From the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography
May 29, 2015
New Fiction by Matt Rowan Photography by Emily Esperanza Chicago Literary Events Calendar May 29, 2015 | 1
THIS WEEK’S CHICAG
For all events, visit [cclapce SATURDAY, MAY 30
3pm Paper Machete The Green Mill / 4802 N. Broadway / Free, 21+ thepapermacheteshow.com
A “live magazine” covering pop culture, current events, and American manners—part spoken-word show, part vaudeville review—featuring comedians, journalists, storytellers, and musical guests. Hosted by Christopher Piatt. 8pm Blackout Diaries High Hat Club / 1920 East Irving Park / $10, 21+ blackoutdiaries.info
A comedy show about drinking stories, a “critic’s pick” at Red Eye, MetroMix, and Time Out Chicago. Comedians share the mic with “regular” people, such as cops, firefighters, and teachers, all recounting real-life tales about getting wasted. Hosted by Sean Flannery.
SUNDAY, MAY 31 10am
Sunday Morning Stories Donny's Skybox Studio Theatre / 1608 North Wells / Free
We performers are pre-booked. We feature novice as well as seasoned storytellers. On or off paper. 7pm Uptown Poetry Slam The Green Mill / 4802 N. Broadway / $6, 21+ greenmilljazz.com
Featuring open mike, special guests, and end-of-the-night competition.
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GO LITERARY EVENTS
enter.com/chicagocalendar] 7pm Asylum Le Fleur de Lis / 301 E. 43rd / $10 lefleurdelischicago.com
A weekly poetry showcase with live accompaniment by the band Verzatile.
MONDAY, JUNE 1 7:30pm Litmash Haymarket Pub & Brewery / 737 West Randolph/ $8, 21+ chicagoslamworks.com/litmash
Combining poetry slam, story slam, and live lit, Chicago Slam Works brings together the city’s “literary elite” for a battle unlike any other. 8:30pm Kafein Espresso Bar Kafein Espresso Bar / 1621 Chicago Ave., Evanston kafeincoffee.com
Open mic with hosts Chris and Kirill.
TUESDAY, JUNE 2 7pm Wit Rabbit Reads Quenchers Saloon / 2401 North Western / Free, 21+ witrabbitreads.com
An inter-genre reading series showcasing poetry, prose (narrative or otherwise), drama, and other “text-creations,” particularly the earnest kind. 7pm Write Now Cafe Lutz / 2458 W Montrose / FREE chicago-bakery.com
An open mic for comedians and live lit storytellers. Hosted by Danny Black and Anne Victoria LaMonte. May 29, 2015 | 3
7:30pm Homolatte Tweet Let's Eat / 5020 N. Sheridan tweet.biz
With Scott Free, featuring gay and lesbian spoken-word artists. 7:30pm Tuesday Funk Hopleaf / 5148 N. Clark / Free, 21+ tuesdayfunk.org
Chicago’s eclectic monthly reading series, presented by the Gothic Funk Nation, and featuring a variety of fiction, poetry, essays, and other works in all genres. Hosted by Andrew Huff and Eden Robins. 9pm Two Cookie Minimum Hungry Brain / 2319 West Belmont / Free, 21+ twocookieminimum.blogspot.com
Stories and cookies. Both are free, the latter vegan, too. The goal is to highlight new writers and the Chicago zine community. Hosted by John Wawrzaszek, A.K.A. Johnny Misfit.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 3 6pm Lyricist Loft Harold Washington Library / 400 South State / Free youmediachicago.org
“Open mic for open minds,” presented by Remix Spoken Word. Hosted by Dimi D, Mr. Diversity, and Fatimah. 7pm
Reading Under the Influence Sheffield's Beer & Wine Garden / 3258 North Sheffield / $3, 21+
“Because everyone needs a literary hangover.” Original short stories plus short-short excerpts of published work related to the theme of the month, such as “Well Done,” with trivia contests that award books and other prizes. Rotating hosts. 9pm
In One Ear Heartland Cafe / 7000 N Glenwood https://www.facebook.com/pages/In-One-Ear/210844945622380
Chicago's 3rd longest-running open-mic show, hosted by Pete Wolf and Billy Tuggle. 4 | CCLaP Weekender
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 4 7:30pm Northside Story Club Holiday Club / 4000 North Sheridan / $10 Suggested, 21+ storyclubchicago.com
A nonfiction storytelling show that aims to â€œmix the spontaneity of an open mic with the experience of live theater.â€? At every installment, featured readers and open mic performers are each given a microphone and eight minutes. Hosted by Dana Norris.
To submit your own literary event, or to correct the information on anything you see here, please drop us a line email@example.com
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“bakery case!” by Robyn Lee [flickr.com/roboppy]. Used under the terms of her Creative Commons license.
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A baker had no wife. He had no children. All he had in the world was his bakery. He thought about this on a snowy winter morning after he parked his car, a beat-up old station wagon, and began his trek to the bakeryâ€™s rear entrance. He only made it a few yards when he remembered he might not have locked the doors of his car, so he returned to the vehicle to make sure he had in fact locked its doors. Looking inside and testing the handle, he determined the doors were locked after all. It was cold. He determined that too. Without a doubt, it was cold.
MILY BY BY MATT MATT ROWAN ROWAN May 29, 2015 | 7
Brrrrr, he said inside of his own head. He often said things that illustrated his feelings inside of his own head, so that he would know exactly how he was feeling in there, in his heart—a word he meant to represent all of his bodily parts. The word that best described his use of heart as representation of the rest of his bodily parts was probably synecdoche, which he might have used if he were a guy who was good with words, rather than being, in his limited speech, “no good” with them. Often, saying certain non-verbal but audible expressions (like “Brrrrr”) inside of his own head was the only way for him to know for sure what was going on in there, in his heart, all of his bodily parts—and for him to know what was going on in his soul, which he wasn’t sure his soul was something he actually possessed but he didn’t want to exclude his soul if it was in there, buried beneath the meat of himself, amid all of his bodily parts. He hurried back to his store, this time wondering whether he’d be in some way fatefully affected by his having returned to his locked car. Maybe by returning to his car he narrowly missed a run-in with an intruder. Maybe by returning to his car he saved his own life this day. If he hadn’t gone back to check, he might be lying on the floor of his bakery, fatally wounded, a thief absconding with his life as well as whatever money he’d been able to steal. He arrived at the door of his bakery with everything seeming intact, much as he left it. There was no sign anywhere that anyone had been by. Unlikely that he avoided any deadly confrontation by returning to his car. After putting the last batch of donuts into the oven, the baker rubbed the back of his neck, to wipe away the perspiration accumulating there. “Awg,” he said, feeling a strange protrusion, which was sensitive to the touch. He probed it with his fingers, flicked it, finally pinched it. It felt similar to but different from a pimple. He pinched it harder. The pain was excruciating. He went to the bathroom and studied the protrusion in the mirror, twisting his neck to an awkward degree so he could get a decent look at its size, which was considerable. It was red like a pimple too. He was determined to pop it. He couldn’t let it be. It was nothing to him, so it had to be lanced like a bubo, removed from the flesh. And he did. As a result of so doing, blood began pumping from the wound he created as though it were expelled from a geyser, everywhere with force and vigor. It instantly turned the bathroom into a gory, horrifying scene. He felt faint but stayed conscious. He pulled himself, like a bag of animate flour, to his kitchen, to a mound of dough he planned to use for bread baking. He grabbed a clump and pressed it into the wound, stopping the flow of blood. He lost a lot of blood, but he decided it probably wasn’t enough to kill him. The dough made a good bandage. The blood loss got him thinking of his own mortality. He could have died. 8 | CCLaP Weekender
He could be dead right now. He had only baked goods to show for himself. He liked baked goods just fine, but he’d rather they not be his legacy. He got to thinking about the dough pile that he just covered in his own blood. It looked like it would now all go to waste. A disappointment, he thought. But then, he thought, maybe not—and as he moved toward the bloody pile of dough, he slipped in a viscous puddle of his own blood he hadn’t noticed on the floor. Trying to keep himself from falling, grabbing for anything he could, his hand found the cord to the light bulb that hung in the center of the room. He held it and with the full force of all his weight he managed to wrench it from its fixture, a cascade of sparks from the live wire he made rained down on the pile. The live wire itself floated down and touched the very top of the dough pile, coursing through it to make a vibrant lump of fleshy bread. The baker laid unconscious on the ground, blood from the puddle drying and clotting around him. He’d be out like that for a while. Eventually, though, he came around. His work was finished. Someone had done it. He smelled the aroma of various baked goods filling the air. He looked at the cooling racks and realized someone definitely baked, but baked terribly. Everything was disgusting, much of it only partially cooked and smelling odd. “Are your scones heavy with gluten?” a male customer was asking, all of a sudden. That’s how it felt to the baker, though apparently he had absently wandered out to the front counter where customers would place their orders. “What?” the baker said, turning toward the voice. At the sight of the baker, the male customer said, “Oh holy shit, do you need a doctor about what’s wrong with you? Good God.” He said this presumably because the baker was coated in the blood of the puddle he slipped in and the spray that covered his apron. The baker rubbed his neck and felt the spot where the protrusion had been. Its opening was scabbed over now. He said, “Probably—but, ah, no. No doctors.” He had been more injured by his fall than anything else, which might have given him a concussion, which was probably why he said he needed a doctor—memory lapses being a symptom of concussions. He wasn’t himself at the moment. He remembered, after saying he needed a doctor, how much he didn’t trust doctors. They were always lying, he thought, lying about things he didn’t want to believe. A malformed hand reached out and gave the male customer his order, in a crinkled white bag filled with scones and wax paper. The customer bit into one of his scones, and thinking it terrible but deciding this hadn’t been an ordinary morning, he threw the scones away outside and let that be the end May 29, 2015 | 9
of the matter. Maybe later he would write a bad review or something, maybe he wouldn’t. He would decide later. But in the bakery, there remained a breaded body, a bread mound. It was a giant pile of cooked dough. So bread, then. It was more or less baked bread. It found the other apron, one of the other aprons, and it was going about its day, acting as though it belonged. “Hello Father,” it said in a low baritone. “Nice to see you.” The entity sort of slithered. It wrapped its bread arms around the baker and hugged him, cooing a bit. The baker couldn’t help but feel touched deep in his bodily parts by this open and earnest display of affection. “You are awake,” said another creature emerging from the kitchen. Several others followed. There were six in total. They were using all of his clean aprons. The baker didn’t love that, but he was intrigued by their miraculous appearance. He ignored that they were dirtying his clean aprons with their crusty bodies and elected to focus instead on their appearing out of nothing so miraculously. Did he dream them into life? No, no, no. They were a hilarious accident, caused by all of what has been afore depicted: his blood expelled from his wound, his blood covering the dough, the dough being shocked with electricity from the live wire. It all added up to creatures that were both bread and self-aware. It was just how anyone might have thought it would happen. But it was an unusual occurrence. Fantastical events like this one happened only seldom. This was certainly true in the baker’s experience. It was virtually unprecedented to him. Maybe once in a blue moon had he known anything like it. Of course, there were those other situations in which his blood had brought something to life. He had had an antique toy chest as a boy. The chest had a metal lock clasp that was also very sharp. He cut his hand on it once, too eager to get to his toys inside. His blood squirted all over, inside the toy chest. He forgot about the blood, didn’t bother cleaning it up or telling anyone, so that it remained and dried. Then a week or two later, something weird happened. He was perhaps the only boy on his street to own an EasyBake Oven, which, while certainly a precursor of things to come in the baker’s life and career, was an extremely dangerous toy for any child to be playing with unattended. And in fact while baking that day of the weird thing happening, he set his toy oven much too close to his wooden toy chest. The heat the oven generated (something in the neighborhood of 400 degrees Fahrenheit)
The entity sort of slithered. It wrapped its bread arms around the baker and hugged him, cooing a bit.
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was enough to galvanize the dried blood and bring the toy chest to life. But soon after, with continued exposure to that considerable temperature, the chest lit up in a startling and sudden blast of fire, as though it were soaked in gasoline. The baker as a boy turned his attention to his Erector set (which he also enjoyed playing with) while his cakes were baking. His back was turned from the toy oven. His now alive toy box cried out. It wanted mercy from the baker as a boy, told him to get water to help extinguish the fire. He did as he was told by the toy chest, but by the time it was extinguished the being, whatever the toy chest had become, was beyond saving. His father gave him a sound beating that evening for ruining the antique toy chest, which was left out on the street because it was so badly burned. The baker hadn’t put the two together, his dried blood and the heat that must have brought the toy chest to life, until that very moment. The arrival of the bread people made everything so very clear. “I guess I need to be more careful about that,” the baker said to himself. He was speaking of his spilt blood, and how he spilled it everywhere. He didn’t mind creating life, but he decided it would be best not to do so all the time, haphazardly. He tried to train his new family in the art of baking. If they all worked together, he surmised, his business could flourish in ways it never could before. They tried to learn and the results were mixed. The problem was their appendages, which were flaky bread loaves themselves. Their flaking was constant and that meant someone would have to clean up after the flakes. A total of two of the members of his bread family were given brooms to sweep up after everyone (including themselves, which made the task always something imperfectly completed), all to avoid an infestation of vermin. Their work as bakers had generally improved though. The scones were pulled from the oven in much better state than they had been, along with the donuts and various others. The baker’s efforts were getting them somewhere. That spring, after the baker had become accustomed to his new life and the family that now almost exclusively filled it, there was a visitor who visited the bakery first as a customer. She purchased a blueberry muffin. It was okay, she thought—a bit better than mediocre, though she would never dream of mentioning this to the baker. She wasn’t interested in saying things that could and probably would offend. This customer’s name was Donna Blandhorn. She noticed the baker’s strange associates, the ones he called his family. She identified each as a curiosity, and so was the baker for co-existing with them. Donna said, having remained in the bakery after receiving her muffin, “Wonderful business you have here.” “Huh?” the baker said. “Oh yeah. We do all right.” May 29, 2015 | 11
“And who are these other beings you work with?” She immediately regretted calling them “beings.” They could easily have been human beings but afflicted with severe deformities. She might just have deeply offended the baker and his deformed family. She wished she could take what she said back. She bit her lower lip. On the plus side, her biting her lower lip added a sympathetic quality to her expression. The baker interpreted it as such and decided she meant well, ultimately. He let her flippant comment slide, which isn’t to say it hadn’t irked him, and answered her in his way, saying, “Family. We’re all we’ve got in the world, other than this bakery. We’ve got that too.” “You do. You seem to have wonderful things going. This is a wonderful bakery.” Donna waved her arms up above her head and let them fall back down to her sides. When they struck her sides it had sounded very painful. She didn’t wince or otherwise indicate allowing her arms to fall like that had caused her pain. She didn’t acknowledge the gesture but the baker thought it looked strange. “What’s your name?” she asked, hoping to get their conversation back on track and not belabor the silence. “Herbert Barkery,” he said. “I’m Donna,” she said. “It was nice to talk to you.” Herbert nodded. She decided the nod was his way of saying he liked talking to her as well. She left the bakery. Donna couldn’t stop thinking about the baker and his family. Not that she wanted to forget them, and especially not Herbert, but she never expected to obsess over them, her idle thoughts always returning to the curious existence they shared. She’d gone back to her job at the Bibles and Other Books Store. She was the owner, though she wasn’t especially interested in Christian religion in particular. She did like the bibles she owned, many of them musty and old and reeking of many hours’ use. Her customers were typically more interested than she was in talking about God, constantly, peppering His references throughout every conversation, finding reasons to attribute everything to Him. Him. It was growing tiresome. If only she didn’t love her bibles so much. As things themselves. Maybe more than things themselves. She did like the stories. She believed in some of them, sure. Was that so wrong? But she wasn’t a wacko. Not everything had to have something to do with The Lord. She liked the idea of benevolence though, and she liked to think of benevolence and how it related to The Lord. And then, once more, she thought of Herbert and his family. She could bring Herbert Barkery a bible. That would be a sweet offering for the man of sweets and also many grains.
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“I brought you this bible. I sell bibles at my store, the Bibles and Other Books
Store, and I thought it would be a nice gesture, even though I don’t know if you’re Christian or religious at all, but it’s a really nice bible. You wouldn’t have to be Christian to have a bible, really. Lots of people who aren’t Christian purchase bibles from my store, for all kinds of reasons.” She hurriedly added, forcing her words along as a kind of cloak for the words that had preceded them (so that maybe he hadn’t noticed some or all of her earlier words, the ones she knew she’d be deeply regretful of later). “And this is one of my nicest bibles that I could afford to part with, and for that reason I thought it would be a nice gift to give. Again, you don’t have to be religious to appreciate a good bible, just as you don’t to appreciate a good qur’an. I don’t sell as many qur’ans as I do bibles at my store, which might be what you’d expect,” Donna said. She gave the bible to Herbert. She was smiling so big it was hard to tell if she was smiling sincerely or because she was embarrassed or whether it was some combination of both. Herbert stared at the bible and then set it down on the counter like it was dangerous to hold too long. “Do you want anything?” Herbert asked, uncomfortably. He felt more in his heart again. His heart was feeling something but it couldn’t articulate what, precisely. He shifted around on his feet, wiped his hands on his apron. He needed to be doing something and quick. “I’ll have a coffee.” She looked dejected. One of his smiling family reached out its strange tendrilous hand holding a to-go cup of coffee. “Wait, miss.” Herbert again picked up the bible and began paging through it (more for affect than anything else; he was exceedingly uncomfortable in every last one of his bodily parts). “Is your last name Blandhorn?” “It is.” “This book has your name written in it. I don’t think I can accept it.” Herbert realized what he was saying at best didn’t make much sense and at worst was exceptionally rude, but it was the only thing he could think of to keep the conversation going. He didn’t know what he wanted other than that he wanted to keep the conversation going, no matter what. He felt like she could probably hear him blinking. His blinking was so loud right then. It must have sounded like a wet scrub brush vigorously cleaning a stone floor, because that’s what it felt like. In his own head. Everything was annoying, everything was agitating. Why couldn’t it have been simple? She might be interested in him and he was definitely interested in her. Why was he so bad at this? But he had his family to think of too, the bread people he hadn’t meant to create but loved just the same. That was why he couldn’t pursue her. There— he had a reason. He was not kidding himself or making excuses. Not Herbert May 29, 2015 | 13
Barkery. That’s what he decided. “I forgot it has my name in it. I didn’t think that would be a problem. But now that you mention it, I do see your point,” Donna said. “I’m sorry,” Herbert mumbled, returning the bible to her. “No, I am. What I did was wrong. I handled it all wrong.” Donna left in a hurry, wedging the bible beneath one arm. She was so ashamed. That night she called Rob, to apologize to him too, and her former troubles began again. Herbert didn’t see Donna for a while after declining her gift. When she at
last returned, she was with her ex-husband, Rob. They’d come into the bakery because Rob wanted donuts. He also was always looking for an audience, an audience to brag to, mostly about Donna’s having come crawling back to him. It didn’t seem to most like the solid foundation of a lasting relationship, but there they were, together again. Herbert’s expression betrayed no emotion but seeing Donna with her ex killed him inside, especially inside of his own mind. His heart, both as representation of the rest of his bodily parts and the physical thing in the center of his body, was a pulverized jelly donut, goop everywhere. Why hadn’t he taken that bible? Maybe things would have worked out differently between Donna and him, if he had. “Oh God, my bodily parts,” Herbert accidentally said aloud, grabbing with both hands for his chest. Rob had already begun shoveling a donut into his mouth while trying to regale everyone, but especially Donna, with his stories of college and how he used to eat ten of them at a time, in a single sitting. Still, Herbert’s display was so dramatic that even Rob ceased chewing and busily remarking about himself for a moment and asked if Herbert was having a heart attack. “You look a little pale, buddy,” Rob said with genuine concern. Donna averted with her eyes, which seemed to plead with Herbert to help get her away from this doofus. “So anyway, I’d get a dozen and only have two or three left,” Rob said. “Isn’t that amazing?” “I don’t know what you want me to do, Donna,” Herbert stammered. If things hadn’t been awkward before then they surely were now. Donna felt awkward. Why had she allowed Rob to pull her in here, or had she? Had she instead, even if only subconsciously, been the one who’d gotten Rob to think he needed donuts? She knew he’d never pass up an opportunity to brag about how many he could eat. That was his thing. The dumb thing he always did. Rob only managed to eat two donuts, mashing a third in his mouth while his body was clearly rejecting it. His stomach could hold nothing more. He 14 | CCLaP Weekender
spit his mouthful of donut into the garbage can. “I just need to practice more. If I was back to being used to eating them, I could eat a hell of a lot more. Just like I told you,” he said. It turned out Rob was a truly horrible human being. In college, after realizing he was only average at consuming alcoholic beverages, he also realized he was above average at eating lots of things, like donuts. He could eat close to a dozen in a sitting, he observed. He didn’t know a single person who even came close to that number. They could barely eat three, all of them, all the other people. Eating donuts was his thing. In all the time he was in college, he found only one person who could eat more donuts than himself (although he hadn’t tried very hard to find an adversary, one found him, albeit accidentally). It was another student who noticed Rob eating donuts alone in the dining hall. The student, a thirdyear poli-sci major named Henry, asked if they were serving them for breakfast, and when Rob affirmed that yes, they were, Henry was back almost as quickly as he’d gone with a whole plate full—far more than a dozen or even a baker’s dozen. Excessive though it may have been, Henry set to work devouring them. He hadn’t eaten even one single donut in so long, having recently returned to school that fall after a several-month-long tour of China with his godfather, a wealthy investment broker, who paid for the trip on the condition that Henry be open to learning something about the real world and poverty, wealth and success. Henry learned that they don’t really make donuts in China, as well as a few other things, but it was China’s lack of donuts that made the most lasting impression. Rob took an immediate dislike to Henry for the ease with which he inhaled a dozen donuts, and he vowed, like Shakespeare’s Iago, that he would ruin him soon enough with some surreptitious, conniving plot. Henry, of course, could never have imagined that Rob had it in for him,
Rob took an immediate dislike to Henry for the ease with which he inhaled a dozen donuts, and he vowed, like Shakespeare’s Iago, that he would ruin him soon enough with some surreptitious, conniving plot.
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especially for such a stupid reason. Henry actually had gone to great lengths to befriend Rob, even introducing him to his cousin, Donna Blandhorn, whom he thought might be a good match for Rob. Unfortunately, Donna was unimpressed by Rob from the onset, and Rob’s immediate infatuation with her didn’t help matters. Rob came on strongly. Donna didn’t seem to care about how many donuts he could eat, which made her all the more irresistible to him. It would be years before he wore her down to the point that she actually agreed to go on a date with him. He’d chalk that up to flaws in her own character, some paranoid presumption of Henry’s meddling, and his own lack of focus, since at the time he was preoccupied with that rarest of human activities: true wickedness. No, no, no, this is not evil wickedness, he thought. It’s righteous wickedness, morally imperative wickedness. How dare someone flaunt their donut-eating proclivities in front of him? Rob thought about it and remembered he wasn’t at all hungry that morning and in fact had already had a cereal breakfast. It was true. Henry could have asked anyone. The imbroglio came to a dramatic conclusion when Rob injected a jelly donut with aged and tainted berries and offered it to Henry, who ate it without a moment’s hesitation. Henry was soon after stricken with food poisoning, which incapacitated him so completely, almost to the point of death, he had no choice but to drop out of school that semester. Despite being very close to graduating, he never returned to complete his degree. Rob’s plot was a lame one, one that had defied all of his expectations by going as perfectly horribly as he could have imagined, given that he put very minimal thought into its execution and it was more attributable to luck than planning that things turned out how they had. He was glad though, that things had turned out the way they had, and never once felt bad about his role in ending Henry’s academic career. No one ever found out. He was never punished in any fashion, and he never would be. But now, amid his and Donna’s romantic rekindling, Rob felt judged by
her, judged for the fact that he couldn’t eat as many donuts as he claimed he could, as he certainly once could. The feeling nagged at him obsessively. He was certain she didn’t want him to sleep until he could eat the amount of donuts he claimed he could. He fell asleep believing she resented him for being unable to eat ten donuts. Donna pleaded with him, saying he didn’t have to prove to her how many donuts he could eat. She felt the same about him either way. And that way she felt about him was extreme indifference— until he locked her in the basement, in a cage in his basement, a human-sized cage he must only have kept for trapping fellow humans. It had no other
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utility. Willoughby, one of Herbert’s children of dough, was curious about the lady that he observed those times in the store, the one his father liked (plus, he had a bit of a tendency to wander off in pursuit of some or another object in general), and so he spied on Donna long after she had parted ways with Herbert. And he spied her eventually being forcibly trapped in Rob’s basement—Rob himself having become a complete and quivering mess of paranoid obsession. And though Willoughby was not yet entirely educated in the ways and workings of this world, he knew enough to know that what was happening to Donna was wrong and was not right. He mumbled something to himself, which loosely translated was, “I’ve got to tell the others.” It was a rudimentary thought but not especially so when you consider Willoughby had been completely insentient not more than seven months earlier. Back at his home, with his children, Herbert Barkery was telling tall tales. He told them stories early in the morning, just before they all headed off to work for the day. He found this sort of social activity helped him to wake up and, apparently, it helped his dough children to wake up as well. He hadn’t noticed Willoughby’s absence and when Willoughby burst through the door, he felt his bodily parts bristle with the shame of neglecting one of his children. His child had been out all night unbeknownst to him. That’s what bad fathers did. “Willoughby, sit down. I was in the middle of a tall tale about the girl,” Herbert said curtly, hoping none of his children would call him on his neglect, though he was remained stung by the shame of what he had done, or failed to do. “I was at the part where the girl almost died but she didn’t because a man saved her.” “But it could have been a woman who saved her. Right, Father?” Shania, the most matronly and well-spoken of the children of dough said, for the benefit of the female children whom she felt deserved a hero to believe in too. “Yes, hmm, of course, but it wasn’t this time,” Herbert assured her. “Father, I saw a thing and I have to tell you!” Willoughby said. “The lady, I was spying on her. Donna. I shouldn’t but I did. She is being held captive by Rob! You remember Rob? He was the man who ate two donuts!” “You shouldn’t spy,” Herbert said, sighing for a long time and tilting his head to his right, a thing he did when he was upset. His expression could only be called pained. He felt it all the way through his bodily parts. “But I guess time’s not for fussing over that. Time’s for action.” He led the family to the armory and started passing out shotguns to his children. May 29, 2015 | 17
Herbert and his family arrived at Rob’s house just as quickly as they could
pile into the station wagon and burn rubber all the way there, by way of Willoughby’s instruction. They assembled on Rob’s lawn without much of a plan or any coherent organization, which was an ominous start to their rescue mission. Sunlight was just beginning to bathe the earth in its new day glow. There was a groundskeeper on Rob’s lawn tending the grounds. “Hi there. Looking for Rob?” the groundskeeper said. “No. Um. Actually, in a certain sense, yes. I’m looking for his wife and then also him. I guess she’s his ex-wife, but they recently reconnected and were in the process of mending things. Have you seen either of them?” Herbert said. “Seen either of them? I’ve seen both of them! Sure did. They were heading out on a cruise. ‘Tour the Ocean,’ they called it. He was wearing white shorts and a Hawaiian shirt and she was being carted away in a cage on wheels,” the groundskeeper said. “Can’t recall what she was wearing, now that I think of it.” He had hedge clippers that he didn’t seem to understand how to use and he clipped big, obvious chunks from a bush that wasn’t in need of a trim. “You’re not actually a groundskeeper, are you?” Shania said. “No, I’m not. I do, however, live just next door.” “I don’t think so,” Shania pressed him further. “No, that’s right. I don’t live next door. You’ve caught me again in my lies. I live far, far away. There’s no reasonable explanation for what I’m doing or why I’m here.” “When is the cruise leaving?” Herbert said. “Real soon. Now, I’d think. Down at the docks.” “Thanks for the information,” Herbert said. “I wish I knew for certain you were telling the truth.” “I’d gladly accompany you and prove the truth of what I’ve said.” “No.”
They assembled on Rob’s lawn without much of a plan or any coherent organization, which was an ominous start to their rescue mission.
The baker and his family got to the docks just in time to see the cruise 18 | CCLaP Weekender
ship Rob and Donna were supposedly aboard shoving off into the wild blue yonder. Herbert knew he should have taken the bible she gifted him. How could one man be so wrong? he thought, reproving himself again. They asked a longshoreman if it were true, was that the boat they assumed it was. “I suppose I’d say yes, given you’re looking for a young woman in a cage. She was carrying on frightfully, so I took notice. You don’t forget a woman in a cage, seemingly being transported against her own will. It’s not something you get a look at every day. Maybe twice a week at the most, in a given month. In the old days, though, there were quite a few more. But I suppose the world’s changing now.” The gist of the longshoreman’s meandering response, they realized, was that this was probably their ship. “We swim to it. We can catch it, Dad. It’s not even that far,” one of his children, Joff, said. “It is definitely too far to swim to, Joff. Bread in water, the two don’t mix. I wasn’t telling you the tale of the Gingerbread Man just to scare you. It was a warning. And now, now I’ve got to make a choice,” Herbert said. “Time to make a choice.” “What choice is that, Dad?” Shania said. “To do what’s right. And to do what’s right, we will take a motorboat that is not ours, but it is for the sake of doing what’s right,” Herbert answered. The Barkerys stole a motorboat. They were able to board the ship fairly easily, considering they were total amateurs and it’s difficult to scale the side of an ocean cruise liner. But there happened to be grappling hooks and rope on the motorboat they stole, and they used them to pull themselves onto the cruise ship. Once everyone was safely aboard, it was time to come up with the next phase of their plan. Herbert was not really up to the task and it showed. He said, “All right, family, we have to find Rob and Donna, or Donna alone. We have to do one of those two things. But this is a big ship. Where to start? I do not know.” “He’ll probably be looking for donuts. We should try to find him wherever food is served,” Shania suggested. There was a round-the-clock buffet, fortunately. Unfortunately, there were no donuts—at least not at the present time. It was the middle of the afternoon. That, of course, hadn’t stopped Rob, who was there and haranguing the staff members responsible for the buffet’s upkeep. He wanted to know where were the donuts? He wasn’t interested in slices of cake. He could eat tons of slices of cake, but he wasn’t interested in cake. It was donuts, just May 29, 2015 | 19
donuts. That’s what he wanted. It was good that Rob was making a big scene. It made it easier for Herbert and his family to find him. When Rob spotted Herbert and his family making their way to him, he quickly urged them to his defense. “Hey, come here. These people know why I want donuts. They’ve seen me start to eat a bunch of them. I was about to eat a ton of them at their bakery and they were all witness to it. This guy here is a baker.” Rob poked Herbert, and Herbert allowed himself to be poked. He wished he instead broke Rob’s finger and wished he’d done something other than stand there like an idiot, allowing himself to be poked. Rob continued, “He could bake a dozen and I could eat a dozen.” They refused to allow Herbert to bake anything, though neither did Herbert himself volunteer. Herbert didn’t have time for baking. Donna was the priority and Rob was the only one who knew where she was. Out on the deck, Herbert and his family attempted to talk some sense into Rob. “We heard about the actual cage you put Donna inside. We think it would be great if you let her out and never saw her again and maybe went to jail for your crimes,” Herbert said. “Hey that’s great. I have another idea. What say you we all get into this bigger cage attached to the side of the ship here,” Rob said. And there, hanging by the arm of a small crane, was another, much larger cage. “I guess we could all go in there for a little while, as long as you promise to do those other things I mentioned,” Herbert said. “Especially the going to jail.” “Well, sure,” he said, enthusiastically closing the cage door and pulling a lever that automatically began lowering them into the ocean. “Oh no! We’re going to drown and/or dissolve in the ocean water,” Willoughby said. They tried calling up to the people on the deck who passed by. The people that passed laughed and waved excitedly. “You’re doing great,” the people said, evidently not realizing the mortal peril the family was in. They were saved, though. It was a blood-soaked and frenzied Donna who saved them in the end, to their great but welcome surprise. She rushed to their aid and reversed the lowering mechanism, so that the family was soon safely restored on-board the ship. Herbert’s bodily parts were basically singing inside of him. “How’d you do it, Donna? Wasn’t I the one who was supposed to save you?” Herbert said. “Not this time,” Donna said. “Rob entered the room we were sharing, that he trapped me inside of in my cage, and he was gloating about seeing you and your family and finally putting an end to your meddling. He also 20 | CCLaP Weekender
packed a bag of generic grocery store mini-powdered, sugar donuts and said if I was ready, he’d finally give me a taste of how many he could eat. I told him that small donuts don’t count and he became enraged, nearing my cage and telling me that there were far more than a dozen in the bag and it would mean just as much. I threw my hands through the cage’s bars and, grabbing his neck, pulled him in, slamming his face against the cage repeatedly and with a riotous abandon I’ve never known myself to possess. He died and I pulled the keys from his corpse, escaping just in the nick of time.” The blood and other physical matter Donna was covered in obviously wasn’t her own. It was blood and other physical matter you’d probably assume came from a badly beaten human face. It was hard to imagine she was lying about what she’d done. Evidence suggested she was being truthful. “That was pretty brave of you. Way braver than anything I’ve done. Thanks. My family thanks you,” Herbert said. Out of nowhere sprang the badly destroyed body of Rob, who was trying to make noises about his donut-eating while he simultaneously swallowed his own teeth. Shania took aim with her shotgun and fired. His torso opened up and expelled fluids all over the deck. Willoughby stuck one of their grappling hooks into Rob’s neck and Joff pushed what remained over the side of the ship’s support railings. The others tied the opposite end of the grappling hook’s rope to the very same railing and upon catching Rob as he landed, it partially decapitated him. His entrails attracted sharks who were able to spring from the surface of the water and tear away big chunks of his body. Eventually the sharks ate every bit of him, and they still could have eaten way more. C
Matt Rowan lives in Chicago, IL, with a talented female writer and two talented chihuahuas. He coedits Untoward Magazine and Horrible Satan and is fiction editor of Another Chicago Magazine. He is 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. His collection of CCLaP Weekender stories, Big Venerable, will be released in 2015.
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Paul McCartney is not a celebrity himself, but works on the edges of that industry, unhappily toiling away at a tabloid devoted to famous deaths and the public’s ongoing fascination with them. But one day he discovers a mysterious red button on a back wall of his new house, which when pressed causes the immediate death of a celebrity sometimes half a world away. And what does this have to do with the eyeball in a glass jar that his biggest fan has recently mailed to him? Find out the darkly hilarious answer in this full-length debut of British absurdist author Stephen Moles. A rousingly bizarro exploration of fame, identity and mortality, this novella will make you laugh and cringe in equal measure, a perfect read for existing fans of Will Self or Chuck Palahniuk. You might not think a book about death would begin with the word “life” written 27 times in a row, but then you have yet to enter the strange but compelling world of Paul is Dead. Best approached with caution and with tongue firmly in cheek!
Download for free at cclapcenter.com/paulisdead
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Location: Chicago, IL Filmmaker and photographer partial to imperfection. Images are lo-fi, warped, damaged, hazy. Techniques utilizing over-exposure, over-flash, use of expired film stock, soft focus, and light leaks, suggest a nostalgia that is familiar yet untraceable. All these images are analog and are dedicated to those who are direct products of - but live outside of - society. To those who embody imperfection regally and with a blinding beauty, to those who live fully self-expressed and thus, honorably. Emily is currently in production on her first feature film titled, ‘EL CULTO DE LA MUERTE (CULT OF THE DEAD)’ shot in Oaxaca, MX and Chicago, IL. She curates a monthly film and video series titled ‘THE WRETCHED NOBLES OF THE EXILED DYNASTY’ at the Chicago DIY venue, Young Camelot.
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emilyesperanza.com vimeo.com/emilyesperanza emilyesperanza.tumblr.com twitter.com/emilylesperanza
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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 2015, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. All rights revert back to artists upon publication. Editor-in-chief: Jason Pettus. Story Editor: Behnam Riahi. Layout Editor: Wyatt Robinette. Calendar Editor: Taylor Carlile. To submit your work for possible feature, or to add a calendar item, contact us at cclapcenter@ gmail.com.
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This week's edition of the Pushcart-Prize-nominated CCLaP Weekender [cclapcenter.com/weekender] features a new original piece of fiction by...