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ISSUE ONE

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CHRONOTOPE

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Dear Reader— The idea for Chronotope has been simmering for a long time. When looking for homes for my own work, I’ve always been surprised by how few publications exist with a central mission to celebrate queer voices. I find myself constantly hungry for queer art; plenty is created, but far less of it is highlighted or amplified. So I made more space to do so. Queerness is more visible and accepted than ever before—to such an extent that, for many queer people, it feels like a long-fought war has been won. But that’s just the bare minimum. Being seen is just the beginning. Now we need to use that visibility to speak out: to share our experiences, our emotions, our longings, our failings, and everything in-between. Art is important because it allows us to watch the world through someone else’s eyes, if just for a few moments. We find pieces of ourselves in these words and images and sounds, if we’re lucky. We understand the world in otherwise inaccessible ways. Through art we can see ourselves in new ways, too. The poems and stories here cover a wide range of queerness: queer physicality, queer love, queer politics, queer monsters, and queer longing (to name a few). Their images are lively and intense and wonderful, and I’m so glad that I have the opportunity to help share them. So this is my hope: that the words and images within these pages will allow queer voices to be heard and understood; and that you, too, might find some piece of yourself here. Thank you for reading.

Matt Wille

Cover: “Golden Fruit,” by Maxime Cousineau-Pérusse. 2


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Contents Poetry bare essentials, Christopher Uhlig TAXONOMY, Robert Beveridge The Woman at the Laundromat Says I Need Two More Hands, Eve Kenneally Existence as Revolutionary Praxis, JD Hegarty the primal lunar love, Luke Maguire

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Anything, Maxime Cousineau-PĂŠrusse

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Prose Lorincz, David Demchuk the state capital, Bernard Reed Notifications, Nick Delisi Revisiting, Egan Thorne The Impressionist, Alexandra E. LaGrand Leaves of Grass: An Apothecary, DC Diamondopolous Identity Crisis, Steve Carr Medicine Lake, Dillon Dean James

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POETRY

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bare essentials Christopher Uhlig sugar (i) just one rogue molecule of moisture in a bowl means that for at least three fillings-up, the sugar won’t flow the way it should and sometimes it takes even longer. flour (ii) I press the fleshy heel of my hand down-forward and stretch the starchy strands, smoothing the shaggy boule to a fat marble the colour of my thighs (but not peppered with red). salt (iii) I used to sneak mountains into my mouth, poised in the palm of my hand; not exactly what you’d call a snack, but disallowed all the same and so just as tempting. fat (iv) I cannot be rendered in any way I like. 6


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I am a solid state secret, with high smoke point, but there are some techniques that don’t work the way that they ought to. Christopher Uhlig is 29 years old and has been writing fiction and poetry in one way or another since he was a child. He currently resides in Montreal. You can find him not discussing poetry or fiction at @chrissuwa on Twitter.

TAXONOMY Robert Beveridge It is time for the earthworms, for the mosquitoes and the termites and the earwigs, for the starling and the pigeon, for the fleas and the vultures, the sparrows, the angry rabbits, the emus and the ash borers and the raccoons, for the lame and the blind and the turkey buzzards and the jackals, the opossums and the homeless and the lice and the rats and the autistics and the cockroaches to rise up Robert Beveridge makes noise (xterminal.bandcamp.com) and writes poetry in Akron, OH. Recent/upcoming appearances in Pink Litter, TriadĂŚ, and Welter, among others. 7


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The Woman at the Laundromat Says I Need Two More Hands Eve Kenneally Here’s what happens: I lose track of something impossibly small, and everything I turn up has the wrong face. On the train I don’t scream but I think about screaming, and someone thanks me for my kindness. Someone builds me a small house. It’s impossible to locate. I follow it around, listen for its longings. You grow tired– but wait – wasn’t I happy? Wasn’t I asking all the right questions? The man I buy weed from says everyone in the government is terrified of people growing their own. He says it’s a new year, you should try something new and overstays his welcome. Wasn’t I trying to remember what you had granted me? How I angled its ache away from mine? He calls the machine he once witnessed leak its own smokable oils the most inventive one he’s ever seen. He marvels at its ease, what can be built for renewal. Could you imagine this ten years ago? Can you imagine it even now? Eve Kenneally is a New York-based writer and alumna of the MFA program at the University of Montana. She has a chapbook called Something Else Entirely out with Dancing Girl Press and a micro-chap titled FOUNDER with Ghost City Press. Her poems have appeared in Salt Hill, Whiskey Island, Yemassee, Bop Dead City, Stirring, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter at @eve_kenneally.

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Existence as Revolutionary Praxis JD Hegarty it’s sunday morning and they’re coming for our lives again. i don’t want to have a conversation. i don’t want to move the needle. give me a heavy blade and a chopping block. give me round bombs and party favors. the T-blockers taste like mint. i never liked the taste of mint before. i’ve never been so good at taking pills. day three HRT and i can swallow these dry. i didn’t search for so long just to die. out of the closet, out of the cave. the sun is so bright i’m screaming. you will not choke me before i get a chance to breathe. you will not erase me, make me a ghost before i get to live. JD Hegarty is a lawyer, a poet, and an essayist living in Saint Paul Minnesota with two loud grey cats. They have an MFA from Hamline University. JD’s work can be found or is forthcoming in White Stag, Crab Orchard Review, and Mortar Magazine. Their first chapbook, On Passing, was published by Red Bird Chapbooks in 2017. They can be reached at jdhegarty.com.

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the primal lunar love Luke Maguire scraped by a star, he arches his back and howls. “dear moon”—I genuflect— “shower me in your tranquility and I will gift the world your mystery.” coaxing delicate thoughts from womb to heart, the quixotics are abundant in our home, and I am drunk for the antidote behind luminary curtain of your love. spinning in golden spirals are sunbeams that hit your eyes in most secret colors, like the shimmer of wolf’s fur in highest dusk and our nighttime desires unsheath, wavering in grassy oceans left tangled by pleasure. the waxing bodies are subject to our whim, and by dewy pearly glowing heaven ascending. can I ever see your body glow infinitely, hailing from the sunset like the fawning cherry blossom in our own private dawn? Luke Maguire is a recent college graduate from Providence, RI. He has hopes of entering a creative writing MFA some day, but for now he simply writes poetry, works at Starbucks, and lives his queer and anxious life to the best of his ability.

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Anything Maxime Cousineau-Pérusse 36” x 36” Oil on canvas

Maxime Cousineau-Pérusse is a figurative expressionist artist based in Montreal. Pursuing doctoral studies in psychology, his paintings explore the human psyche in visual form, and depict the different facets of individual identity, gender, and internal emotional realities. You can find him on Instagram at @maximecp. 11


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PROSE

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Lorincz David Demchuk Excerpt from The Bone Mother The first time Luda came to visit, I was four years old, and so was she. I woke in the middle of the night to find her sitting at the foot of my bed. There was something odd about her, misshapen. She was tiny and naked, more like a baby bird, a hatchling, than a girl. She held her knees up under her chin, one arm around her thin frail legs, and she was staring at me. I didn’t know who she was, or how she had gotten into our house, into my little room off from where my mother and father slept. Suddenly, she looked up at the window next to the bed, startled, as if something just outside was about to reach in for her—and then she vanished. From where I lay, I could only see moonlight streaming through the gently rustling leaves. I decided I wouldn’t say anything to my parents, as they had no patience for stories or imaginings. I woke up late, which was unusual. I was often the first out of bed. My mother wondered if I was ill. I felt a bit warm, and oddly sore. She lifted off my nightshirt and asked, “What have you done to your shoulder? Did you fall while you were playing? Did somebody hit you?” I shook my head. She turned me so my father could see. “It could be a spider bite. Check the sheets to see.” Then with a slight smile he added: “I hope he didn’t swallow it.” “Don’t put thoughts into the boy’s head,” my mother said sharply. It was too late. The thoughts were already there. She prepared to corner Dr. Pavel at church the next day, but the welt faded over the course of the afternoon and by bedtime it was all but gone. Still she found him after the service and he took me to his office at her insistence, my shirt and jacket half off under the bright light over his metal table while he poked and prodded. Nothing. He shrugged, and I pulled my shirt back up. She frowned, and my father sighed in a whatdid-I-tell-you way, or in a now-we-are-late-for-lunch way. I reached up under my collar, placed my fingers over the spot. Something deep under it curled on itself. I hope he didn’t swallow it. Three years later, the welt returned, and so did Luda. This time there was blood, a spot of blood on the inside of my undershirt, as if I had scraped a wart or a mole. Not enough to soak through to the bedsheets, but enough that my mother’s eye caught it while I was dressing for school. “What have you done there?” she asked. She pushed at it, and a droplet of blood welled up. She wiped at it with an old cleaning cloth that smelled of alcohol. She pushed again—something was under the surface, something hard like a sliver, a stone. 14


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She pushed and wiped, pushed and wiped, and up came something white and smooth, and out it popped, onto the red of the blood on the cloth. A chip of bone. “I can’t say for certain what it is,” said Dr. Pavel, “or how long it’s been there.” He looked at my shoulder, which was pink and sore from all my mother’s efforts. The wound, however, had begun to heal. He brushed on some mercurochrome, taped a square of gauze over it. “Lorincz, you get dressed and wait here. I’m just going to talk to your mother outside.” Her brow furrowed as he led her out the door, and it was still furrowed when Dr. Pavel returned and told me I could go. In the meantime, I had taken the tiny fleck and pocketed it in my handkerchief. It went into the little tin of treasures on my bookshelf. My mother said little as we walked the three streets over to our house, and said even less at the dinner table. My father’s various questions were answered with a single word: “After.” Once I was in my room, and my father had closed the door behind me, I could hear my mother unleash all the other words she had been holding in. I struggled in vain to hear what she said, but her emotions were all too apparent: anger, and sadness, and fear. That night, I awoke to find Luda once again at the foot of my bed. She seemed older now, though not much bigger. Once again naked and clutching herself, once again staring at me. This time, however, a thin trickle of blood flowed over the edge of her lip and down to her chin. A tooth, I realized. The tiny fleck was a tooth. Just then, she looked up at the window, startled as she had been before, and once again she disappeared. I realized I had heard one word from my mother’s diatribe, and that word was “twin.” When I was twelve, just a few days after my birthday, I fell ill with a terrible fever. I was drenched with sweat, yet chilled to the bone. Overnight, the welt had returned, as large and round as a boil. Dr. Pavel had retired from his practice the year before, but he came at my mother’s urging and he brought a woman from the next village, a mudri materi. While my mother cried in the other room, Dr. Pavel turned me on my chest, took out a scalpel and sliced into the boil. With a pair of forceps he carefully nudged around and pulled out four, five, six tiny bones and a little skull. After that, the mudri stopped him. “Enough,”she said. “She is not an infection. She is not a parasite. The boy holds the blood and flesh of two people in one body. She is changing him, and we must not fight that change.” She took my hand, and held it. “She will not let him die. He is her way into the world.” The mudri watched as Dr. Pavel cleaned the wound and sewed it shut. And then he left so she could speak to me alone. 15


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“You are very brave, and very strong,” she said. “And so, too, is your sister. She is with us now. She is hurt and afraid. But she means you no harm. Do you see her sometimes?” I nodded. “Does she frighten you?” I shook my head. “Good. When you see her, you must welcome her, even if her appearance disturbs you. You will come to love her in time.” And then she placed her hand on my forehead, and I felt the fever melt away. I am twenty now, at school in Kolomyya, far away from home. Luda is with me always, like a deeply held secret, as close as my breath. Freed from her bones, she is soft and round, her arms and legs coiled around her head, a wreath of flesh framing and cradling her face. Her mouth open, her eyes wide, her tongue, her toes, her fingers, her breasts, her belly, her kiska, her eyes, her beautiful eyes. I feel her in every part of me. I look in the mirror and she is all I see. Award-winning author David Demchuk has been writing for print, stage, digital and other media for nearly 40 years. His debut horror novel The Bone Mother, published in 2017 by ChiZine Publications, was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Amazon First Novel Award, and the Shirley Jackson Award in the Best Novel category, and won the 2018 Sunburst Award for best novel. David has a special interest in queerness and monstrosity. His Cabbagetown back yard is home to a hive of curious but quick-tempered bees. He is quietly at work on a troubling new book.  Excerpt from The Bone Mother copyright 2017 by David Demchuk. Reprinted by permission of ChiZine Publications, Peterborough. Photograph from the Costică Acsinte archive.

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the state capital Bernard Reed The Walmart Supercenter stayed open 24/7. It was where Marley bought her groceries late at night, with no one else there except the graveyard shift, unpacking cans and boxes onto the shelves. Sometimes there were other shoppers leaning on their carts and walking slowly, like they were savoring it. Marley passed them quickly or went down different aisles. She never made eye contact with anyone. At night the roads were lonely, there were no other cars and she noticed for the first time how many streetlights there were. One night she saw her father there, a person she came so late in order to avoid. They snuck up on each other in the dairy section. Marley set down her basket and walked out of the store. It was so early that the sky was already gray, with clouds like pink food coloring. Probably everything was not okay. At home she fell asleep in her bedroom with the door closed. When it was fully daylight there was a creak, and Colton crawled up under the sheet, whispered “I love you,” barely waking her. Above them the ceiling fan was going crazy. She hugged his body and they slept for a while longer before it was time to get up. Oscar got a job in the state capital, and he wanted Marley to move there with him. The people were more attractive, he said, there were more places to get a job, she could even apply to the university. Marley didn’t realize that he really meant it, when he’d always said that they had to stick together. He told her that the other day he’d seen his parents in Walmart. That convinced her to move with him and that life could still be a thing that was green and new. She was unfamiliar with the city. As a girl she’d gone to its outskirts with her family to visit the State Fair. She remembered the sprawling dark parking lot, windshields reflecting stray neons, the murmur of children and lovers. She remembered with deranged clarity the fair’s main strip, waterguns ringing and bottles splashing, giant stuffed giraffes, plastic bags with goldfish floating in them. Meat and sweat and dung warming the sparkling October air. She had ridden the swings, begged to do it twice, and then the Ferris wheel, further off the ground than she’d ever been in her life. Like all carnivals it made the world noisy and colorful and exciting in order to cloak the danger that it also summoned, the violence, the sexuality. Only a few years later she was at the State Fair again, at the top of the same Ferris wheel where she kissed the boy who would become Colton’s father. That time, too, she had not been properly attuned the grotesqueness that was flaunted and unfathomed. 17


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In the state capital Oscar couldn’t tell if he was halfway or all the way. He met a boy who was not like anyone he’d ever met in his life. Tall and thin and dark-haired, somehow foreign with an intelligent drawl that drew him in, revealed unknown fascinations. It was as though the town Oscar came from did not even have such a thing as vinyl records. He became accustomed, also, to the taste of more expensive cigarettes. “I’m from a small town, too,” the boy reassured him. “Most people are.” He was a student, and lived in an old house downtown. There was a tiny balcony above the front porch that they leaned on while smoking, especially before thunderstorms. When Oscar explained about Marley and Colton, he was self-conscious, it seemed as though there were too many excuses. But the boy was delighted, and he asked questions. Oscar was put at ease until the boy said “What a queer set-up.” His mouth twitched. He’d heard it a few times in his life, at distinct angles. The boy caught him: “It’s an academic term.” A lengthy conversation followed, mostly one-sided, and Oscar wondered what other tastes he would have to acquire. He was unaware that he had not totally lost his virginity. Colton was thrown outside to play. He hated the backyard, it’d been better before. Now, though, there was an entire neighborhood. With the trees and the street and the light and the air there was a lot to take in, but he could still smell his banana. Already a neurotic, he never finished the fruit to the bottom of the peel. At the entrance to an alleyway two kids scraped their bikes to a halt. After examining him a moment one of them declared, “We’re playing a game.” The rest of the afternoon Colton was drawn into a strange world that he would later visit and revisit. The game the children played had two sides, and everyone joined in, there was really not a choice. As a newcomer Colton was treated with respect and reluctance. His gauntlet came when he freed a group of prisoners from the enemy’s stronghold, setting off a full-scale flux in allegiances and hierarchy. Summer crept into fall and winter. He thought of archives and armories. He became a spy, and then an autocrat, and recycled his downfalls, his daring escapes. For Christmas he got a new bike and a stack of books. On his birthday nothing seemed to change; it was sunny and the trees were bright and he went out to play. Bernard Reed lives and writes in Chicago, where he’s an MFA candidate at Roosevelt University. His writing has previously appeared in Every Day Fiction and The Ginger Collect. On Twitter he’s @bernardreed. 18


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Notifications Nick Delisi He messaged me sometime in December. I was back home for break, scrolling Facebook, when the little number popped up. Hey I think we’ve met in Austin I knew we hadn’t but I couldn’t believe someone so stupidly cute was messaging me. I drafted five or six replies before sending back a very smooth: hey I don’t think we have. We talked into the night. We flirted and made bad jokes. We sent each other links to videos and music, and the days were passing by. I told him about my friends in the suburbs and we talked about our majors and how uncertain we were about getting jobs. I laughed about his violent typos and he called me out on mine. For the record, he was right. I was being a total hypocrite about typos. The weekend he finally came into town, my break was long over and I was back in school. We’d been talking for weeks but the mounting pressure of meeting in person had me melting at the seams. The plan was to meet at Kiss N Fly, the most popular gay bar in Austin. It was big enough to slip away if it didn’t go well, but small enough to feel like a full party. I got there first and waited in the back, frantically scrolling through my phone with the foolproof guise of chill-person-standing-around-for-no-particular-reason. He eventually stepped onto the back patio and I spotted him, smiled, and hid behind a tall person. I wanted to inspect the situation first. He was shorter than I expected but beefy. Like, shoulders wide enough to be a 6’2” athlete. He wore a simple blue-striped shirt, torn jean shorts, and Nikes. I finally said hello and he pretended that he didn’t know me, but only for a second, and he caved. He was as funny as he was in his messages. 19


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He listened and laughed at my stupid jokes, then added to them without thinking. I told him I was happy to see him and he said he felt the same. He said he couldn’t believe we’d waited so long. I said I had to make sure he wasn’t a serial killer. He said he still wasn’t sure if I was or not. After something like an hour and two vodkas, we were dancing. The sweaty mess of Kiss N Fly swept us up as underage kweens and overage queens filled the floor. We kissed. Not long after we were using the word “boyfriend.” We threw ourselves from Austin, to Norman, and back, but because of the nine hours between both cities, we went about the romance on spare weekends. Once a month. Ish. As the semester ended and summer came through, our visits happened more frequently. We started to get an almost unhealthy amount of sun and we drenched ourselves in guacamole at Mexican restaurants. Once, in July, we snuck into the rooftop pool next to my building and laid claim to it without any clothes on. The whole thing felt like a gay John Hughes movie. Another time, we spent the day floating in Barton Springs on very cheap foam noodles. He said he was ready for a nap and I agreed, so we packed up our stuff and drove back toward mine, hot air blowing into his navy F-150. When he pulled over to get some waters at a gas station, he leaned over to kiss me. I wondered how I’d got so lucky. He went in, then walked out of the gas station with four bottles of water and two Red Bulls, rocking his hips side-to-side because hydration was a great reason to dance. On the rest of the drive back, he drank the Red Bull in seconds. He ran through a light, and sped around corners through my neighborhood before breaking in front of my apartment. Right before we went inside, he kissed me again and said he couldn’t wait to live in the same city. I couldn’t tell if the speed was bold or reckless but I didn’t want to question it. We didn’t slow down from there.

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Into fall he gave me more than I expected or felt that I deserved. He made the ninehour drive to Austin six times. I’d driven north twice. He gave me DVDs and playlists to follow. He gave me ideas to write about and stories to read. He helped me wake up for summer school, helped me finish an application to a new program. He helped me come out to my extended family. Actually, he came down to Austin to meet them in person and hold my shaky hand when I told them he wasn’t just a friend. Being brave with someone else made it all feel simpler. Eventually the distance started to weigh on us. Maybe it was that we were too impatient to see each other, or that we’d been pretending a distance relationship would be easy, or that we’d been flirting with other guys while we were apart. Maybe it was just that we were nineteen and twenty-three and dumb. Whatever it was, we could both feel the connection fading as fast as it had come. “OU Weekend” was the last time we saw each other. Both of our universities met in Dallas to watch our football teams play in a rivalry game and drink like the world was ending. I felt like everything would come back together that weekend. It’d be a big party with my friends and his friends and we’d be fine — no issues. Instead, it was all disjointed and we couldn’t stop fighting. He wanted to do one thing; I wanted to do another. He rushed from one party to the next; I threw a fit instead of just telling him that I needed to slow down. By Sunday we were hungover and I hugged him goodbye in the parking lot of a Best Western Inn. It was a gray, humid day and he was sweating when he leaned in to hug me. We just held it there, upset that we’d spent the weekend fighting and not wanting to let go. He was breathing heavy but was trying to be still. We said “see you in a couple weeks” and didn’t mean it. Not two days later, we called it all off over a stream of texts and calls. Melodrama followed. I cried and whined to friends. I took runs and tried to ignore things. I cried some more. Then, eventually, I decided to stop being such a sad llama and somehow recover by deleting him on Facebook. It was the only real tie we’d had left and it had been the start 21


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of everything, so it felt right. I didn’t want to see him go to parties or be happy with friends. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair for me to say it wasn’t fair. So I deleted him and, surprisingly, time kept moving. We graduated from school and found new friends, new jobs. I moved to New York City and he moved south to Dallas. I’d hear about him through friends but we never really spoke. I never added him back on Facebook. I would, though, go back to his profile sometimes. The “non-friend” vantage point was something I could handle. I could see if he changed his profile photo or posted a public status by accident. Part of me could pretend that none of it had happened, and in the same delusion, part of me could hope it’d all start over. My room filled with blue iPhone light. It was 1am in Brooklyn and I had to work in the morning. I rolled over to see a message from my friend, Andrea. Hey I just heard about ____. I’m sorry. He’d been renovating a house in Dallas with a rare enzyme in its walls. The parasite took to his lungs, and soon his other organs, as it only does for people with HIV, something he had but didn’t know he had. In about a week, his body began to shut down. A few days after that, he passed away with his family around him. I went to work the morning after I found out. I was at my desk and in meetings but not. I was in Austin and nineteen years old. I was in pools and the navy F-150. Later that night, I was on his Facebook page. That’s right, I thought. I deleted him. I deleted him. This is something I chose to do. Of course I hadn’t heard he was sick. Of course I didn’t get to know. Why should I be allowed to cry? What if his friends had tried to find me on his friends list? What if they thought I wanted nothing to do with him? Hadn’t I wanted nothing to do with him? What if they’d tried to tell me? What if he’d tried to tell me? Why am I making this about me? 22


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The questions went unanswered for a while. I didn’t know how to talk about it because everyone around me, everyone in my new life, knew me after him. They could sympathize but the fact that they didn’t know him just added to this irrational fear that none of it had even happened. In a few weeks, I reached out to a close friend of his and let out some of my emotions. They’d remembered us together and it felt like touching my feet to the ground — our love had, in fact, been real because they had seen it.

Soon after I felt comfortable requesting him back on Facebook. His mom approved it, who was running his page now. She’d posted about his last days and replied with grace to the outpouring of love from his friends and coworkers. She’d also changed his profile photo to a picture from a high school show. A beaming, shirtless him in Victoria’s Secret angel wings looked back at me and I hovered my mouse over his face. Memories came back. I thought about the Britney Spears concert we’d seen together in Dallas. I thought 23


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about how he had been stressed and hyper beforehand, then giddy and boyish after. I thought about working out to “Till the World Ends” and wanting to look good before we had a weekend visit. I thought about telling him about the time I sang “Lucky” in the corner of a classroom when a group of kids let me know it was a gay thing to do, before I’d asked them what “gay” really meant. I thought about how, right after I told him, he played “Lucky” on the stereo of his truck. About how we both sang along and how he kept driving. I turned off my computer. There are days I’ll go back to his Facebook page and the angel wings photo that hasn’t changed. It’s nice to relive that summer and a version of myself I hardly recognize. But then there are days when his page will come to me. His mom will get on and like things people post — like videos of dogs and drag queens. She liked a post of mine once and the little red number caught me off guard. I swallowed the rock in my throat. Then I laughed. It’s like he’s still in on the joke. Nick Delisi is a writer and creative from Austin, Texas. He’s never owned a pair of cowboy boots but he does know every single Dixie Chicks song. Today he lives and works in New York.

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Revisiting Egan Thorne His head rests on my chest. I haven’t taken my shirt off just yet — later, I end up tossing it happily on the floor of his new studio apartment. My fingers glide through his tight, curly hair. I remember him three years ago, in his dorm room, telling me that getting his head scratched is his favorite. We watch a short documentary on Netflix. He exclaims something about wanting to incorporate minimalism into a daily routine. I listen and think how I want to exclaim that I want to kiss him softly, roughly, everything in-between. Kissing breaks his rules — I had my chance. We lay in our underwear, pressed together. We do everything but kiss or fuck. I content myself in the tender moment and learn to take it for what it is. Nothing more, nothing less. I realize it’s been a few hours; my car is in a timed parking garage. I get up to leave. “I’m definitely not going to go home and think about this the second I lay down.” “I’m definitely not laying down and doing anything the second you leave.” I get to my car and hear my phone. Venmo. Five dollars for parking. A gold medal emoji. A couple weeks later, I remember the documentary, and I get rid of my television. Egan Thorne is a freelancer and editor living in Columbus, Ohio. If he’s not obsessing over his latest music find, he’s probably tending to his many houseplants or grabbing his fifth coffee of the day.

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The Impressionist Alexandra E. LaGrand I can still remember the first time I touched her hand — like really held it and felt it. We were laying in my bed, lights off, the door cracked so only a little bit of light shone through against the wood floor. She laid on her back, facing the ceiling, and I laid beside her on my stomach, watching her. I don’t remember how it happened, but I remember cradling her hand in mind and tracing my finger within her palm, and my god. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to any great art gallery —The National Gallery of Art, the Louvre, the MET, any of them — but there’s always a moment when you find that one piece that you resonate with most. You can’t help but stare and feel all of your insides melt with the greatest joy the world has seen, but you are there, experiencing some of the greatest art the world has seen. That’s what it was like — holding her hand was like standing in an art museum and staring at the most beautiful painting or sculpture. It was like feeling the entirety of the world and all of its form of expression descend into my fingers while I traced her palm. If I had to tell a painter how to portray it on canvas, I’d tell them to reach for the colors of an azure sky, daffodils, seafoam like the coral reefs, ballet-slipper pink, and lavender. Happy colors, impressionist colors. She was an impressionist painting: full of greatness and potential, a patchwork quilt of colors composed in the greatest masterpiece possible, something to make you fall in love if you stared at it for too long. She wasn’t the museum type. She would probably roll her eyes if she were to ever read this. She would always roll her eyes when I looked at her hands, because I was obsessed with the way her fingers curled or how her palms open up so graciously and lovingly. She would hit me and say I was too poetic or too writerly — probably in too deep — but I think she was also the type to take it in. She may not have been the museum type, but she was the type to look at you, really look at you, and feel your soul and heart and mind within moments of speaking. She knew character and she knew people; she had the most forgiving heart of anyone I had known, and I knew that to forgive so passionately, she had to have felt the world all at once, all the time. She may not have been the museum type, but she looked at people as if they were paintings: she took them in, would gaze or stare for a moment, and let herself feel all that they were or could be. Even after all this time, I never really knew what she truly felt for me, or what her thoughts were when we first held hands or when we first kissed, but I do remember distinctly looking into her eyes because I could tell she saw those same colors in me 26


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the way I did in her, and she was afraid, because it wasn’t alcohol, it wasn’t the dimmed light of parties, or falsehood, or even sharpness, but rather, it was color — happy, innocent color that she had never seen before. No matter how much time has passed, when I think of her hand the night I first held it, the colors come back. Alexandra E. LaGrand is a poet, playwright, and dramaturg from North Carolina. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she has, to date, written over 3,000 poems and saw her first full-length play produced onstage just last year. Her specialty is Shakespeare studies, and she will be pursuing her master of letters degree in Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin University starting in fall 2019. She also really likes to collect stamps and PEZ dispensers.

Leaves of Grass: An Apothecary DC Diamondopolous Assembly woman Brenda Bustamante stepped from the taxi onto Market Street in the Castro District. The rainbow flag rippled and waved like a proud declaration atop a pole above the gay metropolis. San Fransisco was a long way from Brenda’s hometown of Bakersfield, and the Castro further still, when it came to politics and lifestyles. The cool spring breeze lifted the lapels of her blazer and swept her auburn hair off her face. She gazed across the street to her destination, a place she didn’t want even the cab driver to know. Since that night, at her best friend’s son’s graduation party when she ate from the wrong—or in her case, the right—batch of brownies and wrapped several in a napkin for later, she drove home, staggered into bed and for the first time in years fell into a fathomless sleep for almost eight hours. Best of all, she woke up without a hangover, unlike the pills her doctor had prescribed. With her intense workload and ambitions for higher office, sleep was crucial. After talking with Tony, she decided that edible marijuana was the answer, and with a medical license, it was legal. She drove all the way from Bakersfield to the central coast to get her permit. If her constituents back home knew, even the more liberal ones, they might vote her out of office. She had never smoked, cautioned her three daughters about cigarettes and drugs. She did have one addiction, sweets, especially cookies and cake. Brenda found a cure for her insomnia. And gosh darn it—she had every right to buy it. 27


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She waited at the crosswalk. Her research, the knowledge of all aspects of cannabis, made her aware of the medicinal benefits. When she went online to Weedmap, she found more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks in the city. Further information revealed the best places to buy edibles were in the Castro. Brenda had one day to purchase her medicine and drive to her apartment in Sacramento. She passed young men and women in the crosswalk wearing T-shirts, jeans, and Giants baseball caps. Before going into politics, they reminded her of her students at Cal State, Bakersfield. No different, except that the men held hands with each other, and so did the women. There were heterosexual partners with children, and, at the bus stop, an older Asian couple quarreled as the breeze carried a notion of how close she was to the sea. She recalled that ugly time during Prop 8 when yellow signs blotted homes and church lawns. It sickened Brenda how people’s ignorance incited fear. So, when marriage equality became the law in California, she rode in a float as grand marshal in the Pride Parade. Her three girls cheered and waved rainbow and American flags as she passed by sitting on a bale of hay in a restored 1930 yellow Ford pick-up truck waving to the spectators. She never imagined being in a parade could be so much fun. Brenda headed toward the building with a neon green cross and a black awning with gold lettering that read: Leaves of Grass: An Apothecary. By the open door stood a security guard with a tattoo circling up his neck. “Rip-offs!” a man yelled. The guard stepped in front of the door. “You can buy this shit for twenty bucks at the corner of Hayes and Pierce. Ripoffs! Suckers!” The man staggered away. Noise from trolley buses and cars clanked over metal plates that covered wide tracts in the street. Passersby chatted on phones. A homeless girl foraged through a trash bin. One man picked up after his dog. The brisk air currents rushed through the city washing it clean, except for the mad and the hungry. As a politician, Brenda felt responsible. Driven by obligation, she saw herself as a statesman, and forced herself to be ruthless toward her goals. “I need to see your permit,” the guard said. Brenda reached inside her purse. Her fingers fumbled for the paper. Excited by the unfamiliar, she pulled it out and steadied her hand to keep the paper from shaking. “Go on in.” The smell of dried cannabis overwhelmed her. She knew what marijuana 28


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smelled like, but this was more pungent, like a crop that had just been harvested. “Is this your first time here?” asked a young man standing behind a narrow counter in the foyer. “Yes.” She glanced around the dispensary. A mural of the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Alcatraz, and cable cars circled the windowless, but well-lit store. Glass counter showcases lined both walls with shelves holding hundreds of jars of cannabis. Vintage medical cabinets interspersed between the counters combined the old with the modern. Stairs led up to a loft. The place appeared organized, clean, no bongs or paraphernalia that she’d heard about in the funky head shops of the 1960s. The employees were young and clear eyed. “I need to see your certificate and license.” Brenda pulled the documents from her purse. “You’ll need to fill out some paperwork,” he said, handing her a form. It instructed her to keep all cannabis out of the reach of children and away from pets. Never drive when using. Upon purchase, store in the trunk of the car. She signed her name. “You can go in now.” Brenda hesitated, unsure of where to go. A young woman approached her. She wore a close-cropped Afro and held an iPad. “My name is Venus. Can I help you, ma’am?” “Yes,” Brenda said. “Thank you.” She relaxed. “What’s your medical condition?” “I have insomnia. But I don’t want to smoke.” “Our solutions and edibles are upstairs. Follow me.” They went up the steps to a room where the words Do anything, but let it produce joy. Walt Whitman were painted on the back wall in a flowing script. A glass-enclosed counter with shelves of assorted foods, an antique cabinet, and a refrigerator in the corner took up most of the space. “Carrot cake? Is that what that is?” Brenda asked peering into a shelf. “Yes,” Venus said, resting a hand on Brenda’s shoulder. “But only eat a sliver, or it will send you on a vacation you hadn’t planned.” Venus went behind the counter. Brenda smiled. “No, I wouldn’t want that. Is it fresh?” “All our pastries are.” “I’ll have several pieces of the carrot cake.” “I’ll cut them into slivers. You can store what you don’t eat in the freezer.” “And the muffins?” Brenda asked. 29


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“Banana or pumpkin.” “Both. I’ll need enough to last me several weeks.” “Okay, but cut them into quarters. I’ll give you a printout of all the directions.” Venus typed on her iPad then went behind the counter. Brenda gazed down at the first floor. In walked a man who looked like her distant cousin, State Senator Ray Bakar, right down to the Stetson, cowboy boots, vest, and beer gut hanging over his turquoise belt buckle. “What about lemonade and tea. We have cocoa, too?” Venus asked. “Plenty of each,” Brenda said. She looked down at the man in the cowboy hat. He was a match for her cousin on the Basque side of the family. But it would be inconceivable for Bakar, a gay-bashing family values hardliner, to be in a cannabis dispensary and preposterous for her adversary to be in the Castro. But then, no one would believe she’d be there either. “Since you’ll be medicating at night, how about decaffeinated tea?” Venus asked. “That would be perfect.” Brenda stared below. The man took off his hat, and mopped his bald head with a bandana. “Oh, my God,” Brenda whispered. It was Ray! With her eyes on her cousin, she reached inside her purse for the phone. Turning away from Venus, she held the camera at her waist and snapped several pictures. “I parked along a side street, is there a back exit?” “Only for emergencies.” Perhaps she could slip past Bakar without him seeing her. “Do I pay here?” “No. Downstairs.” Venus went to the cabinet. “You bought a lot so we’ll give you a Leaves of Grass carrier bag.” She opened the cabinet door and took out a black bag with gold lettering and a sketch of Walt Whitman. Brenda had her hand on the railing when a man walked in, went up to Bakar and kissed him on the lips. She gasped. Astonished. She covered her mouth and braced herself against the railing. Brenda glanced around the store, for cameras, for anyone who might catch her. Like a gunslinger, she reached for her phone and filmed the two men as they nuzzled and held hands. The conservative back-slapper, the ranter—“Save our children from the perverts!”— liked men and was a pot user himself. His hypocrisy appalled her. Brenda tucked the phone in her purse. Her discovery cast tremendous possibilities. She could expose him. Ruin his career. Or, use him. 30


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She watched, floored by the tender way he caressed and kissed his boyfriend’s hand. His manner was so unlike the brash cousin she knew. What she witnessed was a man recklessly being himself. The pathos brought back memories of when Ray’s older brother died of AIDS. The community shunned his family. Ray and his younger brother endured beatings and bullying. Then, in his junior year, Ray shot up to six foot three. The intimidation stopped. He joined the debate team and discovered a talent for wrangling. Now she knew why Ray never married. “Too busy!” he announced. “Spend all my time working for my constituents.” He became a respected figure in Kern County and a persuasive speaker, even if what he said was drivel. Although the insight brought compassion, Brenda found him a coward. “It’s ready,” Venus said, holding the Walt Whitman bag. They went down the stairs. Brenda thought about her own deceit, traveling four hours and spending the night at a hotel to buy marijuana. With her eyes on her cousin, she stepped onto the landing. He leaned against the counter, next to his boyfriend with his arm around his waist. So natural. How long had they been together? She walked over to the register, paid for her medicine, and thanked Venus for helping her. In seven years as a politician Brenda had learned to shovel manure and throw it on opportunity. A vote for her bill, equal pay for women, came up at the end of the week. Now, she had something to fight with. As her youngest daughter would say, sweet! She strolled up to Bakar holding the handles of her bag. “Hello Ray,” she said as if she had run into him at the county fair. His arm snapped to his side. He gaped at her. His round face a fluctuation of red, crimson then scarlet. “Cousin, Brenda!” He never called her that. He was as phony as Frank Underwood. “I’d never take you for a pothead.” “I’m not,” she said. “The THC helps me sleep. Is that why you’re here, Ray?” she asked. “Because you can’t sleep at night? I can understand why.” She held out her hand to Ray’s boyfriend who looked like a much younger version of Ray minus the cowboy getup. “I’m Brenda Bustamante, a cousin of Ray’s.” He glanced at Bakar. “Yeah, Ray’s mentioned you. I’m Martin.” They shook hands. “I’ll meet you outside, Ray,” Brenda said. She left the dispensary. 31


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Gusts of wind rustled her paper bag. Leaves drifted from the tree-lined street. She remembered a closed sign in a photo shop with a recessed doorway and an awning. Brenda went up the street and waited. Bakar walked toward her, his swagger replaced with hunched shoulders. His face sagged like a sack of guilt. He was a real grizzly, wide as a side of beef. When they’d meet in the halls of the state capitol, his deep voice bellowed out arguments to stress his opinions. She tried to have an exchange, but Ray never took a breath. He had the lungs of a whale. Now it was her turn to talk. He stood next to her in the doorway facing the street. “No one will believe you. It’s your word against mine.” “I filmed you with Martin. I took pictures, too.” He sucked his teeth. She felt his anger roll off of him like a tumbleweed. He took a step forward, snatched his hat in his hand and whipped it across his thigh. Brenda didn’t flinch but her heart did. She remained poised in the hollow of the entrance, watching as he lumbered down the street, stop, and pace. She wondered how he could hurt so many people to protect his lie. Ray adjusted his hat, gave a yank to his vest, looped his thumbs in his pant pockets, and came toward her. “What’s it gonna cost me?” “You’re going to vote for my bill. And persuade two other senators to vote for it.” “I vote for your bill, they’d all know something is up.” “Oh please, Ray. You can come up with a reason.” “I’m dead if I vote for that bill.” “You’re more dead if they find out you’re gay.” She had him. But he was still family. “I remember the hell you went through when Mike died. The way you and Larry were picked on.” “Oh, Jesus, Brenda,” he said, turning away. “Do you have to bring that up?” “Isn’t that the crux of it? The hiding?” He confronted her. “You aren’t? You came all the way from home to buy pot in the Castro. You could have at least ditched the pumps and the pressed slacks for jeans and tennis shoes.” That was true. She was prone to overdress, but what a jerk. “You’re a phony, Ray.” “So are you.” “I should come out and tell my story,” Brenda said. “It could help others. But don’t think you can spin what I saw. I’ll send the film and the pictures of you and Mar32


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tin to the press. I’ll post it on Facebook. You vote for it, Friday. And get me two more votes. That’s all I need. Cousin or not, I’ll expose you.” He crossed his arms and loomed over her. “I could come out before Friday. Then you’d never get the vote.” “Do that. I’ll still send the pictures to the press. Everyone will know why you came out.” He growled. They both remained silent in the alcove of the doorway. The wind hissed. Buses and cars sputtered down Market. A woman’s laughter floated on the air like notes from a musical instrument. The sun was half above the hills; the other half descended toward thesea. Brenda shared the moment with her cousin, a moment so charged it became a noise all its own. At last, he looked at her. She expected anger; instead she saw sorrow. “Your family was always kind to us, not like the others.” His voice just above a whisper. He stared across the street at the shopping center. “I had cancer. I’m okay, now. Forty years old. I’ve lost all my hair, high blood pressure, yup.” “I’m sorry to hear that, Ray. I want my girls,” Brenda said, “all women, to have the same rights, the same pay for doing what men do.” Ray listened. He shifted his weight. Hitched his shoulders. Crossed his arms. “If you choose to come out, you’d have the support of my family. I promise. If you don’t choose to come out, and you get my bill passed, I’ll never ask for another favor. You have my word.” “The vote’s only five days away. What happens if I vote for it but can’t get the two other votes?” “People owe you, you have power, charm them. You can get two votes.” “But if I can’t.” “Then the deal’s off.” Ray snickered, then exhaled through his mouth. “You know, Ray, during that horrible time,” Brenda said, “I remembered your mom, how she went to the PTA and told them to help stop the bullying. What she must have gone through, losing her eldest boy and then treated like an outcast.” She took a step closer to her cousin. “When they cut your father’s hours, your mom took a job. Bet she didn’t even make minimum wage.” “She was the heart of my life,” Ray said. Brenda lowered her gaze. She now knew how hard it was for him to be honest. Martin came toward them holding a white paper bag. His shaved head along with his beard started to grow a five o’clock stubble. His expression vacillated between concern 33


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and hope.“Can I join you?” he asked with a lopsided smile. “Of course you can,” Brenda said. Martin looked at Ray. “You were always worried you’d be outed. You’re lucky it was your cousin.” He glanced at Brenda’s bag. “You must’ve bought a lot to get a Walt Whitman Bag.” Brenda smiled. “I don’t like to smoke and I have a weakness for sweets.” “Did you get the carrot cake?” “Uh-huh.” “I got a chocolate chip cookie,” Martin said. “I’m getting fat. But they have a genius baker.” Ray moaned. “I’m hungry,” Brenda said. “Me too. Cafe La Folie is just down the street.” Martin gestured in the direction where the rainbow flag brandished its colors at the foothills of San Francisco. “They have the best crème brûlée.” “I like it with a really thick crust,” Brenda said. “You know, where it’s hard to crack.” “Let’s have dinner. I’ll save us a table on the patio.” Martin took off. “He’s a nice young man.” “Yup, he’s a keeper.” “Let’s go break some crème brûlée.” “Ah, I need to lose weight.” “We all do. What else is new? C’mon Ray,” Brenda said, taking his arm. DC Diamondopolous is an award-winning short story and flash fiction writer with over 125 stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals, and anthologies. DC’s stories have appeared in: So It Goes: The Literary Journal of the Kurt Vonnegut Museum and Library, Lunch Ticket, Raven Chronicles, Silver Pen, Scarlet Leaf Review, and many others. DC was nominated for Best of the Net 2017 Anthology. She lives on the beautiful California central coast.

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Identity Crisis Steve Carr My fingers grasp the wire of an eight-foot-tall chain link fence. Yards away and surrounded by the fence, the abandoned brick warehouse is slowly crumbling. Broken red bricks are scattered in the dirt and on the cracked concrete pavement that encircles the building. The glass that was once in the large window frames is either missing or riddled with holes caused by pellet guns or rocks. Graffiti made up of large black or white lettering, various geometric symbols and cartoonish, distorted faces covers the walls. It looks like the artistic result of a team of madmen. Baking in the noontime, glaring midsummer sun, the warehouse gives off visible waves of heat. My jeans are down around my ankles. An old man with rheumy eyes is holding a piece of broken board behind me. Through the eye holes in my mask I stare at the warehouse and wonder when it will either collapse or be torn down. “Are you ready?” the old man says, his voice quivering, whether from drunkenness, nervousness, or excitement, it’s hard to tell. I press my face against the fence, the mask serving as a shield, protecting my skin from the rusted metal. I grunt, a signal that I’m ready. He swings the board back then smacks it with full force against my bare ass, then does it again and again. I bite my lip in an attempt to endure the pain. My knees have almost buckled. I watch as a brick falls from the top of the warehouse and breaks into several pieces as it hits the concrete. At last I tell him, “Enough.” I pull up my jeans, adjust the mask, and take twenty dollars from a pocket and hand it to him. He drops the board, and grinning almost maniacally, he wads the money in his hand and walks away. Travis, who has been watching from nearby comes up to me and says, “Did it hurt?” “Like fucking hell,” I say. “You have all the luck,” he says. * Like an enormous animal brought down by a flame thrower, the burnt, blackened remains of a school bus stands on melted tires in the parking lot of an abandoned shopping mall. The lot is overgrown with weeds, many of them with prickly leaves or thorns. The front door of the bus is open and I walk up the scorched front steps to the front of the aisle. Only a slight odor still hangs in the air from the remains of the plastic 35


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seats. All of the windows are gone, but there is no breeze passing through. Travis is outside the bus. He has his boots and socks off and is holding them in his hands as he jumps about among the weeds. “Ouch,” he keeps repeating with a mixture of suffering and glee. His mask has fallen from his face and dangles from his neck by an elastic band. I sit down in one of the seats facing the aisle and inhale sharply as the nerves in my bruised ass respond to the sudden pressure. Through the window across from me I watch a scrawny brown mongrel enter the mall through the broken glass in one of the doors. I’ve been inside and there’s nothing left of even the slightest value. Debris from the deteriorating ceilings and walls of what was once the stores lies in heaps on the rain damaged floors. Brackish puddles have formed in the corridors. Birds have built nests along ledges and the tops of neon signs. It has become an aviary. When I was a teenager I would take the subway out here just to eat in the mall’s food court and watch movies in the theater. I also earned money by letting men watch me jack off in the stalls in the men’s restrooms. Travis enters the bus and sits on the remains of the driver’s seat. As he pulls thorns and nettles from the soles of his feet, he says, “This part of town has turned to shit.” “No kidding,” I say.                                                                       * “You young people have no respect for anything or anyone,” the slightly obese woman sitting across from us on the subway, says. She’s gripping her purse tight against her ample breasts, either to protect it or her. The scowl on her face looks as if it’s permanent. Travis starts to say something to her in return, but I place my hand on his arm, turn my masked face to his and say, “Not now. Not to her.” I feel his entire body relax at my side. Perhaps he’s glad to be saved from another confrontation with a complete stranger, or he’s saving his energy for the next time. I’ve known him for five years and I still can’t read his body language. The car we’re in is crowded but no one is standing. We are for the most part being polite, canned sardines squeezed into the seats. I’m acutely aware of the noxious mixture of aromas: body odor, bad perfume, cheap aftershave, unwashed clothes. I try to look out the window, but only see my reflection in the blackness of the glass. Even from behind the concealment of the mask, staring at anyone is likely to be met with some degree of hostility, so I stare into my lap as if I’m exploring an undiscovered landscape. When the train stops we file out of the car, jostled amidst a small crowd getting 36


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off with us who collide with an equal-sized crowd getting on. I’m not good in crowds and I begin to panic. A hand reaches out and tries unsuccessfully to pull the mask from my face. It snaps back into place, stinging my face. I catch up to Travis who is about to step onto the escalator. I grasp his hand and ride to the top, standing on the same step he is on. At the top he loosens his hand from mine. “Was that necessary?” he says. “No,” I say. But it was. When we walk out of the station it’s twilight. Streaks of deep purple, blood red, and shimmering gold are fanned out across a sky full of violent beauty.                                                                     * Sitting cross-legged next to Travis on the hot pavement, I hold up the piece of cardboard that has the words “kick me” written on it. Travis is doing the same. Both the cardboard and the pen were bought for five dollars from a homeless man near the subway station. Leaning back against the sun-heated wall of the closed dress shop I can feel the rivulets of sweat running down my spine. My shirt feels glued to the wall. Night descended quickly and we sit in the glow of a streetlamp and the headlights of passing vehicles. The air is thick with exhaust fumes and the scent of rotting garbage. Next to where we sit there is a fresh puddle of urine. Inside the mask, sweat covers my forehead and cheeks. Through the mask’s eye holes I watch the feet and legs of passersby. Their comments are easily heard. “Idiots.” “I’m with you bros.” “I don’t get it.” “Assholes.” A sharp kick to my knee by a pointed shoe wakes me from the drowsiness I feel, brought on by the smothering humidity. “Ow,” I say in response. “Did someone just kick you?” Travis says. “Yes.” “Lucky bastard,” he says. He has removed his shirt and I can feel the smoothness of his bare side against my arm. Travis is startlingly attractive and I can only imagine what passersby think when they see his bulging biceps, well developed chest, and six-pack abs. He works on his body religiously, but is unaware of the effect his looks have on others. The mask hides his handsome face. A man with a neatly trimmed beard squats down in front of Travis. “Why are you doing this?” he says. 37


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“It’s our form of protest,” Travis says. “Doesn’t being kicked hurt?” the man says. “It’s not me being kicked,” Travis says, pointing to the mask. I watch as the man places his hand on Travis’ leg and slowly slides it up Travis’ thigh and closer to his crotch. Travis grabs the mans hand and bends it backward. “That’s not why I’m here,” he says. The man pulls his hand away. “It wasn’t you I was doing that to,” he says, tapping Travis’s mask and laughing mockingly. He stands up and walks away. After a moment, Travis says to me, “Do you think the area where the mall is will be revived?” “Maybe,” I say. “But like most things now, the cost will be the dignity and soul of anyone who makes the deal to improve it.”                                                                    * It’s several blocks before we turn into the alleyway where the back entrance to our apartment building is located. The dumpster is overflowing with trash and meat that has turned rancid, thrown out by the ground-level Chinese restaurant. Before we start up the stairs, Travis holds out his hand. “Do you need to hold it again?” “Fuck off,” I say as I push past him. Our one-bedroom apartment is very small. There is no air conditioning. Even here on the third floor, when the windows are open the stench from the alley invades the apartment. The windows are closed and it’s like walking into a sauna. We remove our masks and hang them on a hook in the wall by the door. Donald Trump’s plastic bloated cheeks, petulantly pursed lips, and pale orange skin face me with voided eyes. Travis is sitting on the sofa. He’s removing his boots. The living room is very small, furnished only with a sofa, television and a stand with a lamp. The walls are painted a pale gray that gives them the look of dull metal. Being in the room is like being inside a tin box. The only picture on any of the walls is of Travis and I standing in front of the Christmas tree at my parents’ home. It was taken soon after I met him in a political science class while in college. One of the first things he told me was that he was a masochist. “I’m a glutton for punishment,” he said.  In some ways he sees Donald Trump’s presidency as a godsend. He throws his boots and socks in a corner, then stands up and takes off his jeans and tosses them onto one of his boots. Naked, he stretches out on the sofa. “We need to up our game,” he says. I sit on the arm of the sofa and remove my boots and socks. I drop them on the 38


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floor by the sofa. “How?” I say as I pull my t-shirt off. “Do something destructive, that draws attention. Maybe violence of some sort,” he says. I remove my pants and put them on top of my boots. I rub my sore ass then squeeze onto the edge of the sofa next to him and lie motionless by his side. “That’s not us,” I say. “Then who are we?” he says.                                                                     * I wake with a start, immediately aware that I’m alone on the sofa. The light is still on. I sit up on the edge of the sofa and call out his name, but get no response. I walk through the apartment. Travis is gone. Finally I see that his mask isn’t on the hook. I dress hurriedly and leave the apartment with only a hunch of where Travis has gone. Leaving the building, I step out into the slightly cooler pre-dawn air. A misty rain washes my maskless face. A large gray rat scurries across the alley and under the dumpster. Like the alley, the street is silent as I walk out onto the sidewalk. I turn left and quickly walk the dimly lit streets. The red flashing neon sign of The Bad Uncle saloon is above the door. I hesitate for a moment before going in. As I do I have to allow my eyes to slowly adjust to the dim lighting and my nose to adjust to the unpleasantness of stale beer and bleach. A man wearing a white cloth tied around his waist like an apron is mopping the floor. He looks up and says, “We’re about to close.” “I’m looking for my friend,” I say. “He was most likely wearing a mask.” “This was the wrong bar to come into with that on,” he says. He points to a door in the back of the saloon. “They took him out back.” The soles of my boots stick to the floor as I walk to the door. As I step out I see Travis in the light cast by an outdoor emergency light mounted above the door.  He is hung by his outstretched arms on two poles tied together in the shape of a cross. He’s naked except for his boots. His ripped clothing is scattered about on the slab of concrete that covers the small area enclosed by a brick wall. Even before I am near him I can see the bruises on his torso and face. I step up to him and take his battered face in my hands. Several of his front teeth are missing. Blood has caked on his swollen lips. The torn mask is hanging around his neck. I place my hand on his chest and feel the beating of his heart. “Travis?” He opens his right black and purple eye just enough to see me through a thin slit. With difficulty he mumbles, “They beat the shit out of me.” “You knew they would,” I say as I untie his arms and lay him on the ground. “Did 39


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you enjoy it?” His chuckle is mixed with a painful groan. “I’ll get you to the hospital,” I say. “But after this we’ll have to find a better way.” Steve Carr, who lives in Richmond, Va., began his writing career as a military journalist and has had over 240 short stories published internationally in print and online magazines, literary journals and anthologies since June, 2016. He has two collections of short stories, Sand and Rain, that have been published by Clarendon House Publications. His third collection of short stories, Heat, was published by Czykmate Productions. His YA collection of stories, The Tales of Talker Knock was published by Clarendon House Publications. His plays have been produced in several states in the U.S. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize twice. His website is stevecarr960.com. He is on Twitter @carrsteven960.

Medicine Lake Dillon Dean James The electric car was Brandon’s idea. Jake had objected; to the flashiness, not the electricity. A Tesla. Jake thought it would stick out. He avoided the baubles so many of their friends admired. That ended up not mattering because Daisy, as Brandon named her, fit right in with their neighbors in their little Venice enclave. Jake hated the city but tolerated Venice for the beach. Brandon loved the beach too but said he moved for the breeze. Neither admitted this to the other.        Montana was neither’s first choice for a vacation. Now they found themselves lost in Big Sky country, running out of electricity and options. “Last charger was back in Glendive,” Jake said. It was a solemn pronouncement. “And that wasn’t even a super.” Even if they doubled back, it would take over thirty hours to fully charge. They had been too invested in the road trip as an experience to consider the reality of Daisy’s limitations. “Fuck,” Brandon said. The Lord’s prayer. It had been Brandon’s idea to avoid Great Falls—the last supercharger—because he’d read something in The New York Times about its outsized homophobia. It was apparently the least gay-friendly city in America. Jake, having grown up in Montana, thought that wasn’t true at all. “It’s in the northeast,” he said. “Great Falls is too western.” 40


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       Montana as an experience is largely dependent on one’s exact location in the state. People in California like Montana because they’ve only ever been to Bozeman or Missoula or spent a layover in Billings. They went to a brewery or a ski lodge and met some nice folks. Had some blueberry wine or butter syrup on their pancakes and thought they were in heaven. Montana charm. Same reason people like Minnesota. “That’s not Montana,” Jake always said after one of these interactions. Brandon got to the point of mouthing the words in anticipation.         This trip was Jake’s idea, but it was also Brandon’s—Jake was always talking about what wasn’t Montana so Brandon wanted to know what, exactly, was Montana. So far the answer was: flat. Big yawning skylines. The kind of openness that makes you nervous because you want it to end. A chasm interrupted by dots of farmhouses or billboards for dairy or meat or Jesus. Jake always resented that: the stereotypes. Brandon was sensitive, for the most part, but there’s only so much sensitivity someone can have for another world. He knew Jake as a polished diamond in a West Coast life. After the rough. And then there was the matter of their recent marriage, something neither had envisioned but both grew comfortable with. The ceremony was practical, legal, simple, and no one had been in attendance except for a few friends. No family. This trip was like an extension of the ceremony—meeting Jake’s mom for the first time, seeing where he was from. Brandon felt like he was being shown a sacred church service.         They were in Sheridan County, an hour outside Williston, North Dakota, where Jake’s mom lived. Close, but not close enough. The yawning jaw had snapped shut. Both were sick of staying in tacky lodges, nondescript hotels, or outright hostile bed and breakfast nooks. So far, every stay was a negative experience: in St. George, every room in the lodge was painted candy red, so bright Brandon stayed up all night staring at the ceiling; in Cheyenne, the front desk agent kept asking obtuse questions about the sleeping arrangements until Jake finally swept up Brandon in a bear hug and planted a kiss. That ended the confusion.         Jake dialed his mom’s number and waited as the line chirped. “She’s not answering.” It didn’t even need to be said. Jake’s mother was strictly anti-tech, almost to a point of compulsion, including an incident in which she threw her TV out the window after disliking a Diane Sawyer interview. When she went to bed, the phone went off. Unreachable.         “She doesn’t know how to work the damn thing.” Brandon’s parents, unlike most Boomers, possessed technological prowess. This was a rare gift. Brandon reached for Jake’s backpack, who grabbed his wrist. “You know I’ve got a surprise in there,” Jake said. Brandon wasn’t expecting a gift—there was no impending occasion—but Jake kept hinting at something he had brought along. They fell into silence. Inaction. 41


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       “There’s nothing we can do,” Jake said. They shared a sober look. Brandon always said Jake was a defeatist despite all evidence in his life urging him toward optimism. But here they were. It was 11pm, the air stale and hot with summer’s late haunting, and Brandon and Jake were nearing that unholy combination of stressors that would send any couple into a danger zone. Jake could feel an argument coming on, darts at the ready from Brandon, who felt the same way, sure that Jake would blame Brandon for being a city boy or not thinking ahead or buying Daisy the Tesla in the first place. Still, they weren’t entirely removed from civilization. They found themselves at the edges of Medicine Lake, near where Jake grew up. Despite never remembering anyone’s names, Jake couldn’t buy a gallon of milk in Medicine Lake without somebody recognizing him. Small towns had a way of making celebrities out of everybody.         They came upon the bed and breakfast, half a mile away according to Jake’s struggling iPhone, and stared wordlessly at the assemblage before them. A bed and breakfast connotes a house, usually—a grand Victorian structure of some kind or an unassuming single family quaintly reconfigured as a center of hospitality. The sight before them was more of a complex, really, a collection of appendages unwillingly meshed into a single building, a monster of a house that looked like a Winchester creation in an early incarnation. Bizarrely, a single gas pump centered the action of the property, the untethered nozzle swinging gently. At what they assumed was the front door, a sign jutted out: MEDICINE LAKE LODGE.         The front door—painted bright red several seasons ago but cracked and peeling now—was slightly ajar, the screen door torn off and sitting on the stoop. Inside the foyer, they were accosted by all kinds of written sayings fighting for their attention, platitudes like LIFE’S A BEACH, DON’T LIKE THE WEATHER? STICK AROUND FOR A WHILE. IT’LL CHANGE, and BEWARE OF CAT. In front of them a makeshift front desk stood in dusty waiting, clearly not used for a while, illuminated by a single dangling Edison bulb.         The man behind the counter—graying, weathered, worked to the bone—did not look up when they entered, dutifully writing something in a wide leather ledger. When he finally looked up, his eyes shifted back and forth, as if he couldn’t quite see them. “Y’all looking for a room?”         “We’re in a bit of a pickle,” Brandon explained. “Our car’s running out of battery and the closest charger was back in Glendive.”         “That is a pickle,” the man repeated.         “My mom’s out by Williston,” Jake continued, “but she’s not answering her phone. Has a tendency of turning it off at night. Matter of principle, I guess.”         “Good woman,” the man declared. “You want to see me, you come by.” 42


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       “That’s what I love about this place,” Brandon said. “It’s refreshing to be here.”         Jake gave him a look. This was contrary to the multiple hours of bitching he had endured as they drove through Wyoming and the southwestern part of Montana. Brandon variously described it as flyover land (innocuous, a common insult), pseudo-Appalachian (probably offensive to someone), and pointless (unforgivable). “Sell it all to Canada,” had been the last quip. “That’ll solve the debt bullshit.”         “’Fraid I can’t help you, though,” the old man continued, interrupting their reverie.  “Only got rooms with single beds. Tight spot. Meant for couples.”         “Well, we don’t need two beds,” Jake said delicately, casting a glance at Brandon. “We don’t mind sharing.”         “It ain’t gonna be comfortable.”         “We’re used to it.”         The man cocked his head to the side. “Oh,” he said quietly. “Oh.”         Jake immediately took a conciliatory tone. “I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable.” He didn’t dare look over at Brandon. “We’re just—just really in a predicament of sorts and I don’t know if we can make it to the next place.” He could feel Brandon’s eyes on him.         “Need to be careful around here,” the man said quietly. “But y’all can stay for the night. I’m Manny.” Manny explained that his real name was Manfred Nickol, the last name being an oddity from Ellis Island-style old-country shortening, that his family was Polish, escapees from either the Holocaust or Nazi occupation, and his first name was from a book his mother liked but the title of which had long been forgotten. Everybody up here was Polish, German, or some kind of Scandinavian, or they were connected to one of the multiple reservations between Billings and Williston.         He talked extensively about the four rooms: one of them was being renovated so the door would be locked, the others were empty and they could take a look if they wanted, and theirs was at the end of the hall. “Theo can help you with your bags.”         As if awakened at the incantation of his name, a man roughly their same age burst through the front door, trucker hat askew, jeans torn below the knees, bedraggled, sweaty, pissed off. “Been waiting!” he yelled; he didn’t seem to notice the two gay men in the corner. “Lucy got away!”         “Theo, zip it—now these men bought a room for the night, and—”         “My apologies,” he said quickly, snatching off the trucker hat, dirt flying in all directions. “Didn’t know we had company.”         “Jake.”         “Brandon.”         “This is my nephew,” Manny explained. “Helps around here. Runs the kitchen 43


CHRONOTOPE

too. Theo, come on, help them with their bags.”        “Who’s Lucy?” Brandon asked.         Theo regarded him for a moment. “Lucy was dinner.” He dashed out to the car and waited impatiently for Brandon to fumble with opening the trunk. He yanked out the suitcases—two small hard-shelled carry-ons, hallmarks of good travelers—and dragged them unceremoniously into the house. Jake and Brandon shared a look of knowing: Brandon confirming the stereotypes he suspected all along, Jake, for the first time in a while, being ashamed of coming from a place like this, but resolute in his determination to not acknowledge that. Brandon wanted to say something about their untimely demise but couldn’t find the words. The moment passed in silence.         The room was what you would expect from a bed and breakfast with limited competition: creaking double bed covered in a patchwork quilt of confusing plaid and gingham; two Tiffany lamps on either side, neither working; curtains that hadn’t been dusted since the last presidential administration; accoutrements of random knickknacks acquired from various trips across America; and most mysteriously, a chest in the corner that neither could open.         “All right,” Brandon said, refusing to sit anywhere. “I’m officially freaked out.”         Jake tried to convince him that it was only for one night. They were so close to Williston. Brandon countered that they hadn’t owned the Tesla long enough to really know Daisy’s quirks; maybe she could make it to Williston. Jake tried his mom one more time, dialing the number by hand, like he was running his fingers over a familiar rosary.         No luck. Jake knew everyone in Medicine Lake but couldn’t name a soul. He hadn’t been here since high school. Most of his extended family cut him off when he came out and his mother was a misanthrope of the highest order. Jake looked at the matte black ring on his hand and wondered how he had gotten here—with his husband in a place like this.         “I am exhausted,” he said finally. “And hungry.” He dropped his phone on the pillow and a visible ring of dust billowed away. “I don’t want to talk about it.”         They decided to try out the food. Brandon remained quiet. He wanted to make a quip about how he’d rather walk ten miles to the nearest gas station and subsist solely off turkey jerky and energy drinks rather than eat anything made in this house, but he didn’t. This wasn’t about him. No part of this trip was about him. He was a buddy along for the ride, not a husband, not a companion. Jake could put a stuffed bear in the passenger seat and it would have the same effect. His quietness was roiling, churning inside him, and he was afraid that at a moment of peak stress—which they were rapidly approaching—it would spill out, accidentally more hurtful than intended. 44


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       In the dining room, the house seemed its warmest. There was no dust to be found. Everything had been recently used. Brandon held his fork and felt an energy spike through it. This was a preternatural moment he frequently experienced, like he could sense the history of an object merely by touch. They waited patiently as Theo cooked steaks on wide cast iron. Minutes later, he brought them two of the largest pieces of meat they had ever seen.         “Y’all are from the city,” Theo said as he came and sat next to them. They accepted this as part of the bed and breakfast experience. He sipped a beer and watched their delicate cutting. Brandon tried to signal something to Jake, but he was turning and looking at Theo with an intensity usually reserved for good friends or family. “But not from Billings,” Theo continued, “or I could tell.”         “California,” Brandon answered. He didn’t dare take a bite. Jake was already tucking in.         “But you,” he said to Jake, “are from here.” A statement, not a question.         “Born in Billings. But I was raised in Poplar.”         “Poplar.” Theo said it with some reverence. “Middle of nowhere. Now that’s sayin’ something.” He turned to Brandon and watched his sly refusal to eat. “You don’t trust me.”         “What?” Brandon dropped his knife and it clattered like a gunshot. “I didn’t say—”         “Don’t have to say. It’s in the look. I can see it on your face. Are you scared? No reason to be scared.” He slammed his hand on the table, startling them. “Know who you should be scared of? Manny. Son of a bitch could hit a target a mile away.”         “You seem like a smart guy,” Jake offered, a kind of diplomacy. He was growing suspicious of the overwhelming fat on the steak and its preparer, whose face was turning redder by the second, anger ignited by an unknown source. “Is everything okay?” He smacked his lips. This was the saltiest steak he’d ever had.         Theo watched Jake eat, reverent, something like surprise crossing his face. Then, the sharpness of smoke. “The goddamn potatoes!” He disappeared into the kitchen and reemerged with a tray of charred potatoes, smoke billowing. He tossed them to the side and said, “By the way, I plugged in your car.” It would take over thirty hours to reach a full charge, but it would be enough in their brief night to get them to Williston. Brandon was elated. Hope in the distance.         Jake stopped chewing the steak after a while. Something didn’t taste quite right. Theo, disappointed in the potatoes but not willing to toss them, repeatedly offered some to Brandon, who tried as delicately as possible to turn them down. Theo never left their side. Jake found him engaging. Brandon wanted to go bed. 45


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       “You don’t know where you are, do you?” Theo asked Brandon, who shook his head. A vendetta brewed between them. “Right down the road, they make the best goddamn chokecherry syrup in Sheridan County.”         “Chokecherry,” Jake repeated, like it was the name of a deity. “Brandon, you ever had chokecherry syrup?”         “Can’t say I have.”         “Sickly sweet,” Theo said. “Almost too sweet. Gotta take ‘em from these bushes. Most are on folks’ properties. Most don’t ask permission. Know what that’s like? That’s like the two of you here.”         Brandon cocked his head to the side. “What does that mean?”         Theo was trembling. He picked up a charred piece of potato as a distraction, turning it over in his hand. “Know Noah’s ark? You know that story? You read the Bible? Two of each kind, all on a boat. How did they get on there? That’s this kind of place. Two of each kind. Only so much room.”         The air was slowly seeping out of the room. Jake’s stomach churned. It was getting late.         “Maybe,” Jake offered, “we should go to bed.”         “Thanks for the dinner,” Brandon said. They both got up as quietly as possible. Theo said nothing. Didn’t look at them. Barely breathed. They shuffled back to the foyer, casting glances back at the little kitchen. “What,” Brandon whispered, “was that?”         “That was Montana.” Jake rubbed his belly. “I feel weird.”         “I can’t believe you ate that shit.”         They wanted to bed down, settle in, get some rest, but the state of the room was still an issue. Jake decided to collect all the bedding, bundling it in his arms, and disappeared down the hall. “Are you asking for clean stuff?” Brandon said, because he wasn’t sure where Manny or Theo were supposed to get anything nicer. Surely this was the nicest stuff they had. Jake didn’t come back for a while. After ten minutes, Brandon wandered after him, down the hallway, with its creaks and snaps and moans, the house protesting its inhabitants like a host and a parasite. It was too dark to see clearly. Brandon used his phone as a flashlight. He could hear the sounds of something churning, like somebody was running a faucet and mixing something up with it, like a kid in a bathtub. Voices. “There’s the softener,” said someone. “Y’all got softener?” answered the other.         Brandon opened the nearest door, what he thought was a closet, but found a laundry room, where Jake was quickly stuffing the bedding into an industrial washer under Theo’s watchful eye. Brandon didn’t know what to say.         “Are you doing laundry?” 46


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       “Theo needed some help,” Jake said. “Figured it wouldn’t hurt to help.” He locked the lid and left Theo in the room, who was folding towels and looking off into the distance. Jake took Brandon’s face and gave him a kiss. “Everything okay?”         “That’s kind of weird,” Brandon admitted. “Doing your own laundry like that.”         “Well, you weren’t going to sleep in that, were you?”         “No . . .”         “I did you a favor.” Brandon stared, seeing if Jake would crack, if he was joking. He wasn’t.         Once everything was washed and dried and fluffed and pulled onto the bed, they settled down together, their own little world, their reality separate and distinct but together at the same time, a bubble floating freely. They heard nothing outside. Saw no lights. The calm that only a place like this could bring.         When Brandon awoke, Jake was gone. He heard commotion downstairs, like an argument, and quickly dressed and got his things together and found his glasses, and roamed out to the kitchen, the source of the argument, where Jake was busy frying a dozen eggs. Brandon stared in wonderment. “You’re making breakfast?”         “Morning, babe.” Jake flashed a smile. Theo stood in the corner, eating a banana. The comfort with which Jake regarded Brandon, the recognition of their coupling, was something rare in California, let alone here. Brandon felt dizzy. He put a gentle hand on Jake’s back and asked if he was okay. “Why do you keep asking me that?”         “This is the first time I’ve asked you that.”         “I’m doing great. I love being here. This is what it’s all about. It’s so good to be out of the goddamn city. Pardon my language,” he said to his right, where Manny had just popped up.         “How did y’all sleep?” Manny asked. Brandon prepared to answer cordially before Jake cut him off.         “Best sleep of my life!” That couldn’t possibly be true. “I’ve never felt better!” Exaggeration, to be sure, making the host feel better, but Brandon still felt a pang of something unpleasant, remembering their many trips together and the big honeymoon they had planned. Again, though, he was making it about himself, so Brandon did a self-check, loosening his shoulders, taking a deep breath. Everything was fine. Different but fine.         Breakfast passed in relative silence, punctuated by the sound of silverware clanking and mouths grinding. Brandon felt anxious again. It was late morning. They should get going. “Hey,” he said, once the last egg had been eaten. “You want to try your mom again?”         Jake snapped his fingers. “Dammit. I forgot to charge my phone.” 47


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       “Well, I have—”         Theo belched loudly, interrupting. “Jay-cob.” He drew out the syllables. “You gotta help me with something upstairs.”         “Jake,” Brandon interrupted, putting a hand on his arm. “Why don’t you use my phone?”         Jake shrugged the hand away. “I’m being polite, Brandon. Let me help Theo first.” He pushed the dishes to the side and disappeared with Theo upstairs, leaving Brandon and Manny to stare blankly at each other. “Part of the package,” Manny said, “is helping out around the house. Mind washin’ these with me?”         Brandon did mind—he minded very much. He wanted to get out of there. The sleep hadn’t been that bad. The room ended up being tolerable. But he was still itching to get the hell out of there. The dishes would be a quick, simple chore, then he would go upstairs, find his own phone, and dial Jake’s mom himself. Jake was getting too comfortable.         Once the dishes were washed and dried and carefully put away, Brandon practically ran upstairs—but the bedroom was empty. “Jake!” It sounded like a strangled scream.         “In here.”         The voice came from one of the other rooms, the one at the end of the hall. The room Manny was renovating. He said the door would be locked, but today it was wide open, tarps spread across the floor, masking tape along the crown molding, switchplates in a neat pile. Theo and Jake painted the walls in broad strokes of alternating colors—all the colors of the rainbow.         Brandon felt lightheaded. “Jake,” he said, a little firmer. “Can I please talk to you for a second?”         “We really gotta get this first coat on so it’ll dry in time for a second before lunch.” Jake looked over at Brandon but evidently did not see his expression. Or did not care. He kept painting.         Brandon slowly stepped out of the room and walked solemnly back to their little bedroom, where their things were scattered around the room, blending in with the resident knickknacks. He found his phone—he had remembered to charge his—and looked for Jake’s mom’s number. For some reason, he couldn’t remember her name for a split-second, and he panicked until he could see in his mind the front of her Christmas card: Shirley. Nothing was listed under Shirley.         He found Jake’s charger and slammed it into Jake’s phone, which, to his surprise, was already on. Fully charged. Ready to go. Confused, he looked for Shirley’s number 48


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and found it and dialed and waited. A robotic voice informed him that the mailbox was full. There was no other number listed. Maybe her address was somewhere inside? But he would still have to pull Jake away from his work, away from pretending to play house.        He rummaged around in Jake’s bag. Maybe he had printed the directions as a backup, something Brandon always encouraged after their mishap getting to a little coastal town for a weekend getaway, when Jake fundamentally misunderstood the difference between two highways and took them three hours out of the way. Sure enough, paper directions sat nestled between two folders. He breathed a sigh of relief. Now he just needed to convince Jake.         One of the folders was slightly open and he saw the edges of Shirley’s face. Her picture from the Christmas card. Jake brought the Christmas card with them? He opened the folder and scanned the page, but he had to read it over and over again to understand what he was looking at.         It was Shirley’s obituary.         Shirley Anne Picard, born October 19, 1962, entered into rest . . .         Over a month ago. She died over a month ago. Her Christmas card photo swirled in front of him, spinning, dizzying. He checked the other folder. No obituaries here, thankfully, but instead a collection of letters, to and fro correspondence, all of it written in the messy handwriting of men. He recognized half of them as belonging to Jake, with his distinctive Js singing each page, but didn’t know who the other person was.         Love letters. Details of graphic sex. Declarations of passion. The things people wrote each other in the world wars. Stuff Brandon had only seen in movies. It seemed frozen from another time. He collected the letters from the unknown writer and scanned them quickly, getting the gist of it, coming to the bottom, where each was signed: Theodore.         The folder fell out of his hands. He reached for Jake’s phone again and checked the call history. He hadn’t called anyone for three days.         The next few things he did were automatic, robotic, like someone had taken over his body. Brandon had been waiting for this moment for a long time. He knew it had been coming, knew it every moment Jake annoyed him or remained mysterious or showed the harder parts of him, the edges that hadn’t been buffed out. Brandon should’ve known. Slowly, quietly, with trembling hands, Brandon collected his belongings in the svelte suitcase, keeping an eye on the slightly-ajar door at all times. He couldn’t zip it close for the longest time and nearly cursed in frustration. He slipped down the hallway and moved as quietly as he ever had past the fourth room. He peeked inside. 49


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       Jake and Theo were painting and laughing and whispering something to each other. Outside the window, the sun was a bright glowing orb. As Brandon watched them work, he didn’t feel any anger or jealousy, none of those raw sparks he expected, but rather a recognition, internal and quiet and satisfying, that he had gotten the gift Jake had promised. He moved away and down the hall. Did he remember the keys? He patted his pocket. He slipped out the front door and walked the twenty painful feet to Daisy. She had charged enough to get him fifty miles. That was enough to get to Williston. Where he would get some answers.         “I found Lucy.”         Manny scared the living shit out of him, crouched on the other side of the car, a bloody knife in hand. Brandon couldn’t make a sound.         “I found Lucy,” Manny repeated, holding up the knife. But rather than moving forward or doing anything outwardly aggressive, he smiled, shuffled to the side, and started walking back toward the house.         As Brandon pulled away, he saw Manny in the rearview mirror, waving from the front door. Dillon Dean James is a writer and political science nerd from San Luis Obispo, California, currently living a few hours north in Davis, California, finishing his undergraduate degree in English and political science at the University of California, Davis. He’s won several awards from the Tellus Literary Journal in 2016, 2017, and 2018, and he wrote and produced an original play at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, for their New Generations theatre festival in 2014. This is his first piece published in a literary journal available to the public.

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ISSUE ONE

Thank you for reading Issue One.

In literary theory, the chronotope is how a moment in time and space collide through language.

to be continued

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Profile for Chronotope Magazine

Chronotope Magazine: Issue One  

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