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FALL 2010 / SPRING 2011


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PROSE POETRY

...is a periodical of creative writing and visual art, edited and designed by students of the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign. The journal’s goal is to publish the finest creative work that this school has to offer. We strive to recognize talented undergrads and foster artistic creativity on campus.

TABLE OF CONTENTS ARTWORK

THE BIRTH OF THE COOL Jason Cruz . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 THE FUNERAL Valerie O’Brien

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

UNTITLED SERIES Stephanie Ruiz BEST FRIENDS FOREVER Matt Grobis

. . . . . . . . . 16

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

IN THE BATHROOM OF A KUM & GO TWENTY MILES EAST

Editor’s Note

OF CARTHAGE, MISSOURI Jason Cruz . . . . . . . . . . . 24

The last two semesters have been up and down for Montage. A rough Fall 2010 semester forced us to go without printing a journal. However, we’ve come back to give you this double issue, which I know you’ll find is filled with some of the best material we’ve ever published. Our new partnership with the Soybean Press has also brought more exciting opportunities to us and our contributors. Be sure to check them out and this semester’s winner, Valerie O’Brien. As always, we’re proud of the work we publish. I hope you’ll enjoy it. -Dan Klen, Editor-in-Chief

DIOR Maya Koenig

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26

MAHOMET Maya Koenig

. . . . . . . . . . . . . 27

MY TWITCHY FINGERS Matt Anderson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 EXODUS ON A BALCONY Faizan Syed . . . . . . . . . . . 30 HOPE, KANSAS SERIES Anna McClane

. . . . . . 32

SLOTH Barb Davidson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 INDEPENDENCE DAY Beth Cohon. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34 TIME, LIKE THE LIGHT Mary McCormack . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 OCTOBER Mallory Pernai . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41

Editorial

Staff

FALL 2010

SPRING 2011

EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Jeremiah Childers

Dan Klen

PROSE EDITOR PROSE FEEDBACK PROSE SOLICATIONS

Megan Cavitt Elizabeth Cohon Jack Labelle

Jason Cruz Elizabeth Cohon Dan Hass

POETRY EDITOR POETRY FEEDBACK POETRY SOLICATIONS

Dan Klen Paul Asta Matt Demarco

Jeremiah Childers Paul Asta Mary McCormack

TREASURER Kate Kinsella SECRETARY Jason Cruz ADVERTISING Faizan Syed EVENTS Dan Hass FUNDRAISING Sarah Phillips Ali Hawkins

Kate Kinsella Faizan Syed David Huettner Dan Hass Sarah Phillips

ART & DESIGN

Kristin Mueller Ian Ferguson Sanny Lin

Kristin Mueller Ian Ferguson Sanny Lin

Cover: 42 MINUTES by Maya Koenig

WALLPAPER Rachel Jennings KID Maya Koenig

. . . . . . . . . . . . 42

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43

THE LOVING CUP Anna Majeski . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 THE PAPERWEIGHT STARES BACKWARD AND REFUSES TO SPEAK TO ME Matthew Demarco . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48 WIND TURBINES Valerie O’Brien

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 51

TIGER Lauren Shepherd

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52

TORMENT David Huettner . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53 DAVH’S RIBBONS David Huettner . . . . . . . . . 54 EQUILIBRIUM David Huettner . . . . . . . . . . . 55 THE PARANOID David Huettner . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56 CONFESSIONAL Jason Cruz MY FATHER’S HOUSE Erik Allgood

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 64

SPINAL Rachel Jennings

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67

SUMMER AGE SEVEN Mike Andreoni

. . . . . . . . . . . 68

HOW I HAD, ON CASIMIR PULASKI DAY Jason Cruz . . . . 69 GHANDI Matt Glickson . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 70 BLUE MAN Ani Lagos . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 71


I. Venus de Milo

The Birth of the l o o C by Jason Cruz

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From across the alleyway where drunken dudes pissed after a night out at the neighborhood pubs, he heard her singing. A throaty mezzo-soprano embellished by the haphazard trumpet notes of one Miles Davis. The music meandered in the brisk air between the graffiti stained walls of their buildings like a poindexter on the gym floor during his first school dance; a feeling Obadiah knew all too well. Try as he might, O-tomatic, as he preferred to be called on Xbox Live, had trouble figuring out the lyrics; the vocals were muddled by the saran wrap that kept the windows airtight and the apartment at an enjoyable seventy degrees. But he hummed along anyway as he shoved the Totino’s pepperoni pizza into the old school oven and set the timer for thirteen minutes. It only took him three and a half large steps, or eight one-foot checkerboard ceramic tiles, to get from the oven to the porcelain sink attached on the opposite wall. There, he carefully cleaned his Buddy Holly eyeglasses and then took a minute to peer out the window and scan the exterior of the other apartment. All he saw were closed curtains and the shadows projected onto them. None of the apparitions looked like the vision he has in his head (the stereotypical obese opera singer cross-dressing as Erik the Red), so, instead, he focused on his main quest that evening: rescuing the pizza cutter from the evil confines of Dish Mountain. He looked into the sink and sighed. Staring back at him were two months worth of dirty dishes, glasses, and silverware stacked so tall that they nearly reached the tip of the faucet. He had organized the pile, all of it a collection of Christmas and birthday gifts from his mother, to be more spaceefficient by using his mad Tetris skills—even having the false hope that the right combination would make the pile disappear—but it just made locating a specific item nearly impossible without toppling the tower onto itself, or, worse, the floor. Obadiah knew that he only had himself to blame. He always hated washing the dishes. He remembered how his mother, with her height advantage and her piercing brown eyes and her refusal to wear her false teeth at home, forced him to do the dishes every night from when he was age eight to age twenty-five. One time she even took away his Game Boy, Pokemon Yellow cartridge still attached, for a whole month after a still chubby ten year old Obadiah went on strike by banging pots and pans and chanting the newly-learned phrase Taxation without Representation over

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and over. Obadiah learned never to question his mother on this subject after that ordeal, but he did ask his father one night why he couldn’t just use the dishwasher. Mr. McCloud, a fit baboon of a man, got up from his wellorganized desk, smiled, then lightly hit his son on the head with a rolled up Wall Street Journal, and told him in his gruff voice that real men do dishes the old-fashioned way and, goddamnit, don’t you want to be a real man, son? Obadiah looked at his father, nodded, and began to do the best damn dishwashing job he could do, even if he thought it was a waste of time. But by the time the ‘rents had kicked him out to make room for a new pool table, Obadiah no longer concerned himself with ideas of masculinity. After seeing real men, like the ones he went to high school with, cheat on their girlfriends and take advantage of the less cool, he was glad for his lack of alpha maleness—even if he did secretly admire the way they handled women. His mother would always ask him: Why haven’t you had a girlfriend yet, Obadiah? I’d really like some grandkids before I die. And Obadiah would just stare at her and mumble that he wasn’t ready just yet. But, of course, he knew the real reason for his lack of lovin’. He and his small crew of college chums had confirmed through a series of surveys that he wasn’t a particularly good looking man; he had curly sand-colored hair, white bread skin, a square face that placed his eyes too close together and his nostrils too far apart, and a large beer belly that made his scrawny legs look like toothpicks trying to hold up planet Jupiter. He just wasn’t made to get laid and he was perfectly fine with that. Unfortunately for him, though, none of the apartments in his price range came with dishwashers and he was forced to man up once again. Obadiah turned his body to look at the timer and saw that he had only eight minutes left. He reached for the first item of the pile, a red frying pan, like he was playing Jenga; his gut pressed up against the edge of the sink making it hard for him to breathe, his right arm began to quiver, his fingers twitched. He quickly backed away from the sink. He ran his hands through his hair, took a deep breath, told himself to calm down, that this was the easy one. He tried again, quicker, like a ninja this time, but right when his fingers grazed the handle, he noticed that the girl’s singing had stopped. Miles Davis too was quickly exchanged for some sort of bombastic rap music: a genre that Obadiah avoided ever since his mother found him in the closet listening to that heathen Vanilla Ice. From that day, when he was fourteen, until the day he moved out, she made him sit in the kitchen and listen to her old LP’s, mostly Beach Boys and Engelbert Humperdinck, for an hour right after he got home from school or work. She told him that music was a powerful form of mind control and the only thing she wanted was to keep him safe from all

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the bad voodoo of the world. He knew that she had his best interests at heart. Obadiah looked up and once again searched for where the music was coming from. His eyes were instantly drawn to a flash of light coming from the floor below and he watched as a brown haired girl dressed in a beige men’s dress shirt and a plaid skirt pulled up the blinds like a magician revealing the dove has disappeared. The girl then began to unbutton the shirt one button at a time, milking the big reveal. As soon as she exposed her breasts, Obadiah felt an instant need to look away, to shield his eyes, so he quickly picked up the almost filled bottle of Ajax sitting on the dust-covered white windowsill. He focused on the list of ingredients like he was cramming for an exam. Hmm, he muttered, lauramidopropylamine oxide—that sounds interesting. I wonder if it’s poisonous… After waiting fifty-four Mississippies, the amount of time it usually took him to get dressed, he slowly peered in her direction, secretly wishing that his timing was off. There was something about the girl’s lack of shame that seemed interesting to Obadiah; a boldness that he’s only seen in R rated movies and M rated video games and, even then, there was a reason for it. He was so startled to see the girl standing fully nude and staring out the window that he accidentally dropped the detergent bottle onto the floor. A loud thud echoed through his lonely apartment followed by the echoes of some selective swears. Quickly, he hid from view, hitting his head on the kitchen sink, although he knew there was no way she could have heard anything. He slowly counted to ten Mississippi. Then, he raised his body upwards until his eyes passed the tower of dirty dishes and became parallel with the window sill. He started to breathe heavily, to feel a bit dizzy, a bit wobbly in the knees, but, this time, he did not dare move away. Looking back into her window, he could see her still standing there, her head resting on her palm, staring at nothing in particular. Her body was positioned perfectly enough that the lamppost outside acted as a spotlight highlighting every curve and feature. This was the first time Obadiah had ever seen the naked female form in reality; of course, he’d seen it plenty of times in textbooks and through the wonders of the internet—but here it was like watching her on Blu-Ray, HDMI cord and all. Her straight brown hair waved as if controlled by magic, keeping clear of her hazelnut eyes at all times. Her stomach was well-toned, approaching almost six-pack status. Her skin was incredibly tan, a dark bronze color that made him guess that she was Mexican, maybe Puerto Rican. Her breasts were small compared to Obadiah’s

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other notable frame of reference, his mother, but they still drew his attention like no other part of her body, as if the nipples were little heads screaming Look at me! Look at me! He tried to respect the privacy of her privates, only noticing the tuft of wild unruly hair that reigned supreme in her nether regions. He watched as the girl walked over to the full length mirror attached to the maple closet door and tried out a variety of poses; his favorite was the one he deemed the Hulk Hogan with her scrawny arms curling downwards so that her breasts scrunched together and her tummy sucked in so tight that her ribs were visible and her eyes bulging from being all fierce and grizzly and her lips locked shut to the point that she seemed a second or two away from suffocating. She looked, at least in his eyes, a little bit constipated—but he felt that it was charming that she had a sense of humor about herself. After she finished her posing, the girl turned off the hip hop and wrapped herself into the cocoon of a sky blue cotton blanket and amusedly watched what Obadiah assumed was The Tonight Show. At least he thought that was Jay Leno on the screen; the tv was cut off due to her window frame. The show ended and the girl threw off her blanket and walked over to the window and closed the blinds and turned out the light. Oh, what a night, Obadiah thought to himself before noticing the smell of burning in the air. He cursed and grabbed the oven mitt and reached into the oven. The pizza was completely black, only useful as a novelty paperweight. He sighed and chucked it into the garbage can, making a soft clunk as it hit the bottom. Well, at least, I don’t have to wash all those dirty dishes. II. Moon Dreams Obadiah spent the time in between brushing his teeth and saying his prayers thinking about the naked girl. He wondered who she was, where she was from, why he never saw her before. He hopped into bed, pulled his Spider-man covers tightly over his large frame, fell asleep, and dreamed a dream about her. In a circus cage with the steel bars painted green, he sat naked. There were two clowns in there as well, one tall fat one dressed in blue and the other a short skinny fellow in red. Outside of the cage was jungle foliage,

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lots of trees and plants that Obadiah once knew in college but, soon after, became a forlorn memory. And in the shade of the leaves were his father and mother, standing outside the cage, gabbing to one another about the merits of Pop-tarts. Once they finished their talk, they turned toward the cage and began to throw wet peanut shells at Obadiah and the clowns while laughing maniacally. After they ran out of supplies, the duo taunted the trio by singing bawdy Shakesperian songs woefully off-tune. Suddenly, the sound of thunder echoed through the air followed by the jazz stylings of Miles Davis; it was like the introduction to a basketball game. Out of the bushes, then, came the girl, who was naked of course, riding a white stallion. She ran off Obadiah’s father and mother by whipping her whip like Jesus at the temple. She then lassoed the padlock off of the cage a la Wonder Woman lassoing for truth. Obadiah pushed past the clowns to meet her and then embraced her, enjoying the warmth of her skin, the feeling of two naked bodies touching. After he collected himself and finally let go, he and the other two clowns asked her why she saved them. Her response: You silly goose, I’m here to set you fre— And that’s when Obadiah woke up an hour and a half late for work. He threw off the covers, grabbed a pair of black slacks and an old high school gym shirt from the barely used pile of laundry and rushed out of the apartment, leaving it the aftermath of a rampaging bull who saw the color red. III. Darn that Dream Obadiah walked into Walgreen’s and his friend, a short young blonde man with an oblong face, grizzly bear goatee, horn-rimmed eyeglasses, and a blue plastic nametag that read Steve, was there, at the checkout, ready to greet him. Well, this is a new record. Are you ever going to get here on time, Obadiah? Steve proceeded to ring up the next customer in line: a hunched over grandmother with nineteen boxes of raisins in her basket. Dude, I had a rough night. See, I had this dream. Obadiah then went on to vividly describe his dream, using hand gestures and props and different voices when necessary, while also conveniently leaving out the triggering event. He nearly knocked over several customers in the process, apologizing profusely after every close call. When he finished, he took a deep breath and then asked: So, what do you think it’s about, man?

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I think you need some help. I’m going on break. Obadiah cringed when he heard this, his mouth formed a scowl. He followed Steve like his body was a tractor beam. C’mon, dude, you got any other ideas? Steve paused for a moment in the middle of cosmetics, started nodding to himself. Well, what can she be freeing you from? Obadiah thought of his daily life, his parents, his job. He saw his dirty apartment: the trash bags all filled up, the dishes still dirty, the piles upon piles of dress shirts and khakis stinking up the hamper. I don’t know. There’s nothing, really. He stared at Steve all doe-eyed, his foot tapped rapidly on the floor. O-tomatic, do you wanna hear my theory? Yes, absolutely. Obadiah smiled at him, urged him to continue. Alright, here we go. There’s this worldwide conspiracy against you because of your badass gaming skills. But the only way the bad guys, being the ethical motherfuckers that they are, can get you is through your dreams. Like Nightmare on Elm Street type shit, you know? And this girl, she’s a superspy from Spain whose only weapon is her sexuality. Esperanza Martinez, that’s her name. And the only way for her to free you from this tangled web of chaos is to have sex with you—for some reason or another. I haven’t really worked it out yet—although I wouldn’t blame her if she aborted the mission. Steve snorted, his belly jiggled like a lava lamp. Obadiah didn’t laugh. He backed away from Steve, his rear end bumping into the shampoo case. He clasped his hands together and sighed. Oh, go fuck yourself, Steve, Steve patted Obadiah on the shoulder and told him: Hey, I’m just screwing with you, man. You’re taking this shit way too seriously. But if you really want my advice, I think you should go back to work before you get fired. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I gotta jet; my break’s almost over. Steve turned to leave, but, before heading into the back room, asked: You’re still on for Call of Duty tonight, though, right? Obadiah just nodded his head, with his arms limp at his side.

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He wondered to himself as he restocked the magazine isle: What if Steve is right? What if it was just a silly little dream? He flipped through the gaming magazines, filled his head with cheat codes and new game names. He oogled the goodies of the models in Maxim, read the articles as well. He walked down the candy isle humming La Cucharacha, made maracas out of Nerds boxes. He forced his way through his shift without thinking about the naked girl at all. OK, maybe once or twice while in the john, but only because he forgot to bring in something to read. Other than that, he felt free from her spell. IV. Deception Obadiah hopped off the number 29 bus a block away from his apartment with a grin on his face. He walked briskly: his Skechers hitting the sidewalk faster than an up-for-reelection politician could kiss babies, his arms swaying like a pair of swings with hyperactive kids on board. He had a full night planned, starting with Call of Duty at eight, a microwave dinner consisting of Salisbury steak and mashed potatoes at ten, and then surfing the web until he succumbed to the need for sleep. He hummed the tune to Super Mario as he strolled into his alleyway and instantly stopped in his tracks like a child desperate not to ride her first roller-coaster. Leaning against the red brick wall like a new school Fonzie was the naked girl trying to light a cigarette. She wasn’t naked, of course; she wore a purple cardigan over a tight mahogany shirt and a pair of acid-wash skinny jeans that showed off her football shaped calves and the rest of her fine assets. Obadiah’s mouth drooped open like a Venus Fly Trap awaiting its next meal, his eyes opened wide as if they were baseball mitts awaiting pop flies. The girl’s cursing at her lighter broke Obadiah out of his trance and he looked for a way to escape from looking like more of a fool: Crawl behind the dumpster? No, too fat. Climb the fire escape? No, too fat. Run right by her? No, too fat. Hmm, there’s a theme running here. He finally decided to just plain play it cool—by acting like he turned into the wrong alley. Woopsie! He swung his right arm like he was uppercutting the air. She turned her face towards him and he got one good look at her before he spun around and waddled towards the street. He was about to take a sharp left and be home free when he heard a light breezy voice ask: Excuse me, sir? Sir? She started to walk towards him and he stopped his turning motion, almost tipping over like a shoved cow, but he placed his

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right foot down at the last second for added stability. He did not move from his spot, a dinosaur caught in a tar pit. Obadiah was too busy thinking about how polite the naked girl was: Nobody says excuse me or sir anymore. Well, except for sales clerks and the like. But golly! If she keeps this up, she could be the type of girl I could take home to mother! Obadiah grinned and didn’t notice that the girl was tapping him rapidly on the shoulder. Sir, are you alright? She wore a concerned look on her face, bit her chapped lip. Obadiah’s smile dissipated into a straight line when he finally felt her touch, he shifted his torso away from her and mumbled: Oh, I’m f-fine. Fine! He crossed his arms across the chest and took a baby step away from her. He tried not to make eye contact or eye-to-boob contact, which caused him to switch between looking at her neck and her forehead. The skin on both was extremely smooth. Obadiah assumed that she must go through a lot of lotion: That’s another thing we have in common! You were looking a little spaced there, she giggled. Obadiah couldn’t help but notice her breasts heaving up and down like the horses on a merry-goround. Must have been a long day, huh? He nodded and then started to rub his left forearm with his palm repeatedly. So, what did you want? His voice sounded much squeakier and off-pitch than he wanted. He attempted to hide his blushing cheeks by rubbing them with his hands, but that just made them turn redder Oh, I was wondering if you had a lighter. Mine’s busted. She pulled it out of her jean pocket and handed it to Obadiah. He felt a tingle of electricity when their fingers touched. He held the lighter up to his eye for a few seconds, analyzed it scientifically. Yes, I see. He shook his head at how obvious that statement was. He handed her back the lighter, anticipated the glory of her touch, and when it came, he tried to make that feeling last forever by fumbling the handoff. Oh, I’m sorry, he sighed, I’m new to this. You see, my mother had this saying: Those who smoke, croak. Those who don’t, won’t. He looked at the glazed over look in her eyes. I’m boring you, aren’t I? She quickly shook out of her trance and tried to hold back a smirk. No, it’s nice to find a man who respects his mother’s wishes. You don’t really see

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that around here. Or at least since I’ve been here. Obadiah’s eyes perked open at the mention of the word mother, his posture relaxed with his arms coming down to his sides and his stance widening. You—You’re new here? he stuttered and, then, smiled as soon as she nodded politely. Well, if you need someone to show you around, I’m your man. He gave her a thumbs up and then pointed to himself with said thumbs; a pickup gesture passed down in his family for generations. I’ve lived in this town my whole life, you know. Oh, really? Well, do you know where a girl could get some good foie gras around here? Of course, he exclaimed immediately. You’re looking at the best foie gras chef in town! He repeated the thumbs move and then nodded his head like a dippy bird. Ask anyone! Alright, sir. Mr…um… The name’s Obadiah. He offered her his hand. She took it. He wished she’d never let go. Liz, nice to meet you. And, well, Obadiah, if you’re as good a cook as you say you are, I’m all for it. I haven’t had a decent meal since I left New York. So, what about around eight tomorrow? Can you be ready by then? Oh wait, just kidding, I can’t do tomorrow. I have work, she laughed. How about the day after? She watched as Obadiah gave her the OK. Cool. I live in this apartment here. Room 3B. Total shithole, I know, but a girl’s gotta make her way up the ladder somehow. Well, good news. I actually live right there, he replied. In 4A. He pointed to the apartment behind him and watched as she sighed and closed her eyes. Something wrong, Liz? N-no, she stuttered, eight it is. She backed away from him, but still tryed to keep eye contact. Now, I gotta go find someone with a lighter. See you soon, Obadiah. She walked out of the alley and took a right. Obadiah watched her leave, then called up his buddy Steve: Dude, I can’t play this weekend. I’ve got to prepare for a date.

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Yeah, right, and I’m a level 70 Warlock. You’re just afraid I’m gonna whip your ass again. No, I’m not kidding. And guess what? It’s with the girl, you know, the one from my dream? Oh go fuck yourself, Obadiah. Call me when you grow some balls. Obadiah laughed as soon as his friend hung up. He then dialed up his mother: Hey mom, I was wondering if you knew how to cook foie gras? V. Move Obadiah walked into his apartment after the longest day of his life and marveled at how clean everything was. He had taken a mental health day, his fourth that month, so he could vacuum the grungy carpet and mop the foodstained floors and take out the piles of trash and, worst of all, wash the dishes. He had lumped most of his laundry into garbage bags, the barely used pile he stored in his closet, and brought the rest to his mother’s. I’ll pick it up in a couple of days, he told the grey haired, hunched over woman who was hard of hearing. She gave him a couple of plastic bags filled with all the materials for dinner, including the foie gras. Before he left, she hugged him and told him that it was fantastic that he finally found himself a girl. Obadiah wished he could tell her that it wasn’t serious, that they didn’t even know each other, that it probably wouldn’t last that long, maybe not even past the first date— but instead he just kissed her on the forehead and said: Yes, of course, Mom. Tell Dad I said hello. She said: Make sure to change your sheets.

milking every slight bit of movement for the imaginary cameras. He went back into the bathroom and performed poses in the mirror: the Super Mario with his right fist in the air along with his left leg, leaving his nether regions terribly exposed; the Superman with his body leaning slightly forward with his arms extended and the balls of his feet off of the ground; and, of course, the Hulk Hogan. Obadiah then brushed his teeth, made sure to wipe up all the spit and toothpaste that missed the sink and landed on his skin. He turned off the radio, plopped down on his Spiderman covers, and placed one pillow, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle one, behind his head and the other, a Legend of Zelda pillow, between his legs. He curled up into the fetal position and forced himself to have a good night’s sleep; he wanted to be at his best for the big day. Unfortunately, Obadiah couldn’t ignore the excitement building inside him; he watched minutes turn into hours until he finally remembered the trick his mother taught him. He drank four shots of raspberry-flavored vodka and then counted an entire nation of sheep, all jumping over the oak fence to the rhythm of Miles Davis’ trumpet: one two three, now, four five six. He finally fell asleep with a smile on his face. He did not dream a dream about her. He did not dream a dream at all.

Obadiah walked into his bathroom and turned on the radio, searched for an oldies station. The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” came on, filling the room with harmonies. He undressed until all he had on were his Pacman boxers that sat tightly around his waist. He slowly dropped those too, hid them under the counter, and then looked at himself in the bathroom mirror above the sink. He smiled at his flabby belly that acted as insulation for his genitals, his lack of chest hair and his overabundance of leg hair, and the skin that dripped and hung from his arms like molasses. He felt the groove in the music and decided to let himself get swept up in the feeling. He paced from the bedroom to the living room and back like a supermodel on the catwalk,

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The Funeral Valerie O’Brien

I. I lost my appetite for blueberries when I saw that rabbit on the sidewalk palsied and paralytic sprawled on the cement, vulnerable to the appetites of passing cats. Unnaturally close I saw my reflection in its obsidian eye and I didn’t know what to do. They don’t teach you in school what to do about young rabbits you find with clumped wet fur and a heaving chest or how to eat blueberries while something dies outside your front door.

III. In my dreams I resurrect my grandmother, her smile no longer the grimace of a child’s skull, warm recognition returned to her slate eyes. She tells me she finished her soup. I had fed her for weeks. IV. After I found that rabbit I dreamed instead of a shoebox made of oak, my grandmother lay inside on plastic grocery bags. I missed her voice but I could eat again now that I could stop watching her starve to death. They don’t teach you how to eat blueberries while something dies inside you.

II. Maybe just so I can say I did something I cradle the rabbit in plastic grocery bags I set it in a shoebox I drive it west and leave it at the vet clinic. When I call later in the week they tell me it died there.

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Untitled series S T EP HA NIE RUIZ

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Best Friends Forever Matt Grobis

Andy and Vornagar sat at the top of the hill, eating grilled cheese and head of human, respectively. Vornagar’s curled horns appeared all-consuming and lifeshatteringly black from a distance, but upon closer inspection one could see that the atoms that constituted the supernatural keratin were miniature planets, their electrons little dead suns that spun around their Earths, as it should be according to geocentrism / the truth. A little carbon atom inhabitant glanced at his watch, whose atom-atoms were spiky and arranged in a way that absorbed the black electron light and processed it into a usable form, before sighing existentially. Suddenly, the carbon atom world collided with an enormous, unfathomably huge collection of Earth-atoms and everyone on the planet died. Vornagar shook his head and the fly buzzed away. It flew some sixteen feet up, which was nice, but two hundred miles above the Earth was an asteroid intent on destruction. It was sent by , a humanoid computer species whose 12,960,014,338,619 quadrillion x 101,000,000,000,000-millenia reign included the creation of God (and his ill-advised subsequent creation of life, which thus resulted in his termination), all matter and the observable universe (the hang out in the non-observable universe, several dimensions away), and time. Time was pretty important because otherwise their test subjects would stare into space meaninglessly for several eternities before disintegrating into nonsensical oblivion, much to the displeasure of their creators. Emotion was another big one, at least for the subjects, but it kind of happened as a joke – one of the , for the annual Thanksgiving dinner, brought a prototype

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of a life form it had been working on. Physiologically it worked great: endoplasmic reticulae good, glucose-6-phosphates in ready supply, apoptotic processes functioning normally, you know, elementary shit, but the wanted to show off. It made the life form conscious of its actions. That made it turn its anthropomorphic head left to right and stare blankly at the dinner plates in front of it. Sensing the failed expectations, the then decided to give it personality – a.k.a. illogical decisions. If this life form broke up with its longterm girlfriend, it would ingest chemical poison with its bros and parade around its university campus with its underwear on its head. The prototype was a hit at the party; unfortunately, illogically, it mated with another test subject and formed Nickelback, nearly wiping out the entire population before they invented volume control. Anyway, back to Andy and Vornagar. “Which part of the head is your favorite?” Vornagar asked, lobbing a nose into his fiery mouth. Andy, who had been keenly keeping his eyes away, glanced at his foreign exchange student from Hell. “We don’t eat people on Earth,” he said, half-smiling for a moment. He considered adding ‘that’s disgusting’ but figured perhaps he simply wasn’t cultured and open-minded enough. “You do not eat human at all?” Vornagar asked, splitting the skull into two pieces and spraying the ground with brains. He took a piece off his fur and placed it on his forked tongue. “Then what do you eat?” His eyes firmly planted on the canary watching their picnic in the nearby tree, Andy said, “Well, chicken. Vegetables. Coke. The drink, not the drug.” He smiled, counting the number of branches on the tree for the second time in the past ten seconds and getting six instead of nine for some reason. “I don’t know. Processed stuff.” “You eat animals?” Vornagar exclaimed, his mouth full of the remnants of the head. “The cruelty!” “You’re a vegetarian?” Andy asked, glancing at his furry friend before vomiting a little on the inside. He shook his head, which was fortunately not in Vornagar’s stomach. Vornagar reached into his satchel and pulled out a leg – a teen girl’s, judging by the purple Barney slipper still on the foot – and took an enormous bite. “Of course I am,” he said, his voice muffled. “Eating humans is much more sustainable for the environment. It addresses the growing human population, provides a happy alternative to the death penalty, and is a good source of saturated fats and sodium.” “Mm,” Andy murmured before putting down his sandwich and lying back in a patch of grass Vornagar had not burnt with his hooves. As he closed his eyes, he heard the sound of children at the bottom of the hill screaming in horror and Vornagar taking another massive bite.

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One of Andy’s cells wasn’t feeling too hot. He was just an epithelial cell, nothing cool like nervous or muscle, and all of his friends had just become skin and died. His departure was at 1:54pm (Central Time) and he was anxious. The outside was a realm of mystery and excitement, but the whole dying thing seemed grisly and unpleasant. “How… are…” Andy’s cell perked up. The neurotransmitters from the cell next door were floating in. “…you…doing…T1380001?” “I’m good,” he coded, sending signals back. “Just worried.” After a few nanoseconds’ pause, which felt like an eternity in this part of Andy’s body (his fourth toe on his left foot), (seriously, nothing happens here [at least, nothing that interesting {there was that one time where T4100329 turned into cancer and went on a metastatic rage and everyone in the neighborhood got excited when the macrophages rushed in and gobbled that guy up, but other than that, not really}]) the message streamed back. “I’m… hungry. Got… any…. ATP?” T1380001 sighed before promptly dying. Back on the surface, Andy took out cookies from the oven and slid them onto a plate. Walking into his living room where his friends were sitting, he smiled broadly and said, “Cookies, anyone?” Jeff, David, and Andrea glanced in his direction before turning back to Vornagar. Andy put the plate on the table and sat in a chair opposite V-Man, as David had just christened. “How often do you pillage?” Vornagar asked, the tip of his tail moving left and right on the couch. He caught Andrea staring at it and she quickly looked away, her face reddening. “We don’t, uh, do that,” Andy said, his voice cracking for a moment. He cleared his throat. “We, I mean, people haven’t done that in a long –” “Dude, Vornagar’s so sick,” Jeff exclaimed, leaning forward in his chair. “We should totally bring pillaging back.” “V-Man’s the man! V-Man’s the man!” David cheered, raising his hands. Andrea winked at Vornagar when he turned towards her. Looking back at Andy, he said, “It was written in the program description that your country pillages.” “It must be really out of date,” Andy started before being cut off by shouts, almost chant-like, of “V-Man’s the man!” Andy leaned back in his chair and thought about something, much like a rock doesn’t. Nobody looked at him for the next two minutes, like this one rock outside Andy’s apartment that nobody ever looks at because it’s from Franklin, Indiana and not Pluto, like its vibrant and enticingly purple neighbor. When his friends finally left and Vornagar busied himself with the dishes, Andy waited a minute before exiting as well and heading for the library (though he had no work) and sitting in a chair trying to look busy (though this is awkward) until after twenty-three dreary minutes he resigned and slowly made his way back to the apartment.

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“Grubba bump fug. Shnubba she yuffin?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah yeah.” “Mm. Shnubba.” Andy looked at Vornagar out of the corner of his eye before turning back to the stereo. This particular CD, Nonsensical Deliverance, was at least better than Vornagar’s previous attempt at a musical connection with Andy – The Top 100 Countdown of Bloodcurdling Screams. Dozens of Andy’s CDs lay strewn around Vornagar, who was sitting cross-legged and staring intently at the stereo as if he couldn’t believe it was made out of plastic rather than metal and stone. Vornagar was impressed with Andy’s collection of polka, country, techno, and death metal (which, after a quick listen, he professed was nothing like Hell at all) and said Hell only had a limited collection of Shania Twain and R. Kelly in its central library. “May I burn some of these CDs?” he asked. Andy actually smiled despite his sour mood. “Why do you find that humorous?” Vornagar asked, his face puzzled. “Oh, it’s nothing. Just a funny play on words.” “Play on words? Like ‘up the from a juxtapose a the of ’?” Andy laughed this time. “No, no. Content-wise. It’s just… ‘burn’ means fire and whatnot but in this case ‘burn’ is with a CD and you’re from… I don’t know, do you see?” “No.” “Well… I mean… haven’t you heard of humor?” “Nobody in Hell has a sense of humor.” “You at least know what humor is, though, right?” “Yes, I have studied it.” “Right,” Andy said, his smile slowly fading. Vornagar looked at him for a few seconds before turning to stare at the stereo. “Well, honey, it’ll just take some time before you two get to know each other!” “We are getting to know each other, Mom,” Andy said, leaning his head against the wall, the poster of the scantily-clad women riding motorcycles while reading The Iliad – the perfect unison of Andy’s passions – stretching against his touch. He fingered the nightlight on his wall. “I just… I don’t know. Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea.” “WOULD YOU LIKE KETCHUP ON YOUR MACARONI AND CHEESE?” Vornagar boomed from the kitchen. “Yes please!” Andy shouted through the door. He put the phone back on his ear. “I mean, the guy’s crazy. He’s just… different. I don’t know. I should have hosted that guy from France… well, actually, not sure if that would change anything…”

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“It’ll take time, darling,” Andy’s mother cooed from the telephone. “But I need to get going. I’m walking Molly right now.” The sound of a savage animal ripping apart an innocent passerby reached Andy through the phone before his mother hung up. He turned and lied down on his bed, staring at the ceiling. “WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO FOR A WALK?!” Vornagar bellowed. “Sure!” Andy screamed, his hands clenched into fists. He closed his eyes and frowned, taking a slow deep breath. After trying to count to ten but getting lost around 7, he opened his eyes. “My tummy’s turnin’ and I’m feeling kinda homesick, too much pressure and I’m nervous,” Andy sang under his breath, “That’s when the DJ dropped my favorite tune.” He shook his head. “God I fucking love you, Miley.” The sun was blistering hot. The two slowly treaded onward, their feet dragging against the ground, their mouths hanging open, pleading with the air for nonexistent moisture. Pain! the overhead Sun cried. You have not endured what I have in these long, miserable years. Now suffer! A blast of hot air made them wince as they rounded a corner and were swiftly eaten by a voracious honey badger. Fortunately, Andy and Vornagar were thousands of miles from Randy and Rvornagar when the latter two met their untimely demise at the hands of a cute black-and-white mammal that kills its prey by ripping off its genitals. Honey badgers are traditionally not found in northern Germany, which may have contributed to Randy and Rvornagar’s unexpected and excruciating deaths. Their walk free of vicious animals, Andy and Vornagar passed a triumvirate of skateboarders who gave hi-5’s to Vornagar as they passed (the skateboarders were not vicious). Shuffling their feet slowly down the sidewalk, Andy’s sneakers squeaky and Vornagar’s hooves hipster, Andy glanced at his compatriot before taking a breath. “Hey… Vornagar. V-Man.” He chuckled half-heartedly. “Are you… enjoying your time studying abroad?” Vornagar smiled, striking fear into Andy’s heart with his pointed teeth. “Of course, Andy. This is one of the highlights of my life after death. I have never felt such elation as I do at this moment.” He glanced around, at the garbage bins overflowing with rolls of toilet paper in the driveway to their right, the gang of elderly women performing grand theft auto on a 1992 Toyota Camry to their left, and the one-eyed wiener dog ahead of them. He sighed. “It is simply magnificent.” “Good, good,” Andy said, carefully stepping over a 12-gauge shotgun someone had left lying on the sidewalk. “I just… I don’t know. I wanted to make sure things are good, that you’re happy. I don’t know.” “Andy, if you are referring to Andrea…” “Andrea! Oh, no, not at all, just, well, if that’s working out, it’s great, I mean I’m just –”

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Vornagar smiled, looking at Andy in a way that said Trust me. Though you have endured the emotional torrents of failed relationships and lackluster friendships, my behavior is simply an attempt to make my father, an ex-medical researcher who studied philosophy at Knox College and then changed his mind from traveling the world in pursuit of rich conversation for two and a half years of volunteering in various animal shelters in the San Francisco Bay Area before entering medical school in the Caribbean and graduating 32nd out of a class of 102, proud of me because I have done little in my twenty-four years in Hell to deserve his praise and loving care. Andy stared at Vornagar. “What do you mean by that look?” Vornagar cleared his throat, which sounded like a blender trying to make a cell phone smoothie. “Perhaps… this will be a better indication of my thoughts.” He extended a hand. Andy raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?” “I mean,” Vornagar began, leaving his hand extended. “That I want to thank you for your hospitality. Everyone is very kind to me, but it is to you I owe thanks. I have been meaning to show my gratitude… and I believe it is finally time.” A small smile appeared on Andy’s face. “…really? Do you really mean that?” “Yes.” The smile grew to a full-fledged grin. “Wow, I… I thought you didn’t like me.” “No.” Andy shook his head. “Yeah, Vornagar. Yeah. You’re a good guy.” They shook hands and the two nodded. “So now what?” Andy asked as they began to walk again. “Well, I was considering –” But whatever Vornagar had been thinking, Andy never found out. The asteroid sent by the smashed into the Earth at that moment, causing a massive explosion that rocked the planet and broke it into millions of pieces. Even the honey badgers died. *

*

*

50,000 years later, one of the x-ed out of the “Humans Who Influenced the Fate of the Entire Universe” app on its vintage i-Phone and shook its metallic head. Turning to the computer screen, it began to type. “Best Friends Forever” by Matt Grobis (1990 to 30,000 a.d.) is an attempt to chronicle the lives of two humanoids, one pre- and one post-death. The writing is decent but left me desiring more. The ending, while surprising, failed to elicit a significant response. Decision: Category 771, do not read unless absolutely mandatory.

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In the Bathroom of a Kum & Go Twenty Miles East of Carthage, Missouri, Jason Cruz

I bought myself a condom. No, not the lamb-skin ones my baby brother got. Those beauties cost an extra fifty cents & Becky always threw fits when I spoiled her. She woulda gotten a kick from the wrapper though, a parody of Wood’s American Gothic with the condescending woman switched out for a busty cartoon sheep who wore Daisy Dukes, a white see through blouse, & yellow-rimmed sunglasses that hid her doe-eyes from the dogs & the ducklings that viewed from afar like a group of Vietnam vets ogling the Playmates at a USO show. But who could blame them for hooting & hollering? Who wouldn’t want to saddle up with that bodacious bod? Oh, if only I was a proud child of those parts, I’d rush to my mobile home, gather up all of the loose quarters huddled together between the couch cushions like a couple without an umbrella during a storm, & buy out that whole dispenser just to have a month’s affair with her, to revel

Or maybe she’ll be rescued by an upstanding garbage man & sent to a dump somewhere; Branson, perhaps, where she’ll meet up with the rest of her kin & they’ll talk about men like me. About how we were rough & clumsy with our hands, how our cocks were so small that it was like trying to fill the Missouri with a rain drop, how we didn’t even have the courtesy to say farewell, sayonara, ciao, bah bah black sheep. & though she has done well without me so far, there are some days, when the clouds paint the sky a cliche melancholy grey, I wish I had spent that extra fifty cents rather than settling for the ribbed for her pleasure. I would have loved her company after the trip to Carthage’s very own Precious Moments Park, where the princess statues that Becky bought, & their beady eyes, oh piercing porcelain, haunted me so much in the hotel room that I found it hard to get hard. I fought the desire to hurl the girls off of the balcony & hear the crack of their hearts. Instead, I lay in bed & started to count sheep-girls. Fat, skinny, one by one they jumped over the oak fence, their breasts jiggling like Jello, until there were no more left. Then, I too tried to leap over—but they had already gone on to greener pastures. There, they will live their lives without me. They will learn not to trust men like me. They will persevere because of it.

in the smoothness of her skin in the back of my Ford F-150 as we listen to Loretta Lynn singing love songs on the radio. & when I’m finished, craving shut-eye, I’d chuck her out into the moonlight, let the wind blow whichever way it pleases. Perhaps she’ll end up stuck to the bottom of a hiker’s Timberlands & travel the rustic trails of the Ozarks before finally set free in the rushing waters of the creek where her grandmother once drank or the tall bluegrass where they used to eat their supper.

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MAYA KOENIG

Mahomet Dior

M AYA KOE NI G

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My Twitchy Finger By Matthew Anderson

Kyra looks even better through the scope of a high powered rifle. At 50x magnification, her lashes become oak trees sprouting from the forest of her green eyes. Her freckles morph into craters scattered across her moon-white skin. Every morning, Kyra walks down Pennsylvania Ave. arm in arm with her boyfriend Chuck. I hate Chuck. Kyra dumped me for Chuck, a secret service guy with caterpillar eyebrows. Chuck can make his eyebrows squirm to convey any emotion. They crawl up and down his forehead, spinning together lies. I never cheated on her. How could she believe him? Today, Kyra wears her designer jacket that I bought her. The one I spent two months salary on. Through the scope, I pick out her initials scribbled on the MADE IN FRANCE tag. Chuck whispers something to Kyra. I see his taste buds, wet with coffee flavored spit, centimeters from her ear. Chuck and Kyra stop and look in my direction. Chuck points and laughs. I know they are talking about me. “Poor George huddled up on the roof of the White House. Just him and his rifle and eight hours to kill. Protecting the president from the tourists, I mean terrorists. Good ol’ George, always doing his duty.” You never forgive the first girl who strapped your heart to a hand grenade and pulled the pin. I’ll never forgive her lying boyfriend. Kyra said it did not matter if I cheated or not, she thought we had grown apart. “All that being alone gets to you George,” she had said. “It changes you.”

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The winter winds somehow slip under my camouflaged jacket. When I get lonely and my vision blurs, I close my eyes and picture Kyra how I liked her best. The lady bug freckles glowing under her eyes, her dandelion dimples, always budding up at the oddest times. I picture her curled up in front of the fireplace, waiting for me to come home from a late shift, greeting me with a hug that melts every muscle in my body. I open my eyes. Chuck is down on one knee, holding a box. The box pops open and sunlight glints off a ring. Through the scope, the ring could encircle Saturn in a halo of gold. My whole body trembles. I zoom in on Kyra’s face. I know her look, lips curled up, noise twitching. She is going to say yes. Seconds later, her shouts of joy echo off the roof. I put the cross hairs between Chuck’s bushy eyebrows. Imagining a hotdog sized slug of metal snapping through the air, just close enough to sizzle the furry caterpillars right off his face. I’ve killed Chuck hundreds of times this way. I’ve killed grandmas and tour guides and bubble gum chewing children too. You can’t expect an armed soldier to look out over a crowd of people his whole life and not entertain the “what ifs”. Kyra squeezes Chuck’s arm and leans her head on his shoulder, burying her nose in his warmth. She wraps her arms around his waist. My finger tightens on the trigger. Today, I want the “What Ifs” to become reality. That familiar voice in my head fires up. What if I sneeze? Or if an icy wind blasts off the Potomac making me flinch? What if a single neuron in my brain misfires and I twitch? What if that lying son of a bitch climbs over the fence so I’m authorized to blow him in half? My crosshairs follow Chuck and Kyra as their footsteps crunch through the snow. What if that was me?

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Exodus on a balcony. Faizan Syed

In the voice of wings, your movement cuts the air, arm swooping upward as if underwater, as the tip of your thumb erupts into flame which lingers on flesh, bleeds a trickle of light that smothers your shoulders like the dense embrace of that boy who wouldn’t let go, wouldn’t stop hissing into your ear You are my harp My harp My wooden harp (Nipples aren’t strings you can’t pluck them like that, they’ll never settle in the same way you wanted to say)

We have seen their wings bleed into each other painted eyes that flutter as if caught in the stutter of naked breeze. We have heard the curled and strangled gasps of strings severed one by one, hearts in rupture, then spilled like shadows all over the asphalt their splintered frame turned heavy as silence. We have fallen through the gape of their mouths. It’s no wonder I say. Noone is quite imperfect enough.

The railing yawns, the street recedes, peach fuzz gives way to ink, and your skin drinks up indigo space. I can’t stand to watch the white stick in your mouth die into a streak of ash, a ghost upon your lips. You look my way: the foldaway chair buckles as I sink into your leer. You ask of me: Why do so many mating butterflies reject one another? If they’re all so goddamned beautiful? 30 MONTAGE

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B ARB DAV IDSON

Sloth Hope, Kansas Series A N N A MC CL ANE

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Independence Day by Beth Cohon

“Emily, did you get the paper like I asked you?” he bellowed from the end of the yard, his voice gritty like a tire driving slowly over gravel, she thought. When she didn’t answer quickly enough he shouted again, though he finally saw her, kneeling over the patch of dirt next to the house. “Emily? You’re going to the house, just get the paper, would you?” Jack shouted as he turned the radio up high, blasting “Sweet Home Alabama” on Jimmy D’s afternoon countdown special for the Fourth of July. He kicked a pile of bleach-colored grass into the fire pit from his spot in the lawn chair and took a swig of beer before balancing the can upright on the ground. She smelled the smoke from the burning grass as it curled its way through the air toward her, and when it hit her, she released the fist of dirt she had been clenching in her hand. The dirt was clumpy and left red imprints of rocks and tiny twigs into her palm. And this is what it would be like, what’s left, she thought, looking at the garden in front of her. She turned. “Yes, Daddy.” She got up and headed for the back door. Daddy’s beer would be getting warm in the sun, she thought. And while he’d be reading the paper he’d forget about the beer getting warm, and make her go back and forth getting him beers all afternoon. There was something about a schedule that always seemed too rigid, but now, this will be rewarding, once it was all over. This could be a good thing, she thought, opening the screen door. Now. Paper. Tool shed. Beer—No, that wouldn’t do. She would give him a beer first, before going to the shed. She’d wait on him hand and foot if he asked her to. Let him watch her, and feel how he does. She decided three beers would do the trick. He’d be right on the edge between slurring and arm swinging, right before he could do any real harm, but it’d give him a little time to get nice and comfortable. Emily heard the muted bass of the radio when she closed the sliding glass door behind her. Inside, it was cool and dark, but temporary, she thought,

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like a cloud passing over the sun. The air conditioner unit rattled frigidly from the living room window, and as she ran her hand over her bare, sunburned shoulder, she thought of how good it would feel to press the red skin to the cold metal. It was a hell of a hot sun, she thought, to be able to burn her from so far away. Paper, she thought. Paper. One in the afternoon and the paper was still in the front yard. She shook her head, thinking, this is what a mother would be good for sometimes. Good for cooking dinner and cleaning up Daddy’s bedroom and getting the morning paper in the morning instead of when the day was halfway over. She wasn’t cut out for that kind of work—cleaning and cooking and taking care of her father (he needed so much taking care of these days) and acting like a wife when it was enough of a job to take care of herself, as a sixteen-year-old must do in these circumstances. Hell, she thought. I have rights, my rights, and I deserve this, finally. “Emily!” She looked out from the kitchen window into the backyard. Jack’s brows were furrowed over his sunglasses, and his huge red belly stuck over the sides of the lawn chair. He looked intently at the house, as if he could see her right through the window, though she knew that was impossible. The windows were tinted yellow, and besides, a layer of condensation was covering the outside glass. Still, she wanted to make sure. She closed the drapes and opened the cabinet over the stove. This house is trash, she thought, as she fished through a barrier of soup cans, spices, a box of cornbread mix, until her hand felt a long, glass object. She slid out the vase carefully, bracing the foods with her other hand. It was long and smooth and clear with flecks of white dust all through the inside. She took it to the sink and filled it up completely before pouring the majority of the water out in order to swish some around in the bulb at the bottom, cleaning away any remaining dust. “Emily!” She slammed the vase onto the kitchen counter with a violent thud, sending a spray of water like a fountain over the lip and into the air before the droplets fell around the glass. Her red shoulders ached, and the hotness spread up her neck as she quickly started towards the front door to get the paper.

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Paper and beer in hand, she paused before opening the back door, caught her breath, and plastered a daughterly smile on her face. Remembering, she popped open the tab before stepping outside. “Daddy! What’s wrong?” She smiled while walking over to Jack. She almost felt sorry for him, almost changed her mind, the smile was so convincing. “What’s wrong is you taking a goddamn hour to go and do what I tell you.” He didn’t smile back as he took first the beer and then the paper from Emily. “It wasn’t no hour.” “You know you’re not to argue with me. Listen—” “Daddy, it’s a holiday. Just relax. You do nothing. I’ll take care of you. You just sit in the sun and drink your beer and read your funnies.” “Well,” Jack grunted. “I knew you was a good girl.” He settled his legs on a log in front of him and sighed. “Just like you ma. She was real good to me.” “I know, Daddy, I know.” She frowned and stared at Jack, trying to imagine him younger, lean and pale and handsome—the kind of man who would have attracted her mother. She turned on her heels and headed for the shed next to the house. “I want dinner by five! Grilled willy dogs tonight, and don’t forget the sauerkraut! You get those buns like I told ya?” Jack shouted, as she closed the door behind her. She paused and clenched her jaw. Nobody, she thought, feeling goosebumps forming on the back of her neck, like a cat ready to strike—nobody was gonna say she was like her mother. The shed was something Emily tried to keep up when Mama left. There were the obvious things like cooking and laundry that were expected of her right off the bat, seeing as they were more natural for her than for Jack to take over. The house though, Mama had been so good at keeping it spotless. When Daddy left his plates

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and beer cans on the floor Mama had diligently scooped them away. There was hardly a trace of liquor in the house at all. Emily remembered years ago before Mama left how she knew Daddy was drinking beer but never ever saw a beer can sitting around after he drank it. When they started piling up was when Mama left, though Emily couldn’t remember which came first really. All she remembered was that the house seemed to get smaller, more crowded, and darkened with stains and foul smells all the time. Not that she hadn’t tried to keep the house clean, but it was like every time she closed her eyes or looked away for a second, another stain seeped up through the rug, stacks of newspapers began growing like weeds, and something was festering behind the walls—some kind of mold, or maybe asbestos. That was it—the house was cancerous, growing inward like a tumor, and rotting. So she kept the garden. In the shed were stacks of fertilizer and soil bags and gardening tools on the far wall hung neatly in order like shiny toys. Stacks of orange, clay pots stood blocking half of the doorway; a watering can and knee rest were on a table at the side of the room next to piles of seeds and bulbs separated by type of flower. It was all neat and in place and he never came in or touched anything. Emily stood on her toes and reached for the clippers hanging on the wall. Out in the garden flowers rested in neat rows. She really had no idea what sort of arrangement to make when she had started planting, so rows seemed the simplest thing to do. There was a row of sweat peas, then petunias, hydrangeas, lilies, and even carnations, though she thought those looked too flashy. But her pride and joy were the vines of roses at the far end of the garden which grew along the side of the house. She didn’t know what kind of roses they were, but they came in yellow and pink and coppery bronze and looked like a sunrise against the rust colored brick. Or a Tuscan summer. They had to have roses in Tuscany. Or at least vines and gardens and wine instead of mowed lawns and hot dogs and fire pits. Emily stepped lightly over the rows of flowers to get to the roses which she meant to prune and cut to put in the vase inside. As she clenched the clippers in her hand she looked behind her. He was almost done with the beer, because he was belching and whistling loudly to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Was this the time? Not yet, he wasn’t drunk yet and that would make it easier. And let him have his last fun, she thought. After all, it was the Fourth of July—it was a holiday. She clipped three roses—the highest she could reach—put the clippers down against the side of the house, and went inside. Funny, she thought, as she put the roses in the vase, how some things like pruning roses still seemed to matter. But

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still she knew – maybe it was out of habit, or maybe it was precaution – that she couldn’t skip the roses. In the fridge were three more cans of beer from the six pack Jack had bought in the morning. He ought to have the last of them, she thought. But three more? No. She looked behind her. No, just one more and then do it. After all, he didn’t need to be drunk—just loosened up. Besides, the sun would do half the job, because once you fall asleep with the July sun in your eyes, you sleep a long, long time. She grabbed a can and braced herself on the table. Come on, open the damn thing, it’s the right thing to do. Mama wasn’t strong enough, and she was stronger than Mama, she just knew it. She would never become a wife and a mother like her. She would take care of herself, move to Italy and live near the sea, where people didn’t burn in the sun, but glowed. And hell with the three more beers—I’ll do it now, she thought. She snapped off the tab and took the beer over to the sink. Before pouring it out, she took a corner of the curtain above the sink and pushed it aside. He was still there, reading with his legs stretched like two sausages across the log in front of him. She closed the curtain slowly and poured about a quarter of the beer down. Under the sink she found the gray bottle and ever so carefully, while holding it steady with both hands, poured until the beer reached its regular level. She found a coffee stirrer to mix it up nice and even, and held the can up to her nose. Nothing. She couldn’t smell anything but the beer, which seemed awfully lucky. She considered tasting it with the very tip of her tongue but knew Jack wouldn’t know the difference. If he trusted her questionable cooking, he would drink a beer even if it tasted a little off, she reasoned. “Emily!” Her hair rose and she shivered, surprised how easy it actually felt. She had done it; she was ninety percent done, she thought. The rest was cherry pie. Tasty, well deserved, and downright patriotic, on a day like this.

When had she heard him say it before? “You’re welcome,” she said in a low voice, trying to muster up all the reasons she hated him, but the hot air seemed to boil them away like sweat through her. Her shoulders burned and peeled and she just felt ashamed for being more of a coward than Mama ever was. “You never call me that.” She paused, waiting for something. “Ain’t that the truth, then,” he said, leaning down to pick up the beer as he finished off his last one. He seemed to reach forever, his weight shifting over the side of the chair so much she thought it would tip. In her mind she saw him fall and fall, slowly first and then fast, and there he was splayed on the ground like a broken cockroach on its back, unable to get up or piece itself together, and unable to die. She saw the earth swallow him in the spaces between the grass leaves and remain, parceled, mummified in thick mud, alive. And he spread, as worm food does, sucking life from the ground, to the edge of the house, to the coppery roses. “Let me get it!” she yelled without knowing how it slipped out of her, and bent down to pick up the beer. Gagging, she sputtered, “Oh, Daddy, this one smells like it’s gone foul. Let me get you a new one.” Her nostrils pinched shut; it did smell, she realized, holding it in front of her, and she thought, what a shame and a waste. Sweet pea. It’s what he used to call her. That was it. “Well, hell, Emily, don’t give me ones that have been sitting out all day then. It’s gotten warm from being opened.” “Yes, sir,” she said, as she turned around and trudged like a dead thing toward the house, the beer held loosely between her two fingers. When she got to the side of the house, at her garden, she let the beer slip out of the can and watched it seep through the dirt. The soil soaked it up so easily, so quickly, she thought, as if getting it over with would lessen the pain of being poisoned.

She opened the sliding door with the cold beer in her hand, smiling so stiffly she thought one good hit would shatter her face like she was a china doll. “This what you were lookin for?” “Well, thanks, sweet pea.” He took the beer from her and set it down in the grass next to the lawn chair. Emily stared at the beer on the ground. He knew. He must have seen her through the curtains. This is wrong, she thought. Sweet pea.

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Time, Like the Light

October

It’s winter again in Illinois, and through cold glass windows comes the glow of a streetlamp, yellow like the lemons my cousin gave me for Christmas in California.

The silent fire beckoned, the autumn idol bursting forth as you do, drunk on the glow of the ghost light and good scotch.

Mary McCormack

How strange to be here—cornfields in tatters, husks on the stalks like moth wings in wind— and not there, on the sunlit porch of a mountain home. How strange to be here at all, sitting in a stairwell writing, a streetlamp outside, the air around it blurry with the quiver of wings as if I were dreaming, as if moths fluttered to the glow in darkness. A dim, dullish glow, yet bright enough to pierce through glass. And time, like the light, dulled into sleep, a quiet content, knowing that what’s out there is out there: a post truck speeding across the country, a lemontree on the coast.

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Mallory Pernai

Stumble towards that which is not mine, but always has been. So I stand in the crush of crimson, still nursing last year’s burns.

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MAYA KOENIG

Kid Wallpaper

R AC HEL J E NNING S

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The Loving Cup by Anna Majeski

I

told Rose I’d marry her. The thing is, she was mad at me. She just kept staring at the open door of our car and telling me repeatedly that I could kiss her ass. I would have, too, if I thought that’s what she really wanted, but she wasn’t talking dirty to me; she was mad. For awhile I thought I’d really broken her, done some permanent damage, because she was just fixed there, spitting her obscenities at me, “You can just kiss my ass Monroe, you can just kiss my ass.” She’d asked me to fill up the gas tank Thursday. She wanted me to take her out on Friday night for sandwiches and drinks in town. She wasn’t asking me for candlelight, or to take her dancing, she just wanted a ride into town and a few drinks. I didn’t fill the tank. I didn’t even remember it was running near empty, so when we got in the car, she’s thinking I did just like she asked, because what fool would venture into town on an empty tank? I knew that when Rose threw a fit it wasn’t about the tank, it was about me putting recycling in with the trash and letting the dog shit in the backyard, letting him chase his own tail for exercise. She would tell me I needed a shower, and I’d put my head under the faucet, telling her I wasn’t any worse than a dirty dish. Rose was no prize herself, although she liked to think she was. She has stretch marks along her breasts, and her middle toe is longer than her big toe—things you wouldn’t know upon a first meeting. But Rose and I shared a house together. I was committed to her and all the nasty little things I discovered over time amounted to me loving her fully; I wasn’t just lusting after her like I used to.

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The ride into town was good while it lasted. Rose was holding on to my arm and batting her eyelashes at me. I could tell she’d put a little makeup on, and I told her so, immediately regretting the implication that she looked prettier now than she did this morning, although she did. But Rose just smiled at me, and it seemed I could do no wrong. I hadn’t noticed the car slowing down because Rose was staring at me like I was on fire without burning, like I was some kind of miracle, but when we hit a meager 15 mph, and I had the accelerator almost through the floor, she started looking at me like maybe she would set fire to me herself. I pulled over, but we were still miles from town. I thought about asking Rose if we shouldn’t just leave the damn car and take our chances walking, but she would’ve put one right to my jaw with a proposition like that. She threw open her door in a fit, like tearing the door right off the car would be the only way to show me how bitter she was, and stood with her back turned to me, her high heels sinking into the ground. “You can kiss my ass Monroe, you can just kiss my ass.” “Look now, somebody’s bound to come along in a minute, and they’ll drop us at the tow-shop.” “Kiss my ass.” “We’ll pick up some beer. We’ll make our own sandwiches. Would you come sit in here with me until someone comes along?” But all Rose wanted me to do was kiss her ass, and all I wanted her to do was mean it. “Would you do me a favor? Would you just get in the car? You don’t have to talk to me. I’ll put on the radio and you can pretend I’m not even here. Just wait it out with me.” Rose was walking away now, in the direction we had just come from, and my protestations served only to punctuate the hard switch of her hips. Watching her saunter away from me like that, as if she’d jump into the passenger seat of the car of the next man driving by, made my heart swell like some kind of inflamed wound. I stood, watching her disappear around a bend in the road, and I wondered what kind of man she was expecting me to be right then. I wasn’t a decent enough man to fill a gas tank when prompted, but maybe I’d push the car all the way home just to prove that I

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was willing to suffer for my mistakes, although her walking away from me seemed punishment enough; maybe I’d leave the exhausted car behind and go running after her, kicking dirt up onto my fine pants and risking that she’d just take off running, too, only she’d be running away from me, not into my arms like I imagined. I determined then that love was not an easy thing, in fact, it wasn’t even enough to keep two good people together; evidently, that requires filling up the gas tank. Love takes up a lot of space in the heart, and when you find that a woman who has staked so much territory inside of you decides to leave, fed up with the unruly terrain, you can go crazy. Imagining Rose batting her eyelashes for another man, a fine and polished one, had me thinking I should run after her just to kill her for being unfaithful to me in my own thoughts. I wanted Rose to be the kind of woman who would leave only to come knocking on my door in the middle of the night, saying she couldn’t sleep without me by her side, saying she needed me the way I needed her. I needed her bad. But once Rose is gone, she means forever, and I would have to live with an assertion like that, an assertion that says if I never see you again, I’ll be a happier woman. I started walking after her then, knowing she wouldn’t have gotten far in those high-heeled shoes of hers. I’m walking along, kicking dirt up onto my pressed pants, trying to subdue the panic that set in when I was thinking about Rose breaking my heart. I knew that if I didn’t act nonchalant, Rose would understand that she had the power, she would understand that I loved her more than she loved me, and she’d start taking advantage of that—clipping her toenails in bed and letting the hair on her legs grow out. I rounded the bend in the road thinking Rose would be a blot off in the distance but instead she was standing a few feet away from me with her thumb sticking out as if her very presence might force a car down an otherwise abandoned road. Rose is all muscle, cut like the stone of a statue and tall as hell. I don’t mind having to look up at her, having to stand on my toes just to kiss her on the mouth, because she’s a woman in full, and I saw that standing there looking at her.

beneath the setting sun just to prove a point, I was thinking it was about the only way to defuse the situation. “You know I’d marry you, if that’s what you want.” She turned her head my way and looked me straight in the eye, thinking the insincerity of the statement might collect in my pupils and expand, proving me a liar. Only I meant it, Rose was the kind of woman who took up your entire view, obstructed your vision so that the only thing you could see was her, and if she moved, you knew that what you’d be looking at could only be defined by her absence and what you’d be looking at was the rest of the world. Who wanted that kind of perspective? After a few moments, she lowered her arm, evidently having come to a decision about my intentions. She started walking my way, switching her hips for me now, and taking my face in her hands so that she could kiss me full on the mouth. She was kissing me hard, smashing her lips onto mine so that it hurt, trying to seal the words between us as evidence that I was a decent man. When she was done, she looked around to make sure that what had happened between us was honest and that we weren’t putting on a show. When she was sure, she turned on her heel and continued on in the direction of our home, yelling at me over shoulder, “Garbage man will be by tomorrow morning.” I knew that I had put something between us then that would carry us for awhile.

“You’ll be standing here all night.” “So be it.” She wasn’t spitting at me anymore, but she wouldn’t look my way either, wouldn’t even put her thumb down. I knew what she wanted to hear. I knew she wanted a promise from me I couldn’t take back. Looking at her sweating

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The Paperweight Stares Backward and Refuses to Speak to Me Matt Demarco

I didn’t expect the brass partridge on my dresser. Mom always dresses it when I come to visit— the bedroom with the dresser, that is, not the bird, who may as well be gold, or alive, for all I care. But it was there, somehow, and I just ruffled the fresh-pressed flannel sheets instead of thinking about feathers; left shirts and socks everywhere but the dresser because that’s where the brass partridge was, sitting scratched many times over by silverware and people; left there from who-knows for me to see bent and bruised feathers. They were stubbed by calloused hands, no— no, wrinkled hands that thought they’d leave them there for a few…of their…a few of their…a few…of……. It was Scott finally told me the thing came from Nonnie. She had several of them and each grandkid got one once the older folks had sorted out the rest of her trinkets. She gave out all of them without thinking to remember it. I would have preferred that silver cigarette case, mostly because I didn’t know that Nonnie smoked. Plus, I’d use that. I have no use for a brass partridge, so it sits on my bookcase because I can’t put it anywhere else in here. Which is nice since I don’t have anything here that’s aesthetic and isn’t a book or tacked to a wall. But I have no place for grimy feathers. I have no space for telepathy. Did she see this? She held it. Did she see it? I can only imagine she felt it 48 MONTAGE

like the tiny pink plastic Easter egg she once chewed at dinner. I feel like she passed time in it, like she might have chewed it with her head, thought, “Well, this is something.” This is nothing. Nothing that I understand, anyway. At one point, I suppose, she’d have to have sought out and bought, shimmering and unsoiled, the partridges and a pair of earrings to practice a song that she could only hum later, patting her knees for some sporadically rhythmic solace. All of life became a lost song, elusive harmonies drowned out by discordant static and left for naught. Her voice sounded like she was shivering after a point. We pivot on the fulcrum that balances memory and things. I don’t want to forget the partridges when I’m old. So when we meet there, promise me we’re already crazy in that unforgettable way, not that way that disappears and just hums. Let’s howl. Let’s forget our tokens because the circus is here for two nights and we just got off the train. Let’s make monkey sounds on the Brown Line just so that we, that people, that we all just remember the train. Let’s forget our shoes but remember the rain. Let’s not start what we finish here, but drive cars like we’re riding elephants at dawn in the Punjab. Please, say you’ll drop your soda and let me draw you a diagram of statistics I’ve made up.

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I want to see you again and let you teach me how to make kites from sinking fishing lures. So let’s just forget what we own and only owe what we can hold up to the cashiers at 7-11 who should act like they’ve seen us before. Let’s recognize. Let’s re-organize—

Wind Turbines

—Not our closets but our cognizance. Let’s grow some wingtips and fucking fly! Let’s remember each moment like it’s a golden hand in the sky, something you wouldn’t expect, something out of place but magnificent! Let’s see camels in each elevator, herds of antelope in our filing cabinets! Let’s bowl phosphorescent printers into the supermarket even if we don’t pick up the cantaloupe! Let’s find that one lone wolf chewing a carcass in the swamp of suburban Chicago! Let’s taste some steel and hear some wheat! Let’s forget our undies but walk like we remembered them! The neural renaissance has no time for your undergarments!

a field of plucked daisies that whisper prophesies of uncertain affection

Valerie O’Brien

Reflected in my rearview mirror, in the distance, they become

or a garden of pinwheels, birthday party relics animated by breath; the pale legs of synchronized swimmers as they rotate through blue water; snowflakes somersaulting, or doves plummeting earthward. Beneath, I imagine Picasso’s slim black knight on horseback.

I want you to be the partridge with me, not on the dresser, but with dappled wings ten feet wide spread across the dusk of lives! I want you to be this partridge with me, but not the bookcase one. I swear, he just stares. He’s not going anywhere. Put the metal feathers over your eyes.

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Tiger

L AUREN S HE P HE RD

Torment

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Davh’s Ribbons DAVID HUE TTNE R

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Equilibrium

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THE PARANOID by David Huettner

Now mom sets the table by setting a placemat, then a smaller one on top of it, then a heavy-duty paper towel, then another placemat and another smaller one and one more paper towel and finally the plate: a sandwich of reassurance. We didn’t ask; we figured she just really liked her platypus tablecloth. Next came the gloves. She began wearing a pair of big, fava-bean-green gloves all around the house. She used to only wear gloves while meticulously nursing her spice garden. Then she wore gloves for pretty much anything. She wore gloves for going to the bathroom. She wore gloves while she slept. She wore gloves for putting on gloves. She even wore them for the increasingly scarce occasions when she went outside, and for this reason we were petrified to go anywhere in public with her. Mr. Vecino saw her delving through our overstuffed yellow-smiley-face mailbox one day and finally asked the question: ‘Ahem. Er, um, Ms. Renfield…why are you wearing those gloves?’ We all leaned our heads out the front doorway with lip-nibbling anticipation. She paused, blinked, and said, ‘I’m not quite sure, really. I haven’t been feeling like myself lately.’

I have four siblings. We all look alike. We live with our mom. Her name is Sinvida. Her eyes are always very wide and don’t trust people. Her face, like her physique and her patience with door-to-door salesmen, is very petite. Her hair cannot stand being touched and resembles a hedgehog stir-fried with lightning. Her greatest idiosyncrasy is having a low tolerance for other peoples’ idiosyncrasies. Her pet peeves include noses being blown in restaurants, spaghetti with the sauce already mixed in, and drive-thru operators that confuse “Hi-C” with “iced-tea” with “ICEE.” Mr. Vecino, our neighbor, walks around the block every single morning for fresh air since his house is full of cats that like to annoy him by shedding. They belonged to his ex-wife, but being the sentimental compassionate middle-aged balding man he is, he does not want to get rid of them. His greatest idiosyncrasy is retying his tie exactly three and a half times every morning before work. His wife left him partially because of this; she was convinced that he had OCD. His pet peeves include dogs left leashed outside of stores, children wandering shopping departments with no adults around, and blue jeans that are sold fashionably faded and pre-torn. It started with the placemats. Mom bought a white tablecloth illustrated with purple platypuses. (It wasn’t that special. It really wasn’t.) Because she didn’t want any food stains on it, she set six placemats, one for each of us. It was fine for a few nights—until Molly spilled the Worchester sauce.

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A short while after that, she started to overdress. Not formally or casually. I mean. Overdress. It was the peak of summer and she had on a long-sleeve white jacket with long white pants and white boots and a white knit cap and white sunglasses and [now] white rubber gloves and a white scarf and we couldn’t decide if she more resembled a glue monster or the Pillsbury doughboy’s ugly step-sister. Mr. Vecino was walking around the block. He froze with mouth agape when he saw our mom, then broke into a sprint back toward his house. We were all standing in a row by the front door, staring at her as she basked in the sweltering heat on the porch bench. We weren’t sure what question to put out first. ‘Why are you wearing white?’ Clarence asked. ‘To see if any insects get on me so I can flick them away of course,’ she retorted. ‘Don’t you think you’ll get a heat stroke?’ Goddard asked. ‘I’m fine.’ She turned to us and smiled. Her face was saturated with sweat. ‘Mommy’s just fine, children. Mommy is juuust fine.’ We were unconvinced. Molly snuck into my bed one night. ‘Psst! Are you awake? I think mom is sick.’ I turned to face her. ‘With what?’ ‘I think it’s called the paranoid.’ I frowned. ‘‘The paranoid’? What’s that?’ She put her face close to mine, eyes wide, and whispered: ‘A bug!’ ‘Wow… Really?’ ‘Yeah! We learned about it in school today. It must have bitten her and infected her!’ ‘What’s it look like?’ ‘I dunno and I never wanna! If I ever saw one I’d squish it with my shoe. Splat!’ ‘No wonder she’s been so eclectic.’ ‘You mean ‘eccentric’.’ ‘Yeah that’s what I said. Great golly, Molly, what should we do?’ She only shrugged, got up, and left. I had trouble falling back asleep.

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The following morning I looked up synonyms for “paranoid” in my grade-school thesaurus. The ninth word listed was “unreasonable.” Yes, I thought. Mom is being very unreasonable. I leaned back in my chair and looked out past my bedroom doorway. Mom had just come out of the shower. She had a towel around her body, two around her head, and one around each of her arms and legs. She looked like an extraterrestrial court jester. ‘What’s with the towels?’ I asked. ‘They’re protection against all the insects infesting this house!’ She yelled before waddling off. Yes, I thought. She has definitely caught the paranoid bug.

and gave us ice cream. He’s a very nice man. We explained to him the situation with mom and he decided to take care of us until we hatched a strategy to rid her of the paranoid.

I came home from school late one day because I had to clean up after a cow eye dissection mishap. Mom threw open the front door and yanked me inside, slamming it shut and startling the daylights out of me. ‘Something the matter?’ I asked. ‘Did they get you?!’ Her eyes were wider and sweatier and more disturbing than usual. I blinked. ‘Who got me?’ ‘They’re outside spying on us, trying to see into our house!’ I looked at the living room windows. They were covered with garbage bags and tin foil. I ran upstairs through all the rooms—and it was the same. For every window in the house. Slowly I turned. She was standing in my bedroom doorway, and she was holding a kitchen knife. ‘Say, mom, what’s with the knife?’ ‘The intruders!’ ‘What intruders?’ ‘Don’t you see them?! They’re everywhere!’ She was breathing hard and sweating a lot. ‘I can’t see them because my window is blocked. All the windows are blocked, mom.’ ‘Good!’ She stared at me unblinkingly for a moment. Then spun on her heel and walked away.

Mr. Vecino helped us put an ad in the local paper:

We’re still living here with his now twenty-two cats (it used to be only seventeen). We suspect they’re multiplying and are closely observing them to determine who’s with whom. We’re not sure what happened to mom. We went back to the house after a day and the bed was empty and littered with shreds of duct tape and chewed-up rope bits. Her purple platypus tablecloth was gone, too. We suspect that she fled to Tanzania (she always told us that if she ever lost her mind, she’d run off to seek enlightenment in the Serengeti plains). We thought she had been joking.

Seeking petite worrisome wide-eyed paranoid runaway mother. May be wandering East African desert. Use force if necessary. ‘Do you think the readers will pay attention to it?’ asked Molly. I shrugged. ‘Um…optimistically, yes. But either way, whoever knows someone with so many unnecessary worries and fears in their life, they’re bound to be Sinvida.’

Later that day, my friends came by. Mom peeked through the tin foil covering the front door window. She opened the door half a hair’s breadth and shrieked: ‘Go away!’ ‘We merely wish to inquire if Marlow may accompany us for ice cream,’ said my friends. ‘NO!’ mom squealed, slamming the door shut and locking the seven deadbolts she’d installed on it yesterday before grabbed my shoulders. ‘You aren’t allowed to leave the house!’ She distributed her glare evenly amongst my siblings as they came to stand behind me. ‘All of you!’ And that’s when the duct tape and rope came out from behind our backs. After securing mom to her bed, we walked in an orderly fashion to Mr. Vecino’s house and politely asked if he could put us up for the night. He said ten dollars a night. We said three. He said eight. We said six. We settled on seven. Then he said he was joking

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Confessional Jason Cruz

III.

I.

I confess writing this, & every other god awful piece of shit I’ve written, while drunk—like “Dude, let’s go belt some Barry Manilow tunes!” kinda schwasted. As my former roommate said, “A drunk heart is an open heart” or something silly like that.

On warm birch, we sat like constipated elders, our slacks sewn tight to mold eunuchs

I confess I preferred the Backstreet Boys to N’SYNC & will always defend doing so.

out of prepubescent clay. Smiles faded when the old harp strings, tough as a Buick,

I confess my biggest fear is forgetting the sounds of my parents’ voice.

coughed out hymns to calm us as the clerics, wrapped in purple stores like angel-headed hipsters—Ginsberg would say—waxed barbaric about penance. Oh, we would be vetted until salvation comes. Hurry up & let salvation come. Then, Sister addressed her suburban menagerie to repent. One by one they left to become martyrs.

I confess breaking my brother’s arm with the People’s Elbow & leaving him—crying in bitter anguish—in the basement for my mom to find. I confess I’ve been to more pro wrestling matches than I’ve had dates. Somewhere, an old fat balding Jewish poet is aching to make a joke about this—so I’m just gonna quit while I’m ahead. I confess being a hermit—partly because I enjoy hot showers way too much for my own good & partly because I’m paranoid that I’ll recognize someone & not know whether to say hello.

But when the first returned looking bright & devout, like a rat in a trap, I wanted out, out, out.

I confess not having sex in a very long time. Mostly, due to the previous confession—but also because condoms give me the willie nillies.

II.

I confess turning off adult entertainment if the story or acting isn’t good enough. Or if certain things are just way too large. Us asians have hang-ups about such things.

Bless me Father for I have sinned. It’s been years since my last confession.

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I confess I went through a dry-humping phase when I was younger. My mattress, old stuffed animals, my best friend, you name it & it got the patented JCruz pelvic thrust.

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I confess I’m still in love with my best friend—even if she’s been in a long-term relationship, gotten a bit big around the waistband, & (I’m pretty sure) made a sex tape that somehow found its way online…not that I’ve studied it extensively or anything…let’s move on.

at Burger King. Which, in ironic fashion, is why I’m such a fantastic (ok, consistent) writer. Hell, I think all young aspiring authors could learn something from being forced to write stuff like: I have to pee dozens of times a day.

I confess I can’t stand the sound or feel of Velcro.

I confess using humor as a way to create distance when things get serious…penis, penis, penis.

I confess growing a beard to make myself look ten years older. & to attract hipster girls. I confess envying the variety of clothing that women get to wear. Jeans & a black t-shirt just gets so blah after a while. I confess that I’m incredibly impatient, going so far as to tailgate & swear at a ten year old girl & her mother when they drove way too slow on the car ride at Disneyland. I confess owning a Winnie the Pooh stuffed bear and a shark named “Cuddleshark”, which I use as a muse whenever I get writer’s block. I confess knowing that writer’s block is just an excuse for some sort of fear or anxiety—but pretending otherwise makes my super-large ego feel absolutely grand. I confess having “writer’s block” on this poem. I confess stealing the idea for this poem from Denise Duhamel & completely ripping off the style & voice of other poets, even some untalented ones.

I confess my belief that I won’t make it past the age of thirty. & part of me doesn’t want to. I confess my love for the Transformers movies. Especially the second one, which I’ve seen like a bazillion times. Woo! I confess my desire to be on a reality show by any means necessary— just to satisfy my need for attention. Yes, I’d actually think, at least for a few seconds, about killing my unborn child if it got me on Jersey Shore. I confess being attracted to religious/nerdy/shy girls (bonus points for all three)—only so I can be “the bad influence”. I confess that my parents will never know about this little being an atheist thing. Or this nasty smoking habit. Or that I admire them deeply. (oh jeez, that’s so cliché, kill me now) I confess that I can’t stand people who forget birthdays. September 29th, yo, mark your calendars.

I confess that I sound a lot better—& smarter too—on paper than I do in real life—which is why my goal in life is to steal Stephen Hawking’s voice synthesizer.

I confess my knowledge that this poem is incredibly self-serving. My hope, though, is that through this piece, I can purge myself & start writing about things that matter. Like plants & animals & shit, you know, like them real poets.

I confess going from pre-school to the fifth grade without speaking a word to anyone except for family, very close friends, & the cashiers

I confess that I have way more to confess, but Glee is about to start &, once I begin singing along, all productivity goes out the window.

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My Father’s House Erik Allgood The following is a partial transcript from an interview with Father Job, Orthodox priest, in his old age: “I had a father who commanded respect. I remember him towering over me. He always seemed to be in some state of sanguine passion, proclaiming something: his speeches at the dinner table, in the living room, in the family car on long trips. When I was young, I was confirmed in Christ as all Orthodox children are confirmed. I read the scripture. All of these passages about our Father in Heaven stood stark against my father at home. As I read about a God whose unconditional love was not without stern judgment upon his creation, my own father offered me more of the same with more of the same. There is one event in particular which finally confirmed everything. I was a child of about thirteen. My father had left me at home with my mother and brother to go on a business trip. On the morning of the day he was supposed to return, I was in the garage looking at his prized possession: a restored Rolls-Royce. As a child, I coveted that car above all things. I recognize, now, what I said alone in that garage was inevitable. ‘I suppose a quick drive around town couldn’t hurt anything. I’ll be back before anybody’s home.’

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I took the keys out of the little change bowl on my father’s dresser. I grabbed an apple out of the bowl on the kitchen table for my breakfast and ran outside to start the drive. I remember the surge of adrenaline as I – for the first time in my life – directly disobeyed my father and, by extension, directly disobeyed the Father. At first, I just drove in circles around the city, careful to avoid any routes to and from the grocery store where my mother and brother were shopping. This became less than satisfying after the first hour, so I drove toward the city limits. I thought of everything I had been up to this point; the scared little boy who did as his superiors told him without question. I didn’t know the old axiom at the time about morality enacted out of fear had no real moral value – but I promise you, I felt it. I was out on the highway now, my adolescent feet barely reaching the pedals, mirrors sharply adjusted. I felt the power of the stick-shift under my palm. My other hand gripped the steering wheel as if it was the only purchase between me and a steep fall. I watched miles add up on the highway markers. There was a point where I knew that if I went any farther, there was no way I would make it home before my mother and brother, but I kept going anyway. It wasn’t their righteous judgment I feared, after all. I rationalized that they wouldn’t notice as I sneakily pulled into the garage. I kept going as the sun started to sink into the horizon like something rotting into the corn, the color of a halved cantaloupe. In that final act of defiance, I pushed on another twenty miles after I knew that there would be no chance of salvation; my father would return home before I could slink into the garage. Even if there was a way to get back in time, I would be a liar and a thief in a home which had bled itself to nurture me. I thought of the path I had worn between my room and the bathroom from years of night and morning rituals. I thought of the indentation on the couch where I had spent my Saturday mornings watching “Bozo the Clown” and “Howdy-Doody”. I thought of the scrapes on the linoleum in the kitchen where I had scooted my chair (much too high for me) toward the table to clasp my hands in prayer. We said grace before dinner. The whole house had suffered me upon it, because the name on the title desired it for its son. The house was a passive conduit, but my father had created a home. The adrenaline had worn off, to be replaced with shame, as I reversed the direction of the vehicle. The several hours it took to drive back were the longest of my life. I watched those same mile markers on the other side of the road fall back toward zero. I pulled into our town first, the blaring neon lights

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like a circus backdrop for a clown of a son. I pulled into our neighborhood, sure that the sum total of all the sins of all the sons in all the homes could not come close to mine. Then I pulled into our street. I saw my father’s house basked in a holy glow. Every light in the home was on. I imagined my frantic mother, worried, calling the police. I imagined my father, a stone statue, standing by the door and smoking away pack after pack of Marlboros to ebb his anger. My father’s house loomed larger than anything under the sun. In my imagination even now – after all these years – it couldn’t be bigger. An ocean couldn’t fill it. And how damned in my imagination it is! But no, it was I – the gawking thirteen year old child – who was damned beyond all salvation. I pulled into the garage. My father’s reaction, while harsh, didn’t matter by the time I grabbed the doorknob to turn it. In that moment, my father and the Father became one. Even now, when I picture God – and there is a God – all I can see is my father, his face chiseled from the hardest part of the firmament, staring down at me and shaking his head without moving, arms folded. I have spent my entire life trying to please this God. It should have surprised no one when I entered the seminary upon becoming a man. I don’t know if it was enough.”

Spinal

RAC HEL J ENNINGS

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Summer Age Seven Mike Andreoni

Sunset streetlight junebug baby. Corner beacon shipwreck alley. Siren sweetheart midnight craving. Paper princess scissors slavery. TV father cable Christ. Windowsill carcass blanket lice. Summer dinner mosquito feast. Swing-set sandbox aluminum squeak. Moonlight grass silence sleep. Streetlight shadow window creep. Cicada chorus child dreams. Cricket bows movie screams.

Jason Cruz

How I Had, on Casimir Pulaski Day of All Days, Dirty, Lascivious Thoughts—Right Before Deciding That Dirty and Lascivious Thoughts Were Misogynistic and More of a Reflection of My Desire for What I Cannot Have Rather Than an Actual Feeling of Love and Devotion—When My Red-headed Feminist Friend, Who Was Lascivious but Not Dirty, Got Her Teal Wool Sweater, Which Was Dirty but Not Lascivious, Caught and Torn on a Pine Tree, Which, According to Freud, Can Be Dirty and Lascivious, During Our Afternoon Walk Through the Park—Which Was Just Plain Dull And Filled With Banter About What She and Steve Did That Weekend (They Went Fishing.) Prickle sticks tickle. Tattered is as thistled does. Oh, me so horny. I pine: dine—wine—mine?

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Blue Man ANI L AGOS

Ghandi

M ATT GLI CK S O N

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FALL 2010 SPRING 2011

ERIK ALLGOOD MATT ANDERSON MIKE ANDREONI BETH COHON JASON CRUZ BARB DAVIDSON MATTHEW DEMARCO MATT GLICKSON MATT GROBIS DAVID HUETTNER RACHEL JENNINGS

MAYA KOENIG ANI LAGOS ANNA MAJESKI ANNA MCCLANE MARY MCCORMACK VALERIE O’BRIEN MALLORY PERNAI STEPHANIE RUIZ LAUREN SHEPHERD FAIZAN SYED

Montage | Issue #7  

Fall 2010/Spring 2011 edition of Montage Arts Journal

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