CCLaP Weekender, October 23rd 2015

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CCLaP Weekender

From the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography

October 23, 2015

New Fiction by TJ Davis Photography by Julie Weber Chicago Literary Events Calendar October 23, 2015 | 1


For all events, visit [cclapce


3pm Paper Machete The Green Mill / 4802 N. Broadway / Free, 21+

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+

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 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+

Featuring open mike, special guests, and end-of-the-night competition.

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GO LITERARY EVENTS] 7pm Asylum Le Fleur de Lis / 301 E. 43rd / $10

A weekly poetry showcase with live accompaniment by the band Verzatile.

MONDAY, OCTOBER 26 8:30pm Kafein Espresso Bar Kafein Espresso Bar / 1621 Chicago Ave., Evanston

Open mic with hosts Chris and Kirill.

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28 6pm Lyricist Loft Harold Washington Library / 400 South State / Free

“Open mic for open minds,” presented by Remix Spoken Word. Hosted by Dimi D, Mr. Diversity, and Fatimah. 9pm

In One Ear Heartland Cafe / 7000 N Glenwood

Chicago's 3rd longest-running open-mic show, hosted by Pete Wolf and Billy Tuggle.

To submit your own literary event, or to correct the information on anything you see here, please drop us a line

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“School’s Out for Summer!” by Christopher Webb []. Used under the terms of her Creative Commons license.

LETT 4 | CCLaP Weekender


1 Mr. Culligan: English What could I do? I couldn’t go to the police. That much was certain. I would have lost my job, my license, and would assuredly have made the front page of the daily rag this town calls a newspaper. For once, I wouldn’t have to assign my students to do some reading. The irony is not lost on me.


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For once, I wouldn’t have to assign my students to do some reading. The irony is not lost on me. No. No, the best thing to do would be to just pay him off and hope that is the end of it. One thing was certain: I will need to change the reading assignment for next week. Lolita has always been my favorite novel to teach, but it would have to wait for another year. I will have to change my passwords too. From home, of course, not at the school. Too many eyes. Far, far too many eyes in this place now. I wish I were back in Japan, where the culture is more understanding of this sort of thing. I visited there, during my semester abroad, back in my younger and more venereal years (sorry, couldn’t resist), and I’ve got an authentic samurai sword to prove it! But all those days are gone. Now, I’m here, in Maine, with a crisp fall hobbling down on us from the mountains. Best to just put the whole thing behind me. 2 Miss Kim Ellie: Social Studies He came up to my classroom after October’s parent teacher conferences and told me to lock the door. We sat there, both at student desks, like Lee and Grant at Appomattox. In case you are wondering, I am Lee in this reenactment. “Embezzlement is a crime,” he said. He had included the same word in the letter he had sent me earlier that day. “So is blackmail.” “Are those the shoes?” he asked without needing to. “Italian?” Of course, they were, and he also knew about the comma in their price tag. So the student bake sale had been more profitable then I had let on. So what? Redistribution of wealth, chapter nine in the econ book. I was merely trying to help the local economy. I was making sure that funds went to the worthier cause. The fundraiser was a sham anyway. Why raise money for a dead man? The students had raised an impressive amount for his cancer treatment before he decided to go all Kurt Cobain in the water. If he hadn’t driven off the pier, I would never have even been tempted. In the storm of grief and unanswered questions that followed, nobody even asked me what I was going to do with the drawer full of money at my desk. He was gone, literally and figuratively. They hadn’t found the body yet, and if there is a silver lining in the self-slaughter of the terminally ill, it is that their family did not have to keep pouring funds down the proverbial drain. In retrospect, the shoes had been a poor choice. They were constantly getting stuck in the sidewalk cracks of what the locals here insist on calling a downtown. It was a miracle I hadn’t broken either of my ankles. And would 6 | CCLaP Weekender

anyone have put on a bake sale if I hadn’t? Of course not, even though doctors know how to mend a broken ankle. I wish I could say the same for prostate cancer, but I can’t. And that’s the blunt of it. He was a math teacher. He must’ve calculated the odds of even surviving to the end of the school year. Suicide is selfish, plain and simple. And selfishness is disgusting, or at the very least, a turnoff. But back to our little Treaty of Versailles, or did I call it Appomattox? Either way, I let him have me on the desk. He wasn’t handsome by any stretch of the imagination, but he looked better than the posters of Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin hanging on my walls. He insisted that I keep the shoes on. I focused on their fine stitching as they wobbled above his shoulders like a pair of tiny, black angel wings. 3 Mr. Preece: Math I calculated the angle of descent would be twenty degrees. Due to the chemo, I figured a pair of twenty-kilogram weights secured inside my shirt would ensure sinking. People think math teachers are cold-hearted, objective creatures. But I have never seen such a perfect night. I can still smell that October air! Exactly 50 degrees Fahrenheit. 0% humidity. A soft breeze coming in from the west at ten mph. It was a base ten night if there ever was one. I thought about the stars as I drove with the sunroof down, toward the ocean. The salty perfume of the sea beckoned me. I made for the pier: a wide, wooden shelf, about five feet above the water. I had gone there the day that I had received his letter. An actual letter! I can’t remember the last time somebody sent me an actual letter, or the last time I had written one. Except for this afternoon, of course, when I wrote two. People think math teachers aren’t considerate, but I had the decency to write a note. My wife hates the ocean, you see? She also hates this car. And after tonight, she’ll probably hate me. That’s why I chose to do it like this. It’s the least I can do for her. The least. For a while, I did try to find a way to make it look like an accident, but once you’ve got cancer, insurance agents will work very, very diligently to investigate such matters. I gave up trying to come up with a big scheme to fool them. Cindy’s probably reading her note right now, as I pass the parking lot of the pier, a security guard screaming after me and waving his flashlight. I calculate that there is about a one-in-twenty chance that I had taught that security guard in one of my classes. One of the oddities of teaching in a small October 23, 2015 | 7

town is that you never stop running into familiar faces. Frank probably won’t see his letter until he gets done proofing tomorrow’s edition. I regret that he’ll probably have to supervise the writing of my obituary, but what can you do? I check one more time. Seatbelt is secure. Two weights are in place. Unless the security guard decides to get all David Hasselhoff on me, and barring the chance of some meddlesome mermaids interposing, it should all be over soon. Should I turn on the radio and drown out the sound of that belligerent security guard? Can’t I get some goddamn peace and quiet? The tires thump-a-thump down the wooden pier. If a Pontiac Sunfire weighs 2771 pounds (and it does), and it hits the ocean at an angle of twenty degrees (and it is about to), how high will the splash go? Answer: really fucking high. The crash is louder than I thought it would be, and I find myself sinking oddly, slowly into the ocean. I step on the accelerator and then the brakes just to see what happens. Nothing happens. Ten yards behind me, the security guard’s voice travels at 1,125 feet per second from his mouth to my ears. The water will be up to my ears in about ten seconds. The security guard has thrown a life preserver into the water and is still yelling some sort of nonsense, but at least he’s not jumping in after me. I try to turn on the radio to drown out the sound, but the car battery is dead. I feel like singing. “Show me the way home! I’m tired and I want to go to bed!” I scream at him, the moon, my wife, and the bastard who wrote me that letter. Singing has never been one of my talents, as I’m sure my wife would not hesitate to tell you. 4 Ms. Tseng: Chinese The bell rings. No, that’s not exactly right. The electronic tone alerts us that it’s time for class to begin. These vampires are all sitting in their rows, waiting to be fed. Knowledge? What for? They have no need for it. What can I teach them that they don’t already think they know? And they’ve got their own vampires too. Tiny little leeches that they’ve put on silent or vibrate mode for the 45 minutes we have together. Even when they’re looking at me, I can tell they’re really thinking about that soothing vibration that I can hear after I’ve asked them a question. I hope they’re smarter than some of the people around here with 8 | CCLaP Weekender

technology. Me, for instance. The principal told me I needed to set up a Twitter account so parents and students could know what I am doing in the class. Why not come and talk to me? What ever happened to face-to-face conversations? Every year, another group of freshmen asks me where they can find the information from my lectures, and every year, I tell them: in my lectures. Yet, they insist that my class is too hard. They need a foreign language to graduate, and most of them chose Chinese because there are rumors that the Spanish teacher is crazy. I tell them they can always come in after school to get remedial help in Chinese, for a price. I suppose that’s why I got my letter. It was as polite as could be, and written with penmanship as good as any of the calligraphers back in Beijing. The writer had said that he understood exactly why I had done it. A family back home in China that needed money, students that didn’t feel like they owned something unless they paid for it, and an administration that had cut the foreign language budget every year for the past decade. Although (the following are his words, mind you), it does seem a bit unfair to the kids who can’t afford to pay for my after school “enrichment” courses. In fact, it seemed like the only kids that got As, Bs, or even Cs were the same ones that were handing me little envelopes every two weeks. So what if they were? Those kids were the only ones that ever showed any dedication to learning Mandarin. And they could speak it fluently too! You want to know how to solve the education problems in America? Have the students pay the teachers. Not the homeowners, not the parents, not the government, but have the students hand us the money. That’s the only way to get them to care. Do you think I got to America without learning how to get things done? I collect the quizzes and separate them into two piles on the desk. The questions for the quiz are on the white board, but they’ll have changed by the time the students get the quiz back. The students who come in after school will have a chance to answer the real questions, and by the time I show them the quiz in a few days, none of the other kids will even notice that the questions are in a different order. They might suspect something. They’ll

They need a foreign language to graduate, and most of them chose Chinese because there are rumors that the Spanish teacher is crazy.

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swear, up-and-down, that they answered the questions correctly, but in the end, they’ll chock it up to their own ignorance, which is not too far off the mark, and certainly no problem of mine. It’s a shame, but a necessary one. Lord knows what I’ll do if we ever get an actual Chinese immigrant in one of my classes. But we’re in small-town Maine. I think I’m safe. The important thing is not to leave any evidence, a lesson I should have learned a long time ago. You see, I got sloppy. I accepted one check. That’s all it took. If I hadn’t looked online to make sure that the check had cleared, I wouldn’t be in this mess. Now, I’m going to be out thousands of dollars. Which is regrettable for me, but whom I really feel sorry for are the students. They are going to have to take more enrichment classes to even have a chance at passing. 5 Mrs. King: Health I had given the guy from Bangor my school email, because my husband had made me give him the password to my personal email and my Facebook account. He insisted I give them to him after that rough patch we went through, a few years ago. I was careful this time. The moment the guy from Bangor wrote that he wanted to meet in person again, I called him and told him not to email me anymore. Not to text me either, but only to call my classroom phone during my prep period. We had met at a teacher’s conference in Augusta at the end of summer. You’ve never seen someone so dedicated to elementary teaching. This guy was everything that my husband wasn’t. We went out to drinks that night, and I knew I was in trouble. We weren’t flirtatious, at first. Well, of course we were a little flirtatious, but we both had wedding rings, so it was impossible that anything could ever happen between us. After a few more drinks, it was ridiculous that anything could ever happen between us. Then it was a shame that nothing could ever happen between us. And finally, it just sort of happened, and there was a wet spot between us. After lunch on the Friday after Thanksgiving break, I found an envelope containing the last email exchange with the guy from Bangor, another email exchange between my husband and me where he said he would miss me while I went to my workshop that weekend, and the printouts of a Google search where I had looked for the Pinecrest Inn near Gorham, Maine. Included with the printouts was a handwritten letter in exquisite cursive that included the not impolite assurance that my husband might find these documents very interesting, along with a figure for keeping them out of his purview. 10 | CCLaP Weekender

That afternoon, my high school health students rejoiced to know that they would, in fact, not be giving their oral reports on the endocrine system, and we would instead be watching a video on the circulatory system. I sat behind my desk and massaged my temples, wondering how I could withdraw the money from the bank without my husband noticing. Of course, I could just go through with the other option that the bastard had suggested in his letter, but I don’t think I’d have the stomach for it. Especially after eating our school lunch of “pizza” and “mashed potatoes.” If he thought I was going to let him stick his fingers in my clam, he was dreaming. Probably doesn’t even wash his hands after touching all those keyboards all day. I told the teacher next door to keep an eye on my students while I went to the IT room to ask him about doing a payment plan. He agreed, and the only satisfaction I got during that dark afternoon was seeing the droop in his expression when I told him that I was not interested in option #2. It was a small victory in an otherwise terrible Friday. 6 Mr. Mac Allen: Technology I should have seen it coming, no pun intended. If it she hadn’t looked so good in nothing but those shoes, I probably would’ve remembered the condom in my briefcase. Now, I’m the one receiving a letter. No. Let me rephrase that. I received a package. A little, white stick that reeked of asparagus. On it was a tiny, significant addition sign, something that I’m sure Mr. Preece would’ve found fitting and that Mr. Culligan would’ve found ironic. Or would it be a coincidence? I would ask him, but I don’t think he’s quite forgiven me for threatening to expose him and his prurient interests. It’s not like they were never warned. I told every single one of them that anything they did on the school network was not private. Nobody ever listens. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’ve probably heard stories about me, but I am not a monster. If anything, I’m imparting justice on this hapless, helpless crew of educators. Teaching the teachers as it were. I don’t want my daughter or son growing up in a single parent household. I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t take responsibility for the little bundle of bastardry. And hypocrisy is the one thing I’m trying to incise out of this house of learning. Still, I should’ve worn a condom. October 23, 2015 | 11

7 Jared Butler: Science Something very peculiar is going on at our school. I’ve been teaching science here, longer than anybody, and the faculty lounge has always been a place that is buzzing with communication. When before it was a place full of anger, humor, and gossip, it is now a cold, lifeless room. As far as I can tell, I’m the only one that eats in here anymore. I see people come in, go the fridge, and head back to their classrooms to eat in isolation without giving more than a quick nod to me. At first, I thought it was something I’d done, but the closer I look, the more I see that nobody is really talking to anyone anymore. There must be an explanation. Every week, I come up with a new hypothesis, but nothing seems to pan out. Here is the evidence that I’ve compiled. 1. Teachers aren’t talking to each other. 2. Teachers look tired (bags under the eyes, frizzy hair, and lots of yawning). 3. Teachers are no longer complaining about state standards or the administration (a first in my thirty years of teaching). 4. Teachers are no longer complaining about the students (another first in thirty years). What can it all mean? It seems to have started sometime in October. It’s now nearly Christmas. I would like to say it had something to do with Mr. Preece’s unfortunate suicide, but things seemed oddly tense even before that. These days, everyone leaves at 3:30 on the dot. I see them from my window, heading to their cars without even a farewell wave to their coworkers. There have always been teachers that leave as soon as they can, but there are usually a few of us that stay after-hours to work on things. Our Chinese teacher used to stay even later than me, tutoring students. Bless her heart. Even my old friend, Mr. Culligan, would have book clubs with some of the students. He would offer coffee, hot cocoa, and cookies to all the kids that had an interest in reading the classics. Now, when I look at his room at the end of the hall, I never see the comforting sight of light coming from the cracks of his door when I leave in the evening. It seems like there was always laughing and giggling coming from that room. Nevermore. So, what could it be? What happened to my school? I tell my students that the scientific method can be used to understand the universe, but it seems to have failed me for the time being.

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8 Mr. Mac Allen: Santa Claus I’ve decided to make amends with the staff. No more blackmail. No more extortion. I want to be a role model to my future daughter or son. So I sent them each another letter. I told them that I’m sorry for what I had done and that I see things in a completely different light. I gave back most of the money that I had collected from them. I wish I could give back what I’d given to Miss Ellie, but that would be impossible. I want her to see that I can be a decent human being before I even breach the idea of marriage with her. The kid deserves a father. People can change. That’s what I want to tell her, but I need to prove it first, or else why would she even listen? If anything, the flaws in her character should make her more receptive to accepting the imperfections in mine. So the day before Christmas break, I came to school dressed up like Santa Claus. The kids got a kick out of it. The principal called me into her office and asked what I planned to do if any of the parents complained about having such a blatantly Christian symbol walking around in the halls. I told her she was more than welcome to dress up like a dreidel, a Kwanza mkeka, or a Festivus pole to please the politically correct overseers. I was just trying to bring up staff morale, which (I think she would agree) had been in the proverbial dump lately. It was a strange day. After school, I went to everyone’s classroom that I had wronged. Told them that they wouldn’t need to worry about me anymore. And did they happen to know what sort of stuff that Kim Ellie liked? Of course, I could have done a simple search of her network activities to know what she liked and didn’t like, but I didn’t want to do that sort of stuff anymore. As a final Christmas present, I hacked into everyone’s computer and installed the N. Cage app, which made every picture on his or her device turn into a picture of Nicholas Cage. Everyone was laughing, utterly confused, and trying to figure out how to get it removed when one of the seniors (one of Mr. Culligan’s former book club members, actually) saw that it was an extension on their Chrome browser. Once I saw that she figured it out, I sent out a school-wide email saying that the IT department had solved the problem, gave instructions on how to remove it, and tried to think of how best to ask out Kim Ellie to my favorite tapas restaurant. To be honest, my inbox had been pretty lonely the past few months. With the exception of Jared, none of the teachers had been on speaking (or October 23, 2015 | 13

writing) terms with me. So I was shocked when I saw emails from the staff thanking me for finding out how to get rid of the N. Cage app (none of them even hinting that I could’ve been involved from the start), and some of them even wished me a Merry Christmas. The only thing left to do was figure out how to get Kimmy to say yes to a date with me. It wouldn’t be easy, but I took the lack of profanities attached to her positive pregnancy test as a good sign. Who’s to say that blackmail can’t be the start of a mutually enriching relationship?

9 Jose Jones: Janitor It is New Year’s Day. I am the only one at the school. They always ask me to come in the day before school begins to clean. I hate it. It is cold and lonely. I usually have a headache on this day. Mostly, I am bored. Sometimes, I get bored and I look through the recycling and see if I know any of the answers. You would be surprised how much I have learned from looking through the recycling. I know the students better than many of the teachers because I know what to look for. I see doodles in margins. They tell me who is bored in class. I see notes passed to friends and then discarded. They think it is discarded. I know who is in love with whom. I know who hates whom. I have learned the difference between who and whom from worksheets that have many, many doodles on them. Once upon a time, we had a student teacher at the school. Student teachers are gullible college students that pay to do the job that others get paid for. I wish there were student janitors. But this student teacher was pretty and spoke some Spanish, so we talked. She said there is an advice in education classes, “Always make friends with the janitors and the secretaries.” I think this is very good advice. Like many good advice, it is rarely followed. I received no Christmas bonus this year. I did see some very interesting things in the recycling. They caught my eye because they were written in beautiful handwriting. I am not very good at reading cursive. I had to unlock the third grade teacher’s classroom and look at her posters to help translate the letters. I read all five

Student teachers are gullible college students that pay to do the job that others get paid for.

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letters that I found. They are all letters of big emotion. The letters were for Mr. Culligan, Miss Ellie, Mrs. Tseng, Mrs. King, and Miss Fernandez. They were all sorry letters from Mr. Allen. They were very specific. The teachers have been very bad. Mr. Allen has decided to forgive them, for Christmas is a time to forgive, he says. I wonder what he is planning. Why did he change his mind? My mother is Catholic. My grandmother is Catholic. And Mrs. Fernandez is Catholic, too. She is the only one of the teachers who talks to me without wanting something (except some evil students that say “hola” to me in the hallways and then laugh). I am not Catholic. I am—wait, let me find the word list from Mr. Culligan’s class, it had a very good word. Disgruntled. I am disgruntled. 10 Miss Kim Ellie: Softball Coach Mr. Allen stepped up to the plate. He sure as hell took long enough. I gave him that pregnancy test two weeks ago and he didn’t say a goddamn word until the day before Christmas break. Sorry, we’re supposed to call it winter break. It’s one of the euphemisms you learn while teaching at a public school, along with “lower students” (see: idiots), “free lunch population” (see: poor kids), and “working to meet state standards” (see: teaching kids how to jump through hoops like fucking circus bears). What? Do I sound pissed? Pessimistic? I’m a fucking single, twentysomething that got violated-on-top-of-a-copy-of-the-Magna-Carta-andended-up-knocked-up! You’d be pissed too. But still, it wasn’t an altogether unpleasant experience. Back to our batter, Mr. Allen. He’s a tough nut to crack. He told me over dinner at some sketchy tapas place that he was basically the Gepetto of the whole school. He didn’t want to tell me what dirt he dug up on everyone else, but I told him if he wanted to keep this “date” going further than the first round of dishes, he would need to give me something. “How about if I can guess what they did, you tell me if I’m right?” I asked. He scratched the back of his head and crossed his legs. That was good. Let him squirm for once. “Fine,” he said. “If you guess right, I tell you. But you only get one guess per teacher.” October 23, 2015 | 15

“All right.” I sat back and figured I would have to think for a while, but it turned out that I already had my assumptions about most of my coworkers. “The math teacher was gay and didn’t want his wife to find out.” He stopped a forkful of feta-stuffed mushrooms in front of his lips. “Correct.” “Mr. Culligan fucks the students in his book club.” “No.” I cocked my head and squinted my expertly mascaraed eyes at him. “Not everyone in his book club. Only the girls—and only the ones that are at least eighteen.” “Are you seriously trying to defend a fucking pedophile?” I said, maybe with a bit too much volume in the tiny tapas restaurant. “No,” he stiffened. “Of course not. He’s disgusting, and I’m glad I made him stop.” “If you think he stopped, you’re just as gullible as those girls that let him fuck them. All of you men are disgusting.” “Not as bad as you women. You should see some of the horrible things the so-called fairer sex has done,” he retorted, with some force behind it. I liked that. He was going to get to first base after all. “Okay. Let’s talk about our female colleagues. Is Mrs. King an alcoholic?” “No. She’s an adulteress,” he volunteered, but I pretended not to notice his slip. “Is the Chinese teacher fucking her students too?” “No. She’s basically making them pay to pass her class, but they do learn Chinese in the process.” When the waiter came and asked how the stuffed mushrooms were, I asked for a glass of red wine. Mr. Allen’s eyes objected by glimpsing at my stomach, but he didn’t say a word of objection. Baby or no baby, I planned on getting drunk that night. “So,” I said, “is Jared a serial killer?” At this, he laughed for the first time all night. I smiled too. I had been mostly kidding, but it’s good to make sure of those kinds of things. “Jared Butler is the only decent human being teaching at our school,” he said. “Is that so?” I said, watching as the waiter poured my Argentinian red. “That’s a pretty bold statement to make on a first date with one of those indecent teachers.” “Yes, it is. And true too. I’m not a good person, and you’re not a good person either. But people are attracted to the strangest things.” He quickly snatched my glass of wine and drank it in a single motion. Third base it is, I thought. “Tell me, Mr. Allen. Was embezzling a few 16 | CCLaP Weekender

dollars for a new pair of shoes the worst thing you saw me do this year?” “Yes. But the night is young.” 11 Jared: Science Señora Fernandez had the entire staff and their families over to her home for her yearly picnic celebrating Cinco de Mayo. She started the tradition when she came to our little town ten years ago, and it was always a roaring success. You could always count on strong margaritas and slow-roasted pork for the adults, piñatas and ice cream for the kids. The pall that had hung over the whole school and seemed about to suffocate all of us had dissipated right before Christmas. It seems that Mr. Allen and Miss Ellie have started a not-so-secret courtship. I’ve been teaching long enough to be worried that things might not turn out well for them, but I also know when to let people do their own experiments. In a seemingly morbid act of closure, the authorities finally found Mr. Preece’s body on Valentine’s Day. It’s not often that a man gets two funerals. His widow cried just as hard at the second one. Closed casket, of course. March and April had passed without much of anything going on beyond the usual outbreak of senioritis. I noticed that Mr. Allen and Miss Ellie drove up to Señora Fernandez’s party in the same car. Their relationship was scandalous to some of the older teachers. I heard Mrs. Tseng and a cluster of the elementary teachers not quite whispering dark things near the tables brimming with food and sliced fruits. Miss Ellie had been showing for weeks. She and Mr. Allen stood there in the green grass, him drinking electric green margaritas, her drinking a fresh lime soda, their fingers both painfully ring-less. Señora Fernandez informed me of what would’ve happened if she had gotten pregnant while she had taught in Mexico. I tried to tell here that, here in Maine, things are different. We judge—and we judge harshly—but we also don’t like to meddle in other people’s business. It was sunny and perfect on that fourth of May, with only a wispy hint of clouds in the sky. We had to schedule the party a day early because the real Cinco de Mayo was on Sunday, and nobody wanted to have a hangover while performing in front of the students on Monday. I thought it was a wonderful time. Sure, Mr. Culligan seemed to be hitting the shots pretty hard, which meant sooner rather than later I would probably be forced to endure one his painfully erudite explanations about how the Japanese do this and the Japanese do that. Between him, Señora Fernandez, and Mrs. Tseng, it seemed that everyone wished they were somewhere else, October 23, 2015 | 17

but I guess that’s human nature. We usually have a few staff get-togethers throughout the year, but Cinco de Mayo is the only day that everybody that works at the school shows up. Teachers’ aides, the lunch ladies, the cleaning staff, secretaries, and even everyone’s kids get to partake in the festivities. I can’t imagine the planning that Señora Fernandez must put into it every year. It was a bit depressing to see people clinging to their usual groups though. The high school teachers hung out with the high school teachers, the elementary with the elementary teachers. It was like the school cafeteria, but without a cool table. Well, I guess if there was a cool table at the picnic, it was the bar, which Jose, the janitor, was doing a wonderful job of tending. He poured strong drinks, and I must confess that I had a few more gin and tonics than my usual, which is none. On the way to fetch my third drink, I ran into Mr. Allen at the bar. “Beautiful day,” Mr. Allen remarked. “Yep. Jose, can I get another of your wonderful gin and tonics?” “You don’t want a margarita, Mr. Butler?” “No thanks, Jose. And for the last time, call me Jared.” “I’ll take another of your margaritas,” Mr. Allen offered while handing him two empty glasses, “and another lime soda for Kim.” As Jose mixed the drinks, I looked across the lawn to see Kim Ellie talking with Mrs. King in a conspiratorial fashion. “What do you think those two are talking about?” I asked Mr. Allen while taking a big, long sip of my expertly mixed refreshment. “Last I heard, they were debating whether the fall of Rome was caused by political instability or lead in the pipes.” “That so?” I asked. “Why do you think I offered to get her another drink?” He took a sip of his electric green margarita and looked at me, I mean really looked at me, as if he were puzzled by my very existence. “What’s your secret, Jared? How come I’ve never heard anyone say a single bad word about you?” Now, how is a man supposed to respond to that? “I guess being boring has its perks,” I offered. “Though I doubt the students see it that way.” He laughed and gave me a wink. “Well, back into the breach,” the smiling tech teacher told me, his margarita in his right hand and Miss Ellie’s lime soda in his ring-less left one. My words about letting people be must’ve hit home with Señora Fernandez, because before she blindfolded a highly inebriated Mr. Culligan to swing at the piñata, she offered a toast to Mr. Allen and Miss Ellie (though I couldn’t help but notice that she called them Mr. and Mrs. Allen). After 18 | CCLaP Weekender

that, she spun Culligan around a few times and handed him a baseball bat. It only took him one swing, and then all the kids were crawling on the ground, picking up the piñata’s delicious, exploded guts. 12 Señora Fernandez: Spanish I never forgave him for, much less forgot, what he’d done to me. Chinga tu madre. 13 Mrs. King: Health Miss Kim Ellie told me that he stood by her the whole time, in the hospital. Held her hand while she cried something awful, while what was left of that baby slipped right out of her. The doctor told her that she had ingested a gigantic dose of mifepristone. That’s what the women down in Augusta give you for a “medical abortion.” But it’s like I tell my students, there’s nothing medical about it. It doesn’t do anything but tear you up from the inside out. Ask Kim, she could tell you. She figures it was the Spanish teacher that did it, but I know better. It was God’s way of punishing Mr. Allen for what he did to everybody. Half the staff must’ve been thinking about killing him by the time Halloween came around. If he thought dressing up like Santy Claus was going to make people forget what he did, he’s dumber than some of the lower level students at this school. Still, least he stood by her there in the hospital that night after the staff picnic. I can’t imagine what that must’ve been like. Me and Mr. King have been through our share of tough times, and I won’t deny that I was the cause of most of them. Sometimes, the hard times bring you closer together. Other times, they don’t. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I would’ve gone so long without cheating on my poor husband if Mr. Allen hadn’t got his stinking paws in my business. Can’t say I don’t get the urge every now again to backslide. Specially when I’m on the road for a conference or when Mr. King is off at work and I’m cooped up in the house alone all day. But I think people can change, and there’s no denying that Mr. Allen did his best to be good to Miss Ellie and that baby. Still, I don’t think anybody was expectin’ what happened next.

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14 Miss Ellie: Social Studies I couldn’t understand what had happened. What the doctor told me about that mife—, mife—, whatever the fuck it’s called—it didn’t make any sense. I couldn’t believe that one of my coworkers would’ve done that. Mr. Culligan and Mac were in the room when the doctor told me about it. Culligan excused himself, saying he was sorry there wasn’t anything he could do to help, and he asked Mac to join him for a few margaritas so I could get some rest. Mac just shook his head without even looking up and told him he was going to stay with me. I refused to stay at the hospital that night, so they gave me a little orange tube filled with Valium and let Mac Allen take me home The closest thing I ever had to an enemy, at the school at least, was Mac, and he sure as shit didn’t do it. He seemed more broken up about losing the baby than I was. In fact, I never had a chance to tell him, but I was kind of relieved that we lost the baby. All I know is that right before I fell asleep, the last thing I remember was Mac laying next me in bed, holding an electric blanket on my stomach, and running his other hand through my hair. 15 Mr. Mac Allen: Technology I went back to Señora Fernandez’s house after Kimmy fell asleep. It was past midnight, so it was officially Cinco de Mayo. It was Kimmy who had taught me that Cinco de Mayo was not, as is commonly believed, Mexico’s Independence Day, but the day when the Mexican army had won an unlikely victory against the French. For most of the people in our little corner of Maine, it was just a day to go to one of the two Mexican restaurants (Guadalupe or Señor Tacos) and drink watered down margaritas or cheap tequila. I drove back to her house, wanting to hurt Señora Fernandez. Not physically, mind you. It was never my intention for anybody to get hurt. I parked my car at the end of her massive driveway and walked the rest of the way by light of the moon. The only light on in the house was coming from the living room. When I opened the front door without knocking, she was sitting on an impossibly big rocking chair, waiting like a spider. She looked like a Bond villain. “Oh! Mr. Allen. What brings you to my casa at this late hour?” “You killed my baby, Fernandez.” 20 | CCLaP Weekender

“No. I most certainly did not. How could you even suggest such a thing? Did something happen to your wife?” “We’re not married.” “Really? I hadn’t noticed. You know, where I come from—.” “I don’t give a shit about what they do where you come from.” “Yes, you do. Remember? That’s why you sent me that letter. Because you cared about some awful lie that was spread about me decades ago.” At this point, Jose bashed my head in with the same baseball bat that Mr. Culligan had used to open the piñata. Everything was fireworks for a second. Then it was black. When I came to, they had me tied to a chair. They told me how Jose had found the letters and showed them to her. About how Señora Fernandez had obtained the mifepristone, and he had poured it in Kimmy’s drinks. They gave me a laptop and told me to show them every bit of incriminating evidence that I had found on the people I worked with. They were planning on taking over where I had left off. They were going to blackmail everyone at the school, even me. I refused, and not politely. Señora Fernandez was lecturing me on how some of the cleaning fluids Jose had on hand could do quite extraordinary things to the human digestive system, when the front door crashed open. It was Mr. Culligan. “Deux ex machina, motherfuckers!” he screamed. He ran in with a goddamn samurai sword and started slicing them. Screams and blood. Wet chunks of pink and red flew to the floor, the walls, the furniture, the ceiling. They might as well have been ripe bananas underneath his vanquishing blade. After what I’d witnessed at the hospital, Cinco de Mayo rocketed up to the bloodiest bloody night of my life. He used the stained sword to cut my ropes and then gave me a quick, sultry kiss on the mouth. It tasted like tequila and enchiladas. “You better leave now, Mac. I’m going to burn this whole place down. Don’t worry. I left a note in my car for those that look into these sorts of things. It’s under my most cherished copy of Lolita.” “But why?” I asked. “Why would you do this?” “Because I am a twisted, sick son-of-a-bitch! And she was a cruel-greedybitch! And he—,” he pointed the katana at the clumps that were once Jose Jones, “—was a jealous, witless sycophant! I kept thinking about you and poor Kimmy at the bar. After my fifth margarita at Señor Tacos, I drove home and decided I needed to sharpen my sword, because that always helps me think. I thought the police could use my detective skills, so I started

When I came to, they had me tied to a chair.

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walking to the scene of the crime. I was already halfway here when I realized I hadn’t put down my sword. When I saw you tied up from the road, I crept up to the window. I heard everything.” He pulled me close, so I could once again appreciate all that he had digested that night. “We are all disgusting creatures, Mac. All except Jared. We must pay for our sins, even if we do not believe them to be sins. Do you know what Samson’s last words were, before he pulled down the pillars and killed himself and everyone else at the Temple of Dagon?” “I have no idea.” “Let me die with the Philistines. That’s all any of us can ever hope for.” C

TJ Davis is an international teacher from Minnesota. His published writing includes three collections of short stories, a novella, and a memoir about his three years living in Burma. His short story “Itchy,” finished in the top 16 of the Discovery Channel’s “How Stuff Works Halloween Fiction Contest.” You can find more from him at

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Julie Weber


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Julie Weber’s practice explores how materiality influences image by investigating how photographs are made and what histories come embedded. Paring down to fundamental aspects – namely light, time, surface, and liquid – Weber reconsiders and redirects potentials for photographic materials, methods, and definitions. Often the materials themselves and the processes they undergo become the subject matter and in turn, visual metaphor. Weber holds an MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in Psychology, Sociology, and Criminology from Dominican University. Weber is currently a HATCH Projects artist-in-residence with Chicago Artists Coalition, a member of Crusade for Art Chicago, and was a Ground Floor exhibiting artist with Hyde Park Art Center in 2014. She teaches at Waubonsee Community College and the Chicago Photography Center. Weber worked previously at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in the Photo Archives and as Production Coordinator of Filter Photo Festival.

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CCLaP Publishing

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

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w The CCLaP Weekender is published in electronic form only, every Friday for free download at the CCLaP website []. Copyright 2015, Chicago Center for Literature and Photography. All rights revert back to artists upon publication. Editorin-chief: Jason Pettus. Story Editor: Behnam Riahi. Photo Editor: Jennifer Yu. Layout Editor: Wyatt Robinette. Calendar Editor: Taylor Carlile. To submit your work for possible feature, or to add a calendar item, contact us at

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