Montana Mouthful

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In Montana, we endured a severe winter with record snowfall that turned into a blustery, wet spring. e harsh, drab weather that dragged on for months echoed my emotional state as the staff of Montana Mouthful learned that one of our founders and editors, Lisa Huff, had an aggressive form of cancer. Despite my intense desire for her to make it through this terrible diagnosis, she passed away on May 25, 2018. She was forty years-old. Her passing has reminded me that no matter how we might delude ourselves into thinking we have control over our own fate, everyone’s life is subject to chance. e best we can do is make the most of it while we are here: form meaningful connections, appreciate the beauty around us, use our talents, and have fun. Lisa endured her diagnosis with as much hope and optimism as a person possibly could. Her positive attitude in the face of her own mortality awed me. e person she was is so much like the vibrant yellow Arrowleaf balsamroots that arrived to cover the Montana mountainsides in a way that spoke out against the snow and mud. ey seemed to say that no matter how harsh conditions get, there is splendor just around the corner. ese flowers are striking, joyous, and just a little eccentric, so very much like my friend, Lisa. Life isn’t life without enduring hardships, and much of the writing in our second issue, themed “secrets” also speaks to endurance. Our first feature is “Peaceful Spaceship Cottage,” a powerful, poignant nonfiction piece, by Candice Kelsey, about a foster-mom and a child’s secret. is issue also showcases some fantastic poetry. e poem, “Afternoon Bridge at the Senior Center in May,” by Judith Camann, shares a secret longing to have escaped. As you peruse through the pages, you’ll come across the fiction story, “Strawberries for Breakfast,” by Tim Hatton, in which another child drops a bomb on his teacher. Finally, we are pleased to introduce a new feature in Montana Mouthful. We’ve teamed up with Suzy Williams, of e Shop University, a nonprofit organization located in downtown Helena that provides English language instruction to non-native English speakers. ere’s much more to the issue than I have mentioned here, and we hope you read it coverto-cover in order to discover your favorite piece of writing and artwork. As we enter summer, we carry with us the lessons we have learned, and we draw on happy memories as we enjoy longer, easier days, the harsher times behind us, and the world still waiting to be discovered wherever we look, especially within this magazine. We hope we’ll be part of your next road trip, day at the beach, or overnight camping trip. Enjoy! Holly Alastra, Editor

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VOLUME ONE • ISSUE TWO Montana Mouthful is an independent literary magazine devoted to short fiction and nonfiction, poetry, and visual artwork. 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 Stacy A. Collette 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); Non-Fiction Essay: 2,000 words or less (up to 2 pieces); Narrative Nonfiction: 2,000 words or less (up to 2 pieces). Poetry 1,000 words or less (up to 3 pieces) Artwork/Photography Up to 10 images SUBMISSIONS Please send us your work via Submittable at Emailed submissions will not be accepted. VIEWING ISSUU: MAGCLOUD:

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Introduction .......................................................................II Tribute to Lisa Huff............................................................2 Untitled, by Lisa Huff .........................................................4 Peaceful Spaceship Cottage.................................................7 Afternoon Bridge at the Senior Center in May ................11 Consulting the Classics.....................................................14 Exuberant..........................................................................15 Braids ................................................................................19 Two Truths and a Lie........................................................20 Strange Mercies ................................................................20 River Song ........................................................................21 Strawberries for Breakfast .................................................23 My Secret Friend ..............................................................26 How ..................................................................................27 Turtleglass .........................................................................28 Silent Night ......................................................................28 Looking for Abraham .......................................................29 Exodus ..............................................................................33 Love and Anguish Entwined ............................................35 e Horses of Aruba.........................................................40 Selfless...............................................................................43 Likable Loner ...................................................................46 She Would Have...............................................................47 Mica..................................................................................51 the still creep .....................................................................51 Dissolution........................................................................52 Family Secrets ...................................................................53 Summer Storm..................................................................58 Inheritance ........................................................................59 Poem for the Other...........................................................64 Out from Under ...............................................................65 e secret of why foreign people say Japanese service is good.....................................................67 Biography..........................................................................49

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Cover art:

Dirty Secrets



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is issue of Montana Mouthful is dedicated to our dear friend, Lisa Huff, who died May 25th from a rare, fast-moving cancer. As a founding member of Montana Mouthful, Lisa worked side-by-side with each of us to put together Montana Mouthful, all the while maintaining joy and energy around some of the more arduous tasks. Each of us worked with Lisa for several years as we honed our writing and inspired one another. One of the most consistent elements Lisa brought to our meetings was her indomitable spirit. She would walk into the house with a smile and quip from the day, and she exuded so much life as she offered constructive feedback, interpretation of unfinished works, and ways to run the business of Montana Mouthful. Finally, she’d end with an offer for all of us to go for a hike or to take a road trip. While writing the fifth draft of this dedication, I continued to fumble with what to say and what not to say. I have read hundreds of love notes and dedications, researched obituaries, penned pages of notes, yet none of the drafts seemed to capture her spirit. Words fail in this critical moment, and as painful as it is to not be able to capture her being with each of you, I offer this simple thought in our “secrets” issue: One of the secrets to Lisa’s success was her ability to live life fully. Unfortunately, the secret of Lisa’s cancer lived within her for some time, even when the doctors couldn’t pinpoint a diagnosis, even as Lisa struggled day-by-day, the secret of her cancer grew and changed her. It changed us. On the days Lisa felt hopeless, because she couldn’t identify what was wrong with her, she hiked. On the days she felt at odds with her body, she met friends for lunch and began building her dream of an interior design practice. On the days she was hostage in a hospital bed, she researched potential clients, dreamt of proposals, and sketched a plan of action to do what she loved. Even in those moments, in these last 12 months, Lisa lived.

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Once the diagnosis was given, the grim reality of Lisa’s fate was a stark reminder of what Lisa had been telling us all along in action: Live Now. e truth is, we all have secrets: a diagnosis, a fear, a regret, yet we also have hope. It’s easy for us to hold ourselves back from pursuing our dreams, and often we fail to take action. Although Lisa lived only 40 years on this planet, we had many poignant conversations, the most poignant being the time she asked, “Why are you not pursing your passion?” She understood that many of us walk through life doing what we must. While we often help and encourage others to pursue their passions, sometimes it’s difficult to do it for ourselves. If Lisa were here today, she’d ask you that question—“Why are you not pursuing your passion?” en she’d encourage you to do it. e following excerpt is from an untitled story that Lisa was working on during 2016, and she submitted it to our writing group for peer review at that time. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. Stacy Collette, Editor

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Untitled by Lisa Huff ith her chin cradled in her hands on the windowsill, Liv watched as the first hints of morning light trickled through the window. ere was life out there, she just knew it. Every cell in her being cried to be a part of it. She tried, but couldn’t understand why there was so much fear surrounding it. Why? Everyone always talked about ‘it’, but nothing more than whispers and a vague shadow of something that they should steer very clear of. She listened for signs of life in the house. Total silence. She looked over to her brother’s bed. He let out a quiet snort, licked his lips, mumbled like he was trying to say something, cackled, then turned on his side, dreaming. She tip-toed over to her nightstand and quickly dressed for the day, careful not to make a sound. As she reached for her shoes, one slipped from her fingers and clunked on to the wood floor with a rude thud. Her eyes darted to her brother asleep on his bed.


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Frozen stone-still, she watched for a few seconds, hoping it didn’t wake him. He cackled softly again and turned away from her, still dreaming. She sighed and finished dressing. e morning air was crisp and sweet. e cicadas had long given up their song to the morning greetings of the blue jays and magpies. She watched as a cat played with a fresh catch. Sensing her approach, the feline clenched the still struggling furry creature in its jaw and slunk away to finish breakfast undisturbed. e windows of each cottage she passed reflected nothing but the blackness contained within, giving no hint of life yet stirring. As she passed the last house of her village, she broke into a trot and headed straight for her spot. A sense of urgency moved her forward. A sense of something ahead of her that she must search out. She didn’t understand where it came from or what it meant, only that she must meet it. She sat down, feet dangling over the edge

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of the cliff. e valley far below remained lost in the shadow of the early dawn and looked more like a void of black nothingness. Only the rising forest far off to the east reflected back any signs of life. A few stars held out as dawn continued to encroach. She sat and watched as the valley below slowly revealed itself. She let her mind wander. She knew she needed to get back soon, before she was missed. She was about to head back when she heard some rustling off to her right. At first she thought it was her brother spying on her again, but the noises were too abrupt and large to be caused by him. She froze. Her eyes glued to the source of the noise. A low, burly growl floated through the air and then she saw it. e jet-black fur sucked all existing light from the dawn, creating only a shadowy outline of the bear. Only the long, slender claws and tips of his fur kissed by mist from the falls reflected the early morning light, appearing to float around like disembodied apparitions. She watched as the bear, still oblivious to her presence, rummaged around in the bush for the berries just now ripening. She listened to the bear sniff and chomp and gruff as it snacked. She adjusted her leg as it had started tingling, disturbing a small rock in the process. She froze as it clacked down the cliff, from finger grip to finger grip. e bear stopped and turned toward her, sniffing the air and puffing warning grunts. She watched as he lowered his head and swung it back and forth. A few seconds of this and then he started walking slowly toward her. Her eyes were glued to him. She felt the panic welling, but didn’t know what to do.

Run? She feared if she got up to run, the bear would feel threatened and attack, so she sat silently, barely breathing. She watched as he walked right toward her. And then he stopped. So close she could feel the heat from his breath. She didn’t dare even twitch. He sniffed around her head, puffed another grunt, and swung his head back and forth again. e dawn reflected in his right eye. And, the strangest thing. He laid down next to her, front paws curled over the cliff ’s edge as he turned his attention to the awakening valley floor. e bear was laying so close she could feel his sides expand into her with each breath. ey sat side-by-side for what felt like hours, watching the tide of sun slowly fill the valley with life. e winds below washed over the tree tops, creating waves of emerald and peridot. And then, as suddenly as the bear came, he got up without so much as a glance toward her and walked off in to the bushes. Liv sat silent, eyes glued to where the bear had disappeared into the thick brush. e dull roar of the falls grew in intensity as the sounds of rustling twigs and leaves grew more and more distant. She unknowingly held her breath and leaned in to the sounds as she strained to hear any clue ensuring the bear was gone. Just as the last sounds drifted off into oblivion, a swallow startled from its nest in the cliff just below Liv’s feet, brushing her foot as it flew away. Instinctually she contracted her legs in and covered her head with her arms letting out a monster scream that echoed down the cliff wall. Realizing it was a bird, Liv laid back on the ground and broke into hysterical laughter, embarrassed, and hoping no one was around to hear her.

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Peaceful Spaceship Cottage by Candice Kelsey “His life from without may seem but a rude mound of mud; there will be some golden chamber at the heart of it, in which he dwells delighted.” —e Lantern Bearers, Robert Louis Stevenson


hirteen months after he arrived, I converted my bed into a place where I could feel alone. I named it Peaceful Spaceship Cottage. e cottage is one half of a queen sized bed and a body’s length (the walls being imaginary), and so to climb into my cottage is like climbing into a spaceship. First, I folded deep apprehension and gloomy foreboding into the quilts at the foot of the bed. en on the sunlit side, I perched a cockeyed succulent beside a tobacco leaf candle. On the other side, I built a motley mountebanks of pillow. Anyone who enters the room will see there’s just enough room for a girl. e metallic blinds and the mosaic Tiffany lamp that lure my eyes aloft make it seem all

the more that I am drifting beyond the ozone, with the gaseous planets to starboard and the ringed ones to port, all of which create the desired effect. is, of course, is why I named my four-poster cottage after a space ship. Hi Team, Caliban spoke to his mom tonight. She was very angry and aggressive. She chewed him out for about 5 minutes for making a joke she didn’t find funny. By the time we realized what was happening, she had changed the subject. It’s hard to tell when she’s being funny and being angry. Then Caliban told her how he shot a BB gun (which was not a real BB gun, but a kid’s version with extreme safety precautions like goggles and paper targets and counselors by his side). She freaked out and screamed that she was tired of "them" (meaning us?) putting guns in his hands. And that she would "talk to [his social worker] about the guns we keep forcing on him." Pretty concerned over here.

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In Twain’s Huck Finn, whenever Jim or Huck encounter dangerous situations, they always take to the river. Basho, in his Narrow Road to the Interior, advocated crossing the many rivers. My father spent a year sailing around the world and decided not to contact us until he arrived in some obscure San Diego marina. Unless we’re sent down the Nile in a basket–and have some epic tale of woe, the

rocket ship, you don’t ask what seat. Just get on.” For now I have converted half of my bed into a spaceship for relaxation–isn’t that an awful thing to do? Good morning, Here is a report from the last week. 1. Caliban took food that belonged to a teacher during school. He also told another student to "shut up." 2. This morning he refused to get out of the

We are, each one of us, the unwanted white boxer puppies about to be ushered away surreptitiously, quickly, and quietly.

car and go to school. 3. He is still not obeying basic hygiene rules. 4. When told to put his shoes on or get his back pack, he walks the opposite direction and ignores the instruction. 5. However, yesterday he was very helpful doing chores. 6. His mom said some disturbing things on the phone yesterday (in addition to blaming us for

water doesn’t cut it. Bounty hunters lie in wait. Shoguns commit suicide, or worse become swords for hire. Alzheimer’s makes claim to my dad. And the sadness of impermanence buffets any wood, aluminum, or flesh vessel that wades from bank to bank. Perhaps we now need to take to the ether, to get off this earth, this unlucky 13th colony. In January of 1986 I sat with my friends at a table of four trying to pass a quiz; I think it was 10th grade World History. e news on the loudspeakers fluttered like the pages of the I Ching or the birds leaving the temple steps as Death wipes his boots. 73 seconds after lift-off Christa McAuliffe and the crew of the Challenger were lost to the world. I’m not into tattoos, but I’ve considered tattooing what she told Johnny Carson in a pre-launch interview, “When you’re offered a seat on a

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their visit not happening). She told him he should "play football so you can hit people. It feels sooo good to hit people. I love hitting people. Caliban, you should start hitting people. Just hit em!" It was very strange and not really helpful.

I myself ceased to exist. Two Decembers ago as a matter of fact. My elderly mother who suffers from narcissism and boredom just couldn’t tolerate my criticisms of Donald Trump. It’s common knowledge that many friendships and families, even marriages, have taken the Mickey in the aftermath of the election, but Jean’s buttons were pushed in totality and in unison. e explosion was other worldly, and for fifteen months I reside in her favored method of torture, her hot box of silence. A former boss of mine remarked after his own mother’s funeral that life looks differ-

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ent without the mother ship. I have come to agree with him. Many days I would cry out to God to spare me of this rejection; many days I would thank him profusely for it. My poetic economy seemed to respond well either way, and I began cranking out piece after piece, rivaling Henry Ford and Volkswagen. I was floating in space, and as I looked ahead and behind, I noticed that the only other people out there were either neighbors who remodel their houses or school administrators. I laughed as I thought to myself except for the flippant upper-middle class who relish the staccato echoes of hammering and those who are shockingly dishonest or inept, who would be caught out here? Hi Team, While Caliban had a fantastic weekend (the best he’s ever had), two areas of concern arose. They both deal with violence toward animals. His counselor from summer camp told us that at camp Caliban killed a lizard with a stick. We asked our kids if they knew and they said everyone knew and everyone was upset about it. But they didn’t want to get him in trouble by telling us. Tonight he squeezed one of our cats so hard, it was undeniably violent and aggressive and upsetting. Then he got into our dog’s face and yelled, "Salva, I’m going to shoot you. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop." and motioned like he was killing her. Please advise and also address this matter with each other and Dr. Dott.

By the grace of God I can function. When I was six years old living in Hong Kong, my mother entered into an AKC dogbreeding contract with the owner of a male boxer who would sire our female boxer’s

hopefully-trophy-bound puppies. One humid night in our apartment atop the mountains overlooking Repulse Bay, I witnessed each glossy little puppy-bundle pop out of a swollen womb; I felt myself floating deeper and deeper into the intoxication of life and all its marvelous wonders. e experience was transcendent. Seeing these eight puppy-lives begin by opening their eyes inspired my child-heart to open its eyes. at is, until two all-white puppies emerged. How remarkable, I thought. How fantastic, I cried. But they were ushered away surreptitiously, quickly and quietly, each wrapped in its own cruel towel, never to be seen again. Of course, I learned later that pursuant to the breeding contract my mother entered, any aberrant (read white) puppies would be euthanized immediately save for sullying the sire’s good name. From that horrific realization forward, I was committed to the underdog–I would always fight for the less fortunate, the ones against whom life conspires, the ones who are ushered away surreptitiously, quickly, and quietly. And so I jumped through the difficult and frustrating hoops to become certified to foster a child who was taken from his home. A few weeks into his living with us, he sat in our living room on the hard wood floor and built around himself a circle of fifteen Nerf guns. Imagine that. A protective circle of Nerf guns and in the middle one little boy declaring, Now I feel safe; now no one can hurt me. Hi Team, We have some disturbing updates to share from this weekend. 1. Caliban has been abusive to our dogs; he hit

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our boxer, Salva, very very hard for no reason. He

I asked him what he meant, and he said, "I have

also kicked twice at our beagle, Pablo, for no rea-

been lying about my mom because I don’t want her

son, scaring both dogs very much.

to get in trouble. But she did hit me a lot. Please

2. Caliban was looking for a glue stick, so I could help him with a homework project, and he

don’t tell the social workers." 10. He has been all around super oppositional.

found a Bic lighter I use for my candles. He said, "Now your foster son knows where the lighter is, and the house may burn down. So watch out!" 3. He saw me getting vitamins down from above the refrigerator where the larger butcher knives are kept hidden. He said, "I see those big knives; I can climb up and get them now." 4. He threatened several times today to break our large front window of the house. He said, "I want to break that window so badly!!!" 5. He continues to call me "woman" which I have repeatedly told him is UNACCEPTABLE. Then three times this weekend he said to me, "Woman, please." Not okay in the least. 6. He continues to have violent nightmares and wakes us up in our bedroom two to three times a night. 7. He threw an epic tantrum at today’s LMU girls’ soccer game because he was hot. He ran off and then wouldn’t come back to us. 8. He has been getting in Keith’s face, bowing up, and yelling when called out on the above behaviors. 9. On a walk with me, he shared that he had been lying about his mom to the social workers.

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We are, each one of us, the unwanted white boxer puppies about to be ushered away surreptitiously, quickly, and quietly. I know I am not good enough. I am an aberration. I am the orphan, the abandoned child, the mother who loses parental rights, the dead-beat dad who split, the exhausted social worker, the DCFS transport driver that doesn’t show up, the broken system. I am so frightened from sleep by nightmares. And yet now I disregard all of that and name my bed after a spaceship. Can it be that I am only fond of life without gravity? My student, Athlone DarFoley, practices Visigothic script, which is mostly cursive and hardly legible. His writing is quite imposing in its delicate wings and surprising crags. I have asked him to write out my spaceship’s name on a large scroll which I will nail to the bedroom door. I was also convinced that my family members would not understand why I chose the name I did, so I have written this explanation.

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Afternoon Bridge at the Senior Center in May by Judith Camann Every Sunday and ursday we come together in the jalousie solarium. Light and ocean breeze festoons the floral perfumes, aerosol sprays, bad breath, mint breath, and watery mint juleps left from yesterday’s viewing of the Kentucky Derby. Our positions, like an architect’s blueprint, are systematically arranged. She sits West with a dry martini neat, one olive. A recent widow, the wedding band of 59 years remains on her left hand. On the right, her mother’s ring, one stone for each child, pearl, amethyst, aquamarine, sardonyx. A charm bracelet dangles 11 sterling letters one for each 9 grandchildren, 2 great-grandchildren. Sometimes I think… I think about going on a vacation. A vacation I have never been on. A vacation to a someplace I never even knew existed, until I get there. I can see it when I close my eyes. But when I try to describe it, try to make it real, it disappears. She closes her eyes. Powder green eyeshadow caked against the thick black mascara is magnified behind jeweled readers. Her red lips with blurry edges accentuates creases, high cheek bones, and one karat diamond stud earrings.

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Her partner sips a vodka martini, dirty & neat then shuffles the deck. A blue hue halos her stiff silver coiffure. A tennis bracelet synchs her left wrist. She deals the cards. With each pass her gravity weary cleavage tightens and releases, 1-234…2-234…3-234 … India …4-234…5-234… 6-234…I want to see elephants …7-234…that are not in zoos. Elephants…8-234… that are not in… 9-234…cages. In India they paint them bright colors …10-234… e elephants wear beads… ey have 11-234 parades. Parades for elephants…12-234…Can you see me? Sandals lacing up my thighs, fuchsia pedicure… 13-234…matching the elephant’s pedicure. Silk scarfs. India. It’s all about the elephants for me. e south position booms like the voice of my mother, if she played Bridge. She didn’t. She cooked, cleaned, rearranged closets and read non-fiction hardbacks. Ladies, it’s time to play Bridge. We can talk this nonsense, these delusions, all day, but we are here to play bridge. No elephants, no beads, no vacations. No. No. Bridge. Just Bridge. We are here for Bridge. Her hot toddy, lukewarm. I am the newest member. I am North. I am also the youngest member. (I replace Alice, unable to live alone any more, her son, a retired fisherman, took her in, up north.) Crumbs fall from my mouth, buttery crackers, blue cheese spread. I catch them in a cloth napkin, on my lap. I whisper.

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My bed. I want to be alone in my bed. I want vanilla-peach scented candles to burn all night, to reflect in the mirror. I want four new down pillows, their cases, the sheets, all washed in a lavender rinse. I want it quiet, a snore-free zone. And sometimes one other person. Someone who knows the secret entrance to my pleasure, who knows how to make me forget there are pills to put into weekly containers, his weekly pills he can’t reach from the wheel chair. Someone who helps me forget about all those years I listened to him complain afraid to leave, and now I can’t leave him. Not like this, unable to care for himself. But I can imagine going to bed. Going to bed without him. at’s my vacation. I swirl rye on crushed ice.

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Consulting the Classics by Adrian Slonaker Larry could hear the opening of the cooler, the clinking of chilled bottles, the occasional ear-splitting guffaw, and the Rolling Stones. Once again he hadn’t been invited to the Vedoks’ party though his decidedly unhip parents had. Maybe he was considered too young at sixteen, a theory that evaporated when he saw a couple of girls no older than eleven giggling at the side of the patio. So he sat on the porch that Saturday night, quaffing a Crush cream soda, perusing a copy of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice not for literary enrichment or a class assignment but to look to Elizabeth Bennett to see how she handled Mr. Darcy as a desperate source of ideas on how to mentally handle his current crush, although he knew he’d never divulge it. He’d already consulted Jane’s Northanger Abbey as well as Wilkie Collins’s e Woman in White and omas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure because dead British authors are more approachable and less critical than live American students.

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Exuberant by Israela Margalit


he was irresistible, especially when she’d transition from northern melancholy to a bout of uncontrolled laughter, her platinum-blond curls bouncing up and down as if dancing the rumba. We’d go to a party and she’d sit in the corner shrouded in a cloud of solitude. I’d watch her with sorrow, unable to pierce through the darkness that engulfed her soul. en she’d go to the bathroom to adjust her makeup and twenty minutes later she’d come out boisterous. ough I was aware it was not the magic of the human spirit but pure chemistry that had caused the metamorphosis, she still made me feel that a room was more vibrant, a story more poignant, a glass of wine more liberating just for her being there. E And so when she called me on a gloomy day in January and told me her story, I felt

privileged to have been chosen as her confidant. Her ex-husband, she said—the one who was a genius inventor and ended up in jail for defrauding a Hollywood studio—that husband had controlled her to such an extent that she didn’t take their two sons back home to Finland to meet her family just because he had said so. Now that he was dead, she finally flew them over to Helsinki. at was the best Christmas holiday ever! e boys adored their grandparents and had a helluva good time. Unfortunately—“ere is a downside to everything that makes us happy, isn’t there?”— well, she got carried away and spent a lot more money than she could afford. She couldn’t pay her Visa bill. Not even half of it. ere was no excuse for her recklessness, except for her unending love for her sons. She couldn’t think of anyone who’d better sympathize with the motivation behind that debt. “Will you lend me the money? I’ll pay it back in small installments. You know I will.”

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She could pay Visa in small installments. e thought came and went. I was all too pleased to be the special friend she had trusted, so I wrote her a check and was rewarded by a stream of praise. She sent me small amounts of money for a few months, then the payments stopped coming with a promise to be resumed sometime in the future. E Toward the end of the year I invited her to my annual New Year’s Day party, a popular gathering among friends who couldn’t afford a trip to the islands. She said she was going to be away. Her Finnish cousin had sent her and the boys tickets to fly over for the holidays. She promised to call upon her return, and in late January she did. “You give the best parties! I’m so sorry to have missed it. I just had to do something special for my boys. Remember my genius inventor husband who went to jail and didn’t let me take them to Helsinki? Well I finally did—can you believe it? My sons were beside themselves for joy, and we had an amazing family reunion, but I got so caught up in the warmth of it all that I seriously overspent and…” “You can’t pay your credit card bill,” I said. “How did you guess? You’re so perceptive.” “at was an easy inference,” I said. “Don’t underestimate yourself. You are perceptive. You should be a psychiatrist. Or a prophet. I don’t know anybody who’d empathize with me as you do, so I thought— well—I really don’t like to trade on our friendship but—you know how much I love my boys and…” “You already told me that story last year.”

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“I did?” She paused for a split second. “Oh. A senior moment already.” E After that we didn’t see each other, maybe because she felt awkward, or because friends who owe you money tend to ignore you. Another reason was, I moved to Los Angeles to work on a movie based on one of my stories. At first I was owe-struck by the glamor of my new surroundings, but exuberance quickly mutated into boredom induced by long hours of lighting adjustments with nothing to do but wait. During one of those tedious breaks I got a phone call from her. She was in Hollywood. e trip was a gift from her mother-in-law. She was staying in a motel on Sunset Boulevard. She didn’t have a driver’s license but a nice man she had met in Starbucks offered to act as her chauffeur free of charge. “Let’s go to the Beverly Hills Hotel for lunch. My treat.” “e Polo Lounge?” I said. “Where else? We wined and dined there all the time when my husband was the industry darling.” “It’s pretty expensive,” I said. “Come on, you’ve been generous to me, and I insist on reciprocating. I’ve reserved our usual table. ” “Using your maiden name?” “My ex-husband’s,” she said. “Nobody knows my name.” I suggested that we have a drink at the Polo Lounge then go eat elsewhere, but she wouldn’t hear of it. “is is going great, they think he’s still a big shot. I’m determined to relive… I can’t

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begin to tell you how wonderful it was. Red carpet everywhere.” e phone reverberated with her laughter and I could almost see her curls go wild. “Can you be there at 12:30?” I said I’d have to run back to my hotel to change. “is is L.A.,” she said. “Successful people underdress.” E I asked the director if he could do without me for a few hours and he chuckled. Like any movie director would admit that he needed a writer on the set. I borrowed a cool leather jacket from wardrobe, threw it over my blue jeans, drove to the hotel, gave my car to the valet and waited for her grand arrival in an old Chevrolet. She stepped out in a worn-out pink mini Chanel that was bursting at the seams. “How do I look?” She asked. “Great,” I lied. “I always dress up when I go to the Polo Lounge,” she said. “You never know who you’ll meet.” Her eyes glimmered with anticipation as she strutted her way to the Polo Lounge. Once there she flashed a winning smile and gave the maître d’ a kiss on each cheek. “It’s been a long time. We’ve been living in Paris. Oh, Paris! But my heart is always in LA.” “Nice to see you again, ma’am,” he said as he directed us to our plum table. “e usual?” She nodded. “e usual” was a bottle of Dom Pérignon Red Label. “Black Label tastes like Pepsi in comparison,” she said. She drank three glasses to my two, ordered the chef ’s specials, all while bubbling

with stories of past splendor, and dropping first names of Oscar winners in a voice flushed with excitement. At first I was troubled by the ease she was crossing the invisible line between phantasy and insanity, but as the lunch went on, the culinary feast blunted my senses and I could no longer discern which was which. e restaurant was already empty when she handed the waiter her Visa Card, instructed him to add a thirty-percent tip, then retired to the bathroom. After she re-

I borrowed a cool leather jacket from wardrobe, threw it over my blue jeans, drove to the hotel, gave my car to the valet and waited for her grand arrival in an old Chevrolet. turned to the table the maître d’ came over. “Your card has been declined, ma’am,” he said in a low voice. She looked at him with astonishment, then smiled. “But of course! It must be because of the charges from my trip to Helsinki with the boys. I splurged like there was no tomorrow. My assistant must have forgotten to pay the bill.” She turned to me. “It’s all right, dear,” she said. “We all make mistakes.” She put her hand on my arm. e maître d’ waited silently, his face betraying no emotion. I looked at her intensely, her entire being invested in a desperate need for dignity. I could see the blueness of her eyes receding farther into their colorless pupils.

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in a blaze of glory. E at was the last I saw of her. e car malfunctioned and flew off a cliff, or maybe she was making out with the driver and he lost control over the wheel, or—in another version of events—they lit a joint and decided to end it all on a high note. Whichever it was, she sure had a great last supper.




“I’m so sorry,” I said. “is is totally my fault. I forgot. But I have another credit card.” “at’s good,” she said cheerfully, “because I left my platinum in the hotel safe.” I handed my master card to the maître d’ and once the transaction was concluded, we walked outside. Her driver had been waiting faithfully. She gave me a broad smile, and whispered, “I’ll pay you back. You know I will.” en she climbed into the Chevrolet and disappeared

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Braids by Audra Coleman I wake to my dead grandmother’s voice. She’s returned to braid my hair once again, her bone fingers warning me no secret is ever safe. She says we both know this. Only when finished does she stoop to whisper in my ear that all things done in the dark must come to the light. She has told me this before, when I was a young girl sneaking from the house to ride a horse not yet fully tamed, one strictly forbidden to me. When it took off running under the low hanging branches of her favorite persimmon tree, I was forced to scream her name. By what my grandmother called a revealing act of God, both of my young braids had snagged on the same limb, yanking me from the mare’s back. I dangled there, parachute cords of tangled hair. In the end, she used her kitchen knife. Both long braids left to hang in red shame.

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Two Truths and a Lie by Audra Coleman She told me once while eating buttered toast that she was raised by polar bears, that, overall, it had been a happy life filled with tiny breaths of loosed feathers, the sort you might dream of when snow covers the earth. Who was I to argue when she was so beautiful, so fragile and dressed in all that white? Her mother was a beauty but had died in an unfortunate accident–right when she was most in need of a mother. Her alabaster skin–that came from her mother whom she imagined was no longer bloody, only white as diamonds. On the coldest of nights, she claims she can still hear the lilt of her mother’s voice singing her favorite lullaby, that this keeps the snow from burying her whole. Her father was a monstrous bear with big paws, rough around the edges, the kind who might on occasion lumber home grumbling drunk on seal whiskey. It was on those nights he was always most hungry, sometimes crawling into her tiny bed for a midnight snack licking his lips clean. She said it was from him she learned never to eat in bed.

Strange Mercies by Audra Coleman Only now does she tell me the truth, that she died back then, between the broken walls and the strap of the leather belt. How once when the rest of the house was asleep, she snuck outside into the snow and tied herself to the trunk of our backyard oak tree using only my jump rope. “It didn’t take long before they arrived, a flock of ravens with their iridescent black feathers shining in the moonlight. Back then, I imagined them as soldiers of a strange mercy.” She swears she thought they would only feed on her heart, to thieve the parts of her that were still good and worthy, that only this could save her small life. But, instead, she says they used their thousand probing beaks to polish what was most innocent, to put it back deeper and more beautiful than before. “Obviously, no one can survive that, let alone a child,” she laughs. I don’t say anything. Neither does she. We only look up to watch the cold stars above us quiver, to witness this loosing of a million mistruths.

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River Song by Candy Bedworth


hen my Welsh father was away at sea he would send the most marvellous letters, inked on tissue thin paper in his compact, copperplate handwriting. Full of vivid descriptions of far flung places, the margins swirled with sketches of sea creatures. Personal, intimate artefacts from another world, which I piled neatly in a tin box. e sailor’s return brought exquisite, sensuous gifts—carved bones, sealskin slippers, fragrant sandalwood. And for my mother a South African diamond, wrought into a delicate gold ring, which I wear even today. Later I learnt how the blood of those pale, furred seal pups would bloom like poppies on the unforgiving ice. And how that diamond was prised from its home of unrelenting red rock by the tiny fingers of a child my age. At first home-comings glowed with promise but our drab landscape held little charm for my father and the harbour was no

haven. From the moment he stepped onto dry land he yearned for the sea. Neither my mother nor I could compete with the lure of the southern trades, and his mood darkened by the hour as he reached for the bottle to dampen the longing. I cowered behind the bulky sofa as he lunged inarticulately for my mother when desire turned to fury. Afterwards I would curl onto her chest and oh so gently, gofalus cariad, breathe love back into her bones. rough the night she and I waited for the tide to turn, neighbours’ ears tuned to another station, as he drank and raged. en shore leave ended and the gentle swell and ionic smell of his mistress would soothe his uneasy soul. I read the tales of the Gaelic selkies, the mythical folk from the sea. Who step briefly out of their pelt to come ashore, but who can never happily dwell on the land, and who pine for their true home in the water. My father the selkie. At sea he was in his element, he

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was the best of himself, and he glittered like bioluminescence on a silver moon-lit night. He was lured to the land by my mother, but here the myth fails me, because the pain of watching his salt-chapped hands necklace her pale and tender throat has neither soothing storybook narrative nor happy ending. I dwelt in the space between worlds—dissociation became my safe place. Staying still, staying silent, I stared into the geometric pattern on the curtain, and like a selkie daughter, I stepped out of my skin. Like him I too longed for escape, for another world, but I feared the inky depths of his ocean leagues, so I stepped into a world not of water, but of words. e poetry of my father’s letters gave me an appetite for language and the terror of his physical presence gave me reason to hide. I sought refuge in the library, consuming stories with a thirst that was never sated. And yet even in that noise-hushed place, which offered such solace, still I was drawn to water. At first to Swallows and Amazons and Moby Dick, and later to Hemingway and Woolf. But like Stevie Smith I was not waving but drowning. E My life became choices that involved running to or away from the water’s edge. Hours were spent ar lan y môr, poised between land and sea, waiting to see which called. And there, where lacy sea foam bubbled at my toes, I found myself a sailor who (unlike my father)

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had tired of his fickle, tempestuous mistress. His fingers wound around my curls, whilst his soul weaved a delicate pattern around my pain. But still there were moments when I felt an unease. Sometimes, parched, I drained one drink too many, feeling a violent flash of anger that ended in a smashed glass or a friendship wounded. Was I my father’s daughter? Was I also part selkie? Would I always long for another place, another life? And then the moment where I moved beyond my father’s reach, becalmed. I grew a child in my belly, nourishing him in a private, internal sea. ose moments were the best of me. Such ease, such grace, such love. And now, years later, my child is grown and himself feels the pull of the water. And the question rises again: am I my father’s daughter? Perhaps, but my skin is made of flesh—I am not a story. I hear the siren call of the sea, but I have chosen to shed my seal-skin. It is locked away, with those ageing, tissue paper letters, where no-one will find it. Am I done with the ocean? Sometimes I still long to run for the cliffs, to dive beneath storm whipped waves, to swim too far from the shore—but I have so much invested in this home, this landscape, these people. I content myself with the rivers and the streams, the waterfalls and even the tiny trickling brooks of this corner of wild Cymru. Afon, nant, rhaeadr. I seek solace in the river song. She runs to the sea, eventually, and she takes my stories with her.

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Strawberries for Breakfast by Tim Hatton


itting next to Joy during the Ladies’ Prayer and Fellowship Tea in April, she said she likes being a Reading Instructor instead of a classroom teacher because she only sees the kids in their small Reading Groups, and she said the kids are much more clever there. In front of the full class, Joy said, the kids who have something to say are too nervous to say it. And I said, “And the ones who have nothing to say feel like it’s their time to say that!” I felt silly for having made my joke so clumsily, but Joy chuckled like, exactly, that’s right! Joy is such a blessing. Sarah, to Joy’s right, said, “at’s how my grandson Tyler is! He’ll just talk and talk with nothing to say at all!” Joy and I felt Sarah and Tyler had this in common (seats are assigned at the Ladies’ Prayer and Fellowship Tea), but she is our sister in Christ, and we love her, et cetera, et cetera.

E Joy doesn’t work in the district anymore because of budget cuts, so we classroom teachers run the reading groups ourselves as the rest of the class, in theory, reads quietly. “So I was eating strawberries for breakfast this morning,” Huey says, laying his book down on the table. I lay my book down on the table, like the two of us were colleagues discussing the editorials of rival newspapers, instead of a teacher and student. We had not been reading about strawberries nor breakfast, but this is it, I think, this is what Joy was saying about small groups and cleverness. I say, “Strawberries, huh?” and he says, “Yeah. I love strawberries.” “Well, what happened?” “Well, my mom comes downstairs, and she tells me my aunt is dead.” Hannah is sitting next to Huey, and Hannah does not know what to do, and she looks

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at me because she is eleven and I am in charge, I am e One Who Knows What To Do. But I do not know what to do. I do not look at Hannah. I look at Huey. Huey waits. “Were you close to her? Was your family?” I ask him. “No,” Huey says. “She lives in Oregon. My uncle killed her.”

Hannah is sitting next to Huey, and Hannah does not know what to do, and she looks at me because she is eleven and I am in charge, I am e One Who Knows What To Do. But I do not know what to do. Hannah looks at me afraid, like she has just seen me, myself, kill Huey’s aunt in Oregon. Hannah says, “Can I go to the bathroom?” and turns and goes to the bathroom without waiting for me to say yes, although I would have said yes. George normally sat on the other side of Hannah, he was the third member of Reading Group 8, but George had gone home early. During the Morning Meeting, right as I announced that the weather today was cloudy, George yelled, “I have to throw up!” and then he did. I had thought, I assumed, that because George had left, he would not be bothering

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me anymore today (George has a tendency to be difficult). But now I felt annoyed at George because I needed him. George would have asked what needed to be asked, he would have said what needed to be said. George would have said this was very gross, he would have asked how she died, if she got shot, if she got stabbed, if Huey had cried. George would ask why Huey had kept this a secret until 2:30 in the afternoon (which I had been wondering myself ). And this would have been very inappropriate, so I would have a new problem, the Reprimanding George Problem, but this would be a welcome change from the Consoling Huey Problem, because I solve the Reprimanding George Problem nearly every day. I remember I have not told Huey I am sorry. I should have led with that. I tell him I am sorry. Huey says, “Remember last week when we were talking about stories?” I nod as solemnly as I can. “You said every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And this story has to have an ending too, right?” Here comes the magic, I think, jumping ahead. Huey is coping with this loss with a narrative formulation I taught him, this was the end of his aunt’s story, and knowing this is helping him find peace. I think about the time I got to have lunch with my third grade teacher, Mrs. Henderson, as a reward for good behavior. I told Mrs. Henderson all about my new puppy, a sandycolored mutt my dad had adopted as a surprise. My dad told me to name the dog, but I told Mrs. Henderson I was worried about getting too attached, because the puppy

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would die one day. Mrs. Henderson said it would, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t love it right then anyway. She gave me Where e Red Fern Grows, which was a needless risk on her part, in hindsight, but I loved that book, and my dog, and Mrs. Henderson. When I was getting my master’s, one of my professors asked how many of us had an experience like I had with Mrs. Henderson, where a teacher made us feel special, helping us more than they needed to. All of us raised our hands, of course we did. Why would we get our Master’s in Elementary Education if we did not care deeply about affecting the lives of the youths? We were ascending this mountain so we could come down it with more wisdom and compassion than we knew what to do with! And this is that moment, for me! Huey is devastated over the loss of his aunt! A child needs guidance and comfort, and I can give it to him! So I say “Yes,” careful to conceal my enthusiasm about becoming a Great Teacher. “I think this story has to end, too.” “Well,” he says. “After she told me that, I wasn’t really hungry for my strawberries anymore.” And then Huey starts to cry.


My Secret Friend by Rick Blum We’ve become good pals chitchatting on the phone around dinnertime nearly every night as only those who know each other’s most private secrets can do Her familiar voice comforts me like a steaming mug of hot chocolate on a breathless winter’s day Hi she begins brightly is is Sandra (although sometimes she calls herself La’Tisha or Sushima or, when she has a cold, Steven) ere is nothing wrong with your credit card account, she continues, but I have an important offer for you I am both relieved and excited to hear this news, for I know I can always rely on Sandra to both lift my spirits and improve my bottom line If you would like to lower your interest rate press one or stay on the line she silkily implores before graciously offering to remove me from her list of friends But I like being her friend, so we connect, like high school sweethearts friending each other just for old times’ sake—or so they tell themselves at first

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How (after Adrienne Rich’s Frame) by Barbara E. Hunt Helpless, I remember pinned back on the passenger seat as my husband gunned his ’95 Silverado, white-knuckling through 4 o’clock drive-time, tight-lipped as ever with the battle homeward from a counseling session —just 6 months in and nowhere. How I felt such fear and fury for that black couple 4 lanes over clenched in opposite-sidewalk sunshine; she, near-toppling off stilettos; he, looming, hissing, arm-twisting and how I wanted to shout stop, throw open doors, jump out and run not knowing yet that you can only save yourself.

How futile love, when faced with anger, couched in a lifetime’s baggage. How some of us choose wounded people when they ferret us out by our nemeses. How at the time I thought, how awful. How someone should step up and intercede to rescue her. How now I know that no one knows, how foolish to presume. How excusing can save face, sanity, salvation …for a time. How others rush to judge the measure of commitment and how unwittingly wise I, trapped behind my rolled-up glass, sat staring, mute at spectacle and how naïve believing, I’d never…

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Silent Night

by Ron. Lavalette

by Ron. Lavalette

He puts a glob of turtleglass under the jeans in her suitcase before she goes away. Later, when she calls him after midnight to tell him she’s arrived, tell him that she misses him already, and he answers the phone, calls her his little turtle dove and she doesn’t react, he knows she hasn’t yet unpacked, hasn’t found his little round travel gift.

Even when you’re not there to hear them, only half the trees falling in a forest make any noise. e trees you don’t hear you don’t hear, and the rest of them fall silently, often at midnight. Even when you try and try again, like all the childish fables say you should; even smack in the middle of the forest, in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter; even though you keep your eyes open, your ears peeled; even then, the falling trees and the winter’s midnight night remain silent. All the silent night long, all the falling trees keep falling; but all you can hear is the nothing.

He hopes she’ll find it nestled in the jeans shiny in the shiny morning; hopes she’ll put it in her pocket, keep their little green secret crystal close to her heart all day long; hopes it brings her safely home and soon.

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Looking for Abraham by Alanna Pass


n Sundays, my family piled into our ’56 Chevy station wagon and headed off to church. In the late 1950s, most stores were closed on the Sabbath so going to church was the main pastime. I remember being dressed in a white petticoat and having an itchy yellow organdy dress with lace slipped over my head. White ankle socks and the dreaded black patent leather Mary Janes that gave me blisters were slipped on my feet. My waist length hair was pulled back into a tight brown ponytail. On arriving, my older brother and I headed off to our respective Sunday school classes. My parents handed my baby brother to the nursery and headed off to bible study. E

It was a long morning. My clothing was uncomfortable in the Southern California heat. e maps of Israel and Palestine on the flip chart my Sunday school teacher referred

to seemed irrelevant. I was also not clear on the significance of most of the Bible stories we were told. At least coloring and snack offered a reprieve from the Bible lessons. After Sunday school I was reunited with my family where we proceeded to the sanctuary for the hour plus service. E

e five of us sat in a pew where my view was obstructed by heavily lacquered hairstyles, oiled buzz cuts, and fur coats. I remember once sitting behind a lady with a fox stole with the vacant eyes of two wild creatures staring back at me. e drone of the organ and the hymns with a multitude of verses made me sleepy. en there was the seemingly endless sermon by the minister. Sitting uncomfortably on the pew, I swung my legs back and forth and colored the program with a stubby golf pencil trying to keep myself occupied. E

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It was a relief when the sermon concluded and the music began to play. e stately ushers, all older men, efficiently passed the offering plates and we stood to sing the offertory, “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!” Finally the last prayer, heads bowed, AMEN! e minister strolled down the aisle to the triumphant notes of the organ. My parents stood in line to greet the minister and my older brother and I escaped outside to fresh air. e ordeal finally over, we hoped we could go out to brunch at Bob’s Big Boy which would make the whole morning worth it with burgers, fries and big chocolate milkshakes in frosty metal goblets. E

My best friend, Lisa, was Catholic. When there was a Saturday night sleepover at her place, I was dragged to mass on Sunday mornings which included catechism beforehand. Catechism made even less sense to me than my Sunday school classes. My friend had to wear a lacey doily on her head during Mass, a confusing mix of Latin, holy water and crossing oneself. ere was a lot of and kneeling and standing and I was totally flummoxed as when to do what. Besides Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, the Virgin Mary was added to the mix. I was not clear about the whole communion business and what was that thing the Priest put in everyone’s mouth? en, there was a rosary to recite, confession, and prayers before bed. Worse, there was a huge dark cloud of sin & guilt that followed her around. Compared to my Catholic best friend, my religious commitments were a piece of cake. As soon my family drove away from the church, not a word was spoken about God or Jesus.

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is mishmash of Christianity formed the backdrop of my young life- at least on Sundays. en when I was maybe 9 or 10 years old we stopped the entire church ritual entirely. Maybe it was because my mother went back to school? ere was no fanfare that I remember and no explanation given. Church gave way to my parents sleeping in on Sundays and my brother and I watching morning cartoons together. My family left religion behind like a piece of clothing that went out of style. E

e summer I turned 12, we moved from the LA area to the Bay Area of California. Around that time my parents informed us, quite unceremoniously that oh, by the way, we were Jewish. As I tumbled down the rabbit hole of adolescence I had no friends, my parents started to fight and I was left in a puddle of confusion about my identity. E

Parents keep secrets with good intentions … you’re adopted, he’s not your real father, you’re part black. What was meant to protect you can shake your very foundation when the truth becomes known. E

Pieces of unanswered questions began to click into place. Lisa’s mother, a devout Catholic, had at times asked probing questions about my family’s heritage. I recall, even at the age of 6 or 7, these carefully crafted inquiries. She made remarks about how my family looked and could we be Jewish? At that tender age I wondered, not even knowing what being Jewish entailed, why that even

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mattered? I felt uneasy when the subject was broached. Could we still be friends if I was, in fact, Jewish? E

e reason my parents gave us for our socalled “conversion” to the Protestant faith was that it was just easier not to be Jewish. My parents were both brought up Jewish in San Francisco and Oakland, California pre World War ll. As children, they had endured their fair share of prejudice. When they had a young family in white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Southern California they chose to blend in rather than seek out a synagogue and have us all suffer still simmering anti-Semitic attitudes. Ironically, those maps in Sunday school were my homeland. E

By middle school, I was old enough that I had seen plenty of WW ll footage. I shuddered when I saw cartloads of the skeletal corpses of Jews being dumped in mass pits, victims of Nazi atrocities. It is not lost on me that born in the wrong time and place I could have been “eliminated” by the Inquisition in Spain, a pogrom in Russia, a gas chamber in Germany or any other such horrible ethnic cleansing techniques that have been inflicted upon Jews through the centuries. In Nazi Germany, if you had any traceable Jewish blood you were a candidate for a concentration camp and ultimately death or experimentation. at was then, right? Why in the USA did we still have to hide our own faith and origins? E

It is not lost on me that born in the wrong time and place I could have been “eliminated” by the Inquisition in Spain, a pogrom in Russia, a gas chamber in Germany or any other such horrible ethnic cleansing techniques that have been inflicted upon Jews through the centuries. Unfortunately, just like chickens with a pecking order, humans love a scapegoat. e Jews have provided a convenient target for prejudice, hate and blame for just about everything through the centuries. is further confused me since I was taught Jesus, a Jew, preached a gospel of love and acceptance. E

As a result of anti-Semitism, thousands of Jews have either converted, abandoned their faith or otherwise have chosen, like my parents, to pass as Christians and bring up their children in the Christian faith. is was especially true during the Spanish Inquisition and after the Holocaust. In the book Suddenly Jewish, Jews Raised as Gentiles Discover eir Jewish Roots, author Barbara Kessel takes the time to examine the revelations of children whose Jewish heritage have been kept secret due to war, persecution, adoption or by choice. She explores the psy-

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chological effects of finding out one's Jewish origins after it had been hidden. I could identify with the so many of the stories in the book. It was a relief to know that others had experienced the same sense of loss as me. E

Ironically Jews, Christians, and Muslims all can be traced back to one person, Abraham, the greatest father figure in history. In that sense, we are all brothers and sisters, engaged in charged sibling rivalry even within the respective faiths. E

As I’ve aged, the question of my Jewish heritage has haunted me. I am a member of a tribe of people that goes back centuries yet I have never set foot in a synagogue. ere is little I know about Jewish rituals, Jewish holidays, and traditions. Candles were never lit on our table on Friday nights. We celebrated Christmas and Easter as fabricated by our consumer culture. E

Now I’m the one that needs closure on my Jewish roots before the end of my life. I’m not sure what that will look like. Conversion seems unlikely. e closest synagogue is about an hour away. Perhaps I will travel to Israel in the future? Would I ever have the courage to openly display a Star of David on my neck? For now, I am just reading, asking questions, and exploring. E

e discovery of my Jewish roots came at a time in my life when I had lost my people. All my friends had been left behind. I did not fit in at my new school or my new upscale neighborhood. My family started to unravel after our move until my parents separated in my late teens. e idea that somewhere I had a tribe that I belonged to appealed to me and still does. I am proud that I am a part of such a resilient people who have managed to endure through such hardship. Perhaps I would not feel this way if I had grown up as a Jew. Perhaps it was the secret that created the longing.

My Father ultimately regretted leaving Judaism. On his deathbed, in May of 2017, it didn’t seem right that he should depart his life on earth without a spiritual blessing from a rabbi. On short notice, I managed to find a lovely woman named Julie, a cantor in a local synagogue that sung him beautiful Jewish prayers in Hebrew and English to bless his final journey. It was a powerful and emotional experience that brought him all and all his family who witnessed the event such peace. I felt so blessed he had closure on his life with his Jewish faith.

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Exodus by Jason Arment e day has yet to come when my brothers and sisters organize their exits from this twisted world For now, it’s a trickle one an hour or so thousands of lonely suicides marching home each year I want to leave together one giant bang from rifled barrels or twang of ropes snapping taught or gurgle as we slide into crimson water It will be grandiose like the Hebrews leaving Egypt except we’ve already built idols and smashed law’s stone tablets Our holy places long desecrated, we wander the desert for years before entering the promised land

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Window View


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Love and Anguish Entwined by Jewell Tennison


ory’s brown face, as still as a fawn hiding in tall grass, contrasts with the white pillow. I imagine he’s sleeping, but the tubes and wires piercing his body in this Seattle intensive care hospital trash my hope. I touch his arm. Deep in a coma, he doesn’t respond. Please, dear God, please let him live. E

His looks so much like his dad did as a teenager. I breathe in every part of his round face and tuck it into my memory - the long black eyelashes, the smooth cheeks, the peach fuzz above his upper lip. What if I can’t see his face in my mind? Louise, stop thinking like that. He’ll live. My baby. He’ll live. I look from him to the screen above the left side of his bed. Green blips show his slow, regular heartbeats. e blood pressure numbers are fine, but I want the numbers to tell me more, like how my boy will be when he wakes up.

Will he know me? Will he be my funny, smart boy or some stranger? E

Cory’s dad slides through the doorway. “Hi,” he murmurs. He holds my gaze while his big shoulders sag. e laugh lines on his face have mutated into sad valleys topped by dark brown eyes. Does he see my high cheekbones and the long dark-brown hair I gathered in the ponytail holder right after the police called? Or, does fear seep through my hazel eyes, concealing my everyday face? He caresses my upper arm. I put my hand on his. “Ted, sit with our boy for a while.” E

I’m afraid to leave Cory, but if I don’t get some coffee, I’m going to collapse from the weight of my exhausted imagination. e vi-

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sion that first assaulted me in this morning’s early hours, of Cory in his casket, reappears. I struggle to breathe for my precious son, as, in my mind’s eye, I see he makes no movement. His hands, frozen on his chest, will never hold his horse’s reigns or the babies that would have been his. Sorrow shrouds my ears as I look past his still face to those who mourn. His friends’ teen-age exuberance is stilled as they gaze at him, their hands finding no place to rest. His brother bends like a sunflower diminished by drought, and the optimism that helps his father get through hard

His hands, frozen on his chest, will never hold his horse’s reigns or the babies that would have been his. times slides into the casket, ready for burial. I give the intrusive vision a resolute shove, firm enough so it flees into transitory shadows. I kiss Cory’s forehead. E

Ted replaces me at the bedside. His big fingers touch Cory’s cheek. “Aamoo.” Ted laughs. “Aamoo—bee. at’s what you were in the game Saturday night. You were like a bee, buzzing around the Elk River players.” Last night, I laughed as Ted whooped and high-fived the dad sitting next to him when Cory stole the ball and took it to the basket for an easy lay-up. Last night—it seems like a hundred years ago. “All our tribe is proud of you.” Ted’s eyes

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are dry, but I feel his heart sobbing. “Ngosis.” Ted smooths the sheet top. “My son –ngosis.” Cory looks almost as he did as a little boy when I’d check on him on a cold winter night, lying peaceful and snug in his bed with his little round arm hugging his beloved stuffed monkey. My burly husband stands and stretches his back, sore from driving the truck. He twists right and left, then sits and leans close to Cory’s ear. “Ngosis, each week when I’d come home from the west coast route, you were stronger and faster. You did everything Coach wanted, and when you got done with his assignments, you did more.“ He is silent for several minutes, then croons, “My aamoo, rest now so you can buzz down the floor again.” E

In the corner on a hard Naugahyde chair, Dan, our oldest son, pretends to sleep. He pulls a white flannel hospital blanket over his face and weeps. Dear God, let those tears soothe him. Last night when he sat by Cory’s bed, I was reminded of Dan at seven when Cory was born. He held the blue wrapped bundle of baby with the unblinking eyes and wild black hair and said, “You’re my little brother. I’ll teach you everything.” E

Dan peels the hospital blanket from his face and holds it in his lap. He’s a man now, almost six feet tall with a broad chest. His black hair is short, but other than that, he looks like photos from the 1800’s of Chippewa chiefs with their strong cheek bones and noses. ough I would never say it to anyone other than Ted, Dan would make a

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good tribal chair that would lead our tribe with compassion and calm authority. Dan is a strong man and when he graduates from college next year, he’ll be a good teacher. E

He sighs and uses his hands to hide his face. It’s as if all his strength has drained through the floor and is running into the gutters lining the rain-soaked Seattle streets. Last night, Dan wanted to treat Cory to a big juicy burger at Bob’s Burger, the place with the, ‘Sorry We’re Open’ sign. Cory looked back at us and gave us a thumbs-up as they got into Dan’s car. ey weren’t doing anything wrong. How could it happen? ose vicious white kids. ey shoved and hit my boys as if they were swatting mosquitoes. And like their Indian-hating ancestors, they left Cory to die with no more concern than if he’d been a squashed bug. Anger shoves aside my tiredness. I touch Dan’s back. “Come, we’ll get coffee.” E

e ICU family room is across the hall and three doors down from Cory. It’s empty now—no parents, burdened with the same frozen look of shock and fear that I feel on my face, no attempts at politeness. On a granite counter at the far end of the room stands a large rectangular stainless coffee maker labeled with spigots for hot water, coffee, and caffeine-free. I pour coffee into two heavy paper cups and stir sugar in for Dan. Everyone in the family loves coffee, but not Cory. His nose leads the way, squinching up his face on the rare occasions when he tastes it. A sob pushes its way out of my chest. No, I shove it back down, deep where it needs to stay until

I’m alone. I bring the coffee to Dan. He’s standing just inside the door like a marine on guard duty, ready to react at the first sign of trouble. “Dad will let us know if Cory needs us.” Dan looks down the hall toward Cory’s room and then takes the hot cup. He and I sit on a brown fake-leather couch with wooden arms. A muted cartoon flits across the screen mounted on the far wall. e walls are a pale sage green, the lighting soft, and the room immaculate and impersonal. Dan holds his cup in both hands and looks at the floor. “Why did it happen? Mom, I should have protected him.” I’m the mom. I should have kept them at Auntie June’s house. Why did I let being tired get in the way of insisting? I could have gotten food. June invited the kids, but I didn’t want her to have to supply everything. en they went out and didn’t come back. I should have kept them with us, safe, with our family. “I don’t know why it happened. But I do know it wasn’t your fault.” E

I look into my coffee as I say it, but the wild scene I recall of twelve-year old Dan running through flying pony hooves to scoop five-year-old Cory to safety, seems more real than this terrifying present. ough Dan’s arm was broken by sharp hooves, he carried the unscathed Cory to the fence before collapsing. E

“I’m his big brother. I shouldn’t have let it happen.” He puts his cup on the end table. “What if he dies or ends up like a vegetable?” He brushes away tears, but they flow faster

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than his hands can work. “My sweet son, the what ifs are terrifying. All we can do is acknowledge them and pray they don’t come about.” A gurney carrying another near-death soul rumbles past the little room. “If I’d done what I should have, we wouldn’t be worrying about what ifs!” Dan sits still. I hold him tight, my own face wet. I hand him a Kleenex and wipe my eyes with another. “You are a good brother, no matter what you think. ere’s no way any of us can completely protect each other.” I hear my own words, but just as Dan,

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I don’t want to accept them. I know he believes that If Cory lives, he’ll never again let anything bad happen to him. I’ve seen too much. Entwined, love and anguish fill this room with each beat of my heart. E

e days tumble from one to another and stick together. e doctors and nurses check on Cory and perform their tests. We, who love Cory, will him to awaken. I imagine him sitting up with a big grin, and saying, “Mom, I want a pizza.” But Cory lies there, unmoving.

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/FXMZ 3FMFBTFE Russell Rowland’s SFDFOU novel



e Horses of Aruba by DA Borer Mine were old-fashioned saddle sores well hidden on most riders from the Great Falls on the high plains. e copper mines were shut down, the smelter closed, the cattle herds diminished, and the Spring wheat gone to the technocrats who paid farmers not to farm and put us modern kids out of work. e vanity views were sold to well-heeled masters of silicon who fancied themselves as rancher-barons decked out in Triple-x Stetsons, Land Rovers, and ostrich boots that never tasted a cow pie. Even the North Wind took most its snow East. Like Clark and Lewis we departed in dust and awe, only returning in dreams. Horses, cantankerous critters, spelled trouble for me, but once mounted I kept riding: Wyoming, Utah, the Philippines (I had a damn fine horse), Illinois, Wisconsin, Massachusetts, Virginia, Fiji (I fell hard there in Fiji), Australia, Pennsylvania, Malaysia, the District of Columbia, and finally California. In Monterey I sat for a spell on San Carlos beach, breathed ocean air, and sounding like a squeaky bag of rusted bones, dismounted. ‘Bow-legged’ you might say. e heady smell of pine and sage and kelp and eucalyptus settled the score. Ease out the bridle. Yank off the saddle. Burn the blanket. My talking pony set me free. No trouble at all.

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Being of the high plains, I never pondered the East Wind until I ported Aruba Like the Montana sky, Aruba’s firmament is deeper than colbalt and as seductive It is the secret quality of light, in the high currents of shadows racing across the land that evokes memories of many horses One cannot but revere the East Wind in Aruba. It would be discourteous to simply say ‘it blows.’ Rather, the East Wind is Aruba. Steady, monotonous, hypnotic, much like the muddy water cascading over the Great Falls during the spring thaw. Aruba has no falls But in the city of Oranjestad the dawn sky conjures Montana and gives birth to the horses of Aruba.

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Vol. 1 • Issue 2


Selfless by William Cass


iles flew in from San Diego to see his father after the hospice nurse called him to say he’d better. He’d returned from his last visit there only a couple of weeks before. He told his partner, Dan, not to join him, and that he wanted this last time with his father alone. He wasn’t surprised to see it raining in Seattle when he arrived, a cold February afternoon already growing dark at 4:30 p.m. when he emerged from the taxi in front of his family’s house on the hill above Lake Washington. He glanced at the wide gray lake against the slate sky before hurrying up the walk to the front door of the little house his parents had bought after their marriage forty-five years earlier. His mother had always affectionately called it a bungalow; he’d made a similar trip home two summers before when she’d passed away. e nurse’s name was Gail. She met him in the foyer and quietly gave a few additional pieces of information from what she’d sum-

marized on the phone; they basically involved the final stages of renal and congestive heart failure. She told Miles that his father was still completely lucid. She said she’d wait in the living room and to call if he needed anything. Miles dropped his coat and bag in the foyer and walked down the hall. His father was lying on his back asleep in the hospital bed that had replaced his parents’ own several months earlier. e bed was raised, and his father was propped up on pillows with the sheet and blankets tucked neatly around him. Both his arm with the IV and the other were facing up outside the covers. e small lamp on the nightstand lit his father’s face in the gloaming, and he breathed huskily out of his mouth. Pill bottles, a plastic cup of water with a straw, and two photographs sat on the nightstand. Both of the photographs were old; one was of his mother and the other was of himself. Miles sat in the chair next to the bed, took his father’s hand, and watched him while

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he slept. As he did, random memories tumbled over themselves: fishing with his father on the lake as a boy, their summer camping vacations, bike rides and ballgames, his father’s unwavering support—even when Miles had shared his sexuality. Miles couldn’t remember a time when he’d uttered an unkind word. His father awoke about an hour later, blinking with surprise until his eyes found Miles’, and he smiled. Miles returned the smile and squeezed his father’s hand. “It’s you,” his father said. His voice was

e small lamp on the nightstand lit his father’s face in the gloaming, and he breathed huskily out of his mouth. gravelly and weak. “You’re here.” Miles nodded. “I’m so pleased to see you.” Miles nodded more, which was all he could manage. en his father was asleep again, snoring quietly. e room had darkened entirely and Miles was aware of the rain falling on the roof. Over the next several hours, Miles used a dampened washcloth to cool his father’s forehead and cheeks when they felt warm. Gail came in a few times to check on things. At one point, she said she was going to make herself a sandwich and asked Miles if he wanted one. He shook his head.

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About nine o’clock, his father awoke and looked immediately at Miles. His eyes were clear. Miles was struck, as he’d been so often, by the gentleness in those eyes. Like he’d been by the kindness in his mother’s. is time, when they squeezed hands, his father lifted his son’s a little and shook it as he nodded before replacing it on the covers. “You look good,” his father said. “anks.” “How’s Dan?” “Fine. He sends his love.” “You’re both all right?” Miles nodded, and his father did the same. “Listen,” his father said. “ere’s something I want you to know.” “All right.” “It’s something I’ve never spoken of, never told anyone outside of this house.” He looked intently at Miles. “Your mom was gay, too.” A flush spread over Miles and he frowned. He said, “I don’t understand. You and Mom…” His father nodded. “She told me, eventually. A few years after you were born. But, by then, I suspected.” He paused. “We had a loving, companionable life together. A long and good one.” “And you lived with that all these years? In silence?” His father raised his eyebrows. “ose were different times, and us being Catholic… she was in the Rosary Guild and I was a lector at church. Of course, there was also you growing up.” “And she never…” His father shook his head. “Not that I know of, no.” ey were quiet then while the rain fell

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until Miles said, “I’m stunned. I don’t what to say.” “Nothing needs to be said. I just wanted you to know.” His father’s eyes closed and his quiet snoring resumed before Miles could squeeze his hand again. So, he leaned down instead and kissed it. Sometime later during the night, Miles was awakened by someone gently shaking his shoulder. He looked up to see Gail standing next to him. She left her hand where it was and said, “He’s gone.” Miles looked from her to his father’s still face and began to cry. “I’m glad you were here,” she said. “I was

only with him for a few months, but that was long enough to know that he was a good, good man. A thoughtful, gracious person. I’m sorry.” Miles nodded, and Gail left the room. Outside, the steady, soft rain continued to fall. Inside the room, it was warm and full of familiar smells. His father’s hand had grown cold. Miles thought that the things she’d said about him were true. ey were also true about his mother. He thought about the life they’d privately fashioned together and of other words that described them both. He thought about devoted. He thought about forgiving. Weeping quietly, he thought about selfless.

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Likable Loner by Timothy Philippart in his quest to get everyone to like him, he got no one to love him. his soil was too shallow, too poor, for a heart to take root he catches smiles from a distance as people pass by. none converse, caress or care to share secrets.

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She Would Have by Sarah Rau


he corner posts of the gate were inward-leaning, and holes the size of his fist were forming and caving around the bases. He thought of the pile of railroad ties he’d purchased at the auction sale last year—for the sole purpose of replacing these very posts—eight bucks a piece, now just rotting into a pile and poisoning his dirt with creosote. “Maybe if John was worth a good God damn,” he muttered. He couldn’t fathom his son who wasn’t ever his son, the boy who’d come with Esme as a package deal and now long-wounded from a forgotten argument, principal in the high school, breaking up fights between knucklehead punks, instead of doing something that mattered, working with his hands instead of his mouth. ey hadn’t spoken in eleven or so years. He pulled his cattle stick from behind the pickup seat and poked at the bucket of fencing tools that had slid to the middle of the

pickup bed until he could reach it. “Maybe if them boys weren’t up to chasin’ tail and wastin’ money at school, they’d a’ helped me put in them ties.” His grandsons, one at UM, the younger one at MSU, the entire damn family making a big deal about it. He grabbed the bucket and heaved it to the ground with a grunt that startled a magpie, sent it squawking and flapping its long tail to the next pile of roadkill. e weak afternoon light caused shadows on the rutted ground that he didn’t see. e morning’s sleet had stopped, but the clouds hung low and the air had a damp chill that burned his ears. He’d forgotten his cap. He didn’t bother to attach the sissified gate latch the kid at the hardware store sold him; just pulled and squeezed the gate post until it slipped under the oft-repaired wire to hold it shut. He hooked the broken wire into the stretcher, barbs catching on his calloused hands and drawing seeps of blood that he

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didn’t feel. With aching knuckles he stretched the wire to a semblance of tightness and tapped a new staple to the post to hold the slack. He missed the staple more than he hit it, and chunks of rotting wood chipped off with each miss. He leaned his body into the brace post and pushed, kicked some sticky clods of mud down into the hole. e kicking hurt his toes in his muck boots and his shoulder was aching where he leaned into the gate post. Still it listed. Fuck it. He tossed the wire stretcher onto the bed of the pickup. Cold air seeped into

Once, he couldn’t think as to when, it seemed so long ago, he didn’t ache and he followed the life cycle of his land; he was just the messenger for the work that nature dictated. the hole in his coat, seeped into the worn flannel shirt underneath. His hands ached, his back ached. He still had to move the heifers. Once, he couldn’t think as to when, it seemed so long ago, he didn’t ache and he followed the life cycle of his land; he was just the messenger for the work that nature dictated. Spring, calves born, tagged, branded. Summer, hay cutting and baling and hauling, or in a drought, more years than not, saving weather reports from the newspaper and poring over them, looking for a pattern, for that

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front that might bring some moisture. Turn out the bulls. Bring in the bulls. Contract calves. Fall, cow work: preg-testing, pre-conditioning vaccines for the calves; finally, the paycheck. Winter, pay the bills, unroll bales every day in the snow, pickax ice from the water tanks. Plow snow. Chop firewood. Look for that first crocus poking through the snow, for that first bulging bag of amniotic fluid under a cow’s tail to signify the return of spring, the starting again. at circle was caving in on itself, now. He didn’t know the exact moment he got old. When Catherine graduated college, he didn’t even go. It was May and he was already late spraying the east section against the goddamn weevils. When she got married to that banker, he took three days off for the winter ceremony, traveled to Red Lodge and bitched the whole damn time about the expense and the cold and the fact that he had to rely on the eighteen-year-old kid from a neighboring ranch to feed the cows. He spent a lot of time in the hotel lobby’s phone bank, calling the long distance charge number on the back of his credit card to check in with that kid. He took home a burning in his gut that has never gone. Her twins were born, boys, thankfully, and he saw them a total of two times before they were in school. Esme, now, she stayed with Catherine for a whole month after their birth, and then drove clear to Helena to visit at least once a month. She was even there for the birth; she called in happy tears with the news, a bit premature but “everyone is fine, they’re fine, we’re all fine,” it reminded him of Number 81, a Hereford cross who, in the middle of a late-February snowstorm, shat out twin premature calves. He’d hauled them

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home on the bench seat of his pickup, heater on high, and slapped them in the bathtub under a warm tap. Catherine was a kid, probably eight, pig-tailed anyway; she watched from the doorway. ose early twin calves died right there in his tub while his kid watched, nothing and everything he could have done. She’d cried. When her babies were born, that’s what he pictured, her crying at dead calves. Big-eyed, little girl tears. Esme didn’t call home for a week when he told her that. He couldn’t even remember where John was when those calves died. Hell, obituaries in the paper had folks he knew, or at least knew of. Esme used to attend a book group with a few women in various stages of decay, but he figured they just bitched about their husbands and drank wine and showed pictures of grandchildren. Esme wasn’t old in the way he saw the other ladies. She smelled like lemon soap, not like a funeral arrangement. She didn’t have that turkey thing under her jaw; she wore jeans and boiledwool clogs like some sort of hippie, with her braid, gone gray and her being too practical to color it, down the middle of her back. And then she died. Just keeled over in the garden, she fell to the earth next to the heavy tomato plants, with Bitty by her side until he came home from stacking hay bales. She looked like she had just lay down to take in the smell of the ripening fruits, something she always loved, but Bitty barked and barked and he knew. He had to call John, break his heart, and he had to call Catherine in Helena and break hers too. And he had to do all of the things one does in those circumstances. ose boys of Catherine’s wore matching suits to the church, and with their complex

basketball shoes and fresh haircuts he didn’t even know them, still didn’t know them even though Catherine had moved them all back, even that prim husband of hers, after Esme. John in a shiny suit, shaking hands with his clean fingernails. en the casseroles came, and the cards, but then those dropped off after a while and he was just another coot trying to scrape together his ranch and his life. Twelve years ago. He can grow zucchini if he feels like it, but not tomatoes. Never tomatoes. Now he’s old. e pickup was slow to start—the oil change overdue by months and miles—and the clutch was tricky and the brake pedal loose, and he found a mouse nest in the jockey box when he rummaged for the pint he kept rat-holed inside. He’d never kept a pint hidden anywhere when Esme was alive, never had to feel that first burn. He took a swig and felt the warmth of the whiskey as it moved through his body. He knew it, with those damn blood thinners his doctor made him take, could kill him—BAM—and he was sure nobody would find him until long after the coyotes did. He remembered the day they bought the pickup—the damp, chill air at the outside spring auction, a Styrofoam cup of bitter coffee in one hand, the numbered buyer’s card in the other. Esme had gone to rifle through the table full of unnecessary trinkets (dust-collectors like music boxes and tabletop picture frames) while he was left alone in the dirt parking lot of the auction yard. e pickup came after a Case front-loader tractor that went for a thousand dollars more than it was worth. e truck was dirty and some greaseball kid had written “cocksucker”

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in the dust on the tailgate, it had two low tires that made it stand lopsided, and the doors were locked so he couldn’t get inside. e auctioneer said it had close to two hundred thousand miles on it, but was good for more. He didn’t care; he just needed a new truck that would withstand the rutted ranch roads after Esme complained about the broken heater on the old one. He was the only one bidding and thought that everyone else knew something he didn’t about that truck, but when the sale was over, the auctioneer filled up the low tires and accepted his rumpled, damp check. When he unlocked the doors, the interior smelled like old beer and mice. A damn gallon of that fancy spray stuff wouldn’t get the smell out,

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he’d thought. Esme hadn’t bid on any of the trinkets. But now he had to get the heifers out of the corral. Where he’d left them for two days because his back ached so bad he hadn’t the will to drive that last group of ‘em to the winter pasture, especially now that Bitty slept under the porch and stank of the cancer that was dissolving her guts and was no good help. He was sure he hadn’t shut the corral gate tight enough—damn chain latch burned his hands with cold—and couldn’t remember if he’d written down the ear tag numbers so he’d be able add them to his pocket-sized record book. Esme would have. He took another drink. And another. Drove home.

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the still creep

by Casey FitzSimons

by Casey FitzSimons

…for new hope beckons, that mica which may or may not be. Muriel Karr, “Hand” in Toward Dawn Concrete steps set into our banked front lawn, their sloped retaining-curbs my playground slides. Embedded flecks like my mother’s diamonds, brighter than the D.C. sun was hot. Like black pepper in my palm, the few I picked out with a safety pin. Scooting down the roughness, I wore holes in my best shorts, learned my mother’s shiny anniversary necklace was rhinestone. Impossible to tell, my father’d said.

of sap threatens a mosquito’s eyelash legs. What I know of beauty when I am ten lives in the scent of pine, the heated earth, the science of things. Excrescent, but incidental. Later, it will hide under the speckled, imperfect leaves of fall, be swallowed in the gullet of a bird, be felt by lovers in the pressure of their hands, reflect from the wet teeth of shining smiles. Palms on the trunk, I match my lifelines to fissures in the bark.

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Dissolution by Amy Reichbach all those boards we stacked one by one over days, until weeks became months became years of mismatched, rough-edged pieces. we had built a boat, a body, a family meant to sail smoothly. you screamed a storm as we tacked and jibed, yet even as we hit upon rocky shores sides punctured by branches water streaming in we stayed afloat.

two weeks later I learned you had sought out and brought on an affair, her weight too much to hold yet claimed you never meant to sink us.

until one day the future dissolved in a moment when you said I’m out. you gave no reason but you were tired and we were leaking.

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Family Secrets by Cynthia Close


y father’s father committed suicide when my father was 14. at’s all I know about it. at I know about it at all is accidental. I overheard a hushed phone call. Mother was talking to someone. Her voice sounded twisted. Words, barely audible, choked her as they spiraled out. Standing still behind the dining room door trying to be invisible, I held my breath while leaning forward toward the source of the conversation. Who was she talking to? Mother implied there was a connection. “Like father, like son” she said. Was this the grandfather I’d never known? Was the “son” my Dad? e idea burrowed deep and lodged in the soft tissue of my brain irritating my thoughts like a grain of sand in an oyster. Perhaps something would happen to my Dad. I started looking for signs, of what I didn’t know. I was 8 or 9. Why didn’t anybody talk about this? Why were there no pictures of my real grandpa?

Who do you ask when questions are met with a stern look and silence? You step lightly when you realize you are treading on unstable ground. My paternal grandmother had a second husband and we called him Jack. On visits to her home I saw no evidence there had been another man in her life other than this one. She accommodated him and he filled the room with his presence. At some point when I felt bold enough and when I thought my mother might have her guard down, I asked her what happened to my grandpa, the one before Jack. With little hesitation and without a glance at me she said, “he fell off a horse, it was an accident.” A horse? Our family lived in suburban New Jersey a short drive to New York City. We were not farmers, had cars to drive not carts like the Amish and the only horses I’d seen were the ones that pranced around the ring in the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

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Could I have made a mistake? Did I not hear what I thought I heard as I stood behind that dining room door intent on listening? Further discussion of the topic was tersely dismissed. Nothing ever seemed authentic in family life. Trying to figure out which one of my parents to believe was exhausting. Who should I trust? I didn’t know if either of them loved me and I continually analyzed their actions. Perhaps if I dug deep enough and looked long enough, like an archaeologist, the truth would be revealed. It was never clear. My father worked long hours as a mechanic but on Friday nights he would bring home small surprises for me. It became a much-anticipated ritual. Even before he washed his grease-blackened hands he let me dig deep into the pockets of his khaki work pants. He’d stand very still, pretending he had brought nothing for me till my small fingers touched that evenings treasure. Sometimes it

Even before he washed his grease-blackened hands he let me dig deep into the pockets of his khaki work pants. was a bag of Moon Rocks. We would plunk the pastel colored pieces into a small water filled glass bowl and like magic, the next morning, the rocks would have grown into

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tiny stalactites, appearing as a fantastical moonscape. Sometimes the surprise would just be a lollipop, but he never forgot. en the ritual stopped. I don’t know why. One Friday evening it was very late and I was sitting at the small, oval, Formica kitchen table trying to focus on schoolwork. Mom was standing mute, behind me, ironing. I was hungry. Dad had not come home for dinner. Feeling devastated and confused I laid my head on my arms and felt a trickle, then a cascade of tears soaked the pages of my open notebook. I sobbed, “Mommy, does Daddy still love me?” A very long silence followed broken only by the continued back and forth swish of the iron. I could feel my heart beating louder and louder. e air was filled with doubt. “You’ll have to ask him yourself,” she finally answered. Dad was the one who touched me with affection. I remember it that way and the few photos I have being held as a baby are in the arms of my father. On the other hand, he had a drinking problem. Weekends were taxing. Before I was old enough to be out on my own with friends I was often in the kitchen with Mom. On this occasion I was helping her wash and dry the dinner dishes. We worked stiffly, like robots, talking in stunted phrases about nothing in particular. An unspoken nervousness filled the air between us because Dad had been drinking and we knew he was still up, sitting silently alone, down the hall, in the darkened living room. Like a sudden gust of wind he storms into the kitchen in a fury, grabs the knife I had

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been drying from my hand and holds it to my throat. My Mom disappears. “You’ve been talking about me to your mother behind my back,” he hisses. He’s almost spitting between gritted teeth, his full lips quivered with barely contained rage. e knife didn’t move. It was a sharply pointed steak knife. Afraid to breathe—I looked up, focused on his flinty grey eyes, trying to see the father behind them, very aware of the saw-edged blade right below my chin. We hadn’t been talking about him at all. My dry mouth moved in denial but no words escaped my lips. As the knife clattered to the floor, he dragged me by my arm across the linoleum, into the bathroom and locked the door. It was a small, narrow, white-tiled bathroom, barely enough room for the two of us wedged between the tub on one side and the sink on the other. We were locked in there together. He backed me up till I felt the edge of the toilet behind my knees. e circular neon ceiling light encased us in the void of an iceblue-white glare. I slid down and sat straight and motionless on the closed toilet seat staring at his belt buckle. I remember nothing after that. Nothing. As I got older, these scenes of drama and trauma continued. It became an anticipated rhythm that marked time, the hours, days and sometimes weeks between acts were a brief respite, like intermission in a stage play where Dad and I were the main actors. One lovely summer Saturday, when we lived in Dover, New Jersey on the side of a steep hill, on a gravel road, Dad took my bike for a spin. He had been drinking. I was in the

kitchen putting away groceries with Mom when he came stumbling through the side door that led to the carport. He stood weaving slightly, looking at us. His face was unrecognizable. Blood streamed in fat rivulets around hunks of gravel embedded in his skin. He had done a header off my bike, over the handlebars and landed face first.

Like a sudden gust of wind he storms into the kitchen in a fury, grabs the knife I had been drying from my hand and holds it to my throat. My Mom disappears. “Dad, Dad, Dad” I shouted in disbelief, then I pleaded, “Please, please Dad, we have to go to the hospital.” He was laughing like a maniac and pushed me away, “no, no honey, I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine.” Without a word, Mom, ashen, turned her back, ran into their bedroom and slammed the door. Still grinning through the blood and dirt, Dad leaned against the sink. He was not facing the right way to wash himself; it was just a prop to hold himself upright. Perhaps he would die right there, bleed to death on the spot, or worse, his face would get infected, bloated, and he would die a slow, agonizing, horror film style death. Late afternoon sun sent sharp wedges of light falling between us on the kitchen floor. We stood facing each other about 3 feet apart. e first shock of

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seeing him dissipated as quickly as that late afternoon sun and left no trace of fear. I had recently gotten my drivers license and my rational self knew I had to get him to the hospital. He slumped on the kitchen counter. I slid my body next to him using the counter edge for leverage, pushing him along towards the car. It was parked near the kitchen door that he had just stumbled through. He was still laughing—stupidly but menacing at the same time—all the while attempting to shove me away. I believed it was a life or death situation, I couldn’t give up. After exerting a combined effort of pushing and cajoling we made it to the car door. I put my hands on his shoulders and pushed him down into the passenger seat. He was 6 feet tall, about 180 pounds, while I was 5’ 4” and 120. He might have been getting weaker from the loss of blood. It was still daylight and with eyes fixed on the road as I drove to the hospital emergency room I silently prayed we wouldn’t get stopped by a cop. Dad was in denial the whole trip, repeatedly saying we should go home, he only needed “a little iodine” and he’d take care of things himself. We arrived at the ER, I ran in and found two orderlies to help get Dad out of the car. He was still mumbling something about “taking care of this himself ” but gave little resistance as the attendant on either side supported him while half dragging, half guiding him towards the entrance. I waited in the parking lot until they cleaned him up, picked the gravel out of his face, gave him a tetanus shot and sent him home with me. He sobered up the next morning. It was

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Sunday. I was sitting on our staircase between the first floor and the bedrooms up stairs, staring at the front door below, figuring out if I had someplace else to go. He sat down on the step below me, put his wounded head in my lap and cried, “I am so sorry, can you forgive me?” My arms hung limp and heavy at my side, my hands dangled like the last dead oak leaves on a branch in late November. I could not bear to touch him. Looking up I concentrated on a shaft of light bouncing along the ceiling. I was unmoved. I was ashamed. I did not want my Dad crying in my lap. Not long after this incident I went off to college in Boston, relieved I could put the tattered remains of family life behind me. Dad retired and he and Mom moved to Florida and stayed together. When they were both 77 my father, in a drunken confession, revealed to my mother that he had loved another woman and had had a 15 year long affair with her and the only reason he stayed with my mom was because this woman wouldn’t marry him. It was the first time I ever heard my mom cry. She called me with this news and through her sobs she told me she knew Dad had always had affairs and whispered “even with a Black woman once”, as though this was the deepest secret of all, but she had no idea he had loved someone else. What to do? ey have a comfortable house and swimming pool. ey have had cancer and survived. She stomps on her tears and bites her tongue and makes breakfast and looks back on family secrets.

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Summer Storm by Robert Stout Beneath bougainvillea flexing streamers of red blooms an old man watches clouds obscure the distant peaks. Colors darken the slow spread across the valley, whites blend into gray, greens converge into earth brown. e wind picks up; rain, like an invading force, brings noises of once-worshipped gods. Beneath them objects seem to shrink: the great cathedral with its glistening domes a mere montage, cars and buses scurrying like busy lice, rows of pebbly houses sliding into sand. Looking up he senses time dissolving, the sky as it has always been, omnipotent—and he a speck within it all, a spark seen briefly as it flares, goes out.

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Inheritance by Andrew Lloyd-Jones


is snore was the bouncer of his sleep, an ugly, heaving brute of a noise, hulking at the entrance of his throat, a tattooed, bald sound you didn’t mess with. It filled the room with its size, intimidating, snarling, growling, alive, awake, ready, here, now, announcing to the world, your name’s not down and you’re not coming in. And his wife had had enough of being left out in the cold. We’ve got to do something about it, Samantha said. He nodded, slightly uncertain what “we” could do. His snore had been passed down from his father and from his grandfather before him, a sound that had rattled alongside machine guns in foxholes, and come home to a hero’s welcome after the war. His grandfather had died when he was too young to remember, so he had never heard the ancestral version, but his father had mentioned the sound on more than one occasion. He could

snore for America, his father had said. And like father like son. His most vivid memory of his mother was at the breakfast table each morning, yawning and holloweyed, while his father cheerfully chewed on his toast and gulped down a cup of coffee and said good-bye as he ran for the morning train. ere were three in their bed at night, she had always said, herself, his father, and whatever it was that lived in his father’s neck. is was a sound he could remember. While other kids at school talked about the noises their parents made while they were having sex, he thought about the sounds his father made while he was asleep, the way they would start off slowly, quietly, rising in pitch and volume, erupting to a crescendo until he would hear his mother say his father’s name, followed by a few seconds’ silence, then a repeat of the entire performance. He lay in bed at night as a boy, listening, and waiting, both for the sound, and for the time when he, too

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would snore like his father, when he too would wake the woman lying next to him. His own snore when it came was no disappointment, though in the end it was another man he woke first, at college, his first roommate. e weary roommate had requested a change of accommodation after the first week, and his replacement after the second, after which the college offered him private accommodation. e women he had slept with spoke of it as something violent, bubbling and struggling and straining for release, reaching out and fill-

His snore had been passed down from his father and from his grandfather before him, a sound that had rattled alongside machine guns in foxholes, and come home to a hero’s welcome after the war. ing the room. ey would prod him and shake him but like his father before him, this would lead only to a temporary respite, and they, too, like his mother, would look worn down the next day. It made him strangely satisfied that the sound had not diluted through the generations, that it had cropped up as prominently as a Roman nose or high arches, a genetic legacy that marked his family out. Perhaps, he

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thought, it had evolved over the centuries, the primitive snore keeping his stone-age ancestors’ sleep light, thus protecting them from sabre-toothed tigers and cave bears in the dark Neolithic nights. Samantha had found it endearing at first, a flaw that marked him out, that made him special. She would prod him and tell his sleeping self to shut up and sometimes he would but mostly he wouldn’t, and it was just one of those things. But not long after they moved in together, her lack of sleep became an issue. Or at least, her lack of sleep with him, for the only solid nights’ rest she got was when he was out of town on business. So she decided to think of it as a challenge. At first, she presented him with a new pair of boxer shorts, a tennis ball sewn into the waistband. It’s so you don’t sleep on your back at night, she said. at’s supposed to be one of the reasons why you snore. But I like sleeping on my back. And naked, he added. Yes, she said, but I’m betting you like sleeping with me more. And so he wore the tennis-boxer-shorts, but the next morning, he awoke on his back once more, the ball simply having worked its way round his waist to the side. Samantha began research in earnest. We’ll try adjusting your sleeping position, she said. We tried that, he said. It didn’t work. We’ll adjust your head, she said. And so they tried a flat pillow, to sort out any potential kinks in his neck, and then three pillows, elevating the head to lessen the angle of something medical textbooks called uvular

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dangle. But the snore fought its way out irrespective of its passageway, continuing safely ensconced within the caverns of his nose and throat, a seemingly unassailable position, fortified and ready for action each and every night. e more subtle approaches of nasal decongestants, throat sprays, homeopathic oils, and hypnosis all fell by the wayside as well. ey looked into sleep clinics but the costs proved prohibitive. So more technical solutions followed, medically engineered devices, cold and clinical. e Snore-No-More nasal strips were first. ey were followed by the Snore Calm chin-up strap, the Snore Ban Jaw Positioner, and finally the Snore Buster mouth guard, all of which looked like medieval torture instruments, but none of which worked. Samantha had started to talk about laser surgery when she found the Snore Stopper WristBand. e Snore Stopper WristBand SS-24/7 ($39.99, free delivery in the contiguous states, lithium battery included) looked like a large digital watch. It uses electronic pulses, Samantha said. rough electrodes. I don’t know about this, he said. But Samantha ordered it anyway, and the Snore Stopper WristBand arrived two days later. Let’s test it, she said. How? Make a snoring sound. I’m not asleep. Just fake it. He gave a snort and nothing happened. Louder than that, she said. He snorted louder, and this time, there was a sharp tingle at his wrist.

Ow, he said. Did it hurt much? she asked. Not really, he said. It’s just a bit of a shock. We’ll try it on Normal Power first. en on Maximum if that doesn’t work. at night, they both fell asleep, the Snore Stopper WristBand securely fastened. She woke him up the next morning. I think it worked, she said. Really? I think so. I didn’t wake up once. ey tried it the next night, and the next, and the next, each time with the same result, and so the night after that they went out for dinner to celebrate the victory. To the Snore Stopper WristBand, she said, holding up her glass. e Snore Stopper WristBand, he said. You’ve got to keep wearing it, though, she said. Eventually it’ll train your body to stop snoring altogether. ey toasted and the shrill ring of the glass made him wonder for the first time where his sound had gone. He had never actually heard it himself, but he had been told what it sounded like, and as he lay in bed that night, he tried to imagine his snore filling the room once again, waking Samantha, trembling the walls, alarming the neighbours, rattling the tiles, rumbling the foundations, announcing its presence. But the next day, Samantha kissed him good morning with a smile and gave no sign of having been woken at all. She changed the batteries every six months to make sure it would still work, and every night, she made sure the band was securely fastened to his wrist before falling into a sound sleep. rilled with its success,

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Samantha even wrote a series of online reviews, one of which was subsequently published on the Snore Stopper website under a heading, “satisfied customers”. She printed it out and had it framed and showed it to friends when they came round. And the benefits didn’t just apply to Samantha. He fell asleep almost instantly each night, rather than the slow, sometimes tedious lapse into unconsciousness he had grown used to. And he now woke every morning feeling more rested, with more energy, wide awake. He was no longer as tired during the day, and his performance at work improved markedly. His voice seemed clearer in the office, his tone more commanding. But these victories seemed to come to him with a cost over and above the batteries that powered the Snore Stopper. His sleep was sound, sure enough, but it was not the

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sound of his past. It was there, a nagging sense of betrayal of an inheritance he had quietly abandoned. And so, when he travelled on business, and slept alone in conference hotel rooms, with their inoffensive colors scheming of beige, barley, and magnolia, shades designed to be accented with soft spots and uplighters and muted bulbs, invisible pictures painted by anonymous artists upon their walls, he went to bed without the band. What Samantha did not hear would not hurt her; and so he would eventually fall to sleep, his snore free to shake the room again, the snore that had rattled on the front line, fighting Nazis outside Malmedy, Spa, and Bastogne, awake once more, protecting him from the ghosts of prehistoric cats and ancient beasts that might roam the hallways of Marriot Hotels of the contiguous States of America.

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Poem for the Other by John Grey You’re not quite a shadow because once you were tangible, and not a dream either, because such wispy opiates of personal expression don’t write it down and in another’s hand and I have all your poetry. You’re the first moving conversation, a bunch of words with body and soul enough to trail me to this place. You’re these hands opening a book over and over and over, so close, my breath becomes the hands, and everything I see and do, the book. I can trace this latest poem back to you like following blood to the pump of a heart Only it's not blood, it's the borders of my life and yours. And it's not the heart, but the beating of the secrets that we keep

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Out from Under by Kenneth Pobo Teachers, blank as unsigned hallway passes. Steve searches for a crack so thin under the basketball court that he’ll slip away, his body light as a note. Steve’s dad watches Cubs baseball, Bears football, and Bulls basketball. Eighth grade gymnastics. Words like “parallel bars” mean torture. Or the rope. Why not just use a ladder? At least in gymnastics the trampoline brings relief— maybe he could jump high enough to float out of junior high forever. Gravity, a stubborn hag, always calls him back. In high school gym Steve finds his thin crack under the court. While mastering the art of invisibility. A college sophomore, Steve goes home for anksgiving. e turkey tastes like dirty tires. He hopes the world cracks. For good. e sound deepens. He emerges.

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While Montana Mouthful seeks and accepts stories, poetry, and artwork from around the world, we also feel strongly about connecting with writers and artists of various sorts in our local Helena community. In that spirit, Montana Mouthful has teamed up with e Shop University, to create a new feature within the magazine. e Shop University is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization located in downtown Helena that provides English as a second language instruction to improve the communication, career, and citizenship goals of the community. e Shop University was founded and is operated by Suzy Williams, and she writes the following message: e Shop University is so excited to be a regular feature in the Montana Mouthful magazine. For the past five years, the ShopU has taught intensive daily English classes to teenagers and adults in the Helena area. In this amount of time over 80 students from over 40 different countries have walked through the door. ese students are brave. Picking up your life and moving it to a new country to start over takes strength. Learning a new culture, language, and way of life takes perseverance. Every single one of our students wants to learn English to be able to participate in and give back to the community they live in and love. e ShopU exists to help

these students thrive in our community by meeting their English goals. ese goals include getting a job, passing a test, enrolling in college, or simply better communication, so they are understood at the doctor’s office or at their child’s school. Learning a new language is hard. Most adults do not achieve fluency in a second language without extreme dedication and motivation. Writing is often the last of the four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) where fluency is developed. Each of our students has dreams, goals, and stories. Being able to showcase their stories in a language they have worked so hard to learn for the community to read is an unbelievable gift.

We agree with Suzy. Each of these students has a story to tell, and we are happy to offer them an opportunity to showcase their writing. So, each issue of Montana Mouthfulwill feature a story or essay written by one of the ShopU’s students. is issue features a nonfiction essay written by Mariko Tomoshige. She is originally from Japan, and she has lived in Helena for two years with her husband. She is dedicated to improving her English at e Shop University and recently got a job in the customer service industry here in Helena. is essay is her first published work. 66 | Montana Mouthful

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e secret of why foreign people say Japanese service is good by Mariko Tomoshige

hen I was in Japan, I heard a lot of foreign people say, “Japanese service is very good.” “Japanese customer service is very sensitive, so I’m surprised” foreigners said during a street interview. At that time, I was working at a department store, so I was wondering about the differences between other countries and Japan because I think good service sounds normal for me. However, after I moved to the United States and went to a department store, I was very surprised. It had a small number of employees, and when I had questions or needed something, I had to look for the employees. In Japan, that is unthinkable! Japanese department stores have at least one to three employees working each brand. For example, if there are four brands in the shoe section, there are four employees. When we have a morning meeting, we are practicing greetings, formal apologizing, and cushion words every morning. In Japan when


we are opening the store, we have special music for opening, and all the floor’s employees (my store was on the 10th floor) are standing at their own brand area, near the escalator, or at all entrances, saying “Good morning” to every customer. We are trained how to stand, and what is the best standing position. And when we are closing the store, we have special music, and all the floor’s employees stand at their own brand area, and then say “ank you very much for coming today. We hope see you again” to each customer. During business hours, when a customer asks, “Where is the bathroom?” it is best to guide them to the bathroom, but if you are busy, you need to ask another employee or tell them where it is politely. Also, we have a rule about not chatting with other employees on the floor, even if it is about work. We think if you need to speak with another employee, you need to move to a place where customers cannot see you. If you are excited by talking with Montana Mouthful | 67

other employees, you will be absorbed in the conversation and you will not see customers who come into your brand section. When a customer pays, we have to ask if it is for a gift or for themselves on even very small items. When it’s not a gift, you put it into a bag, but when it’s for a gift we have to wrap it. e customer can choose a paper bag or box. If the customer chooses bag, we put the item in a gift bag and decorate with ribbon. If it’s a box, we have to wrap it with paper and ribbon. We have many kinds of wrapping paper all year. We have store logo paper for the regular season, and special paper for events like Mother’s and Father’s Day, or Christmas season. Wrapping is a skill you need to practice, but as soon as you get the skill you can wrap very fast and can easily tell how much paper you need. It might seem like too much work and service, but “We provide service beyond what customers are expecting.” I used to sell hand bags and hair accessories. I always studied the features and specialties of our brand items. I actually purchased and used them myself because if I just sell them I can’t have an effective sales talk about the strengths of this brand and how it is different from other brands. It was the same thing for hair accessories. I have really liked styling my hair since I was a kid. However, I had never done it for other people. So I taught myself using YouTube and practiced on my friend’s hair. I searched about how to use these accessories

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for more than the basic way. en when customers asked me “How do I use this one?” I taught them and I did it with their hair if the customers wanted me to. As I just described, we were providing lots of service, more than the customers were expecting. I like Japanese services, but I do not dislike the more inattentive service like in the United States. At supermarkets here, people often have whole conversations with other people at the register, not just greetings. At first, I was very confused. My husband talked to these employees and other people like friends. But, I think it is the American personality and an American style of service. Actually now when I go to store, I want to be in the line of a kind employee or one I had a good chat with last time. I think the word “service” for Japanese people is not just something you have to do. Many people reap the benefits behind the service. When a customer leaves the store satisfied, you can see their satisfaction, but are unaware of the service behind it. Also people who come from different prefectures (states in Japan) and different countries, if they had good service, and a really good impression of the employees, the store, and even of Japan, then they want to come back again and have made good memories. Japan has the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. If you visit Japan during the Olympics or anytime, please experience and enjoy Japanese customer service.

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Tired of working from your home? Work right in the heart of downtown Helena in a collaborative space. The Shop Coworking Space is very versatile and affordable. Â We have desks and meeting rooms available.

Do you want help with: u

American culture u Citizenship test prep u Attending college u Obtaining employment u Conversation skills u Reading skills u Listening skills u Writing skills u Grammar and vocabulary

The Shop University offers ESL Instruction and Training! Classes are fun, free, and open to adults of all levels and first languages. Instruction is tailored to meet the needs of the individual and all classes are taught by an accredited teacher. Classes meet Monday through Thursday yearround and new students are welcome any time.

Contact The Shop University today! 406-616-3877 H H facebook: theshopuniversity

ank you. is issue is dedicated in loving memory to Lisa Huff. ank you to all who submitted work. Over the past couple of years, the magazine has been almost entirely funded by each of us (the founders and editors). Although it’s been an amazing experience to realize our literary dream of providing a venue for artists and writers, we cannot continue to run in the red. erefore, we have decided to work towards a nonprofit status in hopes of receiving donations and grants to keep the magazine alive. In case you missed the announcement on our website, we’ve extended the deadline for the Montana (406) Contest. e new deadline is September 2, 2018, and the top three winning stories will be featured in Issue 3, which will be published during Autumn 2018. e contest entry fee is $10, and the following prizes will be awarded: • 1st place – $125 + print copy of Issue 2 • 2nd place – $75 + print copy of Issue 2 • 3rd place – $25 + print copy of Issue 2 We will begin accepting submissions for our third issue on July 5, 2018. Because Issue 3 will be published around Halloween, the theme will be “haunted.” Your creativity related to this theme is encouraged, and while stories can be about anything paranormal or eerie, you can also share a story, poem, or artwork that “haunts” in some other capacity. For instance, perhaps a character is haunted by a memory or a deed he or she must accomplish. We can’t wait to see what kind of stories, artwork, and poetry this theme inspires! Please send us your work via Submittable. Emailed submissions will not be accepted. Wishing you happy reading and productive time for writing, and we’ll meet you again in the Fall. Holly Alastra, Editor

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DA Borer DA Borer lives near the shore of the Monterey Bay. In earlier years he worked as a paperboy, doodle-bugger, meat-packer, ranch-hand, military strategist, and kelp-wrangler. Contact him at Judith Camann

Jason Arment Jason Arment served in Operation Iraqi Freedom as a Machine Gunner in the USMC. He’s earned an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. His work has appeared in Narrative Magazine, The Iowa Review, Gulf Coast, Lunch Ticket, Chautauqua, Hippocampus, e Burrow Press Review (Push Cart nomination), Dirty Chai, COG, Phoebe (BAE 2016 Notable), Pithead Chapel, The Indianola Review, Brevity, e Florida Review (Best American Essays inclusion), Atticus Review, Zone 3, New Madrid, Veterans Writing Project, Midwestern Gothic, Duende, Hypertext, Digging rough the Fat, Synaesthesia Magazine, Barking Sycamore, and War, Literature & the Arts: An International Journal of the Humanities; anthologized in Proud to Be: Writing by American Warriors, Volumes 2, 4, & 5; 2017 Best American Essays collection; and forthcoming from Yes Poetry, e Rumpus and Juked. University of Hell Press will publish his memoir Musalaheen in 2018. Jason lives in Denver, where he coordinates the Denver Veterans Writing Workshop with the Colorado Humanities and Lighthouse. He can be reached at,, Candy Bedworth Candy’s remote, rain-soaked farmhouse clings to a steep-sided valley in rural Wales. She cultivates sheep, chickens, children and stories, with varying degrees of success. Rick Blum Rick Blum has been chronicling life’s vagaries through essays and poetry for more than 25 years during stints as a nightclub owner, high-tech manager, market research mogul, and, most recently, old geezer. His writings have appeared in e Literary Hatchet, e Satirist, and e Moon Magazine, among others. He is also a frequent contributor to the Humor Times, and has been published in numerous poetry anthologies. Mr. Blum is a two-time winner of the annual Carlisle Poetry Contest. His poem, Tomfoolery, received honorable mention in The Boston Globe Deflategate poetry challenge.

Judith Camann is an MFA candidate defending her thesis July 2018 at Ashland University. She has co-founded two writing groups: Parents Are Writer’s Too and Overcoming Oranges. Her poetry has been featured by Eyedrum Periodically, Main Street Rag, Weasel Press, and e Wild Word among other places. You can find Judith at William Cass William Cass has had over a hundred short stories accepted for publication in a variety of literary magazines such as december, Briar Cliff Review, and High Desert Journal. Recently, he was a finalist in short fiction and novella competitions at Glimmer Train and Black Hill Press, received a Pushcart nomination, and won writing contests at and e Examined Life Journal. He lives in San Diego, California. Cynthia Close Armed with an MFA from Boston University Cynthia plowed her way through several productive careers in the arts including instructor in drawing and painting at Boston University, Dean of Admissions at e Art Institute of Boston, founder of ARTWORKS Consulting, and president of Documentary Educational Resources, a film company. She now claims to be a writer. To support this claim, she is a contributing editor for Documentary Magazine and writes regularly for Vermont Woman magazine, Art New England, and Art & Object. Her creative non-fiction appeared in the 2014, 2016, and 2017 anthology, e Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop, and her essays have been published in various literary journals including 34th Parallel, Woven Tales Press, e Black and White Anthology, e Seasons of Our Lives, among others. She has read publicly at many venues including the Cornelia Street Café in NYC. She was the inaugural art editor for the literary and art journal Mud Season Review launched in 2014. She has completed a 97,000word memoir titled Carnal Conversations. While she searches for an agent, she continues to live and write in Burlington, Vermont two blocks from Bernie Sanders. You can find more about Cynthia at Audra Coleman Audra Coleman lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she is earning her MLAS at UNCA. Her work in poetry, fiction and creative non-fiction has appeared recently or is forthcoming in 3288 Review, Kestrel, Palaver, Quail Bell Magazine, Great

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Smokies Review, Five on the Fifth, Into the Void, Star 82 Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Penn Review, Corvus Review, Mojave River Press and e Orchards. Casey FitzSimons Casey FitzSimons is a widely published award-winning poet. She has published fifteen poetry collections, most recently Waiting in the Car: Poems 2017. She has a masters degree in fine arts from San Jose State University. She does pro bono poetry editing and offers workshops in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can find out more about Casey at John Grey John Grey is an Australian poet, US resident. Recently published in Nebo, Euphony and Columbia Review with work upcoming in Leading Edge, Poetry East and Midwest Quarterly. Tim Hatton Tim Hatton is a writer from Fort Dodge, Iowa who’s going to school at the University of Oklahoma to be a better one. He fell in love with Montana working at a camp in the Boulder River Valley for six years, where he once got bucked off an unfriendly donkey. Tim and his work may be found at Angie Hedman Angie Hedman is an artist, writer, gallery director, and high school art educator who resides in Muncie, IN. She holds degrees from Ball State University in the areas of Fine Arts (Metals), and Art Education. Her art has been published in Gravel, e Broken Plate, and Soapbox. It is forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys. Her poetry can be found in Ink to Paper, and ree Line Poetry. Follow Angie at twitter, @artist_writerAH Barbara E. Hunt Barbara E. Hunt applies her poet’s heart to many genres (along with a decade overseeing a writers’ conference in Ontario, Canada ending 2016). She has literary journals, anthologies and magazines across North America, the U.K. and Australia to her credit; current writings (free) on WATTPAD and enjoys kudos for her second release, a poetry/colouring book called Devotions (Dec 2017). You can learn more about Barbara at the;; @liitchiick; Candice Kelsey Candice Kelsey’s poems have appeared in such journals as Poet Lore, e Cortland Review, Hobart Pulp, and Wilderness House, and her work has been incorporated into multiple 3-D art installations. She has been accepted into the Bread Loaf Writers’

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Conference and the Virginia Quarterly Review’s Writer’s Conference. She published a successful 2007 trade paperback with Da Capo Press. A high-school English teacher of 19 years’ standing, she lives in Los Angeles and serves as a fiction reader for e New England Review. Candice is also a part-time writing instructor at Loyola Marymount University, where she earned her Master’s in Literature. Ron. Lavalette Ron. Lavalette is a very widely-published writer living on the Canadian border in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, land of the fur-bearing lake trout and the bilingual stop sign. His work, both poetry and short prose, has appeared extensively in journals, reviews, and anthologies ranging alphabetically from Able Muse and the Anthology of New England Poets through the World Haiku Review and Your One Phone Call. His first chapbook, Fallen Away, will be published in September from Finishing Line Press. A reasonable sample of his published work can be viewed at Eggs Over Tokyo: you can also find out more about Ron. at Andrew Lloyd-Jones Andrew Lloyd-Jones was born in London, England and grew up in Anchorage, Alaska. He won the Fish Prize with his story Feathers and Cigarettes, and his writing has featured in Cent Magazine, Northern Colorado Writers’ Pooled Ink Anthology, Serving House Journal, and in the Canongate collection Original Sins, amongst others. Andrew produces and hosts Liars’ League NYC, a regular New York-based live literary journal and podcast, showcasing original short fiction from emerging writers. Find out more about Andrew at, and Israela Margalit Israela began submitting short fiction in 2016. Her story Drenched was a Finalist at the Tennessee Williams 2018 Festival Contest, and the 2018 Scribes Valley Publishing Short Story Competition. Too Much was a Runner up at the 2017 R. H. Cummings Memorial Short Story Competition, UK. California King Size was a Finalist, top 25 out of a 1000, at the 2016 Glimmer Train Press Very Short Fiction Competition. A Whorehouse in Munich was nominated to Pen Short Story Prize for Emerging Writers in 2016. Her other activities include an international career as a concert pianist and recording artist (e British Music Industry Award, Best CD,) as a television writer (Emmy Nomination, Gold Medal the New York TV and Film Festival, Finalist the Long Island Film Festival,) and as a playwright (Best Play, Honorary Mention the New York 15-minute Play Festival, Best Production the New York MITF, Ovation-Recommendation, LA.) You can find out more about Israela at

Vol. 1 • Issue 2

(continued) Alanna Pass Alanna found writing as a passion in the autumn of 2016 during the election season. She is a retired middle school science teacher and a visual artist. rough her writing practice, she finds an anchor in a confusing world. Alanna lives and works from her home in rural Yamhill County, Oregon. Her poetry and essays can be found on her blog, Timothy Philippart Timothy sold his business in 2015. He loves to write. So here he is. Since May of 2015, he has written several poems and others are scattered around his house, dropped like dirty socks. He writes, mainly, poetry and short prose pieces with, in some cases, a hint of humor. You can find out more about Timothy at Kenneth Pobo Kenneth Pobo had a new book out in 2017 from Circling Rivers called Loplop in a Red City. Forthcoming from Clare’s Songbirds Press is a book of his prose poems called e Antlantis Hit Parade. You can follow Kenneth on Twitter @KenPobo Sarah Rau Sarah Rau Peterson is a Montana native, born in Malta, raised in Butte, and now living east of Miles City with her husband, two children, three dogs, three cats, occasional chickens, and a herd of cows. Catch Sarah at the unoriginal but specific Instagram handle @sarahdoesranchstuff. Amy Reichbach Amy Reichbach is a Boston-based poet and public interest lawyer. A divorced Jewish lesbian mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2013, she writes in themes of family, the Holocaust, sexuality, and illness. Amy’s poetry has been published by Ink & Nebula, Lacuna Loft, and Living Beyond Breast Cancer, and she has forthcoming publications in Finishing Line Press’s Anthology of Poetry by Young Adults with Cancer and Hashtag Queer: LGBTQ+ Creative Anthology, Vol. 2. Her aca-

demic work has appeared in several law reviews. Amy enjoys teaching, learning, and raising her daughter to be an activist. You can find her at and Twitter at @butIloveboobs. Adrian Slonaker With a fondness for jangly folk-rock music, suspense films and decaf iced espresso, Adrian Slonaker works as a copywriter and copy editor in Urbandale, Iowa. Adrian’s work has appeared in e Bohemyth, Queen Mob’s Tea House, Pangolin Review, Five on the Fifth, and others. Robert Stout Robert Joe Stout is a long-time freelance journalist and former magazine editor. He has been published in Subprimal Poetry, Emrys Journal, Existere, America, New Politics, Two irds North, Chic, Conscience, e Louisville Review, Into the Void and many other magazines and journals. He lives in Oaxaca, Mexico. You can find out more about Robert at Jewell Tennison Jewell Tennison grew up on the north shore of Lake Superior and has lived most of her adult life in southwestern Montana. She finds life and her fellow humans fascinating. When not writing, she runs, camps, backpacks and skis. Mariko Tomoshige Mariko Tomoshige is originally from Japan. She has lived in Helena for two years with her husband. She is dedicated to improving her English at e Shop University and recently got a job in the customer service industry here in Helena.is essay is her first published work. Jim Zola Jim Zola has worked in a warehouse, as a security guard, in a bookstore, as a teacher for Deaf children, as a toy designer for Fisher Price, and currently as a children’s librarian. Published in many journals through the years, his publications include a chapbook—e One Hundred Bones of Weather (Blue Pitcher Press)—and a full length poetry collection—What Glorious Pos-

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