing on the west Lincoln side of to the administrate city, near overriver. the the post-war On Tuesdays, country, he visited or what Father America Andrews, would at be the like rectory if it’d on lost the Yale Avenue war with - theMexico. priest everyone My father, suspected who considered was a secret himself alcoholic. a humanist On Wednesdays, and a liberal, he saw would a black always man have whothe lived more with optimistic an extremely argument, while expensive parrot Lenny, in aa house self-proclaimed with pink-painted misanthrope, walls.usually And so argued on for for some the rest ofbleak the week. outcome Of course no matter thiswhat was historical before I was event playing was being with discussed. him; I was But onlythere a kidwere then.aspects By theabout time his I started friendgoing that perturbed over to Lenmy dad. place ny’s His weight, to play chess obviously, he was concerned only ablehim. to play It with wasn’t hisjust old that friends he was fat: over the he phone. was shockingly He did thisfat. by Uncannily arranging afat. chessboard Fat in a manner in frontthat of made himHe’d himself. seemplace bothall lessthe and pieces moreon than their human. initialHis squares. stomach Then when he he sat down would call the created person, a kind or they of shelf would under phone hishim, chin;and he had they no would real neck by play or stating wrists; each and huge new move rolls oftodimpled the otherfat person. hung from Lennyunder enjoyed his arms when playing thathe way, gestured and he(which got to he where did frequently, he could seebeing the game an emphatic lucidly andhisboisterous in mind. Eventually, and somewhat he no affected longer even speaker). needed And theitchess reallyboard was, my dad and the would pieces point in front outoftohim anyone in order whoto speculated rememberthat what Lenny piece might was have on which somesquare. rarefiedThe metabolic game was illness, in hishismind’s own damn eye alone fault.- My a floatdad had Platonic ing seen himchessboard, eat enormous he bowls would of tellpasta me, within made ofminutes the most - bowls ideal that could pieces ever.have Thefed white fourones people were with likemore littleregular sculptures appetites. of ivory; He had the seen him black ones sitfelt down likeand cool devour lead half in his of athoughts; red velvet thecake board as ifitself it were wasa single meager composed of breathy slice. And air, one withnight, each square while he being and tinted my dad either drank scarlet until almost or cream-white. two in theItmorning, was probably Lennyhow had eaten, chess was by my really father’s meant calculato be tions, athe’d played, leastsay. three full pizzas, two banana-and-Nutella sandwiches, a can My offather sardines had(having complicated givenfeelings one to his about cat his before friend. eating He the usually rest himself),his enjoyed andcompany, two boxes and ofthey microwavable had a lot incrab common. cakes. Both Whenwere my dad dewould vout Catholics, ask him with about mywhy dad he going let to himself Mass every eat such Sunday, hugeand portions, someLennyeven times would on roll Friday his morning, eyes, brush thesome day he stray didn’t forelock teach on anyhisclasses forehead at theback community with his college meaty fingers where (his he worked, most often-repeated and Lenny receiving gesture), and say, “Why communion once not?a What weekwoman from one is ever of the going older to look women at me atwithout church beingwent who repulsed? around The themost city Igiving can ever thehope Eucharist for is pity, to theand sick I don’t and the really want that And house-bound. anyway.” both were Sincefascinated he had openly by history. walkedMy intofather the arms taught of his highly early American solitary history existence, at thehe’d college, argue,and he had Lenny the -right an autodidact: to do as he pleased. he’d never Hetaken was not, a single he would college say,class a priest - read or ahistory monk. He books hadwritten a right to satisfy for a general his cravings audience. as Imuch remember as anybody he was else anon especially the planet. fond of

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Shelby schedule precise Foote’s trilogy of playing on the with Civil various War. people Lenny in and different my dadparts would of the city.forOn debate hours Mondays, about what he played would’ve withhappened the elderly if Booth Russian hadwoman missed whotarget his livedthat in a night blackatneighborhood the theater, allowing on the west Lincoln side of to the administrate city, near the river. over the post-war On Tuesdays, country, he visited or what Father America Andrews, would at be the like rectory if it’d on Yalethe lost Avenue war with - theMexico. priest everyone My father, suspected who considered was a secret himself alcoholic. a huOn Wednesdays, manist and a liberal, he saw would a black always man have whothe lived more with optimistic an extremely arguexpensive ment, while parrot Lenny, in aa house self-proclaimed with pink-painted misanthrope, walls.usually And so argued on for the some for rest ofbleak the week. outcome Of course no matter thiswhat was historical before I was event playing was being with him; I was But discussed. onlythere a kidwere then.aspects By theabout time his I started friendgoing that perturbed over to Lenmy ny’s place dad. His weight, to play chess obviously, he was concerned only ablehim. to play It with wasn’t hisjust old that friends he over fat: was the he phone. was shockingly He did thisfat. by Uncannily arranging afat. chessboard Fat in a manner in frontthat of himself. made himHe’d seemplace bothall lessthe and pieces moreon than their human. initialHis squares. stomach Then when he would he sat down call the created person, a kind or they of shelf would under phone hishim, chin;and he had they no would real play by neck or stating wrists; each and huge new move rolls oftodimpled the otherfat person. hung from Lennyunder enjoyed his playing arms when thathe way, gestured and he(which got to he where did frequently, he could seebeing the game an emphatic lucidly in hisboisterous and mind. Eventually, and somewhat he no affected longer even speaker). needed And theitchess reallyboard was, and dad my the would pieces point in front outoftohim anyone in order whoto speculated rememberthat what Lenny piece might was on which have somesquare. rarefiedThe metabolic game was illness, in hishismind’s own damn eye alone fault.- My a floatdad ing Platonic had seen himchessboard, eat enormous he bowls would of tellpasta me, within made ofminutes the most - bowls ideal pieces that could ever.have Thefed white fourones people were with likemore littleregular sculptures appetites. of ivory; He had the blackhim seen ones sitfelt down likeand cool devour lead half in his of athoughts; red velvet thecake board as ifitself it were wasa composed single meager of breathy slice. And air, one withnight, each square while he being and tinted my dad either drank scarlet until or cream-white. almost two in theItmorning, was probably Lennyhow had eaten, chess was by my really father’s meant calculato be played,athe’d tions, leastsay. three full pizzas, two banana-and-Nutella sandwiches, a can My offather sardines had(having complicated givenfeelings one to his about cat his before friend. eating He the usually rest enjoyed his himself), andcompany, two boxes and ofthey microwavable had a lot incrab common. cakes. Both Whenwere my dad devout Catholics, would ask him with about mywhy dad he going let to himself Mass every eat such Sunday, hugeand portions, sometimes even Lenny would on roll Friday his morning, eyes, brush thesome day he stray didn’t forelock teach on anyhisclasses foreat theback head community with his college meaty fingers where (his he worked, most often-repeated and Lenny receiving gesture), communion and say, “Why once not?a What weekwoman from one is ever of the going older to look women at me atwithout church who went being repulsed? around The themost city Igiving can ever thehope Eucharist for is pity, to theand sick I don’t and the rehouse-bound. ally want that And anyway.” both were Sincefascinated he had openly by history. walkedMy intofather the arms taught of early his highly American solitary history existence, at thehe’d college, argue,and he had Lenny the -right an autodidact: to do as he he’d never pleased. Hetaken was not, a single he would college say,class a priest - read or ahistory monk. He books hadwritten a right forsatisfy to a general his cravings audience. as Imuch remember as anybody he was else anonespecially the planet. fond of

Shelby Foote’s trilogy on the Civil War. Lenny and my dad would debate for hours about what would’ve happened if Booth had missed his target that night at the theater, allowing Lincoln to administrate over the post-war country, or what America would be like if it’d lost the war with Mexico. My father, who considered himself a humanist and a liberal, would always have the more optimistic argument, while Lenny, a self-proclaimed misanthrope, usually argued for some bleak outcome no matter what historical event was being discussed. But there were aspects about his friend that perturbed my dad. His weight, obviously, concerned him. It wasn’t just that he was fat: he was shockingly fat. Uncannily fat. Fat in a manner that made him seem both less and more than human. His stomach when he sat down created a kind of shelf under his chin; he had no real neck or wrists; and huge rolls of dimpled fat hung from under his arms when he gestured (which he did frequently, being an emphatic and boisterous and somewhat affected speaker). And it really was, my dad would point out to anyone who speculated that Lenny might have some rarefied metabolic illness, his own damn fault. My dad had seen him eat enormous bowls of pasta within minutes - bowls that could have fed four people with more regular appetites. He had seen him sit down and devour half of a red velvet cake as if it were a single meager slice. And one night, while he and my dad drank until almost two in the morning, Lenny had eaten, by my father’s calculations, at least three full pizzas, two banana-and-Nutella sandwiches, a can of sardines (having given one to his cat before eating the rest himself), and two boxes of microwavable crab cakes. When my dad would ask him about why he let himself eat such huge portions, Lenny would roll his eyes, brush some stray forelock on his forehead back with his meaty fingers (his most often-repeated gesture), and say, “Why not? What woman is ever going to look at me without being repulsed? The most I can ever hope for is pity, and I don’t really want that anyway.” Since he had openly walked into the arms of his highly solitary existence, he’d argue, he had the right to do as he pleased. He was not, he would say, a priest or a monk. He had a right to satisfy his cravings as much as anybody else on the planet.

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Another thing that bothered my dad - though he never told me this directly; I figured it out from various things he would say - was the fondness Lenny had for his wife, my step-mother. It wasn’t an obscene fondness, nor did it ever go past a certain line. But when he would see her back when he could still get around town and was coming over to our place on Saturdays, he would shake her hand unlike how he ever shook any other person’s hand: both of his chalkwhite paws would clasp over her tiny hand, and he’d leave them there, shaking, shaking, until he said something elaborate about how much he’d liked the food he’d just eaten (when he dropped by, my step-mother would invariably invite him to stay for dinner) or about her general hospitality. And when my dad and I would visit him after his legs had turned weak, practically useless, he would ask question after question about her, even down to what dress she was wearing on certain occasions. “Was it the blue one?” he would ask. “The one with the white dots? That’s a real pretty one there.” My dad, who never had a sense of color or fashion, having worn the same ugly tweed jacket with the missing third button to work for several years, would never know exactly, but he’d say that it was this or that dress simply to not look like a negligent husband. And when my stepmother’s aunt killed herself, Lenny sent flowers to both our house and to the church, and called my step-mother up the night of the funeral and evidently talked about his mother for the one and only time - something I know about only because I overheard her talking to my dad about it later on that late summer evening. But my father and step-mother seemed to take such behavior as at best a sign of his studied politeness, at worst a mild crush. They were probably right not to read too much into his interest. He was sad and lonely, as I would later find out when we would talk while playing chess, and he always felt this sense of intense emptiness, as if, he’d tell me, some part of his soul hadn’t come out right when he was born and while everyone around him had grown up and gotten older and fallen in love, he’d watched in astonishment, and then frustration, feeling that some ingredient in himself had failed to flourish. Though he did believe in a merciful God, he would tell me,

or atAnother least notthing a diabolical that bothered one, hemy couldn’t dad - though quite grasp he never why this told eleme mentdirectly; this in him, Ithis figured spot itinout hisfrom soul,various had failed things to develop he wouldlike sayevery- was one fondness the else’s. But Lenny the whole had for enterprise his wife,ofmy getting step-mother. marriedItand wasn’t having an children had obscene fondness, as much norlure did toit him everasgoitpast would a certain to a child. line.Not Butthat when he didn’t he would likesee women, her back he’d when add.heHecould loved still women. get around But only towninand a very was childish,over coming distant to our way, place he’d on Saturdays, explain. Like he would the way shake Jimmy her hand Stewart undoeshow like in Vertigo. he ever shook any other person’s hand: both of his chalkwhite It would paws would usuallyclasp be late over when herhetiny admitted hand, such and he’d thingsleave - the them hour when our there, shaking, last game shaking, would until be he dwindling said something rapidly elaborate down to aabout few spare how players, much he’d when liked mythe mind foodwould he’d just starteaten to drift (when andhe I’ddropped begin toby,think my about the homework step-mother would invariably I still hadinvite to finish him to before stay for the dinner) next morning. or aboutI never her general askedhospitality. him to explain And when what he mymeant dad and in Imore would everyday visit himterms. after Partlegs his of me hadprobably turned weak, wanted practically to keep useless, clear of he thatwould aspectask ofquestion his life, and the after question reason about why he’d her, made even down his choice to what to live dress in such she was forlorn wearing way didn’t on certain intrigue occasions. me. I recognized “Was it theitblue andone?” did my hebest would to ignore ask. “The it. one withBut theIwhite knew dots? he hadn’t That’slived a real hispretty entireone lifethere.” in thatMy state. dad, Lenny who hadn’thad never always a sense beenof so color obese:orsofashion, said myhaving father. Back worn when the same theyugly first met before tweed jacketI was withborn, the missing Lenny third was closer buttontotothree workhundred for several thanyears, four hundred would never pounds, knowand exactly, since but theyhe’d were sayboth thatback it was then thisattempting or that dress to reduce their simply to notweight, look like theya would negligent takehusband. brisk walks Andtogether when my through stepAudubon aunt mother’s Parkkilled when herself, the weather Lenny wasn’t sent flowers too coldtoorboth too our hot. house They would and to circle the church, the lake andand called windmythrough step-mother the path up that the night snakedofpast the various and funeral flowerbeds evidently in talked bloom.about Lenny hisreally mother started for the to one gainand weight, only moving time - something up the scale I know from about three only hundred because to Ifour overheard hundred herand talking beyond, to my around dad about theittime laterIon was that three late and summer four. evening. Nothing, my dad once toldBut me,my hadfather seemed andtostep-mother trigger it. Rather, seemed it was to take as ifsuch Lenny behavior had woas kenbest at up one a sign morning of his studied and decided politeness, to let down at worst his guard a mild- crush. to eat in They the way he’d were probably long wanted right nottotoeat. read Strangely, too much there intowere his interest. no reminders He was of that and sad younger, lonely, slimmer as I would self in later hisfind house. outThe when only wepictures would talk he had while in which hechess, playing appeared and he were always eitherfelt from thisfairly senserecently of intense (him emptiness, at a church as dinner, if, he’d him tell me, in his some wheelchair part of his in soul the backyard hadn’t come without hisright small when group he of friends was born and for his while birthday everyone party) around or from him when had he grown was an up infant. and gotten The impression older and fallen those in picture love,selections he’d watched gave to in the astonishment, viewer was and peculiar. then He seemed to frustration, feeling have that jumped some from ingredient being a in tinyhimself infant into had being failed an to enormousThough flourish. man, with he did nobelieve bridgeinbetween a merciful the God, two. he Butwould it was tellmore me,

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James Pate

James Pate

or atAnother least notthing a diabolical that bothered one, hemy couldn’t dad - though quite grasp he never why this told eleme this directly; ment in him, Ithis figured spot itinout hisfrom soul,various had failed things to develop he wouldlike sayevery- was the fondness one else’s. But Lenny the whole had for enterprise his wife,ofmy getting step-mother. marriedItand wasn’t having an obscene had children fondness, as much norlure did toit him everasgoitpast would a certain to a child. line.Not Butthat when he he would didn’t likesee women, her back he’d when add.heHecould loved still women. get around But only towninand a very was coming over childish, distant to our way, place he’d on Saturdays, explain. Like he would the way shake Jimmy her hand Stewart unlike how does in Vertigo. he ever shook any other person’s hand: both of his chalkwhite It would paws would usuallyclasp be late over when herhetiny admitted hand, such and he’d thingsleave - the them hour there, our when shaking, last game shaking, would until be he dwindling said something rapidly elaborate down to aabout few spare how much he’d players, when liked mythe mind foodwould he’d just starteaten to drift (when andhe I’ddropped begin toby,think my step-mother about the homework would invariably I still hadinvite to finish him to before stay for the dinner) next morning. or aboutI her general never askedhospitality. him to explain And when what he mymeant dad and in Imore would everyday visit himterms. after his legs Part of me hadprobably turned weak, wanted practically to keep useless, clear of he thatwould aspectask ofquestion his life, afterthe and question reason about why he’d her, made even down his choice to what to live dress in such she was forlorn wearing way on certain didn’t intrigue occasions. me. I recognized “Was it theitblue andone?” did my hebest would to ignore ask. “The it. one withBut theIwhite knew dots? he hadn’t That’slived a real hispretty entireone lifethere.” in thatMy state. dad, Lenny who never had hadn’t always a sense beenof so color obese:orsofashion, said myhaving father. Back worn when the same theyugly first tweed met before jacketI was withborn, the missing Lenny third was closer buttontotothree workhundred for several thanyears, four would never hundred pounds, knowand exactly, since but theyhe’d were sayboth thatback it was then thisattempting or that dress to simply their reduce to notweight, look like theya would negligent takehusband. brisk walks Andtogether when my through stepmother’s aunt Audubon Parkkilled when herself, the weather Lenny wasn’t sent flowers too coldtoorboth too our hot.house They and to circle would the church, the lake andand called windmythrough step-mother the path up that the night snakedofpast the funeral and various flowerbeds evidently in talked bloom.about Lenny hisreally mother started for the to one gainand weight, only time - something moving up the scale I know from about three only hundred because to Ifour overheard hundred herand talking beto my around yond, dad about theittime laterIon was that three late and summer four. evening. Nothing, my dad once toldBut me,my hadfather seemed andtostep-mother trigger it. Rather, seemed it was to take as ifsuch Lenny behavior had woas at best ken up one a sign morning of his studied and decided politeness, to let down at worst his guard a mild- crush. to eat in They the werehe’d way probably long wanted right nottotoeat. read Strangely, too much there intowere his interest. no reminders He was of sad and that younger, lonely, slimmer as I would self in later hisfind house. outThe when only wepictures would talk he had while in playinghechess, which appeared and he were always eitherfelt from thisfairly senserecently of intense (him emptiness, at a church as if, he’d him dinner, tell me, in his some wheelchair part of his in soul the backyard hadn’t come without hisright small when group he was of friends born and for his while birthday everyone party) around or from him when had he grown was an up infant. and gotten The older and fallen impression those in picture love,selections he’d watched gave to in the astonishment, viewer was and peculiar. then frustration, He seemed to feeling have that jumped some from ingredient being a in tinyhimself infant into had being failed an to flourish. Though enormous man, with he did nobelieve bridgeinbetween a merciful the God, two. he Butwould it was tellmore me,

or at least not a diabolical one, he couldn’t quite grasp why this element in him, this spot in his soul, had failed to develop like everyone else’s. But the whole enterprise of getting married and having children had as much lure to him as it would to a child. Not that he didn’t like women, he’d add. He loved women. But only in a very childish, distant way, he’d explain. Like the way Jimmy Stewart does in Vertigo. It would usually be late when he admitted such things - the hour when our last game would be dwindling rapidly down to a few spare players, when my mind would start to drift and I’d begin to think about the homework I still had to finish before the next morning. I never asked him to explain what he meant in more everyday terms. Part of me probably wanted to keep clear of that aspect of his life, and the reason why he’d made his choice to live in such forlorn way didn’t intrigue me. I recognized it and did my best to ignore it. But I knew he hadn’t lived his entire life in that state. Lenny hadn’t always been so obese: so said my father. Back when they first met before I was born, Lenny was closer to three hundred than four hundred pounds, and since they were both back then attempting to reduce their weight, they would take brisk walks together through Audubon Park when the weather wasn’t too cold or too hot. They would circle the lake and wind through the path that snaked past various flowerbeds in bloom. Lenny really started to gain weight, moving up the scale from three hundred to four hundred and beyond, around the time I was three and four. Nothing, my dad once told me, had seemed to trigger it. Rather, it was as if Lenny had woken up one morning and decided to let down his guard - to eat in the way he’d long wanted to eat. Strangely, there were no reminders of that younger, slimmer self in his house. The only pictures he had in which he appeared were either from fairly recently (him at a church dinner, him in his wheelchair in the backyard with his small group of friends for his birthday party) or from when he was an infant. The impression those picture selections gave to the viewer was peculiar. He seemed to have jumped from being a tiny infant into being an enormous man, with no bridge between the two. But it was more

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than the pictures too. On those afternoons we played chess, he rarely spoke about anything other than the relatively recent past (some rumor about the church organist, for example) or the distant pre-Lenny past (the Civil War, the Indian tribes who’d lived or passed through Tennessee). My step-mother would theorize that some trauma had occurred when he was young. Otherwise, why would it seem as if he had no memory of anything but the past few years? It didn’t even have to be particularity dramatic, she would say. A woman he liked might have insulted him. A friend could have betrayed him. All sorts of small little upsets could really turn a certain kind of high-strung individual upside down. But my father, who knew him better than either of us, would argue that his lack of any interest in talking about his personal past was more than likely due to nothing really having happened in that past. When all your non-working hours are spent playing chess, reading history books, he’d tell us, there’s not much to discuss. Lenny’s youth had gone like that - zapppp, my father would say, snapping his fingers over his head - and it was sad but immensely boring. As for myself, I was never really sure why Lenny seemed so oblivious to his own past, but I never quite agreed with my dad I knew some interesting things had to have happened back then. There was no way an individual with Lenny’s funny, abrasive, highly self-conscious personality could have lived a completely bland life. Also, his face would’ve been handsome had it not been so bloated, so full and puffy, and I could imagine that back when he was trimmer certain women might have found him attractive. And he would sometimes talk about people he had known, or relatives. When he did, though, he perpetually left himself out of the picture. I remember that during one game I started talking about a girl I had started to like in school but who I didn’t think had much interest in me, though we’d talked a lot because we were in the same home-room. Lenny had said his father had been a sort of lady’s man all of his life and would always tell him, when he was a kid, that it was no good going around wondering if a woman was interested in you. Instead, you should be interested in her, and eventually that interest would

than the begin to pictures be reciprocated. too. On those Lennyafternoons had then we wheeled playedhimself chess, over he rarely to a closet -about spoke his legs anything being especially other than bad the relatively the winterrecent when this pasthappened, (some ruto theabout mor pointthe that church by early organist, springfor he example) had to be taken or theto distant the hospital pre-Lenny due to painful past (the Civil and potentially War, the Indian life-threatening tribes who’dblood livedclots or passed in them through - and had removedMy Tennessee). a box step-mother from a tallwould column theorize of boxes thatinsome the back trauma of that had closet. Hewhen occurred brought he it was over young. to theOtherwise, kitchen table, why where would ouritchess seemgame as if washad he laidnoout. memory He opened of anything the box,but browsed the pastthrough few years? the dusty It didn’t pictures even in it, and have to betook particularity out the one dramatic, he wanted shetowould show say. me. A In woman the photograph, he liked a man have might withinsulted a slight him. buildAwas friend asking couldan have elderly betrayed woman him.toAlldance. sorts Shesmall of sat next littletoupsets a tablecould full of really dirtyturn dishes a certain and some kindbottles of high-strung of wine. The pictureupside individual was indown. black-and-white. But my father, Thewho occasion knew for himit better seemed than to be a party either of us, - streamers would argue hung thatabout his lack the ceiling of any interest over theinpair, talking andabout there waspersonal his confetti past in both wasthe more manthan and likely woman’s due hair. to nothing I looked really at the having back and saw that happened in that someone past. had When scrawled all yourdown non-working the year 1957. hours“It’s are spent from my grandmother’s playing chess, reading birthday history party,” books, Lenny he’dsaid. tell us, “She there’s was in nother much late eighties to discuss. in that Lenny’s picture, youth and had she lived gonetolike be just that about - zapppp, a hundred. my father And the daysay, would she died snapping she was his as fingers smartover and aware his head as she’d - and ever it was been.” sad but He leaned forward immensely boring. to look at the picture also. He told me what he liked about Asthe forphoto myself, wasIthe was way never his father reallywas sureasking why Lenny his mother-in-law seemed so to dance: asking oblivious to his own in such past,anbut old-fashioned I never quite manner, agreedwith withhim my offerdad Iing knew his hand someout interesting and bowing things a little. had Lenny to haveleaned happened back, back tellingthen. me his father There was was no way a real an individual class act, and, with unlike Lenny’s himself, funny, abrasive, had neverhighly been chubby, much less self-conscious personality obese. He could stayed haveaslived lean,aLenny completely said, as bland a young life. junglehis Also, cat.face Then would’ve he saidbeen that handsome when he started had it not putting beenon so his bloated, own weight, so full and his puffy, father and was Iupset. couldHe imagine seemed that to back consider when it some he wassign trimof extreme mer certain moral women laxity, might as ifhave overeating found him andattractive. over-drinking And he were would the same things.talk sometimes Lenny aboutgot people silentheforhad a moment, known, or staring relatives. at the When picture he in my did, though, hand, he though perpetually he couldn’t left himself really see outit,ofhaving the picture. leanedI rememback in his chair. ber that during He added, one game “My IDad, started he talking was a lady’s about aman, girl Ibut hadthe started type youlike to don’t in see school around but much who Ithese didn’t days. think He’d hadflirt much withinterest anybody in- me, old ladies, fat though we’d women talked- abut lothe because never we tookwere it too in the far. same He was home-room. very oldfashioned. Lenny had He’d said his grown father uphad in Naples, been a sort right ofby lady’s the gulf. man all Heof saw hisway life too much and wouldinalways his lifetime tell him, though. whenWay he was too much.” a kid, that it was no good going Taking around thewondering picture back if afrom woman me,was he gazed interested at it,insquinting, you. Instead, and then should you placed be it back interested in the in box, her,among and eventually dozens of that otherinterest old photos. wouldI

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James Pate

James Pate

beginthe than to pictures be reciprocated. too. On those Lennyafternoons had then we wheeled playedhimself chess, over he rarely to a spoke -about closet his legs anything being especially other than bad the relatively the winterrecent when this pasthappened, (some rumor to theabout pointthe that church by early organist, springfor he example) had to be taken or theto distant the hospital pre-Lenny due past to painful (the Civil and potentially War, the Indian life-threatening tribes who’dblood livedclots or passed in them through - and Tennessee). had removedMy a box step-mother from a tallwould column theorize of boxes thatinsome the back trauma of that had occurred closet. Hewhen brought he it was over young. to theOtherwise, kitchen table, why where would ouritchess seemgame as if he had was laidnoout. memory He opened of anything the box,but browsed the pastthrough few years? the dusty It didn’t pictures even have in it, and to betook particularity out the one dramatic, he wanted shetowould show say. me. A In woman the photograph, he liked amight man have withinsulted a slight him. buildAwas friend asking couldan have elderly betrayed woman him.toAlldance. sorts of small She sat next littletoupsets a tablecould full of really dirtyturn dishes a certain and some kindbottles of high-strung of wine. individual The pictureupside was indown. black-and-white. But my father, Thewho occasion knew for himit better seemed than to either be a party of us, - streamers would argue hung thatabout his lack the ceiling of any interest over theinpair, talking andabout there his personal was confetti past in both wasthe more manthan and likely woman’s due hair. to nothing I looked really at the having back happened and saw that in that someone past. had When scrawled all yourdown non-working the year 1957. hours“It’s are spent from playing my grandmother’s chess, reading birthday history party,” books, Lenny he’dsaid. tell us, “She there’s was in nother much late to discuss. eighties in that Lenny’s picture, youth and had she lived gonetolike be just that about - zapppp, a hundred. my father And would the daysay, she died snapping she was his as fingers smartover and aware his head as she’d - and ever it was been.” sad but He immensely leaned forward boring. to look at the picture also. He told me what he liked about Asthe forphoto myself, wasIthe was way never his father reallywas sureasking why Lenny his mother-in-law seemed so oblivious to dance: asking to his own in such past,anbut old-fashioned I never quite manner, agreedwith withhim my offerdad I knew ing his hand someout interesting and bowing things a little. had Lenny to haveleaned happened back, back tellingthen. me There his father was was no way a real an individual class act, and, with unlike Lenny’s himself, funny, abrasive, had neverhighly been self-conscious chubby, much less personality obese. He could stayed haveaslived lean,aLenny completely said, as bland a young life. Also, his jungle cat.face Then would’ve he saidbeen that handsome when he started had it not putting beenon so his bloated, own so full and weight, his puffy, father and was Iupset. couldHe imagine seemed that to back consider when it some he wassign trimof mer certain extreme moral women laxity, might as ifhave overeating found him andattractive. over-drinking And he were would the sometimes same things.talk Lenny aboutgot people silentheforhad a moment, known, or staring relatives. at the When picture he did,my in though, hand, he though perpetually he couldn’t left himself really see outit,ofhaving the picture. leanedI rememback in ber chair. his that during He added, one game “My IDad, started he talking was a lady’s about aman, girl Ibut hadthe started type to like you don’t in see school around but much who Ithese didn’t days. think He’d hadflirt much withinterest anybody in- me, old though fat ladies, we’d women talked- abut lothe because never we tookwere it too in the far. same He was home-room. very oldLenny had He’d fashioned. said his grown father uphad in Naples, been a sort right ofby lady’s the gulf. man all Heof saw hisway life and much too wouldinalways his lifetime tell him, though. whenWay he was too much.” a kid, that it was no good going Taking around thewondering picture back if afrom woman me,was he gazed interested at it,insquinting, you. Instead, and you should then placed be it back interested in the in box, her,among and eventually dozens of that otherinterest old photos. wouldI

begin to be reciprocated. Lenny had then wheeled himself over to a closet - his legs being especially bad the winter when this happened, to the point that by early spring he had to be taken to the hospital due to painful and potentially life-threatening blood clots in them - and had removed a box from a tall column of boxes in the back of that closet. He brought it over to the kitchen table, where our chess game was laid out. He opened the box, browsed through the dusty pictures in it, and took out the one he wanted to show me. In the photograph, a man with a slight build was asking an elderly woman to dance. She sat next to a table full of dirty dishes and some bottles of wine. The picture was in black-and-white. The occasion for it seemed to be a party - streamers hung about the ceiling over the pair, and there was confetti in both the man and woman’s hair. I looked at the back and saw that someone had scrawled down the year 1957. “It’s from my grandmother’s birthday party,” Lenny said. “She was in her late eighties in that picture, and she lived to be just about a hundred. And the day she died she was as smart and aware as she’d ever been.” He leaned forward to look at the picture also. He told me what he liked about the photo was the way his father was asking his mother-in-law to dance: asking in such an old-fashioned manner, with him offering his hand out and bowing a little. Lenny leaned back, telling me his father was a real class act, and, unlike himself, had never been chubby, much less obese. He stayed as lean, Lenny said, as a young jungle cat. Then he said that when he started putting on his own weight, his father was upset. He seemed to consider it some sign of extreme moral laxity, as if overeating and over-drinking were the same things. Lenny got silent for a moment, staring at the picture in my hand, though he couldn’t really see it, having leaned back in his chair. He added, “My Dad, he was a lady’s man, but the type you don’t see around much these days. He’d flirt with anybody - old ladies, fat women - but he never took it too far. He was very oldfashioned. He’d grown up in Naples, right by the gulf. He saw way too much in his lifetime though. Way too much.” Taking the picture back from me, he gazed at it, squinting, and then placed it back in the box, among dozens of other old photos. I

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never heard him mention his father again. We seemed surprisingly equal in talent overall. When I think back on it, the number of times he won and the number of times I did seem about equal. But I suspect he was probably not putting the full force of his thinking into our games because I was so much younger than he was (he used to call me The Novice when I first started going over to his place) and also because he really was lonely, and didn’t want me to lose continually and become tempted to stop coming by after school. But I realized, even on those days I won, that he was much better at the game than he let on. Chess books filled an entire shelf on the bookcase he kept by the fireplace and he claimed that he had beat Father Andrews and the Russian woman on a regular basis though the black man with the parrot that he used to play with had been, he admitted, much better than he was. How he was introduced to the game he never explained. It was almost as if he’d been born knowing that the game of chess was somewhere out there: it was only a matter of searching, of finding it. The reason he enjoyed the game to the extent he did, he once told me, claiming he could play it all day every day and never grow weary of it, was the use of the future tense in it. That sense of having to think not only one or two moves down the line, but several, even trying to envision the last move of the game from the third or fourth move alone, made him think in a way that felt natural to him. It was a type of thinking that had little to do with so-called real life, where so many contingent factors were kicked up with every action that even pretending to imagine the future was idiotic. He’d say that in chess the future really was, to use a stupid cliché, now. My father still visited him also during those years when Lenny had so much trouble leaving his house, though of course Lenny had long since ceased coming to our place on Saturdays. Almost every Friday night after going out to a midtown BBQ shack he and my step-mother both liked, Dad would drop my step-mother off at their house, pick up some groceries at Kroger’s, and take them over to Lenny’s place. They would have a few drinks, though Lenny’s doc-

never tor warned heardhim him away mention from hisall father alcohol again. due to some weight-related problems with his respiratory system, and watch some old Hollywood Wemovie seemed Lenny surprisingly had bought equal backinwhen talentheoverall. could still When get around I think and do back onthings it, thelike number buy used of times videotapes he won from and the movie number rental of stores. times IAndid other about seem thing they equal. both Buthad I suspect in common he waswas probably a love not for putting Buster Keaton the full and Marx force of hisBrothers thinking films. into our Lenny gameswould because popI was somesopopcorn much younger in the microwave than he was -(he andused put to tons callofme butter The and Novice saltwhen on it, Imy firstdad started would going tell me - to over and histhey’d place)watch and also the because film untilhearound really was ten o’clock, lonely, and when didn’t my dad would want me toleave lose continually despite Lenny’s and become attemptstempted to get him to stop to stay coming longer. by He would after school. then But goI home realized, to my even step-mother, on those days where I won, he would that he watch was another much better movie at with the game her. Why than my he let step-mother on. Chess was books so filled willing antoentire give up theonFriday shelf the bookcase nights they he kept would by the have fireplace spent together and he claimed had to do that with he the sense had beat Father she had Andrews that Lenny and the didn’t Russian have woman much longer on a regular to live.basis She figured the though thatblack anyone manaswith fat as theLenny parrotsimply that hedidn’t used tohave playthat withmuch had longer.heBecause been, admitted, of much this belief, bettershe than once he was. told me, Howshe he thought was introduced that me going to the over gametohe hisnever placeexplained. to play chess It was and almost Dad visiting as if he’d him almost been born every Fridaythat knowing were the good game things of chess to do. was Otherwise, somewhere she said, out she there: would’ve it was considered only a matter meofspending searching, so much of finding time it. in such The reason an unhealthy he enjoyed stagnant the atmosphere game to the highly extent questionable he did, he once andtold would’ve me, claiming suggested he could I just play visit Lenny it all day once every a week day and at most. neverShe grow also weary admitted of it,that wasthe thereason use of she the never went future tenseover in it.there Thatwith sense myoffather having onto Friday thinknights not only hadone to do orwith two how melancholy, moves down the line, how sterile, but several, the house evenfelt. trying It was to envision always too thecold last in bothofwinter move the game and from summer the because third or fourth Lenny move got hot alone, easily, made andhim the roomsinsmelled think a way that like felt unwashed naturalclothes. to him. It was a type of thinking that had But littleintotruth, do with I never so-called found real his place life, where that sad, so many that enclosed. contingent If anything, factors were his kicked house, which up with was every so disorganized, action that even with pretending bookcases to in odd places imagine thelike future the bathroom was idiotic. andHe’d the back say that porch in and chess dusty the boxes future sitreting was, ally in thetocorners use a stupid of every cliché, room, now. seemed to my young mind a place of energetic My father mental still visited activity. him I realized also during he was those far years from being when happy, Lenny though. had so much Far from trouble even leaving beinghis content. house, But though his of lack course of contentment Lenny had appeared long sinceadmirable ceased coming to me. to I was our aplace teenager, on Saturdays. and like most Almost teenagers every I was pissed Friday night off after at what goingI out sawtoasathe midtown complacency BBQ shack all around he and me.my step-mother One night, both though, liked, Dad whilewould Lenny drop atemy some step-mother soup andoff bread at their -a huge bowl house, pickofup soup, some and groceries half a loaf at of Kroger’s, bread - Iand did take ask him themif over he ever to regrettedplace. Lenny’s not getting They married, would have not ahaving few drinks, children. though I wasLenny’s a little older doc-

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tor warned never heardhim him away mention from hisall father alcohol again. due to some weight-related problems with his respiratory system, and watch some old Hollywood Wemovie seemed Lenny surprisingly had bought equal backinwhen talentheoverall. could still When get around I think backdo and onthings it, thelike number buy used of times videotapes he won from and the movie number rental of stores. times IAndid seem about other thing they equal. both Buthad I suspect in common he waswas probably a love not for putting Buster Keaton the full forceMarx and of hisBrothers thinking films. into our Lenny gameswould because popI was somesopopcorn much younger in the than he was -(he microwave andused put to tons callofme butter The and Novice saltwhen on it, Imy firstdad started would going tell over- to me and histhey’d place)watch and also the because film untilhearound really was ten o’clock, lonely, and when didn’t my wantwould dad me toleave lose continually despite Lenny’s and become attemptstempted to get him to stop to stay coming longer. by afterwould He school. then But goI home realized, to my even step-mother, on those days where I won, he would that he watch was much better another movie at with the game her. Why than my he let step-mother on. Chess was books so filled willing antoentire give shelf up theonFriday the bookcase nights they he kept would by the have fireplace spent together and he claimed had to do that with he had sense the beat Father she had Andrews that Lenny and the didn’t Russian have woman much longer on a regular to live.basis She though the figured thatblack anyone manaswith fat as theLenny parrotsimply that hedidn’t used tohave playthat withmuch had been, heBecause longer. admitted, of much this belief, bettershe than once he was. told me, Howshe he thought was introduced that me to the over going gametohe hisnever placeexplained. to play chess It was and almost Dad visiting as if he’d him almost been born evknowing ery Fridaythat were the good game things of chess to do. was Otherwise, somewhere she said, out she there: would’ve it was only a matter considered meofspending searching, so much of finding time it. in such The reason an unhealthy he enjoyed stagnant the game to the highly atmosphere extent questionable he did, he once andtold would’ve me, claiming suggested he could I just play visit it all day Lenny once every a week day and at most. neverShe grow also weary admitted of it,that wasthe thereason use of she the future went never tenseover in it.there Thatwith sense myoffather having onto Friday thinknights not only hadone to do orwith two moves how melancholy, down the line, how sterile, but several, the house evenfelt. trying It was to envision always too thecold last move in bothofwinter the game and from summer the because third or fourth Lenny move got hot alone, easily, made andhim the think insmelled rooms a way that like felt unwashed naturalclothes. to him. It was a type of thinking that had But littleintotruth, do with I never so-called found real his place life, where that sad, so many that enclosed. contingent If factors were anything, his kicked house, which up with was every so disorganized, action that even with pretending bookcases to in imagine odd places thelike future the bathroom was idiotic. andHe’d the back say that porch in and chess dusty the boxes future sitreally was, ting in thetocorners use a stupid of every cliché, room, now. seemed to my young mind a place of energetic My father mental still visited activity. him I realized also during he was those far years from being when happy, Lenny had so much though. Far from trouble even leaving beinghis content. house, But though his of lack course of contentment Lenny had long sinceadmirable appeared ceased coming to me. to I was our aplace teenager, on Saturdays. and like most Almost teenagers every IFriday was pissed night off after at what goingI out sawtoasathe midtown complacency BBQ shack all around he and me.my step-mother One night, both though, liked, Dad whilewould Lenny drop atemy some step-mother soup andoff bread at their -a house,bowl huge pickofup soup, some and groceries half a loaf at of Kroger’s, bread - Iand did take ask him them if over he ever to Lenny’s place. regretted not getting They married, would have not ahaving few drinks, children. though I wasLenny’s a little older doc-

tor warned him away from all alcohol due to some weight-related problems with his respiratory system, and watch some old Hollywood movie Lenny had bought back when he could still get around and do things like buy used videotapes from movie rental stores. Another thing they both had in common was a love for Buster Keaton and Marx Brothers films. Lenny would pop some popcorn in the microwave - and put tons of butter and salt on it, my dad would tell me - and they’d watch the film until around ten o’clock, when my dad would leave despite Lenny’s attempts to get him to stay longer. He would then go home to my step-mother, where he would watch another movie with her. Why my step-mother was so willing to give up the Friday nights they would have spent together had to do with the sense she had that Lenny didn’t have much longer to live. She figured that anyone as fat as Lenny simply didn’t have that much longer. Because of this belief, she once told me, she thought that me going over to his place to play chess and Dad visiting him almost every Friday were good things to do. Otherwise, she said, she would’ve considered me spending so much time in such an unhealthy stagnant atmosphere highly questionable and would’ve suggested I just visit Lenny once a week at most. She also admitted that the reason she never went over there with my father on Friday nights had to do with how melancholy, how sterile, the house felt. It was always too cold in both winter and summer because Lenny got hot easily, and the rooms smelled like unwashed clothes. But in truth, I never found his place that sad, that enclosed. If anything, his house, which was so disorganized, with bookcases in odd places like the bathroom and the back porch and dusty boxes sitting in the corners of every room, seemed to my young mind a place of energetic mental activity. I realized he was far from being happy, though. Far from even being content. But his lack of contentment appeared admirable to me. I was a teenager, and like most teenagers I was pissed off at what I saw as the complacency all around me. One night, though, while Lenny ate some soup and bread - a huge bowl of soup, and half a loaf of bread - I did ask him if he ever regretted not getting married, not having children. I was a little older

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

at that point. I felt like I was near to being an adult: that I had the right to ask such direct questions. As usual, Lenny answered me in a highly abstract manner at first. He talked about Kierkegaard, whose books he kept on the bookcase near his bed, where they were in easy reaching distance on those mornings when he remained in bed for a few hours, staring out the window into the weedy backyard, thinking. He said this philosopher had broken off his engagement with the woman he loved in order to pursue his thoughts. And he was a physical outcast too, with a humped back and a ghastly long twisted face and probably a bad smell since in the paintings and sketches of him he looked so unkempt. He was, Lenny said, probably a lot like himself, though of course Kierkegaard was a genius and a saint of sorts and he was only a lazy fat man. There was a similarity in the way they were both spiritually unaligned with their bodies, however, he said. There was some disconnection between body and appetite and desire. Then Lenny grew silent, as if some net in his mind had overtaken what he was trying to say, capturing it and dragging it off to some dark room in his mind. We continued to play for a while. Then Lenny said, “To answer your question, though, no, I don’t really regret it. But living the way I do, it starts to take a toll.” In the past year, he explained, he’d started to talk to himself. At first it was no big deal. In the morning, to coax himself out of bed, which was always a mighty labor, he would urge himself on by talking, he said, into his own ear. Come on now, baby, he’d say. You can do it baby. Lenny said he didn’t know exactly why he called himself baby. The tone, though, was that of a lean young man talking to his troubled lover. Come on baby. It’s all right. You almost have it baby. Just a little bit more. But this talking, which at first had started off innocently, and was little more than a game he played with himself, had begun to frighten him recently. He told me not to worry though - I think he saw the concerned look on my face. It wasn’t as if he would be getting any crazier than he already was, he assured me. But some nights, while lying in bed, he would realize that he was having a conversation with himself, or at least with a different

at that half of point. himself. I felt Thelike half I was called near Baby. to being Like an lastadult: night,that he Itold had me. the He’d to right been ask in such bed, direct and questions. he realized he was saying things like Baby youAs should usual, justLenny try notanswered thinking me so much in a highly and then abstract you’ll manner be able to at sleep.He first. Trytalked thinking about about Kierkegaard, cats drinkingwhose from abooks waterhe dish. kept Oron bright the fish floating bookcase near and hisdarting bed, where around they in were blue water. in easyBaby, reaching just distance think of those on those things mornings and you’ll whenstart he remained to relax. in But bedLenny for a few suddenly hours,realized staring the the out words window were into not in thehis weedy headbackyard, - they were thinking. in the He room saidwith this him, philike a presence. losopher had broken He was off saying his engagement them. And with it scared the woman him for he aloved moment in order because to pursue he hadn’t his thoughts. realized And he’d been he was talking, a physical and itoutcast scared him too, further with a humped because this backwas andnot a ghastly the firstlong time twisted he’d heard facehis and own probably words aflybad about smell thesince room in without the paintings him even and sketches being aware of him hehewas looked saying so them. Lenny unkempt. He explained was, Lenny that said, it was probably as if that a lotimaginary like himself, chessboard though he course of sometimes Kierkegaard played games was aongenius had started and a to saint move of sorts its pieces and around he was without only a lazy hisfat mind man.having There anything was a similarity to do with in theit.way “And theyit were madeboth me feel as stupid spiritually unaligned as a goddamn with their radio,” bodies, he said, however, laughing he said. andThere returning was his attention some disconnection to the chessboard between body sittingand between appetite us. and desire. Then Lenny When grew hesilent, told me as ifthis some story, net in I originally his mind had thought overtaken that itwhat washea sign trying was that hetowas say,possibly capturing headed it and into dragging someitsort off of to dementia; some dark in room the next in hisfew mind. weeks We continued I kept looking to play forfor clues a while. that he Then wasLenny mentally said,dete“To riorating. answer your Butquestion, no suchthough, clues occurred. no, I don’t Hereally neverregret againit.brought But living up the way fact that I do,he’d it starts started to take speaking a toll.”to himself, and I didn’t try to get himIntothe talkpast about year, it.he This explained, occurredhe’d in the started fall of to talk my senior to himself. year At in high itschool first was no and bigI continued deal. In thetomorning, go over to tohis coax house himself steadily out of forbed, the next nine which wasmonths, always aup mighty until labor, a few he days would before urgeI himself left for on college by talkin NewheOrleans. ing, said, into During his own those ear.months Come on henow, didn’t baby, seem he’d to say. become You any can more do it baby. neurotic Lenny than said he’d he been didn’tpreviously. know exactly I also whynever he called told my himself dad that story. baby. The tone, Therethough, was notwas much thathe of could a leando young for his man oldtalking friendtoanyhis way. Lenny, troubled lover. at Come that point, on baby. really It’scouldn’t all right.beYou helped. almost He’d havemade it baby. his choices Just a little andbit I respected more. But him thisfortalking, it, despite which howat much first had he sometimes started off disgusted me. innocently, and was little more than a game he played with himself, had begun to frighten him recently. He told me not to worry though During - I think winter he break saw the my concerned freshmanlook year, onImy rode face. theIttrain wasn’t from as New if he would Orleansbeupgetting to Memphis, any crazier and Dad than picked he already me up was, at he theassured station and took me. But some me outnights, to get coffee while lying and some in bed, donuts he would even though realizeI that had arhe rivedhaving was arounda ten conversation o’clock that with night. himself, My dad or at didn’t leastseem with tired, a different and I

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Berkeley Fiction Review

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James Pate

half at that of point. himself. I felt Thelike half I was called near Baby. to being Like an lastadult: night,that he Itold had me. the right to He’d been ask in such bed, direct and questions. he realized he was saying things like Baby youAs should usual, justLenny try notanswered thinking me so much in a highly and then abstract you’ll manner be able to at first. He sleep. Trytalked thinking about about Kierkegaard, cats drinkingwhose from abooks waterhe dish. kept Oron bright the bookcase fish floating near and hisdarting bed, where around they in were blue water. in easyBaby, reaching just distance think of on those those things mornings and you’ll whenstart he remained to relax. in But bedLenny for a few suddenly hours,realized staring out the the words window were into not in thehis weedy headbackyard, - they were thinking. in the He room saidwith this him, philosopher like a presence. had broken He was off saying his engagement them. And with it scared the woman him for he aloved moin order ment because to pursue he hadn’t his thoughts. realized And he’d been he was talking, a physical and itoutcast scared him too, with a humped further because this backwas andnot a ghastly the firstlong time twisted he’d heard facehis and own probably words a bad fly about smell thesince room in without the paintings him even and sketches being aware of him hehewas looked saying so unkempt. them. Lenny He explained was, Lenny that said, it was probably as if that a lotimaginary like himself, chessboard though of course he sometimes Kierkegaard played games was aongenius had started and a to saint move of sorts its pieces and around he was only a lazy without hisfat mind man.having There anything was a similarity to do with in theit.way “And theyit were madeboth me spiritually feel as stupid unaligned as a goddamn with their radio,” bodies, he said, however, laughing he said. andThere returning was some his attention disconnection to the chessboard between body sittingand between appetite us. and desire. Then Lenny When grew hesilent, told me as ifthis some story, net in I originally his mind had thought overtaken that itwhat washea was trying sign that hetowas say,possibly capturing headed it and into dragging someitsort off of to dementia; some dark in room the in hisfew next mind. weeks We continued I kept looking to play forfor clues a while. that he Then wasLenny mentally said,dete“To answer your riorating. Butquestion, no suchthough, clues occurred. no, I don’t Hereally neverregret againit.brought But living up the way fact that I do,he’d it starts started to take speaking a toll.”to himself, and I didn’t try to get himIntothe talkpast about year, it.he This explained, occurredhe’d in the started fall of to talk my senior to himself. year At in first itschool high was no and bigI continued deal. In thetomorning, go over to tohis coax house himself steadily out of forbed, the whichnine next wasmonths, always aup mighty until labor, a few he days would before urgeI himself left for on college by talkin ing, heOrleans. New said, into During his own those ear.months Come on henow, didn’t baby, seem he’d to say. become You any can do it baby. more neurotic Lenny than said he’d he been didn’tpreviously. know exactly I also whynever he called told my himself dad baby.story. that The tone, Therethough, was notwas much thathe of could a leando young for his man oldtalking friendtoanyhis troubled way. Lenny, lover. at Come that point, on baby. really It’scouldn’t all right.beYou helped. almost He’d havemade it baby. his Just a little choices andbit I respected more. But him thisfortalking, it, despite which howat much first had he sometimes started off innocently,me. disgusted and was little more than a game he played with himself, had begun to frighten him recently. He told me not to worry though During - I think winter he break saw the my concerned freshmanlook year, onImy rode face. theIttrain wasn’t from as if he would New Orleansbeupgetting to Memphis, any crazier and Dad than picked he already me up was, at he theassured station me. took and But some me outnights, to get coffee while lying and some in bed, donuts he would even though realizeI that had arhe was having rived arounda ten conversation o’clock that with night. himself, My dad or at didn’t leastseem with tired, a different and I

half of himself. The half called Baby. Like last night, he told me. He’d been in bed, and he realized he was saying things like Baby you should just try not thinking so much and then you’ll be able to sleep. Try thinking about cats drinking from a water dish. Or bright fish floating and darting around in blue water. Baby, just think of those things and you’ll start to relax. But Lenny suddenly realized the words were not in his head - they were in the room with him, like a presence. He was saying them. And it scared him for a moment because he hadn’t realized he’d been talking, and it scared him further because this was not the first time he’d heard his own words fly about the room without him even being aware he was saying them. Lenny explained that it was as if that imaginary chessboard he sometimes played games on had started to move its pieces around without his mind having anything to do with it. “And it made me feel as stupid as a goddamn radio,” he said, laughing and returning his attention to the chessboard sitting between us. When he told me this story, I originally thought that it was a sign that he was possibly headed into some sort of dementia; in the next few weeks I kept looking for clues that he was mentally deteriorating. But no such clues occurred. He never again brought up the fact that he’d started speaking to himself, and I didn’t try to get him to talk about it. This occurred in the fall of my senior year in high school and I continued to go over to his house steadily for the next nine months, up until a few days before I left for college in New Orleans. During those months he didn’t seem to become any more neurotic than he’d been previously. I also never told my dad that story. There was not much he could do for his old friend anyway. Lenny, at that point, really couldn’t be helped. He’d made his choices and I respected him for it, despite how much he sometimes disgusted me.

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During winter break my freshman year, I rode the train from New Orleans up to Memphis, and Dad picked me up at the station and took me out to get coffee and some donuts even though I had arrived around ten o’clock that night. My dad didn’t seem tired, and I 133


Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

wasn’t either since I’d slept for a few hours on the train. I had heard from him that Lenny had passed away on Halloween, and that he had been the one to find him slumped in his chair with a rubber wolfman mask on his head. Every Halloween he’d answer the door with that mask on to frighten the neighborhood children, some of whom would run away and not return to hold out their bags for candy, and he must’ve died while trying to roll himself up toward the door. Yet I hadn’t asked my dad about the fuller details that night when he’d told me about it on the phone. My father was already under a great deal of stress due to the fact that he and my step-mother were going through a divorce. When it became clear he really didn’t want to talk about Lenny, I didn’t pursue the topic. At the donut shop, sitting in a booth with a dusty window outside of which a cold rain was falling, I could tell my dad had something to tell me about Lenny, and finally, on our second cup of coffee, he said it. “Lenny was a published poet, as it turns out,” he told me. He took a sip and added, “He was relatively successful, if you can believe that.” I was surprised; I’d never noticed a single book of poetry on his overflowing bookshelves. “How come he didn’t tell us?” I asked. “Well, he used someone else’s name. I guess he didn’t want people to know about it.” “What did he think? We were going to make fun of him? That doesn’t make any sense.” “It’s complicated.” “What do you mean?” “I’ll take you over there. I’ll show you.” We finished our donuts and coffee. I washed my face off in the restroom, the dull and jostling train ride having left me feeling dirty, and when I came out Dad drove me to Lenny’s house. On the way, he explained that Lenny had left everything of financial value, like the house, to the Catholic Diocese of West Tennessee, and all other items, such as his books and his old desk and his surprisingly expensive and highly specialized stereo system, to Saint Vincent DePaul. Dad and some of Lenny’s friends from church had taken charge of

wasn’t either cleaning the house since out, I’d slept transporting for a fewthe hours niceron things the train. to Saint I had Vincent heard DePaul from himand thatthrowing Lenny had thepassed older away or broken on Halloween, things away. andBy thatthe he had end of thethe been week oneintowhich find him Lenny slumped had died in his theychair had with piledaup rubber thirtywolfbags of trash. man maskDad on didn’t his head. sayEvery anything Halloween about all he’d of Lenny’s answer the olddoor pictures, with and Imask that didn’tonask. to frighten the neighborhood children, some of whom would Therun house awaywas andempty not return except to hold for some out their furniture, bags for he candy, explained. and Hemust’ve he still had died the keys whiletotrying the place to roll because himself theupdiocesan toward office the door. hadn’t Yet Idecided hadn’t asked how tomy godad about about selling the fuller the house, details or that how night to when dividehe’d the money told me up about once it on it was the phone. sold. “It My probably father was won’t already go on under the market a great until of deal spring, stressI due bet,”toDad the fact said,that turning he and on my to the step-mother street I knew were sogoing well, though from through a divorce. a different Whencorner it became sinceclear we were he really coming didn’t from want thetonorth talk part ofLenny, about town. It I didn’t had been pursue a warm the topic. fall, and some leaves still fluttered on the At the branches donut shop, of thesitting trees flanking in a booththe with street, a dusty though window the grass outside in most of which of the a cold yardsrain seemed was falling, yellow Iand could stifftell in the my orange-red dad had something shine of thetell to streetlights. me about ItLenny, suddenly and felt finally, veryon late, ourthough seconditcup wasofonly coffee, a little he past midnight. said it. “Lenny was a published poet, as it turns out,” he told me. He took Onceawe sipwent and inside added,the “He house, was relatively I thought Isuccessful, would haveif to you leave: can seeing the believe that.” rooms so striped, the walls so exposed, made me shudder Iand wasgrow surprised; cold allI’dover. never Since noticed I hadn’t a single beenbook around of poetry when Lenny on his had died, andbookshelves. overflowing since I hadn’t “How attended comethe he funeral, didn’t tell seeing us?” Ithe asked. empty stretches “Well,ofhehis used house someone gave me else’s the name. odd, irrational I guess he sense didn’t notwant onlypeothat wastoheknow ple goneabout - that it.” he had also never existed. His unreal fatness, his theatrical “Whatgestures, did he think? had been We truly were unreal, going to theatrical: make fun asof insubstantial him? That as the chessboard doesn’t make any sense.” in Lenny’s mind. But as I walked around, that crazy “It’s sensation complicated.” began to dissipate. There were only a few pieces of the “What old interior do you left: mean?” the kitchen table by the sliding glass door, the low“I’ll burnt-orange take you over sofa there. in the I’ll den,show the cement-block you.” fortified bed in the main We finished bedroom. our“They donutshad and tocoffee. take him I washed out the back,” my face Dad offsaid in the as he turned the restroom, on the dullchandelier and jostling lights traininride thehaving den. “He leftwas me too feeling big dirty, to be takenwhen and out the I came frontout door.” Dad drove me to Lenny’s house. On the way, he explained Then Dadthat must’ve Lennyhave had left noticed everything the effect of financial being in value, the largelike ly vacant the house, house to the was Catholic having Diocese on myofnerves. West Tennessee, He said he andwanted all other to show me items, such something as his books before andwe hisleft, old desk and itand hadhis to surprisingly do with the poems. expenLeading sive and me highly intospecialized the guest bedroom, stereo system, he opened to Saint the curtain, Vincentallowing DePaul. someand Dad feeble some streetlight of Lenny’s shine friends to fallfrom across church the plain had brown taken charge carpet on of

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James Pate

cleaning wasn’t either the house since out, I’d slept transporting for a fewthe hours niceron things the train. to Saint I had Vincent heard from himand DePaul thatthrowing Lenny had thepassed older away or broken on Halloween, things away. andBy thatthe he had end been of thethe week oneintowhich find him Lenny slumped had died in his theychair had with piledaup rubber thirtywolfbags man of trash. maskDad on didn’t his head. sayEvery anything Halloween about all he’d of Lenny’s answer the olddoor pictures, with that Imask and didn’tonask. to frighten the neighborhood children, some of whom would Therun house awaywas andempty not return except to hold for some out their furniture, bags for he candy, explained. and he must’ve He still had died the keys whiletotrying the place to roll because himself theupdiocesan toward office the door. hadn’t Yet I hadn’t asked decided how tomy godad about about selling the fuller the house, details or that how night to when dividehe’d the told me up money about once it on it was the phone. sold. “It My probably father was won’t already go on under the market a great deal of until spring, stressI due bet,”toDad the fact said,that turning he and on my to the step-mother street I knew were sogoing well, throughfrom though a divorce. a different Whencorner it became sinceclear we were he really coming didn’t from want thetonorth talk aboutofLenny, part town. It I didn’t had been pursue a warm the topic. fall, and some leaves still fluttered on the At the branches donut shop, of thesitting trees flanking in a booththe with street, a dusty though window the grass outside in of which most of the a cold yardsrain seemed was falling, yellow Iand could stifftell in the my orange-red dad had something shine of to tell the streetlights. me about ItLenny, suddenly and felt finally, veryon late, ourthough seconditcup wasofonly coffee, a little he said midnight. past it. “Lenny was a published poet, as it turns out,” he told me. He took Onceawe sipwent and inside added,the “He house, was relatively I thought Isuccessful, would haveif to you leave: can believethe seeing that.” rooms so striped, the walls so exposed, made me shudder Iand wasgrow surprised; cold allI’dover. never Since noticed I hadn’t a single beenbook around of poetry when Lenny on his overflowing had died, andbookshelves. since I hadn’t “How attended comethe he funeral, didn’t tell seeing us?” Ithe asked. empty stretches “Well,ofhehis used house someone gave me else’s the name. odd, irrational I guess he sense didn’t notwant onlypeothat ple toheknow was goneabout - that it.” he had also never existed. His unreal fatness, his theatrical “Whatgestures, did he think? had been We truly were unreal, going to theatrical: make fun asof insubstantial him? That doesn’t as the chessboard make any sense.” in Lenny’s mind. But as I walked around, that crazy “It’s sensation complicated.” began to dissipate. There were only a few pieces of the “What old interior do you left: mean?” the kitchen table by the sliding glass door, the low“I’ll burnt-orange take you over sofa there. in the I’ll den,show the cement-block you.” fortified bed in the main We finished bedroom. our“They donutshad and tocoffee. take him I washed out the back,” my face Dad offsaid in the as restroom, he turned the on the dullchandelier and jostling lights traininride thehaving den. “He leftwas me too feeling big dirty, to be and when taken out the I came frontout door.” Dad drove me to Lenny’s house. On the way, he explained Then Dadthat must’ve Lennyhave had left noticed everything the effect of financial being in value, the largelike thevacant ly house, house to the was Catholic having Diocese on myofnerves. West Tennessee, He said he andwanted all other to items,me show such something as his books before andwe hisleft, old desk and itand hadhis to surprisingly do with the poems. expensive and me Leading highly intospecialized the guest bedroom, stereo system, he opened to Saint the curtain, Vincentallowing DePaul. Dad and some feeble some streetlight of Lenny’s shine friends to fallfrom across church the plain had brown taken charge carpet on of

cleaning the house out, transporting the nicer things to Saint Vincent DePaul and throwing the older or broken things away. By the end of the week in which Lenny had died they had piled up thirty bags of trash. Dad didn’t say anything about all of Lenny’s old pictures, and I didn’t ask. The house was empty except for some furniture, he explained. He still had the keys to the place because the diocesan office hadn’t decided how to go about selling the house, or how to divide the money up once it was sold. “It probably won’t go on the market until spring, I bet,” Dad said, turning on to the street I knew so well, though from a different corner since we were coming from the north part of town. It had been a warm fall, and some leaves still fluttered on the branches of the trees flanking the street, though the grass in most of the yards seemed yellow and stiff in the orange-red shine of the streetlights. It suddenly felt very late, though it was only a little past midnight. Once we went inside the house, I thought I would have to leave: seeing the rooms so striped, the walls so exposed, made me shudder and grow cold all over. Since I hadn’t been around when Lenny had died, and since I hadn’t attended the funeral, seeing the empty stretches of his house gave me the odd, irrational sense not only that was he gone - that he had also never existed. His unreal fatness, his theatrical gestures, had been truly unreal, theatrical: as insubstantial as the chessboard in Lenny’s mind. But as I walked around, that crazy sensation began to dissipate. There were only a few pieces of the old interior left: the kitchen table by the sliding glass door, the low burnt-orange sofa in the den, the cement-block fortified bed in the main bedroom. “They had to take him out the back,” Dad said as he turned on the chandelier lights in the den. “He was too big to be taken out the front door.” Then Dad must’ve have noticed the effect being in the largely vacant house was having on my nerves. He said he wanted to show me something before we left, and it had to do with the poems. Leading me into the guest bedroom, he opened the curtain, allowing some feeble streetlight shine to fall across the plain brown carpet on

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the floor, and he gestured me over to the bookcase, the sole piece of furniture in the room. On the bottom shelf was a stack of literary journals. I recognized some of the titles from seeing them in my girlfriend’s dorm room. She was an English major and she collected literary journals from the local bookstores. “I bet you won’t be able to guess what he published under,” Dad said. I picked up one of the journals, looking through the table of contents for a name that I thought Lenny might use. One of them flashed out from the rest. It had my step-mother’s first name, my father’s middle name, and the surname was Andrews, which made me think of Father Andrews. Lillian Johnson Andrews. I stared up at my dad; he stood by the window, his old trench coat hanging limply off from him (he’d lost weight since I’d left, I realized). He said, “That’s right. That’s him. It was obvious to me as soon as I saw the name. But you have to read it.” He added, “You’re the only one I’ve told about this.” I turned toward the page given in the table of contents and quickly skimmed over the piece. It was a simple, earnest poem in four stanzas with a great deal of alliteration and a few extended, digressive metaphors. It was a memory poem: the poet was thinking about when she and her grandfather would go fishing together and how the “hourless hours” would float by under the “high and still” Mississippi sun. There were only a few hints that the narrator was a woman - for example, the narrator described how her long hair would “float in the cool trembling water” when she sprawled out along the creek behind her grandparent’s home. I picked up another journal from the pile and found the same name in the table of contents. Then I found the poem. I read it out loud to Dad, to myself. It contained the same heavy use of alliteration and metaphor. The verse was about a dance. A prom dance on a boat floating up and then down the Mississippi River. A night dance: bridge lights and city lights fluttered in the distance. And this poem was definitely narrated by a young woman. Near the end of the poem, which was long, at least a dozen stanzas, she talked about her black prom dress, describing it in detail and saying how it had felt “like a hedge of stiff ribbons” against her skin as she danced with a boy whose name she could no longer recall.

Ithe turned floor,toand theheback gestured of theme journal over to the readbookcase, the biography: the sole “Lillian piece Johnson of furniture Andrews in the lives room.inOn Memphis, the bottom TN.shelf Other was than a stack writing of literary poetry, she enjoysI playing journals. recognized chess, some watching of the cats, titlesand from reading.” seeing them in my girlfriend’s I put thedorm journal room. down She was and an thought English about major theand airy sheimaginary collected chessboard literary journals Lenny from hadthe constructed local bookstores. in his thoughts. “I bet you And won’t I wondered be able whom to guess thewhat poems he were published meantunder,” to address. Dad said. Himself? I picked Strangers? up oneMe of and journals, the my dad and looking my step-mother, through the table but only of contents on terms forofa Lenny name that him-I self being thought Lenny laid to might rest?use. AndOne I wondered of them flashed how the outvoice fromwith the rest. which It he spoke had my step-mother’s to himself - the firstwhispery name, myvoice father’s that middle called him name, baby, andthat the coaxed and surname was consoled Andrews, himwhich - related made to this me fictitious think of Father poet. Andrews. Lillian I turned Johnson to Dad. Andrews. “How many I stared didup he at publish?” my dad;I he asked. stood by the window, “There’s his old sixteen trench journals coat hanging there,” he limply said, off “and from I have himthree (he’dmore lost at the house. weight since I’d Theleft, three I realized). poems I really He said, liked “That’s I decided right.toThat’s keep.him. But you It was know obvious me. to I don’t me asreally soon read as I saw poetry.” the name. But you have to read it.” He I didn’t added, either, “You’re but Ithe took only theone stack I’veoftold journals aboutwith this.”me anyway. ThatI turned night, Itoward couldn’t the sleep. page given I carefully in the table tore out of contents the pages and with quickthe poems ly skimmed from each over journal the piece. and It placed was them a simple, on the earnest floor ofpoem my old in bedfour room. Some stanzas with were a great good, dealsome of alliteration were not so andgood, a fewbut extended, there were digresfour that were sive metaphors. extraordinary. It was a They memory made poem: you the feelpoet likewas it was thinking early dawn, about when she everything and herseems grandfather new and would half-formed. go fishingOver together the course and how of the next few days, “hourless hours” I memorized would floateach by under poem, the including “high and the not still” very Missisgood ones, sun. sippi and There when Iwere left Memphis only a fewIhints didn’tthat take thethe narrator pages was withame. woman - for example, the narrator described how her long hair would “float in the cool trembling water” when she sprawled out along the creek behind her grandparent’s home. I picked up another journal from the pile and found the same name in the table of contents. Then I found the poem. I read it out loud to Dad, to myself. It contained the same heavy use of alliteration and metaphor. The verse was about a dance. A prom dance on a boat floating up and then down the Mississippi River. A night dance: bridge lights and city lights fluttered in the distance. And this poem was definitely narrated by a young woman. Near the end of the poem, which was long, at least a dozen stanzas, she talked about her black prom dress, describing it in detail and saying how it had felt “like a hedge of stiff ribbons” against her skin as she danced with a boy whose name she could no longer recall.

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James Pate

James Pate

I turned the floor,toand theheback gestured of theme journal over to the readbookcase, the biography: the sole “Lillian piece of furniture Johnson Andrews in the lives room.inOn Memphis, the bottom TN.shelf Other was than a stack writing of literary poetry, journals. she enjoysI playing recognized chess, some watching of the cats, titlesand from reading.” seeing them in my girlfriend’s I put thedorm journal room. down She was and an thought English about major theand airy sheimaginary collected literary journals chessboard Lenny from hadthe constructed local bookstores. in his thoughts. “I bet you And won’t I wondered be able to guess whom thewhat poems he were published meantunder,” to address. Dad said. Himself? I picked Strangers? up oneMe of the journals, and my dad and looking my step-mother, through the table but only of contents on terms forofa Lenny name that him-I thought self being Lenny laid to might rest?use. AndOne I wondered of them flashed how the outvoice fromwith the rest. which It hadspoke he my step-mother’s to himself - the firstwhispery name, myvoice father’s that middle called him name, baby, andthat the surnameand coaxed was consoled Andrews, himwhich - related made to this me fictitious think of Father poet. Andrews. Lillian I turned Johnson to Dad. Andrews. “How many I stared didup he at publish?” my dad;I he asked. stood by the window, “There’s his old sixteen trench journals coat hanging there,” he limply said, off “and from I have himthree (he’dmore lost weight at the house. since I’d Theleft, three I realized). poems I really He said, liked “That’s I decided right.toThat’s keep.him. But It was you know obvious me. to I don’t me asreally soon read as I saw poetry.” the name. But you have to read it.” IHe didn’t added, either, “You’re but Ithe took only theone stack I’veoftold journals aboutwith this.”me anyway. ThatI turned night, Itoward couldn’t the sleep. page given I carefully in the table tore out of contents the pages and with quickthe ly skimmed poems from each over journal the piece. and It placed was athem simple, on the earnest floor ofpoem my old in bedfour stanzasSome room. with were a great good, dealsome of alliteration were not so andgood, a fewbut extended, there were digresfour sive were that metaphors. extraordinary. It was a They memory made poem: you the feelpoet likewas it was thinking early dawn, about when she everything and herseems grandfather new and would half-formed. go fishingOver together the course and how of the “hourless next few days, hours” I memorized would floateach by under poem, the including “high and the not still” very Missisgood sippi sun. ones, and There when Iwere left Memphis only a fewIhints didn’tthat take thethe narrator pages was withame. woman - for example, the narrator described how her long hair would “float in the cool trembling water” when she sprawled out along the creek behind her grandparent’s home. I picked up another journal from the pile and found the same name in the table of contents. Then I found the poem. I read it out loud to Dad, to myself. It contained the same heavy use of alliteration and metaphor. The verse was about a dance. A prom dance on a boat floating up and then down the Mississippi River. A night dance: bridge lights and city lights fluttered in the distance. And this poem was definitely narrated by a young woman. Near the end of the poem, which was long, at least a dozen stanzas, she talked about her black prom dress, describing it in detail and saying how it had felt “like a hedge of stiff ribbons” against her skin as she danced with a boy whose name she could no longer recall.

I turned to the back of the journal to read the biography: “Lillian Johnson Andrews lives in Memphis, TN. Other than writing poetry, she enjoys playing chess, watching cats, and reading.” I put the journal down and thought about the airy imaginary chessboard Lenny had constructed in his thoughts. And I wondered whom the poems were meant to address. Himself? Strangers? Me and my dad and my step-mother, but only on terms of Lenny himself being laid to rest? And I wondered how the voice with which he spoke to himself - the whispery voice that called him baby, that coaxed and consoled him - related to this fictitious poet. I turned to Dad. “How many did he publish?” I asked. “There’s sixteen journals there,” he said, “and I have three more at the house. The three poems I really liked I decided to keep. But you know me. I don’t really read poetry.” I didn’t either, but I took the stack of journals with me anyway. That night, I couldn’t sleep. I carefully tore out the pages with the poems from each journal and placed them on the floor of my old bedroom. Some were good, some were not so good, but there were four that were extraordinary. They made you feel like it was early dawn, when everything seems new and half-formed. Over the course of the next few days, I memorized each poem, including the not very good ones, and when I left Memphis I didn’t take the pages with me.

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CONTENTS OF

A

DEAD MAN’S POCKETS

Edward I never planned on dying alone. Nor did I ever plan on dying in any respect but once you reach a certain point in your life you can’t help thinking about the logistics of your inevitable decline. You wake up wondering if you’ll make it back to bed before nightfall or ponder the best scenarios of someone finally realizing the old man in apartment 6F finally kicked the bucket. Ideally, I’m found sitting in my easy chair, wearing my blue suit, with a glass of brandy in my hand and a contented smile on my sad wrinkled face. I never forgot or disposed of a single suit. The most historic one goes back to 1942 when I was six-teen years old. I took Rosemary Solomon to a high school dance in that suit. Her dress matched the lilac she gave me to wear on my lapel and we danced the night away after spiking the punch. (Rosemary loved gin). The finest suit I bought was for my son’s funeral in 1981. I wore it once and it’s the one I’d like to be buried in. All thirteen are hanging in my closet. The coats are on the left and pants are on the right. Seven have matching vests that are hanging inside their corresponding coats. I have five pairs of shoes: three black pairs, one brown pair and one pair of Reebok tennis shoes. After a while it became increasingly difficult to walk long distances in dress shoes and so I started taking long walks around 139


Lauren Lippeatt

CONTENTS OF

A

DEAD MAN’S POCKETS

Lauren Lippeatt

CONTENTS OF

A

DEAD MAN’S POCKETS

Edward I never planned on dying alone. Nor did I ever plan on dying in any respect but once you reach a certain point in your life you can’t help thinking about the logistics of your inevitable decline. You wake up wondering if you’ll make it back to bed before nightfall or ponder the best scenarios of someone finally realizing the old man in apartment 6F finally kicked the bucket. Ideally, I’m found sitting in my easy chair, wearing my blue suit, with a glass of brandy in my hand and a contented smile on my sad wrinkled face. I never forgot or disposed of a single suit. The most historic one goes back to 1942 when I was six-teen years old. I took Rosemary Solomon to a high school dance in that suit. Her dress matched the lilac she gave me to wear on my lapel and we danced the night away after spiking the punch. (Rosemary loved gin). The finest suit I bought was for my son’s funeral in 1981. I wore it once and it’s the one I’d like to be buried in. All thirteen are hanging in my closet. The coats are on the left and pants are on the right. Seven have matching vests that are hanging inside their corresponding coats. I have five pairs of shoes: three black pairs, one brown pair and one pair of Reebok tennis shoes. After a while it became increasingly difficult to walk long distances in dress shoes and so I started taking long walks around

Edward I never planned on dying alone. Nor did I ever plan on dying in any respect but once you reach a certain point in your life you can’t help thinking about the logistics of your inevitable decline. You wake up wondering if you’ll make it back to bed before nightfall or ponder the best scenarios of someone finally realizing the old man in apartment 6F finally kicked the bucket. Ideally, I’m found sitting in my easy chair, wearing my blue suit, with a glass of brandy in my hand and a contented smile on my sad wrinkled face. I never forgot or disposed of a single suit. The most historic one goes back to 1942 when I was six-teen years old. I took Rosemary Solomon to a high school dance in that suit. Her dress matched the lilac she gave me to wear on my lapel and we danced the night away after spiking the punch. (Rosemary loved gin). The finest suit I bought was for my son’s funeral in 1981. I wore it once and it’s the one I’d like to be buried in. All thirteen are hanging in my closet. The coats are on the left and pants are on the right. Seven have matching vests that are hanging inside their corresponding coats. I have five pairs of shoes: three black pairs, one brown pair and one pair of Reebok tennis shoes. After a while it became increasingly difficult to walk long distances in dress shoes and so I started taking long walks around

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Berkeley Fiction Review

town in 2000. I am quite old and I have that on good authority. Children have been calling me “old man” for forty years and in that time I have come to believe and accept the fact that I am many things, “old” being one of them. When you put years onto a man and give him nothing but heartache and solitude there are wrinkles not only on his skin but buried inside his muscles, his veins, and his bones. I’ve loved only one woman my entire life even though she only loved me for half of hers. I’m not resentful though I do get sad about it from time to time. I wonder how life might have been if only things had happened differently. My hands now are deeply wrinkled, my skin stretches over my fingers as thin as wax paper, my knuckles are round, awkward, aching bulbs. Looking at my hands while thinking about my life reminds me of just how close I am to everything being over. I have those thoughts only on bad days. Eleanor Scott was and always will be the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw her she was bending down to tie her shoe. I can still see the gleam of the sun as it shone on her hair that day. She looked up at me with green eyes and said “Hey Edward,” before running off to join her friends. She was the only person in my first grade class who would talk to me. I had a speech impediment that wouldn’t allow me the glory of pronouncing the letter “R”, and I would get so nervous every time someone tried to talk to me that when I responded my voice would quake like an old man’s. This vibrato won me nothing but laughs so I spent most of my time and energy trying to divert attention away from myself. Eleanor was the complete opposite. She couldn’t stop talking. She got in trouble ten times a day for talking in class. On one particularly energetic day she received the worst punishment anyone in the class could imagine. It was an epic event. Eleanor had been told three times to “be quiet or else” when Mrs. York lost her temper. “Eleanorrrr!” Mrs. York growled. The class fell deathly silent. Her eyes were full of rage as she breathed in slowly. When she exhaled a sly smile spread across her face. “Take all of your things,”

townsaid, she in 2000. enjoying every syllable “and go sit next to…Edward.” IEleanor’s am quitemouth old andfell I have openthat andon thegood entire authority. class gasped Children at once. have been“But…” calling Eleanor me “oldstarted. man” for forty years and in that time I have come “Now.” to believe Mrs. York and accept told herthe in afact tonethat thatI meant am many therethings, was no“old” way of getting being one out of them. of her sentence. When you put years onto a man and give him nothing Eachbut desk heartache in the classroom and solitude hadthere two students are wrinkles seated notinonly them, on his I’d had my skin but own buried upinside until then his muscles, and washis terrified veins, that and his Eleanor bones. would be sharing I’ve my loved desktop. only oneI knew woman she mywould entiretalk life to even methough and that shewould only mean that loved me for I would half have of hers. to talk I’mto not her!resentful I could ignore thoughorI walk do getaway sad from any about it from boy in time school to time. to avoid I wonder conversation how life butmight neverhave couldbeen I ever if let a things only question hadgohappened unanswered differently. or a comment My hands uncommented now are deeply upon when it was wrinkled, myspoken skin stretches by the most over my beautiful fingersgirl as thin I’d ever as wax seen. paper, my knuckles I thinkare sheround, was afraid awkward, that she aching was bulbs. going to Looking get in trouble at my hands again because while thinking for the about first two mydays life reminds she onlyme saidoftwo justthings how close to me:I am “Can to I borrow a pencil?” everything being over. andI“What have those page?” thoughts I responded only onsilently bad days. to each of these. Eleanor OnScott the was thirdand dayalways she turned will be tothe memost and beautiful said, “Why girldon’t I’ve you ever ever seen.talk?” The first time I saw her she was bending down to tie her shoe. “I-I-I I can getstill nuhvus.” see the Igleam vibrated. of the sun as it shone on her hair that day.She Shelooked lookedatup meatlike me with a booger greenhad eyes justand flown said out “Hey of Edward,” my nose, “Why would before running you offbe tonervous?” join her friends. “I talk She was funny.” the only person in my first grade class who would talk to me. “Says I had who?” a speech impediment that wouldn’t allow me the glory of pronouncing “My mom and the dad letter and…everybody.” “R”, and I would get so nervous every time someone “Well,tried I don’t to talk think toyou me talk that funny. when IThat’s responded just stupid. my voice If you’ve would got something quake like an old to say man’s. just This say it!” vibrato won me nothing but laughs so I spent I was most shushed of myby time Mrs. andYork energy a number trying to of divert times attention after that.away Eleanormyself. from was theEleanor only friend was Ithe had complete and theopposite. only person Shewho couldn’t said they stop would miss talking. Sheme gotwhen in trouble I moved tenaway timesata the dayend for of talking the year. in class. On one Iparticularly didn’t moveenergetic far, but far day enough she received that Eleanor the worst and I didn’t punishment go to the sameinschool anyone the class anymore. could imagine. I was heartbroken and I’m not exaggerating It when wasIan sayepic thatevent. I thought Eleanor abouthad herbeen everytold day.three Nottimes all thetotime “be but ator quiet least else” once when a day Mrs. sheYork would lostrun herthrough temper.my mind. In 1943 I wasMrs. “Eleanorrrr!” seventeen York growled. years old.The I worked class fell at the deathly post silent. office aftereyes Her school were sorting full of mail. rageOne as she daybreathed I was late infor slowly. work.When I missed she exthe bus I usually haled a sly smile tookspread and had across to get heronface. another “Take one.allIof was your justthings,” sitting

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Lauren Lippeatt

Lauren Lippeatt

townsaid, she in 2000. enjoying every syllable “and go sit next to…Edward.” I am quitemouth Eleanor’s old andfell I have openthat andon thegood entire authority. class gasped Children at once. have been“But…” calling Eleanor me “oldstarted. man” for forty years and in that time I have come “Now.” to believe Mrs. York and accept told herthe in afact tonethat thatI meant am many therethings, was no“old” way being of getting one out of them. of her sentence. When you put years onto a man and give him nothing Eachbut desk heartache in the classroom and solitude hadthere two students are wrinkles seated notinonly them, on his I’d skin my had but own buried upinside until then his muscles, and washis terrified veins, that and his Eleanor bones. would be sharing I’ve my loved desktop. only oneI knew woman she mywould entiretalk life to even methough and that shewould only loved that mean me for I would half have of hers. to talk I’mto not her!resentful I could ignore thoughorI walk do getaway sad aboutany from it from boy in time school to time. to avoid I wonder conversation how life butmight neverhave couldbeen I ever if onlya things let question hadgohappened unanswered differently. or a comment My hands uncommented now are deeply upon wrinkled, when it was myspoken skin stretches by the most over my beautiful fingersgirl as thin I’d ever as wax seen. paper, my knuckles I thinkare sheround, was afraid awkward, that she aching was bulbs. going to Looking get in trouble at my hands again while thinking because for the about first two mydays life reminds she onlyme saidoftwo justthings how close to me:I am “Can to Ieverything borrow a pencil?” being over. andI“What have those page?” thoughts I responded only onsilently bad days. to each of these. Eleanor OnScott the was thirdand dayalways she turned will be tothe memost and beautiful said, “Why girldon’t I’ve everever you seen.talk?” The first time I saw her she was bending down to tie her shoe. “I-I-I I can getstill nuhvus.” see the Igleam vibrated. of the sun as it shone on her hair that day.She Shelooked lookedatup meatlike me with a booger greenhad eyes justand flown said out “Hey of Edward,” my nose, before would “Why running you offbe tonervous?” join her friends. Shetalk “I was funny.” the only person in my first grade class who would talk to me. “Says I had who?” a speech impediment that wouldn’t allow me the glory of pronouncing “My mom and the dad letter and…everybody.” “R”, and I would get so nervous every time someone “Well,tried I don’t to talk think toyou me talk that funny. when IThat’s responded just stupid. my voice If you’ve would quake got something like an old to say man’s. just This say it!” vibrato won me nothing but laughs so I spent I was most shushed of myby time Mrs. andYork energy a number trying to of divert times attention after that.away Elfrom myself. eanor was theEleanor only friend was Ithe had complete and theopposite. only person Shewho couldn’t said they stop talking.miss would Sheme gotwhen in trouble I moved tenaway timesata the dayend for of talking the year. in class. On one Iparticularly didn’t moveenergetic far, but far day enough she received that Eleanor the worst and I didn’t punishment go to anyone the sameinschool the class anymore. could imagine. I was heartbroken and I’m not exaggerating It when wasIan sayepic thatevent. I thought Eleanor abouthad herbeen everytold day.three Nottimes all thetotime “be quietator but least else” once when a day Mrs. sheYork would lostrun herthrough temper.my mind. “Eleanorrrr!” In 1943 I wasMrs. seventeen York growled. years old.The I worked class fell at the deathly post silent. office Her eyes after school were sorting full of mail. rageOne as she daybreathed I was late infor slowly. work.When I missed she exthe haledI usually bus a sly smile tookspread and had across to get heronface. another “Take one.allIof was your justthings,” sitting

she said, enjoying every syllable “and go sit next to…Edward.” Eleanor’s mouth fell open and the entire class gasped at once. “But…” Eleanor started. “Now.” Mrs. York told her in a tone that meant there was no way of getting out of her sentence. Each desk in the classroom had two students seated in them, I’d had my own up until then and was terrified that Eleanor would be sharing my desktop. I knew she would talk to me and that would mean that I would have to talk to her! I could ignore or walk away from any boy in school to avoid conversation but never could I ever let a question go unanswered or a comment uncommented upon when it was spoken by the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. I think she was afraid that she was going to get in trouble again because for the first two days she only said two things to me: “Can I borrow a pencil?” and “What page?” I responded silently to each of these. On the third day she turned to me and said, “Why don’t you ever talk?” “I-I-I get nuhvus.” I vibrated. She looked at me like a booger had just flown out of my nose, “Why would you be nervous?” “I talk funny.” “Says who?” “My mom and dad and…everybody.” “Well, I don’t think you talk funny. That’s just stupid. If you’ve got something to say just say it!” I was shushed by Mrs. York a number of times after that. Eleanor was the only friend I had and the only person who said they would miss me when I moved away at the end of the year. I didn’t move far, but far enough that Eleanor and I didn’t go to the same school anymore. I was heartbroken and I’m not exaggerating when I say that I thought about her every day. Not all the time but at least once a day she would run through my mind. In 1943 I was seventeen years old. I worked at the post office after school sorting mail. One day I was late for work. I missed the bus I usually took and had to get on another one. I was just sitting

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there with my head hanging low thinking up all the excuses I could give my boss for my tardiness when I heard the most distinct sound I’ve ever heard in all my life—Eleanor’s voice from the back of the bus. It had been over ten years and I still recognized her cadence, her lazy R’s and slightly southern I’s. I stood up like my seat had caught fire and floated over to her. She told me later that I was grinning from ear to ear. I didn’t even say anything I just looked at her and beamed. Maybe it was impact of the bus coincidence or maybe it really had been love at first sight but from that moment on we were inseparable. She was the first friend I ever had, the first girl I ever made love to, and the only girl I ever truly loved. On the bad days I mentioned before I think about how things would have been different if I hadn’t fought in the war. I didn’t have to go, I wanted to. I wanted to marry Eleanor but I also wanted to travel and have adventures. I thought going to war was the perfect choice. So I left, promising her I’d come back and make her an honest woman. When I did, Eleanor was married to another man. She had been four weeks pregnant when I left. Too ashamed to admit the truth she accepted a proposal from Alfred Templin, a red-headed son of a bitch whose dad owned a bread company. My son’s name was Gerald. He never knew I existed. I thought about going back to Europe, traveling, finding adventures but I never did. There was always something holding me back: work, money…fear. So I worked for the United States Postal Service for fifty-four years and every day on the way to work I would pass by the Templin Bread Factory and smell the horribly beautiful reminder of what my life could have been with Eleanor. The hurt lessened with time and I eventually married a sweet girl named Elaine (I called her Lu-Lu). I met her on a trip to Savannah, Georgia. She was walking down the street on legs as long as flower stems when I saw her first. We were married for two years when she died in a car accident. After that I gave up ever trying to love anyone else. Gerald died in 1981 from lung cancer. Only when I went to

there his funeral with my did head I findhanging out thatlow I had thinking a grandson up allasthe well. excuses His name I could is Andrew. give my boss for my tardiness when I heard the most distinct sound I’veIever saw heard Eleanor in all at my Gerald’s life—Eleanor’s funeral, but voice we didn’t from the speak. back of What the was I Itsuppose bus. had been to say overtoten heryears after and fortyI years? still recognized But I washer struck cadence, hard I assure her lazy you. R’s and Myslightly eyes shifted southern overI’s. to Iher stood andup stuck likethere, my seat unable had to movefire caught noand matter floated howover hardtoI her. tried.She You’ve told me never laterreally that I made was grineye contact ning from with earsomeone to ear. Iuntil didn’t thateven someone say anything is the only I just person looked youatever her really and beamed. loved and you haven’t seen her for forty years. I paid my respects Maybe and went it washome impact quietly of the thinking bus coincidence I would never or maybe see herit again. really Thenbeen had onelove day, at out first of sight the blue, but from I got athat letter moment in theon mail wefrom wereher insepasaying thatShe rable. shewas wanted the first to meet friend me Ifor ever coffee had,and the talk. first girl I jumped I ever amade foot off the love to,ground and thewhen only Igirl read I ever that,truly no kidding! loved. I bought On the bad a brand days Inew, mentioned navy blue before pin-striped I think about suit forhow the things occasion. Ihave would worebeen black different shoes and if I hadn’t a dark fought maroonintie. the Iwar. combed I didn’t myhave hair forgo, to halfI an wanted hour to. before I wanted going to meet marryher. Eleanor (If you butcould I alsosee wanted my hair to you would travel and have be amazed adventures. that I could I thought spend going half to an war hourwas combing the perfect it.) I looked as choice. Sohandsome I left, promising as I was herever I’d going come back to look. and make I walked her into an honthe littlewoman. est coffee shop, Whenmy I did, heart Eleanor hurting was with married anticipation to another and man. there was She my Eleanor had been four asweeks pretty pregnant as ever. When when I left. saw the Toolines ashamed around to her admit green the eyes and truth she accepted her handsa proposal nearly asfrom withered AlfredasTemplin, my ownaIred-headed felt sick that sonI hadn’t of a bitch gotten whose to watch dad owned her grow a bread oldercompany. every day of my life. For son’s My nineteen name years waswe Gerald. met once He never a week. knewSometimes I existed. we’d go to movies I thought or about take walks goingaround back totown. Europe, Most traveling, of the time finding we’d advenjust sit and tures buttalk. I never She’d did.tell There me was things always aboutsomething Gerald and holding Andrew. me back: Gerald hadmoney…fear. work, been a high school So I worked Englishforteacher the United who had States myPostal knackSerfor understanding vice for fifty-four poetry years andand hisevery favorite daymusician on the way wastoOscar workPeterson I would (which pass by Ithe know Templin he hadBread to have Factory gottenand from smell me!). the Andrew horribly was beautiful very young then reminder of and whatcollected my life could keys and havevery beenold with glass Eleanor. bottles. He was alsoThe veryhurt fond lessened of his blue withjean timejacket. and I eventually married a sweet girl named When Elaine I returned (I called home herfrom Lu-Lu). our meetings I met herafter on atalking trip to and Savannah, laughing for hours Georgia. Shemy wasapartment walking down was more the street silenton than legs I had as long ever as known flower it to be. when stems ThoseImeetings saw her were first. the Webest were times married in myforlife two butyears they when made me feel she diedlonelier in a carthan accident. ever. After that I gave up ever trying to love anyone Eleanor else.died in 2000, the same year that the Post Office made me Gerald retire. Idied wasinseventy-four 1981 from years lung cancer. old. I don’t Onlyknow whenifI she went ever to

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Lauren Lippeatt

his funeral there with my did head I findhanging out thatlow I had thinking a grandson up allasthe well. excuses His name I could is give my boss for my tardiness when I heard the most distinct sound Andrew. I’veIever saw heard Eleanor in all at my Gerald’s life—Eleanor’s funeral, but voice we didn’t from the speak. back of What the bus. I Itsuppose was had been to say overtoten heryears after and fortyI years? still recognized But I washer struck cadence, hard Iher assure lazy you. R’s and Myslightly eyes shifted southern overI’s. to Iher stood andup stuck likethere, my seat unable had caught to movefire noand matter floated howover hardtoI her. tried.She You’ve told me never laterreally that I made was grineye ning from contact with earsomeone to ear. Iuntil didn’t thateven someone say anything is the only I just person looked youatever her and beamed. really loved and you haven’t seen her for forty years. I paid my respects Maybe and went it washome impact quietly of the thinking bus coincidence I would never or maybe see herit again. really had been Then onelove day, at out first of sight the blue, but from I got athat letter moment in theon mail wefrom wereher insepasayrable. ing thatShe shewas wanted the first to meet friend me Ifor ever coffee had,and the talk. first girl I jumped I ever amade foot lovethe off to,ground and thewhen only Igirl read I ever that,truly no kidding! loved. IOn bought the bad a brand days Inew, mentioned navy blue before pin-striped I think about suit forhow the things occawouldIhave sion. worebeen black different shoes and if I hadn’t a dark fought maroonintie. the Iwar. combed I didn’t myhave hair to go, for halfI an wanted hour to. before I wanted going to meet marryher. Eleanor (If you butcould I alsosee wanted my hair to travel you would and have be amazed adventures. that I could I thought spend going half to an war hourwas combing the perfect it.) I choice. as looked Sohandsome I left, promising as I was herever I’d going come back to look. and make I walked her into an honthe est woman. little coffee shop, Whenmy I did, heart Eleanor hurting was with married anticipation to another and man. there was She had Eleanor my been four asweeks pretty pregnant as ever. When when I left. saw the Toolines ashamed around to her admit green the truth and eyes she accepted her handsa proposal nearly asfrom withered AlfredasTemplin, my ownaIred-headed felt sick that sonI of a bitch hadn’t gotten whose to watch dad owned her grow a bread oldercompany. every day of my life. My son’s For nineteen name years waswe Gerald. met once He never a week. knewSometimes I existed. we’d go to movies I thought or about take walks goingaround back totown. Europe, Most traveling, of the time finding we’d advenjust tures sit and buttalk. I never She’d did.tell There me was things always aboutsomething Gerald and holding Andrew. me back: Gerwork, ald hadmoney…fear. been a high school So I worked Englishforteacher the United who had States myPostal knackSerfor vice for fifty-four understanding poetry years andand hisevery favorite daymusician on the way wastoOscar workPeterson I would pass by Ithe (which know Templin he hadBread to have Factory gottenand from smell me!). the Andrew horribly was beautiful very reminder young then of and whatcollected my life could keys and havevery beenold with glass Eleanor. bottles. He was alsoThe veryhurt fond lessened of his blue withjean timejacket. and I eventually married a sweet girl named When Elaine I returned (I called home herfrom Lu-Lu). our meetings I met herafter on atalking trip to and Savannah, laughGeorgia. ing for hours Shemy wasapartment walking down was more the street silenton than legs I had as long ever as known flower it stems to be. when ThoseImeetings saw her were first. the Webest were times married in myforlife two butyears they when made she feel me diedlonelier in a carthan accident. ever. After that I gave up ever trying to love anyone Eleanor else.died in 2000, the same year that the Post Office made me Gerald retire. Idied wasinseventy-four 1981 from years lung cancer. old. I don’t Onlyknow whenifI she went ever to

his funeral did I find out that I had a grandson as well. His name is Andrew. I saw Eleanor at Gerald’s funeral, but we didn’t speak. What was I suppose to say to her after forty years? But I was struck hard I assure you. My eyes shifted over to her and stuck there, unable to move no matter how hard I tried. You’ve never really made eye contact with someone until that someone is the only person you ever really loved and you haven’t seen her for forty years. I paid my respects and went home quietly thinking I would never see her again. Then one day, out of the blue, I got a letter in the mail from her saying that she wanted to meet me for coffee and talk. I jumped a foot off the ground when I read that, no kidding! I bought a brand new, navy blue pin-striped suit for the occasion. I wore black shoes and a dark maroon tie. I combed my hair for half an hour before going to meet her. (If you could see my hair you would be amazed that I could spend half an hour combing it.) I looked as handsome as I was ever going to look. I walked into the little coffee shop, my heart hurting with anticipation and there was my Eleanor as pretty as ever. When I saw the lines around her green eyes and her hands nearly as withered as my own I felt sick that I hadn’t gotten to watch her grow older every day of my life. For nineteen years we met once a week. Sometimes we’d go to movies or take walks around town. Most of the time we’d just sit and talk. She’d tell me things about Gerald and Andrew. Gerald had been a high school English teacher who had my knack for understanding poetry and his favorite musician was Oscar Peterson (which I know he had to have gotten from me!). Andrew was very young then and collected keys and very old glass bottles. He was also very fond of his blue jean jacket. When I returned home from our meetings after talking and laughing for hours my apartment was more silent than I had ever known it to be. Those meetings were the best times in my life but they made me feel lonelier than ever. Eleanor died in 2000, the same year that the Post Office made me retire. I was seventy-four years old. I don’t know if she ever

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told her husband that we were friends and I knew that none of her children or grand children knew that I existed so when I went to her funeral I stayed towards the back and tried to blend in as much as I could. Only one person noticed me—my grandson. Apparently, he didn’t want to be up in the front either. He walked right up to me. “You knew my grandma?” “I sure did.” I told him in my shaky, old man voice. “I knew her all her life.” I can’t be sure of it because I was so stunned and nervous to be talking to my grandson but I remember thinking that day that he had my mother’s eyes. The last five years of my life were the most peaceful though filled with a desperate loneliness. Somehow things had turned out all right. My life with Eleanor was not spent the way I had imagined but she was there throughout. The bad days were filled only with missing her and dreaming of what it would be like to hear her voice again. That’s exactly what I was doing when it happened. I wasn’t wearing the right suit. I wanted to die wearing the navy blue, pin-striped suit I’d bought for my reunion with Eleanor but that day I was wearing a gray suit from 1978 that I’d bought for no reason at all. I’d made spaghetti for supper with a nice garlic bread to dip in the sauce. I sat down at the table in my usual chair. I looked down at my meal and realized that I wasn’t hungry. Then every thing seemed to stop and hang there for a moment like a woman’s hair blowing in a breeze and an overwhelming sadness came over me. I thought of Eleanor and the sound of her voice on the bus that day, the sight of my son lying in his coffin, and of my grandson’s eyes. I’d never felt so sad before or so far away from everything. The sadness made my heart slow down and down until there was nothing, until there was only Eleanor’s voice and increasing darkness. Andrew I woke up early that morning. I made an omelet because that’s

told her what myhusband mother used that we to make were for friends me on andmornings I knew that when none I had of big her tests in grade children or grand school children or middle knewschool—wheat that I existed so toast when on Ithe went side. to her funeral I ateI in stayed gray towards morningthe light back in and a kitchen tried to chair blend thatindidn’t as much have as aI table toOnly could. compliment one person it. I’d noticed decided me—my not to fight grandson. for the table. By the timeApparently, we’d gottenhetodidn’t it in the want listtoof bepossessions up in the front to be either. decided He walked upon I was the right up emotional to me. equivalent of a dead bird. BreAnne “You knew had mytaken grandma?” most of the furniture. I got the tacky floor lamp, “I the sureblue did.” Lazy I told Boy, him one in kitchen my shaky, chair oldand man thevoice. two tables “I knew that had all her been heronlife.” eitherI side can’tofbe thesure couch of itbut because not the Icouch was so itself. stunned I hadn’t and rearranged nervous to be anything talkingsotoitmy wasgrandson as if all but the Ipieces remember she had thinking taken that had suddenly day that he evaporated, had my mother’s leaving eyes. behind only the dust that had collected underneath The lastthem. five years of my life were the most peaceful though filled She with blamed a desperate law school loneliness. for my absence Somehow from things her life hadand turned my out absence all right. for My the affair life with sheEleanor had. I didn’t was not even spent want thetoway be Ia had lawyer. imagined I did it only but shebecause was there shethroughout. wanted a luxurious The badlifestyle. days were Needless filled only to say, with it was hardher missing to get andexcited dreaming about of what takingit the would bar exam be likethat to hear morning. her voice But I ate myThat’s again. blandexactly omelet what and wheat I was toast doinglike when a good it happened. little boy. IWhen wasn’t thewearing phone the rangright I was suit. mid I wanted chew but to die I answered wearing the anyway. navy All care blue, pin-striped for socialsuit graces I’d (and bought shaving) for myhad reunion diminished with Eleanor steadily but after my that daywife I was hadwearing told me she a gray wassuit leaving fromme. 1978 that I’d bought for no reason “Hello?” at At all.first I’dthere made was spaghetti only silence. for supper A kind with of silence a nice garthat letsbread lic you know to dipsomeone in the sauce. is there. I sat“Hello?” down at Ithe repeated table inwith my usual more suspicion. chair. I looked down at my meal and realized that I wasn’t hungry. Then “Andrew every thing Templin?” seemedThe to stop voice and onhang the other thereend for sounded a moment like like it awas woman’s two cigarettes hair blowing shy ofinthroat a breeze cancer andand an overwhelming had an annoying sadness midwestern came over accent. me. IItthought was a voice of Eleanor I didn’tand know. the sound of her voice on the “Yes?” bus that day, the sight of my son lying in his coffin, and of my grandson’s “You know eyes.a guy I’d named never felt Edward so sad Alyesworth?” before or so far away from everything. “Alyesworth?” The sadness I mentally made my went heart through slow down every and name down I’d until ever heardwas there in my nothing, entire life. until “No.” there was I was only sure. Eleanor’s voice and increasing “You darkness. sure?” “I’ve never heard the name in my entire life.” That was the truth. I was sure of it. Andrew “Well I gotta a dead guy down here who claims to know ya.” I sat woke up up a little earlystraighter. that morning. “I’m sorry, I made who an are omelet you?” because that’s

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Lauren Lippeatt

Lauren Lippeatt

whather told myhusband mother used that we to make were for friends me on andmornings I knew that when none I had of big her children tests in grade or grand school children or middle knewschool—wheat that I existed so toast when on Ithe went side. to her funeral I ateI in stayed gray towards morningthe light back in and a kitchen tried to chair blend thatindidn’t as much have as aI could.toOnly table compliment one person it. I’d noticed decided me—my not to fight grandson. for the table. By the timeApparently, we’d gottenhetodidn’t it in the want listtoof bepossessions up in the front to be either. decided He walked upon I rightthe was up emotional to me. equivalent of a dead bird. “You knew BreAnne had mytaken grandma?” most of the furniture. I got the tacky floor lamp, “I the sureblue did.” Lazy I told Boy, him one in kitchen my shaky, chair oldand man thevoice. two tables “I knew that her all had been heronlife.” eitherI side can’tofbe thesure couch of itbut because not the Icouch was so itself. stunned I hadn’t and nervous to be rearranged anything talkingsotoitmy wasgrandson as if all but the Ipieces remember she had thinking taken that had day that he suddenly evaporated, had my mother’s leaving eyes. behind only the dust that had collected underneath The lastthem. five years of my life were the most peaceful though filled She with blamed a desperate law school loneliness. for my absence Somehow from things her life hadand turned my out aball right. sence for My the affair life with sheEleanor had. I didn’t was not even spent want thetoway be Ia had lawyer. imagined I did butonly it shebecause was there shethroughout. wanted a luxurious The badlifestyle. days were Needless filled only to say, with it missing was hardher to get andexcited dreaming about of what takingit the would bar exam be likethat to hear morning. her voice But Iagain. ate myThat’s blandexactly omelet what and wheat I was toast doinglike when a good it happened. little boy. I wasn’t When thewearing phone the rangright I was suit. mid I wanted chew but to die I answered wearing the anyway. navy blue,care All pin-striped for socialsuit graces I’d (and bought shaving) for myhad reunion diminished with Eleanor steadily but afthatmy ter daywife I was hadwearing told me she a gray wassuit leaving fromme. 1978 that I’d bought for no reason “Hello?” at At all.first I’dthere made was spaghetti only silence. for supper A kind with of silence a nice garthat lic bread lets you know to dipsomeone in the sauce. is there. I sat“Hello?” down at Ithe repeated table inwith my usual more chair. I looked down at my meal and realized that I wasn’t hungry. suspicion. Then “Andrew every thing Templin?” seemedThe to stop voice and onhang the other thereend for sounded a moment like like it a woman’s was two cigarettes hair blowing shy ofinthroat a breeze cancer andand an overwhelming had an annoying sadness midcame over western accent. me. IItthought was a voice of Eleanor I didn’tand know. the sound of her voice on the “Yes?” bus that day, the sight of my son lying in his coffin, and of my grandson’s “You know eyes.a guy I’d named never felt Edward so sad Alyesworth?” before or so far away from everything. “Alyesworth?” The sadness I mentally made my went heart through slow down every and name down I’d until ever there was heard in my nothing, entire life. until “No.” there was I was only sure. Eleanor’s voice and increasing “You darkness. sure?” “I’ve never heard the name in my entire life.” That was the truth. I was sure of it. Andrew “Well I gotta a dead guy down here who claims to know ya.” I sat woke up up a little earlystraighter. that morning. “I’m sorry, I made who an are omelet you?” because that’s

what my mother used to make for me on mornings when I had big tests in grade school or middle school—wheat toast on the side. I ate in gray morning light in a kitchen chair that didn’t have a table to compliment it. I’d decided not to fight for the table. By the time we’d gotten to it in the list of possessions to be decided upon I was the emotional equivalent of a dead bird. BreAnne had taken most of the furniture. I got the tacky floor lamp, the blue Lazy Boy, one kitchen chair and the two tables that had been on either side of the couch but not the couch itself. I hadn’t rearranged anything so it was as if all the pieces she had taken had suddenly evaporated, leaving behind only the dust that had collected underneath them. She blamed law school for my absence from her life and my absence for the affair she had. I didn’t even want to be a lawyer. I did it only because she wanted a luxurious lifestyle. Needless to say, it was hard to get excited about taking the bar exam that morning. But I ate my bland omelet and wheat toast like a good little boy. When the phone rang I was mid chew but I answered anyway. All care for social graces (and shaving) had diminished steadily after my wife had told me she was leaving me. “Hello?” At first there was only silence. A kind of silence that lets you know someone is there. “Hello?” I repeated with more suspicion. “Andrew Templin?” The voice on the other end sounded like it was two cigarettes shy of throat cancer and had an annoying midwestern accent. It was a voice I didn’t know. “Yes?” “You know a guy named Edward Alyesworth?” “Alyesworth?” I mentally went through every name I’d ever heard in my entire life. “No.” I was sure. “You sure?” “I’ve never heard the name in my entire life.” That was the truth. I was sure of it. “Well I gotta a dead guy down here who claims to know ya.” I sat up a little straighter. “I’m sorry, who are you?”

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“He’s a tall guy, full head of white hair…big ears. Ring any bells?” The hairs on the back of my neck were standing. I dug as far into my memory as I could given the circumstances as I put my plate of half omelet and toast on the floor. “It doesn’t ring any bells exactly…but who are you?” “All right look, I’m at the O’Brien Funeral Home on the north side. You got till about noon, so if you think you know him get down here. He seems to know you.” And he hung up. I arrived at the funeral home half an hour later in barely more than pajamas and a face that hadn’t seen a razor in two weeks. My glasses were sliding down my nose from humidity when I walked in. I was greeted with a cold blast of air conditioning and a musak version “So This is Christmas” despite the fact that it was July. The lights were so dim I questioned whether or not it was a legitimate business and almost turned around. I stood between mahogany lined walls and peered around the corner to my left. To my right. But no one was there. I walked ahead until I came into a display room. All types of coffins were leaning on the walls opened towards me, too invitingly. I usually avoided the thought of death but here I’d found a place that put it luxuriously on display even for the shortest of people. Down the hall to my left I heard a murmuring of voices and could see that at the end of the hall a door was ajar. I walked towards it with surprising purpose for a place I’d never been and opened the door wider to reveal a set of steps leading downwards lit by ugly fluorescent lights. I walked down to find a group of people gathered in a circle talking excitedly. “Excuse me, sorry to interrupt…” “Who are you? What are you doing down here?” An overweight furrowed-browed woman demanded. “My name is Andrew Templin someone…”

“He’s “I called a tall him!” guy, Announced full head of the white voice hair…big I recognized ears. Ring from any the phone followed by a devilish laugh. The voice belonged to a man bells?” whoThe didn’t hairs look onlike thehe back should of my ownneck it: dark werehaired, standing. handsome, I dug as a few far yearsmy into past memory middle-aged. as I could given the circumstances as I put my plate of half “Charlie! omeletYou anddidn’t!” toast onsaid the floor. the woman. “Why “It doesn’t shouldn’t ring any he have?” bells exactly…but Declared a young who are man you?” who was easily three “All right timeslook, my size I’minatmuscle the O’Brien mass. Funeral Home on the north side.TheYou man gotfrom till the about phone noon, who so Iifnow youtook thinkto you be Charlie know him walked get forward down here. and He putseems an armtoaround know you.” my shoulders. “Gotta And he forgive hung up. us Andrew, this is sort of an unraveling mystery to us.” I had arrived no idea at the what funeral he meant. home half an hour later in barely more than“Come pajamas along.” and a He facesaid thatand hadn’t slapped seenmy a razor back.in two weeks. My glasses I was were led sliding into a morgue. down myRows nose from of small humidity white when doors Iwith walked old refrigerator in. I was greeted style handles with a cold lined blast theofwalls. air conditioning Charlie walked and a musak to one labeled “So version “17”This andisopened Christmas” it updespite withoutthehesitation. fact that it He waspulled July. the guyThe out and lights removed were sothedim sheet I questioned from his head whether as if on or the nottable it was wasa not the body legitimate business of a human and almost beingturned but anaround. assortment I stood of wristwatches between mahe wanted hogany lined to sell wallsme. andI peered could feel around the cold the corner air coming to myout left.from To my the drawerBut right. andno I held one my wasbreath there. as I looked at the man. I“This walked isn’tahead something until I we came do into everyday…but a display room. we we’re All types curious of you know.” coffins were leaning Charlieon said theinwalls his scratchy opened towards voice. me, “So too do invitingly. you know Ithe usually guy?”avoided the thought of death but here I’d found a place that put The it luxuriously man’s head on display was tilted evenslightly for the back shortest andofhis people. mouth hung openDown just athe little. hall Itolooked my leftatI him heardnot a murmuring as a dead man of voices but asand someone could I might see that have at theknown. end of An the overwhelming hall a door wassadness ajar. Iwashed walkedover towards me as it I scanned with surprising his deep purpose wrinkles, for a his place bushy I’d never eyebrows, been his anddry opened lips, the his ears that door wider were to areveal bit tooa big set for of steps him and leading for a downwards moment I saw lit myself. by ugly fluorescent “We found lights. this inside his pocket.” Charlie thrust a small piece of paper I walked at me. down Ontothe find paper a group was of mypeople name gathered and my phone in a circle number. talking Iexcitedly. didn’t blink for thirty seconds. The handwriting was shaky, the paper “Excuse was thin me, and sorry yellowed, to interrupt…” and there was my full name written as clear“Who as dayare in you? black ink. What are you doing down here?” An overweight “Why furrowed-browed would this guy woman have your demanded. name and number in his pocket?”“My name is Andrew Templin someone…”

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Lauren Lippeatt

Lauren Lippeatt

“I called “He’s a tall him!” guy, Announced full head of the white voice hair…big I recognized ears. Ring from any the bells?”followed by a devilish laugh. The voice belonged to a man phone whoThe didn’t hairs look onlike thehe back should of my ownneck it: dark werehaired, standing. handsome, I dug as a few far into my years past memory middle-aged. as I could given the circumstances as I put my plate of half “Charlie! omeletYou anddidn’t!” toast onsaid the floor. the woman. “It doesn’t “Why shouldn’t ring any he have?” bells exactly…but Declared a young who are man you?” who was easily three “All right timeslook, my size I’minatmuscle the O’Brien mass. Funeral Home on the north side.TheYou man gotfrom till the about phone noon, who so Iifnow youtook thinkto you be Charlie know him walked get down here. forward and He putseems an armtoaround know you.” my shoulders. And he forgive “Gotta hung up. us Andrew, this is sort of an unraveling mystery to us.” I had arrived no idea at the what funeral he meant. home half an hour later in barely more than“Come pajamas along.” and a He facesaid thatand hadn’t slapped seenmy a razor back.in two weeks. My glasses I was were led sliding into a morgue. down myRows nose from of small humidity white when doors Iwith walked old in. I was greeted refrigerator style handles with a cold lined blast theofwalls. air conditioning Charlie walked and a musak to one version “So labeled “17”This andisopened Christmas” it updespite withoutthehesitation. fact that it He waspulled July. the guyThe out and lights removed were sothedim sheet I questioned from his head whether as if on or the nottable it was wasa legitimate not the body business of a human and almost beingturned but anaround. assortment I stood of wristwatches between mahogany he wanted lined to sell wallsme. andI peered could feel around the cold the corner air coming to myout left.from To my the right. But drawer andno I held one my wasbreath there. as I looked at the man. I walked “This isn’tahead something until I we came do into everyday…but a display room. we we’re All types curious of coffins you know.” were leaning Charlieon said theinwalls his scratchy opened towards voice. me, “So too do invitingly. you know I usually the guy?”avoided the thought of death but here I’d found a place that put The it luxuriously man’s head on display was tilted evenslightly for the back shortest andofhis people. mouth hung openDown just athe little. hall Itolooked my leftatI him heardnot a murmuring as a dead man of voices but asand someone could Isee might that have at theknown. end of An the overwhelming hall a door wassadness ajar. Iwashed walkedover towards me as it Iwith scanned surprising his deep purpose wrinkles, for a his place bushy I’d never eyebrows, been his anddry opened lips, the his doorthat ears wider were to areveal bit tooa big set for of steps him and leading for a downwards moment I saw lit myself. by ugly fluorescent “We found lights. this inside his pocket.” Charlie thrust a small piece of paper I walked at me. down Ontothe find paper a group was of mypeople name gathered and my phone in a circle number. talking Iexcitedly. didn’t blink for thirty seconds. The handwriting was shaky, the paper “Excuse was thin me, and sorry yellowed, to interrupt…” and there was my full name written as clear“Who as dayare in you? black ink. What are you doing down here?” An overweight “Why furrowed-browed would this guy woman have your demanded. name and number in his pocket?”“My name is Andrew Templin someone…”

“I called him!” Announced the voice I recognized from the phone followed by a devilish laugh. The voice belonged to a man who didn’t look like he should own it: dark haired, handsome, a few years past middle-aged. “Charlie! You didn’t!” said the woman. “Why shouldn’t he have?” Declared a young man who was easily three times my size in muscle mass. The man from the phone who I now took to be Charlie walked forward and put an arm around my shoulders. “Gotta forgive us Andrew, this is sort of an unraveling mystery to us.” I had no idea what he meant. “Come along.” He said and slapped my back. I was led into a morgue. Rows of small white doors with old refrigerator style handles lined the walls. Charlie walked to one labeled “17” and opened it up without hesitation. He pulled the guy out and removed the sheet from his head as if on the table was not the body of a human being but an assortment of wristwatches he wanted to sell me. I could feel the cold air coming out from the drawer and I held my breath as I looked at the man. “This isn’t something we do everyday…but we we’re curious you know.” Charlie said in his scratchy voice. “So do you know the guy?” The man’s head was tilted slightly back and his mouth hung open just a little. I looked at him not as a dead man but as someone I might have known. An overwhelming sadness washed over me as I scanned his deep wrinkles, his bushy eyebrows, his dry lips, his ears that were a bit too big for him and for a moment I saw myself. “We found this inside his pocket.” Charlie thrust a small piece of paper at me. On the paper was my name and my phone number. I didn’t blink for thirty seconds. The handwriting was shaky, the paper was thin and yellowed, and there was my full name written as clear as day in black ink. “Why would this guy have your name and number in his pocket?”

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Berkeley Fiction Review

Berkeley Fiction Review

I looked at him again going back in my memory as far as I could and I remembered. Six years ago at my grandmother’s funeral.

The man had left me everything and I had no idea why. He’d made his appearances only when the two most important people in my life had died. Why hadn’t he just called me himself? His apartment was a six-floor walk up that left me winded. He’d live there for thirty-six years. I turned the key in the lock. I opened

the door. I looked at him again going back in my memory as far as I could and ItI remembered. was so quiet. Six Theyears silence ago ofatcomplete my grandmother’s absence. funeral. The place was clean except for a few piled up newspapers, and a thin It wasn’t layer ofthe dust. onlyHetime hadI’d oldseen framed him.photographs He’d beenon at the my walls father’s of people I’d funeral as well. never Iseen. was eleven He had at an theextensive time but now record I clearly collection rememand walls ber him of books. standing in the back wearing a black suit with a red tie. I wasIup walked front through betweenthe myliving mother room andinto my the grandmother. kitchen. Someone I remember had thrown out making eyea contact plate ofwith pastahim. but had Heleft hadthe thedirty saddest dishes expression in the sink. of I lookedthere. anyone at theIttable wasand a day chairs. I never Forforgot some reason and I’llI never expected be able him to come around explain why Ithe remember corner and the ask manme in the to join red him tie, but for there dinner. he was I wish in thatmemory my he had. and there he was dead, in front of me. I washed Only nowthe diddishes. I make Ithe needed connection. something He to was dothe before sameexploring mysterithe rest ous manofatthe myplace. grandmother’s I stood infuneral. front of Standing the sink, in mythe hands back,under his eyes the lukewarm even sadder water thanwashing before. his I asked dishes him with if he hisknew sponge myand grandma. his soap.I’dI had no one startled himeither. out of a private thought it seemed, but he answered me withThe a nervous bathroom voice. was immaculately I knew her allclean. her life. On Now the side theofthird the time sink was amade he’d shaving an appearance kit with aninold myfashioned life, deathrazor, was the brush reason andagain. shaving cream. I shaved off the last two weeks with the dead man’s razor. His bedroom The funeral home was tidy. gang The sent bed me home was made, almost hisagainst slippersmybeside will. the nightstand. They offered no The morecloset information was slightly aboutajar the man and Iwho remembered knew me my too mainbut well reason promised for coming. to keep him He’dthere wanted untiltoI’d behad buried moreintime the black to insuit. vestigate. By noon, when I received the second strange call of the day,He I’dhad forgotten twelveabout suits.theThe exam coats andwere evenon BreAnne’s the left and absence. the pants All Iwere could onthink the right. of wasHe Edward had four Alyesworth. pairs of shoes: two black pairs, one brown “Hello?” pair and one pair of Reeboks. I took the black coat out and off of “Mr. theAndrew hanger.Templin?” I tried it on. His arms were slightly longer than mine“Yes?” but other than that we were very close in size. I put my hands inside “My thename frontispockets Warrenand Fields. I feltIsomething am a lawyer familiar. handling It was the last a small will piecetestament and of paper of with Edward my name Aylesworth.” and number written in the same shaky hand in the same black ink. I went The man back hadto left the me closet everything and looked andinIevery had no suitidea pocket. why. InHe’d every coat made hiswas appearances the same small only when slip ofthe paper. two most The navy important blue pinstriped people in suit life my washad the died. only exception. Why hadn’tAlong he just with called the slip me himself? of paper was a key. I looked His apartment at it as it was rested a six-floor in the palm walkofupmy that hand. left me It was winded. smallHe’d and gold.there for thirty-six years. I turned the key in the lock. I opened live

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It wasn’t the only time I’d seen him. He’d been at my father’s funeral as well. I was eleven at the time but now I clearly remember him standing in the back wearing a black suit with a red tie. I was up front between my mother and my grandmother. I remember making eye contact with him. He had the saddest expression of anyone there. It was a day I never forgot and I’ll never be able to explain why I remember the man in the red tie, but there he was in my memory and there he was dead, in front of me. Only now did I make the connection. He was the same mysterious man at my grandmother’s funeral. Standing in the back, his eyes even sadder than before. I asked him if he knew my grandma. I’d startled him out of a private thought it seemed, but he answered me with a nervous voice. I knew her all her life. Now the third time he’d made an appearance in my life, death was the reason again. The funeral home gang sent me home almost against my will. They offered no more information about the man who knew me too well but promised to keep him there until I’d had more time to investigate. By noon, when I received the second strange call of the day, I’d forgotten about the exam and even BreAnne’s absence. All I could think of was Edward Alyesworth. “Hello?” “Mr. Andrew Templin?” “Yes?” “My name is Warren Fields. I am a lawyer handling the last will and testament of Edward Aylesworth.”

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the door. I looked at him again going back in my memory as far as I could and ItI remembered. was so quiet. Six Theyears silence ago ofatcomplete my grandmother’s absence. funeral. The place was clean except for a few piled up newspapers, and a thin It wasn’t layer ofthe dust. onlyHetime hadI’d oldseen framed him.photographs He’d beenon at the my walls father’s of funeral I’d people as well. never Iseen. was eleven He had at an theextensive time but now record I clearly collection rememand ber him walls of books. standing in the back wearing a black suit with a red tie. I wasIup walked front through betweenthe myliving mother room andinto my the grandmother. kitchen. Someone I remember had making out thrown eyea contact plate ofwith pastahim. but had Heleft hadthe thedirty saddest dishes expression in the sink. of Ianyone lookedthere. at theIttable wasand a day chairs. I never Forforgot some reason and I’llI never expected be able him to explainaround come why Ithe remember corner and the ask manme in the to join red him tie, but for there dinner. he was I wish in my memory that he had. and there he was dead, in front of me. IOnly washed nowthe diddishes. I make Ithe needed connection. something He to was dothe before sameexploring mysterious rest the manofatthe myplace. grandmother’s I stood infuneral. front of Standing the sink, in mythe hands back,under his eyes the even sadder lukewarm water thanwashing before. his I asked dishes him with if he hisknew sponge myand grandma. his soap.I’dI startled had no one himeither. out of a private thought it seemed, but he answered me withThe a nervous bathroom voice. was immaculately I knew her allclean. her life. On Now the side theofthird the time sink he’d amade was shaving an appearance kit with aninold myfashioned life, deathrazor, was the brush reason andagain. shaving cream. I shaved off the last two weeks with the dead man’s razor. The bedroom His funeral home was tidy. gang The sent bed me home was made, almost hisagainst slippersmybeside will. They the nightstand. offered no The morecloset information was slightly aboutajar the man and Iwho remembered knew me my too well but main reason promised for coming. to keep him He’dthere wanted untiltoI’d behad buried moreintime the black to investigate. By noon, when I received the second strange call of the suit. day,He I’dhad forgotten twelveabout suits.theThe exam coats andwere evenon BreAnne’s the left and absence. the pants All I could were onthink the right. of wasHe Edward had four Alyesworth. pairs of shoes: two black pairs, one brown “Hello?” pair and one pair of Reeboks. I took the black coat out and off of “Mr. theAndrew hanger.Templin?” I tried it on. His arms were slightly longer than mine“Yes?” but other than that we were very close in size. I put my hands inside “My thename frontispockets Warrenand Fields. I feltIsomething am a lawyer familiar. handling It was the last a small will and testament piece of paper of with Edward my name Aylesworth.” and number written in the same shaky hand in the same black ink. IThe went man back hadto left the me closet everything and looked andinIevery had no suitidea pocket. why. InHe’d evmade ery coat hiswas appearances the same small only when slip ofthe paper. two most The navy important blue pinstriped people in my life suit washad the died. only exception. Why hadn’tAlong he just with called the slip me himself? of paper was a key. I looked His apartment at it as it was rested a six-floor in the palm walkofupmy that hand. left me It was winded. smallHe’d and live there for thirty-six years. I turned the key in the lock. I opened gold.

the door. It was so quiet. The silence of complete absence. The place was clean except for a few piled up newspapers, and a thin layer of dust. He had old framed photographs on the walls of people I’d never seen. He had an extensive record collection and walls of books. I walked through the living room into the kitchen. Someone had thrown out a plate of pasta but had left the dirty dishes in the sink. I looked at the table and chairs. For some reason I expected him to come around the corner and ask me to join him for dinner. I wish that he had. I washed the dishes. I needed something to do before exploring the rest of the place. I stood in front of the sink, my hands under the lukewarm water washing his dishes with his sponge and his soap. I had no one either. The bathroom was immaculately clean. On the side of the sink was a shaving kit with an old fashioned razor, brush and shaving cream. I shaved off the last two weeks with the dead man’s razor. His bedroom was tidy. The bed was made, his slippers beside the nightstand. The closet was slightly ajar and I remembered my main reason for coming. He’d wanted to be buried in the black suit. He had twelve suits. The coats were on the left and the pants were on the right. He had four pairs of shoes: two black pairs, one brown pair and one pair of Reeboks. I took the black coat out and off of the hanger. I tried it on. His arms were slightly longer than mine but other than that we were very close in size. I put my hands inside the front pockets and I felt something familiar. It was a small piece of paper with my name and number written in the same shaky hand in the same black ink. I went back to the closet and looked in every suit pocket. In every coat was the same small slip of paper. The navy blue pinstriped suit was the only exception. Along with the slip of paper was a key. I looked at it as it rested in the palm of my hand. It was small and gold.

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I glanced around the room to see what it might unlock. In the corner was an old trunk with a tiny keyhole. I walked over, still wearing his black suit coat. I knelt down and put the key in the lock. It clicked, it turned. Inside were dozens of old glass bottles and on top was a thick envelope. On the front, in his shaky handwriting, it read: To my grandson, Andrew.

I glanced around the room to see what it might unlock. In the corner was an old trunk with a tiny keyhole. I walked over, still wearing his black suit coat. I knelt down and put the key in the lock. Place Fiction It clicked,Third it turned. InsideSudden were dozens of old Winner glass bottles and on top was a thick envelope. On the front, in his shaky handwriting, it read: To my grandson, Andrew.

Courtney McDermott

FAIRYTALE They are fairies. Of a sort. They dance on their tiptoes, instead of walking, and their throats are always filled with tinkle laughter, like wind chimes. They move like the wind – fluttering from one place to another – soft, at other times violent – swiftly through the overgrown fields of the old warehouse district. Their brightly colored shorts and tanks pop up behind corners of old sheet metal buildings filled with dusty wares: furniture, kitchen appliances, tires and crates. The crates store seven-year-old bottles of lager and scotch. The liquor store at the front of the district houses more crates, but it’s been awhile since Old Man Pepperdine felt the need to sell anything. The fairies are too soft and young to know that this lull they achieve in their simple, giddy lives will one day be achieved by the drink. Right now, flitting along, they carry a thermos of Kool-Aid, the pink stickiness sloshing as the container bumps against Iris’s knee, for Iris skips, for that is how a fairy moves. She is queen of the fairies. Not because she is the eldest – Lydia is three years older, white and freckled and tall – and it is not because she is the prettiest – for Mary Jane is beautiful, with golden red curls that wind brightly around one’s index finger. And she has 150

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Courtney McDermott

Courtney McDermott

I glanced around the room to see what it might unlock. In the corner was an old trunk with a tiny keyhole. I walked over, still wearing his black suit coat. I knelt down and put the key in the lock. Place Fiction It clicked,Third it turned. InsideSudden were dozens of old Winner glass bottles and on top was a thick envelope. On the front, in his shaky handwriting, it read: To my grandson, Andrew.

Third Place Sudden Fiction Winner

FAIRYTALE

FAIRYTALE

They are fairies. Of a sort. They dance on their tiptoes, instead of walking, and their throats are always filled with tinkle laughter, like wind chimes. They move like the wind – fluttering from one place to another – soft, at other times violent – swiftly through the overgrown fields of the old warehouse district. Their brightly colored shorts and tanks pop up behind corners of old sheet metal buildings filled with dusty wares: furniture, kitchen appliances, tires and crates. The crates store seven-year-old bottles of lager and scotch. The liquor store at the front of the district houses more crates, but it’s been awhile since Old Man Pepperdine felt the need to sell anything. The fairies are too soft and young to know that this lull they achieve in their simple, giddy lives will one day be achieved by the drink. Right now, flitting along, they carry a thermos of Kool-Aid, the pink stickiness sloshing as the container bumps against Iris’s knee, for Iris skips, for that is how a fairy moves. She is queen of the fairies. Not because she is the eldest – Lydia is three years older, white and freckled and tall – and it is not because she is the prettiest – for Mary Jane is beautiful, with golden red curls that wind brightly around one’s index finger. And she has

They are fairies. Of a sort. They dance on their tiptoes, instead of walking, and their throats are always filled with tinkle laughter, like wind chimes. They move like the wind – fluttering from one place to another – soft, at other times violent – swiftly through the overgrown fields of the old warehouse district. Their brightly colored shorts and tanks pop up behind corners of old sheet metal buildings filled with dusty wares: furniture, kitchen appliances, tires and crates. The crates store seven-year-old bottles of lager and scotch. The liquor store at the front of the district houses more crates, but it’s been awhile since Old Man Pepperdine felt the need to sell anything. The fairies are too soft and young to know that this lull they achieve in their simple, giddy lives will one day be achieved by the drink. Right now, flitting along, they carry a thermos of Kool-Aid, the pink stickiness sloshing as the container bumps against Iris’s knee, for Iris skips, for that is how a fairy moves. She is queen of the fairies. Not because she is the eldest – Lydia is three years older, white and freckled and tall – and it is not because she is the prettiest – for Mary Jane is beautiful, with golden red curls that wind brightly around one’s index finger. And she has

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one blue eye and one hazel eye – Iris’s are both brown. Iris is Queen because she is smart – because she leads. The warehouse district is out of boundaries. It is the kingdom of Pepperdine – a twisted face ogre who eats children. But that is why they must come. Iris told the others that fairies save children. It is their crusade. From human eyes the warehouse district is brown, with rocky pathways and dead weeds – for even weeds don’t grow well here. The buildings are large and painted dull blue and yellow and pigeons ding against the tin roofs. They are not pigeons, but gunfire aiming at the fairies. “Run,” whispers Iris, for fairies do not yell. They soar, their arms spread. Iris and Mary Jane wear thin, sparkly angel wings from last Halloween. Iris’s are torn where she slipped on a patch of ice by Mrs. Weatherby’s iron fence. Rather, the iron teeth of a dragon snapped at her. She got away. Iris wears a plastic, jeweled crown in her plain brown hair. Mary Jane’s hair is crown enough. Lydia wove dandelions into her hair and above her ears. They wilt and plummet to the ground as she runs, a pale pink bed sheet sailing behind her, because she wasn’t an angel last October. Old Man Pepperdine’s truck gurgles down the front drive. The fairies hide behind a rusted-out tractor – an abandoned temple, whispers Iris – and peer from behind the wheels. The truck groans and spits. “It is the belly of the beast,” Iris informs. “What beast?” Mary Jane asks. “THE beast.” The beast sputters and dies. They see Pepperdine get out. He hitches a thumb through his pants loop and scratches his head. The sun glares and for a moment they cannot make out his eyes or nose or mouth. “He’s faceless.” “Then how does he eat children?” Lydia asks. “Quiet,” Iris whispers. “He’ll hear us. His ears are a wolf’s. He

one hear can blue anything.” eye and one hazel eye – Iris’s are both brown. Iris is Queen because Maryshe Jane is smart tugs Iris’s – because hand. she “I’mleads. scared.” “We warehouse The need to hide.” district is out of boundaries. It is the kingdom of Pepperdine Pepperdine – a twisted goes intoface a warehouse. ogre who eats The children. fairies skitter. But that Theisforest why of metal they mustand come. boards Irisyawns told the open others uponthat them. fairies save children. It is theirOne crusade. large grey building at the back of the yard looms ahead. Iris swoops Frombehind human it. eyes The others the warehouse follow. district is brown, with rocky pathways They come and dead to theweeds Mountain. – for An evenenormous weeds don’t mound grow of gravel well here. has been buildings The pushed upare against largethe andback painted of thedull building. blue and yellow and pigeons “Isding this against the Ogre’s the castle?” tin roofs.Mary Jane asks. “I think They areit’s notthe pigeons, dungeon,” but gunfire Lydia offers. aiming at the fairies. Iris smiles “Run,” whispers and adjusts Iris, for herfairies crown.do“Yes. not yell. The dungeon. I will call this They Doomsoar, Mountain.” their arms spread. Iris and Mary Jane wear thin, sparkly “Is that angel thewings way in?” fromMary last Halloween. Jane asks. Iris’s are torn where she slipped “No.” on a patch of ice by Mrs. Weatherby’s iron fence. Rather, the ironThe teethsun of abreaks dragonbetween snapped clouds. at her. She It pierces got away. the top of Doom Mountain. Iris wears Thea peak plastic, shines. jeweled crown in her plain brown hair. Mary Jane’s There hairisisa glass crownlake enough. at the Lydia top, wavering wove dandelions and reflecting intothe hersun’s hair face.above her ears. They wilt and plummet to the ground as she and runs,“Let’s a palego. pink Thebed ogre sheet can’t sailing get us behind there,” her, Lydia because urges. she wasn’t an angel “No,” last October. replies Iris, “that’s where he keeps the children. They are trapped Old beneath Man Pepperdine’s the glass until truck hegurgles is readydown to eatthe them.” frontPause. drive. “We The must gohide fairies there.” behind a rusted-out tractor – an abandoned temple, whispersIris Irisuses – and herpeer hands from and behind kneesthe to maneuver wheels. up. The gravel slides and The tumbles. truck Lydia groansand andMary spits.Jane slide behind her. The glass lake lays“It unassuming. is the belly of the beast,” Iris informs. “Thosebeast?” “What are onlyMary windows,” Jane asks. Lydia says. “Windows “THE beast.” to look through to the trapped children.” Iris peers intoThe the surface beast sputters of the lake. and She dies.points. They see “See. Pepperdine The children’s get out. faces.” He hitches Lydia a thumb and Mary through Jane his look. pants Three loop pale, andyoung scratches faceshis peer head. back. The sun “Let’s glares go,” and for Mary a moment Jane whines. they cannot make out his eyes or nose or mouth. “Wait.” Iris gets “He’s faceless.” on her knees and crawls along the surface. “I’m going to save “Then them.” howShe doescrawls he eatalong. children?” Lydia asks. The lake Iris “Quiet,” creaks. whispers. “He’ll hear us. His ears are a wolf’s. He

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Courtney McDermott

Courtney McDermott

can hear one blue anything.” eye and one hazel eye – Iris’s are both brown. Iris is Queen because Maryshe Jane is smart tugs Iris’s – because hand. she “I’mleads. scared.” The warehouse “We need to hide.” district is out of boundaries. It is the kingdom of Pepperdine Pepperdine – a twisted goes intoface a warehouse. ogre who eats The children. fairies skitter. But that Theisforest why they of metal mustand come. boards Irisyawns told the open others uponthat them. fairies save children. It is theirOne crusade. large grey building at the back of the yard looms ahead. Iris swoops Frombehind human it. eyes The others the warehouse follow. district is brown, with rocky pathways They come and dead to theweeds Mountain. – for An evenenormous weeds don’t mound grow of gravel well here. has The buildings been pushed upare against largethe andback painted of thedull building. blue and yellow and pigeons “Isding this the against Ogre’s the castle?” tin roofs.Mary Jane asks. They “I think areit’s notthe pigeons, dungeon,” but gunfire Lydia offers. aiming at the fairies. “Run,” Iris smiles whispers and adjusts Iris, for herfairies crown.do“Yes. not yell. The dungeon. I will call this They Doomsoar, Mountain.” their arms spread. Iris and Mary Jane wear thin, sparkly “Is that angel thewings way in?” fromMary last Halloween. Jane asks. Iris’s are torn where she slipped “No.” on a patch of ice by Mrs. Weatherby’s iron fence. Rather, the ironThe teethsun of abreaks dragonbetween snapped clouds. at her. She It pierces got away. the top of Doom Mountain. Iris wears Thea peak plastic, shines. jeweled crown in her plain brown hair. Mary Jane’s There hairisisa glass crownlake enough. at the Lydia top, wavering wove dandelions and reflecting intothe hersun’s hair and above her ears. They wilt and plummet to the ground as she face. runs,“Let’s a palego. pink Thebed ogre sheet can’t sailing get us behind there,” her, Lydia because urges. she wasn’t an angel “No,” last October. replies Iris, “that’s where he keeps the children. They are trapped Old beneath Man Pepperdine’s the glass until truck hegurgles is readydown to eatthe them.” frontPause. drive. “We The fairiesgohide must there.” behind a rusted-out tractor – an abandoned temple, whispersIris Irisuses – and herpeer hands from and behind kneesthe to maneuver wheels. up. The gravel slides and The tumbles. truck Lydia groansand andMary spits.Jane slide behind her. The glass lake lays“It unassuming. is the belly of the beast,” Iris informs. “What beast?” “Those are onlyMary windows,” Jane asks. Lydia says. “THE beast.” “Windows to look through to the trapped children.” Iris peers intoThe the surface beast sputters of the lake. and She dies.points. They see “See. Pepperdine The children’s get out. faces.” He hitches Lydia a thumb and Mary through Jane his look. pants Three loop pale, andyoung scratches faceshis peer head. back. The sun “Let’s glares go,” and for Mary a moment Jane whines. they cannot make out his eyes or nose or mouth. “Wait.” “He’s Iris gets faceless.” on her knees and crawls along the surface. “I’m going to save “Then them.” howShe doescrawls he eatalong. children?” Lydia asks. “Quiet,” The lake Iris creaks. whispers. “He’ll hear us. His ears are a wolf’s. He

can hear anything.” Mary Jane tugs Iris’s hand. “I’m scared.” “We need to hide.” Pepperdine goes into a warehouse. The fairies skitter. The forest of metal and boards yawns open upon them. One large grey building at the back of the yard looms ahead. Iris swoops behind it. The others follow. They come to the Mountain. An enormous mound of gravel has been pushed up against the back of the building. “Is this the Ogre’s castle?” Mary Jane asks. “I think it’s the dungeon,” Lydia offers. Iris smiles and adjusts her crown. “Yes. The dungeon. I will call this Doom Mountain.” “Is that the way in?” Mary Jane asks. “No.” The sun breaks between clouds. It pierces the top of Doom Mountain. The peak shines. There is a glass lake at the top, wavering and reflecting the sun’s face. “Let’s go. The ogre can’t get us there,” Lydia urges. “No,” replies Iris, “that’s where he keeps the children. They are trapped beneath the glass until he is ready to eat them.” Pause. “We must go there.” Iris uses her hands and knees to maneuver up. The gravel slides and tumbles. Lydia and Mary Jane slide behind her. The glass lake lays unassuming. “Those are only windows,” Lydia says. “Windows to look through to the trapped children.” Iris peers into the surface of the lake. She points. “See. The children’s faces.” Lydia and Mary Jane look. Three pale, young faces peer back. “Let’s go,” Mary Jane whines. “Wait.” Iris gets on her knees and crawls along the surface. “I’m going to save them.” She crawls along. The lake creaks.

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“Almost there.” Lydia and Mary Jane watch Iris slide and they hear the glass lake shatter. There are screams. Iris plunges through. The lake shards slice through her palms and knees. She lays in blood and glass. The fall shifts the gravel. She hears a low rumble – far away. There is a gruff voice. Iris flutters. She is picked up. Her eyes open and she sees the faceless face of the Ogre. He leans over to devour her. She faints again.

“Almost there.” Lydia and Mary Jane watch Iris slide and they hear the glass lake shatter. There are screams. Iris plunges through. The lake shards slice through her palms and knees. She lays in blood and glass. The fall shifts the gravel. She hears a low rumble – far away. There is a gruff voice. Iris flutters. She is picked up. Her eyes open and she sees the faceless face of the Ogre. He leans over to devour her. She faints again.

B.J. Burton

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“Almost there.” Lydia and Mary Jane watch Iris slide and they hear the glass lake shatter. There are screams. Iris plunges through. The lake shards slice through her palms and knees. She lays in blood and glass. The fall shifts the gravel. She hears a low rumble – far away. There is a gruff voice. Iris flutters. She is picked up. Her eyes open and she sees the faceless face of the Ogre. He leans over to devour her. She faints again.

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CONTRIBUTORS Will Adam has been published once before in Ascent Aspirations, which sounds made up but isn't. He's originally from Kansas. Living in New York City now, Will has worked in the beer industry, publishing, the ad world, temp agencies, bars and as a karaoke deejay. If you'd like to contact him for parties or weddings you can at dschmoot@hotmail.com. Sean Adams is a senior at Bennington College studying creative writing and literature. He has had pieces published in several online literary journals, such as Flashquake and The Cafe Irreal, as well as his college's two literature publications, The Silo and The Interrobang. After graduation, Sean plans on moving to Chicago.

CONTRIBUTORS

the anthology, Literary Mama: Writing for the Maternally Inclined (Seal 2006). Currently, she is working on an MFA in fiction at Sarah Lawrence College, teaching writing and literature to sixth graders at Claremont Preparatory Schoolonce in Manhattan and leading MomWill Adam has been published before in Ascent Aspirations, sWrite workshops in New York City. which sounds made up but isn't. He's originally from Kansas. Living in New York City now, Will has worked in the beer industry, Rebecca Koffman is a writer who lives in bars Portland, Oregon. Herdeeficpublishing, the ad world, temp agencies, and as a karaoke tion has appeared in Colere, Peeks and Valleys and Literary Mama. jay. If you'd like to contact him for parties or weddings you can at dschmoot@hotmail.com. Nickolas Kristol-Harper, male, 21. Likes cheap malt liquor, winter jackets, and ambient light at photography. in Davis, CA.creative Sean Adams is a senior BenningtonLives College studying writing and literature. He has had pieces published in several online Matt Leibel’s short fiction has appeared is forthcoming a literary journals, such as Flashquake andorThe Cafe Irreal,inasover well dozen magazines, West,The TheSilo St. Ann's Review, as his college's twoincluding literatureQuarterly publications, and The InterBarcelona Review, Opium, and DIAGRAM. He is a U.C. Berkeley robang. After graduation, Sean plans on moving to Chicago. graduate, and lives in San Francisco.

B.J. Burton is an artist and writer. She has received two fellowships from Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in playwriting. Her plays have been produced in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York. Recent artwork has been published in Philadelphia Stories (digital art) and The Potomac Review (Photo Contest winner).

B.J. Burton is an artist and writer. She has received two fellowships Lauren Nicole Lippeatt is currently finishing her MastersHer in Writfrom Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in playwriting. plays ing at DePaul University in Chicago. She is also the founder have been produced in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York. and Reeditor of an online publication called Spry Magazine. Passions incent artwork has been published in Philadelphia Stories (digital art) clude: writing, traveling, consuming, book reading and advenand The Potomac Reviewwine (Photo Contest winner). turing. This is her first published work.

Michael Greenstein studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and L’ Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. His ink drawings have appeared in a number of fine literary magazines. Michael lives in Swampscott, Massachusetts.

Michael Greenstein studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Courtney a native of in Iowa, hasHis previously been pubArts and L’McDermott, Ecole des Beaux-Arts Paris. ink drawings have lished in The Iowa Source Poetry Anthology and Italy From a Backappeared in a number of fine literary magazines. Michael lives in pack. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, she is currently workSwampscott, Massachusetts. ing on essays about her experiences teaching in Lesotho.

James Hannibal is a professional photographer from Northern Idaho. Though interested in all aspects of photography, James particularly enjoys nature photography and traveling the world while snapping photos. More of his work can be seen and purchased at his website, ShootAnyAngle.com.

James Hannibal is a professional photographer from Northern James Pate grew up in Memphis. He received an MFAJames from parthe Idaho. Though interested in all aspects of photography, Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, and his fiction has apticularly enjoys nature photography and traveling the world while peared in photos. the Black Warrior thebe Blue Mesa and snapping More of hisReview, work can seen and Review, purchased at the his New Delta Review. He currently lives in Chicago. website, ShootAnyAngle.com.

Rachel Iverson’s fiction, poetry and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including Onthebus, edifice WRECKED and

Matthew Pietz andfiction, his wife live and in Washington, He hasinpubRachel Iverson’s poetry essays haveDC. appeared nulished stories and poems in Neologisms, Logodaedalus, First Class, merous publications, including Onthebus, edifice WRECKED and

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the anthology, Literary Mama: Writing for the Maternally Inclined (Seal 2006). Currently, she is working on an MFA in fiction at Sarah Lawrence College, teaching writing and literature to sixth graders at Claremont Preparatory Schoolonce in Manhattan and leading MomWill Adam has been published before in Ascent Aspirations, sWrite workshops in New York City. which sounds made up but isn't. He's originally from Kansas. Living in New York City now, Will has worked in the beer industry, Rebecca Koffman is a writer who lives in bars Portland, Oregon. Herdeeficpublishing, the ad world, temp agencies, and as a karaoke tion has appeared in Colere, Peeks and Valleys and Literary Mama. jay. If you'd like to contact him for parties or weddings you can at dschmoot@hotmail.com. Nickolas Kristol-Harper, male, 21. Likes cheap malt liquor, winter jackets, and ambient light at photography. in Davis, CA.creative Sean Adams is a senior BenningtonLives College studying

the anthology, Literary Mama: Writing for the Maternally Inclined (Seal 2006). Currently, she is working on an MFA in fiction at Sarah Lawrence College, teaching writing and literature to sixth graders at Claremont Preparatory School in Manhattan and leading MomsWrite workshops in New York City. Rebecca Koffman is a writer who lives in Portland, Oregon. Her fiction has appeared in Colere, Peeks and Valleys and Literary Mama. Nickolas Kristol-Harper, male, 21. Likes cheap malt liquor, winter jackets, and ambient light photography. Lives in Davis, CA.

writing and literature. He has had pieces published in several online Matt Leibel’s short fiction has appeared is forthcoming a literary journals, such as Flashquake andorThe Cafe Irreal,inasover well dozen magazines, West,The TheSilo St. Ann's Review, as his college's twoincluding literatureQuarterly publications, and The InterBarcelona Review, Opium, and DIAGRAM. He is a U.C. Berkeley robang. After graduation, Sean plans on moving to Chicago. graduate, and lives in San Francisco.

Matt Leibel’s short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in over a dozen magazines, including Quarterly West, The St. Ann's Review, Barcelona Review, Opium, and DIAGRAM. He is a U.C. Berkeley graduate, and lives in San Francisco.

B.J. Burton is an artist and writer. She has received two fellowships Lauren Nicole Lippeatt is currently finishing her MastersHer in Writfrom Pennsylvania Council on the Arts in playwriting. plays ing at DePaul University in Chicago. She is also the founder have been produced in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and New York. and Reeditor of an online publication called Spry Magazine. Passions incent artwork has been published in Philadelphia Stories (digital art) clude: writing, traveling, consuming, book reading and advenand The Potomac Reviewwine (Photo Contest winner). turing. This is her first published work.

Lauren Nicole Lippeatt is currently finishing her Masters in Writing at DePaul University in Chicago. She is also the founder and editor of an online publication called Spry Magazine. Passions include: writing, traveling, wine consuming, book reading and adventuring. This is her first published work.

Michael Greenstein studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Courtney a native of in Iowa, hasHis previously been pubArts and L’McDermott, Ecole des Beaux-Arts Paris. ink drawings have lished in The Iowa Source Poetry Anthology and Italy From a Backappeared in a number of fine literary magazines. Michael lives in pack. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, she is currently workSwampscott, Massachusetts. ing on essays about her experiences teaching in Lesotho.

Courtney McDermott, a native of Iowa, has previously been published in The Iowa Source Poetry Anthology and Italy From a Backpack. As a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, she is currently working on essays about her experiences teaching in Lesotho.

James Hannibal is a professional photographer from Northern James Pate grew up in Memphis. He received an MFAJames from parthe Idaho. Though interested in all aspects of photography, Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, and his fiction has apticularly enjoys nature photography and traveling the world while peared in photos. the Black Warrior thebe Blue Mesa and snapping More of hisReview, work can seen and Review, purchased at the his New Delta Review. He currently lives in Chicago. website, ShootAnyAngle.com.

James Pate grew up in Memphis. He received an MFA from the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa, and his fiction has appeared in the Black Warrior Review, the Blue Mesa Review, and the New Delta Review. He currently lives in Chicago.

Matthew Pietz andfiction, his wife live and in Washington, He hasinpubRachel Iverson’s poetry essays haveDC. appeared nulished stories and poems in Neologisms, Logodaedalus, First Class, merous publications, including Onthebus, edifice WRECKED and

Matthew Pietz and his wife live in Washington, DC. He has published stories and poems in Neologisms, Logodaedalus, First Class,

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Berkeley Fiction Review

and Tower of Babel. He works for a non-profit organization in international development.

and Tower of Babel. He works for a non-profit organization in international development.

Marc Rose, an Ohio native, graduated from Pacific Union College with a degree in business. So far, he has been a waiter, a laborer, an investigator, and a humane society officer. He lives in Oakland, California with his wife and daughter.

Marc Rose, an Ohio native, graduated from Pacific Union College with a degree in business. So far, he has been a waiter, a laborer, an investigator, and a humane society officer. He lives in Oakland, California with his wife and daughter.

Matthew "Shark" Shartsis is a local musician and freelance photographer who resides in Oakland, California. His music can be heard at www.thegeneraljonesband.com.

Matthew "Shark" Shartsis is a local musician and freelance photographer who resides in Oakland, California. His music can be heard at www.thegeneraljonesband.com.

Madiha Siraj is a San Diego based artist, born in 1988. She is always home and currently listening to Jamie Lidell.

Madiha Siraj is a San Diego based artist, born in 1988. She is always home and currently listening to Jamie Lidell.

Roger Turnau received his MFA from Florida State University. He has worked as Production Editor for the Southeast Review, and has published book reviews in the Harvard Review and the Southeast Review. This is his first published work of fiction.

Roger Turnau received his MFA from Florida State University. He has worked as Production Editor for the Southeast Review, and has published book reviews in the Harvard Review and the Southeast Review. This is his first published work of fiction.

Brad Wetherell earned his BA from the University of Connecticut. Since graduation he has worked as an English language teacher in Prague and as an editorial assistant at a major Manhattan publishing house. Born and raised in Woodbury, Connecticut, he now lives in Ann Arbor, where he is pursuing his MFA at the University of Michigan.

Brad Wetherell earned his BA from the University of Connecticut. Since graduation he has worked as an English language teacher in Prague and as an editorial assistant at a major Manhattan publishing house. Born and raised in Woodbury, Connecticut, he now lives in Ann Arbor, where he is pursuing his MFA at the University of Michigan.

David Yost, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, recently returned from his second trip working with Burmese refugees in Thailand. His fiction has recently appeared in The Mid-American Review, the minnesota review, and The Red Rock Review, and is forthcoming in Pleiades.

David Yost, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, recently returned from his second trip working with Burmese refugees in Thailand. His fiction has recently appeared in The Mid-American Review, the minnesota review, and The Red Rock Review, and is forthcoming in Pleiades.

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and Tower of Babel. He works for a non-profit organization in international development. Marc Rose, an Ohio native, graduated from Pacific Union College with a degree in business. So far, he has been a waiter, a laborer, an investigator, and a humane society officer. He lives in Oakland, California with his wife and daughter. Matthew "Shark" Shartsis is a local musician and freelance photographer who resides in Oakland, California. His music can be heard at www.thegeneraljonesband.com. Madiha Siraj is a San Diego based artist, born in 1988. She is always home and currently listening to Jamie Lidell. Roger Turnau received his MFA from Florida State University. He has worked as Production Editor for the Southeast Review, and has published book reviews in the Harvard Review and the Southeast Review. This is his first published work of fiction. Brad Wetherell earned his BA from the University of Connecticut. Since graduation he has worked as an English language teacher in Prague and as an editorial assistant at a major Manhattan publishing house. Born and raised in Woodbury, Connecticut, he now lives in Ann Arbor, where he is pursuing his MFA at the University of Michigan. David Yost, a former Peace Corps Volunteer, recently returned from his second trip working with Burmese refugees in Thailand. His fiction has recently appeared in The Mid-American Review, the minnesota review, and The Red Rock Review, and is forthcoming in Pleiades.

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Fourteen Hills

Fourteen Hills

4HE 3AN &RANCISCO 3TATE 5NIVERSITY 2EVIEW POETRY FICTION ART DRAMA

4HE 3AN &RANCISCO 3TATE 5NIVERSITY 2EVIEW Best American Poetry Pushcart Prize Poetry Daily Verse Daily POETRY FICTION ART DRAMA

0UBLISHED TWICE YEARLY CURRENT ISSUE ONE YEAR TWO YEAR WWW HILLS NET

Nin Andrews Antler Ellen Bass Marvin Bell Michael Blumenthal Christopher Buckley Matthew Cooperman Jim Daniels Tracy Daugherty Greg Delanty Denise Duhamel B.H. Fairchild Gary Fincke Patricia Goedicke Lola Haskins Brian Henry Bob Hicok H.L. Hix

Neil Shepard, Editor and Poetry Editor

David Huddle Peter Johnson Timothy Liu Robert Hill Long T.M. McNally Sandra Meek Benjamin Percy William Pitt Root Stephen Sandy Maureen Seaton Reginald Shepherd Betsy Sholl Alexander Theroux Daniel Tobin William Trowbridge Charles Harper Webb Walter Wetherell Jay White

Leslie Daniels, Fiction Editor

“A strong record of quality work‌ many exciting new voices.â€? –Library Journal

0UBLISHED TWICE YEARLY CURRENT ISSUE ONE YEAR TWO YEAR WWW HILLS NET “Solid, handsome, comprehensive.â€? “Character, vision and energy‌The production is beautiful and the space crisp and clear.â€? –Magazine Rack

–Literary Magazine Review

Subscriptions: $15/year Send check to: Green Mountains Review Johnson State College, Johnson, VT 05656 Contact us by email: gmr@jsc.edu Visit http://greenmountainsreview.jsc.vsc.edu for submission and subscription information


Fourteen Hills Nin Andrews Antler Ellen Bass Marvin Bell Michael Blumenthal Christopher Buckley Matthew Cooperman Jim Daniels Tracy Daugherty Greg Delanty Denise Duhamel B.H. Fairchild Gary Fincke Patricia Goedicke Lola Haskins Brian Henry Bob Hicok H.L. Hix

Neil Shepard, Editor and Poetry Editor

David Huddle Peter Johnson Timothy Liu Robert Hill Long T.M. McNally Sandra Meek Benjamin Percy William Pitt Root Stephen Sandy Maureen Seaton Reginald Shepherd Betsy Sholl Alexander Theroux Daniel Tobin William Trowbridge Charles Harper Webb Walter Wetherell Jay White

Leslie Daniels, Fiction Editor

4HE 3AN &RANCISCO 3TATE 5NIVERSITY 2EVIEW Best American Poetry Pushcart Prize Poetry Daily Verse Daily POETRY FICTION ART DRAMA

Nin Andrews Antler Ellen Bass Marvin Bell Michael Blumenthal Christopher Buckley Matthew Cooperman Jim Daniels Tracy Daugherty Greg Delanty Denise Duhamel B.H. Fairchild Gary Fincke Patricia Goedicke Lola Haskins Brian Henry Bob Hicok H.L. Hix

Neil Shepard, Editor and Poetry Editor Best American Poetry

Pushcart Prize

David Huddle Peter Johnson Timothy Liu Robert Hill Long T.M. McNally Sandra Meek Benjamin Percy William Pitt Root Stephen Sandy Maureen Seaton Reginald Shepherd Betsy Sholl Alexander Theroux Daniel Tobin William Trowbridge Charles Harper Webb Walter Wetherell Jay White

Leslie Daniels, Fiction Editor Poetry Daily

Verse Daily

“A strong record of quality work‌ many exciting new voices.â€? –Library Journal

“A strong record of quality work‌ many exciting new voices.â€? –Library Journal

“Character, vision and energy‌The production is beautiful and the space crisp and clear.â€? –Magazine Rack

“Character, vision and energy‌The production is beautiful and the space crisp and clear.â€? –Magazine Rack

0UBLISHED TWICE YEARLY CURRENT ISSUE ONE YEAR TWO YEAR WWW HILLS NET “Solid, handsome, comprehensive.� –Literary Magazine Review

“Solid, handsome, comprehensive.�

–Literary Magazine Review

Subscriptions: $15/year Send check to: Green Mountains Review Johnson State College, Johnson, VT 05656

Subscriptions: $15/year Send check to: Green Mountains Review Johnson State College, Johnson, VT 05656

Contact us by email: gmr@jsc.edu Visit http://greenmountainsreview.jsc.vsc.edu for submission and subscription information

Contact us by email: gmr@jsc.edu Visit http://greenmountainsreview.jsc.vsc.edu for submission and subscription information


Sudden Fiction Contest

Sudden Fiction Contest

$200 Prize for First Place Winner

$200 Prize for First Place Winner

First, Second, and Third Place will be published in Issue 29

First, Second, and Third Place will be published in Issue 29

Guidelines:

Guidelines:

• $6 entry fee + $4 each additional entry • Make check or money oder payable to BFR Sudden Fic • 1000 words or less • Typed, double-spaced • Include a brief cover letter & SASE for list of winners • Submissions will not be returned

• $6 entry fee + $4 each additional entry • Make check or money oder payable to BFR Sudden Fic • 1000 words or less • Typed, double-spaced • Include a brief cover letter & SASE for list of winners • Submissions will not be returned

Send submissions to: Sudden Fiction Contest Berkeley Fiction Review 10B Eshleman Hall University of California Berkeley, CA 94720-4500

Send submissions to: Sudden Fiction Contest Berkeley Fiction Review 10B Eshleman Hall University of California Berkeley, CA 94720-4500

Deadline is November 30, 2008

Deadline is November 30, 2008

Winners will be notified by the end of February 2009

Winners will be notified by the end of February 2009


Berkeley Fiction Review 28

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