Crack the Spine Literary magazine
Issue Ninety - two
Issue Ninety-Two December 4, 2013 Edited by Kerri Farrell Foley Collection copyright 2013 by Crack the Spine
Cover Art & Interior Images Martina K Photography
DesirĂŠe Jung Looking Through Your Eyes
Francis Daulerio - I Keep Catching Myself Talking to Passed Relatives When I'm Supposed to be Talking to God - All's Well That Ends
Karen Lindsey The Ear: A Romance
James Mirarchi Matriculate
Benjamin Perry The Woman in the CafĂŠs
Catfish McDaris Comanche Java
Ramona Itule-Patigian Losing My Fish
Tina Garvin Eastwood
Malissa Stark Dement, It
Looking Through Your Eyes
He’s fat and his belly presses against the navy blue polo shirt. She had imagined him less bald, perhaps a bit more tanned, like the last time she had met him at the airport, returning from a trip with his recently married wife. The strangest thing is the boy’s lack of viscosity, the kid’s color is aurora white and it emphasizes his red lips, like those of a shy girl. “Is that you?” She says, a selfcontained question that holds air at the end of the syllable giving the impression that she still wants to say something else. Instead, she takes his hands in between hers and shakes them firmly, as though she was greeting a politician. Will he notice the difference on her face? She is alone in the restaurant because her mother, who has always left the yoga class in time to have her weekly lunch with her daughter, today
decides to stop by her house beforehand. Her husband is coughing and doesn’t go to work, what interrupts their ritual. They’ve been together for six months, but her mother still behaves as though they are in a honeymoon. It is her third marriage, since the death of her father, six years ago. But it’s not only that. Right there, she feels vulnerable, wants to cry, ever since she left the hospital. Maybe the company of her mother would distract her. They are mixed emotions. If, on one hand, the last thing she wants to do is to find someone from her past, capable of unveiling the cruel passage of time, on the other, shouldn’t she be proud with the results of the operation? The boy continues to look at her as though searching for other eyes, behind hers. They are standing still, making the shape of a triangle, in the middle of the salon. At that
moment, she’s certain that she’s made the right decision not to have children or to get married with the same man that was possibly her ex-boyfriend, in the past. If that had happened, she would have met herself, in the future, with an insipid child of fat cheeks and curved back. Like a weather-guard, the boy is over-weight. The oddest thing is that the man, contrary to his son, avoids her gaze, soon letting his hands separate from hers as though they were fruits falling from a tree. He seems sad. Or were that the shape of his eyes? Soon after, he begins to walk away, distancing from her, aiming at a table in the end of the room, near others where there are many empty baskets of bread, accumulated in between objects that appear to come directly from a deposit. They don’t say goodbye. Perhaps they don’t want to be seen, she thinks. Her will, in
truth, is to chase after him and introduce herself once again, assuring he is the man from her past and who recognizes her behind the bruises. She hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t imagined she was going to feel that way, a stranger in her own skin. The past is a whirlwind of moments that makes the present unforgiving. He barely hears her greeting when caught like a fish in her claws. She, which at the same time wants to be avoided, as though the plastic surgery was some sort of shame that she now carried underneath her eyes, a swelling, deep down she also wants to be seen in her new image, beautiful, lovely and younger. She takes a deep breath. She needs to change focus and position. The image of that man incites her will to be observed, as though in front of a mirror. She tries to control her desire to be seen, even if by a possible exboyfriend. She decides, then, to concentrate on her mother. She takes the phone and sends her a message, where are you?, while
checking the updates on Facebook. The only thing to do now is to wait for the ticking of the seconds, the sensation that her skin is extended each minute, and an internal timing that never stops resonating. She looks at him one last time before changing chairs, as though hoping to say goodbye or something. He seems lost, in a corner of the salon. His son plays with the cell phone, and on and off looks at her direction. Sitting there, in a restricted section of the room, he feels he can breathe calmly now. He doesnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know where he had met that woman before, but her unsettling shape distresses him. His son, magnetized before her face, stared occasionally. He, on the other hand, keeps remembering the marks on her neck, and the purple stains on her skin, as though she had just walked from an operation. What was she doing there, in such a state? The ugliness of the lady makes him think about his own body. Ever since he lost his job, he had put on five kilos, the
excess of weight on his clothes already evident. The imminence of someone known terrifies him, even if apparently from a distant past. But the woman seemed happy to see him. Lately he feared being observed, especially by his own wife. His image called for a diet, but he lacked strength to begin. His son, less bothered by his appearance than him, asks the waiter for a hamburger with fries. He hesitates, but ends up choosing the same. He should contain himself, like his old working peers who ate fruits during lunchtime. But it was difficult, especially when they are staying in a hotel. If his wife hadnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t invited him, maybe he could have started this week. It is an important conference, she stressed, and all flight controllers will be present there. She had been selected to lecture and they offered her a place to stay. Even though they lived in the city, she decided to accept the deal. Was it meant to be a second honeymoon? He wondered. But the boy never
left his side, and his wife was never around. In the end, he saw himself as a babysitter, ever since he started to spend more time at home. The most revealing side of this child was his lack of scruple. Was that the real name of his behavior? The boy stared without piety at others, showing a blank gaze. He considered children happier because they could think whatever they wanted, without saying anything. Was he like that, as an adult? The waiter approaches the table and he asks for a tomato juice, spicy. Tomato juice isn’t fattening, is it? He wants to ask someone, but whom? He recalls his wife’s body, extremely lean. That morning, when she woke up early to exercise at the hotel’s gym, he had noticed her pointing bone at the curve of her waste. Different from him, she didn’t accumulate fat. He stayed sleeping, or pretending he was asleep, while he observed her clothes hanging on the chair, what she was going to wear
later on, black skirt, silk shirt, pink and professional. It was the outfit that marked her hips, giving her an even thinner posture. What did others think of her? Modern, a woman that didn’t need a husband, free, and ready to conquer the world? Was that what they think of her? He only knew that when he lay down near her in bed he had the impression that he needed to excuse himself. Was he showing signs of depression? Yes, he was over eating, and low in energy. At least he no longer drank. When he was still working in the cookie business, he used to drink beer after he left the gym, located in the same building, but no longer. He needed to react, but he didn’t know how. It was a matter of internal dwelling, willpower, and not exterior motivation. The woman had changed position, and he no longer could see the marks on her skin. Who was she? Maybe she could be someone nice. He missed talking to someone nice.
His wife always lost her patience whenever they need to extend the subject to a topic outside the official agenda: children or work. She was always in a hurry these days. When the hamburger arrives he is afflicted before the full plate and internally blames his son, for having ordered it first. The addiction to unhealthy meals brings a voracious appetite in him, a want to devour the meat and the melted cheese all at once. He opens the ketchup and hands it to his son, who seems paralyzed, observing him. He doesn’t know why the boy looks so much at him. “What is it?” He asks. The boy nods his head and then catches his phone, which is over the table. “Look, it is a water truck,” the boy answers, opening an Internet page that explains how water is distributed in the neighborhood. “And so what?” He asks, confused. The kid doesn’t say anything and they continue eating in silence.
“Dear, isn’t that an exboyfriend of yours, from a time when your father was still alive and thought you were going to have a big family, like his relatives on his side of the family?” She asks, after arriving late and noticing the restaurant is barely empty. Her daughter is a bit slow, late to respond. As a mother, she wants to offer some help, even if just for words. She’s noticing a burning sensation on her skin, perhaps impressed with the marks on her daughter’s skin. Besides, the power of the air conditioner in the room oppresses her. Or was there something else? The image of her daughter worries her. She was so pretty and thin at a younger age but now needs an operation to look like that again, and at what cost? She didn’t want to be sorry for the girl, but unfortunately, that is how she feels now. The operation isn’t going to create a new person or change her personality. What happens to the melancholy, loneliness and lack of purpose? Her daughter’s
sadness overshadows her. For the moment, it was better not to tell her about the trip overseas with her husband. He was going to take some time off, and the two would rent an apartment in Miami, where they would spend the season. “You are very thoughtful today, mom,” her daughter says. It’s important to bring up something, any subject. What to say? The weekly meetings carry a blue loneliness, a silent murmur. She had spent so much time worrying about the girl during her childhood, that now it seems hopeless. They eat a pineapple for dessert, but later, when the coffee arrives, her daughter asks for a chocolate cake, unexpectedly. Despite having operated on her belly fat, the excess is still inside of her, in her manners. As a mother, she tries not to worry, concentrating on her own future. She’s already forgotten what she ate during lunch anyway. The important thing is to arrive at the embassy in time, without telling her
daughter about the interview for a visa to the United States. What excuse will she give her not to accompany her home? To her surprise, however, her daughter informs her she will go for a walk on the mall. Is that safe to walk on those conditions? Isn’t she tired? The girl, who is already a made woman, and still feel pains in her body, repeats, I am, but what I want is to be on my own. She seems disconnected from everything, perhaps a collateral effect of the anesthesia. The valet brings the car and soon after she still insists with her daughter, “are you sure you don’t want company? You’re very debilitated still.” But she doesn’t appear interested and continues to walk slowly in the direction of the mall, looking back as though she had forgotten something in the restaurant, which is still empty, just the same man and the child, sitting at a table near the back. Now she realizes her daughter hadn’t answered whether the man was her ex-
boyfriend, he seemed familiar, but nowadays so many people looked alike that it is hard to tell. Maybe it is better that way. Her daughter, the ex-boyfriend, and the little boy become a note from the past, as she drives away, towards the embassy. The boy notices the car leaving. They are alone in the restaurant now. The passage of time creates illusions in his body. Or is that anxiety? In the fiction book, the main character complains of anxiety. He’s young, but he knows what it means, anxiety. The hamburger, sitting in his stomach, shows his inability to digest present time. He doesn’t know how the father manages it. It is difficult to be a single child these days. If he had a brother, maybe he could occupy his mind by talking with him. When at school, he keeps thinking about his father, what he is doing at home, alone between furniture and maid. He doesn’t know what an unemployed father does. His impulse is to defend him from
his mom, utter something that will explain why she thinks he is depressed. But he doesn’t know what to think. He didn’t like to see either of them sad, but the truth is that he always felt more comfortable near his mom. Now, destiny had united them, and he met his father every day after school. Before, he barely talked with him. There, in the restaurant, the same home scenario is repeated, silence and lethargy, intersected by food. It is Friday, and he wonders whether the hotel bed is soft, so he can sprawl out to read his book. It is the first time he will sleep alone in a hotel room, even if only separated from his parents by a door. They have been sitting still for some time when his father asks for the bill. “Do you want to go to the movies?” His father asks, walking ahead towards the exit, moments later. He is late to respond because he’s never asked that before, and he doesn’t even know if it is allowed. What is his mother
going to say? They leave the restaurant and his father moves slowly, as though his body weighted tons. The unknown woman from the restaurant table is minutes ahead of them, soon disappearing inside the mall, when he forgets her presence. He tries to start a conversation with his father but he seems indifferent. “Do you want to play videogame before the movie?” He asks, entertained by the possibility of having his father as a close friend. But his father says no and encourages him to play alone, while the movie doesn’t start. He doesn’t have patience with electronic games. “So can I go?” He asks as an echo, just to extend his sensation of closeness. But the question falls into emptiness. When he arrives at the videogame arcade, he watches his father standing on the line to buy the ticket. Again, he feels like starting a conversation, filling the anxiety, telling him how much he loves him, in a
way that he doesn’t even know how to explain. The possibility of proximity causes anguish, is what the character had said, he recalled now. He buys a dollar worth of coins with his lunch money and starts to play. The sensation of pleasure, minutes before the beginning of
the game, puts a smile on his face. The woman from the restaurant, with marks on her neck, is standing in front of a store with many bags on display. It’s my favorite game, he tells himself, sitting in the driver’s position and holding the wheel with all his might. His
father is quiet on a bench, and his eyes are fixed in something he can’t guess. He puts the coin into the slot and his face is filled by a smashing, allencompassing red light.
I Keep Catching Myself Talking to Passed Relatives When I'm Supposed to be Talking to God
It feels like I’m in the woods, looking for guidance— stars that collapsed before I was born are only now touching me with their light.
All’s Well That Ends “Don't ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody” -J.D. Salinger
Who needs poetry anyway? There’re enough stars in that giant, empty sky as it is. Who needs a new light? Nobody needs to go out finding new light.
Karen Lindsey The Ear: A Romance
It began with Verdi, which is a sensible place for a romance to begin. She was watching the doomed heroine waltzing through her party, when her eye caught the head of the man in front of her. His hair was gray but full and curly, and one strand of curl gracefully looped around his ear. The ear itself was attractive, and she remembered the old cliché about the shell-like ear. Her attention refocused on the now-coughing Violetta. Her love for opera was old. Great-aunt Hollicot had taken the child often, with lunch and an explanation of the upcoming performance’s plot. Later, on the way home, Aunt Hollicot had explained about the music, the orchestra, the conductor, the great singers of old. Recently, Aunt Hollicot, now well into her 90s and very well-to-do, had died. To her only great-niece, she had left a bequest that to anyone else would seem odd. It was a large sum of money, kept in the hands of trustees, which was to be used only for opera-going. There was enough money for the younger woman to go to many operas for the rest of her life. Though she occasionally bought a ticket for an individual opera, it had become her habit to buy season tickets to all the possible theme combinations available: it was easier and more efficient, involving fewer trips with her credit card statements to the rigid trustees, whom she disliked. There were of course several repetitions among the series (Les Troyens, for example, showed up in both the Great Tragedies and the Taste of France series), but there was no opera she disliked, and seeing different cast members added freshness to each performance. It was on her first use of the bequest—the All Romance series--that she saw the ear with the curl around it. Instinctively, when she got up to leave, she avoided looking in front of her. She did not want to see the man’s face. In her imagination, he looked like the Alfredo tenor in the opera. She thought about him for several days, until the Comic Gems series began, with Barber of Seville. The ear was once again sitting in front of her. His face, she
envisioned as the Figaroâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s, not exactly handsome, but saucily attractive. The next opera was Don Carlo, and again the man sat in front of her, faceless and beautiful. That night she dreamed of him, now looking vaguely like the Don, but mostly just sitting there in front of her, the ear with its curling accompaniment in clear, magnificent focus. Sometimes, rarely, he wasnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t there, but over the years she saw a pattern. Clearly he disliked Puccini, so she grew to expect his absence at any Puccini opera. Sometimes, at other operas, she was tempted to speak to him about this. She understood disliking Boheme and Butterfly, and even she could do without Turandot, but did he know the tiny gem that
was Suor Angelica? Unfortunately, if she spoke to him he would turn around, and then she would see his face, which would ruin everything. Years passed, as years were wont to do, and the gray curls turned slowly white. Her own hair had gone from black to gray, but that hardly mattered. All that mattered was the opera and the man she loved. His absence disturbed her only slightly when he missed the first opera in the Ring cycle. She knew he liked Wagner; they had seen a number of Wagnerian operas together. Maybe he was ill, she thought. It had been a cold winter, and several seats were empty at the opera that night. Surely he would be there for the Valkyrie next week. But he wasn’t, nor did he show up for the Siegfried. After the latter, she began to panic. She called the opera house looking for information about the man who had the season ticket for Row 6, seat 4, but they could tell her nothing. It was with a cold terror that she went to the final opera of the series, The Twilight of the Gods. He was not there; She sat numbly through the opera, staring at the empty space, looking up only to see Brunhilde ride her horse Grane into Siegfried’s blazing funeral pyre. Then she left, heedless of the angry patrons whose views she obstructed in her premature retreat. At home, she removed her coat and pulled the hairpins out of her neat bun. Solemnly, she removed all her season tickets from their accustomed drawer, and took the notice of her aunt’s bequest out of its file. One by one, she threw each into the fireplace and watched them burn. She never went to the opera again.
The Woman in the Cafés
The woman I see in the cafés at night brings with her a copy of Ulysses. I questioned her about it once – a vain attempt at starting conversation. “I’ve never read a word,” she said, though I had seen it at her side for many nights. “I was once tasked with covering for a bookstore courier, and asked to deliver a copy to a woman not able to journey to the shop herself. On my way to her home, the cover caught the eye of a young man. He looked at the book, then at me with a changed expression; he was interested – possibly impressed? We spoke for a short time and it came out that I was only delivering the work, and in plain fact had no idea of its contents. The tone of our conversation changed mildly and we soon exchanged goodbyes. He added an apology for taking up my
time as he stepped away. “I continued on to my destination and rang the bell of a small apartment above an art gallery – The Chateau Briand? The woman who answered my call leaned wearily against the jamb as she inquired the purpose of my visit. I held the cover close to her face and explained. ‘From the bookstore,’ I said. ‘Their usual courier has not come in today.’ ‘Jeremy? Has he fallen ill?’ ‘I’m really not sure. I’m simply filling in.’ She understood, and sighed. ‘Wait a moment please.’ “As she went to fetch her purse I furthered the door open, though only slightly. A large bookcase filled the back wall. Bindings of every color, aged and new, weighed down the shelves, many of them bowing under the pressure. I am not
one for books myself, but the sight impressed me. I felt as if I was the young man on the street; intrigued by the practices and lifestyle of a woman who possessed such materials. The woman did not notice my intrusion when she returned. ‘Here you are,’ she said, holding an envelope aloft. ‘Please tell the bookman not to bother with the remainder. In fact,’ she paused, gazing at her delivery, ‘You keep it, as a tip.’ “The amount was almost enough to purchase a copy for myself.” She laid a hand on the novel. “I supplied the rest.” I was unsure how to react, and I’m convinced I stood there much too long, saying nothing. “So, now that you know my secret our conversation has ended?” “No, no not at all,” I rushed. “I’m only trying to understand. Forgive my foul manners.” She waved my words away. “There’s nothing to forgive. It’s a strange existence I lead, I’m aware of that much.” I could not judge her existence, but the story, yes, was unusual. “May I ask why you carry it with you?” Her eyes narrowed, cheeks disguising a smile. “Is this of real interest to you?” “Yes, you are.” “Then we shall leave it at that.”
Catfish McDaris Comanche Java
Mongo left the Llano Estacado and traveled northeast always doing honest work and sleeping where he could. Chicago was a blue dream, but a bit too large and busy. He sat in, playing guitar with some old black dudes who could bend the notes and wail and learned a few tricks. Mongo slept on the beach of Lake Michigan and soon walked north to Milwaukee. He found a cheap rooming house where he shared a bathroom down the hall. Mongo found a job in a workingmanâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s bar, pouring drinks, settling fights, and practicing his limited English until his vocabulary grew. He never drank alcohol, preferring strong black coffee. Finally after injuring his knuckles one too many times and worried about his guitar skills, he found another job with a roofer, named Eddie. Eddie was a handsome man, he won a Tom Selleck
lookalike contest, and women were always in his face. Unfortunately for Eddie his wife was extremely unattractive and watchful. They split up and he moved to Florida, leaving the ladders, scaffolding, and other equipment to Roy, Eddieâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s brother. Roy was a drunk, but not entirely stupid. He made Mongo a partner and gave him free reign over hiring workers from south of the border. Mongo soon had a fleet of trucks, men that were loyal to him, money in the bank, a small house, and a Fender guitar. He bought Roy out and met a good woman named Lola and they got married. A few years later they had a daughter and named her Juanita. Mongo designed and patented several guitars and a new type of chair. Lola hired some Mexican ladies and started a tortilla factory and began a frozen fruit and cinnamon coffee business.
They kept bees and goats and began a fish farm near the river. Lola had family in Mexico, so they invested in an estate with olive groves, a vineyard, and a coffee plantation. Mongo started importing his own coffee beans, wine, and olive oil and began several cafes. Lola and Mongo traveled to Mexico City and bought several paintings by Frida Kahlo and Clemente Orozco. Mongo was a happy man, he bought land. It was quiet where he lived; sometimes he thought he could hear the earth singing to the corn plants as they grew up toward the sun, later to be ground into masa for fresh tortillas. Twenty years dropped in the squint of the eye of Senor Time. Juanita and her beautiful mother decided it was time for college, so they all three went to Madison. A hippie looking professor lady gave a speech and said this is where you will find
yourself. Mongo wondered what exactly was lost and what Juanita could learn here, but when he heard it cost $20,000 a year, he figured it might be part of the American way. Juanita moved to Madison and met lots of black girls and hung around with them. Soon she spoke a new language and had a tough attitude. Mongo and Lola worried terribly. Then everything changed she met a young man, named Rick and he hated black people. Rick was not in college, so he was soon banned by the local police from campus. Juanita’s grades suffered while she was away from home. She brought Rick home and he was disrespectful. Mongo wanted to have a man to man talk or if it required more attention apply force. Rick would open the refrigerator and eat like a werewolf pig. He would take
showers and dirty four towels. He would fart up the living room and laugh and then stink up the bathroom and not flush the toilet. Juanita finally dropped out of college because of her infatuation with Rick. Rick wanted to move into Mongo’s house and wanted him to buy a pool table and a trampoline. He almost killed Juanita on his motorcycle, by driving reckless with no helmet. Mongo decided murder might be the correct action. Then by some divine miracle, Juanita saw the error of her ways and dumped Rick. Juanita started college in Milwaukee. Her grades improved immediately and she took a summer class at Scotland Yard and met Joe. He was in her class and the unofficial bodyguard of the Americans on their European trek. Rick came by while Juanita had just called from a tour of Stonehenge. Mongo poured
Super Glue on his cycle’s seat and gas tank and forced Rick to sit down on it. He opened the gas cap and stuffed a rag inside and lit it, turning them into a traveling Molotov cocktail. Mongo listened for an explosion, not hearing one; he figured Rick made it to the creek safely. Juanita’s new boyfriend, Joe was a war hero going to school on the G.I. bill. He wore a brass bracelet honoring a fallen soldier comrade from his unit in the Middle East. Joe hardly ever removed his jacket, he seemed ashamed that he was overweight. Joe was polite and worked two jobs; one as a long haul truck driver and also as a security guard at a high school, plus finishing his degree. Juanita and Joe were studying criminology. Mongo wondered why someone would study to be a criminal, until Lola explained it to him. Juanita, Joe,
and her class returned to Europe to study in Prague in the Czech Republic. They were taken to the main prison there by the chief of police and the prisoners cooked them gourmet meals. They were permitted to smoke hashish and marijuana as long as they didn’t sell it. Upon their return, they rented an apartment together. Mongo and Lola weren’t happy because Juanita and Joe weren’t married and the building seemed like a fire hazard. They lived on the top floor of ten stories, the halls were very narrow and the tiny elevator gasped for breath each time it went up or down. St. Patrick’s Day came and they all met for lunch the next day, Joe and Juanita both had black eyes and cuts on their faces and nose. They said they were in a barroom brawl with leprechauns and there was no other way than fighting to get to safety. Their knuckles
showed lots of damage. Doubts were forming in Mongo’s mind. Six months later, one night around eleven, the phone rang and Juanita was crying, she begged for help. By this time, Joe was working undercover for the D.E.A. taking down drug dealers; Mongo grabbed his 357 and burned rubber. There was a U-Haul truck parked in front of their building with five of Juanita’s friends hauling out her furniture and clothes. Joe was sitting on the curb, crying with his pistol in his lap. Mongo circled the block and parked a distance away. He found a brick in the alley and snuck up on Joe and tapped him behind the ear, just hard enough to make him unconscious. Juanita moved home again, she saw Joe on the campus, but he kept his distance. He had a terrible gambling problem, Texas Hold ‘Em had apparently ruined his life. Mongo
thought of his daughter first, but he had no ill wishes toward this young man. Juanita joked that she would run a credit check on her next boyfriend. After a couple of short dating periods with losers, Juanita finished her Master’s degree and got a decent job. She’d taken graduate courses with Bill and they eventually started dating. Bill had a great job in law enforcement and taught handgun marksmanship to the entire Milwaukee police force. He also collected vintage cars and restored them, bought houses with his father and fixed them up for rental property. Mongo and Lola were sort of impressed. Bill had peculiar eating habits. He claimed to be vegetarian, but if pork chops, chicken, or steak was served, he’d pick the meat up from the platter with his fingers, ignoring his fork and dunk it in his beverage and then in hot sauce
then cram it into his mouth. He would also chew with his mouth open, loudly. Juanita noticed her father’s discomfort, but said nothing. After taking his daughter to the shooting range, Bill was all smiles; Mongo noticed that Juanita had burns on her throat. He knew they were empty hot cartridge burns and he wondered why Bill hadn’t asked her to button up her blouse. Bill told stories about his job. One lady cop fired a round into the ceiling at the range. He told of scaring a black lady so bad, she had to be taken to an insane asylum. All of this made Mongo and Lola think less of this young man. Bill asked Mongo to come with him to examine the newest house he bought, he said it was foreclosed by a bank and he’d gotten it for a song. The previous owner had killed himself, he had never recovered from the war in
Vietnam. All the windows were covered with red paint and red dots were painted on all the walls and on every item in the house. The only thing without red paint was a framed flag with a Purple Heart, a Silver Star, a Combat Infantry Badge; Mongo knew these were high honors. Bill threw the frame in a pile of garbage. Mongo told him he’d been studying martial arts and he’d recently learned a new move called a pelvic strike. He said if it was done right, you could knock off a man’s penis and testicles. Mongo retrieved the flag and medals and walked out of the house. He went home and took his favorite chair outside. He brewed a pot of steaming sumptuous coffee over a hot fire in his hobo pot and wrapped his Navajo blanket around his shoulders. His grandfather from Quanah in the panhandle of Texas had given him a Comanche
arrowhead, when Mongo wanted a special brew, he added it to the burnt blackened pot. Thinking about God, his ladies, and his cat he wondered about it all. Later he heard that Bill had found $30,000 in the rafters of the basement and rather than finding the family to return the money to, he had kept it.
Ramona Itule-Patigian Losing My Fish
Mikey officially left two days ago, and it was that same morning that I discovered in horror that my fish was missing. There was the bowl, the lovely glass antique bowl that I liked to call a goblet, but no fish. The water was a bit foggy, not terribly, but just enough for me to realize I had been neglectful lately, caught up in the storm that Mikey and I had created. For a moment in my sleepy daze, I scolded myself. You’ve let the water get dirty and now bobble has packed up and also left you. I shook my head. Wait? What? Fish do not pack up and leave as roommates and lovers do. Fish stay put to swim in circles, no matter how tiring. This discovery was more than I could take and I was immediately furious, assuming that Mikey had decided to kidnap Bobble and demand full custody of the fish that was clearly mine. Granted, Mikey had won the fish for me at a carnival, but the key phrase there is “for me” and he didn’t find and purchase that goblet, or sprinkle in those little flakes of food. I did. Bobble was mine and he knew it and he was not going to get away with it. After marching into Mikey’s office and making a grand and frightening fool of myself, accusing him of fish-napping in front of several other employees, I have come to the conclusion that he may not be guilty of this particular crime, although many other crimes are still up for discussion. I just wish I hadn’t thrown the miniature castle and all those little blue stones at him. It was really childish. Perhaps the photographs were a bit much too, but I needed to review the crime scene. I needed him to really feel and see and understand just how it feels to wake up and find your fish missing. He never understands anything. “You never cared so much in your life!” he screamed at me. “You are obsessed! Why don’t you care this much about me? You act like you don’t even care that I left, a year of our lives and you’ve come to question me about a fish!” Well Mikey, for once, you’re damn right. I am obsessed. Where the hell is my fish? I went to the pet store after work today, unsure of what else to do, considering there is no where to post “lost fish” signs. I bought some new aquarium stones, assorted colors instead of blue and opted for a treasure chest to replace the castle. Mikey had wanted the castle and I’d agreed while trying to answer a text and then later asked how we ended up with the castle and not the treasure chest.
Truthfully, I had felt both options fostered unhealthy values, but why not let Bobble feel rich? Mikey argued that if Bobble had a castle, he would feel like a king, and the wealth would of course be implied. “Fish don’t care if they’re rich or if they’re kings.” I had grumbled in the car on the way home, deserting the system I had asserted to begin with. After making the choice on my own this time, I walked out of the store passed the tank of hundreds of goldfish. They were all identical to Bobble, at least in the obvious ways. I didn’t even think about buying one though. I already had one, damn it. When I got home I cleaned Bobble’s goblet, I filled it with the new stones and the treasure chest and water and placed it back on top of my refrigerator. It was pointless, but again, what does one do for a missing fish? I gazed up at the sad empty goblet with a weight in me and with utter confusion, befuddlement and frustration. I shook my head. I opened the fridge, somehow hoping maybe Bobble was in there, even though I knew it made no sense. I laughed at myself and slammed the door. Plop! The water slopped up in a long reaching splash and then plopped back into the bowl. I opened and closed the door hard and again the water’s quick reaction. That’s it! I pushed as hard as I could on the bulky refrigerator, sliding it out slowly in awkward jolts and there was Bobble dead and drying out on the linoleum floor. Bobble had gotten slammed right out of the fancy goblet. It was probably me. It was just carelessness, I thought desperately. I looked at his little browning corpse and suddenly crumbled onto the floor in a heap of tears, scooping his limp body up into my hands and sobbing for my lost fish.
Tina Garvin Eastwood
In the year of our hoard, a gelatinous spread of men and man's things reaches even to the once sacred, fondles it, and then like an empty can of throwback Pepsi is discarded. Saint's golden halos lay to rust by the roadside or made into hubcaps. Trapper keepers once full of consideration are now the unfortunate pulp for future things. This mass of rolling eyes and legs, this Mongol hoard stops its rampaging to occupy the land of door buster sales, where BOGO, the buy one get one free troglodyte licks his chops and thrills in giving away two things for the price of one. So separate warehouses, like malignant cells persecute the landscape for its free rolling hills without claim of divine right, without language; taken. And is it all men and man's things that will possess, without gratitude, the world and its essence? The world surely abides, fools and false prophets, plastic and plural Jesus, the gelatine. The world surely abides, the "we" who kindle and touch. What of animals, plants, minerals, protozoa? We make meals of them all. Who is sacrosanct in complete denial of their very nature? Here it turns serious; here it looks bleak for us, as man and even as men's doomed and non-conscious creations. Who with one eye sees us for what we are and with the other sees to our salvation? Clint Eastwood.
If my skin was tighter I could
keep the cold out. When I lift my neck and head upwards, even an inch, I find my worn skin becomes prickly with chills. Assisted living brings us to the beach every Friday in the summer. I hate the beach and the breeze that swirls above the ocean. “Catch,” some no face kid yells a few feet from me. I clench my butt cheeks and hope they don’t trip on me; but of course, they land right on my back, elbow driving into my spine. I jerk up and am punctured by cold air, harsher than an elbow to the back. A gurgle comes from my throat. I rub my right wrist that was jammed into the ground, kneading the kinks out of my faded Dennis the Menace tattoo. When I look up the kid is pulling herself out of the sand. She’s hardly a kid; she’s as beautiful as Deb O’Brien was the day I didn’t kiss her, when she let me walk her home from
Dement, It a piano lesson. The freckles that splatter her face are painted in the same pattern as my old dreamboat. “I’m sorry, sir. My boyfriend tripped me,” she said. “Which one of these punks is your boyfriend?” I want to kiss her. I catch her staring at the drooping under my eyes. “The one with the buzz cut, walking away, hand in the waistband of his trunks,” she replied. I’m 70 years too late to kiss her. “Damn kid.” She giggles. “Did I say that out loud?” “Yes, you did.” Her delicate hands brush down her body and she stretches her black swim bottoms to cover her entire butt. Sand floats to the ground “Is there anything I can do to help you? Where’s your family?” “Not everyone has one of
those.” Caught off guard, she gives a soft apology. She is deliberate and respectful with her word choice, but her tone screams infancy. I can handle the baby talk. Kiss me. She grabs my hand and I crawl up her arm and stand. It isn’t until I am close up, face to face; that I realize that it’s her. “Can I kiss you, Deb?” “Excuse me?” Her sequined black bikini, now a calf-length polka dotted dress twisting around her form in the breeze that hit like a knuckle sandwich. I’m staring at her ankles, gorgeous ankles. I can feel my skin tighten and hair thicken and curl in a youthful return. I am a twig again. “Please, Deb.” “My name isn’t Deb, I’m Morgan.” She fills out the dress just the way that she should. A cloud is filling my chest, rejection seeping in. I want to run my fingers through that thick red hair and kiss her,
reclaim what is mine. “I need to go get you some help.” “I have to kiss ya, babe. I’ve been waiting too long.” I lean in and grab her face. At the same time her hands reach for my shoulders and I’m suddenly tipping like a domino to the ground, face first in the sand. It’s so warm, I just want to wrap myself in my towel and let our creases become one. Bruises are already forming on both shoulders. By the time I look up, sand has crusted in my broom-brittle mustache. I see the baldhead coming back my direction and Deb is repeating how sorry she is. “Is it because I didn’t go to war like James did?” I spit out bits of sand between each word. Deb is no longer facing me. She had her hands all over baldhead and I could feel the tension between them. She was dying to kiss him. “Honey, no, it’s ok.” Baldhead did not look like James. “I think he’s having trouble telling where he is. It’s kind of cute.” Kiss her. Get back up and kiss her. That mantra was pounding so hard in my head that I didn’t hear what baldhead had to say. I couldn’t stand fast enough before they walked away. Kiss her. She was looking back at me, red lipstick curling up in a sad smile. Sharp bits of seashells stab my feet as I walk up to the small waves that plaster the shoreline. My skin shrivels up. I want to take in the ocean, let it rejuvenate me; but there is no escaping it. There is no such thing as the fountain of youth and there is a nurse running towards me.
Contributors Francis Daulerio Francis Daulerio is an English teacher at Downingtown West High School. He finds inspiration in family, friends, nature, and the unpredictability of daily life. Francis currently lives in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania with his loving wife, Leah. His work has been featured in A Clean, Well-Lighted Place, The Shot Glass Journal, and Escarp. Tina Garvin Tina lives and writes in Chicago where she lives with her husband and newly born son. Currently she is completing her BFA at the Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago. In addition to writing poetry & prose Tina also manages to make time for creating mixed media art and baking. Ramona Itule-Patigian Ramona Itule-Patigian lives in the Berkeley, California, where she teaches, tutors, and writes. She received her MFA from Mills College and her work has appeared in Word Riot, Bluestem Magazine, Triggerfish Critical Review and others. She loves music and fruit. Desirée Jung Desirée Jung is a Canadian-Brazilian writer and translator. Her background is in film and literature. She has received her M. F. A in Creative Writing and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, Canada. She has published translations and poetry in Exile, The Dirty Goat, Modern Poetry in Translation, The Antagonish Review, Gravel Magazine, Black Bottom Review, The Literary Yard, TreeHouse, among others. She lives in Vancouver, Canada. Karen Lindsey Karen Lindsey is the author of "DIVORCED, BEHEADED, SURVIVED: A FEMINIST INTERPRETATION OF THE WIVES OF HENRY VIII," and co-author of "DOCTOR SUSAN LOVE'S BREAST BOOK." She is an adjunct teacher at Emerson College and the University of Massachusetts, Boston. Catfish McDaris Catfish McDaris’ most infamous chapbook is "Prying with Jack Micheline and Charles Bukowski." His best readings were in Paris at the Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore and with Jimmy"the ghost of Hendrix"Spencer in NYC on 42nd St. He’s done over 20 chaps in the last 25 years. He’s been in the New
York Quarterly, Slipstream, Pearl, Main St. Rag, CafĂŠ Review, Chiron Review, Zen Tattoo, Wormwood Review, Great Weather For Media, andGraffiti and been nominated for 15 Pushcarts, Best of Net in 2010 and 2013, he won theUprising Award in 1999, and won the Flash Fiction Contest judged by the U.S. Poet Laureate in 2009. Benjamin Perry Benjamin values human connection and avoiding eye contact. He helps edit Blank Fiction Magazine though he has no previous publications of his own. Also -- and this is important -- he brunches on Saturdays. Malissa Stark Colorado writer, Malissa Stark, is a student at Columbia College studying creative writing and environmental science. She has most recently been published in The Story Week Reader and The Chicago Tribune.
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