Issue No. 1 | I s s2u e WINTER 2012
No. 2 路 Winter 2012
Editor’s Note February 17, 2012
The second issue is out! It’s been a long haul to get this issue finished, but I couldn’t be more pleased with the outcome. Not only have submissions come in from every corner of the United States this round, but the number of international submissions has been astounding. The readership has grown, and with it, the website, The Review’s reputation, and its mission. There have been bumps along the road, but The Review is doing what it was created to do: publishing writing that makes us think, bends our perceptions, and inspires us. This growth is due to all of our contributors – even those not selected for this issue. Every single submission had something unique about it, something that carried with it the boldness and creativity that makes us writers. Our passion unites us. And it’s this kind of passion that, combined with a unique perspective and sheer force of purpose, allows for something like The Midwest Coast Review to exist. This publication has come a long way from where it started, and I can’t wait to see what it will become. So, welcome back. And it is with great excitement that I present to you the second issue of The Midwest Coast Review. Your story deserves to be told.
Sincerely, Daniel J. Hass Founding Editor
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Issue No. 2 · WINTER 2012
CONTENTS 2. EDITOR’S NOTE 4. Muscle by CHRISTOPHER DUNGEY 20. On the Lake by ADAM WOHNOUTKA 27. In the Time Remaining by PETER PHILIPPS 36. Coyote by ANTHONY BURNETT 49. Albee by ANNE WILLKOMM 62. Prometheus Fails by MICHAEL GAUSE 64. Net Assets by F. JAYWING FULLER 68. Limbs by D.W. MILLER 71. Seven Acts of Mercy by JOHN STOCKS 72. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 14 in C Sharp Minor by JOANNA VALENTE
73. Loudly as She Leaves by MATTHEW PORUBSKY 76. Father and Son Talk Around Nabokov by ERICK MERTZ
77. A Hot Day in Hell by WILLIAM SHELTON 78. Knackle by LINDSAY D’ANDREA 79. Beyond My Town by KEVIN HEATON 81. Cries Every Noon by RAY SUCCRE 82. An Introduction to Taboo by ROBERT LIETZ 84. Broken Time by SHERI L. WRIGHT 85. Full Throttle by SHERI L. WRIGHT 86. Fire from Steam by ELEANOR LEONNE BENNETT 87. Reza Deghari London Portrait by ELEANOR LEONNE BENNETT 3|Issue No. 2 · Winter 2012
88. CONTRIBUTORS’ BIOS
MUSCLE Christopher Dungey IN 1973, HECTOR FRITCH did not have enough seniority at the auto plant to avoid being laid-off. Another war in the Middle East led to an oil embargo and gasoline shortages. There was a brief panic about energy consumption. For a time, car buyers lost interest in the big Pontiacs Hector helped build. He was laid-off just before Christmas so that his employer would not have to give him Holiday pay. Hector's wife, Gwen, kept her waitress job while Hector stayed home with Wesley, their three-year-old. Now that he was there every night, Hector's home became a prime destination for several single friends. Hector told Terry Wickersham that they would have to "cool it" after New Years because he planned to go back to college for a few classes.
"Generous" Motors was still obligated to pay tuition assistance under the contract. The government would subsidize this largess because Hector's job was being displaced by small, foreign cars. They called it a "trade readjustment allowance." On the Friday evening before Christmas, Hector and Terry drank a special, dark Yuletide lager. Terry brought a case of it over after his father paid him for minding their "antique barn," a resale store full of garage sale finds. In the afternoon they started a batch of chili with whole jalapenos floating in it. Terry suggested that Hector call Gwen at Titus
Family Restaurant and ask her to bring home one of her single waitress friends. "She'll get pissed off. They aren't supposed to take calls." "What's the difference if you call or go in there to talk? They don't care when you go in there." "I'm usually picking up a take-out order." "C'mon, man. Maybe Robin Hebert is working." "Gwen'll be tired. She wants to shop tomorrow after she gets her check." "Nah. She'll wanta drink a couple of beers to unwind. She'll want some chili." Hector turned on the tree lights in the front window because it was almost dark. They had bought a huge old home on the main street of Celeryville. It was run down so the
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price was right. They found a good interest rate with a low down-payment from Farm Home Loan Administration just because the house was in a rural community. "I'll call after I feed Wesley," Hector said. "But you've got to help me out tomorrow." Wickersham leaned his bushy head of hair and mountain-man beard over the large pot of chili. He had brought the peppers, grown and dried from his father's garden outside of town. "Just name it. I don't have to work until Sunday." He stirred with a long wooden spoon. Hector had to keep an eye on him or the chili would soon be too hot for most people to eat. "I have to go down to Pontiac. A guy owes me money and I don't wanta go alone." Wickersham replaced the lid on the gallon-sized kettle. "I don't have to be your muscle do I? I'm not much when it comes to muscle." Terry was tall and had a crooked nose which made him look like a hockey goon. But Hector could not think of a less aggressive person in his acquaintance. As an original hippy-type in the village, he had to constantly walk away from harassment. After lighting the tree, Hector spread newspapers on the floor in front of the television. He lifted Wesley's toy table out of a corner and placed it in the center of the papers. He turned the set on. "Oh, no. You're not the muscle. I know that," he chuckled. "But two guys might look like something. It won't be a problem anyway. You just have to sit in the car with Wes." "Who owes you money?" "A guy from the shop. He was supposed to have it when I went down for my last check. I couldn't find him." "So, it sounds like he's already a problem. I'm tellin' you. I cannot be the muscle. Man, I'm still on probation for that taillight out and two roaches in the ashtray." Hector heard Wesley padding down the hall upstairs. The boy had finally awakened from his nap. Wes had given Hector a good break but Hector wasted it by drinking beers with Wickersham and not catching his own snooze. He reminded himself that this impromptu partying would have to cease when he went back to school. "Come on down, buddy," he called up the stairs. "I thought you already picked up trash along the road or something for that bust."
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"You know I did. You drove by and hooted on me. But I'm still on probation and I don't feel like getting shot down in Pontiac." Wickersham came into the front room and admired the tree. He watched a few flurries descend through the streetlight at the corner of Grove and Main. He took a long pull on the longneck of thick looking lager. "There's no chance of that. He's an old hillbilly and kind of an alky." "My man, that's part of the definition of gettin' shot." Hector did not tell Wickersham that Preacher Clevinger had already stuck him with a bad check. Preacher worked on a window molding job just up the line. He often offered Hector slugs from the pint in his lunch box. During the last week of the second shift at Fisher Body-Pontiac, Hector sold him six Super Eight porno movies for sixty dollars. Preacher was desperate to own the films which featured the legendary John Holmes; Johnny Wadd. Hector was in a panic about the future and how to pay for Christmas. He would have sold his projector, too, if Preacher didn't already have one. It was a good deal for both because Clevinger was the kind of older worker from Tennessee who claimed discomfort at going into an adult store. When the check bounced with a charge to Hector's account, he tracked down Clevinger's phone number. He was surprised to find that the address was also available from Directory Assistance. They made arrangements to meet at LeRoy's Bar across from the plant after picking up their last paychecks. Clevinger didn't show up. Hector was beginning to lose patience with the old hillbilly. Preacher was friendly enough when tipsy on the job. But just because Hector had long hair, Preacher was always nudging up to him, kidding that he wanted to fuck him. Now Hector wondered if that was more than just the usual goofing around. Wesley came down the stairs slowly, still groggy and disoriented. The boy smiled from ear to ear when he saw Wickersham. "Hey there, little dude. Ready for some kick-ass chili?" "Not even, man. Wendy'd kill me. He gets cheese-and-crackers and junior chili." Hector parked the boy in front of the TV at his miniature table. He went into the kitchen for a dish of plain hamburger and beans off the back burner. Maybe with just a bit of juice, but not enough to make a mess.
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"What are we watchin' pardner?" Terry asked, clicking the channel dial. "Lemme find the Stooges for ya. Whoa, there went Santa! Don't worry, it was just a commercial. Hey! Do they still have Three Stooges on here anywhere?" "I don't think so." From the refrigerator, Hector brought cheese cubes he knew Wesley would eat. He arranged a few Ritz Crackers on a plate. "Find Kermit or something. Christ, for a second I was afraid you meant Iggy and the Stooges." "Naw, man, c'mon," Wickersham said. "I'm dig your, you know, this domesticity." Staggering slightly, he tipped back the dregs of his Christmas brew. Saturday morning began predictably though Hector didn't feel too badly. He had felt worse. He was able to roll out immediately when Wes padded into the bedroom to wake him. Luckily, he rolled his face out into the chill air before Wes came around to his side of the bed. He had slept for a few hours with his face between Gwen's legs. She groaned in sleep and rolled away, half uncovering herself. Hector quickly tugged the blankets back over her naked body. He struggled into abandoned briefs by the bed. Then he had to find his sweatpants and glasses. "I want pancakes." "Mmm-hmm. Will you settle for frozen waffles?" At the bottom of the stairs, Wickersham was snoring on the hide-a-bed unfolded from the couch. Again, Hector had to restore a blanket over a naked adult. "Don't wake him up just yet," he whispered to the boy. Robin Hebert came out of the kitchen in her wrinkled waitress dress. She carried an empty case for the Christmas lagers. There were longneck bottles everywhere, like poorly hidden Easter eggs. They stood next to the reclining chair and the hide-a-bed. There were bottles in profusion on the coffee table and on the dining room table. Two filled ashtrays on the floor were flanked with bottles. "I'll get those, at least," Robin said in a low voice. Her short blond hair was slicked back and damp as if she'd been in the shower. "Then I've gotta split. I'm out of cigarettes." "Who's that lady, daddy?"
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"Don't you remember me, shortstop? From the restaurant?" "Is there any coffee yet? Don't you want some coffee?" "I think you're out." Robin dropped bottles into the slots in the beer case. They clanked together as she picked them up two at a time. "Ohhhh, shit," Wickersham groaned. Robin came into the kitchen. She dumped warm lager from two bottles and fished out a cigarette butt that spilled into the sink. "Yeah, there isn't enough to perc. My fault. I had that on my list for yesterday, butâ€Ś" Hector put the top back on the avocado tinted canister, the scoop rattling inside. He turned on a burner under the tea kettle. "I can have instant for you in just a minute." "That's alright. Tell you what. I'll bring back some big ones to go from the gas station. I have got to get some smokes. Then I need a fresh uniform from home. You remember Gwen and me both have the lunch shift. We have to shop tonight. Or Sunday." "Yeah, vaguely. Something for her to be mad at besides me." Hector spooned Maxwell House crystals into a mug. His throbbing head would not wait for the gas station coffee. He suspected that Wickersham, too, would welcome instant under the circumstances. "It'll be OK. By the time you get back, we can drink 'em on the road. Terry and I have some errands." "You better go buy her something nice," Robin teased. "I think she wants one of those Mr. Coffee gizmos." Robin slapped his arm. He opened the freezer above the 'fridge to get the toaster waffles. He heard her slam the front door hard enough that the jingle bells on their wreath made a racket. "Owwww, Jesus." Terry groaned after her. "What is wrong with her?!" "I dunno. Afterglow?" Wickersham rolled to a seated position. He clutched a green wool army blanket at his neck like the survivor of a disaster. By the time Fritch handed him the steaming mug, he had lighted the remains of a cigarette from an ashtray by the couch. "She wouldn't be out if she'd
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smoke 'em all the way." He slurped. "No, that doesn't make sense. She'd still be out. Wait. She wouldn't be out if she went back and…no. Fuck it." "Hey," Fritch whispered. "Kid's up." "Oooops. Sorry." "You work on your semantics problem, syntax problem, whatever it is, while I get him fed. You want a waffle?" "Sure." Wickersham exhaled the first puff slowly. "Better make it a dry one." Fritch hoisted Wes into a booster seat at the dining table. "Jam or syrup, ace? Don't say both. We don't have time for a huge mess." "Jam. You look all sad," he said, eyeing Wickersham. "You need a aspen?" "Coffee first, sport. I'll be smilin' in a little while." "Terry abused a substance, Wes. Can you say that? 'Terry abused a substance?'" Fritch brought a plain waffle to his guest. "I don't know those words, Daddy." The boy picked up his first waffle. It was spread with a thin layer of margarine and strawberry preserve. "Not important, son, as you can repeat it whenever you see Terry has to hold up his head with his free hand. Like now." "You boozed a stubbins?" Fritch laughed with some pain of his own. "Yeah, he did that too." "Have your fun," Wickersham sighed. "And then eat some….you know." Fritch mopped up Wesley's hands and face after part of a second waffle had been eaten. He hustled the boy back upstairs to get him dressed. "Better go use the bathroom so we can roll," he told Terry from halfway up the stairs. Fritch helped Wesley into a sweatshirt and little blue-jeans. He tied the little hightop tennis shoes for him. "You can practice extra tomorrow. We need to get going on the road."
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"For a road trip?" "It's enough of one. But not that long. Not like down to Grandma's on the farm. When we get done with this business then we'll go into the stores." "Can I see Santa again?" "Nah, buddy. You have to shop for Mom a present. Remember about giving this time of year, and all that?" "Better than receding," Wes recited. "There it is." Hector filled a tote bag with diversions: A John Deere coloring book from the dairyman Grandfather. It had a few pages left to do. Crayons. He picked out a few that weren't broken. The See 'n' Say for farm animals. The See 'n' Say for the alphabet. The Wil Huygens picture book of everything about gnomes, even with some gnome breasts showing. "Think this'll do it?" Wes did not reply. He carried a GI Joe in one hand and a Tupperware container filled with martial accessories in the other. "You may yet get Savings Bonds for Christmas." Robin Hebert rolled up to the curb in her Dodge Dart just as Fritch finished strapping Wes into the back seat of his second hand station wagon. A wet snow that might become sleet fell on his back and then on his head when he withdrew from the car. She handed over the large styrofoam cups of coffee. Flakes turned to dew-drops on her wool hat. She nodded her head disgustedly at Wickersham's slumped form in the front seat. "Have a great day," she called. "Don't forget, you're gonna show me how to mix Snowshoes later. I'll pick up the
Wild Turkey." Wickersham lifted his arm weakly, waving without turning or even raising his head. Robin rolled her eyes. "He's doing what for you today?" "Oh, he's my muscle." "You may be in a world of hurt. Be ready to hit the shoulder." She tip-toed carefully in her white, waitress sneakers through the slush toward the front porch. Gwen, in curlers, opened the door for her. Both women eyed the chiming wreath with irritation. 10 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ÂŠ
Fritch drove his normal route for going to work. There were tire paths through the slush in both lanes of the blacktop road going west to Route 24. Wickersham straightened up enough to have another cigarette. He blew the smoke toward a crack of the widow he had rolled down. He seemed to revive a bit. "That waffle was a good idea. I should have had another one." "I think there are some saltines in the glove compartment." Wickersham sipped more coffee then opened the glove-box. "I hope you're not planning to drink Snowshoes at the house tonight." Terry stripped cellophane from some restaurant crackers. He slipped one into his mouth. "I won't be drinking anything tonight. Robin'll be your problem. Gwen was liking the idea 'cause peppermint schnapps and cracked ice sounds Christmassy. I need to get clear." Fritch waited at a stop sign to turn south on Route 24. The four-lane divided highway was crawling with slow traffic. This was the last weekend for Holiday shopping at the malls down in Oakland County. "You're not going to follow up on last night's success? What's wrong with Robin?" After more than enough tentative chews, Wickersham swallowed. "It wasn't such a success. She does everything too fast. And hard. Everything. I was slowin' down. You know. And plus, she just never shuts up after a few drinks." Fritch made his turn and tested the left hand lane. The pavement appeared to be merely wet. "OK. Just don't be whining next weekend about how horny and lonely you are." "Well, I won't." Terry ate another saltine with more enthusiasm. "My God, these are good! Never be without these! Listen, maybe I'll feel better about it later. New Year's Eve is comin'. But, wow, this morning…I know it's impolite not to respond when someone is speakin' to you, but it hurt to move my head." "I hear ya, man. She does go on. But she's Gwen's friend. I don't have to say more than boo to her most of the time." "What's horny?" Wes asked.
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"It's when you want to see someone really badly," Fritch said over his shoulder. Then he considered the thought progression that might follow from such a definition. "No, I'm just kidding, Wes. It's like having a headache, the way Terry's is. Imagine how it would hurt to have a cow horn growing out of your head." "From boozin a stubbins?" "The very same thing, right Terry?" By the time he navigated through Oxford, Fritch's chest had begun to tighten with apprehension. He was out of a job for what could be a long time. This was the route to that job. The trip and the assembly-line labor could be a hassle, but there was always a decent paycheck for this efforts. There wasn't much to expect today but confrontation and probably some ill-feelings. He supposed there might even be violence for as long as it took to retreat to the car. Even if the skin-flicks were returned to him intact, they would be worth nothing in the check-out line at Yankee Store or K-Mart. The fog-like mist and gloom of the day did not contribute to optimism for a cash settlement. If Preacher hadn't already drunk up his final paycheck then that would be a Christmas miracle. None of the eliminated shift could draw an unemployment check for another week. It took them five minutes to get through each of the three traffic lights in Lake Orion. "How are you gonna play it?" Wickersham spoke without opening his eyes. Fritch thought he had dozed off again. "Civil, I hope. If he hasn't got the cash, he hasn't got it. I'll settle for the films." "That sounds like the wise approach. Especially, you know, with the boy along." Fritch glanced back to see that Wes had nodded off. The boy had probably been awake long before rousing his father. "Now, if the films are gone, too, then we're gonna have harsh words." "As you're backing toward the car, right?" Fritch lifted his own cup, finding it empty for the umpteenth time. "Yeah, donâ€˜t worry. I'll consider it another lesson."
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A couple miles south of the I-75 interchange, they turned off Route 24. He drove west on Walton Blvd. and then south again on Baldwin Ave., right past the plant. LeRoy's, The
Ventura Lounge, Green Tavern, The Bonneville Lounge, Third Shift--none of the bars clinging to the factory skirts seemed very busy, judging by the nearly empty parking lots. Some of those spaces were quite large. Opportunistic bar owners, most of them retired union officials or foremen, rented out shift parking to their regular customers. Preacher could be sprawled across the mahogany in any one of them. Fritch turned west on Kennett. He began to look for Clevinger's street. He remembered the old man bragging that he could crawl home from work if he had to. What would that mean? Three blocks? Three miles? Kennett didn't continue on much farther west of the shop. The slip of paper on the dash with Preacher's scrawled phone number read
Carlisle Street. "That's it." He had no time to hit the turn signal. They weren't going very fast but the Mercury wagon cornered the way he imagined a bread truck must. Wes did not wake up but Wickersham came to full alertness. "Showtime?" "There won't be a show. Relax," Fritch repeated. "Five blocks from work. I think my guy's people were part of the big migration during the depression. Or maybe for the war effort. One of the wars. You know, there are still a few old farts that commute home to Kentucky every two weeks. They live in rooming houses while they're here." "Sounds like my family tree," Terry said. "Up until Daddy." The pre-war bungalows were uniformly built and uniformly dingy. All were of one storey with concrete block porches. Half of them had added garages which crowded the lot boundaries. Some were sided in aluminum but most were slate or shingle-sided to look like slate. Fritch told himself that the weather might be coloring everything. But the weather hadn't put broken toys and junk in the yards or beat looking vehicles everywhere--in sideyards, backyards, on cement blocks in the cracked driveways; even at the curbs. They crawled along. For two blocks, few of the residents had obeyed the posted snow ordinance. Cars and pick-up trucks were parked at the curbs in both directions. "We want 5962. The evens are on your side," Fritch said.
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In the middle of the next block Terry said, "This looks like it. With the VW in the drive and the Tempest half out of the garage?" "Yup." Fritch pulled into the drive behind the yellow bug. He had to straddle the sidewalk. He set the parking brake. "Why don't you slide over behind the wheel. I'm gonna leave it running." "Got ya." Fritch's first impression was that Preacher's home was one of the better kept places on the block. He had upgraded to baize aluminum siding. An overflow of material bounty had crowded his car out of the garage, but there were no bicycle skeletons leaning about or Big Wheels toys fading from exposure. However, when he attempted to knock, Fritch found that the glass was missing from the storm-door frame. This noise, he supposed, would be insufficient to get anyone's attention. He reached for the button of the doorbell which appeared to have been painted over several times. Hearing no buzzing or ringing inside, he clattered again on the door frame with more emphasis. He heard quick steps approaching on the other side and then the dead-bolt turning. The inside door opened with a tight, scraping sound. A thin young man wearing only red bikini briefs confronted him with a scowl. A rolled towel draped his neck though his hair looked dry. "Yeah?" "Uh, afternoon. Hope I didn't get you out of the shower. Is this the Clevinger residence. I'm looking for Preacher. I work with your Dad." "The old man? He ain't my Dad." The kid made no move to close the door. His hands gripped either end of the towel. "Well, is he around? I've kinda got some business to discuss with him?" "You too? Geez-us," the kid snickered, looking over Fritch's shoulder. "Listen though. He ain't feelin' too good, but I can ast him. You wanta step on in? He'll bitch about lettin' the heat out." "If he's got the flu or something, I can just catch up with him another time."
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"Brown bottle flu, more like." The kid turned and switched on a floor lamp in the darkened living room. The trunk of the lamp wobbled precariously in its tarnished base. A wide, amber shade meant to retain heat had been drawn down with curtains closed over it in the small picture window. At a glance, Fritch saw a movie projector set up on the floor and aimed at a bare wall, its cord trailing toward an overloaded socket. Several empty porno-film boxes lay scattered around it. With a light stride Fritch had only ever seen affected by runway models, the young man moved toward an adjoining room. Fritch's breath caught. The kid appeared to have some kind of wet stain in the seat of his briefs. Or, he had recently sat in something. He reached up and tugged at a curtain threaded on a plain dowel. The bedroom inside was dark except for a small tear in a rear window shade. Fritch could see a fat candle sputtering on a bedside table. "Mr. Clevinger? You feelin' better? Ya'll awake?" "Jus' enough. Get yer little butt on in here 'n' get busy on this thing. I'll feel a whole lot better." "Well, no, 'cause ya'll got company." "Awww, shit. Who the…" "C'mon ol' man. It's somebody from work. An' I need some money." "You 'n' yer fuckin' money. Jus' a goddamn minute, let me get myself organized. Go 'n' make yerself useful, get me some aspirin." "Gawd." The boy quickstepped out of the bedroom and crossed into the kitchen. Fritch heard the complaint of worn bedsprings. Then Clevinger emerged, blinking at the light. He was still knotting the sash of a soiled terry-cloth robe. "Oh, it's…well, shit! Fritch! Goddamn, ahm sorry! I done forgot all 'bout you 'tother day. Goddamn it." He hung his head, squeezing the bridge of his nose. "Well, geez, Preacher. I waited nearly two hours." Clevinger made room for himself on the battered davenport by tossing a black shirt and a slim pair of black capri pants toward the kitchen. The shirt fluttered and landed short like it must be silk. "Ah know ah fucked up, buddy. But, now, shit. You know me well enough, now. You know ah ain't just but a ol' drunk." He picked through the debris of a
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rolling device, papers and a bag of tobacco on the coffee table, knocking over an empty fifth of Jack Daniels in the process. His hands shook as he attempted to light the loosely constructed cigarette. "Yeah, I guess I was slow on the uptake. I guess I'm figuring it out." Fritch looked away from Preacher's quivering lips. His rheumy eyes might be about to dispense real tears. "Whata ya'll think ya figured out, college boy? All a this here?" Clevinger jerked his thumb at the kitchen. He succeeded in lighting the cigarette only to send sparks flying with a coughing jag on the first drag. "That boy could be my damn nephew far's ya'll know. Ain't nothin' what it seems now-a-days, no ways," he gasped. Fritch studied the grimed soles of the old man's athletic socks when he lifted his feet onto the coffee table. "Didn't seem like anything. At least anything to do with me." "Damn right. Nor anybody the fuck else." Clevinger rose to peek out the window. Fritch slowly removed his hands from the pouch of his hooded sweatshirt. He could probably get to the heavy, square Jack bottle quicker than the old man, if it came to that. Better than nothing. A shower began to hiss and trickle in the bathroom. It sounded like the stall must be just on the other side of the living room wall. After another minute, he thought he could smell shampoo. "Who's out'n yer car? Ya'll hadda bring you some he'p along? Ya'll really comed all the way down here try'n scare a few bucks out'n a ol' drunk?" "It's just a friend of mine. I came down to finish my shopping and he came along for the ride. I just thought I'd check, see if you had the money yet. If not, wellâ€Ś" "Ya'll never even been t' my place before. Ya'll woulda had t' ast around. You woulda had t' look it up. Ah thought we'uz friends." Now Fritch decided that it wouldn't do any good to play passive if Clevinger was determined to be a tool about it. "It wasn't hard, Preach. You're in the book, for Chrissake. And a real friend wouldn't stiff me with a bad check. So if you can't pay for the films, I'm gonna have to take them back." Clevinger puffed his smoke, held it this time and resumed sniffling. He turned away from the window. "Well, ah ain't gotcher damn money. Guess ah'll box 'em back up for ya'll, you don't trust me."
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"I'd appreciate it." Fritch backed toward the door a bit. "I need to sell them some way. And soon." Clevinger knelt by weary stages next to his projector. His nearly hairless legs jutted from the robe, momentarily taut over his narrow buttocks. An alcoholic's spindle legs holding up the slack, toneless flab of his core. "Them is some good flicks though, ain't they? That ol' boy Johnny Wadd… He can do some damage." He took a spool of film off the projector then scrabbled around in the clutter, looking for the right tin. He found the matching carton with its teaser label of graphic photos. "They are pretty good. "But you woulda gotten tired of 'em before long." "Not me, son." The old man grinned. "But looka here. What ah said 'bout things not bein' how they look…" There were six cartons in the stack when Preacher finished and eased himself up. Fritch wasn't going to look into each one until he had gotten clear. "What things?" "Yeah, that's the way. Them ol' boys on that line… They got a cruel streak 'bout anybody elst's short-comin's 'cept their own…drinkin' an' the like." "Yeah, I hear ya." "So you never seen me in a bad way?" He handed the films to Fritch. "Hell, no. But, can I get a grocery bag or something? My little boy is out in the car, too. I'm gonna try to sneak these into the back." 'Never saw him in a bad way?' Most of South Trim Area had seen Clevinger heaving into a trash barrel at some point. "Yep. Ah'll be right back." Clevinger went into the kitchen. He opened and slammed three cupboards. The torrent of the shower stopped. He eyed the bathroom door nervously as he slouched into the front room. "Well, I'll see you whenever," Fritch said as the old man placed the bag in his hands. "I heard we could be off 'til model change in July." "We'll come back and build them little death-trap compact cars. Fuckin' A-rabs, anyways. Japs too."
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"Take care, Preacher. Have a great holiday." Fritch turned without attempting to shake hands. "Watch out for Smoky givin' green stamps." The storm-door frame rattled shut. The front door closed after it. With the films buried in the cargo space next to the spare tire, Fritch had to wake Terry up to move him to the passenger side. "I see you aren't shot," Terry said. "And you have the porn back. My people have nearly assimilated." "They've bought into our culture alright." Wesley was awake and studying the gnome book. He accepted, without question, Fritch's explanation for the visit to an unfamiliar neighborhood and city--business. With exactly twenty-three dollars left in his wallet, Fitch was forced to cancel their shopping. The boy's protests subsided with the promise of a Happy Meal. Some sort of credit arrangements would have to be made if Santa was going to visit in style. Fritch cursed under his breath at the thought of Preacher getting his jollies for free, though he still had no desire to tell anyone about the kinks in the old bastard's sex life. They would all probably be hired back into different departments anyway after the long lay-off. Maybe he would change lunch bars to avoid the geezer's drunken advances, now that he understood that they were probably in earnest. And how about that kid? When Fritch thought about him, he soon pictured Gwen tugging up her panties and heading to the shower after lovemaking. He liked the view of her walking away, almost better than walking toward him, slipping them off. Traffic moved even slower on the return trip. Snow flurries signaled a drop in temperature. North of Oxford, cars in the ditch warned that Route 24 was turning slippery. Terry fished out his smokes. He thought they should eat back in Celeryville where he could have a word with Robin Hebert. The best burgers in town were served by Titus Family
Restaurant. Better than McDonalds. After a little food, who could say what he might be up for? Talk Robin into coming out to the store tomorrow. Might keep him awake. Snowshoes, though? He thought he might need a few more hours before sampling the hair off that particular dog.
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Wesley finished the last of the fruit punch in his sippy-cup. He thought that Daddy and Terry should drink their beer out of those big mugs like the gnomes have. He thought the boobies of the girl gnomes looked bigger than Mama's.
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On the lake Adam Wohnoutka THE RED AND WHITE fish, carved out of balsa wood, two treble hooks protruding from its belly, whizzed through the air, leaving behind a trail of invisible nylon thread. It plopped down in a cluster of lily pads, jerked onto the water‘s surface, and wiggled back to the boat. ―You sure know how to show a girl a good time,‖ Regan said sarcastically, watching Mary Hayes crank the reel, inspect her lure for weeds, and cast it back into the aquatic flora. ―Glad you‘re having fun,‖ Mary laughed, tugging her line out of the weed bed. ―Why don‘t you give it a try? I‘ve got a line made up for you right there.‖ She pointed. ―I think I‘ll pass.‖ She scanned the glassy surface of the lake, the brushy swaying treetops, the cloud-dabbled sky. But nature‘s beauty was lost on her. She finally found something to her liking: ―Hey! What‘s in that cooler? Please tell me that you are capable of mercy and you loaded that thing up with enough liquor to make me forget where I am.‖ ―Sure did.‖ Regan unlatched the cooler with her big toe and kicked open the lid. She didn‘t appear pleased looking upon the contents. ―We got anything a little stronger?‖ ―Nope.‖ Mary beckoned a loose cigar from her jean pocket. Regan was wearing a skirt and high heels. ―And why is that?‖ ―Someone once said that there is not a man or woman on this earth that can hope for a better day than one spent on the lake with a case of beer.‖ ―And who the Hell said that?‖ ―I just did,‖ grinned Mary, puffing her cigar as a match‘s flame tickled the tip. ―Well, aren‘t you a little poet?‖ ―Crack one open. I think you‘ll like it. Cold, bitter, and full of yeast. Just like someone I know. ‖
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Regan ignored the jab, picking up a bottle and observing it like a precious gem. ―What is this? Founders Red‘s Rye P.A.‖ ―That would be beer.‖ ―Thank you. It any good?‖ ―Only one way to find out,‖ Mary replied, tossing a bottle opener without interrupting her routine. Regan trapped the metal contraption against her chest. It was in the shape of a miniature walleye, the fact of which caused her to snicker snidely. It took her a few tries to wedge the metal lever under the ridged cap, but once she did, she popped the top with confidence, a cool white mist rising from the bottle‘s lips. She tipped the longneck in Mary‘s direction and consumed. ―Woo, that‘s got some character,‖ winced Regan. ―I thought you‘d like it.‖ ―I never said I liked it.‖ ―I could tell.‖ ―Well, it‘s a Helluva lot better than those piss water light beers,‖ Regan said, stealing another sip. ―Preaching to the choir, sister.‖ ―How many calories does it have?‖ Mary let a smoke stream run off her tongue, paused in her pursuit of a fat bass. ―When you drink beer,‖ she sighed, ―your primary focus should be relaxing. That‘s why it was invented and that‘s why we continue with its fine tradition. Now, counting calories is not relaxing. Alcohol is a vice. It‘s not supposed to be healthy. That‘s why it‘s so damned relaxing. Look at me and cigars. In all likelihood, the little buggers are going to give me throat cancer. But do you see me sweating it? No. So enjoy yourself and drink the Hell up.‖ ―Well, when you put it that way…‖ Regan trailed off. ―How many calories?‖ ―What do I look like? An encyclopedia? Read the damn label.‖
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Regan scanned the fine print, moving her lips while she read each word. ―Doesn‘t say. How many you think it‘ll take to get me buzzed?‖ ―Well, for a beer, this is some pretty filthy shit. I‘ll say your head starts spinning after two.‖ ―Almost done with one and don‘t feel a thang. I believe I‘ll set my limit at five.‖ ―I know some seasoned beer-drinkers who would find that a bit lofty.‖ ―Most beer-drinkers are pussies,‖ chimed Regan, polishing off the rye-based concoction. She belched and grabbed another beer from the ice chest. ―Round two. You ready?‖ She waved a second beer until it garnered Mary‘s attention. ―Toss it over.‖ Regan underhanded the perspiring glass and Mary plucked it out of the sky with her free hand. When offered the bottle opener Mary shook her head. She tucked the corked pole handle under her armpit, lined the bottle top up with the boat‘s edge, and whacked its crown with her free palm. The cap popped off with a ‗Sss‘ and flipped into the lake. Regan shrugged, said ―Hm,‖ considered mimicking the de-capping method, and ultimately decided to use the bottle opener. She sipped the malted hops, watching Mary cast, tug, and reel. Cast, tug, and reel. ―Do you actually enjoy that?‖ she blurted. ―Of course I do,‖ Mary murmured through her cigar. ―Why?‖ ―For one, it‘s relaxing.‖ ―That? That‘s relaxing?‖ ―I believe that‘s what I just said.‖ ―Holding onto a giant stick, heaving a little plastic toy with hooks attached to it, and reeling it back in over and over and over until you can‘t feel your arms. Mmm-mmm-mmm. Now that‘s how I like to kick back.‖ Mary set her cigar on the depth finder. ―Could I share something with you about fishing?‖ Regan, disinterested: ―The floor is yours.‖ 22 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ©
The hand-crafted lure whizzed into the muck. ―Fishing isn‘t about sitting on the lake, having a few drinks, conversing with friends, getting a tan, forgetting your worries. It‘s not about any of that shit. It‘s not now and it never has been. At its soul, fishing is about satiating blood thirst. It‘s about outwitting a living creature, overpowering it, and watching it flop around helplessly. It‘s about dangling a mirage in front of a fish‘s face, hence the word ‗bait.‘ It‘s about dragging it out of its world and into yours, hence the word ‗lure.‘ It‘s not healthy to find someone on the street, stick a hook through their mouth, drag them home, and carve them up. But a fish? Who gives a damn? They‘re lower than us. Fishing satisfies those primordial urges we so desperately attempt to flush out of our heads. Specifically bass fishing. Because where do bass live? In the weeds; in the filth, where no one dares to go. It‘s a challenge, an expedition. Maneuvering your line through lily pads or reeds or trees and finding that one microscopic opening constitutes a battle. We don‘t want an execution; we want a battle. And what do we throw out there? Artificial lures. Man made. Bass desire something we created. Walleyes desire leeches, sunfish desire worms, crappies desire minnows; all from nature. Bass are like us. They crave materials like us. And that, my dear, is what makes them a worthy adversary.‖ Just then a green head leapt above the water‘s surface and snapped at the artificial floating fish. Mary set the hook violently and the large-mouthed fiend tugged back, bending the carbon rod like a weeping willow branch. Mary clenched her jaw, exposing her bottom row of teeth like a rabid wolf. The water was calm on the surface, mayhem beneath. The leviathan thrashed its head from side to side, desperate to remove the barbed treble hooks from its thin, plate-like jaws. The reel handle rotated clockwise in the slow and methodical fashion of a clock‘s second hand but the transparent fishing line still spewed out into the watery abyss. Mary stopped reeling, allowing the beast to tire itself out; however, once it started for the weeds, she tightened the drag and gave Hell, refusing to lose her catch in a cluster of green. The interspecies tug-of-war had a shift in momentum, the human now handling the fish. Even that microscopic brain knew it because the fatigued bass went into panic mode, leaping into the air and contorting its primitive body in a last attempt to detach itself. It was unsuccessful. Another jump. And another. And then it surrendered, even idling toward the boat if it meant a quicker death. Mary curled a thumb into its mouth, cradled its belly, and lifted its girth into the oxygen world. Its gills suddenly parched, the discontent lake monster wriggled in the woman‘s hands. She had to dig her nails into the slimy flesh to keep it from plummeting 23 | I s s u e N o . 2 · W i n t e r 2 0 1 2
back into the water, causing a few of its scales to come off in her hands. It gasped for water, continually opening and closing its gaping mouth, revealing its round, translucent tongue. ―That‘s gotta be a six pounder. Not bad,‖ Mary admired. Regan, who had watched the entire struggle without moving, spoke softly, ―You going to kill it?‖ Mary removed the hook and ladled her catch back into its home. It dove like a torpedo, vanishing into the foggy green depths. ―I don‘t kill for sport.‖ Regan swallowed the warm beer that had been in her mouth since Mary first hooked the largemouth bass. ―You think I should give it a try?‖ ―Of course. Just grab a pole; God knows you‘ve done that before, and we‘ll get you set up.‖ ―Ha ha. Just let me finish this beer and I‘ll show you how it‘s done.‖ Her speech was vaguely slurred. ―Lookin‘ a little tipsy, my friend,‖ Mary said, inserting the cigar back into her jaws. ―I‘m just getting started.‖ The next twenty minutes comprised of no more than two spoken words. Beer rolled down their throats, the women swaying as the dwarfish waves undulated beneath the boat. They soaked in the water and the trees and the sky, watching everything but each other, murder on their minds. Regan gauged her counterpart‘s beer level, making certain that their alcoholic beverages emptied at the exact same moment. Two more gulps apiece. A bald eagle glided from the forest, clutching some doomed rodent in its talons. It soared over the water vessel, showcasing its prize to the women: a flailing chipmunk. When the bird reached the middle of the lake, its grip came loose and the tiny woodland creature somersaulted into the lake. It fell with an unimpressive splash, began thrashing its tiny arms and legs. The women surmised that the eagle would come swooping back for its dinner, but instead it perched on a birch tree and watched the chipmunk drown. Then it flapped its pterodactyl wings and disappeared. The pale ales were polished off simultaneously. Regan beheaded two more bottles, slipping a plastic capsule, a cyanide pill, into one of them. She leaned toward Mary, offering
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the toxic brew. Mary took it without hesitation, though she had seen the sleight of hand and, even if she hadn‘t, Regan‘s eyes said it all: ―Drop us a letter from Hell, Mary Louise Hayes.‖ Mary raised the malt and the hops and the rye and the potassium cyanide but didn‘t take a sip. Instead, she set the bottle on the edge of the boat and grinned. Regan chugged four ounces of liquid and breathed heavy when she pulled the bottle away from her face, foam dribbling down her chin. She swiped at it with the back of her hand and smiled at Mary. ―There‘s something we should talk about,‖ she said. ―Oh?‖ humored Mary, her eyebrows arched. ―That thing on the golf course. You know I was just kidding. Yeah, that little redhaired bitch can get on my nerves, but you know it was all in good fun. Sometimes I just go a little too far. At least that‘s what my therapist tells me.‖ ―Well, you were pretty convincing. Convinced me.‖ ―No? Out of everyone? You?‖ giggled the inebriated wench. ―Mary Hayes? You took that seriously? You‘re fuckin‘ with me. I know you are.‖ ―You gave me a lot of money.‖ ―Commitment, my dear. You were really going to do it?‖ ―Had my gun picked out and everything.‖ ―You were going to off your friend? For a few thousand dollars? Because I told you to?‖ Regan was laughing now. Mary wasn‘t. ―I‘m a businesswoman first.‖ Regan screeched like a howler monkey. ―You are a piece of work, Mary. You really are. You kill me. Where‘s the pole? Where‘s my line? Where‘s my beer? Let‘s do this. Let‘s fish!‖ ―There she is,‖ Mary motioned with her head. Regan inspected the rod, even her feeble angling mind aware that something was missing. ―Where‘s the, uh, the little fish hook?‖
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―Oh, yeah. Sorry about that. Knew I forgot something. Check my tackle box.‖ Regan pried open the plastic chest and gazed inside. A roll of hundred dollar bills stared back at her. ―What‘s this?‖ ―That‘s your money,‖ replied Mary, pulling a pistol. A stray dog, smelling fish, had made his way to the edge of the lake. He watched the two woman converse, one woman eventually pointing a metal object at the other, producing a spark and a deafening boom. The dog yipped and leapt back. He regained his composure, watching one woman fall and dark gray liquid pour out of her. The other woman tugged a rope near the motor, pushed a lever forward, and raced out of view. An oblong glass container fell overboard when she hit the gas. The dog barked but she didn‘t hear. He watched the thin cloud of smoke dissolve where the boat had been. There was a squad car waiting at the public landing when Mary pulled up to the shore with a blood-spattered body. An officer stood beside his vehicle, arms crossed. He was an ugly man, pale and lanky with Chiclet teeth, a sharp beak, and dark, raccoon-like eyes. He stood erect with the brim of his hat pulled down over his face. Mary killed the engine and the boat came to rest, cradled by the debris bed of plant life and garbage. The officer, a longtime friend of Mary Hayes, tipped his cap. She was the godmother to his firstborn son, the oatmeal chocolate chip cookie provider of his bake sales, the only reason he had this job. He spoke: ―Where do you want me to dump this thing?‖ The next morning a man named Cristobal Columbus unlocked the Basswood Country Club gates. He hopped on the cart labeled ―Maintenance‖ and began his a.m. routine of raking the bunkers, changing the pin locations. But something made him stop. There was a woman propped up against a willow tree, a bullet hole in her head. Twenty pound test fishing line, lassoed around her calves, her waist, her chest, and her forehead held her firm to the tree. Her arm was wrapped around a broken four iron. Her mouth was packed like a stuffed pig‘s with hundred dollar bills.
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In the time remaining Peter Philipps
One survives so much that one mistakenly thinks one can survive everything. Elias Canetti AFTER A NIGHT OF little rest, Jacob Herz left his bed at the first sign of daylight, eased his swollen feet into a pair of frayed blue slippers, and padded to the window. ―Damn!‖ he muttered, and then, like a school boy watching his first snowfall, stayed at the window until the insistent ringing of the phone finally drew him away. It was Mrs. Rosenthal in the apartment directly below his, anxious to know if he was all right. ―What should be wrong?‖ he said, annoyed by the early morning call. ―What should be wrong? It‘s snowing.‖ ―So I see.‖ ―They‘re predicting a blizzard.‖ ―So I heard.‖ ―What I mean is, is there anything you need? ―Thanks. I‘ve got plenty of everything. Including toilet paper.‖ ―Very funny.‖ He told her not to worry about him and hung up. Seconds later Mrs. Rosenthal called again. ―I didn‘t wake you before, did I?‖ Herz blew out his lungs. ―I hope you‘re not thinking of doing your thing tonight.‖ ―Why not?‖ ―Because you‘ll catch your death of a cold.‖ ―Look, I haven‘t even had breakfast yet.‖ ―I beg you, don‘t go out and come down this afternoon for tea.‖ ―By then the snow may have stopped,‖ he said without much conviction and hung up in a huff for the second time. ―Stay out of my life,‖ he added as though she were still on the line and went to the kitchen for a light breakfast and his allotment of morning pills. The storm was the worst since the death of his wife and he moved from the suburbs to this apartment in the city. The next time he looked outside he could barely make out the 27 | I s s u e N o . 2 · W i n t e r 2 0 1 2
building across the street. Traffic was at a crawl and hardly anyone was on the street. If the snow continued at the present rate, he estimated, the city would be paralyzed by nightfall. As he did customarily when he couldn‘t make up his mind about something, Herz turned in his thoughts to Fanny, his late wife. He could almost hear her forbidding him to set a foot out the door. ―Be sensible,‖ she whispered persuasively in his mind‘s ear. ―Don‘t be so self-important. Your health comes first.‖ On this occasion, though, for some reason not at once clear to him, he decided to ignore her advice. He had a job to do and people depended on him. He would decide for himself whether to go out, not listen to what others said. So resolved, he washed, dressed, and rang for the elevator. Most days at that hour the lobby looked like a movie scene in slow motion, with residents forming movable knots of polite conversation. This morning Herz found himself alone, except for the nighttime receptionist, fast asleep behind his desk. Neither the sidewalk nor the driveway that lead to the underground garage had been plowed. No protective covering had been placed over the carpeting, only recently installed. To add insult to his outrage, the illuminated signboard still listed the events and activities of the day before. For this I‘m paying three grand a month, he grumbled to his reflection in the mirrored walls on the way back his apartment (the fourth mezuzah from the elevator, he reminded himself). While still fumbling with the keys to the apartment, Herz heard his phone through the door. It‘s her again, he thought, determined to take his time. Nonetheless he almost tripped over the threshold and in his consternation let the receiver drop to the floor. ―Are you there, Jake?‖ a male voice asked at the other end. Herz caught his breath. It was the rabbi calling to inform him that the Bar Mitzvah scheduled for the following morning had been postponed. ―Postponed?‖ he asked once he found his voice. ―Why?‖ ―Don‘t get excited, Jake,‖ the rabbi urged, then calmly explained that both sets of the
Bar Mitzvah boy‘s grandparents were stranded in New York. ―I‘m sure you heard that both LaGuardia and National are closed.‖ Herz had not heard. ―In that case,‖ he said after taking a moment to gather his thoughts, ―I‘ll just open the little chapel tonight.‖ The rabbi cleared his throat. ―I very much doubt anyone will venture out in this weather.‖ Herz felt himself stiffen. He reminded the rabbi of the group of elderly women who never missed a Friday night service. ―Even if they come only for the refreshments,‖ he quipped. ―Even so, Jake,‖ the rabbi responded matter-of-factly, ―I advise you to stay home.‖ 28 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ©
―I‘ve been through worse, Rabbi.‖ ―I know, Jake, I know. Nevertheless you could fall and hurt yourself.‖ Herz slipped out of his cardigan and ran a handkerchief across his scalp. ―By tonight the streets may be clear.‖ ―Not in this city.‖ ―It‘s my responsibility to...‖ ―Your first responsibility is to yourself,‖ the rabbi interrupted. ―In the unlikely event that a few congregants show up, they‘ll understand fully if you are not there. In fact, I‘m not sure I will be able to make it myself.‖ ―In that case,‖ Herz said with growing impatience, ―whoever shows up will be locked out.‖ He had a mental picture of people huddling under the portico and stamping their feet to keep warm as they waited for the synagogue to open. ―May I remind you, Rabbi…‖ he paused to loosen his collar…―I can walk if necessary.‖ ―Either way, you would put yourself at risk.‖ Herz took a deep breath and resisted the temptation to say that he was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. Instead he promised to check back later in the day. After hanging up, Herz turned on the old Zenith portable that shared shelf space with boxes of cornflakes and canned soup in his tiny kitchen just in time to hear the list of school closings. The federal government had a liberal leave policy in effect. The mayor, after twice delaying a scheduled news conference, promised an announcement within the hour. Most evening events were postponed. Hundreds of flights had been cancelled or were being diverted. Accumulations of as much as two feet were expected before the storm moved up the coast. Herz dropped into the kitchen‘s only chair. If he went out he ran the risk of falling and breaking something. At his age, a broken hip could mean the beginning of the end. On the other hand, if he stayed home people might think he‘d suffered another heart attack. Of two minds, he rose to take another look out the window when he heard a knock on his door. He looked at his watch and he was expecting someone from maintenance to look at a stain his bathroom ceiling, he wheeled and opened the door. Instead of a man in a blue work uniform, it was Mrs. Rosenthal wrapped in a crimson robe and her hair in curlers. Herz exhaled noisily. He had never seen her without heavy makeup, dressed to the nines, and barely keeping her balance in absurdly high heels. ―Brought you a nosh,‖ she said before he could open his mouth and handed him a plate of oversized muffins. ―Fresh out of the oven,‖ she added with a look over his shoulder for a glimpse of his apartment. Herz fingered his unshaved chin. ―I‘ve already had breakfast,‖ he said. Then, in a lighter tone, ―I‘ll save them for tomorrow.‖
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Mrs. Rosenthal looked extravagantly disappointed. She pursed her lips and said, ―I trust that you‘ve decided not to go out tonight.‖ ―I may and I may not,‖ he said and quickly added, ―I‘m still hoping it will stop snowing in time for me to go.‖ She wagged a finger as though at a child and said she would call him after his nap. Maybe I should have invited her in, he thought, as he watched her shuffle back to the elevator in a pair of unlaced athletic shoes. Dorothy Rosenthal (―Dolly‖ to her friends) was only a year or two younger than Herz but could have passed for sixty. Still slim and attractive, she had about her an air of knowing how beautiful she once had been. She had moved in about the same time as Herz and taken an immediate interest in him at a wine-and cheese party for new residents. He had declined her invitations to dinner several times with plausible-sounding excuses, but he knew that sooner or later he would feel obligated to accept for the sake of politeness. Herz was having one of his a nightmare when the phone awoke him from his nap. ―What now Dolly?‖ he asked when his head had cleared. ―How did you know it was me?‖ ―Who else calls me?‖ ―Sorry if I woke you. Have you looked out the window lately?‖ ―Why, has it had stopped snowing?‖ Mrs. Rosenthal made a derisive sound. ―You won‘t believe what it looks like.‖ Herz rose stiffly and walked to the window with the phone in one hand and rubbing the back of his neck with the other. ―I might as well tell you,‖ he said. ―I‘m going to open the synagogue tonight if it‘s the last thing I do‖ ―I think you would be making a big mistake, Jake, darling.‖ Herz recoiled. She had never before used such an endearment. He opened the window and stuck out his head for a quick look in both directions. Life appeared to have come to a standstill. ―It‘s a perfect night to stay home,‖ he heard Mrs. Rosenthal say teasingly. ―I have some nice steaks in the freezer and I‘ll open a bottle of Cabernet that‘s to die for.‖ ―That‘s a very nice offer,‖ he said, not wanting to cause offense. ―Another time, perhaps.‖ Afterwards he thought, she craves company, but who doesn‘t in this goddamned place? He felt sorry for her on some level. She had lost her husband a dozen years ago to ALS and never remarried. She had no children. Although all three of his married daughters were scattered across the country, he knew one or another would come east if something happened to him.
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―Please help me to understand why you insist on going out?‖ he heard Mrs. Rosenthal say. ―I‘m performing a mitzvah.‖ ―I still don‘t understand. Didn‘t you once tell me that your late wife was the observant one, not you?‖ ―Dolly,‖ he began, sensing his irascibility returning, ―some questions don‘t require answers, and others shouldn‘t be asked in the first place. Yours falls into both categories.‖ After a long silence, Mrs. Rosenthal said, ―Jake, you are one stubborn mule.‖ By the time he thought of a response she had hung up. Thrown off balance, he went to the sideboard and helped himself to a piece of dark chocolate, a daily indulgence after his nap. Although he would later claim that it had been his idea to become the synagogue‘s first full-time usher, the suggestion had actually come from the rabbi. ―You‘ll be doing a real
mitzvah,‖ the rabbi had assured him during a visit to pay respects after Fanny‘s funeral. ―We need a traditional caretaker, Jake. And I am confident that Fanny, may her memory be for a blessing, would be proud if you agreed to perform in that capacity.‖ ―Why me?‖ Herz had wanted to ask but couldn‘t get the words out. Had the rabbi perhaps mistaken him for someone else? He wasn‘t observant, had rarely set foot in the synagogue, and in his later years had developed a disdainful attitude toward organized religion. ―With respect, Rabbi, I‘m not a young man any more.‖ The rabbi made a dismissive gesture. ―I believe you are just the type of man I have in mind, someone who will enforce decorum, something that‘s badly missing in our congregation, someone who will see to all the many details necessary to run a proper service.‖ Herz felt himself grow red. Sheepishly he was on the verge of admitting that he knew little about Judaism and synagogue rituals when the rabbi said, ―As George Bernard Shaw said, ‗we don‘t stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing.‘‖ In the end, something—he wasn‘t sure what—made Herz accept the offer, albeit with misgivings. Maybe, he decided after he had some time to think about it, Fanny‘s occasional entreaties that he ―be a little bit Jewish‖ was the decisive factor. And so it came about that after years as a non-practicing Jew, Herz became a fixture in the synagogue where Fanny and her family had worshipped for three generations. He surprised himself by taking the job as seriously as he did, even though it was purely voluntary. Although he had never seen Army service, he assumed the authoritarian mannerisms of an unsentimental first sergeant. No detail was beneath his dignity, from
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replacing the candles on the pulpit and making certain that the headsets for the hearing impaired were in working condition to ensuring that every seat had the correct prayer book. When all was in readiness, he stationed himself at the entrance to the sanctuary and greeted congregants as they arrived. It didn‘t take long before he knew most by name—and in some instances quite a bit about them as well. Always nattily dressed in a navy-blue doublebreasted blazer, he patrolled the aisles during services like a movie matron of a bygone era, reminding anyone he caught talking above a whisper that they were in a house of worship. With every circuit of the sanctuary he stopped at the thermostat and tinkered with the settings as though he were at the controls of a jumbo jet. Herz decided not to tell Fanny that he thought of himself a Jewish atheist until their third date. He would have put it off longer if she hadn‘t invited him to a Purim dance one afternoon after they had been to the movies and were sitting at the counter of a popular downtown coffee shop. When he didn‘t respond she turned to him with a look both hurtful and quizzical. ―I guess you already have other plans.‖ ―It‘s not that,‖ he said and paused. ―To tell you the truth, I lost all of my faith while in the camps.‖ She said nothing, waiting for him to continue. ―My belief in a just God went up with the ashes of the Jews I saw being led to their deaths.‖ He lowered his voice. ―I can‘t worship a God who let such things happen.‖ Fanny smiled indulgently and shook her head. ―I‘m talking about a little dance. A holiday party.‖ ―I‘ll gladly go with you, but I thought you should know.‖ He peered into his coffee mug as though it contained the words he needed to express himself. ―You see,‖ he continued after a while, ―I consider Judaism more of an identity than a belief system.‖ ―I completely understand what you are saying,‖ she said. ―I had the great fortune to have been born in this country. I didn‘t go through any of what you did.‖ She placed a hand on his forearm. ―But even in the camps, God must have been present. In small acts of human decency and kindness. You must have witnessed some selfless deeds.‖ He remained silent, just sat there looking at her and toyed with his spoon. ―Believe me, I respect how you feel,‖ Fanny continued. ―But once in a while it wouldn‘t hurt you to be a little bit Jewish.‖
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After checking his watch, Herz tried several times to call the rabbi, but each time the circuits were busy. Not that it any longer mattered. His made was made up and now he piled everything he needed on the bed: his heavy parka, the scarf Fanny had knitted for him, woolen hat with ear flaps, fur-lined gloves, thick socks, galoshes, and one of several inhalers he kept around the house. As an afterthought he added the small black flashlight from is night table. Promptly at seven, half an hour earlier than usual and fortified with two fingers of
schnapps, Herz rang for the elevator. Four women knitting in the lobby looked up in unison as he walked past. With a sigh of relief he noted that Dolly Rosenthal wasn‘t among them. He had no time for idle conversation and merely nodded in their direction. ―His wife, may she rest in peace, should only know,‖ he overheard one of the women say. Buttoned to the chin, he pushed open the heavy glass door only to be knocked off balance by a rush of frigid air. Abandoned cars were everywhere; one, a taxi with its lights still on, had climbed the sidewalk in front of the building and faced the wrong direction. By the time he got to the first corner his hands and feet felt numb. Whenever a car managed to get by he slowed his pace with an expectant look, but he could as well have been invisible. ―Bastard!‖ he yelled at the third driver who ignored him. Only the occasional wail of a siren broke the eerie silence that slowly enveloped him in a sense of isolation. Halfway down the next street Herz slipped and fell flat on his back. Motionless, he waited for his heart to stop pounding. Nothing broken, thank God. But when he tried to get to his feet, a strange force over which he seemed to have no control kept him pinned to the ground. As if in a dream, he was shoveling snow again under the oversight of the kapo with a habit of punctuating his orders with a club. Already beyond exhaustion, Herz couldn‘t work fast enough to satisfy the sadistic brute. Finally, overcome with pain, he had fallen in a limp heap, the will to live ebbing with each blow. How long had he been lying there? he wondered when the horn of an emergency vehicle brought the present rushing back. He groped around until he found his flashlight, but it no longer worked. Standing made him lightheaded and he needed a moment to regain his bearings. Then, patting the reassuring bulge of keys in his pocket, he set out again on legs that seemingly propelled him forward of their own accord. Large snowflakes beat against his face and against the brick walls of the houses he passed. Breathing had become difficult and he had to stop more often now. Almost beyond exhaustion, he rounded the last corner and breathed a sigh of relief. Not a soul stood waiting under the portico. Cursing the snow, the cold, and the darkness, he
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wiped his nose on his sleeve, took two puffs from his inhaler, and when his wheezing subsided, cleared enough snow from the main door with his gloved hands to squeeze inside. The only light in the entrance hall came from a pair of red exit signs. In the sanctuary the Ner Tamid (Eternal Light), an electrified oil lamp salvaged from a Prague synagogue, cast a faint glow over the first row of seats. He switched on a bank of overhead lights, raised the thermostat to seventy-five, and went back to the reception area in hopes someone would appear. Every few minutes he looked at his watch. Ten more minutes, he decided. Then five more. Finally he gave it another five minutes. When they passed he resigned himself to the futility of waiting any longer. Not even the rabbi had made it. Steeling himself against the seductive inner voice urging him to go home, Herz reentered the sanctuary. Long too proud to use the handrail, which had been installed at his suggestion, he now grasped it eagerly to ascend the pulpit. This was why he had come, why he had tossed common sense to the wind and risked life and limb: to recite the shemah before the open Ark. When he was finished, he recited the Kaddish, the mourners‘ prayer, for Fanny, for his parents, for the six million. If Fanny could only be here, he though as he solemnly closed the Ark again. Turning around to face the empty sanctuary, the sight of the rows and rows of empty seats and reminded him of a visit to the cemetery. Lost in thought, he nevertheless remembered to step from the pulpit backwards in the respectful manner of the rabbi. Moments after opening his eyes, it came to Herz that he was in an ambulance. Tightly strapped down so that he could barely move, he had no idea of the time or what day it was. ―What happened?‖ he asked but failed to get an answer. After moistening his lips he tried again. ―Where are you taking me?‖ A broad-shouldered man in a red beard leaned over and assured him that he would be all right. ―We‘re giving you some oxygen, Jacob. Just try to relax.‖ Affronted by the fellow‘s informality, Herz again said, ―What happened?‖ This time a woman answered. ―You‘re a lucky man, Jacob,‖ she said. ―Someone in your building called the police and reported you missing.‖ ―Called the police?‖ ―Yes. Now please lay still and don‘t talk.‖ Bothered by the glare of the overhead light and too exhausted to say more, Herz closed his eyes. Little by little the events of the night soon started to fall into place. ―Miss,‖ he heard himself whisper, ―do you know what a mitzvah is?‖ 34 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ©
The attendant brought her head closer. ―I‘m sorry. Did you say something?‖ Herz opened his eyes long enough to see that she was young and pretty and wearing a baseball cap. ―No, you wouldn‘t,‖ he mumbled, thinking he had seen her somewhere before. A short time later he fell into a deep sleep. The next thing he knew the doors flew open and felt himself being lifted out. Two orderlies rolled the gurney speedily through an automatic door, down a lengthy corridor, and came to an abrupt stop in front of a large billowy curtain bathed in an azure blue light. Suddenly it parted, and there, as real and near as in a vision, was Fanny. Wordlessly, but aglow with awe and admiration, she reached out to embrace him.
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Coyote Anthony Burnett THE SEARING AUGUST SUN cooked the spirits from the desert landscape. The turkey vultures languishing on the bare branches of the madrone trees nodded, patiently waiting. Occasionally one would take wing to cool itself in the updrafts from the valley floor where a creek bed of fractured dirt and bleached bones meandered. Had Carlos tried to verbalize his cursing of God, no sound would have escaped past his swollen tongue. Indeed his vocal chords had long since dried to the texture of dead smilax vines. Damp sweat no longer soaked through his denim shirt, only a greasy sheen where the fat of his once ample body oozed through his pores. Chasing the shade in a deep barranco, Carlos escaped the brutal midday sun, preferring to move by night. So this is the path of least resistance? Easy money? Carlos realized now that Miguel had conned him into compliance with the greedy scheme. The first two runs were uneventful. picking up two dozen obreros in Cuidad Acuna, letting them ride in the back of the refrigerated produce truck. They traversed the border at the tiny Amistad Dam crossing, manned by only two guards, one of which was Miguel's brother-in-law. It was a chance to give a better life to men. The men would be safer and make enough money to send home to their families. In exchange for this altruism, Carlos received nine hundred dollars for ten hours work. They dropped their charges off at a Dallas safe house where they received the next assignment. This last run was different. When they arrived at the pickup point 40 miles south of
Acuna, the cargo was female. Eighteen young women awaited them. Several appeared to be dressed for a night on the town. Carlos knew he should have abandoned the project at this point. His experiences with women had been less than positive. The women were flamboyant and teasing, several offering "favors" for the privilege of riding up front. Two of the women were out of place in the group. An older woman and a girl of about fourteen, who appeared to be her daughter stood away from the group, their eyes averted. They were dressed in the embroidered cotton dresses common to the working class of northern Mexico. Their calloused fingers lacked the painted nails of the other women. Carlos was drawn to the distinctive Mayan features of the girl with high cheekbones and full lips. "Why women, Miguel? What are we to do with these women?" Carlos asked. 36 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ÂŠ
"Just a different kind of las trabajadora. Supply and demand, you know, land of opportunity and all that." "Well I don't like it! Someone could take advantage of those two campesinas." "It's not for us to say. The pay is good, no?" "Sure but...." "No buts, we take them. They have paid." "This is wrong!" "No, this is life, same job, better environment, better pay, everybody wins." "But what about the mother and child?" " She doesn't look like a child to me. I wish she wanted to ride up front. I could work something out for her." "You're a sick bastard." "Why? You want her? I can make that happen." "Let's just load up and go." Carlos had a brief image in his mind. He was on top of the naked girl but he saw only fear in her eyes. He shook his head violently to make the image fade. He helped the women into the truck, pulled down the overhead door, latched it and affixed a fictitious Department of Agriculture seal. Sliding his machete behind the seat, he climbed into the passenger side and they hit the road. When they reached the border crossing Miguel pulled into the parking area and jumped out of the driver's seat. "Ronaldo! My brother! Mi hermana treating you right? You don't look like you miss any meals." Miguel slapped the pudgy little man affectionately on his wide back. "She's getting meaner every year but I can still out run her," Ronaldo said, giving Miguel a hug. "What are you hauling today?" "I've got a truckload of hookers headed for New Orleans."
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"Yeah, right. Seriously, Bro?" "Lettuce, already inspected and sealed." "So, you ever going to settle down, start a family?" "Not as long as I'm on the road all the time" "Who's riding with you?" "Carlos, Juanita's boy. He's just a kid but he has a license so we trade off at the wheel. More miles, more money, you know the story. Speaking of, I better head out." Ronaldo went around and fingered the steel band threaded through the latch. "Don't let me hold you up. See you Thanksgiving if not sooner. Be careful!" "You, too. Give Marissa my love." Once back in the U.S., Miguel decided to stay to the back roads to avoid the checkpoints. One section of their route took them 40 miles through a hunting lease on a road that wasn't on a map but it saved 25 miles and avoided a checkpoint. It was a slow rough ride over a road that varied from a path to non-existent. By the tenth mile the women in the cargo box were yelling and beating on the walls. Miguel was trying to ignore them but concern was visible in his features matched by a discomfort rising from deep within Carlos. "Maybe you were right about hauling these women. They sure are a noisy bunch," Miguel said, a broken chuckle catching in his throat. "I've never had anything but trouble with women," Carlos said. A minute later a loud thump was heard from the box followed by a blood curdling scream. "Maybe this will shut them up." Miguel reached under the dash and flipped the cargo light switch, plunging the women into total darkness. After a couple of shrieks the voices became noticeably quieter. Soon a rhythmic thumping began and the truck began to rock back and forth. "These God damned bitches!" Miguel screamed. He stopped the truck, turned on the cargo light and reached into the glove box, pulling out a 9MM Berretta. "I'm going to stop this shit!" He jumped out of the truck. "C'mon, bring your machete."
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Carlos followed orders, popping the seal from the latch with the large knife. Miguel slung the overhead door open. "What the hell is going on here?" Miguel screamed. One of the most brazen of the women stepped up. "This old puta needs a doctor." "Do you see any doctors out here?" The mother of the young girl was laying, half-conscious, against the wall of the box, blood streaming from behind her ear. The frightened girl was kneeling over her. "She fell," the brazen woman stated. The other women looked away. "What's your name?" Miguel demanded. "What do you care?" "Give me your fucking name!" Miguel shouted and pointed the Berretta at her face. "Rosa," she said. "Get out!" "What?" "Out of the truck. Now!" Rosa jumped out. "Take her around front of the truck. I'm going to see if I can help this woman." Carlos motioned with the machete. Rosa slunk to the front of the truck. "I was just trying to give the chica some pointers, let her know what to expect. Her mama went crazy. It was self defense. I swear." "Shut up! I didn't bring you up here for a conversation," Carlos said. He heard the door of the cargo box close. Miguel came around the truck. "She's in pretty bad shape. The bleeding slowed. She might make it. This bitch beat the shit out of her, probably because she wanted the daughter."
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"The bruja has no clue to what's going on," Rosa said. "Shut up! You're the problem!" Miguel barked. "I'm cutting you loose. Mexico is that way." Miguel pointed the gun south. "Del Rio is that way." He shifted the barrel slightly eastward. "Move it!" "No, no, I'll die! Please let me ride up front with you. I won't be a problem." "You're already a problem." "I can make your journey very enjoyable." "Yeah, so can anyone back there. You're not my type." "But I'll die in the desert." "Probably, but if you don't start walking I'm drop you with one shot and the buzzards can have you." Rosa turned to leave then spun around and spit toward Miguel. The explosion from the Berretta echoed through the valley as Rosa dropped in a clump at Carlos' feet. "Let's go." Miguel turned toward the truck. Carlos was unable to move. The machete fell from his hand, the handle dropping heavily against Rosa's lifeless cheek. "I said, let's go," Miguel barked. Carlos bent down and picked up the machete while gently caressing Rosa's face. "Shouldn't we bury her, put up a marker?" "No time. We need to leave." Miguel climbed into the driver's seat. Carlos felt confusion bubble up through the fear building in him. Soon they were bumping along the path. No one talked. Carlos was unable to reconcile the recent events with the cousin he had grown up with, playing soccer and eating barbequed cabrito on the weekend. Miguel had always organized the games and ruled them with his athletic prowess. When the other uncles and cousins were getting married and becoming tools of their women, Miguel drove a new pickup and restored a '72 Corvette, always had money and lived large. He had been Carlos' favorite cousin. Now the man at the wheel seemed like a stranger with the arid landscape sliding slowly past his gaunt features. The road was no longer visible. Only a crooked line on a hand held GPS kept them headed
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through the desolation. The truck began shuddering with the slightest acceleration. An ominous clicking sound was coming from somewhere underneath. Miguel stopped to inspect the problem. When he crawled from under the truck the color had drained from his face.
"U-joint. It's about to give out." He consulted the GPS. If we turn around it's eleven miles back to the highway and another 10 or so to the closest town or it's 25 miles to the highway ahead but there's a town with a garage at the junction. I say we go for it." "Will we make it?" Carlos asked. Miguel just shrugged and sat contemplating the situation. "We could lighten our load. It might help." "How?" "Send the women back." "No! We're in the middle of the desert." "Plus, no cargo, no pay," Miguel chuckled. "Let's move out." After a half hour of creeping down the path with the noise getting no worse, the two men relaxed. Miguel decided to pick up the pace. As soon as he reached 20 miles per hour the u-joint gave way with a loud pop and the truck rolled to a stop. "Well, ain't this some shit!" Miguel shook his head and stared through the windshield. Carlos watched him looking for some sign of action. Miguel just stared ahead. Finally he checked his cell phone. No service. He climbed on top of the cargo box. After spinning a couple of 360 degree pirouettes with the phone held high, he flipped it closed with a resigned sigh. "What are we going to do?" Carlos asked. Miguel pulled the pistol from the glove box. "No!" Carlos screamed. "What? I'm not going to shoot anyone but they aren't going to want to hear what I have to tell them so I may need backup. Bring your machete."
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Miguel rolled open the door to the cargo box. The women, upon seeing the pistol, huddled near the front of the box. Some of them were whimpering like puppies that failed at house breaking. "Nobody is going to hurt you but I need you to get out of the truck," Miguel insisted. The wary women kept their eyes on the men as they climbed down from the cargo box. Miguel stood aside holding the pistol while Carlos helped each woman negotiate the long step down. Only the injured woman and her daughter remained. The older woman appeared barely conscious and the girl glared defiantly, refusing to exit the vehicle. Carlos had one foot on the step when Miguel stopped him. "Let them be for now. Close the door." Carlos followed orders. "Ladies, the truck is dead," Miguel said." It's going to take some time to get it fixed. We don't have enough food and water to keep you. If you follow the path back the way we came it's just over 10 miles to the paved highway. None of you pretty ladies should have any trouble getting a ride." "What about our money? You were supposed to take us to New Orleans," one of the women asked. "We got you across the border. That's the best we can do. You're on your own now. It's about a 4 hour walk. If you keep a good pace you should make it to the road well before dark. I can spare a gallon of water. I suggest you girls get moving." The women stood for a moment and consulted in hushed tones. Miguel cocked back the hammer on his pistol and the conversation died. "Give us the water," demanded the woman who had spoken earlier. Carlos took a jug from the cab of the truck and handed it to her. She turned to Miguel. "Pendejo! You are the worst traficante de personas in Texas, maybe the world! You should be ashamed taking advantage of these girls" Miguel looked genuinely offended. "Look, it's the best we can do under the circumstances. I'm sure most of you will be fine. Consider it an adventure." The women left in a group following the tire tracks back toward the horizon. The men watched them leave for some time. "What about the other two?" Carlos asked.
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"I guess we'll take care of them until help arrives." "No one knows where we are except the women and I doubt they will say" "We have a phone and a GPS, enough water for a couple of days and fuel to run the refrigeration system." "Right. But we have no service and what about the campasinas?" Miguel leaned against the truck and pinched the bridge of his nose. Carlos waited. Miguel was silent. Carlos climbed on the truck and opened the cargo door. "What are you doing?" Miguel asked. "I'm going to check on the old woman." Carlos motioned the daughter away, leaned the
machete in the corner and kneeled down by the prostrate woman. He held his fingers to her throat. Her heart was beating very rapidly. "What's your name?" He asked. She just stared. He repeated the question in Spanish. No answer. He felt her forehead. It was cool but clammy. He saw her lips move. He drew his ear close to her mouth. The words she uttered were clear but in a language that was unfamiliar. When he looked at her again, her eyes were on fire. They burned little holes through him. A physical pain burned in his arms and legs. He had to run, to flee! He jumped down from the box just as Miguel grabbed the girl by the back of the head and pulled her to him. "Miguel! Stop!" Carlos shouted. "Hey, Cuz, we're going to be here for a while. We might as well have some fun." "The old woman is dying! We need to get help. leave her alone." Miguel released the girl and turned on Carlos. "I'm running this operation! You will not tell me what to do!" "That doesn't seem to be working out too well," Carlos countered. Miguel took a step toward him and slammed the Berretta hard against Carlos' ear. Carlos saw an image of the old woman shimmer and fade as his knees buckled. When he regained consciousness Miguel was leaning over him with a damp rag pressed to his temple. "Damn, Cuz, I'm sorry. I forgot I had the gun in my hand. Are you okay?"
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Carlos wanted to strangle Miguel but his arms felt like limp sausages and his head throbbed. "Fuck you," he whispered. Miguel grinned. "You're okay." When Carlos staggered to his feet he noticed the girl was tending to her mother and Miguel was studying the GPS, writing some numbers on a card from his wallet. "See that rise?" Miguel pointed to an outcropping of rock about a mile away "I want you to take the phone and climb up there. Hopefully you can get a signal. Call this guy. His name is Julio. He lives in Beeville. We can trust him. Give him our coordinates from here on the back of this card. Tell him our situation. He'll pick us up." "The women?" "He'll take them too, I'm sure." "Why me? You go!" "You need the exercise, fat boy. Now move!" Miguel waved the gun. Carlos knew why he was selected to go but he wanted to get out of this mess alive. He took the phone and a canteen of water and began his trek toward the mountain. He was less than a quarter mile away when the muffled screams reached his ears. He focused on the mountaintop and picked up his pace. The mountain seemed to move away as he approached. It must have been an hour before he reached the foot of the incline. At least the screaming had stopped. The climb was rugged but Carlos' life was in the balance. As he ascended, he checked for a signal every few hundred yards. Nothing. The terrain was barren but beginning to level out when he finally got a signal. He pulled out the card and dialed. A woman's voice answered. "Hello?" "May I speak with Julio please?" "Just a minute." A minute passed, then two. "Hello?" "Julio?" "Yes." The phone beeped. The battery indicator was flashing. 44 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ÂŠ
"I'm Carlos, Miguel's cousin. We're broke down in the desert. We need help. I have coordinates." "Let me get a pencil" "Hurry, my battery is going dead!" There was no further communication. When Carlos looked at the screen it was blank. He pressed the power button. The face of the old woman materialized on the black screen. His arms and legs felt the shooting pain again. "Holy Christ! God Damn!" he screamed and threw the phone. He collapsed in the dust from the pain and frustration. Soon his limbs would move again. He began the torturous climb down the mountain. He didn't want to go back to the truck but there was nowhere else to go. At least, if Miguel shot him, it would be a quick death. The canteen was dry and his legs were burning as he approached the truck. He saw the girl standing by the back of the truck with a blanket laid across the tailgate. Her dress had been ripped down the front. She had cut strings from the fabric to tie it closed. "Is help coming?" She asked. "No. Where's Miguel?" She pointed into the cargo box. His cousin was lying face down in a puddle of blood, the
machete buried in his rib cage. "What?!" "My mother saved me. He raped me. He was going to kill me. It took her last breath but she saved me. Now I will take her home." Carlos just stared at his cousin's body. The girl climbed into the truck and lifted her mother's body, placing it gently on the blanket. Carlos saw the woman's eyes staring into nothingness. He reached for her face to close them. The girl grabbed him by the wrist. "No!" She said." She still sees. She is going to be my guide." "She's dead. She can't help you. We can figure something out." "You do not know mi madre. She is with me. We are going home."
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"You'll die in the desert." "No, I am from the desert. You are the one who will die in the desert." Carlos had heard stories of the native people of Mexico traveling hundreds of miles through barren terrain, but this child, carrying a body? It could not be. "Please, leave her. Come with me. We can survive together." "I owe her my life. We are going home." "Wait!" Carlos filled his small canteen from the remaining gallon of water and handed it to the girl. "Bless you," she said and turned to follow the tire tracks south, her mother's body draped over her shoulders. Carlos left the refrigeration unit on. He covered Miguel's body with a blanket and sat in the corner of the cargo box to figure out his strategy. As the refrigerated air fell on him he realized how tired he was. He would rest. Then decide. When he awoke dusk had worked magic on the desert. He stepped from the box into the cool of the evening. The brightest stars were piercing the purple sky. The unseen life was producing whispers of sound in the still, dry air. Carlos gathered the GPS, the last blanket and the rest of the water. He took almost eleven hundred dollars from Miguel's wallet leaving a single silver dollar he found behind the driver's license. Taking that would be stealing, he thought. It took him a few minutes to comprehend the technology of the GPS but after locating the map with the trail on it he proceeded. Twenty six point eight miles to civilization, he should be there by sunup. There was barely a sliver of a moon but his eyes adjusted to the starlight as the amber glow receded over the horizon. He had learned his lesson from the phone. He checked the GPS and took his bearings. The moon over his right shoulder would keep him on track. He turned off the GPS. As the screen faded the old
campasina's haunted face appeared and the burning pain shot through his extremities bringing him to his hands and knees in the dust. Slowly the pain left his body and he was able to stand. Moon to the right, he trudged on. The still desert air grew cooler. Carlos draped the blanket around his shoulders. The moon rose higher in the sky. Soon he would have to check his bearings.
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He turned on the GPS and brought up the map screen. There was no trail. He clicked to enlarge the coverage and found the trail off to his left about three quarters of a mile. He picked up his pace and left the unit on until he rejoined the trail. By the dim light he could make out what might be a set of wagon tracks snaking off into the distance. He decided to follow it. It seemed to be the road. Again he turned off the GPS. This time he turned the screen away from him. Where the light from the screen shone, the sand formed a crystalline face and pain shot up through the soles of his shoes, knocking him off his feet. He lost consciousness. When he awoke he noticed the water jug on its side. Most of the water had spilled out. The horizon was glowing to the east. Terrified, he gathered his things and began jogging down the wagon trail. Soon the trail became so faint he wasn't sure it was a trail or just lines of erosion in the sand. A deep barranco lay ahead that he knew no wagon or truck could cross. He would have to turn the GPS on again. Again no trail. He expanded the map. Still no trail. He expanded again. At the edge of the screen was the trail, over two miles to his right. This wasn't working. He would leave the unit on and try to intersect the trail ahead. He turned slightly to the right and set a course. His legs were aching. The sun was still touching the horizon but he was already sweating. He trudged ahead. The sun was well into its searing arc when the GPS said he had intersected the trail. He couldn't see any sign of vehicular traffic and the trail began a sharp incline. He had the uncomfortable feeling that someone was watching him, toying with him like a rat in a maze, but there was no sign of life in any direction. He began his ascent, paying close attention to the screen. He had no intention of turning it off. He enlarged the coverage until he saw where the trail intersected the main road. He still had thirteen miles to go. His heart sank. He forged ahead. The climb was steep. Sweat dripped from his nose and sizzled in the sand. The battery indicator on the GPS said he was at one quarter. As he crested the rise he located a rock formation straight ahead to fix on. He got down on his knees and elbows facing the formation. He placed the screen of the GPS against the sand and pressed the power button. The pain was blistering. He vomited. He heard the old crone inside his head speaking the odd language just before he fainted. When he woke up sand and vomit were dried on his face. His neck and ears were stinging from ants. He cursed Miguel. He cursed God. He cursed the old bitch that haunted him, whose strange language still gurgled in his brain. He sipped at the few ounces of water in his jug. It burned his swollen tongue. He tried to locate the rock formation he had fixed on. That one, maybe, or the one just to the left. He couldn't be
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sure. Then the voice spoke in Spanish."Este," it said. He set out for the formation on the right. Time passed and the formation didn't seem to be getting any closer. His legs were shaking and he was soaked in sweat. There was a barranco a hundred yards to the left. He needed rest, and shade. He stumbled to the dry wash, curling in the shadows and sipping some water. He dozed lightly, repositioning out of the sun, until dusk was near. Before dark settled in he crawled from his encampment like the other animals of the desert. He followed his footprints back to the trail. He looked toward the rock formation that had been his reference. He wasn't sure. The voices were silent. "Please, God, a sign," he prayed. A falling star dropped from the heavens straight toward one of the formations. That could not have been a coincidence. He was certain. He fixed his eyes on the mark and trudged across the vast desert plain. The night grew darker and cooler. He wrapped in the blanket and drank the last of the water. Surely he would reach the road by morning. The sky was growing lighter as the huge formation loomed before him. He must be close. Carlos activated the GPS. The battery meter began flashing as he pulled up the map screen. The trail was about a half mile to the left but no intersection. He expanded the map screen, twice. The intersection came into view just as the screen flashed "Low battery - Shutting down". It looked like about 3 miles, a little curve to the left. The tingling began in his hand and came up his arm. He threw the dead GPS. It was too late. Pain racked his body but he maintained consciousness. The burning did not want to leave. The old crone's voice was screaming in his head, repeating the same phrase in the strange language. Carlos squeezed his hands to his ears and thrashed his head about trying to silence the demon woman. The pain was searing, cooking his bones to dust. Slowly he returned to normal. He was crying like a child. That was the last he heard from the old woman, or God, or man. That was yesterday. He tried to use the sun as a compass but he never found the trail again, or the road. He could barely move. He wandered by night, generally north, he hoped. The sun is up. The turkey vultures advance. He tries to raise his arm to shoo them away but only his fingers move. A vulture lunges and rips one free. The pain barely registers. Another hops onto his chest. It stares into his eyes, cocking its head to one side. Those eyes, those same eyes as the old woman. He tries to laugh but his last breath is only a sigh as the vultures beak steals his vision.
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Albee Anne Willkomm ALBEE GOT UP EVERY day and brushed his teeth, just like Brian had showed him. Then he got dressed: first he put on his socks, then his underpants. He always giggled when he saw his under pants, cause they looked silly. His shirt went on next, then his pants. His belt. He couldn‘t forget his belt. It was leather and had his name painted on it – A, L, B, E, E, in big blue letters. Some of the paint was worn off a little, but that was okay cause he knew how to spell his name. He pulled his pants up high, and then tightened his belt – that way his pants wouldn‘t fall down, like Mr. Thompson‘s at the bookstore. Like every other day, before breakfast he swept or shoveled the sidewalk in front of Jameson‘s. But today was different; today was the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. It was kind of like summer when there were lots of cars and lots of people on the sidewalks. ―Good morning Albee,‖ said Lisa. ―Excited?‖ she asked, as she put down a plate of fried eggs, bacon – nice and crispy the way Albee liked it, and a cup of coffee. ―Sure I can‘t get you some fruit? He shook his head, shoving a forkful of eggs into his mouth. ―We‘re kind a busy this morning, so come find me if you need more coffee.‖ ―Okay,‖ said Albee. He swung his feet back and forth scuffing them on the worn wooden floor trying to finish his breakfast as fast as he could. Usually he had two cups of coffee, black with one sugar. Brian had told him once, ―Don‘t have too much sugar it‘s bad for your teeth.‖ So Albee did what Brian said and only used one packet. Even though he liked looking at Lisa‘s packets of sugar because they had pictures of different kinds boats on them – and, sometimes boats like that would come up the river—today he didn‘t have time to sort the packets or have a second cup of coffee. No, today he had a job to do. Just like every other day, Albee took his plate and coffee cup into the kitchen. ―Hey there Albee,‖ said Frank, the big, tall cook who wore shorts even in the winter.
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But since today wasn‘t like every other day, Albee didn‘t stand and talk with Frank. ―Got to go.‖ ―Big day huh.‖ Albee nodded. Usually he‘d tell Frank about the weather, but today he had to hurry, he had to get to the police station before they gave his job to someone else, and he had to stop by the Pharmacy to say ―good morning‖ to Brian. Brian didn‘t live at the pharmacy like him, he had a house one street over from Pearl Hill. Albee liked Brian‘s house, and had wanted to live there, but Brian had told him he needed someone to watch over the pharmacy and that Albee would be the best man for the job. He walked along the side of brick building and in through the back door – it squeaked which annoyed Brian, but Albee always thought the door was just saying, ―Hello.‖ He pushed through the swinging doors into the rear of the store. Rudolph the Red Nosed
Reindeer was playing, and green and red garland hung from the ceiling. Albee began humming the song as he walked up to the counter and stood there waiting for Brian, who was just hanging up his black telephone. ―Good night sleep Albee?‖ ―Uh huh.‖ ―Big day today, huh.‖ Albee grinned, a toothy wide kind of grin, the kind his mama used to say brought joy to the angels in heaven. He figured now, it made her happy, too. ―Books, I want more books today, too.‖ ―I‘ll call Mabel and tell her to drop some more off, or I‘ll go pick them up at lunch.‖ ―I go, later, after.‖ Brian leaned on the counter. ―No Albee, now you remember, Mabel prefers that you, that I, go get them or that she drop them off.‖ ―Why?‖ ―Well, that‘s just the way Mabel likes it.‖ ―Okay.‖ 50 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ©
―Have fun today Albee, and go up and get your scarf, it‘s going to be cold today.‖ ―No snow.‖ ―I know it‘s not going to snow, but it‘s going to be quite cold.‖ Albee did as Brian asked and climbed up the creaky steps into his comfy room, wrapped his scarf around his neck, and then climbed back down the steps and out the door. He took his usual route up Main Street, passed Port O‘Hats, Toys in the Attic, Aunt Minnie‘s Ice Cream Shop, then up Pearl Hill passed Port Bakers, and around the corner by the fire house. Jimmy, the oldest fireman, always waved and yelled, ―Mornin‘‖ to Albee. There was one fireman, Greg, he always laughed when Albee walked by, Brian told him that Greg didn‘t mean nothing by it, he just got a case of the sillies more than most folks. As he rounded the corner, Albee‘s heart was pounding wildly inside his chest. He stumbled, tearing his pants, and hoped Brian wouldn‘t be mad. He brushed his knee off and that widening grin took hold as he pulled the glass door open, and he barely noticed the sharp clink of the dangling bell as it hit the glass. ―Mornin‘ Albee,‖ said Louise. She had a nice smile. It reminded Albee of his mother. She‘d been gone for a while now. He couldn‘t exactly remember how long ago she‘d gone up to heaven to be with Jesus, but it had been a good amount of time, he knew that. He didn‘t like thinking about that time though, because it made him sad. She just sat in her chair and wouldn‘t wake up. And the smell was pretty bad, too. And then he‘d gone to live at the drug store. Albee smiled at Louise. ―Have a seat, Bill will be right out.‖ ―Okay,‖ said Albee. Louise went back to her telephone conversation. ―Albee‘s here, waiting for Bill. Y‘know it‘s his big day. I think he waits all year for this.‖ She looked over at Albee and he smiled. That‘s when he remembered to remove his Boston Red Sox cap. Louise had told him a long time ago he had to take his hat off when he went inside a building. She turned away from Albee and whispered, ―We‘ll get a few calls later this afternoon about the,‖ But Albee had his eye on Bill‘s door, focused on it, waiting for it to open, not
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really hearing Louise‘s soft voice murmuring in the background. ―Crackpot and the loud horn. Really, what‘s the matter with people?‖ Bill‘s door opened. A tall, very tall man, walked out, with his back to Albee, while Bill leaned against the door jam. ―Hey Albee,‖ said Bill. ―Hi Bill.‖ The tall man, Hank, turned and looked at Albee. ―Hank, you remember Albee, he‘s got something very important to do today.‖ Albee noticed the tall man, Hank, because his eyes began dancing kind of funny and Albee knew that kind of dancing meant he was nervous, and Albee figured maybe Hank got a special job today, too, just like him. ―Yeah…a great…well, I‘ve got to run. Thanks again Bill, see you later Louise.‖ ―Bye Hank. Come on in Albee.‖ Clutching his hat, Albee shuffled into Bill‘s office. Albee was always a little scared in Bill‘s office because he had lots and lots of pictures of bad guys on his wall. Some had beards, one had an eye patch, and there was a woman who had done something really, really bad, Bill had told him. So, he sat in the chair next to Bill‘s desk with his back to all the bad people. ―So are you ready?‖ Albee nodded. ―Did Lisa make you a good breakfast this morning?‖ asked Bill as he thinned out his graying moustache with his fingers. Albee nodded. ―Well good.‖ Bill walked over to a tall black cabinet with drawers and tugged the top one which screeched as he pulled on it. Albee wiggled around in the metal chair, its legs scraping the floor in protest. He wanted to jump up and grab it out of Bill‘s hand. He could barely sit still. ―You know the drill, Officer Albee, right?‖
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Albee nodded. ―Here Albee, now off you go to walk your beat.‖ Beaming, Ablee took the bright shiny blue horn, put on his hat, adjusted his scarf, and walked out of the office, forgetting to say good-bye to Louise. ―Don‘t use it all up at once,‖ he heard her say. Albee squeezed the black button and let out a loud Bleeeeeeeeeeeeep. Oh, how exciting that noise was. That grin filled his round face. He took a few more steps.
Bleeeeeeeeeeeeep. As he walked by the firehouse, Bleeeeeeeeeeeeeeep, and by Port Bakers, Bleeeeeeeeeeeeep. He kept pressing the button as he walked down Pearl Hill, passed the Aunt Millie‘s Ice Cream shop, by Toys in the Attic and Port O‘Hats hat. People stopped and watched. He knew they were paying attention to Officer Albee. He got stuck behind a clump of people waiting to get into Jameson‘s. He blew his horn, and they jumped. ―What‘s that idiot got a horn for?‖ ―Why‘s that grown man blowing his horn around town? You‘d think one of the town cops would do something about it.‖ Didn‘t they know he was Honery Policeman, Officer Albee. Surely they knew that. He brushed passed them and blew his horn again. He continued blowing his horn as he walked over the bridge passed the Clam Shack, which was boarded up and closed for the winter, and then along the river. When he reached Walker‘s Corners, breaks screeched, cars stopped and people began yelling, so he continued blasting his horn, and there was more yelling, and people began using bad words as they pointed at him. That‘s when Bill showed up, his blue lights swirling around as he stepped out of his police car. Walking toward the jumble of cars Bill said, ―It‘s okay folks, calm down.‖ People were still yelling. Albee blew his horn. ―Albee, can you put the horn down for a moment?‖ Albee set it on the ground, his eyes flitting back and forth between Bill and each of the people leaning out of the windows of their fancy cars yelling and pointing, and waving their hands, followed by more yelling. ―What are you gonna do about that freak and his horn. Look what he did.‖ 53 | I s s u e N o . 2 · W i n t e r 2 0 1 2
―Sir, calm down. No damage here, just a little traffic jam, is all.‖ A woman in a fuzzy red Santa hat leaned out of her window, ―This is ridiculous, shouldn‘t he be in some home?‖ ―Yeah, what‘s the freak doing wandering about anyway. Gonna get himself hit by a car or something,‖ yelled a man driving a van full of gray-haired people. Albee stood there. Had he done something bad? Was Bill mad at him? It was clear these people in the cars were mad at him. He didn‘t know what to do. He looked back toward the center of town, down at his favorite horn, at Bill, at the yelling people. His heart was banging hard. And Albee knew Bill was now mad at him because he was yelling. Covering his ears and closing his eyes, Albee began to walk away leaving his horn sitting on the sidewalk. ―Yayayayaya,‖ he kept saying over and over to drown out the car horns. And even though he opened his eyes every few steps he still ran right into Brian. ―Albee are you okay?‖ asked Brian as he pulled Albee‘s hands away from his ears. ―Bill‘s mad, he‘s mad at me.‖ ―No Albee, Bill‘s not mad at you. There was just a lot of confusion. Here, I‘ll walk you back to Jameson‘s, it‘s almost lunchtime.‖ ―No.‖ ―You need to eat.‖ Albee shook his head because Bill usually had lunch at Jameson‘s as well, and Albee didn‘t want to see Bill‘s mad face. Freckles, Mrs. Hunter‘s little white dog stopped to sniff Albee. Mrs. Hunter owned the gift shop around the corner from the pharmacy, stopped adjusted the leash in her gloved hand. ―You know Brian, you need to make sure you watch over him, that was quite a mess back there.‖ ―Janet, I assure you, I‘ve got everything under control.‖ ―Well I certainly hope so, that could have been disastrous. Come on Freckles we need to get back to the store.‖ 54 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ©
Brian let Mrs. Hunter pass then said, ―If you don‘t want to go and sit at Lisa‘s, then I‘ll bring you up a sandwich.‖ Albee and Brian separated. Brian continued down the sidewalk toward Jameson‘s while Albee crossed the street, walked along the side of the pharmacy. Freckles who was now tied to the bench next to the door of the gift shop, barked at Albee, and on any other day, Albee might have spoken to the dog, because they were friends, but today he walked in through the back door, up the noisy stairs, and plopped himself onto his bed. A new pile of picture books sat on the edge of his red and blue quilt. The top one was red and it had a picture of that scary fuzzy thing. Brian loved to read the book about the Grinch, but it wasn‘t one of Albee‘s favorites. He set the book back on top of the pile. Brian returned with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and sat down on the side of Albee‘s bed. ―You have to forget about those people in their cars. They aren‘t from around here, they just come to our small town to visit the pretty shops, see our lobster pot-decorated tree, and eat our terrific food. What‘s unfortunate is that we need them. I know that‘s hard for you to understand.‖ Albee kept looking at the floor. Brian patted Albee on the back. ―All you need to know is that I will always take care of you. You‘re like family to me.‖ ―Like Rita and Matty?‖ Now Brian looked down at the floor. ―You still sad bout them?‖ asked Albee. Bill sighed. ―Just miss them, probably like you miss your mother.‖ ―Love you Brian.‖ ―Albee, I love you too…and I always will. Forget about those folks. Why don‘t you look at the books Mable dropped off, and then draw, or watch television. You‘re gonna want your rest before the tree lighting tonight.‖
Albee got up everyday and brushed his teeth, just like Brian had showed him. After getting dressed, he swept the sidewalk in front of Jameson‘s before going in for breakfast.
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And today was no different. He grabbed the broom from behind the door and swept the sidewalk, and he wondered when there would be some snow to sweep or shovel? He ate his breakfast, fried eggs, and bacon – nice and crispy, just the way he liked it. Lisa had forgotten to ask him about the fruit, and that made him happy – she was very busy. Albee knew there were two times a year when the town was busy, summer time and right before Christmas. Lisa even forgot his second cup of coffee, but that was okay. The radio in the kitchen was loud and the dishwasher and prep cook were singing a song that Albee didn‘t recognize. ―Where‘s the Christmas music?‖ he asked no one in particular when he took his plate in through the swinging doors. ―Why are you askin‘?‖ said the Jerry, the dishwasher, a short fella who always wore a blue bandana, as he walked toward Albee wiping his hands on his dirty apron, getting taller and taller the closer he got. ―Hey, leave him alone Jerry,‖ said Frank. ―So any snow in the forecast, Albee?‖ Albee shook his head. ―Oh well, Mother Nature will unleash her fury when she‘s good and ready, and not a minute before.‖ Albee stared at Frank, he wasn‘t exactly sure what he‘d just said, so he smiled. He‘d learned that‘s what people do when they got nothing to say, kind of like saying ‗Hello‘ without any words. Yes, Albee had learned that a long time ago. ―Time for my walk.‖ ―Okay, you enjoy now.‖ Albee nodded and walked out of Jameson‘s. He looked up at the blue sky, no snow today, he thought. He walked along the sidewalk, until he was at the crossing place, then crossed and walked into the backdoor of the Village Pharmacy. Brian was with a customer. Albee thought it was Mr. Noble. Albee waited because he wasn‘t supposed to go for his walk in the winter without telling Brian first. He waited, and waited, until Mr. Noble stepped away from the counter.
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―Hey Albee, off for your morning walk?‖ Albee nodded. ―Okay, I‘ll see you in a little while.‖ And just like every other winter day, Brian looked at his watch. Albee strolled along the streets and storefronts; some were closed and some just smelled really good, just like Christmas. He waved at almost everyone, some waved back, some were very busy, Albee knew that. Kids without their winter coats or hats went running by, one of them banged into Albee thrusting him up against one of the little shops. The kid turned around, ―Hey look it‘s –‖ and they began laughing. Albee laughed too, even though he wasn‘t exactly sure what was funny. That‘s when Mr. Kraus opened his shop door, ―You kids get going, you too Albee, move along now.‖ ―Okay, Mr. Kraus,‖ said Albee. He still wanted to know what was funny. He thought maybe kids just laughed a lot, cause kids just did – he knew that. On his way back into town, Albee looked up at the bookstore. Mr. Thompson always strung his lights in the big window to look like a gigantic Christmas tree. Mr. Thompson was standing in the window, Albee waved, and Mr. Thompson nodded. He never waved back because he was always holding his pipe with one hand and his belt with the other. By the time he returned, and it had gotten so cold outside, that he decided to go straight to lunch, where Lisa gave him a bowl of fish chowder and the funny little circle crackers. He always liked two packs. After lunch, Brian liked Albee to relax in his room and watch television or look at his books. And Albee liked to sit in his warm room and watch television or look at his books. And Mabel had dropped off even more Christmas books. For dinner, Albee had more fish chowder with two packs of the little circle crackers. But, when Albee asked for a second bowl, Lisa told him they were so busy, she doubted she‘d have enough, so instead she brought him some chicken noodle. Albee didn‘t like chicken noodle. Frank said he wouldn‘t tell Lisa and brought Albee a bowl of chocolate ice cream with whip cream on the top. Frank called it a mountain of whip cream – it didn‘t look like a mountain to Albee.
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After dinner, Albee went back to his room and Brian would usually come up and they‘d play a few hands of Go Fish before Brian left to go to his house. Albee sometimes wondered if Brian‘s Rita and Matty had met his mama in heaven. ―Okay pal. You beat me three straight hands. I‘m beat. You okay?‖ Albee nodded. ―Well, you get a good night‘s sleep and I‘ll see you after breakfast tomorrow.‖ ―Okay Brian.‖ Brian left and Albee turned on his television. He liked to watch Wheel of Fortune before he went to sleep. The spinning wheel was his favorite. And he liked to mimic Pat Sajak: ―There must be an ‗n,‘‖ or ―Yes, there is an ‗h.‘ ―Oh boy, I‘m sorry, you got it that time.‖ And Albee would continue through each puzzle, ―Yes, there is a ‗B,‘ an ‗s,‘ an ‗l.‘ You want to guess? Yes, Fresh Blanket of Snow is correct.‖ Albee especially liked the $5000 spot on the wheel, it sparkled and the contestants jumped up and down and screamed if they landed on it. After Wheel of Fortune Albee turned out his light and went to sleep.
Albee got up everyday and brushed his teeth, just like Brian had showed him. After getting dressed, he swept the sidewalk in front of Jameson‘s before going in for breakfast. And today was no different, except that he had to sweep a fresh layer of snow. He loved snow. He‘d been waiting for snow. It was so pretty with all the white twinkling lights in the store windows. It made him think about his Christmas tree. He didn‘t have a tree in his room. No, his tree was at Jameson‘s near the cash machine. It was Christmas Eve and there were so many presents with shiny bows under the tree and lots and lots of dollar bills taped to the branches. Albee loved his tree. It had colored lights and red balls. Every year Frank would help him climb up on the stepladder and put the shiny silver star on the tippy-top. Then on Christmas Eve, he got to open the presents and Brian got the dollar bills. He was sitting near the kitchen eating his breakfast, fried eggs, and bacon – nice and crispy, just the way he liked it. His coffee seemed extra hot, so he blew on it and waited
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until it cooled. Folks were walking in rubbing their hands together, and talking about the cold weather. Didn‘t they know it was winter? Winter was always cold. Frank stepped out of the kitchen wiping his hands on his not-so-white apron and then sat down with Albee. ―So, Albee it‘s Christmas Eve.‖ Albee nodded his head. And Lisa walked over with the steaming coffee pot in her hand and sat down in the chair at the next table. ―I think we need to find a different place for you to have dinner tonight,‖ said Lisa. ―Brian, I have it with Brian. Always the same.‖ Looking away from Frank, Albee carefully flicked the strawberry off his plate. Every so often Lisa tucked one or two in along side his bacon, but he didn‘t like strawberries. ―Well, Brian ain‘t feeling too well. They had to take him to the hospital last night. That‘s why Mr. Gardener is at the Pharmacy this morning,‖ said Frank. Albee looked up at Frank. He didn‘t like what Frank was saying, no he did not like it one bit. ―Can he go to your house?‖ asked Lisa. ―No, I‘m going to my girlfriends and she don‘t understand, you know. Can‘t he go to yours?‖ ―No, I‘m having my entire family at my house tonight,‖ said Lisa, who then looked at Albee. ―We‘ll find some place else for you to go.‖ Looking back at Frank, ―I‘m swamped here, we‘ve never been so busy. And I still have Christmas shopping to do.‖ ―Don‘t you think Brian must have had some sort of contingency plan?‖ asked Frank. Albee wasn‘t sure what that big word meant. ―He must have, he of all people knows things…just happen. Bill might know. We‘ll have to call Bill later,‖ said Lisa. ―Cause someone‘s got to take him.‖ ―Okay,‖ said Frank, then looking at Albee he added, ―One of us will call Bill later.‖ Frank got up, wiped his hands on his apron and walked back into the kitchen whistling, All I
Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.
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Albee didn‘t want to go to anyone else‘s house for Christmas Eve dinner – he always spent it with Brian. And he was still going to spend it with Brian. He got up and walked out of Jameson‘s, leaving his plate and coffee cup in the table. He rushed across the street, slipping in the snow, and eventually falling as he tried to round the corner to the side of the Village Pharmacy. He wanted to cry, his knee hurt, but he had to find Brian. He walked in through the back door, but instead of going up the noisy stairs to his room, he slipped into the back door. Mr. Gardener was standing there behind the counter. He didn‘t like Mr. Gardener; he wasn‘t mean or nothing, just not like Brian. He stood there and waited. ―Not now Albee, I‘m busy. Just go up to your room, I‘ll come find you later.‖ Albee sat on his bed and he waited and he waited, but Mr. Gardener didn‘t come. He looked around the room, tried to look at one of his picture books, but he couldn‘t, it didn‘t seem right. Then he remembered when he‘d been real sick one time, Brian had sat next to his bed all day and all night. And he thought he remembered his mama doing that, too. And then he remembered the day his mama didn‘t wake up. He hadn‘t been home because his mama had sent him off for the day to help plant flowers at church. Sitting there, he wondered if he hadn‘t gone to plant the flowers if she still would have fallen asleep. He had to go sit with Brian. He had to make sure Brian woke up. He wasn‘t sure exactly where the hospital was, but he remembered seeing the ambulance always going out by the savings bank. Putting on his coat and his Red Sox cap, he looked around the small room for the mittens Mabel had made him. One of the thumbs had a hole it in, but he loved them because they were his favorite color, blue. Mabel knit him a new pair every Christmas – always blue. They had fallen on the floor. He poked his head in to tell Mr. Gardener where he was going, but he was with a customer, and he didn‘t want to get yelled at again. The wind was strong and the snow that had fallen the night before was blowing around. Albee walked down Church Street by the savings bank toward the school. He had always wanted to go to school, but his mama had told him school was not the right place for him. School kids were mean. He wasn‘t so sure they were mean; they just seemed to laugh a lot.
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In the dusky light, more snow began to fall and the wind burned his cheeks, but he kept on walking. Beyond the school, the street was unfamiliar. Open snow covered fields took over, and the sidewalk stopped. Brian had told him, never to walk in the street unless it was an emergency, and this seemed like an emergency. Brian needed him, and he needed Brian. Albee kept walking even though he was very cold. What seemed odd was that his feet didn‘t really feel cold any more, he couldn‘t really feel them at all – same with his fingers and his nose. The snow was getting deeper and it was now dark. He was scared of the dark. The wind was howling like a wild animal. Albee wondered if wild animals were out in the winter, he hoped not. And he was getting tired. He could see a bench up ahead under a single street light. He‘d rest there, just a few minutes, warm up, and then be able to find the hospital, find Brian. When he got to the bench, he decided to keep going because the bench was in front of a graveyard. He was definitely scared of graveyards – ghosts and terrible things lived in graveyards. Pete the gasman had told him that once. So Albee kept on walking until he could walk no more and sat with his back against the trunk of a tall pine, pulled his knees up close and watched the tiny flakes of snow as they landed on his nose. He remembered seeing snowflakes in a book once – how pretty they were, all different, and as he closed his eyes he imagined them big, just like in the book.
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Prometheus Fails Michael Gause THE OPENING PARAGRAPH OF "The Night-Sea Journey" is designed, that is composed specifically, to be the very important-creating opening page of any future collection of selfreferential writing. I will use it myself, I have no doubt, so perfectly laid out in literature English as it has been done. And I will do it. And I will do it as others do, unabashedly, to add some arbitrary component of gravitas to my work. And all written work does strive to be important, most so by those who claim to want the exact opposite. The most grass-roots movement is, in fact, destined for momentary greatness. It has something. It has something to do with the fire I'm trying to start. No. I'm not being metaphorical here like Jefferson Starship (why they had to move from an airplane to something grander had everything to do with their fall from grace) and Krispy Kreme. No. No. I am attempting, in vain it seems, to light a nice fire here on the patio. I should be inside composing my promised Thursday blog post. Who knows, perhaps the two will meet one day. I keep blowing the well placed embers in an attempt to breathe life into their potential. No. This sounds metaphorical again. I'm serious. Because it has to do with the way the almost flames almost catch the vertical log aflame. The approach licking it alive, but without the head needed to make the jump to full fire. Yes, that is metaphorical. The truth is that I. It licks in a sexual attempt to validate itself as agent of change. In truth. I want. I think. I think the wood is upset. Wet. Perhaps impotent. There are those who may read this who know they could fix it. I'm sure you could. Sexual and energy morphed into Promethean skill sets. You'd think. You'd think I could, the way I like to ramble on. Something is amiss. it is because you. I'm certain it is because you are not here. There is but one person I hope reads this. They do not even know who they are. It is senseless. I know. But there it is. But there it is, redeemed by your strongest effort, but not your drive. The night is taking over. What strange lives we lead. What pleasures denied and deny. Things watch us and I turn away. But I see the power that instills those eyes. Do you want beyond subterranean 62 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ÂŠ
consciousness, like the other I know like you? Alpha and Omega, once revered, now reduced to subsequence. How sad. To promote life. To promote life beyond the standard. What noble guesses glide to the edge of indiscretion? Those who realize. Distant shores of knowing. Speeding caress that fuels them, but I want more. No. No and Gide's attic. I was there once. Parts of me never left. And it is in moments like these I try to go back and retrieve them. What fire. Strange the flame most deny even the notion of breath. I will not succumb, subscribe. Lead! What pleasures sustain beneath the lowest and basest of defined desire? To those. To those I secretly prostrate myself. Do you know? Do you adhere to the filament that has made me this? You. You do not answer. As if silence fulfills you more and places you beyond me. And suddenly. And suddenly this becomes about the wave I wait for, as I float out beyond the breakers. It is dark now, and I fade with the final glow into the horizon. What wan filigree to which I am prematurely reduced. I imagine you evolving as I sit stuck in some phase between liquid and gas. A sad and quiet fate. Sad and sad again. Yet I rebel. I fight it. With these words I do not go gentle... I strive to set into motion what you leave to reverie. What means I have used to approach. Strange. Seems I should have progressed so much further. The Night - the Wanton. The Day â€“ that Convener. The reason I cannot stop this. Because I haven't the strength to do it myself. I rely. I rely on the will of the body of the soul of the corpus of the mind. But none of this will be the relief. Come morning it will stand, the Convener wins, stands outside all just knowing or execution. And so do I. Jingling cap and dance. The innocent sin. The inside joke of ascension. The failed Prometheus of us all.
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Net Assets F. Jaywing Fuller EARLY SEPTEMBER – LATE afternoon. The arctic air‘s crisp and clean – the river‘s running gin clear and whisky smooth. Snow geese winging south – clouds blushing pink. No wind. No mosquitoes. Heaven couldn‘t be closer. Thigh deep, fly rod poised, polarized glasses perched on my nose – open stance, facing the sun – thumb on top, wrist firm, lift – the tip arcs back, then forward, swinging back and forth, feed line, pendulum, feed more line, double loop – fire. Perfect. Two years of planning. Saved my money and vacation – picked up a passport, got an outfitter. Wasn‘t interested in sharing a stream, so came up as late in the season as I could. By the time I got here most of the native guides had gone home to Lutsel k‘e or Yellowknife, prepping for the autumn caribou hunt. That‘s why I got Sam – Sam Garr. Sam‘s Chipewyan – Denésoliné, a bachelor – must be forty. His grandfather ―Eddy‖ is tagging along – his ancient face as rugged and creased as the land around us. Smiles a lot. Real quiet – keeps mostly to himself. Can‘t say I mind. He‘s fifty yards downstream, turning over rocks, singing.
Dinnertime. We each caught an arctic grayling. I made two dozen casts to land my fish. Sam made one, with a hand line – native luck. No idea how Eddy caught his. Wolfed my fish down with a couple of Sierra Nevada Pale Ales – tossed the bones aside. Eddy scowled, shaking his head. He ate his fish slowly, picking the flesh off the bones with such dexterity that he had a completely articulated skeleton when finished, then gently laid the bones in the fire. Sam said his grandfather was honoring the fire and honoring the fish. ―What can your grandfather tell me about the grayling?‖ I asked, cracking open another beer. Sam translated as Eddy stared into the flames and spun his tale. ―Long ago, Grayling belonged to the Whitefish people. Every spring he‘d come upstream with the other Whitefish, then he‘d swim back to the ocean come first snow. But one autumn Grayling says, ‗Hey, I like it here,‘ and stayed behind. It wasn‘t long before he got lonely. ‗I gotta find a wife and start a family.‘ But there were only Trout people there under the ice. Grayling thought about this, then used his medicine and changed himself, so now he looked like the Trout people. Soon afterward, he took a Trout wife and had many children. And, since he had married into the Trout people, he and his children took up Trout ways. So today, Grayling looks like Trout and acts like Trout. But under the skin, he will always be Whitefish.‖ 64 | T h e M i d w e s t C o a s t R e v i e w ©
Cold morning – couldn‘t get the fire started. Grabbed my tackle and went fishing anyway. Tried upstream, then downstream – tried half-a-dozen different flies. Nothing. A nibble or two, but that‘s it. Saw dorsal fins streaking the surface – gnats getting picked-off. But no matter what I tried, I couldn‘t entice a strike. Came tromping back into camp mid-morning, shivering, hungry as a bear. Sam was awake, fire crackling, hot biscuits and sausage gravy ready and waiting. Coffee, too. ―Must be a bad spot for fish,‖ I said, dropping my creel. ―Not a strike all morning.‖ ―Good spot,‖ Sam replied. ―Lots of grayling.‖ ―Must be bad timing, then,‖ I offered. ―Too late in the season?‖ ―Good time,‖ Sam responded. I scratched a bite on the back of my neck. ―What makes you think so?‖ Sam pointed to the horizon. ―Sa K‘ei Dene is not at home.‖ ―Who‘s ‗sockeye day nay nay‘?‖ ―Sa K‘ei Dene – the Man in the Moon. Eddy says that when the fishing will be no good, Sa K‘ei Dene stays in his lodge and his fire burns bright. When the fishing will be good, he leaves his lodge and his fire burns down. The moon is less than half-full – Sa K‘ei Dene has gone fishing.‖
The remainder of the day‘s fishing turned out to be as lousy as the morning‘s – tried everything I knew – not a single catch. Sam must be the worst guide in the Northwest Territories. At ngithfall, I sit down for dinner. Smoke stings my eyes. Eddy mumbles something. ―The fire is annoyed with you,‖ Sam translates. ―You did not honor him by giving him your first catch, so now he pays you back in smoke. I wipe away a tear. ―I suppose he thinks that‘s why I‘m not catching any fish, too?‖ Sam smiles. ―Yes. You have no luck because you did not treat Grayling with honor yesterday after he gave himself to you.‖ I smirk. ―I think it‘s because there are no fish here to catch.‖ Sam‘s smile brightens. ―Eddy says there‘s plenty of fish.‖
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I lean forward. ―OK. If he‘s so sure, let‘s make a bet. Tomorrow morning, let‘s see who can bring in the most fish in one hour – him or me?‖ Sam asks, then nods. ―He‘ll bet your fly rod for my pay.‖ ―Whoa there, are you good with that Sam? My fly rod‘s a four-hundred dollar Redington Spey CPX. Not cheap.‖ Sam holds up four fingers. ―My pay for these three days is four-hundred dollars. Not cheap. You win, you keep your money. He wins, he gets the rod and I keep my money. Yes?‖ I laugh. The money isn‘t important. The challenge is. We shake hands.
A coin toss gives me first go. I think I know what the grayling are feeding on and choose a fly that‘s a bigger mimic of the gnats I saw them rising to yesterday. My initial cast yields nothing, but my second cast lands a five-pounder. Not big, but size doesn‘t matter in this game – numbers do. I release and cast several more times before I bring in another fish, but I‘m getting results. When my hour‘s up I‘ve caught seven. I‘m ecstatic. Eddy‘s turn. Singing, he wades into the stream, armed with a simple hand net. Spreading his legs, he carefully lowers his hands into the water. He continues his chant. A minute later he brings up a grayling. He releases, moves up stream and lowers his hands again. He chants. Again, he brings up a fish. He wades to another part of the stream, repeats the process and is again rewarded. Twenty minutes later he‘s caught and released eight – he‘s won with time to spare. I‘m reluctant, but honor the bet and hand Eddy my fly rod. He walks back to camp, snaps my expensive rod into tiny pieces and tosses them in the fire. Turning to me, Eddy smiles and, in the King‘s English, exclaims, ―Grayling will be pleased.‖
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LIMBS D.W. Miller
a highway. driving into darkness. to meet with a stranger. the heater pumps out a dry, acrid heat. Boy turns it off. lights appear, scattered in the distance, an airport terminal around the bend. a face. a time. unspoken understanding. he drives on, into the dark
an all night diner downtown. Boy and Stranger sit face to face in a booth, a table and silence between them. a waitress moves slowly in the background, cleaning tables, filling bottles with red gooey ketchup humming slowly beneath her breath some song she knew once but can‘t remember the words. a television, mounted in the corner plays hockey footage with the sound off. Boy clutches a warm coffee mug between sweaty palms. watches Stranger watch the television.
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‗you like hockey?‘ Boy asks. ‗no,‘ says Stranger, ‗but my brother does. i guess everyone in halifax does.‘ ‗i didn‘t know you had a brother,‘ says Boy. ‗yeah.‘ the waitress moves next to the booth, humming dish cloth in hand. she wipes the table, reaches out to place a bill next to Stranger‘s untouched coffee mug then moves away into the background. Boy sips his coffee, and continues to watch
streetlights flash by the windshield. fingers of neon reach across the glass. a moment of illumination before Boy drives on, into the dark towards the house. Stranger sits beside him watching, disaffected, as the city flows beyond the window. ‗you have a boyfriend?‘ he asks. voice flat and toneless inside the tiny car. ‗no,‘ Boy lies, ‗do you?‘
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‗yeah. back home – we live together.‘ a silence grows. the car shudders as the gear shifts down. Boy drives on
a bedroom, lit only by the soft blue glow of the moon. on the bed, Boy and Stranger are a tangle of limbs joints fingers lips they lie still. there is nothing left. beyond the window, a birch tree stands, pale and ghostly limbs swaying. Boy breathes slowly, watching minutes flow on a clock by the bed. Stranger‘s hand touches his arm, moving across skin creating warmth and gooseflesh. they are both alone waiting as minutes drop one by
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one into the dark. Boy breathes deeply, and continues to watch limbs of the birch tree
a highway. driving into darkness. the heater pumps out a dry, acrid heat. Boy is speeding, trapped in a moment that refuses to end. he fumbles in his mind over words he should say, driving on through the night saying nothing. Stranger watches, uninterested, as the world flows beyond the windows of the car. an airport terminal around the bend. stars, fallen from the sky, scattered carelessly across a dark horizon. ‗can i see you again,‘ Stranger asks, ‗when i‘m in town?‘ in the distance, Boy‘s eyes focus on lights
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Seven acts of mercy John Stocks First he will salvage the old photographs The half lit Edwardian drawing room, A glimpse of another dimension Fixed smiles from sepia-tinged faces. The Shibboleth of all desires, here Distilled in letters, old documents Residuals and marginalia, The shards of benign fragmentation. He will protect the tiny girl that died With her daughter, haemorrhaged after birth And the soldier on the Somme, alluding To the consequences of indiscretions. He will keep the prayer books from the library, Boxes full of tissued medals, trophies, Won on distant sun kissed playing fields, Evocative of languid, post war ease. And this long lost, blurred, half focused world The loose plasticity of flowing time, He will store in a corner of his mind Their heart beats, their tear stained miseries.
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Beethoven's Piano Sonata no. 14 in C Sharp Minor Joanna C. Valente My father was born into a family he did not want. Where haggling for reconciliation was just another way to spend Sundays / in a city where everyone had died of starvation without realizing. Every night,
he would lie in bed, his brother sidled up against him / a dead body in a casket full of carnations. Tried to fall asleep: a piano wailed. Let's take death out of sex: the body next to his will be a woman
in a few years. Once his hair swallowed him whole, dragging his neck into the Bronx River running into his mind's ocean; ears drowned from the blood feud of two opposing sides. His voice beneath his voice
lent itself to poetry during the war. On one side, his mother cradled a baby sister, drinking milk from the white pages of a horror novel; on the other side, his father slammed doors to keep the Bacchae
out. Don't write your hippie bullshit in our fucking house, they would say / feed the dead once, and you will feed them until they are a cult of souls. Those were the only words he had then. Now, a piano wails.
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Loudly as she leaves Matthew Porubsky
She stands uncertain, like an unlabeled amber bottle, questioning her purpose. She is wet from head to toe tip and black waves cling to her neck and cheeks and lips and shoulders strapped in her wet sundress as the conditioned air chills her skin from bare arms to hidden thighs.
The fabric rises and stretches across her breasts and slinks to her waist as her dress‘s undone hem unfolds. Drops drop from her eyelashes. She walks in wet footprints to whisper in my ear, like a wasp landing on water,
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Steam rises from our bodies as the flowers on her dress fold in my fist, water veining down my knuckles and wrist. I pull and she rises. I pray the water-beads of her skin like a rosary, in circles and fingertips. We are wrapped in holy sighs of sacred hymns sounding slow, moving like shadows across this temporary play.
She shines her light so bright I taste it on the back of my tongue. The sheets spill on the floor scattering like dead-end days, ashes in a breath. The shadows catch fire to glow with us, like trees blown to under-leaves as she weaves her straw into foolâ€˜s gold, muting out the thunder.
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My lips crack. I taste the blood in my beard. She begins to taste of sand and salt cast over revisions of ice and snow to grit between my teeth.
I can slowly see the wolves for the willows. She stands as her skin begins to peel, shedding to a new season of waking, and walks away, like light through the clouds.
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FATHER AND SON TALK AROUND NABOKOV Erick Mertz He chased these butterflies on the lawn of Central Park, sky thick with their fluttering storm, emergent. He needed only cross the street to buy a net at the sporting goods store in order to capture them. My father, he taught himself to mount from a book that afternoon. Standing in the kitchen, dog at his feet, curious smell of formaldehyde. It has been thirty-seven years, and while that storm is calm, their watercolor wings still decorate walls of my study. I want to tell him, that they remind me of Vladimir Nabokov, writer composing on his feet. These butterflies that make me want to run an ice cube down her spine, desire, more than what might break those harsh rays of the sun into shade. I want to tell him, but my father knows little of the Russian author. He broke his back, shielding us from the hot and cold. When he comes over, it is New York City again. He looks at those butterflies he caught and feels young. The dog is still alive. I want to tell him, except I think that fathers do not need to know all things, least of all the sadness native to their sons. So, I lie and say, all I see are butterflies, leaving out the most important part; that where I am overcome with sensations of falling.
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A Hot Day in Hell William Shelton A heat wave passes through Hell Satan‘s sweating, the AC‘s not working. He looks towards the souls in torment as they‘re screaming Bodies impaled on hot rock or drifting through the lake of fire; ―I know how you feel‖ He says and sips some iced water.
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Knackle Lindsay D‘Andrea NaCl, Pronounced like knuckle, but with an A: Knackle. Meaning: to have a knack for, or the state of ―knack.‖ NaCl. Competence. Competence as in ability. as in a comfort against failure. An ionic bond, meaning one might lose, but somehow, everyone wins. Good to use in soups, on steak or vegetables. Then there is the earthy kind. Think skin: wet and dried, the mark of effort and no regard for outcome. A substance wearing the same rare white as bones, softer. The swill of swift-filling clouds made by oceans. That raw-cut burning from tasting too much, pressing into the next wave, choking on the name for what it‘s like to be grateful or pleased, or alive.
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Beyond My Town Kevin Heaton A mile beyond my town, all the only lights are stars.
A red-tailed hawk holds a jack rabbit‘s foot on the moonlit brink of his fraidy hole. I can hear the muffled shriek of a field mouse plead from halfway down a rat snake; the prairie never shouts.
Fossil-pocked, limestone ledges scrimshaw the top soil, and dare a rasp to hone it‘s plow. Burnished switchgrass transfigures green when last years dregs catch fire. It took a hedge of Osage orange to spare the primrose.
Summers are torrid, lusty trysts, and falls; brief amber flings.
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Out of the blue, nips fray the breeze, and pocket cottonwood lint deep in cloven hoof prints. Coyote fur gathers for the snows that will salt away old conestoga wounds, and I am vigilant: the lavender spiderwort lifts her skirt but once, and honeysuckle only flaunt to serve their roots.
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Cries Every Noon Ray Succre Do I erect masts of righteous ardor, shouting, and be tagged a plunging sort of man, or let a failsafe pacifier jam into these fertile sounds, their slot, and find my rolling grub harshly comforted, pelted in languorous afternoons?
The rhythm of his quivers denotes a redder, ghastlier face than that of the longer and miserable, diaphragmic sobs, a catamaran carving through foaming nerves.
The shoutingest ones are talons into senses, and the shuttingest ones are neighbors to forgotten sleep.
With no simple resolution, I hold the boy, and play as he paws my cement.
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AN Introduction to Taboo Robert Lietz Shopping for school clothes, 1953 A project will get you just so far, or sessions with a reader, a child playing chef, an excitement charging any city with a past. Hadn‘t our mothers cared for us? Hadn‘t they left us and come back, the more made known for all that time apart, and for the words they spoke, hung with the words the war-news blazed or whispered then, wheeled with the laundries in, through all the glazing atmosphere? And, there, and, after, what?, a faulty switch, letting the morning‘s love songs out, the summer news maybe, the summer engines piling sounds among the sounds in fact-hung air, deciding what‘s to do with us, prematurely drawn, the ways a summer seemed to be, with the moods made up, school clothes and boxed desserts, days finished off with tarts, because the projects got so far, with the small lusts told against the absence of our fathers?
Maybe the fun began in having learned to treat a subject, meaning we now were old enough, and now were made to wait outside where we had followed young, old enough to see too much reflected in composing, in the bride-based talk, in the scents and dustings meant to make the boys stand out,
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make the weather do in time as explanation, the locally mused accounts, the racket of fancies taking on their own inspiring, not that we could have known, or could have cast ourselves as something less than innocent, in touch with the lightning then, with the winds as cool as mothers seemed in after-thoughts, considering low flights, considering the standards of alarm their news-dulled sleeping had not figured, sorting an attic stuff, speaking such names as Ocean City and Bayonne, because they enjoyed the sounds of it, enjoyed the peace they made with words they got their hands on, inventing some deeper clef, some other language widening, in an announcer‘s confidence, in the careers of sons, forgetting the ways the costly versions ossified, the ways the heart had answered stress / or answered whispering. But nobody dragged boys kicking off engrossing mezzanines. And nobody let add up, thrilled by homecomings, by the absence say, or moved by one more trade-off with the huckster, projecting herself in tunes and in the warmth of birthday glazes, even as one demurred, and one put on perhaps, as if he could have hoped to scare advantage less, scare less these kinder modes of valediction, getting about this close, less, in the sense of love, than all her fierce remembering.
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Broken Time Sheri L. Wright
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Full Throttle Sheri L. Wright
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Fire From Steam Eleanor Leonne Bennett
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Reza Deghati London Portrait Eleanor Leonne Bennett
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Contributors Adam Wohnoutka received his B.A. in English from Gustavus Adolphus College. He currently resides in Plymouth, Minnesota.
Anne Willkomm earned her MFA from Rosemont College and her A.B from Bowdoin College. Her work has appeared in The Medulla Review, Sibyl Magazine, Memoirs of Meanness, and on FlashFiction.net. She has twice been named a semi-finalist in the William Faulkner Creative Writing Competition. She is the Program Advisor to the Rosemont College Publishing Program and teaches at Philadelphia University.
Christopher Dungey is a retired auto worker, although he still substitute teaches and takes sports photos for local papers around Lapeer, MI. His most recent work has been printed in Asphodel, Zone 3, Rockhurst Review, Pinyon, South Dakota Review. His online work can be found at paperskinglassbone and R.KV.R.Y., with work forthcoming in Gargoyle and Controlled Burn.
D.W. Miller is a writer, musician and visual artist from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He has previously published work in FreeFall and StopGap literary magazines.
Eleanor Leonne Bennett is a fifteen-year-old photographer and artist who has won contests with National Geographic,The Woodland Trust, The World Photography Organisation, Winstons Wish, Papworth Trust, Mencap, Big Issue, Wrexham science , Fennel and Fern and Nature's Best Photography. She has had her photographs published in exhibitions and magazines across the world including the Guardian (2010), RSPB Birds(2010) , RSPB Bird Life (2010), Dot Dot Dash (2010 and 2011) ,Alabama Coast (2010) , Alabama Seaport (2010) and NG Kids Magazine (2010). She was also the only person from the UK to have her work displayed in the National Geographic and Airbus run See The Bigger Picture global exhibition tour with the United Nations International Year Of Biodiversity 2010.Only visual artist published in the Taj Mahal Review June 2011. Youngest artist to be displayed in Charnwood Art's Vision 09 Exhibition (2009) and New Mill's Artlounge Dark Colours Exhibition (2011).Youngest to be published in Grey Sparrow Press (2011). Featured artist in Able Muse (2011).
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Erick Mertz is a writer based out of Portland, Oregon. F. Jaywing Fuller lives in the Cascade Mountains of northern California with his wife Christine and Minkha the Wonder Dog. He‘s been shot, stabbed, hooked, punctured, cut, gouged, scorched, stung, bitten, swarmed, skunked, mobbed, trampled, turned ankles, pulled muscles, torn tendons, split nails, broken bones, fallen off cliffs, fallen out of trees, fallen in rivers, been lost, lost skin, lost teeth, lost his keys, had poison oak, had ticks, endured giardia, suffered frostbite, caught cold and caught hell. He loves the outdoors! His writing has appeared in Black Lantern Publishing, Dark Fire Fiction (UK), Chico News and Review, College and Research Libraries News, Library Software Review, and CSU Chico‘s Studies from the Herbarium. He has written and hosted an astronomy program, Sky Traxx, for ten years with over 500 programs for the National Public Radio affiliate Northstate Public Radio, KCHO/Chico, KFPR/Redding.
Joanna Valente is a writer based in New York. John Stocks is a UK based poet who has had work published in magazines worldwide. He has been widely anthologized. In February 2011, he appeared in the ‗Soul Feathers‘ anthology, alongside Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Seamus Heaney, Carol Ann Duffy, Maya Angelou, Sharon Olds and others. This was the second best selling poetry anthology in the UK in January. In March he appeared alongside an exclusive interview with Yoko Ono in BURNER magazine. Recent credits include two nominations for the Pushcart prize and, in January 2011, I received the Mariner award for, ‗best of the best‘ work in BwS magazine 2010. He has work held under copy write at the English national poetry library.
Kevin Heaton‘s work has appeared in many journals, and has been nominated for the Pushcart prize, and Best of the Net for 2011. He is a listed poet at KansasPoets.com.
Lindsay D‘Andrea‘s poems are forthcoming or have appeared in The Columbia Poetry Review, The Emerson Review, The Susquehanna Review, The Allegheny Review and The North Central Review among others. In 2011, she was awarded an Academy of American Poets prize. She has recently been nominated for an AWP Intros Project award. She
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graduated in 2011 with a B.F.A in writing and literature from Emerson College, and is currently an M.F.A. candidate for creative writing at Iowa State University.
Matthew Porubsky lives in Topeka, Kansas and works as a freight conductor for the Union Pacific Railroad. His first book of poetry, voyeur poems, published by Coal City Press, was the winner of the Kansas Authors Club Nelson Poetry Book Award in 2006. His second book, Fire Mobile (The Pregnancy Sonnets), was released by Woodley Memorial Press in 2011 and his poetry has been featured in journals including Sierra Nevada Review, The Lampeter Review, The Journal (UK), Little Balkans Review and Flint Hills Review.
Michael K. Gause has taught German, sold men's clothes, stocked diapers at midnight, and served coffee to people he hopes never to see again. He was once told he'd never write anything good. Then last year he was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He figures that makes things square. He assumes responsibility for two chapbooks and is reluctant creator and host of The Dishevel‘d Salon, a monthly gathering of Twin Cities artists.
Peter Philipps is a retired writer and editor for The New York Times and Business Week magazine. His stories have appeared in several journals and anthologies.
Ray Succre is an undergraduate currently living on the southern Oregon coast with his wife and son. He has had poems published in Aesthetica, Poets and Artists, and Pank, as well as in numerous others across as many countries. His novels Tatterdemalion (2008) and Amphisbaena (2009), both through Cauliay, are widely available in print. Other Cruel Things (2009), an online collection of poetry, is available through Differentia Press.
Robert Leitz has over 700 of my poems that have appeared in more than one hundred journals in the U.S. and Canada, in Sweden and U.K, including Agni Review, Antioch Review, Carolina Quarterly, Epoch, The Georgia Review, Mid-American Review, The Missouri Review, The North American Review, The Ontario Review, Poetry, and Shenandoah. Seven collections of poems have been published, including Running in Place (L‘Epervier Press,). At Park and East Division ( L‘Epervier Press,) The Lindbergh Halfcentury (L‘Epervier Press,) The Inheritance (Sandhills Press,) and Storm Service (Basfal Books). Basfal also published After Business in the West: New and Selected Poems.
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Sheri L. Wright, the featured cover artist for this edition of The Midwest Coast Review, is the author of one full-length book of poetry, Nuns Shooting Guns, and four chapbooks, Sharks Never Sleep and Contains Scenes of Indigenous Nudity and the Courtship of Reason, including the most recent, The Slow Talk of Stones, by Finishing Line Press. Her works of poetry also appear in New Southerner, Pegasus, Leo, Out of Line, Chiron Review, Clark Street Review, Darkling and Earth's Daughters, Crucible and Kentucky Monthly Magazine and many others. She has been a guest poet on Accents, at 88.1 on WRFL out of Lexington, Ky. and on Janice Lee ―Featuring the Arts‖ on WSKV in Stanton, Ky. She has won awards with Jesse Poets, Green River Writers and the Kentucky State Poetry Society and has read extensively throughout the Kentucky/Indiana area. She has also been a volunteer editor for This I Believe. She has taught a poetry workshop for Women in Transition and The Kentucky State Poetry Society, judged the poetry division in The Golden Nibs for the Virginia Writers Club and for Green River Writers writing contest. She is a regional chair for the Kentucky State Poetry society and is co-chair for their adult poetry contest for 2011. Ms. Wright currently is the host of From the Inkwell, a one hour radio show dedicated to all things literary on CHRadio 1650am, live-streaming at www.CrescentHillRadio.com More examples of Sheri L. Wright's work can be seen at http://www.flickr.com/photos/sherilwright/ Please visit her website at www.scribblingsandsuch.com
Tony Burnett is a member of the Writers League of Texas and an award winning songwriter. He writes a natural science column for a regional Teaxs newspaper. His fiction has appeared in national literary journals.
William Shelton is an unpublished writer – or at least he used to be.
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