Page 1

3

No.


Table of Contents Karen Walsh  Thirteenth Summer 

2 3

Philip Tinkler  Remote Station Echoes and Drinking with God Inside 

8 9

Chester Fid  Short Sale 

10 11

Richard Fein  Fuzzy Light and Local Stop Traveler  Minute Hope, Hourly Desire 

12 13 14

Liana Kapelke-Dale  Photosynthesis 

15 16

Anne Whitehouse  Moving and An Afternoon Nap 

17 18

Ranee Stemann  Crossroads Hotel 

19 20

A.M. DeCarlo  The Hungry Ghost of My Brother  Ruby  Heartland 

26 27 28 29

About this Issue Owner/Editor-in-chief: Kimberly Zapata Copy Editor: Amanda Davis Graphic Design: Jon Loudon Intern: Kareem Groomes Cover Photo: Kimberly Zapata


Karen Walsh lives in St. Louis, Missouri. She earned her undergraduate degree in English and graduate degree in psychology from the University of Missouri, St. Louis. Her stories and poetry have been published in print and online magazines, including Earth’s Daughters, Magnolia, Watermark, River Styx, FOCUS/Midwest, FreeFlashFiction, and Nail Polish Stories. She teaches psychology at Maryville University in St. Louis. You can follow her blog at sugareeblog.wordpress.com.

TRANSIENT

2


Thirteenth Summer It began when I noticed finger-sized holes in the turf, like someone had surreptitiously aerated my lawn. Then, the exoskeletons began dotting my elms and azaleas. In a matter of days, a multitude of split brown shells amassed at the base of my trees like piles of tiny, empty coffins. Those damned periodic cicadas were back, and although I’d endured their broods before, this thirteenth summer proved to be most intolerable. The yellowish, newly emerged insects covered my garden. They swarmed my house and garage, peppering windows and walls as they quickly matured. Passing cars crushed them by the hundreds until my street reeked from their decaying. I found it impossible to walk without stepping in sticky cicada remains and ruining my shoes. And for the ones that survived, their noise, rhythmic and incessant, was maddening. I found myself shortening my dog Tuffy’s walks. By the end of the first week, I was virtually under house arrest; I loathed the idea of stepping outside and into the swarm of bulging-eyed insects. I couldn’t look out of my windows without seeing a throng of them clutching the screens, their membranous wings red-veined and shimmering. They blanketed my shutters and climbed the columns outside my front door, clung to the underside of my hosts’ fleshy leaves, and dotted the trunks of my dogwood and cherry trees like ugly brown warts. I tried sweeping them from the porch but my broom only sent their wedge-shaped bodies spinning in circles at my feet. The hose provided no better remedy. I aimed a stream of water at my infested azaleas but the buzzing insects hardly budged. I searched for a quick solution. I was

TRANSIENT

Karen Walsh

not about to waste five or six weeks of my summer waiting for the brood to complete their eat-mate-lay-eggs-and-die cycle. But I wasn’t interested in any of the fixes offered by the pest control companies. How would circling my trees with sticky tape to catch the nymphs solve the noise problem? And poisoning the mating adults was worrisome for Tuffy’s health. “That’s no good, is it, boy?” He circled at my feet and, when I looked away from the computer screen, dashed to the front door and barked. I took down his leash and ventured outdoors, into the din. At the end of my driveway stood my neighbor, Margery. Her Scottie, Angus, pawed at the mound of dying insects that had fallen into the street and collected in the gutter. “Terrible noise, isn’t it?” she asked, tugging Angus away from the stinking pile. “They’re disgusting! What I wouldn’t do to make them go away,” I replied. Together, we walked to the elm grove at the end of the block and chatted while our dogs did their business. Margery was old enough to be my mother but she had the energy of someone much younger. She and Angus took long walks around the neighborhood every day. “They’ll get louder, you know,” she warned. One of the swarm landed on her shoulder. She swatted it to the ground where it chirped in protest. Angus sniffed the vibrating insect. Tuffy barked but kept his distance. “When the temperature rises, they chirp louder.” “Please, God,” I entreated. “I can’t stand any more of that.” “On the other hand,” she offered, “they’re food for the birds. We’ll see more robins and bluebirds this summer.” Of all the neighbors I’d commiserated with

3


about the perfect storm of insects invading our subdivision, leave it to Margery to find a silver lining. “If they’re so popular with the birds, you’d think they would disappear faster.” “Well, there are only so many birds.” Margery had given me an idea. I hurried home and went straight to my computer to search for pigeon breeders. City pigeons eat everything, don’t they? I must have sent a dozen email messages to local pigeon fanciers. I inquired, could they bring their birds and let them feed? And, once the cicadas were gone, would the pigeons fly back home? The next morning, I had several replies offering to sell me pigeons: rollers and tumblers, racing pigeons, performing pigeons. But much to my dismay, I was informed that pigeons eat seeds and fruit, not insects. I watched for Margery and Angus, and as they came past, I hustled Tuffy outside and joined them on their walk. “Which birds eat cicadas?” She chuckled, “I’ve seen robins and sparrows, mostly.” “Is that all?” “I suppose any kind of small raptor would, too.” “Like falcons?” “Yes, or hawks.” “But falcons return to their perch, don’t they?” “If they’re trained.” She looked puzzled. “Why?” “Oh, I’m just curious,” I said. “Thanks for your help!” Tuffy and I sprinted home. We passed my galvanized watering can in the breezeway. Drowned cicadas floated inside. Disgusting! A few minutes later, I’d posted my Craigslist ad for a falconer, and not long

TRANSIENT

Karen Walsh

after, received this reply: “I have the birds who can do your job –Cecil.” He included his telephone number. I immediately called. “What kind of birds do you have?” “They’re falcons.” “Peregrine?” “Not quite.” “But they’ll eat the cicadas?” “It’ll take a few days but they’ll get the job done.” “How many birds are we talking about?” “Enough.” “I need to know how many.” “It ain’t gonna be no Hitchcock movie, if that’s what you mean. I got a half-dozen pairs.” “Pairs?” “Falcons pair-bond, ma’am. The males and the females, they stick together.” “How soon can you come?” I was captivated with the notion of watching Cecil’s swooping pairs gobble up cicadas en masse. “Tomorrow.” Cecil arrived in an unmarked white panel van, wearing an oversized tie-dyed t-shirt and a whistle and lanyard around his neck. His expression was difficult to read. I realized he had a prosthetic left eye. He slid open the van doors and revealed a dozen crates, each with a single bird inside. The birds’ heads were hooded, but what I could see looked nothing like anything I’d ever known before. His falcons were the size of Blue Jays. Their legs were feathered, with large, strong feet and toes. Cecil slipped a heavy glove on his hand and reached into one of the crates, extracting the bird. A small bell, attached to its feathered leg, rang softly. Long strips of leather hung from its talons. He removed its leather hood and, right away, I noticed the bird’s curved red beak, shaped like a bottle

4


opener. “What kind of falcon is that?” I asked. “They’re hybrids,” he replied. “I breed ‘em myself.” The bird trained his large eyes on me. “So,” I said, looking away from the bird, “what happens next?” He grinned. “I’ll let ‘em get to gettin’ on those cicadas.” The bird called out in a high-pitched cry, startling me. “Don’t be scared. She won’t go after you.” “Can I see this one do it before you let the others out of their crates?” “Mews,” he said, nodding toward the crates. “Whatever.” He let her loose from her bindings and she rose into the sky. The outline of her long, graceful wings and swallowtail moved like a shadow that had come untethered. She was a fantastic flyer, rising with the currents and descending with remarkable grace. The dark lining on the underside of her wings was tinged with yellow, like an old bruise. She circled the elm grove and began feeding on the cloud of insects swarming there. After a few minutes, she came back to Cecil’s raised glove. “Satisfied?” he asked. “That’s an understatement!” I exclaimed. “I swear, I can hear the noise level drop already.” Cecil nodded. “Let’s get ‘er done.” He let the rest of them go in pairs. I watched as the birds gobbled up cicadas by the dozens. While the birds flew and fed, their little bells tinkling in the grove, Cecil cleared away the exoskeletons heaped at the base of my trees. He swept up the dead and dying cicadas from my walkway and drive, dumping their stinking corpses into a black trash bag. I could hear them buzzing angrily

TRANSIENT

Karen Walsh

inside the bag. When the last pair returned and were safely tucked into their mews, he told me, “We’ll be back tomorrow.” And, true to his word, they returned the next morning. By midday, the noise had diminished significantly. Cecil’s birds perched in the trees, feeding on the immature cicadas emerging from their shells. Several pairs were feeding simultaneously. I watched from my window as one of them hopped up the slender trunk of my ornamental cherry tree, gobbling up insects with unbelievable speed. His prey could not crawl away fast enough. He jumped to the dogwood tree nearest to my window. Up close, he seemed bigger than the day before. Tuffy was nowhere to be found that morning. I had to pull him out from under my bed and coax him outdoors for his walk. He was reluctant to go any further than the end of my drive. Cecil swept the downed insects from my walk; the pile was noticeably smaller than the day before. “What a difference!” I exclaimed. Cecil turned his good eye toward me. “Yes, ma’am.” One of the falcons swooped low, just over my head, and let go a loud cry, frightening Tuffy and sending him cowering toward the front door. His ears flattened and he barked to be let in. “We’ll be through for the day shortly.” “And then what?” “I believe we can have them all gone tomorrow.” “Are these different birds?” I asked. “They seem bigger.” “They’re the same ones, ‘cept they fattened up.” One by one, they returned to his raised glove. Tenderly, he tucked them into their

5


mews and climbed into the driver’s seat. He rested his arm on the window. “We’ll settle up tomorrow.” The van was moving down the street before I realized we hadn’t settled on a price. Suddenly, I had buyer’s remorse. What had I gotten myself into? I retreated into the house and looked through the series of messages between Cecil and me. Nowhere did we talk price. The neighborhood was quiet that evening. Along with the chirping, gone were the songbirds’ calls. The elm grove stood eerily silent. I enticed Tuffy outside with a savory treat but he stopped at the bottom of the steps and relieved himself in my flower bed. Margery approached as I tried to sweet-talk Tuffy toward the street. “What was that man doing in your yard?” she asked. “Getting rid of the cicadas,” I replied. “Have you noticed how much quieter it is?” “What I noticed,” she answered sharply, “were some very unusual birds preying on our wildlife.” She pulled Angus back from my lawn. “I’ve never seen such aggressive birds around here before.” “Well, they’re gone now,” I told her. “Good riddance!” She and Angus walked on. “I thought you’d be pleased,” I called after her. She did not answer or even turn, only waved her hand dismissively and kept going. Next morning, Cecil parked a pickup truck and trailer in front of my house. Inside the trailer, the mews were as big as kennels. These brown birds were the size of carrion crows. Hooded heads bobbed in anticipation. “I don’t think a third day will be necessary,” I told him. “We’ll let ‘em see what they find,” he countered. “There’s a lot of nuisance wildlife what can ruin your garden as bad as the

TRANSIENT

Karen Walsh

katydids.” He reached inside and retrieved one. Still hooded, it spread its wings and from point to point, was as wide as Cecil’s reach. It let go a loud caw, shrill and ragged, and flew into the elm grove. Cecil released its mate. Together, they began hunting. Within moments, one of them snatched a starling and began tearing it into bits. “Just the insects,” I said. “That’s all I’m paying for.” He shrugged and said, “Okay,” then reached into the truck. He handed me a bill that was quite reasonable. I was relieved. I’d paid as much to landscapers before. “Let me get my checkbook,” I said. “No checks, ma’am. I need cash.” I thought for a moment. I didn’t have that much in the house. “You’ll have to wait for me to go to the bank,” I explained. He shook his head. “If I wait, then I have to charge you for another day.” “Don’t be ridiculous,” I snapped. “This is the first time you’ve said anything about cash. What did you expect?” “I expect to get paid for what time and service I give. Time I wait for you is time I can’t do other jobs.” “Then go do your other jobs and come back for the cash.” I couldn’t disguise my disdain. “If you say so,” he replied and got into the pick-up. “What about your birds?” I pointed to the pair perched in the tallest elm. “I’ll get them when I get my money.” The pick-up lurched forward. Its trailer swung in line and Cecil disappeared up the street. His abandoned falcons took to the air in a display of aerial acrobatics, diving and twisting. Then they disappeared into the trees. I heard a panicked cry rise from the

6


elm grove. I made a quick trip to the bank and hurried home to await Cecil’s return. In the course of the afternoon, I watched as his pair captured and devoured chipmunks and squirrels. It was dusk when he finally arrived, sans trailer. In the back of his truck were two large, empty mews. I handed him the bank envelope through the open window and said, “Here’s your money. Now, please, get your birds out of my neighborhood.” He pocketed the envelope. “And I thought you’d be grateful.” He made no move to get out of his truck. “You’re not leaving without the birds, are you?” “They may not come now,” he said. “They’ve been left to their own ways all day.” “You can’t be serious.” My voice was shrill. “I expect you to retrieve your livestock. Today!” He put on his falconer’s glove and walked toward the grove. I followed. He turned his head from side to side, searching with his good eye. He blew his whistle but neither of the pair emerged. “Do you think they flew to another neighborhood?” “Not likely,” he replied, stomping through the underbrush. A moment later he shouted, “LOOK!” and pointed toward a dilapidated tree house in the branches of a big elm. On the edge of the rotten floor squatted one of the birds. “Call it down,” I demanded. He shook his head. “She won’t come. She’s nesting.” A chill traversed my spine as I envisioned a nest full of squawking fledglings and the toll his voracious birds would take as they hunted for their brood. “This is a disaster! I can’t have these birds

TRANSIENT

Karen Walsh

taking up residence here. What are you going to do?” “It’s outta my hands.” Reluctantly, I followed him out of the grove and back to his truck. “I’m going to have to contact the Fish and Wildlife authorities about this.” “You don’t wanna do that.” “Why not?” “Because you’re just as liable as me,” he warned. “We’ll see about that.” By the next day, after talking, hypothetically of course, with my attorney, I realized Cecil was right. I, too, was in jeopardy for my role in this unorthodox enterprise. I called his cell phone and left a simple message: “What’s next?” He sent a text message. It included a photo and this reply, “I got snakes that can take care of them eggs.” The brightly colored reptile in the photo was curled inside a shoe box. He followed with a reasonable price and a promise of confidentiality. I’m considering his offer. After all, I’d only need one snake. And, at the very least, snakes don’t make noise.

7


Philip Tinkler was born aged five in the bucolic north of England. Philip studied cryptozoology, Forteana, and cereal box brain teasers at various, esteemed made-up universities of his mind. He is a two-time winner of the Time Travel Backslap Awards: first in 1854, and again in the future. He currently lives in Americaland, where he enjoys whittling wood in his spare moments. He has been published in places such as the Mad Hatters’ Review, The Medulla Review, Montreal Serai, Stepaway Magazine, Skive Magazine, Red Fez, Word Riot, Full of Crow, and Gutter Eloquence. More ramblings can be found at philiptinkler.com.

TRANSIENT

8


Remote Station Echoes Counting conifers we talk of life, llamas, and lint I am somebody in nowhere coffee-kissed and cooling she whispers in my memory I tighten twenty blankets against a black whiteness of static fuzz, snowbound I write across time/space dead letter, zero postage she wears my ragged plaid shirt, unbuttoned, untrue it’s just easy to imagine like the memory of scents pine needles and perfumes she never wins card games solitaire ain’t her thing tip for tricky crosswords suicide is not the answer months and moons and maps fall, rise, sleep, repeat we’ll talk in the morning.

Drinking with God Inside (the Outside of Parentheses) My mind is a ventriloquist screaming aboard a bone-model Mary Celeste sunk inside a bottle of proof and all I hear is one man say, “Oh, God” and one God say, “Oh, man.”

TRANSIENT

Philip Tinkler

9


Chester Fid was born in the same town as Walt Whitman. Currently, he lives in New York, where is facing foreclosure and assorted addictions. He wrote a memoir, “Rising and Falling,” which is an honest depiction of foreclosure, bankruptcy, and his wife’s battle with cancer.

TRANSIENT

10


Short Sale Ignore the crack in the ceiling and the small hole where the toilet leaked The siding is less than ten years old and the roof is approximately five It’s a new heating system easily prepared for central air Above the ceilings are the rooms Where dreams rose to cathedrals and skylights, where we peeked out to see the thick snow This is where we cleaned her cut and where she’d read “Goodnight Moon” This is the place where he hung his picture of the Wicked Witch of the West In the closet are our dirty clothes, we swept them up and jammed then in the dark space Meals were served on this table on special occasions but most of the time we used the microwave My youngest was conceived in this room; this is where we watched TV and drank chamomile tea Where I read so many books, right there in the chair and rested my eyes gazing at the train passing behind trees Trees are all around the yard, raking them is such a bitch, but the grass looks robust and green And when it rains you can run like I did and slide on your belly in front of the cheering children Does it make a difference if we lived our lives shoved in these walls? We pass through so many rooms till we reach the tip of bliss Here I drank to get drunk and raged at my son for wearing a dress. He shook with terror. I slowly learned to accept and love him for what he is: loving, creative and selfish Maybe it’s best we leave after all My wife was diagnosed with stage four endometrial cancer, and my youngest with epilepsy and my second oldest with depression. All of these events were condensed into a year. Before we leave, in that room…is where she attempted to die… Some places are better left alone—reduced in our deepest memories.

TRANSIENT

Chester Fid

11


The poets that have influenced Richard Fein the most are those of the New York deep image schools. Whatever they do, he does the opposite. He also doesn’t read poets recommended by living white male, general know‑it‑all literary scholars. (This leaves him with little to read and few to emulate.) Instead, he gazes into a mirror and copies down his rantings and ravings. He has been published in many of the finest literary journals: The Southern Review, The Northville Review, Gulf Stream Magazine, 96 INC, Mississippi Review, ELF: Eclectic Literary Forum, Touchstone Literary Magazine, Windsor Review, Maverick, Sonoma Mandala Literary Review, Ellipsis, Roanoke Review, El Dorado Poetry, and many others. The University of Wisconsin’s Parallel Press demonstrated its extraordinary good taste by publishing his chapbook “The Required Accompanying Cover Letter,” and let’s not forget all those editors who have the perspicacity to recognize that, despite the fact that many consider him to be a half-wit, that half is one mother of a moiety. This poet of the Western world (except New Jersey) requests that all hate mail, communiqués of derision, marriage proposals and meretricious solicitations of his person not be sent since he’s already backlogged with hate mail and parcel post packages that have strange ticking sounds. But if you insist on contacting him (God only knows why), you can email him at trybardofbyte@aol.com. TRANSIENT

12


Fuzzy Light A single ray streaks along the ceiling. An awakening sleeper cannot trace the beam back beyond that wafer-thin opening of that nearly closed door. Neither can he follow it forward for it peters out somewhere in the ambient bedroom shadows. Widening pupils perceive only a lack of clarity, a smudginess of light and dark, a fading sliver of brightness bracketed between the hidden radiance that sneaks through the nearly closed door and the pervading darkness within. That fuzzy light from beyond the door, a hint of luminescence meddling into a groggy man’s vision but coming to no particular point.

Local Stop Traveler On the subway hunched over a prayerbook, he chants not-so-silent supplications. Bored, I peek over his shoulder. Surely he must sense my uninvited closeness for I blow hot breath onto his neck. But he gives no cold shoulder to me, and by that inaction alone he is preaching. His slumped shoulder becomes his pulpit inviting me to peer over it and join his choir. We both travel through the same dark tunnel, but as we pass each station I raise my eyes to double-check the posted subway map. 28th street is my journey’s end, I think. But he never looks up from the book, for he’s an express traveler all the way to the end of the line, while I pass my stations one at a time.

TRANSIENT

Richard Fein

13


Minute Hope, Hourly Desire Years ago the analog hours and minutes stopped somewhere between 12 and 12. The glass was too scratched to see exactly where, and he was too drunk to care precisely when. He knew only that the tacky timepiece was beyond pawning. But he tightened his main spring and rewound himself. Now no longer a panhandler, he seeks to measure his remaining time with blinking digital hours, minutes, and seconds or by the graceful sweep of watch hands under clear crystal. Then passersby will no longer veer away, but instead will approach to ask him for the time and he will give it and ask nothing in return. As a panhandler he measured his days meal-to-meal, drink-to-drink. But he conquered those days. He’s been sober long enough to earn almost enough for that digital Casio in the drugstore display case. A Rolex remains his distant dream, as he rubs his still-naked wrist and hopes.

TRANSIENT

Richard Fein

14


Liana Kapelke-Dale is a perpetual student and poet with an interest in bridging the gap between science and poetry. In another life she would have been a scientist, but in this life she graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a BA in Spanish, and has spent a significant amount of time traveling and living in Peru. Liana will be starting her studies at the University of Wisconsin Law School in the fall of 2013. Her work has appeared previously in Forge Journal, Gloom Cupboard, and—most recently—The Monongahela Review. Apart from poetry and her various academic interests, Liana’s other passions include rock music and vintage fashion.

TRANSIENT

15


Photosynthesis I would like to learn to photosynthesize. Spin the dawn into sugar every morning for breakfast, concoct dinner from the rosy tangerine sunset. My nectar would be sweet as an absent lover’s kiss, and succulent as an ovary ripening into fruit. It would sustain me like a fisherman’s boat sustains him on the unruly sea that falls from the cliffs, crashing into its basin and foaming at its mouth. If I could learn to photosynthesize, I would take a piece of the sky below which you wander and store it safe within the walls of my cells. I would breathe in the carbon dioxide that you exhale, and give you back oxygen. But as it is, I am animal, and all I can give you of myself are the cells that I leave behind on your tongue.

TRANSIENT

Liana Kapelke-Dale

16


Anne Whitehouse was born in Birmingham, Alabama, and grew up there during the civil rights era. She graduated from Harvard College, where she studied with poets Octavio Paz, Robert Fitzgerald, Robert Lowell, and Jane Shore. She went on to receive an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University. Her thesis, advised by Charles Wright, became her first collection of poems, The Surveyor’s Hand. More than 25 years passed before her second collection. But the muse had not entirely deserted her; Blessings and Curses was published by Poetic Matrix Press in 2009, followed by Finishing Line Press chapbooks, Bear in Mind and One Sunday Morning, in the next two successive years. These poems, along with a new series, The Decisive Moment, from her newest collection, The Refrain, were published by Dos Madres Press. Anne Whitehouse’s novel “Fall Love,” now available as a free ebook from Smashwords and Feedbooks, is being translated into Spanish. Her short stories have appeared in literary magazines throughout the world, from the United States to India. Her book reviews and feature articles have been published in major newspapers throughout the U.S. She works for DOROT, a not-forprofit agency that helps the elderly.

TRANSIENT

17


Moving First memories are moving targets— what the four-year old recalls, the ten-year-old may have forgotten. The processes of recollection are constantly forming deep within the brain inside the bony ridge named for a seahorse. Tracks lie on top of other tracks, twisting and turning on themselves, until we lose the reasons why we became who we are.

An Afternoon Nap I lay slipping into sleep as a delicious breeze washed over me, blown in from the sea, warmed by the land, clear and sparkling, yet soft as a caress. From the open window, I thought I heard a voice calling me “Mama!” through the green summer, across the long years. Sunwashed, seastruck, windswept, Sunstruck, seaswept, windwashed, Sunswept, seawashed, windstruck. In contentment I lay, not wanting to rouse, in delicious reverie, as if drunk from lovemaking, languorous and mellow, ready for the fall.

TRANSIENT

Anne Whitehouse

18


Ranee Stemann lives in the quiet, suburban town of Fort Thomas, Kentucky, with her husband and three crazy children. After fifteen years of dreading work each morning—plucking at her keyboard in the IT field—she made the decision to go back to college. Currently a full-time English major with a concentration on creative writing at Northern Kentucky University, she is an aspiring writer in the young adult fiction genre. Whenever Ranee catches a break in her studies, she enjoys spending time with her family, attending Bibliomania Anonymous meetings, and indulging in her passions of writing, hot tea, and chocolate. This is her first publication. Visit her at raneestemann.wordpress.com.

TRANSIENT

19


Crossroads Hotel The light of the red vacancy sign was beating a slow rhythm on the wet pavement of the empty parking lot. The fizzling white light of the “A” in Crossroads Hotel added a methodic beat to the mix and I started to tap my pencil in time, sheer boredom getting the best of me. No one had checked into the hotel for days, which was odd for this time of year. I usually had visitors daily during the winter months due to the high frequency of car accidents from the snow and ice-covered roads. The current tenants of the hotel rarely left their rooms and, when they did, they usually went back shortly after. I felt a strange longing for the dead who typically dwelled in my life. You should be thrilled for the lull in activity, Cate. Now you can catch up on paperwork. A noise from behind me pulled my gaze from the bare parking lot. Ingrid, one of the tenants, was drifting down the hall, her dark gossamer dress fluttering in the air as she moved. They certainly didn’t take the weather into account when they buried her. Her long dark locks trailed down the length of her back, strands of gray peeking through here and there. Her face was creased in a look of loss and confusion, but peaked slightly when she saw me standing behind the information desk. As she approached me, her lips did their best to quake into a half-smile that was far from genuine. “Excuse me, miss. I’m sorry to bother you, but do you know where I am?” Her voice quavered with fear as her eyes darted around the room taking in the beige carpet squares of the waiting room, the uncomfortable lobby couches, and the outof-date magazines.

TRANSIENT

Ranee Stemann

“You’re at the Crossroads Hotel, ma’am.” Her left hand lay on top of the counter and I placed mine over hers. I hate this part. “I’m sorry to tell you this but I’m afraid that you’re dead. You’ve passed from the living and come to me here.” Her spirit had arrived to me several days ago now and had not yet accepted her death. She would remain on the first floor of the hotel in Purgatory until she came to terms with the reality of her situation. At that point, if it ever came, I would make the determination of whether she should move up to the second floor, Heaven, or to the basement floor, the Underworld. I had my suspicions that she would end up on the second, but her fate was still unclear to me. She was younger than many of my clients; her death a surprise when her husband lost his temper and shot her in his rage. Men. “Dead?” Her face screwed up in disbelief before laughter emanated from her body so loud that she shook from the force. “You’re funny. I think I remember now. I had a fight with my husband and must’ve come here to escape.” She nodded her head. “Yes, yes, I believe that’s what happened.” Without paying me another glance, she turned and walked back down the hall to her room. I settled my elbows back onto the counter, my chin sitting firmly into the palms of my hands, and continued to admire the reflection of the lights outside. My eyelids had begun to ease their way closed, their need for sleep battling the need to stay awake for any newly dead who might happen to arrive, when the shape of a figure in the far distance caught my attention. As the image crept closer, I could make out the distinct curves of a woman’s body. As she walked beneath the light of the sign, the colors seemed to bounce and brighten like sunlight as they touched her long blonde

20


hair. The closer she came to the entrance doors of the hotel, the more obvious it became that she was not like my usual visitors because I could not see through her bodily form. The desperate, lost look on her face, however, was quite identical to many of those I greeted. Knowing she was alive, I knew she would steer clear of the hotel and veer off in another direction since the living were not able to see this hotel. I turned and laid eyes on the pile of paperwork sitting on the far end of the desk waiting for my attention. I sighed heavily, the importance of such a mundane task lost on me. The bells on the entrance doors jingled and the cold December air wafted in sending chills through my body. Knowing before I looked that I was in for a world of trouble, I turned to face the new visitor. The woman’s long blonde hair fell limply over the black wool coat and scarf she wore. She took small steps toward me, incoherent mutterings coming from her lips as she attempted to unravel a piece of paper. She laid it on the counter and smoothed it out with delicate strokes of her hands. Her eyes lifted from the paper to meet my gaze. They flicked to my nametag for an instant before staring at me again with an uncomfortable intensity. “Hello, Cate. My name is Demi. I am in search of my daughter, Stephanie. I was wondering if you had seen her.” She held the paper out to me, her hands shaking from the cold. I took the paper from Demi and scrutinized the details of the photo it held. The girl was beautiful. She had bright blonde hair like her mother and warmth seemed to radiate, from not only her smile, but her very being itself. Her oval face was gentle and kind. “She does look familiar, actually.” I was

TRANSIENT

Ranee Stemann

surprised and saddened as the words left my mouth. If she was familiar to me, then she would have to be dead. “She does? You’ve seen her?” Demi’s face lit up with hope that I had no desire to crush. “I believe so. Let me think a moment. How long has she been missing?” “Almost a year now. Has it been a year?” Her eyes became distant again as she searched her memory for the answer. “I’m sorry. I’ve lost track of time.” I grabbed the large visitor’s log from the shelf behind the information desk and flipped back to the entries from a year ago. I ran my finger down the pages at a slow pace hoping one of the names would trigger a memory. I came up with nothing. “Do you have any other information that might help me?” I asked. “Um, well, let’s see. We’re very close so I know she didn’t run away. There was a man who was obsessed with her and I believe he kidnapped her. The police won’t help me. They don’t believe me. They think she ran away.” Her voice was on the brink of hysteria. “Do you know what the man looked like?” “Tall. Dark shoulder-length hair. Dark clothing. An angry sort of man. A witness I found said they heard her calling out when he took her. Something about going to hell.” The tone of her voice became eerie, but her words were all I needed. “I believe I know where she is.” Demi’s eyes sparked again and her attention became rapt in my words. “About a year ago, a man they call Hades, came through the back entrance of the hotel. He works…” I wasn’t sure how to explain this without exposing too much. “He is the manager of…the tenants in the basement level. I remember the screams of a girl as he took her downstairs and I caught a brief glimpse of her.” I looked at the photo again, certain

21


this was the same girl. What have you done now, Hades? What have I done? I ignored her pleas. “Could you take me to him?” She was leaning far over the desk now, her hands gripping my forearms tight. I was not sure how to handle this situation. I had no interest in losing my job, but if Hades did kidnap this woman’s daughter, I was not sure I could live with myself knowing I hadn’t helped again. “I will try. I cannot promise success, but I will do my best to help you.” I grabbed a flashlight from below the counter and put a sign on the desk that said I was at lunch. No need for the dead to wonder where I was. I looked up at Demi. She was staring at the photo of her daughter, tears pooling in her eyes. I hope I’m doing the right thing. “Let’s go.” I said, leading the way toward the back of the building. The halls were vacant, the late hour ensuring that most of the tenants were in bed sticking to the schedule of the living. Purgatory suited many of them just fine, while others, like Ingrid, continually found themselves completely lost. I glanced behind me to make sure Demi was following. The dim overhead lighting framed her and, even in the low haze, she seemed to shine like the sun. It was a stark contrast to the dark and haunted look on her face. “Demi, I should warn you, the place we’re going to is, well, it’s different. I’ll need you to trust me and do as I ask you to do.” I paused a moment to wait for her reply but nothing came. I stopped and turned to face her. The look on her face told me that her mind was elsewhere. I placed my hands on her shoulders and shook her lightly. “Demi, did you hear me? I need to make sure that you understand.”

TRANSIENT

Ranee Stemann

She nodded and looked back down at the photo. “I understand.” I released my grip, turned, and began to walk again. When we reached the back of the building, I placed my hand on the knob of the basement door and felt the pounding of my heart quicken. I took a deep breath and turned the knob. The odor that emanated from the space was hard to breathe in. I heard Demi gasp in disgust as the smell hit her nose. The stairway was dark and I braced my hand on the cool cement wall as we delved deeper into the room. At the bottom of the stairs, a series of doors spanned the walls; one for each area of the Underworld. The walls resembled those of a cave, the rough surface dark and unwelcoming. I headed to the door on the far right, which led straight to Hades. With each step across the room, the temperature rose. When we reached the door, the heat emanating from the knob told me his temper was running hot; I forced myself to proceed anyway. An incredible warmth sprang forward from the room as I opened the door and I felt sweat start to puddle on my forehead. “It’s so hot. Are you sure this is the right place?” Demi asked, hesitant to follow me through the door. “Yes, I’m sure,” I said. She nodded and followed me. We quickly came to another doorway guarded by Felix, a large man wearing a black trench coat and knit skullcap. His face was hard and frightening, not someone you wanted to mess with. We had dated a while ago, but our preference of residence squelched our hope for a future. He looked at me and smiled; a smile that faded fast when he caught a glimpse of Demi. “You cannot bring her here,” he said, his voice boomed so loud it bounced off the walls.

22


“I believe Hades has her daughter; that he may have taken her from the land of the living unwillingly.” I said, in my most authoritative voice. He looked at Demi, his face scrunching up as if to scrutinize her features. She did resemble the girl in the picture quite a bit. In fact, looking at her now, age seemed to be the only significant difference between them; well, that and a slight difference in the nose. “Yes, I believe you may be right.” “Wonderful. You’ll let us through then.” I began to edge my way forward, but he held his arm out to stop me. “I did not say that. She is of the living and the living are not permitted here.” “I have the required payment.” I pulled four gold coins from my pocket and pressed them into the palm of his hand. “And then some.” It was double the normal payment for passage and I hoped it would be enough to persuade him, along with my most seductive smile. “Fine, but I am not responsible for what happens to her once you are inside. His mood is fowl. His new wife is not cooperating with him today. She wishes to redecorate.” His eyes flicked toward Demi at the mention of Hades’ new wife. He looked to me, his eyes softening. “Be careful, Cate. You know how he can be.” I nodded, grabbed Demi’s hand, and proceeded through the doorway. The air was even more searing in this room than it was in the last. I wiped my brow with the back of my arm. I heard the distant voice of Hades, raised and angry. What have I gotten myself into? At the end of a long, dark hallway, we came to a massive round room. The walls were a deep, blood red and the furniture was large, gold, and gaudy. A colossal four-poster bed stood in the middle, bright gold drapes

TRANSIENT

Ranee Stemann

hanging from the glittering gold frame. The walls were lined with gold-framed portraits of none other than Hades himself. The room reeked of bachelor pad, no woman’s touch evident anywhere. I understood his wife’s need to redecorate. Hades stood in the middle of the room, his hands on his hips, face bright red. His black hair was mussed as if he’d been pulling at it and his black clothing was wrinkled and tattered. Stephanie stood opposite of him, her back to us, her long blonde hair pulled into a knot at the nape of her neck. Her long black dress was also tattered, evidence of a physical fight. “Stephanie!” Demi yelled and ran to her daughter, stumbling over the shards of a vase on the floor. Stephanie turned at the familiar voice. Her distraught face transformed into a joyous expression before she ran into her mother’s embrace. Demi looked over at me, her face suddenly younger in appearance, happiness seeping from her that made her shine even brighter than before. She mouthed the words “thank you”. I nodded. Both women began to cry and I had to look away to keep myself from doing the same. I dared a look at Hades and found him staring at me, his face pulled in irritation. “Cate, what are you doing down here? What were you thinking bringing this woman here?” His voice was angry, yes, but I caught a hint of what sounded like relief. Maybe he was tired of fighting with her. I took advantage of it. “She missed her daughter terribly. I thought maybe you could work something out with her, an arrangement of sorts; something where everyone could benefit.” I raised my eyebrows and hoped he would take the bait. He crossed his arms over his chest and

23


stood watching Demi and Stephanie a moment. He seemed to be thinking about my words, his face scrunched and fingers rubbing his chin. I saw the moment it came to him, his face altering to something more pleasant in appearance. “Stephanie, I would like to make a proposal.” Hades’ voice was unusually gentle and kind. Stephanie lifted her head from her mother’s shoulder while her arms still remained wrapped around her, reluctant to break their hold entirely. The look on her face said that she was used to his trickery and wasn’t yet impressed with his change of tone, mood, and expression. “I’m listening,” Stephanie said, her voice guarded and eyes leery. “If you promise to drop the subject of redecorating my…our home, you can go with your mother during the warmer months, but you must promise to return to me on the first day of each winter and remain with me until the first day of each spring.” A smug satisfaction was etched on his face. “You stole my daughter from me. You don’t get to make a deal.” Demi’s voice screamed the words with hatred so profound I had no doubt it could be felt throughout the Underworld. The anger aged her face again, and her eyes evoked fear in even me, making me glad that I wasn’t the one on the wrong side of her wrath. “Such a minor detail. She is my wife now so, she can either agree to my deal, or she can remain with me forever and you’ll never see her again.” His voice was full of gloat, his smile sinister. He began to rock back and forth on his feet like an arrogant little school boy. “You dare to threaten me. I will kill you with my bare hands. You stole my daughter and God only knows what you’ve done to her.” I could almost see the steam rising from her.

TRANSIENT

Ranee Stemann

“Mother, calm down.” Stephanie’s voice was low and soothing. “As much as I don’t like my situation either, or how it came about, he is my husband.” She glanced at Hades, the look on her face still angry but there was a touch of something softer hidden there. Had she actually fallen for the man? “We must consider his proposition.” Stephanie held up her index finger to signal that they needed a moment. She bowed her head close to her mother’s and their voices spoke in a whisper so low I was sure that even Hades couldn’t hear it. After a few minutes, Stephanie turned to face Hades again, her face serious. “I will accept your bargain and its terms.” Her voice was cold, not that of a wife, but of a stranger striking a deal with, well, the devil. Maybe I had misinterpreted her previous look. “Since it is winter, you must remain with me for now. The winter months are such a busy time.” He looked to me. “On the first day of spring I will send her up to your level, Cate.” He turned to Demi. “You can meet her there, but you must return her at the stroke of midnight on the first day of winter or the deal will become null and void.” All of us nodded our understanding. Demi and Stephanie said their sad, bittersweet goodbyes and Demi reluctantly followed me back up to the first floor of the hotel. As I was about to usher her out the back door, she took my hands in hers. Her eyes were sparkling with tears. “I’ve no idea how I could ever repay you.” “There is no need. I feel indebted to your daughter for not helping when Hades took her in the first place. I should’ve helped then.” She hugged me, her embrace so tight I found it hard to breathe for a moment. I watched her as she walked away, her posture

24


and aura much more content than when she had arrived. Glad to have that over with, I walked to the front of the hotel to take up my station once again at the information desk. When I emerged in the lobby, a line of three newly dead people were waiting. I smiled. This is more like it. The dead are so much easier to help than the living.

We want you! Transient is currently looking for advertisers for future issues, both online and in print. And with our next print issue just three months away, we are looking to fill adspace in our annual “Best of the Best” anthology now.

3

1

No.

No.

2

No.

Ad specs are as follows: Full Page, 5” x 8” Half Page, 4.5” x 3.5” Quarter Page, 2.15” x 3.5” Back/Inside Cover, 5.5” x 8.5”* *Please include 0.125” bleed For more information about pricing for our annual issue as well as our online ad specs, contact editor@transientpublishing.com

TRANSIENT

Ranee Stemann

25


A.M. DeCarlo lives and writes in Philadelphia where she splits her time between her hilarious real-life friends, inspiring fictional friends, and a word processing program. A.M. graduated from Rider University in 2012 with a Bachelor’s in American Studies and is currently working on her MFA in Creative Writing at Rosemont College. She writes both fiction and poetry and is currently working on her first novel. A.M. DeCarlo loves poetry that is straightforward with a rustic feel, and fiction that haunts the reader after the last word. This is her first time being published, and hopefully not her last.

TRANSIENT

26


The Hungry Ghost of My Brother A full plate, empty seat at the kitchen table. His ghost served three times a day with the rest of us like he never disappeared, like we never wondered, like nothing had changed. Mother says don’t touch the plate, the plate full of food, food not made with love but out of habit. She will continue to fill his plate waiting for him to say no more. Him, the boy who had one mother, two brothers, no father. Him, the boy who went missing for three days, turned up dead alongside the highway. There wasn’t much left. Head, half a torso, and hands. Back to the table, the table where I sit with my mother, my mother who lets her Newport ash to the filter. That’s a good way to get burned, I said as I took the butt from her lips. She only cares about him.

TRANSIENT

A.M. Decarlo

27


Ruby The bottom half of her dress laid across her lap like a fancy napkin, tucked tightly between her thighs. An awkward battle with the lighter, a deep burn to the back of the throat, I watched her chest puff out as she inhaled. To be the smoke, that slips down her tongue, snakes through her teeth, fills her lungs. To be the end of the joint, stained with ruby lipstick, dampened from the humidity of her mouth. With a kiss she became mine. Our foreheads touched, and every single hair on my body stood straight with wonder.

Photo by Athena Flickr (originally posted to Flickr as Dirty Kiss), courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

TRANSIENT

A.M. Decarlo

28


Heartland Loose asphalt melts and mends balding tires. Years earlier, these roads were paved with the promise of wealth. Red, white, and blue postal spaceships sink through the cracks in the sidewalks, their insides empty and hungry for bills to be paid. Flimsy chain-link fences trace overgrown lots, lots once filled with hard-bodied children, white diamonds, and wooden bats, lots now filled with rusty appliances and the bones of runaway pets. This is the end-stage, this is decay, this is America, this is home.

TRANSIENT

A.M. Decarlo

29


tr a n s i e n Itp i s1 h i n g . c o m S SuUbE l #

Transient #3, Spring 2013  

Transient #3 (Spring 2013) features a diverse range of literary works from eight poets and authors from across the United States.

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you