VOLUME ONE â€˘ ISSUE ONE
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We are excited to welcome you to our inaugural issue of Montana Mouthful magazine! e theme for this issue is “Firsts”—ﬁrst loves, ﬁrst memories, ﬁrst sightings, etc.—and we were fortunate to receive a range of variations on the theme for our introductory edition. e following pages contain powerful stories and images that, in some dimension, connect to the idea of a “ﬁrst.” Speaking of “ﬁrsts,” to understand Montana Mouthful’s conception, I’d like to go back about ﬁve years ago, when I walked into my ﬁrst creative writing class and met my instructor, Jasmine Swaney Lamb. At the time, I was a broken widow who had been journaling for a few years to transform my pain by putting it to paper. I had always wanted to write and had ﬁnally taken the brave step to move forward with that journey in my new reality. It was scary, informational, and transforming. It was the one thing I looked forward to every week, and soon, a friendship was born between Jasmine and myself. Over the next few years, I continued to take Jasmine’s classes, and through that experience, we met other writers and formed a writing group, until ﬁve of us continued on to develop what is now Montana Mouthful. Holly Alastra, Stacy Collette, Lisa Huﬀ, Jasmine, and myself spent many nights brainstorming over glasses of wine and fun meals (including lots of laughs) to create and complete the multitude of assignments that have brought us to this moment. Our goal is to provide a platform for writers and artists to publish their short prose and artwork, and beginning with Issue 2, we’ll also accept poetry. You may read a digitized version of the magazine for free on our ISSUU site, or you may purchase a digital copy or a print copy of the magazine through our Magcloud site. Whatever method you choose, we hope you enjoy these wonderful stories and images. Although we’d done our research about burgeoning literary magazines, we didn’t quite know what to expect in terms of initial submissions. However, we received an abundance of stories and artwork, and we are honored to share the following pieces, created by committed and thoughtful writers and artists. To learn more about these talented individuals, please visit the Biography section of magazine, located at the end of the issue. We appreciate your support and are so happy to have you as a reader of Montana Mouthful magazine. With warmest thanks, Cari Divine, Editor II | Montana Mouthful
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VOLUME ONE • ISSUE ONE Montana Mouthful is an independent literary magazine devoted to short fiction and nonfiction plus visual artwork, and beginning with Issue 2, we’ll accept poetry. Each issue is themed. We aim to publish three times per year. Although we seek short pieces—just a mouthful— avoid sending anecdotes. Surprise us with your words. Strive to submit stories that build toward something more than a punchline or trick ending. Montana Mouthful is open to most subjects and styles; however, we are not interested in gratuitous sex or violence. EDITORS Jasmine Swaney Lamb Cari Divine Holly Alastra Lisa Huff Stacy A. Collette
Introduction .....................................................II Black Shetlands, by Russell Rowland ................1 When I First Smelt the Pine, by Douglas Borer...............................................5 Iniquities, by Don Noel...................................13 First Bear Sighting in the Big Woods, by Ceillie Clark-Keane....................................17 A Scar is Born, by William Nichols ................21 Connect Four, by Samuel Cole........................27
WE PUBLISH Fiction Flash Fiction: 1,000 words or less (up to 2 pieces); Short Story: 2,000 words or less (up to 2 pieces);
e Bayonet, by Pearse Anderson....................33
Non-Fiction Essay: 2,000 words or less (up to 2 pieces); Narrative Nonfiction: 2,000 words or less (up to 2 pieces).
Once Upon a Time, by Rich Furman ..............39
Poetry 1,000 words or less (up to 3 pieces)
Heartbeat, by Jacob Melvin.............................45
Artwork/Photography Up to 10 images
Opossum, by John Murphy .............................35
First Kiss, by Brett Ramseyer ..........................41
SUBMISSIONS Please send us your work via Submittable at https://montanamouthful.submittable.com/submit Emailed submissions will not be accepted. VIEWING ISSUU: https://issuu.com/montanamouthful/ MAGCLOUD: Hyperlink
PRINT ON DEMAND: Hyperlink CONTACT Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Web: montanamouthful.com Facebook: facebook.com/montana-mouthful
First Kiss SCULPTURE
| CHUCK LAVOIE
Instagram: instagram.com/mouthfulmontana/ Twitter: twitter.com/MontanaMouthful
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| ALEX NIVOSKY
ACRYLIC AND IRIDESCENT LACQUER ON CANVAS
Hercules and Love Affair
Black Shetlands by Russell Rowland
y cousin Mike holds a rope, leading Toro, the meanest pony in the world, while I sit nervously perched on Toro’s bare back. My Grandpa Arbuckle bought two Shetland ponies from a local carnival, a gift for his grandkids, but most of us cousins aren’t so sure we like this gift. ese two ponies don’t have a great aﬀection for children. Or people in general. e ponies are black, so we have cleverly named ours ChooChoo, while our Loken cousins gave Toro that name because he mowed the grass in the meadow where he’s kept. Mike is the oldest male cousin in our family, but his older sister is really the leader of our little band of cousins, and she has forced him to take over leading us younger cousins in a circle around their front yard. Despite being big for his age, he’s a nervous boy, always worrying about what can go wrong. He nervously eyes Toro, gripping the rope while I hang onto Toro’s mane and try
not to think about getting bitten or bucked oﬀ. And then it happens. Toro suddenly bucks, and Mike panics, losing hold of the rope. e next thing I know, Toro is galloping along Poly Drive, a tree-lined street that is one of the busiest in Billings. Cars rush toward me, and I look behind to see a string of cousins, running red-faced and frantic, shouting “Toro! Toro! Toro!” is scene is hilarious now, but as a sixyear-old kid I was terriﬁed, picturing this demonic little pony throwing me into oncoming traﬃc. ChooChoo had thrown me to the ground several times during our short relationship, tossing me oﬀ like the pest that I was. Putting myself in the horsey shoes of ChooChoo and Toro, it’s easy to imagine why they had no interest in being pets. ey had spent most of their lives as carnival ponies, strapped to a merry-go-round, carting bratty child after bratty child in a tight little circle.
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ey must have been dying to buck oﬀ as many bratty children as possible by the time they came to our little family. Horseshit rolls downhill, and we were the victims of the victims. As a boy growing up in the West, episodes like this stay with you. You meet young ranch kids who hop on a full-sized horse like it’s the most natural thing in the world, and you wonder what’s wrong with you. You wonder
Horseshit rolls downhill, and we were the victims of the victims.
| OLIVE THOMPSON
whether maybe you’re not quite as fearless as you should be. As tough as you should be. ese questions can be quite the burden for a
kid after they roll around in your crew-cutted head for a few years. One of my favorite stories about my childhood was when I was visiting my grandparents’ ranch and they took me to a neighbors’ to spend the day hanging out with a kid my age named Kelly Kornamen. Kelly and I had known each other our whole lives and always enjoyed each other’s company. His mother Esther made me my ﬁrst Christmas stocking. at day Kelly suggested we ride some calves, and I didn’t have the gumption to tell him that I’d never done such a thing. So he got me all ﬁxed up with chaps and spurs, he wrapped a rope around the calf ’s torso and I gripped that thing with all my boyish strength while he swung open the chute. e calf didn’t really buck…it just took oﬀ
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onto my back. en he went for my feet, which I didn’t understand. e next thing I knew, he was pulling oﬀ my boots. is story was made better by the fact that Kelly’s dad Donny happened to wander down to the barn right about this time, and he saw the whole scene play out. It became a running joke in both our families, with the classic punch line being that Kelly Kornamen wasn’t about to let his friend die with his boots on. is story has all the best elements of a great Western tale. Man vs. the elements, and of course who always has the upper hand in that showdown? e outcome is almost tragic,
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| JENN POWERS
Wanderlust running, and for about twenty yards, I had the situation completely under control. But calves are apparently smarter than they appear, because right at the end of those twenty yards, the calf stopped dead, and I went ﬂying, landing ﬂat on my stomach. My legs kicked up behind me, and the spurs popped me square in the back, knocking the wind clean out of me. I think this was probably the ﬁrst time in my life that I looked death squarely in the face. And I wasn’t ready to go yet. Kelly apparently thought I was going to die too, because he started crying, rolling me
which is probably exactly the way it should be. I didn’t let either of these incidents stop me from getting on a horse or a calf again, but it did make me more fearful. It made me question how tough I am. It also made me question the value of those things. And that’s probably not a bad thing.
First Glimpse of the Sun
| LAUREN HELBLING
but ultimately hilarious. But perhaps the most signiﬁcant thing in relation to my own story is that it left me with one more opportunity to either overcome the fear and get on the calf again, or be beaten into a feeling that there’s something inadequate about me as a man. As it turned out, both things happened,
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When I First Smelt the Pine by Douglas Borer
bel is settled on the couch, shoes oﬀ. “Comfy?” I query, handing him a squat tumbler with an inch of the amber liquid, keeping the same for myself. “No,” he replies. “Teach, here’s mud in your eye.” “e same.” We drink a sample of Islay’s ﬁnest scotch. Smacking my lips, I say, “Nothing quite as ﬁne as a newly popped 19-year-old single,” thinking Abel would echo a glib retort. A tear sneaks from the corner of his eye. “She was 26, not 19,” he says, gulping the entire two ounces. “What—who ?” I stammer. “Twenty-six years old. en dead—gone. And by the way, Teach, ‘getting popped’ has a very speciﬁc meaning in my world.” Abel sees right through me. Being on the receiving end of a 1000-yard stare by a hardened combat veteran is bad mojo. e air between us vibrates. My heart pounds. “Pour.” I lift the bottle as tears start streaming down his cheeks. I decant an inch and wait. A minute passes. Abel blows his nose, clears his throat, “Here’s the story. “I was deployed to Iraq, Anbar province, 2008. e IED plague was hammering the hell out of us—improvised explosive devices. You’ve seen e Hurt Locker? at movie is more ﬁction than fact, but the IED pandemic is very real. I had never seen anyone die. It was not what I expected. I was riding shotgun in the lead Humvee of a convoy. Near dusk we arrived at the ﬁnal checkpoint. A white civilian car appears about a click down the road. High rate of speed, white
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| GUIDO SPORIN
ﬂags ﬂying from all four windows. It failed to brake at the stop sign 600 meters from us. A Bradley, our best light armor, ﬁred a short burst of tracer rounds to warn it, but the Mercedes kept coming. At 400 meters, the Bradley cuts loose its chain-gun, putting half a dozen 25-mikemike canon rounds into the car, but it charged on. at miracle did it. Everyone opened up, 25 mm from the Bradley, .50 cal and 7.62 from machine guns in four Humvee turrets, and a hail of 5.56 by dismounted individuals like me with M4s. It was a free-ﬁre frenzy. Everything came oﬀ: tires, mirrors, bumpers, the grille, lights, the hood and top, trunk, a couple doors, and all the ﬂags. e car rolled through the din and dust on three bare steel wheels and lurched to a stop about 20 meters in front of us. ere was no white paint left, no distinct contours—no way to know it was a Mercedes.”
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“An Army medic yells, ‘Hold ﬁre!’ and, pistol in hand, tiptoed up and peered into the front seat. He yanked open the driver’s door. e door falls oﬀ. A bearded bald head rolls free and the headless torso slumps half in and half out of the car, still held by the lap belt. e medic yells, ‘Clear!’ e momentary silence is broken by a loud, joyous bleat. A goat sticks its head out of a back-seat window frame, big white ears twitching, looking at us. Someone muttered, ‘Dinner!’ which drew a few laughs. I rushed forward and looked in. All red, splintered bone and mangled body parts, an eyeball in the ashtray, an armless hand still gripping the steering wheel at ten o’clock, the ragged shards of wrist bones dripping blood and marrow.” “en it hit me. Shit, piss, antifreeze, sweat, gasoline, oil, blood, burnt hair and ﬂesh, cigarettes, melted nylon and scorched metal all blended into a recognizable perfume. I see a cardboard air freshener—you know, the tree-shaped ones you hang from the rear-view mirror? It was inverted, stuck by oozing brain paste to the cheek of a guy with his head blown half oﬀ in the passenger seat. When I ﬁrst smelt the pine, I vomit.” “Technically speaking, Teach, I did not see the driver or passenger die—they were already dead, and so were four of the ﬁve others in the
“...You’ve seen e Hurt Locker? at movie is more ﬁction than fact, but the IED pandemic is very real. I had never seen anyone die. It was not what I expected...” car, except for that goat, and the infant girl who was half in and out of her mommy’s womb. Mom was alive, still breathing, but had a hole in her hip from a 25-mm round, one you could stick your ﬁst through, which the medic was doing to stop the bleeding. e mom then jerked sideways, a spastic puppet. e goat sat unscathed, curious, friendly,
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painted blood red from the neck down. I removed mom’s veil. She had three blue holes tattooed above her left eye from 5.56 rounds. Maybe mine. Her face was white as the goat’s, serene, beautiful, no blood. at 25-mm wound would have drained an elephant. She died right there as the medic ripped the baby from her belly and handed it to me. e baby’s right foot was blown oﬀ. I smell baby smell and puke again. She wails—a good sign. I passed her back to another medic and sit in the sand. Someone hands me a bottle of water. “at Iraqi mom was my ﬁrst live death, Teach.” He took a drink of Scotch. Eyes closed. Shoulders hunched. “I overheard talking: ‘e new dude, I thought he was a hotshot from Afghanistan?’ ‘Yeah, Cap’n, what’s up with him, war hero or green meat?’ ‘You gave that boy your water, Cap’n—a pal of yours from West Point?’ en a tough female voice: ‘Yo, Sergeant Dickweed, Colorado Springs? Air Force Academy. Remember these wings? e ones I wear every damn day?’ Laughter all around, and then, ‘Lieutenant Cash, you all right?’ the voice calm, conﬁdent, in command. I croaked, ‘yeah, dehydrated. anks for the H two Oh.’ ‘Roger that,’ she replied. ‘We got a car to check out, get your kit—move, Mr. Cash.’” “at was my introduction to U.S. Air Force Captain. Sandy Sanders, one of a kind, the best bomb chick ever.” I ventured, “Abel, you saw action in Afghanistan, how could this be your ﬁrst run-in with death?” “Afghanistan was just plain weird, and very cool. We were in the west, near the Iranian border, and started running into a lot of IEDs. ey could blow through the side and bottom armor on an Abrams M1 tank. Hi-tech shape charges—very professional, Iranian Revolutionary Guard made. But our intel guys managed to ﬂip one of their bomb makers, an ethnic Baluch corporal named Bunuk. He hated Persians. Bunuk gave us his bomb blueprints. We had a sweet run then. Can you imagine? One of the guys making the bombs was on our payroll. It was too easy. ose intel guys were guardian angels. en it got even better. Intel recruited one of the older IRG ops planners, the experienced guys who ran their war against us. ey supplied his sick younger brother in Tehran with chemotherapy drugs that had been cut oﬀ by the economic sanctions. We saved the brother and he saved dozens of us with intelligence. “For six months, it was free chicken and medals all around. We got the credit, but intelligence was the key. You, know it’s true, Teach. You teach us that stuﬀ over and over.” I nodded. Abel looked wistful, enjoying the memory.
“...We had a sweet run then. Can you imagine? One of the guys making the bombs was on our payroll...”
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First Alien Encounter PHOTOGRAPHS
| LISA DAILEY
“en the price of chicken went up. Bunuk’s head was tossed over the wall of our ﬁrebase, and we got word that the IRG ops guy had been hung as a traitor, along with his entire 200-man company of Revolutionary Guards. e Iranians don’t mess around. “We started getting hit more often. I had got three minor concussions, and one real big bad bell ringer, but everyone was getting them…ALL THE TIME. It was routine, but just like the NFL, nobody talked about it. Might be a career killer. We are all professionals, all volunteers; nobody has been drafted since Vietnam. Twenty-six IEDs on that deployment hit one Bradley. Its commander kept whacking the side of the turret with his head. He had TBI before the term “traumatic brain injury” was common discourse. But he got busted for alcohol after getting an e-mail from his soon-to-be ex-wife. e divorce papers blindsided him worse than any concussion. Mike—his name was Mike. Army. Montana kid. Yale graduate. “Do you want to know what happened to him, Teach?” Not waiting for my reply, Abel spread wide the ﬁngers of his left hand, one by one clenched
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WATERCOLOR ON PAPER.
| NHAT ANH
the middle, ring, and pinky, pointed his index out, thrust the thumb straight up, then coolly lifted the ﬂesh pistol to his left temple and shouted, “BANG!” as he jerked his head. I gagged. Scotch burned my nose. Abel scowled, relaxing his ﬁst. “Anyway, I saw nobody die in Afghanistan. Lucky that. I was never there at the live moment of death. Montana Mike died alone. We found him in a ditch a half-mile from camp. e buzzards had already taken his eyes and the feral dogs his ears, lips, and nose.” I poured again. “Within a week Sandy and I became lovers. We were wrong. e UCMJ—the Uniformed Code of Military Justice—prohibits superiors and subordinates from having sexual relations. We ignored that rule, and others did too. Some of the married ones stayed true. Montana Mike kept his vows, poor bastard; his wife back home did not. e bombs make you human, Teach, in the most fundamental way: human touching human. Sex kept the shadows at bay, for some of us. “We never won the IED battle. In fact, we lost it. But we had a few brilliant people. Sandy was less interested in the bombs than in the bombers. She wanted to understand the people who risked their lives planting IEDs, and why the locals protected them. At a meeting Sandy once said, ‘Remember that ﬂick Red Dawn?’ ree teammates yelled, ‘Wolverine!’ Everyone in the military loves that movie. She ﬂashed us a wry smile and said, ‘Here in Iraq, we are the Russians.’ He was breathing heavily. Abel sat up straight, and put his elbows on his knees, peering forward. “en, one day, Sandy died.” He lifted his glass, squinting at me. “Viva Sandy.” “How’d it happen?” I ask. “We had just made love and talked about the end of our tour. Sandy winked and told me she loved me. I was dumbfounded. It was a line in the sand few ever crossed. Just like Vegas— what happens in Iraq stays in Iraq. She was grinning like the Cheshire Cat. “A call came in on the hotline. Sandy picked up the phone and looked at me. Expectant. I glanced away. Never having said ‘I love you’ to any woman, I rolled it around in my head. Yes … yes … it felt right, almost right. I turned back to speak, but the moment had passed. Sandy checked a paper map and typed on a laptop. She hung up the phone and started issuing precise orders to everyone but me. en she glanced from me and to the door of the oﬃcer quarters. I jumped to get my rig. “On my way to the helicopter, Sergeant Smith stopped me and said, ‘Not this one, sir, Captain wants you to wait with 2nd Squad in reserve.’ He saluted and turned away as I stood gawping. “en came the medevac request. It happened fast, Teach. One minute Sandy was naked, my lover, my commander, and just maybe my woman; the next, dead.”
“e bombs make you human, Teach, in the most fundamental way: human touching human.”
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DIGITAL PHOTO COMPOSITION
Transitory Space, #14
| LEAH OATES
We ﬁnish our drinks. “I am sorry, Abel. I am honored you shared this story.” He looked sharply at me. “e story is not quite over, Teach.” He stared at the ﬂoor, ﬁsts clenched, his breathing labored. I waited. “is morning I got an envelope from Human Resources. ‘Final Incident Report.’ Almost ten years later? Bloody Pentagon. Twenty-two pages. Nothing new but ‘Appendix A’. “An autopsy. Abel drinks deeply and tenders his glass. I pour the last dash of scotch. He tosses it back and speaks one last word. “Pregnant.”
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Iniquities by Don Noel
un-drenched. Exactly the right word, learned just a few weeks ago in Miss Hirschoﬀ ’s English composition class. e sun, still an hour from mid-day, was an orange orb in a blue sky, so vivid that looking up hurt his eyes. He reached down to feel the knee-high meadow grass. It must have been dew-drenched at dawn; now it was warm and dry. Would Susan want to lie down in that thick, verdant growth? Or would she worry about telltale grass stains? He had no idea what to expect. English comp, where they met, was the only class in which a sophomore like him might get to know a senior, someone more experienced. He’d begun really getting to know her only last night, taking her home from a movie. She’d seemed eager, inviting his tentative kisses. en abruptly she sat up, reached under her sweater to unhook her bra, and
curled backward into his arms. He’d felt inept, literally feeling his way through a welter of warm, wet kisses and ﬁrm ﬂesh. At his older brother Josh’s instruction, he’d worn his football team jockstrap to keep his tumescence in check, but hadn’t been sure it would continue to contain his alarming stiﬀening. And then just as suddenly she’d stopped him, sat up. “Your car isn’t very comfortable, and it’s getting chilly,” she said. “Do you know Dyson’s farm?” Of course. A dairy out on the edge of town. She was remarkably explicit. A hayﬁeld out beyond the house and barn. Don’t go through the barnyard; take Mason Road. Look for an almost-invisible dirt track. “Seems to go nowhere, but it snakes through a little strip of woods into the ﬁeld. Noon tomorrow?” Without waiting for an answer she was out of the car, up the front steps, blowing him
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must be alfalfa or timothy or perhaps rye. Would they undress? Would she let him take oﬀ her clothes? Would the green hay be too scratchy? Should he have brought a blanket? He tried to remember movies with outdoor love scenes, and couldn’t remember anyone’s having a blanket. Not surprising: Good writing, Miss Hirschoﬀ taught, even movies, left some things to the imagination. “e horizontal iniquities,” she said one day, smiling at her own wordplay, “are best conducted under the asterisks.” She immediately hurried on to some other topic, perhaps feeling she’d been too explicit, that someone might report her. Not likely: Perhaps because everyone wanted to reassure her of their complicity in such
| LAUREN HELBLING
a kiss as she let herself into the house. So here he was, early because unsure he’d so easily ﬁnd the dirt track. He had time to think about what would happen, how he should go about this new opportunity. Experience. Adventure. He had dated girls his own age, making out in juvenile, amateurish ways. Susan promised to be diﬀerent. It was a perfect place for a rendezvous: A smallish ﬁeld, protected on all four sides by windrows of poplar or ancient apple trees, tall sumac and brush. She or anyone coming through a windrow would see him standing here, but if they lay down together they’d be invisible. She’d called it a hayﬁeld, so this tall grass
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naughty wisdom, no one laughed or even snickered. Susan, though, caught his eye, arched her eyebrows, winked and smiled at him. After class, in the hallway, she’d suggested last night’s movie date. A sudden thought: Should he have bought a condom? He could hardly imagine going into Dougherty’s and asking for condoms. Perhaps she would bring one. But what if she didn’t? He lay down for a moment and rolled over. e hay was soft, yielding, releasing a subtle fragrance where he crushed it. Yielding. He liked the word, and stood up to luxuriate in its meaning. He felt himself straining against the jockstrap again, and tried to focus his mind on the hay, windrows, blue sky and bright sun. His mind drifted, unbidden, to wonder how she knew this ﬁeld would be so perfect for a rendezvous. He forced himself again to focus on the hay, windrows, blue sky and bright sun. He somehow felt less ebullient. Miss Hirschoﬀ ’s choice of words came to mind: horizontal iniquities. If his mother knew that he was here, had any inkling what he was here for, she would surely think it an iniquity. He wondered if Catholics had it better: Go to confession, accept some innocuous punishment, a few prayers, and put it behind them. He had visited his friend Mickey’s church, seen the confessional. He imagined himself confessing iniquity to the anonymous presence behind the screen. He wondered if more severe sentences were meted out to those who came back confessing again to the same behavior.
He imagined himself confessing iniquity to the anonymus presence behind the screen.
Suppose Farmer Dyson made the rounds to see if his hayﬁelds were ready to mow. He searched the windrows, trying to listen for the sound of someone coming through. ere was a bit of breeze now, stirring the brush and branches, so he might not be able to distinguish an approaching farmer. He sat down, then lay down on his back, contemplating the haystalks framed against the azure sky, assaulted again by the sweet perfume, wishing again that he’d thought of a condom. No farmer would see him now, it occurred to him, but neither would Susan. She might think he wasn’t here; he’d come on his bicycle, and stashed it in the woods. He might not hear her approach, either. Would she call? Would he answer?
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| AUDREY WARREN
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First Bear Sighting in the Big Woods by Ceillie Clark-Keane
e had lived in the house for a few weeks when I heard my mom shrieking from the window, calling for my sisters and me to get inside. e three of us were in the backyard on one of the last warm, sunny afternoons of fall. Harlie and Shelby were 10 and 8 years old, and they had stolen an assortment of random objects—a hammer, a tape measure, a turkey baster—to upgrade their plastic doctor’s case to a CSI oﬃcial’s kit. ey were in the throes of a murder investigation, taking a tape measure to the hole in the chicken wire on the coop and turkey basting potential ﬁber evidence from a blanket. I was sitting out in the sun, ostensibly listening to music. At almost 15, I was almost done playing; I was still oﬀering a direction or two for their game. My mom, red-faced but smiling, waved and yelled again to assure us that everything was okay. Everything was okay, but we needed to make our way inside as quickly and quietly as possible. en, I was directing my sisters inside. We collected their toys, cramming the turkey baster and tape measure into the case next to the bright yellow stethoscope and pink thermometer. Passing through the circular dirt driveway, we walked along the short path to the front steps. My mom met us there. She squeezed our shoulders and patted our heads as she ﬂung open the faded red door and ushered us inside. “ere’s a bear in the woods! Get inside, I saw a bear,” She said, ﬁnally, breathless and beaming in the doorway. Staying calm was key: outside, we would have been terriﬁed and she needed us to head to the house without making a scene. “Go inside and call your father,” she directed. Shelby raced inside ﬁrst to grab the phone. My dad, a truck driver, was gone for days at a time, but he would want to hear about a bear in the woods. Shelby, now safely indoors, was eager to tell him.
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e door opened onto a front porch, where haphazardly labeled “Kitchen” or “Linens?” boxes were still stacked against the walls, surrounding a futon, some end tables, and other misplaced furniture. While we made our way into the house, through another door, my mom stood among the boxes. With assurances that she would be right back, my mom stepped outside and closed the door behind her. Looking out the window, I could see then that she clutched her camera in her shaking hands. She was terriﬁed, but exhilarated. She wanted to get pictures of the ﬁrst bear sighting in our own woods. My parents always dreamed of moving west. My dad was raised on a dairy farm in Ireland; my mom grew up riding horses in Connecticut. When I was little, we lived in a small town there, on four acres with a barn and two paddocks for horses. Directly next door the town built a primary school, and at the other end of the street was a small lake, a playground, and growing series of housing developments. For as long as I can remember, my parents talked about moving to the western United States, where they could have space to stretch out, have more land and a real farm. is move was a common topic of conversation, as my parents came up with half-plans and speculated what our lives would be like: in Montana or Wyoming, they could rescue more mustangs or raise cattle. e lassoing that we all practiced on barrels would be a useful skill. We’d have to buy more cowboy hats. As a kid listening in, I’d imagine a small, squat cabin in the middle of expanses of red dust and sparse vegetation, the backdrop of a John Wayne movie or a two-page spread from the Smithsonian pioneer look-book that sat on the top shelf of our book case. I’d wonder how I would get to school or if there even was school during the harsh winter months. Most of the time, though, I’d imagine scenes from the Little House series. When I was in elementary school, a great aunt I never met sent my sisters and I the complete collection of Laura Ingalls Wilder books one Christmas. By default the book was a gift for me—I was the only one old enough to read—and I raced through Little House in the Big Woods and into Little House on the Prairie during that vacation, smitten with the prospect of adventure and thrilled by the hard-won triumphs over rural adversity. Soon I was taking my two younger sisters out to play Little House in the back pasture by the edge of the property. With my parents’ house and the main road still in plain sight, we set up a makeshift settlement and “knit” blankets with baling twine and sticks. Instead of using this makeshift knitting for our clothes, we pretended to get calico from the general store, just like Pa brings Laura, Mary, and Ma in the book. With the house set up, I watered pretend crops and instructed my sisters to tend pretend livestock, not taking advantage of the real animals or real chores we had easy access to. After we ﬁn-
My parents hated Ma and Pa, and I never did make molasses candy, but I continued to read and reread the series throughout my childhood.
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| KATE RUNNALLS
First Colors of Fall
ished chores, I rationed out the “general store” snacks my mom packed for us. I asked to name our next cow Sukey, and I told my sisters that our parents were now “Ma” and “Pa.” I begged my Ma and Pa for a trundle bed, and when Christmas came and went without one, I began bargaining: I’d settle for making molasses candy in the snow all winter, just like in Laura and Mary. My parents hated Ma and Pa, and I never did make molasses candy, but I continued to read and reread the series throughout my childhood. By the time I grew out of my Little House phase and realized my understanding of the western United States was woefully outdated, my parents had decided on a new plan anyway. Upstate New York would be rural enough: slower than Connecticut, but easier than starting a large farm. In the culling during the move, the tattered orange Smithsonian look-book was discarded and the John Wayne movies were misplaced; the Wilder collection was donated. After being subjected to hours of forced prairie life, my sisters hadn’t taken to the series, but it didn’t matter. ey were still young when we moved to our own little house in the woods, a cabin and a small farm on a mountain just across the Vermont border. As my mom carefully descend the front steps, she called out to us: “Lock the door, and stay put. I’ll be right back!” Locking the door was a common precaution in Connecticut, but this seemed trivial in the woods. Still, I slipped the metal bar into place, more a ﬁnal safeguard than an obedient gesture. My sisters and I moved from the front porch window to the kitchen windows to follow my mom’s walk towards the woods. Once she got around the house, she slowed down and inched toward the tree line at the edge of the backyard near the barn. Suddenly, she turned on her heels and bounded back inside. We were all watching at the window to open the safely locked door, and Shelby was relaying the events to my dad on the phone. What happened? Harlie, Shelby, and I demanded in turn; we were scared and thrilled by the adventure unfolding right outside of the house. I remembered the Little House scene with the bears. It was spring, when bear s emerge from hibernation, and Pa had gone into town to sell furs, but he hadn’t made it back before nightfall. Laura and Ma had to go outside to do the milking on
their own in the dark. My mom didn’t answer the question when she came inside, her face now drawn and her jaw clenched. She took the phone from Shelby to talk with my dad herself.”ere are tons of them, Michael!” Her voice cracked. Fumbling with the camera, my mom asked Harlie to grab her glasses so she would be able to see the pictures, but she paid little attention to the blurred images on the small digital screen. She kept glancing at the edge of the woods as she spoke to my dad. I followed my mom’s gaze, looking to the trees. I could see shadows and movements as leaves fell and wind tugged at branches, but I couldn’t make out any shapes, let alone animals. I hadn’t been out on our property to know what the land looked like. By the time we moved, I wasn’t interested in living in the woods or exploring; there could be a meadow or a mountain behind the thicket at the edge of the backyard as far as I knew. But my dad did know; he had walked into the woods right away, and he asked my mom to step outside and try to get a picture this time so she could send it to him. is was before any of us had a smart phone, and the camera quality of the Nextel at hand wouldn’t work, but he wanted to see what was going on. It was the end of fall, on a warm day that felt more like summer. Something didn’t seem right. Laura and Ma had only a small lantern when they went to milk that night. At the barnyard gate, they noticed Sukey was out of the stall. Laura reached out, expecting Sukey’s short fur and large, warm eyes. Instead, the fur was shaggy and black; the eyes were beady and shimmering. ere was a bear in the barnyard, and Laura and Ma raced back inside. My mom hesitated at the back door before she stepped out onto the deck and down a few of the stairs. e whole time, she stayed not more than a few steps back inside the house. e camera lens extended, zooming in, snapping pictures. Back inside moments later, my mom grabbed the phone again. Harlie was there to hand my mom her glasses as she navigated the menu of the camera to take a look at the latest pictures and send them to my dad. ey debated what to do; he was convinced the animals would pass through the woods and we wouldn’t notice anything else, but my mom was concerned that we were in the house alone if the bears came any closer. e trees rustled, and looking out the window, my mom watched as the animals came out of the woods. She narrated for my dad, “It’s a fucking cow. It’s a bunch of fucking cows.”
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A Scar is Born by William Nichols
he ﬁrst scar is on my forehead. ere are three parts to this scar; the scar itself, the story of the scar, and the truth of the scar. e scar itself is a bright white line, about an inch long and jagged. It reminds me of a mountainous ridgeline, like on a map. It extends vertically from what used to be my hairline. No hair has ever grown along that scar. It used to be hidden but as my hairline recedes it now extends to the beginning of it. It is now completely visible. e story my mom liked to tell was of an incident that occurred when I was in kindergarten. I had broken up with a girl. I don’t remember her name but I do remember her dress. It was baby powder blue, with puﬀy sleeves and a frilly, white, lace collar. Her hair was dark brown and long. Pigtails? Maybe. Something like that anyways. I remember the anger in her face when she swung the wooden swing full force at my face. It hit the top of my forehead and I bled immediately. I don’t
remember the pain. I do remember blood covering my vision like in an old, cheesy, eighties horror movie I saw. Blood dripped down from the top of the screen, coating it and bathing everything in an eerie red light. Or maybe I just remember the movie. Mom said the little girl in the blue dress did it cause I broke up with her. at’s the story of the scar. e truth of the scar is quite diﬀerent. We were living with what would become my mom’s second husband in a trailer park in Jeﬀerson City, Missouri. Our trailer was the ﬁrst on the right when you entered the park. e man my mom was sleeping with and his family’s trailer was the last on the right before the road made its ﬁrst curve to circle the park, ending again at the entrance by our lot. On this day, the man who would become my mom’s second husband was at work. My mom dropped us oﬀ at the last trailer on the right to be babysat by the wife of the man she was sleeping with. Supposedly he was taking her
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to the grocery store. Time passed and passed and they didn’t return. I don’t remember how it all unfolded. I just remember sitting on the couch, the front door parallel to it and positioned to my right, my big sister to the left. I don’t remember our couch, I only remember hers; the wife. She sat there on a light-tan couch with faded blue, black, and red paisley patterns covering it. She sat to my right, her
| CADE DURAN
I don’t remember our couch, I only remember hers; the wife.
left, on the couch. She was facing the door. She held a shotgun. It was aimed at the door. Her eyes were wild, almost black. Her children’s cries could be heard echoing from the dark dungeon that was the back of their trailer. My sister and I whimpered as she told us again and again what she was going to do. “I’m gonna blow your mom’s fucking head, blow your fucking heads oﬀ, and then I’m gonna kill him too.” It was late. She started to doze; she fell asleep. I saw his face in the window behind her. He looked at us and put one ﬁnger to his puckered lips, urging us to be quiet. He came in through the back door and had snatched the gun from her before she had a chance to wake from the deep sleep she had drunk her-
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mom turns she holds me tighter, using her hand to force my head into her shoulder. I cannot see the wife who is yelling at my mom. I can only see the grass, ﬁreﬂies dancing above the lawn, the living room light peering from our trailer in the dark, a red ﬁre hydrant jutting from the concrete in front of me. Directly in front of me. A hand claps my back. Force. e ﬁre hydrant rises to meet my face. at is the truth of the scar. at is the birth of many more.
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DIGITAL PHOTO COMPOSITION
| LEAH OATES
Transitory Space, #17 self into. More time passed. My mom is holding me in her arms, my head bouncing on her shoulder watching the wife chase us down the street. She screams horrible things at my mother. She says she will kill her. She calls her a whore. She says she’s going to tell the man who would become my mom’s second husband. We’re almost home now, but mom stops and turns around to face our tormentor. I don’t know why. Perhaps she was worried that she would follow us into our house. As
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First Child Stolen | IMANI VIDAL
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First Child Stolen
| IMANI VIDAL
Connect Four by Samuel Cole
middle-aged woman, maybe a bit younger, sitting like a clump of dough in the seat to the left, across the aisle, looks at me and the large, stuﬀed plastic bag between my feet as if she’s questioning everything she knows about men, plastic bags, and feet. Squinty. Laser-focused. Searing. I pretend obliviousness, rocking along with the noise-bump-vibrations of the train. Amtrak. Here to there. Because I have to go. Because I have to see for myself the devastation. Because I know if I don’t go, I never will, and what kind of man, knowing what I know, doesn’t go? “Christmas in July?” she asks. I stare out the window, feigning muteness. e world whizzes by in a fast dance of blues, browns, and greens, everything morphing into cross-eyed vertigo. I tighten my knees against the bag. I refuse to put in the overhead bin. Take my luggage, fuckers, but stay the hell away from the bag. “You visiting family?” she asks. montanamouthful.com
Good god. Persistent bitch. Shut up. And go away. I can move, but I like the clean-smelling car, and scab-free seat. I turn my head and scan oil-thick hair, gravity cheeks, and eyes that radiate the same type of sadness hammering my heart. It appears that loss has come to both of us, dozy travelers moving forward in a world that oﬀers no other choice. “Excuse me,” I ask. “Are those presents in the bag?” “I guess you can call them that.” “But they’re not wrapped. Why aren’t they wrapped?” “I don’t know the girls who I’m giving them to.” She leans back and raises eyebrows. “Why are you giving presents to girls you don’t know?” Now that I’ve spoken, I realize how the vagueness of my words might incite confusion. A grown man with a bag of presents for girls he doesn’t know sounds ominous, if not potentially criminal. “I know their mom. Knew their mom. I Montana Mouthful | 27
The Music School
| M. RUSSEK
mean, it was twenty-ﬁve years ago this month.” “Knew?” She pauses. Her eyes soften. “Is she not around anymore?” To say yes is to confess to a ﬁnality I’m not ready to accept. To say no is a lie. Either choice leads to further conversation I’m not certain I want. But perhaps it’s good practice. Perhaps it’ll engender healing. Or perhaps it’ll do nothing more than remind me of mortality, that the end is closing in on all of us. “You okay?” she asks. “eir mother committed suicide last Wednesday. Cops found her body in a pickup truck in the woods. Head blown oﬀ by a .44 Magnum. She was missing for two days, has three little girls and an absent husband and no-good parents and apparently no one to talk to.” “What was her name?” “Daisy.” “Was she like a Daisy?” I oﬀer a brief smile. A full one seems adverse to empathy. “She was a rare one. at I do remember.” “How did you know her?”
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“I was twenty-one and she was ten when we met. I was home from college and found new neighbors had moved in next door, complete with this little face on a girl who came to the front door so full of excitement I wondered if I’d ever known happiness. She kept coming around until I paid attention and once I did, we started hanging out.” “What went wrong with her?” “e little I know came from my sister, who heard it from Daisy’s mom, who isn’t the most coherent standard-bearer of transparency, so honestly, I don’t know a lot of details.” “Did she commit suicide?” “at’s what I’m told.” e picture of her little hands holding a gun lowers and shakes my head. Words like hopelessness, burden, weight, energy, gunﬁre, and darkness inﬁltrate my beliefs. “Whatever happened to her, it must have been bad.” “How old was she?” “Twenty-one.” “And she already had three little girls?” “Twins at eighteen and another one last year, according to Facebook.” “ere’s a lot of pressure to be under.” I nod. Perhaps pressure is to blame. Perhaps she disliked the pressure of being a mother? A wife? Settled? Trapped? Unhappiness? “Do you know much about daisy, the ﬂower?” she asks. “Not much.” “You’re in luck.” She smiles. A full smile. “Because I do.” “How so?” “I’m a weekend botanist, and my specialty is the asteraceae family, also known as the daisy family.” “Weekend botanist?” Vol. 1 • Issue 1
group of twenty-thousand species.” “What does astereceae mean?” “Aster comes from the Greek, meaning star. ink asteroid. And lettuce and sunﬂower seeds and herbal teas and medicines, which also come from this family.” “So, a daisy is a healing agent?” “Early colonialists used it to ﬁght colds, yes, because it grows almost everywhere on the planet, from the polar regions to the tropics.” “Sounds like it’s not very rare at all.” “I think whatever adds color to the landscape is rare indeed.” She glances at the plastic bag. “What’s the bag about?” “Board games.” “Like Clue and Life?” “More like Guess Who, Chutes and Ladders, Racko, Uno, Monopoly, and Connect Four.” “I like those games.” “ese were her favorite.” e word, were, Montana Mouthful | 29
| JENN POWERS
Wild Daisies “I couldn’t aﬀord college, but what I could aﬀord was an encyclopedia and eventually a computer with internet service and a small garden behind a small house that’s all my own.” She pulls from a purse a book titled, FLOWERS. Inside the middle pages is a large white and purple ﬂower, six pressed pedals, so real it looks fake. “Is that a daisy?” “It’s a lily.” She massages the lily and ﬂips the pages to the back of the book. Another pressed ﬂower appears, with a dozen or so yellow pedals centered by a dime-size button. “is is a Daisy.” She hands it to me. Silk on my skin. Dead but alive. Still but wide awake. “Is there anything in particular you’d like to know about a Daisy?” I hand the daisy back. “Is it rare?” “It is and it isn’t.” She tucks the daisy in the book and closes the cover. “Like a thumbprint, each one is unique, even though it’s part of a
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| PAWEL GRAJNERT
relegates my posture and taunts my determination to go forward with a feeling of utter ridiculousness. How can a board game help anyone with anything? A ﬁve or ten minute distraction at best. Cheap pieces of plastic moving around a cheap board designed for cheap thrills for cheap people. A book about ﬂowers is a better gift. A dozen daisies sprouting from a glass vase. A guidebook about recovery for little girls who can’t yet spell it. A kitty cat. “Her parents said she took a shine to me right away and loved whenever I came over and played board games with her, so that’s what I did, sometimes for hours, often with hot cocoa, even in summer.” “You’re quite fond of her, aren’t you?” “Somehow the eleven year age diﬀerence didn’t matter. She was a friend and I was hers. After college, when I moved to Minnesota, and she and her family moved to another part of town, we lost touch and I didn’t think twice about her.” We sit quiet for a short time. “Sad, huh?” “Where’s your ﬁnal destination?” she asks. “Whiteﬁsh, Montana.” “Glacier country. How beautiful.” “Seems less beautiful this trip.” “I have an idea.” Her face lights up. e way Daisy’s face used to light up whenever she won a board game battle. “e next stop is Cut Bank. If you want, I’ll buy some wrapping paper and tape in the depot and maybe we can wrap the games together. Should have plenty of time before Whiteﬁsh.” “Where’s your ﬁnal destination?” I ask. “Seattle.” “Is that where you live?” “No. I live in Chicago now, but I have family in Seattle.” “Like parents or siblings or…” She nods. “Just a couple of girls I’ve known montanamouthful.com
for a long time.” “How long is your visit?” “Just a quick visit and then back on the train for home.” Her voice lowers in volume, as if she’s protecting it for a time in the future when she’s going to need it. “How did you know I was a terrible gift wrapper?” I ask. She laughs. “Well, you are a man and you do seem straight.” “Do I?” “Are you not straight?” “Crooked as a train ride from Minneapolis to Whiteﬁsh.” “Really? I’d have never guessed.” “It’s part of the reason I didn’t wrap the gifts. Her husband doesn’t like fags. Doesn’t want me around. Calls me, in front of everyone, e Perv.” “How are you gonna get the gifts to the girls?” “I was gonna drop them oﬀ at the front door and leave.” “But they won’t know who you are or why you gave them the games or hear about the memories of playing them with their mother.” “I can’t think of another way to do it.” She sighs. “Feels wrong, but I guess I understand.” e train stops at Cut Bank. A male voice from a speaker says, “If you step out, please stay on the platform.” “We better hurry up,” she says. “Grab the bag and let’s go.” Inside the depot is an invisible yellow traﬃc light, people pausing for others to pass before making their way ahead. Or behind. e smell of garbage and Cheerios makes me sneeze. “What’s your name?” I ask, walking beside her. “I don’t know you’re name.” Montana Mouthful | 31
| GUIDO SPORIN
“My biblical name’s Tabitha, but my friends call me Aster.” “Like in asteraceae?” “Cute and smart. Of course you’re gay.” She laughs, stopping in front of shelves that do not carry wrapping paper. “I should’ve known.” She grabs a book titled 100 Ways to Be Happy, along with a roll of tape. “is’ll have to work.” She pays cash and we rush back to the train. “is is fun. Are you having fun?” “I’m deﬁnitely having a sensation.” “And what’s your name, mister non-gift wrapper?” “I’m Devin.” “She stops. “Really?” Squints. “Devin. Like Kevin. Or Evan.” “Or Heaven,” I say. “What? You don’t like Devin?” “No. I do. I just ﬁgured you for something else?” “Like who?” She opens the door to the bathroom, to the dressing room, and walks in. I stay outside, 32 | Montana Mouthful
wondering who I look like, if not like a Devin. Did Daisy think I looked like a Devin? “You have to come in here if we’re gonna wrap ‘em together.” I’m frozen to the ﬂoor. I’ve never been in a bathroom with a woman. Not even my sister. Or mom. I’m nervous and sweaty. And ﬂush. “I won’t do anything inappropriate, if that’s what you’re worried about.” She sets the supplies on the changing table. “Is this even allowed?” “How old are you?” she laughs. “Get in here already.” “You sure we won’t get in trouble?” “Oh my god.” She looks at the ceiling and raises both hands. “And he’s sweet, too. It’s no wonder Daisy was in love with you. You make it so very, very easy.” In love. Is that what Daisy was? With me? A gay man who paid attention to a girl who became a woman who gave birth to three girls and married a man who doesn’t want me around, a man who calls me, in front of everyone—poor Daisy—e Perv. Vol. 1 • Issue 1
e Bayonet by Pearse Anderson
hree days before he escaped, Buchadan found it in the dirt. Successfully stealing away any item was a challenge, especially something as sharp and brutish as it. Buchadan paused, slipped his mind into fantasy, and proceeded to re-hide the weapon, this time near a familiar mile marker. He then peed on the earth there to ensure no one would dig in that area. Soon after, Bird called. Bird and the rest of the CO’s breakfasted on sausage patties and rye, while the gang ate porridge. Both the CO’s and the gang were circled around the portable radio, which was tuned to a recent sporting event. Bird dipped his rye into the pot of coﬀee to make it go down better, but kept his left hand in his lap, always ready to draw his gun. Osinine, the only gang member who wasn’t content with sports, spoke up at a break in the narration. “My grandfather died here.” “Excuse me?” Bird asked, really saying, Shut up. “Yeah,” Oz kept yapping. “ere was a skirmish just down the road, at Painted Horse. My grandfather was a cavalryman. Maybe we’ll see a cannon at the town center.” Bird shrugged, really saying, If you earn it. We’re not tourists. Buchadan was not in the company of intelligentsia. When the gang worked that day, Bird had a face Buchadan had never seen. By lunch, he had captioned the expression: Bird, on the edge of a thought. After dinner, Bird turned oﬀ the radio and spoke to the gang like he was a man who knew what he was doing. “I was thinking about what Oz said this morning, about the war. I was thinking that there might still be stuﬀ in the earth: razor wire in tree roots, buried bullets. So each night until we leave, I am going to personally search your tents. And if I see so much as a pilfered canteen . . . .”
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| NORTON PEASE PHOTOGRAPH
He signaled to the CO that held the shotgun. at one grunted. Bird smiled. e air was still, the last static of the radio feeding into the roadside stream. Oz was a fucking idiot. Buchadan’s plan would’ve worked if it wasn’t for his discontentedness with sports. Buchadan shot out of his bedroll that night, in reaction to both an overwhelming feeling of insecurity and the sound of something heavy breaking. Outside their circle of tents moved a dark, human-sized shape. Buchadan followed it to the nearby stream, where the shape unzipped its ﬂy and started to cry and urinate simultaneously. “Bird got me, man,” the shape was saying, its features coming more into view. It was another member of the gang, a murderer named Stumpil. “Yesterday during roadwork I found some old coins, put the silver ones in the soles of my shoes. He got me, man. I’m found out.” e last two words deﬁned him, like veteran soldier or death row would. “Why are you not dead yet?” Buchadan asked. “e ground here is hard, Bird said.” He sniﬄed. “Hard to dig graves.” Pause. “Also, I ﬁll potholes better than any of yous. But when we ﬁnish this road I’ll be ﬁnished.” “e road is long. Don’t do anything rash.” It was clear Stumpil had been disﬁgured somehow, judging on how he was holding his penis and body. He’d be the gang’s example of a bad decision. “Oz running his mouth, man. We don’t get much here.” He outstretched his mangled arm in the direction of the road and the earth. “Everyone does it, right?” Long pause. “Did you do it, Buchadan? Did you ﬁnd something in the dirt? Buchadan shook his head. “We’re criminals,” Stumpil continued. “I don’t know what they expect when we’re treated like this. If we all show that we’re this—scavengers—maybe Bird will let me oﬀ. Can you do that, Buchadan?” ere were angles he could’ve considered: how likely Bird was to forgive the gang, how bad Buchadan’s life would get if he failed to escape, how that girl Stumpil murdered looked when the sheriﬀ found her, limbs curled into a wine barrel. But really, he knew what his answer would be before he even thought about the proposal. “I didn’t see anything in the earth.” en, more conﬁdently: “All I do is listen to the radio and dig.” 34 | Montana Mouthful
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Opossum by John Murphy ge eight: I was gamboling around my neighborhood one afternoon when I came across the body of an opossum next to a storm drain behind a row of townhouses. I had never seen a dead thing before, nor had I ever even seen an opossum before, so I sidled up to it and crouched down to have a better look. No, the opossum wasn’t, in fact, playing possum; it was actually dead. It must have died recently because there was no sign of decay. It looked like a regular opossum, like the ones I had seen in Nature books at school, only this one was, well, dead. ere was a splatter of blood next to its mouth and its long hairless tail curled downward in between the slats of the storm drain. I poked it with a stick: it didn’t move. I was afraid to touch it, even though a morbid curiosity was impelling me to. After a while, I grew bored, and stood up and went home. Age ﬁfteen: One morning in October my Grandmother walked into her kitchen to ﬁnd my Grandfather face down on the linoleum.
A week later, we all dressed up in our bests and packed into the minivan to make the silent drive to the funeral home. Outside of the family there weren’t many other people. A few distant relations I didn’t recognize, but that was all. Who really goes to these things if they don’t have to? I ﬁgured, still a little miﬀed at losing a weekend day. A little selﬁsh, I suppose now, but I was young. What really surprised me was when my aunt M— cried on my shoulder, saying how much she loved my grandfather, how much she missed him, how great a dad he was. I knew him as sort of a quiet, austere ﬁgure who you naturally showed respect and deference to, but someone you could get along with well enough; however, from the stories heard, through grapevine and no, he was a mean drunk, beat his ﬁrst wife, terrorized his kids, all that—until he calmed, or calciﬁed, into the person I remembered. Age eight: A few days later, I returned to the spot where the dead opossum was, and Montana Mouthful | 35
found it being taken apart by detritivores. Maggots were crawling around inside the carcass between graying organs, seen clearly now through patchwork skin stretched loose over bone. All I remember is the image— I forget my reaction, although I can probably guess what it was: some mixture of horror and fascination, with a drop of disturbed child-glee. It was like being a visitor to one of the old, extinct freakshows: pay a dime and see three-legged women or purple-skinned men, or dead opossums. Age ﬁfteen: It was an open casket observance, I was told; the funeral would be later. e casket was in an adjoining room. We were all instructed that we would each be given a chance to see him individually to grieve and pay our respects. Take as much time as you wish, said the funeral home director. Oh god, I thought, why would you say that? But my fears were misplaced—we cycled through at a fairly quick pace. My aunt M— took the longest—around twenty minutes. My sisters were in there each about two minutes. Eventually it was my turn. I had never seen a dead human body before. I had seen them in movies, in video games, in the Pulitzer Prize photograph book my grandparents had on their coﬀee table, but never in real life. ere were votive candles on a table giving oﬀ some aroma and it was very quiet. Grandfather’s body was there, nestled in among white satin, a near-grimace painted on his features. He was unnaturally still. I was gripped with the sudden fear that if I ventured too close to the casket his eyes would ﬂash open and he’d look at me. So I kept my distance and gazed at him from afar. I wondered if the other people outside had the same fear.
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I wondered if they were as teary in here as they were out there: no need for such displays in private. I wondered if people were really sad for this man; maybe they were angry at him, or disappointed, or bored, or haughty, or even glad. I wondered how much thought he would be given day to day, if people would think of him constantly, or maybe not at all, or maybe a lot at ﬁrst but then slowly as the years went by the people’s memories of him would peter out until they too were gone and there was no one living who remembered him. Age eight: A week later, I went back to see if the maggots were still devouring the opossum. I discovered that they had eaten everything; everything except the fur, which was arranged in a faint opposum-esque shape, like a badly erased sketch. It wasn’t as interesting then, and I only spent a few seconds there before moving on. Age ﬁfteen: After everyone had had their private moments with my Grandfather’s body, we all ﬁled into the adjoining room. e director had closed the casket and unfolded some chairs for us. We all sat in a crescent before the casket and began sharing anecdotes about him: How he was going to ﬂy a bomber during WWII, but crash-landed during training and had nervous tremors for years (I knew that one). How he’d stay awake some nights waiting for my aunts to come home from their dates, not in an overbearing way but in a concerned-parent way (I didn’t know that one). How he loved the song “Downtown” by Petula Clark and played it constantly (nor that). I thought about taking out my phone and bringing up the song on YouTube, but I decided not to, thinking it might be inappropriate or too sad or something.
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| KATE RUNNALLS montanamouthful.com
dump me there for the animals and maggots—like an opossum. A Zoroastrian burial. Or if that’s too much, perhaps they could dump me into the sea like a deceased sailor. I felt that was the way to go—back to nature. Later, I was told he was to be cremated and interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Age eight: A few weeks later, I returned and there wasn’t even a trace of fur left. Nothing remained. is is the ﬁrst time I’ve thought about that opossum in years.
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First Light I thought about him in the ground, the maggots doing to him what they did to the opossum. How does the song go?—the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out / don’t hang around and let your problems surround you / the worms play pinochle on your snout / there are movie shows downtown. I think it was there that I realized that I didn’t want a funeral when I died. Not a traditional one. When I died I wanted people to stuﬀ me in the back of a truck, drive out into the wilderness and
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First Time Mechanic | JESSICA MEYERS PHOTOGRAPHS
First Time Being So Close to Deer | JESSICA MEYERS
Once Upon a Time by Rich Furman
tories with pink singing unicorns start with once upon a time, and do not end in I am divorcing your ass, but yours certainly took that turn. Even worse, human adults are not often aﬀorded neat and uncomplicated endings, and divorce was the second black curtain in the play of misery that began with her surgeries. Once upon a time you were given the choice, negotiate the terms tomorrow or be locked out of your home, and given that she seemed so suddenly and penetratingly detached, repulsed and repulsive, you said ﬁne, sure, ok, provided you keep the house and the dogs, and she said ﬁne if I get money. So, the next morning you sat across from her on the formal, olive leather couches your mother gave you as a house warming gift, and tried to negotiate an alimony, but she was too anxious to sit still and ran out of the house. And later that day you tried again, and you gave in to an insane amount of money to enslave you each month in exchange for the house and the dogs, and then she changed her mind the next morning and you wondered if you would be locked out of your home forever, but she let you in, so you renegotiated, and then two days later rinse and repeat, and then you did not sleep for days but hoped soon it would be over. Once upon a time friends informed you that late at night she was sending them text messages while she paced around the basement, and seemed really out there, scary and does she have bipolar disorder?, and while you were obsessively ruminating, scouring every corner of your mind for a method of slowing down this lopsided train of hazardous waste, she began wishing you death and disability, and that you would die alone, so you went mute and watched her leave to a quant coastal town to become an artist. Once upon a time you will have to pay so much money to her each month and for such a long time, and it’s all formal in legalese stamped and signed and dated with navy and red county
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| SARASHIVA SPITZER
seals, and you have no idea how you will aﬀord to keep the house. And once upon a time you remembered a man who stayed up at night wondering how he would deal with his wife never walking again. Once upon a time there was a man who dreamed of dancing with his wife again, and the wife seemed to get better, but they never did dance, and maybe that was the problem, and then she left, and later his friends tell him he is doing really, really, well. Once upon a time, a man married a woman who was a bit crazy, not to say he did not have his shit too, and he loved her and tried his best to accept her crazy and most of the time when things were going well she was quirky and campy and fun and silly and endearing. But there were quarrels and unkindnesses, and moves to many states, and the relentlessness of bills and daily burdens. e death of her parents. A teenager and her hallucinogenics. And then, the surgeries, the wheelchair, the unimaginable pain, and the pills, and the desolation and the defeat. But ﬁnally, what seemed to be ﬁnally, a recovery, and then a new home, and then she leaves. Once upon a time, your family, disposed of like septic tank sludge. Once upon a time should not end in I am divorcing your ass, especially when you submitted to the pills and the pain and the wheelchair, not with grace, so little grace, but with all you could muster from your imperfect, grouchy, heart. Once upon a time a man paid 2940 dollars a month so he could keep his dogs and the home that he bought for the family who will never live with him again. His friends say he is doing very well. Once upon a time.
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First Kiss by Brett Ramseyer
t hile I sat in a Yakeley dorm room, McQuetta pulled my t-shirt away from my neck like a rubber band she intended to shoot across the room. She peered down at my chest ogling what she saw there. She apparently undressed me with her eyes so she thought why not use her hands. I clutched my neckline like a beauty queen back stage at a Trump pageant despite being a white boy. Being objectiﬁed by a six foot tall black woman I didn’t know with double F breasts was a little intimidating and quite a ﬁrst month welcome to my freshman year at Michigan State. e elastic of my neck hole snapped back and sagged, forever changed. McQuetta laughed with her mouth wide open and head back. She spoke at a volume more suited to calling across vast open spaces of a church than the close proximity of dorm life. I lived two halls over in Campbell, but visited the all women’s dorm with regularity to see new friends I met there in the main montanamouthful.com
cafeteria of West Circle. When she released my shirt that ﬁrst meeting and walked echoing down the long hall to her single corner room, I said, “What was that?” ey told me McQuetta. Macwhata? McQuetta. Chaquita? Mah—kwet—tah. I foundered for a frame of reference that could place her name or personality, up to that point in my life, there was none. In a month or so, I discovered McQuetta’s corner single hosted the social hub of the second ﬂoor. Girls stopped by to microwave this, chat about that, watch Friends on ursday nights, check their make-up in the mirror on the way to a frat party in mini-skirts and high heels, or introduce their boyfriends. Quetta’s door was always open, no face a stranger. She didn’t drink, didn’t smoke, didn’t date, didn’t stray from the straight and narrow. She Montana Mouthful | 41
press her forearm against mine comparing colors. My faded tan still darker brown than her cloistered long sleeve covered skin. In time I saw behind her smile to notice the loneliness her public volume hoped to hide. I loved my friend. On some sub-zero Saturday night a circle of us sat cross-legged around a seven-ﬁfty of Smirnoﬀ. e drinking games were not allowed in Quetta’s house so we were well down the hall. By midnight the bottle drained. My warm face and heavy legs made everything funny. Each laugh burst through fricative lips. We fell upon each other in a ring of drunken dominoes. Resident Assistant’s ears began to prick up to the lightweight thump of underage drinkers. Quetta stopped by to rescue me. She whispered me down the hall. “Shh Quetta, why you being so quiet? You takin’ me home?” We wound around three ﬂights of stairs
| DYLAN SCILLIA
mother-henned us all since she was a junior in the land of freshmen and we loved her for it. By February I called home to break my high school girlfriend’s heart. Not that I knew it then, but that news made the rounds on Yakeley 2 East before I hung up, tears in my eyes. Quetta and company consoled me with a surprise birthday party and I ﬁnally felt like I was forging a new life of my own separate from where I grew up. I belonged there and most of my weekends passed through the hub. Many early evenings would start for me in Quetta’s room. She would run her ﬁngers through my hair and marvel at how the white boy’s do snapped right back into place. She’d run her ﬁngers through her own and laugh when the strands continued to stick straight out like a picture taken in the wind. In Quetta’s room late night conversations stretched into the mornings when I found that she wasn’t always so loud. She would
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and I looked with confusion over my shoulder as we passed underground instead of out the door. I clung to the arm of my friend. She took me to the study rooms in the bowels of the building. Quetta disappeared here when the rigors of her academic life needed to escape the social, but we didn’t have any books. Quetta unlocked the door to which few had a key. She sat me down across from her. She faced me, her hands clasped in front of her. I smiled at her. No one would bother us down here so early in the morning. Quetta knew about Tamara’s midnight “practice” sessions with her music professor. “I bet he accompanies her playing the one string viola.” She knew Callie lived with her unemployed, non-student boyfriend down the hall. “at fool said his ﬁrst class starts at 9:25. What class you know that start at nine twenty-ﬁve?” She knew who dated whom. She knew I broke up with my girlfriend. Quetta knew she was missing something. She told me she had never dated anyone. No one had ever asked her out. Twenty years old and she had never been kissed, not the slightest prospect. “We always talk about you,” said Quetta. She leaned forward. I squirmed in my seat under the weight of the sobering tête-à-tête. My liver kicked into high gear. My face burned. I knew what she would ask. “What would you say if I asked you to kiss me?” I stared at my friend suddenly clear-headed, contemplating such a kiss. I looked at her lips. I could barely feel mine. Ours were two ﬂeshy mechanisms set to diﬀerent sensitivity, poised to register dual meaning from the same event. ere was much to learn in the study room in the basement of Yakeley Hall, but none of it from books. “Please don’t ask me Quetta.” montanamouthful.com
“You don’t want to.” “I don’t want to let you down. It won’t mean for me what it does for you.” “What if that’s okay?” “I don’t think it is.” “You like white girls?” “Some of them, but it’s not about that.” “What you think of Callie? Is she pretty?” “She’s with Lonnie. She’s not interested in me.” “She pretty?” “Yeah.” “Would you kiss her? Would it mean the same thing to both of you?” “I-I don’t know Quetta.” I looked at the door over Quetta’s shoulder, but I stayed seated. I saw no escape for this friendship. “Would it mean the same as you kissing me?” I pulled my stuck tongue from the roof of my mouth. I ﬁlled my lungs. My chest that Quetta peeked at in the beginning of last semester rose and held the air. I heard the tick of boiler pipes expanding at the height of winter heating overhead. “No,” exhausted from me like a pressure valve. I put both hands aside my face and closed my eyes. “I’d do it if you made me. “Why?” “You’re my friend Quetta. I love you. Just don’t make me.” She smiled in one cheek, the kind that dimpled while the other did not. She placed her hands on the top of each thigh. “I love you too,” she said. She pressed down with her palms while she stood. Quetta slid her chair back under a distressed wooden table. I stood in front of her, our eyes at a level. I turned the knob and we walked in silence from our friendship down the long hall. Montana Mouthful | 43
| KRYSTAL MELDRUM
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Heartbeat by Jacob Melvin
e sat outside to watch ﬁreﬂies, and I swear I heard a heartbeat. It was six months after Anna’s death, but my daughter Lizzie and I still gathered dust. It wasn’t intentional. I made subtle changes immediately; a retired couple bought the convertible and my sister took the kayaks. Other changes stayed on hold. e DVR recorded Anna’s favorite cooking shows. Opened nail polish remained on the bathroom counter, a dried pink that cracked like a scab. I secretly lamented draining the master bathtub, an irrational battle I couldn’t justify. e smell of her soap wafted away long ago, leaving a stale reminder of my inability to pull the plug. Lizzie seemed strong for ﬁve and grieving. We fell asleep on opposite ends of the sofa most nights, our yellow lab between us, the glow of a muted television always keeping company. Waking up together seemed to make it easier, but kindergarten did not.
I tallied the hours as they passed at work in the same way a prisoner might use a cell wall. e Sharpie bled through each new day on the desktop calendar, a constant source of frustration. When I got to seven hours each day, I even doodled Lizzie’s face, her mother’s nose its centerpiece. We always clenched each other in the pick-up line at school, grateful for surviving another day, and rode home to thaw something for dinner. In May, while helping Lizzie trace the alphabet at the kitchen table, I asked her what she wanted for her birthday. She tilted her head sideways for a moment and scrunched her nose. e tapping of her pencil beat feverishly against the paper while she stared at nothing. I thought her pause might signal an imminent request to conjure the afterlife. Someone at school told her that mommy was watching from Heaven; another called mommy an angel. I hoped she wanted a lifelike doll or bicycle with streamers because
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I was too bitter about cancer to deliver an adequate reply about souls. What I wanted to say was that mommy had no wings and didn’t need them. She wasn’t taking care of us from afar or doing anyone else’s will. Mommy still existed because we wanted her to. She lived in our house, and her pillow still had an indentation. Her rotten salad remained in the fridge. Lizzie claimed she forgot about her birthday and continued tracing W’s. I waited for laughter but she didn’t look up from her homework. When I pressed, she just said “Raymond movies,” referring to the sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond that we utilized to fall asleep. I scoﬀed, but she oﬀered nothing more. Light stretched through the window over her shoulder; the backyard gestured. We always hosted her parties there. Last year, she started her birthday list on Christmas day. e two holidays seemed to be cornerstones of every child’s year, and hers fell in June. It was all she talked about that spring. Princess costumes, bouncy houses, and pink balloons were staples every year. It was a neighborhood event for all of her friends. She even planned the napkins. Since Anna, we didn’t buy any napkins. We also didn’t buy paper towels, toilet paper, or Kleenex tissues. I couldn’t remember them when I went to the store. Perhaps that was the realization that hit me, napkins. Maybe I had to emerge from the long pause. I decided to have a cookout that night, just the two of us. e weather looked prime and I had a little charcoal. We could turn a corner. We could have more cookouts, more people, if the ﬁrst one felt alright. Once, I think I heard my own heartbeat during an anxiety attack when I forgot to pay
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the power bill. It was last month, and we had to spend the night in a hotel. I also heard a heartbeat, its rapid thumping, when the nurse put gel on my wife’s stomach and congratulated us on a baby girl. I even heard a heart beep in the hospital, the monitor reminding me that Anna was still there until she wasn’t. is heartbeat didn’t sound like any of that. We laughed a lot that night. Hide and seek was an easy game in an empty backyard. My little Lizzie, muddy from chasing the dog around with a ﬂashlight, crouched next to me. Her panting signaled accomplishment; she scared Babe into submission. He nosed her elbow, wanting to know if they were still friends, before shaking oﬀ some wet grass and collapsing nearby. e night itself seemed just as cooperative; it unfolded gently like the family blanket beneath us, frayed but protecting from the aging decks’ splinters. And there, amid bottled waters with lost lids, citronella candles shaped like stars, and burnt hot dogs hinting at loss, I heard it. I motioned to Lizzie, her eyes as round as the moon she tried cupping with both hands, but she didn’t seem to notice the sound. Faint, musical. And I thought to myself, maybe this rhythm is always audible, but it’s only experienced accidentally. Maybe this is a reminder from Anna, or, more realistically, a reminder that a living, giggling extension of my wife wore dirty sneakers and smelled like bug spray. We continue because we can. Life doesn’t linger in the lag of memory. It’s here in the present; pulsing, overheard.
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ank you so much for partaking in our literary dream! We appreciate all of the individuals who submitted work for our debut issue of Montana Mouthful magazine. We received over 90 submissions, which overwhelmed and delighted us. You are all gifted, and we are humbled and inspired by each of you. Thanks for sharing your creativity with us. As we launch this issue, we have already begun working on our second issue, which is scheduled to come out in July of 2018. In addition to short stories and artwork, we will be adding poetry and a contest. The theme for Issue 2 will be “Secrets.” For more information, visit
our Submittable page. We open for submissions on February 19th! A special note of gratitude goes to Luke Duran, of Element L Design, for creating our logo and helping us lay out the first issue. He took our vision and fashioned a masterpiece. Thank you Luke! We hope you enjoyed the inaugural issue of Montana Mouthful magazine, and we hope you’ll continue to enjoy our future issues. Thank you for being a part of our community. Sincerely, The editors of Montana Mouthful
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Pearse Anderson | The Bayonet Pearse Anderson is a writer and photographer from Ithaca, NY. He is currently studying food, writing, and heterotopias under the helm of Dan Chaon in Oberlin, OH. He has been featured in such publications as Weird Fiction Review, Bop Dead City Review, Jellyﬁsh Review, OCCULUM, and Bad Pony Mag. For a while, he’s had a thing for people wandering down roads and discovering hidden histories. More of his writings and photos can be found at pearseanderson.com, and on Instagram at @pearseanderson. Douglas Borer | When I First Smelt the Pine Douglas Borer was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana. He now lives near the shore of the Monterey Bay in California. In earlier years, he worked as a paperboy, doodle-bugger, meat-packer, ranch-hand, kelp wrangler, and itinerant war college professor. Ceillie Clark-Keane | First Bear Sighting in the Big Woods Ceillie Clark-Keane lives in Boston and works in publishing. She holds a Master’s in English & American Literature from Northeastern University, and this is her ﬁrst publication. Follow her on Instagram @ceillie_keane and at ceillieclarkkeane.com. Samuel Cole | Connect Four Samuel E. Cole lives in Woodbury, MN, where he ﬁnds work in special event/development management. He’s a poet, ﬂash ﬁction geek, and political essayist enthusiast. His work has appeared in many literary journals, and his ﬁrst poetry collection, Bereft and the Same-Sex Heart, was published in October 2016 by Pski’s Porch Publishing. His second book, Bloodwork, a collection of short stories, was published by Pski’s Porch Publishing in July 2017. His third book, Siren Stitches, a collection of short stories, was published by ree Waters Publishing in October 2017. He is also an award-winning card maker and scrap booker. Samuel’s work may also be found at www.samuel-cole.com.
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Lisa Dailey | First Alien Encounter A third-generation photographer, Lisa Dailey has been both in front of and behind the camera her whole life. She ﬁnds her greatest inspiration in nature and hopes to arouse amazement with photos that showcase the smallest, often overlooked, details. A native Montanan, Lisa now makes her home by the ocean in Bellingham, Washington, but returns to her roots every summer for a healthy dose of mountains and Big Sky. In addition to photography, Lisa is also an avid writer and traveler. She is presently working on a memoir detailing her 7-month, around the world travel adventure with her husband and two teenage sons. You can read more of Lisa’s ramblings on her varied creative pursuits on her blog northwestrambles.com. Cade Duran | Inside Cade is 14 years old, and a freshman at Helena High School. He began taking pictures when he was 9, as a participant in the county 4-H Photography program. Cade now serves as a junior superintendent of the program, and helps other kids pursue photography for fun and personal development. Rich Furman | Once Upon a Time Rich Furman, PhD, is the author or editor of over 15 books, including a collection of ﬂash nonﬁction/prose poems, Compañero (Main Street Rag, 2007), Detaining the Immigrant Other: Global and Transnational Issues (Oxford University Press, 2016), Social Work Practice with Men at Risk (Columbia University Press, 2010), and Practical Tips for Publishing Scholarly Articles (Oxford University Press, 2012). His poetry and creative nonﬁction have been published in Hawaii Review, Coe Review, e Evergreen Review, Black Bear Review, Sierra Nevada Review, New Hampshire Review, Penn Review, Colere, Pearl and many others. He is professor of social work at University of Washington Tacoma. Paweł Grajnert | Horizon Break Paweł Grajnert is a writer/ﬁlmmaker who works in the US and Poland. His work has screened at the Venice Film Festival, the Gdynia Film Festival and the Whitney Museum of Modern Art. His screenplay, “Lockdown,” recently won the best horror screenplay award at the Die Laughing Film Festival in Hollywood, CA. He co-founded the Seattle Poetry Slam, and is active in local and international politics. Pawel’s work may be found at: www.linkedin.com/in/pkgrajnert. Lauren Helbling | First Glimpses of the Sun; First Touchdown Lauren Helbling is an adventurous high school student who loves photography and the outdoors. Her work can also be found on Instagram at @laurengrace_photography.
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Chuck LaVoie | First Kiss
Nhatanh Nguyen Dinh | Couple Kissing
Chuck LaVoie is an artist and home builder living with his wife and son in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Chuck’s recent artistic work utilizes found objects that would otherwise be discarded, including scrap lumber and metal. His work has recently been shown at the Goodyear Branch Library “Alphabet Soup” exhibition in Goodyear, Arizona and at e Tohono Chul Gallery and Botanical Garden “Dia de los Muertos” exhibition in Tucson, Arizona.
Nhat Anh is 17 years old. He was born in Vietnam and has been interested in ﬁne art since he was a child. Like many artists, he began with the simple subject matter. He tends to ﬁnd value in the gorgeousness of people and the scenes surrounding his life. He is interested not only in how ﬁne art enables him to see the world through diﬀerent eyes but also how it connects him to people. He spends his time on literature, poetry and listening to music. Nhat’s work may be found at: https://nhatanhart.deviantart.com/gallery/.
Krystal Cooper Meldrum | Nurture e artistic imaginings of Krystal Cooper Meldrum have been created from the time she was able to able to hold a crayon. Her hunger for art was nurtured by parents and teachers until she ﬁnally pursued her passion to expand her command of media by attending BYU-Idaho and BYU where she attained a Bachelor of Fine Art in Illustration in 2001. Her voice as an artist has been described as a color dancer that captures themes of strengthening marriages and families. Krystal’s work can be found in the following locations: Instagram: @krystalmeldrum, Facebook: facebook.com/krystalmeldrumthecolordancer, Website: https://krystalmeldrum.com, and YouTube: https://krystalmeldrum.com/youtube. Jacob Melvin | Heartbeat Jacob Melvin’s writing has appeared in e Bitter Southerner, Post Road, e Saturday Evening Post, and Tenemos. He has a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and currently teaches Creative Writing and literature in Birmingham, Alabama. Jessica Meyers | First Time Being So Close to a Deer; First time Mechanic Jessica Meyers is from small town Cottonwood, Idaho. She is married and has two beautiful little girls and a step daughter. She loves the outdoors and getting to see new country. For her, photography is how she tells her story; she always has her camera and loves to capture all those little moments. Jessica’s work can be found on Facebook at JM photography. John Murphy | Opossum John Murphy writes and lives in Virginia. He has published writing in e Vignette Review, Ad Hoc Fiction, Ruminate Magazine, Penultimate Peanut, 101 Words and Chicago Literati. In his free time, he is usually reading books, watching movies or listening to music.
William Nichols | A Scar is Born William Nichols is 42 years old and has been married to his wonderful wife Heather for 17 years. Together they have four beautiful children. He is a medically retired Army Veteran with one deployment to Iraq as a Medic in the 82nd Airborne Division with ten years of service in the United States Army. He is currently a student at Portland State University, working towards a Bachelor’s in Fine Arts in Creative Writing. His nonﬁction has been published in e Ekphrastic Review and his ﬁction had been published in War Stories 2017: An Anthology. William Nichols’ work can be found at www.williambnicholswrites.wordpress.com. Alex Nizovsky | Hercules and Love Affair Alex Nizovsky is an artist, designer, and naturalist who is focused on the beauty of living organisms. His art expresses his passionate engagement with the beautiful forms of insects. BUG SUR is his new art project inspired by the undiscovered micro world of bugs. His project is devoted to creation of the fantastic world of little surrealistic creatures. Alex is a painter, designer, art director and founder of Apollo Advertising Agency. e agency has created visuals and artwork for e Walt Disney Company, Marvel, Sony Pictures, Conde Nast, General Motors, Unilever, and others. Alex lives and works in Sausalito, California. More of Alex’s work may be found at https://www.bugsur.com/bio. Don Noel | Iniquities Retired after four decades’ prizewinning print and broadcast journalism in Hartford Connecticut, Don Noel received his MFA in Creative Writing from Fairﬁeld University in 2013. Montana Mouthful brings the count to 38 short stories he has had accepted for publication since graduation. Don still has a dozen completed short stories, two novellas and a novel looking for publishers. More information about Don and his work may be found at www.dononoel.com.
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Leah Oates | Transitory Space, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, October 2017 # 14, Color Photography; Transitory Space, Prospect Park, Brooklyn, October 2017 #17, Color Photography Leah Oates has a B.F.A. from the Rhode Island School of Design and M.F.A. from e School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is a Fulbright Fellow for study at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. Leah has had numerous solo shows in the NYC area at venues including the NYC MTA Lightbox Project at 42nd Street, Susan Eley Fine Art, e Central Park Arsenal Gallery, e Center for Book Arts, Sara Nightingale Gallery, e Brooklyn Public Library and nationally at Real Art Ways, CT, Tomasulo Gallery NJ and in Chicago at Women Made Gallery, Artemisia Gallery and Anchor Graphics. Works on paper by Oates are in numerous public collections including the Harvard University Libraries, e Brooklyn Museum Artists’ Book Collection, e Walker Art Center Libraries, e Smithsonian Libraries and the Franklin Furnace Archive at MoMA, NYC. Leah’s work may be found at leahoates.com. Norton Pease | First Wild Fire Experience Norton Pease received an MFA from Washington University, St. Louis in 1999. He has worked with numerous artists including Nancy Rubins, James Nares and Frank Stella through preparatory work as well as being a consultant. Currently, Norton is Professor of Art and Graphic Design as well as the Chair of the College of Education, Arts & Sciences, and Nursing at Montana State University-Northern. Norton’s work may be found at: www.nortonpease.com.
Russell Rowland | Black Shetlands Russell Rowland has published ﬁve books, including In Open Spaces and Fifty-Six Counties: A Montana Journey. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Boston University, and he lives in Billings, Montana, where he teaches online workshops and works as a consultant to other writers. Kate Runnalls | First Colors of Fall; First Light Kate Runnalls is a longtime Helena resident. She has been painting in watercolor for over 25 years. She paints a variety of subjects and focuses on color, shape, and texture while she tries to capture the essence of what she is painting. She is a member of the Helena Art Center and has shown her work in various places in Helena including the Holter Museum, Lewis and Clark Library, and Carroll College. Her work has been accepted into the Montana Watercolor Society and is found on Instagram at @katerunn. M. Russek | The Music School M. Russek has won various photography and art awards, including the Journey Arts poetry prize, and is also a poet and essayist. Previously, M. was a poetry editor at the Naples Review and formerly senior poetry editor at e Missing Slate, the founder of ‘is: A Review’ online literary journal. M. is currently a student at UWF. M. Russek’s work may be found at https://mindolluin.deviantart.com/. Dylan Scillia | First Kiss
Jenn Powers is a writer and visual artist from New England. She has work published or forthcoming in e Pinch, Jabberwock Review, Zingara Poetry, and Calyx, among others. Her work may be found at www.jennpowers.com.
Dylan Scillia is a Junior at Susquehanna University studying Early Childhood Education. While photography has nothing to do with his major, it is one of his passions and he indulges in it as often as possible. It is his dream to one day teach the basics of photography in middle schools to hopefully open their eyes to the artistic possibilities. Dylan’s work may be found at Scillia.myportfolio.com and on Instagram @dscillia.
Brett Ramseyer | First Kiss
Guido Siporin | First Cloud; First Mountain
Brett Ramseyer teaches English and Creative Publishing in Hart, Michigan where he and his wife raise their three children. Ramseyer earned a 2013 Norman Mailer Semiﬁnalist for Teachers of English in creative non-ﬁction. He published his ﬁrst novel, Come Not To Us, in 2014. Dylan Ward of The U.S. Review of Books wrote in his featured review of the novel: “Ramseyer’s characters are riddled with faults and secrets, which makes them wholly human... Ramseyer succeeds in giving us a kind of a morality tale with his observation of good and evil and of ﬁnding value in our existence.” Ramseyer also published a collection of short ﬁction, Waiting for Bells, in 2016. Ramseyer’s work may be found at https://bramseyer.wordpress.com and http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/BrettRamseyer.
FreetheDust was born in Logan, Utah and raised in Israel, Portugal, Italy, Oregon, and North Carolina. He was ﬁrst inspired artistically during the year he spent abroad in Italy where his art teacher, Signore Villa, would mark up his paintings with a black sharpie pen. He began by sketching and painting, as well as developing his photography skills during his travels. Later on he joined Special Forces and served for three years as an active combat soldier. Afterwards he received his degree in Government and Counter-Terrorism, and works mainly as a freelance security consultant today. Art always has and will have a large place in his life and heart, and he continues to sketch, paint, and photograph daily. Guido’s work may be found at www.freethedust.com and on Instagram @freethedust.
Jenn Powers | Wanderlust; Wild Daisy
50 | Montana Mouthful
Vol. 1 • Issue 1
SaraShiva Spitzer | Open SaraShiva Spitzer is an arts educator and visual artist specializing in photography and mixed media collage. Over the past twenty years she has worked with diverse populations in rural and urban settings throughout the American Midwest. Ms. Spitzer has curated exhibits of artwork by survivors of domestic violence, incarcerated women, and “at-risk” teens, and she has been an activist-advocate for arts as a means of bringing attention to issues of social and economic injustice. Her current projects consider race and poverty in urban landscapes. Some of her work has appeared in TRANSverse Journal and an image|text collaboration with poet D. M. Spitzer is in production for the Hawai’i Review’s e-chapbook series. Olive Thompson | Alien Art Work Olivia ompson lives in Springﬁeld, Missouri, where she currently attends Drury University, with plans to work in nonproﬁt leadership or journalism. Her writing and photography have been published in the Duke University Ghost Ranch Anthology, e Joplin Globe, and Out Here magazine. In her free time, she enjoys photography, writing, and horseback riding. Imani Vidal | First Child Stolen Imani Vidal is committed to capturing and documenting the occurrences of generations through the lens of cultural photojournalism. Born in the Bronx, Imani, her mom and four siblings moved to Florida when she was four years old. As an adult, Imani has returned to New York City with the goal of exploring, documenting and sharing experiences through visual narratives. Her interest in the diﬀerent forms of art expressions was further ignited by the Hip-Hop culture and activism. Imani has documented demonstrations, cultural events and live performances throughout the ﬁve boroughs. Imani continues to take on cultural projects to hone her skills, and more importantly to have a positive impact in the communities captured by her lens. Imani’s work may be found at http://www.insytephotography.com. Audrey Warren | First Snow Audrey Warren is a 14 year old student at Sussex school, in Missoula, Montana. She ﬁrst started photography in sixth grade and has progressed since then. She likes taking pictures of nature, her friends, and capturing the emotion of the moment.
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Published on Feb 15, 2018