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Go Places issue 1: lost causes NOVEMBER 2011


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lost causes

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©2011 All contributors retain sole copyright to their work.

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Contributors H e a t h e r A d a m s plaidonplaid@yahoo.com H a n n a h R a i n e B r e n n e r - L e o n a r d www.hannahrainebrennerleonard.com J e s s e C a t a l d o www.jessecataldo.com J u l i e L o u s i a H a g e n b u c h 2cupsvegetableoil.com D a n

H a m i l t o n pocketscraps2.blogspot.com

E m i l y

H i g g i n s

G o r d o n H o l d e n www.gordonholden.com A n n e H u i b r e g t s e anne@annescows.com A n d r e w K a z i n e c http://andrewkazinec.diyartportfolios.com/ J a c i K e s s l e r http://jacikessler.com/ S a r a h L i p m a n srlipman@gmail.com K i m

M a c r o n kmacron@gmail.com

N i c o l e R i v i e c c i o nicolerivieccio.carbonmade.com J a m e s W . S c a l e s jwscales@gmail.com P a u l S t e w a r t http://paulsriver.com/ B r i a n E v a n s W h i t e Brianevanswhite@gmail.com

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Dear friends, We are going places. We know lost causes.

Dear contributors, Thank you!

CREATED & CURATED b y H a n n a h

R a i n e

B r e n n e r - L e o n a r d


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St. Rita K i m

M a c r o n

St. Rita was devoted from an early age. Asleep for years Awakened by hands And feet And sword To realize all life is suffering And desire creates suffering. Awakened but tamed by timidity She prayed and loved Devotedly Even if it was one-sided, she stuck with it steadfastly. She learned to put it down, the passion, and live by longing And would not think how silly it would all seemher suffering- when she was gone. Are there really such things as lost causes Or are they cases of giving up?


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G o r d o n

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H o l d e n


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TRASH J e s s e

C a t a l d o

Garbage spilled out of the dumpster. The lid was thrown open, the sides specked with flies, massed piles of tossed clothing, half-eaten pizzas, broken bed frames, swollen plastic bags, all squeezing over the rim, like soap bubbles from an overactive dishwasher. When it overflowed like this, enough that trash came cascading over the edge, they would pick it up and spread it to another dumpster, the less used one three blocks away. If that one was full they burned the remnants, in a lot near the first dumpster where the flames would not be seen. The things in the garbage that were not garbage, the power adaptors and video cassettes and donuts wrapped in clear plastic bags, they kept.

Sweaters wrapped around fast-food containers. Soda cans dripping thin wet bugs. Pieces of fruit that looked almost fine, until examined carefully, apples and pears that snapped neat in half, revealing ingrown kingdoms of mold. They were three guys, not brothers, with the same hair color and the same style of jeans. They did not talk much as they worked, long past the trash jokes and the easy banter, their brows sweaty but their hands too filthy to wipe them. Occasionally one would wrench something from the pile and lift it above his head with a smile. The tall one wore a t-shirt that said HELL ON EARTH, which he had found in the trash. It smelled like mothballs and had dried motor oil on both sleeves, two black bands that had turned into a design.

“I always liked to sort things,” the tall one said, in his video manifesto. “When I was a kid, I would take all my stuff out and just, like, put it in order. I had a system. Toys, books, even school supplies, laid out all over the floor. Then I would stand up on the bed and look down at them. It was great.”

They had each recorded manifestoes, about their motives and purposes, and placed them on their website, in case anyone had questions about what they were doing. But the people who saw them, knee deep in the rocky grime near the river, did not know they had a mission statement or a website and assumed that they were homeless. That or in some kind of cult. The website had 32 hits. Cody’s mother called him and left two voicemails at one in the morning. “Who have you been letting cut your hair?” she asked.


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Each morning they went out with a shopping cart, using sharpened broomsticks to root around. They didn’t use gloves, hating the way they made their hands sweat. By the end of the day the cart would be full of all kinds of strange junk, usable items and food that was still entirely edible. It was not about finding the best garbage, or the best things floating in the garbage. If that was the case they would have spent more time in the Bronx, where surreal treasures often turned up, a whole tuba stuffed with newspaper or a replica hand grenade which they at first believed was real. But there was no need to travel that far. They worked locally, from noon until six, and there was always enough to keep them busy.

They did not have jobs. They had hobbies but not necessarily the same ones, although all three could play bass reasonably well. Edgar’s mother paid the rent, which was not much, believing the story that he was starting his career as an artist.

The trash was classified, by sight, and then sorted. At first there had been a complicated system, with colored bins sitting inside the shopping cart, but this proved far too time-consuming. Now they went with instinct instead, using broader categories for greater efficiency. There was plain trash, which they put back where it came from, dumped evenly into dumpsters and garbage cans along their route, like a shared soda, poured out to even proportions. There was indisposable waste, the chunks of metal and the car batteries, which they stored on the floor of their loft, tripped over, despaired upon, and then threw away, when they could no longer stand to store them. There was food, which they ate, unless it had spoiled.

“People ask me why we do it.” Edgar’s manifesto said, “Because I hate all this fucking shit lying around. Because they don’t ever send the street sweeper out here and if they did what good would it do? People are starving all over and the Dunkin Donuts here throws out three hundred bagels every night. There’s like this fucking waterfall of shit flowing all over the place. Well I have to do something about it. I’m just depressed all the time.”

Edgar was always depressed, but it was better when was sorting the trash, because this felt like something approaching progress. Even if the garbage did come back, returning to the same dumpsters, coagulating in the same alley bottlenecks, he was able to imagine how much worse it could have been. One thing people thought was that they were communists. Or that their mouths were crawling with bacteria. The latter may have been true, although they all brushed more than


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ever, haunted by this possibility, waking up in the middle of the night with dreams of whole insects crawling out of their mouths, things that had been left in the trash and hatched inside of them. But by no means were they communists.

They bought beer, drugs and toilet paper. Edgar stole the magazines he could not help reading. Everything else they scavenged. They let the heat go off in the loft for two whole months in the fall and contemplated dropping the apartment altogether, setting up tents in a friend’s backyard and barbecuing every night. Besides these thoughts, or because of them, they were fairly normal. The tall one’s music collection was the biggest thing they owned. It was all pirated, an encyclopedic index full of things they would never listen to, things they listened to every night, songs that had played at their parents’ weddings and their grandparents funerals. Doo-wop and balalaika and ‘70s Ugandan pop songs, the singers’ voices hopeful but sad, guitars as sweet as turned strawberries.

As for the food, there was too much of it, bags and bags that they hauled in day after day, so that what wasn’t spoiled eventually went bad and was thrown out again. They put on weight. They learned the difference between French Onion and Sour Cream & Onion, although the tall one still refused to eat anything with MSG. They couldn’t possibly eat everything. Some was given to the homeless but even many of them turned up their noise at things fished out of the trash, living off the cups of coffee, bread rolls and little packages of peanuts that they all seemed to be eating. They had no interest in value bags of granola, wheat bread or avocadoes.

These dumpsters and empty lots had transformative properties, taking old cars and robbing them of their parts, rusting their outsides, separating them from the other old cars until there were just stripped heaps of questions. Like whose car was this, once? And how did it get in here, past the fence? Certain objects had been willed by their decay into entirely new states of being. Whole coffee mugs, the entire thing intact, maybe with a hairline fracture running down the side, the coffee still inside, compacted into layers of prehistoric mud. There was a flat plastic container full of baseball cards, where the lid had cracked and let in sludgy runoff from the dumpster, staining the players’ faces black, man after man in indistinguishable uniforms, now tactile, sticky and wet, their faces as dark and ruined as coal miners’.

Each month Edgar’s mother called, around the time the rent was due, to talk about his career. It was always going the same way – slowly - which was understandable for his field. He was not


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entirely lying. He did make art, from the garbage, reconstituting the parts into strange new structures. These were generally poor works, retreads of better pieces that had been made in the ‘80s, when trash was new, when righteous anger was still a creative divining rod and not a pastime for the weirdly disenfranchised. This was how Edgar saw it. Some pieces were more creative. One in particular featured a trail of donuts, leading from a nearby coffee shop to a dumpster and then back, the donuts studded with screws and nails. No one seemed to notice, that this was art, or that it was there, and within hours they began to find dead birds on the street. They cleaned the mess, hastily, pulling the shrapnel from the donuts that remained.

“Yeah I get frustrated sometimes,” Cody said, “it’s overwhelming. You work on this half the day and you go back and everything you’ve done is erased. But that’s why we do it. Maybe that’s the only reason that we do it. There’s something perverse in it maybe, because you can’t win, but what can you win at? Or not. I don’t know.”

There was a construction site, three blocks over, where a project for new condominiums had been started and then abandoned, leaving a thin skeleton that towered incongruously over the neighborhood, like a dog briefly tottering on two legs. Another work crew came, early on a weekday, and demolished it. The site that remained was full of all kinds of mysteries, heavy equipment sitting behind the blinded chain-link fence, a bulldozed mountain of scrap rising drearily above it. Three nights later some kids broke in and trashed everything, kicking the fence down, scattering wood and clods of dry wall all over the street.

They heard this as it happened. In the loft, the lights off, in their sleeping bags with Nat King Cole on the speakers. But I miss you darling most of all, when autumn leaves start to fall... he sang, as the sounds rang out.

They could not wait until the morning to investigate. Hearing the sounds they dressed, in thermals and jackets pitted with holes, and climbed down the fire escape. The kids were gone, but it was clear where they had been. The fence was not toppled all the way but looked like it had seen a storm, with rents at its sides, pulled down in places. Debris had been scattered, but how much it was hard to tell. It was dim, just before the sun rose, and the site was already strewn with garbage.


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A car passed on the street. Its headlights crossed the lot, illuminating the mountain and the rubble that came off it, everything murky and fuzz-edged and black. They waded in, not speaking, their hands feeling for holds in the darkness, until they were waist-deep in scrap, knees brushing against huge unknown things, boulder-sized chunks of concrete, or girders, or abandoned engine blocks, submerged in the wreckage like branches hidden in cloudy water. The smell of steel and cut wood was strong and encouraging. “I found something,” the tall one shouted, heaving it above his head, but the others did not look up, crouching down in the dark, their heads bowed, lost in dreams of things they might find themselves. 


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H o l d e n

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Control Cannot Hold Chaos at Bay P a u l

S t e w a r t

Where were you when god made the stars? I like to come into the beat early and linger in the phrase too long. How did you come here? Drag the curve out for more than seems possible. Why? With the throttle pinned the whole time, but taking it in slow. Were you scared? It's soothing to beat the drum 90 mile an hour and lightly touch the rhythm.


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E m i l y

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H i g g i n s


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E m i l y

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H i g g i n s


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Nevin Smoking N i c o l e

R i v i e c c i o


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Em all yellow N i c o l e

R i v i e c c i o


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Home J a m e s

W .

S c a l e s

I saw the million miles behind me like light from a star who’s been cold for a million years— ashes to ashes and dust to dust. If only a mind, no body to action no urge to face, no body to hide no insistence, then what? What then to leave? Home there is fire and smell of breads paper splays, strings and tiny radios. Outside, to feel detached, to matter if nothing else, to nothing else; and the journey, coming through the cold. This is paradise: eternally returning.

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Afterthought J a m e s

W .

S c a l e s

He knelt to the influence of time like a bell struck and cracked whose tone fades into evening. Life is getting tired, he’d say, a day spent traveling, and coming home and you, waiting at the window. Through the door you say, what have you seen, is there any news? and he replies like leaves quivering before rain: there are rumors of a sale.1

1

“CIX” by David Berman

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Incomplete To-Do Lists K i m

M a c r o n


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Mom Asks A n n e

H u i b r e g t s e


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The Story of My Grandma Dying J u l i e

L o u i s a

H a g e n b u c h

Nothing drags me down like a drive to Grandma’s house: the sightlessness I suffer toward nightfall, a fog that traces pointer fingers across glass, my passenger’s rustling as he fidgets with seat-straps. On a more perfect ride I would reach outside my window. I would adjust the mirrors manually, with both hands, to see that my roadside manners keep, as film on buttermilk, for days. But, lost, I’m following breadcrumbs by light of a cell phone. I won't get pulled over in Pennsylvania. Following my passenger's photographic fantasy, I’m driving toward a belt down south to take photographs of sharecroppers, to take Walker Evans' camera strap, take his hand until I have enough strength to hold open his shutter. Enough disclaimer to develop our relationship. Next to me, he takes a rest from lifting his hand under my skirt, shakes a bag of tobacco leaves in his mouth. Crunch as he chews. A dried pile of increasingly moist filmstrips. Flip scene after scene of bodies on highway’s side, Walker Evans is asleep in the passenger's seat and wants me back to bed in his fold-out bellows.


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He and I don't even walk in the winter, a pattern I've noticed. Nothing to do but drive until it's time for coffee until it's time for supper until his hand is up my skirt and we are pushing our heads against each other. The Day We Got Herpes: a love story Halfway between the backyards where my wrists smell of another farmer’s pesticide is a plate full of midnight snacks we ate last summer: margarine on white bread inspired by The Thirty-Nine Steps, strawberries for shortcake we smashed while penning Thank-You notes to Hitchcock, and stuffed shells I shoveled in my mouth while my passenger, stoned, stared. It’s like I said: white women don’t break out of jail. They don’t catch fireflies with sponges. And transmitting a soundwave from tuning fork to mouth only causes a blistering over. Don't you want to help them? he asks. No, I say. Let them eat Kale: a poem Each summer all I drink is seltzer water with no-calorie syrup. The poison stuff. The rot-your-brain. I detox by vomiting, by milkfat skimming the surface of the toilet. Grandma says,

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Not on Sundays, the children’s room has carpet. I’ll ruin it. The minister might grab my ass. Might text me: Elusive, Obama is the anti-Christ. He stalks in. Let’s go vegan, kids, let’s eat two hotdogs. We’ll drink water from teacups in the fellowship hall. To be young and beautiful, he wears sneakers. Smack and smack. My thighs are rubbing together under my sundress, sweat between them. I think of friction at night in bed. The minister looks Norwegian with red face, blond hair. He is tall. The spirit with him. Some battles seem stupider than others. My vegetarianism. The Out-of-State Primate Act. Seem stupid because infant boys are raped. Because I can't fold up my bed or take photographs at waist-level. And re-writing my Grandma's epileptic fit can be summed up in one picture: strings of drool dropping on her lap. Through childhood, grownups helped us know that we were far more logical than they. What a cruel world to realize not every person sees this on first glance. I'm better! I am the best.

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St. Jude D a n

H a m i l t o n


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A n d r e w

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K a z i n e c


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K a z i n e c


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Go Where You Belong/ This House Is Gone H a n n a h

R a i n e

B r e n n e r - L e o n a r d


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B r i a n

E v a n s

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W h i t e

Cut green grass + we dig a cartoon hole to bury the remains of our counterfeit cartoon bones. + the leg bone’s chalky texture looks and feels like “The Real Deal” = but in the end - they don’t bounce the way bones of the toons’d. From ear to ear - beyond the cut green grass = +we know the toons’d already be gone by the time they died. +for certain these counterfeits could never belong w/ us. + our three favorite haircuts pile high on the heads of the bones = to send them off (w/ the beauty they deserved in life) beyond the velvet rope + across the velvet carpet (which rolls across the floor = an aroused tongue). + never any more - but (ever) “A” perfect cloud. Oh. To be falling down the stairs within… We meet a girl + a sugarcube for her horse = never any more - but (ever) “A” perfect cloud. Oh. To be falling down the stairs within… “Of all the pogo sticks to have rode = I’ve loved only you.” She fiddles w/ the cube. She fiddles with her hair. She thinks about the horse + how it eats its sugarcube. We meet each velvet endlessness knowing calmly that it presents another velvet endlessness to navigate beyond itself. +Oh. If a cartoon velvet cloud “B” (ever) more perfect for my counterfeit bones = I wish it my love to (ever) “A” more perfect cloud.


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J a c i

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K e s s l e r


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J a c i

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K e s s l e r


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The Life and Times of the Man Called Pickle Pete H e a t h e r

A d a m s

We didn’t see it coming. We should have. There was a lot we missed, or overlooked, or just ignored. We are responsible for this. And so we tell his story. It had been a long few years out on the farm for Connie, living with what was left of Pickle Pete. He hadn’t been the same since Vietnam, just not the same. Connie had married him not long after his return, and though she’d had high hopes for him, some men just can’t be changed. You can’t force dreams, deep thoughts or romantic notions on a man with clay feet. After five, six years, Connie figured she wasn’t too old to move on, but she also wasn’t getting any younger. “I hate to do this to you, Petey,” she said, standing in the kitchen in her heels, suitcases piled behind her. She was a tall, blond woman, the first by nature, the other by persistence. She stood a head and a half above old Pete, and his eyes rarely made it to her face. But that was true of most men. Connie wasn’t shy of showing what she had. “Then stay,” he said. A whine crept into Pete’s voice whenever he tried to talk to Connie. He always seemed to be pleading with her. Everyone in Millmont knew he was clueless about Connie. To his mind, doing the farm work, feeding the cows and goats, planting the fields with corn – this was doing his job. As long as everything grew, all should be right with the world. Pete showed his love by keeping his mouth shut. Connie needed just the opposite. That was an ill fit from the start, but nobody said nothing. We liked Pete, felt bad for him after the war. So we thought he deserved the chance at happiness. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t. I love – I do – but God damn it, I’m going crazy out here. Nothing moves except the wind whipping around the house. I got a cold in my bones that just won’t leave.” She put her hands on her hips. “I don’t know what else you want me to say.” Pete shoved his hands into his pockets, to where the material was still chilled from the air outside. Then he pulled them out, fiddled with the brim of his cap and shifted his weight. Connie patted him on the head. She was heard to have said, and more than once, that Pete was “predictable as a stopped clock, but it’s not his fault. His head’s just full of wind and manure.” She leaned down and kissed his cheek. “I am sorry, Petey. But I have to go.” So she picked up her bags and walked out. We’re fairly certain the idea of running after her never occurred to old Pete. He just wasn’t the sort. This was just before Valentine’s Day. *


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On or around St. Patrick’s Day Sam came. No one’s learned his last name yet. Pete’s nephew – his brother’s boy – was the first to call him Uncle Sam, but eventually we all did. It tickled Sam to no end. Uncle Sam was a friend of Pete’s from the Army. He drank his way through the war, as he drank through everything after, from New Year’s to New Year’s. Nobody knows what kind of drink he was, as we never met him completely sober. But he was a decent man, though he had a morbid sense of humor, and there was a blackness around him during the holidays. He flinched at fireworks, and was known to have tackled Christmas lawn decorations head on. Liz Roup’s Santa and reindeer have never been the same. He was a large man, with an impressive beard he let grow out. He wore his Army boots winter and summer. At first they were spray painted red, but as time went on they faded to a soft pink. They were already starting to fade the day he came to Millmont, plowing his Jeep into the ditch acrossed from Pickle Pete’s house, taking out the mailbox. And there he stayed, till they were both dead, cold and in the ground. * Ten years later, Pickle Pete was nearing forty, staring down the barrel of middle age. He’d come untethered with Connie’s leaving, although he really hadn’t had that far to go. Pete had been in a Vietnam for weeks before being sent off into the jungle. Weeks and weeks of wallowing in the heat. Sam had been with him then, and when they were finally given orders to push and crawl into the mess of sweaty trees and vines. The feel of that humidity stuck with P.P. the rest of his life. He always said – and this was less and les as time went on; we were all quick to try to forget – he said that the humidity made everything wet all the time. Even the dirt had a rot and a stink to it, Sam would add. One evening, near the holidays, after a particularly puzzling fit of P.P.’s, Sam tried to explain to what was left of Pete’s family. There had been a sniper up in a tree that had reeked of decay, he said. Somebody got him down on a lucky shot, a lanky Californian called Jack. Jack made the shot, and so crouched down in front of the fallen sniper to claim his prize. Pete didn’t know what this meant. Sam already did, which, he explained, was why he had tried to be drunk as often as possible. The sniper was alive but lung-shot, foaming up pink at the mouth. Jack set aside his gun and held the man’s face in his hands, turning it this way and that. Looking him over. For a moment, as Jack leaned in, Sam thought he was going to plant one on the sniper, like a Kiss of Death or something. Just that. He’d got a hold of a big bowl of local rice wine before they went out, he said, and he started to giggle as Jack leaned in. Had a hard time stopping. Pete, he said, had only stared. Jack settled his entire mouth around the sniper’s ear, bit down and pulled. The sniper screamed like a tiger in heat, so if there was a sound when the ear ripped away, Sam said he couldn’t tell. When the ear was off Jack chewed it a while, working it back and forth in his mouth. Then he spit it out and wiped it on his shirt. The rest of the group looked away, watching for movement, other snipers. But Pete watched. Jack put the ear in his shirt pocket, stood up and they went on. That was it. They just went on.


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And that was only Pete’s first time out. He lived like that – if you can call it living – for two years. We didn’t need Sam to tell us he wasn’t quite right after the war, but the details sure got around fast. We never looked at Pete the same, after that. When we looked at him at all. * The very end of Pickle Pete came in 1986, at that point of winter when the wind goes sharp, blowing deep into the body. It raced acrossed the open country between the mountains, up and down the wide and sloping hills of Millmont. It flew through the empty trees, snapping like a whip, slicing snowflakes in two. Twigs still on their branches clattered together like stones rolling down hill. The breaking cold cut old Pete to the bone; he complained about it often. As usual, though, Uncle Sam was out on the front porch when Pete’s sister-in-law and nephew came to the farm. He was in his shirt sleeves and overalls despite the frigid air. He had a longneck in one hand and a bottle of hot sauce in the second. He spent most mornings that way, watching the birds or the clouds, alternating a slug of one bottle of sauce and then the other. “Howdy-do, Mrs.,” he said. If he’d had a hat on he would have tipped it. He was old-fashioned in some ways. Gladys said hello back to him, a large basket slung over her arm. She was a slight woman, maybe a hundred pounds soaking-wringing wet. Young Beav next to her wasn’t much bigger yet, and buddle up to the chin. Sam held up the hand with the hot sauce and waggled his fingers at him. “Is Pete inside?” Gladys asked. It was a delicate sort of question, asking two things at once. Pete had his moments, times when he was almost normal. But more and more he was becoming distant, disconnected. He seemed to be a world away from everyone else. No one knows what went on in his mind, and he couldn’t seem to explain it. Some parts of a man can never be known, it seems, maybe not even to himself. This is probably especially true of Pickle Pete. “He’s in,” Sam said. “So to speak. I think he’s still in bed.” Gladys set her basket down in the kitchen and sent Beav up for his uncle. Beav was eight, small, and took his time going up the stairs. Pete was sitting up in bed, still in his shorts and undershirt. The blinds were up and the light coming in through the unwashed windows was colorless and sharp, reflecting off the frozen-over snow on the ground outside. Pete had become thin around his edges – little hair, skinny limbs. The only real weight on him centered around a solid beer gut, thanks to the liquid dinners Uncle Sam usually made them. Gladys’ Saturday delivery of leftovers was usually the only food they had all week. Beav stood in front of his uncle and waved a hand, then waited to see if Pete’s mind would catch up with his eyes. “I hate the smell of this rot,” Pete said. Beav, used to his uncle’s moods and strange half conversations, let it pass. “Come on, Uncle Pete,” he said, loud and slow. “Mom’s brought supper.” Pete shook his head, hands limp in his lap. “I keep telling you, Sam. This country is falling apart under our feet. Even our clothes. We’re just going to fall apart.”


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This was a long speech for Pete, and Beav tried to think of what to say, to get him to keep going. Since his father’s death Beav had become especially fascinated with his uncle. Maybe he was just trying to figure Pete out, maybe he was trying to fix him. We’ve all wondered about the Beav since then, to tell the truth about it. When Pete remained silent Beav took ahold of his arm and tugged him to his feet. “Fucking bastards,” Pete said, once he was up. There was enough heat to the statement that Beav took a step back. Pete occasionally had an outburst. Some were only embarrassing, like the sobbing fit at Gladys’ Fourth of July picnic. Others were violent. He’d beat the hell out of Michael Boop one Friday night at the bar. Uncle Sam himself took an elbow to the nose when he jumped in to pull Pete out, and he was Pete’s best friend in the world. Beav was right to take a step back. “They’re worms in those tunnels, those cocksuckers. Wriggling in and out like worms. I hate going in there, I fucking hate it.” Pete’s shoulders slumped, and now he only sounded tired. “Bastards.” Beav took Pete’s arm again. “I know, Uncle Pete. They’re all bastards.” “Fucking bastards,” Pete corrected. “Right,” Beav said. “They’re all fucking bastards, Uncle Pete.” Satisfied, Pete let Beav lead him downstairs. Sam came in off the porch and popped another beer and set it in front of Pete, despite Gladys’ frown, and patted him on the shoulder. That was the last time Pete was even a little right in the head, we think. He never really came back. * Sam did his best. He took care of Pete, after a fashion, although Sam himself was a sad case too. Sometimes, when he’d been into the hard liquor – or, it was rumored, even the paint thinner – he’d swear up and down he’d never even been in the Army. Never mind those blood-red boots, slowly dying to pink. Or the dog tags, or that tattoo. Pete couldn’t get away from the place, it seemed, and old Sam couldn’t accept he’d ever been there. We’re pretty sure Sam had some family somewhere, maybe in the mid-West. There’d been mention of one. At one point there was a rumor he was actually married, kids and all, and that he’d walked away from them. But that’s a little hard to believe. Sam was a staple at parties at the Lodge or the bowling alley, at picnics. Kids were drawn to him and his resemblance to a back-woods Santa Claus. He had a careless merriness, a certain sensitivity, that makes it hard to buy into him being the kind of guy to abandon the wife and kids. Underneath it all, he was just too nice a guy. The grocery store comes to mind, just for an example. Spring of ’86. Pete’s public appearances had become very rare, and he almost never came into town, so his meltdown at Weis’ market became almost famous. Maybe some sound had set him off, or a smell. Smells hit him hard. Whatever it was, next thing we know Pete’s backed up against an end-cap holding a baguette to his chest like a rifle. He crouched down and peered into the aisle. He’d duck his head out, then back, then out again. After a while he pushed off and scuttled over to the next aisle. He made it all the way from the canned vegetables to the dairy section before somebody hollered out to Sam over by the beer cases.


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As it’s told these days, Uncle Sam didn’t even break stride. He stationed himself at the end of the aisle nearest to Pete, holding his own hands up in rifle-carrying position. “Pete!” he shouted. “Down!” Pete dropped to the floor, knees thudding against the linoleum. Same bellycrawled over the tile floor till he was next to P.P. “What’s going on, Pete?” “They’re everywhere,” Pete yelled. In his mind there must have been guns going off, explosions all around them. He flinched, hunching his shoulders sharply, as if away from a close call. “Fuckin’-A! They knew! They knew it’d be hot down here and they shoved us out anyway.” “Sure they did. That’s what they do, right?” Pete hunkered down, sighting down the barrel of his baguette and firing. He even made a gun sound every time he pulled the trigger. “Am I right, Pete? Hey – am I right? Pete?” Sam’s voice, growing softer and slower, eventually cut through whatever tape was rolling in Pete’s head. He blinked, and you could see him come back into himself, realizing where he was and what he was doing. We saw it, then, everything we’d been ignoring. The deep shame and embarrassment, the fear and confusion poor old Pete lived with. It was all there in the fat hot tears that began to pool on the cold floor as he looked around at us. “Oh. I’m sorry, everybody,” he said, kept saying as he cried. We shifted, not knowing what to do, or say. He thought we were mad at him. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t mean to. I’m sorry, everybody.” Sam pulled them both to their knees and held him, putting his back to us as if he could shield Pete from us. For a long time there was no sound but Pete as he cried and apologized, no movement but Sam rocking him back and forth. Eventually Same got him up and through the store, a long stare in place. He didn’t come back in to try to explain, or apologize, or even to pay for the baguette. He just made sure Pete got home safe. So Sam was a good guy, a good friend. Not the kind to leave a family. He stayed with Pete, didn’t he? And so, we thought, Pete would be okay. Because he had Sam. * When the police got to the site of Sam’s wreck later that year, deep in the heat of summer, the Jeep was all in pieces. Even the engine was cracked in half, and imbedded in the base of the tree. Sam liked to drive fast, almost like he couldn’t help it. There were dark parts of Uncle Sam we didn’t look too deep into. We only realized later that we ignored him as much as we did Pete. Nobody knows why he was out that night. Maybe he had his fits as well. We only know what was found, and how far around it was scattered. There are still bits of the Jeep, and Sam, that are unaccounted for. * A few weeks later – somehow August manages to be even hotter than July, baking through the skin and into the bones; more than one mind’s gone crazy in heat like that – Liz Roup phoned Gladys in the early evening. She reported that she could see Pete from the window over her kitchen sink.


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He was out in one of his back fields, she said, on that faded pink tractor. Said it was glowing in the blue dusk and seemed to be drawing the lightning bugs around it. She didn’t know how long he’d been out there, but he was sort of slumped over the steering wheel, and the thing was going around in circles. Gladys and Beav hurried on over, but Pete wasn’t out in the field anymore when they got there. Beav’s never talked about any of this, but Gladys sure did. For a long time it was nearly all she could talk about, like she was trying to get it out of her head. They checked the house first, then the barn. The air was humid, clogged with the sweet smell of cows, goats and diesel exhaust. The tractor chugged softly in the corner, run up against the wall. All together the smell became sweet, Gladys said, too sweet, like rotted meat. Pete was in the middle of the floor, sprawled out on his back. His blood and brains were already in the dirt, the blood balling up like beads of water. His hands were grimed with dirt and mud. She never failed to mention that. There was blood almost everywhere they looked. He’d shot the goats in their pen, cut off their ears – though those were never found. He done it with his father’s hand gun. There was a small cabinet in the basement, which Gladys had forgot all about. She said that every time too. “I never gave them a second thought,” she’d say. “I just never thought.” As if it was her fault. As if it was only her fault. But it was ours, all of ours. When it came to Pickle Pete, and even Uncle Sam, there was a lot we missed. Because we wanted to. And now, like Gladys, we feel the need to talk about it, to tell each other over and over all the things we missed. We should have done something, we say. We should have seen it coming. 


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Louis are you alive? S a r a h

L i p m a n

Louis are you alive? Either way I remember you fondly, with a slight heart break. I see you still, standing at a podium, an absurd expanse of space btwn us all on the boarder of the room and you. Your eyes only for me. Slightly red. And your navy hoodie. I often hid in the woods, smoking cigarette after each other lining them filter up like strict and loyal white knights. I could hardly separate the feeling of shivering, it being December, from the hunger tremors and the side effects of over medication, prescribed and monitored. I cried and consumed my lip hating that I worried what the hour was—no watch or phone and a horrible sense of time’s travel. We had no way to plan coincidences so I walk with constant hope To just even glimpse To boldly brush against each other God damn it, I hope your alive. I know you told me, but I still can’t picture you mixing crack, with the focused fascination only a nostalgic user has—getting lost and savoring the foreplay, worshiping the sensation to come. Praying it will somehow surpass every other blessing. I know I felt love, desperate, lost, clingy, needing understanding—whatever it was diagnosed as. I felt passion and desire for you—my fragile fingers clawing into myself, making a mess of little crescent moons, hoping somehow I could reach through and somehow grab hold of you.


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That is All the Trees H a n n a h

R a i n e

B r e n n e r - L e o n a r d

That is all the trees and strangely can’t even see that tree from this clearing in between these trees. But the bravest. is the tallest All around it are tiny and branches are like petrified bird’s wings. turkeys would sleep all night with sap on feathers But this, biggest, tallest these smaller, scrubbed branches. will betray by dying. will crush pines with unbearable weight. it will not be pleasant. Pines will and whistle in the wind. wish to pick up and leave or better in the early evening light be grateful for the longer day.


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Cat Copy B r i a n

E v a n s

W h i t e


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Profile for Hannah Raine Brenner-Leonard

go places: lost causes  

for the first issue of go places sixteen artists shared on the idea of lost causes.

go places: lost causes  

for the first issue of go places sixteen artists shared on the idea of lost causes.

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