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What The Fiction Literary Journal of Creative Nonfiction, Fiction & Poetry Volume 2, Issue 2 • Winter 2014


Michael K. Brantley


Ann Fitzmaurice


Dr. Rebecca Godwin

Cover Art: “Sleeping Poet” Painting by Catherine Altice, 2000. Read more about Catherine on page 15.

From the Editor Finally, WTF: What The Fiction 2.2 is here! We hope it is worth the wait. There have been lots of changes since that first issue, and all of them have been positive, we feel. There is a new cover artist, and I am particularly excited about the new staff members. My good friend and writing buddy from Queens University, Ann Fitzmaurice, has joined the staff as Associate Editor. She has helped tremendously with the reading and content and that will only get smoother as time passes (and she’ll keep us on time!). Also making debut our new Book Review Editor, Rebecca Godwin, of Barton Sed et  her tellus   at  qisuam   sagittis   pharetra.   Donec  Dr. faucibus   sagittis   justo.   College. Rebecca is a veteran in the review business, and we think you’ll look forward to her thoughts each time out. Please let us know what you think about this issue. We are already at work on 3.1, which we hope to have out in early Summer. We already have the art selected and are currently reading submissions. If you are a writer, don’t wait, send us your best. Enjoy! Michael K. Brantley Managing Editor


Table of Contents Poetry James Wright’s Horse

Teleia Tollison


October Planting

David Radavich


Soot So Only the Bad Remains

David Radavich Polly Baker

7 8

Eldon Reishus Joseph Mills

10 13

Rebecca Godwin


Fiction On On Nudges By From a Tree You Can See What’s Coming

Review Two Captains from Carolina


James Wright’s Horses By Teleia Tollison Behind a wooden fence, two spotted horses look up at me as I drive by. I want to stop, walk to the rails, as James Wright did, and greet them. My list of duties is too long and my time is too short and I am tangled in the barbed wire of obligations. I think of their dark liquid eyes with long lashes, their strong squared teeth and prickly muzzles. Their brown and white hair shines warm in the sun. I am trapped in this car In a prison of my own making. The grass in the meadow is green velvet, with the remains of recently mowed buttercups and other weeds lying in tufts. The horses, haunches communally touching, stare at me, then return to eating and dreaming. I stare too thinking of Wright’s horses who love each other.


Soft blue mountains appear painted on the near horizon with a red barn next to the road. A butterfly sweeps by completing a sentimental picture that is real only in my imagination, not true life—yet here it is before me. I move on by the horses to a junkyard Filled with skeletal cars, lonely and bleeding rust. Spent weeds project upward through missing hoods, and wild blackberry vines, rusting themselves, cling to door handles. The moment of longing is discarded, As I push down on the accelerator.

Teleia Tollison is a teacher with over 25 years of experience teaching English and creative writing. She has taught in a wide variety of settings, including Tarrant County Community College and Davidson County Community College. She has been awarded three National Endowment of the Humanities Grants. She is currently teaching a course through the Great Smoky Mountain Writing Program. She has been published in The Great Smokies Review. She lives in Spruce Pine, North Carolina.


October Planting By David Radavich Plastic boxes are lined up like a platoon in the driveway. We can only imagine the forces they’ll do battle with. Mother says it’s already too cold for this. She’s probably right. A war they don’t deserve and may not come home from. Such is life. And death. Fully in the hands of others who are indifferent or incompetent. We put our backs to the task nonetheless with sweat and strategize like generals. The ground heaves under us in earthquakes of intention, colors clash against blade. A whole afternoon becomes incursion into the deeper sanity of nature without any self or victories over time.


Soot David Radavich Burn, fire, and create ash.

Make us feel warmth.

Only a relationship can flare up and die

like a root.

Remains remind us

of centuries and strangers

who have crossed this threshold.

Cling to our boot.

David Radavich has published America Bound: An Epic for Our Time (2007), Canonicals: Love’s Hours (2009), Middle-East Mezze (2011), and The Countries We Live In. His plays have been performed across the U.S., including six Off-Off-Broadway, and in Europe.


So Only the Bad Remains By Polly Baker The worst thing someone can do, Is to hurt you in such a way, That you can never remember the good. They leave and take the promised future, They leave and take your understanding, They leave and taint all your memories. You follow every happy thought of them, With one of pain and misery, A lovely summer, A lobbed stapler, A silly joke, A spatted jab, An affectionate hug, An aching head, A word of praise, A whimper in preparation, You cannot think of them as a dynamic being, For your own safety, they become static,


They force you to block so many memories, In order to protect yourself from receding back into their trap, They make you think of them not as a human but as a monster. The worst thing someone can do, Is to hurt you in such a way, That you can never remember the good, So only the bad remains.

Polly Baker, a sophomore in college, writing about her recovery from discovering her father was abusive and manipulative.


On On Nudges By Eldon Reihus A nudge is any small feature of the environment that sneaks into our attention and steers our behavior,« Reishus read aloud without his reading glasses. He was interpreting the blurry dust jacket text of a self-help volume that evidently suffered from vertigo (he had found it hugging the floor at the base of a tall, revolving book rack). What Reishus meant was that auto-intelligized peripheral cues can shape our responses, like they do in Amsterdam – which, as anyone knows who has tried to enjoy munchies alongside its canals, is the urine capital of the world. At the Amsterdam airport, the local union of restroom hostesses conscripted an artist to paint a fly near the drain of each urinal. The idea was that the fly would provoke coffee-shop-city travelling dudes to take nasty aim instead of serendipitously splashing the restroom walls, floor, ceiling, sinks, light fixtures, mirrors... [The result was that] urine mis-steerage was decreased by 18 percent, Reishus, reading aloud, believed the fuzzy words said, »which meant that three hostesses were made redundant. Or take as example the famous orangutan at the Heidelberg zoo who can whistle, Ujan. No one nudged him, Ujan learned all on his own – in a sense, he invented whistling. Sure, for enough sweets he'll favor zoo visitors with a short, lopsided solo. Fini. But once the orangutans are entirely alone, once even the zoo keepers have finally all left, Ujan sits in the corner, rocking, whistling for only himself, sometimes for hours. Wild, crazy-cat orangutan riffs... Where does the nudge come in? He's got two of the females snapping their fingers. Eldon (Craig) Reishus entertains a growing, less intimate circle under the Alps outside Munich. He originates from Fort Smith, Stuttgart, Dachau, Owatonna, Bloomington, Granite Falls, Ytterboe at Saint Olaf, Minneapolis, Portland's State Street, Berlin's Schlossallee, and Munich's Schellingstrasse. Visit him:


Stories in Black and White: A Nonfiction Novel of Coastal North Carolina and Beyond Simpson, Bland. Two Captains from Carolina: Moses Grandy, John Newland Maffitt, and the Coming of the Civil War. Chapel Hill: UNC P, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-8078-3585-2. A Review by Rebecca Godwin

Bland Simpson’s latest work evidences the passion for coastal North Carolina he shows in most of his previous seven books, including The Great Dismal: A Carolinian’s Swamp Memoir (1990; 1998) and Into the Sound Country : A Carolinian’s Coastal Plain (1997). Simpson’s literary calling is to tell the stories of the Tar Heel state’s northeast, tales of the water, land, and people he came to love while growing up in Elizabeth City. Returning to the genre he employed for The Mystery of Beautiful Nell Cropsey (1993) and Ghost Ship of Diamond Shoals: The Mystery of the Carroll A. Deering (2005), the nonfiction novel, Simpson in Two Captains from Carolina weaves historical figures and events together using a fiction writer’s storytelling techniques. Two nineteenth-century mariners, one black and one white, Moses Grandy and John Maffitt never met. But their lives portray the tale of race in the antebellum and Civil War South, and setting them side by side, Simpson helps us to see through two lenses at once, broadening our view of an important historical era while showing us how to put our imaginations to work on the creative possibilities of historical documents. Simpson gives plenty of contextual detail to establish the place and time these two seamen lived. Grapevines and honeysuckle along the Pasquotank River, William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator and New England anti-slavery movements, the Compromise of 1850, and battles in Mobile Bay, Alabama, chart landscape as well as America’s movement into and through the Civil War. But it’s Grandy’s and Maffitt’s individual struggles and successes that make history come alive. Grandy, born a slave in Camden County about 1791, was hired out by his owner to captain freight boats down the Dismal Swamp Canal. With money earned from his seafaring expertise and other labor, Grandy bought his freedom three times. His fourth owner finally kept the bargain. Grandy went on to purchase family members’ liberty, speak at Boston abolitionist meetings, tell his story to an


Englishman who wrote it down, and address the General Anti-Slavery Convention in London in 1843. Maffitt, born at sea in 1819 as his mother traveled from Ireland to join her husband in Connecticut, was raised by an uncle near Fayetteville, NC, educated in a New York boarding school, and enjoyed a distinguished career in the United States Navy before becoming a legendary blockade runner for the Confederacy. Their personal and professional lives’ parallels highlight the irony of the racial divide shaping their experiences. Both lost their first wives, for instance—Grandy’s sold and Maffitt’s unfaithful—and both plied the open seas as skilled mariners. Grandy’s trips to the East Indies aboard trade ships are as integral to American history as Maffitt’s expeditions to Greece , interceptions of illegal slavers, or work creating maps for the U.S. Coast Survey. Alternating between the two men’s stories, Simpson uses headings to name place and date, often covering decades in one man’s life before taking readers back in time to pick up the other man’s narrative. More documentation of Maffitt’s life exists in the historical record, of course, including the biography his third wife published and his own autobiographical novel. But the movement from black man to white establishes a balance that Simpson surely intends, a balance enhanced by the double-columned chronology of these men’s lives following the narrative text. As with all creative nonfiction, the novel does not cite sources internally, but Simpson explains his extensive research in a list of Selected Sources. Primary documents such as Grandy’s slave narrative, available through the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Documenting the American South digital collections, and the Maffitt Papers, available in the Southern Historical Collection at Chapel Hill, complement Simpson’s reading in secondary sources, use of archival materials from libraries and historical societies in the North and South as well as abroad, and his firsthand knowledge of maritime culture. Illustrations, including maps, portraits, and drawings published in Civil War era magazines, keep readers focused on the historical precision of Simpson’s prose. Rebecca Godwin, Professor of English and Director of the Ragan Writing Center at Barton College, earned her Ph.D. in Twentieth Century Literature at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. President of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association 2011-2013, she is past chair of the North Carolina Writers Conference and serves on the Thomas Wolfe Society Board of Directors and the editorial board of the North Carolina Literary Review.Her literary criticism and book reviews of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry collections have appeared in Mississippi Quarterly, North Carolina Literary Review, Southern Quarterly, Asheville Poetry Review, Rain Taxi Review of Books, Pembroke Magazine, Thomas Wolfe Review, and Appalachian Heritage.


From a Tree You Can See What’s Coming By Joe Mills

People don’t pay much attention to trees or what’s in them. He learned this long ago, as a kid. Even if they see you climb up, after a while they forget you’re there. Maybe they assume you came down when they weren’t looking, or maybe they just can’t keep you in their mind, but, for whatever reason, stay in a tree, and you almost become invisible. You’re there and not there. That’s what he likes about them. You can watch and listen to the squirrels, birds, bugs, traffic, leaves, sky. You can notice the changes, the budding and leafing and falling, the repetition of patterns. Or you can just sit there. Not noticing. Not thinking. Not desiring. Some people do yoga or meditation; he does trees. Their house has a black walnut in the front and a spruce pine in the back. After work, he’ll swing up into one for an hour or so. His wife comes home later, after she thinks he’ll be down. It turns out she didn’t really believe him when they were house-hunting, and he said he didn’t care about the kitchen or bedrooms, just the trees. On weekends, sometimes, he’ll go to a city park. He has his favorites – there’s a beautiful oak at Kirkland -- but he’s open-minded and tries different ones. People might watch him climb, ask him about the view or joke about joining him, then they turn away and forget he’s there. Occasionally, usually in the winter, someone will jerk to a stop, thinking he’s a large animal, a vulture or bear, and they’ll creep closer. He always says hello. He’s not hiding. Some want to know what he’s protesting. Some talk in what they think are reassuring voices, asking if he’s all right and if there’s someone they should call. Once, a woman demanded he come down from the black walnut right now, or she would call the cops. When he told her he lived there, she said she didn’t care. Apparently, it’s okay to sit on your porch, but not in your tree. He told his wife about


about the encounter, but she hadn’t thought it was funny. Most neighbors treat him as eccentric, but harmless. The guy across the street calls him Birdman. They talk to him if he’s on the sidewalk; they ignore him if he’s above their heads. Or they don’t notice. His mother didn’t the afternoon she came home with that man and kissed him, that man who wasn’t his father, kissed him in a way that he had never seen her kiss his father. So he wasn’t surprised by what came later. And the neighbor girl doesn’t each time she’s walked to the door by a different boy, lingering, separating when someone goes by, and then coming back together. And his wife, his wife, getting a ride home but staying in the car, lingering, visible through the windshield, forgetting about him. Maybe. You can see fairly far from a tree. You can see what’s coming.

Joseph Mills teaches at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts. He has published four books of poetry with Press 53. His fifth, This Miraculous Turning, will be published in September, 2014. More information about him and his work can be found at


Cover Artist Catherine Altice is a multimedia artist who, more often than not, incorporates painting, drawing, sewing, stitching, fiber art, found objects, and photography into her two-dimensional and threedimensional works. She received her Master of Fine Arts Degree (graduating with honors) in Studio Art from Johnson State College / Vermont Studio Center, 2011 and her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Painting and Printmaking from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, 1990. Catherine is also an Appalachian State Alumnus and holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communications in Advertising and Marketing, 1987. She’s currently an Adjunct Art Instructor at Appalachian State University and at Caldwell Community College and Technical Institute in Boone, NC.

Working as a professional artist for over twenty years, Catherine has exhibited works throughout the southeast and has received numerous grants and honorariums. For over 12 years she has owned and managed Tin Roof Gallery and Studio, located in West Jefferson, NC. For fun and profit, Catherine is also a jewelry maker. A long time ago, she was a dancer and performance artist and attended the American Dance Festival; served on the board of the North Carolina Dance Alliance; and danced in and choreographed works for the Appalachian Dance Ensemble at Appalachian State and at UNCGreensboro. She’s since traded in her dancing shoes for running shoes and now gets her kicks from running anywhere from two miles up to 26.2 miles.

For more information about Catherine’s work visit


Look for What the Fiction Issue 3.1 Coming Late Spring/Summer More Features Let us know if you are interested in WTF Print-on-Demand Issues And WTF Merch


WTF Literary Journal 2.2  
WTF Literary Journal 2.2  

A journal of Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, and Poetry