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WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it?

Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it?

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Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? Publisher/Managing Editor Nadia Giordana—Cloud 9 Publishing iinadia@msn.com In her other life, Nadia is a community TV producer and host/co-host on several shows. Among them: Generations, It’s a Woman’s World, Women of the World, QC Cooks, and That’s Odd at fb.me/thatsoddtv. Her primary website is WhereWomenTalk.com.

Sponsorships and Advertising Chuck Kasun—cekasun@gmail.com Chuck’s past lives include: investment banker, stockbroker, VP marketing, money manager, options trader, and sales manager. He also enjoys lunar photography, road trips and bicycle riding.

Short Story Editor Lynn Garthwaite—Blue Spectrum Books Lynn has another life too. She is the owner of Blue Spectrum Books at BlueSpectrumBooks.com, and the founder of the non-profit Books on Wings. She authored the Dirkle Smat children’s book series and also Our States Have Crazy Shapes. When she’s not busy with these things, she co-hosts with Nadia on That’s Odd TV show.

Copy Editor/Proofreader William (Kerry) Parsons Kerry is the latest addition to our staff and we are lucky to have him. He and his red pencil will make sure we have all our i’s dotted and our t’s crossed. Kerry was a regular contributor to our previous magazines, Poetry in Motion and Mississippi Crow.

Cover image courtesy of Michael Rossberg, TV producer, photographer, artist, and poet.

Contributing Writers and Artists Alphabetical by first name: Alex Nodopaka—Lake Forest, California Aubrey Buck—Williamsburg, Virginia Barbara La Valleur—Edina, Minnesota Bobbi Sinha-Morey—Brookings, Oregon Connie Anderson—Edina, Minnesota Denny Marshall—Lincoln, Nebraska Gary Beck—New York, New York Holly Jorgensen—Lakeville, Minnesota Jack Granath—Shawnee, Kansas James Keane—Pompton Lakes, New Jersey Jennifer Copley—Barrows-in-Furness, England Jim Zola—Greensboro, North Carolina John Grey—Johnston, Rhode Island John Wellers—Clinton, New York Justin Hyde—Des Moines, Iowa Katarina Boudreaux—New Orleans, Louisiana Linda M. Crate—Meadville, Pennsylvania Mary Clare Lockman—Roseville, Minnesota Mary Deal—Scottsdale, Arizona Michael Felix—Prior Lake, Minnesota Michael Rossberg—South St. Paul, Minnesota Nadia Giordana—Dayton, Minnesota Nancy Botta—Berwyn, Illinois Patrick O’Regan—Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota Paul Beckman—Madison, Connecticut Phyllis Moore—Minneapolis, Minnesota Richard King Perkins II—Crystal Lake, Illinois Rick Blum—Massachusetts Sandy Coomer—Brentwood, Tennessee Shawn Nacona Stroud—Springfield, Ohio Sue Midlock—Joliet, Illinois Teresa M. Riggs Foushee—Plymouth, Minnesota Thomas M. McDade—Fredericksburg, Virginia William (Kerry) Parsons—Fort Worth, Texas TO BUY PRINT COPIES OF WINK: go to WinkWriters.com. Special thanks to Connie Anderson/wordsanddeedsinc.com whose “two cents worth” on formatting and polishing is worth a fortune to this editor. Copyright @ 2017 Cloud 9 Publishing, ISSN 2573-7996. No portion of this magazine may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form—electronic, mechanical or other means without prior consent of the publisher and/or of the authors of the individual works. All rights revert to authors when issue is published.

“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.” —Ernest Hemingway 1 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it?

UNTOUCHABLE Your carcass breathes to the highest heaven, stretching retching a lifetime all the way back down to one ragged elbow, blinded to the terminal, the surrounding floor, and everyone whishing past in thundering silence to every open door, abandoning two stunned New York’s Finest to stand, to stare to wish to the God who made them and you they were never there, praying it’s really only pale or at worst just stale pudding caking trickling glistening down your cocked welcoming chin from a mouth stuffed and gagged against all stares with no good answers to anyone’s prayers and a stinking grin. —James Keane Originally published in Open Wide.

New Release: RECLAIMING LIVES by Joan Treppa This book is the result of my participation in a recent movement to correct a tragic decadesold criminal court case from 1995 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Told from my non-legal perspective, it addresses true events and real people whose lives were thrown into chaos when, in October of 1995, six murder convictions befell six innocent men. The path of devastation that ensued has continued to plague these men, their families, and the surrounding community–all of whom have never fully recovered from the fallout. Joan Treppa, JoanTreppa.com

The Morning of My Death For it most certainly will be morning, someone forgets to shut the front door. The dog wanders out and away and is forgotten, adopted by a family with eight children– one more mouth doesn’t matter. The door comes unhinged. How many times did I take a hammer and whack the damn thing back into place? The house too is falling apart. Somewhere in the confusion is a list of things that need doing. I told you I was going out to get the paper. I forgot to shut the door. —Jim Zola

2 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it?

She Should Have Believed in Me When someone upsets me, I tend to react. Sometimes I write a letter to the editor, or maybe I never return to a certain inconsiderate store. I’ve also been known to drop men, including husbands, for various unnamed offenses. It’s not like I’m unreasonable, but after all, people need to be held accountable. Anyway, my relationship with Ali started out just great. I knew she had a lot of power, but I work with powerful people every day, so I wasn’t concerned. Several writer friends told me she had outstanding credentials, and highly recommended her. A week later Ali and I met over coffee at the quiet shop nearby, and with a grand flourish, I handed her my book, printed out in double-spaced manuscript style. She glanced through it, and then said she’d like to work with me. I almost floated home. After anticipating our first work session for nine, long, self-examining days, she asked to come to my home. How exciting. This talented woman is going to partner with me in my quest to become a best-selling novelist. My bookshelves are full of autographed books by famous writers, who like me, had once written their first book— books that then went off the charts, blowing away Amazon’s sales records. I can see all that glory and success in my future, and I will do anything to make it come true. I knew Ali would like the book as much as my parents did. My husband Howie usually loves everything I do, but he was less complimentary about my book. I wasn’t surprised. I had recently criticized a “guy” poem he wrote, and like an elephant, Howie never forgets. Anticipating her arrival, I made a fresh pot of coffee and carefully arranged cookies on an heirloom plate. All smiles, Ali accepted my gift of coffee and cookies. After a bit of small talk, Ali offered up my neatly stacked 400page, 140,000-word manuscript with her two hands outstretched, like Asian people do when presenting a gift—or, as I learned later, showing they held no weapon. I was psyched. This was the moment I’d waited for. My heart thumped excitedly, my face frozen in an anticipatory smile I had practiced for months. When Ali opened her mouth, and words like “trite,” “sophomoric” and “flat” spewed out, I was shocked. She added that a tome of such length could sink a battleship, at least metaphorically, and any agent in her right mind

would hit delete without a second thought. What publisher would take a chance on an unknown writer whose characters were common, and worst yet, stereotypical, with a weak storyline that rambled, and went nowhere. And the title, oh my, she threw up her hands, rolling her eyes as if to ask for help from her special god. The only kind word she said so far was how tasty the cookies were. Not one “atta girl,” not one word of support, even if she had to lie, she could have thrown me a crumb. She didn’t have to be that harsh. In that moment, I knew I had a new writing problem: I had picked a moron for my editor. Although I’d been sure this novel was going to make me big bucks, I could now feel my dream slipping away. I thought, “And if she is right, then I am wrong. I’ll make absolutely nothing from this book.” I had imagined the amazing book launch, the multiple appearances on TV and radio, and the successful and well-attended book signings around the country. I had already anticipated the fame, especially right here where I live in total literary anonymity. Now silently, all my dreams were popping like soap bubbles falling onto blades of grass. Right there I decided that, like lawyers and mortgage brokers, this world had one too many editors, at least the cruel and insensitive kind. Perhaps this situation got away from me, but frankly, she asked for it. In a fit of rage, my soft, feminine hands flew to her scrawny neck. As her hurtful words echoed in my mind, I squeezed tighter and tighter. Applying more enraged pressure, I wondered whether any second now, her head might pop off like a cork from some celebratory champagne. When I let go, she dropped to the floor, crumpling at my feet. I was glad to see no blood, because blood makes me squeamish. Towering over her, I can't stop thinking—she deserves it! Really, I didn’t mind killing her. I’m sure if you asked other aspiring writers, they would totally understand why I did it. What bothers me is that one day very soon, I might have to pay for eliminating this blight on good, worthy writers, but at this moment, it seems like a good solution. I’m glad she’s gone. Having removed one big problem from my life, I have another. I have to move her dead weight from my house to some appropriate resting spot. As I am sure she would have noted in her glaring red handwriting, the word spot is kind of abstract, and I should use stronger, more concrete words. Ah, concrete, that makes me think of the nearby lake, a block of that solid cement tied to a long, yellow, ten-foot plastic eight-strand rope around her delicate, yet cinchable, 28-inch waist. How’s that for concrete?

3 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? I digress. Where, oh where, to dump her body? First I called the local landfill but, just my luck, it isn’t open today. Then I thought of a construction dumpster at that new housing development, but I’m afraid if I drove through, I might be jumped by a desperate real estate agent who wanted to offer me the deal of a lifetime. The wooded regional park has lots of secluded hiding places, but I’d have to pay an entrance fee for a quick drivethrough-and-toss, and I really don’t want to spend the money. If I did, I’d have to get cash at an ATM on the way home because I need to pick up a pizza for supper. A good mother, wife, and writer does not always have time to cook a decent meal for her family. Before I could anticipate leaving the privacy of my garage, with the dearly departed sharing space with the spare tire in my trunk, I grabbed a sleeping bag to make proper disposal easier. By chance, I grabbed one of the kids’ bags. No matter how hard I tried, Ali’s long and lanky frame would not curl up enough to fit into my darling Mimi’s princess bag. And her pesky right hand kept sticking out—the one with the calluses from making all her mean and malicious editing remarks in RED. Jostling the bag caused the zipper to break. Good thing I always keep my trusty industrial-strength, goeswith-everything, grey duct tape handy. Not that I’ve done this before, but a gal needs to be prepared. Seeing those pen-hugging digits daintily jutting out of little Mimi’s sleeping bag still makes me furious. I dig deep to the bottom of Ali’s designer canvas bag and find it—the red “Ihate-you” pen. I stick that flaming wand of misery into her pocket. The package is complete, ready for disposal. I am extra sad because red used to be my favorite color, but SHE ruined that. Can you tell—I’m quite irked at her? Dragging the heavy sleeping bag through the kitchen, I glance at the refrigerator. At this moment, anything with words makes me crazy. Tugging on my yellow dishwashing gloves so as not to leave any telltale fingerprints, I grab every magnetic verb, adverb, adjective, noun, and pronoun off the refrigerator door. No more profound literary sentences from me, ever again, no matter how creative I am feeling. I tuck every one of those annoying little words into the sleeping bag. Ali can go to editor heaven, joined by all those beautifully expressive and essential descriptive adjectives she so loved to X out. Before I had lost my mind and strangled the Word Wizard, I had thought about wrapping a string of dangling participles around her neck, topping it off by dropping a bunch of heavyweight, fifty-dollar nouns on her head. Or maybe I could gag her with excessive and sugary cuteness, and whack her a couple times with her 10-pound Chicago

Manual of Style. I told you, I’m really good with words. But it was too late to use any of those ideas, so… Darn, after I’d written those incredible, awardwinning words about the poetically perfect resting place I found, I accidentally hit the DELETE key. And as you well know, saying it perfectly comes only once to a darn good writer like me. Anyway, I suspect Ali would have redlined the explanation as “too unbelievable.” Now I can use all the words I want, how I want— without fear. Next week I’ll share with my writing group about the wonderful feeling of having creative freedom, void of the restraint editors selfishly demand to make themselves look good. Ali was really dumb not to believe in me.

—Connie Anderson WordsAndDeedsInc.com Connie Anderson has been editing both non-fiction and general fiction books for over 25 years. She believes that the right editor can help make your book the best possible. For many years, she wrote a regular column about “life happenings” for her local suburban newspaper. She has written two books In My Next Life I Want to be My Dog and When Polio Came Home: How Ordinary People Overcame Extraordinary Challenges, both available on Amazon.com.

Jim Zola

4 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? Loving a Dying Man

The Ravens Know

You tell me you have come to a point of acceptance, like stacking stones for an altar, and there is nothing to fear.

The ravens know When the year Has turned

I am afraid of hurting you, I confess— your bones are so fragile - and you smile before you silence my fear with your hands.

North winds Come ripping down Flighty birds Of summer Gone

We live inside crystal bodies. You tell me I carry love like I am solid and whole—which is how it should be. You hold love in your fingers and let it filter like sand. You see its infinity and infirmity the base and the spire, the brave crest of it and the secret cave. With your mouth you tell me these things. With your body you tell me you still depend on touch, the rhythm of coursing blood, the scent of sweat. This is what we understand. This touch now.

Eagles hang On that wind High over The lake Fish on their minds Moving is On mine Doesn't matter where Just go The ravens know —Michael Felix

Which is how it should be. Which is the way we will love each other the next time, and the next, and the last. —Sandy Coomer

Skinned Savanna If I were younger, then there would be a younger man coming to find you across the skinned savanna and when he found you he would stake his spear in the ground outside your hut and importune you with great magics and togetherly you would build tiny canopies of imago across plains of dust and straw; if I were only a younger man— but before me now, yellowing, is the fresh core of an apple I don’t remember eating.

Nadia Giordana

—Richard King Perkins II

5 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? Disappearance of the Tiny Dolls Tiny dolls of her childhood propagate within cardboard hiding places like so many purring tribbles keen to reassume their former mantle. Creations of the vacuform age they smile up at us from a disjointed shoebox with eager optimism like the kids we once were or the children we were supposed to have Doll on the Stairs She arrived one night, late. The landing window was open as if she’d blown in with the blossom. She settled herself on the seventh stair. I picked her up but she stiffened the way a baby does. I made to smooth her hair, re-tie her sash but a look stopped me dead. We went to bed leaving her staring into the hall. Next morning the post was frozen to the mat, milk smashed on the step. We crept about our little businesses, her eyes following, sparking like swords. I take advice, am told she’s German— Heubach Koppelsdors—that her head and neck are bisque, her body composition. I advertise but no one wants to buy. Today her right hand is raised like a greeting, her rosebud lips offer a slight smile; sweet enough if you don’t want to know what she’s thinking, what she plans to do with us now she’s here. —Jennifer Copley

or the babies we did have which were accidentally lost and that we somehow managed to forget. —Richard King Perkins II

rid of darkness this is not what i wanted for who would care to die? i did not want to take death's hand, but neither of you asked; took from me without permission robbing me of the person i once knew as i grew where i was planted buried face first beneath the snow— the sun was my hero along with my mother moon who stitched my sobbing frame together without scorn or coldness simply listening to my prayers and my sadness then pulling my corset of life tighter dispelling all the pain until it rushed out of me like flowing water i saw the darkness you gave me leaving and i did not mourn any longer. —linda m. crate

6 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? Cyber Sex Your fingers should stroke my keys once again, tap in conjured adjectives for your lust-bulked thoughts to this or that whomever. You’ve screwed me with each letter pressed. At first I reveled in it. Listen: this is our rhythm, those clicks and clacks, thrusting us toward climax. Your wife’s snores filtering in from your bedroom. I think I must have loved it in the way some women burn to prey on married men. Over time I began to wear on you— you handled me roughly and turned offish simply because I was the only one really there. Finally, you started to neglect me entirely, let dust cloud my vision until I was forced to watch you with her like an aging mistress watches their defeat through slow-forming cataracts. I realize now that it must be her or I. I’ve been stockpiling your messages; ammunition I’ll employ to blitz the bitch with. Soon, I shall unleash war, my bombs, the full shebang—she’ll perish under my afflictions then and you’ll begin to touch me again. —Shawn Nacona Stroud Previously appeared in Issue # 66 of Down Dirty Word

Nadia Giordana Taffy Certain audacity skirts certain sounds, sounds like sanguine, stars and stashes of uncooked ideas. Stretched thin in a taffy repetition; not struck down —John Wellers

oral sex an opportunity for you & your lover to fantasize about the edible paramours floating in all our peripheries —this used to be a fact— too blunt for my sensitive perishable heart but i’ve emerged from the egg down the river a click —fantasy is an exigency— a damn proper flower. —justin hyde

“Every secret of a writer’s soul, every experience of his life, every quality of his mind, is written large in his works.” —Virginia Woolf

7 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? All in a Day

Love Poem (No. 4)

I am Stardust and car rust Earth wind and fire Lion and mouse Hero and foil Cloud and cup of tea Cosmos and crumb Everything and nothing And it’s not even noon

I came to you in my mind Before we joined in our bliss. In my fervid heart, I caught the sweet scent of your skin, The smooth, softness of your flesh, Your smoldering eyes—drawing me in, The intoxicating lushness of your hair, The taste of our kisses, Even the strong caress of your thighs. How we sailed on a passionate sea Of ecstatic delight! With you, as often, taking charge— ‘Lie still’—in the dark of the night. Plunging down, down, down, Into the enchantment of your body. Joined, blasted and swept away with you. O, the wonder, the wonder The wonder of you!

—Teresa M. Riggs Foushee

Again I swim in a body of water or thought I panic Then I remember Float Breathe Calm I find my way back to shore I find you Waiting for me to return

—Patrick O’Regan

—Teresa M. Riggs Foushee

Love Sonnick* No. 9 A Banal Sort of Betrayal The mid-century outdoor sconce I helped your wife install last summer illuminates; your slightly receding hairline, 5-day old stubble, sweat stains on a blouse, the glint of a best friend charm on my wristand your forehead slick with guilt when my arms, encircling your neck, remind you that we never truly cared about all the lines we've crossed. —Nancy Botta

There ne’er hath been a chaste lady so fair As thee, my true love with long, ebon hair; Thy laugh so charming, thy smile disarming And bounteous breasts – heigh-ho, what a pair. Thou smote me post-dusk with lexical feats, Reciting rich odes of Shelley and Keats; Deliciously blithe with shapely limbs lithe Expertly unfurled, forsooth, ‘tween the sheets. Livid eyes like marble from Carrara Shineth as bright as a jeweled tiara; Our passions well deep, I felleth to weep When thou sayeth to me: Sayonara. Despondence my sad companion ‘til when I findeth new flames for Love Sonnick 10. *A sonnet/limerick mash-up —Rick Blum

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WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it?

Jim Zola TIP: Keep your exclamation points under control. You are not allowed more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose period. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.” –Elmore Leonard

9 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it?

Careful What You Ask For Beside myself is a lonely place, somewhere I really want to be. I mean, I’m an astronaut, floating above the crowded Earth, chatting into my radio mic and keeping up the camaraderie and professional banter. Hundreds of people are hearing, watching, and monitoring my every move. Do you blame me for yearning to join my mental doppelgänger who’s got it so easy, free to behold the wonder all around the two of us? Sure, you can’t afford to be a loner in space, where, as the old tagline so enticingly told us, “No one can hear you scream.” You and your fellow “star-sailors” are a team. You count on each other to stay alive for those few, precious days you get to be the luckiest guy or gal there is. I hope you can tell I love my job, because I do. And my crewmates are my brothers and sisters. But sometimes even the closest family members have to get away from each other. Problem for me is, you go to work for NASA, your entire life’s under a constant microscope, no more so than when you’re in orbit. But what’s the point of visiting the edge of infinity if you have to share the experience every second with everyone? The radio crackles—funny, the signal’s been crystal clear so far this entire EVA. I tap the side of the helmet of my MMU. Quinn’s talking to Mission Control: “Houston, this is Atlantis. We’re showing a sudden problem with—.” Silence. Then, my own breathing, like in 2001: A Space Odyssey, my favorite movie. I swallow hard. I look up and wonder if I’m going to see the Star-Child floating there, pondering his new, glittering toy. I go into pure muscle memory, verifying all systems. Everything’s go. Untethered to the orbiter as I am in the MMU, I really am alone now. “Um...guys? Hello?” I clear my throat. “Zinczenko to Atlantis. Comm check. Over.” I’m facing away from the orbiter, and even the ISS is out of sight. Helluva time for this experiment of a solo EVA. “Houston? This is Zinczenko. Do you read me? Over.” That same breathing-punctuated silence. Okay, it’s official: in NASA parlance, something’s hinky. The systems

on the orbiter are completely down. They’re not even relaying my signal to Mission Control. I fire my jets and steer the suit around. Atlantis is dark, all of her windows opaque. Her power’s out, and the backup isn’t kicking in. My mouth’s dry while a bead of sweat tickles my cheek. This ain’t good. My training continues: Stay away from the ship; a sudden power reactivation could dangerously set in motion the cargo bay doors or the Canadarm or a thruster. Stay put, and wait for the all-clear. I grimace—Katie, one of our Mission Specialists, is probably screaming right now about her wheat experiment. I power the MMU down to “Safe” mode. I’ve been out here—I check—forty-seven minutes—the suit can sustain me for a little over another five hours, with half an hour of emergency reserve. After that, well...I really will be alone then, won’t I? That’s a lot of time to think. First about stupid stuff. I need to get that check in the mail. I need to make that phone call. I gotta get some food in the apartment. Then, as the minutes stretch into a couple of hours, thoughts turn in another direction. “Shep, darn it all!” I crashed through the woods after the old Bluetick. The sun was going down, filling the sky with reds and oranges and purples. I couldn’t even hear the coonhound, a gift from Old Man Bradley (Dad had told me to drown the runt). I stopped and strained my ear. I shuddered at the tingle up my spine. I’d been all throughout these woods outside of town my entire life—I’d plum lived in them for thirteen years—but they might as well have been the planet Zog for all I recognized them at that moment. I gulped, my new Adam’s apple still weird feeling. “Shep-p-p!” I called. My voice broke, and I cussed, because I knew my mom wouldn’t like me doing that. She wanted me to stay her baby forever. Around that time, though, my folks’ opinions had stopped mattering so much, and I stopped wanting to be around them. I ran back the way I had come, the way I knew would return me home. Every step of the way I muttered every obscenity I could think of (“wetnose”, “buttsniffer”, “possum-crap-roller-inner”). I reserved my worst (“Heck!”) for when I approached the broken-down trailer and saw that broken-down mutt bounding about the hardscrabble we called a front yard. I rushed up to Shep and dropped to my knees and grabbed him to me, his tail whap-whapping my arms. It was only then I noticed Mom and Dad’s shouting from inside the trailer.

10 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? “How dare you, Fred, tell me I’m the reason he shot new friends in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in himself?!” Mom screamed. Something glass smashed your philosophy, Horatio. As Sol-soaked as that velvet is, against the tin wall. it’s still so pure a black that it hints at perfection. Indeed, “C’mon, Shep! C’mon, boy!” I called, hopping up and the edge of infinity. nearly tripping over my feet that had recently turned into I’m laughing, and tears freely flow down my cheeks, flippers at the ends of my lengthening, sore legs. I raced as my radio comes alive. I wonder in that moment if it down the gravel road running the length of the trailer park, would’ve mattered if it had ever come back on. Shep trotting beside me. I glanced up and saw Brad leaning “Oy, Seth, what you findin’ so funny?” against a gnarled oak, the end of one of those new, “‘Funny’?” Katie demands, aghast. “That guy never strange-smelling cigarettes he and his friends rolled laughs.” themselves glowing in the twilight. There was still enough Quinn continues, “You almost just became light I could see the scowl that had become my brother’s permanent space junk.” permanent expression. I finish my laughter. I clear my throat. “Just “C’mon, Shep. C’mon, boy.” I smiled and laughed something between me and a friend out here.” while a tear fell down my cheek. “Boy-o, how ‘bout you say we get you back inside this All the crap I’ve can? Mission Control’s callin’ us experienced in my life. home.” My eyes are open, I’m staring at the Earth racing Mom and Dad screamed at “My wheat!” Katie wailed in the each other right in front of background. by at 17,240 mph, but I don’t really see it. us the whole time I grew I grin, and feel kinda mean doing up in that white-trash it. “It’ll be good to see you folks dump. The middle son again.” Mikey gave up at fifteen and committed suicide. Brad and I “Old man Atlantis decided to go dead in the water for remained behind, feeling like worthless brothers. Marjorie a while on us, but we coaxed the old bucket back...” left me after six years of turbulent marriage. I see my Quinn’s words drift off in my brain as I fire the MMU’s jets beautiful daughter maybe twice a year, if I’m lucky. And and contemplate returning to my friends. Family. Life now I’m floating stranded 250 miles above the Earth. And down there, life I’m gonna rejoin. My daughter, whom I’m what’s got my brain so much in a twist? Memory of one going to show something she’s never seen from her daddy: random day when I was thirteen when my dumb dog a real, honest smile. played keep-away. I glance at the still-dark orbiter. I drop my cheek against the faceplate. Safe to say, I’m feeling kinda blue. Who am I kidding? I’m feeling friggin’ royally sorry for myself. My eyes are open, I’m staring at the Earth racing by at 17,240 mph, but I don’t really see it. I squint and give a snort. I feel that mental doppelgänger give me a kick in the can. I lift my face and look ahead, really look this time. Funny how something so Rapture beautiful, so much a miracle, can become so routine. is not for everyone. Swirling whites. The sun off a perfect ocean blue. The There has to be twirling greys of the mathematical precision of an Atlantic a susceptible soul, hurricane. As a Ph.D. meteorologist, I can tell you every self, persona, scientific detail of the intense low pressure tropical some aspiring part of learning cyclone below with its eye of God staring back at me as if to accept possession, directly into my aching soul. But right now, that example temporarily, of the most destructive phenomenon on Earth is of delirious excesses just...beautiful. that allows elevation Difficult as it is to peel my eyes away, I glance up. without punishment, Because of the rare circumstance of all the orbiter’s or abrupt return to reality. lights switched off, the velvet of space is studded with more stars, more promises of worlds and adventures and —Gary Beck

-William Parsons

Possessed

11 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


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The Dead Guy and the Angel

The dead guy looked guilty. He was new at this but already sensed he wouldn’t get away with lying to an angel. “You were supposed to.” “I know,” the dead guy admitted. “There was a little sign that said so.” “I know.” The dead guy felt embarrassed. He looked at the When he got there the angel presented him with a cloudy ground. Finally, he broke a silence that was part beautiful book. It was a gilt-edged quarto bound in tooled awkward cocktail-party moment, part the beginning of leather without a title anywhere on it. sleep. “We had it done in your own skin,” the angel winked. “But I’m not a genius. I’m just a guy.” “Thought you might like a memento.” “Past tense, technically.” The dead guy opened the book and began to read. “Okay, I wasn’t a genius.” Here and there a passage struck him as obscurely familiar. “Quite right. So let’s not marvel that you’ve missed A booklover in life, he sat down that first day of his death the point.” and got lost in the intriguing tangle of stories. When he “What’s the point?” finished, the angel was still standing there, an old hand at “We’re going to give you plenty of—eh-heh—time— existing outside of time. yes, let’s just call it time for now—plenty of time to figure “Best stories I’ve ever read,” the dead guy smiled. that out.” “Best stories ever written,” the angel smiled back. The dead guy stared at his dead feet. “Even if they weren’t.” “Don’t take it too “Weren’t what?” hard. There are lots of “Written.” folks here who never The dead guy opened the book and began to read. “I don’t get it.” lived up to their Here and there a passage struck him as obscurely “This is a might-havepotential.” been book. It’s what you “Thanks,” he familiar. A booklover in life, he sat down that first would have written had you muttered back. “That’s day of his death and got lost in the intriguing written anything at all. I soothing.” mean, apart from those The angel smiled tangle of stories. depressing poems about again and assured him your love life.” that sarcasm, which he “Published,” the dead called “a tough little guy added, piqued, “in several academic journals.” vine,” would go eventually, along with his memories and “Yes,” the angel conceded. “Several. We thought his pride. about adding a brief bio to your book (I’ve always loved “So enjoy it while you can,” the angel advised, turning that phrase, ‘brief bio’) but in the end we decided that the to leave. omission improved it.” “Wait, one thing,” the dead guy called. “This is “Okay. Touché.” He looked again at the book in his heaven, right?” hands and softened. “How do you know I would have Vanishing, the angel answered with a laugh, which written these things?” became a kind of permanent music in the place. Maybe it “You jotted down the ideas on little slips of paper and had been there all along. The dead guy poked around and left them in your pockets. We extended. We can do that.” soon found that he was not alone. There were dead guys “I see. . .sort of.” everywhere, wandering the precious-metal streets, “Didn’t you ever wonder when you cleaned the lint lounging on riverbanks, eating perfect peaches. He heard screen at the laundromat?” them first, whistling to the music of that laugh. Otherwise, “No, not really.” the weather being what it was, he might not have noticed “No, you didn’t wonder, or no, you didn’t clean the them at all. lint screen?”

—Jack Granath

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Alex Nodopaka 13 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


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I once overheard a waiter at the Fillet and Claw where I washed dishes say that Lydia was “No box of chocolates.” She wore big grey-rimmed glasses. It was hard to imagine a giggle, laugh or even the slimmest smile skimming her face or grayish blue eyes. Thin-skinned, she often cried after waiting on a gruff customer. Sometimes she’d hum as she walked by me. Always the same tune. Once I asked about it. “’Lush Life’ is a sad, sad song,” was her answer. Lydia did look like she drank too much. Edgy and sickly skinny, she had stringy chestnut hair, bangs too long. Why management didn’t make her shape up. Big Mary said Lydia had a following, a plastic surgeon and a community college English professor among them. Freddie the waiter, observing her bowed legs, often commented how they’d enhance sex. I looked in the mirror enough to know that I was probably less than an M&M Peanut to women. When I was a kid, watching my friend Billy’s father work on a garage door the spring snapped. The jagged, broken end whipped me in the face. Fortunately, it missed my eye but a crimson scar was mine from the right tip of my mouth to my ear lobe. Schoolmates called me “Slice.” In my late teens, I tried to hide the mark with a beard but it was scraggly. I retry from time to time. No help for me, but I figured a smart hairdo and smaller specs would make a new Lydia. Truthfully, I didn’t care, no alterations required. It took about a month until she smiled my scar away by asking if I’d like some jumbo baked stuffed shrimp. I loved them the few times I’d found scraps on plates in a busboy’s bin. I wondered if those diners were revolting against their mothers’ nagging about starving Ethiopian kids. Lydia supplied those delicacies fresh out of the oven as if I were a paying customer. She had a deal with deep fry cook, George, and bartender Dexter who supplied a 7Up bottle full of rum she’d hide in the cellar locker room for George to nip at during breaks. In return, she’d deliver

lobster tails to the barkeep shortly before closing. I don’t know how she explained me. Lydia was a box of Godivas in my mind. No kidding, our first date was a nine o’clock Mass at St. Cloud’s Chapel. I felt at home because I was a big Lives of the Saints fan. St. Cloud was the Patron of Nail Makers. Parishioners smiled and flashed discreet waves as we walked to the front pew. We went at it sexually hot and heavy after that. Freddie the waiter was right about those welcoming legs. I was born on May 22, St. Yvo’s feast day. He made a private vow of perpetual chastity. I never asked how she balanced our sex with her churchgoing. I wondered if she confessed it along with the booze and seafood larceny. St. Macarius, Patron Saint of Candy Makers gave it up, closed his shop for a desert life of prayer and penance. I hoped I’d never lose my sweet tooth.

—Thomas M. McDade

The Sea The sea has no memory, it doesn't see what I've lived: a past with dark images that don't melt away, images that clot and cling to my veins, faces of those I once knew I'll never forget. Heavy nights dreams pierce me to the bone: relatives I've long since abandoned, living with me in my childhood home or in the worn lake house my parents owned. The sea doesn't know the emotional baggage I carry, strapped with crimson lace to my inner self. The deaf, unseeing tide will never wash it away; it doesn't fathom what I must live with every day. It doesn't think, it has no feeling. All it can do is let its creatures live that prey on humanity. Its waves are only reminders that there is no escaping the surge of unwanted memories. —Bobbi Sinha-Morey

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Five O’clock Ralph took his hat off its peg on the wall. In the living room corner, the pendulum of the Grandfather Clock swayed with each second. He glanced at the clock, put on his hat, and opened the front door. As he stepped outside, the television blared behind him. It was ten minutes to five, his favorite time of day. “Hi, Ralph,” the clerk said. She waved her right hand as he strode into the drugstore. “Hello, Shirley,” Ralph said as he tipped his hat. “Nice day, isn’t it?” “Not a cloud in the sky.” “Hi, Ralph,” The other clerk came out from behind the register. “Talking about our beautiful weather again?” “Hello, Marie.” He tipped his hat to her. “Why wouldn’t I talk about it? It’s a perfect day. By the way, how’s your night school going?” “Great. I’m taking two classes this semester.” “Good for you. Did you decide what you want to study yet?” “Probably something in healthcare.” “Stick to it.” Shirley came over with the newspaper. “Here you go.” She handed him the paper. “Keep the change,” Ralph said as he gave her a fivedollar bill. “Buy a treat for that grandson of yours. Any new pictures?” “None that you haven’t seen. I will buy him a treat. Thanks.” “Thank you, girls.” Ralph took the paper and tucked it under his right arm. “See you tomorrow.” He stepped through the open door, turned slightly, and tipped his hat. Shirley and Marie smiled and waved to Ralph. They stood in the doorway for a few seconds, watching him walk away. “How long’s he been coming here, Shirley?” Marie asked.

“I’m not sure. I’ve been working here for ten years and he was coming long before that. We used to say you could set your clock by Ralph. Five o’clock, the door opens and there he is.” “I like him,” Marie said. “The way he tips his hat is sweet.” Ralph started walking the three blocks back to his house. He greeted anyone he saw with a tip of the hat. A couple nodded their heads to him as they hustled to their car. Others bustled along on the sidewalk. He slowed to a stroll. He looked up and down the sidewalk, not wanting to miss any neighbors. The quiet streets reminded him how much the neighborhood had changed in forty-six years. Until the last few years, he had known all the neighbors by name. And he had also known the names of their children. I remember the sidewalks being full of children, he thought. His pace slowed even more. She was in his thoughts now, as she was, always. It had been eight years since he lost his Ingrid. What he had not been prepared for was how thunderous the silence was. She was such a beauty, he thought. The first time I saw her I knew she was for me. He remembered how hard it was convincing her father that his only daughter would be taken care of by Ralph Swenson. He smiled. They had wanted children so badly. The first couple of years Ingrid was disappointed every month. Then, somehow, they just got used to each other. “Time’s a wastin’, Ralph,” Ingrid would say every morning. They had breakfast together as the sun rose. After eating, they both went to their jobs. Ingrid, a librarian, worked in the school library while Ralph used his hands working as a carpenter. In the evening, Ingrid cooked dinner while Ralph walked the three blocks to get the newspaper. “Who’d you see today?” Ingrid would ask. Ralph told her while they ate. They didn’t hurry. They often sat at the table for an hour or more as Ingrid told funny stories about her day. And it was usually Ingrid who moved them from the dining room to the kitchen. “Let’s clean up so we can read the paper,” she would say. He dried the dishes while Ingrid washed and talked and laughed. At times, in the dark warmth of their bed, Ingrid worried about the future. “Who’s going to take care of us when we’re old?” Ingrid would say. She always said this as if it was a statement but he responded as if it was a question. He knew it spoke of her deep fear of being alone.

15 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? “I will always take care of you,” Ralph would say. “I promise.” Ralph was crossing the street when two boys blocked his way. “Hello,” he said as he started to tip his hat. “Move out of our way, old man,” one of the boys sneered. “He said move,” the other boy yelled. “Can’t you hear? MOVE.” Ralph raised his once powerful right hand. The newspaper fell to the street. He bent down to pick it up when one of the boys kicked it out of the way. Ralph stood up and made his right hand into a fist. The two boys laughed. “Ooh, we’re scared,” the first boy mocked. They both raised their right fists and marched towards Ralph. Ralph backed up. He turned his head to the side to see behind him. He turned his head back to the front to watch as the two boys advanced. The curb caught his heel and he lurched forward. The two boys grabbed their stomachs as they guffawed. “Do that again. It was so funny,” the second boy said. Ralph backed up again. His eyes watched over his shoulder. He stepped over the curb heel first. He took slow backward steps away from the boys. “Should we follow him?” the first boy asked. “Nah, we’re already late for the movie. Let’s go.” Ralph had trouble getting the key into the lock. His seventy-seven-year-old body felt like the soft subsoil that keeps on vibrating after the main punch of an earthquake is through. He turned the key and doorknob with his sleeves. His palms were clammy, cold. As he opened the heavy oak door, Ralph let out a long exhalation. He couldn’t hear the television through his breathing. He shivered as if he’d caught a chill. He closed the door behind him, and then leaned against it. Blood coursed throughout his body. His right hand reached upward to touch his face. It felt hot against his cold palm. He stayed against the door until the shaking began to subside. Ralph tried a small number of steps. He took off his hat and put it on its peg. The pendulum swayed. Ralph walked on leaden legs through the dining room and into the kitchen. He opened the waiting can of soup and put it into a pan. He turned on the burner. Two pieces of bread went into the toaster. I was so scared, Ingrid. He pushed down the lever on the side of the toaster. He had a little coffee from morning in the coffeepot. He

turned on the burner to heat it. The bread was now toast. He buttered it. The soup and coffee came to a boil. He turned off the burners. The soup went into a bowl, the coffee into a cup. He put the toast on top of the bowl. With the bowl in one hand and the cup of coffee in the other, he trudged into the dining room. Ralph sat at the place that was set. He placed his bowl and toast on the plate. He stared out the window for a long time, wondering if the boys knew where he lived. You used to tell me I wasn’t afraid of anything. He dipped the spoon in the soup and raised it to his lips. He blew on it, sipped it, and then dipped it again. He picked up yesterday’s newspaper and began to read. The next day Ralph sat on the couch in the living room. Only his eyes moved back and forth. He stared at his hat hanging on its peg. He stared at the Grandfather Clock as it pealed five o’clock. He stared out the window again. “Shirley, look at the time,” Marie said. “It’s 5:30.” “I wonder where Ralph is.” “I hope he’s not sick.” “Or lying somewhere.” “How can we find out?” “Where does he live?” “I don’t know.” “Does he live alone?” “I think so. I think his wife died a while ago. I guess I don’t know.” “Well, I hope he comes tomorrow.” I was so scared, Ingrid. The television blared. The pendulum swayed.

—Mary Clare Lockman

Where the Lilacs Grow The dead speak in riddles From the lip of the grave Of the things they’ve seen Across the river Where the lilacs grow —Michael Felix

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My Haunted Bed & Breakfast Dreary 6 AM. Monday morning. No energy to start the car.

Only eight months? Seemed like 1,000 years since my life stopped. 8 AM. I’d sat motionless for two hours. Cell phone. My boss wondering why I was late. Sent a text: Not coming in. I used to like my job until it became a means to forget. Now I couldn’t go in for one more day. Couldn’t go back into the house. Everything about it reminded me of him. A little blood clot in the brain— aneurysm—and just like that after 10 years I was alone, as if we’d never met and our marriage had never happened. Started the car and drove. Had no idea where I was going. Didn’t care. ••• Some hours later, at a country corner, I found an old oak tree and a stop sign. I turned left. At the dead-end sat a big three-story house with cracked Nadia Giordana yellow paint, shattered windows, and a boarded front door. Something inside of me changed. For some reason I bonded with the house. I couldn’t let it continue its downward spiral. I never did return to the city. I bought the old yellow house with plans to turn it into a bed and breakfast. I even spruced up the corner with the oak tree and stop sign. The contract painter suggested I paint the house a light celadon. “Great,” I said. I didn’t like the pale yellow anyway. The crew scraped, sanded and painted and I bought furniture for the inside.

Several days later I admired all that had been accomplished. The downstairs rooms were furnished, and the exterior was celadon. Beautiful. I went to sleep that night, knowing I had made a good start. ••• Early the next morning, I heard a commotion outside. To my horror, the fresh paint had faded, discolored, and was dappled with the old cracked pale-yellow bleeding through. The foreman didn’t look happy. “I’ll prime it again,” he said and growled something under his breath. “Try a different color and brand,” I said. “Let’s go with periwinkle.” That didn’t ease his mood. The foreman tried coconut, eggshell, sand castle, hazel, and stunningly bright canary yellow. He tried different brands of paint but the old cracked pale-yellow kept bleeding through. “There’s something wrong with this house,” the foreman said. He was on the verge of quitting. The house had become the talk of the town. Gawkers drove by to see it. No other crew within a hundred miles was willing to tackle the job. If this foreman didn’t finish, no one would. “Have you tried everything?” I asked. “Everything,” he snapped. “Your house wants to be pale yellow.” “Fine,” I said in defeat. The house was painted pale yellow with king’s gold for the trim. It worked. ••• Only one couple came to my three-day grand opening weekend. On the last night of their stay, just as I had settled in bed, I heard blood-curdling screams. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my robe, and ran barefoot up the stairs, down the hall, and pushed open their bedroom door. She was standing in the middle of the room heaving. Tears streamed down her face. He was rolling on the bed, also having trouble breathing. “What happened?” I asked. It looked like a domestic fight until I realized they were laughing hysterically.

17 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? “That was incredible,” he exclaimed. “Best special effects. Ever!” I was confused. “What are you talking about?” “We heard scratching at the door and thought it was your dog,” she said. “You’ve been here three days,” I said. “You know I don’t have a dog.” “We thought you kept him in your private quarters, but he’d managed to escape,” she said. “We opened the door to let him in and there he was,” he said. “The dog?” I asked. “No, the skeleton.” “Skeleton?” I asked. “What skeleton?” I looked from one to the other. They were serious. “His head came at us.” She imitated the fictional skull. Her mouth opened and closed much like a fish. She lunged at me. I jumped back. He shivered. “We thought it was going to bite our faces off.” I was stunned. I’d run up the stairs, fearing a murderer was in the house. I was prepared to save my guests from certain death. But what did I find? Druggies. “It was incredible!” they exclaimed. “We’re going to recommend you to all our friends.” So now I was going to be inundated with a bunch of crazies expecting a good scare. And when they didn’t get it, I’d be declared as a fraud. All because of those two junkies. Great. ••• Back in my room, I felt a presence I couldn’t explain. The room swayed, then blurred. Then— Hallucinations, I told myself. I’d inhaled whatever my guests had been smoking. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, hoping to clear my head. I opened my eyes. Hovering before me were three apparitions. “Get out of here,” I ordered. “Actually, you’re the newcomer,” a kindly old woman’s voice said. “But I own the house and you’re not real,” I declared. “Didn’t mean to scar’ ya, ma’am,” a different voice said. “Name’s Alfred. Died near here, I did.” His voice was tinny as if he was far away. Except for his name, I would not have known he was a man. “Don’t mind him, ma’am, but he’s right, we don’t mean to scare ya. My name is Gertrude,” she said, “and this is my husband Horace.” The third apparition bowed. “Ma’am,” he said in a deep voice. I was definitely hallucinating. The apparitions were indistinct and looked like flowing smudges. “You’re not real,” I said, but I was losing my resolve.

“I assure you,” Horace said, “We are very much real indeed.” He seemed to step out of the shadows and became more detailed, though I could see right through him. He was tall, thin and dressed in farmer’s overalls, with a hat to match and a corncob pipe in his hand. “Who are you?” I demanded. “This house is ours,” Horace said. “Not exactly, my dear,” Gertrude said. Her image solidified. She wasn’t as tall as her husband, but was twice as wide and dressed like a farmer’s wife. “We did own the land.” “Moved in after I died,” Alfred said. He was still indistinct. “Didn’t know Alfred ‘til after we moved in,” Horace said. “Now can’t imagine living without him,” Gertrude said lovingly. “He’s like a son.” “You’re the first one the house has let live here,” Horace said. “Perhaps I should move out,” I said, thinking out loud. Alfred solidified so fast he actually popped into view. “Oh, don’t do that.” He was a pudgy little man with brown baggy pants and an oversized gray coat and a wide brimmed, tattered black hat. “Why not?” I asked suspiciously. “Last night was the most fun we’ve had since . . .” Horace stopped as he thought for a moment. “Since we died,” Alfred finished. “You like scaring the daylights out of people?” I asked incredulously. “They seemed to like it,” Gertrude said. Yes they did. “They promised to tell all their friends,” she said. Yes they did. “Would it be so bad if their friends did come?” Horace asked. No it would not. “We promise not to harm no one,” Alfred said. And just like that my vision for the house changed. That night, I stayed up with the apparitions and we made plans. I thought a little scare once in a while would be all right. They thought it would be more fun to terrify my guests. “They’ll love it, you’ll see,” Horace said. I wasn’t so sure. ••• Now when a car rolls up to the corner with the old oak tree and stop sign, a dead man comes from behind the tree. People stop to give him a ride. Or maybe they stop because they heard about him and wanted to see him for themselves. They think it’s funny until he reaches for the car door handle. Alfred’s skin dissolves and he becomes a skeleton. They drive off as if being chased by a fire-breathing dragon. To date, no one has picked him up. Alfred gets a good laugh.

18 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? Now I smile when I hear the screams late at night. No one has ever demanded his or her money back. Morning breakfast conversations are of the scares from the night before. Everyone has a story. “I woke to find a disembodied skeleton hand tiptoeing across my chest.” “When I went to the bathroom, a gruesome corpse came rising out of the commode. Try sitting after that.” Laughter all around the table. “I still haven’t gone.” More laughter. ••• All who visit get a good scare. They say it’s “great entertainment! Flawless! Seems so real!” Guests come from around the world to stay at my haunted bed and breakfast. I’m booked months in advance. Seems people love to have the heebie-jeebies scared out of them. Go figure.

—Phyllis Moore

Wet-Snap His desert-tan beard covers a grin like a khaki tarp sprinkled by sand once buffeted on high winds and low erosive words. Lobster legs, then a buttery slurp, dipped and smacked by the same tongue like light rain on a desert beard “How are you?” precipitates like a dry-heave. You yank the string tied between the corners of your mouth and your shoulders, shrugging Breaking limbs under unrelenting pressure, his gut flaunts like the wiseass, jovial guru that you evaded your whole adult life. “Really, how are you?” he pressures, bones begin to shatter, shelter snaps, scatters, scamps, scaffolding keeps its form but barely holds. You gush, saturated eyes twist your heart’s throat brittle toffee-parts soaked stiff, turgid; please don’t touch —John Wellers

Nadia Giordana – Super Moon Eclipse

TIP: Imagine you are dying. If you had a terminal disease would you finish this book? Why not? The thing that annoys this 10-weeks-to-live self is the thing that is wrong with the book. So change it. Stop arguing with yourself. Change it. See? Easy. And no one had to die. –Anne Enright

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Useless

seeing the lady,

When the fragile painted lady

envy her fancy flight

happens upon a feather

and walk away?

carelessly dropped by a sturdy wild turkey, does she turn up her nose to hide her jealousy? Does the loyal hardworking ant,

Or are these useless emotions peculiar to mankind? —Holly Jorgensen

20 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? Reba, with a satisfied look on her face, told her kids that Ida was the latest in a series from the “homes” that she’d had over as a tryout. After dinner Reba’s two sons went off to a party and her daughter drove Ida home. On the ride Ida said, "You should get your mother a dog—nothing too big, but a nice dog for companionship—maybe a poodle. I used to

REPLACEMENT My Cousin Reba’s mother and dog both died in October of last year. The dog went first (he was seventeen). Her mother, just a few weeks shy of eighty. One death had nothing to do with the other. At the evening Shiva call people sat around talking and eating after saying Kaddish and the conversation got around to whether or not Reba was going to replace her dead dog with a new one. Her three children listened without giving their opinions. Reba surprised everyone by saying that she was more interested in replacing her mother than her dog. “I won’t miss the dog but will miss talking to my mother and I’m planning to go to the Jewish old age homes in the area and interview for a substitute. The major criteria being a woman with no family or with family that never visits or calls. I'd prefer someone who gives advice, comments on my weight and clothes and always says what's on her mind," Reba said. "If she's a complainer that'll be even better," she added. “I want someone as much like Mom as possible.” The assembled thought Reba was kidding and when she left the living room the Rabbi took the opportunity to tell the friends and family that she was in a state of what's called Shiva Shock. "I've seen this before," he said. "Believe me. It's not that uncommon," he said, stroking his beard attempting to appear worldly and wise. He actually looked neither. That made her kids feel better until the following month when they all got together at Reba's house for a Sunday dinner and were introduced to Ida, who was a resident of the New Haven Jewish Home for the Aged. During dinner she complained to Reba that the soup was too salty and the brisket just a little bit tough and asked her to please turn up the heat.

have a poodle so that would be nice and she could bring her when she comes to visit me. And you have a pretty face," she said to Reba's daughter, "But a little lipstick wouldn’t hurt."

—Paul Beckman

In Minnesota, Those inclined to look for signs Will find only these. —Michael Rossberg

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22 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


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The Coven It was late one night in June when Abigail told Morgan and me her secret and made us swear we would never tell it, not to anybody. Not even to our parents. “Especially not your parents,” she commanded, staring straight at us. Her shiny blonde hair glowed in the milky moonlight drifting in through the window. When the light caught her face I could see in precise relief her features, making her face look like a white porcelain doll, perfect and sharp. No thread-like fractures or cracks blemished her skin. Morgan and I glanced sideways at each other. She looked away first, her chocolate brown eyes flickering toward Abby again. We were sitting in a crooked circle in Morgan’s room. The first sleepover of the summer, all three of us together. Earlier a thunderstorm tore its way through the sky, marring the serene evening. We had gotten caught in the rain after dinner, running around catching fireflies with glass Mason jars. I remember the first fat raindrop that plopped on my nose, splashing my eyeglasses. Now that we were inside, I could hear the rhythmic pitter patter of rain, clinking like glass jewels across the windowsill. The wind, once lashing against the panels of the house in gusts, had now relaxed to a soft whisper. Thunder still rumbled occasionally, but that was far off into the distance. The flashes of lightning, however, had fried the electricity in the house. A particularly large spark, its tendrils whipping across the black sky like a venomous spider, had electrocuted the power line for the entire neighborhood. Morgan’s mom gave us several tall white pillar candles to light around the room. They now shimmered and smoldered in the center of our circle, casting long harsh shadows in the dark corners of the room. The wax, white and viscous, had begun to drip on the hardwood floor. I pressed my thumb into a large waxy deposit, leaving behind a pristine fingerprint, the ridges arched and exact. The candle flames tickled the air like forked tongues of snakes, flicking in and out of their molten mouths. I held my breath as I meticulously cleaned the dried wax from underneath my finger nail, letting the fallen shavings float to the ground and settle in the cracks between the wooden floors. Abby was getting impatient; she glared at us, her blue eyes flashing. She expected Morgan and me to instantly agree, to jump over ourselves promising not to tell. Abby turned to us, smiling smugly. “Okay, so I was at home yesterday alone. It was so boring, and no one was

home, I was taking a smoke and I was just playing with the lighter, you know. Making the flame jump higher and higher. Then I tried to flick it on using the power of my mind. I did it. I turned it on with my mind. I didn’t have to do anything except will it to turn on,” she finished, lying back with a smile. “Prove it,” Morgan challenged. “Yeah, let us see it,” I said. Abby scooted closer to the two of us. From her back pocket she took out her lighter, a neon pink Bic. I could feel my throat clenching in anticipation, even if I didn’t fully believe Abby’s story. Abby held the lighter in her hands for a minute, her eyes scrunched tight so that they resembled little crinkly slits. Abruptly, without Abby so much as flicking her thumb, the flame shot up. It blinked there, a tiny triangle of light and heat. Morgan gasped and covered her mouth with her hand. Abby’s eyes flashed opened. “See! I told you I could do it!” she squealed with excitement. But Morgan and I weren’t paying attention to her. We were transfixed by the tiny spark that glowed in Abby’s hands like a lighthouse beacon, beckoning us closer. Then, as suddenly as the flame appeared, it extinguished as if blown out by an errant gust of wind. Abby screwed up her face in confusion. “I didn’t do that,” she said. Morgan grabbed the lighter from Abby’s hands. “I did it! I can do it too!” Morgan exclaimed. Just as before, the flare jumped to life. Morgan and Abby looked at me expectantly. “Come on Cate, you try,” Morgan said as she tossed the lighter into my lap. I picked up the lighter with clumsy fingers. Within seconds, it erupted into a flashing flame. My fingertips grew warm. I felt electrically charged, as if a current of white hot energy was darting through my veins, obliterating my blood vessels and hurtling to my heart. Abby was the most excited about our newfound abilities. We never explicitly said magic; but it was a whispered word among us, always waiting eagerly at our lips. It was then I began to choke on the word wedged permanently in my throat like a thorn, sickled and serrated. At first, all three of us would gather in the woods behind my house and practiced lighting twigs and leaves on fire. Morgan joked we were becoming pyromaniacs. I laughed, but inwardly I cringed. Abby was the one who discovered we could light ordinary objects aflame, not just matches and lighters. The first time I tried it with a small branch, my fingertips were badly singed. The flesh turned raw and red within a few moments. I dropped the branch immediately and clutched my searing hand. Abby laughed,

23 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? a harsh shrill grate in my ears. Morgan bit her lip and turned away from me. “You can’t expect to get it right on the first try. Here, watch me,” Abby instructed. She snatched my branch from the ground and within seconds it was blazing like a torch. She intently watched it burn for a few minutes, then gently blew it out as if it were a single birthday candle. I glowered at her and her perfection. In a swift movement, I broke off another branch from a nearby sapling. Instantaneously, as if it had been impatiently waiting for my touch, it burst into fiery orange flames. Instead of extinguishing it I let the branch scorch until it was burned down to a small charcoal black smudge. The only remnant of the branch was a shadowy streak on my palm, right over the scar Abby had given me. Morgan and Abby stared at me, mouths gaping like trout. “Didn’t that hurt?” Morgan asked, her strong black brows knitting together with concern. “How’d you do that?” Abby asked, a jealous gleam in her hard bright eyes. I stared back at her ice-colored eyes and turned brusquely away, trudging down the dirt path to my front door. When I got to my bedroom I closed the door quietly behind me and fell onto my bed. Now I buried my face into my blankets and sobbed, with great heaving gasps punctured into the air like needles. The next day, I met with Abby and Morgan halfway between my house and Abby’s house. Clouds brewed in the gray sky, threatening and thick with menace. Morgan eyed the malicious sky. “I’m not so sure we should be out in this weather, guys. It looks like it’s going to storm soon,” she said, pulling at the kinks in her hair worriedly. Abby glanced at her with contempt. “Quit worrying so much. It’s not like we’ll melt,” she smirked. Morgan stared down at her feet, but stayed next to Abby. “So why’d you call us over here, Cate?” Abby asked. “Not that I think we’ll turn into puddles, but I really don’t want to get my new shoes wet, so can you make it quick?” Abby crossed her arms and looked at me expectantly. Almost as soon as she finished speaking, the sky erupted into rain. The deluge pursued us until we took refuge under a large oak tree. Still, we were utterly soaked even with the protection of the oak. Wind lashed at our hair, twisting it in all directions. Abby started to shiver; her small body fluttered like a sparrow. “So Cate, are you going to tell us why we’re here or just let us prune in the rain?” she said as she removed her lighter from her pocket. I watched her fingers as they nimbly twirled the lighter around. My words caught tight

in my throat, as the secret I’d been forced to keep for two months dislodged. I spit it at her. “You lied. You can’t really spark fire. It’s all a trick. You tricked us,” I spat out with venom. My hands hurt; I realize I’ve been digging my fingernails into my palms this entire time underneath the tree. I released them and a sharp ache spread through my hands. Abby stared blankly at me, giving away nothing in her gaze. “What are you talking about? You guys sparked the fire too! How could I be faking it?” Abby asked. “I watched you. You tricked us into looking away and then you lit the fires yourself. Don’t think I’ve forgotten your new obsession. Magic. Deception. Sleight-of-hand. Too bad you make such a shit magician, or else I wouldn’t have caught it,” I said. Morgan stared at me, then back to Abby. I turned to Morgan, seeking support. Her eyes flickered downward. “Are you serious? You believe her? How can you believe her over me?” I asked. “We’re not stupid, Cate. We know you’re jealous of us. We’ve been friends longer, then you came. But this is really pathetic. Are you really trying to break the two of us up so you can have Morgan all to yourself? What a sad selfish bitch,” Abby sneered, her cruel eyes hard as diamonds. I staggered back and shook my head vigorously. My stomach churned wildly; my heart felt aggressive, threatening to beat out from my ribcage. Abby and Morgan linked arms and stood underneath the tree. I turned my back to them, rain soaking through my t-shirt and ran, my glasses streaked with water droplets. When I reached my house I slammed the front door closed. I ran to my room and locked the door. There, I collapsed on my bed again. I knew I was right. I had seen Abby light her branch on fire, so stealthy I almost missed it. But the spark I felt was real. Slowly I lifted my head from my pillow and raised my right hand, with its scarred and raw skin. I snapped my fingers and a tiny flicker appeared, sizzling and alive.

—Aubrey Buck

24 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


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On Naming Some believed she was the rind of a watermelon.

Coteau des Prairies March winds flow around grey hills The silence moves from Place to place In an interesting way All of the dead grasses Bend the same way Pointing somewhere

Others that she was the pulp in an overripe orange. Only she knew that she was the beloved seed of a pomegranate, not yet grown.

Clean round lines Clean round hills Flat horizon line I should leave I would leave If only I knew why I came

—Katarina Boudreaux

—Michael Felix

Barbara La Valleur

Barbara La Valleur

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Firebug Finds Love If they made a sulfur-scented aftershave, I’d rock it. But I seldom need to shave. The man next door hides behind a beard. He sneaks outside to smoke cigarettes, an occasional cigar, puffed to the nub and gathered in a plastic solo cup. He sniffs the air as if he might sense me behind the window’s shade. My earliest memory was playing in the fire pit on camping trips; trapping beetles between the red-hot logs until they sizzled, popped. I’ve never had a real girlfriend, but the checkout girl where I get my matches is as beautiful as a butterfly in flames. —Jim Zola

Taking a Moment Out from Perfection to Tell You This Early fall evening, full moon slowly ascending that invisible arc over the lake. I'm sitting on the porch, accompanied by nothing but bodiless sounds and the gentle lapping of water. I'm alone but pleased with a self drawing close to its true nature, a breath for every gust of wind. a heartbeat cased in shadow, thoughts pared down to the good in them. The chirp of crickets provides rhythm to the various lilting solos of mind and imagination. while the moon, that paragon of skies past, present and future, oversees but does not begin to rule. I smile just this good side of smug. I sigh in case that smile needs reassurance. Air clear. Weather calm. A spawning ground of peace— short of a lover, what more is there? —John Grey

--Denny Marshall

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Awaiting Her Arrival At sunset, the window is my homage to how what's out there mirrors what's in here. The cricket’s vibrato and my nervous breath, the red horizon and two glasses of merlot, one in my hand, the other like a flagon of my blood resting on the coffee table. Songbirds concede the stage to occasional silent bats. My predictable day gives way to the prospect of night. Shadows creep in, steal away familiar details. This room is bright enough but, somehow, the light from a bulb can achieve the same trick, depleting the functionality of all that's around me until everything from fireplace to stereo are no more than bit players in how I look, how charming I can possibly be.

Talking River is a biannual literary journal published by the Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho. The magazine is a friendly market for emerging writers of fiction, creative non-fiction, poetry and reviews.

The window reflects half of me, fills the rest with darkness. That's as much as I can expect before she gets here. —John Grey

Denny Marshall

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Hidden Grammar Flaws As a writer, you should strive to be as grammatically correct as possible. After all the editing, writing still comes down to just words. Listen to people, how they speak, their intonation and enunciation, and you will learn how grammar flaws hide in everyday language. Hear the words they use. Over time, as you become more aware of grammar in general, you may feel annoyed at the poor choices of words or descriptions spoken. Then remind yourself that a character in one of your stories could speak that way and it would serve to enhance his or her image or personality. One of the words to make any grammarian flinch is the word at. People ask, “Where are you at?” Where and at actually send the reader’s comprehension to the same location. The two words used this way mean virtually the same thing. Ask yourself these questions: Where at are you? At where are you? The word at is superfluous. Asking, “Where are you?” is correct. You might ask, “At which location are you?” But you wouldn’t ask, “Where’s your location at?” When the word at is used at the end of a sentence, it is just another dangling preposition. At best, it’s poor grammar to write sentences like the mangled samples given. However, you may use sentences such as these in your character’s dialogue. Using the word at to finish a sentence shows a lack of understanding of proper speech. English usage has become very lax and colloquialism has become the norm. While it enhances your character’s personality, when used in the narration of the rest of the story, it shows a lackadaisical attitude of you, the writer. If

used to enhance your character’s mannerisms, make sure his or her dialogue is in sync and fits the character you build. The rule is never ever finish any sentence with a dangling preposition. What I’m saying here is that some language is outdated. However, it may be used to fit the dialogue of the time period of your story. Here are a few more grammar gremlins that could drive an editor to throw a submission into the reject bin, killing any chance a great plot may have: She found out. If not out, try saying She found in. Better to say She learned or She discovered. Too, when word count matters, the latter two examples drop an unnecessary word. A fire breaks out. This phrase stems from the fact a fire needs to be contained, so it can, indeed, break out. Or a burglar can break in. She or he can also break out of jail. Here’s one that makes me laugh: She caught my eye. Did he really throw it? Sometimes you, the writer, must be literal. I noticed her standing there would be a better sentence. Some poor grammar is allowed in writing. But sentences like, She woke up could make an editor cringe. If she woke up, could she wake down? Terms like woke up have their basis in slang and are a turn-off in otherwise good writing. She woke says what you want it to say. Up has nothing to do with waking, unless it implies she climbed out of bed, but in story writing, it would be best to describe how she climbed out of bed, like this: She woke, stretched, and then timidly placed her warm bare feet on the cold hardwood floor. I’ve said this before: The only place you should use slang terminology is in dialogue, where someone actually speaks the line. In that case, the character must be created with a bent for the jargon. Any time you use up, write or say that same sentence using down and you may see that neither fits. Some examples are: She woke up / down Tore the paper up / down Loosen it up / down Build it up / down Build the suspense up / down As you can see from the samples, sometimes the usages are far from correct and that last word needs to be dropped. In dialogue, they may be exactly what you need.

28 Art, Humor, Poetry, and the Pleasures of a Writer’s Life


WINK: Writers in the Know – WinkWriters.com | Are YOU in it? Other incorrect or outdated grammar gremlins and their updated substitutions might be: Ate it up–Ate it Drank it up–Drank it Looked it up–Searched for it Thought it up–Conjured it Covered it up–Covered it For stories or other prose that have been rejected time and time again, go over them with an awareness of grammar flaws in the form of outdated language. Sometimes simple changes get a piece accepted. As an editor, the worst corrections I see that need to be made are grammar problems. Analyze the use of up and down and other opposites in your writing and mercilessly shed those grammar flaws.

—Mary Deal WriteAnyGenre.com

Nadia Giordana

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WINK Issue 2  

Magazine: Art, humor, poetry, and the pleasures of a writer's life.

WINK Issue 2  

Magazine: Art, humor, poetry, and the pleasures of a writer's life.

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