Crack the Spine
IIs ss suuee s seevveenntty y--o onnee
Crack The Spine Issue Seventy-One July 10, 2013 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2013 by Crack the Spine
Contents Jim Richards Application Christian Aguiar Chained to Blackstone Alex Miklovic Backslide Audible Daniel Ising Deep Shame J. Kirk Maynard Laura Speaks to Gifford Eliot Parker Hub 2000 Tiffani Lomuto Handsome Alana I. Capria A Letter Girl Sends to Boy After They First Meet
Cover Art Ira Joel Haber Ira Joel Haber was born and lives in Brooklyn New York. He is a sculptor, painter, book dealer, photographer and teacher. His work has been seen in numerous group shows both in USA and Europe and he has had 9 one man shows including several retrospectives of his sculpture. His work is in the collections of The Whitney Museum Of American Art, New York University, The Guggenheim Museum, The Hirshhorn Museum & The Albright-Knox Art Gallery. His paintings, drawings, photographs and collages have been published in over 100 on line and print magazines. He has received three National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, two Pollock-Krasner grants, the Adolph Gottlieb Foundation grant and, in 2010, he received a grant from Artists' Fellowship Inc. Currently he teaches art at the United Federation of Teachers Retiree Program in Brooklyn.
Jim Richards Application
We want your name. Yes, we must have that. No name? Paste the stamps from your forehead onto the page. We take what we can. Numbers, we want them all. This might hurt a bit. When the tears come, seal them in the tiny envelopes provided. We will accept cotton pockets in place of envelopes. Your hands must be in them. Stare at the third page till you see yourself. Tear out your eyes along the perforation. Keep them for your records. The buzzing you hear is normal. The bells are not. Let the doctor push his ring-finger between your ribs to stop the swinging. Move carefully
for four months. Swallow no ice. If you need to cough use sign language, unless you have sent us your hands. In that case, we cannot help you.
Jim Richards completed a Ph.D. in creative writing and literature at the University of Houston and now teaches at Brigham Young Universityâ&#x20AC;&#x201C;Idaho. His poems have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and have appeared recently in Prairie Schooner, Comstock Review, Poet Lore, Texas Review, The Fertile Source, and Contemporary American Voices. He serves as poetry editor for Irreantum and lives in Idahoâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s upper Snake River valley with his wife and five sons.
Christian Aguiar Chained to Blackstone Morning: We shared a laugh standing next to the dumpster because we had both been picking through the trash (to the chagrin of our friends, who never were hungry like us). You pulled a black cardigan from beneath a broken bookcase and, scraping off something dry with your fingernail, draped it over the thin bones at the base of your throat like a fine silk scarf. You were beautiful. Afternoon: You were sitting in the mildewed lower stacks right where the sunlight angles in over High Street. I tip-toed along the aisle behind you, terrified of the static shock collecting in my sneakers and the moment when it would explode. I peered through the books. You were reading Edwidge Danticat wrapped in Us Weekly. I couldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t bear to disturb you. Evening: I came tumbling out of the archives with my pants covered in history which had flaked off the spines of those old leather-bound ledgers upstairs and almost sent you to an untimely death over the banister. I apologized and you said nothing was untimely. Then you hurried off to work, too busy for a coffee. Ironic. Bitch.
Christian Aguiar grew up in and around Providence, Rhode Island and currently lives in South Korea. His recent work has appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Clockwise Cat, and other publications.
Alex Miklovic Backslide Audible
Meant to be a victory cigarette smoked it to the filter and then some. Placed the nub in a plastic cup where tarred tubes like wilted nibs brim as meant-to-beâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s.
Alex Miklovic is a writer out of Huntington Beach, California. He has graduated from California State University, Long Beach with a degree in English and aspires to be a producer in the music industry.
Daniel Ising Deep Shame
The big Jesus gives Kevin the heebie-jeebies, hanging like it does over the altar and the priest, neck twisted, mouth half open, staring up at the ceiling with that sad, pleading look in its eyes. It reminds him of this trip to the park when he was younger. He was riding the merry-go-round with a few other kids, and this old guy ran up and threw himself onto it, arms splayed like Jesus’, staring up at the sky with those same blank eyes and moaning incoherently, crazily, as he spun round and round. All the kids got scared and screamed, and Kevin cried on the way home. “What was wrong with that man?” he asked his mother. He knew, instinctively, that something must be; grown-ups didn’t act that way. She told him the man had something called Down Syndrome. He hadn’t known exactly what that meant, but Tommy Barnes filled in the gaps for him at recess. Kevin doesn’t like thinking Jesus was a retard. He turns from the retard Jesus to the processional bearing the gifts for the celebration of the eucharist making its slow way down the center aisle. His little sister pokes him in the ribs and points, giggling. Kevin smiles. A month ago he’d pointed out to her the moment during the consecration of the host when, after the priest finishes a line of his chant, a tiny bell is jingled. This tinkling little absurdity, so at odds with the solemn tone of the rest of mass, had sent her into near hysterics. It was still eliciting muffled little church giggles on Sundays, but it didn’t amuse their mother in the slightest. She’d tell anyone who’d listen about “the deep shame her children have caused her with their disrespectful behavior in God’s house.” It wasn’t just the one thing she referred to, of course. He and his sister had, on occasion, in the past, disturbed mass in other ways: one time, they got into a rapidly escalating pinch-fight during the recessional over who had first dibs on the still purely theoretical post-church doughnuts; they had also once attempted to conduct a game of hide-and-go-seek on their way back to the pew after a mid-mass bible study session; and most recently, they’d committed potential sacrilege. A few Sundays prior, after Caroline, who didn’t take her first Communion for another year, had pestered him all morning about what the host really looked like up close, Kevin had snuck it back to the pew to show her. Their mother caught them, and her gasp, and the shocked, scandalized look on her face were worse than any anger could have been. “What have you done?” she whispered. And since the obvious answer seemed too obvious, he said nothing, and just stammered a bit with the host in his hand. “You’re supposed to eat
that right away! It’s not sanctified now!” She snatched the wafer away from him and stuffed it in her purse, and didn’t speak to him again until they got home. The next Sunday, before mass, she made him confess the sin to the priest. “In God’s house” she didn’t tolerate any behavior she considered inappropriate, including (he’d learned over the years) such things as: whispering during the homily, laughing, reading a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” book, laughing, not standing or kneeling when everyone else did, laughing, emitting bodily gas or noise of any kind, and of course, laughing. In short, any behavior that in any way called attention to the family or was in any way out of the ordinary or, especially, embarrassing. She hears them giggling, leans over, and hisses at them through gritted teeth, “I am going to take you both out of here and whip your little asses if you don’t quiet up and sit still this instant.” It’s their mother’s version of a snake’s rattle. But it’s hard to sit still, squished as he is between Caroline and his mother. The church is more than filled; families are crammed into pews, line the walls, and even stand out in the lobby, enjoying the mass through the church’s sound system. The heat in the room from the furnace, the candles, and dozens of bodies is stifling. The itchy wool sweater his mother insisted he wear feels like fire ants eating into his skin. Sweat beads at his forehead, and his scalp begins to itch like crazy, but he can’t do anything about it without further frustrating his mother. Excessive fidgeting is also prohibited in church. He concentrates on the priest and the mystery of the eucharist. It’s a strange thing, really. He’d felt okay about it at first, even excited. His whole family came to see him take his first Communion two years ago, and they’d had a party afterwards. He liked it, even if he didn’t quite understand what the big deal was. Just a soft, stale little cracker and a sip of wine. The cracker tasted like styrofoam and the wine hurt his throat. His dad had told him it would be like grape juice, but he was wrong. It was more like cough syrup. Tommy Barnes told him it was actually alcohol (but not the kind the school nurse put on playground scrapes), and it was illegal for kids to have it. He thought that was pretty cool. That had almost made mass worth going to. But his opinion had begun to change one night at Evening School Religion class. Mrs. Kasperczyk passed out a worksheet with some puzzles on the top (“Read these phrases out loud: Paris in the the spring; once in a a lifetime; bird in the the hand”) and a pair of questions at the bottom. One of the questions asked, “Are the bread and wine consumed during Communion a symbol of the body and blood of Christ Jesus?” Kevin answered yes, and he’d been wrong. Everyone had answered yes and been wrong. The question was a trick. He thought it was a dirty way to teach something.
Mrs. Kasperczyk lectured them for an hour about the sacrament of Holy Communion. She called it the most important sacrament, the secret to getting into Heaven. She told them that it was a miracle which the priest performed at every mass: the wafer and wine were tran-sub-stan-tiated and became the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ. This, too, gave Kevin the heebie-jeebies, but he’d learned the hard way that such thoughts were not the kind that he could talk about. Mrs. Kasperczyk hadn’t been amused the time he suggested that Jesus fit the definition of a zombie. He wasn’t about to ask her about the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church being a cult of cannibals. Fr. Bernard lifts the large round wafer over his head and begins to chant, reciting the story of the Last Supper as he transforms the bread and wine. Smoke from the censer and candles fills the room and and wafts into Kevin’s face, almost choking him, adding to his claustrophobic discomfort. Through watering eyes, Kevin sees the wafer shift, blur, and become a piece of Christ’s body, a thick grey hunk of flesh that the priest tears into smaller grey pieces and drops onto a plate. Fr. Bernard next raises the chalice. A frothing, foaming head fizzles a bit, thick and red, above the rim of the cup as the wine mutates and is suddenly blood. Kevin glances about the room at the faces of the congregation; no one else seems to have noticed anything unusual. The priest, deacon, and gift bearers lift chalices and plates and take their places in front of the altar to distribute the eucharist, and the congregation stands and begins to line up to receive their weekly dose of grace. Everyone behaves as if there’s no cause for alarm, nothing strange. Kevin stays seated. He feels sick. There is no way he will be able to put the body and blood of Christ in his mouth. Not now; maybe not ever. He slumps down in the pew and offers a quick, silent prayer that his mother won’t notice, but God, it seems, isn’t having it. She spots him as she edges out of the pew and waves him forward. He shakes his head, and she leans over to him and whispers, “Don’t you embarrass me.” He slides out of the pew and starts the slow shuffle to the altar. Images of anthropophagy swim through his mind: dark-skinned, savage jungle dwellers preying on explorers; frontiersmen in covered wagons stranded in snow drifts supping on each other; soccer teams crashed in the mountains devouring the wounded; homosexual, necrophiliac, cannibal serial killers; zombies. Every step, every recitation of “Body of Christ, Blood of Christ, Amen,” drives them deeper and deeper into his mind. His stomach begins to churn, and he steals a glance at the retard Jesus. The statue looks like it’s going to be sick, too. “Body of Christ.”
Kevin looks down and finds the priest before him holding out the host. It’s pale and spongy-looking. He doesn’t want to take it, but his mother is still standing next to him, waiting for the chalice. She sees him hesitate, raises her brows, and juts out her chin, threateningly. He closes his eyes, says, “Amen,” and opens his mouth to take the wafer. It is inconceivably disgusting. Cold and clammy and not at all like a stale cracker. Gorge rises to his throat, and he chews and chews and chews, shifting the disintegrating mush from cheek to cheek, but can’t swallow. He needs to; more than anything he’s ever felt in his life, he needs to swallow now, but he can’t banish the idea of flesh, himself eating flesh, from his mind. His mouth and throat dry up completely and clamor for wine to help wash it down, but, he tells himself, it isn’t wine anymore. He hurries up the aisle, still chewing, desperate to swallow, and slides into the pew, pulls out the kneeler, and settles onto it. He hides the chewing from his mother. When she glances at him he stops and holds the mush in his cheek until she looks away again. It becomes difficult to contain the host. It’s an indefinable pulp now, a masticated mass that could have been anything when he began chewing. He tells himself it’s a cracker, just a cracker, but his imagination insists that it was actual flesh, slightly salty, a bit like pork. He begins to cough. “What’s wrong?” his mother says. The priest has begun the homily, her favorite part of the service. He shakes his head, and looks away, chewing and taking deep, steadying breaths, but it doesn’t make any difference. In the end, it’s impossible to swallow. He hurls all over the pew and his good Sunday clothes, retching and spitting up not only the little ball of eucharist but the remainder of last night’s dinner. The host floating in the sick looks like a photo negative fried egg. Caroline screams, “Ewww,” and his mother jumps out of her seat wearing a familiar grimace of horror. The commotion brings the service to a halt, and while other parishioners offer help and consolation, while his mother stands silent and petrified and Caroline makes disgusted noises, Kevin gazes up at the retard Jesus and cries.
Daniel Ising lives in St. Louis, MO with his wife, son, and familiars. He received an MA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing from Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, where he now works as an Instructor of first-year composition and creative writing. His work has also been published in Knee-Jerk.
J. Kirk Maynard Laura Speaks to Gifford . . . Peaseblossom, Peaseblossom—andwhatofit? It has a ring I can’t shake, like teasepossum pleasetoss’em— & I do dearly love the play so—shall we see it? When we saw it in the wood we went pleasing & teasing a morning so— little changeling boy. I loved to read I still read I read because I wished to live— I read I wished to live I still live O read to me I went to the woods I loved to still read because I wished to live I wish to live— (Titania was my favorite but Peaseblossom was who I played I scratched the ass’ ear) deliberately. No, no, no, no, yes, you’re right Go, go, go, go, go—why should Titania cross her Oberon? & on old Hiems’ thin & icy crown an odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds Is, as in mockery, set : Why did what make me so pale? White enough for a page. I’ll put on a page’s tunic for the pageant,
for Oberon I’ll be Peaseblossom & you are my little Changeling boy lost in the wood I went— I went. I’m right here. Read to me, Pinchot : I can’t seem to lift (my hands . . .)
. . . & sense is only there a time a change we are the parents & original a sea change—andwhatofit? NeveryoumindwhatIsaw. I speak : Papa would take me to the hay market in Chicago. It smelled other worldly. Not the violet tinge of lavender & rosemary I (& Cobweb & Mustardseed) hid in when the over-seas coz’s were in town scratching at the back door. They didn’t think a girl could knock them down when they teased my American accent— tease an American girl? We watch men in bowler hats brawl drunk in the marketplace. As Miss Andrews said
at the Fair : it is not our disposition to faint. (Although the market never clean although never clean the market although never clean
the men the sweat of stallions the men of stallions the sweat of men of stallionsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;)
(We must not look at Goblin men We must not buy their fruits.) But Laura loitered still among the rushes & said the bank was steep.
. . . Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit? Must she no more such succous pasture find? Gone deaf & blind? When the goblin men go away when I fade there is such a no-thing, an other that is not the lavender is not the hay but the words are meaningful then am I Titania, wrought & rent to wake upon an ass & love him : deliberately. Oh Gifford, the light is an attic light. The sea is a closet in space, the earth a panting dog.
The world is a seedling whose germ collapses on itself, (you may collapse on me, please, now) & the soul is made for the perdition of life & sounds of life as I am a moment an hour-chime an apparition rent of morning fogâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;say fog & I am, say once & I am, say no more & Iâ&#x20AC;&#x201D;
J. Kirk Maynard resides in his hometown of Portland, Oregon, with his wife Jessica and their dog Lucy. He received his MFA at the University of Alabama, where he was nominated by the department for Best New Poets 2011. His poems and reviews have been published in Arch, White Whale Review, 580-Split, Blood Lotus, and Blueline.
Eliot Parker Hub 2000 I looked at my work schedule for the last time. As my downcast eyes looked away, I crumpled the paper in my hand and rested my cheek against the window. The bus had been driving through serpentine two-lane swaths of airport runway for the last thirty minutes. In the distance, I heard the spooling up and thrust reduction sounds of airplanes growing louder as we approached the warehouse. The bus leered to the left and began slowing. I bent my knees slightly to absorb the motion. When the bus stopped at the last pickup point, I looked straight ahead, silently counting down the seconds. This would be my last five minute midnight stop at the Hub2000 employee terminal. After four years of working the graveyard shift for United Parcel Service, I would be moving away from Louisville with a business degree and the hopes of a career. Several employees filed out of the last terminal, an elongated building with soaring glass walls and a flowing roof line. The driver lurched forward and pulled back on the lever, opening the doors. Most of the men quietly got on and plopped down in a seat close to the front of the bus. Theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;re smart: the closer you are to the front of the bus, the smoother the ride to the warehouse will be. But I liked the anonymity and silence that came from sitting in the rear of the vehicle. The bus doors nearly closed when someone close to the driver yelped. The driver bounced upright slightly in his chair and sighed. He swung the lever again, reopening the doors as another worker stumbled up the steps. Once he collected himself, the lithe figure at the front of the bus leaned into the driver and began speaking. The driver dismissed him with the wave of a hand and released the parking brake. His shadow came into focus as he scoured the bus. Some men leaned against the window, others talked quietly to one another, but nobody seemed interested in relinquishing any seat space. The bus began moving forward and he grabbed the back of an empty seat. By standing diagonally in the bus, he achieved the lateral stability he needed to walk forward. Still, standing up on this bus was like trying to stay on your feet on a skateboard. He locked eyes with me and did not relinquish the stare. He grinned and kept approaching. I closed my eyes for a moment and when I re-opened them, he sat down in the seat in front of me.
Before I could take a deep breath, he turned sideways. “I’m Bryce Byrnes. This is my first day.” I blinked. “I’m Owen. Owen Halloway. You have all of the rookie excitement. I remember those days.” The corners of his mouth drew up into a smile. “This job is going to be great. I can get my tuition paid for at Jefferson CTC and still take classes during the day. I’m stoked!” I felt the same way when I signed on to work for UPS at the Worldport. Its Owenname is the Hub2000, after UPS spent millions of dollars in 2000 at Louisville International Airport building new warehouses and constructing new runways for their planes. Many of the jobs at the Hub2000 are parttime and overnight, which are attractive prospects for college students. When I fretted about how I was going to able to go to school and find a job that would help pay the bills while at the University of Louisville, a financial aid counselor recommended talking to a recruiter with UPS. I made my way to the career fair and immediately met with the recruiter. At first, I was intimidated by the burly man with short-cropped hair and dark eyes that seemed fixed in an intense expression. He told me that UPS offers tuition reimbursement program where students who work part time overnight can receive 100% tuition reimbursement, plus earn $10.00 an hour wage. When I accepted the job, I was surprised to learn on my first day that most of the student workers at the Hub2000 are students. Bryce rubbed both hands together. He was an elegant boy with high-planed cheeks, wide-eyes and light curly brown hair. “Did you know that the Hub is the size of 80 football fields and is capable of handling 84 packages a second, or 416,000 per hour?” I cocked my head sideways and let it nudge the glass window again. “No, I didn’t, but thanks for that information.” Bryce laid his palms flat and pushed himself up from the seat until he rested on his knees. He leaned over the seat. “What’s your name? I hope we can work together.” “I’m Owen,” I said, feigning a smile. “We probably won’t be working together because this is my last night working at the Hub.” Bryce chewed on the inside of his cheek, letting the statement resonate for a moment. “Then maybe you can introduce me to some people. I’m from Hodgenville and I don’t know anybody in Louisville. Shoot, I’ve never done anything that paid ten dollars an hour!”
Before I could respond, Bryce cut me off. “What’s it like working here? It’s it fun? Do we stay busy? Is your boss nice?” His animated face dimmed a bit as a shadow washed over the bus when we passed through the runway lights and the terminal lights from the south passenger terminal of the airport. The bus jerked to a stop and I nodded at Bryce. “You’ll learn more tonight.” I leaned away from the window, a bit surprised that my shoulders had gone to sleep. I rolled them, trying to get that sensation of needles floating in my skin to go away. Bryce got up and looked down, running his hands over the uniform, smoothing out the wrinkles. He was wearing the standard issued chocolate brown attire; the button down shirt hugging him tightly. However, he was wearing shorts, although he got the socks right. We are allowed to wear shorts instead of pants, but we have to purchase UPS approved brown socks. I let out a soft laugh as we moved to the front of the bus. “Your knees are going to get skinned up wearing shorts. The steel floors of those Boeing 757’s are pretty unforgiving.” He turned back to me for a moment and furrowed his brow. “We will be working on our hands and knees?” I nodded again. “Yep. A lot.” Once off the bus, I step past Bryce and began walking to the warehouse, although I hear him taking long strides behind me, trying to catch up. A few hundred yards away from the warehouse, I see a UPS 757 shooting down a runway, although the plane emanates a loud, growling noise. I’ve learned that the growl means the pilots are not performing a full thrust takeoff, which usually means the plane is not full of cargo. The one-story, brown-brick warehouse has three corrugated metal airplane hangar doors that are open. Another door near the end of the warehouse is made of thick steel and is closed. There are no windows in front, and not a single sign to identify who or what might be inside. As the group approaches the doors, the silhouette of a Boeing 757 becomes more defined as the overhead lights bathe the inside hangar in a soft, white light. The light accentuates the two turbofan engines, tail, and supercritical wing designs which give the wings a flattened upper surface. The plane appears stately in its stoic condition, although the rear hatch doors are open and the platform ramp has already been nestled against the butt of the plane. I turn away from the aircraft and head to the time clock room to punch in and begin my shift. Before I get close, Bryce grabs my arm.
I groan and he walks around me. “Is this it? Is this our hanger?” He steps back and cranes his neck up, examining the plane with wide-eyed optimism. “Amazing! What do we do? I know. I bet we need to climb up the ramp and start unloading.” Bryce runs to the ramp. I grab the arm of a colleague passing by, whose bright blue eyes fix on me with a wistful expression. “Go get Mike. Tell him we have a rookie.” He walks faster towards the time clock room, hollering Mike’s name. I run behind Bryce, who is now standing half-way up the platform ramp. “What are you doing?” I ask in frustration. He ignores me. I watch as he touches his index finger to his forehead in spontaneous meditation. “I bet we move the heavy packages out first. They are the heaviest and will take the most time to move.” He snaps his fingers. “Right.” “Stop! Get your ass down from there!” I feel Mike’s warm breath on my neck through his heavy pants and heaves. Bryce freezes, then slowly backpedals down the ramp and turns around. Mike walks around me. He is a big, easy fellow with a trim goatee and a slight, southern drawl. But he is nobody’s fool, especially for an overzealous rookie employee that he’s never met. Bryce extends both arms outward and Mike stops. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. I’m Bryce. I’m new and I’m ready to go.” I could see Mike’s shoulders bounce and see him shift his weight. “We have procedures and policies around here son. They exist for a reason. Everyone knows them and everyone follows them.” He looks past Bryce and points to the inside of the plane. “If you would’ve injured yourself up there without the proper forms being filled out, OSHA would shut us down in a minute.” The veins in Mike’s neck bulged and his cheeks filled with blood. He looked Bryce over. “Besides, you might be too frail for this job anyway.” Some of the other guys gathering around us sOwenered and laughed. I patted my stomach and considered this the one time I was thankful for my husky build. Bruce rested his hands on his narrow hips. He stuck out his chest. “I just wanted to help that’s all. I know that trying to move 416,000 packages an hour means there’s no time to waste…” “Cut the bullshit, will ya?” Mike interjected. He dropped his chin and shook his head. “I know the corporate company crap they put in the brochures about this place.” “I, I just…” Bryce’s stammering made some of the guys laugh harder.
“You need to know a few things son. First, we do preload. You know what that is?” Bryce arched an eyebrow, but remained silent. “In preload, all the packages from the plane are mapped based on the route schedule, keeping in mind priority deliveries and bulk items. Then, we do a morning stretch for fifteen minutes. I don’t want any of my workers injuring themselves unloading packages from this plane. Then, we have a meeting to discuss general business, safety, and any new regulations. Then, and only then, do we begin unloading packages.” Mike cut a sharp look at me and lowered his voice to a low rumble. “Is he a friend of yours, Halloway?” I shook my head. “No, sir. I just met him earlier tonight on the bus.” “Good,” Mike replied. He reached a meaty hand behind me and slapped my back. “You are going to be his mentor. Show him the ropes.” “But Mike, it’s my last night…” “Doesn’t matter,” he said, shielding the light over his eyes with one hand and squinting. “You’re one of my best workers. He can learn a lot from you tonight. Besides, it looks like we’ve got a light plane to unload anyway.” From the corner of my eye, I saw Bryce looking down at the stained concrete floor, tapping his foot in a nonsensical pattern and whistling quietly. “Byrnes!” Mike said, in a voice that was smaller, but more tense. Bryce froze and slowly met Mike’s gaze. “Procedures.” Mike hesitated before speaking again. “We have procedures which I am going to explain to you, but only once. Then I expect you to follow them.” Bryce bobbled his head in agreement. Mike looked at me again, this time a bit longer than before. “Watch him carefully,” he said with his voice a near whisper. “I will,” I replied. Mike motioned for Bryce to follow him and immediately the crew and I assumed our usual work stations throughout the hangar. Most of my co-workers ran to the left quadrant of the hangar and turned on the conveyor belts. In a few minutes, the belts would rise and fall as packages of all sizes whizzed by in multiple directions. I climbed the ramp with George, a compact sophomore at the University of Louisville who had shaggy black hair, squared glasses, and arched eyebrows. The pungent smell of jet fuel still wafted through the plane, making my eyes water. The two underfloor cargo holds of the plane seemed deep and cavernous, although the open lower deck doors, when closed, divided the smaller space in the
forward compartment from the deeper space in the aft one. We began pulling the packages off and sliding them down the ramp. A few guys at the bottom collected them, and walked them over to the first conveyor belt. For a while, it will travel from one belt to another, and eventually will be loaded onto another dock. Then, the package will be taken from the dock and put on a truck that will take it to its final destination. A lanky shadow approached. I saw George look up, then away. “I don’t think I’ve signed my name so many times in my life,” Bryce said. “Mike didn’t have to be such a grouch, either.” I kept unloading the packages, now fully comfortable in the hypnotic rhythm of sliding packages behind me. I hoped that Bryce would be quiet and just observe what we were doing. He grabbed a small box from George and lifted it up, swiveling it in his hands and inspecting it. I peered at him, making sure he wasn’t going to drop the package. George silently reached around him and pulled another package toward the ramp. A look of concern crossed Bryce’s face. He lowered the box and held it tightly against his body. “What happens if we make a mistake?” Bryce asked. George cleared his throat and glared at me over the tops of his glasses. “You want me to take this one or do you want it?” The muscles in my throat tightened. I just wanted to get through the night quietly. Bryce pursed his lips, waiting for an answer. “When we take a package from the plane, the first conveyor belt takes it with the label facing up and to the left. We have five scanners that scan the label and then use the information from the label to direct the package onto the next belt, which will get it closer to the right dock.” I leaned back against the wall of the plane, the cool steel comforting to my sweat-splotched back. Bryce nodded slowly, tightened the muscles in his face, and stared down at the package he was holding. “But, Owen, the packages move from belt to belt without stopping.” “True. That’s the beauty of the system. That’s how we are able to move 416,000 packages a night.” I grinned sheepishly at Bryce and went back to work. “Let me have that one,” George commanded, reaching out and taking the box from Bryce.” In one smooth motion, George snatched the box and slid it down the ramp. “Go ahead and start grabbing the boxes and sliding them to me and George,” I told Bryce. He crouched down and hesitated. “It doesn’t matter what size or shape you pull first. Just get them off of the plane.”
We pulled packages and shoved them down the ramp for a while. Mike walked past our operation several times, folding his arms and observing our work. When he passed by a second time, Bryce stopped moving. “This one is leaking,” he said, his voice slightly tinged with panic. George and I passed each other a glance and kept working. “Guys, I’m serious,” Bryce pleaded, dropping the package between us. The box listed to one side, then fell back on its four corners. I slid back against the curved metal of the cargo hold, not wanting to touch the box. A thick, black liquid oozed from the corner of the box and pooled on the floor. George crept close to the liquid and sniffed. Bryce gasped. “It doesn’t smell like anything,” he said. “I’ll get Mike.” After a few moments of confusion, Mike removing the package wearing protective gloves and a mask. The liquid was slick and trickled through his fingers. A scan of the label indicated the package was from Milton Freeman, and addressed to Dustin Pike with a final destination of Saginaw, Michigan. Inside the package was supposed to be a remote controlled airplane. “I’m going to call the airport police and fire rescue just to make sure this is nothing serious,” Mike said. “In the meantime, you need to take this package outside and away from the building.” I was standing outside of a group of guys that encircled Mike and I did not observe who was involved with the directive. The whispered asides of the other guys caught my attention. “Halloway, you and Byrnes take this thing about back and sit it in that open space between the hangars.” I looked at Mike and his thoughtful, hooded eyes. Bryce looked at me, with his customary facial expression of a faintly smiling, middle distance squint of someone lost in abstraction. “Now!,” Mike barked. “We’ve got work to do and deadlines to meet.” I groaned, slouched my shoulders and strode towards Mike, taking the package from his hands without making eye contact. I walked past Bryce with nothing more than a gust or air passing between us. “Come on.” Bryce stood still. “Don’t we need gloves?” “Come on,” I repeated, angrily. We walked out the hangar doors. Turning around the building, the exterior was smudged with mildew and the once pristine brown brick had yellowed with age. The waning reflection of the moon provided some small streaks of light behind the building. As we kept walking, Dark-grey clouds loomed
over the moon ominously and the small tufts of ruined grass surrounding the back of the hanger was perished and brought to despair and darkness once again. A gravel path led away from the hanger. As we approached the wide open space between the two hangars, Bryce followed the path. I could hear the crunch of gravel under his work boots. “Owen, did you see this? This is a restricted area out here at the end of the airport.” In fact, I had seen the square fenced area before. I never worried about it much. Bryce charged ahead and squeezed through an opening in the rusted fence. He fiddled with a dilapidated iron latch. “I wonder what’s inside here. I can’t believe UPS would put something like this here.” As I came closer, I saw flecks of rust scattered on Bryce’s fingertips. He rubbed them together and they fell away. He looked back at me, his eyes glistening. “The lock on the fence is rusted loose.” “Bryce, don’t….” “Shhh,” Bryce insisted. “Listen.” I let a moment pass between us. “We need to get back inside.” Bryce brushed away my gesture and then I heard it. A faint whisper that suddenly grew louder. “Let me out. Let me out!” Bryce looked back at me. “See. I told you I heard something!” “Let me out.” The voice sounded infantile at first, but then became stronger and more resounding. “Please let me out!” “Let me out. I’ve been in here for so long. Please, let me out.” Bryce reached forward and stuck his hand in between the dark slat of space between the door and the metal box. “What are you doing?” “Letting this person out, Owen. We can’t just go back inside if someone has been locked in here. That’s cruel.” I swallowed hard. “Bryce don’t…” He slipped his hand inside and then yelped. “Something bit me.” He jerked his hand back and blood trickled between his fingers. Bryce shook his hand in a semi-circular motion and speckles of blood landed on my uniform. The metal door swung back and something bolted from the darkness and ran around the box. “There I go. That way.”
Bryce stood up and began dappling his bleeding fingers on his pants. “What was that? Did you see it?” I looked around. “No, just a dark flash and then I heard the pattering of feet. It went around the back of the fence.” “We need to find out what it is,” Bryce said. “I’ll go around one side and you go around the other.” I stepped back into the darkness. “No way. We need to get back inside and report this and get your hand bandaged.” “Not a chance,” Bryce replied. “That person, or thing, attacked me and I want to see it.” Bryce quietly slithered like a snake around the left side of the fence. I groaned and went to the right. After a brief pause, the voice spoke again. “It’s going that way. That way.” I ran back around the fence, and I tripped over the leaking paint package and fell in front of Bryce. “There I go. That way.” We scrambled to our feet. Suddenly, a motion light from the rear of the warehouse bathed our location in a soft hue of white light. Standing in front of us was a jackrabbit, with antelope horns and a pheasant’s tail. It reared back and sat on his haunches. Its thin lips quivered and it spoke again. “I’m going that way. Thanks for letting me out.” The rabbit leaped over Bryce and latched onto my shirt. The sharp horns burrowed through the fabric, tearing it while the tips of the horns jabbed into my flesh. Blood began oozing from the puncture wounds and I screamed. Instinctively, I grabbed the rabbit and flung him into the field beside the fence. I heard a thud, then the rustling of feet again. The sound appeared to surround us. “There I go. That way.” Bryce stood motionless. “What do we do now?” I heard nothing but the silence and occasional roar of planes taking off. Something whisked by my ear and ricocheted against the fence. Before I had time to look, another small object hit it, then another. I smelled Sulfur. “What in the world was that?” Bryce stood up and I shoved him down. Two more small objects missed us and hit the fence. Near Bryce’s foot, I saw a shell casing. “Come on, move!”
Bryce and I crawled around to the back side of the fence. For a moment, the shooting stopped. My heart banged against the wall of my chest and my throat felt dry and hoarse. Bryce looked at me with clenched fists. “There I go. That way.” I stuck my head around both sides of the fence. The motion light had shut off. The darkness was so thick that the area behind the field merged with the sky. I couldn’t see any protruding objects, like a gun barrel, in the darkness. I crawled around to the left side of the fence, locking my fingers inside the metal holes to keep my balance. I rose up for a moment. Another bullet zipped by me. A small wisp of smoke curled up from the cloth as I dropped to the ground again. “There I go. That way.” The pounding in my chest now resonated in my head. Behind me, Bryce slid to the opposite side of square restricted area and I called out. “We are employees of UPS. Please don’t shoot.” “Shut up! You don’t know who you are talking too.” Bryce looked sideways at the fence and then straight ahead. “I don’t think the details are too important right now.” Ahead, I heard some movements. “Did you hear that?” “No,” he whispered. I heard the muffled rustling again. Another shot was fired. This time, the bullet clipped the top of the fence in front of Bryce. He collapsed flat on the ground tucked his hands behind his head. “Man, I’m getting scared now.” “Quiet.” The movement stopped. I held my breath. Bryce remained motionless. The luminous moon glowed in the sky above. The rustling movements of what I presumed was the rabbit began to slow down and then they stopped. “Bryce?” “Yeah?” “How fast can you run?” I heard him swallow hard and cluck his tongue. “Pretty fast I guess.” “Good. I have a plan. I am going run in the direction of the shots and act as a diversion. I want you to run as fast as you can to the hangar and get help. Then come back. Got it?”
Bryce blinked at me twice, and he seemed to be grasping for the point of an anecdote that fluttered out of reach. “What if that horned rabbit attacks you again?” Staring sternly into the pitch black darkness, I found my eyes cautiously staring at every detail in sight. “I’m not sure if it’ll work, but I am out of ideas unless you have any?” “Alright. One, two, THREE!” I charged ahead into the darkness with my hands open, trying to feel anything in front of me. Something grabbed my wrists and pulled me further into what seemed like a dark abyss. From behind, I heard a bump and thud. A pause ensued, followed by a shriek. I heard a grotesque squelching noise as Bryce screamed, “Get away from me!” I grabbed at the large hands holding my and shook one arm free. Before I could plant my feet, a punch came hurdling at my face. I was thrown to the ground. From the corner of my eye, I saw the motion light on the rear of the building come back on. Another curdling scream echoed into the night. The shadow standing over me was burly and slightly hunched. As it reached down to punch me again, I leaned up and rammed my head into it. The shadowed stumbled backwards. I grabbed an arm and twisted it with all of my strength. The cracking of bones punctured the air. I scrambled to my feet. Bryce bounced to me, gooey streams of blood running out of his nose. He swiped the blood with the back of his wrist. “That rabbit tried chewing my nose.” “Are you going to be okay?” I asked him. “Yeah.” His face crinkled at the edges as he got closer to me. My skin felt hot and I could feel pockets of flesh pulling together and protruding out from my face. “What in the hell is that thing? That rabbit?” A trim man, with a mustache so neat that it seemed penciled in was lying on his back with one eye swollen shut and large gash on his face. He wore camouflaged pants and an orange vest. We walked over to the person. The man wallowed on the ground and moaned. I grabbed him by the collar. His eyes flung open instantly and his face was all gathered up in worry. “Let me go, please.” The man’s voice was disarming. I tugged more aggressively on the collar. “I don’t think so. You tried to shoot me and my friend.” “I’m sorry,” he said, the shimmering beginnings of tears welled up in his eyes. “I was here hunting the Jackalope.” I shot Bryce a disbelieving glance. “Jackalope? What are you talking about?”
He leveled a stare at me. “The Jackalope…a rabbit with horns. The females produce a milk that can cure all types of diseases. Jed and I heard rumors about one of them getting on one of these planes by mistake. We’ve been sitting out here at night for a few weeks. We think we’ve seen some of them darting back and forth towards that fence.” He paused and nodded in the direction of the fence. “Recently, it sounded like one had been trapped inside that metal box inside that fence. We hoped to kill it, milk it, stuff it, and the sell the milk for money.” I cut him off. “Do we look like rabbits to you? Why did you shoot at us?” The man stammered. “I’m sorry…it was dark, we couldn’t see. The jackalope is fast and if you don’t take a shot when you think you have it, you’ll never catch it.” I began shivering from anger and adrenaline. “That, that Jackalope attacked Bryce and I.” “They can be quite aggressive if they feel provoked or threatened,” the man said. “But we called out to you,” Bryce interjected. “We told you we were UPS employees and what we were doing.” “Aw,” the man replied, in fussy tone that reminded me of a child preparing to throw a tantrum. “With those planes taking off all the time, it’s hard to hear sometimes.” The voice returned, silencing us. “Thank you for letting me out. Now here we come.” “Stay still,” the man commanded. “Let me get my flashlight.” He turned into the darkness behind him and produced a flashlight. The man shined the light around us. Surrounding us were hundreds of Jackalopes, with their horns jutting from their skulls. “There we go….that way!” “Owen….” Bryce said, his voice trailing away. I closed my eyes and waited as the Jackalopes leaped onto us and began stabbing and gnawing on our flesh. As I struggled to dislodge them from my skin, pain surged through my body and blood trickled from my arms. The blood began to pool on the ground in front of me. I heard a muffled scream as the swarm of jackalopes toppled Bryce to the ground. “Help me!” Bryce bellowed. The weight of the jackalopes began to drag me to the ground. The pain of their teeth pulling at my skin was unbearable.
“Here we come. There we go. We are going to put you in the box”. As I rolled over on my side to reach out for Bryce, the jackalopes scurried ahead, carrying Bryce and the moaning man toward the box with their teeth. “There we go. There you go. Back in the box.” I began to lose consciousness as the screams of Bryce and the man echoed into the night.
Author Eliot Parker is the author of two novels and various short stories. His short fiction has appeared in Speck Literary Journal, Apex Books, Kentucky Story Publications, and others. His first novel, The Prospect, was published in 2010. His latest novel, the sports murder mystery story Breakdown at Clear River, was published by Mid-Atlantic Highlands Press in November of 2012 and was a finalist for the Weatherford Award for Outstanding Fiction in 2012. He currently teaches writing and literature at Mountwest Community and Technical College in Huntington, West Virginia.
Tiffani Lomuto Handsome I think of you, I think…detachment. You’re the relentless convex drop that will cause my overflow, the rising sewer water, the makeshift moat. You leave my books’ pages bent, folded, fingerprinted, spines too cracked to care. I take a few steps back, you trample me. I draw slightly near, you disappear. Make up your mind and your bed, pick up the puddles of filthy clothes lying on the floor around your bed like a flood, sprinkled with cigarette ashes and beer bottle tops, and you wonder why you can never find your lighter. I whine too much, you wine too much. Only say I love you when your blood drowns in Jack and the bright white crystalline powder catapults up your nostrils, seeps into your tissues, gives you chills. You turn to me and say, you’re beautiful, because that’s what I want to hear. I say, I can’t hear you. The jukebox is too loud. Tiffani Lomuto was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She recently received her Master of Arts degree in English Literature from The City University of New York, College of Staten Island. Tiffani considers her writing to be cathartic, raw and wonderfully freeing. She hopes to inspire others, as many great writers have inspired her. This is her first publication.
Alana I. Capria A Letter Girl Sends to Boy After They First Meet
DEAR BOY, it was so strange meeting you in the forest. there i was, with my skirt around my ankles, and then there you were, pushing against me. you didn't ask me but i wouldn't have said no. why do you think i had my skirts around my ankles in the first place? if it hadn't been you, it would have been a spider. or PETER. i don't talk about PETER very often, because it makes me feel sad. PETER was the love of my life. but PETER climbed a tree, fell out, and broke into one thousand separate pieces. i tried putting them together with bandages and glue but would get confused where the arm and knees should go in relation to one another. at least you seem sturdy. you seem like the kind of man who doesn't have bones made of eggshells. i hope you don't have a preoccupation with pumpkins. i hate pumpkins and when PETER and i started dating, he was constantly asking if he could lock me in a pumpkin shell. he said he would keep me in the orange very well but i wasn't sure what that meant. would i have rich carpeting all over the gourd? would there be windows i could look out of? would i be able to rattle the pumpkin panes and get free? or would i be stuck in the orange forever with PETER feeding me strange pieces of chocolate he found lodged in his thighs. so i wandered through the forest, found the spider tree, yanked me skirt to my ankles, and just stood there, waiting for something to happen. i'm glad it was you but if it had been the spiders, i would have been fine with it. i like the way the spiders move. there are so many arms, it's like four bodies on top of mine. and with that much pleasure, how can i even stand straight? i might die from excitement. i might fall over with joy. but you came to me first. i have to tell my parents about us. they live on the top of a hill, near the stump of a well that dried up years ago and was never refilled even though it rained every day for five generations. i don't know how that much water didn't fill the well but maybe there's a hole at the bottom i don't know about. i don't know everything. but i know that i'm hungry. i'm hungry for you and i'm hungry to live at the bottom of a hill instead of the top. i thought we might be able to find a place together, a little cottage at the hill base, and if we need to find water, we can just take a leisurely stroll to the hilltop and take water from a well. this won't be the same well that isn't filled with water. that would make no sense. no. this would be a different hill and a different well. then we could sit together and sob softly and make our hill a home. we could dig into the center of the hill until we hit the well tunnel and stay in that tight water. we can swim and grow gills. i thought it might be fun to have gills. i would like to be a fish but i would be
smart enough to avoid biting anything that's just dangling from the surface. i don't know why fish don't have any sense. it's ridiculous. all those fish, complaining because their stomachs are cramped with hooks and plastic. who told them to bite? who said, [hey fish, it's a great idea to open your mouths and bite that piece of shining metal dangling from the surface.] i don't know. those fish are just stupid. so i would be a smart fish and if you're with me, you would be a smart fish, too. you would be the kind of fish that doesn't think metal floats without there being any consequences. there are always consequences. the consequences for my being in the forest with my skirt around my ankles was that i found you. and now i have to stay with you for the rest of my life, even if you start to bruise my thighs and i try poisoning you once a month with the tiniest bit of rat poison in your soup. sacrifices have to be made for the relationship. that's the truth. if there are no sacrifices, then there are no bodies we can trust. and i am not going to let you just walk away from me. if i didn't want you, i would have let the spiders have their way with me. i would have chased you away, dropped onto my back beneath the tree, and let the spiders bite between my legs, then creep up my spine to nest in my hair. but i didn't do that. i let you touch me. i let you put your hands on my buttocks. i let you see me without my skirt around my hips. so you should be happy about that. but the thing is, BOY, i'm hungry and only you can feed me. i need skin. maybe a bit of leg, a slice of breast, some raw meat or maybe some meat that is just heated enough to start curling around the edges. but it can't be just any meat. it has to be human meat. i want you to go into the forest at night, slit the throat of the first man you see, and bring his corpse to me. it will be our wedding meal. my parents want to know you can provide for my appetite. they don't believe that if i wake up crying in the middle of the night for some human steak, that you'll already have a supply in your meat locker. prove them wrong, BOY. show them that you have all the meat i need. if they like you, maybe we can bake them into muffins one day. LOVE, THE GIRL WITH HER SKIRT AROUND HER ANKLES BENEATH THE SPIDER TREE
Alana I. Capria (born 1985) is the author of Hooks and Slaughterhouse. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Capria resides in Northern New Jersey with her husband and rabbit.
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