Umbrella Factory Magazine Issue 33

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AnTHONY ILACQUA “PHONE”..........Cover image


Prose K. M. HUBER

“Before You Eat Your Poke Bowl” 18 “The Inhalation of Birthday Cake Cheer” 19 “As Siri Illuminates the Sky” 20

“In Every Scar”..................................9



Editor’s Note About Us Submission Guidlines Bios and Credits

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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


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hello there UFM editor’s letter - December 2017 It was nearing midnight when I got the text message from Mark. Seeing his name on the screen made me think that there was something he’d forgotten to tell me during our conversation earlier in the day. His message just said “Marlowe’s is closing.” There are the those moments when disbelief is paralyzing. There was only one word to break the paralysis: bullshit. But even as much bullshit as I thought it was, Marlowe’s is closing, was true. Marlowe’s is currently, and shortly will have been, a restaurant in central Denver. It sits on the corner of Glenarm Street and the 16th Street Mall. Since it opened its doors in 1982, Marlowe’s has lived through at least a dozen different Denvers. But this is a literary magazine, what does a restaurant in Denver have to do with Umbrella Factory Magazine? Why lament this restaurant, restaurants close everyday. Iconic restaurants close everyday. Quite simply, Umbrella Factory Magazine was conceived on a sunny autumn day in Denver, but it was born on a cold November night at Marlowe’s between the bar and the kitchen near a spot we called the Bandstand service well. Mark and Jana and I worked together at Marlowe’s We were servers. We spent the autumn of 2009 deep in conversation developing our magazine’s concept. Mark had the technical insight. He was still working as a writer part time then. Jana was the artist, she still is. And when we weren’t at work, I was at home with Janice, the fourth member of our Umbrella Factory Magazine founding party. At the time Janice was working a “real” job. She developed so much of the innards of the magazine including the workshops we used to teach. It’s funny, the only thing I really brought to the table was my personality and my energy. In the early days of the magazine, Mark and I talked about other things, I’m sure, but can’t remember anything else other than Umbrella Factory. We were in the humdrum days of the service industry. Jana and Mark and I had either tried to do, or were doing other things. I had just left teaching. Jana was a flight attendant. Mark was still a writer. For some reason, building a magazine seemed like the thing to do. And we continued on working nights at Marlowe’s with a little more ease knowing we were creating something great. I don’t know why the closing of this dinosaur of a restaurant depresses me so much. I think it has to do with the thousands of people who worked there over its 36 year existence. It might have to do with me, with us, with Umbrella Factory Magazine and how much Marlowe’s seems to have played such a major role. Or it probably has to do with all the projects like this magazine, or all the friendships like the ones I enjoy that were spurred by bad shifts and service industry worker discontent. Who knows? What I do know is that this is Issue 33 of Umbrella Factory Magazine. This issue, like the ones before it have let us connect well developed readers to the best writing we can find. In this issue we have new prose from K. M. Huber and Ann Harper Reed. Our poet Amy Lee Kite rounds out the issue. Read. Submit. Tell everyone you know. Stay Dry.


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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. We encourage you to submit your piece everywhere, but please notify Umbrella Factory if your piece gets published elsewhere. We accept submissions online at



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.


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NONFICTION Let’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 bio—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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prose Miguel was quiet, adding none of his usual jokes as I translated the physical therapist’s instructions. Despite his progress over the last few months, Miguel would never be able to go back to his old job, yet he was normally upbeat—chatting about his plans, his girlfriends, his favorite teams. He would banter with Spencer, the therapist, with the little English he knew, and relied on me to fill in the gaps. Today, however, he groaned through his exercises morosely. caught my eye and raised his eyebrows questioning. “Yo! Miguel,” Spencer said, “Que pasa?” Miguel just sighed. A youthful and vain fifty-two with dark, close-cropped hair, a well-trimmed mustache, and careful posture, Miguel projected the air of an old-fashioned English dandy, Mexican style. When Spencer left us to get another patient started, the radio caught Miguel’s attention. Suddenly he was singing along, crooning as if he were about to burst into tears, “I wanna know what love is…” His mouth wrapped awkwardly around the words, trying to get the pronunciation right. In the middle of a leg lift he stopped and looked at me. “Qué significa ‘I wanna?’” “I want to,” I replied, “It means ‘I want to’.” Brows furrowed, he resumed the exercise. “I want to know what love is,” he drawled as if he had a loaf of bread in his mouth. “Así es. Tha’s how it is.” He nodded sagely. “Who sing it?” A band called Foreigner, I told him. He repeated it back. “Fore Runner.” “Foreigner, Extranjero.” He rolled the word over his tongue until it sounded right. “Foreigner.” He repeated it with each leg raise until we switched exercises. After six years in the U.S., Miguel was still trying hard to fit in, struggling with English, going to an English-speaking church for practice, eagerly drinking in American music and mass culture. He relished the reds, whites, and blues of Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren. “I wannnna feeeel what loave eeez,” he sang, head tilted back, eyes half-closed, oozing with longing and pain. “Ah, si. Today this song, she comes for me.” His knee had been badly damaged when he was run over by heavy machinery on a job, and the recovery had been complicated by problems from an earlier injury. At nineteen, his promising

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career as a professional athlete had abruptly ended with a nasty collision during a soccer game. Thirty-three years later, he was struggling again with an injury and chronic pain. He stretched in front of the mirror. “Ay,” he complained, “qué ha pasado conmigo?” He stared at the graying hair, the sag in his physique. “What has happened to me?” He wiped the wetness from his eyes. “There is no thing worse for a man,” he said, “than the wrong woman.” A few months earlier, Miguel had gone through an ugly breakup. At times, he would insist he was better off without her, that she had merely been using him. She showed her true colors, he told us, when the accident left him broke and consequently less attractive. But the next moment he would go on about how she had been the best thing in his life, how he would never find another like her to fill the vacuum. He lingered at the mirror, shaking his head, before passing to the next machine. “I should go back to Mexico,” he announced. Return to his family, he said. Skip the next surgery. Leave before the loneliness drove him mad. He shivered, his head and shoulders shaking like a dog after a bath. He braced himself then strode to the massage table, setting the cane firmly before him with each step. After the breakup, Miguel had joined the chorus at church so he could meet new people. Just when he thought he was over her, she called. She wanted to see him, but only as a friend. Miguel plummeted into a new spiral of longing, anger, and aching that he described as “the agony of love.” Now, he waited for Spencer, tense and fidgety, muttering about leaving Atlanta, getting away from the woman who was tearing him up inside, getting away from all the doctors and their disagreements about surgery. He asked me why churches here didn’t offer counseling like priests did back home. Someone to help him figure himself out. Or maybe he should read some psychology books. But then again, maybe they would just give him more things to worry about? He asked what I thought, but then held up his hand to stop so we could listen to Waylon Jennings sing about “Looking for love in all the wrong places…” Miguel took a deep breath. “Oh, jyess,”

he muttered. “Oh, jyess.” When I arrived the following week, it was like walking into a party. Miguel was already warming up on the treadmill, chatting with Raul and Rosabel on either side. They had all been coming to the center for several months, but seldom at the same time. Miguel put his hand up to pause the conversation, then placed his hand to his heart and sang along with the radio. This time the Chi-lites were singing, “O-oh, girl—pain will double if you leave me now, I don’t know where to look for love, and I don’t, I don’t know howow.” Raul rolled his eyes. A handsome Honduran in his early twenties, Raul was more of an upbeat Los Lobos type—“La Bamba” incarnate, Ritchie Valens smooth—earnest, engaging, animated. He had fallen off a roof while laying material and ended up with a head injury, two broken wrists, and four teeth replaced. He always worked hard in therapy, was eager to practice English, and was especially adept at engaging Spencer in conversation. Politics and religion were off-limits, and the two were usually on opposite sides when it came to sports, but they tended to agree when they got to talking about women. “Ay, Miguel. She still has you by the…” Rosabel interrupted Raul, nodding in my direction. “La Señora,” he said. Rosabel was a short but muscular, forty-eight-year-old Salvadoran draped in gold chains and sporting huge rings on every other finger. Probably named after Franklin Roosevelt. When he entered a room, I could almost hear the horse-trot rhythms of cumbia music wafting behind him. The first time we met, he could barely walk from the back pain, yet wore pointed cowboy boots with heels so high they wobbled under him. He had been accustomed to tossing fifty-pound blocks from a conveyer belt to fellow workers at a fast, effortless clip—until one day he slipped in the mud and lost his balance. To avoid dropping the block on the guy next to him, he heaved it away as he twisted and fell. The strain left him with a herniated disk, but he had returned to work with a brace and enough painkillers to keep him going. Then his leg gave out. It took back surgery and months of physical therapy, along with a change from boots to sneakers, to get him back to walking comfortably

again. But now he was finally on course to return to work. Miguel went to the mirror with a couple of hand weights. He did a series of slow stretches, singing to himself. “I don’ know h-where to looook for luff,” he wailed. Spencer laughed. “You lookin’ for love again, Miguel?” He shook his head. “Better be careful there, bro. Them’s dangerous waters.” Miguel looked from Spencer back to me for translation. “Hay que andar con cuidado,” I said. “Como entrar en aguas peligrosas.” Not exactly a literal translation, but close enough. Proceed with caution. Like entering dangerous waters. Miguel laughed. Spencer was shaking his head, having recently survived some rough waters himself. “How do you say it again?” Spencer asked. “Moo-hair, right? Mujer. Peligro. Woman equals danger. Gotta watch out for them, right?” He winked at Raul. “They wanna put you in cuffs, no?” He pantomimed putting handcuffs on and held his hands out as if unable to separate them. “Handcuffs, right?” He turned to me. “How you say cuffs?” “Esposas,” I replied. “I thought esposa meant wife.” “It does. Just happens to be the same word.” “Happens to be? Happens? I dunno, sounds like they know what they talkin’ about!” Spencer laughed. “Y’know, I’m lovin’ this language more every day! Esposas! Ain’t that just perfect.” He shook his hands out. “Better to be free.” “What? You no want wife?” Raul asked. “You don’t want a wife?” I echoed automatically, knowing that Raul always wanted me to correct his English. “You don’t want a wife?” he repeated. “Never?” “Now, I didn’t say that. I don’t plan on bein’ an old man all alone, but what’s the hurry?” Miguel and Rosabel waited for my translation, but looked doubtful when I told them what he had said. “How old you are?” Raul asked. “Treinta y siete,” Spencer sounded out slowly, trying to impress them with his pronun-

ciation. “Thirty-seven.” Rosabel looked at me, puzzled, “Pero, un hombre debe casarse cuándo está joven,” he insisted. Spencer lifted his eyebrows. “What’d he say?” “That a man should marry while he’s still young.” Spencer pointed a finger at Rosabel. “Only if it’s the right woman,” he said. “Besides, you seen what happens to guys after they get married? All my buddies that got married? They’re all stressed out, man, and way out o’ shape.” Rosabel chuckled when I translated that and patted his own large belly. “This is not from being married,” he said in Spanish. “This is from not working.” His lips puffed out thoughtfully and he nodded respectfully toward Spencer’s sculpted arms. “Before, I had arms like that. When I was young, you tell Spencer, I was even stronger than him.” As I translated, Spencer patted his own tight abs. “If I weren’t working,” he replied, “this would be even more solid. Granite! Believe me, marriage does you in.” He laughed again. “If being married means I’ll look like Rosabel? I’m not sure it’s worth it.” He flexed his massive biceps, his dark skin catching the light as he rotated, showing off. Then he pantomimed hearing his phone ring and pulled it out of his back pocket. He pretended to check his caller ID and immediately put the phone away. “Mujer?” he said. “No contesto.” They all stopped what they were doing. Not answer a woman’s call? Miguel stared in disbelief. Raul shook his head. Rosabel glared disapprovingly. “Es que no le gustan a las mujeres?” he asked cautiously, wondering if perhaps Spencer simply didn’t like women. Raul smiled. “No, he is waiting for a Colombian girl! …Es que está esperando una colombiana!” I remembered one Monday when they were discussing their weekends, and discovered that both had gone out with Colombian women. Spencer had been obviously smitten with his date, but as the weeks progressed she had not returned his calls. It was still a sore point. Rosabel frowned. “Pero porque quiere es-

perar? Ya, viejo no sirve,” he pursued. Why would he want to wait? He’d be useless once he was old, Rosabel insisted. He launched into a tirade about how men needed women, how he himself had had several—often at the same time. In addition to his wife. He added that, of course, things were usually simpler with just a wife. Girlfriends could create problems. In fact, that was why he had decided to move to the U.S. with his wife. To get away from his mistress. When he had tried to end the relationship, the woman went to his house and attacked his wife. He sounded proud that the fight had drawn a crowd and landed both women in jail. Rosabel threw up his hands. He adored his wife, but how could a man resist an offer of afternoon fun? The woman had invited him in when he delivered something to her house, but he would never have accepted if he had known she would demand so much more. Shaking his head in disapproval, Spencer led Rosabel to the rowing machine and adjusted the weights. “A marriage has to be built on trust,” he said. “On both sides. Hombre and mujer. Confianza.” Raul was following the conversation from the upper body cycle. He called out to Spencer as his hands worked the machine. “So, Mister Spencer, what you think is a good mujer?” Spencer arranged an ice pack around Miguel’s knee. “Ten minutes,” he said, setting the timer. Then he handed Raul a set of weights and demonstrated a new exercise before finally answering. “A good woman? Ya have to have trust. Honesty. Respect. Patience. Affection. The right values. And someone who keeps herself in good shape.” He winked. “Preferably—una colombiana!” As I repeated the list in Spanish, Raul left the cycle and picked up a set of weights. “Y sinceridad,” Raul added. “Tiene que ser una mujer sincera.” “Sincerity,” I told Spencer. “Add that to your list. She must be sincere.” At that point the receptionist guided an elderly gentleman to a chair beside one of the massage tables. Long-limbed and gangly, with white hair carefully combed away from a speckled pink face, he hobbled painfully across the room. “Afternoon, Spence,” he said gruffly. “Hope you can


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prose get this leg to cooperate today.” “Good afternoon, Mr. Roscoe,” Spencer replied. “How you been doin’ this week?” “Well, let me put it this way, young man,” he replied. “Whatever idiot dubbed these the golden years should be taken out and shot.” Spencer lifted the old man’s calf and lowered it gently. He felt around the knee and pressed on one side of the patella until Mr. Roscoe flinched. “It’s not quite as swollen as last week,” Spencer noted, “but we probably need to ice it a little longer when we’re done.” As he helped Mr. Roscoe onto the table, he looked back over his shoulder toward Raul. “Sincerity, huh? How do you mean?” I asked Raul to explain. He shrugged. “Sincera.” A woman who tried to be different than she was just to please a man was not to be trusted. The kind of woman he would marry had to be genuine. As I relayed his comments to Spencer, I noticed Miguel nodding philosophically. “La sinceridad es una cosa maravillosa, pero muy rara.” Sincerity is a wonderful thing, but very rare. “You need some bigger weights, there,” Spencer called to Raul. “Try the green ones.” Raul winced as he lifted the larger weights. “You killin’ me, mahn,” he said. Miguel joked that Raul was trying to sound like the ruffians in his neighborhood. They bantered back and forth about which gangs were worse. Their Spanish was musical to listen to and always made my job entertaining. These three knew their routines so well by now that most of my interpreting for Spencer involved minor adjustments, clarifications, or to answer questions. The extra conversations had become a special treat. Mr. Roscoe was not amused. “So, what’s with all these Mexicans today?” he grumbled. “Taco convention?” He called over to me, “You here just to translate for these Mexicans?” “Yes, I’m here to interpret,” I said. “But only Miguel is Mexican. Raul is from Honduras and Rosabel’s from El Salvador.” “So, you get paid just to talk Mexican? Another reason insurance rates keep going up!” “It’s Spanish, the main language in all of Central America. Like I said, they’re all from different countries.”

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“Same difference. Like I said, why so many Mexicans here?” “Physical therapy, just like you, sir.” “My leg’s bad. Had a hip replaced last year. Knee went out this year. That’s why I’m here. What’s their excuse?” “Back injuries. Broken bones. On-the-job accidents.” He grunted. “Right. Of course. Workers’ comp. Using up taxpayer money for paid time off. Or couldn’t understand safety instructions.” “I see plenty of English speakers also, Mr. Roscoe,” Spencer said, trying to diffuse the souring mood. “Lots of hazards on construction jobs.” But the room already felt heavy. The Spanish banter had stopped, and the old man kept harping. “Why do they keep coming to our country, taking jobs away from red-blooded Americans?” Raul had finished with the weights and was throwing a ball into a small trampoline with rhythmic thunks. He was restless. Thunk. He glanced at Mr. Roscoe with irritation. Thunk. “Quiere saber porque estamos acá, en este país?” he asked, checking to see that he had understood correctly. I nodded. Thunk. “Because we want to work,” Raul said quietly, enunciating carefully. “What’s that?” Mr. Roscoe turned his head to regard the younger man. “Because we want to work,” Raul repeated, more loudly, more confidently. “And we do jobs your people scared of.” “Bah! You come because America is the greatest country in the world, and you want a piece of it,” Mr. Roscoe replied. “Leeching off our hard-earned taxes. And working cheap so our boys don’t get hired.” “Easy, boys,” Spencer said. “You’re here to get healthy, not to argue.” “I see no gringos waiting for work in the rain,” Raul said slowly. “And we pay plenty taxes. Yes, this a great country. And who is building this great country now?” Raul gestured around him. “Los latinos, pues.” Mr. Roscoe’s eyebrows arched. “It was great before you got here—been going downhill ever since. That’s God’s truth. Crime. Drugs. Trouble everywhere. No respect.” He glared at

me. “And illegals everywhere.” Rosabel and Miguel had both stopped what they were doing to watch the exchange, their expressions guarded. Spencer glanced up as he stretched Mr. Roscoe’s leg. “Enough. Back to your routines, guys,” he barked. “A trabajar.” Mr. Roscoe flinched. “Ow! Not so hard, Spence.” “Gotta work ’em, sir, or the muscles’ll stiffen up again. A little stretch is good for you.” I found myself wishing that Mr. Roscoe could stretch more than his leg muscles. I wanted to tell him that sometimes you can be right, yet be wrong at the same time. Rosabel and Miguel both had green cards and had worked at their respective companies for many years. Raul, on the other hand, had crossed the border illegally and had used his cousin’s ID to get a job. The employer had suspected, but since Raul was the best roofer on the crew, they all looked the other way. Until the accident. When Raul was taken unconscious to the hospital, the boss reported him to Immigration, hoping to avoid the insurance claim. In the end, the courts upheld Raul’s right to workers’ compensation coverage, but Raul would have to go back to Honduras after his first round of surgeries and therapy. He’d get a small insurance settlement to help continue medical treatment back home, but the doctors did not expect him to recover full range of motion or strength. But I didn’t say anything to Mr. Roscoe. When Miguel’s session finished, Spencer and I walked Miguel to the door, reminding him to watch his alignment when he walked, to be mindful of how he turned, and how long to ice the knee. “Hasta la vista, baby,” Spencer said, patting him on the back. “Good work today. Just stay away from those mujeres.” Miguel shrugged, looking over his shoulder at Mr. Roscoe and rolling his eyes. “Gringo loco,” he whispered. Rosabel followed soon after, shaking Spencer’s hand and patting his back appreciatively. When Raul finished, Spencer gave him a list of exercises to do at home, and then went back to work with Mr. Roscoe. I went over the exercises with Raul, making notes for him in Spanish. When we were done, he went to shake Spencer’s hand and then turned to Mr. Roscoe. “I hope your knee get better.”

On the way home I tuned in to a Latino station playing music by Nicaraguan Carlos Mejía Godoy, best known for his songs of the working class. One got stuck in my head: “Tengo tantas heridas, como un tronco de jiñocuago en camino real… / Traigo en cada seña una historia que vivi / Llevo una leyenda en cada cicatriz.” I have so many wounds, like the plank of a tree on the royal road… / In every mark, a story lived / in every scar, a tale to tell. “Ah, si,” I thought. “Today, a song has come for me.”


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Ann Harper Reed

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prose Mary spit the blood out of her mouth into the sink. There was blood on the tattered, lightbeige hand towel. Blood stained the sink and a few drops littered the lip of the linoleum bathroom counter. It looked like a bit of violence had transpired. “Crap,” said Mary. She hadn’t been doing anything but eating potato chips and sour cream onion dip while watching Carpool Karoke on her phone. Looking at herself in the mirror, she conceded she must have cut her gums on a chip, but she hadn’t noticed it at the time. The gush of blood lined the right side of her tongue and even rimmed the edge of her teeth at the gums. “I’m getting old.” “I can’t hear you,” said Grant from the kitchen, over the whine of the air conditioning unit dialed up to high. “I’m in the kitchen. I can’t hear you.” Walking into the living room, Mary looked at Grant hunched over the kitchen sink and laughed. His knees were caved and buckling under the girth of his beer belly as he leaned into the cupboards and set a teacup into a piece of craft wrapping paper. The entire front of his shirt was wet from the dish washing. “Jutta doesn’t make you do the dishes, does she?” said Mary. “Would you look at the mess you’re making? I’m going to end up slipping and cracking my skull open. Mom would love that.” Grant didn’t say anything. He’d been washing the china before boxing it up. Almost every-thing was going to the Salvation Army. The stamp collections from the sixties and seventies la-beled “Grant” and “Mary” were only worth the postage printed on them. Pages of stamps for the years between 1963 and 1976, and then the plate blocks from the ’80s Janet and Paul had collected when the “kids” had given up on their collections; the framed color-by-number paintings and the piano music books; the sets of keys to unknown places long forgotten, all left with no more purpose; one million paper clips and enough Scotch tape to build a house for all the reading glasses and dental floss containers; the broken-down antique hutch stained by water glasses and time. But Mary could tell it was the china that made Grant

upset. She suspected her brother remembered all the times they had been forced to wash Grandma Ethel’s china after Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter Sunday. He had hated it then, but now it felt somehow a cherished memory. Most likely Grant had remorse for his teenage behavior. Mary suspected that sorrow almost always came from a place of regret. If you behaved well, held up your part of the bargain, why should you be sad? “Oh Grant, don’t be a crybaby. It’s just stuff. Best we can do is try to get money out of some of it. Keep the china if you want. I don’t care.” “No. No. You’re right,” he said, his voice trailing off. “We need to focus on the coin collection,” she said, holding her fingers up, counting. “The coins, the silver service, your Hummels from Germany, and I guess mainly Daddy’s brooch.” “It was Mom’s.” “I know. But it was a gift. I don’t know. What did they say?” “Pretty good.” “It is sort of garish, though, isn’t it? But I guess they just value the jewels themselves. How much?” “How many more boxes do we have?” “Enough. Listen, we’ve got the important stuff. You’ve got your sixties mug set for years of hot chocolate fun. I’ve got my Peter Rabbit stuff. We don’t need any of the rest of it,” said Mary, looking at her wedding ring. “Truth be told, I don’t know why Mommy never sold Daddy’s brooch. She’d look at it all the time. I don’t think she ever even once wore it. Maybe just the day he gave it to her. It must have made her feel connected to him all those years.” “You sound ridiculous. Mommy and Daddy. What are you, Mary: eight?” “What are you, Mary: eight?” said Mary. Mary knuckle-punched Grant’s bicep, and they both snorted out vague laughter. “Grant, it’s funny. Funny weird, not funny ha-ha. After everything I’ve been saying,” said Mary, “I sort of don’t want to sell it either. It meant so much to her. I think it’s ugly as sin, but I don’t want to sell it.” “It’s worth at least three thousand. That’s what the dealer said.”

“I was hoping for more,” said Mary. “But, well, it’s better than a poke in the eye. I’m sure there’ll be enough to cover the funeral expenses and your flight.” “I can pay for my own flight.” “Okay,” said Mary. “Come on. I’ve had enough. Stop.” Mary opened the fridge and took out the half-empty, jumbo Costco bottle of chardonnay and poured it into a teacup, which she drank on the spot and refilled to the brim. Grant straightened up and nodded his head. He rummaged his jeans, jumped a bit at the soggy old piece of paper in his front jeans pocket, and pulled a Handelsgold cherry cigarillo from his breast pocket. Grant took the unopened bottle of Jameson off the counter along with a chipped Best Nana coffee mug. “Let’s go,” he said. Outside of the single-wide trailer, they sat beside each other on the freestanding porch swing with the ashtray table and Grant’s lighter shaped like a hand grenade. Even though it was after five, it was still a sweltering day out, and the heat of the valley and the asphalt seeped into their pores the moment outside air hit them. On the swing they had a view of a pink brick retaining wall and the neighbor’s Astroturf backyard to one side and a collection of plastic statues made to look like stone with a white quartz rock “garden” on the other side. Janet hadn’t had anything but a slab of cement and the porch swing. The final fifteen years had been a hard life for their mom. To run out of money before one runs out of life isn’t a fate most people want to face, but she’d done it with grace. Widowed at sixty, twenty years without touching another man—or woman, for that matter. At least as far as Mary knew. Mary had spent time with Janet as often as she could, but Grant lived in Germany and only visited a couple times through the years. Mary sucked down the contents of her tea cup. “At least she didn’t end up losing her marbles. Martha, Jim’s mom; Grant, it was terrible. She took to calling people the worst names. It was so embarrassing. She’d only wear these very thin nightgowns and no bra. She looked positively awful but would not allow people to dress her in real clothes. And then she’d call black people ‘niggers,’” said Mary dropping her voice. “She’d


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been this frail little woman, Christian and quiet. Remember? You met her at Kelly’s graduation. And then she’d belt out ’n-ger’ at the top of her voice. Usually at the nicest caretaker. Of course. They’d say not to worry about it. I’d always laugh, which is the worst thing to do, because people decide you truly are a racist then. But you know, I couldn’t help it. It was a nightmare. At least Mommy didn’t have to face that.” Grant rolled the cigarillo between his thumb and first two fingers. It was still in its plastic wrapper, and it crinkled when he rolled back and forth. Back and forth. After a while he opened his whiskey and poured it into his mug. Grant held up the bottle. Mary nodded and offered up her tea-cup. They were silent for a long time. Seconds to minutes with only the traffic on the 118 to fill up the void. Once Grant puffed up like he would speak, but instead he began to strip away at the cigar until it was free of the plastic. He held the cigar up to his nose as though it was a young lover’s hair. He nodded. “When did you get to be the strong, stoic type?” “Dunno,” said Grant and gave a pleasant smile. “Everything okay with Jutta?” “You know. Could be better. She… It’s not worth getting into.” “We can’t all be Mommy and Daddy. Some of us have to work on our marriages,” said Mary as she swallowed down the whiskey. It burned the raw in her mouth. “Jesus. I’m a delicate flower. Good for my potato-chip-wound, at least,” said Mary looking down at her shoes. “Grant, you were always the strong one, and I was the shrinking violet. I swear that burned my mouth off.” Grant took a long pull on his whiskey and closed his eyes. “I hate today,” he said. “Me, too. I’m getting some more wine. You want anything? Not that there’s much. I think I left a couple chips. The dip’s all gone.” “You know, you should sell the brooch. Keep the money.” “Okay. I’ll get right on that,” said Mary. “Anything you want like right now?” Grant shook his head. When the sliding

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glass door slammed, he bit off the end of his cigar and spat it on the ground. He pushed his hand into his front pocket and pulled out the note the ap-praiser had handed to him after she showed Grant where it was stuffed under the lining of the brooch’s jewelry box. Grant hoped there was some way his mom hadn’t known it was there. The dish water had soaked into the already faded handwriting, but he didn’t need to read it again. He suspected he knew what had happened, or at least a version that made sense. Mama Ja-net had been snooping around, like she did from time to time. When she first found the brooch, she must have been delighted. A flash of sorrow came into Grant’s eyes as he imagined the expression of joy on young Janet’s face. Or did she see the name Marilynn before she opened the jewelry box at all? There she was, alone in the bedroom closet, holding the brooch in one hand and the note in the other. Grant and Mary would have still been in elementary school, and Janet must have decided not to let old Paul off the hook. She must have told him she’d found the brooch, and wasn’t it nice of Paul to buy her something so fine after all these years. After all these years of not having enough money to buy her a real diamond ring or a pearl necklace when the children were born or even take her to a nice steak dinner in town on Saturday night. After all the years without poetry, to find such lovely words of adoration written in the hand of her husband. Whatever she did or said, Janet must have made it clear Paul wasn’t allowed leave. Grant lit his cigarillo and puffed it twice. At least today it finally made sense how Paul had worked so hard and never seemed to have anything much to show for it. The taste of the whiskey and the tobacco gave Grant the courage he understood only today that his father never had. He took the love note between his thumb and forefinger. Exactly what kind of courage his father lacked wasn’t completely clear, but Grant knew that Paul hadn’t been able to love. He’d kept his love tight to his chest and spent it where it didn’t matter. His son, though; Grant could be generous with his love. The dampness of the paper smoked, and then the flame rode high while Grant spun the paper around to burn the secrets on all edges. “What are you doing?” said Mary.

“Being a pyro. Burning paper.” “Just don’t burn this hideous place down, okay?” said Mary, her speech a bit slurred. “Or on second thought, on seconds, go ahead.” “It’s too late for that now. Like the Germans say, ‘Alles ist in Ordnung.’” “Grant und hiz Germans,” said Mary, feigning a German accent. “What does that even mean?” “Just…it’s going to be okay.”



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Amy Kite

BEFORE YOU EAT YOUR POKE BOWL Sweating, laughing right there, that’s the point, the spot, the purpose of this encounter I was so eager to have, to hold, to inhale— quickly on the bathroom floor, from my knees, I gaze up at you standing in the dimly lit room, I joke that you are kinglike as your skin reflects the light from that flickering bulb which blinks as rapidly as this fleeting moment unless I’m able to truly absorb it if I focus intently savoring every last drop, every tick of the clock, every bite of the new flavorful bowl at the local dive down the street it is not fancy, maybe not even clean but their poke is so good, so fresh we’ll end up there inevitably after my work here is done

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after that building feeling spills out of me, out of you I think I just told you I loved you Did I say that out loud? You gaze down at me, blackness the pupils of your eyes— they say so much I envision the thought, the sentiment about to erupt from your lips before we quickly devour our lunch, you catch your plane back east leaving me with only your forthcoming words to decipher what will they be? I wonder as I watch your lips move but hardly emit a sound, This was fun, girl— and with that you smile, walking out of my bathroom, reminding me you’re craving that poke bowl, a combo of tuna and salmon this time.

THE INHALATION OF BIRTHDAY CAKE CHEER you say it’s just a Hallmark holiday

getting off the bus,

as you pull on your vape pen

leaving an assignment

glancing down the street

crumbled up on the seat—

where we appear to stand lazily

They name these remedies

together, before you drive off

Birthday Cake, Sour Skittles,

not feeling passive at all

even a hopeful Blueberry Dream

a familiar scent blown in my direction—

offering us THC and CBD,

did you say that flavor was birthday cake?

the ones that help rid us

Your words are flowing past me

of that nagging pain,

as I contemplate that nostalgic scent

shooting down the left leg,

traveling through your bloodstream,

beside that silly holiday,

lifting you high enough

that one you keep trying to forget—

so this colorless Mother’s Day

childhood flavors and memories

without your children near,

vaporizing and wafting past

without a husband or even a date,

as I watch it escape your lips

will flip hastily by

and wonder if you briefly inhale

like any other day,

the youthful innocence

like those kids

that you never even had


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Amy Kite

AS SIRI ILLUMINATES THE SKY I am not the only one, here—

of being alone, all seated together

there, across the world

as that feeling floods right over you

in a language I cannot decipher

almost suffocating the desire

you, too, try to make sense

to put one foot on the floor

of this chaos, the meaning

followed languidly by the other

buried somewhere deep

you, we, I must start the day

in the pages, as we type

crawl through the muddled stories

looking for answers, meaning

until stumbling upon that canvas

through the words, the paint

that page full of words, a randomness

if only we can connect

wherein it all comes together

the dots, tapping on our screens

the nonsense makes sense

until what we see, what we read

for a brief and wondrous moment

enables us to feel the sharpness

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K. M. Huber grew up in the Pacific Northwest, spent a decade in NYC, then moved to South America. Her work has appeared in

Earth Island Journal, Diner, McGuffin, Post Road, and ViceVersa among others. Huber is currently seeking a home for her historical novel set in sixth-century Nazca, Peru.

Amy Lee Kite is a poet, blogger, social media strategist and children’s book author who loves the written word in all of its many forms. When she is not busy being a mom to her three children or taking care of her three rescue dogs, she is most often writing.

Ann Harper Reed has rappelled from helicopters to fight fires in the Sierra Nevada, traipsed the Peruvian Amazon in search of

God, and worked the Iowa factory-floor. Her first novel Element of Blank was well reviewed. Midwest Book Review described Reed’s writing as “raw, dark, gritty, and undeniably compelling.”

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