Umbrella Factory Magazine publishes online quarterly: March, June, September, December. We are a small press determined to connect well-developed readers to intelligent writers and poets through virtual means, printed journals, and books. We believe in making an honest living providing the best writers and poets a forum for their work. We were founded in Denver, CO in 2009 by Mark Dragotta and Anthony Ilacqua with founding members: Jana Bloomquist, Janice Hampton and Oren Silverman.
Contents: 4 Note from the Editor 5 “How I Lost It” Elinor Abbott 14 Amanda Bales “Walking Back” and “The Captain Views the Heavener Runestone” 16 Andrea DeAngelis “I should have done something,” “Fern,” “Pipe Dream,” “Daughter Decay” and “rummy” 23 “Vicarious” Rosa del Duca 28 “Leonard’s Bad Day” Janice Hampton 36 “Summer Girl” Anthony ILacqua 51 Donnelle McGee “Young Black Man,” “Young Black Woman” and “Jack Johnson Speaks” 54 “Windows to the Soul” Michail Mulvey 64 “Almost Crimes” Justin Ridgeway 69 The “Editors and Contributors” issue's bios 72 Submission Guidelines “Scribble Factory” by Fabio Sassi is the cover of this issue
Welcome to issue 21 of Umbrella Factory Magazine Hello again readers, writers and supports of Umbrella Factory Magazine. As always, I am grateful to all who come our way whether it's intentional, accidental or incidental. It's always my suspicion that anyone who sees this magazine is here because they are a featured writer, or related to a featured writer. Occasionally, others happen by, and that's cool too. However you found this magazine, I thank you for stopping by. The editors and contributors issue. I feel like a little backstory is in order with this issue. UFM launched issues without delay from March of 2010, our first issue, all the way through to December 2014, our twentieth. This may not seem like such a big deal considering there are magazines that publish more than 20 issues a year and they're still at it. However, I think many small literary magazines, journals and ezines, are lucky to run 20 issues over 5 years. In fact, last December when Jana, Janice and I sat down to work, we decided to fold Umbrella Factory Magazine altogether. It had been a struggle for years. And we have all had additions to our families since the magazines's inception. I will say that children get in the way of literature or publication schedule, that is simply not the case. But when all of last editor's standing have young children, admittedly, the priorities change. Last December we figured that 20 issues is just about 19 more issues than most magazines get, and goodbye. I've learned it's good night and not goodbye. Last June, I found myself missing the magazine, missing the writers we meet and some we know. I thought about it constantly. In June we had skipped two issues. What next? How do we restart a literary magazine after a layoff? I thought about it a great deal. I asked, what do I miss? Who meant the most to me over the years? That's it: Editors and Contributors. I sent email to all the former staff, and I sent email to the contributors I enjoyed working with the most. I sent out the call to arms. And my call was answered. Please enjoy poetry from Amanda Bales, Andrea DeAngelis and Donnelle McGee and fiction from Elinor Abbott, Rosa del Duca, Janice Hampton, Michail Mulvey, Justin Ridgeway and myself, Anthony ILacqua Stay dry. Anthony ILacqua, September 2015
Elinor Abbott How I Lost It My father raised my sister and I like a couple of snakes. By that I mean that we were on our own. My mother was gone by the time I was sixteen, not dead, but to Tucson. Which was dead enough. We only saw her over the summers, but by the time summer came around Grace and I were dry of the curiosity you have for your mother. We were used to answering all our questions on our own. And ultimately, she didn’t want to cradle us any more than he did. If she did, she would have stayed. My mom taught me that if you ignore yourself for long enough, you’ll do anything to have a taste of integrity. “You’re in high school now,” she told me, standing in the doorway, waiting for the airport shuttle that would take her away from us, “and in many ways nothing really progresses from here. For most of humanity, this is the developmental last stop. If you can manage this, you can manage any thing.” She’s a psychiatrist, you know. Prone to bleak assessments of humanity. But I remembered it. I looked around my first period class sophomore year, after she left, and thought, “the last stop”. So it was Grace and me and Dad. And by that I mean, it was just me and Grace, and really, after not too long, it became apparent that it was just me. Grace and I were like tectonic plates on a fault line, slowly sliding away from each other. It was no more our fault than it is the fault of the earthquake. We adapted strategies based on the same question. How to survive? For me, I saw it like a list. Check the boxes, maneuver successfully between the events, become an adult, be free. I didn’t know what freedom meant, or what I wanted from an adult life, I just knew that it would be something that belonged to me. I could create it, y’know? As opposed to being a subject of creation, the result of two idiots who
hadn’t put ten seconds of thought into what they were doing. There were many things on this list: drivers ed, driving lessons, license, after school job, car. Straight A’s, Dean’s list, grants, college. Birthday, back to school, winter break, Christmas, prom. Go on a date, kiss a boy, get fingered, get a boyfriend, give a blow job, fuck, have a relationship. I followed the list like I was stepping on stones to get across a river. I had a belief that if I did everything in this particular order, I would make it to the other side. By the time I graduated high school, I checked off most of the things on the list. But a boyfriend remained elusive. Outside of maybe college, the boyfriend and the relationship were the most important things to accomplish. I had a lot of ideas about it. I thought about having someone to do things with after school, saying to people, “Oh, I’ve got plans with my boyfriend,” instead of going home to a empty house and eating ramen noodles watching Days of Our Lives. I thought about having another house to go to for holidays and how his mom would have snacks around that I liked, once she got to know me. I thought about having a person I chose. I thought about sex but absently, it seemed like more of a means to an end. I quickly discovered, however, that while it was easy enough to get a boy to kiss me or stick his hands in my pants, having a boy take me out on a date was an entirely different matter. I could have sex, but I didn’t want to unless a boyfriend was part of the bargain. I studied the girls who did have boyfriends, who held hands with someone in the hall, who had balloons taped to their lockers on Valentine’s Day. They were more popular than me, usually, although some of them were from the very dregs of the school, girls who spent time in foster care and had a parent in jail. I started wearing my hair in a very high ponytail for awhile, as if that would make a difference, and wore sweatpants with words written across the butt.
I took long walks after school, winding myself through the steep hills and valleys of my town. The mountains were green and blue and purple in the twilight. They were so big you could see them from wherever you stood, changing shape depending on the direction. They were so big that it didn’t matter how far away they were, they were with me like the sky or the moon. I would cry under them, walking and walking, fingering the dollar tips in my pocket from work, nothing around me but the snake of asphalt I followed and a million pine trees. Eventually, I decided the problem was that I wasn’t beautiful. I was athletic, but that turns out differently for some girls than others. I wasn’t a willow of long, shiny haired adolescence, I was more of a hearty shrub. My body always felt capable to me, however. It took me snowboarding, it let me run easily during a game of soccer. One night I was standing in front of the fridge, looking to make something for dinner when my dad, waiting behind me, barked, “Can you clear out, Claire? You’ve got an ass like a fucking dump truck.” Something deep inside of me woke and crawled up into my eyes and ears. My dad had always been critical of how Grace and I looked but I guess I chalked it up to his general misanthropy. Now, I realized that I had a captive male that I could spy on, learn things from. Over the next week I listened to him talk to women. The women on the TV primarily, as that’s where he parked when he came home. I had been listening for years but had become accustomed to turning him out. Gwen Stefani had bad legs, Fiona Apple was a scrawny little cunt with an unbecoming pout, Uma Thurman had man hands, Drew Barrymore was a chub but he wouldn’t kick her out of bed, Winona Ryder was a pedophile day dream but ultimately not enough for a man. Natalie Imbruglia however, with her slender body, large breasts and pixie face, was ‘a girl you could come home to’, as was Liv Tyler and Sarah Michelle Gellar, ‘a true beauty’. This was how I realized what men wanted was perfection. Anything less was meant solely for sexual gratification, not a place on your arm. I realized
the boys at school didn’t care about a high ponytail unless it came with high cheekbones and a lean fig ure. I looked at old pictures of my mom from when she and my dad first met. My father often described the havoc Grace and I brought to my mom’s once ‘incredible’ breasts and how we’d greedily, without a thought for him, turned them into flat little pancakes. Armed with this knowledge, I reformatted the list. First, I would get good at fucking. Really good. I would get some practice. Then, once I was good at it, I would keep a man coming back to me for more and gradually, slowly, convince him to stay. Fuck first, relationship later. I devoted the summer after high school to this task. Much to my disappointment, I found boys strangely leery of my easiness. Looking back, I wonder if I was too steely eyed about it, robotic, as though they were a chore I needed to check off the list. So I turned to booze to lighten me. That’s how I met Danny. Danny Theramel was a small time pot dealer who had graduated from my high school maybe five years earlier. He bought booze for underage kids. I don’t think he had any kind of real job, just parents with loose purse strings. He had a one room cabin up Little Coyote Creek. I had been there with a few friends to buy weed, but I don’t think Danny took particular note of me at the time. I had been weary of his bloodshot stoner's eyes and his longish blonde hair, his weirdly uncool flared jeans, as though he took Dazed and Confused very seriously. He had a mattress on the floor surrounded by fast food wrappers and a Sega gaming system plugged into an old TV on an ugly antique bureau. Whenever his dark purple pick-up truck drove past the high school, someone would usually let out a loud taxi cab whistle and everyone would laugh. It was said that Danny was so flush with drugs and booze he’d give them up for a whistle. This was untrue, of course, Danny took cash. I kept running into him that summer. The little cafe I worked at was next to the gas station where
Danny stopped in the afternoons to fill his truck and pick up fishing tackle. He would usually come by as I was smoking outside, a habit I had picked up in hopes of losing a little weight. At first he just nod ded at me in vague recognition but after awhile he came up to me and reintroduced himself, asked who I was friends with and eventually let it drop that he could be relied upon to ‘score’ anything I needed. I thanked him and we left it at that. My dad was out of town toward the end of the summer and Grace was in Tucson. I decided to throw a party for my cafe friends before we all went our separate ways. I was hoping to get one of the line cooks, Dustin Petro, drunk and seduce him. Hilarious as that seems. That was my plan. The next time I saw Danny, I was prepared for him, three twenties in my back pocket. “Get anything, like, beer, hard liquor, whatever, I don’t care, ” I told him. “Just stuff people like.” “Want any wine coolers?” “Um, sure. I trust you.” “Haha, thanks. I like to think I know what I’m doing.” “When should I come by to pick it up?” Danny paused then, flicked his eyes up towards the sky as if unearthing his pot dealing schedule required great effort. I noticed his white Grateful Dead tee looked a little gray, like it had been a while since anyone washed it separate from the colors. Something about this made me feel sad. “Uh, Tuesday, any time. Work for you?” “Well,” I said and kicked the yellow curb outside the gas station. “You could just come if you wanted and bring the booze then.” “Really?” He looked astonished, which made me even sadder. “Sure. I think there will be some people there your age.” As soon as it came out of my mouth, I
knew it was the wrong thing to say. I broke into a huge embarrassed grin. “Um,” I tried to save myself, “I mean, at the cafe, like people come home for the summer and—“ “It’s ok, Claire.” He was digging a cigarette out of his pack. “Just come because I invited you then,” I said, my ears having gone a bit red. He glanced at me. “I suppose that’s a good enough reason.” I wrote my address and phone number on a book of matches and handed him my twenties. We waved good bye a little awkwardly. He showed up for the party early, as I had asked him to, so I could have the booze out before anyone got there. We opened up a couple of beers and sipped them in silence for a moment. He asked what needed to be done and helped me put out the potato chips and trail mix and then hang some white Christmas lights on the back porch. “That looks really nice,” he said, admiring our twinkly white handy work. Then he really surprised me by grabbing the broom of his own accord and sweeping the pine needles off the porch. “So which town did you grow up in?” I asked, our high school being composed of teens from two small neighboring towns. He opened his mouth to answer but then someone knocked on the door and I sprinted away to answer. We didn’t really talk again or hang out for the rest of the night. He was playing DJ, primarily, disappearing back and forth to his truck with various coworkers of mine, presumably to smoke them out. They would come back laughing and clapping each other on the back. I drank two screwdrivers, the taste of them like orange perfume in my mouth. I thought of my dad, fleetingly, and wondered if every drink of alcohol he took was this unpleasant or if, when you went at it the way he did, you become anesthetized to the awful burning in your throat.
Dustin Petro asked me to go walk in the backyard with him, which I thought very promising. We stood starboard the house and watched people dance to the Dave Matthew’s Band. We were completely alone. I was about to stand on my tiptoes and press my lips to his when he turned to me with a furrowed brow and said, “Claire, dude, I need your help with Kaylea. I’m like, basically, in love with her.” And so we spent the next hour or so drunkenly discussing the weekend hostess Kaylea, who had a boyfriend, a boyfriend who at that very moment was grinding against her leg to the sounds of Marcy Playground on my porch. But apparently she kept hooking up with Dustin in the linen pantry at work and he was very confused. By the time the party wore down, I was slightly drunk, still a virgin and only about three weeks out from freshman year of college. I wandered through the house, forlorn, throwing red plastic cups away and stepping over passed out coworkers. I saw Danny, sitting next to the CD player, bobbing his head to the Bob Marley blaring from the speakers. I walked over to him and very unceremoniously sat on his lap, put my head on his shoulder and sighed. “Long night?” He patted my knee in a friendly way. “I guess,” I said. He gently pushed me up and stood. He took my hand and led me into the back guest bedroom. I knew what was going to happen, I could feel the intention of it echoing between our bodies. My first thought was that I couldn’t ever tell anyone about this. I mean, Danny Theramel of all people! But then I realized high school was over, everyone I knew was about to disappear. No one in my new life would know who Danny Theramel was. His identity would become the most disposable element of the virginity loss story. I wondered if he felt any similar twinge of embarrassment, fucking an eighteen year old
he barely knew. But the world of men doesn’t work like that. Their animal nature, unlike a woman’s, would never be disputed. Whoever he fucked, it was his score to count. Danny and I stood over the guest bed for a few moments and looked down at the bedspread. It was Grace’s old bedspread, a horse pattern, that my Mom bought her back when she was still into horses. Danny, sensing my discomfort, peeled it away and let it fall behind the bed. Then he sat down on the bed and pulled his shirt off. He reached up and began to undo my pants. I looked off behind his head as he jerked my panties down my hips. There was a window behind his head and through it I could see the pine trees glowing in the light from the house. They were as thick and indifferent as they’d been swaying above me on my many weeping after school walks. Hey, I thought at them, it’s finally happening. Danny was not unkind or forceful. It was simple, in a way. The rolling around, had an outcome, a purpose. Before, when I’d fooled around with guys, there had always been a sense, as we pulled away from each other and buckled our pants, of something unfinished. Danny’s long blonde hair fell around my face, a pleasure that girls usually don’t experience. It filtered the light from the bedside lamp and pleasantly tickled my neck. I don’t know precisely what I thought or felt at the moment he began to fuck me. I remember a sense of curiosity, and an impulse to laugh. It didn’t last very long, not like in movies, where they were at it for at least the duration of one 80s love ballad. We kissed only once, after he came. The kiss was more awkward than anything else. Isn’t it funny that purposely touching lips with someone requires so much more intimacy than fucking? Fucking is only biology, after all, everything on the planet is at it. Kissing has a distinct personal note. When he pulled out and I rolled over, wrapped in the sheets, I felt like I had seen the ending to a very famous movie, and though it wasn’t terrible, it hadn’t really lived up to my expectations. I kept waiting to feel different or older or some-
how better, and while I was waiting for this feeling, I fell asleep. Danny was gone when I woke up, a few hours later. And that was fine. I got up, took a shower and put on my pajamas. I wanted to fall back asleep, but I couldn’t. It was sunrise. I picked up the house, did dishes. I woke the last few stragglers from the party and sent them on their way. The light that came in through the windows was beautiful and warm, an early morning mix of pale yellow and gray blue. I was a typical heavy sleeping teen and it had been a long time since I’d been up early enough to appreciate the morning. I grabbed my cigarettes and went out to our old sandbox to watch the day fill in around me. Smoking there, alone in the yard, I began to cry. Not because anything was wrong, everything had gone pretty much how I wanted it to. I was crying because I had thought that getting someone to fuck me and then love me, was as straight a line as saving paychecks and then buying a car. What I hadn’t counted on was the fact that human nature, Dustin’s, Danny’s, Kaylea’s, my own, didn’t work like that. I wouldn’t be able to get good at fucking and then make someone love me, as I had planned to do. In fact, getting good at fucking didn’t even seem to matter any more. Neither did beauty. There were simply people in this world, me included, and all that would happen, from this moment until the end of my life, was that we would bumble into each other like pinballs, changing each others trajectories or hardly effecting each other at all. There was no way to guess at it, or plan for it, all I could do was stumble along, exactly as my parents had, exactly as every other person in the world did, well intentioned, but ultimately, blind.
Amanda Bales Walking Back Took my neighbor apple muffins, and his stroked brow contorted, either in anger or pleasure, but I did not stay, dimming light excuse back through terracotta marigolds dead from heat long before frost. Possible we deserve this pound of lonesome. Once thought deserve when police snatched children from meth mouth houses. Once thought does not deserve when smart girl students dulled to stretch-marked poverty. No longer certain of deserve. What happens, happens. File to wood maul blade, I might notch an artery, lie unremarked for days, and my neighborâ€™s face might remain unmoved.
Amanda Bales The Captain Views the Heavener Runestone My stepdaughter stretched abeam o’er the bulwark and slipped, her head against sweet gum stump a sound I still hear some nights. The Mother held her child as if she wished to take her back into herself, back to the feather flesh uterus safe from stepmothers and isolated as I thought myself that winter, speaker deaf to the 4-stroke engine. Scuttlebutt said my scream carried to the Wister VFW, where checkered men swore they’d skinned a breathing woman, but ‘they’ was a twelve year old boy fled from the prayers and welts his mother had raised. That boy could not stop anymore than I can scull these driftwood legs, deadrun from a husband bowed beneath caregiver weight, plot my way to a stepdaughter aground on my pupil-wide Oxycodone dreams. Waters here run low in winter, trap vessels deep-sea schemed. A tourist asks if I believe Norsemen coursed the Fouche-Maline and I lie ahull. 15
Andrea DeAngelis I should have done something I should have done something but it happened in the sixth grade. Jackie, you were always telling people what to do I liked that about you because I couldn’t tell anyone anything. I hid behind my overgrown bangs I always cried when my grandmother’s hairdresser cut the ragged ends a millimeter too short. Your intoxicating authority fit— you told me what was what even if it wasn’t. That day, I carried my empty gray tray like a shield into the chaotic cafeteria but they had already started in on you. It wasn’t what they said but how they said it, how they surrounded you with spitball confidence around the long metallic table. “You’re a chocolate chocolate sundae with chocolate syrup on top.” He pointed to your hair, standing over you, suddenly bigger than he was, threatening to pull your stubborn pigtails loose 16
from their bright gumball holders. The chorus of mean boys repeated, “chocolate” like chocolate was dirty. They shouted at you until you broke away pushing through them running into the girls’ bathroom. I followed you, the tray tucked underneath my arm asking if you were okay. You were facing away looking out the window, where we were punished with recess. You turned back asking, “Why did you bring the tray into the bathroom? You know you’re not supposed to.” Then I knew you would be okay back to being Jackie if you were scolding me. Though I worry that you still carry that memory with you and I want you to know I’ve never forgotten it either and maybe because I’ve remembered too I can carry it away for you. 17
Andrea DeAngelis Fern You were a potted exotic who never belonged in New York too unreal in your arty pretensions so you changed your scene, moving onto the warped celluloid of LA the angels of today to be obeyed. Long stemmed and shortened attention span both you and that cigarette holder were never without but bereft of any earthy solidness. Sometimes you were surprisingly friendly though easily turned away as if my utter commonness would harm you. But maybe that wasn’t it? Maybe it was as you admitted, “You always look angry” and you were actually afraid of me. We walked together once I barely matched your long-limbed pace back in that awful Midwestern loneliness towards one of the scarce ATMs dispensing money that didn’t belong to us. You asked me about your housemate, Gabe, “How was the sleepover?” 18
adding, “he’s a sweet guy” as an epitaph. But I couldn’t talk to you because you were, you know, cool. Years later, I saw you on the corner, near that defunct record store Tower I hoped you didn’t see me because I was bedraggled and gray and you were a pointillist picture of someone who wasn’t to be swayed. Distinct from afar but close-up shimmering. You wouldn’t have remembered me anyway for I have been in the margins, carelessly blurred and unheard writing about people who barely noticed me.
Andrea DeAngelis Pipe Dream What does it mean when all your dreams are pipe dreams? Is it a failure to succeed? Or an unwillingness to submit to cagey reality? Do you exist where others didn’t? Denial drawing you in even when you have reservations. And the money has gone beyond running out. You’ve swallowed your pride and found that freeing but there are so many days when you want to vomit it back up again but find you can’t. Why is a pipe dream called that? Simply because it’s a contradiction? (like writing poetry that no one will read) A dream is not meant to be a solid thing. You can’t smoke it. But how can it not be? For it feels so heavy on me but without it, I would not be lighter I would be empty.
Andrea DeAngelis Daughter Decay I am jettisoned decay product the daughter reject leftover material radioactive waste of the number one son who left everyone For two years he didn’t speak to them I am an isotope of lead far more radioactive than the individual element that was most wanted but never supposed to be a separate entity We are less and less alpha to beta to dread “I am disappointed in all my children” Yes, swallow me and ingest I am far more dangerous than my half-life would indicate.
Andrea DeAngelis rummy rummy eyes say the most perfected lies you refuse to fact-check their tall tales even though youâ€™ve sworn by your manifold and cheated my mind telling me drinking is a fine way to kill time choke the minutes into days into years of yellowing lists of to dos to never do there is a pain on the side of your head you do not expect to live but you do.
Rosa del Duca
Vicarious We plan the party to coincide with the full moon, on the hope that such a detail will lure our friend Jasmine and some of her woo-woo sidekicks. There are no quibbles as to whose house. Jason and his wife Leanne are the only ones who have their own place—a house in the hills with a backyard, a deck, and a cedar hot tub under a weeping willow. The first of us arrive early to help set up. We light candles and hang Leanne’s string of tiny Japanese lanterns over the picnic tables. We marinate meat. We break into the white wine, saving the red for dinner and afterwards. We stare at the hot tub, assuring ourselves that this time, we will stay late enough to take a dip. (A soak in the hot tub is never offered before 2 a.m.) We check our phones. We filter in, a light sweat clinging to our skin from driving with the windows down instead of using the air conditioning. Lacey Krous waltzes in with a man none of us have ever met—a square judging from his carefully combed hair and tapered pants and penny loafers. But judging him a major step up from her shady ex-boyfriend, we pump his hand. We pretend to have serious conversations as the hosts bustle in and out of the kitchen. Kids, careers, lovers, aging parents, spirituality, philosophy… We drink in the atmosphere, the aromas, the heightened—in some cases, faked—enthusiasm. “How many are we expecting?” Rafael asks. “I think this is it,” Leanne says, glancing over the crowd. There are about seventeen of us. No Jasmine. Yet. Outside, in the fading golden air, we savor ripe melon, sip strong wine, bite into hunks of bread 23
and cheese, and try, but fail, to daintily eat corn on the cob. We fork chunks of steak, grilled salmon and crisp salad into our mouths, leaving only smears of juices and dressing on our plates. The warm afterglow from the sunset slips into evening chill. We stuff our hands into our pockets, rub our arms, hunch our shoulders, dash back inside for a jacket. Jasmine shows up as we begin to clear the tables, dumping the remnants of wine bottles into each other’s glasses. “Hello?” she calls from the doorway. We greet, we exclaim. We greedily await our turn for her pronouncements: “Marianne, your aura is just overwhelming, you’re shining like a star. Joe, you’re in love, I can tell. And is that Edie? I had the strangest dream about you last month. We were…” She is even thinner than we remember and she’s brought four friends, three in paint splattered clothes, one in a loose linen shirt and black yoga pants. She has also brought a large jug of “honey moonshine from Montana.” Leanne grabs a stack of clean plates from the cupboard and arranges leftovers for the late guests. “What have you been up to?” we ask Jasmine. We all live vicariously through her artsy, flamboyant, spur-of-the-moment whims—envy her for refusing to be tied to a steady job, just one lover, a firm living situation and “all that jazz.” “I’ve taken up painting. Actually, we’re all just coming from a class.” Darryl pops one of his indie electronic mixes into the stereo. Jasmine makes us highballs with the moonshine, which is surprisingly smooth and luxurious. The music is changed to a salsa mix and Jasmine and Rafael insist on teaching everyone the dance. We stand in a line, laughing and stumbling over each other, trying to keep up with the beat. Highballs are refilled. The veneer falls off our conversations. We are raw and honest with ourselves, with each other. Time speeds and slows. A few of us start absently trailing our fingers over things—
Rosa del Duca skin, the back of the leather couch, the granite countertops in the kitchen. The painters start eyeing the living room. “What a beautiful space.” “The light is making amazing shadows. See? Look at that, by the bookcase.” “Get a figure on that table, and you’ve got a lovely backdrop.” “We need to paint this.” “Definitely.” We’re all in a pretty good mood when Jasmine announces that the painters want to hold an art class in the living room. One of them, Gale, is a model. They’ve got large sheets of white paper we can all draw on. Why the hell not, we think? We skitter around the house, rounding up pencils. Leanne digs out a dust-covered box from a closet filled with art supplies. We are placed by the painters in various spots around the room. They mutter about angles, pass out the supplies, ignore our self-deprecating jokes about how terrible our attempts will be. They turn on the heat, draw the curtains. Gale slips off her pants and shirt and we realize the painters meant nude model. Her bra is off-white from washings with colors. Her panties are blue, from one of those box-store packages of six. She slips them both off. Instead of looking away, at the carpet, or at our nails, or at the door, we stare. Gale is brave and beautiful in a way we are not. She is oblivious, and therefore unapologetic, and somehow, powerful. She steps up onto the table with lithe, strong feet, like a dancer’s, and we start to draw and paint, some with hesitant, tiny lines, some with broad, thick strokes. Time speeds. It grows hot. We take off some of our own clothes, slip into the kitchen and come back with glasses of ice water and a splash 25
of honey moonshine. Is it really just moonshine? Time slows. Lacey is in the corner with her adoring square. Jason and Leanne have moved from their designated spots to just one spot, reaching over and drawing on each others’ paper in a tangle of arms and legs. Edie is down to her push-up bra and lacy underwear. Joe is asleep, his mouth open. A soft knock comes from the front door. No one seems to have an interest in answering it. Someone shouts to come in. The door opens. Marcy, Kate, Andre and John smile tentatively and murmur hellos. The more they see, the more their faces change—the curves of their smiles flattening, their eyebrows pulling together, their lips growing thinner. They observe. We too, look around the room. Blood rushes to our faces and the high fades. The carpet feels harsh against our knees and elbows and we wonder if we have rug burns. “Are we… interrupting anything?” Andre asks. We rush to respond, “Of course not.” “We were just having an art session.” “We were just wrapping up.” “We got a little carried away.” “Sorry it’s so warm in here. We had to turn on the heat for the model. Jasmine brought artists.” They rush to put us at ease. “Oh how fun! We should have gotten here earlier. It is warm in here. Don’t stop because of us.” They’re a little jealous now. They’ve missed a genuine Jasmine experience. But the moment of embarrassment has pushed the night over the edge. We look at each other from opposite sides of a divide. Jason and Leanne half-heartedly ask who wants to take a dip in the hot tub. Jasmine lets out a yip and darts into the backyard, where she sheds the rest of her clothes. The newcomers raise cautiously
Rosa del Duca expectant eyebrows at one another. Meanwhile, the rest of us are still caught on the other side of the divide. Although it isnâ€™t what we want to do, we make excuses and gather our things, feeling ourselves harden like clay in a kiln. We down tall glasses of water in the kitchen and then slink home, where we dream we are gliding on the brushstrokes of a painter, her canvas stretched tight over a deep ravine. We are powerful, with lithe feet. Models of ourselves.
Janice Hampton Leonard’s Bad Day “If you don’t get in the car, bitch, I’m gonna go beat up that old man!” Leonard turned around to see which old man he was going to have to defend. Suddenly, a wiry, wildeyed man in his early 20’s, fists flailing, rushed toward Leonard. Still wondering which old man the younger man had been talking about, Leonard just stared at the oncoming fury of the young man. Leonard had listened to the young couple argue in the booth behind him while he tried to eat his break fast and wake up with cup after cup of coffee. He had just come over Wolf Creek Pass in his Kenworth, hauling a trailer full of cattle. His eyes were bloodshot, his jaw hurt from clenching, his shoulders sagged forward, and he was still worried that he might have lost a head or two and how much it was going to cost him on delivery. The snow had started lightly in Durango, and by the time he hit the pass, a full-on spring blizzard had taken over the mountain. The pass that he could practically drive with his eyes closed and normally took under two hours had quickly turned into a treacherous maze of white that took nearly four hours to navigate. Leonard knew that he had to get over the pass, or he risked a dock in pay for being late and not bringing in a full load. Luckily, he thought, it’s March, so the temperature shouldn’t drop too low. The cattle have thick hide, so they should be okay. The more quickly he could get over the pass, the less likely any of them would die on him. The last thing he needed was to see the money come out of his check for something completely out of his control. Even at 72, Leonard couldn’t afford to lose any pay. Especially at 72, Leonard couldn’t afford to lose any pay. Sitting in the Blue Mountain Café, Leonard thought how shitty life could turn out. You finish high school like everyone says, and then the military takes you off the farm and sends you out to war in some hot, steamy, bug-filled jungle where you watch all your friends die. You go home, marry a pretty girl, watch more of your friends die, have babies, work hard, and have nothing to show for it at the end of your life. Debt up to my ass, and this trailer full of cattle that had better goddamned not die on me.
Leonard’s wife, Opal, had died 10 years ago of breast cancer. It took her five years. Tests, surgeries, chemo, radiation, more tests, more surgeries (they took both boobs, for Christ’s sake), and then she dies. And the hospital still wants money. You assholes ought to offer a money-back guarantee, Leonard had said at the funeral to the doctor who, eyes full of tears, offered her condolences. Ten years later, and I’m still paying for my wife to die. He knew he shouldn’t keep thinking about it, but he would have stopped driving seven years ago if it hadn’t been for all that. Every time he climbed a mountain pass in a snowstorm, chained up on the Kansas plains, or waited for his truck to cool down in the Texas deserts, he cursed the hospital and all the doctors who couldn’t save his wife. But more than that, he cursed himself for having been so goddamned scared. When Opal had first been diagnosed, Leonard didn’t believe it. He blew up in the waiting room of the county health clinic, yelling, “I’m going to kill that dike bitch! What the hell is she talking about? All she wants to do is keep poking around on your tits.” After a couple of Opal’s friends talked to him, he agreed to let them take her to a doctor in Grand Junction, but, he insisted, “It has to be a male doctor, not one of those goddamned lesbians.” To be honest, he thought she was making the whole thing up at first. He thought she was just being lazy when she started complaining about being tired all the time. And he hadn’t noticed anything unusual about her breasts. Before she went to the clinic for her annual exam, she had asked him not to touch her left breast because it was tender. He accused her of sleeping around while he was out on the road. She cried and tried to convince him it wasn’t true. Then she shrank into her own body. Any time he tried to touch her, she became stiff and rigid. She held her breath; she pretended to sleep—anything so he wouldn’t pursue sex. Finally, after the doctor in Grand Junction confirmed the RN’s diagnosis from the county clinic, she took to sleeping in the spare room. When he thought about how he had acted and how Opal had died, he felt a burning in his ears and slight nausea. But he would force himself to remember. He forced himself to relive all the details, especially the ones he hadn’t been there for.
Janice Hampton And now, even 10 years later, he carried not only the debt from the hospital and penance for his wife’s awful end, he also found that he still could not face his daughter. When Opal’s treatments started, Julie quit her job on the East Coast and moved home to take care of her mother. Leonard started taking more and more trips, hoping to stay on top of the medical bills and hoping to avoid having to see his wife deteriorate before his eyes. Every time he came home from a trip, he would find Opal and Julie together. Sometimes they were drinking tea at the kitchen table; sometimes they were sitting on the front porch reading, and sometimes they were sleeping in the bed together, just like they had when Julie was a little girl. Apparently, Julie goes by “Jewells” in New York City. Leonard still felt guilty for his disdain, but couldn’t help judging her. She never brought a boyfriend home, but she always went on vacation with this girl friend or that one. Leonard explained it to himself and to anyone who asked when she was going to get married by saying, “She must be too busy with that big government job of hers in the D.A.’s office to settle down.” What he had really hated, however, were the times when he caught the Julie and Opal doing something more intimate. He couldn’t help but scream and shout the day he came home to find them in the bathroom together using his hair trimmer to shave Opal’s fiery red hair off. Her hair floated to the floor in big tufts and covered the floor with red fuzz. The middle of her head was already bald, and Julie was starting to remove the long, thin locks at the sides of Opal’s head. “What the hell is this?” Leonard demanded. “Some kind of Bozo the Clown look from Manhattan?” Opal pleaded with him with her deep green eyes. Julie glared at him with her dark blue eyes, the ones that matched his own, and then she kicked the door closed so hard it shook the whole house. He stood outside the door, his head hanging like a beat dog, listening to Opal sniffling, and Julie’s soft voice soothing her. They stayed in the bathroom for the rest of the evening. He heard them fill the bathtub and their voices muted behind the door, water sloshing from time to time. When they emerged, Leonard was sitting in front of the T.V. working on his fifth beer. He was going to demand Julie stop freeloading and send her to get more beer and a bottle of
whisky, but when he saw them walk into the kitchen, he couldn’t speak. Not only was Opal’s head devoid of her thick, wavy red hair, but Julie’s head also shone white. Julie held two grocery bags—one full of Opal’s hair and one full of Julie’s dark brown hair. It only got worse from there. Leonard took more and more trips. Sleep began to elude him more and more. He started drinking more and more. He found that the lot lizards were a cheap way to vent his anger and help him get to sleep. When he was home, he felt like he was living with a couple of ghosts, bald-headed, grotesque monsters. Opal lost more and more weight, and Julie ate less and less. She spent most of her time trying to convince her mother to eat or holding her shoulders and patting her back as Opal retched and retched over the toilet after her treatments. The two of them didn’t even acknowledge his visits anymore. When they took both of Opal’s breasts, Leonard decided to stay on the road as long as he possibly could. When he pulled into the Sanders’ ranch and asked to be loaded again for the third time, Ed Sander’s son nodded, grunted, and said he’d be right back. He went into the office, and a few minutes later, Ed came ambling out and crossed the dirt parking lot to Leonard. The two men stared at one another for a few seconds, and Ed let out a long sigh, looking down at Leonard’s boots. “Leonard,” he said, raising just his eyes, “go home and take care of your wife.” “Can’t,” replied Leonard, tightening his fists. “Gotta keep workin’ to pay those bills.” Ed’s hard cattleman’s eyes softened. “I’ll always have work for you, Leonard. And I wouldn’t tell you what to do, but let’s be honest. She ain’t gonna last much longer, and we both know it, don’t we?” Leonard nodded. He turned his broad back to Ed and went home. I never thanked him for that. When he got home, he knocked, not sure what he might find the two of them doing. No one answered. It was a steaming August afternoon, and all the windows were all open. He walked in, slamming the screen door to announce his presence. He started to call out, but when he took a breath, he nearly gagged on the smell of the house. It was a combination of dying flowers, dying flesh, and blood. It reminded him of the jungle and the war.
Janice Hampton He ran back out onto the porch and tried to get a hold of himself. Julie came to the door and watched him, a bloody bandage in her hands. “Dad?” she said softly. He took a deep breath and turned around. He felt clammy. “It’s really bad.” Her eyes welled up with tears. She sniffed. “I need you.” He saw the bloody rag and turned toward the bushes. He puked up the only thing that had been in his stomach all day—beer and coffee. Julie stood in the doorway and watched her father vomit. She opened the door quietly and sat down on the front step. After Leonard had finished throwing up, he wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and shook his head. He let out a harsh laugh. “Tired of watching your parents puke yet?” She smiled. “Dad, I need to say something to you, and it’s really important.” He sighed and sat down on the step next to her, trying to avoid looking at the bloody bandage she held in her hands. The blood was dried and caked, and almost looked like a rag from his toolbox that he might have used to wipe off some rusty part. “Mom is going to die. And she needs you. As scared as you are, she is even more scared. And I’m terri fied. This has been really hard. You’ve really been a selfish ass.” He nodded, not looking at her, his ears catching fire. “I don’t know what to do,” he said, after struggling to catch his breath. “Go talk to her. Just talk to her. Tell her you love her. That’s all you have to do.” “I—I don’t think I can.” “Then you are not the man I thought you were,” Julie said flatly. She stood up and walked back into the
house, closing the door quietly. After some time, Leonard stood up also and went into the house quietly. The entire house was filled with flowers, mostly lilies, Opal’s favorite flower. The house was dark, all the blinds closed against the August sun. Box fans roared in every room. As his eyes adjusted to the dimness, he tried to ignore the smell. He made his way to Opal’s room. As he stood at the doorway, he could hear her shallow breathing. At first, it didn’t seem like she was in the bed. A floorboard creaked as he took a step across the threshold, and she stirred. “Leonard?” a raspy voice croaked. “Leonard? Is that you?” All Leonard could see was a bald head with dark circles surrounding eyes sunken into a skull. He stopped, his heart pounding in his ears. He forced himself to take another step. He cleared his throat, not sure what he wanted to say. Two skeletal arms came out of the bedcovers and reached for him, that raspy voice, like a demon whis pering, said, “Oh, Leonard, come to me.” Leonard, filled with terror, nearly fell down. His legs felt heavy and rubbery all at the same time. He stumbled out of the bedroom, knocking into the doorjamb, and rushed out of the house. He felt the scream in his throat before he heard it in his ears. He rushed to his pickup, shaky hands fumbling with the keys and trembling as he turned the ignition. He looked up to see Julie on the porch, still holding that bloody bandage. Her mouth was set in a hard line, her lips practically disappearing. He left so fast, he kicked gravel up in the driveway. By the end of the day, he was hauling another load of Ed Sanders’ cattle to Texas, unable to shake the vision of the corpse reaching for him in the bedroom. At first, he didn’t hear the couple. He was still lost in thought and trying to shake off the tension of the drive. He thought of the corpse less and less as the years went by. He tried to remember Opal when he had stood at the altar with her, exchanging vows. Her hair was piled high on her head under her veil. She was blushing and
Janice Hampton shaking and crying. He was filled with pride and love. He wanted to be her knight in shining armor. He wanted to protect her and treat her like the delicate lilies in her bouquet. “I just don’t see how you can just leave me like this,” the young man had said to the young woman in the booth behind him. She murmured something in reply. Leonard heard the pleading in her voice. “Who’s more important? Me or your mom? I mean, I’m always going to be here for you. She’s gonna die one day, you know?” Leonard looked outside the window at the snow, still coming down in big white tufts. He took another drink of his coffee. He noticed that his hand shook as he brought the cup to his lips. That seemed to happen more and more often these days—when he was eating, when he was writing a check to the hospital, when he was tun ing the C.B. The couple had stopped talking. The gum-smacking waitress returned with Leonard’s Thermos full of coffee and his check. “You be careful out there, you hear? This is only s’posed to get worse,” she said, nodding her own agreement as she turned to leave. “Yes, ma’me,” Leonard replied. As he paid the bill, he noticed that the couple was on their way to their car. The young woman had dark brown hair. He could see her face from the side. It was red and patchy and wet from crying. She was bundled up, but he could see that she had the waddle of a pregnant woman. The young man, dressed in a motorcycle jacket and ripped jeans, was still yelling at her, pointing his finger in her face. Leonard zipped up his Carhart jacket at the door and started toward his truck. He looked at the couple as he passed the car. The woman was trying to walk back into the restaurant, but he had a tight hold on her arm. A few feet away from the car, Leonard heard, “If you don’t get in the car, bitch, I’m gonna go beat up
that old man!” Leonard turned around to see which old man he was going to have to defend. Suddenly, a wiry, wildeyed man in his early 20’s, fists flailing, rushed toward Leonard. Still wondering which old man the younger man had been talking about, Leonard just stared at the oncoming fury of the young man. The young man was suddenly on top of Leonard, punching at him, mostly landing punches on his chest. Leonard boxed the young man on the ear, knocking him off. Springing to his feet with the speed of the boxer he had been in the military, Leonard pulled the young man to his feet by the shoulder of his motorcycle jacket and delivered a short, hard jab to his nose. The young man went limp in Leonard’s hand, and Leonard dropped him in the snow. Several of the other truckers had run out to the parking lot followed by a few restaurant staff and stood by in disbelief as the young man floundered in the snow at the old man’s feet, blood from his nose staining the fresh snow. The truckers started clapping. Soon they were laughing and patting Leonard on the back as the sher iff, who had been at the café drinking coffee, cuffed the young man and put him in the back of his Blazer. The young woman pleaded with the sheriff not to take him, tried to explain what had happened. Leonard shook the truckers off, answered the sheriff’s questions, and walked back to his truck. He opened the trailer, and went inside. He prodded each head of cattle to make sure they were all still alive. One of them was dead, and two others weren’t responding. Cursing, Leonard started his truck and gingerly pulled out of the parking lot.
Anthony ILacqua Summer Girl Tess gave no heat to the bank teller. After all, it wasn't his fault that her account was overdrawn. There were no real solutions. This was a Thursday night, and there was no money to spend. The heat was not unbearable, the bills were paid through month's end. There were records to play and a stack of magazines to flip through. Things were not going to get out of hand, this was the truth. Things were old, antique, everything: the house, the magazines, the records. She had never heard of any of the pop bands, country music singers or the likes of vinyl heroes. Tess walked down 3rd all the way from Main Street to Front Ave. She hoped that Marcy was still half naked on the patio of her little beach rental. Marcy, for whatever reason, had not been able to comply to real life. At length, sometime in June, then again in July and yet another time just the week before had told Tess at length about her falling out with her job, her husband and her life back in Portland. To no end, obviously, because even after the whole summer at Nye Beach, Marcy had not come closer to any sort of perspective. It didn't matter much anyway. Marcy had left the canvas chair which was now filled with sunlight of an aging day. Standing alone on the corner, Tess looked down the line of vacation houses all of them mixed with sand and grass and the salted air of the Pacific in such a peaceful way. The next choice, clearly, was Charlie. Tess could knock on Charlie's door and not feel in the least bit bad about it. Charlie, like Marcy was suffering from some sort of malaise that took him from his comfortable home in the middle
of the country somewhere to the beaches of Oregon. Unlike Marcy, Charlie's malaise seemed to be born out of boredom and fixed (if temporarily) by this residence at Newport, Oregon. “Young Tess,” Charlie said as he opened the door. “Well, come on in, I was just about to begin a relationship with a bottle of rum.” “That's funny,” she said. It was funny, yes, but the cadence of statement made for the humor more than the words themselves. “Well, it's not going to be a very long relationship, and it's going to be more fun as a threesome,” Charlie said. “Dirty,” Tess said. The age spread was nearly twenty-five years. That conversation happened in June, after Tess's birthday on the 13th and before Charlie's birthday on the 21st. Twenty five years, minus one week. “But I kind of like it,” she said. “Good,” he said. “I'll get all the fixings together, and all you have to do is squeeze the melons.” “Squeeze the melons?” she asked. “That was dirty,” he said. “I meant squeeze the fruit, limes, not melons. I don't know why I said melons.” This cause a nervous chuckle in Charlie. He thought melons because of the stripy bikini top and Tess's melons underneath. Tess knew. They were not the size of limes, and she adjusted the top string just behind her neck which pulled the cleavage tighter and higher. “Were you a photographer in another life Charlie?” she asked. He cut a few limes and set them next to her and the old fashioned juicer. “Photographer? No,” he sighed. “I never had an eye for that. I was in insurance.” “Salesman?” she asked.
Anthony ILacqua “Underwriter,” he said. “What does that mean?” she asked. “What is an underwriter?” “It means that you're not squeezing these limes fast enough.” “Melons,” Tess said. “Squeeze your melons on your own time, right now we have drinking to do.” “Threesome?” “Squeeze,” he said. “This banter is, is—” “In serious need of a rum drink?” Tess said. “Yes, exactly,” he said. Blender: rum, lime, sugar, mint, ice. Glass: the blended mix, soda. “Now,” Charlie said, “Outside.” He led the way. On the back roof top patio of his small cottage, he climbed the spiral stairs first. On the yacht-like roof top patio, Charlie took in the sight from the south to the north looking over the waves of the mighty, mighty Pacific in such a way to suggest the man had never seen it before. “This is it,” he said. He took off his Hawaiian shirt which had not been buttoned in days. “Yup,” Tess said. “You seen Marcy today?” “This morning,” Charlie said. “Why? What did she say?” “Nothing,” Tess said. “I just haven't seen her.” “She's probably tired,” Charlie said. He looked out to the distance. A few kites dotted the sky and they were already moving out to sea the clearest indication of the coming of the evening. “Now, what does that mean?” Tess said. “What?” Charlie said quickly.
“Why would Marcy be tired?” “What was this about being a photographer?” Charlie said. He moved closer to Tess and quickly sat down on the paint blistered wood bench. He set his drink between them and quickly looked away. “Nice way to change the subject,” Tess said. “You like that?” he asked. “Well, it was feeble attempt to make a comparison,” Tess said. “Between what?” “You and me,” Tess began. She took a huge drink from her glass. “And Edward Weston and Charis Wilson.” “I don't know them?” Charlie said. “Is this a TV thing?” “No Charlie,” Tess said. “They came before TV.” “I don't know them. Pretty esoteric stuff,” he said. “Listen, go downstairs and make another batch of this stuff, use the rest of the rum.” Tess returned with the entire blender full of the mojito blend. She set the thing down next to Charlie. He did not move. His eyes focused deeply into the ocean's distance. “You okay?” Tess asked. “It's a funny thing,” Charlie said. “You know? I used to listen to all those whinny people who thought they deserved to be rich. Like they were entitled to it.” His attention lifted from the distance and to the small railed-in patio and lastly to the blender full of rum. He poured his glass to the top, took a huge slug from it, then refilled it. “It was like being rich was something that they deserved. I never did too poorly myself, and I saved and saved my money so I could be happy some day.” “What're you talkin' 'bout?” Tess said. “It's a quality of life issue. I think too many people are out there thinking that money and being
Anthony ILacqua rich makes for a better life. Or a better quality of life at least.” “Doesn't it?” Tess asked. “I don't think so. But we're not going to talk about it,” he said. “We've come up here to drink this rum.” “Okay Charlie,” Tess said. “Why'd you bring it up?” “Well, I don't want it to turn into a lecture.” “Okay.” “Look at us,” he said. “Marcy's out here because she got the vacation house in the divorce. I'm here to fritter and waste the last of my days, why are you here?” “What?” Tess asked. “Why are you here?” Charlie asked. “Last days?” Tess asked. “You know, for years I lamented the one who got away. I thought if I just had more money, a better job, a bigger house it would have attracted her to me. It's pretty stupid really.” “What is all this Charlie?” Tess asked. “Well, whatever it is, I'm done talking about it. Why are you here?” “Here? Here?” she asked pointing down to his house below. “At your place?” “No, here in Newport?” “Got a good deal on the rent. My place belongs to some old people back in Portland, I guess they needed the money. I rented it for the summer.” “I see,” Charlie said.
“I'm here at your house because my bank account is overdrawn and I wanted to hang out.” “You need money?” Charlie asked. “No,” Tess said. “Not if you're dishing out the rum. But I wouldn't mind a few bucks for cigarettes.” “Cigarettes?” Charlie asked. “Cigarettes, smokes, squares, rockets, fags, you know?” “Those things'll kill ya,” Charlie said. “I thought you weren't going to make a lecture?” she said. “How much do smokes cost these days?” “Eight bucks,” Tess said. “Eight dollars? Holy hell,” Charlie said. “I quit because they went to 80 cents a pack.” “Hell's not holy,” Tess said. “I'd like some, but I don't need them.” “No,” he said. “You don't.” The statement served only to quiet them too much. The surf below came through louder now, louder through the dunes and the grass and the kites and the beach and the world. “Listen,” Charlie said at last. “There's some money in a coffee can on top of the fridge.” “Coffee can?” Tess asked. “Is everything here old school like that?” “Old school coffee cans? The coffee can came with the house, I didn't bring it.” “I can pay you back Charlie. I just need like ten bucks, you know for the smokes.” “Don't worry about it. There's a little more than ten dollars. Take what you need.” “Yeah,” she said. “Like ten bucks.” “Listen, take it all.” “I can't do that,” she said. She poured the last of the blender's contents into the two glasses. “Do
Anthony ILacqua you want me to make more?” “Take the money, and go buy your cigarettes first,” Charlie said. He rested his head against the railing and looked from her to the distance of the ocean. “You all right?” she asked. “Just getting drunk,” he said. “Take your time, okay?” “Okay, Charlie,” she said. She took a long drink from her glass. She stood and picked up both her glass and the blender. “Should I get Marcy on the way back?” “Marcy?” Charlie asked. “Yeah,” Tess said. “You know, the one who's probably tired.” “Yeah, okay, good,” Charlie said. “I'll feel okay about that.” Tess hesitated at the staircase. She looked back over toward Charlie. Apparently he was just quietly letting the drunk settle in. He looked over the railing to the misting, kite filled beach sky where the sun raced down to circle the globe. “Okay,” Tess said. She took a few steps down and turned to watch him when the direction of the stairs took her the other way around. “I'll be back in a few minutes.” In the kitchen, the coffee can was where she expected it to be. Looking at it, she tried to remember if she had seen it before. The thing was old, this was apparent just looking at it. The top, a pliable plastic at some point was now brittle and stiff, cracked in places. “Fuck you Charlie,” Tess said. She pulled out the first wad of money only to see the second wad underneath. “I'm not going to take all of this.” She unwrapped a single bill from the outside of the roll. “Twenty dollars only,” she said. That's the ten dollars and ten for good measure. She pushed the twenty between the clothe and her skin into
her bikini. The rest of the money she restored to the can and she set the can back where she found it. Outside, the air felt cooler on the street level than it had on the roof top. Tess quickly walked back to 3rd and then headed toward Main St. The gas station was its normal flurry of activity. There were carloads of tourists from all over, BC, Washington and Oregon namely. They were going here or there, many of them were undoubtedly heading into Newport to see the sights, or they were heading farther out to take in the cheese factory of Tillamook or the wine of Willamette valley. Jerry stood calmly behind the register. He took his time with each of the customers as they approached. His general disinterest covered his face like a plastic prefab Halloween mask. He did not notice Tess standing at the end of the line. In fact, he did not notice the line moving however slowly, nor did he see her approach. “Blues,” she said in her turn. “Tess,” Jerry said. “Hi Jerry. Can I have a pack of blues?” “Yeah,” he said. He reached up to the rows of cigarettes above the till. His hand, accustomed to the location of the varying brands went straight to the desired box. He did not take his eyes off of her, something that made it feel like she might vanish at any point. “Where have you been?” “Here and there,” she said. “Being cryptic or just don't want to tell me?” Jerry said. He put the box on the counter and touched at the register's buttons. “Seven-fifty,” he said. She handed him the bill in one fluid movement from her breast to the counter. “Listen, let's talk. I feel terrible about it,” he said.
Anthony ILacqua “Me too,” she replied. She took the box of cigarettes and waited with an impatient stare complete with arms crossed. “Listen, I can get you the money back.” “Can you tell me the truth?” she asked. She was ever aware of the few people filling up the small gas station store; tourists on the way to the restrooms or coffee urns. “I'll tell you everything,” he said. “Please.” “Only because I've had a few drinks and I'm feeling like humane or something,” she said. “Listen, I'm off at nine.” “What's it now?” Tess asked. “Ten minutes of eight,” he said. “I'll come over there.” “No Jerry,” Tess said. “I'd rather come here.” “Okay, nine then.” Back outside, Tess wasted no time with the task at hand. She quickly stuffed the money, coins included, back into the bikini top and unwrapped the box in one movement from door to trashcan. She put a cigarette to her mouth and stopped into a motionlessness with the unlit thing in her lips. She looked over her shoulder. Crowds had developed like mold on a lemon inside the little store. As she turned about, there were cars every which way and the attendant moving between them. No one was smoking, and of all the likely places in the world for people to be smoking, the gas station was not one of them. There would be people smoking, this she knew closer to the beach along the strips of restaurants
and bars. But for whatever reason she didn't feel like waiting so long for a light. In the old weedy parking lot by the defunct garage, a rock-a-billy looking couple moved around their old travel trailer. Tess knew that this couple on their way across America all the way from Kansas (both license plates: car and trailer) had to have a match. The woman looked up to see Tess as she approached. She looked at Tess with a level of suspicion that is the sure telling look of a traveler, or at the very least a look of someone not from Newport. “Hi,” Tess said. She held up the unlit cigarette. “Do you have a match I might have?” The young woman stood still and looked at Tess with a sidelong glance through her vampy makeup. “Lawrence,” she called. “Gimme your lighter.” Lawrence poked his head out of the old travel trailer door. His black hair, piled high and greased back and into one piece was the model of jailhouse rock. When he stepped out, his tattoos were an impressive collection although not tidy or hinting at continuity. “Yeah,” he said. He looked at the woman and the woman looked at Tess. Lawrence, probably a genius when it came to old carburetors or the reading of old maps was not too clever when it came to stand offs. “Go light this girl's cigarette,” she said. Lawrence hopped to it. From the pocket of his jeans he produced a cliché Zippo. “There,” he said. Tess leaned into the flame, tried her best to hold herself steady as she touched the the tip of the cigarette to its ignition. “Thank you,” she said. “No worries,” Lawrence said. Tess leaned around Lawrence to gain a view of the woman. She looked like someone from a movie, only scarier. “You really from Kansas?” Tess asked.
Anthony ILacqua “K.C. By way of Manhattan,” she said. “You live here?” “Me,” Tess asked. “Yeah,” she said with a level of pride that even surprised her. “I've been living here all summer.” “Huh?” Lawrence began. “Summer girl,” he said. “Must be nice.” “Yeah,” Tess said quickly. Truth was, that yes, it was nice. She had spent her days doing what she wanted to do, which was next to nothing. She read all the popular magazines from the Bush administration...the first Bush administration. She hung out all day with her friends, first Marcy then it was Charlie and then Jerry. Jerry wasn't so bad, just a liar, and really, he wasn't all that bad of guy because of the lie. And Marcy was always good for meal, even if she took too long to talk about what she had to talk about which was kind of a waste of time. But that's all Tess really wanted to do was waste time. “It's been a good summer. What about you two? Where have you been?” “All over, national parks mostly,” Lawrence said. “We're on our way to Yosemite.” “Lawrence, give her a book of matches,” the woman said. To this, Lawrence disappeared for a moment inside the trailer. In his absence, Tess smoked her cigarette and the woman just stared. “Here,” Lawrence said. He handed Tess the book of matches. “When you're in KC stop by and see us.” Tess looked over the book of matches. “Little Apple Tattoos and Piercing?” she asked. “Cool, I will.” She slipped the book of matches between her bikini top and the money already resting there. “So long,” she said. Lawrence nodded and the woman waved. Tess walked away slowly with her flip flops flip flopping all the way. She smoked in a pensive way and looked at her skin, from shoulders to toes. Not a
single scar, not a single tattoo. “Not a scar on Tess Marr,” she said. “Manhattan by way of KC?” she repeated. Back on 3rd, she walked straight to Marcy's house. She climbed the three stairs to her front door and knocked. She waited the normal amount of time which felt more like an eternity before knocking again. After the third round of knocking, Tess moved close to the door, put her ear to it and listened for signs of life and was genuinely surprised to find none. The day was moving on. She had a few things that needed doing. First order of business was the returning of the extra ten dollars to the coffee can. If she could swing it, she might be inclined to have another round, or two of drinks with Charlie, that is if he was willing to make more for her. Then there was the issue of warmer clothes for the night. Then there was Jerry. Jerry. She had not held anything from him. She had been honest from the get go. She explained that she would be gone come September. She told him that this was a summer escape. She told him that she wanted to get back home to Portland in the fall and that she was going to get serious. Sure, he was a nice guy, but she had a future to consider. She never once lied about her ways, her feelings, her status or her views. She did not lie about her break up in the spring, she did not lie about how she felt about marriage, God, children and the daily grind. She did not lie about what happened: she met a nice guy in a bar and saw no harm at all in spending the summer seeing him around a little. She did not lie about what was going to happen: she was on her way back to the world at summer's end to resume life, graduate school, research and the beginning of a career. She did not let her views be left to guesses or to chance. Why Jerry had lied about everything was beyond her. He could have told her that he was a
Anthony ILacqua miserable failure. That he lived with his mother. That the mother of his daughter was taking him for all that he had, which wasn't much. He could have told her that he had made a mess of his life. He could have told her that the money he wanted to borrow would be more, much more than she had to loan to him. He could have told her these things. She had no intention of staying with him anyway. “Probably didn't even graduate from high school,” she said as she thought about Jerry. She made it back to Charlie's place. “Didn't have to be forever Jerry,” she whispered. She moved through the small house and stalled at the coffee can. She took the now damp money from her bikini top and rolled it to the outside of the wad of money. The counter top still looked like a ready laboratory complete with tinctures and plants and the raw ingredients of tiki worshiping elixirs. Tess waited for a moment, gathering her thoughts. The last thought of Jerry made her consider the task at hand. Mix two drinks and then get back to Charlie? Clean the kitchen? Get to Charlie first? “Charlie?” she called at the back door. “Charlie, you still up there?” She closed the back door behind her and began to walk up the stairs. “I stopped by Marcy's and she wasn't there.” “Here I am,” Marcy said to Tess after the latter made her way to the top of the house. “Here I am.” “What's happened?” “Don't get excited,” Marcy said. “I just want a few minutes with him before we call.” “What's happened?” “I got the call a few minutes ago, and he was gone before I got here.” “No!” Tess said. She moved in closer to Charlie and then through tear clouded eyes she looked
to Marcy. “No, this can't be. I wasn't ready for this.” “Come here,” Marcy said. She pulled Tess closer and under her gentle touch, Tess yielded and shrank to the small size of a child. “I just need a few minutes before we call.” “You knew this was happening?” Tess asked. “Yes,” Marcy said. She held Tess tighter. “I just want to spend a few minutes with him, okay?” “Why were you so tired out?” Tess asked. “What dear?” “Tired, you were tired because of Charlie?” Tess asked. “I don't know what you mean dear,” Marcy said. “Like you two stayed up all night together, he made it seem like that's what happened.” “We have time to talk about this later,” Marcy said. “Just now, I want to spend a few quiet moments with him.” Tess nestled into Marcy's side. She looked over Marcy's small body and saw Charlie sitting right where he had been sitting before she left. He held the phone which had replaced the rum drink. He looked relaxed. He looked peaceful, she thought. Whatever he looked like, he did not look dead. Tess's eyes dried. The comfortable buzz she once had had gone now and a low level headache replaced it. The headache was just moments away from a full blown hangover and she knew it. “Do you mind if I smoke?” Tess asked. She leaned up and pulled away from Marcy. “I wish you'd quit,” Marcy said. “Any day now,” Tess said. “Any day but this one.” “Yeah,” Marcy said. “He loved you very much.” “How do you know?” Tess asked. She stared at the match book, Little Apple, had she not talked
Anthony ILacqua to them so long, she'd have been with Charlie. “Did he tell you that?” “Said that you reminded him of the one that got away,” Marcy said. “What?” “He also said that no matter what, you must not leave without the coffee, do you know what that means?” “Coffee?” Tess asked. “I wasn't ready for this.” “No, me neither,” Marcy said. “I was suppose to see Jerry tonight.” “A date?” “To work out a conundrum,” Tess said. “Which seems pretty small and insignificant now.”
YOUNG BLACK MAN When the grass yellow and crisp Dark legs she remembered the dryness
slid against her thin
This tart taste of saying goodbye to a brother Buried too early Brotherâ€™s death a slow medley Rolling her down Young black man Young black man Leaving too soon Brotherâ€™s face splashed on TV Time creased Come undone Slick metal breaking to fire a Body open Hatred and fear In us all Black White and all in between
YOUNG BLACK WOMAN grief is a razor in my neighborhood and i donâ€™t want anymore of it all these shoulda-coulda- wouldas echoing around abandoned houses in my city i just want to slip away quickly with my eyes open into the orange of a moving sun
Donnelle McGee JACK JOHNSON SPEAKS (The morning after putting a beating on Jim Jeffries) Came out of retirement fool face me in a match he had no chance of winning. The great white hope laid to rest up here in Reno. Where after riots swept this country folks being hit upside the head, this thing of race a rock’em sock’em beat down boom boom in L.A. rock’em sock’em beat down boom boom in New Orleans rock’em sock’em beat down boom boom in Chi Town. But in that ring Jeffries proved no match for me. Shit, I’m Jack Johnson the heavyweight champion of the world not the
black heavyweight champion
I say heavyweight champion of the world. Bring the whites of Jeffries and whoever else you got hope rests in my fists. 53
Michail Mulvey “Mother had taught me that the eaves of heaven had a way of turning in cycles, of dealing both blows and recompenses. For every devastating flood, there followed a bountiful crop. For every long stretch of flawless days, there waited a mighty storm just below the horizon. For every great sorrow, there was a great happiness to come.” Andrew X. Pham – The Eaves of Heaven.
Windows to the Soul 1967 The Human Be-In takes place in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. The Six-Day War begins. Elvis Presley marries Priscilla Beaulieu. Pamela Smart is born. George Lincoln Rockwell is assassinated. Lester Maddox is sworn in as governor of Georgia. The Beatles release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. An earthquake in Venezuela leaves 240 dead.
We move cautiously toward the trench, our weapons ready. Enemy fire has been suppressed. The bamboo thicket that hid the trench has been mowed down by our M-60. We reach the edge and cautiously peer in. The trench is empty. The little people have escaped using the tunnel entrance at one end. We carefully let ourselves down, keeping the tunnel entrance covered. The air in the bottom of the trench is heavy, humid, stifling. It smells of freshly turned earth, splintered bamboo, and automatic weapons fire. A rectangular hole in the front wall of the trench, about three feet by two, catches my eye. It’s an L-shaped hole, dug into the side of the trench as protection from any ordinance that might land in the trench. As we inch toward the opening, my heart thumps so hard I’m afraid whoever might be in that hole will hear it. Bobby gets to the hole first. Standing to one side, he stretches his neck around and peers in. 54
Like a child who's realized too late that the kettle handle is hot, he screams and jumps back, wildly firing his M-16 on full auto, using the weapon like a hose to spray the opening. Sand explodes out from the impact of his rounds. When he's emptied his magazine, he backs away. Hands trembling, eyes wide with terror, mouth wide open trying to catch his breath, he ejects and drops the empty magazine into the dirt. He fumbles for another in his ammo pouch. My ears ring in pain from the blasting of the M-16, but I can still feel and hear the thumping of my heart. I inch forward, toward the hole, knowing that whoever is in there is probably shot up pretty bad. “The M-16 leaves a small entrance wound but a gaping exit wound,” I remember a sergeant at ambush school telling us cherries. “It looks like a toy but it’ll tear you a new asshole.” Eyes down the sights of my weapon, I peer into the dark opening. I see nothing at first, but as my eyes quickly adjust to the change in light, I see him sitting there, AK in his hands, legs pulled up close to his body, eyes closed in pain. He’s taken several rounds in the legs. His pants are dark with blood. Blood is already pooling at his feet. I stand there, transfixed. He turns and looks at me. There’s pain and helplessness in his eyes. "Fire!” the NCO behind me yells. I turn and stare at him. My mouth and limbs are frozen. My finger is on the trigger, weapon set on AUTO. “Fire!" he yells again, this time with a look of angry impatience. "Finish him off," the NCO orders. His eyes are wide. I see fear. Sweat streams in long rivulets from under his helmet, down his face and onto his chest and shirt, dark with sweat. His clean uniform says he is new to the war. I look back at the wounded man in the hole. His eyes are closed again in pain. With one powerful arm, the NCO yanks me away, points his own M-16 deep into the dark
Michail Mulvey hole and fires on full auto until the bolt slams open, signaling an empty magazine. I wince and walk away. My stomach churns. I feel vaguely troubled, unsettled. I try to find an excuse for my hesitation. I’m hoping the NCO won’t come up to me later and ask what my fucking problem is. I’m not sure what my fucking problem is. I’ve shot at other men before but they were hundreds of meters away, hidden, firing at me from a distant treeline, not within arm’s reach, wounded. I wonder what the others will think. Will they sneer or look at me with disgust? Will they wonder if I can be trusted? Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a soldier. But nothing is said. Maybe they’ve had their own moments of uncertainty. The threatening clouds that have witnessed the fight finally give up their burden. I take off my helmet, close my eyes and look up, letting the monsoon downpour pummel my face. I hope it will also wash away the questions. I put my head down and let the cool water wash the filth from the creases in my neck. I take off my shirt and let the water run down my chest and back. I look up again and hold out my hands, gathering rain to wash the sweat and dirt from my face. I wish the rain will never stop and that we will all float away, down to the river, out to the sea, and home. The dead man is dragged out of the hole, up and out of the trench, and dropped on the ground. I watch as the NCO goes through the dead man’s pockets. I wonder if the dead man carries a picture of a wife or girlfriend. Had he been thinking about them as our patrol approached the trench? The NCO finds no pictures among the documents in the dead man’s pockets. He died alone.
The rain comes down in hissing torrents as it does during the monsoon season, washing the dead man's face and body clean of the dirt and blood from the trench and the fight. I look into his eyes. He is at peace. I envy him. The dead man is left on the ground in front of the trench. We resume the patrol. 1974 Nixon joins the ranks of the unemployed. India joins the nuclear community. Mikhail Baryshnikov joins The American Ballet Theatre. Duke Ellington dies. Derek Jeter is born. The price of a first-class stamp rises from eight cents to ten. The 1973 oil crisis ends. Cyclone Tracy hits Darwin, Australia.
The school secretary—an abundant middle-aged woman with red hair and green eyes—sits behind a large gray desk piled high with manila folders and white forms, typing. I’m in the main office waiting for the principal, waiting to be interviewed for a teaching position—in a parochial school of all places. “Sister Patricia should be here any minute now,” says the school secretary, offering a reassuring smile. As I patiently wait—and try to smooth out the coat hanger-inflicted wrinkles in my khakis—I look around the office. The walls hold the requisite portraits of assorted saints and martyrs: Saint Peter, crucified upside down; Saint Christopher, beheaded; Saint James, beaten to death. Jesus H. Christ himself, nailed firmly to a large wooden cross, hangs on the wall between the two windows, watching. I glance at the clock on the wall for the third time in so many minutes and confess to myself that I have no one to blame but myself for my failure to land a teaching job after commencement. While just about all my college classmates have landed teaching positions, all I’ve managed is part-
Michail Mulvey time work tutoring for minimum wage at the local junior high by day and clerking at a convenience store by night. Neither requires my BS in Education. But after three years in the Army, I see college as a place to make up for lost time. In partial compensation for giving up the best three years of my life, the government sends me a check every month to go to school. Not much, but enough to pay for tuition, books and . . . well, let’s just say that the night clerk at the liquor store on South Street and I are on a first-name basis. For four years I party by night and sleep in class by day, if I bother to go to class at all. The price I pay for this hedonistic approach to college and life is a 2.597 GPA, far short of my fellow classmates’ and the expectations of most, if not all, public school systems. After a half dozen rejection letters and several fruitless interviews, I turn to a teacher placement agency, a last resort for desperate job-seeking college graduates like me and desperate school systems trying to fill their less-than-desirable teaching positions. The phone rings one morning the first week of October. It’s Peter at the placement agency. “I have a position for you, but it’s in a parochial school and it only pays six thousand two hundred and fifty dollars a year,” says Peter. "Are you interested?" “When and where?” “Next Tuesday. Nine a.m. Sacred Heart Elementary School in Waterbury.” “What subject?” “Eighth grade math.” Shit. I hate math. In high school it takes me two tries to pass Algebra I. In college I just barely
manage to pass the two general math courses required of all education majors. If they ask me to factor a quadratic equation during the interview, I’ll be out on my ass. “Looking through your transcript, it seems math wasn't your favorite subject. Anyway, see Sister Patricia, the principal,” says Peter. “You have a good chance of landing this job. Good luck.” Sacred Heart Elementary School, I discover, is a poor parish school located in the east end of Waterbury, on the divide between a working-class neighborhood and an area of run-down and halfempty mills. “I think I hear Sister Patricia coming now,” says the school secretary. Sister Pat walks in, smiles, shakes my hand, introduces herself, sits down at her desk and asks, “Can you teach math?” “Yes, Sister,” I lie. Sister Patricia seems pleasant enough. The only clue that she belongs to a religious order is the oversize crucifix that hangs from her neck and the conservative cut and gray color of her clothes. “Do you go to church every Sunday?” asks Sister Pat. “Yes, Sister.” Another lie. “How often do you go to confession?” Never, is the God’s honest truth. Sweat works its way through my T-shirt and into the pits and back of my dress shirt. I hope it won’t soak through to my new gray-tweed herringbone sports jacket, bought just for this interview. Will she notice? Will she think I’m lying or just nervous? Or nervous from all the lying? For some
Michail Mulvey reason Sister Pat seems more interested in my soul than my teaching credentials. “Only when I need to Sister, which isn’t very often.” Another lie. Should I tell her I was once an altar boy? Or, truth be told, I was an altar boy once . . . in the Army . . . and I’m drunk at the time. To be fair, we’re at a firebase in Tay Ninh Province and my buddies and I are working on a pint of vodka when an NCO orders me to help Father Donnelly set up his field altar. As I fumble with a folding table, Father Donnelly asks if I would help him serve Mass. “I’ve never been an altar boy before, Father. I’ll probably just fuck it up.” “It’s easy. After you pass out the missals, just watch me,” he says smiling. I wonder if I should tell Sister Pat but omit the details. I let it go. She knows I served in the Army. It’s in my application file. Will she ask if I’ve ever killed a man? After what seems like an eternity looking into my eyes and deep into my soul, trying to decide whether I’m an abject liar and serial sinner—which I am—Sister Patricia smiles. She must have bought it. Or she must truly be desperate for a replacement. She stands up, shakes my hand warmly and says, “Welcome to Sacred Heart.” “Thank you, Sister.” Math. Of all subjects. But anything is better than tutoring a bunch of morons by day and working the night shift at that convenience store with an asshole for a boss.
Sister Pat comes from behind her desk, walks over and says something to the school secretary, turns, looks at me for a moment, then leaves. After an interview that lasts a little more than one minute—three questions are all—I’ve finally landed a teaching job. I see my application, my C and D-laden transcripts, and three lukewarm letters of reference sitting on Sister Patricia’s desk—With time he might make a competent teacher—and wonder why she’s offered me, of all people, the position. They have to be desperate. “Congratulations and welcome to Sacred Heart,” says the school secretary, holding out a file folder. “Here are your class lists, teaching schedule, school handbook, and tax forms. Over there,” she says, pointing to a pile of books sitting on a folding table by the wall, “you’ll find the teacher’s editions of your text books, and a Catechism.” I nervously thumb through the tall stack of texts. “You’ll be teaching two sections of general math, one section of algebra, and one section each of social studies and art,” says the school secretary. “Oh, and one class of religious instruction.” “Holy Christ,” I say under my breath. The school secretary looks up from her desk. “I was looking at the cover of the Catechism. Nice picture of Jesus.” Six classes a day. Four different subjects. Now I understand why that other teacher leaves after only a few weeks. And why they’ve hired me. Suddenly I need to use the men’s lav. “Where’s the faculty room?” I ask. “Oh, we don’t have a faculty room,” says the secretary almost apologetically. Not only is there no faculty room, I learn, there’s no cafeteria, no library, no gymnasium or PE teacher, and no art or music program. I’ll be with my students all day. No break except for lunch and twice-a-week recess on the blacktop parking lot next to the school. My students and I will get to know each other very well.
Michail Mulvey But I have a real job, teaching from 7:30 till 3:15 with only a half-hour lunch break. Still beats the hell out of working the late shift at that convenience store when only the drunk and the stoned are out, looking for snacks, another six-pack, or trouble. But math? The first few days of school are a blur, like I’m riding a merry go round that never stops. For awhile I think of quitting. Maybe I’m not meant to be a teacher. But with the help of Sister Joan, the teacher just across the hall, my social studies, art, and Catechism classes fall into place. I probably learn more about teaching from Sister Joan that first week than I learn in four years of college. Algebra, on the other hand, is still one of the mysteries of the universe. Although I’m able to bullshit my way through fourteen weeks of student teaching, there’s no way I can bluff my way through algebra for an entire school year. Algebra will be my Achilles’ heel and I’m sure there’s a Paris waiting on the ramparts of Troy, bow in hand, ready to take me down. To my surprise, there’s a Vietnamese student in my algebra class named Nguyen. I wonder how Nguyen and his family end up in Waterbury of all places. But I ask no questions. Maybe I’m just too busy. Or maybe I don’t want to know. To my chagrin, Sister Pat tells me that Nguyen is a math whiz. Fuckin’ great. Nguyen, I realize, could end my charade on day one, sending me back to that convenience store.
The night before I teach my first algebra class, I read the lesson carefully and work out the problems at the end of the chapter. It takes me until almost midnight, but, surprisingly, I’m able to solve most, if not all, of the problems I will use the next day. I’m beginning to think there’s hope. The following morning I’m at the board working on the solution to one of the problems. Alone. Twenty-eight pairs of eyes watch. When I finish, Nguyen raises his hand, and in a polite, hesitating manner, smiles and tells me that there’s a shorter path to the solution. “You can solve it in six steps instead of twelve,” he says. Wonderful. Fuckin’ wonderful. “Yes, Nguyen. I’m showing all the steps in the solution so everyone understands the process,” I lie. “But, yes, you’re right. It can be solved with fewer steps. Why don’t you come up and show the class.” Yes, Nguyen, why don't you come up and show me. Nguyen walks up to the board, picks up the chalk, then looks over at me. He smiles. For a moment I think it might be one of those smiles a student makes when they’ve caught a foolish or ignorant teacher in a faux pas or academic gaffe. But Nguyen’s smile is different. It’s not disrespectful, he’s not laughing at me or my ignorance. He looks into my eyes. It’s a look that says, ‘I can see into your heart . . .’ When Nguyen is finished, he puts down the chalk, bows slightly, and returns to his desk “Thank you, Nguyen.” “No, thank you, Mr. Wallace.”
Justin Ridgeway Almost Crimes
Leslie laid her body out on the bed and examined the coats and scarves spread across it at eyelevel. The bedroom was in someone's third floor apartment and it was one of those mid-autumn house parties, impulsive and mostly full of people she didn't know. She imagined her arms in the sleeves of other people's coats and sweaters, the possibility of briefly assuming someone else's life. Returning home to their anonymous apartments at the end of the night, she would look through their cupboards, swipe dust off toaster ovens and look out windows onto unfamiliar views. She would fall asleep in beds with her clothes on. Going home with someone would also take her someplace other than her one rented room in an Annex house. A phalaenopsis wilting over a rumpled copy of Camus, a wax-cloaked bottle of cheap red embedded with a candle - anything to not have to go home to this. She left the bedroom and walked up a flight of stairs, opened a door to the fire escape and took out a pack of Belmonts. She looked out over the city, it's skyline, the CN Tower, and asked herself where she would go next, just how far could she get away from here. How much longer until life really began? "Hey," he said. "Do you know when all the lights go out?" She could just make out his outline in a corner of light from a bathroom window behind him. He wasn't a beginning or an end, he was just there, somewhere in the middle. Holding up a cigarette with a question mark. "Here," she said. Holding out her lighter. He lit his cigarette, handed her back the lighter. "They can't stay on for all eternity," he said. "It may look that way. But we can't see that deep into the future. Someday all those lights will be nothing more than shattered glass on concrete." 64
Leslie lit her cigarette, looked at the skyscrapers. They seemed so far away. But she could be there on her bike in less than fifteen minutes, rolling down wide and empty streets, running her hand along the bodies of idling taxis, searching for stars in the black space, the sheer vertigo verticality of fifty, sixty stories constituting something of a loss of breath. She exhaled: "Not in our lifetime." "Charles," he said, introducing himself. She wanted to say something to him about pretentious non-sequiturs. "Like in The Ice Storm?" she said. An inside joke. "Yeah," he said. But it was unclear if he got the reference. She would come to realize the ways his ambiguity could settle everything. .
Six weeks in hostels and on a train with a Euro-rail pass. December to May in London, a damp flat with a boy who always seemed soggy and alternately distant and needy. Why had she not noticed this before she changed her return flight? In Lisbon, where they met, everything was fleeting and felt so temporary; you tend to grab onto some minor hold even if it's only for a few days and nights. She intended to let go of him at the tip of the Iberian Peninsula, but he convinced her otherwise. Here she comes to the limits of explanation. June back in Toronto. She found herself looking for fire escapes. At night she would unlock her bike and ride through the city, timing herself from one predetermined location to the next. A friend's house, a new bar in a new area of town. Pulling over to midnight sidewalks, she would raise an arm at a forty-five degree angle over her head, calculating her distance from the towers at King and Bay like the parallax of stars. One night she came home to a message on her phone. Half an hour later, she found him in a
Justin Ridgeway park she never even knew existed. "It's small," Charles said. Presumably meaning the parkette. "Yeah, I know, but still," she said, "You think you know where everything is here." "We get lost. We find things." He lit her cigarette. He passed her a bottle of wine. "We get lost," she said. "And lost and lost." .
"Tell me about Lisbon," he said. He would refer to London as Lisbon. Intentionally confuse them, disorganize history. "Why do you want to know about London?" she said.
One night, a month after the fire escape, she told him she was leaving in a week; she didn't know when she would be back. In the morning they went for coffee. She thought of longing and indifference. She thought of the scenarios, these little vignettes that have likely been enacted many times before at this corner cafe. She saw the way people walked down streets gradually sloping away from each other until even a fully extended arm could not grace an out-stretched hand. "I've got this," she said, placing a few bills on the table under a water glass. What did she really owe? Something tedious, futile and unnecessary? What is it if it is so easy to walk away?
"I want to see where you've been," he said. "I mean, even if I wasn't there." "Even if it doesn't belong to you." 66
"Even if it belongs to someone else." .
The restaurant on Dovercourt, the little Cuban place she had ridden by on her bicycle so many times before. And now she worked there. She spent her shifts looking out the window, counting the number of light bulbs strung through the patio trees that were dead, revising her MFA application in her head. And thinking of actual Cuba or Barcelona or one of the smaller South American countries. She could hear the distant rhythms of music and language. At night she would go home to Charles. She would find him on the couch or on the balcony upstairs, sitting on an over-turned milkcrate, strumming his guitar, making notes in his Moleskine. There was a glass waiting for her; he poured wine into it as she sat or moved into a leaning posture against the railing. "Should I ask how work was?" he would say. He hasn't moved in all these years. He's been here all along, in a prone position. His calmness could make her anxious. She would look out across the city, the lake to one side a subdued navy that seemed to be slipping away, and to the skyscrapers lit as always. "When do you think the lights will go out?" she asked one night. "What's that?" he said. "It hasn't come true. Your prophecies." She wanted to bite her tongue and take back the word. These were not his predictions alone; her hand was also in the script. .
In one scenario she was apologizing. She was sitting on the couch they had bought together when they moved in. There were photography monographs on the coffee table in front of her, she
Justin Ridgeway looked at their covers, rotated them with her finger as she sat deep in her silence waiting for some cue an arrangement of dust swirls in sun beams or some small gesture of his - to say the first word and let that word form a sentence, a paragraph, an explanation. "Remember that night when we first met?" she would say. She would remind him of her impulsiveness and the lure of a fire escape view over an autumn city. The exchange of cigarette and beer saliva. In every other scenario she took for granted that he already somehow knew. Even though it wasn't Europe this time, it was a more spontaneous, local, indiscretion. And if they could just go through their days without acknowledgment, passing each other through the halls and rooms of their floor of a rented house, weeding the backyard and planting herbs in the spring and going to the grocery store at 10 PM for some forgotten item needed for dinner and coming and going in a calm and consistent flow of time and space, they would reach the point where they realize they will do this forever. Wasn't it you, she would say, that wanted us to somehow get to some place? To add all the small things up into a greater sum? She would be thinking about Sunday morning hang-overs, Bloody Caesars over brunch. Charles observing everyone else and looking like he'd in some way come up short. Grow old and do some shit? isn't that what you said? She tried to think of what that would mean, what that would look like. A job that lasted more than a summer? Something other than plans to go back to grad school? She recalls drives out to the country to visit his parents, looking around their backyard, seeing it the way his parents would: the perfect location for a ceremony and evenings in July with a glass of wine and the lull of inconsequential conversation. The years put in. Mistakes and forgiveness. Comfort in silence. An image gradually shared, 68
though distorted around the edges on both sides. This is leverage. .
"My roommate is away for the week," Charles said that first night. She still hears the low rust in his voice when she turns a key in a stiff lock. She thinks of her persistent refusal to have a roommate and re-traces the steps of the twenty-minute walk from the party, the point where they crossed Queen and were thrust back into the fray, a streetcar approaching. On the quieter side-streets lined with recycling bins there were intersections where she could have stopped in the middle of the street and said, I'm sorry, but I think I just want to go home. And she sees her walk home alone and his in perpendicular direction, walking slow, smoking a cigarette, wondering what had just happened. "I don't have a roommate," she said, as they entered a room of worn hardwood, records and inconspicuous familiarity. "I need..." She paused to think of the dying plants and tea-ringed mugs in the sink in her apartment. She wanted, suddenly, to taste cigarette on his tongue and in his teeth. She wanted to discover the coarseness of his hands on the small of her back. This is when she would begin to catalogue his imperfections and reveal her own. The next morning she would roll her socks back onto her feet, the material pilled and nearly transparent, holes verging at the heel. "...space," she said, finishing her thought in a continuum of past, present and future. And Charles examined her under the yellow light of the stove as he backed her towards the refrigerator, gently pressing. "How long do you think we will be strangers for?" he said. Out the window, over the sink, she saw searchlights tilting through the sky. In an hour the sun would be rising faintly on the horizon, glinting off the copper and aluminum edges of unlit skyscraper windows. Tomorrow morning had already slowly begun.
The “Editors and Contributors” issue's bios Elinor Abbott has been previously published by The Hairpin, Human Parts, Bright Wall/ Dark Room and other publications. Her chapbook, 'Is This The Most Romantic Moment of My Life?' is forthcoming from Banango Editions. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland and blogs at littlethousand.tumblr.com. Amanda Bales hails from Oklahoma. She received her MFA from the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Her work has appeared in The Nashville Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Southern Humanities Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Maine. Andrea DeAngelis is at times a poet, writer, shutterbug and musician living in New York City. Her writing has recently appeared in Uppagus, Gingerbread House and Dark Matter Journal. Meet her at www.andreadeangelis.com. Andrea also sings and plays guitar in the indie rock band MAKAR who are in the midst of recording their third album, Fancy Hercules www.makarmusic.com. Rosa del Duca is a San Francisco Bay Area writer, journalist and musician. When she's not cranking out the news at KNTV, she is writing fiction and creative nonfiction or making music with her folk band Hunters. Her work has been published in literary journals including Cutbank, Grain, River Teeth, and CALYX. Janice Hampton lives in northern Colorado and is currently on hiatus from corporate America. A writer by nature, Janice spent years developing corporate training programs in the public transportation and newspaper industries. Although often published, “Leonard's Bad Day” is her first fiction publication since 1998. She currently functions as the copy editor for Umbrella Factory Magazine. Anthony ILacqua's third novel Warehouses and Rusted Angels is forthcoming in 2015. His former novels, Dysphoric Notions (2012) and Undertakers of Rain (2013) are both published through Ring of Fire
Publishing. He currently functions as editor in chief for Umbrella Factory Magazine that he co-founded in 2009. Meet Anthony at his blog: anthonyilacqua.blogspot.com. Donnelle McGee is the author of NAKED (Unbound Content, 2015) and SHINE (Sibling Rivalry Press, 2012). He earned his MFA from Goddard College and is a faculty member at Mission College in Santa Clara, California. His work has appeared in Controlled Burn, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, Iodine Poetry Journal, River Oak Review, and The Spoon River Poetry Review, among others. His work has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His novel, GHOST MAN is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press. Michail Mulvey is an instructor of English in the Connecticut system of higher education. He holds degrees in English and an MFA in Creative Writing, and has had over two dozen short stories published in various literary magazines, journals and anthologies, print and electronic, in the US, the UK, and Ireland, some noteworthy, some dubious, some youâ€™ve probably never heard of, and a couple that are now belly up. But in 2013 he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He lost. Justin Ridgewayâ€™s fiction and non-fiction (culture, design, fashion and film) have appeared internationally in publications including Azure, Details, Documentary, Dose, Lost in Thought, Numb and previously in Umbrella Factory. In the spring of 2012 he was a participant in The Banff Centre Writers' Studio. His writing has received a Pushcart nomination (2013) and an Ontario Arts Council grant (2014). He is a former associate fiction editor for Broken Pencil, an independent literary arts magazine. He is represented by Transatlantic Literary Agency. Justin presently divides his time between Toronto and Brooklyn. Fabio Sassi makes photos and acrylics using tiny objects and what is considered to have no worth by the mainstream. Fabio lives and works in Bologna, Italy. His work can be viewed at www.fabiosassi.foliohd.com.
Submission Guidelines: Yes, we respond to all submissions. The turn-around takes about three to six weeks. Be patient. We are hardworking people who will get back to you. On the first page please include: your name, address, phone number and email. Your work has to be previously unpublished. Please include: a short third person bio. Fiction: Sized between 1,000 and 5,000 words. Any writer wishing to submit fiction in an excess of 5,000 words, please query first. Please double space. We do not accept multiple submissions, please wait for a reply before submitting your next piece. On your cover page please include: a short third person bioâ€•who you are, what you do, hope to be. Include any great life revelations, education and your favorite novel. Nonfiction: Nonfiction can vary so dramatically it's hard to make a blanket statement about expectations. However, there are a few universal factors that must be present in all good nonfiction. This is what we like: A fully developed piece of prose between 1,000 and 5,000 words that is well researched and reported with a distinct and clearly developed voice. Please use employ command of the language: a compelling subject needs to be complimented with equally compelling prose. Straight memoir is not really encouraged. All nonfiction submissions must have a clear focus backed with information/instruction that is supported with insight/reflection. Like all good writing, nonfiction needs to connect us to something more universal than one person's experience. Book reviews and interviews will be considered, they need to be timely, informative entertaining and offer a unique perspective on the subject. 73
Please double space. We do not accept multiple submissions, please wait for a reply before submitting your next piece. Poetry: We accept submissions of three to five poems for shorter works. If submitting longer pieces, please limit your submission to 10 pages. Please submit only previously unpublished work. We do not accept multiple submissions; please wait to hear back from us regarding your initial submission before sending another. Simultaneous submissions are accepted, but please withdraw your piece immediately if it is accepted elsewhere. All poetry submissions must be accompanied by a cover letter that includes a two to four sentence bio in the third person. This bio will be used if we accept your work for publication. Please include your name and contact information within the cover letter. Art: Accepting submissions for the next cover of Umbrella Factory Magazine. We would like to incorporate images with the theme of umbrellas, factories and/or workers. Feel free to use one or all of these concepts. Image size should be 980x700 pixels, .jpeg or .gif file format. Provide a place for the magazine title at the top and article links. In addition we accept any artwork for consideration in UFM. We archive accepted artwork and may use it with an appropriate story, mood or theme. Our cover is square so please keep that in mind when creating your images. Image size should be a minimum of 700 pixels, .jpeg or .gif file format. Please include your bio to be published in the magazine. Also let us know if we can alter your work in any way.
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