UFM 22 UFM
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CO N T EN TS
AN Block “Tumbling Downward and Plunging Headfirst”
Darren C. Demaree “Emily As Deer At Noon” “Emily As The Maturity In Her Voice Does Not Mean We Are Safe Now” “Emily As The Riot Began In The Sky” Ariel Kusby “The Dive” “Worm Secrets” Sonnet Mondal “Dilemmas in front of Terrorism” “Why did I lose her?” “I don’t want to hear marriage sounds again”
Vero Stewart “Ghosting”
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Editor’s Note 5 About Us 4 Submission Guidlines 6 Bios and Credits 24
UFM DeCEMBER 2015, Issue 22
UMBRELLA FACTORY WORKERS Editor-In-Chief
Anthony ILacqua Copy Editor
Janice Hampton Art Director
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Umbrella Factory isn’t just a magazine, it’s a community project that includes writers, readers, poets, essayists, filmmakers and anyone doing something especially cool. The scope is rather large but rather simple. We want to establish a community--virtual and actual--where great readers and writers and artists can come together and do their thing, whatever that thing may be. Maybe our Mission Statement says it best: 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 love what we have here and we want you to love it equally as much. That’s why we need your writing, your participation, your involvement and your enthusiasm. We need your voice. Tell everyone you know. Tell everyone who’s interested, everyone who’s not interested, tell your parents and your kids, your students and your teachers. Tell them the Umbrella Factory is open for business. Subscribe. Comment. Submit. Tell everyone you know. Stay dry
hello there UFM editor’s letter - September 2014 Hello all and welcome to Issue 22 of Umbrella Factory Magazine. This December marks the six-year anniversary of Umbrella Factory Magazine. During our formation in late 2009, we had lofty goals, as I suspect all literary magazines must have. We were inclined to take over the literary world, add artists and filmmakers and musicians into the fold as well. Here, six years later, we have done something nearly as significant as take over the literary world: we’re still here, and we’re still doing our part to connect well-developed readers to the best writing available. Here we have it, issue 22. I hope our fiction selections delight you as they delight us: AN Block’s “Tumbling Downward and Plunging Headfirst” and Vero Stewart’s “Ghosting.” For this issue’s poetry, we are favored with very accomplished poets: Darren C. Demaree, Ariel Kusby and Sonnet Mondal. It’s important for me to note here that all three of our poets are editors at other presses or anthologies (Please see their individual bios for more information). Diane Allison’s photo, “Space Needle Afterthought” is the cover art for this issue. We nominated AN Block and his short story “Tumbling Downward and Plunging Headfirst” and Amanda Bales and her poems “Walking Back” and “The Captain Views the Heavener Runestone” to this year’s Pushcart Prize. Pushcart is the best of the small presses and has been representing writers nominated by independent presses since 1976. This is our fourth year participating in Pushcart. This year we developed The Writers Co-op. The co-op is our response to the ever changing world of publishing and the needs of our writers. After my own experience with my first two books, I wondered if UFM could represent writers and their work better. In today’s publishing world, it seems that two things are happening. First, the traditional route of publication is getting smaller and smaller when the larger publishing houses take few writers and the small houses are vanishing. Second, self-publishing is taking over. Both of these things led us to think about publishing and our role in it. We are neither a large publishing nor an individual self-publisher. We aim to help writers get their products to readers by the best means available digitally or with printed books. This month The Writers Co-op at Umbrella Factory Magazine proudly put out the first two books. “Heart Murmurs and Nosebleeds” by Melanie Whithaus is now available. Melanie first appeared in Umbrella Factory Magazine in Issue 9, March 2012, and she help to pioneer the Co-op. The second chapbook “Cockroaches and Geese” is my own. Most of the poems in my collection appeared at The Sophia Ballou Project in 2013 and 2014. I believe these are two great products for your consideration. By purchasing these chapbooks you are ensuring the future of The Writers Co-op and helping writers do what they do, and we thank you. As always, I thank you for reading our magazine. Read. Submit. Comment. Tell everyone you know. Stay Dry. Anthony ILacqua
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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. We encourage you to submit your piece everywhere, but please notify Umbrella Factory if your piece gets published elsewhere. We accept submissions online at www.umbrellafactorymagazine.com
ART / PHOTOGRAPHY
Accepting submissions for the next cover or featured artwork/photography of Umbrella Factory Magazine. For our cover 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.
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.
In addition we accept any artwork or photos 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 at 300 dpi, (however, larger is better) jpeg or any common image file format is acceptable.zz Please include your bio to be published in the magazine. Also let us know if we can alter your work in any way.
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.
SUBMIT YOUR WORK ONLINE AT WWW.UMBRELLAFACTORYMAGAZINE.COM 6/
NONFICTION Nonfiction can vary so dramatically it’s hard to make a blanket statement about expectations. The nuts-and-bolts of what we expect from memoire, for example, will vary from what we expect from narrative journalism. However, there are a few universal factors that must be present in all good nonfiction. 1. Between 1,000 and 5,000 words 2. Well researched and reported 3. A distinct and clearly developed voice 4. Command of the language, i.e. excellent prose. A compelling subject needs to be complimented with equally compelling language. 5. No major spelling/punctuation errors 6. A clear focus backed with information/instruction that is supported with insight/reflection 7. Like all good writing, nonfiction needs to connect us to something more universal than one person’s experience. 8. Appropriate frame and structure that compliments the subject and keeps the narrative flowing 9. Although interviews will be considered, they need to be timely, informative entertaining an offer a unique perspective on the subject. Please double space. We do not accept multiple submissions, please wait for a reply before submitting your next piece.
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 bio―who you are, what you do, hope to be. Include any great life revelations, education and your favorite novel.
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Tumbling Downward and Plunging Headfirst AN Block
prose After delivering coffee and exchanging nods with the tight-lipped young couple who appear to be calling it quits, I rush to check the one-top that Georgie Porgie seated in my station, just to bust my chops. “Everything okay, sir?” Twice a month the guy’s here, with his long haired baggy face, grayish jump suit and pink aviator glasses, even though his half bottle of Brouilly always tastes a little too warm or too cold, the baguette’s never crusty enough, and the lights need constant adjusting. All legit enough complaints. Tonight though I have other things on my mind, big things, and his name escapes me. When Tommy starts screeching Pick up! Pick up! from the kitchen, Mr. Sour Face flinches, then freezes me in a stare. “These green beans are a shade tan,” he says, like air seeping out of a beach ball. He flips a few over with the fork and wrinkles his nose. “Terribly sorry, sir.” Pressing my hands together I reach for his plate. “We’re going to replace those beans immediately.” “That won’t be necessary,” he says and he waves me off. Whereupon Georgie comes chugging round the corner. Our eyes lock and Tommy starts calling the four-top I’d requested he please hold off on, these goggle eyed tourists at 23 to whom every menu item is a laugh and a half. Salmon ‘darnes’ you said? With what was that? What’s a fiddlehead fern? Mako shark? Sure hope the chef took its teeth out! Blackberry Clafoutis? Sorry, garcon, we no parlay Fron-say. “You!” Georgie mouths, under his breath, pointing a stubby finger. Then he jerks his thumb. “Get in the kitchen.” “Are you sure, sir?” I ask the aging hippie. “It won’t be any trouble.” G tugs the tip of his mustache, fiddles with his hearing aid and advances two steps. “Excuse me,” he says, in his strangled phlegmy tone, clearing his throat. “But would you mind getting in the kitchen? I’ll take care of Mr. Springer here myself.” This Springer, it comes back to me, owns some fancy downtown jewelry shop, the kind with iron bars on the windows. When he removes his glasses and blinks, his eyes appear pinched
together, like he’s been peering at precious gems through those magnifying lenses they use for a few years too many without a break. Meanwhile the G man’s got his blocky legs splayed, his lip’s sagging and both arms appear to be suspended, vibrating in independent directions. “Well, I hope you enjoy your dinner, sir. Excuse me.” I pirouette halfway around and take off at a measured heel-to-toe pace towards the kitchen, Georgie nipping behind me. The goddess Marina, she’s already loaded the plates for 23 onto her Giacometti-like arms and comes slicing through the passageway. She smirks, tosses her head and says, “Coming through, boys.” “Angel of mercy!” I blow her a kiss, twist sideways and press up against the espresso machine so she can pass. “No problemo.” “I heard that!” Georgie says. “Can’t do nothing right, can you? You’re destroying my business!” I sidle past Tommy at the stove and unbutton my vest. Chest to chest now with Georgie, the veiny whites of his eyes are a roadmap to nowhere, he exudes the usual: garlic and a surplus of Hai Karate aftershave. “Pick up,” Tommy says to me, “four top on twelve. Come on, Hershey!” “Please forgive me.” I back up and untie my apron. “For I know not what I do-eth.” “Forgive you?” the boss says. “You think you’re better than everyone, don’t you? Goddamn loser! You’re on the shit list now.” “Brother, you need to put a little love in your heart.” “Put what in my what? What’d he say? Did you just call me ‘brother?’” Off comes the bowtie, I brush by him, retreat to the dish room and turn my head around. Him and Tommy are both staring, breathing through their open mouths. “Wait a minute, this is Saturday night,” Georgie says, charging with a raised metal spatula. “I’ll ruin you, you’ll never work___.” Clapping Big Red’s shoulder I slam the back door behind me. Ba-boom!
“The hell are you looking at? Get back to those pots,” I hear Georgie yelling at Big Red through the screened in window. I trot past the driveway, past our front door, freezing my ass off. Across the street I glance through the sweat streaked window of Dumpy’s, that dive bar Georgie once barged into, dragging me with him, waving his five shot snub nose and yelling, “Which one of you kickers dented my Caddy? Who drives that purple Datsun shitbox?” Then I follow my usual route and slip into the alley connecting Franklin to Pearl. “Hershey,” George shouts, camped under his blue awning, searching left and right, with both hands on his hips and the tails of his tentlike plaid sports coat flapping in the wind. “Get over here!” A couple enters the restaurant, and three passers-by pause to stare at him bellowing profanities in that weird barking shriek of his. Watching from this dark passageway that reeks of black mold, pungent and creepy, holding my breath, I think back to the day I fled here by bus, hunted, anonymous, hoping to survive a Buffalo winter, and a year later now, with my debts paid off, how the time’s come to re-surface, to go back and find Amber. I turn to express some gratitude, to offer a little farewell gesture, because after all, but the G Man’s back inside, so I hurry down the dark windy street and, shielding my eyes from a blast of overhead light in the lot outside Smiley’s Tap, I enter through its little used side door. The old man’s at a table, holding court on his favorite topic. “Let me tell you guys why this city’s gone to hell,” he says. Then Smiley’s eyes narrow to grayish slits, he glowers my way when I salute and says, “Jesus! Who brought that goddamn draft in? I told them morons to keep this entrance locked.” The dining floor is aglow with faces, couples sharing plates and families with kids in sweaters buzzing about the events of their day, the jukebox has some country cornball blaring, tobacco smoke swirls overhead and when I squeeze onto the lone vacant bar stool, elbow to elbow with longshoreman types on either side, the Hump does a double take.
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prose “Am I seeing apparitions?” “That all depends. Speaking of which, who let old hatchet face out? You’re aware he should be locked away in some mental institution, right?” The Hump taps his lips twice, then sticks a thumb behind him, up to the TV. “Been following this? Only good thing, it’s bumped that goddamn inflation off the air.” “Tylenol, huh? Could sure use a hit of that now.” “This is no joke. A little girl died, my friend. Think about it.” A couple of waitresses at the bar’s far end line up calling drinks, so after the Hump mixes me the usual, Cuba Libre with triple lime, he heads their way, more or less hippity-hopping, and I lose myself in the twists of the story, the conflicting theories about who the perpetrator might be, the injustice of it all sinking in. “So tell me, is this the real you?” I ask the Hump after my second refill. By the time I always arrive, after the rush, he’s moving at a crablike pace, turned all the way around with folded arms, glued to the tube, checking an impressive stack of lottery tickets, more than half in the bag. “You’re a regular whirling dervish before the midnight hour, Humphrey. Got this whole bar spinning, hanging on your next bon mot.” “Hey, what can I say, Saturday night.” He dips his head, fingering a clump of excess wax at the tip of his handlebar mustache, like a silent movie villain. “We professional types are want to call this ‘Show Time.’” “And I thought it’s just Amateur Hour.” He scuttles off to attend to a waitress setting Martini glassware up at the service station. I open the pocket notebook that’s always on me and start squeezing lime wedges into my third drink. By the time I attack number four, the straight world solid citizenry of working men and their dependents has all but made way for a more familiar human scenery: Westside Jimmy D, Joe Doe, Teresa on the Half Shell, Little Dino, Ann the Man, Uncle Kensington, Frankie Meatball, Overtime Bob and a few of the other Un-Dead, as the Hump calls them, one by one,
taking up their customary posts. About the only ghoul missing is Bozo, the ashen-faced one-eyed bookmaker, but, then again, he’s dirtbag royalty, he and his acolytes must number at least seven or eight stops on their circuit. I wink at Frankie and Teresa, who appear to have allied themselves into some kind of outlandish item, but this is never a chatty crew, this isn’t the hard core Dumpy’s type crowd, chest beating and rowdy. They’re more creatures of habit, here for one reason alone: to ease their sorrows on the cheap. “On me,” the Hump says, pointing when he tops me up again. He undoes his tie, leans both elbows on the bar, looks side to side and speaks through his teeth. “So, you heard about Sally, the tomato guy?” “Have not seen that rascal around of late. Come to think of it.” He presses his lips together. “Guy was a little late on some payments. To Bozo. Stringing him out.” He shakes his head, frowns, and then his eyes light up. “Hey! Here’s the old Professor!” It’s Big Red lumbering in, Cheshire cat grin and all. He pauses to kibitz with Westside, pays respects to Overtime and a few of the others, then clamps an apelike arm over my shoulder and lowers himself into the seat at my left. “Having fun?” “Don’t we always?” I slap the big man’s wrinkled palm. “What’re you up for, boss, the usual? Anti-freeze on the rocks?” “What in hell did you say to that miserable fat ass? You know he smashed a whole stack of plates against the wall, don’t you?” “In my honor? Well, it’s never what one says so much as how one phrases it. Is it my problem some highly sensitive types like Georgie Porgie can’t handle rejection?” “This guy,” Big Red goes to the Hump, pointing, “you should’ve seen it.” “Figured it had to be something like that,” he says, his eyes glittering. “So you found another job and quit?” “Well,” Big Red says, “an event this momentous calls for a little something off the top shelf.” “So, young George is still cursing life, threatening to slit my throat?” I check my watch.
“Or has he drowned his rage yet in a haze of Riunite on ice?” “Don’t worry, Hersh, I wouldn’t let nothing happen to you.” The Hump pours Big Red’s Chivas and points at me. “All set?” “Uno mas, por favor. Except do me some Grand Dad rocks, sir. A double.” I point at the latest bulletin, which amounts to law enforcement admitting it has no leads. “Hear about this one, pardner? Some dastardly fiend done messed with the Tylenol. The drunkard’s consolation of choice. I mean, ain’t nothing sacred?” “What can you say?” We watch in silence and then clink. “It’s a sad ass world out there.” “That it is. So what’s up with the thirty pound little bundle of joy?” “Got a hearing Tuesday, but my no good daughter’s about to lose custody. So who knows if I ever see Little Buddy again.” He takes a creased picture out of his wallet: him at a lake with the boy on his shoulders. “Adorable, aint he? Speaking of which, what’s with your old lady?” “Amber?” I pat the notebook. “Red, let me tell you, if my calculations are correct___” “You mean your hieroglyphics?” “This, amigo, is my passport out.” I open to a random page. “Take a gander.” He puts bifocals on, flips through from start to finish, examining the long column of figures on each page, the plusses, minuses and fractions I’ve penned in four colors. “Jeez,” he says, “you some kind of mad scientist? Or have you gone insane?” “It’s this whole season and the last. Every game. It’s patterns, tendencies, arcane correlations. World Series and playoff data back to the damn sixties. Tell you, Red, if my formulas are correct, if there’s some order in our universe, I’m going to hit it, then head right to Bloomfield Avenue and sweep Miss New Jersey back off her feet.” “So that’s where she’s at, back with her family? Natural beauty like that, with those big eyes, I’ll be floored if some solid citizen type hasn’t snapped Miss Amber D’Angelo up yet.” “For all I know, big guy, somebody has. She signs every letter though, ‘All my love,’ and
the V is a curly cue heart. Does that sound like she’s with someone?” “Might not mean a damn thing, can never tell with the female of the species.” “So says the Sage of West Chippewa Street. And truer words were never spoken.” “Anyways, you’re still young, champ.” He takes a sip, licks his lips, savoring the taste. “That’s the difference. You’ve got the luxury of taking off, you got your education, so you can tell that blimp where he can stick it. A math whiz, and that, ain’t you?” “Kidding me? For a year now all I’m doing is dancing around like a puppet, so I don’t think I’m exactly___ . Hey, come on, man!” I clasp his hand on the bar top. “Don’t insult me.” He shrugs me off and stuffs the five back in his shirt pocket. “You’re the one out of work, ain’t you?” “Hopefully forever. Cause right now, these eyes are ablaze with possibilities. So are we synched up on this?” I tap twice on the Hump’s Evening News sports page laid out on the bar. “You follow my logic?” “As much as any mere mortal can. You’re going to lose your ass again, kid, ain’t you?” “Come on, Red, think positive. What, you don’t trust this research is empirically solid?” I raise the book to eye level. “You don’t want in?” “These days, if you’re going to get anywhere in life,” Big Red says, raising the drink to his cracked lips, throwing his head back and finishing it, “all I know, you’ve got to take chances. Intelligent chances. Otherwise you end up like me. But I’m past that phase.” “Remind me again, bud: what’s wrong with you?” “Come off it, will you? In a matter of months, if I make it that long, I’ll be fifty-six. And broke. Still washing dishes for little Hitler. Guys like me, we come and we go, and when our time’s up, and that, doesn’t make no difference what hell we might’ve went through at Tarawa, how sweet we once blew the horn. Hey, I was a true believer: if people united we could make things better. Solidarity. Nowadays though, it’s all about,” he says, holding a palm up, his lips curling, rubbing his thumb three times on his middle and forefinger. “That’s it.”
“Yeah, well people think they know what they know, but sometimes we get brainwashed. Like a mass illusion.” “You got that right, Mr. Hersh.” “Another shot, brother?” “Got to meet the boys at McGillivray’s. Rat Mollohan’s sixtieth, should be some party. Anyways.” He grabs my hand in both of his. “For what it’s worth, kid, you’re better off out of that hole. Go find your sweetheart. And don’t get too deep with Bozo. On the odd chance your calculations are off, make sure you can cover it.” “Follow the sun, man. Otra vez!” “Good luck to you, champ, go for it. Just don’t shit the bed.” Once Big Red’s gone, the other regulars drift off, one by one, and I open the notebook to a random page towards the end. I’ve got to blink at how blurry the numbers appear. I circle the word Milwaukee in black and then, clicking my red pen, draw a large asterisk with two exclamation points beside it. Scientific method, got to have faith, I turn to check if Georgie or one of his boys might be lurking, leave the book open next to the newspaper and half-finished whiskey, then make my way to the men’s room.
reminding me of my poor suffering mother, her hair in a bun, but she’s never set foot in a hole like this, she’s never touched the stuff. Can’t stop swirling, something meanwhile strikes me as comical, Georgie Porgie’s sideburns and mustache, so Sixties you have to laugh, then forcing both eyes open I realize, whoa, the Humpster, I might be talking but he’s not even here, he must’ve snuck to the damn kitchen to grab some chow or restock glasses, and then it comes back, like a knee to the gut, how the guy hates being called Hump. “I am truly sorry,” I whisper, “my good friend, Mr. Humphrey. Wherever you be.” I press my hands together and it’s scary how they’re shaking. “Think about it,” I remember the barkeep saying, what was it, ten minutes earlier, and the words keep echoing but no way I recall what “it” refers to, and I’m in no thinking condition. “Whoops,” I mumble to the couple, or to no one in particular, shivering, hugging myself. “I most probably be a bit off tonight, off of my game. Hear about this Tylenol though? Could’ve been anyone.” “You need help,” the old timer says, he says it kind of flat, a little like Amber when she “Hey, Hump!” I shout, after chewing up gets depressed, and I hear the reverberation halfthe ice, draining my glass dry, shredding the nap- way between a question and a cold, hard statekin it had been served on, and twisting the thin ment of empirical fact. plastic straw into a knot. “Where the one-eyed bandit’s at? Bozo the Bookmaker.” Rising, I gulp a deep breath through my mouth, reach up and stretch overhead, ready for any and all, but closing my eyes I feel myself tipping over, tumbling downward and plunging head first into a narrow dimly lit place I think I recognize but from which I’m not sure I could ever slow my descent. “Where’s that notebook?” I rub my eyes, feel around in each pocket. “Let’s settle up here, Hump.” Hit my fist on the bar top twice. “Thirsty, man. When’s last call over to The Junction’s? How late they open?” As my head droops I glance at a gray haired straight couple to my left checking me out sideways, the woman shaking her head, aghast,
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GHOSTING Vero Stewart
prose I’m waiting in the middle of the 528 E exit ramp to Cape Canaveral to catch the first car that drives over me. Two years ago today my drunk roommates thought it’d be fun to jump off the roof of their cars onto the trampoline we just brought home from a midnight Walmart run, and I (even more drunk) thought it’d be more fun to do that, but with a backflip. Off the house roof. In my mind, this was clearly my path to life-long glory. This ended poorly for everyone involved, especially me, because I hit the metal edge of the trampoline at the most specific wrong angle and snapped my neck in half. I guess my spirit disconnected from my body upon impact, so I got to float around and watch the whole bloody mess. Becoming a ghost didn’t even phase me. I was too pissed about dying to think about it. Still am. So on this sick anniversary I’m in the middle of this ramp, hitch-haunting my way to the Cape so I can catch the space shuttle that launches today. Surprisingly, ghosts can’t move that fast on their own, and I’ll be damned if I have to spent part of the rest of eternity floating where I need to go. My one way ticket turns out to be a van, painted over with a sick airbrushed mural of a Florida sunset with a UFO flying into the distance. I pass through the walls and take my place in the backseat next to a thin, ten-ish-year old boy sleeping under a blanket of dinosaur toys. His glasses are as round as they are thick and sit crooked on his face. In the front seats are two ladies with matching beehive hairdos, dressed in floral granny dresses. “Strange Magic” plays dimly in the background. I must have popped in at a bad time because the one driving is pounding on the top of the steering wheel saying, “Aliens could exist, Barbara, could. There is no concrete scientific evidence pointing directly towards sentient alien life. Until one looks me in the face, that’s all I’ll concede.” “Oooh shove it, Wanda,” says the other one. She’s crocheting an enormous starry blanket. “The proof is all around you and if you won’t see it then it’s your own damn – shit I lost a stitch – your own damn fault.” Barbara raps
the green alien head hanging from the rearview mirror with her crochet hook to prove her point. Wanda harumphs and turns up the radio. I zone out until a tiny Honda cuts in front of Wanda. She rockets around them, giving the horn hell and swearing things like “pissbag” and “shitwad”, things I’d never imagined anyone in a floral dress would say. Everything in the van flies: Barbara’s hook, the alien head, candy wrappers, and a stray brontosaurus. The swaying van makes the kid next to me stir. I vehemently hope that he doesn’t notice me. He notices me. After a few bleary blinks, his eyes are definitely making contact with me. He surprisingly has the foresight to not talk aloud and instead rummages for a battered notebook. After scribbling something, he places his pen carefully between the pages and sits it next to me. He’s had to have run into ghosts before. “Hi Ariel!” it says in huge handwriting that is stunningly terrible. Children see ghosts better than adults simply because they’re more willing to notice us. The catch is, they see us not as we are but as their projections: imaginary friends or monsters or, in my case, a singing mermaid. I ignore him and stare very hard at the droopy Floridian foliage passing by. I hear him scoot the notebook once, then twice, then slide it all the way through me. At this point I resign myself to writing a short “Hello”. His name is Caleb. His favorite dinosaur is the Maiasaura and according to him, pteranodons aren’t actually dinosaurs. There aren’t details I ask for, they’re details he throws at me. You would’ve thought no one ever spoke to this kid. “They’re pterosaurs,” he writes (I’m amazed he can spell this although to be fair, ‘pterosaurs’ was erased and rewritten five times). “Do you have a plesiosaur?” I tell him I have no idea what that is. He draws a crude bubble with a long neck, long fins, and a head with a dopey smile. “It swims,” he writes next to it. He is disappointed when I tell him Flounder and I have never seen a plesiosaur in our un-
derwater kingdom. “Are you gonna watch the launch with me?” “No,” I write. “I’m going to space.” I like writing that thought. It makes it feel satisfyingly final. “A mermaid in space??” I laugh so hard if I was alive I would’ve pissed myself. “Yep.” He thinks about this for a long time, smushing his fist against his cheek like a tiny philosopher. He sighs loudly and for the first time Wanda notices him. She adjusts the rearview mirror. Her cat-eye glasses fill the reflection. “You say something Caleb?” “No ma’am.” “Alright, well, put away your stuff, hun. We’re almost there.” He takes the notebook and writes something before throwing the notebook beside me and piling his dinosaurs on top of him. “Take me with you,” it says. When Wanda pulls to park on the side of the road, I float through the roof and hover above it while they unpack. In the vivid colors and dim light of the sunrise, I see Wanda distract Caleb while Barbara, in the back of the van, secretly rummages through braille alphabet books in a T-rex gift bag. Around us people are unpacking their cars. There’s a lot of bragging about the new binocular or camera technology everyone’s got this season. I see grills being pulled out and suddenly miss the smell of barbeque. America’s space temple rises against the horizon. And it makes me remember spending most of my nights when I was alive lying on whatever roof I could get to, watching stars and the blinking airplanes lights. I made star charts of crayons. I watched every launch in a cardboard astronaut suit my dad helped me build. It didn’t matter if mom locked my window, or if later, I was working the night shift at whatever crap job I could find – I would find a way to the roof. Science was easy, math was a struggle, but I did pretty well and everyone agreed that hell or high water I’d be in space one day. That ended my first year at college. All
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in the same week, I found out I failed a physics test, needed glasses, and was developing early-onset arthritis. A life of preparation closed itself violently behind me. I drank NASA off my mind and lost myself in modern paganism and a psychology major. Then I died the stupidest death, but now I can do whatever the hell I want, and damnit, I want to be an astronaut. The first ghost in space. No one will know but me. I should leave. If I don’t start moving towards the launch site I won’t get there in time. Time is a strange concept to handle, being dead, but I haven’t lost the hang of it. Yet. I start floating off towards the launchpad when Caleb starts jumping and yelling, “Bye Miss Ariel!” All of me cringes for what his aunts will think of him. I keep moving, but slower because as sad as it is, it’s nice to hear someone missing me. He keeps yelling goodbye, each progressively sounding more like a question and less like a farewell. Wanda and Barbara look at each other at a complete loss for what to do. It’s Barbara who takes the bait and asks, “Who is Miss Ariel?”
“My space mermaid friend!” He says like its Christmas. Wanda and Barbara are not impressed. They, the ones with the neon UFO mural, scold Caleb for being so loud and embarrassing them and oughtn’t he know that space mermaids aren’t real? And I swear I don’t know what this kid did to me but I’d be one terrible person if I let this kid’s belief in space mermaids die. The known universe has been around for 13.8 billion years. It can wait a bit longer. I go back to the van. Wanda and Barbara are busy setting up coolers and their telescope while Caleb sits on the edge of the trunk, scuffing dirt with his shoes. “You’re favorite dinosaur’s the Maia-one, right?” I ask. He glances at his aunts, then puts his heads down and nods. I ask him if he’s got one, a figure or a picture or something. Caleb pulls a drawing out of his pocket, a terrible little attempt at tracing, and hands it to me. Even though no one but he can hear me, I whisper something to him before I leave. In two hours, a rocket will blast off into orbit. Within a day we’ll be at the ISS, and within hours cameras, NASA, and news agencies worldwide will be asking how the hell a scrap of a dinosaur drawing got into space.
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EMILY AS DEER AT NOON Distance from the withdraw, the sun & the grass means that our rub, this time, can carry Ohio for a while. We are an old show, but we have planted ourselves to be an old show. You should see us run against the wind, like it never mattered. That is what we are capable of; however, we have paused to mascot for a land that doesnâ€™t need motion right now, it needs still beauty, the fireworks of what can only happen beneath the rest of the scene.
EMILY AS THE MATURITY IN HER VOICE DOES NOT MEAN WE ARE SAFE NOW How sharp the mythic can turn after an understanding that the authentic never actually mattered in the telling of the story. We could be all warmth & oven mitt, but the form of that love would never hold up in a flood. We lift things for each other’s amusement, but is not strength. We are a carnival. We are a show extraordinary. It’s just surreal enough to last until after we’re gone & people start to put our threads in their mouth. The taste of us will be too salty to believe.
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EMILY AS THE RIOT BEGAN IN THE SKY Once we moved out of the mountainâ€™s shadow, the hysterics looked like lightning mounting lions, the science of which defied the throat of the mirror. The blood that fell wasnâ€™t real, but we had convinced almost everyone that it was. Those that drank it, believe even now that they should feel guilty about choosing to cup us.
The Dive Strings of foam, floating cobwebs spun with salt bloom on the surface
of rip currents while below, litter collects at the drop off: sand crab corpses, limpet shells, rings fallen from the fingers of leaning whale watchers. I cannot say how much I miss the dive, pressure on the ears and throat, darkness, cerulean: the only things I want to worship. Dehydration and reddening flesh beach me today with my sunbathing comrades, but tingling, Iâ€™m still inside that dim blue haze, the sweet fear of sharks, moving slowly, pulled by the moonâ€™s whims, invisible beneath the surface, behind that inverted crown of sunlight.
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Worm Secrets Factory-stitched promises always unravel, leaving us in the dirt digging up gowns of gold the metal detectors silently passed over.
Dilemmas in front of Terrorism She was standing with her baby.
Outcome of dilemmas in her mind spoke
One scream and the baby may die
Let the infant see some more days
from the hunting bullet of the terrorists
Yes, Let him die. And
sniffing human flesh in the parking.
a mother shall live too
Her chauffeur stood still
The chauffeur came forward
unaware waiting behind the half opened car door.
for her child.
Bullet sounds were heard But no screams. Far inside the house of a chauffeur two babies fought over a toy cars
Shall she signal the driver to come forward?
with their mother smiling beside.
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Why did I lose her? It was during the days when I started reading Bhagwat Gita My wife pointed out: Your actions prove that it is just another book; may be nothing more than a good novel. The slangs, the quarrels And the thumping heart were like The pains of first rough intercourse And we never had itHence never smiled. If she were still my lover I would have said â€œYou were not one of those speed breaking metro girls In late night clubs. I needed you just like a charioteer Even in my bed.â€?
An incoming whirlwind was chasing us And I needed wheels to flee. She was packing up her belongings And I was just waiting to hold her hands To move away together. As she stood ready and gazed at me I realized the roar behind was in fact a demonic mirth. It came and picked her up. Her face had no worries and No smile either. Just her gaze which vanished like a cigar smoke Kept haunting my senses: If she was packing up to embrace the storm.
I donâ€™t want to hear marriage sounds again My office was a village temple With sporadic importance and a daily duty of worshipping Coming back home was Entering the same puzzle Through different routes. The only silkiness of lifeWas driving my car through the gossip Of country music and highway potholes And the only valor left within me was Lighting up a cigar against A speeding car and thumping metal music
Now, There isnâ€™t much music alive in me With the loud mike Of the nearby marriage hall, Often reminding me of its fate And the bitter bullets of her joined teeth. The crackers and dance of my marriage Still bursting within me Do the only good thing To wake me up From a phony hallucination Of being in concert once again.
All she loved was music And I too did with a feeling of being one among the ten students taking lessons from her.
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Diane Allison is an invested salvager of estate sale photos and an accomplished photographer in her
own right. When she is not occupied with snapping photos of skyscapes with her trusty assistant chihuahua Lou, she peruses estate sales for hidden treasures, fusses with a vintage motorcycle, and glides down snowy mountains. You can find Diane on Instagram: @photobroad . Her found image is featured on our cover.
AN Block’s stories have appeared or are forthcoming in Foliate Oak, Down in the Dirt, Contrary, Blue
Bonnet Review, and The Binnacle. He has an MA in History and is a Master of Wine who teaches at Boston University. A Contributing Editor at the Improper Bostonian he has published dozens of non-fiction pieces on wine and food.
Darren C. Demaree is the author of four poetry collections, most recently “Not for Art nor Prayer”
(2015, 8th House Publishing). He is the Managing Editor of the Best of the Net Anthology. He is currently living in Columbus, Ohio with his wife and children.
Ariel Kusby is a poet currently living in Los Angeles. She is the founder of the literary-arts publication
Nothing New, which can be accessed digitally at http://nothingnewzine.com. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Spires, Chaparral, Eunoia Review, and The Riveter Review.
Sonnet Mondal is the founder of The Enchanting Verses. He has authored eight collections of poetry
and is one of the featured writers at International Writing Program at The University of IOWA. His latest works are upcoming in the The Mcneese Review and Common Ground Review. Meet Sonnet at: www.sonnetmondal. com
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. Fabio is a regular contributor to Umbrella Factory Magazine. His piece “Constellation Umbrella” is featured on our back page.
Vero Stewart is a writer, maker, gardener, dog lover, and carer of many interesting fish. She’s been
previously published in Catfish Creek and Cypress Dome. When not doing any of those things, she is a student of Creative Writing and Anthropology at UCF.
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A fine collection of prose and poetry.