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CO NT EN T S COVER
FREDDY TORRES “UF”.............................................Cover image
Prose Taylor García “Sad Last Days”...............................................9
N. Marc Mullin
“Naughty Boy” “Small Glimpses” “Two Smaragdine”
Mark B. Hamilton
“MEDITATION ON LIGHT” “LUNCH AT HARRODS” “HIDDEN VOICES”
Editor’s Note About Us Submission Guidlines Bios and Credits
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UFM MARCH 2018, Issue 31
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UMBRELLA FACTORY WORKERS Editor-In-Chief
Anthony ILacqua Copy Editor
Janice Ilacqua 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 - December 2017 Welcome to Issue 31 of Umbrella Factory Magazine. I don’t know where the time has gone, I said. Jana laughed. Seriously, where did it go? I asked. And again, she laughed. I don’t know where the time has gone, but it’s gone. And, not surprisingly, it has gone by fast. There are those markers that all of us have to judge the passing of time. I suppose the normal markers might be the clock on the wall, or the calendar next to it. If you’re an artist, you may sense or know the passing of time by the way the light changes in the course of your work day. If you’re a parent your marker of time is the growth which you see in your children daily. We when started Umbrella Factory Magazine, I don’t think any of us knew that there would be any longevity to it. Now, after eight years, we don’t know where the time has gone. What we do know, is that here we are, Issue 31. We’re grateful our humble magazine continues. We have new fiction in this issue: Taylor García’s “Sad Last Days” and N. Marc Mullin’s “Pirate Jenny.” Our poets Sanjida Yasmin and Mark B. Hamilton round out the issue. Thank you for reading this issue and for your continued interest in Umbrella Factory Magazine. We’ll see you again, the passage of time, in June. Read. Submit. 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 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.
We accept submissions of three (no more and no less) poems. Please submit only previously unpublished work.
We also accept small portfolios of photography and digitally rendered artwork. We accept six pieces (no more and no less)
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.
SUBMIT YOUR WORK ONLINE AT WWW.UMBRELLAFACTORYMAGAZINE.COM 6/
NONFICTION Letâ€™s just say nonfiction is a piece of expository writing based in fact. Further definitions are as follows: piece-a work with a beginning, a middle and an end. Expository writing-writing with a purpose such as, but not limited to, explanation, definition, information, description of a subject to the extent that a reader will understand and feel something. Think about the cave paintings of 30,000 years ago, they tell a story. And for the modern man, a good film documentary conveys its purpose. A film about Andy Warhol and his friends who liked to drink and smoke and screw is interesting. A film about how I felt at age ten and watching the adults in my life drink and smoke and screw is not a good idea.
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. In the body of your email please include: a short bioâ€”who you are, what you do, hope to be. Include any great life revelations, education and your favorite novel. Your work has to be previously unpublished. We encourage you to submit your piece everywhere, but please withdraw your piece if gets published elsewhere.
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SAD LAST DAYS Taylor García
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prose Dusty’s a pretty man, and his wife Roberta, incidentally, has a faint mustache. She’s fairhaired, like him, but those wispy whiskers come in a little dark. The two of them match in body size and shape, but it’s clear he’s the one who gets noticed. His squinty blue eyes hooked me at first, until I got a better look at her. She’s quite beautiful, and very fit. They went to go get us a drink, and I was suddenly curious about what kind of underwear she has on. “All they had was Sierra Mist. No St. Croix or whatever.” Dusty pushes a sweaty fountain drink my way, across the Formica tabletop. “Oh, that’s fine. I love Sierra Mist.” I wouldn’t expect Eagle Lanes to have anything but an imitation soda, let alone flavored sparkling water. “So how much is on the table here?” Dusty sips from his straw. It’s magical what white people can do with their straight hair. His is swept back and flirting with greasiness. “Regarding?” “You’re going to pay us, right?” Dusty sets his drink down. Roberta bites her lip and bats her eyes. She’s not doing it on purpose, but I’m distracted. “What he’s asking—what we’d like to know is— ” Roberta can’t get the words out. “No, I get it. You want to know what’s in it for you. Look: Let me be perfectly clear, if the information is legitimate, if you as a source are credible, we’ll pay.” “How do you decide?” Roberta tilts her head. Her hair falls to the side. “Do you decide?” “Maybe this will help.” Dusty produces a brown legal envelope and cocks his chin at me. “I took those with my Android,” Roberta says. “I have the phone. Do you want that?” Dusty focuses on me as I look in the envelope. The pictures are golden. “These will do. And yes, we’ll pay.” “How much?” Dusty says. “I need to hear your story. Do you mind if I’m recording?” They both relax. Roberta’s whole frame loosens, like she’s just had a massage. I suddenly want to touch her, like the way I’ve been touching Gisela, Rodrigo’s sister. My baby momma. Roberta turns to Dusty, waiting for the next thing.
It’s beautiful how she drinks him in. Rodrigo doesn’t look at me that way anymore. I leave the interview and head for Mom’s before I go into the office in Boca to write the story. I almost call Gisela. We text all the time now. In secret. *** Mom’s living room is wallpapered with National Enquirer pages. She’s circled the stories with my bylines in red. Humberto Guerra. When my aunts and cousins and her friends come over, Mom points to the stories, describes what they’re about, like she’s opening the curio cabinet and rehashing their origin. She has our coverage of Michael Jackson’s death framed. Sad Last Days. Her turban is off and her bald head glimmers in early evening light. She reaches for me, pulls me into her toothpick arms. It could be any time now. “Mijo.” she points at the television. “Did you know the president’s daughter, Tiffany, is going to law school?” “I think I heard that. Are you feeling okay?” I fluff her pillow. She’s watching TMZ. “I wonder if her brothers and sister like her. Parece que no. ¿Tú sabes?” “No, I really don’t, Mom. Did you eat?” “I’m not very hungry.” She turns off the TV. “Antonia made me a smoothie.” As long as Antonia’s been her nurse, Mom’s dropped comments about how nice she is, how pretty she probably looks in regular clothes, how she can’t believe she’s still single, and what a good mother she would be, being a nurse. And she’s my age. Mom’s been trying to turn me out since I came out. There’s that awkward silence again, which morphs into an awkward question. “Como está Rodrigo?” Rodrigo. We got married a year ago. It was kind of fast. I met him in a bar (everyone in Miami meets at a bar). He was a dancer and I was—looking. He was fascinated with me being a writer, and I was fascinated with how he dressed and moved. He was only my second boyfriend, and we only dated for about half a year. He’s Venezuelan and wanted a green card. He’s also only twenty-six. My editor Pancho says I scored with that one, as old as I am. I remind Pancho thirty-
five is not old. “He’s fine. He’s fine.” “¿Y la hermana? ¿Y la bebe?” Mom refuses to call Gisela by her name. She knows it’s Rodrigo’s younger sister and the mother of our child. “She’s doing well. Only two months to go.” Mom holds her emotions in so well I’m convinced it’s why she got sick. She used to make fun of me for crying when I was a kid. Quiere llorar, quiere llorar, she’d say, like a little futból chant. She wants to cry right now so bad it looks like she’s trying to break down a new gumball in her mouth. “Mom, what’s wrong?” “Nada. Nada.” She knows she’ll miss the birth. It’s mean how the universe works that way. Takes one, gives another. But would she really care? She thinks this whole arrangement is against God. She has no idea, though. She’s oblivious to my feelings for Gisela. Shit. I was, too. It’s been like nothing I’ve ever felt. It’s like she’s Mary and I’m Joseph. We’re that little image of mother, father, and child you see in every Catholic church. There’s nothing from Rodrigo. He’ll only be the baby’s uncle, biologically. Maybe he’s the angel in this Christmas pageant. Mom grabs my hand and squeezes. “I hope I get to meet her.” She calls the baby a she, even though we don’t know what we’re having. That’s been Rodrigo’s only request. He wants to be surprised. Gisela and me wanted to know right away. I think that was when the bond started. We shared a look at that first ultrasound. And then we started talking about baby clothes and furniture. I brought her food. I rubbed her feet. After the baby shower the Enquirer gave us, I drove her home alone because Rodrigo had to be somewhere. I don’t know why I put my hand on her thigh and let it stay there. She didn’t take it off either. That was smack in the middle of her second trimester, when I began finding myself going to her place after work, telling Rodrigo that I was still on deadline. “I know, Mom. We’ll try to make it, okay?” She gets weaker each time I see her. I look
away, and meet Dad’s eyes in his Army uniform. He stares back at me from the mantle. “Your father,” she says, “he always wanted more children.” “But the war.” I know this story. She always stops right there. Two other things she can’t say. Vietnam. Suicide. I wish we didn’t have this fear of confrontation. I shatter people’s lives in the pages I write, but I can’t even talk to my dying mother. We expect so much from our family. “Look at me,” she says. ¿Qué te pasa? Dígame.” And so, I tell her. I tell her how I feel. How something is changing in me. *** The story was easy to write. Kelly Ripa caught with another man at the Eden Roc. Dusty’s a maintenance worker there, and Roberta was enjoying the amenities. She’d noticed the thin, beautiful blonde sipping drinks, scrolling her phone, and laughing. Men in plain clothes stood about, but there was another man, not Mark Consuelos, in his trunks, helping her disrobe. Roberta started taking the pictures, but she was too far away, so she sauntered over there in her sarong, held her own phone up as though she was taking a selfie. Roberta captured some good ones: Kelly smiling, Kelly giggling, canoodling. Later: Kelly topless. That was the one that paid. We gave Dusty and Roberta two grand for that one. They were happy. Dusty said something about a jetski. Roberta was thanking me over and over, said she was a subscriber. She’s a lot younger than the retirees who use their pension checks to buy us. Pancho says, “Good job. This one’s going to sell.” “Kelly always sells. Why is that?” “They see her every day on TV,” he says. “They want to see her fuck up.” “These two were giddy. Like they had just found a trailer full of cocaine.” “Exactly,” he says. “Hey, do you want to get a drink? It’s slow.” Pancho’s been trying to talk to me for a long time. He selectively forgets I’m married. “Nah, thanks. I’m just going to wrap this up and get out of here. I’m meeting Rodrigo.” “How is he? Baby’s coming soon, huh?”
“Fine. He’s fine.” “You’re lucky, Beto, you know that?” Pancho says. “If we could marry when I was younger, I would have fifteen grandchildren by now. Enjoy what you have, you hear me?” Pancho doesn’t strike me as the sweet old gay grandpa type. “Okay, goodnight. See ya, tío.” *** I could write an entire history of the debauchery of South Beach. A Cuban-American’s tell-all. It would be dripping with juice. The drugs, the sex. The infidelity. The promise of the best piña colada. Coldest mojito. I’d use some bomb-ass language, too. Spanish. English. Spanglish. But nah. That’s not what I write. I’m a whore right now. Using my gift to write about Kelly-fucking-Ripa. Every now and then, I realize how much all these beautiful people bug the shit out of me. Rodrigo’s late as usual. It’s one of the things I noticed early on. That, and how he never wanted to have deep conversations. I asked him once if he thought we were alone in this universe, and he just shut it down, said he didn’t like to think about stuff like that. He’s settled a lot, become more like a husband, especially since we decided to have a child. He’s been taking classes to become a chef. His dream is to have a show on the Food Network. When I first met him, he and Gisela were sharing a studio and they’d invite me over for these amazing dinners he would make. Follow your talent, I would tell him. He arrives, comes to our table in the back. Jeremias here at Mambo holds a place for me, knows my work schedule is reversed. Rodrigo kisses me on the cheek. Not on the lips. Like he’s embarrassed. “How was work?” “Slow. I’m breaking a Kelly Ripa story.” “Oh,” he says. Normally he’d ask for the chisme before it prints. “How was class?” He shrugs. We order and wait in silence. We’ve become the couple at the restaurant that doesn’t talk. But this shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s been awkward for a while. When we set up the baby’s room a few weeks ago, we hardly spoke.
And we haven’t had sex in over a month. I often wonder if he’s still dancing. I mean, he still has drawer full of thongs. The food comes. “How’s your mom?” he says. “Same. Not much time.” “I took Gisela dinner,” he says. “How’s she feeling?” “Good,” he says. “She told me everything.” “What do you mean?” “So, what, you’re not into me anymore? Do you want her? Do you want women? I can’t give you that.” “No, listen. Can we talk? Not here.” “We are talking. Right here.” He pushes he plate away. “You explain to me.” “I don’t know. I think I’m—I’m not feeling— ” He stands and approaches me. He’s done this before when we’ve fought. He gets pushy and loud, and tries to handle me, but he knows I’m bigger and could hurt him. Now, with fury and tears in his eyes, I think he could really unleash something on me he hasn’t before. “Did you fuck her? Did you get her pregnant?” “No. No. Cálmate. I didn’t. You know that.” “But now you’re fucking her then? Huh?” He’s yelling. “Do you love her?” He slams the table. “Do you love her?” Jeremias comes over. “¿Todo bien, muchachitos?” Rodrigo tips my plate into my lap. The black beans, still warm, soak through my napkin into my chinos. He knocks my vodka onto the floor, spits on me, and pushes past Jeremias. I jump out of my seat and Jeremias reaches for me with his towel. Rodrigo is gone. *** Mom wants to see me first thing this morning. She’s been calling and texting all night. Since she stopped the chemo, it’s been a steady decline, but today she seems to have a new energy in her voice. I know she’s still riding high from what I told her last night. She kept saying, “I knew it, I knew it. I knew you’d come around. I knew you’d grow out of it.”
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Her room is dim, and she has the TV volume low. She’s praying. “Mom?” “Pasalé, pasalé.” She’s even frailer than when I saw her last night. I take her hand and she doesn’t grip back like she usually does. “I’ve been praying all night,” she says. “God has answered me.” “Mom, it’s not like that.” “Not you,” she says. “For me. And for our country.” Every now and then, she’s incoherent, blending her health, world affairs, etc. She sometimes speaks like she’s been reading the magazine too much, which I know she has. “What is it?” “Our president will not be impeached. I know it. I just know it.” “Mom, don’t worry about that.” “He’s a great man, mijo. Look at how he carries himself.” “He’s a trainwreck.” “I want you to call my family.” She grabs my hand and squeezes. “I want them all here.” “No, Mom, no.” “Sí, it’s time.” Mom loved going to casinos. She often played in slot tournaments. She’d poured thousands of dollars into those things, and she’d always say, “Today could be my lucky number.” I think the most she ever made was five hundred dollars. It was the thrill of it, she said. The thought that you might win. All those losses, she said, she put away in a tiny box along with all those things she didn’t want to think about. She ignored them until they went away.
“I really wanted you to meet your grandchild.” “Bring Gisela,” she says. “I want to meet her.” “Things are complicated right now, Mom.” She squeezes my hand harder. “They never get easier.” “What should I do, Mom? Mom, tell me. Please.” She closes her eyes. “Mom, Mom. No.” She opens them quickly. That had been another way she avoided things. Close her eyes and breathe. Drove me crazy as a kid. I never knew if she was going to start screaming or crying. “Some people love you for your heart. Some people love you for your head, and some people love you for your guts. I’ve always loved you for your guts, mijo. Tú papa, también. He was so brave.” Now she tells me. I always thought she thought I was the biggest chickenshit. That was what she called me—what they called me. She coughs and it turns into a fit. I hold her and give her some water, but she’s not coming back from it. I guess they always wanted a tough boy, because I can’t cry right now. I haven’t been able to in a long time. “Mom.” I hold her, shoosh in her ear. I’ve imagined this before. Doing this with the baby. Holding her and rocking her. That’s what this pediatrician sleep expert says in his book I’m reading. Wrap them up like a burrito and shoosh. Recreate the womb. She finally calms down. She puts her hand on my chest and tries to talk, but can’t. Her hand loses its strength, doesn’t push back. When I would get sick as a kid, she would chide me, say it was mind over matter. Cold washcloth? Go get it yourself. I should just let her slip out of my arms. Or better, squeeze the ever-living last bit of shit out of her. But I can’t. I won’t. It’s just not in me. Goddamned tough love.
PIRATE JENNY N. Marc Mullin
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prose 1. “Listen…to me.” His pauses are for sucking oxygen through a nasal cannula. “That mole will escape…the gravitational pull of her head… and go into orbit around it.” His brain swims in meds and he’s running out of energy for speech itself, yet he manages this joke for his middle-age twins. “It’s a moon,” he says, “in gestation.” His chuckle becomes a hacking cough. Not breaking a smile, his daughter lifts a glass to his mouth. “Don’t be cruel, Dah,” she says as he sips water through a straw. His son pats the man’s back to quiet the cough. “Nurse Amy is one unsightly thing,” his son adds. Jenny, wearing a lilac sundress, and Jared, in a sweaty tee, sit on opposite sides of a hospital bed that’s been rolled into their father’s house. “Shush,” Jenny whispers. “The poor woman might be outside the door.” “You shush.” Jared rises to neaten his father’s soft white hair. A summer breeze flutters lacy drapes. It’s late and the place is weakly lit by moonlight. Cruel or not, the patient, Professor Ralph Jacobster, wishes he didn’t have to see this night nurse’s chubby face or the protrusion from it, all rubbery and livid and poking through her eyebrow like a sow’s hairy ass. But there it is, staring back at him on the occasions he wills his eyes to open. The sight of her brings back his mother, pouring out of her housedress, nylon stockings rolled to a stop below bulbous thighs, batwing arms flapping out of sleeves. She ate pastrami club sandwiches, stuffed derma, kasha knishes, chicken schmaltz on black bread, and embarrassed him before his friends. Morbid obesity became, in turn, the direction his late wife took in menopause, while he continued to pride himself on his tennis game, his trim physique, well-tailored suits, and—so he imagined—his appeal to pretty PhD candidates in his charge. Disease and medication have weakened his filters, but still he remembers that his view of the Fat is a wrong sentiment to voice or think in his terminal year, 2012. This prejudice, he’s confided to a tennis buddy, is a reflection of his own shallowness. And having admitted that
fault, he admired himself for self-knowledge and the courage of his candor. But truth is he doesn’t want, doesn’t deserve to die in the shadow of ugliness, crystallized in a mole. His daughter, his sweet Jennygirl, has been dealing with the home care agency. He’s asked her repeatedly to fire this night-shift nurse, making exaggerated claims of incompetence. Why won’t Jenny do as he asks? She’s always been kind to him. The twins drift downstairs. “Do we need ice chips, Professor?” Nurse Amy, in his view, always gets too close. Today, she breathes tuna salad, heavy on the celery and onion. Before he can refuse, in comes a spoonful of ice. He dribbles, gags, pukes, and flails, dislodging the intravenous in his hand. “Goddamn you,” he says. She apologizes, re-plugs his intravenous needle, and goes to fetch a washcloth for vomit on his chin and chest. Thump, thump on heavy legs across the honey oak floor. He’s at his house near Princeton, swaddled in sheets. He lies on a sleigh bed that he and wife Lily bought in the Poconos early in their marriage. He wants to die at home. He’s heard his children discuss that wish in the hallway outside his room. When his eyes are closed, they think he’s not hearing—he’s noticed that—and they underestimate his awareness. But they’re good kids who’ve left their spouses to fly in for his deathwatch. Jenny, a cellist, has come from San Francisco. And Jared, a classics scholar like his father, has taken time off from professorial duties at Oxford, England. Within his earshot, Jenny pressed her brother to return their father to the hospital, arguing that professional staff would better manage pain; treatment there might even extend life a few days or weeks. Jared accused her of acting for her own comfort, of fearing the sight and sound of dying. Then, it seemed to Jacobster, they murmured about his funeral-to-be. There would be readings of his work—Jared was lining up colleagues at the university. But Jenny contended that given the substance of his teachings, his life’s work, their father wouldn’t want that. “On the scale of
geological time,” Professor Ralph Jacobster has written, “reputation lasts nanoseconds.” Jenny reminded her brother that hanging over their father’s desk in the house study is a quote from his first published translation, the ancient work of Quintus Sufulius: “Falsa legatum est.” “Legacy is illusion,” wrote the warrior philosopher. Such a smart kid, his Jennygirl, to remember that. She meant well, but why not have colleagues sing his praises and recite past honors and publications? Let the pretty PhDs shed tears. Jacobster’s out cold now, drugged. And how lovely that a lion would take the time out of its busy day of killing to pause and lick his face. A soft, tawny mane brushes him. The smell of damp African earth. Warm, rough dabs of the animal’s tongue on his chin, neck, chest. Who knew lions could be sweet as pussycats? The cat smiles; the smile broadens; the lips part. Fangs. Now pain in his cancerous gut roars down his pelvis and into his legs. He’s doubled over, screaming. Halfway through the cleanup of his puke, Nurse Amy drops her wet terry cloth on his chest and rushes to find medication. “I’m sorry we’re hurting, Professor.” “Please, please.” Jenny rushes in and holds up a blue tote bag for the nurse. Amy finds her comfort kit and takes out an amber glass bottle with a white plastic lid. She unscrews the dropper and starts feeding him the drug, avoiding his cracked lips, careful to let him swallow each droplet. “For breakout pain,” she explains to Jenny, “we use morphine sulfate.” “Please, more.” Jacobster’s ready to go. Let’s end this. She doses generously, but not enough for him. The drug is bitter as ash. 2. He’s asleep. Bekka’s mound of Venus presses against his butt while her breasts flatten small and soft on his back. Her breath is hot. Together they look down on Annette. He’s deep inside her, her Afro flattened against the headboard. Bekka matches his pelvic thrusts with her own, syncing, driving him, grinding on him. All of twenty-two, curly-
headed and wiry, he holds himself push-up style, taking care not to crush Annette under his weight and that of the woman on his back. Annette, on the narrow mattress, breathes hard and loud, her eyes darting between the two faces above. With both hands, she grabs his ass, pulling them both down tighter. Ralph lowers himself and circles Annette’s dark nipple lightly with his tongue, feels it harden, tastes her salty sweat. “Clockwise,” he says. Then, pronouncing each syllable slowly, “counterclockwise.” Stoned on Lebanese hashish and cheap Chablis, he and Annette laugh so hard they fall off the mattress, taking Bekka with them to the floor. The best night of his life. That was 1968. East Eighth Street in a railroad apartment with a sloped floor and one dull, blue-painted bulb that cast faux moonlight over the three. Years after, he recalls, Bekka said that this night was the worst of her life. “But why?” he asks Bekka now, though she’s long taken from the earth by heroin. “Are we all right, Professor?” Amy places a gentle hand on his forehead. “Are we awake?” “Why?” he asks Bekka once more. “Because your respiration sped up,” Amy answers. His eyes are closed. The nurse’s breath, close by, is Bekka’s and it carries a terrible loneliness to him. A tissue dabs tears from his cheeks. He hears a song, high-pitched, that he knows but cannot name. He opens his eyes. Amy’s in the rocking chair, humming and singing softly, in a clear and perfect soprano. “Villa-Lobos?” he asks. “Don’t know, Professor. A melody I heard at the house before yours.” 3. The curtains are sun-bright but suddenly dark. How? Time jerks him around. He’s scared, shivering. He smells his own fear sweat, sharp and new to him. A hand takes his hand. “Are you having bad dreams, Dah?” Jenny. “I don’t give a shit, honey…about dying.” “You don’t have to be brave.” She dabs lip balm for him. She smells of lavender and lemongrass. “You still buy…your mother’s soap?”
“I do.” “After all these years.” He finds strength to open his eyes. “You have pretty irises,” she says. “Molasses.” “I knew a girl…who said my eyes had a cast. That my left…looks a bit to the side.” “Before Mom?” “Bekka.” “Did you love her too?” “Too” is a problem for him. “I loved Bekka,” he says. Jenny pulls her hand from his. “Jennygirl?” He turns with difficulty to see her. She stands at a distance from him now, parting the curtains, looking into the night. “If Mom were alive, Dah, would you apologize to her?” “That’s between Lily and me, honey.” “Will you apologize to me, Dah?” “For what, Jennygirl?” “I don’t know, Dah. For making Mom invisible. For not seeing her.” Before he can answer, there’s her light footfall out the door and down the stairs. She has high arches, like him, and long legs. She was a brave diver and champion swimmer—butterfly— in high school and college. Tough. As a little girl, she dressed as a pirate for Halloween while her girlfriends were princesses and mermaids. Like him, she was quick to anger, but that heat went into her music as she grew, and she became a softspoken soul. She knows he cheated on her mother—they were close to the end—though he’s sure she doesn’t know the extent. Several years before Lily died, Jenny moved across country to miss the ugly separation. Now, here she is, good enough to come back, to forgive, to support. “Jennygirl?” He forgets she’s left the room 4. He drifts to sleep. He wakes in agony. Amy’s generous with morphine. He sleeps again, longer and deeper. Bekka Baccarat. Oh come on, Ralph— could that possibly have been her real name? Did you really live with her for more than a year and never question it?
Bekka plays standing bass with a trio at Strumpet’s. This is years after the threesome. He saw the gig advertised in the Voice and he lied to Lily. Now he stands at the back of the crowded Bar on East Ninth Street. Bekka’s so tall. A good match for her instrument. She’s in her forties, and her long hair, bundled sloppily at the top of her head, is streaked gray. They have a beer. She’s never married. She wells up and he gently wipes a tear with the back of a finger. He explains his family, his position at the university. She doesn’t seem to be there with a man. She lives nearby—she makes a point of saying this. She’s open to him, isn’t she? He might. He just might. Moments before her next set, he says, “That was the best moment of my life, when I was the ham in that sandwich.” “With Annette?” “In my last minutes of my life, I’ll think of that, Bekka, how perfect it was.” She swallows like she’s keeping down bile. “Ralphie.” She takes his hand, shaking her head no. “That was the worst night of my life.” There’s hurt in her eyes. Into an empty room, he says, “Why?” Amy’s running water in the en suite bathroom. Flatware rattles downstairs. The smell of fresh coffee wafts in. Good kids, downstairs. 5. He’s crossing 110th Street with Riley Redd, his Columbia roommate. Riley’s complaining, in that Laurel, Mississippi, drawl, that he can’t find girls in New York. “How y’all do so well, Ralph?” There’s one coming in the opposite direction, with chestnut hair to her ass, cinched at the neck in a purple bow. “Watch,” Ralph says. “May I kiss you?” She turns to him, midstreet. “Pretty boy,” she says and runs her fingers through his curls and down his lean, scruffy face. And he does kiss her. Borrowing Riley’s pen, they write phone numbers and names on their hands. Bekka. “Y’all got the gift, Ralphie.” They’re in his room on 116th Street. She’s on top. “It’s that time,” she says, reaching between her legs. She paints a heart in blood on his chest. Warm. Smells the way a penny tastes. It’s her birthday, she tells him. She’s six years older than he is. Before she leaves, she shows him her list of men and prices and phone numbers.
issue31 / 15
“You’re pretty, so you’re free.” Now he’s in her apartment on East Eighth Street, on leave from school for a year by then. He’s gotten her off the call girl gig. She’s a barmaid at Vazak’s. She takes black-and-white photographs of its denizens and writes poems, smart, wry poems, about them. They love each other. She’s shared a little of her childhood in Muncie, Indiana. Her father, she said, had a dick like a torpedo, and she has nothing to do with her family. He’s at the bar counter when Annette, the woman Bekka tricked with, pops in. She’s still in the business. And now they’re back at the apartment. They’re talking about a john who worked for Four Roses liquor, who came out of the suburbs every Sunday to have both of them at once. And now there’s a cube of yellow, resinous hashish, lit, on a pin stuck through a playing card. They catch the sticky-sweet smoke in a glass and tip it to suck it in. At his suggestion, they’re naked, they’re in bed. He leans over and kisses Annette, long and deep, while she reaches down and touches him. He catches Bekka’s eyes and she’s wounded, clutching her own breasts with an arm, like a mother carrying a baby. She says, “That’s all right, Ralph, to want her first. Go ahead, pretty boy.” He wakes up to find himself crying, his head cradled on Amy’s warm, pillowy arm. She’s humming her song. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I’m so sorry.” “You have nothing to be sorry for, Professor.” “Where are the children?” “Jenny went out a good while ago. Not sure where. Jared’s asleep on the sofa.” He’s trying to pace his breath, but a pain-storm gathers. It’s in his chest this time. It’s coming. It’s going to rip through him—he knows this. “More drops,” he says. “Quick, Amy.” She lets his head down gently and goes to her blue tote. “Please hurry.”
issue31 / 17
when I was in Uposhahar, I wrapped Rajshahi silk sarees around my curves, you didn’t say, “Mashallah, you look exquisite” everyone drenched me with saccharine & honey ---- except for you
you didn’t gift me fresh-cut roses, nor did you send me hand-inked letters ---- on the day of my birth you didn’t greet me with a cheese or caress my chubby cheeks ---- at the Shahjalal International Airport --- your inertia causes me to think I am hitched to a siliceous shale -now, on Emirates EK 204, I ruminate about: the time you had set up the fuchsia moshari at 2am to protect me from striped mosquitoes lest I catch chikungunya & folded the blankets at sunrise just to watch me beam & when I whined about my pancaked pillows you rushed to fetch me puffy pads & when you saw me off at the terminal, your chocolate chatter filled me to the brim enough to last me 6 months --- till we meet again
SMALL GLIMPSES I want to be that egg white jasmine on your kooky cramped verandah so when you sprinkle water I’ll bathe in glucose & fructose every dawn. I want to be your leather-bound diary which sits on the rosewood desk so when you press me down with your blue Matador pen I’ll tickle & thrill your feelings every dusk. I want to be your red kolbalish sandwiched close to your chest your arms & legs wrapped around me so when you sleep I’ll read your nightmares every twilight— & give you comfort through the plush down-feathers.
issue31 / 19
TWO SMARAGDINE turtles in lieu of your birthday, an aimless trip to Staten Island on the aged & almost-abandoned South Ferry boat. your charcoal hair dances to the rhythm of the rocky waves as you speak about Darwinâ€™s Theory & your criticism of Carl Sagan. I yawn in ennui & turn to focus, & fix my gaze on the fizzy, bubbling waters that offer a better story than the one you are feeding me.
Mark B. Hamilton
MEDITATION ON LIGHT A curious yellow warbler tilts its head, skips and flits to inspect my breakfast. I must be its prime duty of the day, this bit of tufted sunlight guiding me through its secret place. The sunrise inhales intricate leaves, moist curves of misty shadows. All this created, not only for me. Pelican glides on amber light, oar tips dripping, the hull rippling on glassy water to a river town. I pass windows above little gardens rowing the sheared bronze surface of a towboat landing at a pier of the Crushed Stone Company. Its wake keeps cresting onto the shoals in the suburbs. Riding its power, I surf the face, then slog through heavy headwinds onto placid waters of Harrods Creek.
issue31 / 21
Mark B. Hamilton
LUNCH AT HARRODS A waiter stands with a tray of drinks. Lightening cracks and shakes with thunder. People stop eating. All are hushed above their plates. Only one boat is on the river, a white sail, a sloop reaching across and away. It must be the Morgan Truce. The dark storm strikes to center stage, tragic skies breaking purple to gray, then the rain releases far to the east. Not a drop more on Harrods Creek. Not a breath on the wide Ohio.
The river clears out debris, sifting
and digesting, washing pollutants away. Recovered in part, the Beautiful River ushers me along, never losing its dignity, never complaining nor faltering in its design. It asks nothing of me, demands no reward, requires no sacrifice. Slowly, my adoration is growing, the dory bounding over its steeplechase, a power roiling up from proud waters. Fish are almost edible, clam and mussel shell fleck the bank in flickers flying past.
issue31 / 23
Taylor García’s short stories and essays have appeared in Chagrin River Review, Driftwood Press, Fifth Wednesday Journal, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Writing Disorder, 3AM Magazine, Evening Street Review and others. He also writes the weekly
column, “Father Time” at the GoodMenProject.com He lives in Southern California with his wife and sons. www.btaylorgarcia.com
Mark B. Hamilton has a new chapbook, “100 Miles of Heat” (Finishing Line Press, 2017). Recent work has appeared in
Albatross, About Place Journal, The Listening Eye, Poetry Salzburg Review, Ship of Fools, Slipstream, and Plainsongs, and is
forthcoming in Oxford Poetry, UK. Please see www.MarkBHamilton.WordPress.com
N. Marc Mullin’s short story “Milkweed” was a finalist in Middlesex University London’s international fiction contest. He’s studied one-on-one with Alice Eliot Dark and Kate Pullinger. A native of the Bronx, he drove a taxi and spent years as a sheet metal worker
before he became an attorney specializing in civil rights and employment law. He currently has his own firm, Smith Mullin, P.C., and has successfully argued cases in front of the United States Supreme Court and the New Jersey Supreme Court.
Freddy Torres is originally from Houston but is now a New York City transplant. His designs are inspired by his skateboarding, design, and musical influences. You can keep up with his current projects on Instagram, @saladnewyork or saladnewyork.com
Sanjida Yasmin is a Bengali-American storyteller and poet whose work explores South Asian traditions, transient movements from East to West, and most importantly, the mystery of time. Raised in the Bronx, NY, she graduated from The City University of New York where she wrote her MFA thesis on the senescence of mortals. She is a lecturer by day, wordsmith by night.
issue31 / 25
STAY DRY. 26 /
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