Chagrin River Review Issue 3, Fall 2013 The Literary Journal of Lakeland Community College Published by Chagrin River Review
Cover Photo and Design: Amy Peck Editorial Board and Readers: Robert Coughlin Tobin Terry Suzanne Ondrus
Thomas Hyland Angela Weaver Ellen McHugh
ÂŠ 2013. Chagrin River Review acquires first publication rights. Subsequent rights revert to author.
Issue 3 (Fall 2013) Fiction Mark Jacobs “Notes Toward a Revised Definition of Myself” .............................................1 Jill Winsby-Fein “Fox Hunt” .................................................................................................11 Nicolas Poynter “Favorite Words in Spanish”.......................................................................13 Rod Siino “Smooth” ..............................................................................................................14 Poetry Roy Bentley “Six Degree Freedom” ......................................................................................20 Gabriel Welsch “Old News" and “Planting Yarrow” ............................................................23 Emily Pulfer-Terino “Pruning,” “Reflection” and “Property Line” ......................................25 Trish Hopkinson “Footnote to a Footnote” ............................................................................28 Jay Robinson “Home Movies”...............................................................................................30 Tom Howard “A History”......................................................................................................32 Contributor Notes...................................................................................................................33
Notes Toward a Revised Definition of Myself MARK JACOBS
Felicity Huber pulled the car to the side of the street and turned off the engine. The block of Calle Zucolillo where she stopped, between España and Mariscal López, belonged to rich people. You couldn’t actually see their mansions. High walls sealed them from the street. From what she had seen of them, she felt no particular love for Asunción’s moneyed elite but admired the way their gardeners trained flowering bushes to cascade down the adobe walls. Staring, your eye was rafted down a long, still river of red and purple and orange blossoms to a point of visual peace that did not seem quite real. She didn’t have to show up at El Sátiro. It was her choice to make or unmake. She rolled down the window. In Asunción the midsummer heat was brutal and wet. You wore it like a second skin. She loved it. She sat in her car listening to the high drone of afternoon insects, incense for the ear. It was the siesta hour. In the rich people’s big, quiet houses their employees lay dreaming on cots. If her Spanish were better, there was an idea: write a book about the dreams of household servants. One way to know a country; better, really, than the reams of analysis Karl pumped out. Thinking about dreams brought back her own from the night before: an apple orchard crisp in fall, a powerful longing that blended wellbeing and desire. She took the notebook from her purse and wrote, Her husband’s infidelity was the best thing that happened to her in twenty years. She read the sentence she had written, crossed out ‘best,’ and wrote ‘only liberating.’ Then she closed the notebook and put it back in her purse. Reflexively she looked at herself in the rear-view mirror, but she was not really interested in how she looked, just then. It was a cheap trick, writing about yourself in the third person, but she found it stimulating. It fit with her mania for observation, which had kicked in when she and Karl were posted to Paraguay. What was I before I was an observer? she wondered. It no longer bothered her to ask questions she could not answer. She rolled up the window and started the engine. At El Sátiro, Paolo dos Santos was waiting in the garden on an iron bench drinking a Campari & soda and frowning at a peacock in the emerald grass. As Felicity approached, the bird fanned its tail feathers and moved away. A waiter old enough to be her father hovered. She wished he didn’t feel obligated to smile obsequiously at her. Paolo stood and kissed her on both cheeks, Paraguayan style. “What is it about peacocks that makes wealthy people keep them around?” She came back quickly, as though this were the kind of conversation she was used to having. “They are beautiful for their own sake. It’s another form of luxury.” Paolo smiled. He ordered her a mineral water, and she made mental notes she would transcribe later. Salt-and-pepper hair. A hulking strength that made him seem bigger than he was. Large, gentle hands. A mustache that somehow suggested he knew about the flaw in the kernel of everything that lived. “What did you see today?” she asked him. “You first.” “Two men at a streetcorner fighting over a sack of oranges.” He nodded. “Sadly, the oranges come from Brazil. A generation ago, the Paraguayans grew CRR │ 1
their own.” “What about you?” “I saw a woman asleep in a hammock holding a rope. At the other end of the rope was a brown monkey with a black tail. It had a patient expression. Supernaturally patient, I would say.” They had agreed not to talk about their spouses. Paolo was in Asunción directing a medical research program on Chagas disease. His wife was a physician; Helenice had stayed behind in Rio. All Paolo knew about Karl was that he was the counselor for economic affairs at the American embassy. Felicity was never tempted to tell him the rest: that Paraguay was bitter exile for Karl, who had built his career in comfortable European capitals. That an affair with a colleague’s secretary in the embassy in Brussels had gone publicly bad, and the only way to rehabilitate himself was a tour at the ends of the earth in a job beneath his dignity and rank. Karl despised Paraguay: its people, its weather, even the food. Felicity had loved the place from the moment she stepped off the plane. Karl thought she was punishing him with her enthusiasm. He was wrong. Around Paolo, everything was intense. The slightly oily taste of the mineral water was cut by a slice of lemon. The elderly waiter had the forbearance of a saint, as though he had a secret of great value and was biding his time before sharing it with the less fortunate. The crowd of early idlers at the walled and gated club seemed shipwrecked in luxury. The intense heat made sweat run in Felicity’s armpits and down her back. She felt free. The disaster in Brussels had allowed her to develop a form of intelligence she would not otherwise have known was in her. “I don’t think I’m ever going to sleep with you,” she told Paolo. He looked away. “I am disappointed. How could I not be? But you attract me in other ways. Your candor, principally. When I am away from you, I think about our conversations.” “Is all this generous understanding a tactic?” He thought for a moment before saying, “I suppose it is. At the same time, it’s true. Your candor brings out my own. I have a vision, Felicity.” “A vision of what?” “A man and a woman. Together their ages add up to a century of living, a hundred years of human experience. They are sexual creatures, curious and demanding. And strangely honest. Even if nothing happens between them, they exist in an element of beauty.” “I need to go.” “Of course you do. Shall I call you?” “No, let me call you.” That night, during dinner at the ambassador’s residence, Felicity was not looking to make trouble. The guest of honor was in town to lecture on intellectual property rights. Dr. Thaddeus Milton from the University of Nebraska in Lincoln wore a bow tie and blazer, and his bald head shone under the electric candelabra. Under the influence of his topic he inflated like a pink balloon. “Telling the Paraguayans they need to buy their software from Microsoft,” Felicity said as the thought occurred to her. “Isn’t that like telling slaves in the American south they needed to respect the social contract?” It was no big deal. This was Nora Wilkerson’s first time out as ambassador, but she knew how to pilot a ship clear of rocky shoals. There was no need for Karl to feel mortified, but on the drive home he was miserable. “Do you try to humiliate me, Fil, or does it come naturally?” “If Professor Bow-Tie can’t answer a question like that he has no business being here.” CRR │ 2
“I guess you need to go on punishing me for what happened with Liana. I can’t change that, can I? Not what happened, and not what it’s done to you.” She would have liked to tell him how his fling had freed her but knew from experience he would hear only one more attempt to torture him. At home, Almudena opened the gate for them and Karl parked in the garage. Possibly there were tears in his eyes when he took the key from the ignition. Felicity put a hand on his. “Let’s go for a swim.” “Are you crazy? It’s eleven o’clock. I have to be back at the embassy by seven.” “What’s the point of being here if we don’t enjoy it?” In fact she loved the house. It was what the embassy called representational housing, meaning splendid enough to entertain people the U.S. government was trying to influence. The patio was a garden of tropical delight. Behind the pool was a bank of jasmine that spread a floating carpet of sweet scent at night. It was more house than they needed, especially with the girls away at college. But it was there, it was theirs. Karl’s unwillingness to enjoy the place frustrated her. In the kitchen she embraced him. He pulled away. “Almudena.” “She’s already gone to bed. I can hear her snoring.” “I’m tired, Felicity.” Since Brussels, their lovemaking had been complicated. After the shock, she had forgiven him. The decision to stay married was easy. The pain of betrayal was a knife, but what it cut through was dead skin. Liana’s wonderful waggling ass was beside the point. She pulled her husband by the hand outdoors to the pool. She stripped him first, then herself. She dove into the pool. After a moment’s grumbling, Karl dove in, too. They swam, they climbed out, they made love in the grass. Felicity felt wise but did not know how to give him what she knew. “You like this,” Karl said. He sat up, swatted a mosquito, and lit a cigarette. He only smoked under stress, never more than half a pack in a day. He looked like a foreign service officer, cautious and introverted; the burden of ambition was heavier than he had expected it to be. Bliss did not figure in his equations. “Our house? This starry night? Making love with my husband? Yes, yes, and yes.” “I mean being in charge.” She was about to deny that she was in charge but stopped herself. “You were in charge for a lot of years, Karl.” “I guess you’re right.” “Last night I dreamed about the orchard.” Any psychic apple orchard she found herself in had something to do with Huber Farms in Middleport, New York. Karl had been valedictorian at Roy-Hart High School before leaving for Princeton. No one expected him to take over the family business. He was destined for something grander than apples. “I need to get some sleep, Fil.” “I remember the date. October seventeenth. It was dark and cold, and all you could smell was apples. I can’t think of a better place to lose your virginity.” “Do we have to talk about this?” “In the dream, I had this strange sort of mixed feeling. On the one hand I was dying to make love, really craving it. But at the same time I felt a great sense of contentment. More than contentment, it was… I don’t know what it was. But I think the dream means you’re supposed to CRR │ 3
be happy in your desire. Learn to love the itch you can’t quite scratch. Does that make sense?” She was being as generous as she knew how to be. She was letting him in. But he didn’t want in, or didn’t know how to go through the door. He stood up, patted her head as though she were a child, and went in the house to sleep. She took notes at the kitchen table, watched by a cockroach. She felt like a queen, rich enough to bestow diamonds on her favorites. Despite their difficulties her husband was one of her favorites, but he closed his eyes to the sparkle of the jewels she held in her hand. When she noticed the cockroach out of the corner of her eye she threw her pencil at it but missed. * The reedy woman on the porch of the white house on Blankenberg Street in Middleport suffered from macular degeneration, but she recognized Felicity from her stride as she opened the gate and came up the walk. “My Lord, what are you doing here? What’s wrong?” When Felicity kissed her, the familiar lilac smell took her thirty years back. “Nothing, Mom. I wanted to see you, that’s all.” “Where’s Karl?” “He couldn’t get away from work.” Felicity had tried hard to get him to take a few days’ leave and come with her. No luck. Eileen Mueller moved over, and Felicity sat next to her on the porch swing, their thighs pleasantly warm against each other. It was October. After Asunción, the crisp, windy cold was an assault: on her skin, her memory, her sense of herself. Three ears of Indian corn hung on the storm door. Pumpkins were arranged in a row on the steps. Down the street someone was burning wood, and the smoke smell made her realize it was true, everything that ever happened to her was inside her, packed into a ball denser than steel. “Do the girls know you’re here?” “I’ll call them tonight.” “They’re good children. You trained them well. Maddie calls me every Tuesday, and Rebecca calls on Saturday evening at seven, before she goes out to her parties.” “Are you canning?” “Some. My eyes won’t let me do much.” So she settled in and canned vegetables with her mother. Growing up, she had hated the work. It was different now. Every sealed jar was a rescue from rot and satisfied her deeply. She was sleeping, dreamless, in the room she had slept in until she married Karl. The third morning home she asked about his father. “Thomas doesn’t go to church so much as he used to. Our paths seldom cross. But he’s still working the farm.” “I want to go see him.” “Is something wrong between you and Karl?” Felicity had kept her husband’s affair private, apart from the Brussels embassy, where everyone seemed to know about it before she did. She told her mother, “He got himself involved with a woman in Belgium. It’s over.” “Is it?” She was relieved that her mother did not seem surprised, or scandalized, and seemed to understand that Felicity could not bear much sympathy. The daughter kissed the mother’s CRR │ 4
clouded eyes. That afternoon Felicity drove her rented Corolla out to Huber Farms. The green-shingled farmhouse had shrunk. So had the barns, and the fields. The orchard had shrunk most of all. The smallness disconcerted her, as though someone were playing a trick on her. But as she wandered the fragrant rows, dry grass swishing at her legs, she surrendered to her memory of the place. There were still apples on the trees, which stood in rows like an army of eccentric uncles. Overhead, big-bellied clouds scraped the flat sky. Turning a corner, she startled six crows, and they rose jeering. At the next turn she ran into her father-in-law lugging a bushel basket of apples. Thomas Huber was eighty, erect and angular with a bluff red face and blue eyes that had always seemed, when she was younger, to be scanning her for flaws. “Hello, Vati,” she said, and he surprised her by pulling her to his chest and holding fast. He smelled like his orchard. “Karl couldn’t come,” she told him. The embassy was gearing up for a DAS visit. Deputy assistant secretaries seldom made the trip to Asunción, and this visit was important to Karl for another reason. Philip Riedenhour had messed up spectacularly in Prague. One night at eleven o’clock the marine on duty opened the door to the economic section and found Riedenhour on the carpet underneath his own secretary. The marine had no choice but to include the incident in his log. Yanked from the post, Riedenhour had performed acts of bureaucratic penance with cunning patience. Now, four years later, he was back strong. He would have a say in where Karl went next and presumably would not hold his Brussels lapse against him. Thomas handed Felicity a Northern Spy from his basket. Why did she feel guilty, biting into it? “I don’t like this business of traveling alone,” he told her. “Man and wife should travel together.” “You know Karl. Work comes first.” The old man shook his head. “Come to the kitchen,” he told her in the Low German she thought she had forgotten. She took his arm and they walked to the house. They sat at the kitchen table as he boiled water for tea. She remembered the flecked pattern in the formica top, the decorative blue rim that ran around it. Thomas folded his hands and studied her for a long time. “I’m old,” he said. “Yes, you’re old old, Vati.” “These days, I say what I want.” “What do you want to say?” “I’m worried you won’t take care of Karl any more.” “I don’t understand.” “Everybody believed Karl was a star. A man born to win great contests, and strong.” He was speaking in German, but she had no difficulty following him. “He is intelligent, and a little vain, but strong he is not. I knew it, I always knew. I used to worry you would leave him. Are you leaving him now?” Before Brussels, she would have felt obligated to reassure him. Now she told him, “I don’t know.” He nodded slowly and poured steaming tea into a porcelain cup for her. He set the sugar bowl where she could reach it, took a spoon from the drawer and slid it across the table to her. CRR │ 5
“Whatever my son has done, I think he has probably paid the cost.” It sounded like the judgment of God, delivered in His own compassionate voice. It was time to go back to Paraguay. * Colonel Duncan Phelps, the army attaché, and his wife Rita gave the best parties in the mission. They had been around Latin America for years. They spoke the language, got the culture, knew how to be comfortable. With symmetrically grayed temples and a soldier’s no-shit voice, Duncan was the local alpha dog. Felicity had watched her husband struggle to compete with the man. It was hard. Karl was a doughy fifty-year-old in a suit. His battles were conducted with telegrams and emails, or around meeting tables. But in the course of the year they worked together he had won Duncan’s respect, and Karl looked forward to the Phelps’ parties. “In Honduras we called it the H factor,” Duncan was saying. “The Contras were bad, but they couldn’t hold a candle to the Hondos. Anything you planned you had to take the H factor into account. You knew out of the gate they were going to screw your operation up.” He and Rita had invited five couples for steaks and speckled sunshine under their thatched quincho. Lucho, a short, bald man who worked the embassy party circuit, was grilling the meat, serving drinks, orchestrating the meal plan of attack with the woman who worked in the Phelps kitchen. “So I guess now we’re dealing with the P factor,” said Karl. That opened the door to a bitch session that stunned Felicity, it was so virulent. No one liked Paraguay or the Paraguayans, and they all piled on. The country was hopeless, and hopelessly corrupt. The economy was primitive, the infrastructure a shambles, the people maddeningly passive. As Lucho handed her a gin and tonic, Felicity rummaged in her purse for her notebook. “Did I tell you? I’m writing a book.” “Fiction or non-fiction?” Rita Phelps asked. Felicity admired Rita. She left her hair gray, which Felicity took as a sign of interior confidence. She’d figured out what it took to be the wife of an army officer years ago and gave the job the time it needed. But she had a separate life that fed a passion, volunteering long days at an Asunción orphanage. “Non-fiction. It’s called The New Colonialists.” Karl winced as she said it, and Felicity felt bad for him. These days he seemed to expect her to embarrass him. She could not make him understand the urgency that forced her to say out loud what she thought and saw. “It’s like being in a Merchant-Ivory movie.” She waited for Karl to tell her to stop, but he was too proud to let his dismay show. When all she saw was blank looks, she explained. “You know, a period piece: a bunch of British expats sitting around their club griping about the natives. The natives, in the meantime, are waving feather fans to cool the air.” Singlehandedly she turned the tide of the conversation. The discussion she provoked was stimulating even if no one was willing to admit she might be right. It was unreasonable, an overreaction, for Karl to do what he did when he got home. He sent Almudena away – mission employees gossiped ferociously – took his suits and toothbrush and razor and moved into Maddie’s room. He closed the door. It stayed closed. The next morning he was gone when CRR │ 6
Felicity came downstairs. She was glad she was alone that morning when the bag of Chilean apples showed up. A barefoot boy with a burn scar on his arm stood at the gate looking expectant until she remembered she should tip him. There was no note, but the apples had to be from Paolo. She had tried to explain to him what she felt, standing in the Huber orchard. This was his way of saying he understood. That night Karl came home late, ate alone in the kitchen, then retreated to Maddie’s room. Felicity read A Passage to India, taking notes. The next two nights were the same. When Paolo called her the following morning she had forgotten the sound of his voice. “Let’s get out of town.” “What do you mean?” “Tomorrow. Are you free? A friend of mine owns a ranch. It’s not far.” That night she knocked on Maddie’s door. When he opened it, she tried to talk to Karl about her notebook. “You think I haven’t seen you scribbling away like Sylvia Plath?” She handed it to him. “Read it. I want you to see I’m not hiding anything.” “I don’t want to read it, Felicity.” Before he closed the door she saw papers spread across the bed, and an open laptop. He was working. Another man would have a television in there, or a radio. Karl worked. “Here is my thinking,” Paolo explained when he picked her up the next day. “We never have more than an hour together. Why not see what happens when we have a whole day?” An embassy person would have complained about the drive out of Asunción. The traffic was chaotic, the roads a mess. The third goddamn, messed up, nothing-ever-works world, Karl liked to call it. The dust coated, the heat baked. Paolo didn’t seem to mind, or maybe he didn’t notice, and forty five minutes later they were out of it. The fields were green and shining. The oxcarts were picturesque. Felicity was curious about herself and what she wanted. She had an open mind. Something was bothering Paolo, though. “You seem sad.” He shook his head. That meant it had to do with his wife, their off-limits subject. “Go ahead, tell me.” “I have just had a very tender telephone conversation with Helenice. Last night.” “Why does that make you sad?” “My contract is up for renewal. I am invited to stay another year. Helenice would like me to return to Rio.” “What will you do?” “Go home, of course. She is my wife.” “So it’s now or never?” “I’m sorry?” “If something is going to happen between you and me, it has to be now. Today.” “Would you rather I had lied?” “I would rather you told me something about yourself that I don’t know. Something I couldn’t guess.” “My surname, Dos Santos. It means ‘from the saints.’ It is the name the nuns give babies who are born bastards.” “Were you?” “I suffer from, how do you say this in English? Snobbery in reverse. I believe I must be CRR │ 7
proud of my origin.” He was not defiant, just curious about himself in the new way that Felicity was learning to be. In her condition of heightened awareness it was important to be precise. She had no word for the feeling that surged in her. There was something sexual in it, something affectionate. It had a clarifying effect. “I just figured something out.” “What is that?” “All these notes I’ve been taking, the things I’m seeing. They have to do with power. Who has it, and who doesn’t. How it makes people behave.” You like being in charge, Karl had said. But that was not quite right. She liked seeing how things worked, she liked understanding. But she did not care to be in charge of anyone, not even her own wayward self. The ranch that belonged to Paolo’s friend was an oasis of quiet prosperity. Everything was well cared for: the barns and the beautiful horses that lived in them, the fields, the low, sprawling adobe house with a porch on three sides. The rifles in their racks, the antique maps framed on the study walls, the copper-bottomed pots in the kitchen. “Arturo is a particular fellow,” Paolo explained. It sounded like an apology. Eusebio, the caretaker, showed them around. He had bright black eyes in an old face and dragged a withered foot when he walked. His wife Borgonia was a lump of black who looked even older. She did not speak as she served them lunch. Felicity thought she must disapprove of the tryst she was forced to play a bit part in. Paolo did not agree. “We are foreigners. She does not know what to make of us.” He was unlike himself, nervous and abstracted, as though his mind were somewhere else. When Borgonia cleared the table he peered at the smudge on a wine glass. “Everyone here will sleep the siesta. Shall we lie down, too?” Felicity followed him down a long hall to a guest room where the bed was freshly made up. To shield the room from the heat and the intense light, the heavy purple curtains were drawn. The furniture was heavy, too, like pieces from a Spanish castle. On a nightstand, a single blue rose was painted on a white porcelain ewer. Overhead, a fan agitated the warm air. Everything spoke eloquent non-words to her as though trying to convince her just how real they were, how right in their solid selves. “I need to take some notes,” she told Paolo. “Of course.” He unbuttoned his shirt, took off his shoes, turned down the coverlet and lay on his back in the big bed. She sat in a high-backed chair that was covered with stiff maroon embroidery, opened her notebook, and did not write. “I won’t make love with you, Paolo,” she told him. He sat up. His surprise surprised her; she wondered if she should be disappointed. “At least come lie by my side.” She did. And she allowed him to fold her into a comfortable embrace. “I have three reasons.” He kissed her neck. “First, adultery comes from a word that means to weaken. I looked it up.” He slipped his hand into her blouse and tugged gently on the bra strap. She felt an overpowering calm that was like the feeling in her apple orchard dream. “Second, it’s obvious, I’m still hurt because my husband cheated on me. It’s called being on CRR │ 8
the rebound.” His hand stopped tugging. “And the third reason?” "A fifty-year-old woman who has been married forever wants to be found attractive.” His groan was theatrical. “You are attractive. My God, you are an attractive woman, Felicity.” When she sat up, his hand brushed her breast, caught in her blouse, and a button popped. “That’s as honest as I can get. Now you tell me something honest.” “My vanity is wounded. It is bleeding, a little. A fifty-year-old man, married or not married, wishes to be found irresistible.” “That’s not enough.” “I think Helenice has become interested in another man.” “Did she say she is?” “It’s what she didn’t say, and the way she didn’t say it.” “Let’s go back to Asunción.” Because it felt like an elegy, she allowed him to hold and kiss her breasts, but she felt an odd detachment as he touched her. She was already distancing herself from him, and he knew it. The drive back to the city was the longest goodbye she ever said. She felt a moment of panic when Paolo dropped her in front of the house, as though she had made a mistake she could never fix. All the houses in her neighborhood had high walls, and the sandy street was empty. She kissed him deliberately on the lips. But he could not bear her tenderness, and their leavetaking was jagged. She showered for a long time and felt fresh when Karl came home from work. She tried to kiss him, but he pushed her away. “Okay, Fil, here’s the plan.” “The plan for what?” “You go back to Middleport. Stay with your mother until you figure out what you want to do and where you want to go. We don’t have to tell the girls anything, for now.” He was more than brisk, he was cold. She imagined him behind a desk informing an employee her performance was not up to speed, she was being let go. In such situations he would think bluntness was kindness. “This doesn’t have to happen. You were the one who strayed, not me.” He nodded. “And I accept my responsibility for the whole frigging mess. But it’s not working. I don’t think it can work any more.” “Let’s eat something.” But he didn’t want to eat, he wanted to pack. He was, in fact, a packing genius. Unlike most foreign service husbands, he did not shirk the pack-outs between posts, pleading work at the office to avoid the hassle of fitting a household into boxes. Karl was the most expert organizer and filler of suitcases on the planet. She had learned to let him handle the moves, he was so good at it. She watched him lay two large suitcases on the bed and begin meticulously folding and arranging her clothes. He was a marvel of efficiency. She sat in a chair not knowing what she wanted to say except no. It took him a long time. When he was through she asked him, “Would you like some dinner?” He shook his head. She had never seen him this cold before. When he got angry, he could be cool, and hurtful, and bitter. He could be spiteful, and full of scorn. This was different. It was as though he had plunged into ice and frozen instantly in a position of flailing torment. She was afraid it would be a permanent distortion. She wished his father could see him now, this strong. CRR │ 9
“Where are you going?” she asked him when he turned and left the bedroom. “Out?” “Out where?” He thought for a moment. “For a walk.” She waited until she was sure he wasn’t looking back, then shadowed him. She kept her distance. He seemed to know where he wanted to go, though how could he? This was Asunción. There was nowhere for a man like him to go. Half an hour later, it felt like a dream except she was sweating hard in the wet evening heat. You didn’t sweat like that in a dream. Karl reached a corner and stood under a big lapacho tree looking left and right. He chose left. When she reached the tree herself he was halfway down the block of Calle Migliorisi onto which he’d turned. He had stopped walking. He was looking at a man in the street, in a hat with a tattered brim, who was lashing a dun-colored horse. The horse stood in the traces of a homemade cart on tractor wheels, and it quivered and started every time the quirt touched its flesh. On the seat in the cart a long-haired girl in jeans and a yellow blouse held the reins. She was crying. She must be pleading with the man to stop. By the time Felicity got close enough to hear anything, Karl was screaming at the man. His Spanish was mediocre, and he kept throwing in French and Polish and Italian words, along with sounds that were word-like but had no meaning. Amazed more than offended, the man lowered the quirt and turned to face the unusual stranger who was berating him in a language he did not know. The girl was crying more quietly, stopping to gulp in air. The horse’s flanks and back were bleeding, and big green flies settled to taste the wounds. The horse’s owner signaled with a gesture that he was ready to acknowledge his fault. It did not seem likely that he would lash the animal again, at least not in the stranger’s presence and maybe not after that. He was intently aware of something in Karl that had made him stop in the first place. Karl’s face was red. Sweat-drenched, his white shirt clung to his back. He had found his voice. The only trouble was that it came out in such a twisted jumble, no one understood him. Not Felicity, either, although she tried. Transfixed, the man who owned the horse stood there and took it, punishment received for punishment inflicted. He did not move until Karl quit shouting, and that was a long time. When Karl did finally stop, the girl on the cart kept sniffling. Whatever had happened, however it had begun, it was not yet over for her. Without a word, the man handed the quirt to the girl, climbed up next to her, and took the reins. He clucked softly, and the bleeding horse heard something in the sound that prodded it to move. Karl watched them disappear around a corner before he realized Felicity was there. “I told him.” “Yes, you did.” “I told him it was wrong.” She put her arm through his. “Let’s go have our dinner.” He looked at her, puzzled. He was having a hard time making out her words, as though his own rush of them were still roaring through him, drowning out all other sound. “Food,” she said. He nodded. He got it. They were walking. When the time was right, it would be Karl who took everything out from the suitcases he had just packed.
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Fox Hunt JILL WINSBY-FEIN They found her in the greenhouse, purple pleated pants hiked up to reveal nude stockings, white blouse buttoned to her neck, blood at the corner of her mouth and in her soft gray hair from where she had hit her head on the way down, tacky and brown. The radio was still on. A deepvoiced woman was reviewing the weather for the day. “Sunny skies, temperatures in the mid80s, falling to a low of 66 at night. We have a remarkably cloudless, windless week ahead of us, folks,” she was saying. They stood uncomfortably in the hot, small space, taking in the scene: the cracked earthenware pot, the spilled soil, the bare roots of an orchid, blossom dirty and ripped. The heat was suffocating and the body beginning to smell. Her scent mingled with the air, tinging the floral perfume with something dark and heavy. They looked briefly at each other, and then crossed the lawn and re-entered the house, leaving her there, alone in the damp of the glass tomb. They used her phone to call the funeral home, and while they waited for the mortician, they made themselves tea in her small kitchen. They sat around the formica table, absently stirring in heaps of sugar, tapping the spoons against the chipped gold rims of the cups. Liza said something about it being weird to drink hot tea on such a warm day. Janice commented on the yellow wallpaper, how strange the pattern was. It showed a fox hunt, the men and women in red riding jackets, chasing a fox that was half the size of the horses. “Grandpa must have picked it,” Dan said. They sipped their tea. They thought of her in there, tending her plants, watering them, gently detaching brown leaves, listening to talk radio, breathing in deep the rich, green smell. They did not look at each other, but down at their tea cups, out the window, at the walls. “Honestly, it was a pretty good way to go,” Eddie said. They nodded. They thought of the moment, when her body had seized up, maybe her heart had given out, or maybe she had simply grown heavy, or perhaps light, and sunk into darkness, fragile bones folding as her muscles released and she fell to the ground to Morning Edition's exuberant introductory notes. They had come over because it was Sunday, and after church they always stopped by her house for tea and pie. The pie sat on the counter where it had been left to defrost. It was a Sara Lee key lime, unnaturally green, sagging in its tin. Dan found he was thinking of the pretty neighbor who lived next door. She had sleek brown hair and a pool in the shape of a lima bean, a blue gem sunk into the concrete. He had seen her from an upstairs window as she lay suspended on a pink float, bronze limbs dragging languidly in the water, sweat beading on her skin. He wondered if he would get to see her again. Liza was thinking about the movie she had been planning to see with her friends that evening, and if she would still be allowed to go. Eddie was worrying about the ten dollars he had stolen from Liza. Janice was thinking about her new boyfriend, a soccer player named Eliot, and sex. The more she thought about it, the more wrong it felt, and the more she could not stop thinking about it. The mother, Anne, was still thinking about her mother in the greenhouse. She was not crying, but she felt a tightness in her chest. She did not want to know how long her mother had been lying there. She got up and went to the refrigerator. She pulled out butter, eggs, mushrooms, spinach, CRR │ 11
garlic, and onions. She started chopping. The knife was dull. Her mother's knives were always dull, her cutting boards too small. She threw a pat of butter into the frying pan, watched it melt, tossed in the onions and garlic, let them soften. The mushrooms, then the spinach for a minute, and finally the eggs. She pushed them back and forth, glistening folds of yellow. The kitchen was filled with the smell of butter and garlic, the fast, loud sizzling, the scrape of the spatula in the pan. When it was finished, she turned off the stove and sat down, leaving the steaming eggs in the pan. Her children looked at her for a long minute as she looked out the window. The sounds that had filled the kitchen were gone, and the house felt somehow quieter than before. One by one, her children got up and took plates from the cupboard, served themselves from the pan, seasoned with salt and pepper, and sat back down at the table to eat. They ate in silence, save for the clink of forks on plates. When they were finished, Dan did the dishes. They all speculated briefly if the spinach had been grown in the greenhouse, leaves pinched by the grandmother's hands. Janice looked down at her own hands, folded tightly in her lap. They looked fat and suffocated, squeezed together like that. From her right she could hear the faint tapping of Liza texting under the table. To Liza's right, Eddie was looking out the window at the greenhouse sitting squatly in the backyard. Its windows were fogged. The sun fell with the afternoon, and the greenhouse looked like a bottle battered by the sea. Eddie looked across the table at his mother, and noted how her eyelashes had clumped with mascara. The mother looked at the wallpaper. She was fairly certain her father had not picked it. Maybe it had been the odd couple her parents had bought the house from. She remembered them only vaguely, a husband and wife in their early forties with nervous eyes and no children. She wondered where they had gone. She thought of all the meals that had been prepared in this kitchen, the arguments and quiet moments, how tight and supple her parents' skin when they first cooked here, the faint splatter of red beside the fridge from a pot of spaghetti sauce she had dropped at age eleven, the way her first boyfriend had placed his sweating hand above her head on one of the many wallpaper foxes as he leaned in to kiss her, the dent from her father's foot colliding with the wall, the passing of countless days and nights, sun and moon bleeding through the window, her mother standing in the kitchen, white blouse and yellow wallpaper, unwrapping the pale green Sara Lee and placing it on the counter, the lifeless form in the moist air of the greenhouse, red coats perched on velvet flanks, a ceaseless canter across dewy grass and downy forest, hounds like waves in the rolling canon of a chase, and the fox, plush and small on padded feet, a darting orange arrow careening through trees and brush, a fleeting and eternal thing in the waning evening light.
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My Favorite Words in Spanish NICOLAS POYNTER
I have forgotten my real name. At least that is what I told everyone in Lima. Everyone calls me Pancho now. And, poco a poco, I am forgetting English too. Pecho. It means chest in Spanish. Whenever she sees me grab mine, as we make our way along the trail, as we make our way into the sky, she gives me the coca tea. I ask her again how high we are, but my mind has long lost the ability to do the conversion math, meters to feet. She only smiles, puts a cup in my hands, gives me a thumbs up. Her skin is a shade of red and brown and gold that I have never seen before, that perhaps does not exist anywhere else but on her. Sonrisa. The spike-like peaks and the wind and then, of course, the unforgiving horror of gravity test my nerve, make me all too aware of the fragility of bones and blood, bringing death so close that I am becoming more and more aware of the fact that I am actually still alive, as if my beating heart was some old memento that I have found in the couch cushions years after I have stopped looking for it. But I am not afraid. The tea is the antidote for that. She always smiles after giving me the tea. She knows about the tea. Arriba, arriba. Like mules. Will I die here? Si Dios quiere. Dios. We are getting closer all the time, closer to God, closer to the top, closer to each other. On the third night she only prepares one tent. She says she’s in love. Te quiero, Pancho. Te quiero mucho, mucho, mucho. I think she means all of it, not just me. The Earth, the life, all of it, and me too. I don’t think these things can be separated anymore, and it is so impossible to think that it will all continue without me one day. Te quiero mucho. I believe her. She offers up pieces of herself, one piece at a time, for me to burn into my mind forever. Mi lunar, she tells me, and she rolls over to show me the birth mark on her back. Mi lunar. A thing that she has never seen herself, a thing in the shape of a country. I stare at it until I’m sure, sure that I have it. Because I know what she knows—that someone, somewhere has gotten it all backwards, that life is the real heaven, but only for a moment.
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Smooth ROD SIINO Dave’s wife was a lip balm addict. She stashed it everywhere: the car, her two purses, and in each of her coats. Cindy used all the brands she could find, without loyalty to any one: Blistex, Chap Stick, Carmex, Vaseline Lip Therapy, what have you. She employed an evenhanded, unscientific approach to selecting which stick to apply: closest one to her lips wins. Flavors were many. There were the basic fruits like Super Cherry and Lunar Lime. The sweets like Gum Ball Galaxy. Those named after famous people: Shaq-a-licious Surprise and J. Lo-Co-conut. And combinations like Very Berry Katy Perry and Jackie O-range Diamond. Some had an SPF of 45, but that was gravy. She made Dave carry one with him in his front pants pocket, just in case she forgot hers. It was a strange thing to Dave—that Cindy sometimes forgot the thing she most needed. But he found it sweet that she relied on him in this small way, especially after his career had veered into a ditch. He needed that vote of confidence. Dave had an advanced degree in economics. He’d been a star at school and at work. That people had once listened to his ideas was a badge of honor he’d worn with the pride reserved for the greatest of achievements. He could picture himself, and he often did, in a victory lap around the inner perimeter of an open air stadium filled to capacity, adoration being foisted upon him. This was a thing that could not be matched by any remuneration. For Dave, it was never about the money. But then he’d lost his job at the strategy firm, which had shut down under the shadow of a billing scandal. The events had left his C.V. with stains he couldn’t scrub off, and his ambition dormant. A comparable job recognition-wise was out of the question. Headhunters wouldn’t touch him. He finally settled for a job down at the docks gutting fish, figuring that doing so would be incentive not to remain inert. Problem was he was starting to like it—the repetition, and the certainty of how he measured his daily success. Cindy worked full time. She had a four-year business degree and a secure job in software development. At night, she kept lip balm under her pillow, like a tooth for the tooth fairy. Dave tried it himself once, without telling her, just before they’d gone to bed. He wanted to understand and for about a minute he thought he did. His coated lips felt impervious to the summer heat. He believed, at least for the short time he’d rubbed his upper and lower lips together, that he was protected. He lay there naked on his back watching the ceiling fan overhead until Cindy came to bed. Their lovemaking that night lasted for hours, each of them finally falling away from the other in sweaty exhaustion. He fell asleep believing that things were on an upswing. I feel better, he thought. But at three a.m., when Cindy couldn’t find the lip balm under her pillow, she turned all the lights on in the bedroom. Frantic. She shook Dave awake, demanded he help her find it. The thing must have rolled off the nightstand, he said, where he’d put it while they were rolling around. But they never found it, as if their lovemaking had removed it from existence. * She left Dave later the same year he lost his job. This was during a September when it rained a lot, and the rest of the fall would be much the same. On the day he moved into his new place, CRR │ 14
his landlord helped him with the furniture. They carried a wooden library table up a long flight of stairs, around a sharp bend onto a landing and into his kitchen, placing it in the corner. It was big, oak, rectangular, with one drawer filled with something that rolled around every time he and his landlord repositioned it. He'd found the table with Cindy years before, second hand. She said they should buy it and refinish it. They’d be doing something together, she said, and it made her feel good. It would be a symbol of strength and longevity in their relationship. After Dave’s friend Richie lent them his truck to bring home the table, Dave and Cindy spent four days sanding the thing, making sure to rub out every bit of its previous finish. They coated it with a reddish-brown stain, and then used three coats of glossy polyurethane to complete the job. The new surface gleamed. He liked to rub his hand over it, to feel its smooth surface and the newness of what they’d done together. * During that last summer Dave and Cindy were together, they would lay in bed naked and sweating beneath the whirring fan. When the wind was right, the fan cooled them with fresh air off Narragansett Bay. Most days, though, the stagnant air hung over the town, wrapped it up so tight that no matter where you were in town you couldn't breathe without smelling the daily catch from the docks where Dave worked. “Hey, you,” she said, reaching for her lip balm. As she applied it, she rolled over, her head on his chest, and looked up at the ceiling. “Let’s play `Do You Think.’” She rolled over again, her dark hair falling onto her shoulders. She was on top of him now, smiling. She put the stick under her pillow. “Do you want to play?” “What?” “Where are you anymore?” “What do you mean?” Dave said. “I don’t know. You just aren’t here sometimes.” She straddled him, her hair falling off her shoulders and her breasts rubbing against his chest. She put her hands on his collar bones, gently, slowly moving toward his exposed throat. “Do you want to play or not?” she said, her shining lips so close to his he could smell the lip balm: Calypso Punch. She backed away her hands, pushed down hard on his chest and then shook him. “I just want to feel better,” he said. “This will help,” she said, straightening up. “Okay, okay, I give.” “You start.” “No, you start,” he said. He couldn’t think of any questions. “Okay, then. Me first.” Cindy thought for a moment. “Do you think we’ll have any children?” They’d met five years before and had been together since. She told him then that they’d be with each other always because he understood her needs and that she always admired a man who knew interesting things—things you could talk about at dinner parties with Dave’s co-workers who were important enough to have catered affairs, serving food prepared by the best local chefs. Sometimes Dave’s work even brought in a chef from Boston, like Todd English, to do the cooking. Those were the nights, Dave thought, when he most tangibly felt his success—eating the food of kings. It was said by several of Dave’s now-former executives that before Dave’s time at the firm, Julia Child had served French cuisine one evening. At the dinner party where Dave and Cindy had first heard the story, told with the greatest of reverie, they’d passed a CRR │ 15
satisfied glance to each other. The lovemaking that followed later that evening had, to Dave, validated everything he’d done to that point in his thirty years on earth. Dave looked at her mouth now as she spoke. He thought about how her smile had attracted him to her in the beginning. How her lips looked just after she'd rubbed her tongue over them. Soft, silky smooth, and a shade of pinkish red. He thought about how his current career trajectory no longer fit with Cindy’s desire for important people and dinner parties. “Your turn.” “Right. Okay. What was yours?” She was getting pissed. “Do you think we’ll have any children?” she said again. “Do you think we’ll live until we’re eighty?” he said. “Do you think Elvis will be elected President?” “Do you think Richie’s cute?” “Do you think I belong in a nunnery?” * Dave had counted 15 places where Cindy had stored her supply of lip balm, including one on the shower shelf next to his razor blades. She’d found this one at Banana Republic next to a sock display: Peach Peridot Almond. She’d gone there to buy him socks for a job interview. He’d needed those socks the next day when he was scheduled to speak with a company about selling their business equipment and supplies. The guy on the phone practically guaranteed Dave the job. “Just come in tomorrow,” he’d said, “and talk to Jack. Jack will love you. I know what Jack likes and you sound like what Jack likes.” Cindy forgot the socks but remembered the balm. Dave’s smart new suit and shiny polished black shoes couldn’t overcome very old socks with holes in them. On the walk over to the interview, the pain from the backs of his heals rubbing against the insides of his shoes pissed him off to distraction. This and the oppressive summer air clouded his ability to form coherent thoughts. Not surprisingly, the interview went badly. Rain fell hard later that afternoon while he walked home, defeated, his clothes soaked through to his skin. He looked up and squinted, as if by doing so he might see between the raindrops and the thick cloud cover all the way into the blue sky and beyond. He imagined himself just above the clouds carried by the wind, skipping along the tops, feeling them soft and smooth. As he floated, lighter than air, he saw himself slowly blending in with the sky so that all the molecules of his body would scatter, and as the warming sunlight hit them just before dusk, they’d cause the clouds to evaporate and radiate colors so striking they’d bring people to their knees, crying with joy. He couldn’t carry the elation all the way home, though. He found Cindy in bed, waiting, but the sex lasted just a few minutes as the rain hitting the roof caused Dave to lose focus and think only about it breaking through and flooding their bedroom. He imagined them being carried out the window, down the street and into the Bay, all the while holding onto each other tightly as they floated farther and farther away from here. He rolled off her, and silently lay beside her listening for the rain to ease up. “Hey,” he said, finally. He left the lights off. “What.” “Do you want to hear about today?” “How’d it go?” CRR │ 16
“Oh, I didn’t mean the interview. That was a disaster.” He told her about his vision, the one where he floated above the clouds. He could feel himself getting excited as he explained it, painting her a vivid picture of what he was now calling “his revelation.” “Can you see it?” he said, when she wasn’t responding. “Cindy?” He turned on the light now, but somehow she’d slipped out of the dark room as he’d been talking. There was no lip balm under her pillow. * They weren’t close anymore. They’d make love, but he’d feel only that they were together, again, in the same bed where she hid a stick of lip balm, and nothing more. Her lips stayed soft, and varied in taste and smell, but nothing could change the feeling that the two of them had gone flat. “We need to spice things up. Do you think we could?” She said this one night after he’d finished a bowl of cereal. He'd gotten home just a half hour before from ten hours out in the sun. His boss said he’d seemed off that day. Like he wasn’t interested in his job anymore. “What do you mean?” he said to Cindy’s comment about spicing things up. “It’s just that I’m getting to a point.” “A point,” he said. “What point is that?” “Well, you know, people are always getting to points in their lives. I just think that we’ve gotten to one.” “So it’s both of us, is it?” “I just want us to love each other the same way we always did, is all. Do you think that’s asking too much?” “I’m tired,” he said. “Do you think we could talk about this another time?” * “Dave?” “What?” “Do you think that Richie would do it with me and you together?” She was next to him in bed, her left arm draped over his chest, her left hand clutching Ruby Red Surprise. The air in the room was limp, containing none of the vibrancy of times before. Just a sheet covered them both, and his feet stuck out the end so that his heels rubbed along the footboard. He didn’t wear socks. “What did you say?” he said. But he’d heard her. He felt his heart pound harder in his chest. He bent his knees so that the arches of his feet could rub along the footboard. “Do you...” “Richie’s game for anything,” Dave said. “But I don’t think I could--you know--participate.” Cindy turned away, onto her back, disappointed, and stared at the ceiling. She licked her lips, and then, without looking back at him, she said, “Would you watch?” * Heavy rain battered the sidewalk and trees outside Dave’s new apartment. He sat at the library table, his landlord standing next to him looking out a window. Dave couldn’t get CRR │ 17
comfortable. There was all this oaky, grainy space in front of him. He ran his hands over its surface: smooth, like silk, just as it always had been since he and Cindy had worked on it. He had positioned the table in the only spot it could fit, just below a small window, the one his landlord looked out now. He wondered how he’d gotten himself to a point where he was alone and worked five days a week at the docks. This was not a possibility he’d imagined when he first bought this table with Cindy. “Got a great view of Narragansett Bay from this window,” his landlord said. He was old enough to be Dave’s father, but in great physical shape. He wore a dark blue tee-shirt, now with sweat stains from moving the furniture, his biceps bulging through the sleeves. He had more hair on his arms than Dave had ever seen on anyone. The hair was mostly black, with gray scattered throughout. “Do you know anything about gutting fish?” Dave asked, rubbing his own almost hairless right forearm. “I know they stink something fierce when it’s hot like it was this past summer,” his landlord said, continuing to look out the window. He folded his big arms, striking a Jack LaLanne pose, and nodded slowly. “I do know that.” Dave opened the table’s drawer and picked up a stick of Strawberry Garnet Glaze lip balm. It was one of about a dozen little-used sticks that had been rolling around in the wooden drawer while they moved it. “My wife,” he said, showing his landlord the stick. “She had the softest lips.” “They all do,” the landlord said, taking it and studying the writing on its label. He held it close to his nose and breathed deep and closed his eyes. A faint smile came over his face and then quickly disappeared as if it had never been there. He placed the stick on the table and looked at his new tenant, and then back out the window to the heavy rain. “What’s out here?” Dave asked. He removed the cap from the lip balm and held it close to his nose. “Everything. Town’s going to float away,” his landlord said. “Where is she now?” “You can probably see her out there if you look hard enough floating away.” “Yeah,” the landlord said, still looking out the window. “Sounds about right. They do that too, don’t they?” After the landlord had left, Dave removed all the lip balm from the drawer and lined them up on the table, as if they were standing at attention. He counted 14 in all. He would start with the Strawberry Garnet Glaze. One by one, he uncapped a stick, turned it so the balm poked out, and then applied it to his lips. First the upper and then the lower. He rubbed his lips together to spread it around more fully, making sure to coat the entire surface. He turned the stick again, exposing more of the balm and rubbed some into his forearms, onto his nose, his cheeks and his ears. When he ran out of a stick, he moved to the next one. He closed his eyes and used it on the lids, and then on his forehead. When he’d applied some on all the exposed areas, he took off his shirt and rubbed balm into his chest and his stomach. Then he went to a mirror in his bathroom and contorted himself into a pretzel as he applied the last of the balm onto his back. He placed the empty tubes back into the drawer where he’d found them and slid the drawer shut. The sound they made as they rolled around now was satisfyingly more hollow than before. He felt good. Shirtless and barefoot, he went outside to watch the rain. Water flowed down his street, pushing its way easily toward the Bay off in the distance. He put his feet in the warm current as it carried leaves and twigs and trash from the gutters, passed overflowing drainage grates as if they didn’t exist, forcing its way along a predetermined path away from here. The rain pelted his CRR │ 18
shoulders and chest, but he was impervious to its attack. Nothing could get through the balm’s protection. The nights with Cindy—the panicked moments when the balm could not be found— were now so clear, so obvious. How he could not have understood then what was so apparent now was laughable, unimaginable. He laughed out loud, at the skies, pouring down on him, drilling at him in vain, water bouncing off him and into the gutter. Nothing, he thought, could penetrate this protection, this impermeable coating. Then he thought another thought, this one so lucid he scared himself with the self assurance. It was as if his brain had been cleared of all residual input and what was left was one thing, a singular idea of such simple beauty tears began to fall down his cheeks. He hadn’t felt this way for a long time, since the days he was the superstar for his clients, when he’d speak and they seemed to agree with everything he said, sometimes responding by feeding his own ideas back to him in a way he found to be as satisfying as eating the perfect meal prepared by a chef of great renown—maybe, dare he even think it, Julia Child. And the thought was this: Let it in. So, he did. He peeled off the rest of his clothes, tossed them aside and looked up into the sky, naked, with arms reaching up. “Let it in!” he shouted. “I’m ready!” The rain fell too hard for him to see between the drops, as he’d tried to on the day of the failed job interview. As it fell even harder, he brought both hands to his face and with his fingernails scraped the balm off his forehead and cheeks. “Just let it in,” he said again, shaking his head as if this one statement was almost too obvious to be said aloud. And before he could take another breath he felt the drops begin to work their way through the first layer of his skin on his head. For a brief moment he felt an irrational fear, and began to move toward the shelter of his front door. But when it didn’t hurt, he stopped. “Wait,” he said aloud. And then he let it happen. Soon the rain drops penetrated all the way through so that his skin began to wash away, exposing his skull. Tissue mixed with blood dissolved away, washing down his body and into the gutter. Then he scraped away more and more balm from his shoulders and chest, his forearms and back. When all his skin had gone, slowly, painlessly, all of his bones, and his veins and all his organs dissolved completely into the rushing torrent. This wasn’t what he’d expected, this ending, far from skirting atop the clouds and flawless sunsets with people on their knees crying at the beauty they’d beheld—this was better. He felt perfect.
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Six-degree Freedom ROY BENTLEY Big black road, big black river, big black Heaven in the sky above… —Patti Scialfa, “Big Black Heaven” It’s 1965. We’re about a mile up, maybe more. The pilot is I.T. since his name is Ivan Taylor. I.T.’s decided I’m the son that he’ll never have. All summer, he’s been taking me up; letting me, just this week, fly. Steer the thing straight and level through a bright world above the world. Below, a checkerboard of corn- and beanfields: a white-striped snake of two-lane I recognize as the shortcut past the Pure Oil refinery. I.T.’s got on those aviator Ray-Bans. He’s Johnny Unitas, in profile—cropped hair, one of those grief-chiseled, movie-star faces that you expect nothing, and everything, of. He’s telling me about six-degree freedom, holding forth about roll, pitch, yaw—whatever those are—and up and side. Which takes me somewhere I don’t want to be in the Cessna. He says, “Pay attention. This is backward,” and slows our forward momentum mid-air. __________ I.T.’s warming up, throwing first base to third, the shortstop catching whatever is left over. Coach Woody Hayes is at Ohio State, and so every pick-up game is war. Life and death. You know these guys—sixteen-seeming at thirty. At forty. The shortstop hurries a practice tag, reminding I.T. that he’s reminding himself to press. I know this guy, he thinks, staring into the ball diamond of I.T.’s Ray-Bans. Then—wham!—I.T.’s into the near-infield grass, one-kneeing what should have been easy. He’s gone down for. In the Hoback Park bleachers I.T.’s wife is beside me. Pat doesn’t like baseball, hard seats. A car radio plays a Buck Owens song. CRR │ 20
The song is about having a tiger by the tail. __________ I.T.’s from No Lie, Kentucky. South of, and between, Hell for Certain and Jenkins. A hillbilly, technically, because any hillbilly with college is like a man without a country. He’s been called briarhopper once or twice. In the air, we’re off course. Not by much but enough that I.T. touches the bent brim of his ballcap. Stares at the line of sunsetas-horizonline. He’s decided something isn’t where it was before, and we turn, the dials of the control panel beginning to blaze, greening in advancing dark. __________
From my side of the plane, I see a workedto-curving brim of ballcap, some lettering— everything there is to know about Ivan Taylor landing a Cessna. If Sundin’s Flight School had lighted runways I’d know this happened all the time, right-stuff pilots going farther out than one should on allotted fuel. I’d reconstruct an airstrip so lit up by a gas station’s signage that it should be no sweat. Piece of cake. If I could trace the line of athleticism from an infield pop fly I.T. bare-handed for the final inning’s side-retiring out, to this windscreen, I’d keep I.T.’s American cool like it was my birthright or a lucky silver dollar. I’d have the right-side profile of a man— all men who exhaust themselves and their allotment of luck in the service of—what?—you tell me. The most familiar place in the world is what we have to get back to, acres of wheat and alfalfa knotting the last of the light and Heath, Ohio. __________ I’m not thinking of the Wright Brothers when Pat hands I.T. his 30th birthday present. And I’m tired of the happy pictures of families sitting down to peaceful meals in the nineteen sixties. I’m weary of hearing how awfully good it was then. CRR │ 21
Maybe any part of the truth travels better, farther, than the whole truth. It’s just that Ivan Taylor pitching his unopened gift onto a sofa cushion isn’t anything I’ve seen before. This is the year it will come crashing down for both of them, the year I kill Pat’s oldest and favorite parakeet, lobbing the bird-as-baseball to Garry Bowling, a neighbor kid. Don’t ask me why I did that. Ask I.T. about winging that ribboned shirt box. __________
Here we are: downwind of—scared, you bet— and directly over the restaurant where Pat works. I can see the high schoolers cruising, rolling through the restaurant parking lot, circling, while sweating herds of Holstein cattle fill a flat quilt of fields before the airport. I.T. isn’t happy about any of this—his life going totally bust, having to put both hands on the lopped-off figure-eight of the wheel, bracing to take whatever comes. To his right, I await the usual touching-down cry of tires. He turns from what he’s doing to tell me something I can’t hear over the high whine of the Cessna’s throttling up. He looks back, hydraulic sighings and gear-grindings underfoot a kind of signal (must be) because he brakes. And hard enough to leave a ribbon of black to testify to the fact we’re down, and safe. We taxi to the hanger and I.T. flips the engine kill switch. We sit in a silence almost Biblical. He points in the direction of an almond of flame from the burning off of waste gases at the refinery. The light’s no big deal. What’s local never is. And then he says, That’s what I had to steer by as if letting a boy in on more than he should.
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Old News GABRIEL WELSCH How many years have I blackened my hands in April. How many years have I reached into the new ground and pulled from it that which would thrive chaotic were I not there to restore an order I found pleasing. Itâ€™s only the garden. I have to tell myself that lie, insistent. As though I want to deny history, the movement of the earth, the cycle that has made us all bow and break for its pattern. How many years have I sought to write about it, to explain dirt and time, to consider it anew, as if it is anything but ancient, as if what I observe is not some echo, or some bloom, easy in April, easy to open, as if it is easy to look at the sun at such an angle as not to burn.
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Planting Yarrow GABRIEL WELSCH And Achilles leaps foreground despite the resin, sage smell, feather. We share this moment thanks to the deer. Their tongues refuse this floraâ€™s fringe. In drought they hunger. In winter they fall. Gunshot, war wound, heels and hoofs dance distance. Dig for water, dig to break clay. A river waits under this world.
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Pruning EMILY PULFER-TERINO My family left the last few acres of our split-up farm untended; what grew grew wild and died. When my grandfather recalled to us the burgeoned apple trees, the corn, the bungalow for boarders, we were helpless in our lack of know-how. He told us how, in March, he thinned the fruit trees at the crown; watersprouts, whorls, shoots that crossed each other sheared above the bud, limbs with bugs or fireblight removed. New, dark apples gathered sun all summer, thickening on branches. At harvest, low hills splayed with aging corn, the sky with gawkish, southbound geese, he ordered hay in bales. That last fall when they visited, my grandmother sat in the kitchen, sick, skinny as a sapling, beaming over tea. Outside, he ruined all the apple trees, pruning out of season while we sat at the window, watching him remove the fruited branches.
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Reflection EMILY PULFER-TERINO My father dismantled the crabapple tree and said he had to leave. Everything had gotten out of hand. Spring, inclement days, the undertended yard yearned to outgrow itself. Even the house choked on its ordered contents. His need for change, our fear, that weather. But it was beautiful. My father left the flowered limbs around the trunk, under the treeâ€”as though it blossomed upside down, or the tree was reflected in ground; as though nothing really changed.
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Property Line EMILY PULFER-TERINO It wasn’t the old stone wall that cut our land in two, not the woods or that skinny, wild river that called us to the cold clay bank those first, thick August afternoons our father stayed away. We were kids; the end of our land, of the season, the end of our family still far from our minds. We wanted proof we’d been there, and we got it: warped bottles, bits of plate we’d dig up from the malleable ground. The river urged away. We’d bring our shattered findings to our mother and turn the orange earth into pinch-pots and people. She turned those pieces of eye-white china, veined with trees, with hills and cobalt farmers, under faucet water, clumps of clay slowing the drain.
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Footnote to a Footnote TRISH HOPKINSON Jacuzzis are holy. Garage door openers are holy. Back-up cameras and recycle bins—all holy. Putting the red flag up on the mailbox, waving at the elderly getting my toes wet with dew—holy, holy, holy. Keeping my eyelids open and trying to sleep like fish, signing my name with less letters and more scribbles, counting crows feet, counting yellow toenails, counting haircuts, counting plucked whiskers, counting constantly. Bookshelves are holy. Missing dust covers are holy, magicians and black and white T.V. shows, Penn Jillette theories and Andy Griffith justice, Uncle Walt songs and Ginsberg poems—holy, holy, holy. Drinking beer before noon, drinking liquor right after, drinking it warm (or on ice) with a friend (or not). Waking up drunk, waking up sober, waking up tired, waking up hungry, waking—always holy. Table wine is holy. Candle sticks are holy, dishwashers and cloth napkins, the folk art cricket made from wire and a railroad nail, rock salt from the salt flats in a salt cellar—holy, holy, holy. Opening an empty cedar chest to still moths and crumbs, staring at stretched cobwebs immersed in the sun, swallowing nests, swallowing nectar, swallowing chimes, swallowing saliva, swallows—always holy. Self-portraits are holy. Ceramic urns also are holy. Tape recorders and keyboards, drawing pads and gold-plated ball-point pens, calligraphy and stipple—holy, holy, holy. Unfolding a letter, unfolding a chair, unfolding into downward dog, from child’s pose, into corpse pose. Picking apricots, picking green grapes, picking out a husband, a shower curtain, CRR │ 28
selection—always holy. Twist-off caps, dresser drawers, remote controls, carpeted stairs, revolving doors, product recalls, keycodes, passwords, restaurant reservations, last-minute invitations, cell phones, voice recognition, land minds, and secrets—holy, holy word, holy water, holy book, holy soap boxes, bathtubs, soap dishes—holy, holy drains and draining, empty.
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Home Movies Jay Robinson Some nights they filmed themselves and called it pornography. The acting was amazing. A montage where she peeled an orange in one long, teasing curl, and the hairs of his forearms stood up like it was early morning in late October. They kept the movies on her hard drive. He titled them snuff films, including one in which she relit the pilot light on the oven, wore his flannel shirt, and said, Nothing makes me scream more than the thought of annotation. In most cases the plot advancements lacked proper context. Special effects involved a fruit fly on the lens, the sticker on an apple. Someday, he said, someone is going to watch these and write a PhD thesis in disappearing ink. CRR â”‚ 30
She didn’t say anything at all. She didn’t have to.
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A History TOM HOWARD when did the world begin / who killed the dinosaurs / can your face really stay that way / why does the moon follow you / what happens if you look at an eclipse / why do we dream / does it hurt to die / how do you build a catapult / how much does a cat weigh / what are parachutes made of / what is detention / is there really a hell / will there ever be a nuclear war / do dogs have souls / how tall should i be / what is a layoff / how far is florida from virginia / how do airplanes fly / what is custody / what does whiskey taste like / how old are you when you go through puberty / can you make yourself taller / how do you ask a girl on a date / should your lips be open or closed / what is second base / how do you fix a flat tire / what is the rhythm method / how do you solve a quadratic equation / how much is minimum wage / what is college like / how do you write a resume / does it hurt to have an abortion / do embryos dream / why does the moon follow you / how do you get a credit card / how much should you spend on an engagement ring / what is the weather in Jamaica / how do you get a passport / how many credit cards should you have / how much should a baby cry / what is postpartum depression / what mixes best with whiskey / how do you ask for a raise / how do you ask for forgiveness / what vaccinations do you need for kindergarten / how do you build a go-cart / what are mood disorders / how do you forgive someone / what is a summons / how much does a lawyer cost / how does custody work / where can you take classes at night / why did cordelia have to die / who is nabokov / where is vietnam / what is self-immolation / what was watergate / how many people are homeless / what was tiananmen square / how do you write a resume / how do you housetrain a dog / what is an advanced directive / when should you talk about sex / what is a normal cholesterol / how much do you need to retire / what is an adjustable mortgage / is shoplifting a misdemeanor / how do you solve a quadratic equation / how much is a tutor / what is a good first date / what does it mean when she calls you before she gets home / how far is paris / how much do nursing homes cost / what is stage four / what is hospice care / will it hurt to die / why do we bury people / how do you write a eulogy / what kind of tie should i wear / how do you get in shape / how much are private colleges / how often should you call when they’re gone / how safe are kids in college / where can you teach classes at night / how do you explain cordelia’s death / where can we take dancing lessons / what’s the perfect graduation gift / where should you stay in paris / can dogs have chemotherapy / what makes a dog happy / how cold will the winter be / how old is the world / why do we die / why does the moon follow you / how long can you love / does it hurt to dream / where shall we go next / why does the moon
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Contributor Notes Mark Jacobs has published more than 90 stories in magazines including The Atlantic, The Iowa Review, The Southern Humanities Review, The Idaho Review, and The Kenyon Review. He has stories forthcoming in several magazines including Playboy. His fifth book, a novel set in Turkey entitled Forty Wolves, came out in 2010. A former U.S. Foreign Service officer, he currently works for the State Department’s Office of Inspector General. Jill Winsby-Fein grew up in Milford, Delaware. She graduated from Warren Wilson College in 2013, where she studied creative writing and anthropology. She currently works as a dishwasher in Asheville, NC. Nicolas Poynter is finishing up his MFA at Oklahoma City University. His work has recently appeared in North American Review, Citron Review, Siren, Red Earth Review and is forthcoming in a few others. Additionally, he won the 2013 Vuong Short-Story Prize for Loma Prieta Blues, a story that will appear in the next edition of Florida English.” Rod Siino grew up in Rhode Island, and now lives in Massachusetts in a house surrounded by horse farms and trees. When he’s not writing or earning a living to support the writing addiction, he’s being held hostage by his 3-year old twins, Bennett and Maya, who are convinced the world and everyone in it are here to serve their every desire without delay. He is a co-founder of the late but soon to be relaunched literary magazine Night Train (in early 2014). He recently completed his first short story collection, Divorce and Other Arrangements, for which in his spare time between writing, working for a living and feeding the little hostage-takers he is seeking a publisher. His work has appeared in Ginosko, Fried Chicken and Coffee, Inkwell, The Providence Journal, and Zoetrope All-Story Extra, among others. Roy Bentley’s work has been recognized with fellowships from the NEA, the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs, and the Ohio Arts Council. His poem, “Famous Blue Raincoat,” won the American Literary Review Poetry Contest in 2008, judged by Tony Hoagland. Poems have appeared in The Southern Review, Shenandoah, Pleiades, Blackbird, North American Review, Prairie Schooner, American Literary Review and elsewhere. Books include Boy in a Boat (University of Alabama, 1986), Any One Man(Bottom Dog Books, 1992) and The Trouble with a Short Horse in Montana (White Pine Press, 2006).Starlight Taxi, his latest, won the 2012 Blue Lynx Prize in Poetry and will appear in 2013 from Lynx House. Gabriel Welsch writes fiction and poetry. His fourth collection of poems, The Four Horsepersons of a Disappointing Apocalypse, was published in February 2013 by Steel Toe Books. Previous collections are The Death of Flying Things (2012), An Eye Fluent in Gray, (chapbook, 2010), and Dirt and All Its Dense Labor (2006). His work has appeared recently in Southern Review, New Letters, Crab Orchard Review, Main Street Rag, CutBank, and The Collagist. He lives in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, with his family, works as vice president of advancement and marketing at Juniata College, and is an occasional teacher at the Chautauqua Writer’s Center.
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Emily Pulfer-Terino grew up in Western Massachusetts, where she lives and teaches English at Miss Hall’s School, a boarding school for girls. She holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. She has received a Tennessee Williams scholarship for poetry at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, and she was a creative nonfiction fellow at the Vermont Studio Center. Her work is published or forthcoming in Hunger Mountain, The Southeast Review, Poetry Northwest, Stone Canoe, The Louisville Review, Numéro Cinq, The Alembic, Oberon, and other journals and anthologies. Trish Hopkinson loves words and digs poetry slams. Her mother tells everyone that she was born with a pen in her hand. She has been published in the Brevity Poetry Review and UVU’s Touchstones, the latter in which she won second place for poetry. She recently placed fourth in the Poetry on Canvas competition and received an honorable mention from the League of Utah Writers for her poetry anthology, Emissions. She is a project manager by profession and resides in Utah with her handsome husband and two outstanding children. Jay Robinson teaches Creative Writing and English Composition at The University of Akron and Ashland University. He's Co-Editor-in-Chief/Reviews Editor of Barn Owl Review and Associate Editor of the Akron Series in Poetics. Poems have appeared in Anti-, The Laurel Review, The North American Review, among others. Prose has appeared in Poetry and Whiskey Island. Tom Howard’s work has appeared most recently in ARDOR and Ampersand Review, and is forthcoming from Bartleby Snopes. His stories have been selected as finalists in ARDOR's Story Contest and Bartleby Snopes' Dialogue Story Contest, and nominated for both the Best of the Net and the Million Writers Award. He’s the editor of Northwind, and lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia. Amy Peck has 20 years of experience working in the graphic design field ranging from a small design studio, a large publication house and a nationally recognized advertising agency. Peck has worked for a wide range of clients including HOW Magazine, Nestlé, Wal-Mart, Goodyear, Kimberly-Clark, Interweave Press, Humana, University Hospitals, and more. In May 2012, she earned her MFA in Visual Communication Design and her Certificate in User Experience Design, from Kent State University. In the past seven years she has taught graphic design parttime at The University of Akron, Kent State University and Cleveland State University. She is currently Assistant Professor and Chair of the Graphic Design Department at Lakeland Community College on the East side of Cleveland, Ohio. In her spare time she likes to watch movies, sew, read, craft, and hang out with her 13-year-old twin boys, her husband and her newly adopted dogs, Bianca and Chloe.
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A literary journal featuring short stories by Mark Jacobs, Jill Winsby-Fein, Nicolas Poynter, and Rod Siino, and poetry by Roy Bentley, Gabr...
Published on Nov 13, 2013
A literary journal featuring short stories by Mark Jacobs, Jill Winsby-Fein, Nicolas Poynter, and Rod Siino, and poetry by Roy Bentley, Gabr...