east coast ink issue 001 | new again
ISSUE 001 EAST COAST INK Winter 2013
L E T T E r
C O N T E N T S EAST COAST INK | Issue 001
f r o m t h e e d i t o r 2
P O E T R Y 4 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . A R h y m e f o r S a n t a y a n a .................. .................. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .................. .................. .................. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
N o t Yo u A g a i n Planning My Trip to Iceland UNFEELING An Open Letter to the Stars To M y R o c h e s t e r Lotuses Made Out of Paste Attachment Theory L i t t l e Wo m e n Dedication
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T h e N e w Yo u dream home M AC AW b re I C o u l d M a k e Yo u H a p p y
F I C T I O N 1 2 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . M i s s i n g T i m e E x p e r i e n c e M I C R O F I C T I O N 3 5 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . G o r k . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . T h e D e c i s i o n
N O N F I C T I O N 3 9 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . C h a r a c t e r B l e e d .................. Inherent Novelty and Thin Memory
eci staff owner, editor-in-chief Jacqueline Frasca fiction editor Erika Childers
East Coast Ink ; Issue 001, Winter 2013: New Again.
Cover photo and images on pages 25-26 and 43-44 by Jacqueline Frasca. Special thanks to Brandon Danowski.
East Coast Ink magazine is produced four times per year and is an individually owned and operated publication. For additional content , please visit ecimag azine.tumblr.com and connect with us @ecimagazine . Pitch us your creative nonfiction and submit fiction, poetry, microfiction, book reviews, mixed media artwork and photography to firstname.lastname@example.org. Copyright of all materials reverts to the individual artists and authors. No materials may be reproduced under any circumstances without written permissions from the editorial staff.
letter from the editor Eve r yo n e wh o fe e ls th ey mu s t write to survive deserves to be read, d e s e r ve s to b e pu b lis h e d . Eve ry art ist who paint s, sketc hes, photograph s s h o u l d h ave th e ir wo rk on d is play. The swelling resolve I experienc ed whe n I wa s f i r s t pu b lis h e d a t s ix te e n sowed a seed of addic t ion (for bet ter or fo r wo rs e , a s a ll wr ite rs know). It m ade m e new again, as a writer—whic h is wha t c re a t i n g th is ma ga zin e h a s a lso m eant for m e. The them e of this issue c a me a bo u t a s anyth ing b u t a n a ccident . Every one of us has a m om ent where we re c o g n i z e , This isn ’t m e anym ore . I t c an leave you lost , hopeful, hopeless — b ut wh e t h e r yo u p e rce ive it a s a misstep, a leap forward, or a t ragic m ist ake , yo u a re o n e t h ing fo r s u re : n e w, a gain. All over again. W h en I le f t B o s ton fo r Atlanta, I had it m ostly figured out . After my s um me r i n te rn s h ip a t a p u b lis h in g house, t hey hired m e as the assoc iate edito r o f s eve n ma ga zine s —my f ir s t re al job. I enjoyed t he work, operat ing c losely w ith eve r y a s p e ct of e a ch pu b lica tion, from edit planning wit h c lients and c ol l a b o ra t i n g w i th s a le s to proof wo rk with the designers. I t only took a m atte r o f mo n t h s , th ou gh , b e fo re I wa s l eft wit h a fam iliar em pt iness that adheres its e l f j u s t b e n e a th my r ib ca g e wh e n I haven’t c reated in any am ount of tim e. Ye s , a s e d i to r s we h a d in p u t on th e content of the m agaz ine and did a lot of c onte nt b ra i n s to rmin g, b u t my p a s s io n has never been swayed by t he c ont rolled a nd c o n s i s te n t . I o pe ra te we ll u nd er the c haos of literature and all its m any fo r ms . Ea s t Coast In k wa s b o r n from that need for a lit tle c haos, and of c o urs e t h e c o n n ection to o th e r gre a t art ist s in my life t hat keeps som e sem bla nce o f p u r p o s e and f u lf illme nt p re s e nt . My dream , of c ourse, is print—to hold a nd fe e l a n d f lip th e s e pa g e s , th e tangible sat isfac t ion of this literary m agazine , b u t fo r n ow it is e nou gh to present new and est ablished art ist s’ works to a va s t re a d e r s h ip. A g ood f r ie n d o f m ine pushed m e for m onths to get t his proj e ct o f f t h e g rou nd a s a ne w s ta rt , a new business venture, a new outlet we b o th c rave d , a nd to th is d ay I cre d it his c onsistent insistenc e as what t ruly be ga n t h i s a dve n tu re . I wan t to p e r s o na lly th a nk E rika Childers for taking on the t ask of f ictio n e d i to r a n d ju mpin g into th is projec t wit h m e, as well as all t he c ont ribu to rs to t h i s i n a u gu ra l is s u e of East Co ast I nk . We will be here, ready to give you r wo rk a h o me , no ma tte r its n ich e .
“AN ABANDONED SLIDE”, Erin McCabe
[ poetry ] A Rhyme for Santayana Laura Close
As summer fades into winter, through autumn, so winter into summer though spring; our ability to follow war and not war opposes our desire for a handsome theorem, a bloody welcome, in this cold dearthful year, our need for comprehension, gotten by the sagest through the teeth, sold for a bet , as in a fourth dimension we might advance on a star or planet . There is no morning in the offset of war; as in a golden age there is still granite; for night , with its satellites and power lines of wired electrics, is a cadet , ten thousand miles away, upwardly mobile, singing at us about the ground so global.
Not You Again
New again. Nude again. With someone who’s not you again. I try, again, to change again, but new just ends for you again. New again, but still the same—doubtful feelings, familiar place. She’s new again, not you again, old you feelings still remain. Want you again—not new, again. ‘Cause new ’s an awful you-less place. New again’s not new, ‘cause when new ’s not you, it end’s the same.
Planning My Trip to iceland William Doreski
Twilight in the parking lot. You glow like an unearthed grub. I’m sorry for my inept flattery, cut from the cheapest yard goods. Who could blame you for walking away with the last birdsong collapsing in a clatter of falsetto notes? Engines start. Headlights gloom into distance we can’t translate. In planning my trip to Iceland I forgot to include your photo, the one of your childhood sprawled on the plains of central Brazil. You told me to sew that photo to my skin and let no one see it, but I disobeyed, dreading the pain of self-crucifixion, an act of blasphemy I’d surely regret.
You needed the blood commitment I couldn’t risk, so you start your car with disdainful noises, nearly run me down as you rush to join the traffic on Spruce Street where the tallest skyscrapers tempt the stars to kneel and buss them. Your radio blasts a snatch of Beethoven in his cruelest mood, one great chord dissolving in glee. I slump in my own car and hope Iceland receives me without a fuss, hope the infinity of the sea keeps its distance, and the ghost of your dismissal doesn’t follow to mock me in the winter dark where everyone looks geologic and prone to fits and starts.
unfeeling John Grey
So there you go again, breathing, dragging who knows how many tiny creatures out of the air and sucking them down into the lungs of certain death. And you’re scratching, wiping out hordes of beasties that crawl about your skin. You’re not uncaring say you. You stick checks in tiny envelopes and mail them to India or Uganda. Cans with slots proffered outside supermarkets keep your change. You’ve more charity CDs than the world has charities. But watch out... a cityscape imploded with the wave of your arms. Your shoe squashed hordes. And yes, not an hour ago, a dozen words of yours almost cleaved my heart in two. And then you sighed like you were glad that it was over. And it was over for all those living on your tongue.
an open letter to the stars Carly Feinman
Tumbling wizards through the night they tell me you are still that you don’t tango with our orbit but rather sit perched watching on hind legs for the mailman. I don’t believe them. I bet you’re shaking your limbs with the particulate matter, you crazy shimmying sorcerers.
I bet you swerve your hips off axis, sashay lightly upon your toes bopping your head to some watercolor tune sprinkled with percussion seeking nothing but the thrill of being bright. I see you twirling with open palms tossing glitter across the dark watching it spread then slow, settling into a dazzle that feels complete.
I see you moonwalking right past that black hole they keep talking about the one they say could end it all.
I think I’m beginning to understand you aren’t naïve you aren’t what they say you are you simply choose not to perceive that which does not sparkle.
I am the girl under covers fighting against the sleep now seeping in eyes wide on the stars they claim aren’t as clear as they once were, the ones they warn will be even hazier in the future. I stare at you and your wild ways smiling as your shimmer echoes towards my eyes, And suddenly I know it’s true, I long to burn and glow like you.
They can’t scare you. Their power of pushing panic upon the masses doesn’t dim your pearly eyes. You aren’t afraid of the dark, you can’t even see it. You lower your lids and instead see a sun giggling with some secret spectacle, you can feel its heat, can’t you.
To my rochester
Jessica Drake-Thomas I. If we had lived in any other century, you would not have loved me to begin with—
Regardless of modern psychiatry, I was still your Bertha Mason, locked in the attic, hair matted, dressed in a stained night-gown, hating you for hating me, And for sending me to the bleak country, away from my humid flowers, Live oak and white magnolia, waxy camellia, and Spanish moss.
For finding a happy lithe elf-thing— I would have watched her sleep a few times, shredding her Parisian lace veil in the night— Instead I listened to you apologize, a spectator in my own life. Often, I had broken— from my body, a howl: echoes through night halls like a ghost , replaced. And I desired to set fire to my room, flowing away on the air, ashes and orchid petals. II. Instead, I walked along the common in the rain, resenting others as they laughed, the wing-bones of my orange umbrella poking at my cold fingers.
If I hold on tightly, could I stay together this time? I’d stopped drawing, throwing out my charcoal pencils perhaps to forget— I could sketch the silhouette of your body, the planes of your face with my eyes closed.
Eyes open, I saw wilted flowers in fall —peonies in planters, browning and dying.
I was thinking about how
I’d been a little bird, gray and unlovely— building a nest over a window, cheated by the false sky on a painted porch-roof. III.
lotuses made out of paste
“snake skins”, jennifer muir
Your fridge is covered in home. There is a frame with your senior year haircut and you have smiled the same for as long as I can tell. One day, I know, we will go to my parents’ house and look through all of the yellowing paper. You will giggle at my outfits from Halloween and talk in a baby voice about how chubby I was, and I will look for my smile. I will see the photo of me in an angel costume running up the stairs with a bucket of candy and I will not know how to make my mouth open like that , like I am so full of love that it escapes like a balloon into the sun. This is how I love you. Like having new shoes and wearing them out of the store. Like first day of school photographs. It’s every frame in the house.
attachment theory Jennifer Innes
Today you told me you want to move out .
I guess I always thought you’d stay, in this home we made, no matter how old you became. For so long I held you tight in my child hands as our mother took many trips in her mind; to places only she could go. I watched over you, I stayed behind. It is unfair that I must feel like a mother losing her child. I accepted responsibility for you when I was too young to decide.
I remember a storm wrestling trees a bird’s nest fell the mother bird gone the baby birds lying still in the grass. Too young to fly They could not flee in time.
Maybe you still have a chance to flee from this home we made. To escape this unconventional mother/daughter sister/co-dependent relationship.
“parallels”, Kate ciavarra
She flipped, skidding sideways across the asphalt flying over the handlebars of the too-small tricycle down the biggest hill at Lake Koshkonon.
As the motion of others plays through this body I am more instrument than artist
My sister scraped her hip through at least two layers of skin. Gravel burn shredding most of her pink and green one piece.
That summer morning my grandma told her to be careful, sighed, “Please don’t kill yourself.” The warning had faded by noon. I looked away as grandpa cleaned out bits of sand from the scrape, leaving a pile of pink cotton balls on the kitchen table.
I spent my time at the cabin chasing fireflies and reading Alcott quietly, I was careful. I kept the fireflies I caught in mason jars.
our many voices place their blessings back into the poems
I keep getting in the way of my poems the way that clouds whisper over the sun I think the best thing I could ever write would be an empty page a body of water for our thoughts to ripple apart in
we’re not as small as we once thought
I made sure to poke holes like I was told in each metal lid. But they died anyways. Their tiny lightless corpses tink-tinked and pink-pinked against the glass while I shook my head and the jar filled with my little dead things shaking it one last time trying to rattle some light .
“an evident cost” W. Jack savage
[ fiction ] missing time experiment Eddy Habib
“Your soul is as disheveled as your apartment and until you can clean it up a little you don’t want to invite anyone inside.”—Jay McInerney “You are here,” no map says, “glaring into the butt-crack of eternity.” There are no rest stops, but World’s Largest Sacks O’ Potatoes and Houses of Mysteries there are a-plenty. The road stretches out before you: long, unkind expanses. Perhaps you are headed for sleep. God knows you probably need it . You live in your parent’s house. Have been for a year. Have been since you graduated. You have not redecorated your childhood room. The wallpaper is still hockey sticks and soccer balls. Stuffed animals adorn the shelves and the dustcaked tops of book cases, holding counsel while you sleep. Sitting on the edge of your bed feels like a time warp to bland and non-specific places of your memory: rainy Saturdays and well-read comic books, the staples coming loose; maybe a role-playing game on the PlayStation. You wake up one muggy Sunday and your parents are cutting coupons. They ask you what you want from the grocery store. They are not eating meat . They are Catholic and it is Lent . “Mushrooms,” you say. “And cheese. American cheese.” “American cheese isn’t really cheese,” your dad says. He considers himself quite the chef. “I know,” you respond. “But I like it with some things. Omelets, grilled cheese, cheeseburgers . . .” “I want a cheeseburger,” your mother interrupts. “Usually I only miss chicken during Lent but for some reason this year all I want is a cheeseburger.” They go to the store. You make coffee and open a beer as well. It is 11:30 AM. You have been awake for thirty nine minutes. This is around the time a terrorist attack occurs in a major metropolitan area close to you. It kills three, and maims almost two hundred more. You fear there will be a mix up. The FBI will come to arrest you, will surround your house with armored vehicles and bomb sniffing robots. They will kill your parents, and also your cat , and they will pin these murders on you. You will go to jail, and prob ably be sentenced to lethal injection. Victims, newscasters, internet blogs, will all cry out for blood and vengeance. You delete your search history. The FBI will never know the types of porn you watch.
You find yourself researching conspiracy theories—all of them. The Kennedy Assassinations, 9/11, Gulf of Tonkin, Roswell, the Bilderberg Group. You watch grainy documentaries and listen to radio pundits screaming accusations from some time in the early 90s. They fear Satanists kidnapping their children. Or worse! When the terrorists are finally caught you are primed to tear apart the official narrative. “Crisis actors, False flag attack, pushing an agenda.” You read these terms over and over again. You delete your internet presence: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, all of it . You trade in your smart phone for a dumber one. Late at night , you drive around the city looking for food. You’ve started to gain weight and have sworn off fast food. Instead you frequent 24-hour grocery stores and buy exotic snacks of shellfish and game meats. While boiling crabs or sautéing a venison flank you imagine yourself in outrageous professions. You are a ghost hunter, a time machine technician, a Sasquatch groomer. You allow these thoughts full reign when dawn flattens its spindly chest and sneaks under the curtains. Nights of this sort stretch for weeks on end. You watch religious programming, flipping between the Catholic wizards in sweat pants and the slick-haired, used-car-dealing Protestants. Sometimes you download horror movies, addicted to the fear that overtakes you as you tidy up the living room before ascending the stairs to your bedroom. At 3 AM, the shadows flit and flutter over you and like a child you stow yourself under the covers. One Friday night you get a text from some high school friends. They invite you out to a bar. The bar is made to look like a fifties diner but the lighting is dim. Not period accurate. You order a beer and a cheeseburger. You consider flirting with the bartender, a curvy woman with a tattoo of a raven on her left arm, but you don’t . You think of adjectives to describe her hair, fixating on the obvious ‘raven-haired’ and drink in silence. Your friends are talking about relationships. They laugh about the awkward sexual quirks of their exes. You have nothing to add, so you go over to the jukebox and play Top 40 hits. Maybe there will be dancing, or at least ironic jokes. You get neither and silently creep out and drive to a nearby playground. You can’t remember how you spend the rest of the night . When the horizon begins to leak daytime over the edge of unimpressive skylines you drive to Dunkin’ Donuts for a coffee and a bagel with strawberry cream cheese. Then you go home. That next week you stay inside and coffee is your new addiction. It makes your heart flutter. Your parents tell you (in the brief moments you leave your bed room) that your pupils are huge. “Like flying saucers,” your father jokes. Your cat follows you around the house, mewling pitifully, begging to be allowed to explore outside. You let her out and her tail gets slammed in the door. She ignores you after that . You watch her from a distance, slinking around corners like a furry snake, staring at unseen ghosts in the shadows of the room. You matter very little to her and her worldview. Only the un-provable, merely speculated dead attract her attention. You stop sleeping. Every hour slept is an hour you give up, interest-free, to death. Your vision becomes more subjective, your words are delivered with staccato pauses, aware of some phantom stenographer recording the right words to make you look bad.
It’s your birthday today. Some friends you can’t remember having come over to celebrate. They sit around your basement drinking cheap beers, channel surfing between different reality shows on television. You can’t think of any of their names. So you sit there laughing, every few seconds, laughing, because someone is always making a joke. These people have jobs and bedtimes again, weird little grown-ups. Some of them understand the stock market . A spider the size of a medium-sized ham waltzes across the ceiling. No one notices. No one notices you are laughing. They are Tumbling and Tweeting on their phones. Standing up and still laughing, you climb the basement stairs. The only nota ble feature of your house, your parents’ house, is the absence. Everything made up of empty space. All the atoms, mostly nothing. The floor boards whine. On a rocking chair by the window your cat stirs but does not wake. You go outside. The pre-dawn air is cool on your face and you can feel the promise of rain. You think of old analog tape decks and how you wish you had one right now. You want to hear the sputter and hiss, the sound behind the sound. Above you the clouds are dancing like will o’ wisps. Faerie lights. You make up words to describe the colors. You know They are here for you and your heart rejoices. You are here because you’re supposed to be. You hear voices in ethereal tongues. They seem to be singing. They are. They ’re singing a pop hit from your childhood. Something you love but don’t ever tell anyone about . It floods through the infinite valleys of your brain, embedding the chorus into your gray matter. You feel weightless. Sensation leaves your body, starting with the toes and rising, slowly filling your extremities with a blissful numbness. You look up and think maybe you see eyes. Maybe. And then all of a sudden you’re gone.
the new you Anisha Kurien
It’s dark. Maybe 2 or 3 in the morning, but I’m still awake. Where am I? I’ve had this dream before, but I can’t place it . I crane my neck over the balcony. Your car is in the driveway. All at once, the entire summer rushes back to me. The sand beneath my feet , salty ocean water in my hair, chasing you through the sprinklers while trying not to spill my drink. I feel your hand on my back and resurface. I turn, still dazed, and you loom over me with your green eyes and wide smile sparkling in the dark August sky. You lean down and kiss me gently as my heart flut ters in my throat . I can taste the rum on your lips. Your hand runs down my spine as you pull me closer to you. “I need you,” you whisper in my ear, your hot breath moving down my neck and collarbone. I feel his hand closing around mine and my eyes instantly blink open. You’re gone. The summer’s gone. I glance back to see him in my bed, in his old sweatshirt and boxers, holding me close against him as he quietly sighs. I turn back around and clamp my eyelids closed, trying to grasp at the last bit of the dream. The last bit of you. But it’s gone. You’re gone. He’s been here every night this week. I can’t blame him. I’ve called him every
night this week, to ease the pain. You told me not to call you, because of her, so of course I called him. I needed someone to replace you, even though it’s nothing like being with you. I feel almost nothing when I am with him. He will never make me laugh the way I did with you. And he will never break me the way you did. When I look into his eyes, I feel nothing but the vacancy you left behind. And though I am happy not to be alone, in the harsh morning light , I wish he wasn’t here. He starts to stir and, as is customary in these situations, I pretend to be asleep. As my eyelids close, the only thing I can see is you. You’re standing in my kitchen, haphazardly helping me pack. But you’re not you anymore. The summer is over and, as you toss my belongs into my suitcase, I can see that you’re no longer with me. You’re with her. I guess you always were. He’s awake. He turns to kiss me but it’s awkward and forced. Not like when you used to kiss me. You would wake long before me and kiss me gently on the forehead as I started to open my eyes. You were the first thing I saw every morning. But he’s not like you. He’s not sweet and gentle because that’s not what I wanted him to be. He looks for his phone, wallet , keys, preparing his checklist for a speedy departure. But I don’t care. I remain in bed, unwilling to admit to myself that I am with him, here. He grabs my hand and kisses me, begging me to beg him to stay. Like I always did when you would leave me, crying on the kitchen floor, screaming your name. His departure is so different from yours. You tap my leg and I jump. It’s my last night here, with you. Or morning... I look for the clock in the dark of my bedroom. It’s 6 a.m. and you’re leaving. I run out of the room and catch you in the closet . I’m wrapped in the bed sheets. My nakedness feels too familiar and vulnerable next to you now. Our eyes lock in the mirror and I have to look away. You turn to face me and pull me into your arms. As soon as I smell your cologne I start to cry. My entire body is shaking in your arms. I look up to face you but you aren’t crying. Your eyes look dead and emotionless. Instinctively, I tense up, defending against your cold gaze. “Goodbyes are hard,” you say as you kiss me on the forehead. You pull away from me and in the harsh light of the morning, I feel self-conscious and broken. And then, just like that , you’re gone. I don’t even have a chance to respond. I look into his eyes, begging myself to beg him to stay. But , instead, I say nothing. He kisses me again and then he’s gone. I watch him down the street as he fades into the background, just like you always did. You never hesitated as you walked out the door, breaking my heart with every passing second. He doesn’t break my heart . But , as I watch him turn into a small dot on the horizon, I know he is going back to her. Just like you did. So, is this new?
dream home Lance Manion
The story starts in the driveway. I could tell you volumes about what transpired previous to your visiting, but this story starts in the driveway. As you’ve come to expect from the homes in your price range, the driveway is beautiful. Long and winding and chock-full of ancient trees and fountains. The long driveway will give you a minute to process what I’m about to say to you. If you’re the kind of person who associates ghosts with senseless or vindictive acts from beyond the grave, and you are unwilling to budge on this opinion, than I believe we’ll make use of the roundabout out front of the house and move on to the next property. If you are a little more open-minded then we’ll proceed inside. You can drive hours between legitimate haunting, but when a mansion has been in a family for centuries the problem isn’t whether or not there’s a resident ghost as much as how many ghosts can live comfortably under the same roof. I’ll give you a second to process that . As a lowly realtor, earning what a realtor earns, it’s easy to dismiss my next observation as jealousy but the truth is that when a billionaire puts his or her head down on the pillow at night knowing that there are hundreds of millions of people living in abject poverty and they have more resources than he or she knows what to do with, they are already haunted. Either that or they are devoid of a soul. Put generation after generation of family members dealing with the same issues in the same residence and the house can’t help but be a magnet for misery. I’ve seen your credit report , you know exactly what I’m talking about . The question remains, are you okay with inheriting the sins of another family ’s past? Especially at this price. We both know it’s well below market value and I wouldn’t haven’t driven you all the way out here if there were severed heads and screeching apparitions floating all about the place. In fact , if I had the cash I would probably buy the house myself. There’s something almost beautiful about the place. As I said, the story starts now. In the foyer. You have a sophisticated enough eye that I don’t have to bore you with details of where the wood and marble came from or how many bulbs are in the chandelier hanging above us. What I would like to call your attention to is the custom music box on the front table. It plays a tinny but recognizable version of “Omaha” by Golden Palominos. Don’t be alarmed by the ghostly dog chasing ghostly deer around it . That’s Lucky, the last owner’s dog. Whenever the music box is opened he will come out all golden and shimmering and chase the twinkling deer around and around, little sparks flying off of him and bouncing harmlessly on the floor. Of course, while he was alive Lucky was about fifty pounds overweight and at the end couldn’t even stand up under his own power. He ate better than most people do and never once had a meal of dog food. He ate exclusively from the table of his master and died
five years earlier than he should have. Now he spends his days waiting for someone to lift the top of the box so he can come out all svelte and in good shape, nothing like the barrel-with-legs he appeared like during his lifetime. This way to the library. As you can see, the prior owner felt a strong need to have people think he liked to read. These stacks go three stories in the air, the last two rows of shelves only reachable with the mobile ladders that adorn each side. The woman who is now standing at the top of the ladder on your right is about to jump to her death, so please don’t be alarmed. This happens every time someone new enters the room as well as any other time she feels the need to come out and stretch her legs. She was the bored daughter of one of the past owners and if you watch closely you’ll see her body splash onto the hardwood with a puff of black ash. I always thought that was quite polite of her not to show her head splitting open and whatnot . Now she just melts away. It makes watching her death almost tolerable, although I will confess that the slight chill you get from the look on her face as she departs the ladder never really goes away. Of course there is an indoor pool complete with a bloated corpse that pops up from time to time and a wine cellar littered with the oft-dying groundskeeper hanging around. Upstairs there are four and half baths with both a woman slitting her wrists in one Louis XIV knockoff tub and a man downing pills in front of a gorgeous crystal and gold sink. But I can see from the look in your eye you want to see the master bedroom. The only room in the house where there are no restless spirits. Surprised? I suspect that all the talk of free markets and risk and reward ring hollow when you’re alone with your thoughts in the depths of night . Knowing how other people are living and how easily you could improve the quality of their lives but don’t . The quiet night where all your airtight rationalizations get exposed. How could it be that this room is devoid of ghosts? Is that what you’re asking yourself ? Or perhaps you already know. Perhaps you’ve already decided to take it . Perhaps you already feel at home.
Gabrielle J. Van Tassel
My mother’s demons clog the house to filthy excess. White carpet is the worst kind of flooring for a woman who doesn’t have the energy to pick up a vacuum. The minute you cross over that imaginary threshold from crisp white to crispy brown, you can feel the skin on the bottom of your feet blacken with dust and dirt from unclean shoes and animal pads endlessly traipsing through one of the few paths that you can still use. I walk down this trail of grit to the stairwell, which is lined on either side with soiled clothes crumpled into stinking masses that have most likely been pissed on, and descend to an empty, dirty house. Dog hair is crusted on every stained, white-carpeted stair as you descend, step-by-step into the deepest circle of domestic hell. “Hello?” I hear a strange voice say. “Uhhh…who is it?” I tentatively answer. There is no reply, only the sound of the water that filters into the unnecessary fish tank filled with sick, useless pet-store fish. I walk deeper into the wreckage, boxes piled at eye level, but there is no sign of anyone else. My only company is the dogs and cats, but they ’ve sequestered themselves somewhere among the junk, so really the only company I have is their stinking shit , both fresh and old. I start to work my way down the only path I can fit between without turning my torso. I dodge the fecal land mines and avoid the boxes that have pungent yellow puddles dripping from them. There are casualties from boxes that spill into the messy path like old, inconsequential newspaper clippings and magazines that date back to 1993. I start to pick them up, but I notice a peculiar hybrid smell of rot ting cilantro and Alpo dog food. When I bend down to pick up the next one, something small and dark brown falls to the crusty, low-grade linoleum floor. I choose to ignore it , knowing what this house has been known to contain. As I add this magazine to the rapidly growing pile in the crook of my left arm, I hear a distinct crunch, and the smell instantly intensifies. Nauseated, I open the magazine and inside is a colony of stink bugs clustering along the spine like maggots to an open wound. My stomach rolls and I gag as I throw it to the ground and cover my mouth trying to suppress the vomit . I drop the rest , suddenly afraid of what may lay inside. I let my hand fall from my pursed mouth and take a moment to inhale calm ing breaths before this causes me another anxiety attack. In two weeks, only two weeks, I will make my way out of the maze of familial history piled up around me. I won’t need to worry about affording Xanax because compared to this, finals will seem like a cakewalk. “Hello?” I call out first this time. No answer. I saunter down another tun nel of refuse that takes me to the kitchen. The wet of urine hangs heaviest in the air here because of the sticky smell of residual cooking oil. I continue through the path, past the ripped IKEA couch that sits pathetically in the next room that now holds rat pellets and office papers, some of which still have the border of sprocket holes from the days of tractor feed printers. I search the first level as much as I can, but other then the initial paths,
there are only three more that allow you to traverse the bottom level. I elect not to explore the one so narrow you have to walk sideways and brush up against the dusty mildewed boxes that overflow with trinkets that could easily be mistaken for Happy Meal toys and even more papers. The only thing visible on the wall is a tired mirror. Even through the opaque tarnish, it clearly reflects the abyss of debris making it seem even more incomprehensible and even more shockingly endless. “Hello?” the lilting voice breaks the silence and I turn my attention away from the reflective horror towards a dark corner among the hoard. I walk as close to it as I can and let my eyes adjust . Staring intently at me from the darkness of its cage is a parrot with a very familiar pair of brown eyes that are laden with a very familiar, pathetic sadness. The knot of guilt and pit of hatred that I am well acquainted with forms in my queasy stomach as the disturbing bird begs me not to leave it , begs me to forget all the minutes I have counted for these unbearably long eighteen years until I would finally escape this hellhole. She wakes with a start and her sandpaper eyelids snap open. She blinks rapidly, trying to soothe her tired eyes. She lies there for a minute remembering her gruesome dream. She tries to look at her clock but it takes a few seconds for her bleary, dry eyes to focus on the blinking red numbers. She peels back her cloudsoft comforter and exposes the rest of her body to the stagnant air and the reality of another exhausting day. She staggers up with her lethargic joints and stretches her back hearing the satisfying pops in her doomed spine; remembering this, she pulls her spine even straighter to the ceiling trying to stretch her mother’s genes from her vertebrae. She walks down the stairs to an empty, dirty house: Dog hair is crusted on every stained white-carpeted stair. She can see a figure crouched on the landing below. Its knees are bent so its thighs press against its calves, it walks disjointedly on the balls of its feet , heels in the air, toes bent at a ninety-degree angle. Its spine bent over like the back of a bow and its shoulders hunched so significantly that they swallow their own neck. She wonders briefly if it can hear, or if its frame also swallowed its ears. From its shoulders sprout thin arms that point so far back that she’s surprised the figure’s back isn’t straighter, but even more surprised by her realization that what she’s seeing is straighter. Its hands make fists at its folded hips, mimicking a grotesque version of the movements that go along with the Chicken Dance. It hops, jerky and clumsy, around the landing in a manic circle, the diameter no larger than three feet . It starts to make hollow whistles interrupting itself with intermittent , bizarre squawking while flapping its elbows in that inhuman position; it looks unimaginably painful. She tastes bile in her mouth as the sickening sight and the revolting smell of the decay of life and livelihood progressively nauseates her. “Hello?” it says in an unrecognizable perversion of a human voice. “I’m here, who is it?” she answers. It doesn’t reply, instead its head whips around in an oddly avian manner to look directly at her, and the beady eyes that pierce her from the horrible depths of the landing are the very same brown that she herself has: her mother’s eyes.
“jericho” deborah frasca
T h e l oud a n d t he q u iet a r e a d ea f en in g hu s h, t h e fro n t o f my min d la d en w it h t he f u t u r e a n d t he f u t u r eâ€™s g r a s s y mea d o w s . Our l i m bs are r u n n in g t hr o u g h t he p r es en t â€™s lo n g , d a r k ha llw a ys , w it ho u t in s t r u c t io n . Fi rst in t o t he r iv er , w e a r e j u mp in g g u n s ; we are t o o a liv e w it h t he c r a v in g f o r f r u it t o re memb er t o p la n t t he s eed s in s p r in g .
i could make you happy Sean Padraic McCarthy
Eddie’s brother stepped over him. Saying nothing. Eddie lay on a mattress in the middle of the floor, twisted between the piles of clothes, dirty and clean, books and CDs and two open suitcases. His brother knocked over what was left of the bottle of beer Eddie had left beside him on the floor and continued on to the bathroom. Eddie watched the beer puddle, soaking quickly into the blue carpet . He watched his brother’s shadow moving behind the slats of the bathroom doors. They doors were narrow and thin, and they opened up into the bedroom. Eddie had always hated them as a child because if you looked closely enough you could see exactly what was going on in there through the thin space of light that ran between them. Now he rolled over, facing the window and the wall. His brother was only eighteen and home from college for Christmas. His first break. Eddie was twenty-four, and home from graduate school. California. His mother was playing Christmas carols downstairs but Christmas was over. She insisted on playing them each year right up until the Feast of the Epiphany. January 6th. Twelve days, she would always say, if anyone remarked, twelve days. But the music already seemed oddly displaced, almost obscene. Eddie’s head felt heavy, thick, his skin clammy and he could smell the alcohol coming from his pores. It was already after three in the afternoon, an hour until dark, but he hadn’t gotten home until well after sunrise. Julia dropped him off on their way home from the motel. He had asked her to stop on the way so he could buy a case of beer, and she did. Harp. That was what they ’d had at the bar the night before, and Eddie wanted to hang on to that . He had planned on going home and drinking the entire case but he couldn’t get past the first beer. Eddie would have stayed in bed at the motel until check out , but Julia wouldn’t have it . She needed to get home, had things to do, wanted to spend time with her family—she only saw them twice a year as it was. Eddie knew that once she got home herself, she would maybe drink a little more, and then stumble off to bed. Out cold until dark. But he didn’t put up much of an argument . He didn’t have much left inside him. The drapes in the motel room were heavy, covering the enormous window. He watched her move about in the thin, lingering darkness, naked, searching for her underwear, her shoes, taking a seat on the edge of the bed to pull on her socks, and at first it stunned him a little. As long as they had been together, she had never been comfortable being naked in front of him, and it meant something now, but it wasn’t something good. He figured she must be comfortable like this in front of the other one, and now it was carrying over to him. A few months together, and she was already comfortable being naked around him. It tore at his insides a little, and then he reached out and ran his finger down along her spine. Julia stood up. She had a remarkable ass—an inverted heart—and a thin waist . Round, firm breasts and a delicate throat . Her hair was auburn, long in back, and her skin very white in the muted light of the room. Full, long lips and cheekbones high. She went to the dresser, sipped the beer there, and then tilted her head a little to the side as she put in her ear rings. She turned again to survey
the room, only in her socks, and Eddie reached out to grab her hand. She pulled away. “No,” she said. “Just lie down for a minute,” he said. “One minute.” “It’s not right ,” she said. “Just one more time,” he whispered. She lit a cigarette, and blew the smoke out of the corners of her lips. She looked down at him, curious and pensive. Almost as if he were someone she had known before, but wasn’t quite sure who. A look of pity tinged with irritation. “It wouldn’t be right ,” she said. It had been, right up until just a few hours before. She had slid her hand between his legs as he drove down Rte. 3, her car, coming from Boston. The bars. Then she had pushed her teeth into her lip, her mischievous look, and pulled at the zipper of his pants. Eddie pushed the seat back, and her head went down, lips moving wildly. The lights in his head nearly blinded his eyes. She had never done anything like that , not on the road, in all the years they were together. But now that it was different—now that they were not—it was all open territory. She was pulling at his clothes and her own simultaneously as soon as they entered the motel room—Eddie had barely clicked the door shut behind them— and then she was straddling him on the bed, cupping his face as she kissed him. After a minute or more, she slid up and pressed herself onto his lips, grinding back and forth, and crying out under her breath. She held his head tight as she came, and then she turned around on the bed, raising her ass high in the air, and began to plead. For Eddie it was all coming too fast . Fast and mixed. It was just a few hours before that she told him about the man she had met . Robert . Not Rob, Bobby, or Bob. Robert . He worked for the electric company down in Atlanta. She said they had been together for three or four months. Eddie tried to picture Robert , and what he might look like. He tried to picture him pushing into Julia from behind, digging his fingers into her ribs, and then he tried to picture nothing, and all he could see was colors. Julia cried out again, but her voice was drowned by the sound of footsteps in the hall. Distant voices laughing, and the sound of heat turning on in the corner of the room. She rested her head upon Eddie’s chest as he lay on his back, staring at the ceiling. “Do you hate me?” she had asked. Now Eddie’s brother came back out of the bathroom, stopped and looked at him. Hesitated a moment . “Are you going to lay there all day?” he asked. It was now, technically, his brother’s room even though his brother lived at school eight months out of the year, and he hadn’t seemed thrilled with Eddie being camped out on his floor since the week before Christmas. He walked over and turned on the light . A shade-less lamp, a single bare yellow bulb. Harsh, artificial light , casting shadows in the corners. There were always more shadows up here than anywhere else in the house, and the light was always poor. The room was too hot in the summer, and cold with a draft in the winter. A raw, empty chill. Eddie could feel it within and around him. Seeping into his skin, clammy and damp, and whistling through his bones. When he breathed deep, he could taste it . A metallic taste that he couldn’t wash away. He stared at the ceiling. His brother took a seat at his desk and opened a text book. Cleared his
throat , and skimmed the pages. Someone started the vacuum cleaner going downstairs, and then Eddie could hear his parent’s quiet voices. Hushed tones. Bickering about something. They were both up, sitting at the breakfast table when he walked in that morning, but Eddie couldn’t look at them. His mother looked at his eyes. They had always had a better grasp on the situation than he did. She sipped her tea. “You look like you could use some sleep,” she said. “You should have called,” his father said. “You’re a grown man, but if you’re staying in this house, we’re still going to worry about you. You should have called.” “I know,” said Eddie. His father took a breath. “Don’t let her do this to you,” he said. Eddie had gone to the basement and cracked one of the beers, put on some music, anything to bring her back, closer. The beer wouldn’t go down though, and the music seemed too removed. Something he may have liked once before, but now meant nothing. They had been at the bar still when Julia had first told him. The air outside was electric with activity but it was almost too cold to snow. Just a few isolated, crystal flurries. The sky above was gray and heavy and crying to burst . But it , like everything else, was frozen solid. Julia ordered them each a shot of Southern Comfort as she slid into a booth and shook off the cold. Eddie tossed his back, but she sipped hers slowly. They hadn’t seen each other in months—school, distance, could do that . They were already on their third or fourth drink when she gave him the look, and he read her eyes. It was the hardest thing she ever had to tell anybody, she said. Robert was more than decade older than they were, she said. He was successful, owned his own home. But he was young, too, liked to have fun. Eddie looked away as she rambled on. Everything had fallen inside him, and he felt as if he were looking down from above. It was early, and the bar was still fairly empty. A lone violinist sat up on the stage. A tweed cap and trimmed gray beard. Eyes shut tight behind small oval glasses. The light was a mute yellow all around him, the rest of the bar already dark, smelling sickly of sugar and stout . The dense smoke of cigarettes. The violinist was playing an Irish ballad of some sort , soft and sweet and simple. Eddie recognized the tune but he wasn’t sure from where. “Are you in love with him?” he asked Julia. “Yes,” he heard her whisper. “And what about me?” “I’m in love with you, too. I’m in love with both of you.” An hour later she had slid into his side of the booth beside him, hugging him tight and madly kissing him, her lips sweet with whiskey. She missed kissing him, she said. Eddie tried to respond in turn, but he wasn’t sure if he felt furious, sick, or nothing at all. He remembered nuzzling his face into her hair, her neck, and Julia taking his earlobe between his teeth. The bar was much more crowded now, the lights lower, the music louder. Faster. The fiddler had been replaced by a band with a brogue. Electric guitars and a bass violin. She wanted them both, she had said. Now, his mother came into the room. His brother was gone. Maybe to the gym, maybe already out for the night . His mother took a seat at the desk, and turned to face him. “What time is your flight on Sunday?” she asked. Eddie didn’t answer.
“You have class Monday, don’t you?” There was a spider moving across the ceiling. It scurried at an angle to the right , then switched, scurried to the left . When his older sisters had slept in this room, they were terrified of spiders. They used to dream of spiders. One sister referred to it as the nightmare room. She was convinced that anyone who slept in it would have terrible dreams. She was a doctor now. Eddie wondered if he had dreamed since he came home. He didn’t remember. The spider began to descend, then stopped, swaying a bit as if there were a breeze. But there couldn’t have been a breeze. Perhaps the heat had turned back on. “I worry about you, Eddie,” his mother said. “She plays with you. She always has. I think if you look for someone else you’ll find not everybody is like that .” She looked down at her hands. “It doesn’t have to be like this.” The spider climbed back to the ceiling. “Supper’s almost ready,” his mother said. “You need to eat something.” His mother had her eyes averted. She had never been very good at sitting still, talking. Talking was only good if you could be engaged in some other activity at the same time. Cooking, baking, or cleaning. His mother was slim, shoulder length hair, beginning to go gray, pulled back on the side with barrettes. Fair of complexion and eyes steely blue. “I made popovers,” she said. “You’ve always liked popovers.” She sat there a moment longer, silent , and then began rambling about a girl who grew up down the street . Someone a few years younger than Eddie, someone he had forgotten completely about . He had barely known she was around when they were both in school. Now his mother was talking about this girl’s husband, and child. The job she was just hired for teaching in the public schools, and her demand for an immediate raise. Eddie never really knew where his mother stood on various issues. She would just tell the story, let you judge the person’s actions. She taught in the schools herself, had for many years. She then switched to a story of a cousin of hers who owned a bar over in Walpole, and was known for wearing green sneakers and losing all his money at the racetrack. Eddie had no idea who the cousin was. After a while, his mother stopped. “I worry about you, Eddie,” she said again. “I don’t like thinking about you traveling that far when I see you like this.” His friend Mark had said the same thing. Eddie had gotten together with Mark the night before he had gone into town for his reunion with Julia, but Mark seemed to know what was coming. They had played football together in high school, but Mark was a much better athlete than Eddie had ever been. Thick chest and broad shoulders. His hair was dark and his eyes were pale gray. Eyes that looked suspicious even when he was smiling, laughing. Mark walked on the tips of his toes, and since they had finished college, he drank even more and did a lot of coke. They were over their friend Danny Hurley ’s apartment after the bars had closed, and Danny was passed out on the sofa. Prematurely balding with a peninsula of hair touching his forehead, and one hand shoved down the front of his pants as his belly rose up and down before him. Mark looked at him and sighed and then he had walked across the room, picked up a small mirror with the Zed Zeppelin blimp painted on it in bright , distorted colors. The colors cheapened the image somehow, Eddie thought .
Mark pulled out a small packet folded from a magazine page and dumped out a pile of coke, chopped up four lines. He snorted two and pushed the other two at Eddie. “You should move back home,” he had said. “You need to be near your friends at a time like this.” “A time like what?” Eddie asked. He looked at the unfolded magazine paper. A picture of an old man on a park bench, feeding the pigeons and listening to a stereo headset . The Beauty of Sound Knows No Time, the ad said. Mark smiled wide. Bright white teeth. “At a time when your ex-girlfriend has decided to fuck with your mind a little bit more. Like they all do eventually.” He cracked a can of Bud Light . He must’ve been close to finishing a case, Eddie figured. The apartment was cold and the heat wasn’t working. Danny had said that as long as he didn’t complain about the heat , he figured he could keep being late on the rent , and the landlord would keep quiet . Mark had been working on Danny ’s car with him earlier that day and his white jeans were smeared with dirt and grease, and he looked as if he hadn’t showered in a few days. Hair sticking on end, and yellow eyes cracked with red. Eddie was surprised he had gone out to the bar that way—there was a time he wouldn’t think of it—but Mark’s girlfriend had broke off their engagement three months before, and he had been drinking around the clock ever since. “It’s not good for you to be alone.” Mark handed Eddie a rolled twenty dollar bill. It was a cocaine rule, the bill you used could never be small. It signified a bond, a trust , amongst your brothers in snorting, Eddie figured, either that or was just a statement of extravagance. He snorted his two, the coke immediately shooting to his head, numbing and dripping at the back of his throat . His mouth went dry, and his thoughts began to speed. It suddenly occurred to him how much he loved everybody. He loved everybody more than he ever could have imagined. “How do you know she’s going to be my ex-girlfriend?” he asked. Mark lit a cigarette, exhaled slowly. “You said you hadn’t talked to her in three months, right?” “Yeah.” “Well, then she’s your ex-girlfriend.” He seemed to think about it some more. “She’s just going to reel you back in and put you back down. That’s what they all do, and they all do it well.” He sipped his beer. “And Julia is the best of them.” He cut out four more lines, but then put the mirror aside. They were there just to look at for the time being. A visual assurance of more to come. “Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “I love Julia, but she’s a wicked, fucking bitch.” Eddie and Julia had been together for six years. Right out of high school. They had all gone to high school together, and Mark said he slept with her once or twice before she started with Eddie. “I fucked her in the ass,” Eddie remembered him saying after the second time. “I can’t believe she let me fuck her in the ass.” And every time Eddie looked at him after, spite simmering inside of him, he had to stop and wonder if it were true. They had all gone to separate colleges, and then, Eddie and Julia, off to graduate school. That had been a year and a half earlier. “Don’t let her mess with you,” Mark said now. “You don’t need her. You only need us.” “Us?” Eddie asked.
“Me and Danny.” Danny had rolled over on the couch and begun to drool. “Fuck the rest of them.” Mark snubbed out his cigarette. Eddie could feel his skin beginning to tingle. He sipped his beer. He felt as if he had been drinking the same beer for hours now. The taste thin, watery, and tinny. Warming quickly. He wondered how much they had already snorted. Easily more than a gram. Mark folded his hands, the cigarette cuffed between them. “None of us will ever get in a real relationship again. We’ve been hurt too bad.” He looked out the window, the sky was lightening, breaking in reds, the morning coming. “We’re all going to die bachelors,” he said. “I’m convinced of that . And I’m happy.”
After his mother left the room, Eddie shut his eyes and tried to fill his head with images from the night before. He wanted to keep it all physical, superficial. If he could convince himself that all along he just wanted to fuck her, that she was really just a whore, it might make it better. He could feel the swell of her breasts, and his lips pressed against her bare shoulder, but when he moved his hand down into his boxers, there was nothing. Everything was empty, dead. When Julia had dropped him off that morning, Eddie’s parents’ neighbor was out in his front yard, attempting to mend the stone wall that separated his property from Eddie’s parents’. The old man was already into his eighties, a cigar clutched in the corner of his mouth and watery blue eyes. Large ears and gray hair cropped close to his head. He was always in the yard doing something. The wall was over a century old—partitioning what was once farm land—and constantly falling. The old man was on his knees, the grass dry and withered, and the earth frozen solid beneath him. He would lift a stone, take a moment to catch his breath, and then lift another. When Eddie was small he used to go over the old man’s house on Saturday evenings, sit on his lap and eat hot dogs and beans, the old man smiling a lot and drinking a cold glass of beer. The world hadn’t started to close in on the old man yet then. Worry and suspicion. He hadn’t posted signs to keep people off his grass. Julia told Eddie she needed to get going, and they hugged for a moment . He told her he loved her, and she looked at him, paused, her eyes hesitant and searching his own. “I love you, too.” “I could make you happy,” he said. She had her hand on the gear shift . Polished red fingernails. “I know.” “I could move closer. That would be better, if I lived closer.” “Maybe,” she said. “We can talk about it . I have to get going. You always drag out good-byes.” “Do you really love me still?” he asked her. “I told you, I did. I love both of you. I just don’t know if I could live with you, Eddie. You stress me out .” She hesitated again. “Robert doesn’t .” Eddie pictured her going down on him the night before in the car. And he wondered what was going through her head as she did. Wondered what Robert would say if he had seen them. He wished he had seen them. The old man next door was struggling to stand now, bringing a small boul der up with him. He dropped it on top of the wall, his weight descending with it
as he did. He stopped and puffed his cigar. A dog was barking somewhere down the street . “Could you marry him, you think?” Eddie asked. Julia met with his eyes again, shrugged a little. “Yes.” “And what about me?” “I don’t know.”
The next morning, Eddie stood and went to the window. His brother was in bed now—had come in some time after midnight—and was lying on his side facing the wall, the covers pulled up over his head. Eddie was damp with sweat , and had begun to shiver as soon as he climbed out from beneath the blankets. His mother had left his dinner, wrapped in tin foil, atop of his brother’s desk. Eddie could hear a whistling, as if the wind were slipping through cracks in the walls. First the whistling, then hushed, scattered whispering. He thought he could hear small footsteps, scurrying towards him, then hastily retreating, fading away. He wondered if there were mice in the walls. Eddie’s bones felt brittle, sore. He coughed a little, and then wiped his nose with his fingers. His father was in the back yard below him. Heavy brown coat , and black knit hat . He was gathering sticks, bundling them in his arms. The entire yard was brown and dead. Small piles of dry, crumpled leaves, and the trees black and skeletal against the gray horizon. There was a field beyond the trees where Eddie had played baseball when he was small. You could never see it from here in the good weather, but now you could see straight through. Everything was dead. His parents’ dog, a small blonde Spaniel, was in the yard with his father, and every now and then his father would throw a stick. Hurtling it overhand like a boomerang. After a few minutes he carried his armful of fallen branches to the corner of the yard, dropping them in a pile there that had been growing for years. He started on his way back to the house, slow and determined, his breath fogging in the cold. Eddie went into the bathroom, and pulled on his sweatshirt and sneakers. Knit blue Patriots hat . He found some old suede gloves in the closet downstairs— he hadn’t owned any gloves since he moved to California—and he drove to the cemetery and after sitting in the car for ten minutes or more, he got out and started to stretch. His muscles felt tight , and separate from his body. As if they were outside of him, rather than in. The temperature was hovering in the twenties, and there were flurries of snow in the air once again. Eddie had parked beside an enormous oak tree, centuries old, with carved initials climbing high up the trunk. The older ones looking like scars. Thick, darker bark that had closed in over the wounds. Many of the graves in the cemetery dated back two hundred years or more, and the inscriptions, smoothed from time, were impossible to read. Eddie started to run. He cut down a path into the woods, gravel slipping beneath his feet as he descended the hill towards the foot bridge that crossed the small stream. When he was in high school, he and his friends would sometimes stop on the bridge on the way to school to smoke cigarettes. An occasional joint . There was a hill on the far side of the bridge with one loan grave, barely sticking up from the earth, and smothered in dried leaves. The headstone was already crumbling, the name fading and covered in moss, nearly beyond readable. Eddie followed the path down along
the stream, and then back up onto the paved road, winding amongst the dead. Eddie sometimes fantasized as he ran in the cemetery that with each lap he could start to set the world in reverse, turn the clock back a notch. Bring the dead back from their graves—the earth erupting and decomposition, age, reversing—bring people, events, back into his life. He could be small again, holding his mother’s hand as they walked through the baseball field to the corner store to buy a loaf of bread and pick something up from the pharmacy, with everything ahead of him. Now he passed Mark’s father’s grave, dead at fifty-three from a blood clot to the brain, then past the grave of Fred. Fred was Waiting and Watching. That was all it said, no last name, no dates. Eddie had always wondered who he actually was. There was a woman walking a dog in the distance, her head down and wrapped in a scarf, and feet moving in small, scurrying steps. Despite the pace Eddie was keeping, the woman quickly disappeared from sight . A breeze that was there for a second, then gone, scattering the leaves behind her. Eddie looked up to see a train passing on the tracks that bordered the cemetery. Silver and purple and disappearing before he could see the faces inside. He did two laps around—half of what he was used to—and then collapsed with his hands against his father’s car, his heart suddenly pumping loud in his ears. He could hear the whispering again, worse than before, his thoughts passing so quickly that he couldn’t quite grasp them, and his blood was on fire. He paced about , the voices picking up the pace, mixing together and giving him orders. Telling him to do things to himself. Suggestions. The river. Or better yet , a rope and a tree. He was worthless, pathetic. And it would all be for the best . He would see. Eddie could recognize none of them—none were his own, all so different from the voice that he recognized as his thoughts—and they seemed distant somehow. Coming from outside rather than in. Passing on the wind, and disappearing before they could ever be real. He bit his lip, and took a seat on stone steps of a mausoleum, looking left to right with fleeting thoughts of panic. He wiped his head with sleeve and took a breath, his body steaming in the cold. It was hard to breathe. He had drank too much, done too much coke, and been through too much in general these past few days. The run had brought it on, heating it up and pouring it from his body. He could shut down his thoughts, or do another lap, sweat it all out , and soon it would all be over. He had to tell himself that soon it would all be over.
“sphere 3 float chair”
[ micro fiction ] gork
Kyle Hemmings The World Is a Future Egg I The boy named Gork squeezed the world three times in his hand and invented seven new synonyms for the word “putty.” His mother, addicted to dirty laundry and getting to the bottom of things, spread her delusions that Gork was radioactive. Her husband, a mild-mannered (often speechless) man with smoke-colored eyes, looked for evidence. In this way, they could give him up to science and be childless again. He pointed to the fact that Gork could read aloud messages from the glass of aquariums or car dealerships, the blank faces of walls, or repeatedly mispronounced the same words just to see how far his teacher could stretch her vocal cords or become paralyzed in the half-open position. “No,” said the mother thinking of a different version of goose stew if cattle became scarce from herd madness. “I mean he’s rubbing off on us. Look! Look at my hands. The palms concave or is it convex? The skin is turning colorless. It’s from washing his clothes with all those chemicals. He gets stains in places you’d never guess. Soon my skin will flake off. The hands nothing but bone.” After eavesdropping on his parents in the modular house that he dreamed shook on stilts, Gork looked deep inside himself and decided to give up his parents to a foster home with at least one washing machine in each room and then some in case the sky turned forever into a hard rinse. The World Is a Future Egg II The mother used chemical warfare to whip up bitter cookies. But Gork refused to crumble in personal corners. She hid her radioactive hands in latex gloves but they still glowed in the dark. And told her broom-stick reticence of a husband that after having Gork, she felt sexless and chilled. He said it might have been because Gork was a breech birth that lingered [rather than developed] or the doctor didn’t slap him hard enough. At night they slept side by side dreaming of slanting trees. In the dead of afternoon, after Cooking with Carly recipes failed, Mother blamed the world on Gork or she said “You little monster but we both once shared this womb.” In his monotonous room, Gork his own MRI-like images onto the walls. There were seven white lies right of mid-sternum. These included the stories about vicious fairies and little girls in extra-large drag. He pronounced unrecognizable shadows as Father’s denials. As Mother’s insides.
The World Is a Future Egg III Gork as an older child. Relatively. Gone were the days when Mother would pretend his head was an egg she could crack so easily, spill its contents into her non-stick frying pans, the word-fragments for dessert with tele-bubbly hubby, home from the Encryption Wars, dishing out in bed third-generation passion with short-key strokes. Gork met a girl in second period Math. She bruised him with a touch, asked him if he ever held a doll. They pushed each other on swings way beyond recess. Back home in his even-toned room, Gork drew a stick figure with circles for hands and called it Love.
The World Is a Future Egg IV Behind his walls, Gork invented the flying saucer with downloadable stars. Then he discovered the earth was several layers of his own complexity and there was no need to ascend with the possibility of faulty emissions. On Saturday blue afternoons, Lulu, the girl with good Disney face and yellow skater skirt without buttons, came over and they pasted fashion magazine covers over each other. They made up names that would go with the pictures and there were feeble attempts at a back story. No character came across as real or with hope. Later, they practiced crawling down staircases on their bellies because itâ€™s what good soldiers do in Sci-fi flicks. They tumbled over each other and Gork said Shush! After looking up and over, they discovered Gorkâ€™s parents sleeping on the couch like fragile robots with dreaming heads.
“light and dark” erin mccabe
She did what they expected her to do. She thought what they expected her to think. She wanted what they expected her to want. Then one day she made a decision. She decided to make her own decisions.
[ nonfiction ] character bleed Eleanora Hyde
I stepped off the stage and from that moment on, the character that had been growing inside me started slowly dying. Its speech slips off my tongue, the mannerisms fade, and even the acquired habits lose their charm. Sometimes I don’t know who I am when I’m not being a character. I cling to some parts even when the play is done the way a teenager keeps music from when they were in a rebellious group as it sheds its clique to find another. “Character bleed,” my acting teacher told me. “What is character bleed?” I asked. “On stage, you feel what your character feels. You try to become her and she becomes you. There might be certain characteristics that are distinctly yours and some new things that bleed from the character to you.” “I’ve been thinking in more elevated language, wearing red lipstick everywhere, and feeling like I should be in love. Is that strange?” “She’s inside you. You are vulnerable and open and still finding out who you are as a person.” It started when I was first cast; the conception. Then it shaped into an archetype and morphed into a poorly drawn cartoon. My symbiotic parasite grew fingers and I let it feed on my blood and take me over. It became almost human and made me more human as well. That is the nature of the relationship between character and actor. It is as intimate a love affair as one could have and all consuming. I am addicted to it the way that some women love giving birth. As soon as I give myself to a role, I have created a life and once I am finished I feel a strong pull to be filled up with another energy and create again. I have been both the damsel in distress and the villain. I have created the homeless man and the king and given them parts of each other. I have given birth to characters that I never thought could be a part of me and yet all have had the same D.N.A. Now, I am in rehearsal as the iconic character Malvolio in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night . I carry his sadness with me as if it was always mine but I have also given him my fantastical flare and endowed him with my generation’s gift of seeing ourselves as the most special of snowflakes. Finding his masculinity and sharing my femininity has been transforming me in a way that I find extremely empower-
ing. I put on his suit and I am somber, majestic, and new. With each character is an opportunity to create another being, grow into their shoes, and take a walk in your shiny new persona before you part ways. Be the villain and unleash your revenge on the world. Feel what its like to let nothing get in the way of your master plan and never care what people think of you. Be the hero and assume the responsibility of saving everyone. Bask in the admiration of the people but always know deeply the cost of failing. Be the lover and take up poetry just as an outlet for your overflow. Recognize your vulnerability and let it make you raw until the object of your affection loves you even more than you pre viously thought you deserved. Be yourself, broken, lonely, and still feel at the base of your spine your own greatness. I want to be everyone and hopefully somewhere in between, I will find myself.
inherent novelty and thin memory Christopher Reynolds
I recall, alongside a curious sense of weightlessness, a centrifugal narrowing of perception, and the smell of what was later identified as basically gunpowder, the startling realization—and accompanying disappointment—that I wasn’t going to get the chance to tell anyone else what it was like to be in a car crash. Of course, such descriptions lend to these sparks of accelerated cognition a distinctness that is somewhat misleading, given their visceral impact at the time. Nevertheless, I can recall in a calmer, more organized state of mind (that likely colors the recollected sensations similarly) such ‘thoughts’ as the regret of an untellable story, a briefly deep affinity for other solo drivers with likewise halted experiences, and something akin to consolation in the idea that , in spite of that , things would continue, even if I didn’t . Traveling to my parents’ house under routine conditions, but an unaccustomed fatigue, I eventually managed not to hit a dog that ran in front of my car. A Pit Bull, I believe, but with less and less certainty. Frequent reiterations of the memory blurring already scarcely fixed details, the space in my recollection where the dog should be is now largely filled in by a vague field of tension over what followed. Independent of breed or clarity, the dog’s sudden entrance cracked the weight of one of the extended internal dialogues that often develops in a solo drive, primarily concerned (as I recall) with assessing the merits and drawbacks of my current position in life. This is a stalwart fallback topic for my mind if left to its own devices, and one with elaborate considerations. So far from the immediate circumstances had my evaluations taken me that my reactions to a sudden emergency situation were less than ideal. I swerved, tipped, deposited one tire in the ditch on the opposing side of the road, and entered the other ditch at such an angle and sufficient speed to get the car airborne; it landed on the driver’s side, and I crawled out through the windshield. Though the experience itself was easily one of my life’s most intense, it is
the subsequent effects that I am primarily concerned with in this latest of many (many) re-visitations of that night . If asked in the period directly following the event , I would have described my environment as radiant , suffuse with an overabundance of experience. Each thing was holy—sufficient for a lifetime’s consideration or an existence’s fulfillment . I understood in an almost physical sense the contingency of every passing moment and answered every unasked-for sensation with not a desperate clutching (which I might have expected), but a friendly, passive acceptance. I remember hitting on the phrase “bonus footage” as happily descriptive of the fresh field of endeavor that now opened before me, any occurrence welcome because all again possible. At the same time, I had just been spun rather violently inside an increasingly totaled car, and the flood of adrenaline timed its retreat to dovetail rather tidily with the effects of pain medication administered at the hospital. This fuzzy triangulation of the source of profundity would be a continuing theme. The days following my ordeal I spent observing in a grateful daze the quaint economy of my parent’s home, smiling at simple, beautiful tasks and delighting in the familiar and well-loved personalities of family members, all, of course, punctuated by considerable medication and frequent sleeps. The counterpoint to this exhausted exultance was a fierce drive to maintain the ability to recall precisely, with full emotional engagement , the moment just before the car landed. This would be vital to keep contact with its subsequent effects on the inherent novelty and beauty in all things. Each time I attempted it , it took longer and more effort to project myself close to that emotional register, with diminishing precision. The sulfuric smell of the airbag charge and the sting it left in my eyes were among the most durably useful anchors, but even these have faded, and the unease I feel about that thinning is worryingly similar to the feeling of having forgotten something (but what?) in the last room. Here’s the trouble I’m having about all of this: I recall the days following the accident in a warm mist of accepting perception, alternating with thin vulnerability—a visceral respect for life’s brevity. Neither of these poles felt less than profound at the time, and I continue to value them both highly. Yet , I also continue to distort the dog and other details in my memory, when I (with decreasing frequency) brave the trip to that exceedingly loud and forceful moment in my recol lection. As habit’s layers continue to accumulate and color daily life as solid, safe, and mundane, I begin to question my ability to distinguish (under trying circumstances and unthreatened recall) between what is holy and what is opiate, and to feel what is at stake in the distinction. While the glistening novelty of every sensation has abated, the space it occupied is not fully overgrown with normality. From an increasing distance, I wonder whether the extremities of this (and future) experience should be qualified by the conditions at play at the time, or whether calm eyes have insufficient vision.
“Blueberry hill”, kate ciavarra
“i dreamed i was a grownup”
“AT FIRST GLANCE”
w. jack savage
e a s t c o a s t i nk | i ssue 001 | new a ga i n
Published on Dec 17, 2013