CCLaP Weekender From the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
May 30, 2014
New fiction by Matt Rowan Photography by Bryan M. Ferguson Chicago literary events calendar May 30, 2014 | 1
THIS WEEKâ€™S CHICAG
For all events, visit [cclapce FRIDAY, MAY 30
6:30pm Diane Raptosh and Roger Bonair-Agard City Lit Books / 2523 N. Kedzie / Free citylitbooks.com The performance poets read from their latest work. 7pm Middle-Grade Mania! The Book Cellar / 4736 N. Lincoln / Free bookcellarinc.com Seven middle-grade authors gather to discuss their craft and industry Featuring Amy Timberlake, Liesl Shurtilff, Emily Fairlie, Michele Weber Hurwitz, Kate Hannigan, Wendy McClure, and Crystal Chen. 7pm CAKE Kickoff with Elisha Lim, MariNaomi, and Mike Dawson Quimby's Bookstore / 1854 W. North / Free quimbys.com The Chicago Alternative Comics Expo kicks off its third year with a special performance by these three artists. 7:30pm Daisy Rockwell Women & Children First / 5233 N. Clark / Free womenandchildrenfirst.com The author reads from her new book.
SATURDAY, MAY 31 11am Chicago Alternative Comics Expo Center on Halsted / 3656 N. Halsted / Free cakechicago.com One of the largest indie comics expos in the nation kicks off its third year. Open Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
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GO LITERARY EVENTS
3pm Iain McCalman Seminary Co-op Bookstore / 5751 S. Woodlawn / Free semcoop.com The travel writer discusses his new book about the Great Barrier Reef.
SUNDAY, JUNE 1 3pm Rick Perlstein with Harvey J. Kaye Seminary Co-op Bookstore / 5751 S. Woodlawn / Free semcoop.com The author discusses his new book about the Mid-Century Modernist concept of the "Four Freedoms," in a conversation with journalist Harvey J. Kaye. 7pm Uptown Poetry Slam The Green Mill / 4802 N. Broadway / $7, 21+ slampapi.com International birthplace of the poetry slam. Hosted by Marc Smith.
MONDAY, JUNE 2 6pm Daniel Drezner International House / 1414 E. 59th / Free ihouse.uchicago.edu The political scientist discusses his new book, The System Worked: How the World Stopped Another Great Depression. 8:30pm Open Mic Kafein Espresso Bar / 1621 Chicago Ave., Evanston kafeincoffee.com Open mic with hosts chris and Kirill.
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TUESDAY, JUNE 3 6pm Amir Sufi Seminary Co-op Bookstore / 5751 S. Woodlawn / Free semcoop.com The nonfiction author discusses his new book, House of Debt. 7:30pm Homolatte Tweet Let's Eat / 5020 N. Sheridan / Free homolatte.com This month's show features . Hosted by Scott Free. Enter through Big Chicks at the same address. 7:30pm Tuesday Funk Hopleaf / 5148 N. Clark / Free tuesdayfunk.org This month's performers include Claire Zulkey, Patricia Skalka, Sara Ross Witt, Theodore Goeglein, and Edward McClelland. 9pm
Two Cookie Minimum: Family Vacation Hungry Brain / 2319 W. Belmont / Free Facebook (search on "Two Cookie Minimum") This month's performers include Mason Johnson, Alex Nall, Christine Petro, Huey Amaru, Allyson Frazier, and special guest John Porcellino (King Cat Comics).
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4 4pm Riccardo Levi-Setti Seminary Co-op Bookstore / 5751 S. Woodlawn / Free semcoop.com The science journalist discusses his new book, The Trilobite Book. 7pm Sina Queyras Poetry Foundation / 61 W. Superior / Free poetryfoundation.org The 24th annual International Virginia Woolf Conference kicks off with a performance by this popular writer.
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7pm Reading Under the Influence Sheffield's / 3258 N. Sheffield / $3, 21+ readingundertheinfluence.com This month's show, "Well Done," features Ashley Bigg, Scott Miles, A.C. Frieden, and Megan Stielstra. Reading starts at 7:30; doors open at 7:00, and those wishing seats are highly encouraged to arrive early. 7:30pm Danny's Reading Series Danny's / 1951 W. Dickens / Free, 21+ readingundertheinfluence.com This month's show features Tyrone Williams, Laura Elrick, and James Shea. 9pm In One Ear Heartland Cafe / 7000 N. Glenwood / $3, 18+ facebook.com/pages/In-One-Ear Chicago's 3rd longest-running open-mic show, hosted by Pete Wolf and Billy Tuggle.
THURSDAY, JUNE 5 7pm Cristina Henraiquez The Book Cellar / 4736 N. Lincoln / Free bookcellarinc.com The author reads from her new novel, The Book of Unknown Americans.
To submit your own literary event, or to correct the information on anything you see here, please drop us a line at email@example.com.
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Photo: “Grand Garden Shopping Mall, Zhang Mu Tou, China,” by Flickr member Chris [flickr.com/dcmaster]. Used under the terms of his Creative Commons license.
BIG VENE 6 | CCLaP Weekender
Big Venerable’s uneven proximal geography was the result, primarily, of a huge, hilly landfill converted to a golf course flanking Big Venerable to its left—which would be your righthand side, were you facing Big Venerable, the building. The landfill golf course was the only thing you could deem “incongruous” about Big Venerable’s surroundings. Everything else about the place looked pretty much the same as it would anywhere, both inside and out. Anywhere in America. Most everything transacted at Big Venerable was transacted by this staple belief: Big Venerable Wholesale Shopping Center takes care of its members daily. Nothing would permit Big Venerable to stray from this staple belief.
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After the beginning, schedules were modified. These modifications had nothing to do with the physical external qualities of Big Venerable, which were inviolable, nor had they anything to do with the organizational procedures inside the warehouse, which were tweaked, if only slightly, each morning before opening to business. Tweaking was a regular part of Big Venerable’s organizational procedure, and had been more or less from the time of its inception. They were tweaked according to complex analyses of member foot traffic vis-a-vis sales of inventory in relation to those products’ locations around the warehouse (rearranging them then to encourage members to search for products that were most frequently purchased, so that while they searched, members might possibly come across other items they might also decide to purchase). One day your assorted fresh seafood display—which included lobster tails, Alaskan king crab, sea scallops and white shrimp—would be between the freezer and the cooler. The next day the same display might be on the opposite side of the warehouse, right across from liquor. They had a wide variety of forklifts at their disposal with which to quickly change the landscape of Big Venerable. Some people found the modifications appropriate and due. Other people disagreed and found them quite the opposite. Some people fell somewhere in the middle on the issue. There were even those people who couldn’t care less about the modifications, one way or the other. Part of the beginning was this: Mrs. Hartigan was a regular shopper, a Supreme Membership holder, as was her husband, Darren. The Hartigans were well off. They knew what it meant to be well off. Being well off meant certain privileges were to be bestowed, and were therefore reasonably expected. After that, who cared what else? Not Mrs. Hartigan on the day she got killed in Big Venerable’s parking lot. And never before the day she was killed, either. But the day she was killed in Big Venerable’s parking lot was a memorable day. She was run over by four rows of carts, Big Venerable’s carts being considerably large and Mrs. Hartigan’s scant personage being untenably frail in opposition to them. Who killed Mrs. Hartigan? Two cart guys, Jim and Tim, did. On the subject of her two assailants, when both were finally apprehended each young man maintained her death was an accident, not an act of terrorism or sedition. Immediately following Mrs. Hartigan’s demise, Tim was taken into custody by Big Venerable L(oss)P(revention), a gangbanger-looking dude who took him out quickly with what appeared to be a breakdance inspired take-down move, deceiving Tim with his casual street clothes and affected sense of being just like anyone in the crowd, or even less worrisome to Tim, someone who was up to no good. “Drat,” Tim probably said. “But I didn’t mean it,” he did, as likely as not, insist. As for Jim, he was a little wilier than Tim, and so in an attempt to disguise himself adopted certain entirely new characteristics. He spoke rather rigidly, 8 | CCLaP Weekender
all of a sudden. He began to unfailingly include “I” in every sentence in which the nominative singular pronoun was necessary for grammatical completion. He made use of the gerund far less often, and when he did make use of it, he pronounced the “g” at its end rather than omitting it lazily. “Running is great,” for example, was something he might have said while on the lam, though as noted, more often at this point his sentences included “I” and thus, “These days I am enjoying running, which is great,” is what he would now say. He was in these ways virtually unrecognizable by his speech. Despite his efforts, he wouldn’t be saying sentences like “These days I’m enjoying running, which is great” for very long, because the authorities picked him up two days after the incident, at a diner roughly thirty miles from Big Venerable. At the time of his arrest he had been attempting to grow a beard. For a kid his age, nineteen, growing a beard is usually fairly difficult, and growing one of significance in two days’ time is near impossible for anyone. His beard was thus a patchwork of hairs about his face—a hilarious, tattered thing. It failed to disguise him very well, so he was captured and so he went to jail, saying, bitterly, “I’m not enjoying this being locked up, which is hardly great.” The End for Jim and Tim both. But Mrs. Hartigan was still dead. Mutilated in the Big Venerable parking lot, by careless Big Venerable employees. This was no small thing. Darren Hartigan, Mr. Hartigan, demanded swift personal responsibility be taken. He said “personal responsibility” with a timbre that suggested the expression was always meant for others other than himself. Hard to be sure, but he did have a way of looking outwardly at problems. Also, he was reeling from the recent death of his wife, whom he loved despite—as he wouldn’t admit—taking her for granted almost every day of their marriage (there was a single instance of him attempting to make her dinner on her thirty-seventh birthday, which ended up being a fairly bland meal and effectively discouraged him from ever attempting to do so again). He was looking for something that might ameliorate the pain of her death, wishing without really thinking about it to take some modicum of control of the chaotic, capricious forces that had caused her death. As a result of Mr. Hartigan’s insistence that the situation be handled thoroughly, the managers required everyone under Big Venerable’s employ to attend an emergency meeting at 7pm one random evening shortly after Mrs. Hartigan’s death, unless they were on the clock during that hour. And so everyone who wasn’t on the clock did attend the meeting, arriving earlier than was required in most cases. Employees clamored amongst themselves. “Have you seen the pictures? There’s no way it was anyone but the cart guys and their carts that run over that poor, dead woman.” “The woman is dead. The boys are in custody. Let us move on.” May 30, 2014 | 9
“They’ll get theirs in hell, or prison, whichever comes first. Prison most likely. That’s the usual order of these things.” “Hell—sooner or later, it comes for us all.” “Maybe soon for you. I live forever in my children and the diamond they press me into after death. It’s been worked out.” “Ah, you ever talk to that woman, the Hartigoon woman? She had it coming is all I say.” “I’ve tried the Big Venerable Brand Vodka. It is as good or better than the big name brands. Try it yourself. You’ll see I’m right.” “Spent the last five years paying off my car. Next month it’ll be all mine, the title in hand.” Then came the general manager, Karen Esposito, a youngish-looking woman of mid-forties age. Buoyant, cunning, a smidgen cruel by the measure of anyone who knew her (more than that by a great many of her employees), and while at work, never terribly sincere though she duly portrayed its artifice. She was in front of her employees in the break room in which they either sat or stood, their eyes open and scanning for free food offerings. “I’m here to calm everyone down. Yes—the revolution seems to be impending. And sure, America probably won’t look the same as it does today in a matter of a few short weeks, after the revolution commences. But that doesn’t mean improvement of Big Venerable’s quality service isn’t attainable and sustainable, the Big A followed by the Big S. We must strengthen our infrastructure independently of America’s. Plans are in place that will make our operational procedures more stringent. This will protect you as well as Big Venerable.” “But how will we strengthen our infrastructure?” the employees generally collectively exclaimed. “You’ll be, for example, required to address our members as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’—whatever the case may be—from now on.” “Hey wait, what if you’re unsure?” said a junior deli manager named Anthony, who had an ashen gray face and smell because of all the cigarettes he smoked. “Do you just say, um, say, ‘thank you, sir-or-madam’? Cover all bases in one fell swoop? I’d prefer to do that, requires less determining what sex a person is.” “If you don’t know for certain, just don’t address them as either. In all other cases, do.” “So that’ll strengthen the infrastructure?” came an incredulous voice in the back, indiscernible who it might have been and probably this was intentional. “Yes,” curtly now, she pronounced, “It will. Just be ready for the revolution and understand in no way is Big Venerable to become a microcosm of said revolution. Our doors will remain open and without insurrection from within. Let rebels and statist forces know this is apolitical ground. That was the decree passed down from corporate.” “What else?” asked the employees in concert. They were well-practiced at asking questions in this manner. 10 | CCLaP Weekender
“Make sure the products on the end-caps are evenly distributed. Our suppliers pay good money for preferential displays and we want them to get their money’s worth. “Now, I’ll turn it over to Assistant GM Patterson to explain new procedural guidelines for safety and whatnot, have your ID badges’ bar-codes ready for scanning upon completion of this training session.” Assistant GM Patterson approached the audience of workers. “Thanks, Karen, my only real safety procedural guidelines to update you on are in regard to the cart guys. Guys, you will no longer be able to walk astride each other, pushing carts in upwards of ten at a time. Leave the remaining carts for pushing behind after you’ve got ten. There’ll always be more carts. And don’t get too dismayed by the fact that you’re operating like little specks of something tiny, performing your Sisyphean chore day in and day out in an absurd world. Big Venerable thanks you for your sacrifice. Also, Big Venerable will not be providing you with sun block for the summer shopping season. You will be required to provide your own, or sign a waiver absolving Big Venerable of any and all responsibility with respect to its non-use.” The beginning continued with Arick Walters, the unappointed leader of the cart guys. He was now of the opinion he’d had more than he could stomach. He wanted justice of some kind, for him and his men. Most of his “men” were between the ages of seventeen and twenty-two. But that meant most of them were eligible to fight in war, which made them men, as Arick saw it. He was a small, trollish person who wore his hair in a butch cut. As unappointed leader (i.e. as someone who liked to project possible scenarios in his mind’s eye), he imagined what it might be like to be at the top, as an appointed leader such as a president or holding some other such prestigious office. He would never let power of said office go to his head or forget where he came from. He couldn’t do that to the people who got him elected, the people he knew and loved. “If I’m ever president, a U.S. president, I’d come back to Big Venerable,” he’d said, “And say we still had cart guys in this future, even if those cart guys were now cart-collecting robots, I’d tell my guards, ‘No, loyal secret service agents who will want to protect me long after I am president, I’ll take care of my own cart, thank you so very much.’ I’d put it away myself. Even if that made the robots malfunction and become evil and they vowed to destroy me.” Description of what he’d do next usually devolved into a windy exploration of his future mastery of jujitsu, which was a large part of what he’d said got him elected to the presidency in the first place, and how those skills would come in handy in an action-packed battle with those malfunctioning robots. The revolution commenced, as Big Venerable’s GM had ascertained it would. A lot of bannered armored trucks and tanks moved down the main road, May 30, 2014 | 11
Stevenson, which intersected with Patriot St., off of which Big Venerable was located. The good news for Big Venerable was that it operated outside the purview of the Federal and state governments. In fact, this was true of most every major seller of what-have-you product in private enterprise America. The bad news for everyone was that the revolution had commenced, which created some strain on Big Venerable vast inventory. But the truth was, Big Venerable had a wide and varied list of suppliers, longer than long. They were brave men and women willing to step up and potentially profit big time by their commercial relationship with Big Venerable. Occasional handouts were necessary, to mollify the largest factions in war with one another, but they were a small price to pay where remaining in operation was concerned. “I don’t like it when I see our members taking advantage of our cart guys,” Arick told a fellow cart guy on a fall afternoon, a busy Saturday at Big Venerable. Referring to the oft requested service of loading purchases into vehicles, Arick then said, “They have us do the heavy lifting and watch like there is no need to even offer helping. Not nice. Not cool. I’m going to say something to GM Karen. We two are going to have words.” The Big Venerable CEO liked to say, “Members who mistreat our employees will be stripped of their membership. That’s not the kind of business we need.” In times of war, who could comment on mistreatment? How could any individual be mistreated while revolution was running rampant, affecting one and all just very nearly the same? Arick sensed a certain form of injustice was being perpetuated around him. He thought long and hard on it, especially those occasional moments when sniper fire would break out—its source a vague human shape or maybe camouflaged to near invisibility—from among the concealing hillocks of the landfill turned golf course turned war zone. The landfill was littered with craters borne from constant artillery fire. Just as when it used to storm and lightening was visible at random points along the horizon, he and the other cart guys on duty were called into the vestibule until fighting conditions surrounding Big Venerable had abated enough for them to safely return to work. It was during these moments that Arick would consider what was at
“And say we still had cart guys in this future, even if those cart guys were now cart-collecting robots, I’d tell my guards, ‘No, loyal secret service agents who will want to protect me long after I am president, I’ll take care of my own cart, thank you so very much.’ I’d put it away myself. Even if that made the robots malfunction and become evil and they vowed to destroy me.”
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bottom of all the unrest, the revolution and warfare as a big idea. He decided folks hadn’t given enough thought to the fact that we’re all the same, different from animals and other creatures almost exclusively because of our heightened awareness. Although he’d known some cats he believed were more aware than people gave them credit, and he liked to imagine their meows turning over a span of seconds into the coughs and then recognizable sounds of a human, suddenly speaking a human language. As if they’d been building to it for quite some time and finally, passing a hurdle, evolution had granted them the power to speak freely, and in ways people could understand. He waited for his cat’s turn to speak. Arick had resolved to do it, certainly with some degree of nervousness: he would finally approach GM Karen in regard to the unfair treatment of the cart guys. They had done nothing wrong. Tim and Jim were not emblematic of a greater affliction of the cart-gathering crew. They were boys who made a horrible mistake. “I’ve made my mistakes plenty of times but that doesn’t mean they ought to keep us on a leash, keep track of our bathroom breaks, give us quotas for when to have every cart corralled by, like its a science, like every day the workload was exactly the same. “The days vary, you know, they aren’t all the same. Days are like people, in that they keep you guessing. That’s one thing I’m going to tell GM Karen. I’ll let her know every other thing you think I should tell her, too.” But before he spoke with GM Karen he clocked out and went to buy a bottle of wine and a couple cartons of raspberries. Normally, Arick’s purchase of Big Venerable products went without issue. It might be important to note that Arick was wearing his gray, red-lettered Big Venerable® Wholesale polo shirt and blue, red-lettered Big Venerable® baseball cap, a fact which tipped most anyone to the fact that he was either an ardent supporter of the company or more likely than that, an ardent employee who enjoyed advertising his employ. No more was needed to tip off his being the latter than the cordial and casual way he interacted with various other staff in the vicinity of the cashier line in which he stood. There was a cart with several products set before him in line, blocking his path to the cashier. He looked around to see if the owner was in sight but finding none he moved up to the register. At the register he went to work handing over his membership card and setting down his wine and raspberries. He engaged in friendly banter with the cashier, whom he’d known for several years. Everything actually might have occurred without incident had a member, a man, a fortyish prematurely silver-haired and wrinkly faced specimen, whose cart had blocked Arick’s path, not returned from wherever he’d hitherto vanished. The man made a great show of his disdain for Arick, who’d “cut him” in line. Arick was flustered and, of course, he might have guessed somebody would return to the cart, which was apparently meant to save this individual’s spot in line, but having worked in the front end of the warehouse for many long years, Arick was also aware that some people at the last minute, and for May 30, 2014 | 13
any number of reasons, would discover they didn’t have the money to pay for their items, leaving them right in the middle of everything. “Sir,” Arick said, attempting to explain himself, “There are a lot of times when people leave their full carts around the store, even in line, and how was I supposed to know you were coming back?” “I don’t like your tone, you cocky sonofabitch,” He turned and pointed hard at the cashier. “I want to speak to a manager, now!” The cashier didn’t want to call a manager over to the dispute, knowing what it would mean for Arick. She didn’t want to, but ultimately, if halfheartedly, she did as she was told. “Sup on eight,” she said, using Big Venerable parlance for a supervisor to come to register eight. Assistant GM Patterson arrived at the scene, smiling professionally at the enraged man. “How can I help you, sir?” “You can help me by dealing with this miscreant.” Assistant GM Patterson looked from the man to Arick, appraising each of them. “I have to tell you, sir, this is a very distressing thing you are telling me. Can you tell me why you’re upset, exactly?” “This man passed me over in line, cut right to the front, as if I weren’t even here. For another thing, why can’t he shop after hours? Is that how Big Venerable operates, letting its employees shop whenever they feel like it? Drop everything and ignore customers as they help themselves?” Assistant GM Patterson was upset by the man’s implication that he did not run a tight ship. “Sir, we are going to do everything in our power to rectify this situation. It’s clear to me a grave injustice has been done and I take it very seriously. As of right now, this employee is on probation. I hope that’s satisfactory. If not, I can direct you to our general manager, Karen Esposito.” “I’d like to be directed, thank you. I won’t allow the insult of being cut in line and essentially mocked for it to go unpunished.” He was led away by Patterson, who soon after, returned to find Arick. Arick sullen and bewildered, immediately began to explain himself but was quickly cut off. “I’m not interested in excuses, Arick. You’re an employee of Big Venerable, and you should know what that entails. Now, I’m willing to go to bat for you, to argue that it was a misunderstanding. But you’re going to be held accountable. There is no way around that. You’ll be put on probation and, hopefully, that’ll be the end of it.” Arick accepted this fate wholeheartedly, and if things had resolved themselves as sensibly as Assistant GM Patterson had preferred, then everything that followed might have been avoided. Unfortunately, GM Karen had requested to speak with Arick personally regarding the member’s grievance, which left his fate to her discretion. Still, Arick was sure that if he presented the facts as they were he might be able to move forward, probationally of course. He worried, likewise, that his being on probation would hurt the cart guys’ situation, would be another blemish. He couldn’t believe he’d be the one to make his men’s professional lives tougher than they already were. If he’d known what irony was, he’d have known this was that. 14 | CCLaP Weekender
Entering GM Karen’s office was a lot like entering the well air-conditioned cave of some mythical being, and Arick felt like he should be outfitted with a special kind of armor, instead of no armor or shield. Wearing nothing but normal clothing made him feel vulnerable and small. Often, when he was at home and had time to himself, he would wear a replica Medieval suit of armor he’d purchased from an internet dealer. He’d parade around in his home enjoying his appearance in the reflection of his household’s many mirrors. “Go ahead and have a seat, Arick.” Karen said, not exactly looking up from her computer. She made a few final inquiries, and turned her complete attention to Arick. She was smiling so brightly that the only answer for it could be paradox: she felt an emotion on the exact opposite side of the emotional scale. This was the one way in which her smile could, at times, betray her true feelings. Arick was in such a state that he picked up on her internal rage. “Now I want you to tell me what happened.” Arick explained his side of the story, recalling events more or less as they occurred, even stifling a desire to include certain one-liners he’d thought of only after the encounter was over. Karen nodded wide-eyed. “I hear what you’re saying, Arick, but I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go. This incident shows disturbing potential for unacceptable behavior. We can’t take that risk, especially not in these uncertain times.” Her words, even to untrained ears, sounded rehearsed. “I, can’t, isn’t there some way I can make it up to you? Change to stay on?” “No, no there isn’t. You’ve violated some of the most unwavering principles of Big Venerable. You’ve already gone to some lengths to tarnish its name. Whether you meant to or not is entirely beside the point.” “But what if the revolution changes Big Venerable?” “No matter, Big Venerable will adapt with the changes, make itself useful as it always has. It is no wonder there isn’t a place for you here any longer.” “I don’t want to go!” “That isn’t your decision to make!” “Noooooooooooo,” he said in a high-pitched tone that inspired no sympathy from Karen. In fact, it worked in the opposite fashion and made her more certain he was not a man stable or competent enough to be trusted to remain professional and return to his work as though none of this had ever happened. She would hear him no more. Did they really think this is how she had wanted things? Karen wondered. No. She had a job to do, and oftentimes it was unpleasant, and sometimes it meant firing people. There were people like that Arick, though, who insisted on keeping up the fight when there was nothing to be gained. Let it go. She wondered, how does it look if we allow our employees to openly battle against, fine, asshole customers? It looks like there’s no structure, for one thing. She’d May 30, 2014 | 15
lose every last one of those customers if they ever felt a lack of stability in her store. She’d had headaches for as long as she could remember, as a stressed little girl going through her parents’ acrimonious divorce they’d been as potent as ever. She’d pass out sometimes from their intensity. They were a salient childhood memory of pain. She’d had a drug problem for the last five years, coinciding with starting this job, which job corporate put a ton of pressure on her to carry out as efficiently as any major component part in their great apparatus. It was prescription painkillers, mostly. The numbing sensation they gave her was almost equal to the general euphoria she felt while using them. I don’t like to fire people, she’d once thought of telling Patterson or someone who’d at least pretend to hear her. Corporate has seen the success we’ve had here and what do they want? They want still more success. In the midst of the literal war being waged around her store. So she schmoozed the politicians, the mayor, held dinners at her nice home in an area cordoned off from the violence of revolution. She didn’t feel to safe from it, though. Certainly the death of Mrs. Hartigan was the beginning, but it wasn’t the end. Money mattered little in the face of armed factions. Unless you were smart with it and could use it to your own advantage. She tried to be, but she’d known people slipped up. Gary Casig had slipped up, confusing one faction for another in an attempt to bribe their countenancing his suppliers to move through a war zone without fear of being harassed and stopped and looted. They found Casig’s burnt corpse hanging by the leg from a highway overpass. His shriveled, dried out entrails pulled from his body in what looked like a weeping willow. “WISE UP, MAKE GOOD FRIENDS” written in spray paint somewhere nearby. Someplace visible, not as visible as the hanging corpse—but a hanging corpse is perhaps one of the great attention getters of all time, gauche as it is to say. The drugs had affected her decision making. She feared making the same costly mistake. The line between comfort and death was so tenuous here, during these times. How could anyone not be stressed. Corporate assured her all would be well if she followed their protocol, which allowed her the discretion to do things like bribery, whenever necessary. It didn’t make dealing with violent militants anymore wise. And even when things went entirely according to plan, things could still go wrong. She forced a smile. It was easier to force a smile when other people were around. It felt as important as breathing whenever other people were around. Her life and livelihood depended on that best foot always moving forward, even if she knew plenty of people saw it for the mask it was. So what. Let them be disconcerted. They didn’t have to walk where she walked, probably didn’t have the guts to, at the end of the day. Who had the stomach for any of this stuff ? Not her employees. Most of them were as delusional as the man, the child, the manchild she’d had to fire. They wanted the world to be fair when everything about the world stared them back in the face and said the world 16 | CCLaP Weekender
isn’t that way. Change your thinking, get what you can while you can or be left standing there, wondering what happened. Who didn’t wish the world was different sometimes? But changing things means putting everything you have on the line and some people had a lot more to lose than most people. What a wonderful country that allowed some to remain free of the revolution that entangled most. She was thankful for that, to retain her life of comparative comfort and ease. Her employees would do well to think and function just the same as she did. Nothing was perfect, not even close. Her husband had nearly left her a few times for reasons pertaining to her substance abuse and the people she dealt with, but in the end, he was no better than she. You couldn’t be. Not if you worked in any sort capitalistic enterprise during these times, and he did. He sold shipping containers to the military. She knew he was just afraid that her contacts would find out, that they’d make a message of Karen and her husband, both. She felt herself becoming so tired. She just wanted to sleep at her desk. If only she had the courage to let someone else do her job. Then she could sleep. She could let it have an effect on her decision making. She just couldn’t make any mistakes. Arick, for his part, never really believed he no longer worked at Big Venerable. He would aimlessly kick pieces of debris around the bombed out neighborhoods, attempting to tell people in which aisle they could locate batteries, but no one listened. Their faces were shellacked and paved over, ghosts in human form. They might have wished at one time to know where batteries were but no longer. They’d be satisfied to find shelter, safety from the constant crackling of gunfire. Arick was disturbed by the sheer lack of members he encountered, “members” being a catchall term in his own vernacular for people of any sort. When he finally did come upon members, those members were soldiers. There was a skirmish in the middle of a formerly residential street, one that was now empty of its original inhabitants and was being looted by rebels. Statist forces must have gotten wind of their activity, or maybe it was happenstance. Arick hid behind a tree, which wasn’t the best hiding spot he might have chosen. He was stationed too close to a machine gun nest of rebels, who’d positioned a defensive ring of sandbags around their location and were soon killed by the impact of an RPG. The blast tore up the asphalt, too, and sent smoldering pieces right at Arick’s tree. Some of them managed to sting his skin, and after he recovered from the pain of his injuries, he thought of them as though he’d been hit with shrapnel, with something deserving of a Purple Heart, maybe. They were his first true battle scars. He’d been baptized by the violence of war—these were his words. The experience had changed him. And while it wasn’t an unremarkable thing, observing several soldiers meet their violent deaths while simultaneously suffering small injuries yourself, Arick was soon embellishing his experience with gusto. It gave him a touch May 30, 2014 | 17
of megalomania that went very quickly to his head. He took to remembering himself during the experience as though he were a Hollywood action hero, grabbing the machine gun, firing at enemies of a nebulous sort. He had managed to remain as apolitical as Big Venerable leading up to the revolution, he realized. He didn’t really think he was on anyone’s side, though he’d fled when the statist forces began to comb through the dead and injured bodies of the defeated rebels, looking for prisoners to take. Since revolution was now the way of things and probably a little too emboldened by his recent “heroics” in the face of grave danger, Arick determined he needed to seize back Big Venerable from the forces that had corrupted her. Clearly, Big Venerable was not indifferent to his plight, even if the CEO had refused Arick’s request to speak with him, declaring his severance to be the prerogative of his store’s GM. The CEO said he wouldn’t undermine GM Karen’s authority to make that decision—though the CEO had responded to Arick’s email, which Arick thought was a nice thing for a busy man such as himself to do. Arick knew, though, that if it were called Big Venerable Arick Wholesale, things would be run a few shades differently. And that’s what gave way to his daring plan to form an insurgency and cleave the store from the hands of the unjust. He drove up in his truck, on the bed of which were strapped as many barrels as could reasonably be fit of various flammable fossil fuels and chemicals, which he culled together from frequent searches of the ruins of society—more careful now to avoid the fighting forces waging war against each other. He hadn’t considered much else up to this point, beside that he needed to fill his truck’s bed with the fuels and chemicals he procured. He attached American flags to the four corners of the truck’s bed, also. He figured people would understand that he meant their use in a positive sense, trumpeting America’s greatness, despite that they would imminently be engulfed in flames. Actually, he really hadn’t planned on proceeding after his explosion was somehow set off, and to that extent, he had only considered propping some crude lever to the gas pedal and having it drive its way ideally through the vestibule and inside the building itself, where it should ignite after some collision there. He hadn’t thought about all the members who might be innocently doing their shopping, which was an extremely huge oversight on his part. He hadn’t thought that maybe the truck wouldn’t explode. He had tried to think, but his thoughts were always muddied by his desire to foment change at the Big Venerable in which he’d once worked. In his limited and almost entirely popculture informed thinking, only knew of force as the means of achieving that change. When he arrived he had immediate second thoughts. His whole pretext for assault was so flimsy. What, because he’d been fired the company was flawed beyond its own internal, non-violent repair? His true feeling was that he sort of, kind of wanted to get back at Karen, who had in a not-very uncommon way, wronged him. 18 | CCLaP Weekender
No, he decided he should leave before he aroused any further attention than his huge white pick-up loaded with vats of volatile liquid had definitely already brought upon him. He would have done it too, left things alone, had GM Karen not been outside, in the vestibule, at that very moment. Had she not spotted him inside his truck. Arick couldn’t help but mutter “endgame” over and over, to himself. It was his thought of this word, and it alone, that had sustained him throughout his preparations to upset the established order at Big Venerable. It seemed to mean nothing now, all of a sudden, despite his repeating the term. Karen summoned the Bulldozer, a modified bulldozer that had all sorts of unnecessary spikes and protrusions welded to it. Arick was surprised and scared by it, wondering where she would have kept the monstrosity. It was wartime, though, and Karen knew the store needed to be prepared for any possibility that might arise. She wished to ably defend her Big Venerable from disaffected and disgruntled ex-employees wishing to do it harm, so here was her chance. One of the guys who worked in the tire sales department was behind the wheel, laughing maniacally as was his wont. Arick, who had previously stepped out of his truck, to consider the word “endgame” in a less cramped space than his vehicle’s interior, began to piece together the sequence of events that were about to unfold: the modified bulldozer, also modified to insure a top speed of 40 mph was possible--as was the norm for most tanks--would slam into his truck, the truck would ignite in flames, the mobile flame ball would collide with a parked car containing two small children and several puppies, the children and puppies would find it difficult to live in a car engulfed in flames. So Arick did the only thing he knew how and, with reflexes brought about by a sense of needing to act, he sprang and grabbed hold of one of the bulldozer’s protrusions--which cut him badly--and climbed aboard, removed the tire sales employee (who had yet to stop maniacally laughing) out of the driver’s seat, and pulled hard on the steering wheel to deliver the vehicles (in the midst of Arick’s actions the bulldozer had t-boned his truck, though amazingly there was as yet no explosion) away from the children and puppies
She wondered, how does it look if we allow our employees to openly battle against, fine, asshole customers? It looks like there’s no structure, for one thing. She’d lose every last one of those customers if they ever felt a lack of stability in her store.
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in a ninety degree turn that resulted in his sending the whole pile of metallic wreckage through the vestibule and then the entrance, on a collision course with the rows and rows of the latest model TVs currently for sale. It plowed through them and continued on a collision course with whatever else got in its way, eventually stopping against a structural support pillar in the center of the store. Arick had already leapt to safety by that time, which was good because the eventual explosion was massive, and tore the roof off the middle of the building. Arick landed on some rows of carts in the vestibule, and was coming back to consciousness. Members stormed out of the entrance and exit doors with little regard for anything but their own personal safety. Feeling responsible, though, Arick decided he’d need to go inside and oversee the emergency procedure for situations in which members and employees needed to evacuate Big Venerable. He checked the bathrooms. No one was there, among any of the stalls. He checked the Health and Beauty Aids (HABA) section of the store, in which the pharmacy was located. There were all sorts of nooks there for children to hide in. He raced through it, taking in fumes that smelled poisonous, various facial cleansers and other things that might be corrosive. He made his way to the nook of HABA where the boxes of tampons and adult diapers were stacked, finding no one. But, as he turned to exit the building in a hurry, he heard the muffled cry of a tiny creature, maybe human or maybe not. In fact it was, beneath a huge pile of feminine hygiene products, a little girl. He scooped her up, feeling the effects of his earlier hard landing for the first time, and limped to the exit, pieces of the building and its many units of shelves collapsing around him as he went. Big Venerable itself seemed to breathe like a dying man, flexing and bowing because of the intense heat. “Unhand the child, Arick. It’s over,” Karen said, which surprised Arick, though he was mainly surprised that she remembered his name, having endured on several occasions her calling him whatever she might imagine his name to be. Then he remembered he was wearing his name tag. Karen’s brain pounded inside her head. Everything was literally falling apart around her and at this point there was only Arick to blame. She might be a bit to blame herself but Arick was essentially the one to blame, and anyway, her head ached. She couldn’t ignore that. It wasn’t about to go away. Ah, whatever, she and Arick were to blame. It was time to make sure Arick knew it. “Ok, here, take her to the rendezvous point outside, then,” Arick said, passing the child to Karen. “That’s what I intend to do,” Karen said. She handed the girl off to an awaiting attendant. Arick attempted to follow but Karen wouldn’t allow it. “Not so fast. You’re to stay here and finish putting out the flames.” Arick realized she was serious. He froze, petrified with indignation. Then he erupted, “NO! Not just me. How about we both do? You and me both, Karen? It’ll take at least two.” Before Karen had a chance to react, he’d slung 20 | CCLaP Weekender
her over a shoulder and ran with her deep into the building. He’d had no plan, no thought process to inform this decision he’d made, this act he was committing. He imagined the smoke would kill them both, if nothing else did. He couldn’t believe what he was doing. Karen couldn’t either, trying but failing to wrest herself from his determined grip. She whispered to Arick, finally sensing defeat or something like that, “I’m sorry,” she said. “I am sorry.” This made Arick stop in his tracks, he said the same. Nearby factions of both sides of the external war being waged took aim at Big Venerable with their various artillery, thinking it a target of some sort because of the explosions and fire visible now from a great distance. In a matter of seconds, the entire store was razed. A crater, an empty zit on the face of the earth. Smoke smoldering out of it. Assistant GM Patterson had his people conduct the headcounts at the rendezvous point. They soon realized at least two people were missing, lost in the blaze. And that mattered, mattered to quite a few of the employees of Big Venerable. The revolution raged on and people’s faces remained covered in charcoal and ash. “Sad, regrettable news,” said the Big Venerable CEO, upon hearing of the calamity that occurred at one of his company’s stores. “And this is why it’s necessary to be mindful of the details.” C
Matt Rowan lives in Chicago, IL, with a talented female writer and two talented chihuahuas. He co-edits Untoward Magazine and Horrible Satan and is fiction editor of Another Chicago Magazine. He’s author of the story collection Why God Why (Love Symbol Press, 2013). His work has appeared, or soon will, in mojo journal, Gigantic, Booth Journal, Necessary Fiction and SmokeLong Quarterly, among others. More at literaryequations.blogspot.com.
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NOW ACCEPTING SUBMISSIONS The Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, in conjunction with Columbia College, is proud to announce Chicago’s first-ever “City All Star” student anthology, a themed collection featuring work from over twenty different colleges and universities across the city and suburbs. This year’s theme is “Chicago After Dark” (being released as a 300-page paperback book on September 15th), and we are looking for YOUR creative interpretations on this subject, whether narrative fiction, creative nonfiction, or poetry. The submission process is free, and there is no minimum word count, with a maximum of around 5,000 words. Contributors will receive a free copy of the book, will be able to order additional copies at their wholesale cost and will be offered numerous opportunities to perform across the city in the 201415 school year, both on college campuses and in commercial venues, including possible appearances on radio and television. The latest deadline for submissions is June 1st, but the sooner your submission, the more consideration it will be given. All contributors will be paired with a member of CCLaP’s editorial team upon acceptance, and their piece given a professional editing before the book’s release. Please send all submissions as a Microsoft Word or Open Office attachment to firstname.lastname@example.org (and let us know which educational institution you’re a student of), or visit [www.cclapcenter.com/chicagoafterdark] for more information. We look forward to seeing your own take on “Chicago After Dark,” whether funny or serious in tone, dark or light in subject matter.
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REPRINT FROM JANUARY 2014
Bryan M. Ferguson
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A nocturnal man whose voyeuristic pastime has mutated into pleasure for strangerâ€™s eyeballs. Predominantly a filmmaker, Bryan M. Ferguson, first pressed his eye to the viewfinder of a DSRL to sustain his obsession to create visuals when film projects would disperse. He has been taking photographs in between motion picture projects since 2008 and finds comfort being the eyes in the dark focusing their vision on a single frame as opposed to 24 per second. 24 | CCLaP Weekender
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So many of your images feel like still shots from action movies that never existed. Do you do this on purpose?
I find my work is often described as being fairly cinematic but it’s not something that I’m aware of at the time or something that I set out to do on each shoot, it’s generally just how my eyes see the world. I’m a filmmaker and I believe my background in filmmaking often bleeds into my photographs. Thinking about it now, I guess my photographs can be seen as orphaned shots from films I’ll never make.
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Are your models hired professionals or personal friends? They usually seem up for anything. All the subjects in my images are people close to me in my personal life. Iâ€™ve rarely worked with hired professionals; I often find you can steal an offbeat expression or a moment of odd posture from someone who isnâ€™t trained and also find they are more agreeable to my strange stipulations.
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An official painter for the Lithuanian Communist Party, Martynas Kudirka enjoys a pleasant, unremarkable life with a beautiful wife and all the privileges that come with being a party member. Yet in the summer of 1989, his ordinary world suddenly turns upside down. Political revolt is breaking out across Eastern Europe, and Martynas comes home to find his wife dead on the kitchen floor with a knife in her back. Realizing the police will not investigate, he sets out to find his wife’s killer. Instead, he stumbles upon her secret life. Martynas finds himself drawn into the middle of an independence movement, on a quest to find confidential documents that could free a nation. Cold War betrayals echo down through the years as author Bronwyn Mauldin takes the reader along a modern-day path of discovery to find out Martynas’ true identity. Fans of historical fiction will travel back in time to 1989, the Baltic Way protest and Lithuania’s “singing revolution,” experiencing a nation’s determination for freedom and how far they would fight to regain it.
Download for free at cclapcenter.com/lovesongs
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The CCLaP Weekender is published in electronic form only, every Friday for free download at the CCLaP website [cclapcenter.com]. Copyright 2014, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. All rights revert back to artists upon publication. Editorin-chief: Jason Pettus. Story Editor: Allegra Pusateri. Calendar Editors: Anna Thiakos and Taylor Carlile. To submit your work for possible feature, or to add a calendar item, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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