Small Happinesses ALIZA EPSTEIN
I have some pretty nice ones KYLEEN MCGRAGH
We’ll Always Have the High Chair AM ROSELLI
My Thoughts on Happiness SHANNON L. CHRISTIE
A Smile is Her Umbrella MILTON P. EHRLICH
Embrace Grief HASAN ZIA
Good Morning Train SAJEDA MANZOOR
Silent Witnesses EDILSON A. FERREIRA
Searching KRISTINA STAGG
Certain Distance KYLE CLIMANS
Parents Are Gold
Christina’s Dream BOB MACKENZIE
A Morning in May ELLEN CHIA
Release CASSIE MCCOY
On Being Rendered Speechless HOWIE GOOD
living BRUCE KAUFFMAN
It’s Sunday JOAN MCNERNEY
Colourful LYNN WHITE
In the Stand NICK ROMEO
the things that bring me joy LINDA M. CRATE
sense of reprieve TOM PENNACCHINI
Kindess Is... STEPHEN FAULKNER
The Best Appetizer MICHELE SABAD
Community Basketball League MEG FREER
Fast Love ERIN BOYCE
Rocking Chair ALEXIS HENLEY
Andrew JOHN GREY
Brittle Bones ALYSSA COOPER
Fifties Scoop JOHN TAVARES
Front Cover MEG FREER 2 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
FERRIS E. JONES
SHANNON L. CHRISTIE
FREE LIT M A G A Z I N E Happiness Editor-in-Chief Ashley Bernicky
Literary Editor Eunice Kim
Kyle Climans, Alyssa Cooper, Bruce Kauffman
Kait Allen, Erin Boyce, Ellen Chia, Shannon L. Christie, Linda M. Crate, Milton P. Ehrlich, Aliza Epstein, Stephen Faulkner, Edilson A. Ferreira, Meg Freer, Howie Good, John Grey, Alexis Henley, Ferris E. Jones, Ashley King, Chiara Leoni, Alexander Limarev, Bob MacKenzie, Sajeda Manzoor, Cassie McCoy, Kyleen McGragh, Joan McNerney, Tom Pennacchini, Joseph S. Pete, Nick Romeo, AM Roselli, Michele Sabad, Kristina Stagg, John Tavares, Lynn White, Bill Wolak, Hasan Zia, Ally Zlatar
Free Lit Magazine is a digital literary magazine committed to the accessibility of literature for readers and the enrichment of writing for writers. Its mission is to form an online creative community by encouraging writers, artists, and photogrphers to practice their passion in a medium that anyone can access and appreciate.
Happiness is a word that constantly gets thrown at us. “Do this, and you’ll be happy.” “Buy this, and you’ll be happy.” If you’re having a rough day, face a mental illness, or any number of things: “Be happy.” Now we’ve gone into territory that completely skips out on telling us what it is we need to do to achieve that happiness; we should just be happy. But why? How? Recent scientific research points to what is known as positive psychology – the idea that in order to feel happy, we must also experience sadness or other feelings we associate as bad or negative. That is, in my view, a more realistic approach, and one that offers us more guidance. You’ll see for yourself in this issue that many negative experiences exist in tandem with those that are happier. A push and pull. This magazine was created five years ago–in November 2014–in a time of extreme sadness, but has now grown to a wonderful community of people who have shared their writing and art. For many others, and myself, it has been a place of possibility and creativity. That feeling brings great joy and pride. Fascinating now when we consider the negativity that preceded it. In this fifth anniversary issue you will see a number of contributions from both new and old members of our community – a true testament to its evolution and meaning for those who have stuck around with us on our journey. The magazine’s first issue only featured 7 writers and 5 artists because that’s as far as our reach went at the time. In five years, we have published work by nearly 200 writers, artists, and photographers. Many more have submitted. Some try again, and some don’t. We’ve had submissions come in from all over the world and are always amazed at how you’ve managed to find us. Having you here makes us happy. Thank you for your support.
Ashley Bernicky Editor-in-Chief
The Fantasy Issue February 2020
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 3
Small Happinesses ELIZA EPSTEIN
mall happinesses are micro-moments of joy. They aren’t connected to life-defining S moments. There’s nothing particularly enthralling about them. By nature they are simple. They could even be mistaken for meaningless if you aren’t paying attention. But
if you are paying attention, they elevate you. My small happinesses are brief moments of connectivity, small intimacies between casual acquaintances or strangers. A few days ago at work I sat next to a colleague from another department at a meeting. Our nails were painted the same shade of dark red between crimson and maroon. “Oh, look,” she said gleefully, holding out her hands toward mine, “our nails are the same color!” It was an insignificant but wonderful thing to feel happy about. How fun it was that we had both opted to decorate our nails with color, to do something extra and unnecessary for pure fun. And to acknowledge—even revel in—our shared color choice. Days later I went to a trivia night on a second date. It wasn’t one of those boring second dates where the two of you sit across from each other and ask the rest of the getting-to-know you questions that you didn’t get to on the first date. We were on a trivia team with a group of friends, and it felt more like a party than a date. “Do you have Invisalign?” I asked, noticing the brackets on his teeth. I told him that I had Invisalign last year. When we kissed goodnight I laughed. “Could you imagine if I still had Invisalign? Our brackets might get stuck together.” The thought of encountering this teenage problem in our thirties amused us. “Spending a couple of hours lip-locked with you sounds amazing…and terrifying,” he confessed. The next date I went on was a blind date, a fix-up arranged by a woman I wasn’t quite sure was my friend or not. We had met two years ago at a date auction where we were both bachelorettes. I sent her a friend request on Facebook, and even though she accepted, she never remembered me when we bumped into each other around town. Recently I posted on Facebook: “TFW a guy from a dating app texts you and your iPhone shows that you went out with the same guy five years ago,” along with a screenshot of a text thread with a message timestamped five years ago and another message from him that day saying, “Tomorrow daytime it would be great to meet. I’d love to get a smoothie and maybe go for a walk.” My Facebook friend who never remembers me in person commented, “Wait, I have a text from a guy who also wants to get a smoothie and go for a walk.” We compared notes and confirmed it was the same guy. Since our offices are only a few blocks away and we now shared an Eskimo sister bond of sorts, I invited her to grab lunch with me one day. She showed up but seemed disinterested. A few days later when I texted her and invited her to join some friends and me for brunch, she never replied. Maybe we weren’t going to end up being friends in real life after all. Then one day she texted me to ask if she could set me up with one of her friends. I agreed, happy to meet someone new and also happy that our potential friendship wasn’t dead. Sitting across from my blind date, I told him about an immersive art exhibit I saw the previous day that uses sensors to detect your pulse and incorporates the rhythm into the artwork with rippling water and blinking lights that follow the beat of your pulse. “Excuse me,” said the person at the table next to us. “I overheard you talking about that exhibit. I read a review of it in the paper. It sounds interesting. Do you think I should go?” “Yes, you should definitely go,” I said. “It’s super fun.” My blind date and I smiled at each other, entertained by the friendly intruder. Small happinesses—these unexpected moments of pleasantness—are deceptively fulfilling; they are surface interactions that satisfy on a deep level by immediately making the world feel fun and inviting. Small happinesses are the universe’s love letters to you that whisper, “I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you’re having a good time.” 4 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
We’ll Always Have the High Chair AM ROSELLI
We laughed. Giggled. Chuckled while swimming in the YMCA pool. In my kitchen or yours. During our walks. Shopping and smiling. Over coffee. We chatted and laughed often enough to baffle dad. How can you two always have so much to talk about? What the hell is so funny all the time? Constant conversations. Endless phone calls when we lived only a few miles from one another. And now, I can’t remember much. What did we talk about, mom? What was always so funny all the time? I’d give anything to hear you laugh again. I remember giggling when Caroline was about five months old. You and I decided to try my first born in her new high chair. She was a tiny baby and had, what we called, a minnow-head. We placed Caroline in the chair; she tilted sideways and her bitty head slid to the far corner. There she sat with grinning wide with her sweet bow lips. From then on, whenever either of us said, remember the high chair, we laughed. This morning, you keep spitting out your capsules. You don’t seem to remember why you must swallow your medications. Through a despondent voice I ask, “remember when we put Caroline in the high chair?” You do remember and you smile.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 5
A Smile is Her Umbrella MILTON P. EHRLICH
A widow of a fallen soldier wears his dog tag around her neck. She climbs on top of a double-decker busâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; her smile beams in all kinds of weather: lightning and thunder scares the bejeebers out of most of folks, but she keeps smiling even if the wind blows her right off her feet. Her smile is sunshine for every garden, and a source of luscious water from her well of kindheartedness. It keeps roosters crowing all day long. Alligator-clogged rivers become navigable, and the sweet taste of chocolate lingers In everyoneâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mouth day and night. She belly-dances at a Casbah to drums and castanets until dawn. The plaintive sound of an Oud lulls us all into to a peaceful sleep. Her smile annihilates any hint of dread. With the light of a firefly, she illuminates the darkness, perfuming the earth with the scent of love.
6 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
Good Morning Train SAJEDA MANZOOR
Happiness is a long chain Like erratic sky With multitude of flickering stars Creating a milky way They disappear When Mr. Sun appears It brings brightness far and wide It gives a message There is always another day As the seasons change To keep the spirit high With life’s mundane To see the florid Flowers bloom They are crushed By the snowy storms soon The rain showers them They cuddle in the ground Bloom like sprouts again Sunrays kiss them Overflow them To sing, dance and bloom Happiness is volatile Like the sunshine and azure sky See the sunrays When life betrays It never stops to shine It appears again With a lovely message “Good Morning” To wake up again A new day is here again To make you smile And board on the train.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 7
KRISTINA STAGG The ultimate goal. The illusory prize. You seek it out with the newest car, the bigger house, the best labels, the latest phone and, for a moment, you catch a glimpse. Just the faintest shadow of it from the corner of your eye, but then it’s gone. You try and try again, but it can’t be bought. You search the world, traveling to exotic locations. The rising sun bouncing off terra cotta walls, cool breezes whispering though jade forests, waves crashing on the beach of a tropical island - it’s in all of these places. You try to save it in pictures, but it disappears with the click and flash. The photos you post on social media are only dim reflections of it and, in trying to capture it, it is gone. The harder you try to grab it, to hold on to it, to own it, the further it seems from your reach. You begin to wonder if it’s truly attainable. Maybe for others, but not for yourself. You step back from your quest, opting to be content in your world as it is. You decide to settle into your life. One day, on your morning run or tucked in with a good book and a cup of tea, you feel it lurking just off to the side. Your first instinct is to grab hold of it, but that’s never worked before. Instead, you just let it linger there. Another day, while sitting on your porch or in downward dog, you feel it again - slipping over and through you. It is then that you finally realize the truth. It, like the wind, cannot be bought, captured, owned. It can only be felt and leaned into. You can’t find happiness but, when you aren’t looking, it will find you.
8 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
KAIT ALLEN slowly, I am learning to unhinge fear from my jaw; exhale the guilt until it gets lost somewhere between permission to love myself and forgiveness for taking so damn long to get here.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 9
Christina’s Dream BOB MACKENZIE
The title says this is Christina’s world a lone farmhouse at the top of the hill a barn sitting some distance from the house and her below on slanted fields of grain The focus is Christina on the grain so very far below that house and barn crawling her way, the descriptions tell us crawling upward toward that distant farm There is in this painting something haunting something dark hidden and perhaps not seen even by Wyeth as he created this work courage set against sinister shadows In this scene of a woman in a field there is that dark haunting double vision of courage Wyeth sees but never sees those dark forces that hold Christina back This is not the same image I have seen with something dark underlying her world but another, brighter image or dream where Christina lives in sunshine and hope At first the painting I see seems the same yet is not Christina’s world but her dream where she has stopped to rest in the sunshine stopped to enjoy the beauty of her day
10 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
CASSIE MCCOY Fear not my dear that feeling will wash over you once more when the wake begins to touch your skin let it caress every nerve let it stimulate you let it fill every pore let it overwhelm you with fulfilling sensation let the waves wash over you pull your anxieties away let them fill you up fill all the empty spaces all the hard to reach places that no love has ever touched let itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s droplets give you courage courage to free yourself from the restrictive confines of the nagging, tugging corners of your mind.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 11
BRUCE KAUFFMAN you after weeks months of feeling exhausted more than half-sick less than half-alive you now this morning sense a remembered life as if 20 years ago seeing yourself in it then refreshed full of life and self you remember a window opening once and catching in it the full scent of a morning you remember in a flood of them the full of instances of hearing any sound for each their very first time remember even that soft wombed contentment your desire to remain within but finally gave way sending you into a flood of brilliant and for you first light first sight yes, you this morning now completely tranquil in each moment as it passes and anxious for each new second about to arrive and you now again fully alive 12 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
LYNN WHITE She always felt she was born to be colourful. Colourful personality. Colourful clothes. Bringing colour to her life. To light up other lives, even when she felt low, felt blue. Even when things were bad and no one shared a smile. Even when all were grey. Even more so then. She was determined to be colourful. It was her birthright not just seasonal.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 13
14 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
the things that bring me joy LINDA M. CRATE
i find joy in moon beams, autumn leaves, flowers, trees, sunrises and sunsets, vacations, friends and family, alone time, books, music, sandy beaches, and when i knit words together; just to name a few momentsâ&#x20AC;&#x201D; i find joy in rainbows, acceptance, forgiveness and mercy, unconditional love, tenderness and vulnerability, remembrance of me, and when people are able to shake the dust of every day life off my shoulders to remind me of the magic and miracles which exist in this world.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 15
am constantly defending myself from people who ask me at almost every turn why I am doing something that won’t gain me anything in return. I have been asked numerous times why I hold the door open for someone who would not do the same thing for me. In the same vein I am also asked why I hold the door open for people who don’t even have the good manners or courtesy to say thank you to me as they pass through. My answer to this is that I do it because I want to, not because I expect anything in return for it. I do it because performing such simple acts of kindness gives me pleasure. A lot of people do not understand this, either as a trait of my personality or a concept in general. I wonder how to explain this to anyone who does not see the pleasure or value in doing nice things even if they are done for unappreciative recipients. I will give it my best shot but the reader will have to realize that this answer, if that is what it is, comes from a most un-objective source. These are my reasons only and no one else’s. Each person has his or her reasons for the good and bad things that they do and I am sure that the number and types of reasons for doing just about anything are pretty well innumerable in this plain of existence. Most of the reasons I have for my actions in any given situation, I find, are mostly very simple. They are all based two things: 1. The pleasure I take in doing something nice for someone even if that person is a total stranger to me, and; 2. The fear I have of possible retribution directed against me if I don’t do something good or that is the right thing to do. The first reason, for me, is the most compelling. The second reason is really only one that I fall back on in hindsight to tell people who do not understand my first and only real reason for doing nice things for people in general. So there you have it. Kind acts are very subjective and, for me, the pleasure derived from them is in the mere act of doing it. I only admit to a broad based fear if I fail to do something good in order to bring a smile of understanding to the face of a person who would find my real reason to be if not fully inconceivable then at least one that infers something rather preposterous. Kindness is… Well, you now know my personal ending for that sentence. Tell me, then: What is yours?
16 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
Community Basketball League MEG FREER
Small bodies bustle in the school lobby as boys reconnect with coaches who hand out jerseys, ask how their day has been, and decide who will be starters for the game tonight. A woman gives her grandson a sudden hard shove and sends him flying to the far wall. Her harsh voice only momentarily breaks up the merriment, as players and volunteers continue to offer perhaps the only friendly faces of the week for him and the small boy with two black eyes who waits alone for the next game to start. This is their happy place.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 17
Rocking Chair ALEXIS HENLEY
Her old rocking chair faded from weather, splintering from years of use. Scratch marks, stains, and all kinds of colors linger. Marks made when she was young and marks yet to be made. She runs her fingers along the grooves of pieces taken out. Life took much from it just like her with bones too old, too worn, to move from it. Children play familiar games squealing “Red rover, Red rover” “Red light, Green light” as they run around the yard. His empty chair to her right just as he always was. Worn, of course, but not as much as hers. She leans back, lets it creak, an old and welcoming sound, and remembers.
18 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 19
ALYSSA COOPER Last night, you managed to pull a muscle while you were sleeping, and now you’re trying to think of a lie to cover up the limp. 1999 still feels like it was five years ago, and you’re having your mid-life crisis at 27, and if you had any riches, you’d give them all to go back in time and try again, like life is a choose-your-own-adventure book, and you’ve been holding your place with one thumb, like the last five hundred and twenty three choices were just practice, like you’re ready to flip back, now, rewind, start the story over – and maybe you’ll do it right this time. You are violently beating a wall and demanding that it become a door, but those bricks won’t shift just because you ask them to. You pretend you are stone, but your fists are soft pillows, ineffectual like feathers, you will bloody your knuckles long before you break through, don’t you see? You’re wearing the brass key on a chain around your neck, each link is a choice you’ve yet to make, you can plant your feet like roots, at the end, not growing old, but growing up, and that key is a perfect fit, if you could just find the golden lock, don’t you see? Your brittle hands are worth more than beating bricks.
20 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
Fifties Scoop JOHN TAVARES
was never happy. I could never be happy in the life I lived in the south. There are many gaps and holes in the story, but my origins in as few words as possible must necessarily leave some sense of vagueness and incompleteness. Besides, big parts of the past feel like my mothers’ stories, which remain largely untold. I often feel on birthdays that the real person who should be celebrating your birthday is your mother, if she is still alive; she survived and suffered both the agony of your birth and the pain of your upbringing. Then, how do you feel when you make discoveries about your mothers, but no words do them justice, while your fathers remain in the background–cold, distant, aloof, indifferent, unsupportive? How do you feel when you finally realize you lack clarity; have no complete and utter truth about your true families and every family member is relative, in different senses of the word, and you therefore question and doubt your own identity? Besides, I feel old and my hands and feet are cold, and my memory (and hence my life) is fading, but I am still strong and alive. The details are sketchy, vague, and they happened in the late fifties in Toronto before the subway line had closed circuit video surveillance that scanned platforms, passageways, and commuters. In fact, it happened shortly after the first subway line in Toronto opened, before the city and municipal police, or even the provincial police, cared about Indigenous persons, before the police even cared that much about different ethnic groups or immigrants; the assumption, somewhat presumptuous, being they care about these people today, and I’m no longer confident of that belief. My mother was actually Portuguese on her mother’s side, and Ojibway on her father’s side, at a time when such ethnic blending wasn’t that common in Canada, or at least in the small town in northwestern Ontario where my mother was born and raised, since most of the Portuguese immigrants, particularly from the Azorean islands, didn’t immigrate until later in the sixties and seventies. In fact, there were actually not that many immigrants in Sioux Lookout at that time, at least they were not of a varied variety, not as much of the dark or Mediterranean variety. I was also told then the Natives tended to stay on their reserve unless they needed to visit town to conduct business or shop for dry goods or visit the federal government hospital for health care (I’ve done some research, not solid empirical and scientific research of the university social science variety, but of the café, coffee shop, and barroom variety, and I’ve talked to some to some elders and betters in the town and city, and, when I finally found the nerve, visited Lac Seul reserve.) My mother originally moved to the city because of me, in search of a better, safer, and more prosperous life, but the move from Sioux Lookout to Toronto represented an attempt to follow the right path: the route of the sober. Amalia took her daughter to Toronto and managed to find a job as a needle worker, sewing and stitching together rugged denim and leather at a sweatshop and textile factory in the garment district, around Spadina and Queen Street West, not far from where she lived in a basement apartment near Chinatown. She heard about some of the attractions on Centre Island from co-workers, so she decided to take her little daughter for a stroll down Yonge Street in the morning after she rode the streetcar along Dundas Street West. They could take a short leisurely stroll down Yonge Street, with its showy attractions, to the ferry terminal on the waterfront with Lake Ontario and then ride the ferry across the harbour to the islands. On Centre Island she would show her daughter the festivities, the carnivalesque, the Ferris wheel, the rollercoaster, the carousel, and the other rides she would find in the amusement park along the main walkways, aside from the beaches. She packed a swimsuit for the beaches if she decided to explore the shoreline. VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 21
As sometimes happens in life, particularly in the life of Amalia, she took a wrong turn on the route to the ferry docks. Instead of walking straight down Yonge Street to the harbour front, she turned on Front Street to Union Station, but didn’t continue walking south to Lake Ontario. She wandered around the front of Union Station with its bustling, busy Saturday crowd of visitors, shoppers, travellers, and revellers. People ignored her every time she asked for directions to the ferry docks because she was an excitable woman–she looked Indigenous, even though she had parts of the Mediterranean and European in her genetic background–and she had been drinking. She bought a long brown bag of buttered popcorn, candy apples, and ice cream cones for the day trip from a food truck and candy vendor nearby. When she returned to the stairs and cement ledge to the wagon, she discovered her daughter Lara had disappeared. So the frantic search began. But no one paid attention to her; it was literally as if she was invisible. Finally, the Toronto police were summoned for the excitable, agitated woman. By then not only had her daughter disappeared, but in the frantic search that ensued her wagon was stolen as well, containing her bag of food and snacks for the weekend excursion with her daughter–me– to Toronto’s Centre Island. This crucial piece of missing evidence may have helped undermine her credibility. The police officer was skeptical of her claim and allegations. In her emotional, traumatized state, Amalia was brought to the police division headquarters for questioning. The staff sergeant questioned her and garnered little bits and pieces of details about her identity and hometown. He had been to Sioux Lookout on a hunting expedition years ago. He decided to make some long-distance telephone calls to the provincial police detachment in Sioux Lookout to help untangle this mess, determine the details, and investigate the unsubstantiated allegations. He called the Sioux Lookout detachment. From the call the sergeant learned from a constable, Amalia had been arrested previously for public intoxication and mischief. Remember: this was the late fifties, and a long-distance telephone call was not cheap, even for a Toronto police officer calling a provincial police detachment in a remote town in Northwestern Ontario, and the inquiry had the potential to tick off and irk superior commanding officer since it crossed jurisdictional and territorial lines. A corporal transferred the call to a staff sergeant. The staff sergeant told the Toronto officer he knew the woman in question. Amalia did not have a child, he said. The sergeant added, though, she had accused several men of “roughhousing her,” after she resisted their “advances.” The police investigated, and the son of the local car dealer and the son of a grocery store owner were named, involved, implicated, and became suspects. The police decided not to pursue charges against these young men, because they came from good and important families who had pricey lawyers from Thunder Bay and Winnipeg, and owned local businesses. Their friend, an unemployed mill worker, on the other hand, was rowdy and disrespectful towards his officers, and was charged with drunk and disorderly conduct. After he spent a night in the drunk tank at the jail, he was released. Afterwards, since the sawmill wasn’t due to open until the following spring, he found gainful employment as a school bus driver, and the criminal charges were dropped. The sergeant said he simply couldn’t abide by unjust and unfair criminal charges against up and comers; promising bright young men, strapping, handsome, athletic, prospective pillars of the community. Then, on another weekend night, the sergeant remembered, Amalia even accused a rookie police officer of making advances towards her after she was picked up on Front Street for public intoxication and disorderly conduct. Although she was charged with mischief for making these accusations, she was never convicted. I don’t think the police officer seriously entertained the notion or idea that what she described was true. He couldn’t conceive that an intoxicated woman could legitimately sustain an assault of a sexual nature. 22 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
When he finished the telephone call, the sergeant’s face was suffused with redness. He could barely control the trembling, dizziness, and chest pain from his anger and agitation. “Get her out of my sight,” he commanded of the corporal. At least my mother wasn’t charged with mischief or obstruction of justice. And so began my mother’s frantic, desperate search. I am convinced if she told the complete truth about me and our own personal history, the situation might have possibly turned out differently. My life might have turned out entirely different—perhaps not as prosperous—but rewarding in other respects. When I am in a more skeptical mood, and I dwell and obsess on the past, I think if she told the complete and total truth she might have been arrested and faced even worse consequences and punishment, but still I would have been reported as missing. For a year she searched for me throughout Toronto, and initially she made emotional pleas and scenes, but the fact that she had become my mother was supposed to have been a secret. She continued to work at the garment factory, sewing and stitching together heavy-duty leather and denim work clothes for labourers. As she searched for me, she arrived at the conclusion I had been abducted by a Yonge Street sex pervert. Amalia gave up, surrendered to fate, providence, she did not know, but she was in despair again. Meanwhile, sixty miles away, my real parents (or the couple I came to consider my real parents) were by the standards of the middle class decent and respectable and—to my benefit—white. Tucker and Astrid were both bank clerks and tellers in Hamilton. To help further their careers in banking, they travelled to Hamilton’s largest neighbouring city to explore the prospects of moving to Toronto. They considered buying a house in the Forest Hills neighbourhood specifically. When they found me alone on a wagon in a crowd at Union Station it was a no-brainer for them. They tried to have a baby for a full decade. Now a solution was delivered straight to them as they emerged from the train station into the city for a brighter future. They scooped me, picked me up in their arms, bundled me in my mother’s shawl, and took me on the next passenger train to Hamilton.Time passed slowly and painfully for Amalia. Shortly afterwards, her sister Beatriz died from an overdose of alcohol and pills. When my grandmother was seriously ill, Amalia grudgingly answered a summons to care for her and look after her house and household. Flash forward decades, half a long lifetime, when Astrid was dying in a private Toronto nursing home on Bayview Avenue. She finally confessed to me her and Tucker’s sin and my genesis and origins. I had been taken from a baby stroller, a wagon actually, on the busy boulevard in front of Union Station on a bright sunny Saturday in the fifties. I was shocked and appalled, but it made sense. My parents were very rational and driven by an economic mentality,tthe social scientific construct of the rational man. My parents lived in Hamilton for another year until their promotions in thekbank came through; then they moved to Toronto for my father to assume a middle management executive position in small business and commercial loans. My mother was promoted to work in the accounting and auditing department. The bank paid for both to take night courses in economics, corporate finance, securities, and accounting in the business school at the downtown campus of the University of Toronto. I lived a very Toronto life. The visible differences betweensmy parents and myself wers explained to me like this: Astrid was my aunt and assumed responsibility and took care of me after my mother died. My mother, Astrid said, was Italian, and my biological father, her brother, was killed in the same fatal traffic accident. When I later conducted some genealogical and ancestral research, I discovered the details of her brother’s death was partially correct, but articles from the time made no mention of a passenger, a girlfriend, or wife, in his motor vehicle. VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 23
Many years later, my mothers’ stories required deeper research. a tiny article in the back pages of The Toronto Telegram, which I found scanning through pages of microfiche and spools of microfilm, indicated “an Indian woman” from an Ojibway reserve in Northwestern Ontari, was searching for her lost daughter, born in Sioux Lookout, after the police abandoned their investigation for undisclosed reasons. This single but crucial key clue unraveled pieces of the puzzle after long silent hours of archival research in the Toronto Reference Library So, I took the passenger train to Sioux Lookout. By this time, I had retired from my career as a teacher. I learned my own aged mother was gravely and chronically ill, shuffling back and forth between the hospital and her senior’s apartment, the Patricia Plaza in Sioux Lookout. Although Amalia was on oxygen and tube fed, she gradually and in incoherent bits and pieces told me the truth: She took me from my own biological parents, including her sister, when she believed Beatriz and her partner could no longer care for me after my brother died. Her boyfriend, who was a visual artist, may or may not have been my father. Still, I was her biological niece. .My mother and her boyfriend had left us with a storybook in the locked car in the parking lot of e Hudson’s Bayestore while they were drinking in the downstairs bar of the Sioux Hoten. Meanwhile, my own brother, my younger sibling, died in the back seat, possibly from heat and suffocation, possibly from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, while I bounced in the front seat, in the locked Ford Crestline, scribbling and coloring in the pages of the storybook with crayon. S, my Aunt decided to take me on a journey where, she hoped, life would be better and she would eventually stop drinking. One woman said my biological mother died from drink and pills, overdosing on the same medication that killed Marilyn Monroe; another said that she was dead from a rare blood disorder or possibly leukemia. While I was researching my possible father’s life, my other mother, my aunt, Amalia, a life-long smoker and drinker, finally succumbed to liver cirrhosis and lung cancer. And I cried when I saw nobody attendel. The pallbearers were funeral home employees. Afterwards, I met with the funeral director, went to the local branch of my bank, cashed in a guaranteed investment certificate, and paid for her funeral. Then I spent seven days in the library, going through back issues of community newspapers and local and regional government documents, searching for more evidence of my family in Sioux Lookoun. I enjoyed my library research. The librarians said nothing when I brought in a takeout coffee from the highway motel or a fine downtown café. I found the article I was searching foy:—a brief story, in an old yellowing clipping, about my brother’s death, I performed an online search of my baby brother’s death and the same article popped up,sas well as a Winnipeg Free press article that provided details about the parking lot, the suffocating, stifling heat, the locked car,eand the unanswered questions. Awestruck, I decided to try to find where he might be buried. That online search proved futile. Then I inquired at the town hall, asking the municipal clerk if there was any way possible to find my brother’s burial site. The municipal cler took time out from her busy day, peering over counters and desktops at irate taxpayers with her stylish half-moon glasses. She drove me in a municipal service vehicle to the northern cemetery, beside the Catholic school, on the side of a gently sloping hill, with tall jack pines and black spruce trees, interspersed with birch and aspen saplings, and scattered tombstones and crosses, at the edge of a rock outcrop and ride. She showed me where she believed my infant brother was buried, alongside several other indigenous children and youth who died around the same time. But there were no grave markers or tombstones. When I made that observation, she apologized. Waving her arms about in resignation, she said this was the best she could do. And what of my biological mother, Beatriz? 24 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
“You’re confusing me,” she joked. But I could not see how this woman could be confused; having been born, raised, and lived her entire life in Sioux Lookout, she seemed to know everyone and everything in the town. Still, she apologized and said my Aunt Beatriz was buried in a grave in the cemetery in the Lac Seul reservation. Then, without prompting, she showed me the gravesite of my grandmother, Maria Jose, whom she remembered in her backyard, gardening. As we talked in the August sun, billowed by the gusting breeze, buffeted by the greenery, the municipal clerk told me the residential school near Sioux Lookout was in desperate need of qualified school teachers. The residential school paid their teachers and teachers’ assistant well. When I said I thought the government and native organizations had gotten rid of residential schools, the town clerk said Pelican Falls school was run and managed by the indigenous organization. I later learned the starting salary was identical to what I earned at the public high school in downtown Toronto, during my last year of teaching before I retired. I was hired without an interview, although I think administration they did their due diligence. In a year the road to the school, bumpy, with a washboard dirt surface, winding through the Canadian Shield, near scenic falls and rapids, ruined my car’s suspension. I sold my house in East Yor, and bought a larger hous, with a yard more than double the sizt. With my teacher’s pension and a second salary, money became the least of worries. I needed to escape the feeling my life was winding down, meaningless. My existence may indeed have become without purpose or consequence, but In moving and learning about my past and starting my life afresh I was old, and I felt old, I thought I finally found happiness in the north.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 25
26 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 27
I have some pretty nice ones KYLEEN MCGRAGH
I collect the feathers of birds I meet so that one day Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll craft my own wings to cut down mountains trembling like dead leaves clutching a thin branch attached to the crooked arm of the space station, spinning. I gather your cents your sense your sens ations for my study - it has a tree where I hang my coat while my boots are usually kept in the river over the levee where the fish carry them like toys, so I always know where they are. Do fish play in your shoes, giving orders and believing they know that suns set and moons rise and trees grow down just as easily as rocks consciously float up, taking their waking slow? I hear my being dance from ear to ear stepping t(w)o stepping with those feathers I collect.
28 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
My Thoughts on Happiness SHANNON L. CHRISTIE
What is Happiness? It’s a biochemical reaction in our bodies. Some people are happy When good things happen For other people. Some people are happy When bad things happen For other people. Some people are happy When good things happen For you. Some people are happy When bad things happen For you. Some people are happy When goods things happen For them. Some people are happy When bad things happen For them. We all know someone who finds enjoyment in the misery of others... Someone who puts down other people to make themselves feel better. Happiness is an external mechanism—propagated by capitalism. Instead of striving for happiness— Let us be content— Contentment is not about feeling Happiness over sadness— It is about experiencing both.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 29
Embrace Grief HASAN ZIA
Dwelt in the ruins of desolate dreamsWilderness devours the spring Where windswept trees stand ravagedIn dissonance, the ravens sing, “Embrace grief! Embrace grief!”
30 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
EDILSON A. FERREIRA It is common our disputes about this and that. Really, almost daily, we are at opposite sides. Friends say we are not well-settled a couple, and so misjudgment, I know, hurt us equally. In the deeps of night, standing awake in bed, I look at you asleep and feel all friendsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; error. Who would bear testimony of us, I ask myself. Walls and roofs surely know our inmost life but they do not speak, are invalid witnesses. I ask them if just to me would they say of us. They say of our confronts, furies, rough words and revilements but also remember our hugs and hot kisses. Also, remember having heard some words like it is cold out, dear, wear your coat or donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t be late, darling, some little things only beloved ones are capable to. They say we are at hard and arduous a battle, on pursuing, although scarce, a bit of true love. They also say to keep the route and fear nothing. Tiles and bricks, indeed, they are, but perceive unlike my best friends, the very plot of the play.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 31
Certain Distance KYLE CLIMANS
anging out with Yukiko never failed to make Vern feel happier. The two of them had been friends since high school, bonding over their shared interest in manga and anime. What she hadn’t known, of course, was that Vern had initially fallen head over heels for her when he’d walked into high school to start Grade 9, only to see this beautiful young woman sit down beside him in his first class of the morning. He’d been too shy to introduce himself to her, but later that day, he had been eating lunch at a table in the corner, reading an issue of Dragonball when she’d approached him. “Hello,” She’d said cheerfully, a bright smile lighting up her face, “Can I sit here? All the other tables are full.” Vern quickly acquiesced, and this had started a camaraderie between them. Yukiko had only been in Canada for a couple of years at that point, and still had a trace of a Japanese accent. As she explained to him, it made her feel self-conscious with most of her classmates. It was typical of the teenage Vern to hide his romantic interests in Yukiko in an effort to prevent things from becoming awkward. Yukiko, sadly, never seemed interested in him as a romantic partner. In fact, she hadn’t dated anyone throughout high school. Vern, meanwhile, tried to date other girls instead. He also tried to forget his feelings for Yukiko, not wanting to let something like that tarnish their friendship. In truth, he wasn’t the best at making friends, and not for lack of trying. Vern tried to be the funny guy in class, willing to make jokes about himself to make others laugh, but for some reason, Yukiko was the only one who really laughed at his antics or his jokes. She was one of the only ones who got his pop culture references, with the others labeling Vern as a bit of a weirdo. The whole thing seemed more tolerable as long as he had a single friend to lean on. Yukiko had also been his rock during high school, especially after fights with the girl he’d dated in Grade 11 and Grade 12. When they’d broken up, Yukiko had treated him to the one sushi restaurant in their small Ontario town (which was also owned by her cousin). After high school, they’d both gone to the same university. They hadn’t planned on it specifically, but the university was in both their top 3 choices. Vern had found himself hoping and hoping that it would work out for them both, as Yukiko felt like the only person that he actually wanted to stay in touch with after high school. One thing they’d discovered during their first and second years of university was their shared interest in marijuana. Neither one of them liked the drinking culture of the university and preferred to sneak joints into each other’s dorm rooms with the window open and some air freshener on hand to hide the smell. It was during one of these evenings, barely two months after yet another one of Vern’s breakups, that he suddenly wondered whether she might be interested in him romantically. As he watched her turn her head to the window and exhale a small cloud into the night, he felt something within him approach a question that he’d long wanted to ask all those years ago in Grade 9. “Hey Yukiko,” he said, trying to keep his voice steady as the drug pulsed through his body, “What would happen if we dated? Ever wonder about that?” If he’d asked her at any other time, he suddenly thought with a pulse of fear, she would have been horrified, or awkward, and then maybe he wouldn’t have ever heard from her again. Instead, Yukiko paused silently, as if the meaning of his words took an extra long time to process in her mind. Then, she blushed and shook her head. 32 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
“I couldn’t do that, Vern,” she said, coughing slightly as smoke left her mouth with every word she uttered. After a moment of clearing her throat, she continued in that same slow voice she had whenever she was truly high, “it wouldn’t work.” Her words, so lightly spoken, still managed to sting Vern. Maybe his disappointment was too obvious, because Yukiko began waving her hands, “Wait, wait, I will explain!” Puzzled, Vern sat and listened to his friend speak, feeling himself coming down from his own high at an alarming rate. “You see, Vern, when I was living in Japan, I went on my first camping trip when I was ten. It was in Hokkaido, and I was a little girl. I loved sitting by the campfire at night, listening to it and feeling it warm me up. My father even let me feed the fire, but he warned me not to feed it too much or it would go out of control.’ “I loved how warm I felt from the fire and once, I sat closer to it to feel warmer. But I got too close, and I burned myself. It hurt a lot, and I was scared. The next evening, I sat far away from the fire, and I was so cold. I was shaking and- and shivering. So, I sat where I started again. I was warm and it felt good.” She paused, as if struggling to stop herself from losing focus due to the marijuana. After that moment passed, she continued: “It’s a simple thing, a little girl learning not to sit too far or too close to fire. But now, I think that fire is humanity!” She really was high, Vern thought, but something stopped him from interrupting as Yukiko pressed on, a dopey smile threatening to break across her face. “The fire can be the people in our lives. We give them attention and we feed them with, well, attention, and then they warm us in return. We don’t want to be alone in the cold, so we go to the fire. But if we get too close, or if we give too much to that fire, it burns us, and we are hurt. I saw it with you every time you tried to date in school.” Vern felt himself shudder. It seemed so clear to him to hear her tell it. He felt himself think back to those arguments with girlfriends, the messy break-ups, the bitter feelings as he watched them move on and leave him in the dust. “Wait…” He said, frowning, “Am I the fire?” Yukiko was too high to notice the offense she might be causing. She nodded eagerly in response to his question. “Yes! You are the fire who I sit next to since high school! You are my friend, and you kept me warm all those years!” The accidental double meaning of her last sentence caused her to collapse into giggles, “You know what I mean, yes?” Vern did know. It made a depressing amount of sense. Or maybe his emotions were just amplified because of the marijuana. He didn’t know, and he didn’t particularly care in that moment. In a single moment of clarity, Yukiko saw his expression for what it was, “Vern? Are you okay?” Vern paused, then with some effort, pushed his ill feelings aside and gave his friend a smile, “Yeah. I’m fine. Want another joint?” As he prepared the new joint, he pretended to listen to her eagerly talk about how she was going to audition for the improv team at their university. He wasn’t quite ready to be that person for her yet. He needed a moment to absorb the truth about her feelings towards him. And yet, was it so bad? Hadn’t all his attempts at finding a romantic partner ended in failure? Why should he bemoan his ill fortune at befriending someone who was able to be honest with him without trying to hurt him? By the time they took turns smoking the new joint, he already felt lighter, even without the drug in his system. Never before then had he truly understood the meaning of the expression “good to know.” Because for once, it did feel good to know where they stood. VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 33
Parents Are Gold FERRIS E. JONES
Lush the memories of nights tucked in With days free and without sin. Candid tears sit as your parents leave With uncertainty you grieve. They always came home with a small kiss And once again, you exist. Remember those tears, the love you hold They will pass, then theyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll be gold.
34 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
A Morning in May ELLEN CHIA
I wake up to a sunless morning. The previous night’s rain Has embellished the Backyard’s verdant green With copious crystal studs And fantails flit Amongst leafy branches, Undoing at once rain’s handiwork Into the cool ambient air. I’m not alone looking out Into the yard. Beneath my window, A dove chick Nestles in the folds of an awning On a lookout for its parent Breakfast delivery’s due. The chick does not have to Wait long before devouring Its first serving And like a sensible child, wobbles Back to its waiting station in Patient anticipation of subsequent feeds. A shuffling noise prompted By my shift in position alerts The chick who then turns an Upward sideways glance at me My chin now perched on the window sill, Mouth agape at the contemplations Swimming in my head. And cocking its head with Tiny liquid eyes blinking, It emanates a quaint Quizzical expression as if querying: Are you like me, waiting to be fed Your fill? To that, I answer: Yes and thank you for feeding me This morning. VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 35
On Being Rendered Speechless HOWIE GOOD
Picking up and dropping off passengers at certain hours on certain days is prohibited by law, even when driving a luxury sedan, and so we might as well stay right where we are, twisted around each other, the bed squeaking unintelligibly under us as we grunt and gasp, just about to let go of our entire combined vocabularies, and all without what guardians of language would consider an appropriate level of remorse.
JOSEPH S. PETE
36 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
JOAN MCNERNEY Your laughter comes in cascades when I toss your curly hair tickling those big ears with long blades of grass. We stop at the lake startling frogs just before they leap away. Listen to squirrels brush over carpets of crunchy leaves. You turn to hold me, hold me hurry it’s late. Pink clouds ribbon heaven and I want your arms around me forever.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 37
In the Stand NICK ROMEO (dedicated to Herbert)
could probably get a good shot of the world’s end from my vantage in this tree, which will likely die one day due to polluted soil, nanotech termites, or someone needing the space this tree takes up for a new drug store. Yes, why have problems when they can be manufactured by a guy named Chip D. Forester? He works tirelessly to ruin our surroundings in favor of abandoned strip malls, broken glass covered concrete, and the most uncreative graffiti. I love these tree dwelling baby robins. I wish I could save them all when they rain down from the expanse above. But no one else seems to care, even the wildlife rescue service. They simply say, “Leave ‘em be. They need to learn to forge.” But I never saw one single avian alchemist, let alone a bird with a sword and shield. What are people talking about when the experts say, “Leave the animals to their own devices?” We were left to our own devices. Now we have white phosphorus cluster bombs, bunker busters, guided missiles, thermobaric and barometric weapons. But all is well, because we finished mapping the genome in 2003, and then social media expanded in 2008 to give colorful personality to those genomes from a DARPA project gone rogue or gone exactly the way in which it was intended; rogue. If only we had our natural conservation reserves to enjoy and appreciate. I happen to enjoy this tree that I have climbed, but I think this world is going to end soon. Now, I hear shouts below me at the base of this tree: “Stop playin’,” and “Come down from there.” I’m not coming down with anything for I feel fine, thank you. I take plenty of Vitamin C and Airborne. I hear the roar of a gas-powered machine, and I feel this tree shaking. Now I wish I had wings strong as, or maybe stronger, than those of the falling robins.
38 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
sense of reprieve TOM PENNACCHINI
yes madness no I cannot hear for all the talk talk ... see for the smile displays a horror the odoriferous stench of the inevitable inimical political scientifical is a rough toughie I refuse the obligation when the taste rankles to a treacle so keep talking while I touch a leaf to feel my life
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 39
The Best Appetizer MICHELE SABAD
An excerpt from the forthcoming “First We Eat: Food, Life, and (More) Stories”
t’s not always the most expensive foods that taste the best. Many memorable meals of my life share not the type of food consumed at all, but the conditions around the consumption. I’m talking about the when and why we eat, not the what. I would wager that the best food in life is that which is earned by fresh air and hard work. Here’s an example. “I’m freezing. I hope the ball doesn’t get hit out here in right field, I doubt I could catch it. I can’t feel my fingers in my glove.” I usually played first base anyway, not the outfield. I could catch okay, but my throwing arm wasn’t very strong. If by some fluke I would have to field the ball, I’d have to toss it over to Randy, the center fielder, and also my co-worker, anyway, to throw into the infield to make the play. Don, being the best player on the team, was ensconced at short stop. Like I say, I usually played first base, and he didn’t hesitate to drill the ball to me, his wife, at first base. But today, we were by some miracle in a final for the championships of our Great-West Life Softball league. Only the ‘D’ mixed division, but hey, a final! So, of course we’d stacked the positions for this final game and put a guy at first base. It was our third game of the day, and it was late September in Winnipeg, and it was not a warm day. Clouds scudded with the wind, the ever-present prairie wind. No rain, just the grey, threatening kind of fall day that did not endear one to this city. Trees swayed past the fence, already bereft of leaves. At least the mosquitos that plagued the summer outfield were gone for the season. My fingers were numb as I hopped around to keep warm. As warm as possible in my green and black ball shirt over my long-sleeved undershirt. Randy smacked me on the back with his glove as he jogged over to position. Ooof! The opposing team’s pitcher tossed the softball to their own batter, and crack! A grounder, but right to Don covering second for the leftie hitter, and an easy throw to first. One out! Play’s to first, everyone! But the next batter grounded past third, safe at first base. Tying run at the plate. Look alive, people! Then it happened, a right-handed hitter, but placing it high and short, to me, at right field! He probably aimed it like that. Oh God, I lost it in the clouds, no, I’ve got it, I’ve got it! Two away. Runner still stuck at first on the fly-out. Somehow, we made another out. And then it was over – we won the ‘D’ Final! I’m frozen, let’s get to the banquet in the community hall right away – our game was the last one to finish, so we’re the last team to show up. The steamy heavenly warmth smells like nirvana inside the hall. We scramble to our team’s reserved table and down the glasses of water set out there. It’s a rush and hustle in the noisy hall, clinks of glasses, laughing and beer bottles everywhere. The lineup to the buffet seems long but moves at a good pace, and there it all is – a homemade Manitoba-Ukranian feast of dishes wafting spicy smells in their crockpots and large oven pans. Perogies drenched in butter and bacon. Sausages all shapes and colours and sizes, buns and salads. Hot potato dishes simmering in pans of peppered cream. I fill my plate and am salivating as I sneak first bites of pickled beets and cheese squares. We eat until interrupted by the announcer at the front of the hall : Attention, time to pass out the awards. And amid jokes and laughter and good friends and food, we accept our ribbons and medal emblazoned, “Great-West Life Softball Champions, ‘D’ Division 1985.” Every time I look at it, I feel the warmth and can taste the paprika in the meatballs. 40 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
This story reminds me that two factors can make a food or meal memorable: a celebration, plus true, hard-earned hunger, especially if earned outside in the fresh open sky. Here’s another sports-inspired eating story. No celebration of a championship, just the celebration of a happy life being lived. “Mmm… potato dust!” It’s a cookie-cutter hot summer day, brilliant blue sky and not a hint of cloud, and Patti and I are young teenagers, tanned and scrawny and sitting in the shade on the grass in front of the Rec Centre on our home radar station, a military outpost set in prairie fields miles outside of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Our long straight hair, Patti’s bleached even blonder from the swimming pool, mine brown, has already dried in tangled strings after an afternoon spent in the outdoor pool at the back of the recreation complex. The towels we sit on are still damp – why bother changing out of our two-piece suits for the walk home when we’ll dry easily in the sun, still high before suppertime. Our after-swim treat? Potato chips of course, and after licking the first few from each of our bags, we’ve crushed the remainder into a pourable powder to drain directly into our mouths. Salt and vinegar, held together by the starchy crunch, mixed with saliva to pasty tasty lumpiness, to be savoured and enjoyed slowly. Or barbeque, that leave our licked fingers bright red with food dye. Like me, Patti can delay gratification. It becomes a reverse race to see who’s chips can last the longest. A ten-cent bag can’t last forever, however. Sighing with regret at their completion, we stand up and walk inside the building to toss the folded empty plastic Old Dutch packages in the garbage can and to drink water from the fountain in the hallway outside the gymnasium. Time to go home for supper. We’ll be back tomorrow. Nothing like splashing for hours, swimming, playing, fighting, flirting, working up an appetite to fuel a hunger so pure and real that salt and vinegar chips are the most delicious food on earth. Summers when you’re thirteen are endless, and not in a bad way. Nowadays, five decades away from the joy of those dreamy afternoons, my husband and I will go swimming once or twice a week. We’ll drive. Horseplay and bobbing aren’t appropriate at seniors lane swim times – we’ll do our half hour of laps in an orderly direction. We’ll shower and change into dry clothes, then drive to a Vietnamese restaurant for a healthy lunch of Pho soup, or a noodle dish for me. But if I close my eyes and inhale the fish sauce, the vinegar transports me back; I’m thirteen again, enjoying those satisfying potato chips on a hot summer day with Patti.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 41
ERIN BOYCE Your car was fast and that’s how you drove. I sat in the passenger seat while you sang unfamiliar love songs and took corners and hills at speed. My eyes and fists clenched tight, words and breath caught in my throat. It was terrifying for an headstrong girl who never rides in the passenger seat, let alone in fast cars. And the further we drove, the further I sank into your leather seats. More comfortable being less predictable. The radio louder, your love songs soothing, the speed electrifying. My eyes open, my arms wide, words breathless but freely whispered in your ear. I believed I was flying. It was confusing for a restless girl who had never learned to trust, let alone surrender. Now our destination — dreamed, shared, and sung aloud — comes into clear view. Though our route is clear, I’m prepared for sudden detours and unexpected bumps, even at reckless speed. Each sharp turn presses me deeper into your seat, now warm and softened to the perfect shape of me. Holding on tightly, tenderly, I won’t ever let go, no matter which direction the whim of an adventurous heart and lead foot will take us. It’s thrilling — and all so very surprising — for an ordinary girl who never expected a flutter, let alone to learn how to fly. 42 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
JOHN GREY I look for backdated signs for, at the time, wasn’t he just a pudgy kid with a funny high voice. But now I remember it, his handwriting was as neat as a girl’s. He sang in the church choir. He hated sports. And he never played rough-house, never got his clothes dirty. I do this because a wedding invitation drops into my mail-box. The bride’s name is Kim. It’s a new decade. I assume Kim is a boy. But no, she’s a woman, plump like him. He stands at the altar. From the back of the church, I can see drops of sweat breaking out of his neck. Kim hurries down the aisle like someone late for a train. His “I do” is more soprano than hers. I watch them at the reception. They seem to enjoy each other’s company but I worry for the future of passion. They’re in their forties. It’s the first time for both of them. They were just two lonely people, he confides in me. Happiness had nowhere else to turn.
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 43
OUR CONTRIBUTORS... Without the submissions from writers, artists, and photographers, Free Lit Magazine would not be possible! Please take the time to visit other websites linked to projects our contributors have been involved in, as well as the websites/social media platforms run by some of this issueâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s contributors: KYLE CLIMANS - Twitter SHANNON L. CHRISTIE - Instagram, Twitter ALYSSA COOPER - Website, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook EDILSON A. FERREIRA - Website ALEXIS HENLEY - Instagram, Twitter BRUCE KAUFFMAN - Finding a Voice on 101.9FM CFRC ASHLEY KING - Instagram CHIARA LEONI - Instagram BOB MACKENZIE - Facebook, Amazon Author Page, Reverbnation NICK ROMEO - Instagram AM ROSELLI - Website MICHELE SABAD - Website, Facebook, Twitter KRISTINA STAGG - Twitter LYNN WHITE - Website, Facebook ALLY ZLATAR - Website, Facebook
Wa n t t o b e c o m e a c o n t r i b u t o r ? Email email@example.com to get involved!
44 FREE LIT MAGAZINE
VOLUME 5, ISSUE 5 - THE HAPPINESS ISSUE 45