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Crack the Spine Literary magazine

Issue 110

Issue 110 April 23, 2014 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2014 by Crack the Spine

Cover Art: “Coast� by Annabelle Edwards Annabelle Edwards is a young writer and photographer living in New York. Her work has appeared in Gone Lawn, Belleville Park Pages, and the Red Booth Review. She is the co-editor of Control Literary Magazine.


William Walsh Outside Winn Dixie in Suburban Plaza

Sam Grieve X

H.V. Cramond Sometimes Soaking is the Solution Lifetime

Megan Vered Watching With Our Eyes Closed

Howard Winn Thousands and Thousands of Yellow Rubber Duckies

Todd Mills Rubbers

Genevieve Pfieffer Frack

Kait Austin Kid

William Walsh Outside Winn Dixie in Suburban Plaza

Late Saturday night, 1986, and again I had no one to hang out with, just a few poems and a notion of what to do, when I saw a girl not much older than sixteen in the back of a car under the drunken parking lot lights, her eyes watered-down with a slacked milky glaze, full of what I knew was her childhood being pushed off a cliff by two boys running into the Winn Dixie for more P.B.R. After more than twenty years, I like to think I’ve helped enough people along the way to quiet my regret, repair the heavy elegy I carry on my back for my father and what he might say, “Never leave a stranger stranded.”

As I walk through my house, I check the locks on each door, turn off the lights, the t.v., the gas logs, then up stairs to the hall and around tossed Legos left on the floor. I step lightly to my children’s room, place a train on the dresser, adjust the bed covers, tuck a bear under an arm, turn off a closet light. Each cheek is dry to my kiss. Room to room, I make my rounds like a doctor or maybe like Superman spinning the earth backwards to save Lois Lane.

Sam Grieve X

The book is way down, burgundy leather. No garden Janet is hanging tucked beneath a copy of Persuasion and a single volume from a set of old encyclopedia. Henry unpacks the box in the garage, hopes there might be something inside that he can sell on eBay, but it is all junk. Until he reaches the book, that is, the one at the bottom. His fingers register the goatskin binding, and something inside him flickers with excitement. Raised bands, gilt edges. Expensive. He pulls it out, his mind already cataloguing. Quarto, full

title. Blind X embossed onto front cover. Carmine-watered silk end papers, which bring on a thump in his heart. He opens the volume slowly. The first pages are blank. And then the hand-colored engravings begin. A naked woman up against bookshelves, the same naked woman bent over a hassock, the woman being whipped, manacled. Her face is lightly drawn, a feathering of chin, nose, brow, but the breasts and her libidinous folds are detailed, immaculate. Henry glances out of the window. In the

up the laundry. Henry bangs the book shut and goes out to her. Her hair is growing back at last, and he drops a kiss on its unfamiliar curl. The midday sun dazzles through the sheets. Janet hinges at the hips, takes a shirt from the basket. He pegs what she hands to him on the higher lines.

That night Henry cannot sleep. His mind— vagrant, curious—keeps returning to the book. At last he gets up, sidles across the wet lawn. A paring of moon, thin as a

curl of fingernail, guides his way. The garage at night has reverted to its baser function; he senses the tracery of gas fumes on his tongue. Henry gathers the book from the box and sits on his crate, his bare feet resting on the oily floor. He takes his time on each page, uses his flashlight. The woman’s body reaches out to him; her sinuous neck, nipples the color of mulberries, the mystical triangle; each curl drawn with such precision, he imagines the artist wielding a single plucked hair as a brush. Eventually, he comes to his senses. It is 4 a.m. He wraps the book in a T-

shirt, stashes it behind some paint tins that have not been moved for twenty years, and makes his way back across the grass. The front door of his house had locked behind him. He breaks back in through the loose porch screen.


book remains hidden but is all he can think of. It invades his mind while he shaves, eats his cornflakes, parcels up a set of Kipling for a customer who lives in Vermont. That night, in bed, as Janet pulls her nightgown over her ravaged breast, he glances out of the window, checks the

weather. Orion’s belt hangs bright in the sky. Once more he finds himself a nocturnal visitor to the garage, but this time the dawn chorus is in full fling when he leaves. Janet comments on his yawning. He cannot look her in the eye.

Henry is not a man who believes in magic. How could he be? He never had a childhood, never rode a bike. Raised by a joyless, overworked mother, Henry had no time for games. But he made time for the books borrowed from the library, which he read in the attic, watching the road for his mother’s

returning car. Books are the stepping-stones of his existence, he often thinks, how he leaps from one to another, how they hold him up, as the tumult of life rushes by. Books took him to college, to his job in the special collection at the library, and to a bookstore and then into book dealing. And books lead him to the altar where Janet waited, her gilt hair long beneath the paper white of her veil, fingertips rough from over-sewing pages at the local bindery. Henry does not believe in magic, but he believes in love and fate. And Janet, in all her incarnations, is of both

these to him.

shared his unwashed bed. The way she The following morning, rounded her buttocks on his way to work, into the curve of his Henry makes a decision. belly. The external chill He pulls over on the side of her flesh mitigated by of 272 with the intention the ambient warmth of dropping the book beneath. Finally, when he down a storm drain—an idea, he discovers, that knows it must be now or was easier to plan than never, he kneels down execute. In daylight the and chucks the book into book is even more the dark mouth of the alluring than in drain. She falls, the darkness; bright susurrus of the gilded morning sun spools on pages reminiscent of a the cover. He leans up woman dancing in a against his car and pages taffeta dress, and then he through it just one last hears a muted splash as time. Each heavy page the book lands, maybe submits with a sigh, and twenty, thirty feet down. the volume feels both Henry turns his good ear warm and cool. It toward the opening. Cars reminds him of a certain hum on the interstate girl at college who three miles away. A dog

barks across the fallow field behind him. His own breath is ragged, noisy, but from the storm drain there is only silence.

He had thought he would feel relief but no relief comes. At Dunkin’ Donuts, where he stops to use the men’s room and grab a coffee, the black girl behind the counter stares at him with obsidian eyes. She is young, early twenties maybe, and she chats to the other customers with ease, her bright-white teeth set into candy-pink gums. His hands tremble as he takes the coffee; he tips her wildly— extravagantly Janet

would accuse him—two dollars, shoving them into the jar that stands on the counter. The girl does not even glance up as he leaves.

seemed embarrassed by his acquired knowledge, his challenging, protective tone. She began to hold her own hands in her lap. And finally she asked to be They were never lucky examined without him in enough to have children. the room. At night in bed Or perhaps they were she turned away, the especially lucky, he used pebbled path of her to think, as nothing could spine pressing against come between them. the cotton of her Until Janet’s diagnosis. nightgown. Her illness, Henry has When they first learned she was ill, he was the come to imagine as he strong one. He read lies beside her in the everything, demanded dark, is like some second, third opinions, horrific, nightmare baby, asked all the questions in that has annexed his the doctor’s office, wife’s body, left him holding Janet’s hand in impotent, and is now his own as he did so. But spread-eagled in the as the weeks went by, sheets between them. Janet changed. She

At work the day passes but has been beautifully almost violently with with the reluctance of dripping molasses. Henry is petulant. He bullies his elderly assistant June, makes her re-shelve biography. He sits at his desk and answers the phone as she stands on a ladder in her pumps, wiping the top shelves with a yellow duster. To pass the time he counts her sneezes. Fifty-two. And then, at four o’clock, a package arrives. Henry discovers it on his desk after finishing with a customer, but June, eyes red-rimmed behind her bifocals, professes ignorance. The parcel has no return address, nor does it bear stamps,

sealed with string and sealing wax. His name is written directly on the brown paper in a calligraphic script. Henry rifles in his drawer, pulls out scissors, and snips the twine. The paper curls back and bewildered, Henry spots an X. It is the same book; mark for mark. He determines this by hiding in the W.C. to examine it. Her tumble into the muck has not scathed her. She is as beautiful as ever.

Before locking up the shop, Henry wraps the book again, trussing it up

new coils of string. He drives back the long way, through acres of cornfields, taking the corners at speed, the book sliding around on the carpet of the trunk and banging into the sides of the car. At home he finds Janet resting in the front room. She is wearing yoga pants, and on the television, a DVD is playing but it is evident from her listlessness that she is not following it. He sits on the armrest beside her, and together they watch the ancient instructor tie himself into a knot. “I used to be able to do that,” Janet remarks

dolefully. For a moment there is silence, and then, magically, they both start laughing. It starts out softly but before he knows, it they are both cackling like idiots, for far longer than the joke requires. Henry rubs his cheeks against her quivering head, fills his lungs to bursting with the scent of her hair.

After he has washed the dinner plates, and Janet has gone upstairs, Henry takes the book into the garden. He lays it on the grill of the barbeque and pours a trickle of gasoline over its burgundy skin. The liquid gathers in the cleft

of the X, casts an oleaginous rainbow. Henry lights a match and flicks it. The book burns indecently fast, his little slut obscuring into soot.

Something stirs inside her, a long lost echo of the girl she once was. She heaves herself up and makes her way to her dressing table, sitting down on the From her viewpoint in delicate chair, the book their bedroom, Janet on her lap. In the mirror watches him. He’ll be a she is startled to while, she guesses, discover that her face is less awful than she had dancing around his fire. thinner She kneels, gropes imagined, beneath the bed, and maybe, but the weight retrieves the box. The loss has brought out her book is way down, cheekbones and her eyes tucked beneath a copy of appear huge. She pulls a Persuasion. It is more brush through her hair, beautiful than she examines herself. Why, remembered. Beneath she almost looks French! her fingertips the She finds a lipstick, old goatskin leather exudes but still yielding enough warmth. Is she imagining to glide over her lips. it? She runs a palm over And there is her scent, the bottle Henry gave its radiant skin.

her last year. She dabs some on to her wrists, then bends her neck and with the tip of her finger, rubs a tiny droplet, into the hollow behind each ear. The screen door bangs, followed by the creak of the stairs under Henry’s tread. Janet presses a wrist against her mouth, breathes in gardenia, orange blossom. The book on her thighs grows warmer and warmer. Suddenly, she cannot wait to show it to him.

H.V. Cramond Sometimes Soaking is the Solution

lie through the whitest teeth and I’ll still remember the staining: grass blood, coffee, wine and the finest of proteins penetrating the grain

H.V. Cramond Lifetime

The movie’s on repeat, but we like knowing how this ends put the uptight broad on horseback a rogue in the rain maybe a widower and after the transformation some scones

Megan Vered Watching With Our Eyes Closed

His voice vibrates warmly against my cheek. Ear tucked against his chest, I listen carefully to the words as he sings. The bear went over the mountain, To see what he could see. My kindergarten teacher knows this song, but I like it better when my father sings it. I pluck at the edges of his striped bow tie, contemplate the movements of the plump brown bear. Pulling his weight up windy trails. Galumphing over granite boulders and fallen trees. Lumbering upward until he reaches a vast expanse. He turns his snout right, then left, sniffs the scent of the high-up sky. Shifts his eyes, studies the peak of the mountain. To see what he could see. I move my head away from my father’s chest and study his face, try to imagine him with eyes that work. I

wish I had known his eyes. I’ve seen them in old black-and-white photos. Once they were handsome and light in color like mine. Later they became cloudy, like white marbles. Daddy, what is the bear looking for? The bear leaves his lair and goes to the mountain because he is a big furry weather scout. Playfully, he rubs his face against mine. His whiskers are scratchy. He’s looking for weather? That’s funny! The lamp by the chair casts blotches of light across my father’s face and makes shiny pictures in the thick lenses of his glasses. He’s looking to see if winter is coming. If he can see the other side of the mountain… Then winter hasn’t come yet, right? Bingo! But if his ability to see the other side of the mountain is impeded

by rain or snow… Then it is winter! A question burns inside me. Finally, it spills out. If you were a bear weather scout, would you be able to see the other side of the mountain? My father makes his thinking face. That would depend on how far away the mountain is. And the amount of light in the sky. In my mind I draw a sky of magical light so that my father, like the bear, will be able to see the mountain.

My mother and father were married in Boston in the fall of 1944. Two years later he was blind. The pain in his hip started before the wedding and, within weeks, my father was afflicted with crippling arthritis as well as inflammation in his eyes. A mid-century medical muddle contributed to my father’s blindness. An array of treatments, including typhoid fever therapy, penicillin,

vitamin therapy, special diets, X-rays, gold injections, and tooth extractions. A psychiatrist suggested that my father’s arthritis was “anger in his joints.” For the rest of his life, my father believed that he, like Oedipus, had blinded himself because of his love for his mother. Today, a brief course of steroid eye drops would resolve the inflammation in a week’s time. My parents schlepped all over Boston looking for answers. Not one doctor connected the eye problem with the hip problem. In the end a woman doctor prescribed a year of bed rest. Up once a day to use the bathroom and once a week for a shower. Special exercises and as many aspirin as he could tolerate until his ears began to ring. For my father the limit was twenty-one. He taught himself to weave, played gin rummy with my mother. His vision was fading and the doctors encouraged him to

learn Braille. A year later, when he got out of bed, the pain and swelling in his joints was gone. He was still able to recognize his cards, but within six weeks all he could see was light and dark. Despite this unforeseen turn of events, my parents followed their dream and moved to California. My father, who had obtained his bachelor’s from UC Berkeley, was accepted to Boalt law school, and my mother, who had a bachelor’s in early childhood education (rare for a Jewish woman of her era) started a nursery school. My father managed to negotiate his way across the UC Berkeley campus without a cane. The combination of Braille textbooks and student readers helped him keep up with his course work. He led the UC Berkeley debate team to victory during the Cal-Stanford debate; was invited to join the secret society of the Order of the Golden Bears; and

became an active fundraiser and spokesperson for the National Federation of the Blind in the Bay Area. At the end of his second year in law school, his doctors discussed the possibility of surgery. They couldn’t promise total recovery but believed they could restore partial vision by removing the cataracts that had formed. My older sister Arla was two years old, and my father had never seen her. Like peeling the skin away from an onion, the doctor unwound the thick gauze from my father’s eyes. Cautiously—chest vibrating in hope and fear—he opened one, then both eyes. Waiting for the light. There, at the foot of the bed, stood the doctor, waving a white handkerchief. And my mother, holding the dimpled daughter he’d never seen. My father told us that even the doctor cried. He regained peripheral vision and moved up a

notch from being blind to “legally blind.” It was a huge disappointment to him that he would never drive again. Mom, who was terrified of driving, became the main driver in the family. She set out my father’s clothing every morning because, God forbid, his socks might not match. To decipher the words of the morning paper, my father held the neatly folded pages of The San Francisco Chronicle within inches of his thick bifocal lenses. He kept paper money folded in ascending order in the pocket of his slacks and often made mistakes when counting out bills to us kids. My brothers thought nothing of tricking him out of a five spot by calling it a one. My father was an easy mark. Even so, he is the person who taught me to swim, ride a bike, and drive a car.

I spend my childhood watching my father carefully run his palms against

surfaces, getting to know his surroundings through touch. When we walk, he taps his toes on the ground in front of him to grasp the lay of the land before advancing. Our mother enforces strict rules in our house: No leaving toys, shoes, or other stray objects in his path, though her vigilance cannot keep the mishaps at bay. He steps in hot coals at Drake’s Beach when my brother neglects to warn him they are headed for the fire pit. That very same day—this time under my sister’s watch—he comes up against a cruel rock and breaks his toe. When my father screams, his voice is louder than the waves that are crashing against the shore. Achaaaaghghgh. Then he laughs. It is on my father’s knee that I learn the value of laughter when facing adversity. My two favorite stories happened before the operation, when my father was a student. One day, he took the trolley to the city. He

followed the click click of a woman’s high heels to what he thought was the trolley track and ended up in the ladies’ room. Another evening, he and a blind colleague were leaving a National Federation of the Blind meeting. My father led the way and steered them both face-first into a flowerbed. Two grown men wearing suits and bow ties, rolling with laughter in the shrubs. The blind leading the blind. When my father and I run into friends at the grocery store, the astute ones shake his hand and immediately identify themselves. Then there are those who extend their hand and say, Len, you son of a gun, how are you? Without stating their names. When the conversation ends, Dad leans down and whispers in my ear, Meg, who was that? I am surprised at my father’s ability to carry on a twentyminute conversation with a man he does not recognize. My father moves

in and out of shadows, and we never know exactly where light ends and darkness begins.

In 1977, when I am in college, my mother gets tickets for the ballet Giselle, starring Makarova and Baryshnikov. We are so close to the stage that we can see the veins in the ballerina’s slender neck, the beads of perspiration on her brow, the definition of her sinewy muscles beneath her lacy tutu. Mom splurged on four front row center seats in the hopes that Daddy would be able to see the stage. I can make out every detail down to Baryshnikov’s eyelashes, but what does it look like through my father’s eyes? I want to know. I squint until all I can see is a slice of Baryshnikov and the tiny ballerina. I glance at my father and wonder: Is this what the world looks like to him? Many years later, I learn that my sister Eve and I both watched the

ballet with our eyes half-closed. Not because we were tired or bored, but because we were trying to imagine what our father could actually see. My life has been punctuated by the question: What does my father see? The subtle hues of the Berkeley sunset, the details in a jasmine bloom, the blueness of my eyes? He tells me every day that I am beautiful. How does he know? My mother always tells me that I am “better eyes” for my father than she, because I see the world in abundant detail. Imagining myself in other people’s shoes is a way of life for me. Going over the mountain. To see what I can see. Straddling dual realities. The one of light and the one of darkness.

Howard Winn Thousands and Thousands of Yellow Rubber Duckies Drifting emancipated, thousands of yellow rubber duckies bound for thousands of baby baths, roam the seas instead at the whim of winds, tides, and currents. Sliding from the deck of a shifting container freighter, failure of stevedores, metal splitting open the boxes of playthings, freed the floating toddler toys where in the seas north south east and west, grave oceanographers now chart the way of the waters, following the thousands of yellow rubber duckies.

Such is the nature of solemn science which can find truth through thousands of yellow rubber duckies. Will the happy infant, paddling with his own single yellow rubber duckie care? Not yet.

Todd Mills Rubbers

It was early October. I forth: “Italians are crazy. feckin’ hell, I got her had been to Amsterdam when I was young, but not since the experiment to legalize drugs. I found the bar mentioned in the guide book, called Damp Ding. It was a modernlooking establishment with a maroon awning and single spotlight illuminating a goldlettered sign. I sat down at the bar and studied the fine woodwork, in particular the rows of wooden drawers under the mirrored counter. The bartender, a big, balding man who said he “smoked since I was eleven,” was holding

Germans know what they want. Americans, so-so.” Next to me was a square-faced Irishman. He was telling a story about when he was working in Dublin and cut his forehead on a nail while hanging drywall. A cut on the face always looks worse than it is, and since this one was pretty deep, his forehead was covered in blood and so was his shirt. That didn’t stop him from chatting-up a girl walking by the construction site in a miniskirt. He smiled and she smiled back. “So

phone number. Gotta laugh.” “Yeah, gotta laugh,” I said, and topped off with: “Always gotta laugh.” When the bartender came around, I asked him what he recommended. He looked me over. “Bourbon with mushrooms.” “I like the beer and mushrooms,” the Irishman said. “How about vodka and mushrooms,” I said. More stories followed: jokes about the English, Italians, and French, but surprisingly, nothing about the Polish, who the

bartender called the “geniuses of Europe.” I had been laughing for thirty minutes when I realized that more laughter wouldn’t be good for my bladder. “Upstairs,” the bartender pointed. I climbed a spiral staircase, poorly anchored, that wobbled when I mounted. Halfway up, I heard the bartender make a joke about falling down the stairs. “Too many mushrooms,” he laughed. This made me more alert, but climbing down I missed a step and fell. “Took a good bounce, did you?” the Irishman joked. An image of a bowling

ball came to mind. The Irishman’s mouth was slightly out of sync with his voice, and the bottles on the glass shelf looked like blow-up dolls. It was a pleasant distortion. The room was cozy and smelled like cherry wood, and I had the feeling of warm expectation mixed with interest, similar to how you feel when you are about to come to the end of a story. Just after midnight a lady in a greatcoat and wool hat sat down at a booth. She was a large woman with a large, veiny nose and yellow bangs that hung below the rim of her hat. The Irishman punched

my shoulder. She sat like a snowblind bear in her big coat, unmoving. After several minutes she picked up the menu and squinted. “Russian,” the Irishman said. “Probably can’t read.” Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she ran her finger down the items. “Can’t sit without ordering,” the bartender yelled out. The Irishman raised his glass: “Russians don’t know what they want.” “Nobody knows what they want,” I said, wondering a moment later what I meant by that.

The lady took out her notebook and pen. She gripped the pen like a child, and I could see she had trouble making letters. “Gotta order or leave,” the bartender said more firmly. He walked over to her booth. “I’m ready to order,” she said. She tore out a page and handed it to him. He studied it and shook his head. “Are you sure?” “Da!” “When do you want it?” “Now,” she said, frowning. The bartender paced behind the bar. He looked agitated. He

opened a single drawer. He closed his eyes and shook his head, mouthing numbers, as if he were having a discussion with an invisible accountant. The Irishman waved his glass. “Got another beer, mate?” “Wait,” the bartender replied fiercely. With quick precision, he opened the wooden drawers and laid out the contents, stacking bricks of hashish and bulging packets of mushrooms and pills. “Blimey O’Reilly,” the Irishman said. “Holy shit!” I said. “Is that legal?” “If it’s for personal consumption,” the

Irishman said. “That’s right,” the bartender said to someone on his cell. “One hundred Marrakesh, one hundred White Widow, fifty Golden Triangle, fifty No Ba-ba. How much Oxy have you got? Yeah, I’ll take it all.” “Boris, do I have to stuff all this dope up my arse?” the Irishman cracked. The mushrooms were coming on, but I needed to piss again. As I climbed the stairs, I realized my feet had grown too long for the treads. After I zipped up again, I studied myself in the mirror. My nose was bending but otherwise I

looked fine. The words “personal consumption” repeated in my head. It could be understood as consuming people. What did the bartender mean by that? I held the rail going down, carefully placing my foot before taking a step. The bar was strangely lit with pools of light illuminating the drugs on the counter. The Irishman looked nervous and was watching the door. There were golden starfish on the floor which, when I stepped on them, vanished. I walked past the bar and out the door. The night was cool, the street nearly empty. I stood under the awning

and looked through the window. The bartender saw me and waved get out of here! The Irishman waved come back! I walked a half block and saw a thin girl in an alley shooting up. There was a thin dog and a thin cat. There were two men lit by the neon of a sex shop, talking very fast and waving their hands. I looked up at the starry sky, heard a strange pop, and felt yanked up. For a moment I was flying and then I was looking down on the earth, which was a pale ball with blue strings lacing the planet; somehow I knew the strings tracked the route of drugs smuggled around the world.

Back in Amsterdam a car drove by with blue strings attached to its tires. There were strings attached to the girl in the alley and to the man who joined her. The doorknob of the tobacco shop had strings that stretched for more than a city block, trailing a strolling smoker. It made perfect sense. The thin dog, which had ignored me the first time it walked by, returned and sat down beside me. It cleared its throat and said: “Excuse me.” “What?” I stammered. “Do you know what’s happening?” the dog asked with the slightest Dutch accent. “We call

the strings rubbers. Interesting, isn’t it, how clearly you can see them.” I looked at the animal in amazement. “Rubber bands that stretch but don’t break. What does it mean?” “What do you think it means?” “Strings attached?” I paused to think. “Maybe our fates are sealed?” “That’s right,” the dog said. “Very little free will.” “So, how does it work?” “I know it as a dog. We say, just enjoy it.” “Just enjoy it?” “Go for a walk, run around, explore, laugh like you were doing at

the bar. I think you know what to do, Mr. Todd Mills.”

Genevieve Pfieffer Frack

Gangling green roots and the sheen over rocks. How the forest bends inward, Fitting into the grooves of the wash. The maple bursting, Red-brown knobs pushing forth, unthinking Unfolding into tiny crumples of webbing and veins Tossed in air. Then the tartness of reds and oranges; Heaving into autumn, aching back into the earth. The dam built, scraping and leaking away the river, with a movement hacking, And a glass half drunk from well-water.

Kait Austin Kid

“Listen kid, women have souls and men have dicks. You get it?” “Not really,” she says. “Are you saying that, um, guys’ d—” “Dicks,” I say. The flush in her cheeks turns me clairvoyant. “Yeah. They’re as important as souls?” If I had a whistle, I would blow it now. I would push all my breath into the thing, biting down on the metal and straining my throat. Give me twenty squats, the latent coach in me would bark, because I hate squats. But the dicks would appreciate squats, so I would settle on push-ups. Twenty-five push-ups. I’d give her a pair of strong biceps. “No, they take the place of souls. And even though they ascend towards the heavens every once in a while, they

never make it there.” We are cousins who sit in my dusty grey coupe outside of a school. I am between jobs, but not too stressed— not yet. She’s starting her first day of high school and looking at a group of guys in front; their shirts all seem a halfsize too small. “You never had a boyfriend, right?” she asks me like I had told her so. The subject hadn’t ever been crossed. I examine the scraps of polish on my nails. “No. I haven’t, Kid.” “I’m fourteen, you know. Like, eight years younger than you. It’s weird when you call me Kid.” “I was doing long division before you figured out how to breathe,” I say. I find it hard to look up from the crooked lines left of my call-me-coral polish. A bell rings somewhere and the jocks out

front start to head inside. “Almost late for your first day.” “I hate it already,” she says.

There’s a donut shop close to a beach nearby. Nearby is a relative term in this town, with the size and all. Everything is nearby. I intend to buy one donut, park at the beach and listen to French music. I buy a half dozen for myself, because I want the pink box. I get a coffee too. A lemon-filled glazed is down my throat before I leave the parking lot. I have three donuts left when I get to Nearby Beach. The Pacific might as well be somewhere else. I am only focused on the layering of yeasty flavors in my mouth. The raspberry-filled has seeds; the chocolate-covered tastes artificial, but I finish them. I drink the coffee too fast and heat encircles my neck. My stomach aches and I feel bad. I don’t feel bad because of the stomachache, but I feel bad about it. I

roll down the window and a rush of seagulls approach. They have stupid faces, expecting cold, crunchy, oversalted french-fries. I puke down the side of my car. The gulls are cautious at first. Then they make a feast of my misfortune. My sinuses burn. I hope the kid inside me has a soul.

Contributors Kait Austin Kait Austin is a New Orleans native who loves a full-bodied red, Creole cuisine, and roaring family gatherings. She graduated with a BA in creative writing from Louisiana State University, and is currently studying editing at the University of Washington. Kait doesn't have pets, a significant other, or any eccentric hybrid of the two. She does, however, have a cute studio apartment in Seattle, which is pretty cool. H.V. Cramond H.V. Cramond is the Poetry Editor for and a Co-founder of Requited Journal for Innovative Art and a Writing Instructor at Loyola University Chicago. She holds an MFA in Writing from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and has received grants from the Illinois Arts Council and the City of Chicago’s Community Arts Assistance Program. Her poem “War of Attrition” was a finalist in the 2013 Split This Rock Poetry Festival Contest judged by Mark Doty. Some recent work can be found in Soundless Poetry, Keep Going, Wunderkammer, Ignavia, death hums, Matter Monthly, and Pandora’s Box (Southport Press, 2011). She's currently in residence at the Vermont Studio Center.

Annabelle Edwards Annabelle Edwards is a young writer and photographer living in New York. Her work has appeared in Gone Lawn, Belleville Park Pages, and the Red Booth Review. She is the co-editor of Control Literary Magazine. Sam Grieve Sam Grieve was born in Cape Town and lived in Paris and London prior to settling down in Connecticut. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in A cappella Zoo, Cactus Heart, Forge Journal, Grey Sparrow Journal, Wild Violet Literary Magazine, Sanskrit and PANK. Todd Mills Todd Mills received his bachelorʼs degree from Antioch University. As a young man he defined himself as a traveler, working his way around the world and supporting himself as a laborer, cook, and teacher in faraway places like the Highlands of New Guinea. Now, with his drifter days behind him, he lives comfortably with his Zimbabwean wife in Ojai, California. He cowrote and produced the documentary film "Timothy Learyʼs Dead." His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Rougarou, The Alembic, Griffin, The Legendary, ONTHEBUS, Voices, The Coe Review, Yellow Silk, AUSB Odyssey, Sage Trail, RiverSedge, Paranoia VHS, Collage, Antiochracy, Forge, Jet Fuel Review, New Plains Review, and in the anthology Poets on 9-11. Genevieve Pfeiffer Genevieve Pfeiffer lives outside NYC, concocting plans to someday build and live in a treehouse. She’s a poet, and has taught workshops in summer camps

and a correctional facility. She’s worked as Editor, Editorial Assistant, and Community Outreach Coordinator. Her work can be found in BlazeVox and Crack The Spine, and she is currently scrapping together a wordpress blog, BlackWidowProse, to analyze the craft of women poets and muse on what it is for her to identify as ‘woman’ within the human ilk. Megan Vered Following her mother's death in 2011, Megan Vered penned a family story that she sent to her siblings every Friday. Her essay in Crack the Spine is part of that collection. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in the “First Person” column of the San Francisco Chronicle, Amarillo Bay, The Diverse Arts Project, Existere Journal of Arts and Literature, The Oklahoma Review, and she will be the featured essayist in the Spring 2014 publication of Mezzo Cammin. She is among the authors featured in the “Story Chairs” short story installation at Jack Straw Productions in Seattle. William Walsh William Walsh’s books include "Speak So I Shall Know Thee: Interviews with Southern Writers," "The Ordinary Life of a Sculptor," "The Conscience of My Other Being," "Under the Rock Umbrella: Contemporary American Poets from 1951-1977," and "David Bottoms: Critical Essays and Interviews." His work has appeared in AWP Chronicle, Cimarron Review, Five Points, Flannery O’Connor Review, The Georgia Review, James Dickey Review, The Kenyon Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, North American Review, Poetry Daily, Poets & Writers, Rattle, Shenandoah, Slant, and Valparaiso Review.

Howard Winn Howard Winn’s writing, both fiction and poetry, has been published by such journals asGalway Review (Ireland),Dalhousie Review, Descant (Canada), Chaffin Journal, Borderlands, Hiram Poetry Journal, New Verse News. His B. A. is from Vassar College. His M. A. is from the writing program at Stanford University. He has done additional graduate work at the University of California San Francisco. His doctoral work was done at N. Y. U. He has been a social worker in California where he also taught for three years and currently is a faculty member of SUNY as Professor of English.

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Crack the Spine - Issue 110  

Literary Magazine

Crack the Spine - Issue 110  

Literary Magazine