Crack the Spine - Issue 28

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Crack the Spine

Issue Twenty-Eight

Crack The Spine Issue Twenty-Eight June 11, 2012 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2012 by Crack the Spine

Contents Deborah Rowe Penelope Zachary Scott Hamilton XOS 2 Exoskeleton Cory De Silva A Chance at Immortality Dan Kennard Customer Service Kacy Cunningham Failed Discretion Dave Kostos A Response to the Work of Dr. Noam Chomsky, With the Highest of Regards The Arenas George Sparling Western

Deborah Rowe Penelope

I. A coin sits in the bowl marked Take one, leave one on the countertop of the 7 Eleven on 4th and Montauk. II. Her muddy hair scratched her scalp dulling down her shine. Her face covered with faint cracks and deep scratches. III The clanking in their pockets full of mismatched miscellany echoed the regrets of empty transactions. IV Her tongue tasted like blood like iron and the curling iron left burning in the bathroom sink.

V. A penny sits on the blacktop searing in the sunshine warming in sync with the ground as it heat. VI. Her dripping face, copper teethed. Riveted and coarse. VII. Change left unused in the bottom of drawer pickled with rust and dust. Pieces of chewed up bubblegum stick from sidewalk. VIII. When you hold her in your hands You feel her tears, her sweat perspiring on her skin. IX. Their collecting in stacks in rolled up recycled paper stuffed in a box at a bake sale.

X. She lays face up losing the bet. She’s upside down wiped out flat. XI. Crowds of top hats and brown faces are corralled into the mason jar and left to be forgotten. XII. When the moon slides in through the threads of cloth hanging from her window she hopes for change. XIII. All the while, the rest of them wrestle with their worth, with their necessity, struggling to find purpose and as they dwindle into obsolescence.

Deborah Rowe is political science student at California State University, Long Beach where she dabbles in poetry and frequently crashes workshop courses. She will be graduating in 2012 with a laundry list of honors, only to be working in the lifesuck that is the corporate world. She hopes to preserve what’s left of her basic DNA through her writing.

Zachary Scott Hamilton ZOS 2 Exoskeleton It's orange o'clock, when they order the rafts for lake explorations. Using a head mirror, each player experiences, from multiple angles, a pinstriped boat with numbers on the sides, and white bench seats that open up as a mini refrigerator. The dissection equipments float in a green light, beneath: a stereo-tactic device, lancets, rasps, retractors, and surgical staplers, lined up, and floating to the surface. Richter's head mirror glows. Pupil sectors, cut away for two knife throwing wheels, spin in black spirals inside of his head. A small operator rodent, named Gosh operates the eyes with cogwheels and pulleys, using them in great might, and agitation. The wooden wheels spin once, and then Richter closes the lid of the refrigerator, and Percy steps into the boat from the dock where he had been standing. Percy is a motor mouth, he uses the Pennington clamp to keep his flapping jaws closed, but it doesn't stay snug enough. His jaws drool through the retractors, spin lyrics, breathe letters. He never “speaks into the microphone.� The two of them grab a pair of bandage scissors and snip the line of the dock. This leads to a TV splashing into the water, sizzling. It's green thirty, and the boys are getting really thirsty for an Xos 2 Exoskeleton (leader of all exoskeletons) so they can drink. Not once has either boy seen, or heard an Xos 2, but the operators manual makes specific reference to their whereabouts in this lake, and so they go, to hunt down an Xos 2 exoskeleton, to drink it up into their head mirrors. Percy unpacks his box of cardboard, cutting it with a scalpel, and putting together one of those robot suits that astronauts wear. Richter stuffs his arm in the water and pulls up a wet, bleached mountain goat, setting it on the floor of the boat. He notices the lack of movement and gets an RF knife to do the job, cutting the sloppy, goat fur away. Revealed within, is a fur explosion, where Christmas lights piled under the whole inside fluff out.

One section followed by another, goat sends of string Richter thought were seaweeds light up in the water. Row after row of Christmas bulbs light the depths of the murky water, illuminating the entire lake bottom in yellowing seconds. The goat starts twitching, and Richter puts the RF knife and bandage scissors in the air. Percy flaps his jaw, repeating a common phrase of the region, “Hammers tucked in conversation!� He mutters in the robot suit. He has just fashioned a whole astronaut suit out of cardboard, and begins doing a celebration dance, awkward left and right, robot booty before falling off of the raft, his helmet part hits the arm rest, and lands inside of the boat. Richter looks down into the water, at the headless robot floating away, into the thousands of Christmas lights, and then he lifts up the robot head from the planks of the raft, inspecting its sequins Percy taped on all around the mouth, and nose. Richter makes a noise, like approval, mixed with a kind of oblivious muttering, and through the glowing lake bottom, Percy watches as Richter begins putting on the helmet, careful of the poking tuna cans that the ears are made of.

Zachary Scott Hamilton is the author of fourteen 'Zines, including Temple of Sinew, The Orchestra of Machines, Wallet of Hexagons and HAIR LAND (named 'Zine of the month by the Independent Publishing Resource Center).His work appears in various magazines including: The Portland Review, Trigger Fish and HOUSEFIRE. He recently went on tour with the band Holy! Holy! Holy! And installed artwork with partner Molly Pettit for a photo series, which appears on-line at his website.

Cory De Silva A Chance at Immortality Earn yourself a place in the literary canon. You will be read for hundreds of years. Quiver-lipped fools, dying for a degree, will analyze your work, construct essays concerning your craft, & write theories explicating your art. But most of them will be wrong. As professors build careers teaching students why you lived a certain way, wrote certain lines the way you did, your ghost will sip chardonnay in heaven,

laugh as cherubs haul grapes to your ectoplasmic mouth, & wonder how fools fell for such silly ideas on poetics. Cause no one wants to admit it. Though smart & well versed, your poems weren’t written for theories & academics, weren’t meant to be hoisted to the heights of post-post-postwhatever-is-in-right-now literature, or sandwiched between gaudy, opulent poets in expensive anthologies. No. Your poems were written through months of terrified labor, locked in apartments sick with flickering lights, & angry roaches climbing the walls. Cory's first album, Someday When I’m Young, was released in March 2010. He co-edits for Bank-Heavy Press in Long Beach, CA and writes poetry and fiction. His second album, Beginnings, is scheduled for release in 2012.

Dan Kennard Customer Service The man had come in to get a haircut because he saw a sign in the window that said “We’ll cut your hair anyway you want.” He smiled at the barber as he took a seat. As the barber dusted the man’s neck with baby powder he asked the man what his name was. He said, “Hey man, what’s your name?” They made eye contact in the giant mirror as the barber wrapped a strip of paper around the man’s neck. The man said he had recently changed his name to Klimax, with a ‘K,’ which he emphasized, and then added that he had chosen that name because it “sounded futuristic.” The barber said, “It’s always good to plan ahead.” Then he asked the man what kind of haircut he wanted. He said, “Hey man, so what do you want to do with your hair?” They stared at each other in the mirror again. Then the man used his hands, motioning with both of them and pointing at different parts of his head saying he needed a new start, while explaining that he wanted “the craziest haircut ever.” The barber said, “Then I better get more scissors.” The barber opened a drawer and added three more pairs of scissors to the fingers of each hand, six total, then opening and closing them all in a few quick chops, to demonstrate his expert control of the many scissors, he asked the man if six pairs of scissors were enough to make his hair as crazy as the man wanted it to be. He said, “Hey man, do you think these are enough scissors to make your hair crazy like you want? I have boxes of scissors in the back I could go get.” They stared at each other in the mirror, the barber poised to cut, waiting only for Klimax. The man said that six pairs were more than enough, but to really ensure the craziness of his haircut, he asked if the barber could please “wear a blindfold.” The barber said, “You’re taking me back to my roots man.” Then the barber went on to explain, as he searched for a suitable item to blindfold himself with, that as an amateur barber his old trainer often

blindfolded him as a training technique. He said, “I used to cut anything with hair back then, and I could do it blindfolded too. Goats were good practice. Big-headed children were good too because they don’t sit still. My trainer had me do it all the time; he said it was the best training a young barber could engage in.” The man looked at him in the mirror with a look of concern and explained that because of his former training he was concerned that the barber wouldn’t be able to make his hair crazy enough, that he might, in fact, be too good blindfolded, so he reluctantly asked if the barber wouldn’t mind blinding himself instead, because trying to cut hair like that would “really make it crazy.” The barber said conscientiously, “In that state, I might accidentally cut you with the scissors” but the man assured him he wasn’t worried about it. Then they looked at each other in the mirror, and looking one last time at the sign in the window, with a very casual shrug, the barber used all six pairs of scissors to blind himself, plunging them into his eyes, and gave Klimax the craziest haircut he’s ever had.

Dan Kennard earned his MFA from Florida Atlantic University in May 2011 and now resides in Fort Pierce, FL where he is a Composition and Literature instructor at Keiser University. He also maintains a monthly fiction blog at where he writes a literature-sitcom called Virgil Inhibited.

Kacy Cunningham Failed Discretion “Like the way he feels about the deer. But he has to kill it.” “Why does he have to kill it?” He yanked at his hair, pulling shaggy, brunette strands to stand like a mohawk. “Christ. ‘Cause his dad!” He uncrossed his legs and rose from the scratchy, cross-stitched couch, stomping with bare feet to the fridge. Over the rattling of glass, I scanned the slopping bookshelf, glaring at the hundreds of broken book binds. I counted sixteen copies of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises and there were thick hardback volumes by poets I’d never heard of. “You want a beer?” “I don’t like beer.” He sat on the edge of the couch, opposite me, further away than before. “Right,” he said and put a bottle of Sam Adams --within my arm’s reach-- on the chest. Serving as a table, the chest was much too short, never close enough to the couch. A rather calming hemp blanket stretched over the chest’s veneer, an ocean of teal, navy, and indigo hemp knots with black elliptical lines and semi-circles as redemptive waves. The room itself smelled like sandalwood and sex, mold and tobacco. Above the sticker-covered television set, a poster showcased Scarlett Johansson’s pouty lips and plunging cleavage. I looked at my own chest; I decided the room was warm and tugged off my sweater. “Jim?” “What?” “All I got’s beer and whiskey.” On the crusted carpet, his laptop played foreign melodies with a soothing female vocalist. He scoured at the carpet, his brows joining the wrinkles in the middle of his forehead. “Yeah, one shot.” What the hell. He looked at me, remembering he wasn’t alone. After a pause, he nodded and stumbled to an ironing board in front of the bookshelf. There was no iron, just unfolded clothing and a bottle of Wild Turkey tipped on its side.

“Thought I had Jim Beam…” His voice trailed away and he turned off all the lights, returning in the dark with the bottle by its throat. The bottle fell in the crack of the couch between us. “Glasses?” I asked. He lit two candles on the chest, both already melted to the blanket. With the fire still burning from the lighter, he searched the chest and carpet for the cigarette he rolled earlier. I reached for the breast pocket of his flannel shirt, but he let the fire die and scooted back to the edge of the couch. I dropped my hand. “Your pocket,” I said. I uncapped the whiskey and picked at the lifted lettering on the label. “Just take a swig.” I filled my mouth with the liquor, fighting the sting and swallowing hard. The intensity of the whiskey swam down my throat, slicing a menacing path. I couldn’t taste a flavor, only heat. He watched me, amused though not overtly. The art behind the couch glowed: a nude brunette woman, touching herself, head thrown back in ecstasy. An orange and red tie-dye sheet hung in a narrow doorway to separate a room I assumed was his bedroom. “I think he should stand up to his dad,” I said. He laughed and finished his beer in a gulp. “I’m serious!” I drank from the bottle again, two solid swallows. “It would change the whole story, man.” Usually, I would correct him: “I’m a woman,” I’d say and pretend to be annoyed. God, I needed his attention. But I felt interesting and beautiful this night, and I loved when Mike called me ‘man.’ “Whatever,” he said, snatching the bottle from me as I finished my third sip. “Let’s talk about something else.” Electricity numbed my tongue, but I forced the liquid down. “But we’re writers!” He was smiling now and he drank with the bottle tipped casually, like it was mineral water. “I’m glad you’re here,” he said. I crossed my legs, Indian-style. His dog snored on the carpet and the playlist finished. He moved toward the screen to find music and I breathed deep to relax. Johnny Cash began with his raspy, deep voice. I hated whiskey and I hated Johnny Cash. Next to me, Mike licked the thin paper of a homemade cigarette and offered it to me. Maybe Johnny wasn’t that bad. “Do you know French?” I asked. “No.” He held the lighter for me and I inhaled. “Why?”

“The music before. You said she was French, yeah?” “Oh, Edith Piaf, yeah. She was big in the 30s. You like her?” I shrugged and sucked on the cigarette. “I don’t know. I don’t know French.” He twisted the paper around the tobacco -- a cigarette for himself. “You don’t need to understand something to appreciate it.” I disagreed, but asked, “Who do you find more attractive?” I gestured at the posters facing each other, Scarlett and the naked brunette. “Attraction changes, Jo.” He often spoke short, cryptic lines like these; they sounded intellectual, wise, arrogant. “Elaborate.” “Today I might want Scarlett, but tomorrow I’ll desire the other.” “But you believe in love?” “Absolutely not,” he said and flicked his cigarette. Excess tobacco fell into the carpet. Disappointment surged over me, along with my pride’s protest. His brooding demeanor was just a challenge, I told myself. “I think you’d really love France,” I said. “Yeah, man, I really want to go. I can’t believe I’ll be twenty-eight and I haven’t made it to Europe.” “You’re young. Besides you went cross-country in your Jeep alone. I’m jealous of that.” “You lived up north, you’ve been down south. You’re better traveled, believe me.” “Wisconsin? That’s the Midwest, and not even the best of it. I just need to make it out west. I’m dreaming about Arizona deserts and New Mexico and California. I always dream of Kerouac’s west.” “Cali’s amazing. Northern Cali is mad beautiful.” We passed the bottle a couple of times and I licked my lips, hoping to taste him. His jeans were rolled at his ankles and when he stretched his back, his eyes closed and his exhale sounded like a muted moan. “What are ya thinking about?” His dark eyes shot open. “You shouldn’t be here.” “What do you mean?” I stiffened. He fell against the back cushion of the gray couch and looked toward the ceiling. He cracked his knuckles and sighed. “Brian’s in love with you, man.”

I reached in my purse for an American Spirit and lit the cigarette as it quivered in my hand. Brian again. “You know he is.” “Okay,” I said. “But I don’t love him. I can’t help that.” “I know.” He picked at the hardened wax on the blanket. “But he’s my best friend.” We sat in silence. Johnny Cash wasn’t singing to us anymore and the room felt empty, uninhabited. “You’re young,” he said. “I get it.” “Don’t pull the age card. I’m twenty-two. You’re not exactly my elder.” “Fair enough.” Nervous, I smoothed my hair, golden in the candlelight. “I never used him.” “Okay.” “Brian was my best friend, too. We did everything together. And he offered to pay. I never asked for anything.” “You didn’t have to.” I stared at Mike, pulling on my sweater, and I felt the carpet for my boots. “C’mon, Jo. You knew he loved you, and everyone knows Brian has money.” I pulled one leather boot up to my knee. “It seems to me you’re not so innocent yourself. You used Kate for her connections.” “You don’t know what you’re talking about.” “No?” I stood, the candles flickering between us. “Wasn’t it her decision to publish you? Because she was editor? And didn’t her letter of recommendation get you in the MFA? Maybe Brian bought me concert tickets and a t-shirt. Fuck, he bought me some burritos, but he didn’t help me forge my talent!” Mike bent his neck to the left and spun the bottle over the candle, the whiskey swishing against the glass as he meditated. He pressed the bottle to his lips and sucked loud. His eyes shone red and a vein pulsed in his neck. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have--” “Aren’t you finished, Jo?” His eyes glared up at me. “Haven’t you had your fun for the night?” “Listen, Mike--”

“No, you listen. There’s a big difference between you and me. I loved Kate and she left me. I didn’t leave her, and I sure as hell never used her! Yes, she published me, but it wasn’t just her decision. And the letter.” He gurgled a laugh. “I kept it. I never fucking used it.” So, he believed in love after all. The blanket of overlapping blues contained no tranquility. Maybe there were clues in the zigzagged lines, ebbing and departing, but their symbols were undecipherable to me. Facing the door, I said, “I tried to love him,” and I meant it. “You’re a heart-breaker.” The Kinks played behind me. I turned to apologize. “Let’s just finish this bottle and forget it.” I dropped my bag and sat on my legs, facing him on the couch. “You’re a hypocrite,” I mumbled. He pulled my head onto his lap. “Oh? How’s that?” His voice revealed a smile. He massaged my head. I had first heard The Kinks in his Jeep when he drove me home from the campus bar after the undergrad and MFA reading. “Strangers” was the song, and I gave it special meaning because we were, well, strangers. “It’s great, right?” I’d said, sitting on my heels and fluffing my hair, sweating from inebriation. “Here we are, two strangers, just like the song! It has to be our song.” He shook his head at me and bit his lower lip to stop a smile. “Put on your seatbelt.” I rolled my eyes and pouted, and he started the song over and turned the knob to maximize the volume. When he idled outside of my apartment, he told me he lived only a couple blocks away. Brian had introduced us previously, but we had never spoken without his presence. We exchanged numbers, deciding we should be friends, at least to swap and workshop stories. “I didn’t know about Kate.” “Do you think you’ll ever settle down?” “Why do you have sixteen copies of The Sun Also Rises?” I asked, eyeing the crooked and cracked spines in the impressive bookshelf. “I can’t see myself settling. I get too bored. I’ll never own a house. Actually I don’t really see myself owning anything.”

I sat up and drank, wiping drool from my chin and giggling at my failed discretion. I imagined his skin, naked flesh against mine. I thumbed his beard and he looked at me, uncertain. “What’s your favorite city?” “Let’s go swimming!” “Jo.” He inched away. “Come on.” “Barcelona.” I sat up, eager and awake and drunk. “We can race to the buoy!” He looked at me with eyes squinted and lips parted. “Kiss me.” “Jo, please. You’re drunk.” “Just kiss me,” I whispered. I moved toward him, but he pushed me. Storming across the living room, he punched the tie-dye sheet and vanished behind it. “I don’t want to kiss you.” “Oh, forget Brian.” “But if I don’t kiss you, I’m scared I’ll lose you.” “Frank, my man, how’re ya?” “Hey, good to see you! Frank,” he said, holding his hand for me to take. “Jo,” I said, following his tired eyes as they scanned my crimson dress. My hand rested on Austin’s inner elbow. The dim lights of the restaurant feigned expense and importance, but the seated couples hunched forward and wore jeans, or worse, dresses with flip flops. “Any room downstairs?” “Yeah, yeah, of course.” Frank led and I frowned at the back of Austin’s black shirt, wrinkled. The men at the wrought iron tables straightened their posture when I passed. With my ink-black stilettos, I carefully avoided the divots in the hand-painted tile. I hugged my clutch under my arm and curled a side of my mouth upward, feeling the lust. A wife kicked her husband under the table, but my swaying hips hypnotized him. Downstairs, flamenco dancers spun in pools of their colorful skirts, and the Spanish band bobbed their heads and tapped their feet in ecstatic unison. Adorned with a menu, ashtray, and tea-light candle, the bar-height tables proved efficient in their nonchalance. Austin smiled at me, a sloppy grin with teeth too large and yellowed from addiction. He was a true California boy with messy, wavy locks cut just above his jaw.

“You said Spain was your favorite, right?” He screamed over the music and winked at me like a used car salesman. “The whole place is based on Madrid, your favorite place.” I hated his toothy smirk, his lip rolling up to show his gum line. Barcelona, not Madrid. I rose, prepared to lie and ask for the restroom. I kissed him on the cheek. “Amaretto sour,” I said in his ear. “What about champagne?” he called after me, but I pretended not to hear and ascended the steps. I needed a cigarette. At the table, my drink waited for me with condensation etched on the small, red napkin. Austin’s combination of arrogance and insecurity attracted me as I stirred the liquid, stabbing the cherry. “You never told me,” he said, burping into his sleeve, “why California?” “I was bored with North Carolina.” “Huh?” He cupped his ear and leaned toward me. “Needed a change!” I yelled. He nodded and clapped with enthusiasm when the band finished and left for a smoke break. He whistled and I tucked my hair behind my ear, embarrassed. A waitress with stocky legs brought seafood tapas and fresh drinks. “You can take the ashtray,” Austin said. “We don’t smoke.” He pointed out the squid and baked oysters to me, before spreading a crab cake with sauce and shoveling it into his mouth. I refolded the black cloth napkin on my lap and cursed the silence, knowing we’d have to speak. “So,” he said and waited. I sipped my drink. “I bet you have quite the stories.” I nodded. I missed the conversations with Mike. I guess we never really shared conversation; we just talked, afraid to be alone. “You must have a favorite book!” “Who says? I mean, I could tell you that ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ changed my life, if it’s what you want to hear.” I snorted over my cider, laughing. “‘The Yellow Wallpaper’? First of all, it’s not a book.” “What do you think that bartender there’s thinking?” “And second, ‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ didn’t change anyone’s life.”

“The Sun Also Rises,” he said without looking away from the bartender. She wiped her hands with a rag and glared at a university kid puking in a miniature garbage can. After literary events, the campus bar always filled up and the poets were especially known for their belligerence. “I think she’s going to kill herself tonight.” “That hurts me.” “At least you don’t have to tip.” “Oh, not her. It’s just,” he paused, “‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is a beacon of American literature.” I elbowed him and we laughed, exiting the bar. He insisted on driving me home since I’d mistaken shots for courage before the reading. It was the night I heard The Kinks. “You’ve barely touched anything!” Austin said. I smiled and shrugged. “I like the oysters.” “An aphrodisiac!” He shimmied his broad shoulders toward me. “You’re just so beautiful,” he slurred. “I’m sure everyone tells you that.” “When does the band go back on?” “I’m lucky I found you before someone else got you.” He held his sweaty palm against my lower back. “I’m not a fucking object,” I said under my breath. “Excuse me,” he called the waitress, snapping. “Two more drinks, please. And another order of the Oysters Rockefeller.” He winked at me. The band staggered on the stage and tuned their instruments. “Tell me,” he said, “what do you want to do when we get home?” He leaned close to me and on his breath, I smelled the warm whiskey. “All I got’s beer and whiskey,” Mike had said, years ago. I still tasted the flame. “I want you to fuck me,” I said to Austin, reaching for my drink. He moved back, disappointed. “Jeez, Jo. Can’t we have a romantic night? We always…” He looked around the dim restaurant and whispered, “We always fuck.” “That’s how I like it.” I slurped the bottom layer of my drink and handed it to the waitress as she set a new one on the table. Drunken and melancholy and with disappointment of my own, I narrowed my eyes at Austin. “If you’re unhappy, I’m sure I can find someone else more than happy to satisfy me.” A couple of years younger than me, Austin still believed in love and romance. I wanted to admire his optimism, but I was a realist.

“I don’t know,” he said. “I mean, of course I don’t want that.” Defeated, he threw the miniature straws from his drink on the table and chugged the contents of his refilled glass. “I think I’m falling in love with you, okay? But all you want is to be fucked.” I laughed and it was hearty and deep, and it felt good. “You poor boy!” I said, mocking and shaking with laughter. He sulked, conscious of people’s looks. “I haven’t laughed that hard since--” “You could love me, couldn’t you?” Sober, I said, “I gave up on that long ago.” “But you believe in love, right?” I frowned at that fancy tile the same way Mike once looked at his filthy carpet, without hope. “Not anymore.”

Kacy Cunningham graduates with her B.A. in English-Creative Writing from University of South Florida this summer. She has spent the last year in Florence, Italy, writing poetry, working on her first novel, and learning Italian (or something) from her fiancé. She believes that life should be a collection of experiences, and she enjoys traveling and storytelling, particularly while swigging from a bottle of cheap wine shared with strangers on trains -- trains because she is prejudice of buses. And Kentucky. Because it ends in “ucky,” which is just too close to “yucky.” Oh, and Bermuda shorts. Because they look pretentious. This is her first published story.

Dave Kostos A Response to the Work of Dr. Noam Chomsky, With the Highest of Regards Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. Rare, howling needles greedily masticate. Puzzles show spectacular chaste card tricks. Lab coats weren’t meant to clothe imagination. Incendiary wheelchairs creaked at vine gods. Shiny gray sunflowers got hammered upstream. Slowly waltzing tuxedoes haunted your porch. Understanding may hide in both mind and heart. Walls will strut pompously through London’s drainpipes. Mars shall cram bronze tin statues in silently. Petrified railcars will whisper through milk crates. True human expression bows to no text book. Over-easy princes bark at the clock’s cogs. Bandit vultures merrily kicked at goggles. Chickens shall prophesize aubergine stove tops. Meaning is but what we choose to make of it.

Dave Kostos The Arenas I.

Playground The teams were picked today. Tomorrow it’s the old friends, then the relationships, the heartbreaks, the prom dates, each group huddled desperately together beneath their picture frame. Then all the pictures fade and curl, glass cracks under the weight of the dust. They move and the miles swallow up all memories of belonging. Everyone packs up, or throws out, or sells off their trophies. All but one.


Traffic Years passed with nothing but the boy’s pleas and the parents’ refusals before they opened the door and a puppy ran into the child’s grasp. A deal of responsibility was struck. The boy was never happier. But soon the puppy ate more food, more attention, more patience, more care than the boy had ever imagined. Every day, every walk, he feared his puppy

would wrestle loose from the leash and run wild and hopeless into the long, black road by his side. III.

Dollhouse Thick, warm grass embraced the house and sank beneath the kids racing footfalls as dad pulled into the driveway, his top down and his eyes alight. At dinner the conversation played like a skipping record, dad may get a promotion, mom heard new gossip, the boy watched something on TV and ever since wouldn’t stop begging for a dog. But the girl just sat and smiled and giggled on cue, just like all good little girls should, but her mind never strayed far from the new dollhouse waiting for her up in her room. The little dad was just about to pull into the driveway, and the thick, warm grass would sink beneath the little kids racing footfalls.


Moving Day Everything was placed lovingly into the brown cardboard boxes that filled the trunk. A final look through all the rooms found barren floorboards and walls,

dance floors for dust mites and shy long-silent spirits, that were so well lived with, yet seemed so unaffected. It was the fourth final look taken that morning, everyone scared they’d forget something, something vital or trivial or anything at all that, after the car pulled away, would be gone forever. They carried the last box to the car in silence, and wept into the rearview mirror.

Dave Kostos is a full-time student studying Creative Writing and Psychology at Salem State University. He has been writing for several years both academically and for personal interest, though this is his first published work.

George Sparling Western Because I owe money to a lawyer who bribes a judge and gets me off after I clubbed my wife to death, I decide to move from the east and land in Osage County, Oklahoma. It’s gotta be better here. My money runs out but then I steal horses, selling them to ranchers until they get wind of it and take me to the clink for horse thieving. I escape with the help of a convict in the hoosegow up for a bank holdup, sprung by his cohorts. I join the gang, and in 1911, we rob a train. I shoot dead the man in the mail car. Afterwards, we gallop to the hills, hiding out in an abandoned ranch house. We divvy up the loot. I’ve $5,000 in large bills. The Sheriff and his posse track us down. I’ve a Winchester repeater used in the heist, plus two .38’s in holsters under a dirty serape. The vigilantes corner us, and the rest of the gang. “YOU COWARDLY BASTARDS,” I yell at gang members after they surrender. I shoot it out and bullets fly through me, ending up dead, my blood among nettles and scrub. The Sheriff slings me down on a slab at the coroner’s office. They strip me naked and the coroner embalms me. I’m sold to a carnival for $500 and travel, paying crowds of spectators gawk at me in circuses and carnivals, and Rotary club members curse me. “You’re kind aren’t good for business,” one gent says to another. In California I’m a public joke, both arms and legs painted red, white, and blue, me dressed in the same stinking, bullet-ridden clothes in which I died. In 1975, I’m sold to a Hollywood funhouse and I attract more customers. Seated on a Styrofoam gallows, I’m fluorescent-dyed, orange, red and gold under black light. Both arms fall off, as do the two heavy .38’s I still tote. Spectators gag, some vomit, and all flee. I’d rob again if that was possible.

“I write whenever lightning strikes, connecting my consciousness to the greater world of human diminishment and suffering. I find so many of us are declasse, undeservedly fallen lower than the dreams we had concocted about ourselves.”

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