Call+Response IV (b/w)

Page 1


CALL + RESPONSE is an (almost) annual art show in the nation’s capital that brings writers and visual artists together to create and show joint, original works. For the first three iterations of the show, the writers called, and the visual artists responded. In 2014, we’ve switched it up. THE CAL L For this year’s show the Philadelphia band Restorations created a single, long-form instrumental track, which we sent to 16 acclaimed, emerging, and award-winning poets, fiction writers, journalists, and essayists largely based in the DC/Baltimore metropolitan area. THE RES P O N S E The writers wrote short, reactive pieces, none over 1,000 words, each in a unique, original conversation with Restorations and their music. AND T H E N Each written response went to one of 16 acclaimed, emerging, and award-winning visual artists who entered the conversation, too: a conversation not just with the written work, but with the music as well. At CALL + RESPONSE IV’s opening on October 11, 2014 at Hole in the Sky in Northeast DC, Restorations will perform and each piece of writing will be displayed with their visual response. What you’re holding is a limited edition (300 copies only) 7-inch of that song from Restorations titled “Alright boys, when we get to the airport, there will be absolutely no place to land” and all the written responses from this year’s show. Photos of the visual art responses will be available for viewing at www.callandresposedc.org following the show’s opening. We’re extremely proud of this year’s show and we thank you for your interest and support. We hope to continue our small role in bringing together creative communities. xo KW + DB + MO


C A L L / Head Blast Podcast by Chris Keener R E S P O N SE / JD Deardourff


INT. CO M M U N I TY C E N TER B AS E M E N T – N IG H T Two men, early twenties, sit at a folding table covered with recording equipment, junk food wrappers, and old coffee cups. Various instruments are strewn about the unremarkable room. Miller is slight of build with thick-rimmed glasses. Fromberg is taller and draped in long black hair. They shuffle fore and aft from their respective microphones as they address the world at-large. MILLER : So why did you write this song? FROMBER G : Too forward. Ease up. MILLER : Ok, sorry. So what was your inspiration for writing this song? Fromberg leans forward and hits a button on the laptop to stop the recording. FROMBER G : It’s not gonna work like that, Mark. This is not that podcast. We need to just free it up. Right? MILLER : Yeah, sorry. Nerves. FROMBER G : All right, lemme say this... He starts the recorder again. FROMBER G : Our Listener is on a journey. Shudders through a dark landscape. Right off the top. Fromberg gestures with a hand, urging Miller to comment. MILLER : The Listener is not sure where he’s headed? FROMBER G (emphatic): He can’t even fucking see his hand in front of his eyes. Crickets scurrying away and shit. MILLER : What happens next? FROMBER G : Then my axe comes to bear. A slash through the fabric, guiding the Listener. He is in a Metro CALL / Head Blast Podcast by Chris Keener

RESPONSE / JD Deardourff

3


tunnel. And I’m there, hovering above the wet pavement with my Telecaster. No matter which way he turns, I’m in his periphery vision. Strumming, droning notes of impending doom. MILLER : It’s a long tunnel. FROMBER G : It’s preparation for the birth canal. Nine months, give or take a few bars. MILLER : Oh! So that feedback at 1:10? FROMBER G : Exactly. The crowning. Light peeking in for the first time. The escalator shaft. And then we he gets on the escalator to the surface... MILLER : He still doesn’t know what’s coming? FROMBER G : No! He’s embryonic. Just getting going. So imagine his surprise, when at 1:32 he is rebirthed into an unfamiliar world. MILLER : Where is it? FROMBER G : His neighborhood of Bethesda, Maryland. But not. It’s nothing like the Bethesda he’s used to. In that time underground, some apocalyptic shit has gone down. Not a single soul is about. MILLER : Where are all the people? FROMBER G : Well, some of them are dead. But don’t worry about that. It’s late at night. MILLER : So where was all that womb-light leaking in from? FROMBER G : Streetlights. MILLER : So the power grid was unaffected by the apocalypse? Fromberg leans forward again and slaps his long finger on the spacebar, stopping the recording. He gives Miller a look of annoyance. Miller genuflects. They carry on.


FROMBER G : He scans the landscape. Cars have been flipped upside down like helpless turtles. Parking meters are broken at the neck. Two opposing hydrants blast water at each other - pirate ships at battle. A ransacked newsstand. A Chipotle with no line. A traffic light on the ground, randomly cycling through colors. This is bad, he thinks. Everything I once knew is different. What do I do, he asks? MILLER : The suspense is killing me. FROMBER G : That’s right. And that’s where you come in. A moment of decision. And then... Drums to lead the way. MILLER : I take it away at 1:53! FROMBER G : Yes, you do. Our Listener steps forth into the wasted landscape to navigate his way home through the wreckage. Did they survive? His dear, supportive wife and young, suckling child? Is the house still standing? He must save them. He begins to hurry forth. MILLER : Can’t he call them? No service, I guess. Was it an earthquake? FROMBER G : It was, nay, it is a shitstorm. And, to cap it all off, I’m about to introduce the vixen. Here she comes.... 2:39... wait for it, wham! All is slow motion as I bend the G string of my guitar to the breaking point; blonde hair flies free - fuck the helmet. She leaps from her mount and lands solidly in her boots as her Triumph ghost-rides through the window of the Loehman’s. Mannequins and glass explode into comingled shrapnel that slices into the drop ceiling. Perfume bottles let out a hiss as they burst on the lacquered floor, spontaneously igniting a blaze that will leap through the synthetic furs like a pack of flaming chimpanzees. MILLER : That’s a beautiful image. FROMBER G : But terrifying to our Listener as he stops dead in his tracks, impeded in his progress by the leggy lady. They look each other up and down until 3:18, whereupon it becomes clear that she is about to unleash some serious whoop ass upon this suburb of the nation’s capital. MILLER : We’re supposed to pause for station identification. You’re listening to the Head Blast Podcast, flying high over wifi from our home in the cave. OK, 3:36 seems to start a series of examples of how she whups ass? CALL / Head Blast Podcast by Chris Keener

RESPONSE / JD Deardourff

5


FROMBER G : She pulls from behind her back two shimmering long swords. Each one longer and sharper than the other. She begins to spin and slice through the streets. She cuts down a telephone pole. Then chops the big-mouthed head off of a mailbox. She whips her hair back and forth and jumps up and down and screams nonsense words. Then she soars extremely high and lands with a powerful crunch in the asphalt. A crack opens up and points the way. Our Listener, clearly outmatched, realizes he must take this chance and run for it. He leaves her behind in the rubble. His head is clear. MILLER : I notice the mood changes a bit in the song at that point. What is going on there? (He corrects himself) I mean... what the fuck is going on there? FROMBER G : The clarity of mission. His feet have never known running until now. We shred for him. You drum along to steady his pace. He is not distracted by the dog park, where packs of wild wolves snarl through the gates and try in vain to take his kneecaps. MILLER : Your solo at that point is so sick. FROMBER G : 6:53. It’s a revelation. Thus the finger-tapping. He bursts through the front door. Frantic. Wild-eyed like a rabid raccoon. He tears through the house, shouting their names. He is thrown against the wall as he corners at the top of the stairs, rushes down the hallway, and blasts into the bedroom. The scene before him is revealed... MILLER : Corpses. FROMBER G : What? No! Did you not play drums on this song? He finds the beautiful sight of his most beloved ones, asleep in bed. MILLER : Right. FROMBER G : Oblivious to the horrors outside. The relief he feels wells up in his throat and bursts through his body like a warm wave that washes him to the shore of his waiting bed. And as he wraps his arms around his family, he does not think of his suburban enclave crumbling, of the blood running through gutters or of raining ash... MILLER : What does he think of?


FROMBER G : He doesn’t think. He drifts off to the soaring melody I’ve laid before him. Anchored, of course, by your fine work on the tom-toms. MILLER : But what about that cricket-y scramble that’s re-introduced around 11:46. I don’t trust it. FROMBER G : Nor should you. Nor should he. Because everyone has to wake up to the unknown. (A long pause) Or else they are no one at all. Fromberg hits the spacebar and stops the recording. A long, quiet pause. MILLER : I think we got it. Sick. I think that’s a killer episode, don’t you? Did you really think about all that shit when you were writing? FROMBER G : No, man. No. Guitars don’t want you to think.

CALL / Head Blast Podcast by Chris Keener

RESPONSE / JD Deardourff

7


C A L L / On Fainting by Jen Girdish R E S P O N SE / April Danielle Lewis


Fainting is a violent thing to the observer. It’s unsteady footing, whites-of-the-eyes, and limp limbs. It’s a quick fall, a simulation of dying. But to the fainter, it’s like turning down the dial on a radio. The fainter loses hearing, then vision, then to goes to sleep. In some ways, the faint — or syncope — is incredibly compassionate. I’ve spent the few seconds of a faint in potent dreamstates. I’ve been to my grandfather’s stained glass workshop, pressing the backs of my thighs against the soft benches upholstered in his old flannel shirts. I’ve finally ridden the horse that my father bought me for Christmas — the horse that turned out to be wild and never saddled. I’ve played in a pile of fall leaves with Susan Sontag. The first time I fainted, I had just pierced my ears at one of those overstocked accessory boutiques at the clean mall. I was eleven or so, and mom finally lost the lobe war. We moved in with my grandmother — a different small town outside of Pittsburgh than the other small town outside of Pittsburgh where we used to live. I lost all my friends, so drilling holes in my ears was the consolation prize. In our debates over whether to defile my lobes with a 15-gauge needle, my mom often brought up Julianne. Julianne was my mom’s student who ripped apart her ear on the playground with just a chandelier earring and a chain-link fence. I pictured the earring ripping like a tag off a new shirt. Julianne’s ears were my mother’s cautionary tale of growing up too early, of not being happy with you have. I chose gold oval studs, because they weren’t hearts. The ovals seemed to broker the possibility of mature earlobes. In the middle of the night, the stud fell out, and even though the studs were only several hours old, I woke up because it felt like something was missing. When I rushed to the bathroom — the bathroom where I would get my period, the bathroom where my mother got her period thirty years before — it looked like the stud had been replaced with a small red sticker. I thought of Julianne and I woke up wedged between the toilet and the bathtub. Coming out of the faint is its own gentle reckoning. My brain tries on different ideas about where I am and how I got there, as if my subconscious knows how embarrassed I’ll be. As if I wouldn’t come back unless gently coaxed. Oh, I’m in bed. No, I fell asleep on the couch. No, I fell asleep in the car. No, I fell asleep at the movies. No, that’s the yellow tile in the bathroom where my aunts used to play Monopoly to hide from their younger brother.

CALL / On Fainting by Jen Girdish

RESPONSE / April Danielle Lewis

9


At the gynecologist’s office at eighteen, I fainted after enduring the first chilly metal of a Cusco’s Speculum. My mind had been holding it together until I knew it was safe, and then it uncoiled and I collapsed on the waxpaper sheet. My doctor explained that my vagus nerve was reacting to stress. “Your mind just needed a break. So it took one,” she said. For years, I link the two words together: vagus and vagina. Vag to vag or vag-à-vag. I assume that fainting is a symptom of my vagina, or a symptom of having one. I imagine the vagus nerve plugging directly into the vaginal canal. That is, until I discover that the vagus nerve is actually a cranial nerve, and more to do with my perception or threat of pain. But knowing that doesn’t stop my vagus nerve from surging while giving blood in a lecture hall built on top of the Forbes Field home plate. The nurse couldn’t find a vein. It wasn’t the needle that triggered the syncope, but how she repositioned the needle once it was already in my arm. The search for blood, it seemed, was endless. When I turned thirty — long after the holes in my ears had closed up — doctors confirmed that I had my father’s heart, and a frail ovulation cycle. After that, I fainted like dominoes: Once after an intense crop of hives, again after discovering a mysterious bruise on my right hand, and another during a cyst removal that was probably just, shrug, hereditary. Each time, I still can’t help thinking that they are all symptoms of a vagus-vagina connection. Maybe this is the wrong way to look at it. I’m still thinking about this through the point of view of someone on the outside of the faint, instead of the fainter. Maybe fainting isn’t a weakness, but a kind of warrior pose. This is my mind’s form of combat. It can’t stop all of the usual and unusual absurdities of a body — or a body with a vagina, or this body with a vagina — the malfunctions, the bad wiring, all the things that I insist on putting it through. But it can cast a brief spell, offer a few benevolent seconds of relief. Fainting can be a way to take back a kind of control. “Are you pregnant?” Is the first question an EMT asks when a woman faints. “No,” I keep repeating. No. Not yet.


C A L L / Running by Kady Ruth Ashcraft R E S P O N SE / Walker Babington


It occurred to me once that the world is held together by the energy people exert in closeness and in avoidance. When one person cradles another into the small pocket of their neck, another has left a party alone. I decided to leave a party a few weeks ago right before the point in the evening when hips were suggesting to one another that they ought to leave as well. I slipped out quietly. There are three things to know about running, and the first is to always listen to your body. When it tells you you’re thirsty, drink. When it tells you to slow down, slow down. And since my body has never told me to run, I don’t run. I also don’t know the other two rules. Maybe there are five other rules. Maybe I’ve created rules to running because it’s something that terrifies me and I needed to break it down to size. I needed to break it down into parts, and then I broke all of the broken down parts. But I ran that evening after I left the party. As soon as I turned the corner I started a slow jog. I did that because a full on sprint probably wasn’t an athletically responsible choice, and also because it probably would have looked incredibly suspicious if I began sprinting the moment I left a group of people. I am not a thief, I am just not a runner. In high school I had a hard time sleeping, from my anxiety. I’d jolt up at 4:30am almost every morning, and then I would just be awake. When I woke up with that sort of energy, there would be a natural instinct to get rid of it. I’d want to regain the balance, so I thought, “I should run,” I should get rid of this energy. But I didn’t run, I would stand in my backyard and jump rope until all the sensor lights tacked onto the garage came on and woke my mother up, who didn’t want me outside, “because if 3am is the witching hour, then 5am is the sexual assault hour.” If you run fast enough past the warmed and lit houses, whose windows display freeze frames and stilllifes, you can create your own silent movie, where everyone inside is welcoming the news of a new baby, or peeking over old yearbooks. It was my inversion of Pound’s “petals on a wet, black bough” though I read the story, not the train cars. “Jake, the results came in and...and...” “Yes, what is it Caroline?” “We’re never going to get cancer! Never!” “That’s wonderful news, Caroline!” And then Jake and Caroline embrace and I continue to run past their house.


You can also make everyone’s story tragic or mundane. The biggest house on the block? The Richardsons? How unfortunate for them. Their wealth is all squandered. They’ll have to move somewhere without a pool. The board voted no. I watched a documentary about the Tarahumara tribe in Mexico. They can run up to 200 miles in a single dash. The British narrator described their migratory habits like birds. As if running is in their DNA, the way that sitting in front of a television is in mine. He painted this tribe as so primitive that the only way they can be in touch with the earth is to be faster than the earth. To cover as much of it with their bare feet, always with bare feet. As soon as I slowed down from my jog through the neighborhood, the Richardsons regained their wealth and it turned out Jake and Caroline were siblings, not lovers. It had been winter and all the wind I took up in my lungs hung there as I cradled my arms in warmth. I wasn’t a runner, but I still managed to run. I’m sure the people of the Tarahumara tribe held each other closely, petted one another’s heads, and rejoiced that they were never going to get cancer, too. And if I meet a man who is a runner, I could ask him for fitness lessons in exchange for lessons on how to fall obsessively in love. And perhaps he’d touch my arm, and tell me he knows how to do both.

CALL / Running by Kady Ruth Ashcroft

RESPONSE / Walker Babington

13


C A L L / ode to 13 by Mariama J. Lockington R E S P O N SE / Martin Swift


you are a girl but most days you feel like an orca combing through the static of blue and algae you stand at the window in your bedroom contemplating the drift of your bones mama is in the kitchen dicing tomatoes for dinner papa is in the basement healing with his cello there is music in every corner of your house but you feel a sea-like kind of quiet in your head your body is so still it becomes a floating thing you look at your grown-up girl hips and marvel at your thirteen year old cleavage you hold steady on all the things that make you considerable that queer expanse people want to claim or be lost in and you are not without compass nor looking to disappear into the deep all your siblings grown and far away you are the last one of your tribe you are disinterested in endings instead you are consumed with the ways your skin can shine and break bruise and shed begin again you are salt and brine and tangled seaweed you are black and kelp and phosphorescent coral you are grace and kink and current your mind is a hungry suck of movement but mostly you are a water warrior with the heart of a pelagic winged-creature you understand that god is gravity that tide is change


you move time on your back and feel yourself growing yet you also worship the wind and pray for a soaring kind of life to exchange the swell of waves rushing your ears with the sharp SNAP! of an albatross slicing its way through the sky you are a girl but most days you feel like a sudden collection of fin and feather you are small and yet your dreams take up more space than the Pacific you stand at your window sifting unspoiled air in your hands you stand at your window gathering your blue languages waiting for your time to sing


C A L L / SALTPUDDLE by Mark Cugini R E S P O N SE / Saman Bemel-Benrud


There’s a puddle of salt behind my backyard in Bay Terrace. It’s where all the slugs go when they shut down the afterhours club. No one has ever wondered if my island was enchanted. They all just get skin fades and fight and go godless. A tug boat capsizes in in broad daylight right past the Tottenville train. The ferry is free and no one ever named the subway line — no need to go underground if the whole core is rotting. I’m only here when I’m lost and that’s happening more and more now that I’ve got no use for maps — tell me where to go and we won’t pay attention to anything. The District gets whiter and I grow alive at a library in Bushwick. Some cities have pulses but me I’ve got this take out menu. Old jobs are reposted and my mind’s still a missed layup away from State(s). I don’t want to write poems, but how else can I tell you that my life was a trap beat? What other way can we escape into airspace, drunk and heavy on last night’s empty regrets? A slug kills seven people but you’ve still got to button your shirt. That’s where we live nowadays — everyone is wrong and they keep putting condoms on the monuments. Dew and champagne, dew and champagne. I like it here fine but there’s nothing new I could learn from another man — I know enough about being awful in being an awful one myself. In one life I am a lap band with lung cancer. In another I am a marine biologist and my friends burn high like a bright coral reef. Everything I order goes to the wrong address, but I take solstice in the thought


that there’s another me being damp and miserable in another damp city. I want Nick to teach me to kick flip the summer, but I haven’t had the balance for that sort of magic. I button my shirt and wonder if that other me backs out the driveway and puts bullets in the past like I do — Flavored tobacco, MIDI Ringtones, Vanderbilt’s tomb, Glass Shards, I’m mad, dawg, Block parties and highways, car bombs and Nagaki’s got rug burns from backspins on the train ride to Portsmouth pounding slabs busting up block parties and highways— you can add it up for forever and still get the middle of nowhere. I want to write lines and lie about riding my bike, but no one ever taught me how.

CALL / SALTPUDDLE by Mark Cuguni

RESPONSE / Saman Bemel-Benrud

19


C A L L / Strangers by Matt Cohen R E S P O N SE / Kirk Zamieroski


I think he moved. I swear I’ve been staring at this guy for at least forty-five minutes and honestly couldn’t tell if he was alive or not. God, I should have gone over to check on him after the first five minutes, but, fuck, I just can’t deal with that right now. I need a drink. Deep breaths. I didn’t expect to see anyone else here. At the bus stop. At 3am in the goddamn morning. Truth be told, it’s been about two days since I’ve closed my eyes and I wasn’t entirely sure if he was real or just a manifestation of my sleep-deprived, caffeine-addled brain. At first I didn’t notice him. The bus stop is shrouded by the edge of a tree line, illuminated by a single light, making it looks as if the whole thing is sitting in the palm of a twisted claw. And there he was. Sitting there at the edge of the platform, bundled up and hunched over, still as ice. I don’t know what to do. I nervously tap my foot and trace the outline of that scar on the inside of my wrist with my thumb. Old habits die hard. Or just won’t die, no matter how hard you try, which is the problem. I keep replaying the last two days in my head over and over. It feels like one of those dreams where you can’t tell if you’re awake or dreaming until you find yourself saying and doing things you don’t want to be saying and doing. Like you’re a puppet on the strings of an unknown master. I don’t want to be that person. Why am I like this? Why did I say that? What is wrong with me? I never wanted to be this person. The people I hurt: friends, family. Jesus, how did it get so bad? Another, swig of the flask, another deep breath. I can’t stand myself anymore so I approach the old man to make conversation. “Hello,” I say. No response. He just sits there, staring blankly at the ground, face partially obscured by a ratty old hat. I hesitate, look down, and then I see it. The movement he made that caught my eye in the first place. The subtle stroking of his thumb on the inside of his wrist — shit. So how did I get here? Bus stop. Edge of town. Middle of the night. That’s the question I keep asking myself. I left home. I mean, I didn’t leave, I was kicked out. Well, I wasn’t kicked out, I brought it on myself. I made the decisions that I knew would piss everyone off. I’m an asshole, and I’m selfish, and the worst part is, I have no reason to be. So I left, was kicked out — whatever. Fuck it, it’s another shitty, woe-is-me story anyway. I’m here now, that’s all that matters, I guess.


“Excuse me, sir, are you OK?” I ask. Silence. I bend down to his level and look closer. The scar on his wrist; it looks too familiar. In fact, it’s identical to mine. I stumble back a bit, dazed, and look up at him. “Uh, sir?” He slowly turns his head towards me and that’s when I look into his eyes and see nothing but darkness. The darkness glows, seeping around him and absorbing into the night. The shadows cast by the treeline come alive and seize me as my surroundings crumble. Suddenly, there’s an explosion; as if every shade of every color collided at once. I’m paralyzed, being pulled in a direction I can’t even tell anymore. There is nothing and there is everything. The past, the present, the future are all whooshing by simultaneously. Scenes from my childhood — my parents yelling at me from the time I hit my sister and chipped her tooth, the elementary school band recital when I peed, the first love note I ever passed to a girl — colliding with scenes of how terrible a person I’ve been the past few years. The times I told friends I’d be there for them and wasn’t. The times I got wasted and missed family gatherings, without so much as an apology or an excuse. The times I said things so cruel and deep, it left people speechless and sweltering. And it’s all meshing with these visions of a haggard, worn out older me; alone and bitter. That’s not my future. Fuck, it can’t be. All of it is there and I see it all. But then it all stops and I’m looking at myself. It’s me, but I don’t recognize him. I float there motionless, looking deeply and blankly at this stranger, who is staring right back at me. *** I wake up to a blinding white light and gasp for air. My breath sounds heavier than I’ve heard it before. There are people standing over me, smiling, crying. Forgive me.


C A L L / The Other City by Maud Casey R E S P O N SE / Kelly Towles


It might be a dream she is having (different than the one about the welder—that dream she’ll keep to herself). Stutter-step, stutter-step, along the broken road through the blasted landscape. She left on a Tuesday, took a right turn and headed west for centuries. She’s walked all the way from the City of Incurable Women where doctors waved incandescent strips of magnesium in front of her face and passed needles through her hand, where she called herself Blanche though her name was Marie because she liked the bosomy sound of Blanche and, besides, she had always wanted a stage name. Stutter-step, stutter-step. Zap zap. It’s possible that the electric corset is slowing her down. But how was she to resist when the purveyor of electric corsets appeared on the desolate horizon? What caught her attention, besides the man’s existence, was his attire. He was dressed like a doctor from the City of Incurable Women, but with the addition of a beautiful leather bird mask culminating in a long pointed beak. The bird mask greatly improved the look. She has always been interested in the big emotions—tragedy, ecstasy, doom—so she stopped. “Welcome to the retro-future,” he said rather loudly. “I’m missing a hand,” she said. “I’m not deaf.” Her work as an assistant in the radiology lab of the City of Incurable Women resulted in a series of amputations. One finger and then another and so on. When she left, she took with her a photograph of her missing hand, tucking it into one of her dusty combat boots. The photograph is of her entire body but her hand is the star, raised and elegantly curved like a dancer’s. “Hold that pose,” the doctors said, meaning the one where she stared into her cupped palm as if divining the future or seeking the past. As she held the pose and time dissolved it became apparent that what her palm contained instead was infinite space. Room for the amphitheater, the hospital, the city, even the endless empty road she has been walking though she didn’t know such a road existed then. There it is, she thought into the complex web of lines, already planning her escape. The world. It was partly the man’s strangely endearing mask that made it hard to say no to the electric corset. She stroked his leather bird beak with the hand not tucked into her boot. “Buckle me in,” she said, offering him her back. When he finished buckling, he attempted to show her other iterations of the electric corset in a catalog devoted to electric corsets—the one, for example, that doubles as a Portable Funicular Cleaning Robot and the one that, turned inside out, becomes a Mood Machine. When it became clear she had lost interest, he said, “I’ve noticed you admire my beak,” and then began a lengthy disquisition on the reason plague doctor masks are so pervasive on the steampunk scene but she had grown exhausted centuries ago by men explaining things rather loudly to her. “I’ve gotta jet,” she said. She tried to be polite about it. Zap zap, she continued—carefully—on her way.


Has she been walking forever? Who’s counting? She’s tired but now that she’s figured out how to loosen it, the electric corset gives her a nice back massage. Its currents work on her like hope. Soon, she feels sure, the other city will appear, its desire as bounteous and incurable as hers, its silhouette etched wildly onto the horizon. When she discovers the button that transforms the electric corset into a jet pack, she will shoot herself so fiercely into the sky her boots will fall off and the photograph of her lost hand will flutter free. Following the zigzagging path of her envoy’s fall to earth, she will see it: the city of her dreams. That other city. It is not a dream, not at all.

CALL / The Other City by Maud Casey

RESPONSE / Kelly Towles

25


C A LL / IN THE KITCHEN WHERE WE COOKED ALMOST NOTHING by Mike Scalise R E S P O N S E / LA Johnson


The trick, she used to say, is to imagine it’s all beautiful, but that beauty has its place, or many places, that there is not one connected beauty, strung through the air and us, etc., but many beauties, splintered out, creating themselves constantly, and it was here, when she said this, that I began to hate either her or myself the most. “So like micro-beauties,” I’d say. “No, like stations,” she’d say. “Like each beauty becomes its own station and then that station fuels the place.” “Like with gasoline,” I’d say. And so on. We had just gotten this old idiot dog, and it had gone into the backyard of a house we’d owned for only four months and dug a hole deep enough into grass that was barely ours and returned, to our broken kitchen, teeth around a faded collar that was, we realized, not his own. He picked the collar to shreds before we could pull it from his jaw: us there, in that broken kitchen where we cooked almost nothing, hunched over this shaking thing with sad, dodging eyes, begging it for a kind of politeness it couldn’t know, our dumb hands out, some banal hope of preservation. But of what? “Give it,” she said to the dog. “Give it,” I said too. That night, or some night like it, she asked me ask me about time. She wanted want to know, before sleep, her hand on her stomach, whether I saw time as a promise or a bank statement. “I see time as a cherry-dipped ice cream cone,” I said. Or: “I see time as an overweight trapeze artist.” Or: “I see time as a turd-clogged toilet.”


“I maybe don’t like you as much now,” she said. “I see time as a thin man chewing food with his mouth open,” I said. “Stop,” she said. “I see time as a glowing smartphone,” I said. She had similar things with sunlight and rain, I found, with distance and closeness, whether our exhales meant more than our inhales. Or she’d talk about patience and how it was a blanket, or how pride was a bruised pear, or a fish. She kept going on in that house with these theories, these kind burrowings of inert metaphor, soft quizzes of faith that I could have passed at any time they were so easy, but who was the me who could have done that? And who was the her who could have stopped asking? She sent me an email later, after it was only me and that old dog in that house I never wanted, after the dog had become a defiant heap of bald, brittle bone that slept at my feet as it does now, refusing, still, to die. She said in the email that she thought of relationships as scales on which two people weigh and pair their failures, how the lightest of those failures become the early glue of two people, our failures, and so on. At the bottom of her email was a link to an online store where she sold bits of pottery and homemade keychains. I remember thinking I should probably buy one of these.

28

C A LL / IN THE KITCHEN WHERE WE COOKED ALMOST NOTHING by Mike Scalise

RESPONSE / LA Johnson


C A L L / Untitled by Morgan H. West R E S P O N SE / Hannah Dean


And at the exact moment his fist connected, it appeared: an oily, silver balloon, liquid and oozing and bigger than he thought it would be – he would remember thinking that, It’s bigger than I thought it would be. It was wet and dark and dull where it should have been mirrored; it was murky and moving and free, finally, of Joshua’s slight frame and stooped shoulders. It hovered for a few moments before it realized that it had been let out – that it was no longer kicking against the underside of his skin, desperately seeking escape, releasing pressure in insignificant bursts when he’d open his mouth. They looked at each other, Joshua and the Anger (if the Anger, faceless and round, could be said to look at anything, it was certainly looking at Joshua now. They would all agree on this later), and then the Anger began a silent float down the hallway, moving in jerks and starts at first, growing larger and more grey with each accordion-puff undulation, developing rhythm. They all knew to make room, to get out of its way, backpacks scraping against lockers the only noise until the fire alarm shrilled as the Anger, already bigger than the double frame of the Emergency Exit doors, pushed through and made its way into the street. They ran out after it, hands shielding their eyes as its weightlessness multiplied and its skin stretched and became opal in the sunlight: a giant, bobbing Snoopy in the Thanksgiving Day parade, untethered and slowly rocketing for the stars; Joshua, left alone in the hallway, held an invisible string and smiled.

30

Untitled by Morgan H. West

RESPONSE / Hannah Dean


C A L L / Bulldog Liquor by Nate Brown R E S P O N SE / MasPaz


Brisa tells me that things are gonna be different now that her pops has finally handed over the Bulldog. “I knew it was coming,” she said, “But you can’t be prepared for that shit. It’s a ton of responsibility.” She is standing in front of the stock room looking at the small mountain of boxes from Frito Lay like she’s never seen such a mess, like she hasn’t worked here her whole life. “What is this shit?” “Chips,” I say. “Candy. It’s Monday.” “Right.” “Brisa,” I say. “You okay?” “Fuck,” she says, bringing her fingertips to her temples, “I’m gonna have to be.” I wasn’t there for it, but apparently it went like this: Pops had come in and lost his shit when he saw that, once again, someone had defaced the bulldog on the south wall of the building. It wasn’t that the painting had been a good one to begin with, but because it’d been vandalized and tagged and repainted and touched up so many times already, it was looking really fucking weird. Add a brand new and extra drippy spray-painted sombrero, a giant pair of nuts, and a gushing dick, and it was just too much for Pops to take. He’d come in and grabbed pretty boy Valentín by the arm and led him outside. “See that?” he said. “I leave last night, and my dog has no hat and no dick. I get here this morning, and my dog looks like some fucking vaquero gigolo.” Add to this the backed-up mop sink that smelled like old farts and lettuce; add the Valentín’s reluctance to make fresh coffee; add Valentín’s insistence on playing KUFW, which Pops had banned as bad for business. “You play that pinche Ranchera shit, and you’re gonna get robbed,” he said. But instead of firing Valentín—which would not have been out of line or unusual for Pops, who had fired and re-hired me twice in seven years—he snaked the mop sink, made the coffee himself, and retired to the office until Brisa came in that afternoon. At that point, he handed her the ledger binder for October and his fat, brass ring with the keys to the stock room, the outdoor ice merchandiser, the propane cage, the safe, and to the red Ford F-150, which had its own fucked up bulldog painted on the tailgate. “My first suggestion,” he told her before leaving. “Is to fire that fucker.” He pointed at Valentín, who as Brisa’s former stepson was also Pop’s former step-grandson. That was yesterday. Now, Brisa turns to the stock room, and even though she’s worked the register for all of her time here, it seems natural that she’ll be the one in the back office most days just like her father was, watching Fresno State games on the bubble-bellied television and tapping away at a calculator, squaring


up the next day’s bank drop. “One thing’s for sure,” she calls out from the back. “We’re getting a computer up in this bitch.” As usual, the Frito Lay order is fucked. Half of the things on the packing slip aren’t there, and what is listed doesn’t match the stock, so I toss the screwed up order in the bed of the pickup and leave Brisa at the store. I’m glad for the little break — I always am. It’s October and it’s getting cooler, but I blast the AC and I turn up the radio, which I’ve got tuned to KSFR and while I don’t know who is playing, it’s all guitars and drums and even with Pops being gone and Brisa shell shocked, the day feels better than it should. I’m not half a mile down Shaw Avenue when I see Valentín, walking back toward the Bulldog. I roll down the window and drift into the bus lane. I’m not four feet from him but he doesn’t seem to notice me. “Val,” I holler. He turns his head, takes the headphones out of his ears and hangs them around his neck. “Where you going?” he asks me. “I was gonna ask you the same thing,” I say. “I’m going to work,” he says. “Or, you know, I’m going to get my job back.” “Did they actually fire you?” “Shit, I don’t even know,” he says, and while I’m not in the habit of losing any sleep over Valentín Moreno’s life, I do feel badly for him. “Get in,” I say. We drive to the distribution center, and the guy in receiving dicks around for half an hour trying to find our order in the computer. In the end, I just mark off what we’re returning and write in what we need: six cases each of Baked Lays, Doritos, Cheetos, and Tostitos, four cases of Sour Punch straws, Rolos, Kit-Kats, and, because we mostly sell liquor and beer, a ton of gum and mints. “This is some gringo shit,” Val says on the ride back to the store. He changes the station, and when he lands on KRZR, they’re playing Ozzy. “Bet you like this, huh?” he says to me. I shrug. When we pull back into the lot at the Bulldog, we see that Brisa has rolled the cleaning cart and mop bucket outside. She’s standing on the ladder from the stock room and going at the sombrero with a handheld scrub brush. We park next to her, but before Val or I can say anything, we realize she’s crying. Valentín takes the other scrub brush from the mop bucket and hands it to me. Then he removes his shirt, folds it, and sets it in the truck bed. He picks up a scouring pad from the ten pack in the cart, dunks it in the warm bucket of sanitizer, and says to me, “You take the dick. I got the balls.”

CALL / Bulldog Liquor by Nate Brown

RESPONSE / MasPaz

33


C A LL / Worry on Mute by Rebecca Armendariz R E S P O N S E / Elizabeth Graeber


My favorite therapist retired last year, but I hear her voice in my head every day, instructing me to breathe. “It’s the only piece of advice I give,” she first offered one day as I moved to leave, my hand on the storm door to the brick basement office beneath her house. She’d remind me again in a hushed burst of air any time I hyperventilated on the couch across from her armchair, her legs crossed under her long skirt, a knit shawl arranged to cover her shoulders. I’ve perfected a breathing technique with the help of yoga: in and out for four counts each, the air crawling up my abdomen for release from the space behind my ribcage through my nostrils. After four years of linking my breath to poses and stretches that “rinse my hips” and “floss my shoulders,” I’m aware of how crazy I feel without it. “Breathe until you feel connected to yourself again,” Elena Brower directs in one of the classes streaming on the online channel I use at home, my mat rolled out to cover the sliver of hardwood between the living room rug and kitchen tile. “Extend from the core of your heart,” says Stephanie Snyder, another teacher I like. With her prompt, I remember that I have one pumping, that I am bones and organs and blood and not just a disconnected head, fretting about the future like a ghost in the corner. I sink into my core, using the force of my out-breath to plunk it deep in my chest like a sandbag. Outside of these scattered half-hours, I am in charge of reminding myself to inhale and exhale, a control I’m prone to forget when overwhelmed. When I’m struggling, I seek something to add to my repertoire, the bag of tools I root through to address my current brand of anxiety: pharmaceuticals, marijuana, aromatic bath salts in my tub. Zoloft pulled me from past depths, but when I returned to this remedy later, it only stifled my chances of orgasm, adding to the worry of what’s wrong with me. Taking the opportunity to meditate overnight with a visiting shaman felt like a mystical continuation of the tactics I’d been using. I paid a hundred dollars on the heels of a long winter, desperate for new clarity. The sun lingered on the horizon on my walk to the home of the hostess, a friend of a friend in the yoga world, my gateway to interactions with people who draw energy from stones. When I arrived, a young man in white cotton met me on the porch, and used a hefty bird feather to fan smoke from smoldering sage over my body, cleansing my spirit of negativity before I crossed the threshold and joined the group.


I’d burned sage before in my own home, waving my arm in the direction of thecorners of my apartment, tracing smoke rectangles around doorways. Jeff and I would joke that the microwave was haunted; we’d hear its unprompted low hum kick on from the other room, whirring on a setting we never used, preheat or something. I worried every few days that it would turn itself on while we were both gone, maybe on a weekend trip covering more than two nights. Could it start a fire? What would I be most sad to lose in a fire? Alone in the apartment, I’d sometimes pretend the ghost was Clark, my boyfriend who died of cancer in 2009, and talk to him as if he were my therapist. His death is the source of one of my most immediate worries today, that Jeff will be murdered, or killed in a bike accident. Jeff and I had our most intense fight over an evening during which he drank whiskey and beer and walked the mile home from the bar after midnight. The shaman suggested we bring sacred objects for his altar. I brought a small elephant statue — “animals face south,” he told me in a Latino accent before I placed it in its proper quadrant — and Clark’s leather jacket. He died at 33. “Jesus’s age,” I remember his friend saying. I figured I might as well hold a relic of him next to me during the ceremony. All night we listened to the shaman chant, invoking the spirits of the universe. For hours I shook a maraca I brought from Jeff’s collection of musical instruments, entranced by the rhythm of the shaman’s intonation, the words I couldn’t interpret. I focused on the subtle movements in the curtains, the flicker of light across the face of a figure of Saint Peter, beckoning to me from the nearest section of the altar. Hours passed without ticking by, and by sunrise the shaman was calling each of us to come forth for a personal energy reading. I watched others cry as he identified their troubles. On my turn, I kneeled before him. He waved his hands over my frame, clicking his tongue along with the movements. He described my energy: “You are severely lacking in masculine because of trauma in your childhood.” Masculine energy is the keeper of the feminine, he explained, “and you are overloaded with feminine.” My dearth of manly vibrations was causing a lack of self-protection and strength. He told me to cultivate what I needed for balance by meditating on an array of minerals, and handed me a bloodstone, a black-emerald nugget flecked with red. I was already aware that childhood trauma forms the basis for most of my reactions, bored into my nervous system’s sparks. The shaman’s intuition coupled with his gift affirmed what I’d previously learned in therapy, but I cried as I walked home anyway, my worry muted by the ritual, affirmed by the cycle of truth. Over the next few days I meditated with the bloodstone in the palm of my right hand, facing the sunrise as recommended.


C A L L / Daniel’s Garage by Rob Shore R E S P O N SE / Theodore Taylor III


It’s remarkable how many things that are not oily blue tarps smell like oily blue tarps in a garage. There are two refrigerators. Darts no longer fly true, as evidenced by pockmarked cinderblocks. The sink is a utility sink. The everything is a utility something. You sit on the weight bench flipping between Married With Children and the Spice Channel, which, some time ago, came in almost perfectly for a week and you could see everything. “Hello?” The sound of knocking on a garage door is not like knocking on a front door and not quite like thunder. It’s the sound of in-laws two days before Christmas, and of borrowed utility gloves that never get returned. “Are you Daniel Wexler?” “Yes, I’m Daniel Y. Wexler.” “Package for you.” It’s massive. And it’s here. It’s not a fan letter returned to sender. And it’s not 400 mg of tetracycline for moderate to severe mixed conditioned acne. It’s here — and soon you will be winning. Drag it into the garage, taking care not to move the sliding screen door off its track. “Daniel. Time for dinner, buddy.” “It’s here. It came.” “Meat lasagna. Garlic bread.” “Stouffers?” “No, but just as good.” Bullshit. “Save some for me. Later. Get Stouffers next time.”


Mr. Daniel Y. Wexler 4552 Lawrence Drive Sarasota, Florida 34232 Your grandfather gave you a pocketknife with a bone handle before he died. Your mother knows you have it but pretends not to. You keep it in your nightstand where you keep everything that’s important — everything you don’t want her to see. Open it. See the parts and the potential. Remove the instructions. The most essential part of the go-kart is a solid chassis that will seat and support the driver and house the engine. The driver. That’s you. If you’re going to weld it together out of pieces of barstock, the welds should all be made with the proper heat, penetrating and uniform, for strong weld beads. Otherwise, the welds may be weak, making your go-kart unsafe. The welds will be strong. Very strong. You’ll need to buy or salvage a five horsepower, two-cycle engine and a horizontal drive shaft. Also, a drive clutch assembly and a wheel hub bolt kit with seventeen 5/16-inch bolts. Everything is laid out on the oily blue tarp in front of you. Let’s get to work. There may still be fat jokes; but there will also be fuel injection. The name Wexler the Sexler will continue to be cruel and idiotic; but you will feel the buzz of combustion when your hands grip the steering wheel. Girls making daisy chains in front yards might not love you; but they will hear you coming. And they will look up and see that you, Daniel Y. Wexler, have a go-kart. And you are winning.

CALL / Danie’s Garage by Rob Shore

RESPONSE / Theodore Taylor III

39


C A L L / SHE’S ALRIGHT by Thea Brown R E S P O N SE / Sandra Cornejo


sometimes swearing blood bubbles up hot, pink amulet clouding set retrograde against high domestic: a quiet bed the sun goes up into again and back down again and back down again into the green swamp again low-brow, blight in every other day fills up like a teacup up the portal eats through membrane transmission bright blue the brain leaks quietly down the outside of the skull greener too the outside of the skull landscaped space & swallows such someone knows something elided as tips the brim seams overbranching seems oversmoothed black screen like appears a periapt depth or push on, or approvals’ weight up lights blinking under skin near knuckles bare knuckled, is a tendon blank pink hot developer smell on fingers the everything sometimes someone knows the everything team wins by hunting everyone down perplexable and ablemaking power grass grows over skytrail of smoke and flame dispersing I get so I get so jealous always and I get so and just try and stop it


C AL L / And the Mighty Arms, Etc... by Tim Denevi R ES P O N SE / Bonner Sale


Perhaps you’ve heard this story before: a very long time ago, during an epoch that predates humanity’s blustery and melodramatic arrival on the scene, the Greek god Atlas, a mid-generation Titan, decided to ally himself with Kronos, his maniacal, infanticidal uncle, and fight against Zeus in what’s called the Titanomachy: basically the first real war in the history of the universe. This war lasted ten years. Atlas served as the military commander for his side, nearly achieving victory. But in the end he lost. And Zeus, newly victorious and lacking in neither imagination nor spite—two traits upon which all the most spectacular punishments tend to depend—cast his opponents into the abyssal pit of Tartarus, where they were forced to endure a series of clever, never-ending tortures. Except for Atlas. He’d been the opposing general. The fiercest enemy. A once and future challenger, if you will. As a result, his punishment would need to target the very strength that had made him a threat— his singular capacity for exertion. From Hesiod: “And Atlas is forced to sustain the burden of broad heaven, standing at earth’s end before the clear-voiced Hesperides, using his head and the weariless power of his arms to support it.” What he was holding up was the firmament, best understood in the Ptolemaic sense: a sticky, fluidic, Solar System-sized mass jeweled at various points with planets and stars. Thus, on the edge of the known earth—near the border of the great world-river, Ocean—he was ordered to begin his eternal sentence. He’s been serving it ever since—waiting with what we might call anticipation for the end of time itself— except for on a single occasion, which brings us to the second part of this story: the arrival of a certain, swaggering half-human who’s even more famous than Atlas: Hercules. When this illegitimate son of Zeus finally makes his way onto the stage, our world-bearing Titan is already a relic, arrested since the start of the universe at a location identified in antiquity to fall somewhere along the rim of Africa, in the heart of the eponymous mountain range believed then to represent the earth’s northwestern border. Now it’s no longer Atlas’s story; he’s been relegated to the role of a minor character, one of the many meant to further the exploits of the great (if temperamental) Hercules. In fact, the moment we’re concerned with is the second-to-last in this well-known string of feats: for his eleventh labor, Zeus’s son has been ordered to seek out the famed golden apples, said only to grow in a secret garden.


It’s a trickier task than you might think. The apples are guarded by a hundred-headed dragon capable of speaking in as many voices (as to confuse would-be thieves) and also by the Hesperides, those “clearvoiced,” sea-nymph relatives of Atlas for whom the garden is named. So. Hercules sets out. Heads west. Crosses Egypt and Libya. Kills pretty much everyone who gets in his way. Tortures a good many others. Learns, eventually, the garden’s location: at the top of Mount Atlas, near Gibraltar. And when he finally makes his way to its summit who should he find trapped there but our ancient and defeated general, that former star of the Titanomachy, the heavens riding forever on his back. Together they strike up a conversation. Hercules knows it’s too dangerous to grab the apples himself; would Atlas, he wonders, be willing to do it instead? Sure, the Titan responds, but there’s a slight catch; and at this point he asks the son of his greatest enemy to take his place — only for a moment! — as to allow him the chance to grab the apples. Surprisingly enough, Hercules agrees; with a degree of effort fitting his name he relieves Atlas of the imprisoning burden, and takes the heavens onto his own half-human shoulders. In the meantime Atlas sneaks off and pluck three golden apples from the magical bough in the garden. Of course he’s got his own plan; in fact, if he plays his cards right, there’s a chance he can trick this Hercules into taking on the very punishment he’s spent most of eternity serving. And when Atlas returns with the apples, he’s quick to mention that he’s more than willing to offer any additional help the hero might need; perhaps, before taking on the burden again, this poor, lonely, suffering Titan could enjoy just a few more minutes of freedom and deliver these apples to the person waiting to receive them? Sure, sure, Hercules tells him, That would be downright decent of you, but before you go, do me one quick favor: would you mind lifting these heavens off my shoulders for just a second so I might adjust my cloak, which, crumpled up like this, is driving me absolutely nuts? In next moment Atlas does exactly this; he sets down the apples, frees Hercules from the burden, and waits expectantly for the half-human hero to make quick with the garment alterations. Except that Hercules doesn’t adjust his cloak. He picks up the apples. Shrugs. Departs. And once again Atlas is alone at the edge of the world, the heavens trapping him against the earth.


Which is where we take our leave of him, at least in this story. From now on the best myths will all star the younger gods, and their children, and their children’s children—until, as if by design, these newer deities will themselves step aside, and the camera will be turned on a wide assortment of men and woman who seem similar enough, in the end, to you and me. Atlas won’t be mentioned again. Why would he be? His narrative is complete; his final chance has passed him by: a missed opportunity that, along with so much else, he’s been given more than enough time to contemplate.

CALL / And the Mighty Arms, Etc... by Tim Denevi

RESPONSE / Bonner Sale

45


C AL L / open like the course by Tony Mancus R ES P O N SE / Nate Lewis


a thousand floodlights of you moving the main line separates one country from inside its before it becomes the tow of sound, straight stretch and the line drops anchor strain and response, you call the dial a knob and turn you call your kinesis something licking up and down the back of your neck together yes, still the stack of vertebrae years atop you years I mean, hater, I mean over again, you can turn the knob the colors bored into each marble as its placed into the eyewon socket, turned over from nerves — glass in the staring hole in its hollow care

halve our clouds and each bicycle misspoke, the wheel’s an edge that comes after burial rites everywhere and after ochre pigment and the sign of accomplished diction stances distress truces russet in montage each person you’ve never been kissed by want the hair of them all shows up in your shower, say after a party where everyone stayed where they were put like the sun in your throat a lozenge burning to get you to say bury the birds with their contemplative ‘anyways’ hung up in trees, leering the legal contemporaries with you opened the mailbox to follow


the route of each letter taking out all of the pronouns from life then removing articles of clothing what thread/leaves marking fall some say between two seasons here no, no no, no, no no, there definite articles nixed hands extend into cloth and sharp instruments one possession is metal another is a pose with bars cut between shadow figures standing still hold finger-thin strips of cloth bearing names lights pop all hexes are is fear made manifest and all fear chemical training/trails what wheel clamor say I, 1, 2, I I, I, 1, 2, I I I like a waR and all them is us, say

hater hollow, how to put things back in order only form catalogues carbombs cat combs minus the start of the alphabet hallowed its lick you found in the mailbox, the key buried in your hand like it was a fire to put out stomp the center until everything stops say you look like what you are most afraid of everyone sees this — driving their weight to work thin life is only a color and we we are too whatever hovers I say the names and the stillness after them comes hunting


C A L L / Lifeline by Valerie Rae Courtney R E S P O N SE / Ben Claassen III


“Buzz. Buzz. Buzz.” “Hello?” “You have a collect call from Divine Skyview Condominiums. Would you like to accept the charges?” “Umm, I guess so.” [Static...] “Hello?” “Hello...?” “Oh hey Valzey! How’s my little girl!? Are you making yourself a home there? Did you get my cards and letters?” “Hey. Where the hell are you?! I’ve really been missing you. “Boulder, Colorado.” “Aah.” “I didn’t tell you?! It was the funniest thing! I saw a segment on the Sunday Morning Show. You know the one that Charles Kuralt used to host and now it’s some other Charles...? Well, they did a quality of life study that basically said Boulder was the happiest place in the universe to live. I packed my boxes that night. I just had to go and see for myself!” “Huh. I feel like “they” constantly conduct studies that disprove all of the previous ones.” “Typical Capricorn.” “Whatever. You’re a Capricorn too!” “You know I’m on the cusp. Oh! I went to a $5 psychic in Albuquerque a few weeks ago. I asked her about you and she said she saw lots of confusement in your love life. Is everything okay?”


“Ma, ‘confusement’ isn’t a word.” “Sure it is... She also predicted I’d come down with an illness, but honestly, I thought shesounded a bit congested during my palm reading... Anywho!... So are you seeing anyone special?” “Mom.” “Come on! We barely get to talk anymore. Humor me?” “Ugh, I have been seeing a couple of special people. But the other day when I mentioned feeling a cold coming on, all this one guy sent was a “sorry babe” text with the slashy mouthemoticon.” “Aww Valz, I’m sorry. You need some Schweppes and Campbell’s... Wait, what the hell is an emoticon?” “Nevermind.” “Well... I just had fantastic Chinese takeout and my fortune cookie said something like... wait, I think I have it in my purse..................................” “Ma, this is super long distance.” “Oh stop worrying! Just charge card it... Ah, here it is! Ahem... ‘If the apple tree branch keeps boppin’ you in the head, perhaps it’s time to take a different route’...” “I think Yoda could have said it better.” “Who?” “Forget it.” “Look Valzey, I just want you to be happy. Whatever that means for you...” “Mom, I’m on the road and I’m tired. I think I should go.”

CALL / Lifeline by Valerie Rae Courtney

RESPONSE / Ben Claassen III

51


“Oh okay Honey. What are you up to tomorrow?” “Not much. Just crossing the threshold into my third decade of existence.” “Dammit. Is it the 4th already?” “Yep.” “Aaaw, Baby, I absolutely can’t believe it slipped my mind. Time has a funny way up here... You know how they have special, high altitude baking instructions on boxed cakes? I’d probably have screwed it up if I’d tried to make you one anyway!” “It’s no big deal. You’re usually good about that stuff. I guess you just seem farther away than you’ve ever been. I’ll be fine. You know I think birthdays are stupid anyway.” “Oh, but it’s a big one!... Valzey, what do I ALWAYS tell you?” “That I was your greatest gift to the world.” “And don’t you forget it! But, besides that?” “Umm...to ‘lighten up’.” “Exactly! Nothing’s permanent. You’ll only be thirty for one day. Then you’ll be 30 and 1 day, 30 and 2 days... I think the Chinese start counting age from conception. So you’re actually probably already 30 years and 9 months or something. Or is it the Native Americans? Either way, one breath at a time... I’ve gotta jet, Hon. I’ve got tickets to a magic show?!” “Ma?...” “Yea Sweetie?” “Do you ever wish you lasted here a little longer than you did?” “Your call credit will expire in one minute. Press 1 if you would like to buy more time...”


“Maymoosa?! Focus!” “Uh... Yea, I try not to harp on that Valz. Things look different from here... I feel like I spent my fair share of time down there. It just wasn’t for me in the end. And, well...I had you didn’t I? Listen, try your best to remain a kid at heart. Keep that heart close and on your sleeve at all times, and you’ll find your way. You always have.” “Heh, you sound like a fucking fortune cookie.” “Gotta go! I’ll send you a little something soon! Love you.” “Ditto.” Click.

CALL / Lifeline by Valerie Courtney

RESPONSE / Ben Claassen III

53


ACKNOWLE D G M E N TS

Alright boys, when we get to the airport, there will be absolutely no place to land. Written and performed live by Restorations. Produced, engineered, and mixed by Jonathan Low at Miner Street Recordings in Philadelphia, PA. Mastered by Ryan Schwabe at The Maniac Mansion in Philadelphia, PA Restorations is: Carlin Brown, David Klyman, Jon Loudon, Ben Pierce, and Dan Zimmerman 2014 Writers: Chris Keener, Jen Girdish, Kady Ruth Ashcraft, Mariama Lockington, Mark Cugini, Matt Cohen, Maud Casey, Mike Scalise, Morgan H. West, Nate Brown, Rebecca Armendariz, Rob Shore, Thea Brown, Tim Denevi, Tony Mancus, Valerie Rae Courtney 2014 Artists: April Danielle Lewis, Ben Claassen III, Bonner Sale, Elizabeth Graeber, Hannah Dean, JD Deardourff, Kelly Towles, Kirk Zamieroski, LA Johnson, Martin Swift, MasPaz, Nate Lewis, Saman Bemel-Benrud, Sandra Cornejo, Theodore Taylor III, Walker Babington

This project would not be possible without 826DC, Hole in the Sky, Red Table Press, and the Call + Response IV Bodacious Benefactors: Jacob Chaney, Neil Cooler, Amy Pastan, Joe Pelone, Nathan Lam Vuong, Ryan Zavislak We’d also like to acknowledge our Super Supporters: William Bert, Alison Hanold, Larry Kaplan + Kathy Hanold, Reese Kwon, Scott Sayre, Colin Mcanarney, Mike Priest, Peter Reeves, Xin Li + Dave Vibert, Chris + Sam Barrett, Reb Livingston, Ryan Mills Cover and record label design by Mike O’Brien (redtablepress.com) Layout by Constance Leonard (constanceleonard.com) Copyediting by Jim Kelly

Call + Response IV is co-curated by Kira Wisniewski, Dillon Babington, and Mike O’Brien www.callandresponsdc.org