Crack the Spine Literary magazine
Crack the Spine Literary magazine Issue Eighty-Nine November 13, 2013 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2013 by Crack the Spine
the choice, we
will always select madness over
Malcolm Graham Cooper Imaginary Heights Colin Honnor Madchenlieder Mary Pat Musick Safe Stephen Masimilla Ode to the Lemon Nathaniel Heely Texas Star Will Walker Donâ€™t Call It Surgery, Itâ€™s Just a Procedure At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Lia Woodall Fallout: A Response to the Fourth State of Matter
Malcolm Graham Cooper Imaginary Heights Before my father found stardom at fifty feet in the air, but only after dementia had already begun turning his brain into a pathetic goo--a sort of primordial stew that festered and bubbled to the surface in an episode in which he boiled every piece of footwear in the house and made a four course meal--had my mother put me in charge of driving him to the nursing home where he would probably live out his last days in a manic cloud of yearning and regret. Normally I preferred to stay out of family emergencies--too messy, too final and trying--but because these sorts of things routinely caused my mother to pull her hair out, I felt it was the least I could do. I pulled into the parking lot of Avondale Cottages the next afternoon, the warm tingle of a migraine yowling gently against my eyeballs. Beside me, my father burrowed his head inside a parka. A gentle rain plopped on the window like movie popcorn, and the heavy, rhythmical clomp of the rubber on the windshield wipers lent voice to our silent conversation. I put the car in park and emptied my lungs; the world turned around and small black dots danced in my line of vision. I groped inside the pocket of my denim jacket for a bottle of Percocet. After my thumb caught the smooth plastic of the cap, I left it there for a little while, dizzy with the satisfaction of knowing the pills were there and within reach. I popped one in my mouth and washed it down with lukewarm Dr. Pepper. Before putting the cap back on, I stopped and offered my dad the bottle. He snatched one of the pills without looking and probed his lips over his palms to take it in. He chewed rapidly, the hollow crunch from inside his mouth drowning out the sound of the rain. I itched my scalp and stared through the windshield--the place looked nothing like the brochure. My mom had spread out Avondale's brochure on the kitchen counter, her long fingers running along its gloss, groping bulleted statements of interest. A bold helvetica on the cover promising "all the comforts of home" was superimposed over a picture deranged in its tackiness: a quaint wooden porch in front of latticed windows, a couple of smiling seniors sitting in plastic chairs and clinking glasses of lemonade. But anybody could see the disaster in front of me: an industrial building with walls of dirty stucco and stainless steel bars--some geriatric prison. From the rearview mirror, the broken, orange light of a 7-Eleven sputtered against the rain. "Here it is, Pops," I said, rubbing my eyes.
"Fine," he said. He coughed into his hands and looked away, out the window. A faded Dodgers cap obscured his thinning, white hair, and beneath the bill a pair of brown aviators hid his tired eyes. For the past two weeks he had been operating under the delusion that the KGB was hunting him down, and so this was his idea of hiding in plain sight--more a jogger's getup than a disguise, as if he were somehow convinced that Russians could be easily duped by slight changes in wardrobe. The week before, I told him the Cold War was over; he called me a spy and spit in my face. "You know," I began, tugging at his windbreaker in an attempt to distract him, "Mom said you can leave whenever you want." He shifted in his seat, displaying his back. His breath huffed against the window. He ran his finger against the surface of the glass. As he leaned back against the seat, I could see that he had drawn something on the window--a smile, crooked and sinister with the drip of condensation. "I hope you all die," he said. "You don't mean that." "I'm not stupid," he said, opening the door. *** A man with a mustache stood at the front desk. He gazed down at a watch, leaning against the front desk, and it occurred to me that he was most likely waiting for us--the lobby was empty, and the silence announced that the residents were probably in their rooms. I stopped at the greeting mat, taking it all in; the interior offered a slight improvement from the shock I received outside, but its faux-rustic style did little to curb my anxiety. â€œWelcome to Avondale," the man said, clasping his hands together with a wet smack. "How can I help you today?" "Hi. Yeah. Matt and Walter Sherman," I said and held out my hand. "My dad is,â€? I motioned behind me, â€œyou know." He had his face buried in some flowers--a bouquet of lilacs, most likely fake. His chest heaved as he breathed in its illusory aroma. "Pleasure," the man said. He smiled, a stern working of muscles beneath shallow cheeks which stretched back to disclose a set of bleached teeth. "I'm Ken. Head caretaker here at Avondale," he offered and motioned to a gold, embossed name tag sagging on the breast of a brown polo. "It's a nice place," I said. I didn't no what else to say. "Hello Walt," Ken said, raising his eyebrows and straining to look over my shoulder. My dad moaned low, a short huff of air from the gut.
Ken led us on a mundane tour of empty, arid hallways. Sometimes a resident would pass by and stare longingly, as if caged to some invisible bar with chains. After the tour was over, we ate in the cafeteria, a room bathed in a silver glow where residents cowered over checkered tables. At the table beside me, an old man licked soggy white mush off a limp piece of toast. A long, thick glob of some brown slime clung to his chin, plastered firmly to the loose skin; it flowed free as he chewed. Finally, the glob fell to his plate with a hollow splat. "Look, pops, I know you're mad but don't take it out on me." I poked at the entree--a rubbery brown meat-square of dubious origin. "She's giving me the eye," my dad said. He looked down at his tray and took his glasses off. He rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. "Who? What?" I turned around, combing the room. The only person behind me was an old lady with a green oxygen mask. Her skin looked like fleshy ocean waves, her face empty and blue; I would have assumed she were dead if not for a concave chest that rose and fell in rhythmic hisses behind a bulky sweater. "She knows," he said and tore a slice of toast at the corners. His fingers started to shake, propelling pieces of the powdered crust onto his lap. "Can't go anywhere without some asshole recognizing you. Never ending. Jesus." He twisted his face and squinted his eyes. "Oh Christ," I said. It felt like he was accusing me of something. "I'm famous. These fucking people. You said I couldn't do it, you said..." He stood up. The chair slid against the floor. "Stop it. You're embarrassing me." I looked around. Near the exit, a table displayed some cakes and pies, their brown and pink colors illuminated by the lights piercing through the sneeze guard. "Tell me I'm a star," he said, his arms flat against his side, dry fists clenched and white. "You're a fool. Stop this." "A star. Say it." I could feel the migraine returning--a sharp pain deep inside the meat, pulsing and swelling with my heartbeat. I could feel groping and watchful eyes against my neck. "You're a star, dad." I put my hands to my mouth and looked down. I vicariously tasted the chocolate cake across the room; my mind scanned various ways of ending the conversation in order to grab a piece before it was too late. "How nice of you," he said. He gave his milk carton a subtle shake in my direction and lifted his head back to drain the remainder; his throat pulsed as his mouth worked around the small opening of the
cardboard. After he was done, he held out the carton and inspected it, smiling and turning it around in his hands. The acrid, pale smell of the food made me want to throw up, right there, in front of everybody. But instead I ran to the dessert table; I had three slices of chocolate cake and two slices of apple pie. *** After lunch we stepped into the room in which my father would most likely die. The place was creepy and sterile--crisp sheets with flat red pillows, a spotless stove with an oven, and a glossy green refrigerator that emitted the phantom taste of pea soup. Everything down to the smallest screw on the door hinges looked so manufactured, so crisp and glossy as if the whole place came inside a neat little shrink-wrapped box. At the wall opposite the window, an old guy sat gluing a model airplane. Even at a distance, the bitter and sweet chemical burn of the glue began to aggravate my headache. The man looked through a monocle, his tongue gliding between his lips as his fingers did their work. "Hi," he said without averting his gaze. "You must be Walt. I'm Clarence. I suppose we're gonna be roommates." "I'm Matt, his son," I offered. I waved but he didn't look up--a striped wing of the plane sheltered his face. My dad walked toward Clarence, his hands on his hips, neck extended and face affixed to the model airplane. "You in the war or something?" my dad said, his voice stern. Clarence looked up. He opened his mouth--partially obscured by a yellowed walrus mustache--and revealed a smile of straight, clean dentures. "Why yes I was. This here is a B-17, same thing I spent most of the war in," he said. His mouth turned up and his face grew lighter, almost forgiving. "Ah, the B-17s," my dad said. He hiked up his pants and sat down on the empty bed--his bed--and crossed his arms. "Those things were loud as shit." "I guess you could say that," Clarence said, laughing awkwardly. "Were you on the ground?" "Sure was. Blew a German kid's face right off in the Ardennes," he said, looking up at the ceiling as if scenes of gore and pain flashed there in color. "Saved me from frost bite, though. I warmed my hands in the hole that was left of his face. Like a pumpkin fresh out of the oven." Clarence looked up and frowned. His bottom lip began to quiver. "Remarkable. I saw some things, let me tell you, but nothing like that." He began to point. I stepped forward. "He was never in the war, sir. He was born in 1955."
"What?" Clarence said. "I'm sorry, you'll have..." I began. "My son's an idiot," my dad said, winking at me. "He lies. Tells stories." Clarence sighed and went back to studying the airplane. He paused, looking confused, his face tightened. "I'm gonna go Pops," I said. The words just flew out--I said it to break the disease of silence more than anything, but leaving seemed like a good idea. I stepped forward with my arms apart, making a big deal about the final hug, the farewell and the long goodbye, but he just turned around and went to the window. The rain had stopped, but large globules of it were splayed out on the window pane, the glistering sun through the clouds helping them sparkle, giving them shape and substance. Without the slow crackle of rain on the roof, the silence took over. "I'll be here all night, you assholes. No time for autographs," he said to the window, taking in the view of the 7-Eleven across the street. *** I remember the shoe incident, the impetus of it all, with all the clarity of a nightmare in motion--the images clearer than the fuzzy haze of waking life where things so often mix together and get confused. I came over to tell them about my new dishwashing job--nothing spectacular, granted, but I thought they'd be happy to know I was getting on with my own life. I opened the door and nearly fell flat on my face--a glossy, red stiletto was sprawled across the greeting mat. On the hardwood floor leading to the kitchen, I followed a winding labyrinth of sun-damaged sneakers, Italian ankle boots, a single plastic sandal, some platform heels, and my old pair of red flattops. But that's not what made me worried; it was the smell--a wet, meaty odor like a baseball mitt left behind an old radiator. I followed the stink with caution into the kitchen where a pair of loafers sat sizzling on the stove, heavy with smoke. My dad sat at the kitchen table in candlelight, smiling and sipping out of a decorative, golden baby shoe. "Take a seat," he said and motioned across the table. We took him in for tests. For the CAT scan, they plugged an assortment of goofy cables on his shoulders, head and nipples. He went through a giant dome, wiggling under straps that held him to the yellow gurney. From inside, his voice called out hollow and tinny to Houston, listing off instructions and commencing the launch: three, two, one, takeoff! The lady running the test shook her head and sighed, and then my mother shook her head and her lip began to quiver, and then I shrugged my shoulders and
turned away. When they stuck him with a needle for a routine blood test, he kicked the doctor; I laughed so hard that I had to go outside. The cognitive tests came last--an inoffensive gauntlet of various puzzles arranged on a long table; one of them was a picture of a dolphin with probably five-hundred pieces, another involved lincoln logs and the construction of a little house. His stubbled cheeks twitched as he sized up the challenge, his hands uncertain. It wasn't long before his face grew red and he threw the lincoln logs across the room-they hit the wall and clomped like slow horses. In the doctor's office, we were told that it would only get worse from here. We needed to give him all the support we could. But my mother, true to her hyper-sensitive form, began to refute the diagnosis immediately. It was always like this with her--if she doesn't believe it, it can't be true, it doesn't exist. It had to be the vitamins, she said; he never ate any vitamins or drank any water or ever permitted anything edible and green to go anywhere near his plate, and so this is his body begging for nutrients--yeah, that's it. Simple. I never even tried to reason with her--I was too old for that, too independent and happy without her. In the end, I've always wanted to explain this: a windmill is just a windmill, death the absence of life, and dementia will always be dementia, whether you ignored it or not. My dad was an actor, so I guess he was predisposed to mental illness--you have to be pretty deranged to pretend to be somebody you're not all the time. *** I didn't see my dad again until a month later. My mom finally made it down to visit him at Avondale, sticking to a rigid schedule: every Wednesday at 6 P.M, rain or shine, whether he wanted her to or not. She would usually eat dinner with him there, sometimes bringing a piece of buttermilk pie wrapped in wax paper. When I asked her how he was doing, she would deflect by smiling and talking about how fabulous everything was, as if I were an idiot for not visiting every day, for not marveling at its aesthetic wonders. It took my dad leaving a deranged, cryptic message on my answering machine to get me down there again. I had a hard time following everything; he said something about a project, his latest role or something like that; something about the circus and a tightrope. But then something reeled my attention in, sparked that reflex of danger which makes the ears perk up--the word death, a rigid syllable cutting across the invisible lines in the atmosphere, traveling at ungodly speed through high telephone wires, finally bursting out with a sharp boom into my ear canal; he said it plainly at the end of the message, as natural and calm as if he were saying goodbye.
When I arrived at Avondale the next morning, I bypassed the front desk and headed straight for my dad's room. I was prepared to throw the door open, nudge it with the meaty part of my shoulder, but I stopped short when I noticed it ajar, held in place by a yellowed newspaper. "He's been at this for the past week," Clarence said from his bed. In place of a model airplane, he held a novel on the soft mound of his belly, the warm glow of a reading light attached to a band around his head. He still refused to look up. The blinds were shut, and as the light filtered through the fabric a fine, grey film covered everything in the room like it was in a glass ball full of smoke. My dad was messing around with some plastic chairs in the center of the room which were connected seat-to-seat with a plank of wood. A leg to one of the chairs was broken but propped up by some more yellow newspaper. He crouched and pulled out a length of duct tape, its sound cutting the air like an amplified zipper; the hair on my legs began to tingle. "Center of mass over base of support," he said, his voice muffled by the tape clenched between his teeth. He tore it off the roll and wrapped it around one end of the flank. "What?" I said. My face felt heavy--I wanted to leave, jump in my car, never look back. My dad walked over to the bed, picked up a book resting on one of the pillows, and threw it at me; it landed at my feet, its pages splayed. "It's all in there," he said, "balance, focus, the goal." I picked it up and ran my fingers over the worn, cloth cover--Robert Cadman: A Life in the Air. "Who is this?" I said, letting the pages fall. I leaned in to smell the familiar pale rust, a pleasant stench entombed within every old book. "English tightrope walker. Eighteenth century." He hoisted himself onto a chair. "Had a nephew of one guy across the hall smuggle that in with a pack of cigs." Clarence watched us, blankly. We met eyes and he shrugged, nodding back down to his book. "At least you're keeping yourself busy," I said. But in all reality, I speculated, was that the best thing for him at this point? Wasn't that what got him in here? "Just you wait," my dad said, "I'm going out with a bang. Training is the key." He extended his arms, shirtless, the grey hair under his pits catching light from the window, illuminating the patches like metallic embers. "Don't hurt yourself, is all," I said. For some reason, this concern only then entered my mind. "You say that now. Wait until I do this from fifty feet." "Fifty feet," I said. Fifty feet of what? But at least here in the droll confines of his room, he could only imagine getting up so high; his delusions could only go so far. "By the old radio towers. The ones with the wires," he said, as if I had forgotten something.
I knew the place. On the outskirts of town, down in a little stretch of desert valley, there were two twin radio towers, their glowing tips like sinister crimson eyes against the sky. I tried to estimate their height, but my mind was uncertain and foggy after the ten or so years since I had been there. But they could have very well been fifty feet high. The wire connecting them would be long dead by now, almost invisible if not for a little orange ball that was there to tip off oncoming aircraft; planes stopped flying over there when I was still a baby. If my dad were to actually attempt what he was certain to, he would surely die. He went over to his makeshift tightrope and began to adjust the chairs. Beads of sweat studded his forehead, and his muscles twitched as they worked. All I could imagine was him falling--a sudden hollow crunch of bone and flesh, twitching muscles releasing those final nerves; the whole event would happen suddenly and without anticipation, a flash in time that forced the brain to look back desperately, a yearning for the immediate past, some effacement of the horror. But, given the circumstances, was that possible death any worse than this? My dad stopped and looked up. He was standing one one of the chairs. "Don't just stand there," he said, "help me." He waved his arms, exaggerating, displaying he was falling. I pinched the bridge of my nose. "You're out of your mind." He reached out his hand and I took it without thinking, as if it were the most natural thing in the world, as if our relationship should illicit such a thing. His fingers were warm and dry, the palm wide and thick with callouses; they were my hands, down even to the gnawed fingernails, albeit more cracked with use and years of light. He began to walk on the plank of wood, his eyes closed and his face drifting away. I could already hear the sick crack of wood beneath him, but after a couple deliberate steps the sound disappeared. His fingers tightened as he kept balance, and then he started to mumble. The words were packed tight against his mouth, without any strain to the lips that hushed their remembered sounds. "I am not covetous for gold," he said, taking the turn with surprising agility, "nor care I who doth feed upon my cost..." "What was that?" I said. "Shh," he said, "listen." I led him by the hand back and forth across the plank. From above, at an angle hidden behind my left ear and then my right, his mouth clicked out hidden words from dry lips, the slightest hints of utterance harmonizing with the irregular clicks of dentures. After a few minutes of the same rambled precision--
my father never missing a step--the words began to form some sort of invisible mesh, as if violently sucked from the hectic carpet by the vacuum cleaner of recalled memory, held together in a tight bundle by friction; he was doing the St. Crispin's Day speech from Shakespeare, a monologue he would always pull out to emphasize to whomever would listen his learned prowess of deception. He would always make a big deal about doing it too, in front of my girlfriends or buddies or whatever, and I would always feel more embarrassed for him than anything. His actor face and voice was something creepy and foreign, and he emphasized everything he said like it was the most important thing in the world. "Maybe we shouldn't bother your roommate," I finally said, looking across the room. But Clarence was already asleep. His wrinkled mouth let out a meaty snore from the back of his throat, his chest heaving, eyes shut to visions of propellors throwing mist against the skies over Normandy. *** We were sitting in our usual spot--at a bench next to an old fountain--a month later and I was reading out loud the winning lottery numbers from the newspaper; it was a tradition stemming from the part of my forgotten childhood when I would voraciously read anything I could get my hands on: old receipts, cereal boxes, labels off vitamins and the like. At the breakfast table, my father would hold the ticket in his fingers, soft and calm so as not to crease the edges, as if that would diminish its worth. He would ritualize the entire thing: the handing of the paper, the seat pulled next to him, his bowed head solemn over a grapefruit and black coffee. It was as if ritualizing our interaction, however brief, divorced him of the responsibility of confronting me with real things, as a real person. Our bench--for it had become ours according to the general acknowledgement of the staff--was in front of thirty feet of manicured lawn, removed from the entryways, the designated area in which there was a silent agreement among staff to allow my dad his smoking; everybody, including myself, had given up as to finding out how he got them in the first place. Two thin lines of smoke flowed out of his nostrils. His white hair was matted against his right ear, shaggy and long. "Seven…fifty-eight…thirty-four…seventeen…" I read them as if pleading to each digit. After their sound, they sparked recognition on his face--eyebrows furrowed, wrinkled lips pursed. He responded with punctual, timed nods, head down, grunting now and again at some number as if it held a secret only he knew. I would do the Powerball, then the Pick, the Fast Five, saving them all for a climatic marathon during which I randomly selected a number from somewhere out of my head, continuing until he told me to stop. I cleared my throat. "Keep going?"
"Quiet," he said, shaking his head. I sat there, folding the newspaper. "Sorry." "How's that crazy mother of yours?" His voice was hurried. "Ah, you're her..her..whatâ€Ś" Fingers snapping, wincing as he reached inside his mind. "I'm what?" "You know," he said, cupping his hands, "littleâ€Ścrying." "Baby." "Baby." He sat up and smiled, rubbing his knees, looking ahead and lighting another cigarette. "Your mother, oh man she was a freak," he continued. He pulled at his waistline. "Like a tiger. Stuck her finger up my ass." "Stop." I said. I darted toward the fountain ahead. At the door to his room, he stopped to hold my shoulders. "What are you doing next Wednesday?" His face looked desperate, his gray eyebrows arched beneath the crease of his forehead. "Working. Why?" "Night. Wednesday night. Late," he said and looked around. "I dunno." "You have to help me. C'mon," he said, opening the door. He stopped to examine his makeshift tightrope--instead of a piece of wood, there was a piece of chicken wire glued across the chairs, chicken wire that I took great care in smuggling into him, feeding it through his window next to the parking lot. I knew I shouldn't be encouraging this new hobby. "Here," he said, stirring a pile of papers on his bed. He grabbed a handful and threw them at me. I picked one up. "What's this?" I said, turning it over. It featured a crude depiction of two long spirals and a stick figure between them. The towers, the radio towers. In the foreground, two other stick figures watched, one sporting enormous breasts. "These are plans?" "Damn straight. I got it all figured out. You're gonna help me." "And who are these? Mom and I?" In my dad's mind, my mother grew five bra sizes over night. I scrunched my nose. "Wait. Help you? You know you can't actually do this," I said, holding up the paper as evidence. I went over and looked through the rest of the papers. They all had the same thing, except each sported a unique and detailed annotation--some had measurements of height, width, wind speeds and velocity, even time tables and graphs with detailed itineraries. The work of some mad genius, or in all reality, some deeply disturbed old man with dementia. I wondered briefly if dementia was like autism,
granting you special powers to make up for the lack of function. "It's good that you're keeping busy, though." "Don't worry, there's plenty for you to do." "Pops, please just stop and listen to yourself. Listen," I said, struggling to keep up with the crescendo of my voice, "Okay. To begin with, there's no way you're getting out of here to do this..." "But you..." "No. Let me finish. And even if you did, you're going to die. DIE. Can you understand that? Huh? Or is your dementia acting up?" Dementia. The word sounded new and foreign. It was the first time I used it in front of him. His face glazed over, arms hung rigid at his sides. "I just thought you could do something useful in your life. For once." His voice sputtered and died across the room. It wasn't saying this that surprised me--I was sure he had said it so many other times--but it felt different there in that room. Like inherent truths spoken in movies before a battle--they seem like the most important things in the world, concrete and irrefutable and worth dying for. I relaxed my shoulders. "This isn't useful. What you're thinking of is nuts, dangerous, and probably illegal." "At least hear the plan. So you know." I sat on the bed. "Okay. Go ahead." My chest collapsed. I rolled my eyes. He paced to the door and back, talking into his fist, keeping quiet because Clarence was asleep, or perhaps for his fear of bugs and cameras plaguing the room. He talked plainly and without emotion, and with each organized facet of the plan he stuck his finger in the air. It wasn't the insanity of it, the manic rambling of the idea, but the utter and undeniable soundness of it that surprised me; it could really work, in theory. Toward the end, I almost was sold. *** When I turned onto Avondale's street in the middle of the night, I felt that tinge of anxiety that followed the nagging question my mind was asking me for the past week: How did I get this far? Why am I doing this? I stopped the voice at once before it stopped me. I performed the tasks mindlessly, bolting the cherry picker to the bed of the truck, the electric drill drowning out the thought; it was easier that way, easier to expel the blame. You can really go crazy if you think about everything. In some small way I felt I owed this to him, never asking why. "Is he sick? Oh God, if he's sick or dying, please..." my mom was whining through her fingers. "He's fine. Calm down, you're freaking me out."
"Freaking YOU out?" Her curly grey hair bounced with the weight of her voice. "You bring me out here in the dead of night saying it's an emergency and..." I stopped the car and got out. "Stay here. Be quiet," I said through the window. After banging out the S.O.S signal in morse code on the window--my father's suggestion--I felt him pull me in the dark room. The window must have been thinner than my previous calculations, its jagged edges of chipped paint and dusty splinters sticking through my thin t-shirt. The moon lit into the dark without illuminating anything, the silver glow more a part of the black, grey in spots where a bed or table fought against the dark. My dad put something soft in my hand. "Put it on," his voice said from somewhere. "What is it?" "Mask. Put it on." As my eyes adjusted to the dark of the room, I could make out the fleshy hole cut around his mouth, the mask blending in with the darkness and hiding his face. "Is this really necessary," I whispered, crouching down on instinct. "You're trespassing. Yes it is." "I'll take my chances," I said, putting it in my back pocket. Outside the cicadas buzzed sharp from the trees. My dad took hold of my belt loop as I ambled through a patch of brush to the parking lot. Our steps cracked dead twigs and rocks. We turned the building's corner on the way to the parking lot. A bright light stabbed my eyes and I put up my arm. "Who's there?," a voice said from the light, like an angel beckoning at the end of death. "Me," I said. "What are you doing here?" The security guard aimed his flashlight on my dad. "Nothing," I said, sounding like a kid again. "My dad and I..." The sound of rapid, mechanical clicks interrupted me. A cloud of dust hit my face as the guard fell to the ground, emitting a whelp, the dirt scraping from his frantic legs as they kicked. "Christ," I said, turning my head behind, ducking down as startled nerves hit my knees. "No time," I heard my dad say as he dropped the taser and walked away. My mom was starting in before I opened the door. "What was that screaming? Walt! Is that you? Why are you wearing a mask?" She clutched the window with her fingers. My dad got in first, in the middle seat. He pulled the mask off his face and covered up his ears with his hands. "Drive," he said.
I pulled the lever and put the pickup in reverse. My mother closed her mouth, annoyed, and shifted in her seat to stare out the window. The dim, crooked headlights of the pickup lit up the cracks of Copper road at 70 MPH; out here, the warm streetlights and traffic of the city seemed a distant dream, and I leaned forward against the steering-wheel, squinting my eyes against the tunnel vision that comes with driving at night. The desert-with its shrubs and cacti, broken trees split apart by lightning--boxed in the car and we moved along as if squeezed through an endless tube. My dad struggled with the loud wrapper of a Moonpie; he put a piece in my mouth, the chocolate hitting the sides, making them tense up, and for a second I forgot who I was. As the Copper Ridge mountain stretched slowly across the windshield, the golden luster of dawn painting its tip, I wondered if it was possible to outrun the day, setting out through vast distances to places where night always lives. My dad's arm brushed my nose as he pointed. The two towers looked like outcasts, tall and industrial against the sky, among the flat dirt and brush of the empty valley. Space, so much space, so much space in a city with a new shopping mall appearing every week. Out here there would always be a place to hide--in the desert you're forgotten, escaping the net of modern surveillance. At least for a little while. As the pickup jostled onto a thin, old road, I worried for the first time that night; it seemed to ooze from the pores in my head, fighting the roots of my hair: What if something does happen? How long will it take for help to arrive? Is that why he's doing it here, out where the nearest hospital is twenty minutes away? To die with us, where nobody can see? I put the pickup in park near the base of one of the towers. The dust moved in the headlights like a school of fish, and then just like that, it was gone. I stood with my mom, looking up, waiting for my dad to ascend. She was shaking next to me, blind and angry because my dad tied a bandana over her eyes. "You take it off when I signal," he had said, closing the gate to the basket of the cherry-picker. And just like that, he was off, his fingers in a salute against his head, the other hand stuck to the button that pushed him upward. He was smiling, and that made me okay with everything. The sky was an endless blanket of navy blue, the sun arriving, and a single star winked alone. The cherry picker stopped and he gave me the o.k. He held a cane and stared at the wire; the basket around him was a couple of feet higher than the wire, which seemed thinner with each second passing. He opened the door to walk out on the line, clever steps guiding him, practiced motion and balance. He gave me the salute. I took the bandana from my mother's eyes; she was silent, eyes hugging the sky, her mouth open in wonder.
My dad began to walk soundlessly, endlessly, the cane sturdy, his step assured. I reached behind me for my phone, groping without missing a step of my father's show. I meant to call 911 but couldn't bring myself to punch in the numbers. "Dad," I said, but I couldn't find the energy to scream. He wasn't listening anyway. He walked on against the desert, against the slight wind that came in like a stranger. From my angle, it looked as if he were floating.
Malcolm Graham Cooper is currently pursuing a BA in Fiction at the University of Arizona. In his spare time, he makes books with Spork Press.
Colin Honnor Madchenlieder "mach dass etwas uns gescheit sieh wie wir nach Leben beben...." -- Rainer Maria Rilke
I You grow to chant tyranny of flesh wedded to the bonesâ€™ hymn, your voice greens and the phanic goddess weaves her new forms favours you, skin golden-rich, gifted as quiet grass sings from lawns its craven dew-songs, brushing the dusk hivesâ€™ murmur to fulfil exoskeleton of leaf and worm feeding your milk with their honey.
Or do they milk the air with you and smile the future on you, warmed from a million eternities we would never see, had the lens been ground and, the divine oculist, sitting?
II Shuck of oyster shell, pried from roadstone feeds mother o’ pearl contains all speech in its labial waves: dolphins’ Delphic sonar, Tritons’ cyclopic Calypso wreathing herbs and flowers Circe's cleansed pungencies of brine; you whisper and collect their myths of which you are as yet unconscious.
III Swimming in Roman seas, Etruscan faces smile from ocean’s brim with neriads and nymphs
IV Homeric ethic and moral -- the daystar invents its own incalculable dictats to which, tyrant chained in flesh you will wish for release from the integuements of muscle, the responsive nerve web calling you to plant and water nurturing his hymn to the sun, your fecund amour.
nothing moves or leaves here this is a transit place, not a terminus you are hungry and eat to seed to purposes
your green memory attenuates.
Widely published poet in numerous magazines in print and online, including: Poetry and Audience, 21 Years of Poetry and Audience Anthology, Agenda, Outposts, The Rialto, Fire, Smoke, Orbis, Ore, Iron, Lines Review, Envoi, Staple, Sepia, Hybrid, Poetry Nottingham, Tops, Pennine Platform, Ammonite, Terrible Work, Tandem, Odyssey, Headlock, The Swansea Review, Iota, The People's Poetry, Outposts, 4x3 ,Arabesques International Review, The Dublin Quarterly, Braquemard, Poetry Manchester, Poetry Quarterly, Masques, Great Works, Aireings, The Wolf, Various Artists and many others. Collections, mostly from small presses and private presses include "From Underground" (Mirabilis1986); "Dante;" "Cavafy;" "The Somme;" (Yew Tree Press). English Poetry is forthcoming from University Press of America.
Mary Pat Musick Safe When NaIdo sailed out of my life on his boat, The Crewless, I knew it was a good thing. That was two years ago, and I had nearly stopped missing him. I was in Lenz Art Supplies, back in the acrylics section, when I heard his growl over my shoulder. I dropped the tube of purple plum from my hand. Nerves stung my skin, but I turned with the coolness of a bored teenager. Naldo studied me. I wished I wasn't wearing sweats. They make me look dumpy. "Well look who's here," I said, before I shifted my eyes to the plastic palettes displayed behind him. "You never told the dentist." The dentist was my husband. When Naldo had threatened to make an appointment, I said that Bob already knew. But he didn't. Nobody did. "We've moved beyond it," I said. Naldo smiled in that know-all way of a teacher who doesn't believe the student. He had fancied himself my instructor in the art of painting, as well as the art of love. He claimed that art needed rebelliousness. His complicated hair, and his rudderless life, echoed that defiance. But he had a soft side that seemed at odds with his swagger. "I've moved on too," he said. "I use brushes now." His old method was to toss cheap wine onto canvases. "Come on." He motioned with his head. "I'll show you how I do it. " He still had that greedy boy look that could cancel my conscience. "My son has a soccer game," I said, although it was 10:00 on a Tuesday morning and Geoffrey was in math class. "Will the dentist be there? Bob, isn't it? Solid name. Kind of dull though." "Look, it's over," I said, but my voice ended with a question mark. "I'll never forget that time on The Crewless. On deck. Anchored in that deserted cove." Naldo gave a soft whistle. "We didn't notice that fishing boat come in. Remember how they cheered us?" I bent down and picked up the tube of paint. "Remember?" he said. "I remember." I remembered the hoots of the fishermen that reverberated in my head as I tried to sleep next to Bob. I remembered my paranoia every time Bob answered his phone. I remembered the fear of losing everything.
Naldo took the tube of purple plumb from my hand. "Good to see it's not one those perky colors you used to use, Sunny." He's the only person to call me that. I was lighter with him, but the burden of it weighted me down. "I'm more experimental now." That was clumsy to say to him. "I'd like to see your work." "You didn't like it." "You painted flower covered hills." "That's what sells." "To people who live in brick house with fussed over shrubs." I live in a brick house with fussed over shrubs. It was the house I had dreamed up as a child, while my mother moved our camper trailer whenever the voices directed her. "Is there someone else? Besides the dentist?" His hand brushed my hair––I wished I wasn't overdue for highlights. "There is only the dentist." Bob was the kind of man who wouldn't pull up anchor on a whim. Naldo drew me over me to the stretched canvases. He rolled his fingers up and down my neck. "Are you restless?" he said. "Sometimes." Whenever I thought him, and of the strength of his long limbs, and the texture of his skin––smooth for a rugged man. "Come with me." I could have snuck out of myself again. He made it easy. But Bob had opened an office in the tallest building in town. It was sturdy. The Crewless tossed and turned, and took on water. I focused on Naldo's cleft chin, an attempt to avert eye contact. There was less than an arm's length between us; I needed to create an ocean's worth of distance. "There is a kind of freedom tucked into the middle ground of happiness," I said. He grimaced. "Where did you read that?" "I don't remember." His fingers left my neck. But the sensation of them stayed. "There's no music in that middle ground trap," he said. "How would you know?" "I visited once." We did not say goodbye, good seeing you, let's meet for coffee sometime. We stood there a minute, looking at each other's odd angles, and then he winked, a signal that he would not unmask me. I was safe.
Mary Pat Musick's short fiction have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, The Pedestal, Summerset Review, LitnImage, MacGuffin, Medulla Review, and elsewhere. Her travel essays are published in Traveler's Tales and The Literary Traveler. She works and plays in Santa Cruz, California.
Stephen Masimilla Ode to the Lemon After Neruda From those petals let loose by the light of the moon, from that aroma of exasperated love, drowned in fragrance, yellow drifted from the lemon tree; and from its planetarium, they descended to the earthâ€”lemons. Tender produce. The coasts, the markets filled with light, with gold ore, and we opened two halves of a miracle, congealed acid that ran from the hemispheres of a star and the most profound liqueur of nature
incomparable, alive, irreducible, born of the freshness of the lemon, of its fragrant house, of its secret acidic symmetry. In the lemon, the knife cuts a little cathedral, the hidden apse that opened windows of acidulous stained glass to the light, and the topaz droplets riding down the altars, the cool architecture. So, when your hand clasps the hemisphere of the cut lemon over your plate, a universe of gold spills over, a yellow cup of miracles, one of the fragrant nipples of the earthâ€™s breast, a flash of light made fruit, the diminutive fire of a planet.
Stephen Massimilla is a poet, critic, professor, and painter. His latest book, "The Plague Doctor in His Hull-Shaped Hat," was selected in the Stephen F. Austin State University Press Poetry Prize competition. He has received the Bordighera Poetry Prize for "Forty Floors from Yesterday;" the Grolier Prize for "Later on Aiaia;" a runner-up citation for theSalmon Run National Poetry Book Award for "Almost a Second Thought," selected by X.J. Kennedy; a Van Rensselaer Award, selected by Kenneth Koch; an Academy of American Poets Prize; and multiple Pushcart Prize nominations. Massimilla has recent work inAGNI, American Literary Review, Barrow Street, Chelsea, The Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, The Greensboro Review, The Literary Review, Marlboro Review, Provincetown Arts magazine, Quarterly West, The Southern Review, The Spoon River Poetry Review, Tampa Review, Verse Daily, and many other journals and anthologies. He holds an M.F.A. and Ph.D. from Columbia University and teaches literary modernism, among other subjects, at Columbia University and the New School.
Nathaniel Heely Texas Star
The Setting: The tallest Ferris Wheel in North America, located in Dallas, Texas in the first week of October amidst the Texas State Fair. The wheel reaching a climactic altitude of two-hundred and sixty-two feet. It is a clear day with highs in the 80s. The Characters: (1) A young couple very much in love and very uninhibited in re displaying this kind of love. A young couple that is, at most, forty years between the twoâ€”corresponding ages split roughly down the middle. They are both of Hispanic descent. The male companion dressing in long Ed Hardy-esque jean shorts and an oversized t-shirt and the girl dressed in skin-clutching jean cutoffs and a pink and white striped tanktop slightly too loose around the bust. (2) A pair of college friends, one in her fifth year of studies and the other in her fourth, by the American educational standard, making them respectively a few years older then the young couple. Both Caucasian, though the younger having spent a considerable amount of time in tanning beds, and the older having spent a considerable amount of time in classrooms; their skin reflecting these properties. (3) A seventeen year-old male, brother to the paler friend, and chronically depressed, to a suicidal degree, and extraordinarily self-conscious of this fact, almost paranoid. As a result he is furiously wellkept as to inspire happiness in the way he looks, sporting obviously conditioned blonde hair, wearing a pair of Ray-Ban wayfarers, a pink polo, Sperry brand shoes with no socks and khaki shorts. The Plot: Not much to speak of. The Events: The five ride the Ferris Wheel and make two full circuits totaling maybe six minutes, then they disembark into their two previously oriented groups. Themes: Repetition, as emblemized by the Ferris wheel making a cyclical pattern. Also of self-consciousnessâ€” both lack and abundance.
Other Notes: The two young women are on fall break from college and have come home on this weekend in the middle of October. The sister, Amanda, and her roommate, Louise, made the trip from northwestern Arkansas, five hours south. She was partially motivated to come see her brother so that her presence might cheer him up, but if she was honest she didn’t yearn to be around the sulking bag of skin all day and had, without mentioning her brother’s condition, convinced Louise to come along with her so that they could do things like eat fried s’mores and ride The Largest Ferris Wheel in North America. The Fair is an annual event for Amanda’s family, but Louise has never been. As such, her cerebral occupation focuses greatly on the same cycle of previously banal attractions, but which are now aglow with interest, seeing things like the Midway and the dog shows and the Jamaican acrobats for the first time through Louise’s eyes. She hears familiar phrases that were once uttered by her five, six, maybe even ten years ago. Louise, her elder, dons the look of a captivated child eyeing from their crib massively engorged versions of itself, wondering how it could all be. Upon entering the Ferris Wheel, Amanda feels she has done a good job at not only giving Louise a perfectly diverse taste of the Fair, but of also keeping her brother preoccupied with light and distracting fun so as for him not to experience any emotional meltdown and, perhaps more importantly to her though she would not admit it, to keep the secret of his emotional vulnerabilities from Louise. She is consciously looking at Louise as she points out familiar points of the Fairground with bubbling excitement. The seventeen year-old male, heretofore identified as “Pinky,” the preferred colloquial nickname assigned to him for nearly four years throughout high school, sees his life as something akin to the Wheel. The Wheel must rotate hundreds of times a day, and over the course of a twenty-four day period, potentially broaches tens of thousands of turns, this not accounting for any kind of mechanical failure or any necessary warm-up. The wheel rotates only to serve a purpose, and, as the ride manifests, it turns out the purpose is more symbolic than experiential. A way to say, I rode the largest Ferris Wheel in North America. It is an empty feeling with its meaning ingrained in the words and not the action. Pinky turns out to have an anthropomorphic empathy for the wheel, cringing with the sound and creak of it’s gradual turn as it carries him higher and higher. It sounds to him like a weeping of something lifeless. He feels that the Wheel is under an immense burden and that he is an imposition upon it, his weight at fault for making it strain. This does not sit well with him. Perhaps it doesn’t help that the increasing altitude and the transparency of the gondola’s view are the only other things Pinky can focus on. The Wheel turns out to be a “trigger,” though, to be honest, just about anything can turn out to be a “trigger” and the amiable pair of friends beside him and the young and in love couple so unashamedly physical about it and so full
of possibility turn out to be a much larger “trigger” and the whole ride becomes like trying to block out the sound of several radio stations with the mind in a futile attempt to experience silence. He notices that none of the four other occupants are looking at him and he feels that he must be exhibiting anti-social behaviors so he takes a deep breath and broadens his lips into a grin in an attempt to look happy. He doesn’t know that this forced smile, were anyone looking, makes him look completely psychotic. The Hispanic couple from the start seem to barely notice anything but themselves. Neither of them fastens the required seatbelt. They are lip-locked for a majority of the ride. For Felix, today marks the longest stretch of time he has ever had a girlfriend. Two-hundred and twenty-four days. He has kept rigorous track of his statistics ever since he started dating at thirteen. He has spent the night at this girl’s house thirteen times. They have had sex three-hundred and sixty-one times. Nearly a full years worth. Today alone he has counted twenty-three times his lips have touched somewhere on the surface of her body. Now twenty-four. Francesca doesn’t keep track of numbers like Felix does. If prompted she would likely identify today as Sunday, not Saturday. She often confuses the fact that she has a coy fish tattooed on her shoulder, not a “carp fish.” When Felix puts his hand on her leg after lip touch twenty-four of the day she doesn’t stop him. The very act releases huge amounts of oxytocin through her body until she feels she is bathing in happiness. At the top of the first ascent she can feel the sun on her coy fish and the feeling of warmth is indistinguishable on the descent. As Felix passes through the twenties and into the thirties with pecks on her shoulders, his hand moves from petting to squeezing her thigh, and them from squeezing to massaging slowly up where both legs meet. It is Amanda who first catches sight of this as Louise is consulting the map, orienting herself to the world, double-checking its veracity. Amanda doesn’t make a motion until she’s sure she has spotted a dark splotch on the jean shorts and when she does she gives a hard jab to Louise’s ribs, which halts the tepid din of her voice to silence and is replaced by moans of mirth on the part of Francesca enjoying herself, completely oblivious to not only the dark splotch sitting on her shorts, but also to the two girls’ sets of eyeballs magnetized to the V of her legs. All this time, Pinky is concentrating on the slow descent down, transfixed on the motions of the Wheel, blocking out two different high pitched noises that are indistinguishable—Francesca’s moan and the wheel’s creak—and his eyes turn to his right gazing at the funhouse. Inside there are an infinite set of ways around and corridors and mirrors that repeat forever, mirrors distending the viewer into something otherwordly and yet, for Pinky, somehow these harangued figures turn out to be revisions of familiar dreams he has been having in which death is an impossibility and living life in a myriad of corrupted bodies and images is punishment for some sin that he enacted upon his birth and imposition on the world. As a result, he notices nothing in front of him.
Nathaniel Heely attends the University of Arkansas. His fiction has previously appeared inRevolver, Green Blotter, The Fat City Review and the NewerYork among others.
Will Walker Don’t Call It Surgery, It’s Just a Procedure One thing I know: They won’t start without me. Absent, I’ll still be the star, or perhaps only the stadium in which the star performs, though if that’s what I am I’ll be a quiet venue, I hope, one deliriously sedated, I pray, knocked out and sent to await
my arrival in the recovery room where some kindly granny sort with the beatific smile of one from the Other Side will tell me firmly but pleasantly to breathe–– come on, lady, who needs help with that, but thanks for setting the bar so very, very low for reentry to the busy, conscious, beeping world of medical contraptions. And then I’ll lie there like a plucked chicken
and breathe, proud of my accomplishment, in love
with my newly recovered body, not yet inclined to do anything except smile the cockeyed smirk of the still half-buzzed
while thanking my aged nurse with my drug-soaked lips and tongue and newly liberated vocal cords, thank you granny, you are my Mother Teresa, but without the distracting doctrinal issues and the troubling Bride of Christ superstructure, just another local angel of mercy, a sort of anatomical hatcheck lady, giving me back my flummoxed arms and legs, my flesh, all the unassuming baggage of my body.
Will Walker At the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame We were young, and we were improvin’ —John Mellencamp The clothes on the wall speak a simple, shocking truth: I’m much too big to be a rock star. These duds of Jimi and Janis and Grace, even what we thought was the mammoth Mama Cass, so huge she might have needed a crane to keep her enormous jiggling bulk from falling through the feeble timbers of the strongest stage–– they’re all munchkin drag, shrunken rags of tie dye and stuff constructed from your grandmother’s Victorian parlor curtains. Too tiny to contain my life-size form. My early history is history, remote as the midgets who fought the Revolution or the mutton-chopped subjects of the Civil War, frozen in Brady’s formal photos or splayed in the trenches, blood turned to a lifeless syrup
fit only for the worm farm. Let’s dwell instead on the dreams my music heroes held, hopes so huge they towered towards the cumulus, stoked meditations on ourselves and our Gods at the center of the molten crowded universe, seething and alive, uncontainable, on fire.
Will Walker lives in San Francisco with his wife and their dog. He is a former editor of theHaight Ashbury Literary Journal, where his work has appeared often. His poetry has also been published in Bark, Passager, Spillway Review, Alimentum, Nerve House, Lame Duck, Street Spirit, and Street Sheet. His full-length collection of poems, "Wednesday after Lunch (available on Amazon), was the winner of the 2008 Blue Light Press Book Award. A chapbook of his called "Carrying Water" was published by Puddinghouse Press. He’s thankful to a bunch of relatively little-known poets, among them Joseph de Roche and Sidney Goldfarb, both former teachers. He’s also fond of other writers not appearing on a roster of the wellknown, including Al Masarik and Lew Welch. He’s attended workshops with Thea Sullivan, Marie Howe, Mark Doty, Robert Pinsky, Gail Masur, Martha Rhodes, and (in another life) John Frederick Nims. His prose has appeared in Provincetown Arts and Morbid, as well as in several twelve-step publications without attribution. His claims to the footnotes of poetic fame include reading Frank Bidart’s first book, "Golden State," in manuscript many decades ago, playing tennis with August Kleinzahler sometime after the death of disco, and sharing a very distant relative with Mark Doty (the slightly notorious Mayflower passenger, Edward Doty). His brief encounters with other literary luminaries include having pizza with J. D. Salinger (who expressed concern that Walker was ordering a pizza with two proteins on it) and offering to teach Norman Mailer to windsurf. Mailer declined, commenting that he was working on many different levels at once, but graciously offered to share his windsurfer. Walker knows only two poems by others reliably by heart: Frost’s “Dust of Snow” and Whitman’s “A Noiseless, Patient Spider.”
Lia Woodall Fallout: A Response to the Fourth State of Matter Of all the essays I have read in the last six years, The Fourth State of Matter by Jo Ann Beard is probably my favorite, which I revisit annually. This time for the class I am taking called Experimental/Hybrid Forms. How to do so this time and still learn something more? I bring it to bed one night and ask my husband if I may read it to him. Sure, he says, an agreeable man. I know I am taking a risk with him. He may fall asleep at just the point where he should be paying more attention. He may disappoint me. I begin. My reading voice is strong, lyrical. Not monotone, which he dislikes. I have read to him before. It starts with the collie, and the squirrels. He laughs, often, and I am reassured that he is engaged. I’m enjoying his laughter. I enjoy it often on Sunday mornings with the Times. But sometimes, he perturbs me with his vocalizations. I feel teased into leaving my own reading and asking him “what’s so funny.” I don’t like to be in the dark. I am enjoying his laughter, too, because I know what is coming. That he will be shocked into silence. As I read, I notice the short paragraphs stacking up. My husband loves our cats, but he is truly a dog person. I think of the philosophy that commercials sell more product when there is a dog in them. I think, everyone will love this essay because there are dogs. The first time I read The Fourth State of Matter, I focused on the squirrels. I knew those squirrels, having had a family of squirrels in our house in DC in 1990. I was home on maternity leave and they partied throughout the day somewhere up in the attic. I opened closet after closet looking for them, certain that I would discover a motley crew of goggled creatures sawing and hammering away. When my husband came home at night, they had gone to sleep, and he didn’t believe that we needed an exterminator.
I don’t really like the part where Jo Ann Beard describes moving the collie’s nose like a gearshift in a Maserati. Although, it is more palatable, even cute, on the sixth reading—maybe because I am reading aloud. When I’m reading, I try not to emphasize the sentences that are foreshadowing, but I feel like I have secret knowledge because I know. When I read about the husband, I wonder if my husband wonders if I ever thought that way about him. It was almost a coin toss whether we’d stay together after the kids left home, but this year we’ll celebrate 27 years. And I’ve always liked his t-shirts because they reflect a political perspective we share. I can tell my husband is sorry for the collie. But I know the collie’s misfortune will save the narrator’s life. I love the chalkboard. But it reminds me of 5th grade when Sister Alvernia had wanted to impress a math lesson upon me, one I’d missed because I was sick for a week. I raised my hand, confidently, and went to the blackboard. I was used to getting gold stars and angel stamps on my work and had turned toward her expecting praise. Instead, she smashed my head against my neatly drawn, but incorrect, computation. Chalk dust floated by my eyes. Of course, I love Chris. And each time I read this essay, I wonder what kind of love Jo Ann really had for Chris. To me, it is more than ambiguous. I look over at my husband with his eyes closed and begin to feel disappointed. “Are you asleep?” I ask. “No,” he says back. “Good. This is the 2/3rds point. It’s about to get more interesting.” We are all in the rooms and the buildings and the staircases with Gang Lu, although none of us really is. Thank goodness. Fallout. There is always more fallout than anyone can ever know. I am choking up as I read, but cover myself pretty convincingly. A page later, I am crying. When I read about Chris’s mom going back to Germany and quietly killing herself, I think about Columbine, then close by, and the one mom who went to a pawn shop six months later, asked to see a particular gun, loaded it with the bullets she’d brought with her. End of story. There might be an end to such a story, except there never is.
When I finish reading The Fourth State of Matter to my husband, he is very quiet. I am crying over the plasmapause and shards of fly wings, suspended in amber. “Do you remember this?” I ask. I don’t remember 1991 at all, even the war happening. It is the year my twin brother killed himself, shortly after the new year. My husband takes out his iPad and Googles shooting, Iowa, November 1, 1991, physicists. He reads silently, then laughs, awkwardly. “Two weeks before, there was another mass murder. That time by truck.” We shake our heads. Sometimes that is all there is. “Powerful essay,” I say, and turn off the lights.
Lia Woodall is an emerging nonfiction writer living in Denver with her husband and three cats. She is a member of Lighthouse Writers Workshop and Salon Denver. Her essay "Torn in Two" appears in Vol. 15 of South Loop Review: Creative Nonfiction + Art. Her essay, "The Scream" was awarded 2nd place by Sonora Review in its 2013 Essay Contest. Lia's real name is Eolia--a goddess of the winds in Greek mythology. In reality, it's merely a bunch of hot air and more than enough vowels for a good yo del.
Visit www.crackthespine.com to review our submission guidelines or to subscribe